The Country House
by John Galsworthy
CHAPTER I. A PARTY AT WORSTED SKEYNES
The year was 1891, the month October, the day Monday. In the dark
outside the railway-station at Worsted Skeynes Mr. Horace Pendyce's
omnibus, his brougham, his luggage-cart, monopolised space. The face
of Mr. Horace Pendyce's coachman monopolised the light of the
solitary station lantern. Rosy-gilled, with fat close-clipped grey
whiskers and inscrutably pursed lips, it presided high up in the
easterly air like an emblem of the feudal system. On the platform
within, Mr. Horace Pendyce's first footman and second groom in long
livery coats with silver buttons, their appearance slightly relieved
by the rakish cock of their top-hats, awaited the arrival of the
The first footman took from his pocket a half-sheet of stamped and
crested notepaper covered with Mr. Horace Pendyce's small and precise
calligraphy. He read from it in a nasal, derisive voice:
"Hon. Geoff, and Mrs. Winlow, blue room and dress; maid, small drab.
Mr. George, white room. Mrs. Jaspar Bellew, gold. The Captain, red.
General Pendyce, pink room; valet, back attic. That's the lot."
The groom, a red-cheeked youth, paid no attention.
"If this here Ambler of Mr. George's wins on Wednesday," he said,
"it's as good as five pounds in my pocket. Who does for Mr. George?"
"James, of course."
The groom whistled.
"I'll try an' get his loadin' to-morrow. Are you on, Tom?"
The footman answered:
"Here's another over the page. Green room, right wing--that
Foxleigh; he's no good. 'Take all you can and give nothing' sort!
But can't he shoot just! That's why they ask him!"
>From behind a screen of dark trees the train ran in.
Down the platform came the first passengers--two cattlemen with long
sticks, slouching by in their frieze coats, diffusing an odour of
beast and black tobacco; then a couple, and single figures, keeping
as far apart as possible, the guests of Mr. Horace Pendyce. Slowly
they came out one by one into the loom of the carriages, and stood
with their eyes fixed carefully before them, as though afraid they
might recognise each other. A tall man in a fur coat, whose tall
wife carried a small bag of silver and shagreen, spoke to the
"How are you, Benson? Mr. George says Captain Pendyce told him he
wouldn't be down till the 9.30. I suppose we'd better---"
Like a breeze tuning through the frigid silence of a fog, a high,
clear voice was heard:
"Oh, thanks; I'll go up in the brougham."
Followed by the first footman carrying her wraps, and muffled in a
white veil, through which the Hon. Geoffrey Winlow's leisurely gaze
caught the gleam of eyes, a lady stepped forward, and with a backward
glance vanished into the brougham. Her head appeared again behind
the swathe of gauze.
"There's plenty of room, George."
George Pendyce walked quickly forward, and disappeared beside her.
There was a crunch of wheels; the brougham rolled away.
The Hon. Geoffrey Winlow raised his face again.
"Who was that, Benson?"
The coachman leaned over confidentially, holding his podgy
white-gloved hand outspread on a level with the Hon. Geoffrey's hat.
"Mrs. Jaspar Bellew, sir. Captain Bellew's lady, of the Firs."
"But I thought they weren't---"
"No, sir; they're not, sir."
A calm rarefied voice was heard from the door of the omnibus:
The Hon. Geoffrey Winlow followed his wife, Mr. Foxleigh, and General
Pendyce into the omnibus, and again Mrs. Winlow's voice was heard:
"Oh, do you mind my maid? Get in, Tookson!"
Mr. Horace Pendyce's mansion, white and long and low, standing well
within its acres, had come into the possession of his great-great-
great-grandfather through an alliance with the last of the Worsteds.
Originally a fine property let in smallish holdings to tenants who,
having no attention bestowed on them, did very well and paid
excellent rents, it was now farmed on model lines at a slight loss.
At stated intervals Mr. Pendyce imported a new kind of cow, or
partridge, and built a wing to the schools. His income was
fortunately independent of this estate. He was in complete accord
with the Rector and the sanitary authorities, and not infrequently
complained that his tenants did not stay on the land. His wife was a
Totteridge, and his coverts admirable. He had been, needless to say,
an eldest son. It was his individual conviction that individualism
had ruined England, and he had set himself deliberately to eradicate
this vice from the character of his tenants. By substituting for
their individualism his own tastes, plans, and sentiments, one might
almost say his own individualism, and losing money thereby, he had
gone far to demonstrate his pet theory that the higher the
individualism the more sterile the life of the community. If,
however, the matter was thus put to him he grew both garrulous and
angry, for he considered himself not an individualist, but what he
called a "Tory Communist." In connection with his agricultural
interests he was naturally a Fair Trader; a tax on corn, he knew,
would make all the difference in the world to the prosperity of
England. As he often said: "A tax of three or four shillings on
corn, and I should be farming my estate at a profit."
Mr. Pendyce had other peculiarities, in which he was not too
individual. He was averse to any change in the existing order of
things, made lists of everything, and was never really so happy as
when talking of himself or his estate. He had a black spaniel dog
called John, with a long nose and longer ears, whom he had bred
himself till the creature was not happy out of his sight.
In appearance Mr. Pendyce was rather of the old school, upright and
active, with thin side-whiskers, to which, however, for some years
past he had added moustaches which drooped and were now grizzled. He
wore large cravats and square-tailed coats. He did not smoke.
At the head of his dining-table loaded with flowers and plate, he sat
between the Hon. Mrs. Winlow and Mrs. Jaspar Bellew, nor could he
have desired more striking and contrasted supporters. Equally tall,
full-figured, and comely, Nature had fixed between these two women a
gulf which Mr. Pendyce, a man of spare figure, tried in vain to fill.
The composure peculiar to the ashen type of the British aristocracy
wintered permanently on Mrs. Winlow's features like the smile of a
frosty day. Expressionless to a degree, they at once convinced the
spectator that she was a woman of the best breeding. Had an
expression ever arisen upon these features, it is impossible to say
what might have been the consequences. She had followed her nurse's
adjuration: "Lor, Miss Truda, never you make a face--You might grow
so!" Never since that day had Gertrude Winlow, an Honourable in her
own right and in that of her husband, made a face, not even, it is
believed, when her son was born. And then to find on the other side
of Mr. Pendyce that puzzling Mrs. Bellew with the green-grey eyes, at
which the best people of her own sex looked with instinctive
disapproval! A woman in her position should avoid anything
conspicuous, and Nature had given her a too-striking appearance.
People said that when, the year before last, she had separated from
Captain Bellew, and left the Firs, it was simply because they were
tired of one another. They said, too, that it looked as if she were
encouraging the attentions of George, Mr. Pendyce's eldest son.
Lady Maiden had remarked to Mrs. Winlow in the drawing-room before
"What is it about that Mrs. Bellew? I never liked her. A woman
situated as she is ought to be more careful. I don't understand her
being asked here at all, with her husband still at the Firs, only
just over the way. Besides, she's very hard up. She doesn't even
attempt to disguise it. I call her almost an adventuress."
Mrs. Winlow had answered:
"But she's some sort of cousin to Mrs. Pendyce. The Pendyces are
related to everybody! It's so boring. One never knows---"
Lady Maiden replied:
"Did you know her when she was living down here? I dislike those
hard-riding women. She and her husband were perfectly reckless. One
heard of nothing else but what she had jumped and how she had jumped
it; and she bets and goes racing. If George Pendyce is not in love
with her, I'm very much mistaken. He's been seeing far too much of
her in town. She's one of those women that men are always hanging
At the head of his dinner-table, where before each guest was placed a
menu carefully written in his eldest daughter's handwriting, Horace
Pendyce supped his soup.
"This soup," he said to Mrs. Bellew, "reminds me of your dear old
father; he was extraordinarily fond of it. I had a great respect for
your father--a wonderful man! I always said he was the most
determined man I'd met since my own dear father, and he was the most
obstinate man in the three kingdoms!"
He frequently made use of the expression "in the three kingdoms,"
which sometimes preceded a statement that his grandmother was
descended from Richard III., while his grandfather came down from the
Cornish giants, one of whom, he would say with a disparaging smile,
had once thrown a cow over a wall.
"Your father was too much of an individualist, Mrs. Bellew. I have a
lot of experience of individualism in the management of my estate,
and I find that an individualist is never contented. My tenants have
everything they want, but it's impossible to satisfy them. There's a
fellow called Peacock, now, a most pig-headed, narrowminded chap. I
don't give in to him, of course. If he had his way, he'd go back to
the old days, farm the land in his own fashion. He wants to buy it
from me. Old vicious system of yeoman farming. Says his grandfather
had it. He's that sort of man. I hate individualism; it's ruining
England. You won't fend better cottages, or better farm-buildings
anywhere than on my estate. I go in for centralisation. I dare say
you know what I call myself--a 'Tory Communist.' To my mind, that's
the party of the future. Now, your father's motto was: ' Every man
for himself!' On the land that would never do. Landlord and tenant
must work together. You'll come over to Newmarket with us on
Wednesday? George has a very fine horse running in the Rutlandshire
a very fine horse. He doesn't bet, I'm glad to say. If there's one
thing I hate more than another, it's gambling!"
Mrs. Bellew gave him a sidelong glance, and a little ironical smile
peeped out on her full red lips. But Mr. Pendyce had been called
away to his soup. When he was ready to resume the conversation she
was talking to his son, and the Squire, frowning, turned to the Hon.
Mrs. Winlow. Her attention was automatic, complete, monosyllabic;
she did not appear to fatigue herself by an over-sympathetic
comprehension, nor was she subservient. Mr. Pendyce found her a
"The country is changing," he said, "changing every day. Country
houses are not what they were. A great responsibility rests on us
landlords. If we go, the whole thing goes."
What, indeed, could be more delightful than this country-house life
of Mr. Pendyce; its perfect cleanliness, its busy leisure, its
combination of fresh air and scented warmth, its complete
intellectual repose, its essential and professional aloofness from
suffering of any kind, and its soup--emblematically and above all,
its soup--made from the rich remains of pampered beasts?
Mr. Pendyce thought this life the one right life; those who lived it
the only right people. He considered it a duty to live this life,
with its simple, healthy, yet luxurious curriculum, surrounded by
creatures bred for his own devouring, surrounded, as it were, by a
sea of soup! And that people should go on existing by the million in
the towns, preying on each other, and getting continually out of
work, with all those other depressing concomitants of an awkward
state, distressed him. While suburban life, that living in little
rows of slate-roofed houses so lamentably similar that no man of
individual taste could bear to see them, he much disliked. Yet, in
spite of his strong prejudice in favour of country-house life, he was
not a rich man, his income barely exceeding ten thousand a year.
The first shooting-party of the season, devoted to spinneys and the
outlying coverts, had been, as usual, made to synchronise with the
last Newmarket Meeting, for Newmarket was within an uncomfortable
distance of Worsted Skeynes; and though Mr. Pendyce had a horror of
gaming, he liked to figure there and pass for a man interested in
sport for sport's sake, and he was really rather proud of the fact
that his son had picked up so good a horse as the Ambler promised to
be for so little money, and was racing him for pure sport.
The guests had been carefully chosen. On Mrs. Winlow's right was
Thomas Brandwhite (of Brown and Brandwhite), who had a position in
the financial world which could not well be ignored, two places in
the country, and a yacht. His long, lined face, with very heavy
moustaches, wore habitually a peevish look. He had retired from his
firm, and now only sat on the Boards of several companies. Next to
him was Mrs. Hussell Barter, with that touching look to be seen on
the faces of many English ladies, that look of women who are always
doing their duty, their rather painful duty; whose eyes, above cheeks
creased and withered, once rose-leaf hued, now over-coloured by
strong weather, are starry and anxious; whose speech is simple,
sympathetic, direct, a little shy, a little hopeless, yet always
hopeful; who are ever surrounded by children, invalids, old people,
all looking to them for support; who have never known the luxury of
breaking down--of these was Mrs. Hussell Barter, the wife of the
Reverend Hussell Barter, who would shoot to-morrow, but would not
attend the race-meeting on the Wednesday. On her other hand was
Gilbert Foxleigh, a lean-flanked man with a long, narrow head, strong
white teeth, and hollow, thirsting eyes. He came of a county family
of Foxleighs, and was one of six brothers, invaluable to the owners
of coverts or young, half-broken horses in days when, as a Foxleigh
would put it, "hardly a Johnny of the lot could shoot or ride for
nuts." There was no species of beast, bird, or fish, that he could
not and did not destroy with equal skill and enjoyment. The only
thing against him was his income, which was very small. He had taken
in Mrs. Brandwhite, to whom, however, he talked but little, leaving
her to General Pendyce, her neighbour on the other side.
Had he been born a year before his brother, instead of a year after,
Charles Pendyce would naturally have owned Worsted Skeynes, and
Horace would have gone into the Army instead. As it was, having
almost imperceptibly become a Major-General, he had retired, taking
with him his pension. The third brother, had he chosen to be born,
would have gone into the Church, where a living awaited him; he had
elected otherwise, and the living had passed perforce to a collateral
branch. Between Horace and Charles, seen from behind, it was
difficult to distinguish. Both were spare, both erect, with the
least inclination to bottle shoulders, but Charles Pendyce brushed
his hair, both before and behind, away from a central parting, and
about the back of his still active knees there was a look of
feebleness. Seen from the front they could readily be
differentiated, for the General's whiskers broadened down his cheeks
till they reached his moustaches, and there was in his face and
manner a sort of formal, though discontented, effacement, as of an
individualist who has all his life been part of a system, from which
he has issued at last, unconscious indeed of his loss, but with a
vague sense of injury. He had never married, feeling it to be
comparatively useless, owing to Horace having gained that year on him
at the start, and he lived with a valet close to his club in Pall
In Lady Maiden, whom he had taken in to dinner, Worsted Skeynes
entertained a good woman and a personality, whose teas to Working Men
in the London season were famous. No Working Man who had attended
them had ever gone away without a wholesome respect for his hostess.
She was indeed a woman who permitted no liberties to be taken with
her in any walk of life. The daughter of a Rural Dean, she appeared
at her best when seated, having rather short legs. Her face was
well-coloured, her mouth, firm and rather wide, her nose well-shaped,
her hair dark. She spoke in a decided voice, and did not mince her
words. It was to her that her husband, Sir James, owed his
reactionary principles on the subject of woman.
Round the corner at the end of the table the Hon. Geoffrey Winlow was
telling his hostess of the Balkan Provinces, from a tour in which he
had just returned. His face, of the Norman type, with regular,
handsome features, had a leisurely and capable expression. His
manner was easy and pleasant; only at times it became apparent that
his ideas were in perfect order, so that he would naturally not care
to be corrected. His father, Lord Montrossor, whose seat was at
Coldingham six miles away, would ultimately yield to him his place in
the House of Lords.
And next him sat Mrs. Pendyce. A portrait of this lady hung over the
sideboard at the end of the room, and though it had been painted by a
fashionable painter, it had caught a gleam of that "something" still
in her face these twenty years later. She was not young, her dark
hair was going grey; but she was not old, for she had been married at
nineteen and was still only fifty-two. Her face was rather long and
very pale, and her eyebrows arched and dark and always slightly
raised. Her eyes were dark grey, sometimes almost black, for the
pupils dilated when she was moved; her lips were the least thing
parted, and the expression of those lips and eyes was of a rather
touching gentleness, of a rather touching expectancy. And yet all
this was not the "something"; that was rather the outward sign of an
inborn sense that she had no need to ask for things, of an
instinctive faith that she already had them. By that "something,"
and by her long, transparent hands, men could tell that she had been
a Totteridge. And her voice, which was rather slow, with a little,
not unpleasant, trick of speech, and her eyelids by second nature
just a trifle lowered, confirmed this impression. Over her bosom,
which hid the heart of a lady, rose and fell a piece of wonderful old
Round the corner again Sir James Maiden and Bee Pendyce (the eldest
daughter) were talking of horses and hunting--Bee seldom from choice
spoke of anything else. Her face was pleasant and good, yet not
quite pretty, and this little fact seemed to have entered into her
very nature, making her shy and ever willing to do things for others.
Sir James had small grey whiskers and a carved, keen visage. He came
of an old Kentish family which had migrated to Cambridgeshire; his
coverts were exceptionally fine; he was also a Justice of the Peace,
a Colonel of Yeomanry, a keen Churchman, and much feared by poachers.
He held the reactionary views already mentioned, being a little
afraid of Lady Malden.
Beyond Miss Pendyce sat the Reverend Hussell Barter, who would shoot
to-morrow, but would not attend the race-meeting on Wednesday.
The Rector of Worsted Skeynes was not tall, and his head had been
rendered somewhat bald by thought. His broad face, of very straight
build from the top of the forehead to the base of the chin,, was
well-coloured, clean-shaven, and of a shape that may be seen in
portraits of the Georgian era. His cheeks were full and folded, his
lower lip had a habit of protruding, and his eyebrows jutted out
above his full, light eyes. His manner was authoritative, and he
articulated his words in a voice to which long service in the pulpit
had imparted remarkable carrying-power--in fact, when engaged in
private conversation, it was with difficulty that he was not
overheard. Perhaps even in confidential matters he was not unwilling
that what he said should bear fruit. In some ways, indeed, he was
typical. Uncertainty, hesitation, toleration--except of such
opinions as he held--he did not like. Imagination he distrusted. He
found his duty in life very clear, and other people's perhaps
clearer, and he did not encourage his parishioners to think for
themselves. The habit seemed to him a dangerous one. He was
outspoken in his opinions, and when he had occasion to find fault,
spoke of the offender as "a man of no character," "a fellow like
that," with such a ring of conviction that his audience could not but
be convinced of the immorality of that person. He had a bluff jolly
way of speaking, and was popular in his parish--a good cricketer, a
still better fisherman, a fair shot, though, as he said, he could not
really afford time for shooting. While disclaiming interference in
secular matters, he watched the tendencies of his flock from a sound
point of view, and especially encouraged them to support the existing
order of things--the British Empire and the English Church. His cure
was hereditary, and he fortunately possessed some private means, for
he had a large family. His partner at dinner was Norah, the younger
of the two Pendyce girls, who had a round, open face, and a more
decided manner than her sister Bee.
Her brother George, the eldest son, sat on her right. George was of
middle height, with a red-brown, clean-shaved face and solid jaw.
His eyes were grey; he had firm lips, and darkish, carefully brushed
hair, a little thin on the top, but with that peculiar gloss seen on
the hair of some men about town. His clothes were unostentatiously
perfect. Such men may be seen in Piccadilly at any hour of the day
or night. He had been intended for the Guards, but had failed to
pass the necessary examination, through no fault of his own, owing to
a constitutional inability to spell. Had he been his younger brother
Gerald, he would probably have fulfilled the Pendyce tradition, and
passed into the Army as a matter of course. And had Gerald (now
Captain Pendyce) been George the elder son, he might possibly have
failed. George lived at his club in town on an allowance of six
hundred a year, and sat a great deal in a bay-window reading Ruff's
"Guide to the Turf."
He raised his eyes from the menu and looked stealthily round. Helen
Bellew was talking to his father, her white shoulder turned a little
away. George was proud of his composure, but there was a strange
longing in his face. She gave, indeed, just excuse for people to
consider her too good-looking for the position in which she was
placed. Her figure was tall and supple and full, and now that she no
longer hunted was getting fuller. Her hair, looped back in loose
bands across a broad low brow, had a peculiar soft lustre.
There was a touch of sensuality about her lips. The face was too
broad across the brow and cheekbones, but the eyes were magnificent--
ice-grey, sometimes almost green, always luminous, and set in with
There was something pathetic in George's gaze, as of a man forced to
look against his will.
It had been going on all that past summer, and still he did not know
where he stood. Sometimes she seemed fond of him, sometimes treated
him as though he had no chance. That which he had begun as a game
was now deadly earnest. And this in itself was tragic. That
comfortable ease of spirit which is the breath of life was taken
away; he could think of nothing but her. Was she one of those women
who feed on men's admiration, and give them no return? Was she only
waiting to make her conquest more secure? These riddles he asked of
her face a hundred times, lying awake in the dark. To George
Pendyce, a man of the world, unaccustomed to privation, whose simple
creed was "Live and enjoy," there was something terrible about a
longing which never left him for a moment, which he could not help
any more than he could help eating, the end of which he could not
see. He had known her when she lived at the Firs, he had known her
in the hunting-field, but his passion was only of last summer's date.
It had sprung suddenly out of a flirtation started at a dance.
A man about town does not psychologise himself; he accepts his
condition with touching simplicity. He is hungry; he must be fed.
He is thirsty; he must drink. Why he is hungry, when he became
hungry, these inquiries are beside the mark. No ethical aspect of
the matter troubled him; the attainment of a married woman, not
living with her husband, did not impinge upon his creed. What would
come after, though full of unpleasant possibilities, he left to the
future. His real disquiet, far nearer, far more primitive and
simple, was the feeling of drifting helplessly in a current so strong
that he could not keep his feet.
'Ah yes; a bad case. Dreadful thing for the Sweetenhams! That young
fellow's been obliged to give up the Army. Can't think what old
Sweetenham was about. He must have known his son was hit. I should
say Bethany himself was the only one in the dark. There's no doubt
Lady Rose was to blame!" Mr. Pendyce was speaking.
Mrs. Bellew smiled.
"My sympathies are all with Lady Rose. What do you say, George?"
"I always thought," he said, "that Bethany was an ass."
"George," said Mr. Pendyce, "is immoral. All young men are immoral.
I notice it more and more. You've given up your hunting, I hear."
Mrs. Bellew sighed.
"One can't hunt on next to nothing!"
"Ah, you live in London. London spoils everybody. People don't take
the interest in hunting and farming they used to. I can't get George
here at all. Not that I'm a believer in apron-strings. Young men
will be young men!"
Thus summing up the laws of Nature, the Squire resumed his knife and
But neither Mrs. Bellew nor George followed his example; the one sat
with her eyes fixed on her plate and a faint smile playing on her
lips, the other sat without a smile, and his eyes, in which there was
such a deep resentful longing, looked from his father to Mrs. Bellew,
and from Mrs. Bellew to his mother. And as though down that vista of
faces and fruits and flowers a secret current had been set flowing,
Mrs. Pendyce nodded gently to her son.
CHAPTER II. THE COVERT SHOOT
At the head of the breakfast-table sat Mr. Pendyce, eating
methodically. He was somewhat silent, as became a man who has just
read family prayers; but about that silence, and the pile of half-
opened letters on his right, was a hint of autocracy.
"Be informal--do what you like, dress as you like, sit where you
like, eat what you like, drink tea or coffee, but----" Each glance of
his eyes, each sentence of his sparing, semi-genial talk, seemed to
repeat that "but."
At the foot of the breakfast-table sat Mrs. Pendyce behind a silver
urn which emitted a gentle steam. Her hands worked without ceasing
amongst cups, and while they worked her lips worked too in spasmodic
utterances that never had any reference to herself. Pushed a little
to her left and entirely neglected, lay a piece of dry toast on a
small white plate. Twice she took it up, buttered a bit of it, and
put it down again. Once she rested, and her eyes, which fell on Mrs.
Bellow, seemed to say: "How very charming you look, my dear!" Then,
taking up the sugar-tongs, she began again.
On the long sideboard covered with a white cloth reposed a number of
edibles only to be found amongst that portion of the community which
breeds creatures for its own devouring. At one end of this row of
viands was a large game pie with a triangular gap in the pastry; at
the other, on two oval dishes, lay four cold partridges in various
stages of decomposition. Behind them a silver basket of openwork
design was occupied by three bunches of black, one bunch of white
grapes, and a silver grape-cutter, which performed no function (it
was so blunt), but had once belonged to a Totteridge and wore their
No servants were in the room, but the side-door was now and again
opened, and something brought in, and this suggested that behind the
door persons were collected, only waiting to be called upon. It was,
in fact, as though Mr. Pendyce had said: "A butler and two footmen at
least could hand you things, but this is a simple country house."
At times a male guest rose, napkin in hand, and said to a lady: "Can
I get you anything from the sideboard?" Being refused, he went and
filled his own plate. Three dogs--two fox-terriers and a decrepit
Skye circled round uneasily, smelling at the visitors' napkins. And
there went up a hum of talk in which sentences like these could be
distinguished: "Rippin' stand that, by the wood. D'you remember your
rockettin' woodcock last year, Jerry?" "And the dear old Squire
never touched a feather! Did you, Squire?" "Dick--Dick! Bad dog!--
come and do your tricks. Trust-trust! Paid for! Isn't he rather a
On Mr. Pendyce's foot, or by the side of his chair, whence he could
see what was being eaten, sat the spaniel John, and now and then Mr.
Pendyce, taking a small portion of something between his finger and
thumb, would say:
"John!--Make a good breakfast, Sir James; I always say a half-
breakfasted man is no good!"
And Mrs. Pendyce, her eyebrows lifted, would look anxiously up and
down the table, murmuring: "Another cup, dear; let me see--are you
When all had finished a silence fell, as if each sought to get away
from what he had been eating, as if each felt he had been engaged in
an unworthy practice; then Mr. Pendyce, finishing his last grape,
wiped his mouth.
"You've a quarter of an hour, gentlemen; we start at ten-fifteen."
Mrs. Pendyce, left seated with a vague, ironical smile, ate one
mouthful of her buttered toast, now very old and leathery, gave the
rest to "the dear dogs," and called:
"George! You want a new shooting tie, dear boy; that green one's
quite faded. I've been meaning to get some silks down for ages.
Have you had any news of your horse this morning?"
"Yes, Blacksmith says he's fit as a fiddle."
"I do so hope he'll win that race for you. Your Uncle Hubert once
lost four thousand pounds over the Rutlandshire. I remember
perfectly; my father had to pay it. I'm so glad you don't bet, dear
"My dear mother, I do bet."
"Oh, George, I hope not much! For goodness' sake, don't tell your
father; he's like all the Pendyces, can't bear a risk."
"My dear mother, I'm not likely to; but, as a matter of fact, there
is no risk. I stand to win a lot of money to nothing."
"But, George, is that right?"
"Of course it's all right."
"Oh, well, I don't understand." Mrs. Pendyce dropped her eyes, a
flush came into her white cheeks; she looked up again and said
quickly: "George, I should like just a little bet on your horse--a
real bet, say about a sovereign."
George Pendyce's creed permitted the show of no emotion. He smiled.
"All right, mother, I'll put it on for you. It'll be about eight to
"Does that mean that if he wins I shall get eight?"
Mrs. Pendyce looked abstractedly at his tie.
"I think it might be two sovereigns; one seems very little to lose,
because I do so want him to win. Isn't Helen Bellew perfectly
charming this morning! It's delightful to see a woman look her best
in the morning."
George turned, to hide the colour in his cheeks.
"She looks fresh enough, certainly."
Mrs. Pendyce glanced up at him; there was a touch of quizzicality in
one of her lifted eyebrows.
"I mustn't keep you, dear; you'll be late for the shooting."
Mr. Pendyce, a sportsman of the old school, who still kept pointers,
which, in the teeth of modern fashion, he was unable to employ, set
his face against the use of two guns.
"Any man," he would say, "who cares to shoot at Worsted Skeynes must
do with one gun, as my dear old father had to do before me. He'll
get a good day's sport--no barndoor birds" (for he encouraged his
pheasants to remain lean, that they might fly the better), "but don't
let him expect one of these battues--sheer butchery, I call them."
He was excessively fond of birds--it was, in fact, his hobby, and he
had collected under glass cases a prodigious number of specimens of
those species which are in danger of becoming extinct, having really,
in some Pendycean sort of way, a feeling that by this practice he was
doing them a good turn, championing them, as it were, to a world that
would soon be unable to look upon them in the flesh. He wished, too,
that his collection should become an integral part of the estate, and
be passed on to his son, and his son's son after him.
"Look at this Dartford Warbler," he would say; "beautiful little
creature--getting rarer every day. I had the greatest difficulty in
procuring this specimen. You wouldn't believe me if I told you what
I had to pay for him!"
Some of his unique birds he had shot himself, having in his youth
made expeditions to foreign countries solely with this object, but
the great majority he had been compelled to purchase. In his library
were row upon row of books carefully arranged and bearing on this
fascinating subject; and his collection of rare, almost extinct,
birds' eggs was one of the finest in the "three kingdoms." One egg
especially he would point to with pride as the last obtainable of
that particular breed. "This was procured," he would say, "by my
dear old gillie Angus out of the bird's very nest. There was just
the single egg. The species," he added, tenderly handling the
delicate, porcelain-like oval in his brown hand covered with very
fine, blackish hairs, "is now extinct." He was, in fact, a true
bird-lover, strongly condemning cockneys, or rough, ignorant persons
who, with no collections of their own, wantonly destroyed
kingfishers, or scarce birds of any sort, out of pure stupidity.
"I would have them flogged," he would say, for he believed that no
such bird should be killed except on commission, and for choice--
barring such extreme cases as that Dartford Warbler--in some foreign
country or remoter part of the British Isles. It was indeed
illustrative of Mr. Pendyce's character and whole point of view that
whenever a rare, winged stranger appeared on his own estate it was
talked of as an event, and preserved alive with the greatest care, in
the hope that it might breed and be handed down with the property;
but if it were personally known to belong to Mr. Fuller or Lord
Quarryman, whose estates abutted on Worsted Skeynes, and there was
grave and imminent danger of its going back, it was promptly shot and
stuffed, that it might not be lost to posterity. An encounter with
another landowner having the same hobby, of whom there were several
in his neighbourhood, would upset him for a week, making him
strangely morose, and he would at once redouble his efforts to add
something rarer than ever to his own collection.
His arrangements for shooting were precisely conceived. Little slips
of paper with the names of the "guns" written thereon were placed in
a hat, and one by one drawn out again, and this he always did
himself. Behind the right wing of the house he held a review of the
beaters, who filed before him out of the yard, each with a long stick
in his hand, and no expression on his face. Five minutes of
directions to the keeper, and then the guns started, carrying their
own weapons and a sufficiency of cartridges for the first drive in
the old way.
A misty radiance clung over the grass as the sun dried the heavy dew;
the thrushes hopped and ran and hid themselves, the rooks cawed
peacefully in the old elms. At an angle the game cart, constructed
on Mr. Pendyce's own pattern, and drawn by a hairy horse in charge of
an aged man, made its way slowly to the end of the first beat:
George lagged behind, his hands deep in his pockets, drinking in the
joy of the tranquil day, the soft bird sounds, so clear and friendly,
that chorus of wild life. The scent of the coverts stole to him, and
'What a ripping day for shooting!'
The Squire, wearing a suit carefully coloured so that no bird should
see him, leather leggings, and a cloth helmet of his own devising,
ventilated by many little holes, came up to his son; and the spaniel
John, who had a passion for the collection of birds almost equal to
his master's, came up too.
"You're end gun, George," he said; "you'll get a nice high bird!"
George felt the ground with his feet, and blew a speck of dust off
his barrels, and the smell of the oil sent a delicious tremor darting
through him. Everything, even Helen Bellew, was forgotten. Then in
the silence rose a far-off clamour; a cock pheasant, skimming low,
his plumage silken in the sun, dived out of the green and golden
spinney, curled to the right, and was lost in undergrowth. Some
pigeons passed over at a great height. The tap-tap of sticks beating
against trees began; then with a fitful rushing noise a pheasant came
straight out. George threw up his gun and pulled. The bird stopped
in mid-air, jerked forward, and fell headlong into the grass sods
with a thud. In the sunlight the dead bird lay, and a smirk of
triumph played on George's lips. He was feeling the joy of life.
During his covert shoots the Squire had the habit of recording his
impressions in a mental note-book. He put special marks against such
as missed, or shot birds behind the waist, or placed lead in them to
the detriment of their market value, or broke only one leg of a hare
at a time, causing the animal to cry like a tortured child, which
some men do not like; or such as, anxious for fame, claimed dead
creatures that they had not shot, or peopled the next beat with
imaginary slain, or too frequently "wiped an important neighbour's
eye," or shot too many beaters in the legs. Against this evidence,
however, he unconsciously weighed the more undeniable social facts,
such as the title of Winlow's father; Sir James Malden's coverts,
which must also presently be shot; Thomas Brandwhite's position in
the financial world; General Pendyce's relationship to himself; and
the importance of the English Church. Against Foxleigh alone he
could put no marks. The fellow destroyed everything that came within
reach with utter precision, and this was perhaps fortunate, for
Foxleigh had neither title, coverts, position, nor cloth! And the
Squire weighed one thing else besides--the pleasure of giving them
all a good day's sport, for his heart was kind.
The sun had fallen well behind the home wood when the guns stood
waiting for the last drive of the day. From the keeper's cottage in
the hollow, where late threads of crimson clung in the brown network
of Virginia creeper, rose a mist of wood smoke, dispersed upon the
breeze. Sound there was none, only that faint stir--the far, far
callings of men and beasts and birds--that never quite dies of a
country evening. High above the wood some startled pigeons were
still wheeling, no other life in sight; but a gleam of sunlight stole
down the side of the covert and laid a burnish on the turned leaves
till the whole wood seemed quivering with magic. Out of that
quivering wood a wounded rabbit had stolen and was dying. It lay on
its side on the slope of a tussock of grass, its hind legs drawn
under it, its forelegs raised like the hands of a praying child.
Motionless as death, all its remaining life was centred in its black
soft eyes. Uncomplaining, ungrudging, unknowing, with that poor soft
wandering eye, it was going back to Mother Earth. There Foxleigh,
too, some day must go, asking of Nature why she had murdered him.
CHAPTER III. THE BLISSFUL HOUR
It was the hour between tea and dinner, when the spirit of the
country house was resting, conscious of its virtue, half asleep.
Having bathed and changed, George Pendyce took his betting-book into
the smoking-room. In a nook devoted to literature, protected from
draught and intrusion by a high leather screen, he sat down in an
armchair and fell into a doze.
With legs crossed, his chin resting on one hand, his comely figure
relaxed, he exhaled a fragrance of soap, as though in this perfect
peace his soul were giving off its natural odour. His spirit, on the
borderland of dreams, trembled with those faint stirrings of chivalry
and aspiration, the outcome of physical well-being after a long day
in the open air, the outcome of security from all that is unpleasant
and fraught with danger. He was awakened by voices.
"George is not a bad shot!"
"Gave a shocking exhibition at the last stand; Mrs. Bellew was with
him. They were going over him like smoke; he couldn't touch a
It was Winlow's voice. A silence, then Thomas Brandwhite's:
"A mistake, the ladies coming out. I never will have them myself.
What do you say, Sir James?"
"Bad principle--very bad!"
A laugh--Thomas Brandwhite's laugh, the laugh of a man never quite
sure of himself.
"That fellow Bellew is a cracked chap. They call him the 'desperate
character' about here. Drinks like a fish, and rides like the devil.
She used to go pretty hard, too. I've noticed there's always a
couple like that in a hunting country. Did you ever see him? Thin,
high-shouldered, white-faced chap, with little dark eyes and a red
"She's still a young woman?"
"Thirty or thirty-two."
"How was it they didn't get on?"
The sound of a match being struck.
"Case of the kettle and the pot."
"It's easy to see she's fond of admiration. Love of admiration plays
old Harry with women!"
Winlow's leisurely tones again
"There was a child, I believe, and it died. And after that--I know
there was some story; you never could get to the bottom of it.
Bellew chucked his regiment in consequence. She's subject to moods,
they say, when nothing's exciting enough; must skate on thin ice,
must have a man skating after her. If the poor devil weighs more
than she does, in he goes."
"That's like her father, old Cheriton. I knew him at the club--one
of the old sort of squires; married his second wife at sixty and
buried her at eighty. Old 'Claret and Piquet,' they called him; had
more children under the rose than any man in Devonshire. I saw him
playing half-crown points the week before he died. It's in the
blood. What's George's weight?--ah, ha!"
"It's no laughing matter, Brandwhite. There's time for a hundred up
before dinner if you care for a game, Winlow?"
The sound of chairs drawn back, of footsteps, and the closing of a
door. George was alone again, a spot of red in either of his cheeks.
Those vague stirrings of chivalry and aspiration were gone, and gone
that sense of well-earned ease. He got up, came out of his corner,
and walked to and fro on the tiger-skin before the fire. He lit a
cigarette, threw it away, and lit another.
Skating on thin ice! That would not stop him! Their gossip would
not stop him, nor their sneers; they would but send him on the
He threw away the second cigarette. It was strange for him to go to
the drawing-room at this hour of the day, but he went.
Opening the door quietly, he saw the long, pleasant room lighted with
tall oil-lamps, and Mrs. Bellew seated at the piano, singing. The
tea-things were still on a table at one end, but every one had
finished. As far away as might be, in the embrasure of the bay-
window, General Pendyce and Bee were playing chess. Grouped in the
centre of the room, by one of the lamps, Lady Maiden, Mrs. Winlow,
and Mrs. Brandwhite had turned their faces towards the piano, and a
sort of slight unwillingness or surprise showed on those faces, a
sort of "We were having a most interesting talk; I don't think we
ought to have been stopped" expression.
Before the fire, with his long legs outstretched, stood Gerald
Pendyce. And a little apart, her dark eyes fixed on the singer, and
a piece of embroidery in her lap, sat Mrs. Pendyce, on the edge of
whose skirt lay Roy, the old Skye terrier.
"But had I wist, before I lost,
That love had been sae ill to win;
I had lockt my heart in a case of gowd
And pinn'd it with a siller pin....
O waly! waly! but love be bonny
A little time while it is new,
But when 'tis auld, it waxeth cauld,
And fades awa' like morning dew!"
This was the song George heard, trembling and dying to the chords of
the fine piano that was a little out of tune.
He gazed at the singer, and though he was not musical, there came a
look into his eyes that he quickly hid away.
A slight murmur occurred in the centre of the room, and from the
fireplace Gerald called out, "Thanks; that's rippin!"
The voice of General Pendyce rose in the bay-window: "Check!"
Mrs. Pendyce, taking up her embroidery, on which a tear had dropped,
"Thank you, dear; most charming!"
Mrs. Bellew left the piano, and sat down beside her. George moved
into the bay-window. He knew nothing of chess-indeed, he could not
stand the game; but from here, without attracting attention, he could
watch Mrs. Bellew.
The air was drowsy and sweet-scented; a log of cedarwood had just
been put on the fire; the voices of his mother and Mrs. Bellew,
talking of what he could not hear, the voices of Lady Malden, Mrs.
Brandwhite, and Gerald, discussing some neighbours, of Mrs. Winlow
dissenting or assenting in turn, all mingled in a comfortable, sleepy
sound, clipped now and then by the voice of General Pendyce calling,
"Check!" and of Bee saying, "Oh, uncle!"
A feeling of rage rose in George. Why should they all be so
comfortable and cosy while this perpetual fire was burning in
himself? And he fastened his moody eyes on her who was keeping him
thus dancing to her pipes.
He made an awkward movement which shook the chess-table. The General
said behind him: "Look out, George! What--what!"
George went up to his mother.
"Let's have a look at that, Mother."
Mrs. Pendyce leaned back in her chair and handed up her work with a
smile of pleased surprise.
"My dear boy, you won't understand it a bit. It's for the front of
my new frock."
George took the piece of work. He did not understand it, but turning
and twisting it he could breathe the warmth of the woman he loved.
In bending over the embroidery he touched Mrs. Bellew's shoulder; it
was not drawn away, a faint pressure seemed to answer his own. His
mother's voice recalled him:
"Oh, my needle, dear! It's so sweet of you, but perhaps"
George handed back the embroidery. Mrs. Pendyce received it with a
grateful look. It was the first time he had ever shown an interest
in her work.
Mrs. Bellew had taken up a palm-leaf fan to screen her face from the
fire. She said slowly:
"If we win to-morrow I'll embroider you something, George."
"And if we lose?"
Mrs. Bellew raised her eyes, and involuntarily George moved so that
his mother could not see the sort of slow mesmerism that was in them.
"If we lose," she said, "I shall sink into the earth. We must win,
He gave an uneasy little laugh, and glanced quickly at his mother.
Mrs. Pendyce had begun to draw her needle in and out with a half-
startled look on her face.
"That's a most haunting little song you sang, dear," she said.
Mrs. Bellew answered: "The words are so true, aren't they?"
George felt her eyes on him, and tried to look at her, but those
half-smiling, half-threatening eyes seemed to twist and turn him
about as his hands had twisted and turned about his mother's
embroidery. Again across Mrs. Pendyce's face flitted that half-
Suddenly General Pendyce's voice was heard saying very loud, "Stale?
Nonsense, Bee, nonsense! Why, damme, so it is!"
A hum of voices from the centre of the room covered up that outburst,
and Gerald, stepping to the hearth, threw another cedar log upon the
fire. The smoke came out in a puff.
Mrs. Pendyce leaned back in her chair smiling, and wrinkling her
fine, thin nose.
"Delicious!" she said, but her eyes did not leave her son's face, and
in them was still that vague alarm.
CHAPTER IV. THE HAPPY HUNTING-GROUND
Of all the places where, by a judicious admixture of whip and spur,
oats and whisky, horses are caused to place one leg before another
with unnecessary rapidity, in order that men may exchange little
pieces of metal with the greater freedom, Newmarket Heath is "the
topmost, and merriest, and best."
This museum of the state of flux--the secret reason of horse-racing
being to afford an example of perpetual motion (no proper racing-man
having ever been found to regard either gains or losses in the light
of an accomplished fact)--this museum of the state of flux has a
climate unrivalled for the production of the British temperament.
Not without a due proportion of that essential formative of
character, east wind, it has at once the hottest sun, the coldest
blizzards, the wettest rain, of any place of its size in the "three
kingdoms." It tends--in advance even of the City of London--to the
nurture and improvement of individualism, to that desirable "I'll see
you d---d" state of mind which is the proud objective of every
Englishman, and especially of every country gentleman. In a word--a
mother to the self-reliant secretiveness which defies intrusion and
forms an integral part in the Christianity of this country--Newmarket
Heath is beyond all others the happy hunting-ground of the landed
In the Paddock half an hour before the Rutlandshire Handicap was to
be run numbers of racing-men were gathered in little knots of two and
three, describing to each other with every precaution the points of
strength in the horses they had laid against, the points of weakness
in the horses they had backed, or vice versa, together with the
latest discrepancies of their trainers and jockeys. At the far end
George Pendyce, his trainer Blacksmith, and his jockey Swells, were
talking in low tones. Many people have observed with surprise the
close-buttoned secrecy of all who have to do with horses. It is no
matter for wonder. The horse is one of those generous and somewhat
careless animals that, if not taken firmly from the first, will
surely give itself away. Essential to a man who has to do with
horses is a complete closeness of physiognomy, otherwise the animal
will never know what is expected of him. The more that is expected
of him, the closer must be the expression of his friends, or a grave
fiasco may have to be deplored.
It was for these reasons that George's face wore more than its
habitual composure, and the faces of his trainer and his jockey were
alert, determined, and expressionless. Blacksmith, a little man, had
in his hand a short notched cane, with which, contrary to
expectation, he did not switch his legs. His eyelids drooped over
his shrewd eyes, his upper lip advanced over the lower, and he wore
no hair on his face. The Jockey Swells' pinched-up countenance, with
jutting eyebrows and practically no cheeks, had under George's
racing-cap of "peacock blue" a subfusc hue like that of old
The Ambler had been bought out of the stud of Colonel Dorking, a man
opposed on high grounds to the racing of two-year-olds, and at the
age of three had never run. Showing more than a suspicion of form in
one or two home trials, he ran a bye in the Fane Stakes, when
obviously not up to the mark, and was then withdrawn from the public
gaze. The Stable had from the start kept its eye on the Rutlandshire
Handicap, and no sooner was Goodwood over than the commission was
placed in the hands of Barney's, well known for their power to enlist
at the most appropriate moment the sympathy of the public in a
horse's favour. Almost coincidentally with the completion of the
Stable Commission it was found that the public were determined to
support the Ambler at any price over seven to one. Barney's at once
proceeded judiciously to lay off the Stable Money, and this having
been done, George found that he stood to win four thousand pounds to
nothing. If he had now chosen to bet this sum against the horse at
the then current price of eight to one, it is obvious that he could
have made an absolute certainty of five hundred pounds, and the horse
need never even have started. But George, who would have been glad
enough of such a sum, was not the man to do this sort of thing. It
was against the tenets of his creed. He believed, too, in his horse;
and had enough of the Totteridge in him to like a race for a race's
sake. Even when beaten there was enjoyment to be had out of the
imperturbability with which he could take that beating, out of a
sense of superiority to men not quite so sportsmanlike as himself.
"Come and see the nag saddled," he said to his brother Gerald.
In one of the long line of boxes the Ambler was awaiting his
toilette, a dark-brown horse, about sixteen hands, with well-placed
shoulders, straight hocks, a small head, and what is known as a rat-
tail. But of all his features, the most remarkable was his eye. In
the depths of that full, soft eye was an almost uncanny gleam, and
when he turned it, half-circled by a moon of white, and gave
bystanders that look of strange comprehension, they felt that he saw
to the bottom of all this that was going on around him. He was still
but three years old, and had not yet attained the age when people
apply to action the fruits of understanding; yet there was little
doubt that as he advanced in years he would manifest his disapproval
of a system whereby men made money at his expense. And with that eye
half-circled by the moon he looked at George, and in silence George
looked back at him, strangely baffled by the horse's long, soft, wild
gaze. On this heart beating deep within its warm, dark satin sheath,
on the spirit gazing through that soft, wild eye, too much was
hanging, and he turned away.
Through the crowd of hard-looking, hatted, muffled, two-legged men,
those four-legged creatures in their chestnut, bay, and brown, and
satin nakedness, most beautiful in all the world, filed proudly past,
as though going forth to death. The last vanished through the gate,
the crowd dispersed.
Down by the rails of Tattersall's George stood alone. He had screwed
himself into a corner, whence he could watch through his long glasses
that gay-coloured, shifting wheel at the end of the mile and more of
turf. At this moment, so pregnant with the future, he could not bear
the company of his fellows.
