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  • 1914
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“I think it is so,” he said, steadily. “That is how I read it!”

She gave a sob–quickly repressed. Then she violently mastered herself.

“If it were true–I can’t marry you. I won’t be treacherous–nor a coward. And I won’t ruin your life. Dear Mr. Mark–it’s quite, quite impossible. Let’s never talk of it again.”

And straightening all her slender body, she faced him with that foolish courage, that senseless heroism, which women have so terribly at command.

So far, however from obliging her, he broke into a tempest of discussion bringing to bear upon her all the arguments that love or common sense dictated. If she really cared for him at all, if she even thought it possible she might care, was she going to refuse all help–all advice–from one to whom she had grown so dear?–to whom everything she did was now of such vital, such desperate importance? He pleaded for himself–guessing it to be the more hopeful way.

“It’s been a lonely life, Delia, till you came! And now you’ve filled it. For God’s sake, listen to me! Let me protect you, dear–let me advise you–trust yourself to me. Do you imagine I should want to dictate to you–or tyrannise over you? Do you imagine I don’t sympathise with your faiths, your ideals–that I don’t feel for women–what they suffer–what they endure–in this hard world? Delia, we’d work together!–it mightn’t be always in the same way–nor always with the same opinions–but we’d teach–we’d help each other. Your own conscience–your own mind–I see it plainly–have turned against this horrible campaign–and the woman who’s led you into it. How she’s treated you! Would any friend, any real _friend_ have left you alone through this Weston business? And you’ve given her everything–your house, your money, yourself! It makes me _mad_. I do implore you to break with her–as gently, as generously as you like–but _free yourself_! And then!”–he drew a long breath–“what a life we’d make together!” He sat down beside her. Under the strong overhanging brows, his grey eyes still pleaded with her–silently.

But she was just strong enough, alas!–the poor child!–to resist him. She scarcely replied; but her silence held the gate–against his onslaughts. And at last she tottered to her feet.

“Mr. Mark–dear Mr. Mark!–let me go!”

Her voice, her aspect struck him dumb. And before he could rally his forces again, the door shut, and she was gone.

Chapter XVI

“So I mustn’t argue any more?” said Lady Tonbridge, looking at Delia, who was seated by her guest’s fire, and wore the weary aspect of one who had already been argued with a good deal.

Madeleine’s tone was one of suppressed exasperation. Exasperation rather with the general nature of things than with Delia. It was difficult to be angry with one whose perversity made her so evidently wretched. But as to the “intolerable woman” who had got the girl’s conscience–and Winnington’s happiness–in her power, Lady Tonbridge’s feelings were at a white heat. How to reason with Delia, without handling Gertrude Marvell as she deserved—there was the difficulty.

In any case, Delia was unshakeable. If Weston were really out of danger–Dr. France was to bring over the Brownmouth specialist on Monday–then that very afternoon, or the next morning, Delia must and would go to London to join Gertrude Marvell. And six days later Parliament would re-assemble under the menace of raids and stone-throwings, to which the _Tocsin_ had been for weeks past summoning “The Daughters of Revolt,” throughout the country, in terms of passionate violence. In those proceedings Delia had apparently determined to take her part. As to this Lady Tonbridge had not been able to move her in the least.

The case for Winnington seemed indeed for the moment desperate. After his scene with Delia, he had left the Abbey immediately, and Lady Tonbridge, though certain that something important–and disastrous–had happened, would have known nothing, but for a sudden confession from Delia, as the two ladies sat together in the drawing-room after dinner. Delia had abruptly laid down her book, with which she was clearly only trifling–in order to say–

“I think I had better tell you at once that my guardian asked me to marry him, this afternoon, and I refused.”

Since this earthquake shock, Madeleine Tonbridge could imagine nothing more unsatisfactory than the conversations between them which had begun in the drawing-room, and lingered on till, now, at nearly midnight, sheer weariness on both sides had brought them to an end. When Madeleine had at last thrown up argument as hopeless, Delia with a face of carven wax, and so handsome through it all that Lady Tonbridge could have beaten her for sheer vexation, had said a quiet goodnight and departed.

But she was _in love with him_, the foolish, obstinate child!–wildly, absorbingly in love with him! The fact was tragically evident, in everything she said, and everything she left unsaid.

The struggle lay then between her loyalty to her friend, the passionate loyalty of woman to woman, so newly and strangely developed by the Suffrage movement, and Winnington’s advancing influence,–the influence of a man equipped surely with all the means of victory–character, strength, charm–over the girl’s heart and imagination. He must conquer!

And yet Madeleine Tonbridge, staring into the ashes of a dwindling fire, had never persuaded herself–incorrigible optimist that she was–to so little purpose.

What _was_ there at the back of the girl’s mind? Something more than appeared; though what appeared was bad enough. One seemed at times to catch a glimpse of some cloaked and brooding Horror, in the dim background of the girl’s consciousness, and overshadowing it. What more likely indeed, with this wild campaign sweeping through the country? She probably knew or suspected things that her moral sense condemned, to which she was nevertheless committed.

“We shall end by proving all that the enemy says of us; we shall give our chance away for a generation!”

“Do for Heaven’s sake keep the young lady at home!”

The speaker was Dr. France. After seeing his patient, dismissing the specialist, and spending half an hour _tête-à-tête_ with Delia, he came down to see Lady Tonbridge in a state that in any one else would have been a state of agitation. In him all that appeared was a certain hawkish glitter in the eye, and a tendency to pull and pinch a scarcely existing moustache. But Madeleine, who knew him well, understood that he was just as much at feud with the radical absurdity of things as she was.

“No one can keep her at home. Delia is of age,” she said, rising to meet him, with a face as serious as his own.

“If she gets into prison, and hunger-strikes, she’ll injure herself! She’s extraordinarily run down with this business of Weston’s. I don’t believe she could stand the sheer excitement of what she proposes to do.”

“She’s told you?”

“Quite enough. If she once goes up to town–if she once gets into that woman’s clutches, no one can tell what will happen. Oh, you women–you women!” And the doctor walked tigerishly up and down the room. “That some of the cleverest and wisest of you can stoop to dabbling in a business like this! Upon my word it’s an eye-opener!–it pulls one up. And you think you can drive men by such antics! The more you smash and burn, the more firmly goes down the male foot–yes, and the female too!”

And the doctor, with a glare, and a male foot as firm as he could make it, came to a stop beside Lady Tonbridge–who looked at him coolly.

“Excellent!–but no concern of mine. I’m not a militant. I want the vote just as much as Delia does!” said Lady Tonbridge, firmly. “Don’t forget that.”

“No, you don’t–you don’t! Excuse me. You are a reasonable woman.”

“Half the reasonable women in England want the vote. Why shouldn’t I have a vote–as well as you?”

“Because, my dear lady–” the doctor smote the table with his hand for emphasis–“because the parliamentary vote means the government _of men by men_–without which we go to pieces. And you propose now to make it include the government of men by women–which is absurd!–and if you try it, will only break up the only real government that exists, or can exist!”

“Oh!–‘physical force,'” said Madeleine, contemptuously, with her nose in the air.

“Well–did I–did you–make the physical difference between men and women? Can we unmake it?” “We are governed by discussion–not by force.”

“Are we? Look at South Africa–look at Ulster–look at the labour troubles that have been, and are to be. And then you women come along with your claim to the vote! What are you doing but breaking up all the social values–weakening all the foundations of the social edifice! Woe!–to you women especially–when you teach men to despise the vote–when men come to know that behind the paper currency of a vote which may be a man’s or a woman’s, there is nothing but an opinion–bad or good! At present, I tell you, the great conventions of democracy hold because there is reality of bone and muscle behind them! Break down that reality–and sooner or later we come back to force again–through bloodshed and anarchy!”

“Inevitable–all the same!” cried Madeleine. “Why did you ever let us taste education?–if you are to deny us for ever political equality?”

“Use your education, my dear Madam!” said the doctor, indignantly. “Are there not many roads to political equality?–many forms of government within government, that may be tried, before you insist on ruining us by doing men’s work in the men’s way? Hasn’t it taken more than a hundred years to settle that Irish question, which began with the Union? Is it a hundred years since it was a hanging matter to steal a handkerchief off a hedge? Can’t you give us a hundred years for the Woman Question? Sixty years only, since the higher education of women began! Isn’t the science of government developing every day? Women have got, you say, to be fitted into government–I agree! I _agree_! But _don’t rush it_! Claim everything–what you like!–except only that sovereign vote, which controls, and must control, the male force of an Empire!”

“Jove’s thunder!” scoffed Lady Tonbridge. “Well–my dear old friend!–you and I shan’t agree–you know that. Now what can I do for Delia?”

“Nothing,” said France gloomily. “Unless some one goes up to watch over her.”

“Her guardian will go,” said Madeleine quietly, after a pause.

They eyed each other.

“You’re sure?” said France.

“Quite sure–though I’ve not said a word to him–nor he to me.”

“All right then–she’s worth it! By George, she’s got the makings of something splendid in her. I tell you she’s had as much to do as any of us with saving the life of that woman upstairs. Courage?–tenderness?–‘not arf.'”

The slangy term shewed the speaker’s desire to get rid of his own feelings. He had, at any rate, soon smothered them, and he and Lady Tonbridge, their chairs drawn close, fell into a very confidential discussion. France was one of those country doctors, not rare fortunately in England, in whom a whole neighbourhood confides, whom a whole neighbourhood loves; all the more if a man betrays a fair allowance of those gnarls and twists of character, of strong prejudices, and harmless manias, which enable the common herd to take him to their bosoms. Dr. France was a stamp-collector, a player–indifferent–on the cornet, a rabid Tory, and a person who could never be trusted to deal faithfully and on C.O.S. principles with tramps and “undesirables.” Such things temper the majesty of virtue, and make even the good human.

He had known and prescribed for Winnington since he was a boy in knickers; he was particularly attached to Lady Tonbridge. What he and Madeleine talked about is not of great importance to this narrative; but it is certain that France left the house in much concern for a man he loved, and a girl who, in the teeth of his hottest beliefs, had managed to touch his feelings.

