The Coryston Family
Mrs. Humphry Ward
Part 3 out of 5
"I'm rather afraid of them, Edward. You must tell them not to expect too
much. And I shall always--want to be myself."
"Darling! what else could they, could any one want for you--or for me!"
The tone showed him a little startled, perhaps stung, by her words. And he
added, with a sudden flush:
"Of course I know what Coryston will say to you. He seems to think us all
hypocrites and tyrants. Well--you will judge. I won't defend my father and
mother. You will soon know them. You will see what their lives are."
He spoke with feeling. She put her hand in his, responding.
"You'll write to Corry--won't you? He's a dreadful thorn in all our sides;
and yet--" Her eyes filled with tears.
"You love him?" he said, gently. "That's enough for me."
"Even if he's rude and violent?" she pleaded.
"Do you think I can't keep my temper--when it's _your_ brother? Try
He clasped her hand warm and close in his strong fingers. And as she moved
through the young green of the woodland he saw her as a spirit of delight,
the dark masses of her hair, her white dress and all her slender grace
flecked by the evening sun. These were moments, he knew, that could never
come again; that are unique in a man's history. He tried to hold and taste
them as they passed; tormented, like all lovers, by what seems, in such
crises, to be the bitter inadequacy and shallowness of human feeling.
They took a more round-about path home than that which had brought them
into the wood, and at one point it led them through a clearing from which
there was a wide view of undulating ground scattered with houses here and
there. One house, a pleasant white-walled dwelling, stood conspicuously
forward amid copses a couple of fields away. Its garden surrounded by a
sunk fence could be seen, and the figure of a lady walking in it. Marcia
stopped to look.
"What a charming place! Who lives there?"
Newbury's eyes followed hers. He hesitated a moment.
"That is the model farm."
"Mr. Betts's farm?"
"Yes. Can you manage that stile?"
Marcia tripped over it, scorning his help. But her thoughts were busy with
the distant figure. Mrs. Betts, no doubt; the cause of all the trouble and
talk in the neighborhood, and the occasion of Corry's outrageous letter to
"I think I ought to tell you," she said, stopping, with a look of
perplexity, "that Corry is sure to come and talk to me--about that story. I
don't think I can prevent him."
"Won't you hand him on to me? It is really not a story for your ears."
He spoke gravely.
"I'm afraid Cony would call that shirking. I--I think perhaps I had better
have it out with him--myself. I remember all you said to me!"
"I only want to save you." His expression was troubled, but not without
a certain touch of sternness that she perceived. He changed the subject
immediately, and they walked on rapidly toward the garden.
Lady William first perceived them--perceived, too, that they were hand in
hand. She broke off her chat with Sir Wilfrid Bury under the limes, and
rising in sudden agitation she hurried across the lawn to her husband.
The Dean and Sir Louis Ford had been discussing Woman Suffrage over their
cigarettes, and Sir Louis, who was a stout opponent, had just delivered
himself of the frivolous remark--in answer to some plea of the Dean's on
behalf of further powers for the female sex:
"Oh, no doubt, somewhere between the Harem and the Woolsack, it will be
necessary to draw the line!"--when they too caught sight of the advancing
The Dean's eyebrows went up. A smile, most humorous and human, played over
his round cheeks and button mouth.
"Have they drawn it? Looks like it!" he said, under his breath.
"Eh!--what?" Sir Louis, the most incorrigible of elderly gossips, eagerly
put up his eyeglass. "Do you suspect anything?"
Five persons were presently gathered in the library, and Marcia was sitting
with her hand in Lady William's. Everybody except Lady Coryston was in a
happy agitation, and trying to conceal it. Even Lord William, who was not
without his doubts and qualms, was deeply moved, and betrayed a certain
moisture in his eyes, as he concluded his old world speech of welcome and
blessing to his son's betrothed. Only Lady Coryston preserved an unbroken
composure. She was indeed quite satisfied. She had kissed her daughter and
given her consent without the smallest demur, and she had conveyed both to
Newbury and his father in a few significant words that Marcia's portion
would be worthy of their two families. But the day's event was already
thrust aside by her burning desire to get hold of Sir Louis Ford before
dinner, and to extract from him the latest and most confidential
information that a member of the Opposition could bestow as to the possible
date for the next general election. Marcia's affair was thoroughly nice
and straightforward--just indeed what she had expected. But there would
be plenty of time to talk about it after the Hoddon Grey visit was over;
whereas Sir Louis was a rare bird not often to be caught.
"My dear," said Lord William in his wife's ear, "Perry must be informed of
this. There must be some mention of it in our service to-night."
She assented. Newbury, however, who was standing near, caught the remark,
and looked rather doubtfully at the speaker.
"You think so, father?"
"Certainly, my dear son, certainly."
Neither Marcia nor her mother heard. Newbury approached his betrothed, but
perceived that there was no chance of a private word with her. For by this
time other guests had been summoned to receive the great announcement, and
a general flutter of laughter and congratulations was filling the room.
The Dean, who had had his turn with Marcia, and was now turning over books,
looked at her keenly from time to time.
"A face," he thought, "of much character, promising developments. Will she
fit herself to this medieval household? What will they make of her?"
Sir Louis, after paying his respects and expressing his good wishes to the
betrothed pair, had been resolutely captured by Lady Coryston. Lord William
Suddenly into the talk and laughter there struck the sound of a loud and
deep-toned bell. Lady William stood up with alacrity. "Dear me!--is it
really chapel-time? Lady Coryston, will you come?"
Marcia's mother, her face stiffening, rose unwillingly.
"What are we supposed to do?" asked the Dean, addressing Newbury.
"We have evensong in chapel at seven," said Newbury. "My father set up
the custom many years ago. It gathers us all together better than evening
prayer after dinner."
His tone was simple and matter-of-fact. He turned radiantly to Marcia, and
took her hand again. She followed him in some bewilderment, and he led her
through the broad corridor which gave access to the chapel.
"Rather unusual, this, isn't it?" said Sir Louis Ford to Lady Coryston
as they brought up the rear. His face expressed a certain restrained
amusement. If there was a convinced agnostic in the kingdom it was he. But
unlike the woman at his side he could always take a philosophical interest
in the religious customs of his neighbors.
"Most unusual!" was the emphatic reply. But there was no help for it. Lady
Coryston followed, willy-nilly.
Marcia, meanwhile, was only conscious of Newbury. As they entered the
chapel together she saw his face transfigured. A mystical "recollection,"
shutting him away completely from the outside world, sweeping like a
sunlit cloud even between himself and her, possessed it. She felt suddenly
forsaken--altogether remote from him.
But he led her on, and presently they were kneeling together under a great
crucifix of primitive Italian work, while through the dusk of the May
evening gleamed the lamps of the chapel, and there arose on all sides of
her a murmur of voices repeating the Confession. Marcia was aware of many
servants and retainers; and she could see the soldierly form of Lord
William kneeling in the distance, with Lady William beside him. The chapel
seemed to her large and splendid. It was covered with painting and mosaic;
and she felt the sharp contrast between it and the simple bareness of the
house to which it was attached.
"What does all this mean?" she seemed to be asking herself. "What does it
mean for _me_? Can I play my part in it?"
What had become of that early antagonism and revolt which she had expressed
to "Waggin"? It had not protected her in the least from Newbury's growing
ascendancy! She was indeed astonished at her own pliancy! In how short a
time had she allowed Newbury's spell upon her to drive her earlier vague
fears of his surroundings and traditions out of her mind!
And now it returned upon her intensified--that cold, indefinite fear,
creeping through love and joy.
She turned again to look beseechingly at Newbury. But it seemed to her that
she was forgotten. His eyes were on the altar--absorbed.
And presently, aghast, she heard her own name! In the midst of the General
Thanksgiving, at the point where mention may be made of individual cases,
the Chaplain suddenly paused to give thanks in a voice that possessed a
natural and slightly disagreeable tremor, for the "happy betrothal of
Edward Newbury and Marcia Coryston."
An audible stir and thrill ran through the chapel, subsiding at once into
a gulf of intense silence. Marcia bowed her head with the rest; but her
cheeks burned, and not only with a natural shyness. The eyes of all these
kneeling figures seemed to be upon her, and she shrank under them. "I
ought to have been asked," she thought, resentfully. "I ought to have been
When they left the chapel, Newbury, pale and smiling, bent over her
"Darling!--you didn't mind?"
She quickly withdrew her hand from his.
"Don't you dine at half past eight? I really must go and dress."
And she hurried away, without waiting for him to guide her through the
unknown house. Breathlessly she ran up-stairs and found her room. The sight
of her maid moving about, of the lights on the dressing-table, of the
roses, and her dress laid out upon the bed, brought her sudden and
unspeakable relief. The color came back to her cheeks, she began to chatter
to her maid about everything and nothing--laughing at any trifle, and yet
feeling every now and then inclined to cry. Her maid dressed her in pale
pink and told her plainly when the last hook was fastened and the last
string tied that she had never looked better.
"But won't you put on these roses, miss?"
She pointed to the bunch that Lady William had gathered.
Marcia pinned them into her belt, and stood a moment looking at her
reflection in the glass. Not in mere girlish vanity! Something much
stronger and profounder entered in. She seemed to be measuring her
resources against some hostile force--to be saying to herself:
"Which of us is to yield? Perhaps not I!"
* * * * *
Yet as soon as Marcia entered the drawing-room, rather late, to find all
the party assembled, the tension of her mood dropped, thawed by the
sheer kindness and good will of the people round her. Lord William was
resplendent in a button-hole and new dress-clothes; Lady William had put
on her best gown and some family jewels that never saw the light except on
great occasions; and when Marcia entered, the friendly affectionate looks
that greeted her on all sides set her blushing once more, and shamed away
the hobgoblins that had been haunting her. She was taken in to dinner by
Lord William and treated as a queen. The table in the long, low dining-room
shone with flowers and some fine old silver which the white-haired butler
had hurriedly produced from the family store. Beside Marcia's plate lay a
bunch of lilies-of-the-valley which the no less ancient head gardener had
gathered and tied with a true-lover's knot, in the interval between chapel
and dinner. And opposite to her sat the man she was to marry, composed and
gay, careful to spare his betrothed embarrassment, ready to talk politics
with Sir Louis Ford and cathedral music with the Dean; yet, through it all,
so radiantly and transparently happy that his father and mother, at any
rate, could not look at him without melting memories of their own youth,
which sometimes, and for a moment, made talk difficult.
After dinner Sir Wilfrid Bury found Lady Coryston in a secluded corner,
deep in the evening papers which had just arrived. He sat down beside her.
