by E. F. Benson
E. F. BENSON
Thomas Nelson and Sons London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Leeds, and New
York Leipzig: 35-37 Konigstrasse. Paris: 61 Rue des Saints Peres.
First Published May 1910.
Daisy Hanbury poked her parasol between the bars of the cage, with
the amiable intention of scratching the tiger's back. The tiger could
not be expected to know this all by himself, and so he savagely bit the
end of it off, with diabolical snarlings. Daisy turned to her cousin
with a glow of sympathetic pleasure.
What a darling! she said. He didn't understand, you see, and was
perfectly furious. And it cost pounds and pounds, and I've spent all my
allowance, and so I can't buy another, and my complexion will go to the
dogs. Let's go there, too; the dingoes are absolutely fascinating.
We'll come back to see these angels fed.
Daisy, you have got the most admirable temper, she said. I should
have called that brute any names except 'darling' and 'angel.'
I know you would, because you don't understand either it or me. I
understand both perfectly. You see, you don't love fierce wild
thingsthings that are wicked and angry, and, above all, natural. I
don't mind good, sweet, gentle things, likeoh, like almost everybody,
if only they are sweet and good naturally. But generally they are not.
Their sweetness is the result of education or morality, or something
tedious, not the result of their natures, of themselves. Oh, I know all
about it! Gladys, this parasol is beyond hope. Let's conceal it in the
bushes like a corpse.
Daisy looked round with a wild and suspicious eye.
There's a policeman, she said. I'm sure he'll think that I have
murdered my own parasol. Oh, kind Mr. Policemanthere, that softened
him, and he's looking the other way.
Gladys gave a little shriek of dismay as Daisy thrust her parasol
into a laurustinus.
Oh! but the handle, and the ribs! she cried. It only wanted a new
point, andand to be recovered. Daisy, I never saw such extravagance.
You mustn't leave it. I'll have it done up for you.
That's angelic of you, said Daisy; but will you carry it for me
in the meantime? It's that that matters. I couldn't be seen going about
even at the Zoo with a parasol in that condition. I should have to
explain to everybody exactly how it happened, which would take time.
But of course I'll carry it for you, said Gladys.
Daisy considered this noble offer.
It's quite too wonderful of you, she said, but I don't think I
could be seen with you if you were carrying it. No; come to the dogs.
Oh, Gladys, you are sweet and good and gentle quite, quite naturally,
and I adore you.
The dingoes were rewarding, and Daisy instantly curried favour with
their keeper, and learnt about their entrancing habits; afterwards the
two went back to see the lions fed before leaving. The tiger which had
ruined her parasol proved to have the most excellent appetite, which
much relieved Daisy's mind, as she feared that the point, which he
seemed to have completely eaten, might have spoilt his dinner. She
hurried breathlessly down the line as the huge chops of raw meat were
passed in and snatched up by the animals, absorbed and radiant. Gladys,
as always, followed where the other led, but was conscious of qualms.
These she concealed as best she could.
Oh, I want to say grace for them all, said Daisy at the end. I
do hope they are pleased with their dinners. Are the keepers fair,
do you think? There was a dreadful amount of bone in my parasol-tiger's
dinner, if you understand. Gladys, I don't believe you loved it. How
stupid of you! You don't quite understand; you don't know how nice it
is to be greedy instead of gentle. Do try. Oh, no, let's go out by this
But we shall have to walk miles before we get a cab, said Gladys.
I know; that's why. It will make us late for Aunt Alice's
tea-party. I hate tea-parties.
But mother asked me to be back by five, said Gladys.
Did she? Did she really? asked Daisy.
Indeed she did.
Oh, well, then of course we'll drive back, though I did want to
walk. But it can't possibly be helped. We must drive. It is such a pity
not to do as you are asked. I always do, except when Willie asks me to
They got into their hansom and bowled silently down the dry grey
road. All June was in flower in the pink pyramids of the
chestnut-trees, and was already beginning to bleach the colour out of
the long coarse grass in the open spaces of the Park. There swarms of
girls and boys rioted ecstatically; here the more lucky, in possession
of a battered bat and a ball begrimed with much honourable usage, had
set up three crooked sticks to serve as wickets, and played with an
enthusiasm that the conditions of the game might justly have rendered
difficult of achievement. The one thing certain about the ball was that
it would not come off the baked, uneven ground at the angle at which it
might be expected. It might shoot, or on pitching might tower like a
partridge, and any ball pitched off the wicket might easily take it;
the only thing quite certain was that a straight ball (unless a full
pitch) would not. Above, the thick dusky blue of a fine summer day in
London formed a cloudless dome, where the sun still swung high on its
westering course. In front of the distances that dusky pall was
visible, and the houses at the edge of the Park were blurred in outline
and made beautiful by the inimitable dinginess of the city.
But Gladys had no eye for all this; she was burning to know what was
the latest development in the Willie affair, but her whole-hearted
affection for her cousin was a little touched by timidity, and she did
not quite like to question her. For Daisy, in spite of her charm, was a
little formidable at times; at times she would have moods of entrancing
tenderness; she could comfort or appeal, just as she could take the
most sympathetic pleasure in the fact that a fierce tiger was annoyed
at her amiable intentions, and had spoilt her best parasol. But at
other times there was something of the tiger in herthat, no doubt,
was why she understood this one so wellwhich made Gladys a little shy
of her. She had often, so to speak, bitten off the end of her cousin's
parasol before now, and Gladys did not appreciate that as much as Daisy
had just done. So in silence she looked a little sideways at that
brilliant, vivid face, flushed with the swift blood of its twenty-two
years, that looked so eagerly from its dark grey eyes on to the
activity of the playing children. But silences were generally short
when Daisy was present, and she proceeded to unfold herself with
rapidity and all the naturalness of which she deplored the lack in the
gentle, good people.
Oh! how they are enjoying themselves, she said, with really no
material at all. Gladys, think what a lot of material a person like me
wants to make her enjoy herself! It really is shocking. My gracious,
what an ugly child that is! Don't look at it; you never should look at
ugly thingsit's bad for the soul. Yes, I want such a lot to make me
happyall there is, in factand poor darling Willie hasn't got all
there is. He's the sort of man I should like to marry when I am
forty-three. Do you know what I mean? He would be quite charming if one
were forty-three. He's quite charming now, if it comes to that, and I'm
dreadfully fond of him, but he thinks about me too much; he's too
devoted. I hear his devotion going on tick, tick, all the time, like
the best clocks. That's one reason for not marrying him.
I don't think it's a good one, though, remarked Gladys.
Yes, it is. Because a man always expects from his wife what he
gives her. He would be absolutely happy living with me on a desert
island; butI know it's truehe would tacitly require that I should
be absolutely happy living with him on a desert island. Well, I
shouldn'tI shouldn'tI shouldn't. I should not! Is that clear?
Very well, then, why did you say it wasn't? Oh, yes, I know I am
right. And he would always see that I was well wrapped up, and wonder
whether I wasn't a little pale. I can't bear that sort of thing. No
doubt it's one way of love; but I must say I prefer another. I daresay
the love that is founded on esteem and respect and affection is a very
excellent thing, but it's one of those excellent things which I am
quite willing to let other people have and enjoy. It's likelike
Dresden china; I am sure it is quite beautiful, but I don't want any
myself. I wish you would marry Willie yourself, darling. Don't mind
They rattled out over the cobblestones of the gate into Baker
Street, and plunged into the roaring traffic. Daisy had still a great
deal to say, and she raised her voice to make it heard above the
intolerable clatter of motor 'buses and the clip-clop of horses' hoofs.
Besides, as I said, I want such a lot of things. I'm hard and
worldly and disgusting; but so it is. I want to be right at the top of
the tree, and if I married Willie I should just be Mrs. Carton, with
that decaying old place in Somerset; very nice and intensely
respectable, but that's all. It's quite a good thing to be nice and
respectable, but it's rather a vegetable thing to be, if you are
nothing else. I must be an animal at least, and that's why I'm playing
Gladys lookedas was indeed the caseas if she did not quite
understand this surprising statement.
I'm very slow, I know, she said, but
Yes, darling, you are, but you do know what I mean, though you
don't know you know it. I've often seen you wondering about it. Oh,
that motor 'bus is going to run into us! It isn't; how can you be so
nervous? It cleared us by at least a quarter of an inch. Yes, 'Animal
Grab.' Now 'yes' or 'no,' do you know what I mean, or don't you?
Gladys trembled under these direct assaults. But she thought yes
was more likely to be favourably received than no, and so allowed
herself to say yes.
But it proved to be a vain hope that Daisy would thereupon go on and
explain. That was so like Daisy; she never did what you hoped or
expected she might. Gladys on this occasion, with her pink, timorous
face and general air of discouragement, prayed that Daisy might not
trouble about her, but just go on talking. It is true that Daisy did
talk next, but, instead of expounding, she rapped out a question.
So you do know, she said. Then what is it?
Gladys shut her eyes for a moment to encourage bravery.
I suppose it means that you are thinking whether you will marry
Lord Lindfield or not, she said.
Daisy, however peremptory, was not a bully.
How did you guess that, dear? she asked.
It wasn't very difficult. It couldn't have been, you see, or I
shouldn't have guessed it. But he has beenwell, a good deal
interested in you, hasn't he, and you
Do you mean I've encouraged him? asked Daisy, with an
No, I mean just the opposite. You've rather snubbed him. Gladys
made a huge demand on her courage. But you've snubbed him in such a
way that it comes to the same thing as if you had encouraged him, she
Daisy considered this.
I think you've got a horrid mind, Gladys, she said at length. If
I encourage somebody you tell me I am flirting, and if I discourage him
you tell me it comes to the same thing. And you do me an injustice. I
haven't snubbed or discouraged him. I'veI've remained neutral, until
I could make up my mind. Do you think he cares for me? I really don't
know whether he does or not. I can always tell with the gentle, good
people like Willie, and it is gentle, good people whom I see most. Oh!
Daisy gave a great sigh, and leant out over the folded door of the
I'm not sure if I want to marry Lord Lindfield or not, she said,
but I'm perfectly certain that I don't want him to marry anybody else.
I think I should like him always to remain wanting to marry me, while I
didn't want to marry him. I'm dreadfully glad you think that I can snub
or encourage him, because that means that you think he cares. I should
be perfectly miserable if I thought he didn't.
I don't think you need be miserable, said Gladys.
I'm not. Oh, there's the Prime Minister; I shall bow. That was a
failure. He looked at me like a fish. How rude the Cabinet makes
people! The Cabinet always goes about with the British Empire
pick-a-back. At least, it thinks the British Empire is pick-a-back. The
Empire doesn't. About Lord Lindfield. He's turning grey over the
temples, and I think that is so frightfully attractive. Of course, he's
awfully old; he must be nearly forty. He's dining to-night, isn't he?
Then I shall arrange the table. Yes, you needn't look like that. I
shan't make him take me in. He's supposed to be wicked, too. Oh,
Gladys, it is so nice if men go playing about, and then fall in love
with me. It's worth heaps of the other kind. Oh, don't look shocked; it
is silly to look shocked, and so easy.
The hansom waited for a moment at the junction of Orchard Street and
Oxford Street, and the innumerable company of locomotives sped by it.
Motors shot by with a whirr and a bubbling, hansoms jingled westwards,
large slow vans made deliberate progress, delaying the traffic as some
half-built dam impedes the course of flowing water till it finds a way
round it, and through the streams of wheels and horses pedestrians
scuttled in and out like bolted rabbits. The whole tide of movement was
at its height, and the little islands in mid-street were crowded with
folk who were cut off, it would seem, by the rising flood-water from
all communication with the shore, with but remote chance of escape.
Then an omnipotent policeman stepped out into the surging traffic, held
up a compelling and resistless hand, and at his gesture the tides, more
obedient to him than to Canute, ceased to flow, and the cross-movement
began, which permitted Daisy and her cousin to cross the stream. But
whether it was that the stoppage in their passage made a corresponding
halt in her thoughts, or whether, as was more likely, she had said all
that she meant to say on the subject of Lord Lindfield, she began, just
as they started to move again, on something widely different.
And Aunt Jeannie comes to-morrow, she said, which is quite
delightful. For I do believe I've missed her every single day since she
went away a year ago. And if I do that, you may depend upon it that she
is very nice indeed. As a rule, I like people very much when they are
there, and I get along excellently without them when they are not.
Quitequite true, said Gladys, with a touch of acidity.
It's much the most sensible plan, continued Daisy, perceiving, but
completely ignoring, the tone. It does no good to miss people, and, as
I say, I seldom do it. But I always miss Aunt Jeannie. I should like to
see her every day of my life. It would be dreadful to see most people
every day, though I like them so much when I do see them. Oh, Gladys
darling, don't look as if you were in church! You can't take things
lightly, you know.
And you can't take them in any other way, remarked Gladys.
Oh, but I can; it is only that I don't usually choose to. It is a
great blessing I don't take every one seriously. If I took Willie
seriously, I should find him a great bore; as it is, I think he is
quite charming, and I should certainly marry him if I were fifty.
It was forty-three just now, said Gladys.
Yes; but being with you has made me grow older very quickly, said
Gladys laughed; with Daisy it was very true that c'est le ton qui
fait la musique, and the same words which in another tone could have
wounded her, now merely amused. It had taken her a long time to get
used, so to speak, to this brilliant, vivid friend, who turned such an
engaging smile on the world in general, and shone with supreme
impartiality on the wicked and the good, and to know her, as she knew
her now, with greater thoroughness than she knew herself. Ethically, if
Gladys had been put to the question on her oath, she would have had to
give the most unsatisfactory account of her friend, and, to sum up all
questions in one, it would have come to thisthat she believed Daisy
to be quite heartless. But, humanly, there was in Daisy much to take
the place of that profound organ. She had the joy of life and the
interest in life to a supreme degree, and though she resolutely turned
her back on anything disagreeable or ugly, her peremptory dismissal of
such things was more than made up for by her unbounded welcome of all
that pleased her. You had only to please her (and she was very ready to
be pleased), and she poured sunlight on you. And Gladys, who was
naturally rather shy, rather slow to make friends, rather reticent,
soon grasped this essential fact about Daisy, and having grasped it,
held tightly to it. She felt she would not readily go to Daisy if she
was in trouble, but there was no one to whom she would hurry with such
certainty of welcome if she was happy. And though, no doubt, sympathy,
to be complete, must feel for sorrow as keenly as it feels for joy, yet
a nature that feels keenly for joy and turns its back on sorrow is
perhaps quite as fine a one as that which, though it may be an
excellent comforter, is rather of the nature of a wet blanket when a
happy soul appeals to it for sympathy. And on joy, whether her own or
that of another, Daisy never turned her back. She delighted in the
happiness of others.
Daisy's father and mother had both died when she was quite young,
and not yet half-way through the momentous teens. For seven years after
that she had lived with her mother's sister, the inimitable Aunt
Jeannie, whom she wished to see every day. But though she had passed
seven years with her, she had barely seen her aunt's husband. It was
his death, a year ago, that had sent her to the Nottinghams, for Aunt
Jeannie in a crisis of nerves had been ordered abroad for a year, and
was now on the point of return, and, having returned, was to stay with
Lady Nottingham for the indefinite period which may be taken up by the
finding of a suitable house.
Daisy knew there had been trouble at the back of all this. Uncle
Francis, Aunt Jeannie's husband, had been called an invalid, and she
gathered that his ill-health was something not to be openly alluded to.
Morphia was connected with it, a habit was connected with it, and
since this was somehow disagreeable, she had long ago so successfully
banished it from her thoughts that her curiosity about it was a thing
without existence. Certainly he made Aunt Jeannie very unhappy, but
Aunt Jeannie, who was such a dear, and so young stillnot more than
thirty, for she was the youngest of a family of whom Daisy's mother was
the eldesthad been always sedulous to hide disquietude from her
niece. And it was entirely characteristic of Daisy to be grateful for
having it all hid from her, and not even in thought to conjecture what
it was all about. During this year of separation from Aunt Jeannie, in
which, as she had said (and Daisy, with all her faults and limitations,
was a George Washington for truth), she had missed her every day, she
had always looked forward to her return, and, though she liked being
with Lady Nottingham very much, knew that she would ultimately go back
to the unrivalled other aunt again with the intensest satisfaction.
But of late the prospect of going back, or living with any aunt at
all, had receded into at least a middle distance. There was no doubt in
her own mind (though she liked the absence of doubt to be endorsed by
her cousin) that Lord Lindfield had been extremely attentive to her for
the last month or so. He had committed dreadful social crimes, such as
throwing over an engagement already made and nearly due, when he found
that she would be at some house to which he was subsequently invited.
And somehow (that was the charm of him, or part or it), though he upset
dinner-tables right and left, nobody really minded. Match-making
London, which includes the larger part of that marriageable city, even
when they were personally affronted and inconvenienced, smiled
sympathetically when they heard what his movements on the night he
ought to have dined with them had been. He did even worse than that; he
had once, indeed, omitted to send the excuse of a subsequent
engagement, and everybody had waited a quarter of an hour for him to
put in a belated appearance. And when he did not his hostess had
remarked that he must be picking daisies, and the procession had gone
dinner-wards with a widowed girl.
It turned out to be true, did this conjecture of the hostess. He had
dined quietly that night at Lady Nottingham's, and had played old
maid afterwards, as bridge was universally voted to be far too
intellectual. And Daisy took huge pleasure in such facts as these,
stealthily conveyed to her by one if not more of her innumerable girl
friends. For though there was no doubt that many dutiful mothers would
have liked their daughters to marry Lord Lindfield, yet when he
declared himself by signs as unmistakable as this, they neither felt
nor communicated any ill-humour.
He was picking daisies; very well, the sooner he plucked the
particular one the better. Daisy was so pleasant; no wonder, after all,
that he wished for her. And she too, quite soon, would join the ranks
of the match-makers, and be immensely kind to everybody else. Yet if
only Katie or Elsie or NellieBut it was no use thinking about that.
Daisy, once settled, would certainly do her best for those to whom
fortune must pay a subsequent visit.
Lady Nottingham purred approval over the girls on their punctual
return, before any of her guests had arrived. She was rather stout and
very comfortable. Behind her stoutness and her comfort there beat a
heart of gold, and an extremely acute brain, which was not always
allowed for, was alert and watchful. A heart of gold is considered as
not incompatible with comfort and stoutness, but nobody who had not
come to grips with her, or been her ally in some affair that called for
diplomacy or tact, knew how excessively efficient her brain was. She
had, too, the supreme gift of only sending into action as much of it as
was required to do the work, and never made elaborate plans when
something simple would do as well.
All this combined to make not only a character that was lovable, but
a friend whose wisdom might be depended on, and Daisy was eminently
right in valuing her aunt's counsel and advice. She sought it, indeed,
this evening, in the quiet half-hour that intervened between the
departure of the tea-party guests and the time when it was necessary to
dress for dinner.
Lady Nottingham was resting in her room when Daisy went to her,
ostensibly (and quite truly) to get the list of those who were coming
to dinner that night in order to arrange the table. But though she
would have gone there in any case for that reason, another and far more
essential one lay behind it. She wanted, indeed, to get her aunt's
opinion on the point she had herself talked to Gladys about that
afternoon, and sound her as to her opinion about Lord Lindfield.
The sorting of people to see who would take whom in to dinner, with
abstracted frownings over the map of the table, seemed to Daisy an
admirable accompaniment for disjointed questions, and one which would
give her an adventitious advantage, since at any moment she could be
absorbed in the task she was so kindly occupying herself with, and be
silent over it, if a reply was in any way inconvenient.
This sort of diplomacy, though not exactly habitual with Daisy,
seemed to her sufficiently acute and blinding, and she sat on the floor
with a peerage, the list of the guests, a sheet of paper and a pencil,
and began at once, while Lady Nottingham rested on the sofa against
which Daisy leant her back.
Oh, what nice people! said Daisy. Can't they all take me in?
Willie Carton, Jimmie, Lord Lindfield, Mr. Braithwaite, and Lord
Pately. Dear Willie! I suppose he ought to take me in. Do you mind
whether you sit at the end of the table or in the middle of the middle,
Aunt Alice? Middle of the middle always works out more easily. All
right. Dear Willie!
The diplomat, who is known to be a diplomat, is at once under a
heavy handicap. Daisy was instantly detected, and Lady Nottingham,
since there was no direct question to reply to, preserved silence.
Then, after a sufficient pause, she asked,
Have you settled about Willie, dear?
Ye-es. It will be better if he takes Gladys in.
Then he's settled for, said Lady Nottingham, turning over a page
in her book.
This did not suit Daisy; she had meant to make Aunt Alice ask
leading questions, instead of which she only gave the most prosaic
answers. She sighed.
Poor Willie! she said.
Aunt Alice laughed quietly and comfortably.
Dearest Daisy, she said, as you want to tell me about Willie, why
don't you do so? I suppose you want me to ask instead. Very well, it
makes no difference. I imagine he has proposed again to you, and that
you have refused him, and want to be quite sure I think you are wise
about it. You see, you said, 'Dear Willie' first, and 'Poor Willie'
afterwards. What other inference could a reasonable woman like me draw?
If you hadn't wanted to talk about it, you would have said neither the
one nor the other. Hadn't you better begin?
I think you are a witch, she said. Oh, one moment; the table is
coming right. Yes, and me at the end.
And Lord Lindfield on your left, said Lady Nottingham, without
That was the end of Daisy's diplomacy.
You would have been burnt at the stake two hundred years ago,
darling Aunt Alice, she said. I should have helped to pile the
What a good thing I wasn't born earlier, said she. Then for a
moment she thought intently; what she wanted to say next required
consideration. Daisy dear, she said, I wanted to talk to you also,
and if you had not been so very diplomatic I should have begun.
Oh, I wish I had waited, said Daisy.
Yes. But it makes no difference. What you want is my advice to you
as to whether you should accept Lord Lindfield. I quite agree with you
that he is going to propose to you. Otherwise he has been flirting with
you disgracefully, and I have never known him flirt with a girl
Lady Nottingham put her book quite completely down. She wanted to
convey certain things quite clearly but without grossness.
Now, Daisy, you are very young, she said, but in some ways you
are extremely grown-up. I mean, I think you know your own mind very
well. I wish very much that your Aunt Jeannie had come back sooner,
because she is about nine times as wise as I, and could have advised
you instead of me. As it is, since I think you may have to settle a
very important question any day, I have got to give you the best advice
I can. I think he will propose to you, as I said, any day; indeed, I
feel quite certain of it, else it would be abominable in me to talk to
you about it at all. Therefore, do make up your mind before he does.
Don't say, when he does, that you are not sure, that you must take time
to consider it. There is no reason why a girl should not say 'yes' or
'no' at once, unless the question comes as an entire surprise, which it
does not do except in second-rate novels like this one.
Lady Nottingham dropped the condemned volume on the floor.
In real life, she said, every girl sees long before a man
proposes whether he is likely to do so, and should know quite well what
she is going to say. And I think you intend to say 'yes.' You must,
however, be quite sure that, as far as you can tell, you are making a
Now, I am not going to shock you, but very likely I am going to
make you think you are shocked. You are not really. The fact is, you
are not in love with him, but he attracts you with an attraction that
is very often in the same relation to love as the bud is to the flower.
He has the sort of attraction for you that often contains the folded
immature petals of the full flower. You wanted to ask me some series of
questions which would lead up to that answer. And then you wanted to
ask me one further question, which was whether that was enough to say
'yes' on. And my answer to that is 'yes.'
The diplomacy in Daisy was quite completely dead. All this, so easy
to the mature woman, seemed a sort of conjuring-trick to her. It was
thought-reading of the most advanced kind, the reading of thoughts that
she had not consciously formulated. And the soothsayer proceeded:
You have seen the advantages of such a marriage clearly enough. You
are ambitious, my dear, you want to have a big position, to have big
houses and plenty of money, and to take no thought of any material
morrow. That is an advantage; it is only the stupid people, who call
their stupidity unworldly, who think otherwise. But the great point is
not to keep 'to-morrow' comfortable, but to keep an everlasting
'to-day.' You must be sure of that. Whatever the years bringand
Heaven knows what they will bringyou should feel now, when you
consider whether you will accept him or not, that they can bring no
difference to you. You must be unable to conceive of yourself at
seventy as different from yourself now with regard to him. What is that
music-hall song? 'We've been together now for forty years.' It
expresses exactly what a girl should feel forty years before.
And now for a thing more difficult to say. Lord Lindfield hashas
knocked about a good deal. Sooner or later you will know that, and it
is infinitely better that you should know it sooner, for it seems to me
almost criminal that girls should be left to find that sort of thing
out for themselves when it is too late. Mind, I do not say that he will
knock about again. The fact that he is quite certainly intending to
propose to you shows that he does not mean to. But he is not bringing a
boy's first love to a girl.
Lady Nottingham leant forward and stroked Daisy's head.
My dear, how brutal this must sound, she said. But I am the least
brutal of women. Assure yourself of that. And I have told you all there
is to tell, as far as I know, but I should have blamed myself if I had
told you less. And here is Hendon, and it is time for us to dress.
Daisy got up and kissed her aunt with a quick, trembling caress.
I think you are a perfect darling, she said.
The Dover boat, midday service, was on the point of starting from
the quay at Calais, and luggage was being swung on to it in square
trucks, the passengers having already embarked. The day before a
midsummer storm had vexed the soul of the silver streak, which had
turned to a grey pewter streak of a peculiarly streaky nature, with
white tops to the waves that slung themselves over the head of the
pier. Cabin-boys and stewards were making horrible dispositions of
tinware, and the head steward was on the verge of distraction, since
the whole world seemed to have chosen this particular day to return to
England, and the whole world, with an eye on the Channel, desired
private cabins, which were numerically less than the demand. At the
moment he was trying to keep calm before the infuriated questions of a
Frenchwoman who believed herself to be speaking English.
Mais que faire? she said. I have ordered, and where is it? It is
not, you tell me. I cannot be seeck with the canaille on the deck. I
wish reservée. If not, I shall not go, and charge the company.
Yes'm, said the steward. Cabin-ticket, ma'am? Cabin No. 9. Show
the lady to cabin No. 9.
Cabin No. 9 had heard these volubilities with sympathy, and a little
secret amusement impossible to avoid if one were ever so little
humorous, and lingered a moment while her maid went on to the cabin
followed by a porter carrying small luggage.
But I demand a cabin, continued this deeply-wronged lady. C'est
mon droit, si je la demande. Where is the capitan? Fetch him to me.
Bring him. Oh, mon Dieu, the deckto be seeck on the deck!
Mrs. Halton, who was No. 9, called to her maid, and then spoke to
But I will gladly let you have my cabin, she said. I do not mind
the sea. I shall be quite happy on deck. Indeed it is no kindness. Very
likely I should not have gone into my cabin at all.
The poor lady nearly wept with joy, and would willingly have paid
Mrs. Halton ten times the amount the private cabin had cost; but that
lady refused to make a start in trading at this time in her life, and
having secured a sheltered corner watched for a little the inboarding
of the passengers, but soon lost herself in her own reflections.
Ah, but how pleasant they were! She was coming home after a year
abroad which had begun in widowhood and loneliness and misery and
shattered health, and was now returning, restored and comforted, to her
friends and all that made life so engrossingly pleasant a business. No
one deserved friends more thoroughly than she, and she was rich in that
priceless capital of human affection. Sorrows and trials she had had in
plenty in her life, but these the sweetness of her nature had
transformed, so that from being things difficult to bear, she had built
up with them her own character. Sorrow had increased her own power of
sympathy; out of trials she had learnt patience; and failure and the
gradual sinking of one she had loved into the bottomless slough of evil
habit had but left her with an added dower of pity and tolerance.
So the past had no sting left, and if iron had ever entered into her
soul it now but served to make it strong. She was still young, too; it
was not near sunset with her yet, nor even midday, and the future that,
humanly speaking, she counted to be hers was almost dazzling in its
brightness. For love had dawned for her again, and no uncertain love,
wrapped in the mists of memory, but one that had ripened through liking
and friendship and intimacy into the authentic glory. He was in
England, too; she was going back to him. And before very long she would
never go away from him again.
Her place on deck had been wisely chosen, and, defended by the row
of cabins at her back, she could watch in a dry windlessness the jovial
riot of the seas. Now the steamer would stagger to some cross-blow of
the waves; now, making a friend of them, swerved into a trough of
opalescent green, and emerged again to take, like some fine-spirited
horse, the liquid fence, flecked with bubbles, that lay in its course.
The wind that had raised this gale still blew from the westward, and on
the undefended deck great parcels of water, cut off from their seas,
fell in solid lumps that resolved themselves into hissing streams.
And DaisyDaisy occupied no small portion of her thoughts. A year
ago she was on the threshold of womanhood, and at such critical periods
Aunt Jeannie knew well that a year may confirm existing tendencies or
completely alter them, bringing to light strands of character that had
been woven below the surface. For many reasons she had a peculiar
tenderness towards this dear niece. For seven rather dreadful years
Daisy had lived with her, and during these Jeannie had never remitted
her efforts to conceal from her that which had darkened her own life.
She believed (quietly, under her breath) that those efforts had been
successful; she hoped anyhow that Daisy did not know of, did not even
guess at, the underlying tragedy. For Daisy, all these years, had been
in the seedtime of her life, and Mrs. Halton, rightly or wrongly, quite
firmly believed that the young years of those who are to become men and
women are best spent if during them they can be brought to learn the
joy of life, while its possible tragedies are kept as far from them as
may be. For, in general, the habit of joy is the best weapon with which
to fight sorrow when sorrow comes. To expect the best of everything and
everybody, and to go on doing so, is the best antidote for
disappointments. To expect the worst, to think that disappointment is
the usual outcome, is to be already unnerved for it. Life is best
encountered with a sanguine heart.
Such, at any rate, was the creed of her who sat now on the deck of
this labouring steamer as it ploughed its passage home, where were her
friends and her lover. The tarpaulin had proved unnecessary, for she
was sheltered by the deck-buildings from spray. Her book was also
unnecessary, for she was more congenially occupied in this pleasant web
of thought, and she sat there in her big fur cloakfor the wind of
their motion made the air feel coldwith eyes that looked outwards,
yet brooded inwardly, April-eyes, that were turned towards the summer
that was coming. And all the past was poured into that, even as the
squalls and tempests of winter are transmuted into and feed the
luxuriance of June-time. The sorrow and the pain that were past had
become herself; they were over, but their passage had left her more
patient, more tolerant, more loving.
The deck was nearly empty, and but few of the more valiant walked up
and down the sheltered swaying boards; but these, as often as they
passed, looked again at her. Her mouth and chin were half lost and
buried in the furry collar of her cloak, but above them was that fine,
straight nose, just a little tip-tilted, the great brown eyes, and
black hair growing low on the brow. Had her mouth been visible, a man
would have said, This is a woman, but without that he would very
likely have said, This is a girl, so young and so full of expectancy
was her face. Yet had he looked twice at eyes and smooth, flushed
cheeks alone, he would have said, This is a woman, for though the joy
of life beamed so freshly in her eyes, behind that there lurked
something of its transmuted sorrows. Her expectancy was not that of
ignorance; she knew, and still looked forward.
Under the lee of the English shore the sea abated, and she came on
to the top deck from which they would disembark, and looked eagerly
along the pier, telling herself that her expectations that she would
see a certain figure there were preposterous, and yet cherishing them
with a secret conviction. And then she knew that they were not
preposterous at all; that it could not have been otherwise. Of course
he had come down to Dover to meet her, and as she left the boat she was
taken into his charge at once.
Oh, Victor, how nice of you, she said. I didn't expect you would
come all the way down here a bit.
He held her hand, but as long as all may, or so very little
longer. But there was much that passed between them in that very
Nor did I expect to come, he said. I only came.
She smiled at him.
Ah, that's so like you, she said.
They waited with talk of commonplaces as to her journey and the
crossing till Jeannie's maid came off the boat with her attendant
baggage-bearer, and then went towards the train. They were the sort of
people to whom a railway guard always touches his cap, and this duly
occurred. Victor Braithwaite, however, had on this occasion already
been in consultation with him, and they were taken to a compartment he
had caused to be reserved. On principle Jeannie felt bound to
You are so extravagant, she said. I know exactly what that means:
you have paid for four places.