Delia spent the day in packing. Winnington made no sign. In the afternoon,–it was a wet Saturday afternoon–Lady Tonbridge sitting in the drawing-room, saw the science mistress of the Dame Perrott School coming up the drive. Madeleine knew her as a “Daughter,” and could not help scowling at her–unseen.

She was at once admitted however, and spent a short time with Delia in the Library.

And when Miss Jackson closed the Library door behind her on her way out of the house, Delia broke the seal of a letter which had been given into her hands:–

“I am very sorry, my dear Delia, you should have taken these silly reports so much to heart. You had better dismiss them from your mind. I have given no such orders as you suppose–nor has the Central Office. The plan you found referred to something quite different–I really can’t remember what. I can’t of course be responsible for all the ‘Daughters’ in England, but I have much more important business to think of just now than the nonsense Mr. Lathrop seems to have been stuffing you with. As to W—–L—–, it would only be worth while to strike at him, if our affairs _go wrong_–through him. At present, I am extraordinary hopeful. We are winning every day. People see that we are in earnest, and mean to succeed–at whatever cost.

“I am glad you are coming up on Monday. You will find the flat anything but a comfortable or restful place,–but that you will be prepared for. Our people are amazing!–and we shall get into the House on Thursday, or know the reason why.

“For the money you sent, and the money you promise–best thanks. Everybody is giving. It is the spirit of the Crusader, ‘Dieu le veult!'”

“Your affectionate
G. M.”

Delia read and re-read it. It was the first time Gertrude had deliberately tried to deceive her, and the girl’s heart was sore. Even now, she was not to be trusted–“now that I am risking everything–_everything_!” And with the letter in her lap, she sat and thought of Winnington’s face, as he had turned to look at her, before leaving the drawing-room the night before.

* * * * *

The day passed drearily. The hills and trees were wrapped in a damp fog, and though the days were lengthening fast, the evening closed like November. Madeleine thought with joy of getting back to her tiny house and her Nora. Nora, who was not yet out, seemed to have been enjoying a huge success in the large cousinly party with whom she had been spending the Christmas holidays. “But it’s an odd place, Mummy. In the morning we ‘rag’; and the rest of the day we talk religion. Everybody is either Buddhist or ‘Bahai’–if that’s the right way to spell it. It sounds odd, but it seems to be a very good way of getting on with young men.”

Heavens! What did it matter how you played the old game, or with what counters, so long as it was played?

And as Lady Tonbridge watched the figure of Delia gliding through the house, wrapped in an estranging silence, things ancient and traditonal returned upon her in flood, and nothing in the world seemed worth having but young love and happy marriage!–if you could get them! She–and her heart knew its bitterness–had made the great throw and lost.

* * * * *

Sunday passed in the same isolation. But on Sunday afternoon Delia took the motor out alone, and gave no reason either before or after.

“If she’s gone out to meet that man, it’s a scandal!” thought Madeleine wrathfully, and could hardly bring herself to be civil when the girl returned–pale, wearied, and quite uncommunicative. But she was very touching in a mute, dignified way, all the evening, and Madeleine relented fast. And, as they sat in the fire-lit drawing-room, when the curtains were drawn, Delia suddenly brought a stool close to Lady Tonbridge’s side, and, sitting at her feet, held up appealing arms. Madeleine, with a rush of motherliness, gathered her close; and the beautiful head lay, very quiet, on her breast. But when she would have entreated, or argued, again, Delia implored her–“Don’t–don’t talk!–it’s no good. Just let me stay.”

Late that night, all being ready for departure, Delia went in to say good-night, and good-bye to Weston.

“You’ll be downstairs and as strong as a horse, when I come back,” she said gaily, stroking the patient’s emaciated fingers.

Weston shook her head.

“I don’t think I shall ever be good for much, Miss Delia. But”–and her voice suddenly broke–“I believe I’d go through it all again–just to know–what–you could be–to a poor thing–like me.”

“Weston!–” said Delia, softly–“if you talk like that–and if you dare to cry, Nurse will turn me out. You’re going to get quite well, but whether you’re well or ill, here you stay, Miss Rosina Weston!–and I’m going to look after you. Polly hasn’t packed my things half badly.” Polly was the under-housemaid, whom Delia was taking to town. “She wouldn’t be worth her salt, if she hadn’t,” said Weston tartly. “But she can’t do your hair, Miss–and it’s no good saying she can.”

“Then I’ll do it myself. I’ll make some sort of a glorious mess of it, and set the fashion.”

But her thought said–“If I go to prison, they’ll cut it off. Poor Weston!”

Weston moved uneasily–

“Miss Delia?”


“Don’t you go getting yourself into trouble. Now don’t you!” And with tears in her eyes, the ghostly creature pressed the girl’s hand to her lips. Delia stooped and kissed her. But she made no reply. Instead she began to talk of the new bed-rest which had just been provided for Weston, and on which the patient professed herself wonderfully comfortable.

“It’s better than the one we had at Meran–for papa.” Her voice dropped. She sat at the foot of Weston’s bed looking absently into some scene of the past.

“Nothing ever gave him ease–your poor Papa!” said Weston, pitifully. “He did suffer! But don’t you go thinking about it this time of night, Miss Delia, or you won’t sleep.”

Delia said goodnight, and went away. But she did think of her father–with a curious intensity. And when she fell fitfully asleep, she dreamt that she saw him standing beside her in some open foreign place, and that he looked at her in silence, steadily and coldly. And she stretched out her hands, in a rush of grief–“Kiss me, father! I was unkind–horribly–horribly unkind!”

With the pain of it, she woke suddenly and the visualising sense seemed still to perceive in the darkness the white head and soldierly form. She half rose, gasping. Then, as though a photographic shutter were let down, the image passed from the brain, and she lay with heaving breast, trying to find her way back into what we call reality. But it was a reality even more wretched than those recollections to which her dream had recalled her. For it was held and possessed by Winnington, and now by the threatening vision of Monk Lawrence, spectral amid the red ruin of fire. She had stopped the motor that day at the foot of the hill on which the house stood, and using Winnington’s name, had made a call on the cripple child. Daunt had received her with a somewhat gruff civility, and was not communicative about the house and its defence. But she gathered–without herself broaching the subject–that he was scornfully confident of his power to protect it against “them creeping women,” and she had come home comforted. The cripple child had clung to her silently; and on coming away, Delia had felt a small wet kiss upon her hand. A touching creature!–with her wide blue eyes, and delicate drawn face. It was feared that another abscess might be developing in the little hip, where for a time disease had been quiescent.

* * * * *

On Monday morning the doctors came early. They gave a favourable verdict, and Delia at once decided on an afternoon train.

All the morning, Lady Tonbridge hovered round her, loth to take her own departure, and trying every now and then to re-open the subject of London, to make the girl promise to send for her–to consult Winnington, if any trouble arose.

But Delia would not allow any discussion. “I shall be with Gertrude–she’ll tell me what to do,” was all she would say.

Lady Tonbridge was dropped at her own door by Delia, on her way to the station. Nora was there to welcome her, but not all their joy in recovering each other, could repair Madeleine’s cheerfulness. She stood, looking after the retreating car with such a face that Nora exclaimed–

“Mother, what _is_ the matter!”

“I’m watching the tumbril out of sight,” said Lady Tonbridge incoherently. “Shall we ever see her again?”

That, however, was someone else’s affair.

Delia took her own and her housemaid’s tickets for London, saw her companion established, and then, preferring to be alone, stepped into an empty carriage herself. She had hardly disposed her various packages, and the train was within two minutes of starting, when a tall man came quickly along the platform, inspecting the carriages as he passed. Delia did not see him till he was actually at her window. In another moment he had opened and closed the door, and had thrown down his newspapers and overcoat on the seat. The train was just starting, and Delia, crimson, found herself mechanically shaking hands with Mark Winnington.

“You’re going up to town?” She stammered it. “I didn’t know–“

“I shall be in town for a few days. Are you quite comfortable? A footwarmer?”

For the day was cold and frosty, with a bitter east wind.

“I’m quite warm, thank you.”

The train ran out of the station, and they were soon in the open country. Delia leant back in her seat, silent, conscious of her own hurrying pulses, but determined to control them. She would have liked to be indignant–to protest that she was being persecuted and coerced. But the recollection of their last meeting, and the sheer, inconvenient, shameful, joy of his presence there, opposite, interposed.

Winnington himself was quite cool; there were no signs whatever of any intention to renew their Friday’s conversation. His manner and tone were just as usual. Some business at the Home Office, connected with his County Council work, called him to town. He should be staying at his Club in St. James’s St. Alice Matheson also would be in town.

“Shall we join for a theatre, one night?” he asked her.

She felt suddenly angered. Was she never to be believed, never to be taken seriously?

“To-morrow, Mr. Mark, is the meeting of Parliament.”

“That I am aware of.”

“The day after, I shall probably be in prison!”

She fronted him bravely, though, as he saw, with an effort. He paused a moment, but showed no astonishment.

“I hope not. I think not,” he said, quietly.

Delia took up the evening paper she had just bought at the station, opened it, and looked at the middle page.

“There are our plans,” she said, defiantly, handing it to him.

“Thank you. I have already seen it.”

But he again read through attentively the paragraph to which she pointed him. It was headed “Militant Plans for To-morrow.” A procession of five hundred women was to march on the Houses of Parliament, at the moment of the King’s Speech. “We insist”–said the Manifesto issued from the offices of the League of Revolt–“upon our right of access to the King, or failing His Majesty, to the Prime Minister. We mean business and we shall be armed.”

Winnington pointed to the word “armed.”

“With stones–I presume?”

“Well, not revolvers, I hope!” said Delia. “I should certainly shoot myself.”

Tension broke up in slightly hysterical laughter. She was already in better spirits. There was something exciting–exhilarating even–in the duel between herself and Winnington, which was implied in the conversation. His journey up to town, the look in his grey eyes meant–“I shall prevent you from doing what you are intending to do.” But he could not prevent it. If he was the breakwater, she was the storm-wave, driven by the gale–by the wind from afar, of which she felt herself the sport, and sometimes the victim–without its changing her purpose in the least.

“Only I shall not refuse food!” she thought. “I shall spare him that. I shall serve my sentence. It won’t be long.”

But afterwards? Would she then be free? Free to follow Gertrude or not, according to her judgment? Would she have “purged” her promise–paid her shot–recovered the governance of herself?