He looked no longer, but hunched his shoulders, holding his elbows
stiff, that none might see what he was feeling. Behind him a man
"The favourite's beat. What's that in blue on the rails?"
Out by himself on the far rails, out by himself, sweeping along like
a home-coming bird, was the Ambler. And George's heart leaped, as a
fish leaps of a summer evening out of a dark pool.
"They'll never catch him. The Ambler wins! It's a walk-over! The
Silent amidst the shouting throng, George thought: 'My horse! my
horse!' and tears of pure emotion sprang into his eyes. For a full
minute he stood quite still; then, instinctively adjusting hat and
tie, made his way calmly to the Paddock. He left it to his trainer
to lead the Ambler back, and joined him at the weighing-room.
The little jockey was seated, nursing his saddle, negligent and
saturnine, awaiting the words "All right."
Blacksmith said quietly:
"Well, sir, we've pulled it off. Four lengths. I've told Swells he
does no more riding for me. There's a gold-mine given away. What on
earth was he about to come in by himself like that? We shan't get
into the 'City' now under nine stone. It's enough to make a man
And, looking at his trainer, George saw the little man's lips quiver.
In his stall, streaked with sweat, his hind-legs outstretched,
fretting under the ministrations of the groom, the Ambler stayed the
whisking of his head to look at his owner, and once more George met
that long, proud, soft glance. He laid his gloved hand on the
horse's lather-flecked neck. The Ambler tossed his head and turned
George came out into the open, and made his way towards the Stand.
His trainer's words had instilled a drop of poison into his cup. "A
goldmine given away!"
He went up to Swells. On his lips were the words: "What made you
give the show away like that?" He did not speak them, for in his
soul he felt it would not become him to ask his jockey why he had not
dissembled and won by a length. But the little jockey understood at
"Mr. Blacksmith's been at me, sir. You take my tip: he's a queer
one, that 'orse. I thought it best to let him run his own race.
Mark my words, be knows what's what. When they're like that, they're
best let alone."
A voice behind him said:
"Well, George, congratulate you! Not the way I should have ridden
the race myself. He should have lain off to the distance.
Remarkable turn of speed that horse. There's no riding nowadays!"
The Squire and General Pendyce were standing there. Erect and slim,
unlike and yet so very much alike, the eyes of both of them seemed
'I shall differ from you; there are no two opinions about it. I
shall differ from you!'
Behind them stood Mrs. Bellew. Her eyes could not keep still under
their lashes, and their light and colour changed continually. George
walked on slowly at her side. There was a look of triumph and
softness about her; the colour kept deepening in her cheeks, her
figure swayed. They did not look at each other.
Against the Paddock railings stood a man in riding-clothes, of spare
figure, with a horseman's square, high shoulders, and thin long legs
a trifle bowed. His narrow, thin-lipped, freckled face, with close-
cropped sandy hair and clipped red moustache, was of a strange dead
pallor. He followed the figures of George and his companion with
little fiery dark-brown eyes, in which devils seemed to dance.
Someone tapped him on the arm.
"Hallo, Bellew! had a good race?"
"Devil take you, no! Come and have a drink?"
Still without looking at each other, George and Mrs. Bellew walked
towards the gate.
"I don't want to see any more," she said. "I should like to get away
"We'll go after this race," said George. "There's nothing running in
At the back of the Grand Stand, in the midst of all the hurrying
crowd, he stopped.
"Helen?" he said.
Mrs. Bellew raised her eyes and looked full into his.
Long and cross-country is the drive from Royston Railway Station to
Worsted Skeynes. To George Pendyce, driving the dog cart, with Helen
Bellew beside him, it seemed but a minute--that strange minute when
the heaven is opened and a vision shows between. To some men that
vision comes but once, to some men many times. It comes after long
winter, when the blossom hangs; it comes after parched summer, when
the leaves are going gold; and of what hues it is painted--of frost-
white and fire, of wine and purple, of mountain flowers, or the
shadowy green of still deep pools--the seer alone can tell. But this
is certain--the vision steals from him who looks on it all images of
other things, all sense of law, of order, of the living past, and the
living present. It is the future, fair-scented, singing, jewelled,
as when suddenly between high banks a bough of apple-blossom hangs
quivering in the wind loud with the song of bees.
George Pendyce gazed before him at this vision over the grey mare's
back, and she who sat beside him muffled in her fur was touching his
arm with hers. And back to them the second groom, hugging himself
above the road that slipped away beneath, saw another kind of vision,
for he had won five pounds, and his eyes were closed. And the grey
mare saw a vision of her warm light stall, and the oats dropping
between her manger bars, and fled with light hoofs along the lanes
where the side-lamps shot two moving gleams over dark beech-hedges
that rustled crisply in the northeast wind. Again and again she
sneezed in the pleasure of that homeward flight, and the light foam
of her nostrils flicked the faces of those behind. And they sat
silent, thrilling at the touch of each other's arms, their cheeks
glowing in the windy darkness, their eyes shining and fixed before
The second groom awoke suddenly from his dream.
"If I owned that 'orse, like Mr. George, and had such a topper as
this 'ere Mrs. Bellew beside me, would I be sittin' there without a
CHAPTER V. MRS. PENDYCE'S DANCE
Mrs. Pendyce believed in the practice of assembling county society
for the purpose of inducing it to dance, a hardy enterprise in a
county where the souls, and incidentally the feet, of the inhabitants
were shaped for more solid pursuits. Men were her chief difficulty,
for in spite of really national discouragement, it was rare to find a
girl who was not "fond of dancing."
"Ah, dancing; I did so love it! Oh, poor Cecil Tharp!" And with a
queer little smile she pointed to a strapping red-faced youth dancing
with her daughter. "He nearly trips Bee up every minute, and he hugs
her so, as if he were afraid of falling on his head. Oh, dear, what
a bump! It's lucky she's so nice and solid. I like to see the dear
boy. Here come George and Helen Bellew. Poor George is not quite up
to her form, but he's better than most of them. Doesn't she look
lovely this evening?"
Lady Maiden raised her glasses to her eyes by the aid of a tortoise-
"Yes, but she's one of those women you never can look at without
seeing that she has a--a--body. She's too-too--d'you see what I
mean? It's almost--almost like a Frenchwoman!"
Mrs. Bellew had passed so close that the skirt of her seagreen dress
brushed their feet with a swish, and a scent as of a flower-bed was
wafted from it. Mrs. Pendyce wrinkled her nose.
"Much nicer. Her figure's so delicious," she said.
Lady Maiden pondered.
"She's a dangerous woman. James quite agrees with me."
Mrs. Pendyce raised her eyebrows; there was a touch of scorn in that
"She's a very distant cousin of mine," she said. "Her father was
quite a wonderful man. It's an old Devonshire family. The Cheritons
of Bovey are mentioned in Twisdom. I like young people to enjoy.
A smile illumined softly the fine wrinkles round her eyes. Beneath
her lavender satin bodice, with strips of black velvet banding it at
intervals, her heart was beating faster than usual. She was thinking
of a night in her youth, when her old playfellow, young Trefane of
the Blues, danced with her nearly all the evening, and of how at her
window she saw the sun rise, and gently wept because she was married
to Horace Pendyce.
"I always feel sorry for a woman who can dance as she does. I should
have liked to have got some men from town, but Horace will only have
the county people. It's not fair to the girls. It isn't so much
their dancing, as their conversation--all about the first meet, and
yesterday's cubbing, and to-morrow's covert-shooting, and their fox-
terriers (though I'm awfully fond of the dear dogs), and then that
new golf course. Really, it's quite distressing to me at times."
Again Mrs. Pendyce looked out into the room with her patient smile,
and two little lines of wrinkles formed across her forehead between
the regular arching of her eyebrows that were still dark-brown.
"They don't seem able to be gay. I feel they don't really care about
it. They're only just waiting till to-morrow morning, so that they
can go out and kill something. Even Bee's like that!"
Mrs. Pendyce was not exaggerating. The guests at Worsted Skeynes on
the night of the Rutlandshire Handicap were nearly all county people,
from the Hon. Gertrude Winlow, revolving like a faintly coloured
statue, to young Tharp, with his clean face and his fair bullety
head, who danced as though he were riding at a bullfinch. In a niche
old Lord Quarryman, the Master of the Gaddesdon, could be discerned
in conversation with Sir James Malden and the Reverend Hussell
Mrs. Pendyce said:
"Your husband and Lord Quarryman are talking of poachers; I can tell
that by the look of their hands. I can't help sympathising a little
Lady Malden dropped her eyeglasses.
"James takes a very just view of them," she said. "It's such an
insidious offence. The more insidious the offence the more important
it is to check it. It seems hard to punish people for stealing bread
or turnips, though one must, of course; but I've no sympathy with
poachers. So many of them do it for sheer love of sport!"
Mrs. Pendyce answered:
"That's Captain Maydew dancing with her now. He is a good dancer.
Don't their steps fit? Don't they look happy? I do like people to
enjoy themselves! There is such a dreadful lot of unnecessary
sadness and suffering in the world. I think it's really all because
people won't make allowances for each other."
Lady Malden looked at her sideways, pursing her lips; but Mrs.
Pendyce, by race a Totteridge, continued to smile. She had been born
unconscious of her neighbours' scrutinies.
"Helen Bellew," she said, "was such a lovely girl. Her grandfather
was my mother's cousin. What does that make her? Anyway, my cousin,
Gregory Vigil, is her first cousin once removed--the Hampshire
Vigils. Do you know him?"
Lady Malden answered:
"Gregory Vigil? The man with a lot of greyish hair? I've had to do
with him in the S.R.W.C."
But Mrs. Pendyce was dancing mentally.
"Such a good fellow! What is that--the----?"
Lady Malden gave her a sharp look.
"Society for the Rescue of Women and Children, of course. Surely you
know about that?"
Mrs. Pendyce continued to smile.
"Ah, yes, that is nice! What a beautiful figure she has! It's so
refreshing. I envy a woman with a figure like that; it looks as if
it would never grow old. 'Society for the Regeneration of Women'?
Gregory's so good about that sort of thing. But he never seems quite
successful, have you noticed? There was a woman he was very
interested in this spring. I think she drank."
"They all do," said Lady Malden; "it's the curse of the day."
Mrs. Pendyce wrinkled her forehead.
"Most of the Totteridges," she said, "were great drinkers. They
ruined their constitutions. Do you know Jaspar Bellew?"
"It's such a pity he drinks. He came to dinner here once, and I'm
afraid he must have come intoxicated. He took me in; his little eyes
quite burned me up. He drove his dog cart into a ditch on the way
home. That sort of thing gets about so. It's such a pity. He's
quite interesting. Horace can't stand him."
The music of the waltz had ceased. Lady Maiden put her glasses to
her eyes. From close beside them George and Mrs. Bellew passed by.
They moved on out of hearing, but the breeze of her fan had touched
the arching hair on Lady Maiden's forehead, the down on her upper
"Why isn't she with her husband?" she asked abruptly.
Mrs. Pendyce lifted her brows.
"Do you concern yourself to ask that which a well-bred woman leaves
unanswered?" she seemed to say, and a flush coloured her cheeks.
Lady Maiden winced, but, as though it were forced through her mouth
by some explosion in her soul, she said:
"You have only to look and see how dangerous she is!"
The colour in Mrs. Pendyce's cheeks deepened to a blush like a
"Every man," she said, "is in love with Helen Bellew. She's so
tremendously alive. My cousin Gregory has been in love with her for
years, though he is her guardian or trustee, or whatever they call
them now. It's quite romantic. If I were a man I should be in love
with her myself." The flush vanished and left her cheeks to their
true colour, that of a faded rose.
Once more she was listening to the voice of young Trefane, "Ah,
Margery, I love you!"--to her own half whispered answer, "Poor boy!"
Once more she was looking back through that forest of her life where
she had wandered so long, and where every tree was Horace Pendyce.
"What a pity one can't always be young!" she said.
Through the conservatory door, wide open to the lawn, a full moon
flooded the country with pale gold light, and in that light the
branches of the cedar-trees seemed printed black on the grey-blue
paper of the sky; all was cold, still witchery out there, and not
very far away an owl was hooting.
The Reverend Husell Barter, about to enter the conservatory for a
breath of air, was arrested by the sight of a couple half-hidden by a
bushy plant; side by side they were looking at the moonlight, and he
knew them for Mrs. Bellew and George Pendyce. Before he could either
enter or retire, he saw George seize her in his arms. She seemed to
bend her head back, then bring her face to his. The moonlight fell
on it, and on the full, white curve of her neck. The Rector of
Worsted Skeynes saw, too, that her eyes were closed, her lips parted.
CHAPTER VI. INFLUENCE OF THE REVEREND HUSSELL BARTER
Along the walls of the smoking-room, above a leather dado, were
prints of horsemen in night-shirts and nightcaps, or horsemen in red
coats and top-hats, with words underneath such as:
"'Yeoicks' says Thruster; 'Yeoicks' says Dick.
'My word! these d---d Quornites shall now see the trick!'"
Two pairs of antlers surmounted the hearth, mementoes of Mr.
Pendyce's deer-forest, Strathbegally, now given up, where, with the
assistance of his dear old gillie Angus McBane, he had secured the
heads of these monarchs of the glen. Between them was the print of a
personage in trousers, with a rifle under his arm and a smile on his
lips, while two large deerhounds worried a dying stag, and a lady
approached him on a pony.
The Squire and Sir James Malden had retired; the remaining guests
were seated round the fire. Gerald Pendyce stood at a side-table, on
which was a tray of decanters, glasses, and mineral water.
"Who's for a dhrop of the craythur? A wee dhrop of the craythur?
Rector, a dhrop of the craythur? George, a dhrop "
George shook his head. A smile was on his lips, and that smile had
in it a quality of remoteness, as though it belonged to another
sphere, and had strayed on to the lips of this man of the world
against his will. He seemed trying to conquer it, to twist his face
into its habitual shape, but, like the spirit of a strange force, the
smile broke through. It had mastered him, his thoughts, his habits,
and his creed; he was stripped of fashion, as on a thirsty noon a man
stands stripped for a cool plunge from which he hardly cares if he
come up again.
And this smile, not by intrinsic merit, but by virtue of its
strangeness, attracted the eye of each man in the room; so, in a
crowd, the most foreign-looking face will draw all glances.
The Reverend Husell Barter with a frown watched that smile, and
strange thoughts chased through his mind.
"Uncle Charles, a dhrop of the craythur a wee dhrop of the craythur?"
General Pendyce caressed his whisker.
"The least touch," he said, "the least touch! I hear that our friend
Sir Percival is going to stand again."
Mr. Barter rose and placed his back before the fire.
"Outrageous!" he said. "He ought to be told at once that we can't
The Hon. Geoffrey Winlow answered from his chair:
"If he puts up, he'll get in; they can't afford to lose him." And
with a leisurely puff of smoke: "I must say, sir, I don't quite see
what it has to do with his public life."
Mr. Barter thrust forth his lower lip.
"An impenitent man," he said.
"But a woman like that! What chance has a fellow if she once gets
hold of him?"
"When I was stationed at Halifax," began General Pendyce, "she was
the belle of the place---"
Again Mr. Barter thrust out his lower lip.
"Don't let's talk of her---the jade!" Then suddenly to George:
"Let's hear your opinion, George. Dreaming of your victories, eh?"
And the tone of his voice was peculiar.
But George got up.
"I'm too sleepy," he said; "good-night." Curtly nodding, he left the
Outside the door stood a dark oak table covered with silver
candlesticks; a single candle burned thereon, and made a thin gold
path in the velvet blackness. George lighted his candle, and a
second gold path leaped out in front; up this he began to ascend. He
carried his candle at the level of his breast, and the light shone
sideways and up over his white shirt-front and the comely, bulldog
face above it. It shone, too, into his eyes, 'grey and slightly
bloodshot, as though their surfaces concealed passions violently
struggling for expression. At the turning platform of the stair he
paused. In darkness above and in darkness below the country house
was still; all the little life of its day, its petty sounds,
movements, comings, goings, its very breathing, seemed to have fallen
into sleep. The forces of its life had gathered into that pool of
light where George stood listening. The beating of his heart was the
only sound; in that small sound was all the pulse of this great
slumbering space. He stood there long, motionless, listening to the
beating of his heart, like a man fallen into a trance. Then floating
up through the darkness came the echo of a laugh. George started.
"The d----d parson!" he muttered, and turned up the stairs again;
but now he moved like a man with a purpose, and held his candle high
so that the light fell far out into the darkness. He went beyond his
own room, and stood still again. The light of the candle showed
the blood flushing his forehead, beating and pulsing in the veins at
the side of his temples; showed, too, his lips quivering, his shaking
hand. He stretched out that hand and touched the handle of a door,
then stood again like a man of stone, listening for the laugh. He
raised the candle, and it shone into every nook; his throat clicked,
as though he found it hard to swallow....
It was at Barnard Scrolls, the next station to Worsted Skeynes, on
the following afternoon, that a young man entered a first-class
compartment of the 3.10 train to town. The young man wore a
Newmarket coat, natty white gloves, and carried an eyeglass. His
face was well coloured, his chestnut moustache well brushed, and his
blue eyes with their loving expression seemed to say, "Look at me--
come, look at me--can anyone be better fed?" His valise and hat-box,
of the best leather, bore the inscription, "E. Maydew, 8th Lancers."
There was a lady leaning back in a corner, wrapped to the chin in a
fur garment, and the young man, encountering through his eyeglass her
cool, ironical glance, dropped it and held out his hand.
"Ah, Mrs. Bellew, great pleasure t'see you again so soon. You goin'
up to town? Jolly dance last night, wasn't it? Dear old sort, the
Squire, and Mrs. Pendyce such an awf'ly nice woman."
Mrs. Bellew took his hand, and leaned back again in her corner. She
was rather paler than usual, but it became her, and Captain Maydew
thought he had never seen so charming a creature.
"Got a week's leave, thank goodness. Most awf'ly slow time of year.
Cubbin's pretty well over, an' we don't open till the first."
He turned to the window. There in the sunlight the hedgerows ran
golden and brown away from the clouds of trailing train smoke. Young
Maydew shook his head at their beauty.
"The country's still very blind," he said. "Awful pity you've given
up your huntin'."
Mrs. Bellew did not trouble to answer, and it was just that certainty
over herself, the cool assurance of a woman who has known the world,
her calm, almost negligent eyes, that fascinated this young man. He
looked at her quite shyly.
'I suppose you will become my slave,' those eyes seemed to say, 'but
I can't help you, really.'
"Did you back George's horse? I had an awf'ly good race. I was at
school with George. Charmin' fellow, old George."
In Mrs. Bellew's eyes something seemed to stir down in the depths,
but young Maydew was looking at his glove. The handle of the
carriage had left a mark that saddened him.
"You know him well, I suppose, old George?"
"Some fellows, if they have a good thing, keep it so jolly dark. You
fond of racin', Mrs. Bellew?"
"So am I" And his eyes continued, 'It's ripping to like what you
like,' for, hypnotised, they could not tear themselves away from that
creamy face, with its full lips and the clear, faintly smiling eyes
above the high collar of white fur.
At the terminus his services were refused, and rather crestfallen,
with his hat raised, he watched her walk away. But soon, in his cab,
his face regained its normal look, his eyes seemed saying to the
little mirror, 'Look at me come, look at me--can anyone be better
CHAPTER VII. SABBATH AT WORSTED SKEYNES
In the white morning-room which served for her boudoir Mrs. Pendyce
sat with an opened letter in her lap. It was her practice to sit
there on Sunday mornings for an hour before she went to her room
adjoining to put on her hat for church. It was her pleasure during
that hour to do nothing but sit at the window, open if the weather
permitted, and look over the home paddock and the squat spire of the
village church rising among a group of elms. It is not known what
she thought about at those times, unless of the countless Sunday
mornings she had sat there with her hands in her lap waiting to be
roused at 10.45 by the Squire's entrance and his "Now, my dear,
you'll be late!" She had sat there till her hair, once dark-brown,
was turning grey; she would sit there until it was white. One day
she would sit there no longer, and, as likely as not, Mr. Pendyce,
still well preserved, would enter and say, "Now, my dear, you'll be
late!" having for the moment forgotten.
But this was all to be expected, nothing out of the common; the same
thing was happening in hundreds of country houses throughout the
"three kingdoms," and women were sitting waiting for their hair to
turn white, who, long before, at the altar of a fashionable church,
had parted with their imaginations and all the changes and chances of
this mortal life.
Round her chair "the dear dogs" lay--this was their practice too, and
now and again the Skye (he was getting very old) would put out a long
tongue and lick her little pointed shoe. For Mrs. Pendyce had been a
pretty woman, and her feet were as small as ever.
Beside her on a spindley table stood a china bowl filled with dried
rose-leaves, whereon had been scattered an essence smelling like
sweetbriar, whose secret she had learned from her mother in the old
Warwickshire home of the Totteridges, long since sold to Mr. Abraham
Brightman. Mrs. Pendyce, born in the year 1840, loved sweet
perfumes, and was not ashamed of using them.
The Indian summer sun was soft and bright; and wistful, soft, and
bright were Mrs. Pendyce's eyes, fixed on the letter in her lap. She
turned it over and began to read again. A wrinkle visited her brow.
It was not often that a letter demanding decision or involving
responsibility came to her hands past the kind and just censorship of
Horace Pendyce. Many matters were under her control, but were not,
so to speak, connected with the outer world. Thus ran the letter:
"S.R.W.C., HANOVER SQUARE,
"November 1, 1891.
"I want to see you and talk something over, so I'm running down on
Sunday afternoon. There is a train of sorts. Any loft will do for
me to sleep in if your house is full, as it may be, I suppose, at
this time of year. On second thoughts I will tell you what I want to
see you about. You know, of course, that since her father died I am
Helen Bellew's only guardian. Her present position is one in which
no woman should be placed; I am convinced it ought to be put an end
to. That man Bellew deserves no consideration. I cannot write of
him coolly, so I won't write at all. It is two years now since they
separated, entirely, as I consider, through his fault. The law has
placed her in a cruel and helpless position all this time; but now,
thank God, I believe we can move for a divorce. You know me well
enough to realise what I have gone through before coming to this
conclusion. Heaven knows if I could hit on some other way in which
her future could be safeguarded, I would take it in preference to
this, which is most repugnant; but I cannot. You are the only woman
I can rely on to be interested in her, and I must see Bellew. Let
not the fat and just Benson and his estimable horses be disturbed on
my account; I will walk up and carry my toothbrush.
"Affectionately your cousin,
Mrs. Pendyce smiled. She saw no joke, but she knew from the wording
of the last sentence that Gregory saw one, and she liked to give it a
welcome; so smiling and wrinkling her forehead, she mused over the
letter. Her thoughts wandered. The last scandal--Lady Rose
Bethany's divorce--had upset the whole county, and even now one had
to be careful what one said. Horace would not like the idea of
another divorce-suit, and that so close to Worsted Skeynes. When
Helen left on Thursday he had said:
"I'm not sorry she's gone. Her position is a queer one. People
don't like it. The Maidens were quite----"
And Mrs. Pendyce remembered with a glow at her heart how she had
"Ellen Maiden is too bourgeoise for anything!"
Nor had Mr. Pendyce's look of displeasure effaced the comfort of that
Poor Horace! The children took after him, except George, who took
after her brother Hubert. The dear boy had gone back to his club on
Friday--the day after Helen and the others went. She wished he could
have stayed. She wished---- The wrinkle deepened on her brow. Too
much London was bad for him! Too much---- Her fancy flew to the
London which she saw now only for three weeks in June and July, for
the sake of the girls, just when her garden was at its best, and when
really things were such a whirl that she never knew whether she was
asleep or awake. It was not like London at all--not like that London
under spring skies, or in early winter lamplight, where all the
passers-by seemed so interesting, living all sorts of strange and
eager lives, with strange and eager pleasures, running all sorts of
risks, hungry sometimes, homeless even--so fascinating, so unlike----
"Now, my dear, you'll be late!"
Mr. Pendyce, in his Norfolk jacket, which he was on his way to change
for a black coat, passed through the room, followed by the spaniel
John. He turned at the door, and the spaniel John turned too.
"I hope to goodness Barter'll be short this morning. I want to talk
to old Fox about that new chaff-cutter."
Round their mistress the three terriers raised their heads; the aged
Skye gave forth a gentle growl. Mrs. Pendyce leaned over and stroked
"Roy, Roy, how can you, dear?"
Mr. Pendyce said:
"The old dog's losing all his teeth; he'll have to be put away."
His wife flushed painfully.
"Oh no, Horace--oh no!"
The Squire coughed.
"We must think of the dog!" he said.
Mrs. Pendyce rose, and crumpling the letter nervously, followed him
from the room.
A narrow path led through the home paddock towards the church, and
along it the household were making their way. The maids in feathers
hurried along guiltily by twos and threes; the butler followed slowly
by himself. A footman and a groom came next, leaving trails of
pomatum in the air. Presently General Pendyce, in a high square-
topped bowler hat, carrying a malacca cane, and Prayer-Book, appeared
walking between Bee and Norah, also carrying Prayer-Books, with fox-
terriers by their sides. Lastly, the Squire in a high hat, six or
seven paces in advance of his wife, in a small velvet toque.
The rooks had ceased their wheeling and their cawing; the five-
minutes bell, with its jerky, toneless tolling, alone broke the
Sunday hush. An old horse, not yet taken up from grass, stood
motionless, resting a hind-leg, with his face turned towards the
footpath. Within the churchyard wicket the Rector, firm and square,
a low-crowned hat tilted up on his bald forehead, was talking to a
deaf old cottager. He raised his hat and nodded to the ladies; then,
leaving his remark unfinished, disappeared within the vestry. At the
organ Mrs. Barter was drawing out stops in readiness to play her
husband into church, and her eyes, half-shining and half-anxious,
were fixed intently on the vestry door.
The Squire and Mrs. Pendyce, now almost abreast, came down the aisle
and took their seats beside their daughters and the General in the
first pew on the left. It was high and cushioned. They knelt down
on tall red hassocks. Mrs. Pendyce remained over a minute buried in
thought; Mr. Pendyce rose sooner, and looking down, kicked the
hassock that had been put too near the seat. Fixing his glasses on
his nose, he consulted a worn old Bible, then rising, walked to the
lectern and began to find the Lessons. The bell ceased; a wheezing,
growling noise was heard. Mrs. Barter had begun to play; the Rector,
in a white surplice, was coming in. Mr. Pendyce, with his back
turned, continued to find the Lessons. The service began.
Through a plain glass window high up in the right-hand aisle the sun
shot a gleam athwart the Pendyces' pew. It found its last resting-
place on Mrs. Barter's face, showing her soft crumpled cheeks
painfully flushed, the lines on her forehead, and those shining eyes,
eager and anxious, travelling ever from her husband to her music and
back again. At the least fold or frown on his face the music seemed
to quiver, as to some spasm in the player's soul. In the Pendyces'
pew the two girls sang loudly and with a certain sweetness. Mr.
Pendyce, too, sang, and once or twice he looked in surprise at his
brother, as though he were not making a creditable noise.
Mrs. Pendyce did not sing, but her lips moved, and her eyes followed
the millions of little dust atoms dancing in the long slanting
sunbeam. Its gold path canted slowly from her, then, as by magic,
vanished. Mrs. Pendyce let her eyes fall. Something had fled from
her soul with the sunbeam; her lips moved no more.
The Squire sang two loud notes, spoke three, sang two again; the
Psalms ceased. He left his seat, and placing his hands on the
lectern's sides, leaned forward and began to read the Lesson. He
read the story of Abraham and Lot, and of their flocks and herds, and
how they could not dwell together, and as he read, hypnotised by the
sound of his own voice, he was thinking:
'This Lesson is well read by me, Horace Pendyce. I am Horace
Pendyce--Horace Pendyce. Amen, Horace Pendyce!'
And in the first pew on the left Mrs. Pendyce fixed her eyes upon
him, for this was her habit, and she thought how, when the spring
came again, she would run up to town, alone, and stay at Green's
Hotel, where she had always stayed with her father when a girl.
George had promised to look after her, and take her round the
theatres. And forgetting that she had thought this every autumn for
the last ten years, she gently smiled and nodded. Mr. Pendyce said:
"'And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man
can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be
numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in
the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. Then Abram removed
his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in
Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.' Here endeth the
The sun, reaching the second window, again shot a gold pathway
athwart the church; again the millions of dust atoms danced, and the
service went on.
There came a hush. The spaniel John, crouched close to the ground
outside, poked his long black nose under the churchyard gate; the
fox-terriers, seated patient in the grass, pricked their ears. A
voice speaking on one note broke the hush. The spaniel John sighed,
the fox-terriers dropped their ears, and lay down heavily against
each other. The Rector had begun to preach. He preached on
fruitfulness, and in the first right-hand pew six of his children at
once began to fidget. Mrs. Barter, sideways and unsupported on her
seat, kept her starry eyes fixed on his cheek; a line of perplexity
furrowed her brow. Now and again she moved as though her back ached.
The Rector quartered his congregation with his gaze, lest any amongst
them should incline to sleep. He spoke in a loud-sounding voice.
God-he said-wished men to be fruitful, intended them to be fruitful,
commanded them to be fruitful. God--he said--made men, and made the
earth; He made man to be fruitful in the earth; He made man neither
to question nor answer nor argue; He made him to be fruitful and
possess the land. As they had heard in that beautiful Lesson this
morning, God had set bounds, the bounds of marriage, within which man
should multiply; within those bounds it was his duty to multiply, and
that exceedingly--even as Abraham multiplied. In these days dangers,
pitfalls, snares, were rife; in these days men went about and openly,
unashamedly advocated shameful doctrines. Let them beware. It would
be his sacred duty to exclude such men from within the precincts of
that parish entrusted to his care by God. In the language of their
greatest poet, "Such men were dangerous"--dangerous to Christianity,
dangerous to their country, and to national life. They were not
brought into this world to follow sinful inclination, to obey their
mortal reason. God demanded sacrifices of men. Patriotism demanded
sacrifices of men, it demanded that they should curb their
inclinations and desires. It demanded of them their first duty as
men and Christians, the duty of being fruitful and multiplying, in
order that they might till this fruitful earth, not selfishly, not
for themselves alone. It demanded of them the duty of multiplying in
order that they and their children might be equipped to smite the
enemies of their Queen and country, and uphold the name of England in
whatever quarrel, against all who rashly sought to drag her flag in
The Squire opened his eyes and looked at his watch. Folding his
arms, he coughed, for he was thinking of the chaff-cutter. Beside
him Mrs. Pendyce, with her eyes on the altar, smiled as if in sleep.
She was thinking, 'Skyward's in Bond Street used to have lovely lace.
Perhaps in the spring I could---- Or there was Goblin's, their Point
Behind them, four rows back, an aged cottage woman, as upright as a
girl, sat with a rapt expression on her carved old face. She never
moved, her eyes seemed drinking in the movements of the Rector's
lips, her whole being seemed hanging on his words. It is true her
dim eyes saw nothing but a blur, her poor deaf ears could not hear
one word, but she sat at the angle she was used to, and thought of
nothing at all. And perhaps it was better so, for she was near her
Outside the churchyard, in the sun-warmed grass, the fox-terriers lay
one against the other, pretending to shiver, with their small bright
eyes fixed on the church door, and the rubbery nostrils of the
spaniel John worked ever busily beneath the wicket gate.
CHAPTER VIII. GREGORY VIGIL PROPOSES
About three o'clock that afternoon a tall man walked up the avenue at
Worsted Skeynes, in one hand carrying his hat, in the other a small
brown bag. He stopped now and then, and took deep breaths, expanding
the nostrils of his straight nose. He had a fine head, with wings of
grizzled hair. His clothes were loose, his stride was springy.
Standing in the middle of the drive, taking those long breaths, with
his moist blue eyes upon the sky, he excited the attention of a
robin, who ran out of a rhododendron to see, and when he had passed
began to whistle. Gregory Vigil turned, and screwed up his humorous
lips, and, except that he was completely lacking in embonpoint, he
had a certain resemblance to this bird, which is supposed to be
He asked for Mrs. Pendyce in a high, light voice, very pleasant to
the ear, and was at once shown to the white morning-room.
She greeted him affectionately, like many women who have grown used
to hearing from their husbands the formula "Oh! your people!"--she
had a strong feeling for her kith and kin.
"You know, Grig," she said, when her cousin was seated, "your letter
was rather disturbing. Her separation from Captain Bellew has caused
such a lot of talk about here. Yes; it's very common, I know, that
sort of thing, but Horace is so----! All the squires and parsons and
county people we get about here are just the same. Of course, I'm
very fond of her, she's so charming to look at; but, Gregory, I
really don't dislike her husband. He's a desperate sort of person--I
think that's rather, refreshing; and you know I do think she's a
little like him in that!"
The blood rushed up into Gregory Vigil's forehead; he put his hand to
his head, and said:
"Like him? Like that man? Is a rose like an artichoke?"
Mrs. Pendyce went on:
"I enjoyed having her here immensely. It's the first time she's been
here since she left the Firs. How long is that? Two years? But you
know, Grig, the Maidens were quite upset about her. Do you think a
divorce is really necessary?"
Gregory Vigil answered: "I'm afraid it is."
Mrs. Pendyce met her cousin's gaze serenely; if anything, her brows
were uplifted more than usual; but, as at the stirring of secret
trouble, her fingers began to twine and twist. Before her rose a
vision of George and Mrs. Bellew side by side. It was a vague
maternal feeling, an instinctive fear. She stilled her fingers, let
her eyelids droop, and said:
"Of course, dear Grig, if I can help you in any way--Horace does so
dislike anything to do with the papers."
Gregory Vigil drew in his breath.
"The papers!" he said. "How hateful it is! To think that our
civilisation should allow women to be cast to the dogs! Understand,
Margery, I'm thinking of her. In this matter I'm not capable of
considering anything else."
Mrs. Pendyce murmured: "Of course, dear Grig, I quite understand."
"Her position is odious; a woman should not have to live like that,
exposed to everyone's foul gossip."
"But, dear Grig, I don't think she minds; she seemed to me in such
Gregory ran his fingers through his hair.
"Nobody understands her," he said; "she's so plucky!"
Mrs. Pendyce stole a glance at him, and a little ironical smile
flickered over her face.
"No one can look at her without seeing her spirit. But, Grig,
perhaps you don't quite understand her either!"
Gregory Vigil put his hand to his head.
"I must open the window a moment," he said.
Again Mrs. Pendyce's fingers began twisting, again she stilled them.
"We were quite a large party last week, and now there's only Charles.
Even George has gone back; he'll be so sorry to have missed you!"
Gregory neither turned nor answered, and a wistful look came into
Mrs. Pendyce's face.
"It was so nice for the dear boy to win that race! I'm afraid he
bets rather! It's such a comfort Horace doesn't know."
Still Gregory did not speak.
Mrs. Pendyce's face lost its anxious look, and gained a sort of
"Dear Grig," she said, "where do you go about your hair? It is so
nice and long and wavy!"
Gregory turned with a blush.
"I've been wanting to get it cut for ages. Do you really mean,
Margery, that your husband can't realise the position she's placed
Mrs. Pendyce fixed her eyes on her lap.
"You see, Grig," she began, "she was here a good deal before she left
the Firs, and, of course, she's related to me--though it's very
distant. With those horrid cases, you never know what will happen.
Horace is certain to say that she ought to go back to her husband;
or, if that's impossible, he'll say she ought to think of Society.
Lady Rose Bethany's case has shaken everybody, and Horace is nervous.
I don't know how it is, there's a great feeling amongst people about
here against women asserting themselves. You should hear Mr. Barter
and Sir James Maiden, and dozens of others; the funny thing is that
the women take their side. Of course, it seems odd to me, because so
many of the Totteridges ran away, or did something funny. I can't
help sympathising with her, but I have to think of--of---- In the
country, you don't know how things that people do get about before
they've done them! There's only that and hunting to talk of.
Gregory Vigil clutched at his head.
"Well, if this is what chivalry has come to, thank God I'm not a
Mrs. Pendyce's eyes flickered.
"Ah!" she said, "I've thought like that so often."
Gregory broke the silence.
"I can't help the customs of the country. My duty's plain. There's
nobody else to look after her."
Mrs. Pendyce sighed, and, rising from her chair, said: "Very well,
dear Grig; do let us go and have some tea."
Tea at Worsted Skeynes was served in the hall on Sundays, and was
usually attended by the Rector and his wife. Young Cecil Tharp had
walked over with his dog, which could be heard whimpering faintly
outside the front-door.
General Pendyce, with his knees crossed and the tips of his fingers
pressed together, was leaning back in his chair and staring at the
wall. The Squire, who held his latest bird's-egg in his hand, was
showing its spots to the Rector.
In a corner by a harmonium, on which no one ever played, Norah talked
of the village hockey club to Mrs. Barter, who sat with her eyes
fixed on her husband. On the other side of the fire Bee and young
Tharp, whose chairs seemed very close together, spoke of their horses
in low tones, stealing shy glances at each other. The light was
failing, the wood logs crackled, and now and then over the cosy hum
of talk there fell short, drowsy silences--silences of sheer warmth
and comfort, like the silence of the spaniel John asleep against his
"Well," said Gregory softly, " I must go and see this man."
"Is it really necessary, Grig, to see him at all? I mean--if you've
made up your mind----"
Gregory ran his hand through his hair.
"It's only fair, I think!" And crossing the hall, he let himself out
so quietly that no one but Mrs. Pendyce noticed he had gone.
An hour and a half later, near the railway-station, on the road from
the village back to Worsted Skeynes, Mr. Pendyce and his daughter Bee
were returning from their Sunday visit to their old butler, Bigson.
The Squire was talking.
"He's failing, Bee-dear old Bigson's failing. I can't hear what he
says, he mumbles so; and he forgets. Fancy his forgetting that I was
at Oxford. But we don't get servants like him nowadays. That chap
we've got now is a sleepy fellow. Sleepy! he's---- What's that in
the road? They've no business to be coming at that pace. Who is it?
I can't see."
Down the middle of the dark road a dog cart was approaching at top
speed. Bee seized her father's arm and pulled it vigorously, for Mr.
Pendyce was standing stock-still in disapproval. The dog cart passed
within a foot of him and vanished, swinging round into the station.
Mr. Pendyce turned in his tracks.
"Who was that? Disgraceful! On Sunday, too! The fellow must be
drunk; he nearly ran over my legs. Did you see, Bee, he nearly ran
"It was Captain Bellew, Father; I saw his face." "Bellew? That
drunken fellow? I shall summons him. Did you see, Bee, he nearly
ran over my----"
"Perhaps he's had bad news," said Bee. "There's the train going out
now; I do hope he caught it!"
"Bad news! Is that an excuse for driving over me? You hope he
caught it? I hope he's thrown himself out. The ruffian! I hope
he's killed himself."
In this strain Mr. Pendyce continued until they reached the church.
On their way up the aisle they passed Gregory Vigil leaning forward
with his elbows on the desk and his hand covering his eyes....
At eleven o'clock that night a man stood outside the door of Mrs.
Bellew's flat in Chelsea violently ringing the bell. His face was
deathly white, but his little dark eyes sparkled. The door was
opened, and Helen Bellew in evening dress stood there holding a
candle in her hand.
"Who are you? What do you want?"
The man moved into the light.
"Jaspar! You? What on earth----"
"I want to talk."
"Talk? Do you know what time it is?"
"Time--there's no such thing. You might give me a kiss after two
years. I've been drinking, but I'm not drunk."
Mrs. Bellew did not kiss him, neither did she draw back her face. No
trace of alarm showed in her ice-grey eyes. She said: " If I let you
in, will you promise to say what you want to say quickly, and go
The little brown devils danced in Bellew's face. He nodded. They
stood by the hearth in the sitting-room, and on the lips of both came
and went a peculiar smile.
It was difficult to contemplate too seriously a person with whom one
had lived for years, with whom one had experienced in common the
range of human passion, intimacy, and estrangement, who knew all
those little daily things that men and women living together know of
each other, and with whom in the end, without hatred, but because of
one's nature, one had ceased to live. There was nothing for either
of them to find out, and with a little smile, like the smile of
knowledge itself, Jaspar Bellew and Helen his wife looked at each
"Well," she said again; "what have you come for?"
Bellew's face had changed. Its expression was furtive; his mouth
twitched; a furrow had come between his eyes.
"How--are--you?" he said in a thick, muttering voice.
Mrs. Bellew's clear voice answered:
"Now, Jaspar, what is it that you want?"
The little brown devils leaped up again in Jaspar's face.
"You look very pretty to-night!"
His wife's lips curled.
"I'm much the same as I always was," she said.
A violent shudder shook Bellew. He fixed his eyes on the floor a
little beyond her to the left; suddenly he raised them. They were
"I'm perfectly sober," he murmured thickly; then with startling
quickness his eyes began to sparkle again. He came a step nearer.
"You're my wife!" he said.
Mrs. Bellew smiled.
"Come," she answered, "you must go!" and she put out her bare arm to
push him back. But Bellew recoiled of his own accord; his eyes were
fixed again on the floor a little beyond her to the left.
"What's that?" he stammered. "What's that--that black----?"
The devilry, mockery, admiration, bemusement, had gone out of his
face; it was white and calm, and horribly pathetic.
"Don't turn me out," he stammered; "don't turn me out!"
Mrs. Bellew looked at him hard; the defiance in her eyes changed to a
sort of pity. She took a quick step and put her hand on his
"It's all right, old boy--all right!" she said. "There's nothing
CHAPTER IX. MR. PARAMOR DISPOSES
Mrs. Pendyce, who, in accordance with her husband's wish, still
occupied the same room as Mr. Pendyce, chose the ten minutes before
he got up to break to him Gregory's decision. The moment was
auspicious, for he was only half awake.
"Horace," she said, and her face looked young and anxious, "Grig says
that Helen Bellew ought not to go on in her present position. Of
course, I told him that you'd be annoyed, but Grig says that she
can't go on like this, that she simply must divorce Captain Bellew."
Mr. Pendyce was lying on his back.
"What's that?" he said.
Mrs. Pendyce went on
"I knew it would worry you; but really"--she fixed her eyes on the
ceiling--"I suppose we ought only to think of her."
The Squire sat up.
"What was that," he said, "about Bellew?"
Mrs. Pendyce went on in a languid voice and without moving her eyes:
"Don't be angrier than you can help, dear; it is so wearing. If Grig
says she ought to divorce Captain Bellew, then I'm sure she ought."
Horace Pendyce subsided on his pillow with a bounce, and he too lay
with his eyes fixed on the ceiling.
"Divorce him!" he said--"I should think so! He ought to be hanged,
a fellow like that. I told you last night he nearly drove over me.
Living just as he likes, setting an example of devilry to the whole
neighbourhood! If I hadn't kept my head he'd have bowled me over
like a ninepin, and Bee into the bargain."
Mrs. Pendyce sighed.
"It was a narrow escape," she said.
"Divorce him!" resumed Mr. Pendyce--"I should think so! She ought to
have divorced him long ago. It was the nearest thing in the world;
another foot and I should have been knocked off my feet!"
Mrs. Pendyce withdrew her glance from the ceiling.
"At first," she said, "I wondered whether it was quite--but I'm very
glad you've taken it like this."
"Taken it! I can tell you, Margery, that sort of thing makes one
think. All the time Barter was preaching last night I was wondering
what on earth would have happened to this estate if--if----" And he
looked round with a frown. "Even as it is, I barely make the two
ends of it meet. As to George, he's no more fit at present to manage
it than you are; he'd make a loss of thousands."
"I'm afraid George is too much in London. That's the reason I
wondered whether--I'm afraid he sees too much of----"
Mrs. Pendyce stopped; a flush suffused her cheeks; she had pinched
herself violently beneath the bedclothes.
"George," said Mr. Pendyce, pursuing his own thoughts, "has no
gumption. He'd never manage a man like Peacock--and you encourage
him! He ought to marry and settle down."
Mrs. Pendyce, the flush dying in her cheeks, said:
"George is very like poor Hubert."
Horace Pendyce drew his watch from beneath his pillow.
"Ah!" But he refrained from adding, "Your people!" for Hubert
Totteridge had not been dead a year. "Ten minutes to eight! You
keep me talking here; it's time I was in my bath."
Clad in pyjamas with a very wide blue stripe, grey-eyed, grey-
moustached, slim and erect, he paused at the door.
"The girls haven't a scrap of imagination. What do you think Bee
said? 'I hope he hasn't lost his train.' Lost his train! Good God!
and I might have--I might have----" The Squire did not finish his
sentence; no words but what seemed to him violent and extreme would
have fulfilled his conception of the danger he had escaped, and it
was against his nature and his training to exaggerate a physical
At breakfast he was more cordial than usual to Gregory, who was going
up by the first train, for as a rule Mr. Pendyce rather distrusted
him, as one would a wife's cousin, especially if he had a sense of
"A very good fellow," he was wont to say of him, "but an out-and-out
Radical." It was the only label he could find for Gregory's
Gregory departed without further allusion to the object of his visit.
He was driven to the station in a brougham by the frst groom, and sat
with his hat off and his head at the open window, as if trying to get
something blown out of his brain. Indeed, throughout the whole of
his journey up to town he looked out of the window, and expressions
half humorous and half puzzled played on his face. Like a panorama
slowly unrolled, country house after country house, church after
church, appeared before his eyes in the autumn sunlight, among the
hedgerows and the coverts that were all brown and gold; and far away
on the rising uplands the slow ploughman drove, outlined against the
He took a cab from the station to his solicitors' in Lincoln's Inn
Fields. He was shown into a room bare of all legal accessories,
except a series of Law Reports and a bunch of violets in a glass of
fresh water. Edmund Paramor, the senior partner of Paramor and
Herring, a clean-shaven man of sixty, with iron-grey hair brushed in
a cockscomb off his forehead, greeted him with a smile.
