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  • 1914
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“Then you’ll be all alone?”

“I’m never alone,” said Lathrop, with decision. And rising he went to the door of the cottage–which opened straight on the hill-side, and set it open.

It was four o’clock on a November day. The autumn was late, and of a marvellous beauty. The month was a third gone and still there were trees here and there, isolated trees, intensely green as though they defied decay. The elder trees, the first to leaf under the Spring, were now the last to wither. The elms in twenty-four hours had turned a pale gold atop, while all below was still round and green. But the beeches were nearly gone; all that remained of them was a thin pattern of separate leaves, pale gold and faintly sparkling against the afternoon sky. Such a sky! Bands of delicate pinks, lilacs and blues scratched across an inner-heaven of light, and in the mid-heaven a blazing furnace, blood-red, wherein the sun had just plunged headlong to its death. And under the sky, an English scene of field and woodland, fading into an all-environing forest, still richly clothed. While in the foreground and middle distance, some trees already stripped and bare, winter’s first spoil, stood sharply black against the scarlet of the sunset. And fusing the whole scene, hazes of blue, amethyst or purple, beyond a Turner’s brush,

“What beauty!–my God!”

Blaydes came to stand beside the speaker, glancing at him with eyes half curious, half mocking.

“You get so much pleasure out of it?”

For answer, Lathrop murmured a few words as though to himself, a sudden lightening in his sleepy eyes–

L’univers–si liquide, si pur!–
Une belle eau qu’on voudrait boire.

“I don’t understand French”–said Blaydes, with a shrug–“not French verse, anyway.”

“That’s a pity,” was the dry reply–“because you can’t read Madame de Noailles. Ah!–there are Lang’s pheasants calling!–his tenants I suppose–for he’s left the shooting.”

He pointed to a mass of wood on his left hand from which the sound came.

“They say he’s never here?”

“Two or three times a year,–just on business. His wife–a little painted doll–hates the place, and they’ve built a villa at Beaulieu.”

“Rather risky leaving a big house empty in these days–with your wild women about!”

Lathrop looked round.

“Good heavens!–who would ever dream of touching Monk Lawrence! I bet even Gertrude Marvell hasn’t nerve enough for that. Look here!–have you ever seen it?”

“Never.”

“Come along then. There’s just time–while this light lasts.”

They snatched their caps, and were presently mounting the path which led ultimately through the woods of Monk Lawrence to the western front.

Blaydes frowned as he walked. He was a young man of a very practical turn of mind, who in spite of an office-boy’s training possessed an irrelevant taste for literature which had made him an admirer of Lathrop’s two published volumes. For some time past he had been Lathrop’s chancellor of the exchequer–self-appointed, and had done his best to keep his friend out of the workhouse. From the tone of Paul’s recent letters he had become aware of two things–first, that Lathrop was in sight of his last five pound note, and did not see his way to either earning or borrowing another; and secondly, that a handsome girl had appeared on the scene, providentially mad with the same kind of madness as had recently seized on Lathrop, belonging to the same anarchial association, and engaged in the same silly defiance of society; likely therefore to be thrown a good deal in his company; and last, but most important, possessed of a fortune which she would no doubt allow the “Daughters of Revolt” to squander–unless Paul cut in. The situation had begun to seem to him interesting, and having already lent Lathrop more money than he could afford, he had come down to enquire about it. He himself possessed an income of three hundred a year, plus two thousand pounds left him by an uncle. Except for the single weakness which had induced him to lend Lathrop a couple of hundred pounds, his principles with regard to money were frankly piratical. Get what you can–and how you can. Clearly it was Lathrop’s game to take advantage of this queer friendship with a militant who happened to be both rich and young, which his dabbling in their “nonsense” had brought about. Why shouldn’t he achieve it? Lathrop was as clever as sin; and there was the past history of the man, to shew that he could attract women.

He gripped his friend’s arm as they passed into the shadow of the wood. Lathrop looked at him with surprise–

“Look here, Paul”–said the younger man in a determined voice–“You’ve got to pull this thing off.”

“What thing?”

“You can marry this girl if you put your mind to it. You tell me you’re going about the country with her speaking at meetings–that you’re one of her helpers and advisers. That is–you’ve got an A1 chance with her. If you don’t use it, you’re a blithering idiot.”

Paul threw back his head and laughed.

“And what about other people? What about her guardian, for instance–who is the sole trustee of the property–who has a thousand chances with her to my one–and holds, I venture to say–if he knows anything about me–the strongest views on the subject of _my_ moral character?”

“Who is her guardian?”

“Mark Wilmington. Does that convey anything to you?”

Blaydes whistled.

“Great Scott!”

“Yes. Precisely ‘Great Scott!'” said Lathrop, mocking. “I may add that everybody here has their own romance on the subject. They are convinced that Winnington will soon cure her of her preposterous notions, and restore her, tamed, to a normal existence.”

Blaydes meditated,–his aspect showing a man checked.

“I saw Winnington playing in a county match last August,” he said–with his eyes on the ground–“I declare no one looked at anybody else. I suppose he’s forty; but the old stagers tell you that he’s just as much of an Apollo now as he was in his most famous days–twenty years ago.”

“Don’t exaggerate. He _is_ forty, and I’m thirty–which is one to me. I only meant to suggest to you a _reasonable_ view of the chances.”

“Look here–_is_ she as handsome as people say?”

“Blaydes!–this is the last time I shall allow you to talk about her–you get on my nerves. Handsome? I don’t know.”

He walked on, muttering to himself and twitching at the trees on either hand.

“I am simply putting what is your duty to yourself–and your creditors,” said Blaydes, sulkily–“You must know your affairs are in a pretty desperate state.”

“And a girl like that is to be sacrificed–to my creditors! Good Lord!”

“Oh, well, if you regard yourself as such an undesirable, naturally, I’ve nothing to say. Of course I know–there’s that case against you. But it’s a good while ago; and I declare women don’t look at those things as they used to do. Why don’t you play the man of letters business? You know very well, Paul, you could earn a lot of money if you chose. But you’re such a lazy dog!”

“Let me alone!” said Lathrop, rather fiercely. “The fact that you’ve lent me a couple of hundred really doesn’t give you the right to talk to me like this.”

“I won’t lend you a farthing more unless you promise me to take this thing seriously,” said Blaydes, doggedly.

Lathrop burst into a nervous shout of laughter.

“I say, do shut up! I assure you, you can’t bully me. Now then–here’s the house!”

And as he spoke they emerged from the green oblong, bordered by low yew edges, from which as from a flat and spacious shelf carved out of the hill, Monk Lawrence surveyed the slopes below it, the clustered village, the middle distance with its embroidery of fields and trees, with the vaporous stretches of the forest beyond, and in the far distance, a shining line of sea.

“My word!–that is a house!” cried Blaydes, stopping to survey it and get his townsman’s breath, after the steep pitch of hill.

“Not bad?”

“Is it shown?”

“Used to be. It has been shut lately for fear of the militants.”

“But they keep somebody in it?”

“Yes–in some room at the back. A keeper, and his three children. The wife’s dead. Shall I go and see if he’ll let us in? But he won’t. He’ll have seen my name at that meeting, in the Latchford paper.”

“No, no. I shall miss my train. Let’s walk round. Why, you’d think it was on fire already!” said Blaydes, with a start, gazing at the house.

For the marvellous evening now marching from the western forest, was dyeing the whole earth in crimson, and the sun just emerging from one bank of cloud, before dropping into the bank below, was flinging a fierce glare upon the wide grey front of Monk Lawrence. Every window blazed, and some fine oaks still thick with red leaf, which flanked the house on the north, flamed in concert. The air was suffused with red; every minor tone, blue or brown, green or purple, shewed through it, as through a veil.

And yet how quietly the house rose, in the heart of the flame! Peace brooding on memory seemed to breathe from its rounded oriels, its mossy roof, its legend in stone letters running round the eaves, the carved trophies and arabesques which framed the stately doorway, the sleepy fountain with its cupids, in the courtyard, the graceful loggia on the northern side. It stood, aloof and self-contained, amid the lightnings and arrows of the departing sun.

“No–they’d never dare to touch that!” said Lathrop as he led the way to the path skirting the house. “And if I caught Miss Marvell at it, I’m not sure I shouldn’t hand her over myself!”

“Aren’t we trespassing?” said Blaydes, as their footsteps rang on the broad flagged path which led from the front court to the terrace at the back of the house.

“Certainly. Ah, the dog’s heard us.”

And before they had gone more than a few steps further, a burly man appeared at the further corner of the house, holding a muzzled dog–a mastiff–on a leash.

“What might you be wanting, gentlemen?” he said gruffly.

“Why, you know me, Daunt. I brought a friend up to look at your wonderful place. We can walk through, can’t we?”

“Well, as you’re here, Sir, I’ll let you out by the lower gate. But this is private ground, Sir, and Sir Wilfrid’s orders are strict,–not to let anybody through that hasn’t either business with the house or an order from himself.”

“All right. Let’s have a look at the back and the terrace, and then we’ll be off; Sir Wilfrid coming here?”

“Not that I know of, Sir,” said the keeper shortly, striding on before the two men, and quieting his dog, who was growling at their heels.

As he spoke he led the way down a stately flight of stone steps by which the famous eastern terrace at the back of the house was reached. The three men and the dog disappeared from view.

Steadily the sunset faded. An attacking host of cloud rushed upon it from the sea, and quenched it. The lights in the windows of Monk Lawrence went out. Dusk fell upon the house and all its approaches.

