The Country House
Part 5 out of 6
"Be at studio six to seven.--H."
>From the post-office she drove to her jeweller's, and many a man who
saw her pass with the flush on her cheeks and the smouldering look in
her eyes, as though a fire were alight within her, turned in his
tracks and bitterly regretted that he knew not who she was, or
whither going. The jeweller took the jewels from the green box,
weighed them one by one, and slowly examined each through his lens.
He was a little man with a yellow wrinkled face and a weak little
beard, and having fixed in his mind the sum that he would give, he
looked at his client prepared to mention less. She was sitting with
her elbows on the counter, her chin resting in her hands, and her
eyes were fixed on him. He decided somehow to mention the exact sum.
"Is that all?"
"Yes, madam; that is the utmost."
"Very well, but I must have it now in cash!"
The jeweller's eyes flickered.
"It's a large sum," he said--"most unusual. I haven't got such a sum
in the place."
"Then please send out and get it, or I must go elsewhere."
The jeweller brought his hands together, and washed them nervously.
"Excuse me a moment; I'll consult my partner."
He went away, and from afar he and his partner spied her nervously.
He came back with a forced smile. Mrs. Bellew was sitting as he had
"It's a fortunate chance; I think we can just do it, madam."
"Give me notes, please, and a sheet of paper." The jeweller brought
Mrs. Bellew wrote a letter, enclosed it with the bank notes in the
bulky envelope she had brought, addressed it, and sealed the whole.
"Call a cab, please!"
The jeweller called a cab.
The cab bore her away.
Again in the crowded streets so full of traffic, people turned to
look after her. The cabman, who put her down at the Albert Bridge,
gazed alternately at the coins in his hands and the figure of his
fare, and wheeling his cab towards the stand, jerked his thumb in her
Mrs. Bellew walked fast down a street till, turning a corner, she
came suddenly on a small garden with three poplar-trees in a row.
She opened its green gate without pausing, went down a path, and
stopped at the first of three green doors. A young man with a beard,
resembling an artist, who was standing behind the last of the three
doors, watched her with a knowing smile on his face. She took out a
latch-key, put it in the lock, opened the door, and passed in.
The sight of her face seemed to have given the artist an idea.
Propping his door open, he brought an easel and canvas, and setting
them so that he could see the corner where she had gone in, began to
An old stone fountain with three stone frogs stood in the garden near
that corner, and beyond it was a flowering currant-bush, and beyond
this again the green door on which a slanting gleam of sunlight fell.
He worked for an hour, then put his easel back and went out to get
Mrs. Bellew came out soon after he was gone. She closed the door
behind her, and stood still. Taking from her pocket the bulky
envelope, she slipped it into the letter-box; then bending down,
picked up a twig, and placed it in the slit, to prevent the lid
falling with a rattle. Having done this, she swept her hands down
her face and breast as though to brush something from her, and walked
away. Beyond the outer gate she turned to the left, and took the
same street back to the river. She walked slowly, luxuriously,
looking about her. Once or twice she stopped, and drew a deep
breath, as though she could not have enough of the air. She went as
far as the Embankment, and stood leaning her elbows on the parapet.
Between the finger and thumb of one hand she held a small object on
which the sun was shining. It was a key. Slowly, luxuriously, she
stretched her hand out over the water, parted her thumb and finger,
and let it fall.
MRS. PENDYCE'S INSPIRATION
But George did not come to take his mother to the theatre, and she
whose day had been passed in looking forward to the evening, passed
that evening in a drawing-room full of furniture whose history she
did not know, and a dining-room full of people eating in twos and
threes and fours, at whom she might look, but to whom she must not
speak, to whom she did not even want to speak, so soon had the wheel
of life rolled over her wonder and her expectation, leaving it
lifeless in her breast. And all that night, with one short interval
of sleep, she ate of bitter isolation and futility, and of the still
more bitter knowledge: "George does not want me; I'm no good to him!"
Her heart, seeking consolation, went back again and again to the time
when he had wanted her; but it was far to go, to the days of holland
suits, when all those things that he desired--slices of pineapple,
Benson's old carriage-whip, the daily reading out of "Tom Brown's
School-days," the rub with Elliman when he sprained his little ankle,
the tuck-up in bed--were in her power alone to give.
This night she saw with fatal clearness that since he went to school
he had never wanted her at all. She had tried so many years to
believe that he did, till it had become part of her life, as it was
part of her life to say her prayers night and morning; and now she
found it was all pretence. But, lying awake, she still tried to
believe it, because to that she had been bound when she brought him,
firstborn, into the world. Her other son, her daughters, she loved
them too, but it was not the same thing, quite; she had never wanted
them to want her, because that part of her had been given once for
all to George.
The street noises died down at last; she had slept two hours when
they began again. She lay listening. And the noises and her
thoughts became tangled in her exhausted brain--one great web of
weariness, a feeling that it was all senseless and unnecessary, the
emanation of cross-purposes and cross-grainedness, the negation of
that gentle moderation, her own most sacred instinct. And an early
wasp, attracted by the sweet perfumes of her dressing-table, roused
himself from the corner where he had spent the night, and began to
hum and hover over the bed. Mrs. Pendyce was a little afraid of
wasps, so, taking a moment when he was otherwise engaged, she stole
out, and fanned him with her nightdress-case till, perceiving her to
be a lady, he went away. Lying down again, she thought: 'People will
worry them until they sting, and then kill them; it's so
unreasonable,' not knowing that she was putting all her thoughts on
suffering in a single nutshell.
She breakfasted upstairs, unsolaced by any news from George. Then
with no definite hope, but a sort of inner certainty, she formed the
resolution to call on Mrs. Bellew. She determined, however, first to
visit Mr. Paramor, and, having but a hazy notion of the hour when men
begin to work, she did not dare to start till past eleven, and told
her cabman to drive her slowly. He drove her, therefore, faster than
his wont. In Leicester Square the passage of a Personage between two
stations blocked the traffic, and on the footways were gathered a
crowd of simple folk with much in their hearts and little in their
stomachs, who raised a cheer as the Personage passed. Mrs. Pendyce
looked eagerly from her cab, for she too loved a show.
The crowd dispersed, and the cab went on.
It was the first time she had ever found herself in the business
apartment of any professional man less important than a dentist.
>From the little waiting-room, where they handed her the Times, which
she could not read from excitement, she caught sight of rooms lined
to the ceilings with leather books and black tin boxes, initialed in
white to indicate the brand, and of young men seated behind lumps of
paper that had been written on. She heard a perpetual clicking noise
which roused her interest, and smelled a peculiar odour of leather
and disinfectant which impressed her disagreeably. A youth with
reddish hair and a pen in his hand passed through and looked at her
with a curious stare immediately averted. She suddenly felt sorry
for him and all those other young men behind the lumps of paper, and
the thought went flashing through her mind, 'I suppose it's all
because people can't agree.'
She was shown in to Mr. Paramor at last. In his large empty room,
with its air of past grandeur, she sat gazing at three La France
roses in a tumbler of water with the feeling that she would never be
able to begin.
Mr. Paramor's eyebrows, which jutted from his clean, brown face like
little clumps of pothooks, were iron-grey, and iron-grey his hair
brushed back from his high forehead. Mrs. Pendyce wondered why he
looked five years younger than Horace, who was his junior, and ten
years younger than Charles, who, of course, was younger still. His
eyes, which from iron-grey some inner process of spiritual
manufacture had made into steel colour, looked young too, although
they were grave; and the smile which twisted up the corners of his
mouth looked very young.
"Well," he said, "it's a great pleasure to see you."
Mrs. Pendyce could only answer with a smile.
Mr. Paramor put the roses to his nose.
"Not so good as yours," he said, "are they? but the best I can do."
Mrs. Pendyce blushed with pleasure.
"My garden is looking so beautiful----" Then, remembering that she no
longer had a garden, she stopped; but remembering also that, though
she had lost her garden, Mr. Paramor still had his, she added
quickly: "And yours, Mr. Paramor--I'm sure it must be looking
Mr. Paramor drew out a kind of dagger with which he had stabbed some
papers to his desk, and took a letter from the bundle.
"Yes," he said, "it's looking very nice. You'd like to see this, I
"Bellew v. Bellew and Pendyce" was written at the top. Mrs. Pendyce
stared at those words as though fascinated by their beauty; it was
long before she got beyond them. For the first time the full horror
of these matters pierced the kindly armour that lies between mortals
and what they do not like to think of. Two men and a woman
wrangling, fighting, tearing each other before the eyes of all the
world. A woman and two men stripped of charity and gentleness, of
moderation and sympathy-stripped of all that made life decent and
lovable, squabbling like savages before the eyes of all the world.
Two men, and one of them her son, and between them a woman whom both
of them had loved! "Bellew v. Bellew and Pendyce"! And this would
go down to fame in company with the pitiful stories she had read from
time to time with a sort of offended interest; in company with
"Snooks v. Snooks and Stiles," "Horaday v. Horaday," "Bethany v.
Bethany and Sweetenham." In company with all those cases where
everybody seemed so dreadful, yet where she had often and often felt
so sorry, as if these poor creatures had been fastened in the stocks
by some malignant, loutish spirit, for all that would to come and
jeer at. And horror filled her heart. It was all so mean, and
gross, and common.
The letter contained but a few words from a firm of solicitors
confirming an appointment. She looked up at Mr. Paramor. He stopped
pencilling on his blotting-paper, and said at once:
"I shall be seeing these people myself tomorrow afternoon. I shall
do my best to make them see reason."