"Well, how are you feeling?"
"If we could but revive the duel!" said Lady Coryston, looking up with eyes
"Gracious! For what and whom? Do you want to shoot your future son-in-law
for taking her from you?"
"Who--Marcia? Nonsense!" said Lady Coryston, impatiently. "I was talking
of this last speech of Glenwilliam's, attacking us landlords. If the duel
still existed he would either never have made it or he would have been shot
within twenty-four hours!"
"Hang Glenwilliam!" Sir Wilfrid's tone was brusque. "I want to talk about
Lady Coryston turned slowly round upon him.
"What's wrong with Marcia? I see nothing to talk about."
"Wrong! You unnatural woman! I want to know what you feel about it. Do you
really like the young man? Do you think he's good enough for her?"
"Certainly I like him. A very well disposed fellow. I hope he'll manage her
properly. But if you want to know what I think of his family"--she dropped
her voice--"I can only say that although their virtues no doubt are legion,
the atmosphere of this house is to me positively stifling. You feel it as
you cross the threshold. It is an atmosphere of sheer tyranny! What on
earth do they mean by bundling us into chapel like that?"
"Tyranny! _You_ call it tyranny!" Sir Wilfrid's eyes danced.
"Certainly," said Lady Coryston, stiffly. "What else should I call it?
One's soul is not one's own."
Sir Wilfrid settled down on the sofa beside her, and devoted himself to
drawing her out. Satan rebuking sin was a spectacle of which he never
tired, and the situation was the more amusing because he happened to have
spent the morning in remonstrating with her--to no purpose whatever--on the
manner in which she was treating her eldest son.
While these events were happening at Hoddon Grey, Reginald Lester was
passing a solitary Sunday at Coryston, until the afternoon, at least, when
visitors appeared. To be left to himself, the solitary inhabitant, save for
the servants, of the great classical pile; to be able to wander about it as
he liked, free to speculate on its pictures and engravings; to rummage the
immense collection of china in the basement rooms which no one but himself
ever looked at; to examine some new corner of the muniment-room, and
to ponder the strange and gruesome collection of death-masks, made by
Coryston's grandfather, and now ranged in one of the annexes of the
library--gave him endless entertainment. He was a born student, in whom the
antiquarian instincts would perhaps ultimately overpower the poetic and
literary tastes which were now so strong in him; and on Sunday, when he put
aside his catalogue, the miscellaneous possessions of an historic house
represented for him a happy hunting-ground through which he was never tired
But on Sunday, also, he generally gave some time to writing the journal of
the preceding week. He had begun it in the hopes of attaining thereby a
more flexible and literary style than the methods of his daily research
allowed, and with various Stevensonian ambitions dinning in his head. Why
should he not make himself a _writer_, like other people?
But the criticisms of books, the records of political or literary
conversation, with which the parchment-bound volume had been filled for
some time, had been gradually giving place to something quite different,
and it had become more necessary than ever that the book should be
carefully locked when done with, and put away in his most private drawer.
"What is happening, or what has probably already happened, yesterday or
to-day, at Hoddon Grey? It is very easy to guess. N. has been gaining
ground steadily ever since he has been able to see her away from the
distracting influences of London. What is impressive and unusual in his
character has room to show itself; and there are no rival forces. And
yet--I doubt very much whether it would answer his purpose that she should
see much of his home. She will never endure any home of her own run on the
same lines; for at bottom she is a pagan, with the splendid pagan virtues,
of honor, fairness, loyalty, pity, but incapable by temperament of those
particular emotions on which the life of Hoddon Grey is based. Humility, to
her, is a word and a quality for which she has no use; and I am sure that
she has never been sorry for her 'sins,' in the religious sense, though
often, it seems to me, her dear life just swings hour by hour between the
two poles of impulse and remorse. She passionately wants something and
must get it; and then she is consumed with fear lest in the getting it she
should have injured or trampled on some one else.
"Of late she has come in here--to the library--much more frequently. I am
sure she feels that I care deeply what happens to her; and I sometimes am
presumptuous enough to think that she wishes me to understand and approve
"It has grown up inevitably--this affair; but N. little realizes how
dangerous his position is. Up to a certain point the ascetic element in him
and his philosophy will attract her--will draw the moth to the candle. All
strong-willed characters among women are attracted by the austere, the
ascetic powers in men. The history of all religious movements is there
to prove it. But there are tremendous currents in our modern life making
against such men as Newbury--their ideals and traditions. And to one or
other of those currents it always seems to me that she is committed. She
does not know it--does not dream, perhaps, whither she is being carried;
but all the same there are 'murmurs and scents' from 'the infinite sea' of
free knowledge and experiment which play upon her, and will never play upon
"Coryston will make a great effort to upset the engagement--if it is an
engagement; that I can see. He thinks himself justified, on the ground that
she will be committing herself to an inhuman and antisocial view of life;
and he will work upon her through this painful Betts case. I wonder if
he will succeed. Is he really any more tolerant than his mother? And can
toleration in the active-spirited be ever anything more than approximate?
'When I speak of toleration I mean not tolerated Popery,' said Milton. Lady
Coryston can't tolerate her son, and Coryston can't tolerate Newbury. Yet
all three must somehow live together and make a world. Doesn't that
throw some light on the ideal function of women? Not voting--not direct
party-fighting--but the creation of a spiritual atmosphere in which the
nation may do its best, and may be insensibly urged to do its best, in
fresh, spontaneous ways, like a plant flowering in a happy climate--isn't
that what women might do for us?--instead of taking up with all the
old-fashioned, disappointing, political machinery, that men have found out?
Meanwhile Lady Coryston of course wants all the women of her sort to vote,
but doesn't see how it is to be done without letting in the women of all
and any sort--to vote against her.
"I have about half done my cataloguing, and have been writing some letters
to Germany this morning with a view to settling on some university work
there for the winter. A big book on the rise and fall of Burgundy suggests
itself to me; and already I hug the thought of it. Lady Coryston has paid
me well for this job, and I shall be able to do what I like for a year, and
give mother and Janie some of the jam and frills of life. And who knows if
I sha'n't after all be able to make my living out of what I like best? If
I only could _write_! The world seems to be waiting for the historian
that can write.
"But meanwhile I shall always be glad of this year with the Corystons. How
much longer will this rich, leisurely, aristocratic class with all its
still surviving power and privileges exist among us? It is something that
obviously is in process of transmutation and decay; though in a country
like England the process will be a very slow one. Personally I greatly
prefer this landlord stratum to the top stratum of the trading and
manufacturing world. There are buried seeds in it, often of rare and
splendid kinds, which any crisis brings to life--as in the Boer war; and
the mere cult of family and inheritance implies, after all, something
valuable in a world that has lately grown so poor in all cults.
"Mother and daughter here show what is going on. Lady Coryston is just the
full-blown _tyrannus_. She has no doubt whatever about her right to
rule, and she rules for all she's worth. At the same time she knows that
Demos has the last word, and she spends her time in the old see-saw between
threats and cajolery. The old vicar here has told me astonishing tales of
her--how she turned her own sister out-of-doors and never spoke to her
afterward because she married a man who ratted to the Liberals, and the
wife went with him; how her own husband dreaded her if he ever happened to
differ from her politically, and a sort of armed neutrality between her and
Coryston was all that could be hoped for at the best of times.
"The poor people here--or most of them--are used to her, and in a way
respect her. They take her as inevitable--like the rent or the east wind;
and when she sends them coal and blankets, and builds village halls for
them, they think they might be worse off. On the other hand, I don't see
that Coryston makes much way among them. They think his behavior to his
mother unseemly; and if they were he, they would use all his advantages
without winking. At the same time, there is a younger generation growing
up in the village and on the farms--not so much there, however!--which is
going to give Lady Coryston trouble. Coryston puzzles and excites them. But
they, too, often look askance; they wonder what he, personally, is going to
get out of his campaign.
"And then--Marcia? For in this book, this locked book, may I not call her
by her name? Well, she is certainly no prophetess among these countryfolk.
She takes up no regular duties among the poor, as the women of her family
have probably always done. She is not at her ease with them; nor they with
her. When she tries to make friends with them she is like a ship teased
with veering winds, and glad to shrink back into harbor. And yet when
something does really touch her--when something makes her _feel_--that
curious indecision in her nature hardens into something irresistible.
There was a half-witted girl in the village, ill-treated and enslaved by a
miserly old aunt. Miss Coryston happened to hear of it from her maid, who
was a relation of the girl. She went and bearded the aunt, and took the
girl away bodily in her pony-cart. The scene in the cottage garden--Marcia
with her arm round the poor beaten and starved creature, very pale, but
keeping her head, and the old virago shrieking at her heels--must have been
worth seeing. And there is an old man--a decrepit old road-mender, whose
sight was injured in a shooting accident. She likes his racy talk, and she
never forgets his Christmas present or his birthday, and often drops in to
tea with him and his old wife. But that's because it amuses her. She goes
to see them for precisely the same reasons that she would pay a call in
Mayfair; and it's inspiriting to see how they guess, and how they like it.
You perceive that she is shrinking all the time from the assumptions on
which her mother's life is based, refusing to make them her own, and yet
she doesn't know what to put in their place. Does Coryston, either?
"But the tragic figure--the tragic possibility--in all this family
_galere_ at the present moment, of course, is Arthur. I know, because
of our old Cambridge friendship--quite against my will--a good deal about
the adventure into which he has somehow slipped; and one can only feel that
any day may bring the storm. His letter to me yesterday shows that he is
persecuting the lady with entreaties, that she is holding him off, and that
what Lady Coryston may do when she knows will greatly affect what the
young lady will do. I don't believe for one moment that she will marry
a penniless A. She has endless opportunities, and, I am told, many
The journal at this point was abruptly closed and locked away. For the
writer of it, who was sitting at an open window of the library, became
aware of the entrance of a motor into the forecourt of the house. Arthur
Coryston was sitting in it. When he perceived Lester at the window he waved
to the librarian, and jumping from the car as it drew up at the front door,
he came across the court to a side door, which gave access to the library
As he entered the room Lester was disagreeably struck by his aspect. It was
that of a man who has slept ill and drunk unwisely. His dress was careless,
his eyes haggard, and all the weaknesses of the face seemed to have leaped
to view, amid the general relaxation of _tenue_ and dignity. He came
up to the chair at which Lester was writing, and flung himself frowning
into a chair beside it.
"I hear mother and Marcia are away?"
"They have gone to Hoddon Grey for the Sunday. Didn't you know?"
"Oh yes, I knew. I suppose I knew. Mother wrote something," said the young
man, impatiently. "But I have had other things to think about."
