Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

Part 3 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

seems that, calmly and without any quickening of the pulse, he
just carried the girl off, there being no opposition . It had,
however, been all so long ago that it seemed to him, at the end of
his poor life, a dim and misty affair. He had the greatest
admiration for Leonora.

He had the very greatest admiration. He admired her for her
truthfulness, for her cleanness of mind, and the clean-run-ness of
her limbs, for her efficiency, for the fairness of her skin, for the
gold of her hair, for her religion, for her sense of duty. It was a
satisfaction to take her about with him.

But she had not for him a touch of magnetism. I suppose, really, he
did not love her because she was never mournful; what really
made him feel good in life was to comfort somebody who would
be darkly and mysteriously mournful. That he had never had to do
for Leonora. Perhaps, also, she was at first too obedient. I do not
mean to say that she was submissive-- that she deferred, in her j
udgements, to his. She did not. But she had been handed over to
him, like some patient medieval virgin; she had been taught all her
life that the first duty of a woman is to obey. And there she was.

In her, at least, admiration for his qualities very soon became love
of the deepest description. If his pulses never quickened she, so I
have been told, became what is called an altered being when he
approached her from the other side of a dancing-floor. Her eyes
followed him about full of trustfulness, of admiration, of
gratitude, and of love. He was also, in a great sense, her pastor and
guide--and he guided her into what, for a girl straight out of a
convent, was almost heaven. I have not the least idea of what an
English officer's wife's existence may be like. At any rate, there
were feasts, and chatterings, and nice men who gave her the right
sort of admiration, and nice women who treated her as if she had
been a baby. And her confessor approved of her life, and Edward
let her give little treats to the girls of the convent she had left, and
the Reverend Mother approved of him. There could not have been
a happier girl for five or six years. For it was only at the end of
that time that clouds began, as the saying is, to arise. She was then
about twenty-three, and her purposeful efficiency made her
perhaps have a desire for mastery. She began to perceive that
Edward was extravagant in his largesses. His parents died just
about that time, and Edward, though they both decided that he
should continue his soldiering, gave a great deal of attention to the
management of Branshaw through a steward. Aldershot was not
very far away, and they spent all his leaves there.

And, suddenly, she seemed to begin to perceive that his
generosities were almost fantastic. He subscribed much too much
to things connected with his mess, he pensioned off his father's
servants, old or new, much too generously. They had a large
income, but every now and then they would find themselves hard
up. He began to talk of mortgaging a farm or two, though it never
actually came to that.

She made tentative efforts at remonstrating with him. Her father,
whom she saw now and then, said that Edward was much too
generous to his tenants; the wives of his brother officers
remonstrated with her in private; his large subscriptions made it
difficult for their husbands to keep up with them. Ironically
enough, the first real trouble between them came from his desire
to build a Roman Catholic chapel at Branshaw. He wanted to do it
to honour Leonora, and he proposed to do it very expensively.
Leonora did not want it; she could perfectly well drive from
Branshaw to the nearest Catholic Church as often as she liked.
There were no Roman Catholic tenants and no Roman Catholic
servants except her old nurse who could always drive with her. She
had as many priests to stay with her as could be needed--and even
the priests did not want a gorgeous chapel in that place where it
would have merely seemed an invidious instance of ostentation.
They were perfectly ready to celebrate Mass for Leonora and her
nurse, when they stayed at Branshaw, in a cleaned-up outhouse.
But Edward was as obstinate as a hog about it. He was truly
grieved at his wife's want of sentiment--at her refusal to receive
that amount of public homage from him. She appeared to him to
be wanting in imagination--to be cold and hard. I don't exactly
know what part her priests played in the tragedy that it all
became; I dare say they behaved quite creditably but mistakenly.
But then, who would not have been mistaken with Edward? I
believe he was even hurt that Leonora's confessor did not make
strenuous efforts to convert him. There was a period when he was
quite ready to become an emotional Catholic.

I don't know why they did not take him on the hop; but they have
queer sorts of wisdoms, those people, and queer sorts of tact.
Perhaps they thought that Edward's too early conversion would
frighten off other Protestant desirables from marrying Catholic
girls. Perhaps they saw deeper into Edward than he saw himself
and thought that he would make a not very creditable convert. At
any rate they--and Leonora--left him very much alone. It mortified
him very considerably. He has told me that if Leonora had then
taken his aspirations seriously everything would have been
different. But I dare say that was nonsense. At any rate, it was
over the question of the chapel that they had their first and really
disastrous quarrel. Edward at that time was not well; he supposed
himself to be overworked with his regimental affairs--he was
managing the mess at the time. And Leonora was not well--she
was beginning to fear that their union might be sterile. And then
her father came over from Glasmoyle to stay with them.

Those were troublesome times in Ireland, I understand. At any
rate, Colonel Powys had tenants on the brain--his own tenants
having shot at him with shot-guns. And, in conversation with
Edward's land-steward, he got it into his head that Edward
managed his estates with a mad generosity towards his tenants. I
understand, also, that those years--the 'nineties--were very bad for
farming. Wheat was fetching only a few shillings the hundred; the
price of meat was so low that cattle hardly paid for raising; whole
English counties were ruined. And Edward allowed his tenants
very high rebates.

To do both justice Leonora has since acknowledged that she was in
the wrong at that time and that Edward was following out a more
far-seeing policy in nursing his really very good tenants over a bad
period. It was not as if the whole of his money came from the
land; a good deal of it was in rails. But old Colonel Powys had
that bee in his bonnet and, if he never directly approached Edward
himself on the subject, he preached unceasingly, whenever he had
the opportunity, to Leonora. His pet idea was that Edward ought to
sack all his own tenants and import a set of farmers from Scotland.
That was what they were doing in Essex. He was of opinion that
Edward was riding hotfoot to ruin.

That worried Leonora very much--it worried her dreadfully; she
lay awake nights; she had an anxious line round her mouth. And
that, again, worried Edward. I do not mean to say that Leonora
actually spoke to Edward about his tenants--but he got to know
that some one, probably her father, had been talking to her about
the matter. He got to know it because it was the habit of his
steward to look in on them every morning about breakfast-time to
report any little happenings. And there was a farmer called
Mumford who had only paid half his rent for the last three years.
One morning the land-steward reported that Mumford would be
unable to pay his rent at all that year. Edward reflected for a
moment and then he said something like:

"Oh well, he's an old fellow and his family have been our tenants
for over two hundred years. Let him off altogether."

And then Leonora--you must remember that she had reason for
being very nervous and unhappy at that time--let out a sound that
was very like a groan. It startled Edward, who more than
suspected what was passing in her mind--it startled him into a
state of anger. He said sharply:

"You wouldn't have me turn out people who've been earning
money for us for centuries--people to whom we have
responsibilities--and let in a pack of Scotch farmers?"

He looked at her, Leonora said, with what was practically a glance
of hatred and then, precipitately, he left the breakfast-table.
Leonora knew that it probably made it all the worse that he had
been betrayed into a manifestation of anger before a third party. It
was the first and last time that he ever was betrayed into such a
manifestation of anger. The land-steward, a moderate and
well-balanced man whose family also had been with the
Ashburnhams for over a century, took it upon himself to explain
that he considered Edward was pursuing a perfectly proper course
with his tenants. He erred perhaps a little on the side of
generosity, but hard times were hard times, and every one had to
feel the pinch, landlord as well as tenants. The great thing was not
to let the land get into a poor state of cultivation. Scotch farmers
just skinned your fields and let them go down and down. But
Edward had a very good set of tenants who did their best for him
and for themselves. These arguments at that time carried very little
conviction to Leonora. She was, nevertheless, much concerned by
Edward's outburst of anger. The fact is that Leonora had been
practising economies in her department. Two of the
under-housemaids had gone and she had not replaced them; she
had spent much less that year upon dress. The fare she had
provided at the dinners they gave had been much less bountiful
and not nearly so costly as had been the case in preceding years,
and Edward began to perceive a hardness and determination in his
wife's character. He seemed to see a net closing round him--a net
in which they would be forced to live like one of the
comparatively poor county families of the neighbourhood. And, in
the mysterious way in which two people, living together, get to
know each other's thoughts without a word spoken, he had known,
even before his outbreak, that Leonora was worrying about his
managing of the estates. This appeared to him to be intolerable.
He had, too, a great feeling of self-contempt because he had been
betrayed into speaking harshly to Leonora before that
land-steward. She imagined that his nerve must be deserting him,
and there can have been few men more miserable than Edward
was at that period. You see, he was really a very simple
soul--very simple. He imagined that no man can satisfactorily
accomplish his life's work without loyal and whole-hearted
cooperation of the woman he lives with. And he was beginning to
perceive dimly that, whereas his own traditions were entirely
collective, his wife was a sheer individualist. His own theory--the
feudal theory of an over-lord doing his best by his dependents, the
dependents meanwhile doing their best for the over-lord--this
theory was entirely foreign to Leonora's nature. She came of a
family of small Irish landlords--that hostile garrison in a
plundered country. And she was thinking unceasingly of the
children she wished to have. I don't know why they never had any
children--not that I really believe that children would have made
any difference. The dissimilarity of Edward and Leonora was too
profound. It will give you some idea of the extraordinary naïveté
of Edward Ashburnham that, at the time of his marriage and for
perhaps a couple of years after, he did not really know how
children are produced. Neither did Leonora. I don't mean to say
that this state of things continued, but there it was. I dare say it
had a good deal of influence on their mentalities. At any rate, they
never had a child. It was the Will of God.

It certainly presented itself to Leonora as being the Will of God--as
being a mysterious and awful chastisement of the Almighty. For
she had discovered shortly before this period that her parents had
not exacted from Edward's family the promise that any children
she should bear should be brought up as Catholics. She herself
had never talked of the matter with either her father, her mother,
or her husband. When at last her father had let drop some words
leading her to believe that that was the fact, she tried desperately
to extort the promise from Edward. She encountered an
unexpected obstinacy. Edward was perfectly willing that the girls
should be Catholic; the boys must be Anglican. I don't understand
the bearing of these things in English society. Indeed, Englishmen
seem to me to be a little mad in matters of politics or of religion.
In Edward it was particularly queer because he himself was
perfectly ready to become a Romanist. He seemed, however, to
contemplate going over to Rome himself and yet letting his boys
be educated in the religion of their immediate ancestors. This may
appear illogical, but I dare say it is not so illogical as it looks.
Edward, that is to say, regarded himself as having his own body
and soul at his own disposal. But his loyalty to the traditions of his
family would not permit him to bind any future inheritors of his
name or beneficiaries by the death of his ancestors. About the
girls it did not so much matter. They would know other homes
and other circumstances. Besides, it was the usual thing. But the
boys must be given the opportunity of choosing--and they must
have first of all the Anglican teaching. He was perfectly
unshakable about this.

