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  • 1914
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sum of £4,000 out of her father’s estate, “in consideration of our old friendship, and of the trouble I am asking him to undertake in connection with my estates,”–or words to that effect.

Somehow, she had never yet paid much attention to that clause in the will. It occurred in a list of a good many other legacies, and had been passed over by the lawyers in explaining the will to her, as something entirely in the natural course of things. But the poisonous thought suggested itself–“It was that which bribed him!–he would have given it up, but for that!” He might not want it for himself–very possibly!–but for his charities, his Cripple School and the rest. Her face stiffened.

“If you have arranged with her father, of course I can’t interfere,” she said coldly. “But don’t imagine, please, Mr. Winnington, for one moment, that I accept your view of the things I ‘needn’t know.’ If I am to do my duty to the people on this estate–“

“I thought you weren’t going to live on the estate?” he said, lifting his eyebrows.

“Not at once–not this winter.” She was annoyed to feel herself stammering. “But of course I have a responsibility–“

The kindly laugh in his grey eyes faded.

“Yes–I quite admit that,–a great responsibility,” he said slowly. “Do you mind if I mention another subject?”

“The meetings?” she said, quickly. “You mean that?”

“Yes–the meetings. I have just seen the placard in the village.”

“Well?” Her loveliness in defiance dazzled him, but he held on stoutly.

“You said nothing to me about these meetings the other day.”

“You never asked me!”

He paused a moment.

“No–but was it quite–quite fair to me–to let me suppose that the drawing-room meeting at Maumsey, which you kindly gave up, was the only meeting you had in view?”

He saw her breath fluttering.

“I don’t know what you supposed, Mr. Winnington! I said nothing.”

“No. But you let me draw an inference–a mistaken inference. However–let that be. Can I not persuade you–now–to give up the Latchford meeting, and any others of the same kind you may have ahead?”

She flamed at him.

“I refuse to give them up!” she said, setting her teeth. “I have as much right to my views as you, Mr. Winnington! I am of full age, and I intend to work for them.”

“Setting fire to houses–which is what your society is advocating–and doing–hardly counts as ‘views,'” he said, with sudden sternness. “Risking the lives, or spoiling the property of one’s fellow countrymen, is not the same thing as political argument.”

“It’s _our_ argument–” she said passionately.–“The men who are denying us the vote understand nothing else!”

The slightest humorous quiver in Winnington’s strong mouth enraged her still further. But he spoke with most courteous gravity.

“Then I can’t persuade you to give up these meetings? I should of course make no objection whatever, if these were ordinary Suffrage meetings. But the Society you are going to represent and collect money for is a Society that exists _to break the law_. And its members have–just lately–come conspicuously into collision with the law. Your father would have protested, and I am bound to protest–in his name.”

“I cannot give them up.”

He was silent a moment.

“If that is so”–he said at last–“I must do my best to protect you.”

“I don’t want any protection!”

“I am a magistrate, as well as your guardian. You must allow me to judge. There is a very bitter feeling abroad, after these–outrages–of the last few days. The village where you are going to speak has some rowdy elements–drawn from the brickfields near it. You will certainly want protection. I shall see that you get it.”

He spoke with decision. Delia bit her lip.

“We prefer to risk our lives,” she said at last. “I mean–there isn’t any risk!–but if there were–our lives are nothing in comparison with the cause!”

“You won’t expect your friends to agree with you,” he said drily; then, still holding her with an even keener look, he added–

“And there is another point in connection with these meetings which distresses me. I see that you are speaking on the same platform–with Mr. Paul Lathrop–“

“And why not?”–she flashed, the colour rushing to her cheeks.

He paused, walked away with his hands in his pockets, and came back again.

“I have been making some enquiries about him. He is not a man with whom you ought to associate–either in public, or in private.”

She gave a sound–half scorn–half indignation which startled him.

“You mean–because of the divorce case?”

He looked at her amazed.

“That is what I meant. But–I certainly do not wish to discuss it with you. Will you not take it from me that Mr. Lathrop is not–cannot be–a man whom as a young unmarried woman you ought to receive in your house–or with whom you should be seen in public.”

“No, indeed I won’t take it from you!” she said passionately. “Miss Marvell knows–Miss Marvell told me. He ran away with some one he loved. Her husband was _vile_! But she couldn’t get any help–because of the law–the abominable law–which punishes women–and lets men go free. So they went away together, and after a little she died. Alter your law, Mr. Winnington!–make it equal for men and women–and then we’ll talk.”

As she spoke–childishly, defiant–Winnington’s mind was filled with a confusion of clashing thoughts–the ideals of his own first youth which made such a speech in the mouth of a girl of twenty-one almost intolerable to him–and the moral conditions–slowly gained–of his maturity. He agreed with what she said. And yet it was shocking to him to hear her say it.

“I don’t quarrel with you as to that,” he said, gravely, after a moment. “Though I confess that in my belief you are too young to have any real opinion about it. But there was much in the case which concerned Mr. Lathrop, of which you _can_ have no idea. I repeat–he is not a fit companion for you–and you do yourself harm by appearing with him–in public or private.”

“Miss Marvell approves”–said Delia obstinately.

Winnington’s look grew sterner.

“I appeal again to your father’s memory,” he said with energy.

He perceived her quickened breath, but she made no no reply.

He walked away from her, and stood looking out of the window for a little. When he came back to her, it was with a change of manner and subject.

“I should like you to understand that I have been doing all I _could_ to carry out your wishes with regard to the cottages.”

He drew a paper out of his pocket, on which he had made some notes representing his talk that morning with the agent of the Maumsey estates. But in her suppressed excitement she hardly listened to him.

“It isn’t exactly _business_, what we’ve done,” he said at last, as he put up the papers; “but we wanted you to have your way–about the old woman–and the family of children.” He smiled at her. “And the estate can afford it.”

Delia thanked him ungraciously. She felt like a child who is offered sixpence for being good at the dentist’s. It was his whole position towards her–his whole control and authority–that she resented. And to be forced to be grateful to him at the same time, compelled to recognise the anxious pains he had taken to please her in nine-tenths of the things she wanted, was really odious: she could only chafe under it.

He took her back to the drawing-room. Delia walked before him in silence. She was passionately angry; and yet beneath the stormy currents of the upper mind, there were other feelings, intermittently active. It was impossible to hate him!–impossible to help liking him. His frankness and courtesy, his delicacy of feeling and touch forced themselves on her notice. “I daresay!”–she said; “–but that’s the worst of it. If Papa hadn’t done this fatal, _foolish_ thing, of course we should have made friends!”

* * * * *

The Amberleys walked home together when the party dispersed. Mrs. Amberley opened the discussion on the newcomers.

“She is certainly handsome, but rather bold-looking. Didn’t you think so, father?”

“I wasn’t drawn to her. But she took no account of us,” said the Rector, with his usual despondent candour. In truth he was not thinking about Miss Blanchflower, but only about the possible departure of his daughter, Susy.

“I thought her beautiful!–but I’m sorry for Mr. Winnington!” exclaimed Susy, a red spot of excitement or indignation in each delicate cheek.

“Mrs. Matheson told me they will only do exactly what they wish–that they won’t take her brother’s advice. Very wrong, very wrong.” The Rector shook his grey head. “Young women were different in my youth.”

Mrs. Amberley sighed, and Susy biting her lip, knew that her own conduct was perhaps more in question than Miss Blanchflower’s.

They reached home in silence. Susy went to light her father’s candles in his modest book-littered study. Then she put her mother on the sofa in the drawing-room, rubbed Mrs. Amberley’s cold hands and feet, and blew up the fire.

Suddenly her mother threw an arm round her neck.

“Oh, Susy, must you go?”

Susy kissed her.

“I should come back”–she said after a moment in a low troubled voice. “Let me get this training, and then if you want me, darling, I’ll come back.”

“Can’t you be happy with us, Susy?”

“I want to _know_ something–and _do_ something,” said Susy, with intensity–evading the question. “It’s such a big world, mother! I’ll be better worth having afterwards.”

Mrs. Amberley said nothing. But a little later she went into her husband’s study.

“Frank–I think we’ll have to let her,” she said piteously.

The Rector looked up assentingly, and put his hand in his wife’s.

“It’s strange how different it all seems nowadays,” said Mrs. Amberley, in her low quavering voice. “If I’d wanted to do what Susy wants, my mother would have called me a wicked girl to leave all my duties–and I shouldn’t have dared. But we can’t take it like that, Frank, somehow.”

“No,” said the Rector slowly. “In the old days it used to be only _duties_ for the young–now it’s rights too. It’s God’s will.”

“Susy loves us, Frank. She’s a good girl.”

“She’s a good girl–and she shall do what she thinks proper,” said the Rector, rising heavily.

So they gave their consent, and Susy wrote her application to Guy’s hospital. Then they all three lay awake a good deal of the night,–almost till the autumn robin began to sing in the little rectory garden.

As for Susy, in the restless intervals of restless sleep, she was always back in the Bridge End drawing-room watching Delia Blanchflower come in, with Mark Winnington behind. How glorious she looked! And every day he would be seeing her, every day he would be thinking about her–just because she was sure to give him so much trouble.

“And what right have _you_ to complain?” she asked herself, trampling on her own pain. Had he ever said a word of love to her, ever shewn himself anything else than the kind and sympathetic friend–sometimes the inspiring teacher in the causes he had at heart? Never! And yet–insensibly–his smile, his word of praise or thanks, the touch of his firm warm hand, the sound of his voice, the look in his eyes–it was for them she had now learned to live. Yes!–and because she could no longer trust herself, she must go. She would not fail or harass him; she was his friend. She would go away and scrub hospital floors, and polish hospital taps. That would tame the anguish in her, and some day she would be strong again–and come back–to those beloved ones who had given her up–so tenderly.

