Infomotions, Inc.Demos / Gissing, George, 1857-1903



Author: Gissing, George, 1857-1903
Title: Demos
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): mutimer; adela; wanley; alice; eldon; hubert; waltham; rodman; emma; richard; new wanley; hubert eldon; richard mutimer
Contributor(s): Safford, Mary J. [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 195,463 words (longer than most) Grade range: 7-10 (grade school) Readability score: 69 (easy)
Identifier: etext4309
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Title: Demos

Author: George Gissing

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Edited by Charles Aldarondo (aldarondo@yahoo.com)

George Gissing

Demos





CHAPTER I





Stanbury Hill, remote but two hours' walk from a region blasted with
mine and factory and furnace, shelters with its western slope a fair
green valley, a land of meadows and orchard, untouched by poisonous
breath. At its foot lies the village of Wanley. The opposite side of
the hollow is clad with native wood, skirting for more than a mile
the bank of a shallow stream, a tributary of the Severn. Wanley
consists in the main of one long street; the houses are stone-built,
with mullioned windows, here and there showing a picturesque gable
or a quaint old chimney. The oldest buildings are four cottages
which stand at the end of the street; once upon a time they formed
the country residence of the abbots of Belwick. The abbey of that
name still claims for its ruined self a portion of earth's surface;
but, as it had the misfortune to be erected above the thickest
coal-seam in England, its walls are blackened with the fume of
collieries and shaken by the strain of mighty engines. Climb
Stanbury Hill at nightfall, and, looking eastward, you behold far
off a dusky ruddiness in the sky, like the last of an angry sunset;
with a glass you can catch glimpses of little tongues of flame,
leaping and quivering on the horizon. That is Belwick. The good
abbots, who were wont to come out in the summer time to Wanley,
would be at a loss to recognise their consecrated home in those
sooty relics. Belwick, with its hundred and fifty fire-vomiting
blast-furnaces, would to their eyes more nearly resemble a certain
igneous realm of which they thought much in their sojourn upon
earth, and which, we may assure ourselves, they dream not of in the
quietness of their last long sleep.

A large house, which stands aloof from the village and a little
above it, is Wanley Manor. The county history tells us that Wanley
was given in the fifteenth century to that same religious
foundation, and that at the dissolution of monasteries the Manor
passed into the hands of Queen Catherine. The house is
half-timbered; from the height above it looks old and peaceful amid
its immemorial trees. Towards the end of the eighteenth century it
became the home of a family named Eldon, the estate including the
greater part of the valley below. But an Eldon who came into
possession when William IV. was King brought the fortunes of his
house to a low ebb, and his son, seeking to improve matters by
abandoning his prejudices and entering upon commercial speculation,
in the end left a widow and two boys with little more to live upon
than the income which arose from Mrs. Eldon's settlements. The Manor
was shortly after this purchased by a Mr. Mutimer, a Belwick
ironmaster; but Mrs. Eldon and her boys still inhabited the house,
in consequence of certain events which will shortly be narrated.
Wanley would have mourned their departure; they were the aristocracy
of the neighbourhood, and to have them ousted by a name which no one
knew, a name connected only with blast-furnaces, would have made a
distinct fall in the tone of Wanley society. Fortunately no changes
were made in the structure by its new owner. Not far from it you see
the church and the vicarage, these also unmolested in their quiet
age. Wanley, it is to be feared, lags far behind the times--painfully
so, when one knows for a certainty that the valley upon which it
looks conceals treasures of coal, of ironstone--blackband, to be
technical--and of fireclay. Some ten years ago it seemed as if
better things were in store; there was a chance that the vale
might for ever cast off its foolish greenery, and begin vomiting
smoke and flames in humble imitation of its metropolis beyond the
hills. There are men in Belwick who have an angry feeling whenever
Wanley is mentioned to them.

After the inhabitants of the Manor, the most respected of those who
dwelt in Wanley were the Walthams. At the time of which I speak,
this family consisted of a middle-aged lady; her son, of
one-and-twenty; and her daughter, just eighteen. They had resided
here for little more than two years, but a gentility which marked
their speech and demeanour, and the fact that they were well
acquainted with the Eldons, from the first caused them to be looked
up to. It was conjectured, and soon confirmed by Mrs. Waltham's own
admissions, that they had known a larger way of living than that to
which they adapted themselves in the little house on the side of
Stanbury Hill, whence they looked over the village street. Mr.
Waltham had, in fact, been a junior partner in a Belwick firm, which
came to grief. He saved enough out of the wreck to: make a modest
competency for his family, and would doubtless in time have
retrieved his fortune, but death was beforehand with him. His wife,
in the second year of her widowhood, came with her daughter Adela to
Wanley; her son Alfred had gone to commercial work in Belwick. Mrs.
Waltham was a prudent woman, and tenacious of ideas which
recommended themselves to her practical instincts; such an idea had
much to do with her settlement in the remote village, which she
would not have chosen for her abode out of love of its old-world
quietness. But at the Manor was Hubert Eldon. Hubert was four years
older than Adela. He had no fortune of his own, but it was tolerably
certain that some day he would be enormously rich, and there was
small likelihood that he would marry till that expected change in
his position came about.

On the afternoon of a certain Good Friday, Mrs. Waltham sat at her
open window, enjoying the air and busy with many thoughts, among
other things wondering who was likely to drop in for a cup of tea.
It was a late Easter, and warm spring weather had already clothed
the valley with greenness; to-day the sun was almost hot, and the
west wind brought many a sweet odour from gardens near and far. From
her sitting-room Mrs. Waltham had the best view to be obtained from
any house in Wanley; she looked, as I have said, right over the
village street, and on either hand the valley spread before her a
charming prospect. Opposite was the wooded slope, freshening now
with exquisite shades of new-born leafage; looking north, she saw
fruit-gardens, making tender harmonies; southwards spread verdure
and tillage. Yet something there was which disturbed the otherwise
perfect unity of the scene, an unaccustomed trouble to the eye. In
the very midst of the vale, perhaps a quarter of a mile to the south
of the village, one saw what looked like the beginning of some
engineering enterprise--a great throwing-up of earth, and the
commencement of a roadway on which metal rails were laid. What was
being done? The work seemed too extensive for a mere scheme of
drainage. Whatever the undertaking might be, it was now at a
standstill, seeing that old Mr. Mutimer, the owner of the land, had
been in his grave just three days, and no one as yet could say
whether his heir would or would not pursue this novel project. Mrs.
Waltham herself felt that the view was spoilt, though her
appreciation of nature was not of the keenest, and she would never
have thought of objecting to a scheme which would produce money at
the cost of the merely beautiful.

'I scarcely think Hubert will continue it,' she was musing to
herself. 'He has enough without that, and his tastes don't lie in
that direction.'

She had on her lap a local paper, at which she glanced every now and
then; but her state of mind was evidently restless. The road on
either side of which stood the houses of the village led on to the
Manor, and in that direction Mrs. Waltham gazed frequently. The
church clock chimed half-past four, and shortly after a rosy-cheeked
young girl came at a quick step up the gravelled pathway which made
the approach to the Walthams' cottage. She saw Mrs. Waltham at the
window, and, when she was near, spoke.

'Is Adela at home?'

'No, Letty; she's gone for a walk with her brother.'

'I'm so sorry!' said the girl, whose voice was as sweet as her face
was pretty. 'We wanted her to come for croquet. Yet I was half
afraid to come and ask her whilst Mr. Alfred was at home.'

She laughed, and at the same time blushed a little.

'Why should you be afraid of Alfred?' asked Mrs. Waltham graciously.

'Oh, I don't know.'

She turned it off and spoke quickly of another subject.

'How did you like Mr. Wyvern this morning?'

It was a new vicar, who had been in Wanley but a couple of days, and
had this morning officiated for the first time at the church.

'What a voice be has!' was the lady's reply.

'Hasn't he? And such a hairy man! They say he's very learned; but
his sermon was very simple--didn't you think so?'

'Yes, I liked it. Only he pronounces certain words strangely.'

'Oh, has Mr. Eldon come yet?' was the young lady's next question.

'He hadn't arrived this morning. Isn't it extraordinary? He must be
out of England.'

'But surely Mrs. Eldon knows his address, and he can't be so very
far away.'

As she spoke she looked down the pathway by which she had come, and
of a sudden her face exhibited alarm.

'Oh, Mrs. Waltham!' she whispered hurriedly. 'If Mr. Wyvern isn't
coming to see you! I'm afraid to meet him. Do let me pop in and hide
till I can get away without being seen.'

The front door stood ajar, and the girl at once ran into the house.
Mrs. Waltham came into the passage laughing.

'May I go to the top of the stairs?' asked the other nervously. 'You
know how absurdly shy I am. No, I'll run out into the garden behind;
then I can steal round as soon as he comes in.'

She escaped, and in a minute or two the new vicar presented himself
at the door. A little maid might well have some apprehension in
facing him, for Mr. Wyvern was of vast proportions and leonine in
aspect. With the exception of one ungloved hand and the scant
proportions of his face which were not hidden by hair, he was wholly
black in hue; an enormous beard, the colour of jet, concealed the
linen about his throat, and a veritable mane, dark as night, fell
upon his shoulders. His features were not ill-matched with this
sable garniture; their expression was a fixed severity; his eye
regarded you with stern scrutiny, and passed from the examination to
a melancholy reflectiveness. Yet his appearance was suggestive of
anything but ill-nature; contradictory though it may seem, the face
was a pleasant one, inviting to confidence, to respect; if be could
only have smiled, the tender humanity which lurked in the lines of
his countenance would have become evident. His age was probably a
little short of fifty.

A servant replied to his knock, and, after falling back in a
momentary alarm, introduced him to the sitting-room. He took Mrs.
Waltham's hand silently, fixed upon her the full orbs of his dark
eyes, and then, whilst still retaining her fingers, looked
thoughtfully about the room. It was a pleasant little parlour, with
many an evidence of refinement in those who occupied it. Mr. Wyvern
showed something like a look of satisfaction. He seated himself, and
the chair creaked ominously beneath him. Then he again scrutinised
Mrs. Waltham.

She was a lady of fair complexion, with a double chin. Her dress
suggested elegant tastes, and her hand was as smooth and delicate as
a lady's should be. A long gold chain descended from her neck to the
watch-pocket at her waist, and her fingers exhibited several rings.
She bore the reverend gentleman's scrutiny with modest grace. almost
as if it flattered her. And indeed there was nothing whatever of
ill-breeding in Mr. Wyvern's mode of instituting acquaintance with
his parishioner; one felt that he was a man of pronounced
originality, and that he might be trusted in his variance from the
wonted modes.

The view from the windows gave him a subject for his first remarks.
Mrs. Waltham had been in some fear of a question which would go to
the roots of her soul's history; it would have been in keeping with
his visage. But, with native acuteness, she soon discovered that Mr.
Wyvern's gaze had very little to do with the immediate subject of
his thought, or, what was much the same thing, that he seldom gave
the whole of his attention to the matter outwardly calling for it.
He was a man of profound mental absences; he could make replies,
even put queries, and all the while be brooding intensely upon a
wholly different subject. Mrs. Waltham did not altogether relish it;
she was in the habit of being heard with deference; but, to be sure,
a clergyman only talked of worldly things by way of concession. It
certainly seemed so in this clergyman's case.

'Your prospect,' Mr. Wyvern remarked presently, 'will not be
improved by the works below.'

His voice was very deep, and all his words were weighed in the
utterance. This deliberation at times led to peculiarities of
emphasis in single words. Probably he was a man of philological
crotchets; he said, for instance, 'pro-spect.'

'I scarcely think Mr. Eldon will go on with the mining,' replied
Mrs. Waltham.

'Ah! you think not?'

'I am quite sure he said that unconsciously,' the lady remarked to
herself. 'He's thinking of some quite different affair.'

'Mr. Eldon,' the clergyman resumed, fixing upon her an absent eye,
'is Mr. Mutimer's son-in-law, I understand?'

'His brother, Mr. Godfrey Eldon, was.' Mrs. Waltham corrected.

'Ah! the one that died?'

He said it questioningly; then added--

'I have a difficulty in mastering details of this kind. You would do
me a great kindness in explaining to me briefly of whom the family
at the Manor at present consists?'

Mrs. Waltham was delighted to talk on such a subject.

'Only of Mrs. Eldon and her son, Mr. Hubert Eldon. The elder son,
Godfrey, was lost in a shipwreck, on a voyage to New Zealand.'

'He was a sailor?'

'Oh, no!' said the lady, with a smile. 'He was in business at
Belwick. It was shortly after his marriage with Miss Mutimer that he
took the voyage--partly for his health, partly to examine some
property his father had had an interest in. Old Mr. Eldon engaged in
speculations--I believe it was flax-growing. The results,
unfortunately, were anything but satisfactory. It was that which led
to his son entering business--quite a new thing in their family.
Wasn't it very sad? Poor Godfrey and his young wife both drowned!
The marriage was, as you may imagine, not altogether a welcome one
to Mrs. Eldon; Mr. Mutimer was quite a self-made man, quite. I
understand he has relations in London of the very poorest
class--labouring people.'

'They probably benefit by his will?'

'I can't say. In any case, to a very small extent. It has for a long
time been understood that Hubert Eldon inherits.'

'Singular!' murmured the clergyman, still in the same absent way.

'Is it not? He took so to the young fellows; no doubt he was
flattered to be allied to them. And then he was passionately devoted
to his daughter; if only for her sake, he would have done his utmost
for the family.'

'I understand that Mr. Mutimer purchased the Manor from them?'

'That was before the marriage. Godfrey Eldon sold it; he had his
father's taste for speculation, I fancy, and wanted capital. Then
Mr. Mutimer begged them to remain in the house. He certainly was a
wonderfully kind old--old gentleman; his behaviour to Mrs. Eldon was
always the perfection of courtesy. A stranger would find it
difficult to understand how she could get on so well with him, but
their sorrows brought them together, and Mr. Mutimer's generosity
was really noble. If I had not known his origin, I should certainly
have taken him for a county gentleman.'

'Yet he proposed to mine in the valley,' observed Mr. Wyvern, half
to himself, casting a glance at the window.

Mrs. Waltham did not at first see the connection between this and
what she had been saying. Then it occurred to her that Mr. Wyvern
was aristocratic in his views.

'To be sure,' she said, 'one expects to find a little of the
original--of the money-making spirit. Of course such a thing would
never have suggested itself to the Eldons. And in fact very little
of the lands remained to them. Mr. Mutimer bought a great deal from
other people.'

As Mr. Wyvern sat brooding, Mrs. Waltham asked--

'You have seen Mrs. Eldon?'

' Not yet. She is too unwell to receive visits.'

'Yes, poor thing, she is a great invalid. I thought, perhaps, you--.
But I know she likes to be very quiet. What a strange thing about
Mr. Eldon, is it not? You know that he has never come yet; not even
to the funeral.'

'Singular!'

'An inexplicable thing! There has never been a shadow of
disagreement between them.'

'Mr. Eldon is abroad, I believe?' said the clergyman musingly.

'Abroad? Oh dear, no! At least, I--. Is there news of his being
abroad?'

Mr. Wyvern merely shook his head.

'As far as we know,' Mrs. Waltham continued, rather disturbed by the
suggestion, 'he is at Oxford.'

'A student?'

'Yes. He is quite a youth--only two-and-twenty.'

There was a knock at the door, and a maid-servant entered to ask if
she should lay the table for tea. Mrs. Waltham assented; then, to
her visitor--

'You will do us the pleasure of drinking a cup of tea, Mr. Wyvern?
we make a meal of it, in the country way. My boy and girl are sure
to be in directly.'

'I should like to make their acquaintance,' was the grave response.

'Alfred, my son,' the lady proceeded, 'is with us for his Easter
holiday. Belwick is so short a distance away, and yet too far to
allow of his living here, unfortunately.'

'His age?'

'Just one-and-twenty.'

'The same age as my own boy.'

'Oh, you have a son?'

'A youngster, studying music in Germany. I have just been spending a
fortnight with him.'

'How delightful! If only poor Alfred could have pursued some
more--more liberal occupation! Unhappily, we had small choice.
Friends were good enough to offer him exceptional advantages not
long after his father's death, and I was only too glad to accept the
opening. I believe he is a clever boy; only such a dreadful
Radical.' She laughed, with a deprecatory motion of the hands. 'Poor
Adela and he are at daggers drawn; no doubt it is some terrible
argument that detains them now on the road. I can't think how he got
his views; certainly his father never inculcated them.'

'The air, Mrs. Waltham, the air,' murmured the clergyman.

The lady was not quite sure that she understood the remark, but the
necessity of reply was obviated by the entrance of the young man in
question. Alfred was somewhat undergrown, but of solid build. He
walked in a sturdy and rather aggressive way, and his plump face
seemed to indicate an intelligence, bright, indeed, but of the less
refined order. His head was held stiffly, and his whole bearing
betrayed a desire to make the most of his defective stature. His
shake of the hand was an abrupt downward jerk, like a pull at a
bell-rope. In the smile with which he met Mr. Wyvern a supercilious
frame of mind was not altogether concealed; he seemed anxious to
have it understood that in _him_ the clerical attire inspired
nothing whatever of superstitious reverence. Reverence, in truth,
was not Mr. Waltham's failing.

Mr. Wyvern, as his habit was at introductions, spoke no words, but
held the youth's hand for a few moments and looked him in the eyes.
Alfred turned his head aside uneasily, and was a trifle ruddy in the
cheeks when at length he regained his liberty.

'By-the-by,' he remarked to his mother when he had seated himself,
with crossed legs, 'Eldon has turned up at last. He passed us in a
cab, or so Adela said. I didn't catch a glimpse of the individual.'

'Really!' exclaimed Mrs. Waltham. 'He was coming from Agworth
station?'

'I suppose so. There was a trunk on the four-wheeler. Adela says he
looked ill, though I don't see how she discovered so much.'

'I have no doubt she is right. He must have been ill.'

Mr. Wyvern, in contrast with his habit, was paying marked attention;
he leaned forward, with a hand on each knee. In the meanwhile the
preparations for tea had progressed, and as Mrs. Waltham rose at the
sight of the teapot being brought in, her daughter entered the room.
Adela was taller by half a head than her brother; she was slim and
graceful. The air had made her face bloom, and the smile which was
added as she drew near to the vicar enhanced the charm of a
countenance at all times charming. She was not less than ladylike in
self-possession, but Mr. Wyvern's towering sableness clearly awed
her a little. For an instant her eyes drooped, but at once she
raised them and met the severe gaze with unflinching orbs. Releasing
her hand, Mr. Wyvern performed a singular little ceremony: he laid
his right palm very gently on her nutbrown hair, and his lips moved.
At the same time he all but smiled.

Alfred's face was a delightful study the while; it said so clearly,
'Confound the parson's impudence!' Mrs. Waltham, on the other hand,
looked pleased as she rustled to her place at the tea-tray.

'So Mr. Eldon has come?' she said, glancing at Adela. 'Alfred says
he looks ill.'

'Mother,' interposed the young man, 'pray be accurate. I distinctly
stated that I did not even see him, and should not have known that
it was he at all. Adela is responsible for that assertion.'

'I just saw his face,' the girl said naturally. 'I thought he looked
ill.'

Mr. Wyvern addressed to her a question about her walk, and for a few
minutes they conversed together. There was a fresh simplicity in
Adela's way of speaking which harmonised well with her appearance
and with the scene in which she moved. A gentle English girl, this
dainty home, set in so fair and peaceful a corner of the world, was
just the abode one would have chosen for her. Her beauty seemed a
part of the burgeoning spring-time, She was not lavish of her
smiles; a timid seriousness marked her manner to the clergyman, and
she replied to his deliberately-posed questions with a gravity
respectful alike of herself and of him.

In front of Mr. Wyvern stood a large cake, of which a portion was
already sliced. The vicar, at Adela's invitation, accepted a piece
of the cake; having eaten this, he accepted another; then yet
another. His absence had come back upon him, and he talked he
continued to eat portions of the cake, till but a small fraction of
the original structure remained on the dish. Alfred, keenly
observant of what was going on, pursed his lips from time to time
and looked at his mother with exaggerated gravity, leading her eyes
to the vanishing cake. Even Adela could not but remark the reverend
gentleman's abnormal appetite, but she steadily discouraged her
brother's attempts to draw her into the joke. At length it came to
pass that Mr. Wyvern himself, stretching his hand mechanically to
the dish, became aware that he had. exhibited his appreciation of
the sweet food in a degree not altogether sanctioned by usage. He
fixed his eyes on the tablecloth, and was silent for a while.

As soon as the vicar had taken his departure Alfred threw himself
into a chair, thrust out his legs, and exploded in laughter.

'By Jove!' he shouted. 'If that man doesn't experience symptoms of
disorder! Why, I should be prostrate for a week if I consumed a
quarter of what he has put out of sight.'

'Alfred, you are shockingly rude,' reproved his mother, though
herself laughing. 'Mr. Wyvern is absorbed in thought.'

'Well, he has taken the best means, I should say, to remind himself
of actualities,' rejoined the youth. 'But what a man he is! How did
he behave in church this morning?'

'You should have come to see,' said Mrs. Waltham, mildly censuring
her son's disregard of the means of grace.

'I like Mr. Wyvern,' observed Adela, who was standing at the window
looking out upon the dusking valley.

'Oh, you would like any man in parsonical livery,' scoffed her
brother.

Alfred shortly betook himself to the garden, where, in spite of a
decided freshness in the atmosphere, he walked for half-an-hour
smoking a pipe. When he entered the house again, he met Adela at the
foot of the stairs.

'Mrs. Mewling has just come in,' she whispered.

'All right, I'll come up with you,' was the reply. 'Heaven defend me
from her small talk!'

They ascended to a very little room, which made a kind of boudoir
for Adela. Alfred struck a match and lit a lamp, disclosing a nest
of wonderful purity and neatness. On the table a drawing-board was
slanted; it showed a text of Scripture in process of 'illumination.'

'Still at that kind of thing!' exclaimed Alfred. 'My good child, if
you want to paint, why don't you paint in earnest? Really, Adela, I
must enter a protest! Remember that you are eighteen years of age.'

'I don't forget it, Alfred.'

'At eight-and-twenty, at eight-and-thirty, you propose still to be
at the same stage of development?'

'I don't think we'll talk of it,' said the girl quietly. 'We don't
understand each other.'

'Of course not, but we might, if only you'd read sensible books that
I could give you.'

Adela shook her head. The philosophical youth sank into his
favourite attitude--legs extended, hands in pockets, nose in air.

'So, I suppose,' he said presently, 'that fellow really has been
ill?'

Adela was sitting in thought; she looked up with a shadow of
annoyance on her face.

'That fellow?'

'Eldon, you know.'

'I want to ask you a question,' said his sister, interlocking her
fingers and pressing them against her throat. 'Why do you always
speak in a contemptuous way of Mr. Eldon?'

'You know I don't like the individual.'

'What cause has "the individual" given you?'

'He's a snob.'

'I'm not sure that I know what that means,' replied Adela, after
thinking for a moment with downcast eyes.

'Because you never read anything. He's a fellow who raises a great
edifice of pretence on rotten foundations.'

'What can you mean? Mr. Eldon is a gentleman. What pretence is he
guilty of?'

'Gentleman!' uttered her brother with much scorn. 'Upon my word,
that _is_ the vulgarest of denominations! Who doesn't call himself
so nowadays! A man's a man, I take it, and what need is there to
lengthen the name? Thank the powers, we don't live in feudal ages.
Besides, he doesn't seem to me to be what you imply.'

Adela had taken a book; in turning over the pages, she said--

'No doubt you mean, Alfred, that, for some reason, you are
determined to view him with prejudice.'

'The reason is obvious enough. The fellow's behaviour is detestable;
he looks at you from head to foot as if you were applying for a
place in his stable. Whenever I want an example of a contemptible
aristocrat, there's Eldon ready-made. Contemptible, because he's
such a sham; as if everybody didn't know his history and his
circumstances!'

'Everybody doesn't regard them as you do. There is nothing whatever
dishonourable in his position.'

'Not in sponging on a rich old plebeian, a man he despises, and
living in idleness at his expense?'

'I don't believe Mr. Eldon does anything of the kind. Since his
brother's death he has had a sufficient income of his own, so mother
says.'

'Sufficient income of his own! Bah! Five or six hundred a year;
likely he lives on that! Besides, haven't they soaped old Mutimer
into leaving them all his property? The whole affair is the best
illustration one could possibly have of what aristocrats are brought
to in a democratic age. First of all, Godfrey Eldon marries
Mutimer's daughter; you are at liberty to believe, if you like, that
he would have married her just the same if she hadn't had a penny.
The old fellow is flattered. They see the hold they have, and stick
to him like leeches. All for want of money, of course. Our
aristocrats begin to see that they can't get on without money
nowadays; they can't live on family records, and they find that
people won't toady to them in the old way just on account of their
name. Why, it began with Eldon's father--didn't he put his pride in
his pocket, and try to make cash by speculation? Now I can respect
him: he at all events faced the facts of the case honestly. The
despicable thing in this Hubert Eldon is that, having got money once
more, and in the dirtiest way, he puts on the top-sawyer just as if
there was nothing to be ashamed of. If he and his mother were living
in a small way on their few hundreds a year, he might haw-haw as
much as he liked, and I should only laugh at him; he'd be a fool,
but an honest one. But catch them doing that! Family pride's too
insubstantial a thing, you see. Well, as I said, they illustrate the
natural course of things, the transition from the old age to the
new. If Eldon has sons, they'll go in for commerce, and make
themselves, if they can, millionaires; but by that time they'll
dispense with airs and insolence--see if they don't.'

Adela kept her eyes on the pages before her, but she was listening
intently. A sort of verisimilitude in the picture drawn by her
Radical-minded brother could not escape her; her thought was
troubled. When she spoke it was without resentment, but gravely.

'I don't like this spirit in judging of people. You know quite well,
Alfred, how easy it is to see the whole story in quite another way.
You begin by a harsh and worldly judgment, and it leads you to
misrepresent all that follows. I refuse to believe that Godfrey
Eldon married Mrs. Mutimer's daughter for her money.'

Alfred laughed aloud.

'Of course you do, sister Adela! Women won't admit such things;
that's _their_ aristocratic feeling!'

'And that is, too, worthless and a sham? Will that, too, be done
away with in the new age?'

'Oh, depend upon it! When women are educated, they will take the
world as it is, and decline to live on illusions.'

'Then how glad I am to have been left without education!'

In the meantime a conversation of a very lively kind was in progress
between Mrs. Waltham and her visitor, Mrs. Mewling. The latter was a
lady whose position much resembled Mrs. Waltham's: she inhabited a
small house in the village street, and spent most of her time in
going about to hear or to tell some new thing. She came in this
evening with a look presageful of news indeed.

'I've been to Belwick to-day,' she began, sitting very close to Mrs.
Waltham, whose lap she kept touching as she spoke with excited
fluency. 'I've seen Mrs. Yottle. My dear, what do you think she has
told me?'

Mrs. Yottle was the wife of a legal gentleman who had been in Mr.
Mutimer's confidence. Mrs. Waltham at once divined intelligence
affecting the Eldons.

'What?' she asked eagerly.

'You'd never dream such a thing! what _will_ come to pass! An
unthought-of possibility!' She went on _crescendo_. 'My dear Mrs.
Waltham, Mr. Mutimer has left no will!'

It was as if an electric shock had passed from the tips of her
fingers into her hearer's frame. Mrs. Waltham paled.

'That cannot be true!' she whispered, incapable of utterance above
breath.

'Oh, but there's not a doubt of it!' Knowing that the news would be
particularly unpalatable to Mrs. Waltham, she proceeded to dwell
upon it with dancing eyes. 'Search bas been going on since the day
of the death: not a corner that hasn't been rummaged, not a drawer
that hasn't been turned out, not a book in the library that hasn't
been shaken, not a wall that hasn't been examined for secret doors!
Mr. Mutimer has died intestate!'

The other lady was mute.

'And shall I tell you how it came about? Two days before his death,
he had his will from Mr. Yottle, saying he wanted to make change--
probably to execute a new will altogether. My dear, he destroyed it,
and death surprised him before he could make another.'

'He wished to make changes?'

'Ah!' Mrs. Mewling drew out the exclamation, shaking her raised
finger, pursing her lips. 'And of that, too, I can tell you the
reason. Mr. Mutimer was anything but pleased with young Eldon. That
young man, let me tell you, has been conducting himself--oh,
shockingly! Now you wouldn't dream of repeating this?'

'Certainly not.'

'It seems that news came not so very long ago of a certain actress,
singer,--something of the kind, you understand? Friends thought it
their duty--rightly, of course,--to inform Mr. Mutimer. I can't say
exactly who did it; but we know that Hubert Eldon is not regarded
affectionately by a good many people. My dear, he has been out of
England for more than a month, living--oh, such extravagance! And
the moral question, too? You know--those women! Someone, they say,
of European reputation; of course no names are breathed. For my
part, I can't say I am surprised. Young men, you know; and
particularly young men of that kind! Well, it has cost him a pretty
penny; he'll remember it as long as he lives.

'Then the property will go--'

'Yes, to the working people in London; the roughest of the rough,
they say! What _will_ happen? It will be impossible for us to live
here if they come and settle at the Manor. The neighbourhood will be
intolerable. Think of the rag-tag-and-bobtail they will bring with
them!'

'But Hubert!' ejaculated Mrs. Waltham, whom this vision of barbaric
onset affected little in the crashing together of a great airy
castle.

'Well, my dear, after all he still has more to depend upon than many
we could instance. Probably he will take to the law,--that is, if
he ever returns to England.'

'He is at the Manor,' said Mrs. Waltham, with none of the pleasure
it would ordinarily have given her to be first with an item of news.
'He came this afternoon.'

'He did! Who has seen him?'

'Alfred and Adela passed him on the road. He was in a cab.'

'I feel for his poor mother. What a meeting it will be! But then we
must remember that they had no actual claim on the inheritance. Of
course it will be a most grievous disappointment, but what is life
made of? I'm afraid some people will be anything but grieved. We
must confess that Hubert has not been exactly popular; and I rather
wonder at it; I'm sure he might have been if he had liked. Just a
little too--too self-conscious, don't you think? Of course it was
quite a mistake, but people had an idea that he presumed on wealth
which was not his own. Well, well, we quiet folk look on, don't we?
It's rather like a play.'

Presently Mrs. Mewling leaned forward yet more confidentially.

'My dear, you won't be offended? You don't mind a question? There
wasn't anything definite?--Adela, I mean.'

'Nothing, nothing whatever!' Mrs. Waltham asserted with vigour.

'Ha!' Mrs. Mewling sighed deeply. 'How relieved I am! I did so
fear!'

'Nothing whatever,' the other lady repeated.

'Thank goodness! Then there is no need to breathe a word of those
shocking matters. But they do get abroad so!'

A reflection Mrs. Mewling was justified in making.





CHAPTER II




The cab which had passed Adela and her brother at a short distance
from Wanley brought faces to the windows or door of almost every
house as it rolled through the village street. The direction in
which it was going, the trunk on the roof, the certainty that it had
come from Agworth station, suggested to everyone that young Eldon
sat within. The occupant bad, however, put up both windows just
before entering the village, and sight of him was not obtained.
Wanley had abundant matter for gossip that evening. Hubert's return,
giving a keener edge to the mystery of his so long delay, would
alone have sufficed to wagging tongues; hut, in addition, Mrs.
Mewling was on the warpath, and the intelligence she spread was of a
kind to run like wildfire.

The approach to the Manor was a carriage-road, obliquely ascending
the bill from a point some quarter of a mile beyond the cottages
which once housed Belwick's abbots. Of the house scarcely a glimpse
could be caught till you were well within the gates, so thickly was
it embosomed in trees. This afternoon it wore a cheerless face; most
of the blinds were still down, and the dwelling might have been
unoccupied, for any sign of human activity that the eye could catch.
There was no porch at the main entrance, and the heavy nail-studded
door greeted a visitor somewhat sombrely. On the front of a gable
stood the words 'Nisi Dominus.'

The vehicle drew up, and there descended a young man of pale
countenance, his attire indicating long and hasty travel. He pulled
vigorously at the end of a hanging bell-chain, and the door was
immediately opened by a man-servant in black. Hubert, for he it was,
pointed to his trunk, and, whilst it was being carried into the
house, took some loose coin from his pocket. He handed the driver a
sovereign.

'I have no change, sir,' said the man, after examining the coin. But
Hubert had already turned away; he merely waved his hand, and
entered the house. For a drive of two miles, the cabman held himself
tolerably paid.

The hall was dusky, and seemed in need of fresh air. Hubert threw
off his hat, gloves, and overcoat; then for the first time spoke to
the servant, who stood in an attitude of expectancy.

'Mrs. Eldon is at home?'

'At home, sir, but very unwell. She desires me to say that she fears
she may not be able to see you this evening.'

'Is there a fire anywhere?'

'Only in the library, sir.'

'I will dine there. And let a fire be lit in my bedroom.'

'Yes, sir. Will you dine at once, sir?'

'In an hour. Something light; I don't care what it is.'

'Shall the fire be lit in your bedroom at once, sir?'

'At once, and a hot bath prepared. Come to the library and tell me
when it is ready.'

The servant silently departed. Hubert walked across the hall, giving
a glance here and there, and entered the library. Nothing had been
altered here since his father's, nay, since his grandfather's time.
That grandfather--his name Hubert--had combined strong intellectual
tendencies with the extravagant tastes which gave his already
tottering house the decisive push. The large collection of
superbly-bound books which this room contained were nearly all of
his purchasing, for prior to his time the Eldons had not been wont
to concern themselves with things of the mind. Hubert, after walking
to the window and looking out for a moment on the side lawn, pushed
a small couch near to the fireplace, and threw himself down at full
length, his hands beneath his head. In a moment his position seemed
to have become uneasy; he turned upon his side, uttering an
exclamation as if of pain. A minute or two and again he moved, this
time with more evident impatience. The next thing he did was to
rise, step to the bell, and ring it violently.

The same servant appeared.

'Isn't the bath ready?' Hubert asked. His former mode of speaking
had been brief and decided; he was now almost imperious.

'I believe it will be in a moment, sir,' was the reply, marked,
perhaps, by just a little failure in the complete subservience
expected.

Hubert looked at the man for an instant with contracted brows, but
merely said--'Tell them to be quick.'

The man returned in less than three minutes with a satisfactory
announcement, and Eldon went upstairs to refresh himself.

Two hours later he had dined, with obvious lack of appetite, and was
deriving but slight satisfaction from a cigar, when the servant
entered with a message from Mrs. Eldon: she desired to see her son.

Hubert threw his cigar aside, and made a gesture expressing his wish
to be led to his mother's room. The man conducted him to the landing
at the head of the first flight of stairs; there a female servant
was waiting, who, after a respectful movement, led the way to a door
at a few yards' distance. She opened it and drew back. Hubert passed
into the room.

It was furnished in a very old-fashioned style--heavily, richly, and
with ornaments seemingly procured rather as evidences of wealth than
of taste; successive Mrs. Eldons had used it as a boudoir. The
present lady of that name sat in a great chair near the fire. Though
not yet fifty, she looked at least ten years older; her hair had
streaks of white, and her thin delicate features were much lined and
wasted. It would not be enough to say that she had evidently once
been beautiful, for in truth she was so still, with a spiritual
beauty of a very rare type. Just now her face was set in a sternness
which did not seem an expression natural to it; the fine lips were
much more akin to smiling sweetness, and the brows accepted with
repugnance anything but the stamp of thoughtful charity.

After the first glance at Hubert she dropped her eyes. He, stepping
quickly across the floor, put his lips to her cheek; she did not
move her head, nor raise her hand to take his.

'Will you sit there, Hubert?' she said, pointing to a chair which
was placed opposite hers. The resemblance between her present mode
of indicating a wish and her son's way of speaking to the servant
below was very striking; even the quality of their voices had much
in common, for Hubert's was rather high-pitched. In face, however,
the young man did not strongly evidence their relation to each
other: he was not handsome, and had straight low brows, which made
his aspect at first forbidding.

'Why have you not come to me before this?' Mrs. Eldon asked when her
son had seated himself, with his eyes turned upon the fire.

'I was unable to, mother. I have been ill.'

She cast a glance at him. There was no doubting the truth of what he
said; at this moment he looked feeble and pain-worn.

'Where did your illness come upon you?' she asked, her tone
unsoftened.

'In Germany. I started only a few hours after receiving the letter
in which you told me of the death.'

'My other letters you paid no heed to?'

'I could not reply to them.'

He spoke after hesitation, but firmly, as one does who has something
to brave out.

'It would have been better for you if you had been able, Hubert.
Your refusal has best you dear.'

He looked up inquiringly.

'Mr. Mutimer,' his mother continued, a tremor in her voice,
'destroyed his will a day or two before he died.'

Hubert said nothing. His fingers, looked together before him,
twitched a little; his face gave no sign.

'Had you come to me at once,' Mrs. Eldon pursued, 'had you listened
to my entreaties, to my commands'--her voice rang right
queenly--'this would not have happened. Mr. Mutimer behaved as
generously as he always has. As soon as there came to him certain
news of you, he told me everything. I refused to believe what people
were saying, and he too wished to do so. He would not write to you
himself; there was one all sufficient test, he held, and that was a
summons from your mother. It was a test of your honour, Hubert--and
you failed under it.'

He made no answer.

'You received my letters?' she went on to ask. 'I heard you had gone
from England, and could only hope your letters would be forwarded.
Did you get them?'

'With the delay of only a day or two.'

'And deliberately you put me aside?'

'I did.'

She looked at him now for several moments. Her eyes grew moist. Then
she resumed, in a lower voice--

'I said nothing of what was at stake, though I knew. Mr. Mutimer was
perfectly open with me. "I have trusted him implicitly," he said,
"because I believe him as staunch and true as his brother. I make no
allowances for what are called young man's follies: he must be above
anything of that kind. If he is not--well, I have been mistaken in
him, and I can't deal with him as I wish to do." You know what he
was, Hubert, and you can imagine him speaking those words. We
waited. The bad news was confirmed, and from you there came nothing.
I would not hint at the loss you were incurring; of my own purpose I
should have refrained from doing so, and Mr. Mutimer forbade me to
appeal to anything but your better self. If you would not come to me
because I wished it, I could not involve you and myself in shame by
seeing you yield to sordid motives.'

Hubert raised his head. A choking voice kept him silent for a moment
only.

'Mother, the loss is nothing to you; you are above regrets of that
kind; and for myself, I am almost glad to have lost it.'

'In very truth,' answered the mother, 'I care little about the
wealth you might have possessed. What I do care for is the loss of
all the hopes I had built upon you. I thought you honour itself; I
thought you high-minded. Young as you are, I let you go from me
without a fear. Hubert, I would have staked my life that no shadow
of disgrace would ever fall upon your head! You have taken from me
the last comfort of my age.'

He uttered words she could not catch.

'The purity of your soul was precious to me,' she continued, her
accents struggling against weakness; 'I thought I had seen in you a
love of that chastity without which a man is nothing; and I ever did
my best to keep your eyes upon a noble ideal of womanhood. You have
fallen. The simpler duty, the point of every-day honour, I could not
suppose that you would fail in. From the day when you came of age,
when Mr. Mutimer spoke to you, saying that in every respect you
would be as his son, and you, for your part, accepted what he
offered, you owed it to him to respect the lightest of his
reasonable wishes. The wish which was supreme in him you have
utterly disregarded. Is it that you failed to understand him? I have
thought of late of a way you had now and then when you spoke to me
about him; it has occurred to me that perhaps you did him less than
justice. Regard his position and mine, and tell me whether you think
he could have become so much to us if he had not been a gentleman in
the highest sense of the word. When Godfrey first of all brought me
that proposal from him that we should still remain in this house, it
seemed to me the most impossible thing. You know what it was that
induced me to assent, and what led to his becoming so intimate with
us. Since then it has been hard for me to remember that he was not
one of our family. His weak points it was not difficult to discover;
but I fear you did not understand what was noblest in his character.
Uprightness, clean-heartedness, good faith--these things he prized
before everything. In you, in one of your birth, he looked to find
them in perfection. Hubert, I stood shamed before him.'

The young man breathed hard, as if in physical pain. His eyes were
fixed in a wide absent gaze. Mrs. Eldon had lost all the severity of
her face; the profound sorrow of a pure and noble nature was alone
to be read there now.

'What,' she continued--'what is this class distinction upon which we
pride ourselves? What does it mean, if not that our opportunities
lead us to see truths to which the eyes of the poor and ignorant are
blind? Is there nothing in it, after all--in our pride of birth and
station? That is what people are saying nowadays: you yourself have
jested to me about our privileges. You almost make me dread that you
were right. Look back at that man, whom I came to honour as my own
father. He began life as a toiler with his hands. Only a fortnight
ago he was telling me stories of his boyhood, of seventy years
since. He was without education; his ideas of truth and goodness he
had to find within his own heart. Could anything exceed the noble
simplicity of his respect for me, for you boys? We were poor, but it
seemed to him that we had from nature what no money could buy. He
was wrong; his faith misled him. No, not wrong with regard to all of
us; my boy Godfrey was indeed all that he believed. But think of
himself; what advantage have we over him? I know no longer what to
believe. Oh, Hubert!'

He left his chair and walked to a more distant part of the room,
where he was beyond the range of lamp and firelight. Standing here,
he pressed his hand against his side, still breathing hard, and with
difficulty suppressing a groan.

He came a step or two nearer.

'Mother,' he said, hurriedly, 'I am still far from well. Let me
leave you: speak to me again to-morrow.'

Mrs. Eldon made an effort to rise, looking anxiously into the gloom
where he stood. She was all but standing upright--a thing she had
not done for a long time--when Hubert sprang towards her, seizing
her hands, then supporting her in his arms. Her self-command gave
way at length, and she wept.

Hubert placed her gently in the chair and knelt beside her. He could
find no words, but once or twice raised his face and kissed her.

'What caused your illness?' she asked, speaking as one wearied with
suffering. She lay back, and her eyes were closed.

'I cannot say,' he answered. 'Do not speak of me. In your last
letter there was no account of how he died.'

'It was in church, at the morning service. The pew-opener found him
sitting there dead, when all had gone away.'

'But the vicar could see into the pew from the pulpit? The death
must have been very peaceful.'

'No, he could not see; the front curtains were drawn.'

'Why was that, I wonder?'

Mrs. Eldon shook her head.

'Are you in pain?' she asked suddenly. 'Why do you breathe so
strangely?'

'A little pain. Oh, nothing; I will see Manns to-morrow.'

His mother gazed long and steadily into his eyes, and this time he
bore her look.

'Mother, you have not kissed me,' he whispered.

'And cannot, dear. There is too much between us.'

His head fell upon her lap.

'Hubert!'

He pressed her hand.

'How shall I live when you have gone from me again? When you say
good-bye, it will be as if I parted from you for ever.'

Hubert was silent.

'Unless,' she continued--'unless I have your promise that you will
no longer dishonour yourself.'

He rose from her side and stood in front of the fire; his mother
looked and saw that he trembled.

'No promise, Hubert,' she said, 'that you cannot keep. Rather than
that, we will accept our fate, and be nothing to each other.'

'You know very well, mother, that that is impossible. I cannot speak
to you of what drove me to disregard your letters. I love and honour
you, and shall have to change my nature before I cease to do so.'

'To me, Hubert, you seem already to have changed. I scarcely know
you.'

'I can't defend myself to you,' he said sadly. 'We think so
differently on subjects which allow of no compromise, that, even if
I could speak openly, you would only condemn me the more.'

His mother turned upon him a grief-stricken and wondering face.

'Since when have we differed so?' she asked. 'What has made us
strangers to each other's thoughts? Surely, surely you are at one
with me in condemning all that has led to this? If your character
has been too weak to resist temptation, you cannot have learnt to
make evil your good?'

He kept silence.

'You refuse me that last hope?'

Hubert moved impatiently.

'Mother, I can't see beyond to-day! I know nothing of what is before
me. It is the idlest trifling with words to say one will do this or
that, when action in no way depends on one's own calmer thought. In
this moment I could promise anything you ask; if I had my choice, I
would be a child again and have no desire but to do your will, to be
worthy in your eyes. I hate my life and the years that have parted
me from you. Let us talk no more of it.'

Neither spoke again for some moments; then Hubert asked coldly--

'What has been done?'

'Nothing,' replied Mrs. Eldon, in the same tone. 'Mr. Yottle has
waited for your return before communicating with the relatives in
London.'

'I will go to Belwick in the morning,' he said. Then, after
reflection, 'Mr. Mutimer told you that he had destroyed his will?'

'No. He had it from Mr. Yottle two days before his death, and on the
day after--the Monday--Mr. Yottle was to have come to receive
instructions for a new one. It is nowhere to be found: of course it
was destroyed.'

'I suppose there is no doubt of that?' Hubert asked, with a show of
indifference.

'There can be none. Mr. Yottle tells me that a will which existed.
before Godfrey's marriage was destroyed in the same way.'

'Who is the heir?'

'A great-nephew bearing the same name. The will contained provision
for him and certain of his family. Wanley is his; the personal
property will be divided among several.'

'The people have not come forward?'

'We presume they do not even know of Mr. Mutimer's death. There has
been no direct communication between him and them for many years.'

Hubert's next question was, 'What shall you do, mother?'

'Does it interest you, Hubert? I am too feeble to move very far. I
must find a home either here in the village or at Agworth.'

He looked at her with compassion, with remorse.

'And you, my boy?' asked his mother, raising her eyes gently.

'I? Oh, the selfish never come to harm, be sure! Only the gentle and
helpless have to suffer; that is the plan of the world's ruling.'

'The world is not ruled by one who thinks our thoughts, Hubert.'

He had it on his lips to make a rejoinder, but checked the impulse.

'Say good-night to me,' his mother continued. 'You must go and rest.
If you still feel unwell in the morning, a messenger shall go to
Belwick. You are very, very pale.'

Hubert held his hand to her and bent his head. Mrs. Eldon offered
her cheek; he kissed it and went from the room.

At seven o'clock on the following morning a bell summoned a servant
to Hubert's bedroom. Though it was daylight, a lamp burned near the
bed; Hubert lay against pillows heaped high.

'Let someone go at once for Dr. Manns,' he said, appearing to speak
with difficulty. 'I wish to see him as soon as possible. Mrs. Eldon
is to know nothing of his visit--you understand me!'

The servant withdrew. In rather less than an hour the doctor made
his appearance, with every sign of having been interrupted in his
repose. He was a spare man, full bearded and spectacled.

'Something wrong?' was his greeting as he looked keenly at his
summoner. 'I didn't know you were here.'

'Yes,' Hubert replied, 'something is confoundedly wrong. I have been
playing strange tricks in the night, I fancy.'

'Fever?'

'As a consequence of something else. I shall have to tell you what
must be repeated to no one, as of course you will see. Let me see,
when was it?--Saturday to-day? Ten days ago, I had a pistol-bullet
just here,'--he touched his right side. 'It was extracted, and I
seemed to be not much the worse. I have just come from Germany.'

Dr. Manns screwed his face into an expression of sceptical
amazement.

'At present,' Hubert continued, trying to laugh, 'I feel
considerably the worse. I don't think I could move if I tried. In a
few minutes, ten to one, I shall begin talking foolery. You must
keep people away; get what help is needed. I may depend upon you?'

The doctor nodded, and, whistling low, began an examination.





CHAPTER III




On the dun borderland of Islington and Hoxton, in a corner made by
the intersection of the New North Road and the Regent's Canal, is
discoverable an irregular triangle of small dwelling-houses, bearing
the name of Wilton Square. In the midst stands an amorphous
structure, which on examination proves to be a very ugly house and a
still uglier Baptist chapel built back to back. The pair are
enclosed within iron railings, and, more strangely, a circle of
trees, which in due season do veritably put forth green leaves. One
side of the square shows a second place of worship, the resort, as
an inscription declares, of 'Welsh Calvinistic Methodists.' The
houses are of one storey, with kitchen windows looking upon small
areas; the front door is reached by an ascent of five steps.

The canal--_maladetta e sventurata fossa_--stagnating in utter
foulness between coal-wharfs and builders' yards, at this point
divides two neighbourhoods of different aspects. On the south is
Hoxton, a region of malodorous market streets, of factories, timber
yards, grimy warehouses, of alleys swarming with small trades and
crafts, of filthy courts and passages leading into pestilential
gloom; everywhere toil in its most degrading forms; the
thoroughfares thundering with high-laden waggons, the pavements
trodden by working folk of the coarsest type, the corners and
lurking-holes showing destitution at its ugliest. Walking
northwards, the explorer finds himself in freer air, amid broader
ways, in a district of dwelling-houses only; the roads seem
abandoned to milkmen, cat's-meat vendors, and costermongers. Here
will be found streets in which every window has its card advertising
lodgings: others claim a higher respectability, the houses
retreating behind patches of garden-ground, and occasionally showing
plastered pillars and a balcony. The change is from undisguised
struggle for subsistence to mean and spirit-broken leisure; hither
retreat the better-paid of the great slave-army when they are free
to eat and sleep. To walk about a neighbourhood such as this is the
dreariest exercise to which man can betake himself; the heart is
crushed by uniformity of decent squalor; one remembers that each of
these dead-faced houses, often each separate blind window,
represents a 'home,' and the associations of the word whisper blank
despair.

Wilton Square is on the north side of the foss, on the edge of the
quieter district, and in one of its houses dwelt at the time of
which I write the family on whose behalf Fate was at work in a
valley of mid-England. Joseph Mutimer, nephew to the old man who had
just died at Wanley Manor, had himself been at rest for some five
years; his widow and three children still lived together in the home
they had long occupied. Joseph came of a family of mechanics; his
existence was that of the harmless necessary artisan. He earned a
living by dint of incessant labour, brought up his family in an
orderly way, and departed with a certain sense of satisfaction at
having fulfilled obvious duties--the only result of life for which
he could reasonably look. With his children we shall have to make
closer acquaintance; but before doing so, in order to understand
their position and follow with intelligence their several stories,
it will be necessary to enter a little upon the subject of ancestry.

Joseph Mutimer's father, Henry by name, was a somewhat remarkable
personage. He grew to manhood in the first decade of our century,
and wrought as a craftsman in a Midland town. He had a brother,
Richard, some ten years his junior, and the two were of such
different types of character, each so pronounced in his kind, that,
after vain attempts to get along together, they parted for good,
heedless of each other henceforth, pursuing their sundered
destinies. Henry was by nature a political enthusiast, of
insufficient ballast, careless of the main chance, of hot and ready
tongue; the Chartist movement gave him opportunities of action which
he used to the utmost, and he became a member of the so-called
National Convention, established in Birmingham in 1839. Already he
had achieved prominence by being imprisoned as the leader of a
torch-light procession, and this taste of martyrdom naturally
sharpened his zeal. He had married young, but only visited his
family from time to time. His wife for the most part earned her own
living, and ultimately betook herself to London with her son Joseph,
the single survivor of seven children. Henry pursued his career of
popular agitation, supporting himself in miscellaneous ways, writing
his wife an affectionate letter once in six months, and making
himself widely known as an uncompromising Radical of formidable
powers. Newspapers of that time mention his name frequently; he was
always in hot water, and once or twice narrowly escaped
transportation. In 1842 he took active part in the riots of the
Midland Counties, and at length was unfortunate enough to get his
head broken. He died in hospital before any relative could reach
him.

Richard Mutimer regarded with detestation the principles to which
Henry had sacrificed his life. From childhood he was staid, earnest,
and iron-willed; to whatsoever he put his hand, he did it
thoroughly, and it was his pride to receive aid from no man.
Intensely practical, he early discerned the truth that a man's first
object must be to secure himself a competency, seeing that to one
who lacks money the world is but a great debtors' prison. To make
money, therefore, was his aim, and anything that interfered with the
interests of commerce and industry from the capitalist's point of
view he deemed unmitigated evil. When his brother Henry was leading
processions and preaching the People's Charter, Richard enrolled
himself as a special constable, cursing the tumults which drew him
from business, but determined, if he got the opportunity, to strike
a good hard blow in defence of law and order. Already he was well on
the way to possess a solid stake in the country, and the native
conservatism of his temperament grew stronger as circumstances bent
themselves to his will; a proletarian conquering wealth and
influence naturally prizes these things in proportion to the effort
their acquisition has cost him. When he heard of his brother's
death, he could in conscience say nothing more than 'Serve him
right!' For all that, he paid the funeral expenses of the
Chartist--angrily declining an offer from Henry's co-zealots, who
would have buried the martyr at their common charges--and proceeded
to inquire after the widow and son. Joseph Mutimer, already one- or
two-and-twenty, was in no need of help; he and his mother, naturally
prejudiced against the thriving uncle, declared themselves satisfied
with their lot, and desired no further connection with a relative
who was practically a stranger to them.

So Richard went on his way and heaped up riches. When already
middle-aged he took to himself a wife, his choice being marked with
characteristic prudence. The woman he wedded was turned thirty, had
no money, and few personal charms, but was a lady. Richard was fully
able to appreciate education and refinement; to judge from the
course of his later life, one would have said that he had sought
money only as a means, the end he really aimed at being the
satisfaction of instincts which could only have full play in a
higher social sphere. No doubt the truth was that success sweetened
his character, and developed, as is so often the case, those
possibilities of his better nature which a fruitless struggle would
have kept in the germ or altogether crushed. His excellent wife
influenced him profoundly; at her death the work was continued by
the daughter she left him. The defects of his early education could
not of course be repaired, but it is never too late for a man to go
to school to the virtues which civilise. Remaining the sturdiest of
Conservatives, he bowed in sincere humility to those very claims
which the Radical most angrily disallows: birth, hereditary station,
recognised gentility--these things made the strongest demand upon
his reverence. Such an attitude was a testimony to his own capacity
for culture, since he knew not the meaning of vulgar adulation, and
did in truth perceive the beauty of those qualities to which the
uneducated Iconoclast is wholly blind. It was a joyous day for him
when he saw his daughter the wife of Godfrey Eldon. The loss which
so soon followed was correspondingly hard to bear, and but for Mrs.
Eldon's gentle sympathy he would scarcely have survived the blow. We
know already how his character had impressed that lady; such respect
was not lightly to be won, and he came to regard it as the most
precious thing that life had left him.

But the man was not perfect, and his latest practical undertaking
curiously enough illustrated the failing which he seemed most
completely to have outgrown. It was of course a deplorable error to
think of mining in the beautiful valley which had once been the
Eldons' estate. Richard Mutimer could not perceive that. He was a
very old man, and possibly the instincts of his youth revived as his
mind grew feebler; he imagined it the greatest kindness to Mrs.
Eldon and her son to increase as much as possible the value of the
property he would leave at his death. They, of course, could not
even hint to him the pain with which they viewed so barbarous a
scheme; he did not as much as suspect a possible objection.
Intensely happy in his discovery and the activity to which it led,
he would have gone to his grave rich in all manner of content but
for that fatal news which reached him from London, where Hubert
Eldon was sup posed to be engaged in sober study in an interval of
University work. Doubtless it was this disappointment that caused
his sudden death, and so brought about a state of things which could
he have foreseen it, would have occasioned him the bitterest grief.

He had never lost sight of his relatives in London, and had made for
them such modest provision as suited his view of the fitness of
things. To leave wealth to young men of the working class would have
seemed to him the most inexcusable of follies; if such were to rise
at all, it must be by their own efforts and in consequence of their
native merits; otherwise, let them toil on and support themselves
honestly. From secret sources he received information of the
capabilities and prospects of Joseph Mutimer's children, and the
items of his will were regulated accordingly.

So we return to the family in Wilton Square. Let us, before
proceeding with the story, enumerate the younger Mutimers. The
first-born, now aged five-and-twenty, had his great-uncle's name;
Joseph Mutimer, married, and no better off in worldly possessions
than when be had only himself to support, came to regret the
coldness with which he had received the advances of his uncle the
capitalist, and christened his son Richard, with half a hope that
some day the name might stand the boy in stead. Richard was a
mechanical engineer, employed in certain ironworks where hydraulic
machinery was made. The second child was a girl, upon whom had been
bestowed the names Alice Maud, after one of the Queen's daughters;
on which account, and partly with reference to certain personal
characteristics, she was often called 'the Princess.' Her age was
nineteen, and she had now for two years been employed in the
show-rooms of a City warehouse. Last comes Henry, a lad of
seventeen; he had been suffered to aim at higher things than the
rest of the family. In the industrial code of precedence the rank of
clerk is a step above that of mechanic, and Henry--known to
relatives and friends as 'Arry--occupied the proud position of clerk
in a drain-pipe manufactory.





CHAPTER IV




At ten o'clock on the evening of Easter Sunday, Mrs. Mutimer was
busy preparing supper. She had laid the table for six, had placed at
one end of it a large joint of cold meat, at the other a vast
flee-pudding, already diminished by attack, and she was now slicing
a conglomerate mass of cold potatoes and cabbage prior to heating it
in the frying-pan, which hissed with melted dripping just on the
edge of the fire. The kitchen was small, and everywhere reflected
from some bright surface either the glow of the open grate or the
yellow lustre of the gas-jet; red curtains drawn across the window
added warmth and homely comfort to the room. It was not the kitchen
of pinched or slovenly working folk; the air had a scent of
cleanliness, of freshly scrubbed boards and polished metal, and the
furniture was super-abundant. On the capacious dresser stood or hung
utensils innumerable; cupboards and chairs had a struggle for wall
space; every smallest object was in the place assigned to it by use
and wont.

The housewife was an active woman of something less than sixty;
stout, fresh-featured, with a small keen eye, a firm mouth, and the
look of one who, conscious of responsibilities, yet feels equal to
them; on the whole a kindly and contented face, if lacking the
suggestiveness which comes of thought. At present she seemed on the
verge of impatience; it was supper time, but her children lingered.

'There they are, and there they must wait, I s'pose,' she murmured
to herself as she finished slicing the vegetables and went to remove
the pan a little from the fire.

A knock at the house door called her upstairs. She came down again,
followed by a young girl of pleasant countenance, though pale and
anxious-looking. The visitor's dress was very plain, and indicated
poverty; she wore a long black jacket, untrimmed, a boa of cheap
fur, tied at the throat with black ribbon, a hat of grey felt, black
cotton gloves.

'No one here?' she asked, seeing the empty kitchen.

'Goodness knows where they all are. I s'pose Dick's at his meeting;
but Alice and 'Arry had ought to be back by now. Sit you down to the
table, and I'll put on the vegetables; there's no call to wait for
them. Only I ain't got the beer.'

'Oh, but I didn't mean to come for supper,' said the girl, whose
name was Emma Vine. 'I only ran in to tell you poor Jane's down
again with rheumatic fever.'

Mrs. Mutimer was holding the frying-pan over the fire, turning the
contents over and over with a knife.

'You don't mean that!' she exclaimed, looking over her shoulder.
'Why, it's the fifth time, ain't it?'

'It is indeed, and worse to get through every time. We didn't expect
she'd ever be able to walk again last autumn.'

'Dear, dear! what a thing them rheumatics is, to be sure! And you've
heard about Dick, haven't you?'

'Heard what?'

'Oh, I thought maybe it had got to you. He's lost his work, that's
all.'

'Lost his work?' the girl repeated, with dismay. 'Why?'

'Why? What else had he to expect? 'Tain't likely they'll keep a man
as goes about making all his mates discontented and calling his
employers names at every street corner. I've been looking for it
every week. Yesterday one of the guvnors calls him up and tells
him--just in a few civil words--as perhaps it 'ud be better for all
parties if he'd find a place where he was more satisfied. "Well an'
good," says Dick--you know his way--and there he is.'

The girl had seated herself, and listened to this story with
downcast eyes. Courage seemed to fail her; she drew a long, quiet
sigh. Her face was of the kind that expresses much sweetness in
irregular features. Her look was very honest and gentle, with
pathetic meanings for whoso had the eye to catch them; a peculiar
mobility of the lips somehow made one think that she had often to
exert herself to keep down tears. She spoke in a subdued voice,
always briefly, and with a certain natural refinement in the use of
uncultured language. When Mrs. Mutimer ceased, Emma kept silence,
and smoothed the front of her jacket with an unconscious movement of
the hand.

Mrs. Mutimer glanced at her and showed commiseration.

'Well, well, don't you worrit about it, Emma,' she said; 'you've
quite enough on your hands. Dick don't care--not he; be couldn't
look more high-flyin' if someone had left him a fortune. He says
it's the best thing as could happen. Nay, I can't explain; he'll
tell you plenty soon as he gets in. Cut yourself some meat, child,
do, and don't wait for me to help you. See, I'll turn you out some
potatoes; you don't care for the greens, I know.'

The fry had hissed vigorously whilst this conversation went on; the
results were brown and unctuous.

'Now, if it ain't too bad!' cried the old woman, losing
self-control. 'That 'Arry gets later every Sunday, and be knows very
well as I have to wait for the beer till he comes.'

I'll fetch it,' said Emma, rising.

'You indeed! I'd like to see Dick if he caught me a-sending you to
the public-house.'

'He won't mind it for once.'

'You get on with your supper, do. It's only my fidgetiness; I can do
very well a bit longer. And Alice, where's she off to, I wonder?
What it is to have a girl that age! I wish they was all like you,
Emma. Get on with your supper, I tell you, or you'll make me angry.
Now, it ain't no use taking it to 'eart in that way. I see what
you're worritin' over. Dick ain't the man to be out o' work long.'

'But won't it be the same at his next place?' Emma inquired. She was
trying to eat, but it was a sad pretence.

'Nay, there's no telling. It's no good my talkin' to him. Why don't
you see what you can do, Emma? 'Tain't as if he'd no one but his own
self to think about Don't you think you could make him see that? If
anyone has a right to speak, it's you. Tell him as he'd ought to
have a bit more thought. It's wait, wait, wait, and likely to be if
things go on like this. Speak up and tell him as--'

'Oh, I couldn't do that!' murmured Emma. 'Dick knows best.'

She stopped to listen; there was a noise above as of people entering
the house.

'Here they come at last,' said Mrs. Mutimer. 'Hear him laughin'?
Now, don't you be so ready to laugh with him. Let him see as it
ain't such good fun to everybody.'

Heavy feet tramped down the stone stairs, amid a sound of loud
laughter and excited talk. The next moment the kitchen door was
thrown open, and two young men appeared. The one in advance was
Richard Mutimer; behind him came a friend of the family, Daniel
Dabbs.

'Well, what do you think of this?' Richard exclaimed as he shook
Emma's hands rather carelessly. 'Mother been putting you out of
spirits, I suppose? Why, it's grand; the best thing that could have
happened! What a meeting we've had to-night! What do _you_ say,
Dan?'

Richard represented--too favourably to make him anything but an
exception--the best qualities his class can show. He was the English
artisan as we find him on rare occasions, the issue of a good strain
which has managed to procure a sufficiency of food for two or three
generations. His physique was admirable; little short of six feet in
stature, he had shapely shoulders, an erect well-formed head, clean
strong limbs, and a bearing which in natural ease and dignity
matched that of the picked men of the upper class--those fine
creatures whose career, from public school to regimental quarters,
is one exclusive course of bodily training. But the comparison, on
the whole, was to Richard's advantage. By no possibility could he
have assumed that aristocratic vacuity of visage which comes of
carefully induced cerebral atrophy. The air of the workshop suffered
little colour to dwell upon his cheeks; but to features of so
pronounced and intelligent a type this pallor added a distinction.
He had dark brown hair, thick and long, and a cropped beard of hue
somewhat lighter. His eyes were his mother's--keen and direct; but
they had small variety of expression; you could not imagine them
softening to tenderness, or even to thoughtful dreaming. Terribly
wide awake, they seemed to be always looking for the weak points of
whatever they regarded, and their brightness was not seldom
suggestive of malice. His voice was strong and clear; it would ring
out well in public places, which is equivalent to saying that it
hardly invited too intimate conference. You will take for granted
that Richard displayed, alike in attitude and tone, a distinct
consciousness of his points of superiority to the men among whom he
lived; probably he more than suspected that he could have held his
own in spheres to which there seemed small chance of his being
summoned.

Just now he showed at once the best and the weakest of his points.
Coming in a state of exaltation from a meeting of which he had been
the eloquent hero, such light as was within him flashed from his
face freely; all the capacity and the vigour which impelled him to
strain against the strait bonds of his lot set his body quivering
and made music of his utterance. At the same time, his free
movements passed easily into swagger, and as he talked on, the false
notes were not few. A working man gifted with brains and comeliness
must, be sure of it, pay penalties for his prominence.

Quite another man was Daniel Dabbs: in him you saw the proletarian
pure and simple. He was thick-set, square-shouldered, rolling in
gait; he walked with head bent forward and eyes glancing uneasily,
as if from lack of self-confidence. His wiry black hair shone with
grease, and no accuracy of razor-play would make his chin white. A
man of immense strength, but bull-necked and altogether
ungainly--his heavy fist, with its black veins and terrific
knuckles, suggested primitive methods of settling dispute; the
stumpy fingers, engrimed hopelessly, and the filthy broken nails,
showed how he wrought for a living. His face, if you examined it
without prejudice, was not ill to look upon; there was much good
humour about the mouth, and the eyes, shrewd enough, could glimmer a
kindly light His laughter was roof-shaking--always a good sign in a
man.

'And what have _you_ got to say of these fine doings, Mr. Dabbs?'
Mrs. Mutimer asked him.

'Why, it's like this 'era, Mrs. Mutimer,' Daniel began, having
seated himself, with hands on widely-parted knees. 'As far as the
theory goes, I'm all for Dick; any man must be as knows his two
times two. But about the Longwoods; well, I tell Dick they've a
perfect right to get rid of him, finding him a dangerous enemy, you
see. It was all fair and above board. Young Stephen Longwood ups an'
says--leastways not in these words, but them as means the same--says
he, "Look 'ere, Mutimer," he says, "we've no fault to find with you
as a workman, but from what we hear of you, it seems you don't care
much for us as employers. Hadn't you better find a shop as is run on
Socialist principles?" That's all about it, you see; it's a case of
incompatible temperaments; there's no ill-feelin', not as between
man and man, And that's what I say, too.'

'Now, Dick,' said Mrs. Mutimer, 'before you begin your sermon, who's
a-going to fetch my beer?'

'Right, Mrs. Mutimer!' cried Daniel, slapping his leg. 'That's what
I call coming from theory to practice. Beer squares all--leastways
for the time being--only for the time being, Dick. Where's the jug?
Better give me two jugs; we've had a thirsty night of it.'

'We'll make capital of this!' said Richard, walking about the room
in Daniel's absence. 'The great point gained is, they've shown
they're afraid of me. We'll write it up in the paper next week, see
if we don't! It'll do us a sight of good.'

'And where's your weekly wages to come from?' inquired his mother.

'Oh, I'll look after that. I only wish they'd refuse me all round;
the more of that kind of thing the better for us. I'm not afraid but
I can earn my living.'

Through all this Emma Vine had sat with her thoughtful eyes
constantly turned on Richard. It was plain how pride struggled with
anxiety in her mind. When Richard had kept silence for a moment, she
ventured to speak, having tried in vain to meet his look.

'Jane's ill again, Richard,' she said.

Mutimer had to summon his thoughts from a great distance; his
endeavour to look sympathetic was not very successful.

'Not the fever again?'

'Yes, it is,' she replied sadly.

'Going to work in the wet, I suppose?'

He shrugged his shoulders; in his present mood the fact was not so
much personally interesting to him as in the light of another case
against capitalism. Emma's sister had to go a long way to her daily
employment, and could not afford to ride; the fifth attack of
rheumatic fever was the price she paid for being permitted to earn
ten shillings a week.

Daniel returned with both jugs foaming, his face on a broad grin of
anticipation. There was a general move to the table. Richard began
to carve roast beef like a freeman, not by any means like the serf
he had repeatedly declared himself in the course of the evening's
oratory.

'Her Royal 'Ighness out?' asked Daniel, with constraint not solely
due to the fact that his mouth was full.

'She's round at Mrs. Took's, I should think,' was Mrs. Mutimer's
reply. 'Staying supper, per'aps.'

Richard, after five minutes of surprising trencher-work, recommenced
conversation. The proceedings of the evening at the hall, which was
the centre for Socialist gatherings in this neighbourhood, were
discussed by him and Daniel with much liveliness. Dan was disposed
to take the meeting on its festive and humorous side; for him,
economic agitation was a mode of passing a few hours amid congenial
uproar. Whenever stamping and shouting were called for, Daniel was
your man. Abuse of employers, it was true, gave a zest to the
occasion, and to applaud the martyrdom of others was as cheery an
occupation as could he asked; Daniel had no idea of sacrificing his
own weekly wages, and therein resembled most of those who had been
loud in uncompromising rhetoric. Richard, on the other hand, was
unmistakably zealous. His sense of humour was not strong, and in any
case he would have upheld the serious dignity of his own position.
One saw from his way of speaking, that he believed himself about to
become a popular hero; already in imagination he stood forth on
platforms before vast assemblies, and heard his own voice denouncing
capitalism with force which nothing could resist. The first taste of
applause had given extraordinary impulse to his convictions, and the
personal ambition with which they were interwoven. His grandfather's
blood was hot in him to-night. Henry Mutimer, dying in hospital of
his broken skull, would have found euthanasia, could he in vision
have seen this worthy descendant entering upon a career in
comparison with which his own was unimportant.

The high-pitched voices and the clatter of knives and forks allowed
a new-comer to enter the kitchen without being immediately observed.
It was a tall girl of interesting and vivacious appearance; she wore
a dress of tartan, a very small hat trimmed also with tartan and
with a red feather, a tippet of brown fur about her shoulders, and a
muff of the same material on one of her hands. Her figure was
admirable; from the crest of her gracefully poised head to the tip
of her well-chosen boot she was, in line and structure, the type of
mature woman. Her face, if it did not indicate a mind to match her
frame, was at the least sweet-featured and provoking; characterless
somewhat, but void of danger-signals; doubtless too good to be
merely played with; in any case, very capable of sending a ray, in
one moment or another, to the shadowy dreaming-place of graver
thoughts. Alice Maud Mutimer was nineteen. For two years she had
been thus tall, but the grace of her proportions had only of late
fully determined itself. Her work in the City warehouse was
unexacting; she had even a faint impress of rose-petal on each
cheek, and her eye was excellently clear. Her lips, unfortunately
never quite closed, betrayed faultless teeth. Her likeness to
Richard was noteworthy; beyond question she understood the charm of
her presence, and one felt that the consciousness might, in her
case, constitute rather a safeguard than otherwise.

She stood with one hand on the door, surveying the table. When the
direction of Mrs. Mutimer's eyes at length caused Richard and Daniel
to turn their heads, Alice nodded to each.

'What noisy people! I heard you out in the square.'

She was moving past the table, but Daniel, suddenly backing his
chair, intercepted her. The girl gave him her hand, and, by way of
being jocose, he squeezed it so vehemently that she uttered a shrill
'Oh!'

'Leave go, Mr. Dabbs! Leave go, I tell you! How dare you? I'll hit
you as hard as I can!'

Daniel laughed obstreperously.

'Do! do!' he cried. 'What a mighty blow that 'ud be! Only the left
hand, though. I shall get over it.'

She wrenched herself away, gave Daniel a smart slap on the back, and
ran round to the other side of the table, where she kissed Emma
affectionately.

'How thirsty I am!' she exclaimed. 'You haven't drunk all the beer,
I hope.'

'I'm not so sure of that,' Dan replied. 'Why, there ain't more than
'arf a pint; that's not much use for a Royal 'Ighness.'

She poured it into a glass. Alice reached across the table, raised
the glass to her lips, and--emptied it. Then she threw off hat,
tippet, and gloves, and seated herself But in a moment she was up
and at the cupboard.

'Now, mother, you don't--you _don't_ say as there's not a pickle!'

Her tone was deeply reproachful.

'Why, there now,' replied her mother, laughing; 'I knew what it 'ud
be! I meant to a' got them last night. You'll have to make shift for
once.'

The Princess took her seat with an air of much dejection. Her pretty
lips grew mutinous; she pushed her plate away.

'No supper for me! The idea of cold meat without a pickle.'

'What's the time?' cried Daniel. 'Not closing time yet. I can get a
pickle at the "Duke's Arms." Give me a glass, Mrs. Mutimer.'

Alice looked up slily, half smiling, half doubtful.

'You may go,' she said. 'I like to see strong men make themselves
useful.'

Dan rose, and was off at once. He returned with the tumbler full of
pickled walnuts. Alice emptied half a dozen into her plate, and put
one of them whole into her mouth. She would not have been a girl of
her class if she had not relished this pungent dainty. Fish of any
kind, green vegetables, eggs and bacon, with all these a drench of
vinegar was indispensable to her. And she proceeded to eat a supper
scarcely less substantial than that which had appeased her brother's
appetite. Start not, dear reader; the Princess is only a subordinate
heroine, and happens, moreover, to be a living creature.

'Won't you take a walnut, Miss Vine?' Daniel asked, pushing the
tumbler to the quiet girl, who had scarcely spoken through the meal.

She declined the offered dainty, and at the same time rose from the
table, saying aside to Mrs. Mutimer that she must be going.

'Yes, I suppose you must,' was the reply. 'Shall you have to sit up
with Jane?'

'Not all night, I don't expect.'

Richard likewise left his place, and, when she offered to bid him
good-night, said that he would walk a little way with her. In the
passage above, which was gas-lighted, he found his hat on a nail,
and the two left the house together.

'Don't you really mind?' Emma asked, looking up into his face as
they took their way out of the square.

'Not I! I can get a job at Baldwin's any day. But I dare say I
shan't want one long.'

'Not want work?'

He laughed.

'Work? Oh, plenty of work; but perhaps not the same kind. We want
men who can give their whole time to the struggle--to go about
lecturing and the like. Of course, it isn't everybody can do it.'

The remark indicated his belief that he knew one man not incapable
of leading functions.

'And would they pay you?' Emma inquired, simply.

'Expenses of that kind are inevitable,' he replied.

Issuing into the New North Road, where there were still many people
hastening one way and the other, they turned to the left, crossed
the canal--black and silent--and were soon among narrow streets.
Every corner brought a whiff of some rank odour, which stole from
closed shops and warehouses, and hung heavily on the still air. The
public-houses had just extinguished their lights, and in the
neighbourhood of each was a cluster of lingering men and women,
merry or disputatious. Mid-Easter was inviting repose and festivity;
to-morrow would see culmination of riot, and after that it would
only depend upon pecuniary resources how long the muddled interval
between holiday and renewed labour should drag itself out.

The end of their walk was the entrance to a narrow passage, which,
at a few yards' distance, widened itself and became a street of
four-storeyed houses. At present this could not be discerned; the
passage was a mere opening into massive darkness. Richard had just
been making inquiries about Emma's sister.

'You've had the doctor?'

'Yes, we're obliged; she does so dread going to the hospital again.
Each time she's longer in getting well.'

Richard's hand was in his pocket; he drew it out and pressed
something against the girl's palm.

'Oh, how can I?' she said, dropping her eyes. 'No--don't--I'm
ashamed.'

'That's all right,' he urged, not unkindly. 'You'll have to get her
what the doctor orders, and it isn't likely you and Kate can afford
it.'

'You're always so kind, Richard. But I am--I am ashamed!'

'I say, Emma, why don't you call me Dick? I've meant to ask you that
many a time.'

She turned her face away, moving as if abashed.

'I don't know. It sounds--perhaps I want to make a difference from
what the others call you.'

He laughed with a sound of satisfaction.

'Well, you mustn't stand here; it's a cold night. Try and come
Tuesday or Wednesday.'

'Yes, I will.'

'Good night!' he said, and, as he held her hand, bent to the lips
which were ready.

Emma walked along the passage, and for some distance up the middle
of the street. Then she stopped and looked up at one of the black
houses. There were lights, more or less curtain-dimmed, in nearly
all the windows. Emma regarded a faint gleam in the topmost storey.
To that she ascended.

Mutimer walked homewards at a quick step, whistling to himself. A
latch-key gave him admission. As he went down the kitchen stairs, he
heard his mother's voice raised in anger, and on opening the door he
found that Daniel had departed, and that the supper table was
already cleared. Alice, her feet on the fender and her dress raised
a little, was engaged in warming herself before going to bed. The
object of Mrs. Mutimer's chastisement was the youngest member of the
family, known as 'Arry; even Richard, who had learnt to be somewhat
careful in his pronunciation, could not bestow the aspirate upon his
brother's name. Henry, aged seventeen, promised to do credit to the
Mutimers in physical completeness; already he was nearly as tall as
his eldest brother; and, even in his lankness, showed the beginnings
of well-proportioned vigour. But the shape of his head, which was
covered with hair of the lightest hue, did not encourage hope of
mental or moral qualities. It was not quite fair to judge his face
as seen at present; the vacant grin of half timid, half insolent,
resentment made him considerably more simian of visage than was the
case under ordinary circumstances. But the features were unpleasant
to look upon; it was Richard's face, distorted and enfeebled with
impress of sensual instincts.

'As long as you live in this house, it shan't go on,' his mother was
saying. 'Sunday or Monday, it's no matter; you'll be home before
eleven o'clock, and you'll come home sober. You're no better than a
pig!'

'Arry was seated in a far corner of the room, where he had dropped
his body on entering. His attire was such as the cheap tailors turn
out in imitation of extreme fashions: trousers closely moulded upon
the leg, a huff waistcoat, a short coat with pockets everywhere. A
very high collar kept his head up against his will; his necktie was
crimson, and passed through a brass ring; he wore a silver
watch-chain, or what seemed to be such. One hand was gloved, and a
cane lay across his knees. His attitude was one of relaxed muscles,
his legs very far apart, his body not quite straight.

'What d' you call sober, I'd like to know?' he replied, with
looseness of utterance. 'I'm as sober 's anybody in this room. If a
chap can't go out with 's friends 't Easter an' all--?'

'Easter, indeed! It's getting to be a regular thing, Saturday and
Sunday. Get up and go to bed! I'll have my say out with you in the
morning, young man.'

'Go to bed!' repeated the lad with scorn. 'Tell you I ain't had no
supper.'

Richard had walked to the neighbourhood of the fireplace, and was
regarding his brother with anger and contempt. At this point of the
dialogue he interfered.

'And you won't have any, either, that I'll see to! What's more,
you'll do as your mother bids you, or I'll know the reason why. Go
upstairs at once!'

It was not a command to be disregarded. 'Arry rose, but
half-defiantly.

'What have you to do with it? You're not my master.'

'Do you hear what I say?' Richard observed, yet more autocratically.
'Take yourself off, and at once!'

The lad growled, hesitated, but approached the door. His motion was
slinking; he could not face Richard's eye. They heard him stumble up
the stairs.





CHAPTER V




On ordinary days Richard of necessity rose early; a holiday did not
lead him to break the rule, for free hours were precious. He had his
body well under control; six hours of sleep he found sufficient to
keep him in health, and temptations to personal ease, in whatever
form, he resisted as a matter of principle.

Easter Monday found him down-stairs at half-past six. His mother
would to-day allow herself another hour. 'Arry would be down just in
time to breakfast, not daring to be late. The Princess might be
looked for--some time in the course of the morning; she was
licensed.

Richard, for purposes of study, used the front parlour. In drawing
up the blind, he disclosed a room precisely resembling in essential
features hundreds of front parlours in that neighbourhood, or,
indeed, in any working-class district of London. Everything was
clean; most things were bright-hued or glistening of surface. There
was the gilt-framed mirror over the mantelpiece, with a yellow
clock--which did not go--and glass ornaments in front. There was
a small round table before the window, supporting wax fruit under
a glass case. There was a hearthrug with a dazzling pattern of
imaginary flowers. On the blue cloth of the middle table were four
showily-bound volumes, arranged symmetrically. On the head of the
sofa lay a covering worked of blue and yellow Berlin wools. Two
arm-chairs were draped with long white antimacassars, ready to slip
off at a touch. As in the kitchen, there was a smell of cleanlines--of
furniture polish, hearthstone, and black-lead.

I should mention the ornaments of the walls. The pictures were: a
striking landscape of the Swiss type, an engraved portrait of
Garibaldi, an unframed view of a certain insurance office, a British
baby on a large scale from the Christmas number of an illustrated
paper.

The one singular feature of the room was a small, glass-doored
bookcase, full of volumes. They were all of Richard's purchasing; to
survey them was to understand the man, at all events on his
intellectual side. Without exception they belonged to that order of
literature which, if studied exclusively and for its own sake,--as
here it was,--brands a man indelibly, declaring at once the
incompleteness of his education and the deficiency of his instincts.
Social, political, religious,--under these three heads the volumes
classed themselves, and each class was represented by productions of
the 'extreme' school. The books which a bright youth of fair
opportunities reads as a matter of course, rejoices in for a year or
two, then throws aside for ever, were here treasured to be the
guides of a lifetime. Certain writers of the last century, long ago
become only historically interesting, were for Richard an armoury
whence he girded himself for the battles of the day; cheap reprints
or translations of Malthus, of Robert Owen, of Volney's 'Ruins,' of
Thomas Paine, of sundry works of Voltaire, ranked upon his shelves.
Moreover, there was a large collection of pamphlets, titled
wonderfully and of yet more remarkable contents, the authoritative
utterances of contemporary gentlemen--and ladies--who made it the
end of their existence to prove: that there cannot by any
possibility be such a person as Satan; that the story of creation
contained in the Book of Genesis is on no account to be received;
that the begetting of children is a most deplorable oversight; that
to eat flesh is wholly unworthy of a civilised being; that if every
man and woman performed their quota of the world's labour it would
be necessary to work for one hour and thirty-seven minutes daily, no
jot longer, and that the author, in each case, is the one person
capable of restoring dignity to a down-trodden race and happiness to
a blasted universe. Alas, alas! On this food had Richard Mutimer
pastured his soul since he grew to manhood, on this and this only.
English literature was to him a sealed volume; poetry he scarcely
knew by name; of history he was worse than ignorant, having looked
at this period and that through distorting media, and congratulating
himself on his clear vision because he saw men as trees walking; the
bent of his mind would have led him to natural science, but
opportunities of instruction were lacking, and the chosen directors
of his prejudice taught him to regard every fact, every discovery,
as _for_ or _against_ something.

A library of pathetic significance, the individual alone considered.
Viewed as representative, not without alarming suggestiveness to
those who can any longer trouble themselves about the world's
future. One dreams of the age when free thought--in the popular
sense--will have become universal, when art shall have lost its
meaning, worship its holiness, when the Bible will only exist in
'comic' editions, and Shakespeare be down-cried by 'most sweet
voices as a mountebank of reactionary tendencies.

Richard was to lecture on the ensuing Sunday at one of the branch
meeting-places of his society; he engaged himself this morning in
collecting certain data of a statistical kind. He was still at his
work when the sound of the postman's knock began to be heard in the
square, coming from house to house, drawing nearer at each
repetition. Richard paid no heed to it; he expected no letter. Yet
it seemed there was one for some member of the family; the
letter-carrier's regular tread ascended the five steps to the door,
and then two small thunderclaps echoed through the house. There was
no letter-box; Richard went to answer the knock. An envelope
addressed to himself in a small, formal hand.

His thoughts still busy with other things, he opened the letter
mechanically as he re-entered the room. He had never in his life
been calmer; the early hour of study had kept his mind pleasantly
active whilst his breakfast appetite sharpened itself. Never was man
less prepared to receive startling intelligence.

He read, then raised his eyes and let them stray from the papers on
the table to the wax-fruit before the window, thence to the young
leafage of the trees around the Baptist Chapel. He was like a man
whose face had been overflashed by lightning. He read again, then,
holding the letter behind him, closed his right hand upon his beard
with thoughtful tension. He read a third time, then returned the
letter to its envelope, put it in his pocket, and sat down again to
his book.

He was summoned to breakfast in ten minutes. His mother was alone in
the kitchen; she gave him his bloater and his cup of coffee, and he
cut himself a solid slice of bread and butter.

'Was the letter for you?' she asked.

He replied with a nod, and fell patiently to work on the dissection
of his bony delicacy. In five minutes Henry approached the table
with a furtive glance at his elder brother. But Richard had no
remark to make. The meal proceeded in silence.

When Richard had finished, he rose and said to his mother--

'Have you that railway-guide I brought home a week ago?'

'I believe I have somewhere. Just look in the cupboard.'

The guide was found. Richard consulted it for a few moments.

'I have to go out of London,' he then observed. 'It's just possible
I shan't get back to-night.'

A little talk followed about the arrangements of the day, and
whether anyone was likely to be at home for dinner. Richard did not
show much interest in the matter; he went upstairs whistling, and
changed the clothing he wore for his best suit. In a quarter of an
hour he had left the house.

He did not return till the evening of the following day. It was
presumed that he had gone 'after a job.'

When he reached home his mother and Alice were at tea. He walked to
the kitchen fireplace, turned his back to it, and gazed with a
peculiar expression at the two who sat at table.

'Dick's got work,' observed Alice, after a glance at him. 'I can see
that in his face.'.

'Have you, Dick?' asked Mrs. Mutimer.

'I have. Work likely to last.'

'So we'll hope,' commented his mother. 'Where is it? '

'A good way out of London. Pour me a cup, mother. Where's 'Arry?'

'Gone out, as usual.'

'And why are you having tea with your hat on, Princess?'

'Because I'm in a hurry, if you must know everything.'

Richard did not seek further information. He drank his tea standing.
In five minutes Alice had bustled away for an evening with friends.
Mrs. Mutimer cleared the table without speaking.

'Now get your sewing, mother, and sit down,' began Richard. 'I want
to have a talk with you.'

The mother cast a rather suspicious glance. There was an
impressiveness in the young man's look and tone which disposed her
to obey without remark.

'How long is it,' Richard asked, when attention waited upon him,
'since you heard anything of father's uncle, my namesake?'

Mrs. Mutimer's face exhibited the dawning of intelligence, an
unwrinkling here and there, a slight rounding of the lips.

'Why, what of him?' she asked in an undertone, leaving a needle
unthreaded.

'The old man's just dead.'

Agitation seized the listener, agitation of a kind most unusual in
her. Her hands trembled, her eyes grew wide.

'You haven't heard anything of him lately?' pursued Richard.

'Heard? Not I. No more did your father ever since two years afore we
was married. I'd always thought he was dead long ago. What of him,
Dick?'

'From what I'm told I thought you'd perhaps been keeping things to
yourself. 'Twouldn't have been unlike you, mother. He knew all about
us, so the lawyer tells me.'

'The lawyer?'

'Well, I'd better out with it. He's died without a will. His real
property--that means his houses and land--belongs to me; his
personal property--that's his money--'ll have to be divided between
me, and Alice, and 'Arry. You're out of the sharing, mother.'

He said it jokingly, but Mrs. Mutimer did not join in his laugh. Her
palms were closely pressed together; still trembling, she gazed
straight before her, with a far-off look.

'His houses--his land?' she murmured, as if she had not quite heard.
'What did he want with more than one house?'

The absurd question was all that could find utterance. She seemed to
be reflecting on that point.

'Would you like to hear what it all comes to?' Richard resumed. His
voice was unnatural, forcibly suppressed, quivering at pauses. His
eyes gleamed, and there was a centre of warm colour on each of his
cheeks. He had taken a note-book from his pocket, and the leaves
rustled under his tremulous fingers.

'The lawyer, a man called Yottle, just gave me an idea of the
different investments and so on. The real property consists of a
couple of houses in Belwick, both let, and an estate at a place
called Wanley. The old man had begun mining there; there's iron.
I've got my ideas about that. I didn't go into the house; people are
there still. Now the income.'

He read his notes: So much in railways, so much averaged yearly from
iron-works in Belwick, so much in foreign securities, so much
disposable at home. Total--

'Stop, Dick, stop!' uttered his mother, under her breath. 'Them
figures frighten me; I don't know what they mean. It's a mistake;
they're leading you astray. Now, mind what I say--there's a mistake!
No man with all that money 'ud die without a will. You won't get me
to believe it, Dick.'

Richard laughed excitedly. 'Believe it or not, mother; I've got my
ears and eyes, I hope. And there's a particular reason why he left
no will. There was one, but something--I don't know what--happened
just before his death, and he was going to make a new one. The will
was burnt. He died in church on a Sunday morning; if he'd lived
another day, he'd have made a new will. It's no more a mistake than
the Baptist Chapel is in the square!' A comparison which hardly
conveyed all Richard's meaning; but he was speaking in agitation,
more and more quickly, at last almost angrily.

Mrs. Mutimer raised her hand. 'Be quiet a bit, Dick. It's took me
too sudden. I feel queer like.'

There was silence. The mother rose as if with difficulty, and drew
water in a tea-cup from the filter. When she resumed her place, her
hands prepared to resume sewing. She looked up, solemnly, sternly.

'Dick, it's bad, bad news! I'm an old woman, and I must say what I
think. It upsets me; it frightens me. I thought he might a' left you
a hundred pounds.'

'Mother, don't talk about it till you've had time to think,' said
Richard, stubbornly. 'If this is bad news, what the deuce would you
call good? Just because I've been born and bred a mechanic, does
that say I've got no common sense or self-respect? Are you afraid I
shall go and drink myself to death? You talk like the people who
make it their business to sneer at us--the improvidence of the
working classes, and such d--d slander. It's good news for me, and
it'll be good news for many another man. Wait and see.'

The mother became silent, keeping her lips tight, and struggling to
regain her calmness. She was not convinced, but in argument with her
eldest son she always gave way, affection and the pride she had in
him aiding her instincts of discretion. In practice she still
maintained something of maternal authority, often gaining her point
by merely seeming offended. To the two who had not yet reached the
year of emancipation she allowed, in essentials, no appeal from her
decision. Between her and Richard there had been many a sharp
conflict in former days, invariably ending with the lad's
submission; the respect which his mother exacted he in truth felt to
be her due, and it was now long since they had openly been at issue
on any point. Mrs. Mutimer's views were distinctly Conservative, and
hitherto she had never taken Richard's Radicalism seriously; on the
whole she had regarded it as a fairly harmless recreation for his
leisure hours--decidedly preferable to a haunting of public-houses
and music-halls. The loss of his employment caused her a good deal
of uneasiness, but she had not ventured to do more than throw out
hints of her disapproval; and now, as it seemed, the matter was of
no moment. Henceforth she had far other apprehensions, but this
first conflict of their views made her reticent.

'Just let me tell you how things stand,' Richard pursued, when his
excitement had somewhat subsided; and he went on to explain the
relations between old Mr. Mutimer and the Eldons, which in outline
had been described to him by Mr. Yottle. And then--

'The will he had made left all the property to this young Eldon, who
was to be trustee for a little money to be doled out to me yearly,
just to save me from ruining myself, of course.' Richard's lips
curled in scorn. 'I don't know whether the lawyer thought we ought
to offer to give everything up; he seemed precious anxious to make
me understand that the old man had never intended us to have it, and
that he _did_ want these other people to have it. Of course, we've
nothing to do with that. Luck's luck, and I think I know who'll make
best use of it.'

'Why didn't you tell all this when Alice was here?' inquired his
mother, seeming herself again, though very grave.

'I'll tell you. I thought it over, and it seems to me it'll be
better if Alice and 'Arry wait a while before they know what'll come
to them. They can't take anything till they're twenty-one. Alice is
a good girl, but--'

He hesitated, having caught his mother's eye. He felt that this
prudential course justified in a measure her anxiety.

'She's a girl,' he pursued, 'and we know that a girl with a lot o'
money gets run after by men who care nothing about her and a good
deal about the money. Then it's quite certain 'Arry won't be any the
better for fancying himself rich. H's going to give us trouble as it
is, I can see that. We shall have to take another house, of course,
and we can't keep them from knowing that there's money fallen to me.
But there's no need to talk about the figures, and if we can make
them think it's only me that's better off, so much the better. Alice
needn't go to work, and I'm glad of it; a girl's proper place is at
home. You can tell her you want her to help in the new house. 'Arry
had better keep his place awhile. I shouldn't wonder if I find work
for him myself before long I've got plans, but I shan't talk about
them just yet.'

He spoke then of the legal duties which fell upon him as
next-of-kin, explaining the necessity of finding two sureties on
taking out letters of administration. Mr. Yottle had offered himself
for one; the other Richard hoped to find in Mr. Westlake, a leader
of the Socialist movement.

'You want us to go into a big house?' asked Mrs. Mutimer. She seemed
to pay little attention to the wider aspects of the change, but to
fix on the details she could best understand, those which put her
fears in palpable shape.

'I didn't say a big one, but a larger than this. We're not going to
play the do-nothing gentlefolk; but all the same our life won't and
can't be what it has been. There's no choice. You've worked hard all
your life, mother, and it's only fair you should come in for a bit
of rest. We'll find a house somewhere out Green Lanes way, or in
Highbury or Holloway.'

He laughed again.

'So there's the best of it--the worst of it, as you say. Just take a
night to turn it over. Most likely I shall go to Belwick again
to-morrow afternoon.'

He paused, and his mother, after bending her head to bite off an end
of cotton, asked--

'You'll tell Emma?'

'I shall go round to-night.'

A little later Richard left the house for this purpose. His step was
firmer than ever, his head more upright Walking along the crowded
streets, he saw nothing; there was a fixed smile on his lips, the
smile of a man to whom the world pays tribute. Never having suffered
actual want, and blessed with sanguine temperament, he knew nothing
of that fierce exultation, that wrathful triumph over fate, which
comes to men of passionate mood smitten by the lightning-flash of
unhoped prosperity. At present he was well-disposed to all men; even
against capitalists and 'profitmongers' he could not have railed
heartily Capitalists? Was he not one himself? Aye, but he would
prove himself such a one as you do not meet with every day; and the
foresight of deeds which should draw the eyes of men upon him, which
should shout his name abroad, softened his judgments with the
charity of satisfied ambition. He would be the glorified
representative of his class. He would show the world how a
self-taught working man conceived the duties and privileges of
wealth. He would shame those dunder-headed, callous-hearted
aristocrats, those ravening bourgeois. Opportunity--what else had he
wanted? No longer would his voice be lost in petty lecture-halls,
answered only by the applause of a handful of mechanics. Ere many
months had passed, crowds should throng to hear him; his gospel
would be trumpeted over the land. To what might he not attain? The
educated, the refined, men and women--

He was at the entrance of a dark passage, where his feet stayed
themselves by force of habit. He turned out of the street, and
walked more slowly towards the house in which Emma Vine and her
sisters lived. Having reached the door, he paused, but again took a
few paces forward. Then he came back and rang the uppermost of five
bells. In waiting, he looked vaguely up and down the street.

It was Emma herself who opened to him. The dim light showed a smile
of pleasure and surprise.

'You've come to ask about Jane?' she said. 'She hasn't been quite so
bad since last night.'

'I'm glad to hear it. Can I come up?'

'Will you?'

He entered, and Emma closed the door. It was pitch dark.

'I wish I'd brought a candle down,' Emma said, moving back along the
passage. 'Mind there's a pram at the foot of the stairs.'

The perambulator was avoided successfully by both, and they ascended
the bare boards of the staircase. On each landing prevailed a
distinct odour; first came the damp smell of newly-washed clothes,
then the scent of fried onions, then the workroom of some small
craftsman exhaled varnish. The topmost floor seemed the purest; it
was only stuffy.

Richard entered an uncarpeted room which had to serve too many
distinct purposes to allow of its being orderly in appearance. In
one corner was a bed, where two little children lay asleep; before
the window stood a sewing-machine, about which was heaped a quantity
of linen; a table in the midst was half covered with a cloth, on
which was placed a loaf and butter, the other half being piled with
several dresses requiring the needle. Two black patches on the low
ceiling showed in what positions the lamp stood by turns.

Emma's eldest sister was moving about the room. Hers were the
children; her husband had been dead a year or more. She was about
thirty years of age, and had a slatternly appearance; her face was
peevish, and seemed to grudge the half-smile with which it received
the visitor.

'You've no need to look round you,' she said. 'We're in & regular
pig-stye, and likely to be. Where's there a chair?'

She shook some miscellaneous articles on to the floor to provide a
seat.

'For mercy's sake don't speak too loud, and wake them children.
Bertie's had the earache; he's been crying all day. What with him
and Jane we've had a blessing, I can tell you. Can I put these
supper things away, Emma?'

'I'll do it,' was the other's reply. 'Won't you have a bit more,
Kate?'

'I've got no mind for eating. Well, you may cut a slice and put it
on the mantelpiece. I'll go and sit with Jane.'

Richard sat and looked about the room absently. The circumstances of
his own family had never fallen below the point at which it is
possible to have regard for decency; the growing up of himself and
of his brothers and sister had brought additional resources to meet
extended needs, and the Mutimer characteristics had formed a
safeguard against improvidence. He was never quite at his ease in
this poverty-cumbered room, which he seldom visited.

'You ought to have a fire,' he said.

'There's one in the other room,' replied Kate. 'One has to serve
us.'

'But you can't cook there.'

'Cook? We can boil a potato, and that's about all the cooking we can
do now-a-days.'

She moved to the door as she spoke, and, before leaving the room,
took advantage of Richard's back being turned to make certain
exhortatory signs to her sister. Emma averted her head.

Kate closed the door behind her. Emma, having removed the eatables
to the cupboard, came near to Richard and placed her arm gently upon
his shoulders. He looked at her kindly.

'Kate's been so put about with Bertie,' she said, in a tone of
excuse. 'And she was up nearly all last night.'

'She never takes things like you do,' Richard remarked.

'She's got more to bear. There's the children always making her
anxious. She took Alf to the hospital this afternoon, and the doctor
says he must have--I forget the name, somebody's food. But it's
two-and-ninepence for ever such a little tin. They don't think as
his teeth 'll ever come.'

'Oh, I daresay they will,' said Richard encouragingly.

He had put his arm about her. Emma knelt down by him, and rested her
head against his shoulder.

'I'm tired,' she whispered. 'I've had to go twice to the Minories
to-day. I'm so afraid I shan't be able to hold my eyes open with
Jane, and Kate's tireder still.'

She did not speak as if seeking for sympathy it was only the natural
utterance of her thoughts in a moment of restful confidence.
Uttermost weariness was a condition too familiar to the girl to be
spoken of in any but a patient, matter-of-fact tone. But it was
priceless soothing to let her forehead repose against the heart
whose love was the one and sufficient blessing of her life. Her
brown hair was very soft and fine; a lover of another kind would
have pressed his lips upon it. Richard was thinking of matters more
practical. At another time his indignation--in such a case right
good and manful--would have boiled over at the thought of these
poor women crushed in slavery to feed the world's dastard
selfishness; this evening his mood was more complaisant, and he
smiled as one at ease.

'Hadn't you better give up your work?' he said.

Emma raised her head. In the few moments of repose her eyelids had
drooped with growing heaviness; she looked at him as if she had just
been awakened to some great surprise.

'Give up work? How can I?'

'I think I would. You'd have more time to give to Jane, and you
could sleep in the day. And Jane had better not begin again after
this. Don't you think it would be better if you left these lodgings
and took a house, where there'd be plenty of room and fresh air?'

'Richard, what are you talking about?'

He laughed, quietly, on account of the sleeping children.

'How would you like,' he continued, 'to go and live in the country?
Kate and Jane could have a house of their own, you know--in London,
I mean, a house like ours; they could let a room or two if they
chose. Then you and I could go where we liked. I was down in the
Midland Counties yesterday; had to go on business; and I saw a house
that would just suit us. It's a bit large; I daresay there's sixteen
or twenty rooms. And there's trees growing all about it; a big
garden--'

Emma dropped her head again and laughed, happy that Richard should
jest with her so good-humouredly; for he did not often talk in the
lighter way. She had read of such houses in the weekly story-papers.
It must be nice to live in them; it must be nice to be a denizen of
Paradise.

'I'm in earnest, Emma.'

His voice caused her to gaze at him again.

'Bring a chair,' he said, 'and I'll tell you something that'll--keep
you awake.'

The insensible fellow! Her sweet, pale, wondering face was so close
to his, the warmth of her drooping frame was against his heart--
arid he bade her sit apart to listen.

She placed herself as he desired, sitting with her hands together in
her lap, her countenance troubled a little, wishing to smile, yet
not quite venturing. And he told his story, told it in all details,
with figures that filled the mouth, that rolled forth like gold upon
the bank-scales.

'This is mine,' he said, 'mine and yours.'

Have you seen a child listening to a long fairy tale, every page a
new adventure of wizardry, a story of elf, or mermaid, or gnome, of
treasures underground guarded by enchanted monsters, of bells heard
silverly in the depth of old forests, of castles against the sunset,
of lakes beneath the quiet moon? Know you how light gathers in the
eyes dreaming on vision after vision, ever more intensely realised,
yet ever of an unknown world? How, when at length the reader's voice
is silent, the eyes still see, the ears still hear, until a movement
breaks the spell, and with a deep, involuntary sigh the little one
gazes here and there, wondering?

So Emma listened, and so she came back to consciousness, looking
about the room, incredulous. Had she been overcome with weariness?
Had she slept and dreamt?

One of the children stirred and uttered a little wailing sound. She
stepped lightly to the bedside, bent for a moment, saw that all was
well again, and came back on tip-toe. The simple duty had quieted
her throbbing heart. She seated herself as before.

'What about the country house now?' said Richard.

'I don't know what to say. It's more than I can take into my head.'

'You're not going to say, like mother did, that it was the worst
piece of news she'd ever heard?'

'Your mother said that?'

Emma was startled. Had her thought passed lightly over some danger?
She examined her mind rapidly.

'I suppose she said it,' Richard explained, 'just because she didn't
know what else to say, that's about the truth. But there certainly
is one thing I'm a little anxious about, myself. I don't care for
either Alice or 'Arry to know the details of this windfall. They
won't come in for their share till they're of age, and it's just as
well they should think it's only a moderate little sum. So don't
talk about it, Emma.'

The girl was still musing on Mrs. Mutimer's remark; she merely shook
her head.

'You didn't think you were going to marry a man with his thousands
and be a lady? Well, I shall have more to say in a day or two. But
at present my idea is that mother and the rest of them shall go into
a larger house, and that you and Kate and Jane shall take our place.
I don't know how long it'll be before those Eldon people can get out
of Wanley Manor, but as soon as they do, why then there's nothing to
prevent you and me going into it. Will that suit you, Em?'

'We shall really live in that big house?'

'Certainly we shall. I've got a life's work before me there, as far
as I can see at present. The furniture belongs to Mrs. Eldon, I
believe; we'll furnish the place to suit ourselves.'

'May I tell my sisters, Richard?'

'Just tell them that I've come in for some money and a house,
perhaps that's enough. And look here, I'll leave you this five-pound
note to go on with. You must get Jane whatever the doctor says. And
throw all that sewing out of the windows; we'll have no more convict
labour. Tell Jane to get well just as soon as it suits her.'

'But--all this money?'

'I've plenty. The lawyer advanced me some for present needs. Now
it's getting late, I must go. I'll write and tell you when I shall
be home again.'

He held out his hand, but the girl embraced him with the restrained
tenderness which in her spoke so eloquently.

'Are you glad, Emma?' he asked.

'Very glad, for your sake.'

'And just a bit for your own, eh?'

'I never thought about money,' she answered. 'It was quite enough to
be your wife.'

It was the simple truth.





CHAPTER VI




At eleven o'clock the next morning Richard presented himself at the
door of a house in Avenue Road, St. John's Wood, and expressed a
desire to see Mr. Westlake. That gentleman was at home; he received
the visitor in his study--a spacious room luxuriously furnished,
with a large window looking upon a lawn. The day was sunny and warm,
but a clear fire equalised the temperature of the room. There was an
odour of good tobacco, always most delightful when it blends with
the scent of rich bindings.

It was Richard's first visit to this house. A few days ago he would,
in spite of himself, have been somewhat awed by the man-servant at
the door, the furniture of the hall, the air of refinement in the
room he entered. At present he smiled on everything. Could he not
command the same as soon as he chose?

Mr. Westlake rose from his writing-table and greeted his visitor
with a hearty grip of the hand. He was a man pleasant to look upon;
his face, full of intellect, shone with the light of good-will, and
the easy carelessness of his attire prepared one for the genial
sincerity which marked his way of speaking. He wore a velvet jacket,
a grey waistcoat buttoning up to the throat, grey trousers,
fur-bordered slippers; his collar was very deep, and instead of the
ordinary shirt-cuffs, his wrists were enclosed in frills.
Long-haired, full-bearded, he had the forehead of an idealist and
eyes whose natural expression was an indulgent smile.

A man of letters, he had struggled from obscure poverty to success
and ample means; at three-and-thirty he was still hard pressed to
make both ends meet, but the ten subsequent years had built for him
this pleasant home and banished his long familiar anxieties to the
land of nightmare. 'It came just in time,' he was in the habit of
saying to those who had his confidence. 'I was at the point where a
man begins to turn sour, and I should have soured in earnest.' The
process had been most effectually arrested. People were occasionally
found to say that his books had a tang of acerbity; possibly this
was the safety-valve at work, a hint of what might have come had the
old hunger-demons kept up their goading. In the man himself you
discovered an extreme simplicity of feeling, a frank tenderness, a
noble indignation. For one who knew him it was not difficult to
understand that he should have taken up extreme social views, still
less that he should act upon his convictions. All his writing
foretold such a possibility, though on the other hand it exhibited
devotion to forms of culture which do not as a rule predispose to
democratic agitation. The explanation was perhaps too simple to be
readily hit upon; the man was himself so supremely happy that with
his disposition the thought of tyrannous injustice grew intolerable
to him. Some incidents happened to set his wrath blazing, and
henceforth, in spite of not a little popular ridicule and much
shaking of the head among his friends, Mr. Westlake had his mission.

'I have come to ask your advice and help,' began Mutimer with
directness. He was conscious of the necessity of subduing his voice,
and had a certain pleasure in the ease with which he achieved this
feat. It would not have been so easy a day or two ago.

'Ah, about this awkward affair of yours,' observed Mr. Westlake with
reference to Richard's loss of his employment, of which, as editor
of the Union's weekly paper, he had of course at once been apprised.

'No, not about that. Since then a very unexpected thing has happened
to me.'

The story was once more related, vastly to Mr. Westlake's
satisfaction. Cheerful news concerning his friends always put him in
the best of spirits.

He shook his head, laughing.

'Come, come, Mutimer, this'll never do! I'm not sure that we shall
not have to consider your expulsion from the Union.'

Richard went on to mention the matters of legal routine in which he
hoped Mr. Westlake would serve him. These having been settled--

'I wish to speak of something more important,' he said. 'You take it
for granted, I hope, that I'm not going to make the ordinary use of
this fortune. As yet I've only been able to hit on a few general
ideas; I'm clear as to the objects I shall keep before me, but how
best to serve them wants more reflection. I thought if I talked it
over with you in the first place--'

The door opened, and a lady half entered the room.

'Oh, I thought you were alone,' she remarked to Mr. Westlake.
'Forgive me!'

'Come in! Here's our friend Mutimer. You know Mrs. Westlake?'

A few words had passed between this lady and Richard in the
lecture-room a few weeks before. She was not frequently present at
such meetings, but had chanced, on the occasion referred to, to hear
Mutimer deliver an harangue.

'You have no objection to talk of your plans? Join our council, will
you?' he added to his wife. 'Our friend brings interesting news.'

