Part 2 out of 4
always been miserable, and I don't know why; I never did harm to any one.'
Soon after Mr. Grandly bade the ladies good-bye. Julia followed him to the
front door. 'You will do all you can to help us? That poor child is too
young, too inexperienced, to realise what her position is.'
'I know, I know,' said Mr. Grandly, extending both hands to Julia; 'in the
whole course of my experience I never met with a sadder case. But we must
not take too sad a view of it. Perhaps all will come right in the end. The
young man cannot refuse to make good his uncle's intentions. He cannot see
his cousin go to the workhouse. I will do the best I can for you. The
moment I get back to London, I'll set inquiries on foot and find out his
address, and when I have seen him I'll write. Good-bye.'
Then, resolving that it were better to leave the girl to herself, Julia
took up her key-basket and hurried away on household business. But in the
middle of her many occupations she would now and then stop short to think.
She had never heard of anything so cruel before. That poor girl--she must
go to her; she must not leave her alone any longer. But it would be well to
avoid the subject as much as possible. She must think of something to
distract her thoughts. The pony-chaise. It might be the last time they had
a carriage to go out in. But they could not go out driving on the day of
That evening, as they were going to bed, Emily said, lifting her sweet,
pathetic little face, looking all love and gentleness: 'Oh, to think of a
common, vulgar writer coming here, with a common, vulgar wife and a horrid
crowd of children. Oh, Julia, doesn't it seem impossible? And yet I suppose
it is true. I cannot bear to think of it. I can see the horrid children
tramping up and down the stairs, breaking the things we have known and
loved so long; and they will destroy all my flowers, and no one will
remember to feed the poor swans. Dandy, my beloved, I shall be able to take
you with me.' And she caught up the rough-haired terrier and hugged him,
kissing his dear old head. 'Dandy is mine; they can't take him from me, can
they? But do you think the swans belong to them or to us? I suppose it
would be impossible to take them with us if we go to live in London. They
couldn't live in a backyard.'
'But, dearest Emily, who are "they"? You don't know that he is
married--literary men don't often marry. For all you know, he is a handsome
young man, who will fall madly in love with you.'
'No one ever fell in love with me except that horrid old man--how I hate
him, how I detest to think of it! I thought I should have died when he
asked to marry me. The very memory of it is enough to make me hate all men,
and prevent me from liking any one. I don't think I could like him; I
should always see that wicked old man's hoary, wrinkled face in his.'
'Oh, Emily, I cannot think how such ideas can come into your head. It is
not right, indeed it isn't.' And this simple Englishwoman looked at this
sensitive girl in sheer wonderment and alarm.
'I only say what I think. I am glad the old man did disinherit me. I'm glad
we are leaving Ashwood; I cannot abide the place when I think of him....
There, that is his chair. I can see him sitting in it now. He is grinning
at us; he is saying, "Ha! ha! I have made beggars of you both." You
remember how we used to tremble when we met his terrible old face on the
stairs; you remember how he used to sit glaring at us all through dinner?'
'Yes, Emily, I remember all that; but I do not think it natural that you
should forget all the years of kindness; he was very good to you, and loved
you very much, and if he forgot himself at the end of his life, we must
remember the weakness of age.'
'The hideousness of age,' Emily replied, in a low tone. The conversation
paused, and then Julia said--
'You are speaking wildly, Emily, and will live to regret your words. Let us
speak no more of Mr. Burnett... I daresay you will find your cousin a
charming young man. I should laugh if it were all to end in a marriage. And
how glad I should be to see you off on your honeymoon, to bid you
'Oh, Julia, don't speak like that; you will never bid me good-bye. You will
never leave me--promise me that--you are my only friend. Oh, Julia, promise
me that you will never leave me.'
Tears rose in Julia's eyes, and taking the girl in her arms, she said,
'I'll never leave you, my dear girl, until you yourself wish it.'
'I wish it? Oh, Julia, you do not know me. I have lost everything, Julia,
but I mustn't lose you... After all, it doesn't so much matter, so long as
we are not separated. I don't care about money, and we can have a nice
little house in London all to ourselves. And if we get too hard up, we'll
both go out as daily governesses. I think I could teach a little music, to
young children, you know; you'd teach the older ones.' Emily looked at
Julia inquiringly, and going over to the piano, attempted to play her
favourite polka. Julia, who had once worked for her daily bread, and earned
it in a sort of way by giving music-lessons, smiled sadly at the girl's
ignorance of life.
'I see,' said Emily, who was quick to divine every shade of sentiment
passing in the minds of those she loved; 'you don't think I could teach
even the little children.'
'My dear Emily, I hope it will never come to your having to try.'
'I must do something to get a living,' she replied, looking vaguely and
wistfully into the fire. 'How unfortunate all this is--that horrid, horrid
old man. But supposing he had asked you to marry him--he wasn't nice, but
you are older than I, and if you had married him you would have become, in
a way, my stepmother. But what a charming stepmother! Oh, how I should have
'Come, Emily, it is time to go to bed; you let your imagination run away
'Julia, you are not cross because----'
'No, dear, I'm not cross. I'm only a little tired. We have talked too
Emily's allusion to music-teaching had revived in Julia all her most
painful memories. If this man were to cast them penniless out of Ashwood!
Supposing, supposing that were to happen? Starving days, pale and haggard,
rose up in her memory. What should she do, what should she do, and with
that motherless girl dependent on her for food and clothes and shelter? She
buried her face in the pillow and prayed that she might be saved from such
If this man--this unknown creature--were to refuse to help them, she and
Emily would have to go to London, and she would have to support Emily as
best she might. She would hold to her and fight for her with all her
strength, but would she not fall vanquished in the fight; and then, and
then? The same thoughts, questions, and fears turned in her head like a
wheel, and it was not until dawn had begun to whiten the window-panes that
she fell asleep.
A few days after, the post brought a letter for Julia. After glancing
hastily down the page she said: 'This is a letter from Mr. Grandly, and it
is good news. Oh, what a relief!...'
'"Dear Mrs. Bentley,--Immediately I arrived in London, I set to work to
find out Mr. Price's address. It was the easiest matter in the world, for
he has a play now running at one of the theatres. So I directed my letter
to the theatre, and next morning I had a visit from him. After explaining
to him the resources of the brilliant fortune he had come into, I told him
of his uncle's intention to add a codicil to his will, leaving Miss Watson
three hundred a year; I told him that this last will had left her entirely
unprovided for. He said, at once, that he fully agreed with me, and that he
would consider what was the most honourable course for him to take in
regard to his 'cousin. This is exactly what he said, but his manner was
such that before leaving he left no doubt in my mind whatever that he will
act very generously indeed. I should not be surprised if he settled even
more than the proposed three hundred a year on Miss Watson. He is a very
quiet, thoughtful young man of about two or three and thirty. He looks
poor, and I fancy he has lived through very hard times. He wears an air of
sadness and disappointment which makes him attractive, and his manners are
gentle and refined. I tell you these things, for I know they will interest
you. I have not been able to find out if he is married, but I am sorry to
say that his play has not succeeded. I should have found out more, but he
was not in my office above ten minutes; he had to hurry away to keep an
appointment at the theatre, for, as he explained, it was to be decided that
very day if the play was to be taken out of the bills at the end of the
week. He promised to call again, and our interview is fixed for eleven
o'clock the day after to-morrow. In the meantime take heart, for I think I
am justified in telling you I feel quite sanguine as to the result."'
'Well,' said Julia, laying down the letter, 'I don't think that anything
could be more satisfactory, and just fancy dear old Mr. Grandly being able
to describe a young man as well as that.'
'He doesn't say if he is short or tall, or dark or fair.'
'No, he doesn't. I think he might have told us something about his personal
appearance, but it is a great relief to hear that he is not the vulgar
Bohemian we have always understood him to be. Mr. Grandly says his manners
are refined; you might take a fancy to him after all.'
'But you don't know that he isn't married. I suppose Mr. Grandly wasn't
able to find that out. I should like to know--but not because I want to
marry him or any one else; only I don't like the idea of a great, vulgar
woman, and a pack of children scampering about the place when we go.'
'Do you dislike children so much, then, Emily?'
'I don't know that I ever thought about them; but I'm sure I shouldn't like
his children. I dreamt of him last night. Do you believe in dreams?'
'What did you dream?'
'I cannot remember, but I woke up crying, feeling more unhappy than I ever
felt in my life before. It is curious that I should dream of him last
night, and that you should receive that letter this morning, isn't it?'
'I don't see anything strange in it. Nothing more natural than that you
should dream about him, and it was certain that I should receive a letter
from Mr. Grandly; he promised to write to me in a few days.'
'Then you believe what is in that letter--I don't. Something tells me that
he will not act kindly, but I don't know how.'
'I'm quite sure you are wrong, Emily. Mr. Grandly would never have written
this letter unless he knew for certain that Mr. Price would do all or more
than he promised.'
'I can't see from the letter that he has promised anything... Even if he
does give me three hundred a year, I shall have to leave Ashwood.'
'My dear Emily, I'm cross with you: of course, if you will insist on always
looking at the melancholy side.... Now I'm going; I've to see after the
housekeeping. Are you going into the garden?'
Emily did not seem to know what she was going to do. She looked out of the
window, she lingered in the corridor; finally she wandered into the
library. The quaint, old-fashioned room recalled her childhood to her. It
was here she used to learn her lessons. Here was the mahogany table, at
which she used to sit with her governess, learning to read and write; and
there, far away at the other end of the long room, was the round table,
where lay the old illustrated editions of _Gulliver's Travels_ and _The
Arabian Nights_, which she used to run to whenever her governess left the
room. And at the bottom of the book-cases there were drawers full of
strange papers; these drawers she used to open in fear and trembling, so
mysterious did they seem to her. And there was the book-cases full of the
tall folios, behind which lay, in dark and dim recesses, stores of books
which she used to pull out, expecting at every moment to come upon
long-forgotten treasures. She smiled now, as she recalled these childish
imaginings, and lifting tenderly the coarse drugget, she looked at the
great green globe which her fingers used to turn in infantile curiosity.
Then leaving the library, she roamed through the house, pausing on the
first landing to gaze on the picture of the fine gentleman in a red coat,
his hand for ever on his sword. She remembered how she used to wonder whom
he was going to kill, and how sure she used to feel that at last he would
grant his adversary his life. And close by was the picture of the
wind-mill, set on the edge of the down, with the shepherd driving sheep in
the foreground. Her whole life seemed drenched with tears at the thought of
parting with these things. Every room was full of memories for her. She was
a little girl when she came to live at Ashwood, and the room at the top of
the stairs had been her nursery. There were the two beds; both were now
dismantled and bare. It was in the little bed in the corner that she used
to sleep; it was in the old four-poster that her nurse slept. And there was
the very place, in front of the fire, where she used to have her tea. The
table had disappeared, and the grate, how rusty it was! In the far corner,
by the window, there used to be a press, in which nurse kept tea and sugar.