Suddenly, two figures–figures of women–emerged in the twilight from the thick plantation, which protected the house on the north. They reached the flagged path with noiseless feet, and then pausing, they began what an intelligent spectator would have soon seen to be a careful reconnoitering of the whole northern side of the house. They seemed to examine the windows, a garden door, the recesses in the walls, the old lead piping, the creepers and shrubs. Then one of them, keeping close to the house wall, which was in deep shadow, went quickly round to the back. The other awaited her. In the distance rose at intervals a dog’s uneasy bark.

In a very few minutes the woman who had gone round the house returned and the two, slipping back into the dense belt of wood from which they had come, were instantly swallowed up by it. Their appearance and their movements throughout had been as phantom-like and silent as the shadows which were now engulfing the house. Anyone who had seen them come and go might almost have doubted his own eyes.

* * * * *

Daunt the Keeper returned leisurely to his quarters in some back premises of Monk Lawrence, at the southeastern corner of the house. But he had but just opened his own door when he again heard the sound of footsteps in the fore-court.

“Well, what’s come to the folk to-night”–he muttered, with some ill-humour, as he turned back towards the front.

A woman!–standing with her back to the house, in the middle of the forecourt as though the place belonged to her, and gazing at the piled clouds of the west, still haunted by the splendour just past away.

A veritable Masque of Women, all of the Maenad sort, had by now begun to riot through Daunt’s brain by night and day. He raised his voice sharply–

“What’s your business here, Ma’am? There is no public road past this house.”

The lady turned, and came towards him.

“Don’t you know who I am, Mr. Daunt? But I remember you when I was a child.”

Daunt peered through the dusk.

“You have the advantage of me, Madam,” he said, stiffly. “Kindly give me your name.”

“Miss Blanchflower–from Maumsey Abbey!” said a young, conscious voice. “I used to come here with my grandmother, Lady Blanchflower. I have been intending to come and pay you a visit for a long time–to have a look at the old house again. And just now I was passing the foot of your hill in a motor; something went wrong with the car, and while they were mending it, I ran up. But it’s getting dark so quick, one can hardly see anything!”

Daunt’s attitude showed no relaxation. Indeed, quick recollections assailed him of certain reports in the local papers, now some ten days old. Miss Blanchflower indeed! She was a brazen one–after all done and said.

“Pleased to see you, Miss, if you’ll kindly get an order from Sir Wilfrid. But I have strict instructions from Sir Wilfrid not to admit anyone–not anyone whatsoever–to the gardens or the house, without his order.”

“I should have thought, Mr. Daunt, that only applied to strangers.” The tones shewed annoyance. “My father, Sir Robert Blanchflower, was an old friend of Sir Wilfrid’s.”

“Can’t help it, Miss,” said Daunt, not without the secret zest of the Radical putting down his “betters.” “There are queer people about. I can’t let no one in without an order.”

As he spoke, a gate slammed on his left, and Daunt, with the feeling of one beset, turned in wrath to see who might be this new intruder. Since the house had been closed to visitors, and a notice to the effect had been posted in the village, scarcely a soul had penetrated through its enclosing woods, except Miss Amberley, who came to teach Daunts crippled child. And now in one evening here were three assaults upon its privacy!

But as to the third he was soon reassured.

“Hullo, Daunt, is that you? Did I hear you telling Miss Blanchflower you can’t let her in? But you know her of course?” said a man’s easy voice.

Delia started. The next moment her hand was in her guardian’s, and she realised that he had heard the conversation between herself and Daunt, realised also that she had committed a folly not easily to be explained, either to Winnington or herself, in obeying the impulse which–half memory, half vague anxiety,–had led her to pay this sudden visit to the house. Gertrude Marvell had left Maumsey that morning, saying she should be in London for the day. Had Gertrude been with her, Delia would have let Monk Lawrence go by. For in Gertrude’s company it had become an instinct with her–an instinct she scarcely confessed to herself–to avoid all reference to the house.

At sight of Winnington, however, who was clearly a privileged person in his eyes, Daunt instantly changed his tone.

“Good evening, Sir. Perhaps you’ll explain to this young lady? We’ve got to keep a sharp lookout–you know that, Sir.”

“Certainly, Daunt, certainly. I am sure Miss Blanchflower understands. But you’ll let _me_ shew her the house, I imagine?”

“Why, of course, Sir! There’s nothing you can’t do here. Give me a few minutes–I’ll turn on some lights. Perhaps the young lady will walk in?” He pointed to his own rooms. “So you still keep the electric light going?”

“By Sir Wilfrid’s wish, Sir,–so as if anything did happen these winter nights, we mightn’t be left in darkness. The engine works a bit now and then.”

He led the way towards his quarters. The door into his kitchen stood open, and in the glow of fire and lamp stood his three children, who had been eagerly listening to the conversation outside. One of them, a little girl, was leaning on a crutch. She looked up happily as Winnington entered.

“Well, Lily–” he pinched her cheek–“I’ve got something to tell Father about you. Say ‘how do you do’ to this lady.” The child put her hand in Delia’s, looking all the while ardently at Winnington.

“Am I going to be in your school, Sir?”

“If you’re good. But you’ll have to be dreadfully good!”

“I am good,” said Lily, confidently. “I want to be in your school, please Sir.”

“But such a lot of other little girls want to come too! Must I leave them out?”

Lily shook her head perplexed. “But you promithed,” she lisped, very softly.

Winnington laughed. The child’s hand had transferred itself to his, and nestled there.

“What school does she mean?” asked Delia.

At the sound of her voice Winnington turned to her for the first time. It was as though till then he had avoided looking at her, lest the hidden thought in each mind should be too plain to the other. He had found her–Sir Robert Blanchflower’s daughter–on the point of being curtly refused admission to the house where her father had been a familiar inmate, and where she herself had gone in and out as a child. And he knew why; she knew why; Daunt knew why. She was a person under suspicion, a person on whom the community was keeping watch.

Nevertheless, Winnington entirely believed what he had overheard her say to the keeper. It was no doubt quite true that she had turned aside to see Monk Lawrence on a sudden impulse of sentiment or memory. Odd that it should be so!–but like her. That _she_ could have any designs on the beautiful old place was indeed incredible; and it was equally incredible that she would aid or abet them in anyone else. And yet–there was that monstrous speech at Latchford, made in her hearing, by her friend and co-militant, the woman who shared her life! Was it any wonder that Daunt bristled at the sight of her?

He had, however, to answer her question.

“My county school,” he explained. “The school for invalid children–‘physical defectives’–that we are going to open next summer. I came to tell Daunt there’d be a place for this child. She’s an old friend of mine.” He smiled down upon the nestling creature–“Has Miss Amberley been to see you lately, Lily?”

At this moment Daunt returned to the kitchen, with the news that the house was ready. “The light’s not quite what it ought to be, Sir, but I daresay you’ll be able to see a good deal. Miss Amberley, Sir, she’s taught Lily fine. I’m sure we’re very much obliged to her–and to you for asking her.”

“I don’t know what the sick children here will do without her, Daunt. She’s going away–wants to be a nurse.”

“Well, I’m very sorry, Sir. She’ll be badly missed.”

“That she will. Shall we go in?” Winnington turned to Delia, who nodded assent, and followed him into the dim passages beyond the brightly-lighted kitchen. The children, looking after them, saw the beautiful lady disappearing, and felt vaguely awed by her height, her stiff carriage and her proud looks.

Delia, indeed, was again–and as usual–in revolt, against herself and circumstances. Why had she been such a fool as to come to Monk Lawrence at all, and then to submit to seeing it–on sufferance!–in Winnington’s custody? And how he must be contrasting her with Susy Amberley!–the soft sister of charity, plying her womanly tasks, in the manner of all good women, since the world began! She saw herself as the anarchist prowling outside, tracked, spied on, held at arm’s length by all decent citizens, all lovers of ancient beauty, and moral tradition; while, within, women like Susy Amberley sat Madonna-like, with the children at their knee. “Well, we stand for the children too–the children of the future!” she said to herself defiantly.

“This is the old hall–and the gallery that was put up in honour of Elizabeth’s visit here in 1570–” she heard Winnington saying–“One of the finest things of its kind. But you can hardly see it.”

The electric light indeed was of the feeblest. A dim line of it ran round the carved ceiling, and glimmered in the central chandelier. But the mingled illumination of sunset and moonrise from outside contended with it on more than equal terms; and everything in the hall, tapestries, armour, and old oak, the gallery above, the dais with its carved chairs below, had the dim mystery of a stage set ready for the play, before the lights are on.

Daunt apologised.

“The gardener’ll be here directly, Sir. He knows how to manage it better than I.”

And in spite of protests from the two visitors he ran off again to see what could he done to better the light. Delia turned impetuously on her companion.

“I know you think I have no business to be here!”

Winnington paused a moment, then said–

“I was rather astonished to see you here, certainly.”

“Because of what we said at Latchford the other day?”

“_You_ didn’t say it!”

“But I agreed with it–I agreed with every word of it!”

“Then indeed I _am_ astonished that you should wish to see Sir Wilfrid Lang’s house!” he said, with energy.

“My recollections of it have nothing to do with Sir Wilfrid. I never saw him that I know of.”

“All the same, it belongs to him.”

“No!–to history–to the nation!”

“Then let the nation guard it–and every individual in the nation! But do you think Miss Marvell would take much pains to protect it?”