Mrs. Westlake walked across the room to the curved window-seat. Her
age could scarcely be more than three- or four-and-twenty; she was
very dark, and her face grave almost to melancholy. Black hair, cut
short at its thickest behind her neck, gave exquisite relief to
features of the purest Greek type. In listening to anything that
held her attention her eyes grew large, and their dark orbs seemed
to dream passionately. The white swan's down at her throat--she was
perfectly attired--made the skin above resemble rich-hued marble,
and indeed to gaze at her long was to be impressed as by the sad
loveliness of a supreme work of art. As Mutimer talked she leaned
forward, her elbow on her knee, the back of her hand supporting her
chin.

Her husband recounted what Richard had told him, and the latter
proceeded to sketch the projects he had in view.

'My idea is,' he said, 'to make the mines at Wanley the basis of
great industrial undertakings, just as any capitalist might, but to
conduct these undertakings in a way consistent with our views. I
would begin by building furnaces, and in time add engineering works
on a large scale. I would build houses for the men, and in fact make
that valley an industrial settlement conducted on Socialist
principles. Practically I can devote the whole of my income; my
personal expenses will not be worth taking into account. The men
must be paid on a just scheme, and the margin of profit that
remains, all that we can spare from the extension of the works,
shall be devoted to the Socialist propaganda. In fact, I should like
to make the executive committee of the Union a sort of board of
directors--and in a very different sense from the usual--for the
Wanley estate. My personal expenditure deducted, I should like such
a committee to have the practical control of funds. All this wealth
was made by plunder of the labouring class, and I shall hold it as
trustee for them. Do these ideas seem to you of a practical colour?'

Mr. Westlake nodded slowly twice. His wife kept her listening
attitude unchanged; her eyes 'dreamed against a distant goal.'

'As I see the scheme,' pursued Richard, who spoke all along somewhat
in the lecture-room tone, the result of a certain embarrassment, 'it
will differ considerably from the Socialist experiments we know of.
We shall be working not only to support ourselves, but every bit as
much set on profit as any capitalist in Belwick. The difference is,
that the profit will benefit no individual, but the Cause. There'll
be no attempt to carry out the idea of every man receiving the just
outcome of his labour; not because I shouldn't he willing to share
in that way, but simply because we have a greater end in view than
to enrich ourselves. Our men must all be members of the Union, and
their prime interest must be the advancement of the principles of
the Union. We shall be able to establish new papers, to hire halls,
and to spread ourselves over the country. It'll be fighting the
capitalist manufacturers with their own weapons. I can see plenty of
difficulties, of course. All England 'll be against us. Never mind,
we'll defy them all, and we'll win. It'll be the work of my life,
and we'll see if an honest purpose can't go as far as a thievish
one.'

The climax would have brought crashing cheers at Commonwealth Hall;
in Mr. Westlake's study it was received with well-bred expressions
of approval.

'Well, Mutimer,' exclaimed the idealist, 'all this is intensely
interesting, and right glorious for us. One sees at last a
possibility of action. I ask nothing better than to be allowed to
work with you. It happens very luckily that you are a practical
engineer. I suppose the mechanical details of the undertaking are
entirely within your province.'

'Not quite, at present,' Mutimer admitted, 'but I shall have
valuable help. Yesterday I had a meeting with a man named Rodman, a
mining engineer, who has been working on the estate. He seems just
the man I shall want; a Socialist already, and delighted to join in
the plans I just hinted to him.'

'Capital! Do you propose, then, that we shall call a special meeting
of the Committee? Or would you prefer to suggest a committee of your
own?'

'No, I think our own committee will do very well, at all events for
the present. The first thing, of course, is to get the financial
details of our scheme put into shape. I go to Belwick again this
afternoon; my solicitor must get his business through as soon as
possible.'

'You will reside for the most part at Wanley?'

'At the Manor, yes. It is occupied just now, but I suppose will soon
be free.'

'Do you know that part of the country, Stella?' Mr. Westlake asked
of his wife.

She roused herself, drawing in her breath, and uttered a short
negative.

'As soon as I get into the house,' Richard resumed to Mr. Westlake,
'I hope you'll come and examine the place. It's unfortunate that the
railway misses it by about three miles, but Rodman tells me we can
easily run a private line to Agworth station. However, the first
thing is to get our committee at work on the scheme.' Richard
repeated this phrase with gusto. 'Perhaps you could bring it up at
the Saturday meeting?'

'You'll be in town on Saturday?'

'Yes; I have a lecture in Islington on Sunday.'

'Saturday will do, then. Is this confidential?'

'Not at all. We may as well get as much encouragement out of it as
we can. Don't you think so?'

'Certainly.'

Richard did not give expression to his thought that a paragraph on
the subject in the Union's weekly organ, the 'Fiery Cross,' might be
the best way of promoting such encouragement; but he delayed his
departure for a few minutes with talk round about the question of
the prudence which must necessarily be observed in publishing a
project so undigested. Mr. Westlake, who was responsible for the
paper, was not likely to transgress the limits of good taste, and
when Richard, on Saturday morning, searched eagerly the columns of
the 'Cross,' he was not altogether satisfied with the extreme
discretion which marked a brief paragraph among those headed: 'From
Day to Day.' However, many of the readers were probably by that time
able to supply the missing proper-name.

It was not the fault of Daniel Dabbs if members of the Hoxton and
Islington branch of the Union read the paragraph without
understanding to whom it referred. Daniel was among the first to
hear of what had befallen the Mutimer family, and from the circle of
his fellow-workmen the news spread quickly. Talk was rife on the
subject of Mutimer's dismissal from Longwood Brothers', and the
sensational rumour which followed so quickly found an atmosphere
well prepared for its transmission. Hence the unusual concourse at
the meeting-place in Islington next Sunday evening, where, as it
became known to others besides Socialists, Mutimer was engaged to
lecture. Richard experienced some vexation that his lecture was not
to be at Commonwealth Hall, where the gathering would doubtless have
been much larger.

The Union was not wealthy. The central hall was rented at Mr.
Westlake's expense; two or three branches were managing with
difficulty to support regular places of assembly, such as could not
being obliged as yet to content themselves with open-air lecturing.
In Islington the leaguers met in a room behind a coffee-shop,
ordinarily used for festive purposes; benches were laid across the
floor, and an estrade at the upper end exalted chairman and
lecturer. The walls were adorned with more or less striking
advertisements of non-alcoholic beverages, and with a few prints
from the illustrated papers. The atmosphere was tobaccoey, and the
coffee-shop itself, through which the visitors had to make their
way, suggested to the nostrils that bloaters are the working man's
chosen delicacy at Sunday tea. A table just within the door of the
lecture-room exposed for sale sundry Socialist publications, the
latest issue of the 'Fiery Cross' in particular.

Richard was wont to be among the earliest arrivals: to-night he was
full ten minutes behind the hour for which the lecture was
advertised. A group of friends were standing about the table near
the door; they received him with a bustle which turned all eyes
thitherwards. He walked up the middle of the room to the platform.
As soon as he was well in the eye of the meeting, a single pair of
hands--Daniel Dabbs owned them--gave the signal for uproar; feet
made play on the boarding, and one or two of the more enthusiastic
revolutionists fairly gave tongue. Richard seated himself with grave
countenance, and surveyed the assembly; from fifty to sixty people
were present, among them three or four women, and the number
continued to grow. The chairman and one or two leading spirits had
followed Mutimer to the place of distinction, where they talked with
him.

Punctuality was not much regarded at these meetings; the lecture was
announced for eight, but rarely began before half-past The present
being an occasion of exceptional interest, twenty minutes past the
hour saw the chairman rise for his prefatory remarks. He was a lank
man of jovial countenance and jerky enunciation. There was no need,
he observed, to introduce a friend and comrade so well known to them
as the lecturer of the evening. 'We're always glad to hear him, and
to-night, if I may be allowed to 'int as much, we're _particularly_
glad to hear him. Our friend and comrade is going to talk to us
about the Land. It's a question we can't talk or think too much
about, and Comrade Mutimer has thought about it as much and more
than any of us, I think I may say. I don't know,' the chairman
added, with a sly look across the room, 'whether our friend's got
any new views on this subject of late. I shouldn't wonder if he
had.' Here sounded a roar of laughter, led off by Daniel Dabbs.
'Hows'ever, be that as it may, we can answer for it as any views he
may hold is the right views, and the honest views, and the views of
a man as means to do a good deal more than talk about his
convictions!'

Again did the stentor-note of Daniel ring forth, and it was amid
thunderous cheering that Richard left his chair and moved to the
front of the platform. His Sunday suit of black was still that with
which his friends were familiar, but his manner, though the audience
probably did not perceive the detail, was unmistakably hanged. He
had been wont to begin his address with short, stinging periods,
with sneers and such bitterness of irony as came within his compass.
To-night he struck quite another key, mellow, confident, hinting at
personal satisfaction; a smile was on his lips, and not a smile of
scorn. He rested one hand against his side, holding in the other a
scrap of paper with jotted items of reasoning. His head was thrown a
little back; he viewed the benches from beneath his eyelids. True,
the pose maintained itself but for a moment. I mention it because it
was something new in Richard.

He spoke of the land; he attacked the old monopoly, and visioned a
time when a claim to individual ownerships of the earth's surface
would be as ludicrous as were now the assertion of title to a
fee-simple somewhere in the moon. He mustered statistics; he adduced
historic and contemporary example of the just and the unjust in
land-holding; he gripped the throat of a certain English duke, and
held him up for flagellation; he drifted into oceans of economic
theory; he sat down by the waters of Babylon; he climbed Pisgah. Had
he but spoken of backslidings in the wilderness! But for that fatal
omission, the lecture was, of its kind, good. By degrees Richard
forgot his pose and the carefully struck note of mellowness; he
began to believe what he was saying, and to say it with the right
vigour of popular oratory. Forget his struggles with the h-fiend;
forget his syntactical lapses; you saw that after all the man had
within him a clear flame of conscience; that he had felt before
speaking that speech was one of the uses for which Nature had
expressly framed him. His invective seldom degenerated into vulgar
abuse; one discerned in him at least the elements of what we call
good taste; of simple manliness he disclosed not a little; he had
some command of pathos. In conclusion, he finished without reference
to his personal concerns.

The chairman invited questions, preliminary to debate.

He rose half-way down the room,--the man who invariably rises on
these occasions. He was oldish, with bent shoulders, and wore
spectacles--probably a clerk of forty years' standing. In his hand
was a small note-book, which he consulted. He began with measured
utterance, emphatic, loud.

'I wish to propose to the lecturer seven questions. I will read them
in order; I have taken some pains to word them clearly.'

Richard has his scrap of paper on his knee. He jots a word or two
after each deliberate interrogation, smiling.

Other questioners succeeded. Richard replies to them. He fails to
satisfy the man of seven queries, who, after repeating this and the
other of the seven, professes himself still unsatisfied, shakes his
head indulgently, walks from the room.

The debate is opened. Behold a second inevitable man; he is not
well-washed, his shirt-front shows a beer-stain; he is angry before
he begins.

'I don't know whether a man as doesn't 'old with these kind o'
theories 'll be allowed a fair 'earin--'

Indignant interruption. Cries of 'Of course he will!'--'Who ever
refused to hear you?'--and the like.

He is that singular phenomenon, that self-contradiction, that
expression insoluble into factors of common-sense--the Conservative
working man. What do they want to be at? he demands. Do they suppose
as this kind of talk 'll make wages higher, or enable the poor man
to get his beef and beer at a lower rate? What's the d--d good of it
all? Figures, oh? He never heered yet as figures made a meal for a
man as hadn't got one; nor yet as they provided shoes and stockings
for his young 'uns at 'ome. It made him mad to listen, that it did!
Do they suppose as the rich man 'll give up the land, if they talk
till all's blue? Wasn't it human natur to get all you can and stick
to it?

'Pig's nature!' cries someone from the front benches.

'There!' comes the rejoinder. 'Didn't I say as there was no fair
'earing for a man as didn't say just what suits you?'

The voice of Daniel Dabbs is loud in good-tempered mockery. Mockery
comes from every side, an angry note here and there, for the most
part tolerant, jovial.

'Let him speak! 'Ear him! Hoy! Hoy!'

The chairman interposes, but by the time that order is restored the
Conservative working man has thrust his hat upon his head and is off
to the nearest public-house, muttering oaths.

Mr. Cullen rises, at the same time rises Mr. Cowes. These two
gentlemen are fated to rise simultaneously. They scowl at each
other. Mr. Cullen begins to speak, and Mr. Cowes, after a circular
glance of protest, resumes his seat. The echoes tell that we are in
for oratory with a vengeance. Mr. Cullen is a short, stout man, very
seedily habited, with a great rough head of hair, an aquiline nose,
lungs of vast power. His vein is King Cambyses'; he tears passion to
tatters; he roars leonine; he is your man to have at the pamper'd
jades of Asia! He has got hold of a new word, and that the verb to
'exploit.' I am exploited, thou art exploited,--_he_ exploits! Who?
Why, such men as that English duke whom the lecturer gripped and
flagellated. The English duke is Mr. Cullen's bugbear; never a
speech from Mr. Cullen but that duke is most horribly mauled. His
ground. rents,--yah! Another word of which Mr. Cullen is fond is
'strattum,'--usually spelt and pronounced with but one t midway. You
and I have the misfortune to belong to a social 'strattum' which is
trampled flat and hard beneath the feet of the landowners. Mr.
Cullen rises to such a point of fury that one dreads the
consequences--to himself. Already the chairman is on his feet,
intimating in dumb show that the allowed ten minutes have elapsed;
there is no making the orator hear. At length his friend who sits by
him fairly grips his coat-tails and brings him to a sitting posture,
amid mirthful tumult. Mr. Cullen joins in the mirth, looks as though
he had never been angry in his life. And till next Sunday comes
round he will neither speak nor think of the social question.

Mr. Cowes is unopposed. After the preceding enthusiast, the voice of
Mr. Cowes falls soothingly as a stream among the heather. He is
tall, meagre, bald; he wears a very broad black necktie, his hand
saws up and down. Mr. Cowes' tone is the quietly venomous; in a few
minutes you believe in his indignation far more than in that of Mr.
Cullen. He makes a point and pauses to observe the effect upon his
hearers. He prides himself upon his grammar, goes back to correct a
concord, emphasises eccentricities of pronunciation; for instance,
he accents 'capitalist' on the second syllable, and repeats the
words with grave challenge to all and sundry. Speaking of something
which he wishes to stigmatise as a misnomer, he exclaims: 'It's what
I call a misnomy!' And he follows the assertion with an awful
suspense of utterance. He brings his speech to a close exactly with
the end of the tenth minute, and, on sitting down, eyes his unknown
neighbour with wrathful intensity for several moments.

Who will follow? A sound comes from the very back of the room, such
a sound that every head turns in astonished search for the source of
it. Such voice has the wind in garret-chimneys on a winter night. It
is a thin wail, a prelude of lamentation; it troubles the blood. The
speaker no one seems to know; he is a man of yellow visage, with
head sunk between pointed shoulders, on his crown a mere scalp-lock.
He seems to be afflicted with a disease of the muscles; his
malformed body quivers, the hand he raises shakes paralytic. His
clothes are of the meanest; what his age may be it is impossible to
judge. As his voice gathers strength, the hearers begin to feel the
influence of a terrible earnestness. He does not rant, he does not
weigh his phrases; the stream of bitter prophecy flows on smooth and
dark. He is supplying the omission in Mutimer's harangue, is bidding
his class know itself and chasten itself, as an indispensable
preliminary to any great change in the order of things. He cries
vanity upon all these detailed schemes of social reconstruction. Are
we ready for it? he wails. Could we bear it, if they granted it to
us? It is all good and right, but hadn't we better first make
ourselves worthy of such freedom? He begins a terrible arraignment
of the People,--then, of a sudden, his voice has ceased. You could
hear a pin drop. It is seen that the man has fallen to the ground;
there arises a low moaning; people press about him.

They carry him into the coffee-shop. It was a fit. In five minutes
he is restored, but does not come back to finish his speech.

There is an interval of disorder. But surely we are not going to let
the meeting end in this way. The chairman calls for the next
speaker, and he stands forth in the person of a rather smug little
shopkeeper, who declares that he knows of no single particular in
which the working class needs correction. The speech undeniably
falls fiat. Will no one restore the tone of the meeting?

Mr. Kitshaw is the man! Now we shall have broad grins. Mr. Kitshaw
enjoys a reputation for mimicry; he takes off music-hall singers in
the bar-parlour of a Saturday night. Observe, he rises, hems, pulls
down his waistcoat; there is bubbling laughter. Mr. Kitshaw brings
back the debate to its original subject; he talks of the Land. He is
a little haphazard at first, but presently hits the mark in a fancy
picture of a country still in the hands of aborigines, as yet
unannexed by the capitalist nations, knowing not the meaning of the
verb 'exploit.'

'Imagine such a happy land, my friends; a land, I say, which nobody
hasn't ever thought of "developing the resources" of,--that's the
proper phrase, I believe. There are the people, with clothing enough
for comfort and--ahem!--good manners, but, mark you, no more. No
manufacture of luxurious skirts and hulsters and togs o' that kind
by the exploited classes. No, for no exploited classes don't exist!
All are equal, my friends. Up an' down the fields they goes, all day
long, arm-in-arm, Jack and Jerry, aye, and Liza an' Sairey Ann; for
they have equality of the sexes, mind you! Up an' down the fields, I
say, in a devil-may-care sort of way, with their sweethearts and
their wives. No factory smoke, 0 dear no! There's the rivers, with
tropical plants a-shading the banks, 0 my! There they goes up an'
down in their boats, devil-may-care, a-strumming on the banjo,'--he
imitated such action,--'and a-singing their nigger minstrelsy with
light 'earts. Why? 'Cause they ain't got no work to get up to at
'arf-past five next morning. Their time's their own! _That's_ the
condition of an unexploited country, my friends!'

Mr. Kitshaw had put everyone in vast good humour. You might wonder
that his sweetly idyllic picture did not stir bitterness by
contrast; it were to credit the English workman with too much
imagination. Resonance of applause rewarded the sparkling
rhetorician. A few of the audience availed themselves of the noise
to withdraw, for the clock showed that it was close upon ten, and
public-houses shut their doors early on Sunday.

But Richard Mutimer was on his feet again, and this time without
regard to effect; there was a word in him strongly demanding
utterance. It was to the speech of the unfortunate prophet that he
desired to reply. He began with sorrowful admissions. No one
speaking honestly could deny that--that the working class had its
faults; they came out plainly enough now and then. Drink, for
instance (Mr. Cullen gave a resounding 'Hear, hear!' and a stamp on
the boards). What sort of a spectacle would be exhibited by the
public-houses in Hoxton and Islington at closing time to-night?
('True!' from Mr. Cowes, who also stamped on the boards.) Yes,
but--Richard used the device of aposiopesis; Daniel Dabbs took it
for a humorous effect and began a roar, which was summarily
interdicted.  'But,' pursued Richard with emphasis, 'what is the
meaning of these vices? What do they come of? Who's to blame for
them? Not the working class--never tell me! What drives a man to
drink in his spare hours? What about the poisonous air of garrets
and cellars? What about excessive toil and inability to procure healthy
recreation? What about defects of education, due to poverty? What
about diseased bodies inherited from over-slaved parents?' Messrs.
Cowes and Cullen had accompanied these queries with a climax of
vociferous approval; when Richard paused, they led the tumult of
hands and heels. 'Look at that poor man who spoke to us!' cried
Mutimer. 'He's gone, so I shan't hurt him by speaking plainly. He
spoke well, mind you, and he spoke from his heart; but what sort of
a life has his been, do you think? A wretched cripple, a miserable
weakling no doubt from the day of his birth, cursed in having ever
seen the daylight, and, such as he is, called upon to fight for his
bread. Much of it he gets! Who would blame that man if he drank
himself into unconsciousness every time he picked up a sixpence?'
Cowes and Cullen bellowed their delight. 'Well, he doesn't do it; so
much you can be sure of. In some vile hole here in this great city
of ours he drags on a life worse--aye, a thousand times worse!--
than that of the horses in the West-end mews. Don't clap your hands
so much, fellow-workers. Just think about it on your way home; talk
about it to your wives and your children. It's the sight of objects
like that that makes my blood boil, and that's set me in earnest at
this work of ours. I feel for that man and all like him as if they
were my brothers. And I take you all to witness, all you present and
all you repeat my words to, that I'll work on as long as I have life
in me, that I'll use every opportunity that's given me to uphold the
cause of the poor and down-trodden against the rich and selfish and
luxurious, that if I live another fifty years I shall still be of
the people and with the people, that no man shall ever have it in
his power to say that Richard Mutimer misused his chances and was
only a new burden to them whose load he might have lightened!'

There was nothing for it but to leap on to the very benches and yell
as long as your voice would hold out.

After that the meeting was mere exuberance of mutual
congratulations. Mr. Cullen was understood to be moving the usual
vote of thanks, but even his vocal organs strove hard for little
purpose. Daniel Dabbs had never made a speech in his life, but
excitement drove him on the honourable post of seconder. The
chairman endeavoured to make certain announcements; then the
assembly broke up. The estrade was invaded; everybody wished to
shake hands with Mutimer. Mr. Cullen tried to obtain Richard's
attention to certain remarks of value; failing, he went off with a
scowl. Mr. Cowes attempted to button-hole the popular hero; finding
Richard conversing with someone else at the same time, he turned
away with a covert sneer. The former of the two worthies had desired
to insist upon every member of the Union becoming a teetotaller; the
latter wished to say that he thought it would be well if a badge of
temperance were henceforth worn by Unionists. On turning away, each
glanced at the clock and hurried his step.

In a certain dark street not very far from the lecture-room Mr.
Cullen rose on tip-toe at the windows of a dull little public-house.
A Unionist was standing at the bar; Mr. Cullen hurried on, into a
street yet darker. Again he tip-toed at a window. The glimpse
reassured him; he passed quickly through the doorway, stepped to the
bar, gave an order. Then he turned, and behold, on a seat just under
the window sat Mr. Cowes, & short pipe in his mouth, a smoking
tumbler held on his knee. The supporters of total abstinence nodded
to each other, with a slight lack of spontaneity. Mr. Cullen, having
secured his own tumbler, came by his comrade's side.

'Deal o' fine talk to wind up with,' he remarked tentatively.

'He means what he says,' returned the other gravely.

'Oh yes,' Mr. Cullen hastened to admit. 'Mutimer means what he says!
Only the way of saying it, I meant--I've got a bit of a sore
throat.'

'So have I. After that there hot room.'

They nodded at each other sympathetically. Mr. Cullen filled a
little black pipe.

'Got alight?'

Mr. Cowes offered the glowing bowl of his own clay; they put their
noses together and blew a cloud.

'Of course there's no saying what time 'll do,' observed tall Mr.
Cowes, sententiously, after a gulp of warm liquor.

'No more there is,' assented short Mr. Cullen with half a wink.

'It's easy to promise.'

'As easy as tellin' lies.'

Another silence.

'Don't suppose you and me 'll get much of it,' Mr. Cowes ventured to
observe.

'About as much as you can put in your eye without winkin',' was the
other's picturesque agreement.

They talked till closing time.





CHAPTER VII




One morning late in June, Hubert Eldon passed through the gates of
Wanley Manor and walked towards the village. It was the first time
since his illness that he had left the grounds on foot. He was very
thin, and had an absent, troubled look; the natural cheerfulness of
youth's convalescence seemed altogether lacking in him.

From a rising point of the road, winding between the Manor and
Wanley, a good view of the valley offered itself; here Hubert
paused, leaning a little on his stick, and let his eyes dwell upon
the prospect. A year ago he had stood here and enjoyed the sweep of
meadows between Stanbury Hill and the wooded slope opposite, the
orchard-patches, the flocks along the margin of the little river.
To-day he viewed a very different scene. Building of various kinds
was in progress in the heart of the vale; a great massive chimney
was rising to completion, and about it stood a number of sheds.
Beyond was to be seen the commencement of a street of small houses,
promising infinite ugliness in a little space; the soil over a
considerable area was torn up and trodden into mud. A number of men
were at work; carts and waggons and trucks were moving about. In
truth, the benighted valley was waking up and donning the true
nineteenth-century livery.

The young man's face, hitherto thoughtfully sad, changed to an
expression of bitterness; he muttered what seemed to be angry and
contemptuous words, then averted his eyes and walked on. He entered
the village street and passed along it for some distance, his fixed
gaze appearing studiously to avoid the people who stood about or
walked by him. There was a spot of warm colour on his cheeks; he
held himself very upright and had a painfully self-conscious air.

He stopped before a dwelling-house, rang the bell, and made inquiry
whether Mr. Mutimer was at home. The reply being affirmative, he
followed the servant up to the first floor. His name was announced
at the door of a sitting-room, and he entered.

Two men were conversing in the room. One sat at the table with a
sheet of paper before him, sketching a rough diagram and scribbling
notes; this was Richard Mutimer. He was dressed in a light tweed
suit; his fair moustache and beard were trimmed, and the hand which
rested on the table was no longer that of a daily-grimed mechanic.
His linen was admirably starched; altogether he had a very fresh and
cool appearance. His companion was astride on a chair, his arms
resting on the back, a pipe in his mouth. This man was somewhat
older than Mutimer; his countenance indicated shrewdness and
knowledge of the world. He was dark and well-featured, his glossy
black hair was parted in the middle, his moustache of the cut called
imperial, his beard short and peaked. He wore a canvas jacket, a
white waistcoat and knickerbockers; at his throat a blue necktie
fluttered loose. When Hubert's name was announced by the servant,
this gentleman stopped midway in a sentence, took his pipe from his
lips, and looked to the door with curiosity.

Mutimer rose and addressed his visitor easily indeed, but not
discourteously.

'How do you do, Mr. Eldon? I'm glad to see that you are so much
better. Will you sit down? I think you know Mr. Rodman, at all
events by name?'

Hubert assented by gesture. He had come prepared for disagreeable
things in this his first meeting with Mutimer, but the honour of an
introduction to the latter's friends had not been included in his
anticipations. Mr. Rodman had risen and bowed slightly. His smile
carried a disagreeable suggestion from which Mutimer's behaviour was
altogether free; he rather seemed to enjoy the situation.

For a moment there was silence and embarrassment. Richard overcame
the difficulty.

'Come and dine with me to-night, will you?' he said to Rodman.
'Here, take this plan with you, and think it over.'

'Pray don't let me interfere with your business,' interposed Hubert,
with scrupulous politeness. 'I could see you later, Mr. Mutimer.'

'No, no; Rodman and I have done for the present,' said Mutimer,
cheerfully. 'By-the-by,' he added, as his right-hand man moved to
the door, 'don't forget to drop a line to Slater and Smith. And, I
say, if Hogg turns up before two o'clock, send him here; I'll be
down with you by half-past.'

Mr. Rodman gave an 'All right,' nodded to Hubert, who paid no
attention, and took his departure.

'You've had a long pull of it,' Richard began, as he took his chair
again, and threw his legs into an easy position. 'Shall I close the
windows? Maybe you don't like the draught.'

'Thank you; I feel no draught.'

The working man had the advantage as yet. Hubert in vain tried to be
at ease, whilst Mutimer was quite himself, and not ungraceful in his
assumption of equality. For one thing, Hubert could not avoid a
comparison between his own wasted frame and the other's splendid
physique; it heightened the feeling of antagonism which possessed
him in advance, and provoked the haughtiness he had resolved to
guard against. The very lineaments of the men foretold mutual
antipathy. Hubert's extreme delicacy of feature was the outward
expression of a character so compact of subtleties and refinements,
of high prejudice and jealous sensibility, of spiritual egoism and
all-pervading fastidiousness, that it was impossible for him not to
regard with repugnance a man who represented the combative
principle, even the triumph, of the uncultured classes. He was no
hidebound aristocrat; the liberal tendencies of his intellect led
him to scorn the pageantry of long-descended fools as strongly as he
did the blind image-breaking of the mob; but in a case of personal
relations temperament carried it over judgment in a very high-handed
way. Youth and disappointment weighed in the scale of unreason.
Mutimer, on the other hand, though fortune helped him to
forbearance, saw, or believed he saw, the very essence of all he
most hated in this proud-eyed representative of a county family. His
own rough-sculptured comeliness corresponded to the vigour and
practicality and zeal of a nature which cared nothing for form and
all for substance; the essentials of life were to him the only
things in life, instead of, as to Hubert Eldon, the mere brute
foundation of an artistic super structure. Richard read clearly
enough the sentiments with which his visitor approached him; who
that is the object of contempt does not readily perceive it? His way
of revenging himself was to emphasise a tone of good fellowship, to
make it evident how well he could afford to neglect privileged
insolence. In his heart he triumphed over the disinherited
aristocrat; outwardly he was civil, even friendly.

Hubert had made this call with a special purpose.

'I am charged by Mrs. Eldon,' he began, 'to thank you for the
courtesy you have shown her during my illness. My own thanks
likewise I hope you will accept. We have caused you, I fear, much
inconvenience.'

Richard found himself envying the form and tone of this deliverance;
he gathered his beard in his hands and gave it a tug.

'Not a bit of it,' he replied. 'I am very comfortable here. A
bedroom and a place for work, that's about all I want.'

Hubert barely smiled. He wondered whether the mention of work was
meant to suggest comparisons. He hastened to add--

'On Monday we hope to leave the Manor.'

'No need whatever for hurry,' observed Mutimer, good-humouredly.
'Please tell Mrs. Eldon that I hope she will take her own time.' On
reflection this seemed rather an ill-chosen phrase; he bettered it.
'I should be very sorry if she inconvenienced herself on my
account.'

'Confound the fellow's impudence!' was Hubert's mental comment. 'He
plays the forbearing landlord.'

His spoken reply was: 'It is very kind of you. I foresee no
difficulty in completing the removal on Monday.'

In view of Mutimer's self-command, Hubert began to be aware that his
own constraint might carry the air of petty resentment Fear of that
drove him upon a topic he would rather have left alone.

'You are changing the appearance of the valley,' he said, veiling by
his tone the irony which was evident in his choice of words.

Richard glanced at him, then walked to the window, with his hands in
his pockets, and gave himself the pleasure of a glimpse of the
furnace-chimney above the opposite houses. He laughed.

'I hope to change it a good deal more. In a year or two you won't
know the place.'

'I fear not.'

Mutimer glanced again at his visitor.

'Why do you fear?' he asked, with less command of his voice.

'I of course understand your point of view. Personally, I prefer
nature.'

Hubert endeavoured to smile, that his personal preferences might
lose something of their edge.

'You prefer nature,' Mutimer repeated, coming back to his chair, on
the seat of which he rested a foot. 'Well, I can't say that I do.
The Wanley Iron Works will soon mean bread to several hundred
families; how many would the grass support?'

'To be sure,' assented Hubert, still smiling.

'You are aware,' Mutimer proceeded to ask, 'that this is not a
speculation for my own profit?'

'I have heard something of your scheme. I trust it will be
appreciated.'

'I dare say it will be--by those who care anything about the welfare
of the people.'

Eldon rose; he could not trust himself to continue the dialogue. He
had expected to meet a man of coarser grain; Mutimer's intelligence
made impossible the civil condescension which would have served with
a boor, and Hubert found the temptation to pointed utterance all the
stronger for the dangers it involved.

'I will drop you a note,' he said, 'to let you know as soon as the
house is empty.'

'Thank you.'

They had not shaken hands at meeting, nor did they now. Each felt
relieved when out of the other's sight.

Hubert turned out of the street into a road which would lead him to
the church, whence there was a field-path back to the Manor. Walking
with his eyes on the ground he did not perceive the tall, dark
figure that approached him as he drew near to the churchyard gate.
Mr. Wyvern had been conducting a burial; he had just left the vestry
and was on his way to the vicarage, which stood five minutes' walk
from the church. Himself unperceived, he scrutinised the young man
until he stood face to face with him; his deep-voiced greeting
caused Hubert to look up' with a start.

'I'm very glad to see you walking,' said the clergyman.

He took Hubert's hand and held it paternally in both his own. Eldon
seemed affected with a sudden surprise; as he met the large gaze his
look showed embarrassment.

'You remember me?' Mr. Wyvern remarked, his wonted solemnity
lightened by the gleam of a brief smile. Looking closely into his
face was like examining a map in relief; you saw heights and plains,
the intersection of multitudinous valleys, river-courses with their
tributaries. It was the visage of a man of thought and character.
His eyes spoke of late hours and the lamp; beneath each was a heavy
pocket of skin, wrinkling at its juncture with the cheek. His teeth
were those of an incessant smoker, and, in truth, you could seldom
come near him without detecting the odour of tobacco. Despite the
amplitude of his proportions, there was nothing ponderous about him;
the great head was finely formed, and his limbs must at one time
have been as graceful as they were muscular.

'Is this accident,' Hubert asked; 'or did you know me at the time?'

'Accident, pure accident. Will you walk to the vicarage with me?'

They paced side by side.

'Mrs. Eldon profits by the pleasant weather, I trust?' the vicar
observed, with grave courtesy.

'Thank you, I think she does. I shall be glad when she is settled in
her new home.'

They approached the door of the vicarage in silence. Entering Mr.
Wyvern led the way to his study. When he had taken a seat, he
appeared to forget himself for a moment, and played with the end of
his bean

Hubert showed impatient curiosity.

'You found me there by chance that morning?' he began.

The clergyman returned to the present. His elbows on either arm of
his round chair, he sat leaning forward, thoughtfully gazing at his
companion.

'By chance,' he replied. 'I sleep badly; so it happened that I was
abroad shortly after daybreak. I was near the edge of the wood when
I heard a pistol-shot. I waited for the second.'

'We fired together,' Hubert remarked.

'Ah! It seemed to me one report. Well, as I stood listening, there
came out from among the trees a man who seemed in a hurry. He was
startled at finding himself face to face with me, but didn't stop;
he said something rapidly in French that I failed to catch, pointed
back into the wood, and hastened off.'

'We had no witnesses,' put in Hubert; 'and both aimed our best. I
wonder he sent you to look for me.'

'A momentary weakness, no doubt,' rejoined the vicar drily. I made
my way among the trees and found you lying there, unconscious. I
made some attempt to stop the blood-flow, then picked you up; it
seemed better, on the whole, than leaving you on the wet grass an
indefinite time. Your overcoat was on the ground; as I took hold of
it, two letters fell from the pocket. I made no scruple about
reading the addresses, and was astonished to find that one was to
Mrs. Eldon, at Wanley Manor, Wanley being the place where I was
about to live on my return to England. I took it for granted that
you were Mrs. Eldon's son. The other letter, as you know, was to a
lady at a hotel in the town.'

Hubert nodded.

'And you went to her as soon as you left me?'

'After hearing from the doctor that there was no immediate
danger.--The letters, I suppose, would have announced your death?'

Hubert again inclined his head. The imperturbable gravity of the
speaker had the effect of imposing self-command on the young man;
whose sensitive cheeks showed what was going on within.

'Will you tell me of your interview with her?' he asked.

'It was of the briefest; my French is not fluent.'

'But she speaks English well.'

'Probably her distress led her to give preference to her native
tongue. She was anxious to go to you immediately, and I told her
where you lay. I made inquiries next day, and found that she was
still giving you her care. As you were doing well, and I had to be
moving homewards, I thought it better to leave without seeing you
again. The innkeeper had directions to telegraph to me if there was
a change for the worse.'

'My pocket-book saved me,' remarked Hubert, touching his side.

Mr. Wyvern drew in his lips.

'Came between that ready-stamped letter and Wanley Manor,' was his
comment.

There was a brief silence.

'You allow me a question?' the vicar resumed. 'It is with reference
to the French lady.'

'I think you have every right to question me.'

'Oh no! It does not concern the events prior to your--accident.'
Mr. Wyvern savoured the word. 'How long did she remain in attendance
upon you?'

'A short time--two day--I did not need--'

Mr. Wyvern motioned with his hand, kindly.

'Then I was not mistaken,' he said, averting his eyes for the first
time, 'in thinking that I saw her in Paris.'

'In Paris?' Hubert repeated, with a poor affectation of
indifference.

'I made a short stay before crossing. I had business at a bank one
day; as I stood before the counter a gentleman entered and took a
place beside me. A second look assured me that he was the man who
met me at the edge of the wood that morning. I suppose he remembered
me, for he looked away and moved from me. I left the bank, and found
an open carriage waiting at the door. In it sat the lady of whom we
speak. I took a turn along the pavement and back again. The
Frenchman entered the carriage; they drove away.'

Hubert's eyes were veiled; he breathed through his nostrils. Again
there was silence.

'Mr. Eldon,' resumed the vicar, 'I was a man of the world before I
became a Churchman; you will notice that I affect no professional
tone in speaking with you, and it is because I know that anything of
the kind would only alienate you. It appeared to me that chance had
made me aware of something it might concern you to hear. I know
nothing of the circumstances of the case, merely offer you the
facts.'

'I thank you,' was Hubert's reply in an undertone.

'It impressed me, that letter ready stamped for Wanley Manor. I
thought of it again after the meeting in Paris.'

'I understand you. Of course I could explain the necessity. It would
be useless.'

'Quite. But experience is not, or should not be, useless, especially
when commented on by one who has very much of it behind him.'

Hubert stood up. His mind was in a feverishly active state, seeming
to follow several lines of thought simultaneously. Among other
things, he was wondering how it was that throughout this
conversation he had been so entirely passive. He had never found
himself under the influence of so strong a personality, exerted too
in such a strangely quiet way.

'What are your plans--your own plans?' Mr. Wyvern inquired.

'I have none.'

'Forgive me;--there will be no material difficulties?'

'None; I have four hundred a year.'

'You have not graduated yet, I believe?'

'No. But I hardly think I can go back to school.'

'Perhaps not. Well, turn things over. I should like to hear from
you.'

'You shall.'

Hubert continued his walk to the Manor. Before the entrance stood
two large furniture-vans; the doorway was littered with materials of
packing, and the hall was full of objects in disorder. footsteps
made a hollow resonance in all parts of the house, for everywhere
the long wonted conditions of sound were disturbed. The library was
already dismantled; here he could close the door and walk about
without fear of intrusion. He would have preferred to remain in the
open air, but a summer shower had just begun as he reached the
house. He could not sit still; the bare floor of the large room met
his needs.

His mind's eye pictured a face which a few months ago had power to
lead him whither it willed, which had in fact led him through
strange scenes, as far from the beaten road of a college curriculum
as well could be. It was a face of foreign type, Jewish possibly,
most unlike that ideal of womanly charm kept in view by one who
seeks peace and the heart's home. Hubert had entertained no thought
of either. The romance which most young men are content to enjoy in
printed pages he had acted out in his life. He had lived through a
glorious madness, as unlike the vulgar oat-sowing of the average
young man of wealth as the latest valse on a street-organ is unlike
a passionate dream of Chopin. However unworthy the object of his
frenzy--and perhaps one were as worthy as another--the pursuit had
borne him through an atmosphere of fire, tempering him for life,
marking him for ever from plodders of the dusty highway. A reckless
passion is a patent of nobility. Whatever existence had in store for
him henceforth, Hubert could feel that he had lived.

An hour's communing with memory was brought to an end by the ringing
of the luncheon-bell. Since his illness Hubert had taken meals with
his mother in her own sitting-room. Thither he now repaired.

Mrs. Eldon had grown older in appearance since that evening of her
son's return. Of course she had discovered the cause of his illness,
and the incessant torment of a great fear had been added to what she
suffered from the estrangement between the boy and herself. Her own
bodily weakness had not permitted her to nurse him; she had passed
days and nights in anguish of expectancy. At one time it had been
life or death. If he died, what life would be hers through the brief
delay to which she could look forward?

Once more she had him by her side, but the moral distance between
them was nothing lessened. Mrs. Eldon's pride would not allow her to
resume the conversation which had ended so hopelessly for her, and
she interpreted Hubert's silence in the saddest sense. Now they were
about to be parted again. A house had been taken for her at Agworth,
three miles away; in her state of health she could not quit the
neighbourhood of the few old friends whom she still saw. But Hubert
would necessarily go into the world to seek some kind of career. No
hope shone for her in the prospect.

Whilst the servant waited on them at luncheon, mother and son
exchanged few words. Afterwards, Mrs. Eldon had her chair moved to
the window, where she could see the garden greenery.

'I called on Mr. Mutimer,' Hubert said, standing near her. Through
the meal he had cast frequent glances at her pale, nobly-lined
countenance, as if something had led him to occupy his thoughts with
her. He looked at her in the same way now.

'Did you? How did he impress you?'

'He is not quite the man I had expected; more civilised. I should
suppose he is the better kind of artisan. He talks with a good deal
of the working-class accent, of course, but not like a wholly
uneducated man.'

'His letter, you remember, was anything but illiterate. I feel I
ought to ask him to come and see me before we leave.'

'The correspondence surely suffices.'

'You expressed my thanks?'

'Conscientiously.'

'I see you found the interview rather difficult, Hubert.'

'How could it be otherwise? The man is well enough, of his kind, but
the kind is detestable.'

'Did he try to convert you to Socialism?' asked his mother, smiling
in her sad way.

'I imagine he discerned the hopelessness of such an under taking. We
had a little passage of arms,--quite within the bounds of civility.
Shall I tell you how I felt in talking with him? I seemed to be
holding a dialogue with the twentieth century, and you may think
what that means.'

'Ah, it's a long way off, Hubert.'

'I wish it were farther. The man was openly exultant; he stood for
Demos grasping the sceptre. I am glad, mother, that you leave Wanley
before the air is poisoned.'

'Mr. Mutimer does not see that side of the question?'

'Not he I Do you imagine the twentieth century will leave one green
spot on the earth's surface?'

'My dear, it will always be necessary to grow grass and corn.'

'By no means; depend upon it. Such things will be cultivated by
chemical processes. There will not be one inch left to nature; the
very oceans will somehow be tamed, the snow-mountains will be
levelled. And with nature will perish art. What has a hungry Demos
to do with the beautiful?'

Mrs. Eldon sighed gently.

'I shall not see it.'

Her eyes dreamed upon the soft-swaying boughs of a young chestnut.
Hubert was watching her face; its look and the meaning implied in
her words touched him profoundly.

'Mother!' he said under his breath.

'My dear?'

He drew nearer to her and just stroked with his fingers the silver
lines which marked the hair on either side of her brows. He could
see that she trembled and that her lips set themselves in hard
self-conquest.

'What do you wish me to do when we have left the Manor?'

His own voice was hurried between two quiverings of the throat; his
mother's only whispered in reply.

'That is for your own consideration, Hubert.'

'With your counsel, mother.'

'My counsel?'

'I ask it I will follow it. I wish to be guided by you.'

He knelt by her, and his mother pressed his head against her bosom.

Later, she asked--

'Did you call also on the Walthams?'

He shook his head.

'Should you not do so, dear?

'I think that must be later.'

The subject was not pursued.

The next day was Saturday. In the afternoon Hubert took a walk which
had been his favourite one ever since he could remember, every step
of the way associated with recollections of childhood, boyhood, or
youth. It was along the lane which began in a farmyard close by the
Manor and climbed with many turnings to the top of Stanbury Hill.
This was ever the first route re-examined by his brother Godfrey and
himself on their return from school at holiday-time. It was a rare
region for bird-nesting, so seldom was it trodden save by a few
farm-labourers at early morning or when the day's work was over.
Hubert passed with a glance of recognition the bramble in which he
had found his first spink's nest, the shadowed mossy bank whence had
fluttered the hapless wren just when the approach of two prowling
youngsters should have bidden her keep close. Boys on the egg-trail
are not wont to pay much attention to the features of the country;
but Hubert remembered that at a certain meadow-gate he had always
rested for a moment to view the valley, some mute presage of things
unimagined stirring at his heart. Was it even then nineteenth
century? Not for him, seeing that the life of each of us reproduces
the successive ages of the world. Belwick, roaring a few miles away,
was but an isolated black patch on the earth's beauty, not, as he
now understood it, a malignant cancer-spot, spreading day by day,
corrupting, an augury of death. In those days it had seemed fast in
the order of things that Wanley Manor should be his home through
life; how otherwise? Was it not the abiding-place of the Eldons from
of old? Who had ever hinted at revolution? He knew now that
revolution had been at work from an earlier time than that; whilst
he played and rambled with his brother the framework of their life
was crumbling about them. Belwick was already throwing a shadow upon
Wanley. And now behold! he stood at the old gate, rested his hands
where they had been wont to rest, turned his eyes in the familiar
direction; no longer a mere shadow, there was Belwick itself.

His heart was hot with outraged affection, with injured pride. On
the scarcely closed grave of that passion which had flamed through
so brief a life sprang up the flower of natural tenderness,
infinitely sweet and precious. For the first time he was fully
conscious of what it meant to quit Wanley for ever; the past
revealed itself to him, lovelier and more loved because parted from
him by so hopeless a gulf. Hubert was not old enough to rate
experience at its true value, to acquiesce in the law which wills
that the day must perish before we can enjoy to the full its light
and odour. He could only feel his loss, and rebel against the fate
which had ordained it.

He had climbed but half-way up the hill; from this point onwards
there was no view till the summit was reached, for the lane
proceeded between high banks and hedges. To gain the very highest
point he had presently to quit the road by a stile and skirt the
edge of a small rising meadow, at the top of which was an old
cow-house with a few trees growing about it. Thence one had the
finest prospect in the county.

He reached the stone shed, looked back for a moment over Wanley,
then walked round to the other side. As he turned the corner of the
building his eye was startled by the unexpected gleam of a white
dress. A girl stood there; she was viewing the landscape through a
field-glass, and thus remained unaware of his approach on the grass.
He stayed his step and observed her with eyes of recognition. Her
attitude, both hands raised to hold the glass, displayed to
perfection the virginal outline of her white-robed form. She wore a
straw hat of the plain masculine fashion; her brown hair was plaited
in a great circle behind her head, not one tendril loosed from the
mass; a white collar closely circled her neck; her waist was bound
with a red girdle. All was grace and purity; the very folds towards
the bottom of her dress hung in sculpturesque smoothness; the form
of her half-seen foot bowed the herbage with lightest pressure. From
the boughs above there fell upon her a dancing network of shadow.

Hubert only half smiled; he stood with his hands joined behind him,
his eyes fixed upon her face, waiting for her to turn But several
moments passed and she was still intent on the landscape. He spoke.

'Will you let me look?'

Her hands fell, all but dropping the glass; still, she did not start
with unbecoming shrug as most people do, the instinctive movement of
guarding against a stroke; the falling of her arms was the only
abrupt motion, her head turning in the direction of the speaker with
a grace as spontaneous as that we see in a lawn. that glances back
before flight.

'Oh, Mr. Eldon! How silently you have come!'

The wild rose of her cheeks made rivalry for an instant with the
richer garden blooms, and the subsiding warmth left a pearly
translucency as of a lily petal against the light.

She held her hand to him, delicately gloved, warm; the whole of it
was hidden within Hubert's clasp.

'What were you looking at so attentively?' he asked.

'At Agworth station,' replied Adela, turning her eyes again in that
quarter. 'My brother's train ought to be in by now, I think. He
comes home every Saturday.'

'Does he?'

Hubert spoke without thought, his look resting upon the maiden's red
girdle.

'I am glad that you are well again,' Adela said with natural
kindness. 'You have had a long illness.'

'Yes; it has been a tiresome affair. Is Mrs. Waltham well?'

'Quite, thank you.'

'And your brother?'

'Alfred never had anything the matter with him in his life, I
believe,' she answered, with a laugh.

'Fortunate fellow! Will you lend me the glass?'

She held it to him, and at the same moment her straying eye caught a
glimpse of white smoke, far off.

'There comes the train!' she exclaimed. 'You will be able to see it
between these two hills.'

Hubert looked and returned the glass to her, but she did not make
use of it.

'Does he walk over from Agworth?' was Hubert's next question.

'Yes. It does him good after a week of Belwick.'

'There will soon be little difference between Belwick and Wanley,'
rejoined Hubert, drily.

Adela glanced at him; there was sympathy and sorrow in the look.

'I knew it would grieve you,' she said.

'And what is your own feeling? Do you rejoice in the change as a
sign of progress?'

'Indeed, no. I am very, very sorry to have our beautiful valley so
spoilt. It is only--'

Hubert eyed her with sudden sharpness of scrutiny; the look seemed
to check her words.

'Only what?' he asked. 'You find compensations?'

'My brother won't hear of such regrets,' she continued with a little
embarrassment 'He insists on the good that will be done by the
change.'

'From such a proprietor as I should have been to a man of Mr.
Mutimer's activity. To be sure, that is one point of view.'

Adela blushed.

'That is not my meaning, Mr. Eldon, as you know. I was speaking of
the change without regard to who brings it about. And I was not
giving my own opinion; Alfred's is always on the side of the working
people; he seems to forget everybody else in his zeal for their
interests. And then, the works are going to be quite a new kind of
undertaking. You have heard of Mr. Mutimer's plans. of course?'

'I have an idea of them.'

'You think them mistaken?'

'No. I would rather say they don't interest me. That seems to
disappoint you, Miss Waltham. Probably you are interested in them?'

At the sound of her own name thus formally interjected, Adela just
raised her eyes from their reflective gaze on the near landscape;
then she became yet more thoughtful.

'Yes, I think I am,' she replied, with deliberation. 'The principle
seems a just one. Devotion to a really unselfish cause is rare, I am
afraid.'

'You have met Mr. Mutimer?

'Once. My brother made his acquaintance, and he called on us.'

'Did he explain his scheme to you in detail?'

'Not himself. Alfred has told me all about it. He, of course, is
delighted with it; he has joined what he calls the Union.'

'Are you going to join?' Hubert asked, smiling.

'I? I doubt whether they would have me.'

She laughed silverly, her throat tremulous, like that of a bird that
sings. How significant the laugh was! the music of how pure a
freshet of life!

'All the members, I presume,' said Hubert, 'are to be speedily
enriched from the Wanley Mines and Iron Works?'

It was jokingly uttered, but Adela replied with some earnestness, as
if to remove a false impression.

'Oh, that is quite a mistake. Mr. Eldon. There is no question of
anyone being enriched, least of all Mr. Mutimer himself. The workmen
will receive just payment, not mere starvation wages, but whatever
profit there is will be devoted to the propaganda.'

'Propaganda! Starvation wages! Ah, I see you have gone deeply into
these matters. How strangely that word sounds on your
lips--propaganda!'

Adela reddened.

'Why strangely, Mr. Eldon?'

'One associates it with such very different speakers; it has such a
terrible canting sound. I hope you will not get into the habit of
using it--for your own sake.'

'I am not likely to use it much. I suppose I have. heard it so often
from Alfred lately. Please don't think,' she added rather hastily,
'that I have become a Socialist. Indeed, I dislike the name; I find
it implies so many things that I could never approve of.'

Her way of speaking the last sentence would have amused a
dispassionate critic, it was so distinctively the tone of Puritan
maidenhood. From lips like Adela's it is delicious to hear such
moral babbling. Oh, the gravity of conviction in a white-souled
English girl of eighteen! Do you not hear her say those words:
'things that I could never approve of'?

As her companion did not immediately reply, she again raised the
field-glass to her eyes and swept the prospect.

'Can you see your brother on the road?' Hubert inquired.

'No, not yet. There is a trap driving this way. Why, Alfred sitting
in it! Oh, it is Mr. Mutimer's trap I see. He must have met Alfred
at the station and have given him a ride.'

'Evidently they are great friends,' commented Eldon.

Adela did not reply. After gazing a little longer, she said--

'He will be home before I can get there.'

She screwed up the glasses and turned as if to take leave. But
Hubert prepared to walk by her side, and together they reached the
lane.

'Now I am going to run down the hill,' Adela said, laughing. 'I
can't ask you to join in such childishness, and I suppose you are
not going this way, either?'

'No, I am walking back to the Manor,' the other replied soberly. 'We
had better say good-bye. On Monday we shall leave Wanley, my mother
and I.'

'On Monday?'

The girl became graver.

'But only to go to Agworth?' she added.

'I shall not remain at Agworth. I am going to London.'

'To--to study?'

'Something or other, I don't quite know what. Good-bye!'

'Won't you come to say good-bye to us--to mother?'

'Shall you be at home to-morrow afternoon, about four o'clock say?'

'Oh, yes; the very time.'

'Then I will come to say good-bye.'

'In that case we needn't say it now, need we? It is only good
afternoon.'

She began to walk down the lane.

'I thought you were going to run,' cried Hubert.

She looked back, and her silver laugh made chorus with the joyous
refrain of a yellow-hammer, piping behind the hedge. Till the turn
of the road she continued walking, then Hubert had a glimpse of
white folds waving in the act of flight, and she was beyond his
vision.





CHAPTER VIII




Adela reached the house door at the very moment that Mutimer's trap
drove up. She had run nearly all the way down the hill, and her
soberer pace during the last ten minutes had not quite reduced the
flush in her cheeks. Mutimer raised his hat with much _aplomb_
before he had pulled up his horse, and his look stayed on her whilst
Alfred Waltham was descending and taking leave.

'I was lucky enough to overtake your brother in Agworth,' he said.

'Ah, you have deprived him of what he calls his constitutional,'
laughed Adela.

'Have I? Well, it isn't often I'm here over Saturday, so he can
generally feel safe.'

The hat was again aired, and Richard drove away to the Wheatsheaf
Inn, where he kept his horse at present.

Brother and sister went together into the parlour, where Mrs.
Waltham immediately joined them, having descended from an upper
room.

'So Mr. Mutimer drove you home!' she exclaimed, with the interest
which provincial ladies, lacking scope for their energies, will
display in very small incidents.

'Yes. By the way, I've asked him to come and have dinner with us
to-morrow. He hadn't any special reason for going to town, and was
uncertain whether to do so or not, so I thought I might as well have
him here.'

Mr. Alfred always spoke in a somewhat emphatic first person singular
when domestic arrangements were under, discussion; occasionally the
habit led to a passing unpleasantness of tone between himself and
Mrs. Waltham. In the present instance, however, nothing of the kind
was to be feared; his mother smiled very graciously.

'I'm glad you thought of it,' she said. 'It would have been very
lonely for him in his lodgings.'

Neither of the two happened to be regarding Adela, or they would
have seen a look of dismay flit across her countenance and pass into
one of annoyance. When the talk had gone on for a few minutes Adela
interposed a question.

'Will Mr. Mutimer stay for tea also, do you think, Alfred?'

'Oh, of course; why shouldn't he?'

It is the country habit; Adela might have known what answer she
would receive. She got out of the difficulty by means of a little
disingenuousness.

'He won't want us to talk about Socialism all the time, will he?'

'Of course not, my dear,' replied Mrs. Waltham. 'Why, it will be
Sunday.' 4

Alfred shouted in mirthful scorn.

'Well, that's one of the finest things I've heard for a long time,
mother! It'll be Sunday, and _therefore_ we are not to talk about
improving the lot of the human race. Ye gods!'

Mrs. Waltham was puzzled for an instant, but the Puritan assurance
did not fail her.

'Yes, but that is only improvement of their bodies, Alfred--food and
clothing. The six days are for that you know.'

'Mother, mother, you will kill me! You are so uncommonly funny! I
wonder your friends haven't long ago found some way of doing without
bodies altogether. Now, I pray you, do not talk nonsense. Surely
_that_ is forbidden on the Sabbath, if only the Jewish one.'

'Mother is quite right, Alfred,' remarked Adela, with quiet
affimativeness, as soon as her voice could be heard. 'Your Socialism
is earthly; we have to think of other things besides bodily
comforts.'

'Who said we hadn't?' cried her brother. 'But I take leave to inform
you that you won't get much spiritual excellence out of a man who
lives a harder life than the nigger-slaves. If you women could only
put aside your theories and look a little at obstinate facts! You're
all of a piece. Which of you was it that talked the other day about
getting the vicar to pray for rain? Ho, ho, ho! Just the same kind
of thing.'

Alfred's combativeness had grown markedly since his making
acquaintance with Mutimer. He had never excelled in the suaver
virtues, and now the whole of the time he spent at home was devoted
to vociferous railing at capitalists, priests, and women, his mother
and sister serving for illustrations of the vices prevalent in the
last-mentioned class. In talking he always paced the room, hands in
pockets, and at times fairly stammered in his endeavour to hit upon
sufficiently trenchant epithets or comparisons. When reasoning
failed with his auditors, he had recourse to volleys of contemptuous
laughter. At times he lost his temper, muttered words such as
'fools!'--'idiots!' and flung out into the open air. It looked as
if the present evening was to be a stormy one. Adela noted the
presage and allowed herself a protest _in limine_.

'Alfred, I do hope you won't go on in this way whilst Letty is here.
You mayn't think it, but you pain her very much.'

'Pain her! It's her education. She's had none yet, no more than you
have. It's time you both began to learn.'

It being close upon the hour for tea, the young lady of whom there
was question was heard to ring the door-bell. We have already had a
passing glimpse of her, but since then she has been honoured by
becoming Alfred's affianced. Letty Tew fulfilled all the conditions
desirable in one called to so trying a destiny. She was a pretty,
supple, sweet-mannered girl, and, as is the case with such girls,
found it possible to worship a man whom in consistency she must have
deemed the most condemnable of heretics. She and Adela were close
friends; Adela indeed, had no other friend in the nearer sense. The
two were made of very different fibre, but that had not as yet
distinctly shown.

Adela's reproof was not wholly without effect; her brother got
through the evening without proceeding to his extremest truculence.
still the conversation was entirely of his leading, consequently not
a little argumentative. He had brought home, as he always did on
Saturday, a batch of ultra periodicals, among them the 'Fiery
Cross,' and his own eloquence was supplemented by the reading of
excerpts from these lively columns. It was a combat of three to one,
but the majority did little beyond throwing up hands at anything
particularly outrageous. Adela said much less than usual. 'I tell
you what it is, you three!' Alfred cried, at a certain climax of
enthusiasm, addressing the ladies with characteristic courtesy,
'we'll found a branch of the Union in Wanley; I mean, in our
particular circle of thickheads. Then, as soon as Mutimer's
settlement gets going, we can coalesce. Now you two girls give next
week to going round and soliciting subscriptions for the "Fiery
Cross." People have had time to get over the first scare, and you
know they can't refuse such as you. Quarterly, one-and-eightpence,
including postage.'

'But, my dear Alfred,' cried Adela, 'remember that Letty and I are
_not_ Socialists!'

'Letty is, because I expect it of her, and you can't refuse to keep
her in countenance.'

The girls laughed merrily at this anticipated lordship; but Letty
said presently--

'I believe father will take the paper if I ask him. One is better
than nothing, isn't it, Alfred?'

'Good. We book Stephen Tew, Esquire.'

'But surely you mustn't call him Esquire?' suggested Adela.

'Oh, he is yet unregenerate; let him keep his baubles.'

'How are the regenerate designated?'

'Comrade, we prefer.'

'Also applied to women?'

'Well, I suppose not. As the word hasn't a feminine, call yourselves
plain Letty Tew and Adela Waltham, without meaningless prefix.'

'What nonsense you are talking, Alfred!' remarked his mother. 'As if
everybody in Wanley could address young ladies by their Christian
names!'

In this way did Alfred begin the 'propaganda' at home. Already the
village was much occupied with the vague new doctrines represented
by the name of Richard Mutimer; the parlour of the Wheatsheaf was
loud of evenings with extraordinary debate, and gossips of a higher
station had at length found a topic which promised to be
inexhaustible. Of course the vicar was eagerly sounded as to his
views. Mr. Wyvern preserved an attitude of scrupulous neutrality,
contenting himself with correction of palpable absurdities in the
stories going about. 'But surely you are not a Socialist, Mr.
Wyvern?' cried Mrs. Mewling, after doing her best to pump the
reverend gentleman, and discovering nothing. 'I am a Christian,
madam,' was the reply, 'and have nothing to do with economic
doctrines.' Mrs. Mewling spread the phrase 'economic doctrines,'
shaking her head upon the adjective, which was interpreted by her
hearers as condemnatory in significance. The half-dozen shopkeepers
were disposed to secret jubilation; it was probable that, in
consequence of the doings in the valley, trade would look up.
Mutimer himself was a centre of interest such as Wanley had never
known. When he walked down the street the news that he was visible
seemed to spread like wildfire; every house had its gazers.
Excepting the case of the Walthams, he had not as yet sought to make
personal acquaintances, appearing rather to avoid opportunities. On
the whole it seemed likely that he would be popular. The little
group of mothers with marriageable daughters waited eagerly for the
day when, by establishing himself at the Manor, he would throw off
the present semi-incognito, and become the recognised head of Wanley
society. He would discover the necessity of having a lady to share
his honours and preside at his table. Persistent inquiry seemed to
have settled the fact that he was not married already. To be sure,
there were awesome rumours that Socialists repudiated laws divine
and human in matrimonial affairs, but the more sanguine were
inclined to regard this as calumny, their charity finding a support
in their personal ambitions. The interest formerly attaching to the
Eldons had altogether vanished. Mrs. Eldon and her son were now mere
obstacles to be got rid of as quickly as possible. It was the
general opinion that Hubert Eldon's illness was purposely
protracted, to suit his mother's convenience. Until Mutimer's
arrival there had been much talk about Hubert; whether owing to Dr.
Mann's indiscretion or through the servants at the Manor, it had
become known that the young man was suffering from a bullet-wound,
and the story circulated by Mrs. Mewling led gossips to suppose that
he had been murderously assailed in that land of notorious
profligacy known to Wanley as 'abroad.' That, however, was now
become an old story. Wanley was anxious for the Eldons to go their
way, and leave the stage clear.

Everyone of course was aware that Mutimer spent his Sundays in
London (a circumstance, it was admitted, not altogether reassuring
to the ladies with marriageable daughters), and his unwonted
appearance in the village on the evening of the present Saturday
excited universal comment. Would he appear at church next morning?
There was a general directing of eyes to the Manor pew. This pew had
not been occupied since the fateful Sunday when, at the conclusion
of the morning service, old Mr. Mutimer was discovered to have
breathed his last. It was a notable object in the dim little church,
having a wooden canopy supported on four slim oak pillars with
vermicular moulding. From pillar to pillar hung dark curtains, so
that when these were drawn the interior of the pew was entirely
protected from observation. Even on the brightest days its occupants
were veiled in gloom. To-day the curtains remained drawn as usual,
and Richard Mutimer disappointed the congregation. Wanley had
obtained assurance on one point--Socialism involved Atheism.

Then it came to pass that someone saw Mutimer approach the Walthams'
house just before dinner time; saw him, moreover, ring and enter. A
couple of hours, and the ominous event was everywhere being
discussed. Well, well, it was not difficult to see what _that_
meant. Trust Mrs. Waltham for shrewd generalship. Adela Waltham had
been formerly talked of in connection with young Eldon; but Eldon
was now out of the question, and behold his successor, in a double
sense! Mrs. Mewling surrendered her Sunday afternoon nap and flew
from house to house--of course in time for the dessert wine at each.
Her cry was _haro_! Really, this was sharp practice on Mrs.
Waltham's part; it was stealing a march before the commencement of
the game. Did there not exist a tacit understanding that movements
were postponed until Mutimer's occupation of the Manor? Adela was a
very nice young girl, to be sure, a very nice girl indeed, but one
must confess that she had her eyes open. Would it not be well for
united Wanley to let her know its opinion of such doings?

In the meantime Richard was enjoying himself, with as little thought
of the Wanley gossips as of--shall we say, the old curtained pew in
Wanley Church? He was perfectly aware that the Walthams did not
represent the highest gentility, that there was a considerable
interval, for example, between Mrs. Waltham and Mrs. Westlake; but
the fact remained that he had never yet been on intimate terms with
a family so refined. Radical revolutionist though he was, he had
none of the grossness or obstinacy which would have denied to the
_bourgeois_ household any advantage over those of his own class. At
dinner he found himself behaving circumspectly. He knew already that
the cultivated taste objects to the use of a table-knife save for
purposes of cutting; on the whole he saw grounds for the objection.
He knew, moreover, that manducation and the absorption of fluids
must be performed without audible gusto; the knowledge cost him some
self-criticism. But there were numerous minor points of convention
on which he was not so clear; it had never occurred to him, for
instance, that civilisation demands the breaking of bread, that, in
the absence of silver, a fork must suffice for the dissection of
fish, that a napkin is a graceful auxiliary in the process of a meal
and not rather an embarrassing superfluity of furtive application.
Like a wise man, be did not talk much during dinner, devoting his
mind to observation. Of one thing he speedily became aware, namely,
that Mr. Alfred Waltham was so very much in his own house that it
was not wholly safe to regard his demeanour as exemplary. Another
point well certified was that if any person in the world could be
pointed to as an unassailable pattern of comely behaviour that
person was Mr. Alfred Waltham's sister. Richard observed Adela as
closely as good manners would allow.

Talking little as yet--the young man at the head of the table gave
others every facility for silence--Richard could occupy his thought
in many directions. Among other things, he instituted a comparison
between the young lady who sat opposite to him and someone--not a
young lady, it is true, but of the same sex and about the same age.
He tried to imagine Emma Vine seated at this table; the effort
resulted in a disagreeable warmth in the lobes of his ears. Yes,
but--he attacked himself--not Emma Vine dressed as he was accustomed
to see her; suppose her possessed of all Adela Waltham's exterior
advantages. As his imagination was working on the hint, Adela
herself addressed a question to him. He looked up, he let her voice
repeat itself in inward echo. His ears were still more disagreeably
warm.

It was a lovely day--warm enough to dine with the windows open. The
faintest air seemed to waft sunlight from corner to corner of the
room; numberless birds sang on the near boughs and hedges; the
flowers on the table were like a careless gift of gold-hearted
prodigal summer. Richard transferred himself in spirit to a certain
square on the borders of Hoxton and Islington, within scent of the
Regent's Canal. The house there was now inhabited by Emma and her
sisters; they also would be at dinner. Suppose he had the choice:
there or here? Adela addressed to him another question. The square
vanished into space.

How often he had spoken scornfully of that word 'lady'! Were not all
of the sex women? What need for that hateful distinction? Richard
tried another experiment with his imagination. 'I had dinner with
some people called Waltham last Sunday. The old woman I didn't much
care about; but there was a young woman--' Well, why not? On the
other hand, suppose Emma Vine called at his lodgings. 'A young woman
called this morning, sir--' Well, why not?

Dessert was on the table. He saw Adela's fingers take an orange, her
other hand holding a little fruit-knife. Now, who could have
imagined that the simple paring of an orange could be achieved at
once with such consummate grace and so naturally? In Richard's
country they first bite off a fraction of the skin, then dig away
with what of finger-nail may be available. He knew someone who would
assuredly proceed in that way.

Metamorphosis! Richard Mutimer speculates on asthetic problems.

'You, gentlemen, I dare say will be wicked enough to smoke,'
remarked Mrs. Waltham, as she rose from the table.

'I tell you what we shall be wicked enough to do, mother,' exclaimed
Alfred. 'We shall have two cups of coffee brought out into the
garden, and spare your furniture!'

'Very well, my son. Your _two_ cups evidently mean that Adela and I
are not invited to the garden.'

'Nothing of the kind. But I know you always go to sleep, and Adela
doesn't like tobacco smoke.'

'I go to sleep, Alfred! You know very well that I have a very
different occupation for my Sunday afternoons.'

'I really don't care anything about smoking,' observed Mutimer, with
a glance at Adela.

'Oh, you certainly shall not deprive yourself on my account, Mr.
Mutimer,' said the girl, good-naturedly. 'I hope soon to come out
into the garden, and I am not at all sure that my objection to
tobacco is serious.'

Ah, if Mrs. Mewling could have heard that speech! Mrs. Mewling's age
was something less than fifty; probably she had had time to forget
how a young girl such as Adela speaks in pure frankness and never
looks back to muse over a double meaning.

It was nearly three o'clock. Adela compared her watch with the
sitting-room clock, and, the gentlemen having retired, moved about
the room with a look of uneasiness. Her mother stood at the window,
seemingly regarding the sky, in reality occupying her thoughts with
things much nearer. She turned and found Adela looking at her.

'I want just to run over and speak to Letty,' Adela said. 'I shall
very soon be back.'

'Very well, dear,' replied her mother, scanning her face absently.
'But don't let them keep you.'

Adela quickly fetched her hat and left the house. It was her habit
to walk at a good pace, always with the same airy movement, as
though her feet only in appearance pressed the ground. On the way
she again consulted her watch, and it caused her to flit still
faster. Arrived at the abode of the Tews, she fortunately found
Letty in the garden, sitting with two younger sisters, one a child
of five years. Miss Tew was reading aloud to them, her book being
'Pilgrim's Progress.' At the sight of Adela the youngest of the
three slipped down from her seat and ran to meet her with laughter
and shaking of curls.

'Carry me round! carry me round!' cried the little one.

For it was Adela's habit to snatch up the flaxen little maiden, seat
her upon her shoulder, and trot merrily round a circular path in the
garden. But the sister next in age, whose thirteenth year had
developed deep convictions, interposed sharply--

'Eva, don't be naughty! Isn't it Sunday?'

The little one, saved on the very brink of iniquity, turned away in
confusion and stood with a finger in her mouth.

'I'll come and carry you round to-morrow, Eva,' said the visitor,
stooping to kiss the reluctant face. Then, turning to the
admonitress, 'Jessie, will you read a little? I want just to speak
to Letty.'

Miss Jessie took the volume, made her countenance yet sterner, and,
having drawn Eva to her side, began to read in measured tones,
reproducing as well as she could the enunciation of the pulpit.
Adela beckoned to her friend, and the two walked apart.

'I'm in such a fix,' she began, speaking hurriedly, 'and there isn't
a minute to lose. Mr. Mutimer has been having dinner with us; Alfred
invited him. And I expect Mr. Eldon to come about four o'clock. I
met him yesterday on the Hill; he came up just as I was looking out
for Alfred with the glass, and I asked him if he wouldn't come and
say good-bye to mother this afternoon. Of course I'd no idea that
Mr. Mutimer would come to dinner; he always goes away for Sunday.
Isn't it dreadfully awkward?'

'You think he wouldn't like to meet Mr. Mutimer?' asked Letty,
savouring the gravity of the situation.

'I'm sure he wouldn't. He spoke about him yesterday. Of course he
didn't say anything against Mr. Mutimer, but I could tell from his
way of speaking. And then it's quite natural, isn't it? I'm really
afraid. He'll think it so unkind of me. I told him we should be
alone, and I shan't be able to explain. Isn't it tiresome?'

'It is, really! But of course Mr. Eldon will understand. To think
that it should happen just this day!'

An idea flashed across Miss Tew's mind.

'Couldn't you be at the door when he comes, and just--just say, you
know, that you're sorry, that you knew nothing about Mr. Mutimer
coming?'

'I've thought of something else,' returned Adela, lowering her
voice, as if to impart a project of doubtful propriety. 'Suppose I
walk towards the Manor and--and meet him on the way, before he gets
very far? Then I could save him the annoyance, couldn't I, dear?'

Letty widened her eyes. The idea was splendid, but--

'You don't think, dear, that it might be a little--that you might
find it--?'

Adela reddened.

'It is only a piece of kindness. Mr. Eldon will understand, I'm
sure. He asked me so particularly if we should be alone. I really
feel it a duty. Don't you think I may go? I must decide at once.'

Letty hesitated.

'If you really advise me not to--' pursued Adela. 'But I'm sure I
shall be glad when it's done.'

'Then go, dear. Yes, I would go if I were you.'

Adela now faltered.

'You really would go, in my place?'

'Yes, yes, I'm sure I should. You see, it isn't as if it was Mr.
Mutimer you were going to meet.'

'Oh, no, no That would be impossible.'

'He will be very grateful,' murmured Letty, without looking up.

'If I go, it must be at once.'

'Your mother doesn't know he was coming?'

'No. I don't know why I haven't told her, really. I suppose we were
talking so much of other things last night. And then I only got home
just as Alfred did, and he said at once that he had invited Mr.
Mutimer. Yes, I will go. Perhaps I'll come and see you again after
church.'

Letty went back to 'Pilgrim's Progress.' Her sister Jessie enjoyed
the sound of her own voice, and did not offer to surrender the book,
so she sat by little Eva's side and resumed her Sunday face.

Adela took the road for the Manor, resisting the impulse to cast
glances on either side as she passed the houses at the end of the
village. She felt it to be more than likely that eyes were observing
her, as it was an unusual time for her to be abroad, and the
direction of her walk pointed unmistakably to one destination. But
she made no account of secrecy; her errand was perfectly simple and
with an object that no one could censure. If people tattled, they
alone were to blame. For the first time she experienced a little
resentment of the public criticism which was so rife in Wanley, and
the experience was useful--one of those inappreciable aids to
independence which act by cumulative stress on a character capable
of development and softly mould its outlines.

She passed the church, then the vicarage, and entered the hedgeway
which by a long curve led to the Manor. She was slackening her pace,
not wishing to approach too near to the house, when she at length
saw Hubert Eldon walking towards her. He advanced with a look which
was not exactly indifferent yet showed no surprise; the smile only
came to his face when he was near enough to speak.

'I have come to meet you,' Adela began, with frankness which cost
her a little agitation of breath. 'I am so very sorry to have misled
you yesterday. As soon as I reached home, I found that my brother
had invited Mr. Mutimer for to-day. I thought it would be best if I
came and told you that--that we were not quite alone, as I said we
should be.'

As she spoke Adela became distressed by perceiving, or seeming to
perceive, that the cause which had led her to this step was quite
inadequate. Of course it was the result of her having to forbear
mention of the real point at issue; she could not say that she
feared it might be disagreeable to her hearer to meet Mutimer. But,
put in the other way, her pretext for coming appeared trivial. Only
with an extreme effort she preserved her even tone to the end of her
speech.

'It is very kind of you,' Hubert replied almost warmly. 'I'm very
sorry you have had the trouble.'

As she disclaimed thanks, Eldon's tact discovered the way of safety.
Facing her with a quiet openness of look, he said, in a tone of
pleasant directness which Adela had often felt to be peculiarly his
own--

'I shall best thank you by admitting that I should have found it
very unpleasant to meet Mr. Mutimer. You felt that, and hence your
kindness. At the same time, no doubt, you pity me for my
littleness.'

'I think it perfectly natural that such a meeting should be
disagreeable. I believe I understand your feeling. Indeed, you
explained it to me yesterday.'

'I explained it?'

'In what you said about the works in the valley.'

'True. Many people would have interpreted me less liberally.'

Adela's eyes brightened a little. But when she raised them, they
fell upon something which disturbed her cheerfulness. This was the
face of Mrs. Mewling, who had come up from the direction of Wanley
and was clearly about to pay a visit at the Manor. The lady smiled
and murmured a greeting as she passed by.

'I suppose Mrs. Mewling is going to see my mother,' said Hubert, who
also had lost a little of his naturalness.

A few more words and they again parted. Nothing further was said of
the postponed visit. Adela hastened homewards, dreading lest she had
made a great mistake, yet glad that she had ventured to come.

Her mother was just going out into the garden, where Alfred's voice
sounded frequently in laughter or denunciation. Adela would have
been glad to sit alone for a short time, for Mrs. Waltham seemed to
wish for her company She had only time to glance at herself in her
looking-glass and just press a palm against each cheek.

Alfred was puffing clouds from his briar pipe, but Mutimer had
ceased smoking. Near the latter was a vacant seat; Adela took it, as
there was no other.

'What a good thing the day of rest is!' exclaimed Mrs. Waltham. 'I
always feel thankful when I think of the poor men who toil so all
through the week in Belwick, and how they must enjoy their Sunday.
You surely wouldn't make any change in _that_, Mr. Mutimer?'

'The change I should like to see would be in the other direction,'
Richard replied. 'I would have holidays far more frequent. In the
towns you can scarcely call Sunday a holiday. There's nothing to do
but to walk about the streets. On the whole it does far more harm
than good.'

'Do they never go to church?' asked Adela. She was experiencing a
sort of irritation against their guest, a feeling. traceable to more
than one source; Mutimer's frequent glances did not tend to soothe
it. She asked the question rather in a spirit of adverse criticism.

'The working people don't,' was the reply, 'except a Dissenting
family here and there.'

'Perhaps that is one explanation of the Sundays being useless to
them.'

Adela would scarcely have ventured upon such a tone in reference to
any secular matter; the subject being religion, she was of course
justified in expressing herself freely.

Mutimer smiled and held back his rejoinder for a moment. By that
time Alfred had taken his pipe from his lips and was giving
utterance to unmeasured scorn.

'But, Mr. Mutimer,' said Mrs. Waltham, waving aside her son's
vehemence, 'you don't seriously tell us that the working people have
no religion? Surely that would be too shocking!'

'Yes, I say it seriously, Mrs. Waltham. In the ordinary sense of the
word, they have no religion. The truth is, they have no time to
think of it.'

'Oh, but surely it needs no thought--'

Alfred exploded.

'I mean,' pursued his mother, 'that, however busy we are, there must
always be intervals to be spared from the world.'

Mutimer again delayed his reply. A look which he cast at Adela
appeared to move her to speech.

'Have they not their evenings free, as well as every Sunday?'

'Happily, Miss Waltham, you can't realise their lives,' Richard
began. He was not smiling now; Adela's tone had struck him like a
challenge, and he collected himself to meet her. 'The man who lives
on wages is never free; he sells himself body and soul to his
employer. What sort of freedom does a man enjoy who may any day find
himself and his family on the point of starvation just because he
has lost his work? All his life long he has before his mind the fear
of want--not only of straitened means, mind you, but of destitution
and the workhouse. How can such a man put aside his common cares?
Religion is a luxury; the working man has no luxuries. Now, you
speak of the free evenings; people always do, when they're asking
why the working classes don't educate themselves. Do you understand
what that free evening means? He gets home, say, at six o'clock,
tired out; he has to be up again perhaps at five next morning. What
can he do but just lie about half asleep? Why, that's the whole
principle of the capitalist system of employment; it's calculated
exactly how long a man can be made to work in a day without making
him incapable of beginning again on the day following--just as it's
calculated exactly how little a man can live upon, in the regulation
of wages. If the workman returned home with strength to spare,
employers would soon find it out, and workshop legislation would be
revised--because of course it's the capitalists that make the laws.
The principle is that a man shall have no strength left for himself;
it's all paid for, every scrap of it, bought with the wages at each
week end. What religion can such men have? Religion, I suppose,
means thankfulness for life and its pleasures--at all events, that's
a great part of it--and what has a wage-earner to be thankful for?'

'It sounds very shocking,' observed Mrs. Waltham, somewhat disturbed
by the speaker's growing earnestness. Richard paid no attention and
continued to address Adela.

'I dare say you've heard of the early trains--workmen's trains--that
they run on the London railways. If only you could travel once by
one of those! Between station and station there's scarcely a man or
boy in the carriage who can keep awake; there they sit, leaning over
against each other, their heads dropping forward, their eyelids that
heavy they can't hold them up. I tell you it's one of the most
miserable sights to be seen in this world. If you saw it, Miss
Waltham, you'd pity them, I'm very sure of that! You only need to
know what their life means. People who have never known hardship
often speak more cruelly than they think, and of course it always
will be so as long as the rich and the poor are two different races,
as much apart as if there was an ocean between them.'

Adela's cheeks were warm. It was a novel sensation to be rebuked in
this unconventional way. She was feeling a touch of shame as well as
the slight resentment which was partly her class-instinct, partly of
her sex.

'I feel that I have no right to give any opinion,' she said in an
undertone.

'Meaning, Adela,' commented her brother, 'that you have a very
strong opinion and stick to it.'

'One thing I dare say you are thinking, Miss Waltham,' Richard
pursued, 'if you'll allow me to say it. You think that I myself
don't exactly prove what I've been saying--I mean to say, that I at
all events have had free time, not only to read and reflect, but to
give lectures and so on. Yes, and I'll explain that. It was my good
fortune to have a father and mother who were very careful and
hard-working and thoughtful people; I and my sister and brother were
brought up in an orderly home, and taught from the first that
ceaseless labour and strict economy were the things always to be
kept in mind. All that was just fortunate chance; I'm not praising
myself in saying I've been able to get more into my time than most
other working men; it's my father and mother I have to thank for it.
Suppose they'd been as ignorant and careless as most of their class
are made by the hard lot they have to endure; why, I should have
followed them, that's all. We've never had to go without a meal, and
why? Just because we've all of us worked like slaves and never
allowed ourselves to think of rest or enjoyment. When my father
died, of course we had to be more careful than ever; but there were
three of us to earn money, fortunately, and we kept up the home. We
put our money by for the club every week, what's more.'

'The club?' queried Miss Waltham, to whom the word suggested Pall
Mall and vague glories which dwelt in her imagination.

'That's to make provision for times when we're ill or can't get
work,' Mutimer explained. 'If a wage-earner falls ill, what has he
to look to? The capitalist won't trouble himself to keep him alive;
there's plenty to take his place. Well, that's my position, or was a
few months ago. I don't suppose any workman has had more advantages.
Take it as an example of the most we can hope for, and pray say what
it amounts to! Just on the right side, just keeping afloat, just
screwing out an hour here and there to work your brain when you
ought to be taking wholesome recreation! That's nothing very grand,
it seems to me. Yet people will point to it and ask what there is to
grumble at!'

Adela sat uneasily under Mutimer's gaze; she kept her eyes down.

'And I'm not sure that I should always have got on as easily,' the
speaker continued. 'Only a day or two before I heard of my
relative's death, I'd just been dismissed from my employment; that
was because they didn't like my opinions. Well, I don't say they
hadn't a right to dismiss me, just as I suppose you've a right to
kill as many of the enemy as you can in time of war. But suppose I
couldn't have got work anywhere. I had nothing but my hands to
depend upon; if I couldn't sell my muscles I must starve, that's
all.'

Adela looked at him for almost the first time. She had heard this
story from her brother, but it came more impressively from Mutimer's
own lips. A sort of heroism was involved in it, the championship of
a cause regardless of self. She remained thoughtful with troublous
colours on her face.

Mrs. Waltham was more obviously uneasy. There are certain things to
which in good society one does not refer, first and foremost
humiliating antecedents. The present circumstances were exceptional
to be sure, but it was to be hoped that Mr. Mutimer would outgrow
this habit of advertising his origin. Let him talk of the
working-classes if he liked, but always in the third person. The
good lady began to reflect whether she might not venture shortly to
give him friendly hints on this and similar subjects.

But it was nearly tea-time. Mrs. Waltham shortly rose and went into
the house, whither Alfred followed her. Mutimer kept his seat, and
Adela could not leave him to himself, though for the moment he
seemed unconscious of her presence. When they had been alone
together for a little while, Richard broke the silence.

'I hope I didn't speak rudely to you; Miss Waltham. I don't think I
need fear to say what I mean, but I know there are always two ways
of saying things, and perhaps I chose the roughest.'

Adela was conscious of having said a few hard things mentally, and
this apology, delivered in a very honest voice, appealed to her
instinct of justice. She did not like Mutimer, and consequently
strove against the prejudice which the very sound of his voice
aroused in her; it was her nature to aim thus at equity in her
personal judgments.

'To describe hard things we must use hard words,' she replied
pleasantly, 'but you said nothing that could offend.'

'I fear you haven't much sympathy with my way of looking at the
question. I seem to you to be going to work the wrong way.'

'I certainly think you value too little the means of happiness that
we all have within our reach, rich and poor alike.'

'Ah, if you could only see into the life of the poor, you would
acknowledge that those means are and can be nothing to them.
Besides, my way of thinking in such things is the same as your
brother's, and I can't expect you to see any good in it.'

Adela shook her head slightly. She had risen and was examining the
leaves upon an apple branch which she had drawn down.

'But I'm sure you feel that there is need for doing something,' he
urged, quitting his seat. 'You're not indifferent to the hard lives
of the people, as most people are who have always lived comfortable
lives?'

She let the branch spring up, and spoke more coldly.

'I hope I am not indifferent; but it is not in my power to do
anything.'

'Will you let me say that you are mistaken in that?' Mutimer had
never before felt himself constrained to qualify and adorn his
phrases; the necessity made him awkward. Not only did he aim at
polite modes of speech altogether foreign to his lips, but his own
voice sounded strange to him in its forced suppression. He did not
as yet succeed in regarding himself from the outside and criticising
the influences which had got hold upon him; he was only conscious
that a young lady--the very type of young lady that a little while
ago he would have held up for scorn--was subduing his nature by her
mere presence and exacting homage from him to which she was wholly
indifferent. 'Everyone can give help in such a cause as this. You
can work upon the minds of the people you talk with and get them to
throw away their prejudices. The cause of the working classes seems
so hopeless just because they're too far away to catch the ears of
those who oppress them.'

'I do not oppress them, Mr. Mutimer.'

Adela spoke with a touch of impatience. She wished to bring this
conversation to an end, and the man would give her no opportunity of
doing so. She was not in reality paying attention to his arguments,
as was evident in her echo of his last words.

'Not willingly, but none the less you do so,' he rejoined. 'Everyone
who lives at ease and without a thought of changing the present
state of society is tyrannising over the people. Every article of
clothing you put on means a life worn out somewhere in a factory.
What would your existence be without the toil of those men and women
who live and die in want of every comfort which seems as natural to
you as the air you breathe? Don't you feel that you owe them
something? It's a debt that can very easily be forgotten, I know
that, and just because the creditors are too weak to claim it. Think
of it in that way, and I'm quite sure you won't let it slip from
your mind again.'

Alfred came towards them, announcing that tea was ready, and Adela
gladly moved away.

'You won't make any impression there,' said Alfred with a shrug of
good-natured contempt. 'Argument isn't understood by women. Now, if
you were a revivalist preacher--' Mrs. Waltham and Adela went to
church. Mutimer returned to his lodgings, leaving his friend Waltham
smoking in the garden.

On the way home after service, Adela had a brief murmured
conversation with Letty Tew. Her mother was walking out with Mrs.
Mewling.

'It was evidently pre-arranged,' said the latter, after recounting
certain details in a tone of confidence. 'I was quite shocked. On
_his_ part such conduct is nothing less than disgraceful. Adela, of
course, cannot be expected to know.'

'I must tell her,' was the reply.

Adela was sitting rather dreamily in her bedroom a couple of hours
later when her mother entered.

'Little girls shouldn't tell stories,' Mrs. Waltham began, with
playfulness which was not quite natural. 'Who was it that wanted to
go and speak a word to Letty this afternoon?'

'It wasn't altogether a story, mother,' pleaded the girl, shamed,
but with an endeavour to speak independently. 'I did want to speak
to Letty.'

'And you put it off, I suppose? Really, Adela, you must remember
that a girl of your age has to be mindful of her self-respect. In
Wanley you can't escape notice; besides--'

'Let me explain, mother.' Adela's voice was made firm by the
suggestion that she had behaved unbecomingly. 'I went to Letty first
of all to tell her of a difficulty I was in. Yesterday afternoon I
happened to meet Mr. Eldon, and when he was saying good-bye I asked
him if he wouldn't come and see you before he left Wanley. He
promised to come this afternoon. At the time of course I didn't know
that Alfred had invited Mr. Mutimer. It would have been so
disagreeable for Mr. Eldon to meet him here, I made up my mind to
walk towards the Manor and tell Mr. Eldon what had happened.'

'Why should Mr. Eldon have found the meeting with Mr. Mutimer
disagreeable?'

'They don't like each other.'

'I dare say not. Perhaps it was as well Mr. Eldon didn't come. I
should most likely have refused to see him.'

'Refused to see him, mother?'

Adela gazed in the utmost astonishment.

'Yes, my dear. I haven't spoken to you about Mr. Eldon, just because
I took it for granted that he would never come in your way again.
That he should have dared to speak to you is something beyond what I
could have imagined. When I went to see Mrs. Eldon on Friday I
didn't take you with me, for fear lest that young man should show
himself. It was impossible for you to be in the same room with him.'

'With Mr. Hubert Eldon? My dearest mother, what are you saying?'

'Of course it surprises you, Adela. I too was surprised. I thought
there might be no need to speak to you of things you ought never to
hear mentioned, but now I am afraid I have no choice. The sad truth
is that Mr. Eldon has utterly disgraced himself. When he ought to
have been here to attend Mr. Mutimer's funeral, he was living at
Paris and other such places in the most shocking dissipation. Things
are reported of him which I could not breathe to you; he is a bad
young man!'

The inclusiveness of that description! Mrs. Waltham's head quivered
as she gave utterance to the words, for at least half of the feeling
she expressed was genuine. To her hearer the final phrase was like a
thunderstroke. In a certain profound work on the history of her
country which she had been in the habit of studying, the author,
discussing the character of Oliver Cromwell, achieved a most
impressive climax in the words, 'He was a bold, bad man.' The
adjective 'bad' derived for Adela a dark energy from her
recollection of that passage; it connoted every imaginable phase of
moral degradation. 'Dissipation' too; to her pure mind the word had
a terrible sound; it sketched in lurid outlines hideous lurking
places of vice and disease. 'Paris and other such places.' With the
name of Paris she associated a feeling of reprobation; Paris was the
head-quarters of sin--at all events on earth. In Paris people went
to the theatre on Sunday; that fact alone shed storm-light over the
iniquitous capital.

She stood mute with misery, appalled, horrified. It did not occur to
her to doubt the truth of her mother's accusations; the strange
circumstance of Hubert's absence when every sentiment of decency
would have summoned him home corroborated the charge. And she had
talked familiarly with this man a few hours ago! Her head swam.

'Mr. Mutimer knew it,' proceeded her mother, noting with
satisfaction the effect she was producing. 'That was why he
destroyed the will in which he had left everything to Mr. Eldon; I
have no doubt the grief killed him. And one thing more I may tell
you. Mr. Eldon's illness was the result of a wound he received in
some shameful quarrel; it is believed that he fought a duel.'

The girl sank back upon her chair. She was white and breathed with
difficulty.

'You will understand now, my dear,' Mrs. Waltham continued, more in
her ordinary voice, 'why it so shocked me to hear that you had been
seen talking with Mr. Eldon near the Manor. I feared it was an
appointment. Your explanation is all I wanted: it relieves me. The
worst of it is, other people will hear of it, and of course we can't
explain to everyone.'

'Why should people hear?' Adela exclaimed, in a quivering voice. It
was not that she feared to have the story known, but mingled
feelings made her almost passionate. 'Mrs. Mewling has no right to
go about talking of me. It is very ill-bred, to say nothing of the
unkindness.'

'Ah, but it is what we have to be prepared for, Adela. That is the
world, my child. You see how very careful one has to be. But never
mind; it is most fortunate that the Eldons are going. I am so sorry
for poor Mrs. Eldon; who could have thought that her son would turn
out so badly! And to think that he would have dared to come into my
house! At least he had the decency not to show himself at church.'

Adela sat silent. The warring of her heart made outward sounds
indistinct.

'After all,' pursued her mother, as if making a great concession, 'I
fear it is only too true that those old families become degenerate.
One does hear such shocking stories of the aristocracy. But get to
bed, dear, and don't let this trouble you. What a very good thing
that all that wealth didn't go into such hands, isn't it? Mr.
Mutimer will at all events use it in a decent way; it won't be
scattered in vulgar dissipation.--Now kiss me, dear. I haven't been
scolding you, pet; it was only that I felt I had perhaps made a
mistake in not telling you these things before, and I blamed myself
rather than you.'

Mrs. Waltham returned to her own room, and after a brief turning
over of speculations and projects begotten of the new aspect of
things, found her reward for conscientiousness in peaceful slumber.
But Adela was late in falling asleep. She, too, had many things to
revolve, not worldly calculations, but the troubled phantasies of a
virgin mind which is experiencing its first shock against the
barriers of fate.





CHAPTER IX




Richard Mutimer had strong domestic affections. The English artisan
is not demonstrative in such matters, and throughout his life
Richard had probably exchanged no word of endearment with any one of
his kin, whereas language of the tempestuous kind was common enough
from him to one and all of them; for all that he clung closely to
the hearth, and nothing in truth concerned him so nearly as the
well-being of his mother, his sister, and his brother. For them he
had rejoiced as much as for himself in the blessing of fortune. Now
that the excitement of change had had time to subside, Richard found
himself realising the fact that capital creates cares as well as
removes them, and just now the centre of his anxieties lay in the
house at Highbury to which his family had removed from Wilton
Square.

He believed that as yet both the Princess and 'Arry were ignorant of
the true state of affairs. It had been represented to them that he
had 'come in for' a handsome legacy from his relative in the
Midlands, together with certain business responsibilities which
would keep him much away from home; they were given to understand
that the change in their own position and prospects was entirely of
their brother's making. If Alice Maud was allowed to give up her
work, to wear more expensive gowns, even to receive lessons on the
pianoforte, she had to thank Dick for it. And when 'Arry was told
that his clerkship at the drain-pipe manufactory was about to
terminate, that he might enter upon a career likely to be more
fruitful of distinction, again it was Dick's brotherly kindness.
Mrs. Mutimer did her best to keep up this deception.

But Richard was well aware that the deception could not be lasting,
and had the Princess alone been concerned he would probably never
have commenced it. It was about his brother that he was really
anxious. 'Arry might hear the truth any day, and Richard gravely
feared the result of such a discovery. Had he been destined to
future statesmanship, he could not have gone through a more
profitable course of experience and reasoning than that into which
he was led by brotherly solicitude. For 'Arry represented a very
large section of Demos, alike in his natural characteristics and in
the circumstances of his position; 'Arry, being 'Arry, was on the
threshold of emancipation, and without the smallest likelihood that
the event would change his nature. Hence the nut to crack: Given
'Arry, by what rapid process of discipline can he be prepared for a
state in which the 'Arrian characteristics will surely prove ruinous
not only to himself but to all with whom he has dealings?

Richard saw reason to deeply regret that the youth had been put to
clerking in the first instance, and not rather trained for some
handicraft, clerkships being about the least hopeful of positions
for a working-class lad of small parts and pronounced blackguard
tendencies. He came to the conclusion that even now it was not too
late to remedy this error. 'Arry must be taught what work meant,
and, before he came into possession of his means, he must, if
possible, be led to devote his poor washy brains to some pursuit
quite compatible with the standing of a capitalist, to acquire
knowledge of a kind which he could afterwards use for the benefit of
his own pocket. Deficient bodily vigour had had something to do with
his elevation to the office of the drain-pipe factory, but that he
appeared to have outgrown. Much pondering enabled Richard to hit at
length on what he considered a hopeful scheme; he would apprentice
'Arry to engineering, and send him in the evenings to follow the
courses of lectures given to working men at the School of Mines. In
this way the lad would be kept constantly occupied, he would learn
the meaning of work and study, and when he became of age would be in
a position to take up some capitalist enterprise. Thus he might
float clear of the shoals of black-guardism and develop into a
tolerable member of society, at all events using his wealth in the
direct employment of labour.

We have seen Richard engaged in asthetic speculation; now we
behold him busied in the training of a representative capitalist.
But the world would be a terrible place if the men of individual
energy were at all times consistent. Richard knew well enough that
in planning thus for his brother's future he was inconsistency
itself; but then the matter at issue concerned someone in whom he
had a strong personal interest, and consequently he took counsel of
facts. When it was only the world at large that he was bent on
benefiting, too shrewd a sifting of arguments was not called for,
and might seriously have interfered with his oratorical effects. In
regulating private interests one cares singularly little for
anything but hard demonstration and the logic of cause and effect.

It was now more than a month since 'Arry had been removed from the
drain-pipes and set going on his new course, and Richard was
watching the experiment gravely. Connected with it was his
exceptional stay at Wanley over the Sunday; he designed to go up to
London quite unexpectedly about the middle of the ensuing week, that
he might see how things worked in his absence. It is true there had
been another inducement to remain in the village, for Richard had
troubles of his own in addition to those imposed upon him by his
family. The Manor was now at his disposal; as soon as he had
furnished it there was no longer a reason for delaying his marriage.
In appearance, that is to say; inwardly there had been growing for
some weeks reasons manifold. They tormented him. For the first time
in his life he had begun to sleep indifferently; when he had
resolutely put from his mind thought of Alice and 'Arry, and seemed
ready for repose, there crept out of less obvious lurking-places
subtle temptations and suggestions which fevered his blood and only
allured the more, the more they disquieted him. This Sunday night
was the worst he had yet known. When he left the Walthams, he
occupied himself for an hour or two in writing letters, resolutely
subduing his thoughts to the subjects of his correspondence. Then be
ate supper, and after that walked to the top of Stanbury Hill,
hoping to tire himself. But he returned as little prepared for sleep
as he had set out. Now he endeavoured to think of Emma Vine; by way
of help, he sat down and began a letter to her. But composition had
never been so difficult; he positively had nothing to say. Still he
must think of her. When he went up to town on Tuesday or Wednesday
one of his first duties would be to appoint a day for his marriage.
And he felt that it would be a duty harder to perform than any he
had ever known. She seemed to have drifted so far from him, or he
from her. It was difficult even to see her face in imagination;
another face always came instead, and indeed needed no summoning.

He rose next morning with a stern determination to marry Emma Vine
in less than a month from that date.

On Tuesday he went to London. A hansom put him down before the house
in Highbury about six o'clock. It was a semidetached villa,
stuccoed, bow-windowed, of two storeys, standing pleasantly on a
wide road skirted by similar dwellings, and with a row of acacias in
front. He admitted himself with a latch-key and walked at once into
the front room; it was vacant. He went to the dining-room and there
found his mother at tea with Alice and 'Arry.

Mrs. Mutimer and her younger son were in appearance very much what
they had been in their former state. The mother's dress was of
better material, but she was not otherwise outwardly changed. 'Arry
was attired nearly as when we saw him in a festive condition on the
evening of Easter Sunday; the elegance then reserved for high days
and holidays now distinguished him every evening when the guise of
the workshop was thrown off. He still wore a waistcoat of pronounced
cut, a striking collar, a necktie of remarkable hue. It was not
necessary to approach him closely to be aware that his person was
sprinkled with perfumes. A recent acquisition was a heavy-looking
ring on the little finger of his right hand. Had you been of his
intimates, 'Arry would have explained to you the double advantage of
this ring; not only did it serve as an adornment, but, as playful
demonstration might indicate, it would prove of singular efficacy in
pugilistic conflict.

At the sight of his elder brother, 'Arry hastily put his hands
beneath the table, drew off the ornament, and consigned it furtively
to his waistcoat pocket.

But Alice Maud was by no means what she had been. In all that
concerned his sister, Mutimer was weak; he could quarrel with her,
and abuse her roundly for frailties, but none the less was it one of
his keenest pleasures to see her contented, even in ways that went
quite against his conscience. He might rail against the vanity of
dress, but if Alice needed a new gown, Richard was the first to
notice it. The neat little silver watch she carried was a gift from
himself of some years back; with difficulty he had resisted the
temptation to replace it with a gold one now that it was in his
power to do so. Tolerable taste and handiness with her needle had
always kept Alice rather more ladylike in appearance than the girls
of her class are wont to be, but such comparative distinction no
longer sufficed. After certain struggles with himself, Richard had
told his mother that Alice must in future dress 'as a lady'; he
authorised her to procure the services of a competent dressmaker,
and, within the bounds of moderation, to. expend freely. And the
result was on the whole satisfactory. A girl of good figure, pretty
face, and moderate wit, who has spent some years in a City showroom,
does not need much instruction in the art of wearing fashionable
attire becomingly. Alice wore this evening a gown which would not
have been out of place at five o'clock in a West-end drawing-room;
the sleeves were rather short, sufficiently so to exhibit a very
shapely lower arm. She had discovered new ways of doing her hair; at
present it was braided on either side of the forehead--a style which
gave almost a thoughtful air to her face. When her brother entered
she was eating a piece of sponge-cake, which she held to her lips
with peculiar delicacy, as if rehearsing graces.

'Why, there now!' cried Mrs. Mutimer, pleased to see her son. 'If I
wasn't saying not five minutes ago as Dick was likely to come some
day in the week! Wasn't I, Alice? What'll you have for your tea?
There's some chops all ready in the 'ouse, if you'd care for them.'

Richard was not in a cheerful mood. He made no reply immediately,
but went and stood before the fireplace, as he had been accustomed
to do in the old kitchen.

'Will you have a chop?' repeated his mother.

'No; I won't eat just yet. But you can give me a cup of tea.'

Mrs. Mutimer and Alice exchanged a glance, as the former bent over
the teapot. Richard was regarding his brother askance, and it
resulted in a question, rather sharply put--

'Have you been to work to-day?'

'Arry would have lied had he dared; as it was, he made his plate
revolve, and murmured, 'No; he 'adn't.'

'Why not?'

'I didn't feel well,' replied the youth, struggling for
self-confidence and doing his best to put on an air of patient
suffering.

Richard tapped his tea-cup and looked the look of one who reserves
discussion for a more seasonable time.

'Daniel called last night,' remarked Mrs. Mutimer. 'He says he wants
to see you. I think it's something particular; he seemed
disappointed you weren't at the meeting on Sunday.'

'Did he? I'll see if I can get round to-night. If you like to have
something cooked for me about eight o'clock, mother,' he added,
consulting his watch, 'I shall be ready for it then.'

He turned to his brother again.

'Is there a class to-night? No? Very well, when they've cleared
away, get your books out and show me what you've been doing. What
are _you_ going to do with yourself, Alice?'

The two addressed, as well as their mother, appeared to have some
special cause for embarrassment. Instead of immediately replying,
Alice played with crumbs and stole glances on either side.

'Me and 'Arry are going out,' she said at length, with a rather
timid smile and a poise of the head in pretty wilfulness.

'Not 'Arry,' Richard observed significantly.

'Why not?' came from the younger Mutimer, with access of boldness.

'If you're not well enough to go to work you certainly don't go out
at night for your pleasure.'

'But it's a particular occasion,' explained Mice, leaning back with
crossed arms, evidently prepared to do battle. 'A friend of 'Arry's
is going to call and take us to the theatre.'

'Oh, indeed! And what friend is that?'

Mrs. Mutimer, who had been talked over to compliance with a project
she felt Richard would not approve--she had no longer the old
authority, and spent her days in trying to piece on the present life
to the former--found refuge in a habit more suitable to the kitchen
than the dining-room; she had collected all the teaspoons within
reach and was pouring hot-water upon them in the slop-basin, the
familiar preliminary to washing up.

'A gen'leman as lives near here,' responded 'Arry. 'He writes for
the newspapers. His name's Keene.'

'Oh? And how came you to know him?'

'Met him,' was the airy reply.

'And you've brought him here?'

'Well, he's been here once.'

'He said as he wanted to know you, Dick,' put in Mrs. Mutimer. 'He
was really a civil-spoken man, and he gave 'Arry a lot of help with
his books.'

'When was he here?'

'Last Friday.'

'And to-night he wants to take you to the theatre?'

The question was addressed to Alice.

'It won't cost him anything,' she replied. 'He says he can always
get free passes.'

'No doubt. Is he coming here to fetch you? I shall be glad to see
him.'

Richard's tone was ambiguous. He put down his cup, and said to
Alice--

'Come and let me hear how you get on with your playing.' Alice
followed into the drawing-room. For the furnishing of the new house
Richard had not trusted to his own instincts, but had taken counsel
with a firm that he knew from advertisements. The result was
commonplace, but not intolerable. His front room was regarded as the
Princess's peculiar domain; she alone dared to use it
freely--declined, indeed, to sit elsewhere. Her mother only came a
few feet within the door now and then; if obliged by Alice to sit
down, she did so on the edge of a chair as near to the door as
possible. Most of her time Mrs. Mutimer still spent in the kitchen.
She had resolutely refused to keep more than one servant, and
everything that servant did she all Alice's objections she opposed
an obstinate silence. What herself performed over again, even to the
making of beds. To was the poor woman to do? She had never in her
life read more than an occasional paragraph of police news, and
could not be expected to take up literature at her age. Though she
made no complaint, signs were not wanting that she had begun to
suffer in health. She fretted through the nights, and was never
really at peace save when she anticipated the servant in rising
early, and had an honest scrub at saucepans or fireirons before
breakfast. Her main discomfort came of the feeling that she no
longer had a house of her own; nothing about her seemed to be her
property with the exception of her old kitchen clock, and one or two
articles she could not have borne to part with. From being a rather
talkative woman she had become very reticent; she went about
uneasily, with a look of suspicion or of fear. Her children she no
longer ventured to command; the secret of their wealth weighed upon
her, she was in constant dread on their behalf. It is a bad thing
for one such as Mrs. Mutimer to be thrown back upon herself in novel
circumstances, and practically debarred from the only relief which
will avail her--free discussion with her own kind. The result is a
species of shock to the system, sure to manifest itself before long
in one or other form of debility.

Alice seated herself at the piano, and began a finger exercise,
laboriously, imperfectly. For the first week or two it had given her
vast satisfaction to be learning the piano; what more certain sign
of having achieved ladyhood? It pleased her to assume airs with her
teacher--a very deferential lady--to put off a lesson for a fit of
languidness; to let it be understood how entirely time was at her
command. Now she was growing rather weary of flats and sharps, and
much preferred to read of persons to whom the same nomenclature was
very applicable in the books she obtained from a circulating
library. Her reading had hitherto been confined to the fiction of
the penny papers; to procure her pleasure in three gaily-bound
volumes was another evidence of rise in the social scale; it was
like ordering your wine by the dozen after being accustomed to a
poor chance bottle now and then. At present Alice spent the greater
part of her day floating on the gentle milky stream of English
romance. Her brother was made a little uneasy by this taste; he had
not studied the literature in question.

At half-past six a loud knock at the front door announced the
expected visitor. Alice turned from the piano, and looked at her
brother apprehensively. Richard rose, and established himself on the
hearthrug, his hands behind him.

'What are you going to say to him, Dick?' Alice asked hurriedly.

'He says he wants to know me. I shall say, "Here I am."'

There were voices outside. 'Arry had opened the door himself, and
now he ushered his acquaintance into the drawing-room. Mr. Keene
proved to be a man of uncertain age--he might be eight-and-twenty,
but was more probably ten years older. He was meagre, and of shrewd
visage; he wore a black frock coat--rather shiny at the back--and
his collar was obviously of paper. Incipient baldness endowed him in
appearance with a noble forehead; he carried eye-glasses.

Whilst 'Arry mumbled a form of introduction, the journalist--so Mr.
Keene described himself--stood in a bowing attitude, one hand to his
glasses, seeming to inspect Richard with extreme yet respectful
interest. When he spoke, it was in a rather mincing way, with
interjected murmurs--the involuntary overflow, as it were, of his
deep satisfaction.

'There are few persons in England whose acquaintance I desire more
than that of Mr. Richard Mutimer; indeed, I may leave the statement
unqualified and say at once that there is no one. I have heard you
speak in public, Mr. Mutimer. My profession has necessarily led me
to hear most of our platform orators, and in one respect you
distance them all--in the quality of sincerity. No speaker ever
moved me as you did. I had long been interested in your cause; I had
long wished for time and opportunity to examine into it thoroughly.
Your address--I speak seriously--removed the necessity of further
study. I am of your party, Mr. Mutimer. There is nothing I desire so
much as to give and take the hand of brotherhood.'

He jerked his hand forward, still preserving his respectful
attitude. Richard gave his own hand carelessly, smiling as a man
does who cannot but enjoy flattery yet has a strong desire to kick
the flatterer out of the room.