That press had been removed. The other press was there still, and throwing
open the doors she surveyed the shelves. She remembered the very peg on
which her hat and jacket used to hang. And the long walks in the great
park, which was to her, then, a world of wonderment!
She wandered about the old corridor, in and out of odd rooms, all
associated with her childhood--quaint old rooms, many of them lumber rooms,
full of odd corners and old cupboards, the meaning of which she used to
strive to divine. How their silence and mystery used to thrill her little
soul! Faded rooms whose mystery had departed, but whose gloom was haunted
with tenderest recollections. In one corner was the reading-chair in which
Mr. Burnett used to sit. At that time she used to sit on his knee, and when
the chair gave way beneath their weight, he had said she was too big a girl
to sit on his knee any longer. The words had seemed to her a little cruel.
She had forgotten the old chair, but now she remembered the very moment
when the servants came to take it away.
Under the window were some fragments of a china bowl which she had broken
when quite a little child. There was a hoop-stick and the hoop which had
been taken down to the blacksmith's to be mended. He had mended it, but she
did not remember ever using it again. And there was an old box of
water-colours, with which she used to colour all the uncoloured drawings in
her picture-books. Emily took the hoop-stick, the old doll, and the broken
box of water-colours, and packed them away carefully. She would be able to
find room for them in the little house in London where she and Julia were
going to live.
A few days after, the post brought letters from Mr. Grandly, one for Emily
and one for Julia. Julia's letter ran as follows:
'Dear Mrs. Bentley,---I write by this post to Miss Watson, advising her
that her cousin, Mr. Price, is most anxious to make her acquaintance, and
asking her to send the dog-cart to-morrow to meet him at the station. I
must take upon myself the responsibility for this step. I have seen Mr.
Price again, and he has confirmed me in my good opinion of him. He seems
most anxious, not only to do everything right, but to make matters as
pleasant and agreeable as possible for his cousin. He has written me a
letter recognising Miss Watson's claim upon him, and constituting himself
her trustee. I have not had yet time to prepare a deed of gift, but there
can be little doubt that Miss Watson's position is now quite secure. So far
so good; but more than ever does the only clear and satisfactory way out of
this miserable business seem to me to be a marriage between Mr. Hubert
Price and Miss Watson. I have already told you that he is a nice, refined
young man, of gentlemanly bearing, good presence, and excellent speech,
though a trifle shy and reserved; and, as I have since discovered that he
is not married, I have taken upon myself the responsibility of advising him
to jump into a train and to go and tell his cousin the conclusion he has
come to regarding the will of the late Mr. Burnett. As I have said, he is a
shy man, and it was some time before I could induce him to take so decisive
a step; he wanted to meet Miss Watson in my office, but I succeeded in
persuading him. He will go down to you to-morrow by the five o'clock, and I
need not impress upon you the necessity that you should use your influence
with Miss Watson, and that his reception should be as cordial as
circumstances permit. I have only to add that I see no need that you should
show this letter to Miss Watson, for the very fact of knowing that we
desired to bring about a marriage might prejudice her against this young
man, whom she otherwise cannot fail to find charming.'
Hearing some one at her door, Julia put the letter away. It was Emily.
'I've just received a letter from Mr. Grandly, saying that that man is
coming here to-day, and that we are to send the dog-cart for him.'
'Is not that the very best thing that----'
'We cannot remain here, we must leave a note for him, or something of that
kind. I wouldn't remain here to meet him for worlds. I really couldn't,
'And why not, Emily?'
'To meet the man who is coming to turn me out of Ashwood!'
'How do you know that he is coming to turn you out of Ashwood? You imagine
these things.... Do you suppose that Mr. Grandly would send him down here
if he did not know what his intentions were?'
'But we shall have to leave Ashwood.'
'Very likely, but not in the way you imagine. Remember, Mr. Price is your
cousin; you may like him very much. Let's be guided by Mr. Grandly; I have
not seen your letter, but apparently he advises us to remain here and
'I don't think I can, Julia. I have misgivings.'
'Have you been dreaming again?'
'No; I've not been dreaming, but I have misgivings.'
'You are a silly little goose, Emily. Come and give me a kiss, and promise
to take my advice.'
'Dearest Julia, you do love me, don't you? Promise me that we shall not be
separated, and then I don't mind.'
'Yes, dear, I promise you that, and you will promise me to try to like your
'I'll try, Julia, but I'm awfully frightened, and--I don't think I could
like him, no matter what he was like. I feel a sort of hatred in my heart.
Don't you know what I mean?' And the girl looked questioningly into her
'I am Miss Watson,' she said in her low musical voice, 'and this is my
friend, Mrs. Bentley.' Hubert bowed, and sought for words. He found none,
and the irritating silence was broken again by Miss Watson. 'Won't you sit
down?' she said.
'Thank you.' He pulled off his gloves. The pained, troubled look which he
had met in Miss Watson's face seemed a reproach, and he regretted not
having followed his own idea, and invited the young lady to meet him at Mr.
Grandly's office. He glanced nervously from one lady to the other.
'I hope you have had a pleasant journey, Mr. Price,' said Mrs. Bentley.
'The country is looking very beautiful just at present. Do you know this
part of the country?' Mrs. Bentley's words were very welcome, and Hubert
'No; I do not know the country at all well. I have been very little out of
London for some years, but I hope now to see more of the country. This is a
At that moment he met Mrs. Bentley's eyes, and, feeling that he was
touching on delicate ground, he stopped speaking. When he turned his head,
he met Miss Watson's great sad eyes, which seemed to absorb the entire
face, fixed upon him. They expressed such depth of pathetic appeal that he
trembled with apprehension, and the instinct in him was to beg for pardon.
But it became suddenly necessary to say something, and, speaking at random,
his head full of whirling words, he said--
'Of course nothing could be more sad than my poor uncle's death,--so
unexpected... Having lived so long together, you must have----' Then it was
Hubert's turn to look appealingly at Miss Watson; but her great eyes seemed
to say, 'Go on, go on; heap cruelty on cruelty!' Then he plunged
desperately, hoping to retrieve his mistakes. 'He died about a month ago.
Mr. Grandly told me I should still find you here, so I thought----'
The intensity of his emotion perhaps caused Hubert to accentuate his words,
so that they conveyed a meaning different from that which he intended.
Certainly his hesitations were capable of misinterpretation, and Miss
Watson said, her voice trembling,--
'Of course we know we have no right here, we are intruding; but we are
making preparations.... I daresay that to-morrow we shall be able to----'
'Oh, I beg pardon, Miss Watson; let me assure you ... I am sorry if----'
Taking a little handkerchief out of her black dress, Emily covered her face
in her thin, tiny hands. She sobbed aloud, and ran out of the room. Hubert
turned to Mrs. Bentley, his face full of consternation.
'I am very sorry, but she did not give me time to speak. Will you go and
fetch her, Mrs. Bentley? I want to tell her I hope she will never leave
Ashwood. ... I believe she thinks that I came down here to ask her to leave
as soon as possible. It is really quite awful that she should think such a
'She is an exceedingly sensitive girl, and is now a little overwrought. The
events of the last month have proved too much for her.'
'Mr. Grandly informed me that it was Mr. Burnett's intention to add a
codicil to his will, leaving Miss Watson three hundred a year. This money I
am prepared to give her, and I'm quite sure she is welcome to stay here as
long as she pleases. Indeed, she will do me a great favour by remaining.
Please go and tell her. I cannot bear to see a girl cry; to hear her sob
like that is quite terrible.'
'You will be able to tell her yourself during the course of the evening. I
think it will come better from you.'
'After what has happened, it will be very difficult for me to meet her
until she is informed that she is mistaken. I charged Mr. Grandly to
explain everything in his letter. Apparently he omitted to do so.'
'He only said you wanted to see Emily on a matter of business. Of course we
did not expect such generosity.'
They were standing quite close together, and suddenly Hubert became
conscious of Mrs. Bentley's beauty. Her blue eyes were at that moment full
of tender admiration for the instinctive generosity which Hubert so
unwittingly exhibited, and her eyes told what was passing in her soul.
Suddenly they both seemed to understand each other better, and, playing
with the bracelet on her arm, she said--
'You do not know Emily; she is strangely sensitive. But I will go and try
to persuade her to return.... Although only distantly related, you are
cousins, after all--are you not?'
'Yes, we are cousins, but the relationship is remote. Tell her everything;
beg of her to come down-stairs.'
Hubert imagined Emily's little black figure thrown upon her bed, sobbing
convulsively. He was very much agitated, and looked about the room, at
first hardly seeing it. At last its novelty drew his thoughts from his
cousin's tears, and he wondered what was the history of the house. 'The old
man,' he thought, 'bought it all, furniture and ancestors, from some ruined
landowner, and attempted very few alterations--that's clear.' Then he
reproached himself. 'How could I have been so stupid? I did not know what I
was saying. I was so horribly nervous. Those strange eyes of hers quite
upset me. I do hope Mrs. Bentley will tell her that I wish to act
generously, that I am prepared to do everything in my power to make her
happy. Poor little thing! She looks as if she had never been happy.' Again
the room drew Hubert's thoughts away from his cousin. It was still lit with
the faint perfumed glow of the sunset. The paint of the old decorations was
cracked and faded. A man in a plum-coloured coat with gold facings fixed
his eyes upon him, and the tall lady in blue satin had no doubt played
there in short clothes. He walked up and down, he turned over the music on
the piano, and, hearing a step, looked round. It was only the servant
coming to tell him that his room was ready.
He dressed for dinner, hoping to find the two ladies in the drawing-room,
and it was a disappointment to find only Mrs. Bentley there.
'I have told Emily everything you said. She is very grateful, and begs of
me to thank you for your kind intentions. But I am afraid you must excuse
her absence from dinner. I really don't think she is in a fit state to come
down; she couldn't possibly take part in the conversation.'
'But why? I hope she isn't ill? Had we better send for the doctor?'
'Oh no; she'll be all right in the morning. She has been crying. She
suffers from depression of spirits. She is, I assure you, all right,' said
Mrs. Bentley, replying to Hubert's alarmed and questioning face. 'I assure
you there is no need for you to reproach yourself. Dinner is ready.' She
took his arm, and they went into the dining-room.