Leonora was in an agony during all this time. You will have to
remember she seriously believed that children who might be born
to her went in danger, if not absolutely of damnation, at any rate
of receiving false doctrine. It was an agony more terrible than she
could describe. She didn't indeed attempt to describe it, but I
could tell from her voice when she said, almost negligently, "I
used to lie awake whole nights. It was no good my spiritual
advisers trying to console me." I knew from her voice how terrible
and how long those nights must have seemed and of how little
avail were the consolations of her spiritual advisers. Her spiritual
advisers seemed to have taken the matter a little more calmly.
They certainly told her that she must not consider herself in any
way to have sinned. Nay, they seem even to have extorted, to have
threatened her, with a view to getting her out of what they
considered to be a morbid frame of mind. She would just have to
make the best of things, to influence the children when they came,
not by propaganda, but by personality. And they warned her that
she would be committing a sin if she continued to think that she
had sinned. Nevertheless, she continued to think that she had

Leonora could not be aware that the man whom she loved
passionately and whom, nevertheless, she was beginning to try to
rule with a rod of iron--that this man was becoming more and
more estranged from her. He seemed to regard her as being not
only physically and mentally cold, but even as being actually
wicked and mean. There were times when he would almost
shudder if she spoke to him. And she could not understand how he
could consider her wicked or mean. It only seemed to her a sort of
madness in him that he should try to take upon his own shoulders
the burden of his troop, of his regiment, of his estate and of half of
his country. She could not see that in trying to curb what she
regarded as megalomania she was doing anything wicked. She
was just trying to keep things together for the sake of the children
who did not come. And, little by little, the whole of their
intercourse became simply one of agonized discussion as to
whether Edward should subscribe to this or that institution or
should try to reclaim this or that drunkard. She simply could not
see it.

Into this really terrible position of strain, from which there
appeared to be no issue, the Kilsyte case came almost as a relief.
It is part of the peculiar irony of things that Edward would
certainly never have kissed that nurse-maid if he had not been
trying to please Leonora. Nurse-maids do not travel first-class,
and, that day, Edward travelled in a third-class carriage in order to
prove to Leonora that he was capable of economies. I have said
that the Kilsyte case came almost as a relief to the strained
situation that then existed between them. It gave Leonora an
opportunity of backing him up in a whole-hearted and absolutely
loyal manner. It gave her the opportunity of behaving to him as he
considered a wife should behave to her husband.

You see, Edward found himself in a railway carriage with a quite
pretty girl of about nineteen. And the quite pretty girl of about
nineteen, with dark hair and red cheeks and blue eyes, was quietly
weeping. Edward had been sitting in his corner thinking about
nothing at all. He had chanced to look at the nurse-maid; two
large, pretty tears came out of her eyes and dropped into her lap.
He immediately felt that he had got to do something to comfort
her. That was his job in life. He was desperately unhappy himself
and it seemed to him the most natural thing in the world that they
should pool their sorrows. He was quite democratic; the idea of
the difference in their station never seems to have occurred to
him. He began to talk to her. He discovered that her young man
had been seen walking out with Annie of Number 54. He moved
over to her side of the carriage. He told her that the report
probably wasn't true; that, after all, a young man might take a walk
with Annie from Number 54 without its denoting anything very
serious. And he assured me that he felt at least quite half-fatherly
when he put his arm around her waist and kissed her. The girl,
however, had not forgotten the difference of her station.

All her life, by her mother, by other girls, by schoolteachers, by the
whole tradition of her class she had been warned against
gentlemen. She was being kissed by a gentleman. She screamed,
tore herself away; sprang up and pulled a communication cord.

Edward came fairly well out of the affair in the public estimation;
but it did him, mentally, a good deal of harm.


IT is very difficult to give an all-round impression of an man. I
wonder how far I have succeeded with Edward Ashburnham. I
dare say I haven't succeeded at all. It is ever very difficult to see
how such things matter. Was it the important point about poor
Edward that he was very well built, carried himself well, was
moderate at the table and led a regular life--that he had, in fact, all
the virtues that are usually accounted English? Or have I in the
least succeeded in conveying that he was all those things and had
all those virtues? He certainly was them and had them up to the
last months of his life. They were the things that one would set
upon his tombstone. They will, indeed, be set upon his tombstone
by his widow.

And have I, I wonder, given the due impression of how his life was
portioned and his time laid out? Because, until the very last, the
amount of time taken up by his various passions was relatively
small. I have been forced to write very much about his passions,
but you have to consider--I should like to be able to make you
consider--that he rose every morning at seven, took a cold bath,
breakfasted at eight, was occupied with his regiment from nine
until one; played polo or cricket with the men when it was the
season for cricket, till tea-time. Afterwards he would occupy
himself with the letters from his land-steward or with the affairs
of his mess, till dinner-time. He would dine and pass the evening
playing cards, or playing billiards with Leonora or at social
functions of one kind or another. And the greater part of his life
was taken up by that--by far the greater part of his life. His
love-affairs, until the very end, were sandwiched in at odd
moments or took place during the social evenings, the dances and
dinners. But I guess I have made it hard for you, O silent listener,
to get that impression. Anyhow, I hope I have not given you the
idea that Edward Ashburnham was a pathological case. He wasn't.
He was just a normal man and very much of a sentimentalist. I
dare say the quality of his youth, the nature of his mother's
influence, his ignorances, the crammings that he received at the
hands of army coaches--I dare say that all these excellent
influences upon his adolescence were very bad for him. But we all
have to put up with that sort of thing and no doubt it is very bad
for all of us. Nevertheless, the outline of Edward's life was an
outline perfectly normal of the life of a hard-working, sentimental
and efficient professional man.

That question of first impressions has always bothered me a good
deal-- but quite academically. I mean that, from time to time I
have wondered whether it were or were not best to trust to one's
first impressions in dealing with people. But I never had anybody
to deal with except waiters and chambermaids and the
Ashburnhams, with whom I didn't know that I was having any
dealings. And, as far as waiters and chambermaids were
concerned, I have generally found that my first impressions were
correct enough. If my first idea of a man was that he was civil,
obliging, and attentive, he generally seemed to go on being all
those things. Once, however, at our Paris flat we had a maid who
appeared to be charming and transparently honest. She stole,
nevertheless, one of Florence's diamond rings. She did it, however,
to save her young man from going to prison. So here, as somebody
says somewhere, was a special case.

And, even in my short incursion into American business life--an
incursion that lasted during part of August and nearly the whole of
September--I found that to rely upon first impressions was the best
thing I could do. I found myself automatically docketing and
labelling each man as he was introduced to me, by the run of his
features and by the first words that he spoke. I can't, however, be
regarded as really doing business during the time that I spent in
the United States. I was just winding things up. If it hadn't been
for my idea of marrying the girl I might possibly hav looked for
something to do in my own country. For my experiences there
were vivid and amusing. It was exactly as if I had come out of a
museum into a riotous fancy-dress ball. During my life with
Florence I had almost come to forget that there were such things
as fashions or occupations or the greed of gain. I had, in fact,
forgotten that there was such a thing as a dollar and that a dollar
can be extremely desirable if you don't happen to possess one. And
I had forgotten, too, that there was such a thing as gossip that
mattered. In that particular, Philadelphia was the most amazing
place I have ever been in in my life. I was not in that city for more
than a week or ten days and I didn't there transact anything much
in the way of business; nevertheless, the number of times that I
was warned by everybody against everybody else was simply
amazing. A man I didn't know would come up behind my lounge
chair in the hotel, and, whispering cautiously beside my ear,
would warn me against some other man that I equally didn't know
but who would be standing by the bar. I don't know what they
thought I was there to do--perhaps to buy out the city's debt or get
a controlling hold of some railway interest. Or, perhaps, they
imagined that I wanted to buy a newspaper, for they were either
politicians or reporters, which, of course, comes to the same thing.
As a matter of fact, my property in Philadelphia was mostly real
estate in the old-fashioned part of the city and all I wanted to do
there was just to satisfy myself that the houses were in good repair
and the doors kept properly painted. I wanted also to see my
relations, of whom I had a few. These were mostly professional
people and they were mostly rather hard up because of the big
bank failure in 1907 or thereabouts. Still, they were very nice.
They would have been nicer still if they hadn't, all of them, had
what appeared to me to be the mania that what they called
influences were working against them. At any rate, the impression
of that city was one of old-fashioned rooms, rather English than
American in type, in which handsome but careworn ladies,
cousins of my own, talked principally about mysterious
movements that were going on against them. I never got to know
what it was all about; perhaps they thought I knew or perhaps
there weren't any movements at all. It was all very secret and
subtle and subterranean. But there was a nice young fellow called
Carter who was a sort of second-nephew of mine, twice removed.
He was handsome and dark and gentie and tall and modest. I
understand also that he was a good cricketer. He was employed by
the real-estate agents who collected my rents. It was he, therefore,
who took me over my own property and I saw a good deal of him
and of a nice girl called Mary, to whom he was engaged. At that
time I did, what I certainly shouldn't do now--I made some careful
inquiries as to his character. I discovered from his employers that
he was just all that he appeared, honest, industrious, high-spirited,
friendly and ready to do anyone a good turn. His relatives,
however, as they were mine, too--seemed to have something
darkly mysterious against him. I imagined that he must have been
mixed up in some case of graft or that he had at least betrayed
several innocent and trusting maidens. I pushed, however, that
particular mystery home and discovered it was only that he was a
Democrat. My own people were mostly Republicans. It seemed to
make it worse and more darkly mysterious to them that young
Carter was what they called a sort of a Vermont Democrat which
was the whole ticket and no mistake. But I don't know what it
means. Anyhow, I suppose that my money will go to him when I
die--I like the recollection of his friendly image and of the nice
girl he was engaged to. May Fate deal very kindly with them.

I have said just now that, in my present frame of mind, nothing
would ever make me make inquiries as to the character of any
man that I liked at first sight. (The little digression as to my
Philadelphia experiences was really meant to lead around to this.)
For who in this world can give anyone a character? Who in this
world knows anything of any other heart--or of his own? I don't
mean to say that one cannot form an average estimate of the way a
person will behave. But one cannot be certain of the way any man
will behave in every case--and until one can do that a "character"
is of no use to anyone. That, for instance, was the way with
Florence's maid in Paris. We used to trust that girl with blank
cheques for the payment of the tradesmen. For quite a time she
was so trusted by us. Then, suddenly, she stole a ring. We should
not have believed her capable of it; she would not have believed
herself capable of it. It was nothing in her character. So, perhaps, it
was with Edward Ashburnham.

Or, perhaps, it wasn't. No, I rather think it wasn't. It is difficult to
figure out. I have said that the Kilsyte case eased the immediate
tension for him and Leonora. It let him see that she was capable of
loyalty to him; it gave her her chance to show that she believed in
him. She accepted without question his statement that, in kissing
the girl, he wasn't trying to do more than administer fatherly
comfort to a weeping child. And, indeed, his own
world--including the magistrates--took that view of the case.
Whatever people say, one's world can be perfectly charitable at
times . . . But, again, as I have said, it did Edward a great deal of

That, at least, was his view of it. He assured me that, before that
case came on and was wrangled about by counsel with all sorts of
dirty-mindedness that counsel in that sort of case can impute, he
had not had the least idea that he was capable of being unfaithful
to Leonora. But, in the midst of that tumult--he says that it came
suddenly into his head whilst he was in the witness-box--in the
midst of those august ceremonies of the law there came suddenly
into his mind the recollection of the softness of the girl's body as
he had pressed her to him. And, from that moment, that girl
appeared desirable to him--and Leonora completely unattractive.

He began to indulge in day-dreams in which he approached the
nurse-maid more tactfully and carried the matter much further.
Occasionally he thought of other women in terms of wary
courtship--or, perhaps, it would be more exact to say that he
thought of them in terms of tactful comforting, ending in
absorption. That was his own view of the case. He saw himself as
the victim of the law. I don't mean to say that he saw himself as a
kind of Dreyfus. The law, practically, was quite kind to him. It
stated that in its view Captain Ashburnham had been misled by an
ill-placed desire to comfort a member of the opposite sex, and it
fined him five shilling for his want of tact, or of knowledge of the
world. But Edward maintained that it had put ideas into his head.