Three, he said. You have paid for your own. And if you say a word
more I shall get another compartment for your maid.
My lips are dumb, she said. Ah! it is good to see you.
She was for the moment deprived of that particular blessing, for he
went out again to get a tea-basket, and Jeannie leant back in her seat,
feeling, in spite of her remonstrance, that exquisite pleasure that
comes from being looked after, from having everything done for you, not
from a man's mere politeness, but from his right (he, the one man) to
serve the one woman. In all he did he was so intensely efficient and
reliable; the most casual trivial detail, if entrusted to him, took
place as by some immutable natural law. He would return in the shortest
possible time, yet without hurry, with the tea-basket, while half that
crowd of jostling, distracted passengers outside would have to go
without. And it was not otherwise in things that were far from trivial.
When he told her he loved her she knew that she stood on an unshakable
rock, against which nothing could prevail. There was not a woman in the
world, she felt, as safe as she. Well she knew what lay beneath his
quietness and undemonstrativeness, a trust how complete, a love how
The train started, then he leant forward to her from his seat
opposite and took both her hands.
My dearest, he said, and kissed her.
And then there was silence for a little.
And your plans, he said at lastyour immediate plans, I mean?
You go to Lady Nottingham's in town now, don't you?
Yes; and you? Will you be in town?
A smile just smouldered in his eyes.
Well, just possibly, he said. I hope we may meet now and then.
She has asked me down to Bray the day after to-morrow for Whitsuntide.
Shall I go?
I won't pretend not to know what that means, she said. It means
to ask whether I am going. What shall we do? I suppose the house will
be full, whereas we might have a sort of dear little desert island all
to ourselves if we stopped in town, as everybody will be away. I should
not object to that in the least. But, Victor, if Alice wants me, I
think I had better go down with her. There aren't really any people in
the world except you and me, but they think there are. Her brown eyes
softened again. I think that is an ungrateful and selfish speech of
mine, she said. I am sorry; I don't deserve my friends.
I like the ungrateful and selfish speech, said he.
Then I present you with it. Yes, I think we had better go down
there. I long to see Alice again, and Daisy. Dear Daisy, have you seen
As one may say that one has seen a meteor. She has flashed by.
Ah, Daisy shall not flash by me. She must flash to me, and stop
there, burning. Oh, look, it is the month of the briar-rose. See how
the hedges foam with pink blossom. And the fields, look, knee-deep in
long grasses and daisies and buttercups. I am home again, thank Heaven.
I am home. Home met me on the pier, my darlingthe heart of home met
And you did not expect it in the least? he asked. You said so, at
Did I really? What very odd things one says! It is lucky that
nobody believes them.
They parted at Victoria, and Mrs. Halton drove straight to Lady
Nottingham's, leaving her maid to claim and capture her luggage. She
had not known till she returned to London how true a Londoner she was
at heart, how closely the feel and sense of the great grey dirty city
was knit into her self. For it was the soil out of which had grown all
the things in her life which counted or were significant; it had been
the scene of all her great joys and sorrows, and to-day all those who
made up her intimate life, friends and lover, were gathered here.
There were many other places in the world to which she felt
grateful: sunny hillsides overlooking the spires of Florence; cool
woods on the Italian Riviera through which stirred the fresh breezes
off the dim blue sea below; galleries and churches of Venice, and the
grey-green stretches of its lagoons. To all these her debt of gratitude
was deep, for it was in them, and through their kindly sunny aid, that
during the last year she had recaptured peace and content.
But her gratitude to them was not of the quality of love; she felt
rather towards them as a patient feels towards the doctors and nurses
to whose ministrations he owes his return of health and the removal of
the fever which, while it lasted, came between himself and the whole
world, making all things strange and unreal. And then, just for a
moment, a little shudder passed over her as she thought of the
sharp-edged, shining streets of Paris through which she had passed with
downcast, averted eyes that morning, going straight from station to
station and hating every moment of her passage.
It was hard to forgive Paris for associations which it held for her
of a certain fortnight; it was hard to believe even now that those
bitter and miserable hours contained no more than the pain by which it
was necessary that a dear and erring soul should be taught its lessons.
But at heart she did not doubt that, though she could not forgive Paris
for being the scene of those infinitely sad and pitiful memories. Then
she shook those thoughts off; they concerned that past which was
absolutely dead in so far as it was painful and bitter, and lived only
in the greater tenderness and pity of which her own soul was so full.
There was an affectionate little note of greeting and welcome for
her from Lady Nottingham, which was at once given her, and even as she
read it somewhere overhead a door opened, and like a whirlwind Daisy
Oh, Aunt Jeannie, she cried, how heavenly! Oh, it is quite good
enough to be true. You darling person! I have never liked anything
nearly as much as this minute.
Daisy made a sort of Bacchante of herself as she took her aunt up to
the drawing-room, dancing round her, and ever and again rushing in upon
her for another kiss.
And I managed everything too beautifully, she said. Aunt Alice
wasn't sure if she wouldn't put off an engagement in order to be here
when you arrived, and I said she oughtn't to. I put it on moral
grounds, and packed her and Gladys off. And I didn't care half a row of
pins for moral grounds, I only just wanted to get the first half-hour
with you all to myself. And if you aren't pleased at my plan I shall
burst into several tears.
Aunt Jeannie took the dear face between her hands.
I couldn't have thought of a better plan myself, she said, and,
as you know, I am rather proud of my plans when I really give my mind
to them. Oh, Daisy, it is good to see you! I don't think a day
has passed without my just longing to have a glimpse at you.
Oh, is that all? said Daisy. I know a day hasn't passed without
my longing to have many glimpses.
You dear child! You shall have such a lot. And what a lot you will
have to tell me; I shall want to know exactly what you have done, and
whether you've been wise and good and kind, and what new friends you
have. I shall want to see them all, and make friends with them all. And
I shall want to know all your plans. Just think, Daisy, it's a year
since I saw you.
I know, but I don't believe it. Oh, Aunt Jeannie, you must come
down to Bray for Whitsuntide. Gladys and I go to-morrow just to look
round and see that everything is all right, and you and Aunt Alice are
to come the next day with all the party, and it will be such fun. Oh!
I've got such a lot to tell you.
Daisy paused a moment.
I think I mean quite the opposite, she said. I don't think that
I've anything whatever to tell you that's of the very smallest
importance. I only just want to babble and be glad. I am glad, oh, so
frightfully glad! You are the nicest aunt that anybody ever had.
Daisy poured out tea for her aunt, and considering her admission
that she had nothing to say, made a very substantial job of it. Yet all
the time she was talking with a reservation, having clearly made up her
mind not to mention Lord Lindfield's name. She felt sure, if she did,
Aunt Jeannie would see that she mentioned him somehow differently from
the way in which she mentioned others, and these first moments of
meeting, for all the sincerity of her joy to see her, struck her as not
suitable for confidences.
Another reason why I wanted half an hour with you, she said, is
that I am dining out to-night, and shan't see you. It is quite too
disgusting, but I couldn't help myself; and if one dines out one
probably dances, you know, so after this I shan't see you at all till
to-morrow. Oh, Aunt Jeannie, what a nice world it is! I am glad I
happened to be born. And you are looking so young, I can't think why
everybody doesn't want to marry you at once. They probably do.
Mrs. Halton's engagement was at present a secret, for it was still
only just a year since her husband's death, and though that had been a
release merciful both to him and her, her wisdom had rightly decided
that the event should not be announced yet. They were to be married in
the autumn, and the news need not be made public immediately. One
reservation she had made, namely, that she would tell Lady Nottingham;
but Daisy, even Daisy, must not know at present.
They have a remarkable power of keeping their desires to
themselves, then, she said. Dover pierand she smiled inwardly as
she said itwas not thick with aspirants for my rather large hand.
But as we are on the subject, Daisy, what about Mr. Carton?
Daisy looked at her imploringly.
Oh, don't! she said. There is nothing more to tell you than what
I have written to you. He's so much too good for me that I should feel
uncomfortably inferior, which is never pleasant. Oh, Aunt Jeannie, what
a fraud I am! That isn't the reason a bitand the reason is simply
that I don't want to. It sounds so easy to understand, doesn't it, when
it's stated like that, but poor darling Willie finds it so difficult to
grasp. I had to say it all over again three times last Monday. It isn't
that I feel inferior to him. If I did, it might mean that I was in love
with him, because people always say that they aren't the least worthy
when they fully intend to marry each other. No. I don't want to, that's
all; and if I am to be an old maid with a canarywell, I shall be an
old maid with a canary, which I shall instantly sell, because they make
such a row, don't they? Do you think we might talk about something
It was scarcely necessary for Daisy to add the last sentence, for
without pause she proceeded to do so. At the back of her mind Mrs.
Halton felt that there was something behind this, but since Daisy
clearly did not desire to speak of it, she would be committing the
crimealmost unpardonable between friendsof attempting to force a
confidence, if she showed the slightest eagerness to hear more or even
let her manner betray that she thought there was more to be heard.
Besides, she had her own secret from Daisy. It would be a meanness to
deny to others the liberty she claimed herself.
Lady Nottingham came in soon after this, and before long the two
girls had to go and dress for their dinner. Daisy, in the highest
spirits, rushed in again to say good-night to the aunts before
starting, a ravishing figure.
Good-night, darling Aunt Jeannie, she cried. Yes, my frock is
nice, isn't it?and it cost twopence-halfpenny! Wasn't it a cheap
shop? Silver has gone down in value, you see, so much, and green was
always cheap. It's too heavenly to think that I shall come back to the
house where you are. Usually I hate coming back from balls.
A cab was waiting for them, and Daisy pulled the window down with a
She's a darling! she exclaimed, and I want to tell her
everything, Gladys, yet not one word did I say about Lord Lindfield. I
have a perfectly good reason as to why I did not in my own mind, but it
doesn't happen to be the right one. I say to myself that I wish to tell
her nothing until there is really something to tell. But that isn't the
real reason. Do you generally have a good reason and a real
reason? I always do. Then you can use either and satisfy anybody. I
think I must be a hypocrite. The real reason is that I think she would
see that I wasn't in love with him. Well, I'm notbut I'm going to be.
I shall tell her then.
Is he going to be at the Streathams to-night? asked Gladys.
Yes, of course. That's why I am going. If he wasn't, I should say I
was ill, and stop at home with Aunt Jeannie. Darling, if you look
shocked I shall be sick! Every girl wants to see the man she intends to
marry as often as possible. But most girls don't say so; that is why,
as a sex, we are such unutterable humbugs. Men are so much more
sensible. They say, 'She's a ripper!' or 'a clipper!'or whatever is
the word in use'and I shall go and call on that cad of a woman with
whom she is dining on Thursday next, in order to be asked to dinner.'
That's sensible; there's no nonsense about it. But girls pretend it
happens by accident. As if anything happened by accident! They plot and
scheme in just the same way, only they aren't frank about it. We want
to marry certain men just as much as they want to marry us, and yet we
pretend they do it all. You pretend. You try to look shocked because I
don't. Here we are! Oh, do get out! No, you needn't hurry. He's coming
up the pavement now. If you get out quick he won't see usme, I mean!
This slogging diplomacy was successful. Lord Lindfield got opposite
the house exactly as Daisy stepped out of the cab.
Hullo, Miss Daisy! he said. What stupendous luck! Thought I was
going into the wilderness to-night like the children of Israeland
here you are! Jove!
He had taken off his hat, and stood bare-headed as he handed her out
of the cab, exposing that fascinating greyness above the temples which
Daisy had spoken of. A face clean-shaven and so bubblingly
good-humoured that all criticism of his features was futile appeared
below, but a reader of character might easily guess that if once that
bubbling good-humour were expunged, something rather serious and
awkward might be left. But the good-humour seemed ineradicable; no one
could picture his face without it. In other respects, he was very
broad, but of sufficient height to carry off the breadth without giving
the appearance of being short. A broken front tooth, often exposed by
laughter, completed the general irregularity of his face. The
fascinating greyness was accompanied by a tendency to high forehead,
due probably to incipient baldness rather than to abnormal intellectual
I don't know what Jove has got to do with it, said Daisy; but if
he is responsible, I think it is delightful of him. I am glad you are
here. I thought I was going into the wilderness too. Oh, I think you
have met my cousin.
He had met Gladys about a hundred times, so Daisy was quite right,
and they shook hands gravely. That ceremony over, he turned to Daisy
again without pause.
Dance, too, isn't there? he said. I shan't know a soul. I never
do. Do dance with me sometimes, out of pity's sake, Miss Daisyjust
now and then, you know.
Daisy gave an altogether excessive florin to the cabman, who held it
in the palm of his hand, and looked at it as if it were some curious
botanical specimen hitherto unknown to him.
And one usually says 'Thank you!' she observed.Yes, Lord
Lindfield, let's dance now and then.
Their dancing now and then chiefly assumed the less violent form of
dancing, namely, sitting in as sequestered places as they could find.
There was nothing very sequestered, as the house was rather small and
the guests extremely numerous, and they sat generally in full view of
the whole world, Daisy being occasionally torn away by other partners
and being annexed again by him on the earliest possible occasion. In
such absences, though the good-humour of his face showed no sign of
abatement, he became extremely distrait, failed to recognize people he
knew quite well, and took up his stand firmly at the door of the
ballroom, where he could observe her and be at hand as soon as she was
Their hostess, Mrs. Streatham, was a very rich and gloriously
pushing woman, with no nonsense about her, and but little sense. She
was engaged in pushing her way steadily upwards through what is known
as the top-crust of society, and if she wanted anybody particularly to
come to her house, gave him or her the choice of some six dinners and
ten lunches, further facilitating matters by requesting the desired
object to drop in any time. It was Lord Lindfield's first appearance at
her house, and she was already pinning him down for a further lunch
some time next week, with a grim tenacity of purpose that made it
difficult to evade her. He did not propose to leave his post of
observation at the ballroom door till this dance came to an end; and as
she had as good a right there (since it was her own house) as he, it
was likely that she would get her way. He had begunwhich was a
tactical errorby saying he was not free till the end of the week, and
this gave her an advantage. She gave her invitation in a calm, decided
mannerrather in the manner of a dentist making appointments.
Thursday, Friday, or Saturday will suit me equally well, Lord
Lindfield, she was saying. I shall have a few people to lunch on all
those days, and you can take your choice. Shall we say Friday?
It's awfully kind of you, said he, but I'm really not quite sure
about Friday. I rather think I'm already engaged.
Saturday, then, said Mrs. Streatham, at one-thirty.
Very kind of you, but I'm away for the week-end, and shall probably
have to leave town in the morning.
Then let us make it Thursday, said Mrs. Streatham. And if two
o'clock suits you better than half-past one, it is equally convenient.
That will be delightful.
At the moment the dance came to an end, and Lindfield, to his
dismay, saw Daisy leaving by a further door.
Very good of you, he said. I'll be sure to remember. Excuse me.
Mrs. Streatham was quite ready to excuse him now, since she had her
hook in him, and went on to Gladys, who was just passing out.
Miss Hinton, she said, do lunch with me on Thursday next. Lord
Lindfield is coming, and, I hope, a few more friends. Or Friday would
suit me equally well. I hope Miss Hanbury will come too. Would you ask
her?or perhaps it is safer that I should send her a note. Thursday,
then, at two.Ah! Lord Quantock, I have been looking for you all
evening. Pray lunch here on Thursday next. Lord Lindfield and Miss
Hinton, and that very pretty Daisylet me see, what is her name?oh,
yes!Daisy Hanbury are coming. Or, if you are engaged that day, do
drop in on Friday at the same time.
Lord Lindfield meantime had found Daisy and firmly taken her away
from her partner. Before now, as has been said, the affair was a matter
of common discussion, and her engagement believed to be only a matter
of time; to-night it looked as if the time would be short.
And I'm coming down to Bray this week-end, he said, going on at
the point at which their conversation was interrupted. It was so good
of Lady Nottingham to ask me. You've got such nice aunts! I expect that
accounts for a lot in you. Ever seen my aunts, Miss Daisy? They've got
whiskers, and take camomile.
It sounds delicious, and I'm sure I should love them, said
Daisy.So sorry, Mr. Tracy, but I seem to have made a mistake, and
I'm engaged for the next. So very stupid of me.I know, Lord
Lindfield; isn't Aunt Alice a darling? But, although I adore her, I
think I adore Aunt Jeannie more. Do you know herMrs. Halton?
Lindfield gave a little appreciative whistle.
Know her? By Jove! I should think I did. So she's your aunt, too! I
never heard such luck! But she's a bit young to be an aunt, isn't she?
She began early. She was my mother's sister, but ever so much
younger. She was an aunt when she was eight. My eldest sister, you
Didn't know you had one.
Very likely you wouldn't. She died some years ago, and before that
she didn't live in England. She was married to a Frenchman. But Aunt
Jeannieisn't she an angel? And she came back from Italy, where she
has been for a whole year, only to-day. It's the nicest thing that has
happened since she went away.
You mean that was nice?
Oh, don't be so silly! It is quite clear what I mean. You'll see
her next week; she is coming down to Bray.
Wonder if she'll remember me? The people I like most hardly ever
do. Rather sad! I say, Miss Daisy, I'm looking forward to that visit to
Bray like anything. I don't know when I've looked forward to anything
so much. Are you good at guessing? I wonder if you can guess why?
The room where they sat had somewhat emptied of its tenants, since
the next dance had just begun, and something in his tone, some sudden
tremble of his rather deep voice, some brightness in those merry grey
eyes, suddenly struck Daisy, and just for the moment it frightened her.
She put all her gaiety and lightness into her reply.
Ah, but clearly, she said, it is quite easy to guess. It is
because you will see Aunt Jeannie again. You have told me as much.
Not quite right, he said, but pretty near. Bother! Here's that
woman coming to ask me to lunch again.
The good humour quite vanished from his face as Mrs. Streatham came
rapidly towards them. She had so much to think about with all her
invitations that she very seldom remembered to smile. And it was
without a smile that she bore rapidly down upon them.
Oh, MissMiss Hanbury, she said, do come to lunch on Thursday
next at one-thirtyor is it two, Lord Lindfield? Yes, two. Lord
Lindfield is coming, and I hope one or two other friends.
Why, that is charming of you, said Daisy. I shall be delighted.
And do persuade Lady Nottingham to come, will you not? continued
Mrs. Streatham. She is your aunt, is she not?
Somehow the moment had passed, but Daisy, as she stood talking, felt
that something new had come to her. She had seen Tom Lindfield for a
moment in a new light: for that second she felt that she had never
known him before. He struck her differently, somehow, and it was that
which momentarily had frightened her, and caused her to make that
light, nonsensical reply. But next moment she saw that it was not he
who had altered, it was herself.
All this was very faint and undefined in her own mind. But it was
Jeannie Halton, going up to her bedroom that night, felt very keenly
that ineffable sense of coming home which makes all the hours spent in
alien places seem dim and unreal. She could hardly believe that it was
she who had been so long away from so many friends, still less that it
was she who, a year ago, tired and weary, had gone southwards in search
of that minimum of health and peace which makes existence tolerable.
Yet that time abroad could never have become dim to her, since it was
there, in the winter spent in Rome, that her old friendship with Victor
Braithwaite had ripened into intimacy and burst into love. Rome would
always be knit into her life.
It was not only in affairs of the mind and affections that her
perception was acute. Like most highly-organized people, her body, her
fine material senses, were vivid messengers to her soul; and as she
went upstairs she contrasted with a strong sense of content her purely
physical surroundings with those in which she had lived for the last
forty-eight hours. For two days and nights she had been hurried across
Europe, over the jolt and rattle of the racing wheels; by day the
blurred landscape, wreathed in engine-smoke, had streamed by her; by
night she had seen nothing but the dull, stuffed walls of her sleeping
compartment, and it was an exquisite physical pleasure to have the
firm, unshaken floor underfoot, to be surrounded by the appointments of
a beautiful house, to be able to move of one's own volition again, and
not to be taken like a parcel in a van from one end of Europe to the
other. And how delicious also it was to be clean, to have revelled in
soap and water, instead of being coated and pelted at by dust and
coal-grime! On the surface of life this was all pleasant; it all added
to her sense of security and well-being.
She had enjoyed a charming evening, which was not nearly over yet,
since Alice was coming to her room for a talkno little talk, no few
good-night words, but a real long talk, which should wipe off the
arrears of a twelve months' abstinence. Alice had demurred at first,
saying she knew that journeys were fatiguing things, but Mrs. Halton
had truthfully said that she had never felt less tired. For when one is
happy there is no time to be fatigued; being happy engrosses the whole
attention. It was early yet also, scarcely after ten, for two or three
old friends only, a party of women, had dined, and these had gone away
early, with the fatigue of the traveller in their minds. Mrs. Halton
had let that pass; the fact was that to-night she wanted above all
things to talk to Lady Nottingham. There was one thinga very big
onewhich she meant to tell her, and there was also a great deal she
wished to learn.
Lady Nottingham followed her after a minute or two; and a maid
bearing a tray with an enormous jug of hot water and a glass followed
Lady Nottingham, for she was one of those people who seem to keep
permanently young by always doing the latest thing. Just now there was
a revival of hot-water drinking, and with avidity (as if it tasted
nice) Lady Nottingham drank hot water.
Excellent thing, Jeannie, she said. Can't I persuade you to try?
You dear person, I don't know that I will even attempt to. It might
have some effect on you, and I don't want anything to have any effect
on you. I prefer you exactly as you are. Now I want to make myself
quite comfortable, in order that I may enjoy myself as much as
possible, and then you shall tell me all that has happened to you this
last year.No, Hendon, you needn't wait up. Yes; plenty of hot water.
Go to bed.
Let me pull the blinds up and open the windows, said Jeannie; I
want to let London in. Ah! Clip-clop! Clip-clop! Girls and boys going
to dances, and falling in love with one another, and keeping the world
young. God bless them!
She leant out into the soft warm night a moment, and then turned
back into the room again, her face so brimming with happiness and youth
that Alice for a moment was almost startled.
They or something else seems to have kept you young, you dear! she
said. And now sit down and tell me all about yourself from the crown
of your head to the sole of your foot. You are so tall, too, Jeannie;
it will take a nice long time.
Jeannie sat down.
So it is 'me next,' is it, as the children say? she asked. Very
well, me. Well, once upon a time, dear, a year ago, I was an old woman.
I was twenty-nine, if you care to know, but an old woman. For the
measure of years is a very bad standard to judge by; it tells you of
years only which have practically nothing to do with being old or
young. Well, the old woman of twenty-nine went away. And to-day she
came back, a year older in respect of years, since she is thirty now,
but, oh! ever so much younger, becauseDo you guess at all?
Lady Nottingham put down her hot water.
Ah! my dear, she said, of course I guess. Or rather I don't
guess; I know. There is somebody. It is only Somebody who can interfere
in our age and our happiness. Who is it?
No; guess again, said Jeannie.
But again it was hardly a case of guessing. Lady Nottingham knew
quite well who it was, who in those years of Jeannie's married life had
been her constant and quiet support and stand-by, and who had found his
reward in the knowledge that he helped her to bear what had to be
Victor Braithwaite, she said, without pause. Oh, Jeannie, is it
so? You are going to marry him? Oh, my darling, I am so glad. What a
happy man, and how well he deserves it!
Lady Nottingham was stout and comfortable; but with extraordinary
alertness she surged out of her chair to kiss Jeannie, and upset the
table on which was her glass and her boiling water, breaking the one
and deluging the carpet with the othera perfect Niagara of scalding
fluid. She paid not the least attention to the rising clouds of steam
nor to the glass which crashed on to the floor and was reduced to
shards and exploded fragments.
My dear, how nice! she said. And he has been in love with you so
long! He will have told you that now, but I insist on the credit of
having seen it also. He behaved so splendidly, and was such a good
friend to you, without ever letting you seefor I will wager that you
did notthat he loved you.
No, I never knew until he told me, said Jeannie, simply.
Of course you didn't, because he is a nice man and you are a nice
woman. Oh, Jeannie, don't you hate those creatures who keep a man
danglingwives, I meanwho like knowing that a man is eating his poor
silly heart out for them, who don't intend to leadwell, double lives,
and yet keep him tied to their apron-strings? Such vampires! They put
their dreadful noses in the air the moment he says something to them
that he shouldn't, and all the time they have been encouraging him to
say it! They are flirts, who will certainly find themselves in a very
uncomfortable round of the Inferno! I should torture them if I were
Providence! I am sure Providence would preferDear me, yes.
Alice kissed her again.
Isn't it so? she demanded, vehemently.
About flirts? Why, of course. A flirt is a woman who leads a man on
and leads him on, and then suddenly says, 'What do you mean?' Surely we
need not discuss them.
Lady Nottingham went over to the window-seat.
No, I know we need not, she said. I was led away. Darling, Victor
Braithwaite is coming to Bray on Saturday. Did you ever hear of
anything more apt? Till this moment I was not sure that you would ever
marry him, though I longed for you to do so. You shall have a punt all
to yourselvesa private particular puntand he shallwell, he shall
punt you about. Oh, Jeannie, I too love the youth of the world.
Jeannie drew her chair a little nearer to the window-seat, in which
Lady Nottingham had taken her place after the catastrophe of the hot
I know. He told me he was coming to Bray to-day.
Oh, he met you at Victoria? she asked.
No, dear; a little further down the lineat Dover, in fact. Yes,
Alice, his was the first face I saw as we came alongside. And how my
heart went out to him! What a good homecoming it has been, and how
absolutely unworthy I feel of it! You have no idea how I used to rebel
and complain inin those past years, wondering what I had done to have
my life so spoilt. Spoilt! Yes, that was the word I used to myself, and
all the time this was coming nearer.
Tell me more, dear.
About him? asked Jeannie.
About him and you.
Well, all the autumn I was on the Italian lakes. Oh, Alice, such
dreadful months, and all the more dreadful because of the maddening
beauty of the place. I looked at it. I knew it was all there, but I
never saw it; it never went inside me, or went to make part of me. I
was very sleepless all that time, and depressed with a blackness of
despair. And as I got stronger in physical health, the depression
seemed more unbearable, because, in all probability, so many years lay
before me, and nothing in life seemed the least worth while. I often
thought of you, and oftenevery dayof Daisy, longing, in a way, to
see you both, but knowing that it would be no use if I did, for you
would have been to me like the corpses, the husks of what I loved once.
And I did not see any possibility of getting better or of getting out
of this tomb-like darkness. It was like being buried alive, and getting
more alive from week to week, so that I grew more and more conscious of
how black the tomb was. Every now and then the pall used to lift a
little, and that, I think, was the worst of all.
Lady Nottingham laid her plump, comfortable hand on Jeannie's.
You poor darling! she said. And you would not let either Daisy or
me come to you. Why did you not?
Because there are certain passages, I think, which the human soul
has to go through alone. Dear Alice, you don't know all that went to
make up the gloom of those dreadful months! There was one thing in
particular that cast a blacker shadow than all the rest. I hope you
will never know it. It concerns some one who is dead, but not my
husband. It was that which made the darkness so impenetrable. I know
you will not ask me about it. But, as I said, when the pall lifted a
little, that was the worst of all, because then, for a moment it might
be, or for an hour or two, I knew that life and youth and joy were just
as dominant and as triumphant as ever in the world, and that it was I
who had got on the wrong side of things, and saw them left-handed, and
could be only conscious of this hideous nightmare of suffering.
Jeannie paused again, pushing back the thick coils of black hair
from her forehead.
Quite little things would make the pall lift, she said. Once it
was the sudden light of the sun shining on one of those red sails; once
it was the sight of a little Italian contadina dancing with her shadow
on the white sunny road, all by herself, for sheer exuberance of heart;
once it was a man and a maid sitting close to each other in the dusk,
and quietly singing some little love-song, soso dreadfully
unconscious of the sorrow of the world. Oh, that was badthat was
dreadful! Just one little verse, and then in the darkness they kissed
each other. I knew they were darlings, and I thought they were devils.
And once Victor wrote to me, saying that he was passing through on his
way to Venice and Rome, and asking if he might come to see me. I did
not answer him even; I could not.
But during all those weeks I suppose I was getting better, and when
I went south to Rome in November, though I still could not look forward
or contemplate the future at all, I knew better how to deal with the
present hour and the present day. There was no joy in them, but there
was a sort of acquiescence in me. If lifeas seemed the only possible
thingwas to be joyless for me, I could at least behave decently. Also
a certain sort of pride, I think, came to my help. I felt that it was
bad manners to appear as I feltjust as when one has a headache one
makes an effort to appear more brilliantly well than usual. One doesn't
like people to know one has a headache, and in the same way I settled
that I didn't like them to know I had a heartache.
Victor was in Rome. The manager of the branch of their banking
business there had died suddenly, and he had gone to take his place
till some one could be sent out from England. The new man arrived there
some ten days or so after I did; but he still stayed on, for one
morning I saw him in the Forum, and another day I passed him driving.
All he knew was that I had not answered the letter which he wrote to me
when I was on Como, and he made no further attempt to see me. But he
did not leave Rome. And then one day I wrote to him, as I was bound to
do, saying that I had not answered his letter because I believed then
that I could not; but that if he would forgive that, and come to see
Oh, Alice, it is being such a long story. But there is little more.
He came, and I asked him if he was stopping long in Rome, and he said
his plans were uncertain. And thenso gradually that I scarcely knew
it was happeninghe began to take care of me; and gradually, also, I
began to expect him to do so. He tells me I was not tiresome; I can't
And thenhow does it happen? Nobody knows, though it has happened
so often. One day I saw him differently. I had always been friends with
him, and in those bad years I had always relied on him; but, as I say,
one day I saw him differently. I saw the man himselfnot as he struck
me, but as he was. That is just it, dear Alice. 'How he struck me' was
left out, because I was left out. And then I knew I loved him. Andand
that is all, I think.
Lady Nottingham gave a long, appreciative sigh.
I think it is the nicest story, she saidand it's all
true. Oh, Jeannie, I am such a match-maker, and it is so pleasant to be
forestalled. I asked him down to Bray simply in order to promote this,
and now I find it has been promoted already. But the punt will be
useful all the same.
Jeannie joined her friend in the window-seat.
Yes, just the same, she said.
There was silence for a little while. An hour had passed since they
began to talk, but it was still short of midnight, and the hansoms and
motors still swept about the square like a throng of sonorous
fireflies. Just opposite a big house flared with lit windows, and the
sound of the band came loudly across the open space, a little mellowed
by the distance, but with the rhythm of its music intact.
Oh, I could get into a ball-dress and go and dance now for
lightness of heart, said Jeannie. But I won't; I will do something
much nicer, and that is I will hear from you the news of your year. Now
it is 'you next.' Tell me all you have done and been and thought of.
And then I shall want to know all about Gladys and all about Daisy. I
talked to Daisyor, rather, she talked to mefor half an hour this
afternoon, but I don't think she got absolutely 'home' in her talk. I
had the impression that she was showing me the dining-room and
drawing-room, so to speak. She did not sit with me in my bedroom or in
hers as we are sitting now. The only talk worth calling a talk is when
you put your feet on the fender and tuck up your skirt and put the
lights outfiguratively, that is. One must be taken into privacy.
Daisy wasn't very private. You have got to be. Now, dear Alice, about
Alice sighed againnot appreciatively this time.
There's very little to say. I am rather lazier than I was, and
Daisy and GladysDaisy chieflymake all arrangements. I send them out
to dances alone, because they always find a chaperon of some kind; and
you know, Jeannie, I don't like hot rooms and supper. I weave plenty of
plans still, and they mostly come off, but I don't go to superintend
the execution of them. I don't think I have any very private life; if I
had you should at once be admitted. I think a great deal about the
people I like best. I try occasionally to straighten out their affairs
for them. I want all girls to marry suitable men, and all men to marry
suitable girls. I think, indeed, that the only change in me has been
that I take a rather wider view than I used to of the word suitable.
You see, I am an optimist, and I can't help it; and I believe that most
people are kind and nice. Oh, I don't say that it is not great fun
being critical and seeing their absurdities and their faults, but I
fancy that if one wants to increase the sum of comfort and happiness in
the world, it is better to spend one's time in trying to see their
charms and their virtues. Dear me, what dreadful commonplaces I am
saying! However, that is my very truthful history for the last year: I
want to make people jolly and comfortable and happy, but, if possible,
without standing about in extremely hot rooms with the band playing
into one's ear at the distance of three inches.
