H. Rider Haggard
Part 4 out of 7
Saint Dunstan made some appropriate--or, rather inappropriate--remark
to the effect that he hoped Mr. Bingham had made the most of such
unrivalled opportunities, adding, with a deep sigh, that no lovely
young lady had ever saved his life that he might live for her, &c.,
Here Geoffrey broke in without much ceremony. To him it seemed a
desecration to listen while this person was making his feeble jokes
"Well, dear," he said, addressing his wife, "and what have you been
doing with yourself all this time?"
"Mourning for you, Geoffrey, and enjoying myself exceedingly in the
intervals. We have had a delightful time, have we not, Mr. Dunstan?
Mr. Dunstan has also been staying at the Hall, you know."
"How could it be otherwise when you were there, Lady Honoria?"
answered the Saint in that strain of compliment affected by such men,
and which, to tell the truth, jarred on its object, who was after all
"You know, Geoffrey," she went on, "the Garsingtons have re-furnished
the large hall and their drawing-room. It cost eighteen hundred
pounds, but the result is lovely. The drawing-room is done in hand-
painted white satin, walls and all, and the hall in old oak."
"Indeed!" he answered, reflecting the while that Lord Garsington might
as well have paid some of his debts before he spent eighteen hundred
pounds on his drawing-room furniture.
Then the Saint and Lady Honoria drifted into a long and animated
conversation about their fellow guests, which Geoffrey scarcely tried
to follow. Indeed, the dinner was a dull one for him, and he added
little or nothing to the stock of talk.
When his wife left the room, however, he had to say something, so they
spoke of shooting. The Saint had a redeeming feature--he was somewhat
of a sportsman, though a poor one, and he described to Geoffrey a new
pair of hammerless guns, which he had bought for a trifling sum of a
hundred and forty guineas, recommending the pattern to his notice.
"Yes," answered Geoffrey, "I daresay that they are very nice; but, you
see, they are beyond me. A poor man cannot afford so much for a pair
"Oh, if that is all," answered his guest, "I will sell you these; they
are a little long in the stock for me, and you can pay me when you
like. Or, hang it all, I have plenty of guns. I'll be generous and
give them to you. If I cannot afford to be generous, I don't know who
"Thank you very much, Mr. Dunstan," answered Geoffrey coldly, "but I
am not in the habit of accepting such presents from my--acquaintances.
Will you have a glass of sherry?--no. Then shall we join Lady
This speech quite crushed the vulgar but not ill-meaning Saint, and
Geoffrey was sorry for it a moment after he had made it. But he was
weary and out of temper. Why did his wife bring such people to the
house? Very shortly afterwards their guest took his leave, reflecting
that Bingham was a conceited ass, and altogether too much for him.
"And I don't believe that he has got a thousand a year," he reflected
to himself, "and the title is his wife's. I suppose that is what he
married her for. She's a much better sort than he is, any way, though
I don't quite make her out either--one can't go very far with her. But
she is the daughter of a peer and worth cultivating, but not when
Bingham is at home--not if I know it."
"What have you said to Mr. Dunstan to make him go away so soon,
Geoffrey?" asked his wife.
"Said to him? oh, I don't know. He offered to give me a pair of guns,
and I told him that I did not accept presents from my acquaintances.
Really, Honoria, I don't want to interfere with your way of life, but
I do not understand how you can associate with such people as this Mr.
"Associate with him!" answered Lady Honoria. "Do you suppose I want to
associate with him? Do you suppose that I don't know what the man is?
But beggars cannot be choosers; he may be a cad, but he has thirty
thousand a year, and we simply cannot afford to throw away an
acquaintance with thirty thousand a year. It is too bad of you,
Geoffrey," she went on with rising temper, "when you know all that I
must put up with in our miserable poverty-stricken life, to take every
opportunity of making yourself disagreeable to the people I think it
wise to ask to come and see us. Here I return from comfort to this
wretched place, and the first thing that you do is make a fuss. Mr.
Dunstan has got boxes at several of the best theaters, and he offered
to let me have one whenever I liked--and now of course there is an end
of it. It is too bad, I say!"
"It is really curious, Honoria," said her husband, "to see what
obligations you are ready to put yourself under in search of pleasure.
It is not dignified of you to accept boxes at theatres from this
"Nonsense. There is no obligation about it. If he gave us a box, of
course he would make a point of looking in during the evening, and
then telling his friends that it was Lady Honoria Bingham he was
speaking to--that is the exchange. I want to go to the theatre; he
wants to get into good society--there you have the thing in a
nutshell. It is done every day. The fact of the matter is, Geoffrey,"
she went on, looking very much as though she were about to burst into
a flood of angry tears, "as I said just now, beggars cannot be
choosers--I cannot live like the wife of a banker's clerk. I must have
/some/ amusement, and /some/ comfort, before I become an old woman. If
you don't like it, why did you entrap me into this wretched marriage,
before I was old enough to know better, or why do you not make enough
money to keep me in a way suitable to my position?"
"We have argued that question before, Honoria," said Geoffrey, keeping
his temper with difficulty, "and now there is another thing I wish to
say to you. Do you know that detestable woman Anne stopped for more
than half an hour at Paddington Station this evening, flirting with a
ticket collector, instead of bringing Effie home at once, as I told
her to do. I am very angry about it. She is not to be relied on; we
shall have some accident with the child before we have done. Cannot
you discharge her and get another nurse?"
"No, I cannot. She is the one comfort I have. Where am I going to find
another woman who can make dresses like Anne--she saves me a hundred a
year--I don't care if she flirted with fifty ticket collectors. I
suppose you got this story from Effie; the child ought to be whipped
for tale-bearing, and I daresay that it is not true."
"Effie will certainly not be whipped," answered Geoffrey sternly. "I
warn you that it will go very badly with anybody who lays a finger on
"Oh, very well, ruin the child. Go your own way, Geoffrey! At any rate
I am not going to stop here to listen to any more abuse. Good-night,"
and she went.
Geoffrey sat down, and lit a cigarette. "A pleasant home-coming," he
thought to himself. "Honoria shall have money as much as she can spend
--if I kill myself to get it, she shall have it. What a life, what a
life! I wonder if Beatrice would treat her husband like this--if she
He laughed aloud at the absurdity of the idea, and then with a gesture
of impatience threw his cigarette into the fire and went to his room
to try and get some sleep, for he was thoroughly wearied.
GEOFFREY WINS HIS CASE
Before ten o'clock on the following morning, having already spent two
hours over his brief, that he had now thoroughly mastered, Geoffrey
was at his chambers, which he had some difficulty in reaching owing to
the thick fog that still hung over London, and indeed all England.
To his surprise nothing had been heard either of the Attorney-General
or of Mr. Candleton. The solicitors were in despair; but he consoled
them by saying that one or the other was sure to turn up in time, and
that a few words would suffice to explain the additional light which
had been thrown on the case. He occupied his half hour, however, in
making a few rough notes to guide him in the altogether improbable
event of his being called on to open, and then went into court. The
case was first on the list, and there were a good many counsel engaged
on the other side. Just as the judge took his seat, the solicitor,
with an expression of dismay, handed Geoffrey a telegram which had
that moment arrived from Mr. Candleton. It was dated from Calais on
the previous night, and ran, "Am unable to cross on account of thick
fog. You had better get somebody else in Parsons and Douse."
"And we haven't got another brief prepared," said the agonised
solicitor. ""What is more, I can hear nothing of the Attorney-General,
and his clerk does not seem to know where he is. You must ask for an
adjournment, Mr. Bingham; you can't manage the case alone."
"Very well," said Geoffrey, and on the case being called he rose and
stated the circumstances to the court. But the Court was crusty. It
had got the fog down its throat, and altogether It didn't seem to see
it. Moreover the other side, marking its advantage, objected strongly.
The witnesses, brought at great expense, were there; his Lordship was
there, the jury was there; if this case was not taken there was no
other with which they could go on, &c., &c.
The court took the same view, and lectured Geoffrey severely. Every
counsel in a case, the Court remembered, when It was at the Bar, used
to be able to open that case at a moment's notice, and though things
had, It implied, no doubt deteriorated to a considerable extent since
those palmy days, every counsel ought still to be prepared to do so on
Of course, however, if he, Geoffrey, told the court that he was
absolutely unprepared to go on with the case, It would have no option
but to grant an adjournment.
"I am perfectly prepared to go on with it, my lord," Geoffrey
"Very well," said the Court in a mollified tone, "then go on! I have
no doubt that the learned Attorney-General will arrive presently."
Then, as is not unusual in a probate suit, followed an argument as to
who should open it, the plaintiff or the defendant. Geoffrey claimed
that this right clearly lay with him, and the opposing counsel raised
no great objection, thinking that they would do well to leave the
opening in the hands of a rather inexperienced man, who would very
likely work his side more harm than good. So, somewhat to the horror
of the solicitors, who thought with longing of the eloquence of the
Attorney-General, and the unrivalled experience and finesse of Mr.
Candleton, Geoffrey was called upon to open the case for the
defendants, propounding the first will.
He rose without fear or hesitation, and with but one prayer in his
heart, that no untimely Attorney-General would put in an appearance.
He had got his chance, the chance for which many able men have to wait
long years, and he knew it, and meant to make the most of it.
Naturally a brilliant speaker, Geoffrey was not, as so many good
speakers are, subject to fits of nervousness, and he was, moreover,
thoroughly master of his case. In five minutes judge, jury and counsel
were all listening to him with attention; in ten they were absorbed in
the lucid and succinct statement of the facts which he was unfolding
to them. His ghost theory was at first received with a smile, but
presently counsel on the other side ceased to smile, and began to look
uneasy. If he could prove what he said, there was an end of their
case. When he had been speaking for about forty minutes one of the
opposing counsel interrupted him with some remark, and at that moment
he noticed that the Attorney-General's clerk was talking to the
solicitor beneath him.
"Bother it, he is coming," thought Geoffrey.
But no, the solicitor bending forward informed him that the Attorney-
General had been unavoidably detained by some important Government
matter, and had returned his brief.
"Well, we must get on as we can," Geoffrey said.
"If you continue like that we shall get on very well," whispered the
solicitors, and then Geoffrey knew that he was doing well.
"Yes, Mr. Bingham!" said his Lordship.
Then Geoffrey went on with his statement.
At lunch time it was a question whether another leader should be
briefed. Geoffrey said that so far as he was concerned he could get on
alone. He knew every point of the case, and he had got a friend to
"take a note" for him while he was speaking.
