The Irrational Knot
George Bernard Shaw
Part 5 out of 8
represents to you. Will you learn spiritual-mindedness from the sight of
her eyes, from the sound of her mouth, from the measure of her steps, or
from the music and the dancing that cease not within the doors of her
temple? How can Satan cast out Satan? Whom think ye to deceive by
whitening the sepulchre? Is it yourselves? The devil has blinded you
already. Is it God? Who shall hide anything from Him? I tell you that he
who makes the pursuit of virtue a luxury, and takes refuge from sin, not
before the altar, but in the playhouse, is casting out devils by
Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.
"As I look about me in this church; I see many things intended to give
pleasure to the carnal eye. Were the cost of all these dainty robes,
this delicate headgear, these clouds of silk, of satin, of lace, and of
sparkling jewels, were the price of these things brought into the
Church's treasury, how loudly might the Gospel resound in lands between
whose torrid shores and the tropical sun the holy shade of Calvary has
not yet fallen! But, you will say, it is a good thing to be comely in
the house of the Lord. The sight of what is beautiful elevates the mind.
Uncleanness is a vice. This, then, is how you will war with uncleanness.
Not by prayer and holy living. Not by pouring of your superfluity into
the lap of the poor, and entering by the strait gate upon the narrow
path in a garment without seam. No. By the dead and damning gold; by
the purple and by the scarlet; by the brightness of the eyes that is
born of new wine; by the mincing gait and the gloved fingers; and by the
musk and civet instead of the myrrh and frankincense: by these things
are you fain to purge your uncleanness. And will they suffice? Can Satan
cast out Satan? Beware! '_For though thou wash thee with nitre and take
thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord
God_.' There shall come a day when your lace and feathers shall hang on
you as heavy as your chains of gold, to drag you down to him in whose
name you have thought to cast out devils. Do not think that these things
are harmless vanities. Nothing can fill the human heart and be harmless.
If your thoughts be not of God, they will keep your minds distraught
from His grace as effectually as the blackest broodings of crime. '_Can
a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have
forgotten me days without number, saith the Lord God_.' Yes, your minds
are too puny to entertain the full worship of God: do you think they are
spacious enough to harbor the worship of Baal side by side with it? Much
less dare you pretend that the Baal altar is erected for the honor of
God, that you may come into His presence comely and clean. It is but a
few days since I stood in the presence of a woman who boasted to me that
she bore upon her the value of two hundred pounds of our money. I cared
little for the value of money that was upon her. But what shall be said
of the weight of sin her attire represented? For, those costly garments
were the wages of sin--of hardened, shameless, damnable sin. Yet there
is not before me a finer dress or a fairer face. Will you, my sisters,
trust to the comeliness of visage and splendor of raiment in which such
a woman as this can outshine you? Will you continue to cast out your
devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils? Be advised whilst there is
yet time. Ask yourself again and again, how can Satan cast out Satan?
"When sin is committed in a great city for wages, is there no fault on
the side of those who pay the wages? There is more than fault: there is
crime. I trust there are few among you who have done such crime. But I
know full well that it may be said of London to-day '_Thou art full of
stirs, a joyous city: thy slain men are not slain with the sword, nor
dead in battle_.' No. Our young men are slain by the poison of
Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. Nor is the crafty old subterfuge
lacking here. There are lost ones in this town who say, 'It is by our
means that virtue is preserved to the rich: it is we who appease the
wicked rage which would otherwise wreck society.' There are men who
boast that they have brought their sins only to the houses of shame, and
that they have respected purity in the midst of their foulness. 'Such
things must be,' they say: 'let us alone, lest a worse thing ensue.'
When they are filled full with sin, they cry 'Lo! our appetite has gone
from us and we are clean.' They are willing to slake lust with satiety,
but not to combat it with prayer. They tread one woman into the mire,
and excuse themselves because the garment of her sister is spotless. How
vain is this lying homage to virtue! How can Satan cast out Satan?
"Oh, my brethren, this hypocrisy is the curse and danger of our age. The
Atheist, no longer an execration, an astonishment, a curse, and a
reproach, poses now as the friend of man and the champion of right.
Those who incur the last and most terrible curse in this book, do so in
the name of that truth for which they profess to be seeking. Art,
profanely veiling its voluptuous nakedness with the attributes of
religion, disguises folly so subtly that it seems like virtue in the
slothful eyes of those who neglect continually to watch and pray. The
vain woman puts on her ornaments to do honor to her Creator's handiwork:
the lustful man casts away his soul that society may be kept clean:
there is not left in these latter days a sin that does not pretend to
work the world's salvation, nor a man who flatters not himself that the
sin of one may be the purging of many. To such I say, Look to your own
soul: of no other shall any account be demanded of you. A day shall come
in which a fire shall be kindled among your gods. The Lord shall array
Himself with this land as a shepherd putteth on his garment. Be sure
that then if ye shall say 'I am a devil; but I have cast out many
devils,' He will reply unto you, How can Satan cast out Satan? Who shall
prompt you to an answer to that question? Nay, though in His boundless
mercy He give you a thousand years to search, and spread before you all
the books of science and sociology in which you were wont to find
excuses for sin, what will it avail you? Will a scoff, or a quibble over
a doubtful passage, serve your turn? No. You cannot scoff whilst your
tongue cleaves to the roof of your mouth for fear, and there will be no
passage doubtful in all the Scriptures on that day; for the light of the
Lord's countenance will be over all things."
One Sunday afternoon, as the sun was making rainbows in the cloud of
spray thrown from the fountain in Kew Gardens, Sholto Douglas appeared
there amongst the promenaders on the banks of the pond. He halted on the
steps leading down to the basin, gazing idly at the waterfowl paddling
at his feet. A lady in a becoming grey dress came to the top of the
steps, and looked curiously at him. Somehow aware of this, he turned
indifferently, as if to leave, and found that the lady was Marian. Her
ripened beauty, her perfect self-possession, a gain in her as of added
strength and wisdom, and a loss in her as of gentleness outgrown and
timidity overcome, dazzled him for a moment--caused a revulsion in him
which he half recognized as the beginning of a dangerous passion. His
former love for her suddenly appeared boyish and unreal to him; and this
ruin of a once cherished illusion cost him a pang. Meanwhile, there she
was, holding out her hand and smiling with a cool confidence in the
success of her advance that would have been impossible to Marian Lind.
"How do you do?" she said.
"Thank you: I am fairly well. You are quite well, I hope?"
"I am in rude health. I hardly knew you at first."
"Am I altered?"
"You are growing stout."
"Indeed? Time has not been so bounteous to me as to you."
"You mean that I am stouter than you?" She laughed; and the sound
startled him. He got from it an odd impression that her soul was gone.
But he hastened to protest.
"No, no. You know I do not. I meant that you have achieved the
impossible--altered for the better."
"I am glad you think so. I cling to my good looks desperately now that I
am growing matronly. How is Mrs. Douglas?"
"She is quite well, thank you. Mr. Conolly is, I trust--"
"He is suffering from Eucalyptus on the brain at present. Do not trouble
yourself to maintain that admirable expression of shocked sadness.
Eucalyptus means gum-tree; and Ned is at present studying the species
somewhere in the neighborhood. He came here with that object: he never
goes anywhere without an object. He wants to plant Eucalyptuses round
some new works where the people suffer from ague."
"Oh! You mean that he is here in the gardens."
"Yes. I left him among the trees, as I prefer the flowers. I want to see
the lilies. There used to be some in a hot-house, or rather a hot bath,
"That is it on our right. May I go through it with you?"
"Just as you please."
"Thank you. It is a long time since we last met, is it not?"
"More than a year. Fifteen months. I have not seen you since I was
Douglas looked rather foolish at this. He was fatter, lazier,
altogether less tenacious of his dignity than of old; and his
embarrassment brought out the change strikingly. Marian liked him all
the better for it; he was less imposing; but he was more a man and less
a mere mask. At last, reddening a little, he said, "I remember our last
meeting very well. We were very angry then: I was infuriated. In fact,
when I recognized you a minute ago, I was not quite sure that you would
renew our acquaintance."
"I had exactly the same doubt about you."
"A very unnecessary doubt. Not a sincere one, I am afraid. You know too
well that your least beck will bring me to you at any time."
"Dont you think we had better not begin that. I generally repeat my
conversations to Ned. Not that he will mind, if you dont."
Douglas now felt at his ease and in his clement. He was clearly welcome
to philander. Recovering his poise at once, he began, in his finest
voice, "You need not chide me. There can be no mistake on my part now.
You can entangle me without fear; and I can love without hope. Ned is an
unrepealed statute of Forbiddance. Go on, Mrs. Conolly. Play with me: it
will amuse you. And--spiritless wretch that I am!--it will help me to
live until you throw me away, crushed again."
"You seem to have been quite comfortable without me: at least you look
extremely well. I suspect you are becoming a little lazy and attached to
your dinner. Your old haughtiness seems to have faded into a mere habit.
It used to be the most active principle in you. Are you quite sure that
nobody else has been helping you to live, as you call it?"
"Helping me to forget, you mean. No, not one. Time has taught me the
way to vegetate; and so I no longer need to live. As you have remarked,
I have habits, not active principles. But one at least of these
principles is blossoming again even as I speak. If I could only live as
that lily lives now!"
"In a warm bath?"
"No. Floating on the surface of a quiet pool, looking up into your eyes,
with no memory for the past, no anticipation of the future."
"Delightful! especially for me. I think we had better go and look for
"Were I in his place I would not be absent from your side now--or ever."
"That is to say, if you were in his place, you wouldnt be in his
place--among the gum trees. Perhaps you would be right."
"He is the only man I have ever stooped to envy."
"You have reason to," said Marian, suddenly grave.
"I envy him sometimes myself. What would you give to be never without a
purpose, never with a regret, to regard life as a succession of objects
each to be accomplished by so many days' work; to take your pleasure in
trifling lazily with the consciousness of possessing a strong brain; to
study love, family affection, and friendship as a doctor studies
breathing or digestion; to look on disinterestedness as either weakness
or hypocrisy, and on death as a mere transfer of your social function to
some member of the next generation?"
"I could achieve all that, if I would, at the cost of my soul. I would
not for worlds be such a man, save on one condition."
"That only as such could I win the woman I loved."
"Oh, you would not think so much of an insignificant factor like love if
you were Ned."
"May I ask, do you, too, think of love as 'an insignificant factor'?"
"I? Oh, I am not a sociologist. Besides, I have never been in love."
"What! You have never been in love?"
"Not the real, romantic, burning, suicidal love your sonnets used to
"Then you do not know what love is."
"You should know whether I do or not."
"Should I? Then I conclude that you do not. You are growing stout. Your
dress is not in the least neglected. I am certain you enjoy life
thoroughly. No, you have never known love in all its novelistic-poetic
outrageousness. That respectable old passion is a myth."
"You look for signs that only children shew. When an oak dies, it does
not wither and fall at once as a sapling does. Perhaps you will one day
know what it is to love."
"In any case, you will be able to boast of having inspired the passion."
"I hope so--at least, I mean that it is all nonsense. Do look at that
vegetable lobster of a thing, that cactus."
"In order to set off its ugliness properly, you should see yourself
against the background of palms, with that great fan-like leaf for a
"Thank you. I see it all in my mind's eye by your eloquent description.
You are quite right in supposing that I like compliments; but I am
particular about their quality; and I dont need to be told I am pretty
in comparison with a hideous cactus. You would not have condescended to
make such a speech long ago. You are changed."
"Not toward you, on my honor."
"I did not mean that: I meant toward yourself."
"I am glad you have taken even that slender note of me. I find you
somewhat changed, too."
"I did not know that I shewed it; but it is true. I feel as if Marian
Lind was a person whom I knew once, but whom I should hardly know
"The change in me has not produced that effect. I feel as though Marian
Lind were the history of my life."
"You have become quite a master of the art of saying pretty things. You
are nearly as glib at it as Ned."
"We have the same incentive to admiration."
"The same! You do not suppose that Ned pays _me_ compliments. He never
did such a thing in his life. No: I first discovered his talent in that
direction at Palermo, where I surprised him in an animated discourse
with the dark-eyed daughter of an innkeeper there. That was the first
conversation in Italian I succeeded in following. A week later I could
understand the language almost as well as he. However, dont let us waste
the whole afternoon talking stuff. I want to ask you about your mother.
I should greatly like to call upon her; but she has never made me any
sign since my marriage; and Mrs. Leith Fairfax tells me that she never
allows my name to be mentioned to her. I thought she was fond of me."
"So she was. But she has never forgiven you for making me suffer as you
did. You see she has more spirit than I. She would be angered if she saw
me now tamely following the triumphal chariot of my fair tyrant."
"Seriously, do you think, if I made a raid on Manchester Square some
morning, I could coax back her old feeling for me?"
"I think you will be quite safe in calling, at all events. Tell me what
day you intend to venture. I know my mother will not oppose me if I shew
that I wish you to be kindly received."
"Most disinterested of you. Thank you: I will fail or succeed on my own
merits, not on your recommendation. You must not say a word to her about
me or my project."
"If you command me not to----"
"I do command you."
"I must obey. But I fear that the more submissive I am, the more
imperious you will become."
"Very likely. And now look along that avenue to the left. Do you see a
man in a brown suit, with straw hat to match, walking towards us at a
regular pace, and keeping in a perfectly straight course? He looks at
everybody he passes as if he were counting them."
"He is looking back at somebody now, as if he had missed the number."
"Just so; but that somebody is a woman; doubtless a pretty one, probably
dark. You recognize him, I see. There is a frost come over you which
convinces me that you are preparing to receive him in your old
ungracious way. I warn you that I am accustomed to see Ned made much of.
He has caught sight of us."
"And has just remarked that there is a man talking to his wife."
"Quite right. See his speculative air! Now he no longer attends to us.
He is looking at the passers-by as before. That means that he has
recognized you, and has stowed the observation compactly away in his
brain, to be referred to when he comes up to us."
"So much method must economize his intellect very profitably. How do you
do, Mr. Conolly? It is some time since we have had the pleasure of
"Glad to see you, Mr. Douglas. We have been away all the winter. Are you
staying in London?"
"I hope you will spend an occasional hour with us at Holland Park."
"You are very kind. Thank you: yes, if Mrs. Conolly will permit me."
"I should make you come home with us now," said Marian, "but for this
Sunday being a special occasion. Nelly McQuinch is to spend the evening
with us; and as I have not seen her since we came back, I must have her
all to myself. Come next Sunday, if you care to."
"Do," said Conolly. "Half past three is our Sunday hour. If you cannot
face that, we are usually at home afterwards the entire evening. Marian:
we have exactly fifteen minutes to catch our train."
"Oh! let us fly. If we miss it, Nelly will be kept waiting half an
Then they parted, Douglas promising to come to them on that day week.
"Dont you think he is growing very fat?" said she, as they walked away.
"Yes. He is beginning to take the world easily. He does not seem to be
making much of his life."
"What matter, so long as he enjoys it?"
"Pooh! He doesnt know what enjoyment means."
They said nothing further until they were in the train, where Marian
sat looking listlessly through the window, whilst Conolly, opposite,
reclining against the cushions, looked thoughtfully at her.
"Ned," said she, suddenly.
"Do you know that Sholto is more infatuated about me than ever?"
"Naturally. You are lovelier than when he last saw you."
"You are nearly as complimentary as he," said Marian, blushing with a
gratification which she was very unwilling to betray. "He noticed it
sooner than you. I discovered it myself in the glass before either of
"No doubt you did. What station is this?"
"I dont know." Then, raising her voice so as to be overheard, she
exclaimed "Here is a stupid man coming into our carriage."
A young man entered the compartment, and, after one glance at Marian,
who turned her back on him impatiently, spent the remainder of the
journey making furtive attempts to catch a second glimpse of her face.
Conolly looked a shade graver at his wife's failure in perfect
self-control; but he by no means shared her feelings toward the
intrusive passenger. Marian and he were in different humors; and he did
not wish to be left alone with her.
As they walked from Addison Road railway station to their house, Conolly
mused in silence with his eyes on the gardens by the way. Marian, who
wished to talk, followed his measured steps with impatience.
"Let me take your arm, Ned: I cannot keep up with you."
"I hope I am not inconveniencing you," she said, after a further
interval of silence.
"I am afraid I am. It does not matter. I can get on by myself."
"Arm in arm is such an inconvenient and ridiculous mode of
locomotion--you need not struggle in the public street: now that you
have got my arm you shall keep it--I say it is such an inconvenient and
ridiculous mode of locomotion that if you were any one else I should
prefer to wheel you home in a barrow. Our present mode of proceeding
would be inexcusable if I were a traction-engine, and you my tender."
"Then let me go. What will the people think if they see a great engineer
violating the laws of mechanics by dragging his wife by the arm?"
"They will appreciate my motives; and, in fact, if you watch them, you
will detect a thinly-disguised envy in their countenances. I violate the
laws of mechanics--to use your own sarcastic phrase--for many reasons. I
like to be envied when there are solid reasons for it. It gratifies my
vanity to be seen in this artistic quarter with a pretty woman on my
arm. Again, the sense of possessing you is no longer an abstraction when
I hold you bodily, and feel the impossibility of keeping step with you.
Besides, Man, who was a savage only yesterday, has his infirmities, and
finds a poetic pleasure in the touch of the woman he loves. And I may
add that you have been in such a bad temper all the afternoon that I
suspect you of an itching to box my ears, and therefore feel safer with
your arm in my custody."
"Oh! _Indeed_ I have not been in a bad temper. I have been most anxious
to spend a happy day."
"And I have been placidly reflective, and not anxious at all. Is that
what has provoked you?"
"I am not provoked. But you might tell me what your reflections are
"They would fill volumes, if I could recollect them."
"You must recollect some of them. From the time we left the station
until a moment ago, when we began to talk, you were pondering something
with the deepest seriousness. What was it?"
"Of course you forget--just because I want to know. What a crowded road
this is!" She disengaged herself from his arm; and this time he did not
"That reminds me of it. The crowd consists partly of people going to the
pro-Cathedral. The pro-Cathedral contains an altar. An altar suggests
kneeling on hard stone; and that brings me to the disease called
'housemaids' knee,' which was the subject of my reflections."
"A pleasant subject for a fine Sunday! Thank you. I dont want to hear
"But you will hear more of it; for I am going to have the steps of our
house taken away and replaced by marble, or slate, or something that can
be cleaned with a mop and a pail of water in five minutes."
"My chain of thought began at the door steps we have passed, all
whitened beautifully so as to display every footprint, and all
representing an expenditure of useless, injurious labor in
hearthstoning, that ought to madden an intelligent housemaid. I dont
think our Armande is particularly intelligent; but I am resolved to
spare her knees and her temper in future by banishing hearthstone from
our establishment forever. I shudder to think that I have been walking
upon those white steps and flag ways of ours every day without awakening
to a sense of their immorality."
"I cannot understand why you are always disparaging Armande. And I hate
an ill-kept house front. None of our housemaids ever objected to
hearthstoning, or were any the worse for it."
"No. They would not have gained anything by objecting: they would only
have lost their situations. You need not fear for your house front. I
will order a porch with porphyry steps and alabaster pillars to replace
your beloved hearthstone."
"Yes. That will be clever. Do you know how easy it is to stain marble?
Armande will be on her knees all day with a bottle of turpentine and a
bit of flannel."
"You are thinking of inkstains, Marian. You forget that it does not rain
ink, and that Nelly will hardly select the porch to write her novels
"Lots of people bring ink on a doorstep. Tax collectors and gasmen carry
bottles in their pockets."
"Ask them into the drawing-room when they call, my dear; or, better
still, dont pay them, so that they will have no need to write a receipt.
Let me remind you that ink shews as much on white hearthstone as it can
possibly do on marble. Yet extensive disfigurements of steps from the
visits of tax collectors are not common."
"Now, Ned, you know that you are talking utter nonsense."
"Yes, my dear. I think I perceive Nelly looking out of the window for
us. Here she is at the door."
Marian hastened forward and embraced her cousin. Miss McQuinch looked
older; and her complexion was drier than before. But she had apparently
begun to study her appearance; for her hat and shoes were neat and even
elegant, which they had never been within Marian's previous experience
"_You_ are not changed in the least," she said, as she gave Conolly her
hand. "I have just been wondering at the alteration in Marian. She has
"I have been telling her so all day, in the vain hope of getting her
into a better temper. Come into the drawing-room. Have you been waiting
for us long?"
"About fifteen minutes. I have been admiring your organ. I should have
tried the piano; but I did not know whether that was allowable on
"Oh! Why did you not pound it to your heart's content? Ned scandalizes
the neighbors every Sunday by continually playing. Armande: dinner as
soon as possible, please."
"I like this house. It is exactly my idea of a comfortable modern home."
"You must stay long enough to find out its defects," said Conolly. "We
read your novel at Verona; but we could not agree as to which characters
you meant to be taken as the good ones."
"That was only Ned's nonsense," said Marian. "Most novels are such
rubbish! I am sure you will be able to live by writing just as well as
Mrs. Fairfax can." Conolly shewed Miss McQuinch his opinion of this
unhappy remark by a whimsical glance, which she repudiated by turning
sharply away from him, and speaking as affectionately as she could to
After dinner they returned to the drawing-room, which ran from the
front to the back of the house. Marian opened a large window which gave
access to the garden, and sat down with Elinor on a little terrace
outside. Conolly went to the organ.
"May I play a voluntary while you talk?" he asked. "I shall not
scandalize any one: the neighbors think all music sacred when it is
played on the organ."
"We have a nice view of the sunset from here," said Marian, in a low
voice, turning her forehead to the cool evening breeze.
"Stuff!" said Elinor. "We didnt come here to talk about the sunset, and
what a pretty house you have, and so forth. I want to know--good
heavens! what a thundering sound that organ makes!"
"Please dont say anything about it to him: he likes it," said Marian.
"When he wishes to exalt himself, he goes to it and makes it roar until
the whole house shakes. Whenever he feels an emotional impulse, he vents
it at the organ or the piano, or by singing. When he stops, he is
satisfied; his mind is cleared; and he is in a good-humored, playful
frame of mind, such as _I_ can gratify."
"But you were always very fond of music. Dont you ever play together, as
we used to do; or sing to one another's accompaniments?"
"I cannot. I hardly ever touch the piano when he is in the house."
"Why? Are you afraid of preventing him from having his turn?"
"No: it is not so much that. But--it sounds very silly--if I attempt to
play or sing in his presence, I become so frightfully nervous that I
hardly know what I am doing. I know he does not like my singing."
"Are you sure that is not merely your fancy? It sounds very like it."
"No. At first I used to play a good deal for him, knowing that he was
fond of music, and fancying--poor fool that I was! [here Marian spoke so
bitterly that Nelly turned and looked hard at her] that it was part of a
married woman's duty in a house to supply music after dinner. At that
time he was working hard at his business; and he spent so much time in
the city that he had to give up playing himself. Besides, we were flying
all about England opening those branch offices, and what not. He always
took me with him; and I really enjoyed it, and took quite an interest in
the Company. When we were in London, although I was so much alone in the
daytime, I was happy in anticipating our deferred honeymoon. Then the
time for that paradise came. Ned said that the Company was able to walk
by itself at last, and that he was going to have a long holiday after
his dry-nursing of it. We went first to Paris, where we heard all the
classical concerts that were given while we were there. I found that he
never tired of listening to orchestral music; and yet he never ceased
grumbling at it. He thought nothing of the great artists in Paris. Then
we went for a tour through Brittany; and there, in spite of his
classical tastes, he used to listen to the peasants' songs and write
them down. He seemed to like folk songs of all kinds, Irish, Scotch,
Russian, German, Italian, no matter where from. So one evening, at a
lodging where there was a piano, I played for him that old arrangement
of Irish melodies--you know--'Irish Diamonds,' it is called."
"Oh Lord! Yes, I remember. 'Believe me if all,' with variations."
"Yes. He thought I meant it in jest: he laughed at it, and played a lot
of ridiculous variations to burlesque it. I didnt tell him that I had
been in earnest: perhaps you can imagine how I felt about it. Then,
after that, in Italy, he got permission--or rather bought it--to try the
organ in a church. It was growing dusk; I was tired with walking; and
somehow between the sense of repose, and the mysterious twilight in the
old church, I was greatly affected by his playing. I thought it must be
part of some great mass or symphony; and I felt how little I knew about
music, and how trivial my wretched attempts must appear to him when he
had such grand harmonies at his fingers' ends. But he soon stopped; and
when I was about to tell him how I appreciated his performance, he said,
'What an abominable instrument a bad organ is!' I had thought it
beautiful, of course. I asked him what he had been playing. I said was
it not by Mozart; and then I saw his eyebrows go up; so I added, as a
saving clause, that perhaps it was something of his own. 'My dear girl,'
said he, 'it was only an _entr'acte_ from an opera of Donizetti's.' He
was carrying my shawl at the time; and he wrapped it about my shoulders
in the tenderest manner as he said this, and made love to me all the
evening to console me. In his opinion, the greatest misfortune that can
happen anyone is to make a fool of oneself; and whenever I do it, he
pets me in the most delicate manner, as if I were a child who had just
got a tumble. When we settled down here and got the organ, he began to
play constantly, and I used to practise the piano in the daytime so as
to have duets with him. But though he was always ready to play whenever
I proposed it, he was quite different then from what he was when he
played by himself. He was all eyes and ears, and the moment I played a
wrong note he would name the right one. Then I generally got worse and
stopped. He never lost his patience or complained; but I used to feel
that he was urging me on, or pulling me back, or striving to get me to
do something which I could not grasp. Then he would give me up in
despair, and play on mechanically from the notes before him, thinking of
something else all the time. I practised harder, and tried again. I
thought at first I had succeeded; because our duets went so smoothly and
we were always so perfectly together. But I discovered--by instinct I
believe--that instead of having a musical treat, he was only trying to
please me. He thought I liked playing duets with him; and accordingly he
used to sit down beside me and accompany me faithfully, no matter how I
chose to play."
"Dear me! Why doesnt he get Rubinstein to play with him, since he is so
"It is not so much mechanical skill that I lack; but there is
something--I cannot tell what it is. I found it out one night when we
were at Mrs. Saunders's. She is an incurable flirt; and she was quite
sure that she had captivated Ned, who is always ready to make love to
anyone that will listen to him."
"A nice sort of man to be married to!"
"He only does it to amuse himself. He does not really care for them: I
almost wish he did, sometimes; but it is often none the less provoking.
What is worse, no amount of flirtation on my part would make _him_
angry. What happened at Mrs. Saunders's was this. The Scotts, of Putney,
were there; and the first remark Ned made to me was, 'Who is the woman
that knows how to walk?' It was Mrs. Scott: you know you used to say
she moved like a panther. Afterward Mrs. Scott sang 'Caller Herrin' in
that vulgar Scotch accent that leaks out occasionally in her speech,
with Ned at the piano. Everybody came crowding in to listen; and there
was great applause. I cannot understand it: she is as hard and
matter-of-fact as a woman can be: I dont believe the expression in her
singing comes one bit from true feeling. I heard Ned say to her, 'Thank
you, Mrs. Scott: no Englishwoman has the secret of singing a ballad as
you have it.' I knew very well what that meant. _I_ have not the secret.
Well, Mrs. Scott came over to me and said 'Mr. Conolly is a very
_pair_tinaceous man. He persuaded me into shewing him the way the little
song is sung in Scotland; and I stood up without thinking. And see now,
I have been _rag_uilarly singing a song in company for the first time in
my life.' Of course, it was a ridiculous piece of affectation. Ned
talked about Mrs. Scott all the way home, and played 'Caller Herrin'
four times next day. That finished my domestic musical career. I have
never sung for him since, except once or twice when he has asked me to
try the effect of some passage in one of his music-books."
"And do you never sing when you go out, as you used to?"
"Only when he is not with me, or when people force me to. If he is in
the room, I am so nervous that I can hardly get through the easiest
song. He never offers to accompany me now, and generally leaves the room
when I am asked to sing."
"Perhaps he sees the effect his presence has on you."
"Even so, he ought to stay. He used to like _me_ to listen to _him_, at
Miss McQuinch looked at the sunset with exceeding glumness. There was
an ominous pause. Then she said, abruptly, "You remember how we used to
debate whether marriage was a mistake or not. Have you found out?"
"I dont know."
"That sounds rather as if you did know. Are you quite sure you are not
in low spirits this evening? He was bantering you about being out of
temper when you came in. Perhaps you quarrelled at Kew."
"Quarrel! He quarrel! I cannot explain to you how we are situated,
Nelly. You would not understand me."
"Suppose you try. For instance, is he as fond of you as he was before
you married him?"
"I dont know."
Miss McQuinch shrugged herself impatiently.
"Really I do not, Nelly. He has changed in a way--I do not quite know
how or why. At first he was not very ceremonious. He used to make
remarks about people, and discuss everything that came into his head
quite freely before me. He was always kind, and never grumbled about his
dinner, or lost his temper, or anything of that kind; but--it was not
that he was coarse exactly: he was not that in the least; but he was
very open and unreserved and plain in his language; and somehow I did
not quite like it. He must have found this out: he sees and feels
everything by instinct; for he slipped back into his old manner, and
became more considerate and attentive than he had ever been before. I
was made very happy at first by the change; but I do not think he quite
understood what I wanted. I did not at all object to going down to the
country with him on his business trips; but he always goes alone now;
and he never mentions his work to me. And he is too careful as to what
he says to me. Of course, I know that he is right not to speak ill of
anybody; but still a man need not be so particular before his wife as
before strangers. He has given up talking to me altogether: that is the
plain truth, whatever he may pretend. When we do converse, his manner is
something like what it was in the laboratory at the Towers. Of course,
he sometimes becomes more familiar; only then he never seems in earnest,
but makes love to me in a bantering, half playful, half sarcastic way."
"You are rather hard to please, perhaps. I remember you used to say that
a husband should be just as tender and respectful after marriage as
before it. You seem to have broken poor Ned into this; and now you are
"Nelly, if there is one subject on which girls are more idiotically
ignorant than on any other, it is happiness in marriage. A courtier, a
lover, a man who will not let the winds of heaven visit your face too
harshly, is very nice, no doubt; but he is not a husband. I want to be a
wife and not a fragile ornament kept in a glass case. He would as soon
think of submitting any project of his to the judgment of a doll as to
mine. If he has to explain or discuss any serious matter of business
with me, he does so apologetically, as if he were treating me roughly."
"Well, my dear, you see, when he tried the other plan, you did not like
that either. What is the unfortunate man to do?"
"I dont know. I suppose I was wrong in shrinking from his confidence. I
am always wrong. It seems to me that the more I try to do right, the
more mischief I contrive to make."
"This is all pretty dismal, Marian. What sort of conduct on his part
would make you happy?"
"Oh, there are so many little things. He makes me jealous of everything
and everybody. I am jealous of the men in the city--I was jealous of the
sanitary inspector the other day--because he talks with interest to
them. I know he stays in the city later than he need. It is a relief to
me to go out in the evening, or to have a few people here once or twice
a week; but I am angry because I know it is a relief to him too. I am
jealous even of that organ. How I hale those Bach fugues! Listen to the
maddening thing twisting and rolling and racing and then mixing itself
up into one great boom. He can get on with Bach: he can't get on with
me. I have even condescended to be jealous of other women--of such women
as Mrs. Saunders. He despises her: he plays with her as dexterously as
she thinks she plays with him; but he likes to chat with her; and they
rattle away for a whole evening without the least constraint. She has no
conscience: she talks absolute nonsense about art and literature: she
flirts even more disgustingly than she used to when she was Belle
Woodward; but she is quickwitted, like most Irish people; and she enjoys
a broad style of jesting which Ned is a great deal too tolerant of,
though he would as soon die as indulge in it before me. Then there is
Mrs. Scott, who is just as shrewd as Belle, and much cleverer. I have
heard him ask her opinion as to whether he had acted well or not in some
stroke of business--something that I had never heard of, of course. I
wish I were half as hard and strong and self-reliant as she is. _Her_
husband would be nothing without her."
"I am afraid I was right all along, Marian. Marriage _is_ a mistake.
There is something radically wrong in the institution. If you and Ned
cannot be happy, no pair in the world can."
"We might be very happy if----" Marian stopped to repress a sob.
"Anybody might be very happy If. There is not much consolation in Ifs.
You could not be better off than you are unless you could be Marian Lind
again. Think of all the women who would give their souls to have a
husband who would neither drink, nor swear at them, nor kick them, nor
sulk whenever he was kept waiting half a minute for anything. You have
no little pests of children----"
"I wish I had. That would give us some interest in common. We sometimes
have Lucy, Marmaduke's little girl, up here; and Ned seems to me to be
fond of her. She is a very bold little thing."
"I saw Marmaduke last week. He is not half so jolly as he was."
"He lives in chambers in Westminster now, and only comes out in this
direction occasionally to see Lucy. I am afraid _she_ has taken to
drinking. I believe she is going to America. I hope she is; for she
makes me uncomfortable when I think of her."
"Does your--your Ned ever speak of her?"
"No. He used to, before he changed as I described. Now, he never
mentions her. Hush! Here he is."
The sound of the organ had ceased; and Conolly came out and stood
"How do you like my consoler, as Marian calls it?" said he.
"Do you mean the organ?"
"I wasn't listening to you."
"You should have: I played the great fugue in A minor expressly for your
entertainment: you used to work at Liszt's transcription of it. The
organ is only occasionally my consoler. For the most part I am driven to
it by habit and a certain itching in my fingers. Marian is my real
"So she has just been telling me," said Elinor. Conolly's surprise
escaped him for just a moment in a quick glance at Marian. She colored,
and looked reproachfully at her cousin, who added, "I am sure you must
be a nuisance to the neighbors."
"Probably," said Conolly.
"I do not think you should play so much on Sunday," said Marian.
"I know. [Marian winced.] Well, if the neighbors will either melt down
the church bells they jangle so horribly within fifteen yards or so of
my unfortunate ears, or else hang them up two hundred feet high in a
beautiful tower where they would sound angelic, as they do at Utrecht,
then perhaps I will stop the organ to listen to them. Until then, I will
take the liberty of celebrating the day of rest with such devices as the
religious folk cannot forbid me."
"Pray do not begin to talk about religion, Ned."
"My way of thinking is too robust for Marian, Miss McQuinch. I admit
that it does not, at first sight, seem pretty or sentimental. But I do
not know how even Marian can prefer the church bells to Bach."
"What do you mean by '_even_ Marian'?" said Elinor, sharply.
"I should have said, 'Marian, who is tolerant and kind to everybody and
everything.' I hope you have forgiven me for carrying her off from you,
Miss McQuinch. You are adopting an ominous tone toward me. I fear she
has been telling you of our quarrels, and my many domestic
"No," said Elinor. "As far as I can judge from her account, you are a
monotonously amiable husband."
"Indeed! Hm! Would you like your coffee out here?"
"Do not stir, Marian: I will ring for it."
When he was gone, Marian said "Nelly: for Heaven's sake say nothing that
could make the slightest coldness between Ned and me. I am clinging to
him with all my heart and soul; and you must help me. Those sharp things
that you say to him stab me cruelly; and he is clever enough to guess
everything I have said to you from them."
"If I cannot keep myself from making mischief, I shall go away," said
Elinor. "Dont suppose I am in a huff: I am quite serious. I have an
unlucky tongue; and my disposition is such that when I see that a jug is
cracked, I feel more inclined to smash and have done with it than to
mend it and handle it tenderly ever after. However, I hope your marriage
is not a cracked jug yet."
On the following Wednesday Douglas called on his mother at Manchester
Square in the afternoon. As if to emphasize the purely filial motive of
his visit, he saluted his mother so affectionately that she was
emboldened to be more demonstrative with him than she usually ventured
"My darling boy," she said, holding him fondly for a moment, "this is
the second visit you have paid your poor old mother this week. I want to
speak to you about something, too. Marian has been with me this
"What! Has she gone?" said Douglas.
"Why?" said Mrs. Douglas. "Did you know she was coming?"
"She mentioned to me that she intended to come," he replied, carelessly;
"but she bade me not to tell you."
"That accounts for your two visits. Well, Sholto, I do not blame you for
spending your time in gayer places than this."
"You must not reproach me for neglecting you, mother. You know my
disposition. I am seldom good company for any one; and I do not care to
come only to cast a damp on you and your friends when I am morose. I
hope you received Marian kindly."
"I did not expect to see her; and I told her so."
"But it made no difference. There is no holding her in check now,
Sholto; she cares no more for what I say than if I was her father or
you. What could I do but kiss and forgive her? She got the better of
"Yes," said Douglas, gloomily. "She has a wonderful face."
"The less you see of her face, the better, Sholto. I hope you will not
go to her house too often."
"Do you doubt my discretion, mother?"
"No, no, Sholto. But I am afraid of any unpleasantness arising between
you and that man. These working men are so savage to their wives, and so
jealous of gentlemen. I hardly like your going into his house at all."
"Absurd, mother! You must not think that he is a navvy in fustian and
corduroys. He seems a sensible man: his address is really remarkably
good, considering what he is. As to his being savage, he is quite the
reverse. His head is full of figures and machinery; and I am told that
he does nothing at home but play the piano. He must bore Marian
terribly. I do not want to go to his house particularly; but Marian and
he are, of course, very sensitive to anything that can be construed as a
slight; and I shall visit them once or twice to prevent them from
thinking that I wish to snub Conolly. He will be glad enough to have me
at his dinner-table. I am afraid I must hurry away now: I have an
appointment at the club. Can I do anything for you in town?"
"No, thank you, Sholto. I thought you would have stayed with me for a
cup of tea."
"Thank you, dear mother, no: not to-day. I promised to be at the club."
"If you promised, of course, you must go. Good-bye. You will come again
soon, will you not?"
"Some day next week, if not sooner. Good-bye, mother."
Douglas left Manchester Square, not to go to his club, where he had no
real appointment, but to avoid spending the afternoon with his mother,
who, though a little hurt at his leaving her, was also somewhat relieved
by being rid of him. They maintained toward one another an attitude
which their friends found beautiful and edifying; but, like artists'
models, they found the attitude fatiguing, in spite of their practice
and its dignity.
At Hyde Park Corner, Douglas heard his name unceremoniously shouted.
Turning, he saw Marmaduke Lind, carelessly dressed, walking a little
"Where are you going to?" said Marmaduke, abruptly.
"Why do you ask?" said Douglas, never disposed to admit the right of
another to question him.
"I want to have a talk with you. Come and lunch somewhere, will you?"
"Yes, if you wish."
"Let's go to the South Kensington Museum."
"The South----! My dear fellow, why not suggest Putney, or the Star and
Garter? Why do you wish to go westward from Hyde Park in search of
"I have a particular reason. I am to meet someone at the Museum this
afternoon; and I want to ask your advice first. You might as well come;
it's only a matter of a few minutes if we drive."
"Well, as you please. I have not been to the Museum for years."
"All right. Come al----oh, damn! There's Lady Carbury and Constance
coming out of the Park. Dont look at them. Come on."
But Constance, sitting a little more uprightly than her mother, who was
supine upon the carriage cushions, had seen the two gentlemen as they
"Mamma," she said, "there's Marmaduke and Sholto Douglas."
"Where???" said the Countess, lifting her head quickly. "Josephs, drive
slowly. Where are they, Constance?"
"They are going away. I believe Marmaduke saw us. There he is, passing
"We must go and speak to them. Look pleasant, child; and dont make a
fool of yourself."
"Surely youll not speak to him, mamma! You dont expect me----"
"Nonsense. I heard a great deal about him the other day. He has moved
from where he was living, and is quite reformed. His father is very ill.
Do as I tell you. Josephs, stop half way to the hotel."
"I say," said Marmaduke, finding himself out-manoeuvred: "come back.
There they are right ahead, confound them. What are they up to?"
"It cannot be helped," said Douglas. "There is no escape. You must not
cross: it would be pointedly rude."
Marmaduke went on grumbling. When he attempted to pass, the Countess
called his name, and greeted him with smiles.
"We want to know how your father is," she said. "We have had such
alarming accounts of him. I hope he is better."
"They havnt told me much about him," said Marmaduke. "There was deuced
little the matter with the governor when I saw him last."
"Wicked prodigal! What shall we do to reform him, Mr. Douglas? He has
not been to see us for three years past, and during that time we have
had the worst reports of him."
"You never asked me to go and see you."
"Silly fellow! Did you expect me to send you invitations and leave cards
on you, who are one of ourselves? Come to-morrow to dinner. Your uncle
the Bishop will be there; and you will see nearly all the family
besides. You cannot plead that you have not been invited now. Will you
"No. I cant stand the Bishop. Besides, I have taken to dining in the
middle of the day."
"Come after dinner, then?"
"Mamma," said Constance, peevishly, "can't you see that he does not want
to come at all? What is the use of persecuting him?"
"No, I assure you," said Marmaduke. "It's only the Bishop I object to.
I'll come after dinner, if I can."
"And pray what is likely to prevent you?" said the Countess.
"Devilment of some sort, perhaps," he replied. "Since you have all given
me a bad name, I dont see why I should make any secret of earning it."
The Countess smiled slyly at him, implying that she was amused, but must
not laugh at such a sentiment in Constance's presence. Then, turning so
as to give the rest of the conversation an air of privacy, she
whispered, "I must tell you that you no longer have a bad name. It is
said that your wild oats are all sown, and I will answer for it that
even the Bishop will receive you with open arms."
"And dry my repentant tears on his apron, the old hypocrite," said
Marmaduke, speaking rather more loudly than before. "Well, we must be
trotting. We are going to the South Kensington Museum--to improve our
"Why, that is where we are going; at least, Constance is. She is going
to work at her painting while I pay a round of visits. Wont you come
"Thank you: I'd rather walk. A man should have gloves and a proper hat
for your sort of travelling."
"Nonsense! you look very nice. Besides, it is only down the Brompton
"The worst neighborhood in London to be seen in with me. I know all
sorts of queer people down Brompton way. I should have to bow to them if
we met; and that wouldnt do before _her_,"--indicating Constance, who
was conversing with Douglas.
"You are incorrigible: I give you up. Good-bye, and dont forget
"I wonder," said Marmaduke, as the carriage drove off, "what she's
saying about me to Constance now."
"That you are the rudest man in London, perhaps."
"Serve her right! I hate her. I have got so now that I can't stand that
sort of woman. You see her game, dont you; she can't get Constance off
her hands; and she thinks there's a chance of me still. How well she
knows about the governor's state of health! And Conny, too, grinning at
me as if we were the best friends in the world. If that girl had an
ounce of spirit she would not look on the same side of the street with
Douglas, without replying, called a cab. Marmaduke's loud conversation
was irksome in the street, and it was now clear that he was unusually
excited. At the museum they alighted, and passed through the courts into
the grill-room, where they sat down together at a vacant table, and
"You were good enough to ask my advice about something," said Douglas.
"What is the matter?"
"Well," said Marmaduke, "I am in a fix. Affairs have become so
uncomfortable at home that I have had to take up my quarters elsewhere."
"I did not know that you had been living at home. I thought your father
and you were on the usual terms."
"My father! Look here: I mean home--_my_ home. My place at Hammersmith,
not down at the governor's."
"Oh! I beg your pardon."
"Of course, you know all about my establishment there with Lalage
Virtue? her real name is Susanna Conolly."
"Is it true, then, that she is a cousin of Marian's husband?"
"Cousin! She's his sister, and Marian's sister-in-law."
"I never believed it."
"It's true enough. But thats not the mischief. Douglas: I tell you she's
the cleverest woman in London. She can do anything she likes. She can
manage a conversation with any foreigner in his own language, whether
she knows it or not. She gabbles Italian like a native. She can learn
off her part in a new piece, music and all, between breakfast and
luncheon, any day. She can cook: she can make a new bonnet out of the
lining of an old coat: she can drive a bargain with a Jew. She says she
never learns a thing at all unless she can learn it in ten minutes. She
can fence, and shoot. She can dance anything in the world. I never knew
such a mimic as she is. If you saw her take off the Bones at the Christy
Minstrels, you'd say she was the lowest of the low. Next minute she will
give herself the airs of a duchess, or do the ingenuous in a style that
would make Conny burst with envy. To see her preaching like George would
make you laugh for a week. There's nothing she couldnt do if she chose.
And now, what do you think she has taken to? Liquor. Champagne by the
gallon. She used to drink it by the bottle: now she drinks it by the
dozen--by the case. She wanted it to keep up her spirits. That was the
way it began. If she felt down, a glass of champagne would set her up.
Then she was always feeling down, and always setting herself up. At last
feeling down came to mean the same thing as being sober. You dont know
what a drunken woman is, Douglas, unless youve lived in the same house
with one." Douglas recoiled, and looked very sternly at Marmaduke, who
proceeded more vehemently. "She's nothing but a downright beast. She's
either screaming at you in a fit of rage, or clawing at you in a fit of
fondness that makes you sick. When she falls asleep, there she is, a
besotted heap tumbled anyhow into bed, snoring and grunting like a pig.
When she wakes, she begins planning how to get more liquor. Think of
what you or I would feel if we saw our mothers tipsy. By God, that child
of mine wouldnt believe its eyes if it saw its mother sober. Only for
Lucy, I'd have pitched her over long ago. I did all I could when I first
saw that she was overdoing the champagne. I swore I'd break the neck of
any man I caught bringing wine into the house. I sacked the whole staff
of servants twice because I found a lot of fresh corks swept into the
dustpan. I stopped drinking at home myself: I got in doctors to frighten
her: I tried bribing, coaxing, threatening: I knocked her down once when
I caught her with a bottle in her hand; and she fell with her head
against the fender, and frightened me a good deal more than she hurt
herself. It was no use. Sometimes she used to defy me, and say she
_would_ drink, she didnt care whether she was killing herself or not.
Other times she cried; implored me to save her from destroying herself;
asked me why I didnt thrash the life out of her whenever I caught her
drunk; promised on her oath never to touch another drop. The same
evening she would be drunk again, and, when I taxed her with it, say
that she wasn't drunk, that she was sick, and that she prayed the
Almighty on her knees to strike her dead if she had a bottle in the
house. Aye, and the very stool she knelt on would be a wine case with a
red cloth stuck to it with a few gilt-headed nails to make it look like
a piece of furniture. Next day she would laugh at me for believing her,
and ask me what use I supposed there was in talking to her. How she
managed to hold on at the theatre, I dont know. She wouldnt learn new
parts, and stuck to old ones that she could do in her sleep, she knew
them so well. She would go on the stage and get through a long part when
she couldnt walk straight from the wing to her dressing-room. Of course,
her voice went to the dogs long ago; but by dint of screeching and
croaking she pulls through. She says she darent go on sober now; that
she knows she should break down. The theatre has fallen off, too. The
actors got out of the place one by one--they didnt like playing with
her--and were replaced by a third-rate lot. The audiences used to be
very decent: now they are all cads and fast women. The game is up for
her in London. She has been offered an engagement in America on the
strength of her old reputation; but what is the use of it if she
"That is very sad," said Douglas, with cold disgust, perfunctorily
veiled by a conventional air of sympathy. "But if she is irreclaimable,
why not leave her?"
"So I would, only for the child. I _have_ left her--at least, I've taken
lodgings in town; but I am always running out to Laurel Grove. I darent
trust Lucy to her; and she knows it; for she wouldnt let me take the
poor little creature away, although she doesnt care two straws for it.
She knows that it gives her a grip over me. Well, I have not seen her
for a week past. I have tried the trick of only going out in the evening
when she has to be at the theatre. And now she has sent me a long
letter; and I dont exactly know what to do about it. She swears she has
given up drinking--not touched a spoonful since I saw her last. She's as
superstitious as an old woman; and yet she will swear to that lie with
oaths that make _me_ uncomfortable, although I am pretty thick-skinned
in religious matters. Then she goes drivelling on about me having
encouraged her to drink at first, and then turned upon her and deserted
her when I found out the mischief I had done. I used to stand plenty of
champagne, but I am sure I never thought what would come of it. Then she
says she gave up every friend in the world for me: broke with her
brother, and lost her place in society. _Her_ place in society, mind
you, Douglas! Thats not bad, is it? Then, of course, I am leaving her to
die alone with her helpless child: I might have borne with her a little
longer: she will not trouble me nor anyone else much more; and so on.
The upshot is that she wants me to come back. She says I ought to be
there to save the child from her, if I dont care to save her from
herself; that I was the last restraint on her; and that if I dont come
she will make an end of the business by changing her tipple to prussic
acid. The whole thing is a string of maudlin rot from beginning to end;
and I believe she primed herself with about four bottles of champagne to
write it. Still, I dont want to leave her in the lurch. You are a man
who stand pretty closely on your honor. Do you think I ought to go back?
I may tell you that as regards money she is under no compliment to me.
Her earnings were a good half of our income; and she saved nothing out
of them. In fact, I owe her some money for two or three old debts she
paid for me. We always shared like husband and wife."
"I hardly understand your hesitation, Lind. You can take the little girl
out of her hands; allow her something; and be quit of her."
"Thats very easy to say; but I cant drag her child away from her if she
insists on keeping it."
"Well, so much the better for you. It would be a burden to you. Pay her
for its maintenance: that is probably what she wants."
"No, no," said Marmaduke, impatiently. "You dont understand. Youre
talking as if I were a rake living with a loose woman."
Douglas looked at him doubtfully. "I confess I do not understand," he
said. "Perhaps you will be good enough to explain."
"It's very simple. I went to live with her because I fell in love with
her, and she wouldnt marry me. She had a horror of marriage; and I was
naturally not very eager for it myself. Matters must be settled between
us as if we were husband and wife. Paying her off is all nonsense. She
doesnt want money; and I want the child; so she has the advantage of me.
Only for the drink I would go back to her to-morrow; but I cant stand
her when she is not sober. I bore with it long enough; and now all I
want is to get Lucy out of her hands and be quit of her, as you
say--although it seems mean to leave her."
"She must certainly be a very extraordinary woman if she refused to
marry you. Are you sure she is not married already?"
"Bosh! Not she. She likes to be independent; and she has a sort of
self-respect--not like Constance and the old Countess, who hunted me
long enough in the hope of running me down at last in a church."
"If you offered her marriage, that certainly frees you from the least
obligation to stay with her. She reserved liberty to leave you; and, of
course, the same privilege was implied on your part. If you have no
sentimental wish to return to her, you are most decidedly not bound in
"I'm fond enough of her when she is sober; but I loathe her when she is
fuddled. If she would only give up drinking, we might make a fresh
start. But she wont."
"You must not think of doing that. Get rid of her, my dear fellow. This
marriage of Marian's has put the affair on a new footing altogether. I
tell you candidly, I think that under the circumstances your connexion
with Conolly's sister is a disgraceful one."
"Hang Conolly! Everybody thinks of Marian, and nobody of Susanna. I
have heard enough of that side of the question. Marian married him with
her eyes open."
"Do you mean to say that she knew?"
"Of course she did. Conolly told her, fairly enough. He's an
extraordinary card, that fellow."
"Reginald Lind told my mother that the discovery was made by accident
after the marriage, and that they were all shocked by it. It was he who
said that it was Conolly's _cousin_ that you were with."
"Uncle Rej. is an old liar. So are most of the family: I never believe a
word they say."
"Marian must have been infatuated. I advise you to break the connexion.
She will be glad to give you the child if she sees that you are resolved
to leave her. She only holds on because she hopes to make it the means
of bringing you back."
"I expect youre about right. She wants me to meet her here to-day at
half past three. Thats the reason I came."
"Do you know that it now wants twenty minutes of four?"
"Whew! So it does. I had better go and look for her. I'm very much
obliged to you, old fellow, for talking it over with me. I suppose you
dont want to meet her."
"I should be in the way at present."
Marmaduke, leaving Douglas in the grill-room, went upstairs to the
picture galleries, where several students were more or less busy at
their easels. Lady Constance was in the Sheepshanks gallery, copying
"Sterne's Maria," by Charles Landseer, as best she could. She had been
annoyed some minutes before by the behavior of a stout woman in a rich
costume of black silk, who had stopped for a moment to inspect her
drawing. Lady Constance, by a look, had made her aware that she was
considered intrusive, whereupon she had first stared Lady Constance out
of countenance, and then deliberately scanned her work with an
expression which conveyed a low opinion of its merit. Having thus
revenged herself, she stood looking uneasily at the door for a minute,
and at last wandered away into the adjoining gallery. A few minutes
later Marmaduke entered, looking round as if in search of someone.
"Here I am," said Constance to him, playfully.
"So I see," said Marmaduke, recognizing her with rueful astonishment.
"You knew I was looking for you, did you?"
"Of course I did, sir."
"Youre clever, so you are. What are you doing here?"
"Dont you see? I am copying a picture."
"Oh! it's very pretty. Which one are you copying?"
"What an impertinent question! You can tell my poor copy well enough,
only you pretend not to."
"Yes, now that I look closely at it, I fancy it's a little like Mary the
maid of the inn there."
"It's not Mary: it's Maria--Sterne's Maria."
"Indeed! Do you read Sterne?"
"Certainly not," said Constance, looking very serious.
"Then what do you paint his Maria for? How do you know whether she is a
fit subject for you?"
"Hush, sir! You must not interrupt my work."
"I suppose you have lots of fun here over your art studies, eh?"
"You, and all the other girls here."
"Oh, I am sure I dont know any of them."
"Quite right, too, your ladyship. Dont make yourself cheap. I hope none
of the low beggars ever have the audacity to speak to you."
"I dont know anything about them," said Lady Constance, pettishly. "All
I mean is that they are strangers to me."
"Most likely theyll remain so. You all seem to stick to the little
pictures tremendously. Why dont you go in for high art? There's a big
picture of Adam and Eve! Why dont you paint that?"
"Will you soon be leaving town?" she replied, looking steadily at her
work, and declining to discuss Adam and Eve, who were depicted naked.
Receiving no reply, she looked round, and saw Marmaduke leaving the room
with the woman in the black silk dress.
"Who is that girl?" said Susanna, as they went out.
"That's Lady Constance, whom I was to have married."
"I guessed as much when I saw you talking to her. She is a true English
lady, heaven bless her! I took the liberty of looking at her painting;
and she stared at me as if I had bitten her."
"She is a little fool."
"She will not be such a little fool as to try to snub me again, I think.
Bob: did you get my letter?"
"Of course I got it, or I shouldnt be here."
"Well, I dont believe a word of it."
"That's plain speaking."
"There is no use mincing matters. You are just as likely to stop
drinking as you are to stop breathing."
"Perhaps I shall stop breathing before long."
"Very likely, at your present rate."
"That will be a relief to you."
"It will be a relief to everybody, and a release for yourself. You have
made me miserable for a year past; and now you expect me to be
frightened at the prospect of being rid of you."
"I dont expect you to be frightened. I expect you to do what all men do:
throw me aside as soon as I have served your turn."
"Yes. Of course, _you_ are the aggrieved party. Where's Lucy?"
"I dont know, and I dont care."
"Well, I want to know; and I do care. Is she at home?"
"How do I know whether she is at home or not. I left her there. Very
likely she is with her Aunt Marian, telling stories about her mother."
"She is better there than with you. What harm has she done you that you
should talk about her in that way?"
"No harm. I dont object to her being there. She has very pleasant
conversations with Mrs. Ned, which she retails to me at home. 'Aunty
Marian: why do you never drink champagne? Mamma is always drinking it.'
And then, 'Mamma: why do you drink so much wine? Aunty Marian never
drinks any.' Good heavens! the little devil told me this morning by way
of consolation that she always takes care not to tell her Aunty that I
"What did you do to her for saying it?"
"Dont lose your temper. I didnt strangle her, nor even box her ears.
Why should I? She only repeats what you teach her."
"She repeats what her eyes and ears teach her. If she learned the word
from me, she learned the meaning from you. A nice lesson for a child
hardly three years old."
Susanna sat down on a bench, and looked down at her feet. After a few
moments, she tightened her lips; rose; and walked away.
"Hallo! Where are you going to?" said Marmaduke, following her.
"I'm going to get some drink. I have been sober and miserable ever since
I wrote to you. I have not got much thanks for it, except to be made
more miserable. So I'll get drunk, and be happy."
"No, you shant," said Marmaduke, seizing her arm, and forcibly stopping
"What does it matter to you whether I do or not? You say you won't come
back. Then leave me to go my own way."
"Here! you sit down," he said, pushing her into a chair. "I know your
game well enough. You think you have me safe as long as you have the
"Oh, thats it, is it? Why dont you go out; take a cab; and go to Laurel
Grove for her? There is nothing to prevent you taking her away."
"I have a good mind to do it."
"Well, _do_ it. I wont stop you. Why didnt you do it long ago? Her home
is no place for her. I'm not fit to have charge of her. I have no fancy
for having her talking about me, and most likely mimicking me to other
"Thats exactly what I want to arrange with you to do, if you will only
be reasonable. Listen. Let us part friends, Susanna, since there is no
use in our going on together. You must give me the child. It would only
be a burden to you; and I can have it well taken care of. You can keep
the house just as it is: I will pay the rent of it."
"What good is the house to me?"
"Can't you hear me out? It will be good to you to live in, I suppose; or
you can set it on fire, and wipe it off the face of the earth, for what
I care. I can give you five hundred pounds down----"
"Five hundred pounds! And what will you live on until your October
dividends come in? On credit, I suppose. Do you think you can impose on
me by flourishing money before me? I will never take a halfpenny from
you; no, not if I starve for it."
"Thats all nonsense, Susanna. You must."
"Must I? Do you think you can make me take your money as you made me sit
down here? by force!"
"I only offer you what I owe you. Those debts----"
"I dont want what you owe me. If you think it mean to leave me, you
shant plaster up your conscience with bank notes. You would like to be
able to say in your club that you treated me handsomely."
"I dont think it mean to leave you, not a bit of it. Any other man would
have left you months ago. If I had married that little fool inside
there, and she had taken to drink, I wouldnt have stood it a week. I
have stood it from you nearly a year. Can you expect me to stay under
the same roof with you, with the very thought of you making me sick and
angry? I was looking at some of your old likenesses the other day; and
I declare that it is enough to make a man cry to look at your face now
and listen to your voice. When you used to lecture me for losing a
twenty pound note at billiards, and coming home half screwed--no man
shall ever see me drunk again--I little thought which of us would be the
first to go to the dogs."
"I shall not trouble you long."
"What is the use of harping on that? I have seen you drunk so often that
I should almost be glad to see you dead."
"Stop!" said Susanna, rising. "All right: you need say no more. Talking
will not remedy matters; and it makes me feel pretty much as if you were
throwing big stones at my heart. Youre in the right, I suppose: I've
chosen to make a beast of myself, and I must take the consequences. You
can have the child. I will send for my things: you wont see me at Laurel
Grove again. Good-bye."
"Dont say another word, Bob. Good-bye." He took her hand irresolutely.
She drew it quickly away; nodded to him; and went out, whilst he stood
wondering whether it would be safe--seeing that he did not desire a
reconciliation--to kiss her good-bye.
On Sunday afternoon Douglas walked, facing a glorious sunset, along
Uxbridge Road to Holland Park, where he found Mrs. Conolly, Miss
McQuinch, and Marmaduke. A little girl was playing in the garden. They
were all so unconstrained, and so like their old selves, that Douglas at
once felt that Conolly was absent.
"I am to make Ned's excuses," said Marian. "He has some pressing family
affairs to arrange." She seemed about to explain further; but Marmaduke
looked so uneasily at her that she stopped. Then, resuming gaily, she
added, "I told Ned that he need not stand on ceremony with you. Fancy my
saying that of you, the most punctilious of men!"
"Quite right. I am glad that Mr. Conolly has not suffered me to
interfere with his movements," he replied, with a smile, which he
suppressed as he turned and greeted Miss McQuinch with his usual cold
composure. But to Marmaduke, who seemed much cast down, he gave an
encouraging squeeze of the hand. Not that he was moved by the
misfortunes of Marmaduke; but he was thawed by the beauty of Marian.
"We shall have a pleasant evening," continued Marian. "Let us fancy
ourselves back at Westbourne Terrace again. Reminiscences make one feel
so deliciously aged and sad. Let us think that it is one of our old
Sunday afternoons. Sholto had better go upstairs and shave, to heighten
"Not for me, since I cannot see myself, particularly if I have to call
you Mrs. Conolly. If I may call you Marian, as I used to do, I think
that our conversation will contain fewer reminders of the lapse of
"Of course," said Marian, disregarding an anxious glance from Elinor.
"What else should you call me? We were talking about Nelly's fame when
you came in. The colonial edition of her book has just appeared. Behold
There was a newspaper open on the table; and Marian pointed to one of
its columns as she spoke. Douglas took it up and read the following:
Now Ready, a New and Cheaper Edition, crown 8vo, 5s.
THE WATERS OF MARAH,
BY ELINOR MCQUINCH.
"Superior to many of the numerous tales which find a ready sale at
the railway bookstall." _Athenaeum_.
"There is nothing to fatigue, and something to gratify, the idle
"There is a ring of solid metal in 'The Waters of Marah.'" _Daily
"Miss McQuinch has fairly established her claim to be considered
the greatest novelist of the age." _Middlingtown Mercury._
"Replete with thrilling and dramatic incident..... Instinct with
passion and pathos." _Ladies' Gazette_.
TABUTEAU & SON, COVENT GARDEN.
"That is very flattering," said Douglas, as he replaced the paper on the
"Highly so," said Elinor. "Coriolanus displaying his wounds in the
Forum is nothing to it." And she abruptly took the paper, and threw it
disgustedly behind the sofa. Just then a message from the kitchen
engaged Marian's attention, and Douglas, to relieve her from her guests
for the moment, strolled out upon the little terrace, whither Marmaduke
had moodily preceded him.
"Still in your difficulties, Lind?" he said, with his perfunctory air of
concern, looking at the garden with some interest.
"I'm out of my difficulties clean enough," said Marmaduke. "There's the
child among the currant bushes; and I am rid of her mother: for good, I
"So much the better! I hope it has not cost you too much."
"Not a rap. I met her in the museum after our confab on Wednesday, and
told her what you recommended: that I must have the child, and that she
must go. She said all right, and shook hands. I havnt seen her since."
"I congratulate you."
"I dont feel comfortable about her."
"Absurd, man! What better could you have done?"
"Thats just what I say. It was her own fault; I did all in my power. I
offered her five hundred pounds down. She wouldnt have it, of course;
but could I help that? Next day, when she sent her maid for her things,
I felt so uneasy that I came to Conolly, and told him the whole affair.
He behaved very decently about it, and said that I might as well have
left her six months ago for all the good my staying had done or was
likely to do. He has gone off to see her to-day--she is in lodgings
somewhere near the theatre; and he will let me know in case any money
is required. I should like to know what they are saying to one another
about me. They're a rum pair."
"Well, let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die," said Douglas, with
an unnatural attempt at humor. "Marian seems happy. We must not spoil
"Yes: she is always in good spirits when he is away."
"It seems to me that they dont pull together. I think she is afraid of
"You dont mean to say that he ill-treats her?" said Douglas, fiercely.
"No: I dont mean that he thrashes her, or anything of that sort. And yet
he is just that sort of chap that I shouldnt be surprised at anything he
might do. As far as ordinary matters go, he seems to treat her
particularly well. But Ive noticed that she shuts up and gets anxious
when he comes into the room; and he has his own way in everything."
"Is that all? He embarrasses her by his behavior, I suppose. Perhaps she
is afraid of his allowing his breeding to peep out."
"Not she. His manners are all right enough. Besides, as he is a genius
and a celebrity and all that, people dont expect him to be conventional.
He might stand on his head, if he chose."
"Sholto," said Marian, joining them: "have you spoken to little Lucy?"
"Then you are unacquainted with the most absolute imp on the face of the
earth," said Elinor. "You neednt frown, Marmaduke: it is you who have
made her so."
"Leave her alone," said Marmaduke to Marian, who was about to call the
child. "Petting babies is not in Douglas's line: she will only bore
"Not at all," said Douglas.
"It does not matter whether she bores him or not," said Marian. "He must
learn to take a proper interest in children. Lucy: come here."
Lucy stopped playing, and said, "What for?"
"Because I ask you to, dear," said Marian, gently.
The child considered for a while, and then resumed her play. Miss
McQuinch laughed. Marmaduke muttered impatiently, and went down the
garden. Lucy did not perceive him until he was within a few steps of
her, when she gave a shrill cry of surprise, and ran to the other side
of a flower-bed too wide for him to spring across. He gave chase; but
she, with screams of laughter, avoided him by running to and fro so as
to keep on the opposite side to him. Feeling that it was undignified to
dodge his child thus, he stopped and bade her come to him; but she only
laughed the more. He called her in tones of command, entreaty,
expostulation, and impatience. At last he shouted to her menacingly. She
placed her thumbnail against the tip of her nose; spread her fingers;
and made him a curtsy. He uttered an imprecation, and returned angrily
to the house, saying, between his teeth:
"Let her stay out, since she chooses to be obstinate."
"She is really too bad to-day," said Marian. "I am quite shocked at
"She is quite right not to come in and be handed round for inspection
like a doll," said Elinor.
"She is very bold not to come when she is told," said Marian.
"Yes, from your point of view," said Elinor. "I like bold children."
Marmaduke was sulky and Marian serious for some time after this
incident. They recovered their spirits at dinner, when Marian related to
Douglas how she had become reconciled to his mother. Afterward,
Marmaduke suggested a game at whist.
"Oh no, not on Sunday," said Marian. "Whist is too wicked."
"Then what the dickens _may_ we do?" said Marmaduke. "May Nelly play
_ecarte_ with me?"
"Well, please dont play for money. And dont sit close to the front
"Come along, then, Nell. You two may sing hymns, if you like."
"I wish you could sing, Sholto," said Marian. "It is an age since we
last had a game of chess together. Do you still play?"
"Yes," said Douglas; "I shall be delighted. But I fear you will beat me
now, as I suppose you have been practising with Mr. Conolly."
"Playing with Ned! No: he hates chess. He says it is a foolish expedient
for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever when
they are only wasting their time. He actually grumbled about the price
of the table and the pieces; but I insisted on having them, I suppose in
remembrance of you."
"It is kind of you to say that, Marian. Will you have black or white?"
"White, please, unless you wish me to be always making moves with your
"Now. Will you move?"
"I think I had rather you began. Remember our old conditions. You are
not to checkmate me in three moves; and you are not to take my queen."
"Very well. You may rely upon it I shall think more of my adversary than
of my game. Check."
"Oh! You have done it in three moves. That is not fair. I won't play any
more unless you take back that."
"No, I assure you it is not checkmate. My bishop should be at the other
side for that. There! of course, that will do."
"What a noise Marmaduke makes over his cards! I hope the people next
door will not hear him swearing."
"Impossible. You must not move that knight: it exposes your king. Do you
know, I think there is a great charm about this house."
"Indeed? Yes, it is a pretty house."
"And this sunset hour makes it additionally so; Besides, it is
inexpressibly sad to see you here, a perfectly happy and perfectly
beautiful mistress of this romantic foreign home."
"What do you mean, Sholto?"
"I call it a foreign home because, though it is yours, I have no part
nor lot in it. Remember, we are only playing at old times to-night.
Everything around, from the organ to the ring on your finger, reminds me
that I am a stranger here. It seems almost unkind of you to regret
nothing whilst I am full of regrets."
"Check," said Marian. "Mind your game, sir."
"Flippant!" exclaimed Douglas, impatiently moving his king. "I verily
believe that if your husband were at the bottom of the Thames at this
moment, you would fly off unconcernedly to some other nest, and break
hearts with as much indifference as ever."
"I wish you would not make suggestions of that sort, Sholto. You make
me uncomfortable. Something _might_ happen to Ned. I wish he were home.
He is very late."
"Happy man. You can be serious when you think about him. I envy him."
"What! Sholto Douglas stoop to envy any mortal! Prodigious!"
"Yes: it has come to that with me. Why should I not envy him? His career
has been upward throughout. He has been a successful worker in the
world, where I have had nothing real to do. When the good things I had
been dreaming of and longing for all my life came in his path, he had
them for the mere asking. I valued them so highly that when I fancied I
possessed them, I was the proudest of men. I am humble enough now that I
"You are really talking the greatest nonsense."
"No doubt I am. Still in love, Marian, you see. There is no harm in
telling you so now."
"On the contrary, it is now that there is harm. For shame, Sholto!"
"I am not ashamed. I tell you of my love because now you can listen to
me without uneasiness, knowing that it is no longer associated with
hope, or desire, or anything but regret. You see that I do not affect
the romantic lover. I eat very well; I play chess; I go into society;
and you reproach me for growing fat."
Marian bent over the chessboard for a moment to hide her face. Then she
said in a lower voice, "I have thoroughly convinced myself that there is
no such thing as love in the world."
"That means that you have never experienced it."
"I have told you already that I have never been in love, and that I
dont believe a bit in it. I mean romantic love, of course."
"I verily believe that you have not. The future has one more pang in
store for me; for you will surely love some day."
"I am getting too old for that, I fear. At what age, pray, did you
receive the arrow in your heart?"
"When I was a boy, I loved a vision. The happiest hours of my life were
those in which I was slowly, tremulously daring to believe that I had
found my vision at last in you. And then the dreams that followed! What
a career was to have been mine! I remember how you used to reproach me
because I was austere with women and proud with men. How could I have
been otherwise? I contrasted the gifts of all other women with those of
my elect, and the lot of all other men with my own. Can you wonder that,
doing so, I carried my head among the clouds? You must remember how
unfamiliar failure was to me. At school, at Oxford, in society, I had
sought distinction without misgiving, and attained it without
difficulty. My one dearest object I deemed secure long before I opened
my lips and asked expressly for it. I think I walked through life at
that time like a somnambulist; for I have since seen that I must have
been piling mistake upon mistake until out of a chaos of meaningless
words and smiles I had woven a Paphian love temple. At the first menace
of disappointment--a thing as new and horrible to me as death--I fled
the country. I came back with only the ruins of the doomed temple. You
were not content to destroy a ruin: the feat was too easy to be
glorious. So you rebuilt it in one hour to the very dome, and lighted
its altars with more than their former radiance. Then, as though it
were but a house of cards--as indeed it was nothing else--you gave it
one delicate touch and razed it to its foundations. Yet I am afraid
those altar lamps were not wholly extinguished. They smoulder beneath
the ruins still."
"I wonder why they made you the Newdigate poet at Oxford, Sholto: you
mix your metaphors most dreadfully. Dont be angry with me: I understand
what you mean; and I am very sorry. I say flippant things because I
must. How _can_ one meet seriousness in modern society except by chaff?"
"I am not angry. I had rather you did not understand. The more flippant
you are, the more you harden my heart; and I want it to be as hard as
the nether millstone. Your pity would soften me; and I dread that."
"I believe it does every man good to be softened. If you ever really
felt what you describe, you greatly over-estimated me. What can you lose
by a little more softness? I often think that men--particularly good
men--make their way through the world too much as if it were a solid
mass of iron through which they must cut--as if they dared not relax
their hardest edge and finest temper for a moment. Surely, that is not
the way to enjoy life."
"Perhaps not. Still, it is the way to conquer in life. It may be
pleasant to have a soft heart; but then someone is sure to break it."
"I do not believe much in broken hearts. Besides, I do not mean that men
should be too soft. For instance, sentimental young men of about twenty
are odious. But for a man to get into a fighting attitude at the barest
suggestion of sentiment; to believe in nature as something inexorable,
and to aim at being as inexorable as nature: is not that almost as bad?"
"Do you know any such man? You must not attribute that sort of hardness
"Oh no; I was not thinking of you. I was not thinking of anyone in fact.
I only put a case. I sometimes have disputes with Ned on the subject.
One of his cardinal principles is that there is no use in crying for
spilt milk. I always argue that as irremediable disasters are the only
ones that deserve or obtain sympathy, he might as well say that there is
no use in crying for anything. Then he slips out of the difficulty by
saying that that was just what he meant, and that there is actually no
place for regret in a well-regulated scheme of life. In debating with
women, men brazen out all the ridiculous conclusions of which they are
convicted; and then they say that there is no use in arguing with a
woman. Neither is there, because the woman is always right."
"Yes; because she suffers her heart to direct her."
"You are just as bad as the rest of your sex, I see. Where you cannot
withold credit from a woman, you give it to her heart and deny it to her
"There! I wont play any more," said Miss McQuinch, suddenly, at the
other end of the room. "Have you finished your chess, Marian?"
"We are nearly done. Ring for the lamps, please, Nelly. Let us finish,
"Whose turn is it to move? I beg your pardon for my inattention."
"Mine--no, yours. Stop! it must be mine. I really dont know."
"Nor do I. I have forgotten my game."
"Then let us put up the board. We can finish some other night."
It had become dark by this time; and the lamps were brought in whilst
Douglas was replacing the chessmen in their box.
"Now," said Marian, "let us have some music. Marmaduke: will you sing
Uncle Ned for us? We have not heard you sing for ages."
"I believe it is more than three years since that abominable concert at
Wandsworth; and I have not heard you sing since," said Elinor.
"I forget all my songs--havnt sung one of them for months. However, here
goes! Have you a banjo in the house?"
"No," said Marian. "I will play an accompaniment for you."
"All right. See here: you need only play these three chords. When one
sounds wrong, play another. Youll learn it in a moment."
Marmaduke's voice was not so fresh, nor his fun so spontaneous, as at
Wandsworth; but they were not critical enough to appreciate the
difference: they laughed like children at him. Elinor was asked to play;
but she would not: she had renounced that folly, she said. Then, at
Douglas's request, Marian sang, in memory of Wandsworth, "Rose, softly
blooming." When she had finished, Elinor asked for some old melodies,
knowing that Marian liked these best. So she began gaily with The Oak
and the Ash and Robin Adair. After that, finding both herself and the
others in a more pathetic vein, she sang them The Bailiff's Daughter of
Islington, and The Banks of Allan Water, at the end of which Marmaduke's
eyes were full of tears, and the rest sat quite still. She paused for a
minute, and then broke the silence with Auld Robin Gray, which affected
even Douglas, who had no ear. As she sang the last strain, the click of
a latchkey was heard from without. Instantly she rose; closed the
pianoforte softly; and sat down at some distance from it. Her action was
reflected by a change in their behavior. They remembered that they were
not at home, and became more or less uneasily self-conscious. Elinor was
the least disturbed. Conolly's first glance on entering was at the
piano: his next went in search of his wife.
"Ah!" he said, surprised. "I thought somebody was singing."
"Oh dear no!" said Elinor drily. "You must have been mistaken."
"Perhaps so," said he, smiling. "But I have been listening carefully at
the window for ten minutes; and I certainly dreamt that I heard Auld
Marian blushed. Conolly did not seem to have been moved by the song. He
was alert and loquacious: before he had finished his greeting and
apology to Douglas, they all felt as little sentimental as they had ever
done in their lives. Marian, after asking whether he had dined, became
silent, and dropped the pretty airs of command which, as hostess, she
had worn before.
"Have you any news?" said Marmaduke at last. "Douglas knows the whole
business. We are all friends here."
"Only what we expected," said Conolly. "Affairs are exactly as they
were. I called to-day at her address--"
"How did you get it?" said Marmaduke.
"I wrote for it to her at the theatre."
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