The Country House
Part 2 out of 6
Gregory ran his fingers through his hair.
"Nobody understands her," he said; "she's so plucky!"
Mrs. Pendyce stole a glance at him, and a little ironical smile
flickered over her face.
"No one can look at her without seeing her spirit. But, Grig,
perhaps you don't quite understand her either!"
Gregory Vigil put his hand to his head.
"I must open the window a moment," he said.
Again Mrs. Pendyce's fingers began twisting, again she stilled them.
"We were quite a large party last week, and now there's only Charles.
Even George has gone back; he'll be so sorry to have missed you!"
Gregory neither turned nor answered, and a wistful look came into
Mrs. Pendyce's face.
"It was so nice for the dear boy to win that race! I'm afraid he
bets rather! It's such a comfort Horace doesn't know."
Still Gregory did not speak.
Mrs. Pendyce's face lost its anxious look, and gained a sort of
"Dear Grig," she said, "where do you go about your hair? It is so
nice and long and wavy!"
Gregory turned with a blush.
"I've been wanting to get it cut for ages. Do you really mean,
Margery, that your husband can't realise the position she's placed
Mrs. Pendyce fixed her eyes on her lap.
"You see, Grig," she began, "she was here a good deal before she left
the Firs, and, of course, she's related to me--though it's very
distant. With those horrid cases, you never know what will happen.
Horace is certain to say that she ought to go back to her husband;
or, if that's impossible, he'll say she ought to think of Society.
Lady Rose Bethany's case has shaken everybody, and Horace is nervous.
I don't know how it is, there's a great feeling amongst people about
here against women asserting themselves. You should hear Mr. Barter
and Sir James Maiden, and dozens of others; the funny thing is that
the women take their side. Of course, it seems odd to me, because so
many of the Totteridges ran away, or did something funny. I can't
help sympathising with her, but I have to think of--of----In the
country, you don't know how things that people do get about before
they've done them! There's only that and hunting to talk of."
Gregory Vigil clutched at his head.
"Well, if this is what chivalry has come to, thank God I'm not a
Mrs. Pendyce's eyes flickered.
"Ah!" she said, "I've thought like that so often."
Gregory broke the silence.
"I can't help the customs of the country. My duty's plain. There's
nobody else to look after her."
Mrs. Pendyce sighed, and, rising from her chair, said: "Very well,
dear Grig; do let us go and have some tea."
Tea at Worsted Skeynes was served in the hall on Sundays, and was
usually attended by the Rector and his wife. Young Cecil Tharp had
walked over with his dog, which could be heard whimpering faintly
outside the front-door.
General Pendyce, with his knees crossed and the tips of his fingers
pressed together, was leaning back in his chair and staring at the
wall. The Squire, who held his latest bird's-egg in his hand, was
showing its spots to the Rector.
In a corner by a harmonium, on which no one ever played, Norah talked
of the village hockey club to Mrs. Barter, who sat with her eyes
fixed on her husband. On the other side of the fire Bee and young
Tharp, whose chairs seemed very close together, spoke of their horses
in low tones, stealing shy glances at each other. The light was
failing, the wood logs crackled, and now and then over the cosy hum
of talk there fell short, drowsy silences--silences of sheer warmth
and comfort, like the silence of the spaniel John asleep against his
"Well," said Gregory softly, "I must go and see this man."
"Is it really necessary, Grig, to see him at all? I mean--if you've
made up your mind----"
Gregory ran his hand through his hair.
"It's only fair, I think!" And crossing the hall, he let himself out
so quietly that no one but Mrs. Pendyce noticed he had gone.
An hour and a half later, near the railway-station, on the road from
the village back to Worsted Skeynes, Mr. Pendyce and his daughter Bee
were returning from their Sunday visit to their old butler, Bigson.
The Squire was talking.
"He's failing, Bee-dear old Bigson's failing. I can't hear what he
says, he mumbles so; and he forgets. Fancy his forgetting that I was
at Oxford. But we don't get servants like him nowadays. That chap
we've got now is a sleepy fellow. Sleepy! he's----What's that in
the road? They've no business to be coming at that pace. Who is it?
I can't see."
Down the middle of the dark road a dog cart was approaching at top
speed. Bee seized her father's arm and pulled it vigorously, for Mr.
Pendyce was standing stock-still in disapproval. The dog cart passed
within a foot of him and vanished, swinging round into the station.
Mr. Pendyce turned in his tracks.
"Who was that? Disgraceful! On Sunday, too! The fellow must be
drunk; he nearly ran over my legs. Did you see, Bee, he nearly ran
"It was Captain Bellew, Father; I saw his face." "Bellew? That
drunken fellow? I shall summons him. Did you see, Bee, he nearly
ran over my----"
"Perhaps he's had bad news," said Bee. "There's the train going out
now; I do hope he caught it!"
"Bad news! Is that an excuse for driving over me? You hope he
caught it? I hope he's thrown himself out. The ruffian! I hope
he's killed himself."
In this strain Mr. Pendyce continued until they reached the church.
On their way up the aisle they passed Gregory Vigil leaning forward
with his elbows on the desk and his hand covering his eyes....
At eleven o'clock that night a man stood outside the door of Mrs.
Bellew's flat in Chelsea violently ringing the bell. His face was
deathly white, but his little dark eyes sparkled. The door was
opened, and Helen Bellew in evening dress stood there holding a
candle in her hand.
"Who are you? What do you want?"
The man moved into the light.
"Jaspar! You? What on earth----"
"I want to talk."
"Talk? Do you know what time it is?"
"Time--there's no such thing. You might give me a kiss after two
years. I've been drinking, but I'm not drunk."
Mrs. Bellew did not kiss him, neither did she draw back her face. No
trace of alarm showed in her ice-grey eyes. She said: "If I let you
in, will you promise to say what you want to say quickly, and go
The little brown devils danced in Bellew's face. He nodded. They
stood by the hearth in the sitting-room, and on the lips of both came
and went a peculiar smile.
It was difficult to contemplate too seriously a person with whom one
had lived for years, with whom one had experienced in common the
range of human passion, intimacy, and estrangement, who knew all
those little daily things that men and women living together know of
each other, and with whom in the end, without hatred, but because of
one's nature, one had ceased to live. There was nothing for either
of them to find out, and with a little smile, like the smile of
knowledge itself, Jaspar Bellew and Helen his wife looked at each
"Well," she said again; "what have you come for?"
Bellew's face had changed. Its expression was furtive; his mouth
twitched; a furrow had come between his eyes.
"How--are--you?" he said in a thick, muttering voice.
Mrs. Bellew's clear voice answered:
"Now, Jaspar, what is it that you want?"
The little brown devils leaped up again in Jaspar's face.
"You look very pretty to-night!"
His wife's lips curled.
"I'm much the same as I always was," she said.
A violent shudder shook Bellew. He fixed his eyes on the floor a
little beyond her to the left; suddenly he raised them. They were
"I'm perfectly sober," he murmured thickly; then with startling
quickness his eyes began to sparkle again. He came a step nearer.
"You're my wife!" he said.
Mrs. Bellew smiled.
"Come," she answered, "you must go!" and she put out her bare arm to
push him back. But Bellew recoiled of his own accord; his eyes were
fixed again on the floor a little beyond her to the left.
"What's that?" he stammered. "What's that--that black----?"
The devilry, mockery, admiration, bemusement, had gone out of his
face; it was white and calm, and horribly pathetic.
"Don't turn me out," he stammered; "don't turn me out!"
Mrs. Bellew looked at him hard; the defiance in her eyes changed to a
sort of pity. She took a quick step and put her hand on his
"It's all right, old boy--all right!" she said. "There's nothing
MR. PARAMOR DISPOSES
Mrs. Pendyce, who, in accordance with her husband's wish, still
occupied the same room as Mr. Pendyce, chose the ten minutes before
he got up to break to him Gregory's decision. The moment was
auspicious, for he was only half awake.
"Horace," she said, and her face looked young and anxious, "Grig says
that Helen Bellew ought not to go on in her present position. Of
course, I told him that you'd be annoyed, but Grig says that she
can't go on like this, that she simply must divorce Captain Bellew."
Mr. Pendyce was lying on his back.
"What's that?" he said.
Mrs. Pendyce went on
"I knew it would worry you; but really"--she fixed her eyes on the
ceiling--"I suppose we ought only to think of her."
The Squire sat up.
"What was that," he said, "about Bellew?"
Mrs. Pendyce went on in a languid voice and without moving her eyes:
"Don't be angrier than you can help, dear; it is so wearing. If Grig
says she ought to divorce Captain Bellew, then I'm sure she ought."
Horace Pendyce subsided on his pillow with a bounce, and he too lay
with his eyes fixed on the ceiling.
