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Title: The Daughters of Danaus
Author: Caird, Mona
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Daughters of Danaus" ***

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[Transcriber's Note: This e-book was produced from a reprint of the
edition first published in 1894 in London by Bliss, Sands, and Foster.
Inconsistent spellings and hyphenations have been standardized. There
is one instance each of Cruachmore and Croachmore, so they have been
left as printed.]



_The Daughters of Danaus_

_Mona Caird_

1894


       *       *       *       *       *

CONTENTS


_The Daughters of Danaus_                                       1

Appendix: "Does Marriage Hinder a Woman's Self-development?"
by Mona Caird                                                 535

       *       *       *       *       *



THE DAUGHTERS OF DANAUS

CHAPTER I.


It was only just light enough to discern the five human forms in the
dimness of the garret; the rays of the moon having to find their way
through the deep window-embrasures of the keep. Less illumination would
have sufficed to disclose the ancient character of the garret, with its
low ceiling, and the graduated mouldings of the cornice, giving the
effect of a shallow dome. The house stood obviously very high, for one
could see from the windows for miles over a bleak country, coldly lit by
the rays of the moon, which was almost at the full. Into the half light
stole presently the sound of some lively instrument: a reel tune played,
as it were, beneath one's breath, but with all the revel and rollicking
emphasis of that intoxicating primitive music. And then in correspondingly
low relief, but with no less emphasis, the occupants of this singular
ball-room began to dance. One might have fancied them some midnight
company of the dead, risen from their graves for this secret revelry,
so strange was the appearance of the moving figures, with the moonlight
catching, as they passed, the faces or the hands. They danced excellently
well, as to the manner born, tripping in and out among the shadows, with
occasional stamping, in time to the music, and now and again that wild
Celtic shout or cry that sets the nerves athrill. In spite of the whole
scene's being enacted in a low key, it seemed only to gain in intensity
from that circumstance, and in fantastic effect.

Among the dancers was one who danced with peculiar spirit and brilliancy,
and her little cry had a ring and a wildness that never failed to set the
others going with new inspiration.

She was a slight, dark-haired girl, with a pale, rather mysterious face,
and large eyes. Not a word was spoken, and the reel went on for nearly
ten minutes. At length the girl with the dark hair gave a final shout,
and broke away from the circle.

With her desertion the dance flagged, and presently came to an end. The
first breaking of the silence gave a slight shock, in spite of the
subdued tones of the speaker.

"It is no use trying to dance a reel without Hadria," said a tall youth,
evidently her brother, if one might judge from his almost southern
colouring and melancholy eyes. In build and feature he resembled the
elder sister, Algitha, who had all the characteristics of a fine
northern race.

"Old Maggie said the other day, that Hadria's dancing of the reel was no
'right canny,'" Algitha observed, in the same low tone that all the
occupants of the garret instinctively adopted.

"Ah!" cried Fred, "old Maggie has always looked upon Hadria as half
bewitched since that night when she found her here 'a wee bit bairn,' as
she says, at this very window, in her nightshirt, standing on tiptoe to
see the moonlight."

"It frightened the poor old thing out of her wits, of course," said
Algitha, who was leaning with crossed arms, in a corner of the deep-set
window. The fine outlines of face and form were shewn in the strange
light, as in a boldly-executed sketch, without detail. Pride and
determination were the dominant qualities so indicated. Her sister
stood opposite, the moonshine making the smooth pallor of her face
more striking, and emphasizing its mysterious quality.

The whole group of young faces, crowded together by the window, and lit
up by the unsympathetic light, had something characteristic and unusual
in its aspect, that might have excited curiosity.

"Tell us the story of the garret, Hadria," said Austin, the youngest
brother, a handsome boy of twelve, with curling brown hair and blue
eyes.

"Hadria has told it hundreds of times, and you know it as well as she
does."

"But I want to hear it again--about the attack upon the keep, and the
shouting of the men, while the lady was up here starving to death."

But Algitha shook her head.

"We don't come up here to tell stories, we must get to business."

"Will you have the candle, or can you see?" asked Fred, the second
brother, a couple of years younger than Hadria, whom he addressed. His
features were irregular; his short nose and twinkling grey eyes
suggesting a joyous and whimsical temperament.

"I think I had better have the candle; my notes are very illegible."

Fred drew forth a candle-end from his pocket, stuck it into a
quaint-looking stand of antique steel, much eaten with rust, and set the
candle-end alight.

Algitha went into the next room and brought in a couple of chairs. Fred
followed her example till there were enough for the party. They all took
their places, and Hadria, who had been provided with a seat facing them,
and with a rickety wooden table that trembled responsively to her
slightest movement, laid down her notes and surveyed her audience. The
faces stood out strangely, in the lights and shadows of the garret.

"Ladies and gentlemen," she began; "on the last occasion on which the
Preposterous Society held its meeting, we had the pleasure of listening
to an able lecture on 'Character' by our respected member Demogorgon"
(the speaker bowed to Ernest, and the audience applauded). "My address
to-night on 'Fate' is designed to contribute further ideas to this
fascinating subject, and to pursue the enquiry more curiously."

The audience murmured approval.

"We were left at loggerheads, at the end of the last debate. I doubted
Demogorgon's conclusion, while admiring his eloquence. To-night, I will
put before you the view exactly contrary to his. I do not assert that I
hold this contrary view, but I state it as well as I am able, because I
think that it has not been given due consideration."

"This will be warm," Fred was heard to murmur with a chuckle, to an
adjacent sister. The speaker looked at her notes.

"I will read," she said, "a passage from Emerson, which states very
strikingly the doctrine that I am going to oppose."

Hadria held her paper aslant towards the candle-end, which threw a murky
yellow light upon the background of the garret, contrasting oddly with
the thin, clear moonbeams.

"'But the soul contains the event that shall befall it, for the event is
only the actualization of its thoughts; and what we pray to ourselves
for is always granted. The event is the print of your form. It fits you
like your skin. What each does is proper to him. Events are the children
of his mind and body.'"

Algitha leant forward. The members of the Preposterous Society settled
into attitudes of attention.

Hadria said that this was a question that could not fail to be of
peculiar interest to them all, who had their lives before them, to make
or mar. It was an extremely difficult question, for it admitted of no
experiment. One could never go back in life and try another plan. One
could never make sure, by such a test, how much circumstance and how
much innate ideas had to do with one's disposition. Emerson insisted
that man makes his circumstance, and history seemed to support that
theory. How untoward had been, in appearance, the surroundings of those
who had made all the great movements and done all the great deeds of the
world. Let one consider the poverty, persecution, the incessant
discouragement, and often the tragic end of our greatest benefactors.
Christ was but one of the host of the crucified. In spite of the theory
which the lecturer had undertaken to champion, she believed that it was
generally those people who had difficult lives who did the beneficent
deeds, and generally those people who were encouraged and comfortable
who went to sleep, or actively dragged down what the thinkers and actors
had piled up. In great things and in small, such was the order of life.

"Hear, hear," cried Ernest, "my particular thunder!"

"Wait a minute," said the lecturer. "I am going to annihilate you with
your particular thunder." She paused for a moment, and her eyes rested
on the strange white landscape beyond the little group of faces upturned
towards her.

"Roughly, we may say that people are divided into two orders: first, the
organizers, the able, those who build, who create cohesion, symmetry,
reason, economy; and, secondly, the destroyers, those who come wandering
idly by, and unfasten, undo, relax, disintegrate all that has been
effected by the force and vigilance of their betters. This distinction
is carried into even the most trivial things of life. Yet without that
organization and coherence, the existence of the destroyers themselves
would become a chaos and a misery."

The oak table over which Hadria bent forward towards her audience,
appeared to be applauding this sentiment vigorously. It rocked to and
fro on the uneven floor with great clamour.

"Thus," the speaker went on, "these relaxed and derivative people are
living on the strength of the strong. He who is strong must carry with
him, as a perpetual burden, a mass of such pensioners, who are scared
and shocked at his rude individuality; and if he should trip or stumble,
if he should lose his way in the untrodden paths, in seeking new truth
and a broader foundation for the lives of men, then a chorus of censure
goes up from millions of little throats."

"Hear, hear!" cried Algitha and Fred, and the table rocked
enthusiastically.

"But when the good things are gained for which the upholders have
striven and perhaps given their lives, then there are no more greedy
absorbers of the bounty than these same innumerable little throats."

The table led the chorus of assent.

"And now," said the lecturer slowly, "consider this in relation to the
point at issue. Emerson asserts that circumstance can always be conquered.
But is not circumstance, to a large extent, created by these destroyers,
as I have called them? Has not the strongest soul to count with these,
who weave the web of adverse conditions, whose dead weight has to be
carried, whose work of destruction has to be incessantly repaired? Who
can dare to say 'I am master of my fate,' when he does not know how large
may be the share of the general burden that will fall to him to drag
through life, how great may be the number of these parasites who are
living on the moral capital of their generation? Surely circumstance
consists largely in the inertia, the impenetrability of the destroyers."

Ernest shewed signs of restiveness. He shuffled on his chair, made
muttered exclamations.

"Presently," said the lecturer reassuringly.

"Or put it in another way," she went on. "A man may make a
thing--circumstance included--but he is not a sort of moral spider; he
can't spin it out of his own inside. _He wants something to make it of._
The formative force comes from within, but he must have material, just
as much as a sculptor must have his marble before he can shape his
statue. There is a subtle relation between character and conditions, and
it is this _relation_ that determines Fate. Fate is as the statue of
the sculptor."

"That's where Hadria mainly differs from you," said Fred, "you make the
thing absolute; Hadria makes it a matter of relation."

"Exactly," assented the lecturer, catching the remark. "Difficulties
need not be really obstructive to the best development of a character or
a power, nor a smooth path always favourable. Obstacles may be of a kind
to stimulate one person and to annihilate another. It is _not_ a
question of relative strength between character and circumstance, as
people are so fond of asserting. That is mere gibberish. It means nothing.
The two things cannot be compared, for they are not of the same nature.
They can't be reduced to a common denominator."

Austin appreciated this illustration, being head of his class for
arithmetic.

"We shall never be able to take a reasonable view of this question till
we get rid of that ridiculous phrase, '_If the soul is strong enough, it
can overcome circumstance._' In a room filled with carbonic acid instead
of ordinary air, a giant would succumb as quickly as a dwarf, and his
strength would avail him nothing. Indeed, if there is a difference, it
is in favour of the dwarf."

Ernest frowned. This was all high treason against his favourite author.
He had given his sister a copy of Emerson's works last Christmas, in the
hope that her views might be enlightened, and _this_ was the disgraceful
use she made of it!

"Finally," said Hadria, smiling defiantly at her brother, "let us put
the question shortly thus: Given (say) great artistic power, given also
a conscience and a strong will, is there any combination of circumstances
which might prevent the artistic power (assuming it to be of the highest
order and strength) from developing and displaying itself, so as to meet
with general recognition?"

"No," asserted Ernest, and there was a hesitating chorus on his side.

"There seem to me to be a thousand chances against it," Hadria
continued. "Artistic power, to begin with, is a sort of weakness in
relation to the everyday world, and so, in some respects, is a nice
conscience. I think Emerson is shockingly unjust. His beaming optimism
is a worship of success disguised under lofty terms. There is nothing
to prove that thousands have not been swamped by maladjustment of
character to circumstance, and I would even go so far as to suggest that
perhaps the very greatest of all are those whom the world has never
known, because the present conditions are inharmonious with the very
noblest and the very highest qualities."

No sooner was the last word uttered than the garret became the scene of
the stormiest debate that had ever been recorded in the annals of the
Preposterous Society, an institution that had lately celebrated its
fifth anniversary. Hadria, fired by opposition, declared that the
success of great people was due not simply to their greatness, but to
some smaller and commoner quality which brought them in touch with the
majority, and so gave their greatness a chance.

At this, there was such a howl of indignation that Algitha remonstrated.

"We shall be heard, if you don't take care," she warned.

"My dear Algitha, there are a dozen empty rooms between us and the
inhabited part of the house, not to mention the fact that we are a
storey above everyone except the ghosts, so I think you may compose
yourself."

However, the excited voices were hushed a little as the discussion
continued. One of the chief charms of the institution, in the eyes of
the members of the Society, was its secrecy. The family, though united
by ties of warm affection to their parents, did not look for
encouragement from them in this direction. Mr. Fullerton was too
exclusively scientific in his bent of thought, to sympathize with the
kind of speculation in which his children delighted, while their mother
looked with mingled pride and alarm at these outbreaks of individuality
on the part of her daughters, for whom she craved the honours of the
social world. In this out-of-the-way district, society smiled upon
conformity, and glared vindictively at the faintest sign of spontaneous
thinking. Cleverness of execution, as in music, tennis, drawing, was
forgiven, even commended; but originality, though of the mildest sort,
created the same agonizing disturbance in the select circle, as the
sight of a crucifix is wont to produce upon the father of Evil. Yet by
some freak of fortune, the whole family at Dunaghee had shewn obstinate
symptoms of individuality from their childhood, and, what was more
distressing, the worst cases occurred in the girls.

In the debate just recorded, that took place on Algitha's twenty-second
birthday, Ernest had been Hadria's principal opponent, but the others
had also taken the field against her.

"You have the easier cause to champion," she said, when there was a
momentary lull, "for all your evidences can be pointed to and counted;
whereas mine, poor things--pale hypotheses, nameless peradventures--lie
in forgotten churchyards--unthought of, unthanked, untrumpeted, and all
their tragedy is lost in the everlasting silence."

"You will never make people believe in what _might_ have been," said
Algitha.

"I don't expect to." Hadria was standing by the window looking out over
the glimmering fields and the shrouded white hills. "Life is as white and
as unsympathetic as this," she said dreamily. "We just dance our reel in
our garret, and then it is all over; and whether we do the steps as our
fancy would have them, or a little otherwise, because of the uneven floor,
or tired feet, or for lack of chance to learn the steps--heavens and earth,
what does it matter?"

"Hadria!" exclaimed an astonished chorus.

The sentiment was so entirely unlike any that the ardent President of
the Society had ever been known to express before, that brothers and
sisters crowded up to enquire into the cause of the unusual mood.

"Oh, it is only the moonlight that has got into my head," she said,
flinging back the cloudy black hair from her brow.

Algitha's firm, clear voice vibrated through the room.

"But I think it matters very much whether one's task is done well or
ill," she said, "and nobody has taught me to wish to make solid use of
my life so much as you have, Hadria. What possesses you to-night?"

"I tell you, the moonlight."

"And something else."

"Well, it struck me, as I stood there with my head full of what we have
been discussing, that the conditions of a girl's life of our own class
are pleasant enough, but they are stifling, absolutely _stifling_;
and not all the Emersons in the world will convince me to the contrary.
Emerson never was a girl!"

There was a laugh.

"No; but he was a great man," said Ernest.

"Then he must have had something of the girl in him!" cried Hadria.

"I didn't mean that, but perhaps it is true."

"If he had been a girl, he would have known that conditions _do_ count
hideously in one's life. I think that there are more 'destroyers' to be
carried about and pampered in this department of existence than in any
other (material conditions being equal)."

"Do you mean that a girl would have more difficulty in bringing her
power to maturity and getting it recognized than a man would have?"
asked Fred.

"Yes; the odds are too heavy."

"A second-rate talent perhaps," Ernest admitted, "but not a really big
one."

"I should exactly reverse that statement," said Hadria. "The greater the
power and the finer its quality, the greater the inharmony between the
nature and the conditions; therefore the more powerful the leverage
against it. A small comfortable talent might hold its own, where a
larger one would succumb. That is where I think you make your big
mistake, in forgetting that the greatness of the power may serve to
make the greatness of the obstacles."

"So much the better for me then," said Algitha, with a touch of satire;
"for I have no idea of being beaten." She folded her arms in a serene
attitude of determination.

"Surely it only wants a little force of will to enable you to occupy
your life in the manner you think best," said Ernest.

"That is often impossible for a girl, because prejudice and custom are
against her."

"But she ought to despise prejudice and custom," cried the brother,
nobly.

"So she often would; but then she has to tear through so many living
ties that restrain her freedom."

Algitha drew herself up. "If one is unjustly restrained," she said, "it
is perfectly right to brave the infliction of the sort of pain that
people feel only because they unfairly object to one's liberty of
action."

"But what a frightful piece of circumstance _that_ is to encounter,"
cried Hadria, "to have to buy the mere right to one's liberty by cutting
through prejudices that are twined in with the very heart-strings of
those one loves! Ah! _that_ particular obstacle has held many a
woman helpless and suffering, like some wretched insect pinned alive to
a board throughout a miserable lifetime! What would Emerson say to these
cases? That 'Nature magically suits the man to his fortunes by making
these the fruit of his character'? Pooh! I think Nature more often makes
a man's fortunes a veritable shirt of Nessus which burns and clings, and
finally kills him with anguish!"



CHAPTER II.


Once more the old stronghold of Dunaghee, inured for centuries to the
changes of the elements, received the day's greeting. The hues of dawn
tinged the broad hill pastures, or "airds," as they were called, round
about the Tower of the Winds. No one was abroad yet in the silent lands,
except perhaps a shepherd, tending his flock. The little farmstead of
Craw Gill, that lay at a distance of about a couple of miles down the
valley, on the side of a ravine, was apparently dead asleep. Cruachmore,
the nearest upland farm, could scarcely be seen from the stronghold. The
old tower had been added to, perhaps two hundred years ago; a
rectangular block projecting from the corner of the original building,
and then a second erection at right angles to the first, so as to form
three sides of an irregular courtyard. This arrangement afforded some
shelter from the winds which seldom ceased to blow in these high
regions. The spot had borne the same reputation for centuries, as the
name of the old tower implied.

The Tower of the Winds stood desolately, in the midst of a wide-eyed
agricultural country, and was approached only by a sort of farm track
that ran up hill and down dale, in a most erratic course, to the distant
main road.

The country was not mountainous, though it lay in a northern district of
Scotland; it was bleak and solitary, with vast bare fields of grass or
corn; and below in the valley, a river that rushed sweeping over its
rough bed, silent where it ran deep, but chattering busily in the
shallows. Here was verdure to one's heart's content; the whole country
being a singular mixture of bleakness on the heights, and woodland
richness in the valleys; bitterly cold in the winter months, when the
light deserted the uplands ridiculously early in the afternoon, leaving
long mysterious hours that held the great silent stretches of field and
hill-side in shadow; a circumstance, which had, perhaps, not been
without its influence in the forming of Hadria's character. She, more
than the others, seemed to have absorbed the spirit of the northern
twilights. It was her custom to wander alone over the broad spaces of
the hills, watching the sun set behind them, the homeward flight of the
birds, the approach of darkness and the rising of the stars. Every
instinct that was born in her with her Celtic blood--which lurked still
in the family to the confounding of its fortunes--was fostered by the
mystery and wildness of her surroundings.

Dawn and sunset had peculiar attractions for her.

Although the Preposterous Society had not separated until unusually late
on the previous night, the President was up and abroad on this exquisite
morning, summoned by some "message of range and of sweep----" to the
flushing stretches of pasture and the windy hill-side.

In spite of the view that Hadria had expounded in her capacity of
lecturer, she had an inner sense that somehow, after all, the will _can_
perform astonishing feats in Fate's despite. Her intellect, rather than
her heart, had opposed the philosophy of Emerson. Her sentiment recoiled
from admitting the possibility of such tragedy as her expressed belief
implied. This morning, the wonder and the grandeur of the dawn supplied
arguments to faith. If the best in human nature were always to be hunted
down and extinguished, if the efforts to rise in the scale of being, to
bring gifts instead of merely absorbing benefits, were only by a rare
combination of chances to escape the doom of annihilation, where was one
to turn to for hope, or for a motive for effort? How could one reconcile
the marvellous beauty of the universe, the miracles of colour, form,
and, above all, of music, with such a chaotic moral condition, and such
unlovely laws in favour of dulness, cowardice, callousness, cruelty? One
aspired to be an upholder and not a destroyer, but if it were a useless
pain and a bootless venture----?

Hadria tried to find some proof of the happier philosophy that would
satisfy her intellect, but it refused to be comforted. Yet as she
wandered in the rosy light over the awakening fields, her heart sang
within her. The world was exquisite, life was a rapture!

She could take existence in her hands and form and fashion it at her
will, obviously, easily; her strength yearned for the task.

Yet all the time, the importunate intellect kept insisting that feeling
was deceptive, that health and youth and the freshness of the morning
spoke in her, and not reason or experience. Feeling was left untouched
nevertheless. It was impossible to stifle the voices that prophesied
golden things. Life was all before her; she was full of vigour and
longing and good will; the world stretched forth as a fair territory,
with magical pathways leading up to dizzy mountain tops. With visions
such as these, the members of the Preposterous Society had fired their
imaginations, and gained impetus for their various efforts and their
various ambitions.

Hadria had been among the most hopeful of the party, and had pointed to
the loftier visions, and the more impersonal aims. Circumstance must
give way, compromise was wrong; we had but a short time in this world,
and mere details and prejudices must not be allowed to interfere with
one's right to live to the utmost of one's scope. But it was easier to
state a law than to obey it; easier to inspire others with faith than to
hold fast to it oneself.

The time for taking matters in one's own hands had scarcely come. A girl
was so helpless, so tied by custom. One could engage, so far, only in
guerilla warfare with the enemy, who lurked everywhere in ambush, ready
to harass the wayfarers with incessant petty attack. But life _must_
have something more to offer than this--life with its myriad interests,
dramas, mysteries, arts, poetries, delights!

By the river, where it had worn for itself a narrow ravine, with steep
rocky sides or "clints," as they were called, several short tunnels or
passages had been cut in places where the rock projected as far as the
bank of the river, which was followed in its windings by a narrow
footway, leading to the farmstead of Craw Gill.

In one part, a series of such tunnels, with intervals of open pathway,
occurred in picturesque fashion, causing a singular effect of light and
shade.

As Hadria stood admiring the glow of the now fully-risen sun, upon the
wall of rock that rose beyond the opening of the tunnel which she had
just passed through, she heard footsteps advancing along the riverside
path, and guessed that Algitha and Ernest had come to fetch her, or to
join in any absurd project that she might have in view. Although Algitha
was two-and-twenty, and Hadria only a year younger, they were still
guilty at times of wild escapades, with the connivance of their
brothers. Walks or rides at sunrise were ordinary occurrences in the
family, and in summer, bathing in the river was a favourite amusement.

"I thought I recognised your footsteps," said Hadria, as the two figures
appeared at the mouth of the tunnel, the low rays of the sun lighting
them up, for a moment, as they turned the sharp bend of the narrow path,
before entering the shadow.

A quantity of brown dead leaves were strewn upon the floor of the
rock-passage, blown in by the wind from the pathway at each end, or
perhaps through the opening in the middle of the tunnel that looked out
upon the rushing river.

A willow-tree had found footing in the crevice of the rock just outside,
and its branches, thinly decked with pale yellow leaves, dipped into the
water just in front of the opening. When the wind blew off the river it
would sweep the leaves of the willow into the tunnel.

"Let's make a bonfire," suggested Ernest.

They collected the withered harvest of the winds upon the cavern floor,
in a big brown heap, and then Ernest struck a match and set light to it.
Algitha, in a large black cloak, stood over it with a hazel stick--like
a wand--stirring and heaping on the fuel, as the mass began to smoulder
and to send forth a thick white smoke that gradually filled the cavern,
curling up into the rocky roof and swirling round and out by the
square-cut mouth, to be caught there by the slight wind and illumined
by the sun, which poured down upon the soft coils of the smoke, in so
strange a fashion, as to call forth a cry of wonder from the onlookers.
Standing in the interval of open pathway between the two rock-passages,
and looking back at the fire lit cavern, with its black shadows and
flickering flame-colours, Hadria was bewildered by what appeared to her
a veritable magic vision, beautiful beyond anything that she had ever
met in dream. She stood still to watch, with a real momentary doubt as
to whether she were awake.

The figures, stooping over the burning heap, moved occasionally across
the darkness, looking like a witch and her familiar spirit, who were
conjuring, by uncanny arts, a vision of life, on the strange, white,
clean-cut patch of smoke that was defined by the sunlit entrance to the
tunnel. The witch stirred, and her familiar added fuel, while behind
them the smoke, rising and curdling, formed the mysterious background
of light: opaque, and yet in a state of incessant movement, as of some
white raging fire, thinner and more deadly than any ordinary earthly
element, that seemed to sicken and flicker in the blast of a furnace,
and then rushed upwards, and coiled and rolled across the tunnel's
mouth. Presently, as a puff of wind swept away part of the smoke, a
miraculous tinge of rosy colour appeared, changing, as one caught it,
into gold, and presently to a milky blue, then liquid green, and a
thousand intermediate tints corresponding to the altering density of
the smoke--and then! Hadria caught her breath--the blue and the red
and the gold melted and moved and formed, under the incantation, into
a marvellous vision of distant lands, purple mountains, fair white
cities, and wide kingdoms, so many, so great, that the imagination
staggered at the vastness revealed, and offered, as it seemed, to him
who could grasp and perceive it. Among those blue deeps and faint
innumerable mountain-tops, caught through a soft mist that continually
moved and lifted, thinned and thickened, with changing tints, all the
secrets, all the hopes, all the powers and splendours, of life lay
hidden; and the beauty of the vision was as the essence of poetry and
of music--of all that is lovely in the world of art, and in the world of
the emotions. The question that had been debated so hotly and so often,
as to the relation of the good and the beautiful, art and ethics, seemed
to be answered by this bewildering revelation of sunlit smoke, playing
across the face of a purple-tinted rock, and a few feet of grass-edged
pathway.

"Come and see what visions you have conjured up, O witch!" cried Hadria.

Algitha gave a startled exclamation, as the smoke thinned and revealed
that bewildering glimpse of distant lands, half seen, as through the
atmosphere of a dream. An exquisite city, with slender towers and
temples, flashed, for a moment, through the mist curtain.

"If life is like that," she said at length, drawing a long breath,
"nothing on this earth ought to persuade us to forego it; no one has the
right to hold one back from its possession."

"No one," said Hadria; "but everyone will try!"

"Let them try," returned Algitha defiantly.



CHAPTER III.


Ernest and his two sisters walked homeward along the banks of the river,
and thence up by a winding path to the top of the cliffs. It was mild
weather, and they decided to pause in the little temple of classic
design, which some ancient owner of the Drumgarran estate, touched with
a desire for the exquisiteness of Greek outline, had built on a
promontory of the rocks, among rounded masses of wild foliage; a spot
that commanded one of the most beautiful reaches of the river. The scene
had something of classic perfection and serenity.

"I admit," said Ernest in response to some remark of one of his sisters,
"I admit that I should not like to stay here during all the best years
of my life, without prospect of widening my experience; only as a matter
of fact, the world is somewhat different from anything that you imagine,
and by no means would you find it all beer and skittles. Your smoke and
sun-vision is not to be trusted."

"But think of the pride and joy of being able to speak in that tone of
experience!" exclaimed Hadria mockingly.

"One has to pay for experience," said Ernest, shaking his head and
ignoring her taunt.

"I think one has to pay more heavily for _in_experience," she said.

"Not if one never comes in contact with the world. Girls are protected
from the realities of life so long as they remain at home, and that is
worth something after all."

Algitha snorted. "I don't know what you are pleased to call realities,
my dear Ernest, but I can assure you there are plenty of unpleasant
facts, in this protected life of ours."

"Nobody can expect to escape unpleasant facts," said Ernest.

"Then for heaven's sake, let us purchase with them something worth
having!" Hadria cried.

"Hear, hear!" assented Algitha.

"Unpleasant facts being a foregone conclusion," Hadria added, "the point
to aim at obviously is _interesting_ facts--and plenty of them."

Ernest flicked a pebble off the parapet of the balustrade of the little
temple, and watched it fall, with a silent splash, into the river.

"I never met girls before, who wanted to come out of their cotton-wool,"
he observed. "I thought girls loved cotton-wool. They always seem to."

"Girls _seem_ an astonishing number of things that they are not,"
said Hadria, "especially to men. A poor benighted man might as well try
to get on to confidential terms with the Sphinx, as to learn the real
thoughts and wishes of a girl."

"You two are exceptional, you see," said Ernest.

"Oh, _everybody's_ exceptional, if you only knew it!" exclaimed his
sister. "Girls;" she went on to assert, "are stuffed with certain
stereotyped sentiments from their infancy, and when that painful process
is completed, intelligent philosophers come and smile upon the victims,
and point to them as proofs of the intentions of Nature regarding our
sex, admirable examples of the unvarying instincts of the feminine
creature. In fact," Hadria added with a laugh, "it's as if the trainer
of that troop of performing poodles that we saw, the other day, at
Ballochcoil, were to assure the spectators that the amiable animals were
inspired, from birth, by a heaven-implanted yearning to jump through
hoops, and walk about on their hind legs----"

"But there _are_ such things as natural instincts," said Ernest.

"There _are_ such things as acquired tricks," returned Hadria.

A loud shout, accompanied by the barking of several dogs, announced the
approach of the two younger boys. Boys and dogs had been taking their
morning bath in the river.

"You have broken in upon a most interesting discourse," said Ernest.
"Hadria was really coming out."

This led to a general uproar.

When peace was restored, the conversation went on in desultory fashion.
Ernest and Hadria fell apart into a more serious talk. These two had
always been "chums," from the time when they used to play at building
houses of bricks on the nursery floor. There was deep and true affection
between them.

The day broke into splendour, and the warm rays, rounding the edge of
the eastward rock, poured straight into the little temple. Below and
around on the cliff-sides, the rich foliage of holly and dwarf oak, ivy,
and rowan with its burning berries, was transformed into a mass of warm
colour and shining surfaces.

"What always bewilders me," Hadria said, bending over the balustrade
among the ivy, "is the enormous gulf between what _might be_ and what
_is_ in human life. Look at the world--life's most sumptuous stage--and
look at life! The one, splendid, exquisite, varied, generous, rich
beyond description; the other, poor, thin, dull, monotonous, niggard,
distressful--is that necessary?"

"But all lives are not like that," objected Fred.

"I speak only from my own narrow experience," said Hadria.

"Oh, she is thinking, as usual, of that unfortunate Mrs. Gordon!" cried
Ernest.

"Of her, and the rest of the average, typical sort of people that I
know," Hadria admitted. "I wish to heaven I had a wider knowledge to
speak from."

"If one is to believe what one hears and reads," said Algitha, "life
must be full of sorrow indeed."

"But putting aside the big sorrows," said her sister, "the ordinary
every day existence that would be called prosperous, seems to me to be
dull and stupid to a tragic extent."

"The Gordons of Drumgarran once more! I confess I can't see anything
particularly tragic there," observed Fred, whose memory recalled troops
of stalwart young persons in flannels, engaged for hours, in sending a
ball from one side of a net to the other.

"It is more than tragic; it is disgusting!" cried Hadria with a shiver.
Algitha drew herself together. She turned to her eldest brother.

"Look here, Ernest; you said just now that girls were shielded from the
realities of life. Yet Mrs. Gordon was handed over by her protectors,
when she was little more than a school-girl, without knowledge, without
any sort of resource or power of facing destiny, to--well, to the
hateful realities of the life that she has led now for over twenty
years. There is nothing to win general sympathy in this case, for Mr.
Gordon is good and kind; but oh, think of the existence that a
'protected,' carefully brought-up girl may be launched into, before she
knows what she is pledged to, or what her ideas of life may be! If
_that_ is what you call protection, for heaven's sake let us remain
defenceless."

Fred and Ernest accused their elder sister of having been converted by
Hadria. Algitha, honest and courageous in big things and in small, at
once acknowledged the source of her ideas. Not so long ago, Algitha had
differed from the daughters of the neighbouring houses, rather in force
of character than in sentiment.

She had followed the usual aims with unusual success, giving unalloyed
satisfaction to her proud mother. Algitha had taken it as a matter of
course that she would some day marry, and have a house of her own to
reign in. A home, not a husband, was the important matter, and Algitha
had trusted to her attractions to make a good marriage; that is, to
obtain extensive regions for her activities. She craved a roomy stage
for her drama, and obviously there was only one method of obtaining it,
and even that method was but dubious. But Hadria had undermined this
matter of fact, take-things-as-you-find-them view, and set her sister's
pride on the track. That master-passion once aroused in the new
direction, Algitha was ready to defend her dignity as a woman, and as a
human being, to the death. Hadria felt as a magician might feel, who has
conjured up spirits henceforth beyond his control; for obviously, her
sister's whole life would be altered by this change of sentiment, and,
alas, her mother's hopes must be disappointed. The laird of Clarenoc--a
fine property, of which Algitha might have been mistress--had received
polite discouragement, much to his surprise and that of the
neighbourhood. Even Ernest, who was by no means worldly, questioned the
wisdom of his sister's decision; for the laird of Clarenoc was a good
fellow, and after all, let them talk as they liked, what was to become
of a girl unless she married? This morning's conversation therefore
touched closely on burning topics.

"Mrs. Gordon's people meant it for the best, I suppose," Ernest
observed, "when they married her to a good man with a fine property."

"That is just the ghastly part of it!" cried Hadria; "from ferocious
enemies a girl might defend herself, but what is she to do against the
united efforts of devoted friends?"

"I don't suppose Mrs. Gordon is aware that she is so ill-used!"

"Another gruesome circumstance!" cried Hadria, with a half laugh; "for
that only proves that her life has dulled her self-respect, and
destroyed her pride."

"But, my dear, every woman is in the same predicament, if predicament it
be!"

"What a consolation!" Hadria exclaimed, "_all_ the foxes have lost
their tails!"

"It may be illogical, but people generally are immensely comforted by
that circumstance."

The conversation waxed warmer and more personal. Fred took a
conservative view of the question. He thought that there were instincts
implanted by Nature, which inspired Mrs. Gordon with a yearning for
exactly the sort of existence that fate had assigned to her. Algitha,
who had been the recipient of that lady's tragic confidences, broke into
a shout of laughter.

"Well, Harold Wilkins says----"

This name was also greeted with a yell of derision.

"I don't see why you girls always scoff so at Harold Wilkins," said
Fred, slightly aggrieved, "he is generally thought a lot of by girls.
All Mrs. Gordon's sisters adore him."

"He needs no further worshippers," said Hadria.

Fred was asked to repeat the words of Harold Wilkins, but to soften them
down if too severe.

"He laughs at your pet ideas," said Fred ruthlessly.

"Break it gently, Fred, gently."

"He thinks that a true woman esteems it her highest privilege to--well,
to be like Mrs. Gordon."

"Wise and learned youth!" cried Hadria, resting her chin on her hand,
and peering up into the blue sky, above the temple.

"_Fool!_" exclaimed Algitha.

"He says," continued Fred, determined not to spare those who were so
overbearing in their scorn, "he says that girls who have ideas like
yours will never get any fellow to marry them."

Laughter loud and long greeted this announcement.

"Laughter," observed Fred, when he could make himself heard, "is among
the simplest forms of argument. Does this merry outburst imply that you
don't care a button whether you are able to get some one to marry you or
not?"

"It does," said Algitha.

"Well, so I said to Wilkins, as a matter of fact, with my nose in the air,
on your behalf, and Wilkins replied, 'Oh, it's all very well while girls
are young and good-looking to be so high and mighty, but some day, when
they are left out in the cold, and all their friends married, they may
sing a different tune.' Feeling there was something in this remark,"
Fred continued, "I raised my nose two inches higher, and adopted the
argument that _I_ also resort to _in extremis_. I laughed.
'Well, my dear fellow,' Wilkins observed calmly, 'I mean no offence, but
what on earth is a girl to do with herself if she _doesn't_ marry?'"

"What did you reply?" asked Ernest with curiosity.

"Oh, I said that was an unimportant detail, and changed the subject."

Algitha was still scornful, but Hadria looked meditative.

"Harold Wilkins has a practical mind," she observed. "After all, he is
right, when you come to consider it."

"_Hadria!_" remonstrated her sister, in dismay.

"We may as well be candid," said Hadria. "There _is_ uncommonly little
that a girl can do (or rather that people will let her do) unless she
marries, and that is why she so often does marry as a mere matter of
business. But I wish Harold Wilkins would remember that fact, instead of
insisting that it is our inherent and particular nature that urges us,
one and all, to the career of Mrs. Gordon."

Algitha was obviously growing more and more ruffled. Fred tried in vain
to soothe her feelings. He joked, but she refused to see the point. She
would not admit that Harold Wilkins had facts on his side.

"If one simply made up one's mind to walk through all the hampering
circumstances, who or what could stop one?" she asked.

"Algitha has evidently got some desperate plan in her head for making
mincemeat of circumstances," cried Fred, little guessing that he had
stated the exact truth.

"Do you remember that Mrs. Gordon herself waged a losing battle in early
days, incredible as it may appear?" asked Hadria.

Algitha nodded slowly, her eyes fixed on the ground.

"She did not originally set out with the idea of being a sort of amiable
cow. She once aspired to be quite human; she really did, poor thing!"

"Then why didn't she do it?" asked Algitha contemptuously.

"Instead of _doing_ a thing, she had to be perpetually struggling for
the chance to do it, which she never achieved, and so she was submerged.
That seems to be the fatality in a woman's life."

"Well, there is one thing I am very sure of," announced Algitha, leaning
majestically against a column of the temple, and looking like a
beautiful Greek maiden, in her simple gown, "I do not intend to be a
cow. I do not mean to fight a losing battle. I will not wait at home
meekly, till some fool holds out his sceptre to me."

All eyes turned to her, in astonishment.

"But what are you going to do?" asked a chorus of voices. Hadria's was
not among them, for she knew what was coming. The debate of last night,
and this morning's discussion, had evidently brought to a climax a
project that Algitha had long had in her mind, but had hesitated to
carry out, on account of the distress that it would cause to her mother.
Algitha's eyes glittered, and her colour rose.

"I am not going to be hawked about the county till I am disposed of. It
does not console me in the least, that _all_ the foxes are without
tails," she went on, taking short cuts to her meaning, in her
excitement. "I am going to London with Mrs. Trevelyan, to help her in
her work."

"By _Jove_!" exclaimed Fred. Ernest whistled. Austin stared, with
open mouth.

Having recovered from the first shock of surprise, the family plied
their sister with questions. She said that she had long been thinking of
accepting the post offered her by Mrs. Trevelyan last year, and now she
was resolved. The work was really wise, useful work among the poor,
which Algitha felt she could do well. At home, there was nothing that
she did that the housekeeper could not do better. She felt herself
fretting and growing irritable, for mere want of some active employment.
This was utterly absurd, in an overworked world. Hadria had her music
and her study, at any rate, but Algitha had nothing that seemed worth
doing; she did not care to paint indifferently on china; she was a mere
encumbrance--a destroyer, as Hadria put it--while there was so much, so
very much, that waited to be done. The younger sister made no comment.

"Next time I meet Harold Wilkins," said Fred, drawing a long breath, "I
will tell him that if a girl does not marry, she can devote herself to
the poor."

"Or that she can remain to be the family consolation, eh, Hadria? By
Jove, what a row there will be!"

The notion of Hadria in the capacity of the family consolation, created
a shout of laughter. It had always been her function to upset foregone
conclusions, overturn orthodox views, and generally disturb the
conformity of the family attitude. Now the sedate and established
qualities would be expected of her. Hadria must be the stay and hope
of the house!