“Gertrude said nothing about the house.” “No; but if I had been one of the excitable women you command, my one desire after that speech would have been to do some desperate damage to Sir Wilfrid, or his property. If anything does happen, I am afraid everyone in the neighbourhood will regard her as responsible.”

Delia moved impatiently. “Can’t we say what we think of Sir Wilfrid–because he happens to possess a beautiful house?”

“If you care for Monk Lawrence, you do so,–with this campaign on foot–only at great risk. Confess, Miss Delia!–that you were sorry for that speech!”

He turned upon her with animation.

She spoke as though under pressure, her head thrown back, her face ivory within the black frame of the veil.

“I–I shouldn’t have made it.”

“That’s not enough. I want to hear you say you regret it!”

The light suddenly increased, and she saw him looking at her, his eyes bright and urgent, his attitude that of the strong yet mild judge, whose own moral life watches keenly for any sign of grace in the accused before him. She realised for an angry moment what his feeling must be–how deep and invincible, towards these “outrages” which she and Gertrude Marvell regarded by now as so natural and habitual–outrages that were calmly planned and organised, as she knew well, at the head offices of their society, by Gertrude Marvell among others, and acquiesced in–approved–by hundreds of persons like herself, who either shrank from taking a direct part in them, or had no opportunity of doing so. “But I shall soon make opportunities!–” she thought, passionately; “I’m not going to be a shirker!” Aloud she said in her stiffest manner–“I stand by my friends, Mr. Winnington, especially when they are ten times better and nobler than I!”

His expression changed. He turned, like any courteous stranger, to playing the part of showman of the house. Once more a veil had fallen between them.

He led her through the great suite of rooms on the ground-floor, the drawing-room, the Red Parlour, the Chinese room, the Library. They recalled her childish visits to the house with her grandmother, and a score of recollections, touching or absurd, rushed into her mind–but not to her lips. Dumbness had fallen on her;–nothing seemed worth saying, and she hurried through. She was conscious only of a rich confused impression of old seemliness and mellowed beauty,–steeped in fragrant and famous memories, English history, English poetry, English art, breathing from every room and stone of the house. “In the Red Parlour, Sidney wrote part of the ‘Arcadia.’–In the room overhead Gabriel Harvey slept.–In the Porch rooms Chatham stayed–his autograph is there.–Fox advised upon all the older portion of the Library”–and so on. She heard Winnington’s voice as though through a dream. What did it matter? She felt the house an oppression–as though it accused or threatened her.

As they emerged from the library into a broad passage, Winnington noticed a garden door at the north end of the passage, and called to Daunt who was walking behind them. They went to look at it, leaving Delia in the corridor.

“Not very secure, is it?” said Winnington, pointing to the glazed upper half of the door–“anyone might get in there.”

“I’ve told Sir Wilfrid, Sir, and sent him the measurements. There’s to be an iron shutter.”

“H’m–that may take time. Why not put up something temporary?–cross-bars of some sort?”

They came back towards Delia, discussing it. Unreasonably, absurdly, she held it an offence that Winnington should discuss it in her presence; her breath grew stormy.

Daunt turned to the right at the foot of a carved staircase, and down a long passage leading to the kitchens, he and Winnington still talking. Suddenly–a short flight of steps, not very visible in a dark place. Winnington descended them, and then turned to look for Delia who was just behind–

“Please take care!–“

But he was too late. Head in air–absorbed in her own passionate mood, Delia never saw the steps, till her foot slipped on the topmost. She would have fallen headlong, had not Winnington caught her. His arms received her, held her, released her. The colour rushed into his face as into hers. “You are not hurt?” he said anxiously. “I ought to have held a light,” said Daunt, full of concern. But the little incident had broken the ice. Delia laughed, and straightened her Cavalier hat, which had suffered. She was still rosy as they entered Daunt’s kitchen, and the children who had seen her silent and haughty entrance, hardly recognised the creature all life and animation who returned to them.

The car stood waiting in the fore-court. Winnington put her in. As Delia descended the hill alone in the dark, she closed her eyes, that she might the more completely give herself to the conflict of thoughts which possessed her. She was bitterly ashamed and sore, torn between her passionate affection for Gertrude Marvell, and what seemed to her a weak and traitorous wish to stand better with Mark Winnington. Nor could she escape from the memory–the mere physical memory–of those strong arms round her, resent it as she might.

* * * * *

As for Winnington, when he reached home in the moonlight, instead of going in to join his sister at tea, he paced a garden path till night had fallen. What was this strong insurgent feeling he could neither reason with nor silence? It seemed to have stolen upon him, amid a host of other thoughts and pre-occupations, secretly and insidiously, till there it stood–full-grown–his new phantom self–challenging the old, the normal self, face to face.

Trouble, self-scorn overwhelmed him. Recalling all his promises to himself, all his assurances to Lady Tonbridge, he stood convicted, as the sentry who has shut his eyes and let the invader pass. Monstrous!–that in his position, with this difference of age between them, he should have allowed such ideas to grow and gather head. Beautiful wayward creature!–all the more beguiling, because of the Difficulties that bristled round her. His common sense, his judgment were under no illusions at all about Delia Blanchflower. And yet–

This then was _passion_!–which must be held down and reasoned down. He would reason it down. She must and should marry a man of her own generation–youth with youth. And, moreover, to give way to these wild desires would be simply to alienate her, to destroy all his own power with her for good.

The ghostly presence of his life came to him. He cried out to her, made appeal to her, in sackcloth and ashes. And then, in some mysterious, heavenly way she was revealed to him afresh; not as an enemy whom he had offended, not as a lover slighted, but as his best and tenderest friend. She closed no gates against the future:–that was for himself to settle, if closed they were to be. She seemed to walk with him, hand in hand, sister with brother–in a deep converse of souls.

Chapter XI

Gertrude Marvell was sitting alone at the Maumsey breakfast-table, in the pale light of a December day. All around her were letters and newspapers, to which she was giving an attention entirely denied to her meal. She opened them one after another, with a frown or a look of satisfaction, classifying them in heaps as she read, and occasionally remembering her coffee or her toast. The parlourmaid waited on her, but knew very well–and resented the knowledge–that Miss Marvell was scarcely aware of her existence, or her presence in the room.

But presently the lady at the table asked–

“Is Miss Blanchflower getting up?”

“She will be down directly, Miss.”

Gertrude’s eyebrows rose, unconsciously. She herself was never late for an 8:30 breakfast, and never went to bed till long after midnight. The ways of Delia, who varied between too little sleep and the long nights of fatigue, seemed to her self-indulgent.

After her letters had been put aside and the ordinary newspapers, she took up a new number of the _Tocsin_. The first page was entirely given up to an article headed “How LONG?” She read it with care, her delicate mouth tightening a little. She herself had suggested the lines of it a few days before, to the Editor, and her hints had been partially carried out. It gave a scathing account of Sir Wilfrid’s course on the suffrage question–of his earlier coquettings with the woman’s cause, his defection and “treachery,” the bitter and ingenious hostility with which he was now pursuing the Bill before the House of Commons. “An amiable, white-haired nonentity for the rest of the world–who only mention him to marvel that such a man was ever admitted to an English Cabinet–to us he is the ‘smiler with the knife,’ the assassin of the hopes of women, the reptile in the path. The Bill is weakening every day in the House, and on the night of the second reading it will receive its ‘coup de grace’ from the hand of Sir Wilfrid Lang. Women of England–_how long_!–“

Gertrude pushed the newspaper aside in discontent. Her critical sense was beginning to weary of the shrieking note. And the descent from the “assassin of the hopes of women” to “the reptile in the path” struck her as a silly bathos.

Suddenly, a reverie–a waking dream–fell upon her, a visionary succession of sights and sounds. A dying sunset–and a rising wind, sighing through dense trees–old walls–the light from a kitchen window–voices in the distance–the barking of a dog….

“Oh Gertrude!–how late I am!”

Delia entered hurriedly, with an anxious air.

“I should have been down long ago, but Weston had one of her attacks, and I have been looking after her.”

Weston was Delia’s maid who had been her constant companion for ten years. She was a delicate nervous woman, liable to occasional onsets of mysterious pain, which terrified both herself and her mistress, and had hitherto puzzled the doctor.

Gertrude received the news with a passing concern.

“Better send for France, if you are worried. But I expect it will be soon over.”

“I don’t know. It seems worse than usual. The man in Paris threatened an operation. And here we are–going up to London in a fortnight!”

“Well, you need only send her to the Brownmouth hospital, or leave her here with France and a good nurse.”

“She has the most absurd terror of hospitals, and I certainly couldn’t leave her,” said Delia, with a furrowed brow.

“You certainly couldn’t stay behind!” Gertrude looked up pleasantly.

“Of course I want to come–” said Delia slowly.

“Why, darling, how could we do without you? You don’t know how you’re wanted. Whenever I go up town, it’s the same–‘When’s she coming?’ Of course they understood you must be here for a while–but the heart of things, the things that concern _us_–is London.”

“What did you hear yesterday?” asked Delia, helping herself to some very cold coffee. Nothing was ever kept warm for her, the owner of the house; everything was always kept warm for Gertrude. Yet the fact arose from no Sybaritic tendency whatever on Gertrude’s part. Food, clothing, sleep–no religious ascetic could have been more sparing than she, in her demands upon them. She took them as they came–well or ill supplied; too pre-occupied to be either grateful or discontented. And what she neglected for herself, she equally neglected for other people.

