The Coryston Family
Mrs. Humphry Ward
Part 2 out of 5
He had first made friends with the man who was now the powerful head of
English finance, when Glenwilliam was the young check-weigher of a large
Staffordshire colliery; and the friendship--little known except to an inner
ring--was now an important factor in English politics. Glenwilliam did
nothing without consulting Atherstone, and the cottage on the hill had been
the scene of many important meetings, and some decisions which would live
Marion Atherstone, on the other hand, though invaluable to her father, and
much appreciated by his friends, took no intellectual part in his life.
Brilliant creatures--men and women--came and went, to and from the cottage.
Marion took stock of them, provided them with food and lodging, and did not
much believe in any of them. Atherstone was a philosopher, a free-thinker,
and a vegetarian. Marion read the _Church Family Times_, went
diligently to church, and if she had possessed a vote, and cared enough
about it to use it, would probably have voted Tory. All the same she and
her father were on the best of terms and perfectly understood each other.
Among the brilliant creatures, however, who came and went, there was one
who had conquered her. For Enid Glenwilliam, Marion felt the profound
affection that often links the plain, scrupulous, conscientious woman to
some one or other of the Sirens of her sex. When Enid came to the cottage
Marion became her slave and served her hand and foot. But the probability
is that she saw through the Siren--what there was to see through--a good
deal more sharply than her father did.
Atherstone took a garden chair beside her, and lit his pipe. He had just
been engaged in drafting an important Liberal manifesto. His name would
probably never appear in connection with it. But that mattered nothing to
him. What did vex him was that he probably would not have an opportunity of
talking it over with Glenwilliam before it finally left his hands. He was
pleased with it, however. The drastic, or scathing phrases of it kept
running through his head. He had never felt a more thorough, a more
passionate, contempt for his opponents. The Tory party must go! One more
big fight, and they would smash the unclean thing. These tyrants of
land, and church, and finance!--democratic England when it once got to
business--and it was getting to business--would make short work of them.
As he looked out over the plain he saw many things well fitted to stir the
democratic pulse. There among the woods, not a mile from the base of the
hills, lay the great classic pile of Coryston, where "that woman" held
sway. Farther off on its hill rose Hoddon Grey, identified in this hostile
mind with Church ascendancy, just as Coryston was identified with landlord
ascendancy. If there were anywhere to be found a narrower pair of bigots
than Lord and Lady William Newbury, or a more poisonous reactionary than
their handsome and plausible son, Atherstone didn't know where to lay hands
One white dot in the plain, however, gave him unmixed satisfaction. He
turned, laughing to his daughter.
"Coryston has settled in--with a laborer and his wife to look after him. He
has all sorts of ructions on his hands already."
"Poor Lady Coryston!" said Marion, giving a glance at the classical cupolas
emerging from the woods.
"My dear--she began it. And he is quite right--he _has_ a public duty
to these estates."
"Couldn't he go and stir up people somewhere else? It looks so ugly."
"Oh! women have got to get used to these things, if they play such strong
parts as Lady Coryston. The old kid-glove days, as between men and women,
"Even between mothers and sons?" said Marion, dubiously.
"I repeat--she began it! Monstrous, that that man should have made such a
will, and that a mother should have taken advantage of it!"
"Suppose she had been a Liberal," said Marion, slyly.
Atherstone shrugged his shoulders--too honest to reply.
He ruminated over his pipe. Presently his eyes flashed.
"I hear Coryston's very servants--his man and wife--were evicted from their
cottage for political reasons."
"Yes, by that Radical miller who lives at Martover," said Marion.
"The wife told me," said Marion, calmly, rolling up her socks.
"I say, I must look into that," said Atherstone, with discomposure. "It
doesn't do to have such stories going round--on our side. I wonder why
Coryston chose them."
"I should think--because he hates that kind of thing on both sides." The
slightest twinge of red might have been noticed on Miss Atherstone's cheek
as she spoke. But her father did not notice it. He lifted his head to
"I think I hear the motor."
"You look tired," said Marion to her guest. The first bout of conversation
was over, and Dr. Atherstone had gone back to his letters.
Enid Glenwilliam took off her hat, accepted the cushion which her hostess
was pressing upon her, and lay at ease in her cane chair.
"You wouldn't wonder, if you could reckon up my week!" she said, laughing.
"Let's see--four dinners, three balls, two operas,--a week-end at Windsor,
two bazars, three meetings, two concerts, and tea-parties galore! What do
you expect but a rag!"
"Don't say you don't like it!"
"Oh yes, I like it. At least, if people don't ask me to things I'm
insulted, and when they do--"
"It's you finished the sentence!--not I! And I've scarcely seen father this
week except at breakfast. _That's_ bored me horribly."
"What have you _really_ been doing?"
"Inquisitor!--I have been amusing myself."
"With Arthur Coryston?"
Marion turned her large fresh-colored face and small gray eyes upon her
"And others! You don't imagine I confine myself to him?"
"Has Lady Coryston found out yet?"
"That we get on? I am sure she has never imagined that Mr. Arthur could so
"But she must find out some day."
"Oh yes, I mean her to," said Miss Glenwilliam, quietly. She reached out
a long hand toward Marion's cat and stroked it. Then she turned her large
eyes of pale hazel set under beautiful dark brows to her companion. "You
see--Lady Coryston has not only snubbed me--she has insulted father."
"How?" exclaimed Marion, startled.
"At Chatton House the other day. She refused to go down to dinner with him.
She positively did. The table had to be rearranged, and little Lady Chatton
nearly had hysterics."
The girl lay looking at her friend, her large but finely cut mouth faintly
smiling. But there was something dangerous in her eyes.
"And one day at lunch she refused to be introduced to me. I saw it happen
quite plainly. Oh, she didn't exactly mean to be insolent. But she thinks
society is too tolerant--of people like father and me."
"What a foolish woman!" said Marion Atherstone, rather helplessly.
"Not at all! She knows quite well that my whole existence is a fight--so
far as London is concerned. She wants to make the fight a little
"Your 'whole existence a fight,'" repeated Marion, with a touch of scorn,
"after that list of parties!"
"It's a good fight at present," said the girl, coolly, "and a successful
one. But Lady Coryston gets all she wants without fighting. When father
goes out of office I shall be nobody. _She_ will be always at the top
of the tree."
"I am no wiser than before as to whether you really like Arthur Coryston or
not. You have heard, of course, the gossip about the estates?"
"Heard?" The speaker smiled. "I know not only the gossip--but the
facts--by heart! I am drowned--smothered in them. At present Arthur is the
darling--the spotless one. But when she knows about me!"--Miss Glenwilliam
threw up her hands.
"You think she will change her mind again?"
The girl took up a stalk of grass and nibbled it in laughing meditation.
"Perhaps I oughtn't to risk his chances?" she said, looking sidelong.
"Don't think about 'chances,'" said Marion Atherstone, indignantly--"think
about whether you care for each other!"
"What a _bourgeois_ point of view! Well, honestly--I don't know.
Arthur Coryston is not at all clever. He has the most absurd opinions. We
have only known each other a few months. If he were _very_ rich--By
the way, is he coming this afternoon? And may I have a cigarette?"
Marion handed cigarettes. The click of a garden gate in the distance caught
"Here they are--he and Lord Coryston."
Enid Glenwilliam lit her cigarette, and made no move. Her slender,
long-limbed body, as it lay at ease in the deep garden chair, the pale
masses of her hair, and the confident quiet face beneath it, made a
charming impression of graceful repose. As Arthur Coryston reached her she
held out a welcoming hand, and her eyes greeted him--a gay, significant
Coryston, having shaken hands with Miss Atherstone, hastily approached her
"I didn't know you smoked," he said, abruptly, standing before her with his
hands on his sides.
As always, Coryston made an odd figure. His worn, ill-fitting clothes, with
their bulging pockets, the grasshopper slimness of his legs and arms, the
peering, glancing look of his eternally restless eyes, were all of them
displeasing to Enid Glenwilliam as she surveyed him. But she answered him
with a smile.
He looked down on her, frowning.
"Why should women set up a new want--a new slavery--that costs money?"
The color flew to her cheeks.
"Why shouldn't they? Go and preach to your own sex."
"No good!" He shrugged his shoulders. "But women are supposed to have
consciences. And--especially--_Liberal_ women," he added, slowly, as
his eyes traveled over her dress.
"And pray why should Liberal women be ascetics any more than any other kind
of women?" she asked him, quietly.
"Why?" His voice grew suddenly loud. "Because there are thousands of people
in this country perishing for lack of proper food and clothing--and it is
the function of Liberals to bring it home to the other thousands."
Arthur Coryston broke out indignantly:
"I say, Cony, do hold your tongue! You do talk such stuff!"
The young man, sitting where the whole careless grace of Miss Glenwilliam's
person was delightfully visible to him, showed a countenance red with
Coryston faced round upon him, transformed. His frown had disappeared in a
look of radiant good humor.
"Look here, Arthur, you've got the money-bags--you might leave me the
talking. Has he told you what's happened?"
The question was addressed to Miss Glenwilliam, while the speaker shot an
indicating thumb in his brother's direction.
The girl looked embarrassed, and Arthur Coryston again came to the rescue.
"We've no right to thrust our family affairs upon other people, Corry," he
said, resolutely. "I told you so as we walked up."
"Oh, but they're so interesting," was Coryston's cool reply as he took his
seat by Marion Atherstone. "I'm certain everybody here finds them so. And
what on earth have I taken Knatchett for, except to blazon abroad what our
dear mother has been doing?"
"I wish to heaven you hadn't taken Knatchett," said Arthur, sulkily.
"You regard me as a nuisance? Well, I meant to be. I'm finding out such
lots of things," added Coryston, slowly, while his eyes, wandering over the
plain, ceased their restlessness for a moment and became fixed and dreamy.
Dr. Atherstone caught the last words as he came out from his study. He
approached his guests with an amused look at Coryston. But the necessary
courtesies of the situation imposed themselves. So long as Arthur Coryston
was present the Tory son of his Tory mother, an Opposition M.P. for a
constituency, part of which was visible from the cottage garden, and a
comparative stranger to the Atherstones, it was scarcely possible to
let Coryston loose. The younger brother was there--Atherstone perfectly
understood--simply because Miss Glenwilliam was their guest; not for his
own _beaux yeux_ or his daughter's. But having ventured on to hostile
ground, for a fair lady's sake, he might look to being kindly treated.