After some hesitation the solicitors decided not to brief fresh
counsel at this stage of the case, but to leave it entirely in his
It would be useless to follow the details of this remarkable will
suit, which lasted two days, and attracted much attention. Geoffrey
won it and won it triumphantly. His address to the jury on the whole
case was long remembered in the courts, rising as it did to a very
high level of forensic eloquence. Few who saw it ever forgot the sight
of his handsome face and commanding presence as he crushed the case of
his opponents like an eggshell, and then with calm and overwhelming
force denounced the woman who with her lover had concocted the cruel
plot that robbed her uncle of life and her cousins of their property,
till at the last, pointing towards her with outstretched hand, he
branded her to the jury as a murderess.
Few in that crowded court have forgotten the tragic scene that
followed, when the trembling woman, worn out by the long anxiety of
the trial, and utterly unnerved by her accuser's brilliant invective,
rose from her seat and cried:
"We did it--it is true that we did it to get the money, but we did not
mean to frighten him to death," and then fell fainting to the ground--
or Geoffrey Bingham's quiet words as he sat down:
"My lord and gentlemen of the jury, I do not think it necessary to
carry my case any further."
There was no applause, the occasion was too dramatically solemn, but
the impression made both upon the court and the outside public, to
whom such a scene is peculiarly fitted to appeal, was deep and
Geoffrey himself was under little delusion about the matter. He had no
conceit in his composition, but neither had he any false modesty. He
merely accepted the situation as really powerful men do accept such
events--with thankfulness, but without surprise. He had got his chance
at last, and like any other able man, whatever his walk of life, he
had risen to it. That was all. Most men get such chances in some shape
or form, and are unable to avail themselves of them. Geoffrey was one
of the exceptions; as Beatrice had said, he was born to succeed. As he
sat down, he knew that he was a made man.
And yet while he walked home that night, his ears still full of the
congratulations which had rained in on him from every quarter, he was
conscious of a certain pride. He will have felt as Geoffrey felt that
night, whose lot it has been to fight long and strenuously against
circumstances so adverse as to be almost overwhelming, knowing in his
heart that he was born to lead and not to follow; and who at last, by
one mental effort, with no friendly hand to help, and no friendly
voice to guide, has succeeded in bursting a road through the
difficulties which hemmed him in, and has suddenly found himself, not
above competition indeed, but still able to meet it. He will not have
been too proud of that endeavour; it will have seemed but a little
thing to him--a thing full of faults and imperfections, and falling
far short of his ideal. He will not even have attached a great
importance to his success, because, if he is a person of this calibre,
he must remember how small it is, when all is said and done; that even
in his day there are those who can beat him on his own ground; and
also that all worldly success, like the most perfect flower, yet bears
in it the elements of decay. But he will have reflected with humble
satisfaction on those long years of patient striving which have at
length lifted him to an eminence whence he can climb on and on,
scarcely encumbered by the jostling crowd; till at length, worn out,
the time comes for him to fall.
So Geoffrey thought and felt. The thing was to be done, and he had
done it. Honoria should have money now; she should no longer be able
to twit him with their poverty. Yes, and a better thought still,
Beatrice would be glad to hear of his little triumph.
He reached home rather late. Honoria was going out to dinner with a
distinguished cousin, and was already dressing. Geoffrey had declined
the invitation, which was a short one, because he had not expected to
be back from chambers. In this enthusiasm, however, he went to his
wife's room to tell her of the event.
"Well," she said, "what have you been doing? I think that you might
have arranged to come out with me. My going out so much by myself does
not look well. Oh, I forgot; of course you are in that case."
"Yes--that is, I was. I have won the case. Here is a very fair report
of it in the /St. James's Gazette/ if you care to read it."
"Good heavens, Geoffrey! How can you expect me to read all that stuff
when I am dressing?"
"I don't expect you to, Honoria; only, as I say, I have won the case,
and I shall get plenty of work now."
"Will you? I am glad to hear it; perhaps we shall be able to escape
from this horrid flat if you do. There, Anne! Je vous l'ai toujours
dit, cette robe ne me va pas bien."
"Mais, milady, la robe va parfaitement----"
"That is your opinion," grumbled Lady Honoria. "Well, it isn't mine.
But it will have to do. Good-night, Geoffrey; I daresay that you will
have gone to bed when I get back," and she was gone.
Geoffrey picked up his /St. James's Gazette/ with a sigh. He felt
hurt, and knew that he was a fool for his pains. Lady Honoria was not
a sympathetic person; it was not fair to expect it from her. Still he
felt hurt. He went upstairs and heard Effie her prayers.
"Where has you beed, daddy?--to the Smoky Town?" The Temple was
euphemistically known to Effie as the Smoky Town.
"You go to the Smoky Town to make bread and butter, don't you, daddy?"
"Yes, dear, to make bread and butter."
"And did you make any, daddy?"
"Yes, Effie, a good deal to-day."
"Then where is it? In your pocket?"
"No, love, not exactly. I won a big lawsuit to-day, and I shall get a
great many pennies for it."
"Oh," answered Effie meditatively, "I am glad that you did win. You do
like to win, doesn't you, daddy, dear."
"Then I will give you a kiss, daddy, because you did win," and she
suited the action to the word.
Geoffrey went from the little room with a softened heart. He dressed
and ate some dinner.
Then he sat down and wrote a long letter to Beatrice, telling her all
about the trial, and not sparing her his reasons for adopting each
particular tactic and line of argument which conduced to the great
And though his letter was four sheets in length, he knew that Beatrice
would not be bored at having to read it.
THE RISING STAR
As might be expected, the memorable case of Parsons and Douse proved
to be the turning point in Geoffrey's career, which was thenceforward
one of brilliant and startling success. On the very next morning when
he reached his chambers it was to find three heavy briefs awaiting
him, and they proved to be but the heralds of an uninterrupted flow of
lucrative business. Of course, he was not a Queen's Counsel, but now
that his great natural powers of advocacy had become generally known,
solicitors frequently employed him alone, or gave him another junior,
so that he might bring those powers to bear upon juries. Now it was,
too, that Geoffrey reaped the fruits of the arduous legal studies
which he had followed without cessation from the time when he found
himself thrown upon his own resources, and which had made a sound
lawyer of him as well as a brilliant and effective advocate. Soon,
even with his great capacity for work, he had as much business as he
could attend to. When fortune gives good gifts, she generally does so
with a lavish hand.
Thus it came to pass that, about three weeks after the trial of
Parsons and Douse, Geoffrey's uncle the solicitor died, and to his
surprise left him twenty thousand pounds, "believing," he said in his
will, which was dated three days before the testator's death, "that
this sum will assist him to rise to the head of his profession."
Now that it had dawned upon her that her husband really was a success,
Honoria's manner towards him modified very considerably. She even
became amiable, and once or twice almost affectionate. When Geoffrey
told her of the twenty thousand pounds she was radiant.
"Why, we shall be able to go back to Bolton Street now," she said,
"and as luck will have it, our old house is to let. I saw a bill in
the window yesterday."
"Yes," he said, "you can go back as soon as you like."
"And can we keep a carriage?"
"No, not yet; I am doing well, but not well enough for that. Next
year, if I live, you will be able to have a carriage. Don't begin to
grumble, Honoria. I have got £150 to spare, and if you care to come
round to a jeweller's you can spend it on what you like."
"Oh, you delightful person!" said his wife.
So they went to the jeweller's, and Lady Honoria bought ornaments to
the value of £150, and carried them home and hung over them, as
another class of woman might hang over her first-born child, admiring
them with a tender ecstasy. Whenever he had a sum of money that he
could afford to part with, Geoffrey would take her thus to a
jeweller's or a dressmaker's, and stand by coldly while she bought
things to its value. Lady Honoria was delighted. It never entered into
her mind that in a sense he was taking a revenge upon her, and that
every fresh exhibition of her rejoicings over the good things thus
provided added to his contempt for her.
Those were happy days for Lady Honoria! She rejoiced in this return of
wealth like a school-boy at the coming of the holidays, or a half-
frozen wanderer at the rising of the sun. She had been miserable
during all this night of poverty, as miserable as her nature admitted
of, now she was happy again, as she understood happiness. For bred,
educated, civilized--what you will--out of the more human passions,
Lady Honoria had replaced them by this idol-worship of wealth, or
rather of what wealth brings. It gave her a positive physical
satisfaction; her beauty, which had begun to fade, came back to her;
she looked five years younger. And all the while Geoffrey watched her
with an ever-growing scorn.
Once it broke out. The Bolton Street house had been furnished; he gave
her fifteen hundred pounds to do it, and with what things they owned
she managed very well on that. They moved into it, and Honoria had set
herself up with a sufficient supply of grand dresses and jewellery,
suitable to her recovered position. One day however, it occurred to
her that Effie was a child of remarkable beauty, who, if properly
dressed, would look very nice in the drawing-room at tea-time. So she
ordered a lovely costume for her--this deponent is not able to
describe it, but it consisted largely of velvet and lace. Geoffrey
heard nothing of this dress, but coming home rather early one
afternoon--it was on a Saturday, he found the child being shown off to
a room full of visitors, and dressed in a strange and wonderful attire
with which, not unnaturally, she was vastly pleased. He said nothing
at the time, but when at length the dropping fire of callers had
ceased, he asked who put Effie into that dress.
"I did," said Lady Honoria, "and a pretty penny it has cost, I can
tell you. But I can't have the child come down so poorly clothed, it
does not look well."
"Then she can stay upstairs," said Geoffrey frowning.
"What do you mean?" asked his wife.
"I mean that I will not have her decked out in those fine clothes.
They are quite unsuitable to her age. There is plenty of time for her
to take to vanity."
"I really don't understand you, Geoffrey. Why should not the child be
"Why not! Great heaven, Honoria, do you suppose that I want to see
Effie grow up like you, to lead a life of empty pleasure-seeking
idleness, and make a god of luxury. I had rather see her"--he was
going to add, "dead first," but checked himself and said--"have to
work for her living. Dress yourself up as much as you like, but leave
the child alone."
Lady Honoria was furious, but she was also a little frightened. She
had never heard her husband speak quite like this before, and there
was something underneath his words that she did not quite understand.
Still less did she understand when on the Monday Geoffrey suddenly
told her that he had fifty pounds for her to spend as she liked; then
accompanied her to a mantle shop, and stood patiently by, smiling
coldly while she invested it in lace and embroideries. Honoria thought
that he was making reparation for his sharp words, and so he was, but
to himself, and in another sense. Every time he gave her money in this
fashion, Geoffrey felt like a man who has paid off a debt of honour.
She had taunted him again and again with her poverty--the poverty she
said that he had brought her; for every taunt he would heap upon her
all those things in which her soul delighted. He would glut her with
wealth as, in her hour of victory, Queen Tomyris glutted dead Cyrus
with the blood of men.
It was an odd way of taking a revenge, and one that suited Lady
Honoria admirably; but though its victim felt no sting, it gave
Geoffrey much secret relief. Also he was curious; he wished to see if
there was any bottom to such a woman's desire for luxury, if it would
not bring satiety with it. But Lady Honoria was a very bad subject for
such an experiment. She never showed the least sign of being satiated,
either with fine things, with pleasures, or with social delights. They
were her natural element, and he might as soon have expected a fish to
weary of the water, or an eagle of the rushing air.