Her thoughts discussed the future, when, all in a moment, Winnington, watching her from behind his _Times_, saw a pale startled look. It seemed to be caused by something in the landscape. He turned his eyes to the window and saw that they were passing an old manor house, with a gabled front, standing above the line, among trees. What could that have had to do with the sudden contraction of the beautiful brow, the sudden look of terror–or distress? The house had a certain resemblance to Monk Lawrence. Had it reminded her of that speech in the Latchford marketplace from which he was certain she had recoiled, no less than he?

“You’ll let me take you to the flat? I’ve been over it once, but I should like to see it’s in order.”

She hesitated, but how could she refuse? He put her into a taxi, having already dispatched her maid with the luggage in another, and they started.

“I expect you’ll find a lot of queer people there!” she said, trying to laugh. “At least you’ll think them queer.”

“I shall like to see the people you are working with,” he said, gravely.

Half way to Westminster, he turned to her.

“Miss Delia!–it’s my plain duty to tell you–again–and to keep on telling you, even though it makes you angry, and even though I have no power to stop you, that in taking part in these doings to-morrow, you are doing a wrong thing, a grievously wrong thing! If I were only an ordinary friend, I should try to dissuade you with all my might. But I represent your father–and you know what he would have felt.”

He saw her lips tremble. But she spoke calmly, “Yes,–I know. But it can’t be helped. We can’t agree, Mr. Mark, and it’s no good my trying to explain, any more–just yet!–” she added, in a lower tone.

“‘Just yet’? What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that some time,–perhaps sometime soon–I shall be ready to argue the whole thing with you–what’s right and what’s wrong. Now I can’t argue–I’m not free to. Don’t you see–‘Ours not to make reply,–ours but to do, or die.'” Her smile flashed out. “There’s not going to be any dying about it however–you know that as well as I do.” Then with a touch of mockery she bent towards him. “You won’t persuade me, Mr. Mark, that you take us very seriously! But I’m not angry at that–I’m not angry–at anything!”

And her face, as he scanned it, melted–changed–became all soft sadness, and deprecating appeal. Never had she seemed to him so fascinating. Never had he felt himself so powerless. He thought, despairingly–“If I had her to myself, I could take her in my arms, and make her give way!”

But here were the first signs of arrival–a narrow Westminster street–a towering group of flats. The taxi stopped, and Winnington jumped out.

Chapter XVII

Delia’s luggage was brought in by the hall porter, and she and Winnington stood waiting for the lift. Meanwhile Winnington happened to notice, through the open door of the mansions, a couple of policemen standing just outside, on the pavement, and two others on the further side of the street. It seemed to him they were keeping the house which Delia and he had just entered under observation.

The lift descended. There were in it four women, all talking eagerly in subdued tones. One was grey-haired, the others were quite young girls. The strained, excited look on all their faces struck Winnington sharply as they emerged from the lift. One of the girls looked curiously at Delia and her tall companion. The grey-haired lady’s attention was caught by the policeman outside. She gave a little chuckle.

“We shall have plenty to do with those gentry to-morrow!” she said to the girl beside her, drawing her cloak round her so that it displayed a black and orange badge.

Delia approached her.

“Is Miss Marvell here?”

They all stopped and eyed her.

“Yes, she’s upstairs. She’s just come back from the Central. But she’s very busy,” said the elder lady. “She won’t see you without an appointment.”

One of the girls suddenly looked at Delia, and whispered to the speaker.

“Oh, I see!” said that lady, vaguely. “Are you Miss Blanchflower?”


“I beg your pardon. Miss Marvell’s expecting you of course. Do make her rest a bit if you can. She’s simply _splendid_! She’s going to be one of our great leaders. I’m glad you won’t miss it after all. You’ve been delayed, haven’t you?–by somebody’s illness. Well, it’s going magnificently! We shall make Parliament listen–at last. Though they’ll protect themselves no doubt with any number of police–cowards!”

The eyes of the speaker, as her face came into the light of the hall lamp, sparkled maliciously. She seemed to direct her words especially to Winnington, who stood impassive. Delia turned to the lift, and they ascended.

They were admitted, after much ringing. A bewildered maid looked at Delia, and the luggage behind her, as though she had never heard of her before. And the whole flat in the background seemed alive with voices and bustle. Winnington lost patience.

“Tell this man, please, where to take Miss Blanchflower’s luggage at once. And where is the drawing-room?”

“Are you going to stay, Miss?” said the girl. “There’s only the small bedroom vacant.”

Delia burst out laughing–especially at the sight of Winnington’s irate countenance.

“All right. It’ll do quite well. Now tell me where Miss Marvell is.”

“I mustn’t interrupt her, Miss.”

“This is my flat,” said Delia, good-humouredly–“so I think you must. And please shew Mr. Winnington the drawing-room.”

The girl, with an astonished face, opened a door for Winnington, into a room filled with people, and then–unwillingly–led Delia along the passage.

Winnington looked round him in bewilderment. He had entered, it seemed, upon a busy hive of women. The room was full, and everybody in it seemed to be working at high pressure. A young lady at a central table was writing telegrams as fast as possible, and handing them to a telegraph clerk who was waiting. Two typewriters were busy in the further corners. A woman, with a sharply clever face, was writing near by, holding her pad on her knee, while a printer’s boy, cap in hand, was sitting by her waiting for her “copy.” Two other women were undoing and sorting rolls of posters. Winnington caught the head-lines–“Women of England, strike for your liberties!” “Remember our martyrs in prison!”–“Destroy property–and save lives!” “If violence won freedom for men, why not for women!” And in the distance of the room were groups in eager discussion. A few had maps in their hands, and others note-books, in which they took down the arrangements made. So far as their talk reached Winnington’s ears, it seemed to relate to the converging routes of processions making for Parliament Square.

“How do you do, Mr. Winnington,” said a laughing voice, as a daintily-dressed woman, with fair fluffy hair came towards him.

He recognised the sister of a well-known member of Parliament, a lady who had already been imprisoned twice for window-breaking in Downing Street.

“Who would have thought to see you here!” she said, gaily, as they shook hands.

“Surprising–I admit! I came to see Miss Blanchflower settled in her flat. But I seem to have stumbled into an office.”

“The Central Office simply couldn’t hold the work. We were all in each other’s way. So yesterday, by Miss Marvell’s instructions, some of us migrated here. We are only two streets from the central.”

“Excellent!” said Winnington. “But it might perhaps have been well to inform Miss Blanchflower.”

The flushed babyish face under the fashionable hat looked at him askance. Lady Fanny’s tone changed–took a sharpened edge.

“Miss Blanchflower–you may be quite sure–will be as ready as anyone else to make sacrifices for the cause. But we don’t expect _you_ to understand that!”

“Nobody can doubt your zeal, Lady Fanny.”

“Only my discretion? Oh, I’ve long left that to take care of itself. What are you here for?”

“To look after my ward.”

Lady Fanny eyed him again.

“Of course! I had forgotten. Well, she’ll be all right.”

“What are you really preparing to do to-morrow?”

“Force our way into the House of Commons!”

“Which means–get into an ugly scrimmage with the police, and put your cause back another few years?”

“Ah! I can’t talk to you, if you talk like that! There isn’t time,” she threw back, with laughing affectation, and nodding to him, she fluttered off to a distant table where a group of girls were busy making black and orange badges. But her encounter with him seemed to have affected the hive. Its buzz sank, almost ceased.

Winnington indeed suddenly discovered that all eyes were fixed upon him–that he was being closely and angrily observed. He was conscious, quickly and strangely conscious, of an atmosphere of passionate hostility, as though a pulse of madness ran through the twenty or thirty women present. Meredithian lines flashed into memory–

“Thousand eyeballs under hoods
Have you by the hair–“

and a shock of inward laughter mingled in his mind with irritation for Delia–who was to have no place apparently in her own flat for either rest or food–and the natural wish of a courteous man not to give offense. At the same moment, he perceived on one of the tables a heap of new and bright objects; and saw at once that they were light hammers, fresh from the ironmongers. Near them lay a pile of stones, and two women were busily casing the stones in a printed leaflet. But he had no sooner become aware of these things than several persons in the room moved so as to stand between him and them.

He went back into the passage, closing the door behind him.

The little parlour-maid came hurriedly from the back regions carrying a tray on which was tea and bread and butter.

“Are you taking that to Miss Blanchflower?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Shew me the way, please.”

Winnington followed her, and she, after a scared look, did not attempt to stop him.

She paused outside a door, and instantly made way for him. He knocked, and at the “Come in” he entered, the maid slipping in after him with the tea.

Two persons rose startled from their seats–Delia and Gertrude Marvell. He had chanced upon the dining-room, which no less than the drawing-room had been transformed into an office and a store-room. Masses of militant literature, copies of the _Tocsin_, books and Stationery covered the tables, while, on the wall opposite the door, a large scale map of the streets in the neighbourhood of the Houses of Parliament had been hung over a picture.

It seemed to him that Delia looked ill and agitated. He walked up to her companion, and spoke with vivacity–

“Miss Marvell!–I protest altogether against your proceedings in this house! I protest against Miss Blanchflower’s being drawn into what is clearly intended to be an organised riot, which may end in physical injury, even in loss of life–which will certainly entail imprisonment on the ringleaders. If you have any affection for Delia you will advise her to let me take her to my sister, who is in town to-night, at Smith’s Hotel, and will of course most gladly look after her.”

Gertrude, who seemed to him somehow to have dwindled and withered into an elderly woman since he had last seen her, looked him over from head to foot with a touch of smiling insolence, and then turned quietly to Delia.

“Will you go, Delia?”

“No!” said Delia, throwing back her beautiful head. “No! This is my place, Mr. Mark. I’m very sorry–but you must leave me here. Give my love to Mrs. Matheson.”

“Delia!” He turned to her imploringly. But the softness she had shewn on the journey had died out of her face. She stood resolved, and some cold dividing force seemed to have rolled between them.

“I don’t see what you can do, Mr. Winnington,” said Gertrude, still smiling. “I have pointed that out to you before. As a matter of fact Delia will not even be living here on money provided by you at all. She has other resources. You have no hold on her–no power–that I can see. And she wishes to stay with me. I think we must bid you good night. We are very busy.”