"Ah, Vigil, how are you? Up from the country?"
"From Worsted Skeynes."
"Horace Pendyce is a client of mine. Well, what can we do for you?
Your Society up a tree?"
Gregory Vigil, in the padded leather chair that had held so many
aspirants for comfort, sat a full minute without speaking; and Mr.
Paramor, too, after one keen glance at his client that seemed to come
from very far down in his soul, sat motionless and grave. There was
at that moment something a little similar in the eyes of these two
very different men, a look of kindred honesty and aspiration.
Gregory spoke at last.
"It's a painful subject to me."
Mr. Paramor drew a face on his blotting-paper.
"I have come," went on Gregory, "about a divorce for my ward."
"Mrs. Jaspar Bellew?"
"Yes; her position is intolerable."
Mr. Paramor gave him a searching look.
"Let me see: I think she and her husband have been separated for some
"Yes, for two years."
"You're acting with her consent, of course?"
"I have spoken to her."
"You know the law of divorce, I suppose?"
Gregory answered with a painful smile:
"I'm not very clear about it; I hardly ever look at those cases in
the paper. I hate the whole idea."
Mr. Paramor smiled again, became instantly grave, and said:
"We shall want evidence of certain things, Have you got any
Gregory ran his hand through his hair.
"I don't think there'll be any difficulty," he said. "Bellew agrees
--they both agree!"
Mr. Paramor stared.
"What's that to do with it?"
Gregory caught him up.
"Surely, where both parties are anxious, and there's no opposition,
it can't be difficult."
"Good Lord!" said Mr. Paramor.
"But I've seen Bellew; I saw him yesterday. I'm sure I can get him
to admit anything you want!"
Mr. Paramor drew his breath between his teeth.
"Did you ever," he said drily, "hear of what's called collusion?"
Gregory got up and paced the room.
"I don't know that I've ever heard anything very exact about the
thing at all," he said. "The whole subject is hateful to me. I
regard marriage as sacred, and when, which God forbid, it proves
unsacred, it is horrible to think of these formalities. This is a
Christian country; we are all flesh and blood. What is this slime,
With this outburst he sank again into the chair, and leaned his head
on his hand. And oddly, instead of smiling, Mr. Paramor looked at
him with haunting eyes.
"Two unhappy persons must not seem to agree to be parted," he said.
"One must be believed to desire to keep hold of the other, and must
pose as an injured person. There must be evidence of misconduct, and
in this case of cruelty or of desertion. The evidence must be
impartial. This is the law."
Gregory said without looking up:
Mr. Paramor took his violets out of the water, and put them to his
"How do you mean--why?"
"I mean, why this underhand, roundabout way?"
Mr. Paramor's face changed with startling speed from its haunting
look back to his smile.
"Well," he said, "for the preservation of morality. What do you
"Do you call it moral so to imprison people that you drive them to
sin in order to free themselves?"
Mr. Paramor obliterated the face on his blotting-pad.
"Where's your sense of humour?" he said.
"I see no joke, Paramor."
Mr. Paramor leaned forward.
"My dear friend," he said earnestly, "I don't say for a minute that
our system doesn't cause a great deal of quite unnecessary suffering;
I don't say that it doesn't need reform. Most lawyers and almost any
thinking man will tell you that it does. But that's a wide question
which doesn't help us here. We'll manage your business for you, if
it can be done. You've made a bad start, that's all. The first
thing is for us to write to Mrs. Bellew, and ask her to come and see
us. We shall have to get Bellew watched."
"That's detestable. Can't it be done without that?"
Mr. Paramor bit his forefinger.
"Not safe," he said. "But don't bother; we'll see to all that."
Gregory rose and went to the window. He said suddenly:
"I can't bear this underhand work."
Mr. Paramor smiled.
"Every honest man," he said, "feels as you do. But, you see, we must
think of the law."
Gregory burst out again:
"Can no one get a divorce, then, without making beasts or spies of
Mr. Paramor said gravely
"It is difficult, perhaps impossible. You see, the law is based on
A smile wreathed Mr. Paramor's mouth, but died instantly.
"Ecclesiastical principles, and according to these a person desiring
a divorce 'ipso facto' loses caste. That they should have to make
spies or beasts of themselves is not of grave importance."
Gregory came back to the table, and again buried his head in his
"Don't joke, please, Paramor," he said; "it's all so painful to me."
Mr. Paramor's eyes haunted his client's bowed head.
"I'm not joking," he said. "God forbid! Do you read poetry?" And
opening a drawer, he took out a book bound in red leather. "This is
a man I'm fond of:
"'Life is mostly froth and bubble;
Two things stand like stone---
KINDNESS in another's trouble,
COURAGE in your own.'
That seems to me the sum of all philosophy."
"Paramor," said Gregory, "my ward is very dear to me; she is dearer
to me than any woman I know. I am here in a most dreadful dilemma.
On the one hand there is this horrible underhand business, with all
its publicity; and on the other there is her position--a beautiful
woman, fond of gaiety, living alone in this London, where every man's
instincts and every woman's tongue look upon her as fair game. It
has been brought home to me only too painfully of late. God forgive
me! I have even advised her to go back to Bellew, but that seems out
of the question. What am I to do?"
Mr. Paramor rose.
"I know," he said--"I know. My dear friend, I know!" And for a full
minute he remained motionless, a little turned from Gregory. "It
will be better," he said suddenly, "for her to get rid of him. I'll
go and see her myself. We'll spare her all we can. I'll go this
afternoon, and let you know the result."
As though by mutual instinct, they put out their hands, which they
shook with averted faces. Then Gregory, seizing his hat, strode out
of the room.
He went straight to the rooms of his Society in Hanover Square. They
were on the top floor, higher than the rooms of any other Society in
the building--so high, in fact, that from their windows, which began
five feet up, you could practically only see the sky.
A girl with sloping shoulders, red cheeks, and dark eyes, was working
a typewriter in a corner, and sideways to the sky at a bureau
littered with addressed envelopes, unanswered letters, and copies of
the Society's publications, was seated a grey-haired lady with a
long, thin, weatherbeaten face and glowing eyes, who was frowning at
a page of manuscript.
"Oh, Mr. Vigil," she said, "I'm so glad you've come. This paragraph
mustn't go as it is. It will never do."
Gregory took the manuscript and read the paragraph in question.
"This case of Eva Nevill is so horrible that we ask those of our
women readers who live in the security, luxury perhaps, peace
certainly, of their country homes, what they would have done, finding
themselves suddenly in the position of this poor girl--in a great
city, without friends, without money, almost without clothes, and
exposed to all the craft of one of those fiends in human form who
prey upon our womankind. Let each one ask herself: Should I have
resisted where she fell?"
"It will never do to send that out," said the lady again.
"What is the matter with it, Mrs. Shortman?"
"It's too personal. Think of Lady Maiden, or most of our
subscribers. You can't expect them to imagine themselves like poor
Eva. I'm sure they won't like it."
Gregory clutched at his hair.
"Is it possible they can't stand that?" he said.
"It's only because you've given such horrible details of poor Eva."
Gregory got up and paced the room.
Mrs. Shortman went on
"You've not lived in the country for so long, Mr. Vigil, that you
don't remember. You see, I know. People don't like to be harrowed.
Besides, think how difficult it is for them to imagine themselves in
such a position. It'll only shock them, and do our circulation
Gregory snatched up the page and handed it to the girl who sat at the
typewriter in the corner.
"Read that, please, Miss Mallow."
The girl read without raising her eyes.
"Well, is it what Mrs. Shortman says?"
The girl handed it back with a blush.
"It's perfect, of course, in itself, but I think Mrs. Shortman is
right. It might offend some people."
Gregory went quickly to the window, threw it up, and stood gazing at
the sky. Both women looked at his back.
Mrs. Shortman said gently:
"I would only just alter it like this, from after 'country homes':
'whether they do not pity and forgive this poor girl in a great city,
without friends, without money, almost without clothes, and exposed
to all the craft of one of those fiends in human form who prey upon
our womankind,' and just stop there."
Gregory returned to the table.
"Not 'forgive,"' he said, "not 'forgive'!"
Mrs. Shortman raised her pen.
"You don't know," she said, "what a strong feeling there is. Mind,
it has to go to numbers of parsonages, Mr. Vigil. Our principle has
always been to be very careful. And you have been plainer than usual
in stating the case. It's not as if they really could put themselves
in her position; that's impossible. Not one woman in a hundred
could, especially among those who live in the country and have never
seen life. I'm a squire's daughter myself."
"And I a parson's," said Gregory, with a smile.
Mrs. Shortman looked at him reproachfully.
"Joking apart, Mr. Vigil, it's touch and go with our paper as it is;
we really can't afford it. I've had lots of letters lately
complaining that we put the cases unnecessarily strongly. Here's
"'While sympathising with your good work, I am afraid I cannot become
a subscriber to your paper while it takes its present form, as I do
not feel that it is always fit reading for my girls. I cannot think
it either wise or right that they should become acquainted with such
dreadful aspects of life, however true they may be.
"'I am, dear madam,
"'P.S.--I could never feel sure, too, that my maids would not pick it
up, and perhaps take harm.'
I had that only this morning."
Gregory buried his face in his hands, and sitting thus he looked so
like a man praying that no one spoke. When he raised his face it was
"Not 'forgive,' Mrs. Shortman, not 'forgive'!"
Mrs. Shortman ran her pen through the word.
"Very well, Mr. Vigil," she said; "it's a risk."
The sound of the typewriter, which had been hushed, began again from
"That case of drink, Mr. Vigil--Millicent Porter--I'm afraid there's
very little hope there."
"Relapsed again; it's the fifth time."
Gregory turned his face to the window, and looked at the sky.
"I must go and see her. Just give me her address."
Mrs. Shortman read from a green book:
"'Mrs. Porter, 2 Bilcock Buildings, Bloomsbury.' Mr. Vigil!"
"Mr. Vigil, I do sometimes wish you would not persevere so long with
those hopeless cases; they never seem to come to anything, and your
time is so valuable."
"How can I give them up, Mrs. Shortman? There's no choice."
"But, Mr. Vigil, why is there no choice? You must draw the line
somewhere. Do forgive me for saying that I think you sometimes waste
Gregory turned to the girl at the typewriter.
"Miss Mallow, is Mrs. Shortman right? do I waste my time?"
The girl at the typewriter blushed vividly, and, without looking
"How can I tell, Mr. Vigil? But it does worry one."
A humorous and perplexed smile passed over Gregory's lips.
"Now I know I shall cure her," he said. "2 Bilcock Buildings." And
he continued to look at the sky. "How's your neuralgia, Mrs.
Mrs. Shortman smiled.
Gregory turned quickly.
"You feel that window, then; I'm so sorry."
Mrs. Shortman shook her head.
"No, but perhaps Molly does."
The girl at the typewriter said:
"Oh no; please, Mr. Vigil, don't shut it for me."
"Truth and honour?"
"Truth and honour," replied both women. And all three for a moment
sat looking at the sky. Then Mrs. Shortman said:
"You see, you can't get to the root of the evil--that husband of
"Ah," he said, "that man! If she could only get rid of him! That
ought to have been done long ago, before he drove her to drink like
this. Why didn't she, Mrs. Shortman, why didn't she?"
Mrs. Shortman raised her eyes, which had such a peculiar spiritual
"I don't suppose she had the money," she said; "and she must have
been such a nice woman then. A nice woman doesn't like to divorce--"
Gregory looked at her.
"What, Mrs. Shortman, you too, you too among the Pharisees?"
Mrs. Shortman flushed.
"She wanted to save him," she said; "she must have wanted to save
"Then you and I----" But Gregory did not finish, and turned again to
the window. Mrs. Shortman, too, biting her lips, looked anxiously at
Miss Mallow at the typewriter, with a scared face, plied her fingers
faster than ever.
Gregory was the first to speak.
"You must please forgive me," he said gently. "A personal matter; I
Mrs. Shortman withdrew her gaze from the sky.
"Oh, Mr. Vigil, if I had known----"
Gregory Gregory smiled.
"Don't, don't!" he said; "we've quite frightened poor Miss Mallow!"
Miss Mallow looked round at him, he looked at her, and all three once
more looked at the sky. It was the chief recreation of this little
Gregory worked till nearly three, and walked out to a bun-shop, where
he lunched off a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. He took an
omnibus, and getting on the top, was driven West with a smile on his
face and his hat in his hand. He was thinking of Helen Bellew. It
had become a habit with him to think of her, the best and most
beautiful of her sex--a habit in which he was growing grey, and with
which, therefore, he could not part. And those women who saw him
with his uncovered head smiled, and thought:
'What a fine-looking man!'
But George Pendyce, who saw him from the window of the Stoics' Club,
smiled a different smile; the sight of him was always a little
unpleasant to George.
Nature, who had made Gregory Vigil a man, had long found that he had
got out of her hands, and was living in celibacy, deprived of the
comfort of woman, even of those poor creatures whom he befriended;
and Nature, who cannot bear that man should escape her control,
avenged herself through his nerves and a habit of blood to the head.
Extravagance, she said, I cannot have, and when I made this man I
made him quite extravagant enough. For his temperament (not uncommon
in a misty climate) had been born seven feet high; and as a man
cannot add a cubit to his stature, so neither can he take one off.
Gregory could not bear that a yellow man must always remain a yellow
man, but trusted by care and attention some day to see him white.
There lives no mortal who has not a philosophy as distinct from every
other mortal's as his face is different from their faces; but Gregory
believed that philosophers unfortunately alien must gain in time a
likeness to himself if he were careful to tell them often that they
had been mistaken. Other men in this Great Britain had the same
To Gregory's reforming instinct it was a constant grief that he had
been born refined. A natural delicacy would interfere and mar his
noblest efforts. Hence failures deplored by Mrs. Pendyce to Lady
Maiden the night they danced at Worsted Skeynes.
He left his bus near to the flat where Mrs. Bellow lived; with
reverence he made the tour of the building and back again. He had
long fixed a rule, which he never broke, of seeing her only once a
fortnight; but to pass her windows he went out of his way most days
and nights. And having made this tour, not conscious of having done
anything ridiculous, still smiling, and with his hat on his knee,
perhaps really happier because he had not seen her, was driven East,
once more passing George Pendyce in the bow-window of the Stoics'
Club, and once more raising on his face a jeering smile.
He had been back at his rooms in Buckingham Street half an hour when
a club commissionaire arrived with Mr. Paramor's promised letter.
He opened it hastily.
"THE NELSON CLUB,
"MY DEAR VIGIL,
"I've just come from seeing your ward. An embarrassing complexion is
lent to affairs by what took place last night. It appears that after
your visit to him yesterday afternoon her husband came up to town,
and made his appearance at her flat about eleven o'clock. He was in
a condition bordering on delirium tremens, and Mrs. Bellew was
obliged to keep him for the night. 'I could not,' she said to me,
'have refused a dog in such a state.' The visit lasted until this
afternoon--in fact, the man had only just gone when I arrived. It is
a piece of irony, of which I must explain to you the importance. I
think I told you that the law of divorce is based on certain
principles. One of these excludes any forgiveness of offences by the
party moving for a divorce. In technical language, any such
forgiveness or overlooking is called condonation, and it is a
complete bar to further action for the time being. The Court is very
jealous of this principle of nonforgiveness, and will regard with
grave suspicion any conduct on the part of the offended party which
might be construed as amounting to condonation. I fear that what
your ward tells me will make it altogether inadvisable to apply for a
divorce on any evidence that may lie in the past. It is too
dangerous. In other words, the Court would almost certainly consider
that she has condoned offences so far. Any further offence, however,
will in technical language 'revive' the past, and under these
circumstances, though nothing can be done at present, there may be
hope in the future. After seeing your ward, I quite appreciate your
anxiety in the matter, though I am by no means sure that you are
right in advising this divorce. If you remain in the same mind,
however, I will give the matter my best personal attention, and my
counsel to you is not to worry. This is no matter for a layman,
especially not for one who, like you, judges of things rather as they
ought to be than as they are.
"I am, my dear Vigil,
"Very sincerely yours,
"GREGORY VIGIL, ESQ.
"If you want to see me, I shall be at my club all the evening.-E. P."
When Gregory had read this note he walked to the window, and stood
looking out over the lights on the river. His heart beat furiously,
his temples were crimson. He went downstairs, and took a cab to the
Mr. Paramor, who was about to dine, invited his visitor to join him.
Gregory shook his head.
"No, thanks," he said; "I don't feel like dining. What is this,
Paramor? Surely there's some mistake? Do you mean to tell me that
because she acted like a Christian to that man she is to be punished
for it in this way?"
Mr. Paramor bit his finger.
"Don't confuse yourself by dragging in Christianity. Christianity
has nothing to do with law."
"You talked of principles," said Gregory--"ecclesiastical"
"Yes, yes; I meant principles imported from the old ecclesiastical
conception of marriage, which held man and wife to be undivorceable.
That conception has been abandoned by the law, but the principles
"I don't understand."
Mr. Paramor said slowly:
"I don't know that anyone does. It's our usual muddle. But I know
this, Vigil--in such a case as your ward's we must tread very
carefully. We must 'save face,' as the Chinese say. We must pretend
we don't want to bring this divorce, but that we have been so injured
that we are obliged to come forward. If Bellew says nothing, the
Judge will have to take what's put before him. But there's always
the Queen's Proctor. I don't know if you know anything about him?"
"No," said Gregory, "I don't."
"Well, if he can find out anything against our getting this divorce,
he will. It is not my habit to go into Court with a case in which
anybody can find out anything."
"Do you mean to say"
"I mean to say that she must not ask for a divorce merely because she
is miserable, or placed in a position that no woman should be placed
in, but only if she has been offended in certain technical ways; and
if--by condonation, for instance--she has given the Court technical
reason for refusing her a divorce, that divorce will be refused her.
To get a divorce, Vigil, you must be as hard as nails and as wary as
a cat. Now do you understand?"
Gregory did not answer.
Mr. Paramor looked searchingly and rather pityingly in his face.
"It won't do to go for it at present," he said. "Are you still set
on this divorce? I told you in my letter that I am not sure you are
"How can you ask me, Paramor? After that man's conduct last night, I
am more than ever set on it."
"Then," said Mr. Paramor, "we must keep a sharp eye on Bellew, and
hope for the best."
Gregory held out his hand.
"You spoke of morality," he said. "I can't tell you how inexpressibly
mean the whole thing seems to me. Goodnight."
And, turning rather quickly, he went out.
His mind was confused and his heart torn. He thought of Helen Bellew
as of the woman dearest to him in the coils of a great slimy serpent,
and the knowledge that each man and woman unhappily married was,
whether by his own, his partner's, or by no fault at all, in the same
embrace, afforded him no comfort whatsoever. It was long before he
left the windy streets to go to his home.
CHAPTER X. AT BLAFARD'S
There comes now and then to the surface of our modern civilisation
one of those great and good men who, unconscious, like all great and
good men, of the goodness and greatness of their work, leave behind a
lasting memorial of themselves before they go bankrupt.
It was so with the founder of the Stoics' Club.
He came to the surface in the year 187-, with nothing in the world
but his clothes and an idea. In a single year he had floated the
Stoics' Club, made ten thousand pounds, lost more, and gone down
The Stoics' Club lived after him by reason of the immortal beauty of
his idea. In 1891 it was a strong and corporate body, not perhaps
quite so exclusive as it had been, but, on the whole, as smart and
aristocratic as any club in London, with the exception of that one or
two into which nobody ever got. The idea with which its founder had
underpinned the edifice was, like all great ideas, simple, permanent,
and perfect--so simple, permanent, and perfect that it seemed amazing
no one had ever thought of it before. It was embodied in No. 1 of
the members' rules:
"No member of this club shall have any occupation whatsoever."
Hence the name of a club renowned throughout London for the
excellence of its wines and cuisine.
Its situation was in Piccadilly, fronting the Green Park, and through
the many windows of its ground-floor smoking-room the public were
privileged to see at all hours of the day numbers of Stoics in
various attitudes reading the daily papers or gazing out of the
Some of them who did not direct companies, grow fruit, or own yachts,
wrote a book, or took an interest in a theatre. The greater part
eked out existence by racing horses, hunting foxes, and shooting
birds. Individuals among them, however, had been known to play the
piano, and take up the Roman Catholic religion. Many explored the
same spots of the Continent year after year at stated seasons. Some
belonged to the Yeomanry; others called themselves barristers; once
in a way one painted a picture or devoted himself to good works.
They were, in fact, of all sorts and temperaments, but their common
characteristic was an independent income, often so settled by
Providence that they could not in any way get rid of it.
But though the principle of no occupation overruled all class
distinctions, the Stoics were mainly derived from the landed gentry.
An instinct that the spirit of the club was safest with persons of
this class guided them in their elections, and eldest sons, who
became members almost as a matter of course, lost no time in putting
up their younger brothers, thereby keeping the wine as pure as might
be, and preserving that fine old country-house flavour which is
nowhere so appreciated as in London.
After seeing Gregory pass on the top of a bus, George Pendyce went
into the card-room, and as it was still empty, set to contemplation
of the pictures on the walls. They were effigies of all those
members of the Stoics' Club who from time to time had come under the
notice of a celebrated caricaturist in a celebrated society paper.
Whenever a Stoic appeared, he was at once cut out, framed, glassed,
and hung alongside his fellows in this room. And George moved from
one to another till he came to the last. It was himself. He was
represented in very perfectly cut clothes, with slightly crooked
elbows, and race-glasses slung across him. His head,
disproportionately large, was surmounted by a black billycock hat
with a very flat brim. The artist had thought long and carefully
over the face. The lips and cheeks and chin were moulded so as to
convey a feeling of the unimaginative joy of life, but to their shape
and complexion was imparted a suggestion of obstinacy and choler. To
the eyes was given a glazed look, and between them set a little line,
as though their owner were thinking:
'Hard work, hard work! Noblesse oblige. I must keep it going!'
Underneath was written: "The Ambler."
George stood long looking at the apotheosis of his fame. His star
was high in the heavens. With the eye of his mind he saw a long
procession of turf triumphs, a long vista of days and nights, and in
them, round them, of them--Helen Bellow; and by an odd coincidence,
as he stood there, the artist's glazed look came over his eyes, the
little line sprang up between them.
He turned at the sound of voices and sank into a chair. To have been
caught thus gazing at himself would have jarred on his sense of what
It was twenty minutes past seven, when, in evening dress, he left the
club, and took a shilling's-worth to Buckingham Gate. Here he
dismissed his cab, and turned up the large fur collar of his coat.
Between the brim of his opera-hat and the edge of that collar nothing
but his eyes were visible. He waited, compressing his lips,
scrutinising each hansom that went by. In the soft glow of one
coming fast he saw a hand raised to the trap. The cab stopped;
George stepped out of the shadow and got in. The cab went on, and
Mrs. Bellew's arm was pressed against his own.
It was their simple formula for arriving at a restaurant together.
In the third of several little rooms, where the lights were shaded,
they sat down at a table in a corner, facing each a wall, and,
underneath, her shoe stole out along the floor and touched his patent
leather boot. In their eyes, for all their would-be wariness, a
light smouldered which would not be put out. An habitue, sipping
claret at a table across the little room, watched them in a mirror,
and there came into his old heart a glow of warmth, half ache, half
sympathy; a smile of understanding stirred the crow's-feet round his
eyes. Its sweetness ebbed, and left a little grin about his shaven
lips. Behind the archway in the neighbouring room two waiters met,
and in their nods and glances was that same unconscious sympathy, the
same conscious grin. And the old habitue thought:
'How long will it last?'.... "Waiter, some coffee and my bill!"
He had meant to go to the play, but he lingered instead to look at
Mrs. Bellew's white shoulders and bright eyes in the kindly mirror.
And he thought:
'Young days at present. Ah, young days!'....
"Waiter, a Benedictine!" And hearing her laugh, O his old heart
ached. 'No one,' he thought, 'will ever laugh like that for me
again!'.... "Here, waiter, how's this? You've charged me for an
ice!" But when the waiter had gone he glanced back into the mirror,
and saw them clink their glasses filled with golden bubbling wine,
and he thought: 'Wish you good luck! For a flash of those teeth, my
dear, I'd give----'
But his eyes fell on the paper flowers adorning his little table--
yellow and red and green; hard, lifeless, tawdry. He saw them
suddenly as they were, with the dregs of wine in his glass, the spill
of gravy on the cloth, the ruin of the nuts that he had eaten.
Wheezing and coughing, 'This place is not what it was,' he thought;
'I shan't come here again!'
He struggled into his coat to go, but he looked once more in the
mirror, and met their eyes resting on himself. In them he read the
careless pity of the young for the old. His eyes answered the
reflection of their eyes, 'Wait, wait! It is young days yet! I wish
you no harm, my dears!' and limping-for one of his legs was lame--he
But George and his partner sat on, and with every glass of wine the
light in their eyes grew brighter. For who was there now in the room
to mind? Not a living soul! Only a tall, dark young waiter, a
little cross-eyed, who was in consumption; only the little wine-
waiter, with a pallid face, and a look as if he suffered. And the
whole world seemed of the colour of the wine they had been drinking;
but they talked of indifferent things, and only their eyes, bemused
and shining, really spoke. The dark young waiter stood apart,
unmoving, and his cross-eyed glance, fixed on her shoulders, had all
unconsciously the longing of a saint in some holy picture. Unseen,
behind the serving screen, the little wine-waiter poured out and
drank a glass from a derelict bottle. Through a chink of the red
blinds an eye peered in from the chill outside, staring and curious,
till its owner passed on in the cold.
It was long after nine when they rose. The dark young waiter laid
her cloak upon her with adoring hands. She looked back at him, and
in her eyes was an infinite indulgence. 'God knows,' she seemed to
say, 'if I could make you happy as well, I would. Why should one
suffer? Life is strong and good!'
The young waiter's cross-eyed glance fell before her, and he bowed
above the money in his hand. Quickly before them the little wine-
waiter hurried to the door, his suffering face screwed into one long
"Good-night, madam; good-night, sir. Thank you very much!"
And he, too, remained bowed over his hand, and his smile relaxed.
But in the cab George's arm stole round her underneath the cloak, and
they were borne on in the stream of hurrying hansoms, carrying
couples like themselves, cut off from all but each other's eyes, from
all but each other's touch; and with their eyes turned in the half-
dark they spoke together in low tones.
CHAPTER I. GREGORY REOPENS THE CAMPAIGN
At one end of the walled garden which Mr. Pendyce had formed in
imitation of that at dear old Strathbegally, was a virgin orchard of
pear and cherry trees. They blossomed early, and by the end of the
third week in April the last of the cherries had broken into flower.
In the long grass, underneath, a wealth of daffodils, jonquils, and
narcissus, came up year after year, and sunned their yellow stars in
the light which dappled through the blossom.
And here Mrs. Pendyce would come, tan gauntlets on her hands, and
stand, her face a little flushed with stooping, as though the sight
of all that bloom was restful. It was due to her that these old
trees escaped year after year the pruning and improvements which the
genius of the Squire would otherwise have applied. She had been
brought up in an old Totteridge tradition that fruit-trees should be
left to themselves, while her husband, possessed of a grasp of the
subject not more than usually behind the times, was all for newer
methods. She had fought for those trees. They were as yet the only
things she had fought for in her married life, and Horace Pendyce
still remembered with a discomfort robbed by time of poignancy how
she had stood with her back to their bedroom door and said, "If you
cut those poor trees, Horace, I won't live here!" He had at once
expressed his determination to have them pruned; but, having put off
the action for a day or two, the trees still stood unpruned thirty-
three years later. He had even come to feel rather proud of the fact
that they continued to bear fruit, and would speak of them thus:
"Queer fancy of my wife's, never been cut. And yet, remarkable
thing, they do better than any of the others!"
This spring, when all was so forward, and the cuckoos already in full
song, when the scent of young larches in the New Plantation (planted
the year of George's birth) was in the air like the perfume of
celestial lemons, she came to the orchard more than usual, and her
spirit felt the stirring, the old, half-painful yearning for she knew
not what, that she had felt so often in her first years at Worsted
Skeynes. And sitting there on a green-painted seat under the largest
of the cherry-trees, she thought even more than her wont of George,
as though her son's spirit, vibrating in its first real passion, were
calling to her for sympathy.
He had been down so little all that winter, twice for a couple of
days' shooting, once for a week-end, when she had thought him looking
thinner and rather worn. He had missed Christmas for the first time.
With infnite precaution she had asked him casually if he had seen
Helen Bellew, and he had answered, "Oh yes, I see her once in a way!"
Secretly all through the winter she consulted the Times newspaper for
mention of George's horse, and was disappointed not to find any. One
day, however, in February, discovering him absolutely at the head of
several lists of horses with figures after them, she wrote off at
once with a joyful heart. Of five lists in which the Ambler's name
appeared, there was only one in which he was second. George's answer
came in the course of a week or so.
"MY DEAR MOTHER,
"What you saw were the weights for the Spring Handicaps. They've
simply done me out of everything. In great haste,
"Your affectionate son,
As the spring approached, the vision of her independent visit to
London, which had sustained her throughout the winter, having
performed its annual function, grew mistier and mistier, and at last
faded away. She ceased even to dream of it, as though it had never
been, nor did George remind her, and as usual, she ceased even to
wonder whether he would remind her. She thought instead of the
season visit, and its scurry of parties, with a sort of languid
fluttering. For Worsted Skeynes, and all that Worsted Skeynes stood
for, was like a heavy horseman guiding her with iron hands along a
narrow lane; she dreamed of throwing him in the open, but the open
she never reached.
She woke at seven with her tea, and from seven to eight made little
notes on tablets, while on his back Mr. Pendyce snored lightly. She
rose at eight. At nine she poured out coffee. From halfpast nine to
ten she attended to the housekeeper and her birds. From ten to
eleven she attended to the gardener and her dress. From eleven to
twelve she wrote invitations to persons for whom she did not care,
and acceptances to persons who did not care for her; she drew out
also and placed in due sequence cheques for Mr. Pendyce's signature;
and secured receipts, carefully docketed on the back, within an
elastic band; as a rule, also, she received a visit from Mrs. Husell
Barter. From twelve to one she walked with her and "the dear dogs" to
the village, where she stood hesitatingly in the cottage doors of
persons who were shy of her. From half-past one to two she lunched.
>From two to three she rested on a sofa in the white morning-room with
the newspaper in her hand, trying to read the Parliamentary debate,
and thinking of other things. From three to half-past four she went
to her dear flowers, from whom she was liable to be summoned at any
moment by the arrival of callers; or, getting into the carriage, was
driven to some neighbour's mansion, where she sat for half an hour
and came away. At half-past four she poured out tea. At five she
knitted a tie, or socks, for George or Gerald, and listened with a
gentle smile to what was going on. From six to seven she received
from the Squire his impressions of Parliament and things at large.
>From seven to seven-thirty she changed to a black low dress, with old
lace about the neck. At seven-thirty she dined. At a quarter to
nine she listened to Norah playing two waltzes of Chopin's, and a
piece called "Serenade du Printemps" by Baff, and to Bee singing "The
Mikado," or the "Saucy Girl" From nine to ten thirty she played a
game called piquet, which her father had taught her, if she could get
anyone with whom to play; but as this was seldom, she played as a
rule patience by herself. At ten-thirty she went to bed. At eleven-
thirty punctually the Squire woke her. At one o'clock she went to
sleep. On Mondays she wrote out in her clear Totteridge hand, with
its fine straight strokes, a list of library books, made up without
distinction of all that were recommended in the Ladies' Paper that
came weekly to Worsted Skeynes. Periodically Mr. Pendyce would hand
her a list of his own, compiled out of the Times and the Field in the
privacy of his study; this she sent too.
Thus was the household supplied with literature unerringly adapted to
its needs; nor was it possible for any undesirable book to find its
way into the house--not that this would have mattered much to Mrs.
Pendyce, for as she often said with gentle regret, "My dear, I have
no time to read."
This afternoon it was so warm that the bees were all around among the
blossoms, and two thrushes, who had built in a yew-tree that watched
over the Scotch garden, were in a violent flutter because one of
their chicks had fallen out of the nest. The mother bird, at the
edge of the long orchard grass, was silent, trying by example to
still the tiny creature's cheeping, lest it might attract some large
or human thing.
Mrs. Pendyce, sitting under the oldest cherry-tree, looked for the
sound, and when she had located it, picked up the baby bird, and, as
she knew the whereabouts of all the nests, put it back into its
cradle, to the loud terror and grief of the parent birds. She went
back to the bench and sat down again.
She had in her soul something of the terror of the mother thrush.
The Maidens had been paying the call that preceded their annual
migration to town, and the peculiar glow which Lady Maiden had the
power of raising had not yet left her cheeks. True, she had the
comfort of the thought, 'Ellen Maiden is so bourgeoise,' but to-day
it did not still her heart.
Accompanied by one pale daughter who never left her, and two pale
dogs forced to run all the way, now lying under the carriage with
their tongues out, Lady Maiden had come and stayed full time; and for
three-quarters of that time she had seemed, as it were, labouring
under a sense of duty unfulfilled; for the remaining quarter Mrs.
Pendyce had laboured under a sense of duty fulfilled.
"My dear," Lady Maiden had said, having told the pale daughter to go
into the conservatory, "I'm the last person in the world to repeat
gossip, as you know; but I think it's only right to tell you that
I've been hearing things. You see, my boy Fred" (who would
ultimately become Sir Frederick Maiden) "belongs to the same club as
your son George--the Stoics. All young men belong there of course-I
mean, if they're anybody. I'm sorry to say there's no doubt about
it; your son has been seen dining at--perhaps I ought not to mention
the name--Blafard's, with Mrs. Bellew. I dare say you don't know
what sort of a place Blafard's is--a lot of little rooms where people
go when they don't want to be seen. I've never been there, of
course; but I can imagine it perfectly. And not once, but
frequently. I thought I would speak to you, because I do think it's
so scandalous of her in her position."
An azalea in a blue and white pot had stood between them, and in this
plant Mrs. Pendyce buried her cheeks and eyes; but when she raised
her face her eyebrows were lifted to their utmost limit, her lips
trembled with anger.
"Oh," she said, "didn't you know? There's nothing in that; it's the
For a moment Lady Maiden wavered, then duskily flushed; her
temperament and principles had recovered themselves.
"If that," she said with some dignity, "is the latest thing, I think
it is quite time we were back in town."
She rose, and as she rose, such was her unfortunate conformation, it
flashed through Mrs. Pendyce's mind 'Why was I afraid? She's only--'
And then as quickly: 'Poor woman! how can she help her legs being
But when she was gone, side by side with the pale daughter, the pale
dogs once more running behind the carriage, Margery Pendyce put her
hand to her heart.
And out here amongst the bees and blossom, where the blackbirds were
improving each minute their new songs, and the air was so fainting
sweet with scents, her heart would not be stilled, but throbbed as
though danger were coming on herself; and she saw her son as a little
boy again in a dirty holland suit with a straw hat down the back of
his neck, flushed and sturdy, as he came to her from some adventure.
And suddenly a gush of emotion from deep within her heart and the
heart of the spring day, a sense of being severed from him by a
great, remorseless power, came over her; and taking out a tiny
embroidered handkerchief, she wept. Round her the bees hummed
carelessly, the blossom dropped, the dappled sunlight covered her
with a pattern as of her own fine lace. From the home farm came the
lowing of the cows on their way to milking, and, strange sound in
that well-ordered home, a distant piping on a penny flute ....
"Mother, Mother, Mo-o-ther!"
Mrs. Pendyce passed her handkerchief across her eyes, and
instinctively obeying the laws of breeding, her face lost all trace
of its emotion. She waited, crumpling the tiny handkerchief in her
"Mother! Oh, there you are! Here's Gregory Vigil!"
Norah, a fox-terrier on either side, was coming down the path; behind
her, unhatted, showed Gregory's sanguine face between his wings of
"I suppose you're going to talk. I'm going over to the Rectory.
And preceded by her dogs, Norah went on.
Mrs. Pendyce put out her hand.
"Well, Grig," she said, "this is a surprise."
Gregory seated himself beside her on the bench.
"I've brought you this," he said. "I want you to look at it before I
Mrs. Pendyce, who vaguely felt that he would want her to see things
as he was seeing them, took a letter from him with a sinking heart.
"LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
"April 21, 1892.
"MY DEAR VIGIL,
"I have now secured such evidence as should warrant our instituting a
suit. I've written your ward to that effect, and am awaiting her
instructions. Unfortunately, we have no act of cruelty, and I've
been obliged to draw her attention to the fact that, should her
husband defend the suit, it will be very difficult to get the Court
to accept their separation in the light of desertion on his part--
difficult indeed, even if he doesn't defend the suit. In divorce
cases one has to remember that what has to be kept out is often more
important than what has to be got in, and it would be useful to know,
therefore, whether there is likelihood of opposition. I do not
advise any direct approaching of the husband, but if you are
possessed of the information you might let me know. I hate humbug,
my dear Vigil, and I hate anything underhand, but divorce is always a
dirty business, and while the law is shaped as at present, and the
linen washed in public, it will remain impossible for anyone, guilty
or innocent, and even for us lawyers, to avoid soiling our hands in
one way or another. I regret it as much as you do.
"There is a new man writing verse in the Tertiary, some of it quite
first-rate. You might look at the last number. My blossom this year
"With kind regards, I am,
"Very sincerely yours,
"Gregory Vigil, Esq."
Mrs. Pendyce dropped the letter in her lap, and looked at her cousin.
"He was at Harrow with Horace. I do like him. He is one of the very
nicest men I know."
It was clear that she was trying to gain time.
Gregory began pacing up and down.
"Paramor is a man for whom I have the highest respect. I would trust
him before anyone."
It was clear that he, too, was trying to gain time.
"Oh, mind my daffodils, please!"
Gregory went down on his knees, and raised the bloom that he had
trodden on. He then offered it to Mrs. Pendyce. The action was one
to which she was so unaccustomed that it struck her as slightly
"My dear Grig, you'll get rheumatism, and spoil that nice suit; the
grass comes off so terribly!"
Gregory got up, and looked shamefacedly at his knees.
"The knee is not what it used to be," he said.
Mrs. Pendyce smiled.
"You should keep your knees for Helen Bellow, Grig. I was always
five years older than you.
Gregory rumpled up his hair.
"Kneeling's out of fashion, but I thought in the country you wouldn't
"You don't notice things, dear Grig. In the country it's still more
out of fashion. You wouldn't find a woman within thirty miles of
here who would like a man to kneel to her. We've lost the habit.
She would think she was being made fun of. We soon grow out of
"In London," said Gregory, "I hear all women intend to be men; but in
the country I thought----"
"In the country, Grig, all women would like to be men, but they don't
dare to try. They trot behind."
As if she had been guilty of thoughts too insightful, Mrs. Pendyce
Gregory broke out suddenly:
"I can't bear to think of women like that!"
Again Mrs. Pendyce smiled.
"You see, Grig dear, you are not married."
"I detest the idea that marriage changes our views, Margery; I loathe
"Mind my daffodils!" murmured Mrs. Pendyce.
She was thinking all the time: 'That dreadful letter! What am I to
And as though he knew her thoughts, Gregory said:
"I shall assume that Bellew will not defend the case. If he has a
spark of chivalry in him he will be only too glad to see her free.
I will never believe that any man could be such a soulless clod as to
wish to keep her bound. I don't pretend to understand the law, but
it seems to me that there's only one way for a man to act and after
all Bellew's a gentleman. You'll see that he will act like one!"
Mrs. Pendyce looked at the daffodil in her lap.
"I have only seen him three or four times, but it seemed to me, Grig,
that he was a man who might act in one way today and another
tomorrow. He is so very different from all the men about here."
"When it comes to the deep things of life," said Gregory, "one man is
much as another. Is there any man you know who would be so lacking
in chivalry as to refuse in these circumstances?"
Mrs. Pendyce looked at him with a confused expression--wonder,
admiration, irony, and even fear, struggled in her eyes.
"I can think of dozens."
Gregory clutched his forehead.
"Margery," he said, "I hate your cynicism. I don't know where you
get it from."
"I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to be cynical--I didn't, really. I only
spoke from what I've seen."
"Seen?" said Gregory. "If I were to go by what I saw daily, hourly,
in London in the course of my work I should commit suicide within a
"But what else can one go by?"
Without answering, Gregory walked to the edge of the orchard, and
stood gazing over the Scotch garden, with his face a little tilted
towards the sky. Mrs. Pendyce felt he was grieving that she failed
to see whatever it was he saw up there, and she was sorry. He came
back, and said:
"We won't discuss it any more."
Very dubiously she heard those words, but as she could not express
the anxiety and doubt torturing her soul, she told him tea was ready.
But Gregory would not come in just yet out of the sun.
In the drawing-room Beatrix was already giving tea to young Tharp and
the Reverend Husell Barter. And the sound of these well-known voices
restored to Mrs. Pendyce something of her tranquillity. The Rector
came towards her at once with a teacup in his hand.
"My wife has got a headache," he said. "She wanted to come over with
me, but I made her lie down. Nothing like lying down for a headache.
We expect it in June, you know. Let me get you your tea."
Mrs. Pendyce, already aware even to the day of what he expected in
June, sat down, and looked at Mr. Barter with a slight feeling of
surprise. He was really a very good fellow; it was nice of him to
make his wife lie down! She thought his broad, red-brown face, with
its protecting, not unhumorous, lower lip, looked very friendly.
Roy, the Skye terrier at her feet, was smelling at the reverend
gentleman's legs with a slow movement of his tail.
"The old dog likes me," said the Rector; "they know a dog-lover when
they see one wonderful creatures, dogs! I'm sometimes tempted to
think they may have souls!"
Mrs. Pendyce answered:
"Horace says he's getting too old."
The dog looked up in her face, and her lip quivered.
The Rector laughed.
"Don't you worry about that; there's plenty of life in him." And he
added unexpectedly: " I couldn't bear to put a dog away, the friend
of man. No, no; let Nature see to that."
Over at the piano Bee and young Tharp were turning the pages of the
"Saucy Girl"; the room was full of the scent of azaleas; and Mr.
Barter, astride of a gilt chair, looked almost sympathetic, gazing
tenderly at the old Skye.
Mrs. Pendyce felt a sudden yearning to free her mind, a sudden
longing to ask a man's advice.
"Oh, Mr. Barter," she said, "my cousin, Gregory Vigil, has just
brought me some news; it is confidential, please. Helen Bellew is
going to sue for a divorce. I wanted to ask you whether you could
tell me----" Looking in the Rector's face, she stopped.
"A divorce! H'm! Really!"
A chill of terror came over Mrs. Pendyce.
"Of course you will not mention it to anyone, not even to Horace. It
has nothing to do with us."
Mr. Barter bowed; his face wore the expression it so often wore in
school on Sunday mornings.
"H'm!" he said again.
It flashed through Mrs. Pendyce that this man with the heavy jowl and
menacing eyes, who sat so square on that flimsy chair, knew
something. It was as though he had answered:
"This is not a matter for women; you will be good enough to leave it
With the exception of those few words of Lady Malden's, and the
recollection of George's face when he had said, "Oh yes, I see her
now and then," she had no evidence, no knowledge, nothing to go on;
but she knew from some instinctive source that her son was Mrs.
So, with terror and a strange hope, she saw Gregory entering the
"Perhaps," she thought, "he will make Grig stop it."
She poured out Gregory's tea, followed Bee and Cecil Tharp into the
conservatory, and left the two men together:
CHAPTER II. CONTINUED INFLUENCE OF THE REVEREND HUSSELL BARTER
To understand and sympathise with the feelings and action of the
Rector of Worsted Skeynes, one must consider his origin and the
circumstances of his life.
The second son of an old Suffolk family, he had followed the routine
of his house, and having passed at Oxford through certain
examinations, had been certificated at the age of twenty-four as a
man fitted to impart to persons of both sexes rules of life and
conduct after which they had been groping for twice or thrice that
number of years. His character, never at any time undecided, was by
this fortunate circumstance crystallised and rendered immune from the
necessity for self-search and spiritual struggle incidental to his
neighbours. Since he was a man neither below nor above the average,
it did not occur to him to criticise or place himself in opposition
to a system which had gone on so long and was about to do him so much
good. Like all average men, he was a believer in authority, and none
the less because authority placed a large portion of itself in his
hands. It would, indeed, have been unwarrantable to expect a man of
his birth, breeding, and education to question the machine of which
he was himself a wheel.
He had dropped, therefore, at the age of twenty-six, insensibly, on
the death of an uncle, into the family living at Worsted Skeynes. He
had been there ever since. It was a constant and natural grief to
him that on his death the living would go neither to his eldest nor
his second son, but to the second son of his elder brother, the
Squire. At the age of twenty-seven he had married Miss Rose Twining,
the fifth daughter of a Huntingdonshire parson, and in less than
eighteen years begotten ten children, and was expecting the eleventh,
all healthy and hearty like him self. A family group hung over the
fireplace in the study, under the framed and illuminated text, "Judge
not, that ye be not judged," which he had chosen as his motto in the
first year of his cure, and never seen any reason to change. In that
family group Mr. Barter sat in the centre with his dog between his
legs; his wife stood behind him, and on both sides the children
spread out like the wings of a fan or butterfly. The bills of their
schooling were beginning to weigh rather heavily, and he complained a
good deal; but in principle he still approved of the habit into which
he had got, and his wife never complained of anything.
The study was furnished with studious simplicity; many a boy had
been, not unkindly, caned there, and in one place the old Turkey
carpet was rotted away, but whether by their tears or by their knees,
not even Mr. Barter knew. In a cabinet on one side of the fire he
kept all his religious books, many of them well worn; in a cabinet on
the other side he kept his bats, to which he was constantly
attending; a fshingrod and a gun-case stood modestly in a corner.
The archway between the drawers of his writing-table held a mat for
his bulldog, a prize animal, wont to lie there and guard his master's
legs when he was writing his sermons. Like those of his dog, the
Rector's good points were the old English virtues of obstinacy,
courage, intolerance, and humour; his bad points, owing to the
circumstances of his life, had never been brought to his notice.