Fred continued to chuckle, at intervals, over the idea.

"It _does_ seem to indicate rather a broken-down family!" said Ernest.

"I wish one of you boys would undertake the position instead of laughing
at _me_," exclaimed Hadria in mock resentment. "I wish _you_ would go to
eternal tennis-parties, and pay calls, and bills, and write notes, and
do little useless necessary things, more or less all day. I wish _you_
had before you the choice between that existence and the career of Mrs.
Gordon, with the sole chance of escape from either fate, in ruthlessly
trampling upon the bleeding hearts of two beloved parents!"

"Thank you kindly," said Fred, "but we infinitely prefer to laugh at you."

"Man's eternal reply to woman, admirably paraphrased!" commented Hadria.

Everyone was anxious to know when Algitha intended to go to London.
Nobody doubted for a moment that she would hold to her purpose; as Fred
said, she was so "beastly obstinate."

Algitha had not fixed any time. It would depend on her mother. She
wished to make things as little painful as possible. That it was her
duty to spare her pain altogether by remaining at home, Algitha refused
to admit. She and Hadria had thought out the question from all sides.
The work she was going to do was useful, but she did not justify herself
on that ground. She claimed the right to her life and her liberty, apart
from what she intended to do with either. She owed it to her own
conscience alone to make good use of her liberty. "I don't want to pose
as a philanthropist," she added, "though I honestly do desire to be of
service. I want to spread my wings. And why should I not? Nobody turns
pale when Ernest wants to spread _his_. How do I know what life is like,
or how best to use it, if I remain satisfied with my present ignorance?
How can I even appreciate what I possess, if I have nothing to compare
it with? Of course, the truly nice and womanly thing to do, is to remain
at home, waiting to be married. I have elected to be _un_womanly."

"I wonder how all this will turn out," said Ernest, "whether you won't
regret it some day when it is too late."

"Don't people _always_ regret what they do--some day?" asked Hadria.

"Perhaps so, especially if they do it sooner than other people."

"When are you going to make the announcement at head quarters?" asked
Fred.

There was a pause. The colour had left Algitha's cheeks. She answered at
length with an effort--

"I shall speak to mother to-day."



CHAPTER IV.


Mrs. Fullerton had gone to the study, to consult with her husband on
some matter of domestic importance. It was a long, low-pitched room,
situated in the part of the house that stood at right angles to the
central block, with long, narrow windows looking on to a rough orchard.
A few old portraits, very yellow and somewhat grotesque, hung on the
walls; a wood fire burnt on the hob-grate, and beside it stood a vast
arm chair, considerably worn, with depressions shewing where its owner
had been leaning his head, day after day, when he smoked his pipe, or
took his after-dinner nap. The bookshelves were stocked with scientific
works, and some volumes on philosophy of a materialistic character. With
the exception of Robert Burns, not one poet was represented.

The owner of the house sat before a big writing-table, which was covered
with papers. His face was that of a hard thinker; the head was fine in
form, the forehead broad and high; the features regular, almost severe.
The severity was softened by a genial expression. Mrs. Fullerton, though
also obviously above the average of humanity, shewed signs of incomplete
development. The shape of the head and brow promised many faculties that
the expression of the face did not encourage one to expect. She was
finely built; and carried herself with dignity. When her daughters
accompanied her on a round of calls in the neighbourhood, they expressed
a certain quality in her appearance, in rough and ready terms: "Other
married women always look such fools beside mother!"

And they did.

Mrs. Fullerton wore her fine black hair brushed neatly over her
forehead; her eyes were large, and keen in expression. The mouth shewed
determination. It was easy to see that this lady had unbounded belief in
her husband's wisdom, except in social matters, for which he cared
nothing. On that point she had to keep her ambitions to herself. In
questions of philosophy, she had imbibed his tenets unmodified, and
though she went regularly every Sunday to the close little Scottish
church at Ballochcoil, she had no more respect than her husband had,
for the doctrines that were preached there.

"No doubt it is all superstition and nonsense," she used to say, "but in
this country, one can't afford to fly in the face of prejudice. It would
seriously tell against the girls."

"Well, have your own way," Mr. Fullerton would reply, "but I can't see
the use of always bothering about what people will think. What more do
the girls want than a good home and plenty of lawn-tennis? They'll get
husbands fast enough, without your asphyxiating yourself every Sunday
in their interests."

In her youth, Mrs. Fullerton had shewn signs of qualities which had
since been submerged. Her husband had influenced her development
profoundly, to the apparent stifling of every native tendency. A few
volumes of poetry, and other works of imagination, bore testimony to
the lost sides of her nature.

Mr. Fullerton thought imagination "all nonsense," and his wife had no
doubt he was right, though there was something to be said for one or two
of the poets. The buried impulses had broken out, like a half-smothered
flame, in her children, especially in her younger daughter. Singularly
enough, the mother regarded these qualities, partly inherited from
herself, as erratic and annoying. The memory of her own youth taught her
no sympathy.

It was a benumbed sort of life that she led, in her picturesque old
home, whose charm she perceived but dimly with the remnants of her lost
aptitudes.

"Picturesque!" Mr. Fullerton used to cry with a snort; "why not say
'unhealthy' and be done with it?"

From these native elements of character, modified in so singular a
fashion in the mother's life, the children of this pair had drawn
certain of their peculiarities. The inborn strength and authenticity
of the parents had transmuted itself, in the younger generation, to a
spirit of free enquiry, and an audacity of thought which boded ill for
Mrs. Fullerton's ambitions. The talent in her daughters, from which she
had hoped so much, seemed likely to prove a most dangerous obstacle to
their success. Why was it that clever people were never sensible?

The gong sounded for luncheon. Austin put his head in at the door of the
study, to ask if his father would shew him a drop of ditch-water through
the microscope, in the afternoon.

"If you will provide the ditch-water, I will provide the microscope,"
promised Mr. Fullerton genially.

Luncheon, usually a merry meal at Dunaghee, passed off silently. There
was a sense of oppression in the air. Algitha and her sister made
spasmodic remarks, and there were long pauses. The conversation was
chiefly sustained by the parents and the ever-talkative Fred.

The latter had some anecdotes to tell of the ravages made by wasps.

"If Buchanan would only adopt my plan of destroying them," said Mr.
Fullerton, "we should soon get rid of the pest."

"It's some chemical, isn't it?" asked Mrs. Fullerton.

"Oh, no; that's no use at all! Wasps positively enjoy chemicals. What
you do is this----." And then followed a long and minute explanation of
his plan, which had the merit of extreme originality.

Mr. Fullerton had his own particular way of doing everything, a piece
of presumption which was naturally resented, with proper spirit, by his
neighbours. He found it an expensive luxury. In the management of the
estate, he had outraged the feelings of every landlord and land-agent
within a radius of many miles, but he gained the affection of his
tenants, and this he seemed to value more than the approval of his
fellow-proprietors. In theory, he stuck out for his privileges; in
practice, he was the friend and brother of the poorest on the estate. In
his mode of farming he was as eccentric as in his method of management.
He had taken Croachmore into his own hands, and this devoted farm had
become the subject of a series of drastic scientific experiments, to the
great grief and indignation of his bailiff.

Mrs. Fullerton believed implicitly in the value of these experiments,
and so long as her husband tried science only on the farm she had no
misgivings; but, alas, he had lately taken shares in some company, that
was to revolutionize agriculture through an ingenious contrivance for
collecting nitrogen from the atmosphere. Mr. Fullerton was confident
that the new method was to be a gigantic success. But on this point,
his wife uneasily shook her head. She had even tried to persuade Mr.
Fullerton to rid himself of his liability. It was so great, she argued,
and why should one be made anxious? But her husband assured her that she
didn't understand anything about it; women ought not to meddle in
business matters; it was a stupendous discovery, sure to make the
fortunes of the original shareholders.

"When once the prejudice against a new thing has been got over," said
the man of science, "you will see----the thing will go like wild-fire."

Many years afterwards, these words were remembered by Mrs. Fullerton,
and she bitterly regretted that she had not urged the matter more
strenuously.

"Well, Algitha," said her father, wondering at her silence, "how are the
roses getting on? And I hope you have not forgotten the sweet-brier that
you promised to grow for me."

"Oh, no, father, the sweet-brier has been ordered," returned Algitha,
without her usual brightness of manner.

"Have you a headache?" enquired Mrs. Fullerton. "I hope you have not all
been sitting up talking in Hadria's room, as you are too fond of doing.
You have the whole day in which to express your ideas, and I think you
might let the remainder wait over till morning."

"We _were_ rather late last night," Algitha confessed.

"Pressure of ideas overpowering," added Fred.

"When _I_ was young, ideas would never have been tolerated in young
people for a moment," said Mrs. Fullerton, "it would have been considered
a mark of ill-breeding. You may think yourselves lucky to be born at this
end of the century, instead of the other."

"Indeed we do!" exclaimed Ernest. "It's getting jolly interesting!"

"In some respects, no doubt we have advanced," observed his mother, "but
I confess I don't understand all your modern notions. Everybody seems to
be getting discontented. The poor want to be rich, and the rich want to
be millionaires; men want to do their master's work, and women want to
do men's; everything is topsy-turvy!"

"The question is: What constitutes being right side up?" said Ernest.
"One can't exactly say what is topsy-turvy till one knows _that_."

"When I was young we thought we _did_ know," said Mrs. Fullerton,
"but no doubt we are old-fashioned."

When luncheon was over, Mr. Fullerton went to the garden with his
family, according to a time-honoured custom. His love of flowers
sometimes made Hadria wonder whether her father also had been born with
certain instincts, which the accidents of life had stifled or failed to
develop. Terrible was the tyranny of circumstance! What had Emerson been
dreaming of?

Mr. Fullerton, with a rose-bud in his button-hole, went off with the
boys for a farming walk. Mrs. Fullerton returned to the house, and the
sisters were left pacing together in the sheltered old garden, between
two rows of gorgeous autumn flowers.

Hadria felt sick with dread of the coming interview.

Algitha was buoyed up, for the moment, by a strong conviction that she
was in the right.

"It can't be fair even for parents to order one's whole life according
to their pleasure," she said. "Other girls submit, I know----"

"And so the world is full of abortive, ambiguous beings, fit for
nothing. The average woman always seem to me to be _muffled_----or
morbid."

"That's what _I_ should become if I pottered about here much longer,"
said Algitha--"morbid; and if there is one thing on the face of the
earth that I loathe, it is morbidness."

Both sisters were instinctively trying to buttress up Algitha's courage,
by strengthening her position with additional arguments.

"Is it fair," Hadria asked, "to summon children into the world, and then
run up bills against them for future payment? Why should one not see the
bearings of the matter?"

"In theory one can see them clearly enough; but it is poor comfort when
it comes to practice."

"Oh, seeing the bearings of things is _always_ poor comfort!" exclaimed
the younger sister, with sudden vehemence. "Upon my word, I think it is
better, after all, to absorb indiscriminately whatever idiotcy may
happen to be around one, and go with the crowd."

"Nonsense!" cried Algitha, who had no sympathy with these passionate
discouragements that alternated, in Hadria, with equally passionate
exaltations.

"When you have gone, I will ask Mrs. Gordon to teach me the spirit of
acquiescence, and one of those distracting games--bésique or halma, or
some of the other infernal pastimes that heaven decrees for recalcitrant
spirits in need of crushing discipline."

"I think I see you!" Algitha exclaimed with a dispirited laugh.

"It will be a trial," Hadria admitted; "but it is said that suffering
strengthens the character. You may look forward before long, to claiming
as sister a creature of iron purpose."

"I wonder, I wonder," cried Algitha, bending her fine head; "we owe
everything to her."

"I know we do. It's of no use disguising the unpleasant side of the
matter. A mother disappointed in her children must be a desperately
unhappy woman. She has nothing left; for has she not resigned everything
for them? But is sacrifice for ever to follow on sacrifice? Is life to
go rolling after life, like the cheeses that the idiot in the fable sent
running downhill, the one to fetch the other back?"

"Yes, for ever," said Algitha, "until a few dare to break through the
tradition, and then everyone will wonder at its folly. If only I could
talk the matter over, in a friendly spirit, with mother, but she won't
let me. Ah! if it were not that one is born with feelings and energies
and ambitions of one's own, parents might treat one as a showman treats
his marionettes, and we should all be charmed to lie prone on our backs,
or to dance as may be convenient to our creators. But, as it is, the
life of a marionette--however affectionate the wire-pullers--does become
monotonous after a time."

"As to that," said the younger sister, with a little raising of the
brows, as if half shrinking from what she meant to say, "I think most
parents regard their children with such favourable eyes, not so much
because they are _they_ as because they are _theirs_."

The sisters paced the length of the garden without speaking. Then Hadria
came to a standstill at the sun-dial, at the crossing of the paths, and
began absently to trace the figures of the hours, with the stalk of a
rose.

"After all," she said, "parents are presumably not actuated by
humanitarian motives in bringing one into this wild world. They don't
even profess to have felt an unselfish desire to see one enjoying
oneself at their expense (though, as a matter of fact, what enjoyment
one has generally _is_ at their expense). People are always
enthusiastically congratulated on the arrival of a new child, though it
be the fourteenth, and the income two hundred a year! This seems to
point to a pronounced taste for new children, regardless of the
consequences!"

"Oh, of course," said Algitha, "it's one of the canons! Women, above
all, are expected to jubilate at all costs. And I think most of them do,
more or less sincerely."

"Very well then," cried Hadria, "it is universally admitted that
children are summoned into the world to gratify parental instincts. Yet
the parents throw all the onus of existence, after all, upon the children,
and make _them_ pay for it, and apologise for it, and justify it by
a thousand sacrifices and an ever-flowing gratitude."

"I am quite ready to give gratitude and sacrifice too," said Algitha,
"but I don't feel that I ought to sacrifice _everything_ to an idea
that seems to me wrong. Surely a human being has a right to his own life.
If he has not that, what, in heaven's name, _has_ he?"

"Anything but that!" cried Hadria.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the momentous interview was going on, Hadria walked restlessly up
and down the garden, feverishly waiting. The borders were brilliant with
vast sunflowers, white lilies, and blazing "red-hot pokers" tangled
together in splendid profusion, a very type of richness and glory of
life. Such was the sort of existence that Hadria claimed from Fate. Her
eyes turned to the bare, forlorn hills that even the August sunshine
could not conjure into sumptuousness, and there she saw the threatened
reality.

When at last Algitha's fine figure appeared at the further end of the
path, Hadria hastened forward and took her sister's arm.

"It was worse than I had feared," Algitha said, with a quiver in her
voice. "I _know_ I am right, and yet it seems almost more than I am
equal for. When I told mother, she turned deadly white, and I thought,
for a moment, that she was going to faint. Let's sit down on this
seat."

"Oh, it was horrible, Hadria! Mother must have been cherishing hopes
about us, in a way that I don't think she quite knew herself. After that
first moment of wretchedness, she flew into a passion of rage--that
dreadful, tearing anger that people only feel when something of
themselves is being wrenched away from them. She said that her children
were all bad and unnatural; that she had spent her whole life in their
interests; that if it had not been for her, we should all of us have
grown up without education or accomplishments, or looks, or anything
else; that she watched over us incessantly when we were little children,
denying herself, spending her youth in devotion to us, when she might
have gone into the world, and had some brightness and pleasure. If we
imagined that she had never felt the dulness of her life, and never
longed to go about and see people and things, we were much mistaken. But
she had renounced everything she cared for, from her girlhood--she was
scarcely older than I when her sacrifices began--and now her children
gave no consideration to her; they were ready to scatter themselves
hither and thither without a thought of her, or her wishes. They even
talked scoffingly of the kind of life that she had led for _them_--for
_them_, she repeated bitterly."

Hadria's face had clouded.

"Truly parents must have a bad time of it!" she exclaimed, "but does it
really console them that their children should have a bad time of it
too?"

Algitha was trembling and very pale.

"Mother says I shall ruin my life by this fad. What real good am I going
to do? She says it is absurd the way we talk of things we know nothing
about."

"But she won't let us know about things; one must talk about
_some_thing!" cried Hadria with a dispirited laugh.

"She says she has experience of life, and we are ignorant of it. I
reminded her that our ignorance was not exactly our fault."

"Ah! precisely. Parents throw their children's ignorance in their teeth,
having taken precious good care to prevent their knowing anything. I can't
understand parents; they must have been young themselves once. Yet they
seem to have forgotten all about it. They keep us hoodwinked and infantile,
and then launch us headlong into life, with all its problems to meet, and
all momentous decisions made for us, past hope of undoing." Hadria rose
restlessly in her excitement. "Surely no creature was ever dealt with so
insanely as the well-brought-up girl! Surely no well-wisher so sincere as
the average parent ever ill-treated his charge so preposterously."

Again there was a long silence, filled with painful thought. "One begins
to understand a little, why women do things that one despises, and why
the proudest of them so often submit to absolute indignity. You remember
when Mrs. Arbuthnot and----"

"Ah, don't!" cried Algitha, flushing. "_Nothing_ ought to induce a
woman to endure that."

"H'm----I suspect the world that we know nothing about, Algitha, has
ways and means of applying the pressure such as you and I scarcely dream
of." Hadria spoke with half-closed eyes that seemed to see deep and far.
"I have read and heard things that have almost taken my breath away! I
feel as if I could _kill_ every man who acquiesces in the present
order of things. It is an insult to every woman alive!"

In Hadria's room that night, Algitha finally decided to delay her going
for another six months, hoping by that time that her mother would have
grown used to the idea, and less opposed to it. Mr. Fullerton dismissed
it, as obviously absurd. But this high-handed treatment roused all the
determination that Algitha had inherited from her father. The six months
had to be extended, in order to procure funds. Algitha had a small
income of her own, left her by her godmother, Miss Fortescue. She put
aside this, for her purpose. Further delay, through Mrs. Trevelyan,
brought the season round again to autumn, before Algitha was able to
make her final preparations for departure.

"Do try and reconcile them to the idea," she said to her sister, as they
stood on the platform of Ballochcoil station, very white and
wretched-looking.

"It breaks my heart to see father look so fixed and angry, and mother so
miserable. I am not going away for ever. Dear me, a day's journey will
bring me back, at any time."

"I'll do my best," said Hadria, "here's your train; what a clumsy
instrument of fate it does look!"

There was not much time for farewells. In a few minutes the train was
steaming out of the station. A solitary figure stood on the platform,
watching the monster curving and diminishing along the line, with its
white smoke soaring merrily into the air, in great rolling masses, that
melted, as if by some incantation, from thick, snow-like whiteness to
rapid annihilation.



CHAPTER V.


As Hadria drove over the winding upland road back to her home, her
thoughts followed her sister into her new existence, and then turned
wistfully backwards to the days that had been marked off into the past
by Algitha's departure. How bright and eager and hopeful they had all
been, how full of enthusiasm and generous ambitions! Even as they talked
of battle, they stretched forth their hands for the crown of victory.

At the last meeting of the Preposterous Society, Ernest had repeated a
poem of his favourite Emerson, called _Days_, and the poem, which
was familiar to Hadria, sounded in her memory, as the pony trotted merrily
along the well-known homeward way.

          "Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
           Muffled and dumb, like barefoot Dervishes,
           And marching single in an endless file,
           Bring diadems and faggots in their hands.
           To each they offer gifts after his will,
           Bread, kingdoms, stars, and sky that holds them all.
           I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,
           Forgot my morning wishes, hastily
           Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day
           Turned and departed silent. I, too late,
           Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn."

In spite of Hadria's memorable lecture of a year ago, it was still the
orthodox creed of the Society, that Circumstance is the handmaid of the
Will; that one can demand of one's days "bread, kingdoms, stars, or
sky," and that the Days will obediently produce the objects desired. If
one has but the spirit that can soar high enough to really be resolved
upon stars, or the ambition sufficiently vaulting to be determined on
kingdoms, then--so ran the dogma--stars and kingdoms would be
forthcoming, though obstacles were never so determined. No member except
Hadria had ever dreamt of insinuating that one might have a very
pronounced taste for stars and kingdoms--nay, a taste so dominant that
life would be worthless unless they were achieved--yet might be forced,
by the might of events, to forego them. Hadria's own heresy had been of
the head rather than of the heart. But to-day, feeling began to share
the scepticism of the intellect.

What if one's stars and kingdoms lay on the further side of a crime or a
cruelty?

What then was left but to gather up one's herbs and apples, and bear, as
best one might, the scorn of the unjust Days?

Hadria cast about in her mind for a method of utilizing to the best
advantage possible, the means at her disposal: to force circumstance to
yield a harvest to her will. To be the family consolation meant no light
task, for Mrs. Fullerton was exacting by nature: she had given much, and
she expected much in return. Her logic was somewhat faulty, but that
could not be gracefully pointed out to her by her daughter. Having
allowed her own abilities to decay, Mrs. Fullerton had developed an
extraordinary power of interfering with the employment of the abilities
of others. Hadria had rather underrated than exaggerated this
difficulty. Her mother would keep her for hours, discussing a trivial
point of domestic business, giving elaborate directions about it, only
to do it herself in the end. She spent her whole life in trifles of this
kind, or over social matters. Everything was done cumbrously, with an
incredible amount of toil and consideration, and without any noticeable
results. Hadria, fighting against a multitude of harassing little
difficulties, struggled to turn the long winter months to some use. But
Mrs. Fullerton broke the good serviceable time into jagged fragments.

"I really can't see," said the mother, when the daughter proposed to set
apart certain hours for household duties, and to have other portions of
the day to herself, "I really can't see why a girl's little occupations
should be treated with so much consideration. However, I have no wish
for grudging assistance."

Hadria's temper was far indeed from perfect, and painful scenes often
occurred. But as a rule, she would afterwards be seized with a fit of
remorse, knowing that her mother was suffering bitterly from her keen
disappointment about Algitha. The failure of a life-long hope must try
the endurance of the bravest. Mrs. Fullerton, seeing that Hadria was
more patient, quickly took advantage of the favourable moment, with a
rapid instinct that had often done her good service in the management
of a niggard destiny. The valuable mood must not be allowed to die
fruitless. The elder girl's defection thus became, to the mother, a sort
of investment, bearing interest of docility in the younger. Because the
heartless Algitha had left home, it seemed to Mrs. Fullerton that the
very least that Hadria could do, was to carry out her mother's lightest
wish.

And so the weeks went by, in dreary, troublous fashion, cut into a
hundred little barren segments. The mind had no space, or stretch, or
solitude. It was incessantly harassed, and its impetus was perpetually
checked. But Hadria hoped on. This could not last for ever. Some day,
doubtless, if she sank not in spirit, the stars and the kingdoms would
come.

Meanwhile, the position of affairs was decidedly ridiculous. She was
here as the family consolation, and nobody seemed to be consoled! Her
efforts had been sincere and even enthusiastic, but the boys only
laughed at her, in this rôle, and nobody was apparently in the least
gratified (except those imps of boys!).

For a long time, Mrs. Fullerton seemed to be oblivious of her daughter's
efforts, but one day, when they had been talking about Algitha, the
mother said: "Your father and I now look to you, Hadria. I do think that
you are beginning to feel a little what your duty is. If _you_ also
were to turn deserter in our old age, I think it would kill us."

Hadria felt a thrill of horror. The network of Fate seemed to be fast
closing round her. The temporary was to become fixed. She must act all
her days according to the conviction of others, or her parents would die
of grief!

When she went to the hills that afternoon, she felt as if she must walk
on and on into the dreamy distance, away from all these toils and
claims, away into the unknown world and never return. But, alas! the
night descended and return she must. These wild impulses could never be
followed.

The day had been peculiarly harassing and cut up; some neighbours had
been to afternoon tea and tennis, and the sight of their faces and the
sound of their talk had caused, in Hadria, an unutterable depression.
The light, conventional phrases rang in her ears still, the expression
of the faces haunted her, and into her heart crept a chill that benumbed
every wish and hope and faith that she had ever cherished.

She sat up late into the night. Since freedom and solitude could not be
had by day, the nights were often her sole opportunity. At such times
she would work out her musical ideas, which in the dead silence of the
house were brought forth plentifully. These, from her point of view,
were the fruitful hours of the twenty-four. Thoughts would throng the
darkness like swarms of living things.

Hadria's mood found expression to-night in a singular and most
melancholy composition. She called it _Futility_.

It was unlike anything that she had ever done before, and she felt that
it shewed an access of musical power.

She dreamt an absurd dream: That she was herself one of those girls with
the high pattering accents, playing tennis without ceasing and with
apparent cheerfulness; talking just as they had talked, and about just
the same things; and all the time, a vast circle of shadowy forms stood
watching, beckoning, and exhorting and warning, and turning away, at
last, in sorrowful contempt, because she preferred to spend her youth
eternally in futilities. And then they all slowly drifted by with sad
eyes fixed on her, and she was still left playing, playing. And it
seemed as if whole weeks passed in that way, and she grew mortally
tired, but some power prevented her from resting. The evil spell held
her enthralled. Always cheerful, always polite and agreeable, she
continued her task, finding herself growing accustomed to it at last,
and duly resigned to the necessity, wearisome though it was. Then all
hope that the game would ever cease went away, and she played on,
mechanically, but always with that same polite cheerfulness, as of
afternoon calls. She would not for the world admit that she was tired.
But she was so tired that existence became a torture to her, and her
heart seemed about to break with the intolerable strain--when she woke
up with a start, and found herself lying in a constrained attitude,
half-choked by the bed-clothes.

She did not see the comic side of the dream till next morning, when she
told it at breakfast for the benefit of the family.

As Hadria was an ardent tennis-player, it struck her brethren as a
particularly inappropriate form of nightmare.

Hadria, at this time, went frequently with her father on his farming
walks, as he liked to have one or more of the family with him. She
enjoyed these walks, for Mr. Fullerton would talk about philosophy and
science, often of the most abstruse and entrancing kind. His children
were devoted to him. During these expeditions, they always vied with one
another to ferret out the most absurd story to tell him, he being held
as conqueror who made their father laugh most heartily. Sometimes they
all went in a body, armed with wild stories; and occasionally, across
the open fields, a row of eccentric-looking figures might be seen,
struggling in the grip of hilarious paroxysms; Mr. Fullerton doubled up
in the middle of a turnip-field, perhaps, with his family in contortions
round him. The air of the hills seemed to run to their heads, like wine.
Roulades of laughter, hearty guffaws, might have been heard for
surprising distances, much to the astonishment of the sober labourers
bending over their toil.

Ernest had to go back to college; Fred and Austin to school. The house
seemed very quiet and sad after the boys left, and Hadria missed her
sister more and more, as time went on.

Algitha wrote most happily.

"With all its drawbacks, this existence of hard work (yet not too hard)
suits me exactly. It uses up my energies; yet, in spite of the really
busy life I lead, I literally have more leisure than I used to have at
home, where all through the day, there was some little detail to be
attended to, some call to make, some convention to offer incense to,
some prejudice to respect. Here, once my day's work is over, it _is_
over, and I have good solid hours of leisure. I feel that I have earned
those hours when they come; also that I have earned a right to my keep,
as Wilfrid Burton, the socialist, puts it somewhat crudely. When I go to
bed at night, I can say: 'Because of me, this day, heavy hearts have
been made a little lighter.' I hear all sorts of opinions, and see all
sorts of people. I never was so happy in my life."

It was Hadria's habit still to take solitary rambles over the country.
A passionate lover of Nature, she found endless pleasure in its
ever-changing aspects. Yet of late, a new feeling had begun to mutter
angrily within her: a resentment against these familiar sights and
sounds, because they were the boundaries of her horizon. She hated the
line of the round breezy hills where the row of fir-trees stood against
the sky, because that was the edge of her world, and she wanted to see
what was beyond. She must and would see what was beyond, some day. Her
hope was always vague; for if she dared to wonder how the curtain of
life was to be lifted, she had to face the fact that there was no
reasonable prospect of such a lifting. Still, the utter horror of living
on always, in this fashion, seemed to prove it impossible.

On one dim afternoon, when the sun was descending, Hadria's solitary
figure was noticed by a white-haired lady, presumably a tourist, who had
stopped to ask a question of some farm labourers, working in a field.
She ceased to listen to the information, on the subject of Dunaghee,
that was given to her in a broad Scottish dialect. The whole scene,
which an instant before had impressed her as one of beauty and peace,
suddenly focussed itself round the dark figure, and grew sinister in its
aspect. At that moment, nothing would have persuaded the onlooker that
the hastening figure was not hastening towards misfortune.

A woman of impulse, she set off in purposeless pursuit. Hadria's pace
was very rapid; she was trying to outrun thought. It was impossible to
live without hope, yet hope, in this forlorn land, was growing faint
and tired.

Her pursuer was a remarkable-looking woman, no longer young, with her
prematurely white hair drawn up from her brow with a proud sweep that
suited well her sharply defined features and her air of defiance. She
was carelessly dressed after the prevailing fashion, and gave the
impression of not having her life successfully in hand, but rather of
being driven by it, as by a blustering wind, against her inclination.

The impression which had seized her, a moment ago, deepened as she went.
Something in the scene and the hastening figure roused a sense of dread.
With her, an impression was like a spark to gunpowder. Her imagination
blazed up. Life, in its most tragic aspect, seemed before her in the
lonely scene, with the lonely figure, moving, as if in pursuit of a lost
hope, towards the setting sun.

If Hadria had not paused on the brow of the hill, it is unlikely that
she would have been overtaken, but that pause decided the matter. The
stranger seemed suddenly to hesitate, wondering, apparently, what she
had done this eccentric thing for.

Hadria, feeling a presence behind her, turned nervously round and gave
a slight start.

It was so rare to meet anybody on these lonely hills, that the
apparition of a striking-looking woman with white hair, dark eyes, and
a strange exalted sort of expression, gave a shock of surprise.

As the lady had stopped short, Hadria supposed that she had lost her
way, and wished to make some enquiries.

"Can I direct you, or give you any assistance?" she asked, after a
second's pause.

"Oh, thank you, you are very kind. I have come over from Ballochcoil to
explore the country. I have been trying to find out the history of the
old houses of the district. Could you tell me, by the way, anything
about that house with the square tower at the end; I have been loitering
round it half the afternoon. And I would have given anything to know its
history, and what it is like inside."

"Well, I can help you there, for that old house is my home. If you have
time to come with me now, I will show you all over it," said Hadria,
impulsively.

"That is too tempting an offer. And yet I really don't like to intrude
in this way. I am a perfect stranger to you and--your parents I
suppose?"

"They will be delighted," Hadria assured her new acquaintance, somewhat
imprudently.

"Well, I can't resist the temptation," said the latter, and they walked
on together.

Hadria related what she knew about the history of the house. Very scanty
records had survived. It had obviously been one of the old Scottish
strongholds, built in the lawless days when the country was plunged in
feuds and chieftains lived on plunder. A few traditions lingered about
it: among them that of a chief who had carried off, by force, the
daughter of his bitterest enemy, in revenge for some deed of treachery.
He had tortured her with insolent courtship, and then starved her to
death in a garret in the tower, while her father and his followers
assaulted its thick walls in vain.

"The tradition is, that on stormy nights one can still hear the sound of
the attack, the shouts of the men and the father's imprecations."

"A horrible story!"

"When people say the world has not progressed, I always think of that
story, and remember that such crimes were common in those days," Hadria
remarked.

"I doubt if we are really less ferocious to-day," the other said; "our
ferocity is directed against the weakest, now as then, but there are
happily not so many weak, so we get the credit of being juster, without
expense. As a matter of fact, our opportunities are less, and so we make
a virtue of necessity--with a vengeance!"

Hadria looked at her companion with startled interest. "Will you tell me
to whom I have the pleasure of speaking?" the lady asked.

"My name is Fullerton--Hadria Fullerton."

"Thank you. And here is my card, at least I think it is. Oh, no, that is
a friend's card! How very tiresome! I am reduced to pronouncing my own
name--Miss Du Prel, Valeria Du Prel; you may know it."

Hadria came to a sudden standstill. She might know it! she might indeed.
Valeria Du Prel had long been to her a name to swear by.

"Miss Du Prel! Is that--are you--may I ask, are you the writer of those
wonderful books?"

Miss Du Prel gave a gratified smile. "I am glad they please you."

"Ah! if you could guess how I have longed to know you. I simply can't
believe it."

"And so my work has really given you pleasure?"

"Pleasure! It has given me hope, it has given me courage, it has given
me faith in all that is worth living for. It was an epoch in my life
when I first read your _Parthenia_."

Miss Du Prel seemed so genuinely pleased by this enthusiasm that Hadria
was surprised.

"I have plenty of compliments, but very seldom a word that makes me
feel that I have spoken to the heart. I feel as if I had called in the
darkness and had no response, or like one who has cried from the
house-tops to a city of the dead."

"And I so often thought of writing to you, but did not like to intrude,"
cried Hadria.

"Ah! if you only _had_ written to me!" Miss Du Prel exclaimed.

Hadria gazed incredulously at the familiar scene, as they approached the
back of the house, with its round tower and its confusion of picturesque,
lichen-covered roofs. An irregular circle of stately trees stood as
sentinels round the stronghold.

After all, something did happen, once in a while, in this remote corner
of the universe, whose name, Hadria used to think, had been erased from
the book of Destiny. She was perhaps vaguely disappointed to find that
the author of _Parthenia_ wore ordinary human serge, and a cape cut
after the fashion of any other person's cape. Still, she had no idea
what supersensuous material she could reasonably have demanded of her
heroine (unless it were the mythic "bombazine" that Ernest used to talk
about, in his ignorant efforts to describe female apparel), or what
transcendental form of cape would have satisfied her imagination.

"You have a lovely home," said Valeria Du Prel, "you must be very happy
here."

"Would you be happy here?"

"Well, of course that would depend. I am, I fear, too roving by nature
to care to stay long in one place. Still I envy girls their home-life in
the country; it is so healthy and free."

Hadria, without answering, led her companion round the flank of the
tower, and up to the front door. It was situated in the angle of the
wings, a sheltered nook, hospitably careful of the guest, whom the winds
of the uplands were disposed to treat but roughly.

Hadria and her companion entered a little panelled hall, whence a flight
of broad stairs with stout wooden balusters, of quaint design, led to
the first floor.

The visitor was charmed with the quiet old rooms, especially with
Hadria's bedroom in the tower, whose windows were so deep-set that they
had to be approached through a little tunnel cut out of the thickness of
the wall. The windows looked on to the orchard at the back, and in
front over the hills. Miss Du Prel was taken to see the scene of the
tragedy, and the meeting-room of the Preposterous Society.

"You must see the drawing-room," said Hadria.

She opened a door as she spoke, and ushered her visitor into a large,
finely-proportioned room with three tall windows of stately form,
divided into oblong panes, against which vagrant sprays of ivy were
gently tapping.

This room was also panelled with painted wood; its character was quiet
and stately and reposeful. Yet one felt that many human lives had been
lived in it. It was full of the sentiment of the past, from the old
prints and portraits on the walls, to the delicate outlines of the
wooden mantel-piece, with its finely wrought urns and garlands.

Before this mantel-piece, with the firelight flickering in her face, sat
Mrs. Fullerton, working at a large piece of embroidery.

For the first time, Hadria hesitated. "Mother," she said, "this is Miss
Du Prel. We met out on the hills this afternoon, and I have brought her
home to see the house, which she admires very much."

Mrs. Fullerton had looked up in astonishment, at this incursion into her
very sanctuary, of a stranger met at haphazard on the hills. Hadria
wheeled up an easy-chair for the visitor.

"I fear Miss Du Prel will not find much to see in the old house," said
Mrs. Fullerton, whose manner had grown rigid, partly because she was
shy, partly because she was annoyed with Hadria for her impulsive
conduct, and largely because she disliked the idea of a literary
acquaintance for her daughter, who was quite extraordinary enough as it
was.

"We have been all over the house," said Hadria hastily, with an anxious
glance at Miss Du Prel, whom she half expected to rise and walk out of
the room. It must surely be the first time in her life that her presence
had not been received as an honour!

"It is all very old and shabby," said Mrs. Fullerton. "I hope you will
take some tea; if you have walked far to-day, you must be cold and in
need of something to eat."

"Oh no, no, thank you," returned the visitor; "I ought to be getting
back to Ballochcoil to-night."

"To Ballochcoil!" exclaimed mother and daughter in simultaneous dismay.
"But it is nearly seven miles off, and the sun is down. You can't get
back to-night on foot."

"Dear me, can I not? I suppose I forgot all about getting back, in the
interest of the scenery."

"What an extraordinary person!" thought Mrs. Fullerton.

Miss Du Prel glanced helplessly at Hadria; rising then and looking out
of the window at the dusk, which had come on so rapidly. "Dear me, how
dark it has grown! Still I think I can walk it, or perhaps I can get a
fly at some inn on the way."

"Can we offer you a carriage?" asked Mrs. Fullerton.

"Oh no, thank you; that is quite unnecessary. I have already intruded
far too long; I shall wend my way back, or what might perhaps be better,
I could get a lodging at the farmhouse down the road. I am told that
they put travellers up sometimes."

Miss Du Prel hurried off, evidently chilled by Mrs. Fullerton's freezing
courtesy. Hadria, disregarding her mother's glance of admonition,
accompanied the visitor to the farm of Craw Gill, having first given
directions to old Maggie to put together a few things that Miss Du Prel
would require for the night. Hadria's popularity at the farm, secured
her new friend a welcome. Mrs. McEwen was a fine example of the best
type of Scottish character; warm of heart, honest of purpose, and full
of a certain unconscious poetry, and a dignity that lingers still in
districts where the railway whistle is not too often heard. Miss Du Prel
seemed to nestle up to the good woman, as a child to its mother after
some scaring adventure. Mrs. McEwen was recommending a hot water-bottle
and gruel in case of a chill, when Hadria wended her way homeward to
brave her mother's wrath.



CHAPTER VI.


"I cannot make you realize that you are an ignorant girl who knows
nothing of the world, and that it is necessary you should accept my
experience, and condescend to be guided by my wishes. You put me in a
most unpleasant position this afternoon, forcing me to receive a person
whom I have never been introduced to, or heard of----"

"Valeria Du Prel has been heard of throughout the English-speaking
world," said Hadria rhetorically.

"So much the worse," retorted Mrs. Fullerton. "No nicely brought up
woman is ever heard of outside her own circle."

Hadria recalled a similar sentiment among the ancient Greeks, and
thought how hard an old idea dies.

"She might have been some awful person, some unprincipled adventuress,
and that I believe is what she is. What was she prowling about the back
of our house for, I should like to know?"

"I suspect she wanted to steal chickens or something," Hadria was goaded
into suggesting, and the interview ended painfully.

When Hadria went to Craw Gill, next morning, to enquire for Miss Du
Prel, Mrs. McEwen said that the visitor had breakfasted in bed. The
farmer's wife also informed Miss Fullerton that the lady had decided to
stay on at Craw Gill, for some time. She had been looking out for a
retreat of the kind.

"She seems a nice-like body," said Mrs. McEwen, "and I see no objection
to the arrangement."

Hadria's heart beat faster. Could it be possible that Valeria du Prel
was to be a near neighbour? It seemed too good to be true!

When Miss Du Prel came down in her walking garments, she greeted Hadria
with a certain absence of mind, which smote chill upon the girl's
eagerness.

"I wanted to know if you were comfortable, if I could do anything for
you." Miss Du Prel woke up.