Arthur, on his side, however, played his part badly. He rose indeed to
greet Atherstone--whom he barely knew, and was accustomed to regard as
a pestilent agitator--with the indifferent good breeding that all young
Englishmen of the classes have at command; he was ready to talk of the
view and the weather, and to discuss various local topics. But it was
increasingly evident that he felt himself on false ground; lured there,
moreover, by feelings he could hardly suppose were unsuspected by his
hosts. Enid Glenwilliam watched him with secret but sympathetic laughter;
and presently came to his aid. She rose from her seat.
"It's a little hot here, Marion. Shall I have time to show Mr. Coryston the
view from the wood-path before tea?"
Marion assented. And the two tall figures strolled away across a little
field toward a hanging wood on the edge of the hill.
"Will she have him?" said Coryston to Marion Atherstone, looking after the
The question was disconcertingly frank. Marion laughed and colored.
"I haven't the slightest idea."
"Because there'll be the deuce to pay if she does," said Coryston, nursing
his knees, and bubbling with amusement. "My unfortunate mother will have to
make another will. What the lawyers have made out of her already!"
"There would be no reconciling her to the notion of such a marriage?" asked
Atherstone, after a moment.
"'If my son takes to him a wife of the daughters of Heth, what good shall
my life be unto me?'" quoted Coryston, laughing. "Good gracious, how handy
the Bible comes in--for most things! I expect you're an infidel, and don't
know." He looked up curiously at Atherstone.
A shade of annoyance crossed Atherstone's finely marked face.
"I was the son of a Presbyterian minister," he said, shortly. "But to
return. After all, you know, Radicals and Tories do still intermarry! It
hasn't quite come to that!"
"No, but it's coming to that!" cried Coryston, bringing his hand down in a
slap on the tea-table. "And women like my mother are determined it shall
come to it. They want to see this country divided up into two hostile
camps--fighting it out--blood and thunder, and devilries galore. Ay,
and"--he brought his face eagerly, triumphantly, close to Atherstone's--"so
do you, too--at bottom."
The doctor drew back. "I want politics to be realities, if that's what you
mean," he said, coldly. "But the peaceful methods of democracy are enough
for me. Well, Lord Coryston, you say you've been finding out a lot of
things in these few weeks you've been settled here. What sort?"
Coryston turned an odd, deliberate look at his questioner.
"Yes, I'm after a lot of game--in the Liberal preserves just as much as the
Tory. There isn't a pin to choose between you! Now, look here!" He checked
the items off on his fingers. "My mother's been refusing land for a Baptist
chapel. Half the village Baptist--lots of land handy--she won't let 'em
have a yard. Well, we're having meetings every week, we're sending her
resolutions every week, which she puts in the waste-paper basket. And on
Sundays they rig up a tent on that bit of common ground at the park gates,
and sing hymns at her when she goes to church. That's No. 1. No. 2--My
mother's been letting Page--her agent--evict a jolly decent fellow called
Price, a smith, who's been distributing Liberal leaflets in some of the
villages. All sorts of other reasons given, of course--but that's the
truth. Well, I sat on Page's doorstep for two or three days--no good. Now
I'm knocking up a shop and a furnace, and all the rest of the togs wanted,
for Price, in my back yard at Knatchett. And we've made him Liberal agent
for the village. I can tell you he's going it! That's No. 2. No. 3--There's
a slight difficulty with the hunt I needn't trouble you with. We've given
'em warning we're going to kill foxes wherever we can get 'em. They've been
just gorging chickens this last year--nasty beasts! That don't matter much,
however. No. 4--Ah-ha!"--he rubbed his hands--"I'm on the track of that old
hypocrite, Burton of Martover--"
"Burton! one of the best men in the country!" cried Atherstone,
indignantly. "You're quite mistaken, Lord Coryston!"
"Am I!" cried Coryston, with equal indignation--"not a bit of it. Talking
Liberalism through his nose at all the meetings round here, and then
doing a thing--Look here! He turned that man and his wife--Potifer's his
name--who are now looking after me--out of their cottage and their bit of
land--why, do you think?--because _the man voted for Arthur_! Why
shouldn't he vote for Arthur? Arthur kissed his baby. Of course he voted
for Arthur. He thought Arthur was 'a real nice gentleman'--so did his wife.
Why shouldn't he vote for Arthur? Nobody wanted to kiss Burton's baby. Hang
him! You know this kind of thing must be put a stop to!"
And, getting up, Coryston stamped up and down furiously, his small face
aflame. Atherstone watched him in silence. This strange settlement of Lady
Coryston's disinherited son--socialist and revolutionist--as a kind of
watchman, in the very midst of the Coryston estates, at his mother's
very gates, might not after all turn out so well as the democrats of the
neighborhood had anticipated. The man was too queer--too flighty.
"Wait a bit! I think some of your judgments may be too hasty, Lord
Coryston. There's a deal to learn in this neighborhood--the Hoddon Grey
estate, for instance--"
Coryston threw up his hands.
"The Newburys--my word, the Newburys! 'Too bright and good'--aren't
they?--'for human nature's daily food.' Such churches--and schools--and
villages! All the little boys patterns--and all the little girls saints.
Everybody singing in choirs--and belonging to confraternities--and carrying
banners. 'By the pricking of my thumbs' when I see a Newbury I feel that
a mere fraction divides me from the criminal class. And I tell you,
I've heard a story about that estate"--the odd figure paused beside the
tea-table and rapped it vigorously for emphasis--"that's worse than any
other villainy I've yet come across. You know what I mean. Betts and his
He paused, scrutinizing the faces of Atherstone and Marion with his
Atherstone nodded gravely. He and Marion both knew the story. The
neighborhood indeed was ringing with it. On the one hand it involved the
pitiful tale of a divorced woman; on the other the unbending religious
convictions of the Newbury family. There was hot championship on both
sides; but on the whole the Newbury family was at the moment unpopular in
their own county, because of the affair. And Edward Newbury in particular
was thought to have behaved with harshness.
Coryston sat down to discuss the matter with his companions, showing a
white heat of feeling. "The religious tyrant," he vowed, "is the most
hideous of all tyrants!"
Marion said little. Her grave look followed her guest's vehement talk; but
she scarcely betrayed her own point of view. The doctor, of course, was as
angry as Coryston.
Presently Atherstone was summoned into the house, and then Coryston said,
"My mother likes that fellow--Newbury. My sister likes him. From what I
hear he might become my brother-in-law. He sha'n't--before Marcia knows
Marion looked a little embarrassed, and certainly disapproving.
"He has very warm friends down here," she said, slowly; "people who admire
"So had Torquemada!" cried Coryston. "What does that prove? Look here!"--he
put both elbows on the table, and looked sharply into Marion's plain and
troubled countenance--"don't you agree with me?"
"I don't know whether I do or not--I don't know enough about it."
"You mustn't," he said, eagerly--"you mustn't disagree with me!" Then,
after a pause, "Do you know that I'm always hearing about you, Miss
Atherstone, down in those villages?"
Marion blushed furiously, then laughed.
"I can't imagine why."
"Oh yes, you can. I hate charity--generally. It's a beastly mess. But the
things you do--are human things. Look here, if you ever want any help,
anything that a fellow with not much coin, but with a pair of strong arms
and a decent headpiece, can do, you come to me. Do you see?"
Marion smiled and thanked him.
"I must go. Sha'n't wait for Arthur. He seems to be better employed. But--I
should like to come up here pretty often, Miss Atherstone, and talk to you.
I shouldn't wonder if I agreed with you more than I do with your father. Do
you see any objection?"
He stood leaning on the back of a chair, looking at her with his queer
simplicity. She smiled back.
"Not the least. Come when you like."
He nodded, and without any further farewell, or any conventional message to
her father, he strode away down the garden, whistling.
Marion was left alone. Her face, the face of a woman of thirty-five,
relaxed; a little rose-leaf pink crept into the cheeks. This was the fourth
or fifth time that she had met Lord Coryston, and each time they had
seemed to understand each other a little better. She put aside all foolish
notions. But life was certainly more interesting than it had been.
* * * * *
Coryston had been gone some time, when at last his brother and Miss
Glenwilliam emerged from the wood. The tea-table was now spread in the
shade, and they approached it. Marion tried to show nothing of the
curiosity she felt.
That Arthur Coryston was in no mood for ordinary conversation at least was
clear. He refused her proffered cup, and almost immediately took his leave.
Enid subsided again into her long chair, and Atherstone and Marion waited
upon her. She had an animated, excited look, the reflection, no doubt, of
the conversation which had taken place in the wood. But when Marion and she
were left alone it was a long time before she disclosed anything. At last,
when the golden May light was beginning to fade from the hill, she sat up
"I don't think I can, Marion; I don't think I _can_!"
"Marry that man, my dear!" She bent forward and took her friend's hands in
hers. "Do you know what I was thinking of all the time he talked?--and he's
a very nice boy--and I like him very much. I was thinking of my father!"
She threw her head back proudly. Marion looked at her in some perplexity.
"I was thinking of my father," she repeated. "My father is the greatest man
I know. And I'm not only his daughter. I'm his friend. He has no one but
me since my mother died. He tells me everything, and I understand him. Why
should I marry a man like that, when I have my father! And yet of course
he touches me--Arthur Coryston--and some day I shall want a home--and
children--like other people. And there is the money, if his mother didn't
strip him of it for marrying me! And there's the famous name, and
the family, and the prestige. Oh yes, I see all that. It attracts me
enormously. I'm no ascetic, as Coryston has discovered. And yet when I
think of going from my father to that man--from my father's ideas to
Arthur's ideas--it's as though some one thrust me into a cave, and rolled
a stone on me. I should beat myself dead, trying to get out! I told him I
couldn't make up my mind yet--for a long, long time."
"Was that kind?" said Marion, gently.
"Well, he seemed to like it better than a final No," laughed the girl, but
rather drearily. "Marion! you don't know, nobody can know but me, what a
man my father is!"
And sitting erect she looked absently at the plain, the clear hardness of
her eyes melting to a passionate tenderness. It was to Marion as though the
rugged figure of the Chancellor overshadowed them; just as, at that moment,
in the political sense, it overshadowed England.