She felt from his eyes that he knew what she was suffering, and was
even suffering with her.
"And if--if they won't?"
"Then I shall go on a different tack altogether, and they must look
out for themselves."
Mrs. Pendyce sank back in her chair; she seemed to smell again that
smell of leather and disinfectant, and hear a sound of incessant
clicking. She felt faint, and to disguise that faintness asked at
random, "What does 'without prejudice' in this letter mean?"
Mr. Paramor smiled.
"That's an expression we always use," he said. "It means that when
we give a thing away, we reserve to ourselves the right of taking it
Mrs. Pendyce, who did not understand, murmured:
"I see. But what have they given away?"
Paramor put his elbows on the desk, and lightly pressed his finger-
"Well," he said, "properly speaking, in a matter like this, the other
side and I are cat and dog.
"We are supposed to know nothing about each other and to want to know
less, so that when we do each other a courtesy we are obliged to save
our faces by saying, 'We don't really do you one.' D'you understand?"
Again Mrs. Pendyce murmured:
"It sounds a little provincial, but we lawyers exist by reason of
provincialism. If people were once to begin making allowances for
each other, I don't know where we should be."
Mrs. Pendyce's eyes fell again on those words, "Bellew v. Bellew and
Pendyce," and again, as though fascinated by their beauty, rested
"But you wanted to see me about something else too, perhaps?" said
A sudden panic came over her.
"Oh no, thank you. I just wanted to know what had been done. I've
come up on purpose to see George. You told me that I----"
Mr. Paramor hastened to her aid.
"Yes, yes; quite right--quite right."
"Horace hasn't come with me."
"He and George sometimes don't quite----"
"Hit it off? They're too much alike."
"Do you think so? I never saw-----"
"Not in face, not in face; but they've both got----"
Mr. Paramor's meaning was lost in a smile; and Mrs. Pendyce, who did
not know that the word "Pendycitis" was on the tip of his tongue,
smiled vaguely too.
"George is very determined," she said. "Do you think--oh, do you
think, Mr. Paramor, that you will be able to persuade Captain
Mr. Paramor threw himself back in his chair, and his hand covered
what he had written on his blotting-paper.
"Yes," he said slowly----"oh yes, yes!"
But Mrs. Pendyce had had her answer. She had meant to speak of her
visit to Helen Bellew, but now her thought was:
'He won't persuade them; I feel it. Let me get away!'
Again she seemed to hear the incessant clicking, to smell leather and
disinfectant, to see those words, "Bellew v. Bellew and, Pendyce."
She held out her hand.
Mr. Paramor took it in his own and looked at the floor.
"Good-bye," he said-"good-bye. What's your address--Green's Hotel?
I'll come and tell you what I do. I know--I know!"
Mrs. Pendyce, on whom those words "I know--I know!" had a strange,
emotionalising effect, as though no one had ever known before, went
away with quivering lips. In her life no one had ever "known"--not
indeed that she could or would complain of such a trifle, but the
fact remained. And at this moment, oddly, she thought of her
husband, and wondered what he was doing, and felt sorry for him.
But Mr. Paramor went back to his seat and stared at what he had
written on his blotting paper. It ran thus:
"We stand on our petty rights here,
And our potty dignity there;
We make no allowance for others,
They make no allowance for us;
We catch hold of them by the ear,
They grab hold of us by the hair
The result is a bit of a muddle
That ends in a bit of a fuss."
He saw that it neither rhymed nor scanned, and with a grave face he
tore it up.
Again Mrs. Pendyce told her cabman to drive slowly, and again he
drove her faster than usual; yet that drive to Chelsea seemed to last
for ever, and interminable were the turnings which the cabman took,
each one shorter than the last, as if he had resolved to see how much
his horse's mouth could bear.
'Poor thing!' thought Mrs. Pendyce; 'its mouth must be so sore, and
it's quite unnecessary.' She put her hand up through the trap.
"Please take me in a straight line. I don't like corners."
The cabman obeyed. It worried him terribly to take one corner
instead of the six he had purposed on his way; and when she asked him
his fare, he charged her a shilling extra for the distance he had
saved by going straight. Mrs. Pendyce paid it, knowing no better,
and gave him sixpence over, thinking it might benefit the horse; and
the cabman, touching his hat, said:
"Thank you, my lady," for to say "my lady" was his principle when he
received eighteen pence above his fare.
Mrs. Pendyce stood quite a minute on the pavement, stroking the
horse's nose and thinking:
'I must go in; it's silly to come all this way and not go in!'
But her heart beat so that she could hardly swallow.
At last she rang.
Mrs. Bellew was seated on the sofa in her little drawing-room
whistling to a canary in the open window. In the affairs of men
there is an irony constant and deep, mingled with the very springs of
life. The expectations of Mrs. Pendyce, those timid apprehensions of
this meeting which had racked her all the way, were lamentably
unfulfilled. She had rehearsed the scene ever since it came into her
head; the reality seemed unfamiliar. She felt no nervousness and no
hostility, only a sort of painful interest and admiration. And how
could this or any other woman help falling in love with George?
The first uncertain minute over, Mrs. Bellew's eyes were as friendly
as if she had been quite within her rights in all she had done; and
Mrs. Pendyce could not help meeting friendliness halfway.
"Don't be angry with me for coming. George doesn't know. I felt I
must come to see you. Do you think that you two quite know all
you're doing? It seems so dreadful, and it's not only yourselves, is
Mrs. Bellew's smile vanished.
"Please don't say 'you two,'" she said.
Mrs. Pendyce stammered:
"I don't understand."
Mrs. Bellew looked her in the face and smiled; and as she smiled she
seemed to become a little coarser.
"Well, I think it's quite time you did! I don't love your son. I
did once, but I don't now. I told him so yesterday, once for all."
Mrs. Pendyce heard those words, which made so vast, so wonderful a
difference--words which should have been like water in a wilderness--
with a sort of horror, and all her spirit flamed up into her eyes.
"You don't love him?" she cried.
She felt only a blind sense of insult and affront.
This woman tire of George? Tire of her son? She looked at Mrs.
Bellew, on whose face was a kind of inquisitive compassion, with eyes
that had never before held hatred.
"You have tired of him? You have given him up? Then the sooner I go
to him the better! Give me the address of his rooms, please."
Helen Bellew knelt down at the bureau and wrote on an envelope, and
the grace of the woman pierced Mrs. Pendyce to the heart.
She took the paper. She had never learned the art of abuse, and no
words could express what was in her heart, so she turned and went
Mrs. Bellew's voice sounded quick and fierce behind her.
"How could I help getting tired? I am not you. Now go!"
Mrs. Pendyce wrenched open the outer door. Descending the stairs,
she felt for the bannister. She had that awful sense of physical
soreness and shrinking which violence, whether their own or others',
brings to gentle souls.
THE MOTHER AND THE SON
To Mrs. Pendyce, Chelsea was an unknown land, and to find her way to
George's rooms would have taken her long had she been by nature what
she was by name, for Pendyces never asked their way to anything, or
believed what they were told, but found out for themselves with much
unnecessary trouble, of which they afterwards complained.
A policeman first, and then a young man with a beard, resembling an
artist, guided her footsteps. The latter, who was leaning by a gate,
"In here," he said; "the door in the corner on the right."
Mrs. Pendyce walked down the little path, past the ruined fountain
with its three stone frogs, and stood by the first green door and
waited. And while she waited she struggled between fear and joy; for
now that she was away from Mrs. Bellew she no longer felt a sense of
insult. It was the actual sight of her that had aroused it, so
personal is even the most gentle heart.
She found the rusty handle of a bell amongst the creeper-leaves, and
pulled it. A cracked metallic tinkle answered her, but no one came;
only a faint sound as of someone pacing to and fro. Then in the
street beyond the outer gate a coster began calling to the sky, and
in the music of his prayers the sound was lost. The young man with a
beard, resembling an artist, came down the path.
"Perhaps you could tell me, sir, if my son is out?"
"I've not seen him go out; and I've been painting here all the
Mrs. Pendyce looked with wonder at an easel which stood outside
another door a little further on. It seemed to her strange that her
son should live in such a place.
"Shall I knock for you?" said the artist. "All these knockers are
"If you would be so kind!"
The artist knocked.
"He must be in," he said. "I haven't taken my eyes off his door,
because I've been painting it."
Mrs. Pendyce gazed at the door.
"I can't get it," said the artist. "It's worrying me to death."
Mrs. Pendyce looked at him doubtfully.
"Has he no servant?" she said.
"Oh no," said the artist; "it's a studio. The light's all wrong. I
wonder if you would mind standing just as you are for one second; it
would help me a lot!"
He moved back and curved his hand over his eyes, and through Mrs.
Pendyce there passed a shiver.
'Why doesn't George open the door?' she thought. 'What--what is this
The artist dropped his hand.
"Thanks so much!" he said. "I'll knock again. There! that would
raise the dead!"
And he laughed.
An unreasoning terror seized on Mrs. Pendyce.
"Oh," she stammered, "I must get in--I must get in!"
She took the knocker herself, and fluttered it against the door.
"You see," said the artist, "they're all alike; these knockers are as
stiff' as pokers."
He again curved his hand over his eyes. Mrs. Pendyce leaned against
the door; her knees were trembling violently.