He stood a moment, looking keenly from one to the other, at Gertrude’s triumphant eyes blazing from her emaciated face, at Delia’s exalted, tragic air. Then, with a bow, and in silence, he left the room, and the house.

* * * * *

It was quite dark when he emerged on Milbank Street. All the neighbourhood of the Houses of Parliament and the Abbey seemed to be alive with business and traffic. But Palace Yard was still empty save for a few passing figures, and there was no light on the Clock Tower. A placard on the railings of the Square caught his notice–“Threatened Raid on the House of Commons. Police precautions.” At the same moment he was conscious that a policeman standing at the corner of the House of Commons had touched his hat to him, grinning broadly. Winnington recognised a Maumsey man, whom he had befriended in various ways, who owed his place indeed in the Metropolitan force to Winnington’s good word.

“Hullo, Hewson–how are you? Flourishing?”

The man’s face beamed again. He was thinking of a cricket match the year before under Winnington’s captaincy. Like every member of the eleven, he would have faced “death and damnation” for the captain.

They walked along the man’s beat together. A thought struck Winnington.

“You seem likely to have some disturbance here tomorrow?” he said, as they neared Westminster Bridge.

“It’s the ladies, Sir. They do give a lot of trouble!” Winnington laughed–paused–then looked straight at the fine young man who was evidently so glad to see him.

“Look here, Hewson–I’ll tell you something–keep it to yourself! There’ll be a lady in that procession to-morrow whom I don’t want knocked about. I shall be here. Is there anything you can do to help me? I shall try and get her out of the crowd. Of course I shall have a motor here.”

Hewson looked puzzled, but eager. He described where he was likely to be stationed, and where Winnington would probably find him. If Mr. Winnington would allow him, he would tip a wink to a couple of mates, who could be trusted–and if he could do anything to help, why, he would be “rare pleased” to do it.

“But I’m afraid it’ll be a bad row, Sir. There’s a lot of men coming–from Whitechapel–they say.”

Winnington nodded and walked on. He went to his club, and dined there, refusing a friend’s invitation to go and dine with him at home. And after dinner, as the best means of solitude, he went out again into the crowded streets, walking aimlessly. The thought of Delia arrested–refused bail–in a police cell–or in prison–tormented him. All the traditional, fastidious instincts of his class and type were strong in him. He loathed the notion of any hand laid upon her, of any rough contact between her clean youth, and the brutalities of a London crowd. His blood rushed at the thought of it. The mere idea of any insult offered her made him murderous.

He turned down Whitehall, and at a corner near Dover House he presently perceived a small crowd which was being addressed by a woman. She had brought a stool with her, and was standing on it. A thin slip of a girl, with a childish, open face and shrill voice. He went up to listen to her, and stood amazed at the ignorant passion, the reckless violence of what she was saying. It seemed indeed to have but little effect upon her hearers. Men joined the crowd for a few minutes, listened with upturned impassive faces, and went their way. A few lads attempted horse-play, but stopped as a policeman approached; and some women carrying bundles propped them against a railing near, and waited, lifting tired eyes, and occasionally making comments to each other. Presently, it appeared to Winnington that the speaker was no more affected by her own statements–appalling as some of them were–than her hearers. She appeared to be speaking from a book–to have just learnt a lesson. She was then a paid speaker? And yet he thought not. Every now and then phrases stood out–fiercely sincere–about the low wages of women, their exclusion from the skilled trades, the marriage laws, the exploiting and “selling” of women, and the like. And always, in the background of the girl’s picture, the hungry and sensual appetites of men, lying in wait for the economic and physical weakness of the woman.

He waited until she had finished. Then he helped her down from her perch, and made a way for her through the crowd. She looked at him in astonishment. “Thank you, Sir,–don’t trouble! Last night I was pelted with filth. Are you one of us?”

He shook his head, smiling.

“I didn’t agree with you. I advise you to look up some of those things you said. But you speak very well. Good-night.”

She looked at him angrily, gathered up her skirt with a rattle, in a small hand, and disappeared.

He presently turned back towards Buckingham Gate, and in a narrow Westminster street, as he passed the side of a high factory building, suddenly there emerged from a door-way a number of women and girls, who had evidently been working over-time. Some of them broke at once into loud talk and laughter, as though in reaction from the confinement and tension of their work, some–quite silent–turned their tired faces to him as they passed him; and some looked boldly, provocatively at the handsome man, who on his side was clearly observing them. They were of all types, but the majority of the quite young girls were pale and stunted, shewing the effect of long hours, and poor food. The coarse or vicious faces were few; many indeed were marked by a modest or patient gentleness. The thin line of hurrying forms disappeared into darkness and distance, some one way, some another; and Winnington was left to feel that in what he had seen–this everyday incident of a London street–he had been aptly reminded of what a man who has his occupation and dwelling amid rural scenes and occupations too readily forgets–that toiling host of women, married and unmarried, which modern industry is every day using, or devouring, or wasting. The stream of lives rushes day by day through the industrial rapids; some of it passing on to quiet and fruitful channels beyond the roar, and some lost and churned for ever in the main tumult of the river.

This new claim upon women, on the part of society, in addition to the old claims of home and motherhood–this vast industrial claim–must it not change and modify everything in time?–depress old values, create new? “The vote!–give us the vote! and all will be well. More wages, more food, more joy, more share in this glorious world!–that’s what the vote means–give us the vote!” Such, in effect, had been the cry of that half-mad speaker in Whitehall, herself marked and injured by the economic struggle.

The appeal echoed in Winnington’s heart. And Delia seemed to be at his side, raising her eager eyes to his, pressing him for admission. Had he, indeed, thought enough of these things?–taken enough to heart this new and fierce struggle of women with life and circumstance, that is really involved in the industrial organisation of the modern world?

He passed on–up Buckingham Gate, towards the Palace. Turning to the left, he was soon aware of two contrasted things:–an evening party going on at a well-known Embassy, cars driving up and putting down figures in flashing dresses, and gold-encrusted uniforms, emerging, and disappearing within its open doors–and only twenty yards away, a group of women huddled together in the cold, outside a closed fish-shop, waiting to buy for a few pence the broken or spoiled fish of the day. But a little further on he suddenly plunged into a crowd coming down Grosvenor Place. He stopped to watch it, and saw that it accompanied a long procession of men tramping back from Hyde Park. A banner held by the leaders bore the words–“Unemployed and starving! Give us work or bread.” And Winnington remembered there was a docker’s strike going on in Limehouse, passionately backed and defended by the whole body of the local clergy.

His eyes examined the faces and forms in the procession. Young and old, sickly and robust, they passed him by, all of them marked and branded by their tyrant, Labour; rolled like the women amid the rocks and whirlpools of the industrial stream; marred and worn like them, only more deeply, more tragically. The hollow eyes accused him as they passed–him, with his ease of honoured life. “What have you made of us, your brethren?–you who have had the lead and the start!–you who have had till now the fashioning of this world in which we suffer! What is wrong with the world? We know no more than you. But it is your business to know! For God’s sake, you who have intelligence and education, and time to use them, think for us!–think with us!–find a way out! More wages–more food–more leisure–more joy!–By G–d! we’ll have them, or bring down your world and ours in one ruin together!”

And then far back, from the middle of the last century, there came to Winnington’s listening mind the cry of the founders of English democracy. “The vote!–give us the vote!–and bring in the reign of plenty and of peace.” And the vote was given. Sixty years–and still this gaunt procession!–and all through Industrial England, the same unrest, the same bitterness!

The vote? What is it actually going to mean, in struggle for life and happiness that lies before every modern Community? How many other methods and forces have already emerged, and must yet emerge, beside it! The men know it. And meanwhile, the women–a section of women–have seized with the old faith, on the confident cries of sixty years ago?–with the same disillusion waiting in the path?

He passed on, drawn again down Constitution Hill, and the Mall, back to the Houses of Parliament and the River…. The night was clear and frosty. He paused on Westminster Bridge, and leant over the parapet, feasting his eyes on that incomparable scene which age cannot wither nor custom stale for the heart of an Englishman. The long front of the Houses of Parliament rose darkly over the faintly moonlit river; the wharves and houses beyond, a medley of strong or delicate line, of black shadow and pale lights, ran far into a vaporous distance powdered with lamps. On the other side St. Thomas’s Hospital, and an answering chain of lamps, far-flung towards Battersea. Between, the river, heaving under a full tide, with the dim barges and tugs passing up and down. “The Mississippi, Sir, is dirty water–the St. Lawrence is cold, dirty water–but the Thames, Sir, is liquid ‘istory!” That famous _mot_ of a Labour Minister delighted Mark’s dreaming sense. The river indeed as it flowed by, between buildings new and old, seemed to be bearing the nation on its breast, to symbolise the ever-renewed life of a great people. What tasks that life had seen!–what vaster issues it had still to see!–

And in that dark building, like a coiled and secret spring ready to act when touched, the Idea which ruled that life, as all life, in the end, is ruled. On the morrow, a few hundred men would flock to that building, as the representatives and servants of the Idea–of that England which lives “while we believe.”

And the vote behind them?–the political act which chose and sent them there? Its social power, and all its ordinary associations, noble or ignoble, seemed suddenly to vanish, for Winnington, engulfed in something infinitely greater, something vital and primitive, on which all else depended.

He hung, absorbed, over the sliding water, giving the rein to reverie. He seemed to see the English Spirit, hovering, proudly watchful, above that high roof beside the dark water-way, looking out to sea, and across the world. What indomitable force, what ichor gleaming fire, through the dark veins of that weary Titan, sustained him there?–amid the clash of alien antagonisms, and the mysterious currents of things? What but the lavished blood and brain of England’s sons?–that rude primal power that men alone can bring to their country?

Let others solve their own problems! But can women share the male tasks that make and keep _us_ a Nation, amid a jarring and environing host of Nations?–an Empire, with the guardianship of half the world on its shoulders? And if not, how can men rightly share with women the act which controls those tasks, and chooses the men to execute them?