"Divorce him!" he said--"I should think so! He ought to be hanged,
a fellow like that. I told you last night he nearly drove over me.
Living just as he likes, setting an example of devilry to the whole
neighbourhood! If I hadn't kept my head he'd have bowled me over
like a ninepin, and Bee into the bargain."
Mrs. Pendyce sighed.
"It was a narrow escape," she said.
"Divorce him!" resumed Mr. Pendyce--"I should think so! She ought to
have divorced him long ago. It was the nearest thing in the world;
another foot and I should have been knocked off my feet!"
Mrs. Pendyce withdrew her glance from the ceiling.
"At first," she said, "I wondered whether it was quite--but I'm very
glad you've taken it like this."
"Taken it! I can tell you, Margery, that sort of thing makes one
think. All the time Barter was preaching last night I was wondering
what on earth would have happened to this estate if--if----" And he
looked round with a frown. "Even as it is, I barely make the two
ends of it meet. As to George, he's no more fit at present to manage
it than you are; he'd make a loss of thousands."
"I'm afraid George is too much in London. That's the reason I
wondered whether--I'm afraid he sees too much of----"
Mrs. Pendyce stopped; a flush suffused her cheeks; she had pinched
herself violently beneath the bedclothes.
"George," said Mr. Pendyce, pursuing his own thoughts, "has no
gumption. He'd never manage a man like Peacock--and you encourage
him! He ought to marry and settle down."
Mrs. Pendyce, the flush dying in her cheeks, said:
"George is very like poor Hubert."
Horace Pendyce drew his watch from beneath his pillow.
"Ah!" But he refrained from adding, "Your people!" for Hubert
Totteridge had not been dead a year. "Ten minutes to eight! You
keep me talking here; it's time I was in my bath."
Clad in pyjamas with a very wide blue stripe, grey-eyed, grey-
moustached, slim and erect, he paused at the door.
"The girls haven't a scrap of imagination. What do you think Bee
said? 'I hope he hasn't lost his train.' Lost his train! Good God!
and I might have--I might have----" The Squire did not finish his
sentence; no words but what seemed to him violent and extreme would
have fulfilled his conception of the danger he had escaped, and it
was against his nature and his training to exaggerate a physical
At breakfast he was more cordial than usual to Gregory, who was going
up by the first train, for as a rule Mr. Pendyce rather distrusted
him, as one would a wife's cousin, especially if he had a sense of
"A very good fellow," he was wont to say of him, "but an out-and-out
Radical." It was the only label he could find for Gregory's
Gregory departed without further allusion to the object of his visit.
He was driven to the station in a brougham by the first groom, and sat
with his hat off and his head at the open window, as if trying to get
something blown out of his brain. Indeed, throughout the whole of
his journey up to town he looked out of the window, and expressions
half humorous and half puzzled played on his face. Like a panorama
slowly unrolled, country house after country house, church after
church, appeared before his eyes in the autumn sunlight, among the
hedgerows and the coverts that were all brown and gold; and far away
on the rising uplands the slow ploughman drove, outlined against the
He took a cab from the station to his solicitors' in Lincoln's Inn
Fields. He was shown into a room bare of all legal accessories,
except a series of Law Reports and a bunch of violets in a glass of
fresh water. Edmund Paramor, the senior partner of Paramor and
Herring, a clean-shaven man of sixty, with iron-grey hair brushed in
a cockscomb off his forehead, greeted him with a smile.
"Ah, Vigil, how are you? Up from the country?"
"From Worsted Skeynes."
"Horace Pendyce is a client of mine. Well, what can we do for you?
Your Society up a tree?"
Gregory Vigil, in the padded leather chair that had held so many
aspirants for comfort, sat a full minute without speaking; and Mr.
Paramor, too, after one keen glance at his client that seemed to come
from very far down in his soul, sat motionless and grave. There was
at that moment something a little similar in the eyes of these two
very different men, a look of kindred honesty and aspiration.
Gregory spoke at last.
"It's a painful subject to me."
Mr. Paramor drew a face on his blotting-paper.
"I have come," went on Gregory, "about a divorce for my ward."
"Mrs. Jaspar Bellew?"
"Yes; her position is intolerable."
Mr. Paramor gave him a searching look.
"Let me see: I think she and her husband have been separated for some
"Yes, for two years."
"You're acting with her consent, of course?"
"I have spoken to her."
"You know the law of divorce, I suppose?"
Gregory answered with a painful smile:
"I'm not very clear about it; I hardly ever look at those cases in
the paper. I hate the whole idea."
Mr. Paramor smiled again, became instantly grave, and said:
"We shall want evidence of certain things, Have you got any
Gregory ran his hand through his hair.
"I don't think there'll be any difficulty," he said. "Bellew agrees
--they both agree!"
Mr. Paramor stared.
"What's that to do with it?"
Gregory caught him up.
"Surely, where both parties are anxious, and there's no opposition,
it can't be difficult."
"Good Lord!" said Mr. Paramor.
"But I've seen Bellew; I saw him yesterday. I'm sure I can get him
to admit anything you want!"
Mr. Paramor drew his breath between his teeth.
"Did you ever," he said drily, "hear of what's called collusion?"
Gregory got up and paced the room.
"I don't know that I've ever heard anything very exact about the
thing at all," he said. "The whole subject is hateful to me. I
regard marriage as sacred, and when, which God forbid, it proves
unsacred, it is horrible to think of these formalities. This is a
Christian country; we are all flesh and blood. What is this slime,
With this outburst he sank again into the chair, and leaned his head
on his hand. And oddly, instead of smiling, Mr. Paramor looked at
him with haunting eyes.
"Two unhappy persons must not seem to agree to be parted," he said.
"One must be believed to desire to keep hold of the other, and must
pose as an injured person. There must be evidence of misconduct, and
in this case of cruelty or of desertion. The evidence must be
impartial. This is the law."
Gregory said without looking up:
Mr. Paramor took his violets out of the water, and put them to his
"How do you mean--why?"
"I mean, why this underhand, roundabout way?"
Mr. Paramor's face changed with startling speed from its haunting
look back to his smile.
"Well," he said, "for the preservation of morality. What do you
"Do you call it moral so to imprison people that you drive them to
sin in order to free themselves?"
Mr. Paramor obliterated the face on his blotting-pad.
"Where's your sense of humour?" he said.
"I see no joke, Paramor."
Mr. Paramor leaned forward.
"My dear friend," he said earnestly, "I don't say for a minute that
our system doesn't cause a great deal of quite unnecessary suffering;
I don't say that it doesn't need reform. Most lawyers and almost any
thinking man will tell you that it does. But that's a wide question
which doesn't help us here. We'll manage your business for you, if
it can be done. You've made a bad start, that's all. The first
thing is for us to write to Mrs. Bellew, and ask her to come and see
us. We shall have to get Bellew watched."
"That's detestable. Can't it be done without that?"
Mr. Paramor bit his forefinger.
"Not safe," he said. "But don't bother; we'll see to all that."
Gregory rose and went to the window. He said suddenly:
"I can't bear this underhand work."
Mr. Paramor smiled.
"Every honest man," he said, "feels as you do. But, you see, we must
think of the law."
Gregory burst out again:
"Can no one get a divorce, then, without making beasts or spies of
Mr. Paramor said gravely
"It is difficult, perhaps impossible. You see, the law is based on
A smile wreathed Mr. Paramor's mouth, but died instantly.
"Ecclesiastical principles, and according to these a person desiring
a divorce 'ipso facto' loses caste. That they should have to make
spies or beasts of themselves is not of grave importance."
Gregory came back to the table, and again buried his head in his
"Don't joke, please, Paramor," he said; "it's all so painful to me."
Mr. Paramor's eyes haunted his client's bowed head.
"I'm not joking," he said. "God forbid! Do you read poetry?" And
opening a drawer, he took out a book bound in red leather. "This is
a man I'm fond of:
"'Life is mostly froth and bubble;
Two things stand like stone--
KINDNESS in another's trouble,
COURAGE in your own.'
"That seems to me the sum of all philosophy."
"Paramor," said Gregory, "my ward is very dear to me; she is dearer
to me than any woman I know. I am here in a most dreadful dilemma.
On the one hand there is this horrible underhand business, with all
its publicity; and on the other there is her position--a beautiful
woman, fond of gaiety, living alone in this London, where every man's
instincts and every woman's tongue look upon her as fair game. It
has been brought home to me only too painfully of late. God forgive
me! I have even advised her to go back to Bellew, but that seems out
of the question. What am I to do?"
Mr. Paramor rose.
"I know," he said--"I know. My dear friend, I know!" And for a full
minute he remained motionless, a little turned from Gregory. "It
will be better," he said suddenly, "for her to get rid of him. I'll
go and see her myself. We'll spare her all we can. I'll go this
afternoon, and let you know the result."