'What is happening?' she thought. 'Perhaps he's only asleep,
She beat the knocker with all her force. The door yielded, and in
the space stood George. Choking back a sob, Mrs. Pendyce went in.
He banged the door behind her.
For a full minute she did not speak, possessed still by that strange
terror and by a sort of shame. She did not even look at her son, but
cast timid glances round his room. She saw a gallery at the far end,
and a conical roof half made of glass. She saw curtains hanging all
the gallery length, a table with tea-things and decanters, a round
iron stove, rugs on the floor, and a large full-length mirror in the
centre of the wall. A silver cup of flowers was reflected in that
mirror. Mrs. Pendyce saw that they were dead, and the sense of their
vague and nauseating odour was her first definite sensation.
"Your flowers are dead, my darling," she said. "I must get you some
Not till then did she look at George. There were circles under his
eyes; his face was yellow; it seemed to her that it had shrunk. This
terrified her, and she thought:
'I must show nothing; I must keep my head!'
She was afraid--afraid of something desperate in his face, of
something desperate and headlong, and she was afraid of his
stubbornness, the dumb, unthinking stubbornness that holds to what
has been because it has been, that holds to its own when its own is
dead. She had so little of this quality herself that she could not
divine where it might lead him; but she had lived in the midst of it
all her married life, and it seemed natural that her son should be in
danger from it now.
Her terror called up her self-possession. She drew George down on
the sofa by her side, and the thought flashed through her: 'How many
times has he not sat here with that woman in his arms!'
"You didn't come for me last night, dear! I got the tickets, such
"No," he said; "I had something else to see to!"
At sight of that smile Margery Pendyce's heart beat till she felt
sick, but she, too, smiled.
"What a nice place you have here, darling!"
"There's room to walk about."
Mrs. Pendyce remembered the sound she had heard of pacing to and fro.
>From his not asking her how she had found out where he lived she knew
that he must have guessed where she had been, that there was nothing
for either of them to tell the other. And though this was a relief,
it added to her terror--the terror of that which is desperate. All
sorts of images passed through her mind. She saw George back in her
bedroom after his first run with the hounds, his chubby cheek
scratched from forehead to jaw, and the bloodstained pad of a cub fox
in his little gloved hand. She saw him sauntering into her room the
last day of the 1880 match at Lord's, with a battered top-hat, a
blackened eye, and a cane with a light-blue tassel. She saw him
deadly pale with tightened lips that afternoon after he had escaped
from her, half cured of laryngitis, and stolen out shooting by
himself, and she remembered his words: "Well, Mother, I couldn't
stand it any longer; it was too beastly slow!"
Suppose he could not stand it now! Suppose he should do something
rash! She took out her handkerchief.
"It's very hot in here, dear; your forehead is quite wet!"
She saw his eyes turn on her suspiciously, and all her woman's wit
stole into her own eyes, so that they did not flicker, but looked at
him with matter-of-fact concern.
"That skylight is what does it," he said. "The sun gets full on
Mrs. Pendyce looked at the skylight.
"It seems odd to see you here, dear, but it's very nice--so
unconventional. You must let me put away those poor flowers!" She
went to the silver cup and bent over them. "My dear boy, they're
quite nasty! Do throw them outside somewhere; it's so dreadful, the
smell of old flowers!"
She held the cup out, covering her nose with her handkerchief.
George took the cup, and like a cat spying a mouse, Mrs. Pendyce
watched him take it out into the garden. As the door closed,
quicker, more noiseless than a cat, she slipped behind the curtains.
'I know he has a pistol,' she thought.
She was back in an instant, gliding round the room, hunting with her
eyes and hands, but she saw nothing, and her heart lightened, for she
was terrified of all such things.
'It's only these terrible first hours,' she thought.
When George came back she was standing where he had left her. They
sat down in silence, and in that silence, the longest of her life,
she seemed to feel all that was in his heart, all the blackness and
bitter aching, the rage of defeat and starved possession, the lost
delight, the sensation of ashes and disgust; and yet her heart was
full enough already of relief and shame, compassion, jealousy, love,
and deep longing. Only twice was the silence broken. Once when he
asked her whether she had lunched, and she who had eaten nothing all
Once when he said:
"You shouldn't have come here, Mother; I'm a bit out of sorts!"
She watched his face, dearest to her in all the world, bent towards
the floor, and she so yearned to hold it to her breast that, since
she dared not, the tears stole up, and silently rolled down her
cheeks. The stillness in that room, chosen for remoteness, was like
the stillness of a tomb, and, as in a tomb, there was no outlook on
the world, for the glass of the skylight was opaque.
That deathly stillness settled round her heart; her eyes fixed
themselves on the skylight, as though beseeching it to break and let
in sound. A cat, making a pilgrimage from roof to roof, the four
dark moving spots of its paws, the faint blur of its body, was all
she saw. And suddenly, unable to bear it any longer, she cried:
"Oh, George, speak to me! Don't put me away from you like this!"
"What do you want me to say, Mother?"
And falling on her knees beside her son, she pulled his head down
against her breast, and stayed rocking herself to and fro, silently
shifting closer till she could feel his head lie comfortably; so, she
had his face against her heart, and she could not bear to let it go.
Her knees hurt her on the boarded floor, her back and all her body
ached; but not for worlds would she relax an inch, believing that she
could comfort him with her pain, and her tears fell on his neck.
When at last he drew his face away she sank down on the floor, and
could not rise, but her fingers felt that the bosom of her dress was
wet. He said hoarsely:
"It's all right, Mother; you needn't worry!"
For no reward would she have looked at him just then, but with a
deeper certainty than reason she knew that he was safe.
Stealthily on the sloping skylight the cat retraced her steps, its
four paws dark moving spots, its body a faint blur.
Mrs. Pendyce rose.
"I won't stay now, darling. May I use your glass?"
Standing before that mirror, smoothing back her hair, passing her
handkerchief over her cheeks and eyes and lips, she thought:
'That woman has stood here! That woman has smoothed her hair,
looking in this glass, and wiped his kisses from her cheeks! May God
give to her the pain that she has given to my son!'
But when she had wished that wish she shivered.
She turned to George at the door with a smile that seemed to say:
'It's no good to weep, or try and tell you what is in my heart, and
so, you see, I'm smiling. Please smile, too, so as to comfort me a
George put a small paper parcel in her hand and tried to smile.
Mrs. Pendyce went quickly out. Bewildered by the sunlight, she did
not look at this parcel till she was beyond the outer gate. It
contained an amethyst necklace, an emerald pendant, and a diamond
ring. In the little grey street that led to this garden with its
poplars, old fountain, and green gate, the jewels glowed and sparkled
as though all light and life had settled there. Mrs. Pendyce, who
loved colour and glowing things, saw that they were beautiful.
That woman had taken them, used their light and colour, and then
flung them back! She wrapped them again in the paper, tied the
string, and went towards the river. She did not hurry, but walked
with her eyes steadily before her. She crossed the Embankment, and
stood leaning on the parapet with her hands over the grey water. Her
thumb and fingers unclosed; the white parcel dropped, floated a
second, and then disappeared.
Mrs. Pendyce looked round her with a start.
A young man with a beard, whose face was familiar, was raising his
"So your son was in," he said. "I'm very glad. I must thank you
again for standing to me just that minute; it made all the
difference. It was the relation between the figure and the door that
I wanted to get. Good-morning!"
Mrs. Pendyce murmured "Good-morning," following him with startled
eyes, as though he had caught her in the commission of a crime. She
had a vision of those jewels, buried, poor things! in the grey
slime, a prey to gloom, and robbed for ever of their light and
colour. And, as though she had sinned, wronged the gentle essence of
her nature, she hurried away.
GREGORY LOOKS AT THE SKY
Gregory Vigil called Mr. Paramor a pessimist it was because, like
other people, he did not know the meaning of, the term; for with a
confusion common to the minds of many persons who have been conceived
in misty moments, he thought that, to see things as they were, meant,
to try and make them worse. Gregory had his own way of seeing things
that was very dear to him--so dear that he would shut his eyes sooner
than see them any other way. And since things to him were not the
same as things to Mr. Paramor, it cannot, after all, be said that he
did not see things as they were. But dirt upon a face that he wished
to be clean he could not see--a fluid in his blue eyes dissolved that
dirt while the image of the face was passing on to their retinae.
The process was unconscious, and has been called idealism. This was
why the longer he reflected the more agonisedly certain he became
that his ward was right to be faithful to the man she loved, right to
join her life to his. And he went about pressing the blade of this
thought into his soul.
About four o'clock on the day of Mrs. Pendyce's visit to the studio a
letter was brought him by a page-boy.
"I have seen Helen Bellew, and have just come from George. We have
all been living in a bad dream. She does not love him--perhaps has
never loved him. I do not know; I do not wish to judge. She has
given him up. I will not trust myself to say anything about that.
>From beginning to end it all seems so unnecessary, such a needless,
cross-grained muddle. I write this line to tell you how things
really are, and to beg you, if you have a moment to spare, to look in
at George's club this evening and let me know if he is there and how
he seems. There is no one else that I could possibly ask to do this
for me. Forgive me if this letter pains you.
"Your affectionate cousin,
To those with the single eye, the narrow personal view of all things
human, by whom the irony underlying the affairs of men is unseen and
unenjoyed, whose simple hearts afford that irony its most precious
smiles, who; vanquished by that irony, remain invincible--to these no
blow of Fate, no reversal of their ideas, can long retain importance.