And yet!–all his knowledge of human life, all his tenderness for human suffering, rushed in to protest that the great question was only half answered, when it was answered so. He seemed to see the Spirit of England, Janus-like, two-faced, with one aspect looking out to sea, the other, brooding over the great city at its feet, and turned inland towards the green country and studded towns beyond. And as to that other, that home-face of England, his dreaming sense scarcely knew whether it was man or woman. There was in it male power, but also virgin strength, and mother love. Men and women might turn to it equally–for help.

No need for women in the home tasks–the national house-keeping of this our England? He laughed–like France–at the mere suggestion of the doubt. Why, that teeming England, north and south, was crying out for the work of women, the help of women! Who knew it better than he? But call in thought!–call in intelligence! Find out the best way to fit the work to the organism, the organism to the work. What soil so rich as England in the seed of political ideas? What nation could so easily as we evolve new forms out of the old to fit new needs?

But what need for patience in the process–for tolerance–for clear thinking! And while England ponders, bewildered by the very weight of her own load, and its responsibilities, comes, suddenly, this train of Maenads rushing through the land, shrieking and destroying.

He groaned in spirit, as he thought of Delia’s look that day–of the tragic-comic crowd around her. Again his thoughts flew hither and thither, seeking to excuse, to understand her, and always, as it seemed, with her dear voice in his ears–trembling–rushing–with the passionate note he knew.

“Mr. Winnington!”

He looked up. An elderly woman, plain-featured, ill-dressed, stood beside him, her kind eyes blinking under the lamp overhead. He recognised Miss Dempsey, and grasped her by the hand.

“My dear lady, where have you sprung from?”

She hesitated, and then said, supporting herself on the parapet of the bridge, as though thankful for the momentary rest.

“I had to go in search of someone.”

He knew very well what she meant.

“You’ve found her?”


“Can anyone help?”

“No. The poor thing’s safe–with good people who understand.”

He asked no more about her errand. He knew very well that day after day, and week after week, her tired feet carried her on the same endless quest–seeking “that which was lost.” But the stress of thought in his own mind found expression in a question which surprised her.

“Would the vote help you? Is that why you want it?”

She smiled.

“Oh, no! Oh, dear no!” she said, with emphasis; after a moment, adding in a lower tone, scarcely addressed to her companion–“‘_It cost more–to redeem their souls_!'” And again–“Dear Mr. Mark, men are what their mothers make them!–that is the bottom truth. And when women are what God intended them to be, they will have killed the ape and the tiger in men. But law can’t do it. Only the Spirit.” Her face shone a little. Then, in her ordinary voice–“Oh, no–I want the vote for quite other reasons. It is our right–and it is monstrous we shouldn’t have it!” Her cheeks flushed.

He turned his friendly smile upon her, without attempting to argue. They walked back over the bridge together.

* * * * *

The following day rose in wind and shower. But the February rain cleared away towards noon, and the high scudding clouds, with bright spaces between, suddenly began to prophesy Spring. From Hyde Park, down the Mall, and along Whitehall, the troops gathered and the usual crowd sprang up in their rear, pressing towards Parliament Square, or lining the route. Winnington had sent a note early to Delia by messenger; but he expected no reply, and got none. All he could do was to hide a motor in Dean’s Yard, to hold a conference or two with the friendly bobby in Parliament Square, and then to wander about the streets looking restlessly at the show. It duly passed him by, the Cinderella-coach, with the King and Queen of fairy-tale, the splendid Embassy carriages, the Generals on their gleaming horses, the Guards, in their red cloaks–and all the rest. The Royalties disappeared up the carpeted stairs into the House of Lords, and after half an hour, while the bells of St. Margaret’s filled all the air with tumult, came out, again; and again the ermined Queen, and the glistening King passed bowing along the crowd. Winnington caught hold of a Hampshire member in the crowd.

“When does the House meet?”

“Everything adjourned till four. They’ll move the Address about five. But everyone expects a row.”

Nothing for it but to wait and stroll, to spend half an hour in the Abbey, and take a turn along the Embankment…. And gradually, steadily the Square filled up, no one knew how. The soldiers disappeared, but policemen quietly took their places. All the entrances to the House of Commons were carefully guarded, groups as they gathered were dispersed, and the approaches to the House, in Old and New Palace Yards, were rigorously kept free. But still the crowd in Parliament Square grew and thickened. Girls, with smiling excited faces, still moved to and fro in it, selling the _Tocsin_. Everybody waited expectant.

Then the chimes of the Abbey struck four. And as they died away, from a Westminster street, from Whitehall, and from Milbank, there arose a simultaneous stir and shouting. And presently, from each quarter appeared processions of women, carrying black and orange banners making their way slowly through the throng. The crowd cheered and booed them as they passed, swaying to this side and that. And as each procession neared the outer line of police, it was firmly but courteously stopped, and the leaders of it must needs parley with the mounted constables who sat ready to meet them.

Winnington, jumping on the motor which he had placed opposite St. Margaret’s, drew out some field-glasses, and scanned the advancing lines of women. The detachment coming from Whitehall seemed to be headed by the chiefs of the whole organisation, to judge from the glistening banner which floated above its foremost group. Winnington examined it closely. Gertrude Marvell was not there, nor Delia. Then he turned westwards. Ah, now he saw her! That surely was she!–in the front ranks of the lines coming from Milbank. For a moment, he saw the whole scene in orderly and picturesque array, the cordons of police, the mounted constables, the banners of the processions, the swaying crowds, Westminster Hall, the clock tower, with its light:–the next, everything was tossed in wild confusion. Some savage impelling movement in the crowd behind had broken the lines of police. The women were through! He could see the scurrying forms running across the open spaces, pursued, grappled with.

He threw himself into the crowd, which had rapidly hemmed him in, buffeting it from side to side like a swimmer into troubled waters. His height, his strength, served him well, and by the time he had reached the southern corner of St. Margaret’s, a friendly hand gripped him.

“Do you see her, Sir?”

“Near the front!–coming from Milbank.”

“All right! Follow me, Sir. This way!”

And with Hewson, and apparently two other police, Winnington battled his way towards the tumult in front of St. Stephen’s entrance. The mounted police were pressing the crowd back with their horses, and as Winnington emerged into clear ground, he saw a melee of women and police,–some women on the ground, some held between police on either side, and one group still intact. In it he recognised Gertrude Marvell. He saw her deliberately strike a constable in the face. Then he lost sight of her. All he saw were the steps of St. Stephen’s entrance behind, crowded with Members of Parliament. Suddenly another woman fell, a grey-haired woman, and almost immediately a girl who was struggling with two policemen, disengaged herself and ran to help. She bent over the woman, and lifted her up. The police at once made way for them, but another wild rush from behind seemed to part them–sweep them from view–

“Now, Sir!” said Hewson, on tiptoe–“Hold on! They’ve got the old lady safe. I think the young one’s hurt.”

They pressed their way through. Winnington caught sight of Delia again, deadly white, supported by a policeman on one side, and a gentleman on the other. Andrews!–by George! Winnington cursed his own ill-luck in not having been the first to reach her; but the gallant Captain was an ally worth having, all the same.

Mark was at her side. She lifted a face, all pain and bitter indignation. “Cowards–Cowards!–to treat an old woman so!–Let me go–let me go back! I must find her!”

“She’s all safe, Miss–she’s all safe–you go home,” said a friendly policeman. “These gentlemen will look after you! Stand back there!” And he tried to open a passage for them.

Winnington touched her arm. But an involuntary moan startled him. “She’s hurt her arm”–said Andrews in his ear–“twisted it somehow. Go to the other side of her–put your arm round her, and I’ll clear the way.”

Delia struggled–“No–no!–let me go!”

But she was powerless. Winnington nearly carried her through the crowd, while her faintness increased. By the time they reached the motor, she was barely conscious. The two men lifted her in. Andrews stood looking at her a moment, as she sank back with Winnington beside her, his ruddy countenance expressing perhaps the most acute emotion of which its possessor had ever yet been capable.

“Good-night. You’ll take her home,” he said gruffly, and lifted his hat. But the next moment he ran back to say–“I’ll go back and find out what’s happened. She’ll want to know. Where are you taking her?”

“Smith’s Hotel,” said Winnington–“to my sister.” And he gave the order to the chauffeur.

They set out. Mark passed his arm round her again, to support her, and she drooped unconsciously upon his shoulder. A fierce joy–mingled with his wrath and disgust. This must be–this should be the _end_! Was such a form made for sordid violence and strife? Her life just breathed against his–he could have borne her so for ever.

But as soon as they had revived her, and she opened her eyes in Mrs. Matheson’s sitting-room at the hotel, she burst into a cry of misery.

“Where’s Gertrude!–let me go to her! Where am I?”

As they wrestled with and soothed her, a servant knocked.

“A gentleman to see you, Sir, downstairs.”

Winnington descended, and found Andrews–breathless with news.

Eighty women arrested–Miss Marvell among the ringleaders, for all of whom bail has been refused? While the riot had been going on in Parliament Square, another detachment of women had passed along Whitehall, smashing windows as they went. And at the same moment, a number of shop-windows had been broken in Piccadilly. The Prime Minister had been questioned in the Commons, and Sir Wilfrid Lang had denounced the “Daughters'” organisation, and the mad campaign of violence to which they were committed, in an indignant speech much cheered by the House.

* * * * *

The days that followed were days of nightmare both for Delia and those who watched over her.

Gertrude Marvell and ten others went to prison, without the option of a fine. About forty of the rank and file who refused to pay their fines, or give surety for good behaviour, accompanied their leaders into duress. The country rang with the scandal of what had happened, and with angry debate as to how to stop the scandal in the future. The Daughters issued defiant broadsheets, and filled the _Tocsin_ with brave words. And the Constitutionalists who had pinned their hopes on the Suffrage Bill before the House, wrung their hands, and wailed to heaven and earth to keep these mad women in order.

Delia sat waiting–waiting–all these intolerable hours. She scarcely spoke to Winnington, except to ask him for news, or to thank him, when every evening, owing to a personal knowledge of the Home Secretary, he was able to bring her the very latest news of what was happening in prison. Gertrude had refused food; forcible feeding would very soon have to be abandoned; and her release, on the ground of danger to life, might have to be granted. But in view of the hot indignation of the public, the Government were not going to release any of the prisoners before they absolutely must.