Chapter VIII

The whole of Maumsey and its neighbourhood had indeed been thrown into excitement by certain placards on the walls announcing three public meetings to be held–a fortnight later–by the “Daughters of Revolt”–at Latchford, Brownmouth, and Frimpton. Latchford was but fifteen miles from Maumsey, and frequent trains ran between them. Brownmouth and Frimpton, also, were within easy distance by rail, and the Maumseyites were accustomed to shop at either. So that a wide country-side felt itself challenged–invaded; at a moment when a series of startling outrages–destruction of some of the nation’s noblest pictures, in the National Gallery and elsewhere, defacement of churches, personal attacks on Ministers–by the members of various militant societies, especially “The League of Revolt,” had converted an already incensed public opinion into something none the less ugly, none the less alarming, because it had as yet found no organised expression. The police were kept hard at work protecting open-air meetings on the Brownmouth and Frimpton beaches, from an angry populace who desired to break them up; every unknown woman who approached a village or strolled into a village church, was immediately noticed, immediately reported on, by hungry eyes and tongues alert for catastrophe; and every empty house had become an anxiety to its owners.

And of course the sting of the outrage lay in the two names which blazed in the largest of black print from the centre of the placards. “The meeting will be addressed by Gertrude Marvell (D.R.), Delia Blanchflower (D.R.), and Paul Lathrop.”

Within barely two months of her father’s death, this young lady to be speaking on public platforms, in the district where she was still a new-comer and a stranger, and flaunting in the black and orange of this unspeakable society!–such was the thought of all quiet folk for miles round. The tide of callers which had set in towards Maumsey Abbey ceased to flow; neighbours who had been already introduced to her, old friends of her grandparents, passed Delia on the road with either the stiffest of bows or no notice at all. The labourers stared at her, and their wives, those deepest well-heads of Conservatism in the country, were loud in reprobation. Their astonishment that “them as calls theirselves ladies” should be found burning and breaking, was always, in Winnington’s ears, a touching thing, and a humbling. “Violence and arson” they seemed to say, “are good enough for the likes of us–you’d expect it of us. But _you_–the glorified, the superfine–who have your meals brought you regular, more food than you can eat, and more clothes than you can wear–_you_!”

So that, underlying the country women’s talk, and under the varnish of our modern life, one caught the accents and the shape of an old hierarchical world; and the man of sympathy winced anew under the perennial submission and disadvantage of the poor.

Meanwhile Delia’s life was one long excitement. The more she realised the disapproval of her neighbours, the more convinced she was that she was on the right road. She straightened her girlish back; she set her firm red mouth. Every morning brought reams of letters and reports from London, for Gertrude Marvell was an important member of the “Daughters'” organisation, and must be kept informed. The reading of them maintained a constant ferment in Delia. In any struggle of women against men, just as in any oppression of women by men, there is an element of fever, of madness, which poisons life. And in this element Delia’s spirit lived for this brief hour of her youth. Led by the perpetual influence of the older mind and imagination at her side, she was overshadowed with the sense of women’s wrongs, haunted by their grievances, burnt up by a flame of revolt against fate, against society, above all, against men, conceived as the age-long and irrational barrier in the path of women. It was irrational, and therefore no rational methods were any good. Nothing but waspishly stinging and hurting this great Man-Beast, nothing but defiance of all rules and decorums, nothing but force–of the womanish kind–answering to force, of the masculine kind, could be any use. Argument was foolish. They–the Suffragists–had already stuffed the world with argument; which only generated argument. To smash and break and burn, in more senses than one, remained the only course, witness Nottingham Castle, and the Hyde Park railings. And if a woman’s life dashed itself to pieces in the process, well, what matter? The cause would only be advanced.

One evening, not long after the tea-party at Bridge End, a group of persons, coming from different quarters, converged quietly, in the autumn dusk, on Maumsey Abbey. Marion Andrews walked in front, with a Miss Foster, the daughter of one of the larger farmers in the neighbourhood; and a short limping woman, clinging to the arm of a vigorously-built girl, the Science Mistress of the small but ancient Grammar School of the village, came behind. They talked in low voices, and any shrewd bystander would have perceived the mood of agitated expectancy in which they approached the house.

“It’s wonderful!” said little Miss Toogood, the lame dressmaker, as they turned a corner of the shrubbery, and the rambling south front rose before them,–“_wonderful_!–when you think of the people that used to live here! Why, old Lady Blanchflower looked upon you and me, Miss Jackson, as no better than earwigs! I sent her a packet of our leaflets once by post. Well–_she_ never used to give me any work, so she couldn’t take it away. But she got Mrs. David Jones at Thring Farm to take away hers, and Mrs. Willy Smith, the Vet’s wife, you remember?–and two or three more. So I nearly starved one winter; but I’m a tough one, and I got through. And now there’s one of _us_ sits in the old lady’s place! Isn’t that a sign of the times?”

“But of course!” said her companion, whose face expressed a kind of gloomy ardour. “We’re winning. We must win–sometime!”

The cheerfulness of the words was oddly robbed of its effect by the tragic look of the speaker. Miss Toogood’s hand pressed her arm.

“I’m always so sorry”–murmured the dressmaker–“for those others–those women–who haven’t lived to see what we’re going to see, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” assented the other, adding–with the same emotional emphasis–“But they’ve all helped–every woman’s helped! They’ve all played their parts.”

“Well, I don’t know about Lady Blanchflower!” laughed Miss Toogood, happily.

“What did she matter? The Antis are like the bits of stick you put into a hive. All they do is to stir up the bees.”

Meanwhile Marion Andrews was mostly silent, glancing restlessly however from side to side, as though she expected some spy, some enemy–her mother?–to emerge upon them from the shadows of the shrubbery. Her companion, Kitty Foster, a rather pretty girl with flaming red hair, the daughter of a substantial farmer on the further side of the village, chattered unceasingly, especially about the window-breaking raid in which she had been concerned, the figure she had cut at the police court, the things she had said to the magistrate, and the annoyance she had felt when her father paid her fine.

“They led me a life when they got me home. And mother’s been so ill since, I had to promise I’d stay quiet till Christmas anyway. But then I’m off! It’s fine to feel you’re doing something real–something hot and strong–so that people can’t help taking notice of you. That’s what I say to father, when he shouts at me–‘we’re not going to _ask_ you now any more–we’ve asked long enough–we’re going to _make_ you do what we want.'”

And the girl threw back her head excitedly. Marion vaguely assented, and the talk beside her rambled on, now violent, now egotistical, till they reached the Maumsey door.

* * * * *

“Now that we’ve got women like you with us–it can’t be long–it can’t be long!” repeated Miss Toogood, clasping her hands, as she looked first at Delia, and then at the distant figure of Miss Marvell, who in the further drawing-room, and through an archway, could be seen talking with Marion Andrews.

Delia’s brows puckered.

“I’m afraid it will be long,” she said, with a kind of weary passion. “The forces against us are so strong. But we must just go on–and on–straight ahead.”

She sat erect on her chair, very straight and slim, in her black dress, her hands, with their long fingers, tightly pressed together on her knee. Miss Toogood thought she had never seen anyone so handsome, or so–so splendid! All that was romantic in the little dressmaker’s soul rose to appreciate Delia Blanchflower. So young and so self-sacrificing–and looking like a picture of Saint Cecilia that hung in Miss Toogood’s back room! The Movement was indeed wonderful! How it broke down class barriers, and knit all women together! As her eyes fell on the picture of Lady Blanchflower, in a high cap and mittens, over the mantelpiece, Miss Toogood felt a sense of personal triumph over the barbarous and ignorant past.

“What I mind most is the apathy of people–the people down here. It’s really terrible!” said the science mistress, in her melancholy voice. “Sometimes I hardly know how to bear it. One thinks of all that’s going on in London–and in the big towns up north–and here–it’s like a vault. Everyone’s really against us. Why the poor people–the labourers’ wives–they’re the worst of any!”

“Oh no!–we’re getting on–we’re getting on!” said Miss Toogood, hastily. “You’re too despondent, Miss Jackson, if you’ll excuse me–you are indeed. Now I’m never downhearted, or if I am, I say to myself–‘It’s all right somewhere!–somewhere that you can’t see.’ And I think of a poem my father was fond of–‘If hopes are dupes, fears may be liars–And somewhere in yon smoke concealed–Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers–And but for you possess the field!’ That’s by a man called Arthur Clough–Miss Blanchflower–and it’s a grand poem!”

Her pale blue eyes shone in their wrinkled sockets. Delia remembered a recent visit to Miss Toogood’s tiny parlour behind the front room where she saw her few customers and tried them on. She recollected the books which the back parlour contained. Miss Toogood’s father had been a bookseller–evidently a reading bookseller–in Winchester, and in the deformed and twisted form of his daughter some of his soul, his affections and interests, survived.

“Yes, but what are you going to give us to _do_, Miss Blanchflower?” said Kitty Foster, impatiently–“I don’t care what I do! And the more it makes the men mad, the better!”

She drew herself up affectedly. She was a strapping girl, with a huge vanity and a parrot’s brain. A year before this date a “disappointment” had greatly embittered her, and the processions and the crowded London meetings, and the window-breaking riots into which she had been led while staying with a friend, had been the solace and relief of a personal rancour and misery she might else have found intolerable.

“_I_ can’t do anything–not anything public”–said Miss Jackson, with emphasis–“or I should lose my post. Oh the slavery it is! and the pittance they pay us–compared to the men. Every man in the Boys’ school get £120 and over–and we’re thought lucky to get £80. And I’ll be bound we work more hours in the week than they do. It’s _hard_!”