No further mention was made of Mr. Burnett, of money matters, or of the
young lady up-stairs; and with considerable tact Mrs. Bentley introduced
the subject of literature, alluding gracefully to Hubert's position as a
'Your play, _Divorce_, is now running at the Queen's Theatre?'
No; I'm sorry to say it was taken out of the bills last Saturday. Saturday
night was the last performance.'
'That was not a long run. And the papers spoke so favourably of it.'
'It is a play that only appeals to the few.' And, encouraged by Mrs.
Bentley's manner, Hubert told her how happy endings and comic love-scenes
were essential to secure a popular success.
'I am afraid you will think me very stupid, but I do not quite understand.'
In a quiet, unobtrusive way Hubert was a graceful talker, and he knew how
to adapt his theme, and bring it within the circle of the sympathies of his
listeners. There was some similarity of temperament between himself and
Mrs. Bentley; they were both quiet, fair, meditative Saxons. She lent her
whole mind to the conversation, interested in the account that the young
man gave of his dramatic aspirations.
From the dining-room window looking over the park the long road wound
through the vaporous country. The town stood in the middle distance, its
colour blotted out, and its smoke hardly distinguishable. In the room a
yellow dress turned grey, and the gold of a bracelet grew darker, and the
pink of delicate finger-nails was no longer visible. But the pensive dusk
of the dining-room, which blackened the claret in the decanters, leaving
only the faintest ruby glow in the glass which Hubert raised to his lips,
suited the tenor of the conversation, which had wandered from the dramatic
to the social side of the question. What did he think of divorce? She
sighed, and he wondered what her story might be.
They passed out of the dining-room, and stood on the gravel, watching the
night gathering in the open country. In the light of the moon, which had
just risen above the woods, the white road grew whiter, the town was
faintly seen in the tide of blue vapour, which here and there allowed a
field to appear. In the foreground a great silver fir, spiky and solitary,
rose up in the blue night. Beyond it was seen a corner of the ornamental
bridge. The island and its shadow were one black mass rising from the park
up to the level of the moon, which, a little to the right, between the town
and the island, lay reflected in a narrow strip of water. Farther away some
reeds were visible in the illusive light, and the meditative chatter of
dozing ducks stirred the silence which wrapped the country like a cloak.
Hubert and Mrs. Bentley stood looking at the landscape. The fragrance of
his cigar, the presence of the woman, the tenderness of the hour, combined
to make him strangely happy; his past life seemed to him like a harsh,
cruel pain that had suddenly ceased. More than he had ever desired seemed
to be fulfilled; the reality exceeded the dream. What greater happiness
than to live here, and with this woman! His thoughts paused, for he had
forgotten the girl up-stairs. She was not happy; but he would make her
happy--of that he was quite certain. At that moment Mrs. Bentley said--
'I hope you like your home. Is not the prospect a lovely one?'
'Yes; but I was thinking at that moment of Emily. I suppose I must accustom
myself to call her by her Christian name. She is my cousin, and we are
going to live together. But, by the way, she cannot stay here alone. I
hope--I may trust that you will remain with her?'
Mrs. Bentley turned her face towards him; he noticed the look of pleasure
that had passed into it.
'Thank you; it is very good of you. I shall be glad to remain with Emily as
long as she cares for my society. It is needless to say I shall do my best
to deserve your approval.'
[Illustration: "They dined at the Café Royal."]
Her voice fell, and he heard her sigh, and in his happiness it seemed to
him to be a pity that he should find unhappiness in others.
They went into the drawing-room. Mrs. Bentley asked him if he liked music,
and she went to the piano and sang some Scotch songs very sweetly. Then she
took a book from the table and bade him good-night. She was sure that he
would excuse her. She must go and see after Emily.
When the door closed, the woman who had just left him seemed like some one
he had seen in a dream; and still more shadowy and illusive did the girl
seem--that pale and plaintive beauty, looking like a pastel, who had so
troubled him with her enigmatic eyes! And the lodging-house that he had
left only a few hours ago! and Rose.
On Sunday he had taken Rose out to dinner. They dined at the Café-Royal. He
had tried to talk to her about Hamilton Brown's new drama, which they had
just heard would follow _Divorce_; but he was unable to detach his thoughts
from Ashwood and the ladies he was going to visit to-morrow evening. Hubert
and Rose had felt like two school-fellows, one of whom is leaving school;
the link that had bound them had snapped; henceforth their ways lay
separate; and they were sad at parting just as school-friends are sad.
'You are not rich; you offered to lend me money once. I want to lend you
'Oh yes; five shillings, wasn't it?'
'It doesn't matter what the sum was--we were both very poor then----'
'And I'm still poorer now.'
'All the more reason why you should allow me to help you.... Allow me to
write you a cheque for a hundred pounds. I assure you I can afford it.'
'I think I had better not.... I have some things I can sell.'
'But you must not sell your things. Indeed, you must allow me----'
'I think I'd rather not. I shall be all right--that is to say, if Ford
engages me for Brown's new piece; and I think he will.'
'But if he doesn't?'
'Then,' she said, with a sweet and natural smile, 'I'll write to you.... We
have been excellent friends--comrades--have we not?'
'Yes, we have indeed, and I shall never forget. There is my address; that
will always find me.'
He had written a play--a play that the most competent critics had
considered a work of genius; in any case, a play that had interested his
generation more than any other. It had failed, and failed twice; but did
that prove anything? Fortune had deserted him, and he had been unable to
finish _The Gipsy_. Was it the fault of circumstances that he had not been
able to finish that play? or was it that the slight vein of genius that had
been in him once had been exhausted? He remembered the article in _The
Modern Review_, and was frightened to think that the critic might have
divined the truth. Once it had seemed impossible to finish that play; but
fortune had come to his aid, accident had made him master of his destiny;
he could spend three years, five years if he liked, on _The Gipsy_. But why
think of the play at all? What did it matter even if he never wrote it?
There were many things to do in life besides writing plays. There was life!
His life was henceforth his own, and he could live it as he pleased. What
should he do with it? To whom should he give it? Should he keep it all for
himself and his art? It were useless to make plans. All he knew for certain
was that henceforth he was master of his own life, and could dispense it as
And then, in sensuous curiosity, his thoughts turned on the pleasure of
life in this beautiful house, in the society of two charming women.
'Perhaps I shall marry one of them. Which do I like the better? I haven't
the least idea.' And then, as his thoughts detached themselves, he
remembered Emily's tears.
It was a day of English summer, and the meadows and trees drowsed in the
moist atmosphere; a few white clouds hung lazily in the blue sky; the
garden was bright with geraniums and early roses, and the closely cropped
privets were in full leaf. Hubert's senses were taken with the beauty of
the morning, and there came the thought, so delicious, 'All this is mine.'
He noticed the glitter of the greenhouses, and thought the cawing of some
young rooks a sweet sound; a great tortoiseshell cat lay basking in the
middle of the greensward, whisking its furry tail. Hubert stroked the
animal; it arched its back, and rubbed itself against his legs. At that
moment a half-bred fox-terrier barked noisily at him; he heard some one
calling the dog, and saw a slight black figure hastening down one of the
side-walks. Despite the dog's attempts on his legs, he ran forward.
'Emily! Emily!' he called. She stopped, turned, and stood looking at him.
'My dear cousin,' he said. 'I'm sorry about last night. I hope that Mrs.
Bentley has told you. I begged of her to do so.'
'Yes; she told me of your kind intentions. I have to thank you.'
They walked on in silence, neither knowing what to say.
'Go away, Dandy!' said Emily, thrusting her black silk parasol at the dog,
who had begun an attack on Hubert's trousers. The dog retreated; Hubert
'I'm afraid he doesn't like me.'
'He'll soon get to know you. Are you fond of animals?'
'I don't know that I am, particularly.'
'Oh!' she said, looking at him reproachfully, 'how can you?' Her eyes
seemed to say, 'I never can like you after that.' 'I adore animals,' she
said. 'My dear dog--there is nothing in the world I love as I love my
Dandy; come here, dear.' The dog came, wagging his tail, putting back his
ears, knowing he was going to be caressed. Emily stooped down, took his
rough head in her hands, and kissed him. 'Is he not a dear?' she said,
looking up; and then she said, 'I hope you won't object to having him in
the house;' her face clouded.
'Oh, my dear Emily, how can you ask such a question? I shall never object
to anything you desire.' The conversation paused, and they walked some
paces in silence. Emily had just begun to speak of her flowers, when they
came upon the gardener, who was standing in consternation over the
fragments of a broken mowing-machine. Jack--that was the donkey--had been
left to himself just for a moment. It was impossible to say what wild freak
had taken him; but instead of waiting, as he was expected to wait,
stolidly, he had started off on a wild career, regardless of the safety of
the machine. At the first bound it had come in contact with a flower-vase,
which had been sent in many pieces over the sward; at the second it had met
with some stone coping; and at the third it had turned over in complete
dissolution, and Jack was free to tear up the turf with his hoofs, until
finally his erratic course was stopped by the small boy who was responsible
for the animal's behaviour. The arrival of Hubert and Emily saved the small
boy from many a cuff and the donkey from a kick or two; and Jack stood amid
the ruin he had created, as quiet and as docile a creature as the mind
'Oh, you--you wicked Jack! Who would have thought it of you?' said Emily,
throwing her arms round the animal's neck. 'And at your age, too! This is
my old donkey,' she said, turning her dreamy eyes on Hubert. 'I used to
ride him every day until about two years ago. I love my dear old Jack, and
would not have him beaten for worlds, although he is so wicked as to break
the mowing-machine. Look what you have done to the flower-vase.' The animal
shook its long ears.
Hubert and Emily strolled down a long walk, wondering what they should talk
'These are really very pretty grounds,' he said at last. 'I am sure I shall
enjoy myself immensely here.' The remark appeared to him to be of doubtful
taste, and he hastened to add, 'That is to say, if I have completely made
it up with my pretty cousin.'
'But you have not seen the place yet,' she said, speaking still with a
certain tremor in her voice. 'You haven't even seen the gardens. Come, and
I'll show them to you.'
Hubert would have preferred to walk with her through these ornamental
swards; and he liked the espalier apple-trees with which the garden was
divided better than the glare and heat of the greenhouses into which she
'Do you care for flowers?'
'Not very much.'
'These are all my flowers,' she said, pointing to many rows of flower-pots.
'Those are Julia's. You see I run a line of thread around mine, so that
there shall be no mistake. She is not nearly so careful as I am, and it
isn't nice to find that the plants you have been tending for weeks have
been spoilt by over-watering. I don't say she doesn't love them, but she
forgets them.... Just look at those; they are devoured by insects. They
want to be taken out and given a thorough cleansing. Even then I doubt if
they would come out right,--a plant never forgives you; it is just like a
'And doesn't a human being ever forgive?'