'Are you a member of the Union?' he inquired.

'With pride I profess myself a member. Some day--and that at no
remote date--I may have it in my power to serve the cause
materially.' He smiled meaningly. 'The press--you understand?' He
spread his fingers to represent wide dominion. 'An ally to whom the
columns of the _bourgeois_ press are open--you perceive? It is the
task of my life.'

'What papers do you write for?' asked Mutimer bluntly.

'Several, several. Not as yet in a leading capacity. In fact, I am
feeling my way. With ends such as I propose to myself it won't do to
stand committed to any formal creed in politics. Politics, indeed!
Ha, ha!'

He laughed scornfully. Then, turning to Alice--

'You will forgive me, I am sure, Miss Mutimer, that I address myself
first to your brother--I had almost said your illustrious brother.
To be confessed illustrious some day, depend upon it. I trust you
are well?'

'Thanks, I'm very well indeed,' murmured Alice, rather disconcerted
by such politeness.

'And Mrs. Mutimer? That is well. By-the-by,' he proceeded to
Richard, 'I have a piece of work in hand that will deeply interest
you. I am translating the great treatise of Marx, "Das capital." It
occurs to me that a chapter now and then might see the light in the
"Fiery Cross." How do you view that suggestion?'

Richard did not care to hide his suspicion, and even such an
announcement as this failed to move him to cordiality.

'You might drop a line about it to Mr. Westlake,' he said.

'Mr. Westlake? Oh! but I quite understood that you had practically
the conduct of the paper.'

Richard again smiled.

'Mr. Westlake edits it,' he said.

Mr. Keene waved his hand in sign of friendly intelligence. Then he
changed the subject.

'I ventured to put at Miss Mutimer's disposal certain tickets I
hold--professionally--for the Regent's Theatre to-night--the dress
circle. I have five seats in all. May I have the pleasure of your
company, Mr. Mutimer?'

'I'm only in town for a night,' Richard replied; 'and I can't very
well spare the time.'

'To be sure, to be sure; I was inconsiderate. Then Miss Mutimer and
my friend Harry--'

'I'm sorry they're not at liberty,' was Richard's answer to the
murmured interrogation. 'If they had accepted your invitation be' so
good as to excuse them. I happen to want them particularly this
evening.'

'In that case, I have of course not a word to say. save to express
my deep regret at losing the pleasure of their company. But another
time, I trust. I--I feel presumptuous, but it is my earnest hope to
be allowed to stand on the footing not only of a comrade in the
cause, but of a neighbour; I live quite near. Forgive me if I seem a
little precipitate. The privilege is so inestimable.'

Richard made no answer, and Mr. Keene forthwith took his leave,
suave to the last. When he was gone, Richard went to the
dining-room, where his mother was sitting. Mrs. Mutimer would have
given much to be allowed to sit in the kitchen; she had a room of
her own upstairs, but there she felt too remote from the centre of
domestic operations, and the dining-room was a compromise. Her chair
was always placed in a rather dusky corner; she generally had sewing
on her lap, but the consciousness that her needle was not really in
demand, and that she might just as well have sat idle, troubled her
habits of mind. She often had the face of one growing prematurely
aged.

'I hope you won't let them bring anyone they like,' Richard said to
her. 'I've sent that fellow about his business; he's here for no
good. He mustn't come again.'

'They won't heed me,' replied Mrs. Mutimer, using the tone of little
interest with which she was accustomed to speak of details of the
new order.

'Well, then, they've _got_ to heed you, and I'll have that
understood.--Why didn't 'Arry go to work to-day?'

'Didn't want to, I s'pose.'

'Has he stayed at home often lately?'

'Not at 'ome, but I expect he doesn't always go to work.'

'Will you go and sit with Alice in the front room? I'll have a talk
with him.'

'Arry came whistling at the summons. There was a nasty look on his
face, the look which in his character corresponded to Richard's
resoluteness. His brother eyed him.

'Look here, 'Arry,' the elder began, 'I want this explaining. What
do you mean by shirking your work?'

There was no reply. 'Arry strode to the window and leaned against
the side of it, in the attitude of a Sunday loafer waiting for the
dram-shop to open.

'If this goes on,' Richard pursued, 'you'll find yourself in your
old position again. I've gone to a good deal of trouble to give you
a start, and it seems to me you ought to show a better spirit. We'd
better have an understanding; do you mean to learn engineering, or
don't you?'

'I don't see the use of it,' said the other.

'What do you mean? I suppose you must make your living somehow?'

'Arry laughed, and in such a way that Richard looked at him keenly,
his brow gathering darkness.

'What are you laughing at?'

'Why, at you. There's no more need for me to work for a living than
there is for you. As if I didn't know that!'

'Who's been putting that into your head?'

No scruple prevented the lad from breaking a promise he had made to
Mr. Keene, the journalist, when the latter explained to him the
disposition of the deceased Richard Mutimer's estate; it was only
that he preferred to get himself credit for acuteness.

'Why, you don't think I was to be kept in the dark about a thing
like that? It's just like you to want to make a fellow sweat the
flesh off his bones when all the time there's a fortune waiting for
him. What have I got to work for, I'd like to know? I don't just see
the fun of it, and you wouldn't neither, in my case. You've took
jolly good care you don't work yourself, trust you! I ain't a-going
to work no more, so there it is, plain and flat.'

Richard was not prepared for this; he could not hit at once on a new
course of procedure, and probably it was the uncertainty revealed in
his countenance that brought 'Arry to a pitch of boldness not
altogether premeditated. The lad came from the window, thrust his
hands more firmly into his pockets and stood prepared to do battle
for his freeman's rights It is not every day that a youth of his
stamp finds himself gloriously capable of renouncing work. There was
something like a glow of conscious virtue on his face.

'You're not going to work any more, eh?' said his brother, half to
himself. 'And who's going to support you?' he asked, with rather
forced indignation.

'There's interest per cent. coming out of my money.'

'Arry must not be credited with conscious accuracy in his use of
terms; he merely jumbled together two words which had stuck in his
memory.

'Oh? And what are you going to do with your time?'

'That's my business. How do other men spend their time?'

The reply was obvious, but Richard felt the full seriousness of the
situation and restrained his scornful impulses.

'Sit down, will you?' he said quietly, pointing to a chair.

His tone availed more than anger would have done.

'You tell me I take good care not to do any work myself? There
you're wrong. I'm working hard every day.'

'Oh, we know what kind of work that is!'

'No, I don't think you do. Perhaps it would be as well if you were
to see. I think you'd better go to Wanley with me.'

'What for?'

'I dare say I can give you a job for awhile.'

'I tell you I don't want a job.'

Richard's eye wandered rather vacantly. From the first it had been a
question with him whether it would not be best to employ 'Arry at
Wanley, but on the whole the scheme adopted seemed more fruitful.
Had the works been fully established it would have been a different
thing. Even now he could keep the lad at work at Wanley, though not
exactly in the way he desired. But if it came to a choice between a
life of idleness in London and such employment as could be found for
him at the works, 'Arry must clearly leave town at once. In a few
days the Manor would be furnished; in a few weeks Emma would be
there to keep house.

There was the difficulty of leaving his mother and sister alone. It
looked as if all would have to quit London. Yet there would be
awkwardness in housing the whole family at the Manor; and besides--

What the 'besides' implied Richard did not make formal even in his
own thoughts. It stood for a vague objection to having all his
relatives dwelling at Wanley. Alice he would not mind; it was not
impossible to picture Alice in conversation with Mrs. and Miss
Waltham; indeed, he desired that for her. And yet--

Richard was at an awkward pass. Whithersoever he looked he saw
stumbling-blocks, the more disagreeable in that they rather loomed
in a sort of mist than declared themselves for what they were. He
had not the courage to approach and examine them one by one; he had
not the audacity to imagine leaps over them; yet somehow they had to
be surmounted. At this moment, whilst 'Arry was waiting for the
rejoinder to his last reply, Richard found himself wrestling again
with the troubles which had kept him wakeful for the last two
nights. He had believed them finally thrown and got rid of. Behold,
they were more stubborn than ever.

He kept silence so long that his brother spoke.

'What sort of a job is it?'

To his surprise, Richard displayed sudden anger.

'If you weren't such a young fool you'd see what's best for you, and
go on as I meant you to! What do you mean by saying you won't work?
If you weren't such a thickhead you might go to school and be taught
how to behave yourself, and how a man ought to live; but it's no use
sending _you_ to any such place. Can't you understand that a man
with money has to find some sort of position in the world? I suppose
you'd like to spend the rest of your life in public-houses and
music-halls?'

Richard was well aware that to give way to his temper was worse than
useless, and could only defeat every end; but something within him
just now gnawed so intolerably that there was nothing for it but an
outbreak. The difficulties of life were hedging him in--difficulties
he could not have conceived till they became matter of practical
experience. And unfortunately a great many of them were not of an
honest kind; they would not bear exposing. For a man of decision,
Mutimer was getting strangely remote from practical roads.

'I shall live as I like,' observed 'Arry, thrusting out his legs and
bending his body forward, a combination of movements which, I know
not why, especially suggests dissoluteness.

Richard gave up the contest for the present, and went in silence
from the room. As he joined his mother and sister they suddenly
ceased talking.

'Don't cook anything for me,' he said, remaining near the door. 'I'm
going out.'

'But you must have something to eat,' protested his mother.
'See'--she rose hastily--'I'll get a chop done at once.'

'I couldn't eat it if you did. I dare say you've got some cold meat.
Leave it out for me; I don't know what time I shall get back.'

'You're very unkind, Dick,' here remarked Alice, who wore a mutinous
look. 'Why couldn't you let us go to the theatre?'

Her brother vouchsafed no reply, but withdrew from the room, and
almost immediately left the house. He walked half a mile with his
eyes turned to the ground, then noticed a hansom which was passing
empty, and had himself driven to Hoxton. He alighted near the
Britannia Theatre, and thence made his way by foul streets to a
public-house called the 'Warwick Castle.' Only two customers
occupied the bar; the landlord stood in his shirt-sleeves, with arms
crossed, musing. At the sight of Mutimer he brightened up, and
extended his hand.

'How d'you do; how d'you do, sir?' he exclaimed. 'Glad to see you.'

The shake of the hands was a tribute to old times, the 'sir' was a
recognition of changed circumstances. Mr. Nicholas Dabbs, the
brother of Daniel, was not a man to lose anything by failure to
acknowledge social distinctions. A short time ago Daniel had
expostulated with his brother on the use of 'sir' to Mutimer,
eliciting the profound reply, 'D'you think he'd have 'ad that glass
of whisky if I'd called him Dick?'

'Dan home yet?' Mutimer inquired.

'Not been in five minutes. Come round, sir, will you? I know he
wants to see you.'

A portion of the counter was raised, and Richard passed into a
parlour behind the bar.

'I'll call him,' said the landlord.

Daniel appeared immediately.

'I want a bit of private talk,' he said to his brother. 'We'll have
this door shut, if you don't mind.'

'You may as well bring us a drop of something first, Nick,' put in
Richard. 'Give the order, Dan.'

'Wouldn't have 'ad it but for the "sir,"' chuckled Nicholas to
himself. 'Never used to when he come here, unless I stood it.'

Daniel drew a chair to the table and stirred his tumbler
thoughtfully, his nose over the steam.

'We're going to have trouble with 'Arry,' said Richard, who had
seated himself on a sofa in a dispirited way. 'Of course someone's
been telling him, and now the young fool says he's going to throw up
work. I suppose I shall have to take him down yonder with me.'

'Better do so,' assented Daniel, without much attention to the
matter.

'What is it you want to talk about, Dan?'

Mr. Dabbs had a few minutes ago performed the customary evening
cleansing of his hands and face, but it had seemed unnecessary to
brush his hair, which consequently stood upright upon his forehead,
a wiry rampart, just as it had been thrust by the vigorously-applied
towel. This, combined with an unwonted lugubriousness of visage,
made Daniel's aspect somewhat comical. He kept stirring very
deliberately with his sugar-crusher.

'Why, it's this, Dick,' he began at length. 'And understand, to
begin with, that I've got no complaint to make of nobody; it's only
_things_ as are awk'ard. It's this way, my boy. When you fust of all
come and told me about what I may call the great transformation
scene, you said, "Now it ain't a-goin' to make no difference, Dan,"
you said. Now wait till I've finished; I ain't complainin' of
nobody. Well, and I tried to 'ope as it wouldn't make no difference,
though I 'ad my doubts. "Come an' see us all just as usu'l," you
said. Well, I tried to do so, and three or four weeks I come
reg'lar, lookin' in of a Sunday night. But somehow it wouldn't work;
something 'ad got out of gear. So I stopped it off. Then comes 'Arry
a-askin' why I made myself scarce, sayin' as th' old lady and the
Princess missed me. So I looked in again; but it was wuss than
before, I saw I'd done better to stay away. So I've done ever since.
Y' understand me, Dick?'

Richard was not entirely at his ease in listening. He tried to
smile, but failed to smile naturally.

'I don't see what you found wrong,' he returned, abruptly.

'Why, I'm a-tellin' you, my boy, I didn't find nothing wrong except
in myself, as you may say. What's the good o' beatin' about the
bush? It's just this 'ere, Dick, my lad. When I come to the Square,
you know very well who it was as I come to see. Well, it stands to
reason as I can't go to the new 'ouse with the same thoughts as I
did to the old. Mind, I can't say as she'd ever a' listened to me;
it's more than likely she wouldn't But now that's all over, and the
sooner I forget all about it the better for me. And th' only way to
forget is to keep myself to myself,--see, Dick?'

The listener drummed with his fingers on the table, still
endeavouring to smile.

'I've thought about all this, Dan,' he said at length, with an air
of extreme frankness. 'In fact, I meant to have a talk with you. Of
course I can't speak for my sister, and I don't know that I can even
speak to her about it, but one thing I can say, and that is that
she'll never be encouraged by me to think herself better than her
old friends.' He gave a laugh. 'Why, that 'ud be a good joke for a
man in my position! What am I working for, if not to do away with
distinctions between capital and labour? You'll never have my advice
to keep away, Do you suppose I shall cry off with Emma Vine just
because I've and that you know. Why, who am I going to marry myself?
got more money than I used to have?'

Daniel's eye was upon him as he said these words, an eye at once
reflective and scrutinising. Richard felt it, and laughed yet more
scornfully.

'I think we know you better than that,' responded Dabbs. 'But it
ain't quite the same thing, you see. There's many a man high up has
married a poor girl. I don't know how it is; perhaps because women
is softer than men, and takes the polish easier. And then we know
very well how it looks when a man as has no money goes after a girl
as has a lot. No, no; it won't do, Dick.'

It was said with the voice of a man who emphasises a negative in the
hope of eliciting a stronger argument on the other side. But Richard
allowed the negative finality in fact, if not in appearance.

'Well, it's for your own deciding, Dan. All I have to say is that
you don't stay away with my approval. Understand that.'

He left Daniel idly stirring the dregs of his liquor, and went off
to pay another visit. This was to the familiar house in Wilton
Square. There was a notice in the window that dress-making and
millinery were carried on within.

Mrs. Clay (Emma's sister Kate) opened to him. She was better dressed
than in former days, but still untidy. Emma was out making
purchases, but could not be many minutes. In the kitchen the third
sister, Jane, was busy with her needle; at Richard's entrance she
rose from her chair with evident feebleness: her illness of the
spring had lasted long, and its effects were grave. The poor
girl--she closely resembled Emma in gentleness of face, but the
lines of her countenance were weaker--now suffered from pronounced
heart disease, and the complicated maladies which rheumatic fever so
frequently leaves behind it in women. She brightened at sight of the
visitor, and her eyes continued to rest on his face with quiet
satisfaction.

One of Kate's children was playing on the floor. The mother caught
it up irritably, and began lamenting the necessity of washing its
dirty little hands and face before packing it off to bed. In a
minute or two she went up stairs to discharge these duties. Between
her and Richard there was never much exchange of words.

'How are you feeling, Jane?' Mutimer inquired, taking a seat
opposite her.

'Better--oh, very much better! The cough hasn't been not near so
troublesome these last nights.'

'Mind you don't do too much work. You ought to have put your sewing
aside by now.'

'Oh, this is only a bit of my own. I'm sorry to say there isn't very
much of the other kind to do yet.'

'Comes in slowly, does it?' Richard asked, without appearance of
much interest.

'It'll be better soon, I dare say. People want time, you see, to get
to know of us.'

Richard's eyes wandered.

'Have you finished the port wine yet?' he asked, as if to fill a
gap.

'What an idea! Why, there's four whole bottles left, and one as I've
only had three glasses out of.'

'Emma was dreadfully disappointed when you didn't come as usual,'
she said presently.

Richard nodded.

'Have you got into your house?' she asked timidly.

'It isn't quite ready yet; but I've been seeing about the
furnishing.'

Jane dreamed upon the word. It. was her habit to escape from the
suffering weakness of her own life to joy in the lot which awaited
her sister.

'And Emma will have a room all to herself?'

Jane had read of ladies' boudoirs; it was her triumph to have won a
promise from Richard that Emma should have such a chamber.

'How is it going to be furnished? Do tell me.'

Richard's imagination was not active in the spheres of upholstery.

'Well, I can't yet say,' he replied, as if with an effort to rouse
himself. 'How would you like it to be?'

Jane had ever before her mind a vague vision of bright-hued drapery,
of glistening tables and chairs, of nobly patterned carpet, setting
which her heart deemed fit for that priceless jewel, her dear
sister. But to describe it all in words was a task beyond her. And
the return of Emma herself saved her from the necessity of trying.

Hearing her enter the house, Richard went up to meet Emma, and they
sat together in the sitting-room. This room was just as it had been
in Mrs. Mutimer's day, save for a few ornaments from the
mantelpiece, which the old lady could not be induced to leave behind
her. Here customers were to be received--when they came; a room
upstairs was set apart for work.

Emma wore a slightly anxious look; it showed even through her
happiness. None the less, the very perceptible change which the last
few months had wrought in her was in the direction of cheerful
activity; her motives were quicker, her speech had less of
self-distrust, she laughed more freely, displayed more of youthful
spontaneity in her whole bearing. The joy which possessed her at
Richard's coming was never touched with disappointment at his sober
modes of exhibiting affection. The root of Emma's character was
steadfast faith. She did not allow herself to judge of Richard by
the impulses of her own heart; those, she argued, were womanly; a
man must be more independent in his strength. Of what a man ought to
be she had but one criterion, Richard's self. Her judgment on this
point had been formed five or six years ago; she felt that nothing
now could ever shake it. All of expressed love that he was pleased
to give her she stored in the shrine of her memory; many a light
word forgotten by the speaker as soon as it was uttered lived still
as a part of the girl's hourly life, but his reticences she accepted
with no less devout humility. What need of repetitions? He had
spoken to her the decisive word, and it was a column established for
ever, a monument of that over which time had no power. Women are too
apt to make their fondness a source of infinite fears; in Emma
growth of love meant growth of confidence.

'Does all go well at the works?' was her first question. For she had
made his interests her own, and was following in ardent imagination
the undertaking which stamped her husband with nobility.

Richard talked on the subject for some moments; it was easier to do
so than to come at once to the words he had in mind. But he worked
round by degrees, fighting the way hard.

'The house is empty at last.'

'Is it? And you have gone to live there?'

'Not yet. I must get some furniture in first.'

Emma kept silence; the shadows of a smile journeyed trembling from
her eyes to her lips.

The question voiced itself from Richard:

'When will you be ready to go thither?'

'I'm afraid--I don't think I must leave them just yet--for a little
longer.'

He did not look at her. Emma was reading his face; the characters
had become all at once a little puzzling; her own fault, of course,
but the significance she sought was not readily discoverable.

'Can't they manage without you?' he asked. He believed his tone to
express annoyance: in fact, it scarcely did so.

'I think it won't be very long before they can,' Emma replied; 'we
have some plain sewing to do for Mrs. Robinson at the "Queen's
Head," and she's promised to recommend us. I've just called there,
and she really seems anxious to help. If Jane was stronger I
shouldn't mind so much, but she mustn't work hard just yet, and Kate
has a great deal to do with the children. Besides, Kate can't get
out of the slop sewing, and of course that won't do for this kind of
work. She'll get the stitch very soon.'

Richard seemed to be musing.

'You see'--she moved nearer to his side,--'it's only just the
beginning. I'm so afraid that they wouldn't be able to look about
for work if I left them now. Jane hasn't the strength to go and see
people; and Kate--well, you know, Richard, she can't quite suit
herself to people's fancies. I'm sure I can do so much in a few
weeks; just that'll make all the difference. The beginning's
everything, isn't it?'

Richard's eye travelled over her face. He was not without
understanding of the nobleness which housed in that plain-clad,
simple-featured woman there before him. It had shot a ray to the
secret places of his heart before now; it breathed a passing summer
along his veins at this present.

'What need is there to bother?' he said, of purpose fixing his eye
steadily on hers. 'Work 'll come in time, I dare say. Let them look
after their house.'

Perhaps Emma detected something not wholly sincere in this
suggestion. She let her eyes fall, then raised them more quickly.

'Oh, but it's far better, Richard; and we really have made a
beginning. Jane, I'm sure, wouldn't hear of giving it up. It's
wonderful what spirits she has. And she'd be miserable if she wasn't
trying to work--I know so well how it would be. Just a few weeks
longer. She really does get much better, and she says it's all "the
business." It gives her something to occupy her mind.'

'Well, it's just as you like,' said Richard, rather absently.

'But you do think it best, don't you, dear?' she urged. 'It's good
to finish things you begin, isn't it? I should feel rather
dissatisfied with myself if I gave it up, and just when everything's
promising. I believe it's what you really would wish me to do.'

'All right. I'll get the house furnished. But I can't give you much
longer.'

He continued to talk in a mechanical way for a quarter of an hour,
principally of the works; then said that he had promised to be home
for supper. and took a rather hasty leave. He called good-night to
the sisters from the top of the kitchen stairs.

Jane's face was full of joyous questioning as soon as her sister
reappeared, but Emma disclosed nothing till they two were. alone in
the bed-room. To Emma it was the simplest thing in the world to put
a duty before pleasure; she had no hesitation in telling her sister
how matters stood. And the other accepted it as pure love.

'I'm sure it'll only be a week or two before we can manage for
ourselves,' Jane said. 'Of course, people are far readier to give
you work than they would be to me or Kate. But it'll be all right
when we're once started.'

'I shall be very sorry to leave you, dear,' murmured Emma. 'You'll
have to be sure and let me know if you're not feeling well, and I
shall come at once.'

'As if you could do that!' laughed the other. 'Besides, it'll be
quite enough to keep me well to know you're happy.'

'I do hope Kate won't be trying.'

'Oh, I'm sure she won't. Why, it's quite a long time since she had
one of her worst turns. It was only the hard work and the trouble as
worried her. And now that's all over. It's you we have to thank for
it all, Em.'

'You'll have to come and be with me sometimes, Jane. I know there'll
always be something missing as long as you're out of my sight. And
you must see to it yourself that the sheets is always aired; Kate's
often so careless about that. You will promise me now, won't you? I
shall be dreadfully anxious every washing day, I shall indeed. You
know that the least thing'll give you a chill.'

'Yes, I'll be careful,' said the other, half sadly. She was lying in
her bed, and Emma sat on a chair by the side. 'But you know it's not
much use, love. I don't suppose as I shall live so very long. But I
don't care, as soon as I know you're happy.'

'Jane, I should never know happiness if I hadn't my little sister to
come and talk to. Don't think like that, don't for my sake, Janey
dear!'

They laid their cheeks together upon the pillows.

'He'll be a good husband,' Jane whispered. 'You know that, don't
you, Emmy?'

'No better in all this world! Why do you ask so?'

'No--no--I didn't mean anything. He said you mustn't wait much
longer, didn't he?'

'Yes, he did. But he'd rather see me doing what's right. I often
feel myself such a poor thing by him. I must try and show him that I
do my best to follow his example. I'm ashamed almost, sometimes, to
think I shall be his wife. It ought to be some one better than me.'

'Where would he find any one better, I'd like to know? Let him come
and ask me about that! There's no man good enough for you, sister
Emmy.'

Richard was talking with his sister Alice; the others had gone to
bed, and the house was quiet.

'I wasn't at all pleased to see that man here to-night,' he said.
'You shouldn't have been so ready to say yes when he asked you to go
to the theatre. It was like his impudence!'

'Why, what ever's the harm, Dick? Besides, we must have some
friends, and--really he looks a gentleman.'

I'll tell you a secret,' returned her brother, with a half-smile,
half-sneer. 'You don't know a gentleman yet, and you'll have to be
very careful till you do.'

'How am I to learn, then?'

'Just wait. You've got enough to do with your music and your
reading. Time enough for getting acquainted with gentlemen.'

'Aren't you going to let anybody come and see us, then?'

'You have the old friends,' replied Richard, raising his chin.

'You're thinking of Mr. Dabbs, I suppose. What did he want to see
you for, Dick?'

Alice looked at him from the corner of her eye.

'I think I'll tell you. He says he doesn't intend to come here
again. You've made him feel uncomfortable.'

The girl laughed.

'I can't help how he feels, can I? At all events, Mr. Dabbs isn't a
gentleman, is he, now?'

'He's an honest man, and that's saying a good deal, let me tell you.
I rather thought you liked him.'

'Liked him? Oh, in a way, of course. But things are different.'

'How different?'

Alice looked up, put her head on one side, smiled her prettiest, and
asked--

'Is it true, what 'Arry says--about the money?'

He had wanted to get at this, and was, on the whole, not sorry to
hear it. Richard was studying the derivation of virtue from
necessity.

'What if it is?' he asked.

'Well, it makes things more different even than I thought, that's
all.'

She sprang to her feet and danced across the room, one hand bent
over her head. It was not an ungraceful picture. Her brother smiled.

'Alice, you'd better be guided by me. I know a little of the world,
and I can help you where you'd make mistakes. Just keep to yourself
for a little, my girl, and get on with your piano and your books.
You can't do better, believe me. Never mind whether you've any one
to see you or not; there's time enough. And I'll tell you another
secret. Before you can tell a gentleman when you see him, you'll
have to teach yourself to be a lady. Perhaps that isn't quite so
easy as you think.'

'How am I to learn then?'

'We'll find a way before long. Get on with your playing and
reading.'

Presently, as they were about to leave the room, the Princess
inquired:

'Dick, how soon are you going to be married?'

'I can't tell you,' was the answer. 'Emma wants to put it off.'





CHAPTER X




The declaration of independence so nobly delivered by his brother
'Arry necessitated Richard's stay in town over the following day.
The matter was laid before a family council, held after breakfast in
the dining-room. Richard opened the discussion with some vehemence,
and appealed to his mother and Alice for support. Alice responded
heartily; Mrs. Mutimer was slower in coming to utterance, but at
length expressed herself in no doubtful terms.

'If he don't go to his work,' she said sternly, 'it's either him or
me'll have to leave this house. If he wants to disgrace us all and
ruin himself, he shan't do it under my eyes.'

Was there ever a harder case? A high-spirited British youth asserts
his intention of living a life of elegant leisure, and is forthwith
scouted as a disgrace to the family. 'Arry sat under the gross
injustice with an air of doggish defiance.

'I thought you said I was to go to Wanley?' he exclaimed at length,
angrily, glaring at his brother.

Richard avoided the look.

'You'll have to learn to behave yourself first,' he replied. 'If you
can't be trusted to do your duty here, you're no good to me at
Wanley.'

'Arry would give neither yes nor no. The council broke up after
formulating an ultimatum.

In the afternoon Richard had another private talk with the lad. This
time he addressed himself solely to 'Arry's self-interest, explained
to him the opportunities he would lose if he neglected to make
himself a practical man. What if there was money waiting for him?
The use of money was to breed money, and nowadays no man was rich
who didn't constantly increase his capital. As a great ironmaster,
he would hold a position impossible for him to attain in any other
way; he would employ hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men; society
would recognise him. What could he expect to be if he did nothing
but loaf about the streets?

This was going the right way to work. Richard found that he was
making an impression, and gradually fell into a kinder tone, so that
in the end he brought 'Arry to moderately cheerful acquiescence.

'And don't let men like that Keene make a fool of you,' the monitor
concluded. 'Can't you see that fellows like him'll hang on and make
their profit out of you if you know no better than to let them? You
just keep to yourself, and look after your own future.'

A suggestion that cunning was required of him flattered the youth to
some purpose. He had begun to reflect that after all it might be
more profitable to combine work and pleasure. He agreed to pursue
the course planned for him.

So Richard returned to Wanley, carrying with him a small
satisfaction and many great anxieties. Nor did he visit London again
until four weeks had gone by; it was understood that the pressure of
responsibilities grew daily more severe. New Wanley, as the
industrial settlement in the valley was to be named, was shaping
itself in accordance with the ideas of the committee with which
Mutimer took counsel, and the undertaking was no small one.

In spite of Emma's cheerful anticipations, 'the business' meanwhile
made little progress. A graver trouble was the state of Jane's
health; the sufferer seemed wasting away. Emma devoted herself to
her sister. Between her and Mutimer there was no further mention of
marriage. In Emma's mind a new term had fixed itself--that of her
sister's recovery; but there were dark moments when dread came to
her that not Jane's recovery, but something else, would set her
free. In the early autumn Richard persuaded her to take the invalid
to the sea-side, and to remain with her there for three weeks. Mrs.
Clay during that time lived alone, and was very content to receive
her future brother-in-law's subsidy, without troubling about the
work which would not come in.

Autumn had always been a peaceful and bounteous season at Wanley;
then the fruit trees bent beneath their golden charge, and the air
seemed rich with sweet odours. But the autumn of this year was
unlike any that had visited the valley hitherto. Blight had fallen
upon all produce; the crop of apples and plums was bare beyond
precedent. The west wind breathing up between the hill-sides only
brought smoke from newly-built chimneys; the face of the fields was
already losing its purity and taking on a dun hue. Where a large
orchard had flourished were two streets of small houses, glaring
with new brick and slate The works were extending by degrees, and a
little apart rose the walls of a large building which would contain
library, reading rooms, and lecture-hall, for the use of the
industrial community. New Wanley was in a fair way to claim for
itself a place on the map.

The Manor was long since furnished, and Richard entertained
visitors. He had provided himself with a housekeeper, as well as the
three or four necessary servants, and kept a saddle-horse as well as
that which drew his trap to and fro when he had occasion to go to
Agworth station. His establishment was still a modest one; all
things considered, it could not be deemed inconsistent with his
professions. Of course, stories to the contrary got about; among his
old comrades in London, thoroughgoing Socialists like Messrs. Cowes
and Cullen, who perhaps thought themselves a little neglected by.
the great light of the Union, there passed occasionally nods and
winks, which were meant to imply much. There were rumours of
banqueting which went on at Wanley; the Manor was spoken of by some
who had not seen it as little less than a palace--nay, it was
declared by one or two of the shrewder tongued that a manservant in
livery opened the door, a monstrous thing if true. Worse than this
was the talk which began to spread among the Hoxton and Islington
Unionists of a certain young woman in a poor position to whom
Mutimer had in former days engaged himself, and whom be did not now
find it convenient to marry. A few staunch friends Richard had, who
made it their business stoutly to contradict the calumnies which
came within their hearing, Daniel Dabbs the first of them. But even
Daniel found himself before long preferring silence to speech on the
subject of Emma Vine. He grew uncomfortable about it, and did not
know what to think.

The first of Richard's visitors at the Manor were Mr. and Mrs.
Westlake. They came down from London one day, and stayed over till
the next. Other prominent members of the Union followed, and before
the end of the autumn Richard entertained some dozen of the rank and
file, all together, paying their railway fares and housing them from
Saturday to Monday. These men. be it noted in passing, distinguished
themselves from that day onwards by unsparing detraction whenever
the name of Mutimer came up in private talk, though, of course, they
were the loudest in applause when platform reference to their leader
demanded it. Besides the expressly invited, there was naturally no
lack of visitors who presented themselves voluntarily. Among the
earliest of these was Mr. Keene, the journalist. He sent in his name
one Sunday morning requesting an interview on a matter of business,
and on being admitted, produced a copy of the 'Belwick Chronicle,'
which contained a highly eulogistic semi-biographic notice of
Mutimer.

'I feel I ought to apologise to you for this liberty,' said Keene,
in his flowing way, 'and that is why I have brought the paper
myself. You will observe that it is one of a seris--notable men of
the day. I supply the "Chronicle" with a London letter, and give
them one of these little sketches fortnightly. I knew your modesty
would stand in the way if I consulted you in advance, so I can only
beg pardon _post delictum_, as we say.'

There stood the heading in bold type, 'MEN OF THE DAY,' and beneath
it 'XI. Mr. Richard Mutimer.' Mr. Keene had likewise brought in his
pocket the placard of the newspaper, whereon Richard saw his name
prominently displayed. The journalist stayed for luncheon.

Alfred Waltham was frequently at the Manor. Mutimer now seldom went
up to town for Sunday; if necessity took him thither, he chose some
week-day. On Sunday he always spent a longer or shorter time with
the Walthams, frequently having dinner at their house. He hesitated
at first to invite the ladies to the Manor; in his uncertainty on
social usages he feared lest there might be impropriety in a
bachelor giving such an invitation. He appealed to Alfred, who
naturally laughed the scruple to scorn, and accordingly Mrs. and
Miss Waltham were begged to honour Mr. Mutimer with their company.
Mrs. Waltham reflected a little, but accepted. Adela would much
rather have remained at home, but she had no choice.

By the end of September this invitation had been repeated, and the
Walthams had lunched a second time at the Manor, no other guests
being present. On the afternoon of the following day Mrs. Waltham
and her daughter were talking together in their sitting-room, and
the former led the conversation, as of late she almost invariably
did when alone with her daughter, to their revolutionary friend.

'I can't help thinking, Adela, that in all essentials I never knew a
more gentlemanly man than Mr. Mutimer. There must be something
superior in his family; no doubt we were altogether mistaken in
speaking of him as a mechanic.'

'But he has told us himself that he was a mechanic,' replied Adela,
in the impatient way in which she was wont to speak on this subject.

'Oh, that is his modesty. And not only modesty; his views lead him
to pride himself on a poor origin. He was an engineer, and we know
that engineers are in reality professional men. Remember old Mr.
Mutimer; he was a perfect gentleman. I have no doubt the family is
really a very good one. Indeed, I am all but sure that I remember
the name in Hampshire; there was a Sir something Mutimer--I'm
convinced of it. No one really belonging to the working class ever
bore himself as Mr. Mutimer does. Haven't you noticed the shape of
his hands, my dear?'

'I've only noticed that they are very large, and just what you would
expect in a man who had done much rough work.'

Mrs. Waltham laughed noisily.

'My dear child, how _can_ you be so perverse? The shape of the
fingers is perfect. Do pray notice them next time.'

'I really cannot promise, mother, to give special attention to Mr.
Mutimer's hands.'

Mrs. Waltham glanced at the girl, who had laid down a book she was
trying to read, and, with lowered eyes, seemed to be collecting
herself for further utterance.

'Why are you so prejudiced, Adela?'

'I am not prejudiced at all. I have no interest of any kind in Mr.
Mutimer.'

The words were spoken hurriedly and with a ring almost of hostility.
At the same time the girl's cheeks flushed. She felt herself hard
beset. A network was being woven about her by hands she could not
deem other than loving; it was time to exert herself that the meshes
might not be completed, and the necessity cost her a feeling of
shame.

'But your brother's friend, my dear. Surely you ought not to say
that you have no interest in him at all.'

'I do say it, mother, and I wish to say it so plainly that you
cannot after this mistake me. Alfred's friends are very far from
being necessarily my friends. Not only have I no interest in Mr.
Mutimer, I even a little dislike him.'

'I had no idea of that, Adela,' said her mother, rather blankly.

'But it is the truth, and I feel I ought to have tried to make you
understand that sooner. I thought you would see that I had no
pleasure in speaking of him.'

'But how is it possible to dislike him? I confess that is very hard
for me to understand. I am sure his behaviour to you is perfect--so
entirely respectful, so gentlemanly.'

'No, mother, that is not quite the word to use. You are mistaken;
Mr. Mutimer is _not_ a perfect gentleman.'

It was said with much decision, for to Adela's mind this clenched
her argument. Granted the absence of certain qualities which she
held essential in a gentleman, there seemed to her no reason for
another word on the subject.

'Pray, when has he misbehaved himself?' inquired her mother, with a
touch of pique.

'I cannot go into details. Mr. Mutimer has no doubt many excellent
qualities; no doubt he is really an earnest and a well-meaning man.
But if I am asked to say more than that, it must be the truth--as it
seems to me. Please, mother dear, don't ask me to talk about him in
future. And there is something else I wish to say. I do hope you
won't be offended with me, but indeed I--I hope you will not ask me
to go to the Manor again. I feel I ought not to go. It is painful; I
suffer when I am there.'

'How strange you are to-day, Adela! Really, I think you might allow
me to decide what is proper and what is not. My experience is surely
the best judge. You are worse than unkind, Adela; it's rude to speak
to me like that.'

'Dear mother,' said the girl, with infinite gentleness, 'I am very,
very sorry. How could I be unkind or rude. to you? I didn't for a
moment mean that my judgment was better than yours; it is my
feelings that I speak of. You won't ask me to explain--to say more
than that? You must understand me?'

'Oh yes, my dear, I understand you too well,' was the stiff reply.
'Of course I am old-fashioned, and I suppose old-fashioned people
are a little coarse; _their_ feelings are not quite as fine as they
might be. We will say no more for the present, Adela. I will do my
best not to lead you into disagreeable situations through my lack of
delicacy.'

There were tears in Adela's eyes.

'Mother, now it is you who are unkind. I am so sorry that I spoke.
You won't take my words as they were meant. Must I say that I cannot
let Mr. Mutimer misunderstand the way in which. I regard him? He
comes here really so very often, and if we begin to go there too--.
People are talking about it, indeed they are; Letty has told me so.
How can I help feeling pained?'

Mrs. Waltham drew out her handkerchief and appeared mildly agitated.
When Adela bent and kissed her she sighed deeply, then said in an
undertone of gentle melancholy:

'I ask your pardon, my dear. I am afraid there has been a little
misunderstanding on both sides. But we won't talk any more of
it--there, there!'

By which the good lady of course meant that she would renew the
subject on the very earliest opportunity, and that, on the whole,
she was not discouraged. Mothers are often unaware of their
daughters' strong points, but their weaknesses they may be trusted
to understand pretty well.

The little scene was just well over, and Adela had taken a seat by
the window, when a gentleman who was approaching the front door saw
her and raised his hat. She went very pale.

The next moment there was a knock at the front door.

'Mother,' the girl whispered, as if she could not speak louder, 'it
is Mr. Eldon.'

'Mr. Eldon?' Mrs. Waltham drew herself up with dignity, then started
from her seat. 'The idea of his daring to come here!'

She intercepted the servant who was going to open the door.

'Jane, we are not at home!'

The maid stood in astonishment. She was not used to the polite
fictions of society; never before had that welcome mortal, an
afternoon visitor, been refused at Mrs. Waltham's.

'What did you say, please, mum?'

'You will say that we are not at home, neither I nor Miss Waltham.'

Even if Hubert Eldon had not seen Adela at the window he must have
been dull not to read the meaning of the servant's singular face and
tone. He walked away with a quiet 'Thank you.'

Mrs. Waltham cast a side glance at Adela when she heard the outer
door close. The girl had reopened her book.

'I'm not sorry that he came. Was there ever such astonishing
impudence? If _that_ is gentlemanly, then I must confess I--Really I
am not at all sorry he came: it will give him a lesson.'

'Mr. Eldon may have had some special reason for calling,' Adela
remarked disinterestedly.

'My dear, I have no business of any kind with Mr. Eldon, and it is
impossible that he can have any with me.'

Adela very shortly went from the room.

That evening Richard had for guest at dinner Mr. Willis Rodman; so
that gentleman named himself on his cards, and so he liked to be
announced. Mr. Rodman was invaluable as surveyor of the works; his
experience appeared boundless, and had been acquired in many lands.
He was now a Socialist of the purest water, and already he enjoyed
more of Mutimer's intimacy than anyone else. Richard not seldom
envied the easy and, as it seemed to him, polished manner of his
subordinate, and wondered at it the more since Rodman declared
himself a proletarian by birth, and, in private, was fond of
referring to the hardships of his early life. That there may be no
needless mystery about Mr. Rodman, I am under the necessity of
stating the fact that he was the son of a prosperous railway
contractor, that he was born in Canada, and would have succeeded to
a fortune on his father's death, but for an unhappy _contretemps_ in
the shape of a cheque, whereof Mr. Rodman senior (the name was not
Rodman, but the true one is of no importance) disclaimed the
signature. From that day to the present good and ill luck had
alternated in the young man's career. His fortunes in detail do not
concern us just now; there will be future occasion for returning to
the subject.

'Young Eldon has been in Wanley to-day,' Mr. Rodman remarked as he
sat over his wine after dinner.

'Has he?' said Richard, with indifference. 'What's he been after?'

'I saw him going up towards the Walthams'.'

Richard exhibited more interest.

'Is he a particular friend of theirs?' he asked. He had gathered
from Alfred Waltham that there had been a certain intimacy between
the 'two families, but desired more detailed information than his
disciple had offered.

'Well, he used to be,' replied Rodman, with a significant smile.
'But I don't suppose Mrs. W. gave him a very affectionate reception
to-day. His little doings have rather startled the good people of
Wanley, especially since he has lost his standing. It wouldn't have
mattered much, I dare say, but for that.'

'But was there anything particular up there?'

Mutimer had a careworn expression as he asked, and he nodded his
head as if in the direction of the village with a certain weariness.

'I'm not quite sure. Some say there was, and others deny it, as I
gather from general conversation. But I suppose it's at an end now,
in any case.'

'Mrs. Waltham would see to that, you mean?' said Mutimer, with a
short laugh.

'Probably.'

Rodman made his glass revolve, his fingers on the stem.

'Take another cigar. I suppose they're not too well off, the
Walthams?'

'Mrs. Waltham has an annuity of two hundred and fifty pounds, that's
all. The girl--Miss Waltham--has nothing.'

'How the deuce do you get to know so much about people, Rodman?'

The other smiled modestly, and made a silent gesture, as if to
disclaim any special abilities.

'So he called there to-day? I wonder whether he stayed long?'

'I will let you know to-morrow.'

On the morrow Richard learnt that Hubert Eldon had been refused
admittance. The information gave him pleasure. Yet all through the
night he had been earnestly hoping that he might hear something
quite different, had tried to see in Eldon's visit a possible
salvation for himself. For the struggle which occupied him more and
more had by this time declared its issues plainly enough; daily the
temptation became stronger, the resources of honour more feeble. In
the beginning he had only played with dangerous thoughts; to break
faith with Emma Vine had appeared an impossibility, and a marriage
such as his fancy substituted, the most improbable of things. But in
men of Richard's stamp that which allures the fancy will, if
circumstances give but a little encouragement, soon take hold upon
the planning brain. His acquaintance with the Walthams had ripened
to intimacy, and custom nourished his self-confidence; moreover, he
could not misunderstand the all but direct encouragement which on
one or two recent occasions he had received from Mrs. Waltham. That
lady had begun to talk to him, when they were alone together, in
almost a motherly way, confiding to him this or that peculiarity in
the characters of her children, deploring her inability to give
Adela the pleasures suitable to her age, then again pointing out the
advantage it was to a girl to have all her thoughts centred in home.

'I can truly say,' remarked Mrs. Waltham in the course of the latest
such conversation, 'that Adela has never given me an hour's serious
uneasiness. The dear child has, I believe, no will apart from her
desire to please me. Her instincts are so beautifully submissive.'

To a man situated like Mutimer this tone is fatal. In truth it
seemed to make offer to him of what he supremely desired. No such
encouragement had come from Adela herself, but that meant nothing
either way; Richard had already perceived that maidenly reserve was
a far more complex matter in a girl of gentle breeding, than in
those with whom he had formerly associated; for all he knew,
increase of distance in manner might represent the very hope that he
was seeking. That hope he sought, in all save the hours when
conscience lorded over silence, with a reality of desire such as he
had never known. Perhaps it was not Adela, and Adela alone, that
inspired this passion; it was a new ideal of the feminine addressing
itself to his instincts. Adela had the field to herself, and did
indeed embody in almost an ideal degree the fine essence of
distinctly feminine qualities which appeal most strongly to the
masculine mind. Mutimer was not capable of love in the highest
sense; he was not, again, endowed with strong appetite; but his
nature contained possibilities of refinement which, in a situation
like the present, constituted motive force the same in its effects
as either form of passion. He was suffering, too, from the _malaise_
peculiar to men who suddenly acquire riches; secret impulses drove
him to gratifications which would not otherwise have troubled his
thoughts. Of late he had been yielding to several such caprices. One
morning the idea possessed him that he must have a horse for riding,
and he could not rest till the horse was purchased and in his
stable. It occurred to him once at dinner time that there were
sundry delicacies which he knew by name but had never tasted;
forthwith he gave orders that these delicacies should be supplied to
him, and so there appeared upon his breakfast table a
_pate de foie gras_. Very similar in kind was his desire
to possess Adela Waltham.

And the voice of his conscience lost potency, though it troubled him
more than ever, even as a beggar will sometimes become rudely
clamorous when he sees that there is no real hope of extracting an
alms. Richard was embarked on the practical study of moral
philosophy; he learned more in these months of the constitution of
his inner being than all his literature of 'free thought' had been
able to convey to him. To break with Emma, to cast his faith to the
winds, to be branded henceforth in the sight of his intimate friends
as a mere traitor, and an especially mean one to boot--that at the
first blush was of the things so impossible that one does not
trouble to study their bearings. But the wall of habit once
breached, the citadel of conscience laid bare, what garrison was
revealed? With something like astonishment, Richard came to
recognise that the garrison was of the most contemptible and
tatterdemalion description. Fear of people's talk--absolutely
nothing else stood in his way.

Had he, then, no affection for Emma? Hardly a scrap. He had never
even tried 'to persuade himself that he was in love with her, and
the engagement had on his side been an affair of cool reason. His
mother had practically brought it about; for years it had been a pet
project of hers, and her joy was great in its realisation. Mrs. Vine
and she had been lifelong gossips; she knew that to Emma had
descended the larger portion of her parent's sterling qualities, and
that Emma was the one wife for such a man as Richard. She talked him
into approval. In those days Richard had no dream of wedding above
his class, and he understood very well that Emma Vine was
distinguished in many ways from the crowd of working girls. There
was no one else he wished to marry. Emma would feel herself honoured
by his choice, and, what he had not himself observed, his mother led
him to see that yet deeper feelings were concerned on the girl's
side. This flattered him--a form of emotion to which he was ever
susceptible--and the match was speedily arranged.

He had never repented. The more he knew of Emma, the more
confirmation his favourable judgments received. He even knew at
times a stirring of the senses, which is the farthest that many of
his kind ever progress in the direction of love. Of the nobler
features in Emma's character, he of course remained ignorant; they
did not enter into his demands upon woman, and he was unable to
discern them even when they were brought prominently before him. She
would keep his house admirably, would never contradict him, would
mother his children to perfection, and even would, go so far as to
take an intelligent interest in the Propaganda. What more could a
man look for?

So there was no strife between old love and new; so far as it
concerned himself, to put Emma aside would not cost a pang. The
garrison was absolutely mere tongue, mere gossip of public-house
bars, firesides, etc.--more serious, of the Socialist lecture-rooms.
And what of the girl's own feeling? Was there no sense of compassion
in him? Very little. And in saying so I mean anything but to convey
that Mutimer was conspicuously hard-hearted. The fatal defect in
working people is absence of imagination, the power which may be
solely a gift of nature and irrespective of circumstances, but which
in most of us owes so much to intellectual training. Half the brutal
cruelties perpetrated by uneducated men and women are directly
traceable to lack of the imaginative spirit, which comes to mean
lack of kindly sympathy. Mutimer, we know, had got for himself only
the most profitless of educations, and in addition nature had
scanted him on the emotional side. He could not enter into the
position of Emma deserted and hopeless. Want of money was
intelligible to him, so was bitter disappointment at the loss of a
good position; but the former he would not allow Emma to suffer, and
the latter she would, in the nature of things, soon get over. Her
love for him he judged by his own feeling, making allowance, of
course, for the weakness of women in affairs such as this. He might
admit that she would 'fret,' but the thought of her fretting did not
affect him as a reality. Emma had never been demonstrative, had
never sought to show him all that was in her heart; hence he rated
her devotion lightly.

The opinion of those who knew him! What of the opinion of Emma
herself? Yes, that went for much; he knew shame at the thought,
perhaps keener shame than in anticipating the judgment, say, of
Daniel Dabbs. No one of his acquaintances thought of him so highly
as Emma did; to see himself dethroned, the object of her contempt,
was a bitter pill to swallow. In all that concerned his own dignity
Richard was keenly appreciative; he felt in advance every pricking
of the blood that was in store for him if he became guilty of this
treachery. Yes, from that point of view he feared Emma Vine.

Considerations of larger scope did not come within the purview of
his intellect. It never occurred to him, for instance, that in
forfeiting his honour in this instance he began a process of
undermining which would sooner or later threaten the stability of
the purposes on which he most prided himself. A suggestion that
domestic perfidy was in the end incompatible with public zeal would
have seemed to him ridiculous, and for the simple reason that he
recognised no 'moral sanctions. He could not regard his nature as a
whole; he had no understanding for the subtle network of
communication between its various parts. Nay, he told himself that
the genuineness and value of his life's work would be increased by a
marriage with Adela Waltham; he and she would represent the union of
classes--of the wage-earning with the _bourgeois_, between which two
lay the real gist of the combat. He thought of this frequently, and
allowed the thought to inspirit him.

To the question of whether Adela would ever find out what he had
done, and, if so, with what result, he gave scarcely a moment.
Marriages are not undone by subsequent discovery of moral faults on
either side.

This is a tabular exposition of the man's consciousness. Logically,
there should result from it a self-possessed state of mind,
bordering on cynicism. But logic was not predominant in Mutimer's
constitution. So far from contemplating treason with the calm
intelligence which demands judgment on other grounds than the
common, he was in reality possessed by a spirit of perturbation.
Such reason as he could command bade him look up and view with scorn
the ragged defenders of the forts; but whence came this hail of
missiles which kept him so sore? Clearly there was some element of
his nature which eluded grasp and definition, a misty influence
making itself felt here and there. To none of the sources upon which
I have touched was it clearly traceable; in truth, it arose from
them all. The man had never in his life been guilty of offence
against his graver conscience; he had the sensation of being about
to plunge from firm footing into untried depths. His days were
troubled; his appetite was not what it should have been; he could
not take the old thorough interest in his work. It was becoming
clear to him that the matter must be settled one way or another with
brief delay.

One day at the end of September he received a letter addressed by
Alice. On opening it he found, with much surprise, that the contents
were in his mother's writing. It was so very rarely that Mrs.
Mutimer took up that dangerous instrument, the pen, that something
unusual must have led to her doing so at present. And, indeed, the
letter contained unexpected matter. There were numerous errors of
orthography, and the hand was not very legible; but Richard got at
the sense quickly enough.

'I write this,' began Mrs. Mutimer, 'because it's a long time since
you've been to see us, and because I want to say something that's
better written than spoken. I saw Emma last night, and I'm feeling
uncomfortable about her. She's getting very low, and that's the
truth. Not as she says anything, nor shows it, but she's got a deal
on her hands, and more on her mind. You haven't written to her for
three weeks. You'll be saying it's no business of mine, but I can't
stand by and see Emma putting up with things as there isn't no
reason. Jane is in a very bad way, poor girl; I can't think she'll
live long. Now, Dick, what I'm aiming at you'll see. I can't
understand why you don't get married and done with it. Jane won't
never be able to work again, and that Kate 'll never keep up a
dressmaking. Why don't you marry Emma, and take poor Jane to live
with you, where she could be well looked after? for she won't never
part from her sister. And she does so hope and pray to see Emma
married before she goes. You can't surely be waiting for her death.
Now, there's a good lad of mine, come and marry your wife at once,
and don't make delays. That's all, but I hope you'll think of it;
and so, from your affectionate old mother,

'S. MUTIMER.'

Richard read the letter several times, and sat at home through the
morning in despondency. It had got to the pass that he could not
marry Emma; for all his suffering he no longer gave a glance in that
direction. Not even if Adela Waltham refused him; to have a 'lady'
for his wife was now an essential in his plans for the future, and
he knew that the desired possession was purchasable for coin of the
realm. No way of retreat any longer; movement must be forward, at
whatever cost.

He let a day intervene, then replied to his mother's letter. He
represented himself as worked to death and without a moment for his
private concerns; it was out of the question for him to marry for a
few weeks yet. He would write to Emma, and would send her all the
money she could possibly need to supply the sick girl with comforts.
She must keep up her courage, and be content to wait a short while
longer. He was quite sure she did not complain; it was only his
mother's fancy that she was in low spirits, except, of course, on
Jane's account.

Another fortnight went by. Skies were lowering towards winter, and
the sides of the valley showed bare patches amid the rich-hued death
of leaves; ere long a night of storm would leave 'ruined choirs.'
Richard was in truth working hard. He had just opened a course of
lectures at a newly established Socialist branch in Belwick. The
extent of his daily correspondence threatened to demand the services
of a secretary in addition to the help already given by Rodman.
Moreover, an event of importance was within view; the New Wanley
Public Hall was completed, and its formal opening must be made an
occasion of ceremony. In that ceremony Richard would be the central
figure. He proposed to gather about him a representative company;
not only would the Socialist leaders attend as a matter of course,
invitations should also be sent to prominent men in the conventional
lines of politics. A speech from a certain Radical statesman, who
could probably be induced to attend, would command the attention of
the press. For the sake of preliminary trumpetings in even so humble
a journal as the 'Belwick Chronicle,' Mutimer put himself in
communication with Mr. Keene. That gentleman was now a recognised
visitor at the house in Highbury; there was frequent mention of him
in a close correspondence kept up between Richard and his sister at
this time. The letters which Alice received from Wanley were not
imparted to the other members of the family; she herself studied
them attentively, and with much apparent satisfaction.

For advice on certain details of the approaching celebration Richard
had recourse to Mrs. Waltham. He found her at home one rainy
morning. Adela, aware of his arrival, retreated to her little room
upstairs. Mrs. Waltham had a slight cold; it kept her close by the
fireside, and encouraged confidential talk.

'I have decided to invite about twenty people to lunch,' Richard
said. 'Just the members of the committee and a few others. It'll be
better than giving a dinner. Westlake's lecture will be over by four
o'clock, and that allows people to get away in good time. The
workmen's tea will be at half-past five.'

'You must have refreshments of some kind for casual comers,'
counselled Mrs. Waltham.

'I've thought of that. Rodman suggests that we shall get the
"Wheatsheaf" people to have joints and that kind of thing in the
refreshment-room at the Hall from half-past twelve to half-past one.
We could put up some notice to that effect in Agworth station.'

'Certainly, and inside the railway carriages.'

Mutimer's private line, which ran from the works to Agworth station,
was to convey visitors to New Wanley on this occasion.

'I think I shall have three or four ladies,' Richard pursued 'Mrs.
Westlake 'll be sure to come', and I think Mrs. Eddlestone--the wife
of the Trades Union man, you know. And I've been rather calculating
on you, Mrs. Waltham; do you think you could--?'

The lady's eyes were turned to the window, watching the sad steady
rain.

'Really, you're making a downright Socialist of me, Mr. Mutimer,'
she replied, with a laugh which betrayed a touch of sore throat.
'I'm half afraid to accept such an invitation. Shouldn't I be there
on false pretences, don't you think?'

Richard mused; his legs were crossed, and he swayed his foot up and
down.

'Well, no, I can't see that. But I tell you what would make it
simpler: do you think Mr. Wyvern would come if I, asked him?'

'Ah, now, that would be capital! Oh, ask Mr. Wyvern by all means.
Then, of course, I should be delighted to accept.'

'But I haven't much hope that he'll come. I rather think he regards
me as his enemy. And, you see, I never go to church.'

'What a pity that is, Mr. Mutimer! Ah, if I could only persuade you
to think differently about those things! There really are so many
texts that read quite like Socialism; I was looking them over with
Adela on Sunday. What a sad thing it is that you go so astray t It
distresses me more than you think. Indeed, if I may tell you such a
thing, I pray for you nightly.'

Mutimer made a movement of discomfort, but laughed off the subject.

'I'll go and see the vicar, at all events,' he said. 'But must your
coming depend on his?'

Mrs. Waltham hesitated.

'It really would make things easier.'

'Might I, in that case, hope that Miss Waltham would come?'

Richard seemed to exert himself to ask the question. Mrs. Waltham
sank her eyes, smiled feebly, and in the end shook her head.

'On a public occasion, I'm really afraid--'

'I'm sure she would like to know Mrs. Westlake,' urged Richard,
without his usual confidence. 'And if you and her brother--'

'If it were not a Socialist gathering.'

Richard uncrossed his legs and sat for a moment looking into the
fire. Then he turned suddenly.

'Mrs. Waltham, may I ask her myself?'

She was visibly agitated. There was this time no affectation in the
tremulous lips and the troublous, unsteady eyes. Mrs. Waltham was
not by nature the scheming mother who is indifferent to the upshot
if she can once get her daughter loyally bound to a man of money.
Adela's happiness was a very real care to her; she would never have
opposed an unobjectionable union on which she found her daughter's
heart bent, but circumstances had a second time made offer of
brilliant advantages, and she had grown to deem it an ordinance of
the higher powers that Adela should marry possessions. She flattered
herself that her study of Mutimer's character had been profound; the
necessity of making such a study excused, she thought, any little
excess of familiarity in which she had indulged, for it had long
been clear to her that Mutimer would some day make an offer. He
lacked polish, it was true, but really he was more a gentleman than
a great many whose right to the name was never contested. And then
he had distinctly high aims: such a man could never be brutal in the
privacy of his home. There was every chance of his achieving some
kind of eminence; already she had suggested to him a Parliamentary
career, and the idea had not seemed altogether distasteful. Adela
herself was as yet far from regarding Mutimer in the light of a
future husband; it was perhaps true that she even disliked him. But
then a young girl's likes and dislikes have, as a rule, small
bearing on her practical content in the married state; so, at least,
Mrs. Waltham's experience led her to believe. Only, it was clear
that there must be no precipitancy. Let the ground be thoroughly
prepared.

'May I advise you, Mr. Mutimer?' she said, in a lowered voice,
bending forward. 'Let me deliver the invitation. I think it would be
better, really. We shall see whether you can persuade Mr. Wyvern to
be present. I promise you to---n fact, not to interpose any obstacle
if Adela thinks she can be present at the lunch.'

'Then I'll leave it so,' said Richard, more cheerfully. Mrs. Waltham
could see that his nerves were in a dancing state. Really, he had
much fine feeling.





CHAPTER XI




It being only midday, Richard directed his steps at once to the
Vicarage, and had the good fortune to find Mr. Wyvern within.

'Be seated, Mr. Mutimer; I'm, glad to see you,' was the vicar's
greeting.

Their mutual intercourse had as yet been limited to an exchange of
courtesies in public, and one or two casual meetings at the
Walthams' house. Richard had felt shy of the vicar, whom he
perceived to be a clergyman of other than the weak-brained type, and
the circumstances of the case would not allow Mr. Wyvern to make
advances. The latter proceeded with friendliness of tone, speaking
of the progress of New Wanley.

'That's what I've come to see you about,' said Richard, trying to
put himself at ease by mentally comparing his own worldly estate
with that of his interlocutor, yet failing as often as he felt the
scrutiny of the vicar's dark-gleaming eye. 'We are going to open the
Hall.' He added details. 'I shall have a number of friends who are
interested in our undertaking to lunch with me on that day. I wish
to ask if you will give us the pleasure of your company.'

Mr. Wyvern reflected for a moment.

'Why, no, sir,' he replied at length, using the Johnsonian phrase
with grave courtesy. 'I'm afraid I cannot acknowledge your kindness
as I should wish to. Personally, I would accept your hospitality
with pleasure, but my position here, as I understand it, forbids me
to join you on that particular occasion.'

'Then personally you are not hostile to me, Mr. Wyvern?'

'To you personally, by no means.'

'But you don't like the movement?'

'In so far as it has the good of men in view it interests me, and I
respect its supporters.'

'But you think we go the wrong way to work?'

'That is my opinion, Mr. Mutimer.'

'What would you have us do?'

'To see faults is a much easier thing than to originate a sound
scheme. I am far from prepared with any plan of social
reconstruction.'

Nor could Mr. Wyvern be moved from the negative attitude, though
Mutimer pressed him.

'Well, I'm sorry you won't come,' Richard said as he rose to take
his leave. 'It didn't strike me that you would feel out of place.'

'Nor should I. But you will understand that my opportunities of
being useful in the village depend on the existence of sympathetic
feeling in my parishioners. It is my duty to avoid any behaviour
which could be misinterpreted.'

'Then you deliberately adapt yourself to the prejudices of
unintelligent people?'

'I do so, deliberately,' assented the vicar, with one of his
fleeting smiles.

Richard went away feeling sorry that he had courted this rejection.
He would never have thought of inviting a 'parson' but for Mrs.
Waltham's suggestion. After all, it it mattered little whether Adela
came to the luncheon or not. He had desired her presence because he
wished her to see him as an entertainer of guests such as the
Westlakes. whom she would perceive to be people of refinement; it
occurred to him, too, that such an occasion might aid his snit by
exciting her ambition; for he was anything but confident of
immediate success with Adela, especially since recent conversations
with Mrs. Waltham. But in any case she would attend the afternoon
ceremony, when his glory would be proclaimed.

Mrs. Waltham was anxiously meditative of plans for bringing Adela to
regard her Socialist wooer with more favourable eyes. She, too, had
hopes that Mutimer's fame in the mouths of men might prove an
attraction, yet she suspected a strength of principle in Adela which
might well render all such hopes vain. And she thought it only too
likely, though observation gave her no actual assurance of this,
that the girl still thought of Hubert Eldon in a way to render it
doubly hard for any other man to make an impression upon her. It was
dangerous, she knew, to express her abhorrence of Hubert too
persistently; yet, on the other hand, she was convinced that Adela
had been so deeply shocked by the revelations of Hubert's wickedness
that her moral nature would be in arms against her lingering
inclination. After much mental wear and tear, she decided to adopt
the strong course of asking Alfred's assistance. Alfred was sure to
view the proposed match with hearty approval, and, though he might
not have much influence directly, he could in all probability secure
a potent ally in the person of Letty Tew. This was rather a
brilliant idea; Mrs. Waltham waited impatiently for her son's return
from Belwick on Saturday.

She broached the subject to him with much delicacy.

'I am so convinced, Alfred, that it would be for your sister's
happiness. There really is no harm whatever in aiding her
inexperience; that is all that I wish to do. I'm sure you understand
me?'

'I understand well enough,' returned the young man; 'but if you
convince Adela against her will you'll do a clever thing. You've
been so remarkably successful in closing her mind against all
arguments of reason--'

'Now, Alfred, do not begin and talk in that way! It has nothing
whatever to do with the matter. This is entirely a personal
question.'

'Nothing of the kind. It's a question of religious prejudice. She
hates Mutimer because he doesn't go to church, there's the long and
short of it.'

'Adela very properly condemns his views, but that's quite a
different thing from hating him.'

'Oh dear, no; they're one and the same thing. Look at the history of
persecution. She would like to see him--and me too, I dare
say--brought to the stake.'

'Well, well, of course if you won't talk sensibly I had something to
propose.'

'Let me hear it, then.'

'You yourself agree with me that there would be nothing to repent in
urging her.'

'On the contrary, I think she might consider herself precious lucky.
It's only that'--he looked dubious for a moment--'I'm not quite sure
whether she's the kind of girl to be content with a husband she
found she couldn't convert. I can imagine her marrying a rake on the
hope of bringing him to regular churchgoing, but then Mutimer
doesn't happen to be a blackguard, so he isn't very interesting to
her.'

'I know what you're thinking of, but I don't think we need take that
into account. And, indeed, we can't afford to take anything into
account but her establishment in a respectable and happy home. Our
choice, as you are aware, is not a wide one. I am often deeply
anxious about the poor girl.'

'I dare say. Well, what was your proposal?'

'Do you think Letty could help us?'

'H'm, can't say. Might or might not. She's as bad as Adela. Ten to
one it'll be a point of conscience with her to fight the project
tooth and nail.'

'I don't think so. She has accepted you.'

'So she has, to my amazement. Women are monstrously illogical. She
must think of my latter end with mixed feelings.'

'I do wish you were less flippant in dealing with grave subjects,
Alfred. I assure you I am very much troubled. I feel that so much is
at stake, and yet the responsibility of doing anything is so very
great.'

'Shall I talk it over with Letty?'

'If you feel able to. But Adela would be very seriously offended if
she guessed that you had done so.'

'Then she mustn't guess, that's all. I'll see what I can do
to-night.'

In the home of the Tews there was some difficulty in securing
privacy. The house was a small one, and the sacrifice of general
convenience when Letty wanted a whole room for herself and Alfred
was considerable. To-night it was managed, however; the front
parlour was granted to the pair for one hour.

It could not be said that there was much delicacy in Alfred's way of
approaching the subject he wished to speak of. This young man had a
scorn of periphrases. If a topic had to be handled, why not be
succinct in the handling? Alfred was of opinion that much time was
lost by mortals in windy talk.

'Look here, Letty; what's your idea about Adela marrying Mutimer?'

The girl looked startled.

'She has not accepted him?'

'Not yet. Don't you think it would be a good thing if she did?'

'I really can't say,' Letty replied very gravely, her head aside. 'I
don't think any one can judge but Adela herself. Really, Alfred, I
don't think we ought to interfere.'

'But suppose I ask you to try and get her to see the affair
sensibly?'

'Sensibly? What a word to use!'

'The right word, I think.'

'What a vexatious boy you are! You don't really think so at all. You
only speak so because you like to tease me.'

'Well, you certainly do look pretty when you're defending the
castles in the air. Give me a kiss.'

'Indeed, I shall not. Tell me seriously what you mean. What does
Mrs. Waltham think about it?'

'Give me a kiss, and I'll tell you. If not, I'll go away and leave
you to find out everything as best you can.'

'Oh, Alfred, you're a sad tyrant!'

'Of course I am. But it's a benevolent despotism. Well, mother wants
Adela to accept him. In fact, she asked me if I didn't think you'd
help us. Of course I said you would.'

'Then you were very hasty. I'm not joking now, Alfred. I think of
Adela in a way you very likely can't understand. It would be
shocking, oh! shocking, to try and make her marry him if she doesn't
really wish to.'

'No fear! We shan't manage that.'

'And surely wouldn't wish to?'

'I don't know. Girls often can't see what's best for them. I say,
you understand that all this is in confidence?'

'Of course I do. But it's a confidence I had rather not have
received. I shall be miserable, I know that.'

'Then you're a little--goose.'

'You were going to call me something far worse.'

'Give me credit, then, for correcting myself. You'll have to help
us, Lettycoco.'

The girl kept silence. Then for a time the conversation became
graver. It was interrupted precisely at the end of the granted hour.

Letty went to see her friend on Sunday afternoon, and the two shut
themselves up in the dainty little chamber. Adela was in low
spirits; with her a most unusual state. She sat with her hands
crossed on her lap, and the sunny light of her eyes was dimmed. When
she had tried for a while to talk of ordinary things, Letty saw a
tear glisten upon her cheek.

'What is the matter, love?'

Adela was in sore need of telling her troubles, and Letty was the
only one to whom she could do so. In such spirit-gentle words as
could express the perplexities of her mind she told what a source of
pain her mother's conversation had been to her of late, and how she
dreaded what might still be to come.

'It is so dreadful to think, Letty, that mother is encouraging him.
She thinks it is for my happiness; she is offended if I try to say
what I suffer. Oh, I couldn't! I couldn't!'

She put her palms before her face; her maidenhood shamed to speak of
these things even to her bosom friend.

'Can't you show him, darling, that--that he mustn't hope anything?'

'How can I do so? It is impossible to be rude, and everything else
it is so easy to misunderstand.'

'But when he really speaks, then it will come to an end.'

'I shall grieve mother so, Letty. I feel as if the best of my life
had gone by. Everything seemed so smooth. Oh, why did he fall so,
Letty? and I thought he cared for me, dear.'

She whispered it, her face on her friend's shoulder.

'Try to forget, darling; try!'

'Oh, as if I didn't try night and day! I know it is so wrong to give
a thought. How could he speak to me as he did that day when I met
him on the hill, and again when I went just to save him an
annoyance? He was almost the same as before, only I thought him a
little sad from his illness. He had no right to talk to me in that
way! Oh, I feel wicked, that I can't forget; I hate myself for
still--for still--'

There was a word Letty could not hear, only her listening heart
divined it.

'Dear Adela! pray for strength, and it will be sure to come to you.
How hard it is to know myself so happy when you have so much
trouble!'

'I could have borne it better but for this new pain. I don't think I
should ever have shown it; even you wouldn't have known all I felt,
Letty. I should have hoped for him--I don't mean hoped on my own
account, but that he might know how wicked he had been. How--how can
a man do things so unworthy of himself, when it's so beautiful to be
good and faithful? I think he did care a little for me once, Letty.'

'Don't let us talk of him, pet.'

'You are right; we mustn't. His name ought never to pass my lips,
only in my prayers.'

She grew calmer, and they sat hand in hand.

'Try to make your mother understand,' advised Letty. 'Say that it is
impossible you should ever accept him.'

'She won't believe that, I'm sure she won't. And to think that, even
if I did it only to please her, people would believe I had married
him because he is rich!'

Letty spoke with more emphasis than hitherto.

'But you cannot and must not do such a thing to please any one,
Adela! It is wrong even to think of it. Nothing, nothing can justify
that.'

How strong she was in the purity of her own love, good little Letty!
So they talked together, and mingled their tears, and the room was
made a sacred place as by the presence of sorrowing angels.





CHAPTER XII




The New Wanley Lecture Hall had been publicly dedicated to the
service of the New Wanley Commonwealth, and only in one respect did
the day's proceedings fall short of Mutimer's expectations. He had
hoped to have all the Waltham family at his luncheon party, but in
the event Alfred alone felt himself able to accept the invitation.
Mutimer had even nourished the hope that something might happen
before that day to allow of Adela's appearing not merely in the
character of a guest, but, as it were, _ex officio_. By this time he
had resolutely forbidden his eyes to stray to the right hand or the
left, and kept them directed with hungry, relentless steadiness
straight along the path of his desires. He had received no second
letter from his mother, nor had Alice anything to report of
danger-signals at home; from Emma herself came a letter regularly
once a week, a letter of perfect patience, chiefly concerned with
her sister's health. He had made up his mind to declare nothing till
the irretrievable step was taken, when reproaches only could befall
him; to Alice as little as to any one else had he breathed of his
purposes. And he could no longer even take into account the
uncertainty of his success; to doubt of that would have been
insufferable at the point which he had reached in self-abandonment.
Yet day after day saw the postponement of the question which would
decide his fate. Between him and Mrs. Waltham the language of
allusion was at length put aside; he spoke plainly of his wishes,
and sought her encouragement. This was not wanting, but the mother
begged for time. Let the day of the ceremony come and go.

Richard passed through it in a state of exaltation and anxiety which
bordered on fever. Mr. Westlake and his wife came down from London
by an early train, and he went over New Wanley with them before
luncheon. The luncheon itself did not lack festive vivacity;
Richard, in surveying his guests from the head of the board, had
feelings not unlike those wherein King Polycrates lulled himself of
old; there wanted, in truth, one thing to complete his
self-complacence, but an extra glass or two of wine enrubied his
imagination, and he already saw Adela's face smiling to him from the
table's unoccupied end. What was such conquest in comparison with
that which fate had accorded him?

There was a satisfactory gathering to hear Mr. Westlake's address;
Richard did not fail to note the presence of a few reporters, only
it seemed to him that their pencils might have been more active.
Here, too, was Adela at length; every time his name was uttered,
perforce she heard; every encomium bestowed upon him by the various
speakers was to him like a new bud on the tree of hope. After all,
why should he feel this humility towards her? What man of
prominence, of merit, at all like his own would ever seek her hand?
The semblance of chivalry which occasionally stirred within him was,
in fact, quite inconsistent with his reasoned view of things; the
English working class has, on the whole, as little of that quality
as any other people in an elementary stage of civilisation. He was a
man, she a woman. A lady, to be sure, but then--

After Mutimer, Alfred Waltham had probably more genuine satisfaction
in the ceremony than any one else present. Mr. Westlake he was not
quite satisfied with; there was a mildness and restraint about the
style of the address which to Alfred's taste smacked of feebleness;
he was for Cambyses' vein. Still it rejoiced him to hear the noble
truths of democracy delivered as it were from the bema. To a certain
order of intellect the word addressed by the living voice to an
attentive assembly is always vastly impressive; when the word
coincides with private sentiment it excites enthusiasm. Alfred hated
the aristocratic order of things with a rabid hatred. In practice he
could be as coarsely overbearing with his social inferiors as that
scion of the nobility--existing of course somewhere--who bears the
bell for feebleness of the pia mater; but that made him none the
less a sound Radical. In thinking of the upper classes he always
thought of Hubert Eldon, and that name was scarlet to him. Never
trust the thoroughness of the man who is a revolutionist on abstract
principles; personal feeling alone goes to the root of the matter.

Many were the gentlemen to whom Alfred had the happiness of being
introduced in the course of the day. Among others was Mr. Keene the
journalist. At the end of a lively conversation Mr. Keene brought
out a copy of the 'Belwick Chronicle,' that day's issue.

'You'll find a few things of mine here,' he said. 'Put it in your
pocket, and look at it afterwards. By-the-by, there is a paragraph
marked; I meant it for Mutimer. Never mind, give it him when you've
done with it.'

Alfred bestowed the paper in the breast pocket of his greatcoat, and
did not happen to think of it again till late that evening. His
discovery of it at length was not the only event of the day which
came just too late for the happiness of one with whose fortunes we
are concerned.

A little after dark, when the bell was ringing which summoned
Mutimer's workpeople to the tea provided for them, Hubert Eldon was
approaching the village by the road from Agworth: he was on foot,
and had chosen his time in order to enter Wanley unnoticed. His
former visit, when he was refused at the Walthams' door, had been
paid at an impulse; he had come down from London by an early train,
and did not even call to see his mother at her new house in Agworth.
Nor did ho visit her on his way back; he walked straight to the
railway station and took the first train townwards. To-day he came
in a more leisurely way. It was certain news contained in a letter
from his mother which brought him, and with her he spent some hours
before starting to walk towards Wanley.

'I hear,' Mrs. Eldon had written, 'from Wanley something which
really surprises me. They say that Adela Waltham is going to marry
Mr. Mutimer. The match is surely a very strange one. I am only
fearful that it is the making of interested people, and that the
poor girl herself has not had much voice in deciding her own fate.
Oh, this money! Adela was worthy of better things.'

Mrs. Eldon saw her son with surprise, the more so that she divined
the cause of his coming. When they had talked for a while, Hubert
frankly admitted what it was that had brought him.

'I must know,' he said, 'whether the news from Wanley is true'

'But can it concern you, Hubert?' his mother asked gently.

He made no direct reply, but expressed his intention of going over
to Wanley.

'Whom shall you visit, dear?'

'Mr. Wyvern.'

'The vicar? But you don't know him personally.'

'Yes, I know him pretty well. We write to each other occasionally.'

Mrs. Eldon always practised most reserve when her surprise was
greatest--an excellent rule, by-the-by, for general observation.
She looked at her son with a half-smile of wonder, but only said
'Indeed?'

'I had made his acquaintance before his coming to Wanley,' Hubert
explained.

His mother just bent her head, acquiescent. And with that their
conversation on the subject ended. But Hubert received a tender kiss
on his cheek when he set forth in the afternoon.

To one entering the valley after nightfall the situation of the
much-discussed New Wanley could no longer be a source of doubt. Two
blast-furnaces sent up their flare and lit luridly the devastated
scene. Having glanced in that direction Hubert did his best to keep
his eyes averted during the remainder of the walk. He was surprised
to see a short passenger train rush by on the private line
connecting the works with Agworth station; it was taking away
certain visitors who had lingered in New Wanley after the lecture.
Knowing nothing of the circumstances, he supposed that general
traffic had been commenced. He avoided the village street, and
reached the Vicarage by a path through fields.

He found the vicar at dinner, though it was only half-past six. The
welcome he received was, in Mr. Wyvern's manner, almost silent; but
when he had taken a place at the table he saw satisfaction on his
host's face. The meal was very plain, but the vicar ate with
extraordinary appetite; he was one of those men in whom the demands
of the stomach seem to be in direct proportion to the activity of
the brain. A question Hubert put about the train led to a brief
account of what was going on. Mr. Wyvern spoke on the subject with a
gravity which was not distinctly ironical, but suggested criticism.

They repaired to the study. A volume of Plato was open on the
reading-table.

'Do you remember Socrates' prayer in the "Phaedrus"?' said the
vicar, bending affectionately over the page. He read a few words of
the Greek, then gave a free rendering. 'Beloved Pan, and all ye
other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul;
and may the outward and inward be at one. May I esteem the wise
alone wealthy, and may I have such abundance of wealth as none but
the temperate can carry.'

He paused a moment.

'Ah, when I came hither I hoped to find Pan undisturbed. Well, well,
after all, Hephaestus was one of the gods.'

'How I envy you your quiet mind!' said Hubert.

'Quiet? Nay, not always so. Just now I am far from at peace. What
brings you hither to-day?'

The equivoque was obviated by Mr. Wyvern's tone.

'I have heard stories about Adela Waltham. Is there any truth in
them?'

'I fear so; I fear so.'

'That she is really going to marry Mr. Mutimer?'

He tried to speak the name without discourtesy, but his lips writhed
after it.

'I fear she is going to marry him,' said the vicar deliberately.

Hubert held his peace.

'It troubles me. It angers me,' said Mr. Wyvern. 'I am angry with
more than one.'

'Is there an engagement?'

'I am unable to say. Tattle generally gets ahead of fact.'

'It is monstrous!' burst from the young man. 'They are taking
advantage of her innocence. She is a child. Why do they educate
girls like that? I should say, how can they leave them so
uneducated? In an ideal world it would be all very well, but see
what comes of it here? She is walking with her eyes open into
horrors and curses, and understands as little of what awaits her as
a lamb led to butchery. Do you stand by and say nothing?'

'It surprises me that you are so affected,' remarked the vicar
quietly.

'No doubt. I can't reason about it. But I know that my life will be
hideous if this goes on to the end.'

'You are late.'

'Yes, I am late. I was in Wanley some weeks ago; I did not tell you
of it. I called at their house; they were not at home to me. Yet
Adela was sitting at the window. What did that mean? Is her mother
so contemptible that my change of fortune leads her to treat me in
that way?'

'But does no other reason occur to you?' asked Mr. Wyvern, with
grave surprise.

'Other reason! What other?'

'You must remember that gossip is active.'

'You mean that they have heard abou--?'

'Somehow it had become the common talk of the village very shortly
after my arrival here.'

Hubert dropped his eyes in bewilderment.

'Then they think me unfit to associate with them? She--Adela will
look upon me as a vile creature! But it wasn't so when I saw her
immediately after my illness. She talked freely and with just the
same friendliness as before.'

'Probably she had heard nothing then.'

'And her mother only began to poison her mind when it was
advantageous to do so?'

Hubert laughed bitterly.

'Well, there is an end of it,' he pursued. 'Yes, I was forgetting
all that. Oh, it is quite intelligible; I don't blame them. By all
means let her be preserved from contagion! Pooh! I don't know my own
mind. Old fancies that I used to have somehow got hold of me again
If I ever marry, it must be a woman of the world, a woman with brain
and heart to judge human nature. It is gone, as if I had never had
such a thought. Poor child, to be sure; but that's all one can say.'

His tone was. as far from petulance as could be. Hubert's emotions
were never feebly coloured; his nature ran into extremes, and
vehemence of scorn was in him the true voice of injured tenderness.
Of humility he knew but little, least of all where his affections
were concerned, but there was the ring of noble metal in his
self-assertion. He would never consciously act or speak a falsehood,
and was intolerant of the lies, petty or great, which
conventionality and warped habits of thought encourage in those of
weaker personality.

'Let us be just,' remarked Mr. Wyvern, his voice sounding rather
sepulchral after the outburst of youthful passion. 'Mrs. Waltham's
point of view is not inconceivable. I, as you know, am not
altogether a man of formulas, but I am not sure that my behaviour
would greatly differ from hers in her position; I mean as regards
yourself.'

'Yes, yes; I admit the reasonableness of it,' said Hubert more
calmly, 'granted that you have to deal with children. But Adela is
too old to have no will or understanding. It may be she has both.
After all she would scarcely allow herself to be forced into a
detestable marriage. Very likely she takes her mother's practical
views.'

'There is such a thing as blank indifference in a young girl who has
suffered disappointment.'

'I could do nothing,' exclaimed Hubert. 'That she thinks of me at
all, or has ever seriously done so, is the merest supposition. There
was nothing binding between us. If she is false to herself,
experience and suffering must teach her.'

The vicar mused.

'Then you go your way untroubled?' was his next question.

'If I am strong enough to overcome foolishness.'

'And if foolishness persists in asserting itself?'

Hubert kept gloomy silence.

'Thus much I can say to you of my own knowledge,' observed Mr.
Wyvern with weight. 'Miss Waltham is not one to speak words lightly.
You call her a child, and no doubt her view of the world is
childlike; but she is strong in her simplicity. A pledge from her
will, or I am much mistaken, bear no two meanings. Her marriage with
Mr. Mutimer would be as little pleasing to me as to you, but I
cannot see that I have any claim to interpose, or, indeed, power to
do so. Is it not the same with yourself?'

'No, not quite the same.'

'Then you have hope that you might still affect her destiny?'

Hubert did not answer.

'Do you measure the responsibility you would incur? I fear not, if
you have spoken sincerely. Your experience has not been of a kind to
aid you in understanding her, and, I warn you, to make her subject
to your caprices would be little short of a crime, whether now--heed
me--or hereafter.'

'Perhaps it is too late,' murmured Hubert.

'That may well be, in more senses than one.'

'Can you not discover whether she is really engaged?'

'If that were the case, I think I should have heard of it.'

'If I were allowed to see her! So much at least should be granted
me. I should not poison the air she breathes.'

'Do you return to Agworth to-night?' Mr. Wyvern inquired.

'Yes, I shall walk back.'

'Can you come to me again to-morrow evening?'

It was agreed that Hubert should do so. Mr. Wyvern gave no definite
promise of aid, but the young man felt that he would do something.

'The night is fine,' said the vicar; 'I will walk half a mile with
you.'

They left the Vicarage, and ten yards from the door turned into the
path which would enable them to avoid the village street. Not two
minutes after their quitting the main road the spot was passed by
Adela herself, who was walking towards Mr. Wyvern's dwelling. On her
inquiring for the vicar, she learnt from the servant that he had
just left home. She hesitated, and seemed about to ask further
questions or leave a message, but at length turned away from the
door and retraced her steps slowly and with bent head.

She knew not whether to feel glad or sorry that the interview she
had come to seek could not immediately take place. This day had been
a hard one for Adela. In the morning her mother had spoken to her
without disguise or affectation, and had told her of Mutimer's
indirect proposal. Mrs. Waltham went on to assure her that there was
no hurry, that Mutimer had consented to refrain from visits for a
short time in order that she might take counsel with herself, and
that--the mother's voice trembled on the words--absolute freedom was
of course left her to accept or refuse. But Mrs. Waltham could not
pause there, though she tried to. She went on to speak of the day's
proceedings.

'Think what we may, my dear, of Mr. Mutimer's opinions, no one can
deny that he is making a most unselfish use of his wealth. We shall
have an opportunity to-day of hearing how it is regarded by those
who--who understand such questions.'

Adela implored to be allowed to remain at home instead of attending
the lecture, but on this point Mrs. Waltham was inflexible. The girl
could not offer resolute opposition in a matter which only involved
an hour or two's endurance. She sat in pale silence. Then her mother
broke into tears, bewailed herself as a luckless being, entreated
her daughter's pardon, but in the end was perfectly ready to accept
Adela's self-sacrifice.

On her return from New Wanley, Adela sat alone till tea-time, and
after that meal again went to her room. She was not one of those
girls to whom tears come as a matter of course on any occasion of
annoyance or of grief; her bright eyes had seldom been dimmed since
childhood, for the lightsomeness of her character threw off trifling
troubles almost as soon as they were felt, and of graver afflictions
she had hitherto known none since her father's death. But since the
shock she received on that day when her mother revealed Hubert
Eldon's unworthiness, her emotional life had suffered a slow change.
Evil, previously known but as a dark mystery shadowing far-off
regions, had become the constant preoccupation of her thoughts.
Drawing analogies from the story of her faith, she imaged Hubert as
the angel who fell from supreme purity to a terrible lordship of
perdition. Of his sins she had the dimmest conception; she was told
that they were sins of impurity, and her understanding of such could
scarcely have been expressed save in the general language of her
prayers. Guarded jealously at every moment of her life, the world
had made no blur on the fair tablet of her mind; her Eden had
suffered no invasion. She could only repeat to herself that her
heart had gone dreadfully astray in its fondness, and that,
whatsoever it cost her, the old hopes, the strength of which was
only now proved, must be utterly uprooted. And knowing that, she
wept.

Sin was too surely sorrow, though it neared her only in imagination.
In a few weeks she seemed to have almost outgrown girlhood; her
steps were measured, her smile was seldom and lacked mirth. The
revelation would have done so much; the added and growing trouble of
Mutimer's attentions threatened to sink her in melancholy. She would
not allow it to be seen more than she could help; cheerful activity
in the life of home was one of her moral duties, and she strove hard
to sustain it. It was a relief to find herself alone each night,
alone with her sickness of heart.

The repugnance aroused in her by the thought of becoming Mutimer's
wife was rather instinctive than reasoned. From one point of view,
indeed, she deemed it wrong, since it might be entirely the fruit of
the love she was forbidden to cherish. Striving to read her
conscience, which for years had been with her a daily task and was
now become the anguish of every hour, she found it hard to establish
valid reasons for steadfastly refusing a man who was her mother's
choice. She read over the marriage service frequently. There stood
the promise--to love, to honour, and to obey. Honour and obedience
she might render him, but what of love? The question arose, what did
love mean? Could there be such a thing as love of an unworthy
object? Was she not led astray by the spirit of perverseness which
was her heritage?

Adela could not bring herself to believe that 'to love' in the sense
of the marriage service and to 'be in love' as her heart understood
it were one and the same thing. The Puritanism of her training led
her to distrust profoundly those impulses of mere nature. And the
circumstances of her own unhappy affection tended to confirm her in
this way of thinking. Letty Tew certainly thought otherwise, but was
not Letty's own heart too exclusively occupied by worldly
considerations?

Yet it said 'love.' Perchance that was something which would come
after marriage; the promise, observe, concerned the future. But she
was not merely indifferent; she shrank from Mutimer.

She returned home from the lecture to-day full of dread--dread more
active than she had yet known. And it drove her to a step she had
timidly contemplated for more than a week. She stole from the house,
bent on seeing Mr. Wyvern. She could not confess to him, but she
could speak of the conflict between her mother's will and her own,
and beg his advice; perhaps, if he appeared favourable, ask him to
intercede with her mother. She had liked Mr. Wyvern from the first
meeting with him, and a sense of trust had been nourished by each
succeeding conversation. In her agitation she thought it would not
be hard to tell him so much of the circumstances as would enable him
to judge and counsel.

Yet it was with relief, on the whole, that she turned homewards with
her object unattained. It would be much better to wait and test
herself yet further. Why should she not speak with her mother about
that vow she was asked to make?

She did not seek solitude again, but joined her mother and Alfred in
the sitting-room. Mrs. Waltham made no inquiry about the short
absence. Alfred had only just called to mind the newspaper which Mr.
Keene had given him; and was unfolding it for perusal. His eye
caught a marked paragraph, one of a number under the heading 'Gossip
from Town.' As he read it he uttered a 'Hullo!' of surprise.

'Well, here's the latest,' he continued, looking at his companions
with an amused eye. 'Something about that fellow Eldon in a Belwick
newspaper. What do you think?'

Adela kept still and mute.

'Whatever it is, it cannot interest us, Alfred,' said Mrs. Waltham,
with dignity. 'We had rather not hear it.'

'Well, you shall read it for yourself,' replied Alfred on a second
thought. 'I think you'd like to know.'

His mother took the paper under protest, and glanced down at the
paragraph carelessly. But speedily her attention became closer.

'An item of intelligence,' wrote the London gossiper, 'which I dare
say will interest readers in certain parts of--shire. A lady of
French extraction who made a name for herself at a leading
metropolitan theatre last winter, and who really promises great
things in the Thespian art, is back among us from a sojourn on the
Continent. She is understood to have spent much labour in the study
of a new part, which she is about to introduce to us of the modern
Babylon. But Albion, it is whispered, possesses other attractions
for her besides appreciative audiences. In brief, though she will of
course appear under the old name, she will in reality have changed
it for one of another nationality before presenting herself in the
radiance of the footlights. The happy man is Mr. Hubert Eldon, late
of Wanley Manor. We felicitate Mr. Eldon.'

Mrs. Waltham's hands trembled as she doubled the sheet: there was a
gleam of pleasure on her face.

'Give me the paper when you have done with it,' she said.

Alfred laughed, and whistled a tune as he continued the perusal of
Mr. Keene's political and social intelligence, on the whole as
trustworthy as the style in which it was written was terse and
elegant. Adela, finding she could feign indifference no longer, went
from the room.

'Where did you get this?' Mrs. Waltham asked with eagerness as soon
as the girl was gone.

'From the writer himself,' Alfred replied, visibly proud of his
intimacy with a man of letters. 'Fellow called Keene. Had a long
talk with him.'

'About this?'

'Oh, no. I've only just come across it. But he said he'd marked
something for Mutimer. I'm to pass the paper on to him.'

'I suppose this is the same woman--?'

'No doubt.'

'You think it's true?'

'True? Why, of course it is. A newspaper with a reputation to
support can't go printing people's names at haphazard. Keene's very
thick with all the London actors. He told me some first-class
stories about--'

'Never mind,' interposed his mother. 'Well, to think it should come
to this! I'm sure I feel for poor Mrs. Eldon. Really there is no end
to her misfortunes.'

'Just how such families always end up,' observed Alfred
complacently. 'No doubt he'll drink himself to death, or something
of that kind, and then we shall have the pleasure of seeing a new
tablet in the church, inscribed with manifold virtues; or even a
stained-glass window: the last of the Eldons deserves something
noteworthy.'

'I think it's hardly a subject for joking, Alfred. It is very, very
sad. And to think what a fine handsome boy he used to be! But he was
always dreadfully self-willed.'

'He was always an impertinent puppy! How he'll play the swell on his
wife's earnings! Oh, our glorious aristocracy!'

Mrs. Waltham went early to her daughter's room. Adela was sitting
with her Bible before her--had sat so since coming upstairs, yet had
not read three consecutive verses. Her face showed no effect of
tears, for the heat of a consuming suspense had dried the fountains
of woe.

'I don't like to occupy your mind with such things, my dear,' began
her mother, 'but perhaps as a warning I ought to show you the news
Alfred spoke of. It pleases Providence that there should be evil in
the world, and for our own safety we must sometimes look it in the
face, especially we poor women, Adela. Will you read that?'

Adela read. She could not criticise the style, but it affected her
as something unclean; Hubert's very name suffered degradation when
used in such a way. Prepared for worse things than that which she
saw, no shock of feelings was manifest in her. She returned the
paper without speaking.

'I wanted you to see that my behaviour to Mr. Eldon was not
unjustified,' said her mother. 'You don't blame me any longer,
dear?'

'I have never blamed you, mother.'

'It is a sad, sad end to what might have been a life of usefulness
and honour. I have thought so often of the parable of the talents;
only I fear this case is worse. His poor mother! I wonder if I could
write to her! Yet I hardly know how to.'

'Is this a--a wicked woman, mother?' Adela asked falteringly.

Mrs. Waltham shook her head and sighed.

'My love, don't you see that she is an actress?'

'But if all actresses are wicked, how is it that really good people
go to the theatre?'

'I am afraid they oughtn't to. The best of us are tempted into
thoughtless pleasure. But now I don't want you to brood over things
which it is a sad necessity to have to glance at. Read your chapter,
darling, and get to bed.'

To bed--but not to sleep. The child's imagination was aflame. This
scarlet woman, this meteor from hell flashing before the delighted
eyes of men, she, then, had bound Hubert for ever in her toils; no
release for him now, no ransom to eternity. No instant's doubt of
the news came to Adela; in her eyes _imprimatur_ was the guarantee
of truth. She strove to picture the face which had drawn Hubert to
his doom. It must be lovely beyond compare. For the first time in
her life she knew the agonies of jealousy.

She could not shed tears, but in her anguish she fell upon prayer,
spoke the words above her breath that they might silence that
terrible voice within. Poor lost lamb, crying in the darkness,
sending forth such piteous utterance as might create a spirit of
love to hear and rescue.

Rescue--none. When the fire wasted itself, she tried to find solace
in the thought that one source of misery was stopped. Hubert was
married, or would be very soon, and if she had sinned in loving him
till now, such sin would henceforth be multiplied incalculably; she
durst not, as she valued her soul, so much as let his name enter her
thoughts. And to guard against it, was there not a means offered
her? The doubt as to what love meant was well-nigh solved; or at all
events she held it proved that the 'love' of the marriage service
was something she had never yet felt, something which would follow
upon marriage itself. Earthly love had surely led Hubert Eldon to
ruin; oh, not that could be demanded of her! What reason had she now
to offer against her mother's desire? Letty's arguments were vain;
they were but as the undisciplined motions of her own heart.
Marriage with a worthy man must often have been salvation to a
rudderless life; for was it not the _ceremony_ which, after all,
constituted the exclusive sanction?

Mutimer, it was true, fell sadly short of her ideal of goodness. He
was an unbeliever. But might not this very circumstance involve a
duty? As his wife, could she not plead with him and bring him to the
truth? Would not that be _loving_ him, to make his spiritual good
the end of her existence? It was as though a great light shot
athwart her darkness. She raised herself in bed, and, as if with her
very hands, clung to the inspiration which had been granted her. The
light was not abiding, but something of radiance lingered, and that
must stead her.

Her brother returned to Belwick next morning after an early
breakfast. He was in his wonted high spirits, and talked with much
satisfaction of the acquaintances he had made on the previous day,
while Adela waited upon him. Mrs. Waltham only appeared as he was
setting off.

Adela sat almost in silence whilst her mother breakfasted.

'You don't look well, dear?' said the latter, coming to the little
room upstairs soon after the meal.

'Yes, I am well, mother. But I want to speak to you.'

Mrs. Waltham seated herself in expectation.

'Will you tell me why you so much wish me to marry Mr. Mutimer?'

Adela's tone was quite other than she had hitherto used in
conversations of this kind. It was submissive, patiently
questioning.

'You mustn't misunderstand me,' replied the mother with some
nervousness. 'The wish, dear, must of course be yours as well. You
know that I--that I really have left you to consult your own--'

The sentence was unfinished.

'But you have tried to persuade me, mother dear,' pursued the gentle
voice. 'You would not do so if you did not think it for my good.'

Something shot painfully through Mrs. Waltham's heart.

'I am sure I have thought so, Adela; really I have thought so. I
know there are objections, but no marriage is in every way perfect.
I feel so sure of his character--I mean of his character in a
worldly sense. And you might do so much to--to show him the true
way, might you not, darling? I'm sure his heart is good.'

Mrs. Waltham also was speaking with less confidence than on former
occasions. She cast side glances at her daughter's colourless face.

'Mother, may I marry without feeling that--that I love him?'

The face was flushed now for a moment. Adela had never spoken that
word to anyone; even to Letty she had scarcely murmured it. The
effect upon her of hearing it from her own lips was mysterious,
awful; the sound did not die with her voice, but trembled in subtle
harmonies along the chords of her being.

Her mother took the shaken form and drew it to her bosom.

'If he is your husband, darling, you will find that love grows. It
is always so. Have no fear. On his side there is not only love; he
respects you deeply; he has told me so.'

'And you encourage me to accept him, mother? It is your desire? I am
your child, and you can wish nothing that is not for my good. Guide
me, mother. It is so hard to judge for myself. You shall decide for
me, indeed you shall.'

The mother's heart was wrung. For a moment she strove to speak the
very truth, to utter a word about that love which Adela was
resolutely excluding. But the temptation to accept this unhoped
surrender proved too strong. She sobbed her answer.

'Yes, I do wish it, Adela. You will find that I--that I was not
wrong.'

'Then if he asks me, I will marry him.'

As those words were spoken Mutimer issued from the Manor gates,
uncertain whether to go his usual way down to the works or to pay a
visit to Mrs. Waltham. The latter purpose prevailed.

The evening before, Mr. Willis Rodman had called at the Manor
shortly after dinner. He found Mutimer smoking, with coffee at his
side, and was speedily making himself comfortable in the same way.
Then he drew a newspaper from his pocket. 'Have you seen the
"Belwick Chronicle" of to-day?' he inquired.

'Why the deuce should I read such a paper?' exclaimed Richard, with
good-humoured surprise. He was in excellent spirits to-night, the
excitement of the day having swept his mind clear of anxieties.

'There's something in it, though, that you ought to see.'

He pointed out the paragraph relating to Eldon.

'Keene's writing, eh?' said Mutimer thoughtfully.

'Yes, he gave me the paper.'

Richard rekindled his cigar with deliberation, and stood for a few
moments with one foot on the fender.

'Who is the woman?' he then asked.

'I don't know her name. Of course it's the same story continued.'

'And concluded.'

'Well, I don't know about that,' said the other, smiling and shaking
his head.

'This may or may not be true, I suppose,' was Richard's next remark.

'Oh, I suppose the man hears all that kind of thing. I don't see any
reason to doubt it.'

'May I keep the paper?'

'Oh, yes. Keene told me, by-the-by, that he gave a copy to young
Waltham.'

Mr. Rodman spoke whilst rolling the cigar in his mouth. Mutimer
allowed the subject to lapse.

There was no impossibility, no improbability even, in the statement
made by the newspaper correspondent; yet as Richard thought it over
in the night, he could not but regard it as singular that Mr. Keene
should be the man to make public such a piece of information so very
opportunely. He was far from having admitted the man to his
confidence, but between Keene and Rodman, as he was aware, an
intimacy had sprung up. It might be that one or the other had
thought it worth while to serve him; why should Keene be particular
to put a copy of the paper into Alfred Waltham's hands? Well, he
personally knew nothing of the affair. If the news effected
anything, so much the better. He hoped it might be trustworthy.

Among his correspondence in the morning was a letter from Emma Vine.
He opened it last; anyone observing him would have seen with what
reluctance he began to read it.

'My dear Richard,' it ran, 'I write to thank you for the money. I
would very much rather have had a letter from you, however short a
one. It seems long since you wrote a real letter, and I can't think
how long since I have seen you. But I know how full of business you
are, dear, and I'm sure you would never come to London without
telling me, because if you hadn't time to come here, I should be
only too glad to go to Highbury, if only for one word. We have got
some mourning dresses to make for the servants of a lady in
Islington, so that is good news. But poor Jane is very bad indeed.
She suffers a great deal of pain, and most of all at night, so that
she scarcely ever gets more than half-an-hour of sleep at a time, if
that. What makes it worse, dear Richard, is that she is so very
unhappy. Sometimes she cries nearly through the whole night. I try
my best to keep her up, but I'm afraid her weakness has much to do
with it. But Kate is very well, I am glad to say, and the children
are very well too. Bertie is beginning to learn to read. He often
says he would like to see you. Thank you, dearest, for the money and
all your kindness, and believe that I shall think of you every
minute with much love. From yours ever and ever,

'EMMA VINE.'

It would be cruel to reproduce Emma's errors of spelling. Richard
had sometimes noted a bad instance with annoyance, but it was not
that which made him hurry to the end this morning with lowered
brows. When he had finished the letter he crumbled it up and threw
it into the fire. It was not heartlessness that made him do so: he
dreaded to have these letters brought before his eyes a second time.

He was also throwing the envelope aside, when he discovered that it
contained yet another slip of paper. The writing on this was not
Emma's: the letters were cramped and not easy to decipher.

'Dear Richard, come to London and see me. I want to speak to you, I
must speak to you. I can't have very long to live, and I _must_,
_must_ see you.

'JANE VINE.'

This too he threw into the fire. His lips were hard set, his eyes
wide. And almost immediately he prepared to leave the house.

It was early, but he felt that he must go to the Walthams'. He had
promised Mrs. Waltham to refrain from visiting the house for a week,
but that promise it was impossible to keep. Jane's words were
ringing in his ears: he seemed to hear her very voice calling and
beseeching. So far from changing his purpose, it impelled him in the
course he had chosen. There must and should be an end of this
suspense.

Mrs. Waltham had just come downstairs from her conversation with
Adela, when she saw Mutimer approaching the door. She admitted him
herself. Surely Providence was on her side; she felt almost young in
her satisfaction.

Richard remained in the house about twenty minutes. Then he walked
down to the works as usual.

Shortly after his departure another visitor presented himself. This
was Mr. Wyvern. The vicar's walk in Hubert's company the evening
before had extended itself from point to point, till the two reached
Agworth together. Mr. Wyvern was addicted to night-rambling, and he
often covered considerable stretches of country in the hours when
other mortals slept. To-night he was in the mood for such exercise;
it worked off unwholesome accumulations of thought and feeling, and
good counsel often came to him in what the Greeks called the kindly
time. He did not hurry on his way back to Wanley, for just at
present he was much in need of calm reflection.

On his arrival at the Vicarage about eleven o'clock the servant
informed him of Miss Waltham's having called. Mr. Wyvern heard this
with pleasure. He thought at first of writing a note to Adela,
begging her to come to the Vicarage again, but by the morning he had
decided to be himself the visitor.

He gathered at once from Mrs. Waltham's face that events of some
agitating kind were in progress. She did not keep him long in
uncertainty. Upon his asking if he might speak a few words with
Adela, Mrs. Waltham examined him curiously.

'I am afraid,' she said, 'that I must ask you to excuse her this
morning, Mr. Wyvern. She is not quite prepared to see anyone at
present. In fact,' she lowered her voice and smiled very graciously,
'she has just had an--an agitating interview with Mr. Mutimer--she
has consented to be his wife.'

'In that case I cannot of course trouble her,' the vicar replied,
with gravity which to Mrs. Waltham appeared excessive, rather
adapted to news of a death than of a betrothal. The dark searching
eyes, too, made her feel uncomfortable. And he did not utter a
syllable of the politeness expected on these occasions.

'What a very shocking thing about Mr. Eldon!' the lady pursued. 'You
have heard?'

'Shocking? Pray, what has happened?'

Hubert had left him in some depression the night before, and for a
moment Mr. Wyvern dreaded lest some fatality had become known in
Wanley.

'Ah, you have not heard? It is in this newspaper.'

The vicar examined the column indicated.

'But,' he exclaimed, with subdued indignation, 'this is the merest
falsehood!'

'A falsehood! Are you sure of that, Mr. Wyvern?'

'Perfectly sure. There is no foundation for it whatsoever.'

'You don't say so! I am very glad to hear that, for poor Mrs.
Eldon's sake.'

'Could you lend me this newspaper for to-day?'

'With pleasure. Really you relieve me, Mr. Wyvern. I had no means of
inquiring into the story, of course. But how disgraceful that such a
thing should appear in print!'

'I am sorry to say, Mrs. Waltham, that the majority of things which
appear in print nowadays are more or less disgraceful. However, this
may claim prominence, in its way.'

'And I may safely contradict it? It will be such a happiness to do
so.'

'Contradict it by all means, madam. You may cite me as your
authority.'

The vicar crushed the sheet into his pocket and strode homewards.





CHAPTER XIII




In the church of the Insurgents there are many orders. To rise to
the supreme passion of revolt, two conditions are indispensable: to
possess the heart of a poet, and to be subdued by poverty to the
yoke of ignoble labour. But many who fall short of the priesthood
have yet a share of the true spirit, bestowed upon them by
circumstances of birth and education, developed here and there by
the experience of life, yet rigidly limited in the upshot by the
control of material ease, the fatal lordship of the comfortable
commonplace. Of such was Hubert Eldon. In him, despite his birth and
breeding, there came to the surface a rich vein of independence,
obscurely traceable, no doubt, in the characters of certain of his
ancestors, appearing at length where nineteenth-century influences
had thinned the detritus of convention and class prejudice. His
nature abounded in contradictions, and as yet self-study--in itself
the note of a mind striving for emancipation--had done little for
him beyond making clear the manifold difficulties strewn in his path
of progress.

You know already that it was no vulgar instinct of sensuality which
had made severance between him and the respectable traditions of his
family. Observant friends naturally cast him in the category of
young men whom the prospect of a fortune seduces to a life of riot;
his mother had no means of forming a more accurate judgment. Mr.
Wyvern alone had seen beneath the surface, aided by a liberal study
of the world, and no doubt also by that personal sympathy which is
so important an ally of charity and truth. Mr. Wyvern's early life
had not been in smooth waters; in him too revolt was native,
tempered also by spiritual influences of the most opposite kind. He
felt a deep interest in the young man, and desired to keep him in
view. It was the first promise of friendship that had been held out
to Hubert, who already suffered from a sense of isolation, and was
wondering in what class of society he would have to look for his
kith and kin. Since boyhood he had drawn apart to a great extent
from the companionships which most readily offered. The turn taken
by the circumstances of his family affected the pride which was one
of his strongest characteristics; his house had fallen, and it
seemed to him that a good deal of pity, if not of contempt, mingled
with his reception by the more fortunate of his own standing. He had
never overcome a natural hostility to old Mr. Mutimer: the
_bourgeois_ virtues of the worthy ironmaster rather irritated than
attracted him, and he suffered intensely in the thought that his
mother brought herself to close friendship with one so much her
inferior just for the sake of her son's future. In this matter he
judged with tolerable accuracy. Mrs. Eldon, finding in the old man a
certain unexpected refinement over and above his goodness of heart,
consciously or unconsciously encouraged herself in idealising him,
that the way of interest might approach as nearly as might be to
that of honour. Hubert, with no understanding for the craggy facts
of life, inwardly rebelled against the whole situation. He felt that
it laid him open to ridicule, the mere suspicion of which always
stung him to the quick. When, therefore, he declared to his mother,
in the painful interview on his return to Wanley, that it was almost
a relief to him to have lost the inheritance, he spoke with perfect
truth. Amid the tempest which had fallen on his life there rose in
that moment the semblance of a star of hope. The hateful conditions
which had weighed upon his future being finally cast off, might he
not look forward to some nobler activity than had hitherto seemed
possible? Was he not being saved from his meaner self, that part of
his nature which tended to conventional ideals, which was subject to
empty pride and ignoble apprehensions? Had he gone through the storm
without companion, hope might have overcome every weakness, but
sympathy with his mother's deep distress troubled his self-control.
At her feet he yielded to the emotions of childhood, and his misery
increased until bodily suffering brought him the relief of
unconsciousness.