As though by mutual instinct, they put out their hands, which they
shook with averted faces. Then Gregory, seizing his hat, strode out
of the room.
He went straight to the rooms of his Society in Hanover Square. They
were on the top floor, higher than the rooms of any other Society in
the building--so high, in fact, that from their windows, which began
five feet up, you could practically only see the sky.
A girl with sloping shoulders, red cheeks, and dark eyes, was working
a typewriter in a corner, and sideways to the sky at a bureau
littered with addressed envelopes, unanswered letters, and copies of
the Society's publications, was seated a grey-haired lady with a
long, thin, weatherbeaten face and glowing eyes, who was frowning at
a page of manuscript.
"Oh, Mr. Vigil," she said, "I'm so glad you've come. This paragraph
mustn't go as it is. It will never do."
Gregory took the manuscript and read the paragraph in question.
"This case of Eva Nevill is so horrible that we ask those of our
women readers who live in the security, luxury perhaps, peace
certainly, of their country homes, what they would have done, finding
themselves suddenly in the position of this poor girl--in a great
city, without friends, without money, almost without clothes, and
exposed to all the craft of one of those fiends in human form who
prey upon our womankind. Let each one ask herself: Should I have
resisted where she fell?"
"It will never do to send that out," said the lady again.
"What is the matter with it, Mrs. Shortman?"
"It's too personal. Think of Lady Maiden, or most of our
subscribers. You can't expect them to imagine themselves like poor
Eva. I'm sure they won't like it."
Gregory clutched at his hair.
"Is it possible they can't stand that?" he said.
"It's only because you've given such horrible details of poor Eva."
Gregory got up and paced the room.
Mrs. Shortman went on
"You've not lived in the country for so long, Mr. Vigil, that you
don't remember. You see, I know. People don't like to be harrowed.
Besides, think how difficult it is for them to imagine themselves in
such a position. It'll only shock them, and do our circulation
Gregory snatched up the page and handed it to the girl who sat at the
typewriter in the corner.
"Read that, please, Miss Mallow."
The girl read without raising her eyes.
"Well, is it what Mrs. Shortman says?"
The girl handed it back with a blush.
"It's perfect, of course, in itself, but I think Mrs. Shortman is
right. It might offend some people."
Gregory went quickly to the window, threw it up, and stood gazing at
the sky. Both women looked at his back.
Mrs. Shortman said gently:
"I would only just alter it like this, from after 'country homes':
'whether they do not pity and forgive this poor girl in a great city,
without friends, without money, almost without clothes, and exposed
to all the craft of one of those fiends in human form who prey upon
our womankind,' and just stop there."
Gregory returned to the table.
"Not 'forgive,"' he said, "not 'forgive'!"
Mrs. Shortman raised her pen.
"You don't know," she said, "what a strong feeling there is. Mind,
it has to go to numbers of parsonages, Mr. Vigil. Our principle has
always been to be very careful. And you have been plainer than usual
in stating the case. It's not as if they really could put themselves
in her position; that's impossible. Not one woman in a hundred
could, especially among those who live in the country and have never
seen life. I'm a squire's daughter myself."
"And I a parson's," said Gregory, with a smile.
Mrs. Shortman looked at him reproachfully.
"Joking apart, Mr. Vigil, it's touch and go with our paper as it is;
we really can't afford it. I've had lots of letters lately
complaining that we put the cases unnecessarily strongly. Here's
"'While sympathising with your good work, I am afraid I cannot become
a subscriber to your paper while it takes its present form, as I do
not feel that it is always fit reading for my girls. I cannot think
it either wise or right that they should become acquainted with such
dreadful aspects of life, however true they may be.
"'I am, dear madam,
"'P.S.--I could never feel sure, too, that my maids would not pick it
up, and perhaps take harm.'
"I had that only this morning."
Gregory buried his face in his hands, and sitting thus he looked so
like a man praying that no one spoke. When he raised his face it was
"Not 'forgive,' Mrs. Shortman, not 'forgive'!"
Mrs. Shortman ran her pen through the word.
"Very well, Mr. Vigil," she said; "it's a risk."
The sound of the typewriter, which had been hushed, began again from
"That case of drink, Mr. Vigil--Millicent Porter--I'm afraid there's
very little hope there."
"Relapsed again; it's the fifth time."
Gregory turned his face to the window, and looked at the sky.
"I must go and see her. Just give me her address."
Mrs. Shortman read from a green book:
"'Mrs. Porter, 2 Bilcock Buildings, Bloomsbury.' Mr. Vigil!"
"Mr. Vigil, I do sometimes wish you would not persevere so long with
those hopeless cases; they never seem to come to anything, and your
time is so valuable."
"How can I give them up, Mrs. Shortman? There's no choice."
"But, Mr. Vigil, why is there no choice? You must draw the line
somewhere. Do forgive me for saying that I think you sometimes waste
Gregory turned to the girl at the typewriter.
"Miss Mallow, is Mrs. Shortman right? do I waste my time?"
The girl at the typewriter blushed vividly, and, without looking
"How can I tell, Mr. Vigil? But it does worry one."
A humorous and perplexed smile passed over Gregory's lips.
"Now I know I shall cure her," he said. "2 Bilcock Buildings." And
he continued to look at the sky. "How's your neuralgia, Mrs.
Mrs. Shortman smiled.
Gregory turned quickly.
"You feel that window, then; I'm so sorry."
Mrs. Shortman shook her head.
"No, but perhaps Molly does."
The girl at the typewriter said:
"Oh no; please, Mr. Vigil, don't shut it for me."
"Truth and honour?"
"Truth and honour," replied both women. And all three for a moment
sat looking at the sky. Then Mrs. Shortman said:
"You see, you can't get to the root of the evil--that husband of
"Ah," he said, "that man! If she could only get rid of him! That
ought to have been done long ago, before he drove her to drink like
this. Why didn't she, Mrs. Shortman, why didn't she?"
Mrs. Shortman raised her eyes, which had such a peculiar spiritual
"I don't suppose she had the money," she said; "and she must have
been such a nice woman then. A nice woman doesn't like to divorce--"
Gregory looked at her.
"What, Mrs. Shortman, you too, you too among the Pharisees?"
Mrs. Shortman flushed.
"She wanted to save him," she said; "she must have wanted to save
"Then you and I----" But Gregory did not finish, and turned again to
the window. Mrs. Shortman, too, biting her lips, looked anxiously at
Miss Mallow at the typewriter, with a scared face, plied her fingers
faster than ever.
Gregory was the first to speak.
"You must please forgive me," he said gently. "A personal matter; I
Mrs. Shortman withdrew her gaze from the sky.
"Oh, Mr. Vigil, if I had known----"
Gregory Gregory smiled.
"Don't, don't!" he said; "we've quite frightened poor Miss Mallow!"
Miss Mallow looked round at him, he looked at her, and all three once
more looked at the sky. It was the chief recreation of this little
Gregory worked till nearly three, and walked out to a bun-shop, where
he lunched off a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. He took an
omnibus, and getting on the top, was driven West with a smile on his
face and his hat in his hand. He was thinking of Helen Bellew. It
had become a habit with him to think of her, the best and most
beautiful of her sex--a habit in which he was growing grey, and with
which, therefore, he could not part. And those women who saw him
with his uncovered head smiled, and thought:
'What a fine-looking man!'
But George Pendyce, who saw him from the window of the Stoics' Club,
smiled a different smile; the sight of him was always a little
unpleasant to George.
Nature, who had made Gregory Vigil a man, had long found that he had
got out of her hands, and was living in celibacy, deprived of the
comfort of woman, even of those poor creatures whom he befriended;
and Nature, who cannot bear that man should escape her control,
avenged herself through his nerves and a habit of blood to the head.
Extravagance, she said, I cannot have, and when I made this man I
made him quite extravagant enough. For his temperament (not uncommon
in a misty climate) had been born seven feet high; and as a man
cannot add a cubit to his stature, so neither can he take one off.
Gregory could not bear that a yellow man must always remain a yellow
man, but trusted by care and attention some day to see him white.
There lives no mortal who has not a philosophy as distinct from every
other mortal's as his face is different from their faces; but Gregory
believed that philosophers unfortunately alien must gain in time a
likeness to himself if he were careful to tell them often that they
had been mistaken. Other men in this Great Britain had the same
To Gregory's reforming instinct it was a constant grief that he had
been born refined. A natural delicacy would interfere and mar his
noblest efforts. Hence failures deplored by Mrs. Pendyce to Lady
Maiden the night they danced at Worsted Skeynes.