I don't believe it, though he certainly did. He was twenty-seven
then, and his wife was out of sympathy with him--some crash was
inevitable. There was between them a momentary rapprochement;
but it could not last. It made it, probably, all the worse that, in that
particular matter, Leonara had come so very well up to the
scratch. For, whilst Edward respected her more and was grateful
to her, it made her seem by so much the more cold in other matters
that were near his heart--his responsibilities, his career, his
tradition. It brought his despair of her up to a point of
exasperation--and it riveted on him the idea that he might find
some other woman who would give him the moral support that he
needed. He wanted to be looked upon as a sort of Lohengrin.

At that time, he says, he went about deliberately looking for some
woman who could help him. He found several--for there were
quite a number of ladies in his set who were capable of agreeing
with this handsome and fine fellow that the duties of a feudal
gentleman were feudal. He would have liked to pass his days
talking to one or other of these ladies. But there was always an
obstacle--if the lady were married there would be a husband who
claimed the greater part of her time and attention. If, on the other
hand, it were an unmarried girl, he could not see very much of her
for fear of compromising her. At that date, you understand, he had
not the least idea of seducing any one of these ladies. He wanted
only moral support at the hands of some female, because he found
men difficult to talk to about ideals. Indeed, I do not believe that
he had, at any time, any idea of making any one his mistress. That
sounds queer; but I believe it is quite true as a statement of

It was, I believe, one of Leonora's priests--a man of the world--who
suggested that she should take him to Monte Carlo. He had the
idea that what Edward needed, in order to fit him for the society
of Leonora, was a touch of irresponsibility. For Edward, at that
date, had much the aspect of a prig. I mean that, if he played polo
and was an excellent dancer he did the one for the sake of keeping
himself fit and the other because it was a social duty to show
himself at dances, and, when there, to dance well. He did nothing
for fun except what he considered to be his work in life. As the
priest saw it, this must for ever estrange him from Leonora --not
because Leonora set much store by the joy of life, but because she
was out of sympathy with Edward's work. On the other hand,
Leonora did like to have a good time, now and then, and, as the
priest saw it, if Edward could be got to like having a good time
now and then, too, there would be a bond of sympathy between
them. It was a good idea, but it worked out wrongly.

It worked out, in fact, in the mistress of the Grand Duke. In anyone
less sentimental than Edward that would not have mattered. With
Edward it was fatal. For, such was his honourable nature, that for
him to enjoy a woman's favours made him feel that she had a
bond on him for life. That was the way it worked out in practice.
Psychologically it meant that he could not have a mistress without
falling violently in love with her. He was a serious person--and in
this particular case it was very expensive. The mistress of the
Grand Duke--a Spanish dancer of passionate appearance --singled
out Edward for her glances at a ball that was held in their
common hotel. Edward was tall, handsome, blond and very
wealthy as she understood--and Leonora went up to bed early. She
did not care for public dances, but she was relieved to see that
Edward appeared to be having a good time with several amiable
girls. And that was the end of Edward--for the Spanish dancer of
passionate appearance wanted one night of him for his beaux yeux.
He took her into the dark gardens and, remembering suddenly the
girl of the Kilsyte case, he kissed her. He kissed her passionately,
violently, with a sudden explosion of the passion that had been
bridled all his life--for Leonora was cold, or at any rate, well
behaved. La Dolciquita liked this reversion, and he passed the
night in her bed.

When the palpitating creature was at last asleep in his arms he
discovered that he was madly, was passionately, was
overwhelmingly in love with her. It was a passion that had arisen
like fire in dry corn. He could think of nothing else; he could live
for nothing else. But La Dolciquita was a reasonable creature
without an ounce of passion in her. She wanted a certain
satisfaction of her appetites and Edward had appealed to her the
night before. Now that was done with, and, quite coldly, she said
that she wanted money if he was to have any more of her. It was a
perfectly reasonable commercial transaction. She did not care two
buttons for Edward or for any man and he was asking her to risk a
very good situation with the Grand Duke. If Edward could put up
sufficient money to serve as a kind of insurance against accident
she was ready to like Edward for a time that would be covered, as
it were, by the policy. She was getting fifty thousand dollars a year
from her Grand Duke; Edward would have to pay a premium of
two years' hire for a month of her society. There would not be
much risk of the Grand Duke's finding it out and it was not certain
that he would give her the keys of the street if he did find out. But
there was the risk--a twenty per cent risk, as she figured it out. She
talked to Edward as if she had been a solicitor with an estate to
sell--perfectly quietly and perfectly coldly without any inflections
in her voice. She did not want to be unkind to him; but she could
see no reason for being kind to him. She was a virtuous business
woman with a mother and two sisters and her own old age to be
provided comfortably for. She did not expect more than a five
years' further run. She was twenty-four and, as she said: "We
Spanish women are horrors at thirty." Edward swore that he would
provide for her for life if she would come to him and leave off
talking so horribly; but she only shrugged one shoulder slowly and
contemptuously. He tried to convince this woman, who, as he saw
it, had surrendered to him her virtue, that he regarded it as in any
case his duty to provide for her, and to cherish her and even to love
her--for life. In return for her sacrifice he would do that. In return,
again, for his honourable love she would listen for ever to the
accounts of his estate. That was how he figured it out.

She shrugged the same shoulder with the same gesture and held
out her left hand with the elbow at her side:

"Enfin, mon ami," she said, "put in this hand the price of that tiara
at Forli's or . . ." And she turned her back on him.

Edward went mad; his world stood on its head; the palms in front
of the blue sea danced grotesque dances. You see, he believed in
the virtue, tenderness and moral support of women. He wanted
more than anything to argue with La Dolciquita; to retire with her
to an island and point out to her the damnation of her point of
view and how salvation can only be found in true love and the
feudal system. She had once been his mistress, he reflected, and
by all the moral laws she ought to have gone on being his mistress
or at the very least his sympathetic confidante. But her rooms
were closed to him; she did not appear in the hotel. Nothing:
blank silence. To break that down he had to have twenty thousand
pounds. You have heard what happened. He spent a week of
madness; he hungered; his eyes sank in; he shuddered at Leonora's
touch. I dare say that nine-tenths of what he took to be his passion
for La Dolciquita was really discomfort at the thought that he had
been unfaithful to Leonora. He felt uncommonly bad, that is to
say--oh, unbearably bad, and he took it all to be love. Poor devil,
he was incredibly naïve. He drank like a fish after Leonora was in
bed and he spread himself over the tables, and this went on for
about a fortnight. Heaven knows what would have happened; he
would have thrown away every penny that he possessed.

On the night after he had lost about forty thousand pounds and
whilst the whole hotel was whispering about it, La Dolciquita
walked composedly into his bedroom. He was too drunk to
recognize her, and she sat in his arm-chair, knitting and holding
smelling salts to her nose--for he was pretty far gone with
alcoholic poisoning--and, as soon as he was able to understand
her, she said:

"Look here, mon ami, do not go to the tables again. Take a good
sleep now and come and see me this afternoon."

He slept till the lunch-hour. By that time Leonora had heard the
news. A Mrs Colonel Whelan had told her. Mrs Colonel Whelan
seems to have been the only sensible person who was ever
connected with the Ashburnhams. She had argued it out that there
must be a woman of the harpy variety connected with Edward's
incredible behaviour and mien; and she advised Leonora to go
straight off to Town--which might have the effect of bringing
Edward to his senses--and to consult her solicitor and her spiritual
adviser. She had better go that very morning; it was no good
arguing with a man in Edward's condition.

Edward, indeed, did not know that she had gone. As soon as he
awoke he went straight to La Dolciquita's room and she stood him
his lunch in her own apartments. He fell on her neck and wept,
and she put up with it for a time. She was quite a good-natured
woman. And, when she had calmed him down with Eau de
Mélisse, she said: "Look here, my friend, how much money have
you left? Five thousand dollars? Ten?" For the rumour went that
Edward had lost two kings' ransoms a night for fourteen nights
and she imagined that he must be near the end of his resources.

The Eau de Mélisse had calmed Edward to such an extent that, for
the moment, he really had a head on his shoulders. He did nothing
more than grunt:

"And then?"

"Why," she answered, "I may just as well have the ten thousand
dollars as the tables. I will go with you to Antibes for a week for
that sum."

Edward grunted: "Five." She tried to get seven thousand five
hundred; but he stuck to his five thousand and the hotel expenses
at Antibes. The sedative carried him just as far as that and then he
collapsed again. He had to leave for Antibes at three; he could not
do without it. He left a note for Leonora saying that he had gone
off for a week with the Clinton Morleys, yachting.

He did not enjoy himself very much at Antibes. La Dolciquita
could talk of nothing with any enthusiasm except money, and she
tired him unceasingly, during every waking hour, for presents of
the most expensive description. And, at the end of a week, she just
quietly kicked him out. He hung about in Antibes for three days.
He was cured of the idea that he had any duties towards La
Dolciquita--feudal or otherwise. But his sentimentalism required
of him an attitude of Byronic gloom--as if his court had gone into
half-mourning. Then his appetite suddenly returned, and he
remembered Leonora. He found at his hotel at Monte Carlo a
telegram from Leonora, dispatched from London, saying; "Please
return as soon as convenient." He could not understand why
Leonora should have abandoned him so precipitately when she
only thought that he had gone yachting with the Clinton Morleys.
Then he discovered that she had left the hotel before he had
written the note. He had a pretty rocky journey back to town; he
was frightened out of his life--and Leonora had never seemed so
desirable to him.

V I CALL this the Saddest Story, rather than "The Ashburnham
Tragedy", just because it is so sad, just because there was no
current to draw things along to a swift and inevitable end. There is
about it none of the elevation that accompanies tragedy; there is
about it no nemesis, no destiny. Here were two noble people--for I
am convinced that both Edward and Leonora had noble
natures--here, then, were two noble natures, drifting down life, like
fireships afloat on a lagoon and causing miseries, heart-aches,
agony of the mind and death. And they themselves steadily
deteriorated. And why? For what purpose? To point what lesson?
It is all a darkness.

There is not even any villain in the story--for even Major Basil, the
husband of the lady who next, and really, comforted the
unfortunate Edward --even Major Basil was not a villain in this
piece. He was a slack, loose, shiftless sort of fellow--but he did
not do anything to Edward. Whilst they were in the same station
in Burma he borrowed a good deal of money--though, really, since
Major Basil had no particular vices, it was difficult to know why
he wanted it. He collected--different types of horses' bits from the
earliest times to the present day--but, since he did not prosecute
even this occupation with any vigour, he cannot have needed
much money for the acquirement, say, of the bit of Genghis
Khan's charger--if Genghis Khan had a charger. And when I say
that he borrowed a good deal of money from Edward I do not
mean to say that he had more than a thousand pounds from him
during the five years that the connection lasted. Edward, of
course, did not have a great deal of money; Leonora was seeing to
that. Still, he may have had five hundred pounds a year English,
for his menus plaisirs--for his regimental subscriptions and for
keeping his men smart. Leonora hated that; she would have
preferred to buy dresses for herself or to have devoted the money
to paying off a mortgage. Still, with her sense of justice, she saw
that, since she was managing a property bringing in three
thousand a year with a view to re-establishing it as a property of
five thousand a year and since the property really, if not legally,
belonged to Edward, it was reasonable and just that Edward
should get a slice of his own. Of course she had the devil of a job.