Lady Coryston's quarters at Coryston Place were not quite so devoid of all
the lighter touches as her London sitting-room. The view from the windows,
of the formal garden outside, with its rows of white statues, leading to
a winding lake, and parklike slopes beyond it, was certainly cheerful.
Coryston particularly disliked it, and had many ribald things to say about
the statues, which in his mad undergraduate days he had more than once
adorned with caps of liberty, pipes, mustaches, and similar impertinences.
But most people were attracted by the hard brightness of the outlook; and
of light and sunshine--on sunny days--there was, at any rate, no lack.
Marcia had recently chosen a new chintz for the chairs and sofas, and one
small group of photographs, on a table beside the fireplace, were allowed
to remind the spectator that the owner of the room had once been a young
mother, with a maternal pride in a bunch of fine children. Here were
Coryston, aged nine, on pony-back, pompously showing off; James, dreamily
affable, already a personage at seven; Arthur, fondling a cricket-bat, with
a stiff mouth, hastily closed--by order--on its natural grin; and Marcia,
frowning and pouting, in fancy dress as "The Strawberry Girl," just
emerging, it seemed, from one battle-royal with her nurse, and about to
plunge into another.
Lady Coryston had just entered the room. She was alone, and she carried a
pile of letters, which she put down on the central writing-table. Then she
went to one of the windows, which on this May day was open, and stood,
looking out, one long mittened hand resting vaguely on the table that held
the photographs. A commanding figure! She was in black, carrying her only
ornament, an embossed silver girdle and chatelaine, the gift of her husband
in their first year of marriage. As she paused, motionless, in the clear
sunshine, her great height and her great thinness and flatness brought
out with emphasis the masculine carriage of the shoulders and the strong
markings of the face. In this moment of solitude, however, the mistress of
Coryston Place and of the great domain on which she looked, allowed herself
an expression which was scarcely that of an autocrat--at any rate of an
autocrat at ease.
She was thinking of Coryston; and Coryston was giving her a good deal
to think about. Of course she had expected annoyance; but scarcely such
annoyance as Coryston, it seemed, was now bent on causing her. At bottom,
she had always reckoned on her position as mother and woman. Coryston might
threaten, but that he should actually carry out such iniquities as he was
now engaged on, had been--she owned it--beyond her calculations.
For she had come down to find the whole neighborhood in a ferment, and many
pleasant illusions, in the shelter of which she had walked for years, both
before and since her husband's death, questioned, at least, and cracking,
if not shattered. That the Corystons were model landlords, that they
enjoyed a feudal popularity among their tenants and laborers, was for Lady
Coryston one of the axioms on which life was based. She despised people who
starved their estates, let their repairs go, and squeezed the last farthing
out of their tenants. Nor had she any sympathy with people who owned
insanitary cottages. It had been her fond belief that she at least
possessed none. And now here was Coryston, her eldest son, camped in the
very midst of her property, not as her friend and support, but as her enemy
and critic; poking his nose into every corner of the estates, taken in
by every ridiculous complaint, preaching Socialism at full blast to the
laborers, and Land Acts to the farmers, stirring up the Nonconformists
to such antics as the Baptists had lately been playing on Sundays at her
gates; discovering bad cottages, where none were known to exist; and, in
general, holding up his mother to blame and criticism, which, as Lady
Coryston most truly, sincerely, indignantly felt, was wholly undeserved.
This then was the "game" that Coryston had warned her of. He was actually
playing it; though she had never believed for one moment that he would ever
do so. How was she to meet it? With firmness, no doubt, and dignity. As to
the firmness she had no fears; it was the dignity she was anxious about.
Lady Coryston was a woman of conscience; although no doubt she had long ago
harnessed her will to her conscience, which revolved--sometimes heavily--in
the rear. Still there the conscience was, and periodically she had to take
account of it. Periodically, it made her uncomfortable on the subject of
her eldest son. Periodically, it forced her to ask herself--as in this
reverie by the window--"How is it that, bit by bit, and year by year,
he and I have drifted to this pass? Who began it? Is it in any sense my
How was it, in the first place, that neither she nor his father had ever
had any real influence over this incorrigible spirit; that even in Corry's
childish days, when his parents had him at their mercy, they might punish,
and thwart, and distress him, but could never really conquer him? Lady
Coryston could recall struggles with her son, whether at home or at school,
which turned her sick to think of.
Corry--for instance--at his preparatory school, taking a loathing to his
head master, demanding to be withdrawn, and stubbornly refusing to say why;
the master's authority upheld by Corry's parents; vindictive punishment;
followed by sudden illness on the boy's part in the midst of the commotion,
and his return home, white-faced, silent, indomitable. It made her shiver
to remember how he had refused to be nursed by her or by any one but the
old housekeeper at Coryston; how for weeks he had scarcely spoken to his
father or mother. Then had come the lad's justification--a hideous cruelty
charge against the head master; and on a quasi-apology from his father,
Corry had consented to forgive his parents.
And again--at Cambridge--another recollection clutched at memory; Corry,
taking up the case of a youth who had been sent down, according to
him, unjustly--furious attacks on the college authorities--rioting in
college--ending of course in the summary sending down of Coryston also. She
and his father in their annoyance and disappointment had refused to listen
to his explanations, to let him defend himself indeed at all. His mother
could see still Corry's strange hostile look at her, on his first arrival
at home, as much as to say, "Nothing to expect from _you_!" She could
still hear the hall door closing behind him as he went off on wanderings
abroad and in the East for what proved to be an absence of three years.
Yet there were some things she could remember on the other side, dating
also from Corry's Cambridge years. When her old father died, one Easter
vacation, and she, who was deeply attached to him, had arrived at Coryston
after the funeral, worn out by misery and grief, there, suddenly, were
Corry's arms open to her, and his--almost timid--kiss on her cheek. The
thought of those few weeks when he had been so tender to her, and she had
been too tired and sad for anything except to lie still and accept the
kindness of her husband and sons, was embittered to her by the remembrance
of all the fierce jars which had come after; but, at the moment, they were
halcyon days. As she thought of them now beside the open window, she was
suddenly aware of a catch in the throat, which she must instantly restrain.
It was really too late for any such melting between herself and Corry!
As to the scene which had taken place in the drawing-room of the St.
James's Square house on Coryston's hurried return home after his father's
death, and the explanation to him of the terms of his father's will, she
had expected it, and had prepared for it. But it had been none the less
a terrible experience. The fierceness of Corry's anger had been indeed
quietly expressed--he had evidently schooled himself; but the words and
phrases used by him had bitten into her mind. His wrath had taken the form
of a long summing up of the relations between himself and her since his
boyhood, of a final scornful attack on her supposed "principles," and a
denunciation of her love of power--unjustified, unwarranted power--as the
cause of all the unhappiness in their family life. He had not said it in so
many words, but she knew very well that what he meant was "You have refused
to be the normal woman, and you have neither mind enough nor knowledge
enough to justify you. You have sacrificed everything to politics, and you
don't understand a single political problem. You have ruined your own life
and ours for a barren intellectualism, and it will leave you in the end a
lonely and unhappy woman."
Well, well, she had borne with him--she had not broken with him, after
all that. She would have found a dozen ways of improving his position, of
giving him back his inheritance, if he had shown the smallest disposition
to meet her, to compromise with her. But he had gone from extravagance to
extravagance, from outrage to outrage. And finally she had gathered up all
her strength and struck, for the family traditions, for the party's,
the country's interests. And of course she had been right--she had been
Drawing herself unconsciously erect, she looked out over the wide Coryston
domain, the undulations of the great estate as it stretched northward to
the hills. Politics! She had been in politics from her childhood; she had
been absorbed in them through all her married life; and now, in her later
years, she was fairly consumed by the passion of them, by the determination
to win and conquer. Not for herself!--so at least her thoughts, judged in
her own cause, vehemently insisted; not for any personal motive whatever,
but to save the country from the break-up of all that made England great,
from the incursions of a venomous rabble, bent on destroying the upper
class, the landed system, the aristocracy, the Church, the Crown. Woman as
she was, she would fight revolution to the last; they should find her body
by the wall, when and if the fortress of the old English life went down.
_Glenwilliam_!--in that name all her hatreds were summed up.
For there had arisen, during these latter years, a man of the people, to
lead what Lady Coryston called the "revolution"--a man who had suffered
cruelties, so it was said, at the hands of the capitalist and employing
class; who, as a young miner, blacklisted because of the part he had taken
in a successful strike, had gone, cap in hand, to mine after mine, begging
vainly for work, his wife and child tramping beside him. The first wife and
her child had perished, so the legend ran, at any rate, of hardship and
sheer lack of food. That insolent conspicuous girl who was now the mistress
of his house was the daughter of a second wife, a middle-class woman,
married when he was already in Parliament, and possessed of a small
competence which had been the foundation of her husband's political
position. On that modest sum he had held his ground; and upon it, while
England was being stirred from end to end by his demagogue's gift, he had
built up a personal independence and a formidable power which had enabled
him to bargain almost on equal terms with the two great parties.
"We refused to pay his price," was the way in which Lady Coryston was
accustomed to put it, "so the Liberals bought him--_dear_!"
And he was now exacting from that luckless party the very uttermost
farthing! Destruction of the Church; conscription, with a view, no doubt,
to turning a workman-led army, in case of need, upon the possessing class;
persecution of the landed interests; criminally heavy taxation--these were
Apollyon's weapons. And against such things even a weak woman must turn to
bay--must fight even her own heart, in the interests of her country.
"Did I choose my post in life for myself?--its duties, its
responsibilities? It was as much given to me as a soldier's place in the
line of battle! Am I to shirk it because I am a woman? The women have no
more right to run away than the men--vote or no vote! Haven't we eyes to
see this ruin that's coming, and minds to baffle it with? If I make Corry
rich?--and help thereby to throw England to the dogs? Am I to give him what
he says he hates--land and money--to use for what _I_ hate--and what
his father hated? Just because he is my son--my flesh and blood? He would
scorn the plea himself--he has scorned it all his life. Then let him
respect his mother--when she does the same."
But meanwhile the "game," as Coryston was playing it?--what was to be done
as to this episode and that?