He left his bus near to the flat where Mrs. Bellow lived; with
reverence he made the tour of the building and back again. He had
long fixed a rule, which he never broke, of seeing her only once a
fortnight; but to pass her windows he went out of his way most days
and nights. And having made this tour, not conscious of having done
anything ridiculous, still smiling, and with his hat on his knee,
perhaps really happier because he had not seen her, was driven East,
once more passing George Pendyce in the bow-window of the Stoics'
Club, and once more raising on his face a jeering smile.
He had been back at his rooms in Buckingham Street half an hour when
a club commissionaire arrived with Mr. Paramor's promised letter.
He opened it hastily.
"THE NELSON CLUB,
"MY DEAR VIGIL,
"I've just come from seeing your ward. An embarrassing complexion is
lent to affairs by what took place last night. It appears that after
your visit to him yesterday afternoon her husband came up to town,
and made his appearance at her flat about eleven o'clock. He was in
a condition bordering on delirium tremens, and Mrs. Bellew was
obliged to keep him for the night. 'I could not,' she said to me,
'have refused a dog in such a state.' The visit lasted until this
afternoon--in fact, the man had only just gone when I arrived. It is
a piece of irony, of which I must explain to you the importance. I
think I told you that the law of divorce is based on certain
principles. One of these excludes any forgiveness of offences by the
party moving for a divorce. In technical language, any such
forgiveness or overlooking is called condonation, and it is a
complete bar to further action for the time being. The Court is very
jealous of this principle of nonforgiveness, and will regard with
grave suspicion any conduct on the part of the offended party which
might be construed as amounting to condonation. I fear that what
your ward tells me will make it altogether inadvisable to apply for a
divorce on any evidence that may lie in the past. It is too
dangerous. In other words, the Court would almost certainly consider
that she has condoned offences so far. Any further offence, however,
will in technical language 'revive' the past, and under these
circumstances, though nothing can be done at present, there may be
hope in the future. After seeing your ward, I quite appreciate your
anxiety in the matter, though I am by no means sure that you are
right in advising this divorce. If you remain in the same mind,
however, I will give the matter my best personal attention, and my
counsel to you is not to worry. This is no matter for a layman,
especially not for one who, like you, judges of things rather as they
ought to be than as they are.
"I am, my dear Vigil,
"Very sincerely yours,
"GREGORY VIGIL, ESQ.
"If you want to see me, I shall be at my club all the evening.-E. P."
When Gregory had read this note he walked to the window, and stood
looking out over the lights on the river. His heart beat furiously,
his temples were crimson. He went downstairs, and took a cab to the
Mr. Paramor, who was about to dine, invited his visitor to join him.
Gregory shook his head.
"No, thanks," he said; "I don't feel like dining. What is this,
Paramor? Surely there's some mistake? Do you mean to tell me that
because she acted like a Christian to that man she is to be punished
for it in this way?"
Mr. Paramor bit his finger.
"Don't confuse yourself by dragging in Christianity. Christianity
has nothing to do with law."
"You talked of principles," said Gregory--"ecclesiastical"
"Yes, yes; I meant principles imported from the old ecclesiastical
conception of marriage, which held man and wife to be undivorceable.
That conception has been abandoned by the law, but the principles
"I don't understand."
Mr. Paramor said slowly:
"I don't know that anyone does. It's our usual muddle. But I know
this, Vigil--in such a case as your ward's we must tread very
carefully. We must 'save face,' as the Chinese say. We must pretend
we don't want to bring this divorce, but that we have been so injured
that we are obliged to come forward. If Bellew says nothing, the
Judge will have to take what's put before him. But there's always
the Queen's Proctor. I don't know if you know anything about him?"
"No," said Gregory, "I don't."
"Well, if he can find out anything against our getting this divorce,
he will. It is not my habit to go into Court with a case in which
anybody can find out anything."
"Do you mean to say"
"I mean to say that she must not ask for a divorce merely because she
is miserable, or placed in a position that no woman should be placed
in, but only if she has been offended in certain technical ways; and
if--by condonation, for instance--she has given the Court technical
reason for refusing her a divorce, that divorce will be refused her.
To get a divorce, Vigil, you must be as hard as nails and as wary as
a cat. Now do you understand?"
Gregory did not answer.
Mr. Paramor looked searchingly and rather pityingly in his face.
"It won't do to go for it at present," he said. "Are you still set
on this divorce? I told you in my letter that I am not sure you are
"How can you ask me, Paramor? After that man's conduct last night, I
am more than ever set on it."
"Then," said Mr. Paramor, "we must keep a sharp eye on Bellew, and
hope for the best."
Gregory held out his hand.
"You spoke of morality," he said. "I can't tell you how inexpressibly
mean the whole thing seems to me. Goodnight."
And, turning rather quickly, he went out.
His mind was confused and his heart torn. He thought of Helen Bellew
as of the woman dearest to him in the coils of a great slimy serpent,
and the knowledge that each man and woman unhappily married was,
whether by his own, his partner's, or by no fault at all, in the same
embrace, afforded him no comfort whatsoever. It was long before he
left the windy streets to go to his home.
There comes now and then to the surface of our modern civilisation
one of those great and good men who, unconscious, like all great and
good men, of the goodness and greatness of their work, leave behind a
lasting memorial of themselves before they go bankrupt.
It was so with the founder of the Stoics' Club.
He came to the surface in the year 187-, with nothing in the world
but his clothes and an idea. In a single year he had floated the
Stoics' Club, made ten thousand pounds, lost more, and gone down
The Stoics' Club lived after him by reason of the immortal beauty of
his idea. In 1891 it was a strong and corporate body, not perhaps
quite so exclusive as it had been, but, on the whole, as smart and
aristocratic as any club in London, with the exception of that one or
two into which nobody ever got. The idea with which its founder had
underpinned the edifice was, like all great ideas, simple, permanent,
and perfect--so simple, permanent, and perfect that it seemed amazing
no one had ever thought of it before. It was embodied in No. 1 of
the members' rules:
"No member of this club shall have any occupation whatsoever."
Hence the name of a club renowned throughout London for the
excellence of its wines and cuisine.
Its situation was in Piccadilly, fronting the Green Park, and through
the many windows of its ground-floor smoking-room the public were
privileged to see at all hours of the day numbers of Stoics in
various attitudes reading the daily papers or gazing out of the
Some of them who did not direct companies, grow fruit, or own yachts,
wrote a book, or took an interest in a theatre. The greater part
eked out existence by racing horses, hunting foxes, and shooting
birds. Individuals among them, however, had been known to play the
piano, and take up the Roman Catholic religion. Many explored the
same spots of the Continent year after year at stated seasons. Some
belonged to the Yeomanry; others called themselves barristers; once
in a way one painted a picture or devoted himself to good works.
They were, in fact, of all sorts and temperaments, but their common
characteristic was an independent income, often so settled by
Providence that they could not in any way get rid of it.
But though the principle of no occupation overruled all class
distinctions, the Stoics were mainly derived from the landed gentry.
An instinct that the spirit of the club was safest with persons of
this class guided them in their elections, and eldest sons, who
became members almost as a matter of course, lost no time in putting
up their younger brothers, thereby keeping the wine as pure as might
be, and preserving that fine old country-house flavour which is
nowhere so appreciated as in London.
After seeing Gregory pass on the top of a bus, George Pendyce went
into the card-room, and as it was still empty, set to contemplation
of the pictures on the walls. They were effigies of all those
members of the Stoics' Club who from time to time had come under the
notice of a celebrated caricaturist in a celebrated society paper.
Whenever a Stoic appeared, he was at once cut out, framed, glassed,
and hung alongside his fellows in this room. And George moved from
one to another till he came to the last. It was himself. He was
represented in very perfectly cut clothes, with slightly crooked
elbows, and race-glasses slung across him. His head,
disproportionately large, was surmounted by a black billycock hat
with a very flat brim. The artist had thought long and carefully
over the face. The lips and cheeks and chin were moulded so as to
convey a feeling of the unimaginative joy of life, but to their shape
and complexion was imparted a suggestion of obstinacy and choler. To
the eyes was given a glazed look, and between them set a little line,
as though their owner were thinking:
'Hard work, hard work! Noblesse oblige. I must keep it going!'
Underneath was written: "The Ambler."
George stood long looking at the apotheosis of his fame. His star
was high in the heavens. With the eye of his mind he saw a long
procession of turf triumphs, a long vista of days and nights, and in
them, round them, of them--Helen Bellow; and by an odd coincidence,
as he stood there, the artist's glazed look came over his eyes, the
little line sprang up between them.
He turned at the sound of voices and sank into a chair. To have been
caught thus gazing at himself would have jarred on his sense of what
It was twenty minutes past seven, when, in evening dress, he left the
club, and took a shilling's-worth to Buckingham Gate. Here he
dismissed his cab, and turned up the large fur collar of his coat.