To his mother perhaps he owed that strain of idealism which gave his
character its significance. In Mrs. Eldon it affected only the inner
life; in Hubert spiritual strivings naturally sought the outlet of
action. That his emancipation should declare itself in some
exaggerated way was quite to be expected: impatience of futilities
and insincerities made common cause with the fiery spirit of youth
and spurred him into reckless pursuit of that abiding rapture which
is the dream and the despair of the earth's purest souls. The pistol
bullet checked his course, happily at the right moment. He had gone
far enough for experience and not too far for self-recovery. The
wise man in looking back upon his endeavours regrets nothing of
which that can be said.

By the side of a passion such as that which had opened Hubert's
intellectual manhood, the mild, progressive attachments sanctioned
by society show so colourless as to suggest illusion. Thinking of
Adela Waltham as he lay recovering from his illness, he found it
difficult to distinguish between the feelings associated with her
name and those which he had owed to other maidens of the same type.
A week or two at Wanley generally resulted in a conviction that he
was in love with Adela; and had Adela been entirely subject to her
mother's influences, had she fallen but a little short of the
innocence and delicacy which were her own, whether for happiness or
the reverse, she would doubtless have been pledged to Hubert long
ere this. The merest accident had in truth prevented it. At home for
Christmas, the young man had made up his mind to speak and claim
her: he postponed doing so till he should have returned from a visit
to a college friend in the same county. His friend had a sister,
five or six years older than Adela, and of a warmer type of beauty,
with the finished graces of the town. Hubert found himself once more
without guidance, and so left Wanley behind him, journeying to an
unknown land.

Hubert could not remember a time when he had not been in love. The
objects of his devotion had succeeded each other rapidly, but each
in her turn was the perfect woman. His imagination cast a halo about
a beautiful head, and hastened to see in its possessor all the
poetry of character which he aspired to worship. In his loves, as in
every other circumstance of life, he would have nothing of
compromise; for him the world contained nothing but his passion, and
existence had no other end. Between that past and this present more
intervened than Hubert could yet appreciate; but he judged the
change in himself by the light in which that early love appeared to
him. Those were the restless ardours of boyhood: he could not
henceforth trifle so with solemn meanings. The ideal was harder of
discovery than he had thought; perhaps it was not to be found in the
world at all. But what less perfect could henceforth touch his
heart?

Yet throughout his convalescence he thought often of Adela, perhaps
because she was so near, and because she doubtless often thought of
him. His unexpected meeting with her on Stanbury Hill affected him
strangely: the world was new to his eyes, and the girl's face seemed
to share in the renewal; it was not quite the same face that he had
held in memory, but had a fresh significance. He read in her looks
more than formerly he had been able to see. This impression was
strengthened by his interview with her on the following day. Had she
too grown much older in a few months?

After spending a fortnight with his mother at Agworth, he went to
London, and for a time thought as little of Adela as of any other
woman. New interests claimed him, interests purely intellectual, the
stronger that his mind seemed just aroused from a long sleep. He
threw himself into various studies with more zeal than he had
hitherto devoted to such interests; not that he had as yet any
definite projects, but solely because it was his nature to be in
pursuit of some excellence and to scorn mere acquiescence in a life
of every-day colour. He lived all but in loneliness, and when the
change had had time to work upon him his thoughts began to revert to
Adela, to her alone of those who stood on the other side of the
gulf. She came before his eyes as a vision of purity; it was
soothing to picture her face and to think of her walking in the
spring meadows. He thought of her as of a white rose, dew-besprent,
and gently swayed by the sweet air of a sunny morning; a white rose
newly spread, its heart virgin from the hands of shaping Nature. He
could not decide what quality, what absence of thought, made Adela
so distinct to him. Was it perhaps the exquisite delicacy apparent
in all she did or said? Even the most reverent thought seemed gross
in touching her; the mind flitted round about her, kept from contact
by a supreme modesty, which she alone could inspire If her head were
painted, it must be against the tenderest eastern sky; all
associations with her were of the morning, when heatless rays strike
level across the moist earth, of simple devoutness which renders
thanks for the blessing of a new day, of mercy robed like the zenith
at dawn.

His study just now was of the early Italians, in art and literature.
There was more of Adela than he perceived in the impulse which
guided him in that direction. When he came to read the 'Vita Nuova,'
it was of Adela expressly that he thought. The poet's passion of
worship entered his heart; transferring his present feeling to his
earlier self, he grew to regard his recent madness as a lapse from
the true love of his life. He persuaded himself that he had loved
Adela in a far more serious way than any of the others who from time
to time had been her rivals, and that the love was now returning to
him, strengthened and exalted. He began to write sonnets in Dante's
manner, striving to body forth in words the new piety which
illumined his life. Whereas love had been to him of late a
glorification of the senses, he now cleansed himself from what he
deemed impurity and adored in mere ecstasy of the spirit. Adela soon
became rather a symbol than a living woman; he identified her with
the ends to which his life darkly aspired, and all but convinced
himself that memory and imagination would henceforth suffice to him.

In the autumn he went down to Agworth, and spent a few days with his
mother. The temptation to walk over to Wanley and call upon the
Walthams proved too strong to be resisted. His rejection at their
door was rather a shock than a surprise; it had never occurred to
him that the old friendly relations had been in any way disturbed;
he explained Mrs. Waltham's behaviour by supposing that his silence
had offended her, and perhaps his failure to take leave of her
before quitting Wanley. Possibly she thought he had dealt lightly
with Adela. Offence on purely moral grounds did not even suggest
itself.

He returned to London anxious and unhappy. The glimpse of Adela
sitting at the window had brought him back to reality; after all it
was no abstraction that had become the constant companion of his
solitude; his love was far more real for that moment's vision of the
golden head, and had a very real power of afflicting him with
melancholy. He faltered in his studies, and once again had lost the
motive to exertion. Then came the letter from his mother, telling of
Adela's rumoured engagement. It caused him to set forth almost
immediately.

The alternation of moods exhibited in his conversation with Mr.
Wyvern continued to agitate him during the night. Now it seemed
impossible to approach Adela in any way; now he was prepared to defy
every consideration in order to save her and secure his own
happiness. Then, after dwelling for awhile on the difficulties of
his position, he tried to convince himself that once again he had
been led astray after beauty and goodness which existed only in his
imagination, that in losing Adela he only dismissed one more
illusion. Such comfort was unsubstantial; he was, in truth, consumed
in wretchedness at the thought that she once might easily have been
his, and that he had passed her by. What matter whether we love a
reality or a dream, if the love drive us to frenzy? Yet how could he
renew his relations with her? Even if no actual engagement bound
her, she must be prejudiced against him by stories which would make
it seem an insult if he addressed her. And if the engagement really
existed, what shadow of excuse had he for troubling her with his
love?

When he entered his mother's room in the morning, Mrs. Eldon took a
small volume from the table at her side.

'I found this a few weeks ago among the books you left with me,' she
said. 'How long have you had it, Hubert?'

It was a copy of the 'Christian Year,' and writing on the fly-leaf
showed that it belonged, or had once belonged, to Adela Waltham.

Hubert regarded it with surprise.

'It was lent to me a year ago,' he said. 'I took it away with me. I
had forgotten that I had it.'

The circumstances under which it had been lent to him came back very
clearly now. It was after that visit to his friend which had come so
unhappily between him and Adela. When he went to bid her good-bye he
found her alone, and she was reading this book. She spoke of it,
and, in surprise that he had never read it, begged him to take it to
Oxford.

'I have another copy,' Adela said. 'You can return that any time.'

The time had only now come. Hubert resolved to take the book to
Wanley in the evening; if no other means offered, Mr. Wyvern would
return it to the owner. Might he enclose a note? Instead of that, he
wrote out from memory two of his own sonnets, the best of those he
had recently composed under the influence of the 'Vita Nuova,' and
shut them between the pages. Then he made the book into a parcel and
addressed it.

He started for his walk at the same hour as on the evening before.
There was frost in the air, and already the stars were bright. As he
drew near to Wanley, the road was deserted; his footfall was loud on
the hard earth. The moon began to show her face over the dark top of
Stanbury Hill, and presently he saw by the clear rays that the
figure of a woman was a few yards ahead of him; he was overtaking
her. As he drew near to her, she turned her head. He knew her at
once, for it was Letty Tew. He had been used to meet Letty often at
the Walthams'.

Evidently he was himself recognised; the girl swerved a little, as
if to let him pass, and kept her head bent. He obeyed an impulse and
spoke to her.

'I am afraid you have forgotten me, Miss Tew. Yet I don't like to
pass you without saying a word.'

'I thought it was--the light makes it difficult--' Letty murmured,
sadly embarrassed.

'But the moon is beautiful.'

'Very beautiful.'

They regarded it together. Letty could not help glancing at her
companion, and as he did not turn his face she examined him for a
moment or two.

'I am going to see my friend Mr. Wyvern,' Hubert proceeded.

A few more remarks of the kind were exchanged, Letty by degrees
summoning a cold confidence; then Hubert said--

'I have here a book which belongs to Miss Waltham. She lent it to me
a year ago, and I wish to return it. Dare I ask you to put it into
her hands?'

Letty knew what the book must be. Adela had told her of it at the
time, and since had spoken of it once or twice.

'Oh, yes, I will give it her,' she replied, rather nervously again.

'Will you say that I would gladly have thanked her myself, if it had
been possible?'

'Yes, Mr. Eldon, I will say that.'

Something in Hubert's voice seemed to cause Letty to raise her eyes
again.

'You wish me to thank her?' she added; inconsequently perhaps, but
with a certain significance.

'If you will be so kind.'

Hubert wanted to say more, but found it difficult to discover the
right words. Letty, too, tried to shadow forth something that was in
her mind, but with no better success.

'If I remember,' Hubert said, pausing in his walk, 'this stile will
be my shortest way across to the Vicarage. Thank you much for your
kindness.'

He had raised his hat and was turning, but Letty impulsively put
forth her hand. 'Good-bye,' he said, in a friendly voice, as he took
the little fingers. 'I wish the old days were back again, and we
were going to have tea together as we used to.'

Mr. Wyvern's face gave no promise of cheerful intelligence as he
welcomed his visitor.

'What is the origin of this, I wonder?' he said, handing Hubert the
'Belwick Chronicle.'

The state of the young man's nerves was not well adapted to sustain
fresh irritation. He turned pale with anger.

'Is this going the round of Wanley?'

'Probably. I had it from Mrs. Waltham.'

'Did you contradict it?'

'As emphatically as I could.'

'I will see the man who edits this to-morrow,' cried Hubert hotly.
'But perhaps he is too great a blackguard to talk with.'

'It purports to come, you see, from a London correspondent. But I
suppose the source is nearer.'

'You mean--you think that man Mutimer has originated it?'

'I scarcely think that.'

'Yet it is more than likely. I will go to the Manor at once. At
least he shall give me yes or no.'

He had started to his feet, but the vicar laid a hand on his
shoulder.

'I'm afraid you can't do that.'

'Why not?'

'Consider. You have no kind of right to charge him with such a
thing. And there is another reason: he proposed to Miss Waltham this
morning, and she accepted him.'

'This morning? And this paper is yesterday's. Why, it makes it more
likely than ever. How did they get the paper? Doubtless he sent it
them. If she has accepted him this very day--'

The repetition of the words seemed to force their meaning upon him
through his anger. His voice failed.

'You tell me that Adela Waltham has engaged herself to that man?'

'Her mother told me, only a few minutes after it occurred.'

'Then it was this that led her to consent.'

'Surely that is presupposing too much, my dear Eldon,' said the
vicar gently.

'No, not more than I know to be true. I could not say that to anyone
but you; you must understand me. The girl is being cheated into
marrying that fellow. Of her own free will she could not do it. This
is one of numberless lies. You are right; it's no use to go to him:
he wouldn't tell the truth. But _she_ must be told. How can I see
her?'

'It is more difficult than ever. Her having accepted him makes all
the difference. Explain it to yourself as you may, you cannot give
her to understand that you doubt her sincerity.'

'But does she know that this story is false?'

'Yes, that she will certainly hear. I have busied myself in
contradicting it. If Mrs. Waltham does not tell her, she will hear
it from her friend Miss Tew, without question.'

Hubert pondered, then made the inquiry:

'How could I procure a meeting with Miss Tew? I met her just now on
the road and spoke to her. I think she might consent to help me.'

Mr. Wyvern looked doubtful.

'You met her? She was coming from Agworth?'

'She seemed to be.'

'Her father and mother are gone to spend to-morrow with friends in
Belwick; I suppose she drove into Wanley with them. and walked
back.'

The vicar probably meant this for a suggestion; at all events,
Hubert received it as one.

'Then I will simply call at the house. She may be alone. I can't
weigh niceties.'

Mr. Wyvern made no reply. The announcement that dinner was ready
allowed him to quit the subject. Hubert with difficulty sat through
the meal, and as soon as it was over took his departure, leaving it
uncertain whether he would return that evening. The vicar offered no
further remark on the subject of their thoughts, but at parting
pressed the young man's hand warmly.

Hubert walked straight to the Tews' dwelling. The course upon which
he had decided had disagreeable aspects and involved chances
anything but pleasant to face; he had, however, abundance of moral
courage, and his habitual scorn of petty obstacles was just now
heightened by passionate feeling. He made his presence known at the
house-door as though his visit were expected. Letty herself opened
to him. It was Saturday night, and she thought the ring was Alfred
Waltham's. Indeed she half uttered a few familiar words; then,
recognising Hubert, she stood fixed in surprise.

'Will you allow me to speak with you for a few moments, Miss Tew?'
Hubert said, with perfect self-possession. 'I ask your pardon for
calling at this hour. My business is urgent; I have come without a
thought of anything but the need of seeing you.'

'Will you come in, Mr. Eldon?'

She led him into a room where there was no fire, and only one lamp
burning low.

'I'm afraid it's very cold here,' she said, with extreme
nervousness. 'The other room is occupied--my sister and the
children; I hope you--'

A little girl put in her face at the door, asking 'Is it Alfred?'
Letty hurried her away, closed the door, and, whilst lighting two
candles on the mantelpiece, begged her visitor to seat himself.

'If you will allow me, I will stand,' said Hubert. 'I scarcely know
how to begin what I wish to say. It has reference to Miss Waltham. I
wish to see her; I must, if she will let me, have an opportunity of
speaking with her. But I have no direct means of letting her know my
wish; doubtless you understand that. In my helplessness I have
thought of you. Perhaps I am asking an impossibility. Will you--can
you--repeat my words. to Miss Waltham, and beg her to see me?'

Letty listened in sheer bewilderment. The position in which she
found herself was so alarmingly novel, it made such a whirlpool in
her quiet life, that it was all she could do to struggle with the
throbbing of her heart and attempt to gather her thoughts. She did
not even reflect that her eyes were fixed on Hubert's in a steady
gaze. Only the sound of his voice after silence aided her to some
degree of collectedness.

'There is every reason why you should accuse me of worse than
impertinence,' Hubert continued, less impulsively. 'I can only ask
your forgiveness. Miss Waltham may very likely refuse to see me,
but, if you would ask her--'

Letty was borne on a torrent of strange thoughts. How could this
man, who spoke with such impressive frankness, with such
persuasiveness, be the abandoned creature that she had of late
believed him? With Adela's secret warm in her heart she could not
but feel an interest in Hubert, and the interest was becoming
something like zeal on his behalf. During the past two hours her
mind had been occupied with him exclusively; his words when he left
her at the stile had sounded so good and tender that she began to
question whether there was any truth at all in the evil things said
about him. The latest story had just been declared baseless by no
less an authority than the vicar, who surely was not a man to
maintain friendship with a worthless profligate. What did it all
mean? She had heard only half an hour ago of Adela's positive
acceptance of Mutimer, and was wretched about it; secure in her own
love-match, it was the mystery of mysteries that Adela should
consent to marry a man she could scarcely endure. And here a chance
of rescue seemed to be offering; was it not her plain duty to give
what help she might?

'You have probably not seen her since I gave you the book?' Hubert
said, perceiving that Letty was quite at a loss for words.

'No, I haven't seen her at all to-day,' was the reply. 'Do you wish
me to go to-night?'

'You consent to do me this great kindness?'

Letty blushed. Was she not committing herself too hastily

'There cannot be any harm in giving your message,' she said, half
interrogatively, her timidity throwing itself upon Hubert's honour.

'Surely no harm in that.'

'But do you know that she--have you heard--?'

'Yes, I know. She has accepted an offer of marriage. It was because
I heard of it that I came to you. You are her nearest friend; you
can speak to her as others would not venture to. I ask only for five
minutes. I entreat her to grant me that.'

To add to her perturbation, Letty was in dread of hearing Alfred's
ring at the door; she durst not prolong this interview.

'I will tell her,' she said. 'If I can, I will see her to-night.'

'And how can I hear the result? I am afraid to ask you--if you would
write one line to me at Agworth? I am staying at my mother's house.'

He mentioned the address. Letty, who felt herself caught up above
the world of common experiences and usages, gave her promise as a
matter of course.

'I shall not try to thank you,' Hubert said. 'But you will not doubt
that I am grateful?'

Letty said no more, and it was with profound relief that she heard
the door close behind her visitor. But even yet the danger was not
past; Alfred might at this moment be approaching, so as to meet
Hubert near the house. And indeed this all but happened, for Mr.
Waltham presented himself very soon. Letty had had time to impose
secrecy on her sisters, such an extraordinary proceeding on her part
that they were awed, and made faithful promise of discretion.

Letty drew her lover into the fireless room; she had blown out the
candles and turned the lamp low again, fearful lest her face should
display signs calling for comment.

'I did so want you to come!' she exclaimed. 'Tell me about Adela.'

'I don't know that there's anything to tell,' was Alfred's stolid
reply. 'It's settled, that's all. I suppose it's all right.'

'But you speak as if you thought it mightn't be, Alfred?'

'Didn't know that I did. Well, I haven't seen her since I got home.
She's upstairs.'

'Can't I see her to-night? I do so want to.'

'I dare say she'd be glad.'

'But what is it, my dear boy? I'm sure you speak as if you weren't
quite satisfied.'

'The mater says it's all right I suppose she knows.'

'But you've always been so anxious for it.'

'Anxious? I haven't been anxious at all. But I dare say it's the
wisest thing she could do. I like Mutimer well enough.'

'Alfred, I don't think he's the proper husband for Adela.'

'Why not? There's not much chance that she'll get a better.'

Alfred was manifestly less cheerful than usual. When Letty continued
to tax him with it he grew rather irritable.

'Go and talk to her yourself,' he said at length. 'You'll find it's
all right. I don't pretend to understand her; there's so much
religion mixed up with her doings, and I can't stand that.'

Letty shook her head and sighed.

'What a vile smell of candle smoke there is here!' Alfred cried.
'And the room must be five or six degrees below zero. Let's go to
the fire.'

'I think I shall run over to Adela at once,' said Letty, as she
followed him into the hall.

'All right. Don't be vexed if she refuses to let you in. I'll stay
here with the youngsters a bit.'

The truth was that Alfred did feel a little uncomfortable this
evening, and was not sorry to be away from the house for a short
time. He was one of those young men who will pursue an end out of
mere obstinacy, and who, through default of imaginative power,
require an event to declare itself before they can appreciate the
ways in which it will affect them. This marriage of his sister with
a man of the working class had possibly, he now felt, other aspects
than those which alone he had regarded whilst it was merely a matter
for speculation. He was not seriously uneasy, but wished his mother
had been somewhat less precipitate. Well, Adela could not be such a
simpleton as to be driven entirely counter to her inclinations in an
affair of so much importance. Girls were confoundedly hard to
understand, in short; probably they existed for the purpose of
keeping one mentally active.

Letty found Mrs. Waltham sitting alone, she too seemingly not in the
best of spirits. There was something depressing in the stillness of
the house. Mrs. Waltham had her volume of family prayers open before
her; her handkerchief lay upon it.

'She is naturally a little--a little fluttered,' she said, speaking
of Adela. 'I hoped you would look in. Try and make her laugh, my
dear; that's all she wants.'

The girl tripped softly upstairs, and softly knocked at Adela's
door. At her 'May I come in?' the door was opened. Letty examined
her friend with surprise; in Adela's face there was no indication of
trouble, rather the light of some great joy dwelt in her eyes. She
embraced Letty tenderly. The two were as nearly as possible of the
same age, but Letty had always regarded Adela in the light of an
elder sister; that feeling was very strong in her just now, as well
as a diffidence greater than she had known before.

'Are you happy, darling?' she asked timidly.

'Yes, dear, I am happy. I believe, I am sure, I have done right.
Take your hat off; it's quite early. I've just been reading the
collect for to-morrow. It's one of those I have never quite
understood, but I think it's clear to me now.'

They read over the prayer together, and spoke of it for a few
minutes.

'What have you brought me?' Adela asked at length, noticing a little
parcel in the other's hand.

'It's a book I have been asked to give you. I shall have to explain.
Do you remember lendinglending someone your "Christian Year"?'

The smile left Adela's face, and the muscles of her mouth strung
themselves.

'Yes, I remember,' she replied coldly.

'As I was walking back from Agworth this afternoon, he overtook me
on the road and asked me to return it to you.'

'Thank you, dear.'

Adela took the parcel and laid it aside. There was an awkward
silence. Letty could not look up.

'He was going to see Mr. Wyvern,' she continued, as if anxious to
lay stress on this. 'He seems to know Mr. Wyvern very well.'

'Yes? You didn't miss Alfred, I hope. He went out a very short time
ago.'

'No, I saw him. He stayed with the others. But I have something more
to tell you, about--about him.'

'About Alfred?'

'About Mr. Eldon.'

Adela looked at her friend with a grave surprise, much as a queen
regards a favourite subject who has been over-bold.

'I think we won't talk of him, Letty,' she said from her height.

'Do forgive me, Adela. I have promised toto say something. There
must have been a great many things said that were not true, just
like this about his marriage; I am so sure of it.'

Adela endeavoured to let the remark pass without replying to it. But
her thought expressed itself involuntarily.

'His marriage? What do you know of it?'

'Mr. Wyvern came to see mother this morning, and showed her a
newspaper that your mother gave him. It said that Mr. Eldon was
going to marry an actress, and Mr. Wyvern declared there was not a
word of truth in it. But of course your mother told you that?'

Adela sat motionless. Mrs. Waltham had not troubled herself to make
known the vicar's contradiction. But Adela could not allow herself
to admit that. Binding her voice with difficulty, she said:

'It does not at all concern me.'

'But your mother _did_ tell you, Adela?' Letty persisted, emboldened
by a thought which touched upon indignation.

'Of course she did.'

The falsehood was uttered with cold deliberateness. There was
nothing to show that a pang quivered on every nerve of the speaker.

'Who can have sent such a thing to the paper?' Letty exclaimed.
'There must be someone who wishes to do him harm. Adela, I don't
believe _anything_ that people have said!'

Even in speaking she was frightened at her own boldness. Adela's
eyes had never regarded her with such a look as now.

'Adela, my darling! Don't, don't be angry with me!'

She sprang forward and tried to put her arms about her friend, but
Adela gently repelled her.

'If you have promised to say something, Letty, you must keep your
promise. Will you say it at once, and then let us talk of something
else?'

Letty checked a tear. Her trustful and loving friend seemed changed
to someone she scarcely knew. She too grew colder, and began her
story in a lifeless way, as if it no longer possessed any interest.

'Just when I had had tea and was expecting Alfred to come, somebody
rang the bell. I went to the door myself, and it was Mr. Eldon. He
had come to speak to me of you. He said he wanted to see you, that
he _must_ see you, and begged me to tell you that. That's all,
Adela. I couldn't refuse him; I felt I had no right to; he spoke in
such a way. But I am very sorry to have so displeased you, dear. I
didn't think you would take anything amiss that I did in all
sincerity. I am sure there has been some wretched mistake, something
worse than a mistake, depend upon it. But I won't say any more. And
I think I'll go now, Adela.'

Adela spoke in a tone of measured gravity which was quite new in
her.

'You have not displeased me, Letty. I don't think you have been to
blame in any way; I am sure you had no choice but to do as he asked
you. You have repeated all he said?'

'Yes, all; all the words, that is. There was something that I can't
repeat.'

'And if I consented to see him, how was he to know?'

'I promised to write to him. He is staying at Agworth.'

'You mustn't do that, dear. I will write to him myself, then I can
thank him for returning the book. What is his address?'

Letty gave it.

'It is, of course, impossible for me to see him,' pursued Adela,
still in the same measured tones. 'If I write myself it will save
you any more trouble. Forget it, if I seemed unkind, dear.'

'Adela, I can't forget it. You are not like yourself, not at all.
Oh, how I wish this had happened sooner! Why, why can't you see him,
darling? I think you ought to; I do really think so.'

'I must be the best judge of that, Letty. Please let us speak of it
no more.'

The sweet girl-face was adamant, its expression a proud virginity;
an ascetic sternness moulded the small, delicate lips. Letty's
countenance could never have looked like that.

Left to herself again, Adela took the parcel upon her lap and sat
dreaming. It was long before her face relaxed; when it did so, the
mood that succeeded was profoundly sorrowful. One would have said
that it was no personal grief that absorbed her, but compassion for
the whole world's misery.

When at length she undid the wrapping, her eye was at once caught by
the papers within the volume. She started, and seemed afraid to
touch the book. Her first thought was that Eldon had enclosed a
letter; but she saw that there was no envelope, only two or three
loose slips. At length she examined them and found the sonnets. They
had no heading, but at the foot of each was written the date of
composition.

She read them. Adela's study of poetry had not gone beyond a
school-book of selections, with the works of Mrs. Hemans and of
Longfellow, and the 'Christian Year.' Hubert's verses she found
difficult to understand; their spirit, the very vocabulary, was
strange to her. Only on a second reading did she attain a glimmering
of their significance. Then she folded them again and laid them on
the table.

Before going to her bedroom she wrote this letter:

'DEAR MR, ELDON,--I am much obliged to you for returning the
"Christian Year." Some papers were left in its pages by accident,
and I now enclose them.

'Miss Tew also brought me a message from you. I am sorry that I
cannot do as you wish. I am unable to ask you to call, and I hope
you will understand me when I say that any other kind of meeting is
impossible.

'I am, yours truly,
'ADELA WALTHAM.'

It was Adela's first essay in this vein of composition. The writing
cost her an hour, and she was far from satisfied with the final
form. But she copied it in a firm hand, and made it ready for
posting on the morrow.





CHAPTER XIV




'Between Richard Mutimer, bachelor, and Adela Marian Waitham,
spinster, both of this parish'

It was the only announcement of the kind that Mr. Wyvern had to make
this Sunday. To one of his hearers he seemed to utter the names with
excessive emphasis, his deep voice reverberating in the church. The
pews were high; Adela almost cowered in her corner, feeling pierced
with the eyes, with the thoughts too, of the congregation about her.

She had wondered whether the Manor pew would be occupied to-day, but
it was not. When she stood up, her eyes strayed towards it; the red
curtains which concealed the interior were old and faded, the wooden
canopy crowned it with dreary state. In three weeks that would be
her place at service. Sitting there, it would not be hard to keep
her thoughts on mortality.

Would it not have been graceful in him to attend church to-day?
Would she in future worship under the canopy alone?

No time had been lost. Mr. Wyvern received notice of the proposed
marriage less than two hours after Adela had spoken her
world-changing monosyllable. She put in no plea for delay, and her
mother, though affecting a little consternation at Mutimer's haste,
could not seriously object. Wanley, discussing the matter at its
Sunday tea-tables, declared with unanimity that such expedition was
indecent. By this time the disapproval of the village had attached
itself exclusively to Mrs. Waltham; Adela was spoken of as a martyr
to her mother's miserable calculations. Mrs. Mewling went about with
a story, that only by physical restraint had the unhappy girl been
kept from taking flight. The name of Hubert Eldon once more came up
in conversation. There was an unauthenticated rumour that he had
been seen of late, lurking about Wanley. The more boldly speculative
gossips looked with delicious foreboding to the results of a
marriage such as this. Given a young man of Eldon's reputation--ah
me!

The Walthams all lunched (or dined) at the Manor. Mutimer was in
high spirits, or seemed so; there were moments when the cheerful
look died on his face, and his thoughts wandered from the
conversation; but if his eye fell on Adela he never failed to smile
the smile of inner satisfaction. She had not yet responded to his
look, and only answered his questions in the briefest words; but her
countenance was resolutely bright, and her beauty all that man could
ask. Richard did not flatter himself that she held him dear; indeed,
he was a good deal in doubt whether affection, as vulgarly
understood, was consistent with breeding and education. But that did
not concern him; he had gained his end, and was jubilant.

In the course of the meal he mentioned that his sister would come
down from London in a day or two. Christmas was only a week off, and
he had thought it would be pleasant to have her at the Manor for
that season.

'Oh, that's very nice!' assented Mrs. Waltham. 'Alice, her name is,
didn't you say? Is she dark or fair?'

'Fair, and just about Adela's height, I should think. I hope you'll
like her, Adela.'

It was unfortunate that Richard did not pronounce the name of his
bride elect quite as it sounds on cultured lips. This may have been
partly the result of diffidence; but there was a slurring of the
second syllable disagreeably suggestive of vulgarity. It struck on
the girl's nerves, and made it more difficult for her to grow
accustomed to this form of address from Mutimer.

'I'm sure I shall try to,' she replied to the remark about Alice,
this time endeavouring to fix her obstinate eyes for a moment on
Richard's face.

'Your brother won't come, then?' Mrs. Waltham asked.

'Not just yet, I'm afraid. He's busy studying.'

'To read and write, I fear,' was the lady's silent comment. On the
score of Alice, too, Mrs. Waltham nursed a certain anxiety. The
damsels of the working class are, or so she apprehended, somewhat
more difficult of acceptance than their fathers and brothers, and
for several reasons. An artisan does not necessarily suggest, indeed
is very distinct from, the footman or even groom; but to dissociate
an uneducated maiden from the lower regions of the house is really
an exertion of the mind. And then, it is to be feared, the moral
tone of such young persons leaves for the most part much to be
desired. Mrs. Waltham was very womanly in her distrust of her sex.

After luncheon there was an inspection of the house. Adela did not
go farther than the drawing-room; her brother remained with her
whilst Mutimer led Mrs. Waltham through the chambers she might care
to see. The lady expressed much satisfaction. The furnishing had
been performed in a substantial manner, without display; one might
look forward to considerable comfort at the Manor.

'Any change that Adela suggests,' said Richard during this tour,
'shall of course be carried out at once. If she doesn't like the
paper in any of the rooms, she's only got to say so and choose a
better. Do you think she'd care to look at the stables? I'll get a
carriage for her, and a horse to ride, if she likes.'

Richard felt strongly that this was speaking in a generous way. He
was not aware that his tone hinted as much, but it unmistakably did.
The vulgarity of a man who tries hard not to be vulgar is always
particularly distressing.

'Oh, how kind!' murmured Mrs. Waltham. 'Adela has never ridden; I
should think carriage exercise would be enough for her. We mustn't
forget your principles, you know, for I'm sure they are very
admirable.'

'Oh, I don't care anything about luxuries myself, but Adela shall
have everything she wants.'

Alfred Waltham, who knew the house perfectly, led his mother to
inspect the stables, Mutimer remaining with Adela in the
drawing-room.

'You've been very quiet all dinner-time,' he said, taking a seat
near her and bending forward.

'A little, perhaps. I am thinking of so many things.'

'What are they, I wonder?'

'Will you let me have some books about Socialism, and the other
questions in which you are interested?'

'I should think I will! You really mean to study these things?'

'Yes, I will read and think about them. And I shall be glad if you
will explain to me more about the works. I have never quite
understood all that you wish to do. Perhaps you will have time when
you come to see us some evening.'

'Well, if I haven't time, I'll make it,' said Richard, laughing.
'You can't think how glad I am to hear you say this.'

'When do you expect your sister?'

'On Tuesday; at least, I hope it won't be later. I'm sure you'll
like her, you can't help. She hasn't such looks as you have, you
know, but we've always thought her very fair-looking. What do you
think we often call her? The Princess! That's part because of her
name, Alice Maud, and part from a sort of way she's always had. Not
a flighty way, but a sort of--well, I can't describe it. I do hope
you'll like her.'

It was the first time Adela had heard him speak in a tone which
impressed her as entirely honest, not excepting his talk of the
Propaganda. Here, she felt, was a side of his character that she had
not suspected. His voice was almost tender; the play of his features
betokened genuine feeling.

'I can see she is a great favourite with you,' she replied. 'I have
no doubt I shall like her.'

'You'll find a good deal that wants altering, I've no doubt,' he
pursued, now quite forgetful of himself. 'She hasn't had much
education, you know, till just lately. But you'll help her in that,
won't you? She's as good-natured as any girl living, and whenever
you put her right you may be sure she'll only thank you. I've wanted
to have her here before, only I thought I'd wait till I knew
whether--you know what I mean.

As if in a sudden gloom before her eyes Adela saw his face draw
nearer. It was a moment's loss of consciousness, in which a ghastly
fear flashed upon her soul. Then, with lips that quivered, she began
to talk quickly of Socialism, just to dispel the horror.

On the following afternoon Mutimer came, bringing a number of books,
pamphlets, and newspapers. Mrs. Waltham had discreetly abandoned the
sitting-room.

'I don't want to frighten you,' he said, laying down his bundle.
'You haven't got to read through all these. I was up nearly all last
night marking pages that I thought you'd better study first of all.
And here's a lot of back numbers of the "Fiery Cross;" I should like
you to read all that's signed by Mr. Westlake; he's the editor, you
know.'

'Is there anything here of your own writing?' Adela inquired.

'No, I haven't written anything. I've kept to lecturing; it comes
easier to me. After Christmas I shall have several lectures to give
in London. Perhaps you'll come and hear me?'

'Yes, of course.'

'Then you can get to know Mrs. Westlake, I dare say. She's a lady,
you know, like yourself. There's some poetry by her in the paper; it
just has her initials, "S. W." She's with us heart and soul, as
you'll see by her writing.'

'Is Alice a Socialist?' Adela asked, after glancing fitfully at the
papers.

Richard laughed.

'Oh, she's a princess; it would be too much to expect Socialism of
her. But I dare say she'll be beginning to think more now. I don't
mean she's been thoughtless in the wrong way; it's just a--I can't
very well describe it. But I hope you'll see her to-morrow night May
I bring her to you when she comes?'

'I hope you will.'

'I'm glad your brother won't be here. I only mean, you know, I'd
rather she got accustomed just to you first of all. I dare say
she'll be a bit timid, you won't mind that?'

Adela returned to the graver subject.

'All the people at New Wanley are Socialists?'

'Yes, all of them. They join the Union when they come to work, and
we take a good deal of care in choosing our men.'

'And you pay higher wages than other employers?'

'Not much higher, but the rents of the cottages are very low, and
all the food sold at the store is cost price. No, we don't pretend
to make the men rich. We've had a good lot coming with quite
mistaken ideas, and of course they wouldn't suit us. And you mustn't
call me the employer. All I have I look upon as the property of the
Union; the men own it as much as I do. It's only that I regulate the
work, just because somebody must. We're not making any profits to
speak of yet, but that'll only come in time; whatever remains as
clear profit,--and I don't take anything out of the works
myself--goes to the Propaganda fund of the Union.'

'Please forgive my ignorance. I've heard that word "Propaganda" so
often, but I don't know exactly what it means.'

Mutimer became patronising, quite without intending it.

'Propaganda? Oh, that's the spreading our ideas, you know; printing
paper, giving lectures, hiring places of meeting, and so on. That's
what Propaganda means.'

'Thank you,' said Adela musingly. Then she continued,--

'And the workmen only have the advantage, at present, of the low
rents and cheap food?'

'Oh, a good deal more. To begin with, they're housed like human
beings, and not like animals. Some day you shall see the kind of
places the people live in, in London and other big towns. You won't
believe your eyes. Then they have shorter hours of work; they're not
treated like omnibus horses, calculating just how much can be got
out of them without killing them before a reasonable time. Then
they're sure of their work as long as they keep honest and don't
break any of our rules; that's no slight thing, I can tell you. Why,
on the ordinary system a man may find himself and his family without
food any week end. Then there's a good school for the children; they
pay threepence a week for each child. Then there's the reading-room
and library, and the lectures, and the recreation-grounds. You just
come over the place with me some day, and talk with the women, and
see if they don't think they're well off.'

Adela looked him in the face.

'And it is you they have to thank for all this?'

'Well, I don't want any credit for it,' Mutimer replied, waving his
hand. 'What would you think of me if I worked them like niggers and
just enjoyed myself on the profits? That's what the capitalists do.'

'I think you are doing more than most men would. There is only one
thing.'

She dropped her voice.

'What's that, Adela?'

'I'll speak of it some other time.'

'I know what you mean. You're sorry I've got no religion. Ay, but I
have! There's my religion, down there in New Wanley. I'm saving men
and women and children from hunger and cold and the lives of brute
beasts. I teach them to live honestly and soberly. There's no
public-house in New Wanley, and there won't be.' (It just flashed
across Adela's mind that Mutimer drank wine himself.) 'There's no
bad language if I can help it. The children 'll be brought up to
respect the human nature that's in them, to honour their parents,
and act justly and kindly to all they have dealings with. Isn't
there a good deal of religion in that, Adela?'

'Yes, but not all. Not the most important part'

'Well, as you say, we'll talk over that some other time. And now I'm
sorry I can't stay any longer. I've twenty or thirty letters to get
written before post-time.'

Adela rose as he did.

'If there's ever anything I can do to help you,' she said modestly,
'you will not fail to ask me?'

'That I won't What I want you to do now is to read what I've marked
in those books. You mustn't tire your eyes, you know; there's plenty
of time.'

'I will read all you wish me to, and think over it as much as I
can.'

'Then you're a right-down good girl, and if I don't think myself a
lucky man, I ought to.'

He left her trembling with a strange new emotion, the begin fling of
a self-conscious zeal, an enthusiasm forced into being like a
hothouse flower. It made her cheeks burn; she could not rest till
her study had commenced.

Richard had written to his sister, saying that he wanted her, that
she must come at once. To Alice his thoughts had been long turning;
now that the time for action had arrived, it was to her that he
trusted for aid. Things he would find it impossible to do himself,
Alice might do for him. He did not doubt his power of persuading
her. With Alice principle would stand second to his advantage. He
had hard things to ask of her, but the case was a desperate one, and
she would endure the unpleasantness for his sake. He blessed her in
anticipation.

Alice received the letter summoning her on Monday morning. Richard
himself was expected in Highbury; expected, too, at a sad little
house in Hoxton; for he had constantly promised to spend Christmas
with his friends. The present letter did not say that he would not
come, only that he wanted his sister immediately. She was to bring
her best dress for wear when she arrived. He told her the train she
was to take on Tuesday morning.

The summons filled Alice with delight. Wanley, whence had come the
marvellous fortune, was in her imagination a land flowing with milk
and honey. Moreover, this would be her first experience of travel;
as yet she had never been farther out of London than to Epping
Forest. The injunction to bring her best dress excited visions of
polite company. All through Monday she practised ways of walking, of
eating, of speaking.

'What can he want you for?' asked Mrs. Mutimer gloomily. 'I sh'd 'a
thought he might 'a taken you with him after Christmas. It looks as
if he wasn't coming.'

The old woman had been habitually gloomy of late. The reply she had
received to her letter was not at all what she wanted; it increased
her impatience; she had read it endless times, trying to get at the
very meaning of it. Christmas must bring an end to this wretched
state of things; at Christmas Dick would come to London and marry
Emma; no doubt he had that time in view. Fears which she would not
consciously admit were hovering about her night and day. She had
begun to talk to herself aloud, a consequence of over-stress on a
brain never used to anxious thought; she went about the upper rooms
of the house muttering 'Dick's an honest man.' To keep moving seemed
a necessity to her; the chair in the dim corner of the dining-room
she now scarcely ever occupied, and the wonted employment of her
fingers was in abeyance. She spent most of her day in the kitchen;
already two servants had left because they could not endure her
fidgety supervision. She was growing suspicious of every one; Alice
had to listen ten times a day to complaints of dishonesty in the
domestics or the tradespeople; the old woman kept as keen a watch
over petty expenditure as if poverty had still to be guarded
against. And she was constantly visiting the Vines; she would rise
at small hours to get her house-work done, so as to be able to spend
the afternoon in Wilton Square. That, in truth, was still her home;
the new house could never be to her what the old was; she was a
stranger amid the new furniture, and sighed with relief as soon as
her eyes rested on the familiar chairs and tables which had been her
household gods through a lifetime.

'Arry had given comparatively little trouble of late; beyond an
occasional return home an hour or so after midnight, his proceedings
seemed to be perfectly regular. He saw a good deal of Mr. Keene,
who, as Alice gathered from various remarks in Richard's letters,
exercised over him a sort of tutorage. It was singular how
completely Richard seemed to have changed in his judgment of Mr.
Keene. 'His connection with newspapers makes him very useful,' said
one letter. 'Be as friendly with him as you like; I trust to your
good sense and understanding of your own interest to draw the line.'
When at the house Mr. Keene was profoundly respectful; his position
at such times was singular, for as often as not Alice had to
entertain him alone. Profound, too, was the journalist's discretion
in regard to all doings down at Wanley. Knowing he had several times
visited the Manor, Alice often sought information from him about her
brother's way of life. Mr. Keene always replied with generalities.
He was a man of humour in his way, and Alice came to regard him with
amusement. Then his extreme respect flattered her; insensibly she
took him for her criterion of gentility in men. He supplied her with
'society' journals, and now and then suggested the new novel that it
behoved her to read. Richard had even withdrawn his opposition to
the theatre-going; about once in three weeks Mr. Keene presented
himself with tickets, and Alice, accompanied by her brother,
accepted his invitation.

He called this Monday evening. Mrs. Mutimer, after spending a day of
fretful misery, had gone to Wilton Square; 'Arry was away at his
classes. Alice was packing certain articles she had purchased in the
afternoon, and had just delighted her soul with the inspection of a
travelling cloak, also bought to-day. When the visitor was
announced, she threw the garment over her shoulders and appeared in
it.

'Does this look nice, do you think?' she asked, after shaking hands
as joyously as her mood dictated.

'About as nice as a perfect thing always does when it's worn by a
perfect woman,' Mr. Keene replied, drawing back and inclining his
body at what he deemed a graceful angle.

'Oh, come, that's too much!' laughed Alice.

'Not a bit, Miss Mutimer. I suppose you travel in it tomorrow
morning?'

'How did you know that?'

'I have heard from your brother to-day. I thought I might perhaps
have the great pleasure of doing you some slight service either
to-night or in the morning. You will allow me to attend you to the
station?'

'I really don't think there's any need to trouble you,' Alice
replied. These respectful phrases always stirred her pleasurably: in
listening to them she bore herself with dignity, and endeavoured to
make answer in becoming diction.

'Trouble? What other object have I in life but to serve you? I'll
put it in another way: you won't refuse me the pleasure of being
near you for a few minutes?'

'I'm sure you're very kind. I know very well it's taking you out of
your way, but it isn't likely I shall refuse to let you come.'

Mr. Keene bowed low in silence.

'Have you brought me that paper?' Alice asked, seating herself with
careful arrangement of her dress. 'The Christmas number with the
ghost story you spoke of, you know?'

In the course of a varied life Mr. Keene had for some few months
trodden the boards of provincial theatres; an occasional turn of his
speech, and still more his favourite gestures, bore evidence to that
period of his career. Instead of making direct reply to Alice's
question, he stood for a moment as if dazed; then flinging back his
body, smote his forehead with a ringing slap, and groaned '0
Heaven!'

'What's the matter?' cried the girl, not quite knowing whether to be
amused or alarmed.

But Mr. Keene was rushing from the room, and in an instant the house
door sounded loudly behind him. Alice stood disconcerted; then,
thinking she understood, laughed gaily and ran upstairs to complete
her packing. In a quarter of an hour Mr. Keene's return brought her
to the drawing-room again. The journalist was propping himself
against the mantelpiece, gasping, his arms hanging limp, his hair
disordered. As Alice approached he staggered forward, fell on one
knee, and held to her the paper she had mentioned.

'Pardon--forgive!' he panted.

'Why, where ever have you been?' exclaimed Alice.

'No matter! what are time and space? Forgive me, Miss Mutimer! I
deserve to be turned out of the house, and never stand in the light
of your countenance again.'

'But how foolish! As if it mattered all that. What a state you're
in! I'll go and get you a glass of wine.'

She ran to the dining-room, and returned with a decanter and glass
on a tray. Mr. Keene had sunk upon a settee, one arm hanging over
the back, his eyes closed.

'You have pardoned me?' he murmured, regarding her with weary
rapture.

'I don't see what there is to pardon. Do drink a glass of wine!
Shall I pour it out for you?'

'Drink and service for the gods!'

'Do you mean the people in the gallery?' Alice asked roguishly,
recalling a term in which Mr. Keene had instructed her at their
latest visit to the theatre.

'You are as witty as you are beautiful!' he sighed, taking the glass
and draining it. Alice turned away to the fire; decidedly Mr. Keene
was in a gallant mood this evening; hitherto his compliments had
been far more guarded.

They began to converse in a more terrestrial manner. Alice wanted to
know whom she was likely to meet at Wanley; and Mr. Keene, in a
light way, sketched for her the Waltham family. She became
thoughtful whilst he was describing Adela Waltham, and subsequently
recurred several times to that young lady. The journalist allowed
himself to enter into detail, and Alice almost ceased talking.

It drew on to half-past nine. Mr. Keene never exceeded discretion in
the hours of his visits. He looked at his watch and rose.

'I may call at nine?' he said.

'If you really have time. But I can manage quite well by myself, you
know.'

'What you _can_ do is not the question. If I had my will you should
never know a moment's trouble as long as you lived.'

'If I never have worse trouble than going to the railway station, I
shall think myself lucky.'

'Miss Mutimer--'

'Yes?'

'You won't drop me altogether from your mind whilst you're away?'

There was a change in his voice. He had abandoned the tone of
excessive politeness, and spoke very much like a man who has feeling
at the back of his words. Alice regarded him nervously.

'I'm not going to be away more than a day or two,' she said,
smoothing a fold in her dress.

'If it was only an hour or two I couldn't bear to think you'd
altogether forgotten me.'

'Why, of course I shan't!'

'But--Miss Mutimer, I'm abusing confidence. Your brother trusts me;
he's done me a good many kindnesses. But I can't help it, upon my
soul. If you betray me, I'm done for. You won't do that? I put
myself in your power, and you're too good to hurt a fly.'

'What do you mean, Mr. Keene?' Alice asked, inwardly pleased, yet
feeling uncomfortable.

'I can't go away to-night without saying it, and ten to one it means
I shall never see you again. You know what I mean. Well, harm me as
you like; I'd rather be harmed by you than done good to by any one
else. I've got so far, there's no going back. Do you think some day
you could--do you think you _could_?'

Alice dropped her eyes and shook her pretty head slowly.

'I can't give any promise of that kind,' she replied under her
breath.

'You hate me? I'm a disagreeable beast to you? I'm a low--'

'Oh dear, don't say such things, Mr. Keene! The idea! I don't
dislike you a bit; but of course that's a different thing--'

He held out his hand sadly, dashing the other over his eyes.

'Good-bye, I don't think I can come again. I've abused confidence.
When your brother hears of it--. But no matter, I'm only a--a sort
of crossing-sweeper in your eyes.'

Alice's laugh rang merrily.

'What things you do call yourself! Now, don't go off like that, Mr.
Keene. To begin with, my brother won't hear anything about it--'

'You mean that? You are so noble, so forgiving? Pooh, as if I didn't
know you were! Upon my soul, I'd run from here to South Kensington,
like the ragamuffins after the cabs with luggage, only just to get a
smile from you. Oh, Miss Mutimer--oh!'

'Mr. Keene, I can't say yes, and I don't like to be so unkind to you
as to say no. You'll let that do for the present, won't you?'

'Bless your bright eyes, of course I will! If I don't love you for
your own sake, I'm the wretchedest turnip-snatcher in London.
Good-bye, Princess!'

'Who taught you to call me that?'

'Taught me? It was only a word that came naturally to my lips.'

Curiously, this was quite true. It impressed Alice Maud, and she
thought of Mr. Keene for at least five minutes continuously after
his departure.

She was extravagantly gay as they drove in a four-wheeled cab to the
station next morning. Mr. Keene made no advances. He sat
respectfully on the seat opposite her, with a travelling bag on his
knees, and sighed occasionally. When she had secured her seat in the
railway carriage he brought her sandwiches, buns, and sweetmeats
enough for a voyage to New York. Alice waved her hand to him as the
train moved away.

She reached Agworth at one o'clock; Richard had been pacing the
platform impatiently for twenty minutes. Porters were eager to do
his bidding, and his instructions to them were suavely imperative.

'They know me,' he remarked to Alice, with his air of satisfaction.
'I suppose you're half frozen? I've got a foot-warmer in the trap.'

The carriage promised to Adela was a luxury Richard had not ventured
to allow himself. Alice mounted to a seat by his side, and he drove
off.

'Why on earth did you come second-class?' he asked, after examining
her attire with approval.

'Ought it to have been first? It really seemed such a lot of money,
Dick, when I came to look at the fares.'

'Yes, it ought to have been first. In London things don't matter,
but here I'm known, you see. Did mother go to the station with you?'

'No, Mr. Keene did.'

'Keene, eh?' He bent his brows a moment.

'I hope he behaves himself?'

'I'm sure he's very gentlemanly.'

'Yes, you ought to have come first-class. A princess riding
second'll never do. You look well, old girl? Glad to come, eh?'

'Well, guess! And is this your own horse and trap, Dick?'

'Of course it is.'

'Who was that man? He touched his hat to you.'

Mutimer glanced back carelessly.

'I'm sure I don't know. Most people touch their hats to me about
here.'

It was an ideal winter day. A feathering of snow had fallen at dawn,
and now the clear, cold sun made it sparkle far and wide. The
horse's tread rang on the frozen highway. A breeze from the
north-west chased the blood to healthsome leaping, and caught the
breath like an unexpected kiss. The colour was high on Alice's fair
cheeks; she laughed with delight.

'Oh, Dick, what a thing it is to be rich! And you do look such a
gentleman; it's those gloves, I think.'

'Now we're going into the village,' Mutimer said presently. 'Don't
look about you too much, and don't seem to be asking questions.
Everybody 'll be at the windows.'





CHAPTER XV




Between the end of the village street and the gates of the Manor,
Mutimer gave his sister hasty directions as to her behaviour before
the servants.

'Put on just a bit of the princess,' he said. 'Not too much, you
know, but just enough to show that it isn't the first time in your
life that you've been waited on. Don't always give a 'thank you;'
one every now and then'll do. I wouldn't smile too much or look
pleased, whatever you see. Keep that all till we're alone together.
We shall have lunch at once; I'll do most of the talking whilst the
servants are about; you just answer quietly.'

These instructions were interesting, but not altogether
indispensable; Alice Maud had by this time a very pretty notion of
how to conduct herself in the presence of menials. The trying moment
was on entering the house; it was very hard indeed not to utter her
astonishment and delight at the dimensions of the hall and the
handsome staircase. This point safely passed, she resigned herself
to splendour, and was conducted to her room in a sort of romantic
vision. The Manor satisfied her idea of the ancestral mansion so
frequently described or alluded to in the fiction of her earlier
years. If her mind had just now reverted to Mr. Keene, which of
course it did not, she would have smiled very royally indeed.

When she entered the drawing-room, clad in that best gown which her
brother had needlessly requested her to bring, and saw that Richard
was standing on the hearth-rug quite alone, she could no longer
contain herself, but bounded towards him like a young fawn, and
threw her arms on his neck.

'Oh, Dick,' she whispered, 'what a thing it is to be rich! How ever
did we live so long in the old way! If I had to go back to it now I
should die of misery.'

'Let's have a look at you,' he returned, holding her at arm's
length. 'Yes, I think that'll about do. Now mind you don't let them
see that you're excited about it. Sit down here and pretend to be a
bit tired. They may come and say lunch is ready any moment.'

'Dick, I never felt so good in my life! I should like to go about
the streets and give sovereigns to everybody I met.'

Richard laughed loudly.

'Well, well, there's better ways than that. I've been giving a good
many sovereigns for a long time now. I'm only sorry you weren't here
when we opened the Hall.'

'But you haven't told me why you sent for me now.'

'All right, we've got to have a long talk presently. It isn't all as
jolly as you think, but I can't help that'

'Why, what can be wrong, Dick?'

'Never mind; it'll all come out in time.'

Alice came back upon certain reflections which had occupied her
earlier in the morning; they kept her busy through luncheon. Whilst
she ate, Richard observed her closely; on the whole he could not
perceive a great difference between her manners and Adela's.
Difference there was, but in details to which Mutimer was not very
sensitive. He kept up talk about the works for the most part, and
described certain difficulties concerning rights of way which had of
late arisen in the vicinity of the industrial settlement.

'I think you shall come and sit with me in the library,' he said as
they rose from table. And he gave orders that coffee should be
served to them in that room.

The library did not as yet quite justify its name. There was only
one bookcase, and not more than fifty volumes stood on its shelves.
But a large writing-table was well covered with papers. There were
no pictures on the walls, a lack which was noticeable throughout the
house. The effect was a certain severity; there was no air of home
in the spacious chambers; the walls seemed to frown upon their
master, the hearths were cold to him as to an intruding alien.
Perhaps Alice felt something of this; on entering the library she
shivered a little, and went to warm her hands at the fire.

'Sit in this deep chair,' said her brother. 'I'll have a cigarette.
How's mother?'

'Well, she hasn't been quite herself,' Alice replied, gazing into
the fire. 'She can't get to feel at home, that's the truth of it.
She goes. very often to the old house.'

'Goes very often to the old house, does she?'

He repeated the words mechanically, watching smoke that issued from
his lips. 'Suppose she'll get all right in time.'

When the coffee arrived a decanter of cognac accompanied it. Richard
had got into the habit of using the latter rather freely of late. He
needed a stimulant in view of the conversation that was before him.
The conversation was difficult to begin. For a quarter of an hour he
strayed over subjects, each of which, he thought, might bring him to
the point. A question from Alice eventually gave him the requisite
impulse.

'What's the bad news you've got to tell me, Dick?' she asked shyly.

'Bad news? Why, yes, I suppose it is bad, and it's no use pretending
anything else. I've brought you down here just to tell it you.
Somebody must know first, and it had better be somebody who'll
listen patiently, and perhaps help me to get over it. I don't know
quite how you'll take it, Alice. For anything I can tell you may get
up and be off, and have nothing more to do with me.'

'Why, what ever can it be, Dick? Don't talk nonsense. You're not
afraid of _me_, I should think.'

'Yes, I am a bit afraid of you, old girl. It isn't a nice thing to
tell you, and there's the long and short of it. I'm hanged if I know
how to begin.'

He laughed in an irresolute way. Trying to light a new cigarette
from the remnants of the one he had smoked, his hands shook. Then he
had recourse again to cognac.

Alice was drumming with her foot on the floor. She sat forward, her
arms crossed upon her lap. Her eyes were still on the fire.

'Is it anything about Emma, Dick?' she asked, after a disconcerting
silence.

'Yes, it is.'

'Hadn't you better tell me at once? It isn't at all nice to feel
like this.'

'Well, I'll tell you. I can't marry Emma; I'm going to marry someone
else.'

Alice was prepared, but the plain words caused her a moment's
consternation.

'Oh, what ever will they all say, Dick?' she exclaimed in a low
voice.

'That's bad enough, to be sure, but I think more about Emma herself.
I feel ashamed of myself, and that's the plain truth. Of course I
shall always give her and her sisters all the money they want to
live upon, but that isn't altogether a way out. If only I could have
hinted something to her before now. I've let it go on so long. I'm
going to be married in a fortnight.'

He could not look Alice in the face, nor she him. His shame made him
angry; he flung the half-smoked cigarette violently into the
fire-place, and began to walk about the room. Alice was speaking,
but he did not heed her, and continued with impatient loudness.

'Who the devil could imagine what was going to happen? Look here,
Alice; if it hadn't been for mother, I shouldn't have engaged myself
to Emma. I shouldn't have cared much in the old kind of life; she'd
have suited me very well. You can say all the good about her you
like, I know it'll be true. It's a cursed shame to treat her in this
way, I don't need telling that. But it wouldn't do as things are;
why, you can see for yourself--would it now? And that's only half
the question: I'm going to marry somebody I do really care for.
What's the good of keeping my word to Emma, only to be miserable
myself and make her the same? It's the hardest thing ever happened
to a man. Of course I shall be blackguarded right and left. Do I
deserve it now? Can I help it?'

It was not quite consistent with the tone in which he had begun, but
it had the force of a genuine utterance. To this Richard had worked
himself in fretting over his position; he was the real sufferer,
though decency compelled him to pretend it was not so. He had come
to think of Emma almost angrily; she was a clog on him, and all the
more irritating because he knew that his brute strength, if only he
might exert it, could sweep her into nothingness at a blow. The
quietness with which Alice accepted his revelation encouraged him in
self-defence. He talked on for several minutes, walking about and
swaying his arms, as if in this way he could literally shake himself
free of moral obligations. Then, finding his throat dry, he had
recourse to cognac, and Alice could at length speak.

'You haven't told me, Dick, who it is you're going to marry.'

'A lady called Miss Waltham--Adela Waltham. She lives here in
Wanley.'

'Does she know about Emma?'

The question was simply put, but it seemed to affect Richard very
disagreeably.

'No, of course she doesn't. What would be the use?'

He threw himself into a chair, crossed his feet, and kept silence.

'I'm very sorry for Emma,' murmured his sister.

Richard said nothing.

'How shall you tell her, Dick?'

'I can't tell her!' he replied, throwing out an arm. 'How is it
likely I can tell her?'

'And Jane's so dreadfully bad,' continued Alice in the undertone.
'She's always saying she cares for nothing but to see Emma married.
What _shall_ we do? And everything seemed so first-rate. Suppose she
summonses you, Dick?'

The noble and dignified legal process whereby maidens right
themselves naturally came into Alice's thoughts. Her brother scouted
the suggestion.

'Emma's not that kind of girl. Besides, I've told you I shall always
send her money. She'll find another husband before long. Lots of men
'ud be only too glad to marry her.'

Alice was not satisfied with her brother. The practical aspects of
the rupture she could consider leniently, but the tone he assumed
was jarring to her instincts. Though nothing like a warm friendship
existed between her and Emma, she sympathised, in a way impossible
to Richard, with the sorrows of the abandoned girl. She was
conscious of what her judgment would be if another man had acted
thus; and though this was not so much a matter of consciousness, she
felt that Richard might have spoken in a way more calculated to aid
her in taking his side. She wished, in fact, to see only his
advantage, and was very much tempted to see everything but that.

'But you can't keep her in the dark any longer,' she urged. 'Why,
it's cruel!'

'I can't tell her,' he repeated monotonously.

Alice drew in her feet. It symbolised retiring within her defences.
She saw what he was aiming at, and felt not at all disposed to
pleasure him. There was a long silence; Alice was determined not to
be the first to break it.

'You refuse to help me?' Richard asked at length, between his teeth.

'I think it would be every bit as bad for me as for you,' she
replied.

'That you can't think,' he argued. 'She can't blame you; you've only
to say I've behaved like a blackguard, and you're out of it.'

'And when do you mean to tell mother?'

'She'll have to hear of it from other people. I can't tell her.'

Richard had a suspicion that he was irretrievably ruining himself in
his sister's opinion, and it did not improve his temper. It was a
foretaste of the wider obloquy to come upon him, possibly as hard to
bear as any condemnation to which he had exposed himself. He shook
himself out of the chair.

'Well, that's all I've got to tell you. Perhaps you'd better think
over it. I don't want to keep you away from home longer than you
care to stay. There's a train at a few minutes after nine in the
morning.'

He shuffled for a few moments about the writing-table, then went
from the room.

Alice was unhappy. The reaction from her previous high spirits, as
soon as it had fully come about, brought her even to tears. She
cried silently, and, to do the girl justice, at least half her
sorrow was on Emma's account. Presently she rose and began to walk
about the room; she went to the window, and looked out on to the
white garden. The sky beyond the thin boughs was dusking; the wind,
which sang so merrily a few hours ago, had fallen to sobbing.

It was too wretched to remain alone; she resolved to go into the
drawing-room; perhaps her brother was there. As she approached the
door somebody knocked on the outside, then there entered a dark man
of spruce appearance, who drew back a step as soon as he saw her.

'Pray excuse me,' he said, with an air of politeness. 'I supposed I
should find Mr. Mutimer here.'

'I think he's in the house,' Alice replied.

Richard appeared as they were speaking.

'What is it, Rodman?' he asked abruptly, passing into the library.

'I'll go to the drawing-room,' Alice said, and left the men
together.

In half an hour Richard again joined her. He seemed in a better
frame of mind, for he came in humming. Alice, having glanced at him,
averted her face again and kept silence. She felt a hand smoothing
her hair. Her brother, leaning over the back of her seat, whispered
to her,--

'You'll help me, Princess?'

She did not answer.

'You won't be hard, Alice? It's a wretched business, and I don't
know what I shall do if you throw me over. I can't do without you,
old girl.'

'I can't tell mother, Dick. You know very well what it'll be. I
daren't do that.'

But even that task Alice at last took upon herself, after another
half-hour's discussion. Alas! she would never again feel towards her
brother as before this necessity fell upon her. Her life had
undergone that impoverishment which is so dangerous to elementary
natures, the loss of an ideal.

'You'll let me stay over to-morrow?' she said. 'There's nothing very
pleasant to go back to, and I don't see that a day 'll matter.'

'You can stay if you wish. I'm going to take you to have tea with
Adela now. If you stay we'll have her to dinner to-morrow.'

'I wonder whether we shall get along?' Alice mused.

'I don't see why not. You'll get lots of things from her, little
notions of all kinds.'

This is always a more or less dangerous form of recommendation, even
in talking to one's sister. To suggest that Adela would benefit by
the acquaintance would have been a far more politic procedure.

'What's wrong with me?' Alice inquired, still depressed by the scene
she had gone through.

'Oh, there's nothing wrong. It's only that you'll see differences at
first; from the people you've been used to, I mean. But I think
you'll have to go and get your things on; it's nearly five.'

In Alice's rising from her chair there was nothing of the elasticity
that had marked her before luncheon. Before moving away she spoke a
thought that was troubling her.

'Suppose mother tries to stop it?'

Richard looked to the ground moodily.

'I meant to tell you,' he said. 'You'd better say that I'm already
married.'

'You're giving me a nice job,' was the girl's murmured rejoinder.

'Well, it's as good as true. And it doesn't make the job any worse.'

As is wont to be the case when two persons come to mutual
understanding on a piece of baseness, the tone of brother and sister
had suffered in the course of their dialogue. At first meeting they
had both kept a certain watch upon their lips, feeling that their
position demanded it; a moral limpness was evident in them by this
time.

They set forth to walk to the Walthams'. Exercise in the keen air,
together with the sense of novelty in her surroundings, restored
Alice's good humour before the house was reached. She gazed with
astonishment at the infernal glare over New Wanley. Her brother
explained the sight to her with gusto.

'It used to be all fields and gardens over there,' he said. 'See
what money and energy can do! You shall go over the works in the
morning. Perhaps Adela will go with us, then we can take her back to
the Manor.'

'Why do they call the house that, Dick?' Alice inquired. 'Is it
because people who live there are supposed to have good manners?'

'May be, for anything I know,' was the capitalist's reply. 'Only
it's spelt different, you know. I say, Alice, you must be careful
about your spelling; there were mistakes in your last letter. Won't
do, you know, to make mistakes if you write to Adela.'

Alice gave a little shrug of impatience. Immediately after, they
stopped at the threshold sacred to all genteel accomplishments--so
Alice would have phrased it if she could have fully expressed her
feeling--and they speedily entered the sitting. room, where the
table was already laid for tea. Mrs. Waltham and her daughter rose
to welcome them.

'We knew of your arrival,' said the former, bestowing on Alice a
maternal salute. 'Not many things happen in Wanley that all the
village doesn't hear of, do they, Mr. Mutimer? Of course we expected
you to tea.'

Adela and her future sister-in-law kissed each other. Adela was
silent, but she smiled.

'You'll take your things off, my dear?' Mrs. Waltham continued.
'Will you go upstairs with Miss Mutimer, Adela?'

But for Mrs. Waltham's persistent geniality the hour which followed
would have shown many lapses of conversation. Alice appreciated at
once those 'differences' at which her brother had hinted, and her
present frame of mind was not quite consistent with patient
humility. Naturally, she suffered much from self-consciousness; Mrs.
Waltham annoyed her by too frequent observation, Adela by seeming
indifference. The delicacy of the latter was made perhaps a little
excessive by strain of feelings. Alice at once came to the
conclusion that Dick's future wife was cold and supercilious. She
was not predisposed to like Adela. The circumstances were in a
number of ways unfavourable. Even had there not existed the very
natural resentment at the painful task which this young lady had
indirectly imposed upon her, it was not in Alice's blood and
breeding to take kindly at once to a girl of a class above her own.
Alice had warm affections; as a lady's maid she might very
conceivably have attached herself with much devotion to an indulgent
mistress, but in the present case too much was asked of her, Richard
was proud of his sister; he saw her at length seated where he had so
often imagined her, and in his eyes she bore herself well. He
glanced often at Adela, hoping for a return glance of
congratulation; when it failed to come, he consoled himself with the
reflection that such silent interchange of sentiments at table would
be ill manners. In his very heart he believed that of the two
maidens his sister was the better featured. Adela and Alice sat over
against each other; their contrasted appearances were a chapter of
social history. Mark the difference between Adela's gently closed
lips, every muscle under control; and Alice's, which could never
quite close without forming a saucy pout or a self-conscious
primness. Contrast the foreheads; on the one hand that tenderly
shadowed curve of brow, on the other the surface which always seemed
to catch too much of the light, which moved irregularly with the
arches above the eyes. The grave modesty of the one face, the now
petulant, now abashed, now vacant expression of the other. Richard
in his heart preferred the type he had 80 long been familiar with; a
state of feeling of course in no way inconsistent with the emotions
excited in him by continual observation of Adela.

The two returned to the Manor at half-past seven, Alice rising with
evident relief when he gave the signal. It was agreed that the
latter part of the next morning should be spent in going over the
works. Adela was very willing to be of the party.

'They haven't much money, have they?' was Alice's first question as
soon as she got away from the door.

'No, they are not rich,' replied the brother. 'You got on very
nicely, old girl.'

'Why shouldn't I? You talk as if I didn't know how to behave myself,
Dick.'

'No, I don't. I say that you did behave yourself.'

'Yes, and you were surprised at it.'

'I wasn't at all. What do you think of her?'

'She doesn't say much.'

'No, she's always very quiet. It's her way.'

'Yes.'

The monosyllable meant more than Richard gathered from it. They
walked on in silence, and were met presently by a gentleman who was
coming along the village street at a sharp pace. A lamp discovered
Mr. Willis Rodman. Richard stopped.

'Seen to that little business?' he asked, in a cheerful voice.

'Yes,' was Rodman's reply. 'We shall hear from Agworth in the
morning.'

'All right.--Alice, this is Mr. Rodman.--My sister, Rodman.'

Richard's right-hand man performed civilities with decidedly more
finish than Richard himself had at command.

'I am very happy to meet Miss Mutimer. I hope we shall have the
pleasure of showing her New Wanley to-morrow.'

'She and Miss Waltham will walk down in the morning. Good night,
Rodman. Cold, eh?'

'Why didn't you introduce him this afternoon?' Alice asked as she
walked on.

'I didn't think of it--I was bothered.'

'He seems very gentlemanly.'

'Oh, Rodman's seen a deal of life. He's a useful fellow--gets
through work in a wonderful way.'

'But _is_ he a gentleman? I mean, was he once?'

Richard laughed.

'I suppose you mean, had he ever money? No, he's made himself what
he is.'

Tea having supplied the place of the more substantial evening meal,
Richard and his sister had supper about ten o'clock. Alice drank
champagne; a few bottles remained from those dedicated to the recent
festival, and Mutimer felt the necessity of explaining the presence
in his house of a luxury which to his class is more than anything
associated with the bloated aristocracy. Alice drank it for the
first time in her life, and her spirits grew as light as the foam
upon her glass. Brother and sister were quietly confidential as
midnight drew near.

'Shall you bring her to London?' Alice inquired, without previous
mention of Adela.

'For a week, I think. We shall go to an hotel, of course. She's
never seen London since she was a child.'

'She won't come to Highbury?'

'No. I shall avoid that somehow. You'll have to come and see us at
the hotel. We'll go to the theatre together one night.'

'What about 'Arry?'

'I don't know. I shall think about it.'

Digesting much at his ease, Richard naturally became dreamful.

'I may have to take a house for a time now and then,' he said.

'In London?'

He nodded.

'I mustn't forget you, you see, Princess. Of course you'll come here
sometimes, but that's not much good. In London I dare say I can get
you to know some of the right kind of people. I want Adela to be
thick with the Westlakes; then your chance'll come. See, old woman?'

Alice, too, dreamed.

'I wonder you don't want me to marry a Socialist working man,' she
said presently, as if twitting him playfully.

'You don't understand. One of the things we aim at is to remove the
distinction between classes. I want you to marry one of those they
call gentlemen. And you shall too, Alice!'

'Well, but I'm not a working girl now, Dick.'

He laughed, and said it was time to go to bed.

The same evening conversation continued to a late hour
between Hubert Eldon and his mother. Hubert was returning to London
the next morning.

Yesterday there had come to him two letters from Wanley, both
addressed in female hand. He knew Adela's writing from her signature
in the 'Christian Year,' and hastily opened the letter which came
from her. The sight of the returned sonnets checked the eager flow
of his blood; he was prepared for what he afterwards read.

'Then let her meet her fate,'--so ran his thoughts when he had
perused the cold note, unassociable with the Adela he imagined in
its bald formality. 'Only life can teach her.'

The other letter he suspected to be from Letty Tew, as it was.

'DEAR MR. ELDON,--I cannot help writing a line to you, lest you
should think that I did not keep my promise in the way you
understood it. I did indeed. You will hear from her; she preferred
to write herself, and perhaps it was better; I should only have had
painful things to say. I wish to ask you to have no unkind or unjust
thoughts; I scarcely think you could have. Please do not trouble to
answer this, but believe me, yours sincerely,

'L. TEW.'

'Good little girl!' he said to himself, smiling sadly. 'I feel sure
she did her best.'

But his pride was asserting itself, always restive under
provocation. To rival with a man like Mutimer! Better that the
severance with old days should be complete.

He talked it all over very frankly with his mother, who felt that
her son's destiny was not easily foreseen.

'And what do you propose to do, Hubert?' she asked, when they spoke
of the future. i88 Demos

'To study, principally art. In a fortnight I go to Rome.'

Mrs. Eldon had gone thither thirty years ago.

'Think of me in. my chair sometimes,' she said, touching his hands
with her wan fingers.





CHAPTER XVI




Alice reached home again on Christmas Eve. It was snowing; she came
in chilled and looking miserable. Mrs. Mutimer met her in the hall,
passed her, and looked out at the open door, then turned with a few
white flecks on her gown.

'Where's Dick?

'He couldn't come,' replied the girl briefly, and ran up to her
room.

'Arry was spending the evening with friends. Since tea-time the old
woman had never ceased moving from room to room, up and down stairs.
She had got out an old pair of Richard's slippers, and had put them
before the dining-room fire to warm. She had made a bed for Richard,
and had a fire burning in the chamber. She had made arrangements for
her eldest son's supper. No word had come from Wanley, but she held
to the conviction that this night would see Richard in London.

Alice came down and declared that she was very hungry. Her mother
went to the kitchen to order a meal, which in the end she prepared
with her own hands. She seemed to have a difficulty in addressing
any one. Whilst Alice ate in silence, Mrs. Mutimer kept going in and
out of the room; when the girl rose from the table, she stood before
her and asked:

'Why couldn't he come?'

Alice went to the fireplace, knelt down, and spread her hands to.
the blaze. Her mother approached her again.

'Won't you give me no answer, Alice?'

'He couldn't come, mother. Something important is keeping him.'

'Something important? And why did he want you there?'

Alice rose to her feet, made one false beginning, then spoke to the
point.

'Dick's married, mother.'

The old woman's eyes seemed to grow small in her wrinkled face, as
if directing themselves with effort upon something minute. They
looked straight into the eyes of her daughter, but had a more
distant focus. The fixed gaze continued for nearly a minute.

'What are you talking about, girl?' she said at length, in a strange,
rattling voice. 'Why, I've seen Emma this very morning. Do you think
she wouldn't 'a told me if she'd been a wife?'

Alice was frightened by the look and the voice.

'Mother, it isn't Emma at all. It's someone at Wanley. We can't help
it, mother. It's no use taking on. Now sit down and make yourself
quiet. It isn't our fault.'

Mrs. Mutimer smiled in a grim way, then laughed--a most unmusical
laugh.

'Now what's the good o' joking in that kind o' way? That's like your
father, that is; he'd often come 'ome an' tell me sich things as
never was, an' expect me to believe 'em. An' I used to purtend I
did, jist to please him. But I'm too old for that kind o'
jokin'.--Alice, where's Dick? How long'll it be before he's here?
Where did he leave you?'

'Now do just sit down, mother; here, in this chair. Just sit quiet
for a little, do.'

Mrs. Mutimer pushed aside the girl's hand; her face had become grave
again.

'Let me be, child. And I tell you I have seen Emma to-day. Do you
think she wouldn't 'a told me if things o' that kind was goin' on?'

'Emma knows nothing about it, mother. He hasn't told any one. He got
me to come because he couldn't tell it himself. It was as much a
surprise to me as to you, and I think it's very cruel of him. But
it's over, and we can't help it. I shall have to tell Emma, I
suppose, and a nice thing too!'

The old woman had begun to quiver; her hands shook by her sides, her
very features trembled with gathering indignation.

'Dick has gone an' done this?' she stammered. 'He's gone an' broke
his given word? He's deceived that girl as trusted to him an'
couldn't help herself?'

'Now, mother, don't take on so! You're going to make yourself ill.
It can't be helped. He says he shall send Emma money just the same.'

'Money! There you've hit the word; it's money as 'as ruined him, and
as 'll be the ruin of us all. Send her money! What does the man
think she's made of? Is all his feelings got as hard as money? and
does he think the same of every one else? If I know Emma, she'll
throw his money in his face. I knew what 'ud come of it, don't tell
me I didn't. That very night as he come 'ome an' told me what had
'appened, there was a cold shiver run over me. I told him as it was
the worst news ever come into our 'ouse, and now see if I wasn't
right! He was angry with me 'cause I said it, an' who's a right to
be angry now? It's my belief as money's the curse o' this world; I
never knew a trouble yet as didn't somehow come of it, either 'cause
there was too little or else too much. And Dick's gone an' done
this? And him with all his preachin' about rights and wrongs an'
what not! Him as was always a-cryin' down the rich folks 'cause they
hadn't no feelin' for the poor! What feeling's _he_ had, I'd like to
know? It's him as is rich now, an' where's the difference 'tween him
and them as he called names? No feelin' for the poor! An' what's
Emma Vine? Poor enough by now. There's Jane as can't have not a week
more to live, an' she a-nursin' her night an' day. He'll give her
money!--has he got the face to say it? Nay, don't talk to me, girl;
I'll say what I think. if it's the last I speak in this world. Don't
let him come to me! Never a word again shall he have from me as long
as I live. He's disgraced himself, an' me his mother, an' his father
in the grave. A poor girl as couldn't help herself, as trusted him
an' wouldn't hear not a word against him, for all he kep' away from
her in her trouble. I'd a fear o' this, but I wouldn't believe it of
Dick; I wouldn't believe it of a son o' mine. An' 'Arry 'll go the
same way. It's all the money, an a curse go with all the money as
ever was made! An' you too, Alice, wi' your fine dresses, an' your
piannerin', an' your faldedals. But I warn you, my girl. There 'll
no good come of it. I warn you, Alice! You're ashamed o' your own
mother--oh, I've seen it! But it's a mercy if you're not a disgrace
to her. I'm thankful as I was always poor; I might 'a been tempted
i' the same way.'

The dogma of a rude nature full of secret forces found utterance at
length under the scourge of a resentment of very mingled quality.
Let half be put to the various forms of disinterested feeling, at
least half was due to personal exasperation. The whole change that
her life had perforce undergone was an outrage upon the stubbornness
of uninstructed habit; the old woman could see nothing but evil
omens in a revolution which cost her bodily discomfort and the
misery of a mind perplexed amid alien conditions. She was prepared
for evil; for months she had brooded over every sign which seemed to
foretell its approach; the egoism of the unconscious had made it
plain to her that the world must suffer in a state of things which
so grievously affected herself. Maternal solicitude kept her
restlessly swaying between apprehension for her children and injury
in the thought of their estrangement from her. And now at length a
bitter shame added itself to her torments. She was shamed in her
pride as a mother, shamed before the girl for whom she nourished a
deep affection. Emma's injuries she felt charged upon herself; she
would never dare to stand before her again. Her moral code, as much
a part of her as the sap of the plant and as little the result of
conscious absorption, declared itself on the side of all these
rushing impulses; she was borne blindly on an exhaustless flux of
words. After vain attempts to make herself heard, Alice turned away
and sat sullenly waiting for the outburst to spend itself. Herself
comparatively unaffected by the feelings strongest in her mother,
this ear-afflicting clamour altogether checked her sympathy, and in
a great measure overcame those personal reasons which had made her
annoyed with Richard. She found herself taking his side, even knew
something of his impatience with Emma and her sorrows. When it came
to rebukes and charges against herself her impatience grew active.
She stood up again and endeavoured to make herself heard.

'What's the good of going on like this, mother? Just because you're
angry, that's no reason you should call us all the names you can
turn your tongue to. It's over and done with, and there's an end of
it. I don't know what you mean about disgracing you; I think you
might wait till the time comes. I don't see what I've done as you
can complain of.'

'No, of course you don't,' pursued her mother bitterly. 'It's the
money as prevents you from seeing it. Them as was good enough for
you before you haven't a word to say to now; a man as works honestly
for his living you make no account of. Well, well, you must go your
own way--'

'What is it you want, mother? You don't expect me to look no higher
than when I hadn't a penny but what I worked for? I've no patience
with you. You ought to be glad--'

'You haven't no patience, of course you haven't. And I'm to be glad
when a son of mine does things as he deserves to be sent to prison
for! I don't understand that kind o' gladness. But mind what I say;
do what you like with your money, I'll have no more part in it. If I
had as much as ten shillings a week of my own, I'd go and live by
myself, and leave you to take your own way. But I tell you what I
_can_ do, and what I will. I'll have no more servants a-waitin' on
_me_; I wasn't never used to it, and I'm too old to begin. I go to
my own bedroom upstairs, and there I live, and there 'll be nobody
go into that room but myself. I'll get my bits o' meals from the
kitchen. 'Tain't much as I want, thank goodness, an' it won't be
missed. I'll have no more doin's with servants, understand that; an'
if I can't be left alone i' my own room, I'll go an' find a room
where I can, an' I'll find some way of earnin' what little I want.
It's your own house, and you'll do what you like in it. There's the
keys, I've done with 'em; an' here's the money too, I'm glad to be
rid of it. An' you'll just tell Dick. I ain't one as says what I
don't mean, nor never was, as that you know. You take your way, an'
I'll take mine. An' now may be I'll get a night's sleep, the first
I've had under this roof.'

As she spoke she took from her pockets the house keys, and from her
purse the money she used for current expenses, and threw all
together on to the table. Alice had turned to the fireplace, and she
stood so for a long time after her mother had left the room. Then
she took the keys and the money, consulted her watch, and in a few
minutes was walking from the house to a neighbouring cab-stand.

She drove to Wilton Square. Inspecting the front of the house before
knocking at the door, she saw a light in the kitchen and a dimmer
gleam at an upper window. It was Mrs. Clay who opened to her.

'Is Emma in?' Alice inquired as she shook hands rather coldly.

'She's sitting with Jane. I'll tell her. There's no fire except in
the kitchen,' Kate added, in a tone which implied that doubtless her
visitor was above taking a seat downstairs.

'I'll go down,' Alice replied, with just a touch of condescension.
'I want to speak a word or two with Emma, that's all.'

Kate left her to descend the stairs, and went to inform her sister.
Emma was not long in appearing; the hue of her face was troubled,
for she had deceived herself with the belief that it was Richard who
knocked at the door. What more natural than for him to have come on
Christmas Eve? She approached Alice with a wistful look, not
venturing to utter any question, only hoping that some good news
might have been brought her. Long watching in the sick room had
given her own complexion the tint of ill-health; her eyelids were
swollen and heavy; the brown hair upon her temples seemed to droop
in languor. You would have noticed that her tread was very soft, as
if she still were moving in the room above.

'How's Jane?' Alice began by asking. She could not quite look the
other in the face, and did not know how to begin her disclosure.

'No better,' Emma gave answer, shaking her head. Her voice, too, was
suppressed; it was weeks since she had spoken otherwise.

'I am so sorry, Emma. Are you in a hurry to go up again?'

'No. Kate will sit there a little.'

'You look very poorly yourself. It must be very trying for you.'

'I don't feel it,' Emma said, with a pale smile. 'She gives no
trouble. It's only her weakness now; the pain has almost gone.'

'But then she must be getting better.'

Emma shook her head, looking aside. As Alice kept silence, she
continued:

'I was glad to hear you'd gone to see Richard. He wouldn't--I was
afraid he mightn't have time to get here for Christmas.'

There was a question in the words, a timorously expectant question.
Emma had learnt the sad lesson of hope deferred, always to meet
discouragement halfway. It is thus one seeks to propitiate the evil
powers, to turn the edge of their blows by meekness.

'No, he couldn't come,' said Alice.

She had a muff on her left hand, and was turning it round and round
with the other. Emma had not asked her to sit down, merely because
of the inward agitation which absorbed her.

'He's quite well?'

'Oh yes, quite well.'

Again Alice paused. Emma's heart was beating painfully. She knew now
that Richard's sister had not come on an ordinary visit; she felt
that the call to Wanley had had some special significance. Alice did
not ordinarily behave in this hesitating way.

'Did--did he send me a message?'

'Yes.'

But even now Alice could not speak. She found a way of leading up to
the catastrophe.

'Oh, mother has been going on so, Emma! What do you think? She won't
have anything to do with the house any longer. She's given me the
keys and all the money she had, and she's going to live just in her
bedroom. She says she'll get her food from the kitchen herself, and
she won't have a thing done for her by any one. I'm sure she means
it; I never saw her in such a state. She says if she'd ever so
little money of her own, she'd leave the house altogether. She's
been telling me I've no feeling, and that I'm going to the bad, that
I shall live to disgrace her, and I can't tell you what. Everything
is so miserable! She says it's all the money, and that she knew from
the first how it would be. And I'm afraid some of what she says is
true, I am indeed, Emma. But things happen in a way you could never
think. I half wish myself the money had never come. It's making us
all miserable.'

Emma listened, expecting from phrase to phrase some word which would
be to her a terrible enlightenment But Alice had ceased, and the
word still unspoken.

'You say he sent me a message?'

She did not ask directly the cause of Mrs. Mutimer's anger. Instinct
told her that to hear the message would explain all else.

'Emma, I'm afraid to tell you. You'll blame _me_, like mother did.'

'I shan't blame you, Alice. Will you please tell me the message?'

Emma's lips seemed to speak without her volition. The rest o her
face was fixed and cold.

'He's married, Emma.'

'He asked you to tell me?'

Alice was surprised at the self-restraint proved by so quiet an
interrogation.

'Yes, he did. Emma, I'm so, so sorry! If only you'll believe I'm
sorry, Emma! He _made_ me come and tell you. He said if I didn't
you'd have to find out by chance, because he couldn't for shame tell
you himself. And he couldn't tell mother neither. I've had it all to
do. If you knew what I've gone through with mother! It's very hard
that other people should suffer so much just on his account. I am
really sorry for you, Emma.'

'Who is it he's married?' Emma asked. Probably all the last speech
had been but a vague murmur to her ears.

'Some one at Wanley.'

'A lady?'

'Yes, I suppose she's a lady.'

'You didn't see her, then?'

'Yes, I saw her. I don't like her.'

Poor Alice meant this to be soothing. Emma knew it, and smiled.

'I don't think she cares much after all,' Alice said to herself.

'But was that the message?'

'Only to tell you of it, Emma. There was something else,' she added
immediately; 'not exactly a message, but he told me, and I dare say
he thought I should let you know. He said that of course you were to
have the money still as usual.'

Over the listener's face came a cloud, a deep, turbid red. It was
not anger, but shame which rose from the depths of her being. Her
head sank; she turned and walked aside.

'You're not angry with _me_, Emma?'

'Not angry at all, Alice,' was the reply in a monotone.

'I must say good-bye now. I hope you won t take on much. And I hope
Jane 'll soon be better.'

'Thank you. I must go up to her; she doesn't like me to be away
long.'

Alice went before up the kitchen stairs, the dark, narrow stairs
which now seemed to her so poverty-stricken. Emma did not speak, but
pressed her hand at the door.

Kate stood above her on the first landing, and, as Emma came up,
whispered:

'Has he come?'

'Something has hindered him.' And Emma added, 'He couldn't help it.'

'Well, then, I think he ought to have helped it,' said the other
tartly. 'When does he mean to come, I'd like to know?'

'It's uncertain.'

Emma passed into the sick-room. Her sister followed her with eyes of
ill-content, then returned to the kitchen.

Jane lay against pillows. Red light from the fire played over her
face, which was wasted beyond recognition. She looked a handmaiden
of Death.

The atmosphere of the room was warm and sickly. A small green-shaded
lamp stood by the looking-glass in front of the window; it cast a
disk of light below, and on the ceiling concentric rings of light
and shade, which flickered ceaselessly, and were at times all but
obliterated in a gleam from the fireplace. A kettle sang on the
trivet.

The sick girl's hands lay on the counterpane; one of them moved as
Emma came to the bedside, and rested when the warmer fingers clasped
it. There was eager inquiry in the sunken eyes; her hand tried to
raise itself, but in vain.

'What did Alice say?' she asked, in quick feeble tones. 'Is he
coming?'

'Not for Christmas, I'm afraid, dear. He's still very busy.'

'But he sent you a message?'

'Yes. He would have come if he could.'

'Did you tell Alice I wanted to see her? Why didn't she come up? Why
did she stay such a short time?'

'She couldn't stay to-night, Jane. Are you easy still, love?'

'Oh, I did so want to see her. Why couldn't she stop, Emma? It
wasn't kind of her to go without seeing me. I'd have made time if it
had been her as was lying in bed. And he doesn't even answer what I
wrote to him. It was such work to write--I couldn't now; and he
might have answered.'

'He very seldom writes to any one, you know, Jane. He has so little
time.'

'Little time! I have less, Emma, and he must know that. It's unkind
of him. What did Alice tell you? Why did he want her to go there?
Tell me everything.'

Emma felt the sunken eyes burning her with their eager look. She
hesitated, pretended to think of something that had to be done, and
the eyes burned more and more. Jane made repeated efforts to raise
herself, as if to get a fuller view of her sister's face.

'Shall I move you?' Emma asked. 'Would you like another pillow?'

'No, no,' was the impatient answer. 'Don't go away from me; don't
take your hand away. I want to know all that Alice said. You haven't
any secrets from me, Emmy. Why _does_ he stay away so long? It seems
years since he came to see you. It's wrong of him. There's no
business ought to keep him away all this time. Look at me, and tell
me what she said.'

'Only that he hadn't time. Dear, you mustn't excite yourself so.
Isn't it all right, Jane, as long as I don't mind it?'

'Why do you look away from me? No, it isn't all right. Oh, I can't
rest, I can't lie here! Why haven't I strength to go and say to him
what I want to say? I thought it was him. when the knock came. When
Kate told me it wasn't, I felt as if my heart was sinking down; and
I don't seem to have no tears left to cry. It 'ud ease me a little
if I could. And now _you're_ beginning to have secrets. Emmy!'

It was a cry of anguish. The mention of tears had brought them to
Emma's eyes, for they lurked very near the surface, and Jane had
seen the firelight touch on a moist cheek. For an instant she raised
herself from the pillows. Emma folded soft arms about her and
pressed her cheek against the heat which consumed her sister's.

'Emmy, I must know,' wailed the sick girl. 'Is it what I've been
afraid of? No, not that! Is it the worst of all? You must tell .me
now. You don't love me if you keep away the truth. I can't have
anything between you and me.'

A dry sob choked her; she gasped for breath. Emma, fearful lest the
very life was escaping from her embrace, drew away and looked in
anguish. Her involuntary tears had ceased, but she could no longer
practise deception. The cost to Jane was greater perhaps than if she
knew the truth. At least their souls must be united ere it was too
late.

'The truth, Emmy!'

'I will tell it you, darling,' she replied, with quiet sadness.
'It's for him that I'm sorry. I never thought anything could tempt
him to break his word. Think of it in the same way as I do,
dear-sister; don't be sorry for me, but for him.'

'He's never coming? He won't marry you?'

'He's already married, Jane. Alice came to tell me.'

Again she would have raised herself, but this time there was no
strength. Not even her arms could she lift from the coverlets. But
Emma saw the vain effort, raised the thin arms, put them about her
neck, and held her sister to her heart as if for eternity.

'Darling, darling, it isn't hard to bear. I care for nothing but
your love. Live for my sake, dearest dear; I have forgotten every
one and everything but you. It's so much better. I couldn't have
changed my life so; I was never meant to be rich. It seems unkind of
him, but in a little time we shall see it was best. Only you, Janey;
you have my whole heart, and I'm so glad to feel it is so. Live, and
I'll give every minute of my life to loving you, poor sufferer.'

Jane could not breathe sound into the words she would have spoken.
She lay with her eyes watching the fire-play on the ceiling. Her
respiration was quick and feeble.

Mutimer's name was not mentioned by either again that night, by one
of them never again. Such silence was his punishment.

Kate entered the room a little before midnight. She saw one of
Jane's hands raised to impose silence. Emma, still sitting by the
bedside, slept; her head rested on the pillows. The sick had become
the watcher.

'She'd better go to bed,' Kate whispered. 'I'll wake her.'

'No, no You needn't stay, Kate. I don't want anything. Let her sleep
as she is.'

The elder sister left the room. Then Jane approached her head to
that of the sleeper, softly, softly, and her arm stole across Emma's
bosom and rested on her farther shoulder. The fire burned with
little whispering tongues of flame; the circles of light and shade
quivered above the lamp. Abroad the snow fell and froze upon the
ground.

Three days later Alice Mutimer, as she sat at breakfast, was told
that a visitor named Mrs. Clay desired to see her. It was nearly ten
o'clock; Alice had no passion for early rising, and since her
mother's retirement from the common table she breakfasted alone at
any hour which seemed good to her. 'Arry always--or nearly always--left
the house at eight o'clock.

Mrs. Clay was introduced into the dining-room. Alice received her
with an anxious face, for she was anticipating trouble from the
house in Wilton Square. But the trouble was other than she had in
mind.

'Jane died at four o'clock this morning,' the visitor began, without
agitation, in the quick, unsympathetic voice which she always used
when her equanimity was in any way disturbed. 'Emma hasn't closed
her eyes for two days and nights, and now I shouldn't wonder if
she's going to be ill herself. I made her lie down, and then came
out just to ask you to write to your brother. Surely he'll come now.
I don't know what to do about the burying; we ought to have some one
to help us. I expected your mother would be coming to see us, but
she's kept away all at once. Will you write to Dick?'

Alice was concerned to perceive that Kate was still unenlightened.

'Did Emma know you were coming?' she asked.

'Yes, I suppose she did. But it's hard to get her to attend to
anything. I've left her alone, 'cause there wasn't any one I could
fetch at once. Will you write to-day?'

'Yes, I'll see to it,' said Alice. 'Have some breakfast, will you?'

'Well, I don't mind just a cup o' coffee. It's very cold, and I had
to walk a long way before I could get a 'bus.'

Whilst Kate refreshed herself, Alice played nervously with her
tea-spoon, trying to make up her mind what must be done. The
situation was complicated with many miseries, but Alice had
experienced a growth of independence since her return from Wanley.
All she had seen and heard whilst with her brother had an effect
upon her in the afterthought, and her mother's abrupt surrender into
her hands of the household control gave her, when she had time to
realise it, a sense of increased importance not at all disagreeable.
Already she had hired a capable servant in addition to the scrubby
maid-of-all-work who had sufficed for Mrs. Mutimer, and it was her
intention that henceforth domestic arrangements should be
established on quite another basis.

'I'll telegraph to Dick,' she said, presently. 'I've no doubt he'll
see that everything's done properly.'

'But won't he come himself?'

'We shall see.'

'Is your mother in?'

'She's not very well; I don't think I must disturb her with bad
news. Tell Emma I'm very sorry, will you? I do hope she isn't going
to be ill. You must see that she gets rest now. Was it sudden?' she
added, showing in her face how little disposed she was to dwell on
such gloomy subjects as death and burial.

'She was wandering all yesterday. I don't think she knew anything
after eight o'clock last night. She went off in a sleep.'

When the visitor had gone, Alice drove to the nearest telegraph
office and despatched a message to her brother, giving the news and
asking what should be done. By three o'clock in the afternoon no
reply had yet arrived; but shortly after Mr. Keene presented himself
at the house. Alice had not seen him since her return. He bowed to
her with extreme gravity, and spoke in a subdued voice.

'I grieve that I have lost time, Miss Mutimer. Important business
had taken me from home, and on my return I found a telegram from
Wanley. Your brother directs me to wait upon you at once, on a very
sad subject, I fear. He instructs me to purchase a grave in Manor
Park Cemetery. No near relative, I trust?'

'No, only a friend,' Alice replied. 'You've heard me speak of a girl
called Emma Vine. It's a sister of hers. She died this morning, and
they want help about the funeral.'

'Precisely, precisely. You know with what zeal I hasten to perform
your'--a slight emphasis on this word--'brother's pleasure, be the
business what it may. I'll see about it at once. I was to say to you
that your brother would be in town this evening.'

'Oh, very well. But you needn't look so gloomy, you know, Mr. Keene.
I'm very sorry, but then she's been ill for a very long time, and
it's really almost a relief--to her sisters, I mean.'

'I trust you enjoyed your visit to Wanley, Miss Mutimer?' said
Keene, still preserving his very respectful tone and bearing.

'Oh yes, thanks. I dare say I shall go there again before very long.
No doubt you'll be glad to hear that.'

'I will try to be, Miss Mutimer. I trust that your pleasure is my
first consideration in life.'

Alice was, to speak vulgarly, practising on Mr. Keene. He was her
first visitor since she had entered upon rule, and she had a double
satisfaction in subduing him with airs and graces. She did not
trouble to reflect that under the circumstances he might think her
rather heartless, and indeed hypocrisy was not one of her failings.
Her _naivete_ constituted such charm as she possessed; in
the absence of any deep qualities it might be deemed a virtue, for
it was inconsistent with serious deception.

'I suppose you mean you'd really much rather I stayed here?'

Keene eyed her with observation. He himself had slight depth for a
man doomed to live by his wits, and he was under the disadvantage of
really feeling something of what he said. He was not a rascal by
predilection; merely driven that way by the forces which in our
social state abundantly make for rascality.

'Miss Mutimer,' he replied, with a stage sigh, 'why do you tempt my
weakness? I am on my honour; I am endeavouring to earn your good
opinion. Spare me!'

'Oh, I'm sure there's no harm in you, Mr. Keene. I suppose you'd
better go and see after your--your business.'

'You are right. I go at once, Princess. I may call you Princess?'

'Well, I don't know about that. Of course only when there's no one
else in the room.'

'But I shall think it always.'

'That I can't prevent, you know.'

'Ah, I fear you mean nothing, Miss Mutimer.'

'Nothing at all.'

He took his leave, and Alice enjoyed reflecting upon the dialogue,
which certainly had meant nothing for her in any graver sense.

'Now, that's what the books call _flirtation_,' she said to herself.
'I think I can do that.'

And on the whole she could, vastly better than might have been
expected of her birth and breeding.

At six o'clock a note was delivered for her. Richard wrote from an
hotel in the neighbourhood, asking her to come to him. She found him
in a private sitting-room, taking a meal.

'Why didn't you come to the house?' she asked. 'You knew mother
never comes down-stairs.'

Richard looked at her with lowered brows.

'You mean to say she's doing that in earnest?'

'That she is She comes down early in the morning and gets all the
food she wants for the day. I heard her cooking something in a
frying-pan to-day. She hasn't been out of the house yet.'

'Does she know about Jane?'

'No. I know what it would be if I went and told her.'

He ate in silence. Alice waited.

'You must go and see Emma,' was his next remark. 'Tell her there's a
grave in Manor Park Cemetery; her father and mother were buried
there, you know. Keene 'll look after it all and he'll come and tell
you what to do.'

'Why did you come up?'

'Oh, I couldn't talk about these things in letters. You'll have to
tell mother; she might want to go to the funeral.'

'I don't see why I should do all your disagreeable work, Dick!'

'Very well, don't do it,' he replied sullenly, throwing down his
knife and fork.

A scene of wrangling followed, without violence, but of the kind
which is at once a cause and an effect of demoralisation. The old
disagreements between them had been in another tone, at all events
on Richard's side, for they had arisen from his earnest disapproval
of frivolities and the like. Richard could no longer speak in that
way. To lose the power of honest reproof in consequence of a moral
lapse is to any man a wide-reaching calamity; to a man of Mutimer's
calibre it meant disaster of which the end could not be foreseen.

Of course Alice yielded; her affection and Richard's superior force
always made it a foregone result that she should do so.

'And you won't come and see mother?' she asked.

'No. She's behaving foolishly.'

'It's precious dull at home, I can tell you. I can't go on much
longer without friends of some kind. I've a good mind to marry Mr.
Keene, just for a change.'

Richard started up, with his fist on the table.

'Do you mean to say he's been talking to you in that way?' he cried
angrily.

Alice had spoken with thoughtless petulance. She hastened eagerly to
correct her error.

'As if I meant it! Don't be stupid, Dick. Of course he hasn't said a
word; I believe he's engaged to somebody; I thought so from
something he said a little while ago. The idea of me marrying a man
like that!'

He examined her closely, and Alice was not afraid of telltale
cheeks.

'Well, I can't think you'd be such a fool. If I thought there was
any danger of that, I'd soon stop it.'

'Would you, indeed! Why, that would be just the way to make me say
I'd have him. You'd have known that if only you read novels.'

'Novels!' he exclaimed, with profound contempt. 'Don't go playing
with that kind of thing; it's dangerous. At least you can wait a
week or two longer. I've only let him see so much of you because I
felt sure you'd got common sense.'

'Of course I have. But what's to happen in a week or two?'

'I should think you might come to Wanley for a little. We shall see.
If mother had only 'Arry in the house, she might come back to her
senses.'

'Shall I tell her you've been to London?'

'You can if you like,' he replied, with a show of indifference.

Jane Vine was buried on Sunday afternoon, her sisters alone
accompanying her to the grave. Alice had with difficulty obtained
admission to her mother's room, and it seemed to her that the news
she brought was received with little emotion. The old woman had an
air of dogged weariness; she did not look her daughter in the face,
and spoke only in monosyllables. Her face was yellow, her cheeks
like wrinkled parchment.

Manor Park Cemetery lies in the remote East End, and gives
sleeping-places to the inhabitants of a vast district. There Jane's
parents lay, not in a grave to themselves, but buried amidst the
nameless dead, in that part of the ground reserved for those who can
purchase no more than a portion in the foss which is filled when its
occupants reach statutable distance from the surface. The regions
around were then being built upon for the first time; the familiar
streets of pale, damp brick were stretching here and there,
continuing London, much like the spreading of a disease. Epping
Forest is near at hand, and nearer the dreary expanse of Wanstead
Flats.

Not grief, but chill desolation makes this cemetery its abode. A
country churchyard touches the tenderest memories, and softens the
heart with longing for the eternal rest. The cemeteries of wealthy
London abound in dear and great associations, or at worst preach
homilies which connect themselves with human dignity and pride. Here
on the waste limits of that dread East, to wander among tombs is to
go hand in hand with the stark and eyeless emblem of mortality; the
spirit falls beneath the cold burden of ignoble destiny. Here lie
those who were born for toll; who, when toil has worn them to the
uttermost, have but to yield their useless breath and pass into
oblivion. For them is no day, only the brief twilight of a winter
sky between the former and the latter night For them no aspiration;
for them no hope of memory in the dust; their very children are
wearied into forgetfulness. Indistinguishable units in the vast
throng that labours but to support life, the name of each, father,
mother, child, is as a dumb cry for the warmth and love of which
Fate so stinted them. The wind wails above their narrow tenements;
the sandy soil, soaking in the rain as soon as it has fallen, is a
symbol of the great world which absorbs their toil and straightway
blots their being.

It being Sunday afternoon the number of funerals was considerable;
even to bury their dead the toilers cannot lose a day of the wage
week. Around the chapel was a great collection of black vehicles
with sham-tailed mortuary horses; several of the families present
must have left themselves bare in order to clothe a coffin in the
way they deemed seemly. Emma and her sister had made their own
funeral garments, and the former, in consenting for the sake of poor
Jane to receive the aid which Mutimer offered, had insisted through
Alice that there should be no expenditure beyond the strictly
needful. The carriage which conveyed her and Kate alone followed the
hearse from Hoxton; it rattled along at a merry pace, for the way
was lengthy, and a bitter wind urged men and horses to speed. The
occupants of the box kept up a jesting colloquy.

Impossible to read the burial service over each of the dead
separately; time would not allow it. Emma and Kate found themselves
crowded among a number of sobbing women, just in time to seat
themselves before the service began. Neither of them had moist eyes;
the elder looked about the chapel with blank gaze, often shivering
with cold; Emma's face was bent downwards, deadly pale, set in
unchanging woe. A world had fallen to pieces about her; she did not
feel the ground upon which she trod; there seemed no way from amid
the ruins. She had no strong religious faith; a wail in the darkness
was all the expression her heart could attain to; in the present
anguish she could not turn her thoughts to that far vision of a life
hereafter. All day she had striven to realise that a box of wood
contained all that was left of her sister. The voice of the
clergyman struck her ear with meaningless monotony. Not immortality
did she ask for, but one more whisper from the lips that could not
speak, one throb of the heart she had striven so despairingly to
warm against her own.

Kate was plucking at her arm, for the service was over, and
unconsciously she was impeding people who wished to pass from the
seats. With difficulty she rose and walked; the cold seemed to have
checked the flow of her blood; she noticed the breath rising from
her mouth, and wondered that she could have so much whilst those
dear lips were breathless. Then she was being led over hard snow,
towards a place where men stood, where there was new-turned earth,
where a coffin lay upon the ground. She suffered the sound of more
words which she could not follow, then heard the dull falling of
clods upon hollow wood. A hand seemed to clutch her throat, she
struggled convulsively and cried aloud. But the tears would not
come.

No memory of the return home dwelt afterwards in her mind. The white
earth, the headstones sprinkled with snow, the vast grey sky over
which darkness was already creeping, the wind and the clergyman's
voice joining in woful chant, these alone remained with her to mark
the day. Between it and the days which then commenced lay formless
void.

On Tuesday morning Alice Mutimer came to the house. Mrs. Clay
chanced to be from home; Emma received the visitor and led her down
into the kitchen.

'I am glad you have come,' she said; 'I wanted to see you to-day.'

'Are you feeling better?' Alice asked. She tried in vain to speak
with the friendliness of past days; that could never be restored.
Her advantages of person and dress were no help against the
embarrassment caused in her by the simple dignity of the wronged and
sorrowing girl.

Emma replied that she was better, then asked:

'Have you come only to see me; or for something else?'

'I wanted to know how you were; but I've brought you something as
well'

She took an envelope from within her muff. Emma shook her head.

'No, nothing more,' she said, in a tone removed alike from
resentment and from pathos; 'I want you, please, to say that we can
t take anything after this.'

'But what are you going to do, Emma?'

'To leave this house and live as we did before.'

'Oh, but you can't do that What does Kate say?'

'I haven't told her yet; I'm going to do so to-day.'

'But she'll feel it very hard with the children.'

The children were sitting together in a corner of the kitchen. Emma
glanced at them, and saw that Bertie, the elder, was listening with
a surprised look.

'Yes, I'm sorry,' she replied simply, 'but we have no choice.'

Alice had an impulse of generosity.

'Then take it from _me_,' she said. 'You won't mind that. You know I
have plenty of my own. Live here and let one or two of the rooms,
and I'll lend you what you need till the business is doing well. Now
you can't have anything to say against that?'

Emma still shook her head.

'The business will never help us. We must go back to the old work;
we can always live on that. I can't take anything from you, Alice.'

'Well, I think it's very unkind, Emma.'

'Perhaps so, but I can't help it: It's kind of you to offer, I feel
that; but I'd rather work my fingers to the bone than touch one
halfpenny now that I haven't earned.'

Alice bridled slightly and urged no more. She left before Kate
returned.

In the course of the morning Emma strung herself to the effort of
letting her sister know the true state of affairs. It was only what
Kate had for a long time suspected, and she freely said as much,
expressing her sentiments with fluent indignation.

'Of course I know you won't hear of it,' she said, 'but if I was in
your place I'd make him smart. I'd have him up and make him pay, see
if I wouldn't. Trust him, he knows you're too soft-hearted, and he
takes advantage of you. It's girls like you as encourages men to
think they can do as they like. You've no right, you haven't, to let
him off. I'd have him in the newspapers and show him up, see if I
wouldn't. And he shan't have it quite so easy as he thinks neither;
I'll go about and tell everybody as I know. Only let him come
a-lecturin' hereabouts, that's all!'

'Kate,' broke in the other, 'if you do anything of the kind, I don't
know how I shall speak to you again. Its not you he's harmed; you've
no right to spread talk about me It's my affair, and I must do as I
think fit. It's all over and there's no occasion for neither you nor
me to speak of him again I'm going out this afternoon to find a room
for us, and we shall be no worse off than we was before. We've got
to work, that's all, and to earn our living like other women do.'

Her sister stared incredulously.

'You mean to say he's stopped sending money?'

'I have refused to take it.'

'You've done _what_? Well, of all the--!' Comparisons failed her.
'And I've got to take these children back again into a hole like the
last? Not me! You do as you like; I suppose you know your own
business. But if he doesn't send the money as usual, I'll find some
way to make him, see if I don't! You're off your head, I think.'