Lester glanced at him, but without speaking. Arthur rose from his seat,
thrust his hands into his pockets, and began to pace the polished floor of
the library. The florid, Georgian decoration of ceiling and walls, and the
busts of placid gentlemen with curling wigs which stood at intervals among
the glass cases, wore an air of trivial or fatuous repose beside the
hunted young fellow walking up and down. Lester resolutely forbore to
cross-examine him. But at last the walk came to an abrupt stop.
"Here's the last straw, Lester! Have you heard what mother wants me to do?
There's to be a big Tory meeting here in a month--mother's arranged it
all--not a word to me with your leave, or by your leave!--and I'm to speak
at it and blackguard Glenwilliam! I have her letter this morning. I'm not
allowed a look in, I tell you! I'm not consulted in the least. I'll bet
mother's had the bills printed already!"
"A reply, of course, to the Martover meeting?"
"I dare say. D--n the Martover meeting! But what _taste_!--two
brothers slanging at each other--almost in the same parish. I declare women
have no taste!--not a ha'porth. But I won't do it--and mother, just for
once, will have to give in."
He sat down again and took the cigarette which Lester handed him--no doubt
with soothing intentions. And indeed his state of excitement and agitation
appeared nothing less than pitiable to the friend who remembered the
self-complacent young orator, the budding legislator of early April.
"You are afraid of being misunderstood?"
"If I attack her father, as mother wishes me to attack him," said the young
man, with emphasis, looking up, "Enid Glenwilliam will never speak to me
again. She makes that quite plain."
"She ought to be too clever!" said Lester, with vivacity. "Can't she
discriminate between the politician and the private friend?"
Arthur shook his head.
"Other people may. She doesn't. If I get up in public and call Glenwilliam
a thief and a robber--and what else can I call him, with mother
looking on?--there'll be an end of my chances for good and all. She's
_fanatical_ about her father! She's pulled me up once or twice already
about him. I tell you--it's rather fine, Lester!--upon my soul, it is!"
And with a countenance suddenly softening and eyes shining, Arthur turned
his still boyish looks upon his friend.
"I can quite believe it. They're a very interesting pair.... But--I confess
I'm thinking of Lady Coryston. What explanation can you possibly give? Are
you prepared to take her into your confidence?"
"I don't know whether I'm prepared or not. Whatever happens I'm between the
devil and the deep sea. If I tell her, she'll break with me; and if I don't
tell her, it won't be long before she guesses for herself!"
There was a pause, broken at last by Lester, whose blue eyes had shown him
meanwhile deep in reflection. He bent forward.
"Look here, Arthur!--can't you make a last effort, and get free?"
His companion threw him a queer resentful look, but Lester persisted:
"You know what I think. You won't make each other happy. You belong to two
worlds which won't and can't mix. Her friends can never be your friends nor
your friends hers. You think that doesn't matter now, because you're in
love. But it does matter--and it'll tell more and more every year."
"Don't I know it?" cried Arthur. "She despises us all. She looks upon us
all--I mean, us people, with land and money and big houses--just as so much
grist to her father's mill, so many fat cattle for him to slaughter."
"And yet you love her!"
"Of course I do! I can't make you understand, Lester! She doesn't speechify
about these things--she never speechifies to me, at least. She mocks at
her own side--just as much as ours. But it's her father she worships--and
everything that he says and thinks. She adores him--she'd go to the stake
for him any day. And if you want to be a friend of hers, lay a finger on
him, and you'll see! Of course it's mad--I know that. But I'd rather marry
her mad than any other woman sane!"
"All the same you _could_ break it off," persisted Lester.
"Of course I could. I could hang--or poison--or shoot myself, I suppose, if
it comes to that. It would be much the same thing. If I do have to give her
up, I shall cut the whole business--Parliament--estates--everything!"
The quarter-decking began again; and Lester waited patiently on a slowly
subsiding frenzy. At last he put a question.
"What are your chances?"
"With her? I don't know. She encourages me one day, and snubs me the next.
But one thing I do know. If I attend that meeting, and make the sort of
speech I should have made three months ago without turning a hair--and if I
don't make it, mother will know the reason why!--it's all up with me."
"Why don't you apply to Coryston?"
"What--to give up the other meeting? He's very likely to climb down, isn't
he?--with his damned revolutionary nonsense. He warned us all that he was
coming down here to make mischief--and, by Jove, he's doing it!"
"I say, who's taking my name in vain?" said a high-pitched voice.
Lester turned to the doorway, and beheld a protruding head, with glittering
greenish eyes, alive with laughter. Coryston slowly emerged, and closed the
door behind him.
"Arthur, my boy, what's up now?"
Arthur paused, looked at him angrily, but was too sore and sulky to
reply. Lester mildly summarized the situation. Coryston whistled. Then he
deposited the butterfly-net and tin case he had been carrying, accepted a
cigarette, and hoisting himself onto the corner of a heavy wooden pedestal
which held the periwigged bust of an eighteenth-century Coryston, he flung
an arm affectionately round the bust's neck, and sat cross-legged, smoking
"Bar the meeting for a bit," he said at last, addressing his brother;
"we'll come back to it. But meeting or no meeting, I don't see any way out
for you, Arthur--upon my soul, I don't!"
"No one ever supposed you would!" cried Arthur.
"Here's your dilemma," pursued Coryston, good-humoredly. "If you engage
yourself to her, mother will cut off the supplies. And if mother cuts off
the supplies, Miss Glenwilliam won't have you."
"You think everybody but yourself, Corry, mercenary pigs!"
"What do _you_ think? Do you see Miss Glenwilliam pursuing love in
a garret--a genteel garret--on a thousand a year? For her father,
perhaps!--but for nobody else! Her clothes alone would cost a third of it."
No reply, except a furious glance. Coryston began to look perturbed. He
descended from his perch, and approaching the still pacing Arthur, he took
his arm--an attention to which the younger brother barely submitted.
"Look here, old boy? Am I becoming a beast? Are you sure of her? Is it
"Sure of her? Good God--if I were!"
He walked to a window near, and stood looking out, so that his face could
not be seen by his companions, his hands in his pockets.
Coryston's eyebrows went up; the eyes beneath them showed a genuine
concern. Refusing a further pull at Lester's cigarettes, he took a pipe out
of his pocket, lit it, and puffed away in a brown study. The figure at the
window remained motionless. Lester felt the situation too delicate for
an outsider's interference, and made a feint of returning to his work.
Presently it seemed that Coryston made up his mind.
"Well," he said, slowly, "all right. I'll cut my meeting. I can get
Atherstone to take the chair, and make some excuse. But I really don't know
that it'll help you much. There's already an announcement of your meeting
in the Martover paper yesterday--"
"_No_!" Arthur faced round upon his brother, his cheeks blazing.
"Perfectly true. Mother's taken time by the forelock. I have no doubt she
has already written your speech."
"What on earth can I do?" He stood in helpless despair.
"Have a row!" said Coryston, laughing. "A good row and stick to it! Tell
mother you won't be treated so--that you're a man, not a school-boy--that
you prefer, with many thanks, to write your own speeches--_et cetera_.
Play the independence card for all you're worth. It _may_ get you out
of the mess."
Arthur's countenance began to clear.
"I'm to make it appear a bargain--between you and me? I asked you to give
up your show, and you--"
"Oh, any lies you like," said Coryston, placidly. "But as I've already
warned you, it won't help you long."
"One gains a bit of time," said the young lover, in a tone of depression.
"What's the good of it? In a year's time Glenwilliam will still be
Glenwilliam--and mother mother. Of course you know you'll break her
heart--and that kind of thing. Marcia made me promise to put that before
you. So I do. It's perfectly true; though I don't know that I am the
person to press it! But then mother and I have always disagreed--whereas
_you_ have been the model son."
Angry melancholy swooped once more upon Arthur.
"What the deuce have women to do with politics! Why can't they leave the
rotten things to us? Life won't be worth living if they go on like this!"
"'_Life_,'" echoed Coryston, with amused contempt. "Your life? Just
try offering your billet--with all its little worries thrown in--to the
next fellow you meet in the street--and see what happens!"
But the man in Arthur rebelled. He faced his brother.
"If you think that I wouldn't give up this whole show to-morrow"--he
waved his hand toward the marble forecourt outside, now glistening in the
sun--"for--for Enid--you never made a greater mistake in your life, Corry!"
There was a bitter and passionate accent in the voice which carried
conviction. Coryston's expression changed.
"Unfortunately, it wouldn't help you with--with Enid--to give it up," he
said, quietly. "Miss Glenwilliam, as I read her--I don't mean anything in
the least offensive--has a very just and accurate idea of the value of
A sort of impatient groan was the only reply.
But Lester raised his head from his book.
"Why don't you see what Miss Coryston can do?" he asked, looking from one
to the other.
"Marcia?" cried Coryston, springing up. "By the way, what are mother and
Marcia after, this Sunday? Do you suppose that business is all settled by
He flung out a finger vaguely in the direction of Hoddon Grey. And as he
spoke all the softness which had gradually penetrated his conversation with
Arthur through all his banter, disappeared. His aspect became in a moment
hard and threatening.
"Don't discuss it with me, Coryston," said Lester, rather sharply. "Your
sister wouldn't like it. I only mentioned her name to suggest that she
might influence your mother in Arthur's case." He rose, and began to put up
his papers as he spoke.
"I know that! All the same, why shouldn't we talk about her? Aren't you
a friend?--her friend?--our friend?--everybody's friend?" said Coryston,
peremptorily. "Look here!--if Marcia's really going to marry Newbury!"--he
brought his hand down vehemently on Lester's table--"there'll be another
family row. Nothing in the world will prevent my putting the Betts' case
before Marcia! I have already warned her that I mean to have it out with
her, and I have advised Mrs. Betts to write to her. If she can make Newbury
hear reason--well and good. If she can't--or if she doesn't see the thing
as she ought, herself--well!--we shall know where we are!"
"Look here, Corry," said Arthur, remonstrating, "Edward Newbury's an
awfully good chap. Don't you go making mischief!"
"Rather hard on your sister, isn't it?"--the voice was Lester's--"to plunge
her into such a business, at such a time!"
"If she's happy, let her make a thank-offering!" said the inexorable
Coryston. "Life won't spare her its facts--why should we? Arthur!--come and
walk home with me!"
Arthur demurred, stipulated that he should not be expected to be civil to
any of Coryston's Socialist lodgers--and finally let himself be carried
Lester was left once more to the quiet of the library.
"'I have advised Mrs. Betts to write to her!'"