I don't know that I have got the financial details exactly right. I am
a pretty good head at figures, but my mind, still, sometimes mixes
up pounds with dollars and I get a figure wrong. Anyhow, the
proposition was something like this: Properly worked and without
rebates to the tenants and keeping up schools and things, the
Branshaw estate should have brought in about five thousand a
year when Edward had it. It brought in actually about four. (I am
talking in pounds, not dollars.) Edward's excesses with the Spanish
Lady had reduced its value to about three--as the maximum figure,
without reductions. Leonora wanted to get it back to five.

She was, of course, very young to be faced with such a
proposition--twenty-four is not a very advanced age. So she did
things with a youthful vigour that she would, very likely, have
made more merciful, if she had known more about life. She got
Edward remarkably on the hop. He had to face her in a London
hotel, when he crept back from Monte Carlo with his poor tail
between his poor legs. As far as I can make out she cut short his
first mumblings and his first attempts at affectionate speech with
words something like: "We're on the verge of ruin. Do you intend
to let me pull things together? If not I shall retire to Hendon on
my jointure." (Hendon represented a convent to which she
occasionally went for what is called a "retreat" in Catholic
circles.) And poor dear Edward knew nothing--absolutely nothing.
He did not know how much money he had, as he put it, "blued" at
the tables. It might have been a quarter of a million for all he
remembered. He did not know whether she knew about La
Dolciquita or whether she imagined that he had gone off yachting
or had stayed at Monte Carlo. He was just dumb and he just
wanted to get into a hole and not have to talk. Leonora did not
make him talk and she said nothing herself.

I do not know much about English legal procedure--I cannot, I
mean, give technical details of how they tied him up. But I know
that, two days later, without her having said more than I have
reported to you, Leonora and her attorney had become the
trustees, as I believe it is called, of all Edward's property, and
there was an end of Edward as the good landlord and father of his
people. He went out. Leonora then had three thousand a year at her
disposal. She occupied Edward with getting himself transferred to
a part of his regiment that was in Burma--if that is the right way to
put it. She herself had an interview, lasting a week or so--with
Edward's land-steward. She made him understand that the estate
would have to yield up to its last penny. Before they left for India
she had let Branshaw for seven years at a thousand a year. She
sold two Vandykes and a little silver for eleven thousand pounds
and she raised, on mortgage, twenty-nine thousand. That went to
Edward's money-lending friends in Monte Carlo. So she had to get
the twenty-nine thousand back, for she did not regard the
Vandykes and the silver as things she would have to replace. They
were just frills to the Ashburnham vanity. Edward cried for two
days over the disappearance of his ancestors and then she wished
she had not done it; but it did not teach her anything and it
lessened such esteem as she had for him. She did not also
understand that to let Branshaw affected him with a feeling of
physical soiling--that it was almost as bad for him as if a woman
belonging to him had become a prostitute. That was how it did
affect him; but I dare say she felt just as bad about the Spanish

So she went at it. They were eight years in India, and during the
whole of that time she insisted that they must be
self-supporting--they had to live on his Captain's pay, plus the
extra allowance for being at the front. She gave him the five
hundred a year for Ashburnham frills, as she called it to
herself--and she considered she was doing him very well.

Indeed, in a way, she did him very well--but it was not his way.
She was always buying him expensive things which, as it were,
she took off her own back. I have, for instance, spoken of
Edward's leather cases. Well, they were not Edward's at all; they
were Leonora's manifestations. He liked to be clean, but he
preferred, as it were, to be threadbare. She never understood that,
and all that pigskin was her idea of a reward to him for putting her
up to a little speculation by which she made eleven hundred
pounds. She did, herself, the threadbare business. When they went
up to a place called Simla, where, as I understand, it is cool in the
summer and very social--when they went up to Simla for their
healths it was she who had him prancing around, as we should say
in the United States, on a thousand-dollar horse with the gladdest
of glad rags all over him. She herself used to go into "retreat". I
believe that was very good for her health and it was also very

It was probably also very good for Edward's health, because he
pranced about mostly with Mrs Basil, who was a nice woman and
very, very kind to him. I suppose she was his mistress, but I never
heard it from Edward, of course. I seem to gather that they carried
it on in a high romantic fashion, very proper to both of them--or,
at any rate, for Edward; she seems to have been a tender and
gentle soul who did what he wanted. I do not mean to say that she
was without character; that was her job, to do what Edward
wanted. So I figured it out, that for those five years, Edward
wanted long passages of deep affection kept up in long, long talks
and that every now and then they "fell," which would give Edward
an opportunity for remorse and an excuse to lend the Major
another fifty. I don't think that Mrs Basil considered it to be
"falling"; she just pitied him and loved him.

You see, Leonora and Edward had to talk about something during
all these years. You cannot be absolutely dumb when you live
with a person unless you are an inhabitant of the North of England
or the State of Maine. So Leonora imagined the cheerful device of
letting him see the accounts of his estate and discussing them with
him. He did not discuss them much; he was trying to behave
prettily. But it was old Mr Mumford--the farmer who did not pay
his rent--that threw Edward into Mrs Basil's arms. Mrs Basil came
upon Edward in the dusk, in the Burmese garden, with all sorts of
flowers and things. And he was cutting up that crop--with his
sword, not a walking-stick. He was also carrying on and cursing in
a way you would not believe.

She ascertained that an old gentleman called Mumford had been
ejected from his farm and had been given a little cottage rent-free,
where he lived on ten shillings a week from a farmers' benevolent
society, supplemented by seven that was being allowed him by the
Ashburnham trustees. Edward had just discovered that fact from
the estate accounts. Leonora had left them in his dressing-room
and he had begun to read them before taking off his marching-kit.
That was how he came to have a sword. Leonora considered that
she had been unusually generous to old Mr Mumford in allowing
him to inhabit a cottage, rent-free, and in giving him seven
shillings a week. Anyhow, Mrs Basil had never seen a man in
such a state as Edward was. She had been passionately in love
with him for quite a time, and he had been longing for her
sympathy and admiration with a passion as deep. That was how
they came to speak about it, in the Burmese garden, under the pale
sky, with sheaves of severed vegetation, misty and odorous, in the
night around their feet. I think they behaved themselves with
decorum for quite a time after that, though Mrs Basil spent so
many hours over the accounts of the Ashburnham estate that she
got the name of every field by heart. Edward had a huge map of
his lands in his harness-room and Major Basil did not seem to
mind. I believe that people do not mind much in lonely stations.
It might have lasted for ever if the Major had not been made what
is called a brevet-colonel during the shuffling of troops that went
on just before the South African War. He was sent off somewhere
else and, of course, Mrs Basil could not stay with Edward.
Edward ought, I suppose, to have gone to the Transvaal. It would
have done him a great deal of good to get killed. But Leonora
would not let him; she had heard awful stories of the extravagance
of the hussar regiment in war-time--how they left hundred-bottle
cases of champagne, at five guineas a bottle, on the veldt and so
on. Besides, she preferred to see how Edward was spending his
five hundred a year. I don't mean to say that Edward had any
grievance in that. He was never a man of the deeds of heroism sort
and it was just as good for him to be sniped at up in the hills of
the North Western frontier, as to be shot at by an old gentleman in
a tophat at the bottom of some spruit. Those are more or less his
words about it. I believe he quite distinguished himself over there.
At any rate, he had had his D.S.O. and was made a brevet-major.
Leonora, however, was not in the least keen on his soldiering. She
hated also his deeds of heroism. One of their bitterest quarrels
came after he had, for the second time, in the Red Sea, jumped
overboard from the troopship and rescued a private soldier. She
stood it the first time and even complimented him. But the Red
Sea was awful, that trip, and the private soldiers seemed to
develop a suicidal craze. It got on Leonora's nerves; she figured
Edward, for the rest of that trip, jumping overboard every ten
minutes. And the mere cry of "Man overboard" is a disagreeable,
alarming and disturbing thing. The ship gets stopped and there are
all sorts of shouts. And Edward would not promise not to do it
again, though, fortunately, they struck a streak of cooler weather
when they were in the Persian Gulf. Leonora had got it into her
head that Edward was trying to commit suicide, so I guess it was
pretty awful for her when he would not give the promise. Leonora
ought never to have been on that troopship; but she got there
somehow, as an economy.

Major Basil discovered his wife's relation with Edward just before
he was sent to his other station. I don't know whether that was a
blackmailer's adroitness or just a trick of destiny. He may have
known of it all the time or he may not. At any rate, he got hold of,
just about then, some letters and things. It cost Edward three
hundred pounds immediately. I do not know how it was arranged;
I cannot imagine how even a blackmailer can make his demands. I
suppose there is some sort of way of saving your face. I figure the
Major as disclosing the letters to Edward with furious oaths, then
accepting his explanations that the letters were perfectly innocent
if the wrong construction were not put upon them. Then the Major
would say: "I say, old chap, I'm deuced hard up. Couldn't you lend
me three hundred or so?" I fancy that was how it was. And, year
by year, after that there would come a letter from the Major,
saying that he was deuced hard up and couldn't Edward lend him
three hundred or so? Edward was pretty hard hit when Mrs Basil
had to go away. He really had been very fond of her, and he
remained faithful to her memory for quite a long time. And Mrs
Basi had loved him very much and continued to cherish a hope of
reunion with him. Three days ago there came a quite proper but
very lamentable letter from her to Leonora, asking to be given
particulars as to Edward's death. She had read the advertisement
of it in an Indian paper. I think she must have been a very nice
woman. . . .

And then the Ashburnhams were moved somewhere up towards a
place or a district called Chitral. I am no good at geography of the
Indian Empire. By that time they had settled down into a model
couple and they never spoke in private to each other. Leonora had
given up even showing the accounts of the Ashburnham estate to
Edward. He thought that that was because she had piled up such a
lot of money that she did not want him to know how she was
getting on any more. But, as a matter of fact, after five or six years
it had penetrated to her mind that it was painful to Edward to have
to look on at the accounts of his estate and have no hand in the
management of it. She was trying to do him a kindness. And, up in
Chitral, poor dear little Maisie Maidan came along. . . .

That was the most unsettling to Edward of all his affairs. It made
him suspect that he was inconstant. The affair with the Dolciquita
he had sized up as a short attack of madness like hydrophobia. His
relations with Mrs Basil had not seemed to him to imply moral
turpitude of a gross kind. The husband had been complaisant; they
had really loved each other; his wife was very cruel to him and
had long ceased to be a wife to him. He thought that Mrs Basil
had been his soul-mate, separated from him by an unkind
fate--something sentimental of that sort.

But he discovered that, whilst he was still writing long weekly
letters to Mrs Basil, he was beginning to be furiously impatient if
he missed seeing Maisie Maidan during the course of the day. He
discovered himself watching the doorways with impatience; he
discovered that he disliked her boy husband very much for hours
at a time. He discovered that he was getting up at unearthly hours
in order to have time, later in the morning, to go for a walk with
Maisie Maidan. He discovered himself using little slang words that
she used and attaching a sentimental value to those words. These,
you understand, were discoveries that came so late that he could
do nothing but drift. He was losing weight; his eyes were
beginning to fall in; he had touches of bad fever. He was, as he
described it, pipped.

And, one ghastly hot day, he suddenly heard himself say to

"I say, couldn't we take Mrs Maidan with us to Europe and drop
her at Nauheim?"

