Part 11 out of 13
All that his words suggested took form before her vividly.
How well he understood what he was saying. But she
answered him bravely.
"No. I do not mean to do that."
He watched her for a few seconds. There was curiosity in
"Don't make the mistake of imagining that I will let my
wife go with you to America," he said next. "She is as far
off from that as she was when I brought her to Stornham. I
have told her so. A man cannot tie his wife to the bedpost in
these days, but he can make her efforts to leave him so decidedly
unpleasant that decent women prefer to stay at home and take
what is coming. I have seen that often enough `to bank on it,'
if I may quote your American friends."
"Do you remember my once saying," Betty remarked, "that
when a woman has been PROPERLY ill-treated the time comes
when nothing matters--nothing but release from the life she
"Yes," he answered. "And to you nothing would matter
but--excuse my saying it--your own damnable, headstrong
pride. But Rosalie is different. Everything matters to her.
And you will find it so, my dear girl."
And that this was at least half true was brought home to
her by the fact that late the same night Rosy came to her white
"It is not your fault, Betty," she said. "Don't think that I
think it is your fault, but he has been in my room in one of
those humours when he seems like a devil. He thinks you will
go back to America and try to take me with you. But, Betty,
you must not think about me. It will be better for you to go.
I have seen you again. I have had you for--for a time. You
will be safer at home with father and mother."
Betty laid a hand on her shoulder and looked at her fixedly.
"What is it, Rosy?" she said. "What is it he does to you
--that makes you like this?"
"I don't know--but that he makes me feel that there is
nothing but evil and lies in the world and nothing can help
one against them. Those things he says about everyone--men
and women--things one can't repeat--make me sick. And when
I try to deny them, he laughs."
"Does he say things about me?" Betty inquired, very
quietly, and suddenly Rosalie threw her arms round her.
"Betty, darling," she cried, "go home--go home. You
must not stay here."
"When I go, you will go with me," Betty answered. "I
am not going back to mother without you."
She made a collection of many facts before their interview
was at an end, and they parted for the night. Among the first
was that Nigel had prepared for certain possibilities as wise
holders of a fortress prepare for siege. A rather long sitting
alone over whisky and soda had, without making him loquacious,
heated his blood in such a manner as led him to be less
subtle than usual. Drink did not make him drunk, but malignant,
and when a man is in the malignant mood, he forgets his
cleverness. So he revealed more than he absolutely intended.
It was to be gathered that he did not mean to permit his wife
to leave him, even for a visit; he would not allow himself to
be made ridiculous by such a thing. A man who could not
control his wife was a fool and deserved to be a laughing-stock.
As Ughtred and his future inheritance seemed to have become
of interest to his grandfather, and were to be well nursed and
taken care of, his intention was that the boy should remain under
his own supervision. He could amuse himself well enough at
Stornham, now that it had been put in order, if it was kept
up properly and he filled it with people who did not bore
him. There were people who did not bore him--plenty of
them. Rosalie would stay where she was and receive his guests.
If she imagined that the little episode of Ffolliott had been
entirely dormant, she was mistaken. He knew where the man
was, and exactly how serious it would be to him if scandal was
stirred up. He had been at some trouble to find out. The
fellow had recently had the luck to fall into a very fine living.
It had been bestowed on him by the old Duke of Broadmorlands,
who was the most strait-laced old boy in England.
He had become so in his disgust at the light behaviour of the
wife he had divorced in his early manhood. Nigel cackled
gently as he detailed that, by an agreeable coincidence, it
happened that her Grace had suddenly become filled with pious
fervour--roused thereto by a good-looking locum tenens--
result, painful discoveries--the pair being now rumoured to be
keeping a lodging-house together somewhere in Australia. A
word to good old Broadmorlands would produce the effect of a
lighted match on a barrel of gunpowder. It would be the end
of Ffolliott. Neither would it be a good introduction to Betty's
first season in London, neither would it be enjoyed by her
mother, whom he remembered as a woman with primitive views
of domestic rectitude. He smiled the awful smile as he took out
of his pocket the envelope containing the words his wife had
written to Mr. Ffolliott, "Do not come to the house. Meet
me at Bartyon Wood." It did not take much to convince people,
if one managed things with decent forethought. The
Brents, for instance, were fond neither of her nor of Betty, and
they had never forgotten the questionable conduct of their locum
tenens. Then, suddenly, he had changed his manner and had
sat down, laughing, and drawn Rosalie to his knee and kissed
her--yes, he had kissed her and told her not to look like a
little fool or act like one. Nothing unpleasant would happen if
she behaved herself. Betty had improved her greatly, and she had
grown young and pretty again. She looked quite like a child
sometimes, now that her bones were covered and she dressed
well. If she wanted to please him she could put her arms
round his neck and kiss him, as he had kissed her.
"That is what has made you look white," said Betty.
"Yes. There is something about him that sometimes makes
you feel as if the very blood in your veins turned white,"
answered Rosy--in a low voice, which the next moment rose.
"Don't you see--don't you see," she broke out, "that to
displease him would be like murdering Mr. Ffolliott--like
murdering his mother and mine--and like murdering Ughtred,
because he would be killed by the shame of things--and by being
taken from me. We have loved each other so much--so much.
Don't you see?"
"I see all that rises up before you," Betty said, "and I
understand your feeling that you cannot save yourself by bringing
ruin upon an innocent man who helped you. I realise that
one must have time to think it over. But, Rosy," a sudden ring
in her voice, "I tell you there is a way out--there is a way
out! The end of the misery is coming--and it will not be what
"You always believe----" began Rosy.
"I know," answered Betty. "I know there are some things
so bad that they cannot go on. They kill themselves through
their own evil. I KNOW! I KNOW! That is all."
"DON'T GO ON WITH THIS"
Of these things, as of others, she had come to her solitude to
think. She looked out over the marshes scarcely seeing the
wandering or resting sheep, scarcely hearing the crying plover,
because so much seemed to confront her, and she must look it
all well in the face. She had fulfilled the promise she had
made to herself as a child. She had come in search of Rosy,
she had found her as simple and loving of heart as she had ever
been. The most painful discoveries she had made had been
concealed from her mother until their aspect was modified.
Mrs. Vanderpoel need now feel no shock at the sight of the
restored Rosy. Lady Anstruthers had been still young enough
to respond both physically and mentally to love, companionship,
agreeable luxuries, and stimulating interests. But for Nigel's
antagonism there was now no reason why she should not be
taken home for a visit to her family, and her long-yearned-for
New York, no reason why her father and mother should not
come to Stornham, and thus establish the customary social
relations between their daughter's home and their own. That this
seemed out of the question was owing to the fact that at the
outset of his married life Sir Nigel had allowed himself to
commit errors in tactics. A perverse egotism, not wholly normal
in its rancour, had led him into deeds which he had begun to
suspect of having cost him too much, even before Betty herself
had pointed out to him their unbusinesslike indiscretion. He
had done things he could not undo, and now, to his mind, his
only resource was to treat them boldly as having been the
proper results of decision founded on sound judgment, which
he had no desire to excuse. A sufficiently arrogant loftiness of
bearing would, he hoped, carry him through the matter. This
Betty herself had guessed, but she had not realised that this
loftiness of attitude was in danger of losing some of its
effectiveness through his being increasingly stung and spurred by
circumstances and feelings connected with herself, which were at
once exasperating and at times almost overpowering. When, in
his mingled dislike and admiration, he had begun to study his
sister-in-law, and the half-amused weaving of the small plots
which would make things sufficiently unpleasant to be used as
factors in her removal from the scene, if necessary, he had not
calculated, ever so remotely, on the chance of that madness
besetting him which usually besets men only in their youth. He
had imagined no other results to himself than a subtly-exciting
private entertainment, such as would give spice to the dullness
of virtuous life in the country. But, despite himself and his
intentions, he had found the situation alter. His first
uncertainty of himself had arisen at the Dunholm ball, when he
had suddenly realised that he was detesting men who, being young
and free, were at liberty to pay gallant court to the new beauty.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing to him had been his
consciousness of his sudden leap of antagonism towards Mount
Dunstan, who, despite his obvious lack of chance, somehow
especially roused in him the rage of warring male instinct.
There had been admissions he had been forced, at length, to make
to himself. You could not, it appeared, live in the house with a
splendid creature like this one--with her brilliant eyes, her
beauty of line and movement before you every hour, her bloom,
her proud fineness holding themselves wholly in their own
keeping--without there being the devil to pay. Lately he had
sometimes gone hot and cold in realising that, having once told
himself that he might choose to decide to get rid of her, he now
knew that the mere thought of her sailing away of her own
choice was maddening to him. There WAS the devil to pay!
It sometimes brought back to him that hideous shakiness of
nerve which had been a feature of his illness when he had been
on the Riviera with Teresita.
Of all this Betty only knew the outward signs which, taken
at their exterior significance, were detestable enough, and drove
her hard as she mentally dwelt on them in connection with other
things. How easy, if she stood alone, to defy his evil insolence
to do its worst, and leaving the place at an hour's notice, to
sail away to protection, or, if she chose to remain in England,
to surround herself with a bodyguard of the people in whose eyes
his disrepute relegated a man such as Nigel Anstruthers to
powerless nonentity. Alone, she could have smiled and turned
her back upon him. But she was here to take care of Rosy.