I don't think that is at all a bad history, she said. That is
just the sort of history which I hope will be written of me by-and-by.
Oh, Alice, I don't want any more troubles and crisesI don't! I
don't!even if they are good for one. Sometimes I wonder if there is
some envious power that is always on the look-out, some Nemesis with a
dreadful wooden eye that waits till we are happy and then puts out a
great bony hand and knocks us over or squeezes us till we scream. 'Oh,
Nemesis,' I feel inclined to say, 'do look the other way for a little
bit.' Yes, I just want Nemesis to leave my friends and me alone for a
Ah! but Nemesis is looking the other way with great fixedness, it
seems to me, said Lady Nottingham. She may be dabbing away at other
people, but you must be just, Jeannie; she hasn't been dabbing at any
of us lately.
Oh, hush! Don't say it so loud, said Jeannie. She may hear and
No such thing, she said. But Nemesis will certainly send you a
headache and a feeling of being tired to-morrow morning if I sit up
talking to you any longer.
She half rose, but Jeannie pulled her back into the window-seat
Oh, no; don't go yet, she said. I am not the least tired, and it
is so dull going to bed. I hoard pleasant hours; I make them last as
long as possible, and surely we can lengthen out this one for a little
more. Besides, you have not told me one word about Daisy yet; and, as I
said, though I had half an hour's talk with her, I feel as if she
hadn't taken me into her room. All the private history she gave me was
that Willie Carton still wanted to marry her, and she still did not
want to marry him.
Lady Nottingham considered this for a moment in silence, wondering
whether, as Daisy had not spoken to her aunt about Lord Lindfield, she
herself was under any tacit bond of secrecy. But, scrupulous though she
was, she could not see any cause for secrecy.
Jeannie interrupted her silence.
Is there somebody else? she said.
Again Lady Nottingham thought over it.
I can't see why I shouldn't tell you, she said, since half London
knows, and is waiting quite sympathetically and agreeably for him to
ask her. She consulted me about it only this afternoon, and I think
when he doesI don't say if, because I feel sure he willI think that
when he does she will accept him. I advised her to, and I think she
agreed. His name
Ah, but perhaps Daisy wants to tell me his name herself,
interrupted Jeannie again. Perhaps she wants to keep it as a surprise
for me. Don't tell me his name, Alice. Tell me all about him, though
not enough to enable me to guess. And tell me about Daisy's feelings
towards him. Somehow I don't think a girl should need advice; she
should know for herself, don't you think?
Not always. Sometimes, of course, a girl is definitely, even
desperately, in love with a man before she marriesbut, Jeannie, how
often it is the other way! She likes him, she thinks he will be kind to
her, she wants to be married, she has all the reasons for marrying
except that of being in love. And such marriages so often turn out so
well; some even turn out ideally. My own did. But in some circumstances
I think a girl is right to ask advice.
I think yours is an admirably sensible view, dear, she said, and
I confess freely that there is heaps to be said for it. But I am afraid
I am not sensible over a thing like love. I think sense ought to be
So do the lower classes think, remarked Lady Nottingham, rather
acutely, and the consequence is that the gravest problem that has ever
faced the nation has arisen.
Oh, I take it, he is not one of the unemployed? said Jeannie.
He is, but the top end of them.
Oh, go on, dear; tell me all about him, said Jeannie.
Well, he is richI suppose you might say very richhe has a
title; he has an old and honoured name.
Oh, I want something more important than all that, said Jeannie.
The old and honoured name is all very well, but is he continuing to
make it honoured? To be honoured yourself is far more to the point than
having centuries full of honoured ancestors. Is he satisfactory? I can
easily forgive the ancestors for being unsatisfactory.
I am sure he is a good fellow, said Lady Nottingham.
Jeannie got up and began walking up and down the room.
Do you know, that is such an ambiguous phrase! she said. Every
man is a good fellow who eats a lot and laughs a lot and flirts a lot.
Is he that sort of good fellow? Oh! I hate milksops. I needn't tell you
that; but there are plenty of good fellows whom I should be sorry to
see Daisy married to.
There had started up in Jeannie's mind that memory of Paris, which
had made her hurry through and away from the town; there had started up
in her mind also that which had been so hard to get over in the autumn,
that of which she had spoken to Alice Nottingham, only to tell her that
she hoped she would never speak of it. These two were connected. They
were more than connected, for they were the same; and now a fear,
fantastic, perhaps, but definite, grew in her mind that once again
these things were to be made vivid, to pass into currency.
Is he that sort of good fellow? she asked.
There was trouble in her voice and anxiety, and Lady Nottingham was
startled. It was as if some ghost had come into the room, visible to
Jeannie. But her answer could not be put off or postponed.
Something troubles you, dear, she said. I can't guess what. Yes,
he is that sort of good fellow, I suppose; but don't you think you
generalize too much, when you class them all together? And don't you
judge harshly? Cannot a man haveto use the cant phrasehave sown his
wild oats, and have done with them? Mind, I know nothing definite about
those wild oats, but before now it has been a matter of gossip that he
has been veryvery susceptible, and that women find him charming. It
is disgusting, no doubt. But I fully believe he has done with such
things. Is he not to have his chance in winning a girl like Daisy, and
becoming a model husband and father? Don't you judge harshly?
Jeannie paused in her walk opposite her friend, and stood looking
out into the warm, soft night.
Yes, perhaps I judge harshly, she said, because I know what awful
harm a man of that sort can do. I am thinking of what a man of that
sort did do. He was no worse than others, I daresay, and he was most
emphatically a good fellow. But the woman concerned in it all was one I
knew and loved, and so I can't forgive him or his kind. You and I have
both known lots of men of the kind, have found them agreeable and
well-bred and all the rest of it; and, without doubt, many of them
settle down and become model husbands and model fathers. But I am
sorryI am sorry. If only Daisy had cared for Willie Carton! And she
does not love this man, you say?
He attracts and interests her; she finds great pleasure in his
company; she wants to marry him. I am not what you would call a worldly
woman, Jeannie, but I think she is wise. It is an excellent match, and
in spite of what you say about so-called 'good fellows,' he is a good
Jeannie's face had grown suddenly rather white and tired. She felt
as if Nemesis were slowly turning round in her direction again. She sat
down by her dressing-table and drummed her fingers on it.
Yes, no doubt I judge harshly, she repeated, and no doubt, also,
there is a particular fear in my brain, quite fantastic probably and
quite without foundation. I have a 'good fellow' in my mind
whosewhose 'good-fellow proceedings' touched me very acutely. I want,
therefore, to know the name of this man. I can't help it; if Daisy
wants it to be a surprise for me, she must be disappointed. You see
what my fear is, that the two are the same. So tell me his name,
There was something so desperately serious in her tone that Lady
Nottingham did not think of reassuring her out of her fears, but
answered at once.
Lord Lindfield, she said.
The drumming of Jeannie's fingers on the table ceased. She sat quite
still, looking out in front of her.
Lord Lindfield? she asked. Tom Lindfield?
Jeannie got up.
Then thank Heaven she doesn't love him, she said. It is quite
impossible that she should marry him. Since you began to tell me about
this man I was afraid it was Tom Lindfield, hoping, hoping desperately,
that it was not. She can never marry him, nevernever! What are we to
do? What are we to do?
There is some reason behind this, then, that I don't know? asked
Of course there is. I must tell you, I suppose. We must put our
heads together and plan and plan. Oh, Alice, I hoped so much for peace
and happiness, but it can't be yet, not until we have settled this.
But what is it? What is it? asked Lady Nottingham.
A hansom jingled round the corner and stopped just below at the
The girls are back, said Jeannie. Daisy is sure to come and see
if I am up. I wonder why they are home so early. You must go, dear
Alice. I will tell you about it to-morrow. I am so tired, so suddenly
and frightfully tired.
Lady Nottingham got up.
Yes, I will go, she said. Oh, Jeannie, you are not exaggerating
things in your mind? Can't you tell me now?
No, my dear, it would take too long. Ah, there is Daisy.
A gentle tap sounded at the door; it was softly opened, and Daisy,
seeing the light inside, came in.
Ah, but how wicked of you, Aunt Jeannie, she said, when you told
me you were going to bed early. Yes, we are early too, but it was
stupid and crowded, and so Gladys and I came away. Oh, you darling, it
is nice to know you are here! But how tired you look!
Yes, dear, I am tired, said Jeannie. I was just sending Aunt
Alice away. And you must go away too. But it was dear of you just to
look in to say good-night.
When the two had gone Jeannie sat down again in the window, her head
resting on her hands, thinking vividly, intently.
Thank Heaven she does not love him! she said at length.
The geography of breakfast at Lady Nottingham's was vague and
shifting. Sometimes it all happened in the dining-room, sometimes, and
rather oftener, little of it happened there, but took place, instead of
on that continent, in the scattered islands of bedrooms. Gladys,
however, was generally faithful to the continent, and often, as
happened next morning, breakfasted there alone, while trays were
carried swiftly upstairs to the bedrooms of the others. She alone of
the inmates of the house had slept well that night. But she always
slept well, even if she had the toothache.
Daisy had not slept at all well. It would be nearer the mark,
indeed, to say that she had not even lain awake at all well, but had
tossed and tumbled in a manner unprecedented. There was no wonder that
it was unprecedented, since that which caused it had not occurred
before to her. She had left the dance quite early, dragging Gladys
away, because she had got something to think about which absorbed her.
She had never been really absorbed before, though it was a chronic
condition with her to be intensely and violently interested in a
superficial manner. But this went deeper; from the springs of her
nature now there came forth something both bitter and sweet, and tinged
all her thoughts and her consciousness.
In herself, as she lay awake that night hearing the gradual
diminuendo of the noises of traffic outside, till, when she thought
there would be a hush, the crescendo of the work of the coming day
began, she felt no doubt as to what this was which absorbed her and
kept sleep so far aloof from her eyelids. It had started from as small
a beginning as a fire that devastates a city, reducing it to desolation
and blackened ash. A careless passenger has but thrown away the stump
of a cigarette or a match not entirely extinguished near some
inflammable material, and it is from no other cause than that that
before long the walls of the tallest buildings totter and sway and
fall, and the night is turned to a hell of burning flame. Not yet to
her had come the wholesale burning, there was not yet involved in it
all her nature; but something had caught fire at those few words of
Lord Lindfield's; the heat and fever had begun.
Well she knew what it was that ailed her. Hitherto love was a thing
that was a stranger to her, though she was no stranger to intense and
impulsive affection like that which she felt for Aunt Jeannie. But how
mysterious and unaccountable this was. It seemed to her that the
phenomenon known as love at first sight, of which she had read, was a
thing far less to be wondered at. There a girl meets some one she has
not seen before whom she finds holds for her that potent spell. That
could be easily understood; the new force with which she comes in
contact instantly exercises its power on her. But she, Daisy, had come
across this man a hundred times, and now suddenly, without apparent
cause, she who thought she knew him so well, and could appraise and
weigh him and settle in her own mind, as she had done after her talk to
Lady Nottingham the afternoon before, whether she would speak a word
that for the rest of her life or his would make her fate and destiny,
and fashion the manner of her nights and days, found that in a moment
some change of vital import had come in turn on her, so that she looked
on him with eyes of other vision, and thought of him in ways as yet
This was disquieting, unsettling; it was as if the house in which
she dwelther own mind and bodywhich she had thought so well-founded
and securely builtwas suddenly shaken as by an earthquake shock, and
she realized with a touch of panic-fear that outside her, and yet knit
into her very soul, were forces unmanifested as yet which might prove
to be of dominant potency.
Then, suddenly, her mood changed; their power was frightening no
longer, they were wholly benignant and life-giving. It was not an
earthquake shock that had frightened her, it was but the first beam of
some new-rising sun that had struck on to the darkness of the world in
which she had lived till now. She was smitten by the first beam from
the springing East, she who had never known before what morning was,
or how fair was the light which it pours on to the world. And this
morning beam was for her; it had not struck her fortuitously, shedding
its light on her and others without choice. It had come to shine into
her window, choosing that above all others. It was she that the first
beam sought. It came to gild and glorify her house, her body and mind,
the place where her soul dwelt.
How blind she had been! There was no difference in him; the
difference had been in her alone. She had sat with sealed eyes at her
window, or, at the most, with eyes that could but see the shadows and
not the sun. Now they saw the sun only; there were no shadows, for the
shadows had been but her own blindness.
Dawn was in the sky outside; here in the quiet, white-curtained room
another dawn had come, not quiet, but with gleam of sun alternating
with cloud and tempest, making the beholder wonder what the day would
* * * * *
Aunt Jeannie, too, had lain long awake, but when sleep came it came
deeply and dreamlessly, demanding the repair of two nights in the train
and the agitation of her talk. She had given orders that she was not to
be called till she rang, and when she woke the sun was already high,
and the square outside lively with passengers and traffic. But it was
with a sense of coming trial and trouble, if not quite of disaster,
that she woke.
It was disaster she had to avert; she had to think and scheme. But
had she known of Daisy's sleepless night, and the cause of that, she
would have felt that the anchor which prevented the situation drifting
into disaster had been torn up. For the anchor was the belief, as Lady
Nottingham had told her, that Daisy was not in love with Tom Lindfield,
and by one of fate's little ironies, at the very moment when she was
comforting herself last night with that thought it was true no longer.
Her sleep had quite restored her, giving vigour to her body and the
power of cool reflection to her brain, and when Victor came, according
to promise, to see her during the morning there was no hint of trouble
in her welcome of him, nor did he guess that any disquieting news had
reached her. And his conclusion, though not actually true, was justly
drawn, for the peace and the sense of security which she felt in his
presence was of a kind that nothing else, except danger and disaster to
it itself, could disturb.
It was a very tender, a very real part of her nature that was
troubled, but the trouble did not reach down into these depths. Nor did
she mean to speak of this trouble to him at all; a promise had been
made by her to keep it as secret as could be. Hitherto the secret had
been completely kept; it had passed the lips of none of the few who
knew. But to-day she would be obliged to speak of it to Alice, for her
plan to avert disaster was already half formed, but she dared not
embark on it alone without counsel from another. For an utterly
unlooked-for stroke of fate, supreme in its irony, that Daisy should be
meditating marriage with the one man in the world whom it was utterly
impossible that she should marry, had fallen, and at all costs the
event must be averted.
The two girls, as had been already arranged, set off during the
morning for the river-side house at Bray, where they would be joined
next day by Lady Nottingham and the rest of her party; and Aunt
Jeannie, returning home shortly before lunch, found that Daisy and
Gladys had already gone, and that the hour for her consultation with
her friend was come. For the situation admitted of no delay: in a sky
that till yesterday had been of dazzling clearness and incomparable
serenity there had suddenly formed this thunder-cloud, so to speak,
hard, imminent, menacing. It was necessary, and immediately necessary
(such was the image under which the situation presented itself to her
mind), to put up a lightning-conductor over Daisy's room. It was the
nature of the thunder-cloud that she had now to make known to Lady
Nottingham: that done, between them they had to devise the
lightning-conductor, or approve and erect that one which she had
already designed in her mind during the sleepless hours of the night
before. It was of strange design: she hardly knew if she had the skill
to forge it. For the forging had to be done by her.
They lunched together, and immediately afterwards went to Lady
Nottingham's sitting-room, where they would be undisturbed, for she had
given orders that neither the most urgent of telephones nor the most
intimate of callers were to be admitted. They drank their coffee in
silence, and then Jeannie got up.
I have got to tell you, Alice, she said, about that which only
yesterday I said I hoped I should never be obliged to speak of to
anybody. I suppose the envious Fates heard me; certainly the words were
scarcely out of my mouth before the necessity arose. What I have got to
tell you about is that which all last autumn was harder for me to get
over, I think, than all that I had been through myself. Only yesterday
I believed it to be all dead; I believed it to be at most a memory from
which time had already taken the bitterness. But I was completely and
signally wrong. It is dead no longer; it is terribly alive, for it has
had a resurrection which would convert a Sadducee. It is connected with
the reason why Daisy can never marry Tom Lindfield. It is more than
connected with it; it is the reason itself.
Jeannie had begun to speak standing by the fireplace and facing the
full light of the window, but here she moved, and wheeling a chair with
its back to the light, sat down in it. She wanted to be a voice and no
morea mere chronicle of a few hard, dry, irrevocable facts, things
that had happened, and could not be altered or softened. There was no
comment, no interpretation to be made. She had just to utter them;
Alice Nottingham had just to hear them.
You may have to give me time, my dear, she said, for it will be
as much as I can do, I am afraid, just to get through with the telling
of it. Yes, I am already frightening you, I know. I do that on purpose,
because I want to prepare you for a story that must shock and disturb
you very much. I wondered last night whether I could manage without
telling you, whether I could spare your hearing it all, but I find I
can't. I can't act alone in this, on my own responsibility. Perhaps you
may be able to think of some plan which will make mine unnecessary, and
I would give a great deal for that to happen. But some plan must be
made and carried out. Something has to be done.
She covered her face with her hands for a moment, then took them
away, and spoke, slowly and carefully, so that there might be no need
for further explanation of what she said.
Of course you remember Diana, Daisy's sister, she said, though
you would remember her more as a name than as a person, for I think you
never knew her at all well. She married very early, you know; she
married that nice Frenchman, Monsieur Dupré. After that she lived
abroad till the time of her death. The fact of that you will certainly
remember, though it is now some years since it happened. Where are we?
Yes, 1908. Then Diana died in 1903, five years ago. So at least we were
told at the time. It was in 1903 that we, all of us, you, Daisy, and I,
believed that Diana died.
Jeannie gave a long sigh.
My story of why Daisy cannot marry Tom Lindfield has begun, dear
Alice, she said, for Diana did not die then. She lived for four years
after that, and died last autumn only, in my arms, thank God! I thank
God, my dear, that she died, and I thank God that I was with her. There
was no one else, not her husband even.
Alice Nottingham turned on her a face that was puzzled, and was
beginning to get frightened.
But what does it all mean? she said. It is very disquieting, very
strange, but what does it lead to? DaisyTom Lindfield.
I am telling you as shortly as I can, said Jeannie. Do not
interrupt me, dear. It was last autumn she died, not five years ago as
we had supposed. Five years ago she waswas found out, if you
understandshe was found to have been living with another man not her
husband. He learned that, and he forgave her, for he adored her with a
tender, unwavering devotion that is very rare. She was to him like a
child who has been naughty and must be forgiven. Then in a few weeks
only after that she fell again. Even then he did not divorce her, or
make her bear the shame and publicity of what she had done; he simply
let her go.
Jeannie was still speaking slowly and quietly, as if reading out
some report which had to be mastered by her friend. But on the words
let her go her voice trembled a little. But then she again recaptured
the completeness of her self-control.
Whether that was wise or not, she said, whether it might not have
been better if he had let Diana bear the punishment that human law has
ordained for those poor things who behave as she behaved, we need not
inquire. Nor need I tell you the details of how it was all managed,
which I learned from Diana so few weeks before she died last year. It
is sufficient for me to say that they left their home near Amiens
together, ostensibly for a long foreign travel. After some weeks he
sent home the news of her sudden death; he sent the news also to us in
England. You were told, I and Daisy were told. And Diana, poor, poor
Diana, went and lived in Paris.
Again the bravely-suppressed emotion made Jeannie's voice to quiver.
That is what I mean when I said that M. Dupré let her go, she
said. Often I think it was a barbarous kindness. He could not live
with her any morethe fact that he loved her so much made that
impossibleand he had either to divorce her oror let her vanish into
the glittering crowd of those whowho are made like that. He chose the
latter: he accounted for her disappearance by the news, sent to Amiens
and sent to us in England, that she had died.
So five years ago Diana went to Paris, and for a time lived, not
with the man who had taken her from her husband, but with another.
During her married life she had lived in that beautiful country-house
of his near Amiens, seldom going to Paris, and no one apparently ever
found out who she really was. Then
Again Jeannie pausedpaused a long time; and before she spoke she
put her hands over her eyes, as if to shut out some dreadful vision.
Then she left that man, she said, and lived with another. You
know him; I know him; Daisy also.
It was as if Lady Nottingham had caught sight of that which made
Jeannie cover her eyes, for she winced and drew back.
Don'tdon't! she said; I can't bear that, please, Jeannie!
At the sound of the beseeching voice Jeannie recovered all her
self-control. She was wanted; Alice wanted her for comfort.
Oh, my dear, you must not be afraid, she said. We have to face
the facts and not be afraid of them, but do our best, and see how we
can arrest or alter the train of their consequences. It was heTom
Again she paused, and again continued, speaking quietly.
I knew nothing of all this till a little over a year ago, she
said; for even as M. Dupré had wished to spare Diana shame and
publicity, so, I suppose, he wished to spare us the knowledge of what
Diana had done, and it was thus that neither you nor Daisy nor I knew
anything of it. I think perhaps he ought to have told ustold you and
me, anyhow. But he did not, and it is of no use to think what we should
have done if he had. But rather more than a year ago Diana herself
wrote to mewrote me a pitiful, heart-breaking letter. I thought at
first it must be some grim practical joke, though I could not imagine
who had played so cruel a trick, or why the trick had been played at
all. But it was Diana's handwriting, and she enclosed a photograph of
herself, which I have now. It was impossible to mistake that: nothing
could mar her beauty; and then it was signed and dated in her own hand.
She wrote to say that she had been ill, that she was getting rapidly
worseit was of consumption, perhaps you remember, that her mother
diedand she wanted to know if I would come to her. She wanted to tell
me everything, and, thank God, she wanted me. So it was there that I
went when I left England last year.
I stayed with her till she died in that little gilded flat. And
during that month she told me everything. Itit was a long story,
Alice, and it was all set to one shameful tune. And I was not shocked;
that would have made my being with her quite useless, to begin with,
but, also, I did not feel inclined to be shocked. She was so like a
childa child that has gone wrong, if you will, but still a child.
Whether she was ashamed or not I hardly know, for after she had told me
of it all we never once spoke of it again. Certainly she wished, as
passionately as she was capable in her poor dying state of wishing
anything, that she should not bring shame or sorrow on others. Of all
others that she wished to spare, most of all she wished to spare Daisy;
anda promise to a dying person is a very solemn thingI promised
that I would do all that lay in my power so that Daisy should not know.
Till yesterday I thought that promise would never come up. But it has.
Daisy must not conceivably marry him. Also, she must not know why.
There is our crux.
And one word more, in justice to him, she added. I am convinced
he does not to this day know who it was with whom he lived in Paris. He
knew me, for instance, and liked me; and I am sure he would not have
lived with her knowing who she was. Oh, but, Alice, the misery, the
sorrow of it all! You don't know. You weren't with Diana at the end.
And I loved her. And I think herher going so utterly wrong like that
made me love her more. The pity of it! The hopeless, helpless sorrow of
it! She did not want to die
Jeannie's voice choked for a moment.
She wanted life, she wanted love, poor child. She was like some
beautiful wild thing, without law. She didn't think. She never loved
her husband, who adored her. She didn't think. And she died
frightenedfrightened at what might be in front of her. As if the
Infinite Tenderness was not in front of her! As if Jesus Christ, the
Man of many sorrows, was not there! Oh, Alice, how can we judge?
Ah, my dear, we don't judge, said she. Anyhow, no judgment of
ours has any effect. It is done with as far as she is concerned.
Jeannie's face suddenly brightened into a semblance of a smile. It
was veiled, but it was but the flesh that veiled it; at the core it was
Then we are content to leave dear Diana in the hands of the
Infinite Pity? she said. That must be certain before we can talk
But with my whole heart, said Lady Nottingham.
Again there was silence; and in that Jeannie openly dried the tears
that were on her face. She had been crying: there was no question about
I had to tell you, dear Alice, she said at length. I could not
bear it alone. You see why it is impossible, beyond the bounds of
speech, that Daisy should marry him. You see also why I thank Heaven
that she does not love him. At all costs, also, Daisy must not know why
it is impossible. That was my promise to Diana when she was dying. I
would do anything within my power and the stretched-out limits of it to
prevent her knowing. Diana, poor darling, wished for that. It was the
last request she made. It is sacred to me, as sacred as my honour.
Do you mean to tell him? asked Alice.
I hope not to. I want to keep poor Diana's secret as close as can
be. And I am not in the least certain, from what I know of him, that it
would do any good. If he wants Daisy, do you think a man like that
would let that stand in his way? No, we must do better than that. Now,
is he in love with her?
I can't say. It is clear, however, that he wants to marry her. He
has been in love so many times that one doubts if he has been in love
at all. There was
Oh, spare me the list of his conquests. He has been in love many
times. That is sufficient.
Sufficient for what?
For the plan that has occurred to me as possible. I don't say it is
easy; I don't say it is nice; but we want, above all things, to keep
poor Diana's dreadful secret, to let no one, if possibleand, above
all, Daisyknow that it was her sister who lived those years in Paris,
and in that manner.
Jeannie got up.
Clearly the easiest way of arriving at what we want is to make
Daisy think that he has only been flirting with her, she saidthat
he is not serious. It will hurt the poor child, I know; but if she were
in love with him, which you think she is not, it would hurt her far,
far more. Therefore, we must waste no time. Any day, any moment, she
may fall in love with him. He is extremely attractive.
Do you mean you will tell Daisy that he has only been flirting with
her? asked Alice.
No, that would do no good. She would not believe it. Besides, any
day also he may propose to her. No, it must be more convincing than
that. She must see that which convinces her that he is not in earnest.
We must make him, if we can, under Daisy's very nose, flirt with
somebody else. We must make him neglect her. I don't know if it can be
done, but we must try. At least, I can think of no other plan which
will not involve telling Daisy all that we want to keep from her.
But howwho? asked Alice.
He is coming to BrayLord Lindfield, I mean?
Yes; he is coming to-morrow evening with the others.
Jeannie paused in front of a mirror, looked long at herself, and
spoke to her image there.
Yes, passable yetjust passable yet, she said to herself.
Lady Nottingham got up and came across the room to her.
Jeannie, what do you mean? she asked. What is it you mean?
Jeannie turned round quickly.
Ah! you guess, she said. I don't say it is nice; I shan't like
myself much, I can promise you. But it is not so long since he ran
after me a good deal. Perhaps you remember the fact. He didn't receive
much encouragement then. Well, I mean that he shall do it again. This
time he shall receive much more encouragement. I will make it very easy
for him. I will help him a great deal now. I will flirt with him all
the time at Bray. Flirtyes. Oh, it is not a nice word, and flirts are
not nice people, as we settled only yesterday. We settled they were not
worth talking about. But I am going to be one nowand a bad one,
toounder Daisy's very nose. Perhaps I shan't succeed, but I shall do
my best; and if I don't succeed, we must try to think of something
else. But I want Daisy to see how easily and readily he makes love to a
woman. I want her to see herself slighted and neglected. I want her to
be hurtand finally to be angry, to be furious, to see that he means
nothing. Then, provided only she is not in love with him now, she will
hate and despise him.
Jeannie spoke rapidly, excitedly, her face flushing.
Or do you think it is a forlorn hope, Alice? she said. Am I but
flattering myself that I am not quite passée yet? Oh, it is a
heavy handicap, I know, for a woman of my age to try to cut out a
brilliant young girl, and one who is beautiful; and, as you have told
me, he never, as far as you know, flirted with a girl. Well, that
proves he likes women best.
Ah! but you can't do it, Jeannie, broke in Lady Nottingham. Think
of what you will appear to Daisy; think of your own self-respect; think
of Victor. What will he make of it all? It is too dangerous.
I have thought of all those things, said Jeannie. I have weighed
and balanced them; and they seem to me lighter than that promise I made
to Diana. I may have to tell Victor; about that I don't know, but I
shall do my utmost not to. It may not be necessary, for, Alice, I think
he trusts me as utterly as I trust him. I think that if I saw him
running after some other woman I should feel there must be some
explanation, and I hope I should not ask him for it, or think he was
faithless to me. And I believe he has that trust in me also. I don't
know. If he demands to know what it all means I shall tell him, because
if you are asked anything in the name of love it is not possible to
refuse. Heaven knows, this is a desperate measure! But show me any
other that has a chance of success and will still keep Diana's secret.
This may fail; one cannot be sure of any plan going right. But show me
any other plan at all, and from the bottom of my heart I will thank
Lady Nottingham shook her head.
I can think of no other plan, she said; but I can't approve of
this one. You are playing with serious things, Jeannie; you are playing
with love and other people's souls. Diana did not mean you to do
anything like this in order to keep your promise to her.
No, poor child! One does not easily see the consequences of one's
acts, or how they go on long after they are committed, bringing joy or
sorrow to others. Oh, Alice, there is such a dreadful vitality about
evil. Acts that one thinks are all over and dead have an awful power of
coming to life again. What one has done never dies. It may be
forgivenHeaven grant it may be forgivenbut it exists still in the
lives of others.
But it is not as if she were alive, said the other, or as if she
could suffer for it.
Jeannie shook her head.
Ah, my dear, she said, to my mind that is a reason the more for
keeping my promise. Living people can defend themselves to some extent,
or you can appeal to them and make them see, perhaps, that such a
promise involves more than it is reasonable to demand. But the dead,
Alice! The dead are so defenceless!
Lady Nottingham was silent, knowing that it is useless to argue over
questions of feeling; for no amount of reasoning, however admirable,
can affect a question about which the heart has taken sides. And after
a moment Jeannie went on:
And it is not the dead alone, she said. There is Daisy also to
consider. Had I made no promise at all, I think I would do anything as
distasteful and odious to me as that which I am going to do, for the
sake of keeping that dreadful knowledge from her. Alice, think if you
had had a sister like that! Could you ever get rid of the poison of it?
And it is an awful thing to let a young soul be poisoned. When we grow
older, we get, I suppose, better digestions; poisons affect us less.
That is the worst of growing old.
Again she paused.
And now, dearas they say at the end of sermonslet us talk no
more about it. You will see me in an odious rôle down at Bray; but it
will be something to know that you are aware it is a rôle, an odious
rôle assumed for a good purpose. I shall seem detestable to Daisy, and
she will not be able to believe her eyes, until she is forced to. I
shall seem charming to him, Tom Lindfield, until at the end, when, as
we hope, Daisy is convinced, I shall turn round like the flirt and say,
'What do you mean?' I shall seem odious to myself, but I do not believe
I shall seem odious to Victor. I think he will know there is something
he does not understand. Perhaps I shall do it all very badly, and not
succeed in detaching him at all from Daisy. It is true I have not had
much practice, for I assure you I am not a flirt by nature. Oh, Alice,
can't you think of any other plan? I can't, and I have thought so hard.
Have you got a very large party? I don't want a full house to witness
this disgusting performance. I shall have to be so cheap. I wish Victor
was not going to be there. At least, I am not sure. I think he will see
he does not understand. It is bad luck, you know, that of all men in
the world this should be the one whom Daisy thinks about marrying. Now
let us dismiss it altogether.
Lady Nottingham felt a certain sense of injustice.
Dear Jeannie, she said, you have done all the talking, and,
having expressed your views, you say, 'Let us dismiss it altogether.'
By all means, if you choose; but I haven't had a chance. You have
prophesied success to your scheme; I prophesy disaster. You are not
fitted for your rôle; you will break down long before you accomplish
anything. You will see Daisy looking at you with reproach; you will see
Victor looking at you with wonder; you will see Lord Lindfield looking
at you withwith admiration. You won't be able to bear any of those
things, least of all the last. You will have some involuntary shudder
of horror at him, or you will obey your heart and run to comfort Daisy,
and give it all away. Yours is one of the schemes that don't come off,
because they are unthinkable.
But Jeannie interrupted again.
You mustn't discourage me, she said, because I want all the
spirits I am capable of to carry it through. It has to be done with a
light heart, else it will deceive nobody. And so, my dear, to-morrow
you will say 'good-bye' to me, and have a sort of wraith of me instead
for a little while. Oh, Alice, I hope it won't take very long!