What a shame! Why should a girl in her first love-dream be harassed with
such a problem--be brought face to face with such "old, unhappy, far-off
things"? He felt a fierce indignation with Coryston. And as he again sat
solitary by the window, he lost himself in visualizations of what was or
might be going on that summer afternoon at Hoddon Grey. He knew the old
house--for Lord William had once or twice courteously invited the Coryston
librarian to examine such small treasures as he himself possessed. He could
see Marcia in its paneled rooms and on its old lawns--Marcia and Newbury.
Gradually his head dropped on his hands. The sun crept along the library
floor in patches of orange and purple, as it struck through the lozenges of
old painted glass which bordered the windows. No sound except the cooing of
doves, and the note of a distant cuckoo from the river meadows.
He did his best to play the cynic with himself. He told himself that such
painful longings and jealous revolts as he was conscious of are among the
growing-pains of life, and must be borne, and gradually forgotten. He had
his career to think of--and his mother and sister, whom he loved. Some day
he too would marry and set up house and beget children, framing his life
on the simple strenuous lines made necessary by the family misfortunes. It
would have been easier, perhaps, to despise wealth, if he and his had never
possessed it, and if his lack of it were not the first and sufficient
barrier which divided him from Marcia Coryston. But his nature was sound
and sane; it looked life in the face--its gifts and its denials, and those
stern joys which the mere wrestle with experience brings to the fighting
spirit. He had soon reconquered cheerfulness; and when Arthur returned, he
submitted to be talked to for hours on that young man's tangled affairs,
handling the youth with that mixture of sympathy and satire which both
soothed and teased the sentimentalists who chose to confide in him.
* * * * *
Next morning Marcia and her mother returned from Hoddon Grey in excellent
time. Lady Coryston never lingered over week-ends. Generally the first
train on Monday morning saw her depart. In this case she was obliged to
give an hour to business talk--as to settlements and so forth--with Lord
William, on Monday morning. But when that was over she stepped into her
motor with all possible speed.
"What a Sunday!" she said, languidly throwing herself back, with
half-closed eyes, as they emerged from the park. Then remembering herself:
"But you, my dear, have been happy! And of course they are excellent
Marcia sat beside her flushed and rather constrained. She had of course
never expected her mother to behave like ordinary mothers on the occasion
of a daughter's betrothal. She took her insignificance, the absence of any
soft emotion, quite calmly. All the same she had her grievance.
"If only Edward and you--and everybody would not be in such a dreadful
hurry!" she said, protesting.
"Seven weeks, my dear child, is enough for any trousseau. And what have
you to wait for? It will suit me too, much best. If we put it off till
the autumn I should be terribly busy--absolutely taken up--with Arthur's
election. Sir Louis Ford tells me they cannot possibly stave off going to
the country longer than November. And of course this time I shall have not
only the usual Liberal gang--I shall have Coryston to fight!"
"I know. It's appalling!" cried Marcia. "Can't we get him to go away?" Then
she looked at her mother uneasily. "I do wish, mother, you hadn't put that
notice of Arthur's meeting into the _Witness_ without consulting him.
Why, you didn't even ask him, before you settled it all! Aren't you afraid
of his cutting up rough?"
"Not in the least! Arthur always expects me to settle those things for him.
As soon as Coryston had taken that outrageous step, it was imperative that
Arthur should speak in his own village. We can't have people's minds in
doubt as to what _he_ thinks of Glenwilliam, with an election only
five months off. I have written to him, of course, fully--without a word of
reply! What he has been doing these last weeks I can't imagine!"
Marcia fell into a frowning silence. She knew, alack! a great deal more
than she wished to know of what Arthur had been doing. Oh, she hoped
Coryston had been able to talk to him--to persuade him! Edward too had
promised to see him--immediately. Surely between them they would make him
hear reason, before any suspicion reached their mother?
The usual pile of letters awaited Lady Coryston and Marcia on their arrival
at home. But before opening hers, Lady Coryston turned to the butler.
"Is Mr. Arthur here?"
"Yes, my lady. He is out now, but he left word he would be in for
Lady Coryston's face lit up. Marcia did not hear the question or the
answer. She was absorbed in a letter which she happened to have opened
first. She read it hastily, with growing astonishment. Then, still
holding it, she was hurrying away to her own sitting-room when the butler
"There's a young lady, miss, who wants to see you. I took her to your
sitting-room. She said she came from the dressmaker--something you had
"Something I had ordered?" said Marcia, mystified. "I don't know anything
She ran up-stairs, still thinking of the letter in her hand.
"I won't see her!" she said to herself, vehemently, "without Edward's
leave. He has a right now to say what I shall do. It is different with
Coryston. He may argue with me--and with Edward--if he pleases. But Mrs.
Betts herself! No--that's too much!"
Her cheeks flushed angrily. She threw open the door of her sitting-room.
Some one sitting stiffly on the edge of a chair rose as she entered. To her
amazement Marcia perceived a slender woman--a lady--a complete stranger
to her, standing in her own private sitting-room, awaiting her arrival. A
woman in rather slipshod artistic dress, with hands clasped theatrically,
and tears on her cheeks.
"Who are you?" said Marcia, drawing back.
"To make you me how much so e'er I try,
You will be always you, and I be I."
"Miss Coryston, I have done a dreadful thing," said a trembling voice.
"I--I have deceived your servants--told them lies--that I might get to
see you. But I implore you, let me speak to you!--don't send me away!"
Marcia Coryston looked in amazement at the shrinking, childish creature,
standing suppliant before her, and repeated:
"I have not an idea who you are. Please tell me your name."
"My name--is Alice Betts," said the other, after a momentary hesitation.
"Oh, perhaps you don't know anything about me. But yet--I think you must;
because--because there has been so much talk!"
"Mrs. Betts?" said Marcia, slowly. Her eyes perused the other's face, which
reddened deeply under the girl's scrutiny. Marcia, in her pale pink dress
and hat, simple, but fresh and perfectly appointed, with her general
aspect of young bloom and strength, seemed to take her place naturally
against--one might almost say, as an effluence from--the background of
bright June foliage, which could be seen through the open windows of the
room; while Mrs. Betts, tumbled, powdered, and through all the juvenility
of her attire--arms bare to the elbow and throat half uncovered, short
skirts and shell necklace,--betraying her thirty-five years, belonged quite
plainly to the used, autumnal category of her sex.
"Haven't you heard of me?" she resumed, plaintively. "I thought--Lord
She paused, her eyes cast down.
"Oh yes," said Marcia, mechanically. "You have seen my brother? Please sit
Mrs. Betts sat down, with a long sigh, still not venturing to look up.
Instead she pressed her handkerchief to her eyes; beginning to speak in a
broken, sobbing voice.
"If you can't help us, Miss Coryston, I--I don't know what we shall do--my
poor husband and I. We heard last night--that at the chapel service--oh!
my husband used to read the lessons there for years and years, and now he
never goes:--but he heard from one of his men, who was there, about
your engagement to Mr. Newbury--and how Mr. Perry gave it out. I am so
_ashamed_, Miss Coryston, to be speaking of your private affairs!--I
don't know how to excuse myself--"
She looked up humbly. She had large blue eyes in a round fair-complexioned
face, and the lids fluttered as though just keeping back the tears.
"Please go on," said Marcia, coldly, quivering with excitement and
annoyance. But she had been bred to self-control, and she betrayed nothing.
"And then--well then"--Mrs. Betts covered her face with her hands a moment,
removing them with another long and miserable sigh--"my husband and I
consulted--and we thought I might come to you and beg you, Miss Coryston,
to plead for us--with Mr. Newbury and Lord William! You will be very happy,
Miss Coryston--and we--we are so miserable!"
Mrs. Betts raised her eyes again, and this time the tears escaped, ran
lightly over her cheek, and fell on her blue silk dress. Marcia, who had
placed herself on a chair near, felt uncomfortably touched.
"I am sure nobody wishes to be unkind to you," she said, with
Mrs. Betts bent forward eagerly.
"Then you have heard? You know that John is to be turned out of his farm
unless he will give me up?"
But a quieter manner would have served her better. The answer came stiffly:
"I cannot discuss Lord William's affairs."
"Oh dear, oh dear, what am I to do?" cried Mrs. Betts under her breath,
turning her eyes from side to side like a hunted thing, and twisting a rag
of a handkerchief in her small right hand. Then, suddenly, she broke into
"You ought to listen to me!--it is cruel--heartless, if you don't listen!
You are going to be happy--and rich--to have everything you can possibly
wish for on this earth. How can you--how _can_ you refuse--to help
anybody as wretched as I am!"
The small, chubby face and slight figure had assumed a certain tragic
force. The impression indeed was of some one absolutely at bay, at the
bitter end of their resources, and therefore reckless as to what might be
thought of them. And yet there was still the slight theatrical touch, as
though the speaker observed herself, even in violence.
Marcia, troubled, intimidated, watched her in silence a few moments and
"How can I possibly help you, Mrs. Betts? You shouldn't have come to
me--you shouldn't, indeed. I don't know your story, and if I did I
shouldn't understand it. Why didn't you ask to see my mother?"
"Lady Coryston would never look at the likes of me!" cried Mrs. Betts. "No,
Miss Coryston! I know it's selfish, perhaps--but it's just because
you're so young--and so--so happy--that I came to you. You don't know my
story--and I can't tell it you--" The speaker covered her face a moment.
"I'm not a good woman, Miss Coryston. I never pretended to be. But I've had
an awfully hard time--awfully hard! You see," she went on, hurriedly, as
though afraid Marcia would stop her, "you see--I was married when I was
only seventeen to an old husband. My mother made me--she was dying--and
she wanted to be sure I had a home. And he turned against me after a few
months. It was a horrible, horrible business. I couldn't tell you what I
suffered--I wouldn't for the world. He shut me up, he half starved me, he
struck me, and abused me. Then"--she turned her head away and spoke in a
choked, rapid voice--"there was another man--he taught me music, and--I was
only a child, Miss Coryston--just eighteen. He made me believe he loved
me--and I had never had kind things said to me before. It seemed like
heaven--and one day--I went off with him--down to a seaside place, and
there we stayed. It was wicked. I suppose I ought to have borne up against
my life, but I couldn't--there! I couldn't. And so--then my husband
divorced me--and for ten years I lived with my old father. The other
man--deserted me. I soon found him out. I don't think he meant to be cruel
to me. But his people got hold of him. They wouldn't let him marry me. So
there I was left, with--with my child." Mrs. Betts threw a shrinking look
The girl flushed suddenly and deeply, but said nothing. Mrs. Betts resumed.