Emma had anticipated this, and was prepared to bear the brunt of her
sister's anger. Kate was not originally blessed with much sweetness
of disposition, and an unhappy marriage had made her into a sour,
nagging woman. But, in spite of her wretched temper and the low
moral tone induced during her years of matrimony, she was not
evil-natured, and her chief safeguard was affection for her sister
Emma. This seldom declared itself, for she was of those unhappily
constituted people who find nothing so hard as to betray the
tenderness of which they are capable, and, as often as not, are
driven by a miserable perversity to words and actions which seem
quite inconsistent with such feeling. For Jane she had cared far
less than for Emma, yet her grief at Jane's death was more than
could be gathered from her demeanour. It had, in fact, resulted in a
state of nervous irritableness; an outbreak of anger came to her as
a relief, such as Emma had recently found in the shedding of tears.
On her own account she felt strongly, but yet more on Emma's; coarse
methods of revenge naturally suggested themselves to her, and to be
thwarted drove her to exasperation. When Emma persisted in steady
opposition, exerting all the force of her character to subdue her
sister's ignoble purposes, Kate worked herself to frenzy. For more
than an hour her voice was audible in the street, as she poured
forth torrents of furious reproach and menace; all the time Emma
stood patient and undaunted, her own anger often making terrible
struggle for mastery, but ever finding itself subdued. For she, too,
was of a passionate nature, but the treasures of sensibility which
her heart enclosed consecrated all her being to noble ends. One
invaluable aid she had in a contest such as this--her inability to
grow sullen. Righteous anger might gleam in her eyes and quiver upon
her lips, but the fire always burnt clear; it is smoulder that
poisons the air.

She knew her sister, pitied her, always made for her the gentlest
allowances. It would have been easy to stand aside, to disclaim
responsibility, and let Kate do as she chose, but the easy course
was never the one she chose when endurance promised better results.
To resist to the uttermost, even to claim and exert the authority
she derived from her suffering, was, she knew, the truest kindness
to her sister. And in the end she prevailed. Kate tore her passion
to tatters, then succumbed to exhaustion. But she did not fling out
of the room, and this Emma knew to be a hopeful sign. The
opportunity of strong, placid speech at length presented itself, and
Emma used it well. She did not succeed in eliciting a promise, but
when she declared her confidence in her sister's better self, Kate
made no retort, only sat in stubborn muteness.

In the afternoon Emma went forth to fulfil her intention of finding
lodgings. She avoided the neighbourhood in which she had formerly
lived, and after long search discovered what she wanted in a woful
byway near Old Street. It was one room only, but larger than she had
hoped to come upon; fortunately her own furniture had been
preserved, and would now suffice.

Kate remained sullen, but proved by her actions that she had
surrendered; she began to pack her possessions. Emma wrote to Alice,
announcing that the house was tenantless; she took the note to
Highbury herself, and left it at the door, together with the house
key. The removal was effected after nightfall.





CHAPTER XVII




Movements which appeal to the reason and virtue of humanity, and are
consequently doomed to remain long in the speculative stage, prove
their vitality by enduring the tests of schism. A Socialistic
propaganda in times such as our own, an insistence upon the
principles of Christianity in a modern Christian state, the advocacy
of peace and good-will in an age when falsehood is the foundation of
the social structure, and internecine warfare is presupposed in
every compact between man and man, might anticipate that the test
would come soon, and be of a stringent nature. Accordingly it did
not surprise Mr. Westlake when he discerned the beginnings of
commotion in the Union of which he represented the cultured and
leading elements. A comrade named Roodhouse had of late been coming
into prominence by addressing himself in fiery eloquence to open-air
meetings, and at length had taken upon himself to more than hint
that the movement was at a standstill owing to the lukewarmness (in
guise of practical moderation) of those to whom its guidance had
been entrusted. The reports of Comrade Roodhouse's lectures were of
a nature that made it difficult for Mr. Westlake to print them in
the 'Fiery Cross;' one such report arrived at length, that of a
meeting held on Clerkenwell Green on the first Sunday of the new
year, to which the editor refused admission. The comrade who made it
his business to pen notes of the new apostle's glowing words, had
represented him as referring to the recognised leader in such very
uncompromising terms, that to publish the report in the official
columns would have been stultifying. In the lecture in question
Roodhouse declared his adherence to the principles of assassination;
he pronounced them the sole working principles; to deny to
Socialists the right of assassination was to rob them of the very
sinews of war. Men who affected to be revolutionists, but were in
reality nothing more than rose-water romancers, would of course
object to anything which looked like business; they liked to sit in
their comfortable studies and pen daintily worded articles, thus
earning for themselves a humanitarian reputation at a very cheap
rate. That would not do; _&#224; bas_ all such penny-a-liner
pretence! Blood and iron! that must be the revolutionists'
watchword. Was it not by blood and iron that the present damnable
system was maintained? To arms, thensecretly, of course. Let tyrants
be made to tremble upon their thrones in more countries than Russia.
Let capitalists fear to walk in the daylight. This only was the path
of progress.

It was thought by the judicious that Comrade Roodhouse would, if he
repeated this oration, find himself the subject of a rather ugly
indictment. For the present, however, his words were ignored, save
in the Socialist body. To them, of course, he had addressed himself,
and doubtless he was willing to run a little risk for the sake of a
most practical end, that of splitting the party, and thus
establishing a sovereignty for himself; this done, he could in
future be more guarded. His reporter purposely sent 'copy' to Mr.
Westlake which could not be printed, and the rejection of the report
was the signal for secession. Comrade Roodhouse printed at his own
expense a considerable number of leaflets, and sowed them broadcast
in the Socialist meeting-places. There were not wanting disaffected
brethren, who perused these appeals with satisfaction. Schism
flourished.

Comrade Roodhouse was of course a man of no means, but he numbered
among his followers two extremely serviceable men, one of them a
practical printer who carried on a small business in Camden Town;
the other an oil merchant, who, because his profits had never
exceeded a squalid two thousand a year, whereas another oil merchant
of his acquaintance made at least twice as much, was embittered
against things in general, and ready to assist any subversionary
movement, yea, even with coin of the realm, on the one condition
that he should be allowed to insert articles of his own composition
in the new organ which it was proposed to establish. There was no
difficulty in conceding this trifle, and the 'Tocsin' was the
result. The name was a suggestion of the oil merchant himself, and
no bad name if Socialists at large could be supposed capable of
understanding it; but the oil merchant was too important a man to be
thwarted, and the argument by which he supported his choice was
incontestable. 'Isn't it our aim to educate the people? Very well,
then let them begin by knowing what Tocsin means. I shouldn't know
myself if I hadn't come across it in the newspaper and looked it up
in the dictionary; so there you are!'

And there was the 'Tocsin,' a weekly paper like the 'Fiery Cross.'
The first number appeared in the middle of February, so admirably
prepared were the plans of Comrade Roodhouse. It appeared on Friday;
the next Sunday promised to be a lively day at Commonwealth Hall and
elsewhere. At the original head-quarters of the Union addresses were
promised from two leading men, Comrades Westlake and Mutimer.
Comrade Roodhouse would in the morning address an assembly on
Clerkenwell Green; in the evening his voice would summon adherents
to the meeting-place in Hoxton which had been the scene of our
friend Richard's earliest triumphs. With few exceptions the
Socialists of that region had gone over to the new man and the new
paper.

Richard arrived in town on the Saturday, and went to the house in
Highbury, whither disagreeable business once more summoned him.
Alice, who, owing to her mother's resolute refusal to direct the
household, had not as yet been able to spend more than a day or two
with Richard and his wife, sent nothing but ill news to Wanley. Mrs.
Mutimer seemed to be breaking down in health, and 'Arry was
undisguisedly returning to evil ways. For the former, it was
suspected--a locked door prevented certainty--that she had of late
kept her bed the greater part of the day; a servant who met her
downstairs in the early morning reported that she 'looked very bad
indeed.' The case of the latter was as hard to deal with. 'Arry had
long ceased to attend his classes with any regularity, and he was
once more asserting the freeman's right to immunity from day labour.
Moreover, he claimed in practice the freeman's right to get drunk
four nights out of the seven. No one knew whence he got his money;
Richard purposely stinted him, but the provision was useless. Mr.
Keene declared with lamentations that his influence over 'Arry was
at an end; nay, the youth had so far forgotten gratitude as to
frankly announce his intention of 'knockin' Keene's lights out' if
he were further interfered with. To the journalist his 'lights' were
indispensable; in no sense of the word did he possess too many of
them; so it was clear that he must abdicate his tutorial functions.
Alice implored her brother to come and 'do something.'

Richard, though a married man of only six weeks' standing, had
troubles altogether in excess of his satisfactions. Things were not
as they should have been in that earthly paradise called New Wanley.
It was not to be expected that the profits of that undertaking would
be worth speaking of for some little time to come, but it was
extremely desirable that it should pay its own expenses, and it
began to be doubtful whether even this moderate success was being
achieved. Various members of the directing committee had visited New
Wanley recently, and Richard had talked to them in a somewhat
discouraging tone; his fortune was not limitless, it had to be
remembered; a considerable portion of old Mutimer's money had lain
in the vast Belwick concern of which he was senior partner; the
surviving members of the firm were under no specified obligation to
receive Richard himself as partner, and the product of the realised
capital was a very different thing from the share in the profits
which the old man had enjoyed. Other capital Richard had at his
command, but already he was growing chary of encroachments upon
principal. He began to murmur inwardly that the entire fortune did
not lie at his disposal; willingly he would have allowed Alice a
handsome portion; and as for 'Arry, the inheritance was clearly
going to be his ruin. The practical difficulties at New Wanley were
proving considerable; the affair was viewed with hostility by
ironmasters in general, and the results of such hostility were felt.
But Richard was committed to his scheme; all his ambitions based
themselves thereupon. And those ambitions grew daily.

These greater troubles must to a certain extent solve themselves,
but in Highbury it was evidently time, as Alice said, to 'do
something.' His mother's obstinacy stood in the way of almost every
scheme that suggested itself. Richard was losing patience with the
poor old woman, and suffered the more from his irritation because he
would so gladly have behaved to her with filial kindness. One plan
there was to which she might possibly agree, and even have pleasure
in accepting it, but it was not easy to propose. The house in Wilton
Square was still on his hands; upon the departure of Emma and her
sister; a certain Mrs. Chattaway, a poor friend of old times, who
somehow supported herself and a grandchild, had been put into the
house as caretaker, for Richard could not sell all the furniture to
which his mother was so attached, and he had waited for her return
to reason before ultimately deciding how to act in that matter.
Could he now ask the old woman to return to the Square, and, it
might be, live there with Mrs. Chattaway? In that case both 'Arry
and Alice would have to leave London.

On Saturday afternoon he had a long talk with his sister. To Alice
also it had occurred that their mother's return to the old abode
might be desirable.

'And you may depend upon it, Dick,' she said, 'she'll never rest
again till she does get back. I believe you've only got to speak of
it, and she'll go at once.'

'She'll think it unkind,' Richard objected. 'It looks as if we
wanted to get her out of the way. Why on earth does she carry on
like this? As if we hadn't bother enough!'

'Well, we can't help what she thinks. I believe it'll be for her own
good. She'll be comfortable with Mrs. Chattaway, and that's more
than she'll ever be here. But what about 'Arry?'

'He'll have to come to Wanley. I shall find him work there--I wish
I'd done so months ago.'

There were no longer the objections to 'Arry's appearance at Wanley
that had existed previous to Richard's marriage; none the less the
resolution was courageous, and proved the depth of Mutimer's anxiety
for his brother. Having got the old woman to Wilton Square, and
Alice to the Manor, it would have been easy enough to bid Mr. Henry
Mutimer betake himself--whither his mind directed him. Richard could
not adopt that rough-and-ready way out of his difficulty. Just as he
suffered in the thought that he might be treating his mother
unkindly, so he was constrained to undergo annoyances rather than
abandon the hope of saving 'Arry from ultimate destruction.

'Will he live at the Manor?' Alice asked uneasily.

Richard mused; then a most happy idea struck him.

'I have it! He shall live with Rodman. The very thing! Rodman's the
fellow to look after him. Yes; that's what we'll do.'

'And I'm to live at the Manor?'

'Of course.'

'You think Adela won't mind?'

'Mind? How the deuce can she mind it?'

As a matter of form Adela would of course be consulted, but Richard
had no notion of submitting practical arrangements in his own
household to his wife's decision.

'Now we shall have to see mother,' he said. 'How's that to be
managed?'

'Will you go and speak at her door?'

'That be hanged! Confound it, has she gone crazy? Just go up and say
I want to see her.'

'If I say that, I'm quite sure she won't come.'

Richard waxed in anger.

'But she _shall_ come! Go and say I want to see her, and that if she
doesn't come down I'll force the door. There'll have to be an end to
this damned foolery. I've got no time to spend humbugging. It's four
o'clock, and I have letters to write before dinner. Tell her I must
see her, and have done with it.'

Alice went upstairs with small hope of success. She knocked twice
before receiving an answer.

'Mother, are you there?'

'What do you want?' came back in a voice of irritation.

'Dick's here, and wants to speak to you. He says he _must_ see you;
it's something very important.'

'I've nothing to do with him,' was the reply.

'Will you see him if he comes up here?'

'No, I won't.'

Alice went down and repeated this. After a moment's hesitation
Mutimer ascended the stairs by threes. He rapped loudly at the
bedroom door. No answer was vouchsafed.

'Mother, you must either open the door or come downstairs,' he cried
with decision. 'This has gone on long enough. Which will you do?'

'I'll do neither,' was the angry reply. 'What right have you to
order me about, I'd like to know? You mind your business, and I'll
mind mine.'

'All right. Then I shall send for a man at once, and have the door
forced.'

Mrs. Mutimer knew well the tone in which these words were spoken;
more than once ere now it had been the preliminary of decided
action. Already Richard had reached the head of the stairs, when he
heard a key turn, and the bedroom door was thrown open with such
violence that the walls shook. He approached the threshold and
examined the interior.

There was only one noticeable change in the appearance of the
bedroom since he had last seen it. The dressing-table was drawn near
to the fire, and on it were a cup and saucer, a few plates, some
knives, forks, and spoons, and a folded tablecloth. A kettle and a
saucepan stood on the fender. Her bread and butter Mrs. Mutimer kept
in a drawer. All the appointments of the chamber were as clean and
orderly as could be.

The sight of his mother's face all but stilled Richard's anger; she
was yellow and wasted; her hair seemed far more grizzled than he
remembered it. She stood as far from him as she could get, in an
attitude not devoid of dignity, and looked him straight in the face.
He closed the door.

'Mother, I've not come here to quarrel with you,' Mutimer began, his
voice much softened. 'What's done is done, and there's no helping
it. I can understand you being angry at first, but there's no sense
in making enemies of us all in this way. It can't go on any
longer--neither for your sake nor ours. I want to talk reasonably,
and to make some kind of arrangement.'

'You want to get me out o' the 'ouse. I'm ready to go, an' glad to
go. I've earnt my livin' before now, an' I'm not so old but I can do
it again. You always was one for talkin', but the fewest words is
best. Them as talks most isn't allus the most straightfor'ard.'

'It isn't that kind of talk that'll do any good, mother. I tell you
again, I'm not going to use angry words; You know perfectly well
I've never behaved badly to you, and I'm not going to begin now.
What I've got to say is that you've no right to go on like this.
Whilst you've been shutting yourself up in this room, there's Alice
living by herself, which it isn't right she should do; and there's
'Arry going to the bad as fast as he can, and just because you won't
help to look after him. If you'll only think of it in the right way,
you'll see that's a good deal your doing. If 'Arry turns out a scamp
and a blackguard, it's you that 'll be greatly to blame for it. You
might have helped to look after him. I always thought you'd more
common sense. You may say what you like about me, and I don't care;
but when you talk about working for your living, you ought to
remember that there's work enough near at hand, if only you'd see to
it.'

'I've nothing to do neither with you nor 'Arry nor Alice,' answered
the old woman stubbornly. 'If 'Arry disgraces his name, he won't be
the first as has done it. I done my best to bring you all up honest,
but that was a long time ago, and things has changed. You're old
enough to go your own ways, an' your ways isn't mine. I told you how
it 'ud be, an' the only mistake I made was comin' to live here at
all. Now I can't be left alone, an' I'll go. You've no call to tell
me a second time.'

It was a long, miserable wrangle, lasting half an hour, before a
possibility of agreement presented itself. Richard at length ceased
to recriminate, and allowed his mother to talk herself to satiety.
He then said:

'I'm thinking of giving up this house, mother. What I want to know
is, whether it would please you to go back to the old place again? I
ask you because I can think of ud other way for putting you in
comfort. You must say and think what you like, only just answer me
the one question as I ask it--that is, honestly and good-temperedly.
I shall have to take 'Arry away with me; I can't let him go to the
dogs without another try to keep him straight. Alice 'll have to go
with me too, at all events for a time. Whether we like it or not,
she'll have to accustom herself to new ways, and I see my way to
helping her. I don't know whether you've been told that Mrs.
Chattaway's been living in the house since the others went away. The
furniture's just as you left it; I dare say you'd feel it like going
home again.'

'They've gone, have they?' Mrs. Mutimer asked, as if unwilling to
show the interest which this proposal had excited in her.

'Yes, they went more than a month ago. We put Mrs. Chattaway in just
to keep the place in order. I look on the house as yours. You might
let Mrs. Chattaway stay there still, perhaps; but that's just as you
please. You oughtn't to live quite alone.'

Mrs. Mutimer did not soften, but, after many words, Richard
understood her to agree to what he proposed. She had stood all
through the dialogue; now at length she moved to a seat, and sank
upon it with trembling limbs. Richard wished to go, but had a
difficulty in leaving abruptly. Darkness had fallen whilst they
talked; they only saw each other by the light of the fire.

'Am I to come and see you or not, mother, when you get back to the
old quarters?'

She did not reply.

'You won't tell me?'

'You must come or stay away, as it suits you,' she said, in a tone
of indifference.

'Very well, then I shall come, if it's only to tell you about 'Arry
and Alice. And now will you let Alice come up and have some tea with
you?'

There was no answer.

'Then I'll tell her she may,' he said kindly, and went from the
room.

He found Alice in the drawing-room, and persuaded her to go up.

'Just take it as if there 'd been nothing wrong,' he said to his
sister. 'She's had a wretched time of it, I can see that. Take some
tea-cakes up with you, and talk about going back to the Square as if
she'd proposed it herself. We mustn't be hard with her just because
she can't change, poor old soul.'

Socialistic business took him away during the evening. When he
returned at eleven o'clock, 'Arry had not yet come in. Shortly
before one there were sounds of ineffectual effort at the front-door
latch. Mutimer, who happened to be crossing the hall, heard them,
and went to open the door. The result was that his brother fell
forward at full length upon the mat.

'Get up, drunken beast!' Richard exclaimed angrily.

'Beast yourself,' was the hiccupped reply, repeated several times
whilst 'Arry struggled to his feet. Then, propping himself against
the door-post, the maligned youth assumed the attitude of pugilism,
inviting all and sundry to come on and have their lights
extinguished. Richard flung him into the hall and closed the door.
'Arry had again to struggle with gravitation.

'Walk upstairs, if you can!' ordered his brother with contemptuous
severity.

After much trouble 'Arry was got to his room, thrust in, and the
door slammed behind him.

Richard was not disposed to argue with his brother this time. He
waited in the dining-room next morning till the champion of liberty
presented himself; then, scarcely looking at him, said with quiet
determination:

'Pack your clothes some time to-day. You're going to Wanley
to-morrow morning.'

'Not unless I choose,' remarked 'Arry.

'You look here,' exclaimed the elder, with concentrated savageness
which did credit to his powers of command. What you choose has
nothing to do with it, and that you'll please to understand. At
half-past nine to-morrow morning you're ready for me in this room;
hear that? I'll have an end to this kind of thing, or I'll know the
reason why. Speak a word of impudence to me and I'll knock half your
teeth out!'

He was capable of doing it. 'Arry got to his morning meal in
silence.

In the course of the morning Mr. Keene called. Mutimer received him
in the dining-room, and they smoked together. Their talk was of the
meetings to be held in the evening.

'There'll be nasty doings up there,' Keene remarked, indicating with
his head the gathering place of Comrade Roodhouse's adherents.

'Of what kind?' Mutimer asked with indifference.

'There's disagreeable talk going about. Probably they'll indulge in
personalities a good deal.'

'Of course they will,' assented the other after a short pause.
'Westlake, eh?'

'Not only Westlake. There's a more important man.'

Mutimer could not resist a smile, though he was uneasy. Keene
understood the smile; it was always an encouragement to him.

'What have they got hold of?'

'I'm afraid there'll be references to the girl.'

'The girl?' Richard hesitated. 'What girl? What do you know about
any girl?'

'It's only the gossip I've heard. I thought it would be as well if I
went about among them last night just to pick up hints, you know.'

'They're talking about that, are they? Well, let them. It isn't hard
to invent lies.'

'Just so,' observed Mr. Keene sympathisingly. 'Of course I know
they'd twisted the affair.'

Mutimer glanced at him and smoked in silence.

'I think I'd better be there to-night,' the journalist continued. 'I
shall be more useful there than at the hall.'

'As you like,' said Mutimer lightly.

The subject was not pursued.

Though the occasion was of so much importance, Commonwealth Hall
contained but a moderate audience when Mr. Westlake rose to deliver
his address. The people who occupied the benches were obviously of a
different stamp from those wont to assemble at the Hoxton
meeting-place. There were perhaps a dozen artisans of intensely
sober appearance, and the rest were men and women who certainly had
never wrought with their hands. Near Mrs. Westlake sat several
ladies, her personal friends. Of the men other than artisans the
majority were young, and showed the countenance which bespeaks
meritorious intelligence rather than ardour of heart or brain. Of
enthusiasts in the true sense none could be discerned. It needed but
a glance over this assembly to understand how very theoretical were
the convictions that had brought its members together.

Mr. Westlake's address was interesting, very interesting; he had
prepared it with much care, and its literary qualities were admired
when subsequently it saw the light in one of the leading
periodicals. Now and then he touched eloquence; the sincerity
animating him was unmistakable, and the ideal he glorified was
worthy of a noble mind. Not in anger did he speak of the schism from
which the movement was suffering; even his sorrow was dominated by a
gospel of hope. Optimism of the most fervid kind glowed through his
discourse; he grew almost lyrical in his anticipation of the good
time coming. For to-night it seemed to him that encouragement should
be the prevailing note; it was always easy to see the dark side of
things. Their work, he told his hearers, was but just beginning.
They aimed at nothing less than a revolution, and revolutions were
not brought about in a day. None of them would in the flesh behold
the reign of justice; was that a reason why they should neglect the
highest impulses of their nature and sit contented in the shadow of
the world's mourning? He spoke with passion of the millions
disinherited before their birth, with infinite tenderness of those
weak ones whom our social system condemns to a life of torture, just
because they are weak. One loved the man for his great heart and for
his gift of moving speech.

His wife sat, as she always. did when listening intently, her body
bent forward, one hand supporting her chin. Her eyes never quitted
his face.

To the second speaker it had fallen to handle in detail the
differences of the hour. Mutimer's exordium was not inspiriting
after the rich-rolling periods with which Mr. Westlake had come to
an end; his hard voice contrasted painfully with the other's
cultured tones. Richard was probably conscious of this, for he
hesitated more than was his wont, seeking words which did not come
naturally to him. However, he warmed to his work, and was soon
giving his audience clearly to understand how he, Richard Mutimer,
regarded the proceedings of Comrade Roodhouse. Let us be
practical--this was the burden of his exhortation. We are
Englishmen--and women--not flighty, frothy foreigners. Besides, we
have the blessings of free speech, and with the tongue and pen we
must be content to fight, other modes of warfare being barbarous.
Those who in their inconsiderate zeal had severed the Socialist
body, were taking upon themselves a very grave responsibility; not
only had they troubled the movement internally, but they would
doubtless succeed in giving it a bad name with many who were
hitherto merely indifferent, and who might in time have been brought
over. Let it be understood that in this hall the true doctrine was
preached, and that the 'Fiery Cross' was the true organ of English
Socialism as distinguished from foreign crazes. The strength of
England had ever been her sobriety; Englishmen did not fly at
impossibilities like noisy children. He would not hesitate to say
that the revolutionism preached in the newspaper called the 'Tocsin'
was dangerous, was immoral. And so on.

Richard was not at his best this evening. You might have seen Mrs.
Westlake abandon her attentive position, and lean back rather
wearily; you might have seen a covert smile on a few of the more
intelligent faces. It was awkward for Mutimer to be praising
moderation in a movement directed against capital, and this was not
exactly the audience for eulogies of Great Britain at the expense of
other countries. The applause when the orator seated himself was
anything but hearty. Richard knew it, and inwardly cursed Mr.
Westlake for taking the wind out of his sails.

Very different was the scene in the meeting-room behind the
coffee-shop. There, upon Comrade Roodhouse's harangue, followed a
debate more stirring than any on the records of the Islington and
Hoxton branch. The room was thoroughly full; the roof rang with
tempestuous acclamations. Messrs. Cowes and Cullen were in their
glory; they roared with delight at each depreciatory epithet applied
to Mr. Westlake and his henchmen, and prompted the speakers with
words and phrases of a rich vernacular. If anything, Comrade
Roodhouse fell a little short of what was expected of him. His
friends had come together prepared for gory language, but the
murderous instigations of Clerkenwell Green were not repeated with
the same crudity. The speaker dealt in negatives; not thus and thus
was the social millennium to be brought about, it was open to his
hearers to conceive the practical course. For the rest, the
heresiarch had a mighty flow of vituperative speech. Aspirates
troubled him, so that for the most part he cast them away, and the
syntax of his periods was often anacoluthic; but these matters were
of no moment.

Questions being called for, Mr. Cowes and Mr. Cullen of course
started up simultaneously. The former gentleman got the ear of the
meeting. With preliminary swaying of the hand, he looked round as
one about to propound a question which would for ever establish his
reputation for acumen. In his voice of quiet malice, with his
frequent deliberate pauses, with the wonted emphasis on absurd
pronunciations, he spoke somewhat thus:--

'In the course of his address--I shall say nothin' about its
qualities, the time for discussion will come presently--our Comrade
has said not a few 'ard things about certain individooals who put
themselves forward as perractical Socialists--'

'Not 'ard enough!' roared a voice from the back of the room.

Mr. Cowes turned his lank figure deliberately, and gazed for a
moment in the quarter whence the interruption had come. Then he
resumed.

'I agree with that involuntary exclamation. Certainly, not 'ard
enough. And the question I wish to put to our Comrade is this: Is
he, or is he not, aweer of certain scandalous doin's on the part of
one of these said individooals, I might say actions which, from the
Socialist point of view, amount to crimes? If our Comrade is aweer
of what I refer to, then it seems to me it was his dooty to
distinctly mention it. If he was _not_ aweer, then we in this
neighbourhood shall be only too glad to enlighten him. I distinctly
assert that a certain individooal we all have in our thoughts has
proved himself a traitor to the cause of the people. Comrades will
understand me. And that's the question I wish to put.'

Mr. Cowes had introduced the subject which a considerable number of
those present were bent on publicly discussing. Who it was that had
first spread the story of Mutimer's matrimonial concerns probably no
one could have determined. It was not Daniel Dabbs, though Daniel,
partly from genuine indignation, partly in consequence of slowly
growing personal feeling against the Mutimers, had certainly
supplied Richard's enemies with corroborative details. Under
ordinary circumstances Mutimer's change of fortune would have seemed
to his old mates a sufficient explanation of his behaviour to Emma
Vine; they certainly would not have gone out of their way to condemn
him. But Richard was by this time vastly unpopular with most of
those who had once glorified him. Envy had had time to grow, and was
assisted by Richard's avoidance of personal contact with his Hoxton
friends. When they spoke of him now it was with sneers and sarcasms.
Some one had confidently asserted that the so-called Socialistic
enterprise at Wanley was a mere pretence, that Mutimer was making
money just like any other capitalist, and the leaguers of Hoxton
firmly believed this. They encouraged one another to positive hatred
of the working man who had suddenly become wealthy; his name stank
in their nostrils. This, in a great measure, explained Comrade
Roodhouse's success; personal feeling is almost always the spring of
public action among the uneducated. In the excitement of the schism
a few of the more energetic spirits had determined to drag Richard's
domestic concerns into publicity. They suddenly became aware that
private morality was at the root of the general good; they urged
each other to righteous indignation in a matter for which they did
not really care two straws. Thus Mr. Cowes's question was received
with vociferous approval. Those present who did not understand the
allusion were quickly enlightened by their neighbours. A crowd of
Englishmen working itself into a moral rage is as glorious a
spectacle as the world can show. Not one of these men but heartily
believed himself justified in reviling the traitor to his class, the
betrayer of confiding innocence. Remember, too, how it facilitates
speech to have a concrete topic on which to enlarge; in this matter
a West End drawing-room and the Hoxton coffee-shop are akin.
Regularity of procedure was at an end; question grew to debate, and
debate was riot. Mr. Cullen succeeded Mr. Cowes and roared himself
hoarse, defying the feeble protests of the chairman. He abandoned
mere allusion, and rejoiced the meeting by declaring names. His
example was followed by those who succeeded him.

Little did Emma think, as she sat working, Sunday though it was, in
her poor room, that her sorrows were being blared forth to a gross
assembly in venomous accusation against the man who had wronged her.
We can imagine that the knowledge would not greatly have soothed
her.

Comrade Roodhouse at length obtained a hearing. It was his policy to
deprecate these extreme personalities, and in doing so he heaped on
the enemy greater condemnation. There was not a little art in the
heresiarch's modes of speech; the less obtuse appreciated him and
bade him live for ever. The secretary of the branch busily took
notes.

When the meeting had broken up into groups, a number of the more
prominent Socialists surrounded Comrade Roodhouse on the platform.
Their talk was still of Mutimer, of his shameless hypocrisy, his
greed, his infernal arrogance. Near at hand stood Mr. Keene; a word
brought him into conversation with a neighbour. He began by
repeating the prevalent abuse, then, perceiving that his hearer
merely gave assent in general terms, he added:--

'I shouldn't wonder, though, if there was some reason we haven't
heard of--I mean, about the girl, you know.'

'Think so?' said the other.

'Well, I _have_ heard it said--but then one doesn't care to repeat
such things.'

'What's that, eh?' put in another man, who had caught the words.

'Oh, nothing. Only the girl's made herself scarce. Dare say the
fault wasn't altogether on one side.'

And Mr. Keene winked meaningly.

The hint spread among those on the platform. Daniel Dabbs happened
to hear it repeated in a gross form.

'Who's been a-sayin' that?' he roared. 'Where have you got that
from, eh?'

The source was already forgotten, but Daniel would not let the
calumny take its way unopposed. He harangued those about him with
furious indignation.

'If any man's got a word to say against Emma Vine, let him come an'
say it to me, that's all I Now look 'ere, all o' you, I know that
girl, and I know that anyone as talks like that about her tells a
damned lie.'

'Most like it's Mutimer himself as has set it goin',' observed
someone.

In five minutes all who remained in the room were convinced that
Mutimer had sent an agent to the meeting for the purpose of
assailing Emma Vine's good name. Mr. Keene had already taken his
departure, and no suspicious character was discernible; a pity for
the evening might have ended in a picturesque way.

But Daniel Dabbs went home to his brother's public-house, obtained
note-paper and an envelope, and forthwith indited a brief epistle
which he addressed to the house in Highbury. It had no formal
commencement, and ended with 'Yours, etc.' Daniel demanded an
assurance that his former friend had not instigated certain vile
accusations against Emma, and informed him that whatever answer was
received would be read aloud at next Sunday's meeting.

The one not wholly ignoble incident in that evening's transactions.





CHAPTER XVIII




In the partial reconciliation between Mrs. Mutimer and her children
there was no tenderness on either side. The old conditions could not
be restored, and the habits of the family did not lend themselves to
the polite hypocrisy which lubricates the wheels of the refined
world. There was to be a parting, and probably it would be for life.
In Richard's household his mother could never have a part, and when
Alice married, doubtless the same social difficulty would present
itself. It was not the future to which Mrs. Mutimer had looked
forward, but, having said her say, she resigned herself and hardened
her heart. At least she would die in the familiar home.

Richard had supper with his sister on his return from Commonwealth
Hall, and their plans were discussed in further detail.

'I want you,' he said, 'to go to the Square with mother to-morrow,
and to stay there till Wednesday. You won't mind doing that?'

'I think she'd do every bit as well without me,' said Alice.

'Never mind; I should like you to go. I'll take 'Arry down to-morrow
morning, then I'll come and fetch you on Wednesday. You'll just see
that everything's comfortable in the house, and buy her a few
presents, the kind of things she'd like.'

'I don't suppose she'll take anything.'

'Try, at all events. And don't mind her talk; it does no harm.'

In the morning came the letter from Daniel Dabbs. Richard read it
without any feeling of surprise, still less with indignation, at the
calumny of which it complained. During the night he had wondered
uneasily what might have occurred at the Hoxton meeting, and the
result was a revival of his ignoble anger against Emma. Had he not
anxiety enough that she must bring him new trouble when he believed
that all relations between him and her were at an end? Doubtless she
was posing as a martyr before all who knew anything of her story;
why had she refused his money, if not that her case might seem all
the harder? It were difficult to say whether he really believed
this; in a nature essentially egoistic, there is often no line to be
drawn between genuine convictions and the irresponsible charges of
resentment. Mutimer had so persistently trained himself to regard
Emma as in the wrong, that it was no wonder if he had lost the power
of judging sanely in any matter connected with her. Tier refusal to
benefit by his generosity had aggravated him; actually, no doubt,
because she thus deprived him of a defence against his conscience.

He was not surprised that libellous rumours were afloat, simply
because since his yesterday's conversation with Keene the thought of
justifying himself in some such way--should it really prove
necessary--had several times occurred to him, suggested probably by
Keene's own words. That the journalist had found means of doing him
this service was very likely indeed. He remembered with satisfaction
that no hint of such a thing had escaped his own lips. Still, he was
uneasy. Keene might have fallen short of prudence, with the result
that Daniel Dabbs might be in a position to trace this calumny to
him, Mutimer. It would not be pleasant if the affair, thus
represented, came to the ears of his friends, particularly of Mr.
Westlake.

He had just finished his breakfast, and was glancing over the
newspaper in a dull and irritable mood, when Keene himself arrived.
Mutimer expected him. Alice quitted the dining-room when he was
announced, and 'Arry, who at the same moment came in for breakfast,
was bidden go about his business, and be ready to leave the house in
half-an-hour.

'What does this mean?' Richard asked abruptly, handing the letter to
his visitor.

Keene perused the crabbed writing, and uttered sundry 'Ah's' and
'Hum's.'

'Do you know anything about it?' Mutimer continued, in a tone
between mere annoyance and serious indignation.

'I think I had better tell you what took place last night,' said the
journalist, with side glances. He had never altogether thrown off
the deferential manner when conversing with his patron, and at
present he emphasised it. 'Those fellows carry party feeling too
far; the proceedings were scandalous. It really was enough to make
one feel that one mustn't be too scrupulous in trying to stop their
mouths. If I'm not mistaken, an action for defamation of character
would lie against half-a-dozen of them.'

Mutimer was unfortunately deficient in sense of humour. He continued
to scowl, and merely said: 'Go on; what happened?'

Mr. Keene allowed the evening's proceedings to lose nothing in his
narration. He was successful in exciting his hearer to wrath, but,
to his consternation, it was forthwith turned against himself.

'And you tried to make things better by going about telling what
several of them would know perfectly well to be lies?' exclaimed
Mutimer, savagely. 'Who the devil gave you authority to do so?'

'My dear sir,' protested the journalist, 'you have quite mistaken
me. I did not mean to admit that I had told lies. How could I for a
moment suppose that a man of your character would sanction that kind
of thing? Pooh, I hope I know you better! No, no; I merely in the
course of conversation ventured to hint that, as you yourself had
explained to me, there were reasons quite other than the vulgar mind
would conceive for--for the course you had pursued. To my own
apprehension such reasons are abundant, and, I will add, most
conclusive. You have not endeavoured to explain them to me in
detail; I trust you felt that I was not so dull of understanding as
to be incapable of--of appreciating motives when sufficiently
indicated. Situations of this kind are _never_ to be explained
grossly; I mean, of course, in the case of men of intellect. I
flatter myself that I have come to know your ruling principles; and
I will say that beyond a doubt your behaviour has been most
honourable. Of course I was mistaken in trying to convey this to
those I talked with last night; they misinterpreted me, and I might
have expected it. We cannot give them the moral feelings which they
lack. But I am glad that the error has so quickly come to light. A
mere word from you, and such a delusion goes no farther. I regret it
extremely.'

Mutimer held the letter in his hand, and kept looking from it to the
speaker. Keene's subtleties were not very intelligible to him, but,
even with a shrewd suspicion that he was being humbugged, he could
not resist a sense of pleasure in hearing himself classed with the
superior men whose actions are not to be explained by the vulgar.
Nay, he asked himself whether the defence was not in fact a just
one. After all, was it not possible that his conduct had been
praiseworthy? He recovered the argument by which he had formerly
tried to silence disagreeable inner voices; a man in his position
owed it to society to effect a union of classes, and private feeling
must give way before the higher motive. He reflected for a moment
when Keene ceased to speak.

'What did you say?' he then asked, still bluntly, but with less
anger. 'Just tell me the words, as far as you can remember.'

Keene was at no loss to recall inoffensive phrases; in another long
speech, full of cajolery sufficiently artful for the occasion, he
represented himself as having merely protested against
misrepresentations obviously sharpened by malice.

'It is just possible that I made some reference to her _character_,'
he admitted, speaking more slowly, and as if desirous that no word
should escape his hearer; 'but it did not occur to me to guard
against misunderstandings of the word. I might have remembered that
it has such different meanings on the lips of educated and of
uneducated men. You, of course, would never have missed my
thoughts.'

'If I might suggest,' he added, when Mutimer kept silence, I think,
if you condescend to notice the letter at all, you should reply only
in the most general terms. Who is this man Dabbs, I wonder, who has
the impudence to write to you in this way?'

'Oh, one of the Hoxton Socialists, I suppose,' Mutimer answered
carelessly. 'I remember the name.'

'A gross impertinence! By no means encourage them in thinking you
owe explanations. Your position doesn't allow anything of the kind.'

'All right,' said Richard, his ill-humour gone; 'I'll see to it.'

He was not able, after all, to catch the early train by which he had
meant to take his brother to Wanley. He did not like to leave
without some kind of good-bye to his mother, and Alice said that the
old woman would not be ready to go before eleven o'clock. After half
an hour of restlessness he sat down to answer Daniel's letter.
Keene's flattery had not been without its fruit. From anger which
had in it an element of apprehension he passed to an arrogant
self-confidence which character and circumstances were conspiring to
make his habitual mood. It _was_ a gross impertinence in Daniel to
address him thus. What was the use of wealth if it did not exempt
one from the petty laws binding on miserable hand to mouth toilers!
He would have done with Emma Vine; his time was of too much value to
the world to be consumed in wranglings about a work-girl. What if
here and there someone believed the calumny? Would it do Emma any
harm? That was most unlikely. On the whole, the misunderstanding was
useful; let it take its course. Men with large aims cannot afford to
be scrupulous in small details. Was not New Wanley a sufficient
balance against a piece of injustice, which, after all, was only one
of words?

He wrote:

'DEAR SIR,--I have received your letter, but it is impossible for me
to spend time in refuting idle stories. What's more, I cannot see
that my private concerns are a fit subject for discussion at a
public meeting, as I understand they have been made. You are at
liberty to read this note when and where you please, and in that
intention let me add that the cause of Socialism will not be
advanced by attacks on the character of those most earnestly devoted
to it. I remain, yours truly,

'RICHARD MUTIMER.'

It seemed to Richard that this was the very thing, alike in tone and
phrasing. A week or two previously a certain statesman had written
to the same effect in reply to calumnious statements, and Richard
consciously made that letter his model. The statesman had probably
been sounder in his syntax, but his imitator had, no doubt, the
advantage in other points. Richard perused his composition several
times, and sent it to the post.

At eleven o'clock Mrs. Mutimer descended to the hall, ready for her
journey. She would not enter any room. Her eldest son came out to
meet her, and got rid of the servant who had fetched a cab.

'Good-bye for the present, mother,' he said, giving his hand 'I hope
you'll find everything just as you wish it.'

'If I don't, I shan't complain,' was the cold reply.

The old woman had clad herself, since her retreat, in the garments
of former days; and the truth must be told that they did not add to
the dignity of her appearance. Probably no costume devisable could
surpass in ignoble ugliness the attire of an English working-class
widow when she appears in the streets. The proximity of Alice,
always becomingly clad, drew attention to the poor mother's plebeian
guise. Richard, watching her enter the cab, felt for the first time
a distinct shame. His feelings might have done him more credit but
for the repulse he had suffered.

'Arry contented himself with standing at the front-room window, his
hands in his pockets.

Later in the same day Daniel Dabbs, who had by chance been following
the British workman's practice and devoting Monday to recreation,
entered an omnibus in which Mrs. Clay was riding. She had a heavy
bundle on her lap, shopwork which she was taking home. Daniel had
already received Mutimer's reply, and was nursing a fit of anger. He
seated himself by Kate's side, and conversed with her.

'Heard anything from _him_ lately?' he asked, with a motion of the
head which rendered mention of names unnecessary.

'Not we,' Kate replied bitterly, her eyes fixing themselves in
scorn.

'No loss,' remarked Daniel, with an expression of disgust.

'He'll hear from _me_ some day,' said the woman, 'and in a way as he
won't like.'

The noise of the vehicle did not favour conversation. Daniel waited
till Kate got out, then he too descended, and walked along by her
side. He did not offer to relieve her of the bundle in primitive
societies woman is naturally the burden-bearer.

'I wouldn't a' thought it o' Dick,' he said, his head thrust
forward, and his eyes turning doggedly from side to side. They say
as how too much money ain't good for a man, but it's changed _him_
past all knowin'.'

'He always had a good deal too much to say for himself,' remarked
Mrs. Clay, speaking with difficulty through her quickened breath,
the bundle almost more than she could manage.

'I wish just now as he'd say a bit more,' said Daniel. 'Now, see,
here's a letter I've just got from him. I wrote to him last night to
let him know of things as was goin' round at the lecture. There's
one or two of our men, you know, think he'd ought to be made to
smart a bit for the way he's treated Emma, and last night they up
an' spoke--you should just a' 'eard them. Then someone set it goin'
as the fault wasn't Dick's at all. See what I mean? I don't know who
started that. I can't think as he'd try to blacken a girl's name
just to excuse himself; that's goin' a bit too far.'

Mrs. Clay came to a standstill.

'He's been saying things of Emma?' she cried. 'Is that what you
mean?'

'Well, see now. I couldn't believe it, an' I don't rightly believe
it yet. I'll read you the answer as he's sent me.'

Daniel gave forth the letter, getting rather lost amid its
pretentious periods, with the eccentric pauses and intonation of an
uneducated reader. Standing in a busy thoroughfare, he and Kate
almost blocked the pavement; impatient pedestrians pushed against
them, and uttered maledictions.

'I suppose that's Dick's new way o' sayin' he hadn't nothin' to do
with it,' Daniel commented at the end. 'Money seems always to bring
long words with it somehow. It seems to me he'd ought to speak
plainer.'

'Who's done it, if he didn't?' Kate exclaimed, with shrill anger.
'You don't suppose there's another man 'ud go about telling coward
lies? The mean wretch! Says things about my sister, does he? I'll be
even with that man yet, never you mind.'

'Well, I can't believe it o' Dick,' muttered Dabbs. 'He says 'ere,
you see, as he hasn't time to contradict "idle stories." I suppose
that means he didn't start 'em.'

'If he tells one lie, won't he tell another?' cried the woman. She
was obliged to put down her bundle on a doorstep, and used the
moment of relief to pour forth vigorous vituperation. Dick listened
with an air half of approval, half doggedly doubtful. He was not
altogether satisfied with himself.

'Well, I must get off 'ome,' he said at length. 'It's only right as
you should know what's goin' on. There's no one believes a word of
it, and that you can tell Emma. If I hear it repeated, you may be
sure I'll up an' say what I think. It won't go no further if I can
stop it. Well, so long! Give my respects to your sister.'

Daniel waved his arm and made off across the street. Kate, clutching
her bundle again, panted along by-ways; reaching the house-door she
rang a bell twice, and Emma admitted her. They climbed together to
an upper room, where Kate flung her burden on to the floor and began
at once to relate with vehemence all that Daniel had told her. The
calumny lost nothing in her repetition. After listening in surprise
for a few moments, Emma turned away and quietly began to cut bread
and butter for the children, who were having their tea.

'Haven't you got anything to say?' cried her sister. 'I suppose
he'll be telling his foul lies about me next. Oh, he's a
good-'earted man, is Mutimer! Perhaps you'll believe me now. Are you
going to let him talk what he likes about you?'

Since the abandonment of the house in Wilton Square, Kate had
incessantly railed in this way; it was a joy to her to have
discovered new matter for invective. Emma's persistent silence
maddened her; even now not a word was to be got from the girl.

'Can't you speak?' shrilled Mrs. Clay. 'If you don't do something, I
let you know that I shall! I'm not going to stand this kind o'
thing, don't think it. If they talk ill of you they'll do the same
of me. It's time that devil had something for himself. You might be
made o' stone! I only hope I may meet him in the streets, that's
all! I'll show him up, see if I don't! I'll let all the people know
what he is, the cur! I'll do something to make him give me in
charge, and then I'll tell it all out before the magistrates. I
don't care what comes, I'll find some way of paying out that beast!'

Emma turned angrily.

'Hold your tongue, Kate! If you go on like this day after day we
shall have to part; I can't put up with it, so there now! I've
begged and prayed you to stop, and you don't pay the least heed to
me; I think you might have more kindness. You'll never make me say a
single word about him, do what you will; I've told you that many a
time, and I mean what I say. Let him say what he likes and do what
he likes. It's nothing to me, and it doesn't concern you. You'll
drive me out of the house again, like you did the other night. I
can't bear it. Do you understand, Kate?--I can't bear it!'

Her voice shook, and there were tears of uttermost shame and misery
in her eyes. The children sitting at the table, though accustomed to
scenes of this kind, looked at the disputants with troubled faces,
and at length the younger began to cry. Emma at once turned to the
little one with smiles of re-assurance. Kate would have preferred to
deal slaps, but contented herself with taking a cup of tea to the
fireside, and sulking for half an hour.

Emma unrolled the bundle of work, and soon the hum of the
sewing-machine began, to continue late into the night.





CHAPTER XIX




You remember that one side of the valley in which stood New Wanley
was clad with trees. Through this wood a public path made transverse
ascent to the shoulder of the bill, a way little used save by Wanley
ramblers in summer time. The section of the wood above the path was
closed against trespassers; among the copses below anyone might
freely wander. In places it was scarcely possible to make a way for
fern, bramble, and underwood, but elsewhere mossy tracks led one
among hazels or under arches of foliage which made of the mid-day
sky a cool, golden shimmer. One such track, abruptly turning round a
great rock over the face of which drooped the boughs of an ash, came
upon a little sloping lawn, which started from a high hazel-covered
bank. The bank itself was so shaped as to afford an easy seat,
shaded even when the grass in front was all sunshine.

Adela had long known this retreat, and had been accustomed to sit
here with Letty, especially when she needed to exchange deep
confidences with her friend. Once, just as they were settling
themselves upon the bank, they were startled by a movement among the
leaves above, followed by the voice of someone addressing them with
cheerful friendliness, and making request to be allowed to descend
and join them. It was Hubert Eldon, just home for the long vacation.
Once or twice subsequently the girls had met Hubert on the same
spot; there had been a picnic here, too, in which Mrs. Eldon and
Mrs. Waltham took part. But Adela always thought of the place as
peculiarly her own. To others it was only a delightfully secluded
corner of the wood, fresh and green; for her it had something
intimately dear, as the haunt where she had first met her own self
face to face and had heard the whispering of secrets as if by
another voice to her tremulous heart.

She sat here one morning in July, six months after her marriage. It
was more than a year since she had seen the spot, and on reaching it
to-day it seemed to her less beautiful than formerly; the leafage
was to her eyes thinner and less warm of hue than in earlier years,
the grass had a coarser look and did not clothe the soil so
completely. An impulse had brought her hither, and her first sense
on arriving had been one of disappointment. Was the change in her
way of seeing? or had the retreat indeed suffered, perchance from
the smoke of New Wanley? The disappointment was like that we
experience in revisiting a place kept only in memory since
childhood. Adela had not travelled much in the past year, but her
growth in experience had put great tracts between her and the days
when she came here to listen and wonder. It was indeed a memory of
her childhood that led her into the wood.

She had brought with her a German book on Socialism and a little
German dictionary. At the advice of Mr. Westlake, given some months
ago on the occasion of a visit to the Manor, she had applied herself
diligently to this study. But it was not only with a view to using
the time that she had selected these books this morning. In visiting
a scene which would strongly revive the past, instinct--rather than
conscious purpose--had bidden her keep firm hold upon the present.
On experiencing her disillusion a sense of trouble had almost led
her to retrace her steps at once, but she overcame this, and,
seating herself on the familiar bank, began to toil through hard
sentences. Such moments of self-discipline were of daily occurrence
in her life; she kept watch and ward over her feelings and found in
efforts of the mind a short way out of inner conflicts which she
durst not suffer to pass beyond the first stage.

Near at hand there grew a silver birch Hubert Eldon, on one of the
occasions when he talked here with Adela and Letty, had by chance
let his eyes wander from Adela to the birch tree, and his fancy,
just then active among tender images, suggested a likeness between
that graceful, gleaming stem with its delicately drooping foliage
and the sweet-featured girl who stood before him with her head bowed
in unconscious loveliness. As the silver birch among the trees of
the wood, so was Adela among the men and women of the world. And to
one looking upon her by chance such a comparison might still have
occurred. But in face she was no longer what she had then been. Her
eyebrows, formerly so smooth and smiling, now constantly drew
themselves together as if at a thought of pain or in some mental
exertion. Her cheeks had none of their maiden colour. Her lips were
closed too firmly, and sometimes trembled like those of old persons
who have known much trouble.

In spite of herself her attention flagged from the hard, dull book;
the spirit of the place was too strong for her, and, as in summers
gone by, she was lost in vision. But not with eyes like these had
she been wont to dream on the green branches or on the sward that
lay deep in sunlight. On her raised lids sat the heaviness of
mourning; she seemed to strain her sight to something very far off,
something which withdrew itself from her desire, upon which her soul
called and called in vain. Her cheeks showed their thinness, her
brow foretold the lines which would mark it when she grew old. It
was a sob in her throat which called her back to consciousness, a
sob which her lips, well-trained warders, would not allow to pass.

She forced herself to the book again, and for some minutes plied her
dictionary with feverish zeal. Then there came over her countenance
a strange gleam of joy, as if she triumphed in self-conquest. She
smiled as she continued her work, clearly making a happiness of each
mastered sentence. And, looking up with the smile still fixed, she
found that her solitude was invaded. Letty Tew had just appeared
round the rock which sheltered the green haven.

'You here, Adela?' the girl exclaimed. 'How strange!'

'Why strange, Letty?'

'Oh, only because I had a sort of feeling that perhaps I might meet
you. Not here, particularly,' she added, as if eager to explain
herself, 'but somewhere in the wood. The day is so fine; it tempts
one to walk about.'

Letty did not approach her friend as she would have done when
formerly they met here. Her manner was constrained, almost timid; it
seemed an afterthought when she bent forward for the kiss. Since
Adela's marriage the intercourse between them had been comparatively
slight. For the first three months they had seen each other only at
long intervals, in part owing to circumstances. After the fortnight
she spent in London at the time of her marriage, Adela had returned
to Wanley in far from her usual state of health; during the first
days of February there had been a fear that she might fall gravely
ill. Only in advanced spring had she begun to go beyond the grounds
of the Manor, and it was still unusual for her to do so except in
her carriage. Letty had acquiesced in the altered relations; she
suffered, and for various reasons, but did not endeavour to revive
an intimacy which Adela seemed no longer to desire. Visits to the
Manor were from the first distressing to her; the natural subjects
of conversation were those which both avoided, and to talk in the
manner of mere acquaintances was scarcely possible. Of course this
state of things led to remark. Mrs. Waltham was inclined to suspect
some wrong feeling on Letty's side, though of what nature it was
hard to determine. Alfred, on the other hand, took his sister's
behaviour ill, more especially as he felt a distinct change in her
manner to himself. Was the girl going to be spoilt by the possession
of wealth? What on earth did she mean by her reserve, her cold
dignity? Wasn't Letty good enough for her now that she was lady of
the Manor? Letty herself, when the subject was spoken of, pretended
to recognise no change beyond what was to be expected. So far from
being hurt, her love for Adela grew warmer during these months of
seeming estrangement; her only trouble was that she could not go
often and sit by her friend's side--sit silently, hand holding hand.
That would have been better than speech, which misled, or at best
was inadequate. Meantime she supported herself with the hope that
love might some day again render her worthy of Adela's confidence.
That her friend was far above her she had always gladly confessed;
she felt it more than ever now that she tried in vain to read
Adela's secret thoughts. The marriage was a mystery to her; to the
last moment she had prayed that something might prevent it. Yet, now
that Adela was Mrs. Mutimer, she conscientiously put away every
thought of discontent, and only wondered what high motive had
dictated the choice and--for such she knew it must be--the
sacrifice.

'What are you reading?' Letty asked, sitting down on the bank at a
little distance.

'It's hardly to be called reading. I have to look out every other
word. It's a book by a man called Schaeffle, on the "Social
Question."'

'Oh yes,' said the girl, hazarding a conjecture that the work had
something to do with Socialism. 'Of course that interests you.'

'I think I'm going to write a translation of it. My husband doesn't
read German, and this book is important.'

'I suppose you are quite a Socialist, Adela?' Letty inquired, in a
tone which seemed anxious to presuppose the affirmative answer. She
had never yet ventured to touch on the subject.

'Yes, I am a Socialist,' said Adela firmly. 'I am sure anyone will
be who thinks about it, and really understands the need for
Socialism. Does the word still sound a little dreadful to you? I
remember so well when it did to me. It was only because I knew
nothing about it.'

'I don't think I have that excuse,' said the other. 'Alfred is
constantly explaining. But, Adela--'

She paused, not quite daring to speak her thoughts. Adela smiled an
encouragement.

'I was going to say--I'm sure you won't be offended. But you still
go to church?'

'Oh yes, I go to church. You mustn't think that everything Alfred
insists upon belongs to Socialism. I believe that all Christians
ought to be Socialists; I think it is part of our religion, if only
we carry it out faithfully.'

'But does Mr. Wyvern think so?'

'Yes, he does; he does indeed. I talk with Mr. Wyvern frequently,
and I never knew, before he showed me, how necessary it is for a
Christian to be a Socialist.'

'You surprise me, Adela. Yet he doesn't confess himself a
Socialist.'

'Indeed, he does. When did you hear Mr. Wyvern preach a sermon
without insisting on justice and unselfishness and love of our
neighbour? If we try to be just and unselfish, and to love our
neighbour as ourself, we help the cause of Socialism. Mr. Wyvern
doesn't deal with politics--it is not necessary he should. That is
for men like my husband, who give their lives to the practical work.
Mr. Wyvern confines himself to spiritual teaching. He would injure
his usefulness if he went beyond that.'

Letty was awed by the exceeding change which showed itself not only
in Adela's ways of thought, but in her very voice and manner of
speaking. The tone was so authoritative, so free from the diffidence
which had formerly kept Adela from asserting strongly even her
cherished faiths. She felt, too, that with the maiden hesitancy
something else had gone, at all events in a great degree; something
that it troubled her to miss; namely, that winning persuasiveness
which had been one of the characteristics that made Adela so
entirely lovable. At present Mrs. Mutimer scarcely sought to
persuade; she uttered her beliefs as indubitable. A competent
observer might now and then have surmised that she felt it needful
to remind herself of the creed she had accepted.

'You were smiling when I first caught sight of you,' Letty said,
after reflecting for a moment. 'Was it something in the book?'

Adela again smiled.

'No, something in myself,' she replied with an air of confidence.

'Because you are happy, Adela?'

'Yes, because I am happy.'

'How glad I am to hear that, dear!' Letty exclaimed, for the first
time allowing herself to use the affectionate word. 'You will let me
be glad with you?'

Her hands stole a little forward, but Adela did not notice it; for
she was gazing straight before her, with an agitated look.

'Yes, I am very happy, I have found something to do in life. I was
afraid at first that I shouldn't be able to give my husband any help
in his work; I seemed useless. But I am learning, and I hope soon to
be of real use, if only in little things. You know that I have begun
to give a tea to the children every Wednesday? They're not in need
of food and comforts, I'm glad to say; nobody wants in New Wanley;
but it's nice to bring them together at the Manor, and teach them to
behave gently to each other, and to sit properly at table, and
things like that. Will you come and see them to-day?'

'I shall be very pleased.'

'To-day I'm going to begin something new. After tea we shall have a
reading. Mr. Wyvern sent me a book this morning--"Andersen's Fairy
Tales."'

'Oh, I've read them. Yes, that'll do nicely. Read them "The Ugly
Duckling," Adela; it's a beautiful story. I thought perhaps you were
going to read something--something instructive, you know.'

Adela laughed. It was Adela's laugh still, but not what it used to
be.

'No, I want to amuse them. They get enough instruction in school. I
hope soon to give another evening to the older girls. I wonder
whether you would like to come and help me then?'

'If only you would let me! There is nothing I should like more than
to do something for you.'

'But you mustn't do it for me. It must be for the girls' sake.'

'Yes, for theirs as well, but ever so much more for yours, dear. You
can't think how glad I am that you have asked me.'

Again the little hand was put forward, and this time Adela took it.
But she did not soften as she once would have done. With eyes still
far away, she talked for some minutes of the hopes with which her
life was filled. Frequently she made mention of her husband, and
always as one to whom it was a privilege to devote herself. Her
voice had little failings and uncertainties now and then, but this
appeared to come of excessive feeling.

They rose and walked from the wood together.

'Alfred wants us to go to Malvern for a fortnight,' Letty said, when
they were near the gates of the Manor. 'We were wondering whether
you could come, Adela?'

'No, I can't leave Wanley,' was the reply. 'My husband'--she never
referred to Mutimer otherwise than by this name--'spoke of the
seaside the other day, but we decided not to go away at all. There
is so much to be done.'

When Adela went to the drawing-room just before luncheon, she found
Alice Mutimer engaged with a novel. Reading novels had become an
absorbing occupation with Alice. She took them to bed with her so as
to read late, and lay late in the morning for the same reason. She
must have been one of Mr. Mudie's most diligent subscribers. She had
no taste for walking in the country, and could only occasionally be
persuaded to take a drive. It was not surprising that her face had
not quite the healthy colour of a year ago; there was negligence,
too, in her dress, and she had grown addicted to recumbent
attitudes. Between her and Adela no semblance of friendship had yet
arisen, though the latter frequently sought to substitute a nearer
relation for superficial friendliness. Alice never exhibited
anything short of good-will, but her first impressions were lasting;
she suspected her sister-in-law of a desire to patronise, and was
determined to allow nothing of the kind. With a more decided
character, Alice's prepossessions would certainly have made life at
the Manor anything but smooth; as it was, nothing ever occurred to
make unpleasantness worth her while. Besides, when not buried in her
novels, she gave herself up to absentmindedness; Adela found
conversation with her almost impossible, for Alice would answer a
remark with a smiling 'Yes' or 'No,' and at once go off into
dreamland, so that one hesitated to disturb her.

'What time is it?' she inquired, when she became aware of Adela
moving about the room.

'All but half-past one.'

'Really? I suppose I must go and get ready for lunch. What a pity we
can't do without meals!'

'You should go out in the morning and get an appetite. Really, you
are getting very pale, Alice. I'm sure you read far too much.'

Adela had it on her lips to say 'too many novels,' but was afraid to
administer a direct rebuke.

'Oh, I like reading, and I don't care a bit for going out.'

'What about your practising?' Adela asked, with a playful shake of
the head.

'Yes, I know it's very neglectful, but really it is such awful
work.'

'And your French?'

'I'll make a beginning to-morrow. At least, I think I will. I don't
neglect things wilfully, but it's so awfully hard to really get at
it when the time comes.'

The luncheon-bell rang, and Alice, with a cry of dismay, sped to her
room. She knew that her brother was to lunch at home to-day, and
Richard was terrible in the matter of punctuality.

As Soon as the meal was over Alice hastened back to her low chair in
the drawing-room. Richard and his wife went together into the
garden.

'What do you think Rodman's been advising me this morning?' Mutimer
said, speaking with a cigar in his mouth. 'It's a queer idea; I
don't quite know what to think of it. You know there'll be a general
election some time next year, and he advises me to stand for
Belwick.'

He did not look at his wife. Coming to a garden-seat, he put up one
foot upon it, and brushed the cigar ash against the back. Adela sat
down; she had not replied at once, and was thoughtful.

'As a Socialist candidate?' she asked, when at length he turned his
eyes to her.

'Well, I don't know. Radical rather, I should think. It would come
to the same thing, of course, and there'd be no use in spoiling the
thing for the sake of a name.'

Adela had a Japanese fan in her hand; she put it against her
forehead, and still seemed to consider.

'Do you think you could find time for Parliament?'

'That has to be thought of, of course; but by then I should think we
might arrange it. There's not much that Rodman can't see to.'

'You are inclined to think of it?'

Adela's tone to her husband was not one of tenderness, but of
studious regard and deference. She very seldom turned her eyes to
his, but there was humility in her bent look. If ever he and she
began to speak at the same time, she checked herself instantly, and
Mutimer had no thought of giving her precedence. This behaviour in
his wife struck him as altogether becoming.

'I almost think I am,' he replied. 'I've a notion I could give them
an idea or two at Westminster. It would be news to them to hear a
man say what he really thinks.'

Adela smiled faintly, but said nothing.

'Would you like me to be in Parliament?' Richard asked, putting down
his foot and leaning back his head a little.

'Certainly, if you feel that it is a step gained.'

'That's just what I think it would be. Well, we must talk about it
again. By-the-by, I've just had to send a fellow about his
business.'

'To discharge a man?' Adela asked, with pain.

'Yes. It's that man Rendal; I was talking about him the other day,
you remember. He's been getting drunk; I'll warrant it's not the
first time.'

'And you really must send him away? Couldn't you give him another
chance?'

'No. He was impudent to me, and I can't allow that. He'll have to
go.'

Richard spoke with decision. When the fact of impudence was
disclosed Adela felt that it was useless to plead. She looked at her
fan and was sorrowful.

'So you are going to read to the youngsters to-day?' Mutimer
recommenced.

'Yes; Mr. Wyvern has given me a book that will do very well indeed.'

'Oh, has he?' said Richard doubtfully. 'Is it a religious book?
That kind of thing won't do, you know.'

'No, it isn't religious at all. Only a book of fairy tales.'

'Fairy tales!' There was scorn in his way of repeating the words.
'Couldn't you find something useful? A history book, you know, or
about animals, or something of that kind. We mustn't encourage them
in idle reading. And that reminds me of Alice. You really must get
her away from those novels. I can't make out what's come to the
girl. She seems to be going off her head. Did you notice at
lunch?--she didn't seem to understand what I said to her. Do try and
persuade her to practise, if nothing else.'

'I am afraid to do more than just advise in a pleasant way,' said
Adela.

'Well, I shall lose my temper with her before long.'

'How is Harry doing? 'Adela asked, to pass over the difficult
subject.

'He's an idle scamp! If some one 'ud give him a good thrashing,
that's what _he_ wants.'

'Shall I ask him to dinner to-morrow?'

'You can if you like, of course,' Richard replied with hesitation.
'I shouldn't have thought you cared much about having him.'

'Oh, I am always very glad to have him. I have meant to ask you to
let him dine with us oftener. I am so afraid he should think we
neglect him, and that would be sure to have a bad effect.'

Mutimer looked at her with satisfaction, and assented to her
reasoning.

'But about the fairy tales,' Adela said presently, when Richard had
finished his cigar and was about to return to the works. 'Do you
seriously object to them? Of course I could find another book.'

'What do _you_ think? I am rather surprised that Wyvern suggested
reading of that kind; he generally has good ideas.'

'I fancy he wished to give the children a better kind of amusement,'
said Adela, with hesitation.

'A better kind, eh? Well, do as you like. I dare say it's no great
harm.'

'But if you really--'

'No, no; read the tales. I dare say they wouldn't listen to a better
book.'

It was not very encouraging, but Adela ventured to abide by the
vicar's choice. She went to her own sitting-room and sought the
story that Letty had spoken of. From 'The Ugly Duckling' she was led
on to the story of the mermaid, from that to the enchanted swans.
The book had never been in her hands before, and the delight she
received from it was of a kind quite new to her. She had to make an
effort to close it and turn to her specified occupations. For Adela
had so systematised her day that no minute's margin was left for
self-indulgence. Her reading was serious study. If ever she was
tempted to throw open one of the volumes which Alice left about, a
glance at the pages was enough to make her push it away as if it
were impure. She had read very few stories of any kind, and of late
had felt a strong inclination towards such literature; the spectacle
of Alice's day-long absorption was enough to excite her curiosity,
even if there had not existed other reasons. But these longings for
a world of romance she crushed down as unworthy of a woman to whom
life had revealed its dread significances: and, though she but
conjectured the matter and tone of the fiction Alice delighted in,
instinctive fear would alone have restrained her from it. For
pleasure in the ordinary sense she did not admit into her scheme of
existence; the season for that had gone by. Henceforth she must
think, and work, and pray. Therefore she had set herself gladly to
learn German; it was a definite task to which such and such hours
could be devoted, and the labour would strengthen her mini Her
ignorance she represented as a great marsh which by toil had to be
filled up and converted into solid ground. She had gone through the
library catalogue and made a list of books which seemed needful to
be read; and Mr. Wyvern had been of service in guiding her, as well
as in lending volumes from his own shelves. The vicar, indeed, had
surprised her by the zealous kindness with which he entered into all
her plans; at first she had talked to him with apprehension,
remembering that chance alone had prevented her from appealing to
him to save her from this marriage. But Mr. Wyvern, with whose
philosophy we have some acquaintance, exerted himself to make the
best of the irremediable, and Adela already owed him much for his
unobtrusive moral support. Even Mutimer was putting aside his
suspicions and beginning to believe that the clergyman would have
openly encouraged Socialism had his position allowed him to do so.
He was glad to see his wife immersed in grave historical and
scientific reading; he said to himself that in this way she would be
delivered from her religious prejudices, and some day attain to
'free thought.' Adela as yet had no such end in view, but already
she understood that her education, in the serious sense, was only
now beginning. As a girl, her fate had been that of girls in
general; when she could write without orthographical errors, and
could play by rote a few pieces of pianoforte music, her education
had been pronounced completed. In the profound moral revolution
which her nature had recently undergone her intellect also shared;
when the first numbing shock had spent itself, she felt the growth
of an intellectual appetite formerly unknown. Resolutely setting
herself to exalt her husband, she magnified his acquirements, and,
as a duty, directed her mind to the things he deemed of importance.
One of her impulses took the form of a hope which would have vastly
amused Richard had he divined it. Adela secretly trusted that some
day her knowledge might be sufficient to allow her to cope with her
husband's religious scepticism. It was significant that she could
face in this way the great difficulty of her life; the stage at
which it seemed sufficient to iterate creeds was already behind her.
Probably Mr. Wyvern' 5 conversation was not without its effect in
aiding her to these larger views, but she never spoke to him on the
subject directly. Her native dignity developed itself with her
womanhood, and one of the characteristics of the new Adela was a
reserve which at times seemed to indicate coldness or even spiritual
pride.

The weather made it possible to spread the children's tea in the
open air. At four o'clock Letty came, and was quietly happy in being
allowed to superintend one of the tables. Adela was already on
affectionate terms with many of the little ones, though others
regarded her with awe rather than warmth of confidence. This was
strange, when we remember how childlike she had formerly been with
children. But herein, too, there was a change; she could not now
have caught up Letty's little sister and trotted with her about the
garden as she was used to do. She could no longer smile in the old
simple, endearing way; it took some time before a child got
accustomed to her eyes and lips. Her movements, though graceful as
ever, were subdued to matronly gravity; never again would Adela turn
and run down the hill, as after that meeting with Hubert Eldon. But
her sweetness was in the end irresistible to all who came within the
circle of its magic. You saw its influence in Letty, whose eyes
seemed never at rest save when they were watching Adela, who sprang
to her side with delight if the faintest sign did but summon her.
You saw its influence, moreover, when, the tea over, the children
ranged themselves on the lawn to hear her read. After the first few
sentences, everywhere was profoundest attention; the music of her
sweetly modulated voice, the art which she learnt only from nature,
so allied themselves with the beauty of the pages she read that from
beginning to end not a movement interrupted her.

Whilst she was reading a visitor presented himself at the Manor, and
asked if Mrs. Mutimer was at home. The servant explained how and
where Mrs. Mutimer was engaged, for the party was held in a quarter
of the garden hidden from the approach to the front door.

'Is Miss Mutimer within?' was the visitor's next inquiry.

Receiving an affirmative reply, he begged that Miss Mutimer might be
informed of Mr. Keene's desire to see her. And Mr. Keene was led to
the drawing-room.

Alice was reposing on a couch; she did not trouble herself to rise
when the visitor entered, but held a hand to him, at the same time
scarcely suppressing a yawn. Novel reading has a tendency to produce
this expression of weariness. Then she smiled, as one does in
greeting an old acquaintance.

'Who ever would have expected to see you!' she began, drawing away
her hand when it seemed to her that Mr. Keene had detained it quite
long enough. 'Does Dick expect you?'

'Your brother does not expect me, Miss Mutimer,' Keene replied. He
invariably began conversation with her in a severely formal and
respectful tone, and to-day there was melancholy in his voice.

'You've just come on your own--because you thought you would?'

'I have come because I could not help it, Miss Mutimer. It is more
than a month since I had the happiness of seeing you.'

He stood by the couch, his body bent in deference, his eyes
regarding her with melancholy homage.

'Mrs. Mutimer has a tea-party of children from New Wanley,' said
Alice with a provoking smile. 'Won't you go and join them? She's
reading to them, I believe; no doubt it's something that would do
you good.'

'Of course I will go if you send me. I would go anywhere at your
command.'

'Then please do. Turn to the right when you get out into the
garden.'

Keene stood for an instant with his eyes on the ground, then sighed
deeply--groaned, in fact--smote his breast, and marched towards the
door like a soldier at drill. As soon as he had turned his back
Alice gathered herself from the couch, and, as soon as she stood
upright, called to him.

'Mr. Keene!'

He halted and faced round.

'You needn't go unless you like, you know.'

He almost ran towards her.

'Just ring the bell, will you? I want some tea, and I'll give you a
cup if you care for it.'

She took a seat, and indicated with a finger the place where he
might repose. It was at a three yards' distance. Then they talked as
they were wont to, with much coquetry on Alice's side, and on
Keene's always humble submissiveness tempered with glances and
sighs. They drank tea, and Keene used the opportunity of putting
down his cup to take a nearer seat.

'Miss Mutimer--'

'Yes?'

'Is there any hope for me? You remember you said I was to wait a
month, and I've waited longer.'

'Yes, you have been very good,' said Alice, smiling loftily.

'Is there any hope for me?' he repeated, with an air of
encouragement.

'Less than ever,' was the girl's reply, lightly given, indeed, but
not to be mistaken for a jest.

'You mean that? Come, now, you don't really mean that? There must
be, at all events, as much hope as before.'

'There isn't. There never was so little hope. There's no hope at
all, _not a scrap_!'

She pressed her lips and looked at him with a grave face. He too
became grave, and in a changed way.

'I am not to take this seriously?' he asked with bated breath.

'You are. There's not one scrap of hope, and it's better you should
know it.'

'Then--there--there must be somebody else?' he groaned, his distress
no longer humorous.

Alice continued to look him in the face for a moment, and at length
nodded twice.

'There _is_ somebody else?'

She nodded three times.

'Then I'll go. Good-bye, Miss Mutimer. Yes, I'll go.'

He did not offer to shake hands, but bowed and moved away
dejectedly.

'But you're not going back to London?' Alice asked.

'Yes.'

'You'd better not do that. They'll know you've called. You'd far
better stay and see Dick; don't you think so?'

He shook his head and still moved towards the door.

'Mr. Keene!' Alice raised her voice. 'Please do as I tell you. It
isn't my fault, and I don't see why you should pay no heed to me all
at once. Will you attend to me, Mr. Keene?'

'What do you wish me to do?' he asked, only half turning.

'To go and see Mrs. Mutimer in the garden, and accept her invitation
to dinner.'

'I haven't got a dress-suit,' he groaned.

'No matter. If you go away I'll never speak to you again, and you
know you wouldn't like that.'

He gazed at her miserably--his face was one which lent itself to a
miserable expression, and the venerable appearance of his frockcoat
and light trousers filled in the picture of mishap.

'Have you been joking with me?'

'No, I've been telling you the truth. But that's no reason why you
should break loose all at once. Please do as I tell you; go to the
garden now and stop to dinner. I am not accustomed to ask a thing
twice.'

She was almost serious. Keene smiled in a sickly way, bowed, and
went to do her bidding.





CHAPTER XX




Among the little girls who had received invitations to the tea-party
were two named Rendal, the children of the man whose dismissal from
New Wanley had been announced by Mutimer. Adela was rather surprised
to see them in the garden. They were eight and nine years old
respectively, and she noticed that both had a troubled countenance,
the elder showing signs of recent tears. She sought them out
particularly for kind words during tea-time. After the reading she
noticed them standing apart, talking to each other earnestly; she
saw also that they frequently glanced at her. It occurred to her
that they might wish to say something and had a difficulty in
approaching. She went to them, and a question or two soon led the
elder girl to disclose that she was indeed desirous of speaking in
private. Giving a hand to each, she drew them a little apart. Then
both children began to cry, and the elder sobbed out a pitiful
story. Their mother was wretchedly ill and had sent them to implore
Mrs. Mutimer's good word that the father might be allowed another
chance. It was true he had got drunk--the words sounded terrible to
Adela from the young lips--but he vowed that henceforth he would
touch no liquor. It was ruin to the family to be sent away; Rendal
might not find work for long enough; there would be nothing for it
but to go to a Belwick slum as long as their money lasted, and
thence to the workhouse. For it was well understood that no man who
had worked at New Wanley need apply to the ordinary employers; they
would have nothing to do with him. The mother would have come
herself, but could not walk the distance.

Adela was pierced with compassion.

'I will do my best,' she said, as soon as she could trust her voice.
'I promise you I will do my best.'

She could not say more, and the children evidently hoped she would
have been able to grant their father's pardon forthwith. They had to
be content with Adela's promise, which did not sound very cheerful,
but meant more than they could understand.

She could not do more than give such a promise, and even as she
spoke there was a coldness about her heart. The coldness became a
fear when she met her husband on his return from the works. Richard
was not in the same good temper as at mid-day. He was annoyed to
find Keene in the house--of late he had grown to dislike the
journalist very cordially--and he had heard that the Rendal children
had been to the party, which enraged him. You remember he accused
the man of impudence in addition to the offence of drunkenness.
Rendal, foolishly joking in his cups, had urged as extenuation of
his own weakness the well-known fact that 'Arry Mutimer had been
seen one evening unmistakably intoxicated in the street of Wanley
village. Someone reported these words to Richard, and from that
moment it was all over with the Rendals.

Adela, in her eagerness to plead, quite forgot (or perhaps she had
never known) that with a certain order of men it is never wise to
prefer a request immediately before dinner. She was eager, too, to
speak at once; a fear, which she would not allow to become definite,
drove her upon the undertaking without delay. Meeting Richard on the
stairs she begged him to come to her room.

'What is it?' he asked with small ceremony, as soon as the door
closed behind him.

She mastered her voice, and spoke with a sweet clearness of advocacy
which should have moved his heart to proud and noble obeisance.
Mutimer was not very accessible to such emotions.

'It's like the fellow's impertinence,' he said, 'to send his
children to you. I'm rather surprised you let them stay after what I
had told you. Certainly I shall not overlook it. The thing's
finished I it's no good talking about it.'

The fear had passed, but the coldness about her heart was more
deadly. For a moment it seemed as if she could not bring herself to
utter another word; she drew apart, she could not raise her face,
which was beautiful in marble pain. But there came a rush of such
hot anguish as compelled her to speak again. Something more than the
fate of that poor family was at stake. Is not the quality of mercy
indispensable to true nobleness? Had she voiced her very thought,
Adela would have implored him to exalt himself in her eyes, to do a
good deed which cost him some little effort over himself. For she
divined with cruel certainty that it was not the principle that made
him unyielding.

'Richard, are you sure that the man has offended before?'

'Oh, of course he has. I've no doubt of it. I remember feeling
uncertain when I admitted him first of all. I didn't like his look.'

'But you have not really had to complain of him before. Your
suspicions _may_ be groundless. And he has a good wife, I feel sure
of that. The children are very clean and nicely dressed. She will
help him to avoid drink in future. It is impossible for him to fail
again, now that he knows how dreadful the results will be to his
wife and his little girls.'

'Pooh! What does he care about them? If I begin letting men off in
that way, I shall be laughed at. There's an end of my authority.
Don't bother your head about them. I must go and get ready for
dinner.'

An end of _my_ authority. Yes, was it not the intelligence of her
maiden heart returning to her? She had no pang from the mere refusal
of a request of hers; Richard had never affected tenderness--not
what she understood as tenderness--and she did not expect it of him.
The union between them had another basis. But the understanding of
his motives was so terribly distinct in her! It had come all at
once; it was like the exposure of something dreadful by the sudden
raising of a veil. And had she not known what the veil covered? Yet
for the poor people's sake, for his own sake, she must try the
woman's argument.

'Do you refuse me, Richard? I will be guarantee for him. I promise
you he shall not offend again. He shall apologise humbly to you for
his--his words. You won't really refuse me?'

'What nonsense! How can you promise for him, Adela? Ask for
something reasonable, and you may be sure I shan't refuse you. The
fellow has to go as a warning. It mustn't be thought we're only
playing at making rules. I can't talk any more; I shall keep dinner
waiting.'

Pride helped her to show a smooth face through the evening, and in
the night she conquered herself anew. She expelled those crying
children from her mind; she hardened her heart against their coming
misery. It was wrong to judge her husband so summarily; nay, she had
not judged him, but had given way to a wicked impulse, without
leaving herself a moment to view the case. Did he not understand
better than she what measures were necessary to the success of his
most difficult undertaking? And then was it certain that expulsion
meant ruin to the Rendals? Richard would insist on the letter of the
regulations, just, as he said, for the example's sake; but of course
he would see that the man was put in the way of getting new
employment and did not suffer in the meantime. In the morning she
made atonement to her husband.

'I was wrong in annoying you yesterday,' she said as she walked with
him from the house to the garden gate. 'In such things you are far
better able to judge. You won't let it trouble you?'

It was a form of asceticism; Adela had a joy in humbling herself and
crushing her rebel instincts. She even raised her eyes to
interrogate him. On Richard's face was an uneasy smile, a look of
puzzled reflection. It gratified him intensely to hear such words,
yet he could not hear them without the suspicions of a vulgar nature
brought in contact with nobleness.

'Well, yes,' he replied, 'I think you were a bit too hasty: you're
not practical, you see. It wants a practical man to manage those
kind of things.'

The reply was not such as completes the blessedness of pure
submission. Adela averted her eyes. Another woman would perchance
have sought to assure herself that she was right in crediting him
with private benevolence to the family he was compelled to visit so
severely. Such a question Adela could not ask. It would have been to
betray doubt; she imagined a replying glance which would shame her.
To love, to honour, to obey:--many times daily she repeated to
herself that threefold vow, and hitherto the first article had most
occupied her striving heart. But she must not neglect the second;
perhaps it came first in natural order.

At the gate Richard nodded to her kindly.

'Good-bye. Be a good girl.'

What was it that caused a painful flutter at her heart as he spoke
so? She did not answer, but watched him for a few moments as he
walked away.

Did _he_ love _her_? The question which she had not asked herself
for a long time came of that heart-tremor. She had been living so
unnatural a life for a newly wedded woman, a life in which the
intellect and the moral faculties held morbid predominance. 'Be a
good girl.' How was it that the simple phrase touched her to emotion
quite different in kind from any thing she had known since her
marriage, more deeply than any enthusiasm, as with a comfort more
sacred than any she had known in prayer? As she turned to go back to
the house a dizziness affected her eyes; she had to stand still for
a moment. Involuntarily she clasped her hands upon her bosom and
looked away into the blue summer sky. Did he love her? She had never
asked him that, and all at once she felt a longing to hasten after
him and utter the question. Would he know what she meant?

Was it the instantaneous reward for having conscientiously striven
to honour him? That there should be love on his side had not
hitherto seemed of so much importance; probably she had taken it for
granted; she had been so preoccupied with her own duties. Yet now it
had all at once become of moment that she should know. 'Be a good
girl.' She repeated the words over and over again, and made much of
them. Perhaps she had given him no opportunity, no encouragement, to
say all he felt; she knew him to be reserved in many things.

As she entered the house the dizziness again troubled her. But it
passed as before.

Mr. Keene, who had stayed over-night, was waiting to take leave of
her; the trap which would carry him to Agworth station had just
driven up. Adela surprised the poor journalist by the warmth with
which she shook his hand, and the kindness of her farewell. She was
not deceived as to the motive of his visit, and just now she allowed
herself to feel sympathy for him, though in truth she did not like
the man.

This morning she could not settle to her work. The dreaming mood was
upon her, and she appeared rather to encourage it, seeking a quiet
corner of the garden and watching for a whole hour the sun-dappled
trunk of a great elm. At times her face seemed itself to be a source
of light, so vivid were the thoughts that transformed it Her eyes
were moist once or twice, and then no dream of artist-soul ever
embodied such passionate loveliness, such holy awe, as came to view
upon her countenance. At lunch she was almost silent, but Alice,
happening to glance at her, experienced a surprise; she had never
seen Adela so beautiful and so calmly bright.

After lunch she attired herself for walking, and went to the village
to see her mother. Lest Mrs. Waltham should be lonely, it had been
arranged that Alfred should come home every evening, instead of once
a week. Even thus, Adela had frequently reproached herself for
neglecting her mother. Mrs. Waltham, however, enjoyed much content.
The material comforts of her life were considerably increased, and
she had many things in anticipation. Adela's unsatisfactory health
rendered it advisable that the present year should pass in
quietness, but Mrs. Waltham had made up her mind that before long
there should be a house in London, with the delights appertaining
thereto. She did not feel herself at all too old to enjoy the
outside view of a London season; more than that it would probably be
difficult to obtain just yet. To-day she was in excellent spirits,
and welcomed her daughter exuberantly.

'You haven't seen Letty yet?' she asked. 'To-day, I mean.'

'No. Has she some news for me?'

'Alfred has an excellent chance of promotion. That old Wilkinson is
dead, and he thinks there's no doubt he'll get the place. It would
be two hundred and fifty a year.'

'That's good news, indeed.'

Of course it would mean Letty's immediate marriage. Mrs. Waltham
discussed the prospect in detail. No doubt the best and simplest
arrangement would be for the pair to live on in the same house. For
the present, of course. Alfred was now firm on the commercial
ladder, and in a few years his income would doubtless be
considerable; then a dwelling of a very different kind could be
found. With the wedding, too, she was occupying her thoughts.

'Yours was not quite what it ought to have been, Adela. I felt it at
the time, but then things were done in such a hurry. Of course the
church must be decorated. The breakfast you will no doubt arrange to
have at the Manor. Letty ought to have a nice, a really nice
_trousseau_; I know you will be kind to her, my dear.'

As Alice had done, Mrs. Waltham noticed before long that Adela was
far brighter than usual. She remarked upon it.

'You begin to look really well, my love. It makes me happy to see
you. How much we have to be thankful for! I've had a letter this
morning from poor Lizzie Henbane; I must show it you. They're in
such misery as never was. Her husband's business is all gone to
nothing, and he is cruelly unkind to her. How thankful we ought to
be!'

'Surely not for poor Lizzie's unhappiness!' said Adela, with a
return of her maiden archness.

'On our own account, my dear. We have had so much to contend
against. At one time, just after your poor father's death, things
looked very cheerless: I used to fret dreadfully on your account.
But everything, you see, was for the best'

Adela had something to say and could not find the fitting moment.
She first drew her chair a little nearer to her mother.

'Yes, mother, I am happy,' she murmured.

'Silly child! As if I didn't know best. It's always the same, but
_you_ had the good sense to trust to my experience.'

Adela slipped from her seat and put her arms about her mother.

'What is it, dear?'

The reply was whispered. Adela's embrace grew closer; her face was
hidden, and all at once she began to sob.

'Love me, mother! Love me, dear mother!'

Mrs. Waltham beamed with real tenderness. For half an hour they
talked as mother and child alone can. Then Adela walked back to the
Manor, still dreaming. She did not feel able to call and see Letty.

There was an afternoon postal delivery at Wanley, and the postman
had just left the Manor as Adela returned. Alice, who for a wonder
had been walking in the garden, saw the man going away, and,
thinking it possible there might be a letter for her, entered the
house to look. Three letters lay on the hall table; two were for
Richard, the other was addressed to Mrs. Mutimer. This envelope
Alice examined curiously. Whose writing could that be? She certainly
knew it; it was a singular hand, stiff, awkward, untrained. Why, it
was the writing of Emma's sister, Kate, Mrs. Clay. Not a doubt of
it. Alice had received a note from Mrs. Clay at the time of Jane
Vine's death, and remembered comparing the hand with her own and
blessing herself that at all events she wrote with an elegant slope,
and not in that hideous upright scrawl. The post-mark? Yes, it was
London, E.C. But if Kate addressed a letter to Mrs. Mutimer it must
be with sinister design, a design not at all difficult to imagine.
Alice had a temptation. To take this letter and either open it
herself or give it secretly to her brother? But the servant might
somehow make it known that such a letter had arrived.

'Anything for me, Alice?'

It was Adela's voice. She had approached unheard; Alice was so
intent upon her thoughts.

'Yes, one letter.'

There was no help for it. Alice glanced at her sister-in-law, and
strolled away again into the garden.

Adela examined the envelope. She could not conjecture from whom the
letter came; certainly from some illiterate person. Was it for her
husband? Was not the 'Mrs.' a mistake for 'Mr.' or perhaps mere
ill-writing that deceived the eye? No, the prefix was so very
distinct. She opened the envelope where she stood.

'Mrs. Mutimer, I dare say you don't know me nor my name, but I write
to you because I think it only right as you should know the truth
about your husband, and because me and my sister can't go on any
longer as we are. My sister's name is Emma Vine. She was engaged to
be married to Richard M. two years before he knew you, and to the
last he put her off with make-believe and promises, though it was
easy to see what was meant. And when our sister Jane was on her very
death-bed, which she died not a week after he married you, and I
know well as it was grief as killed her. And now we haven't got
enough to eat for Emma and me and my two little children, for I am a
widow myself. But that isn't all. Because he found that his friends
in Hoxton was crying shame on him, he got it said as Emma had
misbehaved herself, which was a cowardly lie, and all to protect
himself. And now Emma is that ill she can't work; it's come upon her
all at once, and what's going to happen God knows. And his own
mother cried shame on him, and wouldn't live no longer in the big
house in Highbury. He offered us money--I will say so much--but Emma
was too proud, and wouldn't hear of it. And then he went giving her
a bad name. What do you think of your husband now, Mrs. Mutimer? I
don't expect nothing, but it's only right you should know. Emma
wouldn't take anything, not if she was dying of starvation, but I've
got my children to think of. So that's all I have to say, and I'm
glad I've said it.--Yours truly, KATE CLAY.'

Adela remained standing for a few moments when she had finished the
letter, then went slowly to her room.

Alice returned from the garden in a short time. In passing through
the hall she looked again at the two letters which remained. Neither
of them had a sinister appearance; being addressed to the Manor they
probably came from personal friends. She went to the drawing-room
and glanced around for Adela, but the room was empty. Richard would
not be home for an hour yet; she took up a novel and tried to pass
the time so, but she had a difficulty in fixing her attention. In
the end she once more left the house, and, after a turn or two on
the lawn, strolled out of the gate.

She met her brother a hundred yards along the road. The sight of her
astonished him.

'What's up now, Princess?' he exclaimed. 'House on fire? Novels run
short?'

'Something that I expect you won't care to hear. Who do you think's
been writing to Adela? Someone in London.'

Richard stayed his foot, and looked at his sister with the eyes
which suggested disagreeable possibilities.

'Who do you mean?' he asked briefly. 'Not mother?'

The change in him was very sudden. He had been merry and smiling.

'No; worse than that. She's got a letter from Kate.'

'From Kate? Emma's sister?' he asked in a low voice of surprise
which would have been dismay had he not governed himself.

'I saw it on the hall table; I remember her writing well enough.
Just as I was looking at it Adela came in.'

'Have you seen her since?'

Alice shook her head. She had this way of saving words. Richard
walked on. His first movement of alarm had passed, and now he
affected to take the matter with indifference. During the week
immediately following his marriage he had been prepared for this
very incident; the possibility had been one of the things he faced
with a certain recklessness. But impunity had set his mind at ease,
and the news in the first instant struck him with a trepidation
which a few minutes' thought greatly allayed. By a mental process
familiar enough he at first saw the occurrence as he had seen it in
the earlier days of his temptation, when his sense of honour yet
gave him frequent trouble; he had to exert himself to recover his
present standpoint. At length he smiled.

'Just like that woman,' he said, turning half an eye on Alice.

'If she means trouble, you'll have it,' returned the girl
sententiously.

'Well, it's no doubt over by this time.'

'Over? Beginning, I should say,' remarked Alice, swinging her
parasol at a butterfly.

They finished their walk to the house in silence, and Richard went
at once to his dressing-room. Here he sat down. After all, his
mental disquiet was not readily to be dismissed; it even grew as he
speculated and viewed likelihoods from all sides. Probably Kate had
made a complete disclosure. How would it affect Adela?

You must not suppose that his behaviour in the case of the man
Rendal had argued disregard for Adela's opinion of him. Richard was
incapable of understanding how it struck his wife, that was all. If
he reflected on the matter, no doubt he was very satisfied with
himself, feeling that he had displayed a manly resolution and
consistency. But the present difficulty was grave. Whatever Adela
might say, there could be no doubt as to her thought; she would
henceforth--yes, despise him. That cut his thick skin to the quick;
his nature was capable of smarting when thus assailed. For he had by
no means lost his early reverence for Adela; nay, in a sense it had
increased. His primitive ideas on woman had undergone a change since
his marriage. Previously he had considered a wife in the light of
property; intellectual or moral independence he could not attribute
to her. But he had learnt that Adela was by no means his chattel. He
still knew diffidence when he was inclined to throw a joke at her,
and could not take her hand without involuntary respect--a sensation
which occasionally irritated him. A dim inkling of what was meant by
woman's strength and purity had crept into his mind; he knew--in his
heart he knew--that he was unworthy to touch her garment. And, to
face the whole truth, he all but loved her; that was the meaning of
his mingled sentiments with regard to her. A danger of losing her in
the material sense would have taught him that better than he as yet
knew it; the fear of losing her respect was not attributable solely
to his restless egoism. He had wedded her in quite another frame of
mind than that in which he now found himself when he thought of her.
He cared much for the high opinion of people in general; Adela was
all but indispensable to him. When he said, 'My wife,' he must have
been half-conscious that the word bore a significance different from
that he had contemplated. On the lips of those among whom he had
grown up the word is desecrated, or for the most part so; it has
contemptible, and ridiculous, and vile associations, scarcely ever
its true meaning. Formerly he would have laughed at the thought of
standing in awe of his wife; nay, he could not have conceived the
possibility of such a thing; it would have appeared unnatural,
incompatible with the facts of wedded life. Yet he sat here and
almost dreaded to enter her presence.

A man of more culture might have thought: A woman cannot in her
heart be revolted because another has been cast off for her. Mutimer
could not reason so far. It would have been reasoning inapplicable
to Adela, but from a certain point of view it might have served as a
resource. Richard could only accept his instincts.

But it was useless to postpone the interview; come of it what would,
he must have it over and done with. He could not decide how to speak
until he knew what the contents of Kate's letter were. He was
nervously anxious to know.

Adela sat in her boudoir, with a book open on her lap. After the
first glance on his entering she kept her eyes down. He sauntered up
and stood before her in an easy attitude.

'Who has been writing to you from London?' he at once asked,
abruptly in consequence of the effort to speak without constraint.

Adela was not prepared for such a question. She remembered all at
once that Alice had seen the letter as it lay on the table. Why had
Alice spoken to her brother about it? There could be only one
explanation of that, and of his coming thus directly. She raised her
eyes for a moment, and a slight shock seemed to affect her.

She was unconscious how long she delayed her reply.

'Can't you tell me?' Richard said, with more roughness than he
intended. He was suffering, and suffering affected his temper.

Adela drew the letter from her pocket and in silence handed it to
him. He read it quickly, and, before the end was reached, had
promptly chosen his course.

'What do you think of this?' was his question, as he folded the
letter and rolled it in his hand. He was smiling, and enjoyed
complete self-command.

'I cannot think,' fell from Adela's lips. 'I am waiting for jour
words.'

He noticed at length, now he was able to inspect her calmly, that
she looked faint, pain-stricken.

'Alice told me who had written to you,' Richard pursued, in his
frankest tones. 'It was well she saw the letter; you might have said
nothing.'

'That would have been very unjust to you,' said Adela in a low
regular voice. 'I could only have done that if--if I had believed
it.'

'You don't altogether believe it, then?'

She looked at him with full eyes and made answer:

'You are my husband.'

It echoed in his ears; not to many men does it fall to hear those
words so spoken. Another would have flung himself at her feet and
prayed to her. Mutimer only felt a vast relief, mingled with
gratitude. The man all but flattered himself that she had done him
justice.

'Well, you are quite right,' he spoke. 'It isn't true, and if you
knew this woman you would understand the whole affair. I dare say
you can gather a good deal from the way she writes. It's true enough
that I was engaged to her sister, but it was broken off before I
knew you, and for the reasons she says here. I'm not going to talk
to you about things of that kind; I dare say you wouldn't care to
hear them. Of course she says I made it all up. Do you think I'm the
kind of man to do that?'

Perhaps she did not know that she was gazing at him. The question
interrupted her in a train of thought which was going on in her mind
even while she listened. She was asking herself why, when they were
in London, he had objected to a meeting between her and his mother.
He had said his mother was a crotchety old woman who could not make
up her mind to the changed circumstances, and was intensely
prejudiced against women above her own class. Was that a very
convincing description? She had accepted it at the time, but now,
after reading this letter--? But could any man speak with that
voice and that look, and lie? Her agitation grew intolerable. Answer
she must; could she, could she say 'No' with truth? Answer she must,
for he waited. In the agony of striving for voice there came upon
her once more that dizziness of the morning, but in a more severe
form. She struggled, felt her breath failing, tried to rise, and
fell back unconscious.

At the same time Alice was sitting in the drawing-room, in
conversation with Mr. Willis Rodman. 'Arry having been invited for
this evening, Rodman was asked with him, as had been the case
before. 'Arry was at present amusing himself in the stables,
exchanging sentiments with the groom. Rodman sat near Alice, or
rather he knelt upon a chair, so that at any moment he could assume
a standing attitude before her. He talked in a low voice.

'You'll come out to-night?'

'No, not to-night. You must speak to him to-night.'

Rodman mused.

'Why shouldn't you?' resumed the girl eagerly, in a tone as unlike
that she used to Mr. Keene as well could be. She was in earnest; her
eyes never moved from her companion's face; her lips trembled. 'Why
should you put it off? I can't see why we keep it a secret. Dick
can't have a word to say against it; you know he can't. Tell him
to-night after dinner. Do! do!'

Rodman frowned in thought.

'He won't like it.'

'But why not? I believe he will. He will, he shall, he must! I'm not
to depend on him, surely?'

'A day or two more, Alice.'

'I can't keep up the shamming!' she exclaimed. 'Adela suspects, I
feel sure. Whenever you come in I feel that hot and red.' She
laughed and blushed. 'If you won't do as I tell you, I'll give you
up, I will indeed!'

Rodman stroked his moustache, smiling.

'You will, will you?'

'See if I don't. To-night! It must be to-night! Shall I call you a
pretty name? it's only because I couldn't bear to be found out
before you tell him.'

He still stroked his moustache. His handsome face was half amused,
half troubled. At last he said:

'Very well; to-night.'

Shortly after, Mutimer came into the room.

'Adela isn't up to the mark,' he said to Alice. 'She'd better have
dinner by herself, I think; but she'll join us afterwards.'

Brother and sister exchanged looks.

'Oh, it's only a headache or something of the kind,' he continued.
'It'll be all right soon.'

And he began to talk with Rodman cheerfully, so that Alice felt it
must really be all right. She drew aside and looked into a novel.

Adela did appear after dinner, very pale and silent, but with a
smile on her face. There had been no further conversation between
her and her husband. She talked a little with 'Arry, in her usual
gentle way, then asked to be allowed to say goodnight. 'Arry at the
same time took his leave, having been privately bidden to do so by
his sister. He was glad enough to get away; in the drawing-room his
limbs soon began to ache, from inability to sit at his ease.

Then Alice withdrew, and the men were left alone.

Adela did not go to bed. She suffered from the closeness of the
evening and sat by her open windows, trying to read a chapter in the
New Testament. About eleven o'clock she had a great desire to walk
upon the garden grass for a few minutes before undressing; perhaps
it might help her to the sleep she so longed for yet feared she
would not obtain. The desire became so strong that she yielded to
it, passed quietly downstairs, and out into the still night. She
directed her steps to her favourite remote corner. There was but
little moonlight, and scarcely a star was visible. When she neared
the laburnums behind which she often sat or walked, her ear caught
the sound of voices. They came nearer, on the other side of the
trees. The first word which she heard distinctly bound her to the
spot and forced her to listen.

'No, I shan't put it off.' It was Alice speaking. 'I know what comes
of that kind of thing. I am old enough to be my own mistress.'

'You are not twenty-one,' replied Richard in an annoyed voice. 'I
shall do everything I can to put it off till you are of age. Rodman
is a good enough fellow in his place; but it isn't hard to see why
he's talked you over in this way.'

'He hasn't talked me over!' cried Alice, passionately. 'I needn't
have listened if I hadn't liked.'

'You're a foolish girl, and you want someone to look after you. If
you'll only wait you can make a good marriage. This would be a bad
one, in every sense.'

'I shall marry him.'

'And I shall prevent it. It's for your own sake, Alice.'

'If you try to prevent it--I'll tell Adela everything about Emma I
I'll tell her the whole plain truth, and I'll prove it to her. So
hinder me if you dare!'

Alice hastened away.





CHAPTER XXI




In the month of September Mr. Wyvern was called upon to unite in
holy matrimony two pairs in whom we are interested. Alice Mutimer
became Mrs. Willis Rodman, and Alfred Waltham took home a bride who
suited him exactly, seeing that she was never so happy as when
submitting herself to a stronger will. Alfred and Letty ran away and
hid themselves in South Wales. Mr. and Mrs. Rodman fled to the
Continent.

Half Alice's fortune was settled upon herself, her brother and
Alfred Waltham being trustees. This was all Mutimer could do. He
disliked the marriage intensely, and not only because he had set his
heart on a far better match for Alice; he had no real confidence in
Rodman. Though the latter's extreme usefulness and personal tact had
from the first led Richard to admit him to terms of intimacy, time
did not favour the friendship. Mutimer, growing daily more ambitious
and more punctilious in his intercourse with all whom, notwithstanding
his principles, he deemed inferiors from the social point of view,
often regretted keenly that he had allowed any relation between
himself and Rodman more than that of master and man. Experience
taught him how easily he might have made the most of Rodman
without granting him a single favour. The first suggestion of
the marriage enraged him; in the conversation with Rodman, which
took place, moreover, at an unfavourable moment, he lost his temper
and flung out very broad hints indeed as to the suitor's motives.
Rodman was calm; life had instructed him in the advantages of a
curbed tongue; but there was heightened colour on his face, and his
demeanour much resembled that of a proud man who cares little to
justify himself, but will assuredly never forget an insult. It was
one of the peculiarities of this gentleman that his exterior was
most impressive when the inner man was most busy with ignoble or
venomous thoughts.

But for Alice's sake Mutimer could not persist in his hostility.
Alice had a weapon which he durst not defy, and, the marriage being
inevitable, he strove hard to see it in a more agreeable light, even
tried to convince himself that his prejudice against Rodman was
groundless. He loved his sister, and for her alone would put up with
things otherwise intolerable. It was a new exasperation when he
discovered that Rodman could not be persuaded to continue his work
at New Wanley. All inducements proved vain. Richard had hoped that
at least one advantage might come of the marriage, that Rodman would
devote capital to the works; but Rodman's Socialism cooled strangely
from the day when his ends were secured. He purposed living in
London, and Alice was delighted to encourage him. The girl had
visions of a life such as the heroines of certain novels rejoice in.
For a wonder, her husband was indispensable to the brightness of
that future. Rodman had inspired her with an infatuation. Their
relations once declared, she grudged him every moment he spent away
from her. It was strangely like true passion, the difference only
marked by an extravagant selfishness. She thought of no one, cared
for no one, but herself, Rodman having become part of that self.
With him she was imperiously slavish; her tenderness was a kind of
greed; she did not pretend to forgive her brother for his threatened
opposition, and, having got hold of the idea that Adela took part
against Rodman, she hated her and would not be alone in her company
for a moment. On her marriage day she refused Adela's offered kiss
and did her best to let everyone see how delighted she was to leave
them behind.

The autumn was a time of physical suffering for Adela. Formerly she
had sought to escape her mother's attentions, now she accepted them
with thankfulness. Mrs. Waltham had grave fears for her daughter;
doctors suspected some organic disease, one summoned from London
going so far as to hint at a weakness of the chest. Early in
November it was decided to go south for the winter, and Exmouth was
chosen, chiefly because Mrs. Westlake was spending a month there.
Mr. Westlake, whose interest in Adela had grown with each visit he
paid to the Manor, himself suggested the plan. Mrs. Waltham and
Adela left Wanley together; Mutimer promised visits as often as be
could manage to get away. Since Rodman's departure Richard found
himself overwhelmed with work. None the less he resolutely pursued
the idea of canvassing Belwick at the coming general election.
Opposition, from whomsoever it came, aggravated him. He was more
than ever troubled about the prospects of New Wanley; there even
loomed before his mind a possible abandonment of the undertaking. He
had never contemplated the sacrifice of his fortune, and though
anything of that kind was still very far off, it was daily more
difficult for him to face with equanimity even moderate losses.
Money had fostered ambition, and ambition full grown had more need
than ever of its nurse. New Wanley was no longer an end in itself,
but a stepping-stone You must come to your own conclusions in
judging the value of Mutimer's social zeal; the facts of his life up
to this time are before you, and you will not forget how complex a
matter is the mind of a strong man with whom circumstances have
dealt so strangely. His was assuredly not the vulgar self-seeking of
the gilded _bourgeois_ who covets an after-dinner sleep on
Parliamentary benches. His ignorance of the machinery of government
was profound; though he spoke scornfully of Parliament and its
members, he had no conception of those powers of dulness and
respectability which seize upon the best men if folly lures them
within the precincts of St. Stephen's. He thought, poor fellow! that
he could rise in his place and thunder forth his indignant eloquence
as he did in Commonwealth Hall and elsewhere; he imagined a
conscience-stricken House, he dreamed of passionate debates on a
Bill which really had the good of the people for its sole object.
Such Bill would of course bear _his_ name; shall we condemn him for
that?

Adela was at Exmouth, drinking the mild air, wondering whether there
was in truth a life to come, and, if so, whether it was a life
wherein Love and Duty were at one. A year ago such thoughts could
not have entered her mind. But she had spent several weeks in close
companionship with Stella Westlake, and Stella's influence was
subtle. Mrs. Westlake had come here to regain strength after a
confinement; the fact drew her near to Adela, whose time for giving
birth to a child was not far off.

Adela at first regarded this friend with much the same feeling of
awe as mingled with Letty's affection for Adela herself. Stella
Westlake was not only possessed of intellectual riches which Adela
had had no opportunity of gaining; her character was so full of
imaginative force, of dreamy splendours, that it addressed itself to
a mind like Adela's with magic irresistible and permanent. No rules
of the polite world applied to Stella; she spoke and acted with an
independence so spontaneous that it did not suggest conscious
opposition to the received ways of thought to which ordinary women
are confined, but rather a complete ignorance of. them. Adela felt
herself startled, but never shocked, even when the originality went.
most counter to her own prejudices; it was as though she had drunk a
draught of most unexpected flavour, the effect of which was to set
her nerves delightfully trembling, and make her long to taste it
again. It. was not an occasional effect, the result of an effort on
Stella's part to surprise or charm; the commonest words had novel
meanings when uttered in her voice; a profound sincerity seemed to
inspire every lightest question or remark. Her presence was
agitating; she had but to enter the room and sit in silence, and
Adela forthwith was raised from the depression of her broodings to a
vividness of being, an imaginative energy, such as she had never
known. Adela doubted for some time whether Stella regarded her with
affection; the little demonstrations in which women are wont to
indulge were incompatible with that grave dreaminess, and Stella
seemed to avoid even the common phrases of friendship. But one day,
when Adela had not been well enough to rise, and as she lay on the
borderland of sleeping and waking, she half dreamt, half knew, that
a face bent over her, and that lips were pressed against her own;
and such a thrill struck through her that, though now fully
conscious, she had not power to stir, but lay as in the moment of
some rapturous death. For when the presence entered into her dream,
when the warmth melted upon her lips, she imagined it the kiss which
might once have come to her but now was lost for ever. It was pain
to open her eyes, but when she did so, and met Stella's silent gaze,
she knew that love was offered her, a love of which it was needless
to speak.

Mrs. Waltham was rather afraid of Stella; privately she doubted
whether the poor thing was altogether in her perfect mind. When the
visitor came the mother generally found occupation or amusement
elsewhere, conversation with Stella was so extremely difficult. Mr.
Westlake was also at Exmouth, but much engaged in literary work.
There was, too, an artist and his family, with whom the Westlakes
were acquainted, their name Boscobel. Mrs. Boscobel was a woman of
the world, five-and-thirty, charming, intelligent; she read little,
but was full of interest in literary and artistic matters, and
talked as only a woman can who has long associated with men of
brains. To her Adela was interesting, personally and still more as
an illustration of a social experiment.

'How young she is!' was her remark to Mr. Westlake shortly after
making Adela's acquaintance. 'It will amuse you, the thought I had;
I really must tell it you. She realises my idea of a virgin mother.
Haven't you felt anything of the kind?'

Mr. Westlake smiled.

'Yes, I understand. Stella said something evidently traceable to the
same impression; her voice, she said, is full of forgiveness.'

'Excellent! And has she much to forgive, do you think?'

'I hope not.'

'Yet she is not exactly happy, I imagine?'

Mr. Westlake did not care to discuss the subject. The lady had
recourse to Stella for some account of Mr. Mutimer.

'He is a strong man,' Stella said in a tone which betrayed the
Socialist's enthusiasm. 'He stands for earth-subduing energy. I
imagine him at a forge, beating fire out of iron.'

'H'm! That's not quite the same thing as imagining him that
beautiful child's husband. No education, I suppose?'

'Sufficient. With more, he would no longer fill the place he does.
He can speak eloquently; he is the true voice of the millions who
cannot speak their own thoughts. If he were more intellectual he
would become commonplace; I hope he will never see further than he
does now. Isn't a perfect type more precious than a man who is
neither one thing nor another?'

'Artistically speaking, by all means.'

'In his case I don't mean it artistically. He is doing a great
work.'

'A friend of mine--you don't know Hubert Eldon, I think?--tells me
he has ruined one of the loveliest valleys in England.'

'Yes, I dare say he has done that. It is an essential part of his
protest against social wrong. The earth renews itself, but a dead
man or woman who has lived without joy can never be recompensed.'

'She, of course, is strongly of the same opinion?'

'Adela is a Socialist.'

Mrs. Boscobel laughed rather satirically.

'I doubt it.'

Stella, when she went to sit with Adela, either at home or by the
sea-shore, often carried a book in her hand, and at Adela's request
she read aloud. In this way Adela first came to know what was meant
by literature, as distinguished from works of learning. The verse of
Shelley and the prose of Landor fell upon her ears; it was as though
she had hitherto lived in deafness. Sometimes she had to beg the
reader to pause for that day; her heart and mind seemed overfull;
she could not even speak of these new things, but felt the need of
lying back in twilight to marvel and repeat melodies.

Mrs. Boscobel happened to approach them once whilst this reading was
going on.

'You are educating her?' she said to Stella afterwards.

'Perhaps--a little,' Stella replied absently.

'Isn't it just a trifle dangerous?' suggested the understanding
lady.

'Dangerous? How?'

'The wife of the man who makes sparks fly out of iron? The man who
is on no account to learn anything?'

Stella shook her head, saying, 'You don't know her.'

'I should much like to,' was Mrs. Boscobel's smiling rejoinder.

In Stella's company it did not seem very likely that Adela would
lose her social enthusiasm, yet danger there was, and that precisely
on account of Mrs. Westlake's idealist tendencies. When she spoke of
the toiling multitude, she saw them in a kind of exalted vision; she
beheld them glorious in their woe, ennobled by the tyranny under
which they groaned. She had seen little if anything of the
representative proletarian, and perchance even if she had the
momentary impression would have faded in the light of her burning
soul. Now Adela was in the very best position for understanding
those faults of the working class which are ineradicable in any one
generation. She knew her husband, knew him better than ever now that
she regarded him from a distance; she knew 'Arry Mutimer; and now
she was getting to appreciate with a thoroughness impossible
hitherto, the monstrous gulf between men of that kind and cultured
human beings. She had, too, studied the children and the women of
New Wanley, and the results of such study were arranging themselves
in her mind. All unconsciously, Stella Westlake was cooling Adela's
zeal with every fervid word she uttered; Adela at times with
difficulty restrained herself from crying, 'But it is a mistake!
They have not these feelings you attribute to them. Such suffering
as you picture them enduring comes only of the poetry-fed soul at
issue with fate.' She could not as yet have so expressed herself,
but the knowledge was growing within her. For Adela was not by
nature a social enthusiast. When her heart leapt at Stella's chant,
it was not in truth through contagion of sympathy, but in admiration
and love of the noble woman who could thus think and speak.
Adela--and who will not be thankful for it?--was, before all
things, feminine; her true enthusiasms were personal. It was a
necessity of her nature to love a human being, this or that one, not
a crowd. She had been starving, killing the self which was her
value. This home on the Devon coast received her like an earthly
paradise; looking back on New Wanley, she saw it murky and lurid; it
was hard to believe that the sun ever shone there. But for the most
part, she tried to keep it altogether from her mind, tried to
dissociate her husband from his public tasks, and to remember him as
the man with whom her life was irrevocably bound up. When delight in
Stella's poetry was followed by fear, she strengthened herself by
thought of the child she bore beneath her heart; for that child's
sake she would accept the beautiful things offered to her, some day
to bring them, as rich gifts to the young life. Her own lot was
fixed; she might not muse upon it, she durst not consider it too
deeply. There were things in the past which she had determined, if
by any means it were possible, utterly to forget. For the future,
there was her child.

Mutimer came to Exmouth when she had been there three weeks, and he
stayed four days. Mrs. Boscobel had an opportunity of making his
acquaintance.

'Who contrived that marriage?' she asked of Mr. Westlake
subsequently. 'Our lady mother, presumably.'

'I have no reason to think it was not well done,' replied Mr.
Westlake with reserve.

'Most skilfully done, no doubt,' rejoined the lady.

But at the end of the year, the Westlakes returned to London, the
Boscobels shortly after. Mrs. Waltham and her daughter had made no
other close connections, and Adela's health alone allowed of her
leaving the house for a short drive on sunny days. At the end of
February the child was born prematurely; it entered the world only
to leave it again. For a week they believed that Adela would die.
Scarcely was she pronounced out of danger by the end of March. But
after that she recovered strength.

May saw her at Wanley once more. She had become impatient to return.
The Parliamentary elections were very near at hand, and Mutimer
almost lived in Belwick; it seemed to Adela that duty required her
to be near him, as well as to supply his absence from New Wanley as
much as was possible. She was still only the ghost of her former
self, but disease no longer threatened her, and activity alone could
completely restore her health. She was anxious to recommence her
studies, to resume her readings to the children; and she desired to
see Mr. Wyvern. She understood by this time why he had chosen
Andersen's Tales for her readings; of many other things which he had
said, causing her doubt, the meaning was now clear enough to her.
She had so much to talk of with the vicar, so many questions to put
to him, not a few of a kind that would--she thought--surprise and
trouble him. None the less, they must be asked and answered. Part of
her desire to see him again was merely the result of her longing for
the society of well-read and thoughtful people. She knew that he
would appear to her in a different light from formerly; she would be
far better able to understand him.

She began by seeking his opinion of her husband's chances in
Belwick. Mr. Wyvern shook his head and said frankly that he thought
there was no chance at all. Mutimer was looked upon in the borough
as a mischievous interloper, who came to make disunion in the
Radical party. The son of a lord and an ironmaster of great
influence were the serious candidates. Had he seen fit, Mr. Wyvern
could have mentioned not a few lively incidents in the course of the
political warfare; such, for instance, as the appearance of a neat
little pamphlet which purported to give a full and complete account
of Mutimer's life. In this pamphlet nothing untrue was set down, nor
did it contain anything likely to render its publisher amenable to
the law of libel; but the writer, a gentleman closely connected with
Comrade Roodhouse, most skilfully managed to convey the worst
possible impression throughout. Nor did the vicar hesitate to
express his regret that Mutimer should be seeking election at all.
Adela felt with him.

She found Richard in a strange state of chronic excitement. On
whatever subject he spoke it was with the same nervous irritation,
and the slightest annoyance set him fuming. To her he paid very
little attention, and for the most part seemed disinclined to
converse with her; Adela found it necessary to keep silence on
political matters; once or twice he replied to her questions with a
rough impatience which kept her miserable throughout the day, so
much had it revealed of the working man. As the election day
approached she suffered from a sinking of the heart, almost a bodily
fear; a fear the same in kind as that of the wretched woman who
anticipates the return of a brute-husband late on Saturday night.
The same in kind; no reasoning would overcome it. She worked hard
all day long, that at night she might fall on deep sleep. Again she
had taken up her hard German books, and was also busy with French
histories of revolution, which did indeed fascinate her, though, as
she half perceived, solely by the dramatic quality of the stories
they told. And at length the morning of her fear had come.

When he left home Mutimer bade her not expect him till the following
day. She spent the hours in loneliness and misery. Mr. Wyvern
called, but even him she begged through a servant to excuse her; her
mother likewise came, and her she talked with for a few minutes,
then pleaded headache. At nine o'clock in the evening she went to
her bedroom. She had a soporific at hand, remaining from the time of
her illness, and in dread of a sleepless night she had recourse to
it.

It seemed to her that she had slept a very long time when a great
and persistent noise awoke her. It was someone knocking at her door,
even, as she at length became aware, turning the handle and shaking
it. Being alone, she had locked herself in. She sprang from bed, put
on her dressing-gown, and went to the door. Then came her husband's
voice, impatiently calling her name. She admitted him.

Through the white blind the morning twilight just made objects
visible in the room; Adela afterwards remembered noticing the drowsy
pipe of a bird near the window. Mutimer came in, and, without
closing the door, began to demand angrily why she had locked him
out. Only now she quite shook off her sleep, and could perceive that
there was something unusual in his manner. He smelt strongly of
tobacco, and, as she fancied, of spirits; but it was his staggering
as he moved to draw up the blind that made her aware of his
condition. She found afterwards that he had driven all the way from
Belwick, and the marvel was that he had accomplished such a feat;
probably his horse deserved most of the credit. When he had pulled
the blind up, he turned, propped himself against the dressing-table,
and gazed at her with terribly lack-lustre eyes. Then she saw the
expression of his face change; there came upon it a smile such as
she had never seen or imagined, a hideous smile that made her blood
cold. Without speaking, he threw himself forward and came towards
her. For an instant she was powerless, paralysed with terror; but
happily she found utterance for a cry, and that released her limbs.
Before he could reach her, she had darted out of the room, and fled
to another chamber, that which Alice had formerly occupied, where
she locked herself against him. To her surprise he did not discover
her retreat; she heard him moving about the passages, stumbling here
and there, then he seemed to return to his bedroom. She wrapped
herself in a counterpane, and sat in a chair till it was full
morning.

He was absent for a week after that. Of course his polling at the
election had been ridiculously small compared with that of the other
candidates. When he returned he went about his ordinary occupations;
he was seemingly not in his usual health, but the constant
irritableness had left him. Adela tried to bear herself as though
nothing unwonted had come to pass, but Mutimer scarcely spoke when
at home; if he addressed her it was in a quick, off-hand way, and
without looking at her. Adela again lived almost alone. Her mother
and Letty understood that she preferred this. Letty had many
occupations; before long she hoped to welcome her first child. The
children of New Wanley still came once a week to the Manor; Adela
endeavoured to amuse them, to make them thoughtful, but it had
become a hard, hard task. Only with Mr. Wyvern did she occasionally
speak without constraint, though not of course without reserve;
speech of _that_ kind she feared would never again be possible to
her. Still she felt that the vicar saw far into her life. On some
topics she was more open than she had hitherto ventured to be; a
boldness, almost a carelessness, for which she herself could not
account, possessed her at such times.

Late in June she received from Stella Westlake a pressing invitation
to come and spend a fortnight in London. It was like sunshine to her
heart; almost without hesitation she re solved to accept it. Her
husband offered no objection, seemed to treat the proposal with
indifference. Later in the day he said:

'If you have time, you might perhaps give Alice a call.'

'I shall do that as soon as ever I can.'

He had something else to say.

'Perhaps Mrs. Westlake might ask her to come, whilst you are there.'

'Very likely, I think,' Adela replied, with an attempt at
confidence.

It was only her second visit to London: the first had been in winter
time, and under conditions which had not allowed her to attend to
anything she saw. But for Stella's presence there she would have
feared London; her memory of it was like that of an ill dream long
past; her mind only reverted to it in darkest hours, and then she
shuddered. But now she thought only of Stella; Stella was light and
joy, a fountain of magic waters. Her arrival at the house in Avenue
Road was one of the most blissful moments she had ever known. The
servant led her upstairs to a small room, where the veiled sun made
warmth on rich hangings, on beautiful furniture, on books and
pictures, on ferns and flowers. The goddess of this sanctuary was
alone; as the door opened the notes of a zither trembled into
silence, and Adela saw a light-robed loveliness rise and stand
before her. Stella took both her hands very gently, then looked into
her face with eyes which seemed to be new from some high vision,
then drew her within the paradise of an embrace. The kiss was once
more like that first touch of lips which had come to Adela on the
verge of sleep; she quivered through her frame.

Mr. Westlake shortly joined them, and spoke with an extreme kindness
which completed Adela's sense of being at home. No one disturbed
them through the evening; Adela went to bed early and slept without
a dream.

Stella and her husband talked of her in the night. Mr. Westlake had,
at the time of the election, heard for the first time the story of
Mutimer and the obscure work-girl in Hoxton, and had taken some
trouble to investigate it. It had not reached his ears when the
Hoxton Socialists made it a subject of public discussion; Comrade
Roodhouse had inserted only a very general report of the proceedings
in his paper the 'Tocsin, and even this Mr. Westlake had not seen.
But a copy of the pamphlet which circulated in Belwick came into his
hands, and when he began to talk on the subject with an intimate
friend, who, without being a Socialist, amused himself with
following the movement closely, he heard more than he liked. To
Stella he said nothing of all this. His own ultimate judgment was
that you cannot expect men to be perfect, and that great causes have
often been served by very indifferent characters.

'She looks shockingly ill,' he began to-night when alone with
Stella. 'Wasn't there something said about consumption when she was
at Exmouth? Has she any cough?'

'No, I don't think it is that,' Stella answered.

'She seems glad to be with you.'

'Very glad, I think.'

'Did the loss of her child affect her deeply?'

'I cannot say. She has never spoken of it.'

'Poor child!'

Stella made no reply to the exclamation.

The next day Adela went to call on Mrs. Rodman. It was a house in
Bayswater, not large, but richly furnished. Adela chose a morning
hour, hoping to find her sister-in-law alone, but in this she was
disappointed. Four visitors were in the drawing-room, three ladies
and a man of horsey appearance, who talked loudly as he leaned back
with his legs crossed, a walking-stick held over his knee, his hat
on the ground before him. The ladies were all apparently
middle-aged; one of them had a great quantity of astonishingly
yellow hair, and the others made up for deficiency in that respect
with toilets in very striking taste. The subject under discussion
was a recent murder. The gentleman had the happiness of being
personally acquainted with the murderer, at all events had
frequently met him at certain resorts of the male population. When
Mrs. Rodman had briefly welcomed Adela, the discussion continued.
Its tone was vulgar, but perhaps not more so than the average tone
among middle-class people who are on familiar terms with each other.
The gentleman, still leading the conversation, kept his eyes fixed
on Adela, greatly to her discomfort.

In less than half an hour these four took their departure.

'So Dick came a cropper!' was Alice's first remark, when alone with
her sister-in-law.

Adela tried in vain to understand.

'At the election, you know. I don't see what he wanted to go making
himself so ridiculous. Is he much cut up?'

'I don't think it troubles him much,' Adela said; 'he really had no
expectation of being elected. It was just to draw attention to
Socialism.'

'Of course he'll put it in that way. But I'd no idea you were in
London. Where are you living?'

Alice had suffered, had suffered distinctly, in her manners, and
probably in her character. It was not only that she affected a
fastness of tone, and betrayed an ill-bred pleasure in receiving
Adela in her fine drawing-room; her face no longer expressed the
idle good-nature which used to make it pleasant to contemplate, it
was thinner, less wholesome in colour, rather acid about the lips.
Her manner was hurried, she seemed to be living in a whirl of
frivolous excitements. Her taste in dress had deteriorated; she wore
a lot of jewellery of a common kind, and her headgear was fantastic.

'We have a few friends to-morrow night,' she said when the
conversation had with difficulty dragged itself over ten minutes.
'Will you come to dinner? I'm sure Willis will be very glad to see
you.'

Adela heard the invitation with distress. Fortunately it was given
in a way which all but presupposed refusal.

'I am afraid I cannot,' she answered. 'My health is not good; I
never see people. Thank you very much.'

'Oh, of course I wouldn't put you out,' said Alice, inspecting her
relative's face curiously. And she added, rather more in her old
voice, 'I'm sorry you lost your baby. I believe you're fond of
children? I don't care anything about them myself; I hope I shan't
have any.'

Adela could not make any reply; she shook hands with Alice and took
her leave, only breathing freely when once more in the street. All
the way back to St. John's Wood she was afflicted by the thought
that it would be impossible to advise a meeting between Stella and
Mrs. Rodman. Yet she had promised Richard to do so. Once more she
found herself sundered from him in sympathies. Affection between
Alice and her there could be none, yet Alice was the one person in
the world whom Richard held greatly dear.

The enchanted life of those first weeks at Exmouth was now resumed.
The golden mornings passed with poetry and music; in the afternoon
visits were paid to museums and galleries, or to the studios of
artists who were Mrs. Westlake's friends, and who, as Adela was
pleased to see, always received Stella with reverential homage. The
evening, save when a concert called them forth, was generally a time
of peaceful reading and talking, the presence of friends making no
difference in the simple arrangements of the home. If a man came to
dine at this house, it was greatly preferred that he should not
present himself in the. costume of a waiter, and only those came who
were sufficiently intimate with the Westlakes to know their habits.
One evening weekly saw a purely Socialist gathering; three or four
artisans were always among the guests. On that occasion Adela was
sorely tempted to plead a headache, but for several reasons she
resisted. It was a trial to her, for she was naturally expected to
talk a good deal with the visitors, several of whom she herself had
entertained at Wanley. Watching Stella, she had a feeling which she
could not quite explain or justify; she was pained to see her
goddess in this company, and felt indignant with some of the men who
seemed to make themselves too much at their ease. There was no talk
of poetry.

Among the studios to which Stella took her was that of Mr. Boscobel.
Mrs. Boscobel made much of them, and insisted on Adela's coming to
dine with her. An evening was appointed. Adela felt reproofs of
conscience, remembering the excuse she had offered to Alice, but in
this case it was impossible to decline. Stella assured her that the
party would be small, and would be sure to comprise none but really
interesting people. It was so, in fact. Two men whom, on arriving,
they found in the drawing-room Adela knew by fame, and the next to
enter was a lady whose singing she had heard with rapture at a
concert on the evening before. She was talking with this lady when a
new announcement fell upon her ear, a name which caused her to start
and gaze towards the door. Impossible for her to guard against this
display of emotion; the name she heard so distinctly seemed an
unreal utterance, a fancy of her brain, or else it belonged to
another than the one she knew. But there was no such illusion; he
whom she saw enter was assuredly Hubert Eldon.

A few hot seconds only seemed to intervene before she was called
upon to acknowledge him, for Mrs. Boscobel was presenting him to
her.

'I have had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Mutimer before,' Hubert
said as soon as he saw that Adela in voice and look recognised their
acquaintance.

Mrs. Boscobel was evidently surprised. She herself had met Hubert at
the house of an artist in Rome more than a year ago, but the details
of his life were unknown to her. Subsequently, in London, she
happened once to get on the subject of Socialism with him, and told
him, as an interesting story, what she heard from the Westlakes
about Richard Mutimer. Hubert admitted knowledge of the facts, and
made the remark about the valley of Wanley which Mrs. Boscobel
repeated at Exmouth, but he revealed nothing more. Having no
marriageable daughter, Mrs. Boscobel was under no necessity of
searching into his antecedents. He was one of ten or a dozen young
men of possible future whom she liked to have about her.

Hubert seated himself by Adela, and there was a moment of inevitable
silence.

'I saw you as soon as I got into the room,' he said, in the
desperate necessity for speech of some kind. 'I thought I must have
been mistaken; I was so unprepared to meet you here.'

Adela replied that she was staying with Mrs. Westlake.

'I don't know her,' said Hubert, 'and am very anxious to Boscobel's
portrait of her--I saw it in the studio just before it went
away--was a wonderful thing.'

This was necessarily said in a low tone; it seemed to establish
confidence between them.

Adela experienced a sudden and strange calm; in a world so entirely
new to her, was it not to be expected that things would happen of
which she had never dreamt? The tremor with which she had faced this
her first evening in general society had allayed itself almost as
soon as she entered the room, giving place to a kind of pleasure for
which she was not at all prepared, a pleasure inconsistent with the
mood which governed her life. Perhaps, had she been brought into
this world in those sunny days before her marriage, just such
pleasure as this, only in a more pronounced degree, would have awoke
in her and have been fearlessly indulged. The first shock of the
meeting with Hubert having passed, she was surprised at her
self-control, at the ease with which she found she could converse.
Hubert took her down to dinner; on the stairs he twice turned to
look at her face, yet she felt sure that her hand had betrayed no
agitation as it lay on his arm. At table he talked freely; did he
know--she asked herself--that this would relieve her? And his
conversation was altogether unlike what it had been two years and a
half ago--so long it was since she had talked with him under
ordinary conditions. There was still animation, and the note of
intellectual impatience was touched occasionally, but the world had
ripened him, his judgments were based on sounder knowledge, he was
more polished, more considerate--'gentler,' Adela afterwards said
to herself. And decidedly he had gained in personal appearance; a
good deal of the bright, eager boy had remained with him in his days
of storm and stress, but now his features had the repose of maturity
and their refinement had fixed itself in lines of strength.

He talked solely of the present, discussed with her the season's
pictures, the books, the idle business of the town. At length she
found herself able to meet his glance without fear, even to try and
read its character. She thought of the day when her mother told her
of his wickedness. Since then she had made acquaintance with
wickedness in various forms, and now she marvelled at the way in
which she had regarded him. 'I was a child, a child,' she repeated
to herself. Thinking thus, she lost none of his words. He spoke of
the things which interested her most deeply; how much he could teach
her, were such teaching possible!

At last she ventured upon a personal question.

'How is Mrs. Eldon?'

She thought he looked at her gratefully; certainly there was a deep
kindness in his eyes, a look which was one of the new things she
noted in him.

'Very much as when you knew her,' he replied. 'Weaker, I fear. I
have just spent a few days at Agworth.'

Doubtless he had often been at Agworth; perchance he was there, so
close by, in some of the worst hours of her misery.

When the ladies withdrew Mrs. Boscobel seated herself by Adela for a
moment.

'So you really knew Mr. Eldon?'

'Yes, but it is some time since I saw him,' Adela replied simply,
smiling in the joy of being so entirely mistress of herself.

'You were talking pictures, I heard. You can trust him there; his
criticism is admirable. You know he did the Grosvenor for the--?'

She mentioned a weekly paper.

'There are so many things I don't know,' Adela replied laughingly,
'and that is one of them.'

Hubert shortly after had his wish in being presented to Mrs.
Westlake. Adela observed them as they talked together. Gladness she
could hardly bear possessed her when she saw on Stella's face the
expression of interest which not everyone could call forth. She did
not ask why she was so glad; for this one evening it might be
allowed her to rest and forget and enjoy.

There was singing, and the sweetest of the songs went home with her
and lived in her heart all through a night which was too voiceful
for sleep. Might she think of him henceforth as a friend? Would she
meet him again before her return to--to the darkness of that ravaged
valley? Her mood was a strange one; conscience gave her no trouble,
appeared suspended. And why should conscience have interfered with
her? Her happiness was as apart from past and future as if by some
magic she had been granted an intermezzo of life wholly distinct
from her real one. These people with whom she found living so
pleasant did not really enter her existence; it was as though she
played parts to give her pleasure; she merely looked on for the
permitted hour.

But Stella was real, real as that glorious star whose name she knew
not, the brightest she could see from her chamber window. To Stella
her soul clung with passion and worship. Stella's kiss had power to
make her all but faint with ecstasy; it was the kiss which woke her
from her dream, the kiss which would for ever be to her a terror and
a mystery.





CHAPTER XXII




Her waking after a short morning sleep was dark and troubled. The
taste of last night's happiness was like ashes on her tongue;
fearing to face the daylight, she lay with lids heavily closed on a
brain which ached in its endeavour to resume the sensations of a few
hours ago. The images of those with whom she had talked so
cheerfully either eluded her memory, or flitted before her
unexpectedly, mopping and mowing, so that her heart was revolted. It
is in wakings such as these that Time finds his opportunity to harry
youth; every such unwinds from about us one of the veils of
illusion, bringing our eyes so much nearer to the horrid truth of
things. Adela shrank from the need of rising; she would have
abandoned herself to voiceless desolation, have lain still and dark
whilst the current of misery swept over her, deeper and deeper. When
she viewed her face, its ring-eyed pallor fascinated her with
incredulity. Had she looked at all like that whilst Hubert Eldon and
the others were talking to her? What did they secretly think of her?
The others might attribute to her many more years than she had
really seen; but Hubert knew her age. Perhaps that was why he
glanced at her twice or thrice on the stairs.

For the first time she wished not to be alone with Stella, fearing
lest the conversation should turn on Hubert. Yet, when they had sat
together for nearly an hour, and Stella had not named him, she began
to suffer from a besieging desire to speak of him, a recurrent
impulse to allude to him, however distantly, so that her companion
might be led to the subject. The impulse grew to a torment, more
intolerable each time she resisted it. And at last she found herself
uttering the name involuntarily, overcome by something stronger than
her dread.

'I was surprised to meet Mr. Eldon.'

'Did you know him?' Stella asked simply.

'He used to live at Wanley Manor.'

Stella seemed to revive memories.

'Oh, that was how I knew the name. Mr. Westlake told me of him, at
the time when the Manor passed to Mr. Mutimer.'

Her husband was from home, so had not been at the Boscobels' last
evening.

Adela could rest now that she had spoken. She was searching for a
means of leading the conversation into another channel, when Stella
continued,--

'You knew him formerly?'

'Yes, when he still lived at Wanley. I have not met him since he
went away.'

Stella mused.

'I suppose he came to live in London?'

'I understood so.'

At length Adela succeeded in speaking of something else. Mental
excitement had set her blood flowing more quickly, as though an
obstruction were removed. Before long the unreasoning lightness of
heart began to take possession of her again. It was strangely
painful. To one whom suffering has driven upon self-study the
predominance of a mere mood is always more or less a troublesome
mystery; in Adela's case it was becoming a source of fear. She
seemed to be losing self-control; in looking back on last evening
she doubted whether her own will had been at all operative in the
state of calm enjoyment to which she had attained. Was it physical
weakness which put her thus at the mercy of the moment's influences?

There came a letter from Mutimer to-day; in it he mentioned Alice
and reminded Adela of her promise. This revived a trouble which had
fallen out of activity for a day or two. She could not come to any
decision. When at Alice's house she had not even suggested a return
visit; at the moment it had seemed so out of the question for Alice
to meet Mrs. Westlake. In any case, was it worth while exposing
Stella to the difficulties of such a meeting when it could not
possibly lead to anything further? One reason against it Adela was
ashamed to dwell upon, yet it weighed strongly with her: she was so
jealous of her friend's love, so fearful of losing anything in
Stella's estimation, that she shrank from the danger of becoming
associated with Mrs. Rodman in Stella's mind. Could she speak freely
of Alice? Mutimer's affectionate solicitude was honourable to him,
and might veil much that was disagreeable in Alice. But the intimacy
between Adela and Mrs. Westlake was not yet of the kind which
permits a free disclosure of troubles to which, rightly or wrongly,
there attaches a sense of shame. Such troubles are always the last
to be spoken of between friends; friendship must be indeed
far-reaching before it includes them within its scope. They were
still but learning to know each other, and that more from silent
observation, from the sympathy of looks, from touchings of hands and
lips, than by means of direct examination or avowal. The more she
strove with her difficulty the less able Adela felt herself to ask
Mrs. Rodman to come or to mention her to Stella. The trouble spoilt
her enjoyment of a concert that evening, and kept her restless in
the night, for, though seemingly a small matter, it had vital
connection with the core of her life's problem; it forced her
relentlessly to a consciousness of many things from which she had
taught herself to avert her eyes.

Another thing there was which caused her anxious debate--a project
which had been in her mind for nearly a year. You will not imagine
that Adela had forgotten the letter from Mrs. Clay. The knowledge it
brought her made the turning-point of her life. No word on the
subject passed between her and Mutimer after the conversation which
ended in her fainting-fit. The letter he retained, and the course he
had chosen made it advisable that he should pay no heed to its
request for assistance. Adela remembered the address of the writer,
and made a note of it, but it was impossible to reply. Her state of
mind after overhearing the conversation between Richard and his
sister was such that she durst not even take the step of privately
sending money, lest her husband should hear of it and it should lead
to further question. She felt that, hard as it was to live with that
secret, to hear Mutimer repeat his calumnies would involve her in
yet worse anguish, leading perhaps to terrible things; for, on her
return to the house that night, she suffered a revelation of
herself, which held her almost mute for the following days. In her
heart there fought passions of which she had not known herself
capable; above all a scorn so fierce, that had she but opened her
lips it must have uttered itself. That she lived down by the aid of
many strange expedients; but she formed a purpose, which seemed
indeed nothing less than a duty, to use the opportunity of her first
visit to London to seek for means of helping Emma Vine and her
sister. Her long illness had not weakened this resolve; but now that
she was in London the difficulties of carrying it out proved
insuperable. She had always imagined herself procuring the services
of some agent, but what agent was at hand? She might go herself to
the address she had noted, but it was to incur a danger too great
even for the end in view. If Mutimer heard of such a visit--and she
had no means of assuring herself that communication between him and
those people did not still exist--how would it affect him?

Adela's position would not suffer the risk of ever so slight a
difference between herself and her husband. She had come to fear
him, and now there was growing in her a yet graver fear of herself.

The condition of her health favoured remissness and postponement. An
hour of mental agitation left her with headache and a sense of
bodily feebleness. Emma Vine she felt in the end obliged to dismiss
from her thoughts; the difficulty concerning Alice she put off from
day to day.

The second week of her visit was just ending, and the return to
Wanley was in view, when, on entering the drawing-room in the
afternoon, she found Hubert Eldon sitting there with Mrs. Westlake.
If it had been possible to draw back her foot and escape unnoticed!
But she was observed; Hubert had already risen. Adela fancied that
Stella was closely observing her; it was not so in reality, but the
persuasion wrung her heart to courage. Hubert, who did make narrow
observance of her face, was struck with the cold dignity of her
smile. In speaking to him she was much less friendly than at the
Boscobels'. He thought he understood, and was in a measure right. A
casual meeting in the world was one thing; a visit which might be
supposed half intended to herself called for another demeanour. He
addressed a few remarks to her, then pursued his conversation with
Mrs. Westlake. Adela had time to consider his way of speaking; it
was entirely natural, that of a polished man who has the habit of
society, and takes pleasure in it. With utter inconsistency she felt
pain that he could be so at his ease in her presence. In all
likelihood he had come with no other end save that of continuing his
acquaintance with Mrs. Westlake. As she listened to his voice, once
more an inexplicable and uncontrollable mood possessed her--a mood
of petulance, of impatience with him and with herself; with him for
almost ignoring her presence, with herself for the distant way in
which she had met him. An insensate rebellion against circumstances
encouraged her to feel hurt; by a mystery of the mind intervening
time was cancelled, and it seemed unnatural, hard to bear, that
Hubert should by preference address another than herself. An impulse
similar to that which had forced her to speak his name in
conversation with Stella now constrained her to break silence, to
say something which would require a reply. Her feeling became a sort
of self-pity; he regarded her as beneath his notice, he wished her
to see that his indifference was absolute; why should he treat her
so cruelly?

She added a few words to a remark Mrs. Westlake made, and, the
moment she had spoken, was sensible that her tone had been strangely
impulsive. Stella glanced at her. Hubert, too, turned his eyes,
smiled, and made some reply; she had no understanding of what he
said. Had not force failed her she would have risen and left the
room. Her heart sank in yet crueller humiliation; she believed there
were tears in her eyes, yet had no power to check them. He was still
addressing Mrs. Westlake; herself he deemed incapable of
appreciating what he said. Perhaps he even--the thought made
clanging in her ears, like a rude bell--perhaps he even regarded
her as a social inferior since her marriage. It was almost hysteria,
to such a pitch of unreason was she wrought. Her second self looked
on, anguished, helpless. The voices in the room grew distant and
confused.

Then the door was opened and the servant announced--

'Mr. Mutimer.'

It saved her. She saw her husband enter, and an ice-cold breath made
frigid her throbbing veins. She fixed her eyes upon him, and could
not remove them; they followed him from the door to where Stella
stood to receive him. She saw that he almost paused on recognising
Eldon, that his brows contracted, that involuntarily he looked at
_her_.

'You know Mr. Eldon,' Stella said, perhaps in not quite her ordinary
voice, for the meeting could in no case be a very happy one.

'Oh yes,' replied Mutimer, scarcely looking at Hubert, and making an
idle effort at a bow.

Hubert did not reseat himself. He took leave of Stella cordially; to
Adela he inclined himself at respectful distance.

Mrs. Westlake supplied conversation. Adela, leaving her former
chair, took a seat by her friend's side, but could not as yet trust
her voice. Presently her husband addressed her; it was for the first
time; he had not even given his hand.

'Alice is very anxious that you should dine with her before you go
home. Do you think Mrs. Westlake could spare you this evening?'

And, on Stella's looking an inquiry, he added:

'My sister, Mrs. Rodman. I don't think you know her?'

Adela had no choice but to procure her hostess's assent to this
arrangement.

'I'll call for you at seven o'clock,' Mutimer said.

Adela knew that he was commanding himself; his tone was not quite
discourteous, but he had none of the genial satisfaction which he
ordinarily showed in the company of refined people. She attributed
his displeasure to her neglect of Alice. But it did not affect her
as it had been wont to; she was disposed to resent it.

The time between his departure and seven o'clock she spent by
herself, unoccupied, sitting as if tired. She put off the necessary
changing of garments till there was scarcely time for it. When at
length she was summoned she went down with flushed face.

'I feel as if I were going to have a fever,' she said to Stella in
the drawing-room. She could not help uttering the words, but laughed
immediately.

'Your hand is really very hot,' Stella replied.

Mutimer had a cab at the door, and was waiting in the hall.

'You're a long time,' was his greeting, with more impatience than he
had ever used to her.

When they were together in the hansom:

'Why did you refuse Alice's invitation before?' he asked with
displeasure.

'I didn't think she really wished me to accept it.'

She spoke without misgiving, still resenting his manner.

'Didn't think? Why, what do you mean?'

She made no reply.

'You didn't ask her to call, either?'

'I ought to have done so. I am very sorry to have neglected it.'

He looked at her with surprise which was very like a sneer, and kept
silence till they reached the house.

One of the ladies whom Adela had already met, and a gentleman styled
Captain something, were guests at dinner. Alice received her
sister-in-law with evident pleasure, though not perhaps that of pure
hospitableness.

'I do hope it won't be too much for you,' she said. 'Pray leave as
soon as you feel you ought to. I should never forgive myself if you
took a cold or anything of the kind.'

Really, Alice had supplied herself with most becoming phrases. The
novels had done much; and then she had been living in society. At
dinner she laughed rather too loud, it might be, and was too much
given to addressing her husband as 'Willis;' but her undeniable
prettiness in low-necked evening dress condoned what was amiss in
manner. Mr. Rodman looked too gentlemanly; he reminded one of a hero
of polite melodrama on the English-French stage. The Captain talked
stock-exchange, and was continually inquiring about some one or
other, 'Did he drop much?'

Mutimer was staying at the house over-night. After dinner he spoke
aside with Adela.

'I suppose you go back to-morrow?'

'Yes, I meant to.'

'We may as well go together, then. I'll call for you at two
o'clock.'

He considered, and changed the hour.

'No, I'll come at ten. I want you to go with me to buy some things.
Then we'll have lunch here.'

'And go back for my luggage?'

'We'll take it away at ten o'clock and leave it at the station. I
suppose you can be ready?'

'Yes, I can be ready,' Adela answered mechanically.

He drove back with her to Avenue Road in the Rodmans' carriage, and
left her at the door.

Mr. Westlake was expected home to-night, but had telegraphed to say
that he would return in the morning. Stella had spent the evening
alone; Adela found her in the boudoir with a single lamp, reading.

'Are you still feverish?' Stella asked, putting to her cheek the
ungloved hand.

'I think not--I can't say.'

Stella waited to hear something about the evening, but Adela broke
the silence to say:

'I must leave at ten in the morning. My husband will call for me.'

'So early?'

'Yes.'

There was silence again.

'Will you come and see me before long, Stella?'

'I will,' was the gentle reply.

'Thank you. I shall look forward to it very much.'

Then Adela said good-night, speaking more cheerfully.

In her bedroom she sat as before dinner. The fever had subsided
during the past two hours, but now it crept into her blood again,
insidious, tingling. And with it came so black a phantom of despair
that Adela closed her eyes shudderingly, lay back as one lifeless,
and wished that it were possible by the will alone to yield the
breath and cease. The night pulsed about her, beat regularly like a
great clock, and its pulsing smote upon her brain.

To-morrow she must follow her husband, who would come to lead her
home. Home? what home had she? What home would she ever have but a
grave in the grassy churchyard of Wanley? Why did death spare her
when it took the life which panted but for a moment on her bosom?

She must leave Stella and go back to her duties at the Manor; must
teach the children of New Wanley; must love, honour, obey her
husband. Returning from Exmouth, she was glad to see her house
again; now she had rather a thousand times die than go back. Horror
shook her like a palsy; all that she had borne for eighteen months
seemed accumulated upon her now, waited for her there at Wanley to
be endured again. Oh! where was the maiden whiteness of her soul?
What malignant fate had robbed her for ever of innocence and peace?

Was this fever or madness? She rose and flung her arms against a
hideous form which was about to seize her. It would not vanish, it
pressed upon her. She cried, fled to the door, escaped, and called
Stella's name aloud.

A door near her own opened, and Stella appeared. Adela clung to her,
and was drawn into the room. Those eyes of infinite pity gazing into
her own availed to calm her.

'Shall I send for some one?' Stella asked anxiously, but with no
weak bewilderment.

'No; it is not illness. But I dread to be alone; I am nervous.'

'Will you stay with me, dear?'

'Oh, Stella, let me, let me! I want to be near to you whilst I may!'

Stella's child slept peacefully in a crib; the voices were too low
to wake it. Almost like another child, Adela allowed herself to be
undressed.

'Shall I leave a light?' Stella asked.

'No, I can sleep. Only let me feel your arms.'

They lay in unbroken silence till both slept.





CHAPTER XXIII




In a character such as Mutimer's there will almost certainly be
found a disposition to cruelty, for strong instincts of domination,
even of the nobler kind, only wait for circumstances to develop
crude tyranny--the cruder, of course, in proportion to the lack of
native or acquired refinement which distinguishes the man. We had a
hint of such things in Mutimer's progressive feeling with regard to
Emma Vine. The possibility of his becoming a tyrannous husband could
not be doubted by any one who viewed him closely.

There needed only the occasion, and this at length presented itself
in the form of jealousy. Of all possible incentives it was the one
most calamitous, for it came just when a slow and secret growth of
passion was making demand for room and air. Mutimer had for some
time been at a loss to understand his own sensations; he knew that
his wife was becoming more and more a necessity to him, and that too
when the progress of time would have led him to expect the very
opposite. He knew it during her absence at Exmouth, more still now
that she was away in London. It was with reluctance that he let her
leave home, only his satisfaction in her intimacy with the Westlakes
and his hopes for Alice induced him to acquiesce in her departure.
Yet he could show nothing of this. A lack of self-confidence, a
strange shyness, embarrassed him as often as he would give play to
his feelings. They were intensified by suppression, and goaded him
to constant restlessness. When at most a day or two remained before
Adela's return, he could no longer resist the desire to surprise her
in London.

Not only did he find her in the company of the man whom he had
formerly feared as a rival, but her behaviour seemed to him
distinctly to betray consternation at his arrival. She was
colourless, agitated, could not speak. From that moment his love was
of the quality which in its manifestations is often
indistinguishable from hatred. He resolved to keep her under his
eye, to enforce to the uttermost his marital authority, to make her
pay bitterly for the freedom she had stolen. His exasperated egoism
flew at once to the extreme of suspicion; he was ready to accuse her
of completed perfidy. Mrs. Westlake became his enemy; the profound
distrust of culture, which was inseparable from his mental
narrowness, however ambition might lead him to disguise it, seized
upon the occasion to declare itself; that woman was capable of
conniving at his dishonour, even of plotting it. He would not allow
Adela to remain in the house a minute longer than he could help.
Even the casual absence of Mr. Westlake became a suspicious
circumstance; Eldon of course chose the time for his visit.

Adela was once more safe in the Manor, under lock and key, as it
were. He had not spoken of Eldon, though several times on the point
of doing so. It was obvious that the return home cost her suffering,
that it was making her ill. He could not get her to converse; he saw
that she did not study. It was impossible to keep watch on her at
all moments of the day; yet how otherwise discover what letters she
wrote or received? He pondered the practicability of bribing her
maid to act as a spy upon her, but feared to attempt it. He found
opportunities of secretly examining the blotter on her writing-desk,
and it convinced him that she had written to Mrs. Westlake. It
maddened him that he had not the courage to take a single open step,
to forbid, for instance, all future correspondence with London. To
do so would be to declare his suspicions. He wished to declare them;
it would have gratified him in. tensely to vomit impeachments, to
terrify her with coarseness and violence; but, on the other hand, by
keeping quiet he might surprise positive evidence, and if only he
did!

She was ill; he had a distinct pleasure in observing it. She longed
for quiet and retirement; he neglected his business to force his
company upon her, to laugh and talk loudly. She with difficulty read
a page; he made her read aloud to him by the hour, or write
translations for him from French and German. The pale anguish of her
face was his joy; it fascinated him, fired his senses, made him a
demon of vicious cruelty. Yet he durst not as much as touch her hand
when she sat before him. Her purity, which was her safeguard,
stirred his venom; he worshipped it, and would have smothered it in
foulness.

'Hadn't you better have the doctor to see you?' he began one morning
when he had followed her from the dining-room to her boudoir.

'The doctor? Why?'

'You don't seem up to the mark,' he replied, avoiding her look.

Adela kept silence.

'You were well enough in London, I suppose?'

'I am never very strong.'

'I think you might be a bit more cheerful.'

'I will try to be.'

This submission always aggravated his disease--by what other name to
call it? He would have had her resist him, that he might know the
pleasure of crushing her will.

He walked about the room, then suddenly:

'What is that man Eldon doing?'

Adela looked at him with surprise. It had never entered her thoughts
that the meeting with Eldon would cost him more than a passing
annoyance--she knew he disliked him--and least of all that such
annoyance would in any way be connected with herself. It was
possible, of course, that some idle tongue had gossiped of her
former friendship with Hubert, but there was no one save Letty who
knew what her feelings really had been, and was not the fact of her
marriage enough to remove any suspicion that Mutimer might formerly
have entertained? But the manner of his question was so singular,
the introduction of Eldon's name so abrupt, that she could not but
discern in a measure what was in his mind.

She made reply:

'I don't understand. Do you mean how is he engaged?'

'How comes he to know Mrs. Westlake?'

'Through common friends--some people named Boscobel. Mr. Boscobel is
an artist, and Mr. Eldon appears to be studying art.'

Her voice was quite steady through this explanation. The surprise
seemed to have enabled her to regard him unmoved, almost with
curiosity.

'I suppose he's constantly there--at the Westlakes'?'

'That was his first visit. We met him a few evenings before at the
Boscobels', at dinner. It was then he made Mrs. Westlake's
acquaintance.'

Mutimer moved his head as if to signify indifference. But Adela had
found an unexpected relief in speaking thus openly; she was tempted
to go further.

'I believe he writes about pictures. Mrs. Boscobel told me that he
had been some time in Italy.'

'Well and good; I don't care to hear about his affairs. So you dined
with these Boscobel people?'

'Yes.'

He smiled disagreeably.

'I thought you were rather particular about telling the truth. You
told Alice you never dined out.'

'I don't think I said that,' Adela replied quietly.

He paused; then:

'What fault have you to find with Alice, eh?'

Adela was not in the mood for evasions; she answered in much the
same tone as she had used in speaking of Hubert.

'I don't think she likes me. If she did, I should be able to be more
friendly with her. Her world is very different from ours.'

'Different? You mean you don't like Rodman?'

'I was not thinking of Mr. Rodman. I mean that her friends are not
the same as ours.'

Mutimer forgot for a moment his preoccupation in thought of Alice.

'Was there anything wrong with the people you met there?'

She was silent.

'Just tell me what you think. I want to know. What did you object
to?'

'I don't think they were the best kind of people.'

'The best kind? I suppose they are what you call ladies and
gentlemen?'

'You must have felt that they were not quite the same as the
Westlakes, for instance.'

'The Westlakes!'

He named them sneeringly, to Adela's astonishment. And he added as
he walked towards the door:

'There isn't much to be said for some of the people you meet there.'

A new complexity was introduced into her life. Viewed by this recent
light, Mutimer's behaviour since the return from London was not so
difficult to understand; but the problem of how to bear with it
became the harder. There were hours when Adela's soul was like a
bird of the woods cage-pent: it dashed itself against the bars of
fate, and in anguish conceived the most desperate attempts for
freedom. She could always die, but was it not hard to perish in her
youth and with the world's cup of bliss untasted? Flight? Ah!
whither could she flee? The thought of the misery she would leave
behind her, the disgrace that would fall upon her mother--this would
alone make flight impossible. Yet could she conceive life such as
this prolonging itself into the hopeless years, renunciation her
strength and her reward, duty a grinning skeleton at her bedside? It
grew harder daily. More than a year ago she thought that the worst
was over, and since then had known the solace of self-forgetful
idealisms, of ascetic striving. It was all illusion, the spinning of
a desolate heart. There was no help now, for she knew herself and
the world. Foolish, foolish child, who with her own hand had flung
away the jewel of existence like a thing of no price! Her lot
appeared single in its haplessness. She thought of Stella, of Letty,
even of Alice; _they_ had not been doomed to learn in suffering. To
her, alone of all women, knowledge had come with a curse.

A month passed. Since Rodman's departure from Wanley, 'Arry Mutimer
was living at the Manor. Her husband and 'Arry were Adela's sole
companions; the former she dreaded, the approach of the latter
always caused her insuperable disgust. To Letty there was born a
son; Adela could not bend to the little one with a whole heart; her
own desolate motherhood wailed the more bitterly.

Once more a change was coming. Alice and her husband were going to
spend August at a French watering-place, and Mutimer proposed to
join them for a fortnight; Adela of course would be of the party.
The invitation came from Rodman, who had reasons for wishing to get
his brother-in-law aside for a little quiet talk. Rodman had large
views, was at present pondering a financial scheme in which he
needed a partner--one with capital of course. He knew that New
Wanley was proving anything but a prosperous concern, commercially
speaking; he divined, moreover, that Mutimer was not wholly
satisfied with the state of affairs. By judicious management the
Socialist might even be induced to abandon the non-paying
enterprise, and, though not perhaps ostensibly, embark in one that
promised very different results--at all events to Mr. Rodman. The
scheme was not of mushroom growth; it dated from a time but little
posterior to Mr. Rodman's first meeting with Alice Mutimer. 'Arry
had been granted appetising sniffs at the cookery in progress, though
the youth was naturally left without precise information as to the
ingredients. The result was a surprising self-restraint on 'Arry's
part. The influence which poor Keene had so bunglingly tried to
obtain over him, the more astute Mr. Rodman had compassed without
difficulty; beginning with the loan of small sums, to be repaid when
'Arry attained his majority, he little by little made the
prospective man of capital the creature of his directions; in
something less than two more years Rodman looked to find ample
recompense for his expenditure. and trouble. But that was a mere
parergon; to secure Richard Mutimer was the great end steadily held
in view.

Rodman and his wife came to Wanley to spend three days before all
together set out for the Continent. Adela accepted the course of
things, and abandoned herself to the stream. For a week her husband
had been milder; we know the instinct that draws the cat's paws from
the flagging mouse.

Alice, no longer much interested in novels, must needs talk with
some one; she honoured Adela with much of her confidence, seeming to
forget and forgive, in reality delighted to recount her London
experiences to her poor tame sister-in-law. Alice, too, had been at
moments introduced to her husband's kitchen; she threw out vague
hints of a wonderful repast in preparation.

'Willis is going to buy me a house in Brighton,' she said, among
other things. 'I shall run down whenever I feel it would do me good.
You've no idea how kind he is.'

There was, in fact, an 'advancement clause' in Alice's deed of
settlement. If Mr. Rodman showed himself particularly anxious to
cultivate the friendship of Mr. Alfred Waltham, possibly one might
look for the explanation to the terms of that same document.

There came a Sunday morning. Preparations for departure on the
morrow were practically completed. The weather was delightful. Adela
finished breakfast in time to wander a little about the garden
before it was the hour for church; her husband and Rodman
breakfasted with her, and went to smoke in the library. Alice and
'Arry did not present themselves till the church bells had ceased.

Adela was glad to be alone in the dusky pew. She was the first of
the congregation to arrive, and she sat, as always, with the
curtains enclosing her save in front. The bells ringing above the
roof had a soothing effect upon her, and gave strange turns to her
thought. So had their summoning rung out to generation after
generation; so would it ring long after she was buried and at rest.
Where would her grave be? She was going for the first time to a
foreign country; perhaps death might come to her there. Then she
would lie for ever among strangers, and her place be forgotten.
Would it not be the fitting end of so sad and short a life?

In the front of the pew was a cupboard; the upper portion, which
contained the service books, was closed with a long, narrow door,
opening downwards on horizontal hinges; the shelf on which the books
lay went back into darkness, being, perhaps, two feet broad. Below
this shelf was the door of the lower and much larger receptacle; it
slid longitudinally, and revealed a couple of buffets, kept here to
supplement the number in the pew when necessary. Adela had only once
opened the sliding door, and then merely to glance into the dark
hollows and close it again. Probably the buffets had lain
undisturbed for years.

On entering the pew this morning she had as usual dropped the upper
door, and had laid her large church service open on the shelf, where
she could reach it as soon as Mr. Wyvern began to read. Then began
her reverie. From thoughts of the grave she passed to memories of
her wedding-day. How often the scene of that morning had re-enacted
itself in her mind! Often she dreamed it all over, and woke as from
a nightmare. She wished it had not taken place in this church; it
troubled the sacred recollections of her maiden peace. She began to
think it over once more, attracted by the pain it caused her, and,
on coming to the bestowal of the ring, an odd caprice led her to
draw the circlet itself from her finger. When she had done it she
trembled. The hand looked so strange. Oh, her hand, her hand! Once
ringless indeed, once her own to give, to stretch forth in pledge of
the heart's imperishable faith! Now a prisoner for ever; but, thus
ringless, so like a maiden hand once more. There came a foolish
sense of ease. She would keep her finger free yet a little, perhaps
through the service. She bent forward and laid the ring on the open
book.

More dreams, quite other than before; then the organ began its
prelude, a tremor passing through the church before the sound broke
forth. Adela sank deeper in reverie. At length Mr. Wyvern's voice
roused her; she stood up and reached her book; but she had wholly
forgotten that the ring lay upon it, and was only reminded by a
glimpse of it rolling away on the shelf, rolling to the back of the
cupboard. But it did not stop there; surely it was the ring that she
heard fall down below, behind the large sliding door. She had a
sudden fright lest it should be lost, and stooped at once to search
for it.

She drew back the door, pushed aside the buffets, then groped in the
darkness. She touched the ring. But something else lay there; it
seemed a long piece of thick paper, folded. This too she brought
forth, and, having slipped the ring on her finger, looked to see
what she had found.

It was parchment She unfolded it, and saw that it was covered with
writing in a clerkly hand. How strange!

'This is the last will and testament of me, RICHMOND MUTIMER--'

Her hand shook. She felt as if the sides of the pew were circling
about her, as if she stood amid falling and changing things.

She looked to the foot of the sheet.

'In witness whereof I, the said Richard Mutimer, have hereunto set
my hand this seventeenth day of October, 187-.'

The date was some six months prior to old Richard Mutimer's death.
This could be nothing but the will which every one believed him to
have destroyed.

Adela sank upon the seat. Her ring! Had she picked it up? Yes; it
was again upon her finger. How had it chanced to fall down below?
She rose again and examined the cupboard; there was a gap of four or
five inches at the back of the upper shelf.

Had the will fallen in the same way? Adela conjectured that thus it
had been lost, though when or under what circumstances she could not
imagine. We, who are calmer, may conceive the old man to have taken
his will to church with him on the morning of his death, he being
then greatly troubled about the changes he had in view. Perhaps he
laid the folded parchment on the shelf and rested one of the large
books in front of it. He breathed his last. Then the old woman,
whose duty it was to put the pews in order, hurriedly throwing the
books into the cupboard as soon as the dead man was removed,
perchance pushed the document so far back that it slipped through
the gap and down behind the buffets.

At all events, no one has ever hit upon a likelier explanation.





CHAPTER XXIV




She could not sit through the service, yet to leave the church she
would have to walk the whole length of the aisle. What did it
matter? It would very soon be known why she had gone away, and to
face for a moment the wonder of Sunday-clad villagers is not a grave
trial. Adela opened the pew door and quitted the church, the
parchment held beneath her mantle.

As she issued from the porch the sun smote warm upon her face; it
encouraged a feeling of gladness which had followed her
astonishment. She had discovered the tenor of the will; it affected
her with a sudden joy, undisturbed at first by any reflection. The
thought of self was slow in coming, and had not power to trouble her
greatly even when she faced it. Befall herself what might, she held
against her heart a power which was the utmost limit of that heart's
desire. So vast, so undreamt, so mysteriously given to her, that it
seemed preternatural. Her weakness was become strength; with a
single word she could work changes such as it had seemed no human
agency could bring about.

To her, to her it had been given! What was all her suffering,
crowned with power like this?

She durst not take the will from beneath her mantle, though burning
to reassure herself of its contents. Not till she was locked in her
room. If any one met her as she entered the house, her excuse would
be that she did not feel well.

But as she hurried toward the Manor, she all at once found herself
face to face with her brother. Alfred was having a ramble, rather
glad to get out of hearing of the baby this Sunday morning.

'Hollo, what's up?' was his exclamation.

Adela feared lest her face had betrayed her. She was conscious that
her look could not be that of illness.

'I am obliged to go home,' she said, 'I have forgotten something.'

'I should have thought you'd rather have let the house burn down
than scutter away in this profane fashion. All right, I won't stop
you.'

She hesitated, tempted to give some hint. But before she could
speak, Alfred continued:

'So Mutimer's going to throw it up.'

'What?' she asked in surprise.

He nodded towards New Wanley.

'Throw it up?'

'So I understand. Don't mention that I said anything; I supposed you
knew.'

'I knew nothing. You mean that he is going to abandon the works?'

'Something of the kind, I fancy. I don't know that it's decided, but
that fellow Rodman--well, time enough to talk about it. It's a pity,
that's all I can say. Still, if he's really losing--'

'Losing? But he never expected to make money.'

'No, but I fancy he's beginning to see things in a different light.
I tell you what it is, Adela; I can't stand that fellow Rodman. I've
got an idea he's up to something. Don't let him lead Mutimer by the
nose, that's all. But this isn't Sunday talk. Youngster rather
obstreperous this morning.'

Adela had no desire to question further: she let her brother pass
on, and continued her own walk at a more moderate pace.

Alfred's words put her in mind of considerations to which in her
excitement she had given no thought. New Wanley was no longer her
husband's property, and the great Socialist undertaking must come to
an end. In spite of her personal feeling, she could not view with
indifference the failure of an attempt which she had trained herself
to regard as nobly planned, and full of importance to the world at
large. Though she no longer saw Mutimer's character in the same
light as when first she bent her nature to his direction, she still
would have attributed to him a higher grief than the merely
self-regarding; she had never suspected him of insincerity in his
public zeal. Mutimer had been scrupulous to avoid any utterance
which might betray half-heartedness; in his sullen fits of late he
had even made it a reproach against her that she cared little for
his own deepest interests. To his wife last of all he would have
confessed a failing in his enthusiasm: jealousy had made him
discourteous, had lowered the tone of his intercourse with her; but
to figure as a hero in her eyes was no less, nay more, than ever a
leading motive in his life. But if what Alfred said was true, Adela
saw that in this also she had deceived herself: the man whose very
heart was in a great cause would sacrifice everything, and fight on
to the uttermost verge of hope. There was no longer room for regret
on his account.

On reaching the Manor gates she feared to walk straight up to the
house; she felt that, if she met her husband, she could not command
her face, and her tongue would falter. She took a path which led
round to the gardens in the rear. She had remembered a little
summer-house which stood beyond the kitchen-garden, in a spot sure
to be solitary at this hour. There she could read the will
attentively, and fix her resolution before entering the house.

Trees and bushes screened her. She neared the summerhouse, and was
at the very door before she perceived that it was occupied. There
sat 'Arry and a kitchenmaid, very close to each other, chatting
confidentially. 'Arry looked up, and something as near a blush as he
was capable of came to his face. The kitchen damsel followed the
direction of his eyes, and was terror-stricken.

Adela hastened away. An unspeakable loathing turned her heart. She
scarcely wondered, but pressed the parchment closer, and joyed in
the thought that she would so soon be free of this tainted air.

She no longer hesitated to enter, and was fortunate enough to reach
her room without meeting any one. She locked the door, then unfolded
the will and began to peruse it with care.

The testator devised the whole of his real estate to Hubert Eldon;
to Hubert also he bequeathed his personal property, subject to
certain charges. These were--first, the payment of a legacy of one
thousand pounds to Mrs. Eldon; secondly, of a legacy of five hundred
pounds to Mr. Yottle, the solicitor; thirdly, of an annuity of one
hundred and seven pounds to the testator's great-nephew, Richard
Mutimer, such sum being the yearly product of a specified
investment. The annuity was to extend to the life of Richard's
widow, should he leave one; but power was given to the trustee to
make over to Richard Mutimer, or to his widow, any part or the whole
of the invested capital, if he felt satisfied that to do so would be
for the annuitant's benefit. 'It is not my wish'--these words
followed the directions--'to put the said Richard Mutimer above the
need of supporting himself by honest work, but only to aid him to
make use of the abilities which I understand he possesses, and to
become a credit to the class to which he belongs.'

The executors were Hubert Eldon himself and the lawyer Mr. Yottle.

A man of the world brought face to face with startling revelations
of this kind naturally turns at once to thought of technicalities,
evasions, compromises. Adela's simpler mind fixed itself upon the
plain sense of the will; that meant restitution to the uttermost
farthing. For more than two years Hubert Eldon had been kept out of
his possessions; others had been using them, and lavishly. Would it
be possible for her husband to restore? He must have expended great
sums, and of his own he had not a penny.

Thought for herself came last. Mutimer must abandon Wanley, and
whither he went, thither must she go also. Their income would be a
hundred and seven pounds. Her husband became once more a working
man. Doubtless he would return to London; their home would be a poor
one, like that of ordinary working folk.

How would he bear it? How would he take this from _her_?

Fear crept insidiously about her heart, though she fought to banish
it. It was a fear of the instinct, clinging to trifles in the
memory, feeding upon tones, glances, the impressions of forgotten
moments. She was conscious that here at length was the crucial test
of her husband's nature, and in spite of every generous impulse she
dreaded the issue. To that dread she durst not abandon herself; to
let it grow even for an instant cost her a sensation of faintness, a
desire to flee for cover to those who would naturally protect her.
To give up all--and to Hubert Eldon! She recalled his voice when the
other day he spoke of Hubert. He had not since recurred to the
subject, but his manner still bore the significance with which that
conversation had invested it. No dream of suspicions on his part had
come to her, but it was enough that something had happened to
intensify his dislike of Hubert. Of her many fears, here was one
which couched dark and shapeless in the background.

A feeble woman would have chosen anyone--her mother, her
brother--rather than Mutimer himself for the first participant in
such a discovery. Adela was not feeble, and the very danger, though
it might chill her senses, nerved her soul. Was she not making him
too ignoble? Was she not herself responsible for much of the
strangeness in his behaviour of late? The question she had once
asked herself, whether he loved her, she could not answer
doubtfully; was it not his love that had set her icily against him?
If she could not render him love in return, that was the wrong she
did him, the sin she had committed in becoming his wife. Adela by
this time knew too well that, in her threefold vows, love had of
right the foremost place; honour and obedience could not exist
without love. Her wrong was involuntary, none the less she owed him
such reparation as was possible; she must keep her mind open to his
better qualities. A man might fall, yet not be irredeemably base.
Oh, that she had never known of that poor girl in London! Base,
doubly and trebly base, had been his behaviour there, for one ill
deed had drawn others after it. But his repentance, his humiliation,
must have been deep, and of the kind which strengthens against
ill-doing in the future.

It had to be done, and had better be done quickly. Adela went to her
boudoir and rang the bell. The servant who came told her that
Mutimer was in the house. She summoned him.

It was five minutes before he appeared. He was preoccupied, though
not gloomily so.

'I thought you were at church,' he said, regarding her absently.

'I came away--because I found something--this!'

She had hoped to speak with calmness, but the interval of waiting
had agitated her, and the fear which no effort could allay struck
her heart as he entered. She held the parchment to him.

'What is it?' he asked, his attention gradually awakened by
surprise. He did not move forward to meet her extended hand.

'You will see--it is the will that we thought was destroyed--old Mr.
Mutimer's will.'

She rose and brought it to him. He looked at her with a sceptical
smile, which was involuntary, and lingered on his face even after he
had begun to read the document.

Adela seated herself again; she had scarcely power to stand. There
was a long silence.

'Where did you find this?' Mutimer inquired at length. His tone
astonished her; it was almost indifferent. But he did not raise his
eyes.

She explained. It was needless, she thought, to give a reason for
her search in the lower cupboard; but the first thing that occurred
to Mutimer was to demand such reason.

A moment's hesitation; then:

'A piece of money rolled down behind the shelf on which the books
are; there is a gap at the back. I suppose that is how the will fell
down.'

His eye was now steadily fixed upon her, coldly scrutinising, as one
regards a suspected stranger. Adela was made wretched by the
inevitable falsehood. She felt herself reddening under his gaze.

He seemed to fall into absent-mindedness, then re-read the document.
Then he took out his watch.

'The people are out of church. Come and show me where it was.'

With a deep sense of relief she went away to put on her bonnet. To
escape for a moment was what she needed, and the self-command of his
voice seemed to assure her against her worst fears. She felt
grateful to him for preserving his dignity. The future lost one of
its terrors if only she could respect him.

They walked side by side to the church in silence: Mutimer had put
the will into his pocket. At the wicket he paused.

'Will Wyvern be in there?'

The question was answered by the appearance of the vicar himself,
who just then came forth from the front doorway. He approached them,
with a hope that Adela had not been obliged to leave through
indisposition.

'A little faintness,' Mutimer was quick to reply. 'We are going to
look for something she dropped in the pew.'

Mr. Wyvern passed on. Only the pew-opener was moving about the
aisles. She looked with surprise at the pair as they entered.

'Tell her the same,' Mutimer commanded, under his breath.

The old woman was of course ready with offers of assistance, but a
word from Richard sufficed to keep her away.

The examination was quickly made, and .they returned as they had
come, without exchanging a word on the way. They went upstairs again
to the boudoir.

'Sit down,' Mutimer said briefly.

He himself continued to stand, again examining the will.

'I should think,' he began slowly, 'it's as likely as not that this
is a forgery.'

'A forgery? But who could have--'

Her voice failed.

'He's not likely to have run the risk himself, I suppose,' Mutimer
pursued, with a quiet sneer, 'but no doubt there are people who
would benefit by it.'

Adela had an impulse of indignation. It showed intself in her cold,
steady reply.

'The will was thick with dust. It has been lying there a long time.'

'Of course. They wouldn't bungle over an important thing like this.'

He was once more scrutinising her. The suspicion was a genuine one,
and involved even more than Adela could imagine. If there had been a
plot, such plot assuredly included the discoverer of the document.
Could he in his heart charge Adela with that? There were two voices
at his ear, and of equal persuasiveness. Even to look into her face
did not silence the calumnious whispering. Her beauty was fuel to
his jealousy, and his jealousy alone made the supposition of her
guilt for a moment tenable. It was on his lips to accuse her, to
ease himself with savage innuendoes, those 'easy things to
understand' which come naturally from such a man in such a
situation. But to do that would be to break with her for ever, and
the voice that urged her innocence would not let him incur such
risk. The loss of his possessions was a calamity so great that as
yet he could not realise its possibility; the loss of his wife
impressed his imagination more immediately, and was in this moment
the more active fear.

He was in the strange position of a man who finds all at once that
he _dare_ not believe that which he has been trying his best to
believe. If Adela were guilty of plotting with Eldon, it meant that
he himself was the object of her utter hatred, a hideous thought to
entertain. It threw him back upon her innocence. Egoism had to do
the work of the finer moral perceptions.

'Isn't it rather strange,' he said, not this time sneeringly, but
seeking for support against his intolerable suspicions, 'that you
never moved those buffets before?'

'I never had need of them.'

'And that hole has never been cleaned out?'

'Never; clearly never.'

She had risen to her feet, impelled by a glimmering of the thought
in which he examined her. What she next said came from her without
premeditation. Her tongue seemed to speak independently of her will.

'One thing I have said that was not true. It was not money that
slipped down, but my ring. I had taken it off and laid it on the
Prayer-book.'

'Your ring?' he repeated, with cold surprise. 'Do you always take
your ring off in church, then?'

As soon as the words were spoken she had gone deadly pale. Was it
well to say that? Must there follow yet more explanation? She with
difficulty overcame an impulse to speak on and disclose all her
mind, the same kind of impulse she had known several times of late.
Sheer dread this time prevailed. The eyes that were upon her
concealed fire; what madness tempted her to provoke its outburst?

'I have never done so before,' she replied confusedly.

'Why to-day, then?'

She did not answer.

'And why did you tell--why did you say it was money?'

'I can't explain that,' she answered, her head bowed. 'I took off
the ring thoughtlessly; it is rather loose; my finger is thinner
than it used to be.'

On the track of cunning Mutimer's mind was keen enough; only amid
the complexities of such motives as sway a pure heart in trouble was
he quite at a loss. This confession of untruthfulness might on the
face of it have spoken in Adela's favour; but his very understanding
of that made him seek for subtle treachery. She saw he suspected
her; was it not good policy to seem perfectly frank, even if such
frankness for the moment gave a strengthening to suspicion? What
devilish ingenuity might after all be concealed in this woman, whom
he had taken for simplicity itself!

The first bell for luncheon disturbed his reflections.

'Please sit down,' he said, pointing to the chair. 'We can't end our
talk just yet.'

She obeyed him, glad again to rest her trembling limbs.

'If you suspect it to be a forgery,' she said, when she had waited
in vain for him to speak further, 'the best way of deciding is to go
at once to Mr. Yottle. He will remember; it was he drew up the
will.'

He flashed a glance at her.

'I'm perfectly aware of that. If this is forged, the lawyer has of
course given his help. He would be glad to see me.'

Again the suspicion was genuine. Mutimer felt himself hedged in;
every avenue of escape to which his thoughts turned was closed in
advance. There was no one he would not now have suspected. The full
meaning of his position was growing upon him; it made a ferment in
his mind.

'Mr. Yottle!' Adela exclaimed in astonishment. 'You think it
possible that he--Oh, that is folly!'

Yes, it was folly; her voice assured him of it, proclaiming at the
same time the folly of his whole doubt. It was falling to pieces,
and, as it fell, disclosing the image of his fate, inexorable,
inconceivable.

He stood for more than five minutes in silence. Then he drew a
little nearer to her, and asked in an unsteady voice:

'Are you glad of this?'

'Glad of it?' she repeated under her breath.

'Yes; shall you be glad to see me lose everything?'

'You cannot wish to keep what belongs to others. In that sense I
think we ought to be glad that the will is found.'

She spoke so coldly that he drew away from her again. The second
bell rang.

'They had better have lunch without us,' he said.

He rang and bade the servant ask Mr. and Mrs. Rodman to lunch alone.
Then he returned to an earlier point of the discussion.

'You say it was thick with dust?'

'It was. I believe the lower cupboard has never been open since Mr.
Mutimer's death.'

'Why should he take a will to church with him?'

Adela shook her head.

'If he did,' Mutimer pursued, 'I suppose it was to think over the
new one he was going to make. You know, of course, that he never
intended _this_ to be his will?'

'We do not know what his last thoughts may have been,' Adela
replied, in a low voice but firmly.

'Yes, I think we do. I mean to say, we are quite sure he meant to
alter _this_. Yottle was expecting the new will.'

'Death took him before he could make it. He left this.'

Her quiet opposition was breath to the fire of his jealousy. He
could no longer maintain his voice of argument.

'It just means this: you won't hear anything against the will, and
you're glad of it.'

'Your loss is mine.'

He looked at her and again drew nearer.

'It's not very likely that you'll stay to share it.'

'Stay?' She watched his movements with apprehension. 'How can I
separate my future from yours?'

He desired to touch her, to give some sign of his mastery, whether
tenderly or with rude force mattered little.

'It's easy to say that, but we know it doesn't mean much.'

His tongue stammered. As Adela rose and tried to move apart, he
caught her arm roughly, then her waist, and kissed her several times
about the face. Released, she sank back upon the chair, pale, tern
fled; her breath caught with voiceless sobs. Mutimer turned away and
leaned his arms upon the mantelpiece. His body trembled.

Neither could count the minutes that followed. An inexplicable shame
kept Mutimer silent and motionless. Adela, when the shock of
repugnance had passed over, almost forgot the subject of their
conversation in vain endeavours to understand this man in whose
power she was. His passion was mysterious, revolting--impossible for
her to reconcile with his usual bearing, with his character as she
understood it. It was more than a year since he had mingled his talk
to her with any such sign of affection, and her feeling was one of
outrage. What protection had she? The caresses had followed upon an
insult, and were themselves brutal, degrading. It was a realisation
of one of those half-formed fears which had so long haunted her in
his presence.

What would life be with him, away from the protections of a wealthy
home, when circumstances would have made him once more the London
artisan, and in doing so would have added harshness to his natural
temper; when he would no longer find it worth while to preserve the
semblance of gentle breeding? Was there strength in her to endure
that?

Presently he turned, and she heard him speak her name. She raised
her eyes with a half-smile of abashment. He approached and took her
hand.

'Have you thought what this means to me?' he asked, in a much softer
voice.

'I know it must be very hard.'

'I don't mean in that way. I'm not thinking of the change back to
poverty. It's my work in New Wanley; my splendid opportunity of
helping on Socialism. Think, just when everything is fairly started!
You can't feel it as I do, I suppose. You haven't the same interest
in the work. I hoped once you would have had.'

Adela remembered what her brother had said, but she could not allude
to it. To question was useless. She thought of a previous occasion
on which he had justified himself when accused.

He still held her hand.

'Which would do the most good with this money, he or I?'

'We cannot ask that question.'

'Yes, we can. We ought to. At all events, _I_ ought to. Think what
it means. In my hands the money is used for the good of a suffering
class, for the good of the whole country in the end. He would just
spend it on himself, like other rich men. It isn't every day that a
man of my principles gets the means of putting them into practice.
Eldon is well enough off; long ago he's made up his mind to the loss
of Wanley. It's like robbing poor people just to give money where it
isn't wanted.'

She withdrew her hand, saying coldly:

'I can understand your looking at it in this way. But we can't help
it.'

'Why can't we?' His voice grew disagreeable in its effort to be
insinuating. 'It seems to me that we can and ought to help it. It
would be. quite different if you and I had just been enjoying
ourselves and thinking of no one else.' He thought it a skilful
stroke to unite their names thus. 'We haven't done anything of the
kind; we've denied ourselves all sorts of things just to be able to
spend more on New Wanley. You know what I've always said, that I
hold the money in trust for the Union. Isn't it true? I don't feel
justified in giving it up. The end is too important. The good of
thousands, of hundreds of thousands, is at stake.'

Adela looked him in the face searchingly.

'But how can we help it? There is the will.'

Mutimer met her eyes.

'No one knows of it but ourselves, Adela.'

It was not indignation that her look expressed, but at first a kind
of shocked surprise and then profound trouble. It was with
difficulty that she found words.

'You are not speaking in earnest?'

'I am!' he exclaimed, almost hopefully. 'In downright earnest.
There's nothing to be ashamed of.' He said it because he felt that
her gaze was breeding shame in him. 'It isn't for myself, it's for
the cause, for the good of my fellowmen. Don't say anything till
you've thought. Look, Adela, you're not hardhearted, and you know
how it used to pain you to read of the poor wretches who can't earn
enough to keep themselves alive. It's for their sake. If they could
be here and know of this, they'd go down on their knees to you. You
_can't_ rob them of a chance! It's like snatching a bit of bread out
of their mouths when they're dying of hunger.'

The fervour with which he pleaded went far to convince himself; for
the moment he lost sight of everything but the necessity of
persuading Adela, and his zeal could scarcely have been greater had
he been actuated by the purest unselfishness. He was speaking as
Adela had never heard him speak, with modulations of the voice which
were almost sentimental, like one pleading for love. In his heart he
despaired of removing her scruples, but he overcame this with
vehement entreaty. A true instinct forbade him to touch on her own
interests; he had not lived so long with Adela without attaining
some perception of the nobler ways of thought. But as often as he
raised his eyes to hers he saw the futility of all his words. Her
direct gaze at length brought him to unwilling silence.

'Would you then,' Adela asked gravely, 'destroy this will?'

'Yes.'

The monosyllable was all he cared to reply.

'I can scarcely believe you. Such a thing is impossible. You could
not do it.'

'It's my duty to do it.'

'This is unworthy of you. It is a crime, in law and in conscience.
How can you so deceive yourself? After such an act as that, whatever
you did would be worthless, vain.'

'Why?'

'Because no one can do great work of the kind you aim at unless he
is himself guided by the strictest honour. Every word you spoke
would be a falsehood. Oh, can't you see that, as plainly as the
light of day? The results of your work! Why, nothing you could
possibly do with all this money would be one-half as good as to let
everyone know that you honourably gave it up when it was in your
power dishonestly to keep it! Oh, surely _that_ is the kind of
example that the world needs! What causes all the misery but
dishonesty and selfishness? If you do away with that, you gain all
you are working for. The example! You should prize the opportunity.
You are deceiving yourself; it is a temptation that you are yielding
to. Think a moment; you will see that I am right. You cannot do a
thing so unworthy of yourself.'

He stood for a moment doggedly, then replied:

'I can and I shall do it.'

'Never!' Adela rose and faced him. 'You shall listen to me till you
understand. You, who pride yourself on your high motives! For your
own sake scorn this temptation. Let me take the will away. I will
put it somewhere till to-morrow. You will see clearly by then. I
know how dreadful this loss seems to you, but you must be stronger.'

He stood between her and the table on which the parchment lay, and
waved her back as she approached. Adela's voice trembled, but there
was not a note in it that he could resent.

'You wrong yourself, and you are cruel to me. How could I live with
you if you did such a thing? How could I remain in this house when it
was no longer yours? It is impossible, a thousand times impossible.
You _cannot_ mean it! If you do this in spite of everything I can
say, you are more cruel than if you raised your hand and struck me.
You make my life a shame; you dishonour and degrade me.'

'That's all nonsense,' he replied sullenly, the jealous motive
possessing him again at the sight of her gleaming eyes. 'It's you
who don't understand, and just because you have no sympathy with my
work. Any one would think you cared for nothing but to take the
money from me, just to--'

Even in his access of spiteful anger he checked himself, and dropped
to another tone.

'I take all the responsibility. You have nothing to do with it. What
seems right to me, I shall do. I am your husband, and you've no
voice in a thing like this.'

'No voice? Have I no right to save you from ruin? Must a wife stand
by and see her husband commit a crime? Have you no duty to me? What
becomes of our married life if you rob me of all respect for you?'

'I tell you I am doing it with a good motive. If you were a thorough
Socialist, you would respect me all the more. This money was made
out of overworked--'

He was laying his hand on the will; she sprang forward and grasped
his arm.

'Richard, give it to me!'

'No, I shall not.'

He had satisfied himself that if the will was actually destroyed she
would acquiesce in silence; the shame she spoke of would constrain
her. He pushed her away without violence, and moved towards the
door. But her muteness caused him to turn and regard her. She was
leaning forward, her lips parted, her eyes fixed in despair.

'Richard!'

'Well?'

'Are you trying me?'

'What do you mean?'

'Do you believe that I should let you do that and help you to hide
it?'

'You will come to see that I was right, and be glad that I paid no
heed to you.'

'Then you don't know me. Though you are my husband I would make
public what you had done. Nothing should silence me. Do you drive me
to that?'

The absence of passion in her voice impressed him far more than
violence could have done. Her countenance had changed from pleading
to scorn.

He stood uncertain.

'Now indeed,' Adela continued, 'I am doing what no woman should have
to do.' Her voice became bitter. 'I have not a man's strength; I can
only threaten you with shame which will fall more heavily on
myself.'

'Your word against mine,' he muttered, trying to smile.

'You could defend yourself by declaring me infamous?'

Did he know the meaning of that flash across her face? Only when the
words were uttered did their full significance strike Adela herself.

'You could defend yourself by saying that I lied against you?'

He regarded her from beneath his eyebrows as she repeated the
question. In the silence which followed he seated himself on the
chair nearest to him. Adela too sat down.

For more than a quarter of an hour they remained thus, no word
exchanged. Then Adela rose and approached her husband.

'If I order the carriage,' she said softly, 'will you come with me
at once to Belwick?'

He gave no answer. He was sitting with his legs crossed, the will
held over his knee.

'I am sorry you have this trial,' she continued, 'deeply sorry. But
you have won, I know you have won!'

He turned his eyes in a direction away from her, hesitated, rose.

'Get your things on.'

He was going to the door.

'Richard!'

She held her hand for the parchment.

'You can't trust me to the bottom of the stairs?' he asked bitterly.

She all but laughed with glad confidence.

'Oh, I will trust you!'





CHAPTER XXV




Adela and her husband did not return from Belwick till eight o'clock
in the evening. In the first place Mr. Yottle had to be sent for
from a friend's house in the country, where he was spending Sunday;
then there was long waiting for a train back to Agworth. The
Rodmans, much puzzled to account for the disorder, postponed dinner.
Adela, however, dined alone, and but slightly, though she had not
eaten since breakfast. Then fatigue overcame her. She slept an
unbroken sleep till sunrise.

On going down next morning she found 'Arry alone in the dining-room;
he was standing at the window with hands in pocket, and, after a
glance round, averted his face again, a low growl his only answer to
her morning salutation. Mr. Rodman was the next to appear. He shook
hands as usual. In his 'I hope you are well?' there was an accent of
respectful sympathy. Personally, he seemed in his ordinary spirits.
He proceeded to talk of trifles, but in such a tone as he might have
used had there been grave sickness in the house. And presently, with
yet lower voice and a smile of good-humoured resignation, he said--

'Our journey, I fear, must be postponed.'

Adela smiled, not quite in the same way, and briefly assented.

'Alice is not very well,' Rodman then remarked. 'I advised. her to
have breakfast upstairs. I trust you excuse her?'

Mutimer made his appearance. He just nodded round, and. asked, as he
seated himself at table--

'Who's been letting Freeman loose? He's running about the garden.'

The dog furnished a topic for a few minutes' conversation, then
there was all but unbroken silence to the end of the meal. Richard's
face expressed nothing in particular, unless it were a bad night.
Rodman kept up his smile, and, eating little himself, devoted
himself to polite waiting upon Adela. When he rose from the table,
Richard said to his brother--

'You'll go down as usual. I shall be at the office in half-an-hour.'

Adela presently went to the drawing-room. She was surprised. to find
Alice sitting there. Mrs. Rodman had clearly not enjoyed the
unbroken rest which gave Adela her appearance of freshness and calm;
her eyes were swollen and red, her lips hung like those of a fretful
child that has tired itself with sobbing, her hair was carelessly
rolled up, her attire slatternly. She sat in sullen disorder. Seeing
Adela, she dropped her eyes, and her. lips drew themselves together.
Adela hesitated to approach her, but was moved to do so by sheer
pity.

'I'm afraid you've had a bad night,' she said kindly.

'Yes, I suppose I have,' was the ungracious reply.

Adela stood before her for a moment, but could find nothing else to
say. She was turning when Alice looked up, her red eyes almost
glaring, her breast shaken with uncontrollable passion.

'I think you might have had some consideration,' she exclaimed. 'If
you didn't care to speak a word for yourself, you might have thought
about others. What are we to do, I. should like to know?'

Adela was struck with consternation. She had been prepared for
petulant bewailing, but a vehement outburst of this kind was the
last thing she could have foreseen, above all to have it directed
against herself.

'What do you mean, Alice?' she said with pained surprise.

'Why, it's all your doing, I suppose,' the other pursued, in the
same voice. 'What right had you to let him go off in that. way
without saying a word to us? If the truth was known, I expect you
were at the bottom of it; he wouldn't have been such a fool,
whatever he says. What right had you, I'd like to know?'

Adela calmed herself as she listened. Her surprise at the attack was
modified and turned into another channel by Alice's words.

'Has Richard told you what passed between us?' she inquired. It cost
her nothing to speak with unmoved utterance; the difficulty was not
to seem too indifferent.

'He's told us as much as he thought fit. His duty! I like that! As
if you couldn't have stopped him, if you'd chosen! You might have
thought of other people.'

'Did he tell you that I tried to stop him?' Adela asked, with the
same quietness of interrogation.

'Why, did you?' cried Alice, looking up scornfully.

'No.'

'Of course not! Talk about duty! I should think that was plain
enough duty. I only wish he'd come to me with his talk about duty.
It's a duty to rob people, I suppose? Oh, I understand _him_ well
enough. It's an easy way of getting out of his difficulties; as well
lose his money this way as any other. He always thinks of himself
first, trust him! He'll go down to New Wanley and make a speech, no
doubt, and show off--with his duty and all the rest of it! What's
going to become of me? You'd no right to let him go before telling
us.'

'You would have advised him to say nothing about the will?'

'Advised him!' she laughed angrily. 'I'd have seen if I couldn't do
something more than advise.'

'I fear you wouldn't have succeeded in making your brother act
dishonourably,' Adela replied.

It was the first sarcasm that had ever passed her lips, and as soon
as it was spoken she turned to leave the room, fearful lest she
might say things which would afterwards degrade her in her own eyes.
Her body quivered. As she reached the door Rodman opened it and
entered. He bowed to let her pass, searching her face the while.

When she was gone he approached to Alice, whom he had at once
observed:

'What have you been up to?' he asked sternly.

Her head was bent before him, and she gave no answer.

'Can't you speak? What's made her look like that? Have you been
quarrelling with her?'

'Quarrelling?'

'You know what I mean well enough. Just tell me what you said. I
thought I told you to stay upstairs? What's been going on?'

'I told her she ought to have let us know,' replied Alice, timorous,
but affecting the look and voice of a spoilt child.

'Then you've made a fool of yourself!' he exclaimed with subdued
violence. 'You've got to learn that when I tell you to do a thing
you do it--or I'll know the reason why! You'd no business to come
out of your room. Now you'll just find her and apologise. You
understand? You'll go and beg her pardon at once.'

Alice raised her eyes in wretched bewilderment.

'Beg her pardon?' she faltered. 'Oh, how can I? Why, what harm have
I done, Willis? I'm sure I shan't beg her pardon.'

'You won't? If you talk to me in that way you shall go down on your
knees before her. You won't?'

His voice had such concentrated savagery in its suppression that
Alice shrank back in terror.

'Willis! How can you speak so! What have I done?'

'You've made a confounded fool of yourself, and most likely spoilt
the last chance you had, if you want to know. In future, when I say
a thing understand that I mean it; I don't give orders for nothing.
Go and find her and beg her pardon. I'll wait here till you've done
it'

'But I _can't_! Willis, you won't force me to do that? I'd rather
die than humble myself to her.'

'Do you hear me?'

She stood up, almost driven to bay. Her eyes were wet, her poor,
crumpled prettiness made a deplorable spectacle.

'I can't, I can't! Why are you so unkind to me? I have only said
what any one would. I hate her! My lips won't speak the words.
You've no right to ask me to do such a thing.'

Her wrist was caught in a clutch that seemed to crush the muscles,
and she was flung back on to the chair. Terror would not let the
scream pass her lips: she lay with open mouth and staring eyes.

Rodman looked at her for an instant, then seemed to master his fury
and laughed.

'That doesn't improve your beauty. Now, no crying out before you're
hurt. There's no harm done. Only you've to learn that I mean what I
say, that's all. Now I haven't hurt you, so don't pretend.'

'Oh, you _have_ hurt me!' she sobbed wretchedly, with her fingers
round her injured wrist. 'I never thought you could be so cruel. Oh,
my hand! What harm have I done? And you used to say you'd never be
unkind to me, never! Oh, how miserable I am! Is this how you're
going to treat me? As if I could help it! Willis, you won't begin to
be cruel? Oh, my hand!'

'Let me look at it. Pooh, what's amiss?' He spoke all at once in his
usual good-natured voice. 'Now go and find Adela, whilst I wait
here.'

'You're going to force me to do that?'

'You're going to do it. Now don't make me angry again.'

She rose, frightened again by his look. She took a step or two, then
turned back to him.

'If I do this, will you be kind to me, the same as before?'

'Of course I will. You don't take me for a brute?'

She held her bruised wrist to him.

'Will you--will you kiss it well again?'

The way in which she said it was as nearly pathetic as anything from
poor Alice could be. Her misery was so profound, and this childish
forgiveness of an outrage was so true a demonstration of womanly
tenderness which her character would not allow to be noble. Her
husband laughed rather uneasily, and did her bidding with an ill
grace. But yet she could not go.

'You'll promise never to speak--'

'Yes, yes, of course I promise. Come back to me. Mind, shall know
how you did it.'

'But why? What is she to us?'

'I'll tell you afterwards.'

There was a dawning of jealousy in her eyes.

'I don't think you ought to make your wife lower herself--'

His brow darkened.

'Will you do as I tell you?'

She moved towards the door, stopped to dry her wet cheeks, half
looked round. What she saw sped her on her way.

Adela was just descending the stairs, dressed to go out. Alice let
her go past without speaking, but followed her through the hall and
into the garden. Adela turned, saying gently--

'Do you wish to speak to me?'

'I'm sorry I said those things. I didn't mean it. I don't think it
was your fault.'

The other smiled; then in that voice which Stella had spoken of as
full of forgiveness--

'No, it is not my fault, Alice. It couldn't be otherwise.'

'Don't think of it another moment.'

Alice would gladly have retreated, but durst not omit what seemed to
her the essential because the bitterest words.

'I beg your pardon.'

'No, no!' exclaimed Adela quickly. 'Go and lie down a little; you
look so tired. Try not to be unhappy, your husband will not let harm
come to you.'

Alice returned to the house, hating her sister-in-law with a perfect
hatred.

The hated one took her way into Wanley. She had no pleasant
mission--that of letting her mother and Letty know what had
happened. The latter she found in the garden behind the house
dancing her baby-boy up and down in the sunlight. Letty did not look
very matronly, it must be confessed; but what she lacked in mature
dignity was made up in blue-eyed and warm-checked happiness. At the
sight of Adela she gave a cry of joy.

'Why, mother's just getting ready to go and say good-bye to you. As
soon as she comes down and takes this little rogue I shall just slip
my own things on. We didn't think you'd come here.'

'We're not going to-day,' Adela replied, playing with the baby's
face.

'Not going?'

'Business prevents Richard.'

'How you frightened us by leaving church yesterday! I was on my way
to ask about you, but Mr. Wyvern met me and said there was nothing
the matter. And you went to Agworth, didn't you?'

'To Belwick. We had to see Mr. Yottle, the solicitor.'

Mrs. Waltham issued from the house, and explanations were again
demanded.

'Could you give baby to the nurse for a few minutes?' Adela asked
Letty. 'I should like to speak to you and mother quietly.'

The arrangement was effected and all three went into the
sitting-room. There Adela explained in simple words all that had
come to pass; emotionless herself, but the cause of utter dismay in
her hearers. When she ceased there was blank silence.

Mrs. Waltham was the first to find her voice.

'But surely Mr. Eldon won't take everything from you? I don't think
he has the power to--it wouldn't be just; there must be surely some
kind of provision in the law for such a thing. What did Mr. Yottle
say?'

'Only that Mr. Eldon could recover the whole estate.'

'The estate!' exclaimed Mrs. Waltham eagerly. 'But not the money?'

Adela smiled.

'The estate includes the money, mother. It means everything.'

'Oh, Adela!' sighed Letty, who sat with her hands on her lap,
bewildered.

'But surely not Mrs. Rodman's settlement?' cried the elder lady, who
was rapidly surveying the whole situation.

'Everything,' affirmed Adela.

'But what an extraordinary, what an unheard-of thing! Such injustice
I never knew! Oh, but Mr. Eldon is a gentleman--he can never exact
his legal rights to the full extent. He has too much delicacy of
feeling for that.' Adela glanced at her mother with a curious
openness of look--the expression which by apparent negation of
feeling reveals feeling of special significance. Mrs. Waltham caught
the glance and checked her flow of speech.

'Oh, he could never do that!' she murmured the next moment, in a
lower key, clasping her hands together upon her knees. 'I am sure he
wouldn't.'

'You must remember, mother,' remarked Adela with reserve, 'that Mr.
Eldon's disposition cannot affect us.'

'My dear child, what I meant was this: it is impossible for him to
go to law with your husband to recover the uttermost farthing. How
are you to restore money that is long since spent? and it isn't as
if it had been spent in the ordinary way--it has been devoted to
public purposes. Mr. Eldon will of course take all these things into
consideration. And really one must say that it is very strange for a
wealthy man to leave his property entirely to strangers.'

'Not entirely,' put in Adela rather absently.

'A hundred and seven pounds a year!' exclaimed her mother
protestingly. 'My dear love, what _can_ be done with such a paltry
sum as that!'

'We must do a good deal with it, dear mother. It will be all we have
to depend upon until Richard finds--finds some position.'

'But you are not going to leave the Manor at once?'

'As soon as ever we can. I don't know what arrangement my husband is
making. We shall see Mr. Yottle again to-morrow.'

'Adela, this is positively shocking! It seems incredible I never
thought such things could happen. No wonder you looked white when
you went out of church. How little I imagined! But you know you can
come here at any moment. You can sleep with me, or we'll have
another bed put up in the room. Oh, dear; oh, dear! It will take me
a long time to understand it. Your husband could not possibly object
to your living here till he found you a suitable home. What _will_
Alfred say? Oh, you must certainly come here. I shan't have a
moment's' rest if you go away somewhere whilst things are in this
dreadful state.'

'I don't think that will be necessary,' Adela replied with. a
reassuring smile. 'It might very well have happened that we had
nothing at all, not even the hundred pounds; but a wife can't run
away for reasons of that kind--can she, Letty?'

Letty gazed with her eyes of loving pity, and sighed, 'I suppose
not, dear.'

Adela sat with them for only a few minutes more. She did not feel
able to chat at length on a crisis such as this, and the tone of her
mother's sympathy was not soothing to her. Mrs. Waltham had begun to
put a handkerchief to her eyes.

'You mustn't take it to heart,' Adela said as she bent and kissed
her cheek. 'You can't think how little it troubles me--on my own
account. Letty, I look to you to keep mother cheerful. Only think
what numbers of poor creatures would dance for joy if they had a
hundred a year left them! We must be philosophers, you see. I
couldn't shed a tear if I tried ever so hard. Good-bye, dear
mother!'

Mrs. Waltham did not rise, but Letty followed her friend into the
hall. She had been very silent and undemonstrative; now she embraced
Adela tenderly. There was still something of the old diffidence in
her manner, but the effect of her mother. hood was discernible.
Adela was childless--a circumstance in itself provocative of a
gentle sense of protection in Letty's heart.

'You'll let us see you every day, darling?'

'As often as I can, Letty. Don't let mother get low-spirited.
There's nothing to grieve about.'

Letty returned to the sitting-room; Mrs. Waltham was still pressing
the handkerchief on this cheek and that alternately.

'How wonderful she is!' Letty exclaimed. 'I feel as if I could never
again fret over little troubles.'

'Adela has a strong character,' assented the mother with mournful
pride.

Letty, unable to sit long without her baby, fetched it from the
nurse's arms. The infant's luncheon-hour had arrived, and the
nourishment was still of Letty's own providing. It was strange to
see on her face the slow triumph of this ineffable bliss over the
grief occasioned by the recent conversation. Mrs. Waltham had
floated into a stream of talk.

'Now, what a strange thing it is!' she observed, after many other
reflections, and when the sound of her own voice had had time to
soothe. 'On the very morning of the wedding I had the most singular
misgiving, a feeling I couldn't explain. One would almost think I
had foreseen this very thing. And you know very well, my dear, that
the marriage troubled me in many ways. It was not _the_ match for
Adela, but then--. Adela, as you say, has a strong character; she
is not very easy to reason with. I tried to make both sides of the
question clear to her. But then her prejudice against Mr. Eldon was
very strong, and how naturally, poor child! Young people don't like
to trust to time; they think everything must be done quickly. If she
had been one to marry for reasons of interest it might look like a
punishment; but then it was so far otherwise. How much better it
would have been to wait a few years! One really never knows what is
going to happen. Young people really ought to trust others'
experience.'

Letty was only lending half an ear. The general character of her
mother-in-law's monologues did not encourage much attention. She was
conscious of a little surprise, even now and then of a mild
indignation; but the baby sucking at her breast lulled her into a
sweet maternal apathy. She could only sigh from time to time and
wonder whether it was a good thing or the contrary that Adela had no
baby in her trials.





CHAPTER XXVI




Mutimer did not come to the Manor for luncheon. Rodman, who had been
spending an hour at the works, brought word that business pressed; a
host of things had to be unexpectedly finished off and put in order.
He, Alice, and Adela made pretence of a midday meal; then he went
into the library to smoke a cigar and meditate. The main subject of
his meditation was an interview with Adela which he purposed seeking
in the course of the afternoon. But he had also half-a-dozen letters
of the first importance to despatch to town by the evening post, and
these it was well to get off hand. He had finished them by half-past
three. Then he went to the drawing-room, but found it vacant. He
sought his wife's chamber. Alice was endeavouring to read a novel,
but there was recent tear-shedding about her eyes, which had not
come of the author's pathos.

'You'll be a pretty picture soon if that goes on,' Rodman remarked,
with a frankness which was sufficiently brutal in spite of his
jesting tone.

'I can't think how you take it so lightly,' Alice replied with utter
despondency, flinging the book aside.

'What's the good of taking it any other way? Where's Adela?'

'Adela?' She looked at him as closely as her eyes would let her.
'Why do you want her?'

'I asked you where she was. Please to get into the habit of
answering my questions at once. It'll save time in future.'

She seemed about to resent his harshness, but the effort cost her
too much. She let her head fall forward almost upon her knees and
sobbed unrestrainedly.

Rodman touched her shoulder and shook her, but not roughly.

'Do not be such an eternal fool!' he grumbled. 'Do you know where
Adela is or not?'

'No, I don't,' came the smothered reply. Then, raising her head,
'Why do you think so much about Adela?'

He leaned against the dressing-table and laughed mockingly.

'That's the matter, eh? You think I'm after her! Don't be such a
goose.'

'I'd rather you call me a goose than a fool, Willis.'

'Why, there's not much difference. Now if you'll sit up and behave
sensibly, I'll tell you why I want her.'

'Really? Will you give me a kiss first?'

'Poor blubbery princess! Pah! your lips are like a baby's. Now just
listen, and mind you hold your tongue about what I say. You know
there used to be something between Adela and Eldon. I've a notion it
went farther than we know of. Well, I don't see why we shouldn't get
her to talk him over into letting you keep your money, or a good
part of it. So you see it's you I'm thinking about after all, little
stupid.'

'Oh, you really mean that! Kiss me again--look, I've wiped my lips,
You really think you can do that, Willis?'

'No, I don't think I can, but it's worth having a try. Eldon has a
soft side, I know. The thing is to find her soft side. I'm going to
have a try to talk her over. Now, where is she likely to be?--out in
the garden?'

'Perhaps she's at her mother's.'

'Confound it! Well, I'll go and look about; I can't lose time.'

'You'll never get her to do anything for _me_, Willis.'

'Very likely not. But the things that you succeed in are always the
most unlikely, as you'd understand if you'd lived my life.'

'At all events, I shan't have to give up my dresses?'

'Hang your dresses--on the wardrobe pegs!'

He went downstairs again and out into the garden, thence to the
entrance gate. Adela had passed it but a few minutes before, and he
saw her a little distance off. She was going in the direction away
from Wanley, seemingly on a mere walk. He decided to follow her and
only join her when she had gone some way. She walked with her head
bent, walked slowly and with no looking about her. Presently it was
plain that she meant to enter the wood. This was opportune. But he
lost sight of her as soon as she passed among the trees. He
quickened his pace; saw her turning off the main path among the
copses. In his pursuit he got astray; he must have missed her track.
Suddenly he was checked by the sound of voices, which seemed to come
from a lower level just in front of him. Cautiously he stepped
forward, till he could see through hazel bushes that there was a
steep descent before him. Below, two persons were engaged in
conversation, and he could hear every word.

The two were Adela and Hubert Eldon. Adela had come to sit for the
last time in the green retreat which was painfully dear to her. Her
husband's absence gave her freedom; she used it to avoid the Rodmans
and to talk with herself. She F was, as we may conjecture, far from
looking cheerfully into the future. Nor was she content with
herself, with her behaviour in the drama of these two days. In
thinking over the scene with her husband she experienced a shame
before her conscience which could not at first be readily accounted
for, for of a truth she had felt no kind of shame in steadfastly
resisting Mutimer's dishonourable impulse. But she saw now that in
the judgment of one who could read all her heart she would not come
off with unmingled praise. Had there not been another motive at work
in her besides zeal for honour? Suppose the man benefiting by the
will had been another than Hubert Eldon? Surely that would not have
affected her behaviour? Not in practice, doubtless; but here was a
question of feeling, a scrutiny of the soul's hidden velleities. No
difference in action, be sure; that must ever be upright But what of
the heroism in this particular case? The difference declared itself;
here there had been no heroism whatever. To strip herself and her
husband when a moment's winking would have kept them well clad? Yes,
but on whose behalf? Had there not been a positive pleasure in
making herself poor that Hubert might be rich? There was the fatal
element in the situation. She came out of the church palpitating
with joy; the first assurance of her husband's ignominious yielding
to temptation filled her with, not mere scorn, but with dread. Had
she not been guilty of mock nobleness in her voice, her bearing? At
the time she did not feel it, for the thought of Hubert was kept
altogether in the background. Yes, but she saw now how it had shed
light and warmth upon her; the fact was not to be denied, because
her consciousness had not then included it She was shamed.

A pity, is it not? It were so good to have seen her purely noble,
indignant with unmixed righteousness. But, knowing our Adela's
heart, is it not even sweeter to bear with her? You will go far
before you find virtue in which there is no dear sustaining comfort
of self. For my part, Adela is more to me for the imperfection,
infinitely more to me for the confession of it in her own mind. How
can a woman be lovelier than when most womanly, or more precious
than when she reflects her own weakness in clarity of soul?

As she made her way through the wood her trouble of conscience was
lost in deeper suffering. The scent of undergrowths, which always
brought back to her the glad days of maidenhood, filled her with the
hopelessness of the future. There was no return on the path of life;
every step made those memories of happiness more distant and
thickened the gloom about her. She could be strong when it was
needful, could face the world as well as any woman who makes a veil
of pride for her bleeding heart; but here, amid the sweet
wood-perfumes, in silence and secrecy, self-pity caressed her into
feebleness. The light was dimmed by her tears; she rather felt than
saw her way. And thus, with moist eyelashes, she came to her wonted
resting-place. But she found her seat occupied, and by the man whom
in this moment she could least bear to meet.

Hubert sat there, bareheaded, lost in thought. Her light footfall
did not touch his ear. He looked up to find her standing before him,
and he saw that she had been shedding tears. For an instant she was
powerless to direct herself; then sheer panic possessed her and she
turned to escape.

Hubert started to his feet.

'Mrs. Mutimer! Adela!'

The first name would not have stayed her, for her flight was as
unreasoning as that of a fawn. The second, her own name, uttered
with almost desperate appeal, robbed her of the power of movement.
She turned to bay, as though an obstacle had risen in her path, and
there was terror in her white face.

Hubert drew a little nearer and spoke hurriedly.

'Forgive me! I could not let you go. You seem to have come in answer
to my thought; I was wishing to see you. Do forgive me!'

She knew that he was examining her moist eyes; a rush of blood
passed over her features

'Not unless you are willing,' Hubert pursued, his voice at its
gentlest and most courteous. 'But if I might speak to you for a few
minutes--?'

'You have heard from Mr. Yottle?' Adela asked, without raising her
eyes, trying her utmost to speak in a merely natural way.

'Yes. I happened to be at my mother's house. He came last night to
obtain my address.'

The truth was, that a generous impulse, partly of his nature, and in
part such as any man might know in a moment of unanticipated good
fortune, had bade him put aside his prejudices and meet Mutimer at
once on a footing of mutual respect. Incapable of ignoble
exultation, it seemed to him that true delicacy dictated a personal
interview with the man who, judging from Yottle's report, had so
cheerfully acquitted himself of the hard task imposed by honour. But
as he walked over from Agworth this zeal cooled. Could he trust
Mutimer to appreciate his motive? Such a man was capable of acting
honourably, but the power of understanding delicacies of behaviour
was not so likely to be his. Hubert's prejudices were insuperable;
to his mind class differences necessarily argued a difference in the
grain. And it was not only this consideration that grew weightier as
he walked. In the great joy of recovering his ancestral home, in the
sight of his mother's profound happiness, he all but forgot the
thoughts that had besieged him since his meetings with Adela in
London. As he drew near to Wanley his imagination busied itself
almost exclusively with her; distrust and jealousy of Mutimer became
fear for Adela's future. Such a change as this would certainly have
a dire effect upon her life. He thought of her frail appearance; he
remembered the glimpse of her face that he had caught when her
husband entered Mrs. Westlake's drawing-room, the startled movement
she could not suppress. It was impossible to meet Mutimer with any
show of good-feeling; he wondered how he could have set forth with
such an object. Instead of going to the Manor he turned his steps to
the Vicarage, and joined Mr. Wyvern at luncheon. The vicar had of
course heard nothing of the discovery as yet. In the afternoon
Hubert started to walk back to Agworth, but instead of taking the
direct road he strayed into the wood. He was loth to leave the
neighbourhood of the Manor; intense anxiety to know what Adela was
doing made him linger near the place where she was. Was she already
suffering from brutal treatment? What wretchedness might she not be
undergoing within those walls!

He said she seemed to have sprung up in answer to his desire. In
truth, her sudden appearance overcame him; her tearful face turned
to irresistible passion that yearning which, consciously or
unconsciously, was at all times present in his life. Her grief could
have but one meaning; his heart went out to her with pity as intense
as its longing. Other women had drawn his eyes, had captured him
with the love of a day; but the deep still affection which is
independent of moods and impressions flowed ever towards Adela. As
easily could he have become indifferent to his mother as to Adela.
As a married woman she was infinitely more to him than she had been
as a girl; from her conversation, her countenance, he knew how
richly she had developed, how her intelligence had ripened how her
character had established itself in maturity. In that utterance of
her name the secret escaped him before he could think how impossible
it was to address her so familiarly. It was the perpetual key-word
of his thoughts; only when he had heard it from his own lips did he
realise what he had done.

When he had given the brief answer to her question he could find no
more words. But Adela spoke.

'What do you wish to say to me, Mr. Eldon?'

Whether or no he interpreted her voice by his own feelings, she
seemed to plead with him to be manly and respect her womanhood.

'Only to say the common things which anyone must say in my position,
but to say them so that you will believe they are not only a form.
The circumstances are so strange. I want to ask you for your help;
my position is perhaps harder than yours and Mr. Mutimer's. We must
remember that there is justice to be considered. If. you will give
me your aid in doing justice as far as r am able--'

In fault of any other possible reply he had involved himself in a
subject which he knew it was far better to leave untouched. He could
not complete his sentence, but stood before her with his head bent.

Adela scarcely knew what he said; in anguish she sought for a means
of quitting him, of fleeing and hiding herself among the trees. His
accent told her that. she was the object of his compassion, and she
had invited it by letting him see her tears. Of necessity he must
think that she was sorrowing on her own account. That was true,
indeed, but how impossible for him to interpret her grief rightly?
The shame of being misjudged by him all but drove her to speak, and
tell him that she cared less than nothing for the loss that had
befallen her. Yet she could not trust herself to speak such words.
Her heart was beating insufferably; all the woman in her rushed
towards hysteria and sell-abandonment. It was well that Hubert's
love was of quality to stand the test of these terrible moments.
Something he must say, and the most insignificant phrase was the
best.

'Will you sit--rest after your walk?'

She did so; scarcely could she have stood longer. And with the
physical ease there seemed to come a sudden mental relief. A thought
sprang up, opening upon her like a haven of refuge.

'There is one thing I should like to ask of you,' she began, forcing
herself to regard him directly. 'It is a great thing, I am afraid;
it may be impossible.'

'Will you tell me what it is?' he said, quietly filling the pause
that followed.

'I am thinking of New Wanley.'

She saw a change in his face, slight, but still a change. She spoke
more quickly.

'Will you let the works. remain as they are, on the same plan? Will
you allow the workpeople to live under the same rules? I have been
among them constantly, and I am sure that nothing but good results
have come of--of what my husband has done. There is no need to ask
you to deal kindly with them, I know that. But if you could maintain
the purpose--? It will be such a grief to my husband if all his work
comes to nothing. There cannot be anything against your principles
in what I ask. It is so simply for the good of men and women whose
lives are so hard. Let New Wanley remain as an example. Can you do
this?'

Hubert, as he listened, joined his hands behind his back, and turned
his eyes to the upper branches of the silver birch, which once in
his thoughts he had likened to Adela. What he heard from her
surprised him, and upon surprise followed mortification. He knew
that she had in appearance adopted Mutimer's principles, but his
talk with her in London at Mrs. Boscobel's had convinced him that
her heart was in far other things than economic problems and schemes
of revolution. She had listened so eagerly to his conversation on
art and kindred topics; it was so evident that she was enjoying a
temporary release from a mode of life which chilled all her warmer
instincts. Yet she now made it her entreaty that he would continue
Mutimer's work. Beginning timidly, she grew to an earnestness which
it was impossible to think feigned. He was unprepared for anything
of the kind; his emotions resented it. Though consciously harbouring
no single unworthy desire, he could not endure to find Adela zealous
on her husband's behalf.

Had he misled himself? Was the grief that he had witnessed really
that of a wife for her husband's misfortune? For whatever reason she
had married Mutimer--and that _could_ not be love--married life
might have engendered affection. He knew Adela to be deeply
conscientious; how far was it in a woman's power to subdue herself
to love at the bidding of duty?

He allowed several moments to pass before replying to her. Then he
said, courteously but coldly:

'I am very sorry that you have asked the one thing I cannot do.'

Adela's heart sank. In putting a distance between him and herself
she had obeyed an instinct of self-preservation; now that it was
effected, the change in his voice was almost more than she could
bear.

'Why do you refuse?' she asked, trying, though in vain, to look up
at him.

'Because it is impossible for me to pretend sympathy with Mr.
Mutimer's views. In the moment that I heard of the will my action
with regard to New Wanley was determined. What I purpose doing is so
inevitably the result of my strongest convictions that nothing could
change me.

'Will you tell me what you are going to do?' Adela asked, in a tone
more like his own.

'It will pain You.'

'Yet I should like to know.'

'I shall sweep away every trace of the mines and the works and the
houses, and do my utmost to restore the valley to its former state.'

He paused, but Adela said nothing. Her fingers played with the
leaves which grew beside her.

'Your associations with Wanley of course cannot be as strong as my
own. I was born here, and every dearest memory of my life connects
itself with the, valley as it used to be. It was one of the
loveliest spots to be found in England. You can have no idea of the
feelings with which I saw this change fall upon it, this desolation
and defilement--I must use the words which come to me. I might have
overcome that grief if I had sympathised with the ends. But, as it
is, I should act in the same way even if I had no such memories. I
know all that you will urge. It may be inevitable that the green and
beautiful spots of the world shall give place to furnaces and
mechanics' dwellings. For my own part, in this little corner, at all
events, the rum shall be delayed. In this matter I will give my
instincts free play. Of New Wanley not one brick shall remain on
another. I will close the mines, and grass shall again grow over
them; I will replant the orchards and mark out the fields as they
were before.'

He paused again.

'You see why I cannot do what you ask.'

It was said in a gentler voice, for insensibly his tone had become
almost vehement.

He found a strange pleasure in emphasising his opposition to her.
Perhaps he secretly knew that Adela hung upon his words, and in
spite of herself was drawn into the current of his enthusiasm. But
he did not look into her face. Had he done so he would have seen it
fixed and pale.

'Then you think grass and trees of more importance than human
lives?'

She spoke in a voice which sounded coldly ironical in its attempt to
be merely calm.

'I had rather say that I see no value in human lives in a world from
which grass and trees have vanished. But, in truth, I care little to
make my position logically sound. The ruling motive in my life is
the love of beautiful things; I fight against ugliness because it's
the only work in which I can engage with all my heart. I have
nothing of the enthusiasm of humanity. In the course of centuries
the world may perhaps put itself right again; I am only concerned
with the present, and I see that everywhere the tendency is towards
the rule of mean interests, ignoble ideals.'

'Do you call it ignoble,' broke in Adela, 'to aim at raising men
from hopeless and degrading toil to a life worthy of human beings?'

'The end which _you_ have in mind cannot be ignoble. But it is not
to be reached by means such as these.' He pointed down to the
valley. 'That may be the only way of raising the standard of comfort
among people who work with their hands; I take the standpoint of the
wholly unpractical man, and say that such efforts do not concern me.
From my point of view no movement can be tolerated which begins with
devastating the earth's surface. You will clothe your workpeople
better, you will give them better food and more leisure; in doing so
you injure the class that has finer sensibilities, and give power to
the class which not only postpones everything to material
well-being, but more and more regards intellectual refinement as an
obstacle in the way of progress. Progress--the word is sufficient;
you have only to think what it has come to mean. It will be good to
have an example of reaction.'

'When reaction means misery to men and women and little children?'

'Yes, even if it meant that. As far as I am concerned, I trust it
will have no such results. You must distinguish between humanity and
humanitarianism. I hope I am not lacking in the former; the latter
seems to me to threaten everything that is most precious in the
world.'

'Then you are content that the majority of mankind should be fed and
clothed and kept to labour?'

'Personally, quite content; for I think it very unlikely that the
majority will ever be fit for anything else. I _know_ that at
present they desire nothing else.'

'Then they must be taught to desire more.'

Hubert again paused. When he resumed it was with a smile which
strove to be good-humoured.

'We had better not argue of these things. If I said all that I think
you would accuse me of brutality. In logic you will overcome me. Put
me down as one of those who represent reaction and class-prejudice.
I am all prejudice.'

Adela rose.

'We have talked a long time,' she said, trying to speak lightly. 'We
have such different views. I wish there were less class-prejudice.'

Hubert scarcely noticed her words. She was quitting him, and he
clung to the last moment of her presence.

'Shall you go--eventually go to London?' he asked.

'I can't say. My husband has not yet been able to make plans.'

The word irritated him. He half averted his face.

'Good-bye, Mr. Eldon.'

She did not offer her hand--durst not do so. Hubert bowed without
speaking.

When she was near the Manor gates she heard footsteps behind her.
She turned and saw her husband. Her cheeks flushed, for she had been
walking in deep thought. It seemed to her for an instant as if the
subject of her preoccupation could be read upon her face.

'Where have you been?' Mutimer asked, indifferently.

'For a walk. Into the wood.'

He was examining her, for the disquiet of her countenance could not
escape his notice.

'Why did you go alone? It would have done Alice good to get her out
a little.'

'I'm afraid she wouldn't have come.'

He hesitated.

'Has she been saying anything to you?'

'Only that she is troubled and anxious.'

They walked on together in silence, Mutimer with bowed head and
knitted brows.





CHAPTER XXVI




The making a virtue of necessity, though it argues lack of
ingenuousness, is perhaps preferable to the wholly honest
demonstration of snarling over one's misfortunes. It may result in
good even to the hypocrite, who occasionally surprises himself with
the pleasure he finds in wearing a front of nobility, and is thereby
induced to consider the advantages of upright behaviour adopted for
its own sake. Something of this kind happened in the case of Richard
Mutimer. Seeing that there was no choice but to surrender his
fortune, he set to work to make the most of abdication, and with the
result that the three weeks occupied in settling his affairs at New
Wanley and withdrawing from the Manor were full of cheerful
activity. He did not meet Hubert Eldon, all business being
transacted through Mr. Yottle. When he heard from the latter that it
was Eldon's intention to make a clean sweep of mines, works, and
settlements, though for a moment chagrined, he speedily saw that
such action, by giving dramatic completeness to his career at Wanley
and investing its close with something of tragic pathos, was in
truth what he should most have desired. It enabled him to take his
departure with an air of profounder sadness; henceforth no gross
facts would stand in the way of his rhetoric when he should enlarge
on the possibilities thus nipped in the bud. He was more than ever a
victim of cruel circumstances; he could speak with noble bitterness
of his life's work having been swept into oblivion.

He was supported by a considerable amount of epistolary sympathy.
The local papers made an interesting story of what had happened in
the old church at Wanley, and a few of the London journals reported
the circumstances; in this way Mutimer became known to a wider
public than had hitherto observed him. Not only did his
fellow-Unionists write to encourage and moralise, but a number of
those people who are ever ready to indite letters to people of any
prominence, the honestly admiring and the windily egoistic,
addressed communications either to Wanley Manor or to the editor of
the 'Fiery Cross.' Mutimer read eagerly every word of each most
insignificant scribbler; his eyes gleamed and his cheeks grew warm.
All such letters he brought to Adela, and made her read them aloud;
he stood with his hands behind his back, his face slightly elevated
and at a listening angle. At the end he regarded her, and his look
said: 'Behold the man who is your husband!'

But at length there came one letter distinct from all the rest; it
had the seal of a Government office. With eyes which scarcely
credited what they saw Mutimer read some twenty or thirty words from
a Minister of the Crown, a gentleman of vigorously Radical opinions,
who had 'heard with much regret that the undertaking conceived and
pursued with such single-hearted zeal' had come to an untimely end.
Mutimer rushed to Adela like a schoolboy who has a holiday to
announce.

'Read that now! What do you think of that? Now there's some hope of
a statesman like that!'

Adela gave forth the letter in a voice which was all too steady. 7
But she said:

'I am very glad. It must gratify you. He writes very kindly.'

'You'll have to help me to make an answer.'

Adela smiled, but said nothing.

The ceremonious opening of the hall at New Wanley had been a great
day; Mutimer tried his best to make the closing yet more effective.
Mr. Westlake was persuaded to take the chair, but this time the
oration was by the founder himself. There was a numerous assembly.
Mutimer spoke for an hour and a quarter, reviewing what he had done,
and enlarging on all that he might and would have done. There was as
much applause as even he could desire. The proceedings closed with
the reading of an address which was signed by all the people of the
works, a eulogium and an expression of gratitude, not without one or
two sentences of fiery Socialism. The spokesman was a fine fellow of
six feet two, a man named Redgrave, the ideal of a revolutionist
workman. He was one of the few men at the works whom Adela, from
observation of their domestic life, had learnt sincerely to respect.
Before reading the document he made a little speech of his own, and
said in conclusion:

'Here's an example of how the law does justice in a capitalist
society. The man who makes a grand use of money has it all taken
away from him by the man who makes no use of it at all, except to
satisfy his own malice and his own selfishness. If we don't one and
all swear to do our utmost to change such a state of things as that,
all I can say is we're a poor lot, and deserve to be worse treated
than the animals, that haven't the sense to use their strength!'

In his reply to the address Richard surpassed himself. He rose in
excitement; the words that rushed to his lips could scarcely find
articulate flow. After the due thanks:

'To-morrow I go to London; I go as poor as the poorest of you, a
mechanical engineer in search of work. Whether I shall find it or
not there's no saying. If they turned me out because of my opinions
three years ago, it's not very likely that they've grown fonder of
me by this time. As poor as the poorest of you, I say. Most of you
probably know that a small legacy is left to me under the will which
gives this property into other hands. That money will be used, every
penny of it, for the furtherance of our cause!'

It was a magnificent thought, one of those inspirations which reveal
latent genius. The hall echoed with shouts of glorification. Adela,
who sat with her mother and Letty (Mrs. Westlake had not accompanied
her husband), kept her eyes fixed on the ground; the uproar made her
head throb.

All seemed to be over and dispersal was beginning, when a gentleman
stood up in the middle of the hall and made signs that he wished to
be heard for a moment. Mutimer aided him in gaining attention. It
was Mr. Yottle, a grizzle-headed, ruddy-cheeked veteran of the law.

'I merely desire to use this opportunity of reminding those who have
been employed at the works that Mr. Eldon will be glad to meet them
in this hall at half-past ten o'clock to-morrow morning. It will
perhaps be better if the men alone attend, as the meeting will be
strictly for business purposes.'

Adela was among the last to leave the room. As she was moving
between the rows of benches Mr. Westlake approached her. He had only
arrived in time to take his place on the platform, and he was on the
point of returning to London.

I have a note for you from Stella, he said. 'She has been ailing for
a fortnight; it wasn't safe for her to come. But she will soon see
you, I hope.'

'I hope so,' Adela replied mechanically, as she took the letter.

Mr. Westlake only added his 'good-bye,' and went to take leave of
Mutimer, who was standing at a little distance.

Among those who remained to talk with the hero of the day was our
old friend Keene. Keene had risen in the world, being at present
sub-editor of a Belwick journal. His appearance had considerably
improved, and his manner was more ornate than ever. He took Mutimer
by the arm and led him aside.

'A suggestion--something that occurred to me whilst you were
speaking. You must write the history of New Wanley Not too long; a
thing that could be printed in pamphlet form and sold at a penny or
twopence. Speak to Westlake see if the Union won't publish. Some
simple title: "My Work in New Wanley," for instance. I'll see that
it's well noticed in our rag.'

'Not a bad idea!' Mutimer exclaimed, throwing back his head.

'Trust me, not half bad. Be of use in the propaganda. Just think it
over, and, if you care to, allow me to read it in manuscript.
There's a kind of art--eh? you know what I mean; it's only to be got
by journalistic practice. Yes, "My Work in New Wanley"; I think that
would do.'

'I'm going to lecture at Commonwealth Hall next Sunday,' Mutimer
observed. 'I'll take that for my title.'

'By-the-bye how--what was I going to say? Oh yes, how is Mrs.
Rodman?'

'Tolerable, I believe.'

'In London, presumably?'

'Yes.'

'Not much--not taking it to heart much, I hope?'

'Not particularly? I think.'

'I should be glad to be remembered--a word when you see her. Thanks,
Mutimer, thanks. I must be off.'

Adela was making haste to Teach the Manor, that she might read
Stella's letter She and her husband were to dine this evening with
the Walthams--a farewell meal. With difficulty she escaped from her
mother and Letty; Stella's letter demanded a quarter of an hour of
solitude.

She reached her room, and broke the envelope. Stella never wrote at
much length, but to-day there were only a few lines.

'My love to you, heart's darling. I am not well enough to come, and
I think it likely you had rather I did not. But in a few hours you
will be near me. Come as soon as ever you can. I wait for you like
the earth for spring. 'STELLA.'

She kissed the paper and put it in the bosom of her dress. It was
already time to go to her mother's.

She found her mother and Letty with grave faces; something seemed to
have disturbed them. Letty tried to smile and appear at ease, but
Mrs. Waltham was at no pains to hide the source of her
dissatisfaction.

'Did you know of that, Adela?' she asked, with vexation. 'About the
annuity, I mean. Had Richard spoken to you of his intention?'

Adela replied with a simple negative. She had not given the matter a
thought.

'Then he certainly should have done. It was his duty, I consider, to
tell _me_. It is in express contradiction of all he has led me to
understand. What are you going to live on, I should like to know?
It's very unlikely that he will find a position immediately. He is
absolutely reckless, wickedly thoughtless! My dear, it is not too
late even now. I insist on your staying with us until your husband
has found an assured income. The idea of your going to live in
lodgings in an obscure part of London is more than I can bear, and
_now_ it really appals me. Adela, my child, it's impossible for you
to go under these circumstances. The commonest decency will oblige
him to assent to this arrangement.'

'My dear mother,' Adela replied seriously, 'pray do not reopen that.
It surely ought to be needless for me to repeat that it is my duty
to go to London.'

'But, Adela darling,' began Letty, very timorously, 'wouldn't it be
relieving your husband? How much freer he would be to look about,
knowing you are here safe and in comfort. I really--I do really
think mother is right.'

Before Adela could make any reply there sounded a knock at the front
door; Richard came in. He cast a glance round at the three. The
others might have escaped his notice, but Mrs. Waltham was too
plainly perturbed.

'Has anything happened?' he asked in an offhand way.

'I am distressed, more than I can tell you,' began his
mother-in-law. 'Surely you did not mean what you said about the
money--'

'Mother!' came from Adela's lips, but she checked herself.

Mutimer thrust his hands into his pockets and stood smiling.

'Yes, I meant it.'

'But, pray, what are you and Adela going to live upon?'

'I don't think we shall have any difficulty.'

'But surely one must more than _think_ in a matter such as this. You
mustn't mind me speaking plainly, Richard. Adela is my only
daughter, and the thought of her undergoing needless hardships is so
dreadful to me that I really must speak. I have a plan, and I am
sure you will see that it is the very best for all of us. Allow
Adela to remain with me for a little while, just till you have--
have made things straight. It certainly would ease your mind. She is
so very welcome to a share of our home. You would feel less
hampered. I am sure you will consent to this.'

Mutimer's smile died away. He avoided Mrs. Waltham's face, and let
his eyes pass in a cold gaze from Letty, who almost shrank, to
Adela, who stood with an air of patience.

'What do you say to this?' he asked of his wife, in a tone civil
indeed, but very far from cordial.

'I have been trying to show mother that I cannot do as she wishes.
It is very kind of her, but, unless you think it would be better for
me to stay, I shall of course accompany you.'

'You can stay if you like.'

Adela understood too well what that permission concealed.

'I have no wish to stay.'

Mutimer turned his look on Mrs. Waltham, without saying anything.

'Then I can say no more,' Mrs. Waltham replied. 'But you must
understand that I take leave of my daughter with the deepest
concern. I hope you will remember that her health for a long time
has been anything but good, and that she was never accustomed to do
hard and coarse work.'

'We won't talk any more of this, mother,' Adela interposed firmly.
'I am sure you need have no fear that I shall be tried beyond my
strength. You must remember that I go with my husband.'

The high-hearted one! She would have died rather than let her mother
perceive that her marriage was less than happy. To the end she would
speak that word 'my husband,' when it was necessary to speak it at
all, with the confidence of a woman who knows no other safeguard
against the ills of life. To the end she would shield the man with
her own dignity, and protect him as far as possible even against
himself.

Mutimer smiled again, this time with satisfaction.

'I certainly think we can take care of ourselves,' he remarked
briefly.

In a few minutes they were joined by Alfred, who had only just
returned from Belwick, and dinner was served. It was not a cheerful
evening. At Adela's request it had been decided in advance that the
final leave-taking should be to-night; she and Mutimer would drive
to Agworth station together with Alfred the first thing in the
morning. At ten o'clock the parting came. Letty could not speak for
sobbing; she just kissed Adela and hurried from the room. Mrs.
Waltham preserved a rather frigid stateliness.

'Good-bye, my dear,' she said, when released from her daughter's
embrace. 'I hope I may have good news from you.'

With Mutimer she shook hands.

It was a starry and cold night. The two walked side by side without
speaking. When they were fifty yards on their way, a figure came out
of a corner of the road, and Adela heard Letty call her name.

'I will overtake you,' she said to her husband.

'Adela, my sweet, I _couldn't_ say good-bye to you in the house!'

Letty hung about her dear one's neck. Adela choked; she could only
press her cheek against that moist one.

'Write to me often--oh, write often,' Letty sobbed. 'And tell me the
truth, darling, will you?'

'It will be all well, dear sister,' Adela whispered.

'Oh, that is a dear name! Always call me that. I can't say good-bye,
darling. You will come to see us as soon as ever you can?'

'As soon as I can, Letty.'

Adela found her husband awaiting her.

'What did she want?' he asked, with genuine surprise.

'Only to say good-bye.'

'Why, she'd said it once.'

The interior of the Manor was not yet disturbed, but all the
furniture was sold, and would be taken away on the morrow. They went
to the drawing room. After some insignificant remarks Mutimer asked:

'What letter was that Westlake gave you?'

'It was from Stella--from Mrs. Westlake.'

He paused. Then:

'Will you let me see it?'

'Certainly, if you wish.'

She felt for it in her bosom and handed it to him. It shook in her
fingers.

'Why does she think you'd rather she didn't come?'

'I suppose because the occasion seems to her painful.'

'I don't see that it was painful at all. What did you think of my
speech?'

'The first one or the second?'

'Both, if you like. I meant the first.'

'You told the story very well.'

'You'll never spoil me by over-praise.'

Adela was silent.

'About this,' he resumed, tapping the note. which he still held. 'I
don't think you need go there very often. It seems to me you don't
get much good from them.'

She looked at him inquiringly.

'Theirs isn't the kind of Socialism I care much about,' he
continued, with the air of giving a solid reason. 'It seems to me
that Westlake's going off on a road of his own, and one that leads
nowhere. All that twaddle to-day about the development of society! I
don't think he spoke of me as he might have done. You'll see there
won't be half a report in the "Fiery Gross."'

Adela was still silent.

'I don't mean to say you're not to see Mrs. Westlake at all, if you
want to,' he pursued. 'I shouldn't have thought she was the kind of
woman to suit you. If the truth was known, I don't think she's a
Socialist at all. But then, no more are you, eh?'

'There is no one with a more passionate faith in the people than
Mrs. Westlake,' Adela returned.

'Faith! That won't do much good.'

He was silent a little, then went to another subject.

'Rodman writes that he's no intention of giving up the money. I knew
it would come to that.'

'But the law will compel him,' Adela exclaimed.

'It's a roundabout business. Eldon's only way of recovering it is to
bring an action against me. Then I shall have to go to law with
Rodman.'

'But how can he refuse? It is--'

She checked herself, remembering that words were two-edged.

'Oh, he writes in quite a friendly way--makes a sort of joke of it.
We've to get what we can of him, he says. But he doesn't get off if
I can help it. I must see Yottle on our way tomorrow.'

'Keene wants me to write a book about New Wanley,' he said
presently.

'A book?'

'Well, a small one. It could be called, "My Work at New Wanley." It
might do good.'

'Yes, it might,' Adela assented absently.

'You look tired. Get off to bed; you'll have to be up early in the
morning, and it'll be a hard day.'

Adela went, hopeful of oblivion till the 'hard day' should dawn.

The next morning they were in Belwick by half-past nine. Alfred took
leave of them and went off to business. He promised to 'look them
up' in London before very long, probably at Christmas. Between him
and Mutimer there was make-believe of cordiality at parting; they
had long ceased to feel any real interest in each other.

Adela had to spend the time in the railway waiting-room whilst her
husband went to see Yottle. It was a great bare place; when she
entered, she found a woman in mourning, with a little boy, sitting
alone. The child was eating a bun, his mother was silently shedding
tears. Adela seated herself as far from them as possible, out of
delicacy, but she saw the woman look frequently towards her, and at
last rise as if to come and speak. She was a feeble,
helpless-looking being of about thirty; evidently the need of
sympathy overcame her, for she had no other excuse for addressing
Adela save to tell that her luggage had gone astray, and that she
was waiting in the hope that something might be heard of it. Finding
a gentle listener, she talked on and on, detailing the wretched
circumstances under which she had recently been widowed, and her
miserable prospects in a strange town whither she was going. Adela
made an effort to speak in words of comfort, but her own voice
sounded hopeless in her ears. In the station was a constant roaring
and hissing, bell-ringing and the shriek of whistles, the heavy
trundling of barrows, the slamming of carriage-doors; everywhere a
smell of smoke. It impressed her as though all the 'world had become
homeless, and had nothing to do but journey hither and thither in
vain search of a resting-place. And her waiting lasted more than an
hour. But for the effort to dry another's tears it would have been
hard to restrain her own.

The morning had threatened rain; when at length the journey to
London began, the black skies yielded a steady downpour Mutimer was
anything but cheerful; establishing himself in a corner of the
third-class carriage, he for a time employed himself with a
newspaper; then, throwing it on to Adela's lap, closed his eyes as
if he hoped to sleep. Adela glanced up and down the barren fields of
type, but there was nothing that could hold her attention, and, by
chance looking at her husband's face, she continued to examine it.
Perhaps he was asleep, perhaps only absorbed in thought. His lips
were sullenly loose beneath the thick reddish moustache his eyebrows
had drawn themselves together, scowling. She could not avert her
gaze; it seemed to her that she was really scrutinising his face for
the first time, and it was as that of a stranger. Not one detail had
the stamp of familiarity: the whole repelled her. What was the
meaning now first revealed to her in that countenance? The features
had a massive regularity; there was nothing grotesque, nothing on
the surface repulsive; yet, beholding the face as if it were that of
a man unknown to her, she felt that a whole world of natural
antipathies was between it and her.

It was the face of a man by birth and breeding altogether beneath
her.

Never had she understood that as now; never had she conceived so
forcibly the reason which made him and her husband and wife only in
name. Suppose that apparent sleep of his to be the sleep of death;
he would pass from her consciousness like a shadow from the field,
leaving no trace behind. Their life of union was a mockery; their
married intimacy was an unnatural horror. He was not of her class,
not of her world; only by violent wrenching of the laws of nature
had they come together. She had spent years in trying to convince
herself that there were no such distinctions, that only an unworthy
prejudice parted class from class. One moment of true insight was
worth more than all her theorising on abstract principles. To be her
equal this man must be born again, of other parents, in other
conditions of life. 'I go back to London a mechanical engineer in
search of employment.' They were the truest words he had ever
uttered; they characterised him, classed him.

She had no claims to aristocratic descent, but her parents were
gentlefolk; that is to say, they were both born in a position which
encouraged personal refinement rather than the contrary, which
expected of them a certain education in excess of life's barest
need, which authorised them to use the service of ruder men and
women in order to secure to themselves a margin of life for life's
sake. Perhaps for three generations her ancestors could claim so
much gentility; it was more than enough to put a vast gulf between
her and the Mutimers. Favourable circumstances of upbringing had
endowed her with delicacy of heart and mind not inferior to that of
any woman living; mated with an equal husband, the children born of
her might hope to take their place among the most beautiful and the
most intelligent. And her husband was a man incapable of
understanding her idlest thought.

He opened his eyes, looked at her blankly for a moment, stirred his
limbs to make his position easier.

Pouring rain in London streets. The cab drove eastward, but for no
great distance. Adela found herself alighting at a lodging-house not
far from the reservoir at the top of Pentonville Hill. Mutimer had
taken these rooms a week ago.

A servant fresh from the blackleading of a grate opened the door to
them, grinning with recognition at the sight of Mutimer. The latter
had to help the cabman to deposit the trunks in the passage. Then
Adela was shown to her bedroom.

It was on the second floor, the ordinary bedroom of cheap furnished
lodgings, with scant space between the foot of the bed and the
fireplace, with a dirty wall-paper and a strong musty odour. The
window looked upon a backyard.

She passed from the bedroom to the sitting-room; here was the same
vulgar order, the same musty smell. The table was laid for dinner.

Mutimer read his wife's countenance furtively. He could not discover
how the abode impressed her, and he put no question. When he
returned from the bedroom she was sitting before the fire, pensive.

'You're hungry, I expect?' he said.

Her appetite was far from keen, but in order not to appear
discontented she replied that she would be glad of dinner.

The servant, her hands and face half washed, presently appeared with
a tray on which were some mutton-chops, potatoes, and a cabbage.
Adela did her best to eat, but the chops were ill-cooked, the
vegetables poor in quality. There followed a rice-pudding; it was
nearly cold; coagulated masses of rice appeared beneath yellowish
water. Mutimer made no remark about the food till the table was
cleared. Then he said:

'They'll have to do better than that. The first day, of
course--You'll have a talk with the landlady whilst I'm out
to-night. Just let her see that you won't be content with
_anything_; you have to talk plainly to these people.'

'Yes, I'll speak about it,' Adela replied.

'They made a trouble at first about waiting on us,' Mutimer pursued.
'But I didn't see how we could get our own meals very well. You
can't cook, can you?'

He smiled, and seemed half ashamed to ask the question.

'Oh yes; I can cook ordinary things,' Adela said. 'But--we haven't a
kitchen, have we?'

'Well, no. If. we did anything of that kind, it would have to be on
this fire. She charges us four shillings a week more for cooking the
dinner.'

He added this information in a tone of assumed carelessness.

'I think we might save that,' Adela said. 'If I had the necessary
things--I should like to try, if you will let me.'

'Just as you please. I don't suppose the stuff they send us up will
ever be very eatable. But it's too bad to ask you to do work of that
kind.'

'Oh, I shan't mind it in the least! It will be far better, better in
every way.'

Mutimer brightened up.

'In that case we'll only get them to do the housemaid work. You can
explain that to the woman; her name is Mrs. Gulliman.'

He paused.

'Think you can make yourself at home, here?'

'Yes, certainly.'

'That's all right. I shall go out now for an hour or so. You can
unpack your boxes and get things in order a bit.'

Adela had her interview with Mrs. Gulliman in the course of the
evening, and fresh arrangements were made, not perhaps to the
landlady's satisfaction, though she made a show of absorbing
interest and vast approval. She was ready to lend her pots and pans
till Adela should have made purchase of those articles.

Adela had the satisfaction of saving four shillings a week.

Two days later Mutimer sought eagerly in the 'Fiery Gross' for a
report of the proceedings at New Wanley. Only half a column was
given to the subject, the speeches being summarised. He had fully
expected that the week's 'leader' would be concerned with his
affairs, but there was no mention of him.

He bought the 'Tocsin.' Foremost stood an article headed, 'The
Bursting of a Soap Bubble.' It was a satirical review of the history
of New Wanley, signed by Comrade Roodhouse. He read in one place:
'Undertakings of this kind, even if pursued with genuine enthusiasm,
are worse than useless; they are positively pernicious. They are
half measures, and can only result in delaying the Revolution. It is
assumed that working .men can be kept in a good temper with a little
better housing and a little more money. That is to aid the
capitalists, to smooth over huge wrongs with petty concessions, to
cry peace where there is no peace. We know this kind of thing of
old. It is the whole system of wage-earning that must be
overthrown--the ideas which rule the relations of employers and
employed. Away with these palliatives; let us rejoice when we see
working men starving and ill-clad, for in that way their eyes will
be opened. The brute who gets the uttermost farthing out of the toil
of his wage-slaves is more a friend to us and our cause than any
namby-pamby Socialist, such as the late Dukeling of New Wanley.
Socialist indeed! But enough. We have probably heard the last of
this _parvenu_ and his loudly trumpeted schemes. No true friend of
the Revolution can be grieved.'

Mutimer bit his lip.

'Heard the last of me, have they? Don't be too hasty, Roodhouse.'





CHAPTER XXVII




A week later; the scene, the familiar kitchen in Wilton Square. Mrs.
Mutimer, upon whom time has laid unkind hands since last we saw her,
is pouring tea for Alice Rodman, who has just come all the way from
the West End to visit her. Alice, too, has suffered from recent
vicissitudes; her freshness is to seek, her bearing is no longer
buoyant, she is careless in attire. To judge from the corners of her
mouth, she is confirmed in querulous habits; her voice evidences the
same.

She was talking of certain events of the night before.

'It was about half-past twelve--I'd just got into bed--when the
servant knocks at my door. "Please, mum," she says, "there's a
policeman wants to see master." You may think if I wasn't frightened
out of my life! I don't think it was two minutes before I got
downstairs, and there the policeman stood in the hall. I told him I
was Mrs. Rodman, and then he said a young man called Henry Mutimer
had got locked up for making a disturbance outside a music hall, and
he'd sent to my husband to bail him out. Well, just as we were
talking in comes Willis. Rare and astonished he was to see me with
all my things huddled on and a policeman in the house. We did so
laugh afterwards; he said he thought I'd been committing a robbery.
But he wouldn't bail 'Arry, and I couldn't blame him. And now he
says 'Arry 'll have to do as best he can. He won't get him another
place.'

'He's lost his place too?' asked the mother gloomily.

'He was dismissed yesterday. He says that's why he went drinking too
much. Out of ten days that he's been in the place he's missed two
and hasn't been punctual once. I think you might have seen he got
off at the proper time in the morning, mother.'

'What's the good o' blamin' me?' exclaimed the old woman fretfully.
'A deal o' use it is for me to talk. If I'm to be held 'countable he
doesn't live here no longer; I know that much.'

'Dick was a fool to pay his fine. I'd have let him go to prison for
seven days; it would have given him a lesson.'

Mrs. Mutimer sighed deeply, and lost herself in despondent thought.
Alice sipped her tea and went on with her voluble talk.

'I suppose he'll show up some time to-night unless Dick keeps him.
But he can't do that, neither, unless he makes him sleep on the sofa
in their sitting-room. A nice come-down for my lady, to be living in
two furnished rooms! But it's my belief they're not so badly off as
they pretend to be. It's all very well for Dick to put on his airs
and go about saying he's given up every farthing; he doesn't get me
to believe that. He wouldn't go paying away his pounds so readily.
And they have attendance from the landlady; Mrs. Adela doesn't soil
her fine finger's, trust her. You may depend upon it, they've
plenty. She wouldn't speak a word for us; if she cared to, she could
have persuaded Mr. Eldon to let me keep my money, and then there
wouldn't have been all this law bother.'

'What bother's that?'

'Why, Dick says he'll go to law with my husband to recover the money
he paid him when we were married. It seems he has to answer for it,
because he's what they call the administrator, and Mr. Eldon can
compel him to make it all good again.'

'But I thought you said you'd given it all up?'

'That's my own money, what was settled on me. I don't see what good
it was to me; I never had a penny of it to handle. Now they want to
get all the rest out of us. How are we to pay back the money that's
spent and gone, I'd like to know? Willis says they'll just have to
get it if they can. And here's Dick going on at me because we don't
go into lodgings! I don't leave the house before I'm obliged, I know
that much. We may as well be comfortable as long as we can.

'The mean thing, that Adela!' she pursued after a pause. 'She was to
have married Mr. Eldon, and broke it off when she found he wasn't
going to be as rich as she thought; then she caught hold of Dick. I
should like to have seen her face when she found that will!--I wish
it had been me!'

Alice laughed unpleasantly. Her mother regarded her with an air of
curious inquiry, then murmured:

'Dick and she did the honest thing. I'll say so much for them.'

'I'll be even with Mrs. Adela yet,' pursued Alice, disregarding the
remark. 'She wouldn't speak for me, but she's spoken for herself, no
fear. She and her airs!'

There was silence; then Mrs. Mutimer said:

'I've let the top bedroom for four-and-six.'

''Arry's room? What's he going to do then?'

'He'll have to sleep on the chair-bedstead, here in the kitchen.
That is, if I have him in the 'ouse at all. And I don't know yet as
I shall.'

'Have you got enough money to go on with?' Alice asked.

'Dick sent me a pound this morning. I didn't want it'

'Has he been to see you yet, mother?'

The old woman shook her head.

'Do you want him to come, or don't you?'

There was silence. Alice looked at her mother askance. The leathern
mask of a face was working with some secret emotion.

'He'll come if he likes, I s'pose,' was her abrupt answer.

In the renewed silence they heard some one enter the house and
descend the kitchen stairs. 'Arry presented himself. He threw his
hat upon a chair, and came forward with a swagger to seat himself at
the tea-table.

His mother did not look at him.

'Anything to eat?' he asked, more loudly than was necessary, as if
he found the silence oppressive.

'There's bread and butter,' replied Alice, with lofty scorn.

'Hullo! Is it you?' exclaimed the young man, affecting to recognise
his sister. 'I thought you was above coming here Have they turned
you out of your house?'

'That's what'll happen to you, I shouldn't wonder.'

'Arry cast a glance towards his mother. Seeing that her eyes were
fixed in another direction, he began pantomimic interrogation of
Alice. The latter disregarded him.

'Arry presented an appearance less than engaging. He still bore the
traces of last night's debauch and of his sojourn in the
police-cell. There was dry mud on the back of his coat, his
shirt-cuffs and collar were of a slaty hue, his hands and face
filthy. He began to eat bread and butter, washing down each morsel
with a gulp of tea. The spoon remained in the cup whilst he drank.
To 'Arry it was a vast relief to be free from the conventionalities
of Adela's table.

'That lawyer fellow Yottle's been to see them to-day,' he remarked
presently.

Alice looked at him eagerly.

'What about?'

'There was talk about you and Rodman.'

'What did they say?'

'Couldn't hear. I was in the other room. But I heard Yottle speaking
your name.'

He had, in fact, heard a few words through the keyhole, but not
enough to gather the sense of the conversation, which had been
carried on in discreet tones.

'There you are!' Alice exclaimed, addressing her mother. 'They're
plotting against us, you see.'

'I don't think it 'ud be Dick's wish to do you harm,' said Mrs.
Mutimer absently.

'Dick 'll do whatever she tells him.'

'Adela, eh?' observed 'Arry. 'She's a cat.'

'You mind your own business!' returned his sister.

'So it is my business. She looked at me as if I wasn't good enough
to come near her 'igh-and-mightiness. I'm glad to see _her_ brought
down a peg, chance it!'

Alice would not condescend to join her reprobate brother, even in
abuse of Adela. She very shortly took leave of her mother, who went
up to the door with her.

'Are you going to see Dick?' Mrs. Mutimer said, in the passage.

'I shan't see him till he comes to my house,' replied Alice sharply.

The old woman stood on the doorstep till her daughter was out of
sight, then sighed and returned to her kitchen.

Alice returned to her more fashionable quarter by omnibus. Though
Rodman had declined to make any change in their establishment, he
practised economy in the matter of his wife's pin-money. Gone were
the delights of shopping, gone the little lunches in confectioners'
shops to which Alice, who ate sweet things like a child, had been
much addicted. Even the carriage she could seldom make use of, for
Rodman had constant need of it--to save cab-fares, he said. It was
chiefly employed in taking him to and from the City, where he
appeared to have much business at present.

On reaching home Alice found a telegram from her husband.

'Shall bring three friends to dinner. Be ready for us at half-past
seven.'

Yet he had assured her that he would dine quietly alone with her at
eight o'clock. Alice, who was weary of the kind of men her husband
constantly brought, felt it as a bitter disappointment. Besides, it
was already after six, and there were no provisions in the house.
But for her life she durst not cause Rodman annoyance by offering a
late or insufficient dinner. She thanked her stars that her return
had been even thus early.

The men when they presented themselves were just of the kind she
expected--loud-talking--their interests divided between
horse-racing and the money-market; she was a cipher at her own
table, scarcely a remark being addressed to her. The conversation
was meaningless to her; it seemed, indeed, to be made purposely
mysterious; terms of the stock-exchange were eked out with nods and
winks. Rodman was in far better spirits than of late, whence Alice
gathered that some promising rascality was under consideration.

The dinner over, she was left to amuse herself as she could in the
drawing-room. Rodman and his friends continued their talk round the
table, and did not break up till close upon mid night. Then she
heard the men take their departure. Rodman presently came up to her
and threw himself into a chair. His face was very red, a sign with
which Alice was familiar; but excessive potations apparently had not
produced the usual effect, for he was still in the best of tempers.

'Seen that young blackguard?' he began by asking.

'I went to see mother, and he came while I was there.'

'He'll have to look after himself in future. You don't catch me
helping him again.'

'He says Mr. Yottle came to see them to-day.'

'To see who?'

'Dick and his wife. He heard them talking about us.'

Rodman laughed.

'Let 'em go ahead! I wish them luck.'

'But can't they ruin us if they like?'

'It's all in a life. It wouldn't be the first time I've been ruined,
old girl. Let's enjoy ourselves whilst we can. There's nothing like
plenty of excitement.'

'It's all very well for you, Willis. But if you had to sit at home
all day doing nothing, you wouldn't find it so pleasant.'

'Get some novels.'

'I'm tired of novels,' she replied, sighing.

'So Yottle was with them?' Rodman said musingly, a smile still on
his face. 'I wish I knew what terms they've come to with Eldon.'

'I wish I could do something to pay out that woman!' exclaimed Alice
bitterly. 'She's at the bottom of it all. She hates both of us. Dick
'ud never have gone against you but for her.'

Rodman, extended in the low chair at full length, fixed an amused
look on her.

'You'd like to pay her out, eh?'

'Wouldn't I just!'

'Ha! ha! what a vicious little puss you are! It's a good thing I
don't tell you everything, or you might do damage.'

Alice turned to him with eagerness.

'What do you mean?'

He let his head fall back, and laughed with a drunken man's
hilarity. Alice persisted with her question.

'Come and sit here,' Rodman said, patting his knee.

Alice obeyed him.

'What is it, Willis? What have you found out? Do tell me, there's a
dear!'

'I'll tell you one thing, old girl: you're losing your good looks.
Nothing like what you were when I married you.'

She flushed and looked miserable.

'I can't help my looks. I don't believe you care how I look.'

'Oh, don't I, though! Why, do you think I'd have stuck to you like
this if I didn't? What was to prevent me from realising all the cash
I could and clearing off, eh? 'Twouldn't have been the first--'

'The first what?' Alice asked sharply.

'Never mind. You see I didn't do it. Too bad to leave the Princess
in the lurch, wouldn't it be?'

Alice seemed to have forgotten the other secret. She searched his
face for a moment, deeply troubled, then asked:

'Willis, I want to know who Clara is?'

He moved his eyes slowly, and regarded her with a puzzled look.

'Clara? What Clara?'

'Somebody you know of. You've got a habit of talking in your sleep
lately. You were calling out "Clara!" last night, and that's the
second time I've heard you.'

He was absent for a few seconds, then laughed and shook his head.

'I don't know anybody called Clara. It's your mistake.'

'I'm quite sure it isn't,' Alice murmured discontentedly.

'Well, then, we'll say it is,' he rejoined in a firmer voice. 'If I
talk in my sleep, perhaps it'll be better for you to pay no
attention. I might find it inconvenient to live with you.'

Alice looked frightened at the threat.

'You've got a great many secrets from me,' she said despondently.

'Of course I have. It is for your good. I was going to tell you one
just now, only you don't seem to care to bear it.'

'Yes, yes, I do!' Alice exclaimed, recollecting. 'Is it something
about Adela?'

He nodded.

'Wouldn't it delight you to go and get her into a terrible row with
Dick?'

'Oh, do tell me! What's she been doing?'

'I can't quite promise you the fun,' he replied, laughing. 'It may
miss fire. What do you think of her meeting Eldon alone in the wood
that Monday afternoon, the day after she found the will, you know?'

'You mean that?'

'I saw them together.'

'But she--you don't mean she--?'

Even Alice, with all her venom against her brother's wife, had a
difficulty in attributing this kind of evil to Adela. In spite of
herself she was incredulous.

'Think what you like,' said Rodman. 'It looks queer, that's all.'

It was an extraordinary instance of malice perpetrated out of sheer
good-humour. Had he not been assured by what he heard in the wood of
the perfectly innocent relations between Adela and Eldon, he would
naturally have made some profitable use of his knowledge before
this. As long as there was a possibility of advantage in keeping on
good terms with Adela, he spoke to no one of that meeting which he
had witnessed. Even now he did not know but that Adela had freely
disclosed the affair to her husband. But his humour was genially
mischievous. If he could gratify Alice and at the same time do the
Mutimers an ill turn, why not amuse himself?

'I'll tell Dick the very first thing in the morning!' Alice
declared, aglow with spiteful anticipation.

Rodman approved the purpose, and went off to bed laughing
uproariously.





CHAPTER XXVIII




Adela allowed a week to pass before speaking of her desire to visit
Mrs. Westlake. In Mutimer a fit of sullenness had followed upon his
settlement in lodgings. He was away from home a good deal, but his
hours of return were always uncertain, and Adela could not help
thinking that he presented himself at unlikely times, merely for the
sake of surprising her and discovering her occupation. Once or twice
she had no knowledge of his approach until he opened the door of the
room; when she remarked on his having ascended the stairs so
quietly, he professed not to understand her. On one of those
occasions she was engaged on a letter to her mother; he inquired to
whom she was writing, and for reply she merely held out the sheet
for his perusal. He glanced at the superscription, and handed it
back. Breathing this atmosphere of suspicion, she shrank from
irritating him by a mention of Stella, and to go without his express
permission was impossible. Stella did not write; Adela began to fear
lest her illness had become more serious. When she spoke at length,
it was in one of the moments of indignation, almost of revolt, which
at intervals came to her, she knew not at what impulse. At Wanley
her resource at such times had been to quit the house, and pace her
chosen walk in the garden till she was weary. In London she had no
refuge, and the result of her loss of fresh air had speedily shown
itself in moods of impatience which she found it very difficult to
conquer. Her husband came home one afternoon about five o'clock,
and, refusing to have any tea, sat for several hours in complete
silence; occasionally he pretended to look at a pamphlet which he
had brought in with him, but for the most part he sat, with his legs
crossed, frowning at vacancy. Adela grew feverish beneath the
oppression of this brooding ill-temper; her endeavour to read was
vain; the silence was a constraint upon her moving, her breathing.
She spoke before she was conscious of an intention to do so.

'I think I must go and see Mrs. Westlake to-morrow morning.'

Mutimer vouchsafed no answer, gave no sign of having heard. She
repeated the words.

'If you must, you must.'

'I wish to,' Adela said with an emphasis she could not help. 'Do you
object to my going?'

He was surprised at her tone.

'I don't object. I've told you I think you get no good there. But go
if you like.'

She said after a silence:

'I have no other friend in London; and if it were only on account of
her kindness to me, I owe her a visit.'

'All right, don't talk about it any more; I'm thinking of
something.'

The evening wore on. At ten o'clock the servant brought up a jug of
beer, which she fetched for Mutimer every night; he said he could
not sleep without this sedative. It was always the sign for Adela to
go to bed.

She visited Stella in the morning, and found her still suffering.
They talked for an hour, then it was time for Adela to hasten
homewards, in order to have dinner ready by half-past one. From
Stella she had no secret, save the one which she did her best to
make a secret even to herself; she spoke freely of her mode of life,
though without comment. Stella made no comments in her replies.

'And you cannot have lunch with me?' she asked when her friend rose.

'I cannot; dear.'

'May I write to you?' Stella said with a meaning look.

'Yes, to tell me how you are.'

Adela had not got far from the house when she saw her husband
walking towards her. She looked at him steadily.

'I happened to be near,' he explained, 'and thought I might as well
go home with you.'

'I might have been gone.'

'Oh, I shouldn't have waited long.'

The form of his reply discovered that he had no intention of calling
at the house; Adela understood that he had been in Avenue Road for
some time, probably had reached it very soon after her.

The next morning there arrived for Mutimer a letter from Alice. She
desired to see him; her husband would. be from home all day, and she
would be found at any hour; her business was of
importance--underlined.

Mutimer went shortly after breakfast, and Alice received him very
much as she would have done in the days before the catastrophe. She
had arrayed herself with special care; he found her leaning on
cushions, her feet on a stool, the eternal novel on her lap. Her
brother had to stifle anger at seeing her thus in appearance
unaffected by the storm which had swept away his own happiness and
luxuries.

'What is it you want?' he asked at once, without preliminary
greeting.

'You are not very polite,' Alice returned. 'Perhaps you'll take a
chair.'

'I haven't much time, so please don't waste what I can afford.'

'Are you so busy? Have you found something to do?'

'I'm likely to have enough to do with people who keep what doesn't
belong to them.'

'It isn't my doing, Dick,' she said more seriously.

'I don't suppose it is.'

'Then you oughtn't to be angry with me.'

'I'm not angry. What do you want?'

'I went to see mother yesterday. I think she wants you to go; it
looked like it.'

'I'll go some day.'

'It's too bad that she should have to keep 'Arry in idleness.'

'She hasn't to keep him. I send her money.'

'But how are you to afford that?'

'That's not your business.'

Alice looked indignant.

'I think you might speak more politely to me in my own house.'

'It isn't your own house.'

'It is as long as I live in it. I suppose you'd like to see me go
back to a workroom. It's all very well for you; if you live in
lodgings, that doesn't say you've got no money. We have to do the
best we can for ourselves; we haven't got your chances of making a
good bargain.'

It was said with much intention; Alice hall closed her eyes and
curled her lips in a disdainful smile.

'What chances? What do you mean?'

'Perhaps if _I_'d been a .particular friend of Mr. Eldon's--never
mind.'

He flashed a look at her.

'What are you talking about? Just speak plainly, will you? What do
you mean by "particular friend"? I'm no more a friend of Eldon's
than you are, and I've made no bargain with him.'

'I didn't say _you_.'

'Who then?' he exclaimed sternly.

'Don't you know? Some one is so very proper, and such a fine lady, I
shouldn't have thought she'd have done things without your knowing.'

He turned pale, and seemed to crush the floor with his foot, that he
might stand firm.

'You're talking of Adela?'

Alice nodded.

'What about her? Say at once what you've got to say.'

Inwardly she was a little frightened, perhaps half wished that she
had not begun. Yet it was sweet to foresee the thunderbolt that
would fall on her enemy's head. That her brother would suffer
torments did not affect her imagination; she had never credited him
with strong feeling for his wife; and it was too late to draw back.

'You know that she met Mr. Eldon in the wood at Wanley on the day
after she found the will?'

Mutimer knitted his brows to regard her. But in speaking he was more
self-governed than before.

'Who told you that?'

'My husband. He saw them together.'

'And heard them talking?'

'Yes.'

Rodman had only implied this. Alice's subsequent interrogation had
failed to elicit more from him than dark hints.

Mutimer drew a quick breath.

'He must be good at spying. Next time I hope he'll find out
something worth talking about.'

Alice was surprised.

'You know about it?'

'Just as much as Rodman, do you understand that?'

'You don't believe?'

She herself had doubts.

'It's nothing to you whether I believe it or not. Just be good
enough in future to mind your own business; you'll have plenty of it
before long. I suppose that's what you brought me here for?'

She made no answer; she was vexed and puzzled.

'Have you anything else to say?'

Alice maintained a stubborn silence.

'Alice, have you anything more to tell me about Adela?'

'No, I haven't.'

'Then you might have spared me the trouble. Tell Rodman with my
compliments that it would be as well for him to keep out of my way.'

He left her.

On quitting the house he walked at a great pace for a quarter of a
mile before he remembered the necessity of taking either train or
omnibus. The latter was at hand, but when he had ridden for ten
minutes the constant stoppages so irritated him that he jumped out
and sought a hansom. Even thus he did not travel fast enough; it
seemed an endless time before the ascent of Pentonville Hill began.
He descended a little distance from his lodgings.

As he was paying the driver another hansom went by; he by chance saw
the occupant, and it was Hubert Eldon. At least he felt convinced of
it, and he was in no mind to balance the possibilities of mistake.
The hansom had come from the street which Mutimer was just entering.

He found Adela engaged in cooking the dinner; she wore an apron, and
the sleeves of her dress were pushed up. As he came into the room
she looked at him with her patient smile; finding that he was in one
of his worst tempers, she said nothing and went on with her work. A
coarse cloth was thrown over the table; on it lay a bowl of
vegetables which she was preparing for the saucepan.

Perhaps it was the sight of her occupation, of the cheerful
simplicity with which she addressed herself to work so unworthy of
her; he could not speak at once as he had meant to. He examined her
with eyes of angry, half foiled suspicion. She had occasion to pass
him; he caught her arm and stayed her before him.

'What has Eldon been doing here?'

She paused and shrank a little.

'Mr. Eldon has not been here.'

He thought her face betrayed a guilty agitation.

'I happen to have met him going away. I think you'd better tell me
the truth.'

'I have told you the truth. If Mr. Eldon has been to the house, I
was not aware of it.'

He looked at her in silence for a moment, then asked:

'Are you the greatest hypocrite living?'

Adela drew farther away. She kept her eyes down. Long ago she had
suspected what was in Mutimer's mind, but she had only been
apprehensive of the results of jealousy on his temper and on their
relations to each other; it had not entered her thought that she
might have to defend herself against an accusation. This violent
question affected her strangely. For a moment she referred it
entirely to the secrets of her heart, and it seemed impossible to
deny what was imputed to her, impossible even to resent his way of
speaking. Was she not a hypocrite? Had she not many, many times
concealed with look and voice an inward state which was equivalent
to infidelity? Was not her whole life a pretence, an affectation of
wifely virtues? But the hypocrisy was involuntary; her nature had no
power to extirpate its causes and put in their place the perfect
dignity of uprightness.

'Why do you ask me that?' she said at length, raising her eyes for
an instant.

'Because it seems to me I've good cause. I don't know whether to
believe a word you say.'

'I can't remember to have told you falsehoods.' Her cheeks flushed.
'Yes, one; that I confessed to you.'

It brought to his mind the story of the wedding ring.

'There's such a thing as lying when you tell the truth. Do you
remember that I met you coming back to the Manor that Monday
afternoon, a month ago, and asked you where you'd been?'

Her heart stood still.

'Answer me, will you?'

'I remember it.'

'You told me you'd been for a walk in the wood. You forgot to say
who it was you went to meet.'

How did he know of this? But that thought came to her only to pass.
She understood at length the whole extent of his suspicion. It was
not only her secret feelings that he called in question, he accused
her of actual dishonour as it is defined by the world--that clumsy
world with its topsy-turvydom of moral judgments. To have this
certainty flashed upon her was, as soon as she had recovered from
the shock, a sensible assuagement of her misery. In face of this she
could stand her ground. Her womanhood was in arms; she faced him
scornfully.

'Will you please to make plain your charge against me?'

'I think it's plain enough. If a married woman makes appointments in
quiet places with a man she has no business to see anywhere, what's
that called? I fancy I've seen something of that kind before now in
cases before the Divorce Court.'

It angered him that she was not overwhelmed. He saw that she did not
mean to deny having met Eldon, and to have Alice's story thus
confirmed inflamed his jealousy beyond endurance.

'You must believe of me what you like,' Adela replied in a slow,
subdued voice. 'My word would be vain against that of my accuser,
whoever it is.'

'Your accuser, as you say, happened not only to see you, but to hear
you talking.'

He waited for her surrender before this evidence. Instead of that
Adela smiled.

'If my words were reported to you, what fault have you to find with
me?'

Her confidence, together with his actual ignorance of what Rodman
had heard, troubled him with doubt.

'Answer this question,' he said. 'Did you make an appointment with
that man?'

'I did not.'

'You did not? Yet you met him?'

'Unexpectedly.'

'But you talked with him?'

'How can you ask? You know that I did.'

He collected his thoughts.

'Repeat to me what you talked about.'

'That I refuse to do.'

'Of course you do!' he cried, driven to frenzy. 'And you think I
shall let this rest where it is? Have you forgotten that I came to
the Westlakes and found Eldon there with you? And what was he doing
in this street this morning if he hadn't come to see you? I begin to
understand why you were so precious eager about giving up the will.
That was your fine sense of honesty, of course! You are full of fine
senses, but your mistake is to think I've no sense at all. What do
you take me for?'

The thin crust of refinement was shattered; the very man came to
light, coarse, violent, whipped into fury by his passions, of which
injured self-love was not the least. Whether he believed his wife
guilty or not he could not have said; enough that she had kept
things secret from him, and that he could not overawe her.
Whensoever he had shown anger in conversation with her, she had made
him sensible of her superiority; at length he fell back upon his
brute force and resolved to bring her to his feet, if need be by
outrage. Even his accent deteriorated as he flung out his passionate
words; he spoke like any London mechanic, with defect and excess of
aspirates, with neglect of g's at the end of words, and so on. Adela
could not bear it; she moved to the door. But he caught her and
thrust her back; it was all but a blow. Her face half recalled him
to his senses.

'Where are you going?' he stammered.

'Anywhere, anywhere, away from this house and from you!' Adela
replied. Effort to command herself was vain; his heavy hand had
completed the effect of his language, and she, too, spoke as nature
impelled her. 'Let me pass! I would rather die than remain here!'

'All the same, you'll stay where you are!'

'Yes, your strength is greater than mine. You can hold me by force.
But you have insulted me beyond forgiveness, and we are as much
strangers as if we had never met. You have broken every bond that
bound me to you. You can make me your prisoner, but like a prisoner
my one thought will be of escape. I will touch no food whilst I
remain here. I have no duties to you, and you no claim upon me!'

'All the same, you stay!'

Before her sobbing vehemence he had grown calm. These words were so
unimaginable on her lips that he could make no reply save stubborn
repetition of his refusal. And having uttered that he went from the
room, changing the key to the outside and locking her in. Fear lest
he might be unable to withhold himself from laying hands upon her
was the cause of his retreat. The lust of cruelty was boiling in
him, as once or twice before. Her beauty in revolt made a savage of
him. He went into the bedroom and there waited.

Adela sat alone, sobbing still, but tearless. Her high-spirited
nature once thoroughly aroused, it was some time before she could
reason on what had come to pass. The possibility of such an end to
her miseries had never presented itself even in her darkest hours;
endurance was all she could ever look forward to. As her blood fell
into calmer flow she found it hard to believe that she had not
dreamt this scene of agony. She looked about the room. There on the
table were the vegetables she had been preparing; her hands bore the
traces of the work she had done this morning. It seemed as though
she had only to rise and go on with her duties as usual.

Her arm was painful, just below the shoulder. Yes, that was where he
had seized her with his hard hand to push her away from the door.

What had she said in her distraction? She had broken away from him,
and repudiated her wifehood. Was it not well done? If he believed
her unfaithful to him--

At an earlier period of her married life such a charge would have.
held her mute with horror. Its effect now was not quite the same;
she could face the thought, interrogate herself as to its meaning,
with a shudder, indeed, but a shudder which came of fear as well as
loathing. Life was no longer an untried country, its difficulties
and perils to be met with the sole aid of a few instincts and a few
maxims; she had sounded the depths of misery and was invested with
the woeful knowledge of what we poor mortals call the facts of
existence. And sitting here, as on the desert bed of a river whose
water had of a sudden ceased to flow, she could regard her own
relation to truths, however desolating, with the mind which had
rather brave all than any longer seek to deceive itself.

Of that which he imputed to her she was incapable; that such
suspicion of her could enter his mind branded him with baseness. But
his jealousy was justified; howsoever it had awakened in him, it was
sustained by truth. Was it her duty to tell him that, and so to
render it impossible for him to seek to detain her?

But would the confession have any such result? Did he not already
believe her criminal, and yet forbid her to leave him? On what terms
did she stand with a man whose thought was devoid of delicacy, who
had again and again proved himself without understanding of the
principles of honour? And could she indeed make an admission which
would compel her at the same time to guard against revolting
misconceptions?

The question of how he had obtained this knowledge recurred to her.
It was evident that the spy had intentionally calumniated her,
professing to have heard her speak incriminating words. She thought
of Rodman. He had troubled her by his private request that she would
appeal to Eldon on Alice's behalf, a request which was almost an
insult. Could he have been led to make it in consequence of his
being aware of that meeting in the wood? That might well be; she
distrusted him and believed him capable even of a dastardly revenge.

What was the troublesome thought that hung darkly in her mind and
would not come to consciousness? She held it at last; Mutimer had
said that he met Hubert in the street below. How to explain that?
Hubert so near to her, perhaps still in the neighbourhood?

Again she shrank with fear. What might it mean, if he had really
come in hope of seeing her? That was unworthy of him. Had she
betrayed herself in her conversation with him? Then he was worse
than cruel to her.

It seemed to her that hours passed. From time to time she heard a
movement in the next room; Mutimer was still there. There sounded at
the house door a loud postman's knock, and in a few minutes someone
came up the stairs, doubtless to bring a letter. The bedroom door
opened; she heard her husband thank the servant and again shut
himself in.

The fire which she had been about to use for cooking was all but
dead. She rose and put fresh coals on. There was a small oblong
mirror over the mantelpiece; it showed her so ghastly a face that
she turned quickly away.

If she succeeded in escaping from her prison, whither should she go?
Her mother would receive her, but it was impossible to go to Wanley,
to live near the Manor. Impossible, too, to take refuge with Stella.
If she fled and hid herself in some other part of London, how was
life to be supported? But there were graver obstacles. Openly to
flee from her husband was to subject herself to injurious suspicions--it
might be, considering Mutimer's character, to involve Hubert in
some intolerable public shame. Or, if that worst extremity were
avoided', would it not be said that she had deserted her husband
because he had suddenly become poor?

That last thought brought the blood to her cheeks.

But to live with him after this, to smear over a deadly wound and
pretend it was healed, to read hourly in his face the cowardly
triumph over her weakness, to submit herself--Oh, what rescue from
this hideous degradation! She went to the window, as if it had been
possible to escape by that way; she turned again and stood moaning,
with her hands about her head. When was the worst to come in this
life so long since bereft of hope, so forsaken of support from man
or God? The thought of death came to her; she subdued the tumult of
her agony to weigh it well Whom would she wrong by killing herself?
Herself, it might be; perchance not even death would be sacred
against outrage.

She heard a neighbouring clock strike five, and shortly after her
husband entered the room. Had she looked at him she would have seen
an inexplicable animation in his face. He paced the floor once or
twice in silence, then asked in a hard voice, though the tone was
quite other than before:

'Will you tell me what it was you talked of that day in the wood?'

She did not reply.

'I suppose by refusing to speak you confess that you dare not let me
know?'

Physical torture could not have wrung a word from her. She felt her
heart surge with hatred.

He went to the cupboard in which food was kept, took out a loaf of
bread, and cut a slice. He ate it, standing before the window. Then
he cleared the table and sat down to write a letter; it occupied him
for hall-an-hour. When it was finished, he put it in his pocket and
began again to pace the room.

'Are you going to, sit like that all night?' he asked suddenly.

She drew a deep sigh and rose from her seat. He saw that she no
longer thought of escaping him. She began to make preparations for
tea. As helpless in his hands as though he had purchased her in a
slave market, of what avail to sit like a perverse child? The force
of her hatred warned her to keep watch lest she brought herself to
his level. Without defence against indignities which were bitter as
death, by law his chattel, as likely as not to feel the weight of
his hand if she again roused his anger, what remained but to
surrender all outward things to unthinking habit, and to keep her
soul apart, nourishing in silence the fire of its revolt? It was the
most pity-moving of all tragedies, a noble nature overcome by sordid
circumstances. She was deficient in the strength of character which
will subdue all circumstances; her strength was of the kind that
supports endurance rather than breaks a way to freedom. Every day,
every hour, is some such tragedy played through; it is the
inevitable result of our social state. Adela could have wept tears
of blood; her shame was like a branding iron upon her flesh.

She was on the second floor of a lodging-house in Pentonville,
making tea for her husband.

That husband appeared to have undergone a change since lie quitted
her a few hours ago. He was still venomous towards her, but his
countenance no longer lowered dangerously. Something distinct from
his domestic troubles seemed to be occupying him, something of a
pleasant nature. He all but smiled now and then; the glances he cast
at Adela were not wholly occupied with her. He plainly wished to
speak, but could not bring himself to do so.

He ate and drank of what she put before him. Adela took a cup of
tea, but had no appetite for food. When he had satisfied himself,
she removed the things.

Another half-hour passed. Mutimer was pretending to read. Adela at
length broke the silence.

'I think,' she said, 'I was wrong in refusing to tell you what
passed between Mr. Eldon and myself when I by chance met him.
Someone seems to have misled you. He began by hoping that we should
not think ourselves hound to leave the Manor until we had had full
time to make the necessary arrangements. I thanked him for his
kindness, and then asked something further. It was that, if he could
by any means do so, he would continue the works at New Wanley
without any change, maintaining the principles on which they had
been begun. He said that was impossible, and explained to me what
his intentions were, and why he had formed them. That was our
conversation.'

Mutimer observed her with a smile which affected incredulity.

'Will you take your oath that that is true?' he asked.

'No. I have told you because I now see that the explanation was
owing, since you have been deceived. If you disbelieve me, it is no
concern of mine.'

She had taken up some sewing, and, having spoken, went on with it.
Mutimer kept his eyes fixed upon her. His suspicions never resisted
a direct word from Adela's lips, though other feelings might
exasperate him. What he had just heard he believed the more readily
because it so surprised him; it was one of those revelations of his
wife's superiority which abashed. him without causing evil feeling.
They always had the result of restoring to him for a moment
something of the reverence with which he had approached her in the
early days of their acquaintance. Even now he could not escape the
impression.

'What was Eldon doing about here to-day?' he asked after a pause.

'I have told you that I did not even know he had been near.'

'Perhaps not. Now, will you just tell me this: Have you written to
Eldon, or had any letter from him since our marriage?'

Her fingers would not continue their work. A deadening sensation of
disgust made her close her eyes as if to shut out the meaning of his
question. Her silence revived his distrust.

'You had rather not answer?' he said significantly.

'Cannot you see that it degrades me to answer such a question? What
is your opinion of me? Have I behaved so as to lead you to think
that I am an abandoned woman?'

After hesitating he muttered: 'You don't give a plain yes or no.'

'You must not expect it. If you think I use arts to deceive you--if
you have no faith whatever in my purity--it was your duty to let me
go from you when I would have done so. It is horrible for us to live
together from the moment that there is such a doubt on either side.
It makes me something lower than your servant--something that has no
name!'

She shuddered. Had not that been true of her from the very morrow of
their marriage? Her life was cast away upon shoals of debasement; no
sanctity of womanhood remained in her. Was not her indignation half
a mockery? She could not even defend her honesty, her honour in the
vulgarest sense of the word, without involving herself in a kind of
falsehood, which was desolation to her spirit. It had begun in her
advocacy of uprightness after her discovery of the will; it was
imbuing her whole nature, making her to her own conscience that
which he had called her--a very hypocrite.

He spoke more conciliatingly.

'Well, there's one thing, at all events, that you can't refuse to
explain. Why didn't you tell me that you had met Eldon, and what he
meant to do?'

She had not prepared herself for the question, and it went to the
root of her thoughts; none the less she replied instantly, careless
how he understood the truth.

'I kept silence because the meeting had given me pain, because it
distressed me to have to speak with Mr. Eldon at that place and at
that time, because I _knew_ how you regard him, and was afraid to
mention him to you.'

Mutimer was at a loss. If Adela had calculated her reply with the
deepest art she could not have chosen words better fitted to silence
him.

'And you have told me every word that passed between you?' he asked.

'That would be impossible. I have told you the substance of the
conversation.'

'Why did you ask him to keep the works going on my plan?'

'I can tell you no more.'

Her strength was spent. She put aside her sewing and moved towards
the door.

'Where are you going?'

'I don't feel well. I must rest.'

'Just stop a minute. I've something here I want td show you.'

She turned wearily. Mutimer took a letter from his pocket.

'Will you read that?'

She took it. It was written in a very clear, delicate hand, and ran
thus:--

'DEAR SIR,--I who address you have lain for two years on a bed from
which I shall never move till I am carried to my grave. My age is
three-and-twenty; an accident which happened to me a few days after
my twenty-first birthday left me without the use of my limbs; it
often seems to me that it would have been better if I had died, but
there is no arguing with fate, and the wise thing is to accept
cheerfully whatever befalls us. I hoped at one time to take an
active part in life, and my interest in the world's progress is as
strong as ever, especially in everything that concerns social
reform. I have for some time known your name, and have constantly
sought information about your grand work at New Wanley. Now I
venture to write (by the hand of a dear friend), to express my
admiration for your high endeavour, and my grief at the
circumstances which have made you powerless to continue it.

'I am possessed of means, and, as you see, can spend but little on
myself. I ask you, with much earnestness, to let me be of some small
use to the cause of social justice, by putting, in your hands the
sum of five hundred pounds, to be employed as may seem good to you.
I need not affect to be ignorant of your position, and it is my
great fear lest you should be unable to work for Socialism with your
undivided energies. Will. you accept this money, and continue by
means of public lecturing to spread the gospel of emancipation? That
I am convinced is your first desire. If you will do me this great
kindness, I shall ask your permission to arrange that the same sum
be paid to you annually, for the next ten years, whether I still
live or not. To be helping in this indirect way would cheer me more
than you can think. I enclose a draft on Messrs.--.

'As I do not know your private address, I send. this to the office
of the "Piery Cross." Pardon me for desiring to remain anonymous;
many reasons necessitate it. If you grant me this favour, will you
advertise the word "Accepted" in the "Times" newspaper within ten
days?

'With heartfelt sympathy and admiration,
'I sign myself,
'A FRIEND.'

Adela was unmoved; she returned the letter as if it had no interest
for her.

'What do you think of that?' said Mutimer, forgetting their
differences in his exultation.

'I am glad you can continue your work,' Adela replied absently.

She was moving away when he again stopped her.

'Look here, Adela.' He hesitated. 'Are you still angry with me?'

She was silent.

'I am sorry I lost my temper. I didn't mean all I said to you. Will
you try and forget it?'

Her lips spoke for her.

'I will try.'

'You needn't go on doing housework now,' he said assuringly. 'Are
you going? Come and say good-night.'

He approached her and laid his hand upon her shoulder. Adela shrank
from his. touch, and for an instant gazed at him with wide eyes of
fear.

He dropped his hands and let her go.





CHAPTER XXIX




The valley rested. On the morning of Mutimer's departure from Wanley
there was no wonted clank of machinery, no smoke from the chimneys,
no roar of iron-smelting furnaces; the men and women of the colony
stood idly before their houses, discussing prospects, asking each
other whether it was seriously Mr. Eldon's intention to raze New
Wanley, many of them grumbling or giving vent to revolutionary
threats. They had continued in work thus long since the property in
fact changed hands, and to most of them it seemed unlikely, in spite
of every thing, that they would have to go in search of new
employments. This morning they would hear finally.

The valley rested. For several days there had been constant rain;
though summer was scarcely over, it had turned cold and the sky was
cheerless. Over Stanbury Hill there were always heavy, dripping
clouds, and the leaves of Adela's favourite wood were already
falling. At the Manor there was once more disorder; before Mutimer
and his wife took their departure the removal of furniture had
commenced. Over the whole scene brooded a spirit of melancholy. It
needed faith in human energy to imagine the pollutions swept away,
and the seasons peacefully gliding as of old between the hillsides
and amid meadows and garden closes.

Hubert Eldon drove over from Agworth, and was in the Public Hall at
the appointed time. His business with the men was simple and brief.
He had to inform them that their employment here was at an end, but
that each one would receive a month's wages and permission to
inhabit their present abodes for yet a fortnight. After that they
had no longer right of tenancy. He added that if any man considered
himself specially aggrieved by this arrangement, he was prepared to
hear and judge the individual case.

There was a murmur of discontent through the room, but no one took
upon himself to rise and become spokesman of the community.
Disregarding the manifestation, Hubert described in a few words how
and when this final business would be transacted; then he left the
hall by the door which led from the platform.

Then followed a busy week. Claims of all kinds were addressed to
him, some reasonable, most of them not to be entertained. Mr. Yottle
was constantly at the Manor; there he and Hubert held a kind of
court. Hubert was not well fitted for business of this nature; he
easily became impatient, and, in spite of humane intentions, often
suffered from a tumult of his blood, when opposed by some dogged
mechanic.

'I can't help it!' he exclaimed to Mr. Wyvern one right, after a day
of peculiar annoyance. 'We are all men, it is true; but for the
brotherhood--feel it who can! I am illiberal, if you like, but in
the presence of those fellows I feel that I am facing enemies. It
seems to me that I have nothing in common with them but the animal
functions. Absurd? Yes, of course, it is absurd; but I speak of how
intercourse with them affects me. They are our enemies, yours as
well as mine; they are the enemies of every man who speaks the pure
English tongue and does not earn a living with his hands. When they
face me I understand what revolution means; some of them look at me
as they would if they had muskets in their hands.'

'You are not conciliating,' remarked the vicar.

'I am not, and cannot be. They stir the worst feelings in me; I grow
arrogant, autocratic. As long as I have no private dealings with
them I can consider their hardships and judge their characters
dispassionately; but I must not come to close quarters.'

'You have special causes of prejudice.'

'True. If I were a philosopher I should overcome all that. However,
my prejudice is good in one way; it enables me thoroughly to
understand the detestation with which they regard me and the like of
me. If I had been born one of them I should be the most savage
anarchist. The moral is, that I must hold apart. Perhaps I shall
grow cooler in time.'

The special causes of prejudice were quite as strong on the side of
the workmen; Hubert might have been far less aristocratic in
bearing, they would have disliked him as cordially. Most of them
took it as a wanton outrage that they should be driven from the
homes in which they had believed themselves settled for life. The
man Redgrave--he of the six feet two who had presented the address
to Mutimer--was a powerful agent of ill-feeling; during the first
few days he was constantly gathering impromptu meetings in New
Wanley and haranguing them violently on the principles of Socialism.
But in less than a week he had taken his departure, and the main
trouble seemed at an end.

Mrs. Eldon was so impatient to return to the Manor that a room was
prepared for her as soon as possible, and she came from her house at
Agworth before Mutimer had been gone a week. Through the summer her
strength had failed rapidly; it was her own conviction that she
could live but a short time longer. The extreme agitation caused by
the discovery of the will had visibly enfeebled her; it was her one
desire to find herself once more in her old home, and there to
breathe her last. The journey from Agworth cost her extreme
suffering; she was prostrate, almost lifeless, for three days after
it. But her son's society revived her. Knowing him established in
his family possessions, she only cared to taste for a little while
this unhoped-for joy. Lying on a couch in her familiar chamber, she
delighted to have flowers brought to her from the garden, even
leaves from the dear old trees, every one of which she knew as a
friend. But she had constant thought for those upon whose disaster
her own happiness was founded; of Adela she spoke often.

'What will become of that poor child?' she asked one evening, when
Hubert had been speaking of Rodman's impracticable attitude, and of
the proceedings Mutimer was about to take. 'Do you know anything of
her life, Hubert?'

'I met her in the wood here a few weeks ago,' he replied, mentioning
the incident for the first time. 'She wanted to make a Socialist of
me.'

'Was that after the will came to light?'

'The day after. She pleaded for New Wanley--hoped I should keep it
up.'

'Then she has really accepted her husband's views?'

'It seems so. I am afraid she thought me an obstinate tyrant.'

He spoke carelessly.

'But she must not suffer, dear. How can they be helped?'

'They can't fall into absolute want. And I suppose his Socialist
friends will do something for him. I have been as considerate as it
was possible to be. I dare say he will make me a commonplace in his
lectures henceforth, a type of the brutal capitalist.'

He laughed when he had said it, and led the conversation to another
subject.

About the workmen, too, Mrs. Eldon was kindly thoughtful. Hubert
spared her his prejudices and merely described what he was doing.
She urged him to be rather too easy than too exacting with them. It
was the same in everything; the blessing which had fallen upon her
made her full of gentleness and sweet charity.

The fortnight's grace was at an end, and it was announced to Hubert
that the last family had left New Wanley. The rain still continued;
as evening set in Hubert returned from an inspection of the deserted
colony, his spirits weighed upon by the scene of desolation. After
dinner he sat as usual with his mother for a couple of hours, then
went to his own room and read till eleven o'clock. Just as he had
thrown aside his book the silence of the night was riven by a
terrific yell, a savage cry of many voices, which came from the
garden in the front of the house, and at the same instant there
sounded a great crashing of glass. The windows behind his back were
broken and a couple of heavy missiles thundered near him upon the
floor--stones they proved to be. He rushed from the room. All the
lights in the house except his own and that in Mrs. Eldon's room
were extinguished. He reached his mother's door. Before he could
open it the yell and the shower of stones were repeated, again with
ruin of windows, this time on the east side of the Manor. In a
moment he was by his mother's bed; he saw her sitting up in terror;
she was speechless and unable even to stretch her arms towards him.
An inner door opened and the woman who was always in attendance
rushed in half dressed. At the same time there were sounds of
movement in other parts of the house. Once more the furious voices
and the stone-volley Hubert put his arms about his mother and tried
to calm her.

'Don't be frightened; it's those cowardly roughs. They have had
their three shots, now they'll take to their heels. Mrs. Winter is
here, mother: she will stay with you whilst I go down and see what
has to be done. I'll be back directly if there is no more danger.'

He hastened away. The servants had collected upon the front
staircase, with lamps and candles, in fright and disorder
unutterable. Hubert repeated to them what he had said to his mother,
and it seemed to be the truth, for the silence outside was unbroken.

'I shouldn't wonder,' he cried, 'if they've made an attempt to set
the house on fire. We must go about and examine.'

The door-bell was rung loudly. The servants rushed back up the
stairs; Hubert went into the dining-room, carrying no light, and
called through the shattered windows asking who had rung. It was the
vicar; the shouts had brought him forth.

'They are gone,' he said, in his strong, deep voice, in itself
reassuring. 'I think there were only some ten or a dozen; they've
made off up the hill. Is anybody hurt?'

'No, they have only broken all the windows,' Hubert replied. 'But I
am terribly afraid for the effect upon my mother. We must have the
doctor round at once.'

The vicar was admitted to the house, and a messenger forthwith
despatched for the medical man, who resided halfway between Wanley
and Agworth. On returning to his mother's room Hubert found his
fears only too well justified; Mrs. Eldon lay motionless, her eyes
open, but seemingly without intelligence. At intervals of five
minutes a sigh was audible, else she could scarcely be perceived to
breathe. The attendant said that she had not spoken.

It was some time before the doctor arrived. After a brief
examination, he came out with Hubert; his opinion was that the
sufferer would not see daybreak.

She lived, however, for some twelve hours, if that could be called
life which was only distinguishable from the last silence by the
closest scrutiny. Hubert did not move from the bedside, and from
time to time Mr. Wyvern came and sat with him. Neither of them
spoke. Hubert had no thought of food or rest; the shadow of a loss,
of which he only understood the meaning now that it was at hand,
darkened him and all the world. Behind his voiceless misery was
immeasurable hatred of those who had struck him this blow; at
moments a revengeful fury all but maddened him. He held his mother's
band; if he could but feel one pressure of the slight fingers before
they were impotent for ever! And this much was granted him. Shortly
before midday the open eyes trembled to consciousness, the lips
moved in endeavour to speak. To Hubert it seemed that his intense
gaze had worked a miracle, effecting that which his will demanded.
She saw him and understood.

'Mother, can you speak? Do you know me, dear?'

She smiled, and her lips tried to shape words. He bent over her,
close, close. At first the faint whisper was unintelligible, then he
heard:

'They did not know what. they were doing.'

Something followed, but he could not understand it. The whisper
ended in a sigh, the smiling features quivered. He held her, but was
alone.

A hand was laid gently upon his shoulder. Through blinding tears he
discerned Mr. Wyvern's solemn countenance. He resisted the efforts
to draw him away, but was at length persuaded.

Early in the evening he fell asleep, lying dressed upon his bed, and
the sleep lasted till midnight. Then he left his room, and descended
the stairs, for the lower part of the house was still lighted. In
the hall Mr. Wyvern met him.

'Let us go into the library,' he said to the clergyman. 'I want to
talk to you.'

He had resumed his ordinary manner. Without mention of his mother,
he began at once to speak of the rioters.

'They were led by that man Redgrave; there can be no doubt of that.
I shall go to Agworth at once and set the police at work.'

'I have already done that,' replied the vicar. 'Three fellows have
been arrested in Agworth.'

'New Wanley men?'

'Yes; but Redgrave is not one of them.'

'He shall be caught, though!'

Hubert appeared to have forgotten everything but his desire of
revenge. It supported him through the wretched days that followed--even
at the funeral his face was hard-set and his eyes dry. But in
spite of every effort it was impossible to adduce evidence against
any but the three men who had loitered drinking in Agworth. Redgrave
came forward voluntarily and proved an alibi; he was vastly
indignant at the charge brought against him, declared that
window-breaking was not his business, and that had he been on the
spot he should have used all his influence to prevent such
contemptible doings. He held a meeting in Belwick of all the New
Wanleyers he could gather together: those who came repudiated the
outrage as useless and unworthy. On the whole, it seemed probable
that only a handful of good-for-nothings had been concerned in the
affair, probably men who had been loafing in the Belwick
public-houses, indisposed to look for work. The 'Fiery Cross' and
the 'Tocsin' commented on the event in their respective ways. The
latter organ thought that an occasional demonstration of this kind
was not amiss; it was a pity that apparently innocent individuals
should suffer (an allusion to the death of Mrs. Eldon); but, after
all, what member of the moneyed classes was in reality innocent? An
article on the subject in the 'Fiery Cross' was signed 'Richard
Mutimer.' It breathed righteous indignation and called upon all true
Socialists to make it known that they pursued their ends in far
other ways than by the gratification of petty malice. A copy of this
paper reached Wanley Manor. Hubert glanced over it.

It lay by him when he received a visit from Mr. Wyvern the same
evening.

'How is it to be explained,' he asked; 'a man like Westlake mixing
himself up with this crew?'

'Do you know him personally?' the vicar inquired.

'I have met him. But I have seen more of Mrs. Westlake. She is a
tenth muse, the muse of lyrical Socialism. From which of them the
impulse came I have no means of knowing, but surely it must have
been from her. In her case I can understand it; she lives in an
asthetic reverie; she idealises everything. Naturally she knows
nothing whatever of real life. She is one of the most interesting
women I ever met, but I should say that her influence on Westlake
has been deplorable.'

'Mrs. Mutimer is greatly her friend, I believe,' said the vicar.

'I believe so. But let us speak of this paper. I want, if possible,
to understand Westlake's position. Have you ever read the thing?'

'Frequently.'

'Now here is an article signed by Westlake. You know his books? How
has he fallen to this? His very style has abandoned him, his English
smacks of the street corners, of Radical clubs. The man is ruined;
it is next. to impossible that he should ever again do good work,
such as we used to have from him. The man who wrote "Daphne"! Oh, it
is monstrous!'

'It is something of a problem to me,' Mr. Wyvern admitted. 'Had he
been a younger man, or if his writing had been of a different kind.
Yet his sincerity is beyond doubt.'

'I doubt it,' Hubert broke in. 'Not his sincerity in the beginning;
but he must long since have ached to free himself. It is such a
common thing for a man to commit himself to some pronounced position
in public life and for very shame shrink from withdrawing. He would
not realise what it meant. Now in the revolutionary societies of the
Continent there is something that appeals to the imagination. A
Nihilist, with Siberia or death before him, fighting against a
damnable tyranny--the best might sacrifice everything for that. But
English Socialism! It is infused with the spirit of shopkeeping; it
appeals to the vulgarest minds; it keeps one eye on personal safety,
the other on the capitalist's strong-box; it is stamped commonplace,
like everything originating with the English lower classes. How does
it differ from Radicalism, the most contemptible claptrap of
politics, except in wanting to hurry a little the rule of the mob?
Well, I am too subjective. Help me, if you can, to understand
Westlake.'

Hubert was pale and sorrow-stricken; his movements were heavy with
weariness, but he had all at once begun to speak with the old fire,
the old scorn. He rested his chin upon his hand and waited for his
companion's reply.

'At your age,' said Mr. Wyvern, smiling half sadly, 'I, too, had a
habit of vehement speaking, but it was on the other side. I was a
badly paid curate working in a wretched parish. I lived among the
vilest and poorest of the people, and my imagination was constantly
at boiling-point. I can only suppose that Westlake has been led to
look below the surface of society and has been affected as I was
then. He has the mind of a poet; probably he was struck with horror
to find over what a pit he had been living in careless enjoyment. He
is tender-hearted; of a sudden he felt himself criminal, to be
playing with beautiful toys whilst a whole world lived only to sweat
and starve. The appeal of the miserable seemed to be to him
personally. It is what certain sects call conversion in religion, a
truth addressing itself with unwonted and invincible force to the
individual soul.'

'And you, too, were a Socialist?'

'At that age and under those conditions it was right and good. I
should have been void of feeling and imagination otherwise. Such
convictions are among relative truths. To be a social enthusiast is
in itself neither right nor wrong, neither praiseworthy nor the
opposite; it is a state to be judged in relation to the other facts
of a man's life. You will never know that state; if you affected it
you would be purely contemptible. And I myself have outgrown it.'

'But you must not think that I am inhuman,' said Hubert. 'The sight
of distress touches me deeply. To the individual poor man or woman I
would give my last penny. It is when they rise against me as a class
that I become pitiless.'

'I understand you perfectly, though I have not the same prejudices.
My old zeal lingers with me in the form of tolerance. I can enter
into the mind of a furious proletarian as easily as into the feeling
which you represent.'

'But how did your zeal come to an end?'

'In this way; I worked under the conditions I have described to you
till I was nearly thirty. Then. I broke down physically. At the same
time it happened that I inherited a small competency. I went abroad,
lived in Italy for a couple of years. I left England with the firm
intention of getting my health and then returning to work harder
than ever. But during those two years I educated myself. When I
reached England again I found that it was. impossible to enter again
on the old path; I should have had to force myself; it would have
been an instance of the kind of thing you suggest in explanation of
Westlake's persistence. Fortunately I yielded to my better sense and
altogether shunned the life of towns. I was no longer of those who
seek to change the world, but of those who are content that it
should in substance remain as it is.'

'But how can you be content, if you are convinced that the majority
of men live only to suffer?'

'It is, you who attribute the conviction to me,' said the vicar,
smiling good-naturedly. 'My conviction is the very opposite. One of
the pet theories I have developed for myself in recent years is,
that happiness is very evenly distributed among all classes and
conditions. It is the result of sober reflection on my experience of
life. Think of it a moment. The bulk of men are neither rich nor
poor, taking into consideration their habits and needs; they live in
much content, despite social imperfections and injustices, despite
the ills of nature. Above and below are classes of extreme
characterisation; I believe the happiness assignable to those who
are the lowest stratum of civilisation is, relatively speaking, no
whit less than that we may attribute to the thin stratum of the
surface, using the surface to mean the excessively rich. It is a
paradox, but anyone capable of thinking may be assured of its truth.
The life of the very poorest is a struggle to support their bodies;
the richest, relieved of that one anxiety, are overwhelmed with such
a mass of artificial troubles that their few moments of genuine
repose do not exceed those vouchsafed to their antipodes. You would
urge the sufferings of the criminal class under punishment? I
balance against it the misery of the rich under the scourge of their
own excesses. It is a mistake due to mere thoughtlessness, or
ignorance, to imagine the labouring, or even the destitute,
population as ceaselessly groaning beneath the burden of their
existence. Go along the poorest street in the East End of London,
and you will hear as much laughter, witness as much gaiety, as in
any thoroughfare of the West. Laughter and gaiety of a miserable
kind? I speak of it as relative to the habits and capabilities of
the people. A being of superior intelligence regarding humanity with
an eye of perfect understanding would discover that life was enjoyed
every bit as much in the slum as in the palace.'

'You would consider it fair to balance excessive suffering of the
body in one class against excessive mental suffering in another?'

'Undoubtedly. It is a fair application of my theory. But let me
preach a little longer. It is my belief that, though this equality
of distribution remains a fact, the sum total of happiness in nations
is seriously diminishing. Not only on account of the growth of
population; the poor have more to suffer, the rich less of true
enjoyment, the mass of comfortable people fall into an
ever-increasing anxiety. A Radical will tell you that this is a
transitional state. Possibly, if we accept the Radical theories of
progress. I held them once in a very light-hearted way; I am now far
less disposed to accept them as even imaginably true. Those who are
enthusiastic for the spirit of the age proceed on the principle of
countenancing evil that good may some day come of it. Such a
position astonishes me. Is the happiness of a man now alive of less
account than that of the man who shall live two hundred. years
hence? Altruism is doubtless good, but only so when it gives pure
enjoyment; that is to say, when it is embraced. instinctively. Shall
I frown on a man because he _cannot_ find his bliss in altruism and
bid him perish to make room for a being more perfect? What right
have we to live thus in the far-off future? Thinking in this way, I
have a profound dislike and distrust of this same progress. Take one
feature of it--universal education. That, I believe, works most
patently for the growing misery I speak of. Its results affect all
classes, and all for the worse. I said that I used to have a very
bleeding of the heart for the half-clothed and quarter-fed
hangers-on to civilisation; I think far less of them now than of
another class in appearance much better off. It is a class created
by the mania of education, and it consists of those unhappy men and
women whom unspeakable cruelty endows with intellectual needs whilst
refusing them the sustenance they are taught to crave. Another
generation, and this class will be terribly extended, its existence
blighting the whole social state. Every one of these poor creatures
has a right to curse the work of those who clamour progress, and
pose as benefactors of their race.

'All that strikes me as very good and true,' remarked Hubert; 'but
can it be helped? Or do you refuse to believe in the modern
conception of laws ruling social development?'

'I wish I could do so. No; when I spoke of the right to curse, I
should have said, from their point of view. In truth, I fear we must
accept progress. But I cannot rejoice in it; I will even do what
little I can in my own corner to support the old order of things.
You may be aware that I was on very friendly terms with the
Mutimers, that I even seemed to encourage them in their Socialism.
Yes, and because I felt that in that way I could best discharge my
duty. What I really encouraged was sympathy and humanity. When
Mutimer came asking me to be present at his meetings I plainly
refused. To have held apart from him and his wife would have been as
wrong in me as to publicly countenance their politics.'

Mr. Wyvern was on the point of referring to his private reasons for
befriending Adela, but checked himself.

'What I made no secret of approving was their substitution of human
relations between employer and employed for the detestable "nexus of
cash payment," as Carlyle calls it. That is only a return to the
good old order, and it seems to me that it becomes more impossible
every day. Thus far I am with the Socialists, in that I denounce the
commercial class, the _bourgeois_, the capitalists--call them what
you will--as the supremely maleficent. They hold us at their mercy,
and their mercy is nought. Monstrously hypocritical, they cry for
progress when they mean increased opportunities of swelling their
own purses at the expense of those they employ, and of those they
serve; vulgar to the core, they exalt a gross ideal of well-being,
and stink in their prosperity. The very poor and the uncommercial
wealthy alike suffer from them; the intellect of the country is
poisoned by their influence. They it is who indeed are oppressors;
they grow rich on the toil of poor girls in London garrets and of men
who perish prematurely to support their children. I won't talk of
these people; I should lose my calm views of things and use language
too much like this of the "Fiery Cross."'

Hubert was thoughtful.

'What is before us?' he murmured.

'Evil; of that I am but too firmly assured. Progress will have its
way, and its path will be a path of bitterness. A pillar of dark
cloud leads it by day, and of terrible fire by night. I do not say
that the promised land may not lie ahead of its guiding, but woe is
me for the desert first to be traversed! Two vices are growing among
us to dread proportions--indifference and hatred: the one will let
poverty anguish at its door, the other will hound on the vassal
against his lord. Papers like the "Fiery Cross," even though such a
man as Westlake edit them, serve the cause of hatred; they preach,
by implication at all events, the childish theory of the equality of
men, and seek to make discontented a whole class which only needs
regular employment on the old conditions to be perfectly satisfied.'

'Westlake says here that they have no _right_ to be satisfied.'

'I know. It is one of the huge fallacies of the time; it comes of
the worship of progress. I am content with the fact that, even in
our bad day, as a class they _are_ satisfied. No, these reforms
address themselves to the wrong people; they begin at the wrong end.
Let us raise our voices, if we feel impelled to do so at all, for
the old simple Christian rules, and do our best to get the educated
by the ears. I have my opinion about the clergy; I will leave you to
guess it.'

'Have you any belief in the possibility of this revolution they
threaten?'

'None whatever. Changes will come about, but not of these men's
making or devising. And for the simple reason that they are not
sincere. I put aside an educated enthusiast such as Westlake. The
proletarian Socialists do not believe what they say, and therefore
they are so violent in saying it. They are not themselves of pure
and exalted character; they cannot ennoble others. If the movement
continue we shall see miserable examples of weakness led astray by
popularity, of despicable qualities aping greatness.'

He paused somewhat abruptly, for he was thinking of Mutimer, and did
not wish to make the application too obvious. Hubert restrained a
smile.

They parted shortly after, but not till Hubert had put one more
question.

'Do you, or do you not, approve of what I am doing down in the
valley?'

Mr. Wyvern thought a moment, and replied gravely:

'You being yourself, I approve it heartily. It will gladden my eyes
to see the grass growing when spring comes round.'

He shook Hubert's hand affectionately and left him.





CHAPTER XXX




We must concern ourselves for a little with the affairs of our old
acquaintance, Daniel Dabbs.

Daniel's disillusionment with regard to Richard Mutimer did not
affect his regularity of attendance at the Socialist lectures, in
most things a typical English mechanic, be was especially so in his
relation to the extreme politics of which he declared himself a
supporter. He became a Socialist because his friend Dick was one;
when that was no longer a reason, he numbered himself among the
followers of Comrade Roodhouse--first as a sort of angry protest,
against Mutimer's private treachery, then again because he had got
into the habit of listening to inflammatory discourses every Sunday
night, and on the whole found it a pleasant way of passing the
evening. He enjoyed the oratory of Messrs. Cowes and Cullen; he
liked to shout 'Hear, hear!' and to stamp when there was general
applause; it affected him with an agreeable sensation, much like
that which follows upon a good meal, to hear himself pitied as a
hard-working, ill-used fellow, and the frequent allusion to his
noble qualities sweetly flattered him. When he went, home to the
public-house after a lively debate, and described the proceedings to
his brother Nicholas, he always ended by declaring that it was 'as
good as a play.'

He read the 'Tocsin,' that is to say, he glanced his eye up and down
the columns and paused wherever he caught words such as 'villains,'
'titled scoundrels,' 'vampires,' and so on. The expositions of
doctrine he passed over; anything in the nature of reasoning muddled
him. From hearing them incessantly repeated he knew the root
theories of Socialism, and could himself hold forth on such texts as
'the community of the means of production' with considerable fluency
and vehemence; but in very fact he concerned himself as little with
economic reforms as with the principles of high art, and had as
little genuine belief in the promised revolution as in the
immortality of his own soul. Had he been called upon to suffer in
any way for the 'cause of the people,' it would speedily have been
demonstrated of what metal his enthusiasm was made.

But there came a different kind of test. In the winter which
followed upon Mutimer's downfall, Nicholas Dabbs fell ill and died.
He was married but had no children, and his wife had been separated
from him for several years. His brother Daniel found himself in
flourishing circumstances, with a public-house which brought in
profits of forty pounds a week It goes without saying that Daniel
forthwith abandoned his daily labour and installed himself behind
the bar. The position suited him admirably; with a barmaid and a
potman at his orders (he paid them no penny more than the market
rate), he stood about in his shirt sleeves and gossiped from morn to
midnight with such of his friends as had leisure (and money) to
spend in the temple of Bacchus. From the day that saw him a licensed
victualler he ceased to attend the Socialist meetings; it was, of
course, a sufficient explanation to point to the fact that he could
not be in two places at the same time, for Sunday evening is a
season of brisk business in the liquor trade. At first he was
reticent on the subject of his old convictions, but by degrees he
found it possible to achieve the true innkeeper's art, and speak
freely in a way which could offend none of his customers. And he
believed himself every bit as downright and sincere as he had ever
been.

Comfortably established on a capitalist basis, his future assured
because it depended upon the signal vice of his class, it one day
occurred to Daniel that he ought to take to himself a helpmeet, a
partner of his joys and sorrows. He had thought of it from time to
time during the past year, but only in a vague way; he had even
directed his eyes to the woman who might perchance be the one most
suitable, though with anything but assurance of his success if he
seriously endeavoured to obtain her. Long ago he had ceased to
trouble himself about his first love; with characteristic acceptance
of the accomplished fact, he never really imagined that Alice
Mutimer, after she became an heiress, could listen to his wooing,
and, to do him justice, he appreciated the delicacy of his position,
if he should continue to press his suit. It cost him not a little
suffering altogether to abandon his hopes, for the Princess had
captivated him, and if he could have made her his wife he would--for
at least twelve months--have been a proud and exultant man. But all
that was over; Daniel was heart-free, when he again began to occupy
himself with womankind; it was a very different person towards whom
he found himself attracted. This was Emma Vine.

After that chance meeting with Mrs. Clay in the omnibus he lost
sight of the sisters for a while, but one day Kate came to the
public-house and desired to see him. She was in great misery. Emma
had fallen ill, gravely ill, and Kate had no money to pay a doctor.
The people in the house, where she lodged were urging her to send
for the parish doctor, but that was an extremity to be avoided as
long as a single hope remained. She had come to borrow a few
shillings> in order that she might take Emma in a cab to the
hospital; perhaps they would receive her as an in-patient. Daniel
put his hand in his pocket. He did more; though on the point of
returning from breakfast to his work, he sacrificed the morning to
accompany Mrs. Clay and help her to get the sick girl to the
hospital. Fortunately it was found possible to give her a bed; Emma
remained in the hospital for seven weeks.

Daniel was not hasty in forming attachments. During the seven weeks
he called three or four times to inquire of Mrs. Clay what progress
her sister was making, but when Emma came home again, and resumed
her usual work, he seemed to have no further interest in her. At
length Kate came to the public-house one Saturday night and wished
to pay back half the loan. Daniel shook his head. 'All right, Mrs.
Clay; don't you hurt yourself. Let it wait till you're a bit better
off.' Nicholas was behind the bar, and when Kate had gone he asked
his brother if he hadn't observed something curious in Mrs. Clay's
behaviour. Daniel certainly had; the brothers agreed that she must
have been drinking rather more than was good for her.

'I shouldn't wonder,' said Daniel, 'if she started with the whole o'
the money.'

Which, indeed, was a true conjecture.

Time went on, and Daniel had been six months a licensed victualler.
It was summer once more, and thirsty weather. Daniel stood behind
the bar in his shirt sleeves, collarless for personal ease, with a
white waistcoat, and trousers of light tweed. Across his stomach,
which already was more portly than in his engineering days, swayed a
heavy gold chain; on one of his fingers was a demonstrative ring.
His face and neck were very red; his hair, cropped extremely short,
gleamed with odorous oils. You could see that he prided himself on
the spotlessness of his linen; his cuffs were turned up to avoid
alcoholic soilure; their vast links hung loose for better observance
by customers. Daniel was a smiling and a happy man.

It was early on Sunday evening; Hoxton had shaken itself from the
afternoon slumber, had taken a moderate tea, and was in no two minds
about the entirely agreeable way of getting through the hours till
bedtime. Daniel beamed on the good thirsty souls who sought refuge
under his roof from the still warm rays of the sun. Whilst seeing
that no customer lacked due attention, he conversed genially with a
group of his special friends. One of these had been present at a
meeting held on Clerkenwell Green that morning, a meeting assembled
to hear Richard Mutimer. Richard, a year having passed since his
temporary eclipse, was once more prominent as a popular leader. He
was addressing himself to the East End especially, and had a scheme
to propound which, whatever might be its success or the opposite,
kept him well before the eyes of men.

'What's all this 'ere about?' cried one of the group in an
impatiently contemptuous tone. 'I can't see nothin' in it myself.'

'I can see as he wants money,' observed another, laughing. 'There's
a good many ways o' gettin' money without earnin' it, particular if
you've got a tongue as goes like a steam engine.'

'I don't think so bad of him as all that,' said the man who had
attended the meeting. ''Tain't for himself as he wants the money.
What do _you_ think o' this 'ere job, Dan?'

'I'll tell you more about that in a year's time,' replied Dabbs,
thrusting his fingers into his waistcoat pockets. ''Cording to Mike,
we're all goin' to be rich before we know it. Let's hope it'll come
true.'

He put his tongue in his cheek and let his eye circle round the
group.

'Seems to me,' said the contemptuous man, 'he'd better look after
his own people first. Charity begins at 'ome, eh, mates?'

'What do you mean by that?' inquired a voice.

'Why, isn't his brother--what's his name? Bill--Jack--'

''Arry,' corrected Daniel.

'To be sure, 'Arry; I don't know him myself, but I 'eard talk of
him. It's him as is doin' his three months' 'ard labour.'

'That ain't no fault o' Dick Mutimer's,' asserted the apologist. 'He
always was a bad 'un, that 'Arry. Why, you can say so much, Dan? No,
no, I don't 'old with a man's bein' cried down cause he's got a
brother as disgraces himself. It was Dick as got him his place, an'
a good place it was. It wasn't Dick as put him up to thievin', I
suppose?'

'No, no, that's right enough,' said Dabbs. 'Let a man be judged by
his own sayin's and doin's. There's queer stories about Dick Mutimer
himself, but--was it Scotch or Irish, Mike?'

Mike had planted his glass on the counter in a manner suggesting
replenishment.

'Now that's what I call a cruel question!' cried Mike humorously.
'The man as doesn't stick to his country, I don't think much of
him.'

The humour was not remarkable, but it caused a roar of laughter to
go up.

'Now what I want to know,' exclaimed one, returning to the main
subject, 'is where Mutimer gets his money to live on. He does no
work, we know that much.'

'He told us all about that this mornin',' replied the authority. 'He
has friends as keeps him goin', that's all. As far as I can make out
it's a sort o' subscription.'

'Now, there you are!' put in Daniel with half a sneer. 'I don't call
that Socialism. Let a man support himself by his own work, then he's
got a right to say what he likes. No, no, _we_ know what Socialism
means, eh, Tom?'

The man appealed to answered with a laugh.

'Well, blest if I do, Dan! There's so many kinds o' Socialism
nowadays. Which lot does he pretend to belong to? There's the "Fiery
Cross," and there's Roodhouse with his "Tocsin," and now I s'pose
Dick'll be startin' another paper of his own.'

'No, no,' replied Mutimer's supporter. 'He holds by the "Fiery
Cross" still, so he said this mornin'. I've no opinion o' Roodhouse
myself. He makes a deal o' noise, but I can't 'see as he _does_
anything.'

'You won't catch Dick Mutimer sidin' with Roodhouse,' remarked
Daniel with a wink. 'That's an old story, eh, Tom?'

Thus the talk went on, and the sale of beverages kept pace with it.
About eight o'clock the barmaid informed Daniel that Mrs. Clay
wished to see him. Kate had entered the house by the private door,
and was sitting in the bar-parlour. Daniel went to her at once.

She was more slovenly in appearance than ever, and showed all the
signs of extreme poverty. Her face was not merely harsh and sour, it
indicated a process of degradation. The smile with which she greeted
Daniel was disagreeable through excessive anxiety to be
ingratiating. Her eyes were restless and shrewd. Daniel sat down
opposite to her, and rested his elbows on the table.

'Well, how's all at 'ome?' he began, avoiding her look as he spoke.

'Nothing much to boast of,' Kate replied with an unpleasant giggle.
'We keep alive.'

'Emma all right?'

'She's all right, except for her bad 'ead-aches. She's had another
of 'em this week. But I think it's a bit better to-day.'

'She'll have a rest to-morrow.'

The following day was the August bank-holiday.

'No, she'll have no rest. She's going to do some cleaning in Goswell
Road.'

Daniel drummed with his fingers on the table.

'She isn't fit to do it, that's quite certain,' Mrs. Clay continued.
'I wish I could get her out for an hour or two. She wants fresh air,
that's what it is. I s'pose you're going somewhere to-morrow?'

It was asked insinuatingly, and at the same time with an air of
weary resignation.

'Well, I did think o' gettin' as far as Epping Forest. D'you think
you could persuade Emma to come? you and the children as well, you
know. I'll have the mare out if she will.'

'I can ask her and see. It 'ud be a rare treat for us. I feel myself
as if I couldn't hold up much longer, it's that hot!'

She threw a glance towards the bar.

'Will you have a bottle o' lemonade?' Daniel asked.

'It's very kind of you. I've a sort o' fainty feeling. If you'd just
put ever such a little drop in it, Mr. Dabbs.'

Daniel betrayed a slight annoyance. But he went to the door and gave
the order.

'Still at the same place?' he asked on resuming his seat.

'Emma, you mean? Yes, but it's only been half a week's work, this
last. And I've as good as nothing to do. There's the children
runnin' about with no soles to their feet.'

The lemonade--with a dash in it--was brought to her, and she
refreshed herself with a deep draught. Perhaps the dash was not
perceptible enough; she did not seem entirely satisfied, though
pretending to be so.

'Suppose I come round to-night and ask her myself?' Daniel said, as
the result of a short reflection.

'It 'ud be kind of you if you would, Mr. Dabbs. I'm afraid she'll
tell me she can't afford to lose the day.'

He consulted his watch, then again reflected, still drumming on the
table.

'All right, we'll go,' he said, rising from his chair.

His coat was hanging on a peg behind the door. He drew it on, and
went to tell the barmaid that he should be absent exactly twenty
minutes. It was Daniel's policy to lead his underlings to expect
that he might return at any moment, though he would probably be away
a couple of hours.

The sisters were now living in a street crossing the angle between
Goswell Road and the City Road. Daniel was not, as a rule, lavish in
his expenditure, but he did not care to walk any distance, and there
was no line of omnibuses available. He took a hansom.

It generally fell to Emma's share to put her sister's children to
bed, for Mrs. Clay was seldom at home in the evening. But for Emma,
indeed, the little ones would have been sadly off for motherly care.
Kate had now and then a fit of maternal zeal, but it usually ended
in impatience and slappings; for the most part she regarded her
offspring as encumbrance, and only drew attention to them when she
wished to impress people with the hardships of her lot. The natural
result was that the boy and girl only knew her as mother by name;
they feared her, and would shrink to Emma's side when Kate began to
speak crossly.

All dwelt together in one room, for life was harder than ever.
Emma's illness had been the beginning of a dark and miserable time.
Whilst she was in the hospital her sister took the first steps on
the path which leads to destruction; with scanty employment, much
time to kill, never a sufficiency of food, companions only too like
herself in their distaste for home duties and in the misery of their
existence, poor Kate got into the habit of straying aimlessly about
the streets, and, the inevitable consequence, of seeking warmth and
company in the public-house. Her children lived as the children of
such mothers do: they played on the stairs or on the pavements, had
accidents, were always dirty, cried themselves to sleep in hunger
and pain. When Emma returned, still only fit for a convalescent
home, she had to walk about day after day in search of work,
conciliating the employers whom Mrs. Clay had neglected or
disgusted, undertaking jobs to which her strength was inadequate,
and, not least, striving her hardest to restore order in the
wretched home. It was agreed that Kate should use the machine at
home, whilst Emma got regular employment in a workroom.

Emma never heard of that letter which her sister wrote to Mutimer's
wife. Kate had no expectation that help would come of it; she hoped
that it had done Mutimer harm, and the hope had to satisfy her. She
durst not let Emma suspect that she had done such a thing.

Emma heard, however, of the loan from Daniel Dabbs, and afterwards
thanked him for his kindness, but she resolutely set her face
against the repetition of such favours, though Daniel would have
willingly helped when she came out of the hospital. Kate, of course,
was for accepting anything that was offered; she lost her temper,
and accused Emma of wishing to starve the children. But she was
still greatly under her sister's influence, and when Emma declared
that there must be a parting between them if she discovered that
anything was secretly accepted from Mr. Dabbs, Kate sullenly yielded
the point.

Daniel was aware of all this, and it made an impression upon him.

To-night Emma was as usual left alone with the children. After tea,
when Kate left the house, she sat down to the machine and worked for
a couple of hours; for her there was small difference between Sunday
and week day. Whilst working she told the children stories; it was a
way of beguiling them from their desire to go and play in the
street. They were strange stories, half recollected from a childhood
which, had promised better things than a maidenhood of garret
misery, half Emma's own invention. They had a grace, a spontaneity,
occasionally an imaginative brightness, which would have made them,
if they had been taken down from the lips, models of tale-telling
for children. Emma had two classes of story: the one concerned
itself with rich children, the, other with poor; the one highly
fanciful, the other full of a touching actuality, the very essence
of a life such as that led by the listeners themselves. Unlike the
novel which commends itself to the world's grown children, these
narratives had by no means necessarily a happy ending; for one thing
Emma saw too deeply into the facts of life, and was herself too sad,
to cease her music on a merry chord; and, moreover, it was half a
matter of principle with her to make the little ones thoughtful and
sympathetic; she believed that they would grow up kinder and more
self-reliant if they were in the habit of thinking that we are ever
dependent on each other for solace and strengthening under the
burden of life. The most elaborate of her stories, one wholly of her
own invention, was called 'Blanche and Janey.' It was a double
biography. Blanche and Janey were born on the same day, they lived
ten years, and then died on the same day. But Blanche was, the child
of wealthy parents; Janey was born, in a garret. Their lives were
recounted in parallel, almost year by year, and, there was sadness
in the contrast. Emma had chosen the name of the poor child in
memory of her own sister, her ever dear Jane, whose life had been a
life of sorrow.

The story ended thus:

'Yes, they died on the same day, and they were buried, on the same
day. But not in the same cemetery, oh no! Blanche's grave is far
away over there'--she pointed to the west--'among tombstones
covered with flowers, and her father and mother go every Sunday to
read her name, and think and talk of her. Janey was buried far away
over yonder'--she pointed to the east--'but there is no stone on her
grave, and no one knows the exact place where she lies, and no one,
no one ever goes to think and talk of her.'

The sweetness of the story lay in the fact that the children were
both good, and both deserved to be happy; it never occurred to Emma
to teach her hearers to hate little Blanche just because hers was
the easier lot.

Whatever might be her secret suffering, with the little ones Emma
was invariably patient and tender. However dirty they had made,
themselves during the day, however much they cried when hunger made
them irritable, they went to their aunt's side with the assurance of
finding gentleness in reproof and sympathy with their troubles. Yet
once she was really angry. Bertie told her a deliberate untruth, and
she at once discovered it. She stood silent for a few moments,
looking as Bertie had never seen her look. Then she said:

'Do you know, Bertie, that it is wrong to try and deceive?'

Then she tried to, make him understand why falsehood was evil, and
as she spoke to the child her voice quivered, her breast heaved.
When the little fellow was overcome, and began to sob, Emma checked
herself, recollecting that she had lost sight of the offender's age,
and was using expressions which he could not understand. But the
lesson was effectual. If ever the brother and sister were tempted to
hide anything by a falsehood they remembered 'Aunt Emma's' face, and
durst not incur the danger of her severity.

So she told her stories to the humming of the machine, and when it
was nearly the children's bedtime she broke off to ask them if they
would like some bread and butter. Among all the results of her
poverty the bitterest to Emma was when she found herself _hoping
that the children would not eat much_. If their appetite was poor it
made her anxious about their health, yet it happened sometimes that
she feared to ask them if they were hungry lest the supply of bread
should fail. It was so to-night. The week's earnings had been three
shillings; the rent itself was four. But the children were as ready
to eat as if they had had no tea. It went to her heart to give them
each but one half-slice and tell them that they could have no more.
Gladly she would have robbed herself of breakfast next morning on
their account, but that she durst not do, for she had undertaken to
scrub out an office in Goswell Road, and she knew that her strength
would fail if she went from home fasting.