When, therefore, he found himself alone with Gregory Vigil, he
approached him as one dog will approach another, and came at once to
the matter in hand.
"It's some time since I had the pleasure of meeting you, Mr. Vigil,"
he said. "Mrs. Pendyce has been giving me in confidence the news
you've brought down. I'm bound to tell you at once that I'm
Gregory made a little movement of recoil, as though his delicacy had
received a shock.
"Indeed!" he said, with a sort of quivering coldness.
The Rector, quick to note opposition, repeated emphatically:
"More than surprised; in fact, I think there must be some mistake."
"Indeed?" said Gregory again.
A change came over Mr. Barter's face. It had been grave, but was now
heavy and threatening.
"I have to say to you," he said, "that somehow--somehow, this divorce
must be put a stop to."
Gregory flushed painfully.
"On what grounds? I am not aware that my ward is a parishioner of
yours, Mr. Barter, or that if she were----"
The Rector closed in on him, his head thrust forward, his lower lip
"If she were doing her duty," he said, "she would be. I'm not
considering her--I'm considering her husband; he is a parishioner of
mine, and I say this divorce must be stopped."
Gregory retreated no longer.
"On what grounds?" he said again, trembling all over.
"I've no wish to enter into particulars," said Mr. Barter, "but if
you force me to, I shall not hesitate."
"I regret that I must," answered Gregory.
"Without mentioning names, then, I say that she is not a fit person
to bring a suit for divorce!"
"You say that?" said Gregory. "You----"
He could not go on.
"You will not move me, Mr. Vigil," said the Rector, with a grim
little smile. "I have my duty to do."
Gregory recovered possession of himself with an effort.
"You have said that which no one but a clergyman could say with
impunity," he said freezingly. "Be so good as to explain yourself."
"My explanation," said Mr. Barter, "is what I have seen with my own
He raised those eyes to Gregory. Their pupils were contracted to
pin-points, the light-grey irises around had a sort of swimming
glitter, and round these again the whites were injected with blood.
"If you must know, with my own eyes I've seen her in that very
conservatory over there kissing a man."
Gregory threw up his hand.
"How dare you!" he whispered.
Again Mr. Barter's humorous under-lip shot out.
"I dare a good deal more than that, Mr. Vigil," he said, "as you will
find; and I say this to you--stop this divorce, or I'll stop it
Gregory turned to the window. When he came back he was outwardly
"You have been guilty of indelicacy," he said. "Continue in your
delusion, think what you like, do what you like. The matter will go
on. Good-evening, sir."
And turning on his heel, he left the room.
Mr. Barter stepped forward. The words, "You have been guilty of
indelicacy," whirled round his brain till every blood vessel in his
face and neck was swollen to bursting, and with a hoarse sound like
that of an animal in pain he pursued Gregory to the door. It was
shut in his face. And since on taking Orders he had abandoned for
ever the use of bad language, he was very near an apoplectic fit.
Suddenly he became aware that Mrs. Pendyce was looking at him from
the conservatory door. Her face was painfully white, her eyebrows
lifted, and before that look Mr. Barter recovered a measure of self-
"Is anything the matter, Mr. Barter?"
The Rector smiled grimly.
"Nothing, nothing," he said. "I must ask you to excuse me, that's
all. I've a parish matter to attend to."
When he found himself in the drive, the feeling of vertigo and
suffocation passed, but left him unrelieved. He had, in fact,
happened on one of those psychological moments which enable a man's
true nature to show itself. Accustomed to say of himself bluffly,
"Yes, yes; I've a hot temper, soon over," he had never, owing to the
autocracy of his position, had a chance of knowing the tenacity of
his soul. So accustomed and so able for many years to vent
displeasure at once, he did not himself know the wealth of his old
English spirit, did not know of what an ugly grip he was capable. He
did not even know it at this minute, conscious only of a sort of
black wonder at this monstrous conduct to a man in his position,
doing his simple duty. The more he reflected, the more intolerable
did it seem that a woman like this Mrs. Bellew should have the
impudence to invoke the law of the land in her favour a woman who was
no better than a common baggage--a woman he had seen kissing George
Pendyce. To have suggested to Mr. Barter that there was something
pathetic in this black wonder of his, pathetic in the spectacle of
his little soul delivering its little judgments, stumbling its little
way along with such blind certainty under the huge heavens, amongst
millions of organisms as important as itself, would have astounded
him; and with every step he took the blacker became his wonder, the
more fixed his determination to permit no such abuse of morality, no
such disregard of Hussell Barter.
"You have been guilty of indelicacy!" This indictment had a
wriggling sting, and lost no venom from the fact that he could in no
wise have perceived where the indelicacy of his conduct lay. But he
did not try to perceive it. Against himself, clergyman and
gentleman, the monstrosity of the charge was clear. This was a point
of morality. He felt no anger against George; it was the woman that
excited his just wrath. For so long he had been absolute among
women, with the power, as it were, over them of life and death. This
was flat immorality! He had never approved of her leaving her
husband; he had never approved of her at all! He turned his steps
towards the Firs.
>From above the hedges the sleepy cows looked down; a yaffle laughed a
field or two away; in the sycamores, which had come out before their
time, the bees hummed. Under the smile of the spring the innumerable
life of the fields went carelessly on around that square black figure
ploughing along the lane with head bent down under a wide-brimmed
George Pendyce, in a fly drawn by an old grey horse, the only vehicle
that frequented the station at Worsted Skeynes, passed him in the
lane, and leaned back to avoid observation. He had not forgotten the
tone of the Rector's voice in the smoking-room on the night of the
dance. George was a man who could remember as well as another. In
the corner of the old fly, that rattled and smelled of stables and
stale tobacco, he fixed his moody eyes on the driver's back and the
ears of the old grey horse, and never stirred till they set him down
at the hall door.
He went at once to his room, sending word that he had come for the
night. His mother heard the news with feelings of joy and dread, and
she dressed quickly for dinner, that she might see him the sooner.
The Squire came into her room just as she was going down. He had
been engaged all day at Sessions, and was in one of the moods of
apprehension as to the future which but seldom came over him.
"Why didn't you keep Vigil to dinner?" he said. "I could have given
him things for the night. I wanted to talk to him about insuring my
life; he knows, about that. There'll be a lot of money wanted, to
pay my death-duties. And if the Radicals get in I shouldn't be
surprised if they put them up fifty per cent."
"I wanted to keep him," said Mrs. Pendyce, "but he went away without
"He's an odd fellow!"
For some moments Mr. Pendyce made reflections on this breach of
manners. He had a nice standard of conduct in all social affairs.
"I'm having trouble with that man Peacock again. He's the most pig-
headed---- What are you in such a hurry for, Margery?"
"George is here!"
"George? Well, I suppose he can wait till dinner. I have a lot of
things I want to tell you about. We had a case of arson to-day. Old
Quarryman was away, and I was in the chair. It was that fellow
Woodford that we convicted for poaching--a very gross case. And this
is what he does when he comes out. They tried to prove insanity.
It's the rankest case of revenge that ever came before me. We
committed him, of course. He'll get a swinging sentence. Of all
dreadful crimes, arson is the most----"
Mr. Pendyce could find no word to characterise his opinion of this
offence, and drawing his breath between his teeth, passed into his
dressing-room. Mrs. Pendyce hastened quietly out, and went to her
son's room. She found George in his shirtsleeves, inserting the
links of his cuffs.
"Let me do that for you, my dear boy! How dreadfully they starch
your cuffs! It is so nice to do something for you sometimes!"
George answered her:
"Well, Mother, and how have you been?"
Over Mrs. Pendyce's face came a look half sorrowful, half arch, but
wholly pathetic. 'What! is it beginning already? Oh, don't put me
away from you!' she seemed to say.
"Very well, thank you, dear. And you?"
George did not meet her eyes.
"So-so," he said. "I took rather a nasty knock over the 'City' last
"Is that a race?" asked Mrs. Pendyce.
And by some secret process she knew that he had hurried out that
piece of bad news to divert her attention from another subject, for
George had never been a "crybaby."
She sat down on the edge of the sofa, and though the gong was about
to sound, incited him to dawdle and stay with her.
"And have you any other news, dear? It seems such an age since we've
seen you. I think I've told you all our budget in my letters. You
know there's going to be another event at the Rectory?"
"Another? I passed Barter on the way up. I thought he looked a bit
A look of pain shot into Mrs. Pendyce's eyes.
"Oh, I'm afraid that couldn't have been the reason, dear." And she
stopped, but to still her own fears hurried on again. "If I'd known
you'd been coming, I'd have kept Cecil Tharp. Vic has had such dear
little puppies. Would you like one? They've all got that nice black
smudge round the eye."
She was watching him as only a mother can watch-stealthily, minutely,
longingly, every little movement, every little change of his face,
and more than all, that fixed something behind which showed the
abiding temper and condition of his heart.
'Something is making him unhappy,' she thought. 'He is changed since
I saw him last, and I can't get at it. I seem to be so far from him
And somehow she knew he had come down this evening because he was
lonely and unhappy, and instinct had made him turn to her.
But she knew that trying to get nearer would only make him put her
farther off, and she could not bear this, so she asked him nothing,
and bent all her strength on hiding from him the pain she felt.
She went downstairs with her arm in his, and leaned very heavily on
it, as though again trying to get close to him, and forget the
feeling she had had all that winter--the feeling of being barred
away, the feeling of secrecy and restraint.
Mr. Pendyce and the two girls were in the drawing-room.
"Well, George," said the Squire dryly, "I'm glad you've come. How
you can stick in London at this time of year! Now you're down you'd
better stay a couple of days. I want to take you round the estate;
you know nothing about anything. I might die at any moment, for all
you can tell. Just make up your mind to stay."
George gave him a moody look.
"Sorry," he said; "I've got an engagement in town."
Mr. Pendyce rose and stood with his back to the fire.
"That's it," he said: "I ask you to do a simple thing for your own
good--and--you've got an engagement. It's always like that, and your
mother backs you up. Bee, go and play me something."
The Squire could not bear being played to, but it was the only
command likely to be obeyed that came into his head.
The absence of guests made little difference to a ceremony esteemed
at Worsted Skeynes the crowning blessing of the day. The courses,
however, were limited to seven, and champagne was not drunk. The
Squire drank a glass or so of claret, for, as he said, "My dear old
father took his bottle of port every night of his life, and it never
gave him a twinge. If I were to go on at that rate it would kill me
in a year."
His daughters drank water. Mrs. Pendyce, cherishing a secret
preference for champagne, drank sparingly of a Spanish burgundy,
procured for her by Mr. Pendyce at a very reasonable price, and
corked between meals with a special cork. She offered it to George.
"Try some of my burgundy, dear; it's so nice.
But George refused and asked for whisky-and-soda, glancing at the
butler, who brought it in a very yellow state.
Under the influence of dinner the Squire recovered equanimity, though
he still dwelt somewhat sadly on the future.
"You young fellows," he said, with a friendly look at George, "are
such individualists. You make a business of enjoying yourselves.
With your piquet and your racing and your billiards and what not,
you'll be used up before you're fifty. You don't let your
imaginations work. A green old age ought to be your ideal, instead
of which it seems to be a green youth. Ha!" Mr. Pendyce looked at
his daughters till they said:
"Oh, Father, how can you!"
Norah, who had the more character of the two, added:
"Isn't Father rather dreadful, Mother?"
But Mrs. Pendyce was looking at her son. She had longed so many
evenings to see him sitting there.
"We'll have a game of piquet to-night, George."
George looked up and nodded with a glum smile.
On the thick, soft carpet round the table the butler and second
footman moved. The light of the wax candles fell lustrous and
subdued on the silver and fruit and flowers, on the girls' white
necks, on George's well-coloured face and glossy shirt-front, gleamed
in the jewels on his mother's long white fingers, showed off the
Squire's erect and still spruce figure; the air was languorously
sweet with the perfume of azaleas and narcissus bloom. Bee, with
soft eyes, was thinking of young Tharp, who to-day had told her that
he loved her, and wondering if father would object. Her mother was
thinking of George, stealing timid glances at his moody face. There
was no sound save the tinkle of forks and the voices of Norah and the
Squire, talking of little things. Outside, through the long opened
windows, was the still, wide country; the full moon, tinted apricot
and figured like a coin, hung above the cedar-trees, and by her light
the whispering stretches of the silent fields lay half enchanted,
half asleep, and all beyond that little ring of moonshine, unfathomed
and unknown, was darkness--a great darkness wrapping from their eyes
the restless world.
CHAPTER III. THE SINISTER NIGHT
On the day of the big race at Kempton Park, in which the Ambler,
starting favourite, was left at the post, George Pendyce had just put
his latch-key in the door of the room he had taken near Mrs. Bellew,
when a man, stepping quickly from behind, said:
"Mr. George Pendyce, I believe."
"Yes; what do you want?"
The man put into George's hand a long envelope.
"From Messrs. Frost and Tuckett."
George opened it, and read from the top of a slip of paper:
"'ADMIRALTY, PROBATE, AND DIVORCE.
The humble petition of Jaspar Bellew-----'"
He lifted his eyes, and his look, uncannily impassive, unresenting,
unangered, dogged, caused the messenger to drop his gaze as though he
had hit a man who was down.
He shut the door, and read the document through. It contained some
precise details, and ended in a claim for damages, and George smiled.
Had he received this document three months ago, he would not have
taken it thus. Three months ago he would have felt with rage that he
was caught. His thoughts would have run thus 'I have got her into a
mess; I have got myself into a mess. I never thought this would
happen. This is the devil! I must see someone--I must stop it.
There must be a way out.' Having but little imagination, his
thoughts would have beaten their wings against this cage, and at once
he would have tried to act. But this was not three months ago, and
He lit a cigarette and sat down on the sofa, and the chief feeling in
his heart was a strange hope, a sort of funereal gladness. He would
have to go and see her at once, that very night; an excuse--no need
to wait in here--to wait--wait on the chance of her coming.
He got up and drank some whisky, then went back to the sofa and sat
'If she is not here by eight,' he thought, 'I will go round.'
Opposite was a full-length mirror, and he turned to the wall to avoid
it. There was fixed on his face a look of gloomy determination, as
though he were thinking, 'I'll show them all that I'm not beaten
At the click of a latch-key he scrambled off the sofa, and his face
resumed its mask. She came in as usual, dropped her opera cloak, and
stood before him with bare shoulders. Looking in her face, he
wondered if she knew.
"I thought I'd better come," she said. "I suppose you've had the
same charming present?"
George nodded. There was a minute's silence.
"It's really rather funny. I'm sorry for you, George."
George laughed too, but his laugh was different.
"I will do all I can," he said.
Mrs. Bellew came close to him.
"I've seen about the Kempton race. What shocking luck! I suppose
you've lost a lot. Poor boy! It never rains but it pours."
George looked down.
"That's all right; nothing matters when I have you.
He felt her arms fasten behind his neck, but they were cool as
marble; he met her eyes, and they were mocking and compassionate.
Their cab, wheeling into the main thoroughfare, joined in the race of
cabs flying as for life toward the East--past the Park, where the
trees, new-leafed, were swinging their skirts like ballet-dancers in
the wind; past the Stoics' and the other clubs, rattling, jingling,
jostling for the lead, shooting past omnibuses that looked cosy in
the half-light with their lamps and rows of figures solemnly opposed.
At Blafard's the tall dark young waiter took her cloak with
reverential fingers; the little wine-waiter smiled below the
suffering in his eyes. The same red-shaded lights fell on her arms
and shoulders, the same flowers of green and yellow grew bravely in
the same blue vases. On the menu were written the same dishes. The
same idle eye peered through the chink at the corner of the red
blinds with its stare of apathetic wonder.
Often during that dinner George looked at her face by stealth, and
its expression baffled him, so careless was it. And, unlike her mood
of late, that had been glum and cold, she was in the wildest spirits.
People looked round from the other little tables, all full now that
the season had begun, her laugh was so infectious; and George felt a
sort of disgust. What was it in this woman that made her laugh, when
his own heart was heavy? But he said nothing; he dared not even look
at her, for fear his eyes should show his feeling.
'We ought to be squaring our accounts,' he thought--'looking things
in the face. Something must be done; and here she is laughing and
making everyone stare!' Done! But what could be done, when it was
all like quicksand?
The other little tables emptied one by one.
"George," she said, "take me somewhere where we can dance!"
George stared at her.
"My dear girl, how can I? There is no such place!"
"Take me to your Bohemians!"
"You can't possibly go to a place like that."
"Why not? Who cares where we go, or what we do?"
"Ah, my dear George, you and your sort are only half alive!"
Sullenly George answered:
"What do you take me for? A cad?"
But there was fear, not anger, in his heart.
"Well, then, let's drive into the East End. For goodness' sake,
let's do something not quite proper!"
They took a hansom and drove East. It was the first time either had
ever been in that unknown land.
"Close your cloak, dear; it looks odd down here."
Mrs. Bellew laughed.
"You'll be just like your father when you're sixty, George."
And she opened her cloak the wider. Round a barrel-organ at the
corner of a street were girls in bright colours dancing.
She called to the cabman to stop.
"Let's watch those children!"
"You'll only make a show of us."
Mrs. Bellew put her hands on the cab door.
"I've a good mind to get out and dance with them!"
"You're mad to-night," said George. "Sit still!"
He stretched out his arm and barred her way. The passers-by looked
curiously at the little scene. A crowd began to collect.
"Go on!" cried George.
There was a cheer from the crowd; the driver whipped his horse; they
darted East again.
It was striking twelve when the cab put them down at last near the
old church on Chelsea Embankment, and they had hardly spoken for an
And all that hour George was feeling:
'This is the woman for whom I've given it all up. This is the woman
to whom I shall be tied. This is the woman I cannot tear myself away
from. If I could, I would never see her again. But I can't live
without her. I must go on suffering when she's with me, suffering
when she's away from me. And God knows how it's all to end!'
He took her hand in the darkness; it was cold and unresponsive as a
stone. He tried to see her face, but could read nothing in those
greenish eyes staring before them, like a cat's, into the darkness.
When the cab was gone they stood looking at each other by the light
of a street lamp. And George thought:
'So I must leave her like this, and what then?'
She put her latch-key in the door, and turned round to him. In the
silent, empty street, where the wind was rustling and scraping round
the corners of tall houses, and the lamplight flickered, her face and
figure were so strange, motionless, Sphinx-like. Only her eyes
seemed alive, fastened on his own.
"Good-night!" he muttered.
"Take what you can of me, George!" she said.
CHAPTER IV. Mr. PENDYCE'S HEAD
Mr. Pendyce's head, seen from behind at his library bureau, where it
was his practice to spend most mornings from half-past nine to eleven
or even twelve, was observed to be of a shape to throw no small light
upon his class and character. Its contour was almost national.
Bulging at the back, and sloping rapidly to a thin and wiry neck,
narrow between the ears and across the brow, prominent in the jaw,
the length of a line drawn from the back headland to the promontory
at the chin would have been extreme. Upon the observer there was
impressed the conviction that here was a skull denoting, by
surplusage of length, great precision of character and disposition to
action, and, by deficiency of breadth, a narrow tenacity which might
at times amount to wrong-headedness. The thin cantankerous neck, on
which little hairs grew low, and the intelligent ears, confirmed this
impression; and when his face, with its clipped hair, dry rosiness,
into which the east wind had driven a shade of yellow and the sun a
shade of brown, and grey, rather discontented eyes, came into view,
the observer had no longer any hesitation in saying that he was in
the presence of an Englishman, a landed proprietor, and, but for Mr.
Pendyce's rooted belief to the contrary, an individualist. His head,
indeed, was like nothing so much as the Admiralty Pier at Dover--that
strange long narrow thing, with a slight twist or bend at the end,
which first disturbs the comfort of foreigners arriving on these
shores, and strikes them with a sense of wonder and dismay.
He sat very motionless at his bureau, leaning a little over his
papers like a man to whom things do not come too easily; and every
now and then he stopped to refer to the calendar at his left hand, or
to a paper in one of the many pigeonholes. Open, and almost out of
reach, was a back volume of Punch, of which periodical, as a landed
proprietor, he had an almost professional knowledge. In leisure
moments it was one of his chief recreations to peruse lovingly those
aged pictures, and at the image of John Bull he never failed to
think: 'Fancy making an Englishman out a fat fellow like that!'
It was as though the artist had offered an insult to himself, passing
him over as the type, and conferring that distinction on someone fast
going out of fashion. The Rector, whenever he heard Mr. Pendyce say
this, strenuously opposed him, for he was himself of a square, stout
build, and getting stouter.
With all their aspirations to the character of typical Englishmen,
Mr. Pendyce and Mr. Barter thought themselves far from the old beef
and beer, port and pigskin types of the Georgian and early Victorian
era. They were men of the world, abreast of the times, who by virtue
of a public school and 'Varsity training had acquired a manner, a
knowledge of men and affairs, a standard of thought on which it had
really never been needful to improve. Both of them, but especially
Mr. Pendyce, kept up with all that was going forward by visiting the
Metropolis six or seven or even eight times a year. On these
occasions they rarely took their wives, having almost always
important business in hand--old College, Church, or Conservative
dinners, cricket-matches, Church Congress, the Gaiety Theatre, and
for Mr. Barter the Lyceum. Both, too, belonged to clubs--the Rector
to a comfortable, old-fashioned place where he could get a rubber
without gambling, and Mr. Pendyce to the Temple of things as they had
been, as became a man who, having turned all social problems over in
his mind, had decided that there was no real safety but in the past.
They always went up to London grumbling, but this was necessary, and
indeed salutary, because of their wives; and they always came back
grumbling, because of their livers, which a good country rest always
fortunately reduced in time for the next visit. In this way they
kept themselves free from the taint of provincialism.
In the silence of his master's study the spaniel John, whose head,
too, was long and narrow, had placed it over his paw, as though
suffering from that silence, and when his master cleared his throat
he guttered his tail and turned up an eye with a little moon of
white, without stirring his chin.
The clock ticked at the end of the long, narrow room; the sunlight
through the long, narrow windows fell on the long, narrow backs of
books in the glassed book-case that took up the whole of one wall;
and this room, with its slightly leathery smell, seemed a fitting
place for some long, narrow ideal to be worked out to its long and
But Mr. Pendyce would have scouted the notion of an ending to ideals
having their basis in the hereditary principle.
"Let me do my duty and carry on the estate as my dear old father did,
and hand it down to my son enlarged if possible," was sometimes his
saying, very, very often his thought, not seldom his prayer. "I want
to do no more than that."
The times were bad and dangerous. There was every chance of a
Radical Government being returned, and the country going to the dogs.
It was but natural and human that he should pray for the survival of
the form of things which he believed in and knew, the form of things
bequeathed to him, and embodied in the salutary words "Horace
Pendyce." It was not his habit to welcome new ideas. A new idea
invading the country of the Squire's mind was at once met with a
rising of the whole population, and either prevented from landing, or
if already on shore instantly taken prisoner. In course of time the
unhappy creature, causing its squeaks and groans to penetrate the
prison walls, would be released from sheer humaneness and love of a
quiet life, and even allowed certain privileges, remaining, however,
"that poor, queer devil of a foreigner." One day, in an inattentive
moment, the natives would suffer it to marry, or find that in some
disgraceful way it had caused the birth of children unrecognised by
law; and their respect for the accomplished fact, for something that
already lay in the past, would then prevent their trying to unmarry
it, or restoring the children to an unborn state, and very gradually
they would tolerate this intrusive brood. Such was the process of
Mr. Pendyce's mind. Indeed, like the spaniel John, a dog of
conservative instincts, at the approach of any strange thing he
placed himself in the way, barking and showing his teeth; and
sometimes truly he suffered at the thought that one day Horace
Pendyce would no longer be there to bark. But not often, for he had
not much imagination.
All the morning he had been working at that old vexed subject of
Common Rights on Worsted Scotton, which his father had fenced in and
taught him once for all to believe was part integral of Worsted
Skeynes. The matter was almost beyond doubt, for the cottagers--in a
poor way at the time of the fencing, owing to the price of bread--had
looked on apathetically till the very last year required by law to
give the old Squire squatter's rights, when all of a sudden that man,
Peacock's father, had made a gap in the fence and driven in beasts,
which had reopened the whole unfortunate question. This had been in
'65, and ever since there had been continual friction bordering on a
law suit. Mr. Pendyce never for a moment allowed it to escape his
mind that the man Peacock was at the bottom of it all; for it was his
way to discredit all principles as ground of action, and to refer
everything to facts and persons; except, indeed, when he acted
himself, when he would somewhat proudly admit that it was on
principle. He never thought or spoke on an abstract question; partly
because his father had avoided them before him, partly because he had
been discouraged from doing so at school, but mainly because he
temperamentally took no interest in such unpractical things.
It was, therefore, a source of wonder to him that tenants of his own
should be ungrateful. He did his duty by them, as the Rector, in
whose keeping were their souls, would have been the first to affirm;
the books of his estate showed this, recording year by year an
average gross profit of some sixteen hundred pounds, and (deducting
raw material incidental to the upkeep of Worsted Skeynes) a net loss
In less earthly matters, too, such as non-attendance at church, a
predisposition to poaching, or any inclination to moral laxity, he
could say with a clear conscience that the Rector was sure of his
support. A striking instance had occurred within the last month,
when, discovering that his under-keeper, an excellent man at his
work, had got into a scrape with the postman's wife, he had given the
young fellow notice, and cancelled the lease of his cottage.
He rose and went to the plan of the estate fastened to the wall,
which he unrolled by pulling a green silk cord, and stood there
scrutinising it carefully and placing his finger here and there. His
spaniel rose too, and settled himself unobtrusively on his master's
foot. Mr. Pendyce moved and trod on him. The spaniel yelped.
"D--n the dog! Oh, poor fellow, John!" said Mr. Pendyce. He went
back to his seat, but since he had identified the wrong spot he was
obliged in a minute to return again to the plan. The spaniel John,
cherishing the hope that he had been justly treated, approached in a
half circle, fluttering his tail; he had scarcely reached Mr.
Pendyce's foot when the door was opened, and the first footman
brought in a letter on a silver salver.
Mr. Pendyce took the note, read it, turned to his bureau, and said:
He sat staring at this document in the silent room, and over his face
in turn passed anger, alarm, distrust, bewilderment. He had not the
power of making very clear his thought, except by speaking aloud, and
he muttered to himself. The spaniel John, who still nurtured a
belief that he had sinned, came and lay down very close against his
Mr. Pendyce, never having reflected profoundly on the working
morality of his times, had the less difficulty in accepting it. Of
violating it he had practically no opportunity, and this rendered his
position stronger. It was from habit and tradition rather than from
principle and conviction that he was a man of good moral character.
And as he sat reading this note over and over, he suffered from a
sense of nausea.
It was couched in these terms:
"You may or may not have heard that I have made your son, Mr. George
Pendyce, correspondent in a divorce suit against my wife. Neither
for your sake nor your son's, but for the sake of Mrs. Pendyce, who
is the only woman in these parts that I respect, I will withdraw the
suit if your son will give his word not to see my wife again.
"Please send me an early answer.
"Your obedient servant,
The acceptance of tradition (and to accept it was suitable to the
Squire's temperament) is occasionally marred by the impingement of
tradition on private life and comfort. It was legendary in his class
that young men's peccadilloes must be accepted with a certain
indulgence. They would, he said, be young men. They must, he would
remark, sow their wild oats. Such was his theory. The only
difficulty he now had was in applying it to his own particular case,
a difficulty felt by others in times past, and to be felt again in
times to come. But, since he was not a philosopher, he did not
perceive the inconsistency between his theory and his dismay. He saw
his universe reeling before that note, and he was not a man to suffer
tamely; he felt that others ought to suffer too. It was monstrous
that a fellow like this Bellew, a loose fish, a drunkard, a man who
had nearly run over him, should have it in his power to trouble the
serenity of Worsted Skeynes. It was like his impudence to bring such
a charge against his son. It was like his d----d impudence! And
going abruptly to the bell, he trod on his spaniel's ear.
"D---n the dog! Oh, poor fellow, John!" But the spaniel John,
convinced at last that he had sinned, hid himself in a far corner
whence he could see nothing, and pressed his chin closely to the
"Ask your mistress to come here."
Standing by the hearth, waiting for his wife, the Squire displayed to
greater advantage than ever the shape of his long and narrow head;
his neck had grown conspicuously redder; his eyes, like those of an
offended swan, stabbed, as it were, at everything they saw.
It was not seldom that Mrs. Pendyce was summoned to the study to hear
him say: "I want to ask your advice. So-and-so has done such and
such.... I have made up my mind."
She came, therefore, in a few minutes. In compliance with his "Look
at that, Margery," she read the note, and gazed at him with distress
in her eyes, and he looked back at her with wrath in his. For this
Not to everyone is it given to take a wide view of things--to look
over the far, pale streams, the purple heather, and moonlit pools of
the wild marches, where reeds stand black against the sundown, and
from long distance comes the cry of a curlew--nor to everyone to gaze
from steep cliffs over the wine-dark, shadowy sea--or from high
mountainsides to see crowned chaos, smoking with mist, or gold-bright
in the sun.
To most it is given to watch assiduously a row of houses, a back-
yard, or, like Mrs. and Mr. Pendyce, the green fields, trim coverts,
and Scotch garden of Worsted Skeynes. And on that horizon the
citation of their eldest son to appear in the Divorce Court loomed
like a cloud, heavy with destruction.
So far as such an event could be realised imagination at Worsted
Skeynes was not too vivid--it spelled ruin to an harmonious edifice
of ideas and prejudice and aspiration. It would be no use to say of
that event, "What does it matter? Let people think what they like,
talk as they like." At Worsted Skeynes (and Worsted Skeynes was
every country house) there was but one set of people, one church, one
pack of hounds, one everything. The importance of a clear escutcheon
was too great. And they who had lived together for thirty-four years
looked at each other with a new expression in their eyes; their
feelings were for once the same. But since it is always the man who
has the nicer sense of honour, their thoughts were not the same, for
Mr. Pendyce was thinking: 'I won't believe it--disgracing us all!'
and Mrs. Pendyce was thinking: 'My boy!'
It was she who spoke first.
The sound of her voice restored the Squire's fortitude.
"There you go, Margery! D'you mean to say you believe what this
fellow says? He ought to be horsewhipped. He knows my opinion of
It's a piece of his confounded impudence! He nearly ran over me, and
Mrs. Pendyce broke in:
"But, Horace, I'm afraid it's true! Ellen Maiden----"
"Ellen Maiden?" said Mr. Pendyce. "What business has she----" He was
silent, staring gloomily at the plan of Worsted Skeynes, still
unrolled, like an emblem of all there was at stake. "If George has
really," he burst out, "he's a greater fool than I took him for! A
fool? He's a knave!"
Again he was silent.
Mrs. Pendyce flushed at that word, and bit her lips.
"George could never be a knave!" she said.
Mr. Pendyce answered heavily:
"Disgracing his name!"
Mrs. Pendyce bit deeper into her lips.
"Whatever he has done," she said, "George is sure to have behaved
like a gentleman!"
An angry smile twisted the Squire's mouth.
"Just like a woman!" he said.
But the smile died away, and on both their faces came a helpless
look. Like people who have lived together without real sympathy--
though, indeed, they had long ceased to be conscious of that--now
that something had occurred in which their interests were actually at
one, they were filled with a sort of surprise. It was no good to
differ. Differing, even silent differing, would not help their son.
"I shall write to George," said Mr. Pendyce at last. "I shall
believe nothing till I've heard from him. He'll tell us the truth, I
There was a quaver in his voice.
Mrs. Pendyce answered quickly:
"Oh, Horace, be careful what you say! I'm sure he is suffering!"
Her gentle soul, disposed to pleasure, was suffering, too, and the
tears stole up in her eyes. Mr. Pendyce's sight was too long to see
them. The infirmity had been growing on him ever since his marriage.
"I shall say what I think right," he said. "I shall take time to
consider what I shall say; I won't be hurried by this ruffian."
Mrs. Pendyce wiped her lips with her lace-edged handkerchief.
"I hope you will show me the letter," she said.
The Squire looked at her, and he realised that she was trembling and
very white, and, though this irritated him, he answered almost
"It's not a matter for you, my dear."
Mrs. Pendyce took a step towards him; her gentle face expressed a
"He is my son, Horace, as well as yours."
Mr. Pendyce turned round uneasily.
"It's no use your getting nervous, Margery. I shall do what's best.
You women lose your heads. That d----d fellow's lying!
If he isn't----"
At these words the spaniel John rose from his corner and advanced to
the middle of the floor. He stood there curved in a half-circle, and
looked darkly at his master.
"Confound it!" said Mr. Pendyce. "It's--it's damnable!"
And as if answering for all that depended on Worsted Skeynes, the
spaniel John deeply wagged that which had been left him of his tail.
Mrs. Pendyce came nearer still.
"If George refuses to give you that promise, what will you do,
Mr. Pendyce stared.
"Promise? What promise?"
Mrs. Pendyce thrust forward the note.
"This promise not to see her again."
Mr. Pendyce motioned it aside.
"I'll not be dictated to by that fellow Bellew," he said. Then, by
an afterthought: "It won't do to give him a chance. George must
promise me that in any case."
Mrs. Pendyce pressed her lips together.
"But do you think he will?"
"Think--think who will? Think he will what? Why can't you express
yourself, Margery? If George has really got us into this mess he
must get us out again."
Mrs. Pendyce flushed.
"He would never leave her in the lurch!"
The Squire said angrily:
"Lurch! Who said anything about lurch? He owes it to her. Not that
she deserves any consideration, if she's been---- You don't mean to
say you think he'll refuse? He'd never be such a donkey?"
Mrs. Pendyce raised her hands and made what for her was a passionate
"Oh, Horace!" she said, "you don't understand. He's in love with
Mr. Pendyce's lower lip trembled, a sign with him of excitement or
emotion. All the conservative strength of his nature, all the
immense dumb force of belief in established things, all that stubborn
hatred and dread of change, that incalculable power of imagining
nothing, which, since the beginning of time, had made Horace Pendyce
the arbiter of his land, rose up within his sorely tried soul.
"What on earth's that to do with it?" he cried in a rage. "You
women! You've no sense of anything! Romantic, idiotic, immoral--I
don't know what you're at. For God's sake don't go putting ideas
into his head!"
At this outburst Mrs. Pendyce's face became rigid; only the flicker
of her eyelids betrayed how her nerves were quivering. Suddenly she
threw her hands up to her ears.
"Horace!" she cried, "do---- Oh, poor John!"
The Squire had stepped hastily and heavily on to his dog's paw. The
creature gave a grievous howl. Mr. Pendyce went down on his knees
and raised the limb.
"Damn the dog!" he stuttered. "Oh, poor fellow, John!"
And the two long and narrow heads for a moment were close together.
CHAPTER V. RECTOR AND SQUIRE
The efforts of social man, directed from immemorial time towards the
stability of things, have culminated in Worsted Skeynes. Beyond
commercial competition--for the estate no longer paid for living on
it--beyond the power of expansion, set with tradition and sentiment,
it was an undoubted jewel, past need of warranty. Cradled within it
were all those hereditary institutions of which the country was most
proud, and Mr. Pendyce sometimes saw before him the time when, for
services to his party, he should call himself Lord Worsted, and after
his own death continue sitting in the House of Lords in the person of
his son. But there was another feeling in the Squire's heart--the
air and the woods and the fields had passed into his blood a love for
this, his home and the home of his fathers.
And so a terrible unrest pervaded the whole household after the
receipt of Jaspar Bellew's note. Nobody was told anything, yet
everybody knew there was something; and each after his fashion, down
to the very dogs, betrayed their sympathy with the master and
mistress of the house.
Day after day the girls wandered about the new golf course knocking
the balls aimlessly; it was all they could do. Even Cecil Tharp, who
had received from Bee the qualified affirmative natural under the
circumstances, was infected. The off foreleg of her grey mare was
being treated by a process he had recently discovered, and in the
stables he confided to Bee that the dear old Squire seemed "off his
feed;" he did not think it was any good worrying him at present.
Bee, stroking the mare's neck, looked at him shyly and slowly.
"It's about George," she said; "I know it's about George! Oh, Cecil!
I do wish I had been a boy!"
Young Tharp assented in spite of himself:
"Yes; it must be beastly to be a girl."
A faint flush coloured Bee's cheeks. It hurt her a little that he
should agree; but her lover was passing his hand down the mare's
"Father is rather trying," she said. "I wish George would marry."
Cecil Tharp raised his bullet head; his blunt, honest face was
extremely red from stooping.
"Clean as a whistle," he said; "she's all right, Bee. I expect
George has too good a time."
Bee turned her face away and murmured:
"I should loathe living in London." And she, too, stooped and felt
the mare's shin.
To Mrs. Pendyce in these days the hours passed with incredible
slowness. For thirty odd years she had waited at once for everything
and nothing; she had, so to say, everything she could wish for, and--
nothing, so that even waiting had been robbed of poignancy; but to
wait like this, in direct suspense, for something definite was
terrible. There was hardly a moment when she did not conjure up
George, lonely and torn by conflicting emotions; for to her, long
paralysed by Worsted Skeynes, and ignorant of the facts, the
proportions of the struggle in her son's soul appeared Titanic; her
mother instinct was not deceived as to the strength of his passion.
Strange and conflicting were the sensations with which she awaited
the result; at one moment thinking, 'It is madness; he must promise--
it is too awful!' at another, 'Ah! but how can he, if he loves her
so? It is impossible; and she, too--ah! how awful it is!'
Perhaps, as Mr. Pendyce had said, she was romantic; perhaps it was
only the thought of the pain her boy must suffer. The tooth was too
big, it seemed to her; and, as in old days, when she took him to
Cornmarket to have an aching tooth out, she ever sat with his hand in
hers while the little dentist pulled, and ever suffered the tug, too,
in her own mouth, so now she longed to share this other tug, so
terrible, so fierce.
Against Mrs. Bellew she felt only a sort of vague and jealous aching;
and this seemed strange even to herself--but, again, perhaps she was
Now it was that she found the value of routine. Her days were so
well and fully occupied that anxiety was forced below the surface.
The nights were far more terrible; for then, not only had she to bear
her own suspense, but, as was natural in a wife, the fears of Horace
Pendyce as well. The poor Squire found this the only time when he
could get relief from worry; he came to bed much earlier on purpose.
By dint of reiterating dreads and speculation he at length obtained
some rest. Why had not George answered? What was the fellow about?
And so on and so on, till, by sheer monotony, he caused in himself
the need for slumber. But his wife's torments lasted till after the
birds, starting with a sleepy cheeping, were at full morning chorus.
Then only, turning softly for fear she should awaken him, the poor
lady fell asleep.
For George had not answered.
In her morning visits to the village Mrs. Pendyce found herself, for
the first time since she had begun this practice, driven by her own
trouble over that line of diffident distrust which had always divided
her from the hearts of her poorer neighbours. She was astonished at
her own indelicacy, asking questions, prying into their troubles,
pushed on by a secret aching for distraction; and she was surprised
how well they took it--how, indeed, they seemed to like it, as though
they knew that they were doing her good. In one cottage, where she
had long noticed with pitying wonder a white-faced, black-eyed girl,
who seemed to crouch away from everyone, she even received a request.
It was delivered with terrified secrecy in a back-yard, out of Mrs.
"Oh, ma'am! Get me away from here! I'm in trouble--it's comin', and
I don't know what I shall do."
Mrs. Pendyce shivered, and all the way home she thought: 'Poor little
soul--poor little thing!' racking her brains to whom she might
confide this case and ask for a solution; and something of the white-
faced, black-eyed girl's terror and secrecy fell on her, for, she
found no one not even Mrs. Barter, whose heart, though soft, belonged
to the Rector. Then, by a sort of inspiration, she thought of
'How can I write to him,' she mused, 'when my son----'
But she did write, for, deep down, the Totteridge instinct felt that
others should do things for her; and she craved, too, to allude,
however distantly, to what was on her mind. And, under the Pendyce
eagle and the motto: 'Strenuus aureaque penna', thus her letter ran:
"Can you do anything for a poor little girl in the village here who
is 'in trouble'?--you know what I mean. It is such a terrible crime
in this part of the country, and she looks so wretched and
frightened, poor little thing! She is twenty years old. She wants a
hiding-place for her misfortune, and somewhere to go when it is over.
Nobody, she says, will have anything to do with her where they know;
and, really, I have noticed for a long time how white and wretched
she looks, with great black frightened eyes. I don't like to apply
to our Rector, for though he is a good fellow in many ways, he has
such strong opinions; and, of course, Horace could do nothing. I
would like to do something for her, and I could spare a little money,
but I can't find a place for her to go, and that makes it difficult.
She seems to be haunted, too, by the idea that wherever she goes it
will come out. Isn't it dreadful? Do do something, if you can. I
am rather anxious about George. I hope the dear boy is well. If you
are passing his club some day you might look in and just ask after
him. He is sometimes so naughty about writing. I wish we could see
you here, dear Grig; the country is looking beautiful just now--the
oak-trees especially--and the apple-blossom isn't over, but I suppose
you are too busy. How is Helen Bellew? Is she in town?
"Your affectionate cousin,
It was four o'clock this same afternoon when the second groom, very
much out of breath, informed the butler that there was a fire at
Peacock's farm. The butler repaired at once to the library. Mr.
Pendyce, who had been on horseback all the morning, was standing in
his riding-clothes, tired and depressed, before the plan of Worsted
"What do you want, Bester?"
"There is a fire at Peacock's farm, sir." Mr. Pendyce stared.
"What?" he said. "A fire in broad daylight! Nonsense!"
"You can see the flames from the front, sir." The worn and querulous
look left Mr. Pendyce's face.
"Ring the stable-bell!" he said. "Tell them all to run with buckets
and ladders. Send Higson off to Cornmarket on the mare. Go and tell
Mr. Barter, and rouse the village. Don't stand there--God bless me!
Ring the stable-bell!" And snatching up his riding-crop and hat, he
ran past the butler, closely followed by the spaniel John.
Over the stile and along the footpath which cut diagonally across a
field of barley he moved at a stiff trot, and his spaniel, who had
not grasped the situation, frolicked ahead with a certain surprise.
The Squire was soon out of breath--it was twenty years or more since
he had run a quarter of a mile. He did not, however, relax his
speed. Ahead of him in the distance ran the second groom; behind him
a labourer and a footman. The stable-bell at Worsted Skeynes began
to ring. Mr. Pendyce crossed the stile and struck into the lane,
colliding with the Rector, who was running, too, his face flushed to
the colour of tomatoes. They ran on, side by side.
"You go on!" gasped Mr. Pendyce at last, "and tell them I'm coming."
The Rector hesitated--he, too, was very out of breath--and started
again, panting. The Squire, with his hand to his side, walked
painfully on; he had run himself to a standstill. At a gap in the
corner of the lane he suddenly saw pale-red tongues of flame against
"God bless me!" he gasped, and in sheer horror started to run again.
Those sinister tongues were licking at the air over a large barn,
some ricks, and the roofs of stables and outbuildings. Half a dozen
figures were dashing buckets of water on the flames. The true
insignificance of their efforts did not penetrate the Squire's mind.
Trembling, and with a sickening pain in his lungs, he threw off his
coat, wrenched a bucket from a huge agricultural labourer, who
resigned it with awe, and joined the string of workers. Peacock, the
farmer, ran past him; his face and round red beard were the colour of
the flames he was trying to put out; tears dropped continually from
his eyes and ran down that fiery face. His wife, a little dark woman
with a twisted mouth, was working like a demon at the pump.
Mr. Pendyce gasped to her:
"This is dreadful, Mrs. Peacock--this is dreadful!"
Conspicuous in black clothes and white shirt-sleeves, the Rector was
hewing with an axe at the boarding of a cowhouse, the door end of
which was already in flames, and his voice could be heard above the
tumult shouting directions to which nobody paid any heed.
"What's in that cow-house?" gasped Mr. Pendyce.
Mrs. Peacock, in a voice harsh with rage and grief answered:
"It's the old horse and two of the cows!"
"God bless me!" cried the Squire, rushing forward with his bucket.
Some villagers came running up, and he shouted to these, but what he
said neither he nor they could tell. The shrieks and snortings of
the horse and cows, the steady whirr of the flames, drowned all
lesser sounds. Of human cries, the Rector's voice alone was heard,
between the crashing blows of his axe upon the woodwork.
Mr. Pendyce tripped; his bucket rolled out of his hand; he lay where
he had fallen, too exhausted to move. He could still hear the crash
of the Rector's axe, the sound of his shouts. Somebody helped him
up, and trembling so that he could hardly stand, he caught an axe out
of the hand of a strapping young fellow who had just arrived, and
placing himself by the Rector's side, swung it feebly against the
boarding. The flames and smoke now filled the whole cow-house, and
came rushing through the gap that they were making. The Squire and
the Rector stood their ground. With a furious blow Mr. Barter
cleared a way. A cheer rose behind them, but no beast came forth.
All three were dead in the smoke and flames.
The Squire, who could see in, flung down his axe, and covered his
eyes with his hands. The Rector uttered a sound like a deep oath,
and he, too, flung down his axe.
Two hours later, with torn and blackened clothes, the Squire stood by
the ruins of the barn. The fire was out, but the ashes were still
smouldering. The spaniel John, anxious, panting, was licking his
master's boots, as though begging forgiveness that he had been so
frightened, and kept so far away. Yet something in his eye seemed to
"Must you really have these fires, master?"
A black hand grasped the Squire's arm, a hoarse voice said:
"I shan't forget, Squire!"
"God bless me, Peacock!" returned Mr. Pendyce, "that's nothing!
You're insured, I hope?'
"Aye, I'm insured; but it's the beasts I'm thinking of!"
"Ah!" said the Squire, with a gesture of horror.
The brougham took him and the Rector back together. Under their feet
crouched their respective dogs, faintly growling at each other. A
cheer from the crowd greeted their departure.