The darts stick, quaver, and fall off, like arrows from chain-armour,
and the last dart, slipping upwards under the harness, quivers into
the heart to the cry of "What--you! No, no; I don't believe you're
Such as these have done much of what has had to be done in this old
world, and perhaps still more of what has had to be undone.
When Gregory received this letter he was working on the case of a
woman with the morphia habit. He put it into his pocket and went on
working. It was all he was capable of doing.
"Here is the memorandum, Mrs. Shortman. Let them take her for six
weeks. She will come out a different woman."
Mrs. Shortman, supporting her thin face in her thin hand, rested her
glowing eyes on Gregory.
"I'm afraid she has lost all moral sense," she said. "Do you know,
Mr. Vigil, I'm almost afraid she never had any!"
"What do you mean?"
Mrs. Shortman turned her eyes away.
"I'm sometimes tempted to think," she said, "that there are such
people. I wonder whether we allow enough for that. When I was a
girl in the country I remember the daughter of our vicar, a very
pretty creature. There were dreadful stories about her, even before
she was married, and then we heard she was divorced. She came up to
London and earned her own living by playing the piano until she
married again. I won't tell you her name, but she is very well
known, and nobody has ever seen her show the slightest signs of being
ashamed. If there is one woman like that there may be dozens, and I
sometimes think we waste----"
Gregory said dryly:
"I have heard you say that before."
Mrs. Shortman bit her lips.
" I don't think," she said, "that I grudge my efforts or my time."
Gregory went quickly up, and took her hand.
"I know that--oh, I know that," he said with feeling.
The sound of Miss Mallow furiously typing rose suddenly from the
corner. Gregory removed his hat from the peg on which it hung.
"I must go now," he said. "Good-night."
Without warning, as is the way with hearts, his heart had begun to
bleed, and he felt that he must be in the open air. He took no
omnibus or cab, but strode along with all his might, trying to think,
trying to understand. But he could only feel-confused and battered
feelings, with now and then odd throbs of pleasure of which he was
ashamed. Whether he knew it or not, he was making his way to
Chelsea, for though a man's eyes may be fixed on the stars, his feet
cannot take him there, and Chelsea seemed to them the best
alternative. He was not alone upon this journey, for many another
man was going there, and many a man had been and was coming now away,
and the streets were the one long streaming crowd of the summer
afternoon. And the men he met looked at Gregory, and Gregory looked
at them, and neither saw the other, for so it is written of men, lest
they pay attention to cares that are not their own. The sun that
scorched his face fell on their backs, the breeze that cooled his
back blew on their cheeks. For the careless world, too, was on its
way, along the pavement of the universe, one of millions going to
Chelsea, meeting millions coming away....
"Mrs. Bellew at home?"
He went into a room fifteen feet square and perhaps ten high, with a
sulky canary in a small gilt cage, an upright piano with an open
operatic score, a sofa with piled-up cushions, and on it a woman with
a flushed and sullen face, whose elbows were resting on her knees,
whose chin was resting on her hand, whose gaze was fixed on nothing.
It was a room of that size, with all these things, but Gregory took
into it with him some thing that made it all seem different to
Gregory. He sat down by the window with his eyes care fully averted,
and spoke in soft tones broken by something that sounded like
emotion. He began by telling her of his woman with the morphia
habit, and then he told her that he knew every thing. When he had
said this he looked out of the window, where builders had left by
inadvertence a narrow strip of sky. And thus he avoided seeing the
look on her face, contemptuous, impatient, as though she were
thinking: 'You are a good fellow, Gregory, but for Heaven's sake do
see things for once as they are! I have had enough of it.' And he
avoided seeing her stretch her arms out and spread the fingers, as an
angry cat will stretch and spread its toes. He told her that he did
not want to worry her, but that when she wanted him for anything she
must send for him--he was always there; and he looked at her feet, so
that he did not see her lip curl. He told her that she would always
be the same to him, and he asked her to believe that. He did not see
the smile which never left her lips again while he was there--the
smile he could not read, because it was the smile of life, and of a
woman that he did not understand. But he did see on that sofa a
beautiful creature for whom he had longed for years, and so he went
away, and left her standing at the door with her teeth fastened on
her lip: And since with him Gregory took his eyes, he did not see her
reseated on the sofa, just as she had been before he came in, her
elbows on her knees, her chin in her hand, her moody eyes like those
of a gambler staring into the distance....
In the streets of tall houses leading away from Chelsea were many
men, some, like Gregory, hungry for love, and some hungry for bread--
men in twos and threes, in crowds, or by themselves, some with their
eyes on the ground, some with their eyes level, some with their eyes
on the sky, but all with courage and loyalty of one poor kind or
another in their hearts. For by courage and loyalty alone it is
written that man shall live, whether he goes to Chelsea or whether he
comes away. Of all these men, not one but would have smiled to hear
Gregory saying to himself: "She will always be the same to me! She
will always be the same to me!" And not one that would have
It was getting on for the Stoics' dinner hour when Gregory found
himself in Piccadilly, and, Stoic after Stoic, they were getting out
of cabs and passing the club doors. The poor fellows had been
working hard all day on the racecourse, the cricket-ground, at
Hurlingham, or in the Park; some had been to the Royal Academy, and
on their faces was a pleasant look: "Ah, God is good--we can rest at
last!" And many of them had had no lunch, hoping to keep their
weights down, and many who had lunched had not done themselves as
well as might be hoped, and some had done themselves too well; but in
all their hearts the trust burned bright that they might do
themselves better at dinner, for their God was good, and dwelt
between the kitchen and the cellar of the Stoics' Club. And all--for
all had poetry in their souls--looked forward to those hours in
paradise when, with cigars between their lips, good wine below, they
might dream the daily dream that comes to all true Stoics for about
fifteen shillings or even less, all told.
>From a little back slum, within two stones' throw of the god of the
Stoics' Club, there had come out two seamstresses to take the air;
one was in consumption, having neglected to earn enough to feed
herself properly for some years past, and the other looked as if she
would be in consumption shortly, for the same reason. They stood on
the pavement, watching the cabs drive up. Some of the Stoics saw
them and thought: 'Poor girls! they look awfully bad.' Three or four
said to themselves: "It oughtn't to be allowed. I mean, it's so
painful to see; and it's not as if one could do anything. They're
not beggars, don't you know, and so what can one do?"
But most of the Stoics did not look at them at all, feeling that
their soft hearts could not stand these painful sights, and anxious
not to spoil their dinners. Gregory did not see them either, for it
so happened that he was looking at the sky, and just then the two
girls crossed the road and were lost among the passers-by, for they
were not dogs, who could smell out the kind of man he was.
"Mr. Pendyce is in the club; I will send your name up, sir." And
rolling a little, as though Gregory's name were heavy, the porter
gave it to the boy, who went away with it.
Gregory stood by the empty hearth and waited, and while he waited,
nothing struck him at all, for the Stoics seemed very natural, just
mere men like himself, except that their clothes were better, which
made him think: 'I shouldn't care to belong here and have to dress
for dinner every night.'
"Mr. Pendyce is very sorry, sir, but he's engaged."
Gregory bit his lip, said "Thank you," and went away.
'That's all Margery wants,' he thought; 'the rest is nothing to me,'
and, getting on a bus, he fixed his eyes once more on the sky.
But George was not engaged. Like a wounded animal taking its hurt
for refuge to its lair, he sat in his favourite window overlooking
Piccadilly. He sat there as though youth had left him, unmoving,
never lifting his eyes. In his stubborn mind a wheel seemed turning,
grinding out his memories to the last grain. And Stoics, who could
not bear to see a man sit thus throughout that sacred hour, came up
from time to time.
"Aren't you going to dine, Pendyce?"
Dumb brutes tell no one of their pains; the law is silence. So with
George. And as each Stoic came up, he only set his teeth and said:
"Presently, old chap."
TOUR WITH THE SPANIEL JOHN
Now the spaniel John--whose habit was to smell of heather and baked
biscuits when he rose from a night's sleep--was in disgrace that
Thursday. Into his long and narrow head it took time for any new
idea to enter, and not till forty hours after Mrs. Pendyce had gone
did he recognise fully that something definite had happened to his
master. During the agitated minutes that this conviction took in
forming, he worked hard. Taking two and a half brace of his master's
shoes and slippers, and placing them in unaccustomed spots, he lay on
them one by one till they were warm, then left them for some bird or
other to hatch out, and returned to Mr. Pendyce's door. It was for
all this that the Squire said, "John!" several times, and threatened
him with a razorstrop. And partly because he could not bear to leave
his master for a single second--the scolding had made him love him so
--and partly because of that new idea, which let him have no peace,
he lay in the hall waiting.
Having once in his hot youth inadvertently followed the Squire's
horse, he could never be induced to follow it again. He both
personally disliked this needlessly large and swift form of animal,
and suspected it of designs upon his master; for when the creature
had taken his master up, there was not a smell of him left anywhere--
not a whiff of that pleasant scent that so endeared him to the heart.
As soon, therefore, as the horse appeared, the spaniel John would.
lie down on his stomach with his forepaws close to his nose, and his
nose close to the ground; nor until the animal vanished could he be
induced to abandon an attitude in which he resembled a couching
But this afternoon, with his tail down, his lips pouting, his
shoulders making heavy work of it, his nose lifted in deprecation of
that ridiculous and unnecessary plane on which his master sat, he
followed at a measured distance. In such-wise, aforetime, the
village had followed the Squire and Mr. Barter when they introduced
into it its one and only drain.