She occupied a position something like that of a woman who
remains with a man and endures outrage because she cannot
leave her child. That thought, in itself, brought Ughtred to
her mind. There was Ughtred to be considered as well as his
mother. Ughtred's love for and faith in her were deep and
passionate things. He fed on her tenderness for him, and had
grown stronger because he spent hours of each day talking,
reading, and driving with her. The simple truth was that
neither she nor Rosalie could desert Ughtred, and so long as
Nigel managed cleverly enough, the law would give the boy to
"You are obliged to prove things, you know, in a court of
law," he had said, as if with casual amiability, on a certain
occasion. "Proving things is the devil. People lose their
tempers and rush into rows which end in lawsuits, and then
find they can prove nothing. If I were a villain," slightly
showing his teeth in an agreeable smile--"instead of a man of
blameless life, I should go in only for that branch of my
profession which could be exercised without leaving stupid
Since his return to Stornham the outward decorum of his
own conduct had entertained him and he had kept it up with
an increasing appreciation of its usefulness in the present
situation. Whatsoever happened in the end, it was the part of
discretion to present to the rural world about him an
appearance of upright behaviour. He had even found it amusing
to go to church and also to occasionally make amiable calls
at the vicarage. It was not difficult, at such times, to refer
delicately to his regret that domestic discomfort had led him
into the error of remaining much away from Stornham. He
knew that he had been even rather touching in his expression
of interest in the future of his son, and the necessity of the
boy's being protected from uncontrolled hysteric influences.
And, in the years of Rosalie's unprotected wretchedness, he
had taken excellent care that no "stupid evidence" should be
exposed to view.
Of all this Betty was thinking and summing up definitely,
point after point. Where was the wise and practical course
of defence? The most unthinkable thing was that one could
find one's self in a position in which action seemed inhibited.
What could one do? To send for her father would surely end
the matter--but at what cost to Rosy, to Ughtred, to Ffolliott,
before whom the fair path to dignified security had so newly
opened itself? What would be the effect of sudden confusion,
anguish, and public humiliation upon Rosalie's carefully rebuilt
health and strength--upon her mother's new hope and happiness?
At moments it seemed as if almost all that had been done
might be undone. She was beset by such a moment now, and
felt for the time, at least, like a creature tied hand and foot
while in full strength.
Certainly she was not prepared for the event which
happened. Roland stiffened his ears, and, beginning a rumbling
growl, ended it suddenly, realising it an unnecessary precaution.
He knew the man walking up the incline of the mound from the
side behind them. So did Betty know him. It was Sir Nigel
looking rather glowering and pale and walking slowly. He had
discovered where she had meant to take refuge, and had
probably ridden to some point where he could leave his horse
and follow her at the expense of taking a short cut which saved
As he climbed the mound to join her, Betty rose to her feet.
"My dear girl," he said, "don't get up as if you meant to
go away. It has cost me some exertion to find you."
"It will not cost you any exertion to lose me," was her
light answer. "I AM going away."
He had reached her, and stood still before her with scarcely
a yard's distance between them. He was slightly out of breath
and even a trifle livid. He leaned on his stick and his look
at her combined leaping bad temper with something deeper.
"Look here!" he broke out, "why do you make such a point
of treating me like the devil?"
Betty felt her heart give a hastened beat, not of fear, but
of repulsion. This was the mood and manner which subjugated
Rosalie. He had so raised his voice that two men in the
distance, who might be either labourers or sportsmen, hearing
its high tone, glanced curiously towards them.
"Why do you ask me a question which is totally absurd?"
"It is not absurd," he answered. "I am speaking of facts,
and I intend to come to some understanding about them."
For reply, after meeting his look a few seconds, she simply
turned her back and began to walk away. He followed and
"I shall go with you, and I shall say what I want to say,"
he persisted. "If you hasten your pace I shall hasten mine.
I cannot exactly see you running away from me across the
marsh, screaming. You wouldn't care to be rescued by those
men over there who are watching us. I should explain myself
to them in terms neither you nor Rosalie would enjoy. There!
I knew Rosalie's name would pull you up. Good God! I wish
I were a weak fool with a magnificent creature protecting me
at all risks."
If she had not had blood and fire in her veins, she might
have found it easy to answer calmly. But she had both, and
both leaped and beat furiously for a few seconds. It was only
human that it should be so. But she was more than a passionate
girl of high and trenchant spirit, and she had learned, even in
the days at the French school, what he had never been able to
learn in his life--self-control. She held herself in as she
would have held in a horse of too great fire and action. She was
actually able to look--as the first Reuben Vanderpoel would
have looked--at her capital of resource. But it meant taut
holding of the reins.
"Will you tell me," she said, stopping, "what it is you want?"
"I want to talk to you. I want to tell you truths you would
rather be told here than on the high road, where people are
passing--or at Stornham, where the servants would overhear
and Rosalie be thrown into hysterics. You will NOT run
screaming across the marsh, because I should run screaming
after you, and we should both look silly. Here is a rather
scraggy tree. Will you sit on the mound near it--for Rosalie's
"I will not sit down," replied Betty, "but I will listen,
because it is not a bad idea that I should understand you. But
to begin with, I will tell you something." She stopped
beneath the tree and stood with her back against its trunk.
"I pick up things by noticing people closely, and I have
realised that all your life you have counted upon getting
your own way because you saw that people--especially women
--have a horror of public scenes, and will submit to almost
anything to avoid them. That is true very often, but not
Her eyes, which were well opened, were quite the blue of steel,
and rested directly upon him. "I, for instance, would let you
make a scene with me anywhere you chose--in Bond Street--
in Piccadilly--on the steps of Buckingham Palace, as I was
getting out of my carriage to attend a drawing-room--and you
would gain nothing you wanted by it--nothing. You may place
entire confidence in that statement."
He stared back at her, momentarily half-magnetised, and then
broke forth into a harsh half-laugh.
"You are so damned handsome that nothing else matters.
I'm hanged if it does!" and the words were an exclamation.
He drew still nearer to her, speaking with a sort of savagery.
"Cannot you see that you could do what you pleased with
me? You are too magnificent a thing for a man to withstand.
I have lost my head and gone to the devil through you.
That is what I came to say."
In the few seconds of silence that followed, his breath came
quickly again and he was even paler than before.
"You came to me to say THAT?" asked Betty.
"Yes--to say it before you drove me to other things."
Her gaze was for a moment even slightly wondering. He
presented the curious picture of a cynical man of the world, for
the time being ruled and impelled only by the most primitive
instincts. To a clear-headed modern young woman of the
most powerful class, he--her sister's husband--was making
threatening love as if he were a savage chief and she a savage
beauty of his tribe. All that concerned him was that he should
speak and she should hear--that he should show her he was
the stronger of the two.
"Are you QUITE mad?" she said.
"Not quite," he answered; "only three parts--but I am
beyond my own control. That is the best proof of what has
happened to me. You are an arrogant piece and you would
defy me if you stood alone, but you don't, and, by the Lord! I
have reached a point where I will make use of every lever I
can lay my hand on--yourself, Rosalie, Ughtred, Ffolliott--
the whole lot of you!"
The thing which was hardest upon her was her knowledge
of her own strength--of what she might have allowed herself
of flaming words and instant action--but for the memory of
Rosy's ghastly little face, as it had looked when she cried out,
"You must not think of me. Betty, go home--go home!"
She held the white desperation of it before her mental vision
and answered him even with a certain interested deliberateness.
"Do you know," she inquired, "that you are talking to me
as though you were the villain in the melodrama?"
"There is an advantage in that," he answered, with an
unholy smile. "If you repeat what I say, people will only think
that you are indulging in hysterical exaggeration. They don't
believe in the existence of melodrama in these days."
The cynical, absolute knowledge of this revealed so much
that nerve was required to face it with steadiness.
"True," she commented. "Now I think I understand."
"No, you don't," he burst forth. "You have spent your
life standing on a golden pedestal, being kowtowed to, and you
imagine yourself immune from difficulties because you think
you can pay your way out of anything. But you will find that
you cannot pay your way out of this--or rather you cannot pay
Rosalie's way out of it."
"I shall not try. Go on," said the girl. "What I do not
understand, you must explain to me. Don't leave anything
"Good God, what a woman you are!" he cried out
bitterly. He had never seen such beauty in his life as he saw in
her as she stood with her straight young body flat against the
tree. It was not a matter of deep colour of eye, or high spirit
of profile--but of something which burned him. Still as she
was, she looked like a flame. She made him feel old and body-
worn, and all the more senselessly furious.
"I believe you hate me," he raged. "And I may thank my
wife for that." Then he lost himself entirely. "Why cannot
you behave well to me? If you will behave well to me, Rosalie
shall go her own way. If you even looked at me as you look
at other men--but you do not. There is always something
under your lashes which watches me as if I were a wild beast
you were studying. Don't fancy yourself a dompteuse. I am
not your man. I swear to you that you don't know what you
are dealing with. I swear to you that if you play this game with
me I will drag you two down if I drag myself with you. I
have nothing much to lose. You and your sister have everything."
"Go on," Betty said briefly.