They started in silence, deadly tired. Mr. Pendyce said suddenly:
"I can't get those poor beasts out of my head, Barter!"
The Rector put his hand up to his eyes.
"I hope to God I shall never see such a sight again! Poor brutes,
And feeling secretly for his dog's muzzle, he left his hand against
the animal's warm, soft, rubbery mouth, to be licked again and again.
On his side of the brougham Mr. Pendyce, also unseen, was doing
precisely the same thing.
The carriage went first to the Rectory, where Mrs. Barter and her
children stood in the doorway. The Rector put his head back into the
brougham to say:
"Good-night, Pendyce. You'll be stiff tomorrow. I shall get my wife
to rub me with Elliman!"
Mr. Pendyce nodded, raised his hat, and the carriage went on.
Leaning back, he closed his eyes; a pleasanter sensation was stealing
over him. True, he would be stiff to-morrow, but he had done his
duty. He had shown them all that blood told; done something to
bolster up that system which was-himself. And he had a new and
kindly feeling towards Peacock, too. There was nothing like a little
danger for bringing the lower classes closer; then it was they felt
the need for officers, for something!
The spaniel John's head rose between his knees, turning up eyes with
a crimson touch beneath.
'Master,' he seemed to say, 'I am feeling old. I know there are
things beyond me in this life, but you, who know all things, will
arrange that we shall be together even when we die.'
The carriage stopped at the entrance of the drive, and the Squire's
thoughts changed. Twenty years ago he would have beaten Barter
running down that lane. Barter was only forty-five. To give him
fourteen years and a beating was a bit too much to expect: He felt a
strange irritation with Barter--the fellow had cut a very good
figure! He had shirked nothing. Elliman was too strong! Homocea
was the thing. Margery would have to rub him! And suddenly, as
though springing naturally from the name of his wife, George came
into Mr. Pendyce's mind, and the respite that he had enjoyed from
care was over. But the spaniel John, who scented home, began singing
feebly for the brougham to stop, and beating a careless tail against
his master's boot.
It was very stiffly, with frowning brows and a shaking under-lip,
that the Squire descended from the brougham, and began sorely to
mount the staircase to his wife's room.
CHAPTER VI. THE PARK
There comes a day each year in May when Hyde Park is possessed. A
cool wind swings the leaves; a hot sun glistens on Long Water, on
every bough, on every blade of grass. The birds sing their small
hearts out, the band plays its gayest tunes, the white clouds race in
the high blue heaven. Exactly why and how this day differs from
those that came before and those that will come after, cannot be
told; it is as though the Park said: 'To-day I live; the Past is
past. I care not for the Future!'
And on this day they who chance in the Park cannot escape some
measure of possession. Their steps quicken, their skirts swing,
their sticks flourish, even their eyes brighten--those eyes so dulled
with looking at the streets; and each one, if he has a Love, thinks
of her, and here and there among the wandering throng he has her with
him. To these the Park and all sweet-blooded mortals in it nod and
There had been a meeting that afternoon at Lady Maiden's in Prince's
Gate to consider the position of the working-class woman. It had
provided a somewhat heated discussion, for a person had got up and
proved almost incontestably that the working-class woman had no
Gregory Vigil and Mrs. Shortman had left this meeting together, and,
crossing the Serpentine, struck a line over the grass.
"Mrs. Shortman," said Gregory, "don't you think we're all a little
He was carrying his hat in his hand, and his fine grizzled hair,
rumpled in the excitement of the meeting, had not yet subsided on his
"Yes, Mr. Vigil. I don't exactly----"
"We are all a little mad! What did that woman, Lady Maiden, mean by
talking as she did? I detest her!"
"Oh, Mr. Vigil! She has the best intentions!"
"Intentions?" said Gregory. "I loathe her! What did we go to her
stuffy drawing-room for? Look at that sky!"
Mrs. Shortman looked at the sky.
"But, Mr. Vigil," she said earnestly, "things would never get done.
Sometimes I think you look at everything too much in the light of the
way it ought to be!"
"The Milky Way," said Gregory.
Mrs. Shortman pursed her lips; she found it impossible to habituate
herself to Gregory's habit of joking.
They had scant talk for the rest of their journey to the S. R. W. C.,
where Miss Mallow, at the typewriter, was reading a novel.
"There are several letters for you, Mr. Vigil"
"Mrs. Shortman says I am unpractical," answered Gregory. "Is that
true, Miss Mallow?
The colour in Miss Mallow's cheeks spread to her sloping shoulders.
"Oh no. You're most practical, only--perhaps--I don't know, perhaps
you do try to do rather impossible things, Mr. Vigil"
There was a minute's silence. Then Mrs. Shortman at her bureau
beginning to dictate, the typewriter started clicking.
Gregory, who had opened a letter, was seated with his head in his
hands. The voice ceased, the typewriter ceased, but Gregory did not
stir. Both women, turning a little in their seats, glanced at him.
Their eyes caught each other's and they looked away at once. A few
seconds later they were looking at him again. Still Gregory did not
stir. An anxious appeal began to creep into the women's eyes.
"Mr. Vigil," said Mrs. Shortman at last, "Mr. Vigil, do you think---"
Gregory raised his face; it was flushed to the roots of his hair.
"Read that, Mrs. Shortman."
Handing her a pale grey letter stamped with an eagle and the motto
'Strenuus aureaque penna' he rose and paced the room. And as with
his long, light stride he was passing to and fro, the woman at the
bureau conned steadily the writing, the girl at the typewriter sat
motionless with a red and jealous face.
Mrs. Shortman folded the letter, placed it on the top of the bureau,
and said without raising her eyes
"Of course, it is very sad for the poor little girl; but surely, Mr.
Vigil, it must always be, so as to check, to check----"
Gregory stopped, and his shining eyes disconcerted her; they seemed
to her unpractical. Sharply lifting her voice, she went on:
"If there were no disgrace, there would be no way of stopping it. I
know the country better than you do, Mr. Vigil."
Gregory put his hands to his ears.
"We must find a place for her at once."
The window was fully open, so that he could not open it any more, and
he stood there as though looking for that place in the sky. And the
sky he looked at was very blue, and large white birds of cloud were
flying over it.
He turned from the window, and opened another letter.
"LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
"May 24, 1892.
"MY DEAR VIGIL,
"I gathered from your ward when I saw her yesterday that she has not
told you of what, I fear, will give you much pain. I asked her
point-blank whether she wished the matter kept from you, and her
answer was, 'He had better know--only I'm sorry for him.' In sum it
is this: Bellow has either got wind of our watching him, or someone
must have put him up to it; he has anticipated us and brought a suit
against your ward, joining George Pendyce in the cause. George
brought the citation to me. If necessary he's prepared to swear
there's nothing in it. He takes, in fact, the usual standpoint of
the 'man of honour.'
"I went at once to see your ward. She admitted that the charge is
true. I asked her if she wished the suit defended, and a counter-
suit brought against her husband. Her answer to that was: 'I
absolutely don't care.' I got nothing from her but this, and, though
it sounds odd, I believe it to be true. She appears to be in a
reckless mood, and to have no particular ill-will against her
"I want to see you, but only after you have turned this matter over
carefully. It is my duty to put some considerations before you. The
suit, if brought, will be a very unpleasant matter for George, a
still more unpleasant, even disastrous one, for his people. The
innocent in such cases are almost always the greatest sufferers. If
the cross-suit is instituted, it will assume at once, considering
their position in Society, the proportions of a 'cause celebre', and
probably occupy the court and the daily presses anything from three
days to a week, perhaps more, and you know what that means. On the
other hand, not to defend the suit, considering what we know, is,
apart from ethics, revolting to my instincts as a fighter. My
advice, therefore, is to make every effort to prevent matters being
brought into court at all.
"I am an older man than you by thirteen years. I have a sincere
regard for you, and I wish to save you pain. In the course of our
interviews I have observed your ward very closely, and at the risk of
giving you offence, I am going to speak out my mind. Mrs. Bellew is
a rather remarkable woman. From two or three allusions that you have
made in my presence, I believe that she is altogether different from
what you think. She is, in my opinion, one of those very vital
persons upon whom our judgments, censures, even our ,sympathies, are
wasted. A woman of this sort, if she comes of a county family, and
is thrown by circumstances with Society people, is always bound to be
conspicuous. If you would realise something of this, it would, I
believe, save you a great deal of pain. In short, I beg of you not
to take her, or her circumstances, too seriously. There are quite a
number of such men and women as her husband and herself, and they are
always certain to be more or less before the public eye. Whoever
else goes down, she will swim, simply because she can't help it. I
want you to see things as they are.
"I ask you again, my dear Vigil, to forgive me for writing thus, and
to believe that my sole desire is to try and save you unnecessary
"Come and see me as soon as you have reflected:
"Your sincere friend,
Gregory made a movement like that of a blind man. Both women were on
their feet at once.
"What is it, Mr. Vigil? Can I get you anything?"
"Thanks; nothing, nothing. I've had some rather bad news. I'll go
out and get some air. I shan't be back to-day."
He found his hat and went.
He walked towards the Park, unconsciously attracted towards the
biggest space, the freshest air; his hands were folded behind him,
his head bowed. And since, of all things, Nature is ironical, it was
fitting that he should seek the Park this day when it was gayest.
And far in the Park, as near the centre as might be, he lay down on
the grass. For a long time he lay without moving, his hands over his
eyes, and in spite of Mr. Paramor's reminder that his suffering was
unnecessary, he suffered.
And mostly he suffered from black loneliness, for he was a very
lonely man, and now he had lost that which he had thought he had.
It is difficult to divide suffering, difficult to say how much he
suffered, because, being in love with her, he had secretly thought
she must love him a little, and how much he suffered because his
private portrait of her, the portrait that he, and he alone, had
painted, was scored through with the knife. And he lay first on his
face, and then on his back, with his hand always over his eyes. And
around him were other men lying on the grass, and some were lonely,
and some hungry, and some asleep, and some were lying there for the
pleasure of doing nothing and for the sake of the hot sun on their
cheeks; and by the side of some lay their girls, and it was these
that Gregory could not bear to see, for his spirit and his senses
were a-hungered. In the plantations close by were pigeons, and never
for a moment did they stop cooing; never did the blackbirds cease
their courting songs; the sun its hot, sweet burning; the clouds
above their love-chase in the sky. It was the day without a past,
without a future, when it is not good for man to be alone. And no
man looked at him, because it was no man's business, but a woman here
and there cast a glance on that long, tweed-suited figure with the
hand over the eyes, and wondered, perhaps, what was behind that hand.
Had they but known, they would have smiled their woman's smile that
he should so have mistaken one of their sex.
Gregory lay quite still, looking at the sky, and because he was a
loyal man he did not blame her, but slowly, very slowly, his spirit,
like a spring stretched to the point of breaking, came back upon
itself, and since he could not bear to see things as they were, he
began again to see them as they were not.
'She has been forced into this,' he thought. 'It is George Pendyce's
fault. To me she is, she must be, the same!'
He turned again on to his face. And a small dog who had lost its
master sniffed at his boots, and sat down a little way off, to wait
till Gregory could do something for him, because he smelled that he
was that sort of man.
CHAPTER VII. DOUBTFUL POSITION AT WORSTED SKEYNES
Then George's answer came at last, the flags were in full bloom round
the Scotch garden at Worsted Skeynes. They grew in masses and of all
shades, from deep purple to pale grey, and their scent, very
penetrating, very delicate, floated on the wind.
While waiting for that answer, it had become Mr. Pendyce's habit to
promenade between these beds, his hand to his back, for he was still
a little stiff, followed at a distance of seven paces by the spaniel
John, very black, and moving his rubbery nostrils uneasily from side
In this way the two passed every day the hour from twelve to one.
Neither could have said why they walked thus, for Mr. Pendyce had a
horror of idleness, and the spaniel John disliked the scent of
irises; both, in fact, obeyed that part of themselves which is
superior to reason. During this hour, too, Mrs. Pendyce, though
longing to walk between her flowers, also obeyed that part of her,
superior to reason, which told her that it would be better not.
But George's answer came at last.
"Yes, Bellew is bringing a suit. I am taking steps in the matter.
As to the promise you ask for, I can give no promise of the sort.
You may tell Bellew I will see him d---d first.
"Your affectionate son,
Mr. Pendyce received this at the breakfast-table, and while he read
it there was a hush, for all had seen the handwriting on the
Mr. Pendyce read it through twice, once with his glasses on and once
without, and when he had finished the second reading he placed it in
his breast pocket. No word escaped him; his eyes, which had sunk a
little the last few days, rested angrily on his wife's white face.
Bee and Norah looked down, and, as if they understood, the four dogs
were still. Mr. Pendyce pushed his plate back, rose, and left the
Norah looked up.
"What's the matter, Mother?"
Mrs. Pendyce was swaying. She recovered herself in a moment.
"Nothing, dear. It's very hot this morning, don't you think? I'll
Just go to my room and take some sal volatile."
She went out, followed by old Roy, the Skye; the spaniel John, who
had been cut off at the door by his master's abrupt exit, preceded
her. Norah and Bee pushed back their plates.
"I can't eat, Norah," said Bee. "It's horrible not to know what's
"It's perfectly brutal not being a man. You might just as well be a
dog as a girl, for anything anyone tells you!"
Mrs. Pendyce did not go to her room; she went to the library. Her
husband, seated at his table, had George's letter before him. A pen
was in his hand, but he was not writing.
"Horace," she said softly, "here is poor John!"
Mr. Pendyce did not answer, but put down the hand that did not hold
his pen. The spaniel John covered it with kisses.
"Let me see the letter, won't you?"
Mr. Pendyce handed it to her without a word. She touched his
shoulder gratefully, for his unusual silence went to her heart. Mr.
Pendyce took no notice, staring at his pen as though surprised that,
of its own accord, it did not write his answer; but suddenly he flung
it down and looked round, and his look seemed to say: 'You brought
this fellow into the world; now see the result!'
He had had so many days to think and put his finger on the doubtful
spots of his son's character. All that week he had become more and
more certain of how, without his wife, George would have been exactly
like himself. Words sprang to his lips, and kept on dying there.
The doubt whether she would agree with him, the feeling that she
sympathised with her son, the certainty that something even in
himself responded to those words: "You can tell Bellew I will see him
d---d first!"--all this, and the thought, never out of his mind, 'The
name--the estate!' kept him silent. He turned his head away, and
took up his pen again.
Mrs. Pendyce had read the letter now three times, and instinctively
had put it in her bosom. It was not hers, but Horace must know it by
heart, and in his anger he might tear it up. That letter, for which
they had waited so long; told her nothing; she had known all there
was to tell. Her hand had fallen from Mr. Pendyce's shoulder, and
she did not put it back, but ran her fingers through and through each
other, while the sunlight, traversing the narrow windows, caressed
her from her hair down to her knees. Here and there that stream of
sunlight formed little pools in her eyes, giving them a touching,
anxious brightness; in a curious heart-shaped locket of carved steel,
worn by her mother and her grandmother before her, containing now,
not locks of their son's hair, but a curl of George's; in her diamond
rings, and a bracelet of amethyst and pearl which she wore for the
love of pretty things. And the warm sunlight disengaged from her a
scent of lavender. Through the library door a scratching noise told
that the dear dogs knew she was not in her bedroom. Mr. Pendyce,
too, caught that scent of lavender, and in some vague way it
augmented his discomfort. Her silence, too, distressed him. It did
not occur to him that his silence was distressing her. He put down
"I can't write with you standing there, Margery!"
Mrs. Pendyce moved out of the sunlight.
"George says he is taking steps. What does that mean, Horace?"
This question, focusing his doubts, broke down the Squire's dumbness.
"I won't be treated like this!" he said. "I'll go up and see him
He went by the 10.20, saying that he would be down again by the 5.55
Soon after seven the same evening a dogcart driven by a young groom
and drawn by a raking chestnut mare with a blaze face, swung into the
railway-station at Worsted Skeynes, and drew up before the booking-
office. Mr. Pendyce's brougham, behind a brown horse, coming a
little later, was obliged to range itself behind. A minute before
the train's arrival a wagonette and a pair of bays, belonging to Lord
Quarryman, wheeled in, and, filing past the other two, took up its
place in front. Outside this little row of vehicles the station fly
and two farmers' gigs presented their backs to the station buildings.
And in this arrangement there was something harmonious and fitting,
as though Providence itself had guided them all and assigned to each
its place. And Providence had only made one error--that of placing
Captain Bellew's dogcart precisely opposite the booking-office,
instead of Lord Quarryman's wagonette, with Mr. Pendyce's brougham
Mr. Pendyce came out first; he stared angrily at the dogcart, and
moved to his own carriage. Lord Quarryman came out second. His
massive sun-burned head--the back of which, sparsely adorned by
hairs, ran perfectly straight into his neck--was crowned by a grey
top-hat. The skirts of his grey coat were square-shaped, and so were
the toes of his boots.
"Hallo, Pendyce!" he called out heartily; "didn't see you on the
platform. How's your wife?"
Mr. Pendyce, turning to answer, met the little burning eyes of
Captain Bellew, who came out third. They failed to salute each
other, and Bellow, springing into his cart, wrenched his mare round,
circled the farmers' gigs, and, sitting forward, drove off at a
furious pace. His groom, running at full speed, clung to the cart
and leaped on to the step behind. Lord Quarryman's wagonette backed
itself into the place left vacant. And the mistake of Providence was
"Cracked chap, that fellow Bellew. D'you see anything of him?"
Mr. Pendyce answered:
"No; and I want to see less. I wish he'd take himself off!"
His lordship smiled.
"A huntin' country seems to breed fellows like that; there's always
one of 'em to every pack of hounds. Where's his wife now? Good-
lookin' woman; rather warm member, eh?"
It seemed to Mr. Pendyce that Lord Quarryman's eyes searched his own
with a knowing look, and muttering "God knows!" he vanished into his
Lord Quarryman looked kindly at his horses.
He was not a man who reflected on the whys, the wherefores, the
becauses, of this life. The good God had made him Lord Quarryman,
had made his eldest son Lord Quantock; the good God had made the
Gaddesdon hounds--it was enough!
When Mr. Pendyce reached home he went to his dressing-room. In a
corner by the bath the spaniel John lay surrounded by an assortment
of his master's slippers, for it was thus alone that he could soothe
in measure the bitterness of separation. His dark brown eye was
fixed upon the door, and round it gleamed a crescent moon of white.
He came to the Squire fluttering his tail, with a slipper in his
mouth, and his eye said plainly: 'Oh, master, where have you been?
Why have you been so long? I have been expecting you ever since
half-past ten this morning!'
Mr. Pendyce's heart opened a moment and closed again. He said
"John!" and began to dress for dinner.
Mrs. Pendyce found him tying his white tie. She had plucked the
first rosebud from her garden; she had plucked it because she felt
sorry for him, and because of the excuse it would give her to go to
his dressing-room at once.
"I've brought you a buttonhole, Horace. Did you see him?"
Of all answers this was the one she dreaded most. She had not
believed that anything would come of an interview; she had trembled
all day long at the thought of their meeting; but now that they had
not met she knew by the sinking in her heart that anything was better
than uncertainty. She waited as long as she could, then burst out:
"Tell me something, Horace!"
Mr. Pendyce gave her an angry glance.
"How can I tell you, when there's nothing to tell? I went to his
club. He's not living there now. He's got rooms, nobody knows
where. I waited all the afternoon. Left a message at last for him
to come down here to-morrow. I've sent for Paramor, and told him to
come down too. I won't put up with this sort of thing."
Mrs. Pendyce looked out of the window, but there was nothing to see
save the ha-ha, the coverts, the village spire, the cottage roofs,
which for so long had been her world.
"George won't come down here," she said.
"George will do what I tell him."
Again Mrs. Pendyce shook her head, knowing by instinct that she was
Mr. Pendyce stopped putting on his waist-coat.
"George had better take care," he said; "he's entirely dependent on
And as if with those words he had summed up the situation, the
philosophy of a system vital to his son, he no longer frowned. On
Mrs. Pendyce those words had a strange effect. They stirred within
her terror. It was like seeing her son's back bared to a lifted
whip-lash; like seeing the door shut against him on a snowy night.
But besides terror they stirred within her a more poignant feeling
yet, as though someone had dared to show a whip to herself, had dared
to defy that something more precious than life in her soul, that
something which was of her blood, so utterly and secretly passed by
the centuries into her fibre that no one had ever thought of defying
it before. And there flashed before her with ridiculous concreteness
the thought: 'I've got three hundred a year of my own!' Then the
whole feeling left her, just as in dreams a mordant sensation grips
and passes, leaving a dull ache, whose cause is forgotten, behind.
"There's the gong, Horace," she said. "Cecil Tharp is here to
dinner. I asked the Barters, but poor Rose didn't feel up to it.
Of course they are expecting it very soon now. They talk of the 15th
Mr. Pendyce took from his wife his coat, passing his arms down the
"If I could get the cottagers to have families like that," he said,
"I shouldn't have much trouble about labour. They're a pig-headed
lot--do nothing that they're told. Give me some eau-de-Cologne,
Mrs. Pendyce dabbed the wicker flask on her husband's handkerchief.
"Your eyes look tired," she said. "Have you a headache, dear?"
CHAPTER VIII. COUNCIL AT WORSTED SKEYNES
It was on the following evening--the evening on which he was
expecting his son and Mr. Paramor that the Squire leaned forward over
the dining-table and asked:
"What do you say, Barter? I'm speaking to you as a man of the
The Rector bent over his glass of port and moistened his lower lip.
"There's no excuse for that woman," he answered. "I always thought
she was a bad lot."
Mr. Pendyce went on:
"We've never had a scandal in my family. I find the thought of it
hard to bear, Barter--I find it hard to bear----"
The Rector emitted a low sound. He had come from long usage to have
a feeling like affection for his Squire.
Mr. Pendyce pursued his thoughts.
"We've gone on," he said, "father and son for hundreds of years.
It's a blow to me, Barter."
Again the Rector emitted that low sound.
"What will the village think?" said Mr. Pendyce; "and the farmers--
I mind that more than anything. Most of them knew my dear old father
--not that he was popular. It's a bitter thing."
The Rector said:
"Well, well, Pendyce, perhaps it won't come to that."
He looked a little shamefaced, and his light eyes were full of
something like contrition.
"How does Mrs. Pendyce take it?"
The Squire looked at him for the first time.
"Ah!" he said; "you never know anything about women. I'd as soon
trust a woman to be just as I'd--I'd finish that magnum; it'd give me
gout in no time."
The Rector emptied his glass.
"I've sent for George and my solicitor," pursued the Squire; "they'll
be here directly."
Mr. Barter pushed his chair back, and raising his right ankle on to
his left leg, clasped his hands round his right knee; then, leaning
forward, he stared up under his jutting brows at Mr. Pendyce. It was
the attitude in which he thought best.
Mr. Pendyce ran on:
"I've nursed the estate ever since it came to me; I've carried on the
tradition as best I could; I've not been as good a man, perhaps, as I
should have wished, but I've always tried to remember my old father's
words: 'I'm done for, Horry; the estate's in your hands now.'" He
cleared his throat.
For a full minute there was no sound save the ticking of the clock.
Then the spaniel John, coming silently from under the sideboard, fell
heavily down against his master's leg with a lengthy snore of
satisfaction. Mr. Pendyce looked down.
"This fellow of mine," he muttered, "is getting fat."
It was evident from the tone of his voice that he desired his emotion
to be forgotten. Something very deep in Mr. Barter respected that
"It's a first-rate magnum," he said.
Mr. Pendyce filled his Rector's glass.
"I forget if you knew Paramor. He was before your time. He was at
Harrow with me."
The Rector took a prolonged sip.
"I shall be in the way," he said. "I'll take myself off'."
The Squire put out his hand affectionately.
"No, no, Barter, don't you go. It's all safe with you. I mean to
act. I can't stand this uncertainty. My wife's cousin Vigil is
coming too--he's her guardian. I wired for him. You know Vigil? He
was about your time."
The Rector turned crimson, and set his underlip. Having scented his
enemy, nothing would now persuade him to withdraw; and the conviction
that he had only done his duty, a little shaken by the Squire's
confidence, returned as though by magic.
"Yes, I know him."
"We'll have it all out here," muttered Mr. Pendyce, "over this port.
There's the carriage. Get up, John."
The spaniel John rose heavily, looked sardonically at Mr. Barter, and
again flopped down against his master's leg.
"Get up, John," said Mr. Pendyce again. The spaniel John snored.
'If I move, you'll move too, and uncertainty will begin for me
again,' he seemed to say.
Mr. Pendyce disengaged his leg, rose, and went to the door. Before
reaching it he turned and came back to the table.
"Barter," he said, "I'm not thinking of myself--I'm not thinking of
myself--we've been here for generations--it's the principle." His
face had the least twist to one side, as though conforming to a kink
in his philosophy; his eyes looked sad and restless.
And the Rector, watching the door for the sight of his enemy, also
'I'm not thinking of myself--I'm satisfied that I did right--I'm
Rector of this parish it's the principle.'
The spaniel John gave three short barks, one for each of the persons
who entered the room. They were Mrs. Pendyce, Mr. Paramor, and
"Where's George?" asked the Squire, but no one answered him.
The Rector, who had resumed his seat, stared at a little gold cross
which he had taken out of his waistcoat pocket. Mr. Paramor lifted a
vase and sniffed at the rose it contained; Gregory walked to the
When Mr. Pendyce realised that his son had not come, he went to the
door and held it open.
"Be good enough to take John out, Margery," he said. "John!"
The spaniel John, seeing what lay before him, rolled over on his
Mrs. Pendyce fixed her eyes on her husband, and in those eyes she put
all the words which the nature of a lady did not suffer her to speak.
'I claim to be here. Let me stay; it is my right. Don't send me
away.' So her eyes spoke, and so those of the spaniel John, lying on
his back, in which attitude he knew that he was hard to move.
Mr. Pendyce turned him over with his foot.
"Get up, John! Be good enough to take John out, Margery."
Mrs. Pendyce flushed, but did not move.
"John," said Mr. Pendyce, "go with your mistress." The spaniel John
fluttered a drooping tail. Mr. Pendyce pressed his foot to it.
"This is not a subject for women."
Mrs. Pendyce bent down.
"Come, John," she said. The spaniel John, showing the whites of his
eyes, and trying to back through his collar, was assisted from the
room. Mr. Pendyce closed the door behind them.
"Have a glass of port, Vigil; it's the '47. My father laid it down
in '56, the year before he died. Can't drink it myself--I've had to
put down two hogsheads of the Jubilee wine. Paramor, fill your
glass. Take that chair next to Paramor, Vigil. You know Barter?"
Both Gregory's face and the Rector's were very red.
"We're all Harrow men here," went on Mr. Pendyce. And suddenly
turning to Mr. Paramor, he said: "Well?"
Just as round the hereditary principle are grouped the State, the
Church, Law, and Philanthropy, so round the dining-table at Worsted
Skeynes sat the Squire, the Rector, Mr. Paramor, and Gregory Vigil,
and none of them wished to be the first to speak. At last Mr.
Paramor, taking from his pocket Bellew's note and George's answer,
which were pinned in strange alliance, returned them to the Squire.
"I understand the position to be that George refuses to give her up;
at the same time he is prepared to defend the suit and deny
everything. Those are his instructions to me." Taking up the vase
again, he sniffed long and deep at the rose.
Mr. Pendyce broke the silence.
"As a gentleman," he said in a voice sharpened by the bitterness of
his feelings, " I suppose he's obliged----"
Gregory, smiling painfully, added:
"To tell lies."
Mr. Pendyce turned on him at once.
"I've nothing to say about that, Vigil. George has behaved
abominably. I don't uphold him; but if the woman wishes the suit
defended he can't play the cur--that's what I was brought up to
Gregory leaned his forehead on his hand.
"The whole system is odious----" he was beginning.
Mr. Paramor chimed in.
"Let us keep to the facts; without the system."
The Rector spoke for the first time.
"I don't know what you mean about the system; both this man and this
woman are guilty----"
Gregory said in a voice that quivered with rage:
"Be so kind as not to use the expression, 'this woman.'"
The Rector glowered.
"What expression then----"
Mr. Pendyce's voice, to which the intimate trouble of his thoughts
lent a certain dignity, broke in:
"Gentlemen, this is a question concerning the honour of my house."
There was another and a longer silence, during which Mr. Paramor's
eyes haunted from face to face, while beyond the rose a smile writhed
on his lips.
"I suppose you have brought me down here, Pendyce, to give you my
opinion," he said at last. " Well; don't let these matters come into
court. If there is anything you can do to prevent it, do it. If
your pride stands in the way, put it in your pocket. If your sense
of truth stands in the way, forget it. Between personal delicacy and
our law of divorce there is no relation; between absolute truth and
our law of divorce there is no relation. I repeat, don't let these
matters come into court. Innocent and guilty, you will all suffer;
the innocent will suffer more than the guilty, and nobody will
benefit. I have come to this conclusion deliberately. There are
cases in which I should give the opposite opinion. But in this case,
I repeat, there's nothing to be gained by it. Once more, then, don't
let these matters come into court. Don't give people's tongues a
chance. Take my advice, appeal to George again to give you that
promise. If he refuses, well, we must try and bluff Bellew out of
Mr. Pendyce had listened, as he had formed the habit of listening to
Edmund Paramor, in silence. He now looked up and said:
"It's all that red-haired ruffian's spite. I don't know what you
were about to stir things up, Vigil. You must have put him on the
scent." He looked moodily at Gregory. Mr. Barter, too, looked at
Gregory with a sort of half-ashamed defiance.
Gregory, who had been staring at his untouched wineglass, turned his
face, very flushed, and began speaking in a voice that emotion and
anger caused to tremble. He avoided looking at the Rector, and
addressed himself to Mr. Paramor.
"George can't give up the woman who has trusted herself to him; that
would be playing the cur, if you like. Let them go and live together
honestly until they can be married. Why do you all speak as if it
were the man who mattered? It is the woman that we should protect!"
The Rector first recovered speech.
"You're talking rank immorality," he said almost good-humouredly.
Mr. Pendyce rose.
"Marry her!" he cried. "What on earth--that's worse than all--the
very thing we're trying to prevent! We've been here, father and son
--father and son--for generations!"
"All the more shame," burst out Gregory, "if you can't stand by a
woman at the end of them----!"
Mr. Paramor made a gesture of reproof.
"There's moderation in all things," he said. "Are you sure that Mrs.
Bellew requires protection? If you are right, I agree; but are you
"I will answer for it," said Gregory.
Mr. Paramor paused a full minute with his head resting on his hand.
"I am sorry," he said at last, "I must trust to my own judgment."
The Squire looked up.
"If the worst comes to the worst, can I cut the entail, Paramor?"
"What? But that's all wrong--that's----"
"You can't have it both ways," said Mr. Paramor.
The Squire looked at him dubiously, then blurted out:
"If I choose to leave him nothing but the estate, he'll soon find
himself a beggar. I beg your pardon, gentlemen; fill your glasses!
I'm forgetting everything!"
The Rector filled his glass.
"I've said nothing so far," he began; "I don't feel that it's my
business. My conviction is that there's far too much divorce
nowadays. Let this woman go back to her husband, and let him show
her where she's to blame"--his voice and his eyes hardened--"then let
them forgive each other like Christians. You talk," he said to
Gregory, "about standing up for the woman. I've no patience with
that; it's the way immorality's fostered in these days. I raise my
voice against this sentimentalism. I always have, and I always
Gregory jumped to his feet.
"I've told you once before," he said, "that you were indelicate; I
tell you so again."
Mr. Barter got up, and stood bending over the table, crimson in the
face, staring at Gregory, and unable to speak.
"Either you or I," he said at last, stammering with passion, "must
leave this room!"
Gregory tried to speak; then turning abruptly, he stepped out on to
the terrace, and passed from the view of those within.
The Rector said:
"Good-night, Pendyce; I'm going, too!"
The Squire shook the hand held out to him with a face perplexed to
sadness. There was silence when Mr. Barter had left the room.
The Squire broke it with a sigh.
"I wish we were back at Oxenham's, Paramor. This serves me right for
deserting the old house. What on earth made me send George to Eton?"
Mr. Paramor buried his nose in the vase. In this saying of his old
schoolfellow was the whole of the Squire's creed:
'I believe in my father, and his father, and his father's father, the
makers and keepers of my estate; and I believe in myself and my son
and my son's son. And I believe that we have made the country, and
shall keep the country what it is. And I believe in the Public
Schools, and especially the Public School that I was at. And I
believe in my social equals and the country house, and in things as
they are, for ever and ever. Amen.'
Mr. Pendyce went on:
"I'm not a Puritan, Paramor; I dare say there are allowances to be
made for George. I don't even object to the woman herself; she may
be too good for Bellew; she must be too good for a fellow like that!
But for George to marry her would be ruination. Look at Lady Rose's
case! Anyone but a star-gazing fellow like Vigil must see that!
It's taboo! It's sheer taboo! And think--think of my--my grandson!
No, no, Paramor; no, no, by God!"
The Squire covered his eyes with his hand.
Mr. Paramor, who had no son himself, answered with feeling:
"Now, now, old fellow; it won't come to that!"
"God knows what it will come to, Paramor! My nerve's shaken! You
know yourself that if there's a divorce he'll be bound to marry her!"
To this Mr. Paramor made no reply, but pressed his lips together.
"There's your poor dog whining," he said.
And without waiting for permission he opened the door. Mrs. Pendyce
and the spaniel John came in. The Squire looked up and frowned. The
spaniel John, panting with delight, rubbed against him. 'I have been
through torment, master,' he seemed to say. 'A second separation at
present is not possible for me!'
Mrs. Pendyce stood waiting silently, and Mr. Paramor addressed
himself to her.
"You can do more than any of us, Mrs. Pendyce, both with George and
with this man Bellew--and, if I am not mistaken, with his wife."
The Squire broke in:
"Don't think that I'll have any humble pie eaten to that fellow
The look Mr. Paramor gave him at those words, was like that of a
doctor diagnosing a disease. Yet there was nothing in the expression
of the Squire's face with its thin grey whiskers and moustache, its
twist to the left, its swan-like eyes, decided jaw, and sloping brow,
different from what this idea might bring on the face of any country
Mrs. Pendyce said eagerly
"Oh, Mr. Paramor, if I could only see George!"
She longed so for a sight of her son that her thoughts carried her no
"See him!" cried the Squire. "You'll go on spoiling him till he's
disgraced us all!"
Mrs. Pendyce turned from her husband to his solicitor. Excitement
had fixed an unwonted colour in her cheeks; her lips twitched as if
she wished to speak.
Mr. Paramor answered for her:
"No, Pendyce; if George is spoilt, the system is to blame."
"System!" said the Squire. "I've never had a system for him. I'm no
believer in systems! I don't know what you're talking of. I have
another son, thank God!"
Mrs. Pendyce took a step forward.
"Horace," she said, "you would never----"
Mr. Pendyce turned from his wife, and said sharply:
"Paramor, are you sure I can't cut the entail?"
"As sure," said Mr. Paramor, "as I sit here!"
CHAPTER IX. DEFINITION OF "PENDYCITIS"
Gregory walked long in the Scotch garden with his eyes on the stars.
One, larger than all the rest, over the larches, shone on him
ironically, for it was the star of love. And on his beat between the
yew-trees that, living before Pendyces came to Worsted Skeynes, would
live when they were gone, he cooled his heart in the silver light of
that big star. The irises restrained their perfume lest it should
whip his senses; only the young larch-trees and the far fields sent
him their fugitive sweetness through the dark. And the same brown
owl that had hooted when Helen Bellew kissed George Pendyce in the
conservatory hooted again now that Gregory walked grieving over the
fruits of that kiss.
His thoughts were of Mr. Barter, and with the injustice natural to a
man who took a warm and personal view of things, he painted the
Rector in colours darker than his cloth.
'Indelicate, meddlesome,' he thought. 'How dare he speak of her like
Mr. Paramor's voice broke in on his meditations.
"Still cooling your heels? Why did you play the deuce with us in
"I hate a sham," said Gregory. "This marriage of my ward's is a
sham. She had better live honestly with the man she really loves!"
"So you said just now," returned Mr. Paramor. "Would you apply that
"Well," said Mr. Paramor with a laugh, "there is nothing like an
idealist for-making hay! You once told me, if I remember, that
marriage was sacred to you!"
"Those are my own private feelings, Paramor. But here the mischief's
done already. It is a sham, a hateful sham, and it ought to come to
"That's all very well," replied Mr. Paramor, "but when you come to
put it into practice in that wholesale way it leads to goodness knows
what. It means reconstructing marriage on a basis entirely different
from the present. It's marriage on the basis of the heart, and not
on the basis of property. Are you prepared to go to that length?"
"You're as much of an extremist one way as Barter is the other. It's
you extremists who do all the harm. There's a golden mean, my
friend. I agree that something ought to be done. But what you don't
see is that laws must suit those they are intended to govern. You're
too much in the stars, Vigil. Medicine must be graduated to the
patient. Come, man, where's your sense of humour? Imagine your
conception of marriage applied to Pendyce and his sons, or his
Rector, or his tenants, and the labourers on his estate."
"No, no," said Gregory; "I refuse to believe----"
"The country classes," said Mr. Paramor quietly, "are especially
backward in such matters. They have strong, meat-fed instincts, and
what with the county Members, the Bishops, the Peers, all the
hereditary force of the country, they still rule the roast. And
there's a certain disease--to make a very poor joke, call it
'Pendycitis' with which most of these people are infected. They're
'crass.' They do things, but they do them the wrong way! They
muddle through with the greatest possible amount of unnecessary
labour and suffering! It's part of the hereditary principle. I
haven't had to do with them thirty five years for nothing!"
Gregory turned his face away.
"Your joke is very poor," he said. "I don't believe they are like
that! I won't admit it. If there is such a disease, it's our
business to find a remedy."
"Nothing but an operation will cure it," said Mr. Paramor; "and
before operating there's a preliminary process to be gone through.
It was discovered by Lister."
"Paramor, I hate your pessimism!"
Mr. Paramor's eyes haunted Gregory's back.
"But I am not a pessimist," he said. "Far from it.
"'When daisies pied and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree----'"
Gregory turned on him.
"How can you quote poetry, and hold the views you do? We ought to
'You want to build before you've laid your foundations," said Mr.
Paramor. "You let your feelings carry you away, Vigil. The state of
the marriage laws is only a symptom. It's this disease, this
grudging narrow spirit in men, that makes such laws necessary.
Unlovely men, unlovely laws--what can you expect?"
"I will never believe that we shall be content to go on living in a
"Provincialism!" said Mr. Paramor. "You should take to gardening;
it makes one recognise what you idealists seem to pass over--that
men, my dear friend, are, like plants, creatures of heredity and
environment; their growth is slow. You can't get grapes from thorns,
Vigil, or figs from thistles--at least, not in one generation--
however busy and hungry you may be!"
"Your theory degrades us all to the level of thistles."
"Social laws depend for their strength on the harm they have it in
their power to inflict, and that harm depends for its strength on the
ideals held by the man on whom the harm falls. If you dispense with
the marriage tie, or give up your property and take to Brotherhood,
you'll have a very thistley time, but you won't mind that if you're a
fig. And so on ad lib. It's odd, though, how soon the thistles that
thought themselves figs get found out. There are many things I hate,
Vigil. One is extravagance, and another humbug!"
But Gregory stood looking at the sky.
"We seem to have wandered from the point," said Mr. Paramor, "and I
think we had better go in. It's nearly eleven."
Throughout the length of the low white house there were but three
windows lighted, three eyes looking at the moon, a fairy shallop
sailing the night sky. The cedar-trees stood black as pitch. The
old brown owl had ceased his hooting. Mr. Paramor gripped Gregory by
"A nightingale! Did you hear him down in that spinney? It's a sweet
place, this! I don't wonder Pendyce is fond of it. You're not a
fisherman, I think? Did you ever watch a school of fishes coasting
along a bank? How blind they are, and how they follow their leader!
In our element we men know just about as much as the fishes do. A
blind lot, Vigil! We take a mean view of things; we're damnably
Gregory pressed his hands to his forehead.
"I'm trying to think," he said, "what will be the consequences to my
ward of this divorce."
"My friend, listen to some plain speaking. Your ward and her husband
and George Pendyce are just the sort of people for whom our law of
divorce is framed. They've all three got courage, they're all
reckless and obstinate, and--forgive me--thick-skinned. Their case,
if fought, will take a week of hard swearing, a week of the public's
money and time. It will give admirable opportunities to eminent
counsel, excellent reading to the general public, first-rate sport
The papers will have a regular carnival. I repeat, they are the very
people for whom our law of divorce is framed. There's a great deal
to be said for publicity, but all the same it puts a premium on
insensibility, and causes a vast amount of suffering to innocent
people. I told you once before, to get a divorce, even if you
deserve it, you mustn't be a sensitive person. Those three will go
through it all splendidly, but every scrap of skin will be torn off
you and our poor friends down here, and the result will be a drawn
battle at the end! That's if it's fought, and if it comes on I don't
see how we can let it go unfought; it's contrary to my instincts. If
we let it go undefended, mark my words, your ward and George Pendyce
will be sick of each other before the law allows them to marry, and
George, as his father says, for the sake of 'morality,' will have to
marry a woman who is tired of him, or of whom he is tired. Now
you've got it straight from the shoulder, and I'm going up to bed.
It's a heavy dew. Lock this door after you."
Mr. Paramor made his way into the conservatory. He stopped and came
"Pendyce," he said, "perfectly understands all I've been telling you.
He'd give his eyes for the case not to come on, but you'll see he'll
rub everything up the wrong way, and it'll be a miracle if we
succeed. That's 'Pendycitis'! We've all got a touch of it. Good-
Gregory was left alone outside the country house with his big star.
And as his thoughts were seldom of an impersonal kind he did not
reflect on "Pendycitis," but on Helen Bellew. And the longer he
thought the more he thought of her as he desired to think, for this
was natural to him; and ever more ironical grew the twinkling of his
star above the spinney where the nightingale was singing.
CHAPTER X. GEORGE GOES FOR THE GLOVES
On the Thursday of the Epsom Summer Meeting, George Pendyce sat in
the corner of a first-class railway-carriage trying to make two and
two into five. On a sheet of Stoics' Club note-paper his racing-
debts were stated to a penny--one thousand and forty five pounds
overdue, and below, seven hundred and fifty lost at the current
meeting. Below these again his private debts were indicated by the
round figure of one thousand pounds. It was round by courtesy, for
he had only calculated those bills which had been sent in, and
Providence, which knows all things, preferred the rounder figure of
fifteen hundred. In sum, therefore, he had against him a total of
three thousand two hundred and ninety-five pounds. And since at
Tattersalls and the Stock Exchange, where men are engaged in
perpetual motion, an almost absurd punctiliousness is required in the
payment of those sums which have for the moment inadvertently been
lost, seventeen hundred and ninety-five of this must infallibly be
raised by Monday next. Indeed, only a certain liking for George, a
good loser and a good winner, and the fear of dropping a good
customer, had induced the firm of bookmakers to let that debt of one
thousand and forty-five stand over the Epsom Meeting.
To set against these sums (in which he had not counted his current
trainer's bill, and the expenses, which he could not calculate, of
the divorce suit), he had, first, a bank balance which he might still
overdraw another twenty pounds; secondly, the Ambler and two bad
selling platers; and thirdly (more considerable item), X, or that
which he might, or indeed must, win over the Ambler's race this
Whatever else, it was not pluck that was lacking in the character of
George Pendyce. This quality was in his fibre, in the consistency of
his blood, and confronted with a situation which, to some men, and
especially to men not brought up on the hereditary plan, might have
seemed desperate, he exhibited no sign of anxiety or distress. Into
the consideration of his difficulties he imported certain principles:
(1) He did not intend to be posted at Tattersalls. Sooner than that
he would go to the Jews; the entail was all he could look to borrow
on; the Hebrews would force him to pay through the nose. (2) He did
not intend to show the white feather, and in backing his horse meant
to "go for the gloves." (3) He did not intend to think of the
future; the thought of the present was quite bad enough.
The train bounded and swung as though rushing onwards to a tune, and
George sat quietly in his corner.
Amongst his fellows in the carriage was the Hon. Geoffrey Winlow,
who, though not a racing-man, took a kindly interest in our breed of
horses, which by attendance at the principal meetings he hoped to
"Your horse going to run, George?"
"I shall have a fiver on him for luck. I can't afford to bet. Saw
your mother at the Foxholme garden-party last week. You seen them
George shook his head and felt an odd squeeze: at his heart.
"You know they had a fire at old Peacock's farm; I hear the Squire
and Barter did wonders. He's as game as a pebble, the Squire."
Again George nodded, and again felt that squeeze at his heart.
"Aren't they coming to town this season?"
"Haven't heard," answered George. "Have a cigar?"
Winlow took the cigar, and cutting it with a small penknife,
scrutinised George's square face with his leisurely eyes. It needed
a physiognomist to penetrate its impassivity. Winlow thought to
'I shouldn't be surprised if what they say about old George is true.'
. . . "Had a good meeting so far?"
They parted on the racecourse. George went at once to see his
trainer and thence into Tattersalls' ring. He took with him that
equation with X, and sought the society of two gentlemen quietly
dressed, one of whom was making a note in a little book with a gold
pencil. They greeted him respectfully, for it was to them that he
owed the bulk of that seventeen hundred and ninety-five pounds.
"What price will you lay against my horse?"
"Evens, Mr. Pendyce," replied the gentleman with the gold pencil, "to
George booked the bet. It was not his usual way of doing business,
but to-day everything seemed different, and something stronger than
custom was at work.
'I am going for the gloves,' he thought; 'if it doesn't come off',
I'm done anyhow.'