“That’ll soon be mended,” said Miss Toogood hopefully. “Look at Norway! As soon as the women got the vote, why the women’s salaries in public offices were put up at once.”

The strong, honest face of the teacher refused to smile. “Well it isn’t always so, Miss Toogood. I know they say that in New Zealand and Colorado–where we’ve got the vote–salaries aren’t equal by any manner of means.”

The dressmaker’s withered cheek flushed red.

“‘_They_ say'”–she repeated scornfully. “That’s one of the Anti dodges–just picking out the things that suit ’em, and forgetting all the rest. Don’t you look at the depressing things–I never do! Look at what helps us! There’s a lot o’ things said–and there’s a lot of things ain’t true–You’ve got to pick and choose–you can’t take ’em as they come. No one can.”

Miss Jackson looked puzzled and unconvinced; but could think of no reply.

The two persons in the distance appeared in the archway between the drawing-rooms, Gertrude Marvell leading. Everyone looked towards her; everybody listened for what she would say. She took Delia’s chair, Delia instinctively yielding it, and then–her dark eyes measuring and probing them all while she talked, she gave the little group its orders.

Kitty Foster was to be one of the band of girl-sellers of the _Tocsin_, in Latchford, the day of the meeting. The town was to be sown with it from end to end, and just before the meeting, groups of sellers, in the “Daughters'” black and orange, were to appear in every corner of the square where the open-air meeting was to be held.

“But we’ll put you beside the speaker’s waggon. You’re so tall, and your hair is enough to advertise anything!” With a grim little smile, she stretched out a hand and touched Kitty Foster’s arm.

“Yes, isn’t it splendid!” said Delia, ardently.

Kitty flushed and bridled. Her people in the farmhouse at home thought her hair ugly, and frankly told her so. It was nice to be admired by Miss Blanchflower and her friend. Ladies who lived in a big house, with pictures and fine furniture, and everything handsome, must know better than farm-people who never saw anything but their cattle and their fields.

“And you”–the clear authoritative voice addressed Miss Toogood–“can you take round notices?”

The speaker looked doubtfully at the woman’s lame foot and stick.

Miss Toogood replied that she would be at Latchford by midday, and would take round notices till she dropped.

The teacher who could do nothing public, was invited to come to Maumsey in the evening, and address envelopes. Miss Marvell had lately imported a Secretary, who had set up her quarters in the old gun room on the ground floor, and had already filled it with correspondence, and stacked it with the literature of the Daughters.

Miss Jackson eagerly promised her help.

Nothing was apportioned to Marion Andrews. She sat silent following the words and gestures of that spare figure in the grey cloth dress, in whom they all recognised their chief. There was a feverish brooding in her look, as though she was doubly conscious–both of the scene before her, and of something only present to the mind.

“You know why we are holding these meetings”–said Gertrude Marvell, presently.

No one answered. They waited for her.

“It is a meeting of denunciation,” she said, sharply. “You know in the Land League days in Ireland they used to hold meetings to denounce a landlord–for evictions–and that landlord went afterwards in fear–scorned–and cursed–and boycotted. Well, that’s what we’re going to do with Ministers in their own localities where they live! We can’t boycott yet–we haven’t the power. But we can denounce–we can set people on–we can hold a man up–we can make his life a burden to him. And that’s what we’re going to do–with Sir Wilfrid Lang. He’s one of this brutal Cabinet that keeps women in prison–one of the strongest of them. His speeches have turned votes against us in the House of Commons, time after time. We mean to be even with Sir Wilfrid Lang!”

She spoke quite quietly–almost under her breath; but her slender fingers interlocked, and a steady glow had overflowed her pale cheeks.

A tremor passed through all her listeners–a tremor of excitement.

“What can we _do_?” said Miss Toogood at last, in a low voice. Her eyes stared out of her kind old face, which had grown white. “Ah, leave that to us!” said Miss Marvell, in another voice, the dry organising voice, which was her usual one. And dropping all emotion and excitement, she began rapidly to question three out of the four women as to the neighbourhood, the opinions of individuals and classes, the strength in it of the old Suffrage societies, the presence or absence of propaganda. They answered her eagerly. They all felt themselves keyed to a higher note since she had entered the room. They had got to business; they felt themselves a power, the rank and file of an “army with banners,” under direction. Even Delia, clearly, was in the same relation towards this woman whom the outer world only knew as her–presumably–paid companion. She was questioned, put right, instructed with the rest of them. Only no one noticed that Marion Andrews took little or no part in the conversation.

An autumn wind raged outside, and the first of those dead regiments of leaves which would soon be choking the lanes were pattering against the windows. Inside, the fire leapt as the daylight faded, helped by a couple of lamps, for Maumsey knew no electricity, and Delia, under Gertrude’s prompting, had declared against the expense of putting it in. In the dim illumination the faces of the six women emerged, typical all of them of the forces behind the revolutionary wing of the woman’s movement. Enthusiasms of youth and age–hardships of body and spirit–rancour and generous hope–sore heart and untrained mind–fanatical brain and dreaming ignorance–love unsatisfied, and energies unused–they were all there, and all hanging upon, conditioned by something called “the vote,” conceived as the only means to a new heaven and a new earth.

* * * * *

When Delia had herself dismissed her guests into the darkness of the October evening, she returned thoughtfully to where Gertrude Marvell was standing by the drawing-room fire, reading a letter.

“You gave them all something to do except that Miss Andrews, Gertrude? I wonder why you left her out?”

“Oh, I had a talk with her before.”

The tone was absent, and the speaker went on reading her letter.

“When you took her into the back drawing-room?”

The slightest possible flicker passed through Gertrude’s drooped eyelids.

“She was telling me a lot about her home-life–poor oppressed thing!”

Delia asked no more. But she felt a vague discomfort.

Presently Gertrude put down her letter, and turned towards her.

“May I have that cheque, dear–before post-time? If you really meant it?”

“Certainly.” Delia went to her writing-table, opened a drawer and took out her cheque-book.

A laugh–conscious and unsteady–accompanied the dipping of her pen into the ink.

“I wonder what he’ll say?”

“Who?”

“Mr. Winnington–when I send him all the bills to be paid.”

“Isn’t he there to pay the bills?”

Delia’s face shewed a little impatience.

“You’re so busy, dear, that I am afraid you forget all I tell you about my own affairs. But I _did_ tell you that my guardian had trustingly paid eight hundred pounds into the bank to last me till the New Year, for house and other expenses–without asking me to promise anything either!”

“Well, now, you are going to let us have £500. Is there any difficulty?”

“None–except that the ordinary bills I don’t pay, and can’t pay, will now all go in to my guardian, who will of course be curious to know what I have done with the money. Naturally there’ll be a row.”

“Oh, a row!” said Gertrude Marvell, indifferently. “It’s your own money, Delia. Spend it as you like!”

“I intend to,” said Delia. “Still–I do rather wish I’d given him notice. He may think it a mean trick.”

“Do you care what he thinks?”

“Not–much,” said Delia slowly. “All the same, Gertrude”–she threw her head back–“he is an awfully good sort.”

Gertrude shrugged her shoulders.

“I daresay. But you and I are at war with him and his like, and can’t stop to consider that kind of thing. Also your father arranged that he should be well paid for his trouble.”

Delia turned back to the writing-table, and wrote the cheque.

“Thank you, dearest,” said Gertrude Marvell, giving a light kiss to the hand that offered the cheque. “It shall go to headquarters this evening–and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve financed all the three bye-election campaigns that are coming–or nearly.”

* * * * *

Gertrude had gone away to her own sitting-room and Delia was left alone. She hung over the fire, in an excited reverie, her pulses rushing; and presently she took a letter from the handbag on her wrist, and read it for the second time by the light of the blaze she had kindled in the grate.

* * * * *

“I will be at the Rose and Crown at least half an hour before the meeting. We have got a capital waggon for you to speak from, and chosen the place where it is to stand. I am afraid we may have some rough customers to deal with. But the police have been strongly warned–that I have found out–though I don’t know by whom–and there will be plenty of them. My one regret is that I cannot be in the crowd, so as both to see and hear you. I must of course stick to the waggon. What a day for us all down here!–for our little down-trodden band! You come to us as our Joan of Arc, leading us on a holy war. You shame us into action, and to fight with you is itself victory. When I think of how you looked and how you talked the other night! Do you know that you have a face ‘to launch a thousand ships?’ No, I am convinced you never think of it–you never take your own beauty into consideration. And you won’t imagine that I am talking in this way from any of the usual motives. Your personal charm, if I may say so, is merely an item in our balance sheet; your money–I understand you have money–is another. You bring your beauty and your money in your hand, and throw them into the great conflagration of the Cause–just as the women did in Savonarola’s day. You fling them away–if need be–for an idea. And because of it, all the lovers of ideas, and all the dreamers of great dreams will be your slaves and servants. Understand!–you are going to be loved and followed, as no ordinary woman, even with your beauty, is ever loved and followed. Your footsteps may be on the rocks and flints–I promise you no easy, nor royal road. There may be blood on the path! But a cloud of witnesses will be all about you–some living and some dead; you will be carried in the hearts of innumerable men and women–women above all; and if you stand firm, if your soul rises to the height of your call, you will be worshipped, as the saints were worshipped.

“Only let nothing bar your path. Winnington is a good fellow, but a thickheaded Philistine all the same. You spoke to me about him with compunction. Have no compunctions. Go straight forward. Women have got to shew themselves ruthless, and hard, and cunning, like men–if they are to fight men.”

“Yours faithfully,
PAUL LATHROP.”