“What did I hear?” repeated Gertrude. “Well, of course, everything is rushing on. There is to be a raid on Parliament as soon as the session begins–and a deputation to Downing Street. A number of new plans, and devices are being discussed. And there seemed to me to be more volunteers than ever for ‘special service’?”

She looked up quietly and her eyes met Delia’s;–in hers a steely ardour, in Delia’s a certain trouble.

“Well, we want some cheering up,” said the girl, rather wearily. “Those two last meetings were–pretty depressing!–and so were the bye-elections.”

She was thinking of the two open-air meetings at Brownmouth and Frimpton. There had been no violence offered to the speakers, as in the Latchford case; the police had seen to that. Her guardian had made no appearance at either, satisfied, no doubt, after enquiry, that she was not likely to come to harm. But the evidence of public disapproval could scarcely have been more chilling–more complete. Both her speaking, and that of Gertrude and Paul Lathrop, seemed to her to have dropped dead in exhausted air. An audience of boys and girls–an accompaniment of faint jeers, testifying rather to boredom than hostility–a sense of blank waste and futility when all was over:–her recollection had little else to shew.

Gertrude interrupted her thought.

“My dear Delia!–what you want is to get out of this backwater, and back into the main stream! Even I get stale here. But in those great London meetings–there one catches on again!–one realises again–what it all _means_! Why not come up with me next week, even if the flat’s not ready? I can’t have you running down like this! Let’s hurry up and get to London.”

The speaker had risen, and standing behind Delia, she laid her hand on the waves of the girl’s beautiful hair. Delia looked up.

“Very well. Yes, I’ll come. I’ve been getting depressed. I’ll come–at least if Weston’s all right.”

* * * * *

“I’m afraid, Miss Blanchflower, this is a very serious business!”

Dr. France was the speaker. He stood with his back to the fire, and his hands behind him, surveying Delia with a look of absent thoughtfulness; the look of a man of science on the track of a problem.

Delia’s aspect was one of pale consternation. She had just heard that the only hope of the woman, now wrestling upstairs with agonies of pain, lay in a critical and dangerous operation, for which at least a fortnight’s preliminary treatment would be necessary. A nurse was to be sent for at once, and the only question to be decided was where and by whom the thing was to be done.

“We _can_ move her,” said France, meditatively; “though I’d rather not. And of course a hospital is the best place.”

“She won’t go! Her mother died in a hospital, and Weston thinks she was neglected.”

“Absurd! I assure you,” said France warmly. “Nobody is neglected in hospitals.”

“But one can’t persuade her–and if she’s forced against her will, it’ll give her no chance!” said Delia in distress. “No, it must be here. You say we can get a good man from Brownmouth?”

They discussed the possibilities of an operation at Maumsey.

Insensibly the doctor’s tone during the conversation grew more friendly, as it proceeded. A convinced opponent of “feminism” in all its forms, he had thought of Delia hitherto as merely a wrong-headed, foolish girl, and could hardly bring himself to be civil at all to her chaperon, who in his eyes belonged to a criminal society, and was almost certainly at that very moment engaged in criminal practices. But Delia, absorbed in the distresses of someone she cared for, all heart and eager sympathy, her loveliness lending that charm to all she said and looked which plainer women must so frequently do without was a very mollifying and ingratiating spectacle. France began to think her–misled and unbalanced of course–but sound at bottom. He ended by promising to make all arrangements himself, and to go in that very afternoon to see the great man at Brownmouth.

When Delia returned to her maid’s room, the morphia which had been administered was beginning to take effect, and Weston, an elderly woman with a patient, pleasing face, lay comparatively at rest, her tremulous look expressing at once the keenness of the suffering past, and the bliss of respite. Delia bent over her, dim-eyed.

“Dear Weston–we’ve arranged it all–it’s going to be done here. You’ll be at home–and I shall look after you.”

Weston put out a clammy hand and faintly pressed Delia’s warm fingers–

“But you were going to London, Miss. I don’t want to put you out so.”

“I shan’t go till you’re out of the wood, so go to sleep–and don’t worry.”

* * * * *

“Delia!–for Heaven’s sake be reasonable. Leave Weston to France, and a couple of good nurses. She’ll be perfectly looked after. You’ll put out all out plans–you’ll risk everything!”

Gertrude Marvell had risen from her seat in front of a crowded desk. The secretary who generally worked with her in the old gun room, now become a militant office, had disappeared in obedience to a signal from her chief. Anger and annoyance were plainly visible on Gertrude’s small chiselled features.

Delia shook her head.

“I can’t!” she said. “I’ve promised. Weston has pulled _me_ through two bad illnesses–once when I had pneumonia in Paris–and once after a fall out riding. I daresay I shouldn’t be here at all, but for her. If she’s going to have a fight for her life–and Doctor France doesn’t promise she’ll get through–I shall stand by her.”

Gertrude grew a little sallower than usual as her black eyes fastened themselves on the girl before her who had hitherto seemed so ductile in her hands. It was not so much the incident itself that alarmed her as a certain new tone in Delia’s voice.

“I thought we had agreed–that nothing–_nothing_–was to come before the Cause!” she said quietly, but insistently.

Delia’s laugh was embarrassed.

“I never promised to desert Weston, Gertrude. I couldn’t–any more than I could desert you.”

“We shall want every hand–every ounce of help that can be got–through January and February. You undertook to do some office work, to help in the organisation of the processions to Parliament, to speak at a number of meetings–“

Delia interrupted.

“As soon as Weston is out of danger, I’ll go–of course I’ll go!–about a month from now, perhaps less. You will have the flat, Gertrude, all the same, and as much money as I can scrape together–after the operation’s paid for. I don’t matter a tenth part as much as you, you know I don’t; I haven’t been at all a success at these meetings lately!”

There was a certain young bitterness in the tone.

“Well, of course you know what people will say.”

“That I’m shirking–giving in? Well, you can contradict it.”

Delia turned from the window beside which she was standing to look at Gertrude. A pale December sunshine shone on the girl’s half-seen face, and on the lines of her black dress. A threatening sense of change, mingled with a masterful desire to break down the resistance offered, awoke in Gertrude. But she restrained the dictatorial instinct. Instead, she sat down beside the desk again, and covered her face with her hand.

“If I couldn’t contradict it–if I couldn’t be sure of you–I might as well kill myself,” she said with sudden and volcanic passion, though in a voice scarcely raised above its ordinary note.

Delia came to her impulsively, knelt down and put her arms round her.

“You know you can be sure of me!” she said, reproachfully.

Gertrude held her away from her. Her eyes examined the lovely face so close to her.

“On the contrary! You are being influenced against me.”

Delia laughed.

“By whom, please?”

“By the man who has you in his power–under our abominable laws.”

“By my guardian?–by Mark Winnington? Really! Gertrude! Considering that I had a fresh quarrel with him only last week–on your account–at Monk Lawrence–“

Gertrude released herself by a sudden movement.

“When were you at Monk Lawrence?”

“Why, that afternoon, when you were in town. I missed my train at Latchford, and took a motor home.” There was some consciousness in the girl’s look and tone which did not escape her companion. She was evidently aware that her silence on the incident might appear strange to Gertrude. However, she frankly described her adventure, Daunt’s surliness, and Winnington’s appearance.

“He arrived in the nick of time, and made Daunt let me in. Then, while we were going round, he began to talk about your speech, and wanted to make me say I was sorry for it. And I wouldn’t! And then–well, he thought very poorly of me–and we parted–coolly. We’ve scarcely met since. And that’s all.”

“What speech?” Gertrude was sitting erect now with queerly bright eyes.

“The speech about Sir Wilfrid–at Latchford.”

“What else does he expect?”

“I don’t know. But–well, I may as well say, Gertrude–to you, though I wouldn’t say it to him–that I–I didn’t much admire that speech either!”

Delia was now sitting on the floor with her hands round her knees, looking up. The slight stiffening of her face shewed that it had been an effort to say what she had said.

“So _you_ think that Lang ought to be approached with ‘bated breath and whispering humbleness’–just as he is on the point of trampling us and our cause into the dirt?”

“No–certainly not! But why hasn’t he as good a right to his opinion as we to ours–without being threatened with personal violence?”

Gertrude drew a long breath of amazement.

“I don’t quite see, Delia, why you ever joined the ‘Daughters’–or why you stay with them.”

“That’s not fair!”–protested Delia, the colour flooding in her cheeks. “As for burning stupid villas–that are empty and insured–or boathouses–or piers–or tea-pavilions, to keep the country in mind of us,–that’s one thing. But threatening _persons_ with violence–that’s–somehow–another thing. And as to villas and piers even–to be quite honest–I sometimes wonder, Gertrude!–I declare, I’m beginning to wonder! And why shouldn’t one take up one’s policy from time to time and look at it, all round, with a free mind? We haven’t been doing particularly well lately.”

Gertrude laughed–a dry, embittered sound–as she pushed the _Tocsin_ from her.

“Oh well, of course, if you’re going to desert us in the worst of the fight, and to follow your guardian’s lead–“

“But I’m not!” cried Delia, springing to her feet. “Try me. Haven’t I promised–a hundred things? Didn’t I say all you expected me to say at Latchford? And, on the whole”–her voice dragged a little–“the empty houses and the cricket pavilions–still seem to me fair game. It’s only–as to the good it does. Of course–if it were Monk Lawrence–“

“Well–if it were Monk Lawrence?”