Delia herself was maimed and powerless. How the wrenching of her arm had come about–whether in the struggle with the two constables who had separated her from Gertrude, or in the attempt to raise her companion from the ground–she could not now remember. But a muscle had been badly torn; she wore a sling and suffered constant and often severe pain. Neither Alice Matheson, nor Lady Tonbridge–who had rushed up to town–ever heard her complain, except involuntarily, of this pain. Madeleine indeed believed that there was some atoning satisfaction in it, for Delia’s wounded spirit. If she was not with Gertrude in prison, at least she too was suffering–if only a fraction of what Gertrude was enduring.

The arm however was not the most serious matter. As France had long since perceived, she had been overstrained in nursing Weston, and the events since she left Maumsey had naturally increased the mischief. She had become sleepless and neurasthenic. And Winnington watched day by day the eclipse of her radiant youth, with a dumb wrath almost as Pagan as that which a similar impression had roused in Lathrop.

The nights were her worst time. She lived then, in prison, with Gertrude, vividly recalling all that she had ever heard from the Daughters who had endured it, of the miseries and indignities of prison life. But she also lived again through the events which had preceded and followed the riot; her quick intelligence pondered the comments of the newspapers, the attitude of the public, the measured words and looks of these friends who surrounded her. And there were many times when sitting up in bed alone, suffering and sleepless, she asked herself bitterly–“were we just fools!–just fools?”

But whatever the mind replied, the heart and its loyalty stood firm. She was no more free now than before–that was the horrible part of it! It was this which divided her from Winnington. The thought of how he had carried her off from the ugly or ridiculous scenes which the newspapers described–scenes of which she had scarcely any personal memory, alternately thrilled and shamed her. But the aching expectation of Gertrude’s return–the doubt in what temper of mind and what plight of body she would return–dominated everything else.

At last came the expected message. “In consequence of a report from the prison doctors and his own medical advisers, the Home Secretary has ordered the immediate release of Miss Gertrude Marvell.” Winnington was privately notified of the time of release, information which was refused to what remained of the Daughters’ organisation, lest there should be further disturbance. He took a motor to the prison gate, and put a terribly enfeebled woman and her nurse into it. Gertrude did not even recognise him, and he followed the motor to the Westminster flat, distracted by the gloomiest forebodings.

Delia was already at the flat to receive her friend, having quietly–but passionately–insisted, against all the entreaties of Mrs. Matheson and Lady Tonbridge. Winnington helped the nurse and the porter to carry Gertrude Marvell upstairs. They laid her on the bed, and the doctor who had been summoned took her in charge. As he was leaving the room, Winnington turned back–to look at his enemy. How far more formidable to him in her weakness than in her strength! The keen eyes were closed, the thin mouth relaxed and bloodless shewing the teeth, the hands mere skin and bone. She lay helpless and only half-conscious on her pillows, with nurse and doctor hovering round her, and Delia kneeling beside her. Yet, as he closed the door, Winnington realised her power through every vein! It rested entirely with her whether or no she would destroy Delia, as she must in the end destroy herself.

He waited in the drawing-room for Delia. She came at last, with a cold and alien face. “Don’t come again, please! Leave us to ourselves. I shall have doctors–and nurses. We’ll let you know.”

He took her hands tenderly. But she drew them away–shivering a little.

“You don’t know–you can’t know–what it means to me–to _us_–to see what she has suffered. There must be no one here but those–who sympathise–who won’t reproach–” Her voice failed her.

There was nothing for it but to go.

Chapter XVIII

Great is the power of martyrdom!–of the false no less than the true–and whether the mind consent or no.

During the first week of Gertrude Marvell’s recovery–or partial recovery–from her prison ordeal, both Winnington and Delia realised the truth of this commonplace to the full. Winnington was excluded from the flat. Delia, imprisoned within it, was dragged, day by day, through deep waters of emotion and pity. She envied the heroism of her friend and leader; despised herself for not having been able to share it; and could not do enough to soothe the nervous suffering which Gertrude’s struggle with law and order had left behind it.

But with the beginning of the second week some strange facts emerged. Gertrude was then sufficiently convalescent to be moved into the drawing-room, to see a few visitors, and to exchange experiences. All who came belonged to the League, and had been concerned in the Parliamentary raid. Most of them had been a few days or a week in prison. Two had been hunger-strikers. And as they gathered round Gertrude in half-articulate worship, Delia, passing from one revealing moment to another, suddenly felt herself superfluous–thrust away! She could not join in their talk except perfunctorily; the violence of it often left her cold and weary; and she soon recognised half in laughter, half bitterly, that, as one who had been carried out of the fray, like a naughty child, by her guardian, she stood in the opinion of Gertrude’s visitors, on a level altogether inferior to that of persons who had “fought it out.”

This, however, would not have troubled her–she was so entirely of the same opinion herself. But what began to wound her to the quick was Gertrude’s own attitude towards her. She had been accustomed for so long to be Gertrude’s most intimate friend, to be recognised and envied as such, that to be made to feel day by day how small a hold–for some mysterious reason–she now retained on that fierce spirit, was galling indeed. Meanwhile she had placed all the money realised by the sale of her jewels,–more than three thousand pounds–in Gertrude’s hands for League purposes; her house was practically Gertrude’s, and had Gertrude willed, her time and her thoughts would have been Gertrude’s also. She would not let herself even think of Winnington. One glance at the emaciated face and frame beside her was enough to recall her from what had otherwise been a heavenly wandering.

But she was naturally quick and shrewd, and she soon made herself face the fact that she was supplanted. Supplanted by many–but especially by one. Marion Andrews had not been in the raid–Delia often uneasily pondered the why and wherefore. She came up to town a week after it, and was then constantly in Gertrude’s room. Between Delia, and this iron-faced, dark-browed woman, with her clumsy dress and brusque ways, there was but little conversation. Delia never forgot their last meeting at Maumsey; she was often filled with dire forebodings and suspicions; and as the relation between Gertrude and Miss Andrews became closer, they grew and multiplied.

At last one morning Gertrude turned her back on invalid ways. She got up at her usual time; she dismissed her nurse; and in the middle of the morning she came in upon Delia, who, in the desultory temper born of physical strain, was alternately trying to read Marshall’s “Economics of Industry,” and writing to Lady Tonbridge about anything and everything, except the topics that really occupied her mind.

Delia sprang up to get her a shawl, to settle her on the sofa. But Gertrude said impatiently–

“Please don’t fuss. I want to be treated now as though I were well–I soon shall be. And anyway I am tired of illness.” And she took a plain chair, as though to emphasize what she had said.

“I came to talk to you about plans. You’re not busy!”

“Busy!” The scornful tone was a trifle bitter also, as Gertrude perceived. Delia put aside her book, and her writing-board, and descended to her favourite place on the hearth rug. The two friends surveyed each other.

“Gertrude, it’s absurd to talk as though you were well!” cried Delia. “You look a perfect wreck!”

But there was more in what she saw–in what she felt–than physical wreck. There was a moral and spiritual change, subtler than any physical injury, and probably more permanent. Gertrude Marvell had never possessed any “charm,” in the sense in which other leaders of the militant movement possessed it. A clear and narrowly logical brain, the diamond sharpness of an astonishing will, and certain passions of hate, rather than passions of love, had made the strength of her personality, and given her an increasing ascendancy. But these qualities had been mated with a slender physique–trim, balanced, composed–suggesting a fastidious taste, and nerves perfectly under control; a physique which had given special accent and emphasis to her rare outbreaks of spoken violence. Refinement, seemliness, “ladylikeness,”–even Sir Robert Blanchflower in his sorest moments would scarcely have denied her these.

In a measure they were there still, but coupled with pathetic signs of some disintegrating and poisonous influence. The face which once, in its pallid austerity, had not been without beauty, had now coarsened, even in emaciation. The features stood out disproportionately; the hair had receded from the temples; something ugly and feverish had been, as it were, laid bare. And composure had been long undermined. The nurse who had just left had been glad to go.

Gertrude received Delia’s remark with impatience.

“Do please let my looks alone! As if you could boast!” The speaker’s smile softened as she looked at the girl’s still bandaged arm, and pale cheeks. “That in fact is what I wanted to say, Delia. You ought to be going home. You want the country and the garden. And I, it seems–so this tiresome Doctor says–ought to have a fortnight’s sea.”

“Oh–” said Delia, with a sudden flush. “So you think we ought to give up the flat? Why can’t I come with you to the sea?”

“I thought you had begun to do various things–cripples–and cottages–and schools–for Mr. Winnington,” said Gertrude, drily.

“I wanted to–but Weston’s illness stopped it–and then I came here.”

“Well, you ‘wanted to.’ And why shouldn’t you?”

There was a silence. Then Delia looked up–very pale now–her head thrown back.

“So you mean you wish to get rid of me, Gertrude!”

“Nothing of the sort. I want you to do–what you clearly wish to do.”

“When have I ever shown you that I wished to desert you–or–the League?”

“Perhaps I read you better than you do yourself,” said Gertrude, slightly reddening too. “Of course you have been goodness–generosity–itself. But–this cause wants more than gifts–more than money-it wants a woman’s _self_!”

“Well?” Delia waited.

Gertrude moved impatiently.

“Why should we play the hypocrite with each other!” she said at last. “You won’t deny that what Mr. Winnington thinks–what Mr. Winnington feels–is infinitely more important to you now than what anybody else in the world thinks or feels?”

“Which I shewed by coming up here against his express wishes?–and joining in the raid, after he had said all that a man could say against it, both to you and to me?”

“Oh, I admit you did your best–you did your best,” said Gertrude sombrely. “But I know you, Delia!–I know you! Your heart’s not in it–any more.”

Delia rose, and began slowly to pace the room. There was a wonderful virginal dignity–a suppressed passion–in her attitude, as though she wrestled with inward wound. But she said nothing, except to ask–as she paused in front of Gertrude–

“Where are you going–and who is going with you?”

“I shall go to the sea, somewhere–perhaps to the Isle of Wight. I daresay Marion Andrews will come with me. She wants to escape her mother for a time.”

“Marion Andrews?” repeated Delia thoughtfully. Then, after a moment–“So you’re not coming down to Maumsey any more?”