The intense heat of the afternoon had a little abated, and after tea
the two drove out for a while, returning early in order to dine and go
to the opera. It began at eight, and Jeannie, after her year's sojourn
in the country, demanded a full dose, and they arrived before the
beginning of the first act. Outside it was still not quite the hour of
sunset, and the streets and houses were gilded by the soft reddish glow
of the superb summer evening. At the porch of the opera-house were a
few men standing about, clearly waiting for friends, and for that
purpose examining the disembarking carriages. As the two got out, one
of these gently but quite firmly shouldered his way towards them.
Looking out for an acquaintance, I find a friend, Lady Nottingham,
he said. That's my luck all over.Why, Mrs. Halton! Have you the
smallest remembrance of me?
Jeannie had seen him, and for one moment of weakness and indecision
had tried to pass by without seeming to recognize him. But it was
impossible to ignore this, and though she had hoped her rôle would not
begin till to-morrow, it was clear now that she must start to-day.
Why, but how charming to see you, Lord Lindfield, she said. I am
delighted. I am only just home, you knowor perhaps you don't, for why
should you? Do leave your acquaintance in the lurch, now you have found
a friendit would have been prettier of you, by the way, to have said
two friendsand join us. Alice dear, carry Lord Lindfield off under
your cloak to the box. Kidnap him.
Jove! yes, I'll be kidnapped, said he. Kidnap me quick, please,
Lady Nottingham, because I see Mrs. Streatham's carriage. Too late; she
sees me. May I come up forfor an hour or two, after the first act?
Not for an hour, for two, said Jeannie, as Mrs. Streatham waved
her hand to him, but without a smile, for she was busy wondering who
Mrs. Halton was, and whether there was a chance of getting her to dine
two or three times during the next week.
Mrs. Streatham used her friends and acquaintances much as a clematis
uses the wires or trellis put up for it. She strongly and firmly
climbed along them (without ever letting go), to find fresh friends and
Who was that charming-looking woman you were talking to, Lord
Lindfield, she said, with Lady Nottingham? By the way, you lunch with
us on Thursday, do you not?
Mrs. Halton, said he.
Really! That sweetly pretty MissMiss Hanbury's aunt? Are she and
Lady Nottingham in the stalls? They might like to come to my box
instead. It is so far more comfortable in a box. Will you ask them? I
do know Lady Nottingham. She dined with us last yearat least, I asked
They have a box of their own, said he.
Ah, what a pity! Let us go in. I expect a few friends this evening,
but they will find their way. It is such a pity to miss a note of
'Faust.' Oh, I see, it is 'Lucia.' That is by Gounod too, is it not?
Three hours later they were all standing in the vestibule waiting
for the arrival of carriages. Mrs. Streatham had been unable to arrange
anything definite with regard to Mrs. Halton lunching with her, but had
just said she would write, and hope to find her disengaged the week
after next, when her carriage was bawled out. Lord Lindfield shut her
firmly into it, with profuse thanks, and returned to the others. Crowds
of peoplesome of whom, apparently, Mrs. Streatham did not know by
sighthad swarmed into her box during the evening, and he had spent
most of it in Lady Nottingham's without any sense of deserting his
hostess, since it was impossible even to stand in her box, far less sit
Then Lady Nottingham's carriage had come up too, and he put them
Till to-morrow, then, said Jeannie. I am looking forward to it
immensely. You lunch with us first, and then take me to the concert.
The motor bubbled and slid off, and she put down the window.
It moves, she said laconically.
Lady Nottingham's house at Bray was one of those styleless
nondescript river-side residences which, apart from the incomparable
beauty of their surroundings, have a charm of their own, elusive but
distinct. Originally it had been no more than a couple of cottages,
thatched and low-eaved, but her husband in his lifetime had dealt with
these so successfully by building out a dining-room with bedrooms above
on one side, a drawing-room and billiard-room, again with bedrooms
above, on the other, and a long row of servants' rooms and offices,
that now it was commodious enough to take in a tolerably large party in
It is true that he might have built something quite as commodious at
far less expense by pulling down the old and beginning again, but, on
the other hand, the amusement and employment he got out of it was cheap
at the additional price.
The house stood screened from the river by a thick-set hawthorn
hedge, inside which was a garden of a couple of acres in extent, in
which was combined the charm of antiquity with the technique of skilful
modern gardening. Unlike many English gardens, which are laid out to be
active in, this was clearly a place for the lazy and the lounger. There
were no tennis courts, no croquet lawns, no place, in fact, where any
game could be played that demanded either extent or uniformity of
surface. A wavy, irregular lawn, all bays and angles and gulfs of
green, was fitted into the headlands and promontories of garden beds,
as the sea is fitted into the land; but the voyager never got to open
sea, so to speak, but was always turning round corners into other
It was impossible to imagine a place less formally laid out, or one,
considering the extent of it, where you could walk so short a way in
the same direction.
There were no straight lines anywhere, an omission fatal in the eyes
of a formalist, but paths, broad paths of grass, or narrower paths of
old paving-stone, meandered about in a manner that could hardly fail to
On each side of such paths were garden beds, no mere ribbons, but
wide, deep spaces of well-nourished earth, where just now June made
jungle. Here you could sit and become part of the general heat and
fragrance, and lose your identity in summer, or, moving a little, find
a tree, no shrub, but a big living elm in tower of leaf and panoply of
spreading bough, to be cool under. Pigeons from the big dovecot in
front of the house afforded to a leisure mind a sufficiency of general
conversation, or formed a cooing chorus of approval if anybody wished
to talk himself; but one thing clearly prohibited in these warm, green
places was to be active. The actively inclined had to pass through the
gate in the hedge, and there, by turning to the left, they would find a
back-water with a whole village of boat-houses. There, to suit the
measure of their activity, they could equip themselves with the
required materials; there were punts at their disposal, or they could
take unto themselves a canoe, or a portly, broad-beamed ark, or risk
themselves in outriggers of extreme length and uncertain stability.
The house itself afforded no less scope for the various inclinations
of its inhabitants. There was a charming drawing-room where any one
could sit up, take notice, and be formal. There was an immense
billiard-room, with an alcove containing a couple of card tables, so
far away from the billiards that the sound of cannons reached the ear
of the bridge-player in a manner that could not disconcert; while for
wet days and the more exuberantly inclined there was a squash-racquet
court where any amount of exercise could be enjoyed with the smallest
possible expenditure of time.
The two original cottages had been run together, and a hall now
comprised the whole ground floor of both. Wooden joists of the floors
above made parallels down the ceiling, and it was still lit through the
small-paned windows of the original cottages, through the squares of
which the landscape outside climbed up and down over the ridges of the
glass. At one end was the fireplace, which had once been a
kitchen-range; but that removed, a large open hearth, burning a wood
fire when fires were necessary, was flanked by two settles within the
At the other end, and facing it, the corresponding kitchen range of
the second cottage had also been cleared out, but the chimney above it
had been boarded in, and a broad, low settee ran round the three sides
of it. Above this settee, and planted into the wall, so that the heads
of those uprising should not come in contact with the shelves, was a
bookcase full of delectable volumes, all fit to be taken down at
random, and opened at random, all books that were familiar friends to
any who had friends among that entrancing family. Tennyson was there,
and all Thackeray; Omar Khayyam was there, and Alice in Wonderland; Don
Quixote rubbed covers with John Inglesant, and Dickens found a
neighbour in Stevenson.
But this was emphatically a room to sit down in, not to move about
in, for the levels of the floor were precarious, and a sudden step
would easily disconcert those who tried to make a promenade of it. It
was as inactive in tendency as the garden.
Outside the house was charmingly irregular. The billiard-room with
the bedrooms above it was so markedly Queen Anne that it was impossible
to believe it could be Queen Anne. Nor was it, for it was Queen
Victoria. Then came the cottage section, which had a thatched roof, on
which grew wallflowers and the pink pincushions of valerian, and
following that was a low, stern line of building containing kitchens
and servants' rooms, which made no pretence to be anything except that
which it was.
But over pseudo-Queen Anne, genuine George I. cottages, and frankly
Edwardian kitchens, there rose a riot of delectable vegetation. White
jasmine and yellow jasmine strove together like first cousins who hate
each other, jackmanni and tropæolum were rival beauties, and rambler
roses climbed indifferently about, made friends where they could, and
when they found themselves unable, firmly stabbed their enemies and
strangled their remains.
Charming, however, as it all was, it had no mood to suggest. It but
accentuated the moods of those who came there, and by its very
vagueness and softness reflected the spirits of its visitors. It was
impossible to imagine a place more conducive to foster and cherish a
man's inclinations; to the lover it would be a place ideal for a
honeymoon, to the studious an admirable study. In the Italian phrase
the whole place was simpatico; it repeated and crooned over to
every one the mood in which he came to it. And if a lover would find it
an adorable setting for his beloved and himself, so, too, it would mock
and rail in sympathy with one who was cynical and bitter. But since
most people are not in any particular mood, and when they come into the
country require light and agreeable diversion, Lord Nottingham had been
quite right in providing so ample a billiard-room, so engaging a
library, so varied a fleet of river-craft.
Daisy and Gladys had come down here the day before Lady Nottingham
and the rest of the party were to arrive, and they found plenty to
occupy them. The house had not been used since Easter, and wore that
indescribable look of uninhabitableness which results from a thorough
house-cleaning. Everything, even in the irregular hall, looked angular
and uncomfortable; chairs were set square to tables; tables were set at
mathematically precise angles; blinds were all drawn down exactly four
inches from the tops of the windows; and all the books were in their
It was all too tidy to have been lived in, and, therefore, too tidy
to live in, and it took Daisy nearly an hour to take the chill off the
room, as she put it, though the heat here was nearly as intense as it
had been in town. Gladys, who was no good at this subtle business of
restoring life to a dead room, occupied herself with writing out the
names of the guests very neatly on cards, which she then, with equal
neatness, affixed to the doors of their rooms.
Daisy paused at the end of this hour and surveyed the room with
satisfaction. For one who has till so lately been a corpse it isn't
bad, she said. Don't you see the difference, Gladys? It was like a
refrigerator before. Yes, let's have tea at once, shall we, and then go
out? There's lots more to do. We must pick great boughs of laburnum and
beech for all the big vases. Gardeners are no good at that; nor are
you, dear, for that matter. You tell them to pick boughs, and they pick
I hate picking flowers at all, said Gladys. They are so much
nicer where they are.
Daisy poured out tea.
I know you think that, she said, and I entirely disagree.
Whenever you see flowers in a house you think what a pity they are not
growing in the garden; whereas, whenever I see flowers in a garden, it
seems to me such a pity they are not in the house. Of course, when the
house is quite, quite full, I don't mind the rest remaining in the
I think that's like you, she said. You want to use things on the
whole, and I on the whole want to let them enjoy themselves.
That sounds as if you thought yourself a perfect saint of
unselfishness and me a greedy pig, remarked Daisy. If you don't come
to tea I shall eat all the strawberries. Perhaps you wish they had
never been picked, and left to rot on their stems by way of enjoying
Gladys finished the last name on her packet of cards for guests'
No, I don't go as far as that, she said, because I like the taste
of them, which you can't get at unless you eat them. Now flowers look
much nicer when they are growing.
Yes, but they are not yours so much when they are growing, said
Daisy. I like them in my house, in my vases. Yes, I suppose I am
greedy. Oh, I am going to enjoy myself these next few days. All the
people I like best are coming, and they mostly like me best. That is
such an advantage. Wouldn't it be awful to like somebody very much and
find he didn't like you? What a degrading position! Oh dear, what a
More than usual?
Much more. I'm dreadfully happy inside. Don't you know how you can
be immensely happy outside and not really be happy at all? But when you
are happy inside you are happy altogether, and don't mind a wet day or
going to the dentist's one scrap. Isn't it funny how one gets happy
inside all in a moment? I suppose there is a cause for everything,
isn't there? Ugh! there's an earwig. Oh, it's going your way, not mine.
I wonder what the cause of earwigs is. I wish they would find it out
and reason it away.
Gladys put an empty inverted teacup over the earwig.
What made you happy inside? she asked.
Well, darling Aunt Alice started it two afternoons ago when we came
back from the Zoo. I had a delightful talk, and she gave me some
excellent advice. She quite realized that I wasn't exactly what most
people would call being in love with him, but she advised me anyhow to
make up my mind whether I would say 'yes' or 'no,' and recommended
'yes.' And so I did make up my mind, and the very next day, do you
know, Gladys, when I dragged you away from the ball so early
Because you had a headache, said Gladys, ruthlessly.
She had been enjoying herself, and still a little resented Daisy's
imperious order to go away.
You needn't rub it in, darling. Well, that very night something
happened to me that frightened me at first. I began to feel quite
differently about him.
Daisy got up quickly.
I've been so dreadfully happy ever since, she said, although
sometimes I've felt quite miserable. Do you see the difference, or does
it sound nonsense? Let me explain. I've only felt miserable, but I was
happy. Gladys, I do believe it's It. It does make one feel so
infinitesimal, and so immense.
Gladys looked up quickly at her cousin. Whatever It was, this was
certainly a Daisy who was quite strange to herDaisy with a strange,
shy look in her eyes, half exulting in this new feeling, half ashamed
I hardly slept at all that night, she said, and yet the night
didn't seem in the least long. And I don't think I wanted to sleep
except now and then when I felt miserable. And I believe it's the same
thing that makes me feel miserable which makes me so happy. Gladys, I
shall be so shy of him to-morrow when he comes here that he will
probably think I'm in the sulks. And he's coming early probably, before
any of the othersbefore lunch, in fact.
Gladys got up.
Oh, Daisy, I don't think you ought to have arranged that, she
said. Do you mean he will find just you and me here?
He needn't find you unless you like, she said. And I didn't
exactly arrange it. I told him you and I would be alone here, and he
asked if he might get down early. I couldn't exactly forbid him;
besides, darling, I didn't want to.
Mother wouldn't like it, said Gladys.
So please don't tell her, remarked Daisy. I hate vexing people.
She won't find out either. We shall go on the river or something, and
come back after the rest of the people have arrived. You are so
old-fashioned, Gladys; besides, it isn't certain that he will come. He
only said he would if he could. But he is the sort of man who usually
can when he wishes.
I ought to tell mother, said Gladys.
I know, but you won't.
Daisy laughed again, and then suddenly, without reason, her spirits
Oh dear, what a little beast I have been! she said. I did arrange
that he should come, Gladys; at least, I made it imperative that he
should ask if he might, and now it seems so calculating and
cold-blooded. Girls like whom I used to be tilltill about forty-eight
hours ago are such brutes. They plot and scheme and entrap men. Pigs! I
almost hope he won't come. I do, really. And yet that wouldn't do
either, for it would look as if he had found me out and was disgusted
with me. I believe you are all wrong, both you and Aunt Alice, and that
he doesn't care for me in the least. He has flirted with half London.
It isn't his fault; women have always encouraged him, just as I have
done. What beasts we are!
Oh, well, come and pick boughs of laburnum, said Gladys. Let's go
and do something. We've been indoors all the afternoon.
But I don't want to pick boughs of laburnum, said Daisy. Why
should we do the gardener's work? I want to cry.
Very well, cry, said Gladys. Oh, Daisy, I'm not a brute. I am so
sorry you feel upset. But you know you are very happy; you have told me
so. I should like to be immensely sympathetic, but you do change so
quickly, I can't quite keep up. It must be very puzzling. Do you
suppose everybody is like you when she falls in love?
And I wish I was dead, said Daisy, violently, having arrived at
that dismal conclusion by some unspoken train of thought. I wish I was
a cow. I wish I was a boy.
But you can't be a cow or a boy, said Gladys, gravely, and you
don't really wish you were dead.
Daisy suddenly had a fit of the giggles, which before long infected
her cousin also, and they both lay back in their chairs in peals of
helpless laughter. Now and then one or other would recover a little,
only to be set off again by the temporarily hopeless case, and it was
not till they had laughed themselves tired that the fit subsided.
Daisy mopped her streaming eyes.
L-let's pick laburnum, she said at length. How silly you are! But
it would save such a lot of trouble to be a cow. If I laugh any more I
shall be sick.
Come into the garden, then, said Gladys. Oh dear! I didn't mean
that. Don't laugh again, Daisy; it does hurt so dreadfully.
Whatever might prove to be the conduct of others, it seemed clear
next morning that the weather meant to do all in its power to help
Daisy to have a happy time, and another hot and cloudless day
succeeded. The girls intended originally to lunch at one, since that
gave a longer afternoon; but at one, since nobody had appeared, it
seemed wiser to put off lunch till half-past, since that was the hour
at which they lunched in London. Eventually they sat down alone to a
meal even more belated. But at present nothing could touch or mar
It is much better that he shouldn't come, she said, with an air of
decision. I daresay Aunt Alice wouldn't like it, though it couldn't
have been supposed to be my fault. Very likely his motor has broken
down; he told me it usually did.
She laughed quite naturally; there was no sting in his absence.
In fact, he told me he usually sent it on ahead, she said, and
started walking after it about half an hour later. In that way, by the
time he arrived his chauffeur had generally put it to rights again, and
he got in.
Then he ought to be here in half an hour, remarked Gladys.
Yes. Shall we have lunch kept cold for him? It would be hot by the
time he arrived if we didn't. Oh, Gladys, I believe you are laughing at
me. How horrid of you!
Not in the least. But I am rather glad he didn't come. I hate
concealing things from mother.
Daisy put her nose in the air.
Oh, you needn't have worried. He would have been quite certain to
have told Aunt Alice himself.
You didn't think of that yesterday, said Gladys.
No. What disgusting salad! I believe it's made of turnip-tops. I'm
very glad he didn't come to lunch.
Men are so greedy about their food, said Gladys. I don't mind
what I eat.
Evidently, since you can eat that. Oh, Gladys, I don't mean to be
cross, but when you say things on purpose to annoy me it would be such
bad manners in me not to appear to be annoyed. Do you think his motor
has broken down? Fancy him tramping down the Bath road on a day like
this! He hates walking unless he is going to kill something. He was
charged by a rhinoceros once. If you try to shoot them and miss, they
charge. How awfully tiresome of them! He killed it afterwards, though.
It was quite close. You never heard anything so exciting.
Oh, Daisy, she said, you told me that before, and you said it was
so hard to know what to say if you didn't know a rhinoceros from a
hippopotamus. And now you find it too exciting.
Well, what then? said Daisy, with dignity. I think one ought to
take an interest in all sorts of subjects. It is frightfully suburban
only to be interested in what happens in your own parish. Somebody said
that the world was his parish.
I don't know what parish Grosvenor Square is in, said Gladys,
Somehow Daisy, in this new mood, was far less formidable than the
glittering crystal which had been Daisy up till now. She seemed to have
rubbed shoulders with the world, instead of streaking the sky above it.
Her happiness, you would say, even in the moment of its birth, had
humbled and softened her. Gladys found she had not the slightest fear
of being snapped up. Several times during lunch Daisy had snapped, but
she had snapped innocuously. They had finished now, and she rose.
I expect him in about an hour, said Daisy, rather magisterially.
Let us finish the flowers. I love flowers in my bedroom, don't you? Do
let us put a dish of them in everybody's bedroom. It looks so
welcoming. Books, too; everybody likes a book or two in his room. It's
so easy to do little things like that, and people appreciate it
enormously. There's the whole of the afternoon before us; nobody will
arrive till the five o'clock train.
But I thought you said you expected him began Gladys.
Darling, pray don't criticize my last remark but three. Every
remark becomes obsolete as soon as another remark is made.
* * * * *
Daisy's last conjecture was correct, and it was not till after five,
when tea had been laid on the broad, creeper-covered verandah to the
east of the house, that any one appeared. Then, however, they appeared
in large numbers, for most of Lady Nottingham's guests had chosen the
train she recommended to travel by. Every one, in fact, arrived by it
with the exception of Jeannie Halton and Lord Lindfield.
I knew Jeannie would miss it, Lady Nottingham said, but as she
was equally certain she would not the thing had to be put to the proof.
Daisy darling, how are you? She insisted on being taken to the symphony
concert; at least, she didn't so much insist as Lord Lindfield insisted
on taking her. They were to meet us at Paddington, and in caseJeannie
went so far as to provide for that contingencyin case they missed it,
he was to drive her down in his motor.
Victor Braithwaite, who had come with the party, joined in.
I know that motor, he said. It can do any journey the second time
it tries, but no journey the first time. He took me the other day from
Baker Street to South Audley Street, and it stuck in the middle of
Jim Crowfoot helped himself largely to strawberries, and turned to
Daisy. He was a slim, rather small young man, with a voice some two
sizes too large for him. He was supposed to be rather a good person to
have in the house, because he never stopped talking. Had it been
possible to cover him over with a piece of green baize, like a canary,
when one had had enough, he would have been even more desirable.
I suppose that's what they mean by second thoughts being the best,
he said. It isn't usually the case; at least, I find that if ever I
think right, it's always when I don't give the matter any
consideration. I came down here without considering that I promised to
dine with Mrs. Streatham this evening, and it was an excellent plan.
Mrs. Beaumont broke in. Her plan was always to be tremendously
appreciative of everybody for two sentences, in order to enhance the
effect of the nasty things she said of everybody the moment afterwards.
It set the nasty things off better.
I think every one is too horrid about our dear kind Mrs.
Streatham, she said. She is the most hospitable woman I know, and
you, for instance, Jim, go and eat her cutlets and then laugh at her.
She asked me to dine with her next Friday, but I said I couldn't, as I
remembered I was already engaged. When I looked at my book I found it
was with her that I had already promised to dine. I like being asked
twice; it shows one is really wanted.
Oh, we're all really wanted, said Jim. But we don't always want
the people who want us. That is the tragedy. If you'll ask me to dinner
once, Mrs. Beaumont, I will transfer two of Mrs. Streatham's
invitations to you.
There you are again! You are not kind. It would upset her table.
Not at all. Her husband would dine downstairs, and her daughter
would dine upstairs. That is the advantage of having a family. You can
always make things balance.
I have a family, said she, and that is exactly why my bank-book
won't balance. But when I overdraw I always threaten to transfer my
account. Bankers will stand anything but that, won't they, Mr.
Braithwaite? Let us go and stroll. Dear Jim always talks so loud that I
can't hear myself think. And if I don't hear myself think I don't know
what I shall say next. Do tell me, was it on purpose, do you think,
that Mrs. Halton and Lord Lindfield missed their train? I may be quite
wrong, but didn't you think that Alice said it as if she had rather
Surely, she said she expected it.
How interesting! What a heavenly garden! I only have just met Mrs.
Halton. Every one says she is too fascinating.
She is perfectly charming, said he. Is that the same thing?
Oh, not at all; you may be perfectly charming without being the
least fascinating. No man ever wants to marry a perfectly charming
woman; they only think it delightful when one of their friends does
Daisy had heard most of this as the two left the verandah and
strolled off down the garden, and the effect that it had on her was to
make her label Mrs. Beaumont as horrid. She was quite aware that
three-quarters of the ordinary light conversation that went on between
people who were not friends but only acquaintances was not meant to be
taken literally, and that no one of any perception took it otherwise.
Tribute to Aunt Jeannie's charms had been paid on both sides; the woman
had heard of her as too fascinating, Victor had found her charming.
Daisy herself, from her own point of view, could find no epithet too
laudatory, and she endorsed both the fascinating and the charming.
But she was just conscious that she would have preferred that Victor
should have called her fascinating, and Mrs. Beaumont charming, rather
than that it should have been the other way about.
But it was not because Mrs. Beaumont called her fascinating that
Daisy labelled that unconscious lady as horrid; it was because she had
made the suggestion that Lord Lindfield and her aunt had missed the
train on purpose, in order, so it followed, that they should drive down
together in the motor whose second thoughts were so admirable. Daisy
scorned the insinuation altogether; she felt that she degraded herself
by allowing herself to think of it. But that had been clearly implied.
The group round the tea-table had dispersed, and she easily found
herself next Aunt Alice.
Everything is in order, dear Aunt Alice, she said, and Gladys has
worked so hard. But I don't think I should have come down yesterday if
I had known there was a symphony concert this afternoon. What did they
Brahms, I think, said Lady Nottingham, vaguely. There is Brahms,
isn't there? Neither Jeannie nor Lord Lindfield quite knew. They went
But when did they settle to go and see? asked Daisy.
Last night, I think. Oh, yes, at the Opera last night.Yes, Mr.
Crowfoot, of course you may have another cup. Sugar?He came to my
boxLord Lindfield, I meanand was so delighted to meet your Aunt
Jeannie again.Yes, I put in one lump, Mr. Crowfoot. Is that right?
Lady Nottingham certainly succeeded admirably in the lightness of
touch she gave to the little speech. She knew, as well as if Daisy had
told her in so many words, the sort of feeling that had dictated
Daisy's rather catechism-questions about the manner of Jeannie and
Lindfield settling to go to the concert, and what there was at the
concert. But the lightness of touch was not easy; she knew quite well,
and did not fail to remember, that a few days ago only she had advised
Daisy to have her answer ready when (not if") Lord Lindfield proposed
to her. He had certainly not done so, but Daisy had evidently not
expected him to go to a concert with her aunt and miss his train and
drive down with her. She had no reason to suppose that anything that
could be called jealousy was as yet existent in Daisy's mind. She only,
perhaps, wanted to know exactly what had happened.
Jim Crowfoot had only paused like a bird on the wing, pouncing on
morsels of things to eat, and having got his second cup of tea he flew
off again instantly to Mrs. Majendie, whom he was regaling with a
shrill soliloquy. Thus for a moment Daisy and Aunt Alice were alone at
Daisy dropped into a chair at Lady Nottingham's side.
I am so glad he likes Aunt Jeannie, she said in her best and
quickest style, and that she likes him. I suppose they do like each
other, since they go to a concert together and miss a train together.
You never miss trains with people you don't like, do you, Aunt Alice? I
was rather afraid, do you know, that Aunt Jeannie wouldn't like him. I
am so glad I was wrong. And they knew each other before, did they?
Lady Nottingham paused a moment. She never devoted, as has been
said, more of her brain than was necessary to deal with the subject in
hand, but it appeared to her that a good deal of brain was required
here. Daisy, poor undiplomatic Daisy, had tried so hard in this rapid,
quick-witted little speech to say all the things she knew she ought to
feel, and which, as a matter of fact, she did not feel. Superficially,
it was no doubt delightful that Aunt Jeannie should like Tom Lindfield;
it was delightful also that he should like her. The speech was all
quite correct, quite sincere as far as it went, but if one took it
further it was all quite insincere. She said all that the surface felt
in order to conceal what she really felt.
And the light reply again was not easy to Lady Nottingham. She had
considered Jeannie's plan in all its bearings, and neither then nor now
could she think of a better plan. But already Daisy was watching; she
said it was so nice that the two should be friends. She meant it, as
far as it went, but no further. She would have to learn to mean it less
and less; she would have to dislike and then to hate the idea of their
being friends, if Jeannie's plan was to succeed. She would also have to
hate one, anyhow, if not both, of the two whom she liked so much. The
curtain had gone up on a tragic little farce. It was in order to avoid
a tragedy, however, that the farce had been planned. It was in order to
save Daisy that she was being sacrificed now.
Lady Nottingham took up Daisy's last question.
Oh, yes, they have known each other for years, she said, helping
the plan forward. They met quite like old friends. I was completely
out of it last night. We were just us three in the box, and I was the
Daisy stamped, figuratively speaking, on what was in her mind, and
compelled her loyalty to triumph.
I don't wonder at everybody simply loving Aunt Jeannie, she said.
We all do, don't we? But I don't love Lord Lindfield's motor. I do
hope they will be in time for dinner. Otherwise the table is absolutely
upset, and I shall have to settle it all over again. Isn't it rather
inconsiderate of them, Aunt Alice? I think they ought to have caught
their train, whether it was Brahms or not.
But the loyalty was an effort. Lady Nottingham felt that, and
applauded the effort.
Poor Daisy! she said, speaking in these two words her unspoken
thought. It is too bad of them to give you more trouble.
Oh, I don't mind just arranging the table again, said Daisy,
A rearrangement of the table proved to be necessary, since at
half-past eight Lord Lindfield's motor had not yet been heard of. But
in spite of the absentees, it was a hilarious party that sat down. Some
had been on the river, some had strolled about the garden, and all were
disposed to enjoy themselves immensely. Jim Crowfoot had not ceased
talking at all, and showed at present not the slightest sign of doing
so. He took Daisy in to dinner.
They are probably sitting by the roadside, he said, singing
Brahms to each other, while the chauffeur lies underneath the car
hammering it, with his feet just sticking out, and trying to screw the
throttle into the waste-pipe of the carburetter. Why does nobody invent
a motor car without a carburetter? It is always that which is at the
root of the trouble. And the shades of evening will thicken, and they
will sing louder and louder, as night draws on, to check their rising
sensations of cold and hunger and fear, while the chauffeur swiftly and
firmly reduces the car to scrap-iron. I think it is so interesting when
somebody doesn't arrive. Their absence gives rise to so many pleasing
conjectures. What are we going to do to-morrow, Miss Daisy?
Oh, nothing, I hope, said she. Why? Do you want to do anything?
No, but if I was expected to do anything, I wished to know the
worst at once. What I like best of all is to sit in a chair and not
read. The chair ought to be placed at some railway station, and a
succession of people should be provided to run by me with heavy bags in
their hands just missing their trains. The next best thing to doing
nothing yourself is to observe everybody else trying to do something,
like catching trains, and not succeeding. My uncle once missed eight
trains in one day, and then tried to commit suicide. But next day he
caught nine trains and a motor 'bus, which reconciled him to living,
which he is still doing.
Are you sure he was your uncle? asked Daisy.
Not quite; but it is much better style to say a thing happened to
your uncle than to confess that you made it up. If you make things up
people expect you to write a novel or something, whereas nothing can be
expected from you if you say it happened to your uncle. I haven't got
any uncles. That is such a good thing; I can't be an anxiety to them.
And nobody is an anxiety to me.
The dining-room looked towards the front of the house, and Daisy
Ah! surely that is the crunch of a motor on the gravel, she said.
I expect it is they.
That it was a motor was at once put beyond the region of doubt by a
succession of loud hoots, and in a couple of minutes Jeannie appeared
in the doorway.
Dear Alice, she said, I apologize most abjectly; at least, the
motor apologizes. Lord Lindfield made it apologize just now at the top
of its voice. Didn't you hear it? Don't scold us. We missed the train
by about twenty minutes, as it is always best to do things thoroughly.
Shall we dress, or may we come into dinner just as we are?
Jeannie looked radiantly round while chairs and places were being
laid for them, shaking hands with those nearest her, smiling at others,
and kissing her hand across the table to Daisy. The swift movementit
had been extremely swift for the last ten miles after the car had got
to work againand the change from the cool night air into this warm
bright room had brought the blood to her cheeks, and gave a wonderful
sparkle and youthfulness to her face, and she sat down at the top of
one of the sides of the table with Lord Lindfield between her and
And we are so hungry, she said; for the last half-hour we have
talked of nothing but food. I couldn't look at the pink after-glow of
the sunset because it reminded me of strawberry fool, and Lord
Lindfield nearly burst into tears because there was a cloud shaped like
a fish. And we had no tea, you see, because we were missing our train
Dinner went on its usual way after this, and Daisy succeeded in
giving a less distracted attention to Jim Crowfoot, for up till their
arrival she knew that she had really been thinking about them only. She
still felt a little hurt that instead of coming down here early to-day
Lord Lindfield had been prevented from doing that only by his
subsequent engagement to take Aunt Jeannie to a concert; but very
likely he had thought over his half promise to arrive early, and seen,
which was indeed the case, that it was not quite a usual thing to do.
No doubt that was it; no doubt he would explain it to her
afterwards, and Daisy settled in her own mind that she would at once
admit the reasonableness of it, though she would let it appear that she
was a little disappointed. And she was delighted that Aunt Jeannie
liked him; she had said that before to Lady Nottingham, but it was
truer now than when she had said it. For she had been conscious then of
something in her own mind that did not agree with the speech; she had
been glad that Aunt Jeannie liked him, but she would have been quite
equally glad if she did not.
It was not quite a nice feeling; there was something in common
between it and jealousy, and it had required a certain effort, which
she had gladly made, to put it away from her. That she had done.
From where she sat she could just see him at the head of the table,
side by side with Lady Nottingham; but she let herself look at him no
more than she looked, with but casual glances, at any of the others.