'Oh, I didn't mean that!' she said, blushing; 'but sometimes I could cry
over the poor plants which she neglects. I daresay you will think me very
ridiculous, but I do cry sometimes, and sometimes I cannot resist taking
them out on the sly, and giving them a thoroughly good syringing,--only you
must not tell her; we have agreed not to touch each other's flowers. But I
cannot bear to see the poor things dying. How do we know that they do not
'I don't think it probable.'
'But we don't know for certain,' she said, fixing her great eyes on him.
'We know nothing for certain,' he answered; and then he said, 'You and Mrs.
Bentley have lived a long time together?'
'No; not very long. About a couple of years. I was about thirteen when I
came to Ashwood. I am now eighteen. Mrs. Bentley is a sort of connection.
She is very poor--that is why Mr. Burnett asked her to come and live here;
besides, as I grew up I wanted a companion. She has been very good to me.
We have been very happy together--at least, as happy as one may be; for I
don't think that any one is ever very happy. Have you been very happy?'
'I have not always been happy. But tell me more about Mrs. Bentley.'
'There is little more to tell. I naturally love her very much. She nursed
me when I was ill--and I'm often ill; she taught me all I know; she cheered
me when I was sad--when I thought my heart would break; when everybody else
seemed unkind she was kind. Besides, I could not remain here without her.'
Emily lowered her eyes, and the conversation seemed to pause.
'I have arranged all that,' Hubert answered hurriedly. 'I spoke to her last
night, and she has consented to remain.'
'That is very good of you.' Emily raised her eyes and looked shyly at
Hubert; and then, as if doubtful of herself, she said, 'Do you like her?
I'm sure you do. Every one does. Do you not think she is very handsome?'
'I think her an exceedingly pleasant woman, and I'm sure we shall all get
on very well together.'
'But don't you think her very handsome?'
'Yes; she is a handsome woman.'
Nothing more was said. Emily drew meditatively on the gravel with the point
of her parasol. The gardeners looked up from their work.
'I have to go now,' she said, raising her eyes timidly, 'to feed the swans.
You would not care to go so far?'
'On the contrary, I should like it, of all things. A walk by the water on a
day like this will be quite a treat.'
'Then will you wait a moment? I will go and fetch the bread.' She returned
soon after with a small basket; and a large retriever, tied up in the
corner of the yard, barked and lugged at his chain. 'He knows where I am
going, and is afraid I shall forget him--aren't you, dear old Don? You
wouldn't like to miss a walk with your mistress, would you, dear?' The dog
bounded and rushed from side to side; it was with difficulty that Emily
loosed him. Once free, he galloped down the drive, returning at intervals
for a caress and a sniff at the basket which his mistress carried. 'There's
nothing there for you, my beautiful Don!'
The drive sloped from the house down to the artificial water, passing under
some large elms; and in the twilight of the branches where the sunlight
played, and the silence was tremulous with wings, Hubert felt that Emily
had forgiven him. She wore the same black dress that he had admired her in
the night before; her waist was confined by the same black band; but the
chestnut hair seemed more beautiful beneath the black silk sunshade, leaned
so gracefully, the black handle held between thumb and forefinger. And the
little black figure seemed a part of the beautiful English park, now so
green and fragrant in all the flower and sunlight of June, and decorated
with a blue summer sky, and white clouds moving lazily over the tops of the
trees. And the impression of the beautiful park was enforced by its
reflection, which lay, with the mute magic of reflected things, in the
still water, stirred only when, with exquisite motion of webbed feet, the
swans propelled their freshness to and fro, balancing themselves in the
current where they knew the bread must surely fall.
'They are waiting for me. Cannot you see their black eyes turned towards
the bridge?' And she threw the bread from the basket, and the beautiful
birds unbent their curved necks, devouring it voraciously under the water.
In the larger portion of this artificial lake there were two islands,
thickly wooded. In the smaller, which lay behind Emily and Hubert, there
was one small island covered with reeds and low bushes, and this was a
favourite haunt for the waterfowl, which now came swimming forward, not
daring to approach too near the dangerous swans.
'These are my friends,' said Emily. 'They will follow me to the other end,
and I shall be able to feed them as we walk along the meadow.'
Don and Dandy bounded through the tall grass; sometimes foolishly giving
chase to the birds that rose up out of the golden grasses, barking in mad
eagerness--sometimes pursuing a hare into the distant woods. The last chase
had led them far, and both dogs returned panting to walk till they
recovered breath by their mistress's side; and to satisfy the retriever's
affection Emily held one hand to him. Playing gently with his ears, she
'Did you ever see much of Mr. Burnett?'
'Not since I was a boy, ten or twelve years ago, when I was at the
University. There was absolutely no reason for his doing what he did.'
'Yes; there was,' she said in a strangely decisive tone.
'May I ask----'
'I do not know if I ought to tell you. It would be better not to. You
know,' she continued, speaking now with a nervous tremor in her voice,
'that I do not want you to think that I am so very disappointed. I do not
know that I am disappointed at all. You have acted so generously, and it
will be pleasanter to live here with you than with that old man.'
The conversation fell; but the sweet meadow seemed to induce confidences,
and they were so happy in their youth and the sorcery of the sunshine.
'Five years ago I wrote to him,' said Hubert, speaking very slowly, 'asking
him to lend me fifty pounds, and he refused. Since then I have not heard
from him.' At the end of a long silence, the girl said--
'So long as you know that I am no longer angry with him for having
disinherited me, I do not mind telling you the reason. Two months before he
died he asked me to marry him, and I refused.'
They walked several yards without speaking.
'Do you not think I was right? I was only eighteen, and he was over sixty.'
'It seems to me quite shocking that he could have even contemplated such a
'But look at these poor ducks; they have followed us all the way, and I
have forgotten to feed them!' Taking out all the bread that remained in the
basket, Emily threw it to the ducks that had collected where the dammed-up
stream that filled the lake trickled over a wooden sluice. There was a
plank by which to cross the deep cutting. Hubert and Emily paused, and
stood gazing at the large beech wood that swept over some rising ground.
Don had not been seen for some time, and they both shouted to him.
Presently a black mass was seen bounding through the flowers, and the
panting animal once more ensconced himself by his mistress's side.
'I was very fond of Mr. Burnett,' she said, 'but I could not marry him. I
could not marry any man I did not love.'
'And because you refused to marry him, he did not mention you in his will.
I never heard of such selfishness before!'
'Men are always selfish,' she said sententiously. 'But it really does not
matter; things are just the same; he hasn't succeeded in altering
anything--at least, not for the worse. We shall get on very well together.'
The conversation paused. Then Emily went on: 'You won't tell any one I told
you? I only told you because I did not want you to think me selfish. I was
afraid that after the foolish way I behaved last night you might think I
hated you. Indeed, I do not. Perhaps everything has happened for the best.
I was very fond of the old man. I gave him my whole heart; no father ever
had a daughter more attached; but I could not marry him. And it was the
remembrance of my love for him that made me burst out crying. I do not
think I realised until I saw you how cruelly I had been treated. But you
won't tell any one? You won't tell Mrs. Bentley? She knows, of course; but
do not tell her that I told you. I do not care that my feelings should be
made a subject of discussion. You promise me?'
'I promise you.'
They had now reached the tennis-lawn. The gong sounded, and Emily said,
'That is lunch, and we shall find Julia waiting for us in the dining-room.'
It was as she said. Mrs. Bentley was standing by the sideboard, her basket
of keys in her hand; she had not quite finished her housekeeping, and was
giving some last instructions to the butler. Hubert noticed that the place
at the head of the table was for him, and he sat down a little embarrassed,
to carve a chicken. So much home after so many years of homelessness seemed
On the third day, as soon as breakfast was over, Hubert introduced the
subject of his departure. Julia waited, but as Emily did not speak, she
said, 'We thought you liked the country better than town.'
'So I do, but----'
'He's tired of us, and we had better leave,' Emily said, abruptly.
Hubert started a little; he looked appealingly at Julia, and seeing the
look of genuine pain upon his face, she took pity on him. 'You should not
speak like that, Emily dear; I can see that you pain Mr. Price very much.'
'I hope, Emily, that you will stay here as long as you like,' he said, in a
low, gentle voice; 'as long as it is convenient and agreeable to you.'
'We cannot stay here without you,' Emily replied; 'we are your guests.'
'And,' said Julia, smiling, 'if there are guests, there must be a host. But
if you have business in London, of course you must go.'
'I was not thinking of myself,' said Hubert, 'but of you ladies. I was
afraid that you were already tired of me; that you might like to be left
alone; that you had business, preparations. I daresay I was all wrong; but
if Emily knew----'
'I'm sorry, Hubert; I did not mean to offend you. I'm very unlucky. You'll
'I've nothing to forgive; I only hope that you'll never think again that I
want to get rid of you. I hope that you'll stop at Ashwood as long as ever
it suits you to do so. I don't see how I can say more.'
'I like to stop here as long as you are here,' Emily said, in a low voice.
'That is all I meant.'
'Then we're all of one mind, I don't want to go back to London. If you
don't find me in your way, I shall be delighted to stay.'
'Of course,' said Julia, 'we poor country folk can hardly hope to amuse
'I don't know about that!' exclaimed Emily. 'Where would he find any one to
play and sing to him in the evenings as you can?'
The conversation paused, and all were happier that morning, though none
knew why. Days passed, desultory and sweet, and with a pile of books about
him, he lay in a long cane chair under the trees; then the book would drop
on his knees, and blowing smoke in curling wreaths, he lost himself in
dramatic meditations. It was pleasant to see that Emily had grown
innocently, childishly fond of her cousin, and her fondness expressed
itself in a number of pretty ways. 'Now, Hubert, Hubert, get out of my
way,' she would say, feigning a charming petulance; or she would come and
drag him out of his chair, saying, 'Come, Hubert, I can't allow you to lie
there any longer; I have to go to South Water, and want you to come with
And walking together, they seemed like an Italian greyhound and a tall,
A cloud only appeared on Emily's face when Julia spoke of their departure.
Julia had proposed that they should leave at the end of the month, and
Emily had consented to this arrangement. The end of the month had appeared
to her indefinitely distant, but three weeks of the subscribed time had
passed, and signs of departure had become more numerous and more
peremptory. Allusion had been made to the laundress, and Julia had asked
Emily if she could get all her things into a single box; if not, they would
have to send to Brighton for another. Emily had no notion of what her box
would hold, and she showed little disposition to count her dresses or put
her linen in order. She seemed entirely taken up thinking what books, what
pictures, what china she could take away. She would like to have this
bookcase, and might she not take the wardrobe from her own room? and she
had known the clock all her life, and it did seem so hard to part with it.
