Infomotions, Inc.Denzil Quarrier / Gissing, George, 1857-1903



Author: Gissing, George, 1857-1903
Title: Denzil Quarrier
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): glazzard; quarrier; denzil; lilian; polterham; northway; liversedge; wade; serena; denzil quarrier; eustace glazzard
Contributor(s): Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912 [Editor]
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Title: Denzil Quarrier

Author: George Gissing

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Edited by Charles Aldarondo (aldarondo@yahoo.com)

GEORGE GISSING

DENZIL QUARRIER





CHAPTER I




For half an hour there had been perfect silence in the room. The cat
upon the hearthrug slept profoundly; the fire was sunk to a still
red glow; the cold light of the autumn afternoon thickened into
dusk.

Lilian seemed to be reading. She sat on a footstool, her arm resting
on the seat of a basket-chair, which supported a large open volume.
But her hand was never raised to turn a page, and it was long since
her eyes had gathered the sense of the lines on which they were
fixed. This attitude had been a favourite one with her in childhood,
and nowadays, in her long hours of solitude, she often fell into the
old habit. It was a way of inviting reverie, which was a way of
passing the time.

She stirred at length; glanced at the windows, at the fire, and
rose.

A pleasant little sitting-room, furnished in the taste of our time;
with harmonies and contrasts of subdued colour, with pictures
intelligently chosen, with store of graceful knick-knacks. Lilian's
person was in keeping with such a background; her dark gold hair,
her pale, pensive, youthful features, her slight figure in its loose
raiment, could not have been more suitably displayed. In a room of
statelier proportions she would have looked too frail, too young for
significance; out of doors she was seldom seen to advantage; here
one recognized her as the presiding spirit in a home fragrant of
womanhood. The face, at this moment, was a sad one, but its lines
expressed no weak surrender to dolefulness; her lips were
courageous, and her eyes such as brighten readily with joy.

A small table bore a tea-fray with a kettle and spirit-lamp; the
service for two persons only. Lilian, after looking at her watch,
ignited the lamp and then went to the window as if in expectation of
some one's arrival.

The house stood in a row of small new dwellings on the outskirts of
Clapham Common; there was little traffic along the road at any time,
and in this hour of twilight even a passing footstep became a thing
to notice. Some one approached on her side of the way she listened,
but with disappointment; it was not the step for which she waited.
None the less it paused at this house, and she was startled to
perceive a telegraph messenger on the point of knocking. At once she
hastened to the front door.

"Mrs. Quarrier?" inquired the boy, holding out his missive.

Lilian drew back with it into the passage. But there was not light
enough to read by; she had to enter the sitting-room and hold the
sheet of paper close to the kettle-lamp.

"Very sorry that I cannot get home before ten. Unexpected business."

She read it carefully, then turned with a sigh and dismissed the
messenger.

In a quarter of an hour she had made tea, and sat down to take a
cup. The cat, refreshed after slumber, jumped on to her lap and lay
there pawing playfully at the trimming of her sleeves. Lilian at
first rewarded this friendliness only with absent stroking, but when
she had drunk her tea and eaten a slice of bread and butter the
melancholy mood dispersed; pussy's sportiveness was then abundantly
indulged, and for awhile Lilian seemed no less merry than her
companion.

The game was interrupted by another knock at the house-door; this
time it was but the delivery of the evening paper. Lilian settled
herself in a chair by the fireside, and addressed herself with a
serious countenance to the study of the freshly-printed columns.
Beginning with the leading-article, she read page after page in the
most conscientious way, often pausing to reflect, and once even to
pencil a note on the margin. The paper finished, she found it
necessary for the clear understanding of a certain subject to
consult a book of reference, and for this purpose she went to a room
in the rear--a small study, comfortably but plainly furnished,
smelling of tobacco. It was very chilly, and she did not spend much
time over her researches.

A sound from the lower part of the house checked her returning
steps; some one was rapping at the door down in the area. It
happened that she was to-day without a servant; she must needs
descend into the kitchen herself and answer the summons. When the
nether regions were illumined and the door thrown open, Lilian
beheld a familiar figure, that of a scraggy and wretchedly clad
woman with a moaning infant in her arms.

"Oh, it's you, Mrs. Wilson!" she exclaimed. "Please to come in. How
have _you_ been getting on? And how is baby?"

The woman took a seat by the kitchen fire, and began to talk in a
whining, mendicant tone. From the conversation it appeared that this
was by no means the first time she had visited Lilian and sought to
arouse her compassion; the stories she poured forth consisted in a
great measure of excuses for not having profited more substantially
by the help already given her. The eye and the ear of experience
would readily enough have perceived in Mrs. Wilson a very coarse
type of impostor, and even Lilian, though showing a face of distress
at what she heard, seemed to hesitate in her replies and to
entertain troublesome doubts. But the objection she ventured to make
to a flagrant inconsistency m the tale called forth such loud
indignation, such a noisy mixture of insolence and grovelling
entreaty, that her moral courage gave way and Mrs. Wilson whined for
another quarter of an hour in complete security from
cross-examination. In the end Lilian brought out her purse and took
from it half-a-sovereign.

"Now, if I give you this, Mrs. Wilson, I do hope to have a better
account"----

Her admonitions were cut short, and with difficulty she managed to
obtain hearing for a word or two of what was meant for grave counsel
whilst taking leave of her visitor. Mrs. Wilson, a gleam in her red
eyes, vanished up the area steps, and left Lilian to meditate on the
interview.

The evening passed on, and her solitude was undisturbed. When
dinner-time came, she sat down to the wing of a cold chicken and a
thimbleful of claret much diluted; the repast was laid out with
perfection of neatness, and at its conclusion she cleared the table
like the handiest of parlour-maids. Whatever she did was done
gracefully; she loved order, and when alone was no less scrupulous
in satisfying her idea of the becoming than when her actions were
all observed.

After dinner, she played a little on the piano. Here, as over her
book in the afternoon, the absent fit came upon her. Her fingers had
rested idly on the keyboard for some minutes, when they began to
touch solemn chords, and at length there sounded the first notes of
a homely strain, one of the most familiar of the Church's hymns. It
ceased abruptly; Lilian rose and went to another part of the room.

A few minutes later her ear caught the sound for which she was now
waiting--that of a latch-key at the front door. She stepped
quickly out into the passage, where the lamp-light fell upon a tall
and robust man with dark, comely, bearded visage.

"Poor little girl!" he addressed her, affectionately, as he pulled
off his overcoat. "I couldn't help it, Lily; bound to stay."

"Never mind!" was her laughing reply, as she stood on tip-toe and
drew down his face to hers. "I was disappointed, but it's as well
you didn't come to dinner. Sarah had to go away this morning."

"Oh! How's that? How have _you_ managed then?"

They passed into the front room, and Quarrier repeated his
inquiries.

"She had a letter from Birmingham," Lilian explained. "Her brother
has been all but killed in some dreadful accident, and he's in a
hospital. I saw she wished to go--so I gave her some money and
sent her off as soon as possible. Perhaps it was her only chance of
seeing him alive, Denzil."

"Yes, yes of course you did right," he answered, after a moment's
hesitation.

"I knew you wouldn't mind a dinner of my cooking--under the
circumstances."

"But what are we to do? You can't take her place in the kitchen till
she comes back."

"I'll get some one for a few days."

"But, confound it! how about to-morrow morning? It's very awkward"
----

"Oh, I shall easily manage."

"What?--go down at eight o'clock and light fires! Hang it, no! All
right; I'll turn out and see to breakfast. But you must get another
girl; a second servant, I mean. Yes, you ought really to have two.
Get a decent cook."

"Do you think it necessary?"

Quarrier was musing, a look of annoyance on his face.

"It couldn't have happened more inconveniently," he said, without
regard to Lilian's objection. "I had better tell you at once, Lily:
I've asked a friend of mine to come and dine with us to-morrow."

She started and looked at him with anxious eyes.

"A friend?"

"Yes; Glazzard--the man who spoke to me at Kew Station the other
day--you remember?"

"Oh yes!"

Lilian seated herself by the piano and stroked the keys with the
tips of her fingers. Standing on the hearth-rug, her companion
watched her closely for a moment; his forehead was wrinkled, and he
did not seem quite at ease.

"Glazzard is a very good fellow," he pursued, looking about the room
and thrusting his hands into his trouser-pockets. "I've known him
since I was a boy--a well-read man, thoughtful, clever. A good
musician; something more than an amateur with the violin, I believe.
An artist, too; he had a 'bust in the Academy a few years ago, and
I've seen some capital etchings of his."

"A universal genius!" said Lilian, with a forced laugh.

"Well, there's no doubt he has come very near success in a good many
directions. Never _quite_ succeeded; there's the misfortune. I
suppose he lacks perseverance. But he doesn't care; takes everything
with a laugh and a joke."

He reached for the evening newspaper, and glanced absently over the
columns. For a minute or two there was silence.

"What have you told him?" Lilian asked at length, in an undertone.

"Why, simply that I have had reasons for keeping my marriage
secret."

He spoke in a blunt, authoritative way, but with his usual kindly
smile.

"I thought it better," he added, "after that chance meeting the
other day. He's a fellow one can trust, I assure you. Thoroughly
good-hearted. As you know, I don't readily make friends, and I'm the
last man to give my confidence to any one who doesn't deserve it.
But Glazzard and I have always understood each other pretty well,
and--at all events, he knows me well enough to be satisfied with
as much as I choose to tell him."

Quarrier had the air of a man who, without any vulgar patronage, and
in a spirit of abundant good-nature, classifies his acquaintance in
various degrees of subordination to himself. He was too healthy, too
vigorous of frame and frank in manner to appear conceited, but it
was evident that his experience of life had encouraged a favourable
estimate of his own standing and resources. The ring of his voice
was sound; no affectation or insincerity marred its notes. For all
that, he seemed just now not entirely comfortable; his pretence of
looking over the paper in the intervals of talk was meant to cover a
certain awkwardness in discussing the subject he had broached.

"You don't object to his coming, Lily?"

"No; whatever you think best, dear."

"I'm quite sure you'll find him pleasant company. But we must get
him a dinner, somehow. I'll go to some hotel to-morrow morning and
put the thing in their hands; they'll send a cook, or do something
or other. If the girl had been here we should have managed well
enough; Glazzard is no snob.--I want to smoke; come into my study,
will you? No fire? Get up some wood, there's a good girl, we'll soon
set it going. I'd fetch it myself, but I shouldn't know where to
look for it."

A flame was soon roaring up the chimney in the little back room, and
Quarrier's pipe filled the air with fragrant mist.

"How is it," he exclaimed, settling in the arm-chair, "that there
are so many beggars in this region? Two or three times this last
week I've been assailed along the street. I'll put a stop to that; I
told a great hulking fellow to-night that if he spoke to me again
(it was the second time) I would take the trouble of marching him to
the nearest police station."

"Poor creatures!" sighed Lilian.

"Pooh! Loafing blackguards, with scarcely an exception! Well, I was
going to tell you: Glazzard comes from my own town, Polterham. We
were at the Grammar School there together; but he read AEschylus
and Tacitus whilst I was grubbing over Eutropius and the Greek
declensions."

"Is he so much older then? He seemed to me"----

"Six years older--about five-and-thirty. He's going down to
Polterham on Saturday, and I think I shall go with him."

"Go with him? For long?"

"A week, I think. I want to see my brother-in-law. You won't mind
being left alone?"

"No; I shall do my best to keep in good spirits."

"I'll get you a batch of new books. I may as well tell you,
Liversedge has been persuaded to stand as Liberal candidate for
Polterham at the next election. It surprised me rather; I shouldn't
have thought he was the kind of fellow to go in for politics. It
always seemed to be as little in his line as it is in mine."

"And do you wish to advise him against it?"

"Oh no; there's no harm in it. I suppose Beaconsfield and crew have
roused him. I confess I should enjoy helping to kick them into
space. No, I just want to talk it over with him. And I owe them a
visit; they took it rather ill that I couldn't go with them to
Ireland."

Lilian sat with bent head. Casting a quick glance at her, Quarrier
talked on in a cheerful strain.

"I'm afraid he isn't likely to get in. The present member is an old
fogey called Welwyn-Baker; a fat-headed Tory; this is his third
Parliament. They think he's going to set up his son next time--a
fool, no doubt, but I have no knowledge of him. I'm afraid
Liversedge isn't the man to stir enthusiasm."

"But is there any one to be made enthusiastic on that side?" asked
Lilian.

"Well, it's a town that has changed a good deal of late years. It
used to be only an agricultural market, but about twenty years ago a
man started a blanket factory, and since then several other
industries have shot up. There's a huge sugar-refinery, and a place
where they make jams. That kind of thing, you know, affects the
spirit of a place. Manufacturers are generally go-ahead people, and
mill-hands don't support high Tory doctrine. It'll be interesting to
see how they muster. If Liversedge knows how to go to work"--he
broke into laughter. "Suppose, when the time comes, I go down and
harangue the mob in his favour?"

Lilian smiled and shook her head.

"I'm afraid you would be calling them 'the mob' to their faces."

"Well, why not? I dare say I should do more that way than by talking
fudge about the glorious and enlightened people. 'Look here, you
blockheads!' I should shout, 'can't you see on which side your
interests lie? Are you going to let England be thrown into war and
taxes just to please a theatrical Jew and the howling riff-raff of
London?' I tell you what, Lily, it seems to me I could make a
rattling good speech if I gave my mind to it. Don't you think so?"

"There's nothing you couldn't do," she answered, with soft fervour,
fixing her eyes upon him.

"And yet I do nothing--isn't that what you would like to add?"

"Oh, but your book is getting on!"

"Yes, yes; so it is. A capital book it'll be, too; a breezy book--
smelling of the sea-foam! But, after all, that's only pen-work. I
have a notion that I was meant for active life, after all. If I had
remained in the Navy, I should have been high up by now. I should
have been hoping for war, I dare say. What possibilities there are
in every man!"

He grew silent, and Lilian, her face shadowed once more, conversed
with her own thoughts.





CHAPTER II




In a room in the west of London--a room full of pictures and
brie-a-brac, of quaint and luxurious furniture, with volumes
abundant, with a piano in a shadowed corner, a violin and a
mandoline laid carelessly aside--two men sat facing each other,
their looks expressive of anything but mutual confidence. The one
(he wore an overcoat, and had muddy boots) was past middle age,
bald, round-shouldered, dressed like a country gentleman; upon his
knees lay a small hand-bag, which he seemed about to open, He leaned
forward with a face of stern reproach, and put a short, sharp
question:

"Then why haven't I heard from you since my nephew's death?"

The other was not ready with a reply. Younger, and more fashionably
attired, he had assumed a lounging attitude which seemed natural to
him, though it served also to indicate a mood of resentful
superiority. His figure was slight, and not ungraceful; his features
--pale, thin, with heavy nose, high forehead--were intellectual
and noteworthy, but lacked charm.

"I have been abroad till quite recently," he said at length, his
fine accent contrasting with that of the questioner, which had a
provincial note. "Why did you expect me to communicate with you?"

"Don't disgrace yourself by speaking in that way, Mr. Glazzard!"
exclaimed the other, his voice uncertain with strong, angry feeling.
"You know quite well why I have come here, and why you ought to have
seen me long ago!"

Thereupon he opened the bag and took out a manuscript-book.

"I found this only the other day among Harry's odds and ends. It's a
diary that he kept. Will you explain to me the meaning of this
entry, dated in June of last year: 'Lent E. G. a hundred pounds'?"

Glazzard made no answer, but his self-command was not sufficient to
check a quivering of the lips.

"There can be no doubt who these initials refer to. Throughout, ever
since my nephew's intimacy with you began, you are mentioned here as
'E. G.' Please to explain another entry, dated August: 'Lent E. G.
two hundred pounds.' And then again, February of this year: 'Lent E.
G. a hundred and fifty pounds'--and yet again, three months later:
'Lent E. G. a hundred pounds'--what is the meaning of all this?"

"The meaning, Mr. Charnock," replied Glazzard, "is indisputable."

"You astound me!" cried the elder man, shutting up the diary and
straightening himself to an attitude of indignation. "Am I to
understand, then, that _this_ is the reason why Harry left no money?
You mean to say you have allowed his relatives to believe that he
had wasted a large sum, whilst they supposed that he was studying
soberly in London"----

"If you are astounded," returned the other, raising his eyebrows, "I
certainly am no less so. As your nephew made note of these lendings,
wasn't he equally careful to jot down a memorandum when the debt was
discharged?"

Mr. Charnock regarded him fixedly, and for a moment seemed in doubt.

"You paid back these sums?"

"With what kind of action did you credit me?" said Glazzard,
quietly.

The other hesitated, but wore no less stern a look.

"I am obliged to declare, Mr. Glazzard, that I can't trust your
word. That's a very strong thing to have to say to a man such as I
have thought you--a man of whom Harry always spoke as if there
wasn't his like on earth. My acquaintance with you is very slight; I
know very little indeed about you, except what Harry told me. But
the man who could deliberately borrow hundreds of pounds from a lad
only just of age--a simple, trustful, good-natured country lad,
who had little but his own exertions to depend upon--_such_ a man
will tell a lie to screen himself! This money was _not_ paid back;
there isn't a word about it in the diary, and there's the fact that
Harry had got rid of his money in a way no one could explain. You
had it, and you have kept it, sir!"

Glazzard let his eyes stray about the room. He uncrossed his legs,
tapped on the arm of his easy-chair, and said at length:

"I have no liking for violence, and I shall try to keep my temper.
Please to tell me the date of the last entry in that journal."

Mr. Charnock opened the book again, and replied at once:

"June 5th of this year--1879."

"I see. Allow me a moment." He unlocked a drawer in a writing-table,
and referred to some paper. "On the 1st of June--we were together
the whole day--I paid your nephew five hundred and fifty pounds in
bank-notes. Please refer to the diary."

"You _were_ together on that day, but there is no note of such a
transaction. 'With E. G. Much talk about pictures, books, and music
--delightful!' That's all."

"Have you added up the sums mentioned previously?"

"Yes. They come to what you say. How did it happen, Mr. Glazzard,
that you had so large a sum in bank-notes? It isn't usual."

"It is not unheard of, Mr. Charnock, with men who sometimes play for
money."

"What! Then you mean to tell me that Harry learnt from you to be a
gambler?"

"Certainly not. He never had the least suspicion that I played."

"And pray, what became of those notes after he received them?"

"I have no idea. For anything I know, you may still find the money."

Mr. Charnock rose from his seat.

"I see," he said, "that we needn't talk any longer. I don't believe
your story, and there's an end of it. The fact of your borrowing was
utterly disgraceful; it shows me that the poor boy had fallen in a
trap, instead of meeting with a friend who was likely to guide and
improve him. You confess yourself a gambler, and I go away with the
conviction that you are something yet worse."

Glazzard set his lips hard, but fell back into the lounging
attitude.

"The matter doesn't end here," went on his accuser, "be sure of
that! I shall light upon evidence sooner or later. Do you know, sir,
that Harry had a sister, and that she earns her own living by giving
lessons? You have robbed her--think it over at your leisure. Why,
less than a fortnight after that day you and he spent together--
the 1st of June--the lad lay dying; yet you could deliberately
plan to rob him. Your denial is utterly vain; I would pledge my life
on the charge! I read guilt in your face when I entered--you were
afraid of me, Mr. Glazzard! I understand now why you never came to
see the lad on his death-bed, though he sent for you--and of
course I know why he was anxious to speak to you. Oh, you have
plenty of plausible excuses, but they are lies! You felt pretty
sure, I dare say, that the lad would not betray you; you knew his
fine sense of honour; you calculated upon it. All your conduct is of
a piece!"

Glazzard rose.

"Mr. Charnock, please to leave me.--I oughtn't to have borrowed
that money; but having paid it back, I can't submit to any more of
your abuse. My patience has its limits."

"I am no brawler," replied the other, "and I can do no good by
talking to you. But if ever I come across any of your acquaintances,
they shall know, very plainly, what opinion I have of you. Prosecute
me for slander, Mr. Glazzard, if you dare--I desire nothing
better!"

And Mr. Charnock went hurriedly from the room.

For several minutes Glazzard kept the same attitude, his eyes fixed
on the floor, one hand behind his back, the other thrust into his
waistcoat. Then he uttered an inarticulate exclamation, and walked
with hurried, jerky step across the room; his facial muscles
quivered ceaselessly, distorting the features into all manner of
grotesque and ugly expressions. Again the harsh sound escaped him,
and again he changed his place as though impelled by a sudden pain.
It was a long time before he took a seat; on doing so, he threw up
his feet, and rested them against the side of the fireplace. His
hands were thrust into his trouser-pockets, and his head fell back,
so that he stared at the ceiling. At one moment he gave out a short
mocking laugh, but no look of mirth followed the explosion. Little
by little he grew motionless, and sat with closed eyes.

From the walls about him looked down many a sweet and noble
countenance, such as should have made the room a temple of serenity.
Nowhere was there a token of vulgar sensualism; the actress, the
ballet-nymph had no place among these chosen gems of art. On the
dwarf book-cases were none but works of pure inspiration, the best
of old and new, the kings of intellect and their gentlest courtiers.
Fifteen years had gone to the adorning of this sanctuary; of money,
no great sum, for Glazzard had never commanded more than his
younger-brother's portion of a yearly five hundred pounds, and all
his tastes were far from being represented in the retreat where he
spent his hours of highest enjoyment and endeavour. Of late he had
been beset by embarrassments which a man of his stamp could ill
endure: depreciation of investments, need of sordid calculation,
humiliating encounters. To-day he tasted the very dregs of ignoble
anguish, and it seemed to him that he should never again look with
delight upon a picture, or feast his soul with music, or care to
open a book.

A knock at the door aroused him. It was a civil-tongued
serving-woman who came to ask if he purposed having luncheon at home
to-day. No; he was on the point of going forth.

Big Ben was striking twelve. At a quarter-past, Glazzard took a cab
which conveyed him to one of the Inns of Court. He ascended stairs,
and reached a door on which was inscribed the name of Mr. Stark,
Solicitor. An office-boy at once admitted him to the innermost room,
where he was greeted with much friendliness by a short, stout man,
with gleaming visage, full lips, chubby hands.

"Well, what is it now?" inquired the visitor, who had been summoned
hither by a note that morning.

Mr. Stark, with an air of solemnity not wholly jocose, took his
friend's arm and led him to a corner of the room, where, resting
against a chair-back, was a small ill-framed oil painting.

"What have you to say to that?"

"The ugliest thing I've seen for a long time."

"But--but--" the solicitor stammered, with indignant eagerness--
"but do know whose it is?"

The picture represented a bit of country road, with a dung-heap, a
duck-pond, a pig asleep, and some barn-door fowls.

"I know whose you _think_ it is," replied Glazzard, coldly. His face
still had an unhealthy pallor, and his eyes looked as if they had
but just opened after the oppression of nightmare. "But it isn't."

"Come, come, Glazzard! you are too dictatorial, my boy."

Mr. Stark kept turning a heavy ring upon his finger, showing in face
and tone that the connoisseur s dogmatism troubled him more than he
wished to have it thought.

"Winterbottom warrants it," he added, with a triumphant jerk of his
plump body.

"Then Winterbottom is either cheating or cheated. That is no
Morland; take my word for it. Was that all you wanted me for?"

Mr. Stark's good-nature was severely tried. Mental suffering had
made Glazzard worse than impolite; his familiar tone of authority on
questions of art had become too frankly contemptuous.

"You're out of sorts this morning," conjectured his legal friend.
"Let Morland be for the present. I had another reason for asking you
to call, but don't stay unless you like."

Glazzard looked round the office.

"Well?" he asked, more gently.

"Quarrier tells me you are going down to Polterham. Any special
reason?"

"Yes. But I can't talk about it."

"I was down there myself last Sunday. I talked politics with the
local wiseacres, and--do you know, it has made me think of you
ever since?"

"How so?"

Mr. Stark consulted his watch.

"I'm at leisure for just nineteen minutes. If you care to sit down,
I have an idea I should like to put before you."

The visitor seated himself and crossed his legs. His countenance
gave small promise of attention.

"You know," resumed Mr. Stark, leaning forward and twiddling his
thumbs, "that they're hoping to get rid of Welwyn-Baker at the next
election?"

"What of that?"

"Toby Liversedge talks of coming forward--but _that_ won't do."

"Probably not."

The solicitor bent still more and tapped his friend's knee.

"Glazzard, here is your moment. Here is your chance of getting what
you want. Liversedge is reluctant to stand; I know that for certain.
To a more promising man he'll yield with pleasure.--St! st! listen
to me!--you are that man. Go down; see Toby; see the wiseacres and
wire-pullers; get your name in vogue! It's cut out for you. Act now,
or never again pretend that you want a chance."

A smile of disdain settled upon Glazzard's lips, but his eyes had
lost their vacancy.

"On the Radical side?" he asked, mockingly. "For Manchester and
Brummagem?"

"For Parliament, my dear boy! For Westminster, St. Stephen's,
distinction, a career! I should perhaps have thought of your taking
Welwyn-Baker's place, but there are many reasons against it. You
would lose the support of your brother and all his friends. Above
all, Polterham will go Liberal--mark my prediction!"

"I doubt it."

"I haven't time to give you all my reasons. Dine with me this
evening, will you?"

"Can't. Engaged to Quarrier."

"All right!" said the latter. "To-morrow, then?"

"Yes, I will dine to-morrow."

Mr. Stark jumped up.

"Think of it. I can't talk longer now; there's the voice of a client
I'm expecting. Eight sharp tomorrow!"

Glazzard took his leave.





CHAPTER III




Like so many other gentlemen whose function in the world remains
indefinite, chiefly because of the patrimony they have inherited,
Denzil Quarrier had eaten his dinners, and been called to the Bar;
he went so far in specification as to style himself Equity
barrister. But the Courts had never heard his voice. Having begun
the studies, he carried them through just for consistency, but long
before bowing to the Benchers of his Inn he foresaw that nothing
practical would come of it. This was his second futile attempt to
class himself with a recognized order of society. Nay, strictly
speaking, the third. The close of his thirteenth year had seen him a
pupil at Polterham Grammar School; not an unpromising pupil by any
means, but with a turn for insubordination, much disposed to pursue
with zeal anything save the tasks that were set him. Inspired by
Cooper and Captain Marryat, he came to the conclusion that his
destiny was the Navy, and stuck so firmly to it that his father, who
happened to have a friend on the Board of Admiralty, procured him a
nomination, and speedily saw the boy a cadet on the "Britannia."
Denzil wore Her Majesty's uniform for some five years; then he tired
of the service and went back to Polterham to reconsider his bent and
aptitudes.

His father no longer dwelt in the old home, but had recently gone
over to Norway, where he pursued his calling of timber-merchant.
Denzil's uncle--Samuel Quarrier--busied in establishing a
sugar-refinery in his native town, received the young man with
amiable welcome, and entertained him for half a year. The ex-seaman
then resolved to join his parents abroad, as a good way of looking
about him. He found his mother on her death-bed. In consequence of
her decease, Denzil became possessed of means amply sufficient for a
bachelor. As far as ever from really knowing what he desired to be
at, he began to make a show of interesting himself in timber.
Perhaps, after all, commerce was his _forte_. This, then, might be
called a second endeavour to establish himself.

Mr. Quarrier laughed at the idea, and would not take it seriously.
And of course was in the right, for Denzil, on pretence of studying
forestry, began to ramble about Scandinavia like a gentleman at
large. Here, however, he did ultimately hit on a pursuit into which
he could throw himself with decided energy. The old Norsemen laid
their spell upon him; he was bitten with a zeal for saga-hunting,
studied vigorously the Northern tongues, went off to Iceland,
returned to rummage in the libraries of Copenhagen, began to
translate the Heimskringla, planned a History of the Vikings.
Emphatically, this kind of thing suited him. No one was less likely
to turn out a bookworm, yet in the study of Norse literature he
found that combination of mental and muscular interests which was
perchance what he had been seeking.

But his father was dissatisfied; a very practical man, he saw in
this odd enthusiasm a mere waste of time. Denzil's secession from
the Navy had sorely disappointed him; constantly he uttered his wish
that the young man should attach himself to some vocation that
became a gentleman. Denzil, a little weary for the time of his
Sea-Kings, at length consented to go to London and enter himself as
a student of law. Perhaps his father was right. "Yes, I need
discipline--intellectual and moral. I am beginning to perceive my
defects. There's something in me not quite civilized. I'll go in for
the law."

Yet Scandinavia had not seen the last of him. He was backwards and
forwards pretty frequently across the North Sea. He kept up a
correspondence with learned Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, and men of
Iceland; when they came to England he entertained them with hearty
hospitality, and searched with them at the British Museum. These
gentlemen liked him, though they felt occasionally that he was wont
to lay down the law when the attitude of a disciple would rather
have become him.

He had rooms in Clement's Inn, retaining them even when his abode,
strictly speaking, was at the little house by Clapham Common. To
that house no one was invited. Old Mr. Quarrier knew not of its
existence; neither did Mr. Sam Quarrier of Polterham, nor any other
of Denzil's kinsfolk. The first person to whom Denzil revealed that
feature of his life was Eustace Glazzard--a discreet, upright
friend, the very man to entrust with such a secret.

It was now early in the autumn of 1879. Six months ago Denzil had
lost his father, who died suddenly on a journey from Christiania up
the country, leaving the barrister in London a substantial fortune

This change of circumstances had in no way outwardly affected
Denzil's life. As before, he spent a good deal of his time in the
rooms at Clement's Inn, and cultivated domesticity at Clapham. He
was again working in earnest at his History of the Vikings.
Something would at last come of it; a heap of manuscript attested
his solid progress.

To-day he had come to town only for an hour or two. Glazzard was to
call at half-past six, and they would go together to dine with
Lilian. In his report to her, Quarrier had spoken nothing less than
truth. "The lady with whom you chanced to see me the other day was
my wife. I have been married for a year and a half--a strictly
private matter. Be so good as to respect my confidence." That was
all Glazzard had learnt; sufficient to excite no little curiosity in
the connoisseur.

Denzil's chambers had a marked characteristic; they were full of
objects and pictures which declared his love of Northern lands and
seas. At work he sat in the midst of a little museum. To the bear,
the elk, the seal, he was indebted for comforts and ornaments; on
his shelves were quaint collections of crockery; coins of historical
value displayed themselves in cases on the walls; shoes and garments
of outlandish fashion lay here and there. Probably few private
libraries in England could boast such an array of Scandinavian
literature as was here exhibited. As a matter of course the rooms
had accumulated even more dirt than one expects in a bachelor's
retreat; they were redolent of the fume of many pipes.

When Glazzard tapped at the inner door and entered, his friend, who
sat at the writing-table in evening costume, threw up his arms,
stretched himself, and yawned noisily.

"Working at your book?" asked the other.

"No; letters. I don't care for the Sea-Kings just now. They're
rather remote old dogs, after all, you know."

"Distinctly, I should say."

"A queer thing, on the whole, that I can stick so to them. But I
like their spirit. You're not a pugnacious fellow, I think,
Glazzard?"

"No, I think not."

"But I am, you know. I mean it literally. Every now and then I feel
I should like to thrash some one. I read in the paper this morning
of some son of a"----(Denzil's language occasionally reminded one
that he had been a sailor) "who had cheated a lot of poor
servant-girls out of their savings. My fists itched to be at that
lubber! There's a good deal to be said for the fighting instinct in
man, you know."

"So thinks 'Arry of the music-halls."

"Well, we have heard before of an ass opening its mouth to prophesy.
I tell you what: on my way here this afternoon I passed the office
of some journal or other in the Strand, where they're exhibiting a
copy of their paper returned to them by a subscriber in Russia. Two
columns are completely obliterated with the censor's lamp-black,--
that's how it reaches the subscriber's hands. As I stood looking at
that, my blood rose to boiling-point! I could have hurrah'd for war
with Russia on that one account alone. That contemptible idiot of a
Czar, sitting there on his ant-hill throne, and bidding Time stand
still!"

He laughed long and loud in scornful wrath.

"The Czar can't help it," remarked Glazzard, smiling calmly, "and
perhaps knows nothing about it. The man is a slave of slaves."

"The more contemptible and criminal, then!" roared Denzil. "If a man
in his position can't rule, he should be kicked out of the back-door
of his palace. I have no objection to an autocrat; I think most
countries need one. I should make a good autocrat myself--a
benevolent despot."

"We live in stirring times," said the other, with a fine curl of the
lips. "Who knows what destiny has in store for you?"

Quarrier burst into good-natured merriment, and thereupon made ready
to set forth.

When they reached the house by Clapham Common, Denzil opened the
door with his latch-key, talked loud whilst he was removing his
overcoat, and then led the way into the sitting-room. Lilian was
there; she rose and laid down a book; her smile of welcome did not
conceal the extreme nervousness from which she was suffering.
Quarrier's genial contempt of ceremony, as he performed the
introduction, allowed it to be seen that he too experienced some
constraint. But the guest bore himself with perfect grace and
decorum. Though not a fluent talker, he fell at once into a strain
of agreeable chat on subjects which seemed likely to be of interest;
his success was soon manifest in the change of Lilian's countenance.
Denzil, attentive to both, grew more genuinely at ease. When Lilian
caught his eye, he smiled at her with warmth of approving kindness.
It must have been a fastidious man who felt dissatisfied with the
way in which the young hostess discharged her duties; timidity led
her into no _gaucherie_, but was rather an added charm among the
many with which nature had endowed her. Speech and manner, though
they had nothing of the conventional adornment that is gathered in
London drawing-rooms, were those of gentle breeding and bright
intelligence; her education seemed better than is looked for among
ladies in general. Glazzard perceived that she had read diligently,
and with scope beyond that of the circulating library; the book with
which she had been engaged when they entered was a Danish novel.

"Do you also look for salvation to the Scandinavians?" he asked.

"I read the languages--the modern. They have a very interesting
literature of to-day; the old battle-stories don't appeal to me
quite so much as they do to Denzil."

"You ought to know this fellow Jacobsen," said Quarrier, taking up
the novel. "'Marie Grubbe' doesn't sound a very aesthetic title,
but the book is quite in your line--a wonderfully delicate bit of
work."

"Don't imagine, Mrs. Quarrier," pleaded Glazzard, "that I am what is
called an aesthete. The thing is an abomination to me."

"Oh, you go tolerably far in that direction!" cried Denzil,
laughing. "True, you don't let your hair grow, and in general make
an ass of yourself; but there's a good deal of preciosity about you,
you know."

Seeing that Mr. Glazzard's crown showed an incipient baldness, the
allusion to his hair was perhaps unfortunate. Lilian fancied that
her guest betrayed a slight annoyance; she at once interposed with a
remark that led away from such dangerous ground. It seemed to her
(she had already received the impression from Quarrier's talk of the
evening before) that Denzil behaved to his friend with an air of
bantering superiority which it was not easy to account for. Mr.
Glazzard, so far as she could yet judge, was by no means the kind of
man to be dealt with in this tone; she thought him rather disposed
to pride than to an excess of humility, and saw in his face an
occasional melancholy which inspired her with interest and respect.

A female servant (the vacancy made by Lilian's self-denying kindness
had been hastily supplied) appeared with summons to dinner. Mr.
Glazzard offered an arm to his hostess, and Quarrier followed with a
look of smiling pleasure.

Hospitality had been duly cared for. Not at all inclined to the
simple fare which Denzil chose to believe would suffice for him,
Glazzard found more satisfaction in the meal than he had
anticipated. If Mrs. Quarrier were responsible for the _menu_ (he
doubted it), she revealed yet another virtue. The mysterious
circumstances of this household puzzled him more and more;
occasionally he forgot to speak, or to listen, in the intensity of
his preoccupation; and at such moments his countenance darkened.

On the whole, however, he seemed in better spirits than of wont.
Quarrier was in the habit of seeing him perhaps once a month, and it
was long since he had heard the connoisseur discourse so freely, so
unconcernedly. As soon as they were seated at table, Denzil began to
talk of politics.

"If my brother-in-law really stands for Polterham," he exclaimed,
"we must set you canvassing among the mill-hands, Glazzard!"

"H'm!--not impossible."

"As much as to say," remarked the other to Lilian, "that he would
see them all consumed in furnaces before he stretched forth a hand
to save them."

"I know very well how to understand Denzil's exaggerations," said
Lilian, with a smile to her guest.

"He thinks," was Glazzard's reply, "that I am something worse than a
high Tory. It's quite a mistake, and I don't know how his belief
originated."

"My dear fellow, you are so naturally a Tory that you never troubled
to think to what party you belong. And I can understand you well
enough; I have leanings that way myself. Still, when I get down to
Polterham I shall call myself a Radical. What sensible man swears by
a party? There's more foolery and dishonesty than enough on both
sides, when you come to party quarrelling; but as for the broad
principles concerned, why, Radicalism of course means justice. I put
it in this way: If _I_ were a poor devil, half starved and
overworked, I should be a savage Radical; so I'll go in for helping
the poor devils."

"You don't. always act on that principle, Denzil," said Lilian, with
a rallying smile. "Not, for instance, when beggars are concerned."

"Beggars! Would you have me support trading impostors? As for the
genuine cases--why, if I found myself penniless in the streets, I
would make such a row that all the country should hear of it! Do you
think I would go whining to individuals? If I hadn't food, it would
be the duty of society to provide me with it--and I would take
good care that I _was_ provided; whether m workhouse or gaol
wouldn't matter much. At all events, the business should be managed
with the maximum of noise."

He emptied his wine-glass, and went on in the same vigorous tone.

"We know very well that there are no such things as natural rights.
Nature gives no rights; she will produce an infinite number of
creatures only to torture and eventually destroy them. But
civilization is at war with nature, and as civilized beings we
_have_ rights. Every man is justified in claiming food and shelter
and repose. As things are, many thousands of people in every English
county either lack these necessaries altogether, or get them only in
return for the accursed badge of pauperdom. I, for one, am against
this state of things, and I sympathize with the men who think that
nothing can go right until the fundamental injustice is done away
with."

Glazzard listened with an inscrutable smile, content to throw in a
word of acquiescence from time to time. But when the necessity of
appeasing his robust appetite held Quarrier silent for a few
minutes, the guest turned to Lilian and asked her if she made a
study of political questions.

"I have been trying to follow them lately," she replied, with simple
directness.

"Do you feel it a grievance that you have no vote and no chance of
representing a borough?"

"No, I really don't."

"I defy any one to find a dozen women who sincerely do," broke in
Denzil. "That's all humbug! Such twaddle only serves to obscure the
great questions at issue. What we have to do is to clear away the
obvious lies and superstitions that hold a great part of the people
in a degrading bondage. Our need is of statesmen who are bold enough
and strong enough to cast off the restraints of party, of imbecile
fears, of words that answer to no reality, and legislate with honest
zeal for the general good. How many men are there in Parliament who
represent anything more respectable than the interest of a trade, or
a faction, or their own bloated person?"

"This would rouse the echoes in an East-end club," interposed
Glazzard, with an air of good-humoured jesting.

"The difference is, my dear fellow, that it is given as an honest
opinion in a private dining-room. There's Welwyn-Baker now--
thick-headed old jackass!--what right has _he_ to be sitting in a
national assembly? Call himself what he may, it's clearly our
business to get rid of _him_. There's something infuriating in the
thought that such a man can give his hee-haw for or against a
proposal that concerns the nation. His mere existence is a lie!"

"He has hardly progressed with the times," assented Glazzard.

Lilian was listening so attentively that she forgot her dinner.

"I didn't think you cared so much about politics," she remarked,
gravely.

"Oh, it comes out now and then. I suppose Glazzard's aesthetic
neutrality stirs me up."

"I am neither aesthetic nor neutral," remarked the guest, as if
casually.

Denzil laughed.

Lilian, after waiting for a further declaration from Glazzard, which
did not come, said, in her soft tones:

"You express yourself so vehemently, Denzil."

"Why not? These are obvious truths. Of course I could speak just as
strongly on the Conservative side with regard to many things. I
can't say that I have much faith in the capacity or honesty of the
mass of Radical voters. If I found myself at one of the clubs of
which Glazzard speaks, I should very likely get hooted down as an
insolent aristocrat. I don't go in for crazy extremes. There'll
never be a Utopia, and it's only a form of lying to set such ideals
before the multitude. I believe in the distinction of classes; the
only class I would altogether abolish is that of the hungry and the
ragged. So long as nature doles out the gift of brains in different
proportions, there must exist social subordination. The true Radical
is the man who wishes so to order things that no one will be urged
by misery to try and get out of the class he is born in."

Glazzard agreed that this was a good way of putting it, and
thereupon broached a subject so totally different that politics were
finally laid aside.

When Lilian rose and withdrew, the friends remained for several
minutes in silence. They lighted cigarettes, and contemplatively
watched the smoke. Of a sudden, Quarrier bent forward upon the
table.

"You shall have the explanation of this some day," he said, in a low
friendly voice, his eyes lighting with a gleam of heartfelt
confidence.

"Thanks!" murmured the other.

"Tell me--does she impress you favourably?"

"Very. I am disposed to think highly of her."

Denzil held out his hand, and pressed the one which Glazzard offered
in return.

"You cannot think too highly--cannot possibly She has a remarkable
character. For one thing, I never knew a girl with such strong
sympathies--so large-hearted and compassionate. You heard her
remark about the beggars; if she had her own way, she would support
a colony of pensioners. Let the sentimentalists say what they like,
that isn't a common weakness in women, you know. Her imagination is
painfully active; I'm afraid it causes her a great deal of misery.
The other day I found her in tears, and what do you think was the
reason?--she had been reading in some history about a poor fellow
who was persecuted for his religion in Charles the First's time--
some dissenter who got into the grip of Laud, was imprisoned, and
then brought to destitution by being forbidden to exercise each
calling that he took to in hope of earning bread. The end was, he
went mad and died. Lilian was crying over the story; it made her
wretched for a whole day."

"Rather morbid, that, I'm afraid."

"I don't know; most of us would be better for a little of such
morbidness. You mustn't suppose that fiction would have the same
effect on her--not at all. That poor devil (his name, I remember,
was Workman) was really and truly hounded to insanity and the grave,
and she saw the thing in all its dreadful details. I would rather
she had got into a rage about it, as I should--but that isn't her
nature."

"Let us hope she could rejoice when Laud was laid by the heels."

"I fear not. I'm afraid she would forget, and make excuses for the
blackguard."

Glazzard smiled at the ceiling, and smoked silently. Turning his
eyes at length, and seeing Quarrier in a brown study, he
contemplated the honest face, then asked:

"How old is she?"

"Just one-and-twenty."

"I should have thought younger."

Nothing more was said of Lilian, and very soon they went to the room
where she awaited them.

"I know you are a musician, Mr. Glazzard," said Lilian before long.
"Will you let me have the pleasure of hearing you play something?"

"Some enemy hath done this," the guest made reply, looking towards
Denzil.

But without further protest he went to the piano and played two or
three short pieces. Any one with more technical knowledge than the
hearers would have perceived that he was doing his best. As it was,
Lilian frequently turned to Denzil with a look of intense delight.

"Glazzard," exclaimed his friend at length, "it puzzles me how such
a lazy fellow as you are has managed to do so much in so many
directions."

The musician laughed carelessly, and, not deigning any other reply,
went to talk with his hostess.





CHAPTER IV




The Polterham Literary Institute was a "hot-bed of Radicalism." For
the last year or two this had been generally understood. Originating
in the editorial columns of the _Polterham Mercury_, the remark was
now a commonplace on the lips of good Conservatives, and the
liberals themselves were not unwilling to smile an admission of its
truth. At the founding of the Institute no such thing was foreseen;
but in 1859 Polterham was hardly conscious of the stirrings of that
new life which, in the course of twenty years, was to transform the
town. In those days a traveller descending the slope of the Banwell
Hills sought out the slim spire of Polterham parish church amid a
tract of woodland, mead and tillage; now the site of the thriving
little borough was but too distinctly marked by trails of smoke from
several gaunt chimneys--that of Messrs. Dimes & Nevison's
blanket-factory, that of Quarrier & Son's sugar-refinery, and,
higher still (said, indeed, to be one of the tallest chimneys in
England), that of Thomas & Liversedge's soap-works. With the
character of Polterham itself, the Literary Institute had suffered a
noteworthy change. Ostensibly it remained non-political: a library,
reading-room and lecture-hall, for the benefit of all the townsfolk;
but by a subtle process the executive authority had passed into the
hands of new men with new ideas. A mere enumeration of the committee
sufficed to frighten away all who held by Church, State, and Mr.
Welwyn-Baker: the Institute was no longer an Institute, but a
"hot-bed."

How could respectable people make use of a library which admitted
works of irreligious and immoral tendency? It was an undoubted fact
(the _Mercury_ made it known) that of late there had been added to
the catalogue not only the "Essays of David flume" and that
notorious book Buckle's "History of Civilization," but even a large
collection of the writings of George Sand and Balzac--these latter
in the original tongue; for who, indeed, would ever venture to
publish an English translation? As for the reading-room, was it not
characterization enough to state that two Sunday newspapers, reeking
fresh from Fleet Street, regularly appeared on the tables? What
possibility of perusing the _Standard_ or the _Spectator_ in such an
atmosphere? It was clear that the supporters of law and decency must
bestir themselves to establish a new Society. Mr. Mumbray, long
prominent in the municipal and political life of the town, had
already made the generous offer of a large house at a low rental--
one of the ancient buildings which had been spoilt for family
residence by the erection of a mill close by. The revered Member for
the borough was willing to start the new library with a gift of one
hundred volumes of "sterling literature." With dissolution of
Parliament m view, not a day should be lost in establishing this
centre of intellectual life for right-thinking inhabitants. It was a
strange thing, a very strange thing indeed, that interlopers should
have been permitted to oust the wealth and reputability of Polterham
from an Institute which ought to have been one of the bulwarks of
Conservatism. Laxity in the original constitution, and a spirit of
supine confidence, had led to this sad result. It seemed impossible
that Polterham could ever fall from its honourable position among
the Conservative strongholds of the country; but the times were
corrupt, a revolutionary miasma was spreading to every corner of the
land. Polterham must no longer repose in the security of conscious
virtue, for if it _did_ happen that, at the coming election, the
unprincipled multitude even came near to achieving a triumph, oh
what a fall were there!

Thus spoke the _Mercury_. And in the same week Mr. Mumbray's vacant
house was secured by a provisional committee on behalf of the
Polterham Constitutional Literary Society.

The fine old crusted party had some reason for their alarm. Since
Polterham was a borough it had returned a Tory Member as a matter of
course. Political organization was quite unknown to the supporters
of Mr. Welwyn-Baker; such trouble had never seemed necessary.
Through the anxious year of 1868 Mr. Welwyn-Baker sat firm as a
rock; an endeavour to unseat him ended amid contemptuous laughter.
In 1874 the high-tide of Toryism caused only a slight increase of
congratulatory gurgling in the Polterham backwater; the triumphant
party hardly cared to notice that a Liberal candidate had scored an
unprecedented proportion of votes. Welwyn-Baker sat on, stolidly
oblivious of the change that was affecting his constituency, denying
indeed the possibility of mutation in human things. Yet even now the
Literary Institute was passing into the hands of people who aimed at
making it something more than a place where retired tradesmen could
play draughts and doze over _Good Words_; already had offensive
volumes found harbourage on the shelves, and revolutionary
periodicals been introduced into the reading-room. From time to time
the _Mercury_ uttered a note of warning, of protest, but with no
echo from the respectable middle-class abodes where Polterham
Conservatism dozed in self-satisfaction. It needed another five
years of Liberal activity throughout the borough to awaken the good
people whose influence had seemed unassailable, and to set them
uttering sleepy snorts of indignation But the _Mercury_ had a new
editor, a man who was determined to gain journalistic credit by
making a good fight in a desperate cause. Mr. Mumbray, who held the
post of Mayor, had at length learnt that even in municipal matters
the old order was threatened; on the Town Council were several men
who gave a great deal of trouble, and who openly boasted that in a
very short time all the affairs of the town would be managed by
members of the Progressive party. If so, farewell public morality!
farewell religion!

The reading-room of the Literary Institute heard many an animated
conversation among the zealous partisans who hoped great things from
the approaching contest. The talkers were not men of recognized
standing, the manufacturers and landowners whose influence was of
most importance--for these personages were seldom seen at the
Institute; but certain "small" people, fidgety, or effervescent, or
enthusiastic, eager to hear their own voices raised in declamation,
and to get spoken of in the town as representatives of public
opinion. Such a group had gathered early one afternoon in this month
of October. The hour was unusual, for between one o'clock and four
the reading-room was generally abandoned to a few very quiet,
somnolent persons; but to-day an exciting piece of news had got
about in Polterham, and two or three ardent politicians hastened
from their dinner-tables to discuss the situation with Mr. Wykes,
secretary of the Institute, or any one else who might present
himself. It was reported that Mr. Welwyn-Baker had had a seizure of
some kind, and that he lay in a dangerous state at his house just
outside the town.

"It's perfectly true," affirmed Mr. Wykes. "I saw Dr. Staple on his
way there. He'll never survive it. We shall have a bye-election--
the very last thing desirable."

The Secretary was a man of intelligence features but painfully
distorted body; his right leg, permanently bent double, was
supported at the knee by metal mechanism, and his arm on the
opposite side ended at the elbow. None the less he moved with much
activity, gesticulated frequently with the normal arm, and seemed
always to be in excellent spirits. He was a Cambridge graduate, but
had never been able to make much use of his education and abilities;
having reached middle age, and finding himself without resources, he
was glad to accept this post at the Institute.

About him stood three Polterham worthies: Mr. Chown, draper, a
member of the Corporation; Mr. Vawdrey, coal-merchant; and Mr.
Murgatroyd, dentist. The draper--tall, bearded, with goggle eyes
and prominent cheek-bones--had just rushed in; as soon as Mr.
Wykes had spoken, he exclaimed in a hard, positive voice:

"It's nothing! it's nothing! I have it on the best assurance that it
was only a fall over a footstool. Muscles strained--a bruise or
two--nothing worse."

"I'm very glad to hear it, on every ground," said Wykes. "But even
if that is quite correct, it'll be a warning. A fall at that age
generally dates the beginning of decrepitude. He won't come forward
again--I'm convinced he won't."

"Let us hope they'll be foolish enough to set up his son," remarked
Mr. Vawdrey, in deep tones, which harmonized with his broad, stunted
body and lowering visage. "It'll be their ruin."

Mr. Wykes agreed.

"The waverers can hardly douht--between Tobias Liversedge and Hugh
Welwyn-Baker."

"Bear in mind," rang Mr. Chown's brassy voice, "that it's by no
means certain Liversedge is to be our candidate. I am in a position
to assure you that many of our most reliable men are not at all
satisfied with that choice--not at all satisfied. I don't mind
going so far as to declare that I share this dissatisfaction."

"Really," put in Mr. Murgatroyd, the dentist, "it's rather late in
the day, Mr. Chown"----

His accents of studious moderation were interrupted by a shout from
the dogmatic draper.

"Late? late? I consider that nothing whatever has been decided. I
protest--I protest, most emphatically, against any attempt to
force a candidate on the advanced section of the Liberal party! I
will even go so far as to say--purely on my own responsibility--
that the advanced section of the Liberal party is the _essence_ of
the Liberal party, and must be recognized as such, if we are to
fight this campaign in union. I personally--I speak for myself--
do _not_ feel prepared to vote for Tobias Liversedge. I say it
boldly, caring not who may report my words. I compromise no man, and
no body of men; but my view is that, if we are to win the next
election against the Tory candidate, it must be with the help, and
in the name, of a _Radical_ candidate!"

At the close of each period Mr. Chown raised his hand and made it
vibrate in the air, his head vibrating in company therewith. His
eyes glared, and his beard wagged up and down.

"Speaking as an individual," replied Mr. Murgatroyd, who, among
other signs of nervousness, had the habit of constantly pulling down
his waistcoat, "I can't say that I should regret to be called upon
to vote for a really advanced man. But I may say--I really must
say--and I think Mr. Wykes will support me--I think Mr. Vawdrey
will bear me out--that it wouldn't be easy to find a candidate who
would unite all suffrages in the way that Mr. Liversedge does. We
have to remember"----

"Well," broke in the coal-merchant, with his muffled bass, "if any
one cares to know what I think, I should say that we want a local
man, a popular man, and a Christian man. I don't know whom you would
set up in preference to Liversedge; but Liversedge suits me well
enough. If the Tories are going to put forward such a specimen as
Hugh Welwyn-Baker, a gambler, a drinker, and a profligate, I don't
know, I say, who would look better opposed to him than Toby
Liversedge."

Mr. Chown could not restrain himself.

"I fail altogether to see what Christianity has to do with politics!
Christianity is all very well, but where will you find it? Old
Welwyn-Baker calls himself a Christian, and so does his son. And I
suppose the Rev. Scatchard Vialls calls himself a Christian! Let us
have done with this disgusting hypocrisy! I say with all
deliberation--I affirm it--that Radicalism must break with
religion that has become a sham! Radicalism is a religion in itself.
We have no right--no right, I say--to impose any such test as
Mr. Vawdrey insists upon!"

"I won't quarrel about names," returned Vawdrey, stolidly, "What I
meant to say was that we must have a man of clean life, a moral
man."

"And do you imply," cried Chown, "that such men are hard to find
among Radicals?"

"I rather think they're hard to find anywhere nowadays."

Mr. Wykes had made a gesture requesting attention, and was about to
speak, when a boy came up to him and held out a telegram.

"What's this?" murmured the Secretary, as he opened the envelope.
"Well, well, how very annoying! Our lecturer of to-morrow evening
can't possibly keep his engagement. No reason given; says he will
write."

"Another blank evening!" exclaimed Chown. "This is most
unsatisfactory, I must say."

"We must fill it up," replied the Secretary. "I have an idea; it
connects with something I was on the point of saying." He looked
round the room cautiously, but saw only a young lad bent over an
illustrated paper. "There is some one," he continued, subduing his
voice, "who might possibly be willing to stand if Mr. Liversedge
isn't finally adopted as our candidate--some one who, in my
opinion, would suit us very well indeed. I am thinking of young Mr.
Quarrier, Liversedge's brother-in-law, Mr. Sam Quarrier's nephew."

"I can't say I know much for or against him," said the draper.

"A barrister, I believe?" questioned Murgatroyd.

"Yes, but not practising his profession. I happened to meet him in
the train yesterday; he was coming to spend a few days with his
relatives. It occurs to me that he's the man to give us a lecture
to-morrow evening."

The others lent ear, and Mr. Wykes talked at some length of Mr.
Denzil Quarrier, with whom he had a slight personal acquaintance
dating from a year or two ago. He represented that the young man was
of late become wealthy, that he was closely connected with people in
high local esteem, that his views were those of a highly cultured
Radical. Mr. Chown, distrustful regarding any proposition that did
not originate with himself, meditated with some intensity. Mr.
Vawdrey's face indicated nothing whatever. It was the dentist who
put the first question.

"I should like to know," he said, in his usual voice of studied
inoffensiveness, "whether Mr. Quarrier is disposed to support the
Female Suffrage movement?"

"If he is," growled Mr. Vawdrey, with sudden emphasis, "he mustn't
expect _my_ vote and interest. We've seen enough in Polterham lately
of the Female question."

"Let it wait! Let it wait!" came from the draper. "The man," he
glared at little Murgatroyd, "who divides his party on matters of
detail, beyond the range of practical politics, is an enemy of
popular progress. What _I_ should desire to know is, whether Mr.
Quarrier will go in heartily for Church Disestablishment? If not--
well, I for my humble self must Decline to consider him a Radical at
all."

"That, it seems to me," began the dentist, "is distinctly beyond"
----

But politic Mr. Wykes interrupted the discussion.

"I shall go at once," he said, "and try to see Mr. Quarrier. A
lecture to-morrow we must have, and I think he can be persuaded to
help us. If so, we shall have an opportunity of seeing what figure
he makes on the platform."

Mr. Vawdrey looked at his watch and hurried away without a word. The
draper and the dentist were each reminded of the calls of business.
In a minute or two the youth dozing over an illustrated paper had
the room to himself.





CHAPTER V




For a characteristic scene of English life one could not do better
than take Mr. Liversedge's dining-room when the family had assembled
for the midday meal. Picture a long and lofty room, lighted by
windows which opened upon a lawn and flower-garden, adorned with
large oil paintings (cattle-pieces and portraits) in massive and,
for the most part, tarnished frames, and furnished in the solidest
of British styles--mahogany chairs and table, an immense
sideboard, a white marble fireplace, and a chandelier hanging with
ponderous menace above the gleaming expanse of table-cloth. Here
were seated eleven persons: Mr. Liversedge and his wife, their seven
children (four girls and three boys), Miss Pope the governess, and
Mr. Denzil Quarrier; waited upon by two maid-servants, with ruddy
cheeks, and in spotless attire. Odours of roast meat filled the air.
There was a jolly sound of knife-and-fork play, of young voices
laughing and chattering, of older ones in genial colloquy. A great
fire blazed and crackled up the chimney. Without, a roaring wind
stripped the autumnal leafage of the garden, and from time to time
drenched the windows with volleys of rain.

Tobias Liversedge was a man of substance, but in domestic habits he
followed the rule of the unpretentious middle-class. Breakfast at
eight, dinner at one, tea at five, supper at nine--such was the
order of the day that he had known in boyhood, and it suited him
well enough now that he was at the head of a household. The fare was
simple, but various and abundant; no dishes with foreign names, no
drinks more luxurious than sherry and claret. If he entertained
guests, they were people of his own kind, who thought more of the
hearty welcome than of what was set before them. His children were
neither cockered nor held in too strait a discipline; they learnt
from their parents that laughter was better than sighing, that it
was good to be generous, that they had superiors in the world as
well as inferiors, that hard work was the saving grace, and a lie
the accursed thing. This training seemed to agree with them, for one
and all were pictures of health. Tom, the first-born, numbered
fifteen years; Daisy, the latest arrival, had seen but three
summers, yet she already occupied a high chair at the dinner-table,
and conducted herself with much propriety. The two elder boys went
to the Grammar School morning and afternoon; for the other children
there was Miss Pope, with her smile of decorum, eyes of
intelligence, and clear, decided voice.

Mrs. Liversedge was obviously Denzil Quarrier's sister; she had his
eyes and his nose--not uncomely features. It did not appear that
her seven children were robust at their mother's expense; she ate
with undisguised appetite, laughed readily (just showing excellent
teeth), and kept a shapely figure, clad with simple becomingness.
Her age was about eight-and-thirty, that of her husband forty-five.
This couple--if any in England--probably knew the meaning of
happiness. Neither had experienced narrow circumstances, and the
future could but confirm their security from sordid cares. Even if
seven more children were added to their family, all would be brought
up amid abundance, and sent forth into the world as well equipped
for its struggles as the tenderest heart could desire. Father and
mother were admirably matched; they knew each other perfectly,
thought the same thoughts on all essential matters, exchanged the
glances of an absolute and unshakeable confidence.

Seeing him thus at the end of his table, one would not have thought
Mr. Liversedge a likely man to stand forth on political platforms
and appeal to the populace of the borough for their electoral
favour. He looked modest and reticent; his person was the reverse of
commanding. A kind and thoughtful man, undoubtedly; but in his eye
was no gleam of ambition, and it seemed doubtful whether he would
care to trouble himself much about questions of public policy.
Granted his position and origin, it was natural enough that he
should take a stand on the Liberal side, but it could hardly be
expected that he should come up to Mr. Chown's ideal of a
Progressive leader.

He was talking lightly on the subject with his brother-in-law.

"I should have thought," he said, "that William Glazzard might have
had views that way. He's a man with no ties and, I should say, too
much leisure."

"Oh," exclaimed Mrs. Liversedge, "the idea of his getting up to make
speeches! It always seems to me as if he found it a trouble even to
talk. His brother would be far more likely, wouldn't he, Denzil?"

"What, Eustace Glazzard?" replied Quarrier. "He regards Parliament
and everything connected with it with supreme contempt. Suggest the
thing when he comes this evening, and watch his face."

"What is he doing?" Mr. Liversedge asked.

"Collecting pictures, playing the fiddle, gazing at sunflowers, and
so on. He'll never do anything else."

"How contradictory you are in speaking about him!" said his sister.
"One time you seem to admire and like him extremely, and another"
----

"Why, so I do. A capital fellow! He's weak, that's all. I don't mean
weak in the worst way, you know; a more honourable and trustworthy
man doesn't live. But--well, he's rather womanish, I suppose."

Mrs. Liversedge laughed.

"Many thanks! It's always so pleasing to a woman to hear that
comparison. Do you mean he reminds you of Mrs. Wade?"

The boy Tom, who had been attentive, broke into merriment.

"Uncle Denzil wouldn't dare to have said it in _her_ presence!" he
cried.

"Perhaps not," conceded Denzil, with a smile. "By-the-bye, is that
wonderful person still in Polterham?"

"Oh yes!" Mrs. Liversedge replied. "She has been very prominent
lately."

"How?"

The lady glanced at her husband, who said quietly, "We'll talk over
it some other time."

But Tom was not to be repressed.

"Mother means that Revivalist business," he exclaimed. "Mrs. Wade
went against it."

"My boy, no meddling with things of that kind," said his father,
smiling, but firm. He turned to Denzil. "Has Glazzard exhibited
anything lately?"

"No; he gave up his modelling, and he doesn't seem to paint much
nowadays. The poor fellow has no object in life, that's the worst of
it."

The meal was nearly at an end, and presently the two men found
themselves alone at the table. Mr. Liversedge generally smoked a
cigar before returning for an hour or two to the soap-works.

"Any more wine?" he asked. "Then come into my snuggery and let us
chat."

They repaired to a room of very homely appearance. The furniture was
old and ugly; the carpet seemed to have been beaten so often that it
was growing threadbare by force of purification. There was a fair
collection of books, none of very recent date, and on the walls
several maps and prints. The most striking object was a great
stuffed bird that stood in a glass-case before the window--a
capercailzie shot by Quarrier long ago in Norway, and presented to
his brother-in-law. Tobias settled himself in a chair, and kicked a
coal from the bars of the grate.

"Tom is very strong against religious fanaticism," he said,
laughing. "I have to pull him up now and then. I suppose you heard
about the crazy goings-on down here in the summer?"

"Not I. Revivalist meetings?"

"The whole town was turned upside down. Such frenzy among the women
I never witnessed. Three times a day they flocked in swarms to the
Public Hall, and there screeched and wept and fainted, till it
really looked as if some authority ought to interfere. If I had had
my way, I would have drummed the preachers out of the town. Mary and
Mrs. Wade and one or two others were about the only women who
escaped the epidemic. Seriously, it led to a good deal of domestic
misery. Poor Tomkins's wife drove him to such a pass by her
scandalous neglect of the house, that one morning he locked her into
her bedroom, and there he kept her on very plain diet for three
days. We thought of getting up a meeting to render public thanks to
Tomkins, and to give him some little testimonial."

Denzil uttered roars of laughter; the story was exactly of the kind
that made appeal to his humorous instincts.

"Has the ferment subsided?" he asked.

"Tolerably well; leaving a good deal of froth and scum, however. The
worst of it was that, in the very week when those makebates had
departed, there came down on us a second plague, in the shape of
Mrs. Hitchin, the apostle of--I don't quite know what, but she
calls it Purity. Of course, you know her by repute. She, too, had
the Public Hall, and gave addresses to which only women were
admitted. I have a very strong opinion as to the tendency of those
addresses, and if Rabelais had come to life among us just then--
but never mind. The fact is, old Polterham got into a thoroughly
unwholesome condition, and we're anything but right yet. Perhaps a
little honest fighting between Liberal and Tory may help to clear
the air.--Well, now, that brings me to what I really wish to talk
about. To tell you the truth, I don't feel half satisfied with what
I have done. My promise to stand, you know, was only conditional,
and I think I must get out of it."

"Why?"

"Mary was rather tickled with the idea at first; naturally she had
no objection to be Mrs. M.P., and she persuaded herself that I was
just the man to represent Polterham. I felt rather less sure of it,
and now I am getting pretty well convinced that I had better draw
back before I make a fool of myself."

"What about your chances? Is there any hope of a majority?"

"That's more than I can tell you. The long-headed men, like your
Uncle Sam (an unwilling witness) and Edward Coke, say that the day
has come for the Liberals. I don't know, but I suspect that a really
brisk and popular man might carry it against either of the
Welwyn-Bakers. That fellow Hugh will never do--by the way, that
might be the beginning of an election rhyme! He's too much of a
blackguard, and nowadays, you know, even a Tory candidate must
preserve the decencies of life."

Denzil mused, and muttered something. indistinct.

"Now listen," pursued the speaker, shifting about in his chair.
"What I want to say is this: why shouldn't _you_ come forward?"

Quarrier pursed his lips, knit his brows, and grunted.

"I am very serious in thinking that you might be the best man we
could find."

And Mr. Liversedge went on to exhibit his reasons at some length. As
he listened, Denzil became restless, crossing and recrossing his
legs, spreading his shoulders, smiling, frowning, coughing; and at
length he jumped up.

"Look here, Toby!" he exclaimed, "is this a self-denying ordinance?
have you and Molly put your heads together to do me what you think a
good turn?"

"I haven't spoken to her, I assure you. I am sincere in saying that
I don't wish to go through with it. And I should be right heartily
glad to see you come out instead."

The face of the younger man worked with subdued excitement. There
was a flush in his cheeks, and he breathed rapidly. The emotion that
possessed him could not be altogether pleasurable, for at moments he
cast his eyes about him with a pained, almost a desperate look. He
walked up and down with clenched fist, occasionally digging himself
in the side.

"Toby," he burst out at length, "let me think this over I can't
possibly decide at once. The notion is absolutely new to me; I must
roll it about, and examine it on all sides."

Mr. Liversedge cheerfully agreed, and, after a little more talk, he
went his way to business, leaving Denzil alone in the snuggery.
There sat the young man in deep but troubled meditation. He sat for
nearly an hour. Then his sister came in.

"Denzil, you are wanted. Mr. Wykes wishes to see you. Shall I send
him here?"

"Mr. Wykes! What about, I wonder? Yes, let him come."

A clumping was heard without, and the bright face of the Institute's
Secretary, so strongly in contrast with his wretched body, presented
itself in the doorway. Quarrier received him with a friendly
consideration due rather to pity than to any particular interest in
the man himself. He placed him in a comfortable chair, and waited in
attentive attitude for an explanation of the call. Mr. Wykes lost no
time in making known his business; he told what had happened at the
Institute, and respectfully begged for Mr. Quarrier's aid in
averting disappointment on the next evening.

"I am sure, sir, that your appearance on our platform would give
very general pleasure. I should have time to post announcements here
and there. We should have a splendid hall."

"The deuce! But, Mr. Wykes, it is no such simple matter to prepare a
lecture in four-and-twenty hours. What am I to talk about?"

"Any subject, sir, that would be of interest to a wide-awake
audience. If I might suggest, there are your travels, for instance.
And I understand that you are deeply conversant with the Northern
literatures; I am sure something"----

"Pardon me. I hardly think I should care to go so far away for a
theme."

The Secretary heard this with pleasure.

"All the better, Sir! Any subject of the day; nothing could be more
acceptable. You probably know our position at the Institute. In
practice, we are something like a Liberal Club. You have heard that
the other party are going to start a Society of their own?"

"I have--a Society with an imbecile Dame." He pondered. "Suppose I
were to talk about 'The Position of Woman in our Time'?"

"Capital, Mr. Quarrier! Couldn't be better, sir! Do permit me to
announce it at once!"

"It's rather a ticklish responsibility I'm undertaking--but--
very well, I will do my best, Mr. Wykes. Who is chairman?"

"Mr. William Glazzard, sir."

"Ho ho! All right; I'll turn up to time. Eight o'clock, I suppose?
Evening dress, or not? Oh, of course, if it's usual; I didn't know
your custom."

Mr. Wykes did not linger. Left alone again, Denzil walked about in
excited mood. At length, with a wave of the arm which seemed to
announce a resolution, he went to the drawing-room. His sister was
reading there in solitude.

"Molly, I'm going to lecture at the Institute tomorrow, _vice_ somebody
or other who can't turn up. What subject, think you?"

"The Sagas, probably?"

"The Sagas be blowed! 'Woman's Place in our Time,' that's the
title."

Mrs. Liversedge laughed, and showed astonishment.

"And what have you to say about her?"

"Wait and see!"





CHAPTER VI




At the distance of a mile and a half from Polterham lay an estate
which had long borne the name of Highmead. Here had dwelt three
successive generations of Glazzards. The present possessor, by name
William, was, like his father and grandfather, simply a country
gentleman, but, unlike those respectable ancestors, had seen a good
deal of the world, and only settled down amid his acres when he was
tired of wandering. His age at present was nearing fifty. When quite
a young man, he had married rather rashly--a girl whose
acquaintance he had made during a voyage. In a few years' time, he
and his wife agreed to differ on a great many topics of moment, and
consequently to live apart. Mrs. Glazzard died abroad. William, when
the desire for retirement came upon him, was glad of the society of
a son and a daughter in their early teens. But the lad died of
consumption, and the girl, whose name was Ivy, for a long time
seemed to be clinging to life with but doubtful tenure. She still
lived, however, and kept her father's house.

Ivy Glazzard cared little for the pleasures of the world--knew,
indeed, scarcely more about them than she had gathered from books.
Her disposition was serious, inclined to a morbid melancholy; she
spent much time over devotional literature, but very seldom was
heard to speak of religion. Probably her father's avowed
indifferentism imposed upon her a timid silence. When the Revivalist
services were being held in Polterham, she visited the Hall and the
churches with assiduity, and from that period dated her friendship
with the daughter of Mr. Mumbray, Mayor of the town. Serena Mumbray
was so uncomfortable at home that she engaged eagerly in any
occupation which could excuse her absence for as many hours a day as
possible. Prior to the outbreak of Revivalism no one had supposed
her particularly pious, and, indeed, she had often suffered Mrs.
Mumbray's rebukes for levity of speech and indifference to the
conventional norm of feminine behaviour. Though her parents had
always been prominent in Polterham society, she was ill-educated,
and of late years had endeavoured, in a fitful, fretful way, to make
amends to herself for this injustice. Disregarding paternal censure,
she subscribed to the Literary Institute, and read at hap-hazard
with little enough profit. Twenty-three years old, she was now
doubly independent, for the will of a maiden aunt (a lady always on
the worst of terms with Mr. and Mrs. Mumbray, and therefore glad to
encourage Serena against them) had made her an heiress of no slight
consideration. Young men of Polterham regarded her as the greatest
prize within view, though none could flatter himself that he stood
in any sensible degree of favour with her. There seemed no reason
why Miss Mumbray should not marry, but it was certain that as yet
she behaved disdainfully to all who approached her with the show of
intention. She was not handsome, but had agreeable features. As
though to prove her contempt of female vanity and vulgar display,
she dressed plainly, often carelessly--a fact which of course
served to emphasize her importance in the eyes of people who tried
to seem richer than they were.

Miss Glazzard rarely came into the town, but Serena visited Highmead
at least once a week. According to the state of the weather, the
friends either sat talking in Ivy's room or rambled about the
grounds, where many a pretty and sheltered spot was discoverable. At
such times the master of the house seldom showed himself, and, on
the whole, Highmead reminded one of a mansion left in the care of
servants whilst the family are abroad. Miss Mumbray was surprised
when, on her arrival one afternoon, she was conducted into the
presence of three persons, who sat conversing in the large
drawing-room. With Ivy and her father was a gentleman whose identity
she could only guess; he proved to be Mr. Eustace Glazzard, her
friend's uncle.

To the greetings with which she was received Serena responded
formally. It happened that her attire was to-day even more careless
than usual, for, the weather being wet and cold, she had just thrown
a cloak over the frock in which she lounged at home, and driven out
in a cab with the thought of stepping directly into Ivy's sanctum.
So far from this, she found herself under the scrutiny of two
well-dressed men, whose faces, however courteous, manifested the
signature of a critical spirit. The elder Mr. Glazzard was bald,
wrinkled, and of aristocratic bearing; he wore gold-rimmed glasses,
which accentuated the keenness of his gaze. The younger man, though
altogether less formidable, had a smile which Miss Mumbray
instinctively resented; he seemed to be regarding her with some
special interest, and it was clear that her costume did not escape
mental comment.

Ivy did her best to overcome the restraint of the situation, and for
a quarter of an hour something like conversation was maintained,
but, of a sudden, Miss Mumbray rose.

"We will go to my room," said Ivy, regarding her nervously.

"Thank you," was the reply, "I mustn't stay longer to-day."

"Oh, why not? But indeed you must come for a moment; I have
something to show you"

Serena took leave of the gentlemen, and with show of reluctance
suffered herself to be led to the familiar retreat.

"I'm afraid I have displeased you," Ivy addressed her, when the door
was closed. "I ought to have asked your permission."

"It doesn't matter, dear--not a bit. But I wasn't quite in the
humour for--for that kind of thing. I came here for quietness, as
I always do."

"Do forgive me! I thought--to tell the truth, it was my uncle--I
had spoken of you to him, and he said he should so much like to meet
you."

"It really doesn't matter; but I look rather like the woman who
comes to buy old dresses, don't I?"

Ivy laughed.

"Of course not!"

"And what if I do?" exclaimed the other, seating herself by the
fire. "I don't know that I've any claim to look better than Mrs.
Moss. I suppose she and I are about on a level in understanding and
education, if the truth were told. Your uncle would see that, of
course."

"Now, don't--don't!" pleaded Ivy, bending over the chair and
stroking her friend's shoulder. "It's so wrong of you, dear. My
father and Uncle Eustace are both quite capable of judging you
rightly."

"What did you tell him about me--your uncle?" asked Serena,
pettishly.

"That you were my friend, and that we read together"----

"Oh, of course! What else?"

Ivy faltered.

"I explained who you were."

"That I had a ridiculous name, and was the daughter of silly
people!"

"Oh, it _is_ unkind of you!"

"Well, and what else? I insist on knowing, Ivy."

"Indeed, I didn't say one word that you mightn't have heard
yourself. I think you can believe me, dear?"

"To be sure I can. But then no doubt your father told him the rest,
or has done by this time. There's no harm in that. I like people to
know that I am independent. Well, now tell me about _him_. He isn't
a great favourite of yours, is he?"

"No, not a great favourite." Ivy seemed always to weigh her words.
"I don't know him very well. He has always lived in London, and I've
never seen him more than once a year. I'm afraid he doesn't care
much about the things that I prize most, but he is kind and very
clever, I believe. Father always says he might have been a great
artist if he had chosen."

"Then why didn't he choose?"

"I can't say. So many people seem to fall far short of what they
might have been."

"Women do--what else can you expect? But men are free. I suppose
he is rich?"

"No, not rich. He seems to have enough for his needs."

Serena indulged her thoughts.

"I felt I disliked him at first," she said, presently. "But he is
improved. He can talk well, I should think. I suppose he is always
in clever society?"

"I suppose so."

"And why doesn't he invite you to London, and take you to see
people?"

"Oh, he knows me better than that!" replied Ivy, with a laugh.

Whilst the girls talked thus, Eustace Glazzard and his brother were
also in confidential chat. They had gone to the library and made
themselves comfortable with cigars--a cellaret and glasses
standing within reach. The rooms at Highmead gave evidence of
neglect. Guests were seldom entertained; the servants were few, and
not well looked after.

"She has, I dare say, thirty thousand," William Glazzard was saying,
with an air of indifference. "I suppose she'll marry some parson.
Let us hope it's one of the fifty-pound curates."

"Deep in the old slough?"

"Hopelessly--or Ivy wouldn't be so thick with her."

When he had spoken, William turned with an expressive smile.

"Still, who knows? I rather like the girl. She has no humbug about
her--no pretence, that's to say. You see how she dresses."

"A bad sign, I'm afraid."

"Well, no, not in this case, I think. Her home accounts for it. That
old ass, Mumbray, and his wife make things pretty sour for her, as
the Germans say; at least, I guess so."

"I don't dislike her appearance--intelligent at bottom, I should
imagine."

There followed a long silence. Eustace broke it by asking softly:

"And how do things go with you?"

"The same as ever. Steadily down-hill I had better let the place
before it gets into a thoroughly bad state. And you?"

His brother made no answer, but sat with bent head.

"You remember Stark," he said at length, "the lawyer? He wants me to
stand for Polterham at the next election."

"You? In place of Welwyn-Baker?"

"No; as Liberal candidate; or Radical, if you like."

"You're joking, I suppose!"

"Where's the impossibility?"

Their eyes met.

"There's no absurdity," said William, "in your standing for
Parliament; _au contraire_. But I can't imagine you on the Radical
side. And I don't see the necessity of that. Welwyn-Baker is
breaking up; they won't let him come forward again, even if he
wishes. His son is disliked, and would have a very poor chance. If
you cared to put yourself in touch with Mumbray and the rest of them
--by love! I believe they would welcome you. I don't know of any
one but the Welwyn-Bakers at all likely to stand."

"But," objected his brother, "what's the use of my standing for a
party that is pretty sure to be beaten?"

"You think that's the case?"

Eustace repeated Mr. Stark's opinions, and what he had heard from
Quarrier. It seemed to cost William an effort to fix his mind on the
question; but at length he admitted that the contest would probably
be a very close cue, even granting that the Conservatives secured a
good candidate.

"That's as much as to say," observed his brother, "that the Liberals
stand to win, as things are. Now, there seems to be no doubt that
Liversedge would gladly withdraw in favour of a better man. What I
want you to do is to set this thing in train for me. I am in
earnest."

"You astonish me! I can't reconcile such an ambition with"----

"No, no; of course not." Glazzard spoke with unwonted animation.
"You don't know what my life is and has been. Look I must do
something to make my blood circulate, or I shall furnish a case for
the coroner one of these mornings. I want excitement. I have taken
up one thing after another, and gone just far enough to understand
that there's no hope of reaching what I aimed at--superlative
excellence; then the thing began to nauseate me. I'm like poor
Jackson, the novelist, who groaned to me once that for fifteen years
the reviewers had been describing his books as 'above the average.'
In whatever I have undertaken the results were 'above the average,'
and that's all. This is damned poor consolation for a man with a
temperament like mine!"

His voice broke down. He had talked himself into a tremor, and the
exhibition of feeling astonished his brother, who--as is so often
the case between brothers--had never suspected what lay beneath
the surface of Eustace's _dilettante_ life.

"I can enter into that," said the elder, slowly. "But do you imagine
that in politics you have found your real line?"

"No such thing. But it offers me a chance of _living_ for a few
years. I don't flatter myself that I could make a figure in the
House of Commons; but I want to sit there, and be in the full
current of existence. I had never dreamt of such a thing until Stark
suggested it. But he's a shrewd fellow, and he has guessed my need."

"What about the financial matter?" asked William, after reflection.

"I see no insuperable difficulty. You, I understand, are in no
position to help me?"

"Oh, I won't say that," interrupted the other. "A few hundreds will
make no difference to me. I suppose you see your way for the
ordinary expenses of life?"

"With care, yes. I've been throwing money away, but that shall stop;
there'll be no need for it when my nerves are put in tone."

"Well, it strikes me in a comical light, but you must act as you
think best. I'll go to work for you. It's a pity I stand so much
apart, but I suppose my name is worth something. The Radicals have
often tried to draw me into their camp, and of course it's taken for
granted that I am rather for than against them. By-the-bye, what is
the date? Ah! that's fortunate. To-morrow I am booked to take the
chair at the Institute; a lecture--I don't know by whom, or about
what. A good opportunity for setting things astir."

"Then you do take some part in town life?"

"Most exceptional thing. I must have refused to lecture and to
chairmanize twenty times. But those fellows are persistent; they
caught me in a weak moment a few days ago. I suppose you realize the
kind of speechifying that would be expected of you? Are you prepared
to blaze away against Beaconsfield, and all that sort of thing?"

"I'm not afraid. There are more sides to my character than you
suppose."

Eustace spoke excitedly, and tossed off a glass of liqueur. His
manner had become more youthful than of wont; his face showed more
colour.

"The fact is," he went on, "if I talk politics at all, I can manage
the Radical standpoint much more easily than the Tory. I have
precious little sympathy with anything popular, that's true; but
it's easier for me to adopt the heroic strain of popular leaders
than to put my own sentiments into the language of squires and
parsons. I should feel I was doing a baser thing if I talked vulgar
Toryism than in roaring the democratic note. Do you understand?"

"I have an inkling of what you mean."

Eustace refilled the little glass.

"Of course," he went on, "my true life stands altogether outside
popular contention. I am an artist, though only half-baked But I
admit most heartily that our form of government is a good one--the
most favourable that exists to individual freedom. We are ruled by
the balance of two parties; neither could do without the other. This
being the case, a man of my mind may conscientiously support either
side. Nowadays neither is a foe to liberty; we know that party
tall-talk means nothing--mere playing to the gallery. If I throw
whatever weight I represent into the Liberal scales, I am only
helping, like every other Member of Parliament, to maintain the
constitutional equilibrium. You see, this view is not even cynical;
any one might proclaim it seriously."

"Yes; but don't do so in Polterham."

The other laughed, and at the same moment remembered how long it was
since such an expression of mirth had escaped his lips.

"Well," he exclaimed, "I feel better to-day than for long enough.
I've been going through a devilish bad time, I can tell you. To make
things worse, some one has fixed an infernal accusation on me--an
abominable calumny. I won't talk about it now, but it may be
necessary some day."

"Calumny?--nothing that could be made use against you in public?"

"No danger of that, I think. I didn't mean to speak of it."

"You know that a man on the hustings must look out for mud?"

"Of course, of course!--How do you spend your afternoons? What
shall we do?"

William threw away the end of a cigar, and stretched himself.

"I do very little but read," he answered. "A man gets the reading
habit, just like the morphia habit, or anything else of that kind. I
think my average is six novels a week: French, Russian, German,
Italian. No English, unless I'm in need of an emetic. What else
should I do? It's a way of watching contemporary life.--Would you
like to go and talk with Ivy? Oh, I forgot that girl."

"You wouldn't care to ask some people to dinner one of these days--
the right kind of people?"

"Yes, yes; we'll do that. I must warn you not to talk much about
art, and above all not to play the piano. It would make a bad
impression."

"All right. How shall I deal with Liversedge? I go there this
evening, you remember."

"Sound him, if opportunity offers. No hurry, you know. We have
probably several months before us. You'll have to live here a good
deal."

As the rain had ceased, they presently went out into the garden and
strolled aimlessly about.





CHAPTER VII




No sooner had Mr. Liversedge become aware of his brother-in-law's
promise to appear on the platform, than he despatched a note to Mr.
Wykes, recommending exceptional industry in spreading the
announcement. These addresses were not commonly of a kind to excite
much interest, nor had the name of Mr. Denzil Quarrier any prestige
in Polterham; it occasioned surprise when messengers ran about the
town distributing handbills, which gave a general invitation
(independent of membership) to that evening's lecture at the
Institute. At the doors of the building itself was a large placard,
attracting the eye by its bold inscription: "Woman: Her Place in
Modern Life"--so had the title been ultimately shaped. Politicians
guessed at once that something was in the wind, and before the
afternoon there was a distinct rumour that this young man from
London would be brought forward as Liberal candidate (Radical, said
the Tories) in the place of Mr. Liversedge, who had withdrawn his
name. The reading-room was beset. This chanced to be the day on
which the Polterham Liberal newspaper was published, and at the head
of its "general" column appeared a long paragraph on the subject
under discussion. "At the moment of going to press, we learn that
unforeseen circumstances have necessitated a change in this
evening's programme at the Literary Institute. The indefatigable
Secretary, Mr. Wykes, has been fortunate enough to fill the
threatened vacancy, and that in a way which gives promise of a rare
intellectual treat." Then followed a description of the lecturer
(consisting of laudatory generalities), and a few sounding phrases
on the subject he had chosen. Mr. Chown, who came and went twenty
times in the course of the day, talked to all and sundry with his
familiar vehemence.

"If it is true," he thundered, "that Tobias Liversedge has already
surrendered his place to this young man, I want to know why these
things have been done in a corner? If you ask my opinion, it looks
uncommonly like a conspiracy. The Radical electors of Polterham are
not going to be made the slaves of a secret caucus t The choice may
be a very suitable one. I don't say"----

"Then wait till we know something definite," growled Mr. Vawdrey.
"All I can say is that if this Mr. Quarrier is going in for extreme
views about women, I'll have nothing to do with him."

"What do you mean by 'extreme views'?" screeched a thin man in dirty
clothing.

Thereupon began a furious controversy, lasting half an hour. (It may
be noted that a card hung in several parts of the room, requesting
members not to converse in audible tones.)

Mr. Liversedge had gone to work like a man of decision. Between six
and eight on the previous evening he had seen the members of that
"secret caucus" whose existence outraged Mr. Chown--in other
words, the half-dozen capable citizens who practically managed the
affairs of Liberal Polterham--and had arrived at an understanding
with them which made it all but a settled thing that Denzil Quarrier
should be their prospective candidate. Tobias was eager to back out
of the engagement into which he had unadvisedly entered. Denzil's
arrival at this juncture seemed to him providential--impossible to
find a better man for their purpose. At eight o'clock an informal
meeting was held at the office of the _Polterham Examiner_, with the
result that Mr. Hammond, the editor, subsequently penned that
significant paragraph which next morning attracted all eyes.

On returning to supper, Mr. Liversedge found his wife and Denzil in
conversation with Eustace Glazzard. With the latter he had a bare
acquaintance; from Denzil's report, he was disposed to think of him
as a rather effeminate old-young man of metropolitan type.

"Well," he exclaimed, when greetings were over, "I don't think you
will want for an audience to-morrow, Denzil. We are summoning
Polterham indiscriminately."

Glazzard had of course heard of the coming lecture. He wore a smile,
but was taciturn.

"Pray heaven I don't make an exhibition of myself!" cried Denzil,
with an air of sufficient confidence.

"Shall I send coffee to your bedroom, to-night?" asked his sister,
with merry eyes.

"Too late for writing it out. It must be inspiration I know what I
want to say, and I don't think the sea of Polterham faces will
disturb me."

He turned sharply to his brother-in-law.

"Are you still in the same mind on that matter we spoke of this
afternoon?"

"Decidedly!"

"Glazzard, what should you say if I came forward as Radical
candidate for Polterham?"

There was silence. Glazzard fixed his eyes on the opposite wall; his
smile was unchanged.

"I see no objection," he at length replied. The tones were rather
thick, and ended in a slight cough. Feeling that all eyes were fixed
upon him, Glazzard made an uneasy movement, and rose from his chair.

"It doesn't astonish you?" said Quarrier, with a broad grin.

"Not overpoweringly."

"Then let us regard the thing as settled. Mr. Liversedge has no
stomach for the fight, and makes room for me. In a week's time I
shall be a man of distinction."

In the midst of his self-banter he found Glazzard's gaze turned upon
him with steady concentration. Their eyes met, and Denzil's
expression became graver.

"You will take up your abode here?" Glazzard asked.

"Shortly," was the reply, given with more emphasis than seemed
necessary, and accompanied with an earnest look.

Again there was silence, and before the conversation could be
renewed there came a summons to supper.

A vivacious political dialogue between Mr. Liversedge and his
relative allowed Glazzard to keep silence, save when he exchanged a
few words with his hostess or Miss Pope. He had a look of extreme
weariness; his eyes were heavy and without expression, the lines of
face slack, sullen; he seemed to maintain with difficulty his
upright position at the table, and his eating was only pretence. At
the close of the meal he bent towards Mrs. Liversedge, declared that
he was suffering from an intolerable headache, and begged her to
permit his immediate departure.

Denzil went with him out into the road.

"I could see you were not well," he said, kindly. "I want to have a
long and very serious talk with you; it must wait till after
to-morrow. You know, of course, what I have on my mind. Come and
hear my balderdash if you are all right again."

All the next day Denzil was in extravagant spirits. In the morning
he made a show of shutting himself up to meditate the theme of his
discourse, but his sister presently saw him straying about the
garden, and as soon as her household duties left her at leisure she
was called upon to gossip and laugh with him. The Polterham Examiner
furnished material for endless jesting. In the midst of a flow of
grotesque fancies, he broke off to say:

"By-the-bye, I shall have to run over to Paris for a few weeks."

"What to do there?"

"A private affair. You shall hear about it afterwards."

And he went on with his mirthful fantasia. This mood had been
frequent with him in earlier years, and his sister was delighted to
see that he preserved so much of youth. After all, it might be that
he had found his vocation ere it was too late. Certainly he had the
gift of speech, and his personality was not a common one. He might
strike out a special line for himself in Parliament. They must make
his election a sure thing.

The lecture was at eight. About seven, Mr. Liversedge and his
relative walked off to the Institute, and entered the
committee-room. Two or three gentlemen had already arrived; they
were no strangers to Denzil, and a lively conversation at once
sprang up. In a few minutes the door again opened to admit Mr.
William Glazzard. The chairman of the evening came forward with
lounging steps. Regardless of the others present, he fixed his eye
upon Quarrier, and examined him from head to foot. In this case,
also, introduction was unnecessary.

"You have lost no time," he remarked, holding out his hand, and
glancing from the young man to Mr. Liversedge.

"Your brother has given you a hint?" said the latter.

"Oh yes! How am I to phrase my introductory remarks?"

"Quite without reference to the political topic."

The others murmured an approval.

"Eustace well again?" asked Quarrier. "He went home with a bad
headache last night."

"He'll be here," answered Mr. Glazzard, laconically. "Liversedge, a
word with you."

The two stepped apart and conversed under cover of the chat that
went on in front of the fire. Mr. Glazzard merely wished for a few
hints to direct him when he introduced the lecturer; he was silent
about his brother's frustrated project.

Fresh members of the committee kept appearing. The room resounded
with talk and laughter. Denzil had a higher colour than usual, but
he seemed perfectly self-possessed; his appearance and colloquial
abilities made a very favourable impression. "Distinct improvement
on friend Toby," whispered one committee-man to another; and this
was the general opinion. Yet there was some anxiety regarding the
address they were about to hear. Denzil did not look like a man who
would mince his words and go half-way in his opinions. The Woman
question was rather a dangerous one in Polterham just now; that
period of Revivalism, and the subsequent campaign of Mrs. Hitchin,
had left a sore feeling in not a few of the townsfolk. An old
gentleman (he had known Denzil as a boy) ventured to speak of this
to the lecturer.

"Don't be afraid, Mr. Toft," was the laughing reply. "You will stand
amazed at my moderation; I am dead against Female Suffrage."

"That is safe, I think. You'll find Mrs. Wade down upon you--but
that doesn't matter."

"Will she attack me in the hall?"

"No, no; we don't have public discussion; but prepare for an assault
to-morrow."

"I shall enjoy it!"

The hall was rapidly filling. Already twice as many people as
attended an ordinary lecture had taken seats, and among them were
numerous faces altogether strange at the Institute, though familiar
enough in the streets of Polterham. Among early arrivals was Mr.
Samuel Quarrier, Denzil's uncle, a white-headed but stalwart figure.
He abominated Radicalism, and was one of the very few "new" men who
supported the old political dynasty of the town. But his countenance
manifested no sour displeasure; he exchanged cheery greetings on all
hands, and marched steadily to the front chairs, his two daughters
following. The Mayor, accompanied by his wife, Miss Mumbray, and
young Mr. Raglan Mumbray, was seen moving forward; he acknowledged
salutations with a heavy bow and a wave of the hand. Decidedly it
was a field-day. From the street below sounded a constant roll of
carriages and clatter of hoofs coming to a standstill before the
Institute. Never, perhaps, had so many people in evening costume
gathered under this roof. Even Mr. Chown, the draper, though
scornful of such fopperies, had thought it due to his position as a
town-councillor to don the invidious garb; he was not disposed to
herd among the undistinguished at the back of the room. Ladies were
in great force, though many of them sought places with an abashed
movement, not quite sure whether what they were about to hear would
be strictly "proper." One there was who betrayed no such tremors;
the position she assumed was about the middle of the hall, and from
time to time curious looks were cast in that direction.

The clock pointed to eight. Punctually to the moment a side door was
thrown open, and a procession of gentlemen ascended the platform.
Members of the committee seated themselves in a row of arm-chairs;
Mr. William Glazzard took his place not far from the reading-desk,
and behind it subsided the lecturer.

In these instants Denzil Quarrier was the prey of sudden panic. He
had imagined that his fortitude was proof against stage-fright, but
between the door and his seat on the platform he suffered horribly.
His throat was parched and constricted; his eyes dazzled, so that he
could see nothing; his limbs were mere automatic mechanism; he felt
as though some one had set his ears on fire. He strove wildly to
recollect his opening sentences; but they were gone. How was he to
fill up a mortal hour with coherent talk when he had not command of
one phrase? He had often reproved himself for temerity, and now the
weakness had brought its punishment. What possessed him to run into
such a----?

The chairman had risen and was speaking. "Pleasure----introduce
----Mr. Denzil Quarrier,----not unknown to many of you----
almost at a moment's notice----much indebted----"

An outbreak of applause, and then dead silence. The ticking of the
clock became audible. Some external force took hold upon him, lifted
him from the chair, and impelled him a few steps forward. Some
voice, decidedly not his own, though it appeared to issue from his
throat, uttered the words "Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen." And
before the sound had ceased, there flashed into his thoughts a story
concerning an enlightened young lady of Stockholm, who gave a
lecture to advance the theory that woman's intellect suffered from
the habit of allowing her hair to grow so long. It was years since
this trifle had recurred to his mind; it came he knew not how, and
he clutched at it like the drowning man at a straw. Before he really
understood what he was about, he had begun to narrate the anecdote,
and suddenly, to his astonishment, he was rewarded with universal
peals of laughter. The noise dispelled his anguish of nervousness;
he drew a deep breath, grasped the table before him, and was able to
speak as freely as if he had been on his own hearth-rug in Clement's
Inn.

Make a popular audience laugh, and you have a hold upon its
attention. Able now to distinguish the faces that were gazing at
him, Denzil perceived that he had begun with a lucky stroke; the
people were in expectation of more merriment, and sat beaming with
good-humour. He saw the Mayor spread himself and stroke his beard,
and the Mayoress simper as she caught a friend's eye. Now he might
venture to change his tone and become serious.

Decidedly, his views were moderate. From the beginning he allowed it
to be understood that, whatever might be the effect of long hair, he
for one considered it becoming, and was by no means in favour of
reducing it to the male type. The young lady of Stockholm might or
might not have been indebted for her wider mental scope to the
practice of curtailing her locks, yet he had known many Swedish
ladies (and ladies of England, too) who, in spite of lovely hair,
managed to preserve an exquisite sense of the distinctions of
womanhood, and this (advanced opinion notwithstanding) he maintained
was the principal thing. But, the fact that so many women were
nowadays lifting up their voices in a demand for various degrees of
emancipation seemed to show that the long tresses and the flowing
garb had really, by process of civilization, come to symbolize
certain traditions of inferiority which weighed upon the general
female consciousness. "Let us, then, ask what these traditions are,
and what is to be said for or against them from the standpoint of a
liberal age."

Denzil no longer looked with horror at the face of the clock; his
only fear was lest the hands should move too rapidly, and forbid him
to utter in spacious periods all he had on his mind. By half-past
eight he was in the midst of a vehement plea for an enlargement of
female education, in the course of which he uttered several things
rather disturbing to the nerves of Mrs. Mumbray, and other ladies
present.--Woman, it was true, lived an imperfect life if she did
not become wife and mother; but this truism had been insisted on to
the exclusion of another verity quite as important: that wifehood
and motherhood, among civilized people, implied qualifications
beyond the physical. The ordinary girl was sent forth into life with
a mind scarcely more developed than that of a child. Hence those
monstrous errors she constantly committed when called upon to accept
a husband. Not one marriage in fifty thousand was an alliance on
terms fair to the woman. In the vast majority of cases, she wedded a
sort of man in the moon. Of him and of his world she knew nothing;
whereas the bridegroom had almost always a very sufficient
acquaintance with the circumstances, habits, antecedents,
characteristics, of the girl he espoused. Her parents, her
guardians, should assure themselves--pooh! even if these people
were conscientious and capable, the task was in most cases beyond
their power.

"I have no scheme for rendering marriages universally happy. On the
contrary, I believe that marriages in general will always serve as
a test of human patience." (Outbreak of masculine laughter.) "But
assuredly it is possible, by judicious training of young girls, to
guard them against some of the worst perils which now threaten their
going forth into the world. It is possible to put them on something
like an equality in knowledge of life with the young men of
corresponding social station." ("Oh, shameful!" murmured Mrs.
Mumbray. "Shocking!") "They must be treated, not like ornaments
under glass-eases, but like human beings who, physiologists assure
us, are born with mental apparatus, even as men are. I repeat that I
don't want to see them trained for politics" (many faces turned
towards the middle of the hall) "and that I lament the necessity
imposed on so many of them of struggling with men in the
labour-market. What I demand is an education in the true sense of
the word, and that as much at the hands of their mothers as of the
school-teacher. When that custom has been established, be sure that
it will affect enormously the habits and views of the male
population. The mass of men at present regard women as creatures
hoodwinked for them by nature--or at all events by society. When
they can no longer act on that assumption, interest and, let us
hope, an expanding sense of honour will lead them to see the
marriage contract, and all connected with it, in altogether a
different light."

He drank off a glass of water, listening the while to resonant
applause. There was still twenty minutes, and he decided to use the
time in offering solace to the army of women who, by force of mere
statistics, are fated to the frustration of their _raison
d'etre_. On this subject he had nothing very remarkable to say,
and, indeed, the maiden ladies who heard him must have felt that it
all amounted to a pitying shrug of the shoulders. But he could not
speak otherwise than vigorously, and at times his words were
eloquent.

"We know not how things may improve in the future," (thus he
perorated), "but let celibate ladies of the present bear in mind
that the chances are enormously against their making a marriage
worthy of the name." ("Oh!" from some man at the back.) "Let them
remember, too, if they are disposed to altruism, that though most
men manage to find a wife, very few indeed, as things are, do not
ultimately wish that they had remained single." (A roar of laughter,
and many protests.) "This being so, let women who have no family of
their own devote themselves, whenever possible, to the generous and
high task of training the new female generation, so that they may
help to mitigate one of the greatest ills of civilized existence,
and prepare for women of the future the possibility of a life truly
emancipated."

Denzil sat down with a glow of exulting triumph. His lecture was a
success, not a doubt of it. He saw the chairman rise, and heard
slow, languid phrases which contrasted strangely with his own fire
and rush. A vote of thanks was being proposed. When silence carne,
he was aware of some fluster in the body of the hall; people were
whispering, tittering, turning round to look. Two persons had stood
up with the intention of seconding the vote of gratitude; one was
Mr. Chown, the other that lady who had a place in the middle of the
assemblage, and who seemed to be so well known. The Radical draper
did not immediately give way, but his neighbours reminded him of
propriety. Quarrier had just scrutinized the person of the lady
about to speak. when her voice fell upon his ears with a pleasant
distinctness.

"As it is certainly right," she began, "that a woman should be one
of those who return thanks to our lecturer, and as I fear that no
other woman present will be inclined to undertake this duty, I will
make no apology for trying to perform it. And that in very few
words. Speaking for myself, I cannot pretend to agree with the whole
of Mr. Quarrier's address; I think his views were frequently timid"
--laughter and hushing--"frequently timid, and occasionally quite
too masculine. I heard once of a lady who proposed to give a series
of lectures on 'Astronomy from a Female Point of View'" (a laugh
from two or three people only), "and I should prefer to entitle Mr.
Quarrier's lecture, 'Woman from a Male Point of View.' However, it
was certainly well-meaning, undoubtedly eloquent, and on the whole,
in this time of small mercies, something for which a member of the
struggling sex may reasonably be grateful. I wish, therefore, to add
my voice to the proposal that a vote of thanks be offered to our
lecturer, with all sincerity and all heartiness."

"A devilish good little speech!" Denzil murmured to himself, as the
applause and merriment broke forth.

The show of hands seemed to be universal. Denzil was enjoying an
enormous happiness. He had proved to himself that he could speak,
and henceforth the platform was his own. Now let the dissolution of
Parliament come with all convenient speed; he longed to begin the
political conflict.

Committee-men crowded about him, offering hands, and brimming with
facetious eulogy.

"You were on very thin ice now and then," said Mr. Liversedge. "You
made me shake in my shoes. But the skating was admirable."

"I never knew Mrs. Wade so complimentary," remarked old Mr. Toft. "I
expected half an hour's diatribe, 'the rapt oration flowing free,'
as Tennyson says. You have taught her good manners."

Down in the hall was proceeding an animated conversazione. In one
group stood the Mayor and his wife, Miss Mumbray, and Ivy Glazzard.
Serena was turning aside to throw a shawl over her shoulders, when
Eustace Glazzard stepped up.

"Pray let me assist you, Miss Mumbray." He placed the wrap. "I hope
you have been amused?"

"I have, really," answered the girl, with a glance towards Ivy, who
had heard her uncle's voice.

"You, Ivy," he continued, "are rather on Mrs. Wade's side, I think?"

"Oh, uncle--how _can_ you!"

Mr. Mumbray was looking on, trying to determine who the gentleman
might be. Glazzard, desirous of presentation to the Mayor, gave Ivy
a glance, and she, with much nervousness, uncertain whether she
might do such a thing, said to her friend's father:

"I think, Mr. Mumbray, you don't know my uncle, Mr. Eustace
Glazzard?"

"Ha! very glad to meet you, Mr. Glazzard. My love," he turned to the
Mayoress, "let me present to you Mr. Eustace Glazzard--Mr.
William's brother."

The Mayoress laid her fan on her bosom, and inclined graciously. She
was a portly and high-coloured woman, with hanging nether lip.
Glazzard conversed with her and her husband in a tone of amiable
liveliness.

"Remarkable," he said, smiling to the Mayoress, "how patiently women
in general support this ancient yoke of tyranny!"

Mrs. Mumbray looked at him with condescending eyes, in doubt as to
his real meaning. Her husband, ponderously literal, answered in his
head-voice:

"I fail to recognize the grievance.--How do you do, Mr. Lovett?--
I am conscious of no tyranny."

"But that is just what Mr. Glazzard meant, papa, put in Serena, with
scarcely disguised contempt.

"Ha! oh! To be sure--to be sure! Quite so, Mr. Glazzard.--A very
amoosing lecture, all the same. Not of course to be taken seriously.
--Good evening, Mr. Glazzard--good evening!"

The Mayoress again inclined. Serena gave her acquaintance an
enigmatic look, murmured a leave-taking, and, with an affectionate
nod to Ivy, passed on. Glazzard drew near to his niece.

"Your friend is not a disciple of Mrs. Wade?"

"Oh dear no, uncle!"

"Not just a little bit?" he smiled, encouragingly.

"Perhaps she would agree with what Mr. Quarrier said about girls
having a right to better instruction."

"I see. Don't wait with me if there's any one you would like to
speak to."

Ivy shook her head. She had a troubled expression, as if the
experience of the evening had agitated her.

Close at hand, a circle of men had formed about Mr. Chown, who was
haranguing on the Woman question. What he wanted was to emancipate
the female mind from the yoke of superstition and of priestcraft.
Time enough to talk about giving women votes when they were no
longer the slaves of an obstructive religion. There were good things
in the lecture, but, on the whole, it was flabby--flabby. A man
who would discourse on this topic must be courageous; he must dare
to shock and give offence. Now, if _he_ had been lecturing----

Glazzard beckoned to his niece, and led her out of ear-shot of these
utterances. In a minute or two they were joined by the chairman, who
had already equipped himself for departure.

"Bah! I have a splitting headache," said William. "Let us get home."

Quarrier was still on the platform, but at this moment he caught
Glazzard's eye, and came hastening down. His friend stepped forward
to meet him.

"Well, how did it go?" Denzil asked, gaily.

"You have great aptitude for that kind of thing."

"So it strikes me.--Will you engage yourself to dine with me the
day after to-morrow?"

"Willingly."

"I have an idea. You remember the Coach and Horses--over at
Rickstead?"

It was a fine old country inn, associated in their memories of
boyhood with hare-and-hounds and other sportive excursions. Glazzard
nodded.

"Let us have a quiet dinner there; six-thirty can drive us back."

Glazzard rejoined his relatives. Denzil, turning came face to face
with Mr. Samuel Quarrier.

"So you took the trouble to come and hear me?"

"To be sure," replied the old man, in a gruff but good-natured
voice. "Is it true what they are saying? Is it to be you instead of
Toby?"

"I believe so."

"I shall do my best to get you a licking. All in good part, you
know."

"Perfectly natural, But I shall win!"





CHAPTER VIII




"Do you know of any good house to let in or near the town?" inquired
Denzil of his sister the next morning, as they chatted after Toby's
departure to business.

"A house! What do you want with one?"

"Oh, I must have a local habitation--the more solid the better."

Mrs. Liversedge examined him.

"What is going on, Denzil?"

"My candidature--that's all. Any houses advertised in this rag?"
He took up yesterday's _Examiner_, and began to search the pages.

"You can live very well with us."

Denzil did not reply, and his sister, summoned by a servant, left
him. There was indeed an advertisement such as he sought. An old and
pleasant family residence, situated on the outskirts of Polterham
(he remembered it very well), would be vacant at Christmas.
Application could be made on the premises. Still in a state of very
high pressure, unable to keep still or engage in any quiet pursuit,
he set off the instant to view this house. It stood in a high-walled
garden, which was entered through heavy iron-barred gates, one of
them now open. The place had rather a forlorn look, due in part to
the decay of the foliage which in summer shaded the lawn; blinds
were drawn on all the front windows; the porch needed repair. He
rang at the door, and was quickly answered by a dame of the
housekeeper species. On learning his business, she began to conduct
him through the rooms, which were in habitable state, though with
furniture muffled.

"The next room, sir, is the library. A lady is there at present.
Perhaps you know her?--Mrs. Wade."

"Mrs. Wade! Yes, I know her slightly."

The coincidence amused him.

"She comes here to study, sir--being a friend of the family. Will
you go in?"

Foreseeing a lively dialogue, he released his attendant till she
should hear his voice again, and, with preface of a discreet knock,
entered the room. An agreeable warmth met him, and the aspect of the
interior contrasted cheerfully with that of the chambers into which
he had looked. There was no great collection of books, but some fine
engravings filled the vacancies around. At the smaller of two
writing-tables sat the person he was prepared to discover; she had
several volumes open before her, and appeared to be making notes. At
his entrance she turned and gazed at him fixedly.

"Forgive my intrusion, Mrs. Wade," Denzil began, in a genial voice.
"I have come to look over the house, and was just told that you were
here. As we are not absolute strangers"----

He had never met her in the social way, though she had been a
resident at Polterham for some six years. Through Mrs. Liversedge,
her repute had long ago reached him; she was universally considered
eccentric, and, by many people, hardly proper for an acquaintance.
On her first arrival in the town she wore the garb of recent
widowhood; relatives here she had none, but an old friendship
existed between her and the occupants of this house, a childless
couple named Hornibrook. Her age was now about thirty.

Quarrier was far from regarding her as an attractive woman. He
thought better of her intelligence than before hearing her speak,
and it was not difficult for him to imagine that the rumour of
Polterham went much astray when it concerned itself with her
characteristics; but the face now directed to him had no power
whatever over his sensibilities. It might be that of a high-spirited
and large-brained woman; beautiful it could not be called. There was
something amiss with the eyes. All the other features might pass:
they were neither plain nor comely: a forehead of good type, a very
ordinary nose, largish lips, chin suggesting the masculine; but the
eyes, to begin with, were prominent, and they glistened in a way
which made it very difficult to determine their colour. They
impressed Denzil as of a steely-grey, and seemed hard as the metal
itself. His preference was distinctly for soft feminine eyes--such
as Lilian gazed with.

Her figure was slight, but seemed strong and active. He had noticed
the evening before that, in standing to address an audience, she
looked anything but ridiculous--spite of bonnet. Here too, though
allowing her surprise to be seen, she had the bearing of perfect
self-possession, and perhaps of conscious superiority. Fawn-coloured
hair, less than luxuriant, lay in soft folds and plaits on the top
of her head; possibly (the thought was not incongruous) she hoped to
gain half an inch of seeming stature.

They shook hands, and Denzil explained his object in calling.

"Then you are going to settle at Polterham?"

"Probably--that is, to keep an abode here."

"You are not married, I think, Mr. Quarrier?"

"No."

"There was a report at the Institute last night--may I speak of
it?"

"Political? I don't think it need be kept a secret. My
brother-in-law wishes me to make friends with the Liberals, in his
place."

"I dare say you will find them very willing to meet your advances.
On one question you have taken a pretty safe line."

"Much to your disgust," said Denzil, who found himself speaking very
freely and inclined to face debatable points.

"Disgust is hardly the word. Will you sit down? In Mrs. Hornibrook's
absence, I must represent her. They are good enough to let me use
the library; my own is poorly supplied."

Denzil took a chair.

"Are you busy with any particular subject?" he asked.

"The history of woman in Greece."

"Profound! I have as good as forgotten my classics. You read the
originals?"

"After a fashion. I don't know much about the enclitic _de_, and I
couldn't pass an exam. in the hypothetical sentences; but I pick up
the sense as I read on."

Her tone seemed to imply that, after all, she was not ill-versed in
grammatical niceties. She curtailed the word "examination" in an
off-hand way which smacked of an undergraduate, and her attitude on
the chair suggested that she had half a mind to cross her legs and
throw her hands behind her head.

"Then," said Quarrier, "you have a good deal more right to speak of
woman's claims to independence than most female orators."

She looked at him with a good-humoured curl of the lip.

"Excuse me if I mention it--your tone reminds me of that with
which you began last evening. It was rather patronizing."

"Heaven forbid! I am very sorry to have been guilty of such
ill-manners."

"In a measure you atoned for it afterwards. When I got up to offer
you my thanks, I was thinking of the best part of your lecture--
that where you spoke of girls being entrapped into monstrous
marriages. That was generous, and splendidly put. It seemed to me
that you must have had cases in mind."

For the second time Denzil was unable to meet the steely gaze. He
looked away and laughed.

"Oh, of course I had; who hasn't--that knows anything of the
world? But," he changed the subject, "don't you find it rather dull,
living in a place like Polterham?"

"I have my work here."

"Work?--the work of propagandism?"

"Precisely. It would be pleasant enough to live in London, and
associate with people of my own way of thinking; but what's the
good?--there's too much of that centralization. The obscurantists
take very good care to spread themselves. Why shouldn't those who
love the light try to keep little beacons going in out-of-the-way
places?"

"Well, do you make any progress?"

"Oh, I think so. The mere fact of my existence here ensures that. I
dare say you have heard tell of me, as the countryfolk say?"

The question helped Denzil to understand why Mrs. Wade was content
with Polterham. He smiled.

"Your influence won't be exerted against me, I hope, when the time
comes?"

"By no means. Don't you see that I have already begun to help you?"

"By making it clear that my Radicalism is not of the most dangerous
type?"

They laughed, together, and Quarrier, though the dialogue
entertained him, rose as if to depart.

"I will leave you with your Greeks, Mrs. Wade; though I fear you
haven't much pleasure in them from that special point of view."

"I don't know; they have given us important types of womanhood. The
astonishing thing is that we have got so little ahead of them in the
facts of female life. Woman is still enslaved, though men nowadays
think it necessary to disguise it."

"Do you really attach much importance to the right of voting, and so
on?"

"'And so on!' That covers a great deal, Mr. Quarrier. I attach all
importance to a state of things which takes for granted that women
stand on a level with children."

"So they do--with an inappreciable number of exceptions. You must
be perfectly well aware of that."

"And so you expect me to be satisfied with it?--I insist on the
franchise, because it symbolizes full citizenship. I won't aim at
anything less than that. Women must be taught to keep their eyes on
that, as the irreducible minimum of their demands."

"We mustn't argue. You know that I think they must be taught to look
at quite different things."

"Yes; but what those things are you have left me in doubt. We will
talk it over when you have more time to spare. Do you know my
address? Pear-tree Cottage, Rickstead Road. I shall be very glad to
see you if ever you care to call."

Denzil made his acknowledgments, shook hands, and left the room.

When his step sounded in the hall, the housekeeper appeared and
conducted him to the upper stories. He examined everything
attentively, but in silence; his features expressed grave thought.
Mr. and Mrs. Hornibrook, he was told, were living in Guernsey, and
had resolved to make that island their permanent abode. A Polterham
solicitor was their agent for the property.

Denzil was given to acting on the spur of the moment. There might be
dwellings obtainable that would suit him better than this, but he
did not care to linger in the business. As he passed out of the iron
gates he made up his mind that the house, with necessary repairs,
would do very well; and straightway he turned his steps to the
office of the agent.





CHAPTER IX




The village of Rickstead lay at some five miles' distance from that
suburb of Polterham where dwelt Mr. Toby Liversedge, Mr. Mumbray
(the Mayor), Mr. Samuel Quarrier, and sundry other distinguished
townsfolk. A walk along the Rickstead Bead was a familiar form of
exercise with the less-favoured people who had their homes in narrow
streets; for on either side of the highway lay an expanse of
meadows, crossed here and there by pleasant paths which led to the
surrounding hamlets. In this direction no factories had as yet risen
to deform the scene.

Darkness was falling when Quarrier set forth to keep his appointment
with Eustace Glazzard at the Coach and Horses Inn. The road-lamps
already glimmered; there would be no moon, but a soft dusky glow
lingered over half the sky, and gave promise of a fair night. Denzil
felt his boyhood revive as he got clear of the new houses, and began
to recognize gates, trees, banks, and stiles; he could not say
whether he enjoyed the sensation, but it served to combat certain
troublesome thoughts which had beset him since the morning. He was
experiencing reaction after the excitement of the last two days. A
change from the orderly domesticities of his sister's house had
become necessary to him, and he looked forward with satisfaction to
the evening he had planned.

At a turn of the road, which, as he well remembered, had been a
frequent limit of his nurse-guarded walk five-and-twenty years ago,
his eye fell upon a garden gate marked with the white inscription,
"Pear-tree Cottage." It brought him to a pause. This must be Mrs.
Wade's dwelling; the intellectual lady had quite slipped out of his
thoughts, and with amusement he stopped to examine the cottage as
well as dusk permitted. The front was overgrown with some creeper;
the low roof made an irregular line against the sky one window on
the ground-floor showed light through a red blind. Mrs. Wade, he had
learnt, enjoyed but a small income; the interior was probably very
modest. There she sat behind the red blind and meditated on the
servitude of her sex. Repressing an inclination to laugh aloud, he
stepped briskly forward.

Rickstead consisted of twenty or thirty scattered houses; an
ancient, slumberous place, remarkable chiefly for its time-honoured
inn, which stood at the crossing of two high roads. The landlord had
received notice that two gentlemen would dine under his roof, and
the unwonted event was making quite a stir in the hostelry. Quarrier
walked in at about a quarter-past six, savoury odours saluted him
from the threshold. Glazzard had not yet arrived, but in less than
five minutes a private carriage drew up to the door, and the friends
hailed each other.

The room prepared for them lay well apart from the bar, with its
small traffic. A great fire had been blazing for an hour or two; and
the table, not too large, was laid with the best service the house
could afford--nothing very grand, to be sure, in these days of its
decline, but the general effect was inviting to men with a good
appetite and some historical imagination.

"A happy idea of yours!" said Glazzard, as he rubbed his hands
before the great hearth. "Are we to begin with a cup of sack?"

Punctually the meal was served; the liquor provided therewith,
though of small dignity, did no discredit to the host. They talked
and laughed over old Grammar School days, old acquaintances long
since dead or lost to sight, boyish ambitions and achievements.
Dinner dismissed, a bottle of whisky on the table, a kettle steaming
by the fire, Denzil's pipe and Glazzard's cigar comfortably glowing,
there came a long pause.

"Well, I have a story to fell you," said Quarrier, at length.

"So I supposed," murmured the other, without eagerness.

"I don't know that I _should_ have told it but for that chance
encounter at Kew. But I'm not sorry. I think, Glazzard, you are the
one man in the world in whom I have perfect confidence."

The listener just bent his head. His features were impassive.

"It concerns Lilian, of course," Quarrier pursued, when he had taken
a few puffs less composedly than hitherto. "I am telling the story
without her leave, but--well, in a way, as I said, the necessity
is forced upon me. I can't help doing many things just now that I
should avoid if I had my choice. I have undertaken to fight society
by stratagem. For my own part, I would rather deal it a plain blow
in the face, and bid it do its worst; but"----He waved his hand.

Glazzard murmured and nodded comprehension.

"I'll go back to the beginning. That was about three years ago. I
was crossing the North Sea (you remember the time; I said good-bye
to you in the Academy, where your bust was), and on the boat I got
into conversation with a decent kind of man who had his wife and
family with him, going to settle for a time at Stockholm; a merchant
of some sort. There were three children, and they had a governess--
Lilian, in fact, who was then not much more than eighteen. I liked
the look of her from the first. She was very still and grave,--the
kind of thing that takes me in a woman, provided she has good
features. I managed to get a word or two with her, and I liked her
way of speaking. Well, I was sufficiently interested to say to
myself that I might as well spend a week or two. at Stockholm and
keep up the acquaintance of these people; Becket, their name was.
I'm not exactly the kind of fellow who goes about falling in love
with nursery governesses, and at that time (perhaps you recollect?)
I had somebody else in mind. I dare say it was partly the contrast
between that shark of a woman and this modest girl; at all events, I
wanted to see more of Lilian, and I did I was in Stockholm, of! and
on, for a couple of months. I became good friends with the Beckets,
and before coming back to England I made an offer to Miss Allen--
that was the governess's name. She refused me, and I was conceited
enough to wonder what the deuce she meant."

Glazzard laughed. He was listening with more show of interest.

"Well," pursued Quarrier, after puffing vainly at his extinguished
pipe, "there was reason for wondering. Before I took the plunge, I
had a confidential talk with Mrs. Becket, who as good as assured me
that I had only to speak; in fact, she was rather angry with me for
disturbing her family arrangements. Miss Allen, I learnt from her,
was an uncommonly good girl--everything I imagined her. Mrs.
Becket didn't know her family, but she had engaged her on the
strength of excellent testimonials, which didn't seem exaggerated.
Yet after that I was floored--told that the thing couldn't be. No
weeping and wailing; but a face and a voice that puzzled me. The
girl liked me well enough; I felt sure of it. All the same I had to
come back to England alone, and in a devilish bad temper. You
remember that I half quarrelled with you about something at our
first meeting."

"You were rather bearish," remarked Glazzard, knocking the ash off
his cigar.

"As I often am. Forgive me, old fellow!"

Denzil relit his pipe.

"The next summer I went over to Sweden again. Miss Allen was still
with the Beckets, as I knew; but she was only going to stay a few
months more. One of the children had died, and the other two were to
be sent to a boarding-school in England. Again I went through the
proposing ordeal, and again it was useless. 'Confound it!' I
shouted, 'do deal honestly with me! What's the matter? Are you
engaged already?' She kept silent for a long time, then said 'Yes!'
'Then why in the name of the Jotuns didn't you tell me so
before?' I was brutal (as I often am), and the poor girl began to
cry. Then there was a scene--positive stage business. I wouldn't
take her refusal. 'This other man, you don't really care for him--
you are going to sacrifice yourself! I won't have it! She wept and
moaned, and threatened hysterics; and at last, when I was losing
patience (I can't stand women's idiotic way of flinging themselves
about and making a disturbance, instead of discussing difficulties
calmly), she said at last that, if ever we met in England, she would
explain her position. 'Why not now?'--no, not in the Beckets'
house. Very well then, at least she might make it certain that I
_should_ see her in England. After trouble enough, she at last
consented to this. She was to come back with Mr. Becket and the
boys, and then go to her people. I got her promise that she would
write to me and make an appointment somewhere or other.--More
whisky?"

Glazzard declined; so Denzil replenished his own glass, and went on.
He was now tremulous with the excitement of his reminiscences; he
fidgeted on the chair, and his narrative became more jerky than
ever.

"Her letter came, posted in London. She had taken leave of the
Becket party, and was supposed to be travelling homewards; but she
would keep her word with me. I was to go and see her at an hotel in
the West End. Go, I did, punctually enough; I believe I would have
gone to Yokohama for half an hour of her society. I found her in a
private sitting-room, looking wretched enough, confoundedly ill. And
then and there she told me her story. It was a queer one; no one
could have guessed it."

He seized the poker and stirred the fire savagely.

"I shall just give you the plain facts. Her father was a builder in
a small way, living at Bristol. He had made a little money, and was
able to give his children a decent education. There was a son, who
died young, and then two girls, Lilian the elder of them. The old
man must have been rather eccentric; he brought up the girls very
strictly (their mother died when they were children)--would
scarcely let them go out of his sight, preached to them a sort of
mixture of Christianity and Pantheism, forbade all pleasures except
those of home, didn't like them to make acquaintances. Their
mother's sister kept the house; a feeble, very pious creature,
probably knowing as much about life as the cat or the canary--so
Lilian describes her. The man came to a sudden end; a brick fell on
his head whilst he was going over a new building. Lilian was then
about fifteen. She had passed the Oxford Local, and was preparing
herself to teach--or rather, being prepared at a good school.

"Allen left enough money to provide his daughters with about a
hundred a year each; this was to be theirs absolutely when they came
of age, or when they married. The will had been carefully drawn up,
and provided against all sorts of real and imaginary dangers. The
one thing it couldn't provide against was the imbecility of the old
aunt, who still had the girls in her care.

"A couple of years went by, and Lilian became a teacher in the
school she had attended. Do you know anything about Bristol and the
neighbourhood? It seems that the people there are in the habit of
going to a place called Weston-super-Mare--excursion steamers, and
so on. Well, the girls and their aunt went to spend a day at Weston,
and on the boat they somehow made acquaintance with a young man
named Northway. That means, of course, he made up to them, and the
aunt was idiot enough to let him keep talking. He stuck by them all
day, and accompanied them back to Bristol.--Pah! it sickens me to
tell the story!"

He took the glass to drink, but it slipped from his nervous fingers
and crashed on the ground.

"Never mind; let it be there. I have had whisky enough. This damned
fellow Northway soon called upon them, and was allowed to come as
often as he liked. He was a clerk in a commercial house--gave
references which were found to be satisfactory enough, a great
talker, and of course a consummate liar. His special interest was
the condition of the lower classes; he made speeches here and there,
went slumming, called himself a Christian Socialist. This kind of
thing was no doubt attractive to Lilian--you know enough of her to
understand that. She was a girl of seventeen, remember. In the end,
Northway asked her to marry him, and she consented."

"Did he know of the money?" inquired Glazzard.

"Undoubtedly. I shouldn't wonder if the blockhead aunt told. Well,
the wedding-day came; they were married; and--just as they came
out of the church, up walks a detective, claps his hand on
Northway's shoulder, and arrests him for forgery."

"H'm! I see."

"The fellow was tried. Lilian wouldn't tell me the details; she gave
me an old newspaper with full report. Northway had already, some
years before, been in the hands of the police in London. It came out
now that he was keeping a mistress; on the eve of marriage he had
dispensed with her services, and the woman, in revenge, went to his
employers to let them know certain suspicious facts. He was sent to
penal servitude for three years."

"Three years!" murmured Glazzard. "About so ago, I suppose?"

"Yes; perhaps he is already restored to society. Pleasant
reflection!"

"Moral and discreet law," remarked the other, "which maintains the
validity of such a marriage!"

Denzil uttered a few violent oaths, reminiscences of the Navy.

"And she went at once to Sweden?" Glazzard inquired.

"In a month or two the head-mistress of her school, a sensible
woman, helped her to get an engagement--with not a word said of
the catastrophe. She went as Miss Allen. It was her firm resolve
never again to see Northway. She would not acknowledge that that
ceremony in the church made her a wife. Of course, you understand
that it wasn't only the forgery that revolted her; that, I suppose,
could have been pardoned. In a few days she had learnt more of
herself and of the world than in all the previous years. She
understood that Northway was really nothing to her. She accepted him
because he was the first man who interested her and made love to her
--like thousands of girls. Lilian is rather weak, unfortunately.
She can't stand by herself. But for me, I am convinced she would now
be at the mercy of the blackguard, when he comes out. Horror and
despair enabled her to act firmly three years ago; but if she had no
one to support her--well, she has!"

"What did you propose," asked Glazzard, "when you persuaded her to
live with you?"

Denzil wrinkled his brow and looked gloomily at the fire.

"We agreed to live a life of our own, that was all. To tell you the
truth, Glazzard, I had no clear plans. I was desperately in love,
and--well, I thought of emigration some day. You know me too well
to doubt my honesty. Lilian became my wife, for good and all--no
doubt about that! But I didn't trouble much about the future--it's
my way."

"She cut herself loose from the Bristol people?"

"No; she has corresponded with them at long intervals. They think
she is teaching in London. The tragedy excuses her from visiting
them. Aunt and sister are sworn to secrecy concerning her
whereabouts. A good thing she has no male relatives to hunt her up."

"Does she draw her income?--I beg your pardon, the question
escaped me. Of course it's no business of mine."

"Never mind. Yes, the money is at her disposal; thanks to the
settlement required by her father's will. I'm afraid she gives away
a lot of it in indiscriminate charity. I needn't say," he added,
with a characteristic movement of the head, "that I have nothing to
do with it."

He paused.

"My real position she doesn't understand. I have never told her of
how it was changed at my father's death.--Poor girl! About that
time she was disappointed of a child, and had a month or two of
black misery. I kept trying to make up my mind what course would be
the wisest, and in the meanwhile said nothing. She is marvellously
patient. In fact, what virtue hasn't she, except that of a strong
will? Whatever happens, she and I stand together; nothing on earth
would induce me to part from her! I want you to understand that. In
what I am now going to do, I am led solely and absolutely by desire
for our common good. You see, we are face to face with the world's
immoral morality. To brave it would be possible, of course; but then
we must either go to a foreign country or live here in isolation. I
don't want to live permanently abroad, and I do want to go in for
activity--political by preference. The result is we must set our
faces, tell lies, and hope that fortune will favour us."

There was a strong contrast between Quarrier's glowing vehemence and
the show of calm reflection which the other maintained as he
listened. Denzil's face was fully lighted by the fire; his friend's
received the shadow of an old-fashioned screen which Glazzard,
finding the heat oppressive, had pulled forward a few minutes ago.
The frank, fearless gaze with which Denzil's words were accompanied
met no response; but to this habit in the listener he was
accustomed.

"Yes, we must tell lies!" Quarrier emphasized the words savagely.
"Social law is stupid and unjust, imposing its obligation without
regard to person or circumstance. It presumes that no one can be
_trusted_. I decline to be levelled with the unthinking multitude.
You and I can be a law to ourselves. What I shall do is this: On
returning to town next week, I shall take Lilian over to Paris. We
shall live there for several weeks, and about the end of the time I
shall write to my people here, and tell them that I have just been
married."

He paused. Glazzard made no motion, and uttered no sound.

"I have already dropped a mysterious word or two to my Mister, which
she will be able to interpret afterwards. Happily, I am thought a
likely fellow to do odd, unconventional things. Again and again Mary
has heard me rail against the idiocies of ordinary weddings; this
private marriage will be quite in character. I shall state that
Lilian has hitherto been a governess at Stockholm--that I made her
acquaintance there--that I sent for her to meet me in Paris. Now,
tell me, have you any objection to offer?"

Glazzard shifted his position, coughed, and drew from his case a new
cigar, which he scrutinized closely from tip to end--even drawing
it along under his nose. Then he spoke very quietly.

"It's feasible--but dangerous."

"But not _very_ dangerous, I think?"

"I can't say. It depends greatly on your wife's character."

"Thank you for using that word, old fellow!" burst from Denzil. "She
is my wife, in every sense of the word that merits the consideration
of a rational creature!"

"I admit it; but I am afraid of lies."

"I am not only afraid of them; I hate them bitterly. I can say with
a clear conscience that I abhor untruthfulness. I have never told a
deliberate lie since I was old enough to understand the obligation
of truth! But we have to do with monstrous social tyrannies. Lilian
can no longer live in hiding. She must have a full and enjoyable
life."

"Yes. But is it possible for her, under these conditions?"

"I think so. I have still to speak to her, but I know she will see
things as I do."

A very faint smile flitted over Glazzard's lips.

"Good! And you don't fear discovery by--what's his name--
Northway?"

"Not if Lilian can decide to break entirely with her relatives--at
all events for some years. She must cease to draw her dividends, of
course, and must announce to the Bristol people that she has
determined on a step which makes it impossible for her to
communicate with them henceforth. I don't think this will be a great
sacrifice; her aunt and her sister have no great hold upon her
affections.--You must remember that her whole being is transformed
since she last saw them. She thinks differently on all and every
subject."

"You are assured of that?"

"Absolutely sure! I have educated her. I have freed her from
superstitions and conventionalities. To her, as to me, the lies we
shall have to tell will be burdensome in the extreme; but we shall
both forget in time."

"That is exactly what you can never do!" said Glazzard,
deliberately. "You enter upon a lifetime of dissimulation. Ten,
twenty years hence you will have to act as careful a part as on the
day when you and she first present yourselves in Polterham."

"Oh, in a sense!" cried the other, impatiently.

"A very grave sense.--Quarrier, why have you taken up this
political idea? What's the good of it?"

He leaned forward and spoke with a low earnest voice. Denzil could
not instantly reply.

"Give it up!" pursued Glazzard. "Take Lilian abroad, and live a life
of quiet happiness. Go on with your literary work"----

"Nonsense! I can't draw back now, and I don't wish to."

"Would you--if--if _I_ were willing to become the Liberal
candidate?"

Denzil stared in astonishment.

"You? Liberal candidate?"

"Yes, I!"

A peal of laughter rang through the room. Glazzard had spoken as if
with a great effort, his voice indistinct, his eyes furtive. When
the burst of merriment made answer to him, he fell back in his
chair, crossed his legs, and set his features in a hard smile.

"You are joking, old fellow!" said Denzil.

"Yes, if you like."

Quarrier wished to discuss the point, but the other kept an
obstinate silence.

"I understand," remarked Denzil, at length. "You hit upon that
thought out of kindness to me. You don't like my project, and you
wished to save me from its dangers. I understand. Hearty thanks, but
I have made up my mind. I won't stunt my life out of regard for an
imbecile superstition. The dangers are _not_ great; and if they
were, I should prefer to risk them. You electioneering! Ho, ho!"

Glazzard's lips were close drawn, his eyes veiled by the drooping
lids. He had ceased to smoke, and when, a few minutes later, he
threw away his cigar, it was all but squeezed flat by the two
fingers which had seemed to hold it lightly.

"It is settled!" cried Denzil, jumping up, with a return of his
extravagant spirits. "You, Glazzard, will stand by and watch--our
truest friend. You on the hustings! Ha, ha, ha! Come, one more glass
of whisky, and I will tell them to get our cab ready. I say,
Glazzard, from this evening forth never a word between us about the
secret. That is understood, of course. You may let people know that
you were in my confidence about the private marriage. But I can
trust your discretion as my own. Your glass--pledge me in the old
style!"

Ten minutes more, and they were driving back to Polterham.





CHAPTER X




But for domestic warfare, Mrs. Mumbray would often have been at a
loss how to spend her time. The year of her husband's Mayoralty
supplied, it is true, a good many unwonted distractions, but in the
middle of the morning, and late in the evening (if there were no
dinner-party), _ennui_ too frequently weighed upon her. For relief
in the former case, she could generally resort to a quarrel with
Serena; in the latter, she preferred to wrangle with her spouse.

One morning early in December, having indulged her ill-humour with
even more than usual freedom among the servants, she repaired to the
smaller drawing-room, where, at this hour, her daughter often sat
reading. Serena was at a table, a French book and dictionary open
before her. After hovering for a few moments with eyes that gathered
wrath, the Mayoress gave voice to her feelings.

"So you pay no attention to my wishes, Serena! I will not have you
reading such books!"

Her daughter rustled the dictionary, impassive. Conscious of reduced
authority, Mrs. Mumbray glared and breathed hard, her spacious bosom
working like a troubled sea.

"Your behaviour astonishes me!--after what you heard Mr. Vialls
say."

"Mr. Vialls is an ignorant and foolish man," remarked Serena,
without looking up.

Then did the mother's rage burst forth without restraint, eloquent,
horrisonous. As if to save her ears, Serena went to the piano and
began to play. When the voice was silenced, she turned round.

"You had rather have me play than read that book? That shows how
little you understand of either. This is an _immoral_ piece of
music! If you knew what it meant you would scream in horror. It is
_immoral_, and I am going to practise it day after day."

The Mayoress stood awhile in mute astonishment, then, with purple
face, swept from the room.

The family consisted of four persons. Serena's brother, a young
gentleman of nineteen, articled to a solicitor in the town, was
accustomed to appear at meals, but seldom deigned to devote any more
of his leisure to the domestic circle. After luncheon to-day, as he
stood at the window with a sporting newspaper, his mother addressed
him.

"We have company this evening, Raglan. Take care that you're not
late."

"Who's coming?" asked the young man, without looking up.

"Mr. Eustace Glazzard and Miss Glazzard."

"Any one else?"

"Mr. Vialls."

"Then you don't catch me here! I have an appointment at eight."

"I insist upon your dining with us! If you are not at dinner, I will
have your allowance stopped! I mean what I say. Not one penny more
shall you receive until you have learnt to behave yourself!"

"We'll see about that," replied Raglan, with finished coolness; and,
folding his newspaper, he walked off.

Nor did the hour of dinner see his return. The expected guests
arrived; it was not strictly a dinner-party, but, as Mr. Mumbray
described it, "a quiet evening _ong fammil_." The Rev. Scatchard
Vialls carne in at the last moment with perspiring brow, excusing
himself on the ground of professional duties. He was thin, yet
flabby, had a stoop in the shoulders, and walked without noticeably
bending his knees. The crown of his head went to a peak; he had eyes
like a ferret's; his speech was in a high, nasal note. For some
years he had been a widower, a fact which perhaps accounted for his
insinuating manner when he approached Miss Mumbray.

The dinner was portentously dull. Ivy Glazzard scarcely uttered a
syllable. Her uncle exerted himself to shape phrases of perfect
inoffensiveness, addressing now his hostess, now Serena. The burden
of conversation fell upon Mr. Vialls, who was quite equal to its
support; he spoke of the evil tendencies of the time as exhibited in
a shameful attempt to establish Sunday evening concerts at a club of
Polterham workmen. His discourse on this subject, systematically
developed, lasted until the ladies withdrew. It allowed him scarcely
any attention to his plate, but Mr. Vialls had the repute of an
ascetic. In his buttonhole was a piece of blue ribbon, symbol of a
ferocious total-abstinence; his face would have afforded sufficient
proof that among the reverend man's failings were few distinctly of
the flesh.

The Mayor did not pretend to asceticism. He ate largely and without
much discrimination. His variously shaped and coloured glasses were
not merely for display. When the door had closed behind the Mayoress
and her two companions, he settled himself with an audible sigh, and
for a few moments wore a look of meditation; then, leaning towards
Glazzard, he inquired gravely:

"What is your opinion of the works of Bawlzac?"

The guest was at a loss for an instant, but he quickly recovered
himself.

"Ah, the French novelist? A man of great power, but--hardly
according to English tastes."

"Should you consider him suitable reading for young ladies?"

"Well, hardly. Some of his books are unobjectionable."

Mr. Vialls shot a fierce glance at him.

"In my opinion, his very name is pollution! I would not permit a
page of his writing, or of that of any French novelist, to enter my
house. One and all are drenched with impurity!"

"Certainly many of them are," conceded Glazzard.

"Lamentable," sighed the Mayor, raising his glass, "to think that
quite a large number of his books have been put into the Institute
library! We must use our influence on all hands, Mr. Vialls. We live
in sad times. Even the theatre--I am told that some of the plays
produced in London are disgraceful, simply disgraceful!"

The theatre was discussed, Mr. Vialls assailing it as a mere agent
of popular corruption. On the mention of the name of Shakespeare,
Mr. Mumbray exclaimed:

"Shakespeare needs a great deal of expurgating. But some of his
plays teach a good lesson, I think. There is 'I read Romeo and
Juliet,' for instance." Glazzard looked up in surprise. "I read
'Romeo and Juliet' not long ago, and it struck me that its intention
was decidedly moral. It points a lesson to disobedient young people.
If Juliet had been properly submissive to her parents, such
calamities would never have befallen her. Then, again, I was greatly
struck with the fate that overtook Mercutio--a most suitable
punishment for his persistent use of foul language. Did you ever see
it in that light, Mr. Glazzard?"

"I confess it is new to me. I shall think it over."

The Mayor beamed with gratification.

"No one denies," struck in Mr. Vialls, "that to a pure mind all
things are pure. Shakespeare is undoubtedly a great poet, and a soul
bent on edification can extract much good from him. But for people
in general, especially young people, assuredly he cannot be
recommended, even in the study. I confess I have neither time nor
much inclination for poetry--except that of the sacred volume,
which is poetry indeed. I have occasionally found pleasure in
Longfellow"----

"Pardon me," interrupted the Mayor--"Longfellow?--the author of
that poem called 'Excelsior'?"

"Yes."

"Now, really--I am surprised--I should have thought--the fact
is, when Raglan was at school, he had to learn 'Excelsior,' and I
happened to glance over it. I was slightly acquainted with the
piece, but I had quite forgotten that It contained what seems to me
very gross indelicacy--very gross indeed. Do you remember a verse
beginning (I must ask your pardon for quoting it, Mr. Vialls)--

'Oh stay, the maiden cried, and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast.'
Surely, that is all but indecency.

In fact, I wrote at once to the master and drew his attention to the
passage, requesting that my boy might never be asked to repeat such
a poem. The force of my objection was not at once admitted, strange
to say; but in the end I gained my point."

Mr. Vialls screwed up his lips and frowned at the table-cloth, but
said nothing.

"Our task nowadays," pursued the Mayor, with confidence, "is to
preserve the purity of home. Our homes are being invaded by
dangerous influences we must resist. The family should be a bulwark
of virtue--of all the virtues--holiness, charity, peace."

He lingered on the last word, and his gaze became abstracted.

"Very true, very true indeed!" cried the clergyman. "For one thing,
how careful a parent should be with regard to the periodical
literature which is allowed to enter his house, This morning, in a
home I will not mention, my eye fell upon a weekly paper which I
should have thought perfectly sound in its teaching; yet, behold,
there was an article of which the whole purport was to _excuse_ the
vices of the lower classes on the ground of their poverty and their
temptations. Could anything be more immoral, more rotten in
principle? _There_ is the spirit we have to contend against--a
spirit of accursed lenity in morals, often originating in so-called
scientific considerations! Evil is evil--vice, vice--the devil
is the devil--be circumstances what they may. I do not care to
make mention of such monstrous aberrations as, for instance, the
attacks we are occasionally forced to hear on the law of marriage.
That is the mere reek of the bottomless pit, palpable to all. But I
speak of subtler disguises of evil, such as may recommend themselves
to persons well-intentioned but of weak understanding. Happily, I
persuaded my friends to discontinue their countenance of that weekly
paper, and I shall exert myself everywhere to the same end,"

They rose at length, and went to the drawing-room. There Glazzard
succeeding in seating himself by Miss Mumbray, and for a quarter of
an hour he talked with her about art and literature. The girl's face
brightened; she said little, but that little with very gracious
smiles. Then Mr. Vialls approached, and the
_tete-a-tete_ was necessarily at an end.

When he was at length alone with his wife, the Mayor saw what was in
store for him; in fact, he had foreseen it throughout the evening.

"Yes," began the lady, with flashing eyes, "this is your Mr.
Glazzard! He encourages Serena in her shameful behaviour! I
overheard him talking to her."

"You are altogether wrong, as usual," replied Mr. Mumbray, with his
wonted attempt at dignified self-assertion. "Glazzard distinctly
disapproves of Bawlzac, and everything of that kind. His influence
is as irreproachable as that of Mr. Vialls."

"Of course! You are determined to overthrow my plans at whatever
cost to your daughter's happiness here and hereafter."

"I don't think Vialls a suitable husband for her, and I am not sorry
she won't listen to him. He's all very well as a man and a
clergyman, but--pshaw! what's the good of arguing with a
pig-headed woman?"

This emphatic epithet had the result which was to be expected. The
debate became a scolding match, lasting well into the night. These
two persons were not only on ill-terms, they disliked each other
with the intensity which can only be engendered by thirty years of a
marriage such as, but for public opinion, would not have lasted
thirty weeks. Their reciprocal disgust was physical, mental, moral.
It could not be concealed from their friends; all Polterham smiled
over it; yet the Mumbrays were regarded as a centre of moral and
religious influence, a power against the encroaches of rationalism
and its attendant depravity. Neither of them could point to
dignified ancestry; by steady persistence in cant and snobbishness
--the genuine expression of their natures--they had pushed to a
prominent place, and feared nothing so much as depreciation in the
eyes of the townsfolk. Raglan and Serena were causing them no little
anxiety; both, though in different ways, might prove an occasion of
scandal. When Eustace Glazzard began to present himself at the
house, Mr. Mumbray welcomed the significant calls. From his point of
view, Serena could not do better than marry a man of honourable
name, who would remove her to London. Out of mere contrariety, Mrs.
Mumbray thereupon began to encourage the slow advances of her
Rector, who thought of Serena's fortune as a means to the wider
activity, the greater distinction, for which he was hungering.

Glazzard's self-contempt as he went home this evening was not
unmingled with pleasanter thoughts. For a man in his position,
Serena Mumbray and her thousands did not represent a future of
despair. He had always aimed much higher, but defeat after defeat
left him with shaken nerves, and gloomy dialogues with his brother
had impressed upon him the necessity of guarding against darkest
possibilities. His state of mind was singularly morbid; he could not
trust the fixity of his purposes for more than a day or two
together; but just at present he thought without distaste of Serena
herself, and was soothed by the contemplation of her (to him modest)
fortune. During the past month he had been several times to and from
London; to-morrow he would return to town again, and view his
progress from a distance.

On reaching his brother's house, he found a letter waiting for him;
it bore the Paris postmark. The contents were brief.

"DEAR GLAZZARD.

"I announce to you the fact of our marriage. The
L.s will hear of it simultaneously. We are enjoying ourselves.

"Ever yours,

"D.Q."

He went at once to the room where William was sitting, and said, in
a quiet voice:

"Quarrier has just got married--in Paris."

"Oh? To whom?"

"An English girl who has been a governess at Stockholm. I knew it
was impending."

"Has he made a fool of himself?" asked William, dispassionately.

"I think not; she seems to be well educated, and good-looking--
according to his report."

"Why didn't you mention it before?"

"Oh, his wish. We talked it all over when he was here. He has an
idea that a man about to be married always cuts a ridiculous
figure."

The elder man looked puzzled.

"No mysteries--eh?"

"None whatever, I believe. A decent girl without fortune, that's
all. I suppose we shall see them before long."

The subject was shortly dismissed, and Eustace fell to reporting the
remarkable conversation in which he had taken part at the Mayor's
table. His brother was moved to no little mirth, but did not indulge
in such savage contemptuousness as distinguished the narrator.
William Glazzard viewed the world from a standpoint of philosophic
calm; he expected so little of men in general, that disappointment
or vexation could rarely befall him.

"These people," he observed, "think themselves pillars of society,
and the best of the joke is, that they really _are_ what they
imagine. Without tolerably honest fools, we should fare badly at the
hands of those who hate neither wits nor honesty. Let us encourage
them, by all means. I see no dawn as yet of the millennium of
brains."





CHAPTER XI




The weather, for this time of year, was unusually bright in Paris.
Each morning glistened with hoar-frost; by noon the sky shone blue
over clean, dry streets, and gardens which made a season for
themselves, leafless, yet defiant of winter's melancholy. Lilian saw
it all with the eyes of a stranger, and often was able to forget her
anxiety in the joy of wonderful, new impressions.

One afternoon she was resting in the room at the hotel, whilst
Quarrier went about the town on some business or other. A long
morning at the Louvre had tired her, and her spirits drooped. In
imagination she went back to the days of silence and solitude in
London; the memory affected her with something of homesickness, a
wish that the past could be restored. The little house by Clapham
Common had grown dear to her; in its shelter she had shed many
tears, but also had known much happiness: that sense of security
which was now lost, the hope that there she might live always,
hidden from the world's inquisitive gaze, justified to her own
conscience by love and calm. What now was before her? Not only the
elaborate deceit, the perpetual risk, weighed upon her heart; she
was summoned to a position such as she had never foreseen, for which
she had received no training. When Denzil revealed to her his real
standing in the world, spoke laughingly of the wealth he had
inherited, and of his political ambitions, her courage failed before
the prospect. She had not dared to let him see all her despondency,
for his impatient and sanguine temper would have resented it. To
please him and satisfy his utmost demands was the one purpose of her
life. But the task he had imposed seemed to her, in these hours of
faintness, no less than terrible.

He entered, gay as usual, ready with tender words, pet names and
diminutives, the "little language" of one who was still a lover.
Seeing how things were with her, he sat down to look over an English
newspaper. Presently his attention strayed, he fell into reverie.

"Well," he exclaimed at length, rousing himself, "they have the news
by now."

She gave no answer.

"I can imagine how Mary will talk. 'Oh, nothing that Denzil does can
surprise me! Whoever expected him to marry in the ordinary way?' And
then they'll laugh, and shrug their shoulders, and hope I mayn't
have played the fool--good, charitable folks!"

Still she said nothing.

"Rather out of sorts to-day, Lily?"

"I wish we were going to stay here--never to go back to England."

"Live the rest of our lives in a Paris hotel!"

"No, no--in some quiet place--a home of our own."

"That wouldn't suit me, by any means. Paris is all very well for a
holiday, but I couldn't make a home here. There's no place like
England. Don't you ever think what an unspeakable blessing it is to
have been born in England? Every time I go abroad, I rejoice that I
am not as these foreigners. Even my Scandinavian friends I can't
help despising a little--and as for Frenchmen! There's a great
deal of the old island prejudice in me."

Lilian smiled, raising herself slightly upon the sofa.

"These old Latin nations have had their day," he continued, with a
wave of the arm. "France, Italy, Spain--they have played their
part in civilization, and have nothing left now but old relics and
modern bluster. The future's with us Teutons. If I were not an
Englishman, I would be an American. The probability is that we shall
have a hard fight one of these days with the Slavs--and all the
better, perhaps; I don't think the world can do without fighting yet
awhile."

"I should be sorry to hear you teaching people that," said Lilian.

"Oh," he laughed, "it wouldn't fit into our electoral campaign! No
danger of my preaching bloodthirstiness. But how I shall enjoy the
bloodless fight down at Polterham! I want you to look forward to it
in the same way. Do cheer up, Lily!--you see I have been gradually
moving in this direction. When I found myself a man of means, I knew
that the time had come for stirring. Writing about the Sea-Kings is
all very well in its way, but I am no born literary man. I must get
that book finished and published, though. It might help me with the
constituency. A book gives a man distinction."

"You seem to me to have changed very much."

"No; it's only that you didn't know me thoroughly. To tell you the
truth, that life of hiding away in London wasn't a very good thing
for me. I lived too much to myself. The half-dozen acquaintances I
had were not the kind of men to profit me. Glazzard--well,
Glazzard is an odd sort of fellow--helpful now and then, but on
the whole musty. He has no ambition, thinks it enough to doze on
among his pictures, and that kind of thing. The fact is, such
companionship has made me conceited. I want to get among my equals
and my superiors--as I shall do if I become a Member of
Parliament."

"Your equals--perhaps."

"Confound it! _Your_ influence has tended the same way. You spoil me
--make me think myself a fine fellow. I suppose one's wife ought to
talk like that--I don't dislike it, you know; but if I end by
never doing anything at all, I should be confoundedly ashamed of
myself. But the more I think of it, the better satisfied I am that a
political career is the best thing for me. You see, this is the age
of political progress--that before everything. We English are
working out our revolution in a steady and sensible way,--no
shrieking and slaughtering--we leave that to people who don't
really know what they want, and will never get much to speak of. We
go ahead soberly on the constitutional highway--with a little
hearty swearing to clear the air now and then."

Lilian laughed.

"Well, I was saying it is a political age, and I think a man ought
to go in for the first interest of his time. What have we to do just
now with artistic aims? The English, at any time, care little or
nothing for art; one has to recognize that. Our task in the world is
practical--to secure all men a sufficiency of beef and beer, and
honest freedom. I like to feel that I am on the advancing wave; I
don't care for your picturesque ponds; they generally have a bad
smell."

The effect of his vigorous talk was manifest in Lilian's face. She
yielded her spirit to his, was borne whither he would.

"You talk of living in Paris--why, if you really knew Paris, you
would hate the place. Underneath all this show of civilization,
refinement, brilliancy--I'm glad to say you can't even guess what
it covers. The town reeks with abominations. I'm getting sick of
it."

The sincerity of his moral disgust was obvious. No one knew so well
as Lilian the essential purity--even the puritanism--of
Quarrier's temper.

"For all that," he added, merrily, "we'll go and dine at the
restaurant, and then look in at the Francais. They know how to
cook here, and they know how to play the fool--no denying it."

When Lilian went forth with him she had once more succeeded in
overcoming her despondent mood. The lights of the Boulevard
exercised their wonted effect--cheering, inspiring. She pressed
his arm, laughed at his mirthful talk; and Denzil looked down into
her face with pride and delight in its loveliness. He had taken
especial care to have her dressed in the manner that became his
wife; Parisian science had gone to the making of her costume, and
its efforts were not wasted. As they entered the restaurant, many
eyes were turned with critical appreciation upon the modest face and
figure, as undeniably English, in their way, as Quarrier's robust
manhood.

Denzil's French was indifferently good, better perhaps than his
capacity for picking out from the bill of fare a little dinner which
should exalt him in the eyes of waiters. He went to work, however,
with a noble disregard for consequences, whether to digestion or
pocket. Where Lilian was concerned there could be no such thing as
extravagance; he gloried in obtaining for her the best of everything
that money could command. The final "_Bien, monsieur_," was, after
all, sufficiently respectful, and our friend leaned back with the
pleasant consciousness of duty performed.

He drank a good deal of wine, and talking with a spontaneity beyond
the ordinary Briton. Towards the close of dinner his theme was the
coming electoral contest.

"You know," he said, bending over the table, "you will be able to
give me important help. The wife of a candidate--especially of a
Radical candidate--can find plenty of work, if she knows how to go
about it. As little humbug as possible; and as little loss of
self-respect, but we shall have to shake a good many dirty hands.
Your turn for 'slumming' will serve us well, but I know the dangers
of it. You'll be coming home _eploree_, as they say here.
I hope you'll grow stronger in that respect. One has to harden one's
heart a little."

"I know it is wiser to do so."

"Of course! It's not only that you are constantly imposed upon; the
indulgence of universal sympathy is incompatible with duty to one's
self--unless you become at once a sister of mercy. One is bound,
in common sense, to close eyes and ears against all but a trifling
fraction of human misery. Why, look, we sit here, and laugh and talk
and enjoy ourselves; yet at this instant what horrors are being
enacted in every part of the world! Men are perishing by every
conceivable form of cruelty and natural anguish. Sailors are
gurgling out their life in sea-storms; soldiers are agonizing on
battle-fields; men, women, and children are being burnt, boiled,
hacked, squashed, rent, exploded to death in every town and almost
every village of the globe. Here in Paris, and over there in London,
there is no end to the forms of misery our knowledge suggests--all
suffered while we eat and talk. But to sit down and think
persistently of it would lead to madness in any one of imagination
like yours. We have to say: It doesn't concern us! And no more it
does. We haven't the ordering of the world; we can't alter the vile
course of things. I like to swear over it now and then (especially
when I pass a London hospital), but I soon force myself to think of
something else. You must do the same--even to the swearing, if you
like. There's a tendency in our time to excess of humanitarianism--
I mean a sort of lachrymose habit which really does no good. You
represent it in some degree, I'm afraid--eh? Well, well, you've
lived too much alone--you've got into the way of brooding; the
habit of social life will strengthen you."

"I hope so, Denzil."

"Oh, undoubtedly! One more little drop of wine before the coffee.
Nonsense! You need stimulus; your vitality is low. I shall prescribe
for you henceforth. Merciful heavens! how that French woman does
talk! A hundred words to the minute for the last half hour."

A letter had arrived for him at the hotel in his absence. It was
from Mr. Hornibrook's agent, announcing that the house at Polterham
was now vacated, and that Mr. Quarrier might take possession just as
soon as he chose.

"_That's_ all right!" he exclaimed, after reading it to Lilian. "Now
we'll think of getting back to London, to order our furniture, and
all the rest of it. The place can be made habitable in a few weeks,
I should say."





CHAPTER XII




An emissary from Tottenham Court Road sped down to Polterham,
surveyed the vacant house, returned with professional computations.
Quarrier and Lilian abode at the old home until everything should be
ready for them, and Mrs. Liversedge represented her brother on the
spot--solving the doubts of workmen, hiring servants, making minor
purchases. She invited Denzil to bring his wife, and dwell for the
present under the Liversedge roof, but her brother preferred to
wait. "I don't like makeshifts; we must go straight into our own
house; the dignity of the Radical candidate requires it." So the
work glowed, and as little time as possible was spent over its
completion.

It was midway in January when the day and hour of arrival were at
last appointed. No one was to be in the house but the servants. At
four in the afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Quarrier would receive Mr. and
Mrs. Liversedge, and thus make formal declaration of their readiness
to welcome friends. Since her return to England, Lilian had seen no
one. She begged Denzil not to invite Glazzard to Clapham.

They reached Polterham at one o'clock, in the tumult of a snowstorm;
ten minutes more, and the whitened cab deposited them at their
doorway. Quarrier knew, of course, what the general appearance of
the interior would be, and he was well satisfied with the way in
which his directions had been carried out. His companion was at
first overawed rather than pleased. He led her from room to room,
saying frequently, "Do you like it? Will it do?"

"It frightens me!" murmured Lilian, at length. "How shall I manage
such a house?"

She was pale, and inclined to tearfulness, for the situation tired
her fortitude in a degree Denzil could not estimate. Fears which
were all but terrors, self-reproach which had the poignancy of
remorse, tormented her gentle, timid nature. For a week and more she
had not known unbroken sleep; dreams of fantastic misery awakened
her to worse distress in the calculating of her perils and conflict
with insidious doubts. At the dead hour before dawn, faiths of
childhood revived before her conscience, upbraiding, menacing. The
common rules of every-day honour spoke to her with stern reproval.
Denzil's arguments, when she tried to muster them in her defence,
answered with hollow, meaningless sound. Love alone would stead her;
she could but shut her eyes, and breathe, as if in prayer, the
declaration that her love was a sacred thing, cancelling verbal
untruth.

She changed her dress, and went down to luncheon. The large
dining-room seemed to oppress her insignificance; to eat was
impossible, and with difficulty she conversed before the servants.
Fortunately, Denzil was in his best spirits; he enjoyed the wintery
atmosphere, talked of skating on the ice which had known him as a
boy, laughed over an old story about a snowball with a stone in it
which had stunned him in one of the fights between town and Grammar
School.

"Pity the election can't come on just now!--we should have lively
times. A snowball is preferable to an addled egg any day. The
Poltram folks"--this was the common pronunciation of the town's
name--"have a liking for missiles at seasons of excitement."

From table, they went to the library--as yet unfurnished with
volumes--and made themselves comfortable by the fireside. Through
the windows nothing could be seen but a tempestuous whirl of flakes.
Lilian's cat, which had accompanied her in a basket, could not as
yet make itself at home on the hearthrug, and was glad of a welcome
to its mistress's lap. Denzil lit a pipe and studied the political
news of the day.

At four o'clock he waited impatiently the call of his relatives.
Lilian, unable to command her agitation, had gone into another room,
and was there counting the minutes as if each cost her a drop of
heart's blood. If this first meeting were but over! All else seemed
easy, could she but face Denzil's sister without betrayal of her
shame and dread. At length she heard wheels roll up to the door;
there were voices in the hall; Denzil came forth with loud and
joyous greeting; he led his visitors into the library. Five minutes
more of anguish, and the voices were again audible, approaching, at
the door.

"Well, Lily, here is my sister and Mr. Liversedge," said Denzil. "No
very formidable persons, either of them," he added merrily, as the
best way of making apology for Lilian's too obvious tremor.

But she conquered her weakness. The man was of no account to her;
upon the woman only her eyes were fixed, for _there_ was the
piercing scrutiny, the quick divination, the merciless censure--
there, if anywhere, in one of her own sex. From men she might expect
tolerance, justice; from women only a swift choice between the bowl
and the dagger. Pride prompted her to hardihood, and when she had
wall looked upon Mrs. Liversedge's face a soothing confidence came
to the support of desperation. She saw the frank fairness of
Denzil's lineaments softened with the kindest of female smiles; a
gaze keen indeed, but ingenuous as that of a child; an expression
impossible to be interpreted save as that of heartfelt welcome,
absolutely unsuspecting, touched even with admiring homage.

They kissed each other, and Lilian's face glowed. After that, she
could turn almost joyously for Mr. Liversedge's hearty hand-shake.

"You have come like a sort of snow-queen," said Tobias, with unusual
imaginativeness, pointing to the windows. "It must have begun just
as you got here."

Perhaps the chill of her fingers prompted him to this poetical
flight. His wife, who had noticed the same thing, added, with
practical fervour:

"I only hope the house is thoroughly dry. We have had great fires
everywhere for more than a fortnight. As for the snow and frost, you
are pretty well used to that, no doubt."

Painfully on the alert, Lilian of course understood this allusion to
the Northern land she was supposed to have quitted recently.

"Even at Stockholm," she replied, with a smile, "there is summer,
you know."

"And in Russia, too, I have heard," laughed Mr. Liversedge. "But one
doesn't put much faith in such reports. Denzil tries to persuade us
now and then that the North Cape has quite a balmy atmosphere,
especially from December to March. He is quite safe. We sha'n't go
to test his statements."

Instead of a time of misery, this first half-hour proved so pleasant
that Lilian all but forgot the shadow standing behind her. When tea
was brought in, she felt none of the nervousness which had seemed to
her inevitable amid such luxurious appliances. These relatives of
Denzil's, henceforth her own, were people such as she had not dared
to picture them--so unaffected, genial, easy to talk with; nor did
she suffer from a necessity of uttering direct falsehoods;
conversation dealt with the present and the future--partly, no
doubt, owing to Quarrier's initiative. Mr. Liversedge made a report
of local affairs as they concerned the political outlook; he saw
every reason for hope.

"Welwyn-Baker," he said, "is quite set up again, and I am told he
has no inclination to retire in favour of his son, or any one else.
An obstinate old fellow--and may his obstinacy increase! The
Tories are beginning to see that they ought to set up a new man;
they are quarrelling among themselves. That bazaar at the opening of
the new Society's rooms--the Constitutional Literary, you know--
seems to have been a failure. No one was satisfied. The _Mercury_
printed savage letters from a lot of people--blaming this, that,
and the other person in authority. The _Examiner_, chuckled, and
hasn't done referring to the matter yet."

Apart with Lilian, Mrs. Liversedge had begun to talk of the society
of Polterham. She did not try to be witty at the expense of her
neighbours, but confessed with a sly smile that literature and the
arts were not quite so well appreciated as might be wished.

"You are a serious student, I know--very learned in languages. I
wish I had had more time for reading, and a better head. But seven
children, you know--oh dear! Even my little bit of French has got
so ragged that I am really ashamed of it. But there _is_ one woman
who studies. Has Denzil spoken to you of Mrs. Wade?"

"I don't remember."

"She is no great favourite of his, I believe. You will soon hear of
her, and no doubt see her. Denzil admits that she is very clever--
even a Creek scholar!"

"Really! And what fault does he find with her?"

"She is a great supporter of woman's rights, and occasionally makes
speeches. It's only of late that I have seen much of her; for some
reason she seems to have taken a liking to me, and I feel rather
honoured. I'm sure her intentions are very good indeed, and it must
be trying to live among people who have no sympathy with you. They
make sad fun of her, and altogether misunderstand her--at least I
think so."

The snowstorm still raged. To spare their own horses, the
Liversedges had come in a cab, and at half-past five the same
vehicle returned to take them home.. Lilian was sorry to see them
go.

"Where are all your apprehensions now?" cried Denzil, coming back to
her from the hall. "It's over, you see. Not another minute's
uneasiness need you have!"

"They were kindness itself. I like them very much."

"As I knew and said you would. Now, no more chalky faces and
frightened looks! Be jolly, and forget everything. Let us try your
piano."

"Your sister was telling me about Mrs. Wade. Is she one of the
people you would like me to be friends with?"

"Oh yes!" he answered, laughing, "Mrs. Wade will interest you, no
doubt. Make a friend of her by all means. Did Mary whisper
mysterious warnings?"

"Anything but that; she spoke very favourably."

"Indeed!

"And she said Mrs. Wade seemed to have taken a liking to her
lately."

"Oh! How's that, I wonder? She goes about seeking whom she may
secure for the women's-vote movement; I suppose it's Molly's turn to
be attacked Oh, we shall have many a lively half-hour when Mrs. Wade
calls!"

"What is her husband?"

"Husband! She's a widow. I never thought of such a person as Mr.
Wade, to this moment. To be sure, he must have existed. Perhaps she
will confide in you, and then----By-the-bye, is it right for women
to tell their husbands what they learn from female friends?"

He asked it jokingly, but Lilian seemed to reflect in earnest.

"I'm not sure"----

"Oh, you lily of the valley!" he cried, interrupting her. "Do
cultivate a sense of humour. Don't take things with such desperate
seriousness! Come and try your instrument. It ought to be a good
one, if price-lists mean anything."

The next morning was clear and cold. Assuredly there would be good
skating, and the prospect of this enjoyment seemed to engross
Denzil's thoughts. After breakfast he barely glanced at the
newspapers, then leaving Lilian to enter upon her domestic rule, set
forth for an examination of the localities which offered scope to
Polterham skaters. Such youthful zeal proved his thorough harmony
with the English spirit; it promised far more for his success as a
politician than if he had spent the morning over blue-books and
statistical treatises.

If only the snow were cleared away, the best skating near at hand
was on a piece of water near the road to Rickstead. The origin of
this pond or lakelet had caused discussion among local antiquaries;
for tradition said that it occupied the site of a meadow which many
years ago mysteriously sank, owing perhaps to the unsuspected
existence of an ancient mine. It connected with a little tributary
of the River Bale, and was believed to be very deep, especially at
one point, where the tree-shadowed bank overhung the water at a
height of some ten feet. The way thither was by a field-path,
starting from the high road within sight of Pear-tree Cottage. At a
rapid walk Quarrier soon reached his goal, and saw with satisfaction
that men and boys were sweeping the snowy surface, whilst a few
people had already begun to disport themselves where the black ice
came to view. In the afternoon he would come with Lilian; for the
present, a second purpose occupied his thoughts. Standing on the
bank of Bale Water (thus was it named), he could see the topmost
branches of that pear-tree which grew in the garden behind Mrs.
Wade's cottage; two meadows lay between--a stretch of about a
quarter of a mile. It was scarcely the hour for calling upon ladies,
but he knew that Mrs. Wade sat among her books through the morning,
and he wished especially to see her as soon as possible.

Polterham clocks were counting eleven as he presented himself at the
door of the cottage. Once already he had paid a call here, not many
days after his meeting with the widow in Mr. Hornibrook's library;
he came at three in the afternoon, and sat talking till nearly six.
Not a few Polterham matrons would have considered that proceeding
highly improper, but such a thought never occurred to Denzil; and
Mrs. Wade would have spoken her mind very distinctly to any one who
wished to circumscribe female freedom in such respects. They had
conversed on a great variety of subjects with unflagging animation.
Since then he had not seen his acquaintance.

A young girl opened to him, and left him standing in the porch for a
minute or two. She returned, and asked him to walk into the
sitting-room, where Mrs. Wade was studying with her feet on the
fender.

"Do I come unseasonably?" he asked, offering his hand.

"Not if you have anything interesting to say," was the curious
reply.

The widow was not accounted for reception of visitors. She wore an
old though quite presentable dress, with a light shawl about her
shoulders, and had evidently postponed the arrangement of her hair
until the time of going abroad. Yet her appearance could hardly be
called disconcerting, for it had nothing of slovenliness. She looked
a student, that was all. For some reason, however, she gave Quarrier
a less cordial welcome than he had anticipated. Her eyes avoided
his, she shook hands in a perfunctory way.

"It depends what you call interesting," was his rejoinder to the
unconventional reply. "I got here yesterday, and brought a wife with
me--there, at all events, is a statement of fact."

"You have done me the honour to hasten here with the announcement?"

"I came out to see if Bale Water was skateable, and I thought I
might venture to make a friendly call whilst I was so near. But I'm
afraid I disturb you?"

"Not a bit Pray sit down and talk. Of course I have heard of your
marriage. Why didn't you let me know it was impending?"

"Because I told nobody. I chose to get married in my own way. You,
Mrs. Wade, are not likely to find fault with me for that."

"Oh dear no!" she answered, with friendly indifference.

"I am told you see a good deal of the Liversedges?"

She nodded.

"Does my sister give any promise of reaching higher levels? Or is
she a hopeless groveller?"

"Mrs. Liversedge is the kind of woman I can respect, independently
of her views."

"I like to hear you say that, because I know you don't deal in
complimentary phrases. The respect, I am sure, is reciprocated."

Mrs. Wade seemed to give slight attention; she was looking at a
picture above the fireplace.

"You will count my wife among your friends, I hope?" he continued.

"I hope so. Do you think we shall understand each other?"

"If not, it won't be for lack of good will on her side. I mustn't
begin to praise her, but I think you will find she has a very fair
portion of brains."

"I'm glad to hear that."

"Do you imply that you had fears?"

"Men are occasionally odd in their choice of wives."

"Yes," Denzil replied, with a laugh; "I have seen remarkable
illustrations of it."

"I didn't feel sure that you regarded brains as an essential."

"Indeed! Then you were a long way from understanding me. How can you
say that, after my lecture, and our talks?"

"Oh, theory doesn't go for much. May I call shortly?"

"If you will be so good."

"She's very young, I think?"

"Not much more than one-and-twenty. I have known her for about three
years."

There was a short silence, then Mrs. Wade said with some abruptness:

"I think of leaving Polterham before long. It was Mr. and Mrs.
Hornibrook who decided me to come here, and now that they are gone I
feel as if I too had better stir. I want books that are out of my
reach."

"That will be a loss to us, Mrs. Wade. Society in Polterham has its
limitations"----

"I'm aware of it. But you, of course, will have a home in London as
well?"

"Well, yes--if I get sent to Parliament."

"I suppose we shall meet there some day."

Her voice grew careless and dreamy. She folded her hands upon her
lap, and assumed a look which seemed to Denzil a hint that he might
now depart. He stood up.

"So you are going to skate?" murmured Mrs. Wade. "I won't keep you.
Thank you very much for looking in."

Denzil tried once more to read her countenance, and went away with a
puzzled feeling. He could not conjecture the meaning of her changed
tone.





CHAPTER XIII




Last November had turned the scale in the Polterham Town Council. It
happened that the retiring members were all Conservatives, with the
exception of Mr. Chown, who alone of them obtained re-election, the
others giving place to men of the Progressive party. Mr. Mumbray
bade farewell to his greatness. The new Mayor was a Liberal. As
returning-officer, he would preside over the coming political
contest. The Tories gloomed at each other, and whispered of evil
omens.

For many years Mr. Mumbray had looked to the Mayoralty as the limit
of his ambition. He now began to entertain larger projects,
encouraged thereto by the dissensions of Conservative Polterham, and
the promptings of men who were hoping to follow him up the civic
ladder. He joined with those who murmured against the obstinacy of
old Mr. Welwyn-Baker. To support such a candidate would be party
suicide. Even Welwyn-Baker junior was preferable; but why not
recognize that the old name had lost its prestige, and select a
representative of enlightened Conservatism, who could really make a
stand against Quarrier and his rampant Radicals? Mr. Mumbray saw no
reason why he himself should not invite the confidence of the
burgesses.

In a moment of domestic trace the ex-Mayor communicated this thought
to his wife, and Mrs. Mumbray gave ready ear. Like the ladies of
Polterham in general, she had not the faintest understanding of
political principles; to her, the distinction between parties was
the difference between bits of blue and yellow ribbon, nothing more.
But the social advantages accruing to the wife of an M.P. impressed
her very strongly indeed. For such an end she was willing to make
sacrifices, and the first of these declared itself in an abandonment
of her opposition to Mr. Eustace Glazzard. Her husband pointed out
to her that a connection with the family so long established at
Highmead would be of distinct value. William Glazzard nominally
stood on the Liberal side, but he was very lukewarm, and allowed to
be seen that his political action was much swayed by personal
considerations. Eustace made no pretence of Liberal learning; though
a friend of the Radical candidate (so Quarrier was already
designated by his opponents), he joked at popular enthusiasm, and
could only be described as an independent aristocrat. Money, it
appeared, he had none; and his brother, it was suspected, kept up
only a show of the ancestral position. Nevertheless, their names had
weight in the borough.

Eustace spent Christmas at Highmead, and made frequent calls at the
house of the ex-Mayor. On one of the occasions it happened that the
ladies were from home, but Mr. Mumbray, on the point of going out,
begged Glazzard to come and have a word with him in his sanctum.
After much roundabout talk, characteristically pompous, he put the
question whether Mr. Glazzard, as a friend of Mr. Denzil Quarrier,
would "take it ill" if he, Mr. Mumbray, accepted an invitation to
come forward as the candidate of the Conservative party.

"I hope you know me better," Glazzard replied. "I have nothing
whatever to do with politics."

The ex-Mayor smiled thoughtfully, and went on to explain, "in
strictest confidence," that there _was_ a prospect of that
contingency befalling.

"Of course I couldn't hope for Mr. William's support."

He paused on a note of magnanimous renunciation.

"Oh, I don't know," said Glazzard, abstractedly. "My brother is
hardly to be called a Radical. I couldn't answer for the line he
will take."

"Indeed? That is very interesting. Ha!"

Silence fell between them.

"I'm sure," remarked Mr. Mumbray, at length, "that my wife and
daughter will be very sorry to have missed your call. Undoubtedly
you can count on their being at home to-morrow."

The prediction was fulfilled, and before leaving the house Glazzard
made Serena a proposal of marriage. That morning there had occurred
a quarrel of more than usual bitterness between mother and daughter.
Serena was sick of her life at home, and felt a longing, at any
cost, for escape to a sphere of independence. The expected offer
from Glazzard came just at the right moment; she accepted it, and
consented that the marriage should be very soon.

But a few hours of reflection filled her with grave misgivings. She
was not in love with Glazzard; personally, he had never charmed her,
and in the progress of their acquaintance she had discovered many
points of his character which excited her alarm. Serena, after all,
was but a half-educated country girl; even in the whirlwind of
rebellious moments she felt afraid of the words that came to her
lips. The impulses towards emancipation which so grievously
perturbed her were unjustified by her conscience; at heart, she
believed with Ivy Glazzard that woman was a praying and subordinate
creature; in her bedroom she recounted the day's sins of thought and
speech, and wept out her desire for "conversion," for the life of
humble faith. Accepting such a husband as Eustace, she had committed
not only an error, but a sin. The man was without religion, and
sometimes made himself guilty of hypocrisy; of this she felt a
miserable assurance. How could she hope to be happy with him? What
had interested her in him was that air of culture and refinement so
conspicuously lacked by the men who had hitherto approached her. He
had seemed to her the first _gentleman_ who sought her favour. To
countenance him, moreover, was to defy her mother's petty rule. But,
no, she did not love him--did not like him.

Yet to retract her promise she was ashamed. Only girls of low social
position played fast and loose in that way. She went through a night
of misery.

On the morrow her betrothed, of course, came to see her. Woman-like,
she had taken refuge in a resolve of postponement; the marriage must
be sooner or later, but it was in her power to put it off. And, with
show of regretful prudence, she made known this change in her mind.

"I hardly knew what I was saying. I ought to have remembered that
our acquaintance has been very short."

"Yet long enough to enable me to win your promise," urged Glazzard.

"Yes, I have promised. It's only that we cannot be married so very
soon."

"I must, of course, yield," he replied, gracefully, kissing her
hand. "Decision as to the time shall rest entirely with you."

"Thank you--that is very kind."

He went away in a mood of extreme discontent. Was this little
simpleton going to play with him? There were solid reasons of more
than one kind why the marriage should not be long delayed. It would
be best if he returned to London and communicated with her by
letter. He could write eloquently, and to let her think of him as in
the midst of gay society might not be amiss.

Shortly after Quarrier's arrival at Polterham, he was back again.
Daily he had repented his engagement, yet as often had congratulated
himself on the windfall thus assured to him. Before going to the
Mumbrays, he called upon Mrs. Quarrier, whom, as it chanced, he
found alone. To Lilian his appearance was a shock, for in the
contentment of the past week she had practically forgotten the
existence of this man who shared her secret. She could not look him
in the face.

Glazzard could be trusted in points of tact. He entered with a
bright face, and the greetings of an old friend, then at once began
to speak of his own affairs.

"Have you heard that I am going to be married?"

"Denzil told me when he received your letter."

"I am afraid Miss Mumbray will hardly belong to your circle, but as
Mrs. Glazzard--that will be a different thing. You won't forbid me
to come here because of this alliance?"

Lilian showed surprise and perplexity.

"I mean, because I am engaged to the daughter of a Tory."

"Oh, what difference could that possibly make?"

"None, I hope. You know that I am not very zealous as a party-man."

In this his second conversation with Lilian, Glazzard analysed more
completely the charm which she had before exercised upon him. He was
thoroughly aware of the trials her nature was enduring, and his
power of sympathetic insight enabled him to read upon her
countenance, in her tones, precisely what Lilian imagined she could
conceal. Amid surroundings such as those of the newly furnished
house, she seemed to him a priceless gem in a gaudy setting; he felt
(and with justice) that the little drawing-room at Clapham, which
spoke in so many details of her own taste, was a much more suitable
home for her. What could be said of the man who had thus transferred
her, all (or chiefly) for the sake of getting elected to Parliament?
Quarrier had no true appreciation of the woman with whose life and
happiness he was entrusted. He was devoted to her, no doubt, but
with a devotion not much more clairvoyant than would have
distinguished one of his favourite Vikings.

Glazzard, whilst liking Denzil, had never held him in much esteem.
Of late, his feelings had become strongly tinged with contempt. And
now, with the contempt there blended a strain of jealousy.

True that he himself had caught eagerly at the hope of entering
Parliament; but it was the impulse of a man who knew his life to be
falling into ruin, who welcomed any suggestion that would save him
from final and fatal apathy--of a man whose existence had always
been loveless--who, with passionate ideals, had never known
anything but a venal embrace. In Quarrier's position, with abounding
resources, with the love of such a woman as this, what would he not
have made of life? Would it ever have occurred to _him_ to wear a
mask of vulgar deceit, to condemn his exquisite companion to a
hateful martyrdom, that he might attain the dizzy height of
M.P.-ship for Polterham?

He compassionated Lilian, and at the same time he was angry with
her. He looked upon her beauty, her gentle spirit, with tenderness,
and therewithal he half hoped that she might some day repent of
yielding to Quarrier's vulgar ambition.

"Have you made many acquaintances?" he asked.

"A good many. Some, very pleasant people; others--not so
interesting."

"Polterham society will not absorb you, I think."

"I hope to have a good deal of quiet time. But Denzil wishes me to
study more from life than from books, just now. I must understand
all the subjects. that interest him."

"Yes--the exact position, as a force in politics, of the licensed
victuallers; the demands of the newly enfranchised classes--that
kind of thing."

He seemed to be jesting, and she laughed good-humouredly.

"Those things are very important, Mr. Glazzard."

"Infinitely!"

He did not stay long, and upon his departure Lilian gave a sigh of
relief.

The next day he was to lunch with the Mumbrays. He went about twelve
o'clock, to spend an hour with Serena. His welcome was not ardent,
and he felt the oppression of a languor be hardly tried to disguise.
Yet in truth his cause had benefited whilst he was away. The
eloquent letters did not fail of their effect; Serena had again
sighed under domestic tyranny, had thought with longing of a life in
London, and was once more swayed by her emotions towards an early
marriage.

In dearth of matter for conversation (Glazzard sitting taciturn),
she spoke of an event which had occupied Polterham for the last day
or two. Some local genius had conceived the idea of wrecking an
express train, and to that end had broken a portion of the line.

"What frightful wickedness!" she exclaimed. "What motive can there
have been, do you think?"

"Probably none, in the sense you mean."

"Yes--such a man must be mad."

"I don't think that," said Glazzard, meditatively. "I can understand
his doing it with no reason at all but the wish to see what would
happen. No doubt he would have been standing somewhere in sight."

"You can _understand_ that?"

"Very well indeed," he answered, in the same half-absent way. "Power
of all kinds is a temptation to men. A certain kind of man--not
necessarily cruel--would be fascinated with the thought of
bringing about such a terrific end by such slight means."

"Not necessarily cruel? Oh, I can't follow you at all. You are not
serious."

"I have shocked you." He saw that he had really done so, and felt
that it was imprudent. His tact suggested a use for the situation.
"Serena, why should you speak so conventionally? You are not really
conventional in mind. You have thoughts and emotions infinitely
above those of average girls. Do recognize your own superiority. I
spoke in a speculative way. One may speculate about anything and
everything--if one has the brains. You certainly are not made to
go through life with veiled eyes and a tongue tuned to the common
phrases. Do yourself justice, dear girl. However other people regard
you, I from the first have seen what it was in you to become."

It was adroit flattery; Serena reddened, averted her face, smiled a
little, and kept silence.

That day he did not follow up his advantage. But on taking leave of
Serena early in the afternoon, he looked into her eyes with
expressive steadiness, and again she blushed.

A little later, several ladles were gathered in the drawing-room. On
Thursdays Mrs. Mumbray received her friends; sat as an embodiment of
the domestic virtues and graces. To-day the talk was principally on
that recent addition to Polterham society, Mrs. Denzil Quarrier.

"I haven't seen her yet," said Mrs. Mumbray, with her air of
superiority. "They say she is pretty but rather childish."

"But what is this mystery about the marriage?" inquired a lady who
had just entered, and who threw herself upon the subject with
eagerness. (It was Mrs. Roach, the wife of an alderman.) "Why was it
abroad? She is English, I think?"

"Oh no!" put in Mrs. Tenterden, a large and very positive person.
"She is a Dane--like the Princess of Wales. I have seen her. I
recognized the cast of features at once."

An outcry from three ladies followed. They knew Mrs. Quarrier was
English. They had seen her skating at Bale Water. One of them had
heard her speak--it was pure English.

"I thought every one knew," returned Mrs. Tenterden, with stately
deliberation, "that the Danes have a special gift for languages. The
Princess of Wales"----

"But, indeed," urged the hostess, "she is of English birth. We know
it from Mr. Eustace Glazzard, who is one of their friends."

"Then _why_ were they married abroad?" came in Mrs. Roach's shrill
voice. "_Can_ English people be legitimately married abroad? I
always understood that the ceremony had to be repeated in England."

"It was at Paris," said Mrs. Walker, the depressed widow of a
bankrupt corn-merchant. "There is an English church there, I have
heard."

The others, inclined to be contemptuous of this authority, regarded
each other with doubt.

"Still," broke out Mrs. Roach again, "_why_ was it at Paris? No one
seems to have the slightest idea. It is really very strange!"

Mrs. Mumbray vouchsafed further information.

"I understood that she came from Stockholm."

"Didn't I _say_ she came from Denmark?" interrupted Mrs. Tenterden,
triumphantly.

There was a pause of uncertainty broken by Serena Mumbray's quiet
voice.

"Dear Mrs. Tenterden, Stockholm is not in Denmark, but in Sweden.
And we are told that Mrs. Quarrier was an English governess there."

"Ah! a governess!" cried two or three voices.

"To tell the truth," said Mrs. Mumbray, more dignified than ever
after her vindication, "it is probable that she belongs to some very
poor family. I should be sorry to think any worse of her for _that_,
but it would explain the private marriage."

"So you think people _can_ be married legally in Paris?" persisted
the alderman's wife, whose banns had been proclaimed in hearing of
orthodox Polterham about a year ago.

"Of course they can," fell from Serena.

Lilian's age, personal appearance, dress, behaviour, underwent
discussion at great length.

"What church do they go to?" inquired some one, and the question
excited general interest.

"They were at St. Luke's last Sunday," Mrs. Walker was able to
declare, though her wonted timidity again threw some suspicion on
the statement.

"St. Luke's! Why St. Luke's?" cried other voices. "It isn't their
parish, is it?"

"I think," suggested the widow, "it may be because the Liversedges
go to St. Luke's. Mrs. Liversedge is"----

Her needless information was cut short by a remark from Mrs.
Tenterden.

"I could never listen Sunday after Sunday to Mr. Garraway. I think
him excessively tedious. And his voice is so very trying."

The incumbent of St. Luke's offered a brief diversion from the main
theme. A mention of the Rev. Scatchard Vialls threatened to lead
them too far, and Mrs. Roach interposed with firmness.

"I still think it a very singular thing that they went abroad to be
married."

"But they _didn't_ go abroad, my dear," objected the hostess. "That
is to say, one of them was already abroad."

"Indeed! The whole thing seems very complicated. I think it needs
explanation. I shouldn't feel justified in calling upon Mrs.
Quarrier until"----

Her voice was overpowered by that of Mrs. Tenterden, who demanded
loudly:

"Is it true that she has already become very intimate with _that
person_ Mrs. Wade?"

"Oh, I _do_ hope not!" exclaimed several ladies.

Here was an inexhaustible topic. It occupied more than an hour,
until the last tea-cup had been laid aside and the more discreet
callers were already on their way home.





CHAPTER XIV




There needed only two or three days of life at Polterham to allay
the uneasiness with which, for all his show of equanimity, Denzil
entered upon so perilous a career. By the end of January he had
practically forgotten that his position was in any respect insecure.
The risk of betraying himself in an unguarded moment was diminished
by the mental habit established during eighteen months of secrecy in
London. Lilian's name was seldom upon his lips, and any inquiry
concerning her at once awakened his caution. Between themselves they
never spoke of the past.

Long ago he had silenced every conscientious scruple regarding the
relation between Lilian and himself; and as for the man Northway, if
ever he thought of him at all, it was with impatient contempt. That
he was deceiving his Polterham acquaintances, and in a way which
they would deem an unpardonable outrage, no longer caused him the
least compunction. Conventional wrong doing, he had satisfied
himself, was not wrong-doing at all, unless discovered. He injured
no one. The society of such a person as Lilian could be nothing but
an advantage to man, woman, and child. Only the sublimation of
imbecile prejudice would maintain that she was an unfit companion
for the purest creature living. He had even ceased to smile at the
success of his stratagem. It was over and done with; their social
standing was unassailable.

Anxious to complete his book on the Vikings, he worked at it for
several hours each morning; it would be off his hands some time in
February, and the spring publishing season should send it forth to
the world. The rest of his leisure was given to politics. Chests of
volumes were arriving from London, and his library shelves began to
make a respectable appearance; as a matter of principle, he bought
largely from the local bookseller, who rejoiced at the sudden fillip
to his stagnant trade, and went about declaring that Mr. Denzil
Quarrier was evidently _the_ man for the borough.

He fell upon history, economics, social speculation, with
characteristic vigour. If he got into the House of Commons, those
worthies should speedily be aware of his existence among them. It
was one of his favourite boasts that whatever subject he choose to
tackle, he could master. No smattering for him; a solid foundation
of knowledge, such as would ensure authority to his lightest
utterances.

In the meantime, he began to perceive that Lilian was not likely to
form many acquaintances in the town. With the Liversedges she stood
on excellent terms, and one or two families closely connected with
them gave her a welcome from which she did not shrink. But she had
no gift of social versatility; it cost her painful efforts to
converse about bazaars and curates and fashions and babies with the
average Polterham matron; she felt that most of the women who came
to see her went away with distasteful impressions, and that they
were anything but cordial when she returned their call. A life of
solitude and study was the worst possible preparation for duties
such as were now laid upon her.

"You are dissatisfied with me," she said to Denzil, as they returned
from spending the evening with some empty but influential people who
had made her exceedingly uncomfortable.

"Dissatisfied? On the contrary, I am very proud of you. It does one
good to contrast one's wife with women such as those."

"I tried to talk; but I'm so ignorant of everything they care about.
I shall do better when I know more of the people they refer to."

"Chattering apes! Malicious idiots! Heaven forbid that you should
ever take a sincere part in their gabble! That lot are about the
worst we shall have to deal with. Decent simpletons you can get
along with very well."

"How ought I to speak of Mrs. Wade? When people tell downright
falsehoods about her, may I contradict?"

"It's a confoundedly difficult matter, that. I half wish Mrs. Wade
would hasten her departure. Did she say anything about it when you
saw her the other day?"

"Nothing whatever."

It appeared that the widow wished to make a friend of Lilian. She
had called several times, and on each occasion behaved so charmingly
that Lilian was very ready to meet her advances. Though on
intellectual and personal grounds he could feel no objection to such
an intimacy, Denzil began to fear that it might affect his
popularity with some voters who would take the Liberal side if it
did not commit them to social heresies. This class is a very large
one throughout England. Mrs. Wade had never given occasion of grave
scandal; she was even seen, with moderate regularity, at one or
other of the churches; but many of the anti-Tory bourgeois suspected
her of sympathy with views so very "advanced" as to be socially
dangerous. Already it had become known that she was on good terms
with Quarrier and his wife. It was rumoured that Quarrier would
reconsider the position he had publicly assumed, and stand forth as
an advocate of Female Suffrage. For such extremes Polterham was not
prepared.

"Mrs. Wade asks me to go and have tea with her to-morrow," Lilian
announced one morning, showing a note. "Shall I, or not?"

"You would like to?"

"Not if you think it unwise."

"Hang it!--we can't be slaves. Go by all means, and refresh your
mind."

At three o'clock on the day of invitation Lilian alighted from her
brougham at Pear-tree Cottage. It was close upon the end of
February; the declining sun shot a pleasant glow across the
landscape, and in the air reigned a perfect stillness. Mrs. Wade
threw open the door herself with laughing welcome.

"Let us have half-an-hour's walk, shall we? It's so dry and warm."

"I should enjoy it," Lilian answered, readily.

"Then allow me two minutes for bonnet and cloak."

She was scarcely longer. They went by the hedge-side path which led
towards Bale Water. To-day the papers were full of exciting news.
Sir Stafford Northcote had brought forward his resolution for making
short work of obstructive Members, and Radicalism stood undecided.
Mrs. Wade talked of these things in the liveliest strain, Lilian
responding with a lighthearted freedom seldom possible to her.

"You skated here, didn't you?" said her companion, as they drew near
to the large pond.

"Yes; a day or two after we came. How different it looks now."

They stood on the bank where it rose to a considerable height above
the water.

"The rails have spoilt this spot," said Mrs. Wade. "They were only
put up last autumn, after an accident. I wonder it was never found
necessary before. Some children were gathering blackberries from the
bramble there, and one of them reached too far forward, and over she
went! I witnessed it from the other side, where I happened to be
walking. A great splash, and then a chorus of shrieks from the
companions. I began to run forward, though of course I could have
done nothing whatever; when all at once I saw a splendid sight. A
man who was standing not far off ran to the edge and plunged in--a
magnificent 'header!' He had only thrown away his hat and coat. They
say it's very deep just here. He disappeared completely, and then in
a few seconds I saw that be had hold of the child. He brought her
out where the bank slopes yonder--no harm done. I can't tell you
bow I enjoyed that scene It made me cry with delight."

As usual, when deeply moved, Lilian stood in a reverie, her eyes
wide, her lips tremulous. Then she stepped forward, and, with her
hand resting upon the wooden rail, looked down. There was no
perceptible movement in the water; it showed a dark greenish
surface, smooth to the edge, without a trace of weed.

"How I envy that man his courage!"

"His power, rather," suggested Mrs. Wade. "If we could swim well,
and had no foolish petticoats, we should jump in just as readily. It
was the power over circumstances that I admired and envied."

Lilian smiled thoughtfully.

"I suppose that is what most attracts us in men?"

"And makes us feel our own dependence. I can't say I like _that_
feeling--do you?"

She seemed to wait for an answer.

"I'm afraid it's in the order of nature," replied Lilian at length
with a laugh.

"Very likely. But I am not content with it on that account. I know
of a thousand things quite in the order of nature which revolt me. I
very often think of nature as an evil force, at war with the good
principle of which we are conscious in our souls."

"But," Lilian faltered, "is your ideal an absolute independence?"

Mrs. Wade looked far across the water, and answered, "Yes,
absolute!"

"Then you--I don't quite know what would result from that."

"Nor I," returned the other, laughing. "That doesn't affect my
ideal. You have heard, of course, of that lecture your husband gave
at the Institute before--before your marriage?"

"Yes; I wish I could have heard it."

"You would have sympathized with every word, I am sure. Mr. Quarrier
is one of the strong men who find satisfaction in women's weakness."

It was said with perfect good-humour, with a certain indulgent
kindness--a tone Mrs. Wade had used from the first in talking with
Lilian. A manner of affectionate playfulness, occasionally of
caressing protection, distinguished her in this intercourse; quite
unlike that by which she was known to people in general. Lilian did
not dislike it, rather was drawn by it into a mood of grateful
confidence.

"I don't think 'weakness' expresses it," she objected. "He likes
women to be subordinate, no doubt of that. His idea is that"----

"I know, I know!" Mrs. Wade turned away with a smile her companion
did not observe. "Let us walk back again; it grows chilly. A
beautiful sunset, if clouds don't gather. Perhaps it surprises you
that I care for such sentimental things?"

"I think I understand you better."

"Frankly--do you think me what the French call _hommasse_? Just a
little?"

"Nothing of the kind, Mrs. Wade," Lilian replied, with courage. "You
are a very womanly woman."

The bright, hard eyes darted a quick glance at her.

"Really? That is how I strike you?"

"It is, indeed."

"How I like your way of speaking," said the other, after a moment's
pause. "I mean, your voice--accent. Has it anything to do with the
long time you have spent abroad, I wonder?"

Lilian smiled and was embarrassed.

"You are certainly not a Londoner?"

"Oh no! I was born in the west of England."

"And I at Newcastle. As a child I had a strong northern accent; you
don't notice anything of it now? Oh, I have been about so much. My
husband was m the Army. That is the first time I have mentioned him
to you, and it will be the last, however long we know each other."

Lilian kept her eyes on the ground. The widow glanced off to a
totally different subject, which occupied them the rest of the way
back to the cottage.

Daylight lasted until they had finished tea, then a lamp was brought
in and the red blind drawn down. Quarrier had gone to spend the day
at a neighbouring town, and would not be back before late in the
evening, so that Lilian had arranged to go from Mrs. Wade's to the
Liversedges'. They still had a couple of hours' talk to enjoy; on
Lilian's side, at all events, it was unfeigned enjoyment. The cosy
little room put her at ease Its furniture was quite in keeping with
the simple appearance of the house, but books and pictures told that
no ordinary cottager dwelt here.

"I have had many an hour of happiness in this room," said Mrs. Wade,
as they seated themselves by the fire. "The best of all between
eleven at night and two in the morning. You know the lines in
'Penseroso.' Most men would declare that a woman can't possibly
appreciate them; I know better. I am by nature a student; the life
of society is nothing to me; and, in reality, I care very little
about politics."

Smiling, she watched the effect of her words.

"You are content with solitude?" said Lilian, gazing at her with a
look of deep interest.

"Quite. I have no relatives who care anything about me, and only two
or three people I call friends. But I must have more books, and I
shall be obliged to go to London."

"Don't go just yet--won't our books be of use to you?"

"I shall see. Have you read this?"

It was a novel from Smith's Library. Lilian knew it, and they
discussed its merits. Mrs. Wade mentioned a book by the same author
which had appeared more than a year ago.

"Yes, I read that when it came out," said Lilian, and began to talk
of it.

Mrs. Wade kept silence, then remarked carelessly:

"You had them in the Tauchnitz series, I suppose?"

Had her eyes been turned that way, she must have observed the
strange look which flashed across her companion's countenance.
Lilian seemed to draw in her breath, though silently.

"Yes--Tauchnitz," she answered.

Mrs. Wade appeared quite unconscious of anything unusual in the
tone. She was gazing at the fire.

"It isn't often I find time for novels," she said; "for new ones,
that is. A few of the old are generally all I need. Can you read
George Eliot? What a miserably conventional soul that woman has!"

"Conventional? But"----

"Oh, I know! But she is British conventionality to the core. I have
heard people say that she hasn't the courage of her opinions; but
that is precisely what she _has_, and every page of her work
declares it flagrantly. She might have been a great power--she
might have speeded the revolution of morals--if the true faith had
been in her."

Lilian was still tremulous, and she listened with an intensity which
gave her a look of pain. She was about to speak, but Mrs. Wade
anticipated her.

"You mustn't trouble much about anything I say when it crosses your
own judgment or feeling. There are so few people with whom I can
indulge myself in free speech. I talk just for the pleasure of it;
don't think I expect or hope that you will always go along with me.
But you are not afraid of thinking--that's the great thing. Most
women are such paltry creatures that they daren't look into their
own minds--for fear nature should have put something 'improper'
there."

She broke off with laughter, and, as Lilian kept silence, fell into
thought.

In saying that she thought her Companion a "womanly woman," Lilian
told the truth. Ever quick with sympathy, she felt a sadness in Mrs.
Wade's situation, which led her to interpret all her harsher
peculiarities as the result of disappointment and loneliness. Now
that the widow had confessed her ill-fortune in marriage, Lilian was
assured of having judged rightly, and nursed her sentiment of
compassion. Mrs. Wade was still young; impossible that she should
have accepted a fate which forbade her the knowledge of woman's
happiness. But how difficult for such a one to escape from this
narrow and misleading way! Her strong, highly-trained intellect
could find no satisfaction in the society of every-day people, yet
she was withheld by poverty from seeking her natural sphere. With
Lilian, to understand a sorrow was to ask herself what she could do
for its assuagement. A thought of characteristic generosity came to
her. Why should she not (some day or other, when their friendship
was mature) offer Mrs. Wade the money, her own property, which would
henceforth be lying idle? There would be practical difficulties in
the way, but surely they might be overcome. The idea brought a smile
to her face. Yes; she would think of this. She would presently talk
of it with Denzil.

"Come now," said Mrs. Wade, rousing herself from meditation, "let us
talk about the Irish question."

Lilian addressed herself conscientiously to the subject, but it did
not really interest her; she had no personal knowledge of Irish
hardships, and was wearied by the endless Parliamentary debate. Her
thoughts still busied themselves with the hopeful project for
smoothing Mrs. Wade's path in life.

When the carriage came for her, she took her leave with regret, but
full of happy imaginings. She had quite forgotten the all but
self-betrayal into which she was led during that chat about novels.

Two days later Quarrier was again absent from home on business, and
Lilian spent the evening with the Liversedges. Supper was over, and
she had begun to think of departure, when the drawing-room door was
burst open, and in rushed Denzil, wet from head to foot with rain,
and his face a-stream with perspiration.

"They dissolve at Easter!" he cried, waving his hat wildly.
"Northcote announced it at five this afternoon. Hammond has a
telegram; I met him at the station."

"Ho! ho! this is news!" answered Mr. Liversedge, starting up from
his easy-chair.

"News, indeed!" said his wife; "but that's no reason, Denzil, why
you should make my carpet all ram and mud. Do go and take your coat
off, and clean your boots, there's a good boy!"

"How can I think of coat and boots? Here, Lily, fling this garment
somewhere. Give me a duster, or something, to stand on, Molly. Toby,
we must have a meeting in a day or two. Can we get the Public Hall
for Thursday or Friday? Shall we go round and see our committee-men
to-night?"

"Time enough to-morrow; most of them are just going to bed. But how
is it no one had an inkling of this? They have kept the secret
uncommonly well."

"The blackguards! Ha, ha! Now for a good fight! It'll be old
Welwyn-Baker, after all, you'll see. They won t have the courage to
set up a new man at a moment's notice. The old buffer will come
maudling once more, and we'll bowl him off his pins!"

Lilian sat with her eyes fixed upon him. His excitement infected
her, and when they went home together she talked of the coming
struggle with joyous animation.





CHAPTER XV




The next morning--Tuesday, March 9th--there was a rush for the
London papers. Every copy that reached the Polterham vendors was
snapped up within a few minutes of it arrival. People who had no
right of membership ran ravening to the Literary Institute and the
Constitutional Literary Society, and peered over the shoulders of
legitimate readers, on such a day as this unrebuked. Mr. Chown's
drapery establishment presented a strange spectacle. For several
hours it was thronged with sturdy Radicals eager to hear their
eminent friend hold forth on the situation. At eleven o'clock Mr.
Chown fairly mounted a chair behind his counter, and delivered a
formal harangue--thus, as he boasted, opening the political
campaign. He read aloud (for the seventh time) Lord Beaconsfield's
public letter to the Duke of Marlborough, in which the country was
warned, to begin with, against the perils of Home Rule. "It is to be
hoped that all men of light and leading will resist this destructive
doctrine. . . . Rarely in this century has there been an occasion
more critical. The power of England and the peace of Europe will
largely depend on the verdict of the country. . . . Peace rests on
the presence, not to say the ascendancy, of England in the Councils
of Europe."

"Here you have it," cried the orator, as he dashed the newspaper to
his feet, "pure, unadulterated Jingoism! 'Ascendancy in the Councils
of Europe!' How are the European powers likely to hear _that_, do
you think? I venture to tell my Lord Beaconsfield--I venture to
tell him on behalf of this constituency--aye, and on behalf of
this country--that it is _he_ who holds 'destructive doctrine'! I
venture to tell my Lord Beaconsfield that England is not prepared to
endorse any such insolent folly! We shall very soon have an
opportunity of hearing how far such doctrine recommends itself to
_our_ man 'of light and leading'--to our Radical candidate--to
our future member, Mr. Denzil Quarrier!"

A burst of cheering echoed from the drapery-laden shelves. Two
servant-girls who had come to the door intent on purchase of
hair-pins ran frightened away, and spread a report that Mr. Chown's
shop was on fire.

At dinner-time the politician was faced by his angry wife.

"I know what the end of _this_'ll be!" cried Mrs. Chown. "You're
ruining your business, that's what you're doing! Who do you think'll
come to the shop if they find it full of shouting ragamuffins?
They'll all go to Huxtable's, that's what they'll do! I've no
patience"----

"There's no need to declare _that_!" replied Mr. Chown, rolling his
great eyes at her with an expression of the loftiest scorn. "I have
known it for thirteen years. You will be so good as to attend to
your own affairs, and leave _me_ to see to _mine_! What does a woman
care for the interests of the country? Grovelling sex! Perhaps when
I am called upon to shoulder a rifle and go forth to die on the
field of battle, your dense understanding will begin to perceive
what was at stake.--Not another syllable! I forbid it! Sit down
and serve the potatoes!"

At the same hour Denzil Quarrier, at luncheon with Lilian, was
giving utterance to his feelings on the great topic of the day.

"Now is the time for women to show whether their judgment is worthy
of the least confidence. This letter of Beaconsfield's makes frank
appeal to the spirit of Jingoism; he hopes to get at the fighting
side of Englishmen, and go back to power on a wave of 'Rule,
Britannia' bluster. If it is true that women are to be trusted in
politics, their influence will be overwhelming against such
irresponsible ambition. I have my serious doubts"----

He shook his head and laughed.

"I will do my utmost!" exclaimed Lilian, her face glowing with
sympathetic enthusiasm. "I will go and talk to all the people we
know"----

"Really! You feel equal to that?"

"I will begin this very afternoon! I think I understand the
questions sufficiently. Suppose I begin with Mrs. Powell? She said
her husband had always voted Conservative, but that she couldn't be
quite sure what he would do this time. Perhaps I can persuade her to
take our side."

"Have a try! But you astonish me, Lily--you are transformed!"

"Oh, I have felt that I might find courage when the time came." She
put her head aside, and laughed with charming _naivete_.
"I can't sit idle at home whilst you are working with such zeal. And
I really _feel_ what you say: women have a clear duty. How excited
Mrs. Wade must be!"

"Have you written all the dinner-cards?"

"They were all sent before twelve."

"Good! Hammond will be here in half an hour to talk over the address
with me. Dinner at seven prompt; I am due at Toby's at eight. Well,
it's worth going in for, after all, isn't it? I am only just
beginning to live."

"And I, too!"

The meal was over. Denzil walked round the table and bent to lay his
cheek against Lilian's.

"I admire you more than ever," he whispered, half laughing. "What a
reserve of energy in this timid little girl! Wait and see; who knows
what sort of table you will preside at some day? I have found my
vocation, and there's no saying how far it will lead me. Heavens!
what a speech I'll give them at the Public Hall! It's bubbling over
in me. I could stand up and thunder for three or four hours!"

They gossiped a little longer, then Lilian went to prepare for her
call upon Mrs. Powell, and Quarrier retired to the library. Here he
was presently waited upon by Mr. Hammond, editor of the _Polterham
Examiner_. Denzil felt no need of assistance in drawing up the
manifesto which would shortly be addressed to Liberal Polterham; but
Hammond was a pleasant fellow of the go-ahead species, and his
editorial pen would be none the less zealous for confidences such as
this. The colloquy lasted an hour or so. Immediately upon the
editor's departure, a servant appeared at the study door.

"Mrs. Wade wishes to see you, sir, if you are at leisure."

"Certainly!"

The widow entered. Her costume--perhaps in anticipation of the
sunny season--was more elaborate and striking than formerly. She
looked a younger woman, and walked with lighter step.

"I came to see Mrs. Quarrier, but she is out. You, I'm afraid, are
frightfully busy?"

"No, no. This is the breathing time of the day with me. I've just
got rid of our journalist. Sit down, pray."

"Oh, I won't stop. But tell Lilian I am eager to see her."

"She is off canvassing--really and truly! Gone to assail Mrs.
Powell. Astonishing enthusiasm!"

"I'm delighted to hear it!"

The exclamation lingered a little, and there was involuntary
surprise on Mrs. Wade's features. She cast a glance round the room.

"Do sit down," urged Denzil, placing a chair. "What do you think of
Dizzy's letter? Did you ever read such bunkum? And his 'men of light
and leading'--ha, ha, ha!"

"He has stolen the phrase," remarked Mrs. Wade. "Where from, I can't
say; but I'm perfectly sure I have come across it."

"Ha! I wish we could authenticate that! Search your memory--do--
and get a letter in the _Examiner_ on Saturday."

"Some one will be out with it before then. Besides, I'm sure you
don't wish for me to draw attention to myself just now."

"Why not? I shall be disappointed if you don't give me a great deal
of help."

"I am hardly proper, you know."

She looked steadily at him, with an inscrutable smile, then let her
eyes again stray round the room.

"Bosh! As I was saying to Lily at lunch, women ought to have a
particular interest in this election. If they are worth anything at
all, they will declare that England sha'n't go in for the chance of
war just to please that Jew phrase-monger. I'm ready enough for a
fight, on sound occasion, but I won't fight in obedience to Dizzy
and the music-halls! By jingo, no!"

He laughed uproariously.

"You won't get many Polterham women to see it in that light,"
observed the widow. "This talk about the ascendency of England is
just the thing to please them. They adore Dizzy, because he is a fop
who has succeeded brilliantly; they despise Gladstone, because he is
conscientious and an idealist. Surely I don't need to tell you
this?"

She leaned forward, smiling into his face.

"Well," he exclaimed, with a laugh, "of course I can admit, if you
like, that most women are _not_ worth anything politically. But why
should I be uncivil?"

Mrs. Wade answered in a low voice, strangely gentle.

"Don't I know their silliness and worthlessness? What woman has more
reason to be ashamed of her sex?"

"Let us--hope!"

"For the millennium--yes." Her eyes gleamed, and she went on in a
more accustomed tone. "Women are the great reactionary force. In
political and social matters their native baseness shows itself on a
large scale. They worship the vulgar, the pretentious, the false.
Here they will most of them pester their husbands to vote for
Welwyn-Baker just because they hate change with the hatred of weak
fear. Those of them who know anything at all about the Irish
question are dead set against Ireland--simply because they are
unimaginative and ungenerous; they can't sympathize with what seems
a hopeless cause, and Ireland to them only suggests the dirty Irish
of Polterham back streets. As for European war, the idiots are fond
of drums and fifes and military swagger; they haven't brains enough
to picture a battle-field."

"You are severe, Mrs. Wade. I should never have ventured"----

"You are still afraid of telling _me_ the truth!"

"Well, let us rejoice in the exceptions. Yourself, Lilian, my sister
Mary, for instance."

The widow let her eyes fall and kept silence.

"We hope you will dine with us on Friday of next week," said Denzil.
"Lilian posted you an invitation this morning. There will be a good
many people."

"Seriously then, I am to work for you, openly and vigorously?"

"What a contemptible fellow I should be if I wished you to hold
aloof!" He spoke sincerely, having overcome his misgivings of a
short time ago. "The fight will be fought on large questions, you
know. I want to win, but I have made up my mind to win honestly;
it's a fortunate thing that I probably sha'n't be called upon to
declare my views on a thousand side-issues."

"Don't be so sure of that. Polterham is paltry, even amid national
excitement."

"Confound it! then I will say what I think, and k it. If they want a
man who will fight sincerely for the interests of the people, here
he is! I'm on the side of the poor devils; I wish to see them better
off; I wish to promote honest government, and chuck the selfish
lubbers overboard. Forgive the briny phrase; you know why it comes
natural to me."

Mrs. Wade gave him her kindest smile.

"You will win, no doubt of it; and not this battle only."

She rose, and half turned away.

"By-the-bye, shall you be able to finish your book?"

"It is finished. I wrote the last page yesterday morning. Wonderful,
wasn't it?"

"A good omen. My love to Lilian."

As they shook hands, Mrs. Wade just raised her eyes for an instant,
timorously. The look was quite unlike anything Denzil had yet seen
on her face. It caused him to stand for a few moments musing.

From half-past four to half-past six he took a long walk; such
exercise was a necessity with him, and the dwellers round about
Polterham had become familiar with the sight of his robust figure
striding at a great pace about roads and fields. Generally he made
for some wayside inn, where he could refresh himself with a tankard
of beer, after which he lit his pipe, and walked with it between his
teeth. Toby Liversedge, becoming aware of this habit, was inclined
to doubt its prudence. "Beware of the teetotalers, Denzil; they are
a power among us." Whereto Quarrier replied that teetotalers might
be eternally condemned; he would stick by his ale as tenaciously as
the old farmer of Thornaby Waste.

"It's the first duty of a Radical to set his face against humbug. If
I see no harm in a thing, I shall do it openly, and let people"----

At this point he checked himself, almost as if he had a sudden
stitch in the side. Tobias asked for an explanation, but did not
receive one.

On getting home again, he found Lilian in the drawing-room. (As an
ordinary thing he did not "dress" for dinner, since his evenings
were often spent in the company of people who would have disliked
the conspicuousness of his appearance.) She rose to meet him with
shining countenance, looking happier, indeed, and more rarely
beautiful than he had ever seen her.

"What cheer? A triumph already?"

"I think so, Denzil; I really think so. Mrs. Powell has promised me
to do her very best with her husband. Oh, if you could have heard
our conversation! I hadn't thought it possible for any one to be so
ignorant of the simplest political facts. One thing that she said--
I was talking about war, and suddenly she asked me: 'Do you think it
likely, Mrs. Quarrier, that there would be an _inscription_?' For a
moment I couldn't see what she meant. 'An inscription?' 'Yes; if
there's any danger of that, and--my four boys growing up!' Then,
of course, I understood. Fortunately, she was so very much in
earnest that I had no temptation to smile."

"And did you encourage her alarm?"

"I felt I had no right to do that. To avoid repeating the word, I
said that I didn't think _that system_ would ever find favour in
England. At the same time, it was quite certain that our army would
have to be greatly strengthened if this war-fever went on. Oh, we
had an endless talk--and she was certainly impressed with my
arguments."

"Bravo! Why, this is something like!"

"You can't think what courage it has given me! To-morrow I shall go
to Mrs. Clifford--yes, I shall. She is far more formidable; but I
want to try my strength."

"Ho, ho! What a pugnacious Lily--a sword-Lily! You ought to have
had an heroic name--Deborah, or Joan, or Portia! Your eyes gleam
like beacons."

"I feel more contented with myself.--Oh, I am told that Mrs. Wade
called this afternoon?"

"Yes; anxious to see you. Burning with wrath against female Toryism.
She was astonished when I told her of your expedition."

Lilian laughed merrily. Thereupon dinner was announced, and they
left the room hand in hand.

That evening it was rumoured throughout the town that Mr.
Welwyn-Baker had telegraphed a resolve _not_ to offer himself for
re-election. In a committee-room at the Constitutional Literary
Society was held an informal meeting of Conservatives, but no one of
them had definite intelligence to communicate. Somebody had told
somebody else that Hugh Welwyn-Baker held that important telegram
from his father; that was all. Mr. Mumbray's hopes rose high. On the
morrow, at another meeting rather differently constituted (miserable
lack of organization still evident among the Tories), it was made
known on incontestable authority that the sitting Member _would_
offer himself for re-election. Mr. Mumbray and his supporters held
high language. "It would be party suicide," they went about
repeating. With such a man as Denzil Quarrier on the Radical side,
they _must_ have a new and a strong candidate! But all was
confusion; no one could take the responsibility of acting.

Already the affairs of the Liberals were in perfect crier, and it
took but a day or two to decide even the minutiae of the
campaign. To Quarrier's candidature no one within the party offered
the least opposition. Mr. Chown, who had for some time reserved his
judgment, declared to all and sundry that "all things considered, a
better man could scarcely have been chosen." Before thus committing
himself he had twice called upon Quarrier, and been closeted with
him for a longtime. Now, in these days of arming, he received a card
inviting him (and his wife) to dine at the candidate's house on a
certain evening a fortnight ahead; it was the second dinner that
Denzil had planned, but Mr. Chown was not aware of this, nor that
the candidate had remarked of him to Lilian: "We must have that
demagogue among his kind, of course." Denzil's agent (Hummerstone by
name) instantly secured rooms in admirable situations, and the
Public Hall was at the disposal of the party for their first great
meeting a few days hence.

In facing that assembly (Toby Liversedge was chairman) Denzil had a
very slight and very brief recurrence of his platform nervousness.
Determined to risk nothing, he wrote out his speech with great care
and committed it to memory. The oration occupied about two hours,
with not a moment of faltering. It was true that he had discovered
his vocation; he spoke like a man of long Parliamentary experience,
to the astonished delight of his friends, and with enthusiastic
applause from the mass of his hearers. Such eloquence had never been
heard in Polterham. If anything, he allowed himself too much scope
in vituperation, but it was a fault on the right side. The only
circumstance that troubled him was when his eye fell upon Lilian,
and he saw her crying with excitement; a fear passed through his
mind that she might be overwrought and fall into hysterics, or
faint. The occasion proved indeed too much for her; that night she
did not close her eyes, and the next day saw her prostrate in
nervous exhaustion. But she seemed to pick up her strength again
very quickly, and was soon hard at work canvassing among the
electors' wives.

"Don't overdo it," Denzil cautioned her. "Remember, if you are ill,
I shall mope by your bedside."

"I can't stop now that I have begun," was her reply. "If I try to
sit idle, I _shall_ be ill."

She could read nothing but newspapers; her piano was silent; she
talked politics, and politics only. Never was seen such a change in
woman, declared her intimates; yet, in spite of probabilities, they
thought her more charming than ever. No word of animosity ever fell
from her lips; what inspired her was simple ardour for Denzil's
cause, and, as she considered it, that of the oppressed multitude.
In her way, said Toby Liversedge, she was as eloquent as Quarrier
himself, and sundry other people were of the same opinion.





CHAPTER XVI




With sullen acquiescence the supporters of Mr. Mumbray and
"Progressive Conservatism"--what phrase is not good enough for the
lips of party?--recognized that they must needs vote for the old
name. Dissension at such a moment was more dangerous than an
imbecile candidate. Mr. Sam Quarrier had declared that rather than
give his voice for Mumbray he would remain neutral. "Old W.-B. is
good enough for a figure-head; he signifies something. If we are to
be beaten, let it be on the old ground." That defeat was likely
enough, the more intelligent Conservatives could not help seeing.
Many of them (Samuel among the number) had no enthusiasm for
Beaconsfield, and _la haute politique_ as the leader understood it,
but they liked still less the principles represented by Councillor
Chown and his vociferous regiment. So the familiar bills were once
more posted about the streets, and once more the Tory canvassers
urged men to vote for Welwyn-Baker in the name of Church and State.

At Salutary Mount (this was the name of the ex-Mayor's residence)
personal disappointment left no leisure for lamenting the prospects
of Conservatism. Mr. Mumbray shut himself up in the room known as
his "study." Mrs. Mumbray stormed at her servants, wrangled with her
children, and from her husband held apart in sour contempt--
feeble, pompous creature that he was! With such an opportunity, and
unable to make use of it! But for _her_, he would never even have
become Mayor. She was enraged at having yielded in the matter of
Serena's betrothal. Glazzard had fooled them; he was an unprincipled
adventurer, with an eye only to the fortune Serena would bring him!

"If you marry that man," she asseverated, _a propos_ of a
discussion with her daughter on a carpet which had worn badly, "I
shall have nothing whatever to do with the affair--nothing!"

Serena drew apart and kept silence.

"You hear what I say? You understand me?"

"You mean that you won't be present at the wedding?"

"I do!" cried her mother, careless what she said so long as it
sounded emphatic. "You shall take all the responsibility. If you
like to throw yourself away on a bald-headed, dissipated man--as I
_know_ he is--it shall be entirely your own doing. I wash my hands
of it--and that's the last word you will hear from me on the
subject."

In consequence of which assertion she vilified Glazzard and Serena
for three-quarters of an hour, until her daughter, who had sat in
abstraction, slowly rose and withdrew.

Alone in her bedroom, Serena shed many tears, as she had often done
of late. The poor girl was miserably uncertain how to act. She
foresaw that home would be less than ever a home to her after this
accumulation of troubles, and indeed she had made up her mind to
leave it, but whether as a wife or as an independent woman she could
not decide. "On her own responsibility"--yes, that was the one
thing certain. And what experience had she whereon to form a
judgment? It might be that her mother's arraignment of Glazzard was
grounded in truth, but how could she determine one way or the other?
On the whole, she liked him better than when she promised to marry
him--yes, she liked him better; she did rot shrink from the
thought of wedlock with him. He was a highly educated and clever
man; he offered her a prospect of fuller life than she had yet
imagined; perhaps it was a choice between him and the ordinary
husband such as fell to Polterham girls. Yet again, if he did not
really care for her--only for her money?

She remembered Denzil Quarrier's lecture on "Woman," and all he had
said about the monstrously unfair position of girls who are asked in
marriage by men of the world. And thereupon an idea came into her
mind. Presently she had dried her tears, and in half-an-hour's time
she left the house.

Her purpose was to call upon Mrs. Quarrier, whom she had met not
long ago at Highmead. But the lady was not at home. After a moment
of indecision, she wrote on the back of her visiting card: "Will you
be so kind as to let me know when I could see you? I will come at
any hour."

It was then midday. In the afternoon she received a note,
hand-delivered. Mrs. Quarrier would be at home from ten to twelve
the next morning.

Again she called, and Lilian received her in the small drawing-room.
They locked at each other with earnest faces, Lilian wondering
whether this visit had anything to do with the election. Serena was
nervous, and could not reply composedly to the ordinary phrases of
politeness with which she was received. And yet the phrases were not
quite ordinary; whomsoever she addressed, Lilian spoke with a
softness, a kindness peculiar to herself, and chose words which
seemed to have more than the common meaning.

The visitor grew sensible of this pleasant characteristic, and at
length found voice for her intention.

"I wished to see you for a very strange reason, Mrs. Quarrier. I
feel half afraid that I may even offend you. You will think me very
strange indeed."

Lilian trembled. The old dread awoke in her. Had Miss Mumbray
discovered something?

"Do let me know what it is," she replied, in a low voice.

"It--it is about Mr. Eustace Glazzard. I think he is an intimate
friend of Mr. Quarrier's?"

"Yes, he is."

"You are surprised, of course. I came to you because I feel so alone
and so helpless. You know that I am engaged to Mr. Glazzard?"

Her voice faltered. Relieved from anxiety, Lilian looked and spoke
in her kindest way.

"Do speak freely to me, Miss Mumbray. I shall be so glad to--to
help you in any way I can--so very glad."

"I am sure you mean that. My mother is very much against our
marriage--against Mr. Glazzard. She wants me to break off. I can't
do that without some better reason than I know of. Will you tell me
what you think of Mr. Glazzard? Will you tell me in confidence? You
know him probably much better than I do--though that sounds
strange. You have known him much longer, haven't you?"

"Not much longer. I met him first in London."

"But you know him through your husband. I only wish to ask you
whether you have a high opinion of him. How has he impressed you
from the first?"

Lilian reflected for an instant, and spoke with grave
conscientiousness.

"My husband considers him his best friend. He thinks very highly of
him. They are unlike each other in many things. Mr. Quarrier
sometimes wishes that he--that Mr. Glazzard were more active, less
absorbed in art; but I have never heard him say anything worse than
that. He likes him very much indeed. They have been friends since
boyhood."

The listener sat with bowed head, and there was a brief silence.

"Then you think," she said at length, "that I shall be quite safe in
--Oh, that is a bad way of putting it! Do forgive me for talking to
you like this. You, Mrs. Quarrier, are very happily married; but I
am sure you can sympathize with a girl's uncertainty. We have so few
opportunities of----Oh, it was so true what Mr. Quarrier said in
his lecture at the Institute--before you came. He said that a girl
had to take her husband so very much on trust--of course his words
were better than those, but that's what he meant."

"Yes--I know--I have heard him say the same thing."

"I don't ask," pursued the other, quickly, "about his religious
opinions, or anything of that kind. Nowadays, I suppose, there are
very few men who believe as women do--as most women do." She
glanced at Lilian timidly. "I only mean--do you think him a good
man--an honourable man?"

"To that I can reply with confidence," said Lilian, sweetly. "I am
quite sure he is an honourable man--quite sure I believe he has
very high thoughts. Have you heard him play? No man who hadn't a
noble nature could play like that."

Serena drew a sigh of relief.

"Thank you, dear Mrs. Quarrier--thank you so very much! You have
put my mind at rest."

These words gave delight to the hearer. To do good and to receive
gratitude were all but the prime necessities of Lilian's heart.
Obeying her impulse, she began to say all manner of kind, tender,
hopeful things. Was there not a similarity between this girl's
position and that in which she had herself stood when consenting to
the wretched marriage which happily came to an end at the church
door? Another woman might have been disposed to say, in the female
parrot-language: "But do you love him or not? That is the whole
question." It was _not_ the whole question, even granting that love
had spoken plainly; and Lilian understood very well that it is
possible for a girl to contemplate wedlock without passionate
feeling such as could obscure her judgment.

They talked with much intimacy, much reciprocal good-will, and
Serena took her leave with a comparatively cheerful mind. She had
resolved what to do.

And the opportunity for action came that afternoon. Glazzard called
upon her. He looked rather gloomy, but smiled in reply to the smile
she gave him.

"Have you read Mr. Gladstone's address to the electors of
Midlothian?" Serena began by asking, with a roguish look.

"Pooh! What is such stuff to me?"

"I knew I should tease you. What do you think of Mr. Quarrier's
chances?"

"Oh, he will be elected, no doubt."

Glazzard spoke absently, his eyes on Serena's face, but seemingly
not conscious of her expression.

"I hope he will," she rejoined.

"What!--you hope so?"

"Yes, I do. I am convinced he is the right man. I agree with his
principles. Henceforth I am a Radical."

Glazzard laughed mockingly, and Serena joined, but not in the same
tone.

"I like him," she pursued, with a certain odd persistence. "If I
could do it decently, I would canvass for him. He is a manly man and
means what he says. I like his wife, too--she is very sweet."

He glanced at her and pursed his lips.

"I am sure," added Serena, "you like me to praise such good friends
of yours?"

"Certainly."

They were in the room where the grand piano stood, for Mrs. Mumbray
had gone to pass the day with friends at a distance. Serena said of
a sudden:

"Will you please play me something--some serious piece--one of
the best you know?"

"You mean it?"

"I do. I want to hear you play a really noble piece. You won't
refuse."

He eyed her in a puzzled way, but smiled, and sat down to the
instrument. His choice was from Beethoven. As he played, Serena
stood in an attitude of profound attention. When the music ceased,
she went up to him and held out her hand.

"Thank you, Eustace. I don't think many people can play like that."

"No; not very many," he replied quietly, and thereupon kissed her
fingers.

He went to the window and looked out into the chill, damp garden.

"Serena, have you any idea what Sicily is like at this time of
year?"

"A faint imagination. Very lovely, no doubt."

"I want to go there."

"Do you?" she answered, carelessly, and added in lower tones, "So do
I."

"There's no reason why you shouldn't. Marry me next week, and we
will go straight to Messina."

"I will marry you in a fortnight from to-day," said Serena, in
quivering voice.

"You will?"

Glazzard walked back to Highmead with a countenance which alternated
curiously between smiling and lowering. The smile was not agreeable,
and the dark look showed his face at its worst. He was completely
absorbed in thought, and when some one stopped full in front of him
with jocose accost, he gave a start of alarm.

"I should be afraid of lamp-posts," said Quarrier, "if I had that
somnambulistic habit. Why haven't you looked in lately? Men of
infinite leisure must wait upon the busy."

"My leisure, thank the destinies!" replied Glazzard, "will very soon
be spent out of hearing of election tumult."

"When? Going abroad again?"

"To Sicily."

"Ha!--that means, I conjecture," said Denzil, searching his
friend's face, "that a certain affair will come to nothing after
all?"

"And what if you are right?" returned the other, slowly, averting
his eyes.

"I sha'n't grieve. No, to tell you the truth, I shall not! So at
last I may speak my real opinion. It wouldn't have done, Glazzard;
it was a mistake, old fellow. I have never been able to understand
it. You--a man of your standing--no, no, it was completely a
mistake, believe me!"

Glazzard looked into the speaker's face, smiled again, and remarked
calmly:

"That's unfortunate. I didn't say my engagement was at an end; and,
in fact, I shall be married in a fortnight. We go to Sicily for the
honeymoon."

A flush of embarrassment rose to Denzil's face. For a moment he
could not command himself; then indignation possessed him.

"That's too bad!" he exclaimed. "You took advantage of me. You laid
a trap. I'm damned if I feel able to apologize!"

Glazzard turned away, and it seemed as if he would walk on. But he
faced about again abruptly, laughed, held out his hand.

"No, it is I who should apologize. I did lay a trap, and it was too
bad. But I wished to know your real opinion."

No one more pliable than Denzil. At once he took the hand that was
offered and pressed it heartily.

"I'm a blundering fellow. Do come and spend an hour with me
to-night. From eleven to twelve. I dine out with fools, and shall
rejoice to see you afterwards."

"Thanks, I can't. I go up to town by the 7.15."

They were in a suburban road, and at the moment some ladies
approached. Quarrier, who was acquainted with them, raised his hat
and spoke a few hasty words, after which he walked on by Glazzard's
side.

"My opinion," he said, "is worth very little. I had no right
whatever to express it, having such slight evidence to go upon. It
was double impertinence. If _you_ can't be trusted to choose a wife,
who could? I see that--now that I have made a fool of myself."

"Don't say any more about it," replied the other, in a good-natured
voice. "We have lived in the palace of truth for a few minutes,
that's all."

"So you go to Sicily. There you will be in your element. Live in the
South, Glazzard; I'm convinced you will be a happier man than in
this mill-smoke atmosphere. You have the artist's temperament;
indulge it to the utmost. After all, a man ought to live out what is
in him. Your wedding will be here, of course?"

"Yes, but absolutely private."

"You won't reject me when I offer good wishes? There is no man
living who likes you better than I do, or is more anxious for your
happiness. Shake hands again, old fellow. I must hurry off."

So they parted, and in a couple of hours Glazzard was steaming
towards London.

He lay back in the corner of a carriage, his arms hanging loose, his
eyes on vacancy. Of course he had guessed Quarrier's opinion of the
marriage he was making; he could imagine his speaking to Lilian
about it with half-contemptuous amusement. The daughter of a man
like Mumbray--an unformed, scarcely pretty girl, who had inherited
a sort of fortune from some soap-boiling family--what a
culmination to a career of fastidious dilettantism! "He has probably
run through all his money," Quarrier would add. "Poor old fellow! he
deserves better things."

He had come to hate Quarrier. Yet with no vulgar hatred; not with
the vengeful rancour which would find delight in annihilating its
object. His feeling was consistent with a measure of justice to
Denzil's qualities, and even with a good deal of admiration; as it
originated in mortified vanity, so it might have been replaced by
the original kindness, if only some stroke of fortune or of power
had set Glazzard in his original position of superiority. Quarrier
as an ingenuous young fellow looking up to the older comrade,
reverencing his dicta, holding him an authority on most subjects,
was acceptable, lovable; as a self-assertive man, given to patronage
(though perhaps unconsciously), and succeeding in life as his friend
stood still or retrograded, he aroused dangerous emotions. Glazzard
could no longer endure his presence, hated the sound of his voice,
cursed his genial impudence; yet he did not wish for his final
unhappiness--only for a temporary pulling-down, a wholesome
castigation of over-blown pride.

The sound of the rushing wheels affected his thought, kept it on the
one subject, shaped it to a monotony of verbal suggestion. Not a
novel suggestion, by any means; something that his fancy had often
played with; very much, perhaps, as that ingenious criminal spoken
of by Serena amused himself with the picture of a wrecked train long
before he resolved to enjoy the sight in reality.

"Live in the South," Quarrier had urged. "Precisely; in ether words:
Keep out of my way. You're a good, simple-hearted fellow, to be
sure, but it was a pity I had to trust you with that secret. Leave
England for a long time."

And why not? Certainly it was good counsel--if it had come from
any one but Denzil Quarrier. Probably he should act upon it after
all.





CHAPTER XVII




His rooms were in readiness for him, and whilst the attendant
prepared a light supper, he examined some letters which had arrived
that evening. Two of the envelopes contained pressing invitations--
with reference to accounts rendered and re-rendered; he glanced over
the writing and threw them into the fire. The third missive was more
interesting; it came from a lady of high social position at whose
house he had formerly been a frequent guest. "Why do we never see
you?" she wrote. "They tell me yen have passed the winter in
England; why should you avoid your friends who have been condemned
to the same endurance? I am always at home on Thursday."

He held the dainty little note, and mused over it. At one time the
sight of this handwriting had quickened his pulses with a delicious
hope; now it stimulated his gloomy reflections. Such a revival of
the past was very unseasonable.

Before going to bed he wrote several letters. They were
announcements of his coming marriage--brief, carelessly worded,
giving as little information as possible.

The next morning was taken up with business. He saw, among other
people, his friend Stark, the picture-collecting lawyer. Stark had
letters from Polterham which assured him that the Liberals were
confident of victory.

"Confounded pity that Quarrier just got the start of you!" he
exclaimed. "You could have kept that seat for the rest of your
life."

"Better as it is," was the cheerful reply. "I should have been
heartily sick of the business by now."

"There's no knowing. So you marry Miss Mumbray? An excellent choice,
I have no doubt. Hearty congratulations!--Oh, by-the-bye, Jacobs &
Burrows have a capital Greuze--do look in if you are passing."

Glazzard perceived clearly enough that the lawyer regarded this
marriage just as Quarrier did, the _pisaller_ of a disappointed and
embarrassed man. There was no more interest in his career; he had
sunk finally into the commonplace.

At three o'clock he was at home again, and without occupation. The
calendar on his writing-table reminded him that it was Thursday.
After all, he might as well respond to the friendly invitation of
last evening, and say good-bye to his stately acquaintances in
Grosvenor Square. He paid a little attention to costume, and
presently went forth.

In this drawing-room he had been wont to shine with the double
radiance of artist and critic. Here he had talked pictures with the
fashionable painters of the day; music with men and women of
resonant name. The accomplished hostess was ever ready with that
smile she bestowed only upon a few favourites, and her daughter--
well, he had misunderstood, and so came to grief one evening of
mid-season. A rebuff, the gentlest possible, but leaving no
scintilla of hope. At the end of the same season she gave her hand
to Sir Something Somebody, the diplomatist.

And to-day the hostess was as kind as ever, smiled quite in the old
way, held his hand a moment longer than was necessary. A dozen
callers were in the room, he had no opportunity for private speech,
and went away without having mentioned the step he was about to
take. Better so; he might have spoken indiscreetly, unbecomingly, in
a tone which would only have surprised and shocked that gracious
lady.

He reached his rooms again with brain and heart in fiery tumult.
Serena Mumbray!--he was tempted to put an end to his life in some
brutal fashion, such as suited with his debasement.

Another letter had arrived during his absence. An hour passed before
he saw it, but when his eye at length fell on the envelope he was
roused to attention. He took out a sheet of blue note-paper, covered
with large, clerkly writing.

"DEAR SIR,

"We have at length been able to trace the person
concerning whom you are in communication with us. He is at present
living in Bristol, and we think is likely to remain there for a
short time yet. Will you favour us with a call, or make an
appointment elsewhere?

"We have the honour to be, dear Sir,

"Yours faithfully,

"TULKS & CROWE."

He paced the room, holding the letter behind his back. It was more
than three weeks since the investigation referred to had been
committed to Messrs. Tulks & Crowe, private inquiry agents; and long
before this he had grown careless whether they succeeded or not. An
impulse of curiosity; nothing more. Well, yes; a fondness for
playing with secrets, a disposition to get power into his hands--
excited to activity just after a long pleasant talk with Lilian. He
was sorry this letter had come; yet it made him smile, which perhaps
nothing else would have done just now.

"To be weak is miserable, doing or suffering." The quotation was
often in his mind, and he had never felt its force so profoundly as
this afternoon. The worst of it was, he did not believe himself a
victim of inherent weakness; rather of circumstances which
persistently baffled him. But it came to the same thing. Was he
never to know the joy of vigorous action?--of asserting himself to
some notable result?

He could do so now, if he chose. In his hand were strings, which, if
he liked to pull them, would topple down a goodly edifice, with
uproar and dust and amazement indescribable: so slight an effort, so
incommensurable an outcome! He had it in his power to shock the
conventional propriety of a whole town, and doubtless, to some
extent, of all England. What a vast joke that would be--to look at
no other aspect of the matter! The screamings of imbecile morality
--the confusion of party zeal--the roaring of indignant pulpits!

He laughed outright.

But no; of course it was only an amusing dream. Ho was not malignant
enough. The old-fashioned sense of honour was too strong in him.
Pooh! He would go and dine, and then laugh away his evening
somewhere or other.

Carefully he burnt the letter. To-morrow he would look in at the
office of those people, hear their story, and so have done with it.

Next morning he was still in the same mind. He went to Tulks &
Crowe's, and spent about an hour closeted with the senior member of
that useful firm. "A benevolent interest--anxious to help the poor
devil if possible--miserable story, that of the marriage--was to
be hoped that the girl would be persuaded to acknowledge him, and
help him to lead an honest life--no idea where she was." The
information he received was very full and satisfactory; on the spot
he paid for it, and issued into the street again with tolerably easy
mind.

To-morrow he must run down to Polterham again. How to pass the rest
of to. day? Pressing business was all off his hands, and he did not
care to look up any of his acquaintances; he was not in the mood for
talk. Uncertain about the future, he had decided to warehouse the
furniture, pictures, and so on, that belonged to him. Perhaps it
would be well if he occupied himself in going through his papers--
makicg a selection for the fire.

He did so, until midway in the afternoon. Perusal of old letters
will not generally conduce to cheerfulness, and Glazzard once more
felt his spirits sink, his brain grow feverishly active. Within
reach of where he sat was a railway time-table; he took it up,
turned to the Great Western line, pondered, finally looked at his
watch.

At two minutes to five he alighted from a cab at Paddington Station
--rushed, bag in hand, to the booking-office--caught the Bristol
train just as the guard had signalled for starting.

He was at Bristol soon after eight. The town being strange ground to
him, he bade a cabman drive him to a good hotel, where he dined.
Such glimpse as he had caught of the streets did not invite him
forth, but neither could he sit unoccupied; as the weather was fair,
be rambled for an hour or two. His mind was in a condition difficult
to account for; instead of dwelling upon the purpose that had
brought him hither, it busied itself with all manner of thoughts and
fancies belonging to years long past. He recalled the first lines of
a poem he had once attempted; it was suggested by a reading of
Coleridge--and there, possibly, lay the point of association.
Coleridge: then he fell upon literary reminiscences. Where, by the
way, was St. Mary Redcliffe? He put the inquiry to a passer-by, and
was directed. By dreary thoroughfares he came into view of the
church, and stood gazing at the spire, dark against a blotchy sky.
Then he mocked at himself for acting as if he had an interest in
Chatterton, when in truth the name signified boredom to him. Oh,
these English provincial towns! What an atmosphere of deadly dulness
hung over them all! And people were born, and lived, and died in
Bristol--merciful powers!

He made his way back to the hotel, drank a glass of hot whisky, and
went to bed.

After a sound sleep he awoke in the grey dawn, wondered awhile where
he could be, then asked himself why on earth he had come here. It
didn't matter much; he could strike off by the Midland to Polterham,
and be there before noon. And again he slept.

When he had breakfasted, he called to the waiter and asked him how
far it was to that part of the town called Hotwells. Learning that
the road thither would bring him near to Clifton, he nodded with
satisfaction. Clifton was a place to be seen; on a bright morning
like this it would be pleasant to walk over the Downs and have a
look at the gorge of the Avon.

A cab was called. With one foot raised he stood in uncertainty,
whilst the driver asked him twice whither they were to go. At length
he said "Hotwells," and named a street in that locality. He lay back
and closed his eyes, remaining thus until the cab stopped.

Hastily he looked about him. He was among poor houses, and near to
docks; the masts of great ships appeared above roofs. With a quick
movement he drew a coin from his pocket, tossed it up, caught it
between his hands. The driver had got down and was standing at the
door.

"This the place? Thanks; I'll get out."

He looked at the half-crown, smiled, and handed it to the cabman.

In a few minutes he stood before an ugly but decent house, which had
a card in the window intimating that lodgings were here to let. His
knock brought a woman to the door.

"I think Mr. North lives here?"

"Yes, sir, he do live yere," the woman answered, in a simple tone.
"Would you wish for to see him?"

"Please ask him if he could see a gentleman on business--Mr.
Marks."

"But he ben't in, sir, not just now. He"----she broke off and
pointed up the street. "Why, there he come, I declare!"

"The tall man?"

"That be he, sir."

Glazzard moved towards the person indicated, a man of perhaps
thirty, with a good figure, a thin, sallow face, clean-shaven, and
in rather shabby clothes. He went close up to him and said gravely:

"Mr. North, I have just called to see you on business."

The young man suppressed a movement of uneasiness, drew in his lank
cheeks, and looked steadily at the speaker.

"What name?" he asked, curtly, with the accent which represents some
degree of liberal education.

"Mr. Marks. I should like to speak to you in private."

"Has any one sent you?"

"No, I have taken the trouble to find where you were living. It's
purely my own affair. I think it will be to your interest to talk
with me."

The other still eyed him suspiciously, but did not resist.

"I haven't a sitting-room," he said, "and we can't talk here. We can
walk on a little, if you like."

"I'm a stranger. Is there a quiet spot anywhere about here?"

"If we jump on this omnibus that's coming, it'll take us to the
Suspension Bridge--Clifton, you know. Plenty of quiet spots about
there."

The suggestion was accepted. On the omnibus they conversed as any
casual acquaintances might have done. Glazzard occasionally
inspected his companion's features, which were not vulgar, yet not
pleasing. The young man had a habit of sucking in his cheeks, and of
half closing his eyes as if he suffered from weak sight; his limbs
twitched now and then, and he constantly fingered his throat.

"A fine view," remarked Glazzard, as they came near to the great
cliffs; "but the bridge spoils it, of course."

"Do you think so? Not to my mind. I always welcome the signs of
civilization."

Glazzard looked at him with curiosity, and the speaker threw back
his head in a self-conscious, conceited way.

"Picturesqueness is all very well," he added, "but it very often
means hardships to human beings. I don't ask whether a country looks
beautiful, but what it does for the inhabitants."

"Very right and proper," assented Glazzard, with a curl of the lip.

"I know very well," pursued the moralist, "that civilization doesn't
necessarily mean benefit to the class which ought to be considered
first. But that's another question. It _ought_ to benefit them, and
eventually it must."

"You lean towards Socialism?"

"Christian Socialism if you know what that signifies."

"I have an idea. A very improving doctrine, no doubt."

They dismounted, and began the ascent of the hillside by a path
which wound among trees. Not far from the summit they came to a
bench which afforded a good view.

"Suppose we stop here," Glazzard suggested. "It doesn't look as if
we should be disturbed."

"As you please."

"By-the-bye, you have abbreviated your name, I think?"

The other again looked uneasy and clicked with his tongue.

"You had better say what you want with me, Mr. Marks," he replied,
impatiently.

"My business is with Arthur James Northway. If you are he, I think I
can do you a service."

"Why should you do me a service?"

"From a motive I will explain if all else is satisfactory."

"How did you find out where I was?"

"By private means which are at my command." Glazzard adopted the
tone of a superior, but was still suave. "My information is pretty
complete. Naturally, you are still looking about for employment. I
can't promise you that, but I daresay you wouldn't object to earn a
five-pound note?"

"If it's anything--underhand, I'll have nothing to do with it."

"Nothing you can object to. In fact, it's an affair that concerns
you more than any one else.--I believe you can't find any trace of
your wife?"

Northway turned his head, and peered at his neighbour with narrow
eyes.

"It's about _her_, is it?"

"Yes, about her."

Strangely enough, Glazzard could not feel as if this conversation
greatly interested him. He kept gazing at the Suspension Bridge, at
the woods beyond, at the sluggish river, and thought more of the
view than of his interlocutor. The last words fell from his lips
idly.

"You know where she is?" Northway inquired.

"Quite well. I have seen her often of late--from a distance. To
prove I am not mistaken, look at this portrait and tell me if you
recognize the person?"

He took from an inner pocket a mutilated photograph; originally of
cabinet size, it was cut down to an oval, so that only the head
remained. The portrait had been taken in London between Lilian's
return from Paris and her arrival at Polterham. Glazzard was one of
the few favoured people who received a copy.

Northway examined it and drew in his cheeks, breathing hard.

"There's no mistake, I think?"

The reply was a gruff negative.

"I suppose you do care about discovering her?"

The answer was delayed. Glazzard read it, however, m the man's
countenance, which expressed various emotions.

"She has married again--eh?"

"First, let me ask you another question. Have you seen her
relatives?"

"Yes, I have."

"With what result?"

"They profess to know nothing about her. Of course, I don't believe
them."

"But you may," said Glazzard, calmly. "They speak the truth, no
doubt. From them you must hope for no information. In all
likelihood, you might seek her for the rest of your life and never
come upon her track."

"Then let me know what you propose."

"I offer to tell you where she is, and how situated, and to enable
you to claim her. But you, for your part, must undertake to do this
in a certain way, which I will describe when everything is ready, a
week or so hence. As I have said, I am willing to reward you for
agreeing to act as I direct. My reasons you shall understand when I
go into the other details. You will see that I have no kind of
selfish object in view--in fact, that I am quite justified in what
looks like vulgar plotting."

Glazzard threw out the words with a careless condescension, keeping
his eyes on the landscape.

"I'll take back the portrait, if you please."

He restored it to his pocket, and watched Northway's features, which
were expressive of mental debate.

"At present," he went on, "I can do no more than give you an idea of
what has been going on. Your wife has not been rash enough to marry
a second time; but she is supposed to be married to a man of wealth
and position--is living publicly as his wife. They have deceived
every one who knows them."

"Except you, it seems," remarked Northway, with a gleam from between
his eyelids.

"Except me--but that doesn't concern you. Now, you see that your
wife has done nothing illegal; you can doubtless divorce her, but
have no other legal remedy. I mention this because it might occur to
you that--you will excuse me--that the situation is a profitable
one. It is nothing of the kind. On the threat of exposure they would
simply leave England at once. Nothing could induce them to part--
be quite sure of that. The man, as I said, has a high position, and
you might be tempted to suppose that--to speak coarsely--he
would pay blackmail. Don't think it for a moment. He is far too wise
to persevere in what would be a lost game; they would at once go
abroad. It is only on the stage that men consent to pay for the
keeping of a secret which is quite certain not to be kept."

Northway had followed with eager attention, pinching his long throat
and drawing in his cheeks.

"Well, what do you want me to do?" he asked.

"To remain hero in Bristol for a week or so longer. I will then
telegraph to you, and tell you where to meet me."

"Is it far from here?"

"A couple of hours' journey, or so. If you will allow me, I will pay
your fare at once."

He took out a sovereign, which Northway, after a moment's
hesitation, accepted.

"Do you take any interest in the elections?" Glazzard asked.

"Not much," replied the other, reassuming his intellectual air. "One
party is as worthless as the other from my point of view."

"I'm glad to hear that--you'll understand why when we meet again.
And, indeed, I quite agree with you."

"Politics are no use nowadays," pursued Northway. "The questions of
the time are social. We want a party that is neither Liberal nor
Tory."

"Exactly.--Well, now, may I depend upon you?"

"I'll come when you send for me."

"Very well. I have your address."

He stood up, hesitated a moment, and offered his hand, which
Northway took without raising his eyes.

"I shall walk on into Clifton; so here we say good-bye for the
present.--A week or ten days."

"I suppose you won't alter your mind, Mr.--Mr. Marks?"

"Not the least fear of that. I have a public duty to discharge."

So speaking, and with a peculiar smile on his lips, Glazzard walked
away. Northway watched him and seemed tempted to follow, but at
length went down the hill.





CHAPTER XVIII




Disappointed in his matrimonial project, the Rev. Scatchard Vialls
devoted himself with acrid zeal to the interests of the Conservative
party. He was not the most influential of the Polterham clerics, for
women in general rather feared than liked him; a sincere ascetic, he
moved but awkwardly in the regions of tea and tattle, and had an
uncivil habit of speaking what he thought the truth without regard
to time, place, or person. Some of his sermons had given offence,
with the result that several ladies betook themselves to gentler
preachers. But the awe inspired by his religious enthusiasm was
practically useful now that he stood forward as an assailant of the
political principles held in dislike by most Polterham church-goers.
There was a little band of district-visitors who stood by him the
more resolutely for the coldness with which worldly women regarded
him; and these persons, with their opportunities of making interest
in poor households, constituted a party agency not to be despised.
They worked among high and low with an unscrupulous energy to which
it is not easy to do justice. Wheedling or menacing--doing
everything indeed but argue--they blended the cause of Mr.
Welwyn-Baker and that of the Christian religion so inextricably that
the wives of humble electors came to regard the Tory candidate as
Christ's vicegerent upon earth, and were convinced that their
husbands' salvation depended upon a Tory vote.

One Sunday, Mr. Vialls took for his text, "But rather seek ye the
kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." He
began by pointing out how very improper it would be for a clergyman
to make the pulpit an ally of the hustings; far indeed be it from
him to discourse in that place of party questions--to speak one
word which should have for its motive the advancements of any
electioneering cause. But in these times of social discontent and
upheaval it must not be forgotten that eternal verities were at
stake. There were men--there were multitudes, alas! who made it
the object of their life-long endeavour to oust Christianity from
the world; if not avowedly, at all events in fact. Therefore would
he describe to them in brief, clear sentences what really was
implied in a struggle between the parties commonly known as
Conservative and Liberal. He judged no individual; he spoke only of
principles, of a spirit, an attitude. The designs of Russia, the
troubles in Ireland--of these things he knew little and recked
less; they were "party shibboleths," and did not concern a Christian
minister in his pulpit. But deeper lay the interests for which
parties nowadays were in truth contending. It had come to this: are
we to believe, or are we _not_ to believe that the "kingdom of God"
must have precedence of worldly goods? The working classes of this
country--ah, how sad to have to speak with condemnation of the
poor!--were being led to think that the only object worth striving
after was an improvement of their material condition. Marvellous to
say, they were encouraged in this view by people whom Providence had
blessed with all the satisfactions that earth can give. When the
wealthy, the educated thus repudiated the words of Christ, what
could be expected of those whom supreme Goodness has destined to a
subordinate lot? No! material improvement was _not_ the first thing,
even for those unhappy people (victims for the most part of their
own improvident or vicious habits) who had scarcely bread to eat and
raiment wherewith to clothe themselves. Let them seek the kingdom of
God, and these paltry, temporal things shall surely be added unto
them.

This sermon was printed at the office of the _Polterham Mercury_,
and distributed freely throughout the town. He had desired no such
thing, said Mr. Vialls, but the pressure of friends was
irresistible. In private, meanwhile, he spoke fiercely against the
Radical candidate, and never with such acrimony as in Mrs. Mumbray's
drawing-room when Serena was present. One afternoon he stood up,
tea-cup in hand, and, as his habit was, delivered a set harangue on
the burning topic.

"In one respect," he urged, after many other accusations, "I
consider that Mr. Quarrier is setting the very worst, the most
debasing, the most demoralizing example to these working folk, whose
best interests he professes to have at heart. I am assured (and the
witness of my own eyes in one instance warrants me in giving credit
to the charge) that he constantly enters public-houses, taverns,
even low dram-shops, to satisfy his thirst for strong liquor in the
very face of day, before the eyes of any one who may happen to be
passing. This is simply abominable If an honourable man has one duty
--one social duty--more incumbent upon him than another, it is to
refrain from setting an example of intemperance."

Serena had listened thus far with a look of growing irritation. At
length she could resist no longer the impulse to speak out.

"But surely, Mr. Vialls, you don't charge Mr. Quarrier with
intemperance?"

"I do, Miss Mumbray," replied the clergyman, sternly. "Intemperance
does not necessarily imply drunkenness. It is intemperate to enter
public-houses at all hours and in all places, even if the liquor
partaken of has no obvious effect upon the gait or speech of the
drinker. I maintain"----

"Mr. Quarrier does not go about as you would have us believe."

"Serena!" interfered her mother. "Do you contradict Mr. Vialls?"

"Yes, mother, I do, and every one ought to who _knows_ that he is
exaggerating. I have heard this calumny before, and I have been told
how it has arisen. Mr. Quarrier takes a glass of beer when he is
having a long country walk; and why he shouldn't quench his thirst
I'm sure I can't understand."

"Miss Mumbray," said the clergyman, glaring at her, yet affecting
forbearance, "you seem to forget that our cottagers are not so
inhospitable as to refuse a glass of water to the weary pedestrian
who knocks at their door."

"I don't forget it, Mr. Vialls," replied Serena, who was trembling
at her own boldness, but found a pleasure in persevering. "And I
know very well what sort of water one generally gets at cottages
about here. I remember the family at Rickstead that died one after
another of their temperance beverage."

"Forgive me! That is not at all to the point. Granting that the
quality of the water is suspicious, are there not pleasant little
shops where lemonade can be obtained? But no; it is _not_ merely to
quench a natural thirst that Mr. Quarrier has recourse to those
pestilent vendors of poison; the drinking of strong liquor has
become a tyrant-habit with him."

"I deny it, Mr. Vialls!" exclaimed the girl, almost angrily. (Mrs.
Mumbray in vain tried to interpose, and the other ladies present
were partly shocked, partly amused, into silence.) "If so, then my
father is a victim to the habit of drink--and so is Mr.
Welwyn-Baker himself!"

This was laying a hand upon the Ark. Mrs. Mumbray gave a little
scream, and several "Oh's!" were heard. Mr. Vialls shook his head
and smiled with grim sadness.

"My dear young lady, I fear we shall not understand each other. I am
far from being one of those who deny to ladies the logical faculty,
but"----

"But you feel that I am right, and that party prejudice has carried
you too far!" interrupted Serena, rising from her chair. "I had
better go away, or I shall say disagreeable things about the
Conservatives. I am not one of them, and I should like that to be
understood."

She walked quietly from the room, and there ensued an awkward
silence.

"Poor Serena!" breathed Mrs. Mumbray, with a deep sigh. "She has
fallen under the influence of Mrs. Quarrier--a most dangerous
person. How such things come to pass I cannot understand."

Mrs. Tenterden's deep voice chimed in:

"We must certainly guard our young people against Mrs. Quarrier.
From the look of her, no one could have guessed what she would turn
out. The idea of so young a woman going to people's houses and
talking polities!"

"Oh, I think nothing of that!" remarked a lady who particularly
wished to remind the company that she was still youthful. "I canvass
myself; it's quite the proper thing for ladies to do. But I'm told
she has rather an impertinent way of speaking to every one who
doesn't fall down and worship her husband."

"Mrs. Lester," broke in the grave voice of the clergyman, "I trust
you will pardon me, but you have inadvertently made use of a phrase
which is, or should be, consecrated by a religious significance."

The lady apologized rather curtly, and Mr. Vialls made a stiff bow.

At this same moment the subject of their conversation was returning
home from a bold expedition into the camp of the enemy. Encouraged
by the personal friendliness that had been shown her in the family
of Mr. Samuel Quarrier, Lilian conceived and nourished the hope that
it was within her power to convert the sturdy old Tory himself.
Samuel made a joke of this, and entertained himself with a pretence
of lending ear to her arguments. This afternoon he had allowed her
to talk to him for a long time. Lilian's sweetness was irresistible,
and she came back in high spirits with report of progress. Denzil,
who had just been badgered by a deputation of voters who wished to
discover his mind on seven points of strictly non-practical
politics, listened with idle amusement.

"Dear girl," he said presently, "the old fellow is fooling you t You
can no more convert him than you could the Dalai-Lama to
Christianity."

"But he speaks quite seriously, Denzil! He owns that he doesn't like
Beaconsfield, and"----

"Don't waste your time and your patience. It's folly, I assure you.
When you are gone he explodes with laughter."

Lilian gazed at him for a moment with wide eyes, then burst into
tears.

"Good heavens! what is the matter with you, Lily?" cried Denzil,
jumping up. "Come, come, this kind of thing won't do! You are
overtaxing yourself. You are getting morbidly excited."

It was true enough, and Lilian was herself conscious of it, but she
obeyed an impulse from which there seemed no way of escape. Her
conscience and her fears would not leave her at peace; every now and
then she found herself starting at unusual sounds, trembling in
mental agitation if any one approached her with an unwonted look,
dreading the arrival of the post, the sight of a newspaper, faces in
the street. Then she hastened to the excitement of canvassing, as
another might have turned to more vulgar stimulants. Certainly her
health had suffered. She could not engage in quiet study, still less
could rest her mind in solitary musing, as in the old days.

Denzil seated himself by her on the sofa.

"If you are to suffer in this way, little girl, I shall repent
sorely that ever I went in for politics."

"How absurd of me! I can't think why I behave so ridiculously!"

But still she sobbed, resting her head against him.

"I have an idea," he said at length, rendered clairvoyant by his
affection, "that after next week you will feel much easier in your
mind."

"After next week?"

"Yes; when Glazzard is married and gone away."

She would not confess that he was right, but her denials
strengthened his surmise.

"I can perfectly understand it, Lily. It certainly was unfortunate;
and if it had been any one but Glazzard, I might myself have been
wishing the man away. But you know as well as I do that Glazzard
would not breathe a syllable."

"Not even to his wife?" she whispered.

"Not even to her! I assure you"--he smiled--"men have no
difficulty in keeping important secrets, Samson notwithstanding.
Glazzard would think himself for ever dishonoured. But in a week's
time they will be gone; and I shouldn't wonder if they remain abroad
for years. So brighten up, dearest dear, and leave Sam alone; he's a
cynical old fellow, past hope of mending his ways. See more of
Molly; she does you good. And, by-the-bye, it's time you called on
the Catesbys. They will always be very glad to see you."

This family of Catesby was one of the few really distinguished in
the neighbourhood. Colonel Catesby, a long-retired warrior, did not
mingle much with local society, but with his wife and daughter he
had appeared at Denzil's first political dinner; they all "took to"
their hostess, and had since manifested this liking in sundry
pleasant ways.

Indeed, Lilian was become a social success--that is to say, with
people who were at all capable of appreciating her. Herein, as in
other things, she had agreeably surprised Denzil. He had resigned
himself to seeing her remain a loving, intelligent, but very
unambitious woman; of a sudden she proved equal to all the social
claims connected with his candidature--unless the efforts, greater
than appeared, were undermining her health. Having learned to trust
herself in conversation, she talked with a delightful blending of
seriousness and gentle merriment. Her culture declared itself in
every thought; there was much within the ordinary knowledge of
people trained to the world that she did not know, but the
simplicity resulting from this could never be confused with want of
education or of tact. When the Catesbys made it evident that they
approved her, Quarrier rejoiced exceedingly; he was flattered in his
deepest sensibilities, and felt that henceforth nothing essential
would be wanting to his happiness--whether Polterham returned him
or not.

That he would be returned, he had no doubt. The campaign proceeded
gloriously. Whilst Mr. Gladstone flowed on for ever in Midlothian
rhetoric, Denzil lost no opportunity of following his leader, and
was often astonished at the ease with which he harangued as long as
Polterham patience would endure him. To get up and make a two hours'
speech no longer cost him the least effort; he played with the stock
subjects of eloquence, sported among original jokes and catch-words,
burned through perorations with the joy of an improvisatore in
happiest mood. The _Examiner_ could not report him for lack of
space; the _Mercury_ complained of a headache caused by this
"blatant youthfulness striving to emulate garrulous senility"--a
phrase which moved Denzil to outrageous laughter. And on the whole
he kept well within such limits of opinion as Polterham approved.
Now and then Mr. Chown felt moved by the spirit to interrogate him
as to the "scope and bearing and significance" of an over-bold
expression, but the Radical section was too delighted with a
prospect of victory to indulge in "heckling," and the milder
Progressives considered their candidate as a man of whom Polterham
might be proud, a man pretty sure to "make his mark" at Westminster.

In the hostile ranks there was a good deal of loud talk and frequent
cheering, but the speeches were in general made by lieutenants, and
the shouts seemed intended to make up for the defective eloquence of
their chief. Mr. Welwyn-Baker was too old and too stout and too
shaky for the toil of personal electioneering. He gave a few dinners
at his big house three miles away, and he addressed (laconically)
one or two select meetings; for the rest, his name and fame had to
suffice. There was no convincing him that his seat could possibly be
in danger. He smiled urbanely over the reports of Quarrier's
speeches, called his adversary "a sharp lad," and continued through
all the excitement of the borough to conduct himself with this
amiable fatuity.

"I vow and protest," said Mr. Mumbray, in a confidential ear, "that
if it weren't for the look of the thing, I would withhold my vote
altogether! W.-B. is m his dotage. And to think that we might have
put new life into the party! Bah!"

Conservative canvassers did not fall to make use of thee fact that
Mr. Welwyn-Baker had always been regardful of the poor. His
alms-houses were so pleasantly situated and so tastefully designed
that many Polterham people wished they were for lease on ordinary
terms. The Infirmary was indebted to his annual beneficence, and the
Union had to thank him--especially through this past winter--for
a lightening of its burden. Aware of these things, Lilian never felt
able to speak harshly against the old Tory. In theory she
acknowledged that the relief of a few families could not weigh
against principles which enslaved a whole population (thus Quarrier
put it), but her heart pleaded for the man who allayed suffering at
his gates; and could Mr. Chown have heard the admissions she made to
Welwyn-Baker's advocates, he would have charged her with criminal
weakness, if not with secret treachery. She herself had as yet been
able to do very little for the poor of the town; with the clergy she
had no intimate relations (church-going was for her and Denzil only
a politic conformity); and Polterham was not large enough to call
for the organization of special efforts. But her face invited the
necessitous; in the by-ways she had been appealed to for charity,
with results which became known among people inclined to beg. So it
happened that she was one day led on a benevolent mission into the
poorest part of the town, and had an opportunity of indulging her
helpful instincts.

This was in the afternoon. Between nine and ten that evening, as
Denzil and she sat together in the library (for once they were alone
and at peace), a servant informed her that Mrs. Wade wished to speak
for a moment on urgent business. She went out and found her friend
in the drawing-room.

"Can you give me a few minutes?"

"As long as ever you like! No one is here, for a wonder. Do you wish
to talk privately, or will you come into the study? We were sitting
there."

"It's only politics."

"Oh, then come."

Quarrier would rather have been left in quiet over the proof-sheets
of his book--it was already going through the press--but he
welcomed the visitor with customary friendliness.

"Capital speech of Hartington's yesterday."

"Very good answer to Cross. What do you think of John Bright and the
licensed victuallers?"

"Oh," laughed Denzil, "he'll have to talk a good deal before he
persuades them that temperance is money in their pockets! I don't
see the good of that well-intentioned sophistry. But then, you know,
I belong to the habitual drunkards! You have heard that Scatchard
Vialls so represents me to all and sundry?"

"I should proceed against him for slander."

"On the contrary, I think it does me good. All the honest topers
will rally to me, and the sober Liberals will smile indulgently. Sir
Wilfred Lawson would long ago have been stamped out as a bore of the
first magnitude but for his saving humour."

Mrs. Wade presently made known her business; but with a preface
which disturbed the nerves of both her listeners.

"The enemy have a graver charge against you. I happened, an hour
ago, to catch a most alarming rumour. Mr. Quarrier, your wife will
be your ruin!"

Notwithstanding the tone of burlesque, Lilian turned pale, and
Quarrier stood frowning. Mrs. Wade examined them both, her bright
eyes glancing quickly from one face to the other and back again. She
did not continue, until Quarrier exclaimed impatiently:

"What is it now?"

"Nothing less than an accusation of bribery and corruption."

Relief was audible in Denzil's laugh.

"It's reported," Mrs. Wade went on, "that Mrs. Quarrier has been
distributing money--money in handfuls, through half-a-dozen
streets down by the river."

"You don't really mean"----began Lilian, who could not even yet
quite command her voice.

"It's positively going about! I thought it my duty to come and tell
you at once. What is the foundation?"

"I warned you, Lily," said Denzil, good-humouredly. "The fact is,
Mrs. Wade, she gave half-a-crown to some old woman in Water Lane
this afternoon. It was imprudent, of course. Who told you about it?"

"Mr. Rook, the stationer. It was talked of up and down High Street,
he assures me. We may laugh, but this kind of misrepresentation goes
a long way."

"Let the blackguards make the most of it!" cried Quarrier. "I have
as good things in store for them. One of Jobson's workmen told me
this morning that he and his fellows were being distinctly
intimidated; Jobson has told them several times that if the Radicals
won, work would be scarce, and that the voters would have only
themselves to thank for it. And Thomas Barker has been promising
lowered rents at Lady-day."

"But who _could_ have told such falsehoods about me?" asked Lilian.

"Some old woman who didn't get the half-crown, no doubt," replied
Mrs. Wade.

"Those poor creatures I went to see have no vote."

"Oh, but handfuls of money, you know! It's the impression made on
the neighbourhood. Seriously, they are driven to desperate
resources; and I believe there _is_ a good deal of intimidation
going on--especially on the part of district-visitors. Mrs.
Alexander told me of several instances. And the wives (of course)
are such wretched cowards! That great big carpenter, East, is under
his wife's thumb, and she has been imploring him not to vote Liberal
for fear of consequences--she sits weeping, and talking about the
workhouse. Contemptible idiot! It would gratify me extremely to see
her really going to the workhouse."

"And pray," asked Denzil, with a laugh, "what would be the result of
giving the franchise to such women?"

"The result _might_ be that, in time to come, there wouldn't be so
many of them."

"In time to come--possibly. In the meanwhile, send their girls to
school to learn a wholesome contempt for their mothers."

"Oh, Denzil!"

"Well, it sounds brutal, but it's very good sense. All progress
involves disagreeable necessities."

Mrs. Wade was looking about the room, smiling, absent. She rose
abruptly.

"I mustn't spoil your one quiet evening. How do the proofs go on?"

"Would you care to take a batch of them?" asked Quarrier. "These are
revises--you might be able to make a useful suggestion."

She hesitated, but at length held out her band.

"You have rather a long walk," said Lilian. "I hope it's fine."

"No; it drizzles."

"Oh, how kind of you to take so much trouble on our account!"

Mrs. Wade went out into the darkness. It was as disagreeable a night
as the time of year could produce; black overhead, slimy under foot,
with a cold wind to dash the colder rain in one's face. The walk
home took more than half an hour, and she entered her cottage much
fatigued. Without speaking to the girl who admitted her, she went
upstairs to take off her out-of-door things; on coming down to the
sitting-room, she found her lamp lit, her fire burning, and supper
on the table--a glass of milk and some slices of bread and butter.
Her friends would have felt astonishment and compassion had they
learned how plain and slight was the fare that supported her; only
by reducing her household expenditure to the strict minimum could
she afford to dress in the manner of a lady, supply herself with a
few papers and books, and keep up the appearances without which it
is difficult to enjoy any society at all.

To-night she ate and drank with a bitter sense of her poverty and
loneliness. Before her mind's eye was the picture of Denzil
Quarrier's study--its luxury, brightness, wealth of volumes; and
Denzil's face made an inseparable part of the scene. That face had
never ceased to occupy her imagination since the evening of his
lecture at the Institute. Its haunting power was always greatest
when she sat here alone in the stillness. This little room, in which
she had known the pleasures of independence and retirement, seemed
now but a prison. It was a mean dwelling, fit only for labouring
folk; the red blind irritated her sight, and she had to turn away
from it.

What a hope had come to her of a sudden last autumn! How recklessly
she had indulged it, and how the disappointment rankled!

A disappointment which she could not accept with the resignation due
to fate. At first she had done so; but then a singular surmise crept
into her thoughts--a suspicion which came she knew not whence--
and thereafter was no rest from fantastic suggestions. Her surmise
did not remain baseless; evidence of undeniable strength came to its
support, yet all was so vague--so unserviceable.

She opened the printed sheets that Quarrier had given her and for a
few minutes read with interest. Then her eyes and thoughts wandered.

Her servant knocked and entered, asking if she should remove the
supper-tray. In looking up at the girl, Mrs. Wade noticed red eyes
and other traces of weeping.

"What is the matter?" she asked, sharply. "Have you any news?"

The girl answered with a faltering negative. She, too, had her
unhappy story. A Polterham mechanic who made love to her lost his
employment, went to London with hopes and promises, and now for more
than half a year had given no sign of his existence. Mrs. Wade had
been wont to speak sympathetically on the subject, but to-night it
excited her anger.

"Don't be such a simpleton, Annie! If only you knew anything of
life, you would be glad of what has happened. You are free again,
and freedom is the one thing in the world worth having. To sit and
cry because--I'm ashamed of you!"

Surprise and misery caused the tears to break forth again.

"Go to bed, and go to sleep!" said the mistress, harshly. "If ever
you _are_ married, you'll remember what I said, and look back to the
time when you knew nothing worse than silly girlish troubles. Have
you no pride? It's girls like you that make men think so lightly of
all women--despise us--say we are unfit for anything but cooking
and cradle-rocking! If you go on in this way you must leave me; I
won't have a silly, moping creature before my eyes, to make me lose
all patience!"

The girl took up the tray and hurried off. Her mistress sat till
late in. the night, now reading a page of the proofs, now brooding
with dark countenance.





CHAPTER XIX




The polling would take place on the last day of March. On the day
previous to that of nomination Glazzard and Serena Mumbray were to
be married. Naturally, not at Mr. Vialls' church; they made choice
of St. Luke's, which was blessed with a mild, intellectual
incumbent. Mrs. Mumbray, consistently obstinate on this one point,
refused to be present at the ceremony.

"There will be no need of me," she said to Serena. "Since you choose
to be married as if you were ashamed of it, your father's presence
will be quite enough. I have always looked forward to very different
things; but when were _my_ wishes and hopes consulted? I am not
angry with you; we shall part on perfectly good terms, and I shall
wish you every happiness. I hope to hear from you occasionally. But
I cannot be a witness of what I so strongly disapprove."

William Glazzard--who saw nothing amiss in his brother's choice of
a wife, and was greatly relieved by the thought of Serena's property
--would readily have gone to the church, but it was decided, in
deference to the bride's wish, that Ivy should come in his stead.

Ivy had felt herself neglected lately. Since the announcement that
her uncle Eustace was to marry Serena, she had seen very little of
the friend with whom alone she could enjoy intimate converse. But on
the eve of the wedding-day they spent an hour or two together in
Serena's room. Both were in a quiet mood, thoughtful rather than
talkative.

"This day week," said Serena, breaking a long silence, "I shall be
somewhere in Sicily--perhaps looking at Mount Etna. The change
comes none to soon. I was getting into a thoroughly bad state of
mind. Before long you would have refused to associate with me."

"I think not, dear."

"If not, then I should have done you harm--and that would be a
burden on my conscience. I had begun to feel a pleasure in saying
and doing things that I believed to be wrong. You never had that
feeling?"

Ivy looked up with wonder in her gentle, dreamy eyes.

"It must be very strange."

"I have thought about it, and I believe it comes from ignorance. You
know, perhaps what I said and did wasn't really wrong, after all--
if one only understood."

The listener was puzzled.

"But we won't talk about it. Before long I shall understand so many
things, and then you shall have the benefit of my experience. I
believe I am going to be very happy."

It was said as if on a sudden impulse, with a tremulous movement of
the body.

"I hope and believe so, dear," replied the other, warmly.

"And you--I don't like to think of you being so much alone.
There's a piece of advice I should like to give you. Try and make
friends with Mrs. Quarrier."

"Mrs. Quarrier?"

"Yes--I have a good reason--I think she would suit you exactly.
I had a long talk with her about a fortnight ago, and she seemed to
me very nice--nicer than any one I have ever known, except you."

"Perhaps I shall have an opportunity"----

"Make one. Go and see her, and ask her to come and see you."

They fell again into musing, and the rest of their talk was mainly
about the arrangements for the morrow.

About the time that Ivy Glazzard was going home, her uncle left
Polterham by train. He travelled some thirty miles, and alighted at
a large station, which, even thus late, was full of noise and
bustle. After drinking a cup of coffee in the refreshment-room, he
crossed to another platform, and then paced up and down for a
quarter of an hour, until the ringing of a bell gave notice that a
train which he awaited was just arriving. It steamed into the
station, and Glazzard's eye, searching among the passengers who got
out, quickly recognized a tall, thin figure.

"So, here you are," he said, holding his hand to Northway, who
smiled doubtfully, and peered at him with sleepy eyes. "I have a
room at the station hotel--come along."

They were presently at their ease in a sitting-room, with a hot
supper on the table. Northway ate heartily; his entertainer with
less gusto, though he looked in excellent spirits, and talked much
of the impending elections. The meal dismissed, Glazzard lit a cigar
(Northway did not smoke) and broached the topic of their meeting.

"Now, what I am going to propose to you may seem disagreeable. I
take it for granted that we deal honourably--for my own purpose is
nothing to be ashamed of; and if, after hearing what I ask, you
don't care to undertake it, say so at once, and there's no harm
done."

"Well, let me know what it is?" replied the other, plucking at his
throat.

"Plainly then, I am engaged in election work. My motives are
political."

"Oh!"

"The man of whom we spoke the other day is standing as candidate for
a borough not very far from here--not _this_ town. Not long ago I
discovered that secret of his private life. I am going to use it
against him--to floor him with this disgrace. You understand?"

"Which side is he?"

"Liberal. But to a man of your large views, that of course makes no
difference."

"Not a bit!" Northway replied, obviously flattered. "You are a
Conservative, then?"

"Yes; I am Conservative. I think (as I am sure _you_ do) that
Liberalism is a mere name, used for the most part by men who want to
make tools of the people."

"Yes, I agree with that," said Northway, putting his head aside and
drawing in his cheeks.

Glazzard repressed a smile, and smoked for a moment.

"What I want you to do," he continued, "is this. To-morrow, by an
early train, you will go down to this borough I speak of. You will
find your way to the Court-house, and will get leave to make an
appeal for the magistrate's advice. When you come forward, you will
say that your wife has deserted you--that a friend of yours has
seen her in that town, and has discovered that she has committed
bigamy--that you wish for the magistrate's help--his advice how
to take proceedings. And, finally, you will state in a particularly
clear voice that your wife is Mrs. So-and-so, illegally married to
Mr. So-and-so, Liberal candidate."

He spoke in hurrying accents, and as he ceased the cigar fell from
his fingers.

"But I thought you said that they weren't married at all?"

"They are not. But you mustn't know it. Your friend--who informed
you (say it was a man casually in the town, a commercial traveller,
who knew your wife formerly by sight)--took it for granted they
were married. If you knew she had not broken the law, you would have
no excuse for going into Court, you see."

Northway pondered the matter, clicking with his tongue.

"You remember, I hope," pursued Glazzard, "all I told you at Clifton
about the position of these people?"

"Yes, I remember. How long have they been together?"

"About two years."

"Has she a child?"

"No. Now, are you disposed to serve me? If you consent, you will
gain the knowledge of your wife's whereabouts and the reward I
promised--which I shall pay now. If you take the money and then
spoil my scheme, you will find it has been useless dishonesty.
To-morrow, in any case, the facts will be made public."

Northway glanced at him ill-humouredly.

"You needn't be so anxious about my honesty, Mr. Marks. But I should
like to be made a little surer that you have been telling me the
truth. How do I know that my wife is really living as you say? It
seems to me I ought to have a sight of her before I go talking to
magistrates."

Glazzard reflected.

"Nobody," pursued the other, "would make such a charge just on
hearsay evidence. It would only be common sense for me to see her
first."

"That objection is reasonable. If you knew how well-assured I am of
this lady's identity, you would understand why your view of the
matter never occurred to me. You must say that you _have_ seen her,
that's all--seen her coming out of her house."

But Northway was still unsatisfied. He desired to know how it was
that a public man had succeeded in deceiving all his friends in such
an affair as that of his marriage, and put various other questions,
which reminded Glazzard how raw a hand he was at elaborate artifice.
Whilst the discussion was going on, Northway took from his pocket an
envelope, and from the envelope drew a small photograph.

"You showed me one the other day," he said. "Now, do you recognize
that?"

"Undoubtedly. That is Miss Lilian Allen--four years ago, I dare
say."

"H'm! not a bad guess. It's four years old, as near as can be. I see
you know all about her, though how you found out I can't understand,
unless she"----

He paused, peering at Glazzard suspiciously.

"It doesn't matter how I learnt what I know," said the latter, in a
peremptory tone. "Let us stick to the point. It's lucky you have
brought this carte-de-visite; it will enable you to assure yourself,
before going to the Court-house, that you are not being fooled. As
soon as you land in the town, ask your way to the shop of a
bookseller called Ridge (make a note of the name)--tell Mr. Ridge
that you have found a pocket-book with that photograph in it, and
ask him if he can help you to identify the person. You'll hear his
answer. And in this way, by-the-bye, you could dispense with telling
the magistrate that you have seen your wife. Produce the portrait in
Court, and declare that it has been recognized by people in the
town."

Northway appeared content.

"Well, that sounds better. And what am I to do after speaking to the
magistrate?"

"I should advise you to have an interview with the man himself, the
Liberal candidate, and ask him how it happens that your wife is
living with him. In that way--when he learns what step you have
already taken--you will no doubt get hold of the truth. And then,"
he smiled, "you can spend the rest of the day in contradicting your
statement that Mrs. So-and-so has committed bigamy; making it known
that she is merely a counterfeit wife."

"Making known to whom?"

Glazzard laughed.

"Why, to the hundreds of people who will crowd about you. My dear
sir, you will be the most important person in the town! You will
turn an electicn--overthrow the hopes of a party! Don't you want
to know the taste of _power_? Won't it amuse you to think, and to
remember, that in the elections of 1880 you exercised an influence
beyond that of Gladstone or Beaconsfield? It's the wish for power
that excites all this uproar throughout the country. I myself, now
--do you think I am a political agent just for the money it brings
me? No, no; but because I have delight in ruling men! If I am not
mistaken, you have it in you to become a leader in your way, and
some day you'll remember my words."

Northway opened his eyes very wide, and with a look of
gratification.

"You think I'm cut out for that kind of thing?"

"Judging from what I have heard of your talk. But not in England,
you understand. Try one of the new countries, where the popular
cause goes ahead more boldly. You're young enough yet."

The listener mused, smiling in a self-conscious way that obliged
Glazzard to avert his face for a moment lest he should betray
contemptuous amusement.

"Shall you be there--in that town--to-morrow?" asked the young
man.

"No, I have business in quite another part. That election," he
added, with an air of importance, "is not the only one I am looking
after."

There was silence, then Glazzard continued:

"It's indifferent to me whether it comes out that I planned this
stratagem, or not. Still, in the interests of my party, I admit that
I had rather it were kept quiet. So I'll tell you what. If, in a
month's time, I find that you have kept the secret, you shall
receive at any address you like a second five-pound note. It's just
as you please. Of course, if you think you can get more by
bargaining with the Liberals--but I doubt whether the secret will
be worth anything after the explosion."

"All right. I'll give you an address, so that if you keep in the
same mind"----

He mentioned it. And Glazzard made a note.

"Then we strike a bargain, Mr. Northway?"

"Yes, I'll go through with it," was the deliberate reply.

"Very well. Then you shall have the particulars."

Thereupon Glazzard made known the names he had kept in reserve.
Northway jotted them down on the back of an envelope, his hand
rather unsteady.

"There's a train to Polterham," said Glazzard, "at nine o'clock in
the morning. You'll be there by ten--see Ridge the bookseller, and
be at the Court-house in convenient time. I know there's a sitting
to-morrow; and on the second day after comes out the Polterham Tory
paper. You will prepare them such an item of news in their police
reports as they little look for. By that time the whole truth will
be known, of course, and Mr. Quarrier's candidature will be
impossible."

"What will the Liberals do?"

"I can't imagine. We shall look OR and enjoy the situation--
unprecedented, I should think."

Northway again smiled; he seemed to enter into the jest.

"You sleep here," said Glazzard. "Your expenses are paid. I'll take
leave of you now, and I sha'n't see you again, as I have to leave by
the 3.40 up-train."

The money he had promised was transferred to Northway's pocket, and
they shook hands with much friendliness.

Glazzard quitted the hotel. His train back to Polterham left at
1.14, and it was past midnight.

He went into the station, now quiet and deserted. A footstep
occasionally echoed under the vault, or a voice sounded from a
distance. The gas was lowered; out at either end gleamed the
coloured signal-lights, and above them a few faint stars.

It was bitterly cold. Glazzard began to walk up and down, his eyes
straying vaguely. He felt a miserable sinking of the heart, a
weariness as if after great exertion.

An engine came rolling slowly along one of the lines; it stopped
just beyond the station, and then backed into a siding. There
followed the thud of carriage against carriage: a train was being
made up, he went to watch the operation. The clang of metal, the
hiss of steam, the moving about of men with lanterns held his
attention for some time, and so completely that he forgot all else.

Somewhere far away sounded a long-drawn whistle, now faint, now
clearer, a modulated wail broken at moments by a tremolo on one high
note. It was like a voice lamenting to the dead of night. Glazzard
could not endure it; he turned back into the station and tramped
noisily on the stone platform.

Then the air was disturbed by the dull roar of an approaching train,
and presently a long string of loaded waggons passed without pause.
The engine-fire glowed upon heavy puffs of smoke, making them a rich
crimson. A freight of iron bars clanged and clashed intolerably.
When remoteness at length stilled them, there rose again the long
wailing whistle; it was answered by another like it from still
greater distance.

Glazzard could stand and walk no longer. He threw himself on a seat,
crossed his arms, and remained motionless until the ringing of a
bell and a sudden turning on of lights warned him that his train
drew near.

On the way to Polterham he dozed, and only a fortunate awaking at
the last moment saved him from passing his station. It was now close
upon two o'clock, and he had a two-mile walk to Highmead. His
brother believed that he was spending the evening with an
acquaintance in a neighbouring town; he had said he should probably
be very late, and a side door was to be left unbarred that he might
admit himself with a latch-key.

But for a policeman here and there, the streets were desolate.
Wherever the lamplight fell upon a wall or hoarding, it illumined
election placards, with the names of the candidates in staring
letters, and all the familiar vulgarities of party advertising.
"Welwyn-Baker and the Honour of Old England!"--"Vote for Quarrier,
the Friend of the Working Man!"--"No Jingoism!" "The Constitution
in Danger! Polterham to the Rescue!" These trumpetings to the battle
restored Glazzard's self-satisfaction; he smiled once more, and
walked on with lighter step.

Just outside the town, in a dark narrow road, he was startled by the
sudden rising of a man's figure. A voice exclaimed, in thick,
ebrious tones: "Who are you for? What's you're colour?"

"Who are _you_ for?" called out Glazzard, in return, as he walked
past.

The politician--who had seemingly been asleep in the ditch--
raised himself to his full height and waved his arms about.

"I'm a Radical!--Quarrier for ever!--Come on, one and all of you
--I'm ready: fist or argument, it's all one to me!--You and your
Welwyn-Baker--gurr! What's _he_ ever done for the people?--
that's what _I_ want to know!--Ya-oo-oo-oo! Quarrier for ever!--
Down with the aristocrats as wants to make war at the expense of the
working man! What's England coming to?--tell me that! You've no
principles, you haven't, you Tory skunks; you've not half a
principle among you.--I'm a man of principle, I am, and I vote for
national morality, I do!--You're running away, are you?--
Ya-oo-oo!--stop and fight it out, if you're a man!--Down with
'em, boys! Down with 'em!--Quarrier for ever!"

The shouts of hiccoughy enthusiasm came suddenly to an end, and
Glazzard, looking back, saw that, in an attempt to run, the orator
had measured his length in the mud.

By three o'clock he was seated in his bedroom, very tired but not
much disposed to turn into bed. He had put a match to the fire, for
his feet were numbed with cold, in spite of a long walk.
Travelling-bags and trunks in readiness for removal told of his
journey on the morrow. All his arrangements were made; the marriage
ceremony was to take place at ten o'clock, and shortly after eleven
he and his wife would leave for London on their way to the
Continent.

Too soon, of course, to hear the result of Northway's visit to the
Court-house. There would be the pleasure of imagining all that he
left behind him, and in a day or two the papers would bring news. He
had always sympathized with Guy Fawkes and his fellow-conspirators:
how delightful to have fired the train, and then, at a safe
distance, have awaited the stupendous explosion.

Poor little Lilian! That was the only troublesome thought. Yet was
he in truth harming her? Quarrier would take her abroad, and, in a
life of retirement, she would have far more happiness than was
possible to her under the present circumstances. Northway would sue
for a divorce, and thus leave her free to enter upon legitimate
marriage. Perhaps he was doing her the greatest kindness in his
power.

When his feet were thoroughly warm he went to bed, and slept well
until the servant call him at half-past seven. It was a very bright
morning; he drew up the blind and let a flood of sunshine into the
room. Contrary to his expectations, no despondency weighed upon him;
by breakfast time he was more than usually cheerful.

"Ivy," he said to his niece, "I have promised to call at the
Quarriers' on our way. We had better start at a quarter to nine;
that will give us five minutes with them."

Of his brother he took leave with much cordiality. William would
probably not be much longer at Highmead, and might perhaps join his
relatives abroad before the end of the year. In that case, Ivy would
accompany him; and she thought with timid pleasure of thus renewing
her friendship with Serena under brighter skies.

Two vehicles came up to the door--in one the luggage was
despatched to the station; the other carried the bridegroom and his
niece into Polterham.

Quarrier awaited them on his threshold, watch in hand, for he had no
time to lose on the eve of nomination day.

"Come in!" he cried, joyously. "Such weather as this is a good omen.
How do you do, Miss Glazzard? Here is Lilian all excitement to see
you; she would give her little finger to go to the wedding."

They entered the house.

"Decidedly," said Denzil, turning to Lilian, "his appearance is a
compliment to Miss Mumbray. When did you see him looking so well and
animated?"

Lilian coloured, and tried to speak in the same tone, but it was
with difficulty that she used her voice at all. Glazzard's departure
from Polterham promised her such relief of mind that she could not
face him without a sense of shame.

"Telegraph the result, if it is favourable," said Glazzard. "You
shall have an address in time for that."

"If it is favourable? Why, my dear fellow, we shall poll two to one,
at the lowest computation! I've half lost my pleasure in the fight;
I feel ashamed to hit out with all my strength when I make a speech
--it's like pounding an invalid!"

"Then I congratulate you in advance, Mrs. Quarrier. If we are long
away from England, the chances arc I shall have to make my next call
upon you in Downing Street!"

"Some day, old boy--some day!" assented Denzil, with a superb
smile.

There followed much handshaking, and the visitors returned to their
carriage. As it moved away, Glazzard put his head out of the window,
waved his hand, and cried merrily:

"Quarrier for ever!"





CHAPTER XX




In the interviews with Mr. Marks, Arthur Northway did not show at
his best. Whoever that scheming personage might be, his knowledge
and his air of condescension oppressed the needy young man, made him
conscious of a hang-dog look, and a helpless promptitude to sell
himself for a few coins. It was not thus that Northway, even after
his unpleasant experiences, viewed himself in relation to the world.
He had decidedly more intellect than is often found in commercial
clerks--the class to which he belonged by birth and breeding--
and in spite of checks he believed himself destined to no common
career. Long musing had taught him the rashness of his youthful
endeavours to live largely; he was now aware that his talents must
ally themselves with patience, with a careful scrutiny of
possibilities.

Lying awake in the night, he thought with anything but satisfaction
of the bargain to which he had pledged himself. To discover the
woman who was by law his wife would undoubtedly be a good beginning
now that he had every disposition to fix himself in a steady course,
but he saw no advantage whatever in coming before a bench of
magistrates and re-opening the story of his past. It would be
pleasant to deal a blow at this man Quarrier; but, if Marks had told
him the truth, Quarrier was in any case doomed to exposure. Was it
not possible to act at once with prudence and with self-respect, to
gain some solid benefit without practice of rascality? It involved
breaking his word, but was he bound to keep faith with a man who
proceeded on the assumption that he was ready for any base dealing?
The money in his pocket he might find an opportunity of paying back.
In this matter before him, he was undeniably an injured man. Lilian
was treating him very badly indeed, very unfairly. If she chose to
repudiate her marriage with him, it was her duty to afford him the
chance of freeing himself from the legal bond. What moralist could
defend her behaviour?

He worked himself into a mood of righteous indignation, of
self-pity. No; the very least Lilian should have done, in uniting
herself to another man, moreover a wealthy man, was to make some
provision for her forsaken husband. That little income of hers
should have been transferred to him. Her action was unexpected; he
had thought her too timid, too religious, too soft-hearted, for
anything of this kind. Since the disastrous wedding-day, she had, it
was true, declined to hold communication with him; but he always
looked forward to a meeting when he regained his freedom, and had
faith in his personal influence. It was not solely for the sake of
her money that he wooed and won her; other connections
notwithstanding, he felt something like genuine tenderness for
Lilian, and even now this sentiment was not extinct.

The morning only confirmed his reluctance to follow Mr. Marks's
directions. Practically, he lost nothing by taking his own course
but a five-pound note. Let the electioneering agent attack Quarrier
by some other means. For a few hours, at all events, the secret
would remain unpublished, and in that interval the way might be
opened for an honest and promising career.

He breakfasted substantially, and left by the train appointed.
Arrived at Polterham, after a walk up and down the nearest streets
and an inspection of the party placards, he asked his way to the
shop of Mr. Ridge, bookseller. At once he was directed thither.

"So far so good," he said to himself. "It seems pretty certain that
Marks has not misled me. Shall I go into this shop, and play the
trick that was recommended? I think it is hardly worth while. Better
to inquire for Quarrier's house, and have a look at it."

He did so, and--it may be mentioned--on his way passed the doors
of the church in which at that moment Glazzard was being married. At
about half-past ten he was in sight of the high wall surrounding
Quarrier's garden; he approached the gate, and cautiously took a
view of what was within, then walked to a little distance.

His wife had not done badly for a little country girl. Whilst _he_
prowled about the streets with his burden of disgrace, his blank
future, Lilian sat at her ease in a mansion--doubtless had her
carriages, perhaps her livened servants--associated with important
people. After all, there was something to be said for that appeal to
the magistrate, with its consequence of scandal, ruin, to these
people who thought themselves so secure from him. He recovered his
mood of last night.

"Boy!"--an errand-lad was just passing--"whereabouts is the
Court-house?"

He was bidden take a turning within sight and go straight on for
about half a mile.

"And I will, too!" he said in his mind. "She shall suffer for it!"

He turned away and walked for some twenty yards. Then once more the
doubt occurred to him. He had better go to the bookseller's and make
sure of Mrs. Quarrier's identity. Turning to take the opposite
direction, he saw some one coming forth from the gates by which he
had just stood--a lady--and it might be----?

Agitation shook him from head to foot. Was not that Lilian's figure,
her walk? She was moving away from him; he must have a glimpse of
her face. Drawing carefully nearer, on the side opposite to hers--
carefully--fearfully--he at length saw her features, then fell
back. Yes, it was Lilian. Much disguised in that handsome
walking-costume, but beyond doubt Lilian. Still, as of old, she
walked with bowed head, modestly. Who could imagine what she
concealed?

His face was moist with perspiration. Following, he could not take
his eyes off her. That lady was his wife. He had but to claim her,
and all her sham dignity fell to nothing. But he could not command
her obedience. He had no more power over her will than any stranger.
She might bid him do his worst--and so vanish with her chosen
companion utterly beyond his reach.

Again he thought of the Court-house. For it was too certain that the
sight of him would inspire her only with horror. Should he not hold
her up to infamy? If _he_ did not, another would; Marks was plainly
to be trusted; this day was the last of Mrs. Quarrier's grandeur.

And to remember that was to pause. Could he afford to throw away a
great opportunity for the sake of malicious satisfaction?

She walked on, and he followed, keeping thirty or forty paces behind
her. He saw at length that she was not going into the town. The fine
morning had perhaps invited her to a country walk. So much the
better; he would wait till they were in a part where observation was
less to be feared; then he would speak to her.

Lilian never looked back. It was indeed the bright sunshine that had
suggested a walk out to Pear-tree Cottage, where before noon she
would probably find Mrs. Wade among her books. She felt light of
heart. Within this hour Glazzard would be gone from Polterham. Four
days hence, Denzil would be a Member of Parliament. Had she no claim
to happiness--she whose girlhood had suffered such monstrous
wrong? Another reason there was for the impulse of joy that
possessed her--a hope once already disappointed--a voice of
nature bidding her regard this marriage as true and eternal, let the
world say what it would.

She was within sight of the cottage, when Mrs. Wade herself
appeared, coming towards her. Lilian waved her hand, quickened her
step. They met.

"I was going for a walk in the fields," said Mrs. Wade. "Shall we"
----

Lilian had turned round, and at this moment her eyes fell upon
Northway, who was quite near. A stifled cry escaped her, and she
grasped at her friend's arm.

"What is it, dear?"

Mrs. Wade looked at her with alarm, imagining an attack of illness.
But the next instant she was aware of the stranger, who stood in
obvious embarrassment. She examined him keenly, then again turned
her eyes upon Lilian.

"Is this some one you know?" she asked, in a low voice.

Lilian could not reply, and reply was needless. Northway, who had
kept postponing the moment of address, now lost himself between
conflicting motives. Seeing Lilian's consternation and her friend's
surprise, he nervously raised his hat, drew a step or two nearer,
tried to smile.

"Mrs. Wade," Lilian uttered, with desperate effort to seem
self-possessed, "I wish to speak to this gentleman. Will you--do
you mind?"

Her face was bloodless and wrung with anguish. The widow again
looked at her, then said:

"I will go in again. If you wish to see me, I shall be there."

And at once she turned away.

Northway came forward, a strange light in his eyes.

"I'm the last person you thought of seeing, no doubt. But we must
have a talk. I'm sorry that happened before some one else."

"Come with me out of the road. There's a field-path just here."

They crossed the stile, and walked a short distance in the direction
of Bale Water. Then Lilian stopped.

"Who told you where to find me?"

Already Northway had decided upon his course of action. Whilst he
followed Lilian, watching her every movement, the old amorous
feeling had gradually taken strong hold upon him. He no longer
thought of revenge. His one desire was to claim this beautiful girl
as his wife. In doing so, it seemed to him, he took an unassailable
position, put himself altogether in the right Marks's plot did not
concern him; he threw it aside, and followed the guidance of his own
discretion.

"I have found you," he said, fingering his throat nervously, "by
mere chance. I came here in search of employment--something in a
newspaper. And I happened to see you in the streets. I asked who you
were. Then, this morning, I watched you and followed you."

"What do you want?"

"That's a strange question, I think."

"You know there can't be anything between us."

"I don't see that."

He breathed hard; his eyes never moved from her face. Lilian, nerved
by despair, spoke in almost a steady voice; but the landscape around
her was veiled in mist; she saw only the visage which her memory had
identified with repugnance and dread.

"If you want my money," she said, "you can have it--you shall have
it at once. I give you it all."

"No, I don't ask for your money," Northway answered, with
resentment. "Here's some one coming; let us walk out into the
field."

Lilian followed the direction of his look, and saw a man whom she
did not recognize. She left the path and moved whither her companion
was leading, over the stubby grass; it was wet, but for this she had
no thought.

"How long have you been living in this way?" he asked, turning to
her again.

"You have no right to question me."

"What!--no right? Then who _has_ a right I should like to know?"

He did not speak harshly; his look expressed sincere astonishment.

"I don't acknowledge," said Lilian, with quivering voice, "that that
ceremony made me your wife."

"What do you mean? It was a legal marriage. Who has said anything
against it?"

"You know very well that you did me a great wrong. The marriage was
nothing but a form of words."

"On whose part? Certainly not on mine. I meant everything I said and
promised. It's true I hadn't been living in the right way; but that
was all done with. If nothing had happened, I should have begun a
respectable life. I had made up my mind to do so. I shouldn't have
deceived you in anything."

"Whether that's true or not, I don't know. I _was_ deceived, and
cruelly. You did me an injury you could never have made good."

Northway drew in his cheeks, and stared at her persistently. He had
begun to examine the details of her costume--her pretty hat, her
gloves, the fur about her neck. In face she was not greatly changed
from what he had known, but her voice and accent were new to him--
more refined, more mature, and he could not yet overcome the sense
of strangeness. He felt as though he were behaving with audacity; it
was necessary to remind himself again and again that this was no
other than Lilian Allen--nay, Lilian Northway; whose hand he had
held, whose lips he had kissed.

A thrill went through him.

"But you are my wife!" he exclaimed, earnestly. "What right have you
to call yourself Mrs. Quarrier? Have you pretended to marry that
man?"

Lilian's eyes fell; she made no answer.

"You must tell me--or I shall have no choice but to go and ask
him. And if you have committed bigamy"----

"There has been no marriage," she hastened to say. "I have done what
I thought right."

"Right? I don't know how you can call that right. I suppose you were
persuaded into it. Does he know all the truth?"

She was racked with doubt as to what she should disclose. Her
thoughts would not be controlled, and whatever words she uttered
seemed to come from her lips of their own accord.

"What do you expect of me?" she cried, in a voice of utmost
distress. "I have been living like this for more than two years.
Right or wrong, it can't be changed--it can't be undone. You know
that. It was natural you should wish to speak to me; but why do you
pretend to think that we can be anything to each other? You have a
right to my money--it shall be yours at once."

He stamped, and his eyes shot anger.

"What do you take me for? Do you suppose I shall consent to give you
up for money? Tell me what J have asked. Does that man know your
history?"

"Of course he knows it--everything."

"And he thinks I shall never succeed in finding you out! Well, he is
mistaken, you see--things of this kind are always found out, as
you and he might have known. You can't do wrong and live all your
life as if you were innocent."

The admonition came rather inappropriately from him, but it shook
Lilian in spite of her better sense.

"It can't be changed," she exclaimed. "It can't be undone."

"That's all nonsense!"

"I will die rather than leave him!"

Hot jealousy began to rage in him. He was not a man of vehement
passions, but penal servitude had wrought the natural effect upon
his appetites. The egotism of a conceited disposition tended to the
same result. He swore within himself a fierce oath that, come what
might, this woman should be his. She contrasted him with her wealthy
lover, despised him; but right and authority were on his side.

"Leave him you must--and shall so there's plain speaking! You will
never go into that house again."

Lilian turned as if to flee from him. No one was within sight; and
how could she have appealed to any one for help? In the distance she
saw the roof of Mrs. Wade's cottage; it allayed her despair for the
moment. There, at all events, was a friend who would intervene for
her, a strong and noble-minded woman, capable of offering the best
counsel, of acting with decision. Vain now to think of hiding her
secret from that friend--and who could he more safely trusted with
it?

But she still had the resource of entreaty.

"You talk of right and wrong--is it right to be merciless? What
can I ever be to you? Would you take me away by force, and compel me
to live with you? I have told yen I would die rather. When you think
of everything, have you no pity for me? Whatever you intended,
wasn't our marriage a terrible injustice to me? Oughtn't you to give
a thought to that?"

"You are living an immoral life," replied Northway, with tremulous
emphasis. "I could hold you. up to shame. No, I don't ask you to
come and live with me at once; I don't expect that. But you must
leave that man, and live a respectable life, and--then in time I
shall forgive you, instead of disgracing you in the divorce court. I
ask only what is right. You used to be religious"----

"Oh, how can you talk to me like that! If you really think me wicked
and disgraced, leave me to my own conscience! Have _you_ no sins
that ask for forgiveness?"

"It isn't for you to speak of them," he retorted, with imbecile
circling. "All I know is that you are my wife by law, and it is my
duty to save you from this position. I sha'n't let you go back. If
you resist my authority, I shall explain everything to any one who
asks, that's all.--Who was that lady you were talking to?"

"She lives in the little house over there. I must go and speak to
her."

"Does she know?"

"No."

"What have you to say to her, then?"

They looked into each other's eyes for a moment. Northway was
gauging the strength of her character, and he half believed that by
an exertion of all his energy he might overcome her, lead her away
at once. He remembered that before the close of this day Quarrier's
secret would be universally known, and when that had come to pass,
he would have no hold upon either the man or the woman. They would
simply turn their backs upon him, and go beyond his reach.

He laid his hand upon her, and the touch, the look in his eyes,
drove Lilian to the last refuge.

"You must go with me, then, to Mr. Quarrier," she said, firmly. "You
have no power to stop me. I shall go home, and you must follow me,
if you choose."

"No, you will go with _me_! Do you hear? I command you to come with
me!"

It was his best imitation of resistless authority, and he saw, even
in speaking, that he had miscalculated. Lilian drew back a step and
looked at him with defiance.

"Command me, you cannot. I am as free from your control as any
stranger."

"Try, and see. If you attempt to go back into the town, I shall hold
you by force, and the consequences will be worse to you than to me.
Do as you please."

Again her eyes turned to the distant roof of Peartree Cottage. She,
too, had estimated her strength and his She knew by instinct what
his face meant--the swollen, trembling lips, the hot eyes; and
understood that he was capable of any baseness. To attempt to reach
her home would he an abandonment of all hope, the ruin of Denzil. A
means of escape from worst extremity, undiscoverable by her whirling
brain, might suggest itself to such a mind as Mrs. Wade's. If only
she could communicate with the cottage!

"Then I shall go to my friend here," she said, pointing.

He hesitated.

"Who is she?"

"A lady who lives quite alone."

"What's the good of your going there?"

She had recourse to artifice, and acted weakness much better than he
had simulated strength.

"I _must_ have some one's advice! I must know how others regard your
claim."

He saw no possibility of restraining her, and it might befall that
this lady, intentionally or not, would use her influence on his
side. Those last words signified a doubt in Lilian's mind. Was it
not pretty certain that any respectable woman, on learning how
matters stood, must exclaim against that pretended marriage?
Northway's experience lay solely among the representatives of
English morality, and the frankly vicious; he could hardly imagine a
"lady" whose view of the point at issue would admit pleas on
Lilian's behalf.

"If you go there," he said, "I must be with you."

Lilian made no answer, but moved away. They passed into the road,
tinned towards the cottage. On reaching the gate, Lilian saw Mrs.
Wade standing just before her.

"I must speak to you" she said, holding out her hands impulsively.

Mrs. Wade looked from her to the man in the background, who again
had awkwardly raised his hat--a cheap but new cylinder, which,
together with his slop-made coat and trousers, classed him among
uncertain specimens of humanity.

"Will you let him come in?" Lilian whispered, a sob at length
breaking her voice.

The widow was perfectly self-possessed. Her eyes gleamed very
brightly and glanced hither and thither with the keenest scrutiny.
She held Lilian's hand, answering in a low voice:

"Trust me, dear! I'm so glad you have come. What is his name?"

"Mr. Northway."

Mrs. Wade addressed him, and invited him to enter; but Northway,
having ascertained that there was no escape from the cottage which
he could not watch, drew back.

"Thank you," he said; "I had rather wait out here. If that lady
wants me, I shall be within reach."

Mrs. Wade nodded, and drew her friend in. Lilian of a sudden lost
her physical strength; she had to be supported, almost carried, into
the sitting-room. The words of kindness with which Mrs. Wade sought
to recover her had a natural enough effect; they invited an
hysterical outbreak, and for several minutes the sufferer wailed
helplessly. In the meantime she was disembarrassed of her out-door
clothing. A stimulant at length so far restored her that she could
speak connectedly.

"I don't know what you will think of me.--I am obliged to tell you
something I hoped never to speak of. Denzil ought to know first what
has happened; but I can't go to him.--I must tell you, and trust
your friendship. Perhaps you can help me; you will--I know you
will if you can."

"Anything in my power," replied the listener, soothingly. "Whatever
you tell me is perfectly safe. I think you know me well enough,
Lily."

Then Lilian began, and told her story from first to last.





CHAPTER XXI




Told it rapidly, now and then confusedly, but with omission of
nothing essential. So often she had reviewed her life, at successive
stages of culture and self-knowledge. Every step had been debated in
heart and conscience. She had so much to say, yet might not linger
in the narration, and feared to seem eager ill the excuse of what
she had done. To speak of these things to one of her own sex was in
itself a great relief, yet from time to time the recollection that
she was betraying Denzil's Secret struck her with cold terror. Was
not this necessity a result of her weakness? A stronger woman would
perhaps have faced the situation in some other way.

Mrs. Wade listened intently, and the story seemed to move her in no
slight degree. Lilian, anxiously watching her face, found it
difficult to interpret the look of suppressed excitement. Censure
she could not read there; pain, if ever visible, merely flitted over
brow and lips; at moments she half believed that her hearer was
exulting in this defiance of accepted morality--what else could be
the significance of that flash in the eyes; that quiver of the
nostrils--all but a triumphant smile? They sat close to each
other, Lilian in the low basket-chair, the widow on a higher seat,
and when the story came to an end, their hands met.

"How can I save Denzil?" was Lilian's last word. "Anything--any
sacrifice I If this becomes known, his whole life is ruined!"

Mrs. Wade pressed the soft, cold fingers, and kept a thoughtful
silence.

"It's a strange coincidence," she said at length, "very strange that
this should happen on the eve of the election."

"The secret _must_ be kept until"----

Lilian's voice failed. She looked anxiously at her friend, and
added:

"What would be the result if it were known afterwards-when Denzil is
elected?"

"It's hard to say. But tell me, Lily: is there _no_ one who has been
admitted to your confidence?"

What purpose would be served by keeping back the name? Lilian's eyes
fell as she answered.

"Mr. Glazzard knows."

"Mr. Eustace Glazzard?"

Lilian explained how and when it had become necessary to make him a
sharer in the secret.

"Do you believe," Mrs. Wade asked, "that Northway really discovered
you by chance?"

"I don't know. He says so. I can only feel absolutely sure that Mr.
Glazzard has nothing to do with it."

Mrs. Wade mused doubtfully.

"Absolutely sure?"

"Oh, how is it possible? If you knew him as well as we do!--
Impossible!--He came to see us this very morning, on his way to be
married, and laughed and talked!"

"You are right, no doubt," returned the other, with quiet
reassurance. "If it wasn't chance, some obscure agency has been at
work. You must remember, Lily, that only by a miracle could you have
lived on in security."

"I have sometimes felt that," whispered the sufferer, her head
falling.

"And it almost seems," went on Mrs. Wade, "as if Northway really had
no intention of using his power to extort money. To be Sure, your
own income is not to be despised by a man in his position; but most
rascals would have gone to Mr. Quarrier.--He is still in love with
you, I suppose."

The last words were murmured in a tone which caused the hearer to
look up uneasily. Mrs. Wade at once averted her face, which was
curiously hard and expressionless.

"What do you think?" she said a moment after. "Would it be any use
if I had a talk with him?"

"Will you?" asked Lilian, eagerly. "You may perhaps influence him.
You can speak so well--so persuasively. I don't think he is
utterly depraved. As you say, he would have gone first to Denzil.
Perhaps he can be moved to have pity on me."

"Perhaps--but I have more faith in an appeal to his interests."

"It would be dreadful if Denzil had to live henceforth at his
mercy."

"It would. But it's a matter of--of life and death."

Mrs. Wade's voice sank on those words, shaking just a little. She
put her face nearer to Lilian's, but without looking at her.

"Suppose no argument will prevail with him, dear?" she continued in
that low, tremulous tone. "Suppose he persists in claiming you?"

The voice had a strange effect upon Lilian's nerves. She shook with
agitation, and drew away a little.

"He cannot! He has no power to take me! At the worst, we can only be
driven back into solitude."

"True, dear; but it would not be the same kind of solitude as
before. Think of the huge scandal, the utter ruin of brilliant
prospects."

Lilian lay back and moaned in anguish. Her eyes were closed, and in
that moment Mrs. Wade gazed at her for a moment only; then the widow
rose from her chair, and spoke in a voice of encouragement.

"I will see him, Lily. You remain here; I'll call him into the
dining-room."

She stepped to the window, and saw that Northway was standing only
at a little distance. After meditating for a minute or two, she left
the room very quietly, crossed the passage, and entered the room
opposite, where she generally took her meals. Here again she went to
the window, and again had a good view of the man on guard. A smile
rose to her face.

Then she went out and signalled to Northway, who approached in an
embarrassed way, doing his best to hold his head up and look
dignified. Mrs. Wade regarded him with contemptuous amusement, but
was careful to show nothing of this; her face and tone as she
greeted him expressed more than civility--all but deference.

"Will you do me the kindness to enter for a few minutes, Mr.
Northway?"

He doffed his hat, smiled sourly, and followed her into the little
dining-room. But as she was closing the door, he interfered.

"Excuse me--I don't want that lady to go away until I have seen
her again."

Mrs. Wade none the less closed the door, holding herself with
imperturbable politeness.

"She is resting in the next room. I give you my word, Mr. Northway,
that you will find her there when our conversation is over."

He looked about him with sullen uneasiness, but could not resist
this lady's manner.

"Pray sit down. Quite a spring day, isn't it?"

Her tone was melancholy, tempered with the consideration of a
hostess. Northway seated himself much as if he were in church. He
tried to examine Mrs. Wade's face, but could not meet her look. She,
in the meantime, had got the young man's visage by heart, had
studied the meaning of every lineament--narrow eyes, sunken
cheeks, forehead indicative of conceited intelligence, lips as
clearly expressive of another characteristic. Here, at all events,
was a creature she could manage--an instrument--though to what
purpose she was not yet perfectly clear.

"Mr. Northway, I have been listening to a sad, sad story."

"Yes, it is sad," he muttered, feeling his inferiority to this
soft-spoken woman, and moving his legs awkwardly.

"I must mention to you that my name is Mrs. Wade. I have known
Lilian since she came to live at Polterham--only since then.
That's a very short time ago, but we have seen a good deal of each
other, and have become intimate friends. I need not tell you that I
never had the faintest suspicion of what I have just learnt."

This was said certainly not in a voice of indignation but with a
sadness which implied anything but approval. Northway, after trying
to hold his hat in a becoming way, placed it on the floor, clicking
with his tongue the while and betraying much nervousness.

"You are of course aware," pursued the lady, "that Mr. Denzil
Quarrier is Liberal candidate for this borough?"

"Yes, I know."

"Until to-day, he had every prospect of being elected. It is a
shocking thing--I hardly know how to express myself about it."

"If this gets known," said Northway, "I suppose he has no chance?"

"How would it be possible to vote for a man who has outraged the law
on which all social life is based? He would retire immediately--no
doubt."

Regarding this event as certain in any case, the listener merely
nodded.

"That, I dare say, doesn't interest you?"

"I take no part in politics."

"And it is quite a matter of indifference to you whether Mr.
Quarrier's career is ruined or not?"

"I don't see why I should think much about a man who has injured me
as he has."

"No," conceded Mrs. Wade, sadly. "I understand that you have nothing
whatever in view but recovering your wife?"

"That's all I want."

"And yet, Mr. Northway, I'm sure you see how very difficult it will
be for you to gain this end."

She leaned towards him sympathetically. Northway shuffled, sucked in
his cheeks, and spoke in as civil a tone as he could command.

"There are difficulties, I know. I don't ask her to come at once and
live with me. I couldn't expect that. But I am determined she
sha'n't go back to Mr. Quarrier. I have a right to forbid it."

"Indeed--abstractly speaking--I think you have," murmured Mrs.
Wade, with a glance towards the door. "But I grieve to tell you that
there seems to me no possibility of preventing her return."

"I shall have to use what means I can. You say Mr. Quarrier wouldn't
care to have this made public just now."

He knew (or imagined) that the threat was idle, but it seemed to him
that Mrs. Wade, already favourably disposed, might be induced to
counsel Lilian for the avoidance of a scandal at this moment.

"Mr. Northway," replied the widow, "I almost think that he would
care less for such a disclosure _before_ this election than _after_
it."

He met her eyes, and tried to understand her. But whatever she
meant, it could be of no importance to him. Quarrier was doomed by
the Tory agent; on this knowledge he congratulated himself, in spite
of the fact that another state of things would have been more to his
interest.

"I have really nothing to do with that," he replied. "My wife is
living a life of wickedness--and she shall be saved from it at
once."

Mrs. Wade had much difficulty in keeping her countenance. She looked
down, and drew a deep sigh.

"That is only too true. But I fear--indeed I fear--that you
won't succeed in parting them. There is a reason--I cannot mention
it."

Northway was puzzled for a moment, then his face darkened; he seemed
to understand.

"I do so wish," pursued Mrs. Wade, with a smile of sympathy, "that I
could be of some use in this sad affair. My advice--I am afraid
you will be very unwilling to listen to it."

She paused, looking at him wistfully.

"What would it be?" he asked.

"I feel so strongly--just as you do--that it is dreadful to have
to countenance such a state of things; but I am convinced that it
would be very, very _unwise_ if you went _at once_ to extremities,
Mr. Northway. I am a woman of the world; I have seen a good deal of
life; if you allowed yourself to be guided by me, you would not
regret it."

"You want to save your friends from the results of their behaviour,"
he replied, uneasily.

"I assure you, it's not so much that--no, I have _your_ interests
in view quite as much as theirs. Now, seeing that Lilian cannot
possibly take her place as your wife in fact, and that it is
practically impossible to part her from Mr. Quarrier, wouldn't it be
well to ask yourself what is the most prudent course that
circumstances allow?"

"If it comes to that, I can always get a divorce."

Mrs. Wade reflected, but with no sign of satisfaction.

"Yes, that is open to you. You would then, of course, be enabled to
marry again.--May I ask if you are quite at ease with regard to
your prospects in life?"

The tone was so delicately impertinent that Northway missed its
significance.

"I haven't quite decided upon anything yet."

"Judging from your conversation, I should say that you will yet find
a place among active and successful men. But the beginning is
everything. If I could be of any assistance to you--I would put it
to you frankly, Mr. Northway: is it worth while sacrificing very
solid possibilities to your--your affection for a woman who has
deserted you?"

He shuffled on the chair, clicked with his tongue, and looked about
him undecidedly.

"I am Dot to be bribed to act against my conscience," he said at
length.

Mrs. Wade heard this with pleasure. The blunt, half-blustering
declaration assured her that Northway's "conscience" was on the
point of surrender.

"Now, let me tell you what I should like to do," she continued,
bending towards him. "Will you allow me to go at once and see Mr.
Quarrier?"

"And tell him?"

"Yes, let him know what has happened. I quite understand," she
added, caressingly, "how very painful it would be for you to go
directly to him. Will you allow me to be your intermediary? That you
and he must meet is quite certain; may I smooth away the worst
difficulties? I could explain to him your character, your natural
delicacy, your conscientiousness. I could make him understand that
he has to meet a person quite on his own level--an educated man of
honourable feeling. After that, an interview between you would be
comparatively easy. I should be really grateful to you if you would
allow me to do you this service."

Northway was like clay in her hands. Every word had precisely the
effect on which she calculated. His forehead unwrinkled itself, his
lips hung loose like the mouth of a dog that is fondled, he tried
not to smile. Though he thought himself as far as ever from
renouncing Lilian, he began to like the idea of facing Quarrier--
of exhibiting his natural delicacy, conscientiousness, and so on.
Something was in the background, but of that he took no deliberate
account.

A few minutes more, and Mrs. Wade had him entirely at her disposal.
It was arranged that, whilst she went into the town to discover
Quarrier, Northway should remain on guard, either in or about the
cottage. Luncheon would be provided for him. He promised not to
molest Lilian, on condition that she made no attempt to escape.

"She will stay where she is," Mrs. Wade assured him. "Your natural
delicacy will, I am sure, prevent you from seeking to hold
conversation with her. She is very weak, poor thing! I do hope no
serious illness will follow on .this shock."

Thereupon she returned to the sitting-room, where Lilian stood in an
anguish of impatience.

"I think I shall manage it, dear," she whispered, in a tone of
affectionate encouragement. "He has consented to see Mr. Quarrier,
provided I go first and break the news."

"You, Mrs. Wade? You are going to see Denzil?"

"Dearest girl, leave it all in my hands. You cannot think what
difficulties I have overcome. If I am allowed to act freely, I shall
save you and him."

She explained the articles of truce, Lilian listening with
distressful hope.

"And I don't think he will interfere with you meanwhile. But you can
keep the door locked, you know. Annie shall bring you something to
eat; I will tell her to give him _his_ luncheon first, and then to
come very quietly with yours. It is half-past twelve. I can hardly
be back in less than an hour and a half. No doubt, Mr. Quarrier will
come with me."

"How good you are, dear Mrs. Wade! Oh, if you can save him!"

"Trust me, and try to sit quietly. Now, I will be off at once."

She pressed the hand that was held to her, nodded, and left the
room.





CHAPTER XXII




It was striking one when Mrs. Wade came in sight of the Quarriers'
house. At this hour Quarrier was expected at home for luncheon. He
arrived whilst the visitor still waited for an answer to her ring at
the door.

"But haven't you seen Lily? She told me"----

"Yes, I have seen her. She is at the cottage."

A peculiarity in her tone arrested his attention, and the look of
joyous excitement which had been fixed upon his face these last few
days changed to anxious inquiry.

"What's the matter?"

"She is quite well--don't imagine accidents. But I must speak to
you in private."

The door had opened. Denzil led straightway to the library, where he
flung aside hat and overcoat.

"What is it, Mrs. Wade?"

She stood close before him, her eyes on his. The rapid walk had
brought colour to her cheek, and perhaps to the same cause was
attributable her quickened breathing.

"Lily has been discovered by an enemy of hers and yours. A man named
Northway."

"Damnation!"

He felt far too strongly to moderate his utterance out of regard for
the listener. His features were distorted; he stared wrathfully.

"And you have left her with him? Where is she?"

"She is quite safe in my sitting-room--the key turned to protect
her. He, too, is in the house, in another room. I have gained time;
I"----

He could not listen.

"How did it happen?--You had no right to leave her alone with him!
--How has he found her?"

"Please don't eat me up, Mr. Quarrier I have been doing my very best
for you."

And she told him the story of the morning as briefly as possible.
Her endeavour to keep a tone of perfect equanimity failed in the
course of the narrative; once or twice there was a catching in her
breath, and, as if annoyed with herself, she made an impatient
gesture.

"And this fellow," cried Quarrier, when she ceased, imagines that I
am at his mercy! Let him do what he likes--let him go into the
market-place and shout his news!--We'll go back at once."

"You are prepared, then, to have this known all over Polterham?"
Mrs. Wade asked, looking steadily at him.

"I don't care a jot! Let the election go to the devil! Do you think
I will submit Lily to a day of such torture? This very evening we go
to London. How does she bear it?"

"Very well indeed."

"Like a brave, good girl! Do you think I would weigh the chance of
election against her misery?"

"It seems to me," was the cold answer, "that you have done so
already."

"Has she complained to you?"

"Oh, no! But I understand now what always puzzled me. I understand
her"----

She checked herself, and turned quietly from him. Strategy must
always be liable to slips from one cause or another, and Mrs. Wade's
prudence had, for the moment, yielded to her impulses.

"You think she has all along been unhappy?"

"No, nothing of the kind. But when we have been speaking of the
position of women--that kind of thing--I have noticed something
strange--an anxiety. I was only going to say that, after having
succeeded thus far, it seems a pity to lose everything when a little
prudence."

She waved her hand.

"Do you believe," Denzil asked, "that his story of finding her by
mere chance is true?"

"Lilian tells me that only your most intimate friend shared the
secret."

"Glazzard? Of course _he_ has nothing to do with it. But some one
else may have"----

He walked apart, brooding. Mrs. Wade seated herself, and became
thoughtful.

"What sort of a fellow is this?" Quarrier asked, of a sudden.

"It depends who is dealing with him," she answered, meeting his look
with eyes full of sympathetic expression. "I read him at once, and
managed him. He is too weak for serious villainy. He doesn't seem to
have thought of extorting money from you. Lilian was his only
object. He would have taken her away by force."

"Come--we mustn't lose time."

"Mr. Quarrier, do be calm, and let us talk before we go. She is
quite safe. And as for Northway, I am perfectly sure that you can
keep him silent."

"You think it possible?"

"If you will consent to follow in the path I have prepared. I have
taken no small trouble."

She looked up at him and smiled.

"You have behaved like a true friend, Mrs. Wade--it is no more
than I should have expected of you. But what have you planned? Think
how this secret has already spread--what hope is there of finally
hushing it up? Glazzard and you would never breathe a syllable; but
how, short of manslaughter, could I assure the silence of a
blackguard like this Northway? If I let him blackmail me, I am done
for: I should be like the fools in plays and novels, throwing half
my possessions away, and all in vain."

"Pray remember," urged the other, "that this Northway is by no means
the rascal of melodrama. He has just enough brains to make him
conceited, and is at the disposal of any one who plays upon his
conceit. With much trouble I induced him to regard you as a source
of profit." She broke off and seemed to falter. "I think you won't
find fault with me, Mr. Quarrier, for trying to do this?"

"You did it ill the friendliest spirit."

"And not indiscreetly, I hope." She looked at him for a moment, and
continued: "He is bribable, but you must go to work carefully. For
instance, I think if you offered to give him a good start in a
commercial career--by your personal recommendation, I mean--that
would have more effect than an offer of money. And then, again, in
this way you guard yourself against the perils of which you were
speaking. Place him well, so that he considers himself a
respectable, responsible man, and for his own sake he won't torment
you. Couldn't you send him to some one over in Sweden--some house
of business?"

Denzil pondered, with knitted brows.

"I have no faith in it!" he exclaimed at length, beginning to walk
about. "Come--I want to get to Lilian she must be in misery. I
will order the carriage; it will be needed to bring her back."

He rang the bell violently; a servant appeared, and hurried away to
do his bidding.

"Mrs. Wade," he said, as soon as the door had closed, "shouldn't I
do better to throw up the game? I hate these underhand affairs I
don't think I could go through with the thing--I don't, indeed!
Speak your whole mind. I am not a slave of ambition--at bottom I
care precious little for going into Parliament. I enjoyed the
excitement of it--I believe I have a knack of making speeches; but
what does it all amount to? Tell me your true thought." He drew near
to her. "Shall I throw it up and go abroad with my wife?--my
_wife_! that is her true name!"

He looked a fine fellow as he spoke this; better than he had looked
on the platform. Mrs. Wade gazed at him fixedly, as if she could not
take away her eyes. She trembled, and her forehead was wrung with
pain.

"Do this," she replied, eagerly, "if you wish to make Lilian unhappy
for the rest of her life."

"What do you mean?"

"It seems I understand her better than you do--perhaps because I
am a woman. She dreads nothing so much as the thought that _she_ has
been the ruin of your prospects. You have taught her to believe that
you are made for politics; you can never undo that. The excitement
of this election had fixed the belief in her for ever. For _her_
sake, you are bound to make every attempt to choke this scandal! Be
weak--give in--and (she is weak too) it's all over with her
happiness. Her life would be nothing but self-reproach."

"No, no, no! For a short time, perhaps, but security would be the
best thing of all for her."

"Try, then--try, and see the result!"

She spoke with suppressed passion, her voice shaking. Denzil turned
away, struggled with his thoughts, again faced her. Mrs. Wade read
his features as if her life depended on what he would resolve.
Seeing him in a misery of indecision, she repeated, at greater
length and more earnestly still, her cogent reasonings. Quarrier
argued in reply, and they were still thus engaged when it was
announced that the carriage waited.

"Let us go!" He threw his overcoat on to his shoulders.

Mrs. Wade caught his hand.

"Are you bent on doing the hopeless thing?"

"Let us talk in the carriage. I can't wait any longer."

But in the carriage both kept silence. Mrs. Wade, exhausted by
stress of emotion, by the efforts of her scheming brain, lay back as
if she had abandoned the contest; Denzil, his face working
ceaselessly, stared through the windows. When they were nearing
their destination, the widow leaned towards him.

"I have done my best for you. I have nothing so much at heart as
your welfare--and Lilian's."

He pressed her hand, too much disturbed to think of the singular way
in which she spoke. Then the vehicle stopped. Denzil assisted his
companion to alight, and, whilst she was opening the house-door,
bade the coachman go up and down till he was summoned. Then he
sprang after Mrs. Wade, learnt from her where Lilian was, and at
once tried to enter the sitting-room. The door was locked.

"Lily!" he called, in a low voice. "Open, dear! It is I!"

The key turned rapidly. He rushed in, and clasped Lilian in his
arms. She could not utter a word, but clung to him sobbing and
wailing.

"Don't!--don't, dear girlie! Try to be quiet--try to command
yourself."

"Can you do anything?" she uttered at length. "Is there any hope?"

"What do you wish, Lily, dearest? What shall I do?"

The common sense of manliness urged him to put no such questions, to
carry her away without a word, save of tender devotion, to escape
with her into quietness, and let all else go as it would. But Mrs.
Wade's warning had impressed him deeply. It went with his secret
inclination; for, at this stage of the combat, to lose all his aims
would be a bitter disappointment. Rethought of the lifelong
ostracism, and feared it in a vague way.

"Mrs. Wade thinks he can be persuaded to leave us alone," Lilian
replied, hurriedly, using simple words which made her seem
childlike, though at the same moment she was nerving herself to
heroic effort. "See him, and do what you can, Denzil. I did my
utmost, dear. Oh, this cruel chance that brought him here!"

She would have given years of her life to say "Sacrifice all, and
let us go!" He seemed even to invite her to say it, but she strove
with herself. Sacrifice of his career meant sacrifice of the whole
man. Not in _her_ eyes, oh no!--but she had studied him so well,
and knew that he could no longer be content in obscurity. She choked
her very soul's desire.

"Shall I try to buy him off, Lily?"

"Do try, darling!"

"But can you face what will come afterwards--the constant risks?"

"Anything rather than you shall be ruined!"

A syllable would have broken down her heroism. It was on his tongue.
He had but to say "Ruin!--what do I care for ruin in _that_
sense?" and she would have cried with delight. But he kept it back.

"Sit down and wait for me. I will go and see him."

One more embrace, and he left her. Mrs. Wade was talking with
Northway in the dining-room, talking hurriedly and earnestly. She
heard Quarrier's step and came to the door.

"In here?" Denzil asked.

She nodded and came out. Then the door closed behind him.

Northway stood near the window. He had eaten--luncheon was still
on the table--and had been smoking to calm his nerves, but at the
sight of Quarrier he became agitated They inspected each other.
Denzil's impulse was to annihilate his contemptible enemy with
fierceness of look and word; and in Northway jealousy fought so
strongly with prudence that a word of anger would have driven him to
revengeful determination. But a few moments of silence averted this
danger. Quarrier said to himself that there was no use in half
measures. He had promised Lilian to do his best, and his own desire
pointed to the same end. Swallowing his gall, he spoke quietly.

"Mr. Northway, we can't talk as if we were friends; but I must
remember that you have never intentionally done me any wrong--that
it is _I_ who am immediately to blame for this state of things. I
hope you will talk it over with me"----

His voice failed, but the first step had been taken. He sat down,
motioning the other to a chair.

"I can't allow my wife to live any longer in this way," began the
adversary, with blundering attempt at dignified speech.

"My wife" was like a blow to Denzil; he flushed, started, yet
controlled himself. What Mrs. Wade had told him of Northway's
characteristics came into his mind, and he saw that this address
might be mere bluster.

"It's very natural for you to speak in that way; but there is no
undoing what has happened. I must say that at once, and as firmly as
possible. We may talk of how I can compensate you for--for the
injury; but of nothing else."

He ended with much mental objurgation, which swelled his throat.

"You can't compensate a man," returned Northway, "for an injury of
this kind."

"Strictly speaking, no. But as it can't be helped--as I wronged
you without knowing you--I think I may reasonably offer to do you
whatever good turn is in my power. Please to tell me one thing. Have
you spoken to any one except Mrs. Wade of what you have discovered?"

"No--to no one."

It might be true or not. Denzil could only hope it was, and proceed
on that assumption.

"I am sure I may trust your word," he said, beginning to use
diplomacy, with the immediate result that Northway's look encouraged
him. "Now, please tell me another thing, as frankly. Can I, as a man
of some means and influence, offer you any acceptable service?"

There was silence. Northway could not shape a reply.

"You have been in commerce, I think?" proceeded the other. "Should
you care to take a place in some good house of business on the
Continent, or elsewhere abroad? I think it's in my power to open a
way for you such as you would not easily make by your own
exertions."

The listener was suffering. But for one thing, this offer would have
tempted him strongly; but that one thing made it idle for him to
think of what was proposed. To-day or to-morrow Quarrier would be
bargain made with reference to the future must collapse. exposed by
his plotting enemies, and thereupon any If he were to profit by
Quarrier at all, it must needs be in the shape of a payment which
could not be recovered.

"I don't care to go into business again," he said, with a mingling
of real annoyance and affected superiority. "I have other views."

"Can I help to advance them?" asked Denzil, sickening under the
necessity of speaking fair.

The dialogue lasted for half an hour more. Jealousy notwithstanding,
Northway had made up his mind to gain what was to be gained. Lilian
was beyond his reach; it would be foolish to go back to his poverty
and cloudy overlook when solid assistance was held out to him. With
much posturing and circumlocution, he came at length to the avowal
that a sum of ready money would not be refused.

"Are you wise in preferring this to the other kind of help?" Denzil
urged.

"I have my own views."

Quarrier ridiculed himself for what he was doing. How could he
pretend to trust such a fellow? Again, there was only the hope that
a bribe might be efficacious.

"I will give you five hundred pounds," he said, "on condition that
you leave England at once."

The bid was too low. Northway would be satisfied with twice as much,
provided it were paid forthwith. Pondering, Quarrier decided that he
was about to commit an absurdity. A thousand pounds--and how much
more in future? He looked Northway in the eyes.

"Here is my last word. I don't greatly care whether this secret
comes out or not. If I am to be at your mercy henceforth, I had
rather bid you do what you like; it really doesn't matter much to
me. I will give you five hundred pounds at once--a cheque on a
Polterham banker; moreover, if my secret is kept, I will do you the
other service I offered. But that's all I have to say. If it doesn't
suit you, you must do what you please."

His boldness was successful. Northway could gain nothing by betrayal
of the secret--which he believed to be no secret at all. With show
of indifference, he accepted what was obtainable.

"Then come and drive with me into the town," said Denzil.

Thereupon he stepped out and entered the sitting-room, where the two
women were together. They looked eager inquiry, and he smiled.

"Managed, I think. He goes with me. Lily, I'll be back for you as
soon as possible."

A moment, and they watched the carriage roll away.





CHAPTER XXIII




This evening there was a great dinner-party at Colonel Catesby's; a
political dinner. Lilian had carefully prepared for the occasion. In
Quarrier's opinion, she would far outshine her previous appearances;
she was to wear certain jewels which he had purchased on a recent
visit to town--at an outlay of which he preferred to say nothing
definite. "They are the kind of thing," he remarked, with a
significant smile, "that can be passed on to one's children."

But would it be possible for her to keep the engagement? Through the
afternoon she lay in her bedroom with drawn blinds, endeavouring to
sleep. Once or twice Denzil entered, very softly, and stood by her
for a moment; she looked at him and smiled, but did not speak. At
half-past six he brought her tea with his own hand. Declaring
herself quite recovered, she rose.

"This is no such important affair that you must go at all costs," he
said, regarding her anxiously. "Say you feel unable, and I'll send a
message at once."

Already she had assured him that it would disappoint her greatly not
to go. Lilian meant, of course, that she could not bear to
disappoint _him_, and to make confusion in their hostess's
arrangements. There was a weight upon her heart which made it a
great effort even to move, to speak; but she hoped to find strength
when the time came.

"You are quite sure that he has gone, Denzil--gone for good?"

"I am perfectly sure of it. You needn't have another moment's fear."

He tried to believe it. By this time, if he had kept his promise,
Northway was in London. But what faith was to be put in such a man's
declarations? It might be that the secret was already known to other
people; between now and polling-day there might come the crowning
catastrophe. Yet the man's interest seemed to impose silence upon
him, and for Lilian's sake it was necessary to affect absolute
confidence.

They went to the dinner, and the evening passed without accident.
Lilian was universally admired; pallor heightened her beauty, and
the assurance of outlived danger which Denzil had succeeded in
imparting gave to her conversation a life and glow that excited
interest in all who spoke with her.

"Mr. Quarrier," said the hostess, playfully, in an aside, "if you
were defeated at Polterham, I don't think you ought to care much.
You have already been elected by such a charming constituency!"

But there followed a night of sleeplessness. If exhaustion pressed
down her eyelids for a moment, some image of dread flashed upon her
brain and caused her to start up with a cry. Himself worn out and
suffering a reaction of despondency, Quarrier more than once
repented what he had done. In Lilian's state of health such a shock
as this might have results that would endanger her life. She had not
a strong constitution; he recalled the illness of a year ago, and
grew so anxious that his fits of slumber gave him no refreshment, In
the early dawn, finding that she was awake, he spoke to her of the
necessity of avoiding excitement during the next few days.

"I wish you could go away till the affair is over."

"Oh, there is no need of that! I couldn't be away from you."

"Then at all events keep quietly at home. There'll be the deuce of
an uproar everywhere to-day."

"We shall lunch at Mary's, you know. I had rather be there than
sitting alone."

"Well, Molly will be good company for yell, I dare say. But do try
not to excite yourself. Don't talk much; we'll tell them you are
very tired after last night. As soon as ever the fight is done,
we'll be off somewhere or other for a few weeks. Don't get up till
midday; anything interesting you shall know at once."

At breakfast Denzil received a note from Mrs. Wade, sent by hand.
"Do let me know how Lilian is. The messenger will wait for a reply."
He wrote an answer of warm friendliness, signing it, "Ever sincerely
yours." Mrs. Wade had impressed him with her devotion; he thought of
her with gratitude and limitless confidence.

"If it had been Molly, instead," he said to himself; "I can't be at
all sure how she would have behaved. Religion and the proprieties
might have been too much for her good nature; yes, they _would_ have
been. After all, these emancipated women are the most trustworthy,
and Mrs. Wade is the best example I have yet known."

When Mrs. Liversedge welcomed her sister-in-law at luncheon, she was
stricken with alarm.

"My dear girl, you look like a ghost! This won't do," she added, in
a whisper, presently. "You _must_ keep quiet!"

But the Liversedges' house was no place for quietness. Two or three
vigorous partisans put in an appearance at the meal, and talked with
noisy exhilaration. Tobias himself had yielded to the spirit of the
under his notice that morning. One of these concerned hour; he told
merry stories of incidents that had come a well-known publican, a
stalwart figure on the Tory side.

"I am assured that three voters have been drinking steadily for the
last week at his expense. He calculates that delirium tremens will
have set in, in each case, by the day after to-morrow."

"Who are these men?" asked Lilian, eagerly. "Why can't we save them
in time?"

"Oh, the thing is too artfully arranged. They are old topers; no
possibility of interfering."

"I can't see"----

"Lilian," interposed Mrs. Liversedge, "what was the material of that
wonderful dress Mrs. Kay wore last night?"

"I don't know, Mary; I didn't notice it.--But surely if it is
_known_ that these men are"----

It was a half-holiday for the Liversedge boys, and they were
anticipating the election with all the fervour of British youth.
That morning there had been a splendid fight at the Grammar School;
they described it with great vigour and amplitude, waxing Homeric in
their zeal. Dickinson junior had told Tom Harte that Gladstone was a
"blackguard"; whereupon Tom smote him between the eyes, so that the
vile calumniator measured his length in congenial mud. The conflict
spread. Twenty or thirty boys took coloured rosettes from their
pockets (they were just leaving school) and pinned them to their
coats, then rushed to combat with party war-cries. Fletcher senior
had behaved like a brutal coward (though alas! a Gladstonian--it
was sorrowfully admitted), actually throwing a stone at an enemy who
was engaged in single fight, with the result that he had cut open
the head of one of his own friends--a most serious wound. An
under-master (never a favourite, and now loathed by the young
Liversedges as a declared Tory) had interposed in the unfairest way
--what else could be expected of him? To all this Mrs. Liversedge
gave ear not without pride, but as soon as possible she drew Lilian
apart into a quiet room, and did her best to soothe the feverishness
which was constantly declaring itself.

About three o'clock Mrs. Wade called. She had not expected to find
Lilian here. There was a moment's embarrassment on both sides. When
they sat down to talk, the widow's eyes flitted now and then over
Lilian's face, but she addressed herself almost exclusively to Mrs.
Liversedge, and her visit lasted only a quarter of an hour. On
leaving, she went into the town to make some purchases, and near the
Liberal committee-rooms it was her fortune to meet with Quarrier.

"I have wanted to see you," he said, regarding her anxiously. "Lily
has got over it much better than I expected; but it won't do--she
can't go on in this excitement."

"I have just seen her at your sister's. She doesn't look very well"

"Could I venture to ask one more kindness of you, Mrs. Wade? May she
come to you, say the day after to-morrow, and stay over night, and
over polling-day?"

"I shall be very glad indeed," faltered the widow, with something in
her face which did not seem to be reluctance, though it was unlike
pleasure.

"Are you quite sure that it isn't asking too much of you? At my
sister's she is in a perpetual uproar; it's worse than at home. And
I don't know where else to send her--indeed I don't. But I am
getting frightened, that's the truth If she could be with you during
the polling-day"----

"How can you hesitate to ask such a simple thing?" broke in Mrs.
Wade. "Shall I ask her myself?"

"You are a good friend. Your conversation will have a soothing
effect. She likes you so much, and gives such weight to everything
you say. Try to set her mind at ease, Mrs. Wade; you can do it if
any one can."

"I will write to her, and then call to-morrow."

Again Lilian had a night without thorough rest, and for the greater
part of the next day she was obliged to keep her room. There Mrs.
Wade visited her, and they talked for a long time; it was decided
that Lilian should go to Pear-tree Cottage on the following
afternoon, and remain in seclusion until the contest was over.

She came down at five o'clock. Denzil, who had instructed the
servants that she was at home to no one, sat with her in the
library, holding her hand.

"I am quite well," Lilian declared again and again. "I feel quite
easy in mind--indeed I do. As you wish it, I will go to Mrs.
Wade's, but"----

"It will be very much better. To tell you the truth, girlie, I shall
feel so much freer--knowing you are out of the row, and in such
good care."

She looked at him.

"How wretched to be so weak, Denzil! I might have spared you more
than half what you have suffered, if I hadn't given way so."

"Nonsense! Most women would have played the coward--and _that_ you
never could! You have stood it bravely, dear. But it's your health I
fear for. Take care of it for my sake."

Most of the evening he was away, and again the whole of next
morning. But when the time came for her to leave, they were sitting
once more, as they had done so often, hand in hand, their love and
trust stronger than ever, too strong to find expression in mere
words.

"If I go into Parliament," said Denzil, "it's you I have to thank
for it. You have faced and borne everything rather than disappoint
my aims."

He raised her fingers to his lips. Then the arrival of the carriage
was announced, and when the door had closed again, they held each
other for a moment in passionate embrace.

"Good-bye for a night and a day at longest," he whispered by the
carriage door. "I shall come before midnight to-morrow."

She tried to say good-bye, but could not utter a sound. The wheels
grated, and she was driven rapidly away.





CHAPTER XXIV




Arthur James Northway reached London in a mood of imperfect
satisfaction. On the principle that half a cake was better than
nothing, he might congratulate himself that he carried in his
pocket-book banknotes to the value of five hundred pounds; but it
was a bitter necessity that had forbidden his exacting more. The
possession of a sum greater than he had ever yet owned fired his
imagination; he began to reflect that, after all, Quarrier's
defiance was most likely nothing but a ruse; that by showing himself
resolved, he might have secured at least the thousand pounds. Then
he cursed the man Marks, whose political schemes would betray the
valuable secret, and make it certain that none of that more
substantial assistance promised by Quarrier would ever be given. And
yet, it was not disagreeable to picture Quarrier's rage when he
found that the bribe had been expended to no purpose. If he had felt
animosity against the wealthy man before meeting him face to face,
he now regarded him with a fiercer malevolence. It was hard to
relinquish Lilian, and harder still to have no means of revenging
himself upon her and her pretended husband. Humiliated by
consciousness of the base part he had played, he wished it in his
power to inflict upon them some signal calamity.

On the next day, when he was newly arrayed from head to foot, and
jingled loose sovereigns in his pocket, this tumult of feelings
possessed him even more strongly. Added to his other provocations
was the uncertainty whether Marks had yet taken action. Save by
returning to Polterham, he knew not how to learn what was happening
there. To-morrow a Polterham newspaper would be published; he must
wait for that source of intelligence. Going to a news-agent's, he
discovered the name of the journal, and at once posted an order for
a copy to be sent to him.

In the meantime, he was disposed to taste some of the advantages of
opulence. His passions were awakened; he had to compensate himself
for years lost in suffering of body and mind. With exultant swagger
he walked about the London streets, often inspecting his appearance
in a glass; for awhile he could throw aside all thought of the
future, relish his freedom, take his licence in the way that most
recommended itself to him.

The hours did not lag, and on the following afternoon he received
the newspaper for which he was waiting. He tore it open, and ran his
eye over the columns, but they contained no extraordinary matter.
Nothing unexpected had befallen; there was an account of the
nomination, and plenty of rancour against the Radicals, but
assuredly, up to the hour of the _Mercury's_ going to press, no
public scandal had exploded in Polterham.

What did it mean? Was Marks delaying for some definite reason? Or
had he misrepresented his motives? Was it a private enmity he had
planned to gratify--now frustrated by the default of his
instrument?

He had given Marks an address in Bristol, that of a shop at which
letters were received. Possibly some communication awaited him
there. He hastened to Paddington and took the first westward train.

On inquiry next morning, he found he had had his journey for
nothing. As he might have anticipated, Marks was too cautious a man
to have recourse to writing.

There were still two days before the poll at Polterham. Thither he
must return, that was certain; for if the election passed without
startling events, he would again be in a position to catch Quarrier
by the throat.

To be sure, there was the promise of assistance in a commercial
career, but his indulgence of the last day or two had inclined him
to prefer sums of ready money. Once elected, Quarrier would not
submit to social disgrace for the sake of a thousand pounds--nor
for two thousand--possibly not for five. Cupidity had taken hold
upon Northway. With a few thousands in his pocket, he might aim at
something more to his taste than a life of trading. Five thousand it
should be, not a penny less! This time he was not to be fobbed off
with bluster and posturing.

He spent the day in Bristol, and at nightfall journeyed towards
Polterham.

No; even yet nothing had happened. Conversation at an inn to which
he betook himself assured him that things were going their orderly
way. Had Marks himself been _bought off_?

The next day--that before the election--he wandered about the
town and its vicinity, undetermined how to act, thinking on the
whole that he had better do nothing till after the morrow. Twice,
morning and afternoon, did he view Mrs. Wade's cottage from a
distance. Just after sunset he was once more in that neighbourhood,
and this time with a purpose.

At that hour Mrs. Wade and her guest were together in the
sitting-room. The lamp had just been lighted, the red blind drawn
down. Lilian reclined on a couch; she looked worse in health than
when she had taken leave of Denzil; her eyes told of fever, and her
limbs were relaxed. Last night she had not enjoyed an hour of sleep;
the strange room and the recollection of Northway's visit to this
house (Quarrier, in his faith that Mrs. Wade's companionship was
best for Lilian, had taken no account of the disagreeable
association) kept her nerves in torment, and with the morning she
had begun to suffer from a racking headache.

Mrs. Wade was talking, seated by the table, on which her arms
rested. She, too, had a look of nervous tension. and her voice was
slightly hoarse.

"Ambition," she said, with a slow emphasis, "is the keynote of Mr.
Quarrier's character. If you haven't understood that, you don't yet
know him--indeed you don't! A noble ambition, mind. He is above
all meanness. In wishing to take a foremost part in politics, he
cares, at heart, very little for the personal dignity it will bring
him; his desire--I am convinced--is to advance all causes that
appeal to an honest and feeling man. He has discovered that he can
do this in a way he had never before suspected--by the exercise of
a splendid gift of eloquence. What a deplorable thing if that
possibility had been frustrated!"

Lilian murmured an assent. Silence followed, and she closed her
eyes. In a minute or two Mrs. Wade turned to look; the expression
which grew upon her face as she watched furtively was one of
subtlest malice. Of scorn, too. Had _she_ been in the position of
that feeble creature, how differently would she have encountered its
perils!

"Is your head any better?" she asked, just above her breath.

"It burns!--Feel my hand, how hot it is!"

"You are feverish. We have talked too much, I fear."

"No; I like to hear you talk. And it passes the time. Oh, I hope
Denzil won't be very late!"

There sounded a knock at the front door, a heavy rap such as would
be given by some rustic hand.

"What can that be?" Lilian exclaimed, raising herself.

"Nothing, dear--nothing. Some errand boy."

The servant was heard in the passage. She brought a letter, and said
a messenger waited for the reply. Mrs. Wade looked at the address;
the hand was unknown to her.

"From Denzil?" asked Lilian.

The other made no reply. What she found in the envelope was a note
from Northway, saying he was close by and wished to see her. After a
moment's hesitation she went to the door, where a boy was standing.

"Will you tell the person who gave you this note that he may come
here?"

Then she bade her servant put a light in the dining room, and
returned to Lilian. Her look excited the sufferer's alarm,

"Has anything happened, Mrs. Wade?"

"Hush! Try to command yourself. He is here again; wishes to see me."

"He is here again?"

Lilian rose to her feet, and moaned despairingly.

"You won't let him come into this room? What does he want? He told
us he would never come again. Is he seeking more money?"

"He sha'n't come in here. I'll see him as I did before."

As she spoke, a rat-tat sounded from without, and, having advised
Lilian to lock the door, Mrs. Wade crossed to the other room.
Northway entered, grave and nervous.

"I hope you will excuse my coming again," he began, as the widow
regarded him with silent interrogation. "You spoke to me last time
in such a very kind and friendly way. Being in a difficulty, I
thought I couldn't do better than ask your advice."

"What is the difficulty, Mr. Northway?"

Her suave tone reassured him, and he seated himself. His real
purpose in coming was to discover, if possible, whether Quarrier's
position was still unassailed. He had a vague sense that this Mrs.
Wade, on whatever grounds, was sympathetically disposed to him; by
strengthening the acquaintance, he might somehow benefit himself.

"First, I should like to know if all has gone smoothly since I went
away?"

"Smoothly?--Quite, I think."

"It still seems certain that Mr. Quarrier will be elected
to-morrow?"

"Very likely indeed."

"He looked about him, and smoothed his silk hat--a very different
article from that he had formerly worn. Examining him, Mrs. Wade was
amused at the endeavour he had made to equip himself like a
gentleman."

"What else did you wish to ask me, Mr. Northway?"

"It's a point of conscience. If you remember, Mrs. Wade, it was you
who persuaded me to give up all thought of parting those persons."

"I tried to do so," she answered, with a smile. "I thought it best
for your interests as well as for theirs."

"Yes, but I fear that I had no right to do it. My conscience rebukes
me."

"Does it, really?--I can't quite see"----

She herself was so agitated that features and voice would hardly
obey her will. She strove to concentrate her attention upon
Northway's words, and divine their secret meaning. His talk
continued for awhile in the same strain, but confused, uncertain,
rambling. Mrs. Wade found it impossible to determine what he aimed
at; now and then she suspected that he had been drinking. At length
he stood up.

"You still think I am justified in--in making terms with Mr.
Quarrier?"

"What else are you inclined to do?" the widow asked, anxiously.

"I can't be sure yet what I shall eventually do. Perhaps you would
let me see you again, when the election is over?"

"If you promise me to do nothing--but keep out of sight--in the
meanwhile."

"Yes, I'll promise that," he said, with deliberation.

She was loth to dismiss him, yet saw no use in further talk. At the
door he shook hands with her, and said that he was going into the
town.

Lilian opened the door of the sitting-room.

"He has gone?"

Her companion nodded.

"Where?--What will he do?"

Mrs. Wade answered with a gesture of uncertainty, and sat down by
the table, where she propped her forehead upon her hands. Lilian was
standing, her countenance that of one distraught. Suddenly the widow
looked up and spoke in a voice hoarser than before.

"I see what he means. He enjoys keeping you both at his mercy. It's
like an animal that has tasted blood--and if his desire is balked,
he'll revenge himself in the other way."

"You think he has gone to Denzil?"

"Very likely. If not to-night, he will to-morrow. Will Mr. Quarrier
pay him again, do you think?" She put the question in a tone which
to Lilian sounded strange, all but hostile.

"I can't say," was the weary, distracted answer.

"Oh, I am sorry for you, Lilian!" pursued the other, in agitation,
though again her voice was curiously harsh. "You will reproach
yourself so if his life's purpose is frustrated! But remember, it's
not your fault. It was he who took the responsibility from the
first. It was he who chose to brave this possible danger. If the
worst comes, you must strengthen yourself."

Lilian sank upon a chair, and leaned forward with stupefied gaze at
the speaker.

"The danger is," pursued Mrs. Wade, in lower tones, "that he may be
unjust--feel unjustly--as men are wont to. You--in spite of
himself, he may feel that _you_ have been the cause of his failure.
You must be prepared for that; I tell it you in all kindness. If he
again consents to pay Northway, he will be in constant fear. The
sense of servitude will grow intolerable--embarrassing all he
tries to do--all his public and private life. In that case, too,
he _must_ sometimes think of you as in the way of his ambition. A
most difficult task is before you--a duty that will tax all your
powers. You will be equal to it, I have no doubt. Just now you see
everything darkly and hopelessly, but that's because your health has
suffered of late."

"Perhaps this very night," said Lilian, without looking at her
companion, "he will tell people."

"He is more likely to succeed in getting money, and then he will
keep the threat held over you. He seems to have come at this moment
just because he knows that your fear of him will be keenest now.
That will always he his aim--to appear with his threats just when
a disclosure would be hardest to bear. But I suppose Mr. Quarrier
will rather give up everything than submit to this. Oh, the pity!
the pity!"

Lilian let her hands fall and sat staring before her.

She felt as though cast out into a terrible solitude. Mrs. Wade's
voice came from a distance; and it was not a voice of true sympathy,
but of veiled upbraiding. Unspeakably remote was the image of the
man she loved, and he moved still away from her. A cloud of pain
fell between her and all the kindly world.

In these nights of sleepless misery she had thought of her old home.
The relatives from whom she was for ever parted--her sister, her
kind old aunt--looked at her with reproachful eyes; and now, in
anguish which bordered upon delirium, it was they alone who seemed
real to her; all her recent life had become a vague suffering, a
confused consciousness of desire and terror. Her childhood returned;
she saw her parents and heard them talk. A longing for the peace and
love of those dead days rent her heart.

She could neither speak nor move. Torture born in the brain throbbed
through every part of her body. But worse was that ghastly sense of
utter loneliness, of being forsaken by human sympathy. The cloud
about her thickened; it muffled light and sound, and began to
obscure even her memories.

For a long time Mrs. Wade had sat silent. At length she rose,
glanced at Lilian, and, without speaking left the room.

She went upstairs and into her bed-chamber, and here stood for a few
minutes in the dark, purposeless. Then she seated herself in a low
chair that was by the bed side. For her, too, the past night had
been one of painful watching; her nerves threatened danger if she
stayed in the same room with Lilian. Here she could recover
something of self-control, and think over the latest aspect of
affairs.

Thus had she sat for nearly half an hour, when her reverie was
broken by a sound from below. It was the closing of the front door.
She sprang up and ran to the window, to see if any one passed out
into the road; but no figure became visible. The gate was closed; no
one could have gone forth so quickly. A minute or two passed, yet
she heard and saw nothing.

Then she quickly descended the stairs. The door of the sitting-room
was open; the room was vacant.

"Lilian!" she called aloud, involuntarily.

She sprang to the front door and looked about in the little garden.
Some one moving behind caused her to turn round; it was the servant.

"Annie, has Mrs. Quarrier left the house?"

"Yes, m'm, she has. I just had the kitchen door open, and I saw her
go out--without anything on her head."

"Where can she be, then? The gate hasn't been opened; I should have
heard it."

One other way there was out of the garden. By passing along a side
of the cottage, one came into the back-yard, and thence, by a gate,
into one of the fields which spread towards Bale Water. Mrs. Wade
remembered that Lilian had discovered this exit one day not long
ago.

"I don't understand it," she continued, hurriedly. "You run and put
Your hat on, and then look up and down the road. I'll go to the
back."

Regardless of the cold night air, she hastened in the direction that
Lilian must necessarily have taken. Reaching the field, she could at
first distinguish no object in the dark space before her. But the
sky was clear and starry, and in a few moments, running on the
while, she caught sight of a figure not very far in advance. That
undoubtedly was Lilian, escaping, speeding over the meadows--
whither?

The ground rose gradually, and at a distance of less than a quarter
of a mile cut clearly across the sky. Still advancing, though with
less speed, she saw Lilian's form gain the top of the rise, and
there stand, a black, motionless projection from the ground. If now
she called in a loud voice, the fugitive must certainly hear her;
but she kept silence. By running quickly over the grass she might
overtake her friend, who still lingered; but, as if her limbs had
failed, she crouched down, and so remained until the dark figure all
at once disappeared.

Immediately she started to her feet again, and pressed forward. A
few minutes, and she was at the top of the field, where Lilian had
paused; panting, her heart throbbing, a cold sweat on her forehand.
From this point she looked over a grassy slope, towards the trees
which shadowed Bale Water. But her eye could discern nothing save
outlines against the starry heaven. All the ground before her lay in
a wide-spreading hollow, and darkness cloaked it.

Again she crouched down, pressing her hand against her heart,
listening. It was a very still night, and few sounds disturbed its
peacefulness. Somewhere, far off, a cart rumbled along; presently
one of the Polterham clocks began to strike, faintly but clearly.
That caused her to look in the direction of the town; she saw the
radiance of lights, and thought of what was going on over there--
the shouting, rushing, fighting.

A night-insect buzzed against her, and, almost in the same moment,
there came from down in the hollow, from beyond the trees, a sound
which chilled her blood, stopped the wild beating of her heart. It
seemed to echo with dreadful clearness from end to end of the
heavens. A dull splash of water, that was all; in reality, scarcely
to be heard at this distance save by an ear straining in dreadful
expectation.

She made one effort to rise, but could not. Another, and she was
fleeing back to the cottage as if chased for her life.

The back-door was locked; she had to go round into the garden, and
there the servant was waiting.

"Have you found her, m'm?"

"No--I can't think--go in, Annie."

The girl was frightened; yet more so when, by the light from the
sitting-room, she saw her mistress's face.

"Do you think she's gone home, m'm?"

"Yes, no doubt. Go into the kitchen. I'll call you again."

Mrs. Wade entered the parlour, and closed the door. Her dress was in
disorder; her hair had in part fallen loose; on her hands were
traces of mud. She did not sit down, and remained just within the
door; her look and attitude were those of a terrified listener.

Presently she moved towards the fire, and knelt before it--though
she had no need of warmth. Starts and shudders indicated her mental
anguish. Yet no sound escape her, until, in a sudden convulsion of
her frame, she gave a cry of terror, and threw herself at full
length upon the ground. There she lay, struggling with hysterical
passion, half choked by sobs, now and then uttering a hoarse wail,
at length weeping with the self-abandonment of a child.

It lasted for ten minutes or more, and then followed a long silence.
Her body still quivered; she lay with her face half hidden against
the hearth-rug, lips parted, but teeth set, breathing heavily.

The clock upon her mantelpiece sounded the third quarter--a
quarter to nine. It drew her attention, and at length she half
raised herself. Still she had the look of one who listens. She stood
up, mechanically smoothed her hair, and twice walked the length of
the room. Nearing the door yet again, she opened it, and went
upstairs.

Five minutes, and she had made herself ready to go out. At the foot
of the stairs she called to her servant.

"I must go into Polterham, Annie. If Mr. Quarrier should come whilst
I'm away, say that Mrs. Quarrier and I have gone out, but shall be
back very soon. You understand that?"

Then she set forth, and hurried along the dark road.





CHAPTER XXV




Only one vehicle passed her before she came within sight of the
streets; it was a carriage and pair, and she recognised the coachman
of a family who lived towards Rickstead. Quarrier was doubtless
still in the town, but to find him might be difficult. Perhaps she
had better go to his house and despatch a servant in search of him.
But that was away on the other side of Polterham, and in the
meantime he might be starting for Pear-tree Cottage. The polling was
long since over; would he linger with his friends at the committee
room?

Yet she must go to the house first of all; there was a reason for it
which only now occurred to her.

The main thoroughfares, usually silent and forsaken at this hour,
were alive with streams of pedestrians, with groups of argumentative
electors, with noisy troops of lads and girls who occasionally
amused themselves with throwing mud at some unpopular person, or
even breaking a window and rushing off with yells into the darkness
of byways. Public-houses were doing a brisk trade, not without
pugilism for the entertainment of such as lounged about the doors.
For these sights and sounds Mrs. Wade had no attention, but
frequently her ear was smitten with the name "Quarrier," spoken or
roared by partisan or adversary. Her way led her through the open
place where stood the Town Hall; here had gathered some hundreds of
people, waiting for the result of the poll. As she hurried along the
ragged edge of the crowd, a voice from somewhere close at hand
checked her.

"If you imagine that Quarrier will do more for the people than any
other politician, you will find yourselves mistaken. Party politics
are no good--no good at all. You working men ought to have the
sense to form a party of your own."

It was Northway, addressing a cluster of mill-hands, and evidently
posing as one of a superior class who deigned to give them
disinterested advice. She listened for a minute longer, but heard
nothing that could excite her alarm.

When she reached the house it was a quarter to ten. This part of the
town lay in obscurity and quietness; not a shout sounded in her
hearing.

Mr. Quarrier had not been at home since early in the afternoon.

"He must be found at once," said Mrs. Wade, adding quickly, "I
suppose Mrs. Quarrier hasn't come?"

The servant gave a surprised negative.

"You must please send some one to find Mr. Quarrier, without a
moment's delay. I will come in and wait."

The coachman happened to be in the kitchen. Mrs. Wade had him
summoned, and despatched him for his master. Though her limbs shook
with fatigue, she could not remain seated for more than a few
minutes at a time; she kept the drawing-room door open, and kept
going out to listen. Her suspense lasted for more than half an hour;
then at length she heard a cab rattle up the drive, and in another
moment Quarrier stood before her. This was the second time within a
few days that her face had been of ill omen to him; he frowned an
anxious inquiry.

"You haven't seen Lilian?" she began.

"Seen her?"

"She has gone--left the cottage--I can't find her."

"Gone? When did she go?"

"I have bad news for you. Northway has come back; he called at the
cottage about seven o'clock. I didn't let him know Lilian was there,
and soon got rid of him; he said he would have to see you again.
Lilian was dreadfully agitated, and when I happened to leave the
room, she went out--disappeared--I thought she must have come
home "----

"What do the servants say?"

"They haven't seen her."

"But she may have gone to Mary's?"

Arrested in the full flow of his jubilant spirits by this
extraordinary announcement, Denzil could not admit grave alarm. If
Lilian had fled from the proximity of her pursuer, she must of
course have taken refuge with some friend.

"Let us go to the Liversedges'," he exclaimed. "I have a cab"----

"Stop, Mr. Quarrier.--I haven't told you the worst. She ran from
the house just as she was, without her hat"----

"What do you mean? Why should she----?"

"She was in a dreadful state. I had done my best to soothe her. I
was just going to send for you. My servant saw her run out from the
sitting-room into the garden, and the gate wasn't opened--she must
have gone the back way--into the fields."

"Into the fields----?"

He stared at her with a look of gathering horror, and his tongue
failed him.

"I followed that way. I searched everywhere. I went a long way over
towards"----

She broke off, quivering from head to foot.

"But she _must_ have gone somewhere for refuge--to some one's
house."

"I hope so! Oh, I hope so!"

Her voice choked; tears started from her eyes.

"What do you fear? Tell me at once, plainly!"

She caught his hand, and replied with sobs of anguish.

"Why should she have gone into the fields?--without anything on
her head--into the fields that lead over to"----

"To--you don't mean to--the water?"

Still clinging to his hand, she sobbed, tried to utter words of
denial, then again of fear. For the instant Denzil was paralyzed,
but rapidly he released himself, and in a voice of command bade her
follow. They entered the cab and were driven towards the Town Hall.

"Did you go to the water," he asked, "and look about there?"

"Yes," she answered, "I did.--I could see nothing."

As they drew near, a roar of triumphant voices became audible;
presently they were in the midst of the clamour, and with difficulty
their vehicle made its way through a shouting multitude. It stopped
at length by the public building, and Quarrier alighted. At once he
was recognized. There rose yells of "Quarrier for ever!" Men pressed
upon him, wanted to shake hands with him, bellowed congratulations
in his ear. Heedless, he rushed on, and was fortunate enough to find
very quickly the man he sought, his brother-in-law.

"Toby!" he whispered, drawing him aside, "we have lost Lilian! She
may be at your house; come with us!"

Voiceless with astonishment, Mr. Liversedge followed, seated himself
in the cab. Five minutes brought them to his house.

"Go in and ask," said Quarrier.

Toby returned in a moment, followed by his wife.

"She hasn't been here. What the deuce does it all mean? I can't
understand you. Why, where should she have gone?"

Again Denzil drew him aside.

"Get a boatman, with lights and drags, and row round as fast as
possible to Bale Water!"

"Good heavens! What are you talking about?"

"Do as I tell you, without a minute's delay! Take this cab. I shall
be there long before you."

Mrs. Liversedge was talking with Mrs. Wade, who would say nothing
but that Lilian had disappeared. At Denzil's bidding the cab was
transferred to Toby, who, after whispering with his wife, was driven
quickly away. Quarrier refused to enter the house.

"We shall find another cab near the Town Hall," he said to Mrs.
Wade. "Good-night, Molly! I can't talk to you now."

The two hastened off. When they were among the people again, Mrs.
Wade caught sentences that told her the issue of the day. "Majority
of over six hundred!--Well done, Quarrier!--Quarrier for ever!"
Without exchanging a word, they gained the spot where one or two
cabs still waited, and were soon speeding along the Rickstead Road.

"She may be at the cottage," was all Denzil said on the way.

But no; Lilian was not at the cottage. Quarrier stood in the porch,
looking about him as if he imagined that the lost one might be
hiding somewhere near.

"I shall go--over there," he said. "It will take a long time."

"What?"----

"Liversedge is rowing round, with drags.--Go in and wait.--You
may be wrong."

"I didn't say I _thought_ it! It was only a fear--a dreadful
possibility."

Again she burst into tears.

"Go in and rest, Mrs. Wade," he said, more gently. "You shall know
--if anything"----

And, with a look of unutterable misery, he turned away.

Lilian might have taken refuge somewhere in the fields. It seemed a
wild unlikelihood, but he durst not give up hope. Though his desire
was to reach the waterside as quickly as possible, he searched on
either hand as he went by the path, and once or twice he called in a
loud voice "Lilian!" The night was darker now than when Mrs. Wade
had passed through the neighbouring field; clouds had begun to
spread, and only northwards was there a space of starry brilliance.

He came in sight of the trees along the bank, and proceeded at a
quicker step, again calling Lilian's name more loudly. Only the
soughing wind replied to him.

The nearest part of the water was that where it was deepest, where
the high bank had a railing; the spot where Mrs. Wade and Lilian had
stood together on their first friendly walk. Denzil went near,
leaned across the rail, and looked down into featureless gloom. Not
a sound beneath.

He walked hither and thither, often calling and standing still to
listen. The whole sky was now obscured, and the wind grew keener.
Afraid of losing himself, he returned to the high bank and there
waited, his eyes fixed in the direction whence the boat must come.
The row along the river Bale from Polterham would take more than an
hour.

As he stood sunk in desperate thoughts, a hand touched him. He
turned round, exclaiming "Lilian!"

"It is I," answered Mrs. Wade's voice.

"Why have you come? What good can you do here?"

"Don't be angry with me!" she implored. "I couldn't stay at home--
I couldn't!"

"I don't mean to speak angrily.--Think," he added, in low shaken
voice, "if that poor girl is lying"----

A sob broke off his sentence; he pointed down into the black water.
Mrs. Wade uttered no reply, but he heard the sound of her weeping.

They stood thus for a long time, then Denzil raised his hand.

"Look! They are coming!"

There was a spot of light far off, moving .slowly.

"I can hear the oars," he added presently.

It was in a lull of the soughing wind. A minute after there came a
shout from far across the black surface. Denzil replied to it, and
so at length the boat drew near.

Mr. Liversedge stood up, and Quarrier talked with him in brief,
grave sentences. Then a second lantern was lighted by the boatman,
and presently the dragging began.

Wrapped in a long cloak, Mrs. Wade stood at a distance, out of sight
of the water, but able to watch Denzil. When cold and weariness all
but overcame her, she first leaned against the trunk of a tree, then
crouched there on the ground. For how long, she had no idea. A
little rain fell, and afterwards the sky showed signs of clearing;
stars were again visible here and there. She had sunk into a
half-unconscious state, when Quarrier's voice spoke to her.

"You must go home," he said, hoarsely. "It's over."

She started up.

"Have they found"----

"Yes.--Go home at once."

He turned away, and she hurried from the spot with bowed head.





CHAPTER XXVI




"Oh, depend upon it," said Mrs. Tenterden, in her heavy,
consequential way, "there's more behind than _we_ shall ever know!
'Unsound mind,' indeed She was no more of unsound mind than _I_ am!"

It was after church, and Mrs. Mumbray, alone this morning, had
offered the heavy lady a place in her brougham. The whole
congregation had but one topic as they streamed into the
unconsecrated daylight. Never was such eagerness for the strains of
the voluntary which allowed them to start up from attitudes of
profound meditation, and look round for their acquaintances.
Yesterday's paper--the _Polterham Examiner_ unfortunately--
reported the inquest, and people had to make the most of those
meagre paragraphs--until the _Mercury_ came out, when fuller and
less considerate details might be hoped for. The whispering, the
nodding, the screwing up of lips, the portentous frowning and the
shaking of heads--no such excitement was on record!

"To me," remarked Mrs. Mumbray, with an air of great responsibility,
"the mystery is too plain. I don't hint at _the worst_--it would
be uncharitable--but the poor creature had undoubtedly made some
discovery in that woman's house which drove her to despair."

Mrs. Tenterden gave a start.

"You really think so? That has occurred to me. Mrs. Wade's fainting
when she gave her evidence--oh dear, oh dear! I'm afraid there can
be only one explanation."

"That is our _honourable_ member, my dear!" threw out Mrs. Mumbray.
"These are Radical principles--in man and woman. Why, I am told
that scarcely a day passed without Mrs. Wade calling at the house."

"And they tell me that _he_ was frequently at _hers_!"

"That poor young wife! Oh, it is shameful! The matter oughtn't to
end here. Something ought to be done. If that man is allowed to keep
his seat"----

Many were the conjectures put forward and discussed throughout the
day, but this of Mrs. Mumbray's--started of course in several
quarters--found readiest acceptance in Conservative circles. Mrs.
Wade was obviously the cause of what had happened--no wonder she
fainted at the inquest; no wonder she hid herself in her cottage!
When she ventured to come out, virtuous Polterham would let her know
its mind. Quarrier shared in the condemnation, but not even
political animosity dealt so severely with him as social opinion did
with Mrs. Wade.

Mr. Chown--who would on no account have been seen in a place of
worship--went about all day among his congenial gossips, and
scornfully contested the rumour that Quarrier's relations with Mrs.
Wade would not bear looking into. At the house of Mr. Murgatroyd,
the Radical dentist, he found two or three friends who were very
anxious not to think evil of their victorious leader, but felt
wholly at a loss for satisfactory explanations. Mr. Vawdrey, the
coal-merchant, talked with gruff discontent.

"I don't believe there's been anything wrong; I couldn't think it--
neither of him nor her. But I do say it's a lesson to you men who go
in for Female Suffrage Now, this is just the kind of thing that 'ud
always be happening. If there isn't wrong-doing, there'll be
wrong-speaking. Women have no business in politics, that's the plain
moral of it. Let them keep at home and do their duty."

"Humbug!" cried Mr. Chown, who cared little for the graces of
dialogue. "A political principle is not to be at the mercy of party
scandal. I, for my part, have never maintained that women were ripe
for public duties but Radicalism involves the certainty that they
some day will be. The fact of the matter is that Mrs. Quarrier was a
woman of unusually feeble physique. We all know--those of us, at
all events, who keep up with the science of the day--that the mind
is entirely dependent upon the body--entirely!" He looked round,
daring his friends to contradict this. "Mrs. Quarrier had overtaxed
her strength, and it's just possible--I say its just possible--
that her husband was not very prudent m sending her for necessary
repose to the house of a woman so active-minded and so excitable as
Mrs. Wade We must remember the peculiar state of her health. As far
as _I_ am concerned, Dr. Jenkins's evidence is final, and entirely
satisfactory. As for the dirty calumnies of dirty-minded
reactionists, _I_ am not the man to give ear to them!"

One man there was who might have been expected to credit such
charges, yet surprised his acquaintances by what seemed an unwonted
exercise of charity. Mr. Scatchard Vialls, hitherto active in
defamation of Quarrier, with amiable inconsistency refused to
believe him guilty of conduct which had driven his wife to suicide.
It was some days before the rumour reached his ears. Since the
passage of arms with Serena, he had held aloof from Mrs. Mumbray's
drawing-room, and his personality did not invite the confidence of
ordinary scandal-mongers. When at length his curate hinted to him
what was being said, he had so clearly formulated his own theory of
Mrs. Quarrier's death that only the strongest evidence would have
led him to reconsider it. Obstinacy and intellectual conceit forbade
him to indulge his disposition to paint an enemy's character in the
darkest colours.

"No, Mr. Blenkinsop," he replied to the submissive curate, standing
on his hearth-rug at full height and regarding the cornice as his
habit was when he began to monologize--"no, I find it impossible
to entertain such an accusation. I have little reason to think well
of Mr. Quarrier; he is intemperate, in many senses of the word, and
intemperance, it is true, connects closely with the most odious
crimes. But in this case censure has been too quick to interpret
suspicious circumstances--suspicious, I admit. Far be it from me
to speak in defence of such a person as Mrs. Wade; I think she is a
source of incalculable harm to all who are on friendly terms with
her--especially young and impressionable women; but you must trust
my judgment in this instance: I am convinced she is not guilty. Her
agitation in the coroner's court has no special significance. No;
the solution of the mystery is not so simple; it involves wider
issues--calls for a more profound interpretation of character and
motives. Mrs. Quarrier--pray attend to this, Mr. Blenkinsop--
represents a type of woman becoming, I have reason to think, only
too common in our time, women who cultivate the intellect at the
expense of the moral nature, who abandon religion and think they
have found a substitute for it in the so-called humanitarianism of
the day. Strong-minded women, you will hear them called; in truth,
they are the weakest of their sex. Let their energies be submitted
to any unusual strain, let their nerves (they are always morbid) be
overwrought, and they snap!" He illustrated the catastrophe with his
hands. "Unaided by religion, the female nature is irresponsible,
unaccountable." Mr. Vialls had been severe of late in his judgment
of women. "Mrs. Quarrier, poor creature, was the victim of
immoderate zeal for worldly ends. She was abetted by her husband and
by Mrs. Wade; they excited her to the point of frenzy, and in the
last moment she--snapped! Mrs. Wade's hysterical display is but
another illustration of the same thing. These women have no support
outside themselves--they have deliberately cast away everything of
the kind."

"Let me exhibit my meaning from another point of view. Consider, Mr.
Blenkinsop"----

Quarrier, in the meantime, was very far from suspecting the
accusation which hostile ingenuity had brought against him. Decency
would in any ease have necessitated his withdrawal for the present
from public affairs, and, in truth, he was stricken down by his
calamity. The Liversedges had brought him to their house; he
transacted no business, and saw no one beyond the family circle. At
the funeral people had thought him strangely unmoved; pride forbade
him to make an exhibition of grief, but in secret he suffered as
only a strong man can. His love for Lilian was the deepest his life
would know. Till now, he had not understood how unspeakably precious
she was to him; for the most part he had treated her with playful
good-humour, seldom, if ever, striking the note of passion in his
speech. With this defect he reproached himself. Lilian had not
learnt to trust him sufficiently; she feared the result upon him of
such a blow as Northway had it in his power to inflict. It was thus
he interpreted her suicide, for Mrs. Wade had told him that Lilian
believed disaster to be imminent. Surely he was to blame for it
that, at such a pass, she had fled _away_ from him instead of
hastening to his side. How perfectly had their characters
harmonized! He could recall no moment of mutual dissatisfaction, and
that in spite of conditions which, with most women, would have made
life very difficult. He revered her purity; her intellect he
esteemed far subtler and nobler than his own. With such a woman for
companion, he might have done great things; robbed for ever of her
beloved presence, he felt lame, purposeless, indifferent to all but
the irrecoverable past.

In a day or two he was to leave Polterham. Whether Northway would be
satisfied with the result of his machinations remained to be seen;
as yet nothing more had been heard of him. The fellow was perhaps
capable of demanding more hush-money, of threatening the memory of
the woman he had killed. Quarrier hoped more earnestly than ever
that the secret would not he betrayed; he scorned vulgar opinion, so
far as it affected himself, but could not bear the thought of
Lilian's grave being defiled by curiosity and reprobation. The
public proceedings had brought to light nothing whatever that seemed
in conflict with medical evidence and the finding of the coroner's
jury. One dangerous witness had necessarily come forward--Mrs.
Wade's servant; but the girl made no kind of allusion to Northway's
visit--didn't, in her own mind, connect it with Mrs. Quarrier's
behaviour. She was merely asked to describe in what way the
unfortunate lady had left the house. In Glazzard and Mrs. Wade,
Denzil of course reposed perfect confidence. Northway, if need were,
could and should be bought off.

Toby Liversedge got wind of the scandal in circulation, and his rage
knew no bounds. Lest his wife should somehow make the discovery, he
felt obliged to speak to her--representing the change in its
mildest form.

"There's a vile story going about that Lilian was jealous of Mrs.
Wade's influence with Denzil; that the two quarrelled that day at
the cottage, and the poor girl drowned herself in despair."

Mary looked shocked, but was silent.

"I suppose," added her husband, "we must be prepared for all sorts
of rumours. The thing is unintelligible to people in general. Any
one who knew her, and saw her those last days, can understand it
only too well."

"Yes," murmured Mrs. Liversedge, with sad thought fulness.

She would not speak further on the subject, and Toby concluded that
the mere suggestion gave her offence.

On the day after Denzil departed, leaving by a night train for
London.

He was in town for a week, then took a voyage to Madeira, where he
remained until there was only time enough to get back for the
opening of Parliament. The natural plea of shaken health excused him
to his constituents, many of whom favoured him with their
unsolicited correspondence. (He had three or four long letters from
Mr. Chown, who thought it necessary to keep the borough member
posted in the course of English politics.) From Glazzard he heard
twice, with cheerful news. "How it happened," he had written to his
newly-married friend, in telling of Lilian's death, "I will explain
some day; I cannot speak of it yet." Glazzard's response was full of
manly sympathy. "I don't pretend," wrote the connoisseur, "that I am
ideally mated, but my wife is a good girl, and I understand enough
of happiness in marriage to appreciate to the full how terrible is
your loss. Let confidences be for the future; if they do not come
naturally, be assured I shall never pain you by a question."

Denzil's book had now been for several weeks before the public; it
would evidently excite little attention. "A capital present for a
schoolboy," was one of the best things the critics had yet found to
say of it. He suffered disappointment, but did not seriously resent
the world's indifference. Honestly speaking, was the book worth
much? The writing had at first amused him; in the end it had grown a
task. Literature was not his field.

Back, then, to politics! There he knew his force. He was looking to
the first taste of Parliament with decided eagerness.

In Madeira he chanced to make acquaintance with an oldish man who
had been in Parliament for a good many years; a Radical, an
idealist, sore beset with physical ailments. This gentleman found
pleasure in Denzil's society, talked politics to him with contagious
fervour, and greatly aided the natural process whereby Quarrier was
recovering his interest in the career before him.

"My misfortune is," Denzil one day confided to this friend, "that I
detest the town and the people that have elected me."

"Indeed?" returned the other, with a laugh. "Then lay yourself out
to become my successor at----when a general election comes round
again. I hope to live out this Parliament, but sha'n't try for
another."

About the same time he had a letter from Mrs. Wade, now in London,
wherein, oddly enough, was a passage running thus:

"You say that the thought of representing Polterham spoils your
pleasure in looking forward to a political life. Statesmen (and you
will become one) have to be trained to bear many disagreeable
things. But you are not bound to Polterham for ever--the gods
forbid t Serve them in this Parliament, and in the meantime try to
find another borough."

It was his second letter from Mrs. Wade; the first had been a mere
note, asking if he could bear to hear from her, and if he would let
her know of his health. He replied rather formally, considering the
terms on which they stood; and, indeed, it not gratify him much to
be assured of the widow's constant friendship.





CHAPTER XXVII




Something less than a year after his marriage, Glazzard was summoned
back to England by news of his brother's death. On the point of
quitting Highmead, with Ivy, for a sojourn abroad, William Glazzard
had an apoplectic seizure and died within the hour. His affairs were
in disorder; he left no will; for some time it would remain
uncertain whether the relatives inherited anything but debt.

Eustace and his wife took a house in the north of London, a modest
temporary abode. There, at the close of March, Serena gave birth to
a child.

During the past year Glazzard had returned to his old amusement of
modelling in clay. He drew and painted, played and composed, at
intervals; but plastic art seemed to have the strongest hold upon
him. Through April he was busy with a head for which he had made
many studies--a head of Judas; in Italy he had tried to paint the
same subject, but ineffectually. The face in its latest development
seemed to afford him some satisfaction.

One morning, early in May, Serena was sitting with him in the room
he used as a studio. Experience of life, and a certain measure of
happiness, had made the raw girl a very pleasing and energetic
woman; her face was comely, her manner refined, she spoke softly and
thoughtfully, but with spirit.

"It is wonderful," she said, after gazing long, with knitted brows,
at the Judas, "but horrible. I wish it hadn't taken hold of you so."

"Taken hold of me? I care very little about it."

"Oh, nonsense! That's your worst fault, Eustace. You seem ashamed of
being in earnest. I wish you had found a pleasanter subject, but I
am delighted to see you _do_ something. Is it quite finished?"

A servant appeared at the door.

"Mr. Quarrier wishes to see you, sir."

Denzil entered, and had a friendly greeting. The Glazzards did not
see much of him, for he was over head and ears in politics, social
questions, philanthropic undertakings--these last in memory of
Lilian, whose spirit had wrought strongly in him since her death. He
looked a much riper and graver man than a year ago. His language was
moderate; he bore himself reservedly, at moments with diffidence.
But there was the old frank cordiality undiminished. To Serena he
spoke with the gentle courtesy which marks a man's behaviour to
women when love and grief dwell together in his heart.

"Our friend Judas?" he said, stepping up to the model. "Finished at
last?"

"Something like it." Glazzard replied, tapping the back of his hand
with a tool.

"Discontented, as usual! I know nothing about this kind of thing,
but I should say it was very good. Makes one uncomfortable--
doesn't it, Mrs. Glazzard? Do something pleasanter next time."

"Precisely what I was saying," fell from Serena.

They talked awhile, and Mrs. Glazzard left the room.

"I want to know your mind on a certain point," said Denzil. "Mrs.
Wade has been asking me to bring her together with your wife and
you. Now, what is your feeling?"

The other stood in hesitation, but his features expressed no
pleasure.

"What is _your_ feeling?" he asked, in return.

"Why, to tell you the truth, I can't advise you to make a friend of
her. I'm sorry to say she has got into a very morbid state of mind.
I see more of her than I care to. She has taken up with a lot of
people I don't like--rampant women--extremists of many kinds.
There's only one thing: it's perhaps my duty to try and get her into
a more sober way of life, and if all steady-going people reject her
----Still, I don't think either you or your wife would like to have
her constantly coming here."

"I think not," said Glazzard, with averted face.

"Well, I shall tell her that she would find you very unsympathetic.
I'm sorry for her; I wish she could recover a healthy mind."

He brooded for a moment, and the lines that came into his face gave
it an expression of unrest and melancholy out of keeping with its
natural tone.

In a few minutes he was gone, and presently Serena returned to the
studio. She found her husband in a dark reverie, a mood to which he
often yielded, which she always did her best to banish.

"Do you think, Eustace," she asked, "that Mr. Quarrier will marry
again?"

"Oh, Some day, of course."

"I shall he sorry. There's something I have often meant to tell you
about his wife; I will now."

He looked up attentively. Serena had never been admitted to his
confidence regarding Lilian's story; to her, the suicide was merely
a woful result of disordered health.

"But for her," she continued, smiling archly, "I should perhaps not
have married you. I was with doubts about myself and about you. Then
I went to Mrs. Quarrier, and--what a thing to do!--asked her
what she thought of you! She told me, and I came away without a
doubt left.--That's why I cried so much when we heard of her
death. I should have told you then if you hadn't got vexed with me
--I'm sure I don't know why."

Glazzard laughed, and dismissed the subject carelessly.

Not long after, he was alone. After much pacing about the room, he
came to a stand before his clay masterpiece, and stared at it as
though the dull eyes fascinated him. Of a sudden he raised his fist
and with one blow beat the head into a shapeless mass.

Then he went out, locking the door behind him.

On leaving the Glazzards, Quarrier pursued the important business
that had brought him into this part of London. He drove to a
hospital, newly opened, with which he was connected in the capacity
of treasurer. Talk with the secretary occupied him for half an hour;
about to set forth again, he encountered on the staircase two
ladies, the one a hospital nurse, the other Mrs. Wade.

"Could you grant me five minutes?" asked the widow, earnestly. "I
didn't hope to see you here, and must have called upon you--but
you are so busy."

There was a humility in her suppressed voice which, had the speaker
been another person, would have prepared Denzil for some mendicant
petition of the politer kind. She spoke hurriedly, as if fearing a
rebuff.

"Let us step this way," he said, opening a door which led into an
unoccupied room.

Mrs. Wade was dressed rather more simply than had been her wont when
she lived at Polterham. One conjectured that her circumstances were
not improved. She looked tired, harassed; her eyes wanted something
of their former brightness, and she had the appearance of a much
older woman.

There were no seats in the room. Quarrier did not refer to the fact,
but stood in an attitude of friendly attention.

"I saw Northway yesterday," Mrs. Wade began.

The listener's face expressed annoyance.

"Need we speak of him?" he said, briefly.

"I am obliged to. He told me something which I had long suspected--
something you certainly must learn."

"Is it a fresh attack on my pocket?" asked Denzil, with resignation.

"No, but something that will grieve you far more. I have been trying
for a long time to get it out of him, and now that I have succeeded
I almost wish the thought had never occurred to me."

"Pray, pray don't keep me in suspense, Mrs. Wade."

"Northway did _not_ make his discovery by chance. You were betrayed
to him--by a seeming friend."

Denzil looked steadily at her.

"A friend?--He has deceived you. Only one acquaintance of mine
knew."

"Mr. Glazzard. It was he who laid a plot for your downfall."

Quarrier moved impatiently.

"Mrs. Wade, you are being played upon by this scoundrel. There is no
end to his contrivances."

"No, he has told me the truth," she pursued, with agitated voice.
"Listen to the story, first of all."

She related to him, in accurate detail, all that had passed between
Northway and Mr. Marks.

"And Mr. Marks was Mr. Glazzard, undoubtedly. His description
tallies exactly."

Denzil broke out indignantly.

"The whole thing is a fabrication I not only _won't_ believe it, but
simply _can't_. You say that you have suspected this?"

"I have--from the moment when Lilian told me that Mr. Glazzard
knew."

"That's astounding!--Then why should you have desired to be on
friendly terms with the Glazzards?"

Mrs. Wade sank her eyes.

"I hoped," she made answer, "to find out something. I had only in
view to serve you."

"You have deluded yourself, and been deluded, in the strangest way.
Now, I will give you one reason (a very odd, but a very satisfactory
one) why it is impossible to believe Glazzard guilty of such
baseness--setting aside the obvious fact that he had no motive. He
goes in for modelling in clay, and for some time he has been busy on
a very fine head. What head do you think?--That of Judas
Iscariot."

He laughed.

"Now, a man guilty of abominable treachery would not choose for an
artistic subject the image of an arch-traitor."

Mrs. Wade smiled strangely as she listened to his scornful
demonstration.

"You have given me," she said, "a most important piece of evidence
in support of Northway's story."

Denzil was ill at ease. He could not dismiss this lady with
contempt. Impossible that he should not have learnt by this time the
meaning of her perpetual assiduity on his behalf; the old
friendliness (never very warm) had changed to a compassion which
troubled him. Her image revived such painful memories that he would
have welcomed any event which put her finally at a distance from him
The Polterham scandal, though not yet dead, had never come to his
ears; had he known it, he could scarcely have felt more constrained
in her society.

"Will you oblige me," he said, with kindness, "by never speaking of
this again?"

"If you will first grant me one test of my Opinion. Will you meet
Northway in some public place where Mr. Glazzard can be easily seen,
and ask the man to point out his informant--Mr. Marks?"

After much debate, and with great reluctance, he consented. From his
conversation of an hour ago he knew that Glazzard would be at the
Academy on the morrow. He had expressed a hope for a meeting there.
At the Academy, accordingly, the test should be applied. It was all
a fabrication; Northway, laying some new plot, might already know
Glazzard by sight. But the latter should be put on his guard, and
Mrs. Wade should then be taught that henceforth she was forbidden to
concern herself with his--Quarrier's--affairs.

He went home and passed a cheerless time until the next morning.
Suspicion, in spite of himself, crept into his thoughts. He was sick
at heart under the necessity, perhaps life-long, of protecting
Lilian's name against a danger which in itself was a sort of
pollution. His sanguine energy enabled him to lose the thought, at
ordinary times, of the risks to which he himself was exposed; but
occasionally he reflected that public life might even yet be made
impossible for him, and then he cursed the moral stupidity of people
in general.

At eleven o'clock next morning he entered Burlington House. In the
vestibule at the head of the stairs stood Mrs. Wade, and Northway,
indistinguishable from ordinary frequenters of the exhibition, was
not far off. This gentleman had a reason for what he was doing; he
wished to discover who Mr. Marks really was, and what (since the
political plea could no longer be credited) had been his interest in
Lilian.

"He is here already," said Mrs. Wade, as she joined Denzil. "Among
the sculpture--the inner room."

"Then I shall follow you at a distance. Challenge that fellow to go
up to Glazzard and address him as Mr. Marks."

The widow led in the direction she had indicated, through the
central hall, then to the right, Northway following close. Denzil
had, of course, to take it for granted that Mrs. Wade was acting
honourably; he did not doubt her good faith. If it came to a mere
conflict of assertions between his friend and Northway, he knew
which of them to believe. But he was much perturbed, and moved
forward with a choking in his throat.

Arrived at the threshold of the Lecture Room, he saw that only some
dozen people were standing about. No sooner had he surveyed them
than he became aware that Northway was sauntering directly towards
the place where Glazzard stood; Mrs. Wade remained in the doorway.
Unperceived, the informer came close behind his confederate and
spoke quietly.

Glazzard turned as if some one had struck him.

It was forcible evidence, confirmed moreover by the faces of the two
men as they exchanged a few words.

Seeing Northway retire, Quarrier said to Mrs. Wade:

"Please to go away. You have done your part."

With a look of humble entreaty, she obeyed him. Denzil, already
observed by Glazzard, stepped forward.

"Do you know that man?" he asked, pointing to Northway, who affected
a study of some neighbouring work of art.

"I have met him," was the subdued answer.

It was necessary to speak so that attention should not be drawn
hither. Though profoundly agitated, Quarrier controlled himself
sufficiently to use a very low tone.

"He has told an incredible story, Glazzard. I sha'n't believe it
unless it is confirmed by your own lips."

"I have no doubt he has told the truth."

Denzil drew back.

"But do you know _what_ he has said?"

"I guess from the way he addressed me--as Mr. Marks."

Glazzard was deadly pale, but he smiled persistently, and with an
expression of relief.

"You--_you_--betrayed us to him?"

"I did."

Each could hear the other's breathing.

"Why did you do that?" asked Denzil, the excess of his astonishment
declaring itself in a tone which would have suited some every-day
inquiry. He could not speak otherwise.

"I can't tell you why I did it. I'm not sure that I quite understand
now. I did it, and there's no more to be said."

Denzil turned away, and stood with his eyes fixed on the ground. A
minute passed, and Glazzard's voice again sounded close to him.

"Quarrier, you can't forgive me, and I don't wish you to. But may I
hope that you won't let my wife know of it?"

"You are safe from me," answered Denzil, barely glancing at him, and
at once walked away.

He returned to the vestibule, descended the stairs, went out into
the court. There, aside from vehicles and people, he let his
thoughts have their way. Presently they summed themselves in a
sentence which involuntarily he spoke aloud:

"Now I understand the necessity for social law!"

THE END


End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Denzil Quarrier
by George Gissing


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