“Ask yourself what there is for me to do there, my dear child! Frankly, I should find the society of Mr. Winnington and Lady Tonbridge rather difficult! And as for their feelings about me!”

“Do you remember–you promised to live with me for a year?”

“Under mental reservation,” said Gertrude, quietly. “You know very well, I didn’t accept it as an ordinary post.”

“And now there’s nothing more to be got out of me? Oh, I didn’t mean anything cruel!” added the girl hastily. “I know you must put the cause first.”

“And you see where the cause is,” said Gertrude grimly. “In ten days from now Sir Wilfrid Lang will have crushed the bill.”

“And everybody seems to be clamouring that we’ve given them the excuse!”

Fierce colour overspread Gertrude’s thin temples and cheeks.

“They’ll take it, anyway; and we’ve got to do all we can–meetings, processions, way-laying Ministers–the usual things–and any new torment we can devise.”

“But I thought you were going to Southsea!”

“Afterwards–afterwards!” said Gertrude, with visible temper. “I shall run down to Brighton tomorrow, and come back fresh on Monday.”

“To this flat?”

“Oh no–I’ve found a lodging.”

Delia turned away–her breath fluttering.

“So we part to-morrow!” Then suddenly she faced round on Gertrude. “But I don’t go, Gertrude–till I have your promise!”

“What promise?”

“To let–Monk Lawrence _alone_!” said the girl with sudden intensity, and laying her uninjured hand on a table near, she stooped and looked Gertrude in the eyes.

Gertrude broke into a laugh.

“You little goose! Do you think I look the kind of person for nocturnal adventures?–a cripple–on a stick? Yes, I know you have been talking to Marion Andrews. She told me.”

“I warned _you_,” said Delia, with determination–“which was more to the point. Everything Mr. Lathrop told me, I handed on to you.”

There was an instant’s silence. Then Gertrude laid a skeleton hand upon the girl’s hand–gripping it painfully.

“And do you suppose–that anything Mr. Lathrop could say, or you could say, could prevent my carrying out plans that seemed to me necessary–in this war!”

Delia gasped.

“Gertrude!–you mean to do it!”

Gertrude released her–almost threw her hand away.

“I have told you why you are a fool to think so. But if you do think so, go and tell Mr. Winnington! Tell him everything!–make him enquire. I shall be in town–ready for the warrant.”

The two faced each other.

“And now,” said Gertrude–“though I am convalescent–we have had enough of this.” She rose tottering–and felt for her stick. Delia gave it her.

“Gertrude!” It was a bitter cry of crushed affection and wounded trust. It arrested Gertrude for a moment on her way to the door. She turned in indecision–then shook her head–muttered something inarticulate, and went.

* * * * *

That afternoon Delia sent a telegram to Lady Tonbridge who had returned to Maumsey–“Can you and Nora come and stay with me for three months. I shall be quite alone.” She also despatched a note to Winnington’s club, simply to say that she was going home tomorrow. She had no recent news of Winnington’s whereabouts, but something told her that he was still in town–still near her.

Then she turned with energy to practical affairs–arrangements for giving up the flat, dismissing some servants, despatching others to Maumsey. She had something of a gift for housekeeping, and on this evening of all others she blessed its tasks. When they met at dinner, Gertrude was perfectly placid and amiable. She went to bed early, and Delia spent the hours after dinner in packing, with her maid. In the middle of it came a line from Winnington–“Good news indeed! I go down to Maumsey early, to see that the Abbey is ready for you. Don’t bother about the flat. I have spoken to the Agents. They will do everything. _Au revoir!”_

The commonplace words somehow broke down her self-control. She sent away her maid, put out the glaring electric light, and sat crouched over the fire, in the darkness, thinking her heart out. Once she sprang up suddenly, her hands at her breast–“Oh Mark, Mark–I’m coming back to you, Mark,–I’m coming back–I’m _free!_”–in an ecstasy.

But only to feel herself the next moment, quenched–coerced–her happiness dashed from her. If she gave herself to Mark, her knowledge, her suspicions, her practical certainty must go with the gift. She could not keep from him her growing belief that Monk Lawrence was vitally threatened, and that Gertrude, in spite of audacious denials, was still madly bent upon the plot. And to tell him would mean instant action on his part: arrest–prison–perhaps death–for this woman she had adored, whom she still loved with a sore, disillusioned tenderness. She could not tell him!–and therefore she could not engage herself to him. Had Gertrude realised that?–counted upon it?

No. She must work in other ways–through Mr. Lathrop–through various members of the “Daughters” Executive who were personally known to her. Gertrude must be restrained–somehow–by those who still had influence with her.

The loneliness of that hour sank deep into Delia’s soul. Never had she felt herself so motherless, so forlorn. Her passion for this elder woman during three years of fast-developing youth had divided her from all her natural friends. As for her relations, her father’s sister, Elizabeth Blanchflower, a selfish, eccentric old maid, had just acknowledged her existence in two chilly notes since she returned to England; while Lord Frederick, Winnington’s co-executor, had in the same period written her one letter of half-scolding, half-patronising advice, and sent a present of game to Maumsey. Since then she understood he had been pursuing his enemy the gout from “cure” to “cure,” and “Mr. Mark” certainly had done all the executor’s work that had not been mere formality.

She had no friends, no one who cared for her!–except Winnington–her chilled heart glowed to the name!–Lady Tonbridge, and poor Weston. Among the Daughters she had acquaintances, but no intimates. Gertrude had absorbed her; she had lived for Gertrude and Gertrude’s ideas.

And now she was despised–cast out. She tried to revive in herself the old crusading flame–the hot unquestioning belief in Women’s Rights and Women’s Wrongs–the angry contempt for men as a race of coarse and hypocritical oppressors, which Gertrude had taught her. In vain. She sat there, with these altruistic loves and hates–premature, artificial things!–drooping away; conscious only, nakedly conscious, of the thirst for individual happiness, personal joy–ashamed of it too, in her bewildered youth!–not knowing that she was thereby best serving her sex and her race in the fore-ordained ways of destiny. And the wickedness of men? But to have watched a good man, day by day, had changed all the values of the human scene. Her time would come again–with fuller knowledge–for bitter loathing of the tyrannies of sex and lust. But this, in the natural order, was her hour for hope–for faith. As the night grew deeper, the tides of both rose and rose within her–washing her at last from the shores of Desolation. She was going home. Winnington would be there–her friend. Somehow, she would save Gertrude. Somehow–surely–she would find herself in Mark’s arms again. She went to sleep with a face all tears, but whether for joy or sorrow, she could hardly have told.

Next morning Marion arrived early, and carried Gertrude off to Victoria, en route for Brighton. Gertrude and Delia kissed each other, and said Good-bye, without visible emotion.

“Of course I shall come down to plague you in the summer,” said Gertrude, and Delia laughed assent–with Miss Andrews standing by. The girl went through a spasm of solitary weeping when Gertrude was finally gone; but she soon mastered it, and an hour later she herself was in the train.

Oh, the freshness of the February day–of the spring breathing everywhere!–of the pairing birds and the springing wheat–and the bright patches of crocuses and snowdrop in the gardens along the line. A rush of pleasure in the mere return to the country and her home, in the mere welling back of health, the escape from daily friction, and ugly, violent thoughts, overflowed all her young senses. She was a child on a holiday. The nightmare of the Raid–of those groups of fighting, dishevelled women, ignominiously overpowered, of the grinning crowd, the agonising pain of her arm, and the policeman’s rough grip upon it–began to vanish “in black from the skies.”

Until–the train ran into the long cutting half way between Latchford and Maumsey, above which climbed the steep woods of Monk Lawrence. Delia knew it well. And she had no sooner recognised it than her gaiety fell–headlong–like a shot bird. She waited in a kind of terror for the moment when the train should leave the cutting, and the house come into view, on its broad terrace carved out of the hill. Yes, there it was, far away, the incomparable front, with its beautiful irregularities, and its equally beautiful symmetries, with its oriel windows flashing in the sun, the golden grey of its stone work, the delicate tracery on its tall twisted chimneys, and the dim purples of its spreading roofs. It lay so gently in the bosom of the woods which clasped it round–as though they said–“See how we have guarded and kept it through the centuries for you, the children of to-day.”

The train sped on, and looking back Delia could just make out a whitish patch on the lower edge of the woods. That was Mr. Lathrop’s cottage. It seemed to her vaguely that she had seen his face in the front rank of the crowd in Parliament Square; but she had heard nothing of him, or from him since their last talk. She had indeed written him a short veiled note as she had promised to do, after Gertrude’s first denials, repeating them–though she herself disbelieved them–and there had been no reply. Was he at home? Had he perhaps discovered anything more?

When she alighted at Maumsey, with her hand in Winnington’s, the fresh colour in her cheeks had disappeared again, and he was dismayed anew at her appearance, though he kept it to himself. But when she was once more in the familiar drawing-room, sitting in her grandmother’s chair, obliged to rest while Lady Tonbridge poured out tea–Nora was improving her French in Paris–and Winnington, with his hands in his pockets, talked gossip and gardening, without a word of anything that had happened since they three had last met in that room; when Weston, ghostly but convalescent, came in to show herself; when Delia’s black spitz careered all over his recovered mistress, and even the cats came to rub themselves against her skirts, it was impossible not to feel for the moment, tremulously happy, and strangely delivered–in this house whence Gertrude Marvell had departed.

How vivid was the impression of this latter fact on the other two may be imagined. When Delia had gone upstairs to chat with Weston, Lady Tonbridge looked at Winnington–

“To what do we owe this crowning mercy? Who dislodged her?” Winnington’s glance was thoughtful.

“I guess it has been her own doing entirely. But I know nothing.”

“Hm.–Well, if I may advise, dear Mr. Mark, ask no questions. And”–his old friend put a hand on his arm–“May I go on?” A smile, not very gay, permitted her.

“Let her be!” she said softly, with a world of sympathy in her clear brown eyes. “She’s suffered–and she’s on edge.” He laid his hand on hers, but said nothing.