“I should think that a crime! I told you so before.”

“Why?”

Delia looked at her friend with a contracted brow.

“Because–it’s a national possession! Lang’s only the temporary owner–the trustee. We’ve no right to destroy what belongs to _England_.”

Gertrude laughed again–as she rose from the tea-table.

“Well, as long as women are slaves, I don’t see what England matters to them. However, don’t trouble yourself. Monk Lawrence is all right. And Mr. Winnington’s a charmer–we all know that.”

Delia flushed angrily. But Gertrude, having gathered up her papers, quietly departed, leaving her final shaft to work.

Delia went back to her own sitting-room, but was too excited, too tremulous indeed, to settle to her letters. She had never yet found herself in direct collision with Gertrude, impetuous as her own temper was. Their friendship had now lasted nearly three years. She looked back to their West Indian acquaintance, that first year of adoration, of long-continued emotion,–mind and heart growing and blossoming together. Gertrude, during that year, had not only aroused her pupil’s intelligence; she had taught a motherless girl what the love of women may be for each other. To make Gertrude happy, to be approved by her, to watch her, to sit at her feet–the girl of nineteen had asked nothing more. Gertrude’s accomplishments, her coolness, her self-reliance, the delicate precision of her small features and frame, the grace of her quiet movements, her cold sincerity, the unyielding scorns, the passionate loves and hates that were gradually to be discovered below the even dryness of her manner,–by these Delia had been captured; by these indeed, she was still held. Gertrude was to her everything that she herself was not. And when her father had insisted on separating her from her friend, her wild resentment, and her girlish longing for the forbidden had only increased Gertrude’s charm tenfold.

The eighteen months of their separation, too, had coincided with the rise of that violent episode in the feminist movement which was represented by the founding and organisation of the “Daughters” society. Gertrude though not one of the first contrivers and instigators of it, had been among the earliest of its converts. Its initial successes had been the subject of all her letters to Delia; Delia had walked on air to read them. At last the world was moving, was rushing–and it seemed that Gertrude was in the van. Women were at last coming to their own; forcing men to acknowledge them as equals and comrades; and able to win victory, not by the old whining and wheedling, but by their own strength. The intoxication of it filled the girl’s days and nights. She thought endlessly of processions and raids, of street-preaching, or Hyde Park meetings. Gertrude went to prison for a few days as the result of a raid on Downing Street. Delia, in one dull hotel after another, wearily following her father from “cure” to “cure,” dreamed hungrily and enviously of Gertrude’s more heroic fate. Everything in those days was haloed for her–the Movement, its first violent acts, what Gertrude did, and what Gertrude thought–she saw it all transfigured and aflame.

And now, since her father’s death, they had been four months together–she and her friend–in the closest intimacy, sharing–or so Delia supposed–every thought and every prospect. Delia for the greater part of that time _had_ been all glad submission and unquestioning response. It was quite natural–absolutely right–that Gertrude should command her house, her money, her daily life. She only waited for Gertrude’s orders; it would be her pride to carry them out. Until–

What had happened? The girl, standing motionless beside her window, confessed to herself, as she had not been willing to confess to Gertrude, that something _had_ happened–some change of climate and temperature in her own life.

In the first place, the Movement was not prospering. Why deny it? Who could deny it? Its first successes were long past; its uses as advertisement were exhausted; the old violences and audacities, as they were repeated, fell dead. The cause of Woman Suffrage had certainly not advanced. Check after check had been inflicted on it. The number of its supporters in the House of Commons had gone down and down. By-elections were only adding constantly to the number of its opponents.

“Well, what then?”–said the stalwarts of the party–“More outrages, more arson, more violence! We _must_ win at last!” And, meanwhile, blowing through England like a steadily increasing gale, could be felt the force of public anger, public condemnation.

Delia since her return to England had felt the chill of it, for the first time, on her own nerves and conscience. For the first time she had winced–morally–even while she mocked at her own shrinking.

Was that Gertrude pacing outside? The day was dark and stormy. But Gertrude, who rarely took a walk for pleasure, scarcely ever missed the exercise which was necessary to keep her in health. Her slight figure, wrapped in a fur cape, paced a sheltered walk. Her shoulders were bent, her eyes on the ground. Suddenly it struck Delia that she had begun to stoop, that she looked older and thinner than usual.

“She is killing herself!”–thought the girl in a sudden anguish–“killing herself with work and anxiety. And yet she always says she is so strong. What can I do? There is nobody that matters to her–nobody!–but me!”

And she recalled all she knew–it was very little–of Gertrude’s personal history. She had been unhappy at home. Her mother, a widow, had never been able to get on with her elder daughter, while petting and spoiling her only son and her younger girl, who was ten years Gertrude’s junior. Gertrude had been left a small sum of money by a woman friend, and had spent it in going to a west-country university and taking honours in history. She never spoke now of either her mother or her sister. Her sister was married, but Gertrude held no communication with her or her children. Delia had always felt it impossible to ask questions about her, and believed, with a thrilled sense of mystery, that some tragic incident or experience had separated the two sisters. Her brother also, it seemed, was as dead to her. But on all such personal matters Gertrude’s silence was insuperable, and Delia knew no more of them than on the first day of their meeting.

Indomitable figure! Worn with effort and struggle–worn above all with _hating_. Delia looked at it with a sob in her throat. Surely, surely, the great passion, the great uplifting faith they had felt in common, was vital, was true! Only, somehow, after the large dreams and hopes of the early days, to come down to this perpetual campaign of petty law-breaking, and futile outrage, to these odious meetings and shrieking newspapers, was to be–well, discouraged!–heart-wearied.

“Only, she is not wearied, or discouraged!” thought Delia, despairingly. “And why am I?”

Was it hatefully true–after all–that she was being influenced–drawn away?

The girl flushed, breathing quick. She must master herself!–get rid of this foolish obsession of Winnington’s presence and voice–of a pair of grave, kind eyes–a look now perplexed, now sternly bright–a personality, limited no doubt, not very accessible to what Gertrude called “ideas,” not quick to catch the last new thing, but honest, noble, tender, through and through.

Absurd! She was holding her own with him; she would hold her own. That very day she must grapple with him afresh. She had sent him a note that morning, and he had replied in a message that he would ride over to luncheon.

For the question of money was urgent. Delia was already overdrawn. Yet supplies were wanted for the newly rented flat, for Weston’s operation, for Gertrude’s expenses in London–for a hundred things.

She paced up and down, imagining the conversation, framing eloquent defences for her conduct, and again, from time to time, meanly, shamefacedly reminding herself of Winnington’s benefit under the will. If she was a nuisance, she was at least a fairly profitable nuisance.

* * * * *

Winnington duly arrived at luncheon. The two ladies appeared to him as usual–Gertrude Marvell, self-possessed and quietly gay, ready to handle politics or books, on so light a note, that Winnington’s acute recollection of her, as the haranguing fury on the Latchford waggon, began to seem absurd even to himself. Delia also, lovely, restless, with bursts of talk, and more significant bursts of silence, produced on him her normal effect–as of a creature made for all delightful uses, and somehow jangled and out of tune.

After luncheon, she led the way to her own sitting-room. “I am afraid I must talk business,” she said abruptly as she closed the door and stood confronting him. “I am overdrawn, Mr. Winnington, and I must have some more money.”

Winnington laid down his cigarette, and looked at her in open-mouthed amazement.

“Overdrawn!–but–we agreed–“

“I know. You gave me what you thought was ample. Well, I have spent it, and there is nothing left to pay house bills, or servants with, or–or anything.”

Her pale defiance gave him at once a hint of the truth.

“I fear I must ask what it has been spent on,” he said, after a pause.

“Certainly. I gave £500 of it in one cheque to Miss Marvell. Of course you will guess how it has been spent.”

Winnington took up his cigarette again, and smoked it thoughtfully. His colour was, perhaps, a little higher than usual.

“I am sorry you have done that. It makes it rather awkward both for you and for me. Perhaps I had better explain. The lawyers have been settling the debts on your father’s estate. That took a considerable sum. A mortgage has been paid off, according to directions in Sir Robert’s will. And some of the death duties have been paid. For the moment there is no money at all in the Trust account. I hope to have replenished it by the New Year, when I understood you would want fresh funds.”

He sat on the arm of a chair and looked at her quietly.

Delia made no attempt at explanation or argument. After a short silence, she said–

“What will you do?”

“I must, of course, lend you some of my own.”

Delia flushed violently.

“That is surely absurd, Mr. Winnington! My father left a large sum!”

“As his trustee I can only repeat that until some further securities are realised–which may take a little time–I have no money. But _you_ must have money–servants and tradesmen can’t go unpaid. I will give you, therefore, a cheque on my own bank–to replace that £500.”

He drew his cheque book from his breast pocket. Delia was stormily walking up and down. It struck him sharply, first that she was wholly taken by surprise; and next that shock and emotion play finely with such a face as hers. He had never seen her so splendid. His own pulses ran.

“This–this is not at all what I want, Mr. Winnington! I want my own money–my father’s money! Why should I distress and inconvenience you?”

“I have tried to explain.”

“Then let the lawyers find it somehow. Aren’t they there to do such things?”

“I assure you this is simplest. I happen”–he smiled–“to have enough in the bank. Alice and I can manage quite well till January!”

The mention of Mrs. Matheson was quite intolerable in Delia’s ears. She turned upon him–

“I can’t accept it! You oughtn’t to ask it.”