The winter wore away and the spring came. One day, it was in April,
Geoffrey, who was a moderate Liberal by persuasion, casually announced
at dinner that he was going to stand for Parliament in the Unionist
interest. The representation of one of the few Metropolitan divisions
which had then returned a Home Ruler had fallen vacant. As it chanced
he knew the head Unionist whip very well. They had been friends since
they were lads at school together, and this gentleman, having heard
Geoffrey make a brilliant speech in court, was suddenly struck with
the idea that he was the very man to lead a forlorn hope.
The upshot of it was that Geoffrey was asked if he would stand, and
replied that he must have two days to think it over. What he really
wanted the two days for was to enable him to write to Beatrice and
receive an answer from her. He had an almost superstitious faith in
her judgment, and did not like to act without it. After carefully
weighing the pros and cons, his own view was that he should do well to
stand. Probably he would be defeated, and it might cost him five
hundred pounds. On the other hand it would certainly make his name
known as a politician, and he was now in a fair way to earn so large
an income that he could well afford to risk the money. The only great
objection which he saw, was that if he happened to get in, it must
mean that he would have to work all day and all night too. Well, he
was strong and the more work he did the better--it kept him from
In due course Beatrice's answer came. Her view coincided with his own;
she recommended him to take the opportunity, and pointed out that with
his growing legal reputation there was no office in the State to which
he might not aspire, when he had once proved himself a capable member
of Parliament. Geoffrey read the letter through; then immediately sat
down and wrote to his friend the whip, accepting the suggestion of the
The next fortnight was a hard one for him, but Geoffrey was as good a
man on the platform as in court, and he had, moreover, the very
valuable knack of suiting himself to his audience. As his canvass went
on it was generally recognised that the seat which had been considered
hopeless was now doubtful. A great amount of public interest was
concentrated on the election, both upon the Unionist and the
Separatist side, each claiming that the result of the poll would show
to their advantage. The Home Rule party strained every nerve against
him, being most anxious to show that the free and independent electors
of this single division, and therefore of the country at large, held
the Government policy in particular horror. Letters were obtained from
great authorities and freely printed. Irish members, fresh from gaol,
were brought down to detail their grievances. It was even suggested
that one of them should appear on the platform in prison garb--in
short, every electioneering engine known to political science was
brought to bear to forward the fortunes of either side.
As time went on Lady Honoria, who had been somewhat indifferent at
first, grew quite excited about the result. For one thing she found
that the contest attached an importance to herself in the eyes of the
truly great, which was not without its charm. On the day of the poll
she drove about all day in an open carriage under a bright blue
parasol, having Effie (who had become very bored) by her side, and two
noble lords on the front seat. As a consequence the result was
universally declared by a certain section of the press to be entirely
due to the efforts of an unprincipled but titled and lovely woman. It
was even said that, like another lady of rank in a past generation,
she kissed a butcher in order to win his vote. But those who made the
remark did not know Lady Honoria; she was incapable of kissing a
butcher, or indeed anybody else. Her inclinations did not lie in that
In the end Geoffrey was returned by a magnificent majority of ten
votes, reduced on a scrutiny to seven. He took his seat in the House
on the following night amidst loud Unionist cheering. In the course of
the evening's debate a prominent member of the Government made
allusion to his return as a proof of the triumph of Unionist
principles. Thereon a very leading member of the Separatist opposition
retorted that it was nothing of the sort, "that it was a matter of
common notoriety that the honourable member's return was owing to the
unusual and most uncommon ability displayed by him in the course of
his canvass, aided as it was, by artfully applied and aristocratic
feminine influence." This was a delicate allusion to Honoria and her
As Geoffrey and his wife were driving back to Bolton Street, after the
declaration of the poll, a little incident occurred. Geoffrey told the
coachman to stop at the first telegraph office and, getting out of the
carriage, wired to Beatrice, "In by ten votes."
"Who have you been telegraphing to, Geoffrey?" asked Lady Honoria.
"I telegraphed to Miss Granger," he answered.
"Ah! So you still keep up a correspondence with that pupil teacher
"Yes, I do. I wish that I had a few more such correspondents."
"Indeed. You are easy to please. I thought her one of the most
disagreeable young women whom I ever met."
"Then it does not say much for your taste, Honoria."
His wife made no further remark, but she had her thoughts. Honoria
possessed good points: among others she was not a jealous person; she
was too cold and too indifferent to be jealous. But she did not like
the idea of another woman obtaining an influence over her husband,
who, as she now began to recognise, was one of the most brilliant men
of his day, and who might well become one of the most wealthy and
powerful. Clearly he existed for /her/ benefit, not for that of any
other woman. She was no fool, and she saw that a considerable intimacy
must exist between the two. Otherwise Geoffrey would not have thought
of telegraphing to Beatrice at such a moment.
Within a week of his election Geoffrey made a speech. It was not a
long speech, nor was it upon any very important issue; but it was
exceedingly good of its kind, good enough to be reported verbatim
indeed, and those listening to it recognised that they had to deal
with a new man who would one day be a very big man. There is no place
where an able person finds his level quicker than in the House of
Commons, composed as it is for the most part, of more or less wealthy
or frantic mediocrities. But Geoffrey was not a mediocrity, he was an
exceedingly able and powerful man, and this fact the House quickly
For the next few months Geoffrey worked as men rarely work. All day he
was at his chambers or in court, and at night he sat in the House,
getting up his briefs when he could. But he always did get them up; no
solicitors had to complain that the interests of their client were
neglected by him; also he still found time to write to Beatrice. For
the rest he went out but little, and except in the way of business
associated with very few. Indeed he grew more and more silent and
reserved, till at last he won the reputation of being cold and hard.
Not that he was really so. He threw himself head and soul into his
work with a fixed determination to reach the top of the tree. He knew
that he should not care very much about it when he got there, but he
enjoyed the struggle.
Geoffrey was not a truly ambitious man; he was no mere self-seeker. He
knew the folly of ambition too well, and its end was always clearly
before his eyes. He often thought to himself that if he could have
chosen his lot, he would have asked for a cottage with a good garden,
five hundred a year, and somebody to care for. But perhaps he would
soon have wearied of his cottage. He worked to stifle thought, and to
some extent he succeeded. But he was at bottom an affectionate-natured
man, and he could not stifle the longing for sympathy which was his
secret weakness, though his pride would never allow him to show it.
What did he care for his triumphs when he had nobody with whom to
share them? All he could share were their fruits, and these he gave
away freely enough. It was but little that Geoffrey spent upon his own
gratification. A certain share of his gains he put by, the rest went
in expenses. The house in Bolton Street was a very gay place in those
days, but its master took but little part in its gaieties.
And what was the fact? The longer he remained separated from Beatrice
the more intensely did he long for her society. It was of no use; try
as he would, he could not put that sweet face from his mind; it drew
him as a magnet draws a needle. Success did not bring him happiness,
except in the sense that it relieved him from money cares.
People of coarse temperament only can find real satisfaction in
worldly triumphs, and eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow they
die! Men like Geoffrey soon learn that this also is vanity. On the
contrary, as his mind grew more and more wearied with the strain of
work, melancholy took an ever stronger hold of it. Had he gone to a
doctor, he might have been told that his liver was out of order, which
was very likely true. But this would not mend matters. "What a world,"
he might have cried, "what a world to live in when all the man's
happiness depends upon his liver!" He contracted an accursed habit of
looking on the black side of things; trouble always caught his eye.
It was no wonderful case. Men of large mind are very rarely happy men.
It is your little animal-minded individual who can be happy. Thus
women, who reflect less, are as a class much happier and more
contented than men. But the large-minded man sees too far, and guesses
too much of what he cannot see. He looks forward, and notes the dusty
end of his laborious days; he looks around and shudders at the
unceasing misery of a coarse struggling world; the sight of the
pitiful beggar babe craving bread on tottering feet, pierces his
heart. He cannot console himself with a reflection that the child had
no business to be born, or that if he denuded himself of his last
pound he would not materially help the class which bred it.
And above the garish lights of earthly joys and the dim reek of
earthly wretchedness, he sees the solemn firmament that veils his
race's destiny. For such a man, in such a mood, even religion has
terrors as well as hopes, and while the gloom gathers about his mind
these are with him more and more. What lies beyond that arching
mystery to whose horizon he daily draws more close--whose doors may
even now be opening for him? A hundred hands point out a hundred roads
to knowledge--they are lost half way. Only the cold spiritual
firmament, unlit by any guiding stars, unbrightened by the flood of
human day, and unshadowed by the veils of human night, still bends
above his head in awful changelessness, and still his weary feet draw
closer to the portals of the West.
It is very sad and wrong, but it is not altogether his fault; it is
rather a fault of the age, of over-education, of over-striving to be
wise. Cultivate the searching spirit and it will grow and rend you.
The spirit would soar, it would see, but the flesh weighs it down, and
in all flesh there is little light. Yet, at times, brooding on some
unnatural height of Thought, its eyes seem to be opened, and it
catches gleams of terrifying days to come, or perchance, discerns the
hopeless gates of an immeasurable night.
Oh, for that simpler faith which ever recedes farther from the ken of
the cultivated, questioning mind! There alone can peace be found, and
for the foolish who discard it, setting up man's wisdom at a sign,
soon the human lot will be one long fear. Grown scientific and weary
with the weight of knowledge, they will reject their ancient Gods, and
no smug-faced Positivism will bring them consolation. Science, here
and there illumining the gloom of destiny with its poor electric
lights, cries out that they are guiding stars. But they are no stars,
and they will flare away. Let us pray for darkness, more darkness,
lest, to our bewildered sight, they do but serve to show that which
shall murder Hope.
So think Geoffrey and his kin, and in their unexpressed dismay, turn,
seeking refuge from their physical and spiritual loneliness, but for
the most part finding none. Nature, still strong in them, points to
the dear fellowship of woman, and they make the venture to find a
mate, not a companion. But as it chanced in Geoffrey's case he did
find such a companion in Beatrice, after he had, by marriage, built up
an impassable wall between them.
And yet he longed for her society with an intensity that alarmed him.
He had her letters indeed, but what are letters! One touch of a
beloved hand is worth a thousand letters. In the midst of his great
success Geoffrey was wretched at heart, yet it seemed to him that if
he once more could have Beatrice at his side, though only as a friend,
he would find rest and happiness.
When a man's heart is thus set upon an object, his reason is soon
convinced of its innocence, even of its desirability, and a kindly
fate will generally contrive to give him the opportunity of ruin which
he so ardently desires.