Delia’s thoughts danced and flamed, like the pile of blazing wood before her. What a singular being was this Paul Lathrop! He had paid them four or five visits already; and they had taken tea with him once in his queer hermitage under the southern slope of the Monk Lawrence hill–a one-storey thatched cottage, mostly built by Lathrop himself with the help of two labourers, standing amid a network of ponds, stocked with trout in all stages. Inside, the roughly-plastered walls were lined with books–chiefly modern poets, with French and Russian novels, and with unframed sketches by some of the ultra clever fellows, who often, it seemed, would come down to spend Sunday with Lathrop, and talk and smoke till dawn put out the lights.

She found him interesting–certainly interesting. His outer man–heavy mouth and lantern cheeks–dreamy blue eyes, and fair hair–together with the clumsy power in his form and gait, were not without a certain curious attraction. And his story–as Gertrude Marvell told it–would be forgiven by the romantic. All the same his letter had offended Delia greatly. She had given him no encouragement to write in such a tone–so fervid, so emotional, so intimate; and she would shew him–plainly–that it offended her.

Nevertheless the phrases of the letter ran in her mind; until her discomfort and resentment were lost in something else.

She could not quiet her conscience about that cheque! Not indeed as to giving it to the “Daughters.” She would have given everything she possessed to them, keeping the merest pittance for herself, if fate and domestic tyranny had allowed. No!–but it hurt her–unreasonably, foolishly hurt her–that she must prepare herself again to face the look of troubled amazement in Mark Winnington’s eyes, without being able to justify herself to herself, so convincingly as she would have liked to do.

“I am simply giving my own money to a cause I adore!” said one voice in the mind.

“It is not legally yours–it is legally his,” said another. “You should have warned him. You have got hold of it under false pretences.”

“Quibbles! It _is_ mine–equitably,” replied the first. “He and I are at war. And I _have_ warned him.”

“At war?” Her tiresome conscience kicked again. Why, not a day had passed since her settlement at Maumsey, without some proof, small or great, of Winnington’s consideration and care for her. She knew–guiltily knew, that he was overwhelmed by the business of the executorship and the estate, and had been forced to put aside some of his own favourite occupations to attend to it.

“Well!–my father made it worth his while!”

But her cheek reddened, with a kind of shame, as the thought passed through her mind. Even in this short time and because of the daily contact which their business relations required, she was beginning to know Winnington, to realise something of his life and character. And as for the love borne him in the neighbourhood–it was really preposterous–bad for any man! Delia pitied herself, not only because she was Winnington’s ward against her will, but because of the silent force of public opinion that upheld him, and must necessarily condemn her.

So he had once been engaged? Lady Tonbridge had told her so. To a gentle, saintly person of course!–a person to suit him. Delia could not help a movement of half petulant curiosity–and then an involuntary thrill. Many women since had been in love with him. Lady Tonbridge had said as much. And he–with no one! But he had a great many women friends? No doubt!–with that manner, and that charm. Delia resented the women friends. She would have been quite ready indeed to enrol herself among them–to worship with the rest–from afar; were it not for ideas, and principles, and honesty of soul! As it was, she despised the worship of which she was told, as something blind and overdone. It was not the greatest men–not the best men–who were so easily and universally beloved.

What did he really think of her? Did he ever guess that there was something else in her than this obstinacy, this troublesomeness with which she was forced to meet him? She was sorry for herself, much more than for him; because she must so chill and mislead a man who _ought_ to understand her.

Looking up she saw a dim reflection of her own beauty in the glass above the mantelpiece. “No, I am _not_ either a minx, or a wild-cat!”–she thought, as though she were angrily arguing with someone. “I could be as attractive, as ‘feminine,’ as silly as anyone else, if I chose! I could have lovers–of course–just like other girls–if it weren’t”–

For what? At that moment she hardly knew. And why were her eyes filling with tears? She dashed them indignantly away.

But for the first time, this cause, this public cause to which she was pledged presented itself to her as a sacrifice to be offered, a noble burden to be borne, rather than as something which expressed the natural and spontaneous impulse of her life.

Which meant that, already, since her recapture by this English world, since what was hearsay had begun to be experience, the value of things had slightly and imperceptibly changed.

* * * * *

The days ran on. One evening, just before the first of the “Daughters'” meetings, which was to be held at Latchford, Winnington appeared in Lady Tonbridge’s drawing-room to ask for a cup of tea on his way to a public dinner in Wanchester.

He seemed pre-occupied and worried; and she fed him before questioning him. But at last she said–

“You couldn’t prevail on her to give up any of these performances?”

“Miss Delia? Not one. But it’s only the Latchford one that matters. Have you been talking to her?”

He looked at her a little plaintively, as though he _could_ have reminded her that she had promised him a friend’s assistance.

“Of course! But I might as well talk to this table. She won’t really make friends–nor will Miss Marvell allow her. It’s the same, I find, with everyone else. However, I’m bound to say, the neighbourhood is just now in the mood that it doesn’t much want to make friends!”

“I know,” said Winnington, with a sigh–relapsing into silence.

“Is she taking an interest in the property–the cottages?”

He shook his head.

“I’m sure she meant to. But it seems to be all dropped.”

“Provoking!” said Madeleine, drily–“considering how you’ve been slaving to please her–“

Winnington interrupted–not without annoyance–

“How can she think of anything else when she’s once deep in this campaign? One must blame the people who led her into it!”

“Oh! I don’t know!” said Lady Tonbridge, protesting. “She’s a very clever young woman, with a strong will of her own.”

“Captured just at the impressionable moment!” cried Winnington–“when a girl will do anything–believe anything–for the person she loves!”

“Well the prescription should be easy–at her age. Change the person! But then comes the question: Is _she_ loveable? Speak the truth, Mr. Guardian!”

Winnington began a rather eager assent. Watch her with the servants, the gardeners, the animals! Then you perceived what should be the girl’s natural charm and sweetness–

“‘Hm. Does she show any of it to you?”

Winnington laughed.

“You forget–I am always there as the obstacle in the path. But if it weren’t for the sinister influence–in the background.”

And again he went off at score–describing various small incidents that had touched or pleased him, as throwing light upon what he vowed was the real Delia.

Madeleine listened, watching him attentively the while. When he took his leave and she was alone, she sat thinking for some time, and then going to a cupboard in her writing-table, which held her diaries of past years, she rummaged till she found one bearing a date fifteen years old. She turned up the entry for the sixteenth of May:

“She died last night. This morning, at early service, Mark was there. We walked home together. I doubt whether he will ever marry–now. He is not one of those men who are hurried by the mere emotion and unbearableness of grief, into a fresh emotion of love. But what a lover–what a husband lost!”

She closed the book, and stood with it in her hand–pondering.

* * * * *

As he left her house, and turned towards the station Winnington passed a lady to whom he bowed, recognising her as Miss Andrews.

“Hope you’ve got an umbrella!” he said to her cheerily, as he passed. “The rain’s coming!”

She smiled, pleased like all the world to be addressed with that Winningtonian manner which somehow implied that the person addressed was, for the moment at any rate, his chiefest concern. Immediately after meeting him she turned from the village street, and began to mount a lane leading to the slope on which Monk Lawrence stood. Her expression as she walked along, sometimes with moving lips, had grown animated and sarcastic. Here were two men, a dead father and a live guardian, trying to coerce one simple girl–and apparently not making much of a job of it. She gloried in what she had been told or perceived of Delia Blanchflower’s wilfulness, which seemed to her mother and her brother the Captain so monstrous. Only–could one entirely trust anybody like Delia Blanchflower–so prosperous–and so good-looking?

Miss Andrews mounted the hill, passed through a wood that ran along its crest, and took a footpath, leading past the edge of a railway cutting, from which the wonderful old house could be plainly seen. She paused several times to look at it, wrapped in a kind of day-dream, which gave a growing sombreness to her harsh and melancholy features. Beyond the footpath a swing gate opened into a private path leading to the house.

She opened the gate, and walked a little way up the path, in the fast gathering darkness. But she was suddenly arrested by the appearance of a figure in the far distance, black against the pale greys of the house. It was a policeman on his beat–she caught one of the gleams of a lantern.

Instantly she turned back, groped her way again through the wood, and into a side road leading to her brother’s house.

She found her mother lying on the sofa in the drawing-room, the remains of a rather luxurious tea beside her–her outdoor clothes lying untidily about the room.

“Where have you been?” said Mrs. Andrews, fretfully–“there were several letters I wanted written before post.”

“I wanted a little air. That linen business took me all the morning.”

For it was the rule in the Andrews’ household that the house linen should be gone through every six months with a view to repairs and renewals. It was a tedious business. Mrs. Andrews’ nerves did not allow her to undertake it. It fell therefore, and had always fallen to the only daughter, who was not made for housewifery tasks, and detested the half-yearly linen day accordingly.

Her tone displeased her mother.

“There you are–grumbling again, Marion! What else have you to do, I should like to know, than your home duties?”

Marion made no reply. What was the use of replying? But her black eyes, as she helped herself wearily to some very cold tea, took note of her mother’s attitude. It was only the week before that Dr. France had expressed himself rather pointedly to the effect that more exercise and some fresh interests in life “would be good for Mrs. Andrews.”

Mrs. Andrews returned to the ladies’ paper she was reading. The fashion plates for the week were unusually attractive. Marion observed her unseen.

Suddenly the daughter said:–

“I must ask you for that five pounds, mother. Bill promised it me. My underclothing is literally in rags. I’ve done my best, and it’s past mending. And I must have another decent dress.”

“There you are,–clamouring for money again”–said her mother, bouncing up on the sofa–“when you know how hard-pressed Bill is. He’s got another instalment to pay for the motor the end of this week.”