He hadn't had the least idea of saying that to Leonora. He had
merely been standing, looking at an illustrated paper, waiting for
dinner. Dinner was twenty minutes late or the Ashburnhams
would not have been alone together. No, he hadn't had the least
idea of framing that speech. He had just been standing in a silent
agony of fear, of longing, of heat, of fever. He was thinking that
they were going back to Branshaw in a month and that Maisie
Maidan was going to remain behind and die. And then, that had
come out.

The punkah swished in the darkened room; Leonora lay exhausted
and motionless in her cane lounge; neither of them stirred. They
were both at that time very ill in indefinite ways.

And then Leonora said:

"Yes. I promised it to Charlie Maidan this afternoon. I have
offered to pay her ex's myself."

Edward just saved himself from saying: "Good God!" You see, he
had not the least idea of what Leonora knew--about Maisie, about
Mrs Basil, even about La Dolciquita. It was a pretty enigmatic
situation for him. It struck him that Leonora must be intending to
manage his loves as she managed his money affairs and it made
her more hateful to him--and more worthy of respect.

Leonora, at any rate, had managed his money to some purpose. She
had spoken to him, a week before, for the first time in several
years--about money. She had made twenty-two thousand pounds
out of the Branshaw land and seven by the letting of Branshaw
furnished. By fortunate investments--in which Edward had helped
her--she had made another six or seven thousand that might well
become more. The mortgages were all paid off, so that, except for
the departure of the two Vandykes and the silver, they were as
well off as they had been before the Dolciquita had acted the
locust. It was Leonora's great achievement. She laid the figures
before Edward, who maintained an unbroken silence.

"I propose," she said, "that you should resign from the Army and
that we should go back to Branshaw. We are both too ill to stay
here any longer."

Edward said nothing at all.

"This," Leonora continued passionlessly, "is the great day of my

Edward said:

"You have managed the job amazingly. You are a wonderful
woman." He was thinking that if they went back to Branshaw they
would leave Maisie Maidan behind. That thought occupied him
exclusively. They must, undoubtedly, return to Branshaw; there
could be no doubt that Leonora was too ill to stay in that place.
She said:

"You understand that the management of the whole of the
expenditure of the income will be in your hands. There will be
five thousand a year." She thought that he cared very much about
the expenditure of an income of five thousand a year and that the
fact that she had done so much for him would rouse in him some
affection for her. But he was thinking exclusively of Maisie
Maidan--of Maisie, thousands of miles away from him. He was
seeing the mountains between them--blue mountains and the sea
and sunlit plains. He said:

"That is very generous of you." And she did not know whether that
were praise or a sneer. That had been a week before. And all that
week he had passed in an increasing agony at the thought that
those mountains, that sea, and those sunlit plains would be
between him and Maisie Maidan. That thought shook him in the
burning nights: the sweat poured from him and he trembled with
cold, in the burning noons--at that thought. He had no minute's
rest; his bowels turned round and round within him: his tongue
was perpetually dry and it seemed to him that the breath between
his teeth was like air from a pest-house.

He gave no thought to Leonora at all; he had sent in his papers.
They were to leave in a month. It seemed to him to be his duty to
leave that place and to go away, to support Leonora. He did his

It was horrible, in their relationship at that time, that whatever she
did caused him to hate her. He hated her when he found that she
proposed to set him up as the Lord of Branshaw again--as a sort of
dummy lord, in swaddling clothes. He imagined that she had done
this in order to separate him from Maisie Maidan. Hatred hung in
all the heavy nights and filled the shadowy corners of the room.
So when he heard that she had offered to the Maidan boy to take
his wife to Europe with him, automatically he hated her since he
hated all that she did. It seemed to him, at that time, that she could
never be other than cruel even if, by accident, an act of hers were
kind. . . . Yes, it was a horrible situation.

But the cool breezes of the ocean seemed to clear up that hatred as
if it had been a curtain. They seemed to give him back admiration
for her, and respect. The agreeableness of having money lavishly
at command, the fact that it had bought for him the
companionship of Maisie Maidan--these things began to make
him see that his wife might have been right in the starving and
scraping upon which she had insisted. He was at ease; he was even
radiantly happy when he carried cups of bouillon for Maisie
Maidan along the deck. One night, when he was leaning beside
Leonora, over the ship's side, he said suddenly:

"By jove, you're the finest woman in the world. I wish we could be
better friends."

She just turned away without a word and went to her cabin. Still,
she was very much better in health.

And now, I suppose, I must give you Leonora's side of the case. . .
That is very difficult. For Leonora, if she preserved an unchanged
front, changed very frequently her point of view. She had been
drilled-- in her tradition, in her upbringing--to keep her mouth
shut. But there were times, she said, when she was so near
yielding to the temptation of speaking that afterwards she
shuddered to think of those times. You must postulate that what
she desired above all things was to keep a shut mouth to the world;
to Edward and to the women that he loved. If she spoke she would
despise herself.

From the moment of his unfaithfulness with La Dolciquita she
never acted the part of wife to Edward. It was not that she
intended to keep herself from him as a principle, for ever. Her
spiritual advisers, I believe, forbade that. But she stipulated that
he must, in some way, perhaps symbolical, come back to her. She
was not very clear as to what she meant; probably she did not
know herself. Or perhaps she did.

There were moments when he seemed to be coming back to her;
there were moments when she was within a hair of yielding to her
physical passion for him. In just the same way, at moments, she
almost yielded to the temptation to denounce Mrs Basil to her
husband or Maisie Maidan to hers. She desired then to cause the
horrors and pains of public scandals. For, watching Edward more
intently and with more straining of ears than that which a cat
bestows upon a bird overhead, she was aware of the progress of
his passion for each of these ladies. She was aware of it from the
way in which his eyes returned to doors and gateways; she knew
from his tranquillities when he had received satisfactions.

At times she imagined herself to see more than was warranted. She
imagined that Edward was carrying on intrigues with other
women--with two at once; with three. For whole periods she
imagined him to be a monster of libertinage and she could not see
that he could have anything against her. She left him his liberty;
she was starving herself to build up his fortunes; she allowed
herself none of the joys of femininity--no dresses, no
jewels--hardly even friendships, for fear they should cost money.

And yet, oddly, she could not but be aware that both Mrs Basil and
Maisie Maidan were nice women. The curious, discounting eye
which one woman can turn on another did not prevent her seeing
that Mrs Basil was very good to Edward and Mrs Maidan very
good for him. That seemed her to be a monstrous and
incomprehensible working of Fate's. Incomprehensible! Why, she
asked herself again and again, did none of the good deeds that she
did for her husband ever come through to him, or appear to hime
as good deeds? By what trick of mania could not he let her be as
good to him as Mrs Basil was? Mrs Basil was not so
extraordinarily dissimilar to herself. She was, it was true, tall,
dark, with soft mournful voice and a great kindness of manner for
every created thing, from punkah men to flowers on the trees. But
she was not so well read as Lenora, at any rate in learned books.
Leonora could not stand novels. But, even with all her differences,
Mrs Basil did not appear to Leonora to differ so very much from
herself. She was truthful, honest and, for the rest, just a woman.
And Leonora had a vague sort of idea that, to a man, all women
are the same after three weeks of close intercourse. She thought
that the kindness should no longer appeal, the soft and mournful
voice no longer thrill, the tall darkness no longer give a man the
illusion that he was going into the depths of an unexplored wood.
She could not understand how Edward could go on and on
maundering over Mrs Basil. She could not see why he should
continue to write her long letters after their separation. After that,
indeed, she had a very bad time.

She had at that period what I will call the "monstrous" theory of
Edward. She was always imagining him ogling at every woman
that he came across. She did not, that year, go into "retreat" at
Simla because she was afraid that he would corrupt her maid in
her absence. She imagined him carrying on intrigues with native
women or Eurasians. At dances she was in a fever of

She persuaded herself that this was because she had a dread of
scandals. Edward might get himself mixed up with a marriageable
daughter of some man who would make a row or some husband
who would matter. But, really, she acknowledged afterwards to
herself, she was hoping that, Mrs Basil being out of the way, the
time might have come when Edward should return to her. All that
period she passed in an agony of jealousy and fear--the fear that
Edward might really become promiscuous in his habits.

So that, in an odd way, she was glad when Maisie Maidan came
along--and she realized that she had not, before, been afraid of
husbands and of scandals, since, then, she did her best to keep
Maisie's husband unsuspicious. She wished to appear so trustful of
Edward that Maidan could not possibly have any suspicions. It
was an evil position for her. But Edward was very ill and she
wanted to see him smile again. She thought that if he could smile
again through her agency he might return, through gratitude and
satisfied love--to her. At that time she thought that Edward was a
person of light and fleeting passions. And she could understand
Edward's passion for Maisie, since Maisie was one of those
women to whom other women will allow magnetism. She was
very pretty; she was very young; in spite of her heart she was very
gay and light on her feet. And Leonora was really very fond of
Maisie, who was fond enough of Leonora. Leonora, indeed,
imagined that she could manage this affair all right. She had no
thought of Maisie's being led into adultery; she imagined that if
she could take Maisie and Edward to Nauheim, Edward would see
enough of her to get tired of her pretty little chatterings, and of the
pretty little motions of her hands and feet. And she thought she
could trust Edward. For there was not any doubt of Maisie's
passion for Edward. She raved about him to Leonora as Leonora
had heard girls rave about drawing masters in schools. She was
perpetually asking her boy husband why he could not dress, ride,
shoot, play polo, or even recite sentimental poems, like their
major. And young Maidan had the greatest admiration for
Edward, and he adored, was bewildered by and entirely trusted his
wife. It appeared to him that Edward was devoted to Leonora. And
Leonora imagined that when poor Maisie was cured of her hear
and Edward had seen enough of her, he would return to her. She
had the vague, passionate idea that, when Edward had exhausted a
number of other types of women he must turn to her. Why should
not her type have its turn in his heart? She imagined that, by now,
she understood him better, that she understood better his vanities
and that, by making him happier, she could arouse his love.

Florence knocked all that on the head. . . .



I HAVE, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that
it may be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may
be a sort of maze. I cannot help it. I have stuck to my idea of
being in a country cottage with a silent listener, hearing between
the gusts of the wind and amidst the noises of the distant sea, the
story as it comes. And, when one discusses an affair--a long, sad
affair--one goes back, one goes forward. One remembers points
that one has forgotten and one explains them all the more minutely
since one recognizes that one has forgotten to mention them in
their proper places and that one may have given, by omitting
them, a false impression. I console myself with thinking that this
is a real story and that, after all, real stories are probably told best
in the way a person telling a story would tell them. They will then
seem most real.