She put them to bed--they slept together on a small bedstead, which
was a chair during the day--and then sat down to do some patching
at a dress of Kate's. Her face when she communed with her own
thoughts was profoundly sad, but far from the weakness of self-pity.
Indeed she did her best not to think of herself; she knew that to do
so cost her struggles with feelings she held to be evil, resentment
and woe of passion and despair. She tried to occupy herself solely
with her sister and the children, planning how to make Kate more
home-loving and how to find the little ones more food.

She had no companions. The girls whom she came to know in the
workroom for the most part took life very easily; she could not
share in their genuine merriment; she was often revolted by their
way of thinking and speaking. They thought her dull; and paid no
attention to her. She was glad to be relieved of the necessity of
talking.

Her sister thought her hard. Kate believed that she was for ever
brooding over her injury. This was not true, but a certain hardness
in her character there certainly was. For her life, both of soul and
body, was ascetic; she taught herself to expect, to hope for,
nothing. When she was hungry she had a sort of pleasure in enduring;
when weary she worked on as if by effort she could overcome the
feeling. But Kate's chief complaint against her was her
determination to receive no help save in the way of opportunity to
earn money. This was something more than, ordinary pride. Emma
suffered intensely in the recollection that she had lived at
Mutimer's expense during the very months when he was seeking the
love of another woman, and casting about for means of abandoning
herself. When she thought of Alice coming with the proposal that she
and her sister should still occupy the house in Wilton Square, and
still receive money, the heat of shame and anger never failed to
rise to her cheeks. She could never accept from anyone again a penny
which she had not earned. She believed that Daniel Dabbs had been
repaid, otherwise she could not have rested a moment.

It was her terrible misfortune to have feelings too refined for the
position in which fate had placed her. Had she only been like those
other girls in the workroom! But we are interesting in proportion to
our capacity for suffering, and dignity comes of misery nobly borne.

As she sat working on Kate's dress, she was surprised to hear a
heavy step approaching. There came a knock at the door; she
answered, admitting Daniel.

He looked about the room, partly from curiosity, partly through
embarrassment. Dusk was falling.

'Young 'uns in bed?' he said, lowering his voice.

'Yes, they are asleep,' Emma replied.

'You don't mind me coming up?'

'Oh no!'

He went to the window and looked at the houses opposite, then at the
flushed sky.

'Bank holiday to-morrow. I thought I'd like to ask you whether you
and Mrs. Clay and the children 'ud come with me to Epping Forest. If
it's a day like this, it'll be a nice drive--do you good. You look
as if you wanted a breath of fresh air, if you don't mind me sayin'
it.'

'It's very kind of you, Mr. Dabbs,' Emma replied. 'I am very sorry I
can't come myself, but my sister and the children perhaps--'

She could not refuse for them likewise, yet she was troubled to
accept so far.

'But why can't _you_ come?' he asked good-naturedly, slapping his
hat against his leg.

'I have some work that'll take me nearly all day.'

'But you've no business to work on a bank holiday. I'm not sure as
it ain't breakin' the law.'

He laughed, and Emma did her best to show a smile. But she said
nothing.

'But you _will_ come, now? You can lose just the one day? It'll do
you a power o' good. You'll work all the better on Tuesday, now see
if you don't. Why, it ain't worth livin', never to get a holiday.'

'I'm very sorry. It was very kind indeed of you to think of it, Mr.
Dabbs. I really can't come.'

He went again to the window, and thence to the children's bedside.
He bent a little and watched them breathing.

'Bertie's growin' a fine little lad.'

'Yes, indeed, he is.'

'He'll have to go to school soon, I s'pose--I'm afraid he gives you
a good deal of trouble, that is, I mean--you know how I mean it.'

'Oh, he is very good,' Emma said, looking at the sleeping face
affectionately.

'Yes, yes.'

Daniel had meant something different; he saw that Emma would not
understand him.

'We see changes in life,' he resumed, musingly. 'Now who'd a'
thought I should end up with having more money than I. know how to
use? The 'ouse has done well for eight years now, an' it's likely to
do well for a good many years yet, as far as I can see.'

'I am glad to hear that,' Emma replied constrainedly.

'Miss Vine, I wanted you to come to Epping Forest to-morrow because
I thought I should have a chance of a little talk. I don't mean that
was the only reason; it's too bad you never get a holiday, and I
should like it to a' done you good. But I thought I might a' found a
chance o' sayin' something, something I've thought of a long time,
and that's the honest truth. I want to help you and your sister and
the young 'uns, but _you_ most of all. I don't like to see you
livin' such a hard life, 'cause you deserve something better, if
ever anyone did. Now will you let me help you? There's only one way,
and it's the way I'd like best of any. The long an' the short of it
is, I want to ask you if you'll come an' live at the 'ouse, come and
bring Mrs. Clay an' the children?'

Emma looked at him in surprise and felt uncertain of his meaning,
though his speech had painfully prepared her with an answer.

'I'd do my right down best to make you a good 'usband, that I would,
Emma!' Daniel hurried on, getting flustered. 'Perhaps I've been a
bit too sudden? Suppose we leave it till you've had time to think
over? It's no good talking to you about money an' that kind o'
thing; you'd marry a poor man as soon as a rich, if only you cared
in the right way for him. I won't sing my own praises, but I don't
think you'd find much to complain of in me. I'd never ask you to go
into the bar, 'cause I know you ain't suited for that, and, what's
more, I'd rather you didn't. Will you give it a thought?'

It was modest enough, and from her knowledge of the man Emma felt
that he was to be trusted for more than his word. But he asked an
impossible thing. She could not imagine herself consenting to marry
any man, but the reasons why she could not marry Daniel Dabbs were
manifold. She felt them all, but it was only needful to think of
one.

Yet it was a temptation, and the hour of it might have been chosen.
With a scarcity of food for the morrow, with dark fears for her
sister, suffering incessantly on the children's account, Emma might
have been pardoned if she had taken the helping hand. But the
temptation, though it unsteadied her brain for a moment, could never
have overcome her. She would have deemed it far less a crime to go
out and steal a loaf from the baker's shop than to marry Daniel
because he offered rescue from destitution.

She refused him, as gently as she could, but with firmness which
left him no room for misunderstanding her. Daniel was awed by her
quiet sincerity.

'But I can wait,' he stammered; 'if you'd take time to think it
over?'

Useless; the answer could at no time be other.

'Well, I've no call to grumble,' he said. 'You say straight out what
you mean. No woman can do fairer than that.'

His thought recurred for a moment to Alice, whose fault had been
that she was ever ambiguous.

'It's hard to bear. I don't think I shall ever care to marry any
other woman. But you're doin' the right thing and the honest thing;
I wish all women was like you.'

At the door he turned.

'There'd be no harm if I take Mrs. Clay and the children, would
there?'

'I am sure they will thank you, Mr. Dabbs.'

It did not matter now that there was a clear understanding.

At a little distance from the house door Daniel found Mrs. Clay
waiting.

'No good,' he said cheerlessly.

'She won't go?'

'No. But I'll take you and the children, if you'll come.'

Kate did not immediately reply. A grave disappointment showed itself
in her face.

'Can't be helped,' Daniel replied to her look. 'I did my best'

Kate accepted his invitation, and they arranged the hour of meeting.
As she approached the house to enter, flow looking ill-tempered, a
woman of her acquaintance met her. After a few minutes' conversation
they walked away together.

Emma sat up till twelve o'clock. The thought on which she was
brooding was not one to make the time go lightly; it was--how much
and how various evil can be wrought by a single act of treachery.
And the instance in her mind was more fruitful than her knowledge
allowed her to perceive.

Kate appeared shortly after midnight. She had very red cheeks and
very bright eyes, and her mood was quarrelsome. She sat down on the
bed and began to talk of Daniel Dabbs, as she had often done
already, in a maundering way. Emma kept silence; she was beginning
to undress.

'There's a man with money,' said Kate, her voice getting louder;
'money, I tell you, and you've only to say a word. And you won't
even be civil to him. You've got no feeling; you don't care for
nobody but yourself. I'll take the children and leave you to go your
own way, that's what I'll do!'

It was hard to make no reply, but Emma succeeded in commanding
herself. The maundering talk went on for more than an hour. Then
came the wretched silence of night.

Emma did not sleep. She was too wobegone to find a tear. Life stood
before her in the darkness like a hideous spectre.

In the morning she told her sister that Daniel had asked her to
marry him and that she had refused. It was best to have that
understood. Kate heard with black brows. But even yet she knew
something of shame when she remembered her return home the night
before; it kept her from giving utterance to her anger.

There followed a scene such as had occurred two or three times
during the past six months. Emma threw aside all her coldness, and
with passionate entreaty besought her sister to draw back from the
gulf's edge whilst there was yet time. For her own sake, for the
sake of Bertie and the little girl, by the memory of that dear dead
one who lay in the waste cemetery!

'Pity me, too! Think a little of me, Kate dear! You are driving me
to despair.'

Kate was moved, she had not else been human. The children were
looking up with frightened, wondering eyes. She hid her face and
muttered promises of amendment.

Emma kissed her, and strove hard to hope.





CHAPTER XXXI




With his five hundred pounds lodged in the bank, Mutimer felt ill at
ease in the lodgings in Pentonville. He began to look bout for an
abode more suitable to the dignity of his position, and shortly
discovered a house in Holloway, the rent twenty-eight pounds, the
situation convenient for his purposes. By way of making some amends
to Adela for his less than civil behaviour, he took the house and
had it modestly furnished (at the cost of one hundred and ten
pounds) before saying anything to her of his plans. Then, on the
pretext of going to search for pleasanter lodgings, he one day took
her to Holloway and led her into her own dwelling. Adela was
startled, but did her best to seem grateful.

They returned to Pentonville, settled their accounts, packed their
belongings, and by evening were able to sit down to a dinner cooked
by their own servant--under Adela's supervision. Mutimer purchased a
couple of bottles of claret on the way home, that the first evening
might be wholly cheerful. Of a sudden he had become a new man; the
sullenness had passed, and he walked from room to room with much the
same air of lofty satisfaction as when he first surveyed the
interior of Wanley Manor. He made a show of reading in the hour
before dinner, but could not keep still for more than a few minutes
at a time; he wanted to handle the furniture, to survey the prospect
from the windows, to walk out into the road and take a general view
of the house. When their meal had begun, and the servant, instructed
to wait at table, chanced to be out of the room, he remarked:

'We'll begin, of course, to dine at the proper time again. It's far
better, don't you think so?'

'Yes, I think so.'

'And, by-the-by, you'll see that Mary has a cap.'

Adela smiled.

'Yes, I'll see she has.'

Mary herself entered. Some impulse she did not quite understand led
Adela to look at the girl in her yet capless condition. She said
something which would require Mary to answer, and found herself
wondering at the submissive tone, the repeated 'Mum.'

'Yes,' she mused with herself, 'she is our creature. We pay her and
she must attire herself to suit our ideas of propriety. She must
remember her station.'

'What is it?' Mutimer asked, noticing that she bad again smiled.

'Nothing.'

His pipe lit, his limbs reposing in the easy-chair, Mutimer became
expansive. He requested Adela's attention whilst he rendered a full
account of all the moneys he had laid out, and made a computation of
the cost of living on this basis.

'The start once made,' he said, 'you see it isn't a bit dearer than
the lodgings. And the fact is, I couldn't have done much in that
hole. Now here, I feel able to go to work. It isn't in reality
spending money on ourselves, though it may look like it. You see I
must have a place where people can call to see me; we'd no room
before.'

He mused.

'You'll write and tell your mother?'

'Yes.'

'Don't say anything about the money. You haven't done yet, I
suppose?'

'No.'

'Better not That's our own business. You can just say you're more
comfortable. Of course,' he added, 'there's no secret. I shall let
people understand in time that I am carrying out the wishes of a
Socialist friend. That's simple enough. But there's no need to talk
about it just yet. I must get fairly going first.'

His face gathered light as he proceeded.

'Ah, _now_ I'll do something! see if I don't. You see, the fact of
the matter is, there are some men who are cut out for leading in a
movement, and I have the kind of feeling--well, for one thing, I'm
readier at public speaking than most. You think so, don't you?'

Adela was sewing together some chintzes. She kept her eyes closely
on the work.

'Yes, I think so.'

'Now the first thing I shall get done,' her husband pursued, a
little disappointed that she gave no warmer assent, 'is that book,
"My Work at New Wanley." The Union 'll publish it. It ought to have
a good sale in Belwick and round about there. You see I must get my
name well known; that's everything. When I've got that off hand,
then I shall begin on the East End. I mean to make the East End my
own ground. I'll see if something can't be done to stir 'em up. I
haven't quite thought it out yet. There must be some way of getting
them to take an interest in Socialism. Now we'll see what can be
done in twelve months. What'll you bet me that I don't add a
thousand members to the Union in this next year?'

'I dare say you can.'

'There's no "dare say" about it. I mean to! I begin to think I've
special good luck; things always turn out right in the end. When I
lost my work because I was a Socialist, then came Wanley. Now I've
lost Wanley, and here comes five hundred a year for ten years! I
wonder who that poor fellow may be? I suppose he'll die soon, and
then no doubt we shall hear his name. I only wish there were a few
more like him.'

'The East End!' he resumed presently. 'That's my ground. I'll make
the East End know me as well as they know any man in England. What
we want is personal influence. It's no use asking them to get
excited about a _movement_; they must have a _man_. Just the same in
_bourgeois_ politics. It isn't Liberalism they care for; it's
Gladstone. Wait and see!'

He talked for three hours, at times as if he were already on the
platform before a crowd of East Enders who were shouting, 'Mutimer
for ever!' Adela fell into physical weariness; at length she with
difficulty kept her eyes open. His language was a mere buzzing in
her ears; her thoughts were far away.

'My Work at New Wanley' was written and published; Keene had the
glory of revising the manuscript. It made a pamphlet of thirty-two
pages, and was in reality an autobiography. It presented the ideal
working man; the author stood as a type for ever of the noble
possibilities inherent in his class. Written of course in the first
person, it contained passages of monumental self-satisfaction.
Adela, too, was mentioned; to her horror she found a glowing
description of the work she had done among the women and children.
After reading that page she threw the pamphlet aside and hid her
face in her hands. She longed for the earth to cover her.

But the publication had no sale worth speaking of. A hundred copies
were got rid of at the Socialist centres, and a couple of hundred
more when the price was reduced from twopence to a penny. This would
not satisfy Mutimer. He took the remaining three hundred off the
hands of the Union and sowed them broadcast over the East End, where
already he was actively at work. Then he had a thousand more struck
off, and at every meeting which he held gave away numerous copies.
Keene wrote to suggest that in a new edition there should be a
woodcut portrait of the author on the front. Mutimer was delighted
with the idea, and at once had it carried out.

Through. this winter and the spring that followed he worked hard. It
had become a necessity of his existence to hear his name on the lips
of men, to be perpetually in evidence. Adela saw that day by day his
personal vanity grew more absorbing. When he returned from a meeting
he would occupy her for hours with a recitation of the speeches he
had made, with a minute account of what others had said of him. He
succeeded in forming a new branch of the Union in Clerkenwell, and
by contributing half the rent obtained a room for meetings. In this
branch he was King Mutimer.

In the meantime the suit against Rodman was carried through, it
could have of course but one result. Rodman was sold up; but the
profit accruing to Hubert Eldon was trifling, for the costs were
paid out of the estate, and it appeared that Rodman, making hay
whilst the sun shone, had spent all but the whole of his means.
There remained the question whether he was making fraudulent
concealments. Mutimer was morally convinced that this was the case,
and would vastly have enjoyed laying his former friend by the heels
for the statutable six weeks, but satisfactory proofs were not to be
obtained. Through Mr. Yottle, Eldon expressed the desire that, as
far as he was concerned, the matter might rest. But it was by no
means with pure zeal for justice that Mutimer had proceeded thus
far. He began the suit in anger, and, as is wont to be the case with
litigants, grew more bitter as it went on. The selling up of
Rodman's house was an occasion of joy to him; he went about singing
and whistling.

Adela marvelled that he could so entirely forget the sufferings of
his sister; she had had so many proofs of his affection for Alice.
In fact he was far from forgetting her, but he made strange
distinction between her and her husband, and had a feeling that in
doing his utmost to injure Rodman he was in a manner avenging Alice.
His love for Alice was in no degree weakened, but--if the state can
be understood--he was jealous of the completeness with which she had
abandoned him to espouse the cause of her husband. Alice had
renounced her brother; she never saw him, and declared that she
never would speak to him again. And Mutimer had no fear lest she
should suffer want. Rodman had a position of some kind in the City;
he and his wife lived for a while in lodgings, then took a house at
Wimbledon.

One of Mutimer's greatest anxieties had been lest he should have a
difficulty henceforth in supporting his mother in the old house. The
economical plan would have been for Adela and himself to go and live
with the old woman, but he felt that to be impossible. His mother
would never become reconciled to Adela, and, if the truth must be
told, he was ashamed to make known to Adela his mother's excessive
homeliness. Then again he was still estranged from the old woman.
Though he often thought of what Alice had said to him on that point,
month after month went by and he could not make up his mind to go to
Wilton Square. Having let the greater part of her house, Mrs.
Mutimer needed little pecuniary aid; once she returned money which
he had sent to her 'Arry still lived with her, and 'Arry was a
never-ending difficulty. After his appearance in the police court,
he retired for a week or two into private life; that is to say, he
contented himself with loafing about the streets of Hoxton and the
City, and was at home by eleven o'clock nightly, perfectly sober.
The character of this young man was that of a distinct class,
comprising the sons of mechanics who are ruined morally by being
taught to consider themselves above manual labour. Had he from the
first been put to a craft, he would in all likelihood have been no
worse than the ordinary English artisan--probably drinking too much
and loafing on Mondays, but not sinking below the level of his
fellows in the workshop. His positive fault was that shared by his
brother and sister--personal vanity. It was encouraged from the
beginning by immunity from the only kind of work for which he was
fitted, and the undreamt-of revolution in his prospects gave fatal
momentum to all his worst tendencies. Keene and Rodman successively
did their best, though unintentionally, to ruin him. He was now
incapable of earning his living by any continuous work. Since his
return to London he had greatly extended his circle of
acquaintances, which consisted of idle fellows of the same type,
youths who hang about the lowest fringe of clerkdom till they
definitely class themselves either with the criminal community or
with those who make a living by unrecognised pursuits which at any
time may chance to bring them within the clutches of the law. To use
a coarse but expressive word, he was a hopeless blackguard.

Let us be just; 'Arry had, like every other man, his better moments.
He knew that he had made himself contemptible to his mother, to
Richard, and to Alice, and the knowledge was so far from agreeable
that it often drove him to recklessness. That was his way of doing
homage to the better life; he had no power of will to resist
temptation, but he could go to meet it doggedly out of sheer
dissatisfaction with himself. Our social state ensures destruction
to such natures; it has no help for them, no patient encouragement.
Naturally he hardened himself in vicious habits. Despised by his own
people, he soothed his injured vanity by winning a certain
predominance among the contemptible. The fact that he had been on
the point of inheriting a fortune in itself gave him standing; he
told his story in public-houses and elsewhere, and relished the
distinction of having such a story to tell. Even as his brother
Richard could not rest unless he was prominent as an agitator, so it
became a necessity to 'Arry to lead in the gin-palace and the
music-hall. He made himself the aristocrat of rowdyism.

But it was impossible to live without ready money, and his mother,
though supplying him with board and lodging, refused to give him a
penny. He made efforts on his own account to obtain employment, but
without result. At last there was nothing for it but to humble
himself before Richard.

He did it with an ill-enough grace. Early one morning he presented
himself at the house in Holloway. Richard was talking with his wife
in the sitting-room, breakfast being still on the table. On the
visitor's name being brought to him, he sent Adela away and allowed
the scapegrace to be admitted.

'Arry shuffled to a seat and sat leaning forward, holding his hat
between his knees.

'Well, what do you want?' Richard asked severely. He was glad that
'Arry had at length come, and he enjoyed assuming the magisterial
attitude.

'I want to find a place,' 'Arry replied, without looking up, and in
a dogged voice. 'I've been trying to get one, and I can't. I think
you might help a feller.'

'What's the good of helping you? You'll be turned out of any place
in a week or two.'

'No, I shan't!'

'What sort of a place do you want?'

'A clerk's, of course.'

He pronounced the word 'clerk' as it is spelt; it made him seem yet
more ignoble.

'Have you given up drink?'

No answer

'Before I try to help you,' said Mutimer, 'you'll have to take the
pledge.'

'All right!' 'Arry muttered.

Then a thought occurred to Richard. Bidding his brother stay where
he was, he went in search of Adela and found her in an upper room.

'He's come to ask me to help him to get a place,' he said. 'I don't
know very well how to set about it, but I suppose I must do
something. He promises to take the pledge.'

'That will be a good thing,' Adela replied.

'Good if he keeps it. But I can't talk to him; I'm sick of doing so.
And I don't think he even listens to me.' He hesitated. 'Do you
think you--would you mind speaking to him? I believe you might do
him good.'

Adela did not at once reply.

'I know it's a nasty job,' he pursued. 'I wouldn't ask you if I
didn't really think you might do some good. I don't see why he
should go to the dogs. He used to be a good enough fellow when he
was a little lad.'

It was one of the most humane speeches Adela had ever heard from her
husband. She replied with cheerfulness:

'If you really think he won't take it amiss, I shall be very glad to
do my best.'

'That's right; thank you.'

Adela went down and was alone with 'Arry for half-an-hour. She was
young to undertake such an office, but suffering had endowed her
with gravity and understanding beyond her years, and her native
sweetness was such that she could altogether forget herself in
pleading with another for a good end. No human being, however
perverse, could have taken ill the words that were dictated by so
pure a mind, and uttered in so musical and gentle a voice. She led
'Arry to speak frankly.

'It seems to me a precious hard thing,' he said, 'that they've let
Dick keep enough money to live on comfortable, and won't give me a
penny. My right was as good as his.'

'Perhaps it was,' Adela replied kindly. 'But you must remember that
money was left to your brother by the will.'

'But you don't go telling me that he lives on two pounds a week?
Everybody knows he doesn't. Where does the rest come from?'

'I don't think I must talk about that. I think very likely jour
brother will explain if you ask him seriously. But is it really such
a hard thing after all, Harry? I feel so sure that you will only
know real happiness when you are earning a livelihood by steady and
honourable work. You remember how I used to go and see the people in
New Wanley? I shall never forget how happy the best of them were,
those who worked their hardest all day and at night came home to
rest with their families and friends. And you yourself, how
contented you used to be when your time was thoroughly occupied! But
I'm sure you feel the truth of this. You have been disappointed; it
has made you a little careless. Now work hard for a year and then
come and tell me if I wasn't right about that being the way to
happiness. Will you?'

She rose and held her hand to him; the hand to which he should have
knelt. But he said nothing; there was an obstacle in his throat.
Adela understood his silence and left him.

Richard went to work among his friends, and in a fortnight had found
his brother employment of a new kind. It was a place in an
ironmonger's shop in Hoxton; 'Arry was to serve at the counter and
learn the business. For three months he was on trial and would
receive no salary.

Two of the three months passed, and all seemed to be going well.
Then one day there came to Mutimer a telegram from 'Arry's employer;
it requested that he would go to the shop as soon as possible.
Foreseeing some catastrophe, he hastened to Hoxton. His brother was
in custody for stealing money from the till.

The ironmonger was inexorable. 'Arry passed through the judicial
routine and was sentenced to three months of hard labour.

It was in connection with this wretched affair that Richard once
more met his mother. He went from the shop to tell her what had
happened.

He found her in the kitchen, occupied as he had seen her many, many
times, ironing newly washed linen. One of the lodgers happened to
come out from the house as he ascended the steps, so he was able to
go down without announcing himself. The old woman had a nervous
start; the iron stopped in its smooth backward and forward motion;
the hand with which she held it trembled. She kept her eyes on
Richard's face, which foretold evil.

'Mother, I have brought you bad news.'

She pushed the iron aside and stood waiting. Her hard lips grew
harder; her deep-set eyes had a stern light. Not much ill could come
to pass for which she was not prepared.

He tried to break the news. His mother interrupted him.

'What's he been a-doin'? You've no need to go round about. I like
straightforwardness.'

Richard told her. It did not seem to affect her strongly; she turned
to the table and resumed her work. But she could no longer guide the
iron. She pushed it aside and faced her son with such a look as one
may see in the eyes of a weak animal cruelly assailed. Her tongue
found its freedom and bore her whither it would.

'What did I tell you? What was it I said that night you come in and
told me you; was all rich? Didn't I warn you that there'd no good
come of it? Didn't I say you'd remember my words? You laughed at me;
you got sharp-tempered with me an as good as called me a fool. An'
what _has_ come of it? What's come of it to me? I had a 'ome once
an' children about me, an' now I've neither the one nor the other.
You call it a 'ome with strangers takin' up well nigh all the 'ouse?
Not such a ome as I thought to end my days in. It fair scrapes on my
heart every time I hear their feet going up an' down the stairs. An'
where are my children gone? Two of 'em as 'ud never think to come
near me if it wasn't to bring ill news, an' one in prison. How 'ud
that sound in your father's ears, think you? I may have been a fool,
but I knew what 'ud come of a workin' man's children goin' to live
in big 'ouses, with their servants an' their carriages. What better
are you? It's come an' it's gone, an' there's shame an' misery left
be'ind it!'

Richard listened without irritation; he was heavy-hearted, the shock
of his brother's disgrace had disposed him to see his life on its
dark side. And he pitied his poor old mother. She had never been
tender in her words, could not be tender; but he saw in her
countenance the suffering through which she had gone, and read
grievous things in the eyes that could no longer weep. For once he
yielded to rebuke. Her complaint that he had not come to see her
touched him, for he had desired to come, but could not subdue his
pride. Her voice was feebler than when he last heard it raised in
reproach; it reminded him that there would come a day when he might
long to hear even words of upbraiding, but the voice would be mute
for ever. It needed a moment such as this to stir his sluggish
imagination.

'What you say is true, mother, but we couldn't help it. It's turned
out badly because we live in bad times. It's the state of society
that's to blame.'

He was sincere in saying it; that is to say, he used the phrase so
constantly that it had become his natural utterance in difficulty;
it may be that in his heart he believed it. Who, indeed, shall say
that he was wrong? But what made such an excuse so disagreeable in
his case was that he had not--intellectually speaking--the right to
avail himself of it. The difference between truth and cant often
lies only in the lips that give forth the words.

'Yes, that's what you always said,' replied Mrs. Mutimer
impatiently. 'It's always someone else as is to blame, an' never
yourself. The world's a good enough world if folk 'ud only make it
so. Was it the bad times as made you leave a good, honest girl when
you'd promised to marry her? No, you must have a fine lady for your
wife; a plain girl as earnt her own bread, an' often had hard work
to get it, wasn't good enough for you. Don't talk to me about bad
times. There's some men as does right an' some as does wrong; it
always was so, an' the world's no worse nor no better, an' not
likely to be.'

The poor woman could not be generous. A concession only led her on
to speak the thoughts it naturally suggested to her. And her very
bitterness was an outcome of her affection; it soothed her to rail
at her son after so long a silence. He had injured her by his
holding aloof; she was urged on by this feeling quite as much as by
anger with his faults. And still Mutimer showed no resentment. In
him, too, there was a pleasure which came of memories revived. Let
her say to him what she liked, he loved his mother and was glad to
be once more in her presence.

'I wish I could have pleased you better, mother,' he said. 'What's
done can't be helped. We've trouble to bear together, and it won't
be lighter for angry words.'

The old woman muttered something inaudible and, after feeling her
iron and discovering that it was cold, she put it down before the
fire. Her tongue had eased itself, and she fell again into silent
grief.

Mutimer sat listening to the tick of the familiar clock. That and
the smell of the fresh linen made his old life very present to him;
there arose in his heart a longing for the past, it seemed peaceful
and fuller of genuine interests than the life he now led. He
remembered how he used to sit before the kitchen fire reading the
books and papers which stirred his thought to criticism of the order
of things; nothing now absorbed him in the same way. Coming across a
sentence that delighted him, he used to read it aloud to his mother,
who perchance was ironing as now, or sewing, or preparing a meal,
and she would find something to say against it; so that there ensued
a vigorous debate between her old-fashioned ideas and the brand-new
theories of the age of education: Then Alice would come in and make
the dispute a subject for sprightly mockery. Alice was the Princess
in those days. He quarrelled with her often, but only to resume the
tone of affectionate banter an hour after. Alice was now Mrs.
Rodman, and had declared that she hated him, that in her life she
would never speak to him again. Would it not have been better if
things had gone the natural course? Alice would no doubt have
married Daniel Dabbs, and would have made him a good wife, if a
rather wilful one. 'Arry would have given trouble, but surely could
not have come to hopeless shame. He, Richard, would have had Emma
Vine for his wife, a true wife, loving him with all her heart,
thinking him the best and cleverest of working men. Adela did not
love him; what she thought of his qualities it was not easy to say.
Yes, the old and natural way was better. He would have had
difficulties enough, because of his opinions, but at least he would
have continued truly to represent his class. He knew very well that
he did not represent it now; he belonged to no class at all; he was
a professional agitator, and must remain so through his life--or
till the Revolution came. The Revolution? . . .

His mother was speaking to him, asking what he meant to do about
'Arry. He raised his eyes, and for a moment looked at her sadly.

'There's nothing to be done. I can pay a lawyer, but it'll be no
good.'

He remained with his mother for yet an hour; they talked
intermittently, without in appearance coming nearer to each other,
though in fact the barrier was removed. She made tea for him, and
herself made pretence of taking some. When he went away he kissed
her as he had used to. He left her happier than she had been for
years, in spite of the news he had brought.

Thenceforward Mutimer went to Wilton Square regularly once a week.
He let Adela know of this, saying casually one morning that he could
not do something that day because his mother would expect him in the
afternoon as usual. He half hoped that she might put some question
which would lead to talk on the subject, for the reconciliation with
his mother had brought about a change in his feelings, and it would
now have been rather agreeable to him to exhibit his beautiful and
gentle-mannered wife. But Adela merely accepted the remark.

He threw himself into the work of agitation with more energy than
ever. By this time he had elaborated a scheme which was original
enough to ensure him notoriety if only he could advertise it
sufficiently throughout the East End. He hit upon it one evening
when he was smoking his pipe after dinner. Adela was in the room
with him reading. He took her into his confidence at once.

'I've got it at last! I want something that'll attract their
attention. It isn't enough to preach theories to them; they won't
wake up; there's no getting them to feel in earnest about Socialism.
I've been racking my brain for something to set them talking, it
didn't much matter what, but better of course if it was useful in
itself at the same time. Now I think I've got it. It's a plan for
giving them a personal interest, a money interest, in me and my
ideas. I'll go and say to them, "How is it you men never save any
money even when you could? I'll tell you: it's because the savings
would be so little that they don't seem worth while; you think you
might as well go and enjoy yourselves in the public-house while you
can. What's the use of laying up a few shillings? The money comes
and goes, and it's all in a life." Very well, then, I'll put my plan
before them. "Now look here," I'll say, "instead of spending so much
on beer and spirits, come to me and _let me keep your money for
you_!" They'll burst out laughing at me, and say, "Catch us doing
that!" Yes, but I'll persuade them, see if I don't. And in this way.
"Suppose," I'll say, "there's five hundred men bring me threepence
each every week. Now what man of you doesn't spend threepence a week
in drink, get the coppers how he may? Do you know how much that
comes to, five hundred threepenny bits? Why, it's six pounds five
shillings. And do you know what that comes to in a year? Why, no
less than three hundred and twenty-five pounds! Now just listen to
that, and think about it. Those threepenny bits are no use to you;
you _can't_ save them, and you spend them in a way that does you no
good, and it may be harm. Now what do you think I'll do with that
money? Why, I'll use it as the capitalists do. I'll put it out to
interest; I'll get three per cent. for it, and perhaps more. But
let's say three per cent. What's the result? Why, this: in one year
your three hundred and twenty-five pounds has become three hundred
and thirty-four pounds fifteen; I owe each of you thirteen shillings
and fourpence halfpenny, and a fraction more."'

He had already jotted down calculations, and read from them, looking
up between times at Adela with the air of conviction which he would
address to his audience of East Enders.

'"Now if you'd only saved the thirteen shillings--which you wouldn't
and couldn't have done by yourselves--it would be well worth the
while; but you've got the interest as well, and the point I want you
to understand is that you can only get that increase by clubbing
together and investing the savings as a whole. You may say fourpence
halfpenny isn't worth having. Perhaps not, but those of you who've
learnt arithmetic--be thankful if our social state allowed you to
learn anything--will remember that there's such a thing as compound
interest. It's a trick the capitalists found out. Interest was a
good discovery, but compound interest a good deal better. Leave your
money with me a second year, and it'll grow more still, I'll see to
that. You're all able, I've no doubt, to make the calculation for
yourselves."'

He paused to see what Adela would say.

'No doubt it will be a very good thing if you can persuade them to
save in that way,' she remarked.

'Good, yes; but I'm not thinking so much of the money. Don't you see
that it'll give me a hold over them? Every man who wants to save on
my plan must join the Union. They'll come together regularly; I can
get at them and make them listen to me. Why, it's a magnificent
idea! It's fighting the capitalists with their own weapons! You'll
see what the "Tocsin" 'll say. Of course they'll make out that I'm
going against Socialist principles. So I am, but. it's for the sake
of Socialism for all that. If I make Socialists, it doesn't much
matter how I do it.'

Adela could have contested that point, but did not care to do so.
She said:

'Are you sure you can persuade the men to trust you with their
money?'

'That's the difficulty, I know; but see if I don't get over it. I'll
have a committee, holding themselves responsible for all sums paid
to us. I'll publish weekly accounts--just a leaflet, you know. And
do you know what? I'll promise that as soon as they've trusted me
with a hundred pounds, I'll add another hundred of my own. See if
that won't fetch them!'

As usual when he saw a prospect of noisy success he became excited
beyond measure, and talked incessantly till midnight.

'Other men don't have these ideas!' he exclaimed at one moment.
'That's what I meant when I told you I was born to be a leader. And
I've the secret of getting people's confidence. They'll trust me,
see if they don't!'

In spite of Adela's unbroken reserve, he had seldom been other than
cordial in his behaviour to her since the recommencement of his
prosperity. His active life gave him no time to brood over
suspicions, though his mind was not altogether free from them. He
still occasionally came home at hours when he could not be expected,
but Adela was always occupied either with housework or reading, and
received him with the cold self-possession which came of her
understanding his motives. Her life was lonely; since a visit they
had received from Alfred at the past Christmas she had seen no
friend. One day in spring Mutimer asked her if she did not wish to
see Mrs. Westlake; she replied that she had no desire to, and he
said nothing more. Stella did not write; she had ceased to do so
since receiving a certain lengthy letter from Adela, in which the
latter begged that their friendship might feed on silence for a
while. When the summer came there were pressing invitations from
Wanley, but Adela declined them. Alfred and his wife were going
again to South Wales; was it impossible for Adela to join them?
Letty wrote a letter full of affectionate pleading, but it was
useless.

In August, Mutimer proposed to take his wife for a week the Sussex
coast. He wanted a brief rest himself, and he saw that Adela was yet
more in need of change. She never complained of ill-health, but was
weak and pale. With no inducement to leave the house, it was much if
she had an hour's open-air exercise in the week; often the mere
exertion of rising and beginning the day was followed by a sick
languor which compelled her to lie all the afternoon on the couch.
She studied much, reading English and foreign books which required
mental exertion. They were rot works relating to the 'Social
Question'--far other. The volumes she used to study were a burden
and a loathing to her as often as her eyes fell upon them.

In her letters from Wanley there was never a word of what was going
on in the valley. Week after week she looked eagerly for some hint,
yet was relieved when she found none. For it had become her habit to
hand over to Mutimer every letter she received. He read them.

Shortly after their return from the seaside, 'Arry's term of
imprisonment came to an end. He went to his mother's house, and
Richard first saw him there. Punishment had had its usual effect;
'Arry was obstinately taciturn, conscious of his degradation,
inwardly at war with all his kind.

'There's only one thing I can do for you now,' his brother said to
him. 'I'll pay your passage to Australia. Then you must shift for
yourself.'

'Arry refused the offer.

'Give me the money instead,' was his reply.

Argument was vain; Richard and the old woman passed to entreaty, but
with as little result.

'Give me ten pounds and let me go about my business,' 'Arry
exclaimed irritably. 'I want no more from you, and you won't get any
good out o' me by jawin'.'

The money was of course refused, in the hope that a week or two
would change the poor fellow's mind. But two days after he went out
and did not return. Nothing was heard of him. Mrs. Mutimer sat late
every night, listening for a knock at the door. Sometimes she went
and stood on the steps, looking hither and thither in the darkness.
But 'Arry came no more to Wilton Square.

Mutimer had been pressing on his scheme for five months. Every night
he addressed a meeting somewhere or other in the East End; every
Sunday he lectured morning and evening at his head-quarters in
Clerkenwell. Ostensibly he was working on behalf of the Union, but
in reality he was forming a party of his own, and would have started
a paper could he have commanded the means. The 'Tocsin' was savagely
hostile, the 'Fiery Gross.' grew more and more academical, till it
was practically an organ of what is called in Germany
_Katheder-Sozialismus_. Those who wrote for it were quite distinct
from the agitators of the street and of the Socialist halls;
men--and women--with a turn for 'advanced' speculation, with anxiety
for style. At length the name of the paper was changed, and it
appeared as the 'Beacon,' adorned with a headpiece by the well-known
artist, Mr. Boscobel. Mutimer glanced through the pages and flung it
aside in scornful disgust.

'I knew what this was coming to,' he said to Adela 'A deal of good
_they_'ll do! You don't find Socialism in drawing rooms. I wonder
that fellow Westlake has the impudence to call himself a Socialist
at all, living in the way he does. Perhaps he thinks he'll be on the
safe side when the Revolution comes. Ha, ha! We shall see.'

The Revolution. . . . In the meantime the cry was 'Democratic
Capitalism.' That was the name Mutimer gave to his scheme! The
'Fiery Gross' had only noticed his work in a brief paragraph, a few
words of faint and vague praise. 'Our comrade's noteworthy exertions
in the East End. . . . The gain to temperance and self-respecting
habits which must surely result. . . .' The 'Beacon,' however, dealt
with the movement more fully, and on the whole in a friendly spirit.

'Damn their patronage!' cried Mutimer.

You should have seen him addressing a crowd collected by chance in
Hackney or Poplar. The slightest encouragement, even one name to
inscribe in the book which he carried about with him, was enough to
fire his eloquence; nay, it was enough to find himself standing on
his chair above the heads of the gathering. His voice had gained in
timbre; he grew more and more perfect in his delivery, like a
conscientious actor who plays night after night in a part that he
enjoys. And it was well that he had this inner support, this _brio_
of the born demagogue, for often enough he spoke under circumstances
which would have damped the zeal of any other man. The listeners
stood with their hands in their pockets, doubting whether to hear
him to the end or to take their wonted way to the public-house. One
moment their eyes would be fixed upon him, filmy, unintelligent,
then they would look at one another with a leer of cunning, or at
best a doubtful grin. Socialism, forsooth! They were as ready for
translation to supernal spheres. Yet some of them were attracted:
'percentage,' 'interest,' 'compound interest,' after all, there
might be something in this! And perhaps they gave their names and
their threepenny bits, engaging to make the deposit regularly on the
day and at the place arranged for in Mutimer's elaborate scheme.
What is there a man cannot get if he asks for it boldly and
persistently enough?

The year had come full circle; it was time that Mutimer received
another remittance from his anonymous supporter. He needed it, for
he had been laying out money without regard to the future. Not only
did he need it for his own support; already he and his committee
held sixty pounds of trust money, and before long he might be called
upon to fulfil his engagement and contribute a hundred pounds--the
promised hundred which had elicited more threepences than all the
rest of his eloquence. A week, a month, six weeks, and he had heard
nothing. Then there came one day a communication couched in legal
terms, signed by a solicitor. It was to the effect that his
benefactor--name and address given in full--had just died. The
decease was sudden, and though the draft of a will had been
discovered, it had no signature, and was consequently inoperative.
But--pursued the lawyer--it having been the intention of the
deceased to bequeath to Mutimer an annuity of five hundred pounds
for nine years, the administrators were unwilling altogether to
neglect their friend's wish, and begged to make an offer of the. one
year's payment which it seemed was already due. For more than that
they could not hold themselves responsible.

Before speaking to Adela, Mutimer made searching inquiries. He went
to the Midland town where his benefactor had lived, and was only too
well satisfied of the truth of what had been told him. He came back
with his final five hundred pounds.

Then he informed his wife of what had befallen. He was not cheerful,
but with five hundred pounds in his pocket he could not be
altogether depressed. What might not happen in a year? He was
becoming prominent; there had been mention of him lately in London
journals. Pooh! as if he would ever really want!

'The great thing,' he exclaimed, 'is that I can lay down the hundred
pounds! If I'd failed in that it would have been all up. Come, now,
why can't you give me a bit of encouragement, Adela? I tell you what
it is. There's no place where I'm thought so little of as in my own
home, and that's a fact.'

She did not worship him, she made no pretence of it. Her cold, pale
beauty had not so much power over him as formerly, but it still
chagrined him keenly as often as he was reminded that he had no high
place in his wife's judgment. He knew well enough that it was
impossible. for her to: admire him; he was conscious of the thousand
degrading things he had said and done, every one of them stored. in
her memory. Perhaps not once since that terrible day in the
Pentonville lodgings had he looked her straight in the eyes. Yes,
her beauty appealed to him less than even a year ago; Adela knew it,
and it was the one solace in her living death. Perhaps occasion
could again have stung him into jealousy, but Adela was no longer a
vital interest in his existence. He lived in external things, his
natural life. Passion had been an irregularity in his development.
Yet he would gladly have had his wife's sympathy. He neither loved
nor hated her, but she was for ever above him, and, however
unconsciously, he longed. for her regard. Irreproachable, reticent,
it might be dying, Adela would no longer affect interests she did
not feel. To these present words of his she replied only with a
grave, not unkind, look; a look he could not under stand, yet which
humbled rather than irritated him.

The servant opened the door and announced a visitor--'Mr. Hilary.'

Mutimer seemed struck with a thought as he heard the name.

'The very man!' he exclaimed below his breath, with a glance at
Adela. 'Just run off and let us have this room. My luck won't desert
me, see if it does!'





CHAPTER XXXII




Mr. Willis Rodman scarcely relished the process which deprived him
of his town house and of the greater part of his means, but his
exasperation happily did not seek vent for itself in cruelty to his
wife. It might very well have done so, would all but certainly, had
not Alice appealed to his sense of humour by her zeal in espousing
his cause against her brother. That he could turn her round his
finger was an old experience, but to see her spring so actively to
arms on his behalf, when he was conscious that she had every excuse
for detesting him, and even abandoning him, struck him as a highly
comical instance of his power over women, a power on which he had
always prided himself. He could not even explain it as self-interest
in her; numberless things proved the contrary. Alice was still his
slave, though he had not given himself the slightest trouble to
preserve even her respect. He had shown himself to her freely as he
was, jocosely cynical on everything that women prize, brutal when he
chose to give way to his temper, faithless on principle, selfish to
the core; perhaps the secret of the fascination he exercised over
her was his very ingenuousness, his boldness in defying fortune, his
clever grasp of circumstances. She said to him one day, when he had
been telling her that as likely as not she might have to take in
washing or set up a sewing-machine:

'I am not afraid. You can always get money. There's nothing you
can't do.'

He laughed.

'That may be true. But how if I disappear some day and leave you to
take care of yourself?'

He had often threatened this in his genial way, and it never failed
to blanch her cheeks.

'If you do that,' she said, 'I shall kill myself.'

At which he laughed yet more loudly.

In her house at Wimbledon she perished of _ennui_, for she was as
lonely as Adela in Holloway. Much lonelier; she had no resources in
herself. Rodman was away all day in London, and very often he did
not return at night; when the latter was the case, Alice cried
miserably in her bed for hours, so that the next morning her face
was like that of a wax doll that has suffered ill-usage. She had an
endless supply of novels, and day after day bent over them till her
head ached. Poor Princess! She had had her own romance, in its way
brilliant and strange enough, but only the rags of it were left. She
clung to them, she hoped against hope that they would yet recover
their gloss and shimmer. If only he would not so neglect her! All
else affected her but little now that she really knew what it meant
to see her husband utterly careless, not to be held by any pettings
or entreaties. She heard through him of her brother 'Arry's
disgrace; it scarcely touched her. Her brother Richard she was never
tired of railing against, railed so much, indeed, that it showed she
by no means hated him as much as she declared. But nothing would
have mattered if only her husband had cared for her.

She had once said to Adela that she disliked children and hoped
never to have any. It was now her despair that she remained
childless. Perhaps that was why he had lost all affection?

In the summer Rodman once quitted her for nearly three weeks, during
which she only heard from him once. He was in Ireland, and, he
asserted, on business. The famous 'Irish Dairy Company,' soon to
occupy a share of public attention, was getting itself on foot. It
was Rodman who promoted the company and who became its secretary,
though the name of that functionary in all printed matter appeared
as 'Robert Delancey.' However, I only mention it for the present to
explain our friend's absence in Ireland. Alice often worked herself
up to a pitch of terror lest her husband had fulfilled his threat
and really deserted her. He returned when it suited him to do so,
and tortured her with a story of a wealthy Irish widow who had
fallen desperately in love with him.

'And I've a good mind to marry her,' he added with an air of serious
reflection. Of course I didn't let her know my real name. I could
manage it very nicely, and you would never know anything about it; I
should remit you all the money you wanted, you needn't be afraid.'

Alice tried to assume a face of stony indignation, but as usual she
ended by breaking down and shedding tears. Then he told her that she
was getting plainer than ever, and that it all came of her perpetual
'water-works.'

Alice hit upon a brilliant idea. What if she endeavoured to make him
jealous? In spite of her entreaties, he never would take her to
town, though he saw that she was perishing for lack of amusement.
Suppose she made him believe that she had gone on her own account,
and at the invitation of someone whose name she would not divulge? I
believe she found the trick in one of her novels. The poor child
went to work most conscientiously. One morning when he came down to
breakfast she pretended to have been reading a letter, crushed an
old envelope into her pocket on his entering the room, and affected
confusion. He observed her.

'Had a letter?' he asked.

'Yes--no. Nothing of any importance.'

He smiled and applied himself to the ham, then left her in his
ordinary way, without a word of courtesy, and went to town. She had
asked him particularly when he should be back that night He named
the train, which reached Wimbledon a little after ten.

They had only one servant. Alice took the girl into her confidence,
said she was going to play a trick, and it must not be spoilt. By
ten o'clock at night she was dressed for going out, and when she
heard her husband's latch-key at the front door she slipped out at
the back. It was her plan to walk about the roads for half an hour,
then to enter and--make the best of the situation.

Rodman, unable to find his wife, summoned the servant.

'Where is your mistress?'

'Out, sir.'

He examined the girl shrewdly, with his eyes and with words. It was
perfectly true that women--of a kind--could not resist him. In the
end he discovered exactly what had happened. He laughed his wonted
laugh of cynical merriment.

'Go to bed,' he said to the servant. 'And if you hear anyone at the
door, pay no attention.'

Then he locked up the house, front and back, and, having
extinguished all lights except a small lantern by which he could
read in the sitting-room without danger of its being discerned from
outside, sat down with a sense of amusement. Presently there came a
ring at the bell; it was repeated again and again. The month was
October, the night decidedly cool. Rodman chuckled to himself; he
had a steaming glass of whisky before him and sipped it delicately.
The ringing continued for a quarter of an hour, then five minutes
passed, and no sound came. Rodman stepped lightly to the front door,
listened, heard nothing, unlocked and opened. Alice was standing m
the middle of the road, her hands crossed over her breast and
holding her shoulders as though she suffered from the cold. She came
forward and entered the house without speaking.

In the sitting-room she found the lantern and looked at her husband
in surprise. His face was stern.

'What's all this?' he asked sharply.

'I've been to London,' she answered, her teeth chattering with cold
and her voice uncertain from fear.

'Been to London? And what business had you to go without telling
me?'

He spoke savagely. Alice was sinking with dread, but even yet had
sufficient resolve to keep up the comedy.

'I had an invitation. I don't see why I shouldn't go. I don't ask
you who you go about with.'

The table was laid for supper. Rodman darted to it, seized a
carving-knife, and in an instant was holding it to her throat. She
shrieked and fell upon her knees, her face ghastly with mortal
terror. Then Rodman burst out laughing and showed that his anger had
been feigned.

She had barely strength to rise, but at length stood before him
trembling and sobbing, unable to believe that he had not been in
earnest.

'You needn't explain the trick,' he said, with the appearance of
great good-humour, 'but just tell me why you played it. Did you
think I should believe you were up to something queer, eh?'

'You must think what you like,' she sobbed, utterly humiliated.

He roared with laughter.

'What a splendid idea! The Princess getting tired of propriety and
making appointments in London! Little fool! do you think I should
care one straw? Why shouldn't you amuse yourself?'

Alice looked at him with eyes of wondering misery.

'Do you mean that you don't care enough for me to--to--'

'Don't care one farthing's worth! And to think you went and walked
about in the mud and the east wind! Well, if that isn't the best
joke I ever heard! I'll have a rare laugh over this story with some
men I know to-morrow.'

She crept away to her bedroom. He had gone far towards killing the
love that had known no rival in her heart.

He bantered her ceaselessly through breakfast next morning, and for
the first time she could find no word to reply to him. Her head
drooped; she touched nothing on the table. Before going off he asked
her what the appointment was for to-day, and advised her not to
forget her latch-key. Alice scarcely heard him, she was
shame-stricken and wobegone.

Rodman, on the other hand, had never been in better spirits. The
'Irish Dairy Company' was attracting purchasers of shares. It was
the kind of scheme which easily recommended itself to a host of the
foolish people who are ever ready to risk their money, also to some
not quite so foolish. The prospectus could show some respectable
names: one or two Irish lords, a member of Parliament, some known
capitalists. The profits could not but be considerable, and think of
the good to 'the unhappy sister country'--as the circular said.
Butter, cheese, eggs of unassailable genuineness, to be sold in
England at absurdly low prices, yet still putting the producers on a
footing of comfort and proud independence. One of the best ideas
that had yet occurred to Mr. Robert Delancey.

He--the said Mr. Delancey, _alias_ Mr. Willis Rodman, _alias_
certain other names--spent much of his time just now in the society
of a Mr. Hilary, a gentleman who, like himself, had seen men and
manners in various quarters of the globe, and was at present making
a tolerable income by the profession of philanthropy. Mr. Hilary's
name appeared among the directors of the company; it gave confidence
to many who were familiar with it in connection with not a few
enterprises started for the benefit of this or that depressed
nationality, this or the other exploited class. He wrote frequently
to the newspapers on the most various subjects; he was known to
members of Parliament through his persistent endeavours to obtain
legislation with regard to certain manufactures proved to be gravely
deleterious to the health of those employed in them. To-day Mr.
Delancey and Mr. Hilary passed some hours together in the latter's
chambers. Their talk was of the company.

'So you saw Mutimer about it?' Rodman asked, turning to a detail in
which he was specially interested.

'Yes. He is anxious to have shares.'

Mr. Hilary was a man of past middle age, long-bearded, somewhat
cadaverous of hue. His head was venerable.

'You were careful not to mention me?'

'I kept your caution in mind.'

Their tone to each other was one of perfect gravity. Mr. Hilary even
went out of his way to choose becoming phrases.

'He won't have anything to do with it if he gets to know who R.
Delancey is.'

'I was prudent, believe me. I laid before him the aspects of the
undertaking which would especially interest him. I made it clear to
him that our enterprise is no less one of social than of commercial
importance; he entered into our views very heartily. The first time
I saw him, I merely invited him to glance over our prospectus;
yesterday he was more than willing to join our association--and
share our profits.'

'Did he tell you how much he'd got out of those poor devils over
there?'

'A matter of sixty pounds, I gathered. I am not a little astonished
at his success.'

'Oh, he'd talk the devil himself into subscribing to a mission if it
suited him to try.'

'He is clearly very anxious to get the highest interest possible for
his money. His ideas on business seemed, I confess, rather vague. I
did my best to help him with suggestions.'

'Of course.'

'He talked of taking some five hundred pounds' worth of shares on
his own account.'

The men regarded each other. Rodman's lips curled; Mr. Hilary was as
grave as ever.

'You didn't balk him?'

'I commended his discretion.'

Rodman could not check a laugh.

'I am serious,' said Mr. Hilary. 'It may take a little time, but--'

'Just so. Did he question you at all about what we were doing?'

'A good deal. He said he should go and look over the Stores in the
Strand.'

'By all means. He's a clever man if he distinguishes between Irish
butter and English butterine--I'm sure I couldn't. And things really
are looking up at the Stores?'

'Oh, distinctly.'

'By-the-by, I had rather a nasty letter from Lord Mountorry
yesterday. He's beginning to ask questions: wants to know when we're
going to conclude our contract with that tenant of his--I've
forgotten the fellow's name.'

'Well, that must be looked into. There's perhaps no reason why the
contract should not be concluded. Little by little we may come to
justify our name; who knows? In the meantime, we at all events do a
_bona fide_ business.'

'Strictly so.'

Rodman had a good deal of business on hand besides that which arose
from his connection with Irish dairies. If Alice imagined him
strolling at his ease about the fashionable lounges of the town, she
was much mistaken. He worked hard and enjoyed his work, on the sole
condition that he was engaged in overreaching someone. This
flattered his humour.

He could not find leisure to dine till nearly nine o'clock. He had
made up his mind not to return to Wimbledon, but to make use of a
certain _pied-a-terre_ which he had in Pimlico. His day's work
ended in Westminster, he dined at a restaurant with a friend.
Afterwards billiards were proposed. They entered a house which
Rodman did not know, and were passing before the bar to go to the
billiard-room, when a man who stood there taking refreshment called
out, 'Hollo, Rodman!' To announce a man's name in this way is a
decided breach of etiquette in the world to which Rodman belonged.
He looked annoyed, and would have passed on, but his acquaintance,
who had perhaps exceeded the limits of modest refreshment, called
him again and obliged him to approach the bar. As he did so Rodman
happened to glance at the woman who stood ready to fulfil the
expected order. The glance was followed by a short but close
scrutiny, after which he turned his back and endeavoured by a sign
to draw his two acquaintances away. But at the same moment the
barmaid addressed him.

'What is yours, Mr. Rodman?'

He shrugged his shoulders, muttered a strong expression, and turned
round again. The woman met his look steadily. She was perhaps
thirty, rather tall, with features more refined than her position
would have led one to expect. Her figure was good but meagre; her
cheeks were very thin, and the expression of her face, not quite
amiable at any time, was at present almost fierce. She seemed about
to say something further, but restrained herself.

Rodman recovered his good temper.

'How do, Clara?' he said, keeping his eye fixed on hers. 'I'll have
a drop of absinthe, if you please.'

Then he pursued his conversation with the two men. The woman, having
served them, disappeared. Rodman kept looking for her. In a few
minutes he pretended to recollect an engagement and succeeded in
going off alone. As he issued on to the pavement he found himself
confronted by the barmaid, who now wore a hat and cloak.

'Well?' he said, carelessly.

'Rodman's your name, is it?' was the reply.

'To my particular friends. Let's walk on; we can't chat here very
well.'

'What is to prevent me from calling that policeman and giving you in
charge?' she asked, looking into his face with a strange mixture of
curiosity and anger.

'Nothing, except that you have no charge to make against me. The law
isn't so obliging as all that. Come, we'll take a walk.'

She moved along by his side.

'You coward!' she exclaimed, passionately but with none of the
shrieking virulence of women who like to make a scene in the street.
'You mean, contemptible, cold-blooded man! I suppose you hoped I was
starved to death by this time, or in the workhouse, or--what did
_you_ care where I was! I knew I should find you some day.'

'I rather supposed you would stay on the other side of the water,'
Rodman remarked, glancing at her. 'You're changed a good deal. Now
it's a most extraordinary thing. Not so very long ago I was dreaming
about you, and you were serving at a bar--queer thing, wasn't it?'

They were walking towards Whitehall. When they came at length into
an ill-lighted and quiet spot, the woman stopped.

'Where do you live?' she asked.

'Live? Oh, just out here in Pimlico. Like to see my rooms?'

'What do you mean by talking to me like that? Do you make a joke of
deserting your wife and child for seven years, leaving them without
a penny, going about enjoying yourself, when, for anything you knew,
they were begging their bread? You always were heartless--it was the
blackest day of my life that I met you; and you ask me if I'd like
to see your rooms! What thanks to you that I'm not as vile a
creature as there is in London? How was I to support myself and the
child? What was I to do when they turned me into the streets of New
York because I couldn't pay what you owed them nor the rent of a
room to sleep in? You took good care _you_ never went hungry. I'd
only one thing to hold me up: I was an honest woman, and I made up
my mind I'd keep honest, though I had such a man as you for my
husband. I've hungered and worked, and I've made a living for myself
and my child as best I could. I'm not like you: I've done nothing to
disgrace myself. Now I will slave no more. You won't run away from
me this time. Leave me for a single night, and I go to the nearest
police-station and tell all I know about you. If I wasn't a fool I'd
do it now. But I've hungered and worked for seven years, and now
it's time _my husband_ did something for me.'

'You always had a head for argument, Clara,' he replied coolly. 'But
I can't get over that dream of mine. Really a queer thing, wasn't
it? Who'd have thought of you turning barmaid? With your education,
I should have thought you could have done something in the teaching
line. Never mind. The queerest thing of all is that I'm really half
glad to see you. How's Jack?'

The extraordinary conversation went on as they walked towards the
street where Clara lived. It was in a poor part of Westminster.
Reaching the house, Clara opened the door with a latchkey.

Two women were standing in the passage.

'This is my husband, Mrs. Rook,' Clara said to one of them. 'He's
just got back from abroad.'

'Glad to see you, Mr. Williamson,' said the landlady, scrutinising
him with unmistakable suspicion.

The pair ascended the stairs, and Mrs. Williamson--she had always
used the name she received in marriage--opened a door which
disclosed a dark bedroom. A voice came from within--the voice of a
little lad of eight years old.

'That you, mother? Why, I've only just put myself to bed. What time
is it?'

'Then you ought to have gone to bed long ago,' replied his mother
whilst she was striking a light.

It was a very small room, but decent. The boy was discovered sitting
up in bed--a bright-faced little fellow with black hair. Clara
closed the door, then turned and looked at her husband. The light
made a glistening appearance on her eyes; she had become silent,
allowing facts to speak for themselves.

The child stared at the stranger in astonishment.

'Who are you?' he asked at length.

Rodman laughed as heartily as if there had been nothing disagreeable
in the situation.

'I have the honour to be your father, sir,' he replied. 'You're a
fine boy, Jack--a deuced fine boy.'

The child was speechless. Rodman turned to the mother. Her hands
held the rail at the foot of the bed, and as the boy looked up at
her for explanation she let her face fall upon them and sobbed.

'If you're father come back,' exclaimed Jack indignantly, 'why do
you make mother cry?'

Rodman was still mirthful.

'I like you, Jack,' he said. 'You'll make a man some day. Do you
mind if I smoke a cigar, Clara?'

To his astonishment, he felt a weakness which had to be resisted;
tobacco suggested itself as a resource. When he had struck a light,
his wife forced back her tears and seated herself with an
unforgiving countenance.

Rodman began to chat pleasantly as he smoked.

Decidedly it was a _contretemps_. It introduced a number of
difficulties into his life. If he remained away for a night, he had
little doubt that his wife would denounce him; she knew of several
little matters which he on the whole preferred to be reticent about.
She was not a woman like Alice, to be turned round his finger. It
behoved him to be exceedingly cautious.

He had three personalities. As Mr. Willis Rodman his task was
comparatively a light one, at all events for the present. He merely
informed Alice by letter that he was kept in town by business and
would see her in the course of a week. It was very convenient that
Alice had no intercourse with her relatives. Secondly, as Mr.
Williamson his position was somewhat more difficult. Not only had he
to present himself every night at the rooms he had taken in Brixton,
but it was necessary to take precautions lest his abode should be
discovered by those who might make awkward use of the knowledge. He
had, moreover, to keep Clara in the dark as to his real occupations
and prevent her from knowing his resorts in town. Lastly, as Mr.
Robert Delancey he had to deal with matters of a very delicate
nature indeed, in themselves quite enough to occupy a man's mental
energy. But our friend was no ordinary man. If you are not as yet
satisfied of that, it will ere long be made abundantly clear to you.

His spirits were as high as ever. When he said--with an ingenious
brutality all his own--that he was more than half glad to see his
wife, he, for a wonder, told the truth. But perhaps it was little
Jack who gave him most pleasure, and did .most to reconcile him to
the difficulties of his situation. In a day or two be conquered the
child's affections so completely that Jack seemed to care little for
his mother in comparison; Jack could not know the hardships she had
endured for his sake. Rodman--so we will continue to call him for
convenience' sake--already began to talk of what he would make the
lad, who certainly gave promise of parts. The result of this was
that for a week or two our friend became an exemplary family man.
His wife almost dared to believe that her miseries were over. Yet
she watched him with lynx eyes.

The 'Irish Dairy Company' flourished. Rodman rubbed his hands with a
sinister satisfaction when he inscribed among the shareholders the
name of Richard Mutimer, who invested all the money he had collected
from the East-Enders, and three hundred pounds of his own--not five
hundred, as he had at first thought of doing. Mutimer had the
consent of his committee, whom he persuaded without much
difficulty--the money was not theirs--that by this means he would
increase his capital beyond all expectation. He told Adela what he
had done.

'There's not the least risk. They've got the names of several lords!
And it isn't a mere commercial undertaking: the first object is to
benefit the Irish; so that there can be nothing against my
principles in it. They promise a dividend of thirty per cent. What a
glorious day it will be when I tell the people what I have made of
their money! Now confess that it isn't everyone could have hit on
this idea.'

Of course he made no public announcement of his speculation: that
would have been to spoil the surprise. But he could not refrain from
talking a good deal about the Company to his friends. He explained
with zeal the merit of the scheme; it was dealing directly with the
producers, the poor small-farmers who could never get fair
treatment. He saw a great deal of Mr. Hilary, who was vastly
interested in his East-End work. A severe winter had begun.
Threepenny bits came in now but slowly, and Mutimer exerted himself
earnestly to relieve the growing want in what he called his
'parishes.' He began in truth to do some really good work, moving
heaven and earth to find employment for those long out of it, and
even bestowing money of his own. At night he would return to
Holloway worn out, and distress Adela with descriptions of the
misery he had witnessed.

'I'm not sorry for it,' he once exclaimed. 'I cannot be sorry. Let
things get worse and worse the mending'll be all the nearer. Why
don't they march in a body to the West End? I don't mean march in a
violent sense, though that'll have to come, I expect. But why don't
they make a huge procession and go about the streets in an orderly
way--just to let it be seen what their numbers are--just to give
the West End a hint? I'll propose that one of these days. It'll be a
risky business, but we can't think of that when thousands are half
starving. I could lead them, I feel sure I could! It wants someone
with authority over them, and I think I've got that. There's no
telling what I may do yet. I say, Adela, bow would it sound--
"Richard Mutimer, First President of the English Republic"?'

And in the meantime Alice sat in her house at Wimbledon, abandoned.
The solitude seemed to be driving her mad. Rodman came down very
occasionally for a few hours in the daytime, but never passed a
night with her. He told her he had a great affair on hand, a very
great affair, which was to make their fortunes ten times over. She
must be patient; women couldn't understand business. If she resisted
his coaxing and grumbled, he always had his threat ready. He would
realise his profits and make off, leaving her in the lurch. Weeks
became months. In pique at the betrayal of her famous stratagem,
Alice had wanted to dismiss her servant, but Rodman objected to
this. She was driven by desperation to swallow her pride and make a
companion of the girl. But she did not complain to her of her
husband--partly out of self-respect, partly because she was afraid
to. Indeed it was a terrible time for the poor Princess. She spent
the greater part of every day in a state of apathy; for the rest she
wept. Many a time she was on the point of writing to Richard, but
could not quite bring herself to that. She could not leave the
house, for it rained or snowed day after day; the sun seemed to have
deserted the heavens as completely as joy her life. She grew
feeble-minded, tried to amuse herself with childish games, played
'Beggar My Neighbour' with the servant for hours at night. She had
fits of hysteria, and terrified her sole companion with senseless
laughter, or with alarming screams. Reading she was no longer story.
And her glass--as well as her husband--told her that equal to; after
a few pages she lost her understanding of a she suffered daily in
her appearance. Her hair was falling; she one day told the servant
that she would soon have to buy a wig. Poor Alice! And she had not
even the resource of railing against the social state. What a pity
she had never studied that subject!

So the time went on till February of the new year. Alice's release
was at hand.





CHAPTER XXXIII




'Arry Mutimer, not long after he left his mother's house for good,
by chance met Rodman in the City. Presuming on old acquaintance, he
accosted the man of business with some familiarity; it was a chance
of getting much-needed assistance once more. But Rodman was not
disposed to renew the association He looked into 'Arry's face with a
blank stare, asked contemptuously, 'Who are you?' and pursued his
walk.

'Arry hoped that he might some day have a chance of being even with
Mr. Rodman.

As indeed he had. One evening towards the end of February, 'Arry was
loafing about Brixton. He knew a certain licensed victualler in
those parts, a man who had ere now given him casual employment, and
after a day of fasting he trudged southwards to see if his friend
would not at all events be good for a glass of beer and a hunch of
bread and cheese. Perhaps he might also supply the coppers to pay
for a bed in the New Cut. To his great disappointment, the worthy
victualler was away from home; the victualler's wife had no
charitable tendencies. 'Arry whined to her, but only got for an
answer that times was as 'ard with her as with anyone else. The
representative of unemployed labour went his way despondently, hands
thrust deep in pockets, head slouching forwards, shoulders high up
against the night blast.

He was passing a chemist's shop, when a customer came out He
recognised Rodman. After a moment's uncertainty he made up his mind
to follow him, wondering how Rodman came to be in this part of
London. Keeping at a cautious distance, he saw him stop at a small
house and enter it by aid of a latchkey.

'Why, he lives there!' 'Arry exclaimed to himself. 'What's the
meanin' o' this go?'

Rodman, after all, had seriously come down in the world, then. It
occurred to 'Arry that he might do worse than pay his sister a
visit; Alice could not be hard-hearted enough to refuse him a few
coppers. But the call must be made at an hour when Rodman was away.
Presumably that would be some time after eight in the morning.

Our unconventional friend walked many miles that night. It was one
way of keeping warm, and there was always a possibility of aid from
one or other of the acquaintances whom he sought. The net result of
the night's campaign was half-a-pint of 'four-half.' The front of a
draper's shop in Kennington tempted him sorely; he passed it many
times, eyeing the rolls of calico and flannel exposed just outside
the doorway. But either courage failed him or there was no really
good opportunity. Midnight found him still without means of retiring
to that familiar lodging in the New Cut. At half-past twelve sleet
began to fall. He discovered a very dark corner of a very dark slum,
curled himself against the wall, and slept for a few hours in
defiance of wind and weather.

'Arry was used to this kind of thing. On the whole he deemed it
preferable to the life he would have led at his mother's.

By eight o'clock next morning he was back in Brixton, standing just
where he could see the house which Rodman had entered, without
himself attracting attention. Every rag on his back was soaked; he
had not eaten a mouthful for thirty hours. After such a run of bad
luck perhaps something was about to turn up.

But it was ten o'clock before Rodman left home. 'Arry had no feeling
left in any particle of his body. Still here at length was the
opportunity of seeing Alice. He waited till Rodman was out of sight,
then went to the door and knocked.

It was Clara who opened the door. Seeing 'Arry, she took him for a
beggar, shook her head, and was closing the door against him, when
she heard--

'Is Mrs. Rodman in, mum?'

'Mrs.--who?'

'Mrs. Rodman.'

Clara's eyes flashed as they searched his face.

'What do you want with Mrs. Rodman?'

'Want to see her, mum.'

'Do you know her when you see her?'

'Sh' think I do,' replied 'Arry with a grin. But he thought it
prudent to refrain from explanation.

'How do you know she lives here?'

''Cause I just see her 'usband go out.'

Clara hesitated a moment, then bade him enter. She introduced him to
a parlour on the ground floor. He stood looking uneasily about him.
The habits of his life made him at all times suspicious.

'Mrs. Rodman doesn't live here,' Clara began, lowering her voice and
making a great effort to steady it.

'Oh, she don't?' replied 'Arry, beginning to discern that something
was wrong.

'Can you tell me what you want with her?'

He looked her in the eyes and again grinned.

'Dare say I could if it was made worth my while.'

She took a purse from her pocket and laid half-a-crown on the table.
Her hand shook.

'I can't afford more than that. You shall have it if you tell me the
truth.'

'Arry took counsel with himself for an instant. Probably there was
no more to be got, and he saw from the woman's agitation that he had
come upon some mystery. The chance of injuring Rodman was more to
him than several half-crowns.

'I won't ask more,' he said, 'if you'll tell me who _you_ are.
That's fair on both sides, eh?'

'My name is Mrs. Williamson.'

'Oh? And might it 'appen that Mr. Rodman calls himself Mr.
Williamson when it suits him?'

'I don't know what you mean,' she replied hurriedly. 'Tell me who it
is you call Mrs. Rodman.'

'I don't _call_ her so. That's her married name. She's my sister.'

The door opened. Both turned their heads and saw Rodman. He had come
back for a letter he had forgotten to take with him to post At a
glance he saw everything, including the half-crown on the table,
which 'Arry instantly seized. He walked forward, throwing a
murderous look at Clara as he passed her. Then he said to 'Arry, in
a perfectly calm voice--

'There's the door.'

'I see there is,' the other replied, grinning. 'Good-mornin', Mr.
Rodman Williamson.'

Husband and wife faced each other as soon as the front door slammed.
Clara was a tigress; she could not be terrified as Alice might have
been by scowls and savage threats. Rodman knew it, and knew,
moreover, that his position was more perilous than any he had been
in for a long time.

'What do you know?' he asked quietly.

'Enough to send you to prison, Mr. Rodman. You can't do _quite_ what
you like! If there's law in this country I'll see you punished!'

He let her rave for a minute or two, and by that time had laid his
plans.

'Will you let me speak? Now I give you a choice. Either you can do
as you say, or you can be out of this country, with me and Jack,
before to-morrow morning. In a couple of hours I can get more money
than you ever set eyes on; I'll be back here with it'--he looked at
his watch--'by one o'clock. No, that wouldn't be safe either--that
fellow might send someone here by then. I'll meet you on Westminster
Bridge, the north end, at one. Now you've a minute to choose; he may
have gone straight away to the police station. Punish me if you
like--I don't care a curse. But it seems to me the other thing's got
more common sense in it I haven't seen that woman for a month, and
never care to see her again. I don't care over much for you either;
but I do care for Jack, and for his sake I'll take you with me, and
do my best for you. It's no good looking at me like a wild beast
You've sense enough to make a choice.'

She clasped her hands together and moaned, so dreadful was the
struggle in her between passions and temptations and fears. The
mother's heart bade her trust him; yet _could_ she trust him to go
and return?

'You have the cunning of a devil,' she groaned, 'and as little
heart! Let you go, when you only want the chance of deserting me
again!'

'You'll have to be quick,' he replied, holding his watch in his
hand, and smiling at the compliment in spite of his very real
anxiety. 'There may be no choice in a minute or two.'

'I'll go with you now; I'll follow you where you go to get the
money!'

'No, you won't. Either you trust me or you refuse. You've a free
choice, Clara. I tell you plainly I want little Jack, and I'm not
going to lose him if I can help it.'

'Have you any other children?'

'No--never had.'

At least he had not been deceiving her in the matter of Jack. She
knew that he had constantly come home at early hours only for the
sake of playing with the boy.

'I'll go with you. No one shall see that I'm following you.'

'It's impossible. I shall have to go post haste in a cab. I've
half-a-dozen places to go to. Meet me on Westminster Bridge at one.
I may be a few minutes later, but certainly not more than
half-an-hour.'

He went to the window and looked uneasily up and down the street.
Clara pressed her hands upon her head and stared at him like one
distracted.

'Where is she?' came from her involuntarily.

'Don't be a fool, woman!' he replied, walking to the door. She
sprang to hold him. Instead of repulsing her, he folded his arm
about her waist and kissed her lips two or three times.

'I can get thousands of pounds,' he whispered. 'We'll be off before
they have a trace. It's for Jack's sake, and I'll be kind to you as
well, old woman.'

She had suffered him to go; the kisses made her powerless, reminding
her of a long-past dream. A moment after she rushed to the house
door, but only to see him turning the corner of the street Then she
flew to the bedroom. Jack was ill of a cold--she was nursing him in
bed. But now she dressed him hurriedly, as if there were scarcely
time to get to Westminster by the appointed hour. All was ready
before eleven o'clock, but it was now raining, and she durst not
wait with the child in the open air for longer than was necessary.
But all at once the fear possessed her lest the police might come to
the house and she be detained. Ignorant of the law, and convinced
from her husband's words that the stranger in rags had some sinister
aim, she no sooner conceived the dread than she bundled into a
hand-bag such few articles as it would hold and led the child
hastily from the house. They walked to a tramway-line and had soon
reached Westminster Bridge. But it was not half-past eleven, and the
rain descended heavily. She sought a small eating-house not far from
the Abbey, and by paying for some coffee and bread-and-butter, which
neither she nor Jack could touch, obtained leave to sit in shelter
till one o'clock.

At five minutes to the hour she rose and hurried to the north end of
the bridge, and stood there, aside from the traffic, shielding
little Jack as much as she could with her umbrella, careless that
her own clothing was getting wet through. Big Ben boomed its one
stroke. Minute after minute passed, and her body seemed still to
quiver from the sound. She was at once feverishly hot and so deadly
chill that her teeth clattered together; her eyes throbbed with the
intensity of their gaze into the distance. The quarter-past was
chimed. Jack kept talking to her, but she could hear nothing. The
rain drenched her; the wind was so high that she with difficulty
held the umbrella above the child. Half-past, and no sign of her
husband. . . .

She durst not go away from this spot Her eyes were blind with tears.
A policeman spoke to her; she could only chatter meaningless sounds
between her palsied lips. Jack coughed incessantly, begged to be
taken home. 'I'm so cold, mother, so cold!' 'Only a few minutes
more,' she said. He began to cry, though a brave little soul. . . .

Four o'clock struck.

From Brixton our unconventional friend betook himself straight to
Holloway. Having, as he felt sure, the means of making things
decidedly uncomfortable for Mr. Rodman Williamson, it struck him
that the eftest way would be to declare at once to his brother
Richard all he knew and expected; Dick would not be slow in
bestirring himself to make Rodman smart 'Arry was without false
shame; he had no hesitation in facing his brother. But Mr. Mutimer,
he was told, was not at home. Then he would see Mrs. Mutimer. But
the servant was indisposed to admit him, or even to trouble her
mistress. 'Arry had to request her to say that 'Mr. 'Enery Mutimer'
desired to see the lady of the house. He chuckled to see the
astonishment produced by his words. Thus he got admittance to Adela.

She was shocked at the sight of him, could find no words, yet gave
him her hand. He told her he wished to see his brother on very
particular business. But Richard would not be back before eight
o'clock in the evening, and it was impossible to say where he could
be found. 'Arry would not tell Adela what brought him, only assured
her that it had nothing to do with his own affairs. He would call
again in the evening. Adela felt inhuman in allowing him to go out
into the rain, but she could not risk giving displeasure to her
husband by inviting 'Arry to stay.

He came again at half-past eight. Mutimer had been home nearly an
hour and was expecting him. 'Arry lost no time in coming to the
point

'He's married that other woman, I could see that much. Go and see
for yourself. She give me 'alf-a-crown to tell all about him. I'm
only afraid he's got off by this time.'

'Why didn't you go and give information to the police at once?'
Mutimer cried, in exasperation.

'Arry might have replied that he had a delicacy in waiting upon
those gentlemen. But his brother did not stay for an answer. Rushing
from the room, he equipped himself instantly with hat, coat, and
umbrella.

'Show me the way to that house. Come along, there's no time to lose.
Adela!' he called, 'I have to go out; can't say when I shall be
back. Don't sit up if I'm late.'

A hansom bore the brothers southwards as fast as hansom could go.

They found Clara in the house, a haggard, frenzied woman. Already
she had been to the police, but they were not inclined to hurry
matters; she had no satisfactory evidence to give them. To Mutimer,
when he had explained his position, she told everything--of her
marriage in London nine years ago, her going with her husband to
America, his desertion of her. Richard took her at once to the
police-station. They would have to attend at the court next morning
to swear an information.

By ten o'clock Mutimer was at Waterloo, taking train for Wimbledon.
At Rodman's house he found darkness, but a little ringing brought
Alice herself to the door. She thought it was her husband, and, on
recognising Richard, all but dropped with fear; only some ill news
could explain his coming thus. With difficulty he induced her to go
into a room out of the hall. She was in her dressing-gown, her long
beautiful hair in disorder, her pretty face white and distorted.

'What is it, Dick? what is it, Dick?' she kept repeating
mechanically, with inarticulate moanings between. She had forgotten
her enmity against her brother and spoke to him as in the old days.
He, too, was all kindness.

'Try and keep quiet a little, Alice. I want to talk to you. Yes,
it's about your husband, my poor girl; but there's nothing to be
frightened at. He's gone away, that's all. I want you to come to
London with me.'

She had no more control over herself than a terrified child; her
words and cries were so incoherent that Mutimer feared lest she had
lost her senses. She was, in truth, on the borders of idiocy. It was
more than half-an-hour before, with the servant's assistance, he
could allay her hysterical anguish. Then she altogether refused to
accompany him. If she did so she would miss her husband; he would
not go without coming to see her. Richard was reminded by the
servant that it was too late to go by train. He decided to remain in
the house through the night.

He had not ventured to tell her all the truth, nor did her state
encourage him to do so in the morning. But he then succeeded in
persuading her to come with him; Rodman, he assured her, must
already be out of England, for he had committed a criminal offence
and knew that the police were after him. Alice was got to the
station more dead than alive; they were at home in Holloway by
half-past ten. Richard then left her in Adela's hands and sped once
more to Brixton.

He got home again at two. As he entered Adela came down the stairs
to meet him.

'How is she?' he asked anxiously.

'The same. The doctor was here an hour ago. We must keep her as
quiet as possible. But she can't rest for a moment.'

She added--

'Three gentlemen have called to see you. They would leave no name,
and, to tell the truth, were rather rude. They seemed to doubt my
word when I said you were not in.'

At his request she attempted to describe these callers. Mutimer
recognised them as members of his committee.

'Rude to you? You must have mistaken. What did they come here for? I
shall in any case see them to-night.'

They returned to the subject of Alice's illness.

'I've half a mind to tell her the truth,' Mutimer said. 'Surely
she'd put the blackguard out of her head after that.'

'No, no; you mustn't tell her!' Adela interposed. 'I am sure it
would be very unwise.'

Alice was growing worse; in an hour or two delirium began to declare
itself. She had resisted all efforts to put her to bed; at most she
would lie on a couch. Whilst Richard and his wife were debating what
should be done, it was announced to them that the three gentlemen
had called again. Mutimer went oft angrily to see them.

He was engaged for half-an-hour. Then Adela heard the visitors
depart; one of them was speaking loudly and with irritation. She
waited for a moment at the head of the stairs, expecting that
Mutimer would come out to her. As he did not, she went into the
sitting-room.

Mutimer stood before the fireplace, his eyes on the ground, his face
discoloured with vehement emotion.

'What has happened?' she asked.

He looked up and beckoned to her to approach.





CHAPTER XXXIV




Adela bad never seen him so smitten with grave trouble. She knew him
in brutal anger and in surly ill-temper; but his present mood had
nothing of either. He seemed to stagger beneath a blow which had all
but crushed him and left him full of dread. He began to address her
in a voice very unlike his own--thick, uncertain; he used short
sentences, often incomplete.

'Those men are on the committee. One of them got a letter this
morning--anonymous. It said they were to be on their guard against
me. Said the Company's a swindle--that I knew it--that I've got
money out of the people on false pretences. And Hilary's gone--gone
off--taking all he could lay hands on. The letter says so--I don't
know. It says I'm thick with the secretary--a man I never even saw.
That he's a well-known swindler--Delancey his name is. And these
fellows believe it--demand that I shall prove I'm innocent. What
proof can I give? They think I kept out of the way on purpose this
morning.'

He ceased speaking, and Adela stood mute, looking him in the face.
She was appalled on his account. She did not love him; too often his
presence caused her loathing. But of late she had been surprised
into thinking more highly of some of his qualities than it had
hitherto been possible for her to do. She could never forget that he
toiled first and foremost for his own advancement to a very cheap
reputation; he would not allow her to lose sight of it had she
wished. But during the present winter she had discerned in him a
genuine zeal to help the suffering, a fervour in kindly works of
which she had not believed him capable. Very slowly the conviction
had come to her, but in the end she could not resist it. One
evening, in telling her of the hideous misery he had been amongst,
his voice failed and she saw moisture in his eyes. Was his character
changing? Had she wronged him in attaching too much importance to a
fault which was merely on the surface? Oh, but there were too many
indisputable charges against him. Yet a man's moral nature may
sometimes be strengthened by experience of the evil he has wrought.
All this rushed through her mind as she now stood gazing at him.

'But how can they credit an anonymous letter?' she said. 'How can
they believe the worst of you before making inquiries?'

'They have been to the office of the Company. Everything is upside
down. They say Hilary isn't to be found.'

'Who can have written such a letter?'

'How do I know? I have enemies enough, no doubt. Who hasn't that
makes himself a leader?'

There was the wrong note again. It discouraged her; she was silent.

'Look here, Adela,' he said, 'do you believe this?'

'Believe it!'

'Do you think I'm capable of doing a thing like that--scraping
together by pennies the money of the poorest of the poor just to use
it for my own purposes--could I do that?'

'You know I do not believe it.'

'But you don't speak as if you were certain. There's something--But
how am I to prove I'm innocent? How can I make people believe I
wasn't in the plot? They've only my word--who'll think that enough?
Anyone can tell a lie and stick to it, if there's no positive proof
against him. How am I to make _you_ believe that I was taken in?'

'But I tell you that a doubt of your innocence does not enter my
mind. If it were necessary, I would stand up in public before all
who accused you and declare that they were wrong. I do not need your
assurance. I recognise that it would be impossible for you to commit
such a crime.'

'Well, it does me good to hear you say that,' he replied, with light
of hope in his eyes. 'I wanted to feel sure of that. You might have
thought that'--he sank his voice--'that because I could think of
destroying that will--'

'Don't speak of that!' she interrupted, with a gesture of pain. 'I
say that I believe you. It is enough. Don't speak about me any more.
Think of what has to be done.'

'I have promised to be in Clerkenwell at eight o'clock. There'll be
a meeting. I shall do my best to show that I am innocent. You'll
look after Alice? It's awful to have to leave her whilst she's like
that.'

'Trust me. I will not leave her side for a moment. The doctor will
be here again to-night.'

A thought struck him.

'Send out the girl for an evening paper. There may be something in
it.'

The paper was obtained. One of the first headings his eye fell upon
was: 'Rumoured Collapse of a Public Company. Disappearance of the
Secretary.' He showed it to Adela, and they read together. She saw
that the finger with which he followed the lines quivered like a
leaf. It was announced in a brief paragraph that the Secretary of
the Irish Dairy Company was missing: that he seemed to have gone off
with considerable sums. Moreover, that there were rumours in the
City of a startling kind, relative to the character of the Company
itself. The name of the secretary was Mr. Robert Delancey, but that
was now believed to be a mere _alias_. The police were actively at
work.

'It'll be the ruin of me!' Mutimer gasped. 'I can never prove that I
knew nothing. You see, nothing's said about Hilary. It's that fellow
Delancey who has run.'

'You must find Mr. Hilary,' said Adela urgently. 'Where does he
live?'

'I have no idea. I only had the office address. Perhaps it isn't
even his real name. It'll be my ruin.'

Adela was astonished to see him so broken down. He let himself sink
upon a chair; his head and hands fell.

'But I can't understand why you should despair so!' she exclaimed.
'You will speak to the meeting to-night. If the money is lost you
will restore it. If you have been imprudent, that is no crime.'

'It is--it is--when I had money of that kind entrusted to me! They
won't hear me. They have condemned me already. What use is it to
talk to them? They'll say everything comes to smash in my hands.'

She spoke to him with such words of strengthening as one of his
comrades might have used. She did not feel the tenderness of a wife,
and had no power to assume it. But her voice was brave and true. She
had made his interest, his reputation, her own. By degrees he
recovered from the blow, and let her words give him heart.

'You're right,' he said, 'I'm behaving like a fool; I couldn't go on
different if I was really guilty. Who wrote that letter? I never saw
the letter before, as far as I know. I wanted to keep it, but they
wouldn't let me--trust them! What black guards they are I They're
jealous of me. They know they can't speak like I do, that they
haven't the same influence I have. So they're ready to believe the
first lie that's brought against me. Let them look to themselves
to-night! I'll give them a piece of my mind--see if I don't! What's
to-day? Friday. On Sunday I'll have the biggest meeting ever
gathered in the East End. If they shout out against me, I'll tell
them to their faces that they're mean-spirited curs. They haven't
the courage to rise and get by force what they'll never have by
asking for it, and when a man does his best to help them they throw
mud at him!'

'But they won't do so,' Adela urged. 'Don't be unjust. Wait and see.
They will shout _for_, not _against_ you.'

'Why didn't you keep 'Arry here?' he asked suddenly.

'He refused to stay. I gave him money.'

'You should have forced him to stay How can I have a brother of my
own living a life like that? You did wrong to give him money. He'll
only use it to make a beast of himself. I must find him again; I
can't let him go to ruin.'

'Arry had come back to Holloway the previous night to inform Adela
that her husband might not return till morning. As she said, it had
been impossible to detain him. He was too far gone in
unconventionality to spend a night under a decent roof.
Home-sickness for the gutter possessed him.

In the meantime Alice had become quieter. It was half-past six;
Mutimer had to be at the meeting-place in Clerkenwell by eight.
Adela sat by Alice whilst the servant hurriedly prepared a meal;
then the girl took her place, and she went down to her husband. They
were in the middle of their meal when they heard the front-door
slam. Mutimer started up.

'Who's that? Who's gone out?'

Adela ran to the foot of the stairs and called the servant's name
softly. It was a minute before the girl appeared.

'Who has just gone out, Mary?'

'Gone out? No one, mum!'

'Is Mrs. Rodman lying still?'

The girl went to see. She had left Alice for a few moments
previously. She appeared again at the head of the stairs with a face
of alarm.

'Mrs. Rodman isn't there, mum!'

Mutimer flew up the staircase. Alice was nowhere to be found. It
could not be doubted that she had fled in a delirious state. Richard
rushed into the street, but it was very dark, and rain was falling.
There was no trace of the fugitive. He came back to the door, where
Adela stood; he put out his hand and held her arm as if she needed
support.

'Give me my hat! She'll die in the street, in the rain! I'll go one
way; the girl must go the other. My hat!'

'I will go one way myself,' said Adela hurriedly. 'You must take an
umbrella: it pours. Mary! my waterproof!'

They ran in opposite directions. It was a quiet by-street, with no
shops to cast light upon the pavement. Adela encountered a constable
before she had gone very far, and begged for his assistance. He
promised to be on the look-out, but advised her to go on a short
distance to the police-station and leave a description of the
missing woman. She did so; then, finding the search hopeless in this
quarter, turned homewards. Mutimer was still absent, but he appeared
in five minutes; as unsuccessful as herself. She told him of her
visit to the station.

'I must keep going about,' he said. 'She can't be far off; her
strength, surely, wouldn't take her far.'

Adela felt for him profoundly; for once he had not a thought of
himself, his distress was absorbing. He was on the point of leaving
the house again, when she remembered the meeting at which he was
expected. She spoke of it.

'What do I care?' he replied, waving his arm. 'Let them think what
they like. I must find Alice.'

Adela saw in a moment all that his absence would involve. He could
of course explain subsequently, but in the meantime vast harm would
have been done. It was impossible to neglect the meeting altogether.
She ran after him and stopped him on the pavement.

'I will go to this meeting for you,' she said. 'A cab will take me
there and bring me back. I will let them know what keeps you away.'

He looked at her with astonishment.

'You! How can you go? Among those men?'

'Surely I have nothing to fear from them? Have you lost all your
faith suddenly? You cannot go, but someone must. I will speak to
them so that they cannot but believe me. You continue the search; I
will go.'

They stood together in the pouring rain. Mutimer caught her hand.

'I never knew what a wife could be till now,' he exclaimed hoarsely.
'And I never knew _you_!'

'Find me a cab and give the man the address. I will be ready in an
instant.'

Her cheeks were on fire; her nerves quivered with excitement. She
had made the proposal almost involuntarily; only his thanks gave her
some understanding of what she was about to do. But she did not
shrink; a man's--better still, a woman's--noblest courage throbbed
in her. If need were, she too could stand forward in a worthy cause
and speak the truth undauntedly.

The cab was bearing her away. She looked at her watch in the moment
of passing a street lamp and just saw that it was eight o'clock. The
meeting would be full by this; they would already be drawing ill
conclusions from Mutimer's absence Faster, faster! Every moment lost
increased the force of prejudice against him. She could scarcely
have felt more zeal on behalf of the man whom her soul loved. In the
fever of her brain she was conscious of a wish that even now that
love could be her husband's. Ah no, no! But serve him she could and
loyally. The lights flew by in the streets of Islington; the driver
was making the utmost speed he durst. A check among thronging
vehicles anguished her. But it was past, and here at length came the
pause.

A crowd of perhaps a hundred men was gathered about the ill-lighted
entrance to what had formerly been a low-class dancing-saloon. Adela
saw them come thronging about the cab, heard their cries of
discontent and of surprise when she showed herself.

'Wait for me!' she called to the driver, and straightway walked to
the door. The men made way for her. On the threshold she turned.

'I wish to see some member of the committee. I am Mrs. Mutimer.'

There was a coarse laugh from some fellows, but others cried, 'Shut
up! she's a lady.' One stepped forward and announced himself as a
committee-man. He followed her into the passage.

'My husband cannot come,' she said. 'Will you please show me where I
can speak to the meeting and tell them the reason of his absence?'

Much amazed, the committee-man led her into the hall. It was
whitewashed, furnished with plain benches, lit with a few gas-jets.
There was scarcely room to move for the crowd. Every man seemed to
be talking at the pitch of his voice. The effect was an angry roar.
Adela's guide with difficulty made a passage for her to the
platform, for it took some time before the crowd realised what was
going on. At length she stood in a place whence she could survey the
assembly. On the wall behind her hung a great sheet of paper on
which were inscribed the names of all who had deposited money with
Mutimer. Adela glanced at it and understood. Instead of being
agitated she possessed an extraordinary lucidity of mind, a calmness
of nerve which she afterwards remembered as something miraculous.

The committee-man roared for silence, then in a few words explained
Mrs. Mutimer's wish to make 'a speech.' To Adela's ears there seemed
something of malice in this expression; she did not like, either,
the laugh which it elicited. But quiet was speedily restored by a
few men of sturdy lungs. She stepped to the front of the platform.

The scene was a singular one. Adela had thrown off her waterproof in
the cab; she stood in her lady-like costume of home, her hat only
showing that she had come from a distance. For years her cheeks had
been very pale; in this moment her whole face was white as marble.
Her delicate beauty made strange contrast with the faces on each
side and in front of her--faces of rude intelligence, faces of
fathomless stupidity, faces degraded into something less than human.
But all were listening, all straining towards her. There were a few
whispers of honest admiration, a few of vile jest. She began to
speak.

'I have come here because my husband cannot come. It is most
unfortunate that he cannot, for he tells me that someone has been
throwing doubt upon his honesty. He would be here, but that a
terrible misfortune has befallen him. His sister was lying ill in
our house. A little more than an hour ago she was by chance left
alone and, being delirious--out of her mind--escaped from the
house. My husband is now searching for her everywhere; she may be
dying somewhere in the streets. That is the explanation I have come
to give you. But I will say a word more. I do not know who has
spoken ill of my husband; I do not know his reasons for doing so.
This, however, I know, that Richard Mutimer has done you no wrong,
and that he is incapable of the horrible thing of which he is
accused. You must believe it; you wrong yourselves if you refuse to.
To-morrow, no doubt, he will come and speak for himself. Till then I
beg you to take the worthy part and credit good rather than evil.'

She ceased, and, turning to the committee-man, who still stood near
her, requested him to guide her from the room. As she moved down
from the platform the crowd recovered itself from the spell of her
voice. The majority cheered, but there were not a few dissentient
howls. Adela had ears for nothing; a path opened before her, and she
walked along it with bowed head. Her heart was now beating
violently; she felt that she must walk quickly or perchance her
strength would fail her before she reached the door. As she
disappeared there again arose the mingled uproar of cheers and
groans; it came to her like the bellow of a pursuing monster as she
fled along the passage. And in truth Demos was on her track. A few
kept up with her; the rest jammed themselves in the door way,
hustled each other, fought. The dozen who came out to the pavement
altogether helped her into the cab, then gave a hearty cheer as she
drove away.

The voice of Demos, not malevolent at the last, but to Adela none
the less something to be fled from, something which excited thoughts
of horrible possibilities, in its very good-humour and its praise of
her a sound of fear.





CHAPTER XXXV




His search being vain, Mutimer hastened from one police-station to
another, leaving descriptions of his sister at each. When he came
home again Adela had just arrived. She was suffering too much from
the reaction which followed upon her excitement to give him more
than the briefest account of what she had heard and said; but
Mutimer cared little for details. He drew an easy-chair near to the
fire and begged her to rest. As she lay back for a moment with
closed eyes, he took her faint hand and put it to his lips. He had
never done so before; when she glanced at him he averted his face in
embarrassment.

He would have persuaded her to go to bed, but she declared that
sleep was impossible; she had much rather sit up with him till news
came of Alice, as it surely must do in course of the night. For
Mutimer there was no resting; he circled continually about the
neighbouring streets, returning to the house every quarter of an
hour, always to find Adela in the same position. Her heart would not
fall to its normal beat, and the vision of those harsh faces would
not pass from her mind.

At two o'clock they heard that Alice was found. She had been
discovered several miles from home, lying unconscious in the street,
and was now in a hospital. Mutimer set off at once; he returned with
the report that she was between life and death. It was impossible to
remove her.

Adela slept a little between six and eight; her husband took even
shorter rest. When she came down to the sitting-room, he was reading
the morning paper. As she entered he uttered a cry of astonishment
and rage.

'Look here!' he exclaimed to her. 'Read that!'

He pointed to an account of the Irish Dairy Company frauds, in which
it was stated that the secretary, known as Delancey, appeared also
to have borne the name of Rodman.

They gazed at each other.

'Then it was Rodman wrote that letter!' Mutimer cried. 'I'll swear
to it. He did it to injure me at the last moment. Why haven't they
got him yet? The police are useless. But they've got Hilary, I
see--yes, they've got Hilary. He was caught at Dover. Ha, ha! He
denies everything--says he didn't even know of the secretary's
decamping. The lying scoundrel! Says he was going to Paris on
private business. But they've got him! And see here again: "The same
Rodman is at present wanted by the police on a charge of bigamy."
Wanted! If they weren't incompetent fools they'd have had him
already. Ten to one he's out of England.'

It was a day of tumult for Mutimer. At the hospital he found no
encouragement, but he could only leave Alice in the hands of the
doctors. From the hospital he went to his mother's house; he had not
yet had time to let her know of anything. But his main business lay
in Clerkenwell and in various parts of the East End, wherever he
could see his fellow-agitators. In hot haste he wrote an
announcement of a meeting on Clerkenwell Green for Sunday afternoon,
and had thousands of copies printed on slips; by evening these were
scattered throughout his 'parishes.' He found that the calumny
affecting him was already widely known; several members of his
committee met him with black looks. Here and there an ironical
question was put to him about his sister's health. With the
knowledge that Alice might be dying or dead, he could scarcely find
words of reply. His mood changed from fear and indignation to a grim
fury; within a few hours he made many resolute enemies by his
reckless vehemence and vituperation.

The evening papers brought him a piece of intelligence which would
have rejoiced him but for something with which it was coupled.
Delancey, _alias_ Rodman, _alias_ Williamson, was arrested; he had
been caught in Hamburg. The telegram added that he talked freely and
had implicated a number of persons--among them a certain Socialist
agitator, name not given. As Mutimer read this he fell for a moment
into blank despair. He returned at once to Holloway, all but
resolved to throw up the game--to abandon the effort to defend
himself, and wait for what might result from the judicial
investigations. Adela resisted this to the uttermost. She understood
that such appearance of fear would be fatal to him. With a knowledge
of Demos which owed much to her last night's experience, she urged
to him that behind his back calumny would thrive unchecked, would
grow in a day to proportions altogether irresistible. She succeeded
in restoring his courage, though at the same time there revived in
Mutimer the savage spirit which could only result in harm to
himself.

'This is how they repay a man who works for them!' he cried
repeatedly. 'The ungrateful brutes! Let me once clear myself, and
I'll throw it up, bid them find someone else to fight their battles
for them. It's always been the same: history shows it What have I
got for myself out of it all, I'd like to know? Haven't I given them
every penny I had? Let them do their worst! Let them bark and bray
till they are hoarse!'

He would have kept away from Clerkenwell that evening, but even this
Adela would not let him do. She insisted that he must be seen and
heard, that the force of innocence would prevail even with his
enemies. The couple of hours he passed with her were spent in
ceaseless encouragement on her side, in violent tirades on his. He
paced the room like a caged lion, at one moment execrating Rodman,
the next railing against the mob to whose interests he had devoted
himself. Now and then his voice softened, and he spoke of Alice.

'The scoundrel set even her against me! If she lives, perhaps she'll
believe I'm guilty; how can my word stand against her husband's?
Why, he isn't her husband at all! It's a good thing if she dies--the
best thing that could happen. What will become of her? What are we
to call her? She's neither married nor single. Can we keep it from
her, do you think? No, that won't do; she must be free to marry an
honest man. You'll try and make friends with her, Adela--if ever
you've the chance? She'll have to live with us, of course unless
she'd rather live with mother. We mustn't tell her for a long time,
till she's strong enough to bear it.'

He with difficulty ate a few mouthfuls and went off to Clerkenwell.
In the erstwhile dancing-saloon it was a night of tempest. Mutimer
had never before addressed an unfriendly audience. After the first
few interruptions he lost his temper, and with it his cause, as far
as these present hearers were concerned. When he left them, it was
amid the mutterings of a storm which was not quite--only not
quite--ready to burst in fury.

'Who knows you won't take yer 'ook before to-morrow?' cried a voice
as he neared the door.

'Wait and see!' Mutimer shouted in reply, with a savage laugh. 'I've
a word or two to say yet to blackguards like you.'

He could count on some twenty pairs of fists in the room, if it came
to that point; but he was allowed to depart unmolested.

On the way home he called at the hospital. There was no change in
Alice's condition.

The next day he remained at home till it was time to start for
Clerkenwell Green. He was all but worn out, and there was nothing of
any use to be done before the meeting assembled. Adela went for him
to the hospital and brought back still the same report. He ate
fairly well of his midday dinner, seeming somewhat calmer. Adela,
foreseeing his main danger, begged him to address the people without
anger, assured him that a dignified self-possession would go much
farther than any amount of blustering. He was induced to promise
that he would follow her advice.

He purposed walking to the Green; the exercise would perhaps keep
his nerves in order. When it was time to start, he took Adela's
hand, and for a second time kissed it. She made an effort over
herself and held her lips to him. The 'good-bye' was exchanged, with
a word of strengthening from Adela; but still he did not go. He was
endeavouring to speak.

'I don't think I've thanked you half enough,' he said at length,
'for what you did on Friday night.'

'Yes, more than enough,' was the reply.

'You make little of it, but it's a thing very few women would have
done. And it was hard for you, because you're a lady.'

'No less a woman,' murmured Adela, her head bowed.

'And a good woman--I believe with all my heart. I want to ask you to
forgive me--for things I once said to you. I was a brute. Perhaps if
I had been brought up in the same kind of way that you were--that's
the difference between us, you see. But try if you can to forget it.
I'll never think anything but good of you as long as I live.'

She could not reply, for a great sob was choking her. She pressed
his band; the tears broke from her eyes as she turned away.

It being Sunday afternoon, visitors were admitted to the hospital in
which Alice lay. Mutimer had allowed himself time to pass five
minutes by his sister's bedside on the way to Clerkenwell. Alice was
still unconscious; she lay motionless, but her lips muttered
unintelligible words. He bent over her and spoke, but she did not
regard him. It was perhaps the keenest pain Mutimer had ever known
to look into those eyes and meet no answering intelligence. By close
listening he believed he heard her utter the name of her husband. It
was useless to stay; he kissed her and left the ward.

On his arrival at Clerkenwell Green--a large triangular space which
merits the name of Green as much as the Strand--he found a
considerable gathering already assembled about the cart from which
he was to speak. The inner circle consisted of his friends--some
fifty who remained staunch in their faith. Prominent among them was
the man Redgrave, he who had presented the address when Mutimer took
leave of his New Wanley workpeople. He had come to London at the
same time as his leader, and had done much to recommend Mutimer's
scheme in the East End. His muscular height made those about him
look puny. He was red in the face with the excitement of abusing
Mutimer's enemies, and looked as if nothing would please him better
than to second words with arguments more cogent. He and those about
him hailed the agitator's appearance with three ringing cheers. A
little later came a supporter whom Richard had not expected to see--
Mr. Westlake. Only this morning intelligence of what was going on
had reached his ears. At once he had scouted the accusations as
incredible; he deemed it a duty to present himself on Mutimer's
side. Outside this small cluster was an indefinable mob, a portion
of it bitterly hostile, a part indifferent; among the latter a large
element of mere drifting blackguardism, the raff of a city,
anticipating with pleasure an uproar which would give them unwonted
opportunities of violence and pillage. These gentle men would with
equal zeal declare for Mutimer or his opponents, as the fortune of
the day directed them.

The core of the hostile party consisted of those who followed the
banner of Comrade Roodhouse, the ralliers to the 'Tocsin.' For them
it was a great occasion. The previous evening had seen a clamorous
assembly in the room behind the Hoxton coffee-shop. Comrade
Roodhouse professed to have full details of the scandal which had
just come to light. According to him, there was no doubt whatever
that Mutimer had known from the first the character of the bogus
Company, and had wittingly used the money of the East-Enders to aid
in floating a concern which would benefit himself and a few others.
Roodhouse disclosed the identity of Mr. Robert Delancey, and
explained the relations existing between Rodman and Mutimer,
ignoring the fact that a lawsuit had of late turned their friendship
to mutual animosity. It was an opportunity not to be missed for
paying back the hard things Mutimer had constantly said of the
'Tocsin' party. Comrade Roodhouse was busy in the crowd, sowing
calumnies and fermenting wrath. In the crowd were our old
acquaintances Messrs. Cowes and Cullen, each haranguing as many as
could be got to form a circle and listen, indulging themselves in
measureless vituperation, crying shame on traitors to the noble
cause. Here, too, was Daniel Dabbs, mainly interested in the
occasion as an admirable provocative of thirst. He was much disposed
to believe Mutimer guilty, but understood that it was none of his
business to openly take part with either side. He stood well on the
limits of the throng; it was not impossible that the debate might
end in the cracking of crowns, in which case Mr. Dabbs, as a
respectable licensed victualler whose weekly profits had long since
made him smile at the follies of his youth, would certainly incur no
needless risk to his own valuable scalp.

The throng thickened; it was impossible that the speakers should be
audible to the whole assembly. Hastily it was decided to arrange two
centres. Whilst Mutimer was speaking at the lower end of the Green,
Redgrave would lift up his voice in the opposite part, and make it
understood that Mutimer would repeat his address there as soon as he
had satisfied the hearers below. The meeting was announced for three
o'clock, but it was half an hour later before Mutimer stood up on
the cart and extended his hand in appeal for silence. It at first
seemed as if he could not succeed in making his voice heard at all.
A cluster of Roodhouse's followers, under the pretence of demanding
quiet, made incessant tumult. But ultimately the majority, those who
were merely curious, and such of the angry East-Enders as really
wanted to hear what Mutimer had to say for himself, imposed silence.
Richard began his speech.

He had kept Adela's warning in mind, and determined to be calmly
dignified in his refutal of the charges brought against him. For
five minutes he impressed his hearers. He had never spoken better.
In the beginning he briefly referred to the facts of his life, spoke
of the use he had made of wealth when he possessed it, demanded if
it was likely that he should join with swindlers to rob the very
class to which he himself was proud to belong, and for which he had
toiled unceasingly. He spoke of Rodman, and denied that he had ever
known of this man's connection with the Company--a man who was his
worst enemy. He it was, this Rodman, who doubtless had written the
letter which first directed suspicion in the wrong quarter; it was
an act such as Rodman would be capable of, for the sake of
gratifying his enmity. And how had that enmity arisen? He told the
story of the lawsuit; showed how, in that matter, he had stood up
for common honesty, though at the time Rodman was his friend. Then
he passed to the subject of his stewardship. Why had he put that
trust money into a concern without sufficient investigation? He
could make but one straightforward answer: he had believed that the
Company was sound, and he bought shares because the dividends
promised to be large, and it was his first desire to do the very
best he could for those who had laid their hard-earned savings in
his hands.

For some minutes he had had increasing difficulty in holding his
voice above the noise of interruptions, hostile or friendly. It now
became impossible for him to proceed. A man who was lifted on to the
shoulders of two others began to make a counter-speech, roaring so
that those around could not but attend to him. He declared himself
one of those whom Mutimer had robbed; all his savings for seven
months were gone; he was now out of work, and his family would soon
be starving. Richard's blood boiled as he heard these words.

'You lie!' he bellowed in return; 'I know you. You are the fellow
who said last night that I should run away, and never come at all to
this meeting. I called you a blackguard then, and I call you a liar
now. You have put in my hand six threepences, and no more. The money
you might have saved you constantly got drunk upon. Your money is
waiting for you: you have only to come and apply for it. And I say
the same to all the rest. I am ready to pay all the money back, and
pay it too with interest.'

'Of course you are!' vociferated the other. 'You can't steal it, so
you offer to give it back. We know that game.'

It was the commencement of utter confusion. A hundred voices were
trying to make themselves heard. The great crowd swayed this way and
that. Mutimer looked on a tempest of savage faces--a sight which
might have daunted any man in his position. Fists were shaken at
him, curses were roared at him from every direction. It was clear
that the feeling of the mob was hopelessly against him; his
explanations were ridiculed. A second man was reared on others'
shoulders; but instead of speaking from the place where he was, he
demanded to be borne forward and helped to a standing on the cart.
This was effected after a brief struggle with Mutimer's supporters.
Then all at once there was a cessation of the hubbub that the new
speaker migh