“Yes–the motor you made him get!”–said Marion, as though the words burst from her.

“And why shouldn’t he, pray! The money’s his–and mine. It was high time we got rid of that rattletrap. It jolted me to pieces.”

“You said a little while ago it would do very well for another year. Anyway, Bill promised me something for clothes this month–and he also said that he’d pay my school of art fees, at Wanchester, and give me a third season ticket. Is that all done with too?”

The girl sat erect, her face with its sparkling eyes expressing mingled humiliation and bitterness.

“Oh, well really, I can’t stand these constant disputes!” said Mrs. Andrews, rising angrily from the sofa. “You’d better go to your brother. If he likes to waste his money, he can of course. But I’ve got none to spare.” She paused at the door–“As for your underclothing, I daresay I could find you something of mine you could make do for a bit. Now do be sensible!–and don’t make a scene with Bill!”

She closed the door. Marion walked to the side window of the drawing-room, and stood looking at the wooded slope of the hill, with Monk Lawrence in the distance.

Her heart burned within her. She was thirty-four. She had never had any money of her own–she had never been allowed any education that would fit her to earn. She was absolutely dependent on her mother and brother. Bill was kind enough, though careless, and often selfish. But her mother rubbed her dependence into her at every turn–“And yet I earn my clothes and my keep–every penny of them!” she thought, fiercely.

A year before this date she had been staying in London with a cousin who sometimes took pity on her and gave her a change of scene. They had gone together for curiosity’s sake to a “militant” meeting in London. A lady, slight in figure, with dark eyes and hair, had spoken on the “economic independence of women”–as the only path to the woman’s goal of “equal rights” with men. She had spoken with passion, and Marion’s sore heart had leapt to answer her.

That lady was Gertrude Marvell. Marion had written to her, and there had been a brief acquaintance, enough to kindle the long-repressed will and passion of the girl’s stormy nature. She had returned home, to read, in secret, everything that she could find on the militant movement. The sheer violence of it appealed to her like water to the thirsty. War, war!–on a rotten state of society, and the economic slavery of women!

And now her first awakener, her appointed leader, her idol had appeared in this dead country-side, with orders to give, and tasks to impose. And she should be obeyed–to the letter!

The girl’s heavy eyes kindled to a mad intensity, as she stood looking at the hill-side, now almost dark, except for that distant light, which she knew as the electric lamp still lit at sunset, even in Sir Wilfrid’s absence, over the stately doorway of Monk Lawrence.

But she was not going to the Latchford meeting. “Don’t give yourself away. Don’t be seen with the others. Keep out of notice. There are more important things for you to do–presently. Wait!”

The words echoed in her ears. She waited; exulting in the thought that no one, not even Miss Blanchflower, knew as much as she; and that neither her mother nor her brother had as yet any idea of her connection with the “Daughters.” Her “silly suffrage opinions” were laughed at by them both–good-humouredly, by Bill. Of the rest, they knew nothing.

Chapter IX

“Mark! you’ve done the day’s work of two people already!” cried Mrs. Matheson in a tone of distress. “You don’t mean to say you’re going in to Latchford again?–and without waiting for some food?”

She stood under the porch of Bridge End remonstrating with her brother.

“Can’t be helped, dear!” said Winnington, as he filled his pipe–“I’m certain there’ll be a row to-night, and I must catch this train!”

“What, that horrid meeting! Delia Blanchflower lets you slave and slave for her, and never takes the smallest notice of your wishes or your advice! She ought to be ashamed!”

The sister’s mild tone trembled with indignation.

“She isn’t!” laughed Winnington. “I never knew anyone less so. But we can’t have her ill treated. Expect me back when you see me!”

And kissing his hand to his sister, he went out into a dark and blustering evening. Something had just gone wrong with the little motor car he generally drove himself, and there was nothing for it but to walk the mile and a half to the railway station.

He had spent the whole day in County Council business at Wanchester, was tired out, and had now been obliged to leave home again without waiting even for a belated cup of tea. But there was no help for it. He had only just time to catch the Latchford train.

As he almost ran to the station he was not conscious however of any of these small discomforts; his mind was full of Delia. He did not encourage anyone but Madeleine Tonbridge to talk to him about his ward; but he was already quite aware, before his old friend laid stress on it, of the hostile feeling towards Delia and her chaperon that was beginning to show itself in the neighbourhood. He knew that she was already pronounced heartless, odious, unprincipled, consumed with a love of notoriety, and ready for any violence, at the bidding of a woman who was probably responsible at that very moment–as a prominent organiser in the employ of the society contriving them–for some of the worst of the militant outrages. His condemnation of Delia’s actions was sharp and unhesitating; his opinion of Miss Marvell not a whit milder than that of his neighbours. Yet he had begun, as we have seen, to discover in himself a willingness, indeed an eagerness to excuse and pity the girl, which was wholly lacking in the case of the older woman. Under the influence, indeed, of his own responsive temperament, Winnington was rapidly drifting into a state of feeling where his perception of Delia’s folly and unreason was almost immediately checked by some enchanting memory of her beauty, or of those rare moments in their brief acquaintance, when the horrid shadow of the “Movement” had been temporarily lifted, and he had seen her, as in his indulgent belief she truly was–or was meant to be. She flouted and crossed him perpetually; and he was beginning to discover that he only thought of her the more, and that the few occasions when he had been able to force a smile out of her,–a sudden softness in her black eyes, gone in a moment!–were constantly pleading for her in his mind. All part no doubt of his native and extreme susceptibility to the female race–the female race in general. For he could see himself, and laugh at himself, _ab extra_, better than most men.

At the station he came across Captain Andrews, and soon discovered from that artless warrior that he also was bound for Latchford, with a view to watching over Delia Blanchflower.

“Can’t have a lot of hooligans attacking a good-looking girl like that–whatever nonsense she talks!” murmured the Captain, twisting his sandy moustache; “so I thought I’d better come along and see fair play. Of course I knew you’d be there.”

The train was crowded. Winnington, separated from the Captain, plunged into a dimly-lighted third class, and found himself treading on the toes of an acquaintance. He saluted an elderly lady wearing a bonnet and mantle of primeval cut, and a dress so ample in the skirt that it still suggested the days of crinoline. She was abnormally tall, and awkwardly built; she wore cotton gloves, and her boots were those of a peasant. She carried a large bag or reticule, and her lap was piled with brown parcels. Her large thin face was crowned by a few straggling locks of what had once been auburn hair, now nearly grey, the pale spectacled eyes were deeply wrinkled, and the nose and mouth slightly but indisputably crooked.

“My dear Miss Dempsey!–what an age since we met! Where are you off to? Give me some of those parcels!”

And Winnington, seizing what he could lay hands on, transferred them to his own knees, and gave a cordial grip to the right hand cotton glove.

Miss Dempsey replied that she had been in Brownmouth for the day, and was going home. After which she smiled and said abruptly, bending across her still laden knees and his–so as to speak unheard by their neighbours–

“Of course I know where you’re going to!”

“Do you?”

The queer head nodded.

“Why can’t you keep her in order?”

“Her? Who?”

“Your ward. Why don’t you stop it?”

“Stop these meetings? My ward is of age, please remember, and quite aware of it.”

Miss Dempsey sighed.

“Naughty young woman!” she said, yet with the gentlest of accents. “For us of the elder generation to see our work all undone by these maniacs! They have dashed the cup from our very lips.”

“Ah! I forgot you were a Suffragist,” said Winnington, smiling at her.

“Suffragist?” she held up her head indignantly–“I should rather think I am. My parents were friends of Mill, and I heard him speak for Woman Suffrage when I was quite a child. And now, after the years we’ve toiled and moiled, to see these mad women wrecking the whole thing!”

Winnington assented gravely.

“I don’t wonder you feel it so. But you still want it–the vote–as much as ever?”

“Yes!” she said, at first with energy; and then on a more wavering note–“Yes,–but I admit a great many things have been done without it that I thought couldn’t have been done. And these wild women give one to think. But you? Are you against us?–or has Miss Delia converted you?”

He smiled again, but without answering her question. Instead, he asked her in a guarded voice–

“You are as busy as ever?”

“I am there always–just as usual. I don’t have much success. It doesn’t matter.”

She drew back from him, looking quietly out of window at the autumn fields. Over her wrinkled face with its crooked features, there dawned a look of strange intensity, mingled very faintly with something exquisite–a ray from a spiritual world.

Winnington looked at her with reverence. He knew all about her; so did many of the dwellers in the Maumsey neighbourhood. She had lived for half-a-century in the same little house in one of the back-streets of Latchford, a town of some ten thousand inhabitants. Through all that time her life had been given to what is called “rescue work”–though she herself rarely called it by that name. She loved those whom no one else would love–the meanest and feeblest of the outcast race. Every night her door stood on the latch, and as the years passed, thousands knew it. Scarcely a week went by, that some hand did not lift that latch, and some girl in her first trouble, or some street-walker, dying of her trade, did not step in to the tiny hall where the lamp burnt all night, and wait for the sound of the descending footsteps on the stairs, which meant shelter and pity, warmth and food. She was constantly deceived, sometimes robbed; for such things she had no memory. She only remembered the things which cannot be told–the trembling voices of hope or returning joy–the tenderness in dying eyes, the clinging of weak hands, the kindness of “her poor children.” She had written–without her name–a book describing the condition of a great seaport town where she had once lived. The facts recorded in it had inspired a great reforming Act. No one knew anything of her part in it–so far as the public was concerned. Many persons indeed came to consult her; she gave all her knowledge to those who wanted it; she taught, and she counselled, always as one who felt herself the mere humble mouthpiece of things divine and compelling; and those who went away enriched did indeed forget her in her message, as she meant them to do. But in her own town as she passed along the streets, in her queer garb, blinking and absently smiling as though at her own thoughts, she was greeted often with a peculiar reverence, a homage of which her short sight told her little or nothing.