“I think you must accept it,” he said with decision. “But the important question with me is–the further question–am I not really bound to restore this money to your father’s estate?”

Delia stared at him bewildered.

“What _do_ you mean!”

“Your father made me his trustee in order that I might protect his money–from uses of which he disapproved–and protect you, if I could, from actions and companions he dreaded. This £500 has gone–where he expressly wished it not to go. It seems to me that I am liable, and that I ought to repay.”

Delia gasped.

“I never heard anything so absurd!”

“I will consider it,” he said gravely. “It is a case of conscience. Meanwhile”–he began to write the cheque–“here is the money. Only, let me warn you, dear Miss Delia,–if this were repeated, I might find myself embarrassed. I am not a rich man!”

Silence. He finished writing the cheque, and handed it to her. Delia pushed it away, and it dropped on the table between them.

“It is simply tyranny–monstrous tyranny–that I should be coerced like this!” she said, choking. “You must feel it so yourself! Put yourself in my place, Mr. Winnington.”

“I think–I am first bound–to try and put myself in your father’s place,” he said, with vivacity. “Where has that money gone, Miss Delia?”

He rose, and in his turn began to pace the little room. “It has been proved, in evidence, that a great deal of this outrage is _paid_ outrage–that it could not be carried on without money–however madly and fanatically devoted, however personally disinterested the organisers of it may be–such as Miss Marvell. You have, therefore, taken your father’s money to provide for this payment–payment for all that his soul most abhorred. His will was his last painful effort to prevent this being done. And yet–you have done it!”

He looked at her steadily.

“One may seem to do evil”–she panted–“but we have a faith, a cause, which justifies it!”

He shook his head sadly,

Delia sat very still, tormented by a score of harassing thoughts. If she could not provide money for the “Daughters” what particular use could she be to Gertrude, or Gertrude’s Committee? She could speak, and walk in processions, and break up meetings. But so could hundreds of others. It was her fortune–she knew it–that had made her so important in Gertrude’s eyes. It had always been assumed between them that a little daring and a little adroitness would break through the meshes of her father’s will. And how difficult it was turning out to be!

At that moment, an idea occurred to her. Her face, responsive as a wave to the wind, relaxed. Its sullenness disappeared in sudden brightness–in something like triumph. She raised her eyes. Their tremulous, half whimsical look set Winnington wondering what she could be going to say next.

“You seem to have beaten me,” she said, with a little nod–“or you think you have.”

“I have no thoughts that you mightn’t know,” was the quiet reply.

“You want me to promise not to do it again?”

“If you mean to keep it.”

As he stood by the fire, looking down upon her rather sternly–she yet perceived in his grey eyes, something of that expression she had seen there at their first meeting–as though the heart of a good man tried to speak to her. The same expression–and yet different; with something added and interfused, which moved her strangely.

“Odd as it may seem, I will keep it!” she said. “Yet without giving up any earlier purpose, or promise, whatever.” Each word was emphasized.

His face changed.

“I won’t worry _you_ in any such way again,” she added hastily and proudly.

Some other words were on her lips, but she checked them. She held out her hand for the cheque, and the smile with which she accepted it, after her preceding passion, puzzled him.

She locked up the cheque in a drawer of her writing-table. Winnington’s horse passed the window, and he rose to go. She accompanied him to the hall door and waved a light farewell. Winnington’s response was ceremonious. A sure instinct told him to shew no further softness. His dilemma was getting worse and worse, and Lady Tonbridge had been no use to him whatever.

Chapter XII

One of the first days of the New year rose clear and frosty. When the young housemaid who had temporarily replaced Weston as Delia’s maid drew back her curtains at half-past seven, Delia caught a vision of an opaline sky with a sinking moon and fading stars. A strewing of snow lay on the ground, and the bare black trees rose, vividly separate, on the white stretches of grass. Her window looked to the north along the bases of the low range of hills which shut in the valley and the village. A patch of paler colour on the purple slope of the hills marked the long front of Monk Lawrence.

As she sleepily roused herself, she saw her bed littered with dark objects–two leather boxes of some size, and a number of miscellaneous cases–and when the maid had left the room, she lay still, looking at them. They were the signs and symbols of an enquiry she had lately been conducting into her possessions, which seemed to her to have yielded very satisfactory results. They represented in the main the contents of a certain cupboard in the wall of her bedroom where Lady Blanchflower had always kept her jewels, and where, in consequence, Weston had so far locked away all that Delia possessed. Here were all her own girlish ornaments–costly things which her father had given her at intervals during the three or four years since her coming out; here were her Mother’s jewels, which Sir Robert had sent to his bankers after his wife’s death, and had never seen again during his lifetime; and here were also a number of family jewels which had belonged to Delia’s grandmother, and had remained, after Lady Blanchflower’s death, in the custody of the family lawyers, till Delia, to whom they had been left by will, had appeared to claim them.

Delia had always known that she possessed a quantity of valuable things, and had hitherto felt but small interest in them. Gertrude’s influence, and her own idealism had bred in her contempt for gauds. It was the worst of breeding to wear anything for its mere money value; and nothing whatever should be worn that wasn’t in itself beautiful. Lady Blanchflower’s taste had been, in Delia’s eyes, abominable; and her diamonds,–tiaras, pendants and the rest–had absolutely nothing to recommend them but their sheer brute cost. After a few glances at them, the girl had shut them up and forgotten them.

But they _were_ diamonds, and they must be worth some thousands.

It was this idea which had flashed upon her during her last talk with Winnington, and she had been brooding over it, and pondering it ever since. Winnington himself was away. He and his sister had been spending Christmas with some cousins in the midlands. Meanwhile Delia recognised that his relation to her had been somewhat strained. His letters to her on various points of business had been more formal than usual; and though he had sent her a pocket Keats for a Christmas present, it had arrived accompanied merely by his “kind regards” and she had felt unreasonably aggrieved, and much inclined to send it back. His cheque meanwhile for £500 had gone into Delia’s bank. No help for it–considering all the Christmas bills which had been pouring in! But she panted for the time when she could return it.

As for his threat of permanently refunding the money out of his own pocket, she remembered it with soreness of spirit. Too bad!

Well, there they lay, on the counterpane all round her–the means of checkmating her guardian. For while she was rummaging in the wall-safe, the night before, suddenly the fire had gone down, and the room had sunk to freezing point. Delia, brought up in warm climates, had jumped shivering into bed, and there, heaped round with the contents of the cupboard, had examined a few more cases, till sleep and cold overpowered her.

In the grey morning light she opened some of the cases again. Vulgar and ugly, if you like–but undeniably, absurdly worth money! Her dark eyes caught the sparkle of the jewels running through her fingers. These tasteless things–mercifully–were her own–her very own. Winnington had nothing to say to them! She could wear them–or give them–or sell them, as she pleased.

She was alternately exultant, and strangely full of a fluttering anxiety. The thought of returning Winnington’s cheque was sweet to her. But her disputes with him had begun to cost her more than she had ever imagined they could or would. And the particular way out, which, a few weeks before, she had so impatiently desired–that he should resign the guardianship, and leave her to battle with the Court of Chancery as best she could–was no longer so attractive to her. To be cherished and cared for by Mark Winnington–no woman yet, but had found it delightful. Insensibly Delia had grown accustomed to it–to his comings and goings, his business-ways, abrupt sometimes, even peremptory, but informed always by a kindness, a selflessness that amazed her. Everyone wanted his help or advice, and he must refuse now–as he had never refused before–because his time and thoughts were so much taken up with his ward’s affairs. Delia knew that she was envied; and knew also that the neighbours thought her an ungrateful, unmanageable hoyden, totally unworthy of such devotion.

She sat up in bed, dreaming, her hands round her knees. No, she didn’t want Winnington to give her up! Especially since she had found this easy way out. Why should there be any more friction between them at all? All that _he_ gave her henceforward should be religiously spent on the normal and necessary things. She would keep accounts if he liked, like any good little girl, and shew them up. Let him do with the trust fund exactly what he pleased. For a long time at any rate, she could be independent of it. Why had she never thought of such a device before?

But how to realise the jewels? In all business affairs, Delia was the merest child. She had been brought up in the midst of large expenditure, of which she had been quite unconscious. All preoccupation with money had seemed to her mean and pettifogging. Have it!–and spend it on what you want. But wants must be governed by ideas–by ethical standards. To waste money on personal luxury, on eating, drinking, clothes, or any form of mere display, in such a world as Gertrude Marvell had unveiled to her, seemed to Delia contemptible and idiotic. One must have _some_ nice clothes–some beauty in one’s surroundings–and the means of living as one wished to live. Otherwise, to fume and fret about money, to be coveting instead of giving, buying and bargaining, instead of thinking–or debating–was degrading. She loathed shopping. It was the drug which put women’s minds to sleep.

Who would help her? She pondered. She would tell no one till it was done; not even Gertrude, whose cold, changed manner to her hurt the girl’s proud sense to think of.

“I must do it properly–I won’t be cheated!”

The London lawyers? No. The local solicitor, Mr. Masham? No! Her vanity was far too keenly conscious of their real opinion of her, through all their politeness.

Lady Tonbridge? No! She was Mark Winnington’s intimate friend–and a constitutional Suffragist. At the notion of consulting her,–on the means of providing funds for “militancy”–Delia sprang out of bed, and went to her dressing, dissolved in laughter.