'My dear girl, all these things belong to Mr. Price; you really cannot take
them away without asking him.'
'But he won't refuse; he'll let me have anything I like.'
'He can't very well refuse, so I think it would be nicer on your part not
to ask for anything.'
'I must have some of these things: I want to make the house we are going to
live in, in London, look as much like Ashwood as possible.'
'You'd like to take the whole house with you if you could.'
'Yes; I think I should.' And Emily turned and looked vaguely up and down
the passage. 'I wonder if he'd give me the picture of the windmill?'
'The landing would look very bare without it.'
'It would indeed, and when we came down here on a visit--for I suppose we
shall come down here sometimes on visits--I should miss the picture
dreadfully, so I don't think I'll ask him for it. But I must take some
pictures away with me. There are a lot of old things in the lumber-room at
the top of the house, that no one knows anything about. I think I'll ask
him to let me have them. I'll take him for a good long ramble through the
house. He hasn't seen any of it yet, except just the rooms we live in
Emily went straight to Hubert. He was lying in the long wicker chair, his
straw hat drawn over his eyes, for the sun was finding its sharp, white way
through the leaves of the beeches.
'Now, Hubert, I want you. Are you asleep?'
'Asleep! No, I was only thinking.' He threw his legs over the edge of the
low chair and stood up.
'If I tell you what I want, you won't refuse me, will you?'
'No,' he said smilingly; 'I don't think I shall.'
'Are you sure?' she said, looking at him enigmatically. Then in a lighter
tone: 'I want you to give me a lot of things--oh, not a great many, nothing
very valuable, but----'
'But what, Emily?... You can have anything you want.'
'Well, we shall see. You must come with me; I must show you what--I shan't
want them unless you like to give them. Come along. Oh, you must come. I
should not care about them unless you came with me, and let me point them
out.' She passed her little hand into the arm of his rough coat, and led
him towards the house. 'You know nothing of your own house, so before I go
I intend to show you all over it. You have no idea what a funny old place
it is up-stairs--endless old lumber-rooms which you would never think of
going into if I didn't take you. When I was a little girl I wasn't often
allowed down-stairs: the top of the house still seems to me more real than
any other part.' Throwing open a door at the head of the stairs, she said:
'This used to be my nursery. It is all bare and deserted now, but I
remember it quite different. I used to spend hours looking out of that
window. From it you can see all over the park, and the park used to be my
great delight. I used to sit there and make resolutions that next time I
went out I would be braver, and explore the hollows full of bushes and tall
'Did you never break your resolutions?'
'Sometimes. I was afraid of meeting fairies or elves. There are glades and
hollows that used to seem very wonderful. And they still seem very
wonderful, only not quite in the same way. Doesn't the world seem very
wonderful to you? I'm always wondering at things. But I know I'm only a
silly little girl, and yet I like to talk to you about my fancies. Down
there in the beech wood there is a beautiful glade. I loved to play there
better than anywhere else. I used to lie there on a fur rug and play at
paper dolls. I always fancied myself a duchess or a princess.'
'You are full of dreams, Emily.'
'Yes; I suppose I am. Everything is pleasant and happy in dreams. I love
dreaming. They thought I'd never learn to read; but it wasn't because I was
stupid, but because I wouldn't study. I'd put my hands to my head, and,
looking at the book, which I didn't see, I'd think of all sorts of things,
imagine myself a fairy princess.'
'And it was in this room that you dreamed all those dreams?'
'Yes; in this dear old room. You see that picture: that is one of the
things I intended to ask you to give me.'
'What? That old, dilapidated print?'
'You mustn't abuse my picture. I used to spend hours wondering if those
horsemen galloping so madly through the wood were robbers, and if they had
robbed the castle shown between the trees. I used to wonder if they would
succeed in escaping. They wouldn't gallop their horses like that unless
they were being pursued.... Can I have the picture?'
'Of course you can. Is that--that is not all you are going to ask me for?'
'I did think of asking you for a few more things. Do you mind?'
'No, not the least. The more you ask for, the more I shall be pleased.'
'Then you must come down-stairs.'
They went down to the next landing. Emily stopped before a bed-room, and,
looking at Hubert shyly and interrogatively, she said--
'This is my room. I don't know if it is in a fit state to show you. I'm not
a very tidy girl. I'll look first.'
'Yes; it will do,' she said, drawing back. 'You can look in. I want you to
give me that wardrobe. It isn't a very handsome one, but I've used it ever
since I was a little girl; it has a hollow top, and I used to hide things
there. Do you think you can spare it?'
'Yes; I think I can,' he said, smiling.
Then she led him up-stairs through the old lumber rooms, picking out here
and there some generally broken and always worthless piece of furniture,
pleading for it timidly, and strangely delighted when he nodded, granting
her every request. She asked him to pull out what she had chosen from the
_débris_, and a curious collection they made in the passage--dim and
worm-eaten pictures, small book-cases, broken vases which she proposed
Hubert wiped the dust from his hands and coat-sleeves.
'What a lot of things you have given me! Now we shall be able to get on
nicely with our furnishing.'
'The furnishing of the little house in London where Julia and I are going
to live. You said you intended to add a hundred a year to the three hundred
a year which Mr. Burnett should have left me; I don't see why you should do
such a thing, but if you do we shall have four hundred a year to live upon.
Julia says that we shall then be able to afford to give fifty pounds a year
for a house. We can get a very nice little house, she says, for that--of
course, in one of the suburbs. The great expense will be the furnishing; we
are going to do it on the hire system. I daresay one can get very nice
things in that way, but I do want to make the place look a little like
Ashwood; that is why I'm asking you for these things. I was always fond of
playing in these old lumber-rooms, and these dim old pictures, which I
don't think any one knows anything of except myself, will remind me of
Ashwood. They will look very well, indeed, hanging round our little
dining-room. You are sure you don't want them, do you?'
'No; I won't want them. I'm only too pleased to be able to give them to
'You are very good, indeed you are. Look at these old haymakers; I never
saw but one little corner of this picture before; it was stowed away behind
a lot of lumber, and I hadn't the strength to pull it out.... I'm afraid
you've got yourself rather dusty.'
'Oh no; it will brush off.'
'I shall hang this picture over the fireplace; it will look very well
there. I daresay you don't see anything in it, but I'd sooner have these
pictures than those down-stairs. I love the picture of the windmill on the
'Then why not have it? I'll have it taken down at once.'
'No; I could not think of taking it. How would the landing look without it?
I should miss it dreadfully when I came here--for I daresay you will ask us
to visit you occasionally, when you are lonely, won't you?'
'My dear Emily, whenever you like, I hope you will come here.'
'And you will come and stay with us in London? Your room will be always
ready; I'll look after that. We shall feel very offended, indeed, if you
ever think of going to an hotel. Of course, you mustn't expect much; we
shall only be able to keep one servant, but we shall try to make you
comfortable, and, when you come, you'll take me to the theatres, to see one
of your own plays.'
'If my play's being played, certainly. But would it be right for me to pay
you visits in London?'
'They would be very wicked people indeed who saw anything wrong in it; you
are my cousin. But why do you say such things? You destroy all my pleasure,
and I was so happy just now.'
'I'm afraid, Emily, your happiness hangs on a very slender thread.'
She looked at him inquiringly, but feeling that it would be unwise to
attempt an explanation, he said in a different tone--
'But, Emily, if you love Ashwood so well, why do you go away?'
'Why do I go away? We have been here now some time.... I can't live here
'Why not? Why not let things go on just as they are?'
'And live here with you, I and Julia?'
'Yes; why not?'
'We should bore you; you want to write your plays, you'd get tired of me.'
'Your being here would not prevent my writing my plays. I have been
thinking all the while of asking you to remain, but was afraid you would
not care to live here.'
'Not care to live here! But you'll get tired of us; we might quarrel.'
'No; we shall never quarrel. You will be doing me a great favour by
remaining. Just fancy living alone in this great house, not a soul to speak
to all day! I'm sure I should end by going out and hanging myself on one of
'You wouldn't do that, would you?'
Hubert laughed. 'You and Mrs. Bentley will be doing me a great favour by
remaining. If you go away I shall be robbed right and left, the gardens
will go to rack and ruin, and when you come down here you won't know the
place, and then, perhaps, we shall quarrel.'
'I shouldn't like Ashwood to go to rack and ruin--and my poor flowers! And
I'm sure you'd forget to feed the swans. If you did that, I could not
'Well, let these grave considerations decide you to remain.'
'Are you really serious?'
'I never was more serious in my life.'
'Well then, may I run and tell Julia?'
'Certainly, and I'll--no, I won't. I'll look up the housemaids and tell
them to restore this interesting collection of antiquities to their
He was, perhaps, a little too conscious of his happiness; and he feared to
do anything that would endanger the pleasure of his present life. It seemed
to him like a costly thing which might slip from his hand or be broken; and
day by day he appreciated more and more the delicate comfort of this
well-ordered house--its brightness, its ample rooms, the charm of space
within and without, the health of regular and wholesome meals, the presence
of these two women, whose first desire was to minister to his least wish or
caprice. These, the first spoilings he had received, combined to render him
singularly happy. Bohemianism, he often thought, had been forced upon
him--it was not natural to him, and though spiritual belief was dead, he
experienced in church a resurrection of influences which misfortune had
hypnotised, but which were stirring again into life. He was conscious again
of this revival of his early life in the evenings when Mrs. Bentley went to
the piano; and when playing a game of chess or draughts, remembrances of
the old Shropshire rectory came back, sudden, distinct, and sweet. In these
days the disease of fame and artistic achievement only sang monotonously,
plaintively, like the wind in the valleys where the wind never wholly
Sometimes, when moved by the novel he was reading, he would discuss its
merits and demerits with the two women who sat by him in the quiet of the
dim drawing-room, their work on their knees, thinking of him. In the
excitement of criticism his thoughts wandered to his own work, and the
women's eyes filled with reveries, and their hands folded languidly over
their knees. He spoke without emphasis, his words seeming to drop from the
thick obsession of his dream. At ten the ladies gathered up their work,
bade him good-night; and nightly these good-nights grew tenderer, and
nightly they went up-stairs more deeply penetrated with a sense of their
happiness. But at heart he was a man's man. He hardly perceived life from a
woman's point of view; and in the long evenings which he spent with these
women he sometimes had to force himself to appear interested in their
conversation. He was as far removed from one as from the other. Emily's
wilfulness puzzled him, and he did not seem to have anything further to
talk about to Mrs. Bentley.