But it was very often that she heard, and allowed herself to listen
for, that great boisterous laugh which contained so much enjoyment. Her
rare glances in his direction, however, told her that it was Aunt
Jeannie to whom he was talking, for after a word or two to Lady
Nottingham just after he came in they had had no further conversation
together. It was clear, then, that he liked Aunt Jeannie. That was a
good thing also.
The door from the dining-room was at that end of the room at which
he was sitting, and Daisy, on her way out, had to pass close to him. He
had not finished his talk with her aunt even then, for they both stood
by their chairs, she waiting till others had passed out. But as Daisy
came up he saw her.
Why, Miss Daisy, he said, haven't seen or heard you all
dinner-time. Been practising for a future incarnation as a mouse or
some dumb animal? Well, this is jolly, isn't it? And Mrs. Halton's
forgiven me for having a motor that breaks down, on condition of my
getting one that doesn't.
Daisy darling, said Aunt Jeannie, putting her arm round the girl's
waist, how are you? You must take my side. After having stuck for an
hour on a perfectly flat road, is it unreasonable that I couple my
forgiveness with a new car?You shall have our ultimatum afterwards,
Lord Lindfield. Daisy may make harder conditions than I, and if she
does, I shall certainly adopt them. Now, do look bored pretty soon, and
come out of the dining-room quickly. It is barbarous this separation of
the sexes after dinner. You don't stop behind after breakfast to drink
The others had passed out, and Daisy and Mrs. Halton brought up a
rather detached rearguard. The rest had gone straight out of the house
into the verandah, where they had had tea, for the night was
exquisitely soft and warm, and they followed them there.
Ah! such a concert, Daisy, said Jeannie. I wish you could have
been there. And such a ludicrous drive as we had. It is so pleasant
meeting Tom Lindfield again; we were great friends a year or two ago,
and I think we are great friends still. But, my dear, our drive! We
went for the first hour well inside the four-miles-an-hour limit, and
eventually stuck on a perfectly flat road. Then the chauffeur chauffed
for an hour or two, and after that we came along a shade above the
fifty-miles-an-hour limit. Our limitations were our limits throughout.
And such nonsense as we talked!
Oh, do tell me, said Daisy. Nonsense is the only thing I care to
I couldn't. I can't remember anything. I only know I laughed quite
enormously and causelessly. Ah, here they all are.Alice, what a
divine place, and how it has grown up? Like Daisy. I was telling her
about my ridiculous drive with Lord Lindfield.
Jeannie sat down in a big basket-chair and became suddenly silent.
She felt queerly tired; she felt also rather sick at heart, and looking
at Daisy, she could not bear the thought of the trouble and disquietude
she must bring to the girl whom she so loved. She had saddled herself
with a load that already galled her, though she had barely taken it up,
and even as she spoke of her ludicrous drive there came to her mind an
aspect of it, namely, the purpose for which she had driven down with
him, which was not ludicrous at all.
And here, in this starlit garden, with friends on all sides of her,
it seemed an incredible thing that she had got to sow suspicion and
discord. Trouble and sorrow seemed so remote, so utterly alien.
Security and serenity had here their proper home; it was a place of
pleasantness and friends and rest. She felt much inclined to yield to
its influences, to put off the execution of her scheme, saying to
herself that it was wiser to think over it again, and see if there was
not, as surely there must be, some other possibility of detaching Daisy
from the man whom it seemed certain she would otherwise marry, and whom
it was quite impossible she should marry. Even now Daisy was standing
near her, trusting her so implicitly, loving her so well. That love and
trust, so intensely dear to her, she had to risk disturbing; indeed, it
was scarcely a risk she ran, it was a certainty she courted.
However quietly and well she did her part it was impossible that
Daisy should not see that she was encouraging Tom Lindfield, was using
a woman's power of attraction to draw him towards her. True, Daisy had
not as yet told her that she expected to marry him; officially, as far
as Daisy was concerned, she herself was ignorant of that. But supposing
Daisy confided in her? There was nothing more likely. Within the next
four-and-twenty hours Daisy would quite certainly see that her aunt was
very intimate with Lord Lindfield. That very intimacy would encourage
Daisy to tell her. Or, on the other hand, Lord Lindfield, while still
thinking that she was only a very pleasant, sympathetic woman, might
tell her his hopes with regard to Daisy. That was a very possible stage
in the process of his detachment.
Yet she knew that personally she could make no better plan than that
which she had already begun to carry out. She had thought over it, and
thought over it, and one consideration remained paramount, namely, that
Daisy must never know why this marriage was so unthinkably impossible.
If he proposed to her, it seemed certain that she would accept him. In
that case she would have to be told. Clearly, then, his proposal must
be averted. She could find no other plan to avert that than the one she
was pursuing, and already, partly to her relief, partly to an added
sense of the meanness of her own rôle, she believed that his detachment
would not be so difficult to manage. He had responded very quickly and
readily to her advances; he had come to the concert with her and was
delighted to miss the train, having told her also that he had thought
of going down early to Bray. He had said no more than that, and she had
quite legitimately laughed at the idea of his spending the day alone
with two girls, had professed herself as pleased to have upset so
preposterous an arrangement. Yet this, too, though she was glad to have
stopped it, added to her heart-sickness. He would not have made such an
arrangement unless Daisy had allowed it. And if Daisy permitted him to
come down to spend the day with her and Gladys, it surely implied that
Daisy wanted very much to see him. But Lady Nottingham had told her
that Daisy was not in love with him. That was still an anchor of
All this was no effort of consecutive thought which required to be
reasoned out. It was all in front of her, spread out like a landscape,
to be grasped in a moment. There was Victor, too....
Daisy moved a step nearer her chair.
It's three days since you got back, Aunt Jeannie, she said, and I
haven't had a real word with you yet. May I come and talk to you this
evening when we go up to bed? I have such heaps to say.
This was too dangerous. At any cost Jeannie wanted to avoid an
intimate conversation with Daisy. She had her work to do, and she did
not think she could go through with it if Daisy told her in her own
dear voice what she already knew. She herself had to be a flirt, had to
exhibit this man to Daisy in another light, to make her disgusted with
him. That was a hard row to hoe; she did not want it made more
Luckily, even as Daisy spoke, an interruption came. The sound of
men's voices sounded from an open door.
My darling, how I long to talk to you, she said, or, rather, to
have you talk to me. But to-night, Daisy, I am so tired. When I can
escape and go to my bedroom, I shall just tumble into bed. You look so
well, dear, and so happy. You couldn't tell me anything nicer than
that. Ah! here are the men. Let us multiply ourselves.
Lord Lindfield had carried out Jeannie's instructions to the letter,
and after the women had left the dining-room had relapsed into a state
of supreme boredom. It had not been a difficult task; his boredom was
quite genuine, for he did not in the least wish to talk to Victor
Braithwaite or to listen to Jim Crowfoot, or pass the wine to two or
three other men. He wanted to tell Daisy how impossible it had been to
get down earlier in the day; he wanted also to tell Mrs. Halton what a
jolly drive they had had together. It had been jolly; there was no
question whatever about it. She had been so delightful, too, about the
breakdown of that wretched motor car. Other women might have been
annoyed, and audibly wondered when it was going to start again. But she
had not been the least annoyed. She had said, Oh, I hope it will take
a long time to mend! Isn't it heavenly sitting by the roadside like
They had sat like tramps for an hour or two. She did not look
particularly like a tramp, for she had a huge fur cloak on at first,
designed originally to defeat the cold wind occasioned by the speed at
which they hoped to travel, which up till then had been about three
miles an hour. This she had taken off, and sat on a rug taken from the
disgraceful car, and treated the whole affair like a huge joke. There
never was such a good comrade; if she had been a boy, out on a motor
for the first time, she could not have adopted a franker air of amused
enjoyment at these accidents of the road. They had made periodic visits
to the car and the hammering chauffeur, and then the Great Hunger,
about which she had already spoken, had begun. She had confessed to an
awful inanition, and had suggested things to eat, till the fact that
other people were already sitting down to dine, having had tea, became
absolutely unbearable. Then suddenly she had stopped the nonsense and
said, I am so glad that this has happened. Being left in the Bath Road
like this makes one know a man better, doesn't it? I always wanted to
know you better. Oh, the compliment is ambiguous. I haven't told you
yet whether you improve on acquaintance.
And then, just as they stopped at the door and the motor hooted its
apologies, she turned to him.
What a pity! she had said. I hate nice things coming to an end.
That particular nice thing had certainly come to an end, but he was
firmly determined that there were a quantity of nice things not yet
begun. He was genuinely attached to Daisy; he fully intended to ask her
to be his wife, and contemplated, in case he was so fortunate as to
obtain a yes from her, many serene and happy years. And, indeed, he
was no coxcomb; he did not fancy that any girl he saw was willing to
marry him if he wished to marry her, but at the same time he did not
feel that it was in the least likely that Daisy would refuse him. And
as he came out after dinner that night, after so successfully looking
bored in the dining-room, he had not altered his mind in the least; his
intentions were still all fully there. But that was no reason why he
should not talk to Mrs. Halton. He was quite capable even of talking to
her about Daisy.
It was then that the action of the tragic little farce really began.
Daisy had heard the sound of his voice before they turned the corner of
the house, and by design moved away from her aunt's side to the far end
of the verandah, from where a path led down to the edge of the river.
The verandah was well lit; there could be no question that when he came
round the corner he would see her. There was no question, moreover, in
her own mind, that he would join her.
Jeannie was sitting at the end of the verandah near to the corner
round which they came. Victor Braithwaite stopped on one side of her
chair, Lord Lindfield stopped on the other. The latter had looked up,
and, Daisy felt sure, had seen her. Then, after a few minutes' chat,
Daisy saw her aunt get out of her chair and heard her laugh.
But I challenge you, Lord Lindfield, Daisy heard her say; and,
apart from all chivalrous instincts, if you don't accept my challenge
it will be because you know you will be beaten. We will have a game of
pool first, and then, when everybody else is tired, you and I will play
a serious hundred. You probably think that because I am a woman I can't
play games. Very well. I say to that, 'Let us put it to the
proof.'Mr. Braithwaite, come and play pool first, won't you?Dear
Alice, may we go and play pool? Is nobody else coming? Let us begin at
All this Daisy heard; and once again she saw Lord Lindfield look up
towards the end of the verandah where she was standing, and then call
some laughing reply after Mrs. Halton, who was already just vanishing
indoors. For a couple of steps he followed her, then turned round and
came up the verandah towards Daisy.
Mrs. Halton has arranged a regular night of it, Miss Daisy, he
said, and has challenged me to a game of billiards in such a way that
I can't refuse. We're going to have a game of pool first. Won't you
come and take a hand? You and I will play Mrs. Halton and Braithwaite.
Sides at pool? asked Daisy.
Why shouldn't we? But probably you think it's stupid to go indoors
on such a night. So it is. I would much sooner stroll about or go on
the river, but, you see, I can't help myself. Let's go in the punt
to-morrow. Please keep a punt for you and me. Put a label on'You and
Daisy smiled. She would not have allowed that she needed cheering up
at all, but it is a fact that this cheered her up.
Yes, do let us spend all day on the river to-morrow, she said.
But you must go and play your pool now. I don't think I shall come in;
it is so heavenly out here.
Lord Lindfield wavered; the girl looked enchantingly pretty. Upon
my word, so it is, he said; and you look just like a summer evening
yourself, Miss Daisy. Wonder if I could get some one to take my place
at pool before I play a single with Mrs. Halton, and stop out here with
Pleasant though the deed would have been to Daisy, his wish and his
desire were more essential. She could without struggle forgo the
pleasure of being with him, now that he had said that it was this that
But indeed you mustn't do anything of the kind, she said. Aunt
Jeannie wants you to play; she asked you. You must go in at once.
The fact that Mrs. Halton had carried off two men to the
billiard-room left the rest of the party out of the square; but Daisy,
quite willing to be the odd unit, strolled very contentedly out along
the path that led to the river. The moon had not long risen and shone
very large and low in the east, burning dimly and red through the heat
haze and vapours from the Thames. The air was very windless, and the
river lay like a sheet of grey steel at her feet, save where a little
spreading feather of black ripple showed the course of some water-rat.
Bats wheeled and dipped like some company of nocturnal swallows,
pursuing their minute prey, and uttering their little staccato cries so
high in the scale that none but the acute ear could hear them.
From the garden, as an occasional whisper of wind lifted the
down-dropping leaves of aspen and ash, the air came laden with the
scent of damp earth (for since sunset the gardeners had been busy) and
the spilt fragrance of sleeping flowers. Or occasionally a little
draught would draw from the river itself, and that to Daisy's nostril
was of even a more admirable quality, for it smelt of cool running
water and nought besides. On the far bank the mists lay in wisps and
streamers above the low-lying meadow, and the dark bulk of cattle and
horses loomed through them like rocks in a vaporous sea. But a fathom
from the ground the air was dry and clear; it was but in a shallow sea
that these rocks were submerged, and on this side of the river where
Daisy walked the banking-up of the path to form a protection to the
garden against the spring and winter floods raised her above these damp
breathings of the fruitful earth, and she moved in the clearness and
austerity of starshine and moonlight. And not her body only, but her
mind and soul walked in a light that was very romantic and wonderful,
and seemed somehow to be attuned to this pale mysterious flame of the
moon that flooded the heavens.
All the dim, intense happiness she first experienced two nights
before had blazed up within her into a conflagration, the nature of
which there was no mistaking, while the dim and almost intenser doubts
and miseries of two nights before she saw now to be but the shadows
cast by the first kindling of the other light. Now, as it blazed higher
and more triumphantly, the shadows vanished. And though her
consciousness of this was so vivid and alert, self-consciousness was
almost altogether banished. She no longer made plans for herself in the
future, as she had always done till now, seeing herself as the mistress
of a great house, and filling that position, as, indeed, she was fitted
to do, so well, or seeing herself always kind, always pleasant, always
ready to smile on her adorer. Nor did she even see herself as mother of
his children. She lost sight of herself altogether just now, and saw
him only, but in that different light in which he had appeared so
suddenly, so disconcertingly, at the ball two nights ago.
And he had wished, had preferred to come out here with her rather
than go indoors and play billiards. Daisy, in a sudden mood of that
exquisite humbleness which goes with love, blushed with pleasure that
it should be so, but told herself that it was an incredible thing. Yet
so it was. He would sooner have come out here (for he had said it) and
talked to this goose of a girl than be with anybody else, even Aunt
Jeannie. Daisy wished she had told Aunt Jeannie on the afternoon of her
arrival what was the state of things between her and Lord Lindfield,
for it was really rather too much of a good thing that Aunt Jeannie
(the darling) should all innocently monopolize him the whole afternoon,
drive down with him alone (taking hours and hours over it), and as soon
as dinner was over (at which meal she sat next him) take him away to
play billiards. But she had let that opportunity slip, and though she
had hoped to tell Jeannie about it to-night she would not be able,
since her aunt had cried off a bedroom talk on the plea of tiredness.
And then, quite suddenly, a thought occurred to Daisy of the most
disagreeable kind. Aunt Jeannie had been too tired to talk to her, had
meant to slip away and tumble into bed as soon as possible, yet within
five minutes of her having made that declaration she had engaged
herself to play pool and to follow that up by having a single with Lord
Lindfieldan odd programme for a woman who was so fatigued that she
was going to slip away and go to bed as soon as possible.
Then, almost without pause, Daisy pulled herself together again,
banging the door of her mind, so to speak, on that unpleasant thought,
and refusing to give it entrance or to hold parley with it. There were
fifty explanations, if explanations were required, but for a loyal
friend they were not, and Daisy refused to think more of the matter.
But all the time some small prying denizen of her subconscious mind was
wondering what these explanations could possibly be.
This unpleasant little moment, though she had dealt with it as
loyally and speedily as she could, had rather spoilt the moonlight
saunteror, at any rate, Daisy was afraid of other similar intrusions,
and she went back to the house. There she found the whole party
engaged, for the bridge tables had been made up, one in the far end of
the billiard-room, one out on the verandah, while the remaining three
were still at their pool. Without more than half-conscious intention,
Daisy strolled on round the house, meaning to look in at the
She had meant to go into the room in the natural, ordinary way,
entering by the long French window, which gave on to the path, and
would be sure on this warm evening to be open. But she did not do that,
and instead, paused opposite the window, but at some little distance
from it, so that she herself was probably invisible to eyes looking
from that bright light inside into the dusk in which she stood. She
wanted, in fact, to see what was going on without being seen. She saw.
Aunt Jeannie and Lord Lindfield were standing together by the
marking-board, talking about some point which might or might not have
been connected with billiards. The pool apparently was over, for Victor
Braithwaite had put down his cue and had strolled over to the bridge
table. And at that moment Jeannie raised her hand and laid it, just for
a second, on the sleeve of Lindfield's shirt, for he was coatless. The
action was infinitesimal and momentary, but it looked rather intimate.
And then poor Daisy had once more to take herself in hand. Whatever
polite name might be found for her present occupation (you could call
it strolling in the garden or looking at the moon, if you chose), there
was a very straightforward and not very polite name that could be found
for it, and that was spying. She discontinued it, and entered the
billiard-room, whistling, like a proper person.
The usual thing happened, and everybody became so stupidly and
obstinately unselfish that it looked as if there would be no more
billiards at all.
Lord Lindfield, without pause, said: By Jove! how lucky, Miss
Daisy. You've come in the nick of time. Just finished our pool. Now you
and Mrs. Halton shall play a single and I shall mark for you.
But it appeared also that if there was a thing Mrs. Halton really
enjoyed doing it was marking for other people, and she insisted that
Daisy and Lord Lindfield should have a game. Daisy, of course, was
equally altruistic, firmly refused to interfere with their previous
arrangement, and eventually, a rubber just coming to an end, cut into
the bridge table in the far corner of the room.
The rubber was fairly rapid, but before the end of it a footman had
appeared with the bed-time tray of soda and whisky and lemons, followed
by another man with bedroom candles. Mrs. Beaumont, the only other
woman in the room besides Daisy and Mrs. Halton, and who had been
yawning in a strangled manner during the course of the last two hands,
instantly took her candle and departed, and Daisy, with more
deliberation, drank some soda-water and looked on at the game for a few
Daisy dear, said Jeannie, is it too dreadful and wicked and fast
of me to go on playing? I don't care if it is. I must finish the game,
and I'm going to win.Oh, Lord Lindfield, what a fluke! Do you mean to
say you are going to count it?
By Jove! yes; charge three for that.Miss Daisy, your aunt's
giving me an awful hiding! There, I've left them again!
Jeannie, as a matter of fact, was what may be called a very decent
country-house player, quite capable of making her twenty-five break
more than once in the course of a game. She selected this moment to do
it now, and from seventy-six ran out. The other men had strolled out on
to the terrace, and Daisy, after congratulations, lit a couple of
candles, one for herself, one for her aunt.
I say, Mrs. Halton, we might have one more game, said Lord
Lindfield; it's only half-past ten. Couldn't sleep if I had to finish
up with such a whacking.
Jeannie's eyes were a-sparkle with enjoyment and triumph.
Have a game with Daisy, she said. Let me rest on my laurels.
Daisy shook her head.
Not to-night, she said. I really would rather not. Do play again,
Aunt Jeannie. I am going to bed; I am, really.
Fifty, then, Lord Lindfield, said Jeannie.
Daisy went straight up to her room, still making an effort to banish
the thought that Aunt Jeannie had said she was tired, and slowly the
house grew quiet. The steps of men going to their rooms tapped along
the polished boards of the corridor outside, with now and then the
rustle of a dress. Then all was still, and she sat, half-undressed,
with a book on her lap that she was not reading, while a couple more
quarters chimed from the clock above the stables. At last came the
sound of steps again outside; the tap of a rather heavy tread, and with
it the rustle of a dress. Then came Lindfield's laugh, merry and
Good-night, Mrs. Halton, he said. I've had a perfectly ripping
time! Never enjoyed a day more.
Apparently she had gone down the passage some way, for her voice
sounded more distant.
And I also, she said. Good-night.
Then came the sound of two doors shutting.
It was about half-past three in the afternoon of the next day, and
house and garden alike wore a rather uncomfortable air of heat fatigue
and somnolence. The blinds were down in all the windows that faced
south and west, with the object, no doubt, of keeping them coola most
desirable condition of things, but one, on the present occasion, but
imperfectly realized. Nor were things much better to the east of the
house, where ran the deep verandah in which they had sat and from which
Daisy had strayed the evening before; for the heat came no longer from
the honest and scorching rays of the sun, but through a thick blanket
of grey cloud, which all morning had been gradually forming over and
obscuring the sky. Southwards there was rather an ugly glare in the
day, a tawny, coppery-coloured light that spread from low on the
horizon, where clouds of thicker and more palpable texture were piled
togetherclouds with hard edges and angry lights in them. It was
certain there was going to be a storm somewhere, and that would be no
bad thing, for the air was horribly sultry, and quite distinctly needed
Daisy was always susceptible to atmospheric conditions, and she had
gone upstairs after lunch to her room, on the plea, a fairly true one,
of thunder-headache. Aunt Jeannie had been eager with sympathy,
smelling-salts, and offers to read, but Daisy had quietly rejected all
these, saying that it was merely a question of thunderstorm. When the
storm broke she would be better; till then smelling-salts would not
It's quite darling of you, Aunt Jeannie, she had forced herself to
say at the end, with a cordiality that was somewhat hard to put into
her voice; but, really, I would sooner be alone. It isn't a bad
headache eitheronly just a thunder one.
There was a window-seat in her room, well lined with cushions, and
looking over the river, and it was here that Daisy was rather uneasily
reclining herself. She had first tried lying on her bed, but the room
was too airless except close by the window to be tolerable. Partly
that, partly (half an hour ago) the sound of voices outside, had made
her come over here, and it was to see what was happening to those whom
she had heard talking, as well as to get what air there was, that kept
her here now.
A breath-holding immobility lay over river and garden; no quiver
moved in the aspens or shook the leaf-clad towers of the elms and
chestnuts. It was as if, instead of being clad in soft and sensitive
foliage, they were cast in iron. No note of birds came from the bushes,
no ripple broke the metallic hardness of the river, and the reflections
of the loose-strife and tall grasses along its edges, and the clump of
chestnuts on the little promontory at the corner of the garden, were as
clear-cut and unwavering as if they had been enamelled on steel. There
was no atmosphere in the day; no mist or haze, in spite of the heat,
shrouded or melted the distances; the trees and house-roofs of
Maidenhead a mile away seemed as if a stretched-out finger could be
laid on them. They were of Noah's Ark size; it was only minuteness that
showed their remoteness.
There was a punt underneath these chestnuts at the corner of the
garden, partly concealed by the low sweep of the boughs. Half an hour
ago Daisy had heard Aunt Jeannie's voice below her window saying, Yes,
with pleasure. But we shall be wise not to go far, as I am sure there
will be a storm. It was at that that Daisy had left her bed and come
across to the window-seat, to see with whom Aunt Jeannie was not going
far. But before she had got there another voice had told her who it
was. They had not gone far; they had gone about fifty yards from the
She could see the lines of the punt among the leaves; there was a
great pile of crimson cushions and a woman's figure dressed in grey. In
front of it sat a man's figure in flannels, with shirt-sleeves rolled
up to the elbows. Even as Daisy looked, Aunt Jeannie passed him a
couple of cushions, and he too sat down on the floor of the punt, close
to and facing her. Daisy had said her headache was not bad, and that it
was only thunder-headache. Neither of these assertions was quite true.
Her headache was bad, and it was not, in the main, thunder-headache at
all; it was headache born of trouble and perplexity and struggle. She
did not in the least understand what was happening.
She had got up early that morning and had gone out before breakfast.
Very likely she was out of sorts, and a row on the river in the
coolness of the day was exactly the right thing to correct morbid and
suspicious impressions, which were founded, so she told herself, not on
facts, but on her own bilious interpretation of facts. And, indeed, in
the fresh dewy morning she found, when she went out, that her
imagination, which had been fairly busy most of the night fitting
together, like a Chinese puzzle, the rather disturbing events of the
day before, had been riotous and sensational. Lord Lindfield, for
instance, it was true, had not come down here early yesterday, as he
had suggested, but had gone with Aunt Jeannie to a concert. Clearly his
coming down alone to spend the day with two (especially one) girls in
the country would have been highly unconventional, and he was very wise
not to. So that was disposed of. They had missed their train and
motored down instead, arriving half-way through dinner. What of that?
Unless she was prepared to aver that there had been no breakdown, what
was there to build on here? So that was disposed of. They had played
two games of billiards together last nightthe second fifty, so it
appeared, had been doubledbut why not? Before each game Daisy had
been asked if she would not play, and had refused. Then he had said, as
they parted on the landing, that he had never enjoyed a day more. And
what of that? Did not Daisy herself have the most heavenly evening I
have ever spent about seven times a week?
Like the sensible girl she was, she took her trouble to bits in that
early morning row, as one may take the mechanism of a clock to bits,
and found there was something faulty in every individual piece of its
working. Clearly, therefore, the whole thing, when pieced together
again, could not reasonably be considered a reliable clock, since there
was something wrong with every single piece of it. Buthere was the
trouble of itit seemed to her, when reconstructed and made into one,
to keep excellent time, to be thoroughly dependable. Yet, since all its
pieces were wrong, she would not accept the whole, and, tossing it
overboard, so to speak, settled down for a spell of demon-dispersing
exercise. It was still only a little after seven. She had two clear
hours to get rid of her bluesfor they already had become substantial
enough to take this depressing colourbefore breakfast.
She had returned, it must be confessed, in far more equable spirits;
physical exercise had disposed her to a broader and more out-of-door
attitude, while her determined effort not to be suspicious and
maliciously constructive had done more.
Of all people in the world Aunt Jeannie was the least mean or
ignoble-minded, and Daisy told herself that she had been measuring her
actions by a standard so crooked that it would not lie straight along
them. There should be no more such attempts, and no more looking from
the dark into windows to see unseen what people were doing inside.
Flushed and exhilarated by her row, Daisy's cheeks burnt a shade
brighter that moment at the thought that it was indeed she who had done
It was still half an hour to breakfast-time when she got back to the
boat-house, but already the heat of the day was begun, and the smell of
the damp coolness of the night dried up. She strolled along the outside
of the thick hedge that faced the river, and then, turning the corner,
saw in front of her, not twenty yards distant, two figures standing
alone together. The woman's two hands clasped those of the man, holding
them against her breast. She was speaking softly and eagerly, smiling
into his face.
Quick as a lizard, Daisy popped back behind the hedge before either
seemed to have seen her, and went swiftly to the house. But this was
more inexplicable yetfor the two figures she had seen were those of
Aunt Jeannie and Victor Braithwaite. There was no questioning the
intimacy of their attitude. Yet here again she had seen something she
had not been meant to see; she would be a lamentable creature if she
let her mind dwell on it, or try to construct its meaning and
significance. It was not for her. But if the man's figure had been Lord
Lindfield's she would have been less surprised.
She had earned an inactive morning by her expedition before
breakfast, and announced her set determination to go no further than
the elm-trees beyond the rose-garden, and when arrived there to do
nothing whatever. From the other side of the table Lord Lindfield rose
Jove, Miss Daisy, he said. I've been wondering since I got up,
what's the matter with me, and now I know it's the need of sitting
under a tree and doing nothing. I'll join your party, if you'll let me.
Is talking allowed?
Yes, but nobody need answer. I usually shan't.
Jim Crowfoot got up.
I'm not sure if I shall come or not, he said. I think not. I feel
rather inclined for conversation to-day.
Better not come then, old chap, said Lindfield. There's not much
conversation usually when I'm with you. I never get a word in. Nor
It was impossible to take offence at even this, so pure and friendly
was the chaff. It may be said to Jim's credit that he did not even
attempt to do so.
What am I to do, then? he asked. I can't converse alone.Mrs.
Halton, will you talk to me?
No, Mrs. Halton's going to write letters all the morning, said
Lindfield. She told me so.
Just for a second Daisy allowed herself to think So he already knew
that, but it was but momentary. This mood of drawing inferences from
infinitesimal data in other people's conduct was altogether detestable;
she must not allow herself to do it.
Yes, I'm going to be a virtuous woman, said Aunt Jeannie.Alice
dear, will you get a nice dog-chain and fasten me down to a
writing-table till I swear to you that I have written to everybody who
ever writes to me?
If you wish, but if I chain you down you sacrifice the fineness of
your virtue. You make a virtue of necessity.
No, said Jeannie, I make a necessity of virtue. I shan't be able
to get up. Or is it the same thing?
You're clearly going to make a morning of it, remarked Lindfield.
An afternoon as well, she said, If my recollection of the size of
a certain packet neatly labelled 'Unanswered' is at all correct.
Shouldn't make a packet of unanswered letters, said Lindfield. I
burn them. Then you can start afresh.
The next hour or two had fairly fulfilled the breakfast plans.
Daisy, after the tiger accident to her parasol at the Zoo, had fallen
back, for country use anyhow, on an immense scarlet contadina umbrella,
and had planted herself and this under the elm-tree as soon as
breakfast was over. Almost immediately after Lord Lindfield had
followed her, with not quite so rigid an interpretation of idleness as
Daisy, for she had brought absolutely nothing with her to occupy her
hands or her mind, whereas he had a daily paper.
Not a word or a sigh or a sneeze, Miss Daisy, he said, in a
whisper, or we shall be discovered. Not brought anything whatever with
you? That's right. Just you yourself.
You forget my parasol, said Daisy, and it really isn't an
I know it isn't. I don't like it. It hides too much of you.
I suppose that means I have to put it down, she said.
Well, I think it would be kind of you, he said. You've been
hiding yourself too much lately to my mind.
Daisy could not let this pass.
Well, I like that, she said. You threw me over all yesterday,
which you said you were going to spend down here; you arrived with Aunt
Jeannie in the middle of dinner, and played five thousand up with her
Yes, and when I do hope to catch a glimpse of you you hide yourself
under a scarlet umbrella, he said. That's better; thanks awfully.
Daisy furled the big umbrella, and threw it down on the grass. For
the moment her mind was absolutely at peace again, and went back with a
tremulous sense of happiness to the mood of the ball, so few evenings
ago. And as she faced him, she thought again that it was a different
man from the one she had known, and again saw that the difference was
We had a great discussion, Mrs. Halton and I, he went on, when we
were sitting like wayside flowers near Ealing yesterday, as to whether
people were nicer in the country or in town. I wonder which of us you
will agree with.
Oh, with Aunt Jeannie, I expect, said Daisy, not without challenge
in her voice.
H'm. That's a nasty one for me. Well, let's put it to the proof,
anyhow. We agreed that some people are nicer in town and others in the
country, but there we parted company.
Ah, don't tell me, said Daisy. Let me think.
She plucked a long grass stem and drew it through her teeth.
The people one really likes and loves are nicer in the country,
she said at length. The people who just amuse you are nicer in town.
Hurrah! said he. That's first-rate! It's what I said myself. Mrs.
Halton wouldn't have any of that. She says that she herself is so much
nicer in town that she refused to accept such a classification. Else it
would mean that none of us liked her. But she stuck to the fact that
none of us would like her so much down here.
Daisy considered this.
How funny of Aunt Jeannie, she said. I wonder
Then a whole collection of the things that poor Daisy had tried to
put away from her mind flashed into it again, giving her a feeling of
sickness and insecurity. What did it all mean?
I wonder what she meant? she added, truthfully enough.
Don't know. Here she comes. By Jove! Miss Daisy, how splendid she
Aunt Jeannie certainly was looking her very best this morning. She
was walking hatless in the blaze of the sun, and somehow the sunlight
seemed not so much to shine on her as to shine from her. Flowers,
garden, river, sky, sun, were all so much less splendid than she.
I love this heat, she said, and it saps my moral nature and
leaves me a happy animal with no sense of responsibility. Daisy dear,
you needn't answer. I won't invade you for long. But I sat down at my
table with all the unanswered letters, I looked them through, and
determined not to answer one. I'm going to have a holiday from being
good. I've been good too long, I think. The joy of virtue palls. But
there ought to be wind; there is sun and sky and water and all nice
things, except wind. Can't youwhat's the phrase?can't you raise the
wind, Lord Lindfield?
Tom Lindfield clicked his finger and thumb together.