She sat down to her writing-table, still busily thinking, and reminding
herself that her agent Mr. Page was to come and see her at twelve. She had
hoped to get some counsel and help out of Arthur, now that the House was up
for a fortnight. But Arthur had really been very inconsiderate and tiresome
so far. He had arrived so late for dinner on the Saturday that there had
been no time for talk, especially as there was a large party in the house.
On Sunday he had taken a motor, and had been away all day, paying--he
said--some constituency visits. And now this morning with the earliest
train he was off to London, though there was really no occasion for him
whatever to go up there. He seemed rather unlike himself. His mother
wondered if he was ill. And she fell into some indignant reflections on the
stuffy atmosphere and bad lighting of the House of Commons. But ever since
he knew that he was to have the estates his manner seemed to have changed;
not certainly in the direction of triumph or satisfaction. On the contrary,
he had once or twice said irritably to his mother that the will was
ridiculous and ought not to stand. She had been obliged to make it clear to
him that the matter was _not_ to be discussed.
Suddenly, as she sat there, distress seized her at the bare thought of any
shadow between herself and Arthur--Arthur, her darling, who was upholding
his father's principles and hers in Parliament with so much zeal and good
feeling; who had never all his life--till these latter weeks--given her so
much as a cross word. Yet now that she could no longer chase the thought
quite away, she admitted, more and more frankly, that she was anxious. Was
he in any money difficulties? She must get James to find out. In love? She
smiled. There were very few maidens in England, whatever their pretensions,
who would be likely to refuse Arthur Coryston. Let him only throw the
handkerchief, and his mother would soon do the rest. And indeed it was high
time he set up house for himself. There is a restlessness in a man which
means--marriage; and a mother soon becomes aware of it.
* * * * *
Recalling her thoughts to the letters before her, Lady Coryston perceived
among them a note from Lady William Newbury asking her and Marcia to spend
a week-end at Hoddon Grey. Lady Coryston rather wearily reflected that she
must no doubt accept. That young man was clearly in pursuit of Marcia. What
Marcia's own views were, her mother had not yet discovered. She seemed
sometimes glad to see him; sometimes entirely indifferent; and Lady
Coryston thought she had observed that her daughter's vacillations tried
Edward Newbury's pride sorely, at times. But it would end in a match--it
was pretty certain to end in a match. Marcia was only testing her power
over a strong-willed man, who would capture her in the end. That being so,
Lady Coryston acknowledged that the necessary tiresome preliminaries must
be gone through.
She hastily scrawled a note of acceptance, without any of the fond
imaginings that would have accompanied the act in the ordinary mother. Like
all imperious women she disliked staying in other people's houses, where
she could not arrange her hours. And she had a particularly resentful
memory of a visit which she had paid with her husband to Lord and Lady
William Newbury when they were renting a house in Surrey, before they had
inherited Hoddon Grey, and while Marcia was still in the schoolroom. Never
in her life had she been so ordered about. The strict rules of the house
had seemed to her intolerable. She was a martinet herself, and inclined to
pay all due attention to the observances of religion; but they must be her
own observances, or at least approved by her. To be expected to follow
other people's observances set her aflame. To make such a fuss, also, about
your religion seemed to her indecorous and absurd. She remembered with a
satisfaction which was half ashamed, that she--who was always down at
home to a half-past-eight breakfast, and was accustomed to walk a mile to
church--had insisted on breakfasting in her own room, on Sunday, under the
Newburys' roof, and had quite enjoyed Lady William's surprised looks when
they met at luncheon.
Well, now the thing had to be done again--for the settling of Marcia.
Whether the atmosphere of the family or the house would suit Marcia, her
mother did not inquire. In the matters of birth and money, nothing could be
more appropriate. Lady Coryston, however, was mostly concerned in getting
it through quickly, lest it should stand in the way of things more
important. She was fond of Marcia; but her daughter occupied, in truth,
only the fringe of her thoughts.
However, she duly put up her letter, and was addressing the envelope, when
the door opened to admit the head agent of the estate, Mr. Frederick Page.
Mr. Page was, in Lady Coryston's eyes, a prince of agents. Up till now she
had trusted him entirely, and had been more largely governed by his advice
than her pride of rule would ever have allowed her to confess. Especially
had she found reason to be grateful to him for the large amount of money he
had lately been able to provide her with from the savings of the Coryston
estates, for political purposes. Lady Coryston was one of the largest
subscribers to the party funds in the kingdom; the coming election demanded
an exceptional effort, and Page's economies had made it almost easy. She
greeted him with a peculiarly gracious smile, remembering perhaps the
letter of thanks she had received only the day before from the party
The agent was still a young man, not much over forty, ruddy, good-looking,
inclined to be plump, and possessed of a manner calculated to win the
confidence of any employer. He looked the pink of discretion and capacity,
and Lady Coryston had never discovered in him the smallest flaw with regard
to any of the orthodoxies she required, political or religious. He was a
widower, with two girls, who had often been allowed to play with Marcia.
It was clear to Lady Coryston's eyes at once that Mr. Page was much
disturbed and upset. She had expected it, of course. She herself was
disturbed and upset. But she had perhaps hoped that he would reassure
her--make light of the situation.
He did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, the effects of an encounter
he had just had with Lord Coryston himself in the village street, before
entering the park, were plainly visible in the agent's bearing. He plunged
at once into the subject.
"I fear, Lady Coryston, there is great trouble brewing on this estate!"
"You will stop it," she said, confidently; "you always have stopped it
before--you and I together."
He shook his head.
"Ah, but--you see what makes the difference!"
"That Coryston is my son?--and has always been regarded as my heir?
Certainly that makes a difference," she admitted, unwillingly. "But his
proceedings will soon disgust people--will soon recoil on himself!"
Page looked up to see her pale profile, with its marked hollows in cheek
and temple, outlined on the white paneling of the room like some strong,
hawkish face of the Renaissance. But, in awe of her as he always was,
she seemed to him a foolish woman. Why had she driven matters to this
He poured out his budget of troubles. All the smoldering discontent which
had always existed on the estate had been set alight by Lord Coryston. He
was trying to form a union among the laborers, and the farmers were up
in arms. He was rousing the dissenters against the Church school of the
estate. He was even threatening an inquiry into the state of some of his
Lady Coryston interrupted. Her voice showed annoyance. "I thought, Mr.
Page, there were no insanitary cottages on this property!"
Page hemmed and hawed. He had not the courage to say that if a landowner
insists on spending the reserve fund of an estate on politics, the estate
suffers. He had found Lady Coryston large sums for the party war-chest;
but only a fool could expect him to build new cottages, and keep up a high
level of improvements, at the same time.
"I am doing what I can," he said, hurriedly. "There are certain things that
must be done. I have given orders."
"My son seems to have caught us napping," said Lady Coryston, rather
The agent passed the remark by. He inquired whether her ladyship was still
determined to refuse land for the Baptist chapel.
"Certainly! The minister they propose is a most mischievous person, I have
no intention whatever of extending his influence."
Page acquiesced. He himself would have made the Baptists happy with a half
an acre, long since, and so, in his belief, scotched a hornet's nest. But
he had never breathed any suggestion of the kind to Lady Coryston.
"I have done my best--believe me--to stop the Sunday disturbances," he
said, "but in vain. They are chiefly got up, however, by people from a
distance. Purely political!"
"Of course. I am not to be intimidated by them," said Lady Coryston,
The agent's inner mind let loose a thought to the effect that the
increasing influence of women in politics did not seem to be likely to lead
to peaceable living. But he merely remarked:
"I much regret that Lord Coryston should have addressed them himself last
Sunday. I ventured to tell his lordship so when I met him just now in the
Lady Coryston stiffened on her chair.
"He defended himself?"
"Hotly. And I was to tell you that with your leave he will call on you
himself this afternoon about the affair."
"My house is always open to my son," said Lady Coryston, quietly. But Page
perceived the tremor of battle that ran through her.
"As to his support of that blacksmith from Ling, whom he is actually
setting up in business at Knatchett itself--the man is turning out a
perfect firebrand!--distributing Socialist leaflets over the whole
neighborhood--getting up a quarrel between some of the parents here in
this very village and our schoolmaster, about the punishment of a
child--perfectly legitimate!--everything in order!--and enrolling more
members of Mr. Glenwilliam's new Land League--within a stone's-throw of
this house!--than I like to think of. I won't answer for this village,
Lady Coryston, at the next election, if Lord Coryston goes on with these
Lady Coryston frowned. She was not accustomed to be addressed in
so pessimistic a tone, and the mere mention of her arch-enemy--
Glenwilliam--had put defiance into her. With some dryness, she
preached energy, watchfulness, and a hopeful mind. The agent grasped the
situation with the quickness born of long acquaintance with her, and
adroitly shifted his ground. He remarked that at any rate Lord Coryston
was making things uncomfortable all round; and he described with gusto the
raids upon some of the Radical employers and small cottage-owners of the
district, in the name of political liberty and decent housing, by which
Coryston had been lately bewildering the Radical mind. Lady Coryston
laughed; but was perhaps more annoyed than amused. To be brought down to
the same level with Radical millers and grocers--and by her own son--was no
consolation to a proud spirit.
"If our cottages can be reasonably attacked, they must be put in order, and
at once," she said, with dignity. "You, Mr. Page, are my eyes and ears. I
have been accustomed to trust you."
The agent accepted the implied reproach with outward meekness, and an
inward resolve to put Lady Coryston on a much stricter financial regime for
A long conversation followed, at the end of which Mr. Page rose, with the
"Your ladyship will be sorry to hear that Mr. Glenwilliam is to speak at
Martover next month,--and that it is already rumored Lord Coryston will be
in the chair."
He had kept this bombshell to the last, and for various reasons he closely
watched its effect.
Lady Coryston paled.
"We will have a Tory meeting here the same night, and my son Arthur shall
speak," she said, with vivacity.
Some odd thoughts arose in the mind of Mr. Page as he met the angry fire in
the speaker's look.
"By all means. By the way, I did not know Mr. Arthur was acquainted
with those strange people the Atherstones?" he said, in a tone of easy
interrogation, looking for his hat.
Lady Coryston was a little surprised by the remark.
"I suppose an M.P. must be acquainted with everybody--to some extent," she
said, smiling. "I know very well what his opinion of Mr. Atherstone is."