He missed the bachelor evenings of former days--the whisky and water, the
pipes, and the literary discussion; and as the days went by he began to
think of London; his thoughts turned affectionately towards the friends he
had not seen for so long, and at the end of July he announced his intention
of running up to town for a few days. So one morning breakfast was hurried
through; Emily was sure there was plenty of time; Hubert looked at the
clock and said he must be off; Julia ran after him with parcels which he
had forgotten; farewell signs were waved; the dog-cart passed out of sight,
and, after lingering a moment, the women returned to the drawing-room
'I wonder if he'll catch the train,' said Emily, without taking her face
from the window.
'I hope so; it will be very tiresome for him if he has to come back. There
isn't another train before three o'clock.'
'If he missed this train he wouldn't go until to-morrow morning.... I
wonder how long he'll stay away. Supposing something happened, and he never
came back!' Emily turned round and looked at Julia in dreamy wonderment.
'Not come back at all? What nonsense you are talking, Emily! He won't be
away more than a fortnight or three weeks.'
'Three weeks! that seems a very long while. How shall we get through our
Emily had again turned towards the window. Julia did not trouble to reply.
She smiled a little, as she paused on the threshold, for she remembered
that no more than a few weeks ago Emily had addressed to her passionate
speeches declaring her to be her only friend, and that they would like to
live together, content in each other's companionship, always ignoring the
rest of the world. Although she had not mistaken these speeches for
anything more than the nervous passion of a moment, the suddenness of the
recantation surprised her a little. Three or four days after, the girl was
in a different mood, and when they came into the drawing-room after dinner
she threw her arms about Julia's neck, saying, 'Isn't this like old times?
Here we are, living all alone together, and I'm not boring myself a bit. I
never shall have another friend like you, Julia.'
'But you'll be very glad when Hubert comes back.'
'There's no harm in that, is there? I should be very ungrateful if I
wasn't. Think how good he has been to us.... I'm afraid you don't like him,
'Oh, yes, I do, Emily.'
'Not so much as I do.' And raising herself--she was sitting on Julia's
knees--Emily looked at Julia.
'Perhaps not,' Julia replied, smiling; 'but then I never hated him as much
as you did.'
A cloud came over Emily's face. 'I did hate him, didn't I? You remember
that first evening? You remember when you came up-stairs and found me
trembling in the passage--I was afraid to go to bed. ... I begged you to
allow me to sleep with you. You remember how we listened for his footstep
in the passage, as he went up to bed, and how I clung to you? Then the
dreams of that night. I never told you what my dreams were, but you
remember how I woke up with a cry, and you asked me what was the matter?'
'Yes, I remember.'
'I dreamt I was with him in a garden, and was trying to get away; but he
held me by a single hair, and the hair would not break. How absurd dreams
are! And the garden was full of flowers, but every time I tried to gather
them, he pulled me back by that single hair. I don't remember any more,
only something about running wildly away from him, and losing myself in a
dark forest, and there the ground was soft like a bog, and it seemed as if
I were going to be swallowed up every moment. It was a terrible sensation.
All of a sudden I woke with a cry. The room was grey with dawn, and you
said: "Emily dear, what have you been dreaming, to cry out like that?" I
was too tired and frightened to tell you much about my dream, and next
morning I had forgotten it. I did not remember it for a long time after,
but all the same some of it came true. Don't you remember how I met Hubert
next morning on the lawn? We went into the garden and spent the best part
of the morning walking about the lake.... I don't know if I told you--I ran
away when I heard him coming, and should have got away had it not been for
this tiresome dog. He called after me, using my Christian name. I was so
angry I think I hated him then more than ever. We walked a little way, and
the next thing I remember was thinking how nice he was. I don't know how it
all happened. Now I think of it, it seems like magic. It was the day that
my old donkey ran away with the mowing machine and broke the flower-vase,
the dear old thing; we had a long talk about "Jack." And then I took Hubert
into the garden and showed him the flowers. I don't think he cares much
about flowers; he pretended, but I could see it was only to please me. Then
I knew that he liked me, for when I told him I was going to feed the swans,
he said he loved swans and begged to be allowed to come too. I don't think
a man would say that if he didn't like you, do you?'
Emily's mind seemed to contain nothing but memories of Hubert. What he had
said on this occasion, how he had looked at her on another. The
conversation paused and Emily sunned herself in the enchantment of
recollection, until at last breaking forth again, she said--
'Have you noticed how Ethel Eastwick goes after him? And the odd part of it
is, that she can't see that he dislikes her. He thinks nothing of her
singing; he remained talking to me in the conservatory the whole time. I
asked him to come into the drawing-room, but he pretended to misunderstand
me, and asked me if I felt a draught. He said, "Let me get you a shawl." I
said, "I assure you, Hubert, I don't feel any draught." But he would not
believe me, and said he could not allow me to sit there without something
on my shoulders. I begged of him not to move, for I knew that Ethel would
never forgive me if I interrupted her singing; but he said he could get me
a wrap without interrupting any one. He opened the conservatory door, ran
across the lawn round to the front door, and came back with--what do you
think? With two wraps instead of one; one was mine, and the other belonged
to--I don't know who it belonged to. So I said, "Oh, what ever shall we do?
I cannot let you go back again. If any one was to come in and find me
alone, what ever would they think!" Hubert said, "Will you come with me? A
walk in the garden will be pleasanter than sitting in the conservatory." I
didn't like going at first, but I thought there couldn't be much harm.'
It seemed to Emily very terrible and very wonderful, and she experienced
throughout her numbed sense a strange, thrilling pain, akin to joy, and she
sat, her little fragile form lost in the arm-chair, her great eyes fixed in
ecstasy, seeing still the dark garden with the great star risen like a
phantom above the trees. That evening had been to her a wonder and an
enchantment, and her pausing thoughts dwelt on the moment when the distant
sound of a bell reached their ears, and the bell came nearer, clanging
fiercely in the sonorous garden. Then they saw a light--some one had come
for them with a lantern--a joke, a suitable pleasantry, and amid joyous
laughter, watching the setting moon, they had gone back to the tiled house,
where dancers still passed the white-curtained windows. Hubert had sat by
her at supper, serving her with meat and drink. In the sway of memory she
trembled and started, looking in the great arm-chair like a little bird
that the moon keeps awake in its soft nest. She no longer wished to tell
Julia of that night in the garden; her sensation of it lay far beyond
words; it was her secret, and it shone through her dreamy youth even as the
star had shone through the heavens that night. Suddenly she said--
'I wonder what Hubert is doing in London? I wonder where he is now?'
'Now? It is just nine. I suppose he's in some theatre.'
'I suppose he goes a great deal to the theatre. I wonder who he goes with.
He has lots of friends in London--actresses, I suppose; he knows them who
play in his plays. He dines at his club----'
'Or at a restaurant.'
'I wonder what a restaurant is like; ladies dine at restaurants, don't
As Julia was about to make reply, the servant brought her a letter. She
opened the envelope, and took out a long, closely-written letter; she
turned it over to see the signature, and then looking toward Emily, she
said, with a pleasant smile--
'Now I shall be able to answer your questions better; this letter is from
'Oh, what does he say? Read it.'
'Wait a moment, let me glance through it first; it is very difficult to
read.' A few moments after, Julia said, 'There's not much that would
interest you in the letter, Emily; it is all about his play. He says he
would have written before if he had not been so busy looking out for a
theatre, and engaging actors and actresses. He hopes to start rehearsing
"I say I hope, because there are still some parts of the play which do not
satisfy me, particularly the third act. I intend to work steadily on the
play till, next Thursday, five or six hours every day; I am in perfect
health and spirits, and ought to be able to get the thing right. Should I
fail to satisfy myself, or should any further faults appear when we begin
to rehearse the piece, I shall dismiss my people, pack up my traps, and
return to Ashwood. There I shall have quiet; here, people are continually
knocking at my door, and I cannot deny my friends the pleasure of seeing
me, if that is a pleasure. But at Ashwood, as I say, I shall be sure of
quiet, and can easily finish the play this autumn, and February is a better
time than September to produce a play."'
'Then he goes on,' said Julia, 'to explain the alterations he contemplates
making. There's no use reading you all that.'
'I suppose you think I should not understand.'
'My dear Emily, if you want to read the letter, there it is.'
'I don't want to see your letter.'
'What do you mean, Emily?'
'Nothing, only I think it rather strange that he didn't write to me.'
Some days after, Emily took up the book that Julia had laid down.
'"Shakespeare's Plays." I suppose you are reading them so that you'll be
able to talk to him better.'
'I never thought of such a thing, Emily.' At the end of a long silence
'Do you think clever men like clever women?'
'I don't know. Some say they do, some say they don't. I believe that really
clever men, men of genius, don't.'
'I wonder if Hubert is a man of genius. What do you think?'
'I really am not capable of expressing an opinion on the matter.'
Another week passed away, and Emily began to assume an air of languor and
timid yearning. One day she said--
'I wonder he doesn't write. He hasn't answered my letter yet. Has he
'He has not written to me again. He hasn't time for letter-writing. He is
working night and day at his play.'
'I suppose he'd never think of coming down by the morning train. He'd be
sure to come by the five o'clock.'
'He won't come without writing. He'd be sure to write for the dog-cart.'
'I suppose so. There's no use in looking out for him.'
But, notwithstanding her certitude on the point, Emily could not help
choosing five o'clock as the time for a walk, and Julia noticed that the
girl's feet seemed to turn instinctively towards the lodge. Often she would
leave the flowers she was tending on the terrace, and stand looking through
the dim, sun-smitten landscape toward the red-brown spot, which was
Southwater, in the middle of the long plain.
Hubert felt called upon to entertain his friends, and one evening they all
sat dining at Hurlingham in the long room. The conversation, as usual, had
been about books and pictures.
It was the moment when strings of lanterns were hoisted from tree to tree.
In front of a large space of sky the coloured globes were crude and
trivial; but in the shadows of the trees by the river, where the mist rose
into the branches, they had begun to awaken the first impression of
melancholy and the sadness of _fête_. It was the moment when the great
trees hung heavy and motionless, strangely green and solemn beneath a
slate-coloured sky; and the plaintive waltz cried on Hungarian
fiddle-strings, till it seemed the soul of this feminine evening. The
fashionable crowd had moved out upon the lawn; the white dresses were
phantom blue, and the men's coats faded into obscure masses, darkening the
gathering shadows. It was the moment when voices soften, and every heart,
overpowered with yearning, is impelled to tell of grief and disillusion;
and every moment the wail of the fiddles grew more unbearable, tearing the
heart to its very depths.