At any rate, I think I have brought my story up to the date of
Maisie Maidan's death. I mean that I have explained everything
that went before it from the several points of view that were
necessary--from Leonora's, from Edward's and, to some extent,
from my own. You have the facts for the trouble of finding them;
you have the points of view as far as I could ascertain or put them.
Let me imagine myself back, then, at the day of Maisie's death--or
rather at the moment of Florence's dissertation on the Protest, up
in the old Castle of the town of M----. Let us consider Leonora's
point of view with regard to Florence; Edward's, of course, I
cannot give you, for Edward naturally never spoke of his affair
with my wife. (I may, in what follows, be a little hard on Florence;
but you must remember that I have been writing away at this story
now for six months and reflecting longer and longer upon these
affairs.) And the longer I think about them the more certain I
become that Florence was a contaminating influence--she
depressed and deteriorated poor Edward; she deteriorated,
hopelessly, the miserable Leonora. There is no doubt that she
caused Leonora's character to deteriorate. If there was a fine point
about Leonora it was that she was proud and that she was silent.
But that pride and that silence broke when she made that
extraordinary outburst, in the shadowy room that contained the
Protest, and in the little terrace looking over the river. I don't
mean to say that she was doing a wrong thing. She was certainly
doing right in trying to warn me that Florence was making eyes at
her husband. But, if she did the right thing, she was doing it in the
wrong way. Perhaps she should have reflected longer; she should
have spoken, if she wanted to speak, only after reflection. Or it
would have been better if she had acted--if, for instance, she had
so chaperoned Florence that private communication between her
and Edward became impossible. She should have gone
eavesdropping; she should have watched outside bedroom doors.
It is odious; but that is the way the job is done. She should have
taken Edward away the moment Maisie was dead. No, she acted
wrongly. . . . And yet, poor thing, is it for me to condemn her--and
what did it matter in the end? If it had not been Florence, it would
have been some other . . . Still, it might have been a better woman
than my wife. For Florence was vulgar; Florence was a common
flirt who would not, at the last, lacher prise; and Florence was an
unstoppable talker. You could not stop her; nothing would stop
her. Edward and Leonora were at least proud and reserved people.
Pride and reserve are not the only things in life; perhaps they are
not even the best things. But if they happen to be your particular
virtues you will go all to pieces if you let them go. And Leonora let
them. go. She let them go before poor Edward did even. Consider
her position when she burst out over the Luther-Protest. . . .
Consider her agonies. . . .

You are to remember that the main passion of her life was to get
Edward back; she had never, till that moment, despaired of getting
him back. That may seem ignoble; but you have also to remember
that her getting him back represented to her not only a victory for
herself. It would, as it appeared to her, have been a victory for all
wives and a victory for her Church. That was how it presented
itself to her. These things are a little inscrutable. I don't know why
the getting back of Edward should have represented to her a
victory for all wives, for Society and for her Church. Or, maybe, I
have a glimmering of it. She saw life as a perpetual sex-baffle
between husbands who desire to be unfaithful to their wives, and
wives who desire to recapture their husbands in the end. That was
her sad and modest view of matrimony. Man, for her, was a sort
of brute who must have his divagations, his moments of excess, his
nights out, his, let us say, rutting seasons. She had read few novels,
so that the idea of a pure and constant love succeeding the sound
of wedding bells had never been very much presented to her. She
went, numbed and terrified, to the Mother Superior of her
childhood's convent with the tale of Edward's infidelities with the
Spanish dancer, and all that the old nun, who appeared to her to
be infinitely wise, mystic and reverend, had done had been to
shake her head sadly and to say:

"Men are like that. By the blessing of God it will all come right in
the end."

That was what was put before her by her spiritual advisers as her
programme in life. Or, at any rate, that was how their teachings
came through to her--that was the lesson she told me she had
learned of them. I don't know exactly what they taught her. The lot
of women was patience and patience and again patience--ad
majorem Dei gloriam--until upon the appointed day, if God saw
fit, she should have her reward. If then, in the end, she should have
succeeded in getting Edward back she would have kept her man
within the limits that are all that wifehood has to expect. She was
even taught that such excesses in men are natural, excusable--as if
they had been children.

And the great thing was that there should be no scandal before the
congregation. So she had clung to the idea of getting Edward back
with a fierce passion that was like an agony. She had looked the
other way; she had occupied herself solely with one idea. That
was the idea of having Edward appear, when she did get him
back, wealthy, glorious as it were, on account of his lands, and
upright. She would show, in fact, that in an unfaithful world one
Catholic woman had succeeded in retaining the fidelity of her
husband. And she thought she had come near her desires.

Her plan with regard to Maisie had appeared to be working
admirably. Edward had seemed to be cooling off towards the girl.
He did not hunger to pass every minute of the time at Nauheirn
beside the child's recumbent form; he went out to polo matches;
he played auction bridge in the evenings; he was cheerful and
bright. She was certain that he was not trying to seduce that poor
child; she was beginning to think that he had never tried to do so.
He seemed in fact to be dropping back into what he had been for
Maisie in the beginning--a kind, attentive, superior officer in the
regiment, paying gallant attentions to a bride. They were as open
in their little flirtations as the dayspring from on high. And Maisie
had not appeared to fret when he went off on excursions with us;
she had to lie down for so many hours on her bed every afternoon,
and she had not appeared to crave for the attentions of Edward at
those times. And Edward was beginning to make little advances to
Leonora. Once or twice, in private--for he often did it before
people--he had said: "How nice you look!" or "What a pretty
dress!" She had gone with Florence to Frankfurt, where they dress
as well as in Paris, and had got herself a gown or two. She could
afford it, and Florence was an excellent adviser as to dress. She
seemed to have got hold of the clue to the riddle.

Yes, Leonora seemed to have got hold of the clue to the riddle. She
imagined herself to have been in the wrong to some extent in the
past. She should not have kept Edward on such a tight rein with
regard to money. She thought she was on the right tack in letting
him--as she had done only with fear and irresolution--have again
the control of bis income. He came even a step towards her and
acknowledged, spontaneously, that she had been right in
husbanding, for all those years, their resources. He said to her one

"You've done right, old girl. There's nothing I like so much as to
have a little to chuck away. And I can do it, thanks to you."

That was really, she said, the happiest moment of her life. And he,
seeming to realize it, had ventured to pat her on the shoulder. He
had, ostensibly, come in to borrow a safety-pin of her. And the
occasion of her boxing Maisie's ears, had, after it was over,
riveted in her mind the idea that there was no intrigue between
Edward and Mrs Maidan. She imagined that, from henceforward,
all that she had to do was to keep him well supplied with money
and his mind amused with pretty girls. She was convinced that he
was coming back to her. For that month she no longer repelled his
timid advances that never went very far. For he certainly made
timid advances. He patted her on the shoulder; he whispered into
her ear little jokes about the odd figures that they saw up at the
Casino. It was not much to make a little joke--but the whispering
of it was a precious intimacy. . . .

And then--smash--it all went. It went to pieces at the moment
when Florence laid her hand upon Edward's wrist, as it lay on the
glass sheltering the manuscript of the Protest, up in the high tower
with the shutters where the sunlight here and there streamed in.
Or, rather, it went when she noticed the look in Edward's eyes as
he gazed back into Florence's. She knew that look.

She had known--since the first moment of their meeting, since the
moment of our all sitting down to dinner together--that Florence
was making eyes at Edward. But she had seen so many women
make eyes at Edward--hundreds and hundreds of women, in
railway trains, in hotels, aboard liners, at street corners. And she
had arrived at thinking that Edward took little stock in women
that made eyes at him. She had formed what was, at that time, a
fairly correct estimate of the methods of, the reasons for, Edward's
loves. She was certain that hitherto they had consisted of the short
passion for the Dolciquita, the real sort of love for Mrs Basil, and
what she deemed the pretty courtship of Maisie Maidan. Besides
she despised Florence so haughtily that she could not imagine
Edward's being attracted by her. And she and Maisie were a sort
of bulwark round him. She wanted, besides, to keep her eyes on
Florence--for Florence knew that she had boxed Maisie's ears.
And Leonora desperately desired that her union with Edward
should appear to be flawless. But all that went. . . .

With the answering gaze of Edward into Florence's blue and
uplifted eyes, she knew that it had all gone. She knew that that
gaze meant that those two had had long conversations of an
intimate kind--about their likes and dislikes, about their natures,
about their views of marriage. She knew what it meant that she,
when we all four walked out together, had always been with me
ten yards ahead of Florence and Edward. She did not imagine that
it had gone further than talks about their likes and dislikes, about
their natures or about marriage as an institution. But, having
watched Edward all her life, she knew that that laying on of
hands, that answering of gaze with gaze, meant that the thing was
unavoidable. Edward was such a serious person.

She knew that any attempt on her part to separate those two would
be to rivet on Edward an irrevocable passion; that, as I have
before told you, it was a trick of Edward's nature to believe that
the seducing of a woman gave her an irrevocable hold over him
for life. And that touching of hands, she knew, would give that
woman an irrevocable claim--to be seduced. And she so despised
Florence that she would have preferred it to be a parlour-maid.
There are very decent parlour-maids.

And, suddenly, there came into her mind the conviction that
Maisie Maidan had a real passion for Edward; that this would
break her heart--and that she, Leonora, would be responsible for
that. She went, for the moment, mad. She clutched me by the
wrist; she dragged me down those stairs and across that
whispering Rittersaal with the high painted pillars, the high
painted chimney-piece. I guess she did not go mad enough.

She ought to have said:

"Your wife is a harlot who is going to be my husband's mistress . .
." That might have done the trick. But, even in her madness, she
was afraid to go as far as that. She was afraid that, if she did,
Edward and Florence would make a bolt of it, and that, if they did
that, she would lose forever all chance of getting him back in the
end. She acted very badly to me.

Well, she was a tortured soul who put her Church before the
interests of a Philadelphia Quaker. That is all right--I daresay the
Church of Rome is the more important of the two.

A week after Maisie Maidan's death she was aware that Florence
had become Edward's mistress. She waited outside Florence's door
and met Edward as he came away. She said nothing and he only
grunted. But I guess he had a bad time.

Yes, the mental deterioration that Florence worked in Leonora was
extraordinary; it smashed up her whole life and all her chances. It
made her, in the first place, hopeless--for she could not see how,
after that, Edward could return to her--after a vulgar intrigue with
a vulgar woman. His affair with Mrs Basil, which was now all that
she had to bring, in her heart, against him, she could not find it in
her to call an intrigue. It was a love affair--a pure enough thing in
its way. But this seemed to her to be a horror--a wantonness, all
the more detestable to her, because she so detested Florence. And
Florence talked. . . .

That was what was terrible, because Florence forced Leonora
herself to abandon her high reserve--Florence and the situation. It
appears that Florence was in two minds whether to confess to me
or to Leonora. Confess she had to. And she pitched at last on
Leonora, because if it had been me she would have had to confess
a great deal more. Or, at least, I might have guessed a great deal
more, about her "heart", and about Jimmy. So she went to Leonora
one day and began hinting and hinting. And she enraged Leonora
to such an extent that at last Leonora said:

"You want to tell me that you are Edward's mistress. You can be. I
have no use for him." That was really a calamity for Leonora,
because, once started, there was no stopping the talking. She tried
to stop--but it was not to be done. She found it necessary to send
Edward messages through Florence; for she would not speak to
him. She had to give him, for instance, to understand that if I ever
came to know of his intrigue she would ruin him beyond repair.
And it complicated matters a good deal that Edward, at about this
time, was really a little in love with her. He thought that he had
treated her so badly; that she was so fine. She was so mournful
that he longed to comfort her, and he thought himself such a
blackguard that there was nothing he would not have done to
make amends. And Florence communicated these items of
information to Leonora.

I don't in the least blame Leonora for her coarseness to Florence; it
must have done Florence a world of good. But I do blame her for
giving way to what was in the end a desire for
communicativeness. You see that business cut her off from her
Church. She did not want to confess what she was doing because
she was afraid that her spiritual advisers would blame her for
deceiving me. I rather imagine that she would have preferred
damnation to breaking my heart. That is what it works out at. She
need not have troubled.