Jove! Mrs. Halton, he said, you always think of the right thing,
or make me do so. He jumped up. I'll order the motor at once, he
said. You and Miss Daisy and I, let's all go out for a run. Old
Puffing Billy always goes well up to speed limit the day after he's
Daisy's effort with herself that morning on the river suddenly came
to the limits of its energy. Once again she saw everything in that
light which she had tried so hard to extinguish. And now there was more
added, there were further features in the scene. Aunt Jeannie was too
clever for her; with how natural an air she had come out and said that
only wind was necessary to make the morning perfect; and how naturally
and how unconsciously had he responded to that subtly conveyed
suggestion, the very subtlety of which made him believe that he had
thought of the plan himself. But outwardly Daisy still was mistress of
herself; it was from the inside, not the outside, that her control was
beginning to give way. She put up the red umbrella again.
Thanks awfully, Lord Lindfield, she said, but I can't think of
the grilling roads and the dust without putting up my neat little
parasol again. But you are too ingenious for words! Aunt Jeannie comes
out here and demands wind, and you instantly think of the only plan of
giving it her. No, for me the book of verses, or, rather, the
newspaper, underneath the bough will last till lunch-time. Has anything
Daisy spoke in the lightest possible tone; it required a woman to
hear that beneath the light words a troubled spirit spoke. And Jeannie
was sick at heart at the success of her scheme. She had heard at
breakfast how these two meant to spend their morning; she was aware
that others knew of the situation which existed between them, and would
surely avoid the elm-tree by the rose-garden like a plague-stricken
spot, and so she had come out here on her hateful mission, interrupting
and breaking up their dangerous companionship.
She had been prepared to go further than thisto ask, if necessary,
point blank, for the use of his car, and hint at the pleasure of his
company. Part of that had been spared her; he probably had no inkling
of her design in coming out and demanding wind; indeed he thought he
had thought of it himself. But Daisy knew.
The tragic farce had to preserve the tone required of public
Daisy dear, won't you come? she asked. Three is the best company
of all, I think.
Daisy turned over a leaf of the paper rather too smartly for a
Indeed, I think I won't, Aunt Jeannie, she said. I had such a
long row before breakfast. I feel frightfully disinclined to move.
And she waited to hear Lord Lindfield urge her to come. But he was
already half-way towards the house. Daisy just raised her eyes, and saw
him already distant, and she felt that which she had often heard of
before, but passed over as unintelligible. Now she understood it, for
her heart swelled.
Aunt Jeannie followed after a general remark or two, to which Daisy
could scarcely reply. And after that more trials were in store, for
Willie Carton brought his patient presence out under the elm-tree which
had promised so well and performed so badly, and lay on the grass and
pretended to read a book.
It was very stupid of him to come, so Daisy thought, and rather
selfish. She had given him so firm an answer, and if he reopened the
question again she was determined to speak even more plainly. But he
did nothing of the kind, and Daisy, quieting down a little from the
tumult of her private thoughts, began to feel a little compassionate.
She knew now, in some kind of way, what was going on inside him. She
realized the nature of that which brought him out here, to pretend to
read a book. He wanted to be near her. And there was something of the
pathetic faithfulness of a dog about hima dog that is beaten and
repulsed but never falters, or can falter, in devotion to his master.
She had begun to know what that unreasoning devotion meant.
I know the compact of the elm-tree is not to talk or expect
answers, said Willie quietly. Don't let me disturb you.
Daisy looked up at him swiftly.
But if I said that you do disturb me? she said.
Then I should go away, he said.
Oh, Willie, you don't, she said.
Right. Tell me when I do.
And then poor Daisy began to have a headache. It got worse, and
before long she rose.
What a beastly day, she said.
It is rather, said he. But it's all right here.
It isn't all right anywhere, said Daisy. I shall go indoors. I've
got a headache.
Wish I could take it, said he.
Oh, don't be foolish. Thanks awfully; I know you mean it. But one
can't take other people's burdens, you know. We are all saddled
separately, andand all we can do is to pretend we aren't saddled at
all, and make grimaces and pretend to enjoy ourselves. Do pretendwe
Oh, I've been pretending a long time, said he.
Daisy's headache gave her a stab that was quite unsettling.
Men always think about themselves, she remarked. Don't answer. It
is the elm-tree rule.
I shall answer. Was your remark that men always think about
themselves meant to apply to me? I only want to know.
Daisy had some little sense of justice left.
No, she said. I don't think it was.
* * * * *
The motorists came back very late for lunch, just as the evening
before they had come back late for dinner.
* * * * *
Such was Daisy's morning; and she felt she had a perfect right to a
headache. And with her headache she lay in the window-seat of her
bedroom and watched the punt, with its crimson spots of cushions,
unwaveringly reflected in the surface of the Thames. Above the sky grew
darker with the approach of storm, and the light grew more coppery with
the rising of that curious cloud out of the south. But still this
dreadful clearness of air continued in spite of the growing darkness.
Maidenhead was still close and distinct, and closer and more
distinct was the punt, where Aunt Jeannie handed Lindfield two crimson
cushions. Then in that darkness below the chestnut-tree a match was
struck, and he lit a cigarette, and dropped the still flaming vesta
into the Thames. Then he shifted his position a little, and sat nearer
to that other figure dressed in grey, whose arm was leaning over the
side of the punt, and whose hand just dabbled in the water.
And then Daisy suddenly hid her face in the cushions of the
window-seat and began to sob.
Jeannie, as Daisy had heard, had advised that in view of the
approaching storm they should not go far, and it was now about an hour
since she and Tom Lindfield had, after this stipulation, gone down to
the river. They had taken a punt, and pushed out from the hot, reeking
boathouse that smelt strongly of the tar that was growing soft and
viscous on its roof beneath the heat of the day, and slid down the
backwater towards the river. The weeds here wanted cutting, and they
wrapped themselves affectionately round the punt-pole, and dragged
their green slender fingers along the bottom of the punt as if seeking
to delay its passage. Then for a moment they had found a little
coolness as they passed below the chestnut trees that extended their
long boughs three-quarters of the way across the backwater, and Jeannie
Lord Lindfield, you will certainly get very hot if you punt me
up-stream, and we shall probably both get very wet before we get back.
Let us stop here.
He had been by no means unwilling, and they had tied up.
And sit down, she said; out of these two thousand cushions I can
spare you a few. There, on the bottom of the boat.
I didn't suggest stopping, he said. You mustn't be sarcastic
afterwards over the immense expedition I took you.
I promise not. I don't think I should ever be sarcastic to you, do
you know? You would only laugh. The point of sarcasm is to give pain.
And you don't want to give me pain? Hurrah!
Ah, I'm not sure that a little pain would not be rather good for
you. I think you have almost too delightful a time. When did you last
not enjoy yourself? And yet I don't know; perhaps you deserve it all. I
am sure you give your friends a delightful time though you do have one
yourself. Poor Daisy! I am afraid she isn't having a good time this
afternoon; she has a headache. I offered sympathy and companionship,
but she felt like being alone. Poor Daisy!
Jeannie's voice suddenly died. She meant him to say something about
Daisy, but for herself she felt as if she could not go on talking.
I'm sorry, he said. I thought she wasn't looking very brilliant.
She should have come out with us for a run in the motor. Jove! it is
hot even here. I think it was an excellent plan not to go any further;
besides, I want to talk most awfully.
A week ago Jeannie had loathed the thought of this man even as, and
for the same reason, she loathed the thought of Paris when she passed
through it. But at the moment she did not loathe the thought of him at
all, nor did she loathe him. She who so loved the sunshine and joy of
life could not but like one who took so keen and boyish a pleasure in
its pleasantness, and, boylike also, turned so uncompromising a back on
all that was unpleasant or even puzzling.
He had no use for unpleasantness and no head for puzzles. From an
intellectual point of view he might have been called stupid; but
intellectual though Jeannie was, she never took her view of life or her
estimate of people from that standpoint. Affection and simplicity and
good-fellowship were things that seemed to matter to her much more.
From the human point of view, then, which does not concern itself
with one's neighbour's intellectual qualities any more than it concerns
itself with his morals, she had quickly grown to like this simple,
pleasant man, who had so good an appetite for the joys of life. And her
liking for him made her task far more difficult and far more repulsive
to her than she had anticipated.
She had thought that as far as he was concerned she would find it
perfectly easy to be ruthless, steeling herself to it by the memory of
Diana. That memory had not in the least faded, but there had come into
the foreground of her life this liking and sympathy for the man who she
hoped was to be her victim.
It made what she was doing doubly odious to her, and yet, think and
puzzle as she might, she could devise no plan but this, which, if it
succeeded, would spare Daisy the knowledge that she herself had
promised Diana to spare her.
As far as things had gone, she was fairly content with what she had
accomplished. It was all horrible to her, but the plan was working
quite well. He had scarcely seen Daisy since they had come down here,
while he had seldom been out of her own company, and it was clear to
Mrs. Halton that Daisy was certainly beginning to be puzzled, and, poor
child, was beginning to feel hurt and slighted.
But there had been as yet no more than a beginning made; Lord
Lindfield would have to be far more taken up with herself than he was
now, and Daisy, poor dear, would have to be far more deeply wounded and
hurt before the thing was accomplished. And already Mrs. Halton felt
sick at heart about it all. Yet till a better plan could be thought of
she had not to set her teeth, but to smile her best, and flirt, flirt,
There was but one bright spot in the whole affair, and that the few
words which she had had with Victor early that morning before
breakfast. She had asked him, not pointedly, but in a general way
arising out of their talk, what he would think if in some way she
completely puzzled him, and acted in a manner that was
incomprehensible. And he had laughed.
Why, my darling, what an easy question, he said. I should know
that there was something behind I didn't understand. I should wait for
you to tell me about it.
And if I never told you about it? asked Jeannie.
Then, dear, I should know you had some good reason for that. But I
should never ask you, I think, and I know I should never cease to trust
you or forget that we arewell, you and me.
That was wine to her.
But she liked Lindfield; that made her task so much harder. It was
shameful to treat a man like this, and yetand yet there was still the
memory of that dreadful gilded house in Paris and the dying voice of
So once more, and not for the last time, she settled down to the
task that was so odiousodious because she liked him.
We shall quarrel, then, I am afraid, she said, because I want to
talk too. We both want to talkI to you, you to me.
He leant over her a moment, since the punt-pole had to be grounded
at the stern of the boat, for he had tied the chain in the bow to an
unearthed root of the tree. She leant a little sideways away from him,
and this was done. It was then she gave him the few cushions out of the
Have you got anything very special to say? she asked. Because I
have, and so I shall begin. Yet I don't know if it is special, except
that between friends everything seems to be special.
Again Jeannie could not get on for a moment, but she proceeded
without notable pause.
The difference between friends and acquaintances is so enormous,
she said, and yet so many people confuse the two. One may meet another
person a hundred times and be only an acquaintance; one may meet a
person once and be a friend in a minute. Perhaps it is not the same
with men. I don't think a man recognizes those who are going to be or
are capable of being his friends at the first glance, whereas a woman
does. She feels it to the end of her finger-tips.
Jeannie gave a quick glance at him, and saw that he was listening
with considerable attention. She gave a little sigh, and clasped her
hands behind her head.
What an uneconomical world it is, she said, and what a lot of
affection and emotion Nature allows to run to waste. A man sees in some
woman the one quality, the one character that he is for ever seeking;
he sees that she is in some way the complement of himself, and perhaps
the woman merely dislikes him. Or it may happen the other way round.
What a waste of noble stuff that means. All his affection is poured
away like a stream losing itself in the desert. It does seem a pity.
Jove! yes, and I never thought of that, he said. There must be a
lot of that going on. So much, perhaps, that some day the desert will
get quite damp, and then won't it cease to be a desert?
She looked at him rather longer, letting her eyes rest on his.
That is a much more hopeful solution, she said. Perhaps it
doesn't all go to waste. Or shall we say that Nature never throws
things away, but puts all these odds and ends of affection in the
stock-pot to make soup. But they will make soup for other people. Ah!
there was lightning far off. The storm is beginning.
They waited in silence, till a long, drowsy peal of thunder
Oh, it is miles away yet, he said.
Jeannie arranged her cushions more comfortably. And yet I rather
like Nature's uneconomical habits, she said, if we settle she is a
spendthrift. There is something rather royal and large-handed about it.
She is just the same in physical affairs. I saw in some snippety paper
the other day that the amount of electricity discharged in a good
thunderstorm would be sufficient to light every house in London for
five hours, or run all the trains on all the tubes for about the same
time. I should think you are rather spendthrift, too, Lord Lindfield.
I? Oh, yes. I pour out gallons of affection in all directions.
Again Jeannie smiled at him.
Ah, I like that, she said, softly. And we won't think it goes to
waste. It would be too sad. Go on, tell me about your pouring it out in
all directions. I should like to hear about it.
Jeannie hated herself as she spoke; she was using all her woman's
charm to draw him on, anda thing which he could not follow, though
she knew it wellshe was using lightness of touch so that he should
not see how much she was in earnest. She had used, too, that sacred
name of friendship to encourage him to draw nearer her, for no man
could listen to what she had been saying without reading into it some
directly personal meaning; clearly the friendship she spoke of
concerned him and her, for no woman talks to a man about friendship
purely in the abstract unless she is his grandmother. And she was not;
nobody could be less like a grandmother, as she sat there, in the full
beauty of her thirty years and her ripened womanhood.
She was beautiful, and she knew it; she had charm, she was alone on
this hot thundery day with him in the punt. Also she meant to use all
power that was hers. The plan was to detach him from the girl, and the
manner of his detachment was the attachment to her. Daisy must be shown
how light were his attachments.
Indeed, the handicap of years did not seem so heavy now. She was
perfectly well aware that men looked at her as she went by, and turned
their heads after she had passed. And this hot, sweltering day, she
knew, suited her and the ripe rather Southern beauty of her face,
though in others it might only be productive of headache or fatigue.
Indeed, it was little wonder that her plan had made so promising a
He moved again a little nearer her, clasping his knees in his hands.
You've talked about friends, he said, and you are encouraging me
to talk about them. It's a jolly word; it means such a jolly thing. And
I'm beginning to hope I have found one in this last day or two.
There was no mistaking this, nor was there any use in her pretending
not to know what he meant; indeed, it was worse than useless, for it
was for this she had been working. There was no touch or hint of
passion in his voice; he was speaking of friends as a boy might speak.
And she liked him.
She held out her hand with a charming frankness of gesture.
That is a very good hearing, she said. I congratulate you. And,
Lord Lindfield, it isn't only you I congratulate; I congratulate myself
He unclasped his knees and took her hand in both his.
Thanks, most awfully, he said.
Friends don't thank each other, she said. One only thanks people
who don't matter. Now go on. I have been doing all the talking these
last two days. It is your turn; I want to know much more about you.
I expect you won't like it.
I must be the judge of that. I am willing to risk it.
Well, I told you I wanted to talk most awfully, he said, and now
you've made it so much easier. I expect you know a certain amount about
me, as it is. I've had a tremendously good time all my life. People
have been very kind to me always. I expect they've been too kind. It's
all been so confoundedly pleasant, I have let the years go by without
ever thinking of settling down. But there's an awful lot to be said for
it. And all my lifeI'm thirty-eight alreadyI've shirked every
responsibility under the sun.
Jeannie had a sudden sense that in spite of the promising beginning
which she had half prided herself on and half loathed herself for,
things were going quite completely wrong, and that she had as yet
accomplished nothing whatever. It was but a momentary impression, and
she had no time to reflect on or examine it, since she had to do her
part in this sealed compact of friendship. But she did it with an
I can't console you over that, she said, or tell you that you do
yourself an injustice, because I have always regarded you as the very
type of the delectable and untrammelled life. You don't conform to the
English standard, you know, and I expect you have no more acquaintance
with your Wiltshire estates and all your people there than you have
with the House of Lords. Have you ever taken your seat, by the way? No,
I thought not. But, after all, if you don't know the House of Lords,
you know London pretty well, andand Paris.
He did not smile now, but looked at her gravely.
Yes, worse luck, he said.
Jeannie nodded at him.
Well, well, she said, quietly. Never mind that now. You were
speaking of settling down. Go on about that.
One doesn't settle down alone, he said.
And then she knew that, so far, her plan had been a dead failure.
His attitude towards her was perfectly clear; they were friends, and as
friends should do, he was confiding in her, seeking from her the
sympathy and counsel of a friend.
You mean to marry, then? she asked.
I hope to marry.
Once again the lightning flickered in the sky, and the thunder gave
a far more immediate response. That big coppery cloud which had been
low on the horizon had spread upwards over the heavens with astonishing
speed, and even as the thunder crackled a few big drops of rain
splashed on the river outside their shelter under the chestnuts. The
storm was quickly coming closer, and a big tree, as Jeannie remembered,
is not a very desirable neighbourhood under the circumstances.
We had better get home, she said. There is going to be a storm.
He jumped up at once, loosed the chain, and with a few swift strokes
took them back into the boathouse. There was no time just then for
further conversation, and Jeannie, at any rate, did not wish for it.
But it was as she had feared. All that she had done hitherto was
nothing; the calamity she wished to avert had not yet been averted.
One thing only she had gained at present, the footing of a friend.
Already, she was sure, he valued that, and on that she would have to
build. But it was a precarious task; she could not see her way yet.
Only she knew that such friendship as she had already formed with him
was not enough. He was not detached from Daisy yet. For the last
forty-eight hours, it is true, he had almost completely left her alone,
but that was not enough. He still intended to marry her.
Jeannie went straight to her room on gaining the house, under
pretence of changing her dress, which even in those few yards across
from the boathouse had got wet with the first rain of the storm. But
she wanted not that so much as to sit by herself and think. Matters
were not so easy as she had hoped, for she knew now that she had let
herself believe that by the mere formation of a friendship with her,
she could lead him away from Daisy. And now, for the first time, she
saw how futile such a hope had been. He could, in the pleasure of this
new friendship, be somewhat markedly inattentive to Daisy for a day or
two, but it could not permanently detach him. She must seem to offer
something more than mere friendship.
That he was seriously in love with Daisy she did not wholly believe,
but he meant to marry her; he meant, anyhow, to ask her to marry him,
and Alice, who knew better than she what Daisy felt, was sure that
Daisy would accept him. But something more than a mere flirtation was
required; matters, she saw now, had to go deeper than that. She must
make herself essential to him, and then, when he knew that she was
essential, she would have to turn her back on him. It was not a pretty
There came a gentle tap at the door, and Daisy entered.
Ah! you have come in, Aunt Jeannie, she said. Did you get caught
in the storm?
Not to speak of. We did not go far. Lord Lindfield offered to take
me up to Maidenhead, but, as a matter of fact, we went to the corner of
the backwater. Oh, I promised not to laugh at him for the immensity of
the expedition, because it was I who proposed stopping under the
chestnuts. How charming he is, Daisy! And how is the headache?
Rather brilliant still, but it will get better. Aunt Jeannie, how
quickly you make friends with people.
There was something tearing to Jeannie's tender heart about this.
Daisy looked so white and tired, and so helpless, she who was usually a
perfect well-spring of high spirits and enjoyment. Jeannie longed to
take that dear head in her hands and kiss its trouble away, but it was
just that which she could not do. This trouble could not be kissed
away; it had to be burnt awayby a hand, too, that seemed unconscious
of its cruel work.
With him, do you mean? she asked lightly. You can scarcely say I
have only now been making friends with him. I saw a good deal of him at
one time; in fact, he was rather devoted to me. But my eagle eye sees
no sign of a return of it. Does yours?
The room was very dark with the blackness of the sky outside, and
Jeannie could see Daisy but indistinctly. Then with a wicked flare of
lightning it leaped into light, and the thunder rattled round the
eaves. But in that moment's flash Jeannie saw Daisy's face again, mute,
white, and appealing, and it was intolerable to her. Besides, anything
was better and less dangerous than a tête-à-tête with Daisy. At
any moment she might tell her about Lord Lindfield and the offer she
expected. That would make her part infinitely worse to play; it would
make it impossible. At present, anyhow, so far as Daisy knew, she was
ignorant of it all.
She jumped at the appalling racket overhead.
Oh, I hate thunderI hate thunder, she said. Let us come
downstairs, Daisy, where there are people. Besides, it is tea-time, is
it not? Let us go down. I came straight to my room, and Lord Lindfield,
I think, went to his. Alice will be anxious if she thinks we are still
out. Listen to the rain. How it will beat the flowers down! Come,
I have hardly had a word with you since you came back, Aunt
Jeannie, said Daisy.
I know, dear, but in a house full of people what can one expect? We
must have a great talk when we get back to London. Every moment seems
occupied here. Dear child, I hope your headache will be better soon.
Will you not go and lie down? Or shall I tell Alice you are not well,
and won't you have a little dinner quietly in your room by yourself?
No? Let us go down, then.
The storm was violent for an hour or two, but before sunset it had
moved away again, and a half-hour of sunshine, washed, clean sunshine,
preceded sunset. But somehow the storm had not done its proper work; it
had scolded and roared and wept, but it had not quite got the trouble
out of the air. There was more to come.
The same sense that there was more to come invaded the spirits of
Lady Nottingham's guests. She herself was a little distraite, Daisy's
headache had left her rather white and tired, Gladys lamented the wreck
of the garden, and there was not much life about. Then after dinner it
clouded over again, the clouds regathered, lightning began to wink
remotely and thunder to grumble, and even Mrs. Halton, whom the sultry
heat had so invigorated, according to her own account, that afternoon,
was inclined to join in the rather early move to bed. Also, the next
day was Sunday, and Sunday was not particularly wanted. The fact of it
was felt to be a little depressing, and nobody quite knew what was the
matter with everybody else.
It is a fact that in every gathering of friends and acquaintances
there is some one person who makes la pluie et le beau temps,
and in this party it was emphatically Jeannie Halton who arranged the
weather. The spirits of every person are, to a certain extent,
infectious, but the spirits of some few people run through a house like
influenza, and there was no doubt that she had, all the evening, been
in a rather piano mood. She had not, of course, committed the
unpardonable social crime of showing that she was depressed, but she
had been a little retrospective, and tended to remember how in
general conversation, rather than to hope that.
But it must not be supposed that she had behaved in any way outside
the lines of normal social intercourse. She had, for instance, just
gone out into the garden after dinner with Lord Lindfield, and had
quoted the line, In the darkness thick and hot. It was apt enough and
harmless enough, but it had vaguely made him feel that something was a
little wrong. Then she had made him and Daisy play billiards together,
while she marked for them. She marked with weary accuracy, and said,
Oh, what a beautiful stroke rather too often to make it credible that
she always meant it. And with the rest of the women she had gone up to
bed rather early.
Tom Lindfield, on the other hand, though he did not feel at all
inclined to go to bed early, felt that there was trouble somewhere. He
could not date it in the least, nor could he put his finger on the
moment when trouble began. Or could he? He asked himself that question
several times. Jeannie had been so pleasant and so good a comrade till
they had gone out in the punt. Then came the compact of friendship, and
somehow at once almost she seemed to slip away from him. He had wanted
to tell her much more, to tell her even how in Paris he had been
desperately in love, and that what he felt now for Daisy was not that.
Somehow that woman in Paris reminded him of Daisy, and yet what two
women could be more different than these! She had an apartment in the
Rue Chalgrin. It was very much gilded, and yet very simple.
That did not occupy him much. What occupied him so much more was
that till the storm had begun, till he and Jeannie had run hurriedly to
the house, he had found such an extreme content in her society. She had
beenfor these last thirty hours or sosuch an admirable comrade.
There was the Brahms concert, the ridiculous motor-drive, the evening
at billiards, the morning in the motor, the afternoon in the punt. Then
quite suddenly she had seemed to shut up, to enclose herself from him.
Yet some little spirit of companionship had escaped her again, when she
quoted the line, In the darkness thick and hot. And then, after that,
she had walked back to the house, made him play billiards with Daisy,
and had gone upstairs at the earliest possible opportunity.
Nobody with the slightest prospect of winning his case could have
accused Tom Lindfield of being sensitive in his perceptions, but nobody
without the certainty of losing it could have accused him of not being
fairly sound in his conclusions. What had happened to Mrs. Halton to
make her so different to him (and, for that matter, to everybody else)
since four o'clock that afternoon he did not try to decide, since he
had no means of knowing.
But what he did know was that this was a woman of enchanting moods.
At one time she was good comrade, then she was friend, then for some
reason she was some sort of shadow of these excellent things. They were
there, but they were obscured by something else. And that obscuration
rendered her the more enchanting. He did not understand her; she was
away somewhere beyond him, and he longed to follow her.
All his life women had been to him the most delectable of riddles,
and his expressed desire to marry and settle down was perhaps only
another statement of the fact that he longed to solve one example of
the riddle, one form in which it was presented to him. He felt now that
he wished he had married years ago, that he had already become quiet
and domesticated. There was a time for youth's fiery passions, its
ecstatic uncontent, and there was also most assuredly a time when those
fevers should cease.
He had so repeatedly told himself that it was time they should cease
for him, that of late he had come to believe it. He believed it still,
and it was for that reason that he had determined to settle down, to
choose, as he had done in his own mind, this pretty and charming girl,
much younger than himself, as was right, and ask her to settle down
He was not in love with her in any absorbed or tumultuous way, but
he meant to do his best to make her happy, and looked forward to being
immensely happy himself. All that had seemed very right and reasonable
and satisfactory, but to-night, in some way, the mirror of his future
tranquillity was disturbed; it was as if little sudden puffs of wind,
like those that rustled every now and then through the darkness thick
and hot outside, ruffled and broke its surface, making it dim and full
of shattered images that seemed to have swum up from below.
Was it that once again he was beginning to fall in love with Daisy
in the old passionate way? But at that moment he was aware that he was
not thinking about Daisy at all.
All this passed very rapidly through his mind; it was no effort of
conscious or reasoned thought, but more as if without volition of his
own these pictures had been drawn across his brain, as he stood in the
hall while the rustling procession of women went upstairs. And with
their going, he became aware that the rest of the evening was likely to
be rather boring.
It was still not after half-past ten, an hour impossible to go to
bed at, impossible, anyhow, to go to sleep at, and he fancied that his
own company and his own thoughts were not likely to be very comfortable
or very profitable. He did not want to think; he wanted the hours to
pass as quickly and unreflectingly as possible until it was morning
again. No doubt then things would present themselves in a more normal
light. Certainly the events of the day had proved rather exciting and
unsettling, or, to be perfectly honest, Jeannie had somehow unsettled
him. How quickly their friendship had sprung up! And what had happened
then? She seemed to have left him altogether, glided away from him.
He strolled back into the billiard-room, where he would find company
of some sort, but there already the hour of yawns and fitful
conversation had begun, and first one and then another man nodded
good-night and left the room. Jim Crowfoot, however, who hated going to
bed as much as he disliked getting up, had a brilliant cargo of
conversation on board, which he proceeded to unload. The two knew each
other well, and when they were left alone conversation rapidly became
Thunderstorms always are simultaneous with sombreness, he said,
and I sometimes wonder whether it is our sombreness that produces the
storm or the storm that produces sombreness. Every one has been sombre
to-day, except, perhaps, you, Tom, and the merry widow.
Are you referring to Mrs. Halton?
I don't know of any other. Lady Nottingham isn't merry. I can't
think how you manage to produce so much impression with so little
material. I have to talk all the time to produce an impression at all,
and then it is usually an unfortunate one.
I think your description of Mrs. Halton as the merry widow is a
particularly unfortunate one, remarked Lindfield.
You guessed whom I meant, said Jim.
I know. It was characteristic of you if not of her. You always see
people inin caricature. Besides, I thought Mrs. Halton was anything
You should know best.
Because you have spent the entire day with her, chiefly
tête-à-tête. Also yesterday.
Tom Lindfield was apparently not in a very genial frame of mind
to-night. He let this remark pass in silence, and then went back to
what Jim had previously said.
You always talk a good lot of rot, old chap, he said, and I want
to know if you were talking rot when you said something about my
producing an impression with little material. It sounds pretty good
rot, but if you meant something by it, I wish you would tell me what it
was. Does it have any special application?
Yes, certainly. I referred to your 'Veni, vidi, vici' with Mrs.
Halton. You laid firm hold of her yesterday, and have not let her go
since. I don't imply that she has wanted to go.
Jim, in spite of the large quantities of outrageous nonsense which
he often talked, had a very fair allowance of brains, and when he chose
to talk sense was worth listening to. So, at any rate, Tom Lindfield
I wish you'd go on, he said, and just tell me all that is in your
By all means, if you promise not to knock me down or anything. It's
just thisthat we've all been asking ourselves, 'Is it to be the aunt
or the niece?'
And who has been asking themselves that? asked Lindfield.
Oh, everybody except, perhaps, Braithwaite and poor wandering
Willie. Mrs. Beaumont and Lady Sybil were hard at it when you and Mrs.
Halton strolled out after dinner. They tore Mrs. Halton open as you
tear open aa registered envelope. With the same greed, you
Cats! remarked Lindfield.
Oh, yes. But I like to hear them 'meaow.' Braithwaite didn't; he
listened to just one remark and then went away looking black.
What has he got to do with it? asked Tom.
Oh, he's great friends with the M. W., said Jim, and he is one of
those nice old-fashioned people who never talk evil of people behind
their backs. But where are you to talk evil of people except behind
their backs? That's what I want to know. You can't do it in front of
their faces, as it would not be polite.
Don't be epigrammatic, there's a good fellow, said Tom. It only
Well, you've confused us. You were supposed to be walking out, so
to speak, with Miss Daisy. Instead of which you leave her completely
alone, and walk out all the time with Mrs. Halton. Oh, I don't deny
that she is running after you. She is; at least, so the cats said. It's
confusing, you know; I don't think any one knows where we all are.
Lindfield took a turn or two up and down the room, took up a cue,
and slapped the red ball into a pocket.
I'm sure I don't know where I am, he said, but I expect we shall
all be in the deuce of a mess before long. About Mrs. Halton running
after me, that is absolutely all rot. What brutes women are to each
other! And they say, to use your expression, that I've been walking out
with Miss Daisy?
It has been supposed that you were going to ask her to marry you.
Lindfield sent one of the white balls after the red.
And they weren't far wrong, he said. Well, I shall go to bed,
Jim. Your conversation is too sensational.
Good-night. Mind you let me know when you have made up your mind,
It was this certainty that he had got to make up his mind, whereas
till to-day he had believed that his mind was made up, that Lindfield
carried upstairs with his bedroom candle. But, unlike that useful
article, which could be put out at will, the question refused to be put
out, and burnt with a disconcerting and gem-like clearness. It was
perfectly true, and he confessed it to himself, that for the last two
days he had distinctly preferred to cultivate this wonderful
quick-growing friendship which had shot up between him and Jeannie,
rather than bring things to a head with Daisy.
He had meant while down here to ask her to marry him; now, if he
looked that intention in the face, he was aware that though it was
still there (even as he had begun to tell Mrs. Halton that afternoon),
it had moved away from the immediate foreground, and stood waiting at a
further distance. The cats and Jim Crowfoot, he told himself with some
impatience, were altogether at fault when they so charmingly said that
he had to make up his mind between aunt and niece. It was not that at
all; the only question with which the making up of his mind was
concerned was whether he was going to ask Daisy now, to-morrow, to be
his wife. And the moment he asked himself that question it was already
answered. But that he did not know.
As always, he was quite honest with himself, and proceeded
ruthlessly to find out what had occasioned the postponement of his
intention. That was not hard to answer; the answer had already been
indirectly given. It was the enchantment of this new friendship which
had forced itself into the foreground.
That friendship, however, was now agreed upon and ratified, and the
postponed intention should come forward again. But these last few hours
had made him feel uncertain about that friendship. There was no use in
denying it; she had been quite different since they came in from the
punt. How maddening and how intoxicating women were! How they forced
you to wonder and speculate about them, to work your brain into a fever
with guessing what was going on in theirs.
He turned over in bed with his face to the wall, and shut his eyes
with the firm and laudable intention of not bothering any more about
it, but of letting sleep bring counsel. He did intend to ask Daisy to
marry him, but he was not quite certain when he should do so. And then
there outlined itself behind the darkness of his closed lids Jeannie's
face, with its great dark eyes, its mass of hair growing low on the
forehead, the witchery of its smiling mouth.