He went to another quietly dressed gentleman with a diamond pin and a
Jewish face. And as he went from one quietly dressed gentleman to
another there preceded him some subtle messenger, who breathed the
words, 'Mr. Pendyce is going for the gloves,' so that at each visit
he found they had greater confidence than ever in his horse. Soon he
had promised to pay two thousand pounds if the Ambler lost, and
received the assurance of eminent gentlemen, quietly dressed, that
they would pay him fifteen hundred if the Ambler won. The odds now
stood at two to one on, and he had found it impossible to back the
Ambler for "a place," in accordance with his custom.
'Made a fool of myself,' he thought; 'ought never to have gone into
the ring at all; ought to have let Barney's work it quietly. It
He still required to win three hundred pounds to settle on the
Monday, and laid a final bet of seven hundred to three hundred and
fifty pounds upon his horse. Thus, without spending a penny, simply
by making a few promises, he had solved the equation with X.
On leaving the ring, he entered the bar and drank some whisky. He
then went to the paddock. The starting-bell for the second race had
rung; there was hardly anyone there, but in a far corner the Ambler
was being led up and down by a boy.
George glanced round to see that no acquaintances were near, and
joined in this promenade. The Ambler turned his black, wild eye,
crescented with white, threw up his head, and gazed far into the
'If one could only make him understand!' thought George.
When his horse left the paddock for the starting-post George went
back to the stand. At the bar he drank some more whisky, and heard
"I had to lay six to four. I want to find Pendyce; they say he's
backed it heavily."
George put down his glass, and instead of going to his usual place,
mounted slowly to the top of the stand.
'I don't want them buzzing round me,' he thought.
At the top of the stand--that national monument, visible for twenty
miles around--he knew himself to be safe. Only "the many" came here,
and amongst the many he thrust himself till at the very top he could
rest his glasses on a rail and watch the colours. Besides his own
peacock blue there was a straw, a blue with white stripes, a red with
They say that through the minds of drowning men troop ghosts of past
experience. It was not so with George; his soul was fastened on that
little daub of peacock blue. Below the glasses his lips were
colourless from hard compression; he moistened them continually. The
four little Coloured daubs stole into line, the flag fell.
"They're off!" That roar, like the cry of a monster, sounded all
around. George steadied his glasses on the rail. Blue with white
stripes was leading, the Ambler lying last. Thus they came round the
further bend. And Providence, as though determined that someone
should benefit by his absorption, sent a hand sliding under George's
elbows, to remove the pin from his tie and slide away. Round
Tattenham Corner George saw his horse take the lead. So, with straw
closing up, they came into the straight. The Ambler's jockey looked
back and raised his whip; in that instant, as if by magic, straw drew
level; down came the whip on the Ambler's flank; again as by magic
straw was in front. The saying of his old jockey darted through
George's mind: "Mark my words, sir, that 'orse knows what's what, and
when they're like that they're best let alone."
"Sit still, you fool!" he muttered.
The whip came down again; straw was two lengths in front.
Someone behind said:
"The favourite's beat! No, he's not, by Jove!" For as though
George's groan had found its way to the jockey's ears, he dropped his
whip. The Ambler sprang forward. George saw that he was gaining.
All his soul went out to his horse's struggle. In each of those
fifteen seconds he died and was born again; with each stride all that
was loyal and brave in his nature leaped into flame, all that was
base sank, for he himself was racing with his horse, and the sweat
poured down his brow. And his lips babbled broken sounds that no one
heard, for all around were babbling too.
Locked together, the Ambler and straw ran home. Then followed a
hush, for no one knew which of the two had won. The numbers went up
"The favourite's second! Beaten by a nose!" said a voice.
George bowed his head, and his whole spirit felt numb. He closed his
glasses and moved with the crowd to the stairs. A voice behind him
"He'd have won in another stride!"
"I hate that sort of horse. He curled up at the whip."
George ground his teeth.
"Curse you I" he muttered, "you little Cockney; what do you know
about a horse?"
The crowd surged; the speakers were lost to sight.
The long descent from the stand gave him time. No trace of emotion
showed on his face when he appeared in the paddock. Blacksmith the
trainer stood by the Ambler's stall.
"That idiot Tipping lost us the race, sir," he began with quivering
lips. "If he'd only left him alone, the horse would have won in a
canter. What on earth made him use his whip? He deserves to lose
his license. He----"
The gall and bitterness of defeat surged into George's brain.
"It's no good your talking, Blacksmith," he said; "you put him up.
What the devil made you quarrel with Swells?"
The little man's chin dropped in sheer surprise.
George turned away, and went up to the jockey, but at the sick look
on the poor youth's face the angry words died off his tongue.
"All right, Tipping; I'm not going to rag you." And with the ghost
of a smile he passed into the Ambler's stall. The groom had just
finished putting him to rights; the horse stood ready to be led from
the field of his defeat. The groom moved out, and George went to the
Ambler's head. There is no place, no corner, on a racecourse where a
man may show his heart. George did but lay his forehead against the
velvet of his horse's muzzle, and for one short second hold it there.
The Ambler awaited the end of that brief caress, then with a snort
threw up his head, and with his wild, soft eyes seemed saying, 'You
fools! what do you know of me?'
George stepped to one side.
"Take him away," he said, and his eyes followed the Ambler's receding
A racing-man of a different race, whom he knew and did not like, came
up to him as he left the paddock.
"I suppothe you won't thell your horse, Pendythe?" he said. "I'll
give you five thou. for him. He ought never to have lotht; the
beating won't help him with the handicappers a little bit."
'You carrion crow!' thought George.
"Thanks; he's not for sale," he answered.
He went back to the stand, but at every step and in each face, he
seemed to see the equation which now he could only solve with X2.
Thrice he went into the bar. It was on the last of these occasions
that he said to himself: "The horse must go. I shall never have a
horse like him again."
Over that green down which a hundred thousand feet had trodden brown,
which a hundred thousand hands had strewn with bits of paper, cigar-
ends, and the fragments of discarded food, over the great approaches
to the battlefield, where all was pathway leading to and from the
fight, those who make livelihood in such a fashion, least and
littlest followers, were bawling, hawking, whining to the warriors
flushed with victory or wearied by defeat: Over that green down,
between one-legged men and ragged acrobats, women with babies at the
breast, thimble-riggers, touts, walked George Pendyce, his mouth hard
set and his head bent down.
"Good luck, Captain, good luck to-morrow; good luck, good luck!...
For the love of Gawd, your lordship!... Roll, bowl, or pitch!"
The sun, flaming out after long hiding, scorched the back of his
neck; the free down wind, fouled by foetid odours, brought to his
ears the monster's last cry, "They're off!"
A voice hailed him.
George turned and saw Winlow, and with a curse and a smile he
The Hon. Geoffrey ranged alongside, examining George's face at
"Afraid you had a bad race, old chap! I hear you've sold the Ambler
to that fellow Guilderstein."
In George's heart something snapped.
'Already?' he thought. 'The brute's been crowing. And it's that
little bounder that my horse--my horse'
He answered calmly:
"Wanted the money."
Winlow, who was not lacking in cool discretion, changed the subject.
Late that evening George sat in the Stoics' window overlooking
Piccadilly. Before his eyes, shaded by his hand, the hansoms passed,
flying East and West, each with the single pale disc of face, or the
twin discs of faces close together; and the gentle roar of the town
came in, and the cool air refreshed by night. In the light of the
lamps the trees of the Green Park stood burnished out of deep shadow
where nothing moved; and high over all, the stars and purple sky
seemed veiled with golden gauze. Figures without end filed by. Some
glanced at the lighted windows and the man in the white shirt-front
sitting there. And many thought: 'Wish I were that swell, with
nothing to do but step into his father's shoes;' and to many no
thought came. But now and then some passer murmured to himself:
"Looks lonely sitting there."
And to those faces gazing up, George's lips were grim, and over them
came and went a little bitter smile; but on his forehead he felt
still the touch of his horse's muzzle, and his eyes, which none could
see, were dark with pain.
CHAPTER XI. MR. BARTER TAKES A WALK
The event at the Rectory was expected every moment. The Rector, who
practically never suffered, disliked the thought and sight of others'
suffering. Up to this day, indeed, there had been none to dislike,
for in answer to inquiries his wife had always said "No, dear, no;
I'm all right--really, it's nothing." And she had always said it
smiling, even when her smiling lips were white. But this morning in
trying to say it she had failed to smile. Her eyes had lost their
hopelessly hopeful shining, and sharply between her teeth she said:
"Send for Dr. Wilson, Hussell"
The Rector kissed her, shutting his eyes, for he was afraid of her
face with its lips drawn back, and its discoloured cheeks. In five
minutes the groom was hastening to Cornmarket on the roan cob, and
the Rector stood in his study, looking from one to another of his
household gods, as though calling them to his assistance. At last he
took down a bat and began oiling it. Sixteen years ago, when Husell
was born, he had been overtaken by sounds that he had never to this
day forgotten; they had clung to the nerves of his memory, and for no
reward would he hear them again. They had never been uttered since,
for like most wives, his wife was a heroine; but, used as he was to
this event, the Rector had ever since suffered from panic. It was as
though Providence, storing all the anxiety which he might have felt
throughout, let him have it with a rush at the last moment. He put
the bat back into its case, corked the oil-bottle, and again stood
looking at his household gods. None came to his aid. And his
thoughts were as they had nine times been before. 'I ought not to go
out. I ought to wait for Wilson. Suppose anything were to happen.
Still, nurse is with her, and I can do nothing. Poor Rose--poor
darling! It's my duty to---- What's that? I'm better out of the
Softly, without knowing that it was softly, he opened the door;
softly, without knowing it was softly, he stepped to the hat-rack and
took his black straw hat; softly, without knowing it was softly, he
went out, and, unfaltering, hurried down the drive.
Three minutes later he appeared again, approaching the house faster
than he had set forth.
He passed the hall door, ran up the stairs, and entered his wife's
"Rose dear, Rose, can I do anything?"
Mrs. Barter put out her hand, a gleam of malice shot into her eyes.
Through her set lips came a vague murmur, and the words:
"No, dear, nothing. Better go for your walk."
Mr. Barter pressed his lips to her quivering hand, and backed from
the room. Outside the door he struck at the air with his fist, and,
running downstairs, was once more lost to sight. Faster and faster
he walked, leaving the village behind, and among the country sights
and sounds and scents--his nerves began to recover. He was able to
think again of other things: of Cecil's school report--far from
satisfactory; of old Hermon in the village, whom he suspected of
overdoing his bronchitis with an eye to port; of the return match
with Coldingham, and his belief that their left-hand bowler only
wanted "hitting"; of the new edition of hymn-books, and the slackness
of the upper village in attending church--five households less honest
and ductile than the rest, a foreign look about them, dark people,
un-English. In thinking of these things he forgot what he wanted to
forget; but hearing the sound of wheels, he entered a field as though
to examine the crops until the vehicle had passed.
It was not Wilson, but it might have been, and at the next turning he
unconsciously branched off the Cornmarket road.
It was noon when he came within sight of Coldingham, six miles from
Worsted Skeynes. He would have enjoyed a glass of beer, but, unable
to enter the public-house, he went into the churchyard instead. He
sat down on a bench beneath a sycamore opposite the Winlow graves,
for Coldingham was Lord Montrossor's seat, and it was here that all
the Winlows lay. Bees were busy above them in the branches, and Mr.
'Beautiful site. We've nothing like this at Worsted Skeynes....'
But suddenly he found that he could not sit there and think. Suppose
his wife were to die! It happened sometimes; the wife of John Tharp
of Bletchingham had died in giving birth to her tenth child! His
forehead was wet, and he wiped it. Casting an angry glance at the
Winlow graves, he left the seat.
He went down by the further path, and came out on the green. A
cricket-match was going on, and in spite of himself the Rector
stopped. The Coldingham team were in the field. Mr. Barter watched.
As he had thought, that left-hand bowler bowled a good pace, and
"came in" from the off, but his length was poor, very poor! A
determined batsman would soon knock him off! He moved into line with
the wickets to see how much the fellow "came in," and he grew so
absorbed that he did not at first notice the Hon. Geoffrey Winlow in
pads and a blue and green blazer, smoking a cigarette astride of a
"Ah, Winlow, it's your team against the village. Afraid I can't stop
to see you bat. I was just passing--matter I had to attend to--must
The real solemnity of his face excited Winlow's curiosity.
"Can't you stop and have lunch with us?"
"No, no; my wife--Must get back!"
"Ah yes, of course." His leisurely blue eyes, always in command of
the situation, rested on the Rector's heated face. "By the way," he
said, "I'm afraid George Pendyce is rather hard hit. Been obliged to
sell his horse. I saw him at Epsom the week before last."
The Rector brightened.
"I made certain he'd come to grief over that betting," he said. "I'm
very sorry--very sorry indeed."
"They say," went on Winlow, "that he dropped four thousand over the
He was pretty well dipped before, I know. Poor old George! such an
awfully good chap!"
"Ah," repeated Mr. Barter, "I'm very sorry--very sorry indeed.
Things were bad enough as it was."
A ray of interest illumined the leisureliness of the Hon. Geoffrey's
"You mean about Mrs.---- H'm, yes?" he said. "People are talking;
you can't stop that. I'm so sorry for the poor Squire, and Mrs.
Pendyce. I hope something'll be done."
The Rector frowned.
"I've done my best," he said. "Well hit, sir! I've always said that
anyone with a little pluck can knock off that lefthand man you think
so much of. He 'comes in' a bit, but he bowls a shocking bad length.
Here I am dawdling. I must get back!"
And once more that real solemnity came over Mr. Barter's face.
"I suppose you'll be playing for Coldingham against us on Thursday?
Nodding in response to Winlow's salute, he walked away.
He avoided the churchyard, and took a path across the fields. He was
hungry and thirsty. In one of his sermons there occurred this
passage: "We should habituate ourselves to hold our appetites in
check. By constantly accustoming our selves to abstinence little
abstinences in our daily life--we alone can attain to that true
spirituality without which we cannot hope to know God." And it was
well known throughout his household and the village that the Rector's
temper was almost dangerously spiritual if anything detained him from
his meals. For he was a man physiologically sane and healthy to the
core, whose digestion and functions, strong, regular, and
straightforward as the day, made calls upon him which would not be
denied. After preaching that particular sermon, he frequently for a
week or more denied himself a second glass of ale at lunch, or his
after-dinner cigar, smoking a pipe instead. And he was perfectly
honest in his belief that he attained a greater spirituality thereby,
and perhaps indeed he did. But even if he did not, there was no one
to notice this, for the majority of his flock accepted his
spirituality as matter of course, and of the insignificant minority
there were few who did not make allowance for the fact that he was
their pastor by virtue of necessity, by virtue of a system which had
placed him there almost mechanically, whether he would or no.
Indeed, they respected him the more that he was their Rector, and
could not be removed, and were glad that theirs was no common Vicar
like that of Coldingham, dependent on the caprices of others. For,
with the exception of two bad characters and one atheist, the whole
village, Conservatives or Liberals (there were Liberals now that they
were beginning to believe that the ballot was really secret), were
believers in the hereditary system.
Insensibly the Rector directed himself towards Bletchingham, where
there was a temperance house. At heart he loathed lemonade and
gingerbeer in the middle of the day, both of which made his economy
cold and uneasy, but he felt he could go nowhere else. And his
spirits rose at the sight of Bletchingham spire.
'Bread and cheese,' he thought. 'What's better than bread and
cheese? And they shall make me a cup of coffee.'
In that cup of coffee there was something symbolic and fitting to his
mental state. It was agitated and thick, and impregnated with the
peculiar flavour of country coffee. He swallowed but little, and
resumed his march. At the first turning he passed the village
school, whence issued a rhythmic but discordant hum, suggestive of
some dull machine that had served its time. The Rector paused to
listen. Leaning on the wall of the little play-yard, he tried to
make out the words that, like a religious chant, were being intoned
within. It sounded like, "Twice two's four, twice four's six, twice
six's eight," and he passed on, thinking, 'A fine thing; but if we
don't take care we shall go too far; we shall unfit them for their
stations,' and he frowned. Crossing a stile, he took a footpath.
The air was full of the singing of larks, and the bees were pulling
down the clover-stalks. At the bottom of the field was a little pond
overhung with willows. On a bare strip of pasture, within thirty
yards, in the full sun, an old horse was tethered to a peg. It stood
with its face towards the pond, baring its yellow teeth, and
stretching out its head, all bone and hollows, to the water which it
could not reach. The Rector stopped. He did not know the horse
personally, for it was three fields short of his parish, but he saw
that the poor beast wanted water. He went up, and finding that the
knot of the halter hurt his fingers, stooped down and wrenched at the
peg. While he was thus straining and tugging, crimson in the face,
the old horse stood still, gazing at him out of his bleary eyes. Mr.
Barter sprang upright with a jerk, the peg in his hand, and the old
horse started back.
"So ho, boy!" said the Rector, and angrily he muttered: "A shame to
tie the poor beast up here in the sun. I should like to give his
owner a bit of my mind!"
He led the animal towards the water. The old horse followed
tranquilly enough, but as he had done nothing to deserve his
misfortune, neither did he feel any gratitude towards his deliverer.
He drank his fill, and fell to grazing. The Rector experienced a
sense of disillusionment, and drove the peg again into the softer
earth under the willows; then raising himself, he looked hard at the
The animal continued to graze. The Rector took out his handkerchief,
wiped the perspiration from his brow, and frowned. He hated
ingratitude in man or beast.
Suddenly he realised that he was very tired.
"It must be over by now," he said to himself, and hastened on in the
heat across the fields.
The Rectory door was open. Passing into the study, he sat down a
moment to collect his thoughts. People were moving above; he heard a
long moaning sound that filled his heart with terror.
He got up and rushed to the bell, but did not ring it, and ran
upstairs instead. Outside his wife's room he met his children's old
nurse. She was standing on the mat, with her hands to her ears, and
the tears were rolling down her face.
"Oh, sir!" she said--"oh, sir!"
The Rector glared.
"Woman!" he cried--"woman!"
He covered his ears and rushed downstairs again. There was a lady in
the hall. It was Mrs. Pendyce, and he ran to her, as a hurt child
runs to its mother.
"My wife," he said--"my poor wife! God knows what they're doing to
her up there, Mrs. Pendyce!" and he hid his face in his hands.
She, who had been a Totteridge, stood motionless; then, very gently
putting her gloved hand on his thick arm, where the muscles stood out
from the clenching of his hands, she said:
"Dear Mr. Barter, Dr. Wilson is so clever! Come into the drawing-
The Rector, stumbling like a blind man, suffered himself to be led.
He sat down on the sofa, and Mrs. Pendyce sat down beside him, her
hand still on his arm; over her face passed little quivers, as though
she were holding herself in. She repeated in her gentle voice:
"It will be all right--it will be all right. Come, come!"
In her concern and sympathy there was apparent, not aloofness, but a
faint surprise that she should be sitting there stroking the Rector's
Mr. Barter took his hands from before his face.
"If she dies," he said in a voice unlike his own, "I'll not bear it."
In answer to those words, forced from him by that which is deeper
than habit, Mrs. Pendyce's hand slipped from his arm and rested on
the shiny chintz covering of the sofa, patterned with green and
crimson. Her soul shrank from the violence in his voice.
"Wait here," she said. "I will go up and see."
To command was foreign to her nature, but Mr. Barter, with a look
such as a little rueful boy might give, obeyed.
When she was gone he stood listening at the door for some sound--for
any sound, even the sound of her dressbut there was none, for her
petticoat was of lawn, and the Rector was alone with a silence that
he could not bear. He began to pace the room in his thick boots, his
hands clenched behind him, his forehead butting the air, his lips
folded; thus a bull, penned for the first time, turns and turns,
showing the whites of its full eyes.
His thoughts drove here and there, fearful, angered, without
guidance; he did not pray. The words he had spoken so many times
left him as though of malice. "We are all in the hands of God!--we
are all in the hands of God!" Instead of them he could think of
nothing but the old saying Mr. Paramor had used in the Squire's
dining-room, "There is moderation in all things," and this with cruel
irony kept humming ,in his ears. "Moderation in all things--
moderation in all things!" and his wife lying there--his doing, and
There was a sound. The Rector's face, so brown and red, could not
grow pale, but his great fists relaxed. Mrs. Pendyce was standing in
the doorway with a peculiar half-pitiful, half-excited smile.
"It's all right--a boy. The poor dear has had a dreadful time!"
The Rector looked at her, but did not speak; then abruptly he brushed
past her in the doorway, hurried into his study and locked the door.
Then, and then only, he kneeled down, and remained there many
minutes, thinking of nothing.
CHAPTER XII. THE SQUIRE MAKES UP HIS MIND
That same evening at nine o'clock, sitting over the last glass of a
pint of port, Mr. Barter felt an irresistible longing for enjoyment,
an impulse towards expansion and his fellow-men.
Taking his hat and buttoning his coat--for though the June evening
was fine the easterly breeze was eager--he walked towards the
Like an emblem of that path to God of which he spoke on Sundays, the
grey road between trim hedges threaded the shadow of the elm-trees
where the rooks had long since gone to bed. A scent of wood-smoke
clung in the air; the cottages appeared, the forge, the little shops
facing the village green. Lights in the doors and windows deepened;
a breeze, which hardly stirred the chestnut leaves, fled with a
gentle rustling through the aspens. Houses and trees, houses and
trees! Shelter through the past and through the days to come!
The Rector stopped the first man he saw.
"Fine weather for the hay, Aiken! How's your wife doing-a girl? Ah,
ha! You want some boys! You heard of our event at the Rectory? I'm
thankful to say----
>From man to man and house to house he soothed his thirst for
fellowship, for the lost sense of dignity that should efface again
the scar of suffering. And above him the chestnuts in their
breathing stillness, the aspens with their tender rustling, seemed to
watch and whisper: "Oh, little men! oh, little men!"
The moon, at the end of her first quarter, sailed out of the shadow
of the churchyard--the same young moon that had sailed in her silver
irony when the first Barter preached, the first Pendyce was Squire at
Worsted Skeynes; the same young moon that, serene, ineffable, would
come again when the last Barter slept, the last Pendyce was gone, and
on their gravestones, through the amethystine air, let fall her
The Rector thought:
'I shall set Stedman to work on that corner. We must have more room;
the stones there are a hundred and fifty years old if they're a day.
You can't read a single word. They'd better be the first to go.'
He passed on along the paddock footway leading to the Squire's.
Day was gone, and only the moonbeams lighted the tall grasses.
At the Hall the long French windows of the dining-room were open; the
Squire was sitting there alone, brooding sadly above the remnants of
the fruit he had been eating. Flanking him on either wall hung a
silent company, the effigies of past Pendyces; and at the end, above
the oak and silver of the sideboard, the portrait of his wife was
looking at them under lifted brows, with her faint wonder.
He raised his head.
"Ah, Barter! How's your wife?"
"Doing as well as can be expected."
"Glad to hear that! A fine constitution--wonderful vitality. Port
"Thanks; just a glass of port."
"Very trying for your nerves. I know what it is. We're different
from the last generation; they thought nothing of it. When Charles
was born my dear old father was out hunting all day. When my wife
had George, it made me as nervous as a cat!"
The Squire stopped, then hurriedly added:
"But you're so used to it."
Mr. Barter frowned.
"I was passing Coldingham to-day," he said. "I saw Winlow. He asked
"Ah! Winlow! His wife's a very nice woman. They've only the one
child, I think?"
The Rector winced.
"Winlow tells me," he said abruptly, "that George has sold his
The Squire's face changed. He glanced suspiciously at Mr. Barter,
but the Rector was looking at his glass.
"Sold his horse! What's the meaning of that? He told you why, I
The Rector drank off his wine.
"I never ask for reasons," he said, "where racing-men are concerned.
It's my belief they know no more what they're about than so many dumb
"Ah! racing-men!" said Mr. Pendyce. "But George doesn't bet."
A gleam of humour shot into the Rector's eyes. He pressed his lips
The Squire rose.
"Come now, Barter!" he said.
The Rector blushed. He hated tale-bearing--that is, of course, in
the case of a man; the case of a woman was different--and just as,
when he went to Bellew he had been careful not to give George away,
so now he was still more on his guard.
"No, no, Pendyce."
The Squire began to pace the room, and Mr. Barter felt something stir
against his foot; the spaniel John emerging at the end, just where
the moonlight shone, a symbol of all that was subservient to the
Squire, gazed up at his master with tragic eyes. 'Here, again,' they
seemed to say, 'is something to disturb me!'
The Squire broke the silence.
"I've always counted on you, Barter; I count on you as I would on my
own brother. Come, now, what's this about George?"
'After all,' thought the Rector, "it's his father!' "I know nothing
but what they say," he blurted forth; "they talk of his having lost a
lot of money. I dare say it's all nonsense. I never set much store
by rumour. And if he's sold the horse, well, so much the better. He
won't be tempted to gamble again."
But Horace Pendyce made no answer. A single thought possessed his
bewildered, angry mind:
'My son a gambler! Worsted Skeynes in the hands of a gambler!'
The Rector rose.
"It's all rumour. You shouldn't pay any attention. I should hardly
think he's been such a fool. I only know that I must get back to my
And, nodding but confused, Mr. Barter went away through the French
window by which he had come.
The Squire stood motionless.
To him, whose existence was bound up in Worsted Skeynes, whose every
thought had some direct or indirect connection with it, whose son was
but the occupier of that place he must at last vacate, whose religion
was ancestor-worship, whose dread was change, no word could be so
terrible. A gambler!
It did not occur to him that his system was in any way responsible
for George's conduct. He had said to Mr. Paramor: "I never had a
system; I'm no believer in systems." He had brought him up simply as
a gentleman. He would have preferred that George should go into the
Army, but George had failed; he would have preferred that George
should devote himself to the estate, marry, and have a son, instead
of idling away his time in town, but George had failed; and so,
beyond furthering his desire to join the Yeomanry, and getting him
proposed for the Stoics' Club, what was there he could have done to
keep him out of mischief? And now he was a gambler!
Once a gambler always a gambler!
To his wife's face, looking down from the wall, he said:
"He gets it from you!"
But for all answer the face stared gently.
Turning abruptly, he left the room, and the spaniel John, for whom he
had been too quick, stood with his nose to the shut door, scenting
for someone to come and open it.
Mr. Pendyce went to his study, took some papers from a locked drawer,
and sat a long time looking at them. One was the draft of his will,
another a list of the holdings at Worsted Skeynes, their acreage and
rents, a third a fair copy of the settlement, re-settling the estate
when he had married. It was at this piece of supreme irony that Mr.
Pendyce looked longest. He did not read it, but he thought:
'And I can't cut it! Paramor says so! A gambler!'
That "crassness" common to all men in this strange world, and in the
Squire intensified, was rather a process than a quality--obedience to
an instinctive dread of what was foreign to himself, an instinctive
fear of seeing another's point of view, an instinctive belief in
precedent. And it was closely allied to his most deep and moral
quality--the power of making a decision. Those decisions might be
"crass" and stupid, conduce to unnecessary suffering, have no
relation to morality or reason; but he could make them, and he could
stick to them. By virtue of this power he was where he was, had been
for centuries, and hoped to be for centuries to come. It was in his
blood. By this alone he kept at bay the destroying forces that Time
brought against him, his order, his inheritance; by this alone he
could continue to hand down that inheritance to his son. And at the
document which did hand it down he looked with angry and resentful
Men who conceive great resolutions do not always bring them forth
with the ease and silence which they themselves desire. Mr. Pendyce
went to his bedroom determined to say no word of what he had resolved
to do. His wife was asleep. The Squire's entrance wakened her, but
she remained motionless, with her eyes closed, and it was the sight
of that immobility, when he himself was so disturbed, which drew from
him the words:
"Did you know that George was a gambler?"
By the light of the candle in his silver candlestick her dark eyes
seemed suddenly alive.
"He's been betting; he's sold his horse. He'd never have sold that
horse unless he were pushed. For all I know, he may be posted at
The sheets shivered as though she who lay within them were
struggling. Then came her voice, cool and gentle:
"All young men bet, Horace; you must know that!"
The Squire at the foot of the bed held up the candle; the movement
had a sinister significance.
"Do you defend him?" it seemed to say. "Do you defy me?"
Gripping the bed-rail, he cried:
"I'll have no gambler and profligate for my son! I'll not risk the
Mrs. Pendyce raised herself, and for many seconds stared at her
husband. Her heart beat furiously. It had come! What she had been
expecting all these days had come! Her pale lips answered:
"What do you mean? I don't understand you, Horace."
Mr. Pendyce's eyes searched here and therefor what, he did not know.
"This has decided me," he said. " I'll have no half-measures. Until
he can show me he's done with that woman, until he can prove he's
given up this betting, until--until the heaven's fallen, I'll have no
more to do with him!"
To Margery Pendyce, with all her senses quivering, that saying,
"Until the heaven's fallen," was frightening beyond the rest. On the
lips of her husband, those lips which had never spoken in metaphors,
never swerved from the direct and commonplace, nor deserted the
shibboleth of his order, such words had an evil and malignant sound.
He went on:
"I've brought him up as I was brought up myself. I never thought to
have had a scamp for my son!"
Mrs. Pendyce's heart stopped fluttering.
"How dare you, Horace!" she cried.
The Squire, letting go the bed-rail, paced to and fro. There was
something savage in the sound of his footsteps through the utter
"I've made up my mind," he said. "The estate----"
There broke from Mrs. Pendyce a torrent of words:
"You talk of the way you brought George up! You--you never
understood him! You--you never did anything for him! He just grew
up like you all grow up in this-----" But no word followed, for she
did not know herself what was that against which her soul had blindly
fluttered its wings. "You never loved him as I do! What do I care
about the estate? I wish it were sold! D'you think I like living
here? D'you think I've ever liked it? D'you think I've ever----"
But she did not finish that saying: D'you think I've ever loved you?
"My boy a scamp! I've heard you laugh and shake your head and say a
hundred times: 'Young men will be young men!' You think I don't know
how you'd all go on if you dared! You think I don't know how you
talk among yourselves! As for gambling, you'd gamble too, if you
weren't afraid! And now George is in trouble----"
As suddenly as it had broken forth the torrent of her words dried up.
Mr. Pendyce had come back to the foot of the bed, and once more
gripped the rail whereon the candle, still and bright, showed them
each other's faces, very changed from the faces that they knew. In
the Squire's lean brown throat, between the parted points of his
stiff collar, a string seemed working. He stammered:
"You--you're talking like a madwoman! My father would have cut me
off, his father would have cut him off! By God! do you think I'll
stand quietly by and see it all played ducks and drakes with, and see
that woman here, and see her son, a--a bastard, or as bad as a
bastard, in my place? You don't know me!"
The last words came through his teeth like the growl of a dog. Mrs.
Pendyce made the crouching movement of one who gathers herself to
"If you give him up, I shall go to him; I will never come back!"
The Squire's grip on the rail relaxed; in the light of the candle,
still and steady and bright--his jaw could be seen to fall. He
snapped his teeth together, and turning abruptly, said:
"Don't talk such rubbish!"
Then, taking the candle, he went into his dressing-room.
And at first his feelings were simple enough; he had merely that sore
sensation, that sense of raw offence, as at some gross and violent
breach of taste.
'What madness,' he thought, 'gets into women! It would serve her
right if I slept here!'
He looked around him. There was no place where he could sleep, not
even a sofa, and taking up the candle, he moved towards the door.
But a feeling of hesitation and forlornness rising, he knew not
whence, made him pause irresolute before the window.
The young moon, riding low, shot her light upon his still, lean
figure, and in that light it was strange to see how grey he looked--
grey from head to foot, grey, and sad, and old, as though in summary
of all the squires who in turn had looked upon that prospect frosted
with young moonlight to the boundary of their lands. Out in the
paddock he saw his old hunter Bob, with his head turned towards the
house; and from the very bottom of his heart he sighed.
In answer to that sigh came a sound of something falling outside
against the door. He opened it to see what might be there. The
spaniel John, lying on a cushion of blue linen, with his head propped
up against the wall, darkly turned his eyes.
'I am here, master,' he seemed to say; 'it is late--I was about to go
to sleep; it has done me good, however, to see you;' and hiding his
eyes from the light under a long black ear, he drew a stertorous
breath. Mr. Pendyce shut-to the door. He had forgotten the
existence of his dog. But, as though with the sight of that faithful
creature he had regained belief in all that he was used to, in all
that he was master of, in all that was--himself, he opened the
bedroom door and took his place beside his wife.
And soon he was asleep.
CHAPTER I. MRS. PENDYCE'S ODYSSEY
But Mrs. Pendyce did not sleep. That blessed anodyne of the long day
spent in his farmyards and fields was on her husband's eyes--no
anodyne on hers; and through them, all that was deep, most hidden,
sacred, was laid open to the darkness. If only those eyes could have
been seen that night! But if the darkness had been light, nothing of
all this so deep and sacred would have been there to see, for more
deep, more sacred still, in Margery Pendyce, was the instinct of a
lady. So elastic and so subtle, so interwoven of consideration for
others and consideration for herself, so old, so very old, this
instinct wrapped her from all eyes, like a suit of armour of the
finest chain. The night must have been black indeed when she took
that off and lay without it in the darkness.
With the first light she put it on again, and stealing from bed,
bathed long and stealthily those eyes which felt as though they had
been burned all night; thence went to the open window and leaned out.
Dawn had passed, the birds were at morning music. Down there in the
garden her flowers were meshed with the grey dew, and the trees were
grey, spun with haze; dim and spectrelike, the old hunter, with his
nose on the paddock rail, dozed in the summer mist.
And all that had been to her like prison out there, and all that she
had loved, stole up on the breath of the unaired morning, and kept
beating in her face, fluttering at the white linen above her heart
like the wings of birds flying.
The first morning song ceased, and at the silence the sun smiled out
in golden irony, and everything was shot with colour. A wan glow
fell on Mrs. Pendyce's spirit, that for so many hours had been heavy
and grey in lonely resolution. For to her gentle soul, unused to
action, shrinking from violence, whose strength was the gift of the
ages, passed into it against her very nature, the resolution she had
formed was full of pain. Yet painful, even terrible in its demand
for action, it did not waver, but shone like a star behind the dark
and heavy clouds. In Margery Pendyce (who had been a Totteridge)
there was no irascible and acrid "people's blood," no fierce
misgivings, no ill-digested beer and cider--it was pure claret in her
veins--she had nothing thick and angry in her soul to help her; that
which she had resolved she must carry out, by virtue of a thin, fine
flame, breathing far down in her--so far that nothing could
extinguish it, so far that it had little warmth. It was not "I will
not be overridden" that her spirit felt, but "I must not be over-
ridden, for if I am over-ridden, I, and in me something beyond me,
more important than myself, is all undone." And though she was far
from knowing this, that something was her country's civilisation, its
very soul, the meaning of it all gentleness, balance. Her spirit, of
that quality so little gross that it would never set up a mean or
petty quarrel, make mountains out of mole-hills, distort proportion,
or get images awry, had taken its stand unconsciously, no sooner than
it must, no later than it ought, and from that stand would not
recede. The issue had passed beyond mother love to that self-love,
deepest of all, which says:
"Do this, or forfeit the essence of your soul"
And now that she stole to her bed again, she looked at her sleeping
husband whom she had resolved to leave, with no anger, no reproach,
but rather with a long, incurious look which toad nothing even to
So, when the morning came of age and it was time to rise, by no
action, look, or sign, did she betray the presence of the unusual in
her soul. If this which was before her must be done, it would be
carried out as though it were of no import, as though it were a daily
action; nor did she force herself to quietude, or pride herself
thereon, but acted thus from instinct, the instinct for avoiding fuss
and unnecessary suffering that was bred in her.
Mr. Pendyce went out at half-past ten accompanied by his bailiff and
the spaniel John. He had not the least notion that his wife still
meant the words she had spoken overnight. He had told her again
while dressing that he would have no more to do with George, that he
would cut him out of his will, that he would force him by sheer
rigour to come to heel, that, in short, he meant to keep his word,
and it would have been unreasonable in him to believe that a woman,
still less his wife, meant to keep hers.
Mrs. Pendyce spent the early part of the morning in the usual way.
Half an hour after the Squire went out she ordered the carriage
round, had two small trunks, which she had packed herself, brought
down, and leisurely, with her little green bag, got in. To her maid,
to the butler Bester, to the coachman Benson, she said that she was
going up to stay with Mr. George. Norah and Bee were at the Tharps',
so that there was no one to take leave of but old Roy, the Skye; and
lest that leave-taking should prove too much for her, she took him
with her to the station.
For her husband she left a little note, placing it where she knew he
must see it at once, and no one else see it at all.
"I have gone up to London to be with George. My address will be
Green's Hotel, Bond Street. You will remember what I said last
night. Perhaps you did not quite realise that I meant it. Take care
of poor old Roy, and don't let them give him too much meat this hot
weather. Jackman knows better than Ellis how to manage the roses
this year. I should like to be told how poor Rose Barter gets on.
Please do not worry about me. I shall write to dear Gerald when
necessary, but I don't feel like writing to him or the girls at
"Good-bye, dear Horace; I am sorry if I grieve you.
Just as there was nothing violent in her manner of taking this step,
so there was nothing violent in her conception of it. To her it was
not running away, a setting of her husband at defiance; there was no
concealment of address, no melodramatic "I cannot come back to you."
Such methods, such pistol-holdings, would have seemed to her
ridiculous. It is true that practical details, such as the financial
consequences, escaped the grasp of her mind, but even in this, her
view, or rather lack of view, was really the wide, the even one.
Horace would not let her starve: the idea was inconceivable. There
was, too, her own three hundred a year. She had, indeed, no idea how
much this meant, or what it represented, neither was she concerned,
for she said to herself, "I should be quite happy in a cottage with
Roy and my flowers;" and though, of course, she had not the smallest
experience to go by, it was quite possible that she was right.
Things which to others came only by money, to a Totteridge came
without, and even if they came not, could well be dispensed with--for
to this quality of soul, this gentle self-sufficiency, had the ages
worked to bring her.
Yet it was hastily and with her head bent that she stepped from the
carriage at the station, and the old Skye, who from the brougham seat
could just see out of the window, from the tears on his nose that
were not his own, from something in his heart that was, knew this was
no common parting and whined behind the glass.
Mrs. Pendyce told her cabman to drive to Green's Hotel, and it was
only after she had arrived, arranged her things, washed, and had
lunch, that the beginnings of confusion and home-sickness stirred
within her. Up to then a simmering excitement had kept her from
thinking of how she was to act, or of what she had hoped, expected,
dreamed, would come of her proceedings. Taking her sunshade, she
walked out into Bond Street.
A passing man took off his hat.
'Dear me,' she thought, 'who was that? I ought to know!'
She had a rather vague memory for faces, and though she could not
recall his name, felt more at home at once, not so lonely and adrift.
Soon a quaint brightness showed in her eyes, looking at the toilettes
of the passers-by, and at each shop-front, more engrossing than the
last. Pleasure, like that which touches the soul of a young girl at
her first dance, the souls of men landing on strange shores, touched
Margery Pendyce. A delicious sense of entering the unknown, of
braving the unexpected, and of the power to go on doing this
delightfully for ever, enveloped her with the gay London air of this
bright June day. She passed a perfume shop, and thought she had
never smelt anything so nice. And next door she lingered long
looking at some lace; and though she said to herself, "I must not buy
anything; I shall want all my money for poor George," it made no
difference to that sensation of having all things to her hand.
A list of theatres, concerts, operas confronted her in the next
window, together with the effigies of prominent artistes. She looked
at them with an eagerness that might have seemed absurd to anyone who
saw her standing there. Was there, indeed, all this going on all day
and every day, to be seen and heard for so few shillings? Every
year, religiously, she had visited the opera once, the theatre twice,
and no concerts; her husband did not care for music that was
"classical." While she was standing there a woman begged of her,
looking very tired and hot, with a baby in her arms so shrivelled and
so small that it could hardly be seen. Mrs. Pendyce took out her
purse and gave her half a crown, and as she did so felt a gush of
feeling which was almost rage.
'Poor little baby!' she thought. 'There must be thousands like that,
and I know nothing of them!'
She smiled to the woman, who smiled back at her; and a fat Jewish
youth in a shop doorway, seeing them smile, smiled too, as though he
found them charming. Mrs. Pendyce had a feeling that the town was
saying pretty things to her, and this was so strange and pleasant
that she could hardly believe it, for Worsted Skeynes had omitted to
say that sort of thing to her for over thirty years. She looked in
the window of a hat shop, and found pleasure in the sight of herself.
The window was kind to her grey linen , with black velvet knots and
guipure, though it was two years old; but, then, she had only been
able to wear it once last summer, owing to poor Hubert's death. The
window was kind, too, to her cheeks, and eyes, which had that
touching brightness, and to the silver-powdered darkness of her hair.
And she thought: 'I don't look so very old!' But her own hat
reflected in the hat-shop window displeased her now; it turned down
all round, and though she loved that shape, she was afraid it was not
fashionable this year. And she looked long in the window of that
shop, trying to persuade herself that the hats in there would suit
her, and that she liked what she did not like. In other shop windows
she looked, too. It was a year since she had seen any, and for
thirty-four years past she had only seen them in company with the
Squire or with her daughters, none of whom cared much for shops.
The people, too, were different from the people that she saw when she
went about with Horace or her girls. Almost all seemed charming,
having a new, strange life, in which she--Margery Pendyce--had
unaccountably a little part; as though really she might come to know
them, as though they might tell her something of themselves, of what
they felt and thought, and even might stand listening, taking a
kindly interest in what she said. This, too, was strange, and a
friendly smile became fixed upon her face, and of those who saw it--
shop-girls, women of fashion, coachmen, clubmen, policemen--most felt
a little warmth about their hearts; it was pleasant to see on the
lips of that faded lady with the silvered arching hair under a hat
whose brim turned down all round.
So Mrs. Pendyce came to Piccadilly and turned westward towards
George's club. She knew it well, for she never failed to look at the
windows when she passed, and once--on the occasion of Queen
Victoria's Jubilee--had spent a whole day there to see that royal
She began to tremble as she neared it, for though she did not, like
the Squire, torture her mind with what might or might not come to
pass, care had nested in her heart.
George was not in his club, and the porter could not tell her where
he was. Mrs. Pendyce stood motionless. He was her son; how could
she ask for his address? The porter waited, knowing a lady when he
saw one. Mrs. Pendyce said gently:
"Is there a room where I could write a note, or would it be----"
"Certainly not, ma'am. I can show you to a room at once."
And though it was only a mother to a son, the porter preceded her
with the quiet discretion of one who aids a mistress to her lover;
and perhaps he was right in his view of the relative values of love,
for he had great experience, having lived long in the best society.
On paper headed with the fat white "Stoics' Club," so well known on
George's letters, Mrs. Pendyce wrote what she had to say. The little
dark room where she sat was without sound, save for the buzzing of a
largish fly in a streak of sunlight below the blind. It was dingy in
colour; its furniture was old. At the Stoics' was found neither the
new art nor the resplendent drapings of those larger clubs sacred to
the middle classes. The little writing-room had an air of mourning:
"I am so seldom used; but be at home in me; you might find me tucked
away in almost any country-house!"
Yet many a solitary Stoic had sat there and written many a note to
many a woman. George, perhaps, had written to Helen Bellew at that
very table with that very pen, and Mrs. Pendyce's heart ached
"DEAREST GEORGE" (she wrote),
"I have something very particular to tell you. Do come to me at
Green's Hotel. Come soon, my dear. I shall be lonely and unhappy
till I see you.
And this note, which was just what she would have sent to a lover,
took that form, perhaps unconsciously, because she had never had a
lover thus to write to.
She slipped the note and half a crown diffidently into the porter's
hand; refused his offer of some tea, and walked vaguely towards the
It was five o'clock; the sun was brighter than ever. People in
carriages and people on foot in one leisurely, unending stream were
filing in at Hyde Park Corner. Mrs. Pendyce went, too, and timidly--
she was unused to traffic--crossed to the further side and took a
chair. Perhaps George was in the Park and she might see him; perhaps
Helen Bellew was there, and she might see her; and the thought of
this made her heart beat and her eyes under their uplifted brows
stare gently at each figure-old men and young men, women of the
world, fresh young girls. How charming they looked, how sweetly they
were dressed! A feeling of envy mingled with the joy she ever felt
at seeing pretty things; she was quite unconscious that she herself
was pretty under that hat whose brim turned down all round. But as
she sat a leaden feeling slowly closed her heart, varied by nervous
flutterings, when she saw someone whom she ought to know. And
whenever, in response to a salute, she was forced to bow her head, a
blush rose in her cheeks, a wan smile seemed to make confession:
"I know I look a guy; I know it's odd for me to be sitting here
She felt old--older than she had ever felt before. In the midst of
this gay crowd, of all this life and sunshine, a feeling of
loneliness which was almost fear--a feeling of being utterly adrift,
cut off from all the world--came over her; and she felt like one of
her own plants, plucked up from its native earth, with all its poor
roots hanging bare, as though groping for the earth to cling to. She
knew now that she had lived too long in the soil that she had hated;
and was too old to be transplanted. The custom of the country--that
weighty, wingless creature born of time and of the earth--had its
limbs fast twined around her. It had made of her its mistress, and
was not going to let her go.
CHAPTER II. THE SON AND THE MOTHER
Harder than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle is it for
a man to become a member of the Stoics' Club, except by virtue of the
hereditary principle; for unless he be nourished he cannot be
elected, and since by the club's first rule he may have no occupation
whatsoever, he must be nourished by the efforts of those who have
gone before. And the longer they have gone before the more likely he
is to receive no blackballs.
Yet without entering into the Stoics' Club it is difficult for a man
to attain that supreme outward control which is necessary to conceal
his lack of control within; and, indeed, the club is an admirable
instance of how Nature places the remedy to hand for the disease.