"Naturally," said Page, also smiling. "Well, good-by, Lady Coryston. I hope
when you see Lord Coryston this afternoon you will be able to persuade him
to give up some of these extravagances."
"I have no power with him," she said, sharply.
"Why did you give up what you had?" thought the agent, as he took his
departure. His long experience of Lady Coryston, able as she was, and as he
admitted her to be, in many respects, had in the end only increased in him
a secret contempt for women, inbred in all but a minority of men. They
seemed to him to have so little power of "playing the game"--the old, old
game of success that men understand so well; through compromise, cunning,
give and take, shrewd and prudent dealing. A kind of heady blundering, when
caution and a few lies would have done all that was wanted--it was this he
charged them with--Lady Coryston especially.
And as to that nice but rather stupid fellow Arthur, what on earth could
he be doing at the Atherstones'? Had he--Page--come by chance on a
secret,--dramatic and lamentable!--when, on the preceding Saturday, as he
was passing along the skirts of the wood bounding the Atherstones' little
property, on his way to one of the Coryston hill-farms, he had perceived in
the distance--himself masked by a thin curtain of trees--two persons in the
wood-path, in intimate or agitated conversation. They were Arthur Coryston
and Miss Glenwilliam. He recognized the lady at once, had several times
seen her on the platform when her father spoke at meetings, and the
frequent presence of the Glenwilliams at the Atherstones' cottage was well
known to the neighborhood.
By George!--if that _did_ mean anything!
Meanwhile on this May morning Marcia was reading in the park, not far from
a footpath--a right of way--leading from the village to the high road
running east and west along the northern boundary of the Coryston property.
Round her the slopes were white with hawthorn under a thunderous sky of
blue and piled white cloud. The dappled forms of deer glanced through the
twisted hawthorn stems, and at her feet a trout-stream, entrancingly clear
and clean, slipped by over its chalk bottom--the gray-green weeds swaying
under the slight push of the water. There was a mist of blossom, and
everywhere the fragrance of a bountiful earth, young once more.
Marcia, it must be confessed, was only pretending to read. She had some
reason to think that Edward Newbury might present himself at Coryston for
lunch that day. If so, and if he walked from Hoddon Grey--and, unlike
most young men of his age, he was a great walker, even when there was no
question of grouse or golf--he would naturally take this path. Some strong
mingled impulse had placed her there, on his road. The attraction for her
of his presence, his smile, his character was irresistibly increasing.
There were many days when she was restless and the world was empty till he
came. And yet there were other days when she was quite cold to him; when
the thought of giving her life into his hands made her cry "impossible";
when it seemed to her, as she had said to Waggin, that she rather feared
than loved him.
Edward Newbury indeed belonged to a type not common in our upper class, yet
always represented there, and in its main characteristics to be traced back
at least to the days of Laud and the Neoplatonists. It is a spiritual, a
mystical type, developed under English aristocratic conditions and shaped
by them. Newbury had been brought up in a home steeped in high Anglican
tradition. His grandfather, old Lord Broadstone, had been one of the first
and keenest supporters of the Oxford movement, a friend of Pusey, Keble,
and Newman, and later on of Liddon, Church, and Wilberforce. The boy had
grown up in a religious hothouse; his father, Lord William, had been
accustomed in his youth to make periodical pilgrimages to Christchurch
as one of Pusey's "penitents," and his house became in later life a
rallying-point for the High Anglican party in all its emergencies. Edward
himself, as the result of an intense travail of mind, had abandoned
habitual confession as he came to manhood, but he would not for the world
have missed the week of "retreat" he spent every year, with other Anglican
laymen, under the roof of the most spiritual of Anglican bishops. He was a
joyous, confident, devoted son of the English church; a man governed by the
most definite and rigid beliefs, held with a pure intensity of feeling, and
impervious to any sort of Modernism.
At the same time his handsome person, his ardent and amiable temper, his
poetic and musical tastes, made him a very general favorite even in the
most miscellaneous society. The enthusiastic Christian was also a popular
man of the world; and the esoteric elements in his character, though
perfectly well known to all who were in any degree his intimates, were
jealously hidden from the multitude, who welcomed him as a good-looking
fellow and an agreeable companion. He had been four years in the Guards,
and some years in India, as private secretary to his uncle, the Viceroy. He
was a good shot, a passionate dancer, a keen musician; and that mysterious
note in him of the unbending and the inexorable only made him--in
general--the more attractive both to men and women, as it became apparent
to them. Men scoffed at him, yet without ever despising him. Perhaps the
time was coming when, as character hardened, and the glamour of youth
dropped away, many men might hate him. Men like Coryston and Atherstone
were beginning indeed to be bitterly hostile. But these were possibilities
which were only just emerging.
Marcia was well aware of Newbury's distinction; and secretly very proud of
his homage. But rebellion in her was still active. When, however, she asked
herself, with that instinct for self-analysis bred in the woman of to-day
by the plays she sees, and half the tales she reads--"Why is it he likes
me?"--the half-sarcastic reply would still suggest itself--"No doubt just
because I am so shapeless and so formless--because I don't know myself what
I want or what I mean to be. He thinks he'll form me--he'll save my soul.
A footstep on the path made her look up, annoyed that she could not control
a sudden burning of the cheek. But the figure she expected was not there.
"Coryston!" she cried.
Her brother approached her. He seemed to be reciting verse, and she thought
she caught some words from a Shelley chorus which she knew, because he had
made her learn it when she was a child in the schoolroom. He threw himself
down beside her.
Brother and sister had only met twice since Coryston's settlement at
Knatchett--once in the village street, and once when Marcia had invaded his
bachelor quarters at Knatchett. On that occasion she had discharged upon
him all the sarcasm and remonstrance of which she was capable. But she only
succeeded in reminding herself of a bullfight of which she had once seen
part at San Sebastian. Her shafts stuck glittering in the bull's hide, but
the bull barely shook himself. There he stood--good-humored, and pawing.
To-day also Coryston seemed to be in high spirits. Marcia, on the other
hand, gave him a look half troubled, half hostile.
"Corry!--I wanted to speak to you. Are you really going to see mother this
"Certainly. I met Page in the village half an hour ago and asked him to
"I don't want to talk any more about all the dreadful things you've been
doing," said Marcia, with sisterly dignity. "I know it wouldn't be any
good. But there's one thing I must say. I do beg of you, Corry, not to say
a word to mamma about--about Arthur and Enid Glenwilliam. I know you were
at the Atherstones on Saturday!"
The anxiety in the girl's face seemed to give a softer shade to its strong
beauty. She went on, appealingly:
"Arthur's told me a lot. He's quite mad. I've argued--and argued with
him--but it's no good. He doesn't care for anything--Parliament, mamma, the
estates, anything--in comparison with that girl. At present she's playing
with him, and he's getting desperate. But I'm simply in _terror_ about
"My dear, she'll have to know some time. As you say, he's in it, head over
ears. No use your trying to pull him back!"
"It'll kill her!" cried Marcia, passionately; "what's left of her, after
Coryston lifted his eyebrows and looked long and curiously at his sister.
Then he slowly got up from the grass and took a seat beside her.
"Look here, Marcia, do you think--do you honestly think--that I'm the
aggressor in this family row?"
"Oh, I don't know--I don't know what to think!"
Marcia covered her face with her hands. "It's all so miserable!--" she went
on, in a muffled voice. "And this Glenwilliam thing has come so suddenly!
Why, he hardly knew her, when he made that speech in the House six weeks
ago! And now he's simply demented! Corry, you must go and argue with
him--you _must_! Persuade him to give her up!"
She laid her hand on his arm imploringly.
Coryston sat silent, but his eyes laughed a little.
"I don't believe in her," he said at last, abruptly. "If I did, I'd back
Arthur up through thick and thin!"
"_Corry_!--how on earth can Arthur be happy if he marries her--how can
he live in that set--the son-in-law of _that man_! He'll have to give
up his seat--nobody here would ever vote for him again. His friends would
"Oh come, come, my dear, we're not as bad as that!" said Coryston,
But Marcia wailed on:
"And it isn't as if he had ideas and theories--like you--"
"Not a principle to his back!--I know," said Coryston, cheerfully. "I
tell you again, I'd not dissuade him; on the contrary, I'd shove him into
it!--if she were the right sort. But she's not. She's ruined by the luxury
she's been living in. I believe--if you ask me--that she'd accept Arthur
for his money--but that she doesn't care one brass farthing about him. Why
"He's a fool, my dear, though a jolly one--and she's not been accustomed to
living with fools. She's got wits as sharp as gimlets. Well, well"--he got
up from the seat--"can't talk any more now. Now what is it exactly you want
me to do? I repeat--I'm coming to see mother this afternoon."
"Don't let her guess anything. Don't tell her anything. She's a little
worried about Arthur already. But we must stop the madness before she knows
"Very well. For the present--I'm mum."
"And talk to him!--tell him it'll ruin him!"
"I don't mind--from my own point of view," said Coryston, surveying her
with his hands on his sides. Then suddenly his face changed. A cloud
overshadowed it. He gave her a queer, cold look.
"Perhaps I have something to ask you," he said, slowly.
"What?" The tone showed her startled.
"Let _me_ come and talk to _you_ about that man whom all the
world says you're going to marry!"
She stared at him, struck dumb for the moment by the fierceness of his
voice and expression. Then she said, indignantly:
"What do you mean, Corry!"
"You are deceived in him. You can't marry him!" he said, passionately. "At
least let me talk to you."
She rose and stood facing him, her hands behind her, her dark face as full
of energy and will as his own.
"You are thinking of the story of Mrs. Betts. I know it."
"Not as I should tell it!"
A moving figure in a distant field caught her attention. She made a great
effort to master her excitement.
"You may tell me what you like. But I warn you I shall ask _him_ for
his version, too."
Corry's expression changed. The tension relaxed.
"That's only fair," he said, indifferently. Then, perceiving the advancing
man: "Ah, I see!--here he is. I'm off. It's a bargain. I say nothing to
mother--and do my best to make Arthur hang himself. And I have it out with
you--my small sister!--when we next meet."
He paused, looking at her, and in his strangely penetrating eyes there
dawned, suddenly, the rare expression that Marcia remembered--as of a grave
yet angry tenderness. Then he turned away, walking fast, and was soon
invisible among the light shadows of a beech avenue, just in leaf. Marcia
was left behind, breathing quick, to watch the approach of Edward Newbury.