Mr. Pendyce rode slowly; his feet, in their well-blacked boots, his
nervous legs in Bedford cord and mahogany-coloured leggings, moved in
rhyme to the horse's trot. A long-tailed coat fell clean and full
over his thighs; his back and shoulders were a wee bit bent to lessen
motion, and above his neat white stock under a grey bowler hat his
lean, greywhiskered and moustachioed face, with harassed eyes, was
preoccupied and sad. His horse, a brown blood mare, ambled lazily,
head raking forward, and bang tail floating outward from her hocks.
And so, in the June sunshine, they went, all three, along the leafy
lane to Worsted Scotton....
On Tuesday, the day that Mrs. Pendyce had left, the Squire had come
in later than usual, for he felt that after their difference of the
night before, a little coolness would do her no harm. The first hour
of discovery had been as one confused and angry minute, ending in a
burst of nerves and the telegram to General Pendyce. He took the
telegram himself, returning from the village with his head down, a
sudden prey to a feeling of shame--an odd and terrible feeling that
he never remembered to have felt before, a sort of fear of his
fellow-creatures. He would have chosen a secret way, but there was
none, only the highroad, or the path across the village green, and
through the churchyard to his paddocks. An old cottager was standing
at the turnstile, and the Squire made for him with his head down, as
a bull makes for a fence. He had meant to pass in silence, but
between him and this old broken husbandman there was a bond forged by
the ages. Had it meant death, Mr. Pendyce could not have passed one
whose fathers had toiled for his fathers, eaten his fathers' bread,
died with his fathers, without a word and a movement of his hand.
"Evenin', Squire; nice evenin'. Faine weather fur th' hay!"
The voice was warped and wavery.
'This is my Squire,' it seemed to say, 'whatever ther' be agin him!'
Mr. Pendyce's hand went up to his hat.
"Evenin', Hermon. Aye, fine weather for the hay! Mrs. Pendyce has
gone up to London. We young bachelors, ha!"
He passed on.
Not until he had gone some way did he perceive why he had made that
announcement. It was simply because he must tell everyone, everyone;
then no one could be astonished.
He hurried on to the house to dress in time for dinner, and show all
that nothing was amiss. Seven courses would have been served him had
the sky fallen; but he ate little, and drank more claret than was his
wont. After dinner he sat in his study with the windows open, and in
the mingled day and lamp light read his wife's letter over again. As
it was with the spaniel John, so with his master--a new idea
penetrated but slowly into his long and narrow head.
She was cracked about George; she did not know what she was doing;
would soon come to her senses. It was not for him to take any steps.
What steps, indeed, could he take without confessing that Horace
Pendyce had gone too far, that Horace Pendyce was in the wrong? That
had never been his habit, and he could not alter now. If she and
George chose to be stubborn, they must take the consequences, and
fend for themselves.
In the silence and the lamplight, growing mellower each minute under
the green silk shade, he sat confusedly thinking of the past. And in
that dumb reverie, as though of fixed malice, there came to him no
memories that were not pleasant, no images that were not fair. He
tried to think of her unkindly, he tried to paint her black; but with
the perversity born into the world when he was born, to die when he
was dead, she came to him softly, like the ghost of gentleness, to
haunt his fancy. She came to him smelling of sweet scents, with a
slight rustling of silk, and the sound of her expectant voice,
saying, "Yes, dear?" as though she were not bored. He remembered
when he brought her first to Worsted Skeynes thirty-four years ago,
"That timid, and like a rose, but a lady every hinch, the love!" as
his old nurse had said.
He remembered her when George was born, like wax for whiteness and
transparency, with eyes that were all pupils, and a hovering smile.
So many other times he remembered her throughout those years, but
never as a woman faded, old; never as a woman of the past. Now that
he had not got her, for the first time Mr. Pendyce realised that she
had not grown old, that she was still to him "timid, and like a rose,
but a lady every hinch, the love!" And he could not bear this
thought; it made him feel so miserable and lonely in the lamplight,
with the grey moths hovering round, and the spaniel John asleep upon
So, taking his candle, he went up to bed. The doors that barred away
the servants' wing were closed. In all that great remaining space of
house his was the only candle, the only sounding footstep. Slowly he
mounted as he had mounted many thousand times, but never once like
this, and behind him, like a shadow, mounted the spaniel John.
And She that knows the hearts of men and dogs, the Mother from whom
all things come, to whom they all go home, was watching, and
presently, when they were laid, the one in his deserted bed, the
other on blue linen, propped against the door, She gathered them to
But Wednesday came, and with it Wednesday duties. They who have
passed the windows of the Stoics' Club and seen the Stoics sitting
there have haunting visions of the idle landed classes. These
visions will not let them sleep, will not let their tongues to cease
from bitterness, for they so long to lead that "idle" life
themselves. But though in a misty land illusions be our cherished
lot, that we may all think falsely of our neighbours and enjoy
ourselves, the word "idle" is not at all the word.
Many and heavy tasks weighed on the Squire at Worsted Skeynes. There
was the visit to the stables to decide as to firing Beldame's hock,
or selling the new bay horse because he did not draw men fast enough,
and the vexed question of Bruggan's oats or Beal's, talked out with
Benson, in a leather belt and flannel shirt-sleeves, like a
corpulent, white-whiskered boy. Then the long sitting in the study
with memorandums and accounts, all needing care, lest So-and-so
should give too little for too little, or too little for too much;
and the smart walk across to Jarvis, the head keeper, to ask after
the health of the new Hungarian bird, or discuss a scheme whereby in
the last drive so many of those creatures he had nurtured from their
youth up might be deterred from flying over to his friend Lord
Quarryman. And this took long, for Jarvis's feelings forced him to
say six times, "Well, Mr. Pendyce, sir, what I say is we didn't
oughter lose s'many birds in that last drive;" and Mr. Pendyce to
answer: "No, Jarvis, certainly not. Well, what do you suggest?" And
that other grievous question--how to get plenty of pheasants and
plenty of foxes to dwell together in perfect harmony--discussed with
endless sympathy, for, as the Squire would say, "Jarvis is quite safe
with foxes." He could not bear his covers to be drawn blank.
Then back to a sparing lunch, or perhaps no lunch at all, that he
might keep fit and hard; and out again at once on horseback or on
foot to the home farm or further, as need might take him, and a long
afternoon, with eyes fixed on the ribs of bullocks, the colour of
swedes, the surfaces of walls or gates or fences.
Then home again to tea and to the Times, which had as yet received.
but fleeting glances, with close attention to all those Parliamentary
measures threatening, remotely, the existing state of things, except,
of course, that future tax on wheat so needful to the betterment of
Worsted Skeynes. There were occasions, too, when they brought him
tramps to deal with, to whom his one remark would be, "Hold out your
hands, my man," which, being found unwarped by honest toil, were
promptly sent to gaol. When found so warped, Mr. Pendyce was at a
loss, and would walk up and down, earnestly trying to discover what
his duty was to them. There were days, too, almost entirely occupied
by sessions, when many classes of offenders came before him, to whom
he meted justice according to the heinousness of the offence, from
poaching at the top down and down to wife-beating at the bottom; for,
though a humane man, tradition did not suffer him to look on this
form of sport as really criminal--at any rate, not in the country.
It was true that all these matters could have been settled in a
fraction of the time by a young and trained intelligence, but this
would have wronged tradition, disturbed the Squire's settled
conviction that he was doing his duty, and given cause for slanderous
tongues to hint at idleness. And though, further, it was true that
all this daily labour was devoted directly or indirectly to interests
of his own, what was that but doing his duty to the country and
asserting the prerogative of every Englishman at all costs to be
But on this Wednesday the flavour of the dish was gone. To be alone
amongst his acres, quite alone--to have no one to care whether he did
anything at all, no one to whom he might confide that Beldame's hock
was to be fired, that Peacock was asking for more gates, was almost
more than he could bear. He would have wired to the girls to come
home, but he could not bring him self to face their questions.
Gerald was at Gib! George--George was no son of his!--and his pride
forbade him to write to her who had left him thus to solitude and
shame. For deep down below his stubborn anger it was shame that the
Squire felt--shame that he should have to shun his neighbours, lest
they should ask him questions which, for his own good name and his
own pride, he must answer with a lie; shame that he should not be
master in his own house--still more, shame that anyone should see
that he was not. To be sure, he did not know that he felt shame,
being unused to introspection, having always kept it at arm's length.
For he always meditated concretely, as, for instance, when he looked
up and did not see his wife at breakfast, but saw Bester making
coffee, he thought, 'That fellow knows all about it, I shouldn't
wonder!' and he felt angry for thinking that. When he saw Mr. Barter
coming down the drive he thought, 'Confound it! I can't meet him,'
and slipped out, and felt angry that he had thus avoided him. When
in the Scotch garden he came on Jackman syringing the rose-trees, he
said to him, "Your mistress has gone to London," and abruptly turned
away, angry that he had been obliged by a mysterious impulse to tell
So it was, all through that long, sad day, and the only thing that
gave him comfort was to score through, in the draft of his will,
bequests to his eldest son, and busy himself over drafting a clause
to take their place:
"Forasmuch as my eldest son, George Hubert, has by conduct unbecoming
to a gentleman and a Pendyce, proved himself unworthy of my
confidence, and forasmuch as to my regret I am unable to cut the
entail of my estate, I hereby declare that he shall in no way
participate in any division of my other property or of my personal
effects, conscientiously believing that it is my duty so to do in the
interests of my family and of the country, and I make this
declaration without anger."