Author and actor-manager walked up the lawn puffing at their cigars. The
others sat watching, knowing that the opportunity had come for criticism of
'He does not change much,' said Harding. 'Circumstances haven't affected
him. A year ago he lived in a garret re-writing his play _Divorce_. He now
rewrites _Divorce_ in a handsome house in Sussex.'
'I thought he had finished his play,' said Thompson. 'I heard that he was
going to take a theatre and produce it himself.'
'But did you not hear him say at dinner that he was re-writing as he
rehearsed? I met one of the actors yesterday. He doesn't know what to make
of it. He gets a new part every week to learn.'
'Do you think he'll ever produce it?'
'I doubt it. At the last moment he'll find that the third act doesn't
satisfy him, and will postpone the production till the spring.'
'What do you think of his work?'
'Very intelligent, but a little insipid--like himself. Look at him. _Il est
bien l'homme de ses ouvres_. There is something dry about him, and his
writings are like himself--hard, dry and wanting in personal passion.'
'Yet he talks charmingly, with vivacity and intelligence, and he is so full
of appreciation of Shakespeare, Goethe, and such genuine love for
'I've heard him talk Shakespeare, Goethe, and Ibsen,' said Harding, 'but I
never heard him say anything new, anything personal. It seems to me that
you mistake quotation for perception. He assimilates, but he originates
nothing. He has read a great deal; he is covered with literature like a
rock with moss and lichen. He's appreciative, I will say that for him. He
would make a capital editor, or a tutor, or a don, an Oxford don. He would
be perfectly happy as a don; he could read up the German critics and
expound Sophocles. He would be perfectly happy as a don. As it is, he is
'There was a fellow who had a studio over mine,' said Thompson. 'He had
been in the army and used to paint a bit. The academy by chance hung a
portrait, so he left the army and turned portrait-painter. One day he saw a
picture by Velasquez, and he understood how horrid were the red things he
used to send to the academy. He used to come down to see me; he used to
say, "I wish I had never seen a picture, by Gad, it is driving me out of my
mind." Poor chap, I wanted him to go back to the army. I said, Why paint?
no one forces you to; it makes you miserable; don't do so any more. When
you have anything to say, art is a joy; when you haven't, it is a curse to
yourself and to others.'
Philipps, the editor of _The Cosmopolitan_, turned towards Harding, and he
'I cannot follow you in your estimate of Hubert Price. I don't see him
either mentally or physically as you do. It seems to me that you distort
the facts to make them fit in with your theory. He is tall and thin, but I
do not think that his nature is hard and dry. I should, on the contrary,
say that he was of a soft rather than a hard nature. The expression of his
face is mild and melancholy. I do not detect the dry, hard, rocky basis of
which you speak. I should say that Price was a sentimental man.'
'I have never heard of him being in love,' said Harding. 'I should say that
he had been entirely uninfluenced by women.'
'But love of women is only one form of sentimentality and not the highest,
nor the deepest,' said Philipps. 'I can imagine a man being exceedingly
sentimental and not caring about women at all.'
'What you say is true,' said Harding. His face showed that he felt the
observation to be true and was interested in it. 'But I think I described
him truly when I said he was like a rock overgrown with moss and lichen.
There is not sufficient root-hold for any idea to grow in him, it withers
and dies. Examine his literature, and you'll see it is as I say. He has
written some remarkable plays, I don't say he hasn't. But they seem to be
better than they are. He gets a picturesque situation, but there is always
something mechanical about it. There's a human emotion somewhere, but it's
never really there; it might have been, but it is not.... It is very well
done, it is very intelligent; but it does not seem to live, to
palpitate.... In like manner there are men who have read everything, who
understand everything, who can theorise; they can tell you all about the
masterpiece, but when it comes to producing one, well, they're not on in
'What an excellent character he would make in a novel! A drama of
sterility,' said Phillips.
'Or the dramas which they bring about,' said Harding.
'Yes, or the dramas they bring about. But what drama can Price bring
about--he shuts himself up in a room and tries to write a play,' said
Phillips. 'I don't see how he can dramatise any life but his own.'
'All deviations from the normal tend to bring about drama,' said Harding.
'Then, why don't you do a Hubert Price in a book? It would be most
interesting. Do you think you ever will?'
'I don't think so.'
'Why not? Because he is a friend of yours, and you would not like----'
'I never allow my private life to interfere with my literature. No; for
quite other reasons. I admit that he represents physically and mentally a
great deal of the intellectual impotence current in our time. But it would
be difficult, I think, to bring vividly before the reader that tall, thin,
blonde man, with his pale gentle eyes and his insipid mind. I should take
quite a different kind of man as my model.'
'What kind of man?' said Phillips, and the five or six writers and painters
leaned forward to listen to Harding.
'I think I should imagine a man about the medium height. A nice figure,
light, trim, neat. Good-looking, straight nose, eyes bright and
intelligent. I think he would have beard, a very close-cut beard. The turn
of his mind would be metaphysical and poetic--an intense subtility of mind
combined with much order. He would be full of little habits. He would have
note-books of a special kind in which to enter his ideas. The tendency of
his mind would be towards concision, and he would by degrees extend his
desire for concision into the twilight and the night of symbolism.'
'A sort of constipated Browning,' said Phillips.
'Exactly,' said Harding.
'And would you have him married?' asked John Norton.
'Certainly. I imagine him living in a tiny little house somewhere near the
river--Westminster or Chelsea. His wife would be a dreadful person, thin,
withered, herring-gutted--a sort of red herring with a cap. But his
daughter would be charming, she would have inherited her father's features.
I can imagine these women living in admiration of this man, tending on him,
speaking very little, removed from worldly influences, seeing only the
young men who come every Tuesday evening to listen to the poet's
conversation--I don't hear them saying much--I can see them sitting in a
corner listening for the ten thousandth time to aestheticisms not one word
of which they understand, and about ten o'clock stealing away to some
mysterious chamber. Something of the poet's sterility would have descended
'That is how you imagine _un génie raté_,' said Phillips. 'Your
conception is clear enough; why don't you write the book?'
'Because there is nothing more to say on the subject. It is a subject for a
sketch, not for a book. But of this I'm sure, that the dry-rock man would
come out more clearly in a book than the soft, insipid, gentle,
companionable, red-bearded fellow.'
'If Price were the dry, sterile nature you describe, we should feel no
interest in him, we should not be discussing him as we are,' said Phillips.
'Yes, we should--Price suffers; we're interested in him because he
suffers--because he suffers in public--"I never was happy except on those
rare occasions when I thought I was a great man." In that sentence you'll
find the clew to his attractiveness. But in him there is nothing of the
irresponsible passion which is genius. There's that little Rose
Massey--that little baby who spends half her day dreaming, and who is as
ignorant as a cod-fish. Well, she has got that something--that undefinable
but always recognisable something. It was Price who discovered her. We used
to laugh at him when he said she had genius. He was right; we were wrong.
The other night I was standing in the wings; she was coming down from her
dressing-room--she lingered on the stairs, looking the most insignificant
little thing you can well imagine; but the moment her cue came a strange
light came into her eyes and a strange life was fused in her limbs; she was
transformed, and went on the stage a very symbol of passion and romance.'
The slate colour of the sky did not seem to change, and yet the night grew
visibly denser in the park; and there had come the sensation of things
ended, a movement of wraps thrown over shoulders and thought of bedtime and
home. The crowd was moving away, and nearly lost in the darkness Hubert
came towards his friends. He had just knocked the ash from his cigar, and
as he drew in the smoke the glow of the lighted end fled over his blonde
One day a short letter came from Hubert, asking Mrs. Bentley to send the
dog-cart to the station to fetch him. He had decided to come home at once,
and postpone the production of his play till the coming spring.
Every rehearsal had revealed new and serious faults of construction. These
he had attempted to remove when he went home in the evening, but though he
often worked till daybreak, he did not achieve much. The very knowledge
that he must come to rehearsal with the re-written scene seemed to produce
in him a sort of mental paralysis, and, striking the table with his fist,
he would get up, and a thought would cross his mind of how he might escape
from this torture. After one terrible night, in which he feared his brain
was really giving way, he went down to the theatre and dismissed the
company, for he had resolved to return to Ashwood and spend another autumn
and another winter re-writing _The Gipsy_. If it did not come right then,
he would bother no more about it. Why should he? There was so much else in
life besides literature. He had plenty of money, and was determined in any
case to enjoy himself. So did his thoughts run as he leaned back on the
cushions of a first-class carriage, glancing casually through the evening
paper. Presently his eye was caught by a paragraph narrating an odd
calamity which had overtaken a scene carpenter, an honest, respectable,
sober, hard-working man, who had fulfilled all social obligations as
perfectly as the most exacting could desire, until the day he had conceived
the idea of a machine for the better exhibition of advertisements on the
hoardings. His system was based on the roller-towel. The roller was moved
by clockwork, and the advertisements went round like the towel. At first he
spent his spare time and his spare money upon it, but as the hobby took
possession of him, he devoted all his time and all his money to it; then he
pawned his clothes, and then he raised money on the furniture; the brokers
came in, and finally the poor fellow was taken to a lunatic asylum, and his
wife and family were thrown on the parish. The story impressed Hubert
strangely. He saw an analogy between himself and the crazy inventor, and he
asked himself if he would go on re-writing _The Gipsy_ until he went out of
his mind. 'Even if I do,' he thought, 'I can hurt no one but myself. No one
else is dependent on me; my hobby can hurt no one but myself.' These
forebodings passed away, and his mind filled up with schemes of work. He
knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he looked forward to doing it. He
wanted quiet, he wanted long days alone with himself. Such were his
thoughts in the dog-cart as he drove home, and it was therefore vaguely
unpleasant to him to meet the two ladies waiting for him at the lodge gate.
Their smiles of welcome irritated him; he longed for the solitude of his
study, the companionship of his work; and instead he had to sit with them
in the drawing-room, and tell them how he liked London, what he had done
there, whom he had seen there, and why he had been unable to finish his
play to his satisfaction.
In the morning Emily or Mrs. Bentley was generally about to pour out his
coffee for him and keep him company. One day Hubert noticed that it was no
longer Mrs. Bentley but Emily who met him in the passage, and followed him
into the dining-room. And while he was eating she sat with her feet on the
fender, talking of some girls in the neighbourhood--their jealousies, and
how Edith Eastwick could not think of anything for herself, but always
copied her dresses. Dandy drowsed at her feet, and very often she would
take him to the window and make him go through all his tricks, calling on
Hubert to admire him.