"Go on! Yes, I will go on. Rosalie and Ffolliott I hold
in the hollow of my hand. As for you--do you know that
people are beginning to discuss you? Gossip is easily stirred in
the country, where people are so bored that they chatter in
self-defence. I have been considered a bad lot. I have become
curiously attached to my sister-in-law. I am seen hanging about
her, hanging over her as we ride or walk alone together. An
American young woman is not like an English girl--she is
used to seeing the marriage ceremony juggled with. There's
a trifle of prejudice against such young women when they
are too rich and too handsome. Don't look at me like that!" he
burst forth, with maddened sharpness, "I won't have it!"
The girl was regarding him with the expression he most
resented--the reflection of a normal person watching an
abnormal one, and studying his abnormality.
"Do you know that you are raving?" she said, with quiet
Suddenly he sat down on the low mound near him, and as he
touched his forehead with his handkerchief, she saw that his
hand actually shook.
"Yes," he answered, panting, "but 'ware my ravings!
They mean what they say."
"You do yourself an injury when you give way to them"--
steadily, even with a touch of slow significance--"a physical
injury. I have noticed that more than once."
He sprang to his feet again. Every drop of blood left his
face. For a second he looked as if he would strike her. His
arm actually flung itself out--and fell.
"You devil!" he gasped. "You count on that? You she-devil!"
She left her tree and stood before him.
"Listen to me," she said. "You intimate that you have
been laying melodramatic plots against me which will injure
my good name. That is rubbish. Let us leave it at that. You
threaten that you will break Rosy's heart and take her child
from her, you say also that you will wound and hurt my
mother to her death and do your worst to ruin an honest
"And, by God, I will!" he raged. "And you cannot stop
"I do not know whether I can stop you or not, though you
may be sure I will try," she interrupted him, "but that is not
what I was going to say." She drew a step nearer, and there
was something in the intensity of her look which fascinated and
held him for a moment. She was curiously grave. "Nigel, I
believe in certain things you do not believe in. I believe black
thoughts breed black ills to those who think them. It is not a
new idea. There is an old Oriental proverb which says,
`Curses, like chickens, come home to roost.' I believe also that
the worst--the very worst CANNOT be done to those who think
steadily--steadily--only of the best. To you that is merely
superstition to be laughed at. That is a matter of opinion.
But--don't go on with this thing--DON'T GO ON WITH IT. Stop
and think it over."
He stared at her furiously--tried to laugh outright, and
failed because the look in her eyes was so odd in its strength
"You think you can lay some weird spell upon me," he
"No, I don't," she answered. "I could not if I would. It
is no affair of mine. It is your affair only--and there is
nothing weird about it. Don't go on, I tell you. Think better
She turned about without further speech, and walked away
from him with light swiftness over the marsh. Oddly enough,
he did not even attempt to follow her. He felt a little weak--
perhaps because a certain thing she had said had brought back
to him a familiar touch of the horrors. She had the eyes of
a falcon under the odd, soft shade of the extraordinary lashes.
She had seen what he thought no one but himself had realised.
Having watched her retreating figure for a few seconds, he sat
down--as suddenly as before--on the mound near the tree.
"Oh, damn her!" he said, his damp forehead on his hands.
"Damn the whole universe!"
. . . . .
When Betty and Roland reached Stornham, the wicker-work
pony chaise from the vicarage stood before the stone entrance
steps. The drawing-room door was open, and Mrs. Brent was
standing near it saying some last words to Lady Anstruthers
before leaving the house, after a visit evidently made with an
object. This Betty gathered from the solemnity of her manner.
"Betty," said Lady Anstruthers, catching sight of her, "do
come in for a moment."
When Betty entered, both her sister and Mrs. Brent looked
at her questioningly.
"You look a little pale and tired, Miss Vanderpoel," Mrs.
Brent said, rather as if in haste to be the first to speak. "I
hope you are not at all unwell. We need all our strength just
now. I have brought the most painful news. Malignant
typhoid fever has broken out among the hop pickers on the
Mount Dunstan estate. Some poor creature was evidently
sickening for it when he came from London. Three people died
SHE WOULD DO SOMETHING
Sir Nigel's face was not a good thing to see when he appeared
at the dinner table in the evening. As he took his seat the two
footmen glanced quickly at each other, and the butler at the
sideboard furtively thrust out his underlip. Not a man or
woman in the household but had learned the signal denoting
the moment when no service would please, no word or movement
be unobjectionable. Lady Anstruthers' face unconsciously
assumed its propitiatory expression, and she glanced at her
sister more than once when Betty was unaware that she did so.
Until the soup had been removed, Sir Nigel scarcely spoke,
merely making curt replies to any casual remark. This was one
of his simple and most engaging methods of at once enjoying
an ill-humour and making his wife feel that she was in some way
to blame for it.
"Mount Dunstan is in a deucedly unpleasant position," he
condescended at last. "I should not care to stand in his shoes."
He had not returned to the Court until late in the afternoon,
but having heard in the village the rumour of the outbreak of
fever, he had made inquiries and gathered detail.
"You are thinking of the outbreak of typhoid among the
hop pickers?" said Lady Anstruthers. "Mrs. Brent thinks it
threatens to be very serious."
"An epidemic, without a doubt," he answered. "In a
wretched unsanitary place like Dunstan village, the wretches
will die like flies."
"What will be done?" inquired Betty.
He gave her one of the unpleasant personal glances and
"Done? The county authorities, who call themselves
`guardians,' will be frightened to death and will potter about
and fuss like old women, and profess to examine and protect
and lay restrictions, but everyone will manage to keep at a
discreet distance, and the thing will run riot and do its worst.
As far as one can see, there seems no reason why the whole place
should not be swept away. No doubt Mount Dunstan has
wisely taken to his heels already."
"I think that, on the contrary, there would be much doubt
of that," Betty said. "He would stay and do what he could."
Sir Nigel shrugged his shoulders.
"Would he? I think you'll find he would not."
"Mrs. Brent tells me," Rosalie broke in somewhat hurriedly,
"that the huts for the hoppers are in the worst possible
condition. They are so dilapidated that the rain pours into
them. There is no proper shelter for the people who are ill, and
Lord Mount Dunstan cannot afford to take care of them."
"But he WILL--he WILL," broke forth Betty. Her head lifted
itself and she spoke almost as if through her small, shut teeth.
A wave of intense belief--high, proud, and obstinate, swept
through her. It was a feeling so strong and vibrant that she
felt as if Mount Dunstan himself must be reached and upborne
by it--as if he himself must hear her.
Rosalie looked at her half-startled, and, for the moment held
fascinated by the sudden force rising in her and by the splendid
spark of light under her lids. She was reminded of the fierce
little Betty of long ago, with her delicate, indomitable
small face and the spirit which even at nine years old had
somehow seemed so strong and straitly keen of sight that one
had known it might always be trusted. Actually, in one way,
she had not changed. She saw the truth of things. The next
instant, however, inadvertently glancing towards her husband,
she caught her breath quickly. Across his heavy-featured face
had shot the sudden gleam of a new expression. It was as if
he had at the moment recognised something which filled him
with a rush of fury he himself was not prepared for. That he
did not wish it to be seen she knew by his manner. There was
a brief silence in which it passed away. He spoke after it, with
"He has had an enormous effect on you--that man," he said
He spoke clearly so that she might have the pleasure of being
certain that the menservants heard. They were close to the
table, handing fruit--professing to be automatons, eyes down,
faces expressing nothing, but as quick of hearing as it is said
that blind men are. He knew that if he had been in her place
and a thing as insultingly significant had been said to him,
he should promptly have hurled the nearest object--plate, wine-
glass, or decanter--in the face of the speaker. He knew, too,
that women cannot hurl projectiles without looking like viragos
and fools. The weakly-feminine might burst into tears or
into a silly rage and leave the table. There was a distinct
breath's space of pause, and Betty, cutting a cluster from a
bunch of hothouse grapes presented by the footman at her side,
answered as clearly as he had spoken himself.
"He is strong enough to produce an effect on anyone," she said.
"I think you feel that yourself. He is a man who will not be
beaten in the end. Fortune will give him some good thing."
"He is a fellow who knows well enough on which hand of him good
things lie," he said. "He will take all that offers itself."
"Why not?" Betty said impartially.
"There must be no riding or driving in the neighbourhood
of the place," he said next. "I will have no risks run." He
turned and addressed the butler. "Jennings, tell the servants
that those are my orders."
He sat over his wine but a short time that evening, and when
he joined his wife and sister-in-law in the drawing-room he
went at once to Betty. In fact, he was in the condition when
a man cannot keep away from a woman, but must invent some
reason for reaching her whether it is fatuous or plausible.
"What I said to Jennings was an order to you as well as to
the people below stairs. I know you are particularly fond of
riding in the direction of Mount Dunstan. You are in my
care so long as you are in my house."
"Orders are not necessary," Betty replied. "The day is
past when one rushed to smooth pillows and give the wrong
medicine when one's friends were ill. If one is not a properly-
trained nurse, it is wiser not to risk being very much in the
He spoke over her shoulder, dropping his voice, though Lady
Anstruthers sat apart, appearing to read.
"Don't think I am fool enough not to understand. You
have yourself under magnificent control, but a woman passionately
in love cannot keep a certain look out of her eyes."
He was standing on the hearth. Betty swung herself lightly
round, facing him squarely. Her full look was splendid.
"If it is there--let it stay," she said. "I would not keep it
out of my eyes if I could, and, you are right, I could not if I
would--if it is there. If it is--let it stay."