But, having no priests to talk to, she had to talk to someone, and as
Florence insisted on talking to her, she talked back, in short,
explosive sentences, like one of the damned. Precisely like one of
the damned. Well, if a pretty period in hell on this earth can spare
her any period of pain in Eternity--where there are not any
periods--I guess Leonora will escape hell fire.

Her conversations with Florence would be like this. Florence
would happen in on her, whilst she was doing her wonderful hair,
with a proposition from Edward, who seems about that time to
have conceived the naïve idea that he might become a
polygamist. I daresay it was Florence who put it into his head.
Anyhow, I am not responsible for the oddities of the human
psychology. But it certainly appears that at about that date Edward
cared more for Leonora than he had ever done before--or, at any
rate, for a long time. And, if Leonora had been a person to play
cards and if she had played her cards well, and if she had had no
sense of shame and so on, she might then have shared Edward
with Florence until the time came for jerking that poor cuckoo out
of the nest. Well, Florence would come to Leonora with some
such proposition. I do not mean to say that she put it baldly, like
that. She stood out that she was not Edward's mistress until
Leonora said that she had seen Edward coming out of her room at
an advanced hour of the night. That checked Florence a bit; but
she fell back upon her "heart" and stuck out that she had merely
been conversing with Edward in order to bring him to a better
frame of mind. Florence had, of course, to stick to that story; for
even Florence would not have had the face to implore Leonora to
grant her favours to Edward if she had admitted that she was
Edward's mistress. That could not be done. At the same time
Florence had such a pressing desire to talk about something. There
would have been nothing else to talk about but a rapprochement
between that estranged pair. So Florence would go on babbling
and Leonora would go on brushing her hair. And then Leonora
would say suddenly something like:

"I should think myself defiled if Edward touched me now that he
has touched you."

That would discourage Florence a bit; but after a week or so, on
another morning she would have another try.

And even in other things Leonora deteriorated. She had promised
Edward to leave the spending of his own income in his own
hands. And she had fully meant to do that. I daresay she would
have done it too; though, no doubt, she would have spied upon his
banking account in secret. She was not a Roman Catholic for
nothing. But she took so serious a view of Edward's unfaithfulness
to the memory of poor little Maisie that she could not trust him
any more at all .

So when she got back to Branshaw she started, after less than a
month, to worry him about the minutest items of his expenditure.
She allowed him to draw his own cheques, but there was hardly a
cheque that she did not scrutinize--except for a private account of
about five hundred a year which, tacitly, she allowed him to keep
for expenditure on his mistress or mistresses. He had to have his
jaunts to Paris; he had to send expensive cables in cipher to
Florence about twice a week. But she worried him about his
expenditure on wines, on fruit trees, on harness, on gates, on the
account at his blacksmith's for work done to a new patent Army
stirrup that he was trying to invent. She could not see why he
should bother to invent a new Army stirrup, and she was really
enraged when, after the invention was mature, he made a present
to the War Office of the designs and the patent rights. It was a
remarkably good stirrup.

I have told you, I think, that Edward spent a great deal of time, and
about two hundred pounds for law fees on getting a poor girl, the
daughter of one of his gardeners, acquitted of a charge of
murdering her baby. That was positively the last act of Edward's
life. It came at a time when Nancy Rufford was on her way to
India; when the most horrible gloom was over the household;
when Edward himself was in an agony and behaving as prettily as
he knew how. Yet even then Leonora made him a terrible scene
about this expenditure of time and trouble. She sort of had the
vague idea that what had passed with the girl and the rest of it
ought to have taught Edward a lesson--the lesson of economy. She
threatened to take his banking account away from him again. I
guess that made him cut his throat. He might have stuck it out
otherwise--but the thought that he had lost Nancy and that, in
addition, there was nothing left for him but a dreary, dreary
succession of days in which he could be of no public service . . .
Well, it finished him.

It was during those years that Leonora tried to get up a love affair
of her own with a fellow called Bayham--a decent sort of fellow.
A really nice man. But the affair was no sort of success. I have
told you about it already. . . .


WELL, that about brings me up to the date of my receiving, in
Waterbury, the laconic cable from Edward to the effect that he
wanted me to go to Branshaw and have a chat. I was pretty busy at
the time and I was half minded to send him a reply cable to the
effect that I would start in a fortnight. But I was having a long
interview with old Mr Hurlbird's attorneys and immediately
afterwards I had to have a long interview with the Misses Hurlbird,
so I delayed cabling.

I had expected to find the Misses Hurlbird excessively old--in the
nineties or thereabouts. The time had passed so slowly that I had
the impression that it must have been thirty years since I had been
in the United States. It was only twelve years. Actually Miss
Hurlbird was just sixty-one and Miss Florence Hurlbird fifty-nine,
and they were both, mentally and physically, as vigorous as could
be desired. They were, indeed, more vigorous, mentally, than
suited my purpose, which was to get away from the United States
as quickly as I could. The Hurlbirds were an exceedingly united
family--exceedingly united except on one set of points. Each of the
three of them had a separate doctor, whom they trusted
implicitly--and each had a separate attorney. And each of them
distrusted the other's doctor and the other's attorney. And,
naturally, the doctors and the attorneys warned one all the
time--against each other. You cannot imagine how complicated it
all became for me. Of course I had an attorney of my
own--recommended to me by young Carter, my Philadelphia

I do not mean to say that there was any unpleasantness of a
grasping kind. The problem was quite another one--a moral
dilemma. You see, old Mr Hurlbird had left all his property to
Florence with the mere request that she would have erected to him
in the city of Waterbury, Ill., a memorial that should take the form
of some sort of institution for the relief of sufferers from the heart.
Florence's money had all come to me-- and with it old Mr
Hurlbird's. He had died just five days before Florence.

Well, I was quite ready to spend a round million dollars on the
relief of sufferers from the heart. The old gentleman had left
about a million and a half; Florence had been worth about eight
hundred thousand--and as I figured it out, I should cut up at about
a million myself. Anyhow, there was ample money. But I
naturally wanted to consult the wishes of his surviving relatives
and then the trouble really began. You see, it had been discovered
that Mr Hurlbird had had nothing whatever the matter with his
heart. His lungs had been a little affected all through his life and
he had died of bronchitis. It struck Miss Florence Hurlbird that,
since her brother had died of lungs and not of heart, his money
ought to go to lung patients. That, she considered, was what her
brother would have wished. On the other hand, by a kink, that I
could not at the time understand, Miss Hurlbird insisted that I
ought to keep the money all to myself. She said that she did not
wish for any monuments to the Hurlbird family. At the time I
thought that that was because of a New England dislike for
necrological ostentation. But I can figure out now, when I
remember certain insistent and continued questions that she put to
me, about Edward Ashburnham, that there was another idea in her
mind. And Leonora has told me that, on Florence's dressing-table,
beside her dead body, there had lain a letter to Miss Hurlbird--a
letter which Leonora posted without telling me. I don't know how
Florence had time to write to her aunt; but I can quite understand
that she would not like to go out of the world without making
some comments. So I guess Florence had told Miss Hurlbird a
good bit about Edward Ashburnham in a few scrawled words--and
that that was why the old lady did not wish the name of Hurlbird
perpetuated. Perhaps also she thought that I had earned the
Hurlbird money. It meant a pretty tidy lot of discussing, what with
the doctors warning each other about the bad effects of
discussions on the health of the old ladies, and warning me
covertly against each other, and saying that old Mr Hurlbird might
have died of heart, after all, in spite of the diagnosis of his doctor.
And the solicitors all had separate methods of arranging about
how the money should be invested and entrusted and bound.
Personally, I wanted to invest the money so that the interest could
be used for the relief of sufferers from the heart. If old Mr
Hurlbird had not died of any defects in that organ he had
considered that it was defective. Moreover, Florence had certainly
died of her heart, as I saw it. And when Miss Florence Hurlbird
stood out that the money ought to go to chest sufferers I was
brought to thinking that there ought to be a chest institution too,
and I advanced the sum that I was ready to provide to a million
and a half of dollars. That would have given seven hundred and
fifty thousand to each class of invalid. I did not want money at all
badly. All I wanted it for was to be able to give Nancy Rufford a
good time. I did not know much about housekeeping expenses in
England where, I presumed, she would wish to live. I knew that
her needs at that time were limited to good chocolates, and a good
horse or two, and simple, pretty frocks. Probably she would want
more than that later on. But even if I gave a million and a half
dollars to these institutions I should still have the equivalent of
about twenty thousand a year English, and I considered that Nancy
could have a pretty good time on that or less. Anyhow, we had a
stiff set of arguments up at the Hurlbird mansion which stands on
a bluff over the town. It may strike you, silent listener, as being
funny if you happen to be European. But moral problems of that
description and the giving of millions to institutions are
immensely serious matters in my country. Indeed, they are the
staple topics for consideration amongst the wealthy classes. We
haven't got peerage and social climbing to occupy us much, and
decent people do not take interest in politics or elderly people in
sport. So that there were real tears shed by both Miss Hurlbird and
Miss Florence before I left that city. I left it quite abruptly. Four
hours after Edward's telegram came another from Leonora, saying:
"Yes, do come. You could be so helpful." I simply told my
attorney that there was the million and a half; that he could invest
it as he liked, and that the purposes must be decided by the Misses
Hurlbird. I was, anyhow, pretty well worn out by all the
discussions. And, as I have never heard yet from the Misses
Hurlbird, I rather think that Miss Hurlbird, either by revelations or
by moral force, has persuaded Miss Florence that no memorial to
their names shall be erected in the city of Waterbury, Conn. Miss
Hurlbird wept dreadfully when she heard that I was going to stay
with the Ashburnhams, but she did not make any comments. I was
aware, at that date, that her niece had been seduced by that fellow
Jimmy before I had married her--but I contrived to produce on her
the impression that I thought Florence had been a model wife.
Why, at that date I still believed that Florence had been perfectly
virtuous after her marriage to me. I had not figured it out that she
could have played it so low down as to continue her intrigue with
that fellow under my roof. Well, I was a fool. But I did not think
much about Florence at that date. My mind was occupied with
what was happening at Branshaw. I had got it into my head that
the telegrams had something to do with Nancy. It struck me that
she might have shown signs of forming an attachment for some
undesirable fellow and that Leonora wanted me to come back and
marry her out of harm's way. That was what was pretty firmly in
my mind. And it remained in my mind for nearly ten days after my
arrival at that beautiful old place. Neither Edward nor Leonora
made any motion to talk to me about anything other than the
weather and the crops. Yet, although there were several young
fellows about, I could not see that any one in particular was
distinguished by the girl's preference. She certainly appeared illish
and nervous, except when she woke up to talk gay nonsense to
me. Oh, the pretty thing that she was. . . .

I imagined that what must have happened was that the undesirable
young man had been forbidden the place and that Nancy was
fretting a little. What had happened was just Hell. Leonora had
spoken to Nancy; Nancy had spoken to Edward; Edward had
spoken to Leonora--and they had talked and talked. And talked.
You have to imagine horrible pictures of gloom and half lights,
and emotions running through silent nights--through whole nights.
You have to imagine my beautiful Nancy appearing suddenly to
Edward, rising up at the foot of his bed, with her long hair falling,
like a split cone of shadow, in the glimmer of a night-light that
burned beside him. You have to imagine her, a silent, a no doubt
agonized figure, like a spectre, suddenly offering herself to
him--to save his reason! And you have to imagine his frantic
refusal--and talk. And talk! My God!