GEOFFREY HAS A VISITOR
And Beatrice--had she fared better during these long months? Alas, not
at all. She had gone away from the Bryngelly Station on that autumn
morning of farewell sick at heart, and sick at heart she had remained.
Through all the long winter months sorrow and bitterness had been her
portion, and now in the happiness of spring, sorrow and bitterness
were with her still. She loved him, she longed for his presence, and
it was denied to her. She could not console herself as can some women,
nor did her deep passion wear away; on the contrary, it seemed to grow
and gather with every passing week. Neither did she wish to lose it,
she loved too well for that. It was better to be thus tormented by
conscience and by hopelessness than to lose her cause of pain.
One consolation Beatrice had and one only: she knew that Geoffrey did
not forget her. His letters told her this. These letters indeed were
everything to her--a woman can get so much more comfort out of a
letter than a man. Next to receiving them she loved to answer them.
She was a good and even a brilliant letter writer, but often and often
she would tear up what she had written and begin again. There was not
much news in Bryngelly; it was difficult to make her letters amusing.
Also the farcical nature of the whole proceeding seemed to paralyse
her. It was ridiculous, having so much to say, to be able to say
nothing. Not that Beatrice wished to indite love-letters--such an idea
had never crossed her mind, but rather to write as they had talked.
Yet when she tried to do so the results were not satisfactory to her,
the words looked strange on paper--she could not send them.
In Geoffrey's meteor-like advance to fame and fortune she took the
keenest joy and interest, far more than he did indeed. Though, like
that of most other intelligent creatures, her soul turned with
loathing from the dreary fustian of politics, she would religiously
search the parliamentary column from beginning to end on the chance of
finding his name or the notice of a speech by him. The law reports
also furnished her with a happy hunting-ground in which she often
found her game.
But they were miserable months. To rise in the morning, to go through
the round of daily duty--thinking of Geoffrey; to come home wearied,
and finally to seek refuge in sleep and dreams of him--this was the
sum of them. Then there were other troubles. To begin with, things had
gone from bad to worse at the Vicarage. The tithes scarcely came in at
all, and every day their poverty pinched them closer. Had it not been
for Beatrice's salary it was difficult to see how the family could
have continued to exist. She gave it almost all to her father now,
only keeping back a very small sum for her necessary clothing and such
sundries as stamps and writing paper. Even then, Elizabeth grumbled
bitterly at her extravagance in continuing to buy a daily paper,
asking what business she had to spend sixpence a week on such a
needless luxury. But Beatrice would not make up her mind to dock the
paper with its occasional mention of Geoffrey.
Again, Owen Davies was a perpetual anxiety to her. His infatuation for
herself was becoming notorious; everybody saw it except her father.
Mr. Granger's mind was so occupied with questions connected with tithe
that fortunately for Beatrice little else could find an entry. Owen
dogged her about; he would wait whole hours outside the school or by
the Vicarage gate merely to speak a few words to her. Sometimes when
at length she appeared he seemed to be struck dumb, he could say
nothing, but would gaze at her with his dull eyes in a fashion that
filled her with vague alarm. He never ventured to speak to her of his
love indeed, but he looked it, which was almost as bad. Another thing
was that he had grown jealous. The seed which Elizabeth had planted in
his mind had brought forth abundantly, though of course Beatrice did
not know that this was her sister's doing.
On the very morning that Geoffrey went away Mr. Davies had met her as
she was walking back from the station and asked her if Mr. Bingham had
gone. When she replied that this was so, she had distinctly heard him
murmur, "Thank God! thank God!" Subsequently she discovered also that
he bribed the old postman to keep count of the letters which she sent
and received from Geoffrey.
These things filled Beatrice with alarm, but there was worse behind.
Mr. Davies began to send her presents, first such things as prize
pigeons and fowls, then jewellery. The pigeons and fowls she could not
well return without exciting remark, but the jewellery she sent back
by one of the school children. First came a bracelet, then a locket
with his photograph inside, and lastly, a case that, when she opened
it, which her curiosity led her to do, nearly blinded her with light.
It was a diamond necklace, and she had never seen such diamonds
before, but from their size and lustre she knew that each stone must
be worth hundreds of pounds. Beatrice put it in her pocket and carried
it until she met him, which she did in the course of that afternoon.
"Mr. Davies," she said before he could speak, and handing him the
package, "this has been sent to me by mistake. Will you kindly take it
He took it, abashed.
"Mr. Davies," she went on, looking him full in the eyes, "I hope that
there will be no more such mistakes. Please understand that I cannot
accept presents from you."
"If Mr. Bingham had sent it, you would have accepted it," he muttered
Beatrice turned and flashed such a look on him that he fell back and
left her. But it was true, and she knew that it was true. If Geoffrey
had given her a sixpence with a hole in it, she would have valued it
more than all the diamonds on earth. Oh! what a position was hers. And
it was wrong, too. She had no right to love the husband of another
woman. But right or wrong the fact remained: she did love him.
And the worst of it was that, as she well knew, sooner or later all
this about Mr. Davies must come to the ears of her father, and then
what would happen? One thing was certain. In his present poverty-
stricken condition he would move heaven and earth to bring about her
marriage to this rich man. Her father never had been very scrupulous
where money was concerned, and the pinch of want was not likely to
make him more so.
Nor, we may be sure, did all this escape the jealous eye of Elizabeth.
Things looked black for her, but she did not intend to throw up the
cards on that account. Only it was time to lead trumps. In other
words, Beatrice must be fatally compromised in the eyes of Owen
Davies, if by any means this could be brought about. So far things had
gone well for her schemes. Beatrice and Geoffrey loved each other, of
that Elizabeth was certain. But the existence of this secret,
underhand affection would avail her naught unless it could be ripened
into acts. Everybody is free to indulge in secret predilections, but
if once they are given way to, if once a woman's character is
compromised, then the world avails itself of its opportunities and
destroys her. What man, thought Elizabeth, would marry a compromised
woman? If Beatrice could be compromised, Owen Davies would not take
her to wife--therefore this must be brought about.
It sounds wicked and unnatural. "Impossible that sister should so
treat sister," the reader of this history may say, thinking of her
own, and of her affectionate and respectable surroundings. But it is
not impossible. If you, who doubt, will study the law reports, and no
worse occupation can be wished to you, you will find that such things
are possible. Human nature can rise to strange heights, and it can
also fall to depths beyond your fathoming. Because a thing is without
parallel in your own small experience it in no way follows that it
Elizabeth was a very remorseless person; she was more--she was a woman
actuated by passion and by greed: the two strongest motives known to
the human heart. But with her recklessness she united a considerable
degree of intelligence, or rather of intellect. Had she been a savage
she might have removed her sister from her path by a more expeditious
way; being what she was, she merely strove to effect the same end by a
method not punishable by law, in short, by murdering her reputation.
Would she be responsible if her sister went wrong, and was thus
utterly discredited in the eyes of this man who wished to marry her,
and whom Elizabeth wished to marry? Of course not; that was Beatrice's
affair. But she could give her every chance of falling into
temptation, and this it was her fixed design to do.
Circumstances soon gave her an opportunity. The need of money became
very pressing at the Vicarage. They had literally no longer the
wherewithal to live. The tithe payers absolutely refused to fulfil
their obligations. As it happened, Jones, the man who had murdered the
auctioneer, was never brought to trial. He died shortly after his
arrest in a fit of /delirium tremens/ and nervous prostration brought
on by the sudden cessation of a supply of stimulants, and an example
was lost, that, had he been duly hanged, might have been made of the
results of defying the law. Mr. Granger was now too poor to institute
any further proceedings, which, in the state of public feeling in
Wales, might or might not succeed; he could only submit, and
submission meant beggary. Indeed he was already a beggar. In this
state of affairs he took counsel with Elizabeth, pointing out that
they must either get money or starve. Now the only possible way to get
money was by borrowing it, and Mr. Granger's suggestion was that he
should apply to Owen Davies, who had plenty. Indeed he would have done
so long ago, but that the squire had the reputation of being an
exceedingly close-fisted man.
But this proposition did not at all suit Elizabeth's book. Her great
object had been to conceal Mr. Davies's desires as regards Beatrice
from her father, and her daily dread was that he might become
acquainted with them from some outside source. She knew very well that
if her father went up to the Castle to borrow money it would be lent,
or rather given, freely enough; but she also knew that the lender
would almost certainly take the opportunity, the very favourable
opportunity, to unfold his wishes as regards the borrower's daughter.
The one thing would naturally lead to the other--the promise of her
father's support of Owen's suit would be the consideration for the
money received. How gladly that support would be given was also
obvious to her, and with her father pushing Beatrice on the one side
and Owen Davies pushing her on the other, how could Elizabeth be sure
that she would not yield? Beatrice would be the very person to be
carried away by an idea of duty. Their father would tell her that he
had got the money on this undertaking, and it was quite possible that
her pride might bring her to fulfil a bond thus given, however
distasteful the deed might be to her personally. No, her father must
at all hazards be prevented from seeking assistance from Owen Davies.
And yet the money must be had from somewhere, or they would be ruined.
Ah, she had it--Geoffrey Bingham should lend the money! He could well
afford it now, and she shrewdly guessed that he would not grudge the
coat off his back if he thought that by giving it he might directly or
indirectly help Beatrice. Her father must go up to town to see him,
she would have no letter-writing; one never knows how a letter may be
read. He must see Mr. Bingham, and if possible bring him down to
Bryngelly. In a moment every detail of the plot became clear to
Elizabeth's mind, and then she spoke.
"You must not go to Mr. Davies, father," she said; "he is a hard man,
and would only refuse and put you in a false position; you must go to
Mr. Bingham. Listen: he is rich now, and he is very fond of you and of
Beatrice. He will lend you a hundred pounds at once. You must go to
London by the early train to-morrow, and drive straight to his
chambers and see him. It will cost two pounds to get there and back,
but that cannot be helped; it is safer than writing, and I am sure
that you will not go for nothing. And see here, father, bring Mr.
Bingham back with you for a few days if you can. It will be a little
return for his kindness, and I know that he is not well. Beatrice had
a letter from him in which he said that he was so overworked that he
thought he must take a little rest soon. Bring him back for Whit-
Mr. Granger hesitated, demurred, and finally yielded. The weak,
querulous old farmer clergyman, worn out with many daily cares and
quite unsupported by mental resources, was but a tool in Elizabeth's
able hands. He did not indeed feel any humiliation at the idea of
trying to borrow the cash, for his nature was not finely strung, and
money troubles had made him callous to the verge of unscrupulousness;
but he did not like the idea of a journey to London, where he had not
been for more than twenty years, and the expenditure that it entailed.
Still he acted as Elizabeth bade him, even to keeping the expedition
secret from Beatrice. Beatrice, as her sister explained to him, was
proud as Lucifer, and might raise objections if she knew that he was
going to London to borrow money of Mr. Bingham. This indeed she would
certainly have done.