"Oh no, thank you; you are very kind. I am most comfortable--at
least--it is very strange, but I have lost my keys and my umbrella and
my handbag--I can't think what I can have done with them. Oh, and my
purse is gone too!"

Whereupon Mrs. McEwen in dismay, Mr. McEwen (who then appeared), the
maid, and Hadria, hunted high and low for the missing properties, which
were brought to light, one by one, in places where their owner had
already "thoroughly searched," and about which she had long since
abandoned hope.

She received them with mingled joy and amazement, and having responded
to Mrs. McEwen's questions as to what she would like for dinner, she
proposed to Hadria that they should take a walk together.

Hadria beamed. Miss Du Prel seemed both amused and gratified by her
companion's worship, and the talk ran on, in a light and pleasant vein,
differing from the talk of the ordinary mortal, Hadria considered, as
champagne differs from ditch-water.

In recording it for Algitha's benefit that evening, Hadria found that
she could not reproduce the exhilarating quality, or describe the
influence of Miss Du Prel's personality. It was as if, literally, a
private and particular atmosphere had encompassed her. She was "alive
all round," as her disciple asserted.

Her love of Nature was intense. Hadria had never before realized that
she had been without full sympathy in this direction. She awoke to a
strange retrospective sense of solitude, feeling a new pity for the
eager little child of years ago, who had wandered up to the garret, late
at night, to watch the moonlight spread its white shroud over the hills.

With every moment spent in the society of Valeria Du Prel, new and
clearer light seemed to Hadria, to be thrown upon all the problems of
existence; not by any means only through what Miss Du Prel directly
said, but by what she implied, by what she took for granted, by what she
omitted to say.

"It seems like a home-coming from long exile," Hadria wrote to her
sister. "I have been looking through a sort of mist, or as one looks at
one's surroundings before quite waking. Now everything stands out sharp
and cut, as objects do in the clear air of the South. Ah me, the South!
Miss Du Prel has spent much of her life there, and my inborn smouldering
passion for it, is set flaming by her descriptions! You remember that
brief little fortnight that we spent with mother and father in Italy? I
seem now to be again under the spell of the languorous airs, the
cloudless blue, the white palaces, the grey olive groves, and the art,
the art! Oh, Algitha, I must go to the South soon, soon, or I shall die
of home sickness! Miss Du Prel says that this is only one side of me
breaking out: that I am northern at heart. I think it is true, but
meanwhile the thought of the South possesses me. I confess I think
mother had some cause to be alarmed when she saw Miss Du Prel, if she
wants to keep us in a chastened mood, at home. It seems as if all of me
were in high carnival. Life is raised to a higher power. I feel nearly
omnipotent. Epics and operas are child's play to me! It is true I have
produced comparatively few; but, oh, those that are to come! I feel fit
for anything, from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter. I think of the two, I
rather lean to the manslaughter. Oh, I don't mean it in the facetious
sense! that would be a terrible downfall from my present altitudes. To
such devices the usual wretched girl, who has never drawn rebellious
breath, or listened to the discourses of Valeria Du Prel, has to turn
for a living, or to keep _ennui_ at bay. But _I_, no, the inimical
sex may possess their souls in peace, as far as I am concerned. They might
retort that they never _had_ felt nervous, but a letter has the same
advantage as the pulpit: the adversary can never get up and contradict.

"That ridiculous adversary, Harold Wilkins, is staying again at
Drumgarren, and I hear from Mrs. Gordon that he thinks it very strange
that I should see so much of so extraordinary a person as Miss Du Prel!
Opinions differ of course; _I_ think it very strange that the Gordons
should see so much of so ordinary a person as Mr. Wilkins. Everybody
makes much of him here, and, alas! all the girls run after him, and even
fall in love with him; why, I can't conceive. For if driven by dire
compulsion of fate, to bend one's thoughts upon _some_ prosaic example
of that prosaic sex, why not choose one of the many far more attractive
candidates available--the Gordons, the McKenzies, and so forth? When I
go to tennis parties with mother--they are still playing upon the
asphalte courts--and see the little dramas that go on, the jealousies
and excitements, and general much-ado-about-nothing, I can scarcely
believe that Miss Du Prel really belongs to the same planet as ours. But
I don't feel so contemptuous as I did; it is so pitiful. Out of my great
wealth I can afford to be more generous.

"And when I see those wretched girls fluttering round Mr. Wilkins, I no
longer turn up my 'aughty nose' (as old Mrs. Brooks used to say). I only
think to myself, 'Heavens and earth! what an aching, empty life those
young women must lead, if they are actually reduced for interest and
amusement to the utterances of Mr. Wilkins!' They would have the pull of
one though, if the utterances of Mr. Wilkins were the only utterances to
be heard! Perish the thought of such beggary!"

The talks with Valeria Du Prel grew more intimate, and more deeply
interesting to Hadria, every day.

Miss Du Prel used often to look at her companion in amazement. "Where
_did_ you come from?" she exclaimed on one occasion. "One would suppose
you had lived several lives; you seem to _know_ things in such a subtle,
intimate fashion!"

She used to ponder over the problem, wondering what Professor Fortescue
would say to it. There appeared to be more here than mere heredity could
account for. But science had never solved this problem; originality
seemed always to enter upon its career, uncaused and unaccountable. It
was ever a miraculous phenomenon. The Professor had always said so.
Still the heritage was rich enough, in this case. Heredity might have
some discoverable part in the apparent marvel. Each member of the
Fullerton family had unusual ability of some kind. Their knowledge of
science, and their familiarity with the problems of philosophy, had
often astonished Miss Du Prel. Hadria's accounts of the Preposterous
Society made her laugh and exclaim at the same moment. She gave an
envious sigh at the picture of the eager little group, with their warmth
of affection for one another, and their vivid interests. Miss Du Prel,
with all her sadness, was youthful in spirit. Hadria found her far
younger than many girls of her own age. This set her thinking. She
observed how rigid most people become in a few years, and how the
personality grows wooden, in the daily repetition of the same actions
and the same ideas. This stiffening process had been attributed to the
malice of Time; but now Hadria began to believe that narrow and
ungenerous thought lay at the root of the calamity. The entire life of
the little world in which she had grown up, on all its sides, in all its
ideals and sentiments, stood before her, as if some great painter had
made a picture of it. She had never before been able to stand so
completely apart from the surroundings of her childhood. And she was
able to do so now, not because Miss Du Prel discoursed about it, but
because Hadria's point of view had shifted sympathetically to the point
of view of her companion, through the instinctive desire to see how
these familiar things would look to alien eyes. That which had seemed
merely prosaic and dreary, became characteristic; the very things which
she had taken most for granted were exactly those which turned out to be
the significant and idiomatic facts.

These had made permanent inroads into the mind and character. It was
with these that Hadria would have to reckon all her days, under whatever
conditions she might hereafter be placed. Daily surroundings were not
merely pleasant or unpleasant facts, otherwise of no importance; they
were the very material and substance of character; the push and impetus,
or the let and hindrance; the guardians or the assassins of the soul.



CHAPTER VII.


Miss Du Prel had promised to allow Hadria to drive her to Darachanarvan,
a little town on the banks of the river, about seven miles across
country.

Hadria was in high spirits, as they trundled along the white roads with
the wind in their faces, the hills and the blue sky spread out before
them, the pleasant sound of the wheels and the trotting of the pony
setting their thoughts to rhythm.

The trees were all shedding their last yellow leaves, and the air was
full of those faded memories of better days, whirling in wild companies
across the road, rushing upward on the breast of some vagabond gust,
drifting, spinning, shuddering along the roadside, to lie there at last,
quiet, among a host of brothers, with little passing tremors, as if
(said Valeria) they were silently sobbing because of their banishment
from their kingdom of the air.

Miss Du Prel, though she enjoyed the beauty of the day and the scenery,
seemed sad of mood. "This weather recalls so many autumns," she said.
"It reminds me too vividly of wonderful days, whose like I shall never
see again, and friends, many of whom are dead, and many lost sight of in
this inexorable coming and going of people and things, this inexorable
change that goes on for ever. I feel as if I should go mad at times,
because it will not stop, either in myself or others."

"Ah, that is a dreadful thought!"

"It comes to me so insistently, perhaps, because of my roving life," she
said.

She paused for a moment, and then she fell into one of her exalted
moods, when she seemed to lose consciousness of the ordinary conditions
around her, or rather to pierce deeper into their significance and
beauty. Her speech would, at such times, become rhythmic and
picturesque; she evidently saw vivid images before her, in which her
ideas embodied themselves.

"Most people who live always in one place see the changes creeping on so
gradually that they scarcely feel them, but with me this universal flux
displays itself pitilessly, I cannot escape. Go where I will, there is
something to measure the changes by. A shoal of yellow leaves whispers
to me of seasons long ago, and the old past days, with their own
intimate character that nothing ever repeats, flash before me again with
the vividness of yesterday; and a flight of birds--ah! if I could
express what they recall! The dead years pass again in a great
procession, a motley company--some like emperors, crowned and richly
dowered, with the sound of trumpets and the tramping of many obsequious
feet; and others like beggars, despoiled and hungry, trudging along a
dusty high road, or like grey pilgrims bound, with bleeding feet, for a
far-off shrine."

They entered a little beech-wood, whose leaves made a light of their
own, strange and mystical.

"Yours must have been a wonderful life!" said Hadria.

"Yes, I have seen and felt many things," answered Miss Du Prel, stirred
by the intoxication of the motion and the wind and the sunlight, "life
has been to me a series of intense emotions, as it will be to you, I
fear----"

"You fear?" said Hadria.

"Yes; for that means suffering. If you feel, you are at the mercy of all
things. Every wind that blows uses you as an Æolian harp."

"That must be charming, at least for those who live in your
neighbourhood," said Hadria.

"No; for often the harp rings false. Its strings get loosened; one hangs
slack and jars, and where then is your harmony?"

"One would run the risk of many things rather than let one's strings lie
dumb," said Hadria.

"What a dangerous temperament you have!" cried Valeria, looking round at
the glowing face beside her.

"I must take my risks," said Hadria.

"I doubt if you know what risks there are."

"Then I must find out," she answered.

"One plays with fire so recklessly before one has been burnt."

Hadria was silent. The words sounded ominous.

"Will can do so much," she said at length. "Do you believe in the power
of the human will to break the back of circumstance?"

"Oh, yes; but the effort expended in breaking its back sometimes leaves
one prone, with a victory that arrives ironically too late. However I
don't wish to discourage you. There is no doubt that human will has
triumphed over everything--but death."

Again the sound of the pony's hoofs sounded through the silence, in a
cheerful trot upon the white roads. They were traversing an open, breezy
country, chequered with wooded hollows, where generally a village sought
shelter from the winds. And these patches of foliage were golden and red
in the meditative autumn sunshine, which seemed as if it were a little
sad at the thought of parting with the old earth for the coming winter.

"I think the impossible lesson to learn would be renouncement," said
Hadria. "I cannot conceive how anyone could say to himself, while he had
longings and life still in him, 'I will give up this that I might have
learnt; I will stop short here where I might press forward; I will allow
this or that to curtail me and rob me of my possible experience.'"

"Well, I confess that has been my feeling too, though I admire the
spirit that can renounce."

"Admire? Oh, yes, perhaps; though I am not so sure that the submissive
nature has not been too much glorified--in theory. Nobody pays much
attention to it in practice, by the way."

Miss Du Prel laughed. "What an observant young woman you are."

"Renunciation is always preached to girls, you know," said
Hadria--"preached to them when as yet they have nothing more than a
rattle and a rag-doll to renounce. And later, when they set about the
business of their life, and resign their liberty, their talents, their
health, their opportunity, their beauty (if they have it), then people
gradually fall away from the despoiled and obedient being, and flock
round the still unchastened creature who retains what the gods have
given her, and asks for more."

"I fear you are indeed a still unchastened creature!"

"Certainly; there is no encouragement to chasten oneself. People don't
stand by the docile members of Society. They commend their saints, but
they drink to their sinners."

Miss Du Prel smiled.

"It is true," she admitted. "A woman must not renounce too much if she
desires to retain her influence."

"_Pas trop de zèle_," Hadria quoted.

"There is something truly unmanageable about you, my dear!" cried
Valeria, much amused. "Well, I too have had just that sort of instinct,
just that imperious demand, just that impatience of restraint. I too
regarded myself and my powers as mine to use as I would, responsible
only to my own conscience. I decided to have freedom though the heavens
should fall. I was unfitted by temperament to face the world, but I was
equally unfitted to pay the price for protection--the blackmail that
society levies on a woman: surrender of body and of soul. What could one
expect, in such a case, but disaster? I often envy now the simple-minded
woman who pays her price and has her reward--such as it is."

"Ah! such as it is!" echoed Hadria.

"Who was it said, the other day, that she thought a wise woman always
took things as they were, and made the best of them?"

"Some dull spirit."

"And yet a practical spirit."

"I am quite sure," said Hadria, "that the stokers of hell are practical
spirits."

"Your mother must have had her work cut out for her when she undertook
to bring you up," exclaimed Miss Du Prel.

"So she always insinuates," replied Hadria demurely.

They were spinning down hill now, into a warm bit of country watered by
the river, and Hadria drew rein. The spot was so pleasant that they
alighted, tied the pony to a tree, and wandered over the grass to the
river's edge. Hadria picked her way from stone to slippery stone, into
the middle of the river, where there was comparatively safe standing
room. Here she was suddenly inspired to execute the steps of a reel,
while Valeria stood dismayed on the bank, expecting every moment, to see
the dance end in the realms of the trout.

But Hadria kept her footing, and continued to step it with much
solemnity. Meanwhile, two young men on horseback were coming down the
road; but as a group of trees hid it from the river at this point, they
were not noticed. The horsemen stopped suddenly when they cleared the
group of trees. The figure of a young woman in mid-stream, dancing a
reel with extreme energy and correctness, and without a smile, was
sufficiently surprising to arrest them.

"As I thought," exclaimed Hadria, "it is Harold Wilkins!"

"I shall be glad to see this conquering hero," said Valeria.

Hadria, who had known the young man since her childhood, waited calmly
as he turned his horse's head towards the river, and advanced across the
grass, raising his hat. "Good morning, Miss Fullerton."

"Good morning," Hadria returned, from her rock.

"You seem to be having rather an agreeable time of it."

"Very. Are you fond of dancing?"

Mr. Wilkins was noted, far and wide, for his dancing, and the question
was wounding.

He was tall and loosely built, with brown expressionless eyes, dark
hair, a pink complexion, shelving forehead, and a weak yet obstinate
mouth. His companion also was tall and dark, but his face was pale, his
forehead broad and high, and a black moustache covered his upper lip. He
had raised his hat gracefully on finding that the dancer in mid-stream
was an acquaintance of his companion, and he shewed great
self-possession in appearing to regard the dancing of reels in these
circumstances, as an incident that might naturally be expected. Not a
sign of surprise betrayed itself in the face, not even a glimmer of
curiosity. Hadria was so tickled by this finished behaviour under
difficulties, that she took her cue from it, and decided to treat the
matter in the same polished spirit. She too would take it all decorously
for granted.

Mr. Wilkins introduced his friend: Mr. Hubert Temperley. Hadria bowed
gracefully in reply to Mr. Temperley's salute.

"Don't you feel a little cramped out there?" asked Mr. Wilkins.

"Dear me, no," cried Hadria in mock surprise. "What could induce you to
suppose I would come out here if I felt cramped?"

"Are you--are you thinking of coming on shore? Can I help you?"

"Thank you," replied Hadria. "This is a merely temporary resting-place.
We ought to be getting on; we have some miles yet to drive," and she
hurried her friend away. They were conducted to the pony-cart by the
cavaliers, who raised their hats, as the ladies drove off at a merry
pace, bowing their farewells.

"The eternal riddle!" Temperley exclaimed, as they turned the corner of
the road.

"What is the eternal riddle?" Harold Wilkins enquired.

"Woman, woman!" Temperley replied, a little impatiently. He had not
found young Wilkins quick to catch his meaning during the two hours'
ride, and it occurred to him that Miss Fullerton would have been a more
interesting companion.

He made a good many enquiries about her and her family, on the way back
to Drumgarren.

"We are invited to tennis at their house, for next Tuesday," said Harold,
"so you will have a chance of pursuing the acquaintance. For my part, I
don't admire that sort of girl."

"Don't you? I am attracted by originality. I like a woman to have
something in her."

"Depends on what it is. I hate a girl to have a lot of silly ideas."

"Perhaps you prefer her to have but one," said Temperley, "that one
being that Mr. Harold Wilkins is a charming fellow."

"Nothing of the kind," cried Harold. "I can't help it if girls run after
me; it's a great bore."

Temperley laughed. "You, like Achilles, are pursued by ten thousand
girls. I deeply sympathize, though it is not an inconvenience that has
troubled me, even in my palmiest days."

"Why, how old are you? Surely you are not going to talk as if those days
were over?"

"Oh, I am moderately palmy still!" Temperley admitted. "Still, the hour
approaches when the assaults of time will become more disastrous."

"You and Hadria Fullerton ought to get on well together, for she is very
musical," said Harold Wilkins.

"Ah!" cried Temperley with new interest. "I could have almost told that
from her face. Does she play well?"

"Well, I suppose so. She plays things without any tune that bore one to
death, but I daresay you would admire it. She composes too, I am told."

"Really? Dear me, I must make a point of having a talk with her, on the
earliest opportunity."

Meanwhile, the occupants of the pony-cart had arrived at Darachanarvan,
where they were to put up the pony and have luncheon. It was a prosaic
little Scottish town, with only a beautiful survival, here and there,
from the past.

After luncheon, they wandered down to the banks of the river, and
watched the trout and the running water. Hadria had long been wishing
to find out what her oracle thought about certain burning questions on
which the sisters held such strong, and such unpopular sentiments, but
just because the feeling was so keen, it was difficult to broach the
subject.

An opportunity came when Miss Du Prel spoke of her past. Hadria was able
to read between the lines. When a mere girl, Miss Du Prel had been
thrown on the world--brilliant, handsome, impulsive, generous--to pass
through a fiery ordeal, and to emerge with aspirations as high as ever,
but with her radiant hopes burnt out. But she did not dwell on this side
of the picture; she emphasized rather, the possibility of holding on
through storm and stress to the truth that is born in one; to belief in
"the noblest and wildest hopes (if you like to call them so) that ever
thrilled generous hearts."

But she gave no encouragement to certain of her companion's most
vehement sentiments. She seemed to yearn for exactly that side of life
from which the younger shrank with so much horror. She saw it under an
entirely different aspect. Hadria felt thrown back on herself, lonely
once more.

"You have seen Mrs. Gordon," she said at length, "what do you think of
her?"

"Nothing; she does not inspire thought."

"Yet once she was a person, not a thing."

"If a woman can't keep her head above water in Mrs. Gordon's position,
she must be a feeble sort of person."

"I should not dare to say that, until I had been put through the mill
myself, and come out unpulverised."

Miss Du Prel failed to see what there was so very dreadful in Mrs.
Gordon's lot. She had, perhaps, rather more children than was necessary,
but otherwise----

"Oh, Miss Du Prel," cried Hadria, "you might be a mere man! That is just
what my brothers say."

"I don't understand what you mean," said Miss Du Prel. "Do explain."

"Do you actually--_you_ of all people--not recognize and hate the idea
that lies so obviously at the root of all the life that is swarming
round us----?"

Valeria studied her companion's excited face.

"Are you in revolt against the very basis of existence?" she asked
curiously.

"No: at least ... but this is not what I am driving at exactly," replied
Hadria, turning uneasily away from the close scrutiny. "Don't you
know--oh, don't you see--how many women secretly hate, and shrink from
this brutal domestic idea that fashions their fate for them?"

Miss Du Prel's interest quickened.

"Nothing strikes me so much as the tamely acquiescent spirit of the
average woman, and I doubt if you would find another woman in England
to describe the domestic existence as you do."

"Perhaps not; tradition prevents them from using bad language, but they
_feel_, they _feel_."

"Young girls perhaps, brought up very ignorantly, find life a little
scaring at first, but they soon settle down into happy wives and
mothers."

"As the fibre grows coarser," assented Hadria.

"No; as the affections awaken, and the instincts that hold society
together, come into play. I have revolted myself from the conditions of
life, but it is a hopeless business--beating one's wings against the
bars."

"The bars are, half of them, of human construction," said Hadria, "and
against _those_ one may surely be allowed to beat."

"Of human construction?"

"I mean that prejudice, rather than instinct, has built up the system
that Mrs. Gordon so amiably represents."

"Prejudice has perhaps taken advantage of instinct to establish a
somewhat tyrannical tradition," Miss Du Prel admitted, "but instinct is
at the bottom of it. There is, of course, in our society, no latitude
for variety of type; that is the fault of so many institutions."

"The ordinary domestic idea may have been suitable when women were
emerging from the condition of simple animals," said Hadria, "but now it
seems to me to be out of date."

"It can never be entirely out of date, dear Hadria. Nature has asked of
women a great and hard service, but she has given them the maternal
instinct and its joys, in compensation for the burden of this task,
which would otherwise be intolerable and impossible. It can only be
undertaken at the instigation of some stupendous impetus, that blinds
the victim to the nature of her mission. It must be a sort of obsession;
an intense personal instinct, amounting to madness. Nature, being
determined to be well served in this direction, has supplied the
necessary monomania, and the domestic idea, as you call it, grows up
round this central fact."

Hadria moved restlessly to and fro by the river bank. "One presumes to
look upon oneself, at first--in one's earliest youth," she said, "as
undoubtedly human, with human needs and rights and dignities. But this
turns out to be an illusion. It is as an _animal_ that one has to play
the really important part in life; it is by submitting to the demands of
society, in this respect, that one wins rewards and commendation. Of
course, if one likes to throw in a few ornamental extras, so much the
better; it keeps up appearances and the aspect of refined sentiment--but
the main point----"

"You _are_ extravagant!" cried Miss Du Prel. "That is not the right way
to look at it."

"It is certainly not the convenient way to look at it. It is doubtless
wise to weave as many garlands as you can, to deck yourself for the
sacrifice. By that means, you don't quite see which way you are going,
because of the masses of elegant vegetation."

"Ah! Hadria, you exaggerate, you distort; you forget so many
things--the sentiments, the affections, the thousand details that hallow
that crude foundation which you see only bare and unsoftened."

"A repulsive object tastefully decorated, is to me only the more
repulsive," returned Hadria, with suppressed passion.

"There will come a day when you will feel very differently," prophesied
Miss Du Prel.

"Perhaps. Why should I, more than the others, remain uninfluenced by the
usual processes of blunting, and grinding down, and stupefying, till one
grows accustomed to one's function, one's _intolerable_ function?"

"My dear, my dear!"

"I am sorry if I shock you, but that is how I feel. I have seen this
sort of traditional existence and nothing else, all my life, and I have
been brought up to it, with the rest--prepared and decked out like some
animal for market--all in the most refined and graceful manner possible;
but how can one help seeing through the disguise; how can one be blind
to the real nature of the transaction, and to the fate that awaits
one--awaits one as inexorably as death, unless by some force of one's
own, with all the world--friends and enemies--in opposition, one can
avert it?"

Miss Du Prel remained silent.

"You _can_ avert it," she said at last; "but at what cost?"

"Miss Du Prel, I would rather sweep a crossing, I would rather beg in
the streets, than submit to the indignity of such a life!"

"Then what do you intend to do instead?"

"Ah! there's the difficulty. What _can_ one do instead, without breaking
somebody's heart? Nothing, except breaking one's own. And even putting
that difficulty aside, it seems as if everyone's hand were against a
woman who refuses the path that has been marked out for her."

"No, no, it is not so bad as that. There are many openings now for
women."

"But," said Hadria, "as far as I can gather, ordinary ability is not
sufficient to enable them to make a scanty living. The talent that would
take a man to the top of the tree is required to keep a woman in a
meagre supply of bread and butter."

"Allowing for exaggeration, that is more or less the case," Miss Du Prel
admitted.

"I have revolted against the common lot," she went on after a pause,
"and you see what comes of it; I am alone in the world. One does not
think of that when one is quite young."

"Would you rather be in Mrs. Gordon's position than in your own?"

"I doubt not that she is happier."

"But would you change with her, surrendering all that she has
surrendered?"

"Yes, if I were of her temperament."

"Ah! you always evade the question. Remaining yourself, would you change
with her?"

"I would never have allowed my life to grow like hers."

"No," said Hadria, laughing, "you would probably have run away or killed
yourself or somebody, long before this."

Miss Du Prel could not honestly deny this possibility. After a pause she
said:

"A woman cannot afford to despise the dictates of Nature. She may escape
certain troubles in that way; but Nature is not to be cheated, she makes
her victim pay her debt in another fashion. There is no escape. The
centuries are behind one, with all their weight of heredity and habit;
the order of society adds its pressure--one's own emotional needs. Ah,
no! it does not answer to pit oneself against one's race, to bid
defiance to the fundamental laws of life."

"Such then are the alternatives," said Hadria, moving close to the
river's brink, and casting two big stones into the current. "There stand
the devil and the deep sea."

"You are too young to have come to that sad conclusion," said Miss Du
Prel.

"But I haven't," cried Hadria. "I still believe in revolt."

The other shook her head.

"And what about love? Are you going through life without the one thing
that makes it bearable?"

"I would not purchase it at such a cost. If I can't have it without
despoiling myself of everything that is worth possessing, I prefer to go
without."

"You don't know what you say!" exclaimed Miss Du Prel.

"But why? Love would be ruined and desecrated. I understand by it a
sympathy so perfect, and a reverence so complete, that the conditions of
ordinary domestic existence would be impossible, unthinkable, in
connection with it."

"So do I understand love. But it comes, perhaps, once in a century, and
if one is too fastidious, it passes by and leaves one forlorn; at best,
it comes only to open the gates of Paradise, for a moment, and to close
them again, and leave one in outer darkness."

"Always?"

"I believe always," answered Miss Du Prel.

The running of the river sounded peacefully in the pause that followed.

"Well," cried Hadria at length, raising her head with a long sigh, "one
cannot do better than follow one's own instinct and thought of the
moment. Regret may come, do what one may. One cannot escape from one's
own temperament."

"One can modify it."

"I cannot even wish to modify mine, so that I should become amenable to
these social demands. I stand in hopeless opposition to the scheme of
life that I have grown up amongst, to the universal scheme of life
indeed, as understood by the world up to this day. Audacious, is it
not?"

"I like audacity," returned Miss Du Prel. "As I understand you, you
require an altogether new dispensation!"

Hadria gave a half smile, conscious of her stupendous demand. Then she
said, with a peculiar movement of the head, as if throwing off a heavy
weight, and looking before her steadily: "Yes, I require a new
dispensation."



CHAPTER VIII.


Hubert Temperley made a point of going to the tennis-party, on Tuesday,
at Dunaghee, in order to talk to Miss Fullerton. He had not expected to
find original musical talent in this out-of-the-way place.

Hadria was in a happy mood, for her mother had so far overcome her
prejudice against Miss Du Prel, as to ask her to join the party.

The festivity had, therefore, lost its usual quality of melancholy.

It was a warm afternoon, and every one seemed cheerful "and almost
intelligent," Hadria commented. The first words that Mr. Temperley
uttered, made her turn to him, in surprise. She was so unaccustomed to
be interested in what the people about here had to say. Even intelligent
visitors usually adopted the tone of the inhabitants. Hubert Temperley's
manner was very polished. His accent denoted mental cultivation. He
spoke with eloquence of literature, and praised enthusiastically most
great names dating securely from the hallowed past. Of modern literature
he was a stern critic; of music he spoke with ardour.

"I hear that you not only perform but compose, Miss Fullerton," he said.
"As soon as I heard that, I felt that I must make your acquaintance. My
friends, the Gordons, are very charming, but they don't understand a
note of music, and I am badly off for a kindred spirit."

"My composing is a very mild affair," Hadria answered. "I suppose you
are more fortunate."

"Not much. I am pretty busy you see. I have my profession. I play a
good deal--the piano and the _'cello_ are my instruments. But my
difficulty is to find someone to accompany me. My sister does when she
can, but of course with a house and family to look after----I am
sometimes selfish enough to wish she had not married. We used to be such
good friends."

"Is that all over?"

"It is different. She always manages to be busy now," said Temperley in
a slightly ironical tone.

He plunged once more, into a musical discussion.

Hadria had reluctantly to cut it short, in order to arrange
tennis-matches. This task was performed as usual, somewhat recklessly.
Polite and amiable in indiscriminate fashion, Hadria ignored the secret
jealousies and heart-burnings of the neighbourhood, only to recognise
and repent her mistakes when too late. To-day she was even more
unchastened than usual in her dealings with inflammable social material.

"Hadria!" cried Mrs. Fullerton, taking her aside, "How _could_ you ask
Cecilia Gordon to play with young McKenzie? You _know_ their families
are not on speaking terms!"

Everyone, except the culprit, had remarked the haughty manner in which
Cecilia wielded her racket, and the gloomy silence in which the set was
played.

Hadria, though not impenitent, laughed. "How does Miss Gordon manage to
be energetic and chilling at the same time!" she exclaimed.

The Gordons and the McKenzies, like hostile armies, looked on grimly.
Everyone felt awkward, and to feel awkward was nothing less than tragic,
in the eyes of the assembly.

"Oh, Hadria, how _could_ you?" cried Mrs. Gordon, coming up in her
elaborate toilette, which expressed almost as much of the character of
its wearer as was indicated by her thin, chattering tones, and
unreposeful manner. Her mode of dress was rich and florid--very obvious
in its effects, very _naïf_. She was built on a large scale, and might
have been graceful, had not her mental constitution refused to permit,
or to inspire, that which physical construction seemed to intend. She
distributed smiles on all hands, of no particular meaning. Though still
a young woman, she looked worn and wearied. However, her _rôle_ was
cheerfulness, and she smiled on industriously.

"I am so sorry," said Hadria, "the quarrel went clean out of my head.
They are so well matched. But your sister-in-law will never forgive me."

"Oh, well, never mind, my dear; it is your way, I know. Only of course
it is awkward."

"What can be done? Shall I run in and separate them?"

"Oh, Hadria, you _are_ ridiculous!"

"I was not meant for society," she said, in a depressed tone.

"Oh, you will soon get into the way of it," cried Mrs. Gordon
encouragingly.

"I am afraid I shall."

Mrs. Gordon stared. "Mr. Temperley, I can never make out what Miss
Fullerton really means. Do see if you can."

"How could I expect to succeed where you have failed?"

"Oh, you men are so much cleverer than we poor women," cried the lady
archly. Temperley was obviously of the same opinion. But he found some
appropriate Chesterfieldian reply, while Hadria, to his annoyance,
hurried off to her duties, full of good resolutions.

Having introduced a couple of sisters to their brother, she grew
desperate. A set had just ended, and the sisters were asked to play.
This time, no mistake had been made in the selection of partners, so far
as the question of sentiment was concerned, but they were fatally
ill-assorted as to strength. However, Hadria said with a sigh, if their
emotions were satisfied, it was really all they could expect.
Considering the number of family feuds, she did not see her way to
arranging both points, to everyone's satisfaction.

Hadria was surrounded by a small group, among whom were Temperley,
Harold Wilkins, and Mr. Hawkesley, the brother who had been introduced
to his sisters.

"How very handsome Hadria is looking this afternoon," said Mrs. Gordon,
"and how becoming that dark green gown is."

Mrs. Fullerton smiled. "Yes, she does look her best to-day. I think she
has been improving, of late, in her looks."

"That's just what we have all noticed. There is so much animation in her
face; she is such a sweet girl."

Miss Du Prel, who was not of the stuff that martyrs are made of,
muttered something incoherent and deserted her neighbour. She came up to
the group that had gathered round Hadria.

"Ah, Miss Du Prel," cried the latter, "I am so glad to see you at large
again. I was afraid you were getting bored."

"I was," said Miss Du Prel frankly, "so I came away."

The young men laughed. "If only everybody could go away when he was
bored," cried Hadria, "how peaceful it would be, and what small
tennis-parties one would have!"

"Always excepting tennis-parties at _this_ house," said Hubert
Temperley.

"I don't think any house would survive," said Miss Du Prel. "If people
do not meet to exchange ideas, I can't see the object of their meeting
at all."

"What a revolutionary sentiment!" cried Temperley, laughing. "Where
would society be, on that principle?"

Hadria was called away, at that moment, and the group politely wavered
between duty and inclination. Temperley and Miss Du Prel strolled off
together, his vast height bent deferentially towards her. This air of
deference proved somewhat superficial. Miss Du Prel found that his
opinions were of an immovable order, with very defined edges. In some
indescribable fashion, those opinions partook of the general elegance of
his being. Not for worlds would he have harboured an exaggerated or
immoderate idea. In politics he was conservative, but he did not abuse
his opponents. He smiled at them; he saw no reason for supposing that
they did not mean quite as well as he did, possibly better. What he
_did_ see reason to doubt, was their judgment. His tolerance was urbane
and superior. On all questions, however, whether he knew much about them
or little, his judgment was final and absolute. He swept away whole
systems of thought that had shaken the world, with a confident phrase.
Miss Du Prel looked at him with increasing amazement. He seemed
unaccustomed to opposition.

"A vast deal of nonsense is talked in the name of philosophy," he
observed, in a tone of gay self-confidence peculiar to him, and more
indicative of character than even what he said. "People seem to think
that they have only to quote Spencer or Huxley, or take an interest in
heredity, to justify themselves in throwing off all the trammels, as
they would regard them, of duty and common sense."

"I have not observed that tendency," said Miss Du Prel.

"Really. I regret to say that I notice everywhere a disposition to evade
responsibilities which, in former days, would have been honestly and
contentedly accepted."

"Our standards are all changing," said Miss Du Prel. "It does not follow
that they are changing for the worse."

"It seems to me that they are not so much changing, as disappearing
altogether," said Temperley cheerfully, "especially among women. We hear
a great deal about rights, but we hear nothing about duties."

"We are perhaps, a little tired of hearing about duties," said Miss Du
Prel.

"You admit then what I say," he returned placidly. "Every woman wants to
be Mary, and no one will be Martha."

"I make just the opposite complaint," cried Miss Du Prel.

"Dear me, quite a different way of looking at it. I confess I have scant
patience with these interfering women, who want to turn everything
upside down, instead of quietly minding their duties at home."

"I know it is difficult to make people understand," said Miss Du Prel,
with malice.

"I should esteem it a favour to be enlightened," returned Temperley.

"You were just now condemning socialism, Mr. Temperley, because you say
that it attempts to ignore the principle of the division of labour. Now,
when you lose patience with the few women who are refusing to be
Marthas, you ignore that principle yourself. You want all women to do
exactly the same sort of work, irrespective of their ability or their
bent of mind. May I ask why?"

"Because I consider that is the kind of work for which they are best
fitted," replied Temperley serenely.

"Then _you_ are to be judge and jury in the case; _your_ opinion,
not theirs, is to decide the matter. Supposing _I_ were to take upon
myself to judge what _you_ were best fitted for, and were to claim,
therefore, to decide for you what sort of life you should live, and what
sort of work you should undertake----?"

"I should feel every confidence in resigning myself to your able judgment,"
said Temperley, with a low bow. Miss Du Prel laughed.

"Ah," she said, "you are at present, on the conquering side, and can afford
to jest on the subject."

"It is no joke to jest with an able woman," he returned. "Seriously, I
have considerable sympathy with your view, and no wish to treat it
flippantly. But if I am to treat it seriously, I must admit frankly that
I think you forget that, after all, _Nature_ has something to say in
this matter."

Engrossed in their conversation, they had, without thinking what they
were doing, passed through the open gate at the end of the avenue, and
walked on along the high road.

Swarms of small birds flew out of the hedges, with a whirring sound, to
settle further on, while an incessant chatter was kept up on each side.

"I often think that modern women might take example from these little
creatures," said Temperley, who, in common with many self-sufficient
persons, was fond of recommending humility to others. "_They_ never
attempt to shirk their lowly tasks on the plea of higher vocations. Not
one turns from the path marked out by our great Mother, who also teaches
her human children the same lesson of patient duty; but, alas! by them
is less faithfully obeyed."

"If our great Mother wanted instinct she should not have bestowed
reason," said Miss Du Prel impatiently.

Temperley had fallen into the dulcet strains of one who feels, not only
that he stands as the champion of true wisdom and virtue, but that he is
sure of support from the vast majority of his fellows. Miss Du Prel's
brusqueness seemed to suit her less admirable _rôle_.

Temperley was tolerant and regretful. If Miss Du Prel would think for a
moment, she could not fail to see that Nature ... and so forth, in the
same strain of "pious devotion to other people's duties" as his
companion afterwards described it. She chafed at the exhortation to
"think for a moment."

At that instant, the solitude was broken by the apparition of a dusty
wayfarer in knickerbockers and soft felt hat, coming towards them up the
road. He was a man of middle height and rather slim. He appeared about
five-and-thirty years of age. He had fair hair, and a strange, whimsical
face, irregular of feature, with a small moustache covering the upper
lip.

Miss Du Prel looked startled, as she caught sight of the travel-stained
figure. She flushed deeply, and her expression changed to one of
bewilderment and uncertainty, then to one of incredulous joy. She
hastened forward, at length, and arrested the wayfarer.

"Professor Fortescue, don't you remember me?" she cried excitedly.

He gazed at her for a second, and then a look of amazement came into his
kind eyes, as he held out his hand.

"Miss Du Prel! This is incredible!"

They stood, with hand locked in hand, staring at one another. "By what
happy misunderstanding am I thus favoured by the gods?" exclaimed the
Professor.

Miss Du Prel explained her presence.

"Prodigious!" cried Professor Fortescue. "Fate must have some strange
plots in the making, unless indeed we fall to the discouraging
supposition that she deigns to jest."

He said that he was on a walking tour, studying the geology of the
district, and that he had written to announce his coming to his old
friends, Mr. and Mrs. Fullerton, and to ask them to put him up. He
supposed that they were expecting him.

Miss Du Prel was greatly excited. It was so long since they had met, and
it was so delightful to meet again. She had a hundred enquiries to make
about common friends, and about the Professor's own doings.

She forgot Temperley's name, and her introduction was vague. The
Professor held out his hand cordially. Temperley was not allowed to feel
an intrusive third. This was in consequence of the new-comer's
kindliness of manner, and not at all because of Miss Du Prel, who had
forgotten Temperley's elegant existence. She had a look of surprise when
he joined in the conversation.

"I can scarcely believe that it is ten years since I was here," cried
the Professor, pausing to look over a gate at the stretch of country.

"I used to visit my friends at Dunaghee every autumn, and now if some
one were to assure me that I had been to sleep and dreamt a ten years'
dream, I should be disposed to credit it. Every detail the same; the
very cattle, the very birds--surely just those identical sparrows used
to fly before me along the hedgerows, in the good old times, ten years
ago! Ah! yes, it is only the human element that changes."

"One is often so thankful for a change in that," Temperley remarked,
with an urbane sort of cynicism.

"True," said Miss Du Prel; "but what is so discouraging is that so often
the charm goes, like the bloom of a peach, and only the qualities that
one regrets remain and prosper."

"I think people improve with time, as often as they fall off," said the
Professor.

The others shook their heads.

"To him that hath shall be given, but to him that hath not----" The
Professor smiled a little sadly, in quoting the significant words.
"Well, well," he said, turning to Miss Du Prel, "I can't say how happy I
am to see you again. I have not yet got over my surprise. And so you
have made the acquaintance of the family at Dunaghee. I have the warmest
respect and affection for those dear folks. Mrs. Fullerton has the
qualities of a heroine, kind hostess as she is! And of what fine
Scottish stuff the old man is made--and a mind like crystal! What
arguments we used to have in that old study of his! I can see him now.
And how genial! A man could never forget it, who had once received his
welcome."

Such was Miss Du Prel's impression, when ten minutes later the meeting
took place between the Professor and his old friend.

It would indeed have been hard to be anything but genial to the
Professor. Hadria remembered him and his kindness to her and the rest of
the children, in the old days; the stories he used to tell when he took
them for walks, stories full of natural lore more marvellous than any
fairy tale, though he could tell fairy tales too, by the dozen. He had
seemed to them like some wonderful and benevolent magician, and they
adored him, one and all. And what friends he used to be with Ruffian,
the brown retriever, and with every living creature on the place!

The tennis-party began to break up, shortly after the Professor's
arrival. Temperley lingered to the last.

"Is that a son of the celebrated Judge Temperley?" asked one of the
bystanders.

"His eldest son," answered Mr. Gordon; "a man who ought to make his
mark, for he has splendid chances and good ability."

"I have scarcely had a word with you, the whole afternoon," Temperley
said to Hadria, who had sunk upon a seat, tired with making herself
agreeable, as she observed.

"That is very sad; but when one has social gatherings, one never does
have a word with anybody. I think that must be the object of them--to
accustom people to do without human sympathy."

Temperley tried to start a conversation, taking a place beside her, on
the seat, and setting himself to draw her out. It was obvious that he
found her interesting, either as a study or in a less impersonal sense.
Hadria, feeling that her character was being analysed, did what many
people do without realizing it: she instinctively arranged its lights
and shades with a view to artistic effect. It was not till late that
night, when the events of the day passed before her in procession, that
she recognized what she had done, and laughed at herself. She had not
attempted to appear in a better light than she deserved; quite as often
as not, she submitted to appear in a worse light; her effort had been to
satisfy some innate sense of proportion or form. The instinct puzzled
her.

Also she became aware that she was interested in Hubert Temperley. Or
was it that she was interested in his interest in her? She could not be
certain. She thought it was direct interest. She felt eager to know more
of him; above all, to hear him play.

On returning to the house, after Temperley had, at last, felt compelled
to depart, Hadria found her father and mother and their guest, gathered
together before the cheery fire in the study. Hearing his daughter's
step, her father opened the door and called her in. Till now, the
Professor had not seen her, having been hurried into the house, to
change his clothes and have something to eat.

As she entered, rather shyly, he rose and gave a gasp of astonishment.

"You mean to tell me that this is the little girl who used to take me
for walks, and who had such an inordinate appetite for stories! Good
heavens, it is incredible!"

He held out a thin, finely-formed hand, with a kind smile.

"They change so much at that age, in a short time," said Mrs. Fullerton,
with a glance of pride; for her daughter was looking brilliantly
handsome, as she stood before them, with flushed cheeks and a soft
expression, which the mere tones of the Professor's voice had power to
summon in most human faces. He looked at her thoughtfully, and then
rousing himself, he brought up a chair for her, and the group settled
again before the fire.

"Do you know," said the Professor, "I was turning into a French
sweet-shop the other day, to buy my usual tribute for the children, when
I suddenly remembered that they would no longer be children, and had to
march out again, crestfallen, musing on the march of time and the
mutability of things human--especially children."

"It's ridiculous," cried Mr. Fullerton. "I am always lecturing them
about it, but they go on growing just the same."

"And how they make you feel an old fogey before you know where you are!
And I thought I was quite a gay young fellow, upon my word!"

"You, my dear Chantrey! why you'd be a gay young fellow at ninety!" said
Mr. Fullerton.

The Professor laughed and shook his head.

"And so this is really my little playfellow!" he exclaimed, nodding
meditatively. "I remember her so well; a queer, fantastic little being
in those days, with hair like a black cloud, and eyes that seemed to
peer out of the cloud, with a perfect passion of enquiry. She used to
bewilder me, I remember, with her strange, wise little sayings! I always
prophesied great things from her! Ernest, too, I remember: a fine little
chap with curly, dark hair--rather like a young Italian, but with
features less broadly cast; drawn together and calmed by his northern
blood. Yes, yes; it seems but yesterday," he said, with a smile and a
sigh; "and now my little Italian is at college, with a bored manner and
a high collar."

"Oh, no; Ernest's a dear boy still," cried Hadria. "Oxford hasn't spoilt
him a bit. I do wish he was at home for you to see him."

"Ah! you mustn't hint at anything against Ernest in Hadria's presence!"
cried Mr. Fullerton, with an approving laugh.

"Not for the world!" rejoined the Professor. "I was only recalling one
or two of my young Oxford acquaintances. I might have known that a
Fullerton had too much stuff in him to make an idiot of himself in that
way."

"The boy has distinguished himself too," said Mr. Fullerton.

"Everyone says he will do splendidly," added the mother; "and you can't
think how modest he is about himself, and how anxious to do well, and to
please us by his success."

"Ah! that's good."

The Professor was full of sympathy. Hadria was astonished to see how
animated her mother had become under his influence.

They fell again to recalling old times; little trivial incidents which
had seemed so unimportant at the moment, but now carried a whole epoch
with them, bringing back, with a rush, the genial memories. Hadria
remembered that soon after his last visit, the Professor had married a
beautiful wife, and that about a year or so later, the wife had died. It
was said that she had killed herself. This set Hadria speculating.

The visitor reminded his companions of various absurd incidents of the
past, sending Mr. Fullerton into paroxysms of laughter that made the
whole party laugh in sympathy. Mrs. Fullerton too was already wiping her
streaming eyes as the Professor talked on in his old vein, with just
that particular little humourous manner of his that won its way so
surely to the hearts of his listeners. For a moment, in the midst of the
bright talk and the mirth that he had created, the Professor lost the
thread, and his face, as he stared into the glowing centre of the fire,
had a desolate look; but it was so quick to pass away that one might
have thought oneself the victim of a fancy. His was the next chuckle,
and "Do you remember that day when----?" and so forth, Mr. Fullerton's
healthy roar following, avalanche-like, upon the reminiscence.

"We thought him a good and kind magician when we were children," was
Hadria's thought, "and now one is grown up, there is no disillusion. He
is a good and kind magician still."

He seemed indeed to have the power to conjure forth from their
hiding-places, the finer qualities of mind and temperament, which had
lain dormant, perhaps for years, buried beneath daily accumulations of
little cares and little habits. The creature that had once looked forth
on the world, fresh and vital, was summoned again, to his own surprise,
with all his ancient laughter and his tears.

"This man," Hadria said to herself, drawing a long, relieved breath, "is
the best and the most generous human being I have ever met."

She went to sleep, that night, with a sweet sense of rest and security,
and an undefined new hope. If such natures were in existence, then there
must be a great source of goodness and tenderness somewhere in heaven or
earth, and the battle of life must be worth the fighting.



CHAPTER IX.


The Professor's presence in the house had a profound influence on the
inmates, one and all. The effect upon his hostess was startling. He drew
forth her intellect, her sense of humour, her starved poetic sense; he
probed down among the dust and rust of years, and rescued triumphantly
the real woman, who was being stifled to death, with her own connivance.

Hadria was amazed to see how the new-comer might express any idea he
pleased, however heterodox, and her mother only applauded.

His manner to her was exquisitely courteous. He seemed to understand all
that she had lost in her life, all its disappointments and sacrifices.

On hearing that Miss Du Prel was among the Professor's oldest friends,
Mrs. Fullerton became suddenly cordial to that lady, and could not show
her enough attention. The evenings were often spent in music, Temperley
being sometimes of the party. He was the only person not obviously among
the Professor's admirers.

"However cultivated or charming a person may be," Temperley said to
Hadria, "I never feel that I have found a kindred spirit, unless the
musical instinct is strong."

"Nor I."

"Professor Fortescue has just that one weak point."

"Oh, but he is musical, though his technical knowledge is small."

But Temperley smiled dubiously.

The Professor, freed from his customary hard work, was like a schoolboy.
His delight in the open air, in the freshness of the hills, in the
peace of the mellow autumn, was never-ending.

He loved to take a walk before breakfast, so as to enjoy the first
sweetness of the morning; to bathe in some clear pool of the river; to
come into healthy contact with Nature. Never was there a brighter or a
wholesomer spirit. Yet the more Hadria studied this clear, and vigorous,
and tender nature, the more she felt, in him, the absence of that
particular personal hold on life which so few human beings are without,
a grip usually so hard to loosen, that only the severest experience, and
the deepest sorrow have power to destroy it.

Hadria's letters to her sister, at this time, were full of enthusiasm.
"You cannot imagine what it is, or perhaps you _can_ imagine what it
is to have the society of three such people as I now see almost every day.

"You say I represent them as impossible angels, such as earth never
beheld, but you are wrong. I represent them as they are. I suppose the
Professor has faults--though he does not show them to us--they must be
of the generous kind, at any rate. Father says that he never could keep
a farthing; he would always give it away to undeserving people. Miss Du
Prel, I find on closer acquaintance, is not without certain jealousies
and weaknesses, but these things just seem to float about as gossamer on
a mountain-side, and one counts them in relation to herself, in about
the same proportion. Mr. Temperley--I don't know quite what to say about
him. He is a tiny bit too precise and finished perhaps--a little wanting
in _élan_--but he seems very enlightened and full of polite information;
and ah, his music! When he is playing I am completely carried away. If
he said then, 'Miss Fullerton, may I have the pleasure of your society
in the infernal regions?' I should arise and take his arm and reply,
'Delighted,' and off we would march. But what am I saying? Mr. Temperley
would never ask anything so absurd.

"You would have thought that when Miss Du Prel and Professor Fortescue
arrived on the scene, I had about enough privileges; but no, Destiny,
waking up at last to her duties, remembers that I have a maniacal
passion for music, and that this has been starved. So she hastens to
provide for me a fellow maniac, a brother in Beethoven, who comes and
fills my world with music and my soul with----But I must not rave. The
music is still in my veins; I am not in a fit state to write reasonable
letters. Here comes Mr. Temperley for our practice. No more for the
present."

Temperley would often talk to Hadria of his early life, and about his
mother and sister. Of his mother he spoke with great respect and
affection, the respect perhaps somewhat conventional, and allowing one
to see, through its meshes, the simple fact that she was looked up to as
a good and dutiful parent, who had worshipped her son from his birth,
and perfectly fulfilled his ideas of feminine excellency. From her he
had learnt the lesser Catechism and the Lord's Prayer, since discarded,
but useful in their proper season. Although he had ceased to be an
orthodox Christian, he felt that he was the better for having been
trained in that creed. He had a perfect faith in the system which had
produced himself.

"I think you would like my mother," said Temperley.

Hadria could scarcely dispute this.

"And I am sure she would like you."

"On that point I cannot offer an opinion."

"Don't you ever come to town?" he asked.

"We go to Edinburgh occasionally," she replied with malice, knowing that
he meant London.

He set her right.

"No; my father hates London, and mother never goes away without him."

"What a pity! But do you never visit friends in town?"

"Yes; my sister and I have spent one or two seasons in Park Lane, with
some cousins."

"Why don't you come this next season? You ought to hear some good
music."

The _tête-a-tête_ was interrupted by the Professor. Temperley looked
annoyed. It struck Hadria that Professor Fortescue had a very sad
expression when he was not speaking. He seemed to her lonely, and in
need of the sort of comfort that he brought so liberally to others.

Although he had talked to Hadria about a thousand topics in which they
were both interested, there had been nothing personal in their
conversation. He was disposed, at times, to treat her in a spirit of
affectionate banter.

"To think that I should ever have dared to offer this young lady
acidulated drops!" he exclaimed on one occasion, when Hadria was looking
flushed and perturbed.

"Ah! shall I ever forget those acidulated drops!" she cried,
brightening.

"You don't mean to say that you would stoop to them now?"

"It is not one's oldest friends who always know one best," she replied
demurely.

"I shall test you," he said.

And on that same day, he walked into Ballochcoil, and when he returned,
he offered her, with a solemn twinkle in his eye, a good-sized paper bag
of the seductive sweetmeat; taking up his position on the top of a low
dyke, and watching her, while she proceeded to make of that plump white
bag, a lank and emaciated bag, surprising to behold. He sat and looked
on, enjoying his idleness with the zest of a hard worker. The twinkle of
amusement faded gradually from his face, and the sadness that Hadria had
noticed the day before, returned to his eyes. She was leaning against
the dyke, pensively enjoying her festive meal. The dark fresh blue of
her gown, and the unwonted tinge of colour in her cheeks, gave a
vigorous and healthful impression, in harmony with the weather-beaten
stones and the windy breadth of the northern landscape.

The Professor studied the face with a puzzled frown. He flattered
himself that he was a subtle physiognomist, but in this case, he would
not have dared to pronounce judgment. Danger and difficulty might have
been predicted, for it was a moving face, one that could not be looked
upon quite coldly. And the Professor had come to the conclusion, from
his experience of life, that the instinct of the average human being
whom another has stirred to strong emotion, is to fasten upon and
overwhelm that luckless person, to burden him with responsibilities, to
claim as much of time, and energy, and existence, as can in any way be
wrung from him, careless of the cost to the giver.

Professor Fortescue noticed, as Hadria looked down, a peculiar
dreaminess of expression, and something indefinable, which suggested a
profoundly emotional nature. At present, the expression was softened.
That this softness was not altogether trustworthy, however, the
Professor felt sure, for he had seen, at moments, when something had
deeply stirred her, expressions anything but soft come into her face.
He thought her capable of many things of which the well-brought-up young
Englishwoman is not supposed to dream. It seemed to him, that she had at
least two distinct natures that were at war with one another: the one
greedy and pleasure-loving, careless and even reckless; the other
deep-seeing and aspiring. But which of these two tendencies would
experience probably foster?

"I wonder what you like best, next to acidulated drops," he said at
length, with one of his half-bantering smiles.

"There are few things in this wide world that can be mentioned in the
same breath with them, but toffy also has its potency upon the spirit."

"I like not this mocking tone."

"Then I will not mock," she said.

"Yes, Hadria," he went on meditatively, "you have grown up, if an old
friend may make such remarks, very much as I expected, from the promise
of your childhood. You used to puzzle me even then."

"Do I puzzle you now?" she asked.

"Inexpressibly!"

"How amusing! But how?"

"One can generally see at a glance, or pretty soon, the general trend of
a character. But not with you. Nothing that I might hear of you in the
future, would very much surprise me. I should say to myself, 'Yes, the
germ was there.'"

Hadria paled a little. "Either good or bad you mean?"

"Well----"

"Yes, I understand." She drew herself together, crossing her arms, and
looking over the hills, with eyes that burned with a sort of fear and
defiance mingled. It was a singular expression, which the Professor
noted with a sense of discomfort.

Hadria slowly withdrew her eyes from the horizon, and bent them on the
ground.

"You must have read some of my thoughts," she said. "I often wonder how
it is, that the world can drill women into goodness at all." She raised
her head, and went on in a low, bitter tone: "I often wonder why it is,
that they don't, one and all, fling up their _rôles_ and revenge
themselves to the best of their ability--intentionally, I mean--upon the
world that makes them live under a permanent insult. I think, at times,
that I should thoroughly enjoy spending my life in sheer, unmitigated
vengeance, and if I did"--she clenched her hands, and her eyes
blazed--"if I did, I would not do my work by halves!"

"I am sure you would not," said the Professor dryly.

"But I shall not do anything of the kind," she added in a different
tone; "women don't. They always try to be good, always, _always_--the
more fools they! And the more they are good, the worse things get."

"Ah! I thought there was some heterodox sentiment lurking here at high
pressure!" exclaimed the Professor.

Hadria sighed. "I have just been receiving good advice from Mrs.
Gordon," she said, flushing at the remembrance, "and I think if you knew
the sort of counsel it was, that you would understand one's feeling a
little fierce and bitter. Oh, not with her, poor woman! She meant it in
kindness. But the most cutting thing of all is, that what she said is
_true!_"

"That _is_ exactly the worst thing," said the Professor, who seemed to
have divined the nature of Mrs. Gordon's advice.

Hadria coloured. It hurt as well as astonished her, that he should guess
what had been said.

"Ah! a woman ought to be born without pride, or not at all! I wish to
heaven that our fatal sex could be utterly stamped out!"

The Professor smiled, a little sadly, at her vehemence.

"We are accused of being at the bottom of every evil under heaven," she
added, "and I think it is true. _That_ is some consolation, at any
rate!"

In spite of her immense reverence for the Professor, she seemed to have
grown reckless as to his opinion.

The next few days went strangely, and not altogether comprehensibly.
There was a silent warfare between Professor Fortescue and Hubert
Temperley.

"I have never in my life before ventured to interfere in such matters,"
the Professor said to Miss Du Prel; "but if that fellow marries Hadria,
one or both will live to rue it."

"I think it's the best thing that could happen to her," Miss Du Prel
declared.

"But they are not suited to one another," said the Professor.

"Men and women seldom are!"

"Then why----?" the Professor began.

"He is about as near as she will get," Valeria interrupted. "I will
never stand in the way of a girl's marrying a good, honest man. There is
not one chance in ten thousand that Hadria will happen to meet exactly
the right person. I have made a mistake in my life. I shall do all in my
power to urge her to avoid following in my footsteps."

It was useless for the Professor to remonstrate.

"I pity Mr. Temperley, though I am so fond of Hadria," said Miss Du
Prel. "If he shatters _her_ illusions, she will certainly shatter
_his_."

The event that they had been expecting, took place. During one of the
afternoon practices, when, for a few minutes, Mrs. Fullerton had left
the room, Temperley startled Hadria by an extremely elegant proposal of
marriage. He did not seem surprised at her refusal, though he pleaded
his cause with no little eloquence. Hadria found it a painful ordeal.
She shrank from the ungracious necessity to disappoint what appeared to
be a very ardent hope. Happily, the interview was cut short by the
entrance of Mr. Fullerton. The old man was not remarkable for _finesse_.
He gave a dismayed "Oh!" He coughed, suppressed a smile, and murmuring
some lame enquiry as to the progress of the music, turned and marched
out of the room. The sound of laughter was presently heard from the
dining-room below.

"Father is really too absurd!" cried Hadria, "there is _no_ tragedy that
he is incapable of roaring at!"

"I fear his daughter takes after him," said Temperley with a tragi-comic
smile.

When Hadria next met her father, he asked, with perfect but suspicious
gravity, about the music that they had been practising that afternoon.
He could not speak too highly of music as a pastime. He regretted having
rushed in as he did--it must have been so disturbing to the music. Why
not have a notice put up outside the door on these occasions: "Engaged"?
Then the meanest intelligence would understand, and the meanest
intelligence was really a thing one had to count with, in this
blundering world!



CHAPTER X.


Hubert Temperley left Drumgarren suddenly. He said that he had business
to attend to in town.

"That foolish girl has refused him!" exclaimed Valeria, when she heard
of it.

"Thank heaven!" ejaculated Professor Fortescue.

Valeria's brow clouded. "Why are you so anxious about the matter?"

"Because I know that a marriage between those two would end in misery."

Valeria spoke very seriously to Hadria on the subject of marriage,
urging the importance of it, and the wretchedness of growing old in
solitude.

"Better even that, than to grow old in uncongenial company," said
Hadria.

Valeria shrugged her shoulders. "One could go away when it became
oppressive," she suggested, at which Hadria laughed.

"What an ideal existence!"

"Are you still dreaming of an ideal existence?"

"Why not?"

"Well, dream while you may," said Miss Du Prel. "My time of dreaming was
the happiest of all."

On one occasion, when Hadria and the Professor went to call at Craw
Gill, they found Miss Du Prel in the gloomiest of moods. Affection,
love?--the very blood and bones of tragedy. Solitude, indifference?--its
heart. And if for men the world was a delusion, for women it was a
torture-chamber. Nature was dead against them.

"Why do you say that?" asked Hadria.

"Because of the blundering, merciless way she has made us; because of
the needs that she has put into our hearts, and the preposterous payment
that she demands for their fulfilment; because of the equally
preposterous payment she exacts, if we elect to do without that which
she teaches us to yearn for."

Professor Fortescue, admitting the dilemma, laid the blame on the
stupidity of mankind.

The discussion was excited, for Valeria would not allow the guilt to be
thus shifted. In vain the Professor urged that Nature offers a large
choice to humanity, for the developing, balancing, annulling of its
various forces of good and evil, and that it is only when the choice is
made that heredity steps in and fixes it. This process simulates
Necessity, or what we call Nature. "Heredity may be a powerful friend,
or a bitter enemy, according as we treat her," he said.

"Then our sex must have treated her very badly!" cried Miss Du Prel.

"Or _our_ sex must have obliged yours to treat her badly, which comes
to the same thing," said the Professor.

They had agreed to take a walk by the river, towards Ballochcoil. It was
hoped that the fresh air and sunshine would cheer Miss Du Prel. The
Professor led the conversation to her favourite topic: ancient Greek
literature, but this only inspired her to quote the discouraging opinion
of the _Medea_ of Euripedes.

The Professor laughed. "I see it is a really bad attack," he said. "I
sympathize. I have these inconsolable moods myself, sometimes."

They came upon the Greek temple on the cliff-side, and paused there to
rest, for a few minutes. It was too cold to linger long under the
slender columns. They walked on, till they came in sight of the bare
little church of Ballochcoil.

The Professor instinctively turned to compare the two buildings. "The
contrast between them is so extraordinary!" he exclaimed.

Nothing could have been more eloquent of the difference in the modes of
thought which they respectively represented.

"If only they had not made such fools of their women, I should like to
have lived at Athens in the time of Pericles!" exclaimed Hadria.

"I," said Valeria, "would choose rather the Middle Ages, with their
mysticism and their romance."

The discussion on this point continued till the church was reached. A
psalm was being sung, in a harsh but devout fashion, by the
congregation. The sound managed to find its way to the sweet outer air,
though the ugly rectangular windows were all jealously closed against
its beneficence.

The sky had become overcast, and a few drops of rain having given
warning of a shower, it was thought advisable to take shelter in the
porch, till it was over. The psalm was ground out slowly, and with
apparent fervour, to the end.

Then the voice of the minister was heard wrestling in prayer.

The Professor looked grave and sad, as he stood listening. It was
possible to hear almost all the prayer through the red baize door, and
the words, hackneyed though they were, and almost absurd in their pious
sing-song, had a naïf impressiveness and, to the listener, an intense
pathos.

The minister prayed for help and comfort for his congregation. There had
been much sickness in the village during the summer, and many were in
trouble. The good man put forth his petition to the merciful and mighty
Father, that strength might be given to the sufferers to bear all that
was sent in chastisement, for they knew that nothing would be given
beyond their ability to endure. He assured the great and mighty Lord
that He had power to succour, and that His love was without end; he
prayed that as His might and His glory were limitless, so might His
mercy be to the miserable sinners who had offended Him.

Age after age, this same prayer, in different forms, had besieged the
throne of heaven. Age after age, the spirit of man had sought for help,
and mercy, and inspiration, in the Power that was felt, or imagined,
behind the veil of mystery.

From the village at the foot of the hill, vague sounds floated up, and
presently, among them and above them, could be heard the yelping and
howling of a dog.

The minister, at the moment, was glorifying his Creator and his race at
the same time, by addressing Him as "Thou who hast given unto us, Thy
servants, dominion over the beasts of the field and over every living
thing, that they may serve us and minister unto us----"

Again, and more loudly, came the cry of distress.

"I must go and see what is the matter," exclaimed the Professor. At the
moment, the howling suddenly ceased, and he paused. The minister was
still appealing to his God for mercy. "Out of the deep have I cried unto
Thee, O Lord----," and then there was a general prayer, in which the
voices of the congregation joined. Some more singing and praying took
place, before the sound of a sudden rush and movement announced the
conclusion of the service.

"We had better go," said Miss Du Prel.

They had no more than time to leave the porch, before the doors burst
open, and the people streamed forth. A whiff of evil-smelling air issued
from the building, at the same time. The dog was howling more piteously
than ever. Someone complained of the disturbance that had been caused by
the creature's cries, during worship. The congregation continued to pour
out, dividing into little groups to discuss the sermon or something of
more mundane interest. An appearance of superhuman respectability
pervaded the whole body. The important people, some of whom had their
carriages waiting to drive them home, lingered a few moments, to
exchange greetings, and to discuss sporting prospects or achievements.
Meanwhile, one of the creatures over whom God had given them dominion,
was wailing in vain appeal.

"I can't stand this," cried the Professor, and he started off.

"I will come too," Hadria announced. Miss Du Prel said that she could
not endure the sight of suffering, and would await their return.

And then occurred the incident that made this afternoon memorable to
Hadria. In her last letter to her sister, she had said that she could
not imagine the Professor contemptuous or angry. She had reason now to
change her mind. His face was at once scornful and sad. For a moment,
Hadria thought that he was displeased with her.

"I sometimes feel," he said, with a scornful bitterness that she had not
suspected in him, "I sometimes feel that this precious humanity of ours
that we are eternally worshipping and exalting, is but a mean, miserable
thing, after all, not worth a moment's care or effort. One's sympathy is
wasted. Look at these good people whining to their heavenly Father about
their own hurts, craving for a pity of which they have not a spark
themselves!--puffed up with their little lordship over the poor beasts
that they do not hesitate to tear, and hurt, and torture, for their own
pleasure, or their own benefit,--to whom they, in their turn, love to
play the God. Cowards! And having used their Godhead for purposes of
cruelty, they fling themselves howling on their knees before their
Almighty Deity and beg for mercy, which He too knows how to refuse!"

"Thank heaven!" exclaimed Hadria. She drew a deep sigh of relief.
Without precisely realizing the fact, she had been gradually sinking
into an unformulated conviction that human beings are, at heart,
ruthless and hard, as soon as they are brought beyond the range of
familiar moral claims, which have to be respected on pain of popular
censure. Self-initiated pity was nowhere to be found. The merciless
coldness of many excellent people (kind and tender, perhaps, within
these accepted limits) had often chilled her to the heart, and prompted
a miserable doubt of the eventual victory of good over evil in the
world, which her father always insisted was ruled by mere brute force,
and would be so ruled to the end of time. She had tried to find a wider,
more generous, and less conventional standard in her oracle, Miss Du
Prel, but to her bitter disappointment, that lady had shrugged her
shoulders a little callously, as soon as she was asked to extend her
sympathy outside the circle of chartered candidates for her merciful
consideration. Hadria's hero-worship had suffered a severe rebuff. Now,
as the Professor spoke, it was as if a voice from heaven had bidden her
believe and hope fearlessly in her race, and in its destiny.

"I had almost come to shrink a little from people," she said, "as from
something cruel and savage, at heart, without a grain of real, untaught
pity."

"There is only just enough to swear by," said the Professor sadly. "We
are a lot of half-tamed savages, after all, but we may be thankful that
a capacity for almost infinite development is within us."

"I wish to heaven we could get on a little faster," exclaimed Hadria.

The incident proved, in the end, a fortunate one for the homeless, and
almost starving terrier, of plebeian lineage, whose wail of distress had
summoned two friends to the rescue. The creature had been ill-treated by
some boys, who found Sunday afternoon hang heavy on their hands. The
Professor carried the injured animal across the fields and through the
woods, to Dunaghee.

Here the wounds were dressed, and here the grateful creature found a new
and blissful home. His devotion to the Professor was unbounded; he
followed him everywhere.

Hadria's reverence and admiration rose to the highest pitch of
enthusiasm. Her father laughed at her. "Just as if any decent fellow
would not have done as much for a wounded brute!"

"There must have been a strange dearth of decent fellows in church that
morning then."

It was not merely the action, but the feeling revealed by the
Professor's words on that occasion, that had turned Hadria's sentiment
towards him, into one of worship.

Algitha warned her that even the Professor was human.

Hadria said she did not believe it, or rather she believed that he was
inordinately, tenderly, superlatively human, and that he had gone many
steps farther in that direction than the rest of his generation. He was
dowered with instincts and perceptions belonging to some kinder, nobler
race than ours.

Miss Du Prel looked grave. She took occasion to mention that the
Professor had never ceased to grieve for his wife, to whom he had been
passionately attached, and that he, almost alone among men, would never
love any other woman.

"I admire him only the more for that," said Hadria.

"Don't let yourself care too much for him."

"Too much!"

"Don't fall in love with him, if I must be frank."

Hadria was silent. "If one _were_ to fall in love at all, I don't see
how it would be possible to avoid his being the man," she pronounced at
last. "I defy any creature with the least vestige of a heart to remain
indifferent to him." (Valeria coloured.) "Why there isn't a man, woman,
child, or animal about the place who doesn't adore him; and what can _I_
do?"



CHAPTER XI.


The autumn was now on the wane; the robins sang clear, wild little songs
in the shrubberies, the sunshine fell slanting across the grass. And at
night, the stars twinkled with a frosty brilliancy, and the flowers were
cut down by cruel invisible hands. The long dark evenings and the
shrieking winds of winter were before them.

With the shortening of the days, and the sweeping away of great shoals
of leaves, in the frequent gales, Miss Du Prel's mood grew more and more
sombre. At last she announced that she could stand the gloom of this
wild North no longer. She had made arrangements to return to London, on
the morrow. As suddenly as she had appeared on the scene, she vanished,
leaving but one day to grieve at the prospect of parting.

It was through an accidental turn in the conversation, on this last day,
that the difference between her creed and the Professor's was brought to
light, accounting to Hadria for many things, and increasing, if
possible, her admiration for the unconscious Professor.

As for her own private and personal justification for hope, Valeria
asserted that she had none. Not even the thought of her work--usually a
talisman against depression--had any power to comfort. Who cared for her
work, unless she perjured herself, and told the lies that the public
loved to hear?

"What should we all do," asked Hadria, "if there were not a few people
like you and Professor Fortescue, in the world, to keep us true to our
best selves, and to point to something infinitely better than that
best?"

Miss Du Prel brightened for a moment.

"What does it matter if you do not provide mental food for the crowd,
seeking nourishment for their vulgarity? Let them go starve."

"But they don't; they go and gorge elsewhere. Besides, the question of
starvation faces _me_ rather than them."

Miss Du Prel was still disposed to find fault with the general scheme of
things, which she regarded as responsible for her own woes, great and
little. Survival of the fittest! What was that but another name for the
torture and massacre of the unfit? Nature's favourite instruments were
war, slaughter, famine, misery (mental and physical), sacrifice and
brutality in every form, with a special malignity in her treatment of
the most highly developed and the noblest of the race.

The Professor in vain pointed out that Valeria's own revolt against the
brutality of Nature, was proof of some higher law in Nature, now in
course of development.

"The horror that is inspired in human beings by that brutality is just
as much a part of Nature as the brutality itself," he said, and he
insisted that the supreme business of man, was to evolve a scheme of
life on a higher plane, wherein the weak shall not be forced to agonize
for the strong, so far as mankind can intervene to prevent it. Let man
follow the dictates of pity and generosity in his own soul. They would
never lead him astray. While Miss Du Prel laid the whole blame upon
natural law, the Professor impeached humanity. Men, he declared, cry out
against the order of things, which they, in a large measure, have
themselves created.

"But, good heavens! the whole plan of life is one of rapine. _We_ did
not fashion the spider to prey upon the fly, or the cat to play with the
wounded mouse. _We_ did not ordain that the strong should fall upon the
weak, and tear and torture them for their own benefit. Surely we are not
responsible for the brutalities of the animal creation."

"No, but we are responsible when we _imitate them_," said the Professor.

Miss Du Prel somewhat inconsequently attempted to defend such imitation,
on the ground that sacrifice is a law of life, a law of which she had
just been bitterly complaining. But at this, the Professor would only
laugh. His opponent indignantly cited scientific authority of the most
solemn and weighty kind; the Professor shook his head. Familiarity with
weighty scientific authorities had bred contempt.

"Vicarious sacrifice!" he exclaimed, with a sudden outbreak of the scorn
and impatience that Hadria had seen in him on one other occasion, "I
never heard a doctrine more insane, more immoral, or more suicidal!"

Miss Du Prel hugged herself in the thought of her long list of scouted
authorities. They had assured her that our care of the weak, by
interfering with the survival of the fittest, is injuring the race.

"Go down into the slums of our great cities, or to the pestilential
East, and there observe the survival of the fittest, undisturbed by
human knowledge or human pity," recommended the Professor.

Miss Du Prel failed to see how this proved anything more than bad
general conditions.

"It proves that however bad general conditions may be, _some_ wretches
will always survive; the 'fittest,' of course, to endure filth and
misery. Selection goes on without ceasing; but if the conditions are
bad, the surviving type will be miserable. Mere unaided natural
selection obviously cannot be trusted to produce a fine race."

Nothing would convince Miss Du Prel that the preservation of weakly
persons was not injurious to the community. To this the Professor
replied, that what is lost by their salvation is more than paid back by
the better conditions that secured it. The strong, he said, were
strengthened and enabled to retain their strength by that which saves
the lives of the weak.

"Besides, do you suppose a race could gain, in the long run, by defiance
of its best instincts? Never! If the laws of health in body and in mind
were at variance, leaving us a hard choice between physical and moral
disease, then indeed no despair could be too black. But all experience
and all insight testify to the exact opposite. Heavens, how
short-sighted people are! It is not the protection of the weak, but the
evil and stupid deeds that have made them so, that we have to thank for
the miseries of disease. And for our redemption--powers of the universe!
it is not to the cowardly sacrifice of the unfortunate that we must
trust, but to a more brotherly spirit of loyalty, a more generous
treatment of all who are defenceless, a more faithful holding together
among ourselves--weak and strong, favoured and luckless."

Miss Du Prel was silent for a moment. Her sympathy but not her hope had
been roused.

"I wish I could believe in your scheme of redemption," she said; "but,
alas! sacrifice has been the means of progress from the beginning of all
things, and so I fear it will be to the end."

"I don't know what it will be at the end," said the Professor, dryly;
"for the present, I oppose with the whole strength of my belief and my
conscience, the cowardly idea of surrendering individuals to the
ferocity of a jealous and angry power, in the hope of currying favour
for the rest. We might just as well set up national altars and sacrifice
victims, after the franker fashion of the ancients. Morally, the
principles are precisely the same."

"Scarcely; for _our_ object is to benefit humanity."

"And theirs. Poor humanity!" cried the Professor. "What crimes are we
not ready to commit in thy name!"

"That cannot be a crime which benefits mankind," argued Miss Du Prel.

"It is very certain that it cannot eventually benefit mankind, if it
_be_ a crime," he retorted.

"This sequence of ideas makes one dizzy!" exclaimed Hadria.

The Professor smiled. "Moreover," he added, "we know that society has
formed the conditions of existence for each of her members; the whole
material of his misfortune, if he be ill-born and ill-conditioned. Is
society then to turn and rend her unlucky child whose misery was her
own birthday gift? Shall we, who are only too ready, as it is, to
trample upon others, in our haste and greed--shall we be encouraged in
this savage selfishness by what dares to call itself science, to play
one another false, instead of standing, with united front, to the powers
of darkness, and scorning to betray our fellows, human or animal, in the
contemptible hope of gaining by the treachery? Ah! you may quote
authorities, wise and good, till you are hoarse!" cried the Professor,
with a burst of energy; "but they will not convince me that black is
white. I care not who may uphold the doctrine of vicarious sacrifice; it
is monstrous, it is dastardly, it is _damnable!_"

There are some sentences and some incidents that fix themselves, once
for all, in the memory, often without apparent reason, to remain as an
influence throughout life. In this fashion, the afternoon's discussion
registered itself in the memory of the silent member of the trio.

In her dreams that night, those three concluding and energetic
adjectives played strange pranks, as, in dreams, words and phrases often
will. Her deep regret at Miss Du Prel's departure, her dread of her own
future, her growing sense of the torment, and horror, and sacrifice that
form so large a part of the order of the world, all appeared to be
united fantastically in malignant and threatening form, in the final
words of the Professor: "It is monstrous, it is dastardly, it is
damnable!" The agony of the whole earth seemed to hang over the sleeper,
hovering and black and intolerable, crushing her with a sense of
hopeless pity and fatigue.

And on waking, though the absurd masquerading of words and thoughts had
ceased, she was still weighed down with the horror of the dream, which
she knew had a corresponding reality still more awful. And there was no
adversary to all this anguish; everybody acquiesced, nay, everybody
threw on yet another log to the martyr's pile, and coolly watched the
hungry flames at their work, for "Nature," they all agreed, demanded
sacrifice.

It was in vain to turn for relief to the wise and good; the "wise"
insisted on keeping up the altar fires that they might appease the
blood-thirsty goddess by a continuous supply of victims (for the noble
purpose of saving the others); the "good" trusted to the decision of the
wise; they were humbly content to allow others to judge for them; for by
this means would they not secure some of the spoils?

No, no; there was no help anywhere on earth, no help, no help. So ran
Hadria's thoughts, in the moments of vivid sensation, between sleeping
and waking. "Suffering, sacrifice, oppression: there is nothing else
under the sun, under the sun."

Perhaps a brilliant beam that had found its way, like a message of
mercy, through the blind, and shone straight on to the pillow, had
suggested the form of the last thought.

Hadria moved her hand into the ray, that she might feel the warmth and
"the illusion of kindness."

There was one person, and at the moment, only one, whose existence was
comforting to remember. The hundreds of kind and good people, who were
merely kind and good where popular sentiment expected or commended such
conduct, gave no re-assurance; on the contrary, they proved the
desperation of our plight, since wisdom and goodness themselves were
busy at the savage work.

When the party met at breakfast, an hour later, the Professor caused
universal consternation, by announcing that he would be obliged to
return to London on that very day, having received a letter, by the
morning's post, which left him no choice. The very butler paused, for a
perceptible period, while handing ham and eggs to the guest. Forks and
knives were laid down; letters remained unopened.

"It's no use your attempting to go, my dear Chantrey," said Mr.
Fullerton, "we have grown accustomed to the luxury of your society, and
we can't get on without it."

But the Professor explained that his departure was inevitable, and that
he must go by the morning train.

He and Hadria had time for a short walk to the river, by the pathway of
the tunnels.

"What are your plans for the winter?" the Professor asked. "I hope that
you will find time to develop your musical gift. It ought to be used and
not wasted, or worse than wasted, as all forces are, unless they find
their legitimate outlet. Don't be persuaded to do fancy embroidery, as a
better mode of employing energy. You have peculiar advantages of a
hereditary kind, if only you can get a reasonable chance to use them. I
have unbounded faith in the Fullerton stock. It has all the elements
that ought to produce powers of the highest order. You know I have
always cherished a warm affection for your parents, but ten years more
of experience have taught me better how to value that sterling sincerity
and honour in your father, united with so much kindliness, not to
mention his qualities of brain; and then your mother's strong sense of
duty, her ability, her native love of art, and her wonderful devotion.
These are qualities that one does not meet with every day, and the
children of such parents start in life with splendid material to fashion
into character and power."

"Algitha will be worthy of our parents, I think," said Hadria, "though
she has commenced her career by disobeying them."

"And you too must turn your power to account."

"You can't conceive how difficult it is."

"I can very easily. I see that the sacrifice of her own development,
which your mother has made for your sakes, is taking its inevitable
revenge upon her, and upon you all. One can't doom one's best powers to
decay, however excellent the motive, without bringing punishment upon
oneself and one's children, in some form or other. You will have to
fight against that penalty. I know you will not have a smooth time of
it; but who has, except cowards and weaklings? Your safeguard will be in
your work."

"And my difficulty," said Hadria. "In the world that I was born into
(for my sins), when one tries to do something that other people don't
do, it is like trying to get up early in a house where the
breakfast-hour is late. Nothing fits in with one's eccentric custom;
everything conspires to discourage it."

"I wish I could give you a helping hand," said the Professor wistfully;
"but one is so powerless. Each of us has to fight the real battle of
life alone. Nobody can see with our eyes, or feel with our nerves. The
crux of the difficulty each bears for himself. But friendship can help
us to believe the struggle worth while; it can sustain our courage and
it can offer sympathy in victory,--but still more faithfully in
defeat."



CHAPTER XII.


Hadria had determined upon making a strong and patient effort to pursue
her work during the winter, while doing her best, at the same time, to
please her mother, and to make up to her, as well as she could, for
Algitha's departure. She would not be dismayed by difficulties: as the
Professor said, only cowards and weaklings escaped these. She treated
herself austerely, and found her power of concentration increasing, and
her hold on herself greater. But, as usual, her greatest effort had to
be given, not to the work itself, but to win opportunity to pursue it.
Mrs. Fullerton opposed her daughter's endeavours as firmly as ever. It
was not good for a girl to be selfishly pre-occupied. She ought to think
of others.

If Hadria yielded the point on any particular occasion, her mood and
her work were destroyed: if she resisted, they were equally destroyed,
through the nervous disturbance and the intense depression which
followed the winning of a liberty too dearly bought. The incessant
rising and quelling of her impulse and her courage--like the ebb and
flow of tides--represented a vast amount of force not merely wasted, but
expended in producing a dangerous wear and tear upon the system. The
process told upon her health, and was the beginning of the weakening and
unbalancing of the splendid constitution which Hadria, in common with
every member of the family, enjoyed as a birthright. The injury was
insidious but serious. Hadria, unable to command any certain part of the
day, began to sit up at night. This led to a direct clash of wills. Mr.
Fullerton said that the girl was doing her best to ruin her health for
life; Mrs. Fullerton wished to know why Hadria, who had all the day at
her disposal, could not spend the night rationally.

"But I haven't all the day, or any part of it, for certain," said
Hadria.

"If you grudge the little services you do for me, pray abandon them,"
said the mother, genuinely hurt.

Hadria entered her room, one evening, tired out and profoundly
depressed. A table, covered with books, stood beside the fire. She gave
the top-heavy pile an impatient thrust and the mass fell, with a great
crash, to the floor. A heap of manuscript--her musical achievement for
the past year--was involved in the fall. She contemplated the wreck
gravely.

"Yes, it is I who am weak, not circumstance that is strong. If I could
keep my mind unmoved by the irritations; if I could quarrel with mother,
and displease father, and offend all the world without a qualm, or
without losing the delicate balance of thought and mood necessary for
composition, then I should, to some extent, triumph over my circumstances;
I should not lose so much time in this wretched unstringing. Only were I
so immovably constituted, is it probable that I should be able to compose
at all?"

She drew the score towards her. "People are surprised that women have
never done anything noteworthy in music. People are so intelligent!" She
turned over the pages critically. If only this instinct were not so
overwhelmingly strong! Hadria wondered how many other women, from the
beginning of history, had cursed the impulse to create! Fortunately, it
was sometimes extinguished altogether, as to-night, for instance, when
every impression, every desire was swept clean out of her, and her mind
presented a creditable blank, such as really ought to satisfy the most
exacting social mentor. In such a state, a woman might be induced to
accept anything!

Hadria brought out two letters from her pocket; one from the Professor,
the other from Miss Du Prel. The latter had been writing frequently of
late, pointing out the danger of Hadria's exaggerated ideas, and the
probability of their ruining her happiness in life. Valeria had suffered
herself from "ideas," and knew how fatal they were. Life _could_ not
be exactly as one would have it, and it was absolutely necessary, in order
to avoid misery for oneself and others, to consent to take things more
or less as they were; to make up one's mind to bend a little, rather
than have to break, in the end. Things were never quite so shocking as
they seemed to one's youthful imagination. The world was made up of
compromises. Good was mixed with evil everywhere. The domestic idea, as
Hadria called it, might be, in its present phase, somewhat offensive,
but it could be redeemed in its application, in the details and
"extenuating circumstances." Valeria could not warn Hadria too earnestly
against falling into the mistake that Valeria herself had made. She had
repudiated the notion of anything short of an ideal union; a perfect
comradeship, without the shadow of restraint or bondage in the
relationship; and not having found it, she had refused the tie
altogether. She could not bring herself to accept the lesser thing,
having conceived the possibility of the greater. She now saw her error,
and repented it. She was reaping the penalty in a lonely and unsatisfied
life. For a long time her work had seemed to suffice, but she felt now
that she had been trusting to a broken reed. She was terrified at her
solitude. She could not face the thought of old age, without a single
close tie, without a home, without a hold upon her race.

She ended by entreating Hadria not to refuse marriage merely because she
could not find a man to agree with her in everything, or capable of
entering into the spirit of the relationship that perhaps would unite
the men and women of the future. It was a pity that Hadria had not been
born a generation later, but since she had come into the world at this
time of transition, she must try to avoid the tragedy that threatens all
spirits who are pointing towards the new order, while the old is still
working out its unexhausted impetus.

This reiterated advice had begun to trouble Hadria. It did not convince
her, but Valeria's words were incessantly repeating themselves in her
mind; working as a ferment among her thoughts.

The letters from Miss Du Prel and the Professor were to her, a source of
great pleasure and of great pain. In her depressed moods, they would
often rather increase her despondency, because the writers used to take
for granted so many achievements that she had not been able to accomplish.

"They think I am living and progressing as they are; they do not know
that the riot and stir of intellectual life has ceased. I am like a
creature struggling in a quicksand."

On the Professor's letter, the comments were of a different character.

He had recommended her to read certain books, and reminded her that no
possessor of good books could lack the privilege of spiritual sanctuary.

"Ah! yes, I know few pleasures so great as that of finding one's own
idea, or hope, or longing, finely expressed, half-born thoughts alive
and of stately stature; and then the exquisite touches of art upon quick
nerves, the enlarging of the realms of imagination, knowledge, the
heightening of perceptions, intuitions; finally the blessed power of
escaping from oneself, with the paradoxical reward of greater
self-realization! But, ah, Professor, to me there is a 'but' even here.
I am oppressed by a sense of the discrepancy between the world that
books disclose to me, and the world that I myself inhabit. In books, the
_impossibilities_ are all left out. They give you no sense of the sordid
Inevitable that looms so large on the grey horizon. Another more
personal quarrel that I have with books is on account of their attacking
all my pet prejudices, and sneering at the type of woman that I have the
misfortune to belong to. I am always exhorted to cure myself of being
myself. Nothing less would suffice. Now this is wounding. All my
particular feelings, my strongest beliefs, are condemned, directly or by
inference. I could almost believe that there is a literary conspiracy to
reform me. The "true women" of literature infallibly think and feel
precisely as I do _not_ think and feel, while the sentiments that I
detest--woe is me--are lauded to the skies. Truly, if we women don't
know exactly what we ought to think and feel, it is not for want of
telling. Yet you say, Professor, in this very letter, that the sense of
having a peculiar experience is always an illusion, that every feeling
of ours has been felt before, if not in our own day, then in the crowded
past, with its throngs of forgotten lives and unrecorded experiences. I
wish to heaven I could meet those who have had exactly mine!"

Hadria did not keep up an active correspondence with Miss Du Prel or
with the Professor. She had no idea of adding to the burden of their
busy lives, by wails for sympathy. It seemed to her feeble, and
contemptible, to ask to be dragged up by their strength, instead of
exerting her own. If that were insufficient, why then let her go down,
as thousands had gone down before her. As a miser telling his gold, she
would read and re-read those occasional letters, written amidst the
stress of life at high pressure, and bearing evidence of that life of
thought and work, in their tense, full-packed phrases. With what a throb
of longing and envy Hadria used to feel the vibration through her own
nerves! It was only when completely exhausted and harassed that the
response was lacking. To-night everything seemed to be obliterated. Her
hope, her interest were, for the moment, tired out. Her friends would be
disappointed in her, but there was no help for it.

She picked up the score of her music, and stood, with a handful of the
once precious offspring of her brain held out towards the flames. Then
she drew it back, and half closed her eyes in self-scrutinizing thought.
"Come now," she said to herself, "are you sincere in your intention of
giving up? Are you not doing this in a fit of spite against destiny? as
if destiny cared two straws. Heavens! what a poor little piece of
melodrama. And to think that you should have actually taken yourself in
it by it. One acts so badly with only oneself for audience. You know
perfectly well that you are _not_ going to give in, you are _not_ going
to attempt to stifle that which is the centre of your life; you have not
courage for such slow suicide. Don't add insincerity to the other faults
that are laid to your account----" She mused over the little
self-administered lecture. And probing down into her consciousness, she
realized that she could not face the thought of surrender. She meant to
fight on. The notion of giving in had been seized instinctively, for a
moment of rest. Nothing should really make her cease the struggle, until
the power itself had been destroyed. She was sure of it, in her heart,
in spite of failures and miserably inadequate expressions of it.
Suddenly, as a shaft of light through parting clouds, came bursting
forth, radiant, rejoicing, that sense of power, large, resistless,
genial as morning sunshine. Yes, yes, let them say what they might,
discourage, smile, or frown as they would, the faculty was given to her,
and she would fight for opportunity to use it while she had breath.



CHAPTER XIII.


As if it had all been ingeniously planned, the minutest incidents and
conditions of Hadria's life conspired towards the event that was to
decide its drift for ever.

Often, in the dim afternoon, she would sit by the window and watch the
rain sweeping across the country, longing then for Temperley's music,
which used to make the wild scene so unspeakably beautiful. Now there
was no music, no music anywhere, only this fierce and mournful rush of
the wind, which seemed as if it were trying to utter some universal
grief. At sunset, braving the cold, she would mount the creaking
staircase, pass along the silent upper corridors, and on through the
empty rooms to the garret in the tower. The solitude was a relief; the
strangeness of the scene appealed to some wild instinct, and to the
intense melancholy that lurks in the Celtic nature.

Even at night, she did not shrink from braving the glooms and silences
of the deserted upper floor, nor the solitude of the garret, which
appeared the deeper, from the many memories of happy evenings that it
evoked. She wished Ernest would come home. It was so long since she had
seen her favourite brother. She could not bear the thought of his
drifting away from her. What talks they had had in this old garret!

These nights in the tower, among the winds, soothed the trouble of her
spirit as nothing else had power to do. The mystery of life, the thrill
of existence, touched her with a strange joy that ran perilously near to
pain. What vast dim possibilities lurked out there, in the hollows of
the hills! What inspiration thundered in the voice of the prophet wind!

Once, she had gone downstairs and out, alone, in a tearing storm, to
wander across the bleak pastures, wrapt round by the wind as by a flame;
at one with the desperate elemental thing.

The wanderer felt herself caught into the heart of some vast unknown
power, of which the wind was but a thrall, until she became, for a
moment, consciously part of that which was universal. Her personality
grew dim; she stood, as it seemed, face to face with Nature, divided
from the ultimate truth by only a thin veil, to temper the splendour and
the terror. Then the tension of personal feeling was loosened. She saw
how entirely vain and futile were the things of life that we grieve and
struggle over.

It was not a side, an aspect of existence, but the whole of it that
seemed to storm round her, in the darkness. No wonder, when the wind was
let loose among the mountains, that the old Highland people thought that
their dead were about them. All night long, after Hadria returned to her
room in the keep, the wind kept up its cannonade against the walls,
hooting in the chimneys with derisive voices, and flinging itself, in
mad revolt, against the old-established hills and the stable earth,
which changed its forms only in slow obedience to the persuadings of the
elements, in the passing of centuries. It cared nothing for the passion
of a single storm.

And then came reaction, doubt. After all, humanity was a puny production
of the Ages. Men and women were like the struggling animalculæ that her
father had so often shewn the boys, in a drop of magnified ditch-water;
yet not quite like those microscopic insects, for the stupendous
processes of life had at last created a widening consciousness, a mind
which could perceive the bewildering vastness of Nature and its own
smallness, which could, in some measure, get outside its own particular
ditch, and the strife and struggle of it, groping upwards for larger
realities--

          "Over us stars and under us graves."

To go down next morning to breakfast; to meet the usual homely events,
was bewildering after such a night. Which was dream: this or that? So
solid and convincing seemed, at times, the interests and objects of
every day, that Hadria would veer round to a sudden conviction that
these things, or what they symbolized, were indeed the solid facts of
human life, and that all other impressions arose from the disorderly
working of overcharged brain-cells. It was a little ailment of youth
and would pass off. Had it been possible to describe to her father the
impressions made upon her by the world and Nature, as they had presented
themselves to her imagination from her childhood, he would have
prescribed change of air and gymnastics. Perhaps that was the really
rational view of the matter. But what if these hygienic measures cured
her of the haunting consciousness of mystery and vastness; what if she
became convinced of the essential importance of the Gordon pedigree, or
of the amount of social consideration due to the family who had taken
Clarenoc? Would that alter the bewildering truths of which she would
have ceased to think?

No; it would only mean that the animalcule had returned to the
occupations of its ditch, while the worlds and the peoples went spinning
to their destiny.

"Do the duty that lies nearest thee," counselled everybody: people of
all kinds, books of all kinds. "Cheap, well-sounding advice," thought
Hadria, "sure of popularity! Continue to wriggle industriously, O
animalcule, in that particular ditch wherein it has pleased heaven to
place thee; seek not the flowing stream and the salt ocean; and if, some
clear night, a star finds room to mirror itself in thy little stagnant
world, shining through the fat weeds and slime that almost shut out the
heavens, pray be careful not to pay too much heed to the high-born
luminary. Look to your wriggling; that is your proper business. An
animalcule that does not wriggle must be morbid or peculiar. All will
tender, in different forms of varying elegance, the safe and simple
admonition: 'Wriggle and be damned to you!'"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was at this somewhat fevered moment, that Hubert Temperley appeared,
once more, upon the scene. Hadria was with her mother, taking tea at
Drumgarren, when Mrs. Gordon, catching the sounds of carriage wheels,
announced that she was expecting Hubert and his sister for a visit. In
another second, the travellers were in the drawing-room.

Hubert's self-possession was equal to the occasion. He introduced his
sister to Mrs. Fullerton and Hadria. Miss Temperley was his junior by a
year; a slight, neatly-built young woman, with a sort of tact that went
on brilliantly up to a certain point, and then suddenly collapsed
altogether. She had her brother's self-complacency, and an air of
encouragement which Mrs. Gordon seemed to find most gratifying.

She dressed perfectly, in quiet Parisian fashion. Hadria saw that her
brother had taken her into his confidence, or she concluded so from
something in Miss Temperley's manner. The latter treated Hadria with a
certain familiarity, as if she had known her for some time, and she had
a way of seeming to take her apart, when addressing her, as if there
were a sort of understanding between them. It was here that her instinct
failed her; for she seemed unaware that this assumption of an intimacy
that did not exist was liable to be resented, and that it might be
unpleasant to be expected to catch special remarks sent over the heads
of the others, although ostensibly for the common weal.

Hadria thought that she had never seen so strange a contrast as this
young woman's behaviour, within and without the circle of her
perceptions. It was the more remarkable, since her mind was bent upon
the details and niceties of conduct, and the _nuances_ of existence.

"I shall come and see you as soon as I can," she promised, when Mrs.
Fullerton rose to leave.

Miss Temperley kept her word. She was charmed with the old house,
praising authoritatively.

"This is an excellent piece of carving; far superior to the one in the
dining-room. Ah, yes, that is charming; so well arranged. You ought to
have a touch of blue there to make it perfect."

Hubert shewed good taste in keeping away from Dunaghee, except to pay
his call on Mr. and Mrs. Fullerton.

"Hadria," said his sister, "I am going to call you by your pretty
Christian name, and I want you to call me Henriette. I feel I have known
you much longer than ten days, because Hubert has told me so much about
you, and your music. You play charmingly. So much native talent. You
want good training, of course; but you really might become a brilliant
performer. Hubert is quite distressed that you should not enjoy more
advantages. I should like so much if you could come and stay with us in
town, and have some good lessons. Do think of it."

Hadria flushed. "Oh, thank you, I could not do that--I----"

"I understand you, dear Hadria," said Henriette, drawing her chair
closer to the fire. "You know, Hubert can never keep anything of great
importance from me." She looked arch.

Hadria muttered something that might have discouraged a less persistent
spirit, but Miss Temperley paid no attention.

"Poor Hubert! I have had to be a ministering angel to him during these
last months."

"Why do you open up this subject, Miss Temperley?"

"_Henriette_, if you please," cried that young woman, with the air of
a playful potentate who has requested a favoured courtier to drop the
ceremonious "Your Majesty" in private conversation.

"It was I who made him accept Mrs. Gordon's invitation. He very nearly
refused it. He feared that it would be unpleasant for you. But I
insisted on his coming. Why should he not? He would like so much to come
here more often, but again he fears to displease you. He is not a
Temperley for nothing. They are not of the race of fools who rush in
where angels fear to tread."

"Are they not?" asked Hadria absently.

"We both see your difficulty," Miss Temperley went on. "Hubert would not
so misunderstand you--the dear fellow is full of delicacy--and I should
dearly love to hear him play to your accompaniment; he used to enjoy
those practices so much. Would you think him intrusive if he brought his
_'cello_ some afternoon?"

Hadria, not without an uneasy qualm, agreed to the suggestion, though by
no means cordially.

Accordingly brother and sister arrived, one afternoon, for the practice.
Henriette took the leadership, visibly employed tact and judgment,
talked a great deal, and was surprisingly delicate, as beseemed a
Temperley. Hadria found the occasion somewhat trying nevertheless, and
Hubert stumbled, at first, in his playing. In a few minutes, however,
both musicians became possessed by the music, and then all went well.
Henriette sat in an easy chair and listened critically. Now and then she
would call out "bravo," or "admirable," and when the performance was
over, she was warm in her congratulations.

Hadria was flushed with the effort and pleasure of the performance.

"I never heard Hubert's playing to such advantage," said his sister. "I
seem to hear it for the first time. You really ought to practise
together often." Another afternoon was appointed; Henriette left Hadria
almost no choice.

After the next meeting, the constraint had a little worn off, and the
temptation to continue the practising was very strong. Henriette's
presence was reassuring. And then Hubert seemed so reasonable, and had
apparently put the past out of his mind altogether.

After the practice, brother and sister would linger a little in the
drawing-room, chatting. Hubert appeared to advantage in his sister's
society. She had a way of striking his best vein. Her own talent ran
with his, appealed to it, and created the conditions for its display.
Her presence and inspiration seemed to produce, on his ability, a sort
of cumulative effect. Henriette set all the familiar machinery in
motion; pressed the right button, and her brother became brilliant.

A slight touch of diffidence in his manner softened the effect of his
usual complacency. Hadria liked him better than she had liked him on his
previous visit. His innate refinement appealed to her powerfully.
Moreover, he was cultivated and well-read, and his society was
agreeable. Oh, why did this everlasting matrimonial idea come in and
spoil everything? Why could not men and women have interests in common,
without wishing instantly to plunge into a condition of things which
hampered and crippled them so miserably?

Hadria was disposed to underrate all defects, and to make the most of
all virtues in Hubert, at the present moment. He had come at just the
right time to make a favourable impression upon her; for the loneliness
of her life had begun to leave its mark, and to render her extremely
sensitive to influence.

She was an alien among the people of her circle; and she felt vaguely
guilty in failing to share their ideas and ambitions. Their glances,
their silences, conveyed a world of cold surprise and condemnation.

Hubert was tolerance itself compared with the majority of her
associates. She felt almost as if he had done her a personal kindness
when he omitted to look astonished at her remarks, or to ignore them as
"awkward."

Yet she felt uneasy about this renewal of the practices, and tried to
avoid them as often as possible, though sorely against her inclination.
They were so great a relief and enjoyment. Her inexperience, and her
carelessness of conventional standards, put her somewhat off her guard.
Hubert showed no signs of even remembering the interview of last year,
that had been cut short by her father's entrance. Why should _she_
insist on keeping it in mind? It was foolish. Moreover she had been
expressly given to understand, in a most pointed manner, that her
conduct would not be misinterpreted if she allowed him to come
occasionally.

From several remarks that Temperley made, she saw that he too regarded
the ordinary domestic existence with distaste. It offended his
fastidiousness. He was fastidious to his finger-tips. It amused Hadria
to note the contrast between him and Mr. Gordon, who was a typical
father of a family; limited in his interests to that circle; an amiable
ruler of a tiny, somewhat absurd little world, pompous and important and
inconceivably dull.

The _bourgeois_ side of this life was evidently displeasing to Hubert.
Good taste was his fetish. From his remarks about women, Hadria was led
to observe how subtly critical he was with regard to feminine qualities,
and wondered if his preference for herself ought to be regarded as a
great compliment.

Henriette congratulated her on having been admired by the fastidious
Hubert.

"Let us hope it speaks well for me," Hadria replied with a cynical
smile, "but I have so often noticed that men who are very difficult to
please, choose for the domestic hearth the most dreary and unattractive
woman of their acquaintance! I sometimes doubt if men ever do marry the
women they most admire."

"They do, when they can win them," said Henriette.



CHAPTER XIV.


During Henriette's visit, one of the meetings of the Preposterous
Society fell due, and she expressed a strong wish to be present. She
also craved the privilege of choosing the subject of discussion.
Finally, she received a formal request from the members to give the
lecture herself. She was full of enthusiasm about the Society (such an
educating influence!), and prepared her paper with great care. There had
been a tendency among the circle, to politely disagree with Henriette.
Her ideas respecting various burning topics were at variance with the
trend of opinion at Dunaghee, and Miss Temperley was expected to take
this opportunity of enlightening the family. The family was equally
resolved not to be enlightened.

"I have chosen for my subject to-night," said the lecturer, "one that is
beginning to occupy public attention very largely: I mean the sphere of
woman in society."

The audience, among whom Hubert had been admitted at his sister's
earnest request, drew themselves together, and a little murmur of battle
ran along the line. Henriette's figure, in her well-fitting Parisian
gown, looked singularly out of place in the garret, with the crazy old
candle-holder beside her, the yellow flame of the candle flinging
fantastic shadows on the vaulted roof, preposterously distorting her
neat form, as if in wicked mockery. The moonlight streamed in, as usual
on the nights chosen by the Society for their meetings.

Henriette's paper was neatly expressed, and its sentiments were
admirable. She maintained a perfect balance between the bigotry of the
past and the violence of the present. Her phrases seemed to rock, like
a pair of scales, from excess to excess, on either side. She came to
rest in the exact middle. This led to the Johnsonian structure, or, as
Hadria afterwards said, to the style of a _Times_ leading article:
"While we remember on the one hand, we must not forget on the other----"

At the end of the lecture, the audience found themselves invited to
sympathize cautiously and circumspectly with the advancement of women,
but led, at the same time, to conclude that good taste and good feeling
forbade any really nice woman from moving a little finger to attain, or
to help others to attain, the smallest fraction more of freedom, or an
inch more of spiritual territory, than was now enjoyed by her sex. When,
at some future time, wider privileges should have been conquered by the
exertions of someone else, then the really nice woman could saunter in
and enjoy the booty. But till then, let her leave boisterous agitation
to others, and endear herself to all around her by her patience and her
loving self-sacrifice.

"That pays better for the present," Hadria was heard to mutter to an
adjacent member.

The lecturer, in her concluding remarks, gave a smile of ineffable
sweetness, sadly marred, however, by the grotesque effect of the
flickering shadows that were cast on her face by the candle. After all,
_duty_ not _right_ was the really important matter, and the lecturer
thought that it would be better if one heard the former word rather
oftener in connection with the woman's question, and the latter word
rather more seldom. Then, with new sweetness, and in a tone not to be
described, she went on to speak of the natural responsibilities and joys
of her sex, drawing a moving, if somewhat familiar picture of those
avocations, than which she was sure there could be nothing higher or
holier.

For some not easily explained cause, the construction of this sentence
gave it a peculiar unctuous force: "than which," as Fred afterwards
remarked, "would have bowled over any but the most hardened sinner."

For weeks after this memorable lecture, if any very lofty altitude had
to be ascended in conversational excursions, the aspirant invariably
smiled with ineffable tenderness and lightly scaled the height,
murmuring "than which" to a vanquished audience.

The lecture was followed by a discussion that rather took the stiffness
out of Miss Temperley's phrases. The whole party was roused. Algitha had
to whisper a remonstrance to the boys, for their solemn questions were
becoming too preposterous. The lecture was discussed with much warmth.
There was a tendency to adopt the form "than which" with some frequency.
Bursts of laughter startled a company of rats in the wainscoting, and
there was a lively scamper behind the walls. No obvious opposition was
offered. Miss Temperley's views were examined with gravity, and indeed
in a manner almost pompous. But by the end of that trying process, they
had a sadly bedraggled and plucked appearance, much to their parent's
bewilderment. She endeavoured to explain further, and was met by
guilelessly intelligent questions, which had the effect of depriving the
luckless objects of their solitary remaining feather. The members of the
society continued to pine for information, and Miss Temperley
endeavoured to provide it, till late into the night. The discussion
finally drifted on to dangerous ground. Algitha declared that she
considered that no man had any just right to ask a woman to pledge
herself to love him and live with him for the rest of her life. How
_could_ she? Hubert suggested that the woman made the same claim on the
man.

"Which is equally absurd," said Algitha. "Just as if any two people,
when they are beginning to form their characters, could possibly be sure
of their sentiments for the rest of their days. They have no business to
marry at such an age. They are bound to alter."

"But they must regard it as their duty not to alter with regard to one
another," said Henriette.

"Quite so; just as they ought to regard it as their duty among other
things, not to grow old," suggested Fred.

"Then, Algitha, do you mean that they may fall in love elsewhere?"
Ernest inquired.

"They very likely _will_ do so, if they make such an absurd start,"
Algitha declared.

"And if they do?"

"Then, if the sentiment stands test and trial, and proves genuine, and
not a silly freak, the fact ought to be frankly faced. Husband and wife
have no business to go on keeping up a bond that has become false and
irksome."

Miss Temperley broke into protest. "But surely you don't mean to defend
such faithlessness."

Algitha would not admit that it _was_ faithlessness. She said it was
mere honesty. She could see nothing inherently wrong in falling in love
genuinely after one arrived at years of discretion. She thought it
inherently idiotic, and worse, to make a choice that ought to be for
life, at years of _in_discretion. Still, people _were_ idiotic, and
that must be considered, as well as all the other facts, such as the
difficulty of really knowing each other before marriage, owing to social
arrangements, and also owing to the training, which made men and women
always pose so ridiculously towards one another, pretending to be
something that they were not.

"Well done, Algitha," cried Ernest, laughing; "I like to hear you speak
out. Now tell me frankly: supposing you married quite young, before you
had had much experience; supposing you afterwards found that you and
your husband had both been deceiving yourselves and each other,
unconsciously perhaps; and suppose, when more fully awakened and
developed, you met another fellow and fell in love with him genuinely,
what would you do?"

"Oh, she would just mention it to her husband casually," Fred interposed
with a chuckle, "and disappear."

"I should certainly not go through terrific emotions and
self-accusations, and think the end of the world had come," said Algitha
serenely. "I should calmly face the situation."

"Calmly! She by supposition being madly in love!" ejaculated Fred, with
a chuckle.

"Calmly," repeated Algitha. "And I should consider carefully what would
be best for all concerned. If I decided, after mature consideration and
self-testing, that I ought to leave my husband, I should leave him, as I
should hope he would leave me, in similar circumstances. That is my idea
of right."

"And is this also your idea of right, Miss Fullerton?" asked Temperley,
turning, in some trepidation, to Hadria.

"That seems to me right in the abstract. One can't pronounce for
particular cases where circumstances are entangled."

Hubert sank back in his chair, and ran his hand over his brow. He seemed
about to speak, but he checked himself.

"Where did you get such extraordinary ideas from?" cried Miss Temperley.

"They were like Topsy; they growed," said Fred.

"We have been in the habit of speculating freely on all subjects," said
Ernest, "ever since we could talk. This is the blessed result!"

"I am not quite so sure now, that the Preposterous Society meets with my
approval," observed Miss Temperley.

"If you had been brought up in the bosom of this Society, Miss
Temperley, you too, perhaps, would have come to this. Think of it!"

"Does your mother know what sort of subjects you discuss?"

There was a shout of laughter. "Mother used often to come into the
nursery and surprise us in hot discussion on the origin of evil," said
Hadria.

"Don't you believe what she says, Miss Temperley," cried Fred; "mother
never could teach Hadria the most rudimentary notions of accuracy."

"Her failure with my brothers, was in the department of manners," Hadria
observed.

"Then she does _not_ know what you talk about?" persisted Henriette.

"You ask her," prompted Fred, with undisguised glee.

"She never attends our meetings," said Algitha.

"Well, well, I cannot understand it!" cried Miss Temperley. "However,
you don't quite know what you are talking about, and one mustn't blame
you."

"No, don't," urged Fred; "we are a sensitive family."

"Shut up!" cried Ernest with a warning frown.

"Oh, you are a coarse-grained exception; I speak of the family average,"
Fred answered with serenity.

Henriette felt that nothing more could be done with this strange
audience. Her business was really with the President of the Society. The
girl was bent on ruining her life with these wild notions. Miss Temperley
decided that it would be better to talk to Hadria quietly in her own room,
away from the influence of these eccentric brothers and that extraordinary
sister. After all, it was Algitha who had originated the shocking view,
not Hadria, who had merely agreed, doubtless out of a desire to support
her sister.

"I have not known you for seven years, but I am going to poke your
fire," said Henriette, when they were established in Hadria's room.

"I never thought you would wait so long as that," was Hadria's ambiguous
reply.

Then Henriette opened her batteries. She talked without interruption,
her companion listening, agreeing occasionally with her adversary, in a
disconcerting manner; then falling into silence.

"It seems to me that you are making a very terrible mistake in your
life, Hadria. You have taken up a fixed idea about domestic duties and
all that, and are going to throw away your chances of forming a happy
home of your own, out of a mere prejudice. You may not admire Mrs.
Gordon's existence; for my part I think she leads a very good, useful
life, but there is no reason why all married lives should be like hers."

"Why are they, then?"

"I don't see that they are."

"It is the prevailing type. It shows the way the domestic wind blows.
Fancy having to be always resisting such a wind. What an oblique,
shorn-looking object one would be after a few years!"

Henriette grew eloquent. She recalled instances of women who had
fulfilled all their home duties, and been successful in other walks as
well; she drew pictures in attractive colours of Hadria in a home of her
own, with far more liberty than was possible under her parents' roof;
and then she drew another picture of Hadria fifteen years hence at
Dunaghee.

Hadria covered her face with her hands. "You who uphold all these social
arrangements, how do you feel when you find yourself obliged to urge me
to marry, not for the sake of the positive joys of domestic existence,
but for the merely negative advantage of avoiding a hapless and forlorn
state? You propose it as a _pis-aller_. Does _that_ argue that all is
sound in the state of Denmark?"

"If you had not this unreasonable objection to what is really a woman's
natural destiny, the difficulty would not exist."

"Have women no pride?"

Henriette did not answer.

"Have they no sense of dignity? If one marries (accepting things on the
usual basis, of course) one gives to another person rights and powers
over one's life that are practically boundless. To retain one's
self-direction in case of dispute would be possible only on pain of
social ruin. I have little enough freedom now, heaven knows; but if I
married, why my very thoughts would become the property of another.
Thought, emotion, love itself, must pass under the yoke! There would be
no nook or corner entirely and indisputably my own."

"I should not regard that as a hardship," said Henriette, "if I loved my
husband."

"I should consider it not only a hardship, but beyond endurance."

"But, my dear, you are impracticable."

"That is what I think domestic life is!" Hadria's quiet tone was
suddenly changed to one of scorn. "You talk of love; what has love
worthy of the name to do with this preposterous interference with the
freedom of another person? If _that_ is what love means--the craving
to possess and restrain and demand and hamper and absorb, and generally
make mincemeat of the beloved object, then preserve me from the
master-passion."

Henriette was baffled. "I don't know how to make you see this in a truer
light," she said. "There is something to my mind so beautiful in the
close union of two human beings, who pledge themselves to love and
honour one another, to face life hand in hand, to share every thought,
every hope, to renounce each his own wishes for the sake of the other."

"That sounds very elevating; in practice it breeds Mr. and Mrs. Gordon."

"Do you mean to tell me you will never marry on this account?"

"I would never marry anyone who would exact the usual submissions and
renunciations, or even desire them, which I suppose amounts almost to
saying that I shall never marry at all. What man would endure a wife who
demanded to retain her absolute freedom, as in the case of a close
friendship? The man is not born!"

"You seem to forget, dear Hadria, in objecting to place yourself under
the yoke, as you call it, that your husband would also be obliged to
resign part of _his_ independence to you. The prospect of loss of
liberty in marriage often prevents a man from marrying ("Wise man!"
ejaculated Hadria), so you see the disadvantage is not all on one side,
if so you choose to consider it."

"Good heavens! do you think that the opportunity to interfere with
another person would console me for being interfered with myself? I
don't want my share of the constraining power. I would as soon accept
the lash of a slave-driver. This moral lash is almost more odious than
the other, for its thongs are made of the affections and the domestic
'virtues,' than which there can be nothing sneakier or more detestable!"

Henriette heaved a discouraged sigh. "You are wrong, my dear Hadria,"
she said emphatically; "you are wrong, wrong, wrong."

"How? why?"

"One can't have everything in this life. You must be willing to resign
part of your privileges for the sake of the far greater privileges that
you acquire."

"I can imagine nothing that would compensate for the loss of freedom,
the right to oneself."

"What about love?" murmured Henriette.

"Love!" echoed Hadria scornfully. "Do you suppose I could ever love a
man who had the paltry, ungenerous instinct to enchain me?"

"Why use such extreme terms? Love does not enchain."

"Exactly what I contend," interrupted Hadria.

"But naturally husband and wife have claims."

"Naturally. I have just been objecting to them in what you describe as
extreme terms."

"But I mean, when people care for one another, it is a joy to them to
acknowledge ties and obligations of affection."

"Ah! one knows what _that_ euphemism means!"

"Pray what does it mean?"

"That the one serious endeavour in the life of married people is to be
able to call each other's souls their own."

Henriette stared.

"My language may not be limpid."

"Oh, I see what you mean. I was only wondering who can have taught you
all these strange ideas."

Hadria at length gave way to a laugh that had been threatening for some
time.

"My mother," she observed simply.

Henriette gave it up.



CHAPTER XV.


The family had reassembled for the New Year's festivities. The change in
Algitha since her departure from home was striking. She was gentler,
more affectionate to her parents, than of yore. The tendency to grow
hard and fretful had entirely disappeared. The sense of self was
obviously lessened with the need for self-defence. Hadria discovered
that an attachment was springing up between her sister and Wilfrid
Burton, about whom she wrote so frequently, and that this development of
her emotional nature, united with her work, had given a glowing centre
to her life which showed itself in a thousand little changes of manner
and thought. Hadria told her sister that she felt herself unreal and
fanciful in her presence. "I go twirling things round and round in my
head till I grow dizzy. But you compare ideas with fact; you even turn
ideas into fact; while I can get no hold on fact at all. Thoughts rise
as mists rise from the river, but nothing happens. I feel them begin to
prey upon me, working inwards."

Algitha shook her head. "It is a mad world," she said. "Week after week
goes by, and there seems no lifting of the awful darkness in which the
lives of these millions are passed. We want workers by the thousand.
Yet, as if in mockery, the Devil keeps these well-fed thousands eating
their hearts out in idleness or artificial occupations till they become
diseased merely for want of something to do. Then," added Algitha, "His
Majesty marries them, and sets them to work to create another houseful
of idle creatures, who have to be supported by the deathly toil of those
who labour too much."

"The devil is full of resources!" said Hadria.

Miss Temperley had been asked to stay at Dunaghee for the New Year.
Algitha conceived for her a sentiment almost vindictive. Hadria and the
boys enjoyed nothing better than to watch Miss Temperley giving forth
her opinions, while Algitha's figure gradually stiffened and her neck
drew out, as Fred said, in truly telescopic fashion, like that of Alice
in Wonderland. The boys constructed a figure of cushions, stuffed into
one of Algitha's old gowns, the neck being a padded broom-handle, made
to work up and down at pleasure; and with this counterfeit presentment
of their sister, they used to act the scene amidst shouts of applause,
Miss Temperley entering, on one occasion, when the improvised cocoa-nut
head had reached its culminating point of high disdain, somewhere about
the level of the curtain-poles.

On New-Year's-eve, Dunaghee was full of guests. There was to be a
children's party, to which however most of the grown-up neighbours were
also invited.

"What a charming sight!" cried Henriette, standing with her neat foot on
the fender in the hall, where the children were playing blind man's
buff.

Mrs. Fullerton sat watching them with a dreamy smile. The scene recalled
many an old memory. Mr. Fullerton was playing with the children.

Everyone remarked how well the two girls looked in their new evening
gowns. They had made them themselves, in consequence of a wager with
Fred, who had challenged them to combine pink and green satisfactorily.

"The gowns are perfect!" Temperley ventured to remark. "So much
distinction!"

"All my doing," cried Fred. "I chose the colours."

"Distinction comes from within," said Temperley. "I should like to see
what sort of gown in pink and green Mrs. ----." He stopped short
abruptly.

Fred gave a chuckle. Indiscreet eyes wandered towards Mrs. Gordon's
brocade and silver.

Later in the evening, that lady played dance music in a florid manner,
resembling her taste in dress. The younger children had gone home, and
the hall was filled with spinning couples.

"I hope we are to have some national dances," said Miss Temperley. "My
brother and I are both looking forward to seeing a true reel danced by
natives of the country."

"Oh, certainly!" said Mr. Fullerton. "My daughters are rather celebrated
for their reels, especially Hadria." Mr. Fullerton executed a step or
two with great agility.

"The girl gets quite out of herself when she is dancing," said Mrs.
Fullerton. "She won't be scolded about it, for she says she takes after
her father!"

"That's the time to get round her," observed Fred. "If we want to set
her up to some real fun, we always play a reel and wait till she's well
into the spirit of the thing, and then, I'll wager, she would stick at
nothing."

"It's a fact," added Ernest. "It really seems to half mesmerise her."

"How very curious!" cried Miss Temperley.

She and her brother found themselves watching the dancing a little apart
from the others.

"I would try again to-night, Hubert," she said in a low voice.

He was silent for a moment, twirling the tassel of the curtain.

"There is nothing to be really alarmed at in her ideas, regrettable as
they are. She is young. That sort of thing will soon wear off after she
is married."

Temperley flung away the tassel.

"She doesn't know what she is talking about. These high-flown lectures
and discussions have filled all their heads with nonsense. It will have
to be rooted out when they come to face the world. No use to oppose her
now. Nothing but experience will teach her. She must just be humoured
for the present. They have all run a little wild in their notions. Time
will cure that."

"I am sure of it," said Hubert tolerantly. "They don't know the real
import of what they say." He hugged this sentence with satisfaction.

"They are like the young Russians one reads about in Turgenieff's
novels," said Henriette--"all ideas, no common-sense."

"And you really believe----?"

Henriette's hand was laid comfortingly on her brother's arm.

"Dear Hubert, I know something of my sex. After a year of married life,
a woman has too many cares and responsibilities to trouble about ideas
of this kind, or of any other."

"She strikes me as being somewhat persistent by nature," said Hubert,
choosing a gentler word than _obstinate_ to describe the quality in the
lady of his affections.

"Let her be as persistent as she may, it is not possible for any woman
to resist the laws and beliefs of Society. What can she do against all
the world? She can't escape from the conditions of her epoch. Oh! she
may talk boldly now, for she does not understand; she is a mere infant
as regards knowledge of the world, but once a wife----"

Henriette smiled and shook her head, by way of finish to her sentence.
Hubert mused silently for some minutes.

"I could not endure that there should be any disturbance--any
eccentricity--in our life----"

"My dear boy, if you don't trust to the teaching of experience to cure
Hadria of these fantastic notions, rely upon the resistless persuasions
of our social facts and laws. Nothing can stand against them--certainly
not the fretful heresies of an inexperienced girl, who, remember, is
really good and kind at heart."

"Ah! yes," cried Hubert; "a fine nature, full of good instincts, and
womanly to her finger-tips."

"Oh! if she were not that, _I_ would never encourage you to think of
her," cried Henriette with a shudder. "It is on this essential goodness
of heart that I rely. She would never be able, try as she might, to act
in a manner that would really distress those who were dear to her. You
may count upon that securely."

"Yes; I am sure of it," said Hubert, "but unluckily" (he shook his head
and sighed) "I am not among those who are dear to her."

He rose abruptly, and Henriette followed him.

"Try to win her to-night," she murmured, "and be sure to express no
opposition to her ideas, however wild they may be. Ignore them, humour
her, plead your cause once more on this auspicious day--the last of the
old year. Something tells me that the new year will begin joyously for
you. Go now, and good luck to you."

"Ah! here you are," cried Mr. Fullerton, "we were wondering what had
become of you. You said you wished to see a reel. Mrs. McPherson is so
good as to play for us."

The kindly old Scottish dame had come, with two nieces, from a distance
of ten miles.

A thrill ran through the company when the strange old tune began.
Everyone rushed for a partner, and two long rows of figures stood facing
one another, eager to start. Temperley asked Hadria to dance with him.
Algitha had Harold Wilkins for a partner. The two long rows were soon
stepping and twirling with zest and agility. A new and wilder spirit
began to possess the whole party. The northern blood took fire and
transfigured the dancers. The Temperleys seemed to be fashioned of
different clay; they were able to keep their heads. Several elderly
people had joined in the dance, performing their steps with a
conscientious dexterity that put some of their juniors to shame. Mr.
Fullerton stood by, looking on and applauding.

"How your father seems to enjoy the sight!" said Temperley, as he met
his partner for a moment.

"He likes nothing so well, and his daughters take after him."

Hadria's reels were celebrated, not without reason. Some mad spirit
seemed to possess her. It would appear almost as if she had passed into
a different phase of character. She lost caution and care and the sense
of external events.

When the dance was ended, Hubert led her from the hall. She went as if
in a dream. She would not allow herself to be taken beyond the sound of
the grotesque old dance music that was still going on, but otherwise she
was unresisting.

He sat down beside her in a corner of the dining-room. Now and then he
glanced at his companion, and seemed about to speak. "You seem fond of
your national music," he at last remarked.

"It fills me with bewildering memories," she said in a dreamy tone. "It
seems to recall--it eludes description--some wild, primitive
experiences--mountains, mists--I can't express what northern mysteries.
It seems almost as if I had lived before, among some ancient Celtic
people, and now, when I hear their music--or sometimes when I hear the
sound of wind among the pines--whiffs and gusts of something intensely
familiar return to me, and I cannot grasp it. It is very bewildering."

"The only thing that happens to me of the kind is that curious sense of
having done a thing before. Strange to say, I feel it now. This moment
is not new to me."

Hadria gave a startled glance at her companion, and shuddered.

"I suppose it is all pre-ordained," she said. He was puzzled, but more
hopeful than usual. Hadria might almost have accepted him in sheer
absence of mind. He put the thought in different terms. He began to
speak more boldly. He gave his view of life and happiness, his
philosophy and religion. Hadria lazily agreed. She lay under a singular
spell. The bizarre old music smote still upon the ear. She felt as if
she were in the thrall of some dream whose events followed one another,
as the scenes of a moving panorama unfold themselves before the
spectators. Temperley began to plead his cause. Hadria, with a startled
look in her eyes, tried to check him. But her will refused to issue a
vigorous command. Even had he been hateful to her, which he certainly
was not, she felt that she would have been unable to wake out of the
nightmare, and resume the conduct of affairs. The sense of the
importance of personal events had entirely disappeared. What did it all
matter? "Over us stars and under us graves." The graves would put it all
right some day. As for attempting to direct one's fate, and struggle out
of the highways of the world--midsummer madness! It was not only the
Mrs. Gordons, but the Valeria Du Prels who told one so. Everybody said
(but in discreeter terms), "Disguise from yourself the solitude by
setting up little screens of affections, and little pompous affairs
about which you must go busily, and with all the solemnity that you can
muster."

The savage builds his mud hut to shelter him from the wind and the rain
and the terror of the beyond. Outside is the wilderness ready to engulf
him. Rather than be left alone at the mercy of elemental things, with no
little hut, warm and dark and stuffy, to shelter one, a woman will
sacrifice everything--liberty, ambition, health, power, her very
dignity. There was a letter in Hadria's pocket at this moment,
eloquently protesting in favour of the mud hut.

Hadria must have been appearing to listen favourably to Temperley's
pleading, for he said eagerly, "Then I have not spoken this time quite
in vain. I may hope that perhaps some day----"

"Some day," repeated Hadria, passing her hand across her eyes. "It
doesn't really matter. I mean we make too much fuss about these trifles;
don't you think so?" She spoke dreamily. The music was jigging on with
strange merriment.

"To me it matters very much indeed. I don't consider it a trifle," said
Temperley, in some bewilderment.

"Oh, not to ourselves. But of what importance are we?"

"None at all, in a certain sense," Temperley admitted; "but in another
sense we are all important. I cannot help being intensely personal at
this moment. I can't help grasping at the hope of happiness. Hadria, it
lies in your hand. Won't you be generous?"

She gave a distressed gesture, and seemed to make some vain effort, as
when the victim of a nightmare struggles to overcome the paralysis that
holds him.

"Then I may hope a little, Hadria--I _must_ hope."

Still the trance seemed to hold her enthralled. The music was
diabolically merry. She could fancy evil spirits tripping to it in
swarms around her. They seemed to point at her, and wave their arms
around her, and from them came an influence, magnetic in its quality,
that forbade her to resist. All had been pre-arranged. Nothing could
avert it. She seemed to be waiting rather than acting. Against her inner
judgment, she had allowed those accursed practices to go on. Against her
instinct, she had permitted Henriette to become intimate at Dunaghee;
indeed it would have been hard to avoid it, for Miss Temperley was not
easy to discourage. Why had she assured Hadria so pointedly that Hubert
would not misinterpret her consent to renew the practices? Was it not a
sort of treachery? Had not Henriette, with her larger knowledge of the
world, been perfectly well aware that whatever might be said, the
renewal of the meetings would be regarded as encouragement? Did she not
know that Hadria herself would feel implicated by the concession?

Temperley's long silence had been misleading. The danger had crept up
insidiously. And had she not been treacherous to herself? She had longed
for companionship, for music, for something to break the strain of her
wild, lonely life. Knowing, or rather half-divining the risk, she had
allowed herself to accept the chance of relief when it came. Lack of
experience had played a large part in the making of to-night's dilemma.
Hadria's own strange mood was another ally to her lover, and for that,
old Mrs. McPherson and her reels were chiefly responsible. Of such
flimsy trifles is the human fate often woven.

"Tell me, did you ask your sister to----?"

"No, no," Hubert interposed. "My sister knows of my hopes, and is
anxious that I should succeed."

"I thought that she was helping you."

"She would take any legitimate means to help me," said Hubert. "You
cannot resent that. Ah, Hadria, why will you not listen to me?" He bent
forward, covering his face with his hands in deep dejection. His hope
had begun to wane.

"You know what I think," said Hadria. "You know how I should act if I
married. Surely that ought to cure you of all----."

He seized her hand.

"No, no, nothing that you may think could cure me of the hope of making
you my wife. I care for what you _are_, not for what you _think_. You
know how little I cling to the popular version of the domestic story. I
have told you over and over again that it offends me in a thousand ways.
I hate the _bourgeois_ element in it. What have we really to disagree
about?"

He managed to be very convincing. He shewed that for a woman, life in
her father's house is far less free than in her own home; that existence
could be moulded to any shape she pleased. If Hadria hesitated only on
this account her last reason was gone. It was not fair to him. He had
been patient. He had kept silence for many months. But he could endure
the suspense no longer. He took her hand. Then suddenly she rose.

"No, no. I can't, I can't," she cried desperately.

"I will not listen to denial," he said following her. "I cannot stand a
second disappointment. You have allowed me to hope."

"How? When? Never!" she exclaimed.

"Ah, yes, Hadria. I am older than you and I have more experience. Do you
think a man will cease to hope while he continues to see the woman he
loves?"

Hadria turned very pale.

"You seemed to have forgotten--your sister assured me--Ah, it was
treacherous, it was cruel. She took advantage of my ignorance, my
craving for companionship."

"No, it is you who are cruel, Hadria, to make such accusations. I do not
claim the slightest consideration because you permitted those practices.
But you cannot suppose that my feeling has not been confirmed and
strengthened since I have seen you again. Why should you turn from me?
Why may I not hope to win you? If you have no repugnance to me, why
should not I have a chance? Hadria, Hadria, answer me, for heaven's
sake. Oh, if I could only understand what is in your mind!"

She would have found it a hard task to enlighten him. He had succeeded,
to some extent, in lulling her fears, not in banishing them, for a
sinister dread still muttered its warning beneath the surface thoughts.

The strength of Temperley's emotion had stirred her. The magic of
personal influence had begun to tell upon her. It was so hard not to
believe when someone insisted with such certainty, with such obvious
sincerity, that everything would be right. He seemed so confident that
she could make him happy, strange as it appeared. Perhaps after all----?
And what a release from the present difficulties. But could one trust? A
confused mass of feeling struggled together. A temptation to give the
answer that would cause pleasure was very strong, and beneath all lurked
a trembling hope that perhaps this was the way of escape. In apparent
contradiction to this, or to any other hope, lay a sense of fatality, a
sad indifference, interrupted at moments by flashes of very desperate
caring, when suddenly the love of life, the desire for happiness and
experience, for the exercise of her power, for its use in the service of
her generation, became intense, and then faded away again, as obstacles
presented their formidable array before the mind. In the midst of the
confusion the thought of the Professor hovered vaguely, with a dim
distressing sense of something wrong, of something within her lost and
wretched and forlorn.

Mrs. Fullerton passed through the room on the arm of Mr. Gordon. How
delighted her mother would be if she were to give up this desperate
attempt to hold out against her appointed fate. What if her mother and
Mrs. Gordon and all the world were perfectly right and far-seeing and
wise? Did it not seem more likely, on the face of it, that they _should_
be right, considering the enormous majority of those who would agree
with them, than that she, Hadria, a solitary girl, unsupported by
knowledge of life or by fellow-believers, should have chanced upon the
truth? Had only Valeria been on her side, she would have felt secure,
but Valeria was dead against her.

"We are not really at variance, believe me," Temperley pleaded. "You
state things rather more strongly than I do--a man used to knocking
about the world--but I don't believe there is any radical difference
between us." He worked himself up into the belief that there never were
two human beings so essentially at one, on all points, as he and Hadria.

"Do you remember the debate that evening in the garret? Do you remember
the sentiments that scared your sister so much?" she asked.

Temperley remembered.

"Well, I don't hold those sentiments merely for amusement and
recreation. I mean them. I should not hesitate a moment to act upon
them. If things grew intolerable, according to my view of things, I
should simply go away, though twenty marriage-services had been read
over my head. Neither Algitha nor I have any of the notions that
restrain women in these matters. We would brook no such bonds. The usual
claims and demands we would neither make nor submit to. You heard
Algitha speak very plainly on the matter. So you see, we are entirely
unsuitable as wives, except to the impossible men who might share our
rebellion. Please let us go back to the hall. They are just beginning to
dance another reel."

"I cannot let you go back. Oh, Hadria, you can't be so unjust as to
force me to break off in this state of uncertainty. Just give me a word
of hope, however slight, and I will be satisfied."

Hadria looked astonished. "Have you really taken in what I have just
said?"

"Every word of it."

"And you realise that I mean it, _mean_ it, with every fibre of me."

"I understand; and I repeat that I shall not be happy until you are my
wife. Have what ideas you please, only be my wife."

She gazed at him in puzzled scrutiny. "You don't think I am really in
earnest. Let us go."

"I know you are in earnest," he cried, eagerly following her, "and still
I----"

At that moment Harold Wilkins came up to claim Hadria for a promised
dance. Temperley gave a gesture of impatience. But Harold insisted, and
Hadria walked with her partner into the hall where Mrs. Gordon was now
playing a sentimental waltz, with considerable poetic license as to
time. As everyone said: Mrs. Gordon played with so much expression.

Temperley stood about in corners watching Hadria. She was flushed and
silent, dancing with a still gliding movement under the skilful guidance
of her partner.

Temperley tried to win a glance as she passed round, but her eyes were
resolutely fixed on the floor.

Algitha followed her sister's movements uneasily. She had noticed her
absence during the last reel, and observed that Temperley also was not
to be seen. She felt anxious. She knew Hadria's emotional
susceptibility. She knew Temperley's convincing faculty, and also
Hadria's uneasy feeling that she had done wrong in allowing the
practices to be resumed.

Henriette had not failed to notice the signs of the times, and she
annoyed Algitha beyond endurance by her obviously sisterly manner of
addressing the family. She had taken to calling the boys by their first
names.

Fred shared his sister's dislike to Henriette. "Tact!" he cried with a
snort, "why a Temperley rushes in where a bull in a china-shop would
fear to tread!"

Algitha saw that Hubert was again by Hadria's side before the evening
was out. The latter looked white, and she avoided her sister's glance.
This last symptom seemed to Algitha the worst.

"What's the matter with Hadria?" asked Fred, "she will scarcely speak to
me. I was just telling her the best joke I've heard this year, and, will
you believe me, she didn't see the point! Yes, you may well stare! I
tried again and she gave a nervous giggle; I am relating to you the
exact truth. Do any of the epidemics come on like that?"

"Yes, one of the worst," said Algitha gloomily. Fred glared enquiry.

"I am afraid she has been led into accepting Hubert Temperley."

Fred opened his mouth and breathed deep. "Stuff! Hadria would as soon
think of selling her soul to the devil."

"Oh, she is quite capable of that too," said Algitha, shaking her head.

"Well, I'm blowed," cried Fred.

Not long after this, the guests began to disperse. Mrs. Gordon and her
party were among the last to leave, having a shorter distance to go.

Hubert Temperley was quiet and self-possessed, but Algitha felt sure
that she detected a look of suppressed exultation in his demeanour, and
something odiously brotherly in his mode of bidding them all good-night.

When everyone had left, and the family were alone, they gathered round
the hall fire for a final chat, before dispersing for the night.

"What a delightful evening we have had, Mrs. Fullerton," said Miss
Temperley. "It was most picturesque and characteristic. I shall always
remember the charm and kindliness of Scottish hospitality."

"And I," said Ernest, _sotto voce_ to Algitha, "shall always remember
the calm and thoroughness of English cheek!"

"Why, we had almost forgotten that the New Year is just upon us,"
exclaimed Mr. Fullerton. The first stroke of twelve began to sound
almost as he spoke. He threw up the window and disclosed a night
brilliant with stars. ("And under us graves," said Hadria to herself.)

They all crowded up, keeping silence as the slow strokes of the clock
told the hour.

"A Happy New Year to all!" cried Mr. Fullerton heartily.



Part II.



CHAPTER XVI.

                                     "... when the steam
           Floats up from those dim fields about the homes
           Of happy men that have the power to die."
                                    _Tithonius_, TENNYSON.


A countryman with stooping gait touched his cap and bid good-day to a
young woman who walked rapidly along the crisp high road, smiling a
response as she passed.

The road led gradually upward through a country blazing with red and
orange for rolling miles, till the horizon closed in with the far-off
blue of English hills.

The old man slowly turned to watch the wayfarer, whose quick step and
the look in her eyes of being fixed on objects beyond their owner's
immediate ken, might have suggested to the observant, inward
perturbation. The lissom, swiftly moving figure was almost out of sight
before the old man slowly wheeled round and continued on his way towards
the hamlet of Craddock Dene, that lay in the valley about a mile further
on. Meanwhile the young woman was speeding towards the village of
Craddock on the summit of the gentle slope before her. A row of
broad-tiled cottages came in sight, and on the hill-side the Vicarage
among trees, and a grey stone church which had seen many changes since
its tower first looked out from the hill-top over the southern counties.

The little village seemed as if it had forgotten to change with the rest
of the country, for at least a hundred years. The spirit of the last
century lingered in its quiet cottages, in the little ale-house with
half-obliterated sign, in its air of absolute repose and leisure. There
was no evidence of contest anywhere--except perhaps in a few mouldy
advertisements of a circus and of a remarkable kind of soap, that were
half peeling off a moss-covered wall. There were not even many
indications of life in the place. The sunshine seemed to have the
village street to itself. A couple of women stood gossiping over the
gate of one of the cottages. They paused in their talk as a quick step
sounded on the road.

"There be Mrs. Temperley again!" one matron exclaimed. "Why this is the
second time this week, as she's come and sat in the churchyard along o'
the dead. Don't seem nat'ral to my thinking."

Mrs. Dodge and Mrs. Gullick continued to discuss this gloomy habit with
exhaustive minuteness, involving themselves in side issues regarding the
general conduct of life on the part of Mrs. Temperley, that promised
solid material for conversation for the next week. It appeared from the
observations of Mrs. Gullick, whose husband worked on Lord Engleton's
model farm, that about five years ago Mr. Temperley had rented the Red
House at Craddock Dene, and had brought his new wife to live there. The
Red House belonged to Professor Fortescue, who also owned the Priory,
which had stood empty, said Mrs. Gullick, since that poor Mrs. Fortescue
killed herself in the old drawing-room. Mr. Temperley went every day to
town to attend to his legal business, and returned by the evening train
to the bosom of his family. That family now consisted in his wife and
two small boys; pretty little fellows, added Mrs. Dodge, the pride of
their parents' hearts; at least, so she had heard Mr. Joseph Fleming
say, and he was intimate at the Red House. Mrs. Gullick did not exactly
approve of Mrs. Temperley. The Red House was not, it would seem, an
ever-flowing fount of sustaining port wine and spiritually nourishing
literature. The moral evolution of the village had proceeded on those
lines. The prevailing feeling was vaguely hostile; neither Mrs. Gullick
nor Mrs. Dodge exactly knew why. Mrs. Dodge said that her husband (who
was the sexton and gravedigger) had found Mrs. Temperley always ready
for a chat. He spoke well of her. But Dodge was not one of many. Mrs.
Temperley was perhaps too sensitively respectful of the feelings of her
poorer neighbours to be very popular among them. At any rate, her habits
of seclusion did not seem to village philosophy to be justifiable in the
eyes of God or man. Her apparent fondness for the society of the dead
also caused displeasure. Why she went to the churchyard could not be
imagined: one would think she had a family buried there, she who was,
"as one might say, a stranger to the place," and could not be supposed
to have any interest in the graves, which held for her nor kith nor kin!

Mrs. Temperley, however, appeared to be able to dispense with this
element of attraction in the "grassy barrows." She and a company of
youthful Cochin-China fowls remained for hours among them, on this
cheerful morning, and no observer could have determined whether it was
the graves or the fowls that riveted her attention. She had perched
herself on the stile that led from the churchyard to the fields: a
slender figure in serviceable russet and irresponsible-looking hat,
autumn-tinted too, in sympathy with the splendid season. In her ungloved
left hand, which was at once sensitive and firm, she carried a book,
keeping a forefinger between the pages to mark a passage.

Her face bore signs of suffering, and at this moment, a look of baffled
and restless longing, as if life had been for her a festival whose
sounds came from a hopeless distance. Yet there was something in the
expression of the mouth, that suggested a consistent standing aloof from
herself and her desires. The lines of the face could never have been
drawn by mere diffusive, emotional habits. Thought had left as many
traces as feeling in the firm drawing. The quality of the face was of
that indefinable kind that gives to all characteristic things their
peculiar power over the imagination. The more powerful the quality, the
less can it be rendered into terms. It is the one marvellous, remaining,
musical fact not to be defined that makes the Parthenon, or some other
masterpiece of art, translate us to a new plane of existence, and
inspire, for the time being, the pessimist with hope and the sceptic
with religion.

The Cochin-Chinas pecked about with a contented mien among the long
grass, finding odds and ends of nourishment, and here and there eking
out their livelihood with a dart at a passing fly. Their long, comic,
tufted legs, which seemed to form a sort of monumental pedestal whereon
the bird itself was elevated, stalked and scratched about with an air of
industrious serenity.

There were few mornings in the year which left unstirred the grass which
grew long over the graves, but this was one of the few. Each blade stood
up still and straight, bearing its string of dewdrops. There were one or
two village sounds that came subdued through the sunshine. The winds
that usually haunted the high spot had fallen asleep, or were lying
somewhere in ambush among the woodlands beyond.

The look of strain had faded from the face of Mrs. Temperley, leaving
only an expression of sadness. The removal of all necessity for
concealing thought allowed her story to write itself on her face. The
speculative would have felt some curiosity as to the cause of a sadness
in one seemingly so well treated by destiny. Neither poverty nor the
cares of great wealth could have weighed upon her spirit; she had
beauty, and a quality more attractive than beauty, which must have
placed many things at her command; she had evident talent--her very
attitude proclaimed it--and the power over Fortune that talent ought to
give. Possibly, the observer might reflect, the gift was of that kind
which lays the possessor peculiarly open to her outrageous slings and
arrows. Had Mrs. Temperley shown any morbid signs of self-indulgent
emotionalism the problem would have been simple enough; but this was
not the case.

The solitude was presently broken by the approach of an old man laden
with pickaxe and shovel. He remarked upon the fineness of the day, and
took up his position at a short distance from the stile, where the turf
had been cleared away in a long-shaped patch. Here, with great
deliberation he began his task. The sound of his steady strokes fell on
the stillness. Presently, the clock from the grey tower gave forth its
announcement--eleven. One by one, the slow hammer sent the waves of air
rolling away, almost visibly, through the sunshine, their sound
alternating with the thud of the pickaxe, so as to produce an effect of
intentional rhythm. One might have fancied that clock and pickaxe
iterated in turn, "Time, Death! Time, Death! Time, Death!" till the
clock had come to the end of its tale, and then the pickaxe went on
alone in the stillness--"Death! Death! Death! Death!"

A smile, not easy to be accounted for, flitted across the face of Mrs.
Temperley.

The old gravedigger paused at last in his toil, leaning on his pickaxe,
and bringing a red cotton handkerchief out of his hat to wipe his brow.

"That seems rather hard work, Dodge," remarked the onlooker, leaning her
book upright on her knee and her chin on her hand.

"Ay, that it be, mum; this clay's that stiff! Lord! folks is almost as
much trouble to them as buries as to them as bears 'em; it's all trouble
together, to my thinkin'."

She assented with a musing nod.

"And when a man's not a troublin' o' some other body, he's a troublin'
of hisself," added the philosopher.

"You are cursed with a clear-sightedness that must make life a burden to
you," said Mrs. Temperley.

"Well, mum, I do sort o' see the bearin's o' things better nor most,"
Dodge modestly admitted. The lady knew, and liked to gratify, the
gravedigger's love of long-worded discourse.

"Some people," she said, "are born contemplative, while others never
reflect at all, whatever the provocation."

"Yes'm, that's just it; folks goes on as if they was to live for ever,
without no thought o' dyin'. As you was a sayin' jus' now, mum, there's
them as contemflecs natural like, and there's them as is born without
provocation----"

"Everlastingly!" assented Mrs. Temperley with a sudden laugh. "You
evidently, Dodge, are one of those who strive to read the riddle of this
painful earth. Tell me what you think it is all about."

Gratified by this appeal to his judgment, Dodge scratched his head, and
leant both brawny arms upon his pickaxe.

"Well, mum," he said, "I s'pose it's the will o' th' Almighty as we is
brought into the world, and I don't say nothin' agin it--'tisn't my
place--but it do come over me powerful at times, wen I sees all the
vexin' as folks has to go through, as God A'mighty might 'a found
somethin' better to do with His time; not as I wants to find no fault
with His ways, which is past finding out," added the gravedigger,
falling to work again.

A silence of some minutes was broken by Mrs. Temperley's enquiry as to
how long Dodge had followed this profession.

"Nigh on twenty year, mum, come Michaelmas," replied Dodge. "I've lain
my couple o' hundred under the sod, easy; and a fine lot o' corpses they
was too, take 'em one with another." Dodge was evidently prepared to
stand up for the average corpse of the Craddock district against all
competitors.

"This is a very healthy neighbourhood, I suppose," observed Mrs.
Temperley, seemingly by way of supplying an explanation of the proud
fact.

"Lord bless you, as healthy as any place in the kingdom. There wasn't
one in ten as was ill when he died, as one may say."

"But that scarcely seems an unmixed blessing," commented the lady
musingly, "to go off suddenly in the full flush of health and spirits;
it would be so discouraging."

"Most was chills, took sudden," Dodge explained; "chills is wot chokes
up yer churchyards for yer. If we has another hard winter this year, we
shall have a job to find room in here. There's one or two in the village
already, as I has my eye on, wot----"

"Was this one a chill?" interrupted Mrs. Temperley, with a nod towards
the new grave.

"Wot, this here? Lord bless you, no, mum. This here's our schoolmarm.
Didn't you never hear tell about _her_?" This damning proof of his
companion's aloofness from village gossip seemed to paralyse the
gravedigger.

"Why everybody's been a talkin' about it. Over varty, she war, and ought
to 'a knowed better."

"But, with advancing years, it is rare that people _do_ get to know
better--about dying," Mrs. Temperley suggested, in defence of the
deceased schoolmistress.

"I means about her conduc'," Dodge explained; "scand'lous thing. Why,
she's been in Craddock school since she war a little chit o' sixteen."

"That seems to me a trifle dull, but scarcely scandalous," Mrs.
Temperley murmured.

"... And as steady and respectable a young woman as you'd wish to see
... pupil teacher she was, and she rose to be schoolmarm," Dodge went
on.

"It strikes me as a most blameless career," said his companion.
"Perhaps, as you say, considering her years, she ought to have known
better, but----"

"She sort o' belongs to the place, as one may say," Dodge proceeded,
evidently quite unaware that he had omitted to give the clue to the
situation. "She's lived here all her life."

"Then much may be forgiven her," muttered Mrs. Temperley.

"And everybody respected of her, and the parson he thought a deal o'
her, he did, and used to hold her up as a sample to the other young
women, and nobody dreamt as she'd go and bring this here scandal on the
place; nobody knows who the man was, but it _is_ said as there's someone
_not_ twenty miles from here as knows more about it nor he didn't ought
to," Dodge added with sinister meaning. This dark hint conveyed
absolutely no enlightenment to the mind of Mrs. Temperley, from sheer
lack of familiarity, on her part, with the rumours of the district.
Dodge applied himself with a spurt to his work.

"When she had her baby, she was like one out of her mind," he continued;
"she couldn't stand the disgrace and the neighbours talkin', and that.
Mrs. Walker she went and saw her, and brought her nourishin' things, and
kep' on a-telling her how she must try and make up for what she had
done, and repent and all that; but she never got up her heart again
like, and the poor soul took fever from grievin', the doctor says, and
raved on dreadful, accusin' of somebody, and sayin' he'd sent her to
hell; and then Wensday morning, ten o'clock, she died. Didn't you hear
the passing bell a-tolling, mum?"

"Yes, the wind brought it down the valley; but I did not know whom it
was tolling for."

"That's who it was," said Dodge.

"This is an awfully sad story," cried Mrs. Temperley.

Dodge ran his fingers through his hair judicially. "I don't hold with
them sort o' goings on for young women," he observed.

"Do you hold with them for young men?"

Dodge puckered up his face into an odd expression of mingled reflection
and worldly wisdom. "You can't prevent young fellers bein' young
fellers," he at length observed.

"It seems almost a pity that being young fellows should also mean being
blackguards," observed Mrs. Temperley calmly.

"Well, there's somethin' to be said for that way o' lookin' at it,"
Dodge was startled into agreeing.

"I suppose _she_ gets all the blame of the thing," the lady went on,
with quiet exasperation. Dodge seemed thrown off his bearings.

"Everybody in Craddock was a-talking about it, as was only to be
expected," said the gravedigger. "Well, well, we're all sinners. Don't
do to be too hard on folks. 'Pears sad like after keepin' 'spectable for
all them years too--sort o' waste."

Mrs. Temperley gave a little laugh, which seemed to Dodge rather
eccentric.

"Who is looking after the baby?" she asked.

"One of the neighbours, name o' Gullick, as her husband works for Lord
Engleton, which she takes in washing," Dodge comprehensively explained.

"Had its mother no relatives?"

"Well, she had an aunt down at Southampton, I've heard tell, but she
didn't take much notice of her, not _she_ didn't. Her mother only died
last year, took off sudden before her daughter could get to her."

"Your schoolmistress has known trouble," observed Mrs. Temperley. "Had
she no one, no sister, no friend, during all this time that she could
turn to for help or counsel?"

"Not as I knows of," Dodge replied.

There was a long pause, during which the stillness seemed to weigh upon
the air, as if the pressure of Fate were hanging there with ruthless
immobility.

"She ain't got no more to suffer now," Dodge remarked, nodding with an
aspect of half apology towards the grave. "They sleeps soft as sleeps
here."

"Good heavens, I hope so!" Mrs. Temperley exclaimed.

The grave had made considerable progress before she descended from the
stile and prepared to take her homeward way. On leaving, she made Dodge
come with her to the gate, and point out the red-roofed cottage covered
with monthly roses and flaming creeper, where the schoolmistress had
passed so many years, and where she now lay with her work and her days
all over, in the tiny upper room, at whose latticed window the sun used
to wake her on summer mornings, or the winter rain pattered dreary
prophecies of the tears that she would one day shed.



CHAPTER XVII.


"If you please, ma'am, the cook says as the meat hasn't come for lunch,
and what is she to do?"

"Without," replied Mrs. Temperley automatically.

The maid waited for more discreet directions. She had given a month's
notice that very morning, because she found Craddock Dene too dull.

"Thank goodness, that barbarian is going!" Hubert had exclaimed.

"We shall but exchange a Goth for a Vandal," his wife replied.

Mrs. Temperley gazed intently at her maid, the light of intelligence
gradually dawning in her countenance. "Is there anything else in the
house, Sapph--Sophia?"

"No, ma'am," replied Sophia.

"Oh, tell the cook to make it into a fricassee, and be sure it is well
flavoured." The maid hesitated, but seeing from the wandering expression
of her employer's eye that her intellect was again clouded over, she
retired to give the message to the cook--with comments.

The library at the Red House was the only room that had been radically
altered since the days of the former tenants, whose taste had leant
towards the florid rather than the classic. The general effect had been
toned down, but it was impossible to disguise the leading motive; or
what Mrs. Temperley passionately described as its brutal vulgarity. The
library alone had been subjected to _peine forte et dure_. Mrs.
Temperley said that it had been purified by suffering. By dint of
tearing down and dragging out offending objects ("such a pity!" cried
the neighbours) its prosperous and complacent absurdity had been
humbled. Mrs. Temperley retired to this refuge after her encounter with
Sophia. That perennially aggrieved young person entered almost
immediately afterwards and announced a visitor, with an air that
implied--"She'll stay to lunch; see if she don't, and what'll you do
then? Yah!"

The pronunciation of the visitor's name was such, that, for the moment,
Mrs. Temperley did not recognize it as that of Miss Valeria Du Prel.

She jumped up joyfully. "Ah, Valeria, this _is_ delightful!"

The visit was explained after a characteristic fashion. Miss Du Prel
realized that over two years had passed since she had seen Hadria, and
moreover she had been seized with an overwhelming longing for a sight of
country fields and a whiff of country air, so she had put a few things
together in a handbag, which she had left at Craddock station by
accident, and come down. Was there anyone who could go and fetch her
handbag? It was such a nuisance; she laid it down for a moment to get at
her ticket--she never could find her pocket, dressmakers always hid them
in such an absurd way; could Hadria recommend any dressmaker who did not
hide pockets? Wasn't it tiresome? She had no time-table, and so she had
gone to the station that morning and waited till a Craddock train
started, and by this arrangement it had come to pass that she had spent
an hour and a half on the platform: she did not think she ever had such
an unpleasant time; why didn't they have trains oftener? They did to
Putney.

Mrs. Temperley sat down and laughed. Whereupon the other's face
lightened and she joined in the laugh at her own expense, settling into
the easy chair that her hostess had prepared for her, with a gesture of
helplessness and comfort.

"Well, in spite of that time at the station, I'm glad I came. It seems
so long since I have seen you, dear Hadria, and the last time you know
you were very unhappy, almost mad----"

"Yes, yes; never mind about that," interposed Mrs. Temperley hastily,
setting her teeth together.

"You take things too hard, too hard," said Miss Du Prel. "I used to
think _I_ was bad in that way, but I am phlegmatic compared with you.
One would suppose that----"

"Valeria, don't, don't, don't," cried Mrs. Temperley. "I can't stand
it." Her teeth were still set tight and hard, her hands were clenched.

"Very well, very well. Tell me what you have been making of this
ridiculous old world, where everything goes wrong and everybody is
stupid or wicked, or both."

Mrs. Temperley's face relaxed a little, though the signs of some strong
emotion were still visible.

"Well, to answer the general by the particular, I have spent the
morning, accompanied by a nice young brood of Cochin-China fowls, in
Craddock churchyard."

"Oh, I hate a churchyard," exclaimed Miss Du Prel, with a shudder. "It
makes one think of the hideous mockery of life, and the more one would
like to die, the worse seems the brutality of death and his hideous
accompaniments. It is such a savage denial of all human aspirations and
affections and hopes. Ah, it is horrible!" The sharply-outlined face
grew haggard and white, as its owner crouched over the fire.

"Heaven knows! but it was very serene and very lovely up there this
morning."

"Ah!" exclaimed Valeria with a burst of strange enthusiasm and sadness,
that revealed all the fire and yearning and power that had raised her
above her fellows in the scale of consciousness, with the penalty of a
life of solitude and of sorrow.

"Surely it is not without meaning that the places of the dead are the
serenest spots on earth," said Mrs. Temperley. "If I could keep myself
in the mood that the place induces, I think I should not mind anything
very much any more. The sunshine seems to rest more tenderly there than
elsewhere, and the winds have a reverence for the graves, as if they
felt it time that the dead were left in peace--the 'happier dead,' as
poor immortal Tithonius calls them, who has not the gift of death. And
the grey old tower and the weather stains on the stones; there is a
conspiracy of beauty in the place, that holds one as one is held by
music."

"Ah! I know the magic of these things; it tempts one to believe at times
that Nature is _not_ all blind and unpitying. But that is a delusion: if
there were any pity in Nature, the human spirit would not be dowered
with such infinite and terrible longings and such capacities and dreams
and prayers and then--then insulted with the mockery of death and
annihilation."

"If there should be no Beyond," muttered Mrs. Temperley.

"That to me is inconceivable. When we die we fall into an eternal sleep.
Moreover, I can see no creed that does not add the fear of future
torments to the certainties of these."

Mrs. Temperley was seized with a bitter mood. "You should cultivate
faith," she said; "it acts the part of the heading 'Sundries omitted' in
one's weekly accounts; one can put down under it everything that can't
be understood--but you don't keep weekly accounts, so it's no use
pointing out to you the peace that comes of that device."

The entrance of Sophia with firewood turned the current of conversation.
"Good heavens! I don't think we have anything for lunch!" Mrs. Temperley
exclaimed. "Are you very hungry? What is to be done? It was the
faithlessness of our butcher that disturbed the serenity of my mood this
morning. Perhaps the poor beast whose carcase we were intending to
devour will feel serene instead of me: but, alas! I fear he has been
slaughtered _quand même_. That is one of the unsatisfactory things about
life: that all its worst miseries bring good to no one. One may deny
oneself, but not a living thing is necessarily the better for
it--generally many are the worse. The wheels of pain go turning day by
day, and the gods stand aloof--they will not help us, nor will they stay
the 'wild world' in its course. No, no," added Mrs. Temperley with a
laugh, "I am not tired of life, but I am tired _with_ it; it won't give
me what I want. That is perhaps because I want so much."

The sound of male footsteps in the hall broke up the colloquy.

"Good heavens! Hubert has brought home a crowd of people to lunch,"
exclaimed Hadria, "a thing he scarcely ever does. What fatality can have
induced him to choose to-day of all others for this orgy of
hospitality?"

"Does the day matter?" enquired Valeria, astonished at so much emotion.

"_Does the day matter!_ Oh irresponsible question of the unwedded! When
I tell you the butcher has not sent the meat."

"Oh ... can't one eat fish?" suggested Miss Du Prel.

Hadria laughed and opened the door.

"My dear, I have brought Fleming home to lunch."

"Thank heaven, _only one!_"

Temperley stared.

"I could not conveniently have brought home several," he said.

"I thought you would be at least seven," cried the mistress of the
house, "and with all the pertinacity of Wordsworth's little girl."

"What _do_ you mean, if one may ask for simple English?"

"Merely that that intolerable Sanders has broken his word--_hinc illæ
lacrimæ_."

Hubert Temperley turned away in annoyance. He used to be amused by his
wife's flippancy before her marriage, but he had long since grown to
dislike it. He retired to get out some wine, while Hadria went forward
to welcome the guest, who now came in from the garden, where he had
lingered to talk to the children.

"I am delighted to see you, Mr. Fleming; but I am grieved to say that we
have unluckily only a wretched luncheon to give you, and after your long
walk over the fields too! I am _so_ sorry. The fact is we are left, this
morning, with a gaping larder, at the mercy of a haughty and inconstant
butcher, who grinds down his helpless dependents without mercy,
overbearing creature that he is! We must ask you to be very tolerant."

"Oh! please don't trouble about that; it doesn't matter in the least,"
cried Mr. Fleming, pulling at his yellowish whiskers. He was a man of
about five-and-thirty, of medium height, dressed in knickerbockers and
Norfolk jacket that had seen some service.

"What is the difficulty?" asked Hubert.

"I was explaining to Mr. Fleming how inhospitably we are forced to treat
him, on account of that traitor Sanders."

Hubert gave a gesture of annoyance.

"I suppose there is something cold in the house."

"Pudding, perhaps," said his wife hopelessly. "It is most unlucky."

"My dear, surely there must be something cold that isn't pudding."

"I fear, very little; but I will go and see the cook, though, alas! she
is not easy to inspire as regards her particular business. She is
extremely entertaining as a conversationalist, but I think she was meant
for society rather than the kitchen. I am sure society would be more
diverting if she were in it."

Hadria was just turning to seek this misplaced genius, when she paused
in the doorway.

"By the way, I suppose Sapphira has----"

"Do try and cure yourself of the habit of calling the girl by that
absurd name, Hadria."

"Oh, yes; but the name is so descriptive. She has told you of Miss Du
Prel's arrival?"

"She has told me nothing of the sort."

Temperley did not look overjoyed. There had never been much cordiality
between him and Valeria since the afternoon when they had met at
Dunaghee, and found their sentiments in hopeless opposition.

Miss Du Prel took no interest in Hubert, though she admired his
character. She had every wish to make herself agreeable to him, but her
efforts in that direction were somewhat neutralized by an incurable
absence of mind. If she was not interested, as Hadria said, she was
seldom affable.

Possibly Hubert's request to her, years ago at Dunaghee, to "think for a
moment" had not been forgiven.

"Where is she? Oh!----"

The exclamation was in consequence of Miss Du Prel's appearing at the
door of the library, whence she surveyed the group with absent-minded
intentness.

Valeria woke up with a start, and responded to Hubert's greeting in an
erratic fashion, replying tragically, to a casual enquiry as to her
health, that she had been _frightfully_ ill.

"I thought I was dying. But one never dies," she added in a disgusted
tone, whereat Hadria heartlessly laughed, and hurried the visitor
upstairs to help her to unpack.

"Valeria," said Mrs. Temperley, while that lady was confusedly trying to
disentangle hat and hair, hat-pin and head, without involving the entire
system in a common ruin--"Valeria, we are not a remarkable people at
Craddock Dene. We may be worthy, we may have our good points, but we are
not brilliant (except the cook). Should Mr. Fleming fail to impress you
as a person of striking personality, I ask you, as a favour, _not_ to
emblazon that impression on every feature: should he address to you a
remark that you do not find interesting, and it is quite conceivable
that he may--do not glare at him scornfully for a moment, and----"

Hadria was not allowed to finish the sentence.

"As if I ever did any such thing--and people are so dull," said Miss Du
Prel.

A few "curried details," as the hostess dejectedly described the fare,
had been supplemented with vegetables, fruit, and impromptu preparations
of eggs, and the luncheon was pronounced excellent and ample.

Miss Du Prel said that she hoped the butcher would always forget to send
the meat. She liked these imaginative meals.

Temperley purposely misunderstood her to say "imaginary meals," and
hoped that next time she came, Hadria would not have an oratorio in
course of composition. Miss Du Prel expressed a fiery interest in the
oratorio.

"I judge the presence of oratorio by the absence of food," Temperley
explained suavely.

Hadria watched the encounter with a mingled sense of amusement and
discomfort.

Valeria was in no danger. To be morally crushed by an adversary, it is
necessary that one should be at least aware that the adversary is
engaged in crushing one: a consciousness that was plainly denied to Miss
Du Prel. Many a man far less able than Hubert had power to interest her,
while he could not even hold her attention. She used to complain to
Professor Fortescue that Temperley's ideas never seemed to have
originated in his own brain: they had been imported ready-made. Hubert
was among the many who shrink and harden into mental furrows as time
passes. What he had thought at twenty, at thirty-five had acquired
sanctity and certainty, from having been the opinion of Hubert Temperley
for all those favoured years. He had no suspicion that the views which
he cherished in so dainty and scholarly a fashion were simply an
_edition de luxe_ of the views of everybody else. But his wife had made
that discovery long ago. He smiled at the views of everybody else: his
own were put forth as something choice and superior. He had the happy
knack of being _bourgeois_ with the air of an artist. If one could
picture one's grocer weighing out sugar in a Spanish cloak and brigand's
hat, it would afford an excellent symbol of his spiritual estate. To be
perfectly commonplace in a brilliantly original way, is to be notable
after all.

Mr. Fleming seemed puzzled by Miss Du Prel, at whom he glanced uneasily
from time to time, wondering what she would say next. At Craddock Dene,
ladies usually listened with a more or less breathless deference when
Temperley spoke. This new-comer seemed recklessly independent.

Mrs. Temperley endeavoured to lead the conversation in ways of peace,
but Valeria was evidently on the war-path. Temperley was polite and
ironical, with under-meanings for Hadria's benefit.

"If one asks impossible things of life, one is apt to be disappointed, I
fear," he said serenely. "Ask for the possible and natural harvest of a
woman's career, and see if you don't get it."

"Let a canary plead for its cage, in short, and its commendable prayer
will be answered!"

"If you like to put it thus ungraciously. I should say that one who
makes the most of his opportunities, as they stand, fares better than he
who sighs for other worlds to conquer."

"I suppose that is what his relatives said to Columbus," observed Miss
Du Prel.

"And how do you know they were not right?" he retorted.

Mrs. Temperley gave the signal to rise. "Let's go for a walk," she
suggested, "the afternoon invites us. Look at it."

The brilliant sunshine and the exercise brought about a more genial
mood. Only once was there anything approaching friction, and then it was
Hadria herself who caused it.

"Yes, we all flatter ourselves that we are observing life, when we are
merely noting the occasions when some musty old notion of ours happens,
by chance, to get fulfilled."

Hubert Temperley at once roused Miss Du Prel's interest by the large
stores of information that he had to pour forth on the history of the
district, from its earliest times to the present. He recalled the days
when these lands that looked so smooth and tended had been mere wastes
of marsh and forest.

How quickly these great changes were accomplished! Valeria stood on the
brow of a wide corn-field, looking out over the sleeping country. A
century, after all, was not much more than one person's lifetime, yet in
scarcely nine of these--nine little troubled lifetimes--what incredible
things had occurred in this island of ours! How did it all come about?
"Not assuredly," Valeria remarked with sudden malice, "by taking things
as they stood, and making the best of them with imbecile impatience. If
everyone had done that, what sort of an England should I have had
stretching before my eyes at this moment?"

"You would not have been here to see," said Hadria, lazily rolling
stones down the hill with her foot. "We should all of us have been
dancing round some huge log-fire on the borders of a primeval forest,
and instead of browsing on salads, as we did to-day, we should be
sustaining ourselves on the unholy nourishment of boiled parent or
grilled aunt."

Mr. Temperley's refined appearance and manner seemed to raise an
incarnate protest against this revolting picture. For some occult
reason, the imagination of all was at work especially and exclusively on
the figure of that polished gentleman in war-paint and feathers,
sporting round the cauldron that contained the boiled earthly remains of
his relations.

Mr. Fleming betrayed the common thought by remarking that it would be
very becoming to him.

"Ah! I wish we _were_ all savages in feathers and war-paint, dancing on
the edge of some wild forest, with nothing but the sea and the sky for
limits!"

Miss Du Prel surprised her audience by this earnest aspiration.

"Do you feel inclined to revert?" Hadria enquired. "Because if so, I
shall be glad to join you."

"I think there _is_ a slight touch of the savage about Mrs. Temperley,"
observed Fleming pensively. "I mean, don't you know--of course----."

"You are quite right!" cried Valeria. "I have often noticed a sort of
wildness that crops up now and then through a very smooth surface.
Hadria may sigh for the woodlands, yet----!"



CHAPTER XVIII.


The first break in the unity of the Fullerton family had occurred on the
occasion of Hadria's marriage. The short period that elapsed between
that memorable New-Year's-Eve and the wedding had been a painful
experience for Dunaghee. Hadria's conduct had shaken her brothers' faith
in her and in all womankind. Ernest especially had suffered disillusion.
He had supposed her above the ordinary, pettier weaknesses of humanity.
Other fellows' sisters had seemed to him miserable travesties of their
sex compared with her. (There was one exception only, to this rule.) But
now, what was he to think? She had shattered his faith. If she hadn't
been "so cocksure of herself," he wouldn't have minded so much; but
after all she had professed, to go and marry, and marry a starched
specimen like that!

Fred was equally emphatic. For a long time he had regarded it all as a
joke. He shook his head knowingly, and said that sort of thing wouldn't
go down. When he was at length convinced, he danced with rage. He became
cynical. He had no patience with girls. They talked for talking's sake.
It meant nothing.

Algitha understood, better than her brothers could understand, how
Hadria's emotional nature had been caught in some strange mood, how the
eloquent assurances of her lover might have half convinced her.
Algitha's own experience of proposals set her on the track of the
mystery.

"It is most misleading," she pointed out, to her scoffing brothers. "One
would suppose that marrying was the simplest thing in the world--nothing
perilous, nothing to object to about it. A man proposes to you as if he
were asking you for the sixth waltz, only his manner is perfervid. And
my belief is that half the girls who accept don't realize that they are
agreeing to anything much more serious."

"The more fools they!"

"True; but it really is most bewildering. Claims, obligations, all the
ugly sides of the affair are hidden away; the man is at his best, full
of refinement and courtesy and unselfishness. And if he persuades the
girl that he really does care for her, how can she suppose that she
cannot trust her future to him--if he loves her? And yet she can't!"

"How can a man suppose that one girl is going to be different from every
other girl?" asked Fred.

"Different, you mean, from what he _supposes_ every other girl to be,"
Algitha corrected. "It's his own look-out if he's such a fool."

"I believe Hadria married because she was sick of being the family
consolation," said Ernest.

"Well, of course, the hope of escape was very tempting. You boys don't
know what she went through. We all regret her marriage to Hubert
Temperley--though between ourselves, not more than _he_ regrets it, if I
am not much mistaken--but it is very certain that she could not have
gone on living at home much longer, as things were."

Fred said that she ought to have broken out after Algitha's fashion, if
it was so bad as all that.

"I think mother would have died if she had," said the sister.

"Hadria _was_ awkwardly placed," Fred admitted.

"Do you remember that evening in the garret when we all told her what we
thought?" asked Ernest.

Nobody had forgotten that painful occasion.

"She said then that if the worst came to the worst, she would simply run
away. What could prevent her?"

"That wretched sister of his!" cried Algitha. "If it hadn't been for
her, the marriage would never have taken place. She got the ear of
mother after the engagement, and I am certain it was through her
influence that mother hurried the wedding on so. If only there had been
a little more time, it could have been prevented. And Henriette knew
that. She is as _knowing_----!"

"I wish we had strangled her."

"I shall never forget," Algitha went on, "that night when Hadria was
taken with a fit of terror--it was nothing less--and wrote to break off
the engagement, and that woman undertook to deliver the letter and lost
it, _on purpose_ I am always convinced, and then the favourable moment
was over."

"What made her so anxious for the marriage beats me," cried Ernest. "It
was not a particularly good match from a mercenary point of view."

"She thought us an interesting family to marry into," suggested Fred,
"which is undeniable."

"Then she must be greatly disappointed at seeing so little of us!" cried
Ernest.

In the early days, Miss Temperley had stayed frequently at the Red
House, and Hadria had been cut off from her own family, who detested
Henriette.

For a year or more, there had been a fair promise of a successful
adjustment of the two incongruous natures in the new conditions. They
both tried to keep off dangerous ground and to avoid collisions of will.
They made the most of their one common interest, although even here they
soon found themselves out of sympathy. Hubert's instincts were
scholastic and lawful, Hadria was disposed to daring innovation. Her
bizarre compositions shocked him painfully. The two jarred on one
another, in great things and in small. The halcyon period was
short-lived. The dream, such as it was, came to an end. Hubert turned
to his sister, in his bewilderment and disappointment. They had both
counted so securely on the effect of experience and the pressure of
events to teach Hadria the desirable lesson, and they were dismayed to
find that, unlike other women, she had failed to learn it. Henriette was
in despair. It was she who had brought about the ill-starred union. How
could she ever forgive herself? How repair the error she had made? Only
by devoting herself to her brother, and trying patiently to bring his
wife to a wiser frame of mind.

A considerable time had elapsed, during which Hadria saw her brothers
and sister only at long intervals. Ernest had become estranged from her,
to her great grief. He was as courteous and tender in his manner to her
as of yore, but there was a change, not to be mistaken. She had lost the
brother of her girlhood for ever. While it bitterly grieved, it did not
surprise her. She acknowledged in dismay the inconsistency of her
conduct. She must have been mad! The universal similarity in the
behaviour of girls, herself included, alarmed her. Was there some
external will that drove them all, in hordes, to their fate? Were all
the intricacies of event and circumstance, of their very emotion, merely
the workings of that ruthless cosmic will by which the individual was
hypnotised and ruled?

As usual at critical moments, Hadria had been solitary in her encounter
with the elements of Fate. There were conflicts that even her sister
knew nothing about, the bewilderments and temptations of a nature
hampered in its action by its own voluminous qualities and its caprice.

Her brothers supposed that in a short time Hadria would be "wearing
bonnets and a card-case, and going the rounds with an elegant expression
like the rest of them."

How different were the little local facts of life--the little chopped-up
life that accumulates in odds and ends from moment to moment--from the
sun-and-smoke vision of early irresponsible days!

Mrs. Fullerton was pleased with the marriage, not merely because
Hubert's father, Judge Temperley, could secure for his son a prosperous
career, but because she was so thankful to see a strange, unaccountable
girl like Hadria settling quietly down, with a couple of children to
keep her out of mischief.

That was what it had come to! Perhaps they calculated a little too
surely. Possibly even two children might not keep her entirely out of
mischief. Out of what impulse of malice had Fate pitched upon the most
essentially mutinous and erratic of the whole brood, for the sedatest
_rôle_? But perhaps Fate, too, had calculated unscientifically. Mischief
was always possible, if one gave one's mind to it. Or was she growing
too old to have the spirit for thorough-going devilry? Youth seemed
rather an affair of mental outlook than of years. She felt twenty years
older since her marriage. She wondered why it was that marriage did not
make all women wicked,--openly and actively so. If ever there was an
arrangement by which every evil instinct and every spark of the devil
was likely to be aroused and infuriated, surely the customs and
traditions that clustered round this estate constituted that dangerous
combination! Hardship, difficulty, tragedy could be faced, but not the
humiliating, the degrading, the contemptible. Hadria had her own
particular ideas as to what ought to be set down under these headings.
Most women, she found, ranked certain elements very differently, with
lavish use of halos and gilding in their honour, feeling perhaps, she
hinted, the dire need of such external decoration.

Good heavens! Did no other woman realize the insult of it all? Hadria
knew so few women intimately; none intimately enough to be convinced
that no such revolt lay smouldering beneath their smiles. She had a
lonely assurance that she had never met the sister-soul (for such there
must be by the score, as silent as she), who shared her rage and her
detestations. Valeria, with all her native pride, regarded these as
proof of a big flaw in an otherwise sound nature. Yet how deep, how
passionately strong, these feelings were, how gigantic the flaw!

What possessed people that they did not see what was so brutally clear?
As young girls led forth unconscious into the battle, with a bandage
over their eyes, and cotton-wool in their ears--yes, then it was
inevitable that they should see and hear nothing. Had they been newly
imported from the moon they could scarcely have less acquaintance with
terrestrial conditions; but afterwards, when ruthlessly, with the
grinning assistance of the onlookers, the facts of the social scheme
were cynically revealed, and the _rôle_ imperiously allotted--with much
admonition and moving appeals to conscience and religion, and all the
other aides-de-camp at command--after all that, how in the name of
heaven could they continue to "babble of green fields"? Was it
conceivable that among the thousands of women to whom year after year
the facts were disclosed, not one understood and not one--_hated_?

A flame sprang up in Hadria's eyes. There _must_ be other women
somewhere at this very moment, whose whole being was burning up with
this bitter, this sickening and futile hatred! But how few, how few! How
vast was the meek majority, fattening on indignity, proud of their
humiliation! Yet how wise they were after all. It hurt so to hate--to
hate like this. Submission was an affair of temperament, a gift of
birth. Nature endowed with a serviceable meekness those whom she
designed for insult. Yet it might not be meekness so much as mere brutal
necessity that held them all in thrall--the inexorable logic of
conditions. Fate knew better than to assail the victim point blank, and
so put her on her guard. No; she lured her on gently, cunningly, closing
behind her, one by one, the doors of escape, persuading her, forcing her
to fasten on her own tethers, appealing to a thousand qualities, good
and bad; now to a moment's weakness or pity, now to her eternal fear of
grieving others (_that_ was a well-worked vein!), now to her instinct of
self-sacrifice, now to grim necessity itself, profiting too by the
increasing discouragements, the vain efforts, the physical pain and
horrible weariness, the crowding of little difficulties, harassments,
the troubles of others--ah! how infinite were these! so that there was
no interval for breathing, and scarcely time or space to cope with the
legions of the moment; the horizon was black with their advancing hosts!

And this assuredly was no unique experience. Hadria remembered how she
had once said that if the worst came to the worst, it would be easy to
run away. To her inexperience desperate remedies had seemed so simple,
so feasible--the factors of life so few and unentwined. She had not
understood how prolific are our deeds, how an act brings with it a large
and unexpected progeny, which surround us with new influences and force
upon us unforeseen conditions. Yet frequent had been the impulse to
adopt that girlish solution of the difficulty. She had no picturesque
grievances of the kind that would excite sympathy. On the contrary,
popular feeling would set dead against her; she would be acting on an
idea that nobody shared, not even her most intimate friend.

Miss Du Prel had arrived at the conclusion that she did not understand
Hadria. She had attributed many of her peculiarities to her unique
education and her inexperience. Hadria had indeed changed greatly since
her marriage, but not in the manner that might have been expected. On
the contrary, a closer intimacy with popular social ideals had fired her
with a more angry spirit of rebellion. Miss Du Prel had met examples of
every kind of eccentricity, but she had never before come upon so marked
an instance of this particular type. Hadria's attitude towards life had
suggested to Miss Du Prel the idea of her heroine, _Caterina_. She
remonstrated with Hadria, assuring her that no insult towards women was
intended in the general scheme of society, and that it was a mistake to
regard it in so resentful a spirit.

"But that is just the most insulting thing about it," Hadria exclaimed.
"Insult is so much a matter of course that people are surprised if one
takes umbrage at it. Read this passage from Aristotle that I came upon
the other day. He is perfectly calm and amiable, entirely unconscious of
offence, when he says that 'a wife ought to shew herself even more
obedient to the rein than if she entered the house as a purchased slave.
For she has been bought at a high price, for the sake of sharing life
and bearing children, than which no higher or holier tie can possibly
exist.' (Henriette to the very life!)"

Miss Du Prel laughed, and re-read the passage from the _Politics_, in
some surprise.

"Do you suppose insult is deliberately intended in that graceful
sentiment?" asked Hadria. "Obviously not. If any woman of that time had
blazed up in anger at the well-meant speech, she would have astonished
and grieved her contemporaries. Aristotle doubtless professed a high
respect for women who followed his precepts--as men do now when we are
obedient."

"Of course, our society in this particular has not wandered far from the
Greek idea," Miss Du Prel observed pensively.

Hadria pronounced the paradox, "The sharpness of the insult lies in its
not being intended."

Miss Du Prel could not prevail upon her to modify the assertion. Hadria
pointed out that the Greeks also meant no offence in regarding their
respectable women as simple reproductive agents of inferior human
quality.

"And though our well-brought-up girls shrink from the frank speech, they
do not appear to shrink from the ideas of the old Greeks. They don't
mind playing the part of cows so long as one doesn't mention it."

About eighteen months ago, the village had been full of talk and
excitement in consequence of the birth of an heir to the house of
Engleton, Lady Engleton's mission in life being frankly regarded as
unfulfilled during the previous three or four years, when she had
disappointed the hopes of the family. Hadria listened scornfully. In her
eyes, the crowning indignity of the whole affair was Lady Engleton's own
smiling acceptance of the position, and her complacent eagerness to
produce the tardy inheritor of the property and honours. This expression
of sentiment had, by some means, reached the Vicarage and created much
consternation.

Mrs. Walker asserted that it was right and Christian of the lady to
desire that which gave every one so much pleasure. "A climax of feminine
abjectness!" Hadria had exclaimed in Henriette's presence.

Miss Temperley, after endeavouring to goad her sister-in-law into the
expression of jubilant congratulations, was met by the passionate
declaration that she felt more disposed to weep than to rejoice, and
more disposed to curse than to weep.

Obviously, Miss Temperley had reason to be uneasy about her part in
bringing about her brother's marriage.

These sudden overflows of exasperated feeling had become less frequent
as time went on, but the neighbours looked askance at Mrs. Temperley.
Though a powder-magazine may not always blow up, one passes it with a
grave consciousness of vast stores of inflammable material lying
somewhere within, and who knows what spark might set the thing spouting
to the skies?

When the occasional visitors had left, life in the village settled down
to its normal level, or more accurately, to its normal flatness as
regarded general contours, and its petty inequalities in respect to
local detail. It reminded Hadria of the landscape which stretched in
quiet long lines to the low horizon, while close at hand, the ground
fussed and fretted itself into minor ups and downs of no character, but
with all the trouble of a mountain district in its complexities of slope
and hollow. Hadria suffered from a gnawing home-sickness; a longing for
the rougher, bleaker scenery of the North.

The tired spirit translated the homely English country, so deeply
reposeful in its spirit, into an image of dull unrest. If only those
broken, stupid lines could have been smoothed out into the grandeur of a
plain, Hadria thought that it would have comforted her, as if a song had
moved across it with the long-stretching winds. As it was, to look from
her window only meant to find repeated the trivialities of life, more
picturesque indeed, but still trivialities. It was the estimable and
domestic qualities of Nature that presented themselves: Nature in her
most maternal and uninspired mood--Mother earth submissive to the
dictatorship of man, permitting herself to be torn, and wounded, and
furrowed, and harrowed at his pleasure, yielding her substance and her
life to sustain the produce of his choosing, her body and her soul
abandoned supine to his caprice. The sight had an exasperating effect
upon Hadria. Its symbolism haunted her. The calm, sweet English
landscape affected her at times with a sort of disgust. It was, perhaps,
the same in kind as the far stronger sensation of disgust that she felt
when she first saw Lady Engleton with her new-born child, full of pride
and exultation. It was as much as she could do to shake hands with the
happy mother.

When Valeria expressed dismay at so strange a feeling Hadria had refused
to be treated as a solitary sinner. There were plenty of
fellow-culprits, she said, only they did not dare to speak out. Let
Valeria study girls and judge for herself.

Hadria was challenged to name a girl.

Well, Algitha for one. Hadria also suspected Marion Jordan, well-drilled
though she was by her dragoon of a mother.

Valeria would not hear of it. Marion Jordan! the gentlest, timidest,
most typical of young English girls! Impossible!

"I am almost sure of it, nevertheless," said Hadria. "Oh, believe me, it
is common enough! Few grasp it intellectually perhaps, but thousands
feel the insult; of that I am morally certain."

"What leads you to think so in Marion's case?"

"Some look, or tone, or word; something slight, but to my mind
conclusive. Fellow-sinners detect one another, you know."

"Well, I don't understand what the world is coming to!" exclaimed Miss
Du Prel. "Where are the natural instincts?"

"Sprouting up for the first time perhaps," Hadria suggested.

"They seem to be disappearing, if what you say has the slightest
foundation."

"Oh, you are speaking of only _one_ kind of instinct. The others have
all been suppressed. Perhaps women are not altogether animals after all.
The thought is startling, I know. Try to face it."

"I never supposed they were," cried Valeria, a little annoyed.

"But you never made allowance for the suppressed instincts," said
Hadria.

"I don't believe they _can_ be suppressed."

"I believe they can be not merely suppressed, but killed past hope of
recovery. And I also believe that there may be, that there _must_ be,
ideas and emotions fermenting in people's brains, quite different from
those that they are supposed and ordered to cherish, and that these
heresies go on working in secret for years before they become even
suspected, and then suddenly the population exchange confessions."

"After that the Deluge!" exclaimed Miss Du Prel. "You describe the
features of a great revolution."

"So much the better," said Hadria; "and when the waters sink again, a
nice fresh clean world!"



CHAPTER XIX.


On the lawn of the Red House, a little group was collected under the big
walnut tree. The sunlight fell through the leaves on the singing
tea-kettle and the cups and saucers, and made bright patches on the
figures and the faces assembled round the tea-table.

Hubert Temperley had again brought his friend Joseph Fleming, in the
forlorn hope, he said, of being able to give him something to eat and
drink. Ernest and Algitha and Fred were of the party. They had come down
from Saturday till Monday. Ernest was studying for the Bar. Fred had
entered a merchant's office in the city, and hated his work cordially.
Miss Du Prel was still at the Red House.

Lady Engleton had called by chance this afternoon, and Mrs. Walker, the
vicar's wife, with two of her countless daughters, had come by
invitation. Mrs. Walker was a middle-aged, careworn, rather prim-looking
woman. Lady Engleton was handsome. Bright auburn hair waved back in
picturesque fashion from a piquant face, and constituted more than half
her claim to beauty. The brown eyes were bright and vivacious. The mouth
was seldom quite shut. It scarcely seemed worth while, the loquacious
lady had confessed. She showed a delicate taste in dress. Shades of
brown and russet made a fine harmony with her auburn hair, and the ivory
white and fresh red of her skin.

She and Temperley always enjoyed a sprightly interchange of epigrams.
Lady Engleton had the qualities that Hubert had admired in Hadria before
their marriage, and she was entirely free from the other
characteristics that had exasperated him so desperately since that
hideous mistake that he had made. Lady Engleton had originality and
brilliancy, but she knew how to combine these qualities with perfect
obedience to the necessary conventions of life. She had the sparkle of
champagne, without the troublesome tendency of that delicate beverage to
break bounds, and brim over in iridescent, swelling, joyous foam, the
discreet edges of such goblets as custom might decree for the sunny
vintage. Lady Engleton sparkled, glowed, nipped even at times, was of
excellent dry quality, but she never frothed over. She always knew where
to stop; she had the genius of moderation. She stood to Hadria as a
correct rendering of a cherished idea stands to a faulty one. She made
Hubert acutely feel his misfortune, and shewed him his lost hope, his
shattered ideal.

"Is the picture finished?" he enquired, as he handed Lady Engleton her
tea.

"What, the view from your field? Not quite. I was working at it when
Claude Moreton and Mrs. Jordan and Marion arrived, and I have been
rather interrupted. That's the worst of visitors. One's little immortal
works do get put aside, poor things."

Lady Engleton broke into the light laugh that had become almost
mechanical with her.

"Your friends grudge the hours you spend in your studio," said
Temperley.

"Oh, they don't mind, so long as I give them as much time as they want,"
she said. "I have to apologise and compromise, don't you know, but, with
a little management, one can get on. Of course, society does ask a good
deal of attention, doesn't it? and one has to be so careful."

"Just a little tact and thought," said Temperley with a sigh.

Lady Engleton admired Algitha, who was standing with Ernest a little
apart from the group.

"She is like your wife, and yet there is a singular difference in the
expression."

Lady Engleton was too discreet to say that Mrs. Temperley lacked the
look of contentment and serenity that was so marked in her sister's
face.

"Algitha is a thoroughly sensible girl," said the brother-in-law.

"I hear you have not long returned from a visit to Mr. Fullerton's place
in Scotland, Mr. Temperley," observed the vicar's wife when her host
turned to address her.

"Yes," he said, "we have been there half the summer. The boys thoroughly
enjoyed the freedom and the novelty. The river, of course, was a source
of great joy to them, and of hideous anxiety to the rest of us."

"Of course, of course," assented Mrs. Walker. "Ah, there are the dear
little boys. Won't you come and give me a kiss, darling?"

"Darling" did what was required in a business-like manner, and stood by,
while the lady discovered in him a speaking likeness to his parents, to
his Aunt Algitha and his Uncle Fred, not to mention the portrait of his
great-grandfather, the Solicitor-General, that hung in the dining-room.
The child seemed thoroughly accustomed to be thought the living image of
various relations, and he waited indifferently till the list was ended.

"Do you know, we are half hoping that Professor Fortescue may be able to
come to us for a week or ten days?" said Lady Engleton. "We are so
looking forward to it."

"Professor Fortescue is always a favourite," remarked Mrs. Walker. "It
is such a pity he does not return to the Priory, is it not?--a great
house like that standing empty. Of course it is very natural after the
dreadful event that happened there"--Mrs. Walker lowered her voice
discreetly--"but it seems a sin to leave the place untenanted."

Lady Engleton explained that there was some prospect of the house being
let at last to a friend and colleague of the Professor. Mrs. Walker
doubtless would remember Professor Theobald, who used to come and stay
at Craddock Place rather frequently some years ago, a big man with beard
and moustache, very learned and very amusing.

Mrs. Walker remembered him perfectly. Her husband had been so much
interested in his descriptions of a tour in Palestine, all through the
scenes of the New Testament. He was a great archæologist. Was he really
coming to the Priory? How very delightful. John would be so glad to hear
it.

"Oh, it is not settled yet, but the two Professors are coming to us some
time soon, I believe, and Professor Theobald will look over the house
and see if he thinks it would be too unmanageably big for himself and
his old mother and sister. I hope he will take the place. He would bring
a new and interesting element into the village. What do you think of it,
Mrs. Temperley?"

"Oh, I hope the learned and amusing Professor will come," she said. "The
worst of it is, from my point of view, that I shall have to give up my
practices there. Professor Fortescue allows me to wake the old piano
from its long slumbers in the drawing-room."

"Oh, of course. Marion Jordan was telling me that she was quite startled
the other day, in crossing the Priory garden, to hear music stealing out
of the apparently deserted house. She had heard the country people say
that the ghost of poor Mrs. Fortescue walks along the terrace in the
twilight, and Marion looked quite scared when she came in, for the music
seemed to come from the drawing-room, where its mistress used to play so
much after she was first married. I almost wonder you can sit alone
there in the dusk, considering the dreadful associations of the place."

"I am used to it now," Mrs. Temperley replied, "and it is so nice and
quiet in the empty house. One knows one can't be interrupted--unless by
ghosts."

"Well, that is certainly a blessing," cried Lady Engleton. "I think I
shall ask Professor Fortescue to allow me also to go to the Priory to
pursue my art in peace and quietness; a truly hyperborean state, beyond
the region of visitors!"

"There would be plenty of room for a dozen unsociable monomaniacs like
ourselves," said Mrs. Temperley.

"I imagine you are a God-send to poor Mrs. Williams, the caretaker,"
said Joseph Fleming. "She is my gamekeeper's sister, and I hear that she
finds the solitude in that vast house almost more than she can stand."

"Poor woman!" said Lady Engleton. "Well, Mr. Fleming, what are the
sporting prospects this autumn?"

He pulled himself together, and his face lighted up. On that subject he
could speak for hours.

Of Joseph Fleming his friends all said: The best fellow in the world. A
kinder heart had no man. He lived on his little property from year's end
to year's end, for the sole and single end of depriving the pheasants
and partridges which he bred upon the estate, of their existence. He was
a confirmed bachelor, living quietly, and taking the world as he found
it (seeing that there was a sufficiency of partridges in good seasons);
trusting that there was a God above who would not let the supply run
short, if one honestly tried to do one's duty and lived an upright life,
harming no man, and women only so much as was strictly honourable and
necessary. He spoke ill of no one. He was diffident of his own powers,
except about sport, wherein he knew himself princely, and cherished that
sort of respect for woman, thoroughly sincere, which assigns to her a
pedestal in a sheltered niche, and offers her homage on condition of her
staying where she is put, even though she starve there, solitary and
esteemed.

"Do tell me, Mr. Fleming, if you know, who is that very handsome woman
with the white hair?" said Lady Engleton. "She is talking to Mrs.
Walker. I seem to know the face."

"Oh, that is Miss Valeria Du Prel, the authoress of those books that
Mrs. Walker is so shocked at."

"Oh, of course; how stupid of me. I should like to have some
conversation with her."

"That's easily managed. I don't think she and Mrs. Walker quite
appreciate each other."

Lady Engleton laughed.

Mrs. Walker was anxiously watching her daughters, and endeavouring to
keep them at a distance from Miss Du Prel, who looked tragically bored.

Joseph Fleming found means to release her, and Lady Engleton's desire
was gratified. "I admire your books so much, Miss Du Prel, and I have so
often wished to see more of you; but you have been abroad for the last
two years, I hear."

Lady Engleton, after asking the authoress to explain exactly what she
meant by her last book, enquired if she had the latest news of Professor
Fortescue. Lady Engleton had heard, with regret, that he had been
greatly worried about that troublesome nephew whom he had educated and
sent to Oxford.

"The young fellow had been behaving very badly," Miss Du Prel said.

"Ungrateful creature," cried Lady Engleton. "Running into debt I
suppose."

Miss Du Prel feared that the Professor was suffering in health. He had
been working very hard.

"Oh, yes; what was that about some method of killing animals
instantaneously to avoid the horrors of the slaughter-house? Professor
Theobald has been saying what a pity it is that a man so able should
waste his time over these fads. It would never bring him fame or profit,
only ridicule. Every man had his little weakness, but this idea of
saving pain to animals, Professor Theobald said, was becoming a sort of
mania with poor Fortescue, and one feared that it might injure his
career. He was greatly looked up to in the scientific world, but this
sort of thing of course----

"Though it is nice of him in a way," added Lady Engleton.

"His weaknesses are nobler than most people's virtues," said Miss Du
Prel.

"Then you number this among his weaknesses?"

Algitha, who had joined the group, put this question.

"I would rather see him working in the cause of humanity," Miss Du Prel
answered.

Ernest surprised everyone by suggesting that possibly humanity was well
served, in the long run, by reminding it of the responsibility that goes
with power, and by giving it an object lesson in the decent treatment of
those who can't defend themselves.

"You must have sat at the Professor's feet," cried Miss Du Prel, raising
her eyebrows.

"I have," said Ernest, with a little gesture of pride.

Lady Engleton shook her head. "I fear he flies too high for ordinary
mortals," she said; "and I doubt if even he can be quite consistent at
that altitude."

"Better perhaps fly fairly high, and come down now and again to rest, if
one must, than grovel consistently and always," observed Ernest.

Lady Engleton gave a little scream. "Mrs. Temperley, come to the rescue.
Your brother is calling us names. He says we grovel consistently and
always."

Ernest laughed, and protested. Lady Engleton pretended to be mortally
offended. Mrs. Temperley was sorry she could give no redress. She had
suffered from Ernest's painful frankness from her youth upwards.

The conversation grew discursive. Lady Engleton enjoyed the pastime of
lightly touching the edges of what she called "advanced" thought. She
sought the society of people like the two Professors and Miss Du Prel in
order to hear what dreadful and delightful things they really would say.
She read all the new books, and went to the courageous plays that Mrs.
Walker wouldn't mention.

"Your last book, _Caterina_, is a mine of suggestion, Miss Du Prel," she
said. "It raises one most interesting point that has puzzled me
greatly. I don't know if you have all read the book? The heroine finds
herself differing in her view of life from everyone round her. She is
married, but she has made no secret of her scorn for the old ideals, and
has announced that she has no intention of being bound by them."

Mrs. Temperley glanced uneasily at Miss Du Prel.

"Accordingly she does even as she had said," continued Lady Engleton.
"She will not brook that interference with her liberty which marriage
among us old-fashioned people generally implies. She refuses to submit
to the attempt that is of course made (in spite of a pre-nuptial
understanding) to bring her under the yoke, and so off she goes and
lives independently, leaving husband and relatives lamenting."

The vicar's wife said she thought she must be going home. Her husband
would be expecting her.

"Oh, won't you wait a little, Mrs. Walker? Your daughters would perhaps
like a game of tennis with my brothers presently."

Mrs. Walker yielded uneasily.

"But before _Caterina_ takes the law into her own hands, in this way,"
Lady Engleton continued, "she is troubled with doubts. She sometimes
wonders whether she ought not, after all, to respect the popular
standards (notwithstanding the compact), instead of disturbing everybody
by clinging to her own. Now was it strength of character or obstinate
egotism that induced her to stick to her original colours, come what
might? That is the question which the book has stated but left
unanswered."

Miss Du Prel said that the book showed, if it showed anything, that one
must be true to one's own standard, and not attempt to respect an ideal
in practice that one despises in theory. We are bound, she asserted, to
produce that which is most individual within us; to be ourselves, and
not a poor imitation of someone else; to dare even apparent wrong-doing,
rather than submit to live a life of devotion to that which we cannot
believe.

Mrs. Walker suggested to her daughters that they might go and have a
look at the rose-garden, but the daughters preferred to listen to the
conversation.

"In real life," said the practical Algitha, "_Caterina_ would not have
been able to follow her idea so simply. Supposing she had had children
and complicated circumstances, what could she have done?"

Miss Du Prel thought that a compromise might have been made.

"A compromise by which she could act according to two opposite
standards?"

Valeria was impatient of difficulties. It was not necessary that a woman
should leave her home in order to be true to her conscience. It was the
best method in _Caterina's_ case, but not in all.

Miss Du Prel did not explain very clearly what she meant. Women made too
much of difficulties, she thought. Somehow people _had_ managed to
overcome obstacles. Look at--and then followed a list of shining
examples.

"I believe you would blame a modern woman who imitated them," said Mrs.
Temperley. "These women have the inestimable advantage of being dead."

"Ah, yes," Lady Engleton agreed, with a laugh, "we women may be anything
we like--in the last century."

"The tides of a hundred years or so sweeping over one's audacious deed,
soften the raw edges. Then it is tolerated in the landscape; indeed, it
grows mossy and picturesque." Mrs. Temperley made this comparison.

"And then think how useful it becomes to prove that a daring deed _can_
be done, given only the necessary stuff in brain and heart."

Mrs. Walker looked at Algitha in dismay.

"One can throw it in the teeth of one's contemporaries," added Algitha,
"if they fail to produce a dramatic climax of the same kind."

"Only," said Mrs. Temperley, "if they _do_ venture upon their own
dreadful deed--the deed demanded by their particular modern
predicament--then we all shriek vigorously."

"Oh, we shriek less than we used to," said Lady Engleton. "It is quite a
relief to be able to retain one's respectability on easier terms."

"In such a case as Miss Du Prel depicts? I doubt it. _Caterina_, in real
life, would have a lively story to tell. How selfish we should think
her! How we should point to the festoons of bleeding hearts that she had
wounded--a dripping cordon round the deserted home! No; I believe Miss
Du Prel herself would be horrified at her own _Caterina_ if she came
upon her unexpectedly in somebody's drawing-room."

There was a laugh.

"Of course, a great deal is to be said for the popular way of looking at
the matter," Lady Engleton observed. "This fascinating heroine must have
caused a great deal of real sorrow, or at least she _would_ have caused
it, were it not that her creator had considerably removed all relatives,
except a devoted couple of unorthodox parents, who are charmed at her
decision to scandalize society, and wonder why she doesn't do it sooner.
Parents like that don't grow on every bush."

Mrs. Walker glanced nervously at her astonished girls.

Lady Engleton pointed out that had _Caterina_ been situated in a more
ordinary manner, she would have certainly broken her parents' hearts and
embittered their last years, to say nothing of the husband and perhaps
the children, who would have suffered for want of a mother's care.

"But why should the husband suffer?" asked Algitha. "_Caterina's_
husband cordially detested her."

"It is customary to regard the occasion as one proper for suffering,"
said Mrs. Temperley, "and every well-regulated husband would suffer
accordingly."

"Clearly," assented Lady Engleton. "When the world congratulates us we
rejoice, when it condoles with us we weep."

"That at least, would not affect the children," said Algitha. "I don't
see why of necessity _they_ should suffer."

"Their share of the woe would be least of all, I think," Mrs. Temperley
observed. "What ogre is going to ill-treat them? And since few of us
know how to bring up so much as an earth-worm reasonably, I can't see
that it matters so very much which particular woman looks after the
children. Any average fool would do."

Mrs. Walker was stiffening in every limb.

"The children would have the usual chances of their class; neither more
nor less, as it seems to me, for lack of a maternal burnt-offering."

Mrs. Walker rose, gathered her daughters about her, and came forward to
say good-bye. She was sure her husband would be annoyed if she did not
return. She retired with nervous precipitation.

"Really you will depopulate this village, Mrs. Temperley," cried Lady
Engleton with a laugh; "it is quite dangerous to bring up a family
within your reach. There will be a general exodus. I must be going
myself, or I shan't have an orthodox sentiment left."



CHAPTER XX.


Henriette had secured Mrs. Fullerton for an ally, from the beginning.
When Hadria's parents visited the Red House, Miss Temperley was asked to
meet them, by special request. Henriette employed tact on a grand scale,
and achieved results in proportion. She was sorry that dear Hadria did
not more quickly recover her strength. Her health was not what it ought
to be. Mrs. Fullerton sighed. She was ready to play into Miss
Temperley's hands on every occasion.

The latter had less success in her dealings with Miss Du Prel. She tried
to discover Hadria's more intimate feelings by talking her over with
Valeria, ignoring the snubs that were copiously administered by that
indignant lady. Valeria spoke with sublime scorn of this attempt.

"To try and pump information out of a friend! Why not listen at the
key-hole, and be done with it!"

Henriette's neat hair would have stood on end, had she heard Miss Du
Prel fit adjectives to her conduct.

"I have learnt not to expect a nice sense of honour from superior
persons with unimpeachable sentiments," said Hadria.

"You are certainly a good hater!" cried Valeria, with a laugh.

"Oh, I don't hate Henriette; I only hate unimpeachable sentiments."

The sentiments that Henriette represented had become, to Hadria, as the
walls of a prison from which she could see no means of escape.

She had found that life took no heed either of her ambitions or of her
revolts. "And so I growl," she said. She might hate and chafe in secret
to her heart's content; external conformity was the one thing needful.

"Hadria will be so different when she has children," everyone had said.
And so she was; but the difference was alarmingly in the wrong
direction. Throughout history, she reflected, children had been the
unfailing means of bringing women into line with tradition. Who could
stand against them? They had been able to force the most rebellious to
their knees. An appeal to the maternal instinct had quenched the
hardiest spirit of revolt. No wonder the instinct had been so trumpeted
and exalted! Women might harbour dreams and plan insurrections; but
their children--little ambassadors of the established and expected--were
argument enough to convince the most hardened sceptics. Their
helplessness was more powerful to suppress revolt than regiments of
armed soldiers.

Such were the thoughts that wandered through Hadria's mind as she bent
her steps towards the cottage near Craddock Church, where, according to
the gravedigger's account, the baby of the unhappy schoolmistress was
being looked after by Mrs. Gullick.

It would have puzzled the keenest observer to detect the unorthodox
nature of Mrs. Temperley's reflections, as she leant over the child, and
made enquiries as to its health and temperament.

Mrs. Gullick seemed more disposed to indulge in remarks on its mother's
conduct than to give the desired information; but she finally admitted
that Ellen Jervis had an aunt at Southampton who was sending a little
money for the support of the child. Ellen Jervis had stayed with the
aunt during the summer holidays. Mrs. Gullick did not know what was to
be done. She had a large family of her own, and the cottage was small.

Mrs. Temperley asked for the address of the aunt.

"I suppose no one knows who the father is? He has not acknowledged the
child!"

No; that was a mystery still.

About a week later, Craddock Dene was amazed by the news that Mrs.
Temperley had taken the child of Ellen Jervis under her protection. A
cottage had been secured on the road to Craddock, a trustworthy nurse
engaged, and here the babe was established, with the consent and
blessing of the aunt.

"You are the most inconsistent woman I ever met!" exclaimed Miss Du
Prel.

"Why inconsistent?"

"You say that children have been the means, from time immemorial, of
enslaving women, and here you go and adopt one of your enslavers!"

"But this child is not legitimate."

Valeria stared.

"Whatever the wrongs of Ellen Jervis, at least there were no laws
written, and unwritten, which demanded of her as a duty that she should
become the mother of this child. In that respect she escapes the
ignominy reserved for the married mother who produces children that are
not even hers."

"You do manage to ferret out the unpleasant aspects of our position!"
Miss Du Prel exclaimed. "But I want to know why you do this, Hadria. It
is good of you, but totally unlike you."

"You are very polite!" cried Hadria. "Why should I not lay up store for
myself in heaven, as well as Mrs. Walker and the rest?"

"You were not thinking of heaven when you did this deed, Hadria."

"No; I was thinking of the other place."

"And do you hope to get any satisfaction out of your _protégée_?"

Hadria shrugged her shoulders.

"I don't know. The child is the result of great sorrow and suffering; it
is the price of a woman's life; a woman who offended the world, having
lived for nearly forty weary obedient years, in circumstances dreary
enough to have turned twenty saints into as many sinners. No; I am no
Lady Bountiful. I feel in defending this child--a sorry defence I
know--that I am, in so far, opposing the world and the system of things
that I hate----. Ah! _how_ I hate it!"

"Is it then hatred that prompts the deed?"

Hadria looked thoughtfully towards the church tower, in whose shadow the
mother of the babe lay sleeping.

"Can you ever quite unravel your own motives, Valeria? Hatred? Yes;
there is a large ingredient of hatred. Without it, probably this poor
infant would have been left to struggle through life alone, with a
mill-stone round its neck, and a miserable constitution into the
bargain. I hope to rescue its constitution. But that poor woman's story
touched me closely. It is so hard, so outrageous! The emptiness of her
existence; the lack of outlet for her affections; the endless monotony;
and then the sudden new interest and food for the starved emotions; the
hero-worship that is latent in us all; and then--good heavens!--for a
touch of poetry, of romance in her life, she would have been ready to
believe in the professions of the devil himself--and this man was a very
good understudy for the devil! Ah! If ever I should meet him!"

"What would you do?" Valeria asked curiously.

"Avenge her," said Hadria with set lips.

"Easier said than done, my dear!"

Gossip asserted that the father of the child was a man of some standing,
the bolder spirits even accusing Lord Engleton himself. But this was
conjecture run wild, and nobody seriously listened to it.

Mrs. Walker was particularly scandalized with Mrs. Temperley's
ill-advised charity. Hadria had the habit of regarding the clergyman's
wife as another of society's victims. She placed side by side the
schoolmistress in her sorrow and disgrace, and the careworn woman at the
Vicarage, with her eleven children, and her shrivelled nature, poor and
dead as an autumn leaf that shivers before the wind. They had both
suffered--so Mrs. Temperley dared to assert--in the same cause. They
were both victims of the same creed. It was a terrible cultus, a savage
idol that had devoured them both, as cruel and insatiable as the brazen
god of old, with his internal fires, which the faithful fed devoutly,
with shrinking girls and screaming children.

"I still fail to understand why you adopt this child," said Valeria. "My
_Caterina_ would never have done it."

"The little creature interests me," said Hadria. "It is a tiny field for
the exercise of the creative forces. Every one has some form of active
amusement. Some like golf, others flirtation. I prefer this sort of
diversion."

"But you have your own children to interest you, surely far more than
this one."

Hadria's face grew set and defiant.

"They represent to me the insult of society--my own private and
particular insult, the tribute exacted of my womanhood. It is through
them that I am to be subdued and humbled. Just once in a way, however,
the thing does not quite 'come off.'"

"What has set you on edge so, I wonder."

"People, traditions, unimpeachable sentiments."

"_Yours_ are not unimpeachable at any rate!" Valeria cried laughing.
"_Caterina_ is an angel compared with you, and yet my publisher has his
doubts about her."

"_Caterina_ would do as I do, I know," said Hadria. "Those who are
looked at askance by the world appeal to my instincts. I shall be able
to teach this child, perhaps, to strike a blow at the system which sent
her mother to a dishonoured grave, while it leaves the man for whose
sake she risked all this, in peace and the odour of sanctity."

Time seemed to be marked, in the sleepy village, by the baby's growth.
Valeria, who thought she was fond of babies, used to accompany Hadria on
her visits to the cottage, but she treated the infant so much as if it
had been a guinea-pig or a rabbit that the nurse was indignant.

The weeks passed in rapid monotony, filled with detail and leaving no
mark behind them, no sign of movement or progress. The cares of the
house, the children, left only limited time for walking, reading,
correspondence, and such music as could be wrung out of a crowded day.
An effort on Hadria's part, to make serious use of her musical talent
had been frustrated. But a pathetic, unquenchable hope always survived
that presently, when this or that corner had been turned, this or that
difficulty overcome, conditions would be conquered and opportunity
arrive. Not yet had she resigned her belief that the most harassing and
wearying and unceasing business that a human being can undertake, is
compatible with the stupendous labour and the unbounded claims of an
artist's career. The details of practical life and petty duties sprouted
up at every step. If they were put aside, even for a moment, the wheels
of daily existence became clogged and then all opportunity was over.
Hope had begun to alternate with a fear lest that evasive corner should
never be turned, that little crop of interruptions never cease to turn
up. And yet it was so foolish. Each obstacle in itself was paltry. It
was their number that overcame one, as the tiny arrows of the Lilliputs
overcame Gulliver.

One of Hadria's best friends in Craddock Dene was Joseph Fleming, who
had become very intimate at the Red House during the last year or two.
Hadria used to tire of the necessity to be apparently rational (such was
her own version), and found it a relief to talk nonsense, just as she
pleased, to Joseph Fleming, who never objected or took offence, if he
occasionally looked surprised. Other men might have thought she was
laughing at them, but Joseph made no such mistake when Mrs. Temperley
broke out, as she did now and then, in fantastic fashion.

She was standing, one morning, on the little bridge over the stream that
ran at a distance of a few hundred yards from the Red House. The two
boys were bespattering themselves in the meadow below, by the water's
verge. They called up at intervals to their mother the announcement of
some new discovery of flower or insect.

Watching the stream sweeping through the bridge, she seemed the centre
of a charming domestic scene to Joseph Fleming, who chanced to pass by
with his dogs. He addressed himself to her maternal feelings by
remarking what handsome and clever boys they were.

"Handsome and clever?" she repeated. "Is _that_ all you can say, Mr.
Fleming? When you set about it, I think you might provide a little
better food for one's parental sentiment. I suppose you will go and tell
Mrs. Walker that _her_ dozen and a half are all handsome and clever
too!"

"Not so handsome and clever as yours," replied Mr. Fleming, a little
aghast at this ravenous maternal vanity.

"What wretched poverty of expression!" Hadria complained. "I ask for
bread, and truly you give me a stone."

Joseph Fleming eyed his companion askance. "I--I admire your boys
immensely, as you know," he said.

"Not enough, not enough."

"What can I say more?"

"A mother has to find in her children all that she can hope to find in
life, and she naturally desires to make the most of them, don't you
see?"

"Ah! yes, quite so," said Joseph dubiously.

"Nobody, I suppose, likes to be commonplace all round; one must have
some poetry somewhere--so most women idealize their children, and if
other people won't help them in the effort, don't you see? it is most
discouraging."

"Are you chaffing, or what?" Joseph enquired.

"No, indeed; I am perilously serious."

"I can well understand how a mother must get absorbed in her children,"
said Joseph. "I suppose it's a sort of natural provision."

"Think of Mrs. Allan with her outrageous eight--all making mud-pies!"
cried Hadria; "a magnificent 'natural provision!' A small income, a
small house, with those pervasive eight. You know the stampede when one
goes to call; the aroma of bread and butter (there are few things more
inspiring); the cook always about to leave; Mrs. Allan with a racking
headache. It is indeed not difficult to understand how a mother would
get absorbed in her children. Why, their pinafores alone would become
absorbing."

"Quite so," said Mr. Fleming. Then a little anxious to change the
subject: "Oh, by the way, have you heard that the Priory is really to
be inhabited at last? Professor Theobald has almost decided to take it."

"Really? that will be exciting for Craddock Dene. We shall have another
household to dissect and denounce. Providence watches over us all, I
verily believe."

"I hope so," Joseph replied gravely.

"Truly I hope so too," Hadria said, no less seriously, "for indeed we
need it."

Joseph was too simple to be greatly surprised at anything that Mrs.
Temperley might say. He had decided that she was a little eccentric, and
that explained everything; just as he explained instances of
extraordinary reasoning power in a dog by calling it "instinct."
Whatever Mrs. Temperley might do was slightly eccentric, and had she
suddenly taken it into her head to dance a fandango on the public road,
it would have merely put a little extra strain on that word.

By dint of not understanding her, Joseph Fleming had grown to feel
towards Mrs. Temperley a genuine liking, conscious, in his vague way,
that she was kind at heart, however bitter or strange she might
sometimes be in her speech. Moreover, she was not always eccentric or
unexpected. There would come periods when she would say and do very much
as her neighbours said and did; looking then pale and lifeless, but
absolutely beyond the reach of hostile criticism, as her champion would
suggest to carping neighbours.

Not the most respected of the ladies who turned up their disapproving
noses, was more dull or more depressing than Hadria could be, on
occasion, as she had herself pointed out; and would not _this_ soften
stony hearts?

When she discovered that her kindly neighbour had been fighting her
battles for her, she was touched; but she asked him not to expend his
strength on her behalf. She tried in vain to convince him that she did
not care to be invited too often to submit to the devitalizing processes
of social intercourse, to which the families of the district shrank not
from subjecting themselves. If Joseph Fleming chanced to call at the Red
House after her return from one of these entertainments, he was sure to
find Mrs. Temperley in one of her least comprehensible moods. But
whatever she might say, he stood up for her among the neighbours with
persistent loyalty. He decked her with virtues that she did not possess,
and represented her to the sceptical district, radiant in domestic
glory. Hadria thus found herself in an awkwardly uncertain position;
either she was looked at askance, as eccentric, or she found herself
called upon to make good expectations of saintliness, such as never were
on land or sea.

Saintly? Hadria shook her head. She could imagine no one further from
such a condition than she was at present, and she felt it in her, to
swing down and down to the very opposite pole from that serene altitude.
She admitted that, from a utilitarian point of view, she was making a
vast mistake. As things were, Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Allan, laboriously
spinning their ponderous families on their own axes, in a reverent
spirit, had chosen the better part. But Hadria did not care. She would
_not_ settle down to make the best of things, as even Algitha now
recommended, "since there she was, and there was no helping it."

"I will _never_ make the best of things," she said. "I know nothing that
gives such opportunities to the Devil."

Hadria had characteristically left the paradox unjustified.

"What do you mean?" asked Algitha. "Surely the enemy of good has most
hold over the discontented spirit."

Hadria likened the contented to stagnant pools, wherein corruptions grow
apace. "It is only the discontented ocean that remains, for all its
storms, fresh and sane to the end."

But though she said this, for opposition's sake perhaps, she had her
doubts about her own theory. Discontent was certainly the initiator of
all movement; but there was a kind of sullen discontent that stagnated
and ate inwards, like a disease. Better a cheerful sin or two than allow
_that_ to take hold!

"But then there is this sickly feminine conscience to deal with!" she
exclaimed. "It clings to the worst of us still, and prevents the
wholesome big catastrophes that might bring salvation."



CHAPTER XXI.


Another year had blundered itself away, leaving little trace behind it,
in Craddock Dene. The schoolmistress's grave was greener and her child
rosier than of yore. Little Martha had now begun to talk, and promised
to be pretty and fair-haired like her mother.

The boys and Algitha had come to spend Saturday and Sunday at the Red
House. Hadria hunted out a stupendous card-case (a wedding gift from
Mrs. Gordon), erected on her head a majestic bonnet, and announced to
the company that she was going for a round of visits.

There was a yell of laughter. Hadria advanced across the lawn with quiet
dignity, bearing her card-case as one who takes part in a solemn
ceremony.

"Where did you fall in with that casket?" enquired Fred.

"And who was the architect of the cathedral?" asked Ernest.

"This casket, as you call it, was presented to me by Mrs. Gordon. The
cathedral I designed myself."

They all crowded round to examine the structure. There were many
derisive comments.

"Gothic," said Ernest, "pure Gothic."

"I should have described it as 'Early Perpendicular,'" objected Fred.

"Don't display your neglected education; it's beyond all question
Gothic. Look at the steeple and the gargoyles and the handsome
vegetation. Ruskin would revel in it!"

"Are you really going about in that thing?" asked Algitha.

Hadria wished to know what was the use of designing a Gothic cathedral
if one couldn't go about in it.

The bonnet was, in truth, a daring caricature of the prevailing fashion,
just sufficiently serious in expression to be wearable.

"Well, I never before met a woman who would deliberately flout her
neighbours by wearing preposterous millinery!" Ernest exclaimed.

Hadria went her round of calls, and all eyes fixed themselves on her
bonnet. Mrs. Allan, who had small opportunity of seeing the fashions,
seemed impressed if slightly puzzled by it. Mrs. Jordan evidently
thought it "loud." Mrs. Walker supposed it fashionable, but regretted
that this sort of thing was going to be worn this season. She hoped the
girls would modify the style in adopting it.

Mrs. Walker had heard that the two Professors had arrived at Craddock
Place yesterday afternoon, and the Engletons expected them to make a
visit of some weeks. Hadria's face brightened.

"And so at last we may hope that the Priory will be inhabited," said the
vicar's wife.

"Of course you know," she added in the pained voice that she always
reserved for anecdotes of local ill-doing, "that Mrs. Fortescue
committed suicide there."

Madame Bertaux, the English wife of a French official, had chanced to
call, and Mrs. Walker gave the details of the story for the benefit of
the new-comer.

Madame Bertaux was a brisk, clever, good-looking woman, with a profound
knowledge of the world and a corresponding contempt for it.

It appeared that the Professor's wife, whom Madame Bertaux had happened
to meet in Paris, was a young, beautiful, and self-willed girl,
passionately devoted to her husband. She was piqued at his lack of
jealousy, and doubted or pretended to doubt his love for her. In order
to put him to the test, she determined to rouse his jealousy by violent
and systematic flirtation. This led to an entanglement, and finally, in
a fit of reckless anger, to an elopement with a Captain Bolton who was
staying at the Priory at the time. Seized with remorse, she had returned
home to kill herself. This was the tragedy that had kept the old house
for so many years tenantless. Hadria's music was the only sound that had
disturbed its silence, since the day when the dead body of its mistress
was found in the drawing-room, which she was supposed to have entered
unknown to anyone, by the window that gave on to the terrace.

Valeria Du Prel was able to throw more light on the strange story. She
had difficulty in speaking without rancour of the woman who had thrown
away the love of such a man. She admitted that the girl was extremely
fascinating, and had seemed to Valeria to have the faults of an
impetuous rather than of a bad nature. She cherished that singular
desire of many strong-willed women, to be ruled and mastered by the man
she loved, and she had entirely failed to understand her husband's
attitude towards her. She resented it as a sign of indifference. She was
like the Chinese wives, who complain bitterly of a husband's neglect
when he omits to beat them. She taunted the Professor for failing to
assert his "rights."

"Morally, I have no rights, except such as you choose to give me of your
own free will," he replied. "I am not your gaoler."

"And even that did not penetrate to her better nature till it was too
late," Valeria continued. "But after the mischief was done, that phrase
seems to have stung her to torment. Her training had blinded her, as one
is blinded in coming out of darkness into a bright light. She was used
to narrower hearts and smaller brains. Her last letter--a terrible
record of the miseries of remorse--shews that she recognized at last
what sort of a man he was whose heart she had broken. But even in her
repentance, she was unable to conquer her egotism. She could not face
the horrors of self-accusation; she preferred to kill herself."

"What a shocking story!" cried Hadria.

"And all the more so because the Professor clings to her memory so
faithfully. He blames himself for everything. He ought, he says, to have
realized better the influence of her training; he ought to have made her
understand that he could not assert what she called his 'rights' without
insulting her and himself."

"Whenever one hears anything new about the Professor, it is always
something that makes one admire and love him more than ever!" cried
Hadria.

Her first meeting with him was in the old Yew Avenue in the Priory
garden. He was on his way to call at the Red House. She stood on a patch
of grass by a rustic seat commanding the vista of yews, and above them,
a wilderness of lilacs and laburnums, in full flower. It looked to her
like a pathway that led to some exquisite fairy palace of one's
childhood.

Almost with the first word that the Professor uttered, Hadria felt a
sense of relief and hope. The very air seemed to grow lighter, the scent
of the swaying flowers sweeter. She always afterwards associated this
moment of meeting with the image of that avenue of mourning yews,
crowned with the sunlit magnificence of an upper world of blossom.

What had she been thinking of to run so close to despair during these
years? A word, a smile, and the dead weight swerved, swung into balance,
and life lifted up its head once more. She remembered now, not her
limitations, but the good things of her lot; the cruelties that Fate had
spared her, the miseries that the ruthless goddess had apportioned to
others. But the Professor's presence did not banish, but rather
emphasized, the craving to take part in the enriching of that general
life which was so poor and sad. He strengthened her disposition to
revolt against the further impoverishment of it, through the starving of
her own nature. He would not blame her simply on account of difference
from others. She felt sure of that. He would not be shocked if she had
not answered to the stimulus of surroundings as faithfully as most
women seemed to answer to them. Circumstance had done its usual utmost
to excite her instinct to beat down the claims of her other self, but
for once, circumstance had failed. It was a solitary failure among a
creditable multitude of victories. But if instinct had not responded to
the imperious summons, the other self had been suffering the terrors of
a siege, and the garrison had grown starved and weakly. What would be
the end of it? And the little cynical imp that peeped among her
thoughts, as a monkey among forest boughs, gibbered his customary "What
matters it? One woman's destiny is but a small affair. If I were you I
would make less fuss about it." The Professor would understand that she
did not wish to make a fuss. He would not be hard upon any human being.
He knew that existence was not such an easy affair to manage. She wished
that she could tell him everything in her life--its struggle, its
desperate longing and ambition, its hatred, its love: only _he_ would
understand all the contradictions and all the pain. She would not mind
his blame, because he would understand, and the blame would be just.

They walked together down the avenue towards the beautiful old Tudor
house, which stood on the further side of a broad lawn.

The Professor looked worn and thin. He owned to being very tired of the
hurry and struggle of town. He was sick of the conflict of jealousies
and ambitions. It seemed so little worth while, this din of voices that
would so soon be silenced.

"I starve for the sight of a true and simple face, for the grasp of a
brotherly hand."

"_You?_" exclaimed Hadria.

"There are so few, so very few, where the throng is thick and the battle
fierce. It saddens me to see good fellows trampling one another down,
growing hard and ungenerous. And then the vulgarity, the irreverence:
they are almost identical, I think. One grows very sick and sorry at
times amidst the cruelty and the baseness that threaten to destroy
one's courage and one's hope. I know that human nature has in it a germ
of nobility that will save it, in the long run, but meanwhile things
seem sadly out of joint."

"Is that the order of the universe?" asked Hadria.

"No, I think it is rather the disorder of man's nature," he replied.

Hadria asked if he would return to tea at the Red House. The Professor
said he would like to call and see Hubert, but proposed a rest on the
terrace, as it was still early in the afternoon.

"I used to avoid the place," he said, "but I made a mistake. I have
resolved to face the memories: it is better."

It was the first time that he had ever referred, in Hadria's presence,
to the tragedy of the Priory.

"I have often wished to speak to you about my wife," he said slowly, as
they sat down on the old seat, on the terrace. "I have felt that you
would understand the whole sad story, and I hoped that some day you
would know it." He paused and then added, "It has often been a comfort
to me to remember that you were in the world, for it made me feel less
lonely. I felt in you some new--what can I call it? instinct, impulse,
inspiration, which ran you straight against all the hardest stone walls
that intersect the pathways of this ridiculous old world. And, strange
to say, it is the very element in you that sets you at loggerheads with
others, that enabled me to understand you."

Hadria looked bewildered.

"To tell you the truth, I have always wondered why women have never felt
as I am sure you feel towards life. You remember that day at Dunaghee
when you were so annoyed at my guessing your thoughts. They were
unmistakeable to one who shared them. Your sex has always been a riddle
to me; there seemed to be something abject in their nature, even among
the noblest of them. But you are no riddle. While I think you are the
least simple woman I ever met, you are to me the easiest to
understand."

"And yet I remember your telling me the exact contrary," said Hadria.

"That was before I had caught the connecting thread. Had I been a woman,
I believe that life and my place in it would have affected me exactly as
it affects you."

Hadria coloured over cheek and brow. It was so strange, so startling, so
delicious to find, for the first time in her life, this intimate
sympathy.

"I wish my wife had possessed your friendship," he said. "I believe you
would have saved us." He passed his hands over his brow, looking round
at the closed windows of the drawing-room. "I almost feel as if she were
near us now on this old terrace that she loved so. She planted these
roses herself--how they have grown!" They were white cluster roses and
yellow banksias, which had strayed far along the balustrade, clambering
among the stone pillars.

"You doubtless know the bare facts of her life, but nothing is so
misleading as bare fact. My wife was one of the positive natures,
capable of great nobility, but liable to glaring error and sin! She held
ideas passionately. She had the old barbaric notion that a husband was a
sort of master, and must assert his authority and rights. It was the
result of her training. I saw that a great development was before her. I
pleased myself with the thought of watching and helping it. She was
built on a grand scale. To set her free from prejudice, from her
injustice to herself, from her dependence on me; to teach her to breathe
deep with those big lungs of hers and think bravely with that capacious
brain: that was my dream. I hoped to hear her say to me some day, what I
fear no woman has yet been able to say to her husband, 'The day of our
marriage was the birthday of my freedom.'"

Hadria drew a long breath. It seemed to overwhelm her that a man, even
the Professor, could utter such a sentiment. All the old hereditary
instincts of conquest and ownership appeared to be utterly dead in him.

No wonder he had found life a lonely pilgrimage! He lived before his
time. His wife had taunted him because he would not treat her as his
legal property, or rule her through the claims and opportunities that
popular sentiment assigned to him.

When a woman as generous as himself, as just, as gentle-hearted, had
appeared on the horizon of the world, the advent of a nobler social
order might be hoped for. The two were necessary for the new era.

Then, not only imagination, but cold reason herself grew eloquent with
promises.

"It was in there, in the old drawing-room, where we had sat together
evening after evening, that they found her dead, the very type of all
that is brilliant and exquisite and living. To me she was everything.
All my personal happiness was centred in her. I cared for nothing so
long as she was in the same world as myself, and I might love her. In
the darkness that followed, I was brought face to face with the most
terrible problems of human fate. I had troubled myself but little about
the question of the survival of the personality after death; I had been
pre-occupied with life. Now I realized out of what human longings and
what human desperation our religions are built. For one gleam of hope
that we should meet again--what would I not have given? But it never
came. The trend of my thought made all such hopes impossible. I have
grown charier of the word 'impossible' now. We know so infinitesimally
little. I had to learn to live on comfortless. All that was strongly
personal in me died. All care about myself went out suddenly, as in
other cases I think it goes out slowly, beaten down by the continued
buffetings of life. I gave myself to my work, and then a curious
decentralizing process took place. I ceased to be the point round which
the world revolved, in my own consciousness. We all start our career as
pivots, if I am not mistaken. The world span, and I, in my capacity of
atomic part, span with it. I mean that this was a continuous, not an
occasional state of consciousness. After that came an unexpected
peace."

"You have travelled a long and hard road to find it!" cried Hadria.

"Not a unique fate," he said with a smile.

"It must be a terrible process that quite kills the personal in one, it
is so strong. With me the element is clamorous."

"It has its part to play."

"Surely the gods must be jealous of human beings. Why did they destroy
the germ of such happiness as you might have had?"

"The stern old law holds for ever; wrong and error have to be expiated."

The Professor traced the history of his wife's family, shewing the
gradual gathering of Fate to its culmination in the tragedy of her short
life. Her father and grandfather had both been men of violent and
tyrannical temper, and tradition gave the same character to their
forefathers. Eleanor's mother was one of the meek and saintly women who
almost invariably fall to the lot of overbearing men. She had made a
virtue of submitting to tyranny, and even to downright cruelty, thus
almost repeating the story of her equally meek predecessor, of whose
ill-treatment stories were still current in the district.

"When death put an end to their wretchedness, one would suppose that the
evil of their lives was worked out and over, but it was not so. The
Erinnys were still unsatisfied. My poor wife became the victim of their
fury. And every new light that science throws upon human life shews that
this _must_ be so. The old Greeks saw that unconscious evil-doing is
punished as well as that which is conscious. These poor unselfish women,
piling up their own supposed merit, at the expense of the character of
their tyrants, laid up a store of misery for their descendant, my
unhappy wife. Imagine the sort of training and tradition that she had to
contend with; her mother ignorant and supine, her father violent,
bigoted, almost brutal. Eleanor's nature was obscured and distorted by
it. Having inherited the finer and stronger qualities of her father's
race, with much of its violence, she was going through a struggle at the
time of our marriage: training, native vigour and nobility all embroiled
in a desperate civil war. It was too much. There is no doubt as to the
ultimate issue, but the struggle killed her. It is a common story: a
character militant which meets destruction in the struggle for life. The
past evil pursues and throttles the present good."

"This takes away the last consolation from women who have been forced to
submit to evil conditions," said Hadria.

"It is the truth," said the Professor. "The Erinnys are no mere fancy of
the Greek mind. They are symbols of an awful fact of life that no one
can afford to ignore."

"What insensate fools we all are!" Hadria exclaimed. "I mean women."

The Professor made no polite objection to the statement.

As they were wending their way towards the Red House, the Professor
reminded his companion of the old friendship that had existed between
them, ever since Hadria was a little girl. He had always cherished
towards her that sentiment of affectionate good-fellowship. She must
check him if he seemed to presume upon it, in seeking sympathy or
offering it. He watched her career with the deepest interest and
anxiety. He always believed that she would give some good gift to the
world. And he still believed it. Like the rest of us, she needed
sympathy at the right moment.

"We need to feel that there is someone who believes in us, in our good
faith, in our good will, one who will not judge according to outward
success or failure. Remember," he said, "that I have that unbounded
faith in you. Nothing can move it. Whatever happens and wherever you may
be led by the strange chances of life, don't forget the existence of one
old friend, or imagine that anything can shake his friendship or his
desire to be of service."



CHAPTER XXII.


"The worst thing about the life of you married people," said Valeria,
"is its ridiculous rigidity. It takes more energy to get the dinner
delayed for a quarter of an hour in most well-regulated houses, or some
slight change in routine, than to alter a frontier, or pass an Act of
Parliament."

Hadria laughed. "Until you discovered this by personal inconvenience,
you always scolded me for my disposition to jeer at the domestic
scheme."

"It _is_ a little geometrical," Valeria admitted.

"Geometrical! It is like a gigantic ordnance map palmed off on one
instead of a real landscape."

"Come now, to be just, say an Italian garden."

"That flatters it, but the simile will do. The eye sees to the end of
every path, and knows that it leads to nothing."

"Ah! dear Hadria, but all the pathways of the world have that very same
goal."

"At least some of them have the good taste to wind a little, and thus
disguise the fact. And think of the wild flowers one may gather by the
wayside in some forest track, or among the mountain passes; but in these
prim alleys what natural thing can one know? Brain and heart grow tame
and clipped to match the hedges, or take on grotesque shapes----"

"That one must guard against."

"Oh, I am sick of guarding against things. To be always warding off
evil, is an evil in itself. Better let it come."

Valeria looked at her companion anxiously.

"One knows how twirling round in a circle makes one giddy, or following
the same path stupefies. How does the polar bear feel, I wonder, after
he has walked up and down in his cage for years and years?"

"Used to it, I imagine," said Valeria.

"But before he gets used to it, that is the bad time. And then it is all
so confusing----"

Hadria sat on the low parapet of the terrace at the Priory. Valeria had
a place on the topmost step, where the sun had been beating all the
morning. Hadria had taken off her hat to enjoy the warmth. The long
sprays of the roses were blown across her now and then. Once, a thorn
had left a mark of blood upon her hand.

Valeria gathered a spray, and nodded slowly.

"I don't want to allow emotion to get the better of me, Valeria. I don't
want to run rank like some overgrown weed, and so I dread the
accumulation of emotion--emotion that has never had a good explosive
utterance. One has to be so discreet in these Italian gardens; no one
shouts or says 'damn.'"

"Ah! you naturally feel out of your element."

Hadria laughed. "It's all very well to take that superior tone. _You_
don't reside on an ordnance map."

There was a pause. Miss Du Prel seemed lost in thought.

"It is this dead silence that oppresses one, this hushed endurance of
the travail of life. How do these women stand it?"

Valeria presently woke up, and admitted that to live in an English
village would drive her out of her mind in a week. "And yet, Valeria,
you have often professed to envy me, because I had what you called a
place in life--as if a place in Craddock Dene were the same thing!"

"It is well that you do not mean all you say."

"Or say all I mean."

Valeria laid her hand on Hadria's with wistful tenderness.

"I don't think anyone will ever quite understand you, Hadria."

"Including perhaps myself. I sometimes fancy that when it became
necessary to provide me with a disposition, the material had run out,
for the moment, nothing being left but a few remnants of other people's
characters; so a living handful of these was taken up, roughly welded
together, and then the mixture was sent whirling into space, to boil and
sputter itself out as best it might."

Miss Du Prel turned to her companion.

"I see that you are incongruously situated, but don't you think that you
may be wrong yourself? Don't you think you may be making a mistake?"

Hadria was emphatic in assent.

"Not only do I think I may be wrong, but I don't see how--unless by pure
chance--I can be anything else. For I can't discover what is right. I
see women all round me actuated by this frenzied sense of duty; I see
them toiling submissively at their eternal treadmill; occupying their
best years in the business of filling their nurseries; losing their
youth, narrowing their intelligence, ruining their husbands, and
clouding their very moral sense at last. Well, I know that such conduct
is supposed to be right and virtuous. But I can't see it. It impresses
me simply as stupid and degrading. And from my narrow little point of
observation, the more I see of life, the more hopelessly involved become
all questions of right and wrong where our confounded sex is concerned."

"Why? Because the standards are changing," asserted Miss Du Prel.

"Because--look, Valeria, our present relation to life is _in itself_ an
injury, an insult--you have never seriously denied that--and how can one
make for oneself a moral code that has to lay its foundation-stone in
that very injury? And if one lays one's foundation-stone in open ground
beyond, then one's code is out of touch with present fact, and one's
morality consists in sheer revolt all along the line. The whole matter
is in confusion. You have to accept Mrs. Walker's and Mrs. Gordon's view
of the case, plainly and simply, or you get off into a sort of morass
and blunder into quicksands."

"Then what happens?"

"That's just what I don't know. That's just why I say that I am probably
wrong, because, in this transition period, there seems to be no clear
right."

"To cease to believe in right and wrong would be to founder morally,
altogether," Valeria warned.

"I know, and yet I begin to realize how true it is that there is no such
thing as absolute right or wrong. It is related to the case and the
moment."

"This leads up to some desperate deed or other, Hadria," cried her
friend, "I have feared it, or hoped it, I scarcely know which, for some
time. But you alarm me to-day."

"If I believed in the efficacy of a desperate deed, Valeria, I should
not chafe as I do, against the conditions of the present scheme of
things. If individuals could find a remedy for themselves, with a little
courage and will, there would be less occasion to growl."

"But can they not?"

"Can they?" asked Hadria. "A woman without means of livelihood, breaks
away from her moorings--well, it is as if a child were to fall into the
midst of some gigantic machinery that is going at full speed. Let her
try the feat, and the cracking of her bones by the big wheels will
attest its hopelessness. And yet I long to try!" Hadria added beneath
her breath.

Miss Du Prel admitted that success was rare in the present delirious
state of competition. Individuals here and there pulled through.

"I told you years ago that Nature had chosen our sex for ill-usage. Try
what we may, defeat and suffering await us, in one form or another. You
are dissatisfied with your form of suffering, I with mine. A creature in
pain always thinks it would be more bearable if only it were on the
other side."

"Ah, I know you won't admit it," said Hadria, "but some day we shall all
see that this is the result of human cruelty and ignorance, and that it
is no more 'intended' or inherently necessary than that children should
be born with curvature of the spine, or rickets. Some day it will be as
clear as noon, that heartless 'some day' which can never help you or me,
or any of us who live now. It is we, I suppose, who are required to help
the 'some day.' Only how, when we are ourselves _in extremis_?"

"The poor are helpers of the poor," said Valeria.

"But if they grow too poor, to starvation point, then they can help no
more; they can only perish slowly."

"I hoped," said Valeria, "that Professor Fortescue would have poured oil
upon the troubled waters."

"He does in one sense. But in another, he makes me feel more than ever
what I am missing."

Miss Du Prel's impulsive instincts could be kept at bay no longer.

"There is really nothing for it, but some deed of daring," she cried. "I
believe, if only your husband could get over his horror of the scandal
and talk, that a separation would be best for you both. It is not as if
he cared for you. One can see he does not. You are such a strange,
inconsequent being, Hadria, that I believe you would feel the parting
far more than he would (conventions apart)."

"No question of it," said Hadria. "Our disharmony, radical and hopeless
as it is, does not prevent my having a strong regard for Hubert. I can't
help seeing the admirable sides of his character. He is too irritated
and aggrieved to feel anything but rancour against me. It is natural. I
understand."

"Ah, it will only end in some disaster, if you try to reconcile the
irreconcilable. Of course I think it is a great pity that you have not
more of the instincts on which homes are founded, but since you have
not----"

Hadria turned sharply round. "Do you really regret that just for once
the old, old game has been played unsuccessfully? Therein I can't agree
with you, though I am the loser by it." Hadria grasped a swaying spray
that the wind blew towards her, and clasped it hard in her hand,
regardless of the thorns. "It gives me a keen, fierce pleasure to know
that for all their training and constraining and incitement and
starvation, I have _not_ developed masses of treacly instinct in which
mind and will and every human faculty struggle, in vain, to move leg or
wing, like some poor fly doomed to a sweet and sticky death. At least
the powers of the world shall not prevail with me by _that_ old device.
Mind and will and every human faculty may die, but they shall not drown,
in the usual applauded fashion, in seas of tepid, bubbling, up-swelling
instinct. I will dare anything rather than endure that. They must take
the trouble to provide instruments of death from without; they must lay
siege and starve me; they must attack in soldierly fashion; I will not
save them the exertion by developing the means of destruction from
within. There I stand at bay. They shall knock down the citadel of my
mind and will, stone by stone."

"That is a terrible challenge!" exclaimed Miss Du Prel.

A light laugh sounded across the lawn.

The afternoon sunshine threw four long shadows over the grass: of a
slightly-built woman, of a very tall man, and of two smaller men.

The figures themselves were hidden by a group of shrubs, and only the
shadows were visible. They paused, for a moment, as if in consultation;
the lady