Between the brim of his opera-hat and the edge of that collar nothing
but his eyes were visible. He waited, compressing his lips,
scrutinising each hansom that went by. In the soft glow of one
coming fast he saw a hand raised to the trap. The cab stopped;
George stepped out of the shadow and got in. The cab went on, and
Mrs. Bellew's arm was pressed against his own.
It was their simple formula for arriving at a restaurant together.
In the third of several little rooms, where the lights were shaded,
they sat down at a table in a corner, facing each a wall, and,
underneath, her shoe stole out along the floor and touched his patent
leather boot. In their eyes, for all their would-be wariness, a
light smouldered which would not be put out. An habitue, sipping
claret at a table across the little room, watched them in a mirror,
and there came into his old heart a glow of warmth, half ache, half
sympathy; a smile of understanding stirred the crow's-feet round his
eyes. Its sweetness ebbed, and left a little grin about his shaven
lips. Behind the archway in the neighbouring room two waiters met,
and in their nods and glances was that same unconscious sympathy, the
same conscious grin. And the old habitue thought:
'How long will it last?'.... "Waiter, some coffee and my bill!"
He had meant to go to the play, but he lingered instead to look at
Mrs. Bellew's white shoulders and bright eyes in the kindly mirror.
And he thought:
'Young days at present. Ah, young days!'....
"Waiter, a Benedictine!" And hearing her laugh, O his old heart
ached. 'No one,' he thought, 'will ever laugh like that for me
again!'.... "Here, waiter, how's this? You've charged me for an
ice!" But when the waiter had gone he glanced back into the mirror,
and saw them clink their glasses filled with golden bubbling wine,
and he thought: 'Wish you good luck! For a flash of those teeth, my
dear, I'd give----'
But his eyes fell on the paper flowers adorning his little table--
yellow and red and green; hard, lifeless, tawdry. He saw them
suddenly as they were, with the dregs of wine in his glass, the spill
of gravy on the cloth, the ruin of the nuts that he had eaten.
Wheezing and coughing, 'This place is not what it was,' he thought;
'I shan't come here again!'
He struggled into his coat to go, but he looked once more in the
mirror, and met their eyes resting on himself. In them he read the
careless pity of the young for the old. His eyes answered the
reflection of their eyes, 'Wait, wait! It is young days yet! I wish
you no harm, my dears!' and limping-for one of his legs was lame--he
But George and his partner sat on, and with every glass of wine the
light in their eyes grew brighter. For who was there now in the room
to mind? Not a living soul! Only a tall, dark young waiter, a
little cross-eyed, who was in consumption; only the little wine-
waiter, with a pallid face, and a look as if he suffered. And the
whole world seemed of the colour of the wine they had been drinking;
but they talked of indifferent things, and only their eyes, bemused
and shining, really spoke. The dark young waiter stood apart,
unmoving, and his cross-eyed glance, fixed on her shoulders, had all
unconsciously the longing of a saint in some holy picture. Unseen,
behind the serving screen, the little wine-waiter poured out and
drank a glass from a derelict bottle. Through a chink of the red
blinds an eye peered in from the chill outside, staring and curious,
till its owner passed on in the cold.
It was long after nine when they rose. The dark young waiter laid
her cloak upon her with adoring hands. She looked back at him, and
in her eyes was an infinite indulgence. 'God knows,' she seemed to
say, 'if I could make you happy as well, I would. Why should one
suffer? Life is strong and good!'
The young waiter's cross-eyed glance fell before her, and he bowed
above the money in his hand. Quickly before them the little wine-
waiter hurried to the door, his suffering face screwed into one long
"Good-night, madam; good-night, sir. Thank you very much!"
And he, too, remained bowed over his hand, and his smile relaxed.
But in the cab George's arm stole round her underneath the cloak, and
they were borne on in the stream of hurrying hansoms, carrying
couples like themselves, cut off from all but each other's eyes, from
all but each other's touch; and with their eyes turned in the half-
dark they spoke together in low tones.
GREGORY REOPENS THE CAMPAIGN
At one end of the walled garden which Mr. Pendyce had formed in
imitation of that at dear old Strathbegally, was a virgin orchard of
pear and cherry trees. They blossomed early, and by the end of the
third week in April the last of the cherries had broken into flower.
In the long grass, underneath, a wealth of daffodils, jonquils, and
narcissus, came up year after year, and sunned their yellow stars in
the light which dappled through the blossom.
And here Mrs. Pendyce would come, tan gauntlets on her hands, and
stand, her face a little flushed with stooping, as though the sight
of all that bloom was restful. It was due to her that these old
trees escaped year after year the pruning and improvements which the
genius of the Squire would otherwise have applied. She had been
brought up in an old Totteridge tradition that fruit-trees should be
left to themselves, while her husband, possessed of a grasp of the
subject not more than usually behind the times, was all for newer
methods. She had fought for those trees. They were as yet the only
things she had fought for in her married life, and Horace Pendyce
still remembered with a discomfort robbed by time of poignancy how
she had stood with her back to their bedroom door and said, "If you
cut those poor trees, Horace, I won't live here!" He had at once
expressed his determination to have them pruned; but, having put off
the action for a day or two, the trees still stood unpruned thirty-
three years later. He had even come to feel rather proud of the fact
that they continued to bear fruit, and would speak of them thus:
"Queer fancy of my wife's, never been cut. And yet, remarkable
thing, they do better than any of the others!"
This spring, when all was so forward, and the cuckoos already in full
song, when the scent of young larches in the New Plantation (planted
the year of George's birth) was in the air like the perfume of
celestial lemons, she came to the orchard more than usual, and her
spirit felt the stirring, the old, half-painful yearning for she knew
not what, that she had felt so often in her first years at Worsted
Skeynes. And sitting there on a green-painted seat under the largest
of the cherry-trees, she thought even more than her wont of George,
as though her son's spirit, vibrating in its first real passion, were
calling to her for sympathy.
He had been down so little all that winter, twice for a couple of
days' shooting, once for a week-end, when she had thought him looking
thinner and rather worn. He had missed Christmas for the first time.
With infnite precaution she had asked him casually if he had seen
Helen Bellew, and he had answered, "Oh yes, I see her once in a way!"
Secretly all through the winter she consulted the Times newspaper for
mention of George's horse, and was disappointed not to find any. One
day, however, in February, discovering him absolutely at the head of
several lists of horses with figures after them, she wrote off at
once with a joyful heart. Of five lists in which the Ambler's name
appeared, there was only one in which he was second. George's answer
came in the course of a week or so.
"MY DEAR MOTHER,
"What you saw were the weights for the Spring Handicaps. They've
simply done me out of everything. In great haste,
"Your affectionate son,
As the spring approached, the vision of her independent visit to
London, which had sustained her throughout the winter, having
performed its annual function, grew mistier and mistier, and at last
faded away. She ceased even to dream of it, as though it had never
been, nor did George remind her, and as usual, she ceased even to
wonder whether he would remind her. She thought instead of the
season visit, and its scurry of parties, with a sort of languid
fluttering. For Worsted Skeynes, and all that Worsted Skeynes stood
for, was like a heavy horseman guiding her with iron hands along a
narrow lane; she dreamed of throwing him in the open, but the open
she never reached.
She woke at seven with her tea, and from seven to eight made little
notes on tablets, while on his back Mr. Pendyce snored lightly. She
rose at eight. At nine she poured out coffee. From halfpast nine to
ten she attended to the housekeeper and her birds. From ten to
eleven she attended to the gardener and her dress. From eleven to
twelve she wrote invitations to persons for whom she did not care,
and acceptances to persons who did not care for her; she drew out
also and placed in due sequence cheques for Mr. Pendyce's signature;
and secured receipts, carefully docketed on the back, within an
elastic band; as a rule, also, she received a visit from Mrs. Husell
Barter. From twelve to one she walked with her and "the dear dogs" to
the village, where she stood hesitatingly in the cottage doors of
persons who were shy of her. From half-past one to two she lunched.
>From two to three she rested on a sofa in the white morning-room with
the newspaper in her hand, trying to read the Parliamentary debate,
and thinking of other things. From three to half-past four she went
to her dear flowers, from whom she was liable to be summoned at any
moment by the arrival of callers; or, getting into the carriage, was
driven to some neighbour's mansion, where she sat for half an hour
and came away. At half-past four she poured out tea. At five she
knitted a tie, or socks, for George or Gerald, and listened with a
gentle smile to what was going on. From six to seven she received
from the Squire his impressions of Parliament and things at large.