For, all the anger that he was balked of feeling against his wife,
because he missed her so, was added to that already felt against his
By the last post came a letter from General Pendyce. He opened it
with fingers as shaky as his brother's writing.
"ARMY AND NAVY CLUB.
"What the deuce and all made you send that telegram? It spoiled my
breakfast, and sent me off in a tearing hurry, to find Margery
perfectly well. If she'd been seedy or anything I should have been
delighted, but there she was, busy about her dresses and what not,
and I dare say she thought me a lunatic for coming at that time in
the morning. You shouldn't get into the habit of sending telegrams.
A telegram is a thing that means something--at least, I've always
thought so. I met George coming away from her in a deuce of a hurry.
I can't write any more now. I'm just going to have my lunch.
"Your affectionate brother,
She was well. She had been seeing George. With a hardened heart the
Squire went up to bed.
And Wednesday came to an end....
And so on the Thursday afternoon the brown blood mare carried Mr.
Pendyce along the lane, followed by the spaniel John. They passed
the Firs, where Bellew lived, and, bending sharply to the right,
began to mount towards the Common; and with them mounted the image of
that fellow who was at the bottom of it all--an image that ever
haunted the Squire's mind nowadays; a ghost, high-shouldered, with
little burning eyes, clipped red moustaches, thin bowed legs. A
plague spot on that system which he loved, a whipping-post to
heredity, a scourge like Attila the Hun; a sort of damnable
caricature of all that a country gentleman should be--of his love of
sport and open air, of his "hardness" and his pluck; of his powers of
knowing his own mind, and taking his liquor like a man; of his creed,
now out of date, of gallantry. Yes--a kind of cursed bogey of a man,
a spectral follower of the hounds, a desperate character--a man that
in old days someone would have shot; a drinking, white-faced devil
who despised Horace Pendyce, whom Horace Pendyce hated, yet could not
quite despise. "Always one like that in a hunting country!" A black
dog on the shoulders of his order. 'Post equitem sedet' Jaspar
The Squire came out on the top of the rise, and all Worsted Scotton
was in sight. It was a sandy stretch of broom and gorse and heather,
with a few Scotch firs; it had no value at all, and he longed for it,
as a boy might long for the bite someone else had snatched out of his
apple. It distressed him lying there, his and yet not his, like a
wife who was no wife--as though Fortune were enjoying her at his
expense. Thus was he deprived of the fulness of his mental image;
for as with all men, so with the Squire, that which he loved and
owned took definite form--a some thing that he saw. Whenever the
words "Worsted Skeynes" were in his mind--and that was almost always--
there rose before him an image defined and concrete, however
indescribable; and what ever this image was, he knew that Worsted
Scot ton spoiled it. It was true that he could not think of any use
to which to put the Common, but he felt deeply that it was pure dog-
in-the-mangerism of the cottagers, and this he could not stand. Not
one beast in two years had fattened on its barrenness. Three old
donkeys alone eked out the remnants of their days. A bundle of
firewood or old bracken, a few peat sods from one especial corner,
were all the selfish peasants gathered. But the cottagers were no
great matter--he could soon have settled them; it was that fellow
Peacock whom he could not settle, just because he happened to abut on
the Common, and his fathers had been nasty before him. Mr. Pendyce
rode round looking at the fence his father had put up, until he came
to the portion that Peacock's father had pulled down; and here, by a
strange fatality--such as will happen even in printed records--he
came on Peacock himself standing in the gap, as though he had
foreseen this visit of the Squire's. The mare stopped of her own
accord, the spaniel John at a measured distance lay down to think,
and all those yards away he could be heard doing it, and now and then
swallowing his tongue.
Peacock stood with his hands in his breeches' pockets. An old straw
hat was on his head, his little eyes were turned towards the ground;
and his cob, which he had tied to what his father had left standing
of the fence, had his eyes, too, turned towards the ground, for he
was eating grass. Mr. Pendyce's fight with his burning stable had
stuck in the farmer's "gizzard" ever since. He felt that he was
forgetting it day by day--would soon forget it altogether. He felt
the old sacred doubts inherited from his fathers rising every hour
within him. And so he had come up to see what looking at the gap
would do for his sense of gratitude. At sight of the Squire his
little eyes turned here and there, as a pig's eyes turn when it
receives a blow behind. That Mr. Pendyce should have chosen this
moment to come up was as though Providence, that knoweth all things,
knew the natural thing for Mr. Pendyce to do.
"Afternoon, Squire. Dry weather; rain's badly wanted. I'll get no
feed if this goes on."
Mr. Pendyce answered:
"Afternoon, Peacock. Why, your fields are first-rate for grass."
They hastily turned their eyes away, for at that moment they could
not bear to see each other.
There was a silence; then Peacock said:
"What about those gates of mine, Squire?" and his voice quavered, as
though gratitude might yet get the better of him.
The Squire's irritable glance swept over the unfenced space to right
and left, and the thought flashed through his mind:
'Suppose I were to give the beggar those gates, would he--would he
let me enclose the Scotton again?'
He looked at that square, bearded man, and the infallible instinct,
christened so wickedly by Mr. Paramor, guided him.
"What's wrong with your gates, man, I should like to know?"
Peacock looked at him full this time; there was no longer any quaver
in his voice, but a sort of rough good-humour.
"Wy, the 'arf o' them's as rotten as matchwood!" he said; and he
took a breath of relief, for he knew that gratitude was dead within
"Well, I wish mine at the home farm were half as good. Come, John!"
and, touching the mare with his heel, Mr. Pendyce turned; but before
he had gone a dozen paces he was back.
"Mrs. Peacock well, I hope? Mrs. Pendyce has gone up to London."
And touching his hat, without waiting for Peacock's answer, he rode
away. He took the lane past Peacock's farm across the home paddocks,
emerging on the cricket-ground, a field of his own which he had
caused to be converted.
The return match with Coldingham was going on, and, motionless on his
horse, the Squire stopped to watch. A tall figure in the "long
field" came leisurely towards him. It was the Hon. Geoffrey Winlow.
Mr. Pendyce subdued an impulse to turn the mare and ride away.
"We're going to give you a licking, Squire! How's Mrs. Pendyce? My
wife sent her love."
On the Squire's face in the full sun was more than the sun's flush.
"Thanks," he said, "she's very well. She's gone up to London."
"And aren't you going up yourself this season?"
The Squire crossed those leisurely eyes with his own.
"I don't think so," he said slowly.
The Hon. Geoffrey returned to his duties.
"We got poor old Barter for a 'blob'!" he said over his shoulder.
The Squire became aware that Mr. Barter was approaching from behind.
"You see that left-hand fellow?" he said, pouting. "Just watch his
foot. D'you mean to say that wasn't a no-ball? He bowled me with a
no-ball. He's a rank no-batter. That fellow Locke's no more an
He stopped and looked earnestly at the bowler.
The Squire 'did not answer, sitting on his mare as though carved in
stone. Suddenly his throat clicked.
"How's your wife?" he said. "Margery would have come to see her,
but--but she's gone up to London."
The Rector did not turn his head.
"My wife? Oh, going on first-rate. There's another! I say, Winlow,
this is too bad!"
The Hon. Geoffrey's pleasant voice was heard:
"Please not to speak to the man at the wheel!"
The Squire turned the mare and rode away; and the spaniel John, who
had been watching from a measured distance, followed after, his
tongue lolling from his mouth.
The Squire turned through a gate down the main aisle of the home
covert, and the nose and the tail of the spaniel John, who scented
creatures to the left and right, were in perpetual motion. It was
cool in there. The June foliage made one long colonnade, broken by a
winding river of sky. Among the oaks and hazels; the beeches and the
elms, the ghostly body of a birch-tree shone here and there, captured
by those grosser trees which seemed to cluster round her, proud of
their prisoner, loth to let her go, that subtle spirit of their wood.
They knew that, were she gone, their forest lady, wilder and yet
gentler than themselves--they would lose credit, lose the grace and
essence of their corporate being.
The Squire dismounted, tethered his horse, and sat under one of those
birch-trees, on the fallen body of an elm. The spaniel John also sat
and loved him with his eyes. And sitting there they thought their
thoughts, but their thoughts were different.
For under this birch-tree Horace Pendyce had stood and kissed his
wife the very day he brought her home to Worsted Skeynes, and though
he did not see the parallel between her and the birch-tree that some
poor imaginative creature might have drawn, yet was he thinking of
that long past afternoon. But the spaniel John was not thinking of
it; his recollection was too dim, for he had been at that time
twenty-eight years short of being born.
Mr. Pendyce sat there long with his horse and with his dog, and from
out the blackness of the spaniel John, who was more than less asleep,
there shone at times an eye turned on his master like some devoted
star. The sun, shining too, gilded the stem of the birch-tree. The
birds and beasts began their evening stir all through the
undergrowth, and rabbits, popping out into the ride, looked with
surprise at the spaniel John, and popped in back again. They knew
that men with horses had no guns, but could not bring themselves to
trust that black and hairy thing whose nose so twitched whenever they
appeared. The gnats came out to dance, and at their dancing, every
sound and scent and shape became the sounds and scents and shapes of
evening; and there was evening in the Squire's heart.