On the following afternoon--it was the Friday before Whit-Sunday, and
the last day of the Easter sittings--Geoffrey sat in his chambers, in
the worst possible spirits, thoroughly stale and worn out with work.
There was a consultation going on, and his client, a pig-headed
Norfolk farmer, who was bent upon proceeding to trial with some
extraordinary action for trespass against his own landlord, was
present with his solicitor. Geoffrey in a few short, clear words had
explained the absurdity of the whole thing, and strongly advised him
to settle, for the client had insisted on seeing him, refusing to be
put off with a written opinion. But the farmer was not satisfied, and
the solicitor was now endeavouring to let the pure light of law into
the darkness of his injured soul.
Geoffrey threw himself back in his chair, pushed the dark hair from
his brow, and pretended to listen. But in a minute his mind was far
away. Heavens, how tired he was! Well, there would be rest for a few
days--till Tuesday, when he had a matter that must be attended to--the
House had risen and so had the courts. What should he do with himself?
Honoria wished to go and stay with her brother, Lord Garsington, and,
for a wonder, to take Effie with her. He did not like it, but he
supposed that he should have to consent. One thing was, /he/ would not
go. He could not endure Garsington, Dunstan, and all their set. Should
he run down to Bryngelly? The temptation was very great; that would be
happiness indeed, but his common sense prevailed against it. No, it
was better that he should not go there. He would leave Bryngelly
alone. If Beatrice wished him to come she would have said so, and she
had never even hinted at such a thing, and if she had he did not think
that he would have gone. But he lacked the heart to go anywhere else.
He would stop in town, rest, and read a novel, for Geoffrey, when he
found time, was not above this frivolous occupation. Possibly, under
certain circumstances, he might even have been capable of writing one.
At that moment his clerk entered, and handed him a slip of paper with
something written on it. He opened it idly and read:
"Revd. Mr. Granger to see you. Told him you were engaged, but he
said he would wait."
Geoffrey started violently, so violently that both the solicitor and
the obstinate farmer looked up.
"Tell the gentleman that I will see him in a minute," he said to the
retreating clerk, and then, addressing the farmer, "Well, sir, I have
said all that I have to say. I cannot advise you to continue this
action. Indeed, if you wish to do so, you must really direct your
solicitor to retain some other counsel, as I will not be a party to
what can only mean a waste of money. Good afternoon," and he rose.
The farmer was convoyed out grumbling. In another moment Mr. Granger
entered, dressed in a somewhat threadbare suit of black, and his thin
white hair hanging, as usual, over his eyes. Geoffrey glanced at him
with apprehension, and as he did so noticed that he had aged greatly
during the last seven months. Had he come to tell him some ill news of
Beatrice--that she was ill, or dead, or going to be married?
"How do you do, Mr. Granger?" he said, as he stretched out his hand,
and controlling his voice as well as he could. "How are you? This is a
most unexpected pleasure."
"How do you do, Mr. Bingham?" answered the old man, while he seated
himself nervously in a chair, placing his hat with a trembling hand
upon the floor beside him. "Yes, thank you, I am pretty well, not very
grand--worn out with trouble as the sparks fly upwards," he added,
with a vague automatic recollection of the scriptural quotation.
"I hope that Miss Elizabeth and Be--that your daughters are well
also," said Geoffrey, unable to restrain his anxiety.
"Yes, yes, thank you, Mr. Bingham. Elizabeth isn't very grand either,
complains of a pain in her chest, a little bilious perhaps--she always
is bilious in the spring."
"And Miss Beatrice?"
"Oh, I think she's well--very quiet, you know, and a little pale,
perhaps; but she is always quiet--a strange woman Beatrice, Mr.
Bingham, a very strange woman, quite beyond me! I do not understand
her, and don't try to. Not like other women at all, takes no pleasure
in things seemingly; curious, with her good looks--very curious. But
nobody understands Beatrice."
Geoffrey breathed a sigh of relief. "And how are tithes being paid,
Mr. Granger? not very grandly, I fear. I saw that scoundrel Jones died
Mr. Granger woke up at once. Before he had been talking almost at
random; the subject of his daughters did not greatly interest him.
What did interest him was this money question. Nor was it very
wonderful; the poor narrow-minded old man had thought about money till
he could scarcely find room for anything else, indeed nothing else
really touched him closely. He broke into a long story of his wrongs,
and, drawing a paper from his breast pocket, with shaking finger
pointed out to Geoffrey how that his clerical income for the last six
months had been at the rate of only forty pounds a year, upon which
sum even a Welsh clergyman could not consider himself passing rich.
Geoffrey listened and sympathised; then came a pause.
"That's how we've been getting on at Bryngelly, Mr. Bingham," Mr.
Granger said presently, "starving, pretty well starving. It's only you
who have been making money; we've been sitting on the same dock-leaf
while you have become a great man. If it had not been for Beatrice's
salary--she's behaved very well about the salary, has Beatrice--I am
sure I don't understand how the poor girl clothes herself on what she
keeps; I know that she had to go without a warm cloak this winter,
because she got a cough from it--we should have been in the workhouse,
and that's where we shall be yet," and he rubbed the back of his
withered hand across his eyes.
Geoffrey gasped. Beatrice with scarcely enough means to clothe herself
--Beatrice shivering and becoming ill from the want of a cloak while
/he/ lived in luxury! It made him sick to think of it. For a moment he
could say nothing.
"I have come here--I've come," went on the old man in a broken voice,
broken not so much by shame at having to make the request as from fear
lest it should be refused, "to ask you if you could lend me a little
money. I don't know where to turn, I don't indeed, or I would not do
it, Mr. Bingham. I have spent my last pound to get here. If you could
lend me a hundred pounds I'd give you note of hand for it and try to
pay it back little by little; we might take twenty pounds a year from
"Don't, please--do not talk of such a thing!" ejaculated the horrified
Geoffrey. "Where the devil is my cheque-book? Oh, I know, I left it in
Bolton Street. Here, this will do as well," and he took up a draft
note made out to his order, and, rapidly signing his name on the back
of it, handed it to Mr. Granger. It was in payment of the fees in the
great case of Parsons and Douse and some other matters. Mr. Granger
took the draft, and, holding it close to his eyes, glanced at the
amount; it was £200.
"But this is double what I asked for," he said doubtfully. "Am I to
return you £100?"
"No, no," answered Geoffrey, "I daresay that you have some debts to
pay. Thank Heaven, I can get on very well and earn more money than I
want. Not enough clothing--it is shocking to think of!" he added, more
to himself than to his listener.
The old man rose, his eyes full of tears. "God bless you," he said,
"God bless you. I do not know how to thank you--I don't indeed," and
he caught Geoffrey's hand between his trembling palms and pressed it.
"Please do not say any more, Mr. Granger; it really is only a matter
of mutual obligation. No, no, I don't want any note of hand. If I were
to die it might be used against you. You can pay me whenever it is
"You are too good, Mr. Bingham," said the old clergyman. "Where could
another man be found who would lend me £200 without security?" (where
indeed!) "By the way," he added, "I forgot; my mind is in such a
whirl. Will you come back with me for a few days to Bryngelly? We
shall all be so pleased if you can. Do come, Mr. Bingham; you look as
though you want a change, you do indeed."
Geoffrey dropped his hand heavily on the desk. But half an hour before
he had made up his mind not to go to Bryngelly. And now----
The vision of Beatrice rose before his eyes. Beatrice who had gone
cold all winter and never told him one word of their biting poverty--
the longing for the sight of Beatrice came into his heart, and like a
hurricane swept the defences of his reason to the level ground.
Temptation overwhelmed him; he no longer struggled against it. He must
see her, if it was only to say good-bye.
"Thank you," he said quietly, lifting his bowed head. "Yes, I have
nothing particular to do for the next day or two. I think that I will
come. When do you go back?"
"Well, I thought of taking the night mail, but I feel so tired. I
really don't know. I think I shall go by the nine o'clock train
"That will suit me very well," said Geoffrey; "and now what are you
going to do to-night? You had better come and dine and sleep at my
house. No dress clothes? Oh, never mind; there are some people coming
but they won't care; a clergyman is always dressed. Come along and I
will get that draft cashed. The bank is shut, but I can manage it."
BACK AT BRYNGELLY
Geoffrey and Mr. Granger reached Bolton Street about six o'clock. The
drawing-room was still full of callers. Lady Honoria's young men
mustered in great force in those days. They were very inoffensive
young men and Geoffrey had no particular objection to them. Only he
found it difficult to remember all their names. When Geoffrey entered
the drawing-room there were no fewer than five of them, to say nothing
of two stray ladies, all superbly dressed and sitting metaphorically
at Honoria's very pretty feet. Otherwise their contributions to the
general store of amusement did not amount to much, for her ladyship
did most of the talking.
Geoffrey introduced Mr. Granger, whom Honoria could not at first
remember. Nor did she receive the announcement that he was going to
dine and stay the night with any particular enthusiasm. The young men
melted away at Geoffrey's advent like mists before a rising sun. He
greeted them civilly enough, but with him they had nothing in common.
To tell the truth they were a little afraid of him. This man with his
dark handsome face sealed with the stamp of intellect, his powerful-
looking form (ill dressed, according to their standard) and his great
and growing reputation, was a person with whom they had no sympathy,
and who, they felt, had no sympathy with them. We talk as though there
is one heaven and one hell for all of us, but here must be some
mistake. An impassable gulf yawns between the different classes of
mankind. What has such a man as Geoffrey to do with the feeble male
and female butterflies of a London drawing-room? There is only one
link between them: they live on the same planet.
When the fine young men and the two stray ladies had melted away,
Geoffrey took Mr. Granger up to his room. Coming downstairs again he
found Lady Honoria waiting for him in the study.
"Is that individual really going to dine and sleep here?" she asked.
"Certainly, Honoria, and he has brought no dress clothes," he
"Really, Geoffrey, it is too bad of you," said the lady with some
pardonable irritation. "Why do you bring people to dinner in this
promiscuous way? It will quite upset the table. Just fancy asking an
old Welsh clergyman to dine, who has not the slightest pretensions to
being a gentleman, when one has the Prime Minister and a Bishop coming
--and a clergyman without dress clothes too. What has he come for?"
"He came to see me on business, and as to the people coming to dinner,
if they don't like it they can grumble when they go home. By the way,
Honoria, I am going down to Wales for a day or two to-morrow. I want a
"Indeed! Going to see the lovely Beatrice, I suppose. You had better
be careful, Geoffrey. That girl will get you into a mess, and if she
does there are plenty of people who are ready to make an example of
you. You have enemies enough, I can tell you. I am not jealous, it is
not in my line, but you are too intimate with that girl, and you will
be sorry for it one day."