So perhaps the cats and Jim Crowfoot, though a little previous,
were not so wrong about the reality of the question on which he must
make up his mind.
* * * * *
Jeannie announced her intention of going to church next morning at
breakfast, and Victor Braithwaite, who was sitting by her, professed
similar ecclesiastical leanings. Jeannie had apparently completely
recovered from the piano mood of the evening before, and commented
severely on the Sunday habits of this Christian country. She personally
taxed every one who had at present come down with having had no
intention whatever of going to church, and her accusations appeared
particularly well founded. In the middle of this Lord Lindfield
Good-morning, Lord Lindfield, said Alice. We are all catching it
hot this morning from Jeannie, who has been accusing us by name and
individually of being heathens.
Worse than heathens, said Jeannie, briskly.Oh, good-morning,
Lord Lindfield. I didn't see you.Worse than heathens, because
heathens don't know any better. Alice, you must come. You are a
landlady of Bray, and should set an example.
But it is so hot, said Alice, and I don't take out the carriage
on Sunday. I like to give the coachman anan opportunity of going to
You give him fifty-two every year, said Jeannie.
The motor is eating its head off, remarked Lindfield. I'll drive
you. Do come with me, Mrs. Halton.
Oh, thanks, no. I'll walk, she said. Mr. Braithwaite is coming
Jeannie rose as she spoke, and went out through the French window
into the garden.
Half-past ten, then, Mr. Braithwaite, she said.
Lindfield helped himself to some dish on the side-table.
Can't stand being called a heathen, he said. I shall go to church
Victor soon strolled out after Jeannie.
Hang it all, Jeannie! he said. I want to go to church with you,
and now Tom Lindfield says he is coming. Considering how muchoh,
well, never mind.
Jeannie looked hastily round, found they had the garden to
themselves, and took his arm.
How much he has seen of me, and how little you have, she said.
Quite correct. But it wasn't a difficult guess.
No. We will be cunning, Victor. I said half-past ten quite loud,
didn't I? Let us meet in the manner of conspirators at the garden-gate
at a quarter-past.
They turned towards the house again, and Jeannie detached her arm
Remember your promise, dear, she said. I am I, and I am yours.
Never doubt that.
All that day there was no possible cause for his doubting it. The
conspirator-plan succeeded to admiration, and Lord Lindfield and Daisy,
with a somewhat faint-intentioned Gladys, had waited in the hall till a
quarter to eleven. Then it was discovered that Jeannie had not been
seen in the house since ten, and Gladys, victorious over her faint
intentions, had stopped at home, while Daisy and Lord Lindfield walked
rapidly to church, arriving there in the middle of the psalms.
Jeannie had been gaily apologetic afterwards. She had not heard at
breakfast that anybody except herself and Mr. Braithwaite meant to go
to church, and, coming home, she paired herself off with Daisy. At
lunch again there were, when she appeared, two vacant places, one
between Willie Carton and one of the cats, the other next Lord
Lindfield. She walked quietly round the table to take the first of
these, instead of going to the nearest chair.
For the afternoon there were several possibilities. Jeannie,
appealed to, said she would like to go up to Boulter's Lock and see the
Ascot Sunday crowd. That, it appeared, was very easy of management, as
Lord Lindfield would punt her up.
That will be delightful, said Jeannie. Daisy dear, I haven't
simply set eyes on you. Do let us go up together, and Lord Lindfield
will punt us. We will be the blest pair of sirens, of extraordinarily
diverse age, and he shall give the apple of discord to one of us. If he
gives it you I shall never speak to you again.Lord Lindfield, will
you take us up?
I shall have two apples, said he.
Then Daisy and I will each of us want both.
This had been the last of the arrangements, and it was like Mrs.
Halton, such was the opinion of the cats, to manage things like that.
There could be no doubt that when the launch and the Noah's Ark and the
punt met below Boulter's, it would be found that Daisy had another
The three vessels met there. But on the punt were Lord Lindfield and
Daisy all alone. Mrs. Halton, it seemed, had stopped at home. There was
no explanation; she had simply not come, preferring not to.
Nobody could understand, least of all Lord Lindfield. She had swum
But Daisy had not had a very amusing time. Punting appeared to
monopolize the attention of the punter.
All that day and throughout the greater part of the next Jeannie
kept up with chill politeness and composure this attitude towards Lord
Lindfield, which he, at any rate, found maddening. What made it the
more maddening was that to all the rest of the party she behaved with
that eager geniality which was so characteristic of her. Only when he
was there, and when he addressed her directly, something would come
over her manner that can only be compared to the forming of a film of
ice over a pool. To an acquaintance merely it would have been
unnoticeable; even to a friend, if it had happened only once or twice,
it might have passed undetected; as it was, he could not fail to see
that it was there, nor could he fail to puzzle his wits over what the
cause of it might be.
During the day he tried to get a word with her in private, but she
seemed to anticipate his intention, and contrived that it should be
impossible for the request to be made. Once, however, just after the
return that afternoon from Boulter's Lock, he had managed to say to
her: There is nothing the matter, is there? and with complete
politeness she had replied: I have just a touch of a cold. But it is
nothing, thanks. And thereupon she had taken up a newspaper, and
remarked to Lady Nottingham that the Eton and Harrow match seemed to
have been extraordinarily exciting.
Now, no man, unless he is definitely in love with and enthralled by
a woman, will, if he has anything which may be called spirit, stand
this sort of thing tamely. Lindfield honestly examined himself to see
if in aught he had offended, could find no cause of offence in
himself, and then went through a series of conflicting and unsettling
He told himself that for some reason she had wished to get on
intimate terms with him, and then, her curiosity or whatever it was
being satisfied, she had merely opened the hand into which she had
taken his and, so to speak, wiped his hand off. This seemed to him a
very mean and heartless proceeding, but there it was. She had clearly
done this, and if a woman chose to behave like that to a man the only
rejoinder consistent with ordinary dignity and self-respect was to take
no notice at all, and dismiss her from his mind.
Clearly that was the right thing to do, but instead of doing the
right thing he first felt angry, and then sick at heart. Womenthose
witcheswere really rather cruel. They cast a spell over one, and then
rode away on their broomsticks, disregarding the poor wretch over whom
they had cast it. He was left to go mooning about, until in the
merciful course of Nature the spell began to lose its potency and die
out. Then, again, he would remember the dignity of man, and repeat to
himself his determination to dismiss her and her incomprehensibilities
from his mind, and challenge Daisy to some silly game. She, poor
wretch, would accept with avidity; but the game, whatever it was, soon
seemed to lose its edge and its gaiety. There was something that had
clearly gone wrong.
Daisy guessed what that was, and her guess was fairly correct. It
seemed to her that for a couple of days Aunt Jeannie had, to put it
quite bluntly, run after Lord Lindfield. She had pretty well caught him
up, too, for Daisy was fair-minded enough to see that he had not been
very agile in getting away from her. He had been quite glad to be
caught up, and was evidently charmed by her.
Then, clearly, about the time of her own headache, something had
happened; Daisy could see that. Aunt Jeannie, though positively melting
with geniality and charming warmth to everybody else, turned on him a
shoulder that was absolutely frozen. Why she had done this Daisy could
not help guessing, and her solution was that Jeannie had been
tremendously attracted by him, and then suddenly seen that somehow it
wouldn't do. Perhaps at this point the sight that Daisy had caught of
her aunt and Victor Braithwaite together in the garden supplied a gap
in the explanation. Daisy did not like to think that that was it; for,
in truth, if it was, there was no doubt whatever that darling Aunt
Jeannie had been flirting. But, as Aunt Jeannie had quite ceased to
flirt, Daisy was more than willing to forgive her for the miseries of
those two dreadful days; she was even willing to forget.
Only Lord Lindfield, it was clear to her, did not quite forget. He
was altogether unlike himself. For a little while he would be
uproariously cheerful, then his gaiety would go out without a gutter,
like a candle suddenly taken out into a gale of wind. And then,
perhaps, his eyes would stray about till, for a moment, they fastened
on Jeannie, who was probably as entranced by the general joy of life as
he had been a minute before. Then he would look puzzled, and then
angry, and then puzzled again.
Whatever was passing in Jeannie's mind, she concealed it with
supreme success, so that nobody could possibly tell that anything was
passing there, or that she had any currents going along below the
surface. But she hadcurrents that were going in the direction she had
willed to set them; but for all that they flowed in so strong a tide
she hated the flowing of them, and hated herself who had set them
moving. She was playing a deep game, and one that had required all her
wit to invent, and all her tact to play; but during all this Sunday and
the day that followed she observed the effect of her moves, and, though
hating them, was well satisfied with their result.
With the tail of her eye, or with half an ear, even while she was in
full swing of some preposterous discussion, punctuated with laughter,
with Jim Crowfoot, she could observe Lord Lindfield, could see his
perplexity and his anger, could hear his attempts to talk and laugh, as
if there was nothing to trouble him; could note, before long, the
sudden change in his tone, the short monosyllables of answers, the
quenched laugh. He was much with Daisy, but Mrs. Halton did not mind
that; indeed, it was as she would have had it, for it was clear how
little Daisy had the power to hold him, and it was just that which he
was beginning now to perceive. She wanted him to understand that very
completely, to have it sink down into his nature till it became a part
Yes, her diplomacy was prospering well; already the fruit of it was
swelling on the tree. It might be salutary; it was certainly bitter.
Jeannie went that night to Lady Nottingham's room to talk to her.
She herself was feeling very tired, not with the sound and wholesome
tiredness that is the precursor of long sleep and refreshed awakening,
but with the restless fatigue of frayed nerves and disquiet mind that
leads to intolerable tossings and turnings, and long vigils through the
varying greys of dawn and the first chirrupings of birds.
I have not come for long, dear, she said, but I had to tell
somebody aboutabout what is happening. It's going so well, too.
Alice saw the trouble in Jeannie's face, and, as a matter of fact,
had seen trouble in other faces.
I haven't had a word with you, she said, and I don't know what is
happening. You seem to have had nothing to say to Lord Lindfield all
day. I thought, perhaps, you had given it up. It was too hard for you,
dear. I don't wonder you found you could not compass it.
Jeannie gave a little impatient sound; her nerves were sharply on
Dear Alice, she said, that is not very clever of you. I thought
you would see. However, I am quite glad you don't, for if you don't I
am sure Daisy doesn't. I am getting a respite from Daisy'swell,
Daisy's loathing of me and my methods. She, like you, probably thinks I
have given him back to her.
Jeannie was prowling up and down the room rather in the manner of
some restless caged thing. In spite of her tiredness and her
disquietude, it seemed to Lady Nottingham that she had never seen her
look so beautiful. She looked neither kind nor genial nor sympathetic,
but for sheer beauty, though rather formidable, there were no two words
Sit down, Jeannie, said Alice quietly. You are only exciting
yourself. And tell me about it all. I understand nothing, it seems.
Jeannie paused a moment in her walk, and then fell to pacing the
No, I'm not exciting myself, she said, but it is exciting me. I
don't stir myself up by walking; I am merely attempting, not very
successfully, to walk my excitement off. Oh, Alice, what wild beasts we
are at bottom! Prey! Prey! Prey! It is one of the instincts that
weyou and I, nice womenare rarely conscious of; but I doubt whether
it is ever quite dormant. Yes, that comes later; I will explain from
The beginning of it all was easy, she said. It is perfectly easy
for any woman to capture the attention of a man like that, even when he
is seriously thinking of getting married to a girl. There was no
difficulty in making him take me to the concert, in making him neglect
Daisy those first two days. He liked me immensely, and, oh! Alice, here
was the first extra difficulty, I liked him. We became friends. We
mentioned the word friend openly as applied to us. And I felt
likelike a man who gets a wild bird to sit on his hand and eat out of
it, in order to grab it, and if not to wring its neck, to put it into a
cage. I meant to put him into a cage, shut the door, and go away. And
then yesterday afternoon in the punt, just after we had made our
discovery that we were friends, he confided in me. He told me he was
going to settle down and marry! Judge of my rage, my disappointment! I
saw that all my efforts up till then had been quite useless. He was
still meaning to marry, and, as was right, poor dear, he told the news
to his friend. Daisy's name did not come in. Something made us break
offa flash of lightning, I think, and the beginning of the storm. I
should have found something to divert the conversation otherwise. It
was much better, in view of what I have to do, that I should not
officially know to whom he hoped to be married.
Already the calming effect of telling a trouble to a friend was
being felt by Jeannie, and she sat down on the sofa near the window,
clasping her hands behind her head, and looking not at Alice, but into
the dark soft night. A little rain was falling, hissing among the
I saw then, she said, that I had made a stupid mistake. I had
thought that by mere friendliness and sympathy and making myself
agreeable, and making him admire me (which he did and does), I could
get him away from Daisy. I see now how impossible that was. If it is I
who am going to take him away, he must feel more than that. He will not
leave the girl he intended to marry unless he falls in love in his own
manner with some one else. Alice, I believe he is doing so.
Jeannie paused a moment.
I hate it all, she said, but I can't help being immensely
interested. Now for the part you don't understand, the part that made
you think that I had given it all up. It was a bold game, and, I
believe, a correct one. I dropped himd-r-o-p, drop. Why? Simply in
order that he might miss me. Of course, I risked failure. He might have
shrugged his shoulders, and wondered why I had taken so much trouble to
flirt with him, and gone straight away and resumed operations with
Daisy. He did go straight back to Daisy, but do you think they are
getting on very nicely? I don't. The more he sees of her now, the more
he thinks about me. I don't say he has kind thoughts of me; he is
puzzled, but he doesn't dismiss me. He is angry instead, and
hurt. That shows he wants me. He will never propose to Daisy while he
feels like that.
There was a short silence. Then Lady Nottingham said,
Do you mean you want to make him propose to you?
The monosyllable came very dryly and unimportantly, as if to a
perfectly commonplace inquiry. Then Lady Nottingham, in her turn, got
up. Jeannie's restlessness and disquiet seemed to have transferred
themselves to her.
But it is an intolerable rôle, she said. You cannot play with
love like that. It is playing heads and tails with a man's life, or
worse. You are playing with his very soul.
And a month afterwards it will be he who will be playing with
another woman's soul, said Jeannie quietly. You cannot call it love
with that sort of man. How many times has he been in love, and what has
happened to it all? I am only making myself the chance woman with whom
he happens to think himself in love at the time when he proposes to
settle down and marry. He shall propose marriage, therefore, to me.
Lady Nottingham's air of comfort had quite left her. Her plump,
contented face was puckered into unusual wrinkles.
No, no, no, she said. I can't imagine you act like that, Jeannie.
It isn't you.
Jeannie's eyes grew suddenly sombre.
Oh, my dear, it is me, she said, though I am glad it is a me
which is a stranger to you. I hope, as a rule, I don't play
pitch-and-toss with other men's souls; but there are circumstancesand
those have now arisenin which I see no other way. At all costs to him
I will fulfil my promise to Diana. I will do my best that Daisy shall
never know. I do not care what it costs him. And yet that is not quite
true. I do care, because I like him. But I cannot measure his possible
suffering against Daisy's. It is through him that the need of doing
this has come. He has got to suffer for it; and I assure you it isn't
he alone who pays, it is I also.
And I do not yet know if I shall succeed, she said. He may look
with a scornful wonder on mymy somewhat mature charms. He maythough
I do not really expect itstill intend to settle down and
marryDaisy. She will accept him, if he doesI have seen enough to
know thatand we shall then have to tell her. But I hope that may not
She took up her candle.
I must go to bed, she said, for I am dog-tired. But I don't feel
so fretted now I have told you. I wish I did not like him. I should not
care if I did not. Good-night, dear Alice.
* * * * *
All next day until evening Jeannie continued these tactics. Genial,
eager, sympathetic with others, she treated Lord Lindfield, whenever it
was necessary to speak to him at all, with the unsmiling civility which
a well-bred woman accords to a man she scarcely knows, and does not
wish to know better. And all day she saw the growing effect of her
policy, for all day he grew more perplexed and more preoccupied with
her. She gave him no opportunity of speaking with her alone, for she
had planned her day and occupations so that she was all the time in the
company of others, and hour by hour his trouble increased. Nor did the
trouble spare Daisy. Nothing could be clearer to her eye, with such
absolute naturalness did Jeannie manage the situation, than that she
now, at any rate, was standing quite aloof from Lord Lindfield.
A few days ago Daisy had told herself that she was glad her aunt
liked him, but it should be added that to-day she was equally glad that
Jeannie apparently did not. Yet the trouble did not spare Daisy, for if
Aunt Jeannie was utterly changed to Lindfield, he seemed to be utterly
changed too. He was grave, anxious, preoccupied, and the meaning of it
escaped the girl, even as it had escaped Lady Nottingham.
The party had been gradually gathering in the verandah before it was
time to dress for dinner that night, and Jeannie, à propos of
the dressing-bell, had just announced that a quarter of an hour was
enough for any nimble woman, with a competent maid.
She throws things at me, and I catch them and put them on, she
said. If I don't like them I drop them, and the floor of the room
looks rather like Carnival-time until she clears up.
But the sense of the meeting was against Jeannie; nobody else could
manage, it appeared, under twenty minutes, and Jim Crowfoot stuck out
for half an hour.
You've got soft things to put on, he said; but imagine a stiff
shirt-cuff hitting you in the eye when your maid threw it. The floor of
my room would look not so much like Carnival-time as a shambles.
Lord Lindfield, indeed, alone supported Jeannie.
I want ten minutes, he said; neither more nor less. Jim, it's
time for you to go, else you will keep us waiting for dinner. I see
that Mrs. Halton and I will be left alone at ten minutes past eight,
and I at a quarter past.
Jeannie heard this perfectly, but she turned quickly to Lady
Alice, is it true that you have a post out after dinner? she said.
Yes? I must go and write a letter, then, before dressing; I
particularly want it to get to town to-morrow.
She rose and went in. And at that Lindfield deliberately got up too
and followed her. She walked straight through the drawing-room, he a
pace or two behind, and out into the hall. And then he spoke to her by
She turned round at that. There was no way to avoid giving a reply,
and, indeed, she did not wish to, for she believed that the policy of
the last two days had ripened.
Yes, Lord Lindfield? she said.
Am I ever going to have a word with you again? he asked.
Jeannie leant over the banisters; she had already gone up some six
But by all means, she said. II too have missed our talks.
Things have gone wrong a little? Let us try after dinner to put them
straight. We shall find an opportunity.
Thanks, he said; and it was not only the word that thanked her.
Jeannie's maid must have been a first-rate hand at throwing, if by
that simple process she produced in a quarter of an hour that exquisite
and finished piece of apparelling which appeared at half-past eight.
True, it was Jeannie who wore the jewels and the dress, and her hair it
was that rose in those black billows above her shapely head; and the
dress, it may be said, was worthy of the wearer. Still, if this was to
be arrived at by throwing things, the maid, it was generally felt, must
be a competent hurler.
It so happened that everybody was extremely punctual that night, and
Jeannie, though quite sufficiently so, the last to appear. Lady
Nottingham was even just beginning to allude to the necessary quarter
of an hour when she came in.
Lord Lindfield saw her first; he was talking to Daisy. But he turned
from her in the middle of a sentence, and said,
It might have been by Gad, but it was by Worth. Four shades of grey,
and pearls. Mrs. Beaumont distinctly thought that this was not the sort
of dress to dash into the faces of a quiet country party. It was like
letting off rockets at a five o'clock tea. Only a woman could dissect
the enormity of it; men just stared.
I know I am not more than one minute late, she said. Lord
Lindfield, Alice has told me to lead you to your doom, which is to take
me in.Alice, they have told us, haven't they?
It seemed to Lord Lindfield that dinner was over that night with
unusual swiftness, and that they had scarcely sat down when they rose
again for the women to leave the room. Yet, short though it seemed, it
had been a momentous hour, for in that hour all the perplexity and the
anger that had made his very blood so bitter to him during these last
two days had been charmed away from him, and instead, love, like some
splendid fever of the spirit, burned there.
Until Jeannie had been friendly, been herself with him again, he had
not known, bad as the last two days had been, how deeply and intimately
he missed her friendship. That, even that, merely her frank and
friendly intercourse, had become wine to him; he thirsted and longed
for it, and even it, now that it was restored to him, mounted to his
head with a sort of psychic intoxication. Yet that was but the gift she
had for the whole world of her friends; what if there was something for
him behind all that, which should be his alone, and not the
world'ssomething to which this wine was but as water?
At dinner this had been but the side she showed to all the world,
but there was better coming. She had promised him a talk that night,
and by that he knew well she did not mean just the intercourse of
dinner-talk, which all the table might share in, but a talk like those
they had had before by the roadside when the motor broke down, or in
the punt while the thunderstorm mounted in hard-edged, coppery clouds
up the sky. The last thing they had spoken of then was friendship, and
he had told her, he remembered, how he hoped to settle down and marry.
He hoped that she would of her own accord speak of friendship again;
that would be a thing of good omen, for again, as before, he would
speak of his hope of settling down and marrying. Only he would speak of
it differently now.
For him the hour had struck; there was no choice of deliberation
possible any more to him. He did not look on the picture of quiet
domesticity any more, and find it pleasing; he did not look on himself,
count up his years, and settle, with a content that had just one grain
of resignation in it, that it was time for him to make what is called a
home. He looked at Jeannie, and from the ocean of love a billow came,
bore him off his feet, and took him seawards. She, the beauty of her
face, the soft curves of her neck, the grace and suppleness of her
body, were no longer, as had been the case till now, the whole of the
woman whom he loved. Now they were but the material part of her; he
believed and knew that he loved something that was more essentially
Jeannie than thesehe loved her soul and spirit.
Late this love had come to him, for all his life he had stifled its
possibility of growth by being content with what was more material; but
at last it had dawned on him, and he stood now on the threshold of a
world that was as new as it was bewildering. Yet, for all its
bewilderment, he saw at a glance how real it was, and how true. It was
the light of the sun that shone there which made those shadows which
till now he had thought to be in themselves so radiant.
It was about half-past ten when Jeannie and Lord Lindfield cut out
of a bridge-table simultaneously. They had been playing in the
billiard-room, and strolled out together, talking. In the hall outside,
that pleasant place of books and shadows and corners, Jeannie paused
and held out her hand to him.
Lord Lindfield, she said, I have been a most utter beast to you
these last two days, and I am sorryI am indeed. You have got a
perfect right to ask for explanations, andand there aren't any. That
is the best explanation of all; you can't get behind it. Will you,
then, be generous and shake hands, and let us go on where we left off?
He took her hand.
That is exactly the condition I should have made, he said.
That we should go on where we left off. Do you remember what you
were talking about?
She had sat down in a low chair by the empty fireplace, and he drew
another close up to hers, and at right angles to it. Just above was a
pair of shaded candles, so that he, sitting a little further off, was
in shadow, whereas the soft light fell full on to her. Had she seen his
face more clearly, she might have known that her task was already over,
that Daisy had become but a shadow to him, and that he was eager and
burning to put the coping-stone on to what she had accomplished. But
she remembered the scene in the punt; she remembered that immediately
after she had spoken of friendship, he, like a friend, had confided to
her his intention of settling down and marrying. This time, therefore,
she would speak in a more unmistakable way.
Yes, yes, I remember indeed, she said; and it was the last good
hour I have had between that and this. But I am not blaming you, Lord
Lindfield, except, perhaps, just a little bit.
He leant forward, and his voice trembled.
Why do you blame me, he asked, even a little bit?
No, I don't think I can tell you, she said. I should get scarlet.
Yet, I don't know; I think it would make you laugh, too, and it is
always a good thing to laugh. So turn away, and don't look at me when I
am scarlet, since it is unbecoming. Well, I blame you a little bit,
because you were a little bit tactless. A charming womanone, anyhow,
who was trying to be charminghad just been talking to you about
friendship, and you sighed a smile in a yawn, as it weredo you know
Browning?he is a dearand said: 'I am going to settle down and
marry.' Now, not a word. I am going to scold you. Had we been two girls
talking together, and had just made vows of friendship, it would have
been utterly tactless for the one to choose that exact moment for
saying she was going to be married; and I am sure no two boys in
similar conditions would ever have done such a thing.
Again Jeannie laughed.
It sounds so funny now, she said. But it was such a snub. I
suppose you thought we were getting on too nicely. Oh, how funny! I
have never had such a thing happen to me before. So I blame you just a
little bit. I was rather depressed already. A thunderstorm was coming,
and it was going to be Sunday, and so I wanted everybody to be
particularly nice to me.
He gave a little odd awkward sort of laugh, and jerked himself a
little more forward in his chair.
Mayn't I look? he said. I don't believe you are scarlet. Besides,
I have to say I am sorry. I can't say I am sorry to the carpet.
Jeannie paused for a moment before she replied; something in his
voice, though still she could not see his face clearly, startled her.
It sounded changed, somehow, full of something suppressed, something
serious. But she could not risk a second fiasco; she had to play her
high cards out, and hope for their triumph.
You needn't say it, she said. And so let us pass to what I
suggested, and what you would have made, you told me, a condition of
your forgiving me. Friendship! What a beautiful word in itself, and
what a big one! And how little most people mean by it. A man says he is
a woman's friend because he lunches with her once a month; a woman says
she is a man's friend because they have taken a drive round Hyde Park
in the middle of the afternoon!
Jeannie sat more upright in her chair, leaning forward towards him.
Then she saw him more clearly, and the hunger of his face, the bright
shining of his eyes, endorsed what she had heard in his voice. Yet she
was not certainnot quite certain.
Oh, I don't believe we most of us understand friendship at all,
she said. It is not characteristic of our race to let ourselves feel.
Most English people neither hate nor love, nor make friends in earnest.
I think one has to go SouthSouth and Eastto find hate and love and
friends, just as one has to go South to find the sun. Do you know the
Persian poet and what he says of his friend:
'A book of verses underneath the bough,
A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness,
The wilderness were paradise enow.'
Ah, that is more my notion of friendship, of the ideal of
friendship, the thing that makes Paradise of the desert.
He got up quickly and stood before her, speaking hoarsely and
It does not matter what you call it, he said. I know what you
mean. I call it love, that is allJeannie, Jeannie
He seized both her hands in his roughly, brutally almost, and
covered them with kisses.
Ah, it is done! said Jeannie quickly, and half to herself. Then
she rose too, and wrenched her hands from him.
Have you gone mad? she said. Stand out of my way, please.
But she had not reckoned on the strength of the passion she had
raised. For one moment he looked at her in blank astonishment, but he
did not move. She could not get by him without violence. Then he
advanced a step again towards her, as if he would have caught her to
him. Jeannie put both her arms in front of her; she had turned pale to
Not till you have told me
I have nothing to tell you, except that I thought you were a
gentleman and a friend. There is some one coming out of the
Daisy appeared in the doorway at the moment.
The rubber's over already, she said, just two hands. Won't you
and Lord Lindfield
She stopped suddenly. It was clear he had not heard her, for, with
arms still held out, he faced Jeannie, unconscious of any one but her.
Jeannie he began again.
Jeannie did not look at him.
Please let me pass, she said.No, Daisy, I think I have played
enough. I am going upstairs. It is late. I am tired.
Jeannie went straight to her room. It was done, even as she had
said, and her heart bled for her triumph. Yet she did not for a moment
repent it. Had it been necessary to do it again, she would again have
gone through the same hateful scene, and her scorn of herself weighed
light even now with the keeping of the promise she had made by the
bedside of Diana. But the thing had been worse than she had
anticipated; it was no superficial desire she had aroused in him, but
the authentic fire. But that made Daisy the safer: a man was not often
in earnest like that.
But still the future was unplanned for; she had made her scene,
scored her point, and the curtain, dramatically speaking, should have
descended. But in real life the curtain did not descend; life insisted
that there were no such things as curtains; it made one go on. She
knew, too, that Lindfield would not take this as final; she had to
think of something which should make it final. In any case she could
not contemplate stopping in the house, with him there, and decided to
go back to town to-morrow, cutting her stay here short by a day. She
would go early, before any one was down; Alice would invent and explain
A note, hastily scribbled, settled this. It is done, Alice, she
wrote, and I feel satisfied and utterly miserable. Daisy does not
exist for him. I shall go back to town early to-morrow, dear. Will you
make some excuse? I know you will understand.
But the more important matter was not settled so easily. She had to
show poor Lindfield unmistakably that her rejection of him was quite
irrevocable. What interpretation he put on her conduct mattered but
little, as long as he clearly understood that. And then a means
occurred to her which was quite simple and quite sufficient. She wrote
a couple of lines to Victor.
My dearest, she said, I must go to town early to-morrow, and
shall not see you till you come up the day after. And I want you to
announce our engagement at once. I should like it to be in the evening
papers to-morrow. Tell them yourself down here. I write this in great
haste. All love.
Jeannie rang for her maid to get these delivered, dismissed her for
the night, and sat down to think over what she had done. She was still
tremulous from it. To a man she really liked, and to a girl whom she
tenderly loved, she had made herself vile, but it was still her sincere
hope that neither would ever know the reason for what she had done.
They must write her down a flirt; they had every reason for doing so.
She rose and looked at herself a moment in the long mirror beside
the dressing-table. You beast! she said to herself. But there was
another thought as well. Diana, my dear, she said, as if comforting
* * * * *
It had been settled that Jeannie was to live with Lady Nottingham
till the end of the season, and the latter had given her two charming
rooms in the Grosvenor Square house, so that she could make things
home-like about her for the few weeks before she would go down to her
own house in the country. Little household gods had arrived and been
unpacked while she was in the country, and she occupied herself during
this solitary day in London with the arrangement of them. There were
not many, for she did not tend to buy, but there were a few bits of
things which she had got in Rome, a Cinque-cento bas-relief, a couple
of Florentine copies of the Della Robbia heads, and some few pieces of
Italian needlework. All these took some little time to dispose
satisfactorily in the room, and that done, she proceeded to the
arrangement of her writing-table. She liked to have photographs there:
there was one of Daisy and Diana, two mites of ten years old and four
years old, lovingly entwined, Daisy's head resting on her sister's
shoulder; there was one of Victor as he was now, and another as he had
been when an Eton boy; there were half a dozen others, and among them
one of Diana, signed and dated, which Diana had given her hardly more
than a year ago in Paris.
All this arranging took up the greater part of the day, and she kept
herself to her work, forcing her mind away from those things which
really occupied it, and making it attend to the manual business of
putting books in shelves and pictures on the walls; but about tea-time
there was nothing more to occupy her here, and by degrees her thoughts
drifted back to Bray and her friendsor were they enemies?there. It
was no use thinking of it or them, for there was nothing more to be
contrived or planned or acted, no problem for her to dig at, no crisis
She had finished everything, and there was nothing left for her to
do except be silent, and hope perhaps by degrees to win Daisy back
again. How Daisy reconstructed things in her own mind Jeannie did not
know, and, indeed, the details of such reconstruction she did not
particularly want to know. She had taken Lord Lindfield away from the
girl, for a mere caprice, apparently, for the love of annexation
characteristic of flirts, while all the time she was engaged to Victor
Braithwaite. And having made mischief like this, she had run away. It
was like a child who, having from sheer wantonness set fire to
something, runs to a safe distance and watches it burn.
Jeannie had ordered the carriage to come round at six to take her
for a drive, and a few minutes before, though it was barely six yet,
she had heard something drive up and stop at the door, and supposed
that before long her maid would tell her that it was round. Even as she
thought this she heard steps come along the passage outside, then her
Daisy entered. She was very pale, but in each cheek there flamed one
high spot of colour. She stood quite still by the door for a moment,
looking at her aunt, then closed it and advanced into the room.
It is true, then, Aunt Jeannie, she said, that you are engaged to
Victor Braithwaite? I came up from Bray to ask you that, to know it
from your own lips.
Jeannie did not move, nor did she give Daisy any word of
It is quite true, she said.
Daisy began pulling off her gloves.
I congratulate you, she said. It came as rather a surprise to me.
Aunt Alice told me. I think she understood why it was a surprise to me.
I wonder if you do?
Daisy appeared to be keeping a very firm hand on herself. There was
no question that she was speaking under some tremendous stress of
emotion, but her voice was quite quiet. It trembled a little, but that
was all, and it seemed to Jeannie that that tremor was of anger more
than of self-pity or sorrow. She was gladin so far as she was glad of
anythingthat this was so.