>From seven to seven-thirty she changed to a black low dress, with old
lace about the neck. At seven-thirty she dined. At a quarter to
nine she listened to Norah playing two waltzes of Chopin's, and a
piece called "Serenade du Printemps" by Baff, and to Bee singing "The
Mikado," or the "Saucy Girl" From nine to ten thirty she played a
game called piquet, which her father had taught her, if she could get
anyone with whom to play; but as this was seldom, she played as a
rule patience by herself. At ten-thirty she went to bed. At eleven-
thirty punctually the Squire woke her. At one o'clock she went to
sleep. On Mondays she wrote out in her clear Totteridge hand, with
its fine straight strokes, a list of library books, made up without
distinction of all that were recommended in the Ladies' Paper that
came weekly to Worsted Skeynes. Periodically Mr. Pendyce would hand
her a list of his own, compiled out of the Times and the Field in the
privacy of his study; this she sent too.
Thus was the household supplied with literature unerringly adapted to
its needs; nor was it possible for any undesirable book to find its
way into the house--not that this would have mattered much to Mrs.
Pendyce, for as she often said with gentle regret, "My dear, I have
no time to read."
This afternoon it was so warm that the bees were all around among the
blossoms, and two thrushes, who had built in a yew-tree that watched
over the Scotch garden, were in a violent flutter because one of
their chicks had fallen out of the nest. The mother bird, at the
edge of the long orchard grass, was silent, trying by example to
still the tiny creature's cheeping, lest it might attract some large
or human thing.
Mrs. Pendyce, sitting under the oldest cherry-tree, looked for the
sound, and when she had located it, picked up the baby bird, and, as
she knew the whereabouts of all the nests, put it back into its
cradle, to the loud terror and grief of the parent birds. She went
back to the bench and sat down again.
She had in her soul something of the terror of the mother thrush.
The Maidens had been paying the call that preceded their annual
migration to town, and the peculiar glow which Lady Maiden had the
power of raising had not yet left her cheeks. True, she had the
comfort of the thought, 'Ellen Maiden is so bourgeoise,' but to-day
it did not still her heart.
Accompanied by one pale daughter who never left her, and two pale
dogs forced to run all the way, now lying under the carriage with
their tongues out, Lady Maiden had come and stayed full time; and for
three-quarters of that time she had seemed, as it were, labouring
under a sense of duty unfulfilled; for the remaining quarter Mrs.
Pendyce had laboured under a sense of duty fulfilled.
"My dear," Lady Maiden had said, having told the pale daughter to go
into the conservatory, "I'm the last person in the world to repeat
gossip, as you know; but I think it's only right to tell you that
I've been hearing things. You see, my boy Fred" (who would
ultimately become Sir Frederick Maiden) "belongs to the same club as
your son George--the Stoics. All young men belong there of course-I
mean, if they're anybody. I'm sorry to say there's no doubt about
it; your son has been seen dining at--perhaps I ought not to mention
the name--Blafard's, with Mrs. Bellew. I dare say you don't know
what sort of a place Blafard's is--a lot of little rooms where people
go when they don't want to be seen. I've never been there, of
course; but I can imagine it perfectly. And not once, but
frequently. I thought I would speak to you, because I do think it's
so scandalous of her in her position."
An azalea in a blue and white pot had stood between them, and in this
plant Mrs. Pendyce buried her cheeks and eyes; but when she raised
her face her eyebrows were lifted to their utmost limit, her lips
trembled with anger.
"Oh," she said, "didn't you know? There's nothing in that; it's the
For a moment Lady Maiden wavered, then duskily flushed; her
temperament and principles had recovered themselves.
"If that," she said with some dignity, "is the latest thing, I think
it is quite time we were back in town."
She rose, and as she rose, such was her unfortunate conformation, it
flashed through Mrs. Pendyce's mind 'Why was I afraid? She's only--'
And then as quickly: 'Poor woman! how can she help her legs being
But when she was gone, side by side with the pale daughter, the pale
dogs once more running behind the carriage, Margery Pendyce put her
hand to her heart.
And out here amongst the bees and blossom, where the blackbirds were
improving each minute their new songs, and the air was so fainting
sweet with scents, her heart would not be stilled, but throbbed as
though danger were coming on herself; and she saw her son as a little
boy again in a dirty holland suit with a straw hat down the back of
his neck, flushed and sturdy, as he came to her from some adventure.
And suddenly a gush of emotion from deep within her heart and the
heart of the spring day, a sense of being severed from him by a
great, remorseless power, came over her; and taking out a tiny
embroidered handkerchief, she wept. Round her the bees hummed
carelessly, the blossom dropped, the dappled sunlight covered her
with a pattern as of her own fine lace. From the home farm came the
lowing of the cows on their way to milking, and, strange sound in
that well-ordered home, a distant piping on a penny flute ....
"Mother, Mother, Mo-o-ther!"
Mrs. Pendyce passed her handkerchief across her eyes, and
instinctively obeying the laws of breeding, her face lost all trace
of its emotion. She waited, crumpling the tiny handkerchief in her
"Mother! Oh, there you are! Here's Gregory Vigil!"
Norah, a fox-terrier on either side, was coming down the path; behind
her, unhatted, showed Gregory's sanguine face between his wings of
"I suppose you're going to talk. I'm going over to the Rectory.
And preceded by her dogs, Norah went on.
Mrs. Pendyce put out her hand.
"Well, Grig," she said, "this is a surprise."
Gregory seated himself beside her on the bench.
"I've brought you this," he said. "I want you to look at it before I
Mrs. Pendyce, who vaguely felt that he would want her to see things
as he was seeing them, took a letter from him with a sinking heart.
"LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
"April 21, 1892.
"MY DEAR VIGIL,
"I have now secured such evidence as should warrant our instituting a
suit. I've written your ward to that effect, and am awaiting her
instructions. Unfortunately, we have no act of cruelty, and I've
been obliged to draw her attention to the fact that, should her
husband defend the suit, it will be very difficult to get the Court
to accept their separation in the light of desertion on his part--
difficult indeed, even if he doesn't defend the suit. In divorce
cases one has to remember that what has to be kept out is often more
important than what has to be got in, and it would be useful to know,
therefore, whether there is likelihood of opposition. I do not
advise any direct approaching of the husband, but if you are
possessed of the information you might let me know. I hate humbug,
my dear Vigil, and I hate anything underhand, but divorce is always a
dirty business, and while the law is shaped as at present, and the
linen washed in public, it will remain impossible for anyone, guilty
or innocent, and even for us lawyers, to avoid soiling our hands in
one way or another. I regret it as much as you do.
"There is a new man writing verse in the Tertiary, some of it quite
first-rate. You might look at the last number. My blossom this year
"With kind regards, I am,
"Very sincerely yours,
"Gregory Vigil, Esq."
Mrs. Pendyce dropped the letter in her lap, and looked at her cousin.
"He was at Harrow with Horace. I do like him. He is one of the very
nicest men I know."
It was clear that she was trying to gain time.
Gregory began pacing up and down.
"Paramor is a man for whom I have the highest respect. I would trust
him before anyone."
It was clear that he, too, was trying to gain time.
"Oh, mind my daffodils, please!"
Gregory went down on his knees, and raised the bloom that he had
trodden on. He then offered it to Mrs. Pendyce. The action was one
to which she was so unaccustomed that it struck her as slightly
"My dear Grig, you'll get rheumatism, and spoil that nice suit; the
grass comes off so terribly!"
Gregory got up, and looked shamefacedly at his knees.
"The knee is not what it used to be," he said.
Mrs. Pendyce smiled.
"You should keep your knees for Helen Bellow, Grig. I was always
five years older than you."
Gregory rumpled up his hair.
"Kneeling's out of fashion, but I thought in the country you wouldn't
"You don't notice things, dear Grig. In the country it's still more
out of fashion. You wouldn't find a woman within thirty miles of
here who would like a man to kneel to her. We've lost the habit.
She would think she was being made fun of. We soon grow out of
"In London," said Gregory, "I hear all women intend to be men; but in
the country I thought----"
"In the country, Grig, all women would like to be men, but they don't
dare to try. They trot behind."
As if she had been guilty of thoughts too insightful, Mrs. Pendyce
Gregory broke out suddenly:
"I can't bear to think of women like that!"
Again Mrs. Pendyce smiled.
"You see, Grig dear, you are not married."
"I detest the idea that marriage changes our views, Margery; I loathe
"Mind my daffodils!" murmured Mrs. Pendyce.
She was thinking all the time: 'That dreadful letter! What am I to
And as though he knew her thoughts, Gregory said:
"I shall assume that Bellew will not defend the case. If he has a
spark of chivalry in him he will be only too glad to see her free.