"And I just lived on somehow--with my father--who was a hard man. He
hated me for what I'd done; he was always nagging and reproving me. But I
couldn't earn money and be independent--though I tried once or twice. I'm
not strong--and I'm not clever; and there was the child. So he just had to
keep me--and it was bitter--for him and for me. Well, then, last August he
was dying, and we went to Colwyn Bay for him, and took a little lodging.
And one day on the sands I saw--John Betts--after fifteen years. When I
was twenty--he wanted to marry me, but we'd never met since. He came up to
me--and oh!--I was glad to see him! We walked along the shore, and I told
him everything. Well--he was sorry for me!--and father died--and I hadn't
a penny. For what father left only just paid his debts. And I had no
prospects in the world, and no one to help me or my boy. So, then, Mr.
Betts offered to marry me. He knew all about my divorce--he had seen it in
the newspapers years ago. I didn't deceive him--not one little bit. But he
knew what Lord William would think. Only it didn't seem to matter, really,
to any one but him and me. I was free--and I wasn't going to bring any more
disgrace on anybody."
She paused forlornly. In the strong June light, all the lost youth in the
small face, its premature withering and coarsening, the traces of rouge and
powder, the naturally straight hair tormented into ugly waves, came cruelly
into sight. So, too, did the holes in the dirty white gloves, and some
rents in the draggled but elaborate dress. Marcia could not help noticing
and wondering. The wife of John Betts could not be so very poor!
Suddenly her unwelcome visitor looked up.
"Miss Coryston!--if they take John's farm away, everything that he cares
for, everything that he's built up all these years, because of me, I'll
kill myself! You tell Mr. Newbury that!"
The little shabby creature had in a moment dropped her shabbiness. Her
slight frame stiffened as she sat; the passion in the blue eyes which
sought Marcia's was sincere and threatening. Marcia, startled, could only
say again in a vaguely troubled voice:
"I am sure nobody wants to harm Mr. Betts, and indeed, indeed, you oughtn't
to talk to me like this, Mrs. Betts. I am very sorry for you, but I can't
do anything. I would be most improper if I tried to interfere."
"Why?" cried Mrs. Betts, indignantly. "Aren't women in this world to help
each other? I know that Lord Coryston has spoken to you and that he means
to speak to you. Surely, surely Mr. Newbury will listen to you!--and Lord
William will listen to Mr. Edward. You know what they want? Oh, it's too
cruel!" She wrung her hands in despair. "They say if we'll separate, if
he promises--that I shall be no more his wife--but just a friend
henceforward--if we meet a few times in the year, like ordinary
friends--then John may keep his farm. And they want me to go and live near
a Sisterhood and work for the Sisters--and send the boy to school. Just
think what that looks like to me! John and I have found each other after
all these years. I have got some one to help me, at last, to make me a
better woman"--sobs rose again in the speaker's throat--"some one to love
me--and now I must part from him--or else his life will be ruined! You
know, Miss Coryston, there's no other place in England like John's place.
He's been trying experiments there for years and years with new seeds, and
made soils--and all sorts of ways of growing fruit--oh, I don't understand
much about it--I'm not clever--but I know he could never do the same things
anywhere else--not unless you gave him another life. He'll do it--he'll
go--for my sake. But it'll break his heart. And why _should_ he go?
What's the reason--the _justice_ of it?"
[Illustration: "I DO WISH I COULD HELP YOU"]
Mrs. Betts rose, and with her hands on her sides and the tears on her
cheeks she bent over Marcia, gasping, in a kind of frenzy. There was no
The girl of twenty-two was deeply, painfully moved. She put out her hands
gently, and drew Mrs. Betts down again to the sofa beside her.
"I'm dreadfully sorry for you! I do wish I could help you. But you know
what Lord and Lady William think, what Mr. Newbury thinks about divorced
people marrying again. You know--how they've set a standard all their
lives--for their people here. How can they go against all they've ever
preached? You must see their point of view, too. You must think of their
feelings. They hate--I'm sure they hate--making any one unhappy. But if
one of the chief people on the estate does this, and they think it wicked,
"Ah!" cried Mrs. Betts, eagerly interrupting. "But now please,
_please_, Miss Coryston, listen! This is what I want, what I beg you
to say to Mr. Newbury! I can't give John up--and he'll never give me
up. But I'll go away--I'll go to a little cottage John has--it was his
mother's, in Charnwood Forest--far away from everybody. Nobody here will
ever know! And John will come to see me, whenever he can, whenever his work
will let him. He will come over in the motor--he's always running about the
country--nobody would ever notice. It might be said we'd separated--so we
should have separated--as far as spending our lives together goes. But I
should sometimes--sometimes--have my John!--for my own--my very own--and he
would sometimes have me!"
Sobs came tearing through, and, bowing her face upon the sofa, Mrs. Betts
shook from head to foot.
Marcia sat silent, but strangely conscious of new horizons of feeling--of
a deepening life. This was the first time she had ever come across such an
experience, touched so nearly on passions and sins which had hitherto been
to her as stage phantoms moving in a far distance. The girl of to-day,
whatever class she belongs to, is no longer, indeed, reared in the
conventional innocence of the mid-Victorian moment--a moment differing
wholly from that immediately before it, no less than from those which have
come after it. The manners, the plays, the talk of our generation attack
such an innocence at every turn. But in place of an indirect and hearsay
knowledge, here, in this humble, shabby instance, was, for the first time,
the real stuff--the real, miserable thing, in flesh and blood. That was new
And, in a flash of memory and association, there passed through her mind
the vision of the Opera House blazing with lights--Iphigenia on the stage,
wailing at her father's knees in an agony of terror and despair, and
"_This_ is the death she shrinks from--"
And again, as the beautiful form, erect and calm once more, swept stately
to its doom:
"And this--is the death she _accepts_!"
Newbury's face, as he spoke, was before her, quietly smiling, its handsome
features alive with an exaltation which had both chilled and fascinated the
girl looking at him. As she remembered it the thought arose--"_he_
would accept any martyrdom for himself, in defense of what he believes and
loves--and _therefore_ he will inflict it inexorably on others. But
that's the point! For oneself, yes--but for others who suffer and don't
A look of resolution came into the young face. She tried to rouse Mrs.
"Please don't cry so!" she said, in distress. "I see what you mean. I'll
try and put it to Mr. Newbury. Nobody here, you think, need know anything
about you? They'd suppose you'd separated? Mr. Betts would live here, and
you would live somewhere else. That's what you mean, isn't it? That's all
anybody need know?"
Mrs. Betts raised herself.
"That's it. Of course, you see, we might have pretended to accept Lord
William's conditions, and then have deceived him. But my husband wouldn't
do that. He simply doesn't admit that anybody else here has any right to
interfere with our private affairs. But he won't tell lies to Lord William
and Mr. Edward. If they won't, they won't!"
She sat up, drearily controlling herself, and began to smooth back her hair
and put her hat straight. But in the middle of it she caught Marcia's hand:
"Miss Coryston! you're going to marry Mr. Newbury--because you love him. If
I lose John who will ever give me a kind word--a kind look again? I thought
at last--I'd found--a little love. Even bad people"--her voice broke--"may
rejoice in that, mayn't they? Christ didn't forbid them that."
Her piteous look hung on her companion. The tears sprang to Marcia's eyes.
Yet her temperament did not tend to easy weeping; and at the root of her
mind in this very moment were feelings of repulsion and of doubt, mingled
with impressions of pity. But the hours at Hoddon Grey had been hours of
deep and transforming emotion; they had left her a more sensitive and
responsive human being.
"I'll do what I can," she said, with slow emphasis. "I promise you that
I'll speak to Mr. Newbury."
Mrs. Betts gave her effusive thanks which somehow jarred on Marcia; she was
glad when they were over and Mrs. Betts rose to go. That her tearful and
disheveled aspect might escape the servants Marcia took her down a side
staircase of the vast house, and piloted her through some garden paths.
Then the girl herself, returning, opened a gate into a wood, where an
undergrowth of wild roses was just breaking into flower, and was soon
pacing a mossy path out of sight and sound of the house.
She found herself in a strange confusion of mind. She still saw the small
tear-stained face, the dingy finery, the tormented hair; the story she had
just heard was still sounding in her ears. But what really held her was the
question: "Can I move Edward? What will he say to me?"
And in the stillness of the wood all the incidents of their Sunday together
came back upon her, and she stood breathless and amazed at the change which
had passed over her life. Was it really she, Marcia Coryston, who had been
drawn into that atmosphere of happy and impassioned religion?--drawn with a
hand so gentle yet so irresistible? She had been most tenderly treated by
them all, even by that pious martinet, Lord William. And yet, how was it
that the general impression was that for the first time in her life she had
been "dealt with," disciplined, molded, by those who had a much clearer
idea than she herself had of what she was to do and where she was to go?
Out of her mother's company she had been hitherto accustomed to be the
center of her own young world; to find her wishes, opinions, prejudices
eagerly asked for, and deferentially received. And she knew herself
naturally wilful, conceited, keen to have her own way.
But at Hoddon Grey, even in the most intimate and beautiful moments of
the first love scenes between herself and Newbury, she had seemed to be
entering upon--moving--in a world where almost nothing was left free for
her to judge; where what she thought mattered very little, because it was
taken for granted that she would ultimately think as Hoddon Grey thought;
would be cherished, indeed, as the latest and dearest captive of the Hoddon
Grey system and the Hoddon Grey beliefs.
And she had begun already to know the exquisite, the intoxicating joys of
self-surrender. Every hour had revealed to her something more of Newbury's
lofty and singular character. The books and occupations amid which his home
life was passed, the letters of his Oxford friends to him, and his to
them; one letter in particular, from his chiefest and dearest friend,
congratulating him on his engagement, which had arrived that morning--these
things had been for Marcia so many steps in a new land, under new stars.
The mixture in the man she was to marry, of gaiety, of an overflowing
enjoyment of life, expressing itself often in an endless childish
joking--with mystical sternness; the eager pursuit of beauty in art and
literature, coupled with an unbending insistence on authority, on the
Church's law, whether in doctrine or conduct, together with an absolute
refusal to make any kind of terms with any sort of "Modernisms," so far at
least as they affected the high Anglican ideal of faith and practice--in
relation to these facts of Newbury's temperament and life she was still
standing bewildered, half yielding and half combative. That she was loved,
she knew--knew it through every vein and pulse. Newbury's delight in her,
his tender worship of her, seemed to enwrap and encompass her. Now as she
sat hidden amid the June trees, trembling under the stress of recollection,
she felt herself enskied, exalted by such love. What could he see in
her?--what was there in her--to deserve it?