Winnington especially had applied to her in more than one difficulty connected with his public work. It was to her he had gone at once when the Blanchflower agent had come to him in dismay reporting the decision of Miss Blanchflower with regard to the half-witted girl whose third illegitimate child by a quite uncertain father had finally proved her need of protection both from men’s vileness, and her own helplessness. Miss Dempsey had taken the girl first into her own house, and then, persuading and comforting the old father, had placed her in one of the Homes where such victims are sheltered.

Winnington briefly enquired after the girl. She as briefly replied. Then she added:–as other travellers got out and they were left to themselves.

“So Miss Blanchflower wanted to keep her in the village?”

Winnington nodded, adding–

“She of course had no idea of the real facts.”

“No. Why should she?–_Why should she_!–” the old lips repeated with passion. “Let her keep her youth while she can! It’s so strange to me–how they will throw away their youth! Some of us must know. The black ox has trodden on us. A woman of thirty must look at it all. But a girl of twenty! Doesn’t she see that she helps the world more by _not_ knowing!–that her mere unconsciousness is _our_ gain–_our_ refreshment.”

The face of the man sitting opposite her, reflected her own feeling.

“You and I always agree,” he said warmly. “I wish you’d make friends with her.”

“Who? Miss Blanchflower? What could she make out of an old stager like me!” Miss Dempsey’s face broke into amusement at the notion. “And I don’t know that I could keep my temper with a militant. Well now you’re going to hear her speak–and here we are.”

* * * * *

Winnington and Captain Andrews left the station together. Latchford owned a rather famous market, and market day brought always a throng of country folk into the little town. A multitude of booths under flaring gas jets–for darkness had just fallen–held one side of the square, and the other was given up to the hurdles which penned the sheep and cattle, and to their attendant groups of farmers and drovers.

The market place was full of people, but the crowd which filled it was not an ordinary market-day crowd. The cattle and sheep indeed had long since gone off with their new owners or departed homeward unsold. The booths were most of them either taken down or were in process of being dismantled. For the evening was falling fast; it was spitting with rain; and business was over. But the shop windows in the market-place were still brilliantly lit, and from the windows of the Crown Inn, all tenanted by spectators, light streamed out on the crowd below. The chief illumination came however from what seemed to be a large shallow waggon drawn up not far from the Crown. Three people stood in it; a man–who was speaking–and two women. From either side, a couple of motor lamps of great brilliance concentrated upon them threw their faces and figures into harsh relief.

The crowd was steadily pressing toward the waggon, and it was evident at once to Winnington and his companion that it was not a friendly crowd.

“Looks rather ugly, to me!” said Andrews in Winnington’s ear. “They’ve got hold of that thing which happened at Wanchester yesterday, of the burning of that house where the care-taker and his children only just escaped.”

A rush of lads and young men passed them as he spoke–shouting–

“Pull ’em down–turn ’em out!”

Andrews and Winnington pursued, but were soon forced back by a retreating movement of those in front. Winnington’s height enabled him to see over the heads of the crowd.

“The police are keeping a ring,” he reported to his companion–“they seem to have got it in hand! Ah! now they’ve seen me–they’ll let us through.”

Meanwhile the shouts and booing of the hostile portion of the audience–just augmented by a number of rough-looking men from the neighbouring brickfields–prevented most of the remarks delivered by the male speaker on the cart from reaching the audience.

“Cowards!” said an excited woman’s voice–“that’s all they can do!–howl like wild beasts–that’s all they’re fit for!”

Winnington turned to see a tall girl, carrying an armful of newspapers. She had flaming red hair, and she wore a black and orange scarf, with a cap of the same colours. “Foster’s daughter,” he thought, wondering. “What happens to them all!” For he had known Kitty Foster from her school days, and had never thought of her except as a silly simpering flirt, bent on the pursuit of man. And now he beheld a maenad, a fury.

Suddenly another woman’s voice cut across the others–

“Aren’t you ashamed of those colours! Go home–and take them off. Go home and behave like a decent creature!”

Heads were turned–to see a middle-aged woman of quiet dress and commanding aspect, sternly pointing to the astonished Kitty Foster. “Do you see that girl?”–the woman continued, addressing her neighbours,–“she’s got the ‘Daughters” colours on. Do you know what the Daughters have been doing in town? You’ve seen about the destroying of letters in London. Well, I’ll tell you what that means. I had a little servant I was very fond of. She left me to go and live near her sister in town. The sister died, and she got consumption. She went into lodgings, and there was no one to help her. She wrote to me, asking me to come to her. Her letter was destroyed in one of the pillar-boxes raided–by those women–” She pointed. “Then she broke her heart because she thought I’d given her up. She daren’t write again. And now I’ve found her out–in hospital–dying. I’ve seen her to-day. If it hadn’t have been for these demented creatures she might ha’ lived for years.”

The woman paused, her voice breaking a little. Kitty Foster tossed her head.

“What are most women in hospital for?” she said, shrilly. “By the fault of men!–one way or the other. That’s what we think of.”

“Yes I know–that’s one of the shameless things you say–to us who have husbands and sons we thank God for!” said the elder woman, quivering. “Go and get a husband!–if you can find one to put up with you, and hold your tongue!” She turned her back.

The girl laughed affectedly.

“I can do without one, thank you. It’s you happy married women that are the chief obstacle in our path. Selfish things!–never care for anybody but yourselves!”

“Hallo–Lathrop’s down–that’s Miss Blanchflower!” said Andrews, excitedly. “Let’s go on!”

And at the same moment a mounted constable, who had been steadily making his way to them, opened a way for the two J.P.’s through the crowd, which after the tumult of hooting mingled with a small amount of applause, which had greeted Lathrop’s peroration, had relapsed into sudden silence as Delia Blanchflower came forward, so that her opening words, in a rich clear voice were audible over a large area of the market-place.

* * * * *

What did she say? Certainly nothing new! Winnington knew it all by heart–had read it dozens of times in their strident newspaper, which he now perused weekly, simply that he might discover if he could, what projects his ward might be up to.

The wrongs of women, their wrongs as citizens, as wives, as the victims of men, as the “refuse of the factory system”–Winnington remembered the phrase in the _Tocsin_ of the week before–the uselessness of constitutional agitation–the need “to shake England to make her hear”–it was all the “common form” of the Movement; and yet she was able to infuse it with passion, with conviction, with a wild and natural eloquence. Her voice stole upon him–hypnotized him. His political and economic knowledge told him that half the things she said were untrue, and the rest irrelevant. His moral sense revolted against her violence–her defence of violence. A girl of twenty-one addressing this ugly, indifferent crowd, and talking calmly of stone-throwing and arson, as though they were occupations as natural to her youth as dancing or love-making!–the whole thing was abhorrent–preposterous–to a man of order and peace. And yet he had never been more stirred, more conscious of the mad, mixed poetry of life, than he was, as he stood watching the slender figure on the waggon–the gestures of the upraised arm, and the play of the lights from the hotel, and from the side lamps, now on the deep white collar that lightened her serge jacket, and on the gesticulating hand, or the face that even in these disfiguring cross-lights could be nothing else than lovely.

She was speaking too long–a common fault of women.

He looked from her to the faces of the crowd, and saw that the spell, compounded partly of the speaker’s good looks and partly of sheer gaping curiosity, was breaking. They were getting restless, beginning to heckle and laugh.

Then he heard her say.

“Of course we know–you think us fools–silly fools! You say it’s a poor sort of fighting–and what do we hope to get by it? Pin-pricks you call it–all that women can do. Well, so it is–we admit it. It _is_ a poor sort of fighting–we don’t admire it any more than you. But it’s all men have left to women. You have disarmed us–and fooled us–and made slaves of us. You won’t allow us the constitutional weapon of the vote, so we strike as we can, and with what weapons we can–“

“Makin’ bonfires of innercent people an’ their property, ain’t politics, Miss!” shouted a voice.

“Hear, Hear!” from the crowd.

“We haven’t killed anybody–but ourselves!” The answer flashed.

“Pretty near it! Them folks at Wanchester only just got out–an’ there were two children among ’em,” cried a man near the waggon.

“An’ they’ve just been up to something new at Brownmouth–“

All heads turned towards a young man who spoke from the back of the audience. “News just come to the post-office,” he shouted–“as the new pier was burnt out early this morning. There’s a bit o’ wanton mischief for you!”

A howl of wrath rose from the audience, amid which the closing words of Delia’s speech were lost. Winnington caught a glimpse of her face–pale and excited–as she retreated from the front of the waggon in order to make room for her co-speaker.

Gertrude Marvell, as Winnington soon saw, was far more skilled in street oratory than her pupil. By sheer audacity she caught her audience at once, and very soon, mingling defiance with sarcasm, she had turned the news of the burnt pier into a Suffragist parable. What was that blaze in the night, lighting up earth and sea, but an emblem of women’s revolt flaming up in the face of dark injustice and oppression? Let them rage! The women mocked. All tyrannies disliked being disturbed–since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. And thereupon, without any trace of excitement, or any fraction of Delia’s eloquence, she built up bit by bit, and in face of the growing hostility of the crowd, an edifice of selected statements, which could not have been more adroit. It did not touch or persuade, but it silenced; till at the end she said–each word slow and distinct–

“Now–all these things _you_ may do to women, and nobody minds–nobody troubles at all. But if _we_ make a bonfire of a pier, or an empty house, by way of drawing attention to your proceedings, then, you see red. Well, here we are!–do what you like–torture, imprison us!–you are only longing, I know–some of you–to pull us down now and trample on us, so that you may _show_ us how much stronger men are than women! All right!–but where one woman falls, another will spring up. And meanwhile the candle we are lighting will go on burning till you give us the vote. Nothing simpler–nothing easier. _Give us the vote_!–and send your canting Governments, Liberal, or Tory, packing, till we get it. But until then–windows and empty houses, and piers and such-like, are nothing–but so many opportunities of making our masters uncomfortable, till they free their slaves! Lucky for you, if the thing is no worse!”