* * * * *

The days passed by. Winnington did as he had been told; and Madeleine Tonbridge seemed to see that Delia was dumbly grateful to him. Meanwhile in the eyes of her two friends she made little or no advance towards recapturing her former health and strength. The truth, of course, was that she was consumed by devouring and helpless anxiety. She wrote to Lathrop, posting the letter at a distant village; and received no answer. Then she ascertained that he was not at the cottage, and a casual line in the _Tocsin_ informed her that he had been in town taking part in the foundation of an “outspoken” newspaper–outspoken on “the fundamental questions of sex, liberty, and morals involved in the suffrage movement.”

But a letter addressed “To be forwarded” to the _Tocsin_ office produced no more result than her first. Meanwhile she had written imploringly to various prominent members of the organisation in London pointing out the effect on public opinion that must be produced all through Southern England by any attack on Monk Lawrence. She received two cold and cautious replies. It seemed to her that the writers of them were even more in the dark than she.

The days ran on. The newspapers were full of the coming Woman Suffrage Bill, and its certain defeat in the Commons. Sir Wilfrid Lang was leading the forces hostile to the Suffrage, and making speech after speech in the country to cheering audiences, denouncing the Bill, and the mad women who had tried to promote it by a campaign of outrage, “as ridiculous as it was criminal.” He was to move the rejection of it on the second reading, and was reported to be triumphantly confident of the result.

Winnington meanwhile became more and more conscious of an abnormal state of nerve and brain in this pale Delia, the shadow of her proper self, and as the hours went on, he was presently for throwing all Madeleine’s counsels aside, and somehow breaking through the girl’s silence, in the hope of getting at–and healing–the cause of it. He guessed of course at a hundred things to account for it–at a final breach between her and Gertrude–at the disappointment of cherished hopes and illusions–at a profound travail of mind, partly moral, partly intellectual, going back over the past, and bewildered as to the future. But at the first sign of a change of action, of any attempt to probe her, on his part, she was off–in flight; throwing back at him often a look at once so full of pain and so resolute that he dared not pursue her. She possessed at all times a great personal dignity, and it held him at bay.

He himself–unconsciously–enabled her to hold him at bay. Naturally, he connected some of the haunting anxiety he perceived with Monk Lawrence, and with Gertrude Marvell’s outrageous speech in Latchford market-place. But he himself, on the other hand, was not greatly concerned for Monk Lawrence. Not only he—the whole neighbourhood was on the alert, in defence of the famous treasure-house. The outside of the building and the gardens were patrolled at night by two detectives; and according to Daunt’s own emphatic assurance to Winnington, the house was never left without either the Keeper himself or his niece in it, to mount guard. They had set up a dog, with a bark which was alone worth a policeman. And finally, Sir Wilfrid himself had been down to see the precautions taken, had especially ordered the strengthening of the side door, and the provision of iron bars for all the ground floor windows. As to the niece, Eliza Daunt, she had not made herself popular with the neighbours or in the village; but she seemed an efficient and managing woman, and that she “kept herself to herself” was far best for the safety of Monk Lawrence.

Whenever during these days Winnington’s business took him in the Latchford direction, so that going or coming he passed Monk Lawrence, he would walk up to the Abbey in the evening, and in the course of the gossip of the day, all the reassuring news he had to give would be sure to drop out; while Delia sat listening, her eyes fixed on him. And then, for a time, the shadow almost lifted, and she would be her young and natural self.

In this way, without knowing it, he helped her to keep her secret, and, intermittently, to fight down her fears.

On one of these afternoons, in the February twilight, he had been talking to both the ladies, describing _inter alia_ a brief call at Monk Lawrence and a chat with Daunt, when Madeleine Tonbridge went away to change her walking dress, and he and Delia were left alone. Winnington was standing in the favourite male attitude–his hands in his pockets, and his back to the fire; Delia was on a sofa near. The firelight flickered on the black and white of her dress, and on the face which in losing something of its dark bloom had gained infinitely in other magic for the eyes of the man looking down upon her.

Suddenly she said–

“Do you remember when you wanted me to say–I was sorry for Gertrude’s speech–and I wouldn’t?”

He started.


“Well, I am sorry now. I see–I know–it has been all a mistake.”

She lifted her eyes to his, very quietly–but the hands on her lap shook.

His passionate impulse was to throw himself at her feet, and silence any further humbleness with kisses. But he controlled himself.

“You mean–that violence–has been a mistake?”

“Yes–just that. Oh, of course!”–she flushed again–“I am just as much for _women_–I am just as rebellious against their wrongs–as I ever was. I shall be a Suffragist always. But I see now–what we’ve stirred up in England. I see now–that we can’t win that way–and that we oughtn’t to win that way.”

He was silent a moment, and then said in a rather muffled voice–

“I don’t know who else would have confessed it–so bravely!” His emotion seemed to quiet her. She smiled radiantly.

“Does it make you feel triumphant?”

“Not in the least!”

She held out both hands, and he grasped them, smiling back–understanding that she wished him to take it lightly.

Her eyes indeed now were full of gaiety–light swimming on depths.

“You won’t be always saying ‘I told you so?'”

“Is it my way?”

“No. But perhaps it’s cunning on your part. You know it pays better to be generous.”

They both laughed, and she drew her hands away. In another minute, she had asked him to go on with some reading aloud while she worked. He took up the book. The blood raced in his veins. “Soon, soon!”–he said to himself, only to be checked by the divining instinct which added–“but not yet!”

* * * * *

Only a few more days now, to the Commons debate. Every morning the newspapers contained a crop of “militant” news of the kind foreshadowed by Gertrude Marvell–meetings disturbed, private parties raided, Ministers waylaid, windows smashed, and the like, though in none of the reports did Gertrude’s own name appear. Only two days before the debate, a glorious Reynolds in the National Gallery was all but hopelessly defaced by a girl of eighteen. Feeling throughout the country surged at a white-heat. Delia said little or nothing, but the hollows under her eyes grew steadily darker, and her cheeks whiter. Nor could Winnington, for all his increasing anxiety, devote himself to soothing or distracting her. An ugly strike in the Latchford brickfields against nonunion labour was giving the magistrates of the country a good deal of anxiety. Some bad outrages had already occurred, and Winnington was endeavouring to get a Board of Trade arbitration,–all of which meant his being a good deal away from home.

Meanwhile Delia was making a new friend. Easily and simply, though no one knew exactly how, Susy Amberley had found her way to the heart of the young woman so much talked about and so widely condemned by the county. Her own departure for London had been once more delayed by the illness of her mother. But the worst of her own struggle was over now; and no one had guessed it. She was a little older, though it was hardly perceptible to any eye but her mother’s; a little graver; in some ways sweeter, in others perhaps a trifle harder, like the dipped sword. Her dress had become less of a care to her; she minded the fashions less than her mother. And there had opened before her more and more alluringly that world of social service, which is to so many beautiful souls outside Catholicism the equivalent of the vowed and dedicated life.

But just as of old, she guessed Mark Winnington’s thoughts, and by some instinct divined his troubles. He loved Delia Blanchflower; that she knew by a hundred signs; and there were rough places in his road,–that too she knew. They were clearly not engaged; but their relation was clearly, also, one of no ordinary friendship. Delia’s dependence on him, her new gentleness and docility were full of meaning–for Susy. As to the causes of Delia’s depression, why, she had lost her friend, or at any rate, to judge from the fact that Delia was at Maumsey, while Miss Marvell remained, so report said, in London–had ceased to agree or act with her. Susy divined and felt for the possible tragedy involved. Delia indeed never spoke of the militant propaganda; but she often produced on Susy a strange impression as of someone listening–through darkness.

The net result of all these guessings was that the tender Susy fell suddenly in love with Delia–first for Mark’s sake, then for her own; and became in a few days of frequent meetings, Delia’s small worshipper and ministering spirit. Delia surrendered, wondering; and it was soon very evident that, on her side, the splendid creature, in her unrevealed distress, pined after all to be loved, and by her own sex. She told Susy no secrets, either as to Winnington, or Gertrude; but very soon, just as Susy was certain about her, so she–very pitifully and tenderly–became certain about Susy. Susy loved–or had once loved–Winnington. And Delia knew very well, whom Winnington loved. The double knowledge softened all her pride–all her incipient jealousy away. She took Susy into her heart, though not wholly into her confidence; and soon the two began to walk the lonely country roads together hand in hand. Susy’s natural tasks took her often among the poor. But Delia would not go with her. She shrank during these days, with a sick distaste from the human world around her,–its possible claims upon her. Her mind was pre-engaged; and she would not pretend what she could not feel.

This applied especially to the folk on her father’s estate. As to the neighbours of her own class, they apparently shrank from her. She was left coldly alone. No one called, but Susy, France and his wife, and Captain Andrews. Mrs. Andrews indeed was loud in her denunciation of Delia and all her crew. Her daughter Marion had abominably deserted all her family duties, without any notice to her family, and was now–according to a note left behind–brazenly living in town with some one or other of the “criminals” to whom Miss Blanchflower of course, had introduced her. But as she had given no address she was safe from pursuit. Mrs. Andrews’ life had never been so uncomfortable. She had to maid herself, and do her own housekeeping, and the thing was Scandalous and intolerable. She filled the local air with wailing and abuse.

But her son, the gallant Captain, would not allow any abuse of Delia Blanchflower in his presence. He had begun, indeed, immediately after Delia’s return, to haunt the Abbey so persistently that Madeleine Tonbridge had to make an opportunity for a few quiet words in his ear, after which he disappeared disconsolate.

But he was a good fellow at heart, and the impression Delia had made upon him, together with some plain speaking on the subject from Lady Tonbridge, in the course of a chance meeting in the village, roused a remorseful discomfort in him about his sister. He tried honestly to find out where she was, but quite in vain. Then he turned upon his Mother, and told her bluntly she was herself to blame for her daughter’s flight. “Between us, we’ve led her a dog’s life, Mother, there, that’s the truth! All the same, I’m damned sorry she’s taken up with this business.”

However, it mattered nothing to anybody whether the Captain was “damned sorry” or not. The hours were almost numbered. The Sunday before the Tuesday fixed for the Second Reading came and went. It was a foggy February day, in which the hills faded from sight, and all the world went grey. Winnington spent the afternoon at Maumsey. But neither he nor Madeleine seemed to be able to rouse Delia during that day from a kind of waking dream–which he interpreted as a brooding sense of some catastrophe to come.