And yet--and yet! Some penetrating instinct to which in this moment of
solitude, of unwilling reflection, she could not help but listen, told her
that the very soul of him was not hers; that the deepest foundation of his
life was no human affection, but the rapture, the compelling vision of a
mystical faith. And that rapture she could never share; she knew herself;
it was not in her. One moment she could have cried out in despair over her
own limitations and disabilities. The next she was jealous; on fire.
Jealous!--that was the real, sadly human truth; jealous, as women have
always been, of the faith, or the art, or the friendship, which threatens
their hold upon the lover. And there stole upon her as she sat musing, the
old, old temptation--the temptation of Psyche--to test and try this man,
who was to bring her into bondage, before the bonds were yet quite set. She
was honestly touched by Mrs. Betts's story. To her, in her first softness
of love, it seemed intolerably hard and odious that two people who clung to
each other should be forcibly torn apart; two people whom no law, but
only an ecclesiastical scruple condemned. Surely Edward would accept, and
persuade his father to accept, the compromise which the husband and wife
suggested. If Mrs. Betts withdrew from the scene, from the estate, would
not this satisfy everybody? What further scandal could there be? She went
on arguing it with herself, but all the time the real, deepest motive
at work was not so much sympathy, as a kind of excited restlessness
--curiosity. She saw herself pleading with Edward, breaking
down his resistance, winning her cause, and then, instead of triumphing,
flinging herself into his arms, to ask pardon for daring to fight him.
The happy tears blinded her, and fell unheeded until a mocking reaction
"Oh, what a fool!--what a fool!"
And running through the wood she came out into the sunshine at its farther
end--a blaze of sun upon the lake, its swans, its stone-rimmed islands,
and statuary, on the gray-white front of the pillared and porticoed house,
stretching interminably. The flowers shone in the stiff beds; a rain of
blossom drifted through the air. Everything glittered and sparkled. It was
Corinthian, pretentious, artificial; but as Marcia hurried up the broad
middle walk between the queer gods and goddesses, whom some pupil of
Bernini's had manufactured in Rome for a Coryston of the eighteenth
century, she was in love with the scene, which in general she disliked; in
love with the summer, in love above all with the quick life of her own mind
There were persons talking in her mother's sitting-room--Sir Wilfrid,
Arthur, and Coryston--she perceived them through the open windows. The
sight of Arthur suddenly sobered her, and diverted her thoughts. For if
Newbury now held the chief place in her mind, her mother still reigned
there. She--Marcia--must be on the spot to protect her mother!--in case
protection were wanted, and Coryston and Sir Wilfrid had not succeeded
yet in bringing that mad fellow to his senses. Ah! but they had all a new
helper and counselor now--in Edward. Let Coryston abuse him to her, if he
dared! She would know how to defend him.
She hurried on.
Simultaneously, from the garden door of the library a figure emerged, a
man with some books under his arm. She recognized Lester, and a rush of
something which was partly shyness and partly a delicious pride came over
her, to delay her steps.
They met under the wide open colonnade which carried the first story of the
house. Lester came toward her smiling and flushed.
"I've just heard," he said. "I do congratulate you. It's splendid!"
She gave him her hand; and he thought as he looked at her how happiness had
beautified and transformed her. All that was imperfect in the face seemed
to have fallen into harmony; and her dark bloom had never been so lovely.
"Yes, I'm very happy. He'll keep me in order! At least he'll try." Her eyes
"Everybody seems extremely pleased," he said, walking at her side, and not
indeed knowing what to say.
"Except Coryston," replied Marcia, calmly. "I shall have a bad time with
"Stand up to him!" he laughed. "His bark is worse than his bite--Ah!--"
A sudden sound of vehement voices overhead--Lady Coryston's voice and
Arthur's clashing--startled them both.
"Oh, I must go!" cried Marcia, frowning and paling. "Thank you--thank you
so much. Good-by."
And she ran into the house. Lester remained rooted in the shadows of the
colonnade for a minute or two, looking after her, with a set, abstracted
face. Then the sound of the altercation overhead smote him too with alarm.
He moved quickly away lest through the open windows he might catch what was
Marcia entered her mother's sitting-room in the midst of what seemed a
babel of voices. James Coryston, indeed, who was sitting in a corner of
the room while Coryston and Sir Wilfrid Bury argued across him, was not
contributing to it. He was watching his mother, and she on the other side
of the room was talking rapidly to her son Arthur, who could evidently
hardly control himself sufficiently to listen to her.
As Marcia came in she heard Arthur say in a loud voice:
"Your attitude, mother, is perfectly unreasonable, and I will not submit to
be dictated to like this!"
Marcia, staying her foot half-way across the room, looked at her youngest
brother in amazement.
Was this rough-mannered, rough-voiced man, Arthur?--the tame house-brother,
and docile son of their normal life? What was happening to them all?
Lady Coryston broke out:
"I repeat--you propose to me, Arthur, a bargain which is no bargain!--"
"A quid without a quo?" interrupted Coryston, who had suddenly dropped his
argument with Sir Wilfrid, and had thrown himself on a sofa near his mother
Lady Coryston took no notice of him. She continued to address her
"What Coryston may do--now--after all that has passed is to me a matter of
merely secondary importance. When I first saw the notice of the Martover
meeting it was a shock to me--I admit it. But since then he has done so
many other things--he has struck at me in so many other ways--he has so
publicly and scandalously outraged family feeling, and political decency--"
"I really haven't," said Coryston, mildly. "I haven't--if this was a free
Lady Coryston flashed a sudden superb look at him and resumed:
"--that I really don't care what Coryston does. He has done his worst. I
can't suffer any greater insult than he has already put upon me--"
Coryston shook his head, mutely protesting. He seized a pen from a table
near, and began to bite and strip it with an absent face.
"But _you_, Arthur!" his mother went on with angry emphasis, "have
still a character to lose or gain. As I have said, it doesn't now matter
vitally to me whether Coryston is in the chair or not--I regard him as
merely Glenwilliam's cat's-paw--but if _you_ let this meeting at
Martover pass, you will have weakened your position in this constituency,
you will have disheartened your supporters, you will have played
the coward--and you will have left your mother disgracefully in the
lurch--though that latter point I can see doesn't move you at all!"
James and Sir Wilfrid Bury came anxiously to join the group. Sir Wilfrid
approached the still standing and distressed Marcia. Drawing her hand
within his arm, he patted it kindly.
"We can't persuade your mother, my dear. Suppose you try."
"Mother, you can't insist on Arthur's going through with the meeting if he
doesn't wish to!" said Marcia, with animation. "Do let him give it up! It
would be so easy to postpone it."
Lady Coryston turned upon her.
"Everything is easy in your eyes, no doubt, Marcia, except that he should
do his duty, and spare my feelings! As a matter of fact you know perfectly
well that Arthur has always allowed me to arrange these things for him."
"I don't mean, mother, to do so in future!" said Arthur, resolutely turning
upon her. "You _must_ leave me to manage my own life and my own
Lady Coryston's features quivered in her long bony face. As she sat near
the window, on a high chair, fully illumined, in a black velvet dress,
long-waisted, and with a kind of stand-up ruffle at the throat, she was
amazingly Queen Bess. James, who was always conscious of the likeness,
could almost have expected her to rise and say in the famous words of the
Queen to Cecil--"Little man, little man, your father durst not have said
'must' to me!"
But instead she threw her son a look of furious contempt, with the words:
"You have been glad enough of my help, Arthur, in the past; you have never
been able indeed to do without it. I am under no illusions as to your
"Mother!--" cried Marcia and James simultaneously.
Coryston shrugged his shoulders. Arthur, breaking from Sir Wilfrid's
restraining hand, approached his mother. His face was inflamed with anger,
his eyes bloodshot.
"You like to say these cruel things, mother. We have all put up with them
long enough. My father put up with them long enough. I intend to think for
myself in future. I don't think of Glenwilliam as you do. I know him--and I
know his daughter."
The last words were spoken with a special emphasis. A movement of alarm--in
Marcia's case, of terror--ran through all the spectators. Sir Wilfrid
caught the speaker by the arm, but was impatiently shaken off.
Lady Coryston met her son's eyes with equal passion.
"An intriguer--an unscrupulous intriguer--like himself!" said Lady
Coryston, with cutting emphasis.
Arthur's flush turned to pallor. Coryston, springing up, raised a warning
hand. "Take care, old fellow!" Marcia and James came forward. But Arthur
thrust them aside.
"Mother and I have got to settle this!" He came to lean over her, looking
into her face. "I advise you to be careful, mother, of what you say!" There
was a dreadful pause. Then he lifted himself and said, with folded arms,
slowly, still looking hard at Lady Coryston: "I am--in love--with the lady
to whom you refer in that unjustifiable manner. I wish to marry her--and
I am doing my best to persuade her to marry me. _Now_ you understand
perhaps why I didn't wish to attack her father at this particular
Marcia threw herself upon her brother, to lead him away. Coryston,
meanwhile, with lifted brows and the prominent greenish eyes beneath them
starting out of his head, never ceased to observe his mother. There was
trouble--and a sudden softness--in his look.
Silence reigned, for a few painful moments. The eyes of the two combatants
were on each other. The change in Lady Coryston's aspect was something
quite different from what is ordinarily described as "turning pale." It
represented rather the instinctive and immediate rally of the whole human
personality in the presence of danger more deadly than any it has yet
encountered. It was the gray rally of strength, not the pallor of fear. She
laughed--as she passed her handkerchief over her lips--so Marcia thought
afterward--to hide their trembling.
"I thank you for your frankness, Arthur. You will hardly expect me to
wish you success in such a love affair, or to further your suit. But your
confession--your astonishing confession--does at least supply some
reason for your extraordinary behavior. For the present--_for the
present_"--she spoke slowly--"I cease to press you to speak at this
meeting which has been announced. It can at any rate be postponed. As to
the other and graver matter, we will discuss it later--and in private. I
must take time to think it over."
She rose. James came forward.
"May I come with you, mother?"
She frowned a little.
"Not now, James, not now. I must write some letters immediately, with
regard to the meeting."
And without another look at any of her children, she walked proudly through
the room. Sir Wilfrid threw the door open for her, and murmured something
in her ear--no doubt an offer of consultation. But she only shook her head;
and he closed the door.
Then while Arthur, his hands on his hips, walked restlessly up and down,
and Coryston, lying back on the sofa, stared at the ceiling, Marcia, James,
and Sir Wilfrid looked at each other in a common dismay.
Sir Wilfrid spoke first:
"Are we really, Arthur, to take the statement you have just made
Arthur turned impatiently.