"Nonsense," said Geoffrey angrily, but nevertheless he felt that Lady
Honoria's words were words of truth. It struck him, moreover, that she
must feel this strongly, or she would not have spoken in that tone.
Honoria did not pose as a household philosopher. Still he would not
draw back now. His heart was set on seeing Beatrice.
"Am I to understand," went on his wife, "that you still object to my
staying with the Garsingtons? I think it is a little hard if I do not
make a fuss about your going to see your village paragon, that you
should refuse to allow me to visit my own brother."
Geoffrey felt that he was being bargained with. It was degrading, but
in the extremity of his folly he yielded.
"Go if you like," he said shortly, "but if you take Effie, mind she is
properly looked after, that is all," and he abruptly left the room.
Lady Honoria looked after him, slowly nodding her handsome head. "Ah,"
she said to herself, "I have found out how to manage you now. You have
your weak point like other people, Master Geoffrey--and it spells
Beatrice. Only you must not go too far. I am not jealous, but I am not
going to have a scandal for fifty Beatrices. I will not allow you to
lose your reputation and position. Just imagine a man like that pining
for a village girl--she is nothing more! And they talk about his being
so clever. Well, he always liked ladies' society; that is his failing,
and now he has burnt his fingers. They all do sooner or later,
especially these clever men. The women flatter them, that's it. Of
course the girl is trying to get hold of him, and she might do worse,
but so surely as my name is Honoria Bingham I will put a spoke in her
wheel before she has done. Bah! and they laugh at the power of women
when a man like Geoffrey, with all the world to lose, grows love-sick
for a pretty face; it is a /very/ pretty face by the way. I do believe
that if I were out of the way he would marry her. But I am in the way,
and mean to stay there. Well, it is time to dress for dinner. I only
hope that old clown of a clergyman won't do something ridiculous. I
shall have to apologise for him."
Dinner-time had come; it was a quarter past eight, and the room was
filled with highly bred people all more or less distinguished. Mr.
Granger had duly appeared, arrayed in his threadbare black coat,
relieved, however, by a pair of Geoffrey's dress shoes. As might have
been expected, the great folk did not seem surprised at his presence,
or to take any particular notice of his attire, the fact being that
such people never are surprised. A Zulu chief in full war dress would
only excite a friendly interest in their breasts. On the contrary they
recognised vaguely that the old gentleman was something out of the
common run, and as such worth cultivating. Indeed the Prime Minister,
hearing casually that he was a clergyman from Wales, asked to be
introduced to him, and at once fell into conversation about tithes, a
subject of which Mr. Granger was thoroughly master.
Presently they went down to dinner, Mr. Granger escorting the wife of
the Bishop, a fat and somewhat apoplectic lady, blessed with an
excellent appetite. On his other side was the Prime Minister, and
between the two he got on very well, especially after a few glasses of
wine. Indeed, both the apoplectic wife of the Bishop and the head of
Her Majesty's Government were subsequently heard to declare that Mr.
Granger was a very entertaining person. To the former he related with
much detail how his daughter had saved their host's life, and to the
latter he discoursed upon the subject of tithes, favouring him with
his ideas of what legislation was necessary to meet the question.
Somewhat to his own surprise, he found that his views were received
with attention and even with respect. In the main, too, they received
the support of the Bishop, who likewise felt keenly on the subject of
tithes. Never before had Mr. Granger had such a good dinner nor
mingled with company so distinguished. He remembered both till his
Next morning Geoffrey and Mr. Granger started before Lady Honoria was
up. Into the details of their long journey to Wales (in a crowded
third-class carriage) we need not enter. Geoffrey had plenty to think
of, but his fears had vanished, as fears sometimes do when we draw
near to the object of them, and had been replaced by a curious
expectancy. He saw now, or thought he saw, that he had been making a
mountain out of a molehill. Probably it meant nothing at all. There
was no real danger. Beatrice liked him, no doubt; possibly she had
even experienced a fit of tenderness towards him. Such things come and
such things go. Time is a wonderful healer of moral distempers, and
few young ladies endure the chains of an undesirable attachment for a
period of seven whole months. It made him almost blush to think that
this might be so, and that the gratuitous extension of his misfortune
to Beatrice might be nothing more than the working of his own
unconscious vanity--a vanity which, did she know of it, would move her
to angry laughter.
He remembered how once, when he was quite a young fellow, he had been
somewhat smitten with a certain lady, who certainly, if he might judge
from her words and acts, reciprocated the sentiment. And he remembered
also, how when he met that lady some months afterwards she treated him
with a cold indifference, indeed almost with an insolence, that quite
bewildered him, making him wonder how the same person could show in
such different lights, till at length, mortified and ashamed by his
mistake, he had gone away in a rage and seen her face no more. Of
course he had set it down to female infidelity; he had served her
turn, she had made a fool of him, and that was all she wanted. Now he
might enjoy his humiliation. It did not occur to him that it might be
simple "cussedness," to borrow an energetic American term, or that she
had not really changed, but was angry with him for some reason which
she did not choose to show. It is difficult to weigh the motives of
women in the scales of male experience, and many other men besides
Geoffrey have been forced to give up the attempt and to console
themselves with the reflection that the inexplicable is generally not
Yes, probably it would be the same case over again. And yet, and yet--
was Beatrice of that class? Had she not too much of a man's
straightforwardness of aim to permit her to play such tricks? In the
bottom of his soul he thought that she had, but he would not admit it
to himself. The fact of the matter was that, half unknowingly, he was
trying to drug his conscience. He knew that in his longing to see her
dear face once more he had undertaken a dangerous thing. He was about
to walk with her over an abyss on a bridge which might bear them, or--
might break. So long as he walked there alone it would be well, but
would it bear them /both?/ Alas for the frailty of human nature, this
was the truth; but he would not and did not acknowledge it. He was not
going to make love to Beatrice, he was going to enjoy the pleasure of
her society. In friendship there could be no harm.
It is not difficult thus to still the qualms of an uneasy mind, more
especially when the thing in question at its worst is rather an
offence against local custom than against natural law. In many
countries of the world--in nearly all countries, indeed, at different
epochs of their history--it would have been no wrong that Geoffrey and
Beatrice should love each other, and human nature in strong temptation
is very apt to override artificial barriers erected to suit the
convenience or promote the prosperity of particular sections of
mankind. But, as we have heard, even though all things may be lawful,
yet all things are not expedient. To commit or even to condone an act
because the principle that stamps it as wrong will admit of argument
on its merits is mere sophistry, by the aid of which we might prove
ourselves entitled to defy the majority of laws of all calibres. Laws
vary to suit the generations, but each generation must obey its own,
or confusion will ensue. A deed should be judged by its fruits; it may
even be innocent in itself, yet if its fruits are evil the doer in a
sense is guilty.
Thus in some countries to mention the name of your mother-in-law
entails the most unpleasant consequences on that intimate relation.
Nobody can say that to name the lady is a thing wicked in itself; yet
the man who, knowing the penalties which will ensue, allows himself,
even in a fit of passion against that relative, to violate the custom
and mention her by name is doubtless an offender. Thus, too, the
result of an entanglement between a woman and a man already married
generally means unhappiness and hurt to all concerned, more especially
to the women, whose prospects are perhaps irretrievably injured
thereby. It is useless to point to the example of the patriarchs, some
foreign royal families, and many respectable Turks; it is useless to
plead that the love is deep and holy love, for which a man or woman
might well live and die, or to show extenuating circumstances in the
fact of loneliness, need of sympathy, and that the existing marriage
is a hollow sham. The rule is clear. A man may do most things except
cheat at cards or run away in action; a woman may break half-a-dozen
hearts, or try to break them, and finally put herself up at auction
and take no harm at all--but neither of them may in any event do
Not that Geoffrey, to do him justice, had any such intentions. Most
men are incapable of plots of that nature. If they fall, it is when
the voice of conscience is lost in the whirlwind of passion, and
counsel is darkened by the tumultuous pleadings of the heart. Their
sin is that they will, most of them, allow themselves to be put in
positions favourable to the development of these disagreeable
influences. It is not safe to light cigarettes in a powder factory. If
Geoffrey had done what he ought to have done, he would never have gone
to Bryngelly, and there would have been no story to tell, or no more
than there usually is.
At length Mr. Granger and his guest reached Bryngelly; there was
nobody to meet them, for nobody knew that they were coming, so they
walked up to the Vicarage. It was strange to Geoffrey once more to
pass by the little church through those well-remembered, wind-torn
pines and see that low long house. It seemed wonderful that all should
still be just as it was, that there should be no change at all, when
he himself had seen so much. There was Beatrice's home; where was
He passed into the house like a man in a dream. In another moment he
was in the long parlour where he had spent so many happy hours, and
Elizabeth was greeting him. He shook hands with her, and as he did so,
noticed vaguely that she too was utterly unchanged. Her straw-coloured
hair was pushed back from the temples in the same way, the mouth wore
the same hard smile, her light eyes shone with the same cold look; she
even wore the same brown dress. But she appeared to be very pleased to
see him, as indeed she was, for the game looked well for Elizabeth.
Her father kissed her hurriedly, and bustled from the room to lock up
his borrowed cash, leaving them together.
Somehow Geoffrey's conversational powers failed him. Where was
Beatrice? she ought to be back from school. It was holiday time
indeed. Could she be away?
He made an effort, and remarked absently that things seemed very
unchanged at Bryngelly.
"You are looking for Beatrice," said Elizabeth, answering his thought
and not his words. "She has gone out walking, but I think she will be
back soon. Excuse me, but I must go and see about your room."
Geoffrey hung about a little, then he lit his pipe and strolled down
to the beach, with a vague unexpressed idea of meeting Beatrice. He
did not meet Beatrice, but he met old Edward, who knew him at once.
"Lord, sir," he said, "it's queer to see you here again, specially
when I thinks as how I saw you first, and you a dead 'un to all
purposes, with your mouth open, and Miss Beatrice a-hanging on to your
hair fit to pull your scalp off. You never was nearer old Davy than
you was that night, sir, nor won't be. And now you've been spared to
become a Parliament man, I hears, and much good may you do there--it
will take all your time, sir--and I think, sir, that I should like to
drink your health."
Geoffrey put his hand in his pocket and gave the old man a sovereign.
He could afford to do so now.
"Does Miss Beatrice go out canoeing now?" he asked while Edward
mumbled his astonished thanks.
"At times, sir--thanking you kindly; it ain't many suvrings as comes
my way--though I hate the sight on it, I do. I'd like to stave a hole
in the bottom of that there cranky concern; it ain't safe, and that's
the fact. There'll be another accent out of it one of these fine days
and no coming to next time. But, Lord bless you, it's her way of
pleasuring herself. She's a queer un is Miss Beatrice, and she gets
queerer and queerer, what with their being so tight screwed up at the
Vicarage, no tithes and that, and one thing and another. Not but what
I'm thinking, sir," he added in a portentous whisper, "as the squire
has got summut to do with it. He's a courting of her, he is; he's as
hard after her as a dog fish after a stray herring, and why she can't
just say yes and marry him I'm sure I don't know."
"Perhaps she doesn't like him," said Geoffrey coldly.
"May be, sir, may be; maids all have their fancies, in whatssever walk
o' life it has pleased God to stick 'em, but it's a wonderful pity, it
is. He ain't no great shakes, he ain't, but he's a sound man--no girl
can't want a sounder--lived quiet all his days you see, sir, and
what's more he's got the money, and money's tight up at the Vicarage,
sir. Gals must give up their fancies sometimes, sir. Lord! a brace of
brats and she'd forget all about 'em. I'm seventy years old and I've
seen their ways, sir, though in a humble calling. You should say a
word to her, sir; she'd thank you kindly five years after. You'd do
her a good turn, sir, you would, and not a bad un as the saying goes,
and give it the lie--no, beg your pardon, that is the other way round
--she's bound to do you the bad turn having saved your life, though I
don't see how she could do that unless, begging your pardon, she made
you fall in love with her, being married, which though strange
wouldn't be wunnerful seeing what she is and seeing how I has been in
love with her myself since she was seven, old missus and all, who died
eight years gone and well rid of the rheumatics."
Beatrice was one of the few subjects that could unlock old Edward's
breast, and Geoffrey retired before his confusing but suggestive
eloquence. Hurriedly bidding the old man good-night he returned to the
house, and leaning on the gate watched the twilight dying on the bosom
of the west.
Suddenly, a bunch of wild roses in her girdle, Beatrice emerged from
the gathering gloom and stood before him face to face.
THE THIRD APPEAL
Face to face they stood, while at the vision of her sweetness his
heart grew still. Face to face, and the faint light fell upon her
tender loveliness and died in her deep eyes, and the faint breeze
fragrant with the breath of pines gently stirred her hair. Oh, it was
worth living to see her thus!
"I beg your pardon," she said in a puzzled tone, stepping forward to
pass the gate.
She gave a little cry, and clutched the railing, else she would have
fallen. One moment she stayed so, looking up towards his face that was
hid in the deepening shadow--looking with wild eyes of hope and fear
"Is it you," she said at length, "or another dream?"
"It is I, Beatrice!" he answered, amazed.
She recovered herself with an effort.
"Then why did you frighten me so?" she asked. "It was unkind--oh, I
did not mean to say anything cross. What did I say? I forget. I am so
glad that you have come!" and she put her hand to her forehead and
looked at him again as one might gaze at a ghost from the grave.
"Did you not expect me?" Geoffrey asked.
"Expect you? no. No more than I expected----" and she stopped
"It is very odd," he said; "I thought you knew that your father was
going to ask me down. I returned from London with him."
"From London," she murmured. "I did not know; Elizabeth did not tell
me anything about it. I suppose that she forgot."
"Here I am at any rate, and how are you?"
"Oh, well now, quite well. There, I am all right again. It is very
wrong to frighten people in that way, Mr. Bingham," she added in her
usual voice. "Let me pass through the gate and I will shake hands with
you--if," she added, in a tone of gentle mockery, "one may shake hands
with so great a man. But I told you how it would be, did I not, just
before we were drowned together, you know? How is Effie?"
"Effie flourishes," he answered. "Do you know, you do not look very
grand. Your father told me that you had a cold in the winter," and
Geoffrey shivered as he thought of the cause.
"Oh, thank you, I have nothing to complain of. I am strong and well.
How long do you stay here?"
"Not long. Perhaps till Tuesday morning, perhaps till Monday."
Beatrice sighed. Happiness is short. She had not brought him here, she
would not have lifted a finger to bring him here, but since he had
come she wished that he was going to stay longer.
"It is supper time," she said; "let us go in."
So they went in and ate their supper. It was a happy meal. Mr. Granger
was in almost boisterous spirits. It is wonderful what a difference
the possession of that two hundred pounds made in his demeanour; he
seemed another man. It was true that a hundred of it must go in paying
debts, but a hundred would be left, which meant at least a year's
respite for him. Elizabeth, too, relaxed her habitual grimness; the
two hundred pounds had its influence on her also, and there were other
genial influences at work in her dark secret heart. Beatrice knew
nothing of the money and sat somewhat silent, but she too was happy
with the wild unreal happiness that sometimes visits us in dreams.
As for Geoffrey, if Lady Honoria could have seen him she would have
stared in astonishment. Of late he had been a very silent man, many
people indeed had found him a dull companion. But under the influence
of Beatrice's presence he talked and talked brilliantly. Perhaps he
was unconsciously striving to show at his very best before her, as a
man naturally does in the presence of a woman whom he loves. So
brilliantly did he talk that at last they all sat still and listened
to him, and they might have been worse employed.
At length supper was done, and Elizabeth retired to her room.
Presently, too, Mr. Granger was called out to christen a sick baby and
went grumbling, and they were left alone. They sat in the window-place
and looked out at the quiet night.
"Tell me about yourself," said Beatrice.
So he told her. He narrated all the steps by which he had reached his
present position, and showed her how from it he might rise to the
topmost heights of all. She did not look at him, and did not answer
him, but once when he paused, thinking that he had talked enough about
himself, she said, "Go on; tell me some more."
At last he had told her all.
"Yes," she said, "you have the power and the opportunity, and you will
one day be among the foremost men of your generation."
"I doubt it," he said with a sigh. "I am not ambitious. I only work
for the sake of work, not for what it will bring. One day I daresay
that I shall weary of it all and leave it. But while I do work, I like
to be among the first in my degree."
"Oh, no," she answered, "you must not give it up; you must go on and
on. Promise me," she continued, looking at him for the first time--
"promise me that while you have health and strength you will persevere
till you stand alone and quite pre-eminent. Then you can give it up."
"Why should I promise you this, Beatrice?"
"Because I ask it of you. Once I saved your life, Mr. Bingham, and it
gives me some little right to direct its course. I wish that the man
whom I saved to the world should be among the first men in the world,
not in wealth, which is an accident, but in intellect and force.
Promise me this and I shall be happy."
"I promise you," he said, "I promise that I will try to rise because
you ask it, not because the prospect attracts me; but as he spoke his
heart was wrung. It was bitter to hear her speak thus of a future in
which she would have no share, which, as her words implied, would be a
thing utterly apart from her, as much apart as though she were dead.
"Yes," he said again, "you gave me my life, and it makes me very
unhappy to think that I can give you nothing in return. Oh, Beatrice,
I will tell you what I have never told to any one. I am lonely and
wretched. With the exception of yourself, I do not think that there is
anybody who really cares for--I mean who really sympathises with me in
the world. I daresay that it is my own fault and it sounds a
humiliating thing to say, and, in a fashion, a selfish thing. I never
should have said it to any living soul but you. What is the use of
being great when there is nobody to work for? Things might have been
different, but the world is a hard place. If you--if you----"
At this moment his hand touched hers; it was accidental, but in the
tenderness of his heart he yielded to the temptation and took it. Then
there was a moment's pause, and very gently she drew her hand away and
thrust it in her bosom.
"You have your wife to share your fortune," she said; "you have Effie
to inherit it, and you can leave your name to your country."
Then came a heavy pause.
"And you," he said, breaking it, "what future is there for you?"
She laughed softly. "Women have no future and they ask none. At least
I do not now, though once I did. It is enough for them if they can
ever so little help the lives of others. That is their happiness, and
their reward is--rest."
Just then Mr. Granger came back from his christening, and Beatrice
rose and went to bed.
"Looks a little pale, doesn't she, Mr. Bingham?" said her father. "I
think she must be troubled in her mind. The fact is--well, there is no
reason why I should not tell you; she thinks so much of you, and you
might say a word to brighten her up--well, it's about Mr. Davies. I
fancy, you know, that she likes him and is vexed because he does not
come forward. Well, you see--of course I may be mistaken, but I have
sometimes thought that he may. I have seen him look as if he was
thinking of it, though of course it is more than Beatrice has got any
right to expect. She's only got herself and her good looks to give
him, and he's a rich man. Think of it, Mr. Bingham," and the old
gentleman turned up his eyes piously, "just think what a thing it
would be for her, and indeed for all of us, if it should please God to
send a chance like that in her way; she would be rich for life, and
such a position! But it is possible; one never knows; he might take a
fancy to her. At any rate, Mr. Bingham, I think you could cheer her up
a little; there is no need for her to give up hope yet."
Geoffrey burst into a short grim laugh. The idea of Beatrice
languishing for Owen Davies, indeed the irony of the whole position,
was too much for his sense of humour.
"Yes," he said, "I daresay that it might be a good match for her, but
I do not know how she would get on with Mr. Davies."
"Get on! why, well enough, of course. Women are soft, and can squeeze
into most holes, especially if they are well lined. Besides, he may be
a bit heavy, but I think she is pining for him, and it's a pity that
she should waste her life like that. What, are you going to bed? Well,
Geoffrey did go to bed, but not to sleep. For a long while he lay
awake, thinking. He thought of the last night which he had spent in
this little room, of its strange experiences, of all that had happened
since, and of the meeting of to-day. Could he, after that meeting, any
longer doubt what were the feelings with which Beatrice regarded him?
It was difficult to so, and yet there was still room for error. Then
he thought of what old Edward had said to him, and of what Mr. Granger
had said with reference to Beatrice and Owen Davies. The views of both
were crudely and even vulgarly expressed, but they coincided, and,
what was more, there was truth in them, and he knew it. The idea of
Beatrice marrying Mr. Davies, to put it mildly, was repulsive to him;
but had he any claim to stand between her and so desirable a
settlement in life? Clearly, he had not, his conscience told him so.
Could it be right, moreover, that this kind of tie which existed
between them should be knitted more closely? What would it mean?
Trouble, and nothing but trouble, more especially to Beatrice, who
would fret her days away to no end. He had done wrong in coming here
at all, he had done wrong in taking her hand. He would make the only
reparation in his power (as though in such a case as that of Beatrice
reparation were now possible)! He would efface himself from her life
and see her no more. Then she might learn to forget him, or, at the
worst, to remember him with but a vague regret. Yes, cost what it
might, he would force himself to do it before any actual mischief
ensued. The only question was, should he not go further? Should he not
tell her that she would do well to marry Mr. Davies?
Pondering over this most painful question, at last he went to sleep.
When men in Geoffrey's unhappy position turn penitent and see the
error of their ways, the prudent resolves that ensue are apt to
overshoot the mark and to partake of an aggressive nature. Not
satisfied with leaving things alone, they must needs hasten to
proclaim their new-found virtue to the partner of their fault, and
advertise their infallible specific (to be taken by the partner) for
restoring the /status quo ante/. Sometimes as a consequence of this
pious zeal they find themselves misunderstood, or even succeed in
precipitating the catastrophe which they laudably desire to prevent.
The morrow was Whit-Sunday, and a day that Geoffrey had occasion to
remember for the rest of his life. They all met at breakfast and
shortly afterwards went to church, the service being at half-past ten.
By way of putting into effect the good resolutions with which he was
so busy paving an inferno of his own, Geoffrey did not sit by
Beatrice, but took a seat at the end of the little church, close to
the door, and tried to console himself by looking at her.
It was a curious sullen-natured day, and although there was not very
much sun the air was as hot as though they were in midsummer. Had they
been in a volcanic region, Geoffrey would have thought that such
weather preceded a shock of earthquake. As it was he knew that the
English climate was simply indulging itself at the expense of the
population. But as up to the present, the season had been cold, this
knowledge did not console him. Indeed he felt so choked in the stuffy
little church that just before the sermon (which he happened to be
aware was /not/ written by Beatrice) he took an opportunity to slip
out unobserved. Not knowing where to go, he strolled down to the
beach, on which there was nobody to be seen, for, as has been
observed, Bryngelly slept on Sundays. Presently, however, a man
approached walking rapidly, and to all appearance aimlessly, in whom
he recognised Owen Davies. He was talking to himself while he walked,
and swinging his arms. Geoffrey stepped aside to let him pass, and as
he did so was surprised and even shocked to see the change in the man.
His plump healthy-looking face had grown thin, and wore a half sullen,
half pitiful expression; there were dark circles round his blue eyes,
once so placid, and his hair would have been the better for cutting.
Geoffrey wondered if he had had an illness. At that moment Owen
chanced to look round and saw him.
"How do you do, Mr. Bingham?" he said. "I heard that you were here.
They told me at the station last night. You see this is a small place
and one likes to know who comes and goes," he added as though in
He walked on and Geoffrey walked with him.
"You do not look well, Mr. Davies," he said. "Have you been laid up?"
"No, no," he answered, "I am quite right; it is only my mind that is
"Indeed," said Geoffrey, thinking that he certainly did look strange.
"Perhaps you live too much alone and it depresses you."
"Yes, I live alone, because I can't help myself. What is a man to do,
Mr. Bingham, when the woman he loves will not marry him, won't look at
him, treats him like dirt?"
"Marry somebody else," suggested Geoffrey.
"Oh, it is easy for you to say that--you have never loved anybody, and
you don't understand. I cannot marry anybody else, I want her only."
"Who! why, Beatrice--whom else could a man want to marry, if once he
had seen her. But she will not have me; she hates me."
"Really," said Geoffrey.
"Yes, really, and do you know why? Shall I tell you why? I will tell
you," and he grasped him by the arm and whispered hoarsely in his ear:
"Because she loves /you/, Mr. Bingham."
"I tell you what it is, Mr. Davies," said Geoffrey shaking his arm
free, "I am not going to stand this kind of thing. You must be off
"Don't be angry with me," he answered. "It is true. I have watched her
and I know that it is true. Why does she write to you every week, why
does she always start and listen when anybody mentions your name? Oh,
Mr. Bingham," Owen went on piteously, "be merciful--you have your wife
and lots of women to make love to if you wish--leave me Beatrice. If
you don't I think that I shall go crazed. I have always loved her,
ever since she was a child, and now my love travels faster and grows
stronger every day, and carries me away with it like a rock rolling
down a hill. You can only bring Beatrice to shame, but I can give her
everything, as much money as she wants, all that she wants, and I will
make her a good husband; I will never leave her side."
"I have no doubt that would be delightful for her," answered Geoffrey;
"but does it not strike you that all this is just a little
undignified? These remarks, interesting as they are, should be made to
Miss Granger, not to me, Mr. Davies."
"I know," he said, "but I don't care; it is my only chance, and what
do I mind about being undignified? Oh, Mr. Bingham, I have never loved
any other woman, I have been lonely all my days. Do not stand in my
path now. If you only knew what I have suffered, how I have prayed God
night after night to give me Beatrice, you would help me. Say that you
will help me! You are one of those men who can do anything; she will
listen to you. If you tell her to marry me she will do so, and I shall
bless you my whole life."
Geoffrey looked upon this abject suppliant with the most unmitigated
scorn. There is always something contemptible in the sight of one man
pleading to another for assistance in his love affairs--that is a
business which he should do for himself. How much greater, then, is
the humiliation involved when the amorous person asks the aid of one
whom he believes to be his rival--his successful rival--in the lady's
"Do you know, Mr. Davies," Geoffrey said, "I think that I have had
enough of this. I am not in a position to force Miss Granger to accept
advances which appear to be unwelcome according to your account. But
if I get an opportunity I will do this: I will tell her what you say.
You really must manage the rest for yourself. Good morning to you, Mr.
He turned sharply and went while Owen watched him go.
"I don't believe him," he groaned to himself. "He will try to make her
his lover. Oh, God help me--I cannot bear to think of it. But if he
does, and I find him out, let him be careful. I will ruin him, yes, I
will ruin him! I have the money and I can do it. Ah, he thinks me a
fool, they all think me a fool, but I haven't been quiet all these
years for nothing. I can make a noise if necessary. And if he is a
villain, God will help me to destroy him. I have prayed to God, and
God will help me."
Then he went back to the Castle. Owen Davies was a type of the class
of religious men who believe that they can enlist the Almighty on the
side of their desires, provided only that those desires receive the
sanction of human law or custom.
Thus within twenty-four hours Geoffrey received no less than three
appeals to help the woman whom he loved to the arms of a distasteful
husband. No wonder then that he grew almost superstitious about the
A NIGHT OF STORM
That afternoon the whole Vicarage party walked up to the farm to
inspect another litter of young pigs. It struck Geoffrey, remembering
former editions, that the reproductive powers of Mr. Granger's old sow
were something little short of marvellous, and he dreamily worked out
a calculation of how long it would take her and her progeny to produce
a pig to every square yard of the area of plucky little Wales. It
seemed that the thing could be done in six years, which was absurd, so
he gave up calculating.
He had no words alone with Beatrice that afternoon. Indeed, a certain
coldness seemed to have sprung up between them. With the almost
supernatural quickness of a loving woman's intuition, she had divined
that something was passing in his mind, inimical to her most vital
interests, so she shunned his company, and received his conventional
advances with a politeness which was as cold as it was crushing. This
did not please Geoffrey; it is one thing (in her own interests, of
course) to make up your mind heroically to abandon a lady whom you do
not wish to compromise, and quite another to be snubbed by that lady
before the moment of final separation. Though he never put the idea
into words or even defined it in his mind--for Geoffrey was far too
anxious and unhappy to be flippant, at any rate in thought--he would
at heart have wished her to remain the same, indeed to wax ever
tenderer, till the fatal time of parting arrived, and even to show
appreciation of his virtuous conduct.
But to the utter destruction of most such hands as Geoffrey held,
loving women never will play according to the book. Their conduct
imperils everything, for it is obvious that it takes two to bring an
affair of this nature to a dignified conclusion, even when the stakes
are highest, and the matter is one of life and death. Beatrice after
all was very much of a woman, and she did not behave much better than
any other woman would have done. She was angry and suspicious, and she
showed it, with the result that Geoffrey grew angry also. It was cruel
of her, he thought, considering all things. He forgot that she could
know nothing of what was in his mind, however much she might guess;
also as yet he did not know the boundless depth and might of her
passion for him, and all that it meant to her. Had he realised this he
would have acted very differently.
They came home and took tea, then Mr. Granger and Elizabeth made ready
to go to evening service. To Geoffrey's dismay Beatrice did the same.
He had looked forward to a quiet walk with her--really this was not to
be borne. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, she was ready the
first, and he got a word with her.
"I did not know that you were going to church," he said; "I thought
that we might have had a walk together. Very likely I shall have to go
away early to-morrow morning."
"Indeed," answered Beatrice coldly. "But of course you have your work
to attend to. I told Elizabeth that I was coming to church, and I must
go; it is too sultry to walk; there will be a storm soon."
At this moment Elizabeth came in.
"Well, Beatrice," she said, "are you coming to church? Father has gone
Beatrice pretended not to hear, and reflected a moment. He would go
away and she would see him no more. Could she let slip this last hour?
Oh, she could not do it!
In that moment of reflection her fate was sealed.
"No," she answered slowly, "I don't think that I am coming; it is too
sultry to go to church. I daresay that Mr. Bingham will accompany
Geoffrey hastily disclaimed any such intention, and Elizabeth started
alone. "Ah!" she said to herself, "I thought that you would not come,
"Well," said Geoffrey, when she had well gone, "shall we go out?"
"I think it is pleasanter here," answered Beatrice.
"Oh, Beatrice, don't be so unkind," he said feebly.
"As you like," she replied. "There is a fine sunset--but I think that
we shall have a storm."
They went out, and turned up the lonely beach. The place was utterly
deserted, and they walked a little way apart, almost without speaking.
The sunset was magnificent; great flakes of golden cloud were driven
continually from a home of splendour in the west towards the cold
lined horizon of the land. The sea was still quiet, but it moaned like
a thing in pain. The storm was gathering fast.
"What a lovely sunset," said Geoffrey at length.
"It is a fatal sort of loveliness," she answered; "it will be a bad
night, and a wet morrow. The wind is rising; shall we turn?"
"No, Beatrice, never mind the wind. I want to speak to you, if you
will allow me to do so."
"Yes," said Beatrice, "what about, Mr. Bingham."
To make good resolutions in a matter of this sort is comparatively
easy, but the carrying of them out presents some difficulties.
Geoffrey, conscience-stricken into priggishness, wished to tell her
that she would do well to marry Owen Davies, and found the matter
hard. Meanwhile Beatrice preserved silence.
"The fact is," he said at length, "I most sincerely hope you will
forgive me, but I have been thinking a great deal about you and your
"That is very kind of you," said Beatrice, with an ominous humility.
This was disconcerting, but Geoffrey was determined, and he went on in
a somewhat flippant tone born of the most intense nervousness and
hatred of his task. Never had he loved her so well as now in this
moment when he was about to counsel her to marry another man. And yet
he persevered in his folly. For, as so often happens, the shrewd
insight and knowledge of the world which distinguished Geoffrey as a
lawyer, when dealing with the affairs of others, quite deserted him in
this crisis of his own life and that of the woman who worshipped him.
"Since I have been here," he said, "I have had made to me no less than
three appeals on your behalf and by separate people--by your father,
who fancies that you are pining for Owen Davies; by Owen Davies, who
is certainly pining for you; and by old Edward, intervening as a kind
of domestic /amicus curię/."
"Indeed," said Beatrice, in a voice of ice.
"All these three urged the same thing--the desirability of your
marrying Owen Davies."
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