She paused a moment, and then added with sharp and quiet emphasis–

“And why is it specially necessary that we should try to stir up this district–whether you like our methods or whether you don’t? Because–you have living here among you, one of the worst of the persecutors of women! You have here a man who has backed up every cruelty of the Government–who has denied us every right, and scoffed at all our constitutional demands–your neighbour and great landlord, Sir Wilfrid Lang! I call upon every woman in this district, to avenge women on Sir Wilfrid Lang! We are not out indeed to destroy life or limb–we leave that to the men who are trying to coerce women–but we mean to sweep men like Sir Wilfrid Lang out of our way! Meanwhile we can pay special attention to his meetings–we can harass him at railway stations–we can sit on his doorstep–we can put the fear of God into him in a hundred ways–in short we can make his life a tenth part as disagreeable to him as he can make ours to us. We can, if we please, make it a _burden_ to him–and we intend to do so! And don’t let men–or women either–waste their breath in preaching to us of ‘law and order.’ Slaves who have no part in making the law, are not bound by the law. Enforce it if you can! But while you refuse to free us, we despise both the law and the making of the law. Justice–which is a very different thing from law–Justice is our mistress!–and to her we appeal.”

Folding her arms, she looked the crowd in the face. They seemed to measure each other; on one side, the lines of upturned faces, gaping youths, and smoking workmen, farmers and cattlemen, women and children; on the other, defying them, one thin, neatly-dressed woman, her face, under the lamps, a gleaming point in the dark.

Then a voice rose from a lounging group of men, smoking like chimneys–powerful fellows; smeared with the clay of the brickfields.

“Who’s a-makin’ slaves of you, Ma’am? There’s most of us workin’ for a woman!”

A woman in the middle of the crowd laughed shrilly–a queer, tall figure in a battered hat–

“Aye–and a lot yo’ give ‘er ov a Saturday night, don’t yer?”

“Sir Wilfrid’s a jolly good feller, miss,” shouted another man. “Pays ‘is men good money, an’ no tricks. If you come meddlin’ with him, in these parts, you’ll catch it.”

“An’ we don’t want no suffragettes here, thank you!” cried a sarcastic woman’s voice. “We was quite ‘appy till you come along, an’ we’re quite willin’ now for to say ‘Good-bye, an’ God bless yer!'”

The crowd laughed wildly, and suddenly a lad on the outskirts of the crowd picked up a cabbage-stalk that had fallen from one of the market-stalls, and flung it at the waggon. The hooligan element, scattered through the market-place, took up the hint at once; brutal things began to be shouted; and in a moment the air was thick with missiles of various sorts, derived from the refuse of the day’s market–vegetable remains of all kinds, fragments of wood and cardboard boxes, scraps of filthy matting, and anything else that came handy.

The audience at first disapproved. There were loud cries of “Stow it!”–“Shut up!”–“Let the ladies alone!”–and there was little attempt to obstruct the police as they moved forward. But then, by ill-luck, the powerfully-built fair-haired man, who had been speaking when Winnington and Andrews entered the market place, rushed to the front of the waggon, and in a white heat of fury, began to denounce both the assailants of the speakers, and the crowd in general, as “cowardly louts”–on whom argument was thrown away–who could only be reached “through their backs, or their pockets”–with other compliments of the same sort, under which the temper of the “moderates” rapidly gave way.

“What an ass! What a damned ass!” groaned Andrews indignantly. “Look here Winnington, you take care of Miss Blanchflower–I’ll answer for the other!”

And amid a general shouting and scuffling, through which some stones were beginning to fly, Winnington found himself leaping on the waggon, followed by Andrews and a couple of police.

Delia confronted him–undaunted, though breathless.

“What do you want? We’re all right!”

“You must come away at once. I can get you through the hotel.”

“Not at all! We must put the Resolution.”

“Come Miss!–” said the tall constable behind Winnington–“no use talking! There’s a lot of fellows here that mean mischief. You go with this gentleman. He’ll look after you.”

“Not without my friend!” cried Delia, both hands behind her on the edge of the waggon–erect and defiant. “Gertrude!–” she raised her voice–“What do you wish to do?”

But amid the din, her appeal was not heard.

Gertrude Marvell however could be clearly seen on the other side of the waggon, with Paul Lathrop beside her, listening to the remonstrances and entreaties of Andrews, with a smile as cool, as though she were in the drawing-room of Maumsey Abbey, and the Captain were inviting her to trifle with a cup of tea.

“Take her along, Sir!” said the policeman, with a nod to Winnington. “It’s getting ugly.” And as he spoke, a man jumped upon the waggon, a Latchford doctor, an acquaintance of Winnington’s, who said something in his ear.

The next moment, a fragment of a bottle, flung from a distance, struck Winnington on the wrist. The blood rushed out, and Delia, suddenly white, looked from it to Winnington’s face. The only notice he took of the incident was expressed in the instinctive action of rolling his handkerchief round it. But it stirred him to lay a grasp upon Delia’s arm, which she could hardly have resisted. She did not, however, resist. She felt herself lifted down from the waggon, and hurried along, the police keeping back the crowd, into the open door of the hotel. Shouts of a populace half enraged, half amused, pursued her.

“Brutes–Cowards!” she gasped, between her teeth–then to Winnington–“Where are you taking me? I have the car!”

“There’s a motor belonging to a doctor ready at once in the yard of the hotel. Better let me take you home in it. Andrews, I assure you, will look after Miss Marvell!”

They passed through the brilliantly-lighted inn, where landlady, chambermaids, and waiters stood grinning in rows to see, and Winnington hurried his charge into the closed motor standing at the inn’s back door.

“Take the street behind the hotel, and get out by the back of the town. Be quick!” said Winnington to the chauffeur.

Booing groups had already begun to gather at the entrance of the yards, and in the side street to which it led. The motor passed slowly through them, then quickened its pace, and in what seemed an incredibly short time, they were in country lanes.

Delia leant hack, drawing long breaths of fatigue and excitement. Then she perceived with disgust that her dress was bemired with scraps of dirty refuse, and that some mud was dripping from her hat. She took off the hat, shook it out of the window of the car, but could not bring herself to put it on again. Her hair, loosely magnificent, framed a face that was now all colour and passion. She hated herself, she hated the crowd; it seemed to her she hated the man at her side. Suddenly Winnington turned on the electric light–with an exclamation.

“So sorry to be a nuisance–but have you got a spare handkerchief? I’m afraid I shall spoil your dress!”

And Delia saw, to her dismay, that his own handkerchief which he had originally tied round his wound was already soaked, and the blood was dripping from it on to the motor-rug.

“Yes–yes–I have!” And opening her little wrist-bag, she took out of it two spare handkerchiefs, and tied them, with tremulous hands, round the wrist he held out to her,–a wrist brown and spare and powerful, like the rest of him.

“Now–have you got anything you could tie round the arm, above the wound–and then twist the knot?”

She thought.

“My veil!” She slipped it off in a moment, a long motor veil of stout make. He turned towards her, pushing up his coat sleeve as high as it would go, and shewing her where to put the bandage. She helped him to turn back his shirt sleeve, and then wound the veil tightly round the arm, so as to compress the arteries. Her fingers were warm and strong. He watched them–he felt their touch–with a curious pleasure.

“Now, suppose you take this pencil, and twist it in the knot–you know how? Have you done any First Aid?”

She nodded.

“I know.”

She did it well. The tourniquet acted, and the bleeding at once slackened.

“All right!” said Winnington, smiling at her. “Now if I keep it up that ought to do!” She drew down the sleeve, and he put his hand into the motor-strap hanging near him, which supported it. Then he threw his head back a moment against the cushions of the car. The sudden loss of blood on the top of a long fast, had made him feel momentarily faint.

Delia looked at him uneasily–biting her lip.

“Let us go back to Latchford, Mr. Winnington, and find a doctor.”

“Oh dear no! I’m only pumped for a moment. It’s going off. I’m perfectly fit. When I’ve taken you home, I shall go in to our Maumsey man, and get tied up.”

There was silence. The hedges and fields flew by outside, under the light of the motor, stars overhead, Delia’s heart was full of wrath and humiliation.

“Mr. Winnington–“

“Yes!” He sat up, apparently quite revived.

“Mr. Winnington–for Heaven’s sake–do give me up!”

He looked at her with amused astonishment.

“Give you up!–How?”

“Give up being my guardian! I really can’t stand it. I–I don’t mind what happens to myself. But it’s too bad that I should be forced to–to make myself such a nuisance to you–or desert all my principles. It’s not fair to _me_–that’s what I feel–it’s not indeed!” she insisted stormily.

He saw her dimly as she spoke–the beautiful oval of the face, the white brow, the general graciousness of line, so feminine, in truth!–so appealing. The darkness hid away all that shewed the “female franzy.” Distress of mind–distress for his trumpery wound?–had shaken her, brought her back to youth and childishness? Again he felt a rush of sympathy–of tender concern.

“Do you think you would do any better with a guardian chosen by the Court?” he asked her, smiling, after a moment’s pause.

“Of course I should! I shouldn’t mind fighting a stranger in the least.”