The daring, throbbing, human truth of her made his brain
whirl. To a man young and clean and fit to count as in the
lists, to have heard her say the thing of a rival would have been
hard enough, but base, degenerate, and of the world behind her
day, to hear it while frenzied for her, was intolerable. And
it was Mount Dunstan she bore herself so highly for. Whether
melodrama is out of date or not there are, occasionally, some
fine melodramatic touches in the enmities of to-day.
"You think you will reach him," he persisted. "You think you
will help him in some way. You will not let the thing alone."
"Excuse my mentioning that whatsoever I take the liberty
of doing will encroach on no right of yours," she said.
But, alone in her room, after she went upstairs, the face
reflecting itself in the mirror was pale and its black brows were
She sat down at the dressing-table, and, seeing the paled face,
drew the black brows closer, confronting a complicating truth.
"If I were free to take Rosalie and Ughtred home to-morrow," she
thought, "I could not bear to go. I should suffer too much."
She was suffering now. The strong longing in her heart
was like a physical pain. No word or look of this one man had
given her proof that his thoughts turned to her, and yet it was
intolerable--intolerable--that in his hour of stress and need
they were as wholly apart as if worlds rolled between them.
At any dire moment it was mere nature that she should give
herself in help and support. If, on the night at sea, when they
had first spoken to each other, the ship had gone down, she
knew that they two, strangers though they were, would have
worked side by side among the frantic people, and have been
among the last to take to the boats. How did she know? Only
because, he being he, and she being she, it must have been so
in accordance with the laws ruling entities. And now he stood
facing a calamity almost as terrible--and she with full hands
She had seen the hop pickers' huts and had recognised their
condition. Mere brick sheds in which the pickers slept upon
bundles of hay or straw in their best days; in their decay they
did not even provide shelter. In fine weather the hop gatherers
slept well enough in them, cooking their food in gypsy-fashion
in the open. When the rain descended, it must run down walls
and drip through the holes in the roofs in streams which would
soak clothes and bedding. The worst that Nigel and Mrs.
Brent had implied was true. Illness of any order, under such
circumstances, would have small chance of recovery, but malignant
typhoid without shelter, without proper nourishment or
nursing, had not one chance in a million. And he--this one
man--stood alone in the midst of the tragedy--responsible and
helpless. He would feel himself responsible as she herself
would, if she were in his place. She was conscious that
suddenly the event of the afternoon--the interview upon the
marshes, had receded until it had become an almost unmeaning
incident. What did the degenerate, melodramatic folly
She had restlessly left her chair before the dressing-table, and
was walking to and fro. She paused and stood looking down
at the carpet, though she scarcely saw it.
"Nothing matters but one thing--one person," she owned
to herself aloud. "I suppose it is always like this. Rosy,
Ughtred, even father and mother--everyone seems less near
than they were. It is too strong--too strong. It is----" the
words dropped slowly from her lips, "the strongest thing--
in the world."
She lifted her face and threw out her hands, a lovely young
half-sad smile curling the deep corners of her mouth. "Sometimes
one feels so disdained," she said--"so disdained with all
one's power. Perhaps I am an unwanted thing."
But even in this case there were aids one might make an
effort to give. She went to her writing-table and sat thinking
for some time. Afterwards she began to write letters. Three
or four were addressed to London--one was to Mr. Penzance.
. . . . .
Mount Dunstan and his vicar were walking through the
village to the vicarage. They had been to the hop pickers' huts
to see the people who were ill of the fever. Both of them
noticed that cottage doors and windows were shut, and that
here and there alarmed faces looked out from behind latticed
"They are in a panic of fear," Mount Dunstan said, "and
by way of safeguard they shut out every breath of air and
stifle indoors. Something must be done."
Catching the eye of a woman who was peering over her
short white dimity blind, he beckoned to her authoritatively.
She came to the door and hesitated there, curtsying nervously.
Mount Dunstan spoke to her across the hedge.
"You need not come out to me, Mrs. Binner. You may
stay where you are," he said. "Are you obeying the orders
given by the Guardians?"
"Yes, my lord. Yes, my lord," with more curtsys.
"Your health is very much in your own hands," he added.
"You must keep your cottage and your children cleaner than
you have ever kept them before, and you must use the disinfectant
I sent you. Keep away from the huts, and open your
windows. If you don't open them, I shall come and do it for
you. Bad air is infection itself. Do you understand?"
"Yes, my lord. Thank your lordship."
"Go in and open your windows now, and tell your neighbours
to do the same. If anyone is ill let me know at once.
The vicar and I will do our best for everyone."
By that time curiosity had overcome fear, and other cottage
doors had opened. Mount Dunstan passed down the row and
said a few words to each woman or man who looked out.
Questions were asked anxiously and he answered them. That
he was personally unafraid was comfortingly plain, and the
mere sight of him was, on the whole, an unexplainable support.
"We heard said your lordship was going away," put in a
stout mother with a heavy child on her arm, a slight testiness
scarcely concealed by respectful good-manners. She was a
matron with a temper, and that a Mount Dunstan should
avoid responsibilities seemed highly credible.
"I shall stay where I am," Mount Dunstan answered.
"My place is here."
They believed him, Mount Dunstan though he was. It
could not be said that they were fond of him, but gradually
it had been borne in upon them that his word was to be relied
on, though his manner was unalluring and they knew he was
too poor to do his duty by them or his estate. As he walked
away with the vicar, windows were opened, and in one or two
untidy cottages a sudden flourishing of mops and brooms began.
There was dark trouble in Mount Dunstan's face. In the
huts they had left two men stiff on their straw, and two
women and a child in a state of collapse. Added to these
were others stricken helpless. A number of workers in the
hop gardens, on realising the danger threatening them, had
gathered together bundles and children, and, leaving the harvest
behind, had gone on the tramp again. Those who remained
were the weaker or less cautious, or were held by some tie
to those who were already ill of the fever. The village doctor
was an old man who had spent his blameless life in bringing
little cottagers into the world, attending their measles and
whooping coughs, and their father's and grandfather's
rheumatics. He had never faced a village crisis in the course
of his seventy-five years, and was aghast and flurried with
fright. His methods remained those of his youth, and were
marked chiefly by a readiness to prescribe calomel in any
emergency. A younger and stronger man was needed, as well
as a man of more modern training. But even the most
brilliant practitioner of the hour could not have provided
shelter and nourishment, and without them his skill would have
counted as nothing. For three weeks there had been no rain,
which was a condition of the barometer not likely to last.
Already grey clouds were gathering and obscuring the blueness
of the sky.
The vicar glanced upwards anxiously.
"When it comes," he said, "there will be a downpour, and
a persistent one."
"Yes," Mount Dunstan answered.
He had lain awake thinking throughout the night. How
was a man to sleep! It was as Betty Vanderpoel had known
it would be. He, who--beggar though he might be--was
the lord of the land, was the man to face the strait of these
poor workers on the land, as his own. Some action must
be taken. What action? As he walked by his friend's side
from the huts where the dead men lay it revealed itself that
he saw his way.
They were going to the vicarage to consult a medical book,
but on the way there they passed a part of the park where,
through a break in the timber the huge, white, blind-faced
house stood on view. Mount Dunstan laid his hand on Mr.
Penzance's shoulder and stopped him
"Look there!" he said. "THERE are weather-tight rooms
A startled expression showed itself on the vicar's face.
"For what?" he exclaimed
"For a hospital," brusquely "I can give them one thing,
"It is a very remarkable thing to think of doing," Mr.
"It is not so remarkable as that labourers on my land
should die at my gate because I cannot give them decent
roofs to cover them. There is a roof that will shield them
from the weather. They shall be brought to the Mount."
The vicar was silent a moment, and a flush of sympathy
warmed his face.
"You are quite right, Fergus," he said, "entirely right."
"Let us go to your study and plan how it shall be done,"
Mount Dunstan said.
As they walked towards the vicarage, he went on talking.
"When I lie awake at night, there is one thread which
always winds itself through my thoughts whatsoever they are.
I don't find that I can disentangle it. It connects itself with
Reuben S. Vanderpoel's daughter. You would know that
without my telling you. If you had ever struggled with an
"It is not insane, I repeat," put in Penzance unflinchingly.
"Thank you--whether you are right or wrong," answered
Mount Dunstan, striding by his side. "When I am awake,
she is as much a part of my existence as my breath itself.
When I think things over, I find that I am asking myself
if her thoughts would be like mine. She is a creature of
action. Last night, as I lay awake, I said to myself, `She
would DO something. What would she do?' She would not
be held back by fear of comment or convention. She would
look about her for the utilisable, and she would find it
somewhere and use it. I began to sum up the village resources
and found nothing--until my thoughts led me to my own
house. There it stood--empty and useless. If it were hers,
and she stood in my place, she would make it useful. So I
"You are quite right," Mr. Penzance said again.
They spent an hour in his library at the vicarage, arranging
practical methods for transforming the great ballroom into
a sort of hospital ward. It could be done by the removal of
pieces of furniture from the many unused bedrooms. There
was also the transportation of the patients from the huts to be
provided for. But, when all this was planned out, each found
himself looking at the other with an unspoken thought in
his mind. Mount Dunstan first expressed it.