I will never believe that any man could be such a soulless clod as to
wish to keep her bound. I don't pretend to understand the law, but
it seems to me that there's only one way for a man to act and after
all Bellew's a gentleman. You'll see that he will act like one!"
Mrs. Pendyce looked at the daffodil in her lap.
"I have only seen him three or four times, but it seemed to me, Grig,
that he was a man who might act in one way today and another
tomorrow. He is so very different from all the men about here."
"When it comes to the deep things of life," said Gregory, "one man is
much as another. Is there any man you know who would be so lacking
in chivalry as to refuse in these circumstances?"
Mrs. Pendyce looked at him with a confused expression--wonder,
admiration, irony, and even fear, struggled in her eyes.
"I can think of dozens."
Gregory clutched his forehead.
"Margery," he said, "I hate your cynicism. I don't know where you
get it from."
"I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to be cynical--I didn't, really. I only
spoke from what I've seen."
"Seen?" said Gregory. "If I were to go by what I saw daily, hourly,
in London in the course of my work I should commit suicide within a
"But what else can one go by?"
Without answering, Gregory walked to the edge of the orchard, and
stood gazing over the Scotch garden, with his face a little tilted
towards the sky. Mrs. Pendyce felt he was grieving that she failed
to see whatever it was he saw up there, and she was sorry. He came
back, and said:
"We won't discuss it any more."
Very dubiously she heard those words, but as she could not express
the anxiety and doubt torturing her soul, she told him tea was ready.
But Gregory would not come in just yet out of the sun.
In the drawing-room Beatrix was already giving tea to young Tharp and
the Reverend Husell Barter. And the sound of these well-known voices
restored to Mrs. Pendyce something of her tranquillity. The Rector
came towards her at once with a teacup in his hand.
"My wife has got a headache," he said. "She wanted to come over with
me, but I made her lie down. Nothing like lying down for a headache.
We expect it in June, you know. Let me get you your tea."
Mrs. Pendyce, already aware even to the day of what he expected in
June, sat down, and looked at Mr. Barter with a slight feeling of
surprise. He was really a very good fellow; it was nice of him to
make his wife lie down! She thought his broad, red-brown face, with
its protecting, not unhumorous, lower lip, looked very friendly.
Roy, the Skye terrier at her feet, was smelling at the reverend
gentleman's legs with a slow movement of his tail.
"The old dog likes me," said the Rector; "they know a dog-lover when
they see one wonderful creatures, dogs! I'm sometimes tempted to
think they may have souls!"
Mrs. Pendyce answered:
"Horace says he's getting too old."
The dog looked up in her face, and her lip quivered.
The Rector laughed.
"Don't you worry about that; there's plenty of life in him." And he
added unexpectedly: "I couldn't bear to put a dog away, the friend
of man. No, no; let Nature see to that."
Over at the piano Bee and young Tharp were turning the pages of the
"Saucy Girl"; the room was full of the scent of azaleas; and Mr.
Barter, astride of a gilt chair, looked almost sympathetic, gazing
tenderly at the old Skye.
Mrs. Pendyce felt a sudden yearning to free her mind, a sudden
longing to ask a man's advice.
"Oh, Mr. Barter," she said, "my cousin, Gregory Vigil, has just
brought me some news; it is confidential, please. Helen Bellew is
going to sue for a divorce. I wanted to ask you whether you could
tell me----" Looking in the Rector's face, she stopped.
"A divorce! H'm! Really!"
A chill of terror came over Mrs. Pendyce.
"Of course you will not mention it to anyone, not even to Horace. It
has nothing to do with us."
Mr. Barter bowed; his face wore the expression it so often wore in
school on Sunday mornings.
"H'm!" he said again.
It flashed through Mrs. Pendyce that this man with the heavy jowl and
menacing eyes, who sat so square on that flimsy chair, knew
something. It was as though he had answered:
"This is not a matter for women; you will be good enough to leave it
With the exception of those few words of Lady Malden's, and the
recollection of George's face when he had said, "Oh yes, I see her
now and then," she had no evidence, no knowledge, nothing to go on;
but she knew from some instinctive source that her son was Mrs.
So, with terror and a strange hope, she saw Gregory entering the
"Perhaps," she thought, "he will make Grig stop it."
She poured out Gregory's tea, followed Bee and Cecil Tharp into the
conservatory, and left the two men together:
CONTINUED INFLUENCE OF THE REVEREND HUSSELL BARTER
To understand and sympathise with the feelings and action of the
Rector of Worsted Skeynes, one must consider his origin and the
circumstances of his life.
The second son of an old Suffolk family, he had followed the routine
of his house, and having passed at Oxford through certain
examinations, had been certificated at the age of twenty-four as a
man fitted to impart to persons of both sexes rules of life and
conduct after which they had been groping for twice or thrice that
number of years. His character, never at any time undecided, was by
this fortunate circumstance crystallised and rendered immune from the
necessity for self-search and spiritual struggle incidental to his
neighbours. Since he was a man neither below nor above the average,
it did not occur to him to criticise or place himself in opposition
to a system which had gone on so long and was about to do him so much
good. Like all average men, he was a believer in authority, and none
the less because authority placed a large portion of itself in his
hands. It would, indeed, have been unwarrantable to expect a man of
his birth, breeding, and education to question the machine of which
he was himself a wheel.
He had dropped, therefore, at the age of twenty-six, insensibly, on
the death of an uncle, into the family living at Worsted Skeynes. He
had been there ever since. It was a constant and natural grief to
him that on his death the living would go neither to his eldest nor
his second son, but to the second son of his elder brother, the
Squire. At the age of twenty-seven he had married Miss Rose Twining,
the fifth daughter of a Huntingdonshire parson, and in less than
eighteen years begotten ten children, and was expecting the eleventh,
all healthy and hearty like him self. A family group hung over the
fireplace in the study, under the framed and illuminated text, "Judge
not, that ye be not judged," which he had chosen as his motto in the
first year of his cure, and never seen any reason to change. In that
family group Mr. Barter sat in the centre with his dog between his
legs; his wife stood behind him, and on both sides the children
spread out like the wings of a fan or butterfly. The bills of their
schooling were beginning to weigh rather heavily, and he complained a
good deal; but in principle he still approved of the habit into which
he had got, and his wife never complained of anything.
The study was furnished with studious simplicity; many a boy had
been, not unkindly, caned there, and in one place the old Turkey
carpet was rotted away, but whether by their tears or by their knees,
not even Mr. Barter knew. In a cabinet on one side of the fire he
kept all his religious books, many of them well worn; in a cabinet on
the other side he kept his bats, to which he was constantly
attending; a fshingrod and a gun-case stood modestly in a corner.
The archway between the drawers of his writing-table held a mat for
his bulldog, a prize animal, wont to lie there and guard his master's
legs when he was writing his sermons. Like those of his dog, the
Rector's good points were the old English virtues of obstinacy,
courage, intolerance, and humour; his bad points, owing to the
circumstances of his life, had never been brought to his notice.
When, therefore, he found himself alone with Gregory Vigil, he
approached him as one dog will approach another, and came at once to
the matter in hand.
"It's some time since I had the pleasure of meeting you, Mr. Vigil,"
he said. "Mrs. Pendyce has been giving me in confidence the news
you've brought down. I'm bound to tell you at once that I'm
Gregory made a little movement of recoil, as though his delicacy had
received a shock.
"Indeed!" he said, with a sort of quivering coldness.
The Rector, quick to note opposition, repeated emphatically:
"More than surprised; in fact, I think there must be some mistake."
"Indeed?" said Gregory again.
A change came over Mr. Barter's face. It had been grave, but was now
heavy and threatening.
"I have to say to you," he said, "that somehow--somehow, this divorce
must be put a stop to."
Gregory flushed painfully.
"On what grounds? I am not aware that my ward is a parishioner of
yours, Mr. Barter, or that if she were----"
The Rector closed in on him, his head thrust forward, his lower lip
"If she were doing her duty," he said, "she would be. I'm not
considering her--I'm considering her husband; he is a parishioner of
mine, and I say this divorce must be stopped."
Gregory retreated no longer.
"On what grounds?" he said again, trembling all over.
"I've no wish to enter into particulars," said Mr. Barter, "but if
you force me to, I shall not hesitate."
"I regret that I must," answered Gregory.
"Without mentioning names, then, I say that she is not a fit person
to bring a suit for divorce!"
"You say that?" said Gregory. "You----"
He could not go on.
"You will not move me, Mr. Vigil," said the Rector, with a grim
little smile. "I have my duty to do."
Gregory recovered possession of himself with an effort.
"You have said that which no one but a clergyman could say with
impunity," he said freezingly. "Be so good as to explain yourself."