"Do I look like joking?"
"I wish you did," said Sir Wilfrid, dryly. "It would be a comfort to us."
"Luckily mother doesn't believe a word of it!"
The voice was Coryston's, directed apparently at the Adam decoration of the
Arthur stood still.
"What do you mean?"
"No offense. I dare say she believed _you_. But the notion strikes her
as too grotesque to be bothered about."
"She may be right there," said Arthur, gloomily, resuming his walk.
"Whether she is or not, she'll take good care, my boy, that nothing comes
of it," was Coryston's murmured comment. But the words were lost in his
mustache. He turned to look at James, who was standing at the open window
gazing into the garden. Something in his brother's meditative back seemed
to annoy him. He aimed at it with a crumpled envelope he held in his hand,
and hit it. James turned with a start.
"Look here, James--this isn't Hegel--and it isn't Lotze--and it isn't
Bergson--it's life. Haven't you got a remark to contribute?"
James's blue eyes showed no resentment.
"I'm very sorry for you all," he said, quietly, "especially for mother."
"Because she's the oldest. We've got the future. She hasn't."
The color rushed to Marcia's face. She looked gratefully at her brother.
Sir Wilfrid's gray head nodded agreement.
"Hm!" said Coryston, "I don't see that. At least, of course it has a
certain truth. But it doesn't present itself to me as a ground for
sparing the older generation. In fact"--he sprang to his feet--"present
company--present family excepted--we're being ruined--stick stock
ruined--by the elder generation! They're in our way everywhere! Why don't
they withdraw--and let _us_ take the stage? We know more than they.
We're further evolved--we're better informed. And they will insist on
pitting their years against our brains all over the field. I tell you the
world can't get on like this. Something will have to be done. We're choked
up with the older generation."
"Yes, for those who have no reverence--and no pity!" said Marcia.
The low intensity of her voice brought the looks of all three brothers upon
her in some evident surprise. None of them had yet ceased to regard their
sister as a child, with opinions not worth speculating about. Coryston
"My withers are unwrung," he said, not without bravado. "You don't
understand, my dear. Do I want to do the elder generation any damage? Not
at all! But it is time the elder generation withdrew to the chimney-corner
and gave us our rights! You think that ungrateful--disrespectful? Good
heavens! What do we _care_ about the people, our contemporaries, with
whom we are always fighting and scuffling in what we are pleased to call
_action_? The people who matter to us are the people who rest us--and
calm us--and bind up our wounds. If instead of finding a woman to argue
and wrestle with I had found just a mother here, knitting by the fire"--he
threw out a hand toward Lady Coryston's empty chair--"with time to smile
and think and jest--with no ax to grind--and no opinions to push--do you
think I shouldn't have been at her feet--her slave, her adorer? Besides,
the older generation have ground their axes, and pushed their opinions,
long enough--they have had thirty years of it! We should be the dancers
now, and they the wall-flowers. And they won't play the game!"
"Don't pretend that you and your mother could ever have played any
game--together--Corry," said Sir Wilfrid, sharply.
Coryston looked at him queerly, good-humoredly.
"One might argue till doomsday--I agree--as to which of us said 'won't
play' first. But there it is. It's our turn. And you elders won't give it
us. Now mother's going to try a little tyranny on Arthur--having made
a mess of me. What's the sense of it? It's _we_ who have the
youth--_we_ who have the power--_we_ who know more than our
elders simply because we were born thirty years later! Let the old submit,
and we'll cushion the world for them, and play them out of it with
march-music! But they _will_ fight us--and they can't win!"
His hands on his sides, Coryston stood confronting them all, his eyes
"What stuff you do talk, Coryston!" said Arthur, half angrily, half
contemptuously. "What good does it do to anybody?" And he resumed his
"All flung, too, at a man of peace like me," said the white-haired Sir
Wilfrid, with his quiet smile. "It takes all sorts, my dear Corry, to play
the game of a generation--old and young. However, the situation is too
acute for moralizing. Arthur, are you open to any sort of advice from an
"Yes," said Arthur, unwillingly, "if I weren't so jolly sure what it would
"Don't be so sure. Come and take me a turn in the lime avenue before
The two disappeared. James followed them. Marcia, full of disquiet, was
going off to find Lady Coryston when Coryston stopped her.
"I say, Marcia--it's true--isn't it? You're engaged to Newbury?"
She turned proudly, confronting him.
"I'm not going to congratulate you!" he said, vehemently. "I've got a deal
to say to you. Will you allow me to say it?"
"Whenever you like," said Marcia, indifferently.
Coryston perched himself on the edge of a table beside her, looking down
upon her, his hands thrust into his pockets.
"How much do you know of this Betts business?" he asked her, abruptly.
"A good deal--considering you sent Mrs. Betts to see me this morning!"
"Oh, she came, did she? Well, do you see any common sense, any justice, any
Christianity in forcing that woman to leave her husband--in flinging her
out to the wolves again, just as she has got into shelter?"
"In Edward's view, Mr. Betts is not her husband," said Marcia, defiantly.
"You seem to forget that fact."
"'Edward's view'?" repeated Coryston, impatiently. "My dear, what's Edward
got to do with it? He's not the law of the land. Let him follow his own law
if he likes. But to tear up other people's lives by the roots, in the name
of some private particular species of law that you believe in and they
don't, is really too much--at this time of day. You ought to stop it,
Marcia!--and you must!"
"Who's tyrannizing now?" said Marcia. "Haven't other people as good a right
to live their beliefs as you?"
"Yes, so long as they don't destroy other people in the process. Even I am
not anarchist enough for that."
"Well," said Marcia, coolly, "the Newburys are making it disagreeable for
Mr. and Mrs. Betts because they disapprove of them. And what else are you
doing with mamma?"
She threw a triumphant look at her brother.
"Stuff and nonsense!" cried Coryston, jumping up. "The weakest 'score' I
ever heard. Don't you know the difference between the things that are
vital and the things that are superficial--between fighting opinions, and
_destroying a life_, between tilting and boxing, however roughly--and
He looked at her fiercely.
"Who talks of murdering!" The tone was scornful.
"I do! If the Newburys drive those two apart they will have a murder of
souls on their conscience. And if you talked to that woman this morning you
know it as well as I!"
Marcia faltered a little.
"They could still meet as friends."
"Yes, under the eyes of holy women!--spying lest any impropriety occur!
That's the proposal, I understand. Of all the vile and cold-blooded
And restraining himself with the utmost difficulty, as one might hang on to
the curb of a bolting horse, Coryston stamped up and down the room, till
speech was once more possible. Then he came to an abrupt pause before his
"Are you really in love with this man, Marcia?"
So challenged, Marcia did not deign to answer. She merely looked up at
Coryston, motionless, faintly smiling. He took his answer, dazzled at the
same time by her emerging and developing beauty.
"Well, if you do love him," he said, slowly, "and he loves you, _make_
him have pity! Those two, also, love each other. That woman is a poor
common little thing. She was a poor common little actress with no talent,
before her first husband married her--she's a common little actress now,
even when she feels most deeply. You probably saw it, and it repelled
you. _You_ can afford, you see, to keep a fine taste, and fastidious
feelings! But if you tear her from that man, you kill all that's good in
her--you ruin all her miserable chances. That man's raising her. Bit by bit
he'll stamp his own character into hers--because she loves him. And Betts
himself, a great, silent, hard man, who has once in his life done a
splendid thing!--forgotten himself head over ears for a woman--and is now
doing his level best to make a good job of her--you Christians are going
to reward him first by breaking his heart, and tearing his life-work to
pieces!--God!--I wish your Master were here to tell you what He'd think of
"You're not His only interpreter!" cried Marcia, breathing quickly. "It's
in His name that Edward and his father are acting. You daren't say--you
daren't _think_--that it's for mere authority's sake--mere
Coryston eyed her in silence a little.
"No use in arguing this thing on its merits," he said, curtly, at last.
"You don't know enough about it, and Newbury and I shouldn't have a single
premise in common. But I just warn you and him--it's a ticklish game
playing with a pair of human lives like these. They are sensitive,
excitable people--I don't threaten--I only say--_take care_!"
"'Game,' 'play'--what silly words to use about such men as Edward and his
father, in such a matter!" said Marcia as she rose, breathing contempt. "I
shall talk to Edward--I promised Mrs. Betts. But I suppose, Corry, it's
no good saying, to begin with, that when you talk of tyranny, you seem to
_me_ at any rate, the best tyrant of the lot."
The girl stood with her head thrown back, challenging her brother, her
whole slender form poised for battle.
Coryston shook his head.
"Nonsense! I play the gadfly--to all the tyrants." "_A tyrant_,"
repeated his sister, steadily. "And an unkind wretch into the bargain! I
was engaged--yesterday--and have you said one nice, brotherly word to me?"
Her lips trembled. Coryston turned away.
"You are giving yourself to the forces of reaction," he said, between his
teeth, "the forces that are everywhere fighting liberty--whether in the
individual--or the State. Only, unfortunately "--he turned with a smile,
the sudden gaiety of which fairly startled his sister--"as far as matrimony
is concerned, I seem to be doing precisely the same thing myself."
"Corry! what on earth do you mean?"
"Ah! wouldn't you like to know? Perhaps you will some day," said Coryston,
with a provoking look. "Where's my hat?" He looked round him for the
battered article that served him for head-gear. "Well, good-by, Marcia. If
you can pull this thing off with your young man, I'm your servant and his.
I'd even grovel to Lord William. The letter I wrote him was a pretty stiff
document, I admit. If not--"
"Well, if not?"
"War!" was the short reply, as her brother made for the door.
Then suddenly he came back to say:
"Keep an eye on mother. As far as Arthur's concerned--she's dangerous. She
hasn't the smallest intention of letting him marry that girl. And here
too it'll be a case of meddling with forces you don't understand. Keep me
"Yes--if you promise to help him--and her--to break it off," said Marcia,
Coryston slowly shook his head; and went.
Meanwhile Lady Coryston, having shaken off all companions, had betaken
herself for greater privacy to a solitary walk. She desired to see neither
children nor friends nor servants till she had made up her mind what she
was going to do. As generally happened with her in the bad moments of life,
the revelation of what threatened her had steeled and nerved her to a
surprising degree. Her stately indoor dress had been exchanged for a short
tweed gown, and, as she walked briskly along, her white hair framed in the
drawn hood of black silk which she wore habitually on country walks, she
had still a wonderful air of youth, and indeed she had never felt herself
more vigorous, more alert. Occasionally a strange sense of subterranean
peril made itself felt in the upper regions of the mind, caused by
something she never stopped to analyze. It was not without kinship with the
feeling of the gambler who has been lucky too long, and knows that the next
stroke may--probably will--end it, and bring down the poised ruin. But it
made no difference whatever to the gradual forging of her plan and the
clearness of her resolve.