For, perceiving how George Pendyce and hundreds of other young men
"to the manner born" had lived from their birth up in no connection
whatever with the struggles and sufferings of life, and fearing lest,
when Life in her careless and ironical fashion brought them into
abrupt contact with ill-bred events they should make themselves a
nuisance by their cries of dismay and wonder, Nature had devised a
mask and shaped it to its highest form within the portals of the
Stoics' Club. With this mask she clothed the faces of these young
men whose souls she doubted, and called them--gentlemen. And when
she, and she alone, heard their poor squeaks behind that mask, as
Life placed clumsy feet on them, she pitied them, knowing that it was
not they who were in fault, but the unpruned system which had made
them what they were. And in her pity she endowed many of them with
thick skins, steady feet, and complacent souls, so that, treading in
well-worn paths their lives long, they might slumber to their deaths
in those halls where their fathers had slumbered to their deaths
before them. But sometimes Nature (who was not yet a Socialist)
rustled her wings and heaved a sigh, lest the excesses and
excrescences of their system should bring about excesses and
excrescences of the opposite sort. For extravagance of all kinds was
what she hated, and of that particular form of extravagance which Mr.
Paramor so vulgarly called "Pendycitis" she had a horror.
It may happen that for long years the likeness between father and son
will lie dormant, and only when disintegrating forces threaten the
links of the chain binding them together will that likeness leap
forth, and by a piece of Nature's irony become the main factor in
destroying the hereditary principle for which it is the silent, the
most worthy, excuse.
It is certain that neither George nor his father knew the depth to
which this "Pendycitis" was rooted in the other; neither suspected,
not even in themselves, the amount of essential bulldog at the bottom
of their souls, the strength of their determination to hold their own
in the way that would cause the greatest amount of unnecessary
suffering. They did not deliberately desire to cause unnecessary
suffering; they simply could not help an instinct passed by time into
their fibre, through atrophy of the reasoning powers and the constant
mating, generation after generation, of those whose motto had been,
"Kings of our own dunghills." And now George came forward, defying
his mother's belief that he was a Totteridge, as champion of the
principle in tail male; for in the Totteridges, from whom in this
stress he diverged more and more towards his father's line, there was
some freer strain, something non-provincial, and this had been so
ever since Hubert de-Totteridge had led his private crusade, from
which he had neglected to return. With the Pendyces it had been
otherwise; from immemorial time "a county family," they had construed
the phrase literally, had taken no poetical licences. Like
innumerable other county families, they were perforce what their
tradition decreed--provincial in their souls.
George, a man-about-town, would have stared at being called
provincial, but a man cannot stare away his nature. He was
provincial enough to keep Mrs. Bellew bound when she herself was
tired of him, and consideration for her, and for his own self-respect
asked him to give her up. He had been keeping her bound for two
months or more. But there was much excuse for him. His heart was
sore to breaking-point; he was sick with longing, and deep, angry
wonder that he, of all men, should be cast aside like a worn-out
glove. Men tired of women daily--that was the law. But what was
this? His dogged instinct had fought against the knowledge as long
as he could, and now that it was certain he fought against it still.
George was a true Pendyce!
To the world, however, he behaved as usual. He came to the club
about ten o'clock to eat his breakfast and read the sporting papers.
Towards noon a hansom took him to the railway-station appropriate to
whatever race-meeting was in progress, or, failing that, to the
cricket-ground at Lord's, or Prince's Tennis Club. Half-past six saw
him mounting the staircase at the Stoics' to that card-room where his
effigy still hung, with its look of "Hard work, hard work; but I must
keep it going!" At eight he dined, a bottle of champagne screwed
deep down into ice, his face flushed with the day's sun, his shirt-
front and his hair shining with gloss. What happier man in all great
But with the dark the club's swing-doors opened for his passage into
the lighted streets, and till next morning the world knew him no
more. It was then that he took revenge for all the hours he wore a
mask. He would walk the pavements for miles trying to wear himself
out, or in the Park fling himself down on a chair in the deep shadow
of the trees, and sit there with his arms folded and his head bowed
down. On other nights he would go into some music-hall, and amongst
the glaring lights, the vulgar laughter, the scent of painted women,
try for a moment to forget the face, the laugh, the scent of that
woman for whom he craved. And all the time he was jealous, with a
dumb, vague jealousy of he knew not whom; it was not his nature to
think impersonally, and he could not believe that a woman would drop
him except for another man. Often he went to her Mansions, and
walked round and round casting a stealthy stare at her windows.
Twice he went up to her door, but came away without ringing the bell.
One evening, seeing a light in her sitting-room, he rang, but there
came no answer. Then an evil spirit leaped up in him, and he rang
again and again. At last he went away to his room--a studio he had
taken near--and began to write to her. He was long composing that
letter, and many times tore it up; he despised the expression of
feelings in writing. He only tried because his heart wanted relief
so badly. And this, in the end, was all that he produced:
"I know you were in to-night. It's the only time I've come. Why
couldn't you have let me in? You've no right to treat me like this.
You are leading me the life of a dog."
The first light was silvering the gloom above the river, the lamps
were paling to the day, when George went out and dropped this missive
in the letter-box. He came back to the river and lay down on an
empty bench under the plane-trees of the Embankment, and while he lay
there one of those without refuge or home, who lie there night after
night, came up unseen and looked at him.
But morning comes, and with it that sense of the ridiculous, so
merciful to suffering men. George got up lest anyone should see a
Stoic lying there in his evening clothes; and when it became time he
put on his mask and sallied forth. At the club he found his mother's
note, and set out for her hotel.
Mrs. Pendyce was not yet down, but sent to ask him to come up.
George found her standing in her dressing-gown in the middle of the
room, as though she knew not where to place herself for this, their
meeting. Only when he was quite close did she move and throw her
arms round his neck. George could not see her face, and his own was
hidden from her, but through the thin dressing-gown he felt her
straining to him, and her arms that had pulled his head down
quivering; and for a moment it seemed to him as if he were dropping a
burden. But only for a moment, for at the clinging of those arms his
instinct took fright. And though she was smiling, the tears were in
her eyes, and this offended him.
Mrs. Pendyce's answer was a long look. George could not bear it, and
"Well," he said gruffly, "when you can tell me what's brought you
Mrs. Pendyce sat down on the sofa. She had been brushing her hair;
though silvered, it was still thick and soft, and the sight of it
about her shoulders struck George. He had never thought of her
having hair that would hang down.
Sitting on the sofa beside her, he felt her fingers stroking his,
begging him not to take offence and leave her. He felt her eyes
trying to see his eyes, and saw her lips trembling; but a stubborn,
almost evil smile was fixed upon his face.
"And so, dear--and so," she stammered, "I told your father that I
couldn't see that done, and so I came up to you."
Many sons have found no hardship in accepting all that their mothers
do for them as a matter of right, no difficulty in assuming their
devotion a matter of course, no trouble in leaving their own
affections to be understood; but most sons have found great
difficulty in permitting their mothers to diverge one inch from the
conventional, to swerve one hair's breadth from the standard of
propriety appropriate to mothers of men of their importance.
It is decreed of mothers that their birth pangs shall not cease until
And George was shocked to hear his mother say that she had left his
father to come to him. It affected his self-esteem in a strange and
subtle way. The thought that tongues might wag about her revolted
his manhood and his sense of form. It seemed strange,
incomprehensible, and wholly wrong; the thought, too, gashed through
his mind: 'She is trying to put pressure on me!'
"If you think I'll give her up, Mother----" he said.
Mrs. Pendyce's fingers tightened.
"No, dear," she answered painfully; "of course, if she loves you so
much, I couldn't ask you. That's why I----"
George gave a grim little laugh.
"What on earth can you do, then? What's the good of your coming up
like this? How are you to get on here all alone? I can fight my own
battles. You'd much better go back."
Mrs. Pendyce broke in:
"Oh, George; I can't see you cast off from us! I must be with you!"
George felt her trembling all over. He got up and walked to the
window. Mrs. Pendyce's voice followed:
"I won't try to separate you, George; I promise, dear. I couldn't,
if she loves you, and you love her so!"
Again George laughed that grim little laugh. And the fact that he
was deceiving her, meant to go on deceiving her, made him as hard as
"Go back, Mother!" he said. "You'll only make things worse. This
isn't a woman's business. Let father do what he likes; I can hold
Mrs. Pendyce did not answer, and he was obliged to look round. She
was sitting perfectly still with her hands in her lap, and his man's
hatred of anything conspicuous happening to a woman, to his own
mother of all people, took fiercer fire.
"Go back!" he repeated, "before there's any fuss! What good can you
possibly do? You can't leave father; that's absurd! You must go!"
Mrs. Pendyce answered:
"I can't do that, dear."
George made an angry sound, but she was so motionless and pale that
he dimly perceived how she was suffering, and how little he knew of
her who had borne him.
Mrs. Pendyce broke the silence:
"But you, George dear? What is going to happen? How are you going
to manage?" And suddenly clasping her hands: "Oh! what is coming?"
Those words, embodying all that had been in his heart so long, were
too much for George. He went abruptly to the door.
"I can't stop now," he said; "I'll come again this evening."
Mrs. Pendyce looked up.
But as she had the habit of subordinating her feelings to the
feelings of others, she said no more, but tried to smile.
That smile smote George to the heart.
"Don't worry, Mother; try and cheer up. We'll go to the theatre.
You get the tickets!"
And trying to smile too, but turning lest he should lose his self-
control, he went away.
In the hall he came on his uncle, General Pendyce. He came on him
from behind, but knew him at once by that look of feeble activity
about the back of his knees, by his sloping yet upright shoulders,
and the sound of his voice, with its dry and querulous precision, as
of a man whose occupation has been taken from him.
The General turned round.
"Ah, George," he said, "your mother's here, isn't she? Look at this
that your father's sent me!"
He held out a telegram in a shaky hand.
"Margery up at Green's Hotel. Go and see her at once.
And while George read the General looked at his nephew with eyes that
were ringed by little circles of darker pigment, and had crow's-
footed purses of skin beneath, earned by serving his country in
"What's the meaning of it?" he said. "Go and see her? Of course,
I'll go and see her! Always glad to see your mother. But where's
all the hurry ?"
George perceived well enough that his father's pride would not let
him write to her, and though it was for himself that his mother had
taken this step, he sympathised with his father. The General
fortunately gave him little time to answer.
"She's up to get herself some dresses, I suppose? I've seen nothing
of you for a long time. When are you coming to dine with me? I
heard at Epsom that you'd sold your horse. What made you do that?
What's your father telegraphing to me like this for? It's not like
him. Your mother's not ill, is she?"
George shook his head, and muttering something about "Sorry, an
engagement--awful hurry," was gone.
Left thus abruptly to himself, General Pendyce summoned a page,
slowly pencilled something on his card, and with his back to the only
persons in the hall, waited, his hands folded on the handle of his
cane. And while he waited he tried as far as possible to think of
nothing. Having served his country, his time now was nearly all
devoted to waiting, and to think fatigued and made him feel
discontented, for he had had sunstroke once, and fever several times.
In the perfect precision of his collar, his boots, his dress, his
figure; in the way from time to time he cleared his throat, in the
strange yellow driedness of his face between his carefully brushed
whiskers, in the immobility of his white hands on his cane, he gave
the impression of a man sucked dry by a system. Only his eyes,
restless and opinionated, betrayed the essential Pendyce that was
He went up to the ladies' drawing-room, clutching that telegram. It
worried him. There was something odd about it, and he was not
accustomed to pay calls in the morning. He found his sister-in-law
seated at an open window, her face unusually pink, her eyes rather
defiantly bright. She greeted him gently, and General Pendyce was
not the man to discern what was not put under his nose. Fortunately
for him, that had never been his practice.
"How are you, Margery?" he said. "Glad to see you in town. How's
Horace? Look here what he's sent me!" He offered her the telegram,
with the air of slightly avenging an offence; then added in surprise,
as though he had lust thought of it: "Is there anything I can do for
Mrs. Pendyce read the telegram, and she, too, like George, felt sorry
for the sender.
"Nothing, thanks, dear Charles," she said slowly. "I'm all right.
Horace gets so nervous!"
General Pendyce looked at her; for a moment his eyes flickered, then,
since the truth was so improbable and so utterly in any case beyond
his philosophy, he accepted her statement.
"He shouldn't go sending telegrams like this," he said. "You might
have been ill for all I could tell. It spoiled my breakfast!" For
though, as a fact, it had not prevented his completing a hearty meal,
he fancied that he felt hungry. "When I was quartered at Halifax
there was a fellow who never sent anything but telegrams. Telegraph
Jo they called him. He commanded the old Bluebottles. You know the
old Bluebottles? If Horace is going to take to this sort of thing
he'd better see a specialist; it's almost certain to mean a
breakdown. You're up about dresses, I see. When do you come to
town? The season's getting on."
Mrs. Pendyce was not afraid of her husband's brother, for though
punctilious and accustomed to his own way with inferiors, he was
hardly a man to inspire awe in his social equals. It was, therefore,
not through fear that she did not tell him the truth, but through an
instinct for avoiding all unnecessary suffering too strong for her,
and because the truth was really untellable. Even to herself it
seemed slightly ridiculous, and she knew the poor General would take
it so dreadfully to heart.
"I don't know about coming up this season. The garden is looking so
beautiful, and there's Bee's engagement. The dear child is so
The General caressed a whisker with his white hand.
"Ah yes," he said--"young Tharp! Let's see, he's not the eldest.
His brother's in my old corps. What does this young fellow do with
Mrs. Pendyce answered:
"He's only farming. I'm afraid he'll have nothing to speak of, but
he's a dear good boy. It'll be a long engagement. Of course,
there's nothing in farming, and Horace insists on their having a
thousand a year. It depends so much on Mr. Tharp. I think they
could do perfectly well on seven hundred to start with, don't you,
General Pendyce's answer was not more conspicuously to the point than
usual, for he was a man who loved to pursue his own trains of
"What about George?", he said. "I met him in the hall as I was
coming in, but he ran off in the very deuce of a hurry. They told me
at Epsom that he was hard hit."
His eyes, distracted by a fly for which he had taken a dislike,
failed to observe his sister-in-law's face.
"Hard hit?" she repeated.
"Lost a lot of money. That won't do, you know, Margery--that won't
do. A little mild gambling's one thing."
Mrs. Pendyce said nothing; her face was rigid: It was the face of a
woman on the point of saying: "Do not compel me to hint that you are
The General went on:
"A lot of new men have taken to racing that no one knows anything
about. That fellow who bought George's horse, for instance; you'd
never have seen his nose in Tattersalls when I was a young man. I
find when I go racing I don't know half the colours. It spoils the
pleasure. It's no longer the close borough that it was. George had
better take care what he's about. I can't imagine what we're coming
On Margery Pendyce's hearing, those words, "I can't imagine what
we're coming to," had fallen for four-and-thirty years, in every sort
of connection, from many persons. It had become part of her life,
indeed, to take it for granted that people could imagine nothing;
just as the solid food and solid comfort of Worsted Skeynes and the
misty mornings and the rain had become part of her life. And it was
only the fact that her nerves were on edge and her heart bursting
that made those words seem intolerable that morning; but habit was
even now too strong, and she kept silence.
The General, to whom an answer was of no great moment, pursued his
"And you mark my words, Margery; the elections will go against us.
The country's in a dangerous state."
Mrs. Pendyce said:
"Oh, do you think the Liberals will really get in?"
>From custom there was a shade of anxiety in her voice which she did
"Think?" repeated General Pendyce. "I pray every night to God they
Folding both hands on the silver knob of his Malacca cane, he stared
over them at the opposing wall; and there was something universal in
that fixed stare, a sort of blank and not quite selfish apprehension.
Behind his personal interests his ancestors had drilled into him the
impossibility of imagining that he did not stand for the welfare of
his country. Mrs. Pendyce, who had so often seen her husband look
like that, leaned out of the window above the noisy street.
The General rose.
"Well," he said, "if I can't do anything for you, Margery, I'll take
myself off; you're busy with your dressmakers. Give my love to
Horace, and tell him not to send me another telegram like that."
And bending stiffly, he pressed her hand with a touch of real
courtesy and kindness, took up his hat, and went away. Mrs. Pendyce,
watching him descend the stairs, watching his stiff sloping
shoulders, his head with its grey hair brushed carefully away from
the centre parting, the backs of his feeble, active knees, put her
hand to her breast and sighed, for with him she seemed to see
descending all her past life, and that one cannot see unmoved.
CHAPTER III. MRS. BELLEW SQUARES HER ACCOUNTS
Mrs. Bellew sat on her bed smoothing out the halves of a letter; by
her side was her jewel-case. Taking from it an amethyst necklet, an
emerald pendant, and a diamond ring, she wrapped them in cottonwool,
and put them in an envelope. The other jewels she dropped one by one
into her lap, and sat looking at them. At last, putting two necklets
and two rings back into the jewel-case, she placed the rest in a
little green box, and taking that and the envelope, went out. She
called a hansom, drove to a post-office, and sent a telegram:
PENDYCE, STOICS' CLUB.
"Be at studio six to seven.--H."
From the post-office she drove to her jeweller's, and many a man who
saw her pass with the flush on her cheeks and the smouldering look in
her eyes, as though a fire were alight within her, turned in his
tracks and bitterly regretted that he knew not who she was, or
whither going. The jeweller took the jewels from the green box,
weighed them one by one, and slowly examined each through his lens.
He was a little man with a yellow wrinkled face and a weak little
beard, and having fixed in his mind the sum that he would give, he
looked at his client prepared to mention less. She was sitting with
her elbows on the counter, her chin resting in her hands, and her
eyes were fixed on him. He decided somehow to mention the exact sum.
"Is that all?"
"Yes, madam; that is the utmost."
"Very well, but I must have it now in cash!"
The jeweller's eyes flickered.
"It's a large sum," he said--"most unusual. I haven't got such a sum
in the place."
"Then please send out and get it, or I must go elsewhere."
The jeweller brought his hands together, and washed them nervously.
"Excuse me a moment; I'll consult my partner."
He went away, and from afar he and his partner spied her nervously.
He came back with a forced smile. Mrs. Bellew was sitting as he had
"It's a fortunate chance; I think we can just do it, madam."
"Give me notes, please, and a sheet of paper." The jeweller brought
Mrs. Bellew wrote a letter, enclosed it with the bank notes in the
bulky envelope she had brought, addressed it, and sealed the whole.
"Call a cab, please!"
The jeweller called a cab.
The cab bore her away.
Again in the crowded streets so full of traffic, people turned to
look after her. The cabman, who put her down at the Albert Bridge,
gazed alternately at the coins in his hands and the figure of his
fare, and wheeling his cab towards the stand, jerked his thumb in her
Mrs. Bellew walked fast down a street till, turning a corner, she
came suddenly on a small garden with three poplar-trees in a row.
She opened its green gate without pausing, went down a path, and
stopped at the first of three green doors. A young man with a beard,
resembling an artist, who was standing behind the last of the three
doors, watched her with a knowing smile on his face. She took out a
latch-key, put it in the lock, opened the door, and passed in.
The sight of her face seemed to have given the artist an idea.
Propping his door open, he brought an easel and canvas, and setting
them so that he could see the corner where she had gone in, began to
An old stone fountain with three stone frogs stood in the garden near
that corner, and beyond it was a flowering currant-bush, and beyond
this again the green door on which a slanting gleam of sunlight fell.
He worked for an hour, then put his easel back and went out to get
Mrs. Bellew came out soon after he was gone. She closed the door
behind her, and stood still. Taking from her pocket the bulky
envelope, she slipped it into the letter-box; then bending down,
picked up a twig, and placed it in the slit, to prevent the lid
falling with a rattle. Having done this, she swept her hands down
her face and breast as though to brush something from her, and walked
away. Beyond the outer gate she turned to the left, and took the
same street back to the river. She walked slowly, luxuriously,
looking about her. Once or twice she stopped, and drew a deep
breath, as though she could not have enough of the air. She went as
far as the Embankment, and stood leaning her elbows on the parapet.
Between the finger and thumb of one hand she held a small object on
which the sun was shining. It was a key. Slowly, luxuriously, she
stretched her hand out over the water, parted her thumb and finger,
and let it fall.
CHAPTER IV. MRS. PENDYCE'S INSPIRATION
But George did not come to take his mother to the theatre, and she
whose day had been passed in looking forward to the evening, passed
that evening in a drawing-room full of furniture whose history she
did not know, and a dining-room full of people eating in twos and
threes and fours, at whom she might look, but to whom she must not
speak, to whom she did not even want to speak, so soon had the wheel
of life rolled over her wonder and her expectation, leaving it
lifeless in her breast. And all that night, with one short interval
of sleep, she ate of bitter isolation and futility, and of the still
more bitter knowledge: "George does not want me; I'm no good to him!"
Her heart, seeking consolation, went back again and again to the time
when he had wanted her; but it was far to go, to the days of holland
suits, when all those things that he desired--slices of pineapple,
Benson's old carriage-whip, the daily reading out of "Tom Brown's
School-days," the rub with Elliman when he sprained his little ankle,
the tuck-up in bed--were in her power alone to give.
This night she saw with fatal clearness that since he went to school
he had never wanted her at all. She had tried so many years to
believe that he did, till it had become part of her life, as it was
part of her life to say her prayers night and morning; and now she
found it was all pretence. But, lying awake, she still tried to
believe it, because to that she had been bound when she brought him,
firstborn, into the world. Her other son, her daughters, she loved
them too, but it was not the same thing, quite; she had never wanted
them to want her, because that part of her had been given once for
all to George.
The street noises died down at last; she had slept two hours when
they began again. She lay listening. And the noises and her
thoughts became tangled in her exhausted brain--one great web of
weariness, a feeling that it was all senseless and unnecessary, the
emanation of cross-purposes and cross-grainedness, the negation of
that gentle moderation, her own most sacred instinct. And an early
wasp, attracted by the sweet perfumes of her dressing-table, roused
himself from the corner where he had spent the night, and began to
hum and hover over the bed. Mrs. Pendyce was a little afraid of
wasps, so, taking a moment when he was otherwise engaged, she stole
out, and fanned him with her nightdress-case till, perceiving her to
be a lady, he went away. Lying down again, she thought: 'People will
worry them until they sting, and then kill them; it's so
unreasonable,' not knowing that she was putting all her thoughts on
suffering in a single nutshell.
She breakfasted upstairs, unsolaced by any news from George. Then
with no definite hope, but a sort of inner certainty, she formed the
resolution to call on Mrs. Bellew. She determined, however, first to
visit Mr. Paramor, and, having but a hazy notion of the hour when men
begin to work, she did not dare to start till past eleven, and told
her cabman to drive her slowly. He drove her, therefore, faster than
his wont. In Leicester Square the passage of a Personage between two
stations blocked the traffic, and on the footways were gathered a
crowd of simple folk with much in their hearts and little in their
stomachs, who raised a cheer as the Personage passed. Mrs. Pendyce
looked eagerly from her cab, for she too loved a show.
The crowd dispersed, and the cab went on.
It was the first time she had ever found herself in the business
apartment of any professional man less important than a dentist.
>From the little waiting-room, where they handed her the Times, which
she could not read from excitement, she caught sight of rooms lined
to the ceilings with leather books and black tin boxes, initialed in
white to indicate the brand, and of young men seated behind lumps of
paper that had been written on. She heard a perpetual clicking noise
which roused her interest, and smelled a peculiar odour of leather
and disinfectant which impressed her disagreeably. A youth with
reddish hair and a pen in his hand passed through and looked at her
with a curious stare immediately averted. She suddenly felt sorry
for him and all those other young men behind the lumps of paper, and
the thought went flashing through her mind, 'I suppose it's all
because people can't agree.'
She was shown in to Mr. Paramor at last. In his large empty room,
with its air of past grandeur, she sat gazing at three La France
roses in a tumbler of water with the feeling that she would never be
able to begin.
Mr. Paramor's eyebrows, which jutted from his clean, brown face like
little clumps of pothooks, were iron-grey, and iron-grey his hair
brushed back from his high forehead. Mrs. Pendyce wondered why he
looked five years younger than Horace, who was his junior, and ten
years younger than Charles, who, of course, was younger still. His
eyes, which from iron-grey some inner process of spiritual
manufacture had made into steel colour, looked young too, although
they were grave; and the smile which twisted up the corners of his
mouth looked very young.
"Well," he said, "it's a great pleasure to see you."
Mrs. Pendyce could only answer with a smile.
Mr. Paramor put the roses to his nose.
"Not so good as yours," he said, "are they? but the best I can do."
Mrs. Pendyce blushed with pleasure.
"My garden is looking so beautiful----" Then, remembering that she no
longer had a garden, she stopped; but remembering also that, though
she had lost her garden, Mr. Paramor still had his, she added
quickly: "And yours, Mr. Paramor--I'm sure it must be looking
Mr. Paramor drew out a kind of dagger with which he had stabbed some
papers to his desk, and took a letter from the bundle.
"Yes," he said, "it's looking very nice. You'd like to see this, I
"Bellew v. Bellew and Pendyce" was written at the top. Mrs. Pendyce
stared at those words as though fascinated by their beauty; it was
long before she got beyond them. For the first time the full horror
of these matters pierced the kindly armour that lies between mortals
and what they do not like to think of. Two men and a woman
wrangling, fighting, tearing each other before the eyes of all the
world. A woman and two men stripped of charity and gentleness, of
moderation and sympathy-stripped of all that made life decent and
lovable, squabbling like savages before the eyes of all the world.
Two men, and one of them her son, and between them a woman whom both
of them had loved! "Bellew v. Bellew and Pendyce"! And this would
go down to fame in company with the pitiful stories she had read from
time to time with a sort of offended interest; in company with
"Snooks v. Snooks and Stiles," "Horaday v. Horaday," "Bethany v.
Bethany and Sweetenham." In company with all those cases where
everybody seemed so dreadful, yet where she had often and often felt
so sorry, as if these poor creatures had been fastened in the stocks
by some malignant, loutish spirit, for all that would to come and
jeer at. And horror filled her heart. It was all so mean, and
gross, and common.
The letter contained but a few words from a firm of solicitors
confirming an appointment. She looked up at Mr. Paramor. He stopped
pencilling on his blotting-paper, and said at once:
"I shall be seeing these people myself tomorrow afternoon. I shall
do my best to make them see reason."
She felt from his eyes that he knew what she was suffering, and was
even suffering with her.
"And if--if they won't?"
"Then I shall go on a different tack altogether, and they must look
out for themselves."
Mrs. Pendyce sank back in her chair; she seemed to smell again that
smell of leather and disinfectant, and hear a sound of incessant
clicking. She felt faint, and to disguise that faintness asked at
random, "What does 'without prejudice' in this letter mean?"
Mr. Paramor smiled.
"That's an expression we always use," he said. "It means that when
we give a thing away, we reserve to ourselves the right of taking it
Mrs. Pendyce, who did not understand, murmured:
"I see. But what have they given away?"
Paramor put his elbows on the desk, and lightly pressed his finger-
"Well," he said, "properly speaking, in a matter like this, the other
side and I are cat and dog.
We are supposed to know nothing about each other and to want to know
less, so that when we do each other a courtesy we are obliged to save
our faces by saying, 'We don't really do you one.' D'you understand?"
Again Mrs. Pendyce murmured:
"It sounds a little provincial, but we lawyers exist by reason of
provincialism. If people were once to begin making allowances for
each other, I don't know where we should be."
Mrs. Pendyce's eyes fell again on those words, "Bellew v. Bellew and
Pendyce," and again, as though fascinated by their beauty, rested
"But you wanted to see me about something else too, perhaps?" said
A sudden panic came over her.
"Oh no, thank you. I just wanted to know what had been done. I've
come up on purpose to see George. You told me that I----"
Mr. Paramor hastened to her aid.
"Yes, yes; quite right--quite right."
"Horace hasn't come with me."
"He and George sometimes don't quite----"
"Hit it off? They're too much alike."
"Do you think so? I never saw-----"
"Not in face, not in face; but they've both got----"
Mr. Paramor's meaning was lost in a smile; and Mrs. Pendyce, who did
not know that the word "Pendycitis" was on the tip of his tongue,
smiled vaguely too.
"George is very determined," she said. "Do you think--oh, do you
think, Mr. Paramor, that you will be able to persuade Captain
Mr. Paramor threw himself back in his chair, and his hand covered
what he had written on his blotting-paper.
"Yes," he said slowly----"oh yes, yes!"
But Mrs. Pendyce had had her answer. She had meant to speak of her
visit to Helen Bellew, but now her thought was:
'He won't persuade them; I feel it. Let me get away!'
Again she seemed to hear the incessant clicking, to smell leather and
disinfectant, to see those words, "Bellew v. Bellew and, Pendyce."
She held out her hand.
Mr. Paramor took it in his own and looked at the floor.
"Good-bye," he said-"good-bye. What's your address--Green's Hotel?
I'll come and tell you what I do. I know--I know!"
Mrs. Pendyce, on whom those words "I know--I know!" had a strange,
emotionalising effect, as though no one had ever known before, went
away with quivering lips. In her life no one had ever "known"--not
indeed that she could or would complain of such a trifle, but the
fact remained. And at this moment, oddly, she thought of her
husband, and wondered what he was doing, and felt sorry for him.
But Mr. Paramor went back to his seat and stared at what he had
written on his blotting paper. It ran thus:
"We stand on our petty rights here,
And our potty dignity there;
We make no allowance for others,
They make no allowance for us;
We catch hold of them by the ear,
They grab hold of us by the hair
The result is a bit of a muddle
That ends in a bit of a fuss."
He saw that it neither rhymed nor scanned, and with a grave face he
tore it up.
Again Mrs. Pendyce told her cabman to drive slowly, and again he
drove her faster than usual; yet that drive to Chelsea seemed to last
for ever, and interminable were the turnings which the cabman took,
each one shorter than the last, as if he had resolved to see how much
his horse's mouth could bear.
'Poor thing!' thought Mrs. Pendyce; 'its mouth must be so sore, and
it's quite unnecessary.' She put her hand up through the trap.
"Please take me in a straight line. I don't like corners."
The cabman obeyed. It worried him terribly to take one corner
instead of the six he had purposed on his way; and when she asked him
his fare, he charged her a shilling extra for the distance he had
saved by going straight. Mrs. Pendyce paid it, knowing no better,
and gave him sixpence over, thinking it might benefit the horse; and
the cabman, touching his hat, said:
"Thank you, my lady," for to say "my lady" was his principle when he
received eighteen pence above his fare.
Mrs. Pendyce stood quite a minute on the pavement, stroking the
horse's nose and thinking:
'I must go in; it's silly to come all this way and not go in!'
But her heart beat so that she could hardly swallow.
At last she rang.
Mrs. Bellew was seated on the sofa in her little drawing-room
whistling to a canary in the open window. In the affairs of men
there is an irony constant and deep, mingled with the very springs of
life. The expectations of Mrs. Pendyce, those timid apprehensions of
this meeting which had racked her all the way, were lamentably
unfulfilled. She had rehearsed the scene ever since it came into her
head; the reality seemed unfamiliar. She felt no nervousness and no
hostility, only a sort of painful interest and admiration. And how
could this or any other woman help falling in love with George?
The first uncertain minute over, Mrs. Bellew's eyes were as friendly
as if she had been quite within her rights in all she had done; and
Mrs. Pendyce could not help meeting friendliness halfway.
"Don't be angry with me for coming. George doesn't know. I felt I
must come to see you. Do you think that you two quite know all
you're doing? It seems so dreadful, and it's not only yourselves, is
Mrs. Bellew's smile vanished.
"Please don't say 'you two,' she said.
Mrs. Pendyce stammered:
"I don't understand."
Mrs. Bellew looked her in the face and smiled; and as she smiled she
seemed to become a little coarser.
"Well, I think it's quite time you did! I don't love your son. I
did once, but I don't now. I told him so yesterday, once for all."
Mrs. Pendyce heard those words, which made so vast, so wonderful a
difference--words which should have been like water in a wilderness--
with a sort of horror, and all her spirit flamed up into her eyes.
"You don't love him?" she cried.
She felt only a blind sense of insult and affront.
This woman tire of George? Tire of her son? She looked at Mrs.
Bellew, on whose face was a kind of inquisitive compassion, with eyes
that had never before held hatred.
"You have tired of him? You have given him up? Then the sooner I go
to him the better! Give me the address of his rooms, please."
Helen Bellew knelt down at the bureau and wrote on an envelope, and
the grace of the woman pierced Mrs. Pendyce to the heart.
She took the paper. She had never learned the art of abuse, and no
words could express what was in her heart, so she turned and went
Mrs. Bellew's voice sounded quick and fierce behind her.
"How could I help getting tired? I am not you. Now go!"
Mrs. Pendyce wrenched open the outer door. Descending the stairs,
she felt for the bannister. She had that awful sense of physical
soreness and shrinking which violence, whether their own or others',
brings to gentle souls.
CHAPTER V. THE MOTHER AND THE SON
To Mrs. Pendyce, Chelsea was an unknown land, and to find her way to
George's rooms would have taken her long had she been by nature what
she was by name, for Pendyces never asked their way to anything, or
believed what they were told, but found out for themselves with much
unnecessary trouble, of which they afterwards complained.
A policeman first, and then a young man with a beard, resembling an
artist, guided her footsteps. The latter, who was leaning by a gate,
"In here," he said; "the door in the corner on the right."
Mrs. Pendyce walked down the little path, past the ruined fountain
with its three stone frogs, and stood by the first green door and
waited. And while she waited she struggled between fear and joy; for
now that she was away from Mrs. Bellew she no longer felt a sense of
insult. It was the actual sight of her that had aroused it, so
personal is even the most gentle heart.
She found the rusty handle of a bell amongst the creeper-leaves, and
pulled it. A cracked metallic tinkle answered her, but no one came;
only a faint sound as of someone pacing to and fro. Then in the
street beyond the outer gate a coster began calling to the sky, and
in the music of his prayers the sound was lost. The young man with a
beard, resembling an artist, came down the path.
"Perhaps you could tell me, sir, if my son is out?"
"I've not seen him go out; and I've been painting here all the
Mrs. Pendyce looked with wonder at an easel which stood outside
another door a little further on. It seemed to her strange that her
son should live in such a place.
"Shall I knock for you?" said the artist. "All these knockers are
"If you would be so kind!"
The artist knocked.
"He must be in," he said. "I haven't taken my eyes off his door,
because I've been painting it.
Mrs. Pendyce gazed at the door.
"I can't get it," said the artist. "It's worrying me to death."
Mrs. Pendyce looked at him doubtfully.
"Has he no servant?" she said.
"Oh no," said the artist; "it's a studio. The light's all wrong. I
wonder if you would mind standing just as you are for one second; it
would help me a lot!"
He moved back and curved his hand over his eyes, and through Mrs.
Pendyce there passed a shiver.
'Why doesn't George open the door?' she thought. 'What--what is this
The artist dropped his hand.
"Thanks so much!" he said. "I'll knock again. There! that would
raise the dead!"
And he laughed.
An unreasoning terror seized on Mrs. Pendyce.
"Oh," she stammered, "I must get in--I must get in!"
She took the knocker herself, and fluttered it against the door.
"You see," said the artist, "they're all alike; these knockers are as
stiff' as pokers."
He again curved his hand over his eyes. Mrs. Pendyce leaned against
the door; her knees were trembling violently.
'What is happening?' she thought. 'Perhaps he's only asleep,
perhaps---- Oh God!'
She beat the knocker with all her force. The door yielded, and in
the space stood George. Choking back a sob, Mrs. Pendyce went in.
He banged the door behind her.
For a full minute she did not speak, possessed still by that strange
terror and by a sort of shame. She did not even look at her son, but
cast timid glances round his room. She saw a gallery at the far end,
and a conical roof half made of glass. She saw curtains hanging all
the gallery length, a table with tea-things and decanters, a round
iron stove, rugs on the floor, and a large full-length mirror in the
centre of the wall. A silver cup of flowers was reflected in that
mirror. Mrs. Pendyce saw that they were dead, and the sense of their
vague and nauseating odour was her first definite sensation.
"Your flowers are dead, my darling," she said. "I must get you some
Not till then did she look at George. There were circles under his
eyes; his face was yellow; it seemed to her that it had shrunk. This
terrified her, and she thought:
'I must show nothing; I must keep my head!'
She was afraid--afraid of something desperate in his face, of
something desperate and headlong, and she was afraid of his
stubbornness, the dumb, unthinking stubbornness that holds to what
has been because it has been, that holds to its own when its own is
dead. She had so little of this quality herself that she could not
divine where it might lead him; but she had lived in the midst of it
all her married life, and it seemed natural that her son should be in
danger from it now.
Her terror called up her self-possession. She drew George down on
the sofa by her side, and the thought flashed through her: 'How many
times has he not sat here with that woman in his arms!'
"You didn't come for me last night, dear! I got the tickets, such
"No," he said; "I had something else to see to!"
At sight of that smile Margery Pendyce's heart beat till she felt
sick, but she, too, smiled.
"What a nice place you have here, darling!"
"There's room to walk about."
Mrs. Pendyce remembered the sound she had heard of pacing to and fro.
>From his not asking her how she had found out where he lived she knew
that he must have guessed where she had been, that there was nothing
for either of them to tell the other. And though this was a relief,
it added to her terror--the terror of that which is desperate. All
sorts of images passed through her mind. She saw George back in her
bedroom after his first run with the hounds, his chubby cheek
scratched from forehead to jaw, and the bloodstained pad of a cub fox
in his little gloved hand. She saw him sauntering into her room the
last day of the 1880 match at Lord's, with a battered top-hat, a
blackened eye, and a cane with a light-blue tassel. She saw him
deadly pale with tightened lips that afternoon after he had escaped
from her, half cured of laryngitis, and stolen out shooting by
himself, and she remembered his words: "Well, Mother, I couldn't
stand it any longer; it was too beastly slow!"
Suppose he could not stand it now! Suppose he should do something
rash! She took out her handkerchief.
"It's very hot in here, dear; your forehead is quite wet!"
She saw his eyes turn on her suspiciously, and all her woman's wit
stole into her own eyes, so that they did not flicker, but looked at
him with matter-of-fact concern.
"That skylight is what does it," he said. "The sun gets full on
Mrs. Pendyce looked at the skylight.
"It seems odd to see you here, dear, but it's very nice--so
unconventional. You must let me put away those poor flowers!" She
went to the silver cup and bent over them. "My dear boy, they're
quite nasty! Do throw them outside somewhere; it's so dreadful, the
smell of old flowers!"
She held the cup out, covering her nose with her handkerchief.
George took the cup, and like a cat spying a mouse, Mrs. Pendyce
watched him take it out into the garden. As the door closed,
quicker, more noiseless than a cat, she slipped behind the curtains.
'I know he has a pistol,' she thought.
She was back in an instant, gliding round the room, hunting with her
eyes and hands, but she saw nothing, and her heart lightened, for she
was terrified of all such things.
'It's only these terrible first hours,' she thought.
When George came back she was standing where he had left her. They
sat down in silence, and in that silence, the longest of her life,
she seemed to feel all that was in his heart, all the blackness and
bitter aching, the rage of defeat and starved possession, the lost
delight, the sensation of ashes and disgust; and yet her heart was
full enough already of relief and shame, compassion, jealousy, love,
and deep longing. Only twice was the silence broken. Once when he
asked her whether she had lunched, and she who had eaten nothing all
Once when he said:
"You shouldn't have come here, Mother; I'm a bit out of sorts!"
She watched his face, dearest to her in all the world, bent towards
the floor, and she so yearned to hold it to her breast that, since
she dared not, the tears stole up, and silently rolled down her
cheeks. The stillness in that room, chosen for remoteness, was like
the stillness of a tomb, and, as in a tomb, there was no outlook on
the world, for the glass of the skylight was opaque.
That deathly stillness settled round her heart; her eyes fixed
themselves on the skylight, as though beseeching it to break and let
in sound. A cat, making a pilgrimage from roof to roof, the four
dark moving spots of its paws, the faint blur of its body, was all
she saw. And suddenly, unable to bear it any longer, she cried:
"Oh, George, speak to me! Don't put me away from you like this!"
"What do you want me to say, Mother?"
And falling on her knees beside her son, she pulled his head down
against her breast, and stayed rocking herself to and fro, silently
shifting closer till she could feel his head lie comfortably; so, she
had his face against her heart, and she could not bear to let it go.
Her knees hurt her on the boarded floor, her back and all her body
ached; but not for worlds would she relax an inch, believing that she
could comfort him with her pain, and her tears fell on his neck.
When at last he drew his face away she sank down on the floor, and
could not rise, but her fingers felt that the bosom of her dress was
wet. He said hoarsely:
"It's all right, Mother; you needn't worry!"
For no reward would she have looked at him just then, but with a
deeper certainty than reason she knew that he was safe.
Stealthily on the sloping skylight the cat retraced her steps, its
four paws dark moving spots, its body a faint blur.
Mrs. Pendyce rose.
"I won't stay now, darling. May I use your glass?"
Standing before that mirror, smoothing back her hair, passing her
handkerchief over her cheeks and eyes and lips, she thought:
'That woman has stood here! That woman has smoothed her hair,
looking in this glass, and wiped his kisses from her cheeks! May God
give to her the pain that she has given to my son!'
But when she had wished that wish she shivered.
She turned to George at the door with a smile that seemed to say:
'It's no good to weep, or try and tell you what is in my heart, and
so, you see, I'm smiling. Please smile, too, so as to comfort me a
George put a small paper parcel in her hand and tried to smile.
Mrs. Pendyce went quickly out. Bewildered by the sunlight, she did
not look at this parcel till she was beyond the outer gate. It
contained an amethyst necklace, an emerald pendant, and a diamond
ring. In the little grey street that led to this garden with its
poplars, old fountain, and green gate, the jewels glowed and sparkled
as though all light and life had settled there. Mrs. Pendyce, who
loved colour and glowing things, saw that they were beautiful.
That woman had taken them, used their light and colour, and then
flung them back! She wrapped them again in the paper, tied the
string, and went towards the river. She did not hurry, but walked
with her eyes steadily before her. She crossed the Embankment, and
stood leaning on the parapet with her hands over the grey water. Her
thumb and fingers unclosed; the white parcel dropped, floated a
second, and then disappeared.
Mrs. Pendyce looked round her with a start.
A young man with a beard, whose face was familiar, was raising his
"So your son was in," he said. "I'm very glad. I must thank you
again for standing to me just that minute; it made all the
difference. It was the relation between the figure and the door that
I wanted to get. Good-morning!"
Mrs. Pendyce murmured "Good-morning," following him with startled
eyes, as though he had caught her in the commission of a crime. She
had a vision of those jewels, buried, poor things! in the grey
slime, a prey to gloom, and robbed for ever of their light and
colour. And, as though she had sinned, wronged the gentle essence of
her nature, she hurried away.
CHAPTER VI. GREGORY LOOKS AT THE SKY
Gregory Vigil called Mr. Paramor a pessimist it was because, like
other people, he did not know the meaning of, the term; for with a
confusion common to the minds of many persons who have been conceived
in misty moments, he thought that, to see things as they were, meant,
to try and make them worse. Gregory had his own way of seeing things
that was very dear to him--so dear that he would shut his eyes sooner
than see them any other way. And since things to him were not the
same as things to Mr. Paramor, it cannot, after all, be said that he
did not see things as they were. But dirt upon a face that he wished
to be clean he could not see--a fluid in his blue eyes dissolved that
dirt while the image of the face was passing on to their retinae.
The process was unconscious, and has been called idealism. This was
why the longer he reflected the more agonisedLy certain he became
that his ward was right to be faithful to the man she loved, right to
join her life to his. And he went about pressing the blade of this
thought into his soul.
About four o'clock on the day of Mrs. Pendyce's visit to the studio a
letter was brought him by a page-boy.
"I have seen Helen Bellew, and have just come from George. We have
all been living in a bad dream. She does not love him--perhaps has
never loved him. I do not know; I do not wish to judge. She has
given him up. I will not trust myself to say anything about that.
>From beginning to end it all seems so unnecessary, such a needless,
cross-grained muddle. I write this line to tell you how things
really are, and to beg you, if you have a moment to spare, to look in
at George's club this evening and let me know if he is there and how
he seems. There is no one else that I could possibly ask to do this
for me. Forgive me if this letter pains you.
"Your affectionate cousin,
To those with the single eye, the narrow personal view of all things
human, by whom the irony underlying the affairs of men is unseen and
unenjoyed, whose simple hearts afford that irony its most precious
smiles, who; vanquished by that irony, remain invincible--to these no
blow of Fate, no reversal of their ideas, can long retain importance.
The darts stick, quaver, and fall off, like arrows from chain-armour,
and the last dart, slipping upwards under the harness, quivers into
the heart to the cry of "What--you! No, no; I don't believe you're
Such as these have done much of what has had to be done in this old
world, and perhaps still more of what has had to be undone.
When Gregory received this letter he was working on the case of a
woman with the morphia habit. He put it into his pocket and went on
working. It was all he was capable of doing.
"Here is the memorandum, Mrs. Shortman. Let them take her for six
weeks. She will come out a different woman."
Mrs. Shortman, supporting her thin face in her thin hand, rested her
glowing eyes on Gregory.
"I'm afraid she has lost all moral sense," she said. "Do you know,
Mr. Vigil, I'm almost afraid she never had any!"
"What do you mean?"
Mrs. Shortman turned her eyes away.
"I'm sometimes tempted to think," she said, "that there are such
people. I wonder whether we allow enough for that. When I was a
girl in the country I remember the daughter of our vicar, a very
pretty creature. There were dreadful stories about her, even before
she was married, and then we heard she was divorced. She came up to
London and earned her own living by playing the piano until she
married again. I won't tell you her name, but she is very well
known, and nobody has ever seen her show the slightest signs of being
ashamed. If there is one woman like that there may be dozens, and I
sometimes think we waste----"
Gregory said dryly:
"I have heard you say that before."
Mrs. Shortman bit her lips.
" I don't think," she said, "that I grudge my efforts or my time."
Gregory went quickly up, and took her hand.
"I know that--oh, I know that," he said with feeling.