Slowly and stiffly he got up from the log and mounted to ride home.
It would be just as lonely when he got there, but a house is better
than a wood, where the gnats dance, the birds and creatures stir and
stir, and shadows lengthen; where the sun steals upwards on the tree-
stems, and all is careless of its owner, Man.
It was past seven o'clock when he went to his study. There was a
lady standing at the window, and Mr. Pendyce said:
"I beg your pardon?"
The lady turned; it was his wife. The Squire stopped with a hoarse
sound, and stood silent, covering his eyes with his hand.
ACUTE ATTACK OF 'PENDYCITIS'
Mrs. Pendyce felt very faint when she hurried away from Chelsea. She
had passed through hours of great emotion, and eaten nothing.
Like sunset clouds or the colours in mother-o'-pearl, so, it is
written, shall be the moods of men--interwoven as the threads of an
embroidery, less certain than an April day, yet with a rhythm of
their own that never fails, and no one can quite scan.
A single cup of tea on her way home, and her spirit revived. It
seemed suddenly as if there had been a great ado about nothing! As
if someone had known how stupid men could be, and been playing a
fantasia on that stupidity. But this gaiety of spirit soon died
away, confronted by the problem of what she should do next.
She reached her hotel without making a decision. She sat down in the
reading-room to write to Gregory, and while she sat there with her
pen in her hand a dreadful temptation came over her to say bitter
things to him, because by not seeing people as they were he had
brought all this upon them. But she had so little practice in saying
bitter things that she could not think of any that were nice enough,
and in the end she was obliged to leave them out. After finishing
and sending off the note she felt better. And it came to her
suddenly that, if she packed at once, there was just time to catch
the 5.55 to Worsted Skeynes.
As in leaving her home, so in returning, she followed her instinct,
and her instinct told her to avoid unnecessary fuss and suffering.
The decrepit station fly, mouldy and smelling of stables, bore her
almost lovingly towards the Hall. Its old driver, clean-faced,
cheery, somewhat like a bird, drove her almost furiously, for, though
he knew nothing, he felt that two whole days and half a day were
quite long enough for her to be away. At the lodge gate old Roy, the
Skye, was seated on his haunches, and the sight of him set Mrs.
Pendyce trembling as though till then she had not realised that she
was coming home.
Home! The long narrow lane without a turning, the mists and
stillness, the driving rain and hot bright afternoons; the scents of
wood smoke and hay and the scent of her flowers; the Squire's voice,
the dry rattle of grass-cutters, the barking of dogs, and distant hum
of threshing; and Sunday sounds--church bells and rooks, and Mr.
Barter's preaching; the tastes, too, of the very dishes! And all
these scents and sounds and tastes, and the feel of the air to her
cheeks, seemed to have been for ever in the past, and to be going on
for ever in the time to come.
She turned red and white by turns, and felt neither joy nor sadness,
for in a wave the old life came over her. She went at once to the
study to wait for her husband to come in. At the hoarse sound he
made, her heart beat fast, while old Roy and the spaniel John growled
gently at each other.
"John," she murmured, "aren't you glad to see me, dear?"
The spaniel John, without moving, beat his tail against his master's
The Squire raised his head at last.
"Well, Margery?" was all he said.
It shot through her mind that he looked older, and very tired!
The dinner-gong began to sound, and as though attracted by its long
monotonous beating, a swallow flew in at one of the narrow windows
and fluttered round the room. Mrs. Pendyce's eyes followed its
The Squire stepped forward suddenly and took her hand.
"Don't run away from me again, Margery!" he said; and stooping down,
he kissed it.
At this action, so unlike her husband, Mrs. Pendyce blushed like a
girl. Her eyes above his grey and close-cropped head seemed grateful
that he did not reproach her, glad of that caress.
"I have some news to tell you, Horace. Helen Bellew has given George
The Squire dropped her hand.
"And quite time too," he said. "I dare say George has refused to
take his dismissal. He's as obstinate as a mule."
"I found him in a dreadful state."
Mr. Pendyce asked uneasily:
"What? What's that?"
"He looked so desperate."
"Desperate?" said the Squire, with a sort of startled anger.
Mrs. Pendyce went on:
"It was dreadful to see his face. I was with him this afternoon-"
The Squire said suddenly:
"He's not ill, is he?"
"No, not ill. Oh, Horace, don't you understand? I was afraid he
might do something rash. He was so--miserable."
The Squire began to walk up and down.
"Is he is he safe now?" he burst out.
Mrs. Pendyce sat down rather suddenly in the nearest chair.
"Yes," she said with difficulty, "I--I think so."
"Think! What's the good of that? What----Are you feeling faint,
Mrs. Pendyce, who had closed her eyes, said:
"No dear, it's all right."
Mr. Pendyce came close, and since air and quiet were essential to her
at that moment, he bent over and tried by every means in his power to
rouse her; and she, who longed to be let alone, sympathised with him,
for she knew that it was natural that he should do this. In spite of
his efforts the feeling of faintness passed, and, taking his hand,
she stroked it gratefully.
"What is to be done now, Horace?"
"Done!" cried the Squire. "Good God! how should I know? Here you
are in this state, all because of that d---d fellow Bellew and his
d---d wife! What you want is some dinner."
So saying, he put his arm around her, and half leading, half
carrying, took her to her room.
They did not talk much at dinner, and of indifferent things, of Mrs.
Barter, Peacock, the roses, and Beldame's hock. Only once they came
too near to that which instinct told them to avoid, for the Squire
"I suppose you saw that woman?"
And Mrs. Pendyce murmured:
She soon went to her room, and had barely got into bed when he
appeared, saying as though ashamed:
"I'm very early."
She lay awake, and every now and then the Squire would ask her, "Are
you asleep, Margery?" hoping that she might have dropped off, for he
himself could not sleep. And she knew that he meant to be nice to
her, and she knew, too, that as he lay awake, turning from side to
side, he was thinking like herself: 'What's to be done next?' And
that his fancy, too, was haunted by a ghost, high-shouldered, with
little burning eyes, red hair, and white freckled face. For, save
that George was miserable, nothing was altered, and the cloud of
vengeance still hung over Worsted Skeynes. Like some weary lesson
she rehearsed her thoughts: 'Now Horace can answer that letter of
Captain Bellow's, can tell him that George will not--indeed, cannot--
see her again. He must answer it. But will he?'
She groped after the secret springs of her husband's character,
turning and turning and trying to understand, that she might know the
best way of approaching him. And she could not feel sure, for behind
all the little outside points of his nature, that she thought so
"funny," yet could comprehend, there was something which seemed to
her as unknown, as impenetrable as the dark, a sort of thickness of
soul, a sort of hardness, a sort of barbaric-what? And as when in
working at her embroidery the point of her needle would often come to
a stop against stiff buckram, so now was the point of her soul
brought to a stop against the soul of her husband. 'Perhaps,' she
thought, 'Horace feels like that with me.' She need not so have
thought, for the Squire never worked embroideries, nor did the needle
of his soul make voyages of discovery.
By lunch-time the next day she had not dared to say a word. 'If I
say nothing,' she thought, 'he may write it of his own accord.'
Without attracting his attention, therefore, she watched every
movement of his morning. She saw him sitting at his bureau with a
creased and crumpled letter, and knew it was Bellew's; and she
hovered about, coming softly in and out, doing little things here and
there and in the hall, outside. But the Squire gave no sign,
motionless as the spaniel John couched along the ground with his nose
between his paws.
After lunch she could bear it no longer.
"What do you think ought to be done now, Horace?"
The Squire looked at her fixedly.
"If you imagine," he said at last, "that I'll have anything to do
with that fellow Bellew, you're very much mistaken."
Mrs. Pendyce was arranging a vase of flowers, and her hand shook so
that some of the water was spilled over the cloth. She took out her
handkerchief and dabbed it up.
"You never answered his letter, dear," she said.
The Squire put his back against the sideboard; his stiff figure, with
lean neck and angry eyes, whose pupils were mere pin-points, had a
"Nothing shall induce me!" he said, and his voice was harsh and
strong, as though he spoke for something bigger than himself. "I've
thought it over all the morning, and I'm d---d if I do! The man is a
ruffian. I won't knuckle under to him!"
Mrs. Pendyce clasped her hands.
"Oh, Horace," she said; "but for the sake of us all! Only just give
him that assurance."
"And let him crow over me!" cried the Squire. "By Jove, no!"
"But, Horace, I thought that was what you wanted George to do. You
wrote to him and asked him to promise."
The Squire answered:
"You know nothing about it, Margery; you know nothing about me.
D'you think I'm going to tell him that his wife has thrown my son
over--let him keep me gasping like a fish all this time, and then get
the best of it in the end? Not if I have to leave the county--not if
But, as though he had imagined the most bitter fate of all, he
Mrs. Pendyce, putting her hands on the lapels of his coat, stood with
her head bent. The colour had gushed into her cheeks, her eyes were
bright with tears. And there came from her in her emotion a warmth
and fragrance, a charm, as though she were again young, like the
portrait under which they stood.
"Not if I ask you, Horace?"
The Squire's face was suffused with dusky colour; he clenched his
hands and seemed to sway and hesitate.
"No, Margery," he said hoarsely; "it's--it's--I can't!"
And, breaking away from her, he left the room.
Mrs. Pendyce looked after him; her fingers, from which he had torn
his coat, began twining the one with the other.