And presently–sobered again, and soft-eyed–she was stealing along the passage to Weston’s door for a word with the trained nurse who was now in charge. Just a week now–to the critical day.

* * * * *

“Is Miss Marvell, in? Ask if she will see Mr. Lathrop for a few minutes?”

Paul Lathrop, left to himself, looked round Delia’s drawing-room. It set his teeth on edge. What pictures–what furniture! A certain mellowness born of sheer time, no doubt–but with all its ugly ingredients still repulsively visible. Why didn’t the heiress burn everything and begin again? Was all her money to be spent on burning other people’s property, when her own was so desperately in need of the purging process–or on dreary meetings and unreadable newspapers? Lathrop was already tired of these delights; his essentially Hedonist temper was re-asserting itself. The “movement” had excited and interested him for a time; had provided besides easy devices for annoying stupid people. He had been eager to speak and write for it, had persuaded himself that he really cared.

But now candour–and he was generally candid with himself–made him confess that but for Delia Blanchflower he would already have cut his connection with the whole thing. He thought with a mixture of irony and discomfort of his “high-falutin” letter to her.

“And here I am–hanging round her”–he said to himself, as he strolled about the room, peering through his eye-glass at its common vases, and trivial knick-knacks–“just because Blaydes bothers me. I might as well cry for the moon. But she’s worth watching, by Jove. One gets copy out of her, if nothing else! I vow I can’t understand why my dithyrambs move her so little–she’s dithyrambic enough herself!”

The door opened. He quickly pulled himself together. Gertrude Marvell came in, and as she gave him an absent greeting, he was vaguely struck by some change in her aspect, as Delia had long been. She had always seemed to him a cold half-human being, in all ordinary matters. But now she was paler, thinner, more remote than ever. “Nerves strained–probably sleepless–” he said to himself. “It’s the pace they will live at–it kills them all.”

This kind of comment ran at the back of his brain, while he plunged into the “business”–which was his pretence for calling. Gertrude, as a District Organizer of the League of Revolt, had intrusted him with the running of various meetings in small places, along the coast, for which it humiliated him to remember that he had agreed to be paid. For at his very first call upon them, Miss Marvell had divined his impecunious state, and pounced upon him as an agent,–unknown, he thought, to Miss Blanchflower. He came now to report what had been done, and to ask if the meetings should be continued.

Gertrude Marvell shook her head.

“I have had some letters about your meetings. I doubt whether they have been worth while.”

Miss Marvell’s manner was that of an employer to an employee. Lathrop’s vanity winced.

“May I know what was wrong with them?”

Gertrude Marvell considered. Her gesture, unconsciously judicial, annoyed Lathrop still further.

“Too much argument, I hear,–and too little feeling. Our people wanted more about the women in prison. And it was thought that you apologised too much for the outrages.”

The last word emerged quite simply, as the only fitting one.

Lathrop laughed,–rather angrily.

“You must be aware, Miss Marvell, that the public thinks they want defence.”

“Not from us!” she said, with energy. “No one speaking for us must ever apologise for militant acts. It takes all the heart out of our people. Justify them–glory in them–as much as you like.”

There was a pause.

“Then you have no more work for me?” said Lathrop at last.

“We need not, I think, trouble you again. Your cheque will of course be sent from head-quarters.”

“That doesn’t matter,” said Lathrop, hastily.

The reflection crossed his mind that there is an insolence of women far more odious than the insolence of men.

“After all they are our inferiors! It doesn’t do to let them command us,” he thought, furiously.

He rose to take his leave.

“You are going up to London?”

“I am going. Miss Blanchflower stays behind, because her maid is ill.”

He stood hesitating. Gertrude lifted her eyebrows as though he puzzled her. She never had liked him, and by now all her instincts were hostile to him. His clumsy figure, and slovenly dress offended her, and the touch of something grandiose in his heavy brow, and reddish-gold hair, seemed to her merely theatrical. Her information was that he had been no use as a campaigner. Why on earth did he keep her waiting?

“I suppose you have heard some of the talk going about?” he said at last, shooting out the words.

“What talk?”

“They’re very anxious about Monk Lawrence–after your speech. And there are absurd stories. Women have been seen–at night–and so on.”

Gertrude laughed.

“The more panic the better–for us.”

“Yes–so long as it stops there. But if anything happened to that place, the whole neighbourhood would turn detective–myself included.”

He looked at her steadily. She leant one thin hand on a table behind her.

“No one of course would have a better chance than you. You are so near.”

Their eyes crossed. “By George!” he thought–“you’re in it. I believe to God you’re in it.”

And at that moment he felt that he hated the willowy, intangible creature who had just treated him with contempt.

But as they coldly touched hands, the door opened again, and Delia appeared.

“Oh I didn’t mean to interrupt–” she said, retreating.

“Come in, come in!” said Gertrude. “We have finished our business–and Mr. Lathrop I am sure will excuse me–I must get some letters off by post–“

And with the curtest of bows she disappeared.

“I have brought you a book, Miss Blanchflower,” Lathrop nervously began, diving into a large and sagging pocket. “You said you wanted to see Madame de Noailles’ second volume.”

He brought out “Les Éblouissements,” and laid it on the table beside her. Delia thanked him, and then, all in a moment, as she stood beside him, a thought struck her. She turned her great eyes full upon him, and he saw the colour rushing into her cheeks.

“Mr. Lathrop!”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Lathrop–I–I dreadfully want some practical advice. And I don’t know whom to ask.”

The soreness of his wounded self-love vanished in a moment.

“What can I do for you?” he asked eagerly. And at once his own personality seemed to expand, to throw off the shadow of something ignoble it had worn in Gertrude’s presence. For Delia, looking at him, was attracted by him. The shabby clothes made no impression upon her, but the blue eyes did. And the childishness which still survived in her, beneath all her intellectualisms, came impulsively to the surface.

“Mr. Lathrop, do you–do you know anything about jewelry?”

“Jewelry? Nothing!–except that I have dabbled in pretty things of that sort as I have dabbled in most things. I once did some designing for a man who set up–in Bond Street–to imitate Lalique. Why do you ask? I suppose you have heaps of jewels?”

“Too many. I want to sell some jewels.”

“Sell?–But–” he looked at her in astonishment.

She reddened still more deeply; but spoke with a frank charm.

“You thought I was rich? Well, of course I ought to be. My father was rich. But at present I have nothing of my own–nothing! It is all in trust–and I can’t get at it. But I _must_ have some money! Wait here a moment!”

She ran out of the room. When she came back she was carrying a miscellaneous armful of jewellers’ cases. She threw them down on the sofa.

“They are all hideous–but I am sure they’re worth a great deal of money.”

And she opened them with hasty fingers before his astonished eyes. In his restless existence he had accumulated various odd veins of knowledge, and he knew something of the jewelry trade of London. He had not only drawn designs, he had speculated–unluckily–in “De Beers.” For a short time Diamonds had been an obsession with him, then Burmah rubies. He had made money out of neither; it was not in his horoscope to make money out of anything. However there was the result–a certain amount of desultory information.

He took up one piece after another, presently drawing a magnifying glass out of his pocket to examine them the better.

“Well, if you want money–” he said at last, putting down a _rivière_ which had belonged to Delia’s mother–“That alone will give you some thousands!”

Delia’s eyes danced with satisfaction–then darkened.

“That was Mamma’s. Papa bought it at Constantinople–from an old Turkish Governor–who had robbed a province–spent the loot in Paris on his wives–and then had to disgorge half his fortune–to the Sultan–who got wind of it. Papa bought it at a great bargain, and was awfully proud of it. But after Mamma died, he sent it to the Bank, and never thought of it again. I couldn’t wear it, of course–I was too young.”

“How much money do you want?”

“Oh, a few thousands,” said Delia, vaguely. “Five hundred pounds, first of all.”

“And who will sell them for you?”

She frowned in perplexity.

“I–I don’t know.”

“You don’t wish to ask Mr. Winnington?”

“Certainly not! They have nothing to do with him. They are my own personal property,” she added proudly.

“Still he might object–Ought you not to ask him?”

“I shall not tell him!” She straightened her shoulders. “He has far too much bother on my account already.”

“Of course, if I could do anything for you–I should be delighted. But I don’t know why you should trust me. You don’t know anything about me!” He laughed uncomfortably.

Delia laughed too–in some confusion. It seemed to him she suddenly realised she had done something unusual.

“It is very kind of you to suggest it–” she said, hesitating.

“Not at all. It would amuse me. I have some threads I can pick up still–in Bond Street. Let me advise you to concentrate on that _rivière_. If you really feel inclined to trust me, I will take it to a man I know; he will show it to–” he named a famous firm. “In a few days–well, give me a week–and I undertake to bring you proposals. If you accept them, I will collect the money for you at once–or I will return you the necklace, if you don’t.”

Delia clasped her hands.

“A week! You think it might all be finished in a week?”

“Certainly–thereabouts. These things–” he touched the diamonds–“are practically money.”

Delia sat ruminating, with a bright excited face. Then a serious expression returned. She looked up.

“Mr. Lathrop, this ought to be a matter of business between us–if you do me so great a service?”

“You mean I ought to take a commission?” he said, calmly. “I shall do nothing of the kind.”

“It is more than I ought to accept!” she cried. “Let your kindness–include what I wish.”

He shook his fair hair impatiently.

“Why should you take away all my pleasure in the little adventure?”