She had a knack of monopolising Hubert, and since his return from London,
her desire to do so had become almost a determination. Hubert showed no
disinclination, and after breakfast they were to be seen together in the
gardens. Hubert was a great catch, and there were other young ladies eager
to be agreeable to him; but he did not seem to desire flirtation with any.
So they came to speak of him as a very clever man, no doubt; but as they
knew nothing about plays, he very probably did not care to talk to them.
Hubert was not attractive in general society, and he would soon have failed
to interest them at all had it not been for Emily. She was proud of her
influence over him, and for the first time showed a desire to go into
society. Day by day her conversation turned more and more on
tennis-parties, and she even spoke about a ball. He consented to take her;
and he had to dance with her, and she refused nearly every one, saying she
was tired, leading Hubert away for long conversations in the galleries and
on the staircases. Hubert had positively nothing to say to her; but she
seemed quite happy as long as she was with him. And as they drove through
the dawn Emily chattered of a hundred trifles,--what Edith had said, what
Mabel wore, of the possibility of a marriage, and the arrival of a
detachment of some cavalry regiment. Hubert found it hard to affect
interest in these conversations. His brain was weary with waltz tunes, the
shape of shoulders, and the glare and rustle of silk; but as she chattered,
rubbing the misted windows from time to time, so as to determine how far
they were from home, he wondered if he should ever marry, and half
playfully he thought of her as his wife.
But without warning his dreams were broken by a sudden thought, and he
'Another time, I think it will be better, my dear Emily, that Mrs. Bentley
should take you out.'
'Why should you not take me out?... I suppose you don't care to--I bore
'No; on the contrary, I enjoy it--I like to see you amused; but I think you
should have a proper chaperon.'
Emily did not answer; and a little cloud came over her face. Hubert thought
she looked even prettier in her displeasure than she had done in her joy;
and he went to sleep thinking of her. Never had he thought her so
beautiful--never had she touched him with so personal an interest; and next
morning, when he lounged in his study, he was glad to hear her knock at the
door; and the half-hour he spent with her there, yielding to her pleading
to come for a walk with her, or drive her over to Southwater in the
dog-cart, was one of unalloyed pleasure. But a few days after, as he lay in
bed, a new idea came to him for his third act. So he said he would have
breakfast in his study. He dressed, thinking the whole time how he could
round off his idea and bring it into the act. So clear and precise did it
seem in his mind that he sat down immediately after breakfast, forgetting
even his matutinal cigar, and wrote with a flowing pen. He had left orders
that he was not to be disturbed; and was annoyed when the door opened and
'I am very sorry, but you must not be cross with me; I do so want you to
come and see the Eastwicks with me.'
'My dear Emily, I could not think of such a thing this morning. I am very
busy--indeed I am.'
'What are you doing? Nothing very important, I can see. You are only
writing your play. You might come with me.'
'My play is as important to me as a visit to the Eastwicks is to you,' he
'I have promised Edith.... I really do wish you would come.'
'My dear Emily, it is quite impossible: do let me get on with my work!'
Emily's face instantly changed expression; she turned to leave the room,
and Hubert had to go after her and beg her to forgive him--he really had
not meant to be rude to her.
'You don't care to talk to me. I am not clever enough for you.'
Then pity took him, and he made amends by suggesting they should go for a
walk in the park, and she often succeeded in leading him even to dry,
uninteresting neighbours. But the burden grew heavier, and soon he could
endure no longer the evenings of devotion to her in the drawing-room, where
the presence of Mrs. Bentley seemed to fill her with incipient rebellion.
One evening after dinner, as he was about to escape up-stairs, Emily took
his arm, pleading that he should play at least one game of backgammon with
her. He played three; and then, thinking he had done enough, he took up a
novel and began to read. Emily was bitterly offended. She sat in a corner,
a picture of deep misery; and whenever he spoke to Mrs. Bentley, he thought
she would burst into tears. It was exasperating to be the perpetual victim
of such folly; and, pressed by the desire to talk to Mrs. Bentley about the
book he was reading, he suggested that she should come with him to the
meet. The Harriers met for the first time that season at not five miles
from Ashwood. Mrs. Bentley pleaded an engagement. She had promised to go
over to tea at the rectory.
'Oh, we shall be back in plenty of time; I'll leave you at the rectory on
our way home.'
'Thank you, Mr. Price; but I do not think I can go.'
'And why, may I ask?'
'Well, perhaps Emily would like to go.'
'Emily has a cold, and it would be folly of her to venture a long drive on
a cold morning.'
'My cold is quite well.'
'You were complaining before dinner how bad it was.'
'If you don't want to take me, say so.' Tears were now streaming down her
'My dear Emily, I am only too pleased to have you with me; I was only
thinking of your cold.'
'My cold is quite gone,' she said, with brightening face; and next morning
she came down with her waterproof on her arm, and she had on a new cloth
dress which she had just received from London. Hubert recognised in each
article of attire a sign that she was determined to carry her point. It
seemed cruel to tell her to take her things off, and he glanced at Mrs.
Bentley and wondered if she were offended.
'I hope the drive won't tire you; you know the meet is at least five miles
Emily did not answer. She looked charming with her great boa tied about her
throat, and sprang into the dog-cart all lightness and joy.
'I hope you are well wrapped up about the knees,' said Mrs. Bentley.
'Oh yes, thank you; Hubert is looking after me.'
Mrs. Bentley's calm, statuesque face, whereon no trace of envy appeared,
caught Hubert's attention as he gathered up the reins, and he thought how
her altruism contrasted with the passionate egotism of the young girl.
'I hope Julia was not disappointed. I know she wanted to come; but----'
'Well, no one likes Julia more than I do, and I don't want to say anything
against her; but, having lived so long with her, I see her faults better
than you can. She is horribly selfish! It never occurs to her to think of
Hubert did not answer, and Emily looked at him inquiringly. At last she
said, 'I suppose you don't think so?'
'Well, Emily, since you ask me, I must say that I think she took it very
good-humouredly. You said you were ill, and it was all arranged that I
should drive her to the meet; then you suddenly interposed, and said you
wanted to go; and the moment you mentioned your desire to go, she gave way
without a word. I really don't know what more you want.'
'You don't know Julia. You cannot read her face. She never forgets
anything, and is storing it up, and will pay me out for it sooner or
'My dear Emily, how can you say such things? I never heard---- She is
always ready to sacrifice herself for you.'
'You think so. She has a knack of pretending to be more unselfish than
another; but she is in reality intensely selfish.'
'All I can say is that it does not strike me so. I never saw any one give
way more good-humouredly than she did to-day.'
'I don't think that that is so wonderful, after all. She is only a paid
companion; and I do not see why she should go driving about the country
with you, and I be left at home.'
Hubert was somewhat shocked. The conversation paused.
'She gets on very well with men,' Emily said at last, breaking an
irritating silence somewhat suddenly. 'They say she is very good-looking.
Don't you think so?'
'Oh yes, she is certainly a pretty woman--or, I should say, a good-looking
woman. She is too tall to be what one generally understands as a pretty
'Do you like tall women?'
At that moment the hunt appeared in the field at the bottom of the hill. A
grey horse had just got rid of his rider, and after galloping round and
round, his head in the air, stopped and began to graze. The others jumped
the hedge, and the greater part of the field got over the brook in capital
style. Emily and Hubert watched them with delighted eyes, for the sight was
indeed picturesque this fine autumn day. Even their horse pricked up his
ears and began neighing, and Hubert had to hold him tight in hand, lest he
should break away while they were enjoying the spectacle. At that moment a
poor little animal, with fear-haunted eyes, and in all the agony of
fatigue, appeared above the crest of the hill, and immediately after came
the straining hounds, one within a dozen yards of the poor little beast,
now running in a circle, uttering the most plaintive and pitiful cries.
'Oh, they are not going to kill it!' cried Emily. 'Oh, save it, save it,
Hubert!' She hid her face in her hands. 'Did it escape? is it killed?' she
said, looking round. 'Oh, it is too cruel!' The huntsman was calling to the
hounds, holding something above them, and at every moment horses' heads
appeared over the brow of the hill.
There was more hunting; and when the October night began to gather, and the
lurid sunset flared up in the west, Hubert got out another wrap, and placed
it about Emily's shoulders. But although the chill night had drawn them
close together in the dog-cart, they were as widely separated as if oceans
were between them. So far as lay in his power he had hidden the annoyance
that the intrusion of her society had occasioned him; and, to deceive her,
very little concealment was necessary. So long as she saw him she seemed to
live in a dream, unconscious of every other thought.
They rolled through a gradual effacement of things, seeing the lights of
the farmhouses in the long plain start into existence, and then remain
fixed, like gold beetles pinned on a blue curtain. The chill evening drew
her to him, till they seemed one; and full of the intimate happiness of the
senses which comes of a long day spent in the open air, she chattered of
indifferent things. He thought how pleasant the drive would be were he with
Mrs. Bentley--or, for the matter of that, with any one with whom he could
talk about the novel that had interested him. They rolled along the smooth
wide road, watching the streak of light growing narrower in a veil of light
grey cloud drawn athwart the sky. Overpowered by her love, the girl hardly
noticed his silence; and when they passed through the night of an
overhanging wood her flesh thrilled, and a little faintness came over her;
for the leaves that brushed her face had seemed like a kiss from her lover.
One afternoon, about the end of September, Hubert came down from his study
about tea-time, and announced that he had written the last scene of his
last act. Emily was alone in the drawing-room.
'Oh, how glad I am! Then it is done at last. Why not write at once and
engage the theatre? When shall we go to London?'
'Well, I don't mean that the play could be put into rehearsal to-morrow. It
still requires a good deal of overhauling. Besides, even if it were
completely finished, I should not care to produce it at once. I should like
to lay it aside for a couple of months, and see how it read then.'
'What a lot of trouble you do take! Does every one who writes plays take so
'No, I'm afraid they do not, nor is it necessary they should. Their plays
are merely incidents strung together more or less loosely; whereas my play
is the development of a temperament, of temperamental characteristics which
cannot be altered, having been inherited through centuries; it must
therefore pursue its course to a fatal conclusion. In Shakespeare---- But
no, no! these things have no interest for you. You shall have the nicest
dress that money can buy; and if the play succeeds----'
The girl raised her pathetic eyes. In truth, she cared not at all what he
talked to her about; she was occupied with her own thoughts of him, and
just to sit in the room with him, and to look at him occasionally, was
sufficient. But for once his words had pained her. It was because she could