"As far as I can gather, the safety of typhoid fever patients
depends almost entirely on scientific nursing, and the caution
with which even liquid nourishment is given. The
woman whose husband died this morning told me that he had
seemed better in the night, and had asked for something to eat.
She gave him a piece of bread and a slice of cold bacon,
because he told her he fancied it. I could not explain to her,
as she sat sobbing over him, that she had probably killed him.
When we have patients in our ward, what shall we feed them
on, and who will know how to nurse them? They do not know
how to nurse each other, and the women in the village would
not run the risk of undertaking to help us."
But, even before he had left the house, the problem was
solved for them. The solving of it lay in the note Miss
Vanderpoel had written the night before at Stornham.
When it was brought to him Mr. Penzance glanced up
from certain calculations he was making upon a sheet of note-
paper. The accumulating difficulties made him look worn
and tired. He opened the note and read it gravely, and
then as gravely, though with a change of expression, handed
it to Mount Dunstan.
"Yes, she is a creature of action. She has heard and
understood at once, and she has done something. It is immensely
practical--it is fine--it--it is lovable."
"Do you mind my keeping it?" Mount Dunstan asked, after he had
"Keep it by all means," the vicar answered. "It is worth
But it was quite brief. She had heard of the outbreak of
fever among the hop pickers, and asked to be allowed to give
help to the people who were suffering. They would need
prompt aid. She chanced to know something of the requirements
of such cases, and had written to London for certain
supplies which would be sent to them at once. She had also
written for nurses, who would be needed above all else.
Might she ask Mr. Penzance to kindly call upon her for
any further assistance required.
"Tell her we are deeply grateful," said Mount Dunstan,
"and that she has given us greater help than she knows."
"Why not answer her note yourself?" Penzance suggested.
Mount Dunstan shook his head.
"No," he said shortly. "No."
IN THE BALLROOM
Though Dunstan village was cut off, by its misfortune,
from its usual intercourse with its neighbours, in some mystic
manner villages even at twenty miles' distance learned all
it did and suffered, feared or hoped. It did not hope greatly,
the rustic habit of mind tending towards a discouraged
outlook, and cherishing the drama of impending calamity. As
far as Yangford and Marling inmates of cottages and farm-
houses were inclined to think it probable that Dunstan would
be "swep away," and rumours of spreading death and disaster
were popular. Tread, the advanced blacksmith at Stornham,
having heard in his by-gone, better days of the Great Plague
of London, was greatly in demand as a narrator of illuminating
anecdotes at The Clock Inn.
Among the parties gathered at the large houses Mount
Dunstan himself was much talked of. If he had been a
popular man, he might have become a sort of hero; as he was
not popular, he was merely a subject for discussion. The
fever-stricken patients had been carried in carts to the Mount
and given beds in the ballroom, which had been made into a
temporary ward. Nurses and supplies had been sent for from
London, and two energetic young doctors had taken the place
of old Dr. Fenwick, who had been frightened and overworked
into an attack of bronchitis which confined him to his bed.
Where the money came from, which must be spent every day
under such circumstances, it was difficult to say. To the
simply conservative of mind, the idea of filling one's house
with dirty East End hop pickers infected with typhoid seemed
too radical. Surely he could have done something less
extraordinary. Would everybody be expected to turn their houses
into hospitals in case of village epidemics, now that he had
established a precedent? But there were people who approved,
and were warm in their sympathy with him. At the first dinner
party where the matter was made the subject of argument,
the beautiful Miss Vanderpoel, who was present, listened
silently to the talk with such brilliant eyes that Lord Dunholm,
who was in an elderly way her staunch admirer, spoke to her
across the table:
"Tell us what YOU think of it, Miss Vanderpoel," he suggested.
She did not hesitate at all.
"I like it," she answered, in her clear, well-heard voice.
"I like it better than anything I have ever heard."
"So do I," said old Lady Alanby shortly. "I should never
have done it myself--but I like it just as you do."
"I knew you would, Lady Alanby," said the girl. "And
you, too, Lord Dunholm."
"I like it so much that I shall write and ask if I cannot be
of assistance," Lord Dunholm answered.
Betty was glad to hear this. Only quickness of thought
prevented her from the error of saying, "Thank you," as if
the matter were personal to herself. If Mount Dunstan was
restive under the obviousness of the fact that help was so
sorely needed, he might feel less so if her offer was only one
"It seems rather the duty of the neighbourhood to show
some interest," put in Lady Alanby. "I shall write to him
myself. He is evidently of a new order of Mount Dunstan.
It's to be hoped he won't take the fever himself, and die of it
He ought to marry some handsome, well-behaved girl, and re-
found the family."
Nigel Anstruthers spoke from his side of the table, leaning
"He won't if he does not take better care of himself.
He passed me on the road two days ago, riding like a lunatic.
He looks frightfully ill--yellow and drawn and lined. He
has not lived the life to prepare him for settling down to a
fight with typhoid fever. He would be done for if he caught
"I beg your pardon," said Lord Dunholm, with quiet
decision. "Unprejudiced inquiry proves that his life has been
entirely respectable. As Lady Alanby says, he seems to be
of a new order of Mount Dunstan."
"No doubt you are right," said Sir Nigel suavely. "He
looked ill, notwithstanding."
"As to looking ill," remarked Lady Alanby to Lord
Dunholm, who sat near her, "that man looks as if he was going
to pieces pretty rapidly himself, and unprejudiced inquiry would
not prove that his past had nothing to do with it."
Betty wondered if her brother-in-law were lying. It was
generally safest to argue that he was. But the fever burned
high at Mount Dunstan, and she knew by instinct what its
owner was giving of the strength of his body and brain. A
young, unmarried woman cannot go about, however, making
anxious inquiries concerning the welfare of a man who has
made no advance towards her. She must wait for the chance
which brings news.
. . . . .
The fever, having ill-cared for and habitually ill fed bodies
to work upon, wrought fiercely, despite the energy of the two
young doctors and the trained nurses. There were many dark
hours in the ballroom ward, hours filled with groans and wild
ravings. The floating Terpsichorean goddesses upon the lofty
ceiling gazed down with wondering eyes at haggard faces
and plucking hands which sometimes, behind the screen drawn
round their beds, ceased to look feverish, and grew paler and
stiller, until they moved no more. But, at least, none had
died through want of shelter and care. The supplies needed
came from London each day. Lord Dunholm had sent a generous
cheque to the aid of the sufferers, and so, also, had old
Lady Alanby, but Miss Vanderpoel, consulting medical
authorities and hospitals, learned exactly what was required, and
necessities were forwarded daily in their most easily utilisable
"You generously told me to ask you for anything we found
we required," Mr. Penzance wrote to her in his note of thanks.
"My dear and kind young lady, you leave nothing to ask for.
Our doctors, who are young and enthusiastic, are filled with
delight in the completeness of the resources placed in their
She had, in fact, gone to London to consult an eminent
physician, who was an authority of world-wide reputation.
Like the head of the legal firm of Townlinson & Sheppard, he
had experienced a new sensation in the visit paid him by an
indubitably modern young beauty, who wasted no word, and
whose eyes, while he answered her amazingly clear questions,
were as intelligently intent as those of an ardent and serious
young medical student. What a surgical nurse she would
have made! It seemed almost a pity that she evidently
belonged to a class the members of which are rich enough to
undertake the charge of entire epidemics, but who do not
usually give themselves to such work, especially when they
are young and astonishing in the matter of looks.
In addition to the work they did in the ballroom ward,
Mount Dunstan and the vicar found much to do among the
villagers. Ignorance and alarm combined to create dangers,
even where they might not have been feared. Daily instruction
and inspection of the cottages and their inmates was
required. The knowledge that they were under control and
supervision was a support to the frightened people and prevented
their lapsing into careless habits. Also, there began to
develop among them a secret dependence upon, and desire to
please "his lordship," as the existing circumstances drew him
nearer to them, and unconsciously they were attracted and
dominated by his strength. The strong man carries his power
with him, and, when Mount Dunstan entered a cottage and
talked to its inmates, the anxious wife or surlily depressed
husband was conscious of feeling a certain sense of security.
It had been a queer enough thing, this he had done--bundling
the infected hoppers out of their leaking huts and carrying
them up to the Mount itself for shelter and care. At the
most, gentlefolk generally gave soup or blankets or hospital
tickets, and left the rest to luck, but, "gentry-way" or not,
a man who did a thing like that would be likely to do other
things, if they were needed, and gave folk a feeling of being
safer than ordinary soup and blankets and hospital tickets
could make them.
But "where did the money come from?" was asked during
the first days. Beds and doctors, nurses and medicine, fine
brandy and unlimited fowls for broth did not come up from
London without being paid for. Pounds and pounds a day
must be paid out to get the things that were delivered
"regular" in hampers and boxes. The women talked to one another
over their garden palings, the men argued together over their
beer at the public house. Was he running into more debt?
But even the village knew that Mount Dunstan credit had
been exhausted long ago, and there had been no money at the
Mount within the memory of man, so to speak.
One morning the matron with the sharp temper found out
the truth, though the outburst of gratitude to Mount Dunstan
which resulted in her enlightenment, was entirely spontaneous
and without intention. Her doubt of his Mount Dunstan
blood had grown into a sturdy liking even for his short speech
and his often drawn-down brows.