So now she understood all that during the two preceding months had
increasingly perplexed her. Arthur had been laid hands on by the temptress
just before his maiden speech in Parliament, and had done no good ever
since. At the time when his mother had inflicted a social stigma as public
as she could make it on a Minister who in her eyes deserved impeachment, by
refusing to go through even the ordinary conventions of allowing him to arm
her down to dinner and take his seat beside her at a large London party,
Arthur was courting the daughter of the criminal; and the daughter was no
doubt looking forward with glee to the moment of her equally public triumph
over his mother. Lady Coryston remembered the large mocking eyes of Enid
Glenwilliam, as seen amid the shadows of a dark drawing-room, about a
fortnight later than the dinner-party, when with a consistency which seemed
to her natural, and also from a wish to spare the girl's feelings, she had
declined to be introduced, at the suggestion of another blundering hostess,
to Glenwilliam's daughter. And all the time--all the time--the handsome,
repellent creature was holding Arthur's life and Arthur's career in the
hollow of her hand!
Well, she would not hold them so for long. Lady Coryston said to herself
that she perfectly understood what Miss Glenwilliam was after. The
circumstances of Coryston's disinheritance were now well known to many
people; the prospects of the younger son were understood. The Glenwilliams
were poor; the prospects of the party doubtful; the girl ambitious. To lay
hands on the Coryston estates and the position which a Coryston marriage
could give the daughter of the Yorkshire check-weigher--the temptation had
only to be stated to be realized. And, no doubt, in addition, there would
be the sweetness--for such persons as the Glenwilliams--of a planned and
Well, the scheme was simple; but the remedy was simple also. The Martover
meeting was still rather more than three weeks off. But she understood
from Page that after it the Chancellor and his daughter were to spend the
week-end at the cottage on the hill, belonging to that odious person, Dr.
Atherstone. A note sent on their arrival would prepare the way for an
interview, and an interview that could not be refused. No time was to
be lost, unless Arthur's political prospects were to be completely and
irretrievably ruined. The mere whisper of such a courtship, in the
embittered state of politics, would be quite enough to lose him his
seat--to destroy that slender balance of votes on the right side, which the
country districts supplied, to neutralize the sour radicalism of the small
towns in his division.
She reached a rising ground in the park, where was a seat under a fine oak,
commanding a view. The green slopes below her ran westward to a wide sky
steeped toward the horizon in all conceivable shades of lilac and pearl,
with here and there in the upper heaven lakes of blue and towering
thunder-clouds brooding over them, prophesying storm. She looked out over
her domain, in which, up to a short time before, her writ, so to speak, had
run, like that of a king. And now all sense of confidence, of security,
was gone. There on the hillside was the white patch of Knatchett--the old
farmhouse, where Coryston had settled himself. It showed to her disturbed
mind like the patch of leaven which, scarcely visible at first, will grow
and grow "till the whole is leavened." A leaven of struggle and revolt. And
only her woman's strength to fight it.
Suddenly--a tremor of great weakness came upon her. Arthur, her dearest! It
had been comparatively easy to fight Coryston. When had she not fought
him? But Arthur! She thought of all the happy times she had had with
him--electioneering for him, preparing his speeches, watching his first
steps in the House of Commons. The years before her, her coming old age,
seemed all at once to have passed into a gray eclipse; and some difficult
tears forced their way. Had she, after all, mismanaged her life? Were
prophecies to which she had always refused to listen--she seemed to hear
them in her dead husband's voice!--coming true? She fell into a great and
lonely anguish of mind; while the westerly light burned on the broidery of
white hawthorns spread over the green spaces below, and on the loops and
turns of the little brimming trout-stream that ran so merrily through the
But she never wavered for one moment as to her determination to see Enid
Glenwilliam after the Martover meeting; nor did the question of Arthur's
personal happiness enter for one moment into her calculations.
The breakfast gong had just sounded at Hoddon Grey. The hour was a quarter
to nine. Prayers in the chapel were over, and Lord and Lady Newbury, at
either end of the table, spectacles on nose, were opening and reading their
"Where is Edward?" said Lady William, looking round.
"My dear!" Lord William's tone was mildly reproachful.
"Of course--I forgot for a moment!" And on Lady William's delicately
withered cheek there appeared a slight flush. For it was their wedding-day,
and never yet, since his earliest childhood, had their only son, their only
child, failed, either personally or by deputy, to present his mother with a
bunch of June roses on the morning of this June anniversary. While he was
in India the custom was remitted to the old head gardener, who always
received, however, from the absent son the appropriate letter or message to
be attached to the flowers. And one of the most vivid memories Lady William
retained of her son's boyhood showed her the half-open door of an inn
bedroom at Domodossola, and Edward's handsome face--the face of a lad of
eleven--looking in, eyes shining, white teeth grinning, as he held aloft in
triumph the great bunch of carnations and roses for which the little fellow
had scoured the sleepy town in the early hours. They had taken him abroad
for the first time, during a break between his preparatory school and Eton,
when he was convalescing from a dangerous attack of measles; and Lady
William could never forget the charm of the boy's companionship, his eager
docility and sweetness, his delight in the Catholic churches and services,
his ready friendships with the country-folk, with the coachman who drove
them, and the _sagrestani_ who led them through dim chapels and
But when indeed had he not been their delight and treasure from his youth
up till now? And though in the interest of a long letter from her Bishop to
whom she was devoted, Lady William had momentarily forgotten the date,
this wedding-day was, in truth, touched, for both parents, with a special
consecration and tenderness, since it was the first since Edward's own
betrothal. And there beside Lady William's plate lay a large jeweler's
case, worn and old-fashioned, whereof the appearance was intimately
connected both with the old facts and the new.
Meanwhile, a rainy morning, in which, however, there was a hidden sunlight,
threw a mild illumination into the Hoddon Grey dining-room, upon the
sparely provided breakfast-table, the somewhat austere line of family
portraits on the gray wall, the Chippendale chairs shining with the
hand-polish of generations, the Empire clock of black and ormolu on the
chimney-piece and on the little tan spitz, sitting up with wagging tail and
asking eyes, on Lady William's left. Neither she nor her husband ever took
more than--or anything else than--an egg with their coffee and toast. They
secretly despised people who ate heavy breakfasts, and the extra allowance
made for Edward's young appetite, or for guests, was never more than
frugal. Sir Wilfrid Bury, who was a hearty eater, was accustomed to say of
the Hoddon Grey fare that it deprived the Hoddon Grey fasts--which were
kept according to the strict laws of the Church--of any merit whatever. It
left you nothing to give up.
Nevertheless, this little morning scene at Hoddon Grey possessed, for the
sensitive eye, a peculiar charm. The spaces of the somewhat empty room
matched the bareness of the white linen, the few flowers standing
separately here and there upon it, and the few pieces of old silver. The
absence of any loose abundance of food or gear, the frugal refined note,
were of course symbolic of the life lived in the house. The Newburys were
rich. Their beautifully housed, and beautifully kept estate, with its nobly
adorned churches, its public halls and institutions, proclaimed the fact;
but in their own private sphere it was ignored as much as possible.
"Here he is!" exclaimed Lady William, turning to the door with something of
a flutter. "Oh, Edward, they are lovely!"
Her son laid the dewy bunch beside her plate and then kissed his mother
"Many happy returns!--and you, father! Hullo--mother, you've got a
secret--you're blushing! What's up?"
And still holding Lady William by the arm, he looked smilingly from her to
the jeweler's case on the table.
"They must be reset, dear; but they're fine."
Lady William opened the case, and pushed it toward him. It contained a
necklace and pendant, two bracelets, and a stomacher brooch of diamonds and
sapphire--magnificent stones in a heavy gold setting, whereof the Early
Victorianism cried aloud. The set had been much admired in the great
exhibition of 1851, where indeed it had been bought by Lady William's
father as a present to his wife. Secretly Lady William still thought it
superb; but she was quite aware that no young woman would wear it.
Edward looked at it with amusement.
"The stones are gorgeous. When Cartier's had a go at it, it'll be something
like! I can remember your wearing it, mother, at Court, when I was a small
child. And you're going to give it to Marcia?" He kissed her again.
"Take it, dear, and ask her how she'd like them set," said his mother,
happily, putting the box into his hand; after which he was allowed to sit
down to his breakfast.
Lord William meanwhile had taken no notice of the little incident of
the jewels. He was deep in a letter which seemed to have distracted his
attention entirely from his son and to be causing him distress. When he had
finished it he pushed it away and sat gazing before him as though still
held by the recollection of it.
"I never knew a more sad, a more difficult case," he said, presently,
speaking, it seemed, to himself.
Edward turned with a start.
"Another letter, father?"
Lord William pushed it over to him.
Newbury read it, and as he did so, in his younger face there appeared the
same expression as in his father's; a kind of grave sadness, in which there
was no trace of indecision, though much of trouble. Lady William asked no
question, though in the course of her little pecking meal, she threw some
anxious glances at her husband and son. They preserved a strict silence at
table on the subject of the letter; but as soon as breakfast was over, Lord
William made a sign to his son, and they went out into the garden together,
walking away from the house.
"You know we can't do this, Edward!" said Lord William, with energy, as
soon as they were in solitude.
Edward's eyes assented.
His father resumed, impetuously: "How can I go on in close relations with
a man--my right hand in the estate--almost more than my agent--associated
with all the church institutions and charities--a communicant--secretary
of the communicant's guild!--our friend and helper in all our religious
business--who has been the head and front of the campaign against
immorality in this village--responsible, with us, for many decisions that
must have seemed harsh to poor things in trouble--who yet now proposes,
himself, to maintain what we can only regard--what everybody on this estate
has been taught to regard--as an immoral connection with a married woman!
Of course I understand his plea. The thing is not to be done openly. The
so-called wife is to move away; nothing more is to be seen of her here; but
the supposed marriage is to continue, and they will meet as often as his
business here makes it possible. Meanwhile his powers and duties on this
estate are to be as before. I say the proposal is monstrous! It would
falsify our whole life here,--and make it one ugly hypocrisy!"
There was silence a little. Then Newbury asked:
"You of course made it plain once more--in your letter yesterday--that
there would be no harshness--that as far as money went--"
"I told him he could have _whatever_ was necessary! We wished to force
no man's conscience; but we could not do violence to our own. If they
decided to remain together--then he and we must part; but we would make it
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