* * * * *
As soon as he perceived Marcia under the shade of the hawthorns Newbury
quickened his pace, and he had soon thrown himself, out of breath, on the
grass beside her.
"What a heavenly spot!--and what a morning! How nice of you to let me find
you! I was hoping Lady Coryston would give me lunch."
Radiant, he raised his eyes to her, as he lay propped on his elbows, the
spring sun, slipping through the thin blossom-laden branches overhead,
dappling his bronzed face.
Marcia flushed a little--an added beauty. As she sat there in a white hat
and dress, canopied by the white trees, and lit by a warm reflected light,
she stirred in Newbury's senses once more a thrilling delight made all the
keener perhaps by the misgiving, the doubts which invariably accompanied
it. She could be so gracious; and she could be so dumb and inaccessible.
Again and again he had been on the point of declaring himself during the
last few weeks, and again and again he had drawn back, afraid lest the
decisive word from him should draw the decisive word from her, and it
should be a word of denial. Better--better infinitely--these doubts and
checks, than a certainty which would divide him from her.
This morning indeed he found her all girlish gentleness and appeal. And
it made his own task easier. For he also had matters on his mind. But she
"I want to talk to you about Corry--my brother!" she said, bending toward
[Illustration: THIS MORNING HE FOUND HER ALL GIRLISH GENTLENESS AND APPEAL]
There was a child in Marcia, and she could evoke it when she pleased. She
evoked it now. The young man before her hungered, straightway, to put out
his arms to her--gathering her to him caressingly as one does with the
child that clings and confides. But instead he merely smiled at her with
his bright conscious eyes.
"I, too, want to talk to you about Coryston," he said, nodding.
"We know he's behaving dreadfully--abominably!" laughed Marcia, but with a
"Mr. Lester tells me there was a great attack on Lord and Lady William
yesterday in the Martover paper. Mother hasn't seen it yet--and I don't
want to read it--"
"Don't!" said Newbury, smiling.
"But mother will be so ashamed, unhappy, when she knows! So am I. But I
wanted to explain. We suffer just as much. He's stirring up the whole place
against mother. And now that he's begun to attack you, I thought perhaps
that if you and I--"
"Took counsel! Excellent!"
"We might perhaps think of some way of stopping it."
"He's much more acutely angry with us at present than with anything your
mother does," said Newbury, gravely! "Has he told you?"
"No, but--he means to," said the girl, hesitating.
"It is not unfair I think I should anticipate him. You will have his
version afterward. I got an extraordinary letter from him this morning. It
is strange that he cannot see we also plead justice and right for what we
do--that if we satisfied his conscience we should wound our own."
He rose from the grass as he spoke, and took a seat on a stone a little way
from her. And as she looked at him Marcia had a strange, sudden feeling
that here was quite another man from the wooer who had just been lying on
the grass at her feet. _This_ was the man of whom she had said to
Waggin--"he seems the softest, kindest!--and underneath--_iron_!"
A shade of some habitual sternness had crept over the features. A noble
sternness, however; and it had begun to stir in her, intermittently, the
thrill of an answering humility.
"It is difficult for me--perhaps impossible--to tell you all the story,"
he said, after a pause, "but I will try and tell it shortly--in its broad
"I have heard some of it."
"So I supposed. But let me tell it in order--so far as I can. It concerns a
man whom a few weeks ago we all regarded--my father and mother--myself--as
one of our best friends. You know how keen my father is about experimenting
with the land? Well, when we set up our experimental farm here ten years
ago we made this man--John Betts--the head of it. He has been my father's
right hand--and he has done splendidly--made the farm, indeed, and himself,
famous. And he seemed to be one with us in other respects." He paused a
moment, looked keenly into her face, and then said, gravely and simply: "We
looked upon him as a deeply religious man. My mother could not say enough
of his influence on the estate. He took a large men's class on Sundays.
He was a regular communicant; he helped our clergyman splendidly. And
especially"--here again the speaker hesitated a moment. But he resumed with
a gentle seriousness--"he helped us in all our attempts to make the people
here live straight--like Christians--not like animals. My mother has very
strict rules--she won't allow any one in our cottages who has lost their
character. I know it sounds harsh. It isn't so--it's merciful. The villages
were in a terrible state when we came--as to morals. I can't of course
explain to you--but our priest appealed to us--we had to make changes--and
my father and mother bravely faced unpopularity--"
He looked at her steadily, while his face changed, and the sudden red of
some quick emotion invaded it.
"You know we are unpopular!"
"Yes," said Marcia, slowly, his perfect sincerity forbidding anything else
"Especially"--there was a touch of scorn in the full voice--"owing to
the attacks on my father and mother of that Liberal agitator--that man
Atherstone--who lives in that cottage on the hill--your mother knows all
about him. He has spread innumerable stories about us ever since we came to
live here. He is a free-thinker and a republican--we are church people and
Tories. He thinks that every man--or woman--is a law unto themselves. We
think--but you know what we think!"
He smiled at her.
"Well--to return to Betts. This is May. Last August he had an attack of
influenza, and went off to North Wales, to the sea, to recruit. He was away
much longer than any one expected, and after about six weeks he wrote to
my father to say that he should return to Hoddon Grey--with a wife. He had
found a lady at Colwyn Bay, whom he had known as a girl. She was a widow,
had just lost her father, with whom she lived, and was very miserable and
forlorn. I need not say we all wrote the most friendly letters. She came, a
frail, delicate creature, with one child. My mother did all she could
for her, but was much baffled by her reserve and shrinking. Then--bit by
bit--through some extraordinary chances and coincidences--I needn't go
through it all--the true story came out."
He looked away for a moment over the reaches of the park, evidently
considering with himself what he could tell, and how far.
"I can only tell you the bare facts," he said, at last. "Mrs. Betts was
divorced by her first husband. She ran away with a man who was in his
employment, and lived with him for two years. He never married her, and
after two years he deserted her. She has had a wretched life since--with
her child. Then Betts came along, whom she had known long ago. She threw
herself on his pity. She is very attractive--he lost his head--and married
her. Well now, what were we to do?"
"They _are_ married?" said Marcia.
"Certainly--by the law. But it is a law which matters nothing to us!"
The voice had taken to itself a full challenging note.
Marcia looked up.
"Because--you think--divorce is wrong?"
"Because--'What God has joined together let no man put asunder!'"
"But there are exceptions in the New Testament?"
The peach bloom on Marcia's cheek deepened as she bent over the daisy chain
she was idly making.
"Doubtful ones! The dissolution of marriage may itself be an open question.
But, for all churchmen, the remarriage of divorced persons--and trebly,
when it is asked for by the person whose sin caused the divorce!--is an
absolutely closed one!"
Marcia's mind was in a ferment. But her girlish senses were keenly alive to
the presence beside her--the clean-cut classical face, the spiritual beauty
of the eyes. Yet something in her shivered.
"Suppose she was very unhappy with her first husband?"
"Law cannot be based on hard cases. It is made to help the great multitude
of suffering, sinning men and women through their lives." He paused a
little, and then said, "Our Lord 'knew what was in man.'"
The low tone in which the last words were spoken affected Marcia deeply,
not so much as an appeal to religion, for her own temperament was not
religious, as because they revealed the inner mystical life of the man
beside her. She was suddenly filled again with a strange pride that he
should have singled her out--to love her.
But the rise of feeling was quickly followed by recoil.
She looked up eagerly.
"If I had been very miserable--had made a hideous mistake--and knew it--and
somebody came along and offered to make me happy--give me a home--and care
for me--I couldn't and I shouldn't resist!"
"You would," he said, simply, "if God gave you strength."
Nothing so intimate had yet been said between them. There was silence. That
old, old connection between the passion of religion--which is in truth a
great romanticism--and the passion of sex, made itself felt; but in its
most poetic form. Marcia was thrillingly conscious of the debate in
herself--of the voice which said, "Teach me, govern me, love me--be my
adored master and friend!" and the voice which replied, "I should be his
slave--I will not!"
At last she said:
"You have dismissed Mr. Betts?"
"He is going in a month. My father offered all we could. If--Mrs.
Betts"--the words came out with effort--"would have separated from him we
should have amply provided for her and her child. The Cloan Sisters would
have watched over her. She could have lived near them, and Betts could have
seen her from time to time--"
"Absolutely. Betts wrote my father the fiercest letters. They were married,
he said, married legally and honestly--and that was an end of it. As to
Mrs. Betts's former history, no one had the smallest right to pry into it.
He defied my father to dismiss him. My father--on his principles--had no
choice but to do so. So then--your brother came on the scene!"
"Of course--he was furious?"
"What right has he to be furious?" said Newbury, quietly. "His principles
may be what he pleases. But he must allow us ours. This is a free country."
A certain haughtiness behind the gentle manner was very perceptible. Marcia
kindled for her brother.
"I suppose Corry would say, if the Church ruled us--as you wish--England
wouldn't be free!"
"That's his view. We have ours. No doubt he has the present majority with
him. But why attack us personally--call us names--because of what we
He spoke with vivacity, with wounded feeling. Marcia melted.
"But every one knows," she murmured, "that Corry is mad--quite mad."
And suddenly, impulsively, she put out her hand.
"Don't blame us!"
He took the hand in both his own, bent over and kissed it.
"Don't let him set you against us!"
She smiled and shook her head. Then by way of extricating herself and him
from the moment of emotion--by way of preventing its going any further--she
sprang to her feet.
"Mother will be waiting lunch for us."
They walked back to the house together, discussing as they went Coryston's
whole campaign. Newbury's sympathy with her mother was as balm to Marcia;
insensibly she rewarded him, both by an open and charming mood, and also by
a docility, a readiness to listen to the Newbury view of life which she had
never yet shown. The May day, meanwhile, murmured and gleamed around them.
The spring wind like a riotous life leaped and rustled in the new leaf of
the oaks and beeches; the sky seemed to be leaning mistily to earth; and
there were strange, wild lights on the water and the grass, as though,
invisible, the train of Dionysius or Apollo swept through the land.
Meanwhile the relation between the young man and the girl ripened apace.
Marcia's resistance faltered within her; and to Newbury the walk was
Finally they agreed to leave the task of remonstrating with Coryston to Sir
Wilfrid Bury, who was expected the following day, and was an old friend of
"Corry likes him," said Marcia. "He says, 'Give me either a firebrand or a
cynic!' He has no use for other sorts of people. And perhaps Sir Wilfrid
will help us, too--with Arthur." Her look darkened.
"Arthur?" said Newbury, startled. "What's wrong with Arthur?"
Marcia hurriedly told him. He looked amazed and shocked.
"Oh, that can't be allowed. We must protect your mother--and persuade
Arthur. Let me do what I can. He and I are old pals."
Marcia was only too glad to be helped. It had begun to seem to her, in
spite of the rush of her London gaieties, and the brilliance of her London
successes, that she had been very lonely at home for a long time, and here,
in this strong man, were warmth and shelter.
* * * * *
Luncheon passed gaily, and Lady Coryston perceived, or thought she
perceived, that Marcia's affairs were marching briskly toward their
destined end. Newbury took his leave immediately afterward, saying to Lady
Coryston, "So we expect you--next Sunday?" The slight emphasis he laid on
the words, the pressure on her hand seemed to reveal to her the hope in the
young man's mind. Well!--the sooner, the better.
Afterward Lady Coryston paid some calls in the village, and, coming home
through a stately series of walled gardens ablaze with spring flowers, she
gave some directions for a new herbaceous border. Then she returned to the
house to await her son. Marcia meanwhile had gone to the station to meet
Sir Wilfrid Bury.
Coryston duly arrived, a more disreputable figure than usual--bedraggled
with rain, his shabby trousers tucked into his boots, and his cap festooned
with fishing-flies; for the afternoon had turned showery, and Coryston had
been pursuing the only sport which appealed to him in the trout-stream of
the park. Before he did so he had formally asked leave of the agent, and
had been formally granted it.
He and Lady Coryston were closeted together for nearly an hour. Had any
one been sitting in the adjoining room they would have heard, save on two
occasions when the raised voices clashed together, but little variation
in the tones of the combatants. When the conference broke up and Coryston
departed Lady Coryston was left alone for a little while. She sat
motionless in her chair beside her writing-table. Animation and color faded
slowly from her features; and before her trance of thought was broken by
the arrival of a servant announcing that Sir Wilfrid Bury had arrived, one
who knew her well would have been startled by certain subtle changes in her
Coryston, meanwhile, made his way to the great library in the north wing,
looking for Lester. He found the young librarian at his desk, with a
fifteenth-century MS. before him, which he was describing and cataloguing.
The beautiful pages sparkling with color and gold were held open by glass
weights, and the young man's face, as he bent over his task, showed the
happy abstraction of the scholar. All around him rose the latticed walls
of the library, holding on one side a collection of MSS., on the other of
early printed books, well known to learned Europe. Wandering gleams from
the showery sky outside lit up the faded richness of the room, the pale
brown and yellows of the books, the sharp black and white of the old
engravings hanging among them. The windows were wide open, and occasionally
a westerly gust would blow in upon the floor petals from a fruit tree in
blossom just outside.
Coryston came in, looking rather flushed and excited, and took a seat on
the edge of the table where Lester was working, his hands in his pockets.
"What a blessed place!" he said, glancing round him. Lester looked up and
Silence a moment. Then Coryston said, with sudden vehemence:
"Don't you go into politics, Lester!"
"No fear, old man. But what's up, now? You seem to have been ragging a good
"I've been 'following the gleam,'" said Coryston, with a sarcastic mouth.
"Or to put it in another way--there's a hot coal in me that makes me do
certain things. I dignify it by calling it a sense of justice. What is it?
I don't know. I say, Lester, are you a Suffragist?"
"Haven't made up my mind."
"I am--theoretically. But upon my word--politics plays the deuce with
women. And sometimes I think that women will play the deuce with politics."
"You mean they're so unmeasured?" said Lester, cautiously.
Coryston shook his head vaguely, staring at the floor, but presently broke
"I say, Lester, if we can't find generosity, tenderness, an open
mind--among women--where the devil are we going to find them?" He stood up.
"And politics kills all that kind of thing."
"'Physician, heal thyself,'" laughed Lester.
"Ah, but it's our _business_!'"--Coryston smote the table beside
him--"our dusty, d--d business. We've got somehow to push and harry
and drive this beastly world into some sort of decency. But the
women!--oughtn't they to be in the shrine--tending the mystic fire? What if
the fire goes out--if the heart of the nation dies?"
Lester's blue-gray eyes looked up quietly. There was sympathy in them, but
he said nothing.
Coryston tramped half-way to the library door, then turned back.
"My mother's quite a good woman," he said, abruptly. "There are no great
scandals on this estate--it's better managed than most. But because of this
poison of politics, no one can call their souls their own. If she'd let
them live their own lives they'd adore her."
"The trade-unions are just the same."
"I believe you!" said Coryston. "Freedom's a lost art in England--from
Parliament downward. Well, well--Good-by!"
"Yes?" Lord Coryston paused with his hand on the door.
"Don't take the chair for Glenwilliam?"
"By George, I will!" Coryston's eyes flamed. And going out he noisily shut
* * * * *
Lester was left to his work. But his mood had been diverted, and he
presently found that he was wasting time. He walked to the window, and
stood there gazing at the bright flower-beds in the formal garden, the
fountain plashing in its center, the low hills and woods that closed the
horizon, the villages with their church-towers, piercing the shelter of the
woods. May had drawn over the whole her first veils of green. The English
perfection, the English mellowness, was everywhere; the spring breathings
in the air came scented with the young leaf of trees that had been planted
before Blenheim was fought.
Suddenly across the farther end of the garden passed a girlish figure in
white. Lester's pulses ran. It was Marcia. He saw her but seldom, and that
generally at a distance. But sometimes she would come, in her pretty,
friendly way, to chat to him about his work, and turn over his manuscripts.
"She has the same feeling about me that nice women have about their dogs
and cats. They are conscious of them, sorry for them; they don't like
them to feel themselves neglected. So she comes to see me every now and
then--lest I should think myself forgotten. Her conscience pricks her for
people less prosperous than herself. I see it quite plainly. But she would
be angry if I were to tell her so!"
It was a breezy June afternoon, with the young summer at its freshest and
Lord and Lady William Newbury were strolling in the garden at Hoddon Grey.
The long low line of the house rose behind them--an attractive house and
an old one, but with no architectural features to speak of, except a
high-pitched mossy roof, a picturesque series of dormer-windows, and a high
gable and small lantern cupola at the farther end which marked the private
chapel. The house was evidently roomy, but built for comfort, not
display; the garden with its spreading slopes and knolls was simple and
old-fashioned, in keeping thereby with the general aspect of the two people
who were walking up and down the front lawn together.
Lord William Newbury was a man of sixty-five, tall and slenderly built. His
pale hazel eyes, dreamily kind, were the prominent feature of his face;
he had very thin flat cheeks, and his white hair--he was walking
bareheaded--was blown back from a brow which, like the delicate mouth,
was still young, almost boyish. Sweetness and a rather weak refinement--a
stranger would probably have summed up his first impressions of Lord
William, drawn from his bodily presence, in some such words. But the
stranger who did so would have been singularly wide of the mark. His wife
beside him looked even frailer and slighter than he. A small and mouse-like
woman, dressed in gray clothes of the simplest and plainest make, and
wearing a shady garden hat; her keen black eyes in her shriveled face gave
that clear promise of strong character in which her husband's aspect, at
first sight, was lacking. But Lady William knew her place. She was the most
submissive and the most docile of wives; and on no other terms would life
have been either possible or happy in her husband's company.
They were discussing, with some eagerness, the approaching arrival of their
week-end guests--Lady Coryston and Marcia, the new dean of a neighboring
cathedral, an ex-Cabinet Minister and an Oxford professor. But the talk,
however it circled, had a way of returning to Marcia. It was evident that
she held the field.
"It is so strange that I have scarcely seen her!" Lady William was saying
in a tone which was not without its note of complaint. "I hope dear Edward
has not been too hasty in his choice. As for you, William, I don't believe
you would know her again, if you were to see her without her mother."
"Oh yes, I should. Her mother introduced her to me at the Archbishop's
party, and I talked to her a little. A very handsome young woman. I
remember thinking her talk rather too theatrical."
"About theaters, you mean," sighed Lady William. "Well, that's the way with
all the young people. The fuss people make about actors and actresses is
"I remember she talked to me enthusiastically about Madame Froment," said
Lord William, in a tone of reminiscence. "I asked her whether she knew that
Madame Froment had a scandalous story, and was not fit acquaintance for
a young girl. And she opened her eyes at me, as though I had propounded
something absurd. 'One doesn't inquire about that!' she said--quite
indignantly, I assure you! 'but only whether she can _act_.' It
was curious--and rather disquieting--to see so much decision--
self-assertion--in so young a woman."
"Oh, well, Edward will change all that." Lady William's voice was gently
confident. "He assures me that she has excellent principles--a fine
character really, though quite undeveloped. He thinks she will be readily
guided by one she loves."
"I hope so, for Edward's sake--for he is very much in love. I trust he is
not letting inclination run away with him. So much--to all of us--depends
on his marriage!"
Lord William, frowning a little, paused a moment in his walk and turned his
eyes to the house. Hoddon Grey had only become his personal property some
three years before this date; but ever since his boyhood it had been
associated for him with hallowed images and recollections. It had been
the dower-house of his widowed mother, and after her death his brother,
a widower with one crippled son, had owned it for nearly a quarter of
a century. Both father and son had belonged to the straitest sect of
Anglo-Catholicism; their tender devotion to each other had touched with
beauty the austerity and seclusion of their lives. Yet at times Hoddon Grey
had sheltered large gatherings--gatherings of the high Puseyite party in
the English Church, both lay and clerical. Pusey himself had preached in
the chapel; Liddon with the Italianate profile--orator and ascetic--might
have been seen strolling under the trees where Lord and Lady William were
strolling now; Manning, hatchet-faced, jealous and self-conscious, had made
fugitive appearances there; even the great Newman himself, in his extreme
old age, had once rested there on a journey, and given his Cardinal's
blessing to the sons of one of his former comrades in the Oxford movement.
Every stone in the house, every alley in the garden, was sacred in Lord
William's eyes. To most men the house they love represents either the
dignity and pride of family, or else successful money-making, and the
pleasure of indulged tastes. But to Lord William Newbury the house of
Hoddon Grey stood as the symbol of a spiritual campaign in which his
forebears, himself, and his son were all equally enrolled--the endless,
unrelenting campaign of the Church against the world, the Christian against
... His wife broke in upon his reverie.
"Are you going to say anything about Lord Coryston's letter, William?"
Lord William started.
"Say anything to his mother? Certainly not, Albinia!" He straightened his
shoulders. "It is my intention to take no notice of it whatever."
"You have not even acknowledged it?" she asked, timidly.
"A line--in the third person."
"Edward thinks Lady Coryston most unwise--"
"So she is--most unwise!" cried Lord William, warmly. "Coryston has every
right to complain of her."
"You think she has done wrong?"
"Certainly. A woman has no right to do such things--whatever her son may
be. For a woman to take upon herself the sole direction and disposal of
such properties as the Coryston properties is to step outside the bounds
of her sex; it is to claim something which a woman ought not to
claim--something altogether monstrous and unnatural!"
Lord William's thin features had flushed under a sudden rush of feeling.
His wife could not help the sudden thought, "But if we had had an infidel
or agnostic son?"
Aloud she said, "You don't think his being such a Radical, so dreadfully
extreme and revolutionary, justifies her?"
"Not at all! That was God's will--the cross she had to bear. She interferes
with the course of Providence--presumptuously interferes with it--doing
evil that what she conceives to be good may come. A woman must persuade
men by gentleness--not govern them by force. If she attempts that she is
usurping what does not--what never can--belong to her."
The churchman had momentarily disappeared in the indignant stickler for
male prerogative and the time-honored laws of English inheritance. Lady
William acquiesced in silence. She, too, strongly disapproved of Lady
Coryston's action toward her eldest son, abominable as Coryston's opinions
were. Women, like minorities, must suffer; and she was glad to have her
husband's word for it that it is not their business to correct or coerce
their eldest sons, on the ground of political opinions, however grievous
those opinions may be.
"I trust that Lady Coryston will not open on this subject to me," said Lord
William, after a pause. "I am never good at concealing my opinions for
politeness' sake. And of course I hold that Coryston is just as much in the
wrong as she. And mad to boot! No sane man could have written the letter I
received last week?"
"Do you think he will do what he threatens?"
"What--get up a subscription for Mr. and Mrs. Betts, and settle them
somewhere here? I dare say! We can't help it. We can only follow our
Lord William held himself erect. At that moment no one could have thought
of "sweetness" in connection with the old man's delicately white features.
Every word fell from him with a quiet and steely deliberation.
His wife walked beside him a little longer. Then she left him and went into
the house to see that all the last preparations for the guests were made;
gathering on her way a bunch of early roses from a bed near the house.
She walked slowly through the guestrooms on the garden front, looking at
everything with a critical eye. The furniture of the rooms was shabby and
plain. It had been scarcely changed at all since 1832, when Lord William's
widowed mother had come to live at Hoddon Grey. But everything smelt of
lavender and much cleaning. The windows were open to the June air, and the
house seemed pervaded by the cooing of doves from the lime walk outside; a
sound which did but emphasize the quiet of the house and garden. At the
end of the garden front Lady William entered a room which had a newer and
fresher appearance than the rest. The walls were white; a little rosebud
chintz curtained the windows and the bed. White rugs made the hearth and
the dressing-table gay, and there was a muslin bedspread lined with pink
and tied with knots of pink ribbon.
Lady William stood and looked at it with an intense and secret pleasure.
She had been allowed to "do it up" the preceding summer, out of her own
money, on which, in all her life, she had never signed a check; and she
had given orders that Miss Coryston was to be put into it. Going to the
dressing-table, she took from the vase there the formal three sprigs of
azalea which the housemaid had arranged, and replaced them by the roses.
Her small, wrinkled hands lingered upon them. She was putting them there
for the girl Edward loved--who was probably to be his wife. A great
tenderness filled her heart.
When she left the room, she rapidly descended a staircase just beyond it,
and found herself in the vestibule of the chapel. Pushing the chapel doors
open, she made her way in. The rich glooms and scents of the beautiful
still place closed upon her. Kneeling before the altar, still laden with
Whitsun flowers, and under the large crucifix that hung above it, she
prayed for her son, that he might worthily uphold the heritage of his
father, that he might be happy in his wife, and blessed with children....
* * * * *
An hour later the drawing-room and the lawns of Hoddon Grey were alive
with tea and talk. Lady Coryston, superbly tall, in trailing black, was
strolling with Lord William. Sir Wilfrid, the ex-Minister Sir Louis Ford,
the Dean, and the Chaplain of the house were chatting and smoking round the
deserted tea-table, while Lady William and the Oxford Professor poked among
the flower-beds, exchanging confidences on phloxes and delphiniums.
In the distance, under the lime avenue, now in its first pale leaf, two
young figures paced to and fro. They were Newbury and Marcia.
Sir Wilfrid had just thrown himself back in his chair, looking round him
with a sigh of satisfaction.
"Hoddon Grey makes me feel good! Not a common effect of country-houses!"
"Enjoy them while you may!" laughed Sir Louis Ford. "Glenwilliam is after
"Glenwilliam!" exclaimed the Dean. "I saw him at the station, with his
handsome but rather strange-looking daughter. What's he doing here?"
"Hatching mischief with a political friend of his--a 'fidus Achates'--who
lives near here," said the Chaplain, Mr. Perry, in a deep and rather
"From the bills I saw posted up in Martover as we came through"--Sir
Louis Ford lowered his voice--"I gathered the amazing fact that
Coryston--_Coryston_!--is going to take the chair at a meeting where
Glenwilliam speaks some way on in next month."
Sir Wilfrid shrugged his shoulders, with a warning glance at the stately
form of Coryston's mother in the distance.
"Too bad to discuss!" he said, shortly.
A slight smile played round the Dean's flexible mouth. He was a new-comer,
and much more of an Erastian than Lord William approved. He had been
invited, not for pleasure, but for tactics; that the Newburys might find
out what line he was going to take in the politics of the diocese.
"We were never told," said the Dean, "that a _woman's_ foes were to be
those of her own household!"
The Chaplain frowned.
"Lord Coryston is making enemies in all directions," he said, hastily.
"I understand that a letter Lord William received from him last week was
"What about?" asked Sir Louis.
"A divorce case--a very painful one--on which we have found it necessary to
take a strong line."
The speaker, who was largely made and gaunt, with grizzled hair and
spectacles, spoke with a surprising energy. The Dean looked puzzled.
"What had Lord Coryston to do with it?"
"What indeed?--except that he is out for picking up any grievances he can."
"Who are the parties?"
The Chaplain told the story.
"They didn't ask anybody to marry them in church, did they?" asked the
"Not that I know of."
The Dean said nothing, but as he lay back in his chair, his hands behind
his head, his expression was rather hostile than acquiescent.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, under the lime walk the golden evening insensibly heightened
the pleasure of Newbury and Marcia in each other's society. For the sunny
fusion of earth and air glorified not only field and wood, but the
human beings walking in them. Nature seemed to be adapting herself to
them--shedding a mystic blessing on their path. Both indeed were conscious
of a secret excitement. They felt the approach of some great moment, as
though a pageant or presence were about to enter. For the first time,
Marcia's will was in abeyance. She was scarcely ecstatically happy; on the
far horizon of life she seemed to be conscious of storm-clouds, of things
threatening and unexplored. And yet she was in love; she was thrilled
both physically and spiritually by the man beside her; with a certain
helplessness, she confessed in him a being stronger and nobler than
herself; the humility, the self-surrender of passion was rising in her,
like the sap in the spring tree, and she trembled under it.
Newbury too had grown a little pale and silent. But when his eyes met hers
there was that in them under which her own wavered.
"Come and see the flowers in the wood," he said, softly, and leading the
way, he took her out of range of those observers in the garden; deep into
a noble beech wood that rose out of the garden, climbing through a sea of
wild hyacinths to a hilltop.
A mossy path offered itself, winding through the blue. And round them
closed the great beech trees, in a marvel of young green, sparkling and
quivering under the shafts of light that struck through the wood. The air
was balm. And the low music of the wood-pigeons seemed to be there for them
only; a chorus of earth's creatures, wooing them to earth's festival.
Unconsciously, in the deep heart of the wood, their footsteps slackened.
She heard her name breathed.
She turned, submissive, and saw him looking down upon her with adoring
tenderness, his lips gravely smiling.
She raised her eyes to his, all her ripe beauty one flush. He put his arms
round her, whispering:
"Marcia! will you come to me--will you be my wife?"
She leaned against him in a trance of happiness, hiding her face, yet not
so that his lips could not find hers. So this was love?--the supreme of
They stood so in silence a little. Then, still holding her, he drew her
within the low feathering branches of a giant tree, where was a fallen log.
He placed her on it, and himself beside her.
"How wonderful that you should love me, that you should let me love you!"
he said, with passionate emotion. "Oh, Marcia, am I worthy--shall I make
"That is for me to ask!" Her mouth was trembling now, and the tears were in
her eyes. "I'm not nearly as good as you, Edward. I shall often make you
angry with me."
"Angry!" He laughed in scorn. "Could any one, ever, be angry with you,
Marcia! Darling, I want you to help me so! We'll help each other--to live
as we ought to live. Isn't God good? Isn't life wonderful?"
She pressed his hand for answer. But the intensity of his joy, as she read
it in his eyes, had in it--for her--and for the moment--just a shade of
painfulness. It seemed to claim something from her that she could not quite
give--or that she might not be able to give. Some secret force in her cried
out in protest. But the slight shrinking passed almost immediately. She
threw off her hat, and lifted her beautiful brow to him in a smiling
silence. He drew her to him again, and as she felt the pressure of his arm
about her, heart and soul yielded utterly. She was just the young girl,
loving and beloved.
"Do your father and mother really approve?" she asked at last as she
disengaged herself, and her hands went up to her hot cheeks, and then to
her hair, to smooth it back into something like order.
"Let us go and see." He raised her joyously to her feet.
She looked at him a little wistfully.
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