I see you don't answer me, said Daisy, and, indeed, there is no
need. But I want an answer to this question, Aunt Jeannie. Why did you
do it? Don't you think I have a right to know that?
For one moment it occurred to Jeannie to profess and to persist in
professing that she did not know what Daisy meant. But that would have
been useless, and worse than uselessunworthy. In her utter perplexity
she tried another tack.
Is it my fault that he fell in love with me? she said.
Did you not mean him to? asked Daisy. And all the time, while you
meant him to, you were engaged to Mr. Braithwaite.
There was still anger in Daisy's voice. Jeannie felt she could bear
that; what she felt she could not bear would be if Daisy broke down. So
she encouraged that.
I do not see by what right you question me, she said. Lord
Lindfield fell in love with me; last night he proposed to me. Ask him
why he did that.
He did that because you fascinated and dazzled him, said Daisy;
because you meant him to fall in love with you.
Then I wonder you have not more spirit, said Jeannie. You see how
easily he turned from you to me. Can you then believe he was ever in
love with you? You may have wanted to marry him; at least
And then she paused, knowing she had made the most ghastly mistake,
and not knowing how to remedy it. Daisy saw her mistake.
Then you did know that it was possible he would ask me to marry
him, she said. I wondered if you knew that. It makes it complete now
I know that you did. So it comes to this, that you cut me out just in
order to flirt with him. Thank you, Aunt Jeannie, thank you.
And then there came into Daisy's voice what Jeannie dreaded to hear;
the hard tone of anger died out of it, it became gentle, and it became
miserable. She sat down at Jeannie's writing-table, covering her face
with her hands.
Oh, I beseech you, she said, cannot you undo the spell that you
cast so easily? Oh, Aunt Jeannie, do, do; and I will forget all that
has happened, andand love you again. I want to do that. But I loved
him; it was only quite lately I knew that, but it is so. Have you not
enough? Isn't it enough that you will marry the man you love? I did not
think you could be so cruel. Do you hate me, or what is it?
Jeannie made a little hopeless gesture with her hands.
Oh, Daisy, I didn't know that you loved him, she said. Indeed, I
did not. But, my dear, he did not love you. How could he have if he
behaved as he has behaved?
You made him, said Daisy. You Then once again anger flamed
into her voice. Ah, what a true friend you have been to me! she said.
Were you as true a friend to Diana too?
She had taken up one of the photographs, that which represented her
and Diana together.
Here we are together, she said, and we thank you. Here is Diana
And then she stopped abruptly. Her eye had fallen on the photograph
of Diana which she had given only last year to Jeannie. It was signed
Diana, 1907. She drew it out of its frame.
Aunt Jeannie, she said, quickly, in what year did Diana die?
Jeannie turned to her suddenly at this most unexpected question, and
saw what it was that Daisy held in her hand. She made a desperate
effort to turn Daisy's attention away at any cost.
Daisy, we were talking about Lord Lindfield, she said. What
reason had he ever given you to make you think he loved you? And has he
not given you a strong reason for showing he did not?
Daisy looked at her for a moment, and then back to the photograph.
She died five years ago, she said. But this is signed 1907, last
Once again Jeannie tried to turn Daisy's attention.
And if he did fall in love with me, what then? she said. You
assume it is all my fault.
Daisy looked at her steadily a moment, and then back at the
Yes, yes, she said. But you were with Diana when she died, were
you not? When did she die?
Jeannie covered her face with her hands a moment, thinking intently,
and then Daisy spoke again.
Why was I told she died five years ago? she asked. You told me so
yourself. Were you hiding anything?
Again Daisy paused.
Her husband came to England after her death, she said. He stopped
with you, I remember, when I was living with you.
Once again she paused.
Was there something dreadful, something disgraceful? she asked.
Aunt Jeannie, I must know. I must!
Jeannie got up out of her chair, where she had been sitting ever
since Daisy entered. Daisy as she spoke had risen also from the
writing-table, and, still holding the photograph of Diana in her hand,
stood by her.
You must give me a moment, Daisy, she said. I have got to think.
And, my dear, while I am thinking do not try to guess. I can't bear
that you should guess. I would sooner tell you than that.
Daisy was very white, and the bright spot of anger that burnt in her
cheeks when she entered the room had smouldered away. She nodded
without spoken reply.
Jeannie moved away from Daisy, and sat down in the window-seat at
the far end of the room. Already Daisy had guessed that there was
something disgraceful. Daisy remembered, too, that after Diana's
supposed death her husband had come to England. And then for one moment
Jeannie's spirit rose in impotent revolt against the bitter cruelty of
this chance by which Daisy had seen Diana's photograph. She herself,
perhaps, had been careless and culpable, in putting it on her table;
but she had been so preoccupied with all the perplexities of this last
week that the danger had not ever so faintly occurred to her. But now
by this fatal oversight Daisy had already guessed perilously near the
She herself could invent no story to account for these things, and
if Daisy was told the whole truth, of which she guessed so much, that
other bitterness, the sense that Jeannie had cruelly betrayed her,
would be removed. She could comfort Daisy again, and (this was sweet to
herself also) show her how she loved her. She had done her very best to
keep her promise to Diana, and she had not spared herself in doing so;
and now, in spite of her efforts, so hard to make and so ungrudgingly
made, half the truth was known to Daisy. It seemed to her that the
other half would heal rather than hurt.
She went back, and, standing in front of the girl, held out her
hands to her. But Daisy made no response to the gesture, and, indeed,
moved a little away. That, again, cut Jeannie like a lash, but she knew
the pain of it would be only temporary. In a few minutes now Daisy
I am going to tell you, she said, and as I tell you, my dear, I
want you to keep on thinking to yourself that Diana was your sister,
your only sister, andand that you used to play together and love each
other when you were children. And, dear Daisy, you must try to benot
to be a girl only when I tell you this. You are a girl, but you are a
woman also, and you must bear this like a woman who is hearing about
Once again Jeannie longed to take Daisy in her arms and tell her,
holding that dear head close to her bosom. But it was not time for that
You were told five years ago, she said, that your sister was
dead. She was not, Daisy; she died last year only, soon after I went
abroad. And she died in my arms, dear, thank Heaven, because I loved
her. And she loved me, Daisy. Oh, darling, you must bear this. I tried
to spare you the knowledge, for I promised Diana that, but by
ill-chance you have guessed so much that I think it better to tell you
all. And you mustn't judge Diana, poor dear, or condemn her. The time
has quite gone by for that, and, besides, she was your sister, and at
the end the thing she wanted most in all the world was that you should
not know. Remember that. Women have a hard time in this world, Daisy.
Some are married unhappily, and though Diana's husband loved her very
truly and tenderly it was not a happy marriage. At the time when you
were told she was dead she was not, but she had left her husband. For
the love he bore her he did not divorce her. Yes, dear, it was that.
Again Jeannie paused. As the moment came near it was all she could
do to get the words out. Yet when Daisy knew all, out of the hurt would
come some healing. Jeannie could make her feel how she loved her.
She lived in Paris after she left her husband, she continued. She
lived for a time with the man for whom she deserted him. She wanted
lovewomen doyou and I do. Sheshe got love. After a while there
was another man. Yes, my dear, it was he. We needn't name him any more
than we did just now when we spoke of him.
Daisy sat quite still for a moment; for all that her face expressed
she might never have heard. Then a sudden little tremor shook her, and
she tore the photograph of Diana which she held across and across, and
threw the fragments on the floor.
Ah, Daisy, you are cruel, said Jeannie.
Daisy did not reply, and then suddenly her mouth began to tremble,
and tears ready to fall gathered in her eyes. It had hurt her cruelly,
and it was but the instinctive rebellion of one in sudden and
incontrollable pain that had made her tear the photograph. But, as
Jeannie had foreseen, with the hurt came healing.
It was not necessary to say any more, for she saw that already Daisy
was beginning to understand all that she had thought so
incomprehensible, and so vile when it was comprehended, in her, and the
comprehension brought with it the knowledge of the love and tenderness
from which these things sprang. And this time it was Daisy who held out
her hands to Jeannie, but falteringly, as if doubtful whether she
dared. But she need not have been afraid; next moment she was clasped
close, and with the sense of love surrounding and encompassing her the
tears came, and she sobbed her heart out. And even when the tumult of
her weeping had abated, it was but disjointedly that the words came.
And so it was because of that, Aunt Jeannie, she whispered,
because you had promised Diana that you would do your best to keep it
Yes, my darling, but I have failed, said Jeannie.
But how splendidly, whispered Daisy. I should like to have
f-failed like that. And you were content that I should think you a
b-beast, and that he should?
No, dear, not content quite. But it was the best I could think of.
And Mr. Braithwaite? said Daisy. Could you be content that he
should think so?
Jeannie paused a moment before she replied. What she must say, if
she answered this, would hurt Daisy again, but again there was healing
I knew he would never think me a beast, she said at length. I
knew he trusted me absolutely.
And I didn't, said Daisy.
No, dear, you didn't. But never mind that.
I can't help minding that. I thoughtI thought everything
disgusting about you. Oh, Aunt Jeannie, but I did try so much not to! I
did try to behave well, to realize that you and he had fallen in love
with each other, and that it was neither your fault nor his. But when
Aunt Alice told me that you were engaged to Mr. Braithwaite, then I
broke down. And when you told me you had known that I hoped to marry
Lord Lindfield, then it was complete to my mind. I thoughtoh! I have
spoilt it all. It can never be the same again. And I did so long for
you to come home a week ago. I did love you.
Jeannie stroked Daisy's hair gently for a moment or two.
You speak of spoiling love, she said. That is not easy to do. In
fact, it can't be done. So don't have any fears on that point, my
Daisy was silent for a while.
And if he asks you why you did it? she said.
Jeannie considered this.
I may have to tell him, she said. It all depends. Probably you
don't understand that.
No; tell me, said Daisy.
If he appeals to me in the name of his love for me, I think I shall
have to tell him, said Jeannie. I don't want to; I shall do my best
not to. But there is a claim, that of love, which is dominant. I did
not mean him to fall in love with me, dear; I meant him only to be
detached from you. But bigger issues, I am afraid, have come in. You
must trust me to do the best I can. I think you will trust me, will you
Daisy clung closer for a moment, and then she sat up.
Yes. And I haven't even said I am sorry, and I am sure I need not.
Aunt Jeannie, I think I want to go away alone for a little. I want,
yes, I want to cry a little more, but by myself. Do you understand?
Yes, my dear. But will you not stop here to-night? You could
telegraph to Alice, and you might add that we were friends. She would
like to know that.
Daisy mopped her eyes.
I like to know it, she said.
She got up. Just in front of her were the fragments of the torn
photograph. She saw them and half shuddered at them. And Jeannie, all
tenderness, knew that things were not right with Daisy yet. There was
still another wound which must be healed.
Oh, Daisy! she said. You must never let yourself be black and
bitter like that. You tore the photograph up; it lies there still.
Oh, I can't touch it, said Daisy.
Jeannie looked at her quietly, patiently.
Your sister, she said. Diana. Have you forgotten what she made me
promise? She was so sorry, too; I think she would have given all the
world if what she had done could be undone. Not a day passed without
her being sorry. Daisy!
Daisy stood quite still for a moment, then she suddenly knelt down
on the floor and picked the fragments up, kissing them as she did so.
Oh, poor Di, she saidpoor, poor Di!
The carriage had waited long before this, but when Daisy left her
Jeannie went out for a breath of evening air. London, to her eyes, was
looking very hot and tired, a purplish heat-haze hung in the sky, and
the grass of the Park was yellow with the scorching of the last week,
and grey with dust.
Yet somehow it all brought a sense of extraordinary peace and
refreshment to Jeannie. She, too, felt mentally hot and tired, but she
knew that whatever scene it might be necessary to go through with Tom
Lindfield, the worst was over. For, all unwittingly indeed, his had
been the fault, and though Jeannie liked him and hated the idea both of
his suffering and his possible bitterness and anger against her, all
that was in the nature of justice; acts have always their consequences,
and those who have committed them must bear what follows. But poor
Daisy had done nothing; it was for the fault of others that her soul
had been in the grip of resentment, jealousy, and anger, which had
embittered and poisoned her days and nights.
But that, all at any rate that was bitter in it, had now passed. She
saw the meaning of her suffering; it was no longer a blind and wicked
force. And though one love had to be left to wither and die in her
heart, Jeannie knew well that the love between Daisy and her, which all
this week had been blighted, was full of fresh-springing shoots again,
which would help to cover over the bare place.
Then, for herself, more precious than all was that sense of that
great love which, she believed, had never suffered the dimness of a
moment's doubt. Victor had seen her acting in a way that was impossible
for him to understand, but he had quite refused, so Jeannie believed,
to let his mind even ask a why or wherefore, still less conjecture any
answer. His own love for her and the absolute certainty of her love for
him were things so huge that nothing else could be compared with them.
They stood like great mountains, based on the earth but reaching into
the heavens, firm and imperishable, and if anything could come between
his vision and them, it could be no more than a mist-wreath which would
presently pass, and could no more shake or invalidate their stability
than the grasses and flowers that waved in the pleasant meadow beneath
And had Jeannie but known it she would have found more comfort yet
in the thought of Daisy, for at this moment Daisy, alone in her room,
though weeping a little now and then, was thinking not of herself at
all, not even of Lindfield, but of Jeannie. Daisy was generous and
warm-hearted to the core, and passionate had been her self-reproach at
her complete misunderstanding of her aunt, at her utter failure even to
ask herself whether there was not something about it all that she did
How nobly different Victor Braithwaite had been, who, so it seemed,
had assumed there must be some undercurrent of which he knew nothing,
and was quite content to leave it at that. Jeannie had said she loved
him; he wanted nothing more. But Daisy knew also that Jeannie loved
her; what she did not know then, but was beginning to know now, was
what love meant; how it can bear even to be completely misunderstood by
those it loves, if only, in spite of their ignorance and misjudgment,
it can help them. To Daisy, hitherto, love had been something
assertive; to-day she was learning that it is based on a self-surrender
made with the same passionateness as are its conquests.
The rest of the party were coming up next day, and it did not
surprise Jeannie to find a telegram waiting for her when she came in
from Tom Lindfield. He asked if he might call and see her next morning,
saying that he would come at twelve unless she put him off.
It needed but a moment's reflection to make her decide that in bare
justice she could not refuse. She shrank from it; she dreaded the
thought of seeing him again, of listening to his just and passionate
reproaches; she dreaded also the possibility that she might once again
have to give up Diana's secret. But, since he wished it, she must see
Next morning she told Daisy she expected him, so that there should
be no possibility of their meeting by chance on the stairs or in
Jeannie's room, and sat waiting for him alone. She could not prepare
herself in any way for the interview, since she could not tell in the
least what form it would take. She tried not to be afraid, butbut she
had treated him abominably. So, at least, he must think, and with
He was announced, and came in. As with Daisy yesterday, they did not
greet one another. She was sitting at her writing-table, but did not
rise, and for a moment he stood opposite her, just looking at her with
those blue, boyish eyes which she knew could be so merry, but did not
know could be so dumbly, hopelessly sad.
Then he spoke, quite quietly.
You ran away unexpectedly, Mrs. Halton, he said.
Yes; I thought it was best.
Miss Daisy also left yesterday. I suppose you have seen her? he
Yes, she spent the night here.
Are you friends?
Tom Lindfield sat down on the arm of the low chair opposite the
That's the cleverest thing I've ever heard, he said. I think you
owe me something, and I think you ought to tell me how you managed it.
If she has forgiven you, perhaps I might.
No. I can't tell you how I managed it, said Jeannie.
You quite refuse?
He paused a moment.
I suppose she asked you a certain question, he said, which I also
want to ask you. Is it true you are engaged to that nice
fellowBraithwaite, I mean?
Still quite quietly he got up, took out a cigarette, and looked
about for matches. He found some on the chimney-piece, lit his
cigarette, and came back to her.
I beg your pardon, he said. I didn't ask if I might smoke here?
Thanks. Mrs. Halton, I don't know if you have ever fallen in love. I
His voice rose a little over this, as if with suppressed anger.
Jeannie longed almost that he should get angry. This quietness was
intolerable. And she tried to sting him into anger.
I should have thought you had fallen in love more than once, she
This was no good.
You would have been wrong, then, he said. I should have thought
so too till just lately. But I have just found out that I never loved
before. II did everything else, but I did not love.
You loved Daisy, do you mean? she asked.
He flamed up for a moment.
Ah, there is no good in saying that, he said, sharply. What can
be the use of it? I met the womanthere is only oneand she led me to
believe that she cared for me. And when I told her that I loved her she
said she had thought I was a gentleman and a friend.
Jeannie felt her heart melt within her.
Yes, yes, I am sorry, she said.
That is no good, I am afraid, said he. You have got to tell me
why you did it. We are man and woman, you and I. I cannot believe you
did it out of sheer wantonness, from the desire to make me miserable,
and, I am afraid, to some extent, to make Miss Daisy miserable. I don't
see what you were to gain by it. Also you risked something since you
were engaged all the time to Braithwaite. And the only thing I can
think of is that for some reason you wished to get between Miss Daisy
and myself. I suppose you thought I had been a bad lotI daresay I
hadand did not want me to marry her. But wasn't that an infernally
cruel way of doing it?
Jeannie said nothing, but after a long silence she looked at him.
Have you finished? she asked. I have nothing to say to you, no
explanation to give.
Once again, and more violently, his anger, his resentment at the
cruelty of it, boiled over.
No, I have not finished, he said. I am here to tell you that you
have done an infernally cruel thing, for I take it that it was to
separate Miss Daisy and me that you did it. You have been completely
successful, butbut for me it has been rather expensive. I gave you my
heart, I tell you. And you stamped on it. I can't mend it.
Then that died out and his voice trembled.
It's broken, he saidjust broken.
Jeannie put out her hands towards him in supplication.
I am sorry, she said.
I tell you that is no good, he said, and on the words his voice
broke again. Oh, Jeannie, is it final? Is it really true? For Heaven's
sake tell me that you have been playing this jest, trickwhat you
likeon me, to test me, to see if I really loved you. You made me love
youyou taught me what love meant. I have seen and judged the manner
of my past life, andand I laid it all down, and I laid myself down at
your feet, so that you and love should re-make me.
Jeannie leant forward over the table, hiding her face in her hands.
Oh, stopfor pity's sake stop, she said. I have had a good deal
to bear. I never guessed you would love me like that; I only meant you,
at first, to be attracted by me, as you have been by other women. It is
true that I was determined that you should not marry Daisy, and I knew
that if you really got to love her nothing would stand in your way. I
had to make it impossible for you to fall in love with her. It was to
save you and her.
Jeannie felt she was losing her head; the sight of this man in his
anger and his misery confused and bewildered her. She got up suddenly.
I don't know what I am saying, she said.
You said it was to save her and me, he said, quietly. To save us
She shook her head.
I don't know, she said. I was talking nonsense.
I am very sure you were not. And it is only just that I should
know. By my love for youfor I can think of nothing more sacred to me
than thatI bid you tell me. It is my right. Considering what you have
done to me, it is no more than my right.
It had happened as Jeannie feared it might. She felt her throat go
suddenly dry, and once she tried to speak without being able. Then she
commanded her voice again.
You were in Paris two years ago, she said. There was a woman
there who lived in the Rue Chalgrin. She called herself Madame
Well? said he.
Daisy's sister, said Jeannie, with a sob.
* * * * *
She turned away from him as she spoke, and leant against the
bookcase behind her table. It was a long time before he moved, and
then, still with back turned, she heard him approach her, and he took
her hand and kissed it.
I love and I honour you, he said.
Jeannie gave one immense sigh.
Oh, Tom, she said, you are a man!
It is of your making, then, said he.
Easter fell late next year, but spring had come early, and had
behaved with unusual sweetness and constancy, for from the middle of
March to mid-April there had been a series of days from which winter
had definitely departed. In most years April produces two or three
west-wind days of enervating and languorous heat, but then recollects
itself and peppers the confiding Englishman with hail and snow, blown
as out of a pea-shooter from the northeast, just to remind him that if
he thinks that summer is going to begin just yet he is woefully
mistaken. But this year the succession of warm days had been so
uninterrupted that Lady Nottingham had made the prodigious experiment
of asking a few people down to Bray for a week-end party at Easter
She was conscious of her amazing temerity, for she knew well that
anything might happen; that the river, instead of being at the bottom
of the garden, might so change its mind about their relative positions
that in a few hours the garden would be at the bottom of the river, or,
again, this bungalow of a house might be riddled and pierced with
But, in spite of these depressing possibilities, she particularly
wanted to have a few, a very few, people down for that Sunday. They had
all a special connection with Bray. Things had happened there before,
and it was a party of healed memories that was to gather there. If,
after all, the weather turned out to be hopelessly unpropitious, they
could all sit in a ring round the fire, holding each other's hands. She
felt sure they would like to do that. Probably there would be a great
many tête-à-têtes in various corners, or, if it were warm, in
various punts. But she felt sure that they would all hold hands in the
intervals of these.
Jeannie and Victor had been married in the autumn, and since then
they had practically disappeared, surrounded by a glow of their own
happiness. They had sunk below the horizon, but from the horizon there
had, so to speak, come up a brilliant illumination like an aurora
But Lady Nottingham considered that they had aurora-ed quite long
enough. They had no right to keep all their happiness to themselves; it
was their duty to diffuse it, and let other people warm their hands and
hearts at it. She had written what is diplomatically known as a strong
note to say so, and she had mentioned that she was not alone in
considering that they were being rather selfish. Tom Lindfield thought
so too. He openly averred that he was still head-over-ears in love with
Jeannie, and he wished to gratify his passion by seeing her again, and
having copious opportunities given him of solitary talks with her. He
did not object (this was all part of the message that Lady Nottingham
sent Jeannie from him) to Victor's coming with her, but he would be
obliged if Victor would kindly make up his mind to efface himself a
good deal. Otherwise he had better stop away.
Tom proposed to come down to Bray for Easter, and would be much
obliged if Jeannie would come too. He did not ask her to set aside any
other engagements she might have, because he was perfectly well aware
that she had no other engagement than that tiresome and apparently
permanent one of burying herself in the country with Victor.
Jeannie received this letter at breakfast down at their house in
Hampshire. She read it aloud to her husband.
What a darling he is, she said. Victor, I shall go. I love that
I know you do. He isn't a bad sort. Do you want me to come too?
Oh, I shan't go unless you do, said Jeannie, quickly.
Right. It's a confounded nuisance, though, but I suppose you must.
How many days do you want to stop there?
Oh, till Tuesday or Wednesday, I suppose. Perhaps Tom would come
back with us here after that.
Victor got up and moved round the table, till he stood by his wife's
No, I don't think he will, he said. Fact is, Jeannie, I asked him
to come here a week or two ago, and he wrote me an awfully nice letter
back, but said he thought he wouldn't. I didn't tell you before, for
there was no use in it. But after that I don't think I should ask him
if I were you.
Jeannie was silent a moment.
But he wants to see me now, she said.
I know. But I don't think he wants to be with us alone. You
understand that, I expect.
Poor Tom! she said. Yet I don't know why I say 'poor.' I think he
I don't think he loves it as you and I do.
Jeannie's eyes suddenly filled with tears.
I am awfully sorry for that, she said. Sometimes I feel
frightfully guilty, and then suddenly on the top of that I feel
innocent. Oh, to be plain, I feel more than innocent. I feel dreadfully
laudable. And then, to do me justice, I put up a little prayer that I
may not become a prig or a donkey.
Please, don't, he said. I should not know you. But you made a man
Ah, yes; he has told you that. It is not the case. He made a man of
Victor held up his hand.
I don't want to know what happened, he said. I am quite content
to leave it. He became a man, and you were always my beloved.
Some backward surge of memory stirred in Jeannie.
Quite always? she said. You never wanted to ask me about it?
No, dear, never, he said. Not because I was complacent or
anything of that kind, but simply because we loved each other.
This, then, was the foundation of Lady Nottingham's Easter party.
Jeannie and her husband would come, and so, as a corollary, Lord
Lindfield would come. Then there would be the newly-engaged couple,
namely, Daisy and Willie Carton. Either of them would go, as steel
filings go to the magnet, wherever the other was, and without the least
sense of compunction Lady Nottingham told each of them separately that
the other was coming to her. She had been rather late in doing this,
and, as a matter of fact, Willie, no longer hoping for it, had made
another engagement. But he did not even frown or consider that. He
wrote a cheerful, scarcely apologetic note to Mrs. Beaumont, merely
saying he found he could not come. Nature and art alikeand Mrs.
Beaumont was a subtle compound of the twoallow much latitude to
lovers, and she did not scold him.
At this stage in her proceedings Lady Nottingham suddenly abandoned
the idea of a party at all. There was Victor and Jeannie, and their
corollary, Tom Lindfield; there was Daisy and her corollary, Willie;
there was herself. Gladys would be there too, andand it was necessary
to provide light conversation in case everybody was too much taken up
with everybody else, and Jim Crowfoot would, no doubt, supply it. A
very short telephonic pause was succeeded by the assurance that he
Two days before this little gathering of friends was to assemble
Jeannie left Itchen Abbas for town. Victor did not go with her, for the
unpunctual May-fly was already on the river, and, since subsequent days
had to be abandoned, he preferred to use these. He thought it (and said
so) very selfish of Jeannie to go, since who cared what gowns she wore?
But it seemed that Jeannie thought this nonsense, and went. Also a
tooth, though it did not ache, said that it thought it might, and she
arranged an appointment in Old Burlington Street for Saturday
afternoon. She would meet Victor down at Bray.
The tooth proved a false alarm. It was tapped and probed and
mirrored, and she was assured that she need feel no anxiety. So in the
elation of a visit to the dentist over, she emerged into the street.
There was a willing but unable motor there that puffed and snorted, and
did not do anything. And immediately she heard a familiar voice.
Why, Jeannie, it said, what confounded and stupendous luck! Never
thought to meet you here. Going to Bray, aren't you? And so am I. Old
Puffing Billy is having his fit here this time. Or do you think he'll
have another on the road? I'll go down by train with you, or I'll take
you down in Puffing Billy. But we'll go together. By Jove, you look
Jeannie gave him both her hands.
Oh, Tom, she said, what fun! Let's go down in Puffing Billy. I've
been to the dentist, and there isn't anything.
Puffing Billy gave out a volume of blue smoke.
Good old chap, said Tom sympathetically. Hope he'll stick again
on the level.Is it all right for the present, Stanton?Get in,
Jeannie. Never saw such luck! Who would expect Puffing Billy to break
down opposite a dentist's, when you needn't have gone there at all.
Jove! it is good to see you.
The incredible happened. Once again the car broke down on the level,
and once again Stanton had to go upon his belly, like the snake, while
his passengers sat on a rug by the wayside.
We shall be late again, said Tom. Do you know, it is nearly six
months since I saw you last?
Jeannie remembered the invitation he had received and refused.
That's your fault, she said.
I know. Your man asked me. Awfully good of him.
Why didn't you come, then?
The inimitable Stanton ceased to be a snake, and, becoming erect,
touched his cap.
Car's all right, my lord, he said.
Oh, is it? Get in, then.I didn't know if you wanted me to come,
Jeannie. I'm not sure if I wanted to either. But I expect the two are
one. It's funny, isn't it? Try me again.
Well, come back with Victor and me after Bray, she said.
Rather. It's Bray first, though. We shan't be late for dinner after
all. What a bore; I like being uniform and consistent. Look here, do
promise me a morning or an afternoon or something down there. Just half
a day alone with you.
She got into the car, he following.
Yes, you dear, she said. Of course you shall have it. A whole day
if you like, morning and afternoon.
Jove! I'm on in that piece. Sure you won't be bored?
I'll try not.
H'm. You think it will need an effort.
Once upon a time a man went out fishing for compliments she
And he didn't catch any, said Tom.
Not one. And now we've chattered enough, and you shall tell me all
* * * * *
It was a very quiet and simple history that she heard, and all told
it amounted to the fact that he had settled down as he told her nearly
a year ago he was thinking of doing, but without marrying. There was
little to say, and in that little he was characteristically modest. For
the greater part of the year he had been down at his place in
Wiltshire, of which he had been so studiously absentee a landlord, and
for the first time had taken his place as a big landowner, and that
which, with rather a wry face, he alluded to as a county magnate.
It was from other sources that Jeannie knew how modest this account
was, and at the end
Tom, you're a brick! she said.
Didn't know it, he said. But the man who went fishing caught
something after all, in that case.
* * * * *
Daisy came into her aunt's room when the women went upstairs that
night for a talk. She was radiantly in love, but it was a different
Daisy from her who had made so many plans and known her own mind so
well a year ago.
I know Willie has a cold, she said, but men are so tiresome. They
won't take reasonable care of themselves. Don't you think he looked
rather run down, Aunt Jeannie?
Not the very slightest, I am afraid.
How horrid of you! Oh, Aunt Jeannie, what a nice world!
Daisy settled herself on the floor by her aunt's chair, and
possessed herself of her hand.
And to think that till less than a year ago I was quite, quite
blind, she said. I always loved you, I think, but I am so different
now. What has happened, do you think?
I think you have grown up, my dear, said Jeannie.
I suppose it may be that. I wonder how it happens. Do you think one
grows up from inside, or does something come from outside to make one?
Surely it is a combination of the two. It is with us as it is with
plants. From outside comes the rain and the sun, which make them grow,
but all the same it is from within that this growth comes, so that they
put forth leaves and flowers.
What a lot of time I wasted, she said. To think that Willie was
waiting so long before I could see him as he was. Yes, I know what the
sun and the rain were in my case. They were you, you darling, when for
my sake and poor Diana's you did what you did.
Ah, my dear, said Jeannie, we need not speak of that.
But I want to just oncejust to tell you that it was you who
opened my eyes. And it wasn't my eyes alone you opened. It was his
tooTom's, I mean. He knows that, and he told me so.
That is quite enough about me, said Jeannie, with decision.
Daisy, I wish Tom would marry. Can't we find some nice girl for him?
Oh, we can find a hundred nice girls for him, said Daisy, and he
will respectfully reject them all. He doesn't want any nice girl. Oh,
Aunt Jeannie, why shouldn't I say it? He's in love with you. I think he
always will be. Some people might call it sad, but I don't think it is
at all. The thought of you makes him so tremendously happy.
Daisy plaited Jeannie's long white fingers in with her own.
I think it's one of the nicest things that ever happened, she
said. It's like some old legend of a man who haswell, racketed about
all his life, and then suddenly finds his ideal, which, though she is
quite out of reach, entirely satisfies him. He is so fond of Uncle
Victor too. That's so nice of him, and so natural, since Uncle Victor
is your husband. It's just what the man in the legend would do.
Jeannie gave a long, happy sigh.
Oh, I thank Heaven for my friends, she said.
They thank Heaven for you, said Daisy softly.
* * * * *
April continued to behave with incredible amiability, and superb and
sunny weather blessed Lady Nottingham's rash experiment. Everywhere the
spring triumphed; on the chestnut trees below which Jeannie and Lord
Lindfield had sat on the afternoon of the thunderstorm last year a
million glutinous buds swelled and burst into delicate five-fingered
hands of milky green; and on the beech-trunks was spread the soft green
powder of minute mosses. The new grass of the year was shooting up
between the older spikes, making a soft and short-piled velvet, on
which the clumps of yellow crocuses broke like the dancing reflection
of sun on water. Daffodils danced, too, in shady places, a company of
nymphs, and the celandines were like the burnished gold of some
illuminated manuscript of spring.
And all these tokens of the renewed and triumphant life of the world
were but the setting to that company of happy hearts assembled by the
Thames' side. The time of the singing bird had come, and their hearts
were in tune with it.
The little party, so it had been originally planned, were to
disperse on the Wednesday after Easter, but on the Tuesday various
secret conferences were held, and with much formality a round-robin was
signed and presented to Lady Nottingham, stating that her guests were
so much pleased with their quarters that they unanimously wished to
stop an extra day.
So they stopped an extra day, another day of burgeoning spring, and
were very content. Tom was content also next morning, for he went with
Jeannie to her home.