And yet, to me, living in the house, enveloped with the charm of
the quiet and ordered living, with the silent, skilled servants
whose mere laying out of my dress clothes was like a caress--to
me who was hourly with them they appeared like tender, ordered
and devoted people, smiling, absenting themselves at the proper
intervals; driving me to meets--just good people! How the
devil--how the devil do they do it?

At dinner one evening Leonora said--she had just opened a

"Nancy will be going to India, tomorrow, to be with her father."

No one spoke. Nancy looked at her plate; Edward went on eating
his pheasant. I felt very bad; I imagined that it would be up to me
to propose to Nancy that evening. It appeared to me to be queer
that they had not given me any warning of Nancy's departure--But
I thought that that was only English manners--some sort of
delicacy that I had not got the hang of. You must remember that at
that moment I trusted in Edward and Leonora and in Nancy
Rufford, and in the tranquility of ancient haunts of peace, as I had
trusted in my mother's love. And that evening Edward spoke to

What in the interval had happened had been this:

Upon her return from Nauheim Leonora had completely broken
down--because she knew she could trust Edward. That seems odd
but, if you know anything about breakdowns, you will know that
by the ingenious torments that fate prepares for us, these things
come as soon as, a strain having relaxed, there is nothing more to
be done. It is after a husband's long illness and death that a widow
goes to pieces; it is at the end of a long rowing contest that a crew
collapses and lies forward upon its oars. And that was what
happened to Leonora.

From certain tones in Edward's voice; from the long, steady stare
that he had given her from his bloodshot eyes on rising from the
dinner table in the Nauheim hotel, she knew that, in the affair of
the poor girl, this was a case in which Edward's moral scruples, or
his social code, or his idea that it would be playing it too low
down, rendered Nancy perfectly safe. The girl, she felt sure, was
in no danger at all from Edward. And in that she was perfectly
right. The smash was to come from herself.

She relaxed; she broke; she drifted, at first quickly, then with an
increasing momentum, down the stream of destiny. You may put it
that, having been cut off from the restraints of her religion, for the
first time in her life, she acted along the lines of her instinctive
desires. I do not know whether to think that, in that she was no
longer herself; or that, having let loose the bonds of her standards,
her conventions and her traditions, she was being, for the first
time, her own natural self. She was torn between her intense,
maternal love for the girl and an intense jealousy of the woman
who realizes that the man she loves has met what appears to be the
final passion of his life. She was divided between an intense
disgust for Edward's weakness in conceiving this passion, an
intense pity for the miseries that he was enduring, and a feeling
equally intense, but one that she hid from herself--a feeling of
respect for Edward's determination to keep himself, in this
particular affair, unspotted.

And the human heart is a very mysterious thing. It is impossible to
say that Leonora, in acting as she then did, was not filled with a
sort of hatred of Edward's final virtue. She wanted, I think, to
despise him. He was, she realized gone from her for good. Then
let him suffer, let him agonize; let him, if possible, break and go
to that Hell that is the abode of broken resolves. She might have
taken a different line. It would have been so easy to send the girl
away to stay with some friends; to have taken her away herself
upon some pretext or other. That would not have cured things but
it would have been the decent line, . . . But, at that date, poor
Leonora was incapable of taking any line whatever.

She pitied Edward frightfully at one time--and then she acted
along the lines of pity; she loathed him at another and then she
acted as her loathing dictated. She gasped, as a person dying of
tuberculosis gasps for air. She craved madly for communication
with some other human soul. And the human soul that she
selected was that of the girl.

Perhaps Nancy was the only person that she could have talked to.
With her necessity for reticences, with her coldness of manner,
Leonora had singularly few intimates. She had none at all, with
the exception of the Mrs Colonel Whelen, who had advised her
about the affair with La Dolciquita, and the one or two religious,
who had guided her through life. The Colonel's wife was at that
time in Madeira; the religious she now avoided. Her visitors' book
had seven hundred names in it; there was not a soul that she could
speak to. She was Mrs Ashburnham of Branshaw Teleragh.

She was the great Mrs Ashburnham of Branshaw and she lay all
day upon her bed in her marvellous, light, airy bedroom with the
chintzes and the Chippendale and the portraits of deceased
Ashburnhams by Zoffany and Zucchero. When there was a meet
she would struggle up--supposing it were within driving
distance--and let Edward drive her and the girl to the cross-roads
or the country house. She would drive herself back alone; Edward
would ride off with the girl. Ride Leonora could not, that
season--her head was too bad. Each pace of her mare was an

But she drove with efficiency and precision; she smiled at the
Gimmers and Ffoulkes and the Hedley Seatons. She threw with
exactitude pennies to the boys who opened gates for her; she sat
upright on the seat of the high dog-cart; she waved her hands to
Edward and Nancy as they rode off with the hounds, and every
one could hear her clear, high voice, in the chilly weather, saying:
"Have a good time!"

Poor forlorn woman! . . .

There was, however, one spark of consolation. It came from the
fact that Rodney Bayham, of Bayham, followed her always with
his eyes. It had been three years since she had tried her abortive
love-affair with him. Yet still, on the winter mornings he would
ride up to her shafts and just say: "Good day," and look at her with
eyes that were not imploring, but seemed to say: "You see, I am
still, as the Germans say, A. D.--at disposition."

It was a great consolation, not because she proposed ever to take
him up again, but because it showed her that there was in the
world one faithful soul in riding-breeches. And it showed her that
she was not losing her looks.

And, indeed, she was not losing her looks. She was forty, but she
was as clean run as on the day she had left the convent--as clear in
outline, as clear coloured in the hair, as dark blue in the eyes. She
thought that her looking-glass told her this; but there are always
the doubts. . . . Rodney Bayham's eyes took them away.

It is very singular that Leonora should not have aged at all. I
suppose that there are some types of beauty and even of youth
made for the embellishments that come with enduring sorrow.
That is too elaborately put. I mean that Leonora, if everything had
prospered, might have become too hard and, maybe, overbearing.
As it was she was tuned down to appearing efficient--and yet
sympathetic. That is the rarest of all blends. And yet I swear that
Leonora, in her restrained way, gave the impression of being
intensely sympathetic. When she listened to you she appeared also
to be listening to some sound that was going on in the distance.
But still, she listened to you and took in what you said, which,
since the record of humanity is a record of sorrows, was, as a rule,
something sad.

I think that she must have taken Nancy through many terrors of the
night and many bad places of the day. And that would account for
the girl's passionate love for the elder woman. For Nancy's love
for Leonora was an admiration that is awakened in Catholics by
their feeling for the Virgin Mary and for various of the saints. It is
too little to say that the girl would have laid her life at Leonora's
feet. Well, she laid there the offer of her virtue--and her reason.
Those were sufficient instalments of her life. It would today be
much better for Nancy Rufford if she were dead.

Perhaps all these reflections are a nuisance; but they crowd on me.
I will try to tell the story.

You see--when she came back from Nauheim Leonora began to
have her headaches--headaches lasting through whole days, during
which she could speak no word and could bear to hear no sound.
And, day after day, Nancy would sit with her, silent and
motionless for hours, steeping handkerchiefs in vinegar and water,
and thinking her own thoughts. It must have been very bad for
her--and her meals alone with Edward must have been bad for her
too--and beastly bad for Edward. Edward, of course, wavered in
his demeanour, What else could he do? At times he would sit
silent and dejected over his untouched food. He would utter
nothing but monosyllables when Nancy spoke to him. Then he
was simply afraid of the girl falling in love with him. At other
times he would take a little wine; pull himself together; attempt to
chaff Nancy about a stake and binder hedge that her mare had
checked at, or talk about the habits of the Chitralis. That was when
he was thinking that it was rough on the poor girl that he should
have become a dull companion. He realized that his talking to her
in the park at Nauheim had done her no harm.

But all that was doing a great deal of harm to Nancy. It gradually
opened her eyes to the fact that Edward was a man with his ups
and downs and not an invariably gay uncle like a nice dog, a
trustworthy horse or a girl friend. She would find him in attitudes
of frightful dejection, sunk into his armchair in the study that was
half a gun-room. She would notice through the open door that his
face was the face of an old, dead man, when he had no one to talk
to. Gradually it forced itself upon her attention that there were
profound differences between the pair that she regarded a her
uncle and her aunt. It was a conviction that came very slowly.

It began with Edward's giving an oldish horse to a young fellow
called Selmes. Selmes' father had been ruined by fraudulent
solicitor and the Selmes family had had to sell their hunters. It
was a case that had excited a good deal of sympathy in that part of
the county. And Edward, meeting the young man one day,
unmounted, and seeing him to be very unhappy, had offered to
give him an old Irish cob upon which he was riding. It was a silly
sort of thing to do really. The horse was worth from thirty to forty
pounds and Edward might have known that the gift would upset
his wife. But Edward just had to comfort that unhappy young man
whose father he had known all his life. And what made it all the
worse was that young Selmes could not afford to keep the horse
even. Edward recollected this, immediately after he had made the
offer, and said quickly:

"Of course I mean that you should stable the horse at Branshaw
until you have time to turn round or want to sell him and get a

Nancy went straight home and told all this to Leonora who was
lying down. She regarded it as a splendid instance of Edward's
quick consideration for the feelings and the circumstances of the
distressed. She thought it would cheer Leonora up--because it
ought to cheer any woman up to know that she had such a
splendid husband. That was the last girlish thought she ever had.
For Leonora, whose headache had left her collected but miserably
weak, turned upon her bed and uttered words that were amazing
to the girl:

"I wish to God," she said, "that he was your husband, and not mine.
We shall be ruined. We shall be ruined. Am I never to have a
chance?" And suddenly Leonora burst into a passion of tears. She
pushed herself up from the pillows with one elbow and sat
there--crying, crying, crying, with her face hidden in her hands
and the tears falling through her fingers.

The girl flushed, stammered and whimpered as if she had been
personally insulted.

"But if Uncle Edward . . ." she began.

"That man," said Leonora, with an extraordinary bitterness, "would
give the shirt off his back and off mine--and off yours to any . . ."
She could not finish the sentence.

At that moment she had been feeling an extraordinary hatred and
contempt for her husband. All the morning and all the afternoon
she had been lying there thinking that Edward and the girl were
together--in the field and hacking it home at dusk. She had been
digging her sharp nails into her palms.

The house had been very silent in the drooping winter weather.
And then, after an eternity of torture, there had invaded it the
sound of opening doors, of the girl's gay voice saying:

"Well, it was only under the mistletoe." . . . And there was
Edward's gruff undertone. Then Nancy had come in, with feet that
had hastened up the stairs and that tiptoed as they approached the
open door of Leonora's room. Branshaw had a great big hall with
oak floors and tiger skins. Round this hall there ran a gallery upon
which Leonora's doorway gave. And even when she had the worst
of her headaches she liked to have her door open--I suppose so
that she might hear the approaching footsteps of ruin and disaster.
At any rate she hated to be in a room with a shut door.

At that moment Leonora hated Edward with a hatred that was like
hell, and she would have liked to bring her riding-whip down
across the girl's face. What right had Nancy to be young and
slender and dark, and gay at times, at times mournful? What right
had she to be exactly the woman to make Leonora's husband
happy? For Leonora knew that Nancy would have made Edward

Yes, Leonora wished to bring her riding-whip down on Nancy's
young face. She imagined the pleasure she would feel when the
lash fell across those queer features; the plea sure she would feel

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest