Infomotions, Inc.Delia Blanchflower / Ward, Mrs. Humphry, 1851-1920



Author: Ward, Mrs. Humphry, 1851-1920
Title: Delia Blanchflower
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): winnington; delia; gertrude; blanchflower; lady tonbridge; lathrop; miss blanchflower; gertrude marvell; monk lawrence; delia blanchflower; mark winnington; miss toogood; marvell
Contributor(s): Garnett, Constance, 1861-1946 [Translator]
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Title: Delia Blanchflower

Author: Mrs. Humphry Ward

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                                 DELIA

                              BLANCHFLOWER


                                   BY


                           MRS. HUMPHRY WARD

                   AUTHOR "LADY ROSE'S DAUGHTER," ETC.


                        Frontispiece in color by

                              WILL FOSTER




DELIA BLANCHFLOWER




Chapter I


"Not a Britisher to be seen--or scarcely! Well, I can do without 'em
for a bit!"

And the Englishman whose mind shaped these words continued his
leisurely survey of the crowded salon of a Tyrolese hotel, into which a
dining-room like a college hall had just emptied itself after the
mid-day meal. Meanwhile a German, sitting near, seeing that his tall
neighbour had been searching his pockets in vain for matches, offered
some. The Englishman's quick smile in response modified the German's
general opinion of English manners, and the two exchanged some remarks
on the weather--a thunder shower was splashing outside--remarks which
bore witness at least to the Englishman's courage in using such
knowledge of the German tongue as he possessed. Then, smoking
contentedly, he leant against the wall behind him, still looking on.

He saw a large room, some seventy feet long, filled with a
miscellaneous foreign crowd--South Germans, Austrians, Russians,
Italians--seated in groups round small tables, smoking, playing cards
or dominoes, reading the day's newspapers which the funicular had just
brought up, or lazily listening to the moderately good band which was
playing some Rheingold selection at the farther end.

To his left was a large family circle--Russians, according to
information derived from the headwaiter--and among them, a girl,
apparently about eighteen, sitting on the edge of the party and
absorbed in a novel of which she was eagerly turning the pages. From
her face and figure the half savage, or Asiatic note, present in the
physiognomy and complexion of her brothers and sisters, was entirely
absent. Her beautiful head with its luxuriant mass of black hair, worn
low upon the cheek, and coiled in thick plaits behind, reminded the
Englishman of a Greek fragment he had admired, not many days before, in
the Louvre; her form too was of a classical lightness and perfection.
The Englishman noticed indeed that her temper was apparently not equal
to her looks. When her small brothers interrupted her, she repelled
them with a pettish word or gesture; the English governess addressed
her, and got no answer beyond a haughty look; even her mother was
scarcely better treated.

Close by, at another table, was another young girl, rather younger than
the first, and equally pretty. She too was dark haired, with a delicate
oval face and velvet black eyes, but without any of the passionate
distinction, the fire and flame of the other. She was German,
evidently. She wore a plain white dress with a red sash, and her little
feet in white shoes were lightly crossed in front of her. The face and
eyes were all alive, it seemed to him, with happiness, with the mere
pleasure of life. She could not keep herself still for a moment. Either
she was sending laughing signals to an elderly man near her, presumably
her father, or chattering at top speed with another girl of her own
age, or gathering her whole graceful body into a gesture of delight as
the familiar Rheingold music passed from one lovely _motif_ to another.

"You dear little thing!" thought the Englishman, with an impulse of
tenderness, which passed into foreboding amusement as he compared the
pretty creature with some of the matrons sitting near her, with one in
particular, a lady of enormous girth, whose achievements in eating and
drinking at meals had seemed to him amazing. Almost all the middle-aged
women in the hotel were too fat, and had lost their youth thereby,
prematurely. Must the fairy herself--Euphrosyne--come to such a muddy
vesture in the end? Twenty years hence?--alack!

"Beauty that must die." The hackneyed words came suddenly to mind, and
haunted him, as his eyes wandered round the room. Amid many coarse or
commonplace types, he yet perceived an unusual number of agreeable or
handsome faces; as is indeed generally the case in any Austrian hotel.
Faces, some of them, among the very young girls especially, of a
rose-tinted fairness, and subtly expressive, the dark brows arching on
white foreheads, the features straight and clean, the heads well
carried, as though conscious of ancestry and tradition; faces, also, of
the _bourgeoisie_, of a simpler, Gretchen-like beauty; faces--a few--of
"intellectuals," as he fancied,--including the girl with the
novel?--not always handsome, but arresting, and sometimes noble. He
felt himself in a border land of races, where the Teutonic and Latin
strains had each improved the other; and the pretty young girls and
women seemed to him like flowers sprung from an old and rich soil. He
found his pleasure in watching them--the pleasure of the Ancient
Mariner when he blessed the water-snakes. Sex had little to say to it;
and personal desire nothing. Was he not just over forty?--a very busy
Englishman, snatching a hard-earned holiday--a bachelor, moreover,
whose own story lay far behind him.

"_Beauty that must die_" The words reverberated and would not be
dismissed. Was it because he had just been reading an article in a new
number of the _Quarterly_, on "Contemporary Feminism," with mingled
amazement and revolt, roused by some of the strange facts collected by
the writer? So women everywhere--many women at any rate--were turning
indiscriminately against the old bonds, the old yokes, affections,
servitudes, demanding "self-realisation," freedom for the individuality
and the personal will; rebelling against motherhood, and life-long
marriage; clamouring for easy divorce, and denouncing their own
fathers, brothers and husbands, as either tyrants or fools; casting
away the old props and veils; determined, apparently, to know
everything, however ugly, and to say everything, however outrageous? He
himself was a countryman, an English provincial, with English public
school and university traditions of the best kind behind him, a mind
steeped in history, and a natural taste for all that was ancient and
deep-rooted. The sketch of an emerging generation of women, given in
the _Quarterly_ article, had made a deep impression upon him. It seemed
to him frankly horrible. He was of course well acquainted, though
mainly through the newspapers, with English suffragism, moderate and
extreme. His own country district and circle were not, however, much
concerned with it. And certainly he knew personally no such types as
the _Quarterly_ article described. Among them, no doubt, were the women
who set fire to houses, and violently interrupted or assaulted Cabinet
ministers, who wrote and maintained newspapers that decent people would
rather not read, who grasped at martyrdom and had turned evasion of
penalty into a science, the continental type, though not as yet
involved like their English sisters in a hand-to-hand, or fist-to-fist
struggle with law and order, were, it seemed, even more revolutionary
in principle, and to some extent in action. The life and opinions of a
Sonia Kovalevski left him bewildered. For no man was less omniscient
than he. Like the Cabinet minister of recent fame, in the presence of
such _femmes fortes_, he might have honestly pleaded, _mutatis
mutandis_, "In these things I am a child."

Were these light-limbed, dark-eyed maidens under his eyes touched with
this new anarchy? They or their elders must know something about it.
There had been a Feminist congress lately at Trient--on the very site,
and among the ghosts of the great Council. Well, what could it bring
them? Was there anything so brief, so passing, if she did but know it,
as a woman's time for happiness? "_Beauty that must die_."

As the words recurred, some old anguish lying curled at his heart
raised its head and struck. He heard a voice--tremulously
sweet--"Mark!--dear Mark!--I'm not good enough--but I'll be to you all
a woman can."

_She_ had not played with life--or scorned it--or missed it. It was not
_her_ fault that she must put it from her.

In the midst of the crowd about him, he was no longer aware of it.
Still smoking mechanically, his eyelids had fallen over his eyes, as
his head rested against the wall.

He was interrupted by a voice which said in excellent though foreign
English--

"I beg your pardon, sir--I wonder if I might have that paper you are
standing on?"

He looked down astonished, and saw that he was trampling on the day's
_New York Herald_, which had fallen from a table near. With many
apologies he lifted it, smoothed it out, and presented it to the
elderly lady who had asked for it.

She looked at him through her spectacles with a pleasant smile.

"You don't find many English newspapers in these Tyrolese hotels?"

"No; but I provide myself. I get my _Times_ from home."

"Then, as an Englishman, you have all you want. But you seem to be
without it to-night?"

"It hasn't arrived. So I am reduced, as you see, to listening to the
music."

"You are not musical?"

"Well, I don't like this band anyway. It makes too much noise. Don't
you think it rather a nuisance?"

"No. It helps these people to talk," she said, in a crisp, cheerful
voice, looking round the room.

"But they don't want any help. Most of them talk by nature as fast as
the human tongue can go!"

"About nothing!" She shrugged her shoulders.

Winnington observed her more closely. She was, he guessed, somewhere
near fifty; her scanty hair was already grey, and her round, plain face
was wrinkled and scored like a dried apple. But her eyes, which were
dark and singularly bright, expressed both energy and wit; and her
mouth, of which the upper lip was caught up a little at one corner,
seemed as though quivering with unspoken and, as he thought, sarcastic
speech. Was she, perchance, the Swedish _Schriftstellerin_ of whom he
had heard the porter talking to some of the hotel guests? She looked a
lonely-ish, independent sort of body.

"They seem nice, kindly people," he said, glancing round the salon.
"And how they enjoy life!"

"You call it life?"

He laughed out.

"You are hard upon them, madame. Now I--being a mere man--am lost in
admiration of their good looks. We in England pride ourselves on our
women, But upon my word, it would be difficult to match this show in an
English hotel. Look at some of the faces!"

She followed his eyes--indifferently.

"Yes--they've plenty of beauty. And what'll it do for them? Lead them
into some wretched marriage or other--and in a couple of years there
will be neither beauty nor health, nor self-respect, nor any interest
in anything, but money, clothes, and outwitting their husbands."

"You forget the children!"

"Ah--the children"--she said in a dubious tone, shrugging her shoulders
again.

The Englishman--whose name was Mark Winnington--suddenly saw light
upon her.

A Swedish writer, a woman travelling alone? He remembered the sketch of
"feminism" in Sweden which he had just read. The names of certain
woman-writers flitted through his mind. He felt a curiosity mixed with
distaste. But curiosity prevailed.

He bent forward. And as he came thereby into stronger light from a
window on his left, the thought crossed the mind of his neighbour that
although so fully aware of other people's good looks, the tall
Englishman seemed to be quite unconscious of his own. Yet in truth he
appeared both to her, and to the hotel guests in general, a kind of
heroic creature. In height he towered beside the young or middle-aged
men from Munich, Buda-Pesth, or the north Italian towns, who filled the
_salon_. He had all that athlete could desire in the way of shoulders,
and lean length of body; a finely-carried head, on which the brown hair
was wearing a little thin at the crown, while still irrepressibly
strong and curly round the brow and temple; thick penthouse brows, and
beneath them a pair of greyish eyes which had already made him friends
with the children and the dogs and half the grown-ups in the place. The
Swedish lady admitted--but with no cordiality--that human kindness
could hardly speak more plainly in a human face than from those eyes.
Yet the mouth and chin were thin, strong and determined; so were the
hands. The man's whole aspect, moreover, spoke of assured position, and
of a keen intelligence free from personal pre-occupations, and keeping
a disinterested outlook on the world. The woman who observed him had in
her handbag a book by a Russian lady in which Man, with a capital,
figured either as "a great comic baby," or as the "Man-Beast," invented
for the torment of women. The gentleman before her seemed a little
difficult to fit into either category.

But if she was observing him, he had begun to question her.

"Will you forgive me if I ask an impertinent question?"

"Certainly. They are the only questions worth asking."

He laughed.

"You are, I think, from Sweden?"

"That is my country."

"And I am told you are a writer?" She bent her head. "I can see also
that you are--what shall I say?--very critical of your sex--no doubt,
still more of mine! I wonder if I may ask "--

He paused, his smiling eyes upon her.

"Ask anything you like."

"Well, there seems to be a great woman-movement in your country. Are
you interested in it?"

"You mean--am I a feminist? Yes, I happen to dislike the word; but it
describes me. I have been working for years for the advancement of
women. I have written about it--and in the Scandinavian countries we
have already got a good deal. The vote in Sweden and Norway; almost
complete equality with men in Denmark. Professional equality, too, has
gone far. We shall get all we want before long?" Her eyes sparkled in
her small lined face.

"And you are satisfied?"

"What human being of any intelligence--and I am intelligent," she
added, quietly,--"ever confessed to being 'satisfied'? Our shoe pinched
us. We have eased it a good deal."

"You really find it substantially better to walk with?"

"Through this uncomfortable world? Certainly. Why not?"

He was silent a little. Then he said, with his pleasant look, throwing
his head back to observe her, as though aware he might rouse her
antagonism.

"All that seems to me to go such a little way."

"I daresay," she said, indifferently, though it seemed to him that she
flushed. "You men have had everything you want for so long, you have
lost the sense of value. Now that we want some of your rights, it is
your cue to belittle them. And England, of course, is hopelessly
behind!" The tone had sharpened.

He laughed again and was about to reply when the band struck up Brahm's
Hungarian dances, and talk was hopeless. When the music was over, and
the burst of clapping, from all the young folk especially, had died
away, the Swedish lady said abruptly--

"But we had an English lady here last year--quite a young girl--very
handsome too--who was an even stronger feminist than I."

"Oh, yes, we can produce them--in great numbers. You have only to look
at our newspapers."

His companion's upper lip mocked at the remark.

"You don't produce them in great numbers--like the young lady I speak
of."

"Ah, she was good-looking?" laughed Winnington. "That, of course, gave
her a most unfair advantage."

"A man's jest," said the other dryly--"and an old one. But naturally
women take all the advantage they can get--out of anything. They need
it. However, this young lady had plenty of other gifts--besides her
beauty. She was as strong as most men. She rode, she climbed, she sang.
The whole hotel did nothing but watch her. She was the centre of
everything. But after a little while she insisted on leaving her father
down here to over-eat himself and play cards, while she went with her
maid and a black mare that nobody but she wanted to ride, up to the
_Jagd-huette_ in the forest. There!--you can see a little blue smoke
coming from it now"--

She pointed through the window to the great forest-clothed cliff, some
five thousand feet high, which fronted the hotel; and across a deep
valley, just below its topmost point, Mark Winnington saw a puff of
smoke mounting into the clear sky.

--"Of course there was a great deal of talk. The men gossipped and the
women scoffed. Her father, who adored her and could not control her in
the least, shrugged his shoulders, played bridge all day long with an
English family, and would sit on the verandah watching the path--that
path there--which comes down from the _Jagd-huette_ with a spy-glass.
Sometimes she would send him down a letter by one of the Jager's boys,
and he would send a reply. And every now and then she would come
down--riding--like a Brunhilde, with her hair all blown about her--and
her eyes--_Ach_, superb!"

The little dowdy woman threw up her hands.

Her neighbour's face shewed that the story interested and amused him.

"A Valkyrie, indeed! But how a feminist?"

"You shall hear. One evening she offered to give an address at the
hotel on 'Women and the Future.' She was already of course regarded as
half mad, and her opinions were well known. Some people objected, and
spoke to the manager. Her father, it was said, tried to stop it, but
she got her own way with him. And the manager finally decided that the
advertisement would be greater than the risk. When the evening came the
place was _bonde_; people came from every inn and pension round for
miles. She spoke beautiful German, she had learnt it from a German
governess who had brought her up, and been a second mother to her; and
she hadn't a particle of _mauvaise honte_. Somebody had draped some
Austrian and English flags behind her. The South Germans and Viennese,
and Hungarians who came to listen--just the same kind of people who are
here to-night--could hardly keep themselves on their chairs. The men
laughed and stared--I heard a few brutalities--but they couldn't keep
their eyes off her, and in the end they cheered her. Most of the women
were shocked, and wished they hadn't come, or let their girls come. And
the girls themselves sat open-mouthed--drinking it in."

"Amazing!" laughed the Englishman. "Wish I had been there! Was it an
onslaught upon men?"

"Of course," said his companion coolly. "What else could it be? At
present you men are the gaolers, and we the prisoners in revolt. This
girl talked revolution--they all do. 'We women _intend_ to have equal
rights with you!--whatever it cost. And when we have got them we shall
begin to fashion the world as _we_ want it--and not as you men have
kept it till now. _Gare a vous!_ You have enslaved us for ages--you may
enslave us a good while yet--but the end is certain. There is a new age
coming, and it will be the age of the free woman!'--That was the kind
of thing. I daresay it sounds absurd to you--but as she put it--as she
looked it--I can tell you, it was fine!"

The small, work-worn hands of the Swedish lady shook on her knee. Her
eyes seemed to hold the Englishman at bay. Then she added, in another
tone.

"Some people of course walked out, and afterwards there were many
complaints from fathers of families that their daughters should have
been exposed to such a thing. But it all passed over."

"And the young lady went back to the forest?"

"Yes,--for a time."

"And what became of the black mare?"

"Its mistress gave her to an inn-keeper here when she left. But the
first time he went to see the horse in the stable, she trampled on him
and he was laid up for weeks."

"Like mistress, like mare?--Excuse the jest! But now, may I know the
name of the prophetess?"

"She was a Miss Blanchflower," said the Swedish lady, boggling a little
over the name. "Her father had been a governor of one of your
colonies."

Winnington started forward in his chair.

"Good heavens!--you don't mean a daughter of old Bob Blanchflower!"

"Her father's name was Sir Robert Blanchflower."

The tanned face beside her expressed the liveliest interest.

"Why, I knew Blanchflower quite well. I met him long ago when I was
staying with an uncle in India--at a station in the Bombay presidency.
He was Major Blanchflower then"--

The speaker's brow furrowed a little as though under the stress of some
sudden recollection, and he seemed to check himself in what he was
saying. But in a moment he resumed:--

"A little after that he left the army, and went into Parliament.
And--precisely!--after a few years they made him governor
somewhere--not much of a post. Then last year his old father, a
neighbour of mine in Hampshire, quite close to my little place, went
and died, and Blanchflower came into a fortune and a good deal of land
besides. And I remember hearing that he had thrown up the Colonial
Service, had broken down in health, and was living abroad for some
years to avoid the English climate. That's the man of course. And the
Valkyrie is Blanchflower's daughter! Very odd that! I must have seen
her as a child. Her mother"--he paused again slightly--"was a Greek by
birth, and gloriously handsome. Blanchflower met her when he was
military attache at Athens for a short time.--Well, that's all very
interesting!"

And in a ruminating mood the Englishman took out his cigarette-case.

"You smoke, Madame?"

The Swedish lady quietly accepted the courtesy. And while the too
insistent band paused between one murdered Wagnerian fragment and
another, they continued a conversation which seemed to amuse them both.

       *       *       *       *       *

A little later the Englishman went out into the garden of the hotel,
meaning to start for a walk. But he espied a party of young people
gathered about the new lawn-tennis court where instead of the languid
and dishevelled trifling, with a broken net and a wretched court, that
was once supposed to attract English visitors, he had been already
astonished to find Austrians and Hungarians--both girls and
boys--playing a game quite up to the average of a good English club.
The growing athleticism and independence, indeed, of the foreign girl,
struck, for Winnington, the note of change in this mid-European
spectacle more clearly than anything else. It was some ten years since
he had been abroad in August, a month he had been always accustomed to
spend in Scotch visits; and these young girls, with whom the Tyrol
seemed to swarm, of all European nationalities other than English,
still in or just out of the schoolroom; hatless and fearless; with
their knapsacks on their backs, sometimes with ice-axes in their hands;
climbing peaks and passes with their fathers and brothers; playing
lawn-tennis like young men, and shewing their shapely forms sometimes,
when it was a question of attacking the heights, in knicker-bocker
costume, and at other times in fresh white dresses and bright-coloured
jerseys, without a hint of waist; these young Atalantas, budding and
bloomed, made the strongest impression upon him, as of a new race.
Where had he been all these years? He felt himself a kind of Rip van
Winkle--face to face at forty-one with a generation unknown to him. No
one of course could live in England, and not be aware of the change
which has passed over English girls in the same direction. But the
Englishman always tacitly assumes that the foreigner is far behind him
in all matters of open-air sport and physical development. Winnington
had soon confessed the touch of national arrogance in his own surprise;
and was now the keen and much attracted spectator.

On one of the grounds he saw the little German girl--Euphrosyne, as he
had already dubbed her--having a lesson from a bullying elder brother.
The youth, amazed at his own condescension, scolded his sister
perpetually, and at last gave her up in despair, vowing that she would
never be any good, and he was not going to waste his time in teaching
such a ninny. Euphrosyne sat down beside the court, with tears in her
pretty eyes, her white feet crossed, her dark head drooping; and two
girl companions, aged about sixteen or seventeen, like herself, came up
to comfort her.

"I could soon shew you how to improve your service, Mademoiselle," said
Winnington, smiling, as he passed her. Euphrosyne looked up startled,
but at sight of the handsome middle-aged Englishman, whom she unkindly
judged to be not much younger than her father, she timidly replied:--

"It is hateful, Monsieur, to be so stupid as I am!"

"Let me shew you," repeated Winnington, kindly. At this moment, a
vigilant English governess--speaking with a strong Irish-American
accent--came up, and after a glance at the Englishman, smilingly
acquiesced. The two comforters of Euphrosyne, graceful little maids,
with cherry-coloured jerseys over their white frocks, and golden brown
hair tied with the large black bows of the _Backfisch_, were eager to
share the lesson, and soon Winnington found himself the centre of a
whole bevy of boys and girls who had run up to watch Euphrosyne's
performance.

The English governess, a good girl, in spite of her accent, and the
unconscious fraud she was thereby perpetrating on her employers,
thought she had seldom witnessed a more agreeable scene.

"He treats them like princesses, and yet he makes them learn," she
thought, a comment which very fairly expressed the mixture of something
courtly with something masterful in the Englishman's manner. He was
patience itself; but he was also frankness itself, whether for praise
or blame; and the eagerness to please him grew fast and visibly in all
these young creatures.

But as soon as he had brought back Euphrosyne's smiles, and roused a
new and fierce ambition to excel in all their young breasts, he dropped
the lesson, with a few gay slangy words, and went his way, leaving a
stir behind him of which he was quite unconscious. And there was no
Englishman looking on who might have told the charmed and conquered
maidens that they had just been coached by one of the most famous of
English athletes, born with a natural genius for every kind of game,
from cricket downwards.

       *       *       *       *       *

On his way to the eastern side of the pass on which stood the group of
hotels, Winnington got his post from the _concierge_, including his
nightly _Times_, and carried it with him to a seat with which he was
already familiar.

But he left the _Times_ unopened, for the spectacle before him was one
to ravish the senses from everything but itself. He looked across the
deep valley of the Adige, nearly four thousand feet below him, to the
giant range of the Dolomite Alps on the eastern side. The shadow of the
forest-clad mountain on which he stood spread downwards over the plain,
and crept up the mountains on the farther edge. Above a gulf of deepest
blue, inlaid with the green of vineyards and forest lakes, he beheld an
aerial world of rose-colour--the giant Dolomites, Latemar, Rosengarten,
Schlern--majestic rulers of an upper air, so pure and luminous, that
every tiny shadow cast by every wisp of wandering cloud on the bare red
peaks, was plainly visible across the thirty miles of space.
Rosengarten, with its snowless, tempest-beaten crags, held the centre,
flushing to its name; and to the right and left, peak ranged beyond
peak, like courtiers crowding to their king; chief among them a vast
pyramid, blood-red in the sunset, from which the whole side, it seemed,
had been torn away, leaving a gash so fresh it might have been ripped
by a storm of yesterday, yet older perhaps than Calvary....

The great show faded through every tone of delicate beauty to a starry
twilight,--passion into calm. Winnington watched till it was done,
still with the Keatsian tag in his mind, and that deep inner memory of
loss, to which the vanished splendour of the mountains seemed to make a
mystic answering. He was a romantic--some would have said a sentimental
person, with a poet always in his pocket, and a hunger for all that
might shield him from the worst uglinesses of life, and the worst
despairs of thought; an optimist, and, in his own sense, Christian. He
had come abroad to wander alone for a time, because as one of the
busiest, most important and most popular men in a wide country-side, he
had had a year of unceasing and strenuous work, with no time to
himself; and it had suddenly been borne in upon him, in choosing
between the Alps and Scotland, that a man must sometimes be alone, for
his soul's health. And he had never relished the luxury of occasional
solitude so sharply as on this pine-scented evening in Tyrol.

It was not till he was sitting again under the electric light of the
hotel verandah that he opened his _Times_. The first paragraph which
his eye lit upon was an obituary notice of Sir Robert Blanchflower
"whose death, after a long illness and much suffering, occurred last
week in Paris." The notice ended with the words--"the deceased baronet
leaves a large property both in land and personalty. His only child, a
daughter, Miss Delia Blanchflower, survives him."

Winnington laid down the paper. So the Valkyrie was now alone in the
world, and mistress no doubt of all her father's wealth. "I must have
seen her--I am sure there was a child about"; he said to himself again;
and his thoughts went groping into a mostly forgotten past, and as he
endeavoured to reconstruct it, the incident which had brought him for a
few weeks into close relations with Robert Blanchflower, then Major
Blanchflower of the--Dragoons, came at last vividly back to him.

An easy-going husband--a beautiful wife, not vicious, but bored to
death--the inevitable third, in the person of a young and amorous
cavalry officer--and a whole Indian station, waiting, half maliciously,
half sadly, for the _banal_ catastrophe:--it was thus he remembered the
situation. Winnington had arrived on the scene as a barrister of some
five years' standing, invalided after an acute attack of pneumonia, and
the guest for the winter of his uncle, then Commissioner of the
district. He discovered in the cavalry officer a fellow who had been
his particular protege at Eton, and had owed his passionately coveted
choice for the Eleven largely to Winnington's good word. The whole
dismal little drama unveiled itself, and Winnington was hotly moved by
the waste and pity of it. He was entertained by the Blanchflowers and
took a liking to them both. The old friendship between Winnington and
the cavalryman was soon noticed by Major Blanchflower, and one night he
walked home with Winnington, who had been dining at his house, to the
Commissioner's quarters. Then, for the first time, Winnington realised
what it may be to wrestle with a man in torment. The next day, the
young cavalryman, at Winnington's invitation, took his old friend for a
ride, and before dawn on the following day, the youth was off on leave,
and neither Major nor Mrs. Blanchflower, Winnington believed, had ever
seen him again. What he did with the youth, and how he did it, he
cannot exactly remember, but at least he doesn't forget the grip of
Blanchflower's hand, and the look of deliverance in his strained,
hollow face. Nor had Mrs. Blanchflower borne her rescuer any grudge. He
had parted from her on the best of terms, and the recollection of her
astonishing beauty grows strong in him as he thinks of her.

So now it is her daughter who is stirring the world! With her father's
money and her mother's eyes,--not to speak of the additional
trifles--eloquence, enthusiasm, &c.--thrown in by the Swedish woman,
she ought to find it easy.

The dressing-gong of the hotel disturbed a rather sleepy reverie, and
sent the Englishman back to his _Times_. And a few hours later he went
to a dreamless bed, little guessing at the letter which was even then
waiting for him, far below, in the Botzen post-office.




Chapter II


Winnington took his morning coffee on a verandah of the hotel, from
which the great forests of Monte Vanna were widely visible. Upwards
from the deep valley below the pass, to the topmost crags of the
mountain, their royal mantle ran unbroken. This morning they were
lightly drowned in a fine weather haze, and the mere sight of them
suggested cool glades and verdurous glooms, stretches of pink willow
herb lighting up the clearings--and in the secret heart of them such
chambers "deaf to noise and blind to light" as the forest lover knows.
Winnington promised himself a leisurely climb to the top of Monte
Vanna. The morning foretold considerable heat, but under the pines one
might mock at Helios.

Ah!--Euphrosyne!

She came, a vision of morning, tripping along in her white shoes and
white dress; followed by her English governess, the lady, as Winnington
guessed, from West Belfast, tempered by Brooklyn. The son apparently
was still in bed, nor did anyone trouble to hurry him out of it. The
father, a Viennese judge _en retraite_, as Winnington had been already
informed by the all-knowing porter of the hotel, was a shrewd
thin-lipped old fellow, with the quiet egotism of the successful
lawyer. He came up to Winnington as soon as he perceived him, and
thanked him in good English for his kindness to Euphrosyne of the day
before. Winnington responded suitably and was soon seated at their
table, chatting with them while they took their coffee. Euphrosyne
shewed a marked pleasure in his society, and upon Winnington, steeped
in a holiday reaction from much strenuous living, her charm worked as
part of the charm of the day, and the magic of the mountain world. He
noticed, however, with a revival of alarm, that she had a vigorous
German appetite of her own, and as he watched the rolls disappear he
trembled for the slender figure and the fawn-like gait.

After breakfast, while the governess and the girl disappeared, the
father hung over the verandah smoking, beside the Englishman, to whom
he was clearly attracted. He spoke quite frankly of his daughter, and
her bringing up. "She is motherless; her mother died when she was ten
years old; and since, I must educate her myself. It gives me many
anxieties, but she is a sweet creature, _dank sei gott_! I will not let
her approach, even, any of these modern ideas about women. My wife
hated them; I do also. I shall marry her to an honest man, and she will
make a good wife and a good house-mother."

"Mind you choose him well!" said Winnington, with a shrug. His eyes at
that moment were critically bent on a group of Berliners, men of the
commercial and stock-broking class, who, with their wives, had arrived
a couple of nights before. The men were strolling and smoking below.
They were all fat, red-faced and overbearing. When they went for walks,
the man stalked in front along the forest paths, and the woman followed
behind, carrying her own jacket. Winnington wondered what it might be
like to be the wife of any of them. These _Herren_ at any rate might
not be the worse for a little hustling from the "woman movement." He
could not, however, say honestly that the wives shewed any
consciousness of ill-fortune. They were almost all plump, plumper even
than their husbands, expensively dressed and prosperous looking; and
the amount of Viennese beer they consumed at the forest restaurants to
which their husbands conducted them, seemed to the Englishman
portentous.

"Yes, my daughter is old-fashioned," resumed the ex-judge,
complacently, after a pause. "And I am grateful to Miss Johnson, who
has trained her very well. If she were like some of the girls one sees
now! Last year there was a young lady here--_Ach, Gott!_" He raised his
shoulders, with a contemptuous mouth.

"Miss Blanchflower?" asked Winnington, turning towards the speaker with
sudden interest.

"That I believe was her name. She was mad, of course. _Ach_, they have
told you?--of that _Vortrag_ she gave?--and the rest? After ten
minutes, I made a sign to my daughter, and we walked out. I would not
have had her corrupted with these ideas for the whole world. And such
beauty, you understand! That makes it more dangerous. _Ja, ja,
Liebchen--ich komme gleich!_"

For there had been a soft call from Euphrosyne, standing on the steps
of the hotel, and her fond father hurried away to join her.

At the same moment, the porter emerged, bearing a bundle of letters and
newspapers which had just arrived. Eager for his _Times_ Winnington
went to meet him, and the man put into his hands what looked like a
large post. He carried it off into the shelter of the pines, for the
sun was already blazing on the hotel. Two or three letters on county
business he ran through first. His own pet project, as County
Councillor,--a county school for crippled children, was at last getting
on. Foundation stone to be laid in October--good! "But how the deuce
can I get hold of some more women to help work it! Scandalous, how few
of the right sort there are about! And as for the Asylums Committee, if
we really can't legally co-opt women to it, as our clerk says"--he
looked again at a letter in his hand--"the law is an ass!--a
double-dyed ass. I swear I won't visit those poor things on the women's
side again. It's women's work--let them do it. The questions I have to
ask are enough to make an old gamp blush. Hallo, what's this?"

He turned over a large blue envelope, and looked at a name stamped
across the back. It was the name of a well-known firm of London
solicitors. But he had no dealings with them, and could not imagine why
they should have written to him.

He opened the letter carelessly, and began to read it,--presently with
eager attention, and at last with amazement.

It ran as follows:

     "From Messrs. MORTON, MANNERS & LATHOM,
      Solicitors,
      Adelphi,
      London, W. C."

"Dear Sir,--We write on behalf of Lord Frederick Calverly, your
co-executor, under Sir Robert Blanchflower's will, to inform you that
in Sir Robert's last will and testament--of which we enclose a
copy--executed at Meran six weeks before his decease, you are named as
one of his two executors, as sole trustee of his property, and sole
guardian of Sir Robert's daughter and only child, Miss Delia
Blanchflower, until she attains the age of twenty-five. We believe that
this will be a complete surprise to you, for although Sir Robert,
according to a statement he made during his last illness to his sister,
Miss Elizabeth Blanchflower, intended to communicate with you before
signing the will, his weakness increased so rapidly, after it was
finally drawn up, that he was never able to do so. Indeed the morning
after his secretary had written out a clear copy of what he himself had
put together, he had a most alarming attack from which he rallied with
difficulty. That afternoon he signed the will, and was just able to
write you the letter which we also enclose, marked by himself, as you
will see. He was never properly conscious afterwards, and he died in
Paris last Thursday, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery at Mont
Parnasse on the Saturday following. The will which was in our custody
was opened in London yesterday, by Lord Frederick Calverly, in Miss
Blanchflower's presence. We understand from her that she has already
written to you on the subject. Lord Frederick would also have done so,
but that he has just gone to Harrogate, in a very poor state of health.
He begs us to say that he is of course quite aware that your
engagements may not allow you to accept the functions offered you under
the will, and that he will be in considerable anxiety until he knows
your decision. He hopes that you will at least accept the executorship;
and indeed ventures to appeal very strongly on that account to your old
friendship for Sir Robert; as he himself sees no prospect of being able
to carry out unaided the somewhat heavy responsibilities attaching to
the office.

"You will see that a sum of L4000 is left to yourself under the will."

     We remain, dear Sir,

     Your obedient servants,

     MORTON, MANNERS & LATHOM.
      "(Solicitors.)"

     "MARK WINNINGTON, Esq., J. P.
      Bridge End, Maumsey,
      Hants."

A bulky document on blue paper, and also a letter had dropped to the
ground. Winnington stooped for the letter, and turned it over in
stupification. It was addressed in a faltering hand, and marked, "To be
forwarded after my death." He hastily broke the seal.

"MY DEAR MARK WINNIXGTON,--I know well what I am laying upon you. I
have no right to do it. But I remember certain days in the past, and I
believe if you are still the same man you were then, you will do what I
ask. My daughter ought to be a fine woman. At present she seems to me
entirely and completely out of her mind. She has been captured by the
extreme suffrage movement, and by one of the most mischievous women in
it; and I have no influence with her whatever. I live in terror of what
she may do; of what they may lead her to do. To attempt to reason with
her is useless; and for a long time my health has been such that I have
avoided conflict with her as much as possible. But things have now come
to such a pass that something must be done, and I have tried in these
last weeks, ill as I am, to face the future. I want if I can to save
Delia from wasting herself, and the money and estates I should
naturally leave her, upon this mad campaign. I want, even against her
will, to give her someone to advise and help her. I feel bitterly that
I have done neither. The tropics ruined me physically, and I seem to
have gone to pieces altogether the last few years. But I love my child,
and I can't leave her without a real friend or support in the world. I
have no near relations, except my sister Elizabeth, and she and Delia
are always at feud. Freddie Calverly my cousin, is a good fellow in his
way, though too fussy about his health. He has a fair knowledge of
business, and he would have been hurt if I had not made him executor.
So I have appointed him, and have of course left him a little money.
But he could no more tackle Delia than fly. In the knock-about life we
have led since I left the Colonial Service, I seem to have shed all my
old friends. I can think of no one who could or would help me in this
strait but you--and you know why. God bless you for what you once did
for me. There was never any other cloud between my poor wife and me.
She turned to me after that trouble, and we were happy till the end.

"I have heard too something of you from Maumsey people, since I
inherited Maumsey, though I have never been able to go there. I know
what your neighbours think of you. And now Delia is going to be your
neighbour. So, drawing a bow at a venture, as a dying man must, I have
made you Delia's guardian and trustee, with absolute power over her
property and income till she is twenty-five. When she attains that
age--she is now nearly twenty-two--if she marries a man approved by
you, or if you are satisfied that her connection with militant
suffragism has ceased, the property is to be handed over to her in full
possession, and the trust will come to an end. If on the contrary, she
continues in her present opinion and course of action, I have left
directions that the trust is to be maintained for Delia's life-time,
under certain conditions as to her maintenance, which you will find in
the will. If you yourself are not willing to administer the trust,
either now or later, the property will devolve to the Public Trustee,
for whom full instructions are left. And at Delia's death it will be
divided among her heirs, if she has any, and various public objects.

"I cannot go further into details. My strength is almost out. But this
one thing may I beg?--if you become my child's guardian, get the right
person to live with her. I regard that as all-important. She must have
a chaperon, and she will try to set up one of the violent women who
have divided her from me. Especially am I in dread of a lady, an
English lady, a Miss Marvell, whom I engaged two years ago to stay with
us for the winter and read history with Delia. She is very able and a
very dangerous woman, prepared I believe, to go to any length on behalf
of her 'cause.' At any rate she filled Delia's head with the wildest
suffragist notions, and since then my poor child thinks of nothing
else. Even since I have been so ill--this last few weeks--I know she
has been in communication with this woman. She sympathises with all the
horrible things they do, and I am certain she gives all the money she
can to their funds. Delia is a splendid creature, but she is vain and
excitable and they court her. I feel that they might tempt her into any
madness.

"Goodbye. I made the doctor give me strychnine and morphia enough to
carry me through this effort. I expect it will be the last. Help me,
and my girl--if you can--for old sake's sake. Goodbye."

     Your grateful old friend,

     "ROBERT BLANCHFLOWER."

"Good heavens!" was all Winnington could find to say, as he put down
the letter.

Then, becoming aware, as the verandah filled after breakfast, that he
was in a very public place, he hastily rose, thrust the large
solicitor's envelope, with its bulky enclosures into his coat pocket,
and proceeded to gather up the rest of his post. As he did so, he
suddenly perceived a black-edged letter, addressed in a remarkably
clear handwriting, with the intertwined initials D. B. in the corner.

A fit of silent laughter, due to his utter bewilderment, shook him. He
put the letter with all its fellows into another pocket and hurried
away into the solitude of the woods. It was some time before he had
succeeded in leaving all the tourists' paths and seats behind. At last
in a green space of bilberry and mossy rock, with the pines behind him,
and the chain of the Dolomites, sun-bathed, in front, he opened and
read his "ward's" first letter to him.

"DEAR MR. WINNINGTON,--I understood--though very imperfectly--from my
father, before he died, that he had appointed you my guardian and
trustee till I should reach the age of twenty-five, and he explained to
me so far as he could his reason for such a step. And now I have of
course read the will, and the solicitors have explained to me clearly
what it all means.

"You will admit I think that I am placed in a very hard position. If my
poor father had not been so ill, I should certainly have tried to argue
with him, and to prevent his doing anything so unnecessary and unjust
as he has now done--unjust both to you and to me. But the doctors
absolutely forbade me to discuss any business with him, and I could do
nothing. I can only hope that the last letter he wrote to you, just
before his death, and the alterations he made in his will about the
same time, gave him some comfort. If so, I do not grudge them for one
moment.

"But now you and I have to consider this matter as sensible people, and
I suggest that for a man who is a complete stranger to me, and probably
altogether out of sympathy with the ideas and principles, I believe in
and am _determined_ to act upon--(for otherwise my father would not
have chosen you)--to undertake the management of my life and affairs,
would be really grotesque. It must lead to endless friction and trouble
between us. If you refuse, the solicitors tell me, the Public
Trustee--which seems to be a government office--will manage the
property, and the Court of Chancery will appoint a guardian in
accordance with my father's wishes. That would be bad enough,
considering that I am of full age and in my right mind--I can't promise
to give a guardian chosen in such a way, a good time. But at any rate,
it would be less odious to fight a court and an office, if I must
fight, than a gentleman who is my near neighbour in the county, and was
my father's and mother's friend. I do hope you will think this over
very carefully, and will relieve both yourself and me from an
impossible state of things. I perfectly realise of course that my
father appointed you my guardian, in order to prevent me from making
certain friends, and doing certain things. But I do not admit the right
of any human being--not even a father--to dictate the life of another.
I intend to stick to my friends, And to do what my conscience directs.

"Should you however accept the guardianship--after this candid
statement of mine--you will, I suppose, feel bound to carry out my
father's wishes by refusing me money for the purposes he disapproved.
He told me indeed that I should be wholly dependent on my guardian for
money during the next three years, even though I have attained my legal
majority. I can say to you what I could not say to him, that I
_bitterly resent_ an arrangement which treats a grown person like a
child. Such things are not done to _men_. It is only women who are the
victims of them. It would be _impossible_ to keep up friendly relations
with a guardian, who would really only be there--only exist--to thwart
and coerce me.

"Let me point out that at the very beginning a difference must arise
between us, about the lady I am to live with. I have chosen my chaperon
already, as it was my moral, if not my legal right to do. But I am
quite aware that my father disapproved of her, and that you will
probably take the same view. She belongs to a militant suffrage
society, and is prepared at any moment to suffer for the great cause
she and I believe in. As to her ability, she is one of the cleverest
women in England. I am only too proud that she has consented--for a
time--to share my life, and nothing will _induce_ me to part with
her--as long as she consents to stay. But of course I know what you--or
any ordinary man--is likely to think of her.

"No!--we cannot agree--it is impossible we should agree--as guardian
and ward. If indeed, for the sake of your old friendship with my
father, you would retain the executorship--I am sure Lord Frederick
Calverly will be no sort of use!--till the affairs of the will,
death-duties, debts, and so on, are settled--and would at the same time
give up _any_ other connection with the property and myself, I should
be enormously grateful to you. And I assure you I should be very glad
indeed--for father's sake--to have your advice on many points connected
with my future life; and I should be all the more ready to follow it,
if you had renounced your legal power over me.

"I shall be much obliged if you will make your decision as soon as
possible, so that both the lawyer and I may know how to proceed."

     Yours faithfully,

     DELIA BLANCHFLOWER.

Mark Winnington put down the letter. Its mixture of defiance, patronage
and persuasion--its young angry cleverness--would have tickled a
naturally strong sense of humour at any other time. But really the
matter was too serious to laugh at.

"What on earth am I to do!"

He sat pondering, his mind running through a number of associated
thoughts, of recollections old and new; those Indian scenes of fifteen
years ago; the story told him by the Swedish lady; recent incidents and
happenings in English politics; and finally the tone in which
Euphrosyne's father had described the snatching of his own innocent
from the clutches of Miss Blanchflower.

Then it occurred to him to look at the will. He read it through; a
tedious business; for Sir Robert had been a wealthy man and the
possessions bequeathed--conditionally bequeathed--to his daughter were
many and various. Two or three thousand acres of land in one of the
southern counties, bordering on the New Forest; certain large interests
in Cleveland ironstone and Durham collieries, American and South
African shares, Canadian mortgage and railway debentures:--there was
enough to give lawyers and executors work for some time, and to provide
large pickings for the Exchequer. Among the legacies, he noticed the
legacy of L4000 to himself.

"Payment for the job!" he thought, and shook his head, smiling.

The alternative arrangements made for transferring the trust to the
Public Trustee, should Winnington decline, and for vesting the
guardianship of the daughter in the Court of Chancery, subject to the
directions of the will, till she should reach the age of twenty-five,
were clear; so also was the provision that unless a specific signed
undertaking was given by the daughter on attaining her twenty-fifth
birthday, that the moneys of the estate would not be applied to the
support of the "militant suffrage" propaganda, the trust was to be made
permanent, a life income of L2000 a year was to be settled on Miss
Blanchflower, and the remainder, i.e. by far the major part of Sir
Robert's property, was to accumulate, for the benefit of his daughter's
heirs should she have any, and of various public objects. Should Miss
Blanchflower sign the undertaking and afterwards break it, the Public
Trustee was directed to proceed against her, and to claim the
restitution of the property, subject always to her life allowance.

"Pretty well tied up," thought Winnington, marvelling at the strength
of feeling, the final exasperation of a dying man, which the will
betrayed. His daughter must somehow--perhaps without realising it--have
wounded him to the heart.

He began to climb again through the forest that he might think the
better. What would be the situation, supposing he undertook what his
old friend asked of him?

He himself was a man of moderate means and settled habits. His small
estate and modest house which a widowed sister shared with him during
six months in the year, left him plenty of leisure from his own
affairs, and he had filled that leisure, for years past, to
overflowing, with the various kinds of public work that fall to the
country gentleman with a conscience. He was never idle; his work
interested him, and there was no conceit in his quiet knowledge that he
had many friends and much influence. Since the death of the girl to
whom he had been engaged for six short months, fifteen years before
this date, he had never thought of marriage. The circumstances of her
death--a terrible case of lingering typhoid--had so burnt the pity of
her suffering and the beauty of her courage into his mind, that natural
desire seemed to have died with her. He had turned to hard work and the
bar, and equally hard physical exercise, and so made himself master
both of his grief and his youth. But his friendships with women had
played a great part in his subsequent life. A natural chivalry, deep
based, and, in manner, a touch of caressing charm, soon evoked by those
to whom he was attached, and not easily confounded in the case of a man
so obviously manly with any lack of self-control, had long since made
him a favourite of the sex. There were few women among his
acquaintances who did not covet his liking; and he was the repository
of far more confidences than he had ever desired. No one took more
trouble to serve; and no one more carelessly forgot a service he had
himself rendered, or more tenaciously remembered any kindness done him
by man, woman or child.

His admiration for women was mingled indeed often with profound pity;
pity for the sorrows and burdens that nature had laid upon them, for
their physical weakness, for their passive role in life. That beings so
hampered could yet play such tender and heroic parts was to him
perennially wonderful, and his sense of it expressed itself in an
unconscious homage that seemed to embrace the sex. That the homage was
not seldom wasted on persons quite unworthy of it, his best women
friends were not slow to see; but in this he was often obstinate and
took his own way.

This mingling in him of an unfailing interest in the sex with an entire
absence of personal craving, gave him a singularly strong position with
regard to women, of which he had never yet taken any selfish advantage;
largely, no doubt, because of the many activities, most of them
disinterested, by which his life was fed and freshened; as a lake is by
the streams which fill it.

He was much moved by his old friend's letter, and he walked about
pondering it, till the morning was almost gone. The girl's position
also seemed to him particularly friendless and perilous, though she
herself, apparently, would be the last person to think so, could she
only shake herself free from the worrying restrictions her father had
inflicted on her. Her letter, and its thinly veiled wrath, shewed quite
plainly that the task of any guardian would be a tough one. Miss
Blanchflower was evidently angry--very angry--yet at the same time
determined, if she could, to play a dignified part; ready, that is, to
be civil, on her own conditions. The proposal to instal as her
chaperon, instantly, without a day's delay, the very woman denounced in
her father's last letter, struck him as first outrageous, and then
comic. He laughed aloud over it.

Certainly--he was not bound in any way to undertake such a business.
Blanchflower had spoken the truth when he said that he had no right to
ask it. And yet--

His mind dallied with it. Suppose he undertook it, on what lines could
he possibly run it? His feeling towards the violent phase of the
"woman's movement," the militancy which during the preceding three or
four years had produced a crop of outrages so surprising and so ugly,
was probably as strong as Blanchflower's own. He was a natural
Conservative, and a trained lawyer. Methods of violence in a civilised
and constitutional State, roused in him indignant abhorrence. He could
admit no excuse for them; at any rate no justification.

But, fundamentally? What was his real attitude towards this wide-spread
claim of women, now so general in many parts of the world admitted
indeed in some English Colonies, in an increasing number of the
American states, in some of the minor European countries--to share the
public powers and responsibilities of men? Had he ever faced the
problem, as it concerned England, with any thoroughness or candour? Yet
perhaps Englishmen--all Englishmen--had now got to face it.

Could he discover any root of sympathy in himself with what were
clearly the passionate beliefs of Delia Blanchflower, the Valkyrie of
twenty-one, as they were also the passionate beliefs of the little
Swedish lady, the blue-stocking of fifty? If so, it might be possible
to guide, even to control such a ward, for the specified three years,
at any rate, without exciting unseemly and ridiculous strife between
her and her guardian.

"I ought to be able to do it"--he thought--"without upsetting the
apple-cart!"

For, as he examined himself he realised that he held no closed mind on
the subject of the rights or powers or grievances of women. He had
taken no active part whatever in the English suffragist struggle,
either against woman suffrage or for it; and in his own countryside it
mattered comparatively little. But he was well aware what strong forces
and generous minds had been harnessed to the suffrage cause, since Mill
first set it stirring; and among his dearest women friends there were
some closely connected with it, who had often mocked or blamed his own
indifference. He had always thought indeed, and he thought still--for
many reasons--that they attributed a wildly exaggerated importance to
the vote, which, as it seemed to him, went a very short way in the case
of men. But he had always been content to let the thing slide; having
so much else to do and think about.

Patience then, and respect for honest and disinterested conviction, in
any young and ardent soul; sharp discrimination between lawful and
unlawful means of propaganda, between debate, and stone-throwing; no
interference with the first, and a firm hand against the
second:--surely, in that spirit, one might make something of the
problem? Winnington was accustomed to be listened to, to get round
obstacles that other men found insuperable. It was scarcely conceit,
but a just self-confidence which suggested to him that perhaps Miss
Blanchflower would not prove so difficult after all. Gentleness,
diplomacy, decision,--by Jove, they'd all be wanted! But his legal
experience (he had been for some years a busy barrister), and his later
life as a practical administrator had not been a bad training in each
and all of these qualities.

Of course, if the girl were merely obstinate and stupid, the case might
indeed be hopeless. But the picture drawn by the Swedish woman of the
"Valkyrie" on her black mare, of the ardent young lecturer, facing her
indifferent or hostile audience with such pluck and spirit, dwelt with
him, and affected him strongly. His face broke into amusement as he
asked himself the frank question--"Would you do it, if you hadn't heard
that tale?--if you knew that your proposed ward was just a plain
troublesome chit of a schoolgirl, bitten with suffragism?"

He put the question to himself, standing on a pinnacle of shadowed
rock, from which the world seemed to sink into blue gulfs beneath him,
till on the farther side of immeasurable space the mountains
re-emerged, climbing to the noonday sun.

And he answered it without hesitation. Certainly, the story told him
had added a touch of romance to the bare case presented by the batch of
letters:--had lent a force and point to Robert Blanchflower's dying
plea, it might not otherwise have possessed. For, after all, he,
Winnington, was a very busy man; and his life was already mortgaged in
many directions. But as it was--yes--the task attracted him.

At the same time, the twinkle in his grey eyes shewed him ironically
aware of himself.

"Understand, you old fool!--the smallest touch of philandering--and the
whole business goes to pot. The girl would have you at her mercy--and
the thing would become an odious muddle and hypocrisy, degrading to
both. Can you trust yourself? You're not exactly made of flint: Can you
play the part as it ought to be played?"

Quietly, his face sank into rest. For him, there was that in memory,
which protected him from all such risks, which had so protected him for
fifteen years. He felt quite sure of himself. Ever since his great loss
he had found his natural allies and companions among girls and young
women as much as among men. The embarrassment of sex seemed to have
passed away for him, but not the charm. Thus, he took what for him was
the easier path of acceptance. Kindly and scrupulous as he was, it
would have been hard for him in any case to say No to the dead, more
difficult than to say it to the living. Yes!--he would do what was
possible. _The Times_ that morning contained a long list of outrages
committed by militant suffragists--houses burnt down, meetings
disturbed, members attacked. In a few months, or weeks, perhaps,
without counsel to aid or authority to warn her, the Valkyrie might be
running headlong into all the perils her father foresaw. He pledged
himself to protect her if he could.

       *       *       *       *       *

The post which left the hotel that evening took with it a short note
from Mark Winnington to Messrs. Morton, Manners & Lathom, accepting the
functions of executor, guardian and trustee offered him under Sir
Robert Blanchflower's will, and appointing an interview with them at
their office; together with a somewhat longer one addressed to "Miss
Delia Blanchflower, Claridge's Hotel, London.

"DEAR MISS BLANCHFLOWER, Pray let me send you my most sincere
condolence. Your poor father and I were once great friends, and I am
most truly sorry to hear of his death.

"Thank you for your interesting letter. But I find it impossible to
refuse your father's dying request to me, nor can I believe that I
cannot be of some assistance to his daughter. Let me try. We can always
give it up, if we cannot work it, but I see no reason why, with good
will on both sides, we should not make something of it.

"I am returning to London ten days from now, and hope to see you within
a fortnight.

"Please address, 'Junior Carlton Club, Pall Mall.'"

     Believe me,
          Yours very truly,
             "MARK WINNINGTON."


On his arrival, in London, Winnington found a short reply awaiting him.

"DEAR MR. WINNINGTON,--As you please. I am however shortly leaving for
Maumsey with Miss Marvell, who, as I told you, has undertaken to live
with me as my chaperon.

"We shall hope to see you at Maumsey."

     Yours faithfully,
         "DELIA BLANCHFLOWER."


A few days later, after long interviews with some very meticulous
solicitors, a gentleman, very much in doubt as to what his reception
would be, took train for Maumsey and the New Forest, with a view to
making as soon as possible a first call upon his ward.




Chapter III


"We ought soon to see the house."

The speaker bent forward, as the train, sweeping round a curve, emerged
from some thick woods Into a space of open country. It was early
September and a sleepy autumnal sunshine lay upon the fields. The
Stubbles just reaped ran over the undulations of the land in silky
purples and gold; the blue smoke from the cottages and farms hung
poised in mid air; the eye could hardly perceive any movement in the
clear stream beside the line, as it slipped noiselessly by over its
sandy bed; it seemed a world where "it was always afternoon"; and the
only breaks in its sunny silence came from the occasional coveys of
partridges that rose whirring from the harvest-fields as the train
passed.

Delia Blanchflower looked keenly at the English scene, so strange to
her after many years of Colonial and foreign wandering. She thought,
but did not say--"Those must be my fields--and my woods, that we have
just passed through. Probably I rode about them with Grandpapa. I
remember the pony--and the horrid groom I hated!" Quick the memory
returned of a tiny child on a rearing pony, alone with a sulky groom,
who, out of his master's sight, could not restrain his temper, and
struck the pony savagely and repeatedly over the head, to an
accompaniment of oaths; frightening out of her wits the little girl who
sat clinging to the creature's neck. And next she saw herself marching
in erect--a pale-faced thing of six, with a heart of fury,--to her
grandfather, to demand justice on the offender. And grandpapa had done
her bidding then as always; the groom was dismissed that day. It was
only grandmamma who had ever tried to manage or thwart her; result,
perpetual war, decided often for the time by the brute force at command
of the elder, but ever renewed. Delia's face flamed again as she
thought of the most humiliating incident of her childhood; when
Grandmamma, unable, to do anything with her screaming and stamping
self, had sent in despair for a stalwart young footman, and ordered him
to "carry Miss Delia up to the nursery." Delia could still feel herself
held, wriggling and shrieking face downwards, under the young man's
strong arm, unable either to kick or to scratch, while Grandmamma half
fearful, half laughing, watched the dire ascent from the bottom of the
stairs.

"Male tyranny--my first taste of it!" thought Delia, smiling at
herself. "It was fated then that I should be a militant."

She looked across at her friend and travelling companion, half inclined
to tell the story; but the sight of Gertrude Marvell's attitude and
expression checked the trivial reminiscence on her lips.

"Are you tired?" she said, laying her hand on the other's knee.

"Oh, no. Only thinking."

"Thinking of what?"--

"Of all there is to do."--

A kind of flash passed from one face to the other, Delia's eyes darkly
answering. They looked at each other for a little, as though in silent
conversation, and then Delia turned again to the landscape outside.

Yes, there was the house, its long, irregular line with the village
behind it. She could not restrain a slight exclamation as she caught
sight of it, and her friend opposite turned interrogatively.

"What did you say?"

"Nothing--only there's the Abbey. I don't suppose I've seen it since I
was twelve."

The other lady put up an eye-glass and looked where Miss Blanchflower
pointed; but languidly, as though it were an effort to shake herself
free from pre-occupying ideas. She was a woman of about thirty-five,
slenderly made, with a sallow, regular face, and good, though
short-sighted eyes. The eyes were dark, so was the hair, the features
delicate. Under the black shady hat, the hair was very closely and
neatly coiled. The high collar of the white blouse, fitting tightly to
the slender neck, the coat and skirt of blue serge without ornament of
any kind, but well cut, emphasized the thinness, almost emaciation, of
the form. Her attitude, dress, and expression conveyed the idea of
something amazingly taut and ready--like a ship cleared for action. The
body with its clothing seemed to have been simplified as much as
possible, so as to become the mere instrument of the will which
governed it. No superfluity whatever, whether of flesh on her small
bones, or of a single unnecessary button, fold, or trimming on her
dress, had Gertrude Marvell ever allowed herself for many years. The
general effect was in some way formidable; though why the neat
precision of the little lady should convey any notion of this sort, it
would not at first sight have been easy to say.

"How old did you say it is?"--she asked, after examining the distant
building, which could be now plainly seen from the train across a
stretch of green park.

"Oh, the present building is nothing--a pseudo-Gothic monstrosity,
built about 1830," laughed Delia; "but there are some old remains and
foundations of the abbey. It is a big, rambling old place, and I should
think dreadfully in want of doing up. My grandfather was a bit of a
miser, and though he was quite rich, he never spent a penny he could
help."

"All the better. He left the more for other people to spend." Miss
Marvell smiled--a slight, and rather tired smile, which hardly altered
the face.

"Yes, if they are allowed to spend it!" said Delia, with a shrug. "Oh
well, anyway the house must be done up--painted and papered and that
kind of thing. A trustee has got to see that things of that sort are
kept in order, I suppose. But it won't have anything to do with me,
except that for decency's sake, no doubt, he'll consult me. I shall be
allowed to choose the wall-papers I suppose!"

"If you want to," said the other drily.

Delia's brows puckered.

"We shall have to spend some time here, you know, Gertrude! We may as
well have something to do."

"Nothing that might entangle us, or take too much of our thoughts,"
said Miss Marvell, gently, but decidedly.

"I'm afraid I like furnishing," said Delia, not without a shade of
defiance.

"And I object--because I know you do. After all--you understand as
well as I do that _every day_ now is important. There are not so many
of us, Delia! If you're going to do real work, you can't afford to
spend your time or thoughts on doing up a shabby house."

There was silence a moment. Then Delia said abruptly--"I wonder when
that man will turn up? What a fool he is to take it on!"

"The guardianship? Yes, he hardly knows what he's in for." A touch of
grim amusement shewed itself for a moment in Miss Marvell's quiet face.

"Oh, I daresay he knows. Perhaps he relies on what everyone calls his
'influence.' Nasty, sloppy word--nasty sloppy thing! Whenever I'm
'influenced,' I'm degraded!" The young shoulders straightened
themselves fiercely.

"I don't know. It has its uses," said the other tranquilly.

Delia laughed radiantly.

"O well--if one can make the kind of weapon of it you do. I don't mean
of course that one shouldn't be rationally persuaded. But that's a
different thing. 'Influence' makes me think of canting clergymen, and
stout pompous women, who don't know what they're talking about, and
can't argue--who think they've settled everything by a stale
quotation--or an appeal to 'your better self'--or St. Paul. If Mr.
Winnington tries it on with 'influence'--we'll have some fun."

Delia returned to her window. The look her companion bent upon her was
not visible to her. It was curiously detached--perhaps slightly
ironical.

"I'm wondering what part I shall play in the first interview!" said
Miss Marvell, after a pause. "I represent the first stone in Mr.
Winnington's path. He will of course do his best to put me out of it."

"How can he?" cried Delia ardently. "What can he do? He can't send for
the police and turn you out of the house. At least I suppose he could,
but he certainly won't. The last thing a gentleman of his sort wants is
to make a scandal. Every one says, after all, that he is a nice
fellow!"--the tone was unconsciously patronising--"It isn't his fault
if he's been placed in this false position. But the great question for
me is--how are we going to manage him for the best?"

She leant forward, her chin on her hands, her sparkling eyes fixed on
her friend's face.

"The awkward thing is"--mused Miss Marvell--"that there is so little
_time_ in which to manage him. If the movement were going on at its old
slow pace, one might lie low, try diplomacy, avoid alarming him, and so
forth. But we've no time for that. It is a case of blow on blow--action
on action--and the publicity is half the battle."

"Still, a little management there must be, to begin with!--because
I--we--want money, and he holds the purse-strings. Hullo, here's the
station!"

She jumped up and looked eagerly out of the window.

"They've sent a fly for us. And there's the station-master on the
lookout. How it all comes back to me!"

Her flushed cheek showed a natural excitement. She was coming back as
its mistress to a house where she had been happy as a child, which she
had not seen for years. Thoughts of her father, as he had been in the
old days before any trouble had arisen between them, came rushing
through her mind--tender, regretful thoughts--as the train came slowly
to a standstill.

But the entire indifference or passivity of her companion restrained
her from any further expression. The train stopped, and she descended
to the platform of a small country station, alive apparently with
traffic and passengers.

"Miss Blanchflower?" said a smiling station-master, whose countenance
seemed to be trying to preserve the due mean between welcome to the
living and condolence for the dead, as, hat in hand, he approached the
newcomers, and guided by her deep mourning addressed himself to Delia.

"Why, Mr. Stebbing, I remember you quite well," said Delia, holding out
her hand. "There's my maid--and I hope there's a cart for the luggage.
We've got a lot."

A fair-haired man in spectacles, who had also just left the train,
turned abruptly and looked hard at the group as he passed them. He
hesitated a moment, then passed on, with a curious swinging gait, a
long and shabby over-coat floating behind him--to speak to the porter
who was collecting tickets at the gate opening on the road beyond.

Meanwhile Delia had been accosted by another gentleman, who had been
sitting reading his _Morning Post_ on the sunny platform, as the train
drew up. He too had examined the new arrivals with interest, and while
Delia was still talking to the station-master, he walked up to her.

"I think you are Miss Blanchflower: But you won't remember me." He
lifted his hat, smiling.

Delia looked at him, puzzled.

"Don't you remember that Christmas dance at the Rectory, when you were
ten, and I was home from Sandhurst?"

"Perfectly!--and I quarrelled with you because you wouldn't give me
champagne, when I'd danced with you, instead of lemonade. You said what
was good for big boys wasn't good for little girls--and I called you a
bully--"

"You kicked me!--you had the sharpest little toes!"

"Did I?" said Delia composedly. "I was rather good at kicking. So you
are Billy Andrews?"

"Right. I'm Captain now, and they've just made me adjutant down here
for the Yeomanry. My mother keeps house for me. You're coming here to
live? Please let me say how sorry I was to see your sad news." The
condolence was a little clumsy but sincere.

"Thank you. I must go and see to the luggage. Let me introduce you to
Miss Marvell--Captain Andrews--Miss Marvell."

That lady bowed coldly, as Delia departed. The tall, soldierly man,
whose pleasant looks were somewhat spoilt by a slightly underhung
mouth, and prominent chin, disguised, however, by a fine moustache,
offered assistance with the luggage.

"There is no need, thank you," said Miss Marvell. "Miss Blanchflower
and her maid will see to it."

And the Captain noticed that the speaker remained entirely passive
while the luggage was being collected and piled into a fly by the
porters, directed by Miss Blanchflower and her maid. She stood quietly
on the platform, till all was ready, and Delia beckoned to her. In the
intervals the soldier tried to make conversation, but with very small
success. He dwelt upon some of the changes Miss Blanchflower would find
on the estate; how the old head-keeper, who used to make a pet of her,
was dead, and the new agent her father had put in was thought to be
doing well, how the village had lost markedly in population in the last
few years--this emigration to Canada was really getting beyond a
joke!--and so forth. Miss Marvell made no replies. But she suddenly
asked him a question.

"What's that house over there?"

She pointed to a grey facade on a wooded hill some two miles off.

"That's our show place--Monk Lawrence! We're awfully proud of
it--Elizabethan, and that kind of thing. But of course you've heard of
Monk Lawrence! It's one of the finest things in England."

"It belongs to Sir Wilfrid Lang?"

"Certainly. Do you know him? He's scarcely been there at all, since he
became a Cabinet Minister; and yet he spent a lot of money in repairing
it a few years ago. They say it's his wife's health--that it's too damp
for her. Anyway it's quite shut up,--except that they let tourists see
it once a month."

"Does anybody live in the house?"--

"Oh--a caretaker, of course,--one of the keepers. They let the
shooting. Ah! there's Miss Blanchflower calling you."

Miss Marvell--as the gallant Captain afterwards remembered--took a long
look at the distant house and then went to join Miss Blanchflower. The
Captain accompanied her, and helped her to stow away the remaining bags
into the fly, while a small concourse of rustics, sprung from nowhere,
stolidly watched the doings of the heiress and her friend. Delia
suddenly bent forward to him, as he was about to shut the door, with an
animated look--"Can you tell me who that gentleman is who has just
walked off towards the village?"--she pointed.

"His name is Lathrop. He lives in a place just the other side of yours.
He's got some trout-hatching ponds--will stock anybody's stream for
them. Rather a queer customer!"--the good-natured Captain dropped his
voice. "Well, good-bye, my train's just coming. I hope I may come and
see you soon?"

Delia nodded assent, and they drove off.

"By George, she's a beauty!" said the Captain to himself as he turned
away. "Nothing wrong with her that I can see. But there are some
strange tales going about. I wonder who that other woman is.
Marvell--Gertrude Marvell?--I seem to have heard the name
somewhere.--Hullo, Masham, how are you?" He greeted the leading local
solicitor who had just entered the station, a man with a fine ascetic
face, and singularly blue eyes. Masham looked like a starved poet or
preacher, and was in reality one of the hardest and shrewdest men of
business in the southern counties.

"Well, did you see Miss Blanchflower?" said the Captain, as Masham
joined him on the platform, and they entered the up train together.

"I did. A handsome young lady! Have you heard the news?"

"No."

"Your neighbor, Mr. Winnington--Mark Winnington--is named as her
guardian under her father's will--until she is twenty-five. He is also
trustee, with absolute power over the property."

The Captain shewed a face of astonishment.

"Gracious! what had Winnington to do with Sir Robert Blanchflower!"

"An old friend, apparently. But it is a curious will."

The solicitor's abstracted look shewed a busy mind. The Captain had
never felt a livelier desire for information.

"Isn't there something strange about the girl?"--he said, lowering his
voice, although there was no one else in the railway carriage. "I never
saw a more beautiful creature! But my mother came home from London the
other day with some very queer stories, from a woman who had met them
abroad. She said Miss Blanchflower was awfully clever, but as wild as a
hawk--mad about women's rights and that kind of thing. In the hotel
where she met them, people fought very shy of her."

"Oh, she's a militant suffragist," said the solicitor quietly--"though
she's not had time yet since her father's death to do any mischief.
That--in confidence--is the meaning of the will."

The adjutant whistled.

"Goodness!--Winnington will have his work cut out for him. But he
needn't accept."

"He has accepted. I heard this morning from the London solicitor."

"Your firm does the estate business down here?"

"For many years. I hope to see Mr. Winnington to-morrow or next day. He
is evidently hurrying home--because of this."

There was silence for a few minutes; then the Captain said bluntly:

"It's an awful pity, you know, that kind of thing cropping up down
here. We've escaped it so far."

"With such a lot of wild women about, what can you expect?" said the
solicitor briskly. "Like the measles--sure to come our way sooner or
later."

"Do you think they'll get what they want?" "What--the vote? No--not
unless the men are fools." The refined, apostolic face set like iron.

"None of the womanly women want it," said the Captain with conviction.
"You should hear my mother on it."

The solicitor did not reply. The adjutant's mother was not in his eyes
a model of wisdom. Nor did his own opinion want any fortifying from
outside.

Captain Andrews was not quite in the same position. He was conscious of
a strong male instinct which disavowed Miss Blanchflower and all her
kind; but at the same time he was exceedingly susceptible to female
beauty, and it troubled his reasoning processes that anybody so
wrong-headed should be so good-looking. His heart was soft, and his
brain all that was wanted for his own purposes. But it did not enable
him-it never had enabled him--to understand these extraordinary
"goings-on," which the newspapers were every day reporting, on the part
of well-to-do, educated women, who were ready--it seemed--to do
anything outrageous--just for a vote! "Of course nobody would mind if
the rich women--the tax-paying women--had a vote--help us Tories
famously. But the women of the working-classes--why, Good Lord, look at
them when there's any disturbance on--any big strike--look at
Tonypandy!--a deal sight worse than the men! Give them the vote and
they'd take us to the devil, even quicker than Lloyd George!"

Aloud he said--

"Do you know anything about that lady Miss Blanchflower had with her?
She introduced me. Miss Marvell--I think that was the name. I thought I
had heard it somewhere."

The solicitor lifted his eyebrows.

"I daresay. She was in the stone-throwing raid last August. Fined 20s.
or a month, for damage in Pall Mall. She was in prison a week; then
somebody paid her fine. She professed great annoyance, but one of the
police told me it was privately paid by her own society. She's too
important to them--they can't do without her. An extremely clever
woman."

"Then what on earth does she come and bury herself down here for?"
cried the Captain.

Masham shewed a meditative twist of the lip.

"Can't say, I'm sure. But they want money. And Miss Blanchflower is an
important capture."

"I hope that girl will soon have the sense to shake them off!" said the
Captain with energy. "She's a deal too beautiful for that kind of
thing. I shall get my mother to come and talk to her."

The solicitor concealed his smile behind his _Daily Telegraph_. He had
a real liking and respect for the Captain, but the family affection of
the Andrews household was a trifle too idyllic to convince a gentleman
so well acquainted with the seamy side of life. What about that
hunted-looking girl, the Captain's sister? He didn't believe, he never
had believed that Mrs. Andrews was quite so much of an angel as she
pretended to be.

Meanwhile, no sooner had the fly left the station than Delia turned to
her companion--

"Gertrude!--did you see what that man was reading who passed us just
now? Our paper!--the _Tocsin_."

Gertrude Marvell lifted her eyebrows slightly.

"No doubt he bought it at Waterloo--out of curiosity."

"Why not out of sympathy? I thought he looked at us rather closely. Of
course, if he reads the _Tocsin_ he knows something about you! What fun
it would be to discover a comrade and a brother down here!"

"It depends entirely upon what use we could make of him," said Miss
Marvell. Then she turned suddenly on her companion--"Tell me really,
Delia--how long do you want to stay here?"

"Well, a couple of months at least," said Delia, with a rather
perplexed expression. "After all, Gertrude, it's my property now, and
all the people on it, I suppose, will expect to see one and make
friends. I don't want them to think that because I'm a suffragist I'm
going to shirk. It wouldn't be good policy, would it?"

"It's all a question of the relative importance of things," said the
other quietly. "London is our head quarters, and things are moving very
rapidly."

"I know. But, dear, you did promise! for a time"--pleaded Delia.
"Though of course I know how dull it must be for you, when you are the
life and soul of so many things in London. But you must remember that I
haven't a penny at this moment but what Mr. Winnington chooses to allow
me! We must come to some understanding with him, mustn't we, before we
can do anything? It is all so difficult!"--the girl's voice took a
deep, passionate note--"horribly difficult, when I long to be standing
beside you--and the others--in the open--fighting--for all I'm worth.
But how can I, just yet? I ought to have eight thousand a year, and Mr.
Winnington can cut me down to anything he pleases. It's just as
important that I should get hold of my money--at this particular
moment--as that I should be joining raids in London,--more important,
surely--because we want money badly!--you say so yourself. I don't want
it for myself; I want it all--for the cause! But the question is, how
to get it--with this will in our way. I--"

"Ah, there's that house again!" exclaimed Miss Marvell, but in the same
low restrained tone that was habitual to her. She bent forward to look
at the stately building, on the hill-side, which according to Captain
Andrews' information, was the untenanted property of Sir Wilfrid Lang,
whom a shuffle of offices had just admitted to the Cabinet.

"What house?"--said Delia, not without a vague smart under the sudden
change of subject. She had a natural turn for declamation; a girlish
liking to hear herself talk; and Gertrude, her tutor in the first
place, and now her counsellor and friend, had a quiet way of snubbing
such inclinations, except when they could be practically useful. "You
have the gifts of a speaker--we shall want you to speak more and more,"
she would say. But in private she rarely failed to interrupt an
harangue, even the first beginnings of one.

However, the smart soon passed, and Delia too turned her eyes towards
the house among the trees. She gave a little cry of pleasure.

"Oh, that's Monk Lawrence!--such a lovely--lovely old place! I used
often to go there as a child--I adored it. But I can't remember who
lives there now."

Gertrude Marvell handed on the few facts learned from the Captain.

"I knew"--she added--"that Sir Wilfrid Lang lived somewhere near here.
That they told me at the office."

"And the house is empty?" Delia, flushing suddenly and vividly, turned
to her companion.

"Except for the caretaker--who no doubt lives some where on the
ground-floor."

There was silence a moment. Then Delia laughed uncomfortably.

"Look here, Gertrude, we can't attempt anything of that kind _there_: I
remember now--it was Sir Wilfrid's brother who had the house, when I
used to go there. He was a great friend of Father's; and his little
girls and I were great chums. The house is just wonderful--full of
treasures! I am sorry it belongs to Sir Wilfrid--but nobody could lift
a finger against Monk Lawrence!"

Miss Marvell's eyes sparkled.

"He is the most formidable enemy we have," she said softly, between her
closed lips. A tremor seemed to run through her slight frame.

Then she smiled, and her tone changed.

"Dear Delia, of course I shan't run you into any--avoidable--trouble,
down here, apart from the things we have agreed on."

"What have we agreed on? Remind me!"

"In the first place, that we won't hide our opinions--or stop our
propaganda--to please anybody."

"Certainly!" said Delia. "I shall have a drawing-room meeting as soon
as possible. You seem to have fixed up a number of speaking engagements
for us both. And we told the office to send us down tons of
literature." Then her face broke into laughter--"Poor Mr. Winnington!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"A rather nice old place, isn't it?" said Delia, an hour later, when
the elderly housekeeper, who had received them with what had seemed to
Delia's companion a quite unnecessary amount of fuss and family
feeling, had at last left them alone in the drawing-room, after taking
them over the house.

The girl spoke in a softened voice. She was standing thoughtfully by
the open window looking out, her hands clasping a chair behind her. Her
thin black dress, made short and plain, with a white frill at the open
neck and sleeves, by its very meagreness emphasized the young beauty of
the wearer,--a beauty full of significance, charged--over-charged--with
character. The attitude should have been one of repose; it was on the
contrary one of tension, suggesting a momentary balance only, of
impetuous forces. Delia was indeed suffering the onset of a wave of
feeling which had come upon her unexpectedly; for which she had not
prepared herself. This rambling old house with its quiet garden and
early Victorian furniture, had appealed to her in some profound and
touching way. Her childhood stirred again in her, and deep inherited
things. How well she remembered the low, spacious room, with its oak
wainscotting, its book-cases and its pictures! That crayon over the
writing-table of her grandmother in her white cap and shawl; her
grandfather's chair, and the old Bible and Prayer-book, beside it, from
which he used to read evening prayers; the stiff arm-chairs with their
faded chintz covers; the writing-table with its presentation inkstand;
the groups of silhouettes on the walls, her forbears of long ago; the
needlework on the fire-screen, in which, at nine years old, she had
been proud to embroider the white rose-bud still so lackadaisically
prominent; the stool on which she used to sit and knit beside her
grandmother; the place on the run where the old collie used to lie--she
saw his ghost there still!--all these familiar and even ugly objects
seemed to be putting out spiritual hands to her, playing on nerves once
eagerly responsive. She had never stayed for long in the house; but she
had always been happy there. The moral atmosphere of it came back to
her, and with a sense of the old rest and protection. Her grandfather
might have been miserly to others; he had always been kind to her. But
it was her grandmother who had been supreme in that room. A woman of
clear sense and high character; narrow and prejudiced in many respects,
but sorely missed by many when her turn came to die; a Christian in
more than name; sincerely devoted to her teasing little granddaughter.
A woman who had ordered her household justly and kindly; a personality
not soon forgotten.

"There is something of her in me still," thought Delia--"at least, I
hope there is. And where--is the rest of me going?"

"I think I'll take off my things, dear," said Gertrude Marvell,
breaking in on the girl's reverie. "Don't trouble. I know my room."

The door closed. Delia was now looking out into the garden, where on
the old grass-slopes the September shadows lay--still and slumbrous.
The peace of it, the breath of its old-world tradition, came upon her,
relaxing the struggle of mind and soul in which she had been living for
months, and that ceaseless memory which weighed upon her of her dying
father,--his bitter and increasing recoil from all that, for a while,
he had indulgently permitted--his final estrangement from her, her own
obstinacy and suffering.

"Yes!"--she cried suddenly, out loud, to the rosebushes beyond the open
window--"but it had a reason--it _had_ a reason!" She clasped her
hands fiercely to her breast. "And there is no birth without pain."




Chapter IV


A few days after her arrival, Delia woke up in the early dawn in the
large room that had been her grandmother's. She sat up in the broad
white bed with its dimity curtains, her hands round her knees, peering
into the half darkened room, where, however, she had thrown the windows
wide open, behind the curtains, before going to sleep. On the opposite
wall she saw an indifferent picture of her father as a boy of twelve on
his pony; beside it a faded photograph of her mother, her beautiful
mother, in her wedding dress. There had never been any real sympathy
between her mother and her grandmother. Old Lady Blanchflower had
resented her son's marriage with a foreign woman, with a Greek, in
particular. The Greeks were not at that moment of much account in the
political world, and Lady Blanchflower thought of them as a nation of
shams, trading on a great past which did not belong to them. Her secret
idea was that out of their own country they grew rich in disreputable
ways, and while at home, where only the stupid ones stayed, they were a
shabby, half-civilised people, mostly bankrupt. She could not imagine
how a girl got any bringing up at Athens, and believed nothing that her
son told her. So that when the young Mrs. Blanchflower arrived, there
were jars in the household, and it was not long before the spoilt and
handsome bride went to her husband in tears, and asked to be taken
away. Delia was surprised and touched, therefore, to find her mother's
portrait in her grandmother's room, where nothing clearly had been
admitted that had not some connection with family affection or family
pride. She wondered whether on her mother's death her grandmother had
hung the picture there in dumb confession of, or penance for, her own
unkindness.

The paper of the room was a dingy grey, and the furniture was heavily
old-fashioned and in Delia's eyes inconvenient. "If I'm going to keep
the room I shall make it all white," she thought, "with proper fitted
wardrobes, and some low bookcases--a bath, too, of course, in the
dressing-room. And they must put in electric light at once! How could
they have done without it all this time! I believe with all its faults,
this house could be made quite pretty!"

And she fell into a reverie,--eagerly constructive--wherein Maumsey
became, at a stroke, a House Beautiful, at once modern and
aesthetically right, a dim harmony in lovely purples, blues and greens,
with the few fine things it possessed properly spaced and grouped, the
old gardens showing through the latticed windows, and golden or silvery
lights, like those in a Blanche interior, gleaming in its now dreary
rooms.

Then at a bound she sprang out of bed, and stood upright in the autumn
dawn.

"I hate myself!" she said fiercely--as she ran her hands through the
mass of her dark hair, and threw it back upon her shoulders. Hurrying
across the room in her night-gown, she threw back the curtains. A light
autumnal mist, through which the sun was smiling, lay on the garden.
Stately trees rose above it, and masses of flowers shewed vaguely
bright; while through the blue distances beyond, the New Forest
stretched to the sea.

But Delia was looking at herself, in a long pier-glass that represented
almost the only concession to the typical feminine needs in the room.
She was not admiring her own seemliness; far from it; she was rating
and despising herself for a feather-brained waverer and
good-for-nothing.

"Oh yes, you can _talk_!" she said, to the figure in the glass--"you
are good enough at that! But what are you going to _do_!--Spend your
time at Maple's and Waring--matching chintzes and curtains?--when
you've _promised_--you've _promised_! Gertrude's right. There _are_ all
sorts of disgusting cowardices and weaknesses in you! Oh! yes,
you'd like to go fiddling and fussing down here--playing the
heiress--patronising the poor people--putting yourself into beautiful
clothes--and getting heaps of money out of Mr. Winnington to spend.
It's in you--it's just in you--to throw everything over--to forget
everything you've felt, and everything you've vowed--and just _wallow_
in luxury and selfishness and snobbery! Gertrude's absolutely right.
But you shan't do it! You shan't put a hand to it! Why did that man
take the guardianship? Now it's his business. He may see to it! But
_you_--you have something else to do!"

And she stood erect, the angry impulse in her stiffening all her young
body. And through her memory there ran, swift-footed, fragments from a
rhetoric of which she was already fatally mistress, the formulae too of
those sincere and goading beliefs on which her youth had been fed ever
since her first acquaintance with Gertrude Marvell. The mind renewed
them like vows; clung to them, embraced them.

What was she before she knew Gertrude? She thought of that earlier
Delia as of a creature almost too contemptible to blame. From the
maturity of her twenty-one years she looked back upon herself at
seventeen or eighteen with wonder. That Delia had read nothing--knew
nothing--had neither thoughts or principles. She was her father's
spoilt child and darling; delighting in the luxury that surrounded his
West Indian Governorship; courted and flattered by the few English of
the colonial capital, and by the members of her father's staff; with
servants for every possible need or whim; living her life mostly in the
open air, riding at her father's side, through the sub-tropical forests
of the colony; teasing and tyrannising over the dear old German
governess who had brought her up, and whose only contribution to her
education--as Delia now counted education--had been the German tongue.
Worth something!--but not all those years, "when I might have been
learning so much else, things I shall never have time to learn
now!--things that Gertrude has at her finger's end. Why wasn't I taught
properly--decently--like any board school child! As Gertrude says, we
women want everything we can get! We _must_ know the things that men
know--that we may beat them at their own game. Why should every Balliol
boy--years younger than me--have been taught his classics and
mathematics,--and have everything brought to him--made easy for
him--history, political economy, logic, philosophy, laid at his
lordship's feet, if he will just please to learn!--while I, who have
just as good a brain as he, have had to pick up a few scraps by the
way, just because nobody who had charge of me ever thought it worth
while to teach, a girl. But I have a mind!--an intelligence!--even if I
am a woman; and there is all the world to know. Marriage? Yes!--but not
at the sacrifice of everything else--of the rational, civilised self."

On the whole though, her youth had been happy enough, with recurrent
intervals of _ennui_ and discontent. Intervals too of poetic
enthusiasm, or ascetic religion. At eighteen she had been practically a
Catholic, influenced by the charming wife of one of her father's
aides-de-camp. And then--a few stray books or magazine articles had
made a Darwinian and an agnostic of her; the one phase as futile as the
other.

"I knew nothing--I had no mind!"--she repeated with energy,--"till
Gertrude came."

And she thought with ardour of that intellectual awakening, under the
strange influence of the apparently reserved and impassive woman, who
had come to read history with her for six months, at the suggestion of
a friend of her father's, a certain cultivated and clever Lady
Tonbridge, "who saw how starved I was."

So, after enquiry, a lady who was a B.A. of London, and had taken
first-class honour in history--Delia's ambition would accept nothing
less--had been found, who wanted for health's sake a winter in a warm
climate, and was willing to read history with Governor Blanch-flower's
half-fledged daughter.

The friendship had begun, as often, with a little aversion. Delia was
made to work, and having always resented being made to do anything, for
about a month she disliked her tutor, and would have persuaded Sir
Robert to send her away, had not England been so far off, and the
agreement with Miss Marvell, whose terms were high, unusually
stringent. But by the end of the month the girl of eighteen was
conquered. She had recognised in Gertrude Marvell accomplishments that
filled her with envy, together with an intensity of will, a bitter and
fiery purpose, that astounded and subdued a young creature in whom
inherited germs of southern energy and passion were only waiting the
touch that starts the ferment. Gertrude Marvell had read an amazing
amount of history, and all from one point of view; that of the woman
stirred to a kind of madness by what she held to be the wrongs of her
sex. The age-long monopoly of all the higher forces of civilisation by
men; the cruel and insulting insistence upon the sexual and maternal
functions of women, as covering the whole of her destiny; the hideous
depreciation of her as an inferior and unclean creature, to which
Christianity, poisoned by the story of Eve, and a score of barbarous
beliefs and superstitions more primitive still, had largely
contributed, while hypocritically professing to enfranchise and exalt
her; the unfailing doom to "obey," and to bring forth, that has crushed
her; the labours and shames heaped upon her by men in the pursuit of
their own selfish devices; and the denial to her, also by men, of all
the higher and spiritual activities, except those allowed by a man-made
religion:--this feminist gospel, in some respects so bitterly true, in
others so vindictively false, was gradually and unsparingly pressed
upon Delia's quick intelligence. She caught its fire; she rose to its
call; and there came a day when Gertrude Marvell breaking through the
cold reserve she had hitherto interposed between herself and the pupil
who had come to adore her, threw her arms round the girl, accepting
from her what were practically the vows of a neophyte in a secret and
revolutionary service.

Joyous, self-dedicating moment! But it had been followed by a tragedy;
the tragedy of Delia's estrangement from her father. It was not long
before Sir Robert Blanchflower, a proud self-indulgent man, with a keen
critical sense, a wide acquaintance with men and affairs, and a number
of miscellaneous acquirements of which he never made the smallest
parade, had divined the spirit of irreconcilable revolt which animated
the slight and generally taciturn woman, who had obtained such a hold
upon his daughter. He, the god of his small world, was made to feel
himself humiliated in her presence. She was, in fact, his intellectual
superior, and the truth was conveyed to him in a score of subtle ways.
She was in his house simply because she was poor, and wanted rest from
excessive overwork, at someone else's expense. Otherwise her manner
suggested--often quite unconsciously--that she would not have put up
with his household and its regulations for a single day.

Then, suddenly, he perceived that he had lost his daughter, and the
reason of it. The last year of his official life was thenceforward
darkened by an ugly and undignified struggle with the woman who had
stolen Delia from him. In the end he dismissed Gertrude Marvell. Delia
shewed a passionate resentment, told him frankly that as soon as she
was twenty-one she should take up "the Woman's movement" as her sole
occupation, and should offer herself wherever Gertrude Marvell, and
Gertrude's leaders, thought she could be useful. "The vote _must_ be
got!"--she said, standing white and trembling, but resolute, before her
father--"If not peaceably, then by violence. And when we get it,
father, you men will be astonished to see what we shall do with it!"

Her twenty-first birthday was at hand, and would probably have seen
Delia's flight from her father's house, but for Sir Robert's breakdown
in health. He gave up his post, and it was evident he had not more than
a year or two to live. Delia softened and submitted. She went abroad
with him, and for a time he seemed to throw off the disease which had
attacked him. It was during a brighter interval that, touched by her
apparent concessions, he had consented to her giving the lecture in the
Tyrolese hotel the fame of which had spread abroad, and had even taken
a certain pleasure in her oratorical success.

But during the following winter--Sir Robert's last--which they spent
at Meran, things had gone from bad to worse. For months Delia never
mentioned Gertrude Marvell to her father. He flattered himself that the
friendship was at an end. Then some accident revealed to him that it
was as close as, or closer than ever; that they were in daily
correspondence; that they had actually met, unknown to him, in the
neighbourhood of Meran; and that Delia was sending all the money she
could possibly spare from her very ample allowance to "The Daughters of
Revolt," the far-spreading society in which Gertrude Marvell was now
one of the leading officials.

Some of these dismal memories of Meran descended like birds of night
upon Delia, as she stood with her arms above her head, in her long
night-gown, looking intently but quite unconsciously into the depths of
an old rosewood cheval glass. She felt that sultry night about her once
more, when, after signing his will, her father opened his eyes upon
her, coming back with an effort from the bound of death, and had said
quite clearly though faintly in the silence--

"Give up that woman, Delia!--promise me to give her up." And Delia had
cried bitterly, on her knees beside him--without a word--caressing his
hand. And the cold fingers had been feebly withdrawn from hers as the
eyes closed.

"Oh papa--papa!" The low murmur came from her, as she pressed her hands
upon her eyes. If the Christian guesses were but true, and in some
quiet Elysian state he might now understand, and cease to be angry with
her! Was there ever a great cause won without setting kin against kin?
"A man's foes shall be they of his own household." "It wasn't my
fault--it wasn't my fault!"

No!--and moreover it was her duty not to waste her strength in vain
emotion and regret. Her task was _doing_, not dreaming. She turned
away, banished her thoughts and set steadily about the task of
dressing.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Please Miss Blanchflower, there are two or three people waiting to see
you in the servants' hall."

So said the tall and gentle-voiced housekeeper, Mrs. Bird, whose
emotions had been, in Miss Marvell's view, so unnecessarily exercised
on the evening of Delia's home-coming. Being a sensitive person, Mrs.
Bird had already learnt her lesson, and her manner had now become as
mildly distant as could be desired, especially in the case of Miss
Blanchflower's lady companion.

"People? What people?" asked Delia, looking round with a furrowed brow.
She and Gertrude were sitting together on the sofa when the housekeeper
entered, eagerly reading a large batch of letters which the London post
had just brought, and discussing their contents in subdued tones.

"It's the cottages, Miss. Her Ladyship used always to decide who should
have those as were vacant about this time of year, and two or three of
these persons have been up several times to know when you'd be home."

"But I don't know anything about it"--said Delia, rising reluctantly.
"Why doesn't the agent--why doesn't Mr. Frost do it?"

"I suppose--they thought--you'd perhaps speak a word to Mr. Frost,
Miss," suggested Mrs. Bird. "But I can send them away of course, if you
wish."

"Oh no, I'll come"--said Delia. "But it's rather tiresome--just
as"--she looked at Gertrude.

"Don't be long," said Miss Marvell, sharply, "I'll wait for you here."
And she plunged back into the letters, her delicate face all alive, her
eyes sparkling. Delia departed--evidently on a distasteful errand.

But twenty minutes later, she returned flushed and animated.

"I _am_ glad I went! Such tyranny--such monstrous tyranny!" She stood
in front of Gertrude breathing fast, her hands on her hips.

"What's the matter?"

"My grandmother had a rule--can you imagine anything so cruel!--that no
girl--who had gone wrong--was to be allowed in our cottages. If she
couldn't be provided for in some Home or other, or if her family
refused to give her up, then the family must go. An old man has been up
to see me--a widower with two daughters--one in service. The one in
service has come to grief--the son of the house!--the usual
story!"--the speaker's face had turned fiercely pale--"and now our
agent refuses to let the girl and her baby come home. And the old
father says--'What am I to do, Miss? I can't turn her out--she's my own
flesh and blood. I've got to stick to her--else there'll be worse
happening. It's not _justice_, Miss--and it's not Gospel.'
Well!"--Delia seated herself with energy,--"I've told him to have her
home at once--and I'll see to it."

Gertrude lifted her eyebrows, a gesture habitual with her, whenever
Delia wore--as now--her young prophetess look. Why feel these things so
much? Human nerves have only a certain limited stock of reactions.
Avenge--and alter them!

But she merely said--

"And the others?"

"Oh, a poor mother with eight children, pleading for a cottage with
three bedrooms instead of two! I told her she should have it if I had
to build it!--And an old woman who has lived fifty-two years in her
cottage, and lost all her belongings, begging that she mightn't be
turned out--for a family--now that it's too big for her. She shan't be
turned out! Of course I suppose it would be common sense"--the tension
of the speaker's face broke up in laughter--"to put the old woman into
the cottage of the eight children--and put the eight children into the
old woman's. But human beings are not cattle! Sentiment's something!
Why shouldn't a woman be allowed to die in her old home,--so long as
she pays the rent? I hate all this interference with people's lives!
And it's always the women who come worst off. 'Oh Mr. Frost, he never
pays no attention to us women. He claps 'is 'ands to his ears when he
sees one of us, and jest runs for it.' Well, I'll make Mr. Frost listen
to a woman!"

"I'm afraid Mr. Winnington is his master," said Gertrude quietly.
Delia, crimson again, shrugged her shoulders.

"We shall see!"

Gertrude Marvell looked up.

"Look here, Delia, if you're going to play the part of earthly
Providence to this village and your property in general--as I've said
to you before--you may as well tell the 'Daughters' you can't do
anything for them. That's a profession in itself; and would take you
all your time."

"Then of course, I shan't do it," said Delia, with decision. "But I
only want to put in an appearance--to make friends with the
people--just for a time, Gertrude! It doesn't do to be _too_ unpopular.
We're not exactly in good odour just now, are we?"

And sitting down on a stool beside the elder woman, Delia leant her
head against her friend's knee caressingly.

Gertrude gave an absent touch to the girl's beautiful hair, and then
said--

"So you _will_ take these four meetings?"

"Certainly!" Delia sprang up. "What are they? One at Latchford, one at
Brownmouth--Wanchester--and Frimpton. All right. I shall be pelted at
Brownmouth. But rotten eggs don't matter so much when you're looking
out for them--except on your face--Ugh!"

"And the meeting here?"

"Of course. Can't I do what I like with my own house? We'll have the
notices out next week."

Gertrude looked up--

"When did you say that man--Mr. Winnington--was coming?"

"His note this morning said 4:30."

"You'd better see him alone--for the first half hour anyway."

Delia made a face.

"I wish I knew what line to take up. You've been no use at all,
Gertrude!"

Gertrude smiled.

"Wait till you see him," she said coolly. "Mother-wit will help you
out."

"I wish I had anything to bargain with."

"So you have."

"Pray, what?"

"The meeting here. You _could_ give that up. And he needn't know
anything of the others yet awhile."

"What a charming opinion he will have of us both, by and bye," laughed
Delia, quietly. "And by all accounts he himself is a simple
paragon.--Heavens, how tiresome!"

Gertrude Marvell turned back to her letters.

"What does anyone know about a _man_?" she said, with slow
deliberation.

The midday post at Maumsey brought letters just after luncheon. Delia
turning hers over was astonished to see two or three with the local
postmark.

"What can people from _here_ be writing to me about?"

Gertrude absorbed in the new weekly number of the _Tocsin_ took no
notice, till she was touched on the shoulder by Delia.

"Yes?"

"Gertrude!--it's too amazing!" The girl's tone was full of a joyous
wonder. "You know they told us at head-quarters that this was one of
the deadest places in England--a nest of Antis--nothing doing here at
all. Well, what do you think?--here are _three_ letters by one post,
from the village--all greeting us--all knowing perfectly who you
are--that you have been in prison, etcetera--all readers of the
_Tocsin_, and burning to be doing something--"

"Burning something?" interposed the other in her most ordinary voice.

Delia laughed, again with the note of constraint.

"Well, anyway, they want to come and see us."

"Who are they?"

"An assistant mistress at the little grammar-school--that's No. 1. No.
2--a farmer's daughter, who says she took part in one of the raids last
summer, but nobody knows down here. Her father paid her fine. And No.
3. a consumptive dressmaker, who declares she hasn't much life left
anyway, and she is quite willing to give it to the 'cause'! Isn't it
wonderful how it spreads--it spreads!"

"Hm"--said Miss Marvell. "Well, we may as well inspect them. Tell them
to come up some time next week after dusk."

As she spoke, the temporary parlour-maid threw open the door of the
room which Delia had that morning chosen as her own sitting-room.

"Are you at home, Miss? Mrs. France would like to see you."

"Mrs. France?--Mrs. France? Oh, I know--the doctor's wife--Mrs. Bird
was talking of him this morning. Well, I suppose I must go." Delia
moved unwillingly. "I'm coming, Mary."

"Of course you must go," said Gertrude, a little peremptorily. "As we
are here we may as well reconnoitre the whole ground--find out
everything we can."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the drawing-room, to which some flowers, and a litter of new books
and magazines had already restored its inhabited look, Delia found a
woman awaiting her, in whom the girl's first glance discerned a
personality. She was dressed with an entire disregard of the fashion,
in plain, serviceable clothes. A small black bonnet tied under the chin
framed a face whose only beauty lay in the expression of the clear kind
eyes, and quiet mouth. The eyes were a little prominent; the brow above
them unusually smooth and untroubled, answering to the bands of brown
hair touched with grey which defined it. But the rest of the face was
marked by many deep lines--of experience, or suffering?--which showed
clearly that its owner had long left physical youth behind. And yet
perhaps youth--in some spiritual poetic sense--was what Mrs. France's
aspect most sharply conveyed.

She rose as Delia entered, and greeted her warmly.

"It is nice to see you settled here! Dr. France and I were great
friends of your old grandmother. He and she were regular cronies. We
were very sorry to see the news of your poor father's death."

The voice was clear and soft, and absolutely sincere. Delia felt drawn
to her. But it had become habitual to her to hold herself on the
defensive with strangers, to suspect hostility and disapproval
everywhere. So that her manner in reply, though polite enough, was
rather chilly.

But--the girl's beauty! The fame of it had indeed reached Maumsey in
advance of the heiress. Mrs. France, however, in its actual presence
was inclined to say "I had not heard the half!" She remembered Delia's
mother, and in the face before her she recognised again the Greek type,
the old pure type, reappearing, as it constantly does, in the mixed
modern race. But the daughter surpassed her mother. Delia's eyes, of a
lovely grey blue, lidded, and fringed, and arched with an exquisite
perfection; the curve of the slightly bronzed cheek, suggesting through
all its delicacy the fulness of young, sensuous life; the mouth,
perhaps a trifle too large, and the chin, perhaps a trifle too firm;
the abundance of the glossy black hair, curling wherever it was allowed
to curl, or wherever it could escape the tight coils in which it was
bound--at the temples, and over the brow; the beauty of the uncovered
neck, and of the amply-rounded form which revealed itself through the
thin black stripe of the mourning dress:--none of these "items" in
Delia's good looks escaped her admiring visitor.

"It's to be hoped Mr. Mark realises his responsibilities," she thought,
with amusement.

Aloud, she said--

"I remember you as quite a little thing staying with your
Grandmother--but you wouldn't remember me. Dr. France was grieved not
to come, but it's his hospital day."

Delia thanked her, without effusion. Mrs. France presently began to
feel conversation an effort, and to realise that the girl's wonderful
eyes were very observant and very critical. Yet she chose the very
obvious and appropriate topic of Lady Blanchflower, her strong
character, her doings in the village, her relation to the labourers and
their wives.

"When she died, they really missed her. They miss her still."

"Is it good for a village to depend so much on one person?" said Delia
in a detached voice.

Mrs. France looked at her curiously. Jealousy of one's grandmother is
not a common trait in the young. It struck her that Miss Blanchflower
was already defending herself against examples and ideals she did not
mean to follow. And again amusement--and concern!--on Mark
Winnington's account made themselves felt. Mrs. France was quite aware
of Delia's "militant" antecedents, and of the history of the lady she
had brought down to live with her. But the confidence of the doctor's
wife in Winnington's powers and charm was boundless. "He'll be a match
for them!" she thought gaily.

Meanwhile in reply, she smilingly defended her old friend Lady
Blanchflower from the implied charge of pauperising the village.

"Not at all! She never gave money recklessly--and the do-nothings kept
clear of her. But she was the people's friend--and they knew it.
They're very excited about your coming!"

"I daresay I shall change some things," said Delia decidedly. "I don't
approve of all Mr. Frost has been doing."

"Well, you'll have your guardian to help you," said Mrs. France
quietly.

Delia flushed, straightened her shoulders, and said nothing.

This time Mrs. France was fairly taken by surprise. She knew nothing
more of Sir Robert Blanchflower's will than that he had made Mr. Mark
Winnington his daughter's guardian, till she reached the age of
twenty-five. But that any young woman--any motherless and fatherless
girl--should not think herself the most lucky of mortals to have
obtained Mark Winnington as guide and defender, with first claim on his
time, his brains, his kindness, seemed incredible to Mark's old friend
and neighbour, accustomed to the daily signs of his immense and
deserved popularity. Then it flashed upon her--"Has she ever seen him?"

The doubt led to an immediate communication of the news that Winnington
had arrived from town that morning. Dr. France had seen him in the
village.

"You know him, of course, already?"

"Not at all," said Delia, indifferently. "He and I are perfect
strangers." Mrs. France laughed.

"I rather envy you the pleasure of making friends with him! We are all
devoted to him down here."

Delia lifted her eyebrows.

"What are his particular virtues? It's monotonous to possess them
_all_." The slight note of insolence was hardly disguised.

"No two friends of his would give you the same answer. I should give
you a different catalogue, for instance, from Lady Tonbridge--"

"Lady Tonbridge!" cried Delia, waking up at last. "You don't mean that
Lady Tonbridge lives in this neighbourhood?"

"Certainly. You know her?"

"She came once to stay with us in the West Indies. My father knew her
very well before she married. And I owe her--a great debt"--the last
words were spoken with emphasis.

Mrs. France looked enquiring.

"--she recommended to us the lady who is now living with me here--my
chaperon--Miss Marvell?"

There was silence for a moment. Then Mrs. France said, not without
embarrassment--

"Your father desired she should live with you?"

Delia flushed again.

"No. My father did not understand her."

"He did not agree with her views?"

"Nor with mine. It was horrid--but even relations must agree to differ.
Why is Lady Tonbridge here? And where is Sir Alfred? Papa had not heard
of them for a long time."

"They separated last year"--said Mrs. France gravely. "But Mr.
Winnington will tell you. He's a great friend of hers. She does a lot
of work for him."

"Work?"

"Social work!" smiled Mrs. France--"poor-law--schools--that kind of
thing. He ropes us all in."

"Oh!" said Delia, with her head in the air.

Mrs. France laughed outright.

"That seems to you so unimportant--compared to the vote."

"It _is_ unimportant!" said Delia, impetuously. "Nothing really matters
but the vote. Aren't you a Suffragist, Mrs. France?"

Mrs. France smilingly shook her head.

"I don't want to meddle with the men's business. And we're a long way
yet from catching up with our own. Oh, my husband has a lot of
scientific objections. But that's mine." Then her face grew
serious--"anyway, we can all agree, I hope, in hating violence. That
can never settle it."

She looked a little sternly at her young companion.

"That depends," said Delia. "But we mustn't argue, Mrs. France. I
should only make you angry. Ah!"

She sprang up and went to the window, just as steps could be heard on
the gravel outside.

"Here's someone coming." She turned to Mrs. France. "Is it Mr.
Winnington?"

"It is!" said her visitor, after putting on her glasses.

Delia surveyed him, standing behind the lace curtain, and Mrs. France
was relieved to see that a young person of such very decided opinions
could be still girlishly curious. She herself rose to go.

"Good-bye. I won't interrupt your talk with him."

"Good-looking?" said Delia, with mischief in her eyes, and a slight
gesture towards the approaching visitor.

"Don't you know what an athlete he is--or was?"

"Another perfection? Heavens!--how does he endure it?" said the girl,
laughing.

Mrs. France took her leave. She was a very motherly tender-hearted
woman, and she would like to have taken her old friend's grandchild in
her arms and kissed her. But she wisely refrained; and indeed the
instinct to shake her was perhaps equally strong. "How long will she
stand gossiping on the doormat with the paragon," said Delia savagely
to herself, when she was left alone. "Oh, how I hate a 'charming man'!"
She moved stormily to and fro, listening to the distant sounds of talk
in the hall, and resenting them. Then suddenly she paused opposite one
of the large mirrors in the room. A coil of hair had loosened itself;
she put it right; and still stood motionless, interrogating herself in
a proud concentration.

"Well?--I am quite ready for him."

But her heart beat uncomfortably fast as the door opened, and Mark
Winnington entered.




Chapter V


As Winnington advanced with outstretched hand to greet her, Delia was
conscious of a striking physical presence, and of an eye fixed upon her
at once kind and penetrating.

"How are you? You've been through a terrible time! Are you at all
rested? I'm afraid it has been a long, long strain."

He held her hand in both his, asking gentle questions about her
father's illness, interrogating her looks the while with a frank
concern and sympathy.

Delia was taken by surprise. For the first time that day she was
reminded of what was really, the truth. She _was_ tired--morally and
physically. But Gertrude Marvell never recognised anything of the kind;
and in her presence Delia rarely confessed any such weakness even to
herself.

As it was, her eyes and mouth wavered a little under Winnington's look.

"Thank you," she said quietly. "I shall soon be rested."

They sat down. Delia was conscious--unwillingly conscious, of a nervous
agitation she did her best to check. For Winnington also it was clearly
an awkward moment. He began at once to talk of his old recollections of
her parents, of her mother's beauty, of her father's reputation as the
most dashing soldier on the North-West frontier, in the days when they
first met in India.

"But his health was even then very poor. I suppose it was that made him
leave the army?"

"Yes--and then Parliament," said Delia. "He was ordered a warm climate
for the winter. But he could never have lived without working. His
Governorship just suited him."

She spoke with charming softness, beguiled from her insensibly by
Winnington's own manner. At the back of Winnington's mind, as they
talked, ran perpetual ejaculations--ejaculations of the natural man in
the presence of so much beauty. But his conversation with her flowed
the while with an even gentleness which never for a moment affected
intimacy, and was touched here and there with a note of deference, even
of ceremony, which disarmed his companion.

"I never came across your father down here--oddly enough," he said
presently. "He had left Sandhurst before I went to Eton; and then there
was Oxford, and then the bar. My little place belonged then to a
cousin, and I had hardly ever seen it. But of course I knew, your
grandmother--everybody did. She was a great centre--a great figure. She
has left her mark here. Don't you find it so?"

"Yes. Everybody seems to remember her."

But, in a moment, the girl before him had changed and stiffened. It
seemed to Winnington, as to Mrs. France, that she pulled herself up,
reacting against something that threatened her. The expression in her
eyes put something between them. "Perhaps you know"--she said--"that
my grandmother didn't always get on with my mother?"

He wondered why she had reminded him of that old family jar, which
gossip had spread abroad. Did it really rankle in her mind? Odd, that
it should!

"Was that so?" he laughed. "Oh, Lady Blanchflower had her veins of
unreason. One had to know where to have her."

"She took Greeks for barbarians--my father used to say," said Delia, a
little grimly. "But she was very good to me--and so I was fond of her."
"And she of you. But there are still tales going about--do you
mind?--of the dances you led her. It took weeks and months, they say,
before you and she arrived at an armed truce--after a most appalling
state of war! There's an old gardener here--retired now--who remembers
you quite well. He told me yesterday that you used to be very friendly
with him, and you said to him once--'I like Granny!--she's the master
of me!'"

The laughter in Winnington's eyes again kindled hers.

"I was a handful--I know." There was a pause. Then she added--"And I'm
afraid--I've gone on being a handful!" Gesture and tone showed that she
spoke deliberately.

"Most people of spirit are--till they come to handle themselves," he
replied, also with a slight change of tone.

"But that's just what women are never allowed to do, Mr. Winnington!"
She turned suddenly red, and fronted him. "There's always some man, who
claims to manage them and their affairs. We're always in
leading-strings--nobody ever admits we're grown up. Why can't we be
allowed like men--to stumble along our own way? If we make mistakes,
let's _pay_ for them! But let us at some time in our lives--at
least--feel ourselves free beings!"

There was no mistaking the purport of these words. They referred
clearly to her father's will, and her own position. After a moment's
thought, Winnington bent forward.

"I think I understand what you mean," he said gravely. "And I
sympathise with it more than you imagine."

Delia looked up impetuously--

"Then why, Mr. Winnington, did you consent to be my guardian?"

"Because--quite honestly--because I thought I could be of more use to
you perhaps than the Court of Chancery; and because your father's
letter to me was one very difficult to put aside."

"How could anyone in my father's state of health really judge
reasonably!" cried Delia. "I daresay it sounds shocking to you, Mr.
Winnington, but I can't help putting it to myself like this--Papa was
always able to contrive his own life as he chose. In his Governorship
he was a small king. He tried a good many experiments. Everybody
deferred to him. Everybody was glad to help him. Then when his money
came and the estate, nobody fettered him with conditions; nobody
interfered with him. Grandpapa and he didn't agree in a lot of things.
Papa was a Liberal; and Grandpapa was an awfully hot Conservative. But
Grandpapa didn't appoint a trustee, or tie up the estates--or anything
of that kind. It is simply and solely because I am a woman that these
things are done! I am not to be allowed _my_ opinions, in _my_ life,
though Papa was quite free to work for his in his life! This is the
kind of thing we call tyranny,--this is the kind of thing that's
driving women into revolt!"

Delia had risen. She stood in what Gertrude Marvell would have called
her "pythian" attitude, hands behind her, her head thrown back,
delivering her prophetic soul. Winnington, as he surveyed her, was
equally conscious of her beauty and her absurdity. But he kept cool, or
rather the natural faculty which had given him so much authority and
success in life rose with a kind of zest to its new and unaccustomed
task.

"May I perhaps suggest--that your father was fifty-two when he
succeeded to this estate--and that you are twenty-one?"

"Nearly twenty-two," she interrupted, hastily.

"Nearly twenty-two," repeated Winnington. "And I assure you, that what
with 'People's Budgets,' and prowling Chancellors, and all the new
turns of the screw that the Treasury is for ever putting on, inheriting
an estate nowadays is no simple matter. Your father thought of that. He
wished to provide someone to help you."

"I could have found lawyers to help me."

"Of course you could. But my experience is that solicitors are good
servants but bad masters. It wants a good deal of practical knowledge
to direct them, so that you get what you want. I have gone a little way
into the business of the estate this morning with Mr. Masham, and in
town, with the Morton Manners people. I see already some complications
which will take me a deal of time and thought to straighten out. And I
am a lawyer, and if you will let me say so, just double your age."

He smiled at her, but Delia's countenance did not relax. Her mouth was
scornful.

"I daresay that's quite true, Mr. Winnington. But of course you know it
was _not_ on that account--or at any rate not chiefly on that account,
that my father left things as he did. He wished"--she spoke clearly and
slowly--"simply to prevent my helping the Suffrage movement in the way
I think best."

Winnington too had risen, and was standing with one hand on the
mantelpiece. His brow was slightly furrowed, not frowning exactly, but
rather with the expression of one trying to bring his mind into as
close touch as possible with another mind.

"I must of course agree with you. That is evidently one of the objects
of the will, though by no means--I think--the only one. And as to that,
should you not ask yourself--had not your father a right, even a duty,
to look after the disposal of his money as he thought best? Surely it
was his responsibility--especially as he was old, and you were young."

Delia had begun to feel impatient--to resent the very mildness of his
tone. She felt, as though she were an insubordinate child, being gently
reasoned with.

"No, I don't admit it!" she said passionately. "It was tampering with
the right of the next generation!"

"Might you not say the same of the whole--or almost the whole of our
system of inheritance?" he argued. "I should put it--that the old are
always trying to preserve and protect something they know is more
precious to them than it can be to the young--something as to which,
with the experience of life behind them, they believe they are wiser
than the young. _Ought_ the young to resent it?"

"Yes," persisted Delia. "_Yes_! They should be left to make their own
experiments."

"They have _life_ wherewith to make them! But the dead--" He paused.
But Delia felt and quivered under the unspoken appeal; and also under
the quick touch of something more personal--more intimate--in his
manner, expressing, it seemed, some deep feeling of his own. He, in
turn, perceived that she had grown very pale; he guessed even that she
was suddenly not very far from tears. He seemed to realise the weeks,
perhaps months, of conflict through which the girl had just passed. He
was sincerely sorry for her--sincerely drawn to her.

Delia broke the silence.

"It is no good I think discussing this any more--is it? There's the
will, and the question is"--she faced him boldly--"how are you and I
going to get on, Mr. Winnington?"

Winnington's seriousness broke up. He threw her a smiling look, and
with his hands in his pockets began to pace the room reflectively.

"I really believe we can pull it off, if we look at it coolly," he said
at last, pausing in front of her. "I am no bigot on the Suffrage
question--frankly I have not yet made up my mind upon it. All that I am
clear about--as your father was clear--is that outrage and violence are
_wrong_--in any cause. I cannot believe that we shan't agree there!"

He looked at her keenly. Delia was silent. Her face betrayed nothing,
though her eyes met his steadily.

"And in regard to that, there is of course one thing that troubles
me"--he resumed--"one thing in which I beg you to take my advice"--

Delia breathed quick.

"Gertrude Marvell?" she said. "Of course I knew that was coming!"

"Yes. That we must settle, I think." He kept his eyes upon her. "You
can hardly know that she is mentioned by name in your father's last
letter--the letter to me---as the one person whose companionship he
dreaded for you--the one person he hoped you would consent to part
from."

Delia had turned white.

"No--I didn't know."

"For that reason, and for others, I do entreat you"--he went on,
earnestly--"not to keep her here. Miss Marvell may be all that you
believe her. I have nothing to say against her,--except this. I am told
by those who know that she is already quite notorious in the militant
movement. She has been in prison, and she has made extremely violent
speeches, advocating what Miss Marvell calls war, and what plain people
call--crime. That she should live with you here would not only
prejudice your future, and divide you from people who should be your
natural friends; it would be an open disrespect to your father's
memory."

There was silence. Then Delia said, evidently mastering her excitement
with difficulty.

"I can't help it. She _must_ stay with me. Nobody need know--about my
father. Her name is not mentioned in the will."

"No. That is true. But his letter to me as your guardian and trustee
ought to be regarded equitably as part of the will; and I do not see
how it would be possible for me to acquiesce in something so directly
contrary to his last wishes. I beg you to look at it from my point of
view--"

"I do"--said Delia, flushing again. "But my letter warned you--"

"Yes--but I felt on receiving it that you could not possibly be aware
of the full strength of your father's feeling. Let me read you his
words."

He took an envelope from his pocket, observing her. Delia hastily
interposed.

"Don't, Mr. Winnington!--I'm sure I know."

"It is really my duty to read it to you," he said, courteously but
firmly.

She endured it. The only sign of agitation she shewed was the trembling
of her hands on the back of the chair she leant upon. And when he
returned it to his pocket, she considered for a moment or two, before
she said, breathing unevenly, and stumbling a little.--

"That makes no difference, Mr. Winnington. I expect you think me a
monster. All the same I loved my father in my own way. But I am not
going to barter away my freedom for anything or anyone. I am not part
of my father, I am myself. And he is not here to be injured or hurt by
anything I do. I intend to stick to Gertrude Marvell--and she to me."

And having delivered her ultimatum, she stood like a young goddess,
expectant and defiant.

Winnington's manner changed. He straightened himself, with a slight
shake of his broad shoulders, and went to look out of the window at the
end of the room. Delia was left to contemplate the back of a very tall
man in a serge suit and to rate herself for the thrill--or the
trepidation--she could not help feeling. What would he say when he
spoke again? She was angry with herself that she could not quite
truthfully say that she did not care.

When he returned, she divined another man. The tone was as courteous as
ever, but the first relation between them had disappeared; or rather it
had become a business relation, a relation of affairs.

"You will of course understand--that I cannot _acquiesce_ in that
arrangement?"

Delia's uncomfortable sense of humor found vent in a laugh--as civil
however as she could make it.

"I do understand. But I don't quite see what you can do, Mr.
Winnington!"

He smiled--quite pleasantly.

"Nor do I--just yet. But of course Miss Marvell will not expect that
your father's estate should provide her with the salary that would
naturally fall to a chaperon whom your guardian could approve?"

"I shall see to that. We shall not trouble you," said Delia, rather
fiercely.

"And I shall ask to see Miss Marvell before I go this morning--that I
may point out to her the impropriety of remaining here against your
father's express wishes."

Delia nodded.

"All right--but it won't do any good."

He made no reply, except to turn immediately to the subject of her
place of residence and her allowance.

"It is I believe understood that you will live mainly here--at
Maumsey."

"On the contrary!--I wish to spend a great part of the winter in
London."

"With Miss Marvell?"

"Certainly."

"I cannot, I am afraid, let you expect that I shall provide the money."

"It is my own money!"

"Not legally. I hate insisting on these things; but perhaps you ought
to know that the _whole_ of your father's property--everything that he
left behind him, is in trust."

"Which means"--cried Delia, quivering again--"that I am really a
pauper!--that I own nothing but my clothes--barely those!"

He felt himself a brute. "Can I really keep this up!" he thought.
Aloud, he said--"If you would only make it a little easy for your
trustee, he would be only too thankful to follow out your wishes!"

Delia made no reply, and Winnington took another turn up and down
before he paused in front of her with the words:--

"Can't we come to a compact? If I agree to London--say for six or
seven weeks--is there no promise you can make me in return?"

With an inward laugh Delia remembered Gertrude's injunction to "keep
something to bargain with."

"I don't know"--she said, reluctantly. "What sort of promise do you
want?"

"I want one equal to the concession you ask me to make," he said
gravely. "In my eyes nothing could be more unfitting than that you
should be staying in London--during a time of particularly violent
agitation--under the chaperonage of Miss Marvell, who is already
committed to this agitation. If I agree to such a direct contradiction
of your father's wishes, I must at least have your assurance that you
will do nothing violent or illegal, either down here or in London, and
that in this house above all you will take some pains to respect Sir
Robert's wishes. That I am sure you will promise me?"

She could not deny the charm of his direct appealing look, and she
hesitated.

"I was going to have a drawing-room meeting here as soon as
possible"--she said, slowly.

"On behalf of the 'Daughters of Revolt'?"

She silently assented.

"I may feel sure--may I not?--that you will give it up?"

"It is a matter of conscience with us"--she said proudly--"to spread
our message wherever we go."

"I don't think I can allow you a conscience all to yourself," he said
smiling. "Consider how I shall be straining mine--in agreeing to the
London plan!"

"Very well"--the words came out reluctantly. "If you insist--and if
London is agreed upon--I will give it up."

"Thank you," he said quietly. "And you will take part in no acts of
violence, either here or in London? It seems strange to use such words
to you. I hate to use them. But with the news in this week's papers I
can't help it. You will promise?"

There was a short silence.

"I will join in nothing militant down here," said Delia at last. "I
have already told Miss Marvell so."

"Or in London?"

She straightened herself.

"I promise nothing about London."

Guardian and ward looked straight into each other's faces for a few
moments. Delia's resistance had stirred a passion--a tremor--in her
pulses, she had never known in her struggle with her father. Winnington
was clearly debating with himself, and Delia seemed to see the thoughts
coursing through the grey eyes that looked at her, seriously indeed,
yet not without suggesting a man's humorous spirit behind them.

"Very well"--he said--"we will talk of London later.--Now may we just
sit down and run through the household arrangements and expenses
here--before I see Miss Marvell. I want to know exactly what you want
doing to this house, and how we can fix you up comfortably."

Delia assented. Winnington produced a note-book and pencil. Through his
companion's mind was running meanwhile an animated debate.

"I'm not bound to tell him of those other meetings I have promised?
'Yes, you are!' No,--I'm not. They're not to be here--and if I once
begin asking his leave for things--there'll be no end to it. I mean to
shew him--once for all--that I am of age, and my own mistress. He can't
starve me--or beat me!"

Her face broke into suppressed laughter as she bent it over the figures
that Winnington was presenting to her.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, I am rather disappointed that you don't want to do more to the
house," said Winnington, as he rose and put up his note-book. "I
thought it might have been an occupation for the autumn and winter. But
at least we can decide on the essential things, and the work can be
done while you are in town. I am glad you like the servants Mrs. Bird
has found for you. Now I am going off to the Bank to settle everything
about the opening of your account, and the quarterly cheque we have
agreed on shall be paid in to-morrow."

"Very well." But instantly through the girl's mind there shot up the
qualifying thought. "_He_ may say how it is to be spent--but _I_ have
made no promise!"

He approached her to take his leave.

"My sister comes home to-night. Will you try the new car and have tea
with us on Thursday?" Delia assented. "And before I go I should like to
say a word about some of the neighbours."

He tried to give her a survey of the land. Lady Tonbridge, of course,
would be calling upon her directly. She was actually in the village--in
the tiniest bandbox of a house. Her husband's brutality had at
last--two years before this date--forced her to leave him, with her
girl of fifteen. "A miserable story--better taken for granted. She is
the pluckiest woman alive!" Then the Amberleys--the Rector, his wife
and daughter Susy were pleasant people--"Susy is a particular friend of
mine. It'll be jolly if you like her."

"Oh, no, she won't take to me!" said Delia with decision.

"Why not?"

But Delia only shook her head, a little contemptuously.

"We shall see," said Winnington. "Well, good night. Remember, anything
I can do for you--here I am."

His eyes smiled, but Delia was perfectly conscious that the eager
cordiality, the touch of something like tenderness, which had entered
into his earlier manner, had disappeared. She realised, and with a
moment's soreness, that she had offended his sense of right--of what a
daughter's feeling should be towards a dead father, at any rate, in the
first hours of bereavement, when the recollections of death and
suffering are still fresh.

"I can't help it," she thought stubbornly. "It's all part of the price
one pays."

But when he was gone, she stood a long time by the window without
moving, thinking about the hour which had just passed. The impression
left upon her by Winnington's personality was uncomfortably strong. She
knew now that, in spite of her bravado, she had dreaded to find it so,
and the reality had more than confirmed the anticipation. She was
committed to a struggle with a man whom she must respect, and could not
help liking; whose only wish was to help and protect her. And beside
the man's energetic and fruitful maturity, she became, as it were, the
spectator of her own youth and stumbling inexperience.

But these misgivings did not last long. A passionate conviction, a
fanatical affection, came to her aid, and her doubts were impatiently
dismissed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Winnington found Miss Blanchflower's chaperon in a little sitting-room
on the ground floor already appropriated to her, surrounded with a
vast litter of letters and newspapers which she hastily pushed aside as
he entered. He had a long interview with her, and as he afterwards
confessed to Lady Tonbridge, he had rarely put his best powers forward
to so little purpose. Miss Marvell did not attempt to deny that she was
coming to live at Maumsey in defiance of the wishes of Delia's father
and guardian, and of the public opinion of those who were to be
henceforward Delia's friends and neighbours.

"But Delia has asked me to live with her. She is twenty-one, and women
are not now the mere chattels they once were. Both she and I have wills
of our own. You will of course give me no salary. I require none. But I
don't see how you're going to turn me out of Delia's house, if Delia
wishes me to stay."

And Winnington must needs acknowledge, at least to himself, that he did
not see either.

He put the lady however through a cross-examination as to her
connection with militancy which would have embarrassed or intimidated
most women; but Gertrude Marvell, a slight and graceful figure, sitting
erect on the edge of her chair, bore it with perfect equanimity,
apparently frank, and quite unashamed. Certainly she belonged to the
"Daughters of Revolt," the record of her imprisonment was there to shew
it; and so did Delia. The aim of both their lives was to obtain the
parliamentary vote for women, and in her opinion and that of many
others, the time for constitutional action--"for that nonsense"--as she
scornfully put it, had long gone by. As to what she intended to do, or
advise Delia to do, that was her own affair. One did not give away
one's plans to the enemy. But she realised, of course, that it would be
unkind to Delia to plunge her into possible trouble, or to run the risk
herself of arrest or imprisonment during the early days of Delia's
mourning; and of her own accord she graciously offered the assurance
that neither she nor Delia would commit any illegality during the two
months or so that they might be settled at Maumsey. As to what might
happen later, she, like Delia, declined to give any assurances. The
parliamentary situation was becoming desperate, and any action whatever
on the part of women which might serve to prod the sluggish mind of
England before another general election, was in her view not only
legitimate but essential.

"Of course I know what your conscience says on the matter," she said,
with her steady eyes on Winnington. "But--excuse me for saying so--your
conscience is not my affair."

Winnington rose, and prepared to take his leave. If he felt nonplussed,
he managed not to shew it.

"Very well. For the present I acquiesce. But you will scarcely wonder,
Miss Marvell, after this interview between us, if you find yourself
henceforward under observation. You are here in defiance of Miss
Blanchflower's legal guardian. I protest against your influence over
her; and I disapprove of your presence here. I shall do my best to
protect her from you."

She nodded.

"There of course, you will be in your right."

And rising, she turned to the open window and the bright garden
outside, with a smiling remark on the decorative value of begonias, as
though nothing had happened.

Winnington's temperament did not allow him to answer a woman uncivilly
under any circumstances. But they parted as duellists part before the
fray. Miss Marvell acknowledged his "Good afternoon," with a pleasant
bow, keeping her hands the while in the pockets of her serge jacket,
and she remained standing till Winnington had left the room.

"Now for Lady Tonbridge!" thought Winnington, as he rode away. "If she
don't help me out, I'm done!"

At the gate of Maumsey he stopped to speak to the lodge-keeper, and as
he did so, a man opened the gate, and came in. With a careless nod to
Winnington he took his way up the drive. Winnington looked after him in
some astonishment.

"What on earth can that fellow be doing here?"

He scented mischief; little suspecting however that a note from
Gertrude Marvell lay in the pocket of the man's shabby overcoat,
together with that copy of the _Tocsin_ which Delia's sharp eyes had
detected the week before in the hands of its owner.

Meanwhile as he drove homeward, instead of the details of county
business, the position of Delia Blanchflower, her personality, her
loveliness, her defiance of him, absorbed his mind completely. He began
to foresee the realities of the struggle before him, and the sheer
dramatic interest of it held him, as though someone presented the case,
and bade him watch how it worked out.




Chapter VI


The village or rather small town of Great Maumsey took its origin in a
clearing of that royal forest which had now receded from it a couple of
miles to the south. But it was still a rural and woodland spot. The
trees in the fields round it had still a look of wildness, as survivors
from the primeval chase, and were grouped more freely and romantically
than in other places; while from the hill north of the church, one
could see the New Forest stretching away, blue beyond blue, purple
beyond purple, till it met the shining of the sea.

Great Maumsey had a vast belief in itself, and was reckoned exclusive
and clannish by other places. It was proud of its old Georgian houses,
with their white fronts, their pillared porches, and the pediment
gables in their low roofs. The owners of these houses, of which there
were many, charmingly varied, in the long main street, were well aware
that they had once been old-fashioned, and were now as much admired in
their degree, as the pictures of the great English artists, Hogarth,
Reynolds, Romney, with which they were contemporary. There were earlier
houses too, of brick and timber, with overhanging top stories and
moss-grown roofs. There was a green surrounded with post and rails, on
which a veritable stocks still survived, kept in careful repair as a
memento of our barbarous forbears, by the parish Council. The church,
dating from that wonderful fourteenth century when all the world must
have gone mad for church-building, stood back from the main street,
with the rectory beside it, in a modest seclusion of their own.

It was all very English, very spick and span, and apparently very well
to do. That the youth of the village was steadily leaving it for the
Colonies, that the constant marrying in and in which had gone on for
generations had produced an ugly crop of mental deficiency, and
physical deformity among the inhabitants--that the standard of morals
was too low, and the standard of drink too high--were matters well
known to the Rector and the Doctor. But there were no insanitary
cottages, and no obvious scandals of any sort. The Maumsey estate had
always been well managed; there were a good many small gentlefolk who
lived in the Georgian houses, and owing to the competition of the
railways, agricultural wages were rather better than elsewhere.

About a mile from the eastern end of the village was the small
modernised manor-house of Bridge End, which belonged to Mark
Winnington, and where his sister Alice, Mrs. Matheson, kept him company
for the greater part of the year. The gates leading to Maumsey lay a
little west of the village, while on the hill to the north rose,
conspicuous against its background of wood, the famous old house of
Monk Lawrence. It looked down upon Maumsey on the one hand and Bridge
End on the other. It was generally believed that the owner of it, Sir
Wilfrid Lang, had exhausted his resources in restoring it, and that it
was the pressure of debt rather than his wife's health which had led to
its being shut up so long.

The dwellers in the village regarded it as the jewel in their
landscape, their common heritage and pride. Lady Tonbridge, whose
little drawing-room and garden to the back looked out on the hill and
the old house, was specially envied because she possessed so good a
view of it. She herself inhabited one of the very smallest of the
Georgian houses, in the main street of Maumsey. She paid a rent of no
more than L40 a year for it, and Maumsey people who liked her, felt
affectionately concerned that a duke's grand-daughter should be reduced
to a rent and quarters so insignificant.

Lady Tonbridge however was not at all concerned for the smallness of
her house. She regarded it as the outward and visible sign of the most
creditable action of her life--the action which would--or should--bring
her most marks when the recording angel came to make up her account.
Every time she surveyed its modest proportions the spirit of freedom
danced within her, and she envied none of the noble halls in which she
had formerly lived, and to some of which she still paid occasional
Visits.

At tea-time, on the day following Winnington's first interview with his
ward, Madeleine Tonbridge came into her little drawing-room, in her
outdoor things, and carrying a bundle of books under the arm.

As far as such words could ever apply to her she was tired and dusty.
But her little figure was so alert and trim, her grey linen dress and
its appointments so dainty, and the apple-red in her small cheeks so
bright, that one might have conceived her as just fresh from a maid's
hands, and stepping out to amuse herself, instead of as just returning
from a tedious afternoon's work, by which she had earned the large sum
of five shillings. A woman of forty-five, she looked her age, and she
had never possessed any positive beauty, unless it were the beauty of
delicate and harmonious proportion. Yet she had been pestered with
suitors as a girl, and unfortunately had married the least desirable of
them all. And now in middle life, no one had more devoted men-friends;
and that without exciting a breath of scandal, even in a situation
where one might have thought it inevitable.

She looked round her as she entered.

"Nora!--where are you?"

A girl, apparently about seventeen, put her head in through the French
window that opened to the garden.

"Ready for tea, Mummy?"

"Rather!"--said Lady Tonbridge, with energy, as she put a match to the
little spirit kettle on the tea-table where everything stood ready.
"Come in, darling."

And throwing off her hat and jacket, she sank into a comfortable
arm-chair with a sigh of fatigue. Her daughter quietly loosened her
mother's walking-shoes and took them away. Then they kissed each other,
and Nora went to look after the tea. She was a slim, pale-faced
school-girl, with yellow-brown eyes, and yellow-brown hair, not as yet
very attractive in looks, but her mother was convinced that it was only
the plainness of the cygnet, and that the swan was only a few years
off. Nora, who at seventeen had no illusions, was grateful to her
mother for the belief but did not share it in the least.

"I'm sure you gave that girl half an hour over time," she said
reprovingly, as she handed Lady Tonbridge her cup of tea--"I can't
think why you do it." She referred to the solicitor's daughter whom
Lady Tonbridge had been that afternoon instructing in the uses of the
French participle.

"Nor can I. A kind of ridiculous _esprit de metier_ I suppose. I
undertook to teach her French, and when after all these weeks she don't
seem to know a thing more than when she began, I feel as if I were
picking her dear papa's pockets."

"Which is absurd," said Nora, buttering her mother's toast, "and I
can't let you do it. Half a crown an hour is silly enough already, and
for you to throw in half an hour extra for nothing, can't be stood."

"I wish I could get it up to four hours a day," sighed the mother,
munching happily at her toast, while she held out her small stockinged
feet to the fire which Nora had just lit. "Just think. Ten shillings a
day--six days a week--ten months in the year. Why it would pay the
rent, we could have another servant, and I could give you twenty pounds
a year more for your clothes."

"Much obliged--but I prefer a live Mummy--and no clothes--to a dead
one. More tea?"

"Thanks. No chance, of course. Where could one find four persons a day,
in Maumsey, or near Maumsey, who want to learn French? The notion's
absurd. I shouldn't get the lessons I do, if it weren't for the
'Honourable.'"

"Snobs!"

"Not at all! Not a single family out of the people I go to deserve to
be called snobs. It's the natural dramatic instinct in us all. You
don't expect an 'Honourable' to be giving French lessons at half a
crown an hour, and when she does, you say--'Hullo! Some screw loose,
somewhere!'--and you at once feel a new interest in the French tongue,
and ask her to come along. I don't mind it a bit. I sit and spin yarns
about Drawing-rooms and Court balls, and it all helps.--When did you
get home?"

For Nora attended a High School in a neighbouring town, some five miles
away, journeying there and back by train.

"Half-past four. I met Mr. Winnington in his car, and he said he'd be
here about six."

"Good. I'm dying to talk to him. I have written to the Abbey to say we
will call to-morrow. Of course, I ought to be her nursing mother in
these parts"--said Lady Tonbridge reflectively--"I knew Sir Robert in
frocks, and we were always pals. But my dear, it was I who hatched the
cockatrice!"

Nora nodded gravely.

"It was I," pursued Lady Tonbridge, penitentially,--"who saddled him
with that woman--and I know he never forgave me. He as good as told me
so when we last met--for those few hours--at Basle. But how could I
tell? How could anybody tell--she would turn out such a creature? I
only knew that she had taken all kinds of honours. I thought I was
sending him a treasure."

"All the same you did it, Mummy. And it won't do to give yourself airs
now! That's what Mr. Winnington says. You've got to help him out."

"I say, don't talk secrets!" said a voice just outside the room. "For I
can't help hearing 'em. May I come in?"

And, pushing the half-open door, Mark Winnington stood smiling on the
threshold.

"I apologise. But your little maid let me in--and then vanished
somewhere, like greased lightning--after a dog."

"Oh, come in," said Lady Tonbridge, with resignation, extending at the
same time a hand of welcome--"the little maid, as you call her, only
came from your workhouse yesterday, and I haven't yet discovered a
grain of sense in her. But she gets plenty of exercise. If she isn't
chasing dogs, it's cats."

"Don't you attack my schools," said Winnington seating himself at the
tea-table. "They're A1, and you're very lucky to get one of my girls."

Madeleine Tonbridge replied tartly, that if he was a poor-law guardian,
and responsible for a barrack school it was no cause for boasting. She
had not long parted with another of his girls, who had tried on her
blouses, and gone out in her boots. She thought of offering the new
girl a free and open choice of her wardrobe to begin with, so as to
avoid unpleasantness.

"We all know that every mistress has the maid she deserves," said
Winnington, deep in gingerbread cake. "I leave it there--"

"Yes, jolly well do!" cried Nora, who had come to sit on a stool in
front of her mother and Winnington, her eager eyes glancing from one to
the other--"Don't start Mummy on servants, Mr. Winnington. If you do, I
shall go to bed. There's only one thing worth talking about--and
that's--"

"Maumsey!" he said, laughing at her.

"Have you accomplished anything?" asked Lady Tonbridge. "Don't tell me
you've dislodged the Fury?"

Winnington shook his head.

"_J'y suis--j'y reste_!"

"I thought so. There is no civilised way by which men can eject a
woman. Tell me all about it."

Winnington, however, instead of expatiating on the Maumsey household,
turned the conversation to something else--especially to Nora's first
attempts at golf, in which he had been her teacher. Nora, whose
reasonableness was abnormal, very soon took the hint, and after five
minutes' "chaff" with Winnington, to whom she was devoted, she took up
her work and went back to the garden.

"Nobody ever snubs me so efficiently as Nora," said Madeleine
Tonbridge, with resignation, "though you come a good second. Discreet I
shall never be. Don't tell me anything if you don't want to."

"But of course I want to! And there is nobody in the world so
absolutely bound to help me as you."

"I knew you'd say that. Don't pile it on. Give me the kitten--and
describe your proceedings."

Winnington handed her the grey Persian kitten reposing on a distant
chair, and Lady Tonbridge, who always found the process conducive to
clear thinking, stroked and combed the creature's beautiful fur, while
the man talked,--with entire freedom now that they were _tete-a-tete._

She was his good friend indeed, and she had also been the good friend
of Sir Robert Blanchflower. It was natural that to her he should lay
his perplexities bare.

       *       *       *       *       *

But after she had heard his story and given her best mind to his
position, she could not refrain from expressing the wonder she had felt
from the beginning that he should ever have accepted it at all.

"What on earth made you do it? Bobby Blanchflower had no more real
claim on you than this kitten!"

Winnington's grey eyes fixed on the trees outside shewed a man trying
to retrace his own course.

"He wrote me a very touching letter. And I have always thought that
men--and women--ought to be ready to do this kind of service for each
other. I should have felt a beast if I had said No, at once. But I
confess now that I have seen Miss Delia, I don't know whether I can do
the slightest good."

"Hold on!" said Lady Tonbridge, sharply,--"You can't give it
up--now."

Winnington laughed.

"I have no intention of giving it up. Only I warn you that I shall
probably make a mess of it."

"Well"--the tone was coolly reflective--"that may do _you_
good--whatever happens to the girl. You have never made a mess of
anything yet in your life. It will be a new experience."

Winnington protested hotly that her remark only shewed how little even
intimate friends know of each other's messes, and that his were already
legion. Lady Tonbridge threw him an incredulous look. As he sat there
in his bronzed and vigorous manhood, the first crowsfeet just beginning
to shew round the eyes, and the first streaks of grey in the brown
curls, she said to herself that none of her young men acquaintance
possessed half the physical attractiveness of Mark Winnington; while
none--old or young--could rival him at all in the humane and winning
spell he carried about with him. To see Mark Winnington _aux prises_
with an adventure in which not even his tact, his knowledge of men and
women, his candour, or his sweetness, might be sufficient to win
success, piqued her curiosity; perhaps even flattered that slight
inevitable malice, wherewith ordinary mortals protect themselves
against the favourites of the gods.

She was determined however to help him if she could, and she put him
through a number of questions. The girl then was as handsome as she
promised to be? A beauty, said Winnington--and of the heroic or poetic
type. And the Fury? Winnington described the neat, little lady,
fashionably Pressed and quiet mannered, who had embittered the last
years of Sir Robert Blanchflower, and firmly possessed herself of his
daughter.

"You will see her to-morrow, at my house, when you come to tea. I
carefully didn't ask her, but I am certain she will come, and Alice and
I shall of course have to receive her."

"She is not thin-skinned then?"

"What fanatic is? It is one of the secrets of their strength."

"She probably regards us all as the dust under her feet," said Lady
Tonbridge. "I wonder what game she will be up to here. Have you seen
the _Times_ this morning?"

Winnington nodded. It contained three serious cases of arson, in which
Suffragette literature and messages had been discovered among the
ruins, besides a number of minor outrages. An energetic leading article
breathed the exasperation of the public, and pointed out the spread of
the campaign of violence.

By this time Lady Tonbridge had carried her visitor into the garden,
and they were walking up and down among the late September flowers.
Beyond the garden lay green fields and hedgerows; beyond the fields
rose the line of wooded hill, and, embedded in trees, the grey and
gabled front of Monk Lawrence.

Winnington reported the very meagre promise he had been able to get out
of his ward and her companion.

"The comfort is," said Lady Tonbridge, "that this is a sane
neighbourhood--comparatively. They won't get much support. Oh, I don't
know though--" she added quickly. "There's that man--Mr. Lathrop, Paul
Lathrop--who took Wood Cottage last year--a queer fish, by all
accounts. I'm told he's written the most violent things backing up the
militants generally. However, his own story has put _him_ out of
Court."

"His own story?" said Winnington, with a puzzled look.

"Don't be so innocent!" laughed Lady Tonbridge, rather impatiently. "I
always tell you you don't give half place enough in life to
gossip-'human nature's daily food.' I knew all about him a week after
he arrived. However, I don't propose to save you trouble, Mr. Guardian!
Go and look up a certain divorce case, with Mr. Lathrop's name in it,
some time last year--if you want to know. That's enough for that."

But Winnington interrupted her, with a disturbed look. "I happened to
meet that very man you are speaking of--yesterday--in the Abbey drive,
going to call."

Lady Tonbridge shrugged her shoulders.

"There you see their freemasonry. I don't suppose they approve his
morals--but he supports their politics. You won't be able to banish
him!--Well, so the child is lovely? and interesting?"

Winnington assented warmly.

"But determined to make herself a nuisance to you? Hm! Mr. Mark--dear
Mr. Mark--don't fall in love with her!"

Winnington's expression altered. He did not answer for a moment. Then
he said, looking away--

"Do you think you need have said that?"

"No!"--cried Madeleine Tonbridge remorsefully. "I am a wretch. But
don't--_don't_!"

This time he smiled at her, though not without vexation.

"Do you forget that I am nearly old enough to be her father?"

"Oh that's nonsense!" she said hastily. "However--I'm not going to
flatter you--or tease you. Forgive me. I put it out of my head. I
wonder if there is anybody in the field already?"

"Not that I am aware of."

"Of course you know this kind of thing spoils a girl's prospects of
marriage enormously. Men won't run the risk."

Winnington laughed.

"And all the time, you're a Suffragist yourself!"

"Yes, indeed I am," was the stout reply. "Here am I, with a house and a
daughter, a house-parlourmaid, a boot-boy, and rates to pay. Why
shouldn't I vote as well as you? But the difference between me and the
Fury is that she wants the vote this year--this month--_this
minute_--and I don't care whether it comes in my time--or Nora's
time--or my grandchildren's time. I say we ought to have it--that it is
our right--and you men are dolts not to give it us. But I sit and wait
peaceably till you do--till the apple is ripe and drops. And meanwhile
these wild women prevent its ripening at all. So long as they rage,
there it hangs--out of our reach. So that I'm not only ashamed of them
as a woman--but out of all patience with them as a Suffragist! However
for heaven's sake don't let's discuss the horrid subject. I'll do all I
can for Delia--both for your sake and Bob's--I'll keep my best eye on
the Fury--I feel myself of course most abominably responsible for
her--and I hope for the best. Who's coming to your tea-party?"

Winnington enumerated. At the name of Susy Amberley, his hostess threw
him a sudden look, but said nothing.

"The Andrews'--Captain, Mrs. and Miss--," Lady Tonbridge exclaimed.

"Why did you ask that horrid woman?"

"We didn't! Alice indiscreetly mentioned that Miss Blanchflower was
coming to tea, and she asked herself."

"She's enough to make any one militant! If I hear her quote 'the hand
that rocks the cradle rules the world' once more, I shall have to smite
her. The girl's _down-trodden_ I tell you! Well, well--if you gossip
too little, I gossip too much. Heavens!--what a light!"

Winnington turned to see the glow of a lovely afternoon fusing all the
hill-side in a glory of gold and amethyst, and the windows in the long
front of Monk Lawrence taking fire under the last rays of a
fast-dropping sun.

"Do you know--I sometimes feel anxious about that house!" said
Madeleine Tonbridge, abruptly. "It's empty--it's famous--it belongs to
a member of the Government. What is to prevent the women from attacking
it?"

"In the first place, it isn't empty. The Keeper, Daunt, from the South
Lodge, has now moved into the house. I know, because Susy Amberley told
me. She goes up there to teach one of my cripples--Daunt's second girl.
In the next, the police are on the alert. And last--who on earth would
dare to attack Monk Lawrence? The odium of it would be too great. A
house bound up with English history and English poetry--No! They are
not such fools!"

Lady Tonbridge shook her head.

"Don't be so sure. Anyway you as a magistrate can keep the police up to
the mark."

Winnington departed, and his old friend was left to meditate on his
predicament. It was strange to see Mark Winnington, with his
traditional, English ways and feelings--carried, as she always felt, to
their highest--thus face to face with the new feminist forces--as
embodied in Delia Blanchflower. He had resented, clearly resented, the
introduction--by her, Madeleine--of the sex element into the problem.
But how difficult to keep it out! "He will see her constantly--he will
have to exercise his will against hers--he will get his way--and then
hate himself for conquering--he will disapprove, and yet admire,--will
offend her, yet want to please her--a creature all fire, and beauty,
and heroisms out of place! And she--could she, could I, could any woman
I know, fight Mark Winnington--and not love him all the time? Men are
men, and women are women--in spite of all these 'isms,' and 'causes.' I
bet--but I don't know what I bet!--" Then her thoughts gradually veered
away from Mark to quite another person.

How would Susan Amberley be affected by this new interest in Mark
Winnington's life? Madeleine's thoughts recalled a gentle face, a pair
of honest eyes, a bearing timid and yet dignified. So she was teaching
one of Mark's crippled children? And Mark thought no doubt she would
have done the like for anyone else with a charitable hobby? Perhaps she
would, for her heart was a fount of pity. All the same, the man--blind
bat!--understood nothing. No fault of his perhaps; but Lady Tonbridge
felt a woman's angry sympathy with a form of waste so common and so
costly.

And now the modest worshipper must see her hero absorbed day by day,
and hour by hour, in the doings of a dazzling and magnificent creature
like Delia Blanchflower. What food for torment, even in the meekest
spirit!

So that the last word the vivacious woman said to herself was a soft
"Poor Susy!" dropped into the heart of a September rose as she stooped
to gather it.




Chapter VII


A small expectant party were gathered for afternoon tea in the
book-lined sitting-room--the house possessed no proper drawing-room--of
Bridge End. Mrs. Matheson indeed, Mark's widowed sister, would have
resented it had anyone used the word "party" in its social sense. Miss
Blanchflower's father had been dead scarcely a month; and Mrs. Matheson
in her quiet way, held strongly by all the decencies of life. It was
merely a small gathering of some of the oldest friends and neighbours
of Miss Blanchflower's family--those who had stood nearest to her
grandparents--to welcome the orphan girl among them. Lady Tonbridge--of
whom it was commonly believed, though no one exactly knew why, that Bob
Blanchflower, as a youth had been in love with her, before ever he met
his Greek wife; Dr. France, who had attended both the old people till
their deaths, and had been much beloved by them; his wife; the Rector,
Mrs. Amberley, and Susy:--Mrs. Matheson had not intended to ask anyone
else. But the Andrews' had asked themselves, and she had not had the
moral courage to tell them that the occasion was not for them. She was
always getting Mark into difficulties, she penitently reflected, by her
inability to say No, at the right time, and with the proper force, Mark
could always say it, and stick to it smiling--without giving offence.

Mrs. Matheson was at the tea-table. She was tall and thin, with
something of her brother's good looks, but none of his over-flowing
vitality. Her iron-grey hair was rolled back from her forehead; she
wore a black dress with a high collar of white lawn, and long white
cuffs. Little Mrs. Amberley, the Rector's wife, sitting beside her,
envied her hostess her figure, and her long slender neck. She herself
had long since parted with any semblance of a waist, and the boned
collars of the day were a perpetual torment to one whose neck, from the
dressmaker's point of view, scarcely existed. But Mrs. Amberley endured
them, because they were the fashion; and to be moderately in the
fashion meant simply keeping up to the mark--not falling behind. It was
like going to church--an acceptance of that "general will," which
according to the philosophers, is the guardian of all religion and all
morality.

The Rector too, who was now handing the tea-cake, believed in
fashion--ecclesiastical fashion. Like his wife, he was gentle and
ineffective. His clerical dress expressed a moderate Anglicanism, and
his opinions were those of his class and neighbourhood, put for him day
by day in his favourite newspaper, with a cogency at which he
marvelled. Yet he was no more a hypocrite than his wife, and below his
common-places both of manner and thought there lay warm feelings and a
quick conscience. He was just now much troubled about his daughter
Susy. The night before she had told her mother and him that she wished
to go to London, to train for nursing. It had been an upheaval in their
quiet household. Why should she dream of such a thing? How could they
ever get on without her? Who would copy out his sermons, or help with
the schools? And her mother--so dependent on her only daughter! The
Rector's mind was much disturbed, and he was accordingly more absent
and more ineffective than usual.

Susy herself, in a white frock, with touches of blue at her waist, and
in her shady hat, was moving about with cups of tea, taking that place
of Mrs. Matthews's lieutenant, which was always tacitly given her by
Winnington and his sister on festal occasions at Bridge End. As she
passed Winnington, who had been captured by Mrs. Andrews, he turned
with alacrity--

"My dear Miss Susy! What are you doing? Give me that cup!"

"No--please! I like doing it!" And she passed on, smiling, towards Lady
Tonbridge, whose sharp eyes had seen the trivial contact between
Winnington and the girl. How the mere sound of his voice had changed
the aspect of the young face! Poor child--poor child!

"How well you look Susy! Such a pretty dress!" said Madeleine tenderly
in the girl's ear.

Susy flushed.

"You really think so? Mother gave it me for a birthday present." She
looked up with her soft, brown eyes, which always seemed to have in
them, even when they smiled, a look of pleading--as of someone at a
disadvantage. At the same moment Winnington passed her.

"_Could_ you go and talk to Miss Andrews?" he said, over his shoulder,
so that only she heard.

Susy went obediently across the room to where a silent, dark-haired
girl sat by herself, quite apart from the rest of the circle. Marion
Andrews was plain, with large features and thick wiry hair. Maumsey
society in general declared her "impossible." She rarely talked; she
seemed to have no tastes; and the world believed her both stupid and
disagreeable. And by contrast with the effusive amiabilities of her
mother, she could appear nothing else. Mrs. Andrews indeed had a way of
using her daughter as a foil to her own qualities, which must have
paralysed the most self-confident, and Marion had never possessed any
belief in herself at all.

As Susy Amberley timidly approached her, and began to make
conversation, she looked up coldly, and hardly answered. Meanwhile Mrs.
Andrews was pouring out a flood of talk under which the uncomfortable
Winnington--for it always fell to him as host to entertain her--sat
practising endurance. She was a selfish, egotistical woman, with a vast
command of sloppy phrases, which did duty for all that real feeling or
sympathy of which she possessed uncommonly little. On this occasion she
was elaborately dressed,--overdressed--in a black satin gown, which
seemed to Winnington, an ugly miracle of trimming and tortured "bits."
Her large hat was thick with nodding plumes, and beside her spotless
white gloves and showy lace scarf, her daughter's slovenly coat and
skirt, of the cheapest ready-made kind, her soiled gloves, and clumsy
shoes, struck even a man uncomfortably. That poor girl seemed to grow
plainer and more silent every year.

He was just shaking himself free from the mother, when Dr. and Mrs.
France were announced. The doctor came in with a furrowed brow, and a
preoccupied look. After greeting Mrs. Matheson, and the other guests,
he caught a glance of enquiry from Winnington and went up to him.

"The evening paper is full of the most shocking news!" he said, with
evident agitation. "There has been an attempt on Hampton Court--and two
girls who were caught breaking windows in Piccadilly have been badly
hurt by the crowd. A bomb too has been found in the entrance of one of
the tube stations. It was discovered in time, or the results might have
been frightful."

"Good Heavens--those women again!" cried Mrs. Andrews, lifting hands
and eyes.

No one else spoke. But in everyone's mind the same thought emerged. At
any moment the door might open, and Delia Blanchflower and her chaperon
might come in.

The doctor drew Winnington aside into a bow-window.

"Did you know that the lady living with Miss Blanchflower was a member
of this League of Revolt?"

"Yes. You mean they are implicated in these things?"

"Certainly! I am told Miss Marvell was once an official--probably is
still. My dear Winnington--you can't possibly allow it!" He spoke with
the freedom of an intimate friend.

"How can I stop it," said Winnington, frowning. "My ward is of age. If
Miss Marvell does anything overt--But she has promised to do nothing
violent down here--they both have."

The doctor, an impetuous Ulsterman with white hair, and black eyes,
shrugged his shoulders impatiently. "When women once take to this kind
of thing"--he was interrupted by Mrs. Andrews' heavy voice rising
above the rather nervous and disjointed conversation of the other
guests--"If women only knew where their real power lies, Mrs. Matheson!
Why, 'the hand that rocks the cradle'--"

A sudden crash was heard.

"Oh, dear"--cried Lady Tonbridge, who had upset a small table with a
plate of cakes on it across the tail of Mrs. Andrews' dress--"how
stupid I am!"

"My gown!--my gown!" cried Mrs. Andrews in an anguish, groping for the
cakes.

In the midst of the confusion the drawing-room door had opened, and
there on the threshold stood Delia Blanchflower, with a slightly-built
lady behind her.

Winnington turned with a start and went forward to greet them. Dr.
France left behind in the bow-window observed their entry with a
mingling of curiosity and repulsion. It seemed to him that their entry
was that of persons into a hostile camp,--the senses all alert against
attack. Delia was of course in black, her face sombrely brilliant in
its dark setting of a plain felt hat, like the hat of a Cavalier
without its feathers. "She knows perfectly well we have been talking
about her!" thought Dr. France,--"that we have seen the newspapers. She
comes in ready for battle--perhaps thirsty for it! She is
excited--while the woman behind her is perfectly cool. The two
types!--the enthusiast--and the fanatic. But, by Jove, the girl is
handsome!"

Through the sudden silence created by their entry, Delia made her way
to Mrs. Matheson. Holding her head very high, she introduced "My
chaperon--Miss Marvell." And Winnington's sister nervously shook hands
with the quietly smiling lady who followed in Miss Blanchflower's wake.
Then while Delia sat down beside the hostess, and Winnington busied
himself in supplying her with tea, her companion fell to the Rector's
care.

The Rector, like Winnington, was not a gossip, partly out of scruples,
but mainly perhaps because of a certain deficient vitality, and he had
but disjointed ideas on the subject of the two ladies who had now
settled at the Abbey. He understood, however, that Delia, whom he
remembered as a child, was a "Suffragette," and that Mr. Winnington,
Delia's guardian, disapproved of the lady she had brought with her,
why, he could not recollect. This vague sense of something "naughty"
and abnormal gave a certain tremor to his manner as he stood beside
Gertrude Marvell, shifting from one foot to the other, and nervously
plying her with tea-cake.

Miss Marvell's dark eyes meanwhile glanced round the room, taking in
everybody. They paused a moment on the figure of the doctor, erect and
spare in a closely-buttoned coat, on his spectacled face, and
conspicuous brow, under waves of nearly white hair; then passed on. Dr.
France watched her, following the examining eyes with his own. He saw
them change, with a look--the slightest passing look--of recognition,
and at the same moment he was aware of Marion Andrews, sitting in the
light of a side window. What had happened to the girl? He saw her dark
face, for one instant, exultant, transformed; like some forest hollow
into which a sunbeam strikes. The next, she was stooping over a copy of
"Punch" which lay on the table beside her. A rush of speculation ran
through the doctor's mind.

"And you are settled at Maumsey?" Mrs. Matheson was saying to Delia;
aware as soon as the question was uttered that it was a foolish one.

"Oh no, not settled. We shall be there a couple of months."

"The house will want some doing up, Mark thinks."

"I don't think so. Not much anyway. It does very well."

There was an entire absence of girlish softness or shyness in the
speaker's manner, though it was both courteous and easy. The
voice--musically deep--and the splendid black eyes, that looked so
steadily at her, intimidated Mark Winnington's gentle sister.

Mrs. Andrews, whose dress, after Susy's ministration, had been declared
out of danger, bent across the tea-table, all smiles and benevolence
again, the plumes in her black hat nodding--

"It's like old times to have the Abbey open again, Miss Blanchflower!
Every week we used to go to your dear grandmother, for her Tuesday
work-party. I'm afraid you'll hardly revive _that_!"

Delia brought a rather intimidating brow to bear upon the speaker.

"I'm afraid not."

Lady Tonbridge, who had already greeted Delia as a woman naturally
greets the daughter of an old friend, came up as Delia spoke to ask for
a second cup of tea, and laid her hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Very sorry to miss you yesterday. I won't insult you by saying you've
grown. How about the singing? You used to sing I remember when I stayed
with you."

"Yes--but I've given it up. I took lessons at Munich last spring. But I
can't work at it enough. And if one can't work, it's no good."

"Why can't you work at it?"

Delia suddenly looked up in her questioner's face. Her gravity broke up
in a broad smile.

"Because there's so much else to do."

"What else?"

The look of excited defiance in the girl's eyes sharpened.

"Do you really want to know?"

"Certainly. The Suffrage and that kind of thing?" said Madeleine
Tonbridge lightly.

"The Suffrage and that kind of thing!" repeated Delia, still smiling.

Captain Andrews who was standing near, and whose martial mind was all
in confusion, owing to Miss Blanchflower's beauty, put in an eager
word.

"I never can understand, Miss Blanchflower, why you ladies want the
vote! Why, you can twist us round your little fingers!"

Delia turned upon him.

"But I don't want to twist you round my little finger!" she said, with
energy. "It wouldn't give me the smallest pleasure."

"I thought you wanted to manage us," said the Captain, unable to take
his eyes from her. "But you do manage us already!"

Delia's glance showed her uncertain whether the foe was worth her
steel.

"We want to manage ourselves," she said at last, smiling indifferently.
"We say you do it badly."

The Captain attempted to spar with her a little longer. Winnington
meanwhile stood, a silent listener, amid the group round the tea-table.
He--and Dr. France--were both acutely conscious of the realities behind
this empty talk; of the facts recorded in the day's newspapers; and of
the connection between the quiet lady in grey who had come in with
Delia Blanchflower, and the campaign of public violence, which was now
in good earnest alarming and exasperating the country.

Where was the quiet lady in grey? Winnington was thinking too much
about his ward to keep a constant eye upon her. But Dr. France observed
her closely, and he presently saw what puzzled him anew. After a
conversation, exceedingly bland, though rather monosyllabic, on Miss
Marvell's part, with the puzzled and inarticulate Rector, Delia's
chaperon had gently and imperceptibly moved away from the tea-table.
That she had been very coldly received by the company in general was no
doubt evident to her. She was now sitting beside that strange girl
Marion Andrews--to whom, as the Doctor had seen, she had been
introduced--apparently--by the Rector. And as Dr. France caught sight
of her, she and Marion Andrews rose and walked to a window opening on
the garden, apparently to look at the blaze of autumn flowers outside.

But it was the demeanour of the girl which again drew the doctor's
attention. Marion Andrews, who never talked, was talking fast and
earnestly to this complete stranger, her normally sallow face one glow.
It was borne in afresh upon Dr. France that the two were already
acquainted; and he continued to watch them as closely as politeness
allowed.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Will you come and look at the house?" said Winnington to his ward.
"Not that we have anything to shew--except a few portraits and old
engravings that might interest you. But it's rather a dear old place,
and we're very fond of it."

Delia went with him in silence. He opened the oval panelled
dining-room, and shewed her the portraits of his father, the venerable
head of an Oxford college, in the scarlet robes of a D.D., and others
representing his forebears on both sides--quiet folk, painted by decent
but not important painters. Delia looked at them and hardly spoke. Then
they went into Mrs. Matheson's room, which was bright with pretty
chintzes, books and water-colours, and had a bow-window looking on the
garden. Still Delia said nothing, beyond an absent Yes or No, or a
perfunctory word of praise. Winnington became very soon conscious of
some strong tension in her, which was threatening to break down; a
tension evidently of displeasure and resentment. He guessed what the
subject of it might be, but as he was most unwilling to discuss it with
her, if his guess were correct, he tried to soothe and evade her by
such pleasant talk as the different rooms suggested. The house through
which he led her was the home, evidently, of a man full of enthusiasms
and affections, caring intensely for many things, for his old school,
of which there were many drawings and photographs in the hall and
passages, for the two great games in which he himself excelled; for
poetry and literature--the house overflowed everywhere with books; for
his County Council work, and all the projects connected with it; for
his family and his intimate friends.

"Who is that?" asked Delia, pointing to a charcoal drawing in Mrs.
Matheson's sitting-room, of a noble-faced woman of thirty, in a
delicate evening dress of black and white.

"That is my mother. She died the year after it was taken."

Delia looked at it in silence a moment. There was something in its
dignity, its restfulness, its touch of austerity which challenged her.
She said abruptly--"I want to speak to you please, Mr. Winnington. May
we shut the door?"

Winnington shut the door of his sister's room, and returned to his
guest. Delia had turned very white.

"I hear Mr. Winnington you have reversed an order I wrote to our agent
about one of the cottages. May I know your reasons?"

"I was very sorry to do so," said Winnington gently; "but I felt sure
you did not understand the real circumstances, and I could not come and
discuss them with you."

Delia stood stormily erect, and the level light of the October
afternoon streaming in through a west window magnified her height, and
her prophetess air.

"I can't help shocking you, Mr. Winnington. I don't accept what you
say. I don't believe that covering up horrible things makes them less
horrible. I want to stand by that girl. It is cruel to separate her
from her old father!"

Winnington looked at her in distress and embarrassment.

"The story is not what you think it," he said earnestly. "But it is
really not fit for your ears. I have given great thought and much time
to it, yesterday and to-day. The girl--who is mentally deficient--will
be sent to a home and cared for. The father sees now that it is the
best. Please trust it to me."

"Why mayn't I know the facts!" persisted Delia, paler than before.

A flash of some quick feeling passed through Winnington's eyes.

"Why should you? Leave us older folk, dear Miss Delia, to deal with
these sorrowful things."

Indignation blazed up in her.

"It is for women to help women," she said, passionately. "It is no good
treating us who are grown up--even if we are young--like children any
more. We intend to _know_--that we may protect--and save."

"I assure you," said Winnington gravely, "that this poor girl shall
have every care--every kindness. So there is really no need for you to
know. Please spare yourself--and me!"

He had come to stand by her, looking down upon her. She lifted her eyes
to his unwillingly, and as she caught his smile she was invaded by a
sudden consciousness of his strong magnetic presence. The power in the
grey eyes, and in the brow over-hanging them, the kind sincerity
mingled with the power, and the friendliness that breathed from his
whole attitude and expression, disarmed her. She felt herself for a
moment--and for the first time--young and ignorant,--and that
Winnington was ready to be in the true and not merely in the legal
sense, her "guardian," if she would only let him.

But the moment of weakening was soon over. Her mind chafed and twisted.
Why had he undertaken it--a complete stranger to her! It was most
embarrassing--detestable--for them both!

And there suddenly darted through her memory the recollection of a
certain item in her father's will. Under it Mr. Winnington received a
sum of L4,000 out of her father's estate, "in consideration of our old
friendship, and of the trouble I am asking him to undertake in
connection with my estates,"--or words to that effect.

Somehow, she had never yet paid much attention to that clause in the
will. It occurred in a list of a good many other legacies, and had been
passed over by the lawyers in explaining the will to her, as something
entirely in the natural course of things. But the poisonous thought
suggested itself--"It was that which bribed him!--he would have given
it up, but for that!" He might not want it for himself--very
possibly!--but for his charities, his Cripple School and the rest. Her
face stiffened.

"If you have arranged with her father, of course I can't interfere,"
she said coldly. "But don't imagine, please, Mr. Winnington, for one
moment, that I accept your view of the things I 'needn't know.' If I am
to do my duty to the people on this estate--"

"I thought you weren't going to live on the estate?" he said, lifting
his eyebrows.

"Not at once--not this winter." She was annoyed to feel herself
stammering. "But of course I have a responsibility--"

The kindly laugh in his grey eyes faded.

"Yes--I quite admit that,--a great responsibility," he said slowly. "Do
you mind if I mention another subject?"

"The meetings?" she said, quickly. "You mean that?"

"Yes--the meetings. I have just seen the placard in the village."

"Well?" Her loveliness in defiance dazzled him, but he held on stoutly.

"You said nothing to me about these meetings the other day."

"You never asked me!"

He paused a moment.

"No--but was it quite--quite fair to me--to let me suppose that the
drawing-room meeting at Maumsey, which you kindly gave up, was the only
meeting you had in view?"

He saw her breath fluttering.

"I don't know what you supposed, Mr. Winnington! I said nothing."

"No. But you let me draw an inference--a mistaken inference.
However--let that be. Can I not persuade you--now--to give up the
Latchford meeting, and any others of the same kind you may have ahead?"

She flamed at him.

"I refuse to give them up!" she said, setting her teeth. "I have as
much right to my views as you, Mr. Winnington! I am of full age, and I
intend to work for them."

"Setting fire to houses--which is what your society is advocating--and
doing--hardly counts as 'views,'" he said, with sudden sternness.
"Risking the lives, or spoiling the property of one's fellow
countrymen, is not the same thing as political argument."

"It's _our_ argument--" she said passionately.--"The men who are
denying us the vote understand nothing else!"

The slightest humorous quiver in Winnington's strong mouth enraged her
still further. But he spoke with most courteous gravity.

"Then I can't persuade you to give up these meetings? I should of
course make no objection whatever, if these were ordinary Suffrage
meetings. But the Society you are going to represent and collect money
for is a Society that exists _to break the law_. And its members
have--just lately--come conspicuously into collision with the law. Your
father would have protested, and I am bound to protest--in his name."

"I cannot give them up."

He was silent a moment.

"If that is so"--he said at last--"I must do my best to protect you."

"I don't want any protection!"

"I am a magistrate, as well as your guardian. You must allow me to
judge. There is a very bitter feeling abroad, after these--outrages--of
the last few days. The village where you are going to speak has some
rowdy elements--drawn from the brickfields near it. You will certainly
want protection. I shall see that you get it."

He spoke with decision. Delia bit her lip.

"We prefer to risk our lives," she said at last. "I mean--there isn't
any risk!--but if there were--our lives are nothing in comparison with
the cause!"

"You won't expect your friends to agree with you," he said drily; then,
still holding her with an even keener look, he added--

"And there is another point in connection with these meetings which
distresses me. I see that you are speaking on the same platform--with
Mr. Paul Lathrop--"

"And why not?"--she flashed, the colour rushing to her cheeks.

He paused, walked away with his hands in his pockets, and came back
again.

"I have been making some enquiries about him. He is not a man with whom
you ought to associate--either in public, or in private."

She gave a sound--half scorn--half indignation which startled him.

"You mean--because of the divorce case?"

He looked at her amazed.

"That is what I meant. But--I certainly do not wish to discuss it with
you. Will you not take it from me that Mr. Lathrop is not--cannot be--a
man whom as a young unmarried woman you ought to receive in your
house--or with whom you should be seen in public."

"No, indeed I won't take it from you!" she said passionately. "Miss
Marvell knows--Miss Marvell told me. He ran away with some one he
loved. Her husband was _vile_! But she couldn't get any help--because
of the law--the abominable law--which punishes women--and lets men go
free. So they went away together, and after a little she died. Alter
your law, Mr. Winnington!--make it equal for men and women--and then
we'll talk."

As she spoke--childishly, defiant--Winnington's mind was filled with a
confusion of clashing thoughts--the ideals of his own first youth
which made such a speech in the mouth of a girl of twenty-one almost
intolerable to him--and the moral conditions--slowly gained--of his
maturity. He agreed with what she said. And yet it was shocking to him
to hear her say it.

"I don't quarrel with you as to that," he said, gravely, after a
moment. "Though I confess that in my belief you are too young to have
any real opinion about it. But there was much in the case which
concerned Mr. Lathrop, of which you _can_ have no idea. I repeat--he
is not a fit companion for you--and you do yourself harm by appearing
with him--in public or private."

"Miss Marvell approves"--said Delia obstinately.

Winnington's look grew sterner.

"I appeal again to your father's memory," he said with energy.

He perceived her quickened breath, but she made no no reply.

He walked away from her, and stood looking out of the window for a
little. When he came back to her, it was with a change of manner and
subject.

"I should like you to understand that I have been doing all I _could_
to carry out your wishes with regard to the cottages."

He drew a paper out of his pocket, on which he had made some notes
representing his talk that morning with the agent of the Maumsey
estates. But in her suppressed excitement she hardly listened to him.

"It isn't exactly _business_, what we've done," he said at last, as he
put up the papers; "but we wanted you to have your way--about the old
woman--and the family of children." He smiled at her. "And the estate
can afford it."

Delia thanked him ungraciously. She felt like a child who is offered
sixpence for being good at the dentist's. It was his whole position
towards her--his whole control and authority--that she resented. And to
be forced to be grateful to him at the same time, compelled to
recognise the anxious pains he had taken to please her in nine-tenths
of the things she wanted, was really odious: she could only chafe under
it.

He took her back to the drawing-room. Delia walked before him in
silence. She was passionately angry; and yet beneath the stormy
currents of the upper mind, there were other feelings, intermittently
active. It was impossible to hate him!--impossible to help liking him.
His frankness and courtesy, his delicacy of feeling and touch forced
themselves on her notice. "I daresay!"--she said; "--but that's the
worst of it. If Papa hadn't done this fatal, _foolish_ thing, of course
we should have made friends!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Amberleys walked home together when the party dispersed. Mrs.
Amberley opened the discussion on the newcomers.

"She is certainly handsome, but rather bold-looking. Didn't you think
so, father?"

"I wasn't drawn to her. But she took no account of us," said the
Rector, with his usual despondent candour. In truth he was not thinking
about Miss Blanchflower, but only about the possible departure of his
daughter, Susy.

"I thought her beautiful!--but I'm sorry for Mr. Winnington!" exclaimed
Susy, a red spot of excitement or indignation in each delicate cheek.

"Mrs. Matheson told me they will only do exactly what they wish--that
they won't take her brother's advice. Very wrong, very wrong." The
Rector shook his grey head. "Young women were different in my youth."

Mrs. Amberley sighed, and Susy biting her lip, knew that her own
conduct was perhaps more in question than Miss Blanchflower's.

They reached home in silence. Susy went to light her father's candles
in his modest book-littered study. Then she put her mother on the sofa
in the drawing-room, rubbed Mrs. Amberley's cold hands and feet, and
blew up the fire.

Suddenly her mother threw an arm round her neck.

"Oh, Susy, must you go?"

Susy kissed her.

"I should come back"--she said after a moment in a low troubled voice.
"Let me get this training, and then if you want me, darling, I'll come
back."

"Can't you be happy with us, Susy?"

"I want to _know_ something--and _do_ something," said Susy, with
intensity--evading the question. "It's such a big world, mother! I'll
be better worth having afterwards."

Mrs. Amberley said nothing. But a little later she went into her
husband's study.

"Frank--I think we'll have to let her," she said piteously.

The Rector looked up assentingly, and put his hand in his wife's.

"It's strange how different it all seems nowadays," said Mrs. Amberley,
in her low quavering voice. "If I'd wanted to do what Susy wants, my
mother would have called me a wicked girl to leave all my duties--and
I shouldn't have dared. But we can't take it like that, Frank,
somehow."

"No," said the Rector slowly. "In the old days it used to be only
_duties_ for the young--now it's rights too. It's God's will."

"Susy loves us, Frank. She's a good girl."

"She's a good girl--and she shall do what she thinks proper," said the
Rector, rising heavily.

So they gave their consent, and Susy wrote her application to Guy's
hospital. Then they all three lay awake a good deal of the
night,--almost till the autumn robin began to sing in the little
rectory garden.

As for Susy, in the restless intervals of restless sleep, she was
always back in the Bridge End drawing-room watching Delia Blanchflower
come in, with Mark Winnington behind. How glorious she looked! And
every day he would be seeing her, every day he would be thinking about
her--just because she was sure to give him so much trouble.

"And what right have _you_ to complain?" she asked herself, trampling
on her own pain. Had he ever said a word of love to her, ever shewn
himself anything else than the kind and sympathetic friend--sometimes
the inspiring teacher in the causes he had at heart? Never! And
yet--insensibly--his smile, his word of praise or thanks, the touch of
his firm warm hand, the sound of his voice, the look in his eyes--it
was for them she had now learned to live. Yes!--and because she could
no longer trust herself, she must go. She would not fail or harass him;
she was his friend. She would go away and scrub hospital floors, and
polish hospital taps. That would tame the anguish in her, and some day
she would be strong again--and come back--to those beloved ones who had
given her up--so tenderly.




Chapter VIII


The whole of Maumsey and its neighbourhood had indeed been thrown into
excitement by certain placards on the walls announcing three public
meetings to be held--a fortnight later--by the "Daughters of
Revolt"--at Latchford, Brownmouth, and Frimpton. Latchford was but
fifteen miles from Maumsey, and frequent trains ran between them.
Brownmouth and Frimpton, also, were within easy distance by rail, and
the Maumseyites were accustomed to shop at either. So that a wide
country-side felt itself challenged--invaded; at a moment when a series
of startling outrages--destruction of some of the nation's noblest
pictures, in the National Gallery and elsewhere, defacement of
churches, personal attacks on Ministers--by the members of various
militant societies, especially "The League of Revolt," had converted an
already incensed public opinion into something none the less ugly, none
the less alarming, because it had as yet found no organised expression.
The police were kept hard at work protecting open-air meetings on the
Brownmouth and Frimpton beaches, from an angry populace who desired to
break them up; every unknown woman who approached a village or strolled
into a village church, was immediately noticed, immediately reported
on, by hungry eyes and tongues alert for catastrophe; and every empty
house had become an anxiety to its owners.

And of course the sting of the outrage lay in the two names which
blazed in the largest of black print from the centre of the placards.
"The meeting will be addressed by Gertrude Marvell (D.R.), Delia
Blanchflower (D.R.), and Paul Lathrop."

Within barely two months of her father's death, this young lady to be
speaking on public platforms, in the district where she was still a
new-comer and a stranger, and flaunting in the black and orange of this
unspeakable society!--such was the thought of all quiet folk for miles
round. The tide of callers which had set in towards Maumsey Abbey
ceased to flow; neighbours who had been already introduced to her, old
friends of her grandparents, passed Delia on the road with either the
stiffest of bows or no notice at all. The labourers stared at her, and
their wives, those deepest well-heads of Conservatism in the country,
were loud in reprobation. Their astonishment that "them as calls
theirselves ladies" should be found burning and breaking, was always,
in Winnington's ears, a touching thing, and a humbling. "Violence and
arson" they seemed to say, "are good enough for the likes of us--you'd
expect it of us. But _you_--the glorified, the superfine--who have your
meals brought you regular, more food than you can eat, and more clothes
than you can wear--_you_!"

So that, underlying the country women's talk, and under the varnish of
our modern life, one caught the accents and the shape of an old
hierarchical world; and the man of sympathy winced anew under the
perennial submission and disadvantage of the poor.

Meanwhile Delia's life was one long excitement. The more she realised
the disapproval of her neighbours, the more convinced she was that she
was on the right road. She straightened her girlish back; she set her
firm red mouth. Every morning brought reams of letters and reports from
London, for Gertrude Marvell was an important member of the
"Daughters'" organisation, and must be kept informed. The reading of
them maintained a constant ferment in Delia. In any struggle of women
against men, just as in any oppression of women by men, there is an
element of fever, of madness, which poisons life. And in this element
Delia's spirit lived for this brief hour of her youth. Led by the
perpetual influence of the older mind and imagination at her side, she
was overshadowed with the sense of women's wrongs, haunted by their
grievances, burnt up by a flame of revolt against fate, against
society, above all, against men, conceived as the age-long and
irrational barrier in the path of women. It was irrational, and
therefore no rational methods were any good. Nothing but waspishly
stinging and hurting this great Man-Beast, nothing but defiance of all
rules and decorums, nothing but force--of the womanish kind--answering
to force, of the masculine kind, could be any use. Argument was
foolish. They--the Suffragists--had already stuffed the world with
argument; which only generated argument. To smash and break and burn,
in more senses than one, remained the only course, witness Nottingham
Castle, and the Hyde Park railings. And if a woman's life dashed itself
to pieces in the process, well, what matter? The cause would only be
advanced.

One evening, not long after the tea-party at Bridge End, a group of
persons, coming from different quarters, converged quietly, in the
autumn dusk, on Maumsey Abbey. Marion Andrews walked in front, with a
Miss Foster, the daughter of one of the larger farmers in the
neighbourhood; and a short limping woman, clinging to the arm of a
vigorously-built girl, the Science Mistress of the small but ancient
Grammar School of the village, came behind. They talked in low voices,
and any shrewd bystander would have perceived the mood of agitated
expectancy in which they approached the house.

"It's wonderful!" said little Miss Toogood, the lame dressmaker, as
they turned a corner of the shrubbery, and the rambling south front
rose before them,--"_wonderful_!--when you think of the people that
used to live here! Why, old Lady Blanchflower looked upon you and me,
Miss Jackson, as no better than earwigs! I sent her a packet of our
leaflets once by post. Well--_she_ never used to give me any work, so
she couldn't take it away. But she got Mrs. David Jones at Thring Farm
to take away hers, and Mrs. Willy Smith, the Vet's wife, you
remember?--and two or three more. So I nearly starved one winter; but
I'm a tough one, and I got through. And now there's one of _us_ sits in
the old lady's place! Isn't that a sign of the times?"

"But of course!" said her companion, whose face expressed a kind of
gloomy ardour. "We're winning. We must win--sometime!"

The cheerfulness of the words was oddly robbed of its effect by the
tragic look of the speaker. Miss Toogood's hand pressed her arm.

"I'm always so sorry"--murmured the dressmaker--"for those
others--those women--who haven't lived to see what we're going to see,
aren't you?"

"Yes," assented the other, adding--with the same emotional
emphasis--"But they've all helped--every woman's helped! They've all
played their parts."

"Well, I don't know about Lady Blanchflower!" laughed Miss Toogood,
happily.

"What did she matter? The Antis are like the bits of stick you put into
a hive. All they do is to stir up the bees."

Meanwhile Marion Andrews was mostly silent, glancing restlessly however
from side to side, as though she expected some spy, some enemy--her
mother?--to emerge upon them from the shadows of the shrubbery. Her
companion, Kitty Foster, a rather pretty girl with flaming red hair,
the daughter of a substantial farmer on the further side of the
village, chattered unceasingly, especially about the window-breaking
raid in which she had been concerned, the figure she had cut at the
police court, the things she had said to the magistrate, and the
annoyance she had felt when her father paid her fine.

"They led me a life when they got me home. And mother's been so ill
since, I had to promise I'd stay quiet till Christmas anyway. But then
I'm off! It's fine to feel you're doing something real--something hot
and strong--so that people can't help taking notice of you. That's what
I say to father, when he shouts at me--'we're not going to _ask_ you
now any more--we've asked long enough--we're going to _make_ you do
what we want.'"

And the girl threw back her head excitedly. Marion vaguely assented,
and the talk beside her rambled on, now violent, now egotistical, till
they reached the Maumsey door.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Now that we've got women like you with us--it can't be long--it can't
be long!" repeated Miss Toogood, clasping her hands, as she looked
first at Delia, and then at the distant figure of Miss Marvell, who in
the further drawing-room, and through an archway, could be seen talking
with Marion Andrews.

Delia's brows puckered.

"I'm afraid it will be long," she said, with a kind of weary passion.
"The forces against us are so strong. But we must just go on--and
on--straight ahead."

She sat erect on her chair, very straight and slim, in her black dress,
her hands, with their long fingers, tightly pressed together on her
knee. Miss Toogood thought she had never seen anyone so handsome, or
so--so splendid! All that was romantic in the little dressmaker's
soul rose to appreciate Delia Blanchflower. So young and so
self-sacrificing--and looking like a picture of Saint Cecilia that hung
in Miss Toogood's back room! The Movement was indeed wonderful! How it
broke down class barriers, and knit all women together! As her eyes
fell on the picture of Lady Blanchflower, in a high cap and mittens,
over the mantelpiece, Miss Toogood felt a sense of personal triumph
over the barbarous and ignorant past.

"What I mind most is the apathy of people--the people down here. It's
really terrible!" said the science mistress, in her melancholy voice.
"Sometimes I hardly know how to bear it. One thinks of all that's going
on in London--and in the big towns up north--and here--it's like a
vault. Everyone's really against us. Why the poor people--the
labourers' wives--they're the worst of any!"

"Oh no!--we're getting on--we're getting on!" said Miss Toogood,
hastily. "You're too despondent, Miss Jackson, if you'll excuse
me--you are indeed. Now I'm never downhearted, or if I am, I say to
myself--'It's all right somewhere!--somewhere that you can't see.' And
I think of a poem my father was fond of--'If hopes are dupes, fears may
be liars--And somewhere in yon smoke concealed--Your comrades chase
e'en now the fliers--And but for you possess the field!' That's by a
man called Arthur Clough--Miss Blanchflower--and it's a grand poem!"

Her pale blue eyes shone in their wrinkled sockets. Delia remembered a
recent visit to Miss Toogood's tiny parlour behind the front room where
she saw her few customers and tried them on. She recollected the books
which the back parlour contained. Miss Toogood's father had been a
bookseller--evidently a reading bookseller--in Winchester, and in the
deformed and twisted form of his daughter some of his soul, his
affections and interests, survived.

"Yes, but what are you going to give us to _do_, Miss Blanchflower?"
said Kitty Foster, impatiently--"I don't care what I do! And the more
it makes the men mad, the better!"

She drew herself up affectedly. She was a strapping girl, with a huge
vanity and a parrot's brain. A year before this date a "disappointment"
had greatly embittered her, and the processions and the crowded London
meetings, and the window-breaking riots into which she had been led
while staying with a friend, had been the solace and relief of a
personal rancour and misery she might else have found intolerable.

"_I_ can't do anything--not anything public"--said Miss Jackson, with
emphasis--"or I should lose my post. Oh the slavery it is! and the
pittance they pay us--compared to the men. Every man in the Boys'
school get L120 and over--and we're thought lucky to get L80. And I'll
be bound we work more hours in the week than they do. It's _hard_!"

"That'll soon be mended," said Miss Toogood hopefully. "Look at Norway!
As soon as the women got the vote, why the women's salaries in public
offices were put up at once."

The strong, honest face of the teacher refused to smile. "Well it isn't
always so, Miss Toogood. I know they say that in New Zealand and
Colorado--where we've got the vote--salaries aren't equal by any
manner of means."

The dressmaker's withered cheek flushed red.

"'_They_ say'"--she repeated scornfully. "That's one of the Anti
dodges--just picking out the things that suit 'em, and forgetting all
the rest. Don't you look at the depressing things--I never do! Look at
what helps us! There's a lot o' things said--and there's a lot of
things ain't true--You've got to pick and choose--you can't take 'em as
they come. No one can."

Miss Jackson looked puzzled and unconvinced; but could think of no
reply.

The two persons in the distance appeared in the archway between the
drawing-rooms, Gertrude Marvell leading. Everyone looked towards her;
everybody listened for what she would say. She took Delia's chair,
Delia instinctively yielding it, and then--her dark eyes measuring and
probing them all while she talked, she gave the little group its
orders.

Kitty Foster was to be one of the band of girl-sellers of the _Tocsin_,
in Latchford, the day of the meeting. The town was to be sown with it
from end to end, and just before the meeting, groups of sellers, in the
"Daughters'" black and orange, were to appear in every corner of the
square where the open-air meeting was to be held.

"But we'll put you beside the speaker's waggon. You're so tall, and
your hair is enough to advertise anything!" With a grim little smile,
she stretched out a hand and touched Kitty Foster's arm.

"Yes, isn't it splendid!" said Delia, ardently.

Kitty flushed and bridled. Her people in the farmhouse at home thought
her hair ugly, and frankly told her so. It was nice to be admired by
Miss Blanchflower and her friend. Ladies who lived in a big house, with
pictures and fine furniture, and everything handsome, must know better
than farm-people who never saw anything but their cattle and their
fields.

"And you"--the clear authoritative voice addressed Miss Toogood--"can
you take round notices?"

The speaker looked doubtfully at the woman's lame foot and stick.

Miss Toogood replied that she would be at Latchford by midday, and
would take round notices till she dropped.

The teacher who could do nothing public, was invited to come to Maumsey
in the evening, and address envelopes. Miss Marvell had lately imported
a Secretary, who had set up her quarters in the old gun room on the
ground floor, and had already filled it with correspondence, and
stacked it with the literature of the Daughters.

Miss Jackson eagerly promised her help.

Nothing was apportioned to Marion Andrews. She sat silent following the
words and gestures of that spare figure in the grey cloth dress, in
whom they all recognised their chief. There was a feverish brooding in
her look, as though she was doubly conscious--both of the scene before
her, and of something only present to the mind.

"You know why we are holding these meetings"--said Gertrude Marvell,
presently.

No one answered. They waited for her.

"It is a meeting of denunciation," she said, sharply. "You know in the
Land League days in Ireland they used to hold meetings to denounce a
landlord--for evictions--and that landlord went afterwards in
fear--scorned--and cursed--and boycotted. Well, that's what we're going
to do with Ministers in their own localities where they live! We can't
boycott yet--we haven't the power. But we can denounce--we can set
people on--we can hold a man up--we can make his life a burden to him.
And that's what we're going to do--with Sir Wilfrid Lang. He's one of
this brutal Cabinet that keeps women in prison--one of the strongest of
them. His speeches have turned votes against us in the House of
Commons, time after time. We mean to be even with Sir Wilfrid Lang!"

She spoke quite quietly--almost under her breath; but her slender
fingers interlocked, and a steady glow had overflowed her pale cheeks.

A tremor passed through all her listeners--a tremor of excitement.

"What can we _do_?" said Miss Toogood at last, in a low voice. Her eyes
stared out of her kind old face, which had grown white. "Ah, leave that
to us!" said Miss Marvell, in another voice, the dry organising voice,
which was her usual one. And dropping all emotion and excitement, she
began rapidly to question three out of the four women as to the
neighbourhood, the opinions of individuals and classes, the strength in
it of the old Suffrage societies, the presence or absence of
propaganda. They answered her eagerly. They all felt themselves keyed
to a higher note since she had entered the room. They had got to
business; they felt themselves a power, the rank and file of an "army
with banners," under direction. Even Delia, clearly, was in the same
relation towards this woman whom the outer world only knew as
her--presumably--paid companion. She was questioned, put right,
instructed with the rest of them. Only no one noticed that Marion
Andrews took little or no part in the conversation.

An autumn wind raged outside, and the first of those dead regiments of
leaves which would soon be choking the lanes were pattering against the
windows. Inside, the fire leapt as the daylight faded, helped by a
couple of lamps, for Maumsey knew no electricity, and Delia, under
Gertrude's prompting, had declared against the expense of putting it
in. In the dim illumination the faces of the six women emerged, typical
all of them of the forces behind the revolutionary wing of the woman's
movement. Enthusiasms of youth and age--hardships of body and
spirit--rancour and generous hope--sore heart and untrained
mind--fanatical brain and dreaming ignorance--love unsatisfied, and
energies unused--they were all there, and all hanging upon, conditioned
by something called "the vote," conceived as the only means to a new
heaven and a new earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Delia had herself dismissed her guests into the darkness of the
October evening, she returned thoughtfully to where Gertrude Marvell
was standing by the drawing-room fire, reading a letter.

"You gave them all something to do except that Miss Andrews, Gertrude?
I wonder why you left her out?"

"Oh, I had a talk with her before."

The tone was absent, and the speaker went on reading her letter.

"When you took her into the back drawing-room?"

The slightest possible flicker passed through Gertrude's drooped
eyelids.

"She was telling me a lot about her home-life--poor oppressed thing!"

Delia asked no more. But she felt a vague discomfort.

Presently Gertrude put down her letter, and turned towards her.

"May I have that cheque, dear--before post-time? If you really meant
it?"

"Certainly." Delia went to her writing-table, opened a drawer and took
out her cheque-book.

A laugh--conscious and unsteady--accompanied the dipping of her pen
into the ink.

"I wonder what he'll say?"

"Who?"

"Mr. Winnington--when I send him all the bills to be paid."

"Isn't he there to pay the bills?"

Delia's face shewed a little impatience.

"You're so busy, dear, that I am afraid you forget all I tell you about
my own affairs. But I _did_ tell you that my guardian had trustingly
paid eight hundred pounds into the bank to last me till the New Year,
for house and other expenses--without asking me to promise anything
either!"

"Well, now, you are going to let us have L500. Is there any
difficulty?"

"None--except that the ordinary bills I don't pay, and can't pay, will
now all go in to my guardian, who will of course be curious to know
what I have done with the money. Naturally there'll be a row."

"Oh, a row!" said Gertrude Marvell, indifferently. "It's your own
money, Delia. Spend it as you like!"

"I intend to," said Delia. "Still--I do rather wish I'd given him
notice. He may think it a mean trick."

"Do you care what he thinks?"

"Not--much," said Delia slowly. "All the same, Gertrude"--she threw her
head back--"he is an awfully good sort."

Gertrude shrugged her shoulders.

"I daresay. But you and I are at war with him and his like, and can't
stop to consider that kind of thing. Also your father arranged that he
should be well paid for his trouble."

Delia turned back to the writing-table, and wrote the cheque.

"Thank you, dearest," said Gertrude Marvell, giving a light kiss to the
hand that offered the cheque. "It shall go to headquarters this
evening--and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you've
financed all the three bye-election campaigns that are coming--or
nearly."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gertrude had gone away to her own sitting-room and Delia was left
alone. She hung over the fire, in an excited reverie, her pulses
rushing; and presently she took a letter from the handbag on her wrist,
and read it for the second time by the light of the blaze she had
kindled in the grate.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I will be at the Rose and Crown at least half an hour before the
meeting. We have got a capital waggon for you to speak from, and chosen
the place where it is to stand. I am afraid we may have some rough
customers to deal with. But the police have been strongly warned--that
I have found out--though I don't know by whom--and there will be plenty
of them. My one regret is that I cannot be in the crowd, so as both to
see and hear you. I must of course stick to the waggon. What a day for
us all down here!--for our little down-trodden band! You come to us as
our Joan of Arc, leading us on a holy war. You shame us into action,
and to fight with you is itself victory. When I think of how you looked
and how you talked the other night! Do you know that you have a face
'to launch a thousand ships?' No, I am convinced you never think of
it--you never take your own beauty into consideration. And you won't
imagine that I am talking in this way from any of the usual motives.
Your personal charm, if I may say so, is merely an item in our balance
sheet; your money--I understand you have money--is another. You bring
your beauty and your money in your hand, and throw them into the great
conflagration of the Cause--just as the women did in Savonarola's day.
You fling them away--if need be--for an idea. And because of it, all
the lovers of ideas, and all the dreamers of great dreams will be your
slaves and servants. Understand!--you are going to be loved and
followed, as no ordinary woman, even with your beauty, is ever loved
and followed. Your footsteps may be on the rocks and flints--I promise
you no easy, nor royal road. There may be blood on the path! But a
cloud of witnesses will be all about you--some living and some dead;
you will be carried in the hearts of innumerable men and women--women
above all; and if you stand firm, if your soul rises to the height of
your call, you will be worshipped, as the saints were worshipped.

"Only let nothing bar your path. Winnington is a good fellow, but a
thickheaded Philistine all the same. You spoke to me about him with
compunction. Have no compunctions. Go straight forward. Women have got
to shew themselves ruthless, and hard, and cunning, like men--if they
are to fight men."

     "Yours faithfully,
      PAUL LATHROP."


Delia's thoughts danced and flamed, like the pile of blazing wood
before her. What a singular being was this Paul Lathrop! He had paid
them four or five visits already; and they had taken tea with him once
in his queer hermitage under the southern slope of the Monk Lawrence
hill--a one-storey thatched cottage, mostly built by Lathrop himself
with the help of two labourers, standing amid a network of ponds,
stocked with trout in all stages. Inside, the roughly-plastered walls
were lined with books--chiefly modern poets, with French and Russian
novels, and with unframed sketches by some of the ultra clever fellows,
who often, it seemed, would come down to spend Sunday with Lathrop, and
talk and smoke till dawn put out the lights.

She found him interesting--certainly interesting. His outer man--heavy
mouth and lantern cheeks--dreamy blue eyes, and fair hair--together
with the clumsy power in his form and gait, were not without a certain
curious attraction. And his story--as Gertrude Marvell told it--would
be forgiven by the romantic. All the same his letter had offended Delia
greatly. She had given him no encouragement to write in such a
tone--so fervid, so emotional, so intimate; and she would shew
him--plainly--that it offended her.

Nevertheless the phrases of the letter ran in her mind; until her
discomfort and resentment were lost in something else.

She could not quiet her conscience about that cheque! Not indeed as to
giving it to the "Daughters." She would have given everything she
possessed to them, keeping the merest pittance for herself, if fate and
domestic tyranny had allowed. No!--but it hurt her--unreasonably,
foolishly hurt her--that she must prepare herself again to face the
look of troubled amazement in Mark Winnington's eyes, without being
able to justify herself to herself, so convincingly as she would have
liked to do.

"I am simply giving my own money to a cause I adore!" said one voice in
the mind.

"It is not legally yours--it is legally his," said another. "You should
have warned him. You have got hold of it under false pretences."

"Quibbles! It _is_ mine--equitably," replied the first. "He and I are
at war. And I _have_ warned him."

"At war?" Her tiresome conscience kicked again. Why, not a day had
passed since her settlement at Maumsey, without some proof, small or
great, of Winnington's consideration and care for her. She
knew--guiltily knew, that he was overwhelmed by the business of the
executorship and the estate, and had been forced to put aside some of
his own favourite occupations to attend to it.

"Well!--my father made it worth his while!"

But her cheek reddened, with a kind of shame, as the thought passed
through her mind. Even in this short time and because of the daily
contact which their business relations required, she was beginning to
know Winnington, to realise something of his life and character. And as
for the love borne him in the neighbourhood--it was really
preposterous--bad for any man! Delia pitied herself, not only because
she was Winnington's ward against her will, but because of the silent
force of public opinion that upheld him, and must necessarily condemn
her.

So he had once been engaged? Lady Tonbridge had told her so. To a
gentle, saintly person of course!--a person to suit him. Delia could
not help a movement of half petulant curiosity--and then an involuntary
thrill. Many women since had been in love with him. Lady Tonbridge had
said as much. And he--with no one! But he had a great many women
friends? No doubt!--with that manner, and that charm. Delia resented
the women friends. She would have been quite ready indeed to enrol
herself among them--to worship with the rest--from afar; were it not
for ideas, and principles, and honesty of soul! As it was, she despised
the worship of which she was told, as something blind and overdone. It
was not the greatest men--not the best men--who were so easily and
universally beloved.

What did he really think of her? Did he ever guess that there was
something else in her than this obstinacy, this troublesomeness with
which she was forced to meet him? She was sorry for herself, much more
than for him; because she must so chill and mislead a man who _ought_
to understand her.

Looking up she saw a dim reflection of her own beauty in the glass
above the mantelpiece. "No, I am _not_ either a minx, or a
wild-cat!"--she thought, as though she were angrily arguing with
someone. "I could be as attractive, as 'feminine,' as silly as anyone
else, if I chose! I could have lovers--of course--just like other
girls--if it weren't"--

For what? At that moment she hardly knew. And why were her eyes filling
with tears? She dashed them indignantly away.

But for the first time, this cause, this public cause to which she was
pledged presented itself to her as a sacrifice to be offered, a noble
burden to be borne, rather than as something which expressed the
natural and spontaneous impulse of her life.

Which meant that, already, since her recapture by this English world,
since what was hearsay had begun to be experience, the value of things
had slightly and imperceptibly changed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The days ran on. One evening, just before the first of the
"Daughters'" meetings, which was to be held at Latchford, Winnington
appeared in Lady Tonbridge's drawing-room to ask for a cup of tea on
his way to a public dinner in Wanchester.

He seemed pre-occupied and worried; and she fed him before questioning
him. But at last she said--

"You couldn't prevail on her to give up any of these performances?"

"Miss Delia? Not one. But it's only the Latchford one that matters.
Have you been talking to her?"

He looked at her a little plaintively, as though he _could_ have
reminded her that she had promised him a friend's assistance.

"Of course! But I might as well talk to this table. She won't really
make friends--nor will Miss Marvell allow her. It's the same, I find,
with everyone else. However, I'm bound to say, the neighbourhood is
just now in the mood that it doesn't much want to make friends!"

"I know," said Winnington, with a sigh--relapsing into silence.

"Is she taking an interest in the property--the cottages?"

He shook his head.

"I'm sure she meant to. But it seems to be all dropped."

"Provoking!" said Madeleine, drily--"considering how you've been
slaving to please her--"

Winnington interrupted--not without annoyance--

"How can she think of anything else when she's once deep in this
campaign? One must blame the people who led her into it!"

"Oh! I don't know!" said Lady Tonbridge, protesting. "She's a very
clever young woman, with a strong will of her own."

"Captured just at the impressionable moment!" cried Winnington--"when a
girl will do anything--believe anything--for the person she loves!"

"Well the prescription should be easy--at her age. Change the person!
But then comes the question: Is _she_ loveable? Speak the truth, Mr.
Guardian!"

Winnington began a rather eager assent. Watch her with the servants,
the gardeners, the animals! Then you perceived what should be the
girl's natural charm and sweetness--

"'Hm. Does she show any of it to you?"

Winnington laughed.

"You forget--I am always there as the obstacle in the path. But if it
weren't for the sinister influence--in the background."

And again he went off at score--describing various small incidents that
had touched or pleased him, as throwing light upon what he vowed was
the real Delia.

Madeleine listened, watching him attentively the while. When he took
his leave and she was alone, she sat thinking for some time, and then
going to a cupboard in her writing-table, which held her diaries of
past years, she rummaged till she found one bearing a date fifteen
years old. She turned up the entry for the sixteenth of May:

"She died last night. This morning, at early service, Mark was there.
We walked home together. I doubt whether he will ever marry--now. He is
not one of those men who are hurried by the mere emotion and
unbearableness of grief, into a fresh emotion of love. But what a
lover--what a husband lost!"

She closed the book, and stood with it in her hand--pondering.

       *       *       *       *       *

As he left her house, and turned towards the station Winnington passed
a lady to whom he bowed, recognising her as Miss Andrews.

"Hope you've got an umbrella!" he said to her cheerily, as he passed.
"The rain's coming!"

She smiled, pleased like all the world to be addressed with that
Winningtonian manner which somehow implied that the person addressed
was, for the moment at any rate, his chiefest concern. Immediately
after meeting him she turned from the village street, and began to
mount a lane leading to the slope on which Monk Lawrence stood. Her
expression as she walked along, sometimes with moving lips, had grown
animated and sarcastic. Here were two men, a dead father and a live
guardian, trying to coerce one simple girl--and apparently not making
much of a job of it. She gloried in what she had been told or perceived
of Delia Blanchflower's wilfulness, which seemed to her mother and her
brother the Captain so monstrous. Only--could one entirely trust
anybody like Delia Blanchflower--so prosperous--and so good-looking?

Miss Andrews mounted the hill, passed through a wood that ran along its
crest, and took a footpath, leading past the edge of a railway cutting,
from which the wonderful old house could be plainly seen. She paused
several times to look at it, wrapped in a kind of day-dream, which gave
a growing sombreness to her harsh and melancholy features. Beyond the
footpath a swing gate opened into a private path leading to the house.

She opened the gate, and walked a little way up the path, in the fast
gathering darkness. But she was suddenly arrested by the appearance of
a figure in the far distance, black against the pale greys of the
house. It was a policeman on his beat--she caught one of the gleams of
a lantern.

Instantly she turned back, groped her way again through the wood, and
into a side road leading to her brother's house.

She found her mother lying on the sofa in the drawing-room, the remains
of a rather luxurious tea beside her--her outdoor clothes lying
untidily about the room.

"Where have you been?" said Mrs. Andrews, fretfully--"there were
several letters I wanted written before post."

"I wanted a little air. That linen business took me all the morning."

For it was the rule in the Andrews' household that the house linen
should be gone through every six months with a view to repairs and
renewals. It was a tedious business. Mrs. Andrews' nerves did not allow
her to undertake it. It fell therefore, and had always fallen to the
only daughter, who was not made for housewifery tasks, and detested the
half-yearly linen day accordingly.

Her tone displeased her mother.

"There you are--grumbling again, Marion! What else have you to do, I
should like to know, than your home duties?"

Marion made no reply. What was the use of replying? But her black eyes,
as she helped herself wearily to some very cold tea, took note of her
mother's attitude. It was only the week before that Dr. France had
expressed himself rather pointedly to the effect that more exercise and
some fresh interests in life "would be good for Mrs. Andrews."

Mrs. Andrews returned to the ladies' paper she was reading. The fashion
plates for the week were unusually attractive. Marion observed her
unseen.

Suddenly the daughter said:--

"I must ask you for that five pounds, mother. Bill promised it me. My
underclothing is literally in rags. I've done my best, and it's past
mending. And I must have another decent dress."

"There you are,--clamouring for money again"--said her mother,
bouncing up on the sofa--"when you know how hard-pressed Bill is. He's
got another instalment to pay for the motor the end of this week."

"Yes--the motor you made him get!"--said Marion, as though the words
burst from her.

"And why shouldn't he, pray! The money's his--and mine. It was high
time we got rid of that rattletrap. It jolted me to pieces."

"You said a little while ago it would do very well for another year.
Anyway, Bill promised me something for clothes this month--and he also
said that he'd pay my school of art fees, at Wanchester, and give me a
third season ticket. Is that all done with too?"

The girl sat erect, her face with its sparkling eyes expressing mingled
humiliation and bitterness.

"Oh, well really, I can't stand these constant disputes!" said Mrs.
Andrews, rising angrily from the sofa. "You'd better go to your
brother. If he likes to waste his money, he can of course. But I've got
none to spare." She paused at the door--"As for your underclothing, I
daresay I could find you something of mine you could make do for a bit.
Now do be sensible!--and don't make a scene with Bill!"

She closed the door. Marion walked to the side window of the
drawing-room, and stood looking at the wooded slope of the hill, with
Monk Lawrence in the distance.

Her heart burned within her. She was thirty-four. She had never had any
money of her own--she had never been allowed any education that would
fit her to earn. She was absolutely dependent on her mother and
brother. Bill was kind enough, though careless, and often selfish. But
her mother rubbed her dependence into her at every turn--"And yet I
earn my clothes and my keep--every penny of them!" she thought,
fiercely.

A year before this date she had been staying in London with a cousin
who sometimes took pity on her and gave her a change of scene. They had
gone together for curiosity's sake to a "militant" meeting in London. A
lady, slight in figure, with dark eyes and hair, had spoken on the
"economic independence of women"--as the only path to the woman's goal
of "equal rights" with men. She had spoken with passion, and Marion's
sore heart had leapt to answer her.

That lady was Gertrude Marvell. Marion had written to her, and there
had been a brief acquaintance, enough to kindle the long-repressed will
and passion of the girl's stormy nature. She had returned home, to
read, in secret, everything that she could find on the militant
movement. The sheer violence of it appealed to her like water to the
thirsty. War, war!--on a rotten state of society, and the economic
slavery of women!

And now her first awakener, her appointed leader, her idol had appeared
in this dead country-side, with orders to give, and tasks to impose.
And she should be obeyed--to the letter!

The girl's heavy eyes kindled to a mad intensity, as she stood looking
at the hill-side, now almost dark, except for that distant light, which
she knew as the electric lamp still lit at sunset, even in Sir
Wilfrid's absence, over the stately doorway of Monk Lawrence.

But she was not going to the Latchford meeting. "Don't give yourself
away. Don't be seen with the others. Keep out of notice. There are more
important things for you to do--presently. Wait!"

The words echoed in her ears. She waited; exulting in the thought that
no one, not even Miss Blanchflower, knew as much as she; and that
neither her mother nor her brother had as yet any idea of her
connection with the "Daughters." Her "silly suffrage opinions" were
laughed at by them both--good-humouredly, by Bill. Of the rest, they
knew nothing.




Chapter IX


"Mark! you've done the day's work of two people already!" cried Mrs.
Matheson in a tone of distress. "You don't mean to say you're going in
to Latchford again?--and without waiting for some food?"

She stood under the porch of Bridge End remonstrating with her brother.

"Can't be helped, dear!" said Winnington, as he filled his pipe--"I'm
certain there'll be a row to-night, and I must catch this train!"

"What, that horrid meeting! Delia Blanchflower lets you slave and slave
for her, and never takes the smallest notice of your wishes or your
advice! She ought to be ashamed!"

The sister's mild tone trembled with indignation.

"She isn't!" laughed Winnington. "I never knew anyone less so. But we
can't have her ill treated. Expect me back when you see me!"

And kissing his hand to his sister, he went out into a dark and
blustering evening. Something had just gone wrong with the little motor
car he generally drove himself, and there was nothing for it but to
walk the mile and a half to the railway station.

He had spent the whole day in County Council business at Wanchester,
was tired out, and had now been obliged to leave home again without
waiting even for a belated cup of tea. But there was no help for it. He
had only just time to catch the Latchford train.

As he almost ran to the station he was not conscious however of any of
these small discomforts; his mind was full of Delia. He did not
encourage anyone but Madeleine Tonbridge to talk to him about his ward;
but he was already quite aware, before his old friend laid stress on
it, of the hostile feeling towards Delia and her chaperon that was
beginning to show itself in the neighbourhood. He knew that she was
already pronounced heartless, odious, unprincipled, consumed with a
love of notoriety, and ready for any violence, at the bidding of a
woman who was probably responsible at that very moment--as a prominent
organiser in the employ of the society contriving them--for some of the
worst of the militant outrages. His condemnation of Delia's actions was
sharp and unhesitating; his opinion of Miss Marvell not a whit milder
than that of his neighbours. Yet he had begun, as we have seen, to
discover in himself a willingness, indeed an eagerness to excuse and
pity the girl, which was wholly lacking in the case of the older woman.
Under the influence, indeed, of his own responsive temperament,
Winnington was rapidly drifting into a state of feeling where his
perception of Delia's folly and unreason was almost immediately checked
by some enchanting memory of her beauty, or of those rare moments in
their brief acquaintance, when the horrid shadow of the "Movement" had
been temporarily lifted, and he had seen her, as in his indulgent
belief she truly was--or was meant to be. She flouted and crossed him
perpetually; and he was beginning to discover that he only thought of
her the more, and that the few occasions when he had been able to force
a smile out of her,--a sudden softness in her black eyes, gone in a
moment!--were constantly pleading for her in his mind. All part no
doubt of his native and extreme susceptibility to the female race--the
female race in general. For he could see himself, and laugh at himself,
_ab extra_, better than most men.

At the station he came across Captain Andrews, and soon discovered from
that artless warrior that he also was bound for Latchford, with a view
to watching over Delia Blanchflower.

"Can't have a lot of hooligans attacking a good-looking girl like
that--whatever nonsense she talks!" murmured the Captain, twisting his
sandy moustache; "so I thought I'd better come along and see fair play.
Of course I knew you'd be there."

The train was crowded. Winnington, separated from the Captain, plunged
into a dimly-lighted third class, and found himself treading on the
toes of an acquaintance. He saluted an elderly lady wearing a bonnet
and mantle of primeval cut, and a dress so ample in the skirt that it
still suggested the days of crinoline. She was abnormally tall, and
awkwardly built; she wore cotton gloves, and her boots were those of a
peasant. She carried a large bag or reticule, and her lap was piled
with brown parcels. Her large thin face was crowned by a few straggling
locks of what had once been auburn hair, now nearly grey, the pale
spectacled eyes were deeply wrinkled, and the nose and mouth slightly
but indisputably crooked.

"My dear Miss Dempsey!--what an age since we met! Where are you off to?
Give me some of those parcels!"

And Winnington, seizing what he could lay hands on, transferred them to
his own knees, and gave a cordial grip to the right hand cotton glove.

Miss Dempsey replied that she had been in Brownmouth for the day, and
was going home. After which she smiled and said abruptly, bending
across her still laden knees and his--so as to speak unheard by their
neighbours--

"Of course I know where you're going to!"

"Do you?"

The queer head nodded.

"Why can't you keep her in order?"

"Her? Who?"

"Your ward. Why don't you stop it?"

"Stop these meetings? My ward is of age, please remember, and quite
aware of it."

Miss Dempsey sighed.

"Naughty young woman!" she said, yet with the gentlest of accents. "For
us of the elder generation to see our work all undone by these maniacs!
They have dashed the cup from our very lips."

"Ah! I forgot you were a Suffragist," said Winnington, smiling at her.

"Suffragist?" she held up her head indignantly--"I should rather think
I am. My parents were friends of Mill, and I heard him speak for Woman
Suffrage when I was quite a child. And now, after the years we've
toiled and moiled, to see these mad women wrecking the whole thing!"

Winnington assented gravely.

"I don't wonder you feel it so. But you still want it--the vote--as
much as ever?"

"Yes!" she said, at first with energy; and then on a more wavering
note--"Yes,--but I admit a great many things have been done without it
that I thought couldn't have been done. And these wild women give one
to think. But you? Are you against us?--or has Miss Delia converted
you?"

He smiled again, but without answering her question. Instead, he asked
her in a guarded voice--

"You are as busy as ever?"

"I am there always--just as usual. I don't have much success. It
doesn't matter."

She drew back from him, looking quietly out of window at the autumn
fields. Over her wrinkled face with its crooked features, there dawned
a look of strange intensity, mingled very faintly with something
exquisite--a ray from a spiritual world.

Winnington looked at her with reverence. He knew all about her; so did
many of the dwellers in the Maumsey neighbourhood. She had lived for
half-a-century in the same little house in one of the back-streets of
Latchford, a town of some ten thousand inhabitants. Through all that
time her life had been given to what is called "rescue work"--though
she herself rarely called it by that name. She loved those whom no one
else would love--the meanest and feeblest of the outcast race. Every
night her door stood on the latch, and as the years passed, thousands
knew it. Scarcely a week went by, that some hand did not lift that
latch, and some girl in her first trouble, or some street-walker, dying
of her trade, did not step in to the tiny hall where the lamp burnt all
night, and wait for the sound of the descending footsteps on the
stairs, which meant shelter and pity, warmth and food. She was
constantly deceived, sometimes robbed; for such things she had no
memory. She only remembered the things which cannot be told--the
trembling voices of hope or returning joy--the tenderness in dying
eyes, the clinging of weak hands, the kindness of "her poor children."
She had written--without her name--a book describing the condition of a
great seaport town where she had once lived. The facts recorded in it
had inspired a great reforming Act. No one knew anything of her part in
it--so far as the public was concerned. Many persons indeed came to
consult her; she gave all her knowledge to those who wanted it; she
taught, and she counselled, always as one who felt herself the mere
humble mouthpiece of things divine and compelling; and those who went
away enriched did indeed forget her in her message, as she meant them
to do. But in her own town as she passed along the streets, in her
queer garb, blinking and absently smiling as though at her own
thoughts, she was greeted often with a peculiar reverence, a homage of
which her short sight told her little or nothing.

Winnington especially had applied to her in more than one difficulty
connected with his public work. It was to her he had gone at once when
the Blanchflower agent had come to him in dismay reporting the decision
of Miss Blanchflower with regard to the half-witted girl whose third
illegitimate child by a quite uncertain father had finally proved her
need of protection both from men's vileness, and her own helplessness.
Miss Dempsey had taken the girl first into her own house, and then,
persuading and comforting the old father, had placed her in one of the
Homes where such victims are sheltered.

Winnington briefly enquired after the girl. She as briefly replied.
Then she added:--as other travellers got out and they were left to
themselves.

"So Miss Blanchflower wanted to keep her in the village?"

Winnington nodded, adding--

"She of course had no idea of the real facts."

"No. Why should she?--_Why should she_!--" the old lips repeated with
passion. "Let her keep her youth while she can! It's so strange to
me--how they will throw away their youth! Some of us must know. The
black ox has trodden on us. A woman of thirty must look at it all. But
a girl of twenty! Doesn't she see that she helps the world more by
_not_ knowing!--that her mere unconsciousness is _our_ gain--_our_
refreshment."

The face of the man sitting opposite her, reflected her own feeling.

"You and I always agree," he said warmly. "I wish you'd make friends
with her."

"Who? Miss Blanchflower? What could she make out of an old stager like
me!" Miss Dempsey's face broke into amusement at the notion. "And I
don't know that I could keep my temper with a militant. Well now you're
going to hear her speak--and here we are."

       *       *       *       *       *

Winnington and Captain Andrews left the station together. Latchford
owned a rather famous market, and market day brought always a throng of
country folk into the little town. A multitude of booths under flaring
gas jets--for darkness had just fallen--held one side of the square,
and the other was given up to the hurdles which penned the sheep and
cattle, and to their attendant groups of farmers and drovers.

The market place was full of people, but the crowd which filled it was
not an ordinary market-day crowd. The cattle and sheep indeed had long
since gone off with their new owners or departed homeward unsold. The
booths were most of them either taken down or were in process of being
dismantled. For the evening was falling fast; it was spitting with
rain; and business was over. But the shop windows in the market-place
were still brilliantly lit, and from the windows of the Crown Inn, all
tenanted by spectators, light streamed out on the crowd below. The
chief illumination came however from what seemed to be a large shallow
waggon drawn up not far from the Crown. Three people stood in it; a
man--who was speaking--and two women. From either side, a couple of
motor lamps of great brilliance concentrated upon them threw their
faces and figures into harsh relief.

The crowd was steadily pressing toward the waggon, and it was evident
at once to Winnington and his companion that it was not a friendly
crowd.

"Looks rather ugly, to me!" said Andrews in Winnington's ear. "They've
got hold of that thing which happened at Wanchester yesterday, of the
burning of that house where the care-taker and his children only just
escaped."

A rush of lads and young men passed them as he spoke--shouting--

"Pull 'em down--turn 'em out!"

Andrews and Winnington pursued, but were soon forced back by a
retreating movement of those in front. Winnington's height enabled him
to see over the heads of the crowd.

"The police are keeping a ring," he reported to his companion--"they
seem to have got it in hand! Ah! now they've seen me--they'll let us
through."

Meanwhile the shouts and booing of the hostile portion of the
audience--just augmented by a number of rough-looking men from the
neighbouring brickfields--prevented most of the remarks delivered by
the male speaker on the cart from reaching the audience.

"Cowards!" said an excited woman's voice--"that's all they can
do!--howl like wild beasts--that's all they're fit for!"

Winnington turned to see a tall girl, carrying an armful of newspapers.
She had flaming red hair, and she wore a black and orange scarf, with a
cap of the same colours. "Foster's daughter," he thought, wondering.
"What happens to them all!" For he had known Kitty Foster from her
school days, and had never thought of her except as a silly simpering
flirt, bent on the pursuit of man. And now he beheld a maenad, a fury.

Suddenly another woman's voice cut across the others--

"Aren't you ashamed of those colours! Go home--and take them off. Go
home and behave like a decent creature!"

Heads were turned--to see a middle-aged woman of quiet dress and
commanding aspect, sternly pointing to the astonished Kitty Foster.
"Do you see that girl?"--the woman continued, addressing her
neighbours,--"she's got the 'Daughters'' colours on. Do you know what
the Daughters have been doing in town? You've seen about the destroying
of letters in London. Well, I'll tell you what that means. I had a
little servant I was very fond of. She left me to go and live near her
sister in town. The sister died, and she got consumption. She went into
lodgings, and there was no one to help her. She wrote to me, asking me
to come to her. Her letter was destroyed in one of the pillar-boxes
raided--by those women--" She pointed. "Then she broke her heart
because she thought I'd given her up. She daren't write again. And now
I've found her out--in hospital--dying. I've seen her to-day. If it
hadn't have been for these demented creatures she might ha' lived for
years."

The woman paused, her voice breaking a little. Kitty Foster tossed her
head.

"What are most women in hospital for?" she said, shrilly. "By the fault
of men!--one way or the other. That's what we think of."

"Yes I know--that's one of the shameless things you say--to us who have
husbands and sons we thank God for!" said the elder woman, quivering.
"Go and get a husband!--if you can find one to put up with you, and
hold your tongue!" She turned her back.

The girl laughed affectedly.

"I can do without one, thank you. It's you happy married women that are
the chief obstacle in our path. Selfish things!--never care for anybody
but yourselves!"

"Hallo--Lathrop's down--that's Miss Blanchflower!" said Andrews,
excitedly. "Let's go on!"

And at the same moment a mounted constable, who had been steadily
making his way to them, opened a way for the two J.P.'s through the
crowd, which after the tumult of hooting mingled with a small amount of
applause, which had greeted Lathrop's peroration, had relapsed into
sudden silence as Delia Blanchflower came forward, so that her opening
words, in a rich clear voice were audible over a large area of the
market-place.

       *       *       *       *       *

What did she say? Certainly nothing new! Winnington knew it all by
heart--had read it dozens of times in their strident newspaper, which
he now perused weekly, simply that he might discover if he could, what
projects his ward might be up to.

The wrongs of women, their wrongs as citizens, as wives, as the victims
of men, as the "refuse of the factory system"--Winnington remembered
the phrase in the _Tocsin_ of the week before--the uselessness of
constitutional agitation--the need "to shake England to make her
hear"--it was all the "common form" of the Movement; and yet she was
able to infuse it with passion, with conviction, with a wild and
natural eloquence. Her voice stole upon him--hypnotized him. His
political and economic knowledge told him that half the things she
said were untrue, and the rest irrelevant. His moral sense revolted
against her violence--her defence of violence. A girl of twenty-one
addressing this ugly, indifferent crowd, and talking calmly of
stone-throwing and arson, as though they were occupations as natural to
her youth as dancing or love-making!--the whole thing was
abhorrent--preposterous--to a man of order and peace. And yet he had
never been more stirred, more conscious of the mad, mixed poetry of
life, than he was, as he stood watching the slender figure on the
waggon--the gestures of the upraised arm, and the play of the lights
from the hotel, and from the side lamps, now on the deep white collar
that lightened her serge jacket, and on the gesticulating hand, or the
face that even in these disfiguring cross-lights could be nothing else
than lovely.

She was speaking too long--a common fault of women.

He looked from her to the faces of the crowd, and saw that the spell,
compounded partly of the speaker's good looks and partly of sheer
gaping curiosity, was breaking. They were getting restless, beginning
to heckle and laugh.

Then he heard her say.

"Of course we know--you think us fools--silly fools! You say it's a
poor sort of fighting--and what do we hope to get by it? Pin-pricks you
call it--all that women can do. Well, so it is--we admit it. It _is_ a
poor sort of fighting--we don't admire it any more than you. But it's
all men have left to women. You have disarmed us--and fooled us--and
made slaves of us. You won't allow us the constitutional weapon of the
vote, so we strike as we can, and with what weapons we can--"

"Makin' bonfires of innercent people an' their property, ain't
politics, Miss!" shouted a voice.

"Hear, Hear!" from the crowd.

"We haven't killed anybody--but ourselves!" The answer flashed.

"Pretty near it! Them folks at Wanchester only just got out--an' there
were two children among 'em," cried a man near the waggon.

"An' they've just been up to something new at Brownmouth--"

All heads turned towards a young man who spoke from the back of the
audience. "News just come to the post-office," he shouted--"as the new
pier was burnt out early this morning. There's a bit o' wanton mischief
for you!"

A howl of wrath rose from the audience, amid which the closing words of
Delia's speech were lost. Winnington caught a glimpse of her face--pale
and excited--as she retreated from the front of the waggon in order to
make room for her co-speaker.

Gertrude Marvell, as Winnington soon saw, was far more skilled in
street oratory than her pupil. By sheer audacity she caught her
audience at once, and very soon, mingling defiance with sarcasm, she
had turned the news of the burnt pier into a Suffragist parable. What
was that blaze in the night, lighting up earth and sea, but an emblem
of women's revolt flaming up in the face of dark injustice and
oppression? Let them rage! The women mocked. All tyrannies disliked
being disturbed--since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. And thereupon,
without any trace of excitement, or any fraction of Delia's eloquence,
she built up bit by bit, and in face of the growing hostility of the
crowd, an edifice of selected statements, which could not have been
more adroit. It did not touch or persuade, but it silenced; till at the
end she said--each word slow and distinct--

"Now--all these things _you_ may do to women, and nobody minds--nobody
troubles at all. But if _we_ make a bonfire of a pier, or an empty
house, by way of drawing attention to your proceedings, then, you see
red. Well, here we are!--do what you like--torture, imprison us!--you
are only longing, I know--some of you--to pull us down now and trample
on us, so that you may _show_ us how much stronger men are than women!
All right!--but where one woman falls, another will spring up. And
meanwhile the candle we are lighting will go on burning till you give
us the vote. Nothing simpler--nothing easier. _Give us the vote_!--and
send your canting Governments, Liberal, or Tory, packing, till we get
it. But until then--windows and empty houses, and piers and such-like,
are nothing--but so many opportunities of making our masters
uncomfortable, till they free their slaves! Lucky for you, if the thing
is no worse!"

She paused a moment, and then added with sharp and quiet emphasis--

"And why is it specially necessary that we should try to stir up this
district--whether you like our methods or whether you don't?
Because--you have living here among you, one of the worst of the
persecutors of women! You have here a man who has backed up every
cruelty of the Government--who has denied us every right, and scoffed
at all our constitutional demands--your neighbour and great landlord,
Sir Wilfrid Lang! I call upon every woman in this district, to avenge
women on Sir Wilfrid Lang! We are not out indeed to destroy life or
limb--we leave that to the men who are trying to coerce women--but we
mean to sweep men like Sir Wilfrid Lang out of our way! Meanwhile we
can pay special attention to his meetings--we can harass him at railway
stations--we can sit on his doorstep--we can put the fear of God into
him in a hundred ways--in short we can make his life a tenth part as
disagreeable to him as he can make ours to us. We can, if we please,
make it a _burden_ to him--and we intend to do so! And don't let
men--or women either--waste their breath in preaching to us of 'law and
order.' Slaves who have no part in making the law, are not bound by the
law. Enforce it if you can! But while you refuse to free us, we despise
both the law and the making of the law. Justice--which is a very
different thing from law--Justice is our mistress!--and to her we
appeal."

Folding her arms, she looked the crowd in the face. They seemed to
measure each other; on one side, the lines of upturned faces, gaping
youths, and smoking workmen, farmers and cattlemen, women and children;
on the other, defying them, one thin, neatly-dressed woman, her face,
under the lamps, a gleaming point in the dark.

Then a voice rose from a lounging group of men, smoking like
chimneys--powerful fellows; smeared with the clay of the brickfields.

"Who's a-makin' slaves of you, Ma'am? There's most of us workin' for a
woman!"

A woman in the middle of the crowd laughed shrilly--a queer, tall
figure in a battered hat--

"Aye--and a lot yo' give 'er ov a Saturday night, don't yer?"

"Sir Wilfrid's a jolly good feller, miss," shouted another man. "Pays
'is men good money, an' no tricks. If you come meddlin' with him, in
these parts, you'll catch it."

"An' we don't want no suffragettes here, thank you!" cried a sarcastic
woman's voice. "We was quite 'appy till you come along, an' we're quite
willin' now for to say 'Good-bye, an' God bless yer!'"

The crowd laughed wildly, and suddenly a lad on the outskirts of the
crowd picked up a cabbage-stalk that had fallen from one of the
market-stalls, and flung it at the waggon. The hooligan element,
scattered through the market-place, took up the hint at once; brutal
things began to be shouted; and in a moment the air was thick with
missiles of various sorts, derived from the refuse of the day's
market--vegetable remains of all kinds, fragments of wood and cardboard
boxes, scraps of filthy matting, and anything else that came handy.

The audience at first disapproved. There were loud cries of "Stow
it!"--"Shut up!"--"Let the ladies alone!"--and there was little attempt
to obstruct the police as they moved forward. But then, by ill-luck,
the powerfully-built fair-haired man, who had been speaking when
Winnington and Andrews entered the market place, rushed to the front of
the waggon, and in a white heat of fury, began to denounce both the
assailants of the speakers, and the crowd in general, as "cowardly
louts"--on whom argument was thrown away--who could only be reached
"through their backs, or their pockets"--with other compliments of the
same sort, under which the temper of the "moderates" rapidly gave way.

"What an ass! What a damned ass!" groaned Andrews indignantly. "Look
here Winnington, you take care of Miss Blanchflower--I'll answer for
the other!"

And amid a general shouting and scuffling, through which some stones
were beginning to fly, Winnington found himself leaping on the waggon,
followed by Andrews and a couple of police.

Delia confronted him--undaunted, though breathless.

"What do you want? We're all right!"

"You must come away at once. I can get you through the hotel."

"Not at all! We must put the Resolution."

"Come Miss!--" said the tall constable behind Winnington--"no use
talking! There's a lot of fellows here that mean mischief. You go with
this gentleman. He'll look after you."

"Not without my friend!" cried Delia, both hands behind her on the edge
of the waggon--erect and defiant. "Gertrude!--" she raised her
voice--"What do you wish to do?"

But amid the din, her appeal was not heard.

Gertrude Marvell however could be clearly seen on the other side of the
waggon, with Paul Lathrop beside her, listening to the remonstrances
and entreaties of Andrews, with a smile as cool, as though she were in
the drawing-room of Maumsey Abbey, and the Captain were inviting her to
trifle with a cup of tea.

"Take her along, Sir!" said the policeman, with a nod to Winnington.
"It's getting ugly." And as he spoke, a man jumped upon the waggon, a
Latchford doctor, an acquaintance of Winnington's, who said something
in his ear.

The next moment, a fragment of a bottle, flung from a distance, struck
Winnington on the wrist. The blood rushed out, and Delia, suddenly
white, looked from it to Winnington's face. The only notice he took of
the incident was expressed in the instinctive action of rolling his
handkerchief round it. But it stirred him to lay a grasp upon Delia's
arm, which she could hardly have resisted. She did not, however,
resist. She felt herself lifted down from the waggon, and hurried
along, the police keeping back the crowd, into the open door of the
hotel. Shouts of a populace half enraged, half amused, pursued her.

"Brutes--Cowards!" she gasped, between her teeth--then to
Winnington--"Where are you taking me? I have the car!"

"There's a motor belonging to a doctor ready at once in the yard of the
hotel. Better let me take you home in it. Andrews, I assure you, will
look after Miss Marvell!"

They passed through the brilliantly-lighted inn, where landlady,
chambermaids, and waiters stood grinning in rows to see, and Winnington
hurried his charge into the closed motor standing at the inn's back
door.

"Take the street behind the hotel, and get out by the back of the town.
Be quick!" said Winnington to the chauffeur.

Booing groups had already begun to gather at the entrance of the yards,
and in the side street to which it led. The motor passed slowly through
them, then quickened its pace, and in what seemed an incredibly short
time, they were in country lanes.

Delia leant hack, drawing long breaths of fatigue and excitement. Then
she perceived with disgust that her dress was bemired with scraps of
dirty refuse, and that some mud was dripping from her hat. She took off
the hat, shook it out of the window of the car, but could not bring
herself to put it on again. Her hair, loosely magnificent, framed a
face that was now all colour and passion. She hated herself, she hated
the crowd; it seemed to her she hated the man at her side. Suddenly
Winnington turned on the electric light--with an exclamation.

"So sorry to be a nuisance--but have you got a spare handkerchief? I'm
afraid I shall spoil your dress!"

And Delia saw, to her dismay, that his own handkerchief which he had
originally tied round his wound was already soaked, and the blood was
dripping from it on to the motor-rug.

"Yes--yes--I have!" And opening her little wrist-bag, she took out of
it two spare handkerchiefs, and tied them, with tremulous hands, round
the wrist he held out to her,--a wrist brown and spare and powerful,
like the rest of him.

"Now--have you got anything you could tie round the arm, above the
wound--and then twist the knot?"

She thought.

"My veil!" She slipped it off in a moment, a long motor veil of stout
make. He turned towards her, pushing up his coat sleeve as high as it
would go, and shewing her where to put the bandage. She helped him to
turn back his shirt sleeve, and then wound the veil tightly round the
arm, so as to compress the arteries. Her fingers were warm and strong.
He watched them--he felt their touch--with a curious pleasure.

"Now, suppose you take this pencil, and twist it in the knot--you know
how? Have you done any First Aid?"

She nodded.

"I know."

She did it well. The tourniquet acted, and the bleeding at once
slackened.

"All right!" said Winnington, smiling at her. "Now if I keep it up that
ought to do!" She drew down the sleeve, and he put his hand into the
motor-strap hanging near him, which supported it. Then he threw his
head back a moment against the cushions of the car. The sudden loss of
blood on the top of a long fast, had made him feel momentarily faint.

Delia looked at him uneasily--biting her lip.

"Let us go back to Latchford, Mr. Winnington, and find a doctor."

"Oh dear no! I'm only pumped for a moment. It's going off. I'm
perfectly fit. When I've taken you home, I shall go in to our Maumsey
man, and get tied up."

There was silence. The hedges and fields flew by outside, under the
light of the motor, stars overhead, Delia's heart was full of wrath and
humiliation.

"Mr. Winnington--"

"Yes!" He sat up, apparently quite revived.

"Mr. Winnington--for Heaven's sake--do give me up!"

He looked at her with amused astonishment.

"Give you up!--How?"

"Give up being my guardian! I really can't stand it. I--I don't mind
what happens to myself. But it's too bad that I should be forced to--to
make myself such a nuisance to you--or desert all my principles. It's
not fair to _me_--that's what I feel--it's not indeed!" she insisted
stormily.

He saw her dimly as she spoke--the beautiful oval of the face, the
white brow, the general graciousness of line, so feminine, in
truth!--so appealing. The darkness hid away all that shewed the "female
franzy." Distress of mind--distress for his trumpery wound?--had
shaken her, brought her back to youth and childishness? Again he felt
a rush of sympathy--of tender concern.

"Do you think you would do any better with a guardian chosen by the
Court?" he asked her, smiling, after a moment's pause.

"Of course I should! I shouldn't mind fighting a stranger in the
least."

"They would be very unlikely to appoint a stranger. They would probably
name Lord Frederick."

"He wouldn't dream of taking it!" she said, startled. "And you know he
is the laziest of men."

They both laughed. But her laugh was a sound of agitation, and in the
close contact of the motor he was aware of her quick breathing.

"Well, it's true he never answers a letter," said Winnington. "But I
suppose he's ill."

"He's been a _malade imaginaire_ all his life, and he isn't going to
begin to put himself out for anybody now!" she said, scornfully.

"Your aunt, Miss Blanchflower?"

"I haven't spoken to her for years. She used to live with us when I was
eighteen. She tried to boss me, and set father against me. But I got
the best of her."

"I am sure you did," said Winnington.

She broke out--

"Oh, I know you think me a perfectly impossible creature whom nobody
could ever get on with!"

He paused a moment, then said gravely--

"No, I don't think anything of the kind. But I do think that, given
what you want, you are going entirely the wrong way to get it."

She drew a long and desperate breath.

"Oh, for goodness sake don't let's argue!"

He refrained. But after a moment he added, still more gravely--"And I
do protest--most strongly!--against the influence upon you of the lady
you have taken to live with you!"

Delia made a vehement movement.

"She is my friend!--my dearest friend!" she said, in a shaky voice.
"And I believe in her, and admire her with all my heart!"

"I know--and I am sorry. Her speech this evening--all the latter part
of it--was the speech of an Anarchist. And the first half was a tissue
of misstatements. I happen to know something about the facts she dealt
with."

"Of course you take a different view!"

"I _know_," he said, quietly--a little sternly. "Miss Marvell either
does not know, or she wilfully misrepresents."

"You can't prove it!"

"I think I could. And as to that man--Mr. Lathrop--but you know what I
think."

They both fell silent. Through all his own annoyance and disgust,
Winnington was sympathetically conscious of what she too must be
feeling--chafed and thwarted, at every turn, by his legal power over
her actions, and by the pressure of his male will. He longed to
persuade her, convince her, soothe her; but what chance for it, under
the conditions she had chosen for her life?

The motor drew up at the door of the Abbey, and Winnington turned on
the light.

"I am afraid I can't help you out. Can you manage?"

She stooped anxiously to look at his wrist.

"It's bleeding worse again! I am sure I could improve that bandage. Do
come in. My maid's got everything."

He hesitated--then followed her into the house. The maid was summoned,
and proved an excellent nurse. The wound was properly bandaged, and the
arm put in a sling.

Then, as the maid withdrew, Delia and her guardian were left standing
together in the drawing-room, lit only by a dying gleam of fire, and a
single lamp.

"Good-night," said Winnington, gently. "Don't be the least alarmed
about Miss Marvell. The train doesn't arrive for ten minutes yet. Thank
you for looking after me so kindly."

Delia laughed--but it was a sound of distress.

Suddenly he stooped, lifted her hand, and kissed it.

"What you are doing seems to me foolish--and _wrong!_ I am afraid I
must tell you so plainly," he said, with emotion. "But although I feel
like that--my one wish--all the time--is--forgive me if it sounds
patronising!--to help you--and stand by you. To see you in that horrid
business to-night--made me--very unhappy. I am old-fashioned I
suppose--but I could hardly bear it. I wish I could make you trust me a
little!"

"I do!" she said, choked. "I do--but I must follow my conscience."

He shook his head, but said no more. She murmured good-night, and he
went. She heard the motor drive away, and remained standing where he
had left her, the hand he had kissed hanging at her side. She still
felt the touch of his lips upon it, and as the blood rushed into her
cheeks, her heart was conscious of new and strange emotions. She longed
to go to him as a sister or a daughter might, and say--"Forgive
me--understand me--don't despair of me!"

The trance of feeling broke, and passed away. She caught up a cloak and
went to the hall door to listen for Gertrude Marvell.

"What I _shall_ have to say to him before long, is--'I have tricked
you this quarter out of L500--and I mean to do it again next
quarter--if I can!' He won't want to kiss my hand again!"




Chapter X


Two men sat smoking and talking with Paul Lathrop in the hook-littered
sitting-room of his cottage. One was a young journalist, Roger Blaydes,
whose thin, close-shaven face wore the knowing fool's look of one to
whom the world's his oyster, and all the bricks for opening it
familiar. The other was a god-like creature, a poet by profession, with
long lantern-jaws, grey eyes deeply set, and a mass of curly black
hair, from which the face with its pallor and its distinction, shone
dimly out like the portrait of a Cinquecento. Lathrop, in a kind of
dressing-gown, as clumsily cut as the form it wrapped, his reddish hair
and large head catching the firelight, had the look of one lazily at
bay, as wrapped in a cloud of smoke, he twined from one speaker to the
other.

"So you were at another of these meetings last night?" said Blaydes,
with a mouth half smiling, half contemptuous.

"Yes. A disgusting failure! They didn't even take the trouble to pelt
us." The poet--Merian by name--moved angrily on his chair. Blaydes
threw a sly look at him, as he knocked the ash from his cigarette.

"And what the deuce do you expect to get by it all?"

Paul Lathrop paused a moment--and at last said with a lift of the
eyebrows:--

"Well!--I have no illusions!"

Merian broke out indignantly--

"I say, Lathrop--why should you try and play up to that cynic there? As
if he ever had an illusion about anything!"

"Well, but one may have faith without illusions," protested Blaydes,
with hard good temper.

"I doubt whether Lathrop has an ounce of either!"

Lathrop reached out for a match.

"What's the good of 'faith'--and what does anyone mean by it?
Sympathies--and animosities: they're enough for me."

"And you really are in sympathy with these women?" said the other.

The tone was incredulous. Merian brought his hand violently down on the
table.

"Don't you talk about them, Blaydes! I tell you, they're out of your
ken."

"I daresay," said Blaydes, composedly. "I was only trying to get at
what Lathrop means by going into the business."

Paul Lathrop sat up.

"I'm in sympathy with anything that harasses, and bothers and stings
the governing classes of this country!" he said, with an oratorical
wave of his cigarette. "What fools they are! In this particular
business the Government is an ass, the public is an ass, the women, if
you like, are asses. So long as they don't destroy works of art that
appeal to me, I prefer to bray with them than with their enemies."

Merian rose impatiently--a slim, dark-browed St. George towering over
the other two.

"After that, I'd rather hear them attacked by Blaydes, than defended by
you, Lathrop!" he said with energy, as he buttoned up his coat.

Lathrop threw him a cool glance.

"So for you, they're all heroines--and saints?"

"Never mind what they are. I stand by them! I'm ready to give them what
they ask."

"Ready to hand the Empire over to them--to smash like the windows in
Piccadilly?" said Blaydes.

"Hang the Empire!--what does the Empire matter! Give the people in
these islands what they _want_ before you begin to talk about the
Empire. Well, good-bye, I must be off!"

He nodded to the other two, and opened the door of the Hermitage which
led directly into the outer air. On the threshold he turned and looked
back, irresolutely, as though in compunction for his loss of temper.
Framed in the doorway against a background of sunset sky, his dark head
and sparely-noble features were of a singular though melancholy beauty.
It was evident that he was full of speech, of which he could not in the
end unburden himself. The door closed behind him, and he was gone.

"Poor devil!" said Blaydes, tipping the end of his cigarette into the
fire-"he's in love with a girl who's been in prison three times. He
thinks she'll kill herself--and he can't influence her at all. He
takes it hard. Well, now look here"--the young man's expression changed
and stiffened--"I understand that you too are seeing a good deal of one
of these wild women--and that she's both rich--and a beauty?"

He looked up, with a laugh.

Lathrop's aspect was undisturbed.

"Nothing to do with it!--though your silly little mind will no doubt go
on thinking so."

The other laughed again--with a more emphatic mockery. Lathrop
reddened--then said quietly--

"Well, I admit that was a lie. Yes, she is handsome--and if she were
to stick to it--sacrifice all her life to it--in time she might make a
horrible success of this thing. Will she stick to it?"

"Are you in love with her, Paul?"

"Of course! I am in love with all pretty women--especially when I
daren't shew it."

"You daren't shew it?"

"The smallest advance on my part, in this quarter, brings me a rap on
the knuckles. I try to pitch what I have to say in the most impersonal
and romantic terms. No good at all! But all egg-dancing is amusing, so
I dance--and accept all the drudgery she and Alecto give me to do."

"Alecto? Miss Marvell?"

"Naturally."

"These meetings must be pretty boring."

"Especially because I can't keep my temper. I lose it in the vulgarest
way--and say the most idiotic things."

There was a pause of silence. The eyes of the journalist wandered round
the room, coming back to Lathrop at last with renewed curiosity.

"How are your affairs, Paul?"

"Couldn't be worse. Everything here would have been seized long ago, if
there had been anything to seize. But you can't distrain on trout--dear
slithery things. And as the ponds afford my only means of sustenance,
and do occasionally bring in something, my creditors have to leave me
the house and a few beds and chairs so that I may look after them."

"Why don't you write another book?"

"Because at present I have nothing to say. And on that point I happen
to have a conscience--some rays of probity, left."

He got up as he spoke, and went across the room, to a covered basket
beside the fire.

"Mimi!" he said caressingly--"poor Mimi!"

He raised a piece of flannel, and a Persian kitten lying in the
basket--a sick kitten--lifted its head languidly.

"_Tu m'aimes_, Mimi?"

The kitten looked at him with veiled eyes, already masked with death.
Lathrop stooped for a saucer of warm milk standing by the fire. The
kitten refused it, but when he dipped his fingers in the milk, it made
a momentary effort to lick them, then subsiding, sank to sleep again.

"Poor little beast!" said Blaydes--"what's the matter?"

"Some poison--I don't know what. It'll die tonight."

"Then you'll be all alone?"

"I'm never alone," said Lathrop, with decision. And rising he went to
the door of the cottage--which opened straight on the hill-side, and
set it open.

It was four o'clock on a November day. The autumn was late, and of a
marvellous beauty. The month was a third gone and still there were
trees here and there, isolated trees, intensely green as though they
defied decay. The elder trees, the first to leaf under the Spring, were
now the last to wither. The elms in twenty-four hours had turned a pale
gold atop, while all below was still round and green. But the beeches
were nearly gone; all that remained of them was a thin pattern of
separate leaves, pale gold and faintly sparkling against the afternoon
sky. Such a sky! Bands of delicate pinks, lilacs and blues scratched
across an inner-heaven of light, and in the mid-heaven a blazing
furnace, blood-red, wherein the sun had just plunged headlong to its
death. And under the sky, an English scene of field and woodland,
fading into an all-environing forest, still richly clothed. While in
the foreground and middle distance, some trees already stripped and
bare, winter's first spoil, stood sharply black against the scarlet of
the sunset. And fusing the whole scene, hazes of blue, amethyst or
purple, beyond a Turner's brush,

"What beauty!--my God!"

Blaydes came to stand beside the speaker, glancing at him with eyes
half curious, half mocking.

"You get so much pleasure out of it?"

For answer, Lathrop murmured a few words as though to himself, a sudden
lightening in his sleepy eyes--

     L'univers--si liquide, si pur!--
     Une belle eau qu'on voudrait boire.


"I don't understand French"--said Blaydes, with a shrug--"not French
verse, anyway."

"That's a pity," was the dry reply--"because you can't read Madame de
Noailles. Ah!--there are Lang's pheasants calling!--his tenants I
suppose--for he's left the shooting."

He pointed to a mass of wood on his left hand from which the sound
came.

"They say he's never here?"

"Two or three times a year,--just on business. His wife--a little
painted doll--hates the place, and they've built a villa at Beaulieu."

"Rather risky leaving a big house empty in these days--with your wild
women about!"

Lathrop looked round.

"Good heavens!--who would ever dream of touching Monk Lawrence! I bet
even Gertrude Marvell hasn't nerve enough for that. Look here!--have
you ever seen it?"

"Never."

"Come along then. There's just time--while this light lasts."

They snatched their caps, and were presently mounting the path which
led ultimately through the woods of Monk Lawrence to the western front.

Blaydes frowned as he walked. He was a young man of a very practical
turn of mind, who in spite of an office-boy's training possessed an
irrelevant taste for literature which had made him an admirer of
Lathrop's two published volumes. For some time past he had been
Lathrop's chancellor of the exchequer--self-appointed, and had done his
best to keep his friend out of the workhouse. From the tone of Paul's
recent letters he had become aware of two things--first, that Lathrop
was in sight of his last five pound note, and did not see his way to
either earning or borrowing another; and secondly, that a handsome girl
had appeared on the scene, providentially mad with the same kind of
madness as had recently seized on Lathrop, belonging to the same
anarchial association, and engaged in the same silly defiance of
society; likely therefore to be thrown a good deal in his company; and
last, but most important, possessed of a fortune which she would no
doubt allow the "Daughters of Revolt" to squander--unless Paul cut in.
The situation had begun to seem to him interesting, and having already
lent Lathrop more money than he could afford, he had come down to
enquire about it. He himself possessed an income of three hundred a
year, plus two thousand pounds left him by an uncle. Except for the
single weakness which had induced him to lend Lathrop a couple of
hundred pounds, his principles with regard to money were frankly
piratical. Get what you can--and how you can. Clearly it was Lathrop's
game to take advantage of this queer friendship with a militant who
happened to be both rich and young, which his dabbling in their
"nonsense" had brought about. Why shouldn't he achieve it? Lathrop was
as clever as sin; and there was the past history of the man, to shew
that he could attract women.

He gripped his friend's arm as they passed into the shadow of the wood.
Lathrop looked at him with surprise--

"Look here, Paul"--said the younger man in a determined voice--"You've
got to pull this thing off."

"What thing?"

"You can marry this girl if you put your mind to it. You tell me you're
going about the country with her speaking at meetings--that you're one
of her helpers and advisers. That is--you've got an A1 chance with her.
If you don't use it, you're a blithering idiot."

Paul threw back his head and laughed.

"And what about other people? What about her guardian, for
instance--who is the sole trustee of the property--who has a thousand
chances with her to my one--and holds, I venture to say--if he knows
anything about me--the strongest views on the subject of _my_ moral
character?"

"Who is her guardian?"

"Mark Wilmington. Does that convey anything to you?"

Blaydes whistled.

"Great Scott!"

"Yes. Precisely 'Great Scott!'" said Lathrop, mocking. "I may add that
everybody here has their own romance on the subject. They are convinced
that Winnington will soon cure her of her preposterous notions, and
restore her, tamed, to a normal existence."

Blaydes meditated,--his aspect showing a man checked.

"I saw Winnington playing in a county match last August," he said--with
his eyes on the ground--"I declare no one looked at anybody else. I
suppose he's forty; but the old stagers tell you that he's just as much
of an Apollo now as he was in his most famous days--twenty years ago."

"Don't exaggerate. He _is_ forty, and I'm thirty--which is one to me.
I only meant to suggest to you a _reasonable_ view of the chances."

"Look here--_is_ she as handsome as people say?"

"Blaydes!--this is the last time I shall allow you to talk about
her--you get on my nerves. Handsome? I don't know."

He walked on, muttering to himself and twitching at the trees on either
hand.

"I am simply putting what is your duty to yourself--and your
creditors," said Blaydes, sulkily--"You must know your affairs are in
a pretty desperate state."

"And a girl like that is to be sacrificed--to my creditors! Good Lord!"

"Oh, well, if you regard yourself as such an undesirable, naturally,
I've nothing to say. Of course I know--there's that case against you.
But it's a good while ago; and I declare women don't look at those
things as they used to do. Why don't you play the man of letters
business? You know very well, Paul, you could earn a lot of money if
you chose. But you're such a lazy dog!"

"Let me alone!" said Lathrop, rather fiercely. "The fact that you've
lent me a couple of hundred really doesn't give you the right to talk
to me like this."

"I won't lend you a farthing more unless you promise me to take this
thing seriously," said Blaydes, doggedly.

Lathrop burst into a nervous shout of laughter.

"I say, do shut up! I assure you, you can't bully me. Now then--here's
the house!"

And as he spoke they emerged from the green oblong, bordered by low yew
edges, from which as from a flat and spacious shelf carved out of the
hill, Monk Lawrence surveyed the slopes below it, the clustered
village, the middle distance with its embroidery of fields and trees,
with the vaporous stretches of the forest beyond, and in the far
distance, a shining line of sea.

"My word!--that is a house!" cried Blaydes, stopping to survey it and
get his townsman's breath, after the steep pitch of hill.

"Not bad?"

"Is it shown?"

"Used to be. It has been shut lately for fear of the militants."

"But they keep somebody in it?"

"Yes--in some room at the back. A keeper, and his three children. The
wife's dead. Shall I go and see if he'll let us in? But he won't. He'll
have seen my name at that meeting, in the Latchford paper."

"No, no. I shall miss my train. Let's walk round. Why, you'd think it
was on fire already!" said Blaydes, with a start, gazing at the house.

For the marvellous evening now marching from the western forest, was
dyeing the whole earth in crimson, and the sun just emerging from one
bank of cloud, before dropping into the bank below, was flinging a
fierce glare upon the wide grey front of Monk Lawrence. Every window
blazed, and some fine oaks still thick with red leaf, which flanked the
house on the north, flamed in concert. The air was suffused with red;
every minor tone, blue or brown, green or purple, shewed through it, as
through a veil.

And yet how quietly the house rose, in the heart of the flame! Peace
brooding on memory seemed to breathe from its rounded oriels, its mossy
roof, its legend in stone letters running round the eaves, the carved
trophies and arabesques which framed the stately doorway, the sleepy
fountain with its cupids, in the courtyard, the graceful loggia on the
northern side. It stood, aloof and self-contained, amid the lightnings
and arrows of the departing sun.

"No--they'd never dare to touch that!" said Lathrop as he led the way
to the path skirting the house. "And if I caught Miss Marvell at it,
I'm not sure I shouldn't hand her over myself!"

"Aren't we trespassing?" said Blaydes, as their footsteps rang on the
broad flagged path which led from the front court to the terrace at the
back of the house.

"Certainly. Ah, the dog's heard us."

And before they had gone more than a few steps further, a burly man
appeared at the further corner of the house, holding a muzzled dog--a
mastiff--on a leash.

"What might you be wanting, gentlemen?" he said gruffly.

"Why, you know me, Daunt. I brought a friend up to look at your
wonderful place. We can walk through, can't we?"

"Well, as you're here, Sir, I'll let you out by the lower gate. But
this is private ground, Sir, and Sir Wilfrid's orders are strict,--not
to let anybody through that hasn't either business with the house or an
order from himself."

"All right. Let's have a look at the back and the terrace, and then
we'll be off; Sir Wilfrid coming here?"

"Not that I know of, Sir," said the keeper shortly, striding on before
the two men, and quieting his dog, who was growling at their heels.

As he spoke he led the way down a stately flight of stone steps by
which the famous eastern terrace at the back of the house was reached.
The three men and the dog disappeared from view.

Steadily the sunset faded. An attacking host of cloud rushed upon it
from the sea, and quenched it. The lights in the windows of Monk
Lawrence went out. Dusk fell upon the house and all its approaches.

Suddenly, two figures--figures of women--emerged in the twilight from
the thick plantation, which protected the house on the north. They
reached the flagged path with noiseless feet, and then pausing, they
began what an intelligent spectator would have soon seen to be a
careful reconnoitering of the whole northern side of the house. They
seemed to examine the windows, a garden door, the recesses in the
walls, the old lead piping, the creepers and shrubs. Then one of them,
keeping close to the house wall, which was in deep shadow, went quickly
round to the back. The other awaited her. In the distance rose at
intervals a dog's uneasy bark.

In a very few minutes the woman who had gone round the house returned
and the two, slipping back into the dense belt of wood from which they
had come, were instantly swallowed up by it. Their appearance and their
movements throughout had been as phantom-like and silent as the shadows
which were now engulfing the house. Anyone who had seen them come and
go might almost have doubted his own eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Daunt the Keeper returned leisurely to his quarters in some back
premises of Monk Lawrence, at the southeastern corner of the house. But
he had but just opened his own door when he again heard the sound of
footsteps in the fore-court.

"Well, what's come to the folk to-night"--he muttered, with some
ill-humour, as he turned back towards the front.

A woman!--standing with her back to the house, in the middle of the
forecourt as though the place belonged to her, and gazing at the piled
clouds of the west, still haunted by the splendour just past away.

A veritable Masque of Women, all of the Maenad sort, had by now begun
to riot through Daunt's brain by night and day. He raised his voice
sharply--

"What's your business here, Ma'am? There is no public road past this
house."

The lady turned, and came towards him.

"Don't you know who I am, Mr. Daunt? But I remember you when I was a
child."

Daunt peered through the dusk.

"You have the advantage of me, Madam," he said, stiffly. "Kindly give
me your name."

"Miss Blanchflower--from Maumsey Abbey!" said a young, conscious voice.
"I used to come here with my grandmother, Lady Blanchflower. I have
been intending to come and pay you a visit for a long time--to have a
look at the old house again. And just now I was passing the foot of
your hill in a motor; something went wrong with the car, and while they
were mending it, I ran up. But it's getting dark so quick, one can
hardly see anything!"

Daunt's attitude showed no relaxation. Indeed, quick recollections
assailed him of certain reports in the local papers, now some ten days
old. Miss Blanchflower indeed! She was a brazen one--after all done and
said.

"Pleased to see you, Miss, if you'll kindly get an order from Sir
Wilfrid. But I have strict instructions from Sir Wilfrid not to admit
anyone--not anyone whatsoever--to the gardens or the house, without his
order."

"I should have thought, Mr. Daunt, that only applied to strangers." The
tones shewed annoyance. "My father, Sir Robert Blanchflower, was an old
friend of Sir Wilfrid's."

"Can't help it, Miss," said Daunt, not without the secret zest of the
Radical putting down his "betters." "There are queer people about. I
can't let no one in without an order."

As he spoke, a gate slammed on his left, and Daunt, with the feeling of
one beset, turned in wrath to see who might be this new intruder. Since
the house had been closed to visitors, and a notice to the effect had
been posted in the village, scarcely a soul had penetrated through its
enclosing woods, except Miss Amberley, who came to teach Daunts
crippled child. And now in one evening here were three assaults upon
its privacy!

But as to the third he was soon reassured.

"Hullo, Daunt, is that you? Did I hear you telling Miss Blanchflower
you can't let her in? But you know her of course?" said a man's easy
voice.

Delia started. The next moment her hand was in her guardian's, and she
realised that he had heard the conversation between herself and Daunt,
realised also that she had committed a folly not easily to be
explained, either to Winnington or herself, in obeying the impulse
which--half memory, half vague anxiety,--had led her to pay this
sudden visit to the house. Gertrude Marvell had left Maumsey that
morning, saying she should be in London for the day. Had Gertrude been
with her, Delia would have let Monk Lawrence go by. For in Gertrude's
company it had become an instinct with her--an instinct she scarcely
confessed to herself--to avoid all reference to the house.

At sight of Winnington, however, who was clearly a privileged person in
his eyes, Daunt instantly changed his tone.

"Good evening, Sir. Perhaps you'll explain to this young lady? We've
got to keep a sharp lookout--you know that, Sir."

"Certainly, Daunt, certainly. I am sure Miss Blanchflower understands.
But you'll let _me_ shew her the house, I imagine?"

"Why, of course, Sir! There's nothing you can't do here. Give me a few
minutes--I'll turn on some lights. Perhaps the young lady will walk
in?" He pointed to his own rooms. "So you still keep the electric
light going?"

"By Sir Wilfrid's wish, Sir,--so as if anything did happen these winter
nights, we mightn't be left in darkness. The engine works a bit now and
then."

He led the way towards his quarters. The door into his kitchen stood
open, and in the glow of fire and lamp stood his three children, who
had been eagerly listening to the conversation outside. One of them, a
little girl, was leaning on a crutch. She looked up happily as
Winnington entered.

"Well, Lily--" he pinched her cheek--"I've got something to tell Father
about you. Say 'how do you do' to this lady." The child put her hand in
Delia's, looking all the while ardently at Winnington.

"Am I going to be in your school, Sir?"

"If you're good. But you'll have to be dreadfully good!"

"I am good," said Lily, confidently. "I want to be in your school,
please Sir."

"But such a lot of other little girls want to come too! Must I leave
them out?"

Lily shook her head perplexed. "But you promithed," she lisped, very
softly.

Winnington laughed. The child's hand had transferred itself to his, and
nestled there.

"What school does she mean?" asked Delia.

At the sound of her voice Winnington turned to her for the first time.
It was as though till then he had avoided looking at her, lest the
hidden thought in each mind should be too plain to the other. He had
found her--Sir Robert Blanchflower's daughter--on the point of being
curtly refused admission to the house where her father had been a
familiar inmate, and where she herself had gone in and out as a child.
And he knew why; she knew why; Daunt knew why. She was a person under
suspicion, a person on whom the community was keeping watch.

Nevertheless, Winnington entirely believed what he had overheard her
say to the keeper. It was no doubt quite true that she had turned aside
to see Monk Lawrence on a sudden impulse of sentiment or memory. Odd
that it should be so!--but like her. That _she_ could have any designs
on the beautiful old place was indeed incredible; and it was equally
incredible that she would aid or abet them in anyone else. And
yet--there was that monstrous speech at Latchford, made in her hearing,
by her friend and co-militant, the woman who shared her life! Was it
any wonder that Daunt bristled at the sight of her?

He had, however, to answer her question.

"My county school," he explained. "The school for invalid
children--'physical defectives'--that we are going to open next summer.
I came to tell Daunt there'd be a place for this child. She's an old
friend of mine." He smiled down upon the nestling creature--"Has Miss
Amberley been to see you lately, Lily?"

At this moment Daunt returned to the kitchen, with the news that the
house was ready. "The light's not quite what it ought to be, Sir, but I
daresay you'll be able to see a good deal. Miss Amberley, Sir, she's
taught Lily fine. I'm sure we're very much obliged to her--and to you
for asking her."

"I don't know what the sick children here will do without her, Daunt.
She's going away--wants to be a nurse."

"Well, I'm very sorry, Sir. She'll be badly missed."

"That she will. Shall we go in?" Winnington turned to Delia, who
nodded assent, and followed him into the dim passages beyond the
brightly-lighted kitchen. The children, looking after them, saw the
beautiful lady disappearing, and felt vaguely awed by her height, her
stiff carriage and her proud looks.

Delia, indeed, was again--and as usual--in revolt, against herself and
circumstances. Why had she been such a fool as to come to Monk Lawrence
at all, and then to submit to seeing it--on sufferance!--in
Winnington's custody? And how he must be contrasting her with Susy
Amberley!--the soft sister of charity, plying her womanly tasks, in the
manner of all good women, since the world began! She saw herself as the
anarchist prowling outside, tracked, spied on, held at arm's length by
all decent citizens, all lovers of ancient beauty, and moral tradition;
while, within, women like Susy Amberley sat Madonna-like, with the
children at their knee. "Well, we stand for the children too--the
children of the future!" she said to herself defiantly.

"This is the old hall--and the gallery that was put up in honour of
Elizabeth's visit here in 1570--" she heard Winnington saying--"One of
the finest things of its kind. But you can hardly see it."

The electric light indeed was of the feeblest. A dim line of it ran
round the carved ceiling, and glimmered in the central chandelier. But
the mingled illumination of sunset and moonrise from outside contended
with it on more than equal terms; and everything in the hall,
tapestries, armour, and old oak, the gallery above, the dais with its
carved chairs below, had the dim mystery of a stage set ready for the
play, before the lights are on.

Daunt apologised.

"The gardener'll be here directly, Sir. He knows how to manage it
better than I."

And in spite of protests from the two visitors he ran off again to see
what could he done to better the light. Delia turned impetuously on her
companion.

"I know you think I have no business to be here!"

Winnington paused a moment, then said--

"I was rather astonished to see you here, certainly."

"Because of what we said at Latchford the other day?"

"_You_ didn't say it!"

"But I agreed with it--I agreed with every word of it!"

"Then indeed I _am_ astonished that you should wish to see Sir Wilfrid
Lang's house!" he said, with energy.

"My recollections of it have nothing to do with Sir Wilfrid. I never
saw him that I know of."

"All the same, it belongs to him."

"No!--to history--to the nation!"

"Then let the nation guard it--and every individual in the nation! But
do you think Miss Marvell would take much pains to protect it?"

"Gertrude said nothing about the house." "No; but if I had been one of
the excitable women you command, my one desire after that speech would
have been to do some desperate damage to Sir Wilfrid, or his property.
If anything does happen, I am afraid everyone in the neighbourhood will
regard her as responsible."

Delia moved impatiently. "Can't we say what we think of Sir
Wilfrid--because he happens to possess a beautiful house?"

"If you care for Monk Lawrence, you do so,--with this campaign on
foot--only at great risk. Confess, Miss Delia!--that you were sorry for
that speech!"

He turned upon her with animation.

She spoke as though under pressure, her head thrown back, her face
ivory within the black frame of the veil.

"I--I shouldn't have made it."

"That's not enough. I want to hear you say you regret it!"

The light suddenly increased, and she saw him looking at her, his
eyes bright and urgent, his attitude that of the strong yet mild
judge, whose own moral life watches keenly for any sign of grace in
the accused before him. She realised for an angry moment what his
feeling must be--how deep and invincible, towards these "outrages"
which she and Gertrude Marvell regarded by now as so natural and
habitual--outrages that were calmly planned and organised, as she knew
well, at the head offices of their society, by Gertrude Marvell among
others, and acquiesced in--approved--by hundreds of persons like
herself, who either shrank from taking a direct part in them, or had no
opportunity of doing so. "But I shall soon make opportunities!--" she
thought, passionately; "I'm not going to be a shirker!" Aloud she said
in her stiffest manner--"I stand by my friends, Mr. Winnington,
especially when they are ten times better and nobler than I!"

His expression changed. He turned, like any courteous stranger, to
playing the part of showman of the house. Once more a veil had fallen
between them.

He led her through the great suite of rooms on the ground-floor, the
drawing-room, the Red Parlour, the Chinese room, the Library. They
recalled her childish visits to the house with her grandmother, and a
score of recollections, touching or absurd, rushed into her mind--but
not to her lips. Dumbness had fallen on her;--nothing seemed worth
saying, and she hurried through. She was conscious only of a rich
confused impression of old seemliness and mellowed beauty,--steeped in
fragrant and famous memories, English history, English poetry, English
art, breathing from every room and stone of the house. "In the Red
Parlour, Sidney wrote part of the 'Arcadia.'--In the room overhead
Gabriel Harvey slept.--In the Porch rooms Chatham stayed--his autograph
is there.--Fox advised upon all the older portion of the Library"--and
so on. She heard Winnington's voice as though through a dream. What did
it matter? She felt the house an oppression--as though it accused or
threatened her.

As they emerged from the library into a broad passage, Winnington
noticed a garden door at the north end of the passage, and called to
Daunt who was walking behind them. They went to look at it, leaving
Delia in the corridor.

"Not very secure, is it?" said Winnington, pointing to the glazed upper
half of the door--"anyone might get in there."

"I've told Sir Wilfrid, Sir, and sent him the measurements. There's to
be an iron shutter."

"H'm--that may take time. Why not put up something
temporary?--cross-bars of some sort?"

They came back towards Delia, discussing it. Unreasonably, absurdly,
she held it an offence that Winnington should discuss it in her
presence; her breath grew stormy.

Daunt turned to the right at the foot of a carved staircase, and down a
long passage leading to the kitchens, he and Winnington still talking.
Suddenly--a short flight of steps, not very visible in a dark place.
Winnington descended them, and then turned to look for Delia who was
just behind--

"Please take care!--"

But he was too late. Head in air--absorbed in her own passionate mood,
Delia never saw the steps, till her foot slipped on the topmost. She
would have fallen headlong, had not Winnington caught her. His arms
received her, held her, released her. The colour rushed into his face
as into hers. "You are not hurt?" he said anxiously. "I ought to have
held a light," said Daunt, full of concern. But the little incident had
broken the ice. Delia laughed, and straightened her Cavalier hat, which
had suffered. She was still rosy as they entered Daunt's kitchen, and
the children who had seen her silent and haughty entrance, hardly
recognised the creature all life and animation who returned to them.

The car stood waiting in the fore-court. Winnington put her in. As
Delia descended the hill alone in the dark, she closed her eyes, that
she might the more completely give herself to the conflict of thoughts
which possessed her. She was bitterly ashamed and sore, torn between
her passionate affection for Gertrude Marvell, and what seemed to her a
weak and traitorous wish to stand better with Mark Winnington. Nor
could she escape from the memory--the mere physical memory--of those
strong arms round her, resent it as she might.

       *       *       *       *       *

As for Winnington, when he reached home in the moonlight, instead of
going in to join his sister at tea, he paced a garden path till night
had fallen. What was this strong insurgent feeling he could neither
reason with nor silence? It seemed to have stolen upon him, amid a host
of other thoughts and pre-occupations, secretly and insidiously, till
there it stood--full-grown--his new phantom self--challenging the old,
the normal self, face to face.

Trouble, self-scorn overwhelmed him. Recalling all his promises
to himself, all his assurances to Lady Tonbridge, he stood convicted,
as the sentry who has shut his eyes and let the invader pass.
Monstrous!--that in his position, with this difference of age between
them, he should have allowed such ideas to grow and gather head.
Beautiful wayward creature!--all the more beguiling, because of the
Difficulties that bristled round her. His common sense, his judgment
were under no illusions at all about Delia Blanchflower. And yet--

This then was _passion_!--which must be held down and reasoned down.
He would reason it down. She must and should marry a man of her own
generation--youth with youth. And, moreover, to give way to these wild
desires would be simply to alienate her, to destroy all his own power
with her for good.

The ghostly presence of his life came to him. He cried out to her, made
appeal to her, in sackcloth and ashes. And then, in some mysterious,
heavenly way she was revealed to him afresh; not as an enemy whom he
had offended, not as a lover slighted, but as his best and tenderest
friend. She closed no gates against the future:--that was for himself
to settle, if closed they were to be. She seemed to walk with him, hand
in hand, sister with brother--in a deep converse of souls.




Chapter XI


Gertrude Marvell was sitting alone at the Maumsey breakfast-table, in
the pale light of a December day. All around her were letters and
newspapers, to which she was giving an attention entirely denied to her
meal. She opened them one after another, with a frown or a look of
satisfaction, classifying them in heaps as she read, and occasionally
remembering her coffee or her toast. The parlourmaid waited on her, but
knew very well--and resented the knowledge--that Miss Marvell was
scarcely aware of her existence, or her presence in the room.

But presently the lady at the table asked--

"Is Miss Blanchflower getting up?"

"She will be down directly, Miss."

Gertrude's eyebrows rose, unconsciously. She herself was never late for
an 8:30 breakfast, and never went to bed till long after midnight. The
ways of Delia, who varied between too little sleep and the long nights
of fatigue, seemed to her self-indulgent.

After her letters had been put aside and the ordinary newspapers, she
took up a new number of the _Tocsin_. The first page was entirely given
up to an article headed "How LONG?" She read it with care, her delicate
mouth tightening a little. She herself had suggested the lines of it a
few days before, to the Editor, and her hints had been partially
carried out. It gave a scathing account of Sir Wilfrid's course on the
suffrage question--of his earlier coquettings with the woman's cause,
his defection and "treachery," the bitter and ingenious hostility with
which he was now pursuing the Bill before the House of Commons. "An
amiable, white-haired nonentity for the rest of the world--who only
mention him to marvel that such a man was ever admitted to an English
Cabinet--to us he is the 'smiler with the knife,' the assassin of the
hopes of women, the reptile in the path. The Bill is weakening every
day in the House, and on the night of the second reading it will
receive its 'coup de grace' from the hand of Sir Wilfrid Lang. Women of
England--_how long_!--"

Gertrude pushed the newspaper aside in discontent. Her critical sense
was beginning to weary of the shrieking note. And the descent from the
"assassin of the hopes of women" to "the reptile in the path" struck
her as a silly bathos.

Suddenly, a reverie--a waking dream--fell upon her, a visionary
succession of sights and sounds. A dying sunset--and a rising wind,
sighing through dense trees--old walls--the light from a kitchen
window--voices in the distance--the barking of a dog....

"Oh Gertrude!--how late I am!"

Delia entered hurriedly, with an anxious air.

"I should have been down long ago, but Weston had one of her attacks,
and I have been looking after her."

Weston was Delia's maid who had been her constant companion for ten
years. She was a delicate nervous woman, liable to occasional onsets of
mysterious pain, which terrified both herself and her mistress, and had
hitherto puzzled the doctor.

Gertrude received the news with a passing concern.

"Better send for France, if you are worried. But I expect it will be
soon over."

"I don't know. It seems worse than usual. The man in Paris threatened
an operation. And here we are--going up to London in a fortnight!"

"Well, you need only send her to the Brownmouth hospital, or leave her
here with France and a good nurse."

"She has the most absurd terror of hospitals, and I certainly couldn't
leave her," said Delia, with a furrowed brow.

"You certainly couldn't stay behind!" Gertrude looked up pleasantly.

"Of course I want to come--" said Delia slowly.

"Why, darling, how could we do without you? You don't know how you're
wanted. Whenever I go up town, it's the same--'When's she coming?' Of
course they understood you must be here for a while--but the heart of
things, the things that concern _us_--is London."

"What did you hear yesterday?" asked Delia, helping herself to some
very cold coffee. Nothing was ever kept warm for her, the owner of the
house; everything was always kept warm for Gertrude. Yet the fact arose
from no Sybaritic tendency whatever on Gertrude's part. Food, clothing,
sleep--no religious ascetic could have been more sparing than she, in
her demands upon them. She took them as they came--well or ill
supplied; too pre-occupied to be either grateful or discontented. And
what she neglected for herself, she equally neglected for other people.

"What did I hear?" repeated Gertrude. "Well, of course, everything is
rushing on. There is to be a raid on Parliament as soon as the session
begins--and a deputation to Downing Street. A number of new plans, and
devices are being discussed. And there seemed to me to be more
volunteers than ever for 'special service'?"

She looked up quietly and her eyes met Delia's;--in hers a steely
ardour, in Delia's a certain trouble.

"Well, we want some cheering up," said the girl, rather wearily. "Those
two last meetings were--pretty depressing!--and so were the
bye-elections."

She was thinking of the two open-air meetings at Brownmouth and
Frimpton. There had been no violence offered to the speakers, as in the
Latchford case; the police had seen to that. Her guardian had made no
appearance at either, satisfied, no doubt, after enquiry, that she was
not likely to come to harm. But the evidence of public disapproval
could scarcely have been more chilling--more complete. Both her
speaking, and that of Gertrude and Paul Lathrop, seemed to her to have
dropped dead in exhausted air. An audience of boys and girls--an
accompaniment of faint jeers, testifying rather to boredom than
hostility--a sense of blank waste and futility when all was over:--her
recollection had little else to shew.

Gertrude interrupted her thought.

"My dear Delia!--what you want is to get out of this backwater, and
back into the main stream! Even I get stale here. But in those great
London meetings--there one catches on again!--one realises again--what
it all _means_! Why not come up with me next week, even if the flat's
not ready? I can't have you running down like this! Let's hurry up and
get to London."

The speaker had risen, and standing behind Delia, she laid her hand on
the waves of the girl's beautiful hair. Delia looked up.

"Very well. Yes, I'll come. I've been getting depressed. I'll come--at
least if Weston's all right."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I'm afraid, Miss Blanchflower, this is a very serious business!"

Dr. France was the speaker. He stood with his back to the fire, and his
hands behind him, surveying Delia with a look of absent thoughtfulness;
the look of a man of science on the track of a problem.

Delia's aspect was one of pale consternation. She had just heard that
the only hope of the woman, now wrestling upstairs with agonies of
pain, lay in a critical and dangerous operation, for which at least a
fortnight's preliminary treatment would be necessary. A nurse was to be
sent for at once, and the only question to be decided was where and by
whom the thing was to be done.

"We _can_ move her," said France, meditatively; "though I'd rather not.
And of course a hospital is the best place."

"She won't go! Her mother died in a hospital, and Weston thinks she was
neglected."

"Absurd! I assure you," said France warmly. "Nobody is neglected in
hospitals."

"But one can't persuade her--and if she's forced against her will,
it'll give her no chance!" said Delia in distress. "No, it must be
here. You say we can get a good man from Brownmouth?"

They discussed the possibilities of an operation at Maumsey.

Insensibly the doctor's tone during the conversation grew more
friendly, as it proceeded. A convinced opponent of "feminism" in all
its forms, he had thought of Delia hitherto as merely a wrong-headed,
foolish girl, and could hardly bring himself to be civil at all to her
chaperon, who in his eyes belonged to a criminal society, and was
almost certainly at that very moment engaged in criminal practices. But
Delia, absorbed in the distresses of someone she cared for, all heart
and eager sympathy, her loveliness lending that charm to all she said
and looked which plainer women must so frequently do without was a very
mollifying and ingratiating spectacle. France began to think
her--misled and unbalanced of course--but sound at bottom. He ended by
promising to make all arrangements himself, and to go in that very
afternoon to see the great man at Brownmouth.

When Delia returned to her maid's room, the morphia which had been
administered was beginning to take effect, and Weston, an elderly woman
with a patient, pleasing face, lay comparatively at rest, her tremulous
look expressing at once the keenness of the suffering past, and the
bliss of respite. Delia bent over her, dim-eyed.

"Dear Weston--we've arranged it all--it's going to be done here. You'll
be at home--and I shall look after you."

Weston put out a clammy hand and faintly pressed Delia's warm fingers--

"But you were going to London, Miss. I don't want to put you out so."

"I shan't go till you're out of the wood, so go to sleep--and don't
worry."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Delia!--for Heaven's sake be reasonable. Leave Weston to France, and a
couple of good nurses. She'll be perfectly looked after. You'll put out
all out plans--you'll risk everything!"

Gertrude Marvell had risen from her seat in front of a crowded desk.
The secretary who generally worked with her in the old gun room, now
become a militant office, had disappeared in obedience to a signal from
her chief. Anger and annoyance were plainly visible on Gertrude's small
chiselled features.

Delia shook her head.

"I can't!" she said. "I've promised. Weston has pulled _me_ through two
bad illnesses--once when I had pneumonia in Paris--and once after a
fall out riding. I daresay I shouldn't be here at all, but for her. If
she's going to have a fight for her life--and Doctor France doesn't
promise she'll get through--I shall stand by her."

Gertrude grew a little sallower than usual as her black eyes fastened
themselves on the girl before her who had hitherto seemed so ductile in
her hands. It was not so much the incident itself that alarmed her as a
certain new tone in Delia's voice.

"I thought we had agreed--that nothing--_nothing_--was to come before
the Cause!" she said quietly, but insistently.

Delia's laugh was embarrassed.

"I never promised to desert Weston, Gertrude. I couldn't--any more than
I could desert you."

"We shall want every hand--every ounce of help that can be got--through
January and February. You undertook to do some office work, to help in
the organisation of the processions to Parliament, to speak at a number
of meetings--"

Delia interrupted.

"As soon as Weston is out of danger, I'll go--of course I'll go!--about
a month from now, perhaps less. You will have the flat, Gertrude, all
the same, and as much money as I can scrape together--after the
operation's paid for. I don't matter a tenth part as much as you, you
know I don't; I haven't been at all a success at these meetings
lately!"

There was a certain young bitterness in the tone.

"Well, of course you know what people will say."

"That I'm shirking--giving in? Well, you can contradict it."

Delia turned from the window beside which she was standing to look at
Gertrude. A pale December sunshine shone on the girl's half-seen face,
and on the lines of her black dress. A threatening sense of change,
mingled with a masterful desire to break down the resistance offered,
awoke in Gertrude. But she restrained the dictatorial instinct.
Instead, she sat down beside the desk again, and covered her face with
her hand.

"If I couldn't contradict it--if I couldn't be sure of you--I might as
well kill myself," she said with sudden and volcanic passion, though in
a voice scarcely raised above its ordinary note.

Delia came to her impulsively, knelt down and put her arms round her.

"You know you can be sure of me!" she said, reproachfully.

Gertrude held her away from her. Her eyes examined the lovely face so
close to her.

"On the contrary! You are being influenced against me."

Delia laughed.

"By whom, please?"

"By the man who has you in his power--under our abominable laws."

"By my guardian?--by Mark Winnington? Really! Gertrude! Considering
that I had a fresh quarrel with him only last week--on your account--at
Monk Lawrence--"

Gertrude released herself by a sudden movement.

"When were you at Monk Lawrence?"

"Why, that afternoon, when you were in town. I missed my train at
Latchford, and took a motor home." There was some consciousness in the
girl's look and tone which did not escape her companion. She was
evidently aware that her silence on the incident might appear strange
to Gertrude. However, she frankly described her adventure, Daunt's
surliness, and Winnington's appearance.

"He arrived in the nick of time, and made Daunt let me in. Then, while
we were going round, he began to talk about your speech, and wanted to
make me say I was sorry for it. And I wouldn't! And then--well, he
thought very poorly of me--and we parted--coolly. We've scarcely met
since. And that's all."

"What speech?" Gertrude was sitting erect now with queerly bright eyes.

"The speech about Sir Wilfrid--at Latchford."

"What else does he expect?"

"I don't know. But--well, I may as well say, Gertrude--to you, though I
wouldn't say it to him--that I--I didn't much admire that speech
either!"

Delia was now sitting on the floor with her hands round her knees,
looking up. The slight stiffening of her face shewed that it had been
an effort to say what she had said.

"So _you_ think that Lang ought to be approached with 'bated breath and
whispering humbleness'--just as he is on the point of trampling us and
our cause into the dirt?"

"No--certainly not! But why hasn't he as good a right to his opinion as
we to ours--without being threatened with personal violence?"

Gertrude drew a long breath of amazement.

"I don't quite see, Delia, why you ever joined the 'Daughters'--or why
you stay with them."

"That's not fair!"--protested Delia, the colour flooding in her cheeks.
"As for burning stupid villas--that are empty and insured--or
boathouses--or piers--or tea-pavilions, to keep the country in
mind of us,--that's one thing. But threatening _persons_ with
violence--that's--somehow--another thing. And as to villas and piers
even--to be quite honest--I sometimes wonder, Gertrude!--I declare, I'm
beginning to wonder! And why shouldn't one take up one's policy from
time to time and look at it, all round, with a free mind? We haven't
been doing particularly well lately."

Gertrude laughed--a dry, embittered sound--as she pushed the _Tocsin_
from her.

"Oh well, of course, if you're going to desert us in the worst of the
fight, and to follow your guardian's lead--"

"But I'm not!" cried Delia, springing to her feet. "Try me. Haven't I
promised--a hundred things? Didn't I say all you expected me to say at
Latchford? And, on the whole"--her voice dragged a little--"the empty
houses and the cricket pavilions--still seem to me fair game. It's
only--as to the good it does. Of course--if it were Monk Lawrence--"

"Well--if it were Monk Lawrence?"

"I should think that a crime! I told you so before."

"Why?"

Delia looked at her friend with a contracted brow.

"Because--it's a national possession! Lang's only the temporary
owner--the trustee. We've no right to destroy what belongs to
_England_."

Gertrude laughed again--as she rose from the tea-table.

"Well, as long as women are slaves, I don't see what England matters to
them. However, don't trouble yourself. Monk Lawrence is all right. And
Mr. Winnington's a charmer--we all know that."

Delia flushed angrily. But Gertrude, having gathered up her papers,
quietly departed, leaving her final shaft to work.

Delia went back to her own sitting-room, but was too excited, too
tremulous indeed, to settle to her letters. She had never yet found
herself in direct collision with Gertrude, impetuous as her own temper
was. Their friendship had now lasted nearly three years. She looked
back to their West Indian acquaintance, that first year of adoration,
of long-continued emotion,--mind and heart growing and blossoming
together. Gertrude, during that year, had not only aroused her pupil's
intelligence; she had taught a motherless girl what the love of women
may be for each other. To make Gertrude happy, to be approved by her,
to watch her, to sit at her feet--the girl of nineteen had asked
nothing more. Gertrude's accomplishments, her coolness, her
self-reliance, the delicate precision of her small features and frame,
the grace of her quiet movements, her cold sincerity, the unyielding
scorns, the passionate loves and hates that were gradually to be
discovered below the even dryness of her manner,--by these Delia had
been captured; by these indeed, she was still held. Gertrude was to her
everything that she herself was not. And when her father had insisted
on separating her from her friend, her wild resentment, and her girlish
longing for the forbidden had only increased Gertrude's charm tenfold.

The eighteen months of their separation, too, had coincided with the
rise of that violent episode in the feminist movement which was
represented by the founding and organisation of the "Daughters"
society. Gertrude though not one of the first contrivers and
instigators of it, had been among the earliest of its converts. Its
initial successes had been the subject of all her letters to Delia;
Delia had walked on air to read them. At last the world was moving, was
rushing--and it seemed that Gertrude was in the van. Women were at last
coming to their own; forcing men to acknowledge them as equals and
comrades; and able to win victory, not by the old whining and
wheedling, but by their own strength. The intoxication of it filled the
girl's days and nights. She thought endlessly of processions and raids,
of street-preaching, or Hyde Park meetings. Gertrude went to prison for
a few days as the result of a raid on Downing Street. Delia, in one
dull hotel after another, wearily following her father from "cure" to
"cure," dreamed hungrily and enviously of Gertrude's more heroic fate.
Everything in those days was haloed for her--the Movement, its first
violent acts, what Gertrude did, and what Gertrude thought--she saw it
all transfigured and aflame.

And now, since her father's death, they had been four months
together--she and her friend--in the closest intimacy, sharing--or so
Delia supposed--every thought and every prospect. Delia for the greater
part of that time _had_ been all glad submission and unquestioning
response. It was quite natural--absolutely right--that Gertrude should
command her house, her money, her daily life. She only waited for
Gertrude's orders; it would be her pride to carry them out. Until--

What had happened? The girl, standing motionless beside her window,
confessed to herself, as she had not been willing to confess to
Gertrude, that something _had_ happened--some change of climate and
temperature in her own life.

In the first place, the Movement was not prospering. Why deny it? Who
could deny it? Its first successes were long past; its uses as
advertisement were exhausted; the old violences and audacities, as they
were repeated, fell dead. The cause of Woman Suffrage had certainly not
advanced. Check after check had been inflicted on it. The number of its
supporters in the House of Commons had gone down and down. By-elections
were only adding constantly to the number of its opponents.

"Well, what then?"--said the stalwarts of the party--"More outrages,
more arson, more violence! We _must_ win at last!" And, meanwhile,
blowing through England like a steadily increasing gale, could be felt
the force of public anger, public condemnation.

Delia since her return to England had felt the chill of it, for the
first time, on her own nerves and conscience. For the first time she
had winced--morally--even while she mocked at her own shrinking.

Was that Gertrude pacing outside? The day was dark and stormy. But
Gertrude, who rarely took a walk for pleasure, scarcely ever missed the
exercise which was necessary to keep her in health. Her slight figure,
wrapped in a fur cape, paced a sheltered walk. Her shoulders were bent,
her eyes on the ground. Suddenly it struck Delia that she had begun to
stoop, that she looked older and thinner than usual.

"She is killing herself!"--thought the girl in a sudden
anguish--"killing herself with work and anxiety. And yet she always
says she is so strong. What can I do? There is nobody that matters to
her--nobody!--but me!"

And she recalled all she knew--it was very little--of Gertrude's
personal history. She had been unhappy at home. Her mother, a widow,
had never been able to get on with her elder daughter, while petting
and spoiling her only son and her younger girl, who was ten years
Gertrude's junior. Gertrude had been left a small sum of money by a
woman friend, and had spent it in going to a west-country university
and taking honours in history. She never spoke now of either her mother
or her sister. Her sister was married, but Gertrude held no
communication with her or her children. Delia had always felt it
impossible to ask questions about her, and believed, with a thrilled
sense of mystery, that some tragic incident or experience had separated
the two sisters. Her brother also, it seemed, was as dead to her. But
on all such personal matters Gertrude's silence was insuperable, and
Delia knew no more of them than on the first day of their meeting.

Indomitable figure! Worn with effort and struggle--worn above all with
_hating_. Delia looked at it with a sob in her throat. Surely, surely,
the great passion, the great uplifting faith they had felt in common,
was vital, was true! Only, somehow, after the large dreams and hopes of
the early days, to come down to this perpetual campaign of petty
law-breaking, and futile outrage, to these odious meetings and shrieking
newspapers, was to be--well, discouraged!--heart-wearied.

"Only, she is not wearied, or discouraged!" thought Delia,
despairingly. "And why am I?"

Was it hatefully true--after all--that she was being influenced--drawn
away?

The girl flushed, breathing quick. She must master herself!--get rid of
this foolish obsession of Winnington's presence and voice--of a pair of
grave, kind eyes--a look now perplexed, now sternly bright--a
personality, limited no doubt, not very accessible to what Gertrude
called "ideas," not quick to catch the last new thing, but honest,
noble, tender, through and through.

Absurd! She was holding her own with him; she would hold her own. That
very day she must grapple with him afresh. She had sent him a note that
morning, and he had replied in a message that he would ride over to
luncheon.

For the question of money was urgent. Delia was already overdrawn. Yet
supplies were wanted for the newly rented flat, for Weston's operation,
for Gertrude's expenses in London--for a hundred things.

She paced up and down, imagining the conversation, framing eloquent
defences for her conduct, and again, from time to time, meanly,
shamefacedly reminding herself of Winnington's benefit under the will.
If she was a nuisance, she was at least a fairly profitable nuisance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Winnington duly arrived at luncheon. The two ladies appeared to him as
usual--Gertrude Marvell, self-possessed and quietly gay, ready to
handle politics or books, on so light a note, that Winnington's acute
recollection of her, as the haranguing fury on the Latchford waggon,
began to seem absurd even to himself. Delia also, lovely, restless,
with bursts of talk, and more significant bursts of silence, produced
on him her normal effect--as of a creature made for all delightful
uses, and somehow jangled and out of tune.

After luncheon, she led the way to her own sitting-room. "I am afraid I
must talk business," she said abruptly as she closed the door and stood
confronting him. "I am overdrawn, Mr. Winnington, and I must have some
more money."

Winnington laid down his cigarette, and looked at her in open-mouthed
amazement.

"Overdrawn!--but--we agreed--"

"I know. You gave me what you thought was ample. Well, I have spent it,
and there is nothing left to pay house bills, or servants with, or--or
anything."

Her pale defiance gave him at once a hint of the truth.

"I fear I must ask what it has been spent on," he said, after a pause.

"Certainly. I gave L500 of it in one cheque to Miss Marvell. Of course
you will guess how it has been spent."

Winnington took up his cigarette again, and smoked it thoughtfully. His
colour was, perhaps, a little higher than usual.

"I am sorry you have done that. It makes it rather awkward both for you
and for me. Perhaps I had better explain. The lawyers have been
settling the debts on your father's estate. That took a considerable
sum. A mortgage has been paid off, according to directions in Sir
Robert's will. And some of the death duties have been paid. For the
moment there is no money at all in the Trust account. I hope to have
replenished it by the New Year, when I understood you would want fresh
funds."

He sat on the arm of a chair and looked at her quietly.

Delia made no attempt at explanation or argument. After a short
silence, she said--

"What will you do?"

"I must, of course, lend you some of my own."

Delia flushed violently.

"That is surely absurd, Mr. Winnington! My father left a large sum!"

"As his trustee I can only repeat that until some further securities
are realised--which may take a little time--I have no money. But _you_
must have money--servants and tradesmen can't go unpaid. I will give
you, therefore, a cheque on my own bank--to replace that L500."

He drew his cheque book from his breast pocket. Delia was stormily
walking up and down. It struck him sharply, first that she was wholly
taken by surprise; and next that shock and emotion play finely with
such a face as hers. He had never seen her so splendid. His own pulses
ran.

"This--this is not at all what I want, Mr. Winnington! I want my own
money--my father's money! Why should I distress and inconvenience you?"

"I have tried to explain."

"Then let the lawyers find it somehow. Aren't they there to do such
things?"

"I assure you this is simplest. I happen"--he smiled--"to have enough
in the bank. Alice and I can manage quite well till January!"

The mention of Mrs. Matheson was quite intolerable in Delia's ears. She
turned upon him--

"I can't accept it! You oughtn't to ask it."

"I think you must accept it," he said with decision. "But the important
question with me is--the further question--am I not really bound to
restore this money to your father's estate?"

Delia stared at him bewildered.

"What _do_ you mean!"

"Your father made me his trustee in order that I might protect his
money--from uses of which he disapproved--and protect you, if I could,
from actions and companions he dreaded. This L500 has gone--where he
expressly wished it not to go. It seems to me that I am liable, and
that I ought to repay."

Delia gasped.

"I never heard anything so absurd!"

"I will consider it," he said gravely. "It is a case of conscience.
Meanwhile"--he began to write the cheque--"here is the money. Only, let
me warn you, dear Miss Delia,--if this were repeated, I might find
myself embarrassed. I am not a rich man!"

Silence. He finished writing the cheque, and handed it to her. Delia
pushed it away, and it dropped on the table between them.

"It is simply tyranny--monstrous tyranny--that I should be coerced like
this!" she said, choking. "You must feel it so yourself! Put yourself
in my place, Mr. Winnington."

"I think--I am first bound--to try and put myself in your father's
place," he said, with vivacity. "Where has that money gone, Miss
Delia?"

He rose, and in his turn began to pace the little room. "It has been
proved, in evidence, that a great deal of this outrage is _paid_
outrage--that it could not be carried on without money--however madly
and fanatically devoted, however personally disinterested the
organisers of it may be--such as Miss Marvell. You have, therefore,
taken your father's money to provide for this payment--payment for all
that his soul most abhorred. His will was his last painful effort to
prevent this being done. And yet--you have done it!"

He looked at her steadily.

"One may seem to do evil"--she panted--"but we have a faith, a cause,
which justifies it!"

He shook his head sadly,

Delia sat very still, tormented by a score of harassing thoughts. If
she could not provide money for the "Daughters" what particular use
could she be to Gertrude, or Gertrude's Committee? She could speak, and
walk in processions, and break up meetings. But so could hundreds of
others. It was her fortune--she knew it--that had made her so important
in Gertrude's eyes. It had always been assumed between them that a
little daring and a little adroitness would break through the meshes of
her father's will. And how difficult it was turning out to be!

At that moment, an idea occurred to her. Her face, responsive as a
wave to the wind, relaxed. Its sullenness disappeared in sudden
brightness--in something like triumph. She raised her eyes. Their
tremulous, half whimsical look set Winnington wondering what she could
be going to say next.

"You seem to have beaten me," she said, with a little nod--"or you
think you have."

"I have no thoughts that you mightn't know," was the quiet reply.

"You want me to promise not to do it again?"

"If you mean to keep it."

As he stood by the fire, looking down upon her rather sternly--she yet
perceived in his grey eyes, something of that expression she had seen
there at their first meeting--as though the heart of a good man tried
to speak to her. The same expression--and yet different; with something
added and interfused, which moved her strangely.

"Odd as it may seem, I will keep it!" she said. "Yet without giving up
any earlier purpose, or promise, whatever." Each word was emphasized.

His face changed.

"I won't worry _you_ in any such way again," she added hastily and
proudly.

Some other words were on her lips, but she checked them. She held out
her hand for the cheque, and the smile with which she accepted it,
after her preceding passion, puzzled him.

She locked up the cheque in a drawer of her writing-table. Winnington's
horse passed the window, and he rose to go. She accompanied him to the
hall door and waved a light farewell. Winnington's response was
ceremonious. A sure instinct told him to shew no further softness. His
dilemma was getting worse and worse, and Lady Tonbridge had been no use
to him whatever.




Chapter XII


One of the first days of the New year rose clear and frosty. When the
young housemaid who had temporarily replaced Weston as Delia's maid
drew back her curtains at half-past seven, Delia caught a vision of an
opaline sky with a sinking moon and fading stars. A strewing of snow
lay on the ground, and the bare black trees rose, vividly separate, on
the white stretches of grass. Her window looked to the north along the
bases of the low range of hills which shut in the valley and the
village. A patch of paler colour on the purple slope of the hills
marked the long front of Monk Lawrence.

As she sleepily roused herself, she saw her bed littered with dark
objects--two leather boxes of some size, and a number of miscellaneous
cases--and when the maid had left the room, she lay still, looking at
them. They were the signs and symbols of an enquiry she had lately been
conducting into her possessions, which seemed to her to have yielded
very satisfactory results. They represented in the main the contents of
a certain cupboard in the wall of her bedroom where Lady Blanchflower
had always kept her jewels, and where, in consequence, Weston had so
far locked away all that Delia possessed. Here were all her own girlish
ornaments--costly things which her father had given her at intervals
during the three or four years since her coming out; here were her
Mother's jewels, which Sir Robert had sent to his bankers after his
wife's death, and had never seen again during his lifetime; and here
were also a number of family jewels which had belonged to Delia's
grandmother, and had remained, after Lady Blanchflower's death, in the
custody of the family lawyers, till Delia, to whom they had been left
by will, had appeared to claim them.

Delia had always known that she possessed a quantity of valuable
things, and had hitherto felt but small interest in them. Gertrude's
influence, and her own idealism had bred in her contempt for gauds. It
was the worst of breeding to wear anything for its mere money value;
and nothing whatever should be worn that wasn't in itself beautiful.
Lady Blanchflower's taste had been, in Delia's eyes, abominable; and
her diamonds,--tiaras, pendants and the rest--had absolutely nothing to
recommend them but their sheer brute cost. After a few glances at them,
the girl had shut them up and forgotten them.

But they _were_ diamonds, and they must be worth some thousands.

It was this idea which had flashed upon her during her last talk with
Winnington, and she had been brooding over it, and pondering it ever
since. Winnington himself was away. He and his sister had been spending
Christmas with some cousins in the midlands. Meanwhile Delia recognised
that his relation to her had been somewhat strained. His letters to her
on various points of business had been more formal than usual; and
though he had sent her a pocket Keats for a Christmas present, it had
arrived accompanied merely by his "kind regards" and she had felt
unreasonably aggrieved, and much inclined to send it back. His
cheque meanwhile for L500 had gone into Delia's bank. No help for
it--considering all the Christmas bills which had been pouring in! But
she panted for the time when she could return it.

As for his threat of permanently refunding the money out of his own
pocket, she remembered it with soreness of spirit. Too bad!

Well, there they lay, on the counterpane all round her--the means of
checkmating her guardian. For while she was rummaging in the wall-safe,
the night before, suddenly the fire had gone down, and the room had
sunk to freezing point. Delia, brought up in warm climates, had jumped
shivering into bed, and there, heaped round with the contents of the
cupboard, had examined a few more cases, till sleep and cold
overpowered her.

In the grey morning light she opened some of the cases again. Vulgar
and ugly, if you like--but undeniably, absurdly worth money! Her dark
eyes caught the sparkle of the jewels running through her fingers.
These tasteless things--mercifully--were her own--her very own.
Winnington had nothing to say to them! She could wear them--or give
them--or sell them, as she pleased.

She was alternately exultant, and strangely full of a fluttering
anxiety. The thought of returning Winnington's cheque was sweet to her.
But her disputes with him had begun to cost her more than she had ever
imagined they could or would. And the particular way out, which, a few
weeks before, she had so impatiently desired--that he should resign the
guardianship, and leave her to battle with the Court of Chancery as
best she could--was no longer so attractive to her. To be cherished and
cared for by Mark Winnington--no woman yet, but had found it
delightful. Insensibly Delia had grown accustomed to it--to his comings
and goings, his business-ways, abrupt sometimes, even peremptory, but
informed always by a kindness, a selflessness that amazed her.
Everyone wanted his help or advice, and he must refuse now--as he had
never refused before--because his time and thoughts were so much taken
up with his ward's affairs. Delia knew that she was envied; and knew
also that the neighbours thought her an ungrateful, unmanageable
hoyden, totally unworthy of such devotion.

She sat up in bed, dreaming, her hands round her knees. No, she didn't
want Winnington to give her up! Especially since she had found this
easy way out. Why should there be any more friction between them at
all? All that _he_ gave her henceforward should be religiously spent on
the normal and necessary things. She would keep accounts if he liked,
like any good little girl, and shew them up. Let him do with the trust
fund exactly what he pleased. For a long time at any rate, she could be
independent of it. Why had she never thought of such a device before?

But how to realise the jewels? In all business affairs, Delia was the
merest child. She had been brought up in the midst of large
expenditure, of which she had been quite unconscious. All preoccupation
with money had seemed to her mean and pettifogging. Have it!--and
spend it on what you want. But wants must be governed by ideas--by
ethical standards. To waste money on personal luxury, on eating,
drinking, clothes, or any form of mere display, in such a world as
Gertrude Marvell had unveiled to her, seemed to Delia contemptible and
idiotic. One must have _some_ nice clothes--some beauty in one's
surroundings--and the means of living as one wished to live.
Otherwise, to fume and fret about money, to be coveting instead of
giving, buying and bargaining, instead of thinking--or debating--was
degrading. She loathed shopping. It was the drug which put women's
minds to sleep.

Who would help her? She pondered. She would tell no one till it was
done; not even Gertrude, whose cold, changed manner to her hurt the
girl's proud sense to think of.

"I must do it properly--I won't be cheated!"

The London lawyers? No. The local solicitor, Mr. Masham? No! Her vanity
was far too keenly conscious of their real opinion of her, through all
their politeness.

Lady Tonbridge? No! She was Mark Winnington's intimate friend--and a
constitutional Suffragist. At the notion of consulting her,--on the
means of providing funds for "militancy"--Delia sprang out of bed, and
went to her dressing, dissolved in laughter.

And presently--sobered again, and soft-eyed--she was stealing along the
passage to Weston's door for a word with the trained nurse who was now
in charge. Just a week now--to the critical day.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Is Miss Marvell, in? Ask if she will see Mr. Lathrop for a few
minutes?"

Paul Lathrop, left to himself, looked round Delia's drawing-room. It
set his teeth on edge. What pictures--what furniture! A certain
mellowness born of sheer time, no doubt--but with all its ugly
ingredients still repulsively visible. Why didn't the heiress burn
everything and begin again? Was all her money to be spent on burning
other people's property, when her own was so desperately in need of the
purging process--or on dreary meetings and unreadable newspapers?
Lathrop was already tired of these delights; his essentially Hedonist
temper was re-asserting itself. The "movement" had excited and
interested him for a time; had provided besides easy devices for
annoying stupid people. He had been eager to speak and write for it,
had persuaded himself that he really cared.

But now candour--and he was generally candid with himself--made him
confess that but for Delia Blanchflower he would already have cut his
connection with the whole thing. He thought with a mixture of irony and
discomfort of his "high-falutin" letter to her.

"And here I am--hanging round her"--he said to himself, as he strolled
about the room, peering through his eye-glass at its common vases, and
trivial knick-knacks--"just because Blaydes bothers me. I might as
well cry for the moon. But she's worth watching, by Jove. One gets copy
out of her, if nothing else! I vow I can't understand why my dithyrambs
move her so little--she's dithyrambic enough herself!"

The door opened. He quickly pulled himself together. Gertrude Marvell
came in, and as she gave him an absent greeting, he was vaguely struck
by some change in her aspect, as Delia had long been. She had always
seemed to him a cold half-human being, in all ordinary matters.
But now she was paler, thinner, more remote than ever. "Nerves
strained--probably sleepless--" he said to himself. "It's the pace
they will live at--it kills them all."

This kind of comment ran at the back of his brain, while he plunged
into the "business"--which was his pretence for calling. Gertrude, as a
District Organizer of the League of Revolt, had intrusted him with the
running of various meetings in small places, along the coast, for which
it humiliated him to remember that he had agreed to be paid. For at his
very first call upon them, Miss Marvell had divined his impecunious
state, and pounced upon him as an agent,--unknown, he thought, to Miss
Blanchflower. He came now to report what had been done, and to ask if
the meetings should be continued.

Gertrude Marvell shook her head.

"I have had some letters about your meetings. I doubt whether they have
been worth while."

Miss Marvell's manner was that of an employer to an employee. Lathrop's
vanity winced.

"May I know what was wrong with them?"

Gertrude Marvell considered. Her gesture, unconsciously judicial,
annoyed Lathrop still further.

"Too much argument, I hear,--and too little feeling. Our people wanted
more about the women in prison. And it was thought that you apologised
too much for the outrages."

The last word emerged quite simply, as the only fitting one.

Lathrop laughed,--rather angrily.

"You must be aware, Miss Marvell, that the public thinks they want
defence."

"Not from us!" she said, with energy. "No one speaking for us must ever
apologise for militant acts. It takes all the heart out of our people.
Justify them--glory in them--as much as you like."

There was a pause.

"Then you have no more work for me?" said Lathrop at last.

"We need not, I think, trouble you again. Your cheque will of course be
sent from head-quarters."

"That doesn't matter," said Lathrop, hastily.

The reflection crossed his mind that there is an insolence of women far
more odious than the insolence of men.

"After all they are our inferiors! It doesn't do to let them command
us," he thought, furiously.

He rose to take his leave.

"You are going up to London?"

"I am going. Miss Blanchflower stays behind, because her maid is ill."

He stood hesitating. Gertrude lifted her eyebrows as though he puzzled
her. She never had liked him, and by now all her instincts were hostile
to him. His clumsy figure, and slovenly dress offended her, and the
touch of something grandiose in his heavy brow, and reddish-gold hair,
seemed to her merely theatrical. Her information was that he had been
no use as a campaigner. Why on earth did he keep her waiting?

"I suppose you have heard some of the talk going about?" he said at
last, shooting out the words.

"What talk?"

"They're very anxious about Monk Lawrence--after your speech. And
there are absurd stories. Women have been seen--at night--and so on."

Gertrude laughed.

"The more panic the better--for us."

"Yes--so long as it stops there. But if anything happened to that
place, the whole neighbourhood would turn detective--myself included."

He looked at her steadily. She leant one thin hand on a table behind
her.

"No one of course would have a better chance than you. You are so
near."

Their eyes crossed. "By George!" he thought--"you're in it. I believe
to God you're in it."

And at that moment he felt that he hated the willowy, intangible
creature who had just treated him with contempt.

But as they coldly touched hands, the door opened again, and Delia
appeared.

"Oh I didn't mean to interrupt--" she said, retreating.

"Come in, come in!" said Gertrude. "We have finished our business--and
Mr. Lathrop I am sure will excuse me--I must get some letters off by
post--"

And with the curtest of bows she disappeared.

"I have brought you a book, Miss Blanchflower," Lathrop nervously
began, diving into a large and sagging pocket. "You said you wanted to
see Madame de Noailles' second volume."

He brought out "Les Eblouissements," and laid it on the table beside
her. Delia thanked him, and then, all in a moment, as she stood beside
him, a thought struck her. She turned her great eyes full upon him, and
he saw the colour rushing into her cheeks.

"Mr. Lathrop!"

"Yes."

"Mr. Lathrop--I--I dreadfully want some practical advice. And I don't
know whom to ask."

The soreness of his wounded self-love vanished in a moment.

"What can I do for you?" he asked eagerly. And at once his own
personality seemed to expand, to throw off the shadow of something
ignoble it had worn in Gertrude's presence. For Delia, looking at him,
was attracted by him. The shabby clothes made no impression upon her,
but the blue eyes did. And the childishness which still survived in
her, beneath all her intellectualisms, came impulsively to the surface.

"Mr. Lathrop, do you--do you know anything about jewelry?"

"Jewelry? Nothing!--except that I have dabbled in pretty things of that
sort as I have dabbled in most things. I once did some designing for a
man who set up--in Bond Street--to imitate Lalique. Why do you ask? I
suppose you have heaps of jewels?"

"Too many. I want to sell some jewels."

"Sell?--But--" he looked at her in astonishment.

She reddened still more deeply; but spoke with a frank charm.

"You thought I was rich? Well, of course I ought to be. My father was
rich. But at present I have nothing of my own--nothing! It is all in
trust--and I can't get at it. But I _must_ have some money! Wait here a
moment!"

She ran out of the room. When she came back she was carrying a
miscellaneous armful of jewellers' cases. She threw them down on the
sofa.

"They are all hideous--but I am sure they're worth a great deal of
money."

And she opened them with hasty fingers before his astonished eyes. In
his restless existence he had accumulated various odd veins of
knowledge, and he knew something of the jewelry trade of London. He had
not only drawn designs, he had speculated--unluckily--in "De Beers."
For a short time Diamonds had been an obsession with him, then Burmah
rubies. He had made money out of neither; it was not in his horoscope
to make money out of anything. However there was the result--a certain
amount of desultory information.

He took up one piece after another, presently drawing a magnifying
glass out of his pocket to examine them the better.

"Well, if you want money--" he said at last, putting down a _riviere_
which had belonged to Delia's mother--"That alone will give you some
thousands!"

Delia's eyes danced with satisfaction--then darkened.

"That was Mamma's. Papa bought it at Constantinople--from an old
Turkish Governor--who had robbed a province--spent the loot in Paris
on his wives--and then had to disgorge half his fortune--to the
Sultan--who got wind of it. Papa bought it at a great bargain, and was
awfully proud of it. But after Mamma died, he sent it to the Bank, and
never thought of it again. I couldn't wear it, of course--I was too
young."

"How much money do you want?"

"Oh, a few thousands," said Delia, vaguely. "Five hundred pounds, first
of all."

"And who will sell them for you?"

She frowned in perplexity.

"I--I don't know."

"You don't wish to ask Mr. Winnington?"

"Certainly not! They have nothing to do with him. They are my own
personal property," she added proudly.

"Still he might object--Ought you not to ask him?"

"I shall not tell him!" She straightened her shoulders. "He has far too
much bother on my account already."

"Of course, if I could do anything for you--I should be delighted. But
I don't know why you should trust me. You don't know anything about
me!" He laughed uncomfortably.

Delia laughed too--in some confusion. It seemed to him she suddenly
realised she had done something unusual.

"It is very kind of you to suggest it--" she said, hesitating.

"Not at all. It would amuse me. I have some threads I can pick up
still--in Bond Street. Let me advise you to concentrate on that
_riviere_. If you really feel inclined to trust me, I will take it to a
man I know; he will show it to--" he named a famous firm. "In a few
days--well, give me a week--and I undertake to bring you proposals. If
you accept them, I will collect the money for you at once--or I will
return you the necklace, if you don't."

Delia clasped her hands.

"A week! You think it might all be finished in a week?"

"Certainly--thereabouts. These things--" he touched the diamonds--"are
practically money."

Delia sat ruminating, with a bright excited face. Then a serious
expression returned. She looked up.

"Mr. Lathrop, this ought to be a matter of business between us--if you
do me so great a service?"

"You mean I ought to take a commission?" he said, calmly. "I shall do
nothing of the kind."

"It is more than I ought to accept!" she cried. "Let your
kindness--include what I wish."

He shook his fair hair impatiently.

"Why should you take away all my pleasure in the little adventure?"

She looked embarrassed. He went on--

"Besides we are comrades--we have stood together in the fight. I expect
this is for the Cause! If so I ought to be angry that you even
suggested it!"

"Don't be angry!" she said gravely. "I meant nothing unkind. Well, I
thank you very much--and there are the diamonds."

She gave him the case, with a quiet deliberate movement, as if to
emphasize her trust in him. The simplicity with which it was done
pricked him uncomfortably. "I'm no thief!--" he thought angrily. "She's
safe enough with me. All the same, if she knew--she wouldn't speak to
me--she wouldn't admit me into her house. She doesn't know--and I am a
cad!"

"You can't the least understand what it means to be allowed to do you a
service!" he said, with emotion.

But the tone evidently displeased her. She once more formally thanked
him; then sprang up and began to put the cases on the sofa together. As
she did so, steps on the gravel outside were heard through the low
casement window. Delia turned with a start, and saw Mark Winnington
approaching the front door.

"Don't say anything _please_!" she said urgently. "This has nothing to
do with my guardian."

And opening the door of a lacquer cabinet, she hurriedly packed the
jewelry inside with all the speed she could. Her flushed cheek shewed
her humiliated by the action.

       *       *       *       *       *

Winnington stood in the doorway, silent and waiting. After a hasty
greeting to the new-comer, Delia was nervously bidding Lathrop
good-bye.

"In a week!" he said, under his breath, as she gave him her hand.

"A week!" she repeated, evidently impatient for him to be gone. He
exchanged a curt bow with Winnington, and the door closed on him.

There was a short silence. Winnington remained standing, hat in hand.
He was in riding dress--a commanding figure, his lean face reddened,
and the waves of his grizzled hair slightly loosened, by a buffeting
wind. Delia, stealing a glance at him, divined a coming remonstrance,
and awaited it with a strange mixture of fear and pleasure. They had
not met for ten days; and she stammered out some New Year's wishes. She
hoped that he and Mrs. Matheson had enjoyed their visit.

But without any reply to her politeness, he said abruptly--

"Were you arranging some business with Mr. Lathrop?"

She supposed he was thinking of the militant Campaign.

"Yes," she said, eagerly. "Yes, I was arranging some business."

Winnington's eyes examined her.

"Miss Delia, what do you know about that man?--except that
story--which I understand Miss Marvell told you."

"Nothing--nothing at all! Except--except that he speaks at our
meetings, and generally gets us into hot water. He has a lot of
interesting books--and drawings--in his cottage; and he has lent me
Madame de Noailles' poems. Won't you sit down? I hope you and Mrs.
Matheson have had a good time? We have been to church--at least I
have--and given away lots of coals and plum-puddings--at least I have.
Gertrude thought me a fool. We have had the choir up to sing carols in
the servants' hall, and given them a sovereign--at least I did. And I
don't want any more Christmas--for a long, long, time!"

And with that, she dropped into a chair opposite Winnington, who sat
now twirling his hat and studying the ground.

"I agree with you," he said drily when she paused. "I felt when I was
away that I had better be here. And I feel it now doubly."

"Because?"

"Because--if my absence has led to your developing any further
acquaintance with the gentleman who has just left the room, when I
might have prevented it, I regret it deeply."

Delia's cheeks had gone crimson again.

"You knew perfectly well Mr. Winnington, that we had made acquaintance
with Mr. Lathrop! We never concealed it!"

"I knew, of course, that you were both members of the League, and that
you had spoken at meetings together. I regretted it--exceedingly--and I
asked you--in vain--to put an end to it. But when I find him paying a
morning call here--and lending you books--that is a very different
matter!"

Delia broke out--

"You really are _too_ Early-Victorian, Mr. Winnington!--and I can't
help being rude. Do you suppose you can ever turn me into a
bread-and-butter miss? I have looked after myself for years--you don't
understand!" She faced him indignantly.

Winnington laughed.

"All right--so long as the Early Victorians may have their say. And my
say about Mr. Lathrop is--again that he is not a fit companion for
you, or any young girl,--that he is a man of blemished character--both
in morals and business. Ask anybody in this neighbourhood!"

He had spoken with firm emphasis, his eyes sparkling.

"Everybody in the neighbourhood believes anything bad, about him--and
us!" cried Delia.

"Don't, for Heaven's sake, couple yourself, and the man--together!"
said Winnington, flushing with anger. "I know nothing about him, when
you first arrived here. Mr. Lathrop didn't matter twopence to me
before. Now he does matter."

"Why?" Delia's eyes were held to his, fascinated.

"Simply because I care--I care a great deal--what happens to you," he
said quietly, after a pause. "Naturally, I must care."

Delia looked away, and began twisting her black sash into knots.

"Bankruptcy--is not exactly a crime."

"Oh, so you knew that farther fact about him? But of course--it is the
rest that matters. Since we spoke of this before, I have seen the judge
who tried the case in which this man figured. I hate speaking of it in
your presence, but you force me. He told me it was one of the worst he
had ever known--a case for which there was no defence or excuse
whatever."

"Why must I believe it?" cried Delia impetuously. "It's a man's
judgment! The woman may have been--Gertrude says she was--horribly
unhappy and ill-treated. Yet nothing could be proved--enough to free
her. Wait till we have women judges--and women lawyers--then you'll
see!"

He laughed indignantly--though not at all inclined to laugh. And what
seemed to him her stubborn perversity drove him to despair.

"In this case, if there had been a woman judge, I am inclined to think
it would have been a good deal worse for the people concerned. At least
I hope so. Don't try to make me believe, Miss Delia, that women are
going to forgive treachery and wickedness more easily than men!"

"Oh, 'treachery!'--" she murmured, protesting. His look both
intimidated and drew her. Winnington came nearer to her, and suddenly
he laid his hand on both of hers. Looking up she was conscious of a
look that was half raillery, half tenderness.

"My dear child!--I must call you that--though you are so clever--and
so--so determined to have your own way. Look here! I'm going to plead
my rights. I've done a good deal for you the last three months--perhaps
you hardly know all that has been done. I've been your watch-dog--put
it at that. Well, now give the watch-dog, give the Early-Victorian, his
bone! Promise me that you will have no more dealings with Mr. Lathrop.
Send him back his books--and say 'Not at Home!'"

She was really distressed.

"I can't, Mr. Winnington!--I'm so sorry!--but I can't."

"Why can't you?" He still held her.

A score of thoughts flew hither and thither in her brain. She had asked
a great favour of Lathrop--she had actually put the jewels into his
hands! How could she recall her action? And when he had done her such a
service, if he succeeded in doing it--how was she to turn round on him,
and cut him the very next moment?

Nor could she make up her mind to confess to Winnington what she had
done. She was bent on her scheme. If she disclosed it _now_ everything
might be upset.

"I really _can't!_" she repeated, gravely, releasing her hands.

Winnington rose, and began to pace the drawing room. Delia watched
him--quivering--an exquisite vision herself, in the half lights of the
room.

When he paused at last to speak, she saw a new expression in his eyes.

"I shall have to think this over, Miss Blanchflower--perhaps to
reconsider my whole position."

She was startled, but she kept her composure.

"You mean--you may have--after all--to give me up?"

He forced a very chilly smile.

"You remember--you asked me to give you up. Now if it were only one
subject--however important--on which we disagreed, I might still do my
best, though the responsibility of all you make me connive at is
certainly heavy. But if you are entirely to set at defiance not only my
advice and wishes as to this illegal society to which you belong, and
as to the violent action into which I understand you may be led when
you go to town, but also in such a matter as we have just been
discussing--then indeed, I see no place for me. I must think it over. A
guardian appointed by the Court might be more effective--might
influence you more."

"I told you I was a handful," said Delia, trying to laugh. But her
voice sounded hollow in her own ears.

He offered no reply--merely repeating "I must think it over!"--and
resolutely changing the subject, he made a little perfunctory
conversation on a few matters of business--and was gone.

After his departure, Delia sat motionless for half an hour at least,
staring at the fire. Then suddenly she sprang up, went to the
writing-table, and sat down to write--

"Dear Mr. Mark--Don't give me up! You don't know. Trust me a little! I
am not such a fiend as you think. I am grateful--I am indeed. I wish to
goodness I could show it. Perhaps I shall some day. I hadn't time to
tell you about poor Weston--who's to have an operation--and that I'm
not going to town with Gertrude--not for some weeks at any rate. I
shall be alone here, looking after Weston. So I can't disgrace or
worry you for a good while any way. And you needn't fret about Mr.
Lathrop--you needn't _really_! I can't explain--not just yet--but it's
all right. Mayn't I come and help with some of your cripple children?
or the school? or something? If Susy Amberly can do it, I suppose I
can--I'd like to. May I sign myself--though I _am_ a handful-"

     "Yours affectionately,
     DELIA BLANCHFLOWER."


She sat staring at the paper, trembling under a stress of feeling she
could not understand--the large tears in her eyes.




Chapter XIII


"Pack the papers as quickly as you can--I am going to town this
afternoon. Whatever can't be packed before then, you can bring up to me
tomorrow."

A tired girl lifted her head from the packing-case before which she was
kneeling.

"I'll do my best, Miss Marvell--But I'm afraid it will be impossible to
finish to-day." And she looked wearily round the room laden with
papers--letters, pamphlets, press-cuttings--on every available table
and shelf.

Gertrude gave a rather curt assent. Her reason told her the thing was
impossible; but her will chafed against the delay, which her secretary
threatened, of even a few hours in the resumption of her work in
London, and the re-housing of all its tools and materials. She was a
hard mistress; though no harder on her subordinates than she was on
herself.

She began to turn her own hand to the packing, and missing a book she
had left in the drawing-room the night before, she went to fetch it. It
was again a morning of frosty sunshine, and the garden outside lay in
dazzling light. The drawing-room windows were open, and through one of
them Gertrude perceived Delia moving about outside on the whitened
grass. She was looking for the earliest snowdrops which were just
beginning to bulge from the green stems, pushing up through the dead
leaves under the beech trees. She wore a blue soft shawl round her head
and shoulders, and she was singing to herself. As she raised herself
from the ground, and paused a moment looking towards the house, but
evidently quite unconscious of any spectators, Gertrude could not take
her eyes from the vision she made. If radiant beauty, if grace, and
flawless youth can "lift a mortal to the skies," Delia stood like a
young goddess under the winter sun. But there was much more than beauty
in her face. There was a fluttering and dreamy joy which belongs only
to the children of earth. The low singing came unconsciously from her
lips, as though it were the natural expression of the heart within.
Gertrude caught the old lilting tune:--

     "For oh, Greensleaves was all my joy--
      For oh, Greensleaves was my heart's delight--
      And who but my lady Greensleaves--"


The woman observing her did so with a strange mixture of softness and
repulsion. If Gertrude Marvell loved anybody, she loved Delia--the
captive of her own bow and spear, and until now the most loyal, the
most single-minded of disciples. But as she saw Delia walk away to a
further reach of the garden, the mind of the elder woman bitterly
accused the younger. Delia's refusal to join the militant forces in
London, at this most critical and desperate time, on what seemed to
Gertrude the trumpery excuse of Weston's illness, had made an indelible
impression on a fanatical temper. If she had cared--if she had _really_
cared--she could not have done any such thing. "What have I been
wasting my time here for?" she asked herself; and reviewing the motives
which had induced her to accept Delia's proposal that they should live
together, she accused herself sharply of a contemptible lack of
judgment and foresight.

For no mere affection for Delia Blanchflower would have influenced her,
at the time when Delia, writing to tell her of the approaching death of
Sir Robert, implored her to come and share her life. "You know I shall
have money, dearest Gertrude,"--wrote Delia--"Come and help me to spend
it--for the Cause." And for the sake of the Cause,--which was then
sorely in want of money--and only for its sake, Gertrude had consented.
She was at that time rapidly becoming one of the leading spirits in the
London office of the "Daughters," so that to bury herself, even for a
time, in a country village, some eighty miles from London, was a
sacrifice. But to secure what seemed likely to be some thousands a
year from a willing giver, such a temporary and modified exile had
appeared to her worth while; and she had at once planned a campaign of
"militant" meetings in the towns along the South Coast, by way of
keeping in touch with "active work."

But, in the first place, the extraordinary terms of Sir Robert's will
had proved far more baffling than she and Delia had ever been willing
to believe. And, in the next place, the personality of Mark Winnington
had almost immediately presented itself to Gertrude as something she
had never reckoned with. A blustering and tyrannical guardian would
have been comparatively easy to fight. Winnington was formidable, not
because he was hostile, resolutely hostile, to their whole propaganda
of violence; that might only have spurred a strong-willed girl to
more passionate extremes. He was dangerous,--in spite of his forty
years--because he was delightful; because, in his leisurely,
old-fashioned way, he was so loveable, so handsome, so inevitably
attractive, Gertrude, looking back, realised that she had soon
perceived--vaguely at least--what might happen, what had now--as she
dismally guessed--actually happened.

The young, impressionable creature, brought into close contact with
this charming fellow--this agreeable reactionary--had fallen in love!
That was all. But it was more than enough. Delia might be still
unconscious of it herself. But this new shrinking from the most
characteristic feature of the violent policy--this new softness and
fluidity in a personality that when they first reached Maumsey had
begun already to stiffen in the fierce mould of militancy--to what
could any observer with eyes in their head attribute them but the
influence of Mark Winnington--the daily unseen presence of other
judgments and other ideals embodied in a man to whom the girl's
feelings had capitulated?

"If I could have kept her to myself for another year, he could have
done nothing. But he has intervened before her opinions were anything
more than the echoes of mine;--and for the future I shall have less and
less chance against him. What shall we ever get out of her as a married
woman? What would Mark Winnington--to whom she will give herself, body
and soul,--allow us to get out of her? Better break with her now, and
disentangle my own life!"

With such thoughts, a pale and brooding woman pursued the now distant
figure of Delia. At the same time Gertrude Marvell had no intention
whatever of provoking a premature breach which might deprive either the
Cause or herself of any help they might still obtain from Delia in the
desperate fight immediately ahead. She, personally, would have
infinitely preferred freedom and a garret to Delia's flat, and any kind
of dependence on Delia's money. "I was not born to be a parasite!" she
angrily thought. But she had no right to prefer them. All that could be
extracted from Delia should be extracted. She was now no more to
Gertrude than a pawn in the game. Let her be used--if she could not be
trusted!

But if this had fallen differently, if she had remained the true
sister-in-arms, given wholly to the joy of the fight, Gertrude's stern
soul would have clasped her to itself, just as passionately as it now
dismissed her.

"No matter!" The hard brown eyes looked steadily into the future.
"That's done with. I am alone--I shall be alone. What does it
signify?--a little sooner or later?"

The vagueness of the words matched the vagueness of certain haunting
premonitions in the background of the mind. Her own future always
shaped itself in tragic terms. It was impossible--she knew it--that it
should bring her to any kind of happiness. It was no less impossible
that she should pause and submit. That active defiance of the existing
order, on which she had entered, possessed her, gripped her,
irrevocably. She was like the launched stone which describes its
appointed curve--till it drops.

As for any interference from the side of her own personal ties and
affections,--she had none.

In her pocket she carried a letter she had received that morning, from
her mother. It was plaintive, as usual.

"Winnie's second child arrived last week. It was an awful confinement.
The first doctor had to get another, and they only just pulled her
through. The child's a misery. It would be much better if it had died.
I can't think what she'll do. Her husband's a wretched creature--just
manages to keep in work--but he neglects her shamefully--and if there
ever is anything to spend, _he_ spends it--on his own amusement. She
cried the other day, when we were talking of you. She thinks you're
living with a rich lady, and have everything you want--and she and
her children are often half-starved. 'She might forgive me now, I do
think--' she'll say sometimes--'And as for Henry, if I did take him
away from her, she may thank her stars she didn't marry him. She'd have
killed him by now. She never could stand men like Henry. Only, when he
was a young fellow, he took her in--her first, and then me. It was a
bad job we ever saw him.'

"Why are you so set against us, Gertrude?--your own flesh and blood.
I'm sure if I ever was unkind to you I'm sorry for it. You used to say
I favoured Albert at your expense--Well, he's as good as dead to me
now, and I've got no good out of all the spoiling I gave him. I sit at
home by myself, and I'm a pretty miserable woman. I read everything I
can in the papers about what you're doing--you, who were my only
child, seven years before Albert came. It doesn't matter to you what I
think--at least, it oughtn't. I'm an old woman, and whatever I thought
I'd never quarrel with you. But it would matter to me a good deal, if
you'd sometimes come in, and sit by the fire a bit, and chat. It's
three years since I've even seen you. Winnie says you've forgotten
us--you only care about the vote. But I don't believe it. Other people
may think the vote can make up for everything--but not you. You're too
clever. Hoping to see you,"

     "Your lonely old mother,
          JANET MARVELL."


To that letter, Gertrude had already written her reply. Sometime--in
the summer, perhaps, she had said to her mother. And she had added the
mental proviso--"if I am alive." For the matters in which she was
engaged were no child's play, and the excitements of prison and
hunger-striking might tell even on the strongest physique.

No--her family were nothing to her. Her mother's appeal, though it
should not be altogether ignored, was an insincere one. She had always
stood by the men of the family; and for the men of the family,
Gertrude, its eldest daughter, felt nothing but loathing and contempt.
Her father, a local government official in a western town, a
small-minded domestic tyrant, ruined by long years of whisky-nipping
between meals; her only brother, profligate and spendthrift, of whose
present modes of life the less said the better; her brother-in-law,
Henry Lewison, the man whom, in her callow, ignorant youth, she was
once to have married, before her younger sister supplanted her--a
canting hypocrite, who would spend his day in devising petty torments
for his wife, and begin and end it with family prayers:--these types,
in a brooding and self-centred mind, had gradually come to stand for
the whole male race.

Nor had her lonely struggle for a livelihood, after she had fled from
home, done anything to loosen the hold of these images upon her. She
looked back upon a dismal type-writing office, run by a grasping
employer; a struggle for health, warring with the struggle for bread;
sick headache, sleeplessness, anaemia, yet always within, the same iron
will driving on the weary body; and always the same grim perception on
the dark horizon of an outer gulf into which some women fell, with no
hope of resurrection. She burnt again with the old bitter sense of
injustice, on the economic side; remembering fiercely her own stinted
earnings, and the higher wages and larger opportunities of men, whom,
intellectually, she despised. Remembering too the development of that
new and ugly temper in men--men hard-pressed themselves--who must now
see in women no longer playthings or sweethearts, but rivals and
supplanters.

So that gradually, year by year, there had strengthened in her that
strange, modern thing, a woman's hatred of men--the normal instincts of
sex distorted and embittered. And when suddenly, owing to the slow
working of many causes, economic and moral, a section of the Woman
Suffrage movement had broken into flame and violence, she had flung her
very soul to it as fuel, with the passion of one to whom life at last
"gives room." In that outbreak were gathered up for her all the
rancours, and all the ideals of life, all its hopes and all its
despairs. Not much hope!--and few ideals. Her passion for the Cause
had been a grim force, hardly mixed with illusion; but it had held and
shaped her.

Meanwhile among women she has found a few kindred souls. One of them, a
fellow-student, came into money, died, and left Gertrude Marvell a
thousand pounds. On that sum she had educated herself, had taken her
degree at a West Country University, had moved to London and begun work
as a teacher and journalist. Then again, a break down in health,
followed by a casual acquaintance with Lady Tonbridge--Sir Robert's
offer--its acceptance--Delia!

How much had opened to her with Delia! _Pleasure_, for the first time;
the sheer pleasure of travel, society, tropical beauty; the strangeness
also of finding herself adored, of feeling that young loveliness, that
young intelligence, all yielding softness in her own strong hands--

Well, that was done;--practically done. She cheated herself with no
vain hopes. The process which had begun in Delia would go forward. One
more defeat to admit and forget. One more disaster to turn one's back
upon.

And no disabling lamentations! Her eyes cleared, her mouth stiffened.
She went quietly back to her packing.

"Gertrude! What _are_ you doing?" The voice was Delia's. She stood on
the threshold of Gertrude's den, looking with amazement, at the
littered room and the packing-cases.

"I find I must go up at once--They want help at the office." Gertrude,
who was writing a letter, delivered the information over her shoulder.

"But the flat won't be ready!"

"Never mind. I can go to a hotel for a few days."

A cloud dropped over the radiance of Delia's face, fresh from the sun
and frost outside.

"I can't bear your going alone!"

"Oh, you'll come later," said Gertrude indifferently.

"Did you--did you--have such urgent letters this morning?"

"Well--you know things _are_ urgent! But then, you see, you have made
up your mind to stay with Weston!"

A slight mocking look accompanied the words.

"Yes--I must stay with Weston," said Delia, slowly, and then perceiving
that the typist showed no signs of leaving them together, and that
confidential talk was therefore impossible, she reluctantly went away.

Weston that morning was in much pain, and Delia sat beside her,
learning by some new and developing instinct how to soothe her. The
huntress of the Tyrolese woods had few caressing ways, and pain had
always been horrible to her; a thing to be shunned, even by the
spectator, lest it should weaken the wild natural energies. But Weston
was very dear to her, and the maid's suffering stirred deep slumbering
powers in the girl's nature. She watched the trained Nurse at her work,
and copied her anxiously. And all the time she was thinking, thinking,
now of Gertrude, now of her letter to Winnington. Gertrude was vexed
with her, thought her a poor creature--that was plain. "But in a
fortnight, I'll go to her,--and they'll see!--" thought the girl's
wrestling mind. "And before that, I shall send her money. I can't help
what she thinks. I'm not false!--I'm not giving in! But I must have
this fortnight,--just this fortnight;--for Weston's sake, and--"

For her proud sincerity would not allow her to pretend to herself. What
had happened to her? She felt the strangest lightness--as though some
long restraint had broken down; a wonderful intermittent happiness,
sweeping on her without reason, and setting the breath fluttering. It
made her think of what an old Welsh nurse of her childhood had once
told her of "conversion," in a Welsh revival, and its marvellous
effects; how men and women walked on air, and the iron bands of life
and custom dropped away.

Then she rose impatiently, despising herself, and went downstairs again
to try and help Gertrude. But the packing was done, the pony-cart was
ordered, and in an hour more, Gertrude was gone. Delia was left
standing on the threshold of the front door, listening to the sound of
the receding wheels. They had parted in perfect friendliness, Gertrude
with civil wishes for Weston's complete recovery, Delia with eager
promises--"I shall soon come--_very_ soon!"--promises of which, as she
now remembered, Gertrude had taken but little notice.

But as she went back into the house, the girl had a queer feeling of
catastrophe, of radical change. She passed the old gun-room, and looked
in. All its brown paper bundles, its stacks of leaflets, its books of
reference were gone; only a litter of torn papers remained here and
there, to shew what its uses had been. And suddenly, a swell of
something like exultation, a wild sense of deliverance, rushed upon
her, driving out depression. She went back to the drawing-room, with
little dancing steps, singing under her breath. The flowers wanted
freshening. She went out to the greenhouse, and brought in some early
hyacinths and violets till the room was fragrant. Some of them she took
up to Weston, chatting to the patient and her nurse as she arranged
them, with such sweetness, such smiles, such an abandonment of
kindness, that both looked after her amazed, when, again, she vanished.
What had become of the imperious absent-minded young woman of ordinary
days?

Delia lunched alone. And after lunch she grew restless.

He must have received her letter at breakfast-time. Probably he had
some tiresome meetings in the morning, but soon--soon--

She tried to settle to some reading. How long it was since she had read
anything for the joy of it!--anything that in some shape or other was
not the mere pemmican of the Suffrage Movement; dusty arguments for, or
exasperating arguments against. She plunged into poetry--a
miscellaneous volume of modern verse--and the new world of feeling
in which her mind had begun to move, grew rich, and deep, and
many-coloured about her.

Surely--a sound at the gate! She sat up, crimson. Well?--she was going
to make friends with her guardian--to bury the hatchet--for a whole
fortnight at least. Only that. Nothing more--nothing--nothing!

Steps approached. She hastily unearthed a neglected work-basket, and a
very ancient piece of half-done embroidery. Was there a thimble
anywhere--or needles! Yes!--by good luck. Heavens!--what shamming! She
bent over the dingy bit of silk, her cheeks dimpling with laughter.

Their first greetings were done, and Winnington was sitting by
her--astride a chair, his arms lying along the top of it, his eyes
looking down upon her, as she made random stitches in what looked like
a futurist design.

"Do you know that you wrote me a very, _very_ nice letter?" and as he
spoke, she heard in his voice that tone--that lost tone, which she had
heard in it at their very first interview, before she had chilled and
flouted him, and made his life a burden to him. Her pulses leapt; but
she did not look up.

"I wonder whether--you quite deserved it? You were angry with me--for
nothing!"

"I am afraid I can't agree!" The voice now was a little dry, and a pair
of very keen grey eyes examined her partially hidden face.

She pushed her work away and looked up.

"You ought!" she said vehemently. "You accused me--practically--of
flirting with Mr. Lathrop. And I was doing nothing of the kind!"

He laughed.

"I never imagined that you were--or could be--flirting with Mr.
Lathrop."

"Then why did you threaten to give me up if I went on seeing him?"

He hesitated--but said at last--gravely--

"Because I could not take the responsibility."

"How would it help me--to give me up? According to you--" she breathed
fast--"I should only--go to perdition--the quicker!" Her eyes still
laughed, but behind the laughter there was a rush of feeling which
communicated itself to him.

"May I suggest that it is not necessary to go to perdition--at
all--fast or slow?"

She shook her head. Silence followed; which Winnington broke.

"You said you would like to come and see some of the village
people--your own people--and the school? Was that serious?"

"Certainly!" She raised an indignant countenance. "I suppose you
think--like everybody--that because I want the vote, I can't care
about anything else?"

"You'll admit it has a way of driving everything else out," he said,
mildly. "Have you ever been into the village--for a month?--for two
months? The things you wanted have been done. But you haven't been to
see." She sprang to her feet.

"Shall I come now?"

"If it suits you. I've saved the afternoon."

She ran out of the room to put on her things, upsetting as she did so,
the work-box with which she had been masquerading, and quite
unconscious of it. Winnington, smiling to himself, stooped to pick up
the reels and skeins of silk. One, a skein of pink silk with which she
had been working, he held in his hand a moment, and, suddenly, put in
his pocket. After which he drifted absently to the hearthrug, and stood
waiting for her, hat in hand. He was thinking of that moment in the
wintry dawn when he had read her letter. The shock of emotion returned
upon him. But what was he to do? What was really in her mind?--or, for
the matter of that, in his own?

She re-appeared, radiant in a moleskin cap and furs, and then they both
awkwardly remembered--he, that he had made no inquiry about Weston, and
she, that she had said nothing of Gertrude Marvell's hurried departure.

"Your poor maid? Tell me about her. Oh, but she'll do well. We'll take
care of her. France is an awfully good doctor."

Her eyes thanked him. She gave him a brief account of Weston's state;
then looked away.

"Do you know--that I'm quite alone? Gertrude went up to town this
morning?"

Winnington gave a low whistle of astonishment.

"She had to--" said Delia, hurriedly. "It was the office--they couldn't
do without her."

"I thought she had undertaken to be your chaperon?"

The girl coloured.

"Well yes--but of course--the other claim came first."

"You don't expect me to admit that," said Winnington, with energy.
"Miss Marvell has left you alone?--_alone_?--at a moment's notice--with
your maid desperately ill--and without a word to me, or anybody?" His
eyes sparkled.

"Don't let's quarrel!" cried Delia, as she stood opposite to him,
putting on her gloves. "_Don't_! Not to-day--not this afternoon! And
we're sure to quarrel if we talk about Gertrude."

His indignation broke up in laughter.

"Very well. We won't mention her. Well, but look here--" he
pondered--"You _must_ have somebody. I would propose that Alice
should come and keep you company, but I left her in bed with what
looks like the flu. Ah!--I have it. But--am I really to advise? You
are twenty-one, remember,--nearly twenty-two!"

The tender sarcasm in his voice brought a flood of colour to her
cheeks.

"Go on!" she said, and stood quivering.

"Would you consider asking Lady Tonbridge to come and stay with you?
Nora is away on a visit."

Delia moved quietly to the writing-table, pulled off her gloves, sat
down to write a note. He watched her, standing behind her; his strained
yet happy look resting on the beautiful dark head.

She rose, and held out the note, addressed to Lady Tonbridge. He took
the note, and the hand together. The temptation was irresistible. He
raised the hand and kissed it. Both were naturally reminded of the only
previous occasion on which he had done such a thing; and as he dropped
his hold, Delia saw the ugly scar which would always mark his left
wrist.

"Thank you!"--he said warmly--"That'll be an immense relief to my
mind."

"You mustn't think she'll convert me," said Delia, quickly.

"Why, she's a Suffragist!"

Delia shrugged her shoulders. "_Pour rire_!"

"Let's leave the horrid subject alone--shall we?"

Delia assented; and they set out, just as the winter sun of a bright
and brilliant afternoon was beginning to drop towards its setting.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Delia afterwards looked back on those two hours in Mark
Winnington's company, she remembered them as a time enskied and
glorified. First, the mere pleasure of the senses--the orange glow of
the January evening, the pleasant crackling of the frosty ground, the
exhilaration of exercise, and of the keen pungent air; then the beauty
of the village and of the village lanes in the dusk, of the blue smoke
drifting along the hill, of the dim reds and whites of the old houses,
and the occasional gleams of fire and lamp through the small-paned
windows; the gaiety of the children racing home from school, the
dignity of the old labourers, the seemliness of the young. It was good
to be alive--in England--breathing English air. It was good to be young
and strong-limbed, with all one's life before one.

And next--and greater--there was the pleasure of Winnington beside her,
of his changed manner, of their new comradeship. She felt even a
curious joy in the difference of age between them. Now that by some
queer change, she had ceased to stand on her dignity with him, to hold
him arrogantly at arm's length, there emerged in her a childish
confidence and sweetness, enchanting to the man on whom it played. "May
I?--" "Do you think I might?--" she would say, gently, throwing out
some suggestion or other, as they went in and out of the cottages, and
the humbleness in her dark eyes, as though a queen stooped, began to
turn his head.

And how beautiful this common human life seemed that evening--after all
the fierce imaginings in which she had lived so long! In the great
towns beyond the hills, women were still starved and sweated,--still
enslaved and degraded. Man no doubt was still the stupid and vicious
tyrant, the Man-Beast that Gertrude Marvell believed him. But here in
this large English village, how the old primal relations stood
out!--sorrow-laden and sin-stained often, yet how touching, how worthy,
in the main, of reverence and tenderness! As they went in and out of
the cottages of her father's estate, the cottages where Winnington was
at home, and she a stranger, all that "other side" of any great
argument began to speak to her--without words. The world of politics
and its machinery, how far away!--instead, the world of human need, and
love, and suffering unveiled itself this winter evening to Delia's
soul, and spoke to her in a new language. And always it was a language
of sex, as between wives and husbands, mothers and sons, sisters and
brothers. No isolation of one sex or the other. No possibility of
thinking of them apart, as foes and rivals, with jarring rights and
claims. These old couples tending each other, clinging together, after
their children had left them, till their own last day should dawn;
these widowed men or women, piteously lost without the old companion,
like the ox left alone in the furrow; these young couples with their
first babies; these dutiful or neglectful sons, these hard or tender
daughters; these mothers young and old, selfish or devoted:--with
Winnington beside her, Delia saw them all anew, heard them all anew.
And Love, in all its kinds, everywhere the governing force, by its
presence or its absence!--Love abused and degraded, or that Love,
whether in the sunken eyes of the old, or on the cheeks of the young,
which is but "a little lower than the angels."

And what frankly amazed her was Winnington's place in this world of
labouring folk. He had given it ten years of service; not charity, but
simply the service of the good citizen; moved by a secret, impelling
motive, which Delia had yet to learn. And how they rewarded him! She
walked beside a natural ruler, and felt her heart presently big with
the pride of it.

"But the cripples?" She enquired for them, with a touch of sarcasm. "So
far," she said, "the population Maumsey, appeared to be quiet
exceptionally able-bodied."

"Goodness!" said Winnington--"I can't shew you more than two or three
cripples to a village. Maumsey only rejoices in two. My county school
will collect from the whole county. And I should never have found out
the half of them, if it hadn't been for Susy Amberley."

"How did she discover them?" asked Delia, without any sort of
cordiality.

"We--the County Council--put the enquiry into her hands. I showed
her--a bit. But she's done it admirably. She's a wonderful little
person, Susy. What the old parents will do without her when she goes to
London I can't think."

"Why is she going?"

Winnington shrugged his shoulders kindly.

"Wants a training--wants something more to do. Quite right--if it
makes her happy. You women have all grown so restless nowadays." He
laughed into the rather sombre face beside him. And the face lit
up--amazingly.

"Because the world's so _marvellous_," said Delia, with her passionate
look. "And there's so little time to explore it in. You men have always
known that. Now we women know it too."

He pondered the remark--half smiling.

"Well, you'll see a good deal of it before you've done," he said at
last. "Now come and look at what I've been trying to do for the women
who complained to you."

And he shewed her how everything had been arranged to please her, at
the cost of infinite trouble, and much expense. The woman with the
eight children had been moved into a spacious new cottage made out of
two old ones; the old granny alone in a house now too big for her, had
been induced to take in a prim little spinster, the daughter of a small
grocer just deceased; and the father of the deficient girl, for whom
Miss Dempsey had made herself responsible, received Winnington with a
lightening of his tired eyes, and taking him out of earshot of Delia,
told him how Bessie "had got through her trouble," and was now earning
money at some simple hand-work under Miss Dempsey's care.

"I didn't know you were doing all this!" said Delia, remorsefully, as
they walked along the village street. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I think I did tell you--once or twice. But you had other things to
think about."

"I hadn't!" said Delia, with angry energy. "I hadn't, you needn't make
excuses for me!"

He smiled at her, a little gravely, but said nothing--till they
reached a path leading to an isolated cottage--

"Here's a cripple at last!--Susy!--You here?"

For as the door opened to his knock, a lady rose from a low seat, and
faced them.

Winnington grasped her by the hand.

"I thought you were already gone."

"No--they've put it off again for a week or two--no vacancy yet."

She shook hands formally with Delia. "I came to have another look at
this boy. Isn't he splendid?"

She pointed to a grinning child of five sitting on the edge of the
kitchen table, and dangling a pair of heavily ironed legs. The mother
proudly shewed them. He had been three months in the Orthopaedic
Hospital, she told Delia. The legs twisted with rickets had been broken
and set twice, and now he was "doing fine." She set him down, and made
him walk. "I never thought to see him do that!" she said, her wan face
shining. "And it's all his doing--" she pointed to Winnington, "and
Miss Susy's."

Meanwhile Susy and Winnington were deep in conversation--very
technical much of it--about a host of subjects they seemed to have in
common.

Delia silent and rather restless, watched them both, the girl's sweet,
already faded, face, and Winnington's expression. When they emerged
from the cottage Susy said shyly to Delia--

"Won't you come to tea with me some day next week?"

"Thank you. I should like to. But my maid is very ill. Else I should be
in London."

"Oh, I'm very sorry. May I come to you?"

Delia thanked her coldly. She could have beaten herself for a rude,
ungracious creature; yet for the life of her she could not command
another manner. Susy drew back. She and Winnington began to talk again,
ranging over persons and incidents quite unknown to Delia--the frank
talk, full of matter of comrades in a public service. And again Delia
watched them acutely--jealous--yet not in any ordinary sense. When Susy
turned back towards the Rectory, Delia said abruptly--

"She's helped you a great deal?"

"Susy!" He went off at score, ending with--"What France and I shall do
without her, I don't know. If we could only get more women--_scores
more women_--to do the work! There we sit, perched up aloft on the
Council, and what we want are the women to advise us, and the women's
hands--_to do the little things_--which make just all the difference!"

She was silent a moment, and then said sorely--"I suppose that means,
that if we did all the work we might do--we needn't bother about the
vote."

He turned upon with animation--

"I vow I wasn't thinking about the vote!"

"Miss Amberley doesn't seem to bother about it."

Winnington's voice shewed amusement.

"I can't imagine Susy a suff. It simply isn't in her."

"I know plenty of suffragists just as good and useful as she is," said
Delia, bristling.

Winnington did not immediately reply. They had left the village behind,
and were walking up the Maumsey lane in a gathering darkness, each
electrically conscious of the other. At last he said in a changed
tone--

"Have I been saying anything to wound you? I didn't mean it."

She laughed unsteadily.

"You never say anything to wound me. I was only--a kind of fretful
porcupine--standing up for my side."

"And the last thought in my mind to-night was to attack your 'side,'"
he protested.

Her tremulous sense drank in the gentleness of his voice, the joy of
his strong, enveloping presence, and the sweetness of her own surrender
which had brought him back to her, the thought of it vibrating between
them, unspoken. Until, suddenly, at the door of the Abbey, Winnington
halted and took her by both hands.

"I must go home. Good-night. Have you got books to amuse you?"

"Plenty."

"Poor child!--all alone! But you'll have Lady Tonbridge to-morrow."

"How do you know? She mayn't come."

"I'm going there now. I'll make her. You--you won't be doing any more
embroidery to-night?"

He looked at her slyly. Delia laughed out.

"There!--when one tries to be feminine, that's how you mock!"

"'_Mock_!' I admired. Good-night!--I shall be here to-morrow."

He was gone--into the darkness.

Delia entered the lonely house, in a bewilderment of feeling. As she
passed Gertrude's deserted sitting-room on her way to the staircase,
she saw that the parlourmaid had lit a useless lamp there. She went in
to put it out. As she did so, a torn paper among the litter on the
floor attracted her notice. She stooped and took it up.

It seemed to be a fragment of a plan--a plan of a house. It shewed two
series of rooms, divided by a long passage. One of the rooms was marked
"Red Parlour," another, "Hall," and at the end of the passage, there
were some words, clearly in Gertrude Marvell's handwriting--

"_Garden door, north_."

With terror in her heart, Delia brought the fragment to the lamp, and
examined every word and line of it.

Recollections flashed into her mind, and turned her pale. That what she
held was part of a general plan of the Monk Lawrence ground-floor, she
was certain--dismally certain. And Gertrude had made it. Why?

Delia tore the paper into shreds and burnt the shreds. Afterwards she
spent an oppressed and miserable night. Her friend reproached her, on
the one side; and Winnington, on the other.




Chapter XIV


Lady Tonbridge was sitting in the window-seat of a little sitting-room
adjoining her bedroom at Maumsey Abbey. That the young mistress of
Maumsey had done her best to make her guest comfortable, that guest
most handsomely acknowledged. Some of the few pretty things which the
house contained had been gathered there. The chintz covered sofa and
chairs, even though the chintz was ugly, had the pleasant country-house
look, which suggests afternoon tea, and chatting friends; a bright
fire, flowers and a lavish strewing of books completed the hospitable
impression.

Yet Madeleine Tonbridge had by no means come to Maumsey Abbey, at
Winnington's bidding, as to a Land of Cockaigne. She at all events
regarded Delia as a "handful," and was on the watch day by day
for things outrageous. She could not help liking the beautiful
creature--almost loving her! But Delia was still a "Daughter of
Revolt"--apparently unrepentant; that dangerous fanatic, her pretended
chaperon, was still in constant correspondence with her; the papers
teemed with news of militant outrages, north, south, east and west; and
riotous doings were threatened for the meetings of Parliament by
Delia's Society. On all these matters Delia shut her proud lips. Indeed
her new reticence with regard to militant doings and beliefs struck
Lady Tonbridge as more alarming than the young and arrogant defiance
with which on her first arrival she had been wont to throw them at the
world. Madeleine could not rid herself of the impression during these
weeks that Delia had some secret cause of anxiety connected with the
militant propaganda. She was often depressed, and there were moments
when she shewed a nervousness not easily accounted for. She scarcely
ever mentioned Gertrude Marvell; and she never wrote her letters in
public; while those she received, she would carry away to the gun
room--which she had now made her own particular den--before she opened
them.

At the same time, if Weston recovered from the operation, in three
weeks or so it would be possible for Delia to leave Maumsey; and it was
generally understood that she would then join her friend in London,
just in time for the opening of Parliament. For the moment, it was
plain she was not engaged in any violent doings. But who could answer
for the future?

And meanwhile, what was Mark Winnington about? It was all very well to
sit there trifling with the pages of the _Quarterly Review_! In her
moments of solitude by night or day, during the five days she had
already spent at Maumsey, Madeleine had never really given her mind to
anything else but the engrossing question. "Is he in love with her--or
is he not?"

Of course she had foreseen--had feared--the possibility of it, from
that very first moment, almost--when Winnington had written to her
describing the terms of Bob Blanchflower's will, and his own acceptance
of the guardianship.

Yet why "feared"? Had she not for years desired few things so sincerely
as to see Winnington happily married? As to that old tragedy, with its
romantic effect upon his life, her first acquiescence in that effect,
as something irrevocable, had worn away with time. It now seemed to her
an intolerable thing that Agnes Clay's death should forever stand
between Winnington and love. It was positively anti-social--bad
citizenship--that such a man as Mark Winnington should not produce
sons and daughters for the State, when all the wastrels and cheats in
creation were so active in the business.

All the same she had but rarely ventured to attack him on the subject,
and the results had not been encouraging. She was certain that he had
entered upon the guardianship of Delia Blanchflower in complete
single-mindedness--confident, disdainfully confident, in his own
immunity; and after that first outburst into which friendship had
betrayed her, she had not dared to return to the subject. But she had
watched him--with the lynx eyes of a best friend; and that best friend,
a woman to whom love affairs were the most interesting things in
existence. In which, of course, she knew she was old-fashioned, and
behind the mass of the sex, now racing toward what she understood was
called the "economic independence of women"--_i.e._ a life without man.

But in spite of watching, she was much perplexed--as to both the
persons concerned. She had now been nearly a week at Maumsey, in
obedience to Delia's invitation and Winnington's urging. The
opportunity indeed of getting to know Mark's beautiful--and
troublesome--ward, more intimately, was extremely welcome to her
curiosity. Hitherto Gertrude Marvell had served as an effective barrier
between Delia and her neighbours. The neighbours did not want to know
Miss Marvell, and Miss Marvell, Madeleine Tonbridge was certain, had
never intended that the neighbours should rob her of Delia.

But now Gertrude Marvell had in some strange sudden way vacated her
post; and the fortress lay open to attack and capture, were anyone
strong enough to seize it. Moreover Delia's visitor had not been
twenty-four hours in the house before she had perceived that Delia's
attitude to her guardian was new, and full of suggestion to the shrewd
bystander. Winnington had clearly begun to interest the girl
profoundly--both in himself, and in his relation to her. She now wished
to please him, and was nervously anxious to avoid hurting or offending
him. She was always conscious of his neighbourhood or his mood; she was
eager--though she tried to conceal it--for information about him; and
three nights already had Lady Tonbridge lingered over Delia's bedroom
fire, the girl on the rug at her feet, while the elder woman poured out
her recollections of Mark Winnington, from the days when she and he had
been young together.

As to that vanished betrothed, Agnes Clay,--the heroine of Winnington's
brief engagement--Delia's thirst for knowledge, in a restless,
suppressed way, had been insatiable. Was she jealous of that poor
ghost, and of all those delicate, domestic qualities with which her
biographer could not but invest her? The daughter of a Dean of
Wanchester--retiring, spiritual, tender,--suggesting a cloistered
atmosphere, and _The Christian Year_--she was still sharp in
Madeleine's recollection, and that lady felt a certain secret and
mischievous zest in drawing her portrait, while Delia, her black brows
drawn together, her full red mouth compressed, sat silent.

Then--Wilmington as a friend!--upon that theme indeed Madeleine had
used her brightest colours. And to make this passive listener
understand what friendship meant in Wilmington's soul, it had been
necessary for the speaker to tell her own story, as much at least as it
was possible for her to tell, and Delia to hear. A hasty marriage--"my
own fault, my dear, as much as my parents'!"--twelve years of torment
and humiliation at the hands of a bad man, descending rapidly to the
pit, and quite willing to drag his wife and child with him, ending in a
separation largely arranged by Winnington--and then--

"We retired, Nora and I, on a decent allowance, my own money really,
only like a fool, I had let it all get into Alfred's hands. We took a
house at Richmond. Nora was fifteen. For two years my husband paid the
money. Then he wrote to say he was tired of doing without his daughter,
and he required her to live with him for six months in the year, as a
condition of continuing the allowance. I refused. We would sooner both
of us have thrown ourselves into the Thames. Alfred blustered and
threatened--but he could do nothing--except cut off the allowance,
which he did, at once. Then Mark Winnington found me the cottage here,
and made everything smooth for us. I wouldn't take any money from him,
though he was abominably ready to give it us! But he got me lessons--he
got me friends. He's made everybody here feel for us, and respect us.
He's managed the little bits of property we've got left--he's watched
over Nora--he's been our earthly Providence--and we both adore him!"

On which the speaker, with a flickering smile and tear-dashed eyes, had
taken Delia's face in her two slender hands--

"And don't be such a fool, dear, as to imagine there's been anything in
it, ever, but the purest friendship and good-heartedness that ever
bound three people together! My greatest joy would be to see him
married--to a woman worthy of him--if there is one! And he I suppose
will find his reward in marrying Nora--to some nice fellow. He begins
to match-make for her already."

Delia slowly withdrew herself.

"And he himself doesn't intend to marry?" She asked the question,
clasping her long arms round her knees, as she sat on the floor, her
dark eyes--defiantly steady on her guest's face.

Lady Tonbridge could hear her own answer.

"L'homme propose! Let the right woman try!" Whereupon Delia, a
delicious figure, in a slim white dressing-gown, a flood of curly brown
hair falling about her neck and shoulders, had sprung up, and bidden
her guest a hasty good-night.

One other small incident she recalled.

_A propos_ of some anxious calculation made by Winnington's sister
Alice Matheson one day in talk with Lady Tonbridge--Delia being
present--as to whether Mark could possibly afford a better motor than
the "ramshackle little horror" he was at present dependent on, Delia
had said abruptly, on the departure of Mrs. Matheson--

"But surely the legacy my father left Mr. Winnington would get a new
motor!"

"But he hasn't taken it, and never will!" Lady Tonbridge had cried,
amazed at the girl's ignorance.

"Why not?" Delia had demanded, almost fiercely, looking very tall, and
oddly resentful.

Why not? "Because one doesn't take payment for that sort of thing!" had
been Mark's laughing explanation, and the only explanation that she,
Madeleine, had been able to get out of him. She handed it on--to
Delia's evident discomfort. So, all along, this very annoying--though
attaching--young woman had imagined that Winnington was being
handsomely paid for putting up with her?

       *       *       *       *       *

And Winnington?

Here again, it was plain there was a change of attitude, though what it
meant Madeleine could not satisfactorily settle with herself. In the
early days of his guardianship he had been ready enough to come to her,
his most intimate woman-friend, and talk about his ward, though always
with that chivalrous delicacy which was his gift among men. Of late he
had been much less ready to talk; a good sign! And now, since Gertrude
Marvell's blessed departure, he was more at Maumsey than he had ever
been before. He seemed indeed to be pitting his own influence against
Miss Marvell's, and in his modest way, yet consciously, to be taking
Delia in hand, and endeavouring to alter her outlook on life; clearing
away, so far as he could, the atmosphere of angry, hearsay propaganda
in which she had spent her recent years, and trying to bring her face
to face with the deeper loves and duties and sorrows which she in her
headstrong youth knew so little about, while they entered so profoundly
into his own upright and humane character.

Well, but did all this mean _love_?--the desire of the man for the
woman.

Madeleine Tonbridge pondered it. She recollected a number of little
acts and sayings, throwing light upon his profound feeling for the
girl, his sympathy with her convictions, her difficulties, her wild
revolts against existing abuses and tyrannies. "I learn from her"--he
had said once, in conversation,--"she teaches me many things."
Madeleine could have laughed in his face--but for the passionate
sincerity in his look.

One thing she perceived--that he was abundantly roused on the subject
of that man Lathrop's acquaintance with his ward. Lathrop's name had
not been mentioned since Lady Tonbridge's arrival, but she received the
impression of a constant vigilance on Winnington's part, and a certain
mystery and unhappiness on Delia's. As to the notion that such a man as
Paul Lathrop could have any attraction for such a girl as Delia
Blanchflower, the idea was simply preposterous,--except on the general
theory that no one is really sane, and every woman "is at heart a
rake." But of course there was the common interest, or what appeared to
be a common interest in this militant society to which Delia was still
so intolerably committed! And an unscrupulous man might easily make
capital out of it.

At this stage in the rambling reverie which possessed her, Lady
Tonbridge was aware of footsteps on the gravel outside. Winnington? He
had proposed to take Delia for a ride that afternoon, to distract her
mind from Weston's state, and from the operation which was to take
place early the following morning. She drew the curtain aside.

Paul Lathrop!

Madeleine felt herself flushing with surprise and indignation. The
visitor was let in immediately. It surely was her duty to go down and
play watchdog.

She firmly rose. But as she did so, there was a knock at her door, and
Delia hurriedly entered.

"I--I thought I'd better say--Mr. Lathrop's just come to see me--on
business. I'm so sorry, but you won't mind my coming to say so?"

Lady Tonbridge raised her eyebrows.

"You mean--you want to see him alone? All right. I'll come down
presently."

Delia disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

For more than half an hour did that "disreputable creature," as Lady
Tonbridge roundly dubbed him, remain closeted with Delia, in Delia's
drawing-room. Towards the end of the time the visitor overhead was
walking to and fro impatiently, vowing to herself that she was
bound--positively bound to Winnington--to go down and dislodge the man.
But just as she was about to leave her room, she again heard the front
door open and close. She ran to the window just in time to see Lathrop
departing--and Winnington arriving!--on foot and alone. She watched
the two men pass each other in the drive--Winnington's start of haughty
surprise--and Lathrop's smiling and, as she thought, insolent greeting.
It seemed to her that Winnington hesitated--was about to stop and
address the intruder. But he finally passed him by with the slightest
and coldest recognition. Lathrop's fair hair and slouching shoulders
disappeared round a corner of the drive. Winnington hurried to the
front door and entered.

Lady Tonbridge resolutely threw herself into an arm-chair and took up a
novel.

"Now let them have it out! I don't interfere."

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Delia, with a red spot of agitation on either cheek, was
sitting at the old satin-wood bureau in the drawing-room, writing a
cheque. A knock at the door disturbed her. She half rose, to see
Wilmington open and close it.

A look at his face startled her. She sank back into her chair, in
evident confusion. But her troubled eyes met his appealingly.

Wilmington's disturbance was plain.

"I had ventured to think--to hope--" he began, abruptly--"that although
you refused to give me your promise when I asked it, yet that you would
not again--or so soon again--receive Mr. Lathrop--privately."

Delia rose and came towards him.

"I told Lady Tonbridge not to come down. Was that very wrong of me?"

She looked at him, half smiling, half hanging her head.

"It was unwise--and, I think, unkind!" said Winnington, with energy.

"Unkind to you?" She lifted her beautiful eyes. There was something
touching in their strained expression, and in her tone.

"Unkind to yourself, first of all," he said, firmly. "I must repeat
Miss Delia, that this man is not a fit associate for you or any young
girl. You do yourself harm by admitting him--by allowing him to see you
alone--and you hurt your friends."

Delia paused a moment.

"Then you don't trust me at all?" she said at last, slowly.

Winnington melted. How pale she looked! He came forward and took her
hand--

"Of course I trust you! But you don't know--you are too young. You
confess you have some business with Mr. Lathrop that you can't tell
me--your guardian; and you have no idea to what misrepresentations you
expose yourself, or with what kind of a man you have to deal!"

Delia withdrew her hand, and dropped into a chair--her eyes on the
carpet.

"I meant--" she said, and her tone trembled--"I did mean to have told
you everything to-day."

"And now--now you can't?"

She made no reply, and in the silence he watched her closely. What
could account for such an eclipse of all her young vivacity? It was
clear to him that that fellow was entangling her in some monstrous
way--part and parcel no doubt of this militant propaganda--and
calculating on developments. Winnington's blood boiled. But while he
stood uncertain, Delia rose, went to the bureau where she had been
writing, brought thence a cheque, and mutely offered it.

"What is this?" he asked.

"The money you lent me."

And to his astonishment he saw that the cheque was for L500, and was
signed "Delia Blanchflower."

"You will of course explain?" he said, looking at her keenly. Suddenly
Delia's embarrassed smile broke through.

"It's--it's only that I've been trying to pay my debts!"

His patience gave way.

"I'm afraid I must tell you--very plainly--that unless you can account
to me for this cheque, I must entirely refuse to take it!"

Delia put her hands behind her, like a scolded child.

"It is my very own," she protested, mildly. "I had some ugly jewels
that my grandmother left me, and I have sold them--that's all."

Winnington's grey eyes held her.

"H'm--and--has Mr. Lathrop had anything to do with the sale?"

"Yes!" She looked up frankly, still smiling. "He has managed it for
me."

"And it never occurred to you to apply to your guardian in such a
matter? Or to your lawyer?"

She laughed--with what he admitted was a very natural scorn. "Ask my
guardian to provide me with the means of helping the 'Daughters'--when
he regards us all as criminals? On the contrary, I wanted to relieve
your conscience, Mr. Winnington!"

"I can't say you have succeeded," he said, grimly, as he began to pace
the drawing-room, with slow steps, his hands in his pockets.

"Why not? Now--everything you give me--can go to the right things--what
you consider the right things. And what is my own--my very own--I can
use as I please."

Yet neither tone nor gesture were defiant, as they would have been a
few weeks before. Rather her look was wistful--appealing--as she stood
there, a perplexing, but most charming figure, in her plain black
dress, with its Quakerish collar of white lawn.

He turned on her impetuously.

"And Mr. Lathrop has arranged it all for you?"

"Yes. He said he knew a good deal about jewellers. I gave him some
diamonds. He took them to London, and he has sold them."

"How do you know he has even treated you honestly!"

"I am certain he has done it honestly!" she cried indignantly. "There
are the letters--from the jewellers--" And running to the bureau, she
took thence a packet of letters and thrust them into Winnington's
hands.

He looked them through in silence,--turning to her, as he put them
down.

"I see. It is of course possible that this firm of jewellers have paid
Mr. Lathrop a heavy commission behind the scenes, of which you know
nothing. But I don't press that. Indeed I will assume exactly the
contrary. I will suppose that Mr. Lathrop has acted without any profit
to himself. If so, in my eyes it only makes the matter worse--for it
establishes a claim on you. Miss Delia!--" his resolute gaze held
her--"I do not take a farthing of this money unless you allow me to
write to Mr. Lathrop, and offer him a reasonable commission for his
services!"

"No--no! Impossible!"

She turned away from him, towards the window, biting her lip--in sharp
distress.

"Then I return you this cheque"--he laid it down beside her. "And I
shall replace the money,--the L500--which I ought never to have allowed
you to spend as you have done, out of my own private pocket."

She stood silent, looking into the garden, her chest heaving. She
thought of what Lady Tonbridge had told her of his modest means--and
those generous hidden uses of them, of which even his most intimate
friends only got an occasional glimpse. Suddenly she went up to him--

"Will you--will you promise me to write civilly?" she said, in a
wavering voice.

"Certainly."

"You won't offend--insult him?"

"I will remember that you have allowed him to come into this
drawing-room, and treated him as a guest," said Winnington coldly. "But
why, Miss Delia, are you so careful about this man's feelings? And is
it still impossible that you should meet my wishes--and refuse to see
him again?"

She shook her head--mutely.

"You intend--to see him again?"

"You forget--that we have--business together."

Winnington paused a moment, then came nearer to the chair on which she
had dropped.

"This last week--we have been very good friends--haven't we, Miss
Delia?"

"Call me Delia, please!"

"Delia, then!--we have come to understand each other much
better--haven't we?"

She made a drooping sign of assent.

"_Can't_ I persuade you--to be guided by me--as your father
wished--during these next years of your life? I don't ask you to give
up your convictions--your ideals. We should all be poor creatures
without them! But I do ask you to give up these violent and illegal
methods--this violent and illegal Society--with which you have
become entangled. It will ruin your life, and poison your whole
nature!--unless you can shake yourself free. Work for the Suffrage
as much as you like--but work for it honourably--and lawfully. I ask
you--I beg of you!--to give up these associates--and these methods."

The tenderness and gravity of his tone touched the girl's quivering
senses almost unbearably. It was like the tenderness of a woman. She
felt a wild impulse to throw herself into his arms, and weep. But
instead she grew very white and still.

"I can't!"--was all she said, her eyes on the ground. Winnington turned
away.

Suddenly--a sound of hasty steps in the hall outside--and the door was
opened by a nurse, in uniform.

"Miss Blanchflower!--can you come?"

Delia sprang up. She and the nurse disappeared together.

       *       *       *       *       *

Winnington guessed what had happened. Weston who was to face a
frightful operation on the morrow as the only chance of saving her
life, had on the whole gone through the fortnight of preparatory
treatment with wonderful courage. But during the last forty-eight
hours, there had been attacks of crying and excitement, connected with
the making of her will, which she had insisted on doing, being herself
convinced that she would die under the knife. Medically, all such
agitation was disastrous. But the only person who could calm her at
these moments was Delia, whom she loved. And the girl had shewn in
dealing with her a marvellous patience and strength.

Presently Madeleine Tonbridge came downstairs--with red eyes. She
described the scene of which she had just been a witness in Weston's
room. Delia, she said, choking again at the thought of it, had been
"wonderful." Then she looked enquiringly at Winnington--

"You met that man going away?"

He sat down beside her, unable to disguise his trouble of mind, or to
resist the temptation of her sympathy and their old friendship.

"I am certain there is some plot afoot--some desperate business--and
they are trying to draw her into it! What can we do?"

Lady Tonbridge shook her head despondently. What indeed could they do,
with a young lady of full age,--bent on her own way?

Then she noticed the cheque lying open on the table, and asked what it
meant.

"Miss Delia wishes to repay me some money I lent her," said Winnington,
after a pause. "As matters stand at present, I prefer to wait. Would
you kindly take charge of the cheque for her? No need to worry her
about it again, to-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

Delia came down at tea-time, pale and quiet, like one from whom virtue
has gone out. By tacit consent Winnington and Lady Tonbridge devoted
themselves to her. It seemed as though in both minds there had arisen
the same thought of her as orphaned and motherless, the same pity, the
same resentment that anything so lovely should be unhappy--as she
clearly was; and not only, so both were convinced, on account of her
poor maid.

Winnington stayed on into the lamplight, and presently began to read
aloud. The scene became intimate and domestic. Delia very silent, sat
in a deep arm chair, some pretence at needlework on her knee, but in
reality doing nothing but look into the fire, and listen to
Winnington's voice. She had changed while upstairs into a white dress,
and the brilliance of her hair, and wide, absent eyes above the
delicate folds of white, seemed to burn in Winnington's consciousness
as he read. Presently however, Lady Tonbridge looking up, was startled
to see that the girl had imperceptibly fallen asleep. The childish
sadness and sweetness of the face in its utter repose seemed to present
another Delia, with another history. Madeleine hoped that Winnington
had not observed the girl's sleep; and he certainly gave no sign of it.
He went on reading; and presently his companion, noticing the clock,
rose very quietly, and went out to give a letter to the parlour-maid
for post.

As she entered the room again, however, she saw that Winnington had
laid down his book. His eyes were now on Delia--his lips parted. All
the weather-beaten countenance of the man, its deep lines graven by
strenuous living, glowed as from an inward light--marvellously intense
and pure. Madeleine's pulse leapt. She had her answer to her
speculations of the afternoon.

Meanwhile through Delia's sleeping mind there swept scenes and images
of fear. She grew restless, and as Lady Tonbridge slipped again into
her chair by the fire, the girl woke suddenly with a long quivering
sigh, a sound of pain, which provoked a quick movement of alarm in
Winnington.

But she very soon recovered her usual manner; and Winnington said
good-night. He went away carrying his anxieties with him through the
dark, carrying also a tumult of soul that would not be stilled. Whither
was he drifting? Of late he had felt sure of himself again. Her best
friend and guide--it was that he was rapidly becoming--with that, day
by day, he bade himself be content. And now, once more, self-control
was uprooted and tottering. It was the touch of this new softness, this
note of innocent appeal, even of bewildered distress, in her, which was
kindling all his manhood, and breaking down his determination.

He raged at the thought of Lathrop. As to any danger of a love-affair,
like Lady Tonbridge, he scouted the notion. It would be an insult to
Delia to suppose such a thing. But it was simply intolerable in his
eyes that she should have any dealings with the fellow--that he should
have the audacity to call at her house, to put her under an obligation.

And he was persuaded there was more than appeared in it; more than
Delia's devices for getting money, wherewith to feed the League of
Revolt. She was clearly anxious, afraid. Some shadow was brooding over
her, some terror that she could not disclose:--of that Winnington was
certain. And this man, whom she had already accepted as her colleague
in a public campaign, was evidently in the secret; might be even the
cause of her fears.

He began hotly to con the terms of his letter to Lathrop; and then had
to pull himself up, remembering unwillingly what he had promised Delia.




Chapter XV


"Do you know anything more?"

The voice was Delia's; and the man who had just met her in the shelter
of the wooded walk which ran along the crest of the hill above the
Maumsey valley, was instantly aware of the agitation of the speaker.

"Nothing--precise. As I told you last week--you needn't be afraid of
anything immediate. But my London informants assure me that elaborate
preparations are certainly going on for some great _coup_ as soon as
Parliament meets--against Sir Wilfrid. The police are uneasy, though
puzzled. They have warned Daunt, and Sir Wilfrid is guarded."

"Then of course our people won't attempt it! It would be far too
dangerous."

"Don't be too sure! You and I know Miss Marvell. If she means to burn
Monk Lawrence, she'll achieve it, whatever the police may do."

The man and the girl walked on in silence. The January afternoons were
lengthening a little, and even under the shadow of the wood Lathrop
could see with sufficient plainness Delia's pale beauty--strangely worn
and dimmed as it seemed to him. His mind revolted. Couldn't the jealous
gods spare even this physical perfection? What on earth had been
happening to her? He supposed a Christian would call the face
"spiritualised." If so, the Christian--in his opinion--would be a human
ass.

"I have written several times to Miss Marvell--very strongly," said
Delia at last. "I thought you ought to know that. But I have had no
reply."

"Why don't you go--instead of writing?"

"It has been impossible. My maid has been so terribly ill."

Lathrop expressed his sympathy. Delia received it with coldness and a
slight frown. She hurried on--

"I've written again--but I haven't sent it. Perhaps I oughtn't to have
written by post."

"Better not. Shall I be your messenger? Miss Marvell doesn't like
me--but that don't matter."

"Oh, no, thank you." The voice was hastily emphatic; so that his
vanity winced. "There are several members of the League in the village.
I shall send one of them."

He smiled--rather maliciously.

"Are you going to tackle Miss Andrews herself?"

"You're still--quite _certain_--that she's concerned?"

"Quite certain. Since you and I met--a fortnight ago isn't it?--I have
seen her several times, in the neighbourhood of the house--after dark.
She has no idea, of course, that I have been prowling round."

"What have you seen?--what can she be doing?" asked Delia. "Of course I
remember what you told me--the other day."

Lathrop's belief was that a close watch was now being kept on Daunt--on
his goings and comings--with a view perhaps to beguiling him away, and
then getting into the house.

"But he has lately got a niece to stay with him, and help look after
the children, and the house. His sister who is married in London,
offered to send her down for six months. He was rather surprised, for
he had quite lost sight of his sister; but he tells me it's a great
relief to his mind.

"So you talk to him?"

"Certainly. Oh, he knows all about me--but he knows too that I'm on the
side of the house! He thinks I'm a queer chap--but he can trust me--in
_that_ business. And by the way, Miss Blanchflower, perhaps I ought to
let you understand that I'm an artist and a writer, before I'm a
Suffragist, and if I come across Miss Marvell--engaged in what you and
I have been talking of--I shall behave just like any other member of
the public, and act for the police. I don't want to sail--with
you--under any false pretences!"

"I know," said Delia, quietly. "You came to warn me--and we are acting
together. I understand perfectly. You--you've promised however"--she
could not keep her voice quite normal--"that you'd let me know--that
you'd give me notice before you took any step."

Lathrop nodded. "If there's time--I promise. But if Daunt or I come
upon Miss Marvell--or any of her minions--torch in hand--there would
not be time. Though, of course, if I could help her escape,
consistently with saving the house--for your sake--I should do so. I am
sure you believe that?"

Delia made no audible reply, but he took her silence for consent.

"And now"--he resumed--"I ought to be informed without delay, whether
your messenger finds Miss Marvell and how she receives your letter."

"I will let you know at once."

"A telegram brings me here--this same spot. But you won't wire from the
village?"

"Oh no, from Latchford."

"Well, then, that's settled. Regard me, please, as your henchman.
Well!--have you read any Madame de Noailles?"

He fancied he saw a slight impatient movement.

"Not yet, I'm afraid. I've been living in a sick room."

Again he expressed polite sympathy, while his thoughts repeated--"What
waste!--what absurdity!"

"She might distract you--especially in these winter days. Her verse is
the very quintessence of summer--of hot gardens and their scents--of
roses--and June twilights. It takes one out of this leafless north." He
stretched a hand to the landscape.

And suddenly, while his heavy face kindled, he began to recite. His
French was immaculate--even to a sensitive and well-trained ear; and
his voice, which in speaking was disagreeable, took in reciting deep
and beautiful notes, which easily communicated to a listener the
thrill, the passion, of sensuous pleasure, which certain poetry
produced in himself.

But it communicated no such thrill to Delia. She was only irritably
conscious of the uncouthness of his large cadaverous face, and
straggling fair hair; of his ragged ulster, his loosened tie, and all
the other untidy details of his dress. "And I shall have to go on
meeting him!" she thought, with repulsion. "And at the end of this walk
(the gate was in sight) I shall have to shake hands with him--and he'll
hold my hand."

She loathed the thought of it; but she knew very well that she
Was under coercion--for Gertrude's sake. The recollection of
Winnington--away in Latchford on county business--smote her sharply.
But how could she help it? She must--_must_ keep in touch with this
man--who had Gertrude in his power.

While these thoughts were running through her mind, he stopped his
recitation abruptly.

"Am I to help you any more--with the jewels?"

Delia started. Lathrop was smiling at her, and she resented the smile.
She had forgotten. But there was no help for it. She must have more
money. It might be, in the last resort, the means of bargaining with
Gertrude. And how could she ask Mark Winnington!

So she hurriedly thanked him, naming a tiara and two pendants, that she
thought must be valuable.

"All right," said Lathrop, taking out a note-book from his breast
pocket, and looking at certain entries he had made on the occasion of
his visit to Maumsey. "I remember--worth a couple of thousand at least.
When shall I have them?"

"I will send them registered--to-morrow--from Latchford."

"_ Tres bien_! I will do my best. You know Mr. Winnington has offered
me a commission?" His eyes laughed.

Delia turned upon him.

"And you ought to accept it, Mr. Lathrop! It would be kinder to all of
us."

She spoke with spirit and dignity. But he laughed again and shook his
head.

"My reward, you see, is just _not_ to be paid. My fee is your
presence--in this wood--your little word of thanks--and the hand you
give me--on the bargain!"

They had reached the gate, and he held out his hand. Delia had flushed
violently, but she yielded her own. He pressed it lingeringly, as she
had foreseen, then released it and opened the gate for her.

"Good-bye then. A word commands me--when you wish. We keep watch--and
each informs the other--barring accidents. That is, I think, the
bargain."

She murmured assent, and they parted. Half way back towards his own
cottage, Lathrop paused at a spot where the trees were thin, and the
slopes of the valley below could be clearly seen. He could still make
out her figure nearing the first houses of the village.

"I think she hates me. Never mind! I command her, and meet me she
must--when I please to summon her. There is some sweetness in that--and
in teasing the stupid fellow who no doubt will own her some day."

And he thought exultantly of Winnington's letter to him, and his own
insolent reply. It had been a perfectly civil letter--and a perfectly
proper thing for a guardian to do. But--for the moment--

"I have the whip hand--and it amuses me to keep it,--Now then for
Blaydes!"

For there, in the doorway of the cottage, stood the young journalist,
waiting and smoking. He was evidently in good humour.

"Well? She came?"

"Of course she came. But it doesn't matter to you."

"Oh, doesn't it! I suppose she wants you to sell something more for
her?"

Lathrop did not reply. Concerning Gertrude Marvell, he had not breathed
a word to Blaydes.

They entered the hut together, and Lathrop rekindled the fire. The two
men sat over it smoking. Blaydes plied his companion with eager
questions, to which Lathrop returned the scantiest answers. At last he
said with a sarcastic look--

"I was offered four hundred pounds this afternoon--and refused it."

"The deuce you did!" cried Blaydes, fiercely. "What about my debt--and
what do you mean?"

"Ten per cent. commission," said Lathrop, drawing quietly at his cigar.
"Sales up to two thou., a fortnight ago. I shall get the same money--or
more--for the next batch."

"Well, that's all right! No need to get it out of the lady, if you're
particular. Get it out of the other side. Any fool could manage that."

"I shall not get a farthing out of the other side. I shall not make a
doit out of the whole transaction!"

"Then you're a d----d fool," said Blaydes, in a passion. "And a
dishonest fool besides!"

"Easy, please! What hold should I have on this girl--this splendid
creature--if I were merely to make money out of her? As it is, she's
obliged to me--she treats me like a gentleman. I thought you had
matrimonial ideas."

"I don't believe you've got the ghost of a chance!" grumbled Blaydes,
his mind smarting under the thought of the lost four hundred pounds,
out of which his debt might have been paid.

"Nor do I," said Lathrop, coolly. "But I choose to keep on equal terms
with her. You can sell me up when you like."

He lounged to the window, and threw it open. The January day was
closing, not in any glory of sunset, but with interwoven greys and
pearls, and delicate yellow lights slipping through the clouds.

"I shall always have _this_"--he said to himself, passionately, as he
drank in the air and the beauty--"whatever happens."

Recollection brought back to him Delia's proud, virginal youth, and her
springing step as she walked beside him through the wood. His mind
wavered again between triumph and self-disgust. His muddy past returned
upon him, mingled, as always, with that invincible respect for her, and
belief in something high and unstained in the depths of his own nature,
to which his weakened and corrupt will was yet unable to give any
effect.

"What I have done is not 'me'"--he thought. "At any rate not all
'me.' I am better than it. I suspect Winnington has told her
something--measuring it chastely out. All the same--I shall see her
again."

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Delia was descending the hill pursued by doubts and terrors.
The day was now darkening fast, and heavy snow-clouds were coming
down over the valley. The wind had dropped, but the heavy air was
bitter-cold and lifeless, as though the earth waited sadly for the
silencing and muffling of the snow.

And in Delia's heart there was a like dumb expectancy of change. The
old enthusiasms, and ideals and causes, seemed for the moment to lie
veiled and frozen within her. Only two figures emerged sharply in the
landscape of thought--Gertrude--and Winnington.

Since that day, the day before Weston's operation, when Paul Lathrop
had brought her evidence--collected partly from small incidents and
observations on the spot, partly from information supplied him by
friends in London--which had sharpened all her own suspicions into
certainties, she had never known an hour free from fear. Her letters
had remained wholly unanswered. She did not even know where Gertrude
was; though it seemed to her that letters addressed to the head office
of the League of Revolt must have been forwarded. No! Gertrude was
really planning this hateful thing; the destruction of this beautiful
and historic house, with all its memories and its treasures, in order
to punish a Cabinet Minister for his opposition to Woman Suffrage,
and so terrorise others. Moreover it meant the risking of human
life--Daunt--his children, complete indifference also to Delia's
feelings, Delia's pain.

What was she to do? Betray her friend?--go to Winnington for help? But
he was a magistrate. If such a plot were really on foot--and Lathrop
was himself convinced that petroleum and explosives were already stored
somewhere in the neighbourhood of the house--Winnington could only
treat such a thing as a public servant, as a guardian of the
law. Any appeal to him to let private interests--even _her_
interests--interfere, would, she felt certain, be entirely fruitless.
Once go to him, the police must be informed--it would be his clear
duty; and if such proofs of the plot existed as Lathrop believed,
Gertrude would be arrested, and her accomplices. Including Delia
herself?

That possibility, instead of frightening her, gave the girl some
momentary comfort. For that _might_ perhaps secure Winnington's
silence?

But no!--her common sense dismissed the notion. Winnington would
discover at once that she had had no connection whatever with the
business. Lathrop's evidence alone would be enough. And that being so,
her confession would simply hand Gertrude over to Winnington's
conscience. And Mark Winnington's conscience was a thing to fear.

And yet the yearning to go to him--like the yearning of an unhappy
child--was so strong.

Traitor!--yes, _traitor_!--double-dyed.

And pausing just outside the village, at a field gate, Delia leant over
it, gazing into the lowering sky, and piteously crying to some power
beyond--some God, "if any Zeus there be," on whom the heart in its
trouble might throw itself.

Her thought ran backwards and forwards over the past months and years.
The burning moments of revolt through which she had lived--the meetings
of the League with their multitudes of faces, strained, fierce faces,
alive, many of them, with hatreds new to English life, new perhaps to
civilised history,--and the intermittent gusts of pity and fury which
had swept through her own young ignorance as she listened, making a
hideous thing of the future and of human fate:--she lived through them
all again. Individual personalities recurred to her, the wild looks of
delicate, frenzied women, who had lost health, employment, and the love
of friends--suffered in body, mind and estate for this "cause" to which
she too had vowed herself. Was she alone to desert, to fail--both the
cause and her friend, who had taught her everything?

"It's not my will--not my _will_--that shrinks"--she moaned to herself.
"If I _believed_--if I still believed!"

But why was the fire gone out of the old faiths, the savour from the
old hopes? Was she less moved by the sufferings, the toils, the
weakness of her sex? She could remember nights of weeping over the
wrongs of women, after an impassioned evening with Gertrude. And
now--had the heart of flesh become a heart of stone? Was she no longer
worthy of the great crusade, the vast upheaval?

She could not tell. She only knew that the glamour of it all was
gone--that there were many hours when the Movement lay like lead upon
her life. Was it simply that her intelligence had revolted, that she
had come to see the folly, the sheer, ludicrous folly of a "physical
force" policy which opposed the pin-pricks of women to the strength of
men? Or was it something else--something far more compelling--more
convincing--more humiliating!

"I've just fallen in love!--_fallen in love!_"--the words repeated
themselves brazenly, desperately, in her mind:--"and I can't think for
myself--judge for myself any longer! It's abominable--but it's true!"

The very thought of Winnington's voice and look made her tremble as she
walked. Eternal weakness of the eternal woman! She scorned herself, yet
a bewildering joy sang through her senses.

Nevertheless she held it at bay. She had her promised word--her
honour--to think of. Gertrude still expected her in London--on the
scene of action.

"And I shall go," she said to herself with resolute inconsistency, "_I
shall go_!"

What an angel Mark Winnington had been to her, this last fortnight! She
recalled the day of Weston's operation, and all the long days since.
The poor gentle creature had suffered terribly; death had been just
held off, from hour to hour; and was only now withdrawing. And Delia,
sitting by the bed, or stealing with hushed foot about the house, was
not only torn by pity for the living sufferer, she was haunted again by
all the memories of her father's dying struggle--bitter and miserable
days! And with what tenderness, what strength, what infinite delicacy
of thought and care, had she been upheld through it all! Her heart
melted within her. "There are such men in the world--there are!--and a
year ago I should have simply despised anyone who told me so!"

Yet after these weeks of deepening experience, and sacred feeling, in
which she had come to love Mark Winnington with all the strength of her
young heart, and to realise that she loved him, the first use that she
was making of a free hour was to go, unknown to him--for he was away
on county business at Wanchester--and meet Paul Lathrop!

"But he would understand," she said to herself, drearily, as she moved
on again. "If he knew, he would understand."

       *       *       *       *       *

Now she must hurry on. She turned into the broad High Street of the
village, observed by many people, and half way down, she stopped at a
door on which was a brass plate, "Miss Toogood, Dressmaker."

The lame woman greeted her with delight, and there in the back parlour
of the little shop she found them gathered,--Kitty Foster, the
science-mistress, Miss Jackson, and Miss Toogood,--the three
"Daughters," who were now coldly looked on in the village, and found
pleasure chiefly in each other's society. Marion Andrews was not there.
Delia indeed fancied she had seen her in the dusk, walking in a side
lane, that led into the Monk Lawrence road, with another girl, whom
Delia did not know.

It was a relief, however, not to find her--for the moment. The faces of
the three women in the back parlour, were all strained and nervous;
they spoke low, and they gathered round Delia with an eagerness which
betrayed their own sense of isolation--of being left leaderless.

"You will be going up soon, won't you?" whispered Miss Toogood, as she
stroked the sleeve of Delia's jacket. "The _Tocsin_ says there'll be
great doings next week--the day Parliament meets."

"I've got my orders!"--said Kitty Foster, tossing her red hair
mysteriously. "Father won't keep me down here any longer. I've made
arrangements to go up to-morrow and lodge with a cousin in Battersea.
She's as deep in it as I am."

"And I'm hoping they'll find room for me in the League office," said
the science-mistress. "I can't stand this life here much longer. My
Governors are always showing me they think us all criminals, and
they'll find an excuse for getting rid of me whenever they can. I
daren't even put up the 'Daughters' colours in my room now."

Her hollow, anxious eyes, with the fanatical light in them clung to
Delia--to the girl's noble head, and the young face flushed with the
winter wind.

"But we shall get it this session, shan't we?" said Miss Toogood
eagerly, still stroking Delia's fur. "The Government will give in--they
must give in."

And she began to talk with hushed enthusiasm of the last month's tale
of outrages--houses burnt, windows broken, Downing Street attacked, red
pepper thrown over a Minister, ballot-boxes spoiled--

Suddenly it all seemed to Delia so absurd--so pathetic--

"I don't think we shall get the Bill!" she said, sombrely. "We shall be
tricked again."

"Dear, dear!" said Miss Toogood, helplessly. "Then we shall have to go
on. It's war. We can't stop."

And as she stood there, sadly contemplating the "war," in which,
poor soul, she had never yet joined, except by sympathy, a little
bill-distributing and a modest subscription, she seemed to carry on her
shoulders the whole burden of the "Movement"--herself, the little lame
dressmaker, on the one side--and a truculent British Empire on the
other.

"We'll make them smart anyway!" cried Kitty Foster. "See if we don't!"

Delia hurriedly opened her business. Would one of them take a letter
for her to London--an important letter to Miss Marvell that she didn't
want to trust to the post. Whoever took it must go to the League office
and find out where Miss Marvell was, and deliver it--personally. She
couldn't go herself--till after the doctors' consultation, which was to
be held on Monday--if then.

Miss Jackson at once volunteered. Her face lightened eagerly.

"It's Saturday. I shall be free. And then I shall see for myself--at
the office--if they can give me anything to do. When they write, they
seem to put me off."

Delia gave her the letter, and stayed talking with them a little. They,
it was evident, knew nothing of the anxiety which possessed her. And as
to their hopes and expectations--why was it they now seemed to her so
foolish and so ignorant? She had shared them all, such a little while
before.

And meanwhile they made much of her. They tried to keep her with them
in the little stuffy parlour, with its books which had belonged to Miss
Toogood's father, and the engraving of Winchester cathedral, and the
portrait of Mr. Keble. That "Miss Blanchflower" was with them, seemed
to reflect a glory on their little despised coterie. They admired her
and listened to her, loath to let her go.

But at last Delia said Good-bye, and stepped out again into the lights
of the village street. As she walked rapidly towards Maumsey, and the
village houses thinned and fell away, she suddenly noticed a dark
figure in front of her. It was Marion Andrews. Delia ran to overtake
her.

Marion stopped uncertainly when she heard herself called. Delia,
breathless, laid a hand on her arm.

"I wanted to speak to you!"

"Yes!" The girl stood quiet. It was too dark now to see her face.

"I wanted to tell you--that there are suspicions--about Monk Lawrence.
You are being watched. I want you to promise to give it up!"

There was no one on the road, above which some frosty stars had begun
to come out. Marion Andrews moved on slowly.

"I don't know what you mean, Miss Blanchflower."

"Don't, please, try to deceive me!" cried Delia, with low-voiced
urgency. "You have been seen at night--following Daunt about,
examining the doors and windows. The person who suspects won't
betray us. I've seen to that. But you must give it up--you _must_! I
have written to Miss Marvell."

Marion Andrews laughed,--a sound of defiance.

"All right. I don't take my orders from any one but her. But you are
mistaken, Miss Blanchflower, quite mistaken. Good-night."

And turning quickly to the left, she entered a field path leading to
her brother's house, and was immediately out of sight.

Delia went on, smarting and bewildered. How clear it was that she was
no longer trusted--no longer in the inner circle--and that Gertrude
herself had given the cue! The silent and stubborn Marion Andrews was
of a very different type from the three excitable or helpless women
gathered in Miss Toogood's parlour. She had ability, passion, and the
power to hold her tongue. Her connection with Gertrude Marvell had
begun, in London, at the "Daughters" office, as Delia now knew, long
before her own appearance at Maumsey. When Gertrude came to the Abbey,
she and this strange, determined woman were already well acquainted,
though Delia herself had not been aware of it till quite lately. "I
have been a child in their hands!--they have _never_ trusted me!" Heart
and vanity were equally wounded.

As she neared the Maumsey gate, suddenly a sound--a voice--a tall
figure in the twilight.

"Ah, there you are!" said Winnington. "Lady Tonbridge sent me to look
for you."

"Aren't you back very early?" Delia attempted her usual voice. But
the man who joined her at once detected the note of effort, of tired
pre-occupation.

"Yes--our business collapsed. Our clerk's too good--leaves us nothing
to do. So I've been having a talk with Lady Tonbridge."

Delia was startled; not by the words, but by the manner of them. While
she seemed to Winnington to be thinking of something other than the
moment--the actual moment, her impression was the precise opposite, as
of a sharp, intense consciousness of the moment in him, which presently
communicated its own emotion to her.

They walked up the drive together.

"At last I have got a horse for you," said Winnington, after a pause.
"Shall I bring it to-morrow? Weston is going on so well to-night,
France tells me, that he may be able to say 'out of danger' to-morrow.
If so, let me take you far afield, into the Forest. We might have a
jolly run."

Delia hesitated. It was very good of him. But she was out of practice.
She hadn't ridden for a long time.

Winnington laughed aloud. He told--deliberately--a tale of a young
lady on a black mare, whom no one else could ride--of a Valkyrie--a
Brunhilde--who had exchanged a Tyrolese hotel for a forest lodge, and
ranged the wide world alone--

"Oh!"--cried Delia, "where did you hear that?"

He described the talk of the little Swedish lady, and that evening on
the heights when he had first heard her name.

"Next day came the lawyers' letter--and yours--both in a bundle."
"You'll agree--I did all I could--to put you off!"

"So I understood--at once. You never beat about the bush."

There was a tender laughter in his voice. But she had not the
heart to spar with him. He felt rather than saw her drooping.
Alarm--anxiety--rushed upon him, mingled in a tempest-driven mind with
all that Madeleine Tonbridge, in the Maumsey drawing-room, had just
been saying to him. That had been indeed the plain speaking of a
friend!--attacking his qualms and scruples up and down, denouncing them
even; asking him indignantly, who else could save this child--who else
could free her from the sordid entanglement into which her life had
slipped--but he? "You--you only, can do it!" The words were still
thundering through his blood. Yet he had not meant to listen to his old
friend. He had indeed withstood her firmly. But this sad and languid
Delia began, again, to put resistance to flight--to tempt--to justify
him--driving him into action that his cooler will had just refused.

Suddenly, as they walked under the overshadowing trees of the drive,
her ungloved hand hanging beside her, she felt it taken, enclosed in a
warm strong clasp. A thrill, a shiver ran through her. But she let it
stay. Neither spoke. Only as they neared the front door with the lamp,
she softly withdrew her fingers.

There was no one in the drawing-room, which was scented with early
hyacinths, and pleasantly aglow with fire-light. Winnington closed the
door, and they stood facing each other. Delia wanted to cry out--to
prevent him from speaking--but she seemed struck dumb.

He approached her.

"Delia!"

She looked at him still helplessly silent. She had thrown off her hat
and furs, and, in her short walking-dress, she looked singularly
young and fragile. The change which had tempered the splendid--or
insolent--exuberance of her beauty, which Lathrop had perceived, had
made it in Winnington's eyes infinitely more appealing, infinitely more
seductive. Love and fear, mingled, had "passed into her face," like the
sculptor's last subtle touches on the clay.

"Delia!" How all life seemed to have passed into a name! "I'm not sure
that I ought to speak! I'm not sure it's fair. It--it seems like taking
advantage. If you think so, don't imagine I shall ever press it again.
I'm twenty years older than you--I've had my youth. I thought
everything was closed for me--but--" He paused a moment--then his voice
broke into a low cry--"Dear! what have you done to make me love you
so?"

He came nearer. His look spoke the rest.

Delia retreated.

"What have I done?" she said passionately.

"Made your life one long worry!--ever since you saw me. How can you
love me?--you oughtn't!--you oughtn't!"

He laughed.

"Every quarrel we had I loved you the better. From our very first talk
in this room--"

She cried out, putting up her hands, as though to protect herself
against the power that breathed from his face and shining eyes.

"Don't--don't!--I can't bear it."

His expression changed.

"Delia!"

"Oh, I do thank you!" she said, piteously, "I would--if I could. I--I
shall never care for any one else--but I can't--I can't."

He was silent a moment, and then said, taking her hands, and putting
them to his lips--

"Won't you explain?"

"Yes, I'll try--I ought to. You see"--she looked up in anguish--"I'm
not my own--to give--and I--No, no, I couldn't make you happy!"

"You mean--you're--you're too deeply pledged to this Society?"

He had dropped her hands, and stood looking at her, as if he would read
her through.

"I must go up to town next week," she said hurriedly. "I must go, and I
must do what Gertrude tells me. Perhaps--I can protect--save her. I
don't know. I daresay I'm absurd to think so--but I might--and I'm
bound. But I'm promised--promised in honour--and I can't--get free. I
can't give up Gertrude--and you--you could never bear with her--or
accept her. And so--you see--I should just make you miserable!"

He walked away, his hands in his pockets, and came back. Then suddenly
he took her by the shoulders.

"You don't imagine I shall acquiesce in this!" he said
passionately--"that I shall endure to see you tied and chained by a
woman whom I know you have ceased to respect, and I believe you have
ceased to love!"

"No!--no!--" she protested.

"I think it is so," he said, steadily. "That is how I read it!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Mr. Mark--dear Mr. Mark!--let me go!"

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




Chapter XVI


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do for Heaven's sake keep the young lady at home!"

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

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

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

"She's told you?"

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

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

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

"No, you don't--you don't! Excuse me. You are a reasonable woman."

"Half the reasonable women in England want the vote. Why shouldn't I
have a vote--as well as you?"

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

"Oh!--'physical force,'" said Madeleine, contemptuously, with her nose
in the air.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They eyed each other.

"You're sure?" said France.

"Quite sure--though I've not said a word to him--nor he to me."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"For the money you sent, and the money you promise--best thanks.
Everybody is giving. It is the spirit of the Crusader, 'Dieu le
veult!'"

     "Your affectionate
      G. M."


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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

Weston shook her head.

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

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

"Then I'll do it myself. I'll make some sort of a glorious mess of it,
and set the fashion."

But her thought said--"If I go to prison, they'll cut it off. Poor
Weston!"

Weston moved uneasily--

"Miss Delia?"

"Yes."

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

But Delia would not allow any discussion. "I shall be with
Gertrude--she'll tell me what to do," was all she would say.

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

"Mother, what _is_ the matter!"

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

That, however, was someone else's affair.

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

"You're going up to town?" She stammered it. "I didn't know--"

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

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

"I'm quite warm, thank you."

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

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

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

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

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

"That I am aware of."

"The day after, I shall probably be in prison!"

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

"I hope not. I think not," he said, quietly.

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

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

"Thank you. I have already seen it."

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

Winnington pointed to the word "armed."

"With stones--I presume?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half way to Westminster, he turned to her.

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

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

"'Just yet'? What do you mean by that?"

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

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

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




Chapter XVII


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

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

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

Delia approached her.

"Is Miss Marvell here?"

They all stopped and eyed her.

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

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

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

"Yes."

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

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

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

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

"Are you going to stay, Miss?" said the girl. "There's only the small
bedroom vacant."

Delia burst out laughing--especially at the sight of Winnington's irate
countenance.

"All right. It'll do quite well. Now tell me where Miss Marvell is."

"I mustn't interrupt her, Miss."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nobody can doubt your zeal, Lady Fanny."

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

"To look after my ward."

Lady Fanny eyed him again.

"Of course! I had forgotten. Well, she'll be all right."

"What are you really preparing to do to-morrow?"

"Force our way into the House of Commons!"

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

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

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

     "Thousand eyeballs under hoods
      Have you by the hair--"

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

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

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

"Are you taking that to Miss Blanchflower?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Shew me the way, please."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Will you go, Delia?"

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

"Hullo, Hewson--how are you? Flourishing?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But I'm afraid it'll be a bad row, Sir. There's a lot of men
coming--from Whitechapel--they say."

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

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

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

He shook his head, smiling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Mr. Winnington!"

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

"My dear lady, where have you sprung from?"

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

"I had to go in search of someone."

He knew very well what she meant.

"You've found her?"

"Yes."

"Can anyone help?"

"No. The poor thing's safe--with good people who understand."

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

"Would the vote help you? Is that why you want it?"

She smiled.

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

"When does the House meet?"

"Everything adjourned till four. They'll move the Address about five.
But everyone expects a row."

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

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

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

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

"Do you see her, Sir?"

"Near the front!--coming from Milbank."

"All right! Follow me, Sir. This way!"

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

"Now, Sir!" said Hewson, on tiptoe--"Hold on! They've got the old lady
safe. I think the young one's hurt."

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

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

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

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

Delia struggled--"No--no!--let me go!"

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

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

"Smith's Hotel," said Winnington--"to my sister." And he gave the order
to the chauffeur.

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

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

"Where's Gertrude!--let me go to her! Where am I?"

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

"A gentleman to see you, Sir, downstairs."

Winnington descended, and found Andrews--breathless with news.

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was nothing for it but to go.




Chapter XVIII


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I came to talk to you about plans. You're not busy!"

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

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

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

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

Gertrude received Delia's remark with impatience.

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

"Oh--" said Delia, with a sudden flush. "So you think we ought to give
up the flat? Why can't I come with you to the sea?"

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

"I wanted to--but Weston's illness stopped it--and then I came here."

"Well, you 'wanted to.' And why shouldn't you?"

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

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

"Nothing of the sort. I want you to do--what you clearly wish to do."

"When have I ever shown you that I wished to desert you--or--the
League?"

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

"Well?" Delia waited.

Gertrude moved impatiently.

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

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

"Oh, I admit you did your best--you did your best," said Gertrude
sombrely. "But I know you, Delia!--I know you! Your heart's not in
it--any more."

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

"Where are you going--and who is going with you?"

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

"Marion Andrews?" repeated Delia thoughtfully. Then, after a
moment--"So you're not coming down to Maumsey any more?"

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

"Do you remember--you promised to live with me for a year?"

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

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

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

"And everybody seems to be clamouring that we've given them the
excuse!"

Fierce colour overspread Gertrude's thin temples and cheeks.

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

"But I thought you were going to Southsea!"

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

"To this flat?"

"Oh no--I've found a lodging."

Delia turned away--her breath fluttering.

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

"What promise?"

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

Gertrude broke into a laugh.

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

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

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

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

Delia gasped.

"Gertrude!--you mean to do it!"

Gertrude released her--almost threw her hand away.

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

The two faced each other.

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To what do we owe this crowning mercy? Who dislodged her?"
Winnington's glance was thoughtful.

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly she said--

"Do you remember when you wanted me to say--I was sorry for Gertrude's
speech--and I wouldn't?"

He started.

"Perfectly."

"Well, I am sorry now. I see--I know--it has been all a mistake."

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

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

"You mean--that violence--has been a mistake?"

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

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

"I don't know who else would have confessed it--so bravely!" His
emotion seemed to quiet her. She smiled radiantly.

"Does it make you feel triumphant?"

"Not in the least!"

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

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

"You won't be always saying 'I told you so?'"

"Is it my way?"

"No. But perhaps it's cunning on your part. You know it pays better to
be generous."

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was certain that her mind was fixed on the division ahead--the
scene in the House of Commons--and on the terror of what the
"Daughters"--Gertrude perhaps in the van--might be planning and
plotting in revenge for it. His own feeling was one of vast relief that
the strain would be so soon over, and his own tongue loosed. Monk
Lawrence was safe enough! And as for any other attempt at vengeance, he
dismissed the notion with impatient scorn.

But meanwhile he said not a word that could have jarred on any
conviction or grief of Delia's. Sometimes indeed they touched the great
subject itself--the "movement" in its broad and arguable aspects;
though it seemed to him that Delia could not bear it for long. Mind and
heart were too sore; and her weary reasonableness made him long for the
prophetic furies of the autumn. But always she felt herself enwrapped
by a tenderness, a chivalry that never failed. Only between her and
it--between her and him--as she lay awake through broken nights, some
barrier rose--dark and impassable. She knew it for the barrier of her
own unconquered fear.




Chapter XIX


On this same Sunday night before the date fixed for the Suffrage
debate, a slender woman, in a veil and a waterproof, opened the gate of
a small house in the Brixton Road. It was about nine o'clock in the
evening. The pavements were wet with rain, and a gusty wind was
shrieking through the smutty almond and alder trees along the road
which had ventured to put out their poor blossoms and leaves in the
teeth of this February gale.

The woman stood and looked at the house after shutting the gate, as
though uncertain whether she had found what she was looking for. But
the number 453, on the dingy door, could be still made out by the light
of the street opposite, and she mounted the steps.

A slatternly maid opened the door, and on being asked whether Mrs.
Marvell was at home, pointed curtly to a dimly lighted staircase, and
disappeared.

Gertrude Marvell groped her way upstairs. The house smelt repulsively
of stale food, and gas mingled, and the wailing wind from outside
seemed to pursue the visitor with its voice as she mounted. On the
second floor landing, she knocked at the door of the front room.

After an interval, some shuffling steps came to the door, and it was
cautiously opened.

"What's your business, please?"

"It's me--Gertrude. Are you alone?"

A sound of astonishment. The door was opened, and a woman appeared. Her
untidy, brown hair, touched with grey, fell back from a handsome
peevish face of an aquiline type. A delicate mouth, relaxed and
bloodless, seemed to make a fretful appeal to the spectator, and the
dark circles under the eyes shewed violet on a smooth and pallid skin.
She was dressed in a faded tea-gown much betrimmed, covered up with a
dingy white shawl.

"Well, Gertrude--so you've come--at last!"--she said, after a moment,
in a tone of resentment.

"If you can put me up for the night--I can stay. I've brought no
luggage."

"That doesn't matter. There's a stretcher bed. Come in." Gertrude
Marvell entered, and her mother closed the door.

"Well, mother--how are you?"

The daughter offered her cheek, which the elder woman kissed. Then Mrs.
Marvell said bitterly--

"Well, I don't suppose, Gertrude, it much matters to you how I am."

Gertrude took off her wet waterproof, and hat, and sitting down by the
fire, looked round her mother's bed-sitting-room. There was a tray on
the table with the remains of a meal. There were also a large number of
women's hats, some trimmed, some untrimmed, some in process of
trimming, lying about the room, on the different articles of furniture.
There was a tiny dog in a basket, which barked shrilly and feebly as
Gertrude approached the fire, and there were various cheap illustrated
papers and a couple of sixpenny novels to be seen emerging from the
litter here and there. For the rest, the furniture was of a squalid
lodging-house type. On the chimney-piece however was a bunch of
daffodils, the only fresh and pleasing object in the room.

To Gertrude it was as though she had seen it all before. Behind the
room, there stretched a succession of its ghostly fellows--the rooms of
her childhood. In those rooms she could remember her mother as a young
and comely woman, but always with the same slovenly dress, and the same
untidy--though then abundant and beautiful--hair. And as she half shut
her eyes she seemed also to see her younger sister coming in and
out--malicious, secretive--with her small turn-up nose, pouting lips,
and under-hung chin.

She made no reply to her mother's complaining remark. But while she
held her cold hands to the blaze that Mrs. Marvell stirred up, her eyes
took careful note of her mother's aspect. "Much as usual," was her
inward comment. "Whatever happens, she'll outlive me."

"You've been going on with the millinery?" She pointed to the hats. "I
hope you've been making it pay."

"It provides me with a few shillings now and then," said Mrs. Marvell,
sitting heavily down on the other side of the fire--"which Winnie
generally gets out of me!" she said sharply. "I am a miserable pauper
now, as I always have been."

Gertrude's look was unmoved. Her mother had, she knew, all that her
father had left behind him--no great sum, but enough for a solitary
woman to live on.

"Well, anyway, you must be glad of it as an occupation. I wish I could
help you. But I haven't really a farthing of my own, beyond the
interest on my L1000. I handle a great deal of money, but it all goes
to the League, and I never let them pay me more than my bare expenses.
Now then, tell me all about everybody!" And she lay back in the
dilapidated basket-chair that had been offered her, and prepared
herself to listen.

The family chronicle was done. It was as depressing as usual, and
Gertrude made but little comment upon it. When it was finished, Mrs.
Marvell rose, and put the kettle on the fire, and got out a couple of
fresh cups and saucers from a cupboard. As she did so, she looked round
at her visitor.

"And you're as deep in that militant business as ever."

Gertrude made a negligent sign of assent.

"Well, you'll never get any good of it." The mother's pale cheek
flushed. It excited her to have this chance of speaking her mind to her
clever and notorious daughter, whom in many ways she secretly envied,
while heartily disapproving her acts and opinions.

Gertrude shrugged her shoulders.

"What's the good of arguing?"

"Well, it's true"--said the mother, persisting. "Every new thing you
do, turns more people against you. Winnie's a Suffragist--but she says
you've spoilt all their game!"

Gertrude's eyes shone; she despised her mother's opinion, and her
sister's still more, and yet once again in their neighbourhood, once
again in the old environment, she could not help treating them in the
old defiant brow-beating way.

"And you think, I suppose, that Winnie knows a good deal about it?"

"Well, she knows what everybody's saying--in the trams--and the trains
everywhere. Hundreds of them that used to be for you have turned over."

"Let them!"

The contemptuous tone irritated Mrs. Marvell. But at the same time she
could not help admiring her eldest daughter, as she sat there in the
fire-light, her quiet well-cut dress, her delicate hands and feet. It
was true indeed, she was a scarce-crow for thinness, and looked years
older--"somehow gone to pieces"--thought the mother, vaguely, and with
a queer, sudden pang.

"And you're going on with it?"

"What? Militancy? Of course we are--more than ever!"

"Why, the men laugh at you, Gertrude!"

"They won't laugh--by the time we've done," said Gertrude, with
apparent indifference. Her mother had not sufficient subtlety of
perception to see that the indifference was now assumed, to hide the
quiver of nerves, irreparably injured by excitement and overstrain.

"Well, all I know is, it's against nature to suppose that women can
fight men." Mrs. Marvell's remarks were rather like the emergence of
scattered spars from a choppy sea.

"We shall fight them," said Gertrude, sourly--"And what's more, we
shall beat them."

"All the same we've got to live with them!" cried her mother, suddenly
flushing, as old memories swept across her.

"Yes,--on our terms--not theirs!"

"I do believe, Gertrude, you hate the very sight of a man!" Gertrude
smiled again; then suddenly shivered, as though the cold wind outside
had swept through the room.

"And so would you--if you knew what I do!"

"Well I do know a good bit!" protested Mrs. Marvell. "And I'm a married
woman,--worse luck! and you're not. But you'll never see it any other
way than your own, Gertie. You got a kink in you when you were quite
a girl. Last week I was talking about you to a woman I know--and I
said--'It's the girls ruined by the bad men that make Gertrude so
mad'--and she said--'She don't ever think of the boys that are ruined
by the bad women!--Has she ever had a son--not she!' And she just cried
and cried. I suppose she was thinking of something."

Gertrude rose.

"Look here, mother. Can I go to bed? I'm awfully tired."

"Wait a bit. I'll make the bed."

Gertrude sat down by the fire again. Her exhaustion was evident, and
she made no attempt to help her mother. Mrs. Marvell let down the
chair-bed, drew it near the fire, and found some bed-clothes. Then she
produced night-things of her own, and helped Gertrude undress. When her
daughter was in bed, she made some tea, and dry toast, and Gertrude let
them be forced on her. When she had finished, the mother suddenly
stooped and kissed her.

"Where are you going to now, Gertrude? Are you staying on with that
lady in Hamptonshire?"

"Can't tell you my plans just yet," said Gertrude sleepily--"but you'll
know next week."

The lights were put out. Both women tried to sleep, and Gertrude was
soon heavily asleep.

But as soon as it was light, Mrs. Marvell heard her moving, the splash
of water, and the lighting of the fire. Presently Gertrude came to her
side fully dressed--

"There, mother, I've made _you_ a cup of tea! And now in a few minutes
I shall be off."

Mrs. Marvell sat up and drank the tea.

"I didn't think you'd go in such a hurry," she said, fretfully.

"I must. My day's so full. Well, now look here, Mother, I want you to
know if anything were to happen to me, my thousand pounds would come to
you first, and then to Winnie and her children. And it's my wish, that
neither my brother nor Henry shall touch a farthing of it. I've made a
will, and that's the address of my solicitors, who're keeping it." She
handed her mother an envelope.

Mrs. Marvell put down her tea, and put her handkerchief to her eyes.

"I believe you're up to something dreadful, Gertrude,--which you won't
tell me."

"Nonsense," said Gertrude, not however unkindly. "But we mayn't see
each other for a good while. There!--I'll open the windows--that'll
make you feel more cheerful." And she drew up the blinds to the dull
February day, and opened a window.

"I'll telephone to Winnie as I go past the Post Office to come and
spend the day with you--and I'll send up the servant to do your room.
Now don't fret."

"I'm a lonely old woman, Gertrude:--and I wish I was dead."

Gertrude frowned.

"You should try and read something, Mother--better than these trashy
novels. When I've time, I'll send you a parcel of books--I've got a
good many. And don't you let your work go--it's good for you. Now
good-bye."

The two women kissed--Mrs. Marvell embracing her daughter with a sudden
fierceness of emotion to which Gertrude submitted, almost for the first
time in her life. Then her mother pushed her away.

"Good-bye, Gertrude--you'd better go!"

Gertrude went out noiselessly, closing the door behind her with a
lingering movement, unlike her. In the tiny hall below, she found the
"general" at work, and sent her up to Mrs. Marvell. Then she went out
into the grey February morning, and the little girl of the landlady
standing on the steps saw her enter one of the eastward-bound trams.

Monday afternoon came. Winnington had been called away to Wanchester by
urgent County business; against his will, for there had been some bad
rioting the day before at Latchford, and he would rather have gone to
help his brother magistrates. But there was no help for it. Lady
Tonbridge was at the little Georgian house, shutting it up for six
months. Delia was left alone in the Abbey, consumed with a restless
excitement she had done her best to hide from her companions. She
suddenly made up her mind that she would go and see for herself, and by
herself, what was happening at Monk Lawrence. She set out unobserved
and on foot, and had soon climbed the hill and reached the wood walk
along its crest where she had once met Lathrop. Half way through,
she came on two persons whom she at once recognised as the
science-mistress, Miss Jackson, and Miss Toogood. They were waiting
slowly, and, as it seemed to Delia, sadly; the little dressmaker
limping painfully, with her head thrown back and a face of fixed and
tragic distress.

When they saw Delia, they stopped in agitation.

"Oh, Miss Blanchflower!--"

Delia who knew that Miss Jackson had been in town hoping for work at
the Central Office of the League of Revolt, divined at once that she
had been disappointed.

"They couldn't find you anything?"

The teacher shook her head.

"And the Governors have given me a month's salary here in lieu of
notice. I've left the school, Miss Blanchflower! I was in the Square
you know, that day--and at the Police Court afterwards. That was what
did it. And I have my old mother to keep."

A pair of haggard eyes met Delia's.

"Oh, but I'll help!" cried Delia.--"You must let me help!--won't you?"

"Thank you--but I've got a few savings," said the teacher quietly. "It
isn't that so much. It's--well, Miss Toogood feels it too. She was in
town--she saw everything. And she knows what I mean. We're
disheartened--that's what it is!"

"With the movement?" said Delia, after a moment.

"It seemed so splendid when we talked of it down here--and--it
_was_--so horrible!" Her voice dropped.

"So horrible!" echoed Miss Toogood drearily. "It wasn't what we meant,
somehow. And yet we'd read about it. But to see those young women
beating men's faces--well, it did for me!"

"The police were rough too!" cried Miss Jackson. "But you couldn't
wonder at it, Miss Blanchflower, could you?"

Delia looked into the speaker's frank, troubled face. "You and I felt
the same," she said in a choked voice. "It was ugly--and it was
absurd."

She walked back with them a little way, comforting them, as best she
could. And her sympathy, her sweetness did--strangely--comfort them.
When she left them, they walked on, talking tenderly of her, counting
on _her_ good fortune, if there was none for them.

At the end of the walk, towards Monk Lawrence, another figure emerged
from the distance. Delia started, then gathered all her wits; for it
was Lathrop.

He hurried towards her, breathless, cutting all preliminaries--

"I was coming to find you. I arrived this morning. There is something
wrong! I have just been to the house, and there is no one there."

"What do you mean?"

"No one. I went to Daunt's rooms. Everything locked. The house
absolutely dark--everywhere. And I know that he has had the strictest
orders!"

Without a word, she began to run, and he beside her. When she
slackened, he told her that while in London he had made the most
skilful enquiries he could devise as to the plot he believed to be on
foot. But--like Delia's own--they had been quite fruitless. Those
persons who had shared suspicion with him in December were now
convinced that the thing was dropped. All that he had ascertained was
that Miss Marvell was in town, apparently recovered, and Miss Andrews
with her.

"Well--and were you pleased with your raid?" he asked her, half
mockingly, as he opened the gate of Monk Lawrence for her.

She resented the question, and the tone of it, remembering his first
grandiloquent letter to her.

"_You_ ought to be," she said, drily. "It was the kind of thing you
recommended."

"In that letter I wrote you! I ought to have apologised to you for that
letter long ago. I am afraid it was an exercise. Oh, I felt it, I
suppose, when I wrote it."

There was a touch of something insolent in his voice.

She made no reply. If it had not been for the necessity which yoked
them, she would not have spent another minute in his company, so
repellent to her had he become--both in the inner and the outer man.
She tried only to think of him as an ally in a desperate campaign.

They hastened up the Monk Lawrence drive. The house stood still and
peaceful in the February afternoon. The rooks from the rookery behind
were swirling about and over the roofs, filling the air with monotonous
sound which only emphasized the silence below. A sheet of snowdrops lay
white in the courtyard, where a child's go-cart upset, held the very
middle of the stately approach to the house.

Delia went to the front door, and rang the bell--repeatedly. Not a
sound, except the dim echoes of the bell itself from some region far
inside.

"No good!" said Lathrop. "Now come to the back." They went round to the
low addition at the back of the house, where Daunt and his family had
now lived for many months. Here also there was nobody. The door was
locked. The blinds were drawn down. Impossible to see into the rooms,
and neither calling nor knocking produced any response.

Lathrop stood thinking.

"Absolutely against orders! I know--for Daunt himself told me--that he
had promised Lang never to leave the house without putting some deputy
he could trust in charge. He has gone and left no deputy--or the deputy
he did leave has deserted."

"What's the nearest house--or cottage?"

"The Gardeners' cottages, beyond the kitchen garden. Only one of them
occupied now, I believe. Daunt used to live there before he moved into
the house. Let's go there!"

They ran on. The walled kitchen garden was locked, but they found a way
round it to where three creeper-grown cottages stood in a pleasant
lonely space girdled by beech-woods. One only was inhabited, but from
that the smoke was going up, and a babble of children's voices emerged.

Lathrop knocked. There was a sudden sound, and then a silence within.
In a minute however the door was opened, and a strapping black-eyed
young woman stood on the threshold looking both sulky and astonished.

"Are you Daunt's niece?" said Lathrop.

"I am, Sir. What do you want with him?"

"Why isn't he at Monk Lawrence?" asked Lathrop roughly. "He told me
himself he was not to leave the house unguarded."

"Well, Sir, I don't know I'm sure what business it is of yours!" said
the woman, flushing with anger. "He got bad news of his son, whose ship
arrived at Portsmouth yesterday, and the young man said to be dying, on
board. So he went off this afternoon. I've only left it for ten minutes
and I'm going back directly. Mrs. Cresson here had asked the children
to tea, and I brought them over. And I'll thank you, Sir, not to go
spying on honest people!"

And she would have slammed the door in his face, but that Delia came
forward.

"We had no intention of spying upon you, Miss Daunt--indeed we hadn't.
But I am Miss Blanchflower, who came here before Christmas, with Mr.
Winnington, and I should have been glad to see Mr. Daunt and the
children. Lily!--don't you remember me?"--and she smiled at the
crippled child--a delicate blue-eyed creature--whom she saw in the
background.

But the child, who seemed to have been crying violently, did not come
forward. And the other two, who had their fingers in their mouths, were
equally silent and shrinking. In the distance an old woman sat
motionless in her chair by the fire, taking no notice apparently of
what was going on.

The young woman appeared for a moment confused or excited.

"Well, I'm sorry, Miss, but my Uncle won't be back till after dark. And
I wouldn't advise you to come in, Miss,"--she hurriedly drew the door
close behind her--"the doctor thinks two of the children have got
whooping-cough--and I didn't send them to school today."

"Well, just understand, Miss Daunt, if that's your name," said Lathrop,
with emphasis--"that till you return to the house, we shall stay there.
We shall walk up and down there, till you come back. You know well
enough there are people about, who would gladly do an injury to the
house, and that it's not safe to leave it. Monk Lawrence is not Sir
Wilfrid Lang's property only. It belongs to the whole nation, and there
are plenty of people that'll know the reason why, if any harm comes to
it."

"Oh, very well. Have it your own way, Sir! I'll come--I'll come--fast
enough," and the speaker, with a curious half-mocking look at Lathrop,
flounced back into the cottage, and shut the door. They waited. There
were sounds of lowered voices, and crying children. Then Miss Daunt
emerged defiantly, and they all three walked back to Monk Lawrence.

The keeper's niece unlocked the door leading to Daunt's rooms. But she
stood sulkily in the entry.

"Now I hope you're satisfied, Sir. I don't know, I'm sure, why you
should come meddling in other people's affairs. And I daresay you'll
say something against me to my uncle!"

"Well, anyway, you keep watch!" was the stern reply. "I take my rounds
often this way, as your Uncle knows. I daresay I shall be by here again
tonight. Can the children find their way home alone?"

"Well, they're not idiots, Sir! Good-night to you. I've got to get
supper." And brusquely shutting the door in their faces, she went
inside. They perceived immediately afterwards that she had lit a light
in the kitchen.

"Well, so far, all right," said Lathrop, as he and Delia withdrew. "But
the whole thing's rather--queer. You know that old woman, Mrs.
Cresson, is not all there, and quite helpless?"

He pondered it as they walked back through the wood, his eyes on the
ground. Delia shared his undefined anxiety. She suggested that he
should go back to the house in an hour or so, to see if Daunt had
returned, and complain of his niece's breach of rules. Lathrop agreed.

"How do we know who or what that girl is?"--he said slowly--"that she
mayn't have been got hold of?"

The same terror grew in Delia. She walked on beside him absorbed in
speculation and discussion, till, without noticing, she had reached the
farther gate of the wood-walk. Outside the gate, ran the Wanchester
road, climbing the down, amid the woods. To reach the field path
leading to the Abbey, Delia must cross it.

She and Lathrop emerged from the wood still talking in low voices, and
stood beside the gate. A small car, with one man driving it, was
descending the long hill. But Delia had her back to it.

It came nearer. She turned, and saw Winnington approaching her--saw the
look on his face. For a moment she wavered. Then with a bow and a hasty
"Good Evening," she left Lathrop, and stepped into the road, holding up
her hand to stop the car.

"How lucky!" she said, clearly, and gaily,--"just as it's going to
rain! Will you take me home?"

Winnington, without a word, made room for her beside him. The two men
exchanged a slight greeting--and the car passed.

Lathrop walked quickly back in the direction of Monk Lawrence. His
vanity was hugely pleased.

"By George!--that was one to me! It's quite evident she hasn't taken
him into her confidence--doesn't want magistrates interfering--no
doubt. And meanwhile she appeals to _me_--she depends on _me_. Whatever
happens--she'll have to be grateful to me. That fellow with his
wry face can't stop it. What a vision she made just now under the
wood--'belle dame sans merci!'--hating my company--and yet compelled
to it. It would make a sonnet I think--I'll try it tonight."

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile in the dark corridors of Monk Lawrence a woman groping, met
another woman. The two dim figures exchanged some whispered words. Then
one of them returned to the back regions.

Lathrop, passing by, noticed smoke rising from the Daunts' chimney, and
was reassured. But in an hour or so he would return to look for Daunt
himself.

He had no sooner descended the hill to his own cottage, in the fast
gathering dusk, than Eliza Daunt emerged. She left the light burning in
the keeper's kitchen, and some cold supper on the table. Then with a
laugh which was half a sob of excitement she ran down the path leading
to the garden cottages.

She was met by a clamour of rebellious children, as she opened Mrs.
Cresson's door. "Where's Daddy, Liza?--where's Daddy! Why can't we go
home! We want our Daddy!"

"Hold your noise!" said Eliza roughly--"or it'll be the worse for
you--Daddy won't be home for a couple of hours yet, and I promised Fred
Cresson, I'd get Mrs. Cresson's tea for her. Lily, stop crying--and
get the tray!"

The crippled child, red-eyed, unwillingly obeyed. Neither she nor her
sisters could understand why they had been brought over to tea with
Mrs. Cresson of whose queer half-imbecile ways they were all terrified.
Their father had gone off in a great hurry--because of the telegram
which had come. And Fred had bicycled down to Latchford to see somebody
about a gardener's place. And now there was no one left but Liza and
Mrs. Cresson--of whom, for different reasons, the three little girls
were equally afraid. And Lily's heart especially was sore for her
father. She knew very well they were all doing what was forbidden. But
she dared not complain. They had found Cousin 'Liza a hard woman.

After Eliza Daunt had left Daunt's kitchen, for the space of half an
hour, a deep and brooding quiet settled on Monk Lawrence. The old house
held that in its womb, which must soon crash to light; but for this
last brief space, all was peace. The twilight of a clear February
evening mellowed the grey walls, and the moss-grown roofs; the house
spoke its last message--its murmured story, as the long yoke-fellow of
human life--to the tranquil air; and the pigeons crooned about it,
little knowing.

Presently from the same door which had seen Eliza Daunt depart, a woman
cautiously emerged. She was in dark clothes, closely veiled. With
noiseless step, she passed round the back of the house, pausing a
moment to look at the side door on the north side which had been lately
strengthened by Sir Wilfrid's orders. Then she gained the shelter of
the close-grown shrubbery, and turning round she stood a few seconds
motionless, gazing at the house. In spite of her quiet movements, she
was trembling from head to foot--with excitement, not fear.

"It's beautiful," she was saying to herself--"and precious--and I've
destroyed it." Then--with a fierce leap in the blood--"_Beauty_! And
what about the beauty that men destroy? Let them _pay_!"

But as she stood there a sudden disabling storm of
thought--misgiving--argument--swept through her brain. She seemed to
hear on all sides voices in the air--the voices of friends and foes, of
applause and execration--Delia's voice among them! And at the mere
imagination of it, a shiver of anger ran through her. She thought of
Delia now, only as of one who had deserted and disobeyed.

But with the illusion of the ear, there came also an illusion of
vision. The months of her recent life rose before her, in one hurrying
spectacle of scenes and faces, and the spectacle aroused in her but one
idea--one sickening impression--of crushing and superhuman effort. What
labour!--what toil! She shuddered under it. Then, suddenly, her mind
ran back to the early years before, beyond, the days of "war"--sordid,
unceasing war--when there had been time to love, to weep, to pity, to
enjoy; before wrath breeding wrath, and violence begetting violence,
had driven out the Spirits of Tenderness and Hope. She seemed to see,
to feel them--the sad Exiles!--fleeing along desert ways; and her
bitter heart cried out to them--for the only--the last time. For in the
great names of Love and Justice, she had let Hate loose within her, and
like the lion-cub nurtured in the house, it had grown to be the soul's
master and gaoler; a "doom" holding the citadels of life, and working
itself out to the appointed end.

But the tumult in which she stood began to unnerve her. By a last
exercise of will she was able to pull herself together.

Rapidly, as one well used to them, she made her way through the
shrubbery paths; round the walled garden, and behind the gardeners'
cottages. She heard the children in Mrs. Cresson's cottage as she
passed, Lily still fretfully crying, and the old woman's voice
scolding. Poor children!--they would be horribly frightened--but
nothing worse.

The thick overgrown wood of fir and beech behind the cottages received
her, swallowed up the slight insignificant form. In the wood there was
still light enough to let her grope her way along the path, till at the
end, against an opening to the sky, she saw the outlines of a keeper's
hut. Then she knew that she was worn out, and must rest. She pushed the
door ajar, and sat crouching on the threshold, while the schemes and
plottings of the preceding weeks ran disjointedly through memory.

Marion was safe by now--she had had an hour's start. And Eliza too had
gone. Nothing could be better than the arrangements made for those two.

But she herself was not going--not yet. Her limbs failed her; and
beyond the sheltering woods, she seemed to become electrically aware of
hostile persons, of nets drawn round her, cutting off escape. As to
that, she felt the most supreme indifference to what might happen to
her. The indifference, indeed, passed presently into a strange and
stinging temptation to go back--back to the dark house--to see with
her own eyes what her hands had done. She resisted it with
difficulty.... Suddenly, a sound from the distance--beyond the
cottages--as of a slight explosion. She started, and throwing back her
veil, she sat motionless in the doorway of the hut, her face making a
dim white patch upon the darkness.




Chapter XX


"Take me home!--take me home quick! I want to talk to you. Not
now--not here!"

The car flew along. Mark barely looked at Delia. His face was set and
pale. As for her, while they ran through the village and along the
country road between it and Maumsey, her mind had time to adjust itself
to that flashing resolution which had broken down a hundred scruples
and swept away a hundred fears, in that moment on the hill when she had
met his eyes, and the look in them. What must he think of her? An
assignation with that man, on the very first afternoon when his tender
watchfulness left her for an hour! No, it could not be borne that he
should read her so! She must clear herself! And thought, leaping
beacon-like from point to point told her, at last, that for Gertrude
too, she had chosen wrongly. Thank Heaven, there was still time! What
could a girl do, all alone--groping in such a darkness? Better after
all lay the case before Mark's judgment, Mark's tenderness, and trust
him with it all. Trust her own power too--see what a girl could do with
the man who loved her!

The car stopped at the Abbey door, and Winnington, still absolutely
silent, helped her to alight. She led the way, past the drawing-room
where Lady Tonbridge sat rather anxiously expecting her, to that bare
room on the ground floor, the little gun-room, which Gertrude Marvell
had made her office, and where many signs of her occupation still
remained--a calendar on the wall marking the "glorious" dates of the
League--a flashlight photograph of the first raid on Parliament some
years before--a faded badge, and scattered piles of newspapers. A
couple of deal tables and two chairs were all the furniture the room
contained, in addition to the cupboards, painted in stone-colour, which
covered the walls.

Delia closed the door, and threw off her furs. Then, with a gesture of
complete abandonment, she went up to Winnington, holding out her
hands--

"Oh, Mark, Mark, I want you to help me!"

He took her hands, but without pressing them. His face, frowning and
flushed, with a little quivering of the nostrils, began to terrify
her--

"Oh, Mark,--dear Mr. Mark--I went to see Mr. Lathrop--because--because
I was in great trouble--and I thought he could help me."

He dropped the hands.

"You went to _him_--instead of to me? How long have you been with him?
Did you write to him to arrange it?"

"No, no--we met by accident. Mark, it's not myself--it's a fear I
have--a dreadful, dreadful fear!"

She came close to him, piteously, just murmuring--

"It's Monk Lawrence!--and Gertrude!"

He started, and looked at her keenly--

"You know something I don't know?"

"Oh yes, I do, I do!" she said, wringing her hands. "I ought to have
told you long ago. But I've been afraid of what you might do--I've been
afraid for Gertrude. Can't you see, Mark? I've been trying to make Mr.
Lathrop keep watch--enquire--so that they wouldn't dare. I've told
Gertrude that I know--I've written to people--I've done all I could.
And this afternoon I felt I must go there and see for myself, what
precautions had been taken--and I met Mr. Lathrop--"

She gave a rapid account of their visit to the house,--of its complete
desertion--of the strange behaviour of the niece--and of the growing
alarm in her own mind.

"There's something--there's some plot. Perhaps that woman's in it.
Perhaps Gertrude's got hold of her--or Miss Andrews. Anyway, if that
house can be left quite alone--ever--they'll get at it--that I'm sure
of. Why did she take the children away? Wasn't that strange?"

Then she put her hands on the heart that fluttered so--and tried to
smile--

"But of course till the Bill's thrown out, there can be no danger, can
there? There _can't_ be any!" she repeated, as though appealing to him
to reassure her.

"I don't understand yet," he said gravely. "Why do you suspect Miss
Marvell, or a plot at all? There was no such idea in your mind when we
went over the house together?"

"No, none!--or at least not seriously--there was nothing, really, to go
on"--she assured him eagerly. "But just after--you remember Mr.
Lathrop's coming--that day--?--when you scolded me?"

He could not help smiling a little--rather bitterly.

"I remember you said you couldn't explain. Of course I thought it was
something connected with Miss Marvell, or your Society--but--"

"I'm going to explain"--she said, trying hard for composure. "I'm going
to tell it all in order."

And sitting down, her head resting on her hand, with Winnington
standing before her, she told the whole story of the preceding
weeks--the alternations of fear and relief--Lathrop's
suspicions--Gertrude's denials--the last interview between them.

As for the man looking down upon her beautiful bowed head, his heart
melted within him as he listened. The sting remained that she should
have asked anyone else than he to help her--above all that she should
have humbled herself to ask it of such a man as Lathrop. Anxiety
remained, for Monk Lawrence itself, and still more for what might be
said of her complicity. But all that was further implied in her
confession, her drooping sweetness, her passionate appeal to him--the
beauty of her true character, its innocence, its faith, its
loyalty--began to flood him with a feeling that presently burst its
bounds.

She wound up with most touching entreaties to him, to save and shield
her friend--to go himself to Gertrude and warn her--to go to the
police--without disclosing names, of course--and insist that the house
should be constantly patrolled.

He scarcely heard a word of this. When she paused--there was silence a
moment. Then she heard her name--very low--

"Delia!"

She looked up, and with a long breath she rose, as though drawn
invisibly. He held out his arms, and she threw hers round his neck,
hiding her face against the life that beat for her.

"Oh, forgive me!"--she murmured, after a little, childishly pressing
her lips to his--"forgive me--for everything!"

The tears were in his eyes.

"You've gone through all this!--alone!" he said to her, as he bent over
her. "But never again, Delia--never again!"

She was the first to release herself--putting tears away.

"Now then--what can we do?"

He resumed at once his ordinary manner and voice.

"We can do a great deal. I have the car here. I shall go straight back
to Monk Lawrence, and see Daunt to-night. That woman's behaviour must
be reported--and explained. An hour--an hour and a half?--since you
were there?"--he took out his watch--"He's probably home by now--it's
quite dark--he'd scarcely risk being away after dark. Dearest, go and
rest!--I shall come back later--after dinner. Put it out of your mind."

She went towards the hall with him hand in hand. Suddenly there was a
confused sound of shouting outside. Lady Tonbridge opened the
drawing-room door with a scared face--

"What is it? There are people running up the drive. They're shouting
something!"

Winnington rushed to the front door, Delia with him. With his first
glance at the hill-side, he understood the meaning of the cries--of the
crowd approaching.

"My God!--_too late_!"

For high on that wooded slope, a blaze was spreading to the skies--a
blaze that grew with every second--illuminating with its flare the
woods around it, the chimneys of the old house, the quiet stretches of
the hill.

"Monk Lawrence is afire, Muster Winnington!" panted one of Winnington's
own labourers who had outstripped the rest. "They're asking for you to
come! They've telephoned to Latchford for the engines, and to
Brownmouth and Wanchester too. They say it's burning like tow--there
must be petrol in it, or summat. It's the women they say!--spite of Mr.
Daunt and the perlice!"

Then he noticed Delia standing beside Winnington on the steps, and held
his tongue, scowling.

Winnington's car was still standing at the steps. He set it going in a
moment.

"My cloak!" said Delia, looking round her--"And tell them to bring the
car!"

"Delia, you're not going?" cried Madeleine, throwing a restraining arm
about her.

"But of course I am!" said the girl amazed. "Not with him--because I
should be in his way."

Various persons ran to do her bidding. Winnington already in his place,
with a labourer beside him, and two more in the seat behind him,
beckoned to her.

"Why should you come, dearest! It will only break your heart. We'll do
all that can be done, and I'll send back messages."

She shook her head.

"I shall come! But don't think of me. I won't run any risks."

There was no time to argue with her. The little car sped away, and with
it the miscellaneous crowd who had rushed to find Winnington, as the
natural head of the Maumsey community, and the only magistrate within
reach.

Delia and Madeleine were left standing on the steps, amid a group of
frightened and chattering servants--gazing in despairing rage at the
ever-spreading horror on the slope of the down, at the sudden leaps of
flame, the vast showers of sparks drifting over the woods, the red
glare on the low hanging clouds. The garnered beauty of four centuries,
one of England's noblest heirlooms, was going down in ruin, at the
bidding of a handful of women, hurling themselves in disappointed fury
on a community that would not give them their way.

Sharp-toothed remorse had hold on Delia. If she had only gone to
Wilmington earlier! "My fault!--my fault!"

When the car came quickly round, she and Lady Tonbridge got into it. As
they rushed through the roads, lit on their way by that blaze in the
heart of the hills, of which the roaring began to reach their ears,
Delia sat speechless, and death-like, reconstructing the past days and
hours. Not yet two hours since she had left the house--left it
untouched. At that very moment, Gertrude or Gertrude's agents must have
been within it. The whole thing had been a plot--the children taken
away--the house left deserted. Very likely Daunt's summons to his dying
son had been also part of it. And as to the niece--what more probable
than that Gertrude had laid hands on her months before, guided perhaps
by the local knowledge of Marion Andrews,--and had placed her as spy
and agent in the doomed house till the time should be ripe? The blind
and fanatical devotions which Gertrude was able to excite when she set
herself to it, was only too well known to Delia.

Where was Gertrude herself? For Delia was certain that she had not
merely done this act by deputy.

In the village, every person who had not gone rushing up the hill was
standing at the doors, pale and terror-stricken, watching the glare
overhead. The blinds of Miss Toogood's little house were drawn close.
And as Delia passed, angry looks and mutterings pursued her.

The car mounted the hill. Suddenly a huge noise and hooting behind
them. They drew into the hedge, to let the Latchford fire-engine
thunder past, a fine new motor engine, just purchased and equipped.

"There'll be three or four more directly, Miss"--shouted one of her
own garden lads, mounting on the step of the car. "But they say there's
no hope. It was fired in three places, and there was petrol used."

At the gate, the police--looking askance especially at Miss
Blanchflower--would have turned them back. But Delia asked for
Winnington, and they were at last admitted into the circle outside the
courtyard, where beyond reach of the sparks, and falling fragments, the
crowd of spectators was gathered. People made way for her, but Lady
Tonbridge noticed that nobody spoke to her, though as soon as she
appeared all the angry or excited attention that the crowd could spare
from the fire was given to her. Delia was not aware of it. She stood a
little in front of the crowd, with her veil thrown back, her hands
clasped in front of her, an image of rapt despair. Her face, like all
the faces in the crowd, was made lurid--fantastic--by the glare of the
flames; and every now and then, as though unconsciously, she brushed
away the mist of tears from her eyes.

"Aye she's sorry now!"--said a stout farmer, bitterly, to his
neighbour--"now that she's led them as is even younger than herself
into trouble. My girl's in prison all along of her--and that woman as
they do say is at the bottom of this business."

The speaker was Kitty Foster's father. Kitty had just been sentenced to
six months' imprisonment for the burning of a cricket pavilion in the
Midlands, and her relations were sitting in shame and grief for her.

"Whoever 'tis as did it 'ull have a job to get away"--said the man he
addressed. "They've got a lot o' police out. Where's 'Liza Daunt, I
say? They're searching for her everywhere. Daunt's just come upon the
engine from Latchford--saw the fire from the train. He says he's been
tricked--a put-up job he says. There wasn't nothing wrong with his son,
he says, when he got to Portsmouth. If they do catch 'em, the police
will have to guard 'em safe. It won't do to let the crowd get at 'em.
They're fair mad. Oh, Lord!--it's caught another roof!"

And a groan rose from the fast-thickening multitude, as another wall
fell amid a shower of sparks and ashes, and the flames, licking up and
up, caught the high-pitched roof of the great hall, and ran along the
stone letters of the parapet, which spelt out the motto--"Except the
Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." The fantastic
letters themselves, which had been lifted to their places before the
death of Shakespeare, seemed to dance in the flame like living and
tormented things.

Meanwhile in the courtyard, and on the side lawns, scores of persons
were busy removing furniture, pictures and tapestries. Winnington was
leading and organising the rescue parties, now inside, now outside the
house. And near him, under his orders, worked Paul Lathrop, in his
shirt sleeves, superhumanly active, and superhumanly strong--grinding
his teeth with rage sometimes, as the fire defeated one effort after
another to check it. Daunt, also was there, pouring out incoherent
confidences to the police, and distracted by the growing certainty that
his niece had been one of the chief authors of the plot. His children
naturally had been his first thought. But the Rector, who had just been
round to enquire for them at Mrs. Cresson's cottage, came back
breathless, shouting "all safe!"--and Daunt rushed off to help the
firemen; while Amberley reported to Susy the pitiable misery of Lily,
the little cripple, who had been shrieking for her father in wild
outbursts of crying, refusing to believe that he was not in the fire.
Susy, who loved the child, would have gladly gone to find her, and take
her home to the Rectory for the night. But, impossible to leave her
post at Delia's side, and this blazing spectacle that held the
darkness! Two village women, said the Rector, were in charge of the
children.

"No chance!" said Lathrop, bitterly, pausing for a moment beside
Winnington, while they both took breath--the sweat pouring from their
smoke-blackened faces.

"If one could get to the top of that window with the big hose--one
could reach the roof better"--panted Winnington, pointing to the still
intact double oriel which ran up through two stories of the building,
to the east of the doorway.

"I see!" Lathrop dashed away. And in a few seconds he and a fireman
could be seen climbing from a ladder upon a ledge, a carved
string-course, which connected the eastern and western oriels above the
main doorway. They crawled along the ledge like flies, clinging to
every projection, every stem of ivy, the fireman dragging the hose.

The crowd watched, all eyes. Winnington, after a rapid look or two,
turned away with the thought--"That fellow's done some rock-climbing in
his day!"

But against such a doom as had now gripped Monk Lawrence, nothing
availed. Lathrop and his companion had barely scaled the parapet of the
window when a huge central crash sent its resounding din circling round
the leafless woods, and the two climbing figures disappeared from view
amid a fresh rush of smoke and flame.

The great western chimney-stack had fallen. When the cloud of smoke
drifted away, a gaping cavity of fire was seen just behind the two men;
it could only be a matter of minutes before the wall and roof
immediately behind them came down upon them. The firemen shouted to
them from below. A long ladder was brought and run up to within twenty
feet of them. Lathrop climbed down to it over the scorched face of the
oriel, his life in jeopardy at every step. Then steadying himself on
the ladder,--and grasping a projection in the wall, he called to the
man above, to drop upon his shoulders. It was done, by a miracle--and
both holding on, the man above by the projections of the wall and
Lathrop by the ladder, descended, till the two were within reach of
safety.

A thin roar of cheers rose from the environing throng, scarcely audible
amid the greater roar of the flames. Lathrop, wearied, depressed, with
bleeding hands, came back to Winnington's side. Winnington looked
round. For the first time Lathrop saw through Mark's grey eyes the
generous heart within--unveiled.

"Splendid! Are you hurt?"

"Only scorched and scratched. Give me another job!"

"Come along then."

And thenceforward the two worked side by side, like brothers, in the
desperate attempt to save at least the Great Hall, and the beautiful
rooms adjoining; the Porch Room, with its Chatham memorials; the
library too, with its stores of seventeenth-century books, its busts,
and its portraits. But the flames rushed on and on, with a fiendish and
astounding rapidity. Fragments of news ran back to the onlookers. The
main staircase had been steeped in petrol--and sacks full of shavings
had been stored in the panelled spaces underneath it. Fire-lighters
heaped together had been found in the Red Parlour--to be dragged out by
the firemen--but again too late!--for the fire was already gnawing at
the room, like a wild prowling beast. A back staircase too had been
kindled with paraffin--the smell of it was everywhere. And thus urged,
a very demon of fire seemed to have seized on the beautiful place.
There was a will and a passion of destruction in the flames that
nothing could withstand. As the diamond-paned windows fell into
nothing-ness, the rooms behind shewed for a brief space; carved roofs,
stately fireplaces, gleaming for a last moment, before Time knew them
no more, and all that remained of them was the last vision of their
antique beauty, stamped on the aching memories of those who watched.

"Why did you let her come!" said France vehemently in Lady Tonbridge's
ear, with his eyes on Delia. "It's enough to kill her. She must know
who's done it!"

Lady Tonbridge shook her head despairingly, and both gazed, without
daring to speak to her, on the girl beside them. Madeleine had taken
one cold hand. France was torn with pity for her--but what comfort was
there to give! Her tears had dried. But there was something now in her
uncontrollable restlessness as she moved ghost-like along the front of
the spectators, pressing as near to the house as the police would
permit, scanning every patch of light or shadow, which suggested to
those who followed her, possession by some torturing fear--some terror
of worse still to come.

Meanwhile the police were thinking not only of the house, but still
more of its destroyers. They had a large number of men on the spot, and
a quick-witted inspector in charge. It was evident from many traces
that the incendiaries had only left the place a very short time before
the outbreak of the fire; they could not be far away. Scouts were flung
out on all the roads; search parties were in all the woods; every
railway station had been warned.

On the northern side, the famous Loggia, built by an Italianate owner
of the house, in the first half of the sixteenth century--a series of
open arches, with twisted marble pillars--ran along the house from
front to rear. It was approached on the south by a beautiful staircase,
of which the terra-cotta balustrading had been copied from a famous
villa on Como, and a similar staircase gave access to it from the
garden to the north. The fight for the Great Hall which the Loggia
adjoined, was being followed with agonised anxiety by the crowds. The
Red Parlour, with all its carvings and mouldings had gone, the porch
room was a furnace of fire, with black spars and beams hanging in
ragged ruin across it. The Great Hall seemed already tottering, and in
its fall, the Loggia too must go.

Then, as every eye hung upon the work of the firemen and the play of
the water, into the still empty space of the Loggia, and illumined by
the glare of the flames, there emerged with quiet step, the figure of a
woman. She came forward: she stood with crossed arms looking at the
crowd. And at the same moment, behind her, there appeared the form of a
child, a little fair-haired girl, hobbling on a crutch, in desperate
haste, and wailing--"Father!"

Delia saw them, and with one wild movement she was through the cordon
of police, and running for the house.

Winnington, at the head of his salvage corps, perceived her, and ran
too.

"Delia!--go back!--go back!"

"Gertrude!" she said, gasping--and pointed to the Loggia. And he had
hardly looked where all the world was looking, when a part of the roof
of the Hall at the back, fell suddenly outwards and northwards, in a
blaze of flame. Charred rafters stood out, hanging in mid air, and the
flames leapt on triumphant. At the same moment, evidently startled by
some sound behind her, the woman turned, and saw what the crowd
saw--the child, limping on its crutch, coming towards her, calling
incoherently.

Her own cry rang out, as she ran towards the cripple, waving her back.
And as she did so, came another thundering fall, another upward rush of
flame, as a fresh portion of the roof fell eastwards, covering the
Loggia and blotting out the figures of both woman and child.

With difficulty the police kept back the mad rush of the crowd. The
firemen swarmed to the spot.

But the child was buried deep under flaming ruin, where her father,
Daunt, who had rushed to save her, was only restrained by main force
from plunging after her, to his death. The woman they brought
out--alive. France, Delia and Winnington were beside her.

"Stand back!" shouted the mild old Rector--transformed into a
prophet-figure, his white hair streaming--as the multitude swayed
against the cordon of police. "Stand back! all of you--and pray--for
this woman!"

In a dead silence, men, shivering, took off their hats, and women
sobbed.

"Gertrude!" Delia called, in her anguish, as she knelt beside the
charred frame, over which France who was kneeling on the other side had
thrown his coat.

The dark eyes opened in the blackened face, the scorched lips unlocked.
A shudder ran through the dying frame.

"The child!--the child!"

And with that cry to heaven,--that protesting cry of an amazed and
conquered soul--Gertrude Marvell passed away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus ended the First Act of Delia's life. When three weeks later, after
a marriage at which no one was present except the persons to be
married, Lady Tonbridge, and Dr. France, Winnington took his wife far
from these scenes to lands of summer and of rest, he carried with him a
Delia ineffaceably marked by this tragedy of her youth. Children, as
they come, will sometime re-kindle the natural joy in a face so lovely.
And till that time arrives Winnington's tenderness will be the
master-light of all her day. But there are sounds once heard that live
for ever in the mind. And in Delia's there will reverberate till death
that wail of a fierce and childless woman--that last cry of nature in
one who had defied nature--of womanhood in one who had renounced the
ways of womanhood: "_the child--the child_!"

Not long after the destruction of Monk Lawrence and the marriage of
Delia, Paul Lathrop left the Maumsey neighbourhood. His debts had been
paid by some unknown friend or friends, and he fell back into London
literary life, where he maintained a precarious but--to himself--not
unpleasant existence.

Miss Jackson, the science-mistress, went to Vancouver, married the
owner of a lumber camp, and so tamed her soul. Miss Toogood lived on,
rarely employed, and seldom going outside the tiny back parlour, with
its pictures of Winchester and Mr. Keble. But Lady Tonbridge and Delia
do their best to lighten the mild melancholy which grows upon her with
age; and a little red-haired niece who came to live with her, keeps her
old aunt's nerves alive and alert by various harmless vices--among them
an incorrigible interest in the Maumsey and Latchford youth. Marion
Andrews and Eliza Daunt disappeared together. They were not captured on
that terrible night when Gertrude Marvell, convinced that she could not
escape, and perhaps not much caring to escape, came back to look on the
ruin she had so long and carefully prepared, and perished in the heart
of it--not alone.

But such desperate happenings as the destruction of Monk Lawrence, to
whatever particular calamities they may lead, are but a backward ripple
on the vast and ceaseless tide of human efforts towards a new and
nobler order. Delia must still wrestle all her life with the meaning of
that imperious call to women which this century has sounded; and of
those further stages, upwards and onwards, to which the human spirit,
in Man or Woman, is perennially urged by the revealing forces that
breathe through human destiny. Two days after the death of Gertrude
Marvell, the immediate cause on which she and her fellows had wrought
such havoc, went down in Parliament to long and bitter eclipse. But the
end is not yet. And for that riddle of the Sphinx to which Gertrude and
her fellows gave the answer of a futile violence, generations more
patient and more wise, will yet find the fitting key.

 THE END





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