BELLEW BOWS TO A LADY
There was silence at the Firs, and in that silent house, where only
five rooms were used, an old manservant sat in his pantry on a wooden
chair, reading from an article out of Rural Life. There was no one
to disturb him, for the master was asleep, and the housekeeper had
not yet come to cook the dinner. He read slowly, through spectacles,
engraving the words for ever on the tablets of his mind. He read
about the construction and habits of the owl: "In the tawny, or
brown, owl there is a manubrial process; the furcula, far from being
joined to the keel of the sternum, consists of two stylets, which do
not even meet; while the posterior margin of the sternum presents two
pairs of projections, with corresponding fissures between." The old
manservant paused, resting his blinking eyes on the pale sunlight
through the bars of his narrow window, so that a little bird on the
window-sill looked at him and instantly flew away.
The old manservant read on again: "The pterylological characters of
Photodilus seem not to have been investigated, but it has been found
to want the tarsal loop, as well as the manubrial process, while its
clavicles are not joined in a furcula, nor do they meet the keel, and
the posterior margin of the sternum has processes and fissures like
the tawny section." Again he paused, and his gaze was satisfied and
Up in the little smoking-room in a leather chair his master sat
asleep. In front of him were stretched his legs in dusty riding-
boots. His lips were closed, but through a little hole at one corner
came a tiny puffing sound. On the floor by his side was an empty
glass, between his feet a Spanish bulldog. On a shelf above his head
reposed some frayed and yellow novels with sporting titles, written
by persons in their inattentive moments. Over the chimneypiece
presided the portrait of Mr. Jorrocks persuading his horse to cross a
And the face of Jaspar Bellew asleep was the face of a man who has
ridden far, to get away from himself, and to-morrow will have to ride
far again. His sandy eyebrows twitched with his dreams against the
dead-white, freckled skin above high cheekbones, and two hard ridges
were fixed between his brows; now and then over the sleeping face
came the look of one riding at a gate.
In the stables behind the house she who had carried him on his ride,
having rummaged out her last grains of corn, lifted her nose and
poked it through the bars of her loosebox to see what he was doing
who had not carried her master that sweltering afternoon, and seeing
that he was awake, she snorted lightly, to tell him there was thunder
in the air. All else in the stables was deadly quiet; the
shrubberies around were still; and in the hushed house the master
But on the edge of his wooden chair in the silence of his pantry the
old manservant read, "This bird is a voracious feeder," and he
paused, blinking his eyes and nervously puckering his lips, for he
had partially understood....
Mrs. Pendyce was crossing the fields. She had on her prettiest
frock, of smoky-grey crepe, and she looked a little anxiously at the
sky. Gathered in the west a coming storm was chasing the whitened
sunlight. Against its purple the trees stood blackish-green.
Everything was very still, not even the poplars stirred, yet the
purple grew with sinister, unmoving speed. Mrs. Pendyce hurried,
grasping her skirts in both her hands, and she noticed that the
cattle were all grouped under the hedge.
'What dreadful-looking clouds!' she thought. 'I wonder if I shall
get to the Firs before it comes?' But though her frock made her
hasten, her heart made her stand still, it fluttered so, and was so
full. Suppose he were not sober! She remembered those little
burning eyes, which had frightened her so the night he dined at
Worsted Skeynes and fell out of his dogcart afterwards. A kind of
legendary malevolence clung about his image.
'Suppose he is horrid to me!' she thought.
She could not go back now; but she wished--how she wished!--that it
were over. A heat-drop splashed her glove. She crossed the lane and
opened the Firs gate. Throwing frightened glances at the sky, she
hastened down the drive. The purple was couched like a pall on the
treetops, and these had begun to sway and moan as though struggling
and weeping at their fate. Some splashes of warm rain were falling.
A streak of lightning tore the firmament. Mrs. Pendyce rushed into
the porch covering her ears with her hands.
'How long will it last?' she thought. 'I'm so frightened!'...
A very old manservant, whose face was all puckers, opened the door
suddenly to peer out at the storm, but seeing Mrs. Pendyce, he peered
at her instead.
"Is Captain Bellew at home?"
"Yes, ma'am. The Captain's in the study. We don't use the drawing-
room now. Nasty storm coming on, ma'am--nasty storm. Will you
please to sit down a minute, while I let the Captain know?"
The hall was low and dark; the whole house was low and dark, and
smelled a little of woodrot. Mrs. Pendyce did not sit down, but
stood under an arrangement of three foxes' heads, supporting two
hunting-crops, with their lashes hanging down. And the heads of
those animals suggested to her the thought: 'Poor man! He must be
very lonely here.'
She started. Something was rubbing against her knees: it was only an
enormous bulldog. She stooped down to pat it, and having once begun,
found it impossible to leave off, for when she took her hand away the
creature pressed against her, and she was afraid for her frock.
"Poor old boy--poor old boy!" she kept on murmuring. "Did he want a
A voice behind her said:
"Get out, Sam! Sorry to have kept you waiting. Won't you come in
Mrs. Pendyce, blushing and turning pale by turns, passed into a low,
small, panelled room, smelling of cigars and spirits. Through the
window, which was cut up into little panes, she could see the rain
driving past, the shrubs bent and dripping from the downpour.
"Won't you sit down?"
Mrs. Pendyce sat down. She had clasped her hands together; she now
raised her eyes and looked timidly at her host.
She saw a thin, high-shouldered figure, with bowed legs a little
apart, rumpled sandy hair, a pale, freckled face, and little dark
"Sorry the room's in such a mess. Don't often have the pleasure of
seeing a lady. I was asleep; generally am at this time of year!"
The bristly red moustache was contorted as though his lips were
Mrs. Pendyce murmured vaguely.
It seemed to her that nothing of this was real, but all some horrid
dream. A clap of thunder made her cover her ears.
Bellew walked to the window, glanced at the sky, and came back to the
hearth. His little burning eyes seemed to look her through and
through. 'If I don't speak at once,' she thought, 'I never shall
speak at all.'
"I've come," she began, and with those words she lost her fright; her
voice, that had been so uncertain hitherto, regained its trick of
speech; her eyes, all pupil, stared dark and gentle at this man who
had them all in his power--"I've come to tell you something, Captain
The figure by the hearth bowed, and her fright, like some evil bird,
came guttering down on her again. It was dreadful, it was barbarous
that she, that anyone, should have to speak of such things; it was
barbarous that men and women should so misunderstand each other, and
have so little sympathy and consideration; it was barbarous that she,
Margery Pendyce, should have to talk on this subject that must give
them both such pain. It was all so mean and gross and common! She
took out her handkerchief and passed it over her lips.
"Please forgive me for speaking. Your wife has given my son up,
Bellew did not move.
"She does not love him; she told me so herself! He will never see
How hateful, how horrible, how odious!
And still Bellew did not speak, but stood devouring her with his
little eyes; and how long this went on she could not tell.
He turned his back suddenly, and leaned against the mantelpiece.
Mrs. Pendyce passed her hand over her brow to get rid of a feeling of
"That is all," she said.
Her voice sounded to herself unlike her own.
'If that is really all,' she thought, 'I suppose I must get up and
go!' And it flashed through her mind: 'My poor dress will be ruined!'
Bellew turned round.
"Will you have some tea?"
Mrs. Pendyce smiled a pale little smile.
"No, thank you; I don't think I could drink any tea."
"I wrote a letter to your husband."
"He didn't answer it."
Mrs. Pendyce saw him staring at her, and a desperate struggle began
within her. Should she not ask him to keep his promise, now that
George----? Was not that what she had come for? Ought she not--
ought she not for all their sakes?
Bellew went up to the table, poured out some whisky, and drank it
"You don't ask me to stop the proceedings," he said.
Mrs. Pendyce's lips were parted, but nothing came through those
parted lips. Her eyes, black as sloes in her white face, never moved
from his; she made no sound.
Bellew dashed his hand across his brow.
"Well, I will!" he said, "for your sake. There's my hand on it.
You're the only lady I know!"
He gripped her gloved fingers, brushed past her, and she saw that she
She found her own way out, with the tears running down her face.
Very gently she shut the hall door.
'My poor dress!' she thought. 'I wonder if I might stand here a
little? The rain looks nearly over!'
The purple cloud had passed, and sunk behind the house, and a bright
white sky was pouring down a sparkling rain; a patch of deep blue
showed behind the fir-trees in the drive. The thrushes were out
already after worms. A squirrel scampering along a branch stopped
and looked at Mrs. Pendyce, and Mrs. Pendyce looked absently at the
squirrel from behind the little handkerchief with which she was
drying her eyes.
'That poor man!' she thought 'poor solitary creature! There's the
And it seemed to her that it was the first time the sun had shone all
this fine hot year. Gathering her dress in both hands, she stepped
into the drive, and soon was back again in the fields.
Every green thing glittered, and the air was so rain-sweet that all
the summer scents were gone, before the crystal scent of nothing.
Mrs. Pendyce's shoes were soon wet through.
'How happy I am!' she thought 'how glad and happy I am!'
And the feeling, which was not as definite as this, possessed her to
the exclusion of all other feelings in the rain-soaked fields.
The cloud that had hung over Worsted Skeynes so long had spent itself
and gone. Every sound seemed to be music, every moving thing danced.
She longed to get to her early roses, and see how the rain had
treated them. She had a stile to cross, and when she was safely over
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