“They would be very unlikely to appoint a stranger. They would probably name Lord Frederick.”

“He wouldn’t dream of taking it!” she said, startled. “And you know he is the laziest of men.”

They both laughed. But her laugh was a sound of agitation, and in the close contact of the motor he was aware of her quick breathing.

“Well, it’s true he never answers a letter,” said Winnington. “But I suppose he’s ill.”

“He’s been a _malade imaginaire_ all his life, and he isn’t going to begin to put himself out for anybody now!” she said, scornfully.

“Your aunt, Miss Blanchflower?”

“I haven’t spoken to her for years. She used to live with us when I was eighteen. She tried to boss me, and set father against me. But I got the best of her.”

“I am sure you did,” said Winnington.

She broke out–

“Oh, I know you think me a perfectly impossible creature whom nobody could ever get on with!”

He paused a moment, then said gravely–

“No, I don’t think anything of the kind. But I do think that, given what you want, you are going entirely the wrong way to get it.”

She drew a long and desperate breath.

“Oh, for goodness sake don’t let’s argue!”

He refrained. But after a moment he added, still more gravely–“And I do protest–most strongly!–against the influence upon you of the lady you have taken to live with you!”

Delia made a vehement movement.

“She is my friend!–my dearest friend!” she said, in a shaky voice. “And I believe in her, and admire her with all my heart!”

“I know–and I am sorry. Her speech this evening–all the latter part of it–was the speech of an Anarchist. And the first half was a tissue of misstatements. I happen to know something about the facts she dealt with.”

“Of course you take a different view!”

“I _know_,” he said, quietly–a little sternly. “Miss Marvell either does not know, or she wilfully misrepresents.”

“You can’t prove it!”

“I think I could. And as to that man–Mr. Lathrop–but you know what I think.”

They both fell silent. Through all his own annoyance and disgust, Winnington was sympathetically conscious of what she too must be feeling–chafed and thwarted, at every turn, by his legal power over her actions, and by the pressure of his male will. He longed to persuade her, convince her, soothe her; but what chance for it, under the conditions she had chosen for her life?

The motor drew up at the door of the Abbey, and Winnington turned on the light.

“I am afraid I can’t help you out. Can you manage?”

She stooped anxiously to look at his wrist.

“It’s bleeding worse again! I am sure I could improve that bandage. Do come in. My maid’s got everything.”

He hesitated–then followed her into the house. The maid was summoned, and proved an excellent nurse. The wound was properly bandaged, and the arm put in a sling.

Then, as the maid withdrew, Delia and her guardian were left standing together in the drawing-room, lit only by a dying gleam of fire, and a single lamp.

“Good-night,” said Winnington, gently. “Don’t be the least alarmed about Miss Marvell. The train doesn’t arrive for ten minutes yet. Thank you for looking after me so kindly.”

Delia laughed–but it was a sound of distress.

Suddenly he stooped, lifted her hand, and kissed it.

“What you are doing seems to me foolish–and _wrong!_ I am afraid I must tell you so plainly,” he said, with emotion. “But although I feel like that–my one wish–all the time–is–forgive me if it sounds patronising!–to help you–and stand by you. To see you in that horrid business to-night–made me–very unhappy. I am old-fashioned I suppose–but I could hardly bear it. I wish I could make you trust me a little!”

“I do!” she said, choked. “I do–but I must follow my conscience.”

He shook his head, but said no more. She murmured good-night, and he went. She heard the motor drive away, and remained standing where he had left her, the hand he had kissed hanging at her side. She still felt the touch of his lips upon it, and as the blood rushed into her cheeks, her heart was conscious of new and strange emotions. She longed to go to him as a sister or a daughter might, and say–“Forgive me–understand me–don’t despair of me!”

The trance of feeling broke, and passed away. She caught up a cloak and went to the hall door to listen for Gertrude Marvell.

“What I _shall_ have to say to him before long, is–‘I have tricked you this quarter out of £500–and I mean to do it again next quarter–if I can!’ He won’t want to kiss my hand again!”

Chapter X

Two men sat smoking and talking with Paul Lathrop in the hook-littered sitting-room of his cottage. One was a young journalist, Roger Blaydes, whose thin, close-shaven face wore the knowing fool’s look of one to whom the world’s his oyster, and all the bricks for opening it familiar. The other was a god-like creature, a poet by profession, with long lantern-jaws, grey eyes deeply set, and a mass of curly black hair, from which the face with its pallor and its distinction, shone dimly out like the portrait of a Cinquecento. Lathrop, in a kind of dressing-gown, as clumsily cut as the form it wrapped, his reddish hair and large head catching the firelight, had the look of one lazily at bay, as wrapped in a cloud of smoke, he twined from one speaker to the other.

“So you were at another of these meetings last night?” said Blaydes, with a mouth half smiling, half contemptuous.

“Yes. A disgusting failure! They didn’t even take the trouble to pelt us.” The poet–Merian by name–moved angrily on his chair. Blaydes threw a sly look at him, as he knocked the ash from his cigarette.

“And what the deuce do you expect to get by it all?”

Paul Lathrop paused a moment–and at last said with a lift of the eyebrows:–

“Well!–I have no illusions!”

Merian broke out indignantly–

“I say, Lathrop–why should you try and play up to that cynic there? As if he ever had an illusion about anything!”

“Well, but one may have faith without illusions,” protested Blaydes, with hard good temper.

“I doubt whether Lathrop has an ounce of either!”

Lathrop reached out for a match.

“What’s the good of ‘faith’–and what does anyone mean by it? Sympathies–and animosities: they’re enough for me.”

“And you really are in sympathy with these women?” said the other.

The tone was incredulous. Merian brought his hand violently down on the table.

“Don’t you talk about them, Blaydes! I tell you, they’re out of your ken.”

“I daresay,” said Blaydes, composedly. “I was only trying to get at what Lathrop means by going into the business.”

Paul Lathrop sat up.

“I’m in sympathy with anything that harasses, and bothers and stings the governing classes of this country!” he said, with an oratorical wave of his cigarette. “What fools they are! In this particular business the Government is an ass, the public is an ass, the women, if you like, are asses. So long as they don’t destroy works of art that appeal to me, I prefer to bray with them than with their enemies.”

Merian rose impatiently–a slim, dark-browed St. George towering over the other two.

“After that, I’d rather hear them attacked by Blaydes, than defended by you, Lathrop!” he said with energy, as he buttoned up his coat.

Lathrop threw him a cool glance.

“So for you, they’re all heroines–and saints?”

“Never mind what they are. I stand by them! I’m ready to give them what they ask.”

“Ready to hand the Empire over to them–to smash like the windows in Piccadilly?” said Blaydes.

“Hang the Empire!–what does the Empire matter! Give the people in these islands what they _want_ before you begin to talk about the Empire. Well, good-bye, I must be off!”

He nodded to the other two, and opened the door of the Hermitage which led directly into the outer air. On the threshold he turned and looked back, irresolutely, as though in compunction for his loss of temper. Framed in the doorway against a background of sunset sky, his dark head and sparely-noble features were of a singular though melancholy beauty. It was evident that he was full of speech, of which he could not in the end unburden himself. The door closed behind him, and he was gone.

“Poor devil!” said Blaydes, tipping the end of his cigarette into the fire-“he’s in love with a girl who’s been in prison three times. He thinks she’ll kill herself–and he can’t influence her at all. He takes it hard. Well, now look here”–the young man’s expression changed and stiffened–“I understand that you too are seeing a good deal of one of these wild women–and that she’s both rich–and a beauty?”

He looked up, with a laugh.

Lathrop’s aspect was undisturbed.

“Nothing to do with it!–though your silly little mind will no doubt go on thinking so.”

The other laughed again–with a more emphatic mockery. Lathrop reddened–then said quietly–

“Well, I admit that was a lie. Yes, she is handsome–and if she were to stick to it–sacrifice all her life to it–in time she might make a horrible success of this thing. Will she stick to it?”

“Are you in love with her, Paul?”

“Of course! I am in love with all pretty women–especially when I daren’t shew it.”

“You daren’t shew it?”

“The smallest advance on my part, in this quarter, brings me a rap on the knuckles. I try to pitch what I have to say in the most impersonal and romantic terms. No good at all! But all egg-dancing is amusing, so I dance–and accept all the drudgery she and Alecto give me to do.”

“Alecto? Miss Marvell?”

“Naturally.”

“These meetings must be pretty boring.”

“Especially because I can’t keep my temper. I lose it in the vulgarest way–and say the most idiotic things.”

There was a pause of silence. The eyes of the journalist wandered round the room, coming back to Lathrop at last with renewed curiosity.

“How are your affairs, Paul?”

“Couldn’t be worse. Everything here would have been seized long ago, if there had been anything to seize. But you can’t distrain on trout–dear slithery things. And as the ponds afford my only means of sustenance, and do occasionally bring in something, my creditors have to leave me the house and a few beds and chairs so that I may look after them.”

“Why don’t you write another book?”

“Because at present I have nothing to say. And on that point I happen to have a conscience–some rays of probity, left.”

He got up as he spoke, and went across the room, to a covered basket beside the fire.

“Mimi!” he said caressingly–“poor Mimi!”

He raised a piece of flannel, and a Persian kitten lying in the basket–a sick kitten–lifted its head languidly.

“_Tu m’aimes_, Mimi?”

The kitten looked at him with veiled eyes, already masked with death. Lathrop stooped for a saucer of warm milk standing by the fire. The kitten refused it, but when he dipped his fingers in the milk, it made a momentary effort to lick them, then subsiding, sank to sleep again.

“Poor little beast!” said Blaydes–“what’s the matter?”

“Some poison–I don’t know what. It’ll die tonight.”