"My explanation," said Mr. Barter, "is what I have seen with my own
He raised those eyes to Gregory. Their pupils were contracted to
pin-points, the light-grey irises around had a sort of swimming
glitter, and round these again the whites were injected with blood.
"If you must know, with my own eyes I've seen her in that very
conservatory over there kissing a man."
Gregory threw up his hand.
"How dare you!" he whispered.
Again Mr. Barter's humorous under-lip shot out.
"I dare a good deal more than that, Mr. Vigil," he said, "as you will
find; and I say this to you--stop this divorce, or I'll stop it
Gregory turned to the window. When he came back he was outwardly
"You have been guilty of indelicacy," he said. "Continue in your
delusion, think what you like, do what you like. The matter will go
on. Good-evening, sir."
And turning on his heel, he left the room.
Mr. Barter stepped forward. The words, "You have been guilty of
indelicacy," whirled round his brain till every blood vessel in his
face and neck was swollen to bursting, and with a hoarse sound like
that of an animal in pain he pursued Gregory to the door. It was
shut in his face. And since on taking Orders he had abandoned for
ever the use of bad language, he was very near an apoplectic fit.
Suddenly he became aware that Mrs. Pendyce was looking at him from
the conservatory door. Her face was painfully white, her eyebrows
lifted, and before that look Mr. Barter recovered a measure of self-
"Is anything the matter, Mr. Barter?"
The Rector smiled grimly.
"Nothing, nothing," he said. "I must ask you to excuse me, that's
all. I've a parish matter to attend to."
When he found himself in the drive, the feeling of vertigo and
suffocation passed, but left him unrelieved. He had, in fact,
happened on one of those psychological moments which enable a man's
true nature to show itself. Accustomed to say of himself bluffly,
"Yes, yes; I've a hot temper, soon over," he had never, owing to the
autocracy of his position, had a chance of knowing the tenacity of
his soul. So accustomed and so able for many years to vent
displeasure at once, he did not himself know the wealth of his old
English spirit, did not know of what an ugly grip he was capable. He
did not even know it at this minute, conscious only of a sort of
black wonder at this monstrous conduct to a man in his position,
doing his simple duty. The more he reflected, the more intolerable
did it seem that a woman like this Mrs. Bellew should have the
impudence to invoke the law of the land in her favour a woman who was
no better than a common baggage--a woman he had seen kissing George
Pendyce. To have suggested to Mr. Barter that there was something
pathetic in this black wonder of his, pathetic in the spectacle of
his little soul delivering its little judgments, stumbling its little
way along with such blind certainty under the huge heavens, amongst
millions of organisms as important as itself, would have astounded
him; and with every step he took the blacker became his wonder, the
more fixed his determination to permit no such abuse of morality, no
such disregard of Hussell Barter.
"You have been guilty of indelicacy!" This indictment had a
wriggling sting, and lost no venom from the fact that he could in no
wise have perceived where the indelicacy of his conduct lay. But he
did not try to perceive it. Against himself, clergyman and
gentleman, the monstrosity of the charge was clear. This was a point
of morality. He felt no anger against George; it was the woman that
excited his just wrath. For so long he had been absolute among
women, with the power, as it were, over them of life and death. This
was flat immorality! He had never approved of her leaving her
husband; he had never approved of her at all! He turned his steps
towards the Firs.
>From above the hedges the sleepy cows looked down; a yaffle laughed a
field or two away; in the sycamores, which had come out before their
time, the bees hummed. Under the smile of the spring the innumerable
life of the fields went carelessly on around that square black figure
ploughing along the lane with head bent down under a wide-brimmed
George Pendyce, in a fly drawn by an old grey horse, the only vehicle
that frequented the station at Worsted Skeynes, passed him in the
lane, and leaned back to avoid observation. He had not forgotten the
tone of the Rector's voice in the smoking-room on the night of the
dance. George was a man who could remember as well as another. In
the corner of the old fly, that rattled and smelled of stables and
stale tobacco, he fixed his moody eyes on the driver's back and the
ears of the old grey horse, and never stirred till they set him down
at the hall door.
He went at once to his room, sending word that he had come for the
night. His mother heard the news with feelings of joy and dread, and
she dressed quickly for dinner, that she might see him the sooner.
The Squire came into her room just as she was going down. He had
been engaged all day at Sessions, and was in one of the moods of
apprehension as to the future which but seldom came over him.
"Why didn't you keep Vigil to dinner?" he said. "I could have given
him things for the night. I wanted to talk to him about insuring my
life; he knows, about that. There'll be a lot of money wanted, to
pay my death-duties. And if the Radicals get in I shouldn't be
surprised if they put them up fifty per cent."
"I wanted to keep him," said Mrs. Pendyce, "but he went away without
"He's an odd fellow!"
For some moments Mr. Pendyce made reflections on this breach of
manners. He had a nice standard of conduct in all social affairs.
"I'm having trouble with that man Peacock again. He's the most pig-
headed----What are you in such a hurry for, Margery?"
"George is here!"
"George? Well, I suppose he can wait till dinner. I have a lot of
things I want to tell you about. We had a case of arson to-day. Old
Quarryman was away, and I was in the chair. It was that fellow
Woodford that we convicted for poaching--a very gross case. And this
is what he does when he comes out. They tried to prove insanity.
It's the rankest case of revenge that ever came before me. We
committed him, of course. He'll get a swinging sentence. Of all
dreadful crimes, arson is the most----"
Mr. Pendyce could find no word to characterise his opinion of this
offence, and drawing his breath between his teeth, passed into his
dressing-room. Mrs. Pendyce hastened quietly out, and went to her
son's room. She found George in his shirtsleeves, inserting the
links of his cuffs.
"Let me do that for you, my dear boy! How dreadfully they starch
your cuffs! It is so nice to do something for you sometimes!"
George answered her:
"Well, Mother, and how have you been?"
Over Mrs. Pendyce's face came a look half sorrowful, half arch, but
wholly pathetic. 'What! is it beginning already? Oh, don't put me
away from you!' she seemed to say.
"Very well, thank you, dear. And you?"
George did not meet her eyes.
"So-so," he said. "I took rather a nasty knock over the 'City' last
"Is that a race?" asked Mrs. Pendyce.
And by some secret process she knew that he had hurried out that
piece of bad news to divert her attention from another subject, for
George had never been a "crybaby."
She sat down on the edge of the sofa, and though the gong was about
to sound, incited him to dawdle and stay with her.
"And have you any other news, dear? It seems such an age since we've
seen you. I think I've told you all our budget in my letters. You
know there's going to be another event at the Rectory?"
"Another? I passed Barter on the way up. I thought he looked a bit
A look of pain shot into Mrs. Pendyce's eyes.
"Oh, I'm afraid that couldn't have been the reason, dear." And she
stopped, but to still her own fears hurried on again. "If I'd known
you'd been coming, I'd have kept Cecil Tharp. Vic has had such dear
little puppies. Would you like one? They've all got that nice black
smudge round the eye."
She was watching him as only a mother can watch-stealthily, minutely,
longingly, every little movement, every little change of his face,
and more than all, that fixed something behind which showed the
abiding temper and condition of his heart.
'Something is making him unhappy,' she thought. 'He is changed since
I saw him last, and I can't get at it. I seem to be so far from him
And somehow she knew he had come down this evening because he was
lonely and unhappy, and instinct had made him turn to her.
But she knew that trying to get nearer would only make him put her
farther off, and she could not bear this, so she asked him nothing,
and bent all her strength on hiding from him the pain she felt.
She went downstairs with her arm in his, and leaned very heavily on
it, as though again trying to get close to him, and forget the
feeling she had had all that winter--the feeling of being barred
away, the feeling of secrecy and restraint.
Mr. Pendyce and the two girls were in the drawing-room.
"Well, George," said the Squire dryly, "I'm glad you've come. How
you can stick in London at this time of year! Now you're down you'd
better stay a couple of days. I want to take you round the estate;
you know nothing about anything. I might die at any moment, for all
you can tell. Just make up your mind to stay."
George gave him a moody look.
"Sorry," he said; "I've got an engagement in town."
Mr. Pendyce rose and stood with his back to the fire.
"That's it," he said: "I ask you to do a simple thing for your own
good--and--you've got an engagement. It's always like that, and your
mother backs you up. Bee, go and play me something."
The Squire could not bear being played to, but it was the only
command likely to be obeyed that came into his head.
The absence of guests made little difference to a ceremony esteemed
at Worsted Skeynes the crowning blessing of the day. The courses,
however, were limited to seven, and champagne was not drunk. The
Squire drank a glass or so of claret, for, as he said, "My dear old
father took his bottle of port every night of his life, and it never
gave him a twinge. If I were to go on at that rate it would kill me
in a year."
His daughters drank water. Mrs. Pendyce, cherishing a secret
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