"We've got more to thank your lordship for than common
help," she said. "God Almighty knows where we'd all ha'
been but for what you've done. Those poor souls you've nursed
"I've not done it," he broke in promptly. "You're
mistaken; I could not have done it. How could I?"
"Well," exclaimed the matron frankly, "we WAS wondering
where things came from."
"You might well wonder. Have any of you seen Lady
Anstruthers' sister, Miss Vanderpoel, ride through the village?
She used sometimes to ride this way. If you saw her you
will remember it.'
"The 'Merican young lady!" in ejaculatory delight. "My
word, yes! A fine young woman with black hair? That rich,
they say, as millions won't cover it."
"They won't," grimly. "Lord Dunholm and Lady Alanby
of Dole kindly sent cheques to help us, but the American
young lady was first on the field. She sent both doctors and
nurses, and has supplied us with food and medicine every day.
As you say, Mrs. Brown, God Almighty knows what would
have become of us, but for what she has done."
Mrs. Brown had listened with rather open mouth. She
caught her breath heartily, as a sort of approving exclamation.
"God bless her!" she broke out. "Girls isn't generally
like that. Their heads is too full of finery. God bless her,
'Merican or no 'Merican! That's what I say."
Mount Dunstan's red-brown eyes looked as if she had
"That's what I say, too," he answered. "God bless her!"
There was not a day which passed in which he did not
involuntarily say the words to himself again and again. She
had been wrong when she had said in her musings that
they were as far apart as if worlds rolled between them.
Something stronger than sight or speech drew them together.
The thread which wove itself through his thoughts grew
stronger and stronger. The first day her gifts arrived and he
walked about the ballroom ward directing the placing of hospital
cots and hospital aids and comforts, the spirit of her
thought and intelligence, the individuality and cleverness of
all her methods, brought her so vividly before him that it was
almost as if she walked by his side, as if they spoke together,
as if she said, "I have tried to think of everything. I want
you to miss nothing. Have I helped you? Tell me if there is
anything more." The thing which moved and stirred him
was his knowledge that when he had thought of her she
had also been thinking of him, or of what deeply concerned
him. When he had said to himself, tossing on his pillow,
"What would she DO?" she had been planning in such a way
as answered his question. Each morning, when the day's supplies
arrived, it was as if he had received a message from her.
As the people in the cottages felt the power of his
temperament and depended upon him, so, also, did the patients
in the ballroom ward. The feeling had existed from the outset
and increased daily. The doctors and nurses told one another
that his passing through the room was like the administering
of a tonic. Patients who were weak and making no effort,
were lifted upon the strong wave of his will and carried
onward towards the shore of greater courage and strength.
Young Doctor Thwaite met him when he came in one
morning, and spoke in a low voice:
"There is a young man behind the screen there who is
very low," he said. "He had an internal haemorrhage towards
morning, and has lost his pluck. He has a wife and three
children. We have been doing our best for him with hot-
water bottles and stimulants, but he has not the courage to
help us. You have an extraordinary effect on them all, Lord
Mount Dunstan. When they are depressed, they always ask
when you are coming in, and this man--Patton, his name is--
has asked for you several times. Upon my word, I believe
you might set him going again."
Mount Dunstan walked to the bed, and, going behind the
screen, stood looking down at the young fellow lying breathing
pantingly. His eyes were closed as he laboured, and his
pinched white nostrils drew themselves in and puffed out at
each breath. A nurse on the other side of the cot had just
surrounded him with fresh hot-water bottles.
Suddenly the sunken eyelids flew open, and the eyes met
Mount Dunstan's in imploring anxiousness.
"Here I am, Patton," Mount Dunstan said. "You need not speak."
But he must speak. Here was the strength his sinking soul
had longed for.
"Cruel bad--goin' fast--m' lord," he panted.
Mount Dunstan made a sign to the nurse, who gave him a
chair. He sat down close to the bed, and took the bloodless
hand in his own.
"No," he said, "you are not going. You'll stay here. I
will see to that."
The poor fellow smiled wanly. Vague yearnings had led
him sometimes, in the past, to wander into chapels or stop
and listen to street preachers, and orthodox platitudes came
back to him.
"God's--will," he trailed out.
"It's nothing of the sort. It's God's will that you pull
yourself together. A man with a wife and three children has
no right to slip out."
A yearning look flickered in the lad's eyes--he was scarcely
more than a lad, having married at seventeen, and had a child
"Keep that in your mind while you fight this out," said
Mount Dunstan. "Say it over to yourself each time you
feel yourself letting go. Hold on to it. I am going to fight
it out with you. I shall sit here and take care of you all day
--all night, if necessary. The doctor and the nurse will tell
me what to do. Your hand is warmer already. Shut your eyes."
He did not leave the bedside until the middle of the night.
By that time the worst was over. He had acted throughout
the hours under the direction of nurse and doctor. No one
but himself had touched the patient. When Patton's eyes
were open, they rested on him with a weird growing belief.
He begged his lordship to hold his hand, and was uneasy when
he laid it down.
"Keeps--me--up," he whispered.
"He pours something into them--vigour--magnetic power
--life. He's like a charged battery," Dr. Thwaite said to his
co-workers. "He sat down by Patton just in time. It sets
one to thinking."
Having saved Patton, he must save others. When a man
or woman sank, or had increased fever, they believed that he
alone could give them help. In delirium patients cried out
for him. He found himself doing hard work, but he did not
flinch from it. The adoration for him became a sort of
passion. Haggard faces lighted up into life at the sound
of his footstep, and heavy heads turned longingly on their
pillows as he passed by. In the winter days to come there
would be many an hour's talk in East End courts and alleys
of the queer time when a score or more of them had lain in
the great room with the dancing and floating goddesses looking
down at them from the high, painted ceiling, and the swell,
who was a lord, walking about among them, working for them
as the nurses did, and sitting by some of them through awful
hours, sometimes holding burning or slackening and chilling
hands with a grip whose steadiness seemed to hold them back
from the brink of the abyss they were slipping into. The
mere ignorantly childish desire to do his prowess credit and to
play him fair saved more than one man and woman from
going out with the tide.
"It is the first time in my life that I have fairly counted
among men. It's the first time I have known human affection,
other than yours, Penzance. They want me, these people;
they are better for the sight of me. It is a new experience,
and it is good for a man's soul," he said.
Betty walked much alone upon the marshes with Roland at
her side. At intervals she heard from Mr. Penzance, but his
notes were necessarily brief, and at other times she could only
rely upon report for news of what was occurring at Mount
Dunstan. Lord Mount Dunstan's almost military supervision
of and command over his villagers had certainly saved them
from the horrors of an uncontrollable epidemic; his decision
and energy had filled the alarmed Guardians with respect and this
respect had begun to be shared by many other persons. A man as
prompt in action, and as faithful to such responsibilities
as many men might have found plausible reasons enough
for shirking, inevitably assumed a certain dignity of aspect,
when all was said and done. Lord Dunholm was most clear
in his expressions of opinion concerning him. Lady Alanby
of Dole made a practice of speaking of him in public frequently,
always with admiring approval, and in that final manner of
hers, to whose authority her neighbours had so long submitted.
It began to be accepted as a fact that he was a new development
of his race--as her ladyship had put it, "A new order of Mount
The story of his power over the stricken people, and of
their passionate affection and admiration for him, was one
likely to spread far, and be immensely popular. The drama
of certain incidents appealed greatly to the rustic mind, and by
cottage firesides he was represented with rapturous awe, as
raising men, women, and children from the dead, by the mere
miracle of touch. Mrs. Welden and old Doby revelled in
thrilling, almost Biblical, versions of current anecdotes, when
Betty paid her visits to them.
"It's like the Scripture, wot he done for that young man
as the last breath had gone out of him, an' him lyin' stiffening
fast. `Young man, arise,' he says. `The Lord Almighty
calls. You've got a young wife an' three children to take
care of. Take up your bed an' walk.' Not as he wanted
him to carry his bed anywheres, but it was a manner of speaking.
An' up the young man got. An' a sensible way," said
old Mrs. Welden frankly, "for the Lord to look at it--
for I must say, miss, if I was struck down for it, though I
s'pose it's only my sinful ignorance--that there's times when
the Lord seems to think no more of sweepin' away a steady
eighteen-shillin' a week, and p'raps seven in family, an' one at
the breast, an' another on the way--than if it was nothin'.
But likely enough, eighteen shillin' a week an' confinements
does seem paltry to the Maker of 'eaven an' earth."
But, to the girl walking over the marshland, the humanness
of the things she heard gave to her the sense of nearness--of
being almost within sight and sound--which Mount Dunstan
himself had felt, when each day was filled with the result
of her thought of the needs of the poor souls thrown by fate
into his hands. In these days, after listening to old Mrs.
Welden's anecdotes, through which she gathered the simpler truth
of things, Betty was able to construct for herself a less
Scriptural version of what she had heard. She was glad--glad
in his sitting by a bedside and holding a hand which lay
in his hot or cold, but always trusting to something which
his strong body and strong soul gave without stint. There
would be no restraint there. Yes, he was kind--kind--kind
--with the kindness a woman loves, and which she, of all
women, loved most. Sometimes she would sit upon some
mound, and, while her eyes seemed to rest on the yellowing
marsh and its birds and pools, they saw other things, and their
colour grew deep and dark as the marsh water between the
The time was pressing when a change in her life must come.