She looked embarrassed. He went on–

“Besides we are comrades–we have stood together in the fight. I expect this is for the Cause! If so I ought to be angry that you even suggested it!”

“Don’t be angry!” she said gravely. “I meant nothing unkind. Well, I thank you very much–and there are the diamonds.”

She gave him the case, with a quiet deliberate movement, as if to emphasize her trust in him. The simplicity with which it was done pricked him uncomfortably. “I’m no thief!–” he thought angrily. “She’s safe enough with me. All the same, if she knew–she wouldn’t speak to me–she wouldn’t admit me into her house. She doesn’t know–and I am a cad!”

“You can’t the least understand what it means to be allowed to do you a service!” he said, with emotion.

But the tone evidently displeased her. She once more formally thanked him; then sprang up and began to put the cases on the sofa together. As she did so, steps on the gravel outside were heard through the low casement window. Delia turned with a start, and saw Mark Winnington approaching the front door.

“Don’t say anything _please_!” she said urgently. “This has nothing to do with my guardian.”

And opening the door of a lacquer cabinet, she hurriedly packed the jewelry inside with all the speed she could. Her flushed cheek shewed her humiliated by the action.

* * * * *

Winnington stood in the doorway, silent and waiting. After a hasty greeting to the new-comer, Delia was nervously bidding Lathrop good-bye.

“In a week!” he said, under his breath, as she gave him her hand.

“A week!” she repeated, evidently impatient for him to be gone. He exchanged a curt bow with Winnington, and the door closed on him.

There was a short silence. Winnington remained standing, hat in hand. He was in riding dress–a commanding figure, his lean face reddened, and the waves of his grizzled hair slightly loosened, by a buffeting wind. Delia, stealing a glance at him, divined a coming remonstrance, and awaited it with a strange mixture of fear and pleasure. They had not met for ten days; and she stammered out some New Year’s wishes. She hoped that he and Mrs. Matheson had enjoyed their visit.

But without any reply to her politeness, he said abruptly–

“Were you arranging some business with Mr. Lathrop?”

She supposed he was thinking of the militant Campaign.

“Yes,” she said, eagerly. “Yes, I was arranging some business.”

Winnington’s eyes examined her.

“Miss Delia, what do you know about that man?–except that story–which I understand Miss Marvell told you.”

“Nothing–nothing at all! Except–except that he speaks at our meetings, and generally gets us into hot water. He has a lot of interesting books–and drawings–in his cottage; and he has lent me Madame de Noailles’ poems. Won’t you sit down? I hope you and Mrs. Matheson have had a good time? We have been to church–at least I have–and given away lots of coals and plum-puddings–at least I have. Gertrude thought me a fool. We have had the choir up to sing carols in the servants’ hall, and given them a sovereign–at least I did. And I don’t want any more Christmas–for a long, long, time!”

And with that, she dropped into a chair opposite Winnington, who sat now twirling his hat and studying the ground.

“I agree with you,” he said drily when she paused. “I felt when I was away that I had better be here. And I feel it now doubly.”

“Because?”

“Because–if my absence has led to your developing any further acquaintance with the gentleman who has just left the room, when I might have prevented it, I regret it deeply.”

Delia’s cheeks had gone crimson again.

“You knew perfectly well Mr. Winnington, that we had made acquaintance with Mr. Lathrop! We never concealed it!”

“I knew, of course, that you were both members of the League, and that you had spoken at meetings together. I regretted it–exceedingly–and I asked you–in vain–to put an end to it. But when I find him paying a morning call here–and lending you books–that is a very different matter!”

Delia broke out–

“You really are _too_ Early-Victorian, Mr. Winnington!–and I can’t help being rude. Do you suppose you can ever turn me into a bread-and-butter miss? I have looked after myself for years–you don’t understand!” She faced him indignantly.

Winnington laughed.

“All right–so long as the Early Victorians may have their say. And my say about Mr. Lathrop is–again that he is not a fit companion for you, or any young girl,–that he is a man of blemished character–both in morals and business. Ask anybody in this neighbourhood!”

He had spoken with firm emphasis, his eyes sparkling.

“Everybody in the neighbourhood believes anything bad, about him–and us!” cried Delia.

“Don’t, for Heaven’s sake, couple yourself, and the man–together!” said Winnington, flushing with anger. “I know nothing about him, when you first arrived here. Mr. Lathrop didn’t matter twopence to me before. Now he does matter.”

“Why?” Delia’s eyes were held to his, fascinated.

“Simply because I care–I care a great deal–what happens to you,” he said quietly, after a pause. “Naturally, I must care.”

Delia looked away, and began twisting her black sash into knots.

“Bankruptcy–is not exactly a crime.”

“Oh, so you knew that farther fact about him? But of course–it is the rest that matters. Since we spoke of this before, I have seen the judge who tried the case in which this man figured. I hate speaking of it in your presence, but you force me. He told me it was one of the worst he had ever known–a case for which there was no defence or excuse whatever.”

“Why must I believe it?” cried Delia impetuously. “It’s a man’s judgment! The woman may have been–Gertrude says she was–horribly unhappy and ill-treated. Yet nothing could be proved–enough to free her. Wait till we have women judges–and women lawyers–then you’ll see!”

He laughed indignantly–though not at all inclined to laugh. And what seemed to him her stubborn perversity drove him to despair.

“In this case, if there had been a woman judge, I am inclined to think it would have been a good deal worse for the people concerned. At least I hope so. Don’t try to make me believe, Miss Delia, that women are going to forgive treachery and wickedness more easily than men!”

“Oh, ‘treachery!’–” she murmured, protesting. His look both intimidated and drew her. Winnington came nearer to her, and suddenly he laid his hand on both of hers. Looking up she was conscious of a look that was half raillery, half tenderness.

“My dear child!–I must call you that–though you are so clever–and so–so determined to have your own way. Look here! I’m going to plead my rights. I’ve done a good deal for you the last three months–perhaps you hardly know all that has been done. I’ve been your watch-dog–put it at that. Well, now give the watch-dog, give the Early-Victorian, his bone! Promise me that you will have no more dealings with Mr. Lathrop. Send him back his books–and say ‘Not at Home!'”

She was really distressed.

“I can’t, Mr. Winnington!–I’m so sorry!–but I can’t.”

“Why can’t you?” He still held her.

A score of thoughts flew hither and thither in her brain. She had asked a great favour of Lathrop–she had actually put the jewels into his hands! How could she recall her action? And when he had done her such a service, if he succeeded in doing it–how was she to turn round on him, and cut him the very next moment?

Nor could she make up her mind to confess to Winnington what she had done. She was bent on her scheme. If she disclosed it _now_ everything might be upset.

“I really _can’t!_” she repeated, gravely, releasing her hands.

Winnington rose, and began to pace the drawing room. Delia watched him–quivering–an exquisite vision herself, in the half lights of the room.

When he paused at last to speak, she saw a new expression in his eyes.

“I shall have to think this over, Miss Blanchflower–perhaps to reconsider my whole position.”

She was startled, but she kept her composure.

“You mean–you may have–after all–to give me up?”

He forced a very chilly smile.

“You remember–you asked me to give you up. Now if it were only one subject–however important–on which we disagreed, I might still do my best, though the responsibility of all you make me connive at is certainly heavy. But if you are entirely to set at defiance not only my advice and wishes as to this illegal society to which you belong, and as to the violent action into which I understand you may be led when you go to town, but also in such a matter as we have just been discussing–then indeed, I see no place for me. I must think it over. A guardian appointed by the Court might be more effective–might influence you more.”

“I told you I was a handful,” said Delia, trying to laugh. But her voice sounded hollow in her own ears.

He offered no reply–merely repeating “I must think it over!”–and resolutely changing the subject, he made a little perfunctory conversation on a few matters of business–and was gone.

After his departure, Delia sat motionless for half an hour at least, staring at the fire. Then suddenly she sprang up, went to the writing-table, and sat down to write–

“Dear Mr. Mark–Don’t give me up! You don’t know. Trust me a little! I am not such a fiend as you think. I am grateful–I am indeed. I wish to goodness I could show it. Perhaps I shall some day. I hadn’t time to tell you about poor Weston–who’s to have an operation–and that I’m not going to town with Gertrude–not for some weeks at any rate. I shall be alone here, looking after Weston. So I can’t disgrace or worry you for a good while any way. And you needn’t fret about Mr. Lathrop–you needn’t _really_! I can’t explain–not just yet–but it’s all right. Mayn’t I come and help with some of your cripple children? or the school? or something? If Susy Amberly can do it, I suppose I can–I’d like to. May I sign myself–though I _am_ a handful-“

“Yours affectionately,
DELIA BLANCHFLOWER.”

She sat staring at the paper, trembling under a stress of feeling she could not understand–the large tears in her eyes.

Chapter XIII

“Pack the papers as quickly as you can–I am going to town this afternoon. Whatever can’t be packed before then, you can bring up to me tomorrow.”

A tired girl lifted her head from the packing-case before which she was kneeling.

“I’ll do my best, Miss Marvell–But I’m afraid it will be impossible to finish to-day.” And she looked wearily round the room laden with papers–letters, pamphlets, press-cuttings–on every available table and shelf.

Gertrude gave a rather curt assent. Her reason told her the thing was impossible; but her will chafed against the delay, which her secretary threatened, of even a few hours in the resumption of her work in London, and the re-housing of all its tools and materials. She was a hard mistress; though no harder on her subordinates than she was on herself.

She began to turn her own hand to the packing, and missing a book she