The sound of Miss Mallow furiously typing rose suddenly from the
corner. Gregory removed his hat from the peg on which it hung.
"I must go now," he said. "Good-night."
Without warning, as is the way with hearts, his heart had begun to
bleed, and he felt that he must be in the open air. He took no
omnibus or cab, but strode along with all his might, trying to think,
trying to understand. But he could only feel-confused and battered
feelings, with now and then odd throbs of pleasure of which he was
ashamed. Whether he knew it or not, he was making his way to
Chelsea, for though a man's eyes may be fixed on the stars, his feet
cannot take him there, and Chelsea seemed to them the best
alternative. He was not alone upon this journey, for many another
man was going there, and many a man had been and was coming now away,
and the streets were the one long streaming crowd of the summer
afternoon. And the men he met looked at Gregory, and Gregory looked
at them, and neither saw the other, for so it is written of men, lest
they pay attention to cares that are not their own. The sun that
scorched his face fell on their backs, the breeze that cooled his
back blew on their cheeks. For the careless world, too, was on its
way, along the pavement of the universe, one of millions going to
Chelsea, meeting millions coming away....
"Mrs. Bellew at home?"
He went into a room fifteen feet square and perhaps ten high, with a
sulky canary in a small gilt cage, an upright piano with an open
operatic score, a sofa with piled-up cushions, and on it a woman with
a flushed and sullen face, whose elbows were resting on her knees,
whose chin was resting on her hand, whose gaze was fixed on nothing.
It was a room of that size, with all these things, but Gregory took
into it with him some thing that made it all seem different to
Gregory. He sat down by the window with his eyes care fully averted,
and spoke in soft tones broken by something that sounded like
emotion. He began by telling her of his woman with the morphia
habit, and then he told her that he knew every thing. When he had
said this he looked out of the window, where builders had left by
inadvertence a narrow strip of sky. And thus he avoided seeing the
look on her face, contemptuous, impatient, as though she were
thinking: 'You are a good fellow, Gregory, but for Heaven's sake do
see things for once as they are! I have had enough of it.' And he
avoided seeing her stretch her arms out and spread the fingers, as an
angry cat will stretch and spread its toes. He told her that he did
not want to worry her, but that when she wanted him for anything she
must send for him--he was always there; and he looked at her feet, so
that he did not see her lip curl. He told her that she would always
be the same to him, and he asked her to believe that. He did not see
the smile which never left her lips again while he was there--the
smile he could not read, because it was the smile of life, and of a
woman that he did not understand. But he did see on that sofa a
beautiful creature for whom he had longed for years, and so he went
away, and left her standing at the door with her teeth fastened on
her lip: And since with him Gregory took his eyes, he did not see her
reseated on the sofa, just as she had been before he came in, her
elbows on her knees, her chin in her hand, her moody eyes like those
of a gambler staring into the distance....
In the streets of tall houses leading away from Chelsea were many
men, some, like Gregory, hungry for love, and some hungry for bread--
men in twos and threes, in crowds, or by themselves, some with their
eyes on the ground, some with their eyes level, some with their eyes
on the sky, but all with courage and loyalty of one poor kind or
another in their hearts. For by courage and loyalty alone it is
written that man shall live, whether he goes to Chelsea or whether he
comes away. Of all these men, not one but would have smiled to hear
Gregory saying to himself: "She will always be the same to me! She
will always be the same to me!" And not one that would have
It was getting on for the Stoics' dinner hour when Gregory found
himself in Piccadilly, and, Stoic after Stoic, they were getting out
of cabs and passing the club doors. The poor fellows had been
working hard all day on the racecourse, the cricket-ground, at
Hurlingham, or in the Park; some had been to the Royal Academy, and
on their faces was a pleasant look: "Ah, God is good--we can rest at
last!" And many of them had had no lunch, hoping to keep their
weights down, and many who had lunched had not done themselves as
well as might be hoped, and some had done themselves too well; but in
all their hearts the trust burned bright that they might do
themselves better at dinner, for their God was good, and dwelt
between the kitchen and the cellar of the Stoics' Club. And all--for
all had poetry in their souls--looked forward to those hours in
paradise when, with cigars between their lips, good wine below, they
might dream the daily dream that comes to all true Stoics for about
fifteen shillings or even less, all told.
>From a little back slum, within two stones' throw of the god of the
Stoics' Club, there had come out two seamstresses to take the air;
one was in consumption, having neglected to earn enough to feed
herself properly for some years past, and the other looked as if she
would be in consumption shortly, for the same reason. They stood on
the pavement, watching the cabs drive up. Some of the Stoics saw
them and thought: 'Poor girls! they look awfully bad.' Three or four
said to themselves: "It oughtn't to be allowed. I mean, it's so
painful to see; and it's not as if one could do anything. They're
not beggars, don't you know, and so what can one do?"
But most of the Stoics did not look at them at all, feeling that
their soft hearts could not stand these painful sights, and anxious
not to spoil their dinners. Gregory did not see them either, for it
so happened that he was looking at the sky, and just then the two
girls crossed the road and were lost among the passers-by, for they
were not dogs, who could smell out the kind of man he was.
"Mr. Pendyce is in the club; I will send your name up, sir." And
rolling a little, as though Gregory's name were heavy, the porter
gave it to the boy, who went away with it.
Gregory stood by the empty hearth and waited, and while he waited,
nothing struck him at all, for the Stoics seemed very natural, just
mere men like himself, except that their clothes were better, which
made him think: 'I shouldn't care to belong here and have to dress
for dinner every night.'
"Mr. Pendyce is very sorry, sir, but he's engaged."
Gregory bit his lip, said "Thank you," and went away.
'That's all Margery wants,' he thought; 'the rest is nothing to me,'
and, getting on a bus, he fixed his eyes once more on the sky.
But George was not engaged. Like a wounded animal taking its hurt
for refuge to its lair, he sat in his favourite window overlooking
Piccadilly. He sat there as though youth had left him, unmoving,
never lifting his eyes. In his stubborn mind a wheel seemed turning,
grinding out his memories to the last grain. And Stoics, who could
not bear to see a man sit thus throughout that sacred hour, came up
from time to time.
"Aren't you going to dine, Pendyce?"
Dumb brutes tell no one of their pains; the law is silence. So with
George. And as each Stoic came up, he only set his teeth and said:
"Presently, old chap."
CHAPTER VII. TOUR WITH THE SPANIEL JOHN
Now the spaniel John--whose habit was to smell of heather and baked
biscuits when he rose from a night's sleep--was in disgrace that
Thursday. Into his long and narrow head it took time for any new
idea to enter, and not till forty hours after Mrs. Pendyce had gone
did he recognise fully that something definite had happened to his
master. During the agitated minutes that this conviction took in
forming, he worked hard. Taking two and a half brace of his master's
shoes and slippers, and placing them in unaccustomed spots, he lay on
them one by one till they were warm, then left them for some bird or
other to hatch out, and returned to Mr. Pendyce's door. It was for
all this that the Squire said, "John!" several times, and threatened
him with a razorstrop. And partly because he could not bear to leave
his master for a single second--the scolding had made him love him so
--and partly because of that new idea, which let him have no peace,
he lay in the hall waiting.
Having once in his hot youth inadvertently followed the Squire's
horse, he could never be induced to follow it again. He both
personally disliked this needlessly large and swift form of animal,
and suspected it of designs upon his master; for when the creature
had taken his master up, there was not a smell of him left anywhere--
not a whiff of that pleasant scent that so endeared him to the heart.
As soon, therefore, as the horse appeared, the spaniel John would.
lie down on his stomach with his forepaws close to his nose, and his
nose close to the ground; nor until the animal vanished could he be
induced to abandon an attitude in which he resembled a couching
But this afternoon, with his tail down, his lips pouting, his
shoulders making heavy work of it, his nose lifted in deprecation of
that ridiculous and unnecessary plane on which his master sat, he
followed at a measured distance. In such-wise, aforetime, the
village had followed the Squire and Mr. Barter when they introduced
into it its one and only drain.
Mr. Pendyce rode slowly; his feet, in their well-blacked boots, his
nervous legs in Bedford cord and mahogany-coloured leggings, moved in
rhyme to the horse's trot. A long-tailed coat fell clean and full
over his thighs; his back and shoulders were a wee bit bent to lessen
motion, and above his neat white stock under a grey bowler hat his
lean, greywhiskered and moustachioed face, with harassed eyes, was
preoccupied and sad. His horse, a brown blood mare, ambled lazily,
head raking forward, and bang tail floating outward from her hocks.
And so, in the June sunshine, they went, all three, along the leafy
lane to Worsted Scotton....
On Tuesday, the day that Mrs. Pendyce had left, the Squire had come
in later than usual, for he felt that after their difference of the
night before, a little coolness would do her no harm. The first hour
of discovery had been as one confused and angry minute, ending in a
burst of nerves and the telegram to General Pendyce. He took the
telegram himself, returning from the village with his head down, a
sudden prey to a feeling of shame--an odd and terrible feeling that
he never remembered to have felt before, a sort of fear of his
fellow-creatures. He would have chosen a secret way, but there was
none, only the highroad, or the path across the village green, and
through the churchyard to his paddocks. An old cottager was standing
at the turnstile, and the Squire made for him with his head down, as
a bull makes for a fence. He had meant to pass in silence, but
between him and this old broken husbandman there was a bond forged by
the ages. Had it meant death, Mr. Pendyce could not have passed one
whose fathers had toiled for his fathers, eaten his fathers' bread,
died with his fathers, without a word and a movement of his hand.
"Evenin', Squire; nice evenin'. Faine weather fur th' hay!"
The voice was warped and wavery.
'This is my Squire,' it seemed to say, 'whatever ther' be agin him!'
Mr. Pendyce's hand went up to his hat.
"Evenin', Hermon. Aye, fine weather for the hay! Mrs. Pendyce has
gone up to London. We young bachelors, ha!"
He passed on.
Not until he had gone some way did he perceive why he had made that
announcement. It was simply because he must tell everyone, everyone;
then no one could be astonished.
He hurried on to the house to dress in time for dinner, and show all
that nothing was amiss. Seven courses would have been served him had
the sky fallen; but he ate little, and drank more claret than was his
wont. After dinner he sat in his study with the windows open, and in
the mingled day and lamp light read his wife's letter over again. As
it was with the spaniel John, so with his master--a new idea
penetrated but slowly into his long and narrow head.
She was cracked about George; she did not know what she was doing;
would soon come to her senses. It was not for him to take any steps.
What steps, indeed, could he take without confessing that Horace
Pendyce had gone too far, that Horace Pendyce was in the wrong? That
had never been his habit, and he could not alter now. If she and
George chose to be stubborn, they must take the consequences, and
fend for themselves.
In the silence and the lamplight, growing mellower each minute under
the green silk shade, he sat confusedly thinking of the past. And in
that dumb reverie, as though of fixed malice, there came to him no
memories that were not pleasant, no images that were not fair. He
tried to think of her unkindly, he tried to paint her black; but with
the perversity born into the world when he was born, to die when he
was dead, she came to him softly, like the ghost of gentleness, to
haunt his fancy. She came to him smelling of sweet scents, with a
slight rustling of silk, and the sound of her expectant voice,
saying, "Yes, dear?" as though she were not bored. He remembered
when he brought her first to Worsted Skeynes thirty-four years ago,
"That timid, and like a rose, but a lady every hinch, the love!" as
his old nurse had said.
He remembered her when George was born, like wax for whiteness and
transparency, with eyes that were all pupils, and a hovering smile.
So many other times he remembered her throughout those years, but
never as a woman faded, old; never as a woman of the past. Now that
he had not got her, for the first time Mr. Pendyce realised that she
had not grown old, that she was still to him "timid, and like a rose,
but a lady every hinch, the love!" And he could not bear this
thought; it made him feel so miserable and lonely in the lamplight,
with the grey moths hovering round, and the spaniel John asleep upon
So, taking his candle, he went up to bed. The doors that barred away
the servants' wing were closed. In all that great remaining space of
house his was the only candle, the only sounding footstep. Slowly he
mounted as he had mounted many thousand times, but never once like
this, and behind him, like a shadow, mounted the spaniel John.
And She that knows the hearts of men and dogs, the Mother from whom
all things come, to whom they all go home, was watching, and
presently, when they were laid, the one in his deserted bed, the
other on blue linen, propped against the door, She gathered them to
But Wednesday came, and with it Wednesday duties. They who have
passed the windows of the Stoics' Club and seen the Stoics sitting
there have haunting visions of the idle landed classes. These
visions will not let them sleep, will not let their tongues to cease
from bitterness, for they so long to lead that "idle" life
themselves. But though in a misty land illusions be our cherished
lot, that we may all think falsely of our neighbours and enjoy
ourselves, the word "idle" is not at all the word.
Many and heavy tasks weighed on the Squire at Worsted Skeynes. There
was the visit to the stables to decide as to firing Beldame's hock,
or selling the new bay horse because he did not draw men fast enough,
and the vexed question of Bruggan's oats or Beal's, talked out with
Benson, in a leather belt and flannel shirt-sleeves, like a
corpulent, white-whiskered boy. Then the long sitting in the study
with memorandums and accounts, all needing care, lest So-and-so
should give too little for too little, or too little for too much;
and the smart walk across to Jarvis, the head keeper, to ask after
the health of the new Hungarian bird, or discuss a scheme whereby in
the last drive so many of those creatures he had nurtured from their
youth up might be deterred from flying over to his friend Lord
Quarryman. And this took long, for Jarvis's feelings forced him to
say six times, "Well, Mr. Pendyce, sir, what I say is we didn't
oughter lose s'many birds in that last drive;" and Mr. Pendyce to
answer: "No, Jarvis, certainly not. Well, what do you suggest?" And
that other grievous question--how to get plenty of pheasants and
plenty of foxes to dwell together in perfect harmony--discussed with
endless sympathy, for, as the Squire would say, "Jarvis is quite safe
with foxes." He could not bear his covers to be drawn blank.
Then back to a sparing lunch, or perhaps no lunch at all, that he
might keep fit and hard; and out again at once on horseback or on
foot to the home farm or further, as need might take him, and a long
afternoon, with eyes fixed on the ribs of bullocks, the colour of
swedes, the surfaces of walls or gates or fences.
Then home again to tea and to the Times, which had as yet received.
but fleeting glances, with close attention to all those Parliamentary
measures threatening, remotely, the existing state of things, except,
of course, that future tax on wheat so needful to the betterment of
Worsted Skeynes. There were occasions, too, when they brought him
tramps to deal with, to whom his one remark would be, "Hold out your
hands, my man," which, being found unwarped by honest toil, were
promptly sent to gaol. When found so warped, Mr. Pendyce was at a
loss, and would walk up and down, earnestly trying to discover what
his duty was to them. There were days, too, almost entirely occupied
by sessions, when many classes of offenders came before him, to whom
he meted justice according to the heinousness of the offence, from
poaching at the top down and down to wife-beating at the bottom; for,
though a humane man, tradition did not suffer him to look on this
form of sport as really criminal--at any rate, not in the country.
It was true that all these matters could have been settled in a
fraction of the time by a young and trained intelligence, but this
would have wronged tradition, disturbed the Squire's settled
conviction that he was doing his duty, and given cause for slanderous
tongues to hint at idleness. And though, further, it was true that
all this daily labour was devoted directly or indirectly to interests
of his own, what was that but doing his duty to the country and
asserting the prerogative of every Englishman at all costs to be
But on this Wednesday the flavour of the dish was gone. To be alone
amongst his acres, quite alone--to have no one to care whether he did
anything at all, no one to whom he might confide that Beldame's hock
was to be fired, that Peacock was asking for more gates, was almost
more than he could bear. He would have wired to the girls to come
home, but he could not bring him self to face their questions.
Gerald was at Gib! George--George was no son of his!--and his pride
forbade him to write to her who had left him thus to solitude and
shame. For deep down below his stubborn anger it was shame that the
Squire felt--shame that he should have to shun his neighbours, lest
they should ask him questions which, for his own good name and his
own pride, he must answer with a lie; shame that he should not be
master in his own house--still more, shame that anyone should see
that he was not. To be sure, he did not know that he felt shame,
being unused to introspection, having always kept it at arm's length.
For he always meditated concretely, as, for instance, when he looked
up and did not see his wife at breakfast, but saw Bester making
coffee, he thought, 'That fellow knows all about it, I shouldn't
wonder!' and he felt angry for thinking that. When he saw Mr. Barter
coming down the drive he thought, 'Confound it! I can't meet him,'
and slipped out, and felt angry that he had thus avoided him. When
in the Scotch garden he came on Jackman syringing the rose-trees, he
said to him, "Your mistress has gone to London," and abruptly turned
away, angry that he had been obliged by a mysterious impulse to tell
So it was, all through that long, sad day, and the only thing that
gave him comfort was to score through, in the draft of his will,
bequests to his eldest son, and busy himself over drafting a clause
to take their place:
"Forasmuch as my eldest son, George Hubert, has by conduct unbecoming
to a gentleman and a Pendyce, proved himself unworthy of my
confidence, and forasmuch as to my regret I am unable to cut the
entail of my estate, I hereby declare that he shall in no way
participate in any division of my other property or of my personal
effects, conscientiously believing that it is my duty so to do in the
interests of my family and of the country, and I make this
declaration without anger."
For, all the anger that he was balked of feeling against his wife,
because he missed her so, was added to that already felt against his
By the last post came a letter from General Pendyce. He opened it
with fingers as shaky as his brother's writing.
"ARMY AND NAVY CLUB.
"What the deuce and all made you send that telegram? It spoiled my
breakfast, and sent me off in a tearing hurry, to find Margery
perfectly well. If she'd been seedy or anything I should have been
delighted, but there she was, busy about her dresses and what not,
and I dare say she thought me a lunatic for coming at that time in
the morning. You shouldn't get into the habit of sending telegrams.
A telegram is a thing that means something--at least, I've always
thought so. I met George coming away from her in a deuce of a hurry.
I can't write any more now. I'm just going to have my lunch.
"Your affectionate brother,
She was well. She had been seeing George. With a hardened heart the
Squire went up to bed.
And Wednesday came to an end....
And so on the Thursday afternoon the brown blood mare carried Mr.
Pendyce along the lane, followed by the spaniel John. They passed
the Firs, where Bellew lived, and, bending sharply to the right,
began to mount towards the Common; and with them mounted the image of
that fellow who was at the bottom of it all--an image that ever
haunted the Squire's mind nowadays; a ghost, high-shouldered, with
little burning eyes, clipped red moustaches, thin bowed legs. A
plague spot on that system which he loved, a whipping-post to
heredity, a scourge like Attila the Hun; a sort of damnable
caricature of all that a country gentleman should be--of his love of
sport and open air, of his "hardness" and his pluck; of his powers of
knowing his own mind, and taking his liquor like a man; of his creed,
now out of date, of gallantry. Yes--a kind of cursed bogey of a man,
a spectral follower of the hounds, a desperate character--a man that
in old days someone would have shot; a drinking, white-faced devil
who despised Horace Pendyce, whom Horace Pendyce hated, yet could not
quite despise. "Always one like that in a hunting country!" A black
dog on the shoulders of his order. 'Post equitem sedet' Jaspar
The Squire came out on the top of the rise, and all Worsted Scotton
was in sight. It was a sandy stretch of broom and gorse and heather,
with a few Scotch firs; it had no value at all, and he longed for it,
as a boy might long for the bite someone else had snatched out of his
apple. It distressed him lying there, his and yet not his, like a
wife who was no wife--as though Fortune were enjoying her at his
expense. Thus was he deprived of the fulness of his mental image;
for as with all men, so with the Squire, that which he loved and
owned took definite form-a some thing that he saw. Whenever the
words " Worsted Skeynes" were in his mind-and that was almost always-
there rose before him an image defined and concrete, however
indescribable; and what ever this image was, he knew that Worsted
Scot ton spoiled it. It was true that he could not think of any use
to which to put the Common, but he felt deeply that it was pure dog-
in-the-mangerism of the cottagers, and this he could not stand. Not
one beast in two years had fattened on its barrenness. Three old
donkeys alone eked out the remnants of their days. A bundle of
firewood or old bracken, a few peat sods from one especial corner,
were all the selfish peasants gathered. But the cottagers were no
great matter--he could soon have settled them; it was that fellow
Peacock whom he could not settle, just because he happened to abut on
the Common, and his fathers had been nasty before him. Mr. Pendyce
rode round looking at the fence his father had put up, until he came
to the portion that Peacock's father had pulled down; and here, by a
strange fatality--such as will happen even in printed records--he
came on Peacock himself standing in the gap, as though he had
foreseen this visit of the Squire's. The mare stopped of her own
accord, the spaniel John at a measured distance lay down to think,
and all those yards away he could be heard doing it, and now and then
swallowing his tongue.
Peacock stood with his hands in his breeches' pockets. An old straw
hat was on his head, his little eyes were turned towards the ground;
and his cob, which he had tied to what his father had left standing
of the fence, had his eyes, too, turned towards the ground, for he
was eating grass. Mr. Pendyce's fight with his burning stable had
stuck in the farmer's "gizzard" ever since. He felt that he was
forgetting it day by day--would soon forget it altogether. He felt
the old sacred doubts inherited from his fathers rising every hour
within him. And so he had come up to see what looking at the gap
would do for his sense of gratitude. At sight of the Squire his
little eyes turned here and there, as a pig's eyes turn when it
receives a blow behind. That Mr. Pendyce should have chosen this
moment to come up was as though Providence, that knoweth all things,
knew the natural thing for Mr. Pendyce to do.
"Afternoon, Squire. Dry weather; rain's badly wanted. I'll get no
feed if this goes on."
Mr. Pendyce answered:
"Afternoon, Peacock. Why, your fields are first-rate for grass."
They hastily turned their eyes away, for at that moment they could
not bear to see each other.
There was a silence; then Peacock said:
"What about those gates of mine, Squire?" and his voice quavered, as
though gratitude might yet get the better of him.
The Squire's irritable glance swept over the unfenced space to right
and left, and the thought flashed through his mind:
'Suppose I were to give the beggar those gates, would he--would he
let me enclose the Scotton again?'
He looked at that square, bearded man, and the infallible instinct,
christened so wickedly by Mr. Paramor, guided him.
"What's wrong with your gates, man, I should like to know?"
Peacock looked at him full this time; there was no longer any quaver
in his voice, but a sort of rough good-humour.
"Wy, the 'arf o' them's as rotten as matchwood!" he said; and he
took a breath of relief, for he knew that gratitude was dead within
"Well, I wish mine at the home farm were half as good. Come, John!"
and, touching the mare with his heel, Mr. Pendyce turned; but before
he had gone a dozen paces he was back.
"Mrs. Peacock well, I hope? Mrs. Pendyce has gone up to London."
And touching his hat, without waiting for Peacock's answer, he rode
away. He took the lane past Peacock's farm across the home paddocks,
emerging on the cricket-ground, a field of his own which he had
caused to be converted.
The return match with Coldingham was going on, and, motionless on his
horse, the Squire stopped to watch. A tall figure in the "long
field" came leisurely towards him. It was the Hon. Geoffrey Winlow.
Mr. Pendyce subdued an impulse to turn the mare and ride away.
"We're going to give you a licking, Squire! How's Mrs. Pendyce? My
wife sent her love."
On the Squire's face in the full sun was more than the sun's flush.
"Thanks," he said, "she's very well. She's gone up to London."
"And aren't you going up yourself this season?"
The Squire crossed those leisurely eyes with his own.
"I don't think so," he said slowly.
The Hon. Geoffrey returned to his duties.
"We got poor old Barter for a 'blob'!" he said over his shoulder.
The Squire became aware that Mr. Barter was approaching from behind.
"You see that left-hand fellow?" he said, pouting. "Just watch his
foot. D'you mean to say that wasn't a no-ball? He bowled me with a
no-ball. He's a rank no-batter. That fellow Locke's no more an
He stopped and looked earnestly at the bowler.
The Squire 'did not answer, sitting on his mare as though carved in
stone. Suddenly his throat clicked.
"How's your wife?" he said. "Margery would have come to see her,
but--but she's gone up to London."
The Rector did not turn his head.
"My wife? Oh, going on first-rate. There's another! I say, Winlow,
this is too bad!"
The Hon. Geoffrey's pleasant voice was heard:
"Please not to speak to the man at the wheel!"
The Squire turned the mare and rode away; and the spaniel John, who
had been watching from a measured distance, followed after, his
tongue lolling from his mouth.
The Squire turned through a gate down the main aisle of the home
covert, and the nose and the tail of the spaniel John, who scented
creatures to the left and right, were in perpetual motion. It was
cool in there. The June foliage made one long colonnade, broken by a
winding river of sky. Among the oaks and hazels; the beeches and the
elms, the ghostly body of a birch-tree shone here and there, captured
by those grosser trees which seemed to cluster round her, proud of
their prisoner, loth to let her go, that subtle spirit of their wood.
They knew that, were she gone, their forest lady, wilder and yet
gentler than themselves--they would lose credit, lose the grace and
essence of their corporate being.
The Squire dismounted, tethered his horse, and sat under one of those
birch-trees, on the fallen body of an elm. The spaniel John also sat
and loved him with his eyes. And sitting there they thought their
thoughts, but their thoughts were different.
For under this birch-tree Horace Pendyce had stood and kissed his
wife the very day he brought her home to Worsted Skeynes, and though
he did not see the parallel between her and the birch-tree that some
poor imaginative creature might have drawn, yet was he thinking of
that long past afternoon. But the spaniel John was not thinking of
it; his recollection was too dim, for he had been at that time
twenty-eight years short of being born.
Mr. Pendyce sat there long with his horse and with his dog, and from
out the blackness of the spaniel John, who was more than less asleep,
there shone at times an eye turned on his master like some devoted
star. The sun, shining too, gilded the stem of the birch-tree. The
birds and beasts began their evening stir all through the
undergrowth, and rabbits, popping out into the ride, looked with
surprise at the spaniel John, and popped in back again. They knew
that men with horses had no guns, but could not bring themselves to
trust that black and hairy thing whose nose so twitched whenever they
appeared. The gnats came out to dance, and at their dancing, every
sound and scent and shape became the sounds and scents and shapes of
evening; and there was evening in the Squire's heart.
Slowly and stiffly he got up from the log and mounted to ride home.
It would be just as lonely when he got there, but a house is better
than a wood, where the gnats dance, the birds and creatures stir and
stir, and shadows lengthen; where the sun steals upwards on the tree-
stems, and all is careless of its owner, Man.
It was past seven o'clock when he went to his study. There was a
lady standing at the window, and Mr. Pendyce said:
"I beg your pardon?"
The lady turned; it was his wife. The Squire stopped with a hoarse
sound, and stood silent, covering his eyes with his hand.
CHAPTER VIII. ACUTE ATTACK OF 'PENDYCITIS'
Mrs. Pendyce felt very faint when she hurried away from Chelsea. She
had passed through hours of great emotion, and eaten nothing.
Like sunset clouds or the colours in mother-o'-pearl, so, it is
written, shall be the moods of men--interwoven as the threads of an
embroidery, less certain than an April day, yet with a rhythm of
their own that never fails, and no one can quite scan.
A single cup of tea on her way home, and her spirit revived. It
seemed suddenly as if there had been a great ado about nothing! As
if someone had known how stupid men could be, and been playing a
fantasia on that stupidity. But this gaiety of spirit soon died
away, confronted by the problem of what she should do next.
She reached her hotel without making a decision. She sat down in the
reading-room to write to Gregory, and while she sat there with her
pen in her hand a dreadful temptation came over her to say bitter
things to him, because by not seeing people as they were he had
brought all this upon them. But she had so little practice in saying
bitter things that she could not think of any that were nice enough,
and in the end she was obliged to leave them out. After finishing
and sending off the note she felt better. And it came to her
suddenly that, if she packed at once, there was just time to catch
the 5.55 to Worsted Skeynes.
As in leaving her home, so in returning, she followed her instinct,
and her instinct told her to avoid unnecessary fuss and suffering.
The decrepit station fly, mouldy and smelling of stables, bore her
almost lovingly towards the Hall. Its old driver, clean-faced,
cheery, somewhat like a bird, drove her almost furiously, for, though
he knew nothing, he felt that two whole days and half a day were
quite long enough for her to be away. At the lodge gate old Roy, the
Skye, was seated on his haunches, and the sight of him set Mrs.
Pendyce trembling as though till then she had not realised that she
was coming home.
Home! The long narrow lane without a turning, the mists and
stillness, the driving rain and hot bright afternoons; the scents of
wood smoke and hay and the scent of her flowers; the Squire's voice,
the dry rattle of grass-cutters, the barking of dogs, and distant hum
of threshing; and Sunday sounds--church bells and rooks, and Mr.
Barter's preaching; the tastes, too, of the very dishes! And all
these scents and sounds and tastes, and the feel of the air to her
cheeks, seemed to have been for ever in the past, and to be going on
for ever in the time to come.
She turned red and white by turns, and felt neither joy nor sadness,
for in a wave the old life came over her. She went at once to the
study to wait for her husband to come in. At the hoarse sound he
made, her heart beat fast, while old Roy and the spaniel John growled
gently at each other.
"John," she murmured, "aren't you glad to see me, dear?"
The spaniel John, without moving, beat his tail against his master's
The Squire raised his head at last.
"Well, Margery?" was all he said.
It shot through her mind that he looked older, and very tired!
The dinner-gong began to sound, and as though attracted by its long
monotonous beating, a swallow flew in at one of the narrow windows
and fluttered round the room. Mrs. Pendyce's eyes followed its
The Squire stepped forward suddenly and took her hand.
"Don't run away from me again, Margery!" he said; and stooping down,
he kissed it.
At this action, so unlike her husband, Mrs. Pendyce blushed like a
girl. Her eyes above his grey and close-cropped head seemed grateful
that he did not reproach her, glad of that caress.
"I have some news to tell you, Horace. Helen Bellew has given George
The Squire dropped her hand.
"And quite time too," he said. "I dare say George has refused to
take his dismissal. He's as obstinate as a mule."
"I found him in a dreadful state."
Mr. Pendyce asked uneasily:
"What? What's that?"
"He looked so desperate."
"Desperate?" said the Squire, with a sort of startled anger.
Mrs. Pendyce went on:
"It was dreadful to see his face. I was with him this afternoon-"
The Squire said suddenly:
"He's not ill, is he?"
"No, not ill. Oh, Horace, don't you understand? I was afraid he
might do something rash. He was so--miserable."
The Squire began to walk up and down.
"Is he is he safe now?" he burst out.
Mrs. Pendyce sat down rather suddenly in the nearest chair.
"Yes," she said with difficulty, "I--I think so."
"Think! What's the good of that? What---- Are you feeling faint,
Mrs. Pendyce, who had closed her eyes, said:
"No dear, it's all right."
Mr. Pendyce came close, and since air and quiet were essential to her
at that moment, he bent over and tried by every means in his power to
rouse her; and she, who longed to be let alone, sympathised with him,
for she knew that it was natural that he should do this. In spite of
his efforts the feeling of faintness passed, and, taking his hand,
she stroked it gratefully.
"What is to be done now, Horace?"
"Done!" cried the Squire. "Good God! how should I know? Here you
are in this state, all because of that d---d fellow Bellew and his
d---d wife! What you want is some dinner."
So saying, he put his arm around her, and half leading, half
carrying, took her to her room.
They did not talk much at dinner, and of indifferent things, of Mrs.
Barter, Peacock, the roses, and Beldame's hock. Only once they came
too near to that which instinct told them to avoid, for the Squire
"I suppose you saw that woman?"
And Mrs. Pendyce murmured:
She soon went to her room, and had barely got into bed when he
appeared, saying as though ashamed:
"I'm very early."
She lay awake, and every now and then the Squire would ask her, "Are
you asleep, Margery?" hoping that she might have dropped off, for he
himself could not sleep. And she knew that he meant to be nice to
her, and she knew, too, that as he lay awake, turning from side to
side, he was thinking like herself: 'What's to be done next?' And
that his fancy, too, was haunted by a ghost, high-shouldered, with
little burning eyes, red hair, and white freckled face. For, save
that George was miserable, nothing was altered, and the cloud of
vengeance still hung over Worsted Skeynes. Like some weary lesson
she rehearsed her thoughts: 'Now Horace can answer that letter of
Captain Bellow's, can tell him that George will not--indeed, cannot--
see her again. He must answer it. But will he?'
She groped after the secret springs of her husband's character,
turning and turning and trying to understand, that she might know the
best way of approaching him. And she could not feel sure, for behind
all the little outside points of his nature, that she thought so
"funny," yet could comprehend, there was something which seemed to
her as unknown, as impenetrable as the dark, a sort of thickness of
soul, a sort of hardness, a sort of barbaric-what? And as when in
working at her embroidery the point of her needle would often come to
a stop against stiff buckram, so now was the point of her soul
brought to a stop against the soul of her husband. 'Perhaps,' she
thought, 'Horace feels like that with me.' She need not so have
thought, for the Squire never worked embroideries, nor did the needle
of his soul make voyages of discovery.
By lunch-time the next day she had not dared to say a word. 'If I
say nothing,' she thought, 'he may write it of his own accord.'
Without attracting his attention, therefore, she watched every
movement of his morning. She saw him sitting at his bureau with a
creased and crumpled letter, and knew it was Bellew's; and she
hovered about, coming softly in and out, doing little things here and
there and in the hall, outside. But the Squire gave no sign,
motionless as the spaniel John couched along the ground with his nose
between his paws.
After lunch she could bear it no longer.
"What do you think ought to be done now, Horace?"
The Squire looked at her fixedly.
"If you imagine," he said at last, "that I'll have anything to do
with that fellow Bellew, you're very much mistaken."
Mrs. Pendyce was arranging a vase of flowers, and her hand shook so
that some of the water was spilled over the cloth. She took out her
handkerchief and dabbed it up.
"You never answered his letter, dear," she said.
The Squire put his back against the sideboard; his stiff figure, with
lean neck and angry eyes, whose pupils were mere pin-points, had a
"Nothing shall induce me!" he said, and his voice was harsh and
strong, as though he spoke for something bigger than himself. "I've
thought it over all the morning, and I'm d---d if I do! The man is a
ruffian. I won't knuckle under to him!"
Mrs. Pendyce clasped her hands.
"Oh, Horace," she said; "but for the sake of us all! Only just give
him that assurance."
"And let him crow over me!" cried the Squire. "By Jove, no!"
"But, Horace, I thought that was what you wanted George to do. You
wrote to him and asked him to promise."
The Squire answered:
"You know nothing about it, Margery; you know nothing about me.
D'you think I'm going to tell him that his wife has thrown my son
over--let him keep me gasping like a fish all this time, and then get
the best of it in the end? Not if I have to leave the county--not if
But, as though he had imagined the most bitter fate of all, he
Mrs. Pendyce, putting her hands on the lapels of his coat, stood with
her head bent. The colour had gushed into her cheeks, her eyes were
bright with tears. And there came from her in her emotion a warmth
and fragrance, a charm, as though she were again young, like the
portrait under which they stood.
"Not if I ask you, Horace?"
The Squire's face was suffused with dusky colour; he clenched his
hands and seemed to sway and hesitate.
"No, Margery," he said hoarsely; "it's--it's--I can't!"
And, breaking away from her, he left the room.
Mrs. Pendyce looked after him; her fingers, from which he had torn
his coat, began twining the one with the other.
CHAPTER IX. BELLEW BOWS TO A LADY
There was silence at the Firs, and in that silent house, where only
five rooms were used, an old manservant sat in his pantry on a wooden
chair, reading from an article out of Rural Life. There was no one
to disturb him, for the master was asleep, and the housekeeper had
not yet come to cook the dinner. He read slowly, through spectacles,
engraving the words for ever on the tablets of his mind. He read
about the construction and habits of the owl: "In the tawny, or
brown, owl there is a manubrial process; the furcula, far from being
joined to the keel of the sternum, consists of two stylets, which do
not even meet; while the posterior margin of the sternum presents two
pairs of projections, with corresponding fissures between." The old
manservant paused, resting his blinking eyes on the pale sunlight
through the bars of his narrow window, so that a little bird on the
window-sill looked at him and instantly flew away.
The old manservant read on again: "The pterylological characters of
Photodilus seem not to have been investigated, but it has been found
to want the tarsal loop, as well as the manubrial process, while its
clavicles are not joined in a furcula, nor do they meet the keel, and
the posterior margin of the sternum has processes and fissures like
the tawny section." Again he paused, and his gaze was satisfied and
Up in the little smoking-room in a leather chair his master sat
asleep. In front of him were stretched his legs in dusty riding-
boots. His lips were closed, but through a little hole at one corner
came a tiny puffing sound. On the floor by his side was an empty
glass, between his feet a Spanish bulldog. On a shelf above his head
reposed some frayed and yellow novels with sporting titles, written
by persons in their inattentive moments. Over the chimneypiece
presided the portrait of Mr. Jorrocks persuading his horse to cross a
And the face of Jaspar Bellew asleep was the face of a man who has
ridden far, to get away from himself, and to-morrow will have to ride
far again. His sandy eyebrows twitched with his dreams against the
dead-white, freckled skin above high cheekbones, and two hard ridges
were fixed between his brows; now and then over the sleeping face
came the look of one riding at a gate.
In the stables behind the house she who had carried him on his ride,
having rummaged out her last grains of corn, lifted her nose and
poked it through the bars of her loosebox to see what he was doing
who had not carried her master that sweltering afternoon, and seeing
that he was awake, she snorted lightly, to tell him there was thunder
in the air. All else in the stables was deadly quiet; the
shrubberies around were still; and in the hushed house the master
But on the edge of his wooden chair in the silence of his pantry the
old manservant read, "This bird is a voracious feeder," and he
paused, blinking his eyes and nervously puckering his lips, for he
had partially understood....
Mrs. Pendyce was crossing the fields. She had on her prettiest
frock, of smoky-grey crepe, and she looked a little anxiously at the
sky. Gathered in the west a coming storm was chasing the whitened
sunlight. Against its purple the trees stood blackish-green.
Everything was very still, not even the poplars stirred, yet the
purple grew with sinister, unmoving speed. Mrs. Pendyce hurried,
grasping her skirts in both her hands, and she noticed that the
cattle were all grouped under the hedge.
'What dreadful-looking clouds!' she thought. 'I wonder if I shall
get to the Firs before it comes?' But though her frock made her
hasten, her heart made her stand still, it fluttered so, and was so
full. Suppose he were not sober! She remembered those little
burning eyes, which had frightened her so the night he dined at
Worsted Skeynes and fell out of his dogcart afterwards. A kind of
legendary malevolence clung about his image.
'Suppose he is horrid to me!' she thought.
She could not go back now; but she wished--how she wished!--that it
were over. A heat-drop splashed her glove. She crossed the lane and
opened the Firs gate. Throwing frightened glances at the sky, she
hastened down the drive. The purple was couched like a pall on the
treetops, and these had begun to sway and moan as though struggling
and weeping at their fate. Some splashes of warm rain were falling.
A streak of lightning tore the firmament. Mrs. Pendyce rushed into
the porch covering her ears with her hands.
'How long will it last?' she thought. 'I'm so frightened!'...
A very old manservant, whose face was all puckers, opened the door
suddenly to peer out at the storm, but seeing Mrs. Pendyce, he peered
at her instead.
"Is Captain Bellew at home?"
"Yes, ma'am. The Captain's in the study. We don't use the drawing-
room now. Nasty storm coming on, ma'am--nasty storm. Will you
please to sit down a minute, while I let the Captain know?"
The hall was low and dark; the whole house was low and dark, and
smelled a little of woodrot. Mrs. Pendyce did not sit down, but
stood under an arrangement of three foxes' heads, supporting two
hunting-crops, with their lashes hanging down. And the heads of
those animals suggested to her the thought: 'Poor man! He must be
very lonely here.'
She started. Something was rubbing against her knees: it was only an
enormous bulldog. She stooped down to pat it, and having once begun,
found it impossible to leave off, for when she took her hand away the
creature pressed against her, and she was afraid for her frock.
"Poor old boy--poor old boy!" she kept on murmuring. "Did he want a
A voice behind her said:
"Get out, Sam! Sorry to have kept you waiting. Won't you come in
Mrs. Pendyce, blushing and turning pale by turns, passed into a low,
small, panelled room, smelling of cigars and spirits. Through the
window, which was cut up into little panes, she could see the rain
driving past, the shrubs bent and dripping from the downpour.
"Won't you sit down?"
Mrs. Pendyce sat down. She had clasped her hands together; she now
raised her eyes and looked timidly at her host.
She saw a thin, high-shouldered figure, with bowed legs a little
apart, rumpled sandy hair, a pale, freckled face, and little dark
"Sorry the room's in such a mess. Don't often have the pleasure of
seeing a lady. I was asleep; generally am at this time of year!"
The bristly red moustache was contorted as though his lips were
Mrs. Pendyce murmured vaguely.
It seemed to her that nothing of this was real, but all some horrid
dream. A clap of thunder made her cover her ears.
Bellew walked to the window, glanced at the sky, and came back to the
hearth. His little burning eyes seemed to look her through and
through. 'If I don't speak at once,' she thought, 'I never shall
speak at all.'
"I've come," she began, and with those words she lost her fright; her
voice, that had been so uncertain hitherto, regained its trick of
speech; her eyes, all pupil, stared dark and gentle at this man who
had them all in his power--"I've come to tell you something, Captain
The figure by the hearth bowed, and her fright, like some evil bird,
came guttering down on her again. It was dreadful, it was barbarous
that she, that anyone, should have to speak of such things; it was
barbarous that men and women should so misunderstand each other, and
have so little sympathy and consideration; it was barbarous that she,
Margery Pendyce, should have to talk on this subject that must give
them both such pain. It was all so mean and gross and common! She
took out her handkerchief and passed it over her lips.
"Please forgive me for speaking. Your wife has given my son up,
Bellew did not move.
"She does not love him; she told me so herself! He will never see
How hateful, how horrible, how odious!
And still Bellew did not speak, but stood devouring her with his
little eyes; and how long this went on she could not tell.
He turned his back suddenly, and leaned against the mantelpiece.
Mrs. Pendyce passed her hand over her brow to get rid of a feeling of
"That is all," she said.
Her voice sounded to herself unlike her own.
'If that is really all,' she thought, 'I suppose I must get up and
go!' And it flashed through her mind: 'My poor dress will be ruined!'
Bellew turned round.
"Will you have some tea?"
Mrs. Pendyce smiled a pale little smile.
"No, thank you; I don't think I could drink any tea."
"I wrote a letter to your husband."
"He didn't answer it."
Mrs. Pendyce saw him staring at her, and a desperate struggle began
within her. Should she not ask him to keep his promise, now that
George----? Was not that what she had come for? Ought she not--
ought she not for all their sakes?
Bellew went up to the table, poured out some whisky, and drank it
"You don't ask me to stop the proceedings," he said.
Mrs. Pendyce's lips were parted, but nothing came through those
parted lips. Her eyes, black as sloes in her white face, never moved
from his; she made no sound.
Bellew dashed his hand across his brow.
"Well, I will!" he said, "for your sake. There's my hand on it.
You're the only lady I know!"
He gripped her gloved fingers, brushed past her, and she saw that she
She found her own way out, with the tears running down her face.
Very gently she shut the hall door.
'My poor dress!' she thought. 'I wonder if I might stand here a
little? The rain looks nearly over!'
The purple cloud had passed, and sunk behind the house, and a bright
white sky was pouring down a sparkling rain; a patch of deep blue
showed behind the fir-trees in the drive. The thrushes were out
already after worms. A squirrel scampering along a branch stopped
and looked at Mrs. Pendyce, and Mrs. Pendyce looked absently at the
squirrel from behind the little handkerchief with which she was
drying her eyes.
'That poor man!' she thought 'poor solitary creature! There's the
And it seemed to her that it was the first time the sun had shone all
this fine hot year. Gathering her dress in both hands, she stepped
into the drive, and soon was back again in the fields.
Every green thing glittered, and the air was so rain-sweet that all
the summer scents were gone, before the crystal scent of nothing.
Mrs. Pendyce's shoes were soon wet through.
'How happy I am!' she thought 'how glad and happy I am!'
And the feeling, which was not as definite as this, possessed her to
the exclusion of all other feelings in the rain-soaked fields.
The cloud that had hung over Worsted Skeynes so long had spent itself
and gone. Every sound seemed to be music, every moving thing danced.
She longed to get to her early roses, and see how the rain had
treated them. She had a stile to cross, and when she was safely over
she paused a minute to gather her skirts more firmly. It was a home-
field she was in now, and right before her lay the country house.
Long and low and white it stood in the glamourous evening haze, with
two bright panes, where the sunlight fell, watching, like eyes, the
confines of its acres; and behind it, to the left, broad, square, and
grey among its elms, the village church. Around, above, beyond, was
peace--the sleepy, misty peace of the English afternoon.
Mrs. Pendyce walked towards her garden. When she was near it, away
to the right, she saw the Squire and Mr. Barter. They were standing
together looking at a tree and--symbol of a subservient under-world--
the spaniel John was seated on his tail, and he, too, was looking at
the tree. The faces of the Rector and Mr. Pendyce were turned up at
the same angle, and different as those faces and figures were in
their eternal rivalry of type, a sort of essential likeness struck
her with a feeling of surprise. It was as though a single spirit
seeking for a body had met with these two shapes, and becoming
confused, decided to inhabit both.
Mrs. Pendyce did not wave to them, but passed quickly, between the
yew-trees, through the wicket-gate....
In her garden bright drops were falling one by one from every rose-
leaf, and in the petals of each rose were jewels of water. A little
down the path a weed caught her eye; she looked closer, and saw that
there were several.
'Oh,' she thought, 'how dreadfully they've let the weeds I must
really speak to Jackman!'
A rose-tree, that she herself had planted, rustled close by, letting
fall a shower of drops.
Mrs. Pendyce bent down, and took a white rose in her fingers. With
her smiling lips she kissed its face.