She frequently asked herself if what she saw in Nigel
Anstruthers' face was the normal thinking of a sane man, which
he himself could control. There had been moments when she
had seriously doubted it. He was haggard, aging and restless.
Sometimes he--always as if by chance--followed her as she
went from one room to another, and would seat himself and
fix his miserable eyes upon her for so long a time that it
seemed he must be unconscious of what he was doing. Then
he would appear suddenly to recollect himself and would
start up with a muttered exclamation, and stalk out of the
room. He spent long hours riding or driving alone about
the country or wandering wretchedly through the Park and
gardens. Once he went up to town, and, after a few days'
absence, came back looking more haggard than before, and
wearing a hunted look in his eyes. He had gone to see a
physician, and, after having seen him, he had tried to lose
himself in a plunge into deep and turbid enough waters; but
he found that he had even lost the taste of high flavours, for
which he had once had an epicurean palate. The effort had
ended in his being overpowered again by his horrors--the
horrors in which he found himself staring at that end of things
when no pleasure had spice, no debauchery the sting of life,
and men, such as he, stood upon the shore of time shuddering
and naked souls, watching the great tide, bearing its treasures,
recede forever, and leave them to the cold and hideous dark.
During one day of his stay in town he had seen Teresita, who
had at first stared half frightened by the change she saw in
him, and then had told him truths he could have wrung her
neck for putting into words.
"You look an old man," she said, with the foreign accent
he had once found deliciously amusing, but which now seemed
to add a sting. "And somesing is eating you op. You are
mad in lofe with some beautiful one who will not look at you.
I haf seen it in mans before. It is she who eats you op--your
evil thinkings of her. It serve you right. Your eyes look
He himself, at times, suspected that they did, and cursed
himself because he could not keep cool. It was part of his
horrors that he knew his internal furies were worse than
folly, and yet he could not restrain them. The creeping
suspicion that this was only the result of the simple fact that
he had never tried to restrain any tendency of his own was
maddening. His nervous system was a wreck. He drank a great
deal of whisky to keep himself "straight" during the day,
and he rose many times during his black waking hours in the
night to drink more because he obstinately refused to give up
the hope that, if he drank enough, it would make him sleep.
As through the thoughts of Mount Dunstan, who was a clean
and healthy human being, there ran one thread which would
not disentangle itself, so there ran through his unwholesome
thinking a thread which burned like fire. His secret ravings
would not have been good to hear. His passion was more than
half hatred, and a desire for vengeance, for the chance to re-
assert his own power, to prove himself master, to get the better
in one way or another of this arrogant young outsider and her
high-handed pride. The condition of his mind was so far
from normal that he failed to see that the things he said to
himself, the plans he laid, were grotesque in their folly. The
old cruel dominance of the man over the woman thing, which
had seemed the mere natural working of the law among men
of his race in centuries past, was awake in him, amid the
limitations of modern days.
"My God," he said to himself more than once, "I would
like to have had her in my hands a few hundred years ago.
Women were kept in their places, then."
He was even frenzied enough to think over what he would
have done, if such a thing had been--of her utter helplessness
against that which raged in him--of the grey thickness of the
walls where he might have held and wrought his will upon
her--insult, torment, death. His alcohol-excited brain ran
riot--but, when it did its foolish worst, he was baffled by one
"Damn her!" he found himself crying out. "If I had hung
her up and cut her into strips she would have died staring
at me with her big eyes--without uttering a sound."
There was a long reach between his imaginings and the
time he lived in. America had not been discovered in those
decent days, and now a man could not beat even his own
wife, or spend her money, without being meddled with by
fools. He was thinking of a New York young woman of the
nineteenth century who could actually do as she hanged
pleased, and who pleased to be damned high and mighty. For
that reason in itself it was incumbent upon a man to get even
with her in one way or another. High and mightiness was not
the hardest thing to reach. It offered a good aim.
His temper when he returned to Stornham was of the order
which in past years had set Rosalie and her child shuddering
and had sent the servants about the house with pale or sullen
faces. Betty's presence had the odd effect of restraining him,
and he even told her so with sneering resentment.
"There would be the devil to pay if you were not here," he
said. "You keep me in order, by Jove! I can't work up
steam properly when you watch me."
He himself knew that it was likely that some change would
take place. She would not stay at Stornham and she would not
leave his wife and child alone with him again. It would be
like her to hold her tongue until she was ready with her
infernal plans and could spring them on him. Her letters to
her father had probably prepared him for such action as such
a man would be likely to take. He could guess what it would
be. They were free and easy enough in America in their
dealings with the marriage tie. Their idea would doubtless
be a divorce with custody of the child. He wondered a little
that they had remained quiet so long. There had been American
shrewdness in her coming boldly to Stornham to look over
the ground herself and actually set the place in order. It did
not present itself to his mind that what she had done had
been no part of a scheme, but the mere result of her temperament
and training. He told himself that it had been planned
beforehand and carried out in hard-headed commercial American
fashion as a matter of business. The thing which most
enraged him was the implied cool, practical realisation of the
fact that he, as inheritor of an entailed estate, was but owner
in charge, and not young enough to be regarded as an
insurmountable obstacle to their plans. He could not undo the
greater part of what had been done, and they were calculating,
he argued, that his would not be likely to be a long life, and if
--if anything happened--Stornham would be Ughtred's and
the whole vulgar lot of them would come over and take possession
and swagger about the place as if they had been born on
it. As to divorce or separation--if they took that line, he
would at least give them a good run for their money. They would
wish they had let sleeping dogs lie before the thing was over.
The right kind of lawyer could bully Rosalie into saying
anything he chose on the witness-stand. There was not much limit
to the evidence a man could bring if he was experienced enough
to be circumstantial, and knew whom he was dealing with. The
very fact that the little fool could be made to appear to have
been so sly and sanctimonious would stir the gall of any jury
of men. His own condoning the matter for the sake of his
sensitive boy, deformed by his mother's unrestrained and violent
hysteria before his birth, would go a long way. Let them get
their divorce, they would have paid for it, the whole lot of
them, the beautiful Miss Vanderpoel and all. Such a story as the
newspapers would revel in would not be a recommendation to
Englishmen of unsmirched reputation. Then his exultation
would suddenly drop as his mental excitement produced its
effect of inevitable physical fatigue. Even if he made them
pay for getting their own way, what would happen to himself
afterwards? No morbid vanity of self-bolstering could make
the outlook anything but unpromising. If he had not had such
diabolical luck in his few investments he could have lived his
own life. As it was, old Vanderpoel would possibly condescend
to make him some insufficient allowance because Rosalie would
wish that it might be done, and he would be expected to drag
out to the end the kind of life a man pensioned by his wife's
relatives inevitably does. If he attempted to live in the
country he should blow out his brains. When his depression was
at its worst, he saw himself aging and shabby, rambling about
from one cheap Continental town to another, blackballed by
good clubs, cold-shouldered even by the Teresitas, cut off from
society by his limited means and the stories his wife's friends
would spread. He ground his teeth when he thought of Betty.
Her splendid vitality had done something to life for him--had
given it savour. When he had come upon her in the avenue
his blood had stirred, even though it had been maliciously, and
there had been spice in his very resentment of her presence.
And she would go away. He would not be likely to see her
again if his wife broke with him; she would be swept out of
his days. It was hideous to think of, and his rage would
overpower him and his nerves go to pieces again.
"What are you going to do?" he broke forth suddenly one
evening, when he found himself temporarily alone with her.
"You are going to do something. I see it in your eyes."
He had been for some time watching her from behind his
newspaper, while she, with an unread book upon her lap, had,
in fact, been thinking deeply and putting to herself serious
Her answer made him stir rather uncomfortably.
"I am going to write to my father to ask him to come to England."
So this was what she had been preparing to spring upon him.
He laughed insolently.
"To ask him to come here?"
"With your permission."
"With mine? Does an American father-in-law wait for permission?"
"Is there any practical reason why you should prefer that
he should NOT come?"
He left his seat and walked over to her.
"Yes. Your sending for him is a declaration of war."
"It need not be so. Why should it?"
"In this case I happen to be aware that it is. The choice is
your own, I suppose," with ready bravado, "that you and he
are prepared to face the consequences. But is Rosalie, and is
"My father is a business man and will know what can be
done. He will know what is worth doing," she answered, without
noticing his question. "But," she added the words slowly,
"I have been making up my mind--before I write to him--to
say something to you--to ask you a question."
He made a mock sentimental gesture.
"To ask me to spare my wife, to `remember that she is the
mother of my child'?"
She passed over that also.
"To ask you if there is no possible way in which all this
unhappiness can be ended decently."
"The only decent way of ending it would be that there
should be no further interference. Let Rosalie supply the
decency by showing me the consideration due from a wife to
her husband. The place has been put in order. It was not
for my benefit, and I have no money to keep it up. Let Rosalie
be provided with means to do it."
As he spoke the words he realised that he had opened a way
for embarrassing comment. He expected her to remind him
that Rosalie had not come to him without money. But she
said nothing about the matter. She never said the things he
expected to hear.
"You do not want Rosalie for your wife," she went on
"but you could treat her courteously without loving her. You
could allow her the privileges other men's wives are allowed.
You need not separate her from her family. You could allow
her father and mother to come to her and leave her free to go
to them sometimes. Will you not agree to that? Will you not
let her live peaceably in her own simple way? She is very
gentle and humble and would ask nothing more."
"She is a fool!" he exclaimed furiously. "A fool! She
will stay where she is and do as I tell her."
"You knew what she was when you married her. She was
simple and girlish and pretended to be nothing she was not.
You chose to marry her and take her from the people who
loved her. You broke her spirit and her heart. You would
have killed her if I had not come in time to prevent it."
"I will kill her yet if you leave her," his folly made him
"You are talking like a feudal lord holding the power of
life and death in his hands," she said. "Power like that is
ancient history. You can hurt no one who has friends--without
It was the old story. She filled him with the desire to
shake or disturb her at any cost, and he did his utmost. If
she was proposing to make terms with him, he would show
her whether he would accept them or not. He let her hear all
he had said to himself in his worst moments--all that he had
argued concerning what she and her people would do, and
what his own actions would be--all his intention to make them
pay the uttermost farthing in humiliation if he could not
frustrate them. His methods would be definite enough. He had
not watched his wife and Ffolliott for weeks to no end. He
had known what he was dealing with. He had put other
people upon the track and they would testify for him. He
poured forth unspeakable statements and intimations, going,
as usual, further than he had known he should go when he
began. Under the spur of excitement his imagination served
him well. At last he paused.
"Well," he put it to her, "what have you to say?"
"I?" with the remote intent curiosity growing in her eyes.
"I have nothing to say. I am leaving you to say things."
"You will, of course, try to deny----" he insisted.
"No, I shall not. Why should I?"
"You may assume your air of magnificence, but I am dealing
with uncomfortable factors." He stopped in spite of himself,
and then burst forth in a new order of rage. "You are
trying some confounded experiment on me. What is it?"
She rose from her chair to go out of the room, and stood a
moment holding her book half open in her hand.
"Yes. I suppose it might be called an experiment," was
her answer. "Perhaps it was a mistake. I wanted to make
quite sure of something."
"I did not want to leave anything undone. I did not want
to believe that any man could exist who had not one touch of
decent feeling to redeem him. It did not seem human."
White dints showed themselves about his nostrils.
"Well, you have found one," he cried. "You have a
lashing tongue, by God, when you choose to let it go. But I
could teach you a good many things, my girl. And before I
have done you will have learned most of them."
But though he threw himself into a chair and laughed aloud
as she left him, he knew that his arrogance and bullying were
proving poor weapons, though they had done him good service
all his life. And he knew, too, that it was mere simple truth
that, as a result of the intellectual, ethical vagaries he
scathingly derided--she had actually been giving him a sort of
chance to retrieve himself, and that if he had been another sort
of man he might have taken it.
It was cold enough for fires in halls and bedrooms, and Lady
Anstruthers often sat over hers and watched the glowing bed
of coals with a fixed thoughtfulness of look. She was so
sitting when her sister went to her room to talk to her, and she
looked up questioningly when the door closed and Betty came
"You have come to tell me something," she said.
A slight shade of anxiousness showed itself in her eyes, and
Betty sat down by her and took her hand. She had come
because what she knew was that Rosalie must be prepared for
any step taken, and the time had arrived when she must not
be allowed to remain in ignorance even of things it would be
unpleasant to put into words.
"Yes," she answered. "I want to talk to you about
something I have decided to do. I think I must write to father
and ask him to come to us."
Rosalie turned white, but though her lips parted as if she
were going to speak, she said nothing.
"Do not be frightened," Betty said. "I believe it is the
only thing to do."
"I know! I know!"
Betty went on, holding the hand a little closer. "When I
came here you were too weak physically to be able to face even
the thought of a struggle. I saw that. I was afraid it must
come in the end, but I knew that at that time you could not
bear it. It would have killed you and might have killed
mother, if I had not waited; and until you were stronger, I
knew I must wait and reason coolly about you--about everything."
"I used to guess--sometimes," said Lady Anstruthers.
"I can tell you about it now. You are not as you were
then," Betty said. "I did not know Nigel at first, and I felt
I ought to see more of him. I wanted to make sure that my
child hatred of him did not make me unfair. I even tried to
hope that when he came back and found the place in order and
things going well, he might recognise the wisdom of behaving
with decent kindness to you. If he had done that I knew father
would have provided for you both, though he would not have
left him the opportunity to do again what he did before. No
business man would allow such a thing as that. But as time
has gone by I have seen I was mistaken in hoping for a
respectable compromise. Even if he were given a free hand he
would not change. And now----" She hesitated, feeling it
difficult to choose such words as would not be too unpleasant.
How was she to tell Rosy of the ugly, morbid situation which
made ordinary passiveness impossible. "Now there is a
reason----" she began again.
To her surprise and relief it was Rosalie who ended for her.
She spoke with the painful courage which strong affection gives
a weak thing. Her face was pale no longer, but slightly
reddened, and she lifted the hand which held hers and kissed it.
"You shall not say it," she interrupted her. "I will. There
is a reason now why you cannot stay here--why you shall not
stay here. That was why I begged you to go. You must go,
even if I stay behind alone."
Never had the beautiful Miss Vanderpoel's eyes worn so fully
their look of being bluebells under water. That this timid
creature should so stand at bay to defend her was more moving
than anything else could have been.
"Thank you, Rosy--thank you," she answered. "But you
shall not be left alone. You must go, too. There is no other
way. Difficulties will be made for us, but we must face
them. Father will see the situation from a practical man's
standpoint. Men know the things other men cannot do.
Women don't. Generally they know nothing about the law
and can be bullied into feeling that it is dangerous and
compromising to inquire into it. Nigel has always seen that it
was easy to manage women. A strong business man who has
more exact legal information than he has himself will be a
new factor to deal with. And he cannot make objectionable
love to him. It is because he knows these things that he
says that my sending for father will be a declaration of war."
"Did he say that?" a little breathlessly.
"Yes, and I told him that it need not be so. But he would
"And you are sure father will come?"
"I am sure. In a week or two he will be here."
Lady Anstruthers' lips shook, her eyes lifted themselves to
Betty's in a touchingly distressed appeal. Had her momentary
courage fled beyond recall? If so, that would be the worst
coming to the worst, indeed. Yet it was not ordinary fear
which expressed itself in her face, but a deeper piteousness, a
sudden hopeless pain, baffling because it seemed a new emotion,
or perhaps the upheaval of an old one long and carefully hidden.
"You will be brave?" Betty appealed to her. "You will
not give way, Rosy?"
"Yes, I must be brave--I am not ill now. I must not fail
you--I won't, Betty, but----"
She slipped upon the floor and dropped her face upon the
girl's knee, sobbing.
Betty bent over her, putting her arms round the heaving
shoulders, and pleading with her to speak. Was there something
more to be told, something she did not know?
"Yes, yes. Oh, I ought to have told you long ago--but I
have always been afraid and ashamed. It has made everything
so much worse. I was afraid you would not understand
and would think me wicked--wicked."
It was Betty who now lost a shade of colour. But she held
the slim little body closer and kissed her sister's cheek.
"What have you been afraid and ashamed to tell me? Do
not be ashamed any more. You must not hide anything, no
matter what it is, Rosy. I shall understand."
"I know I must not hide anything, now that all is over and
father is coming. It is--it is about Mr. Ffolliott."
"Mr. Ffolliott?" repeated Betty quite softly.
Lady Anstruthers' face, lifted with desperate effort, was
like a weeping child's. So much so in its tear-wet simpleness
and utter lack of any effort at concealment, that after one
quick look at it Betty's hastened pulses ceased to beat at
"Tell me, dear," she almost whispered.
"Mr. Ffolliott himself does not know--and I could not help
it. He was kind to me when I was dying of unkindness. You
don't know what it was like to be drowning in loneliness and
misery, and to see one good hand stretched out to help you.
Before he went away--oh, Betty, I know it was awful because
I was married!--I began to care for him very much, and I
have cared for him ever since. I cannot stop myself caring,
even though I am terrified."
Betty kissed her again with a passion of tender pity. Poor
little, simple Rosy, too! The tide had crept around her also,
and had swept her off her feet, tossing her upon its surf like
a wisp of seaweed and bearing her each day farther from firm
"Do not be terrified," she said. "You need only be afraid
if--if you had told him."
"He will never know--never. Once in the middle of the
night," there was anguish in the delicate face, pure anguish,
"a strange loud cry wakened me, and it was I myself who
had cried out--because in my sleep it had come home to me
that the years would go on and on, and at last some day he
would die and go out of the world--and I should die and go
out of the world. And he would never know--even KNOW."
Betty's clasp of her loosened and she sat very still, looking
straight before her into some unseen place.
"Yes," she said involuntarily. "Yes, _I_ know--I know--I
Lady Anstruthers fell back a little to gaze at her.
"YOU know? YOU know?" she breathed. "Betty?"
But Betty at first did not speak. Her lovely eyes dwelt on
the far-away place.
"Betty," whispered Rosy, "do you know what you have said?"
The lovely eyes turned slowly towards her, and the soft
corners of Betty's mouth deepened in a curious unsteadiness.
"Yes. I did not intend to say it. But it is true. _I_ know--
I know--I know. Do not ask me how."
Rosalie flung her arms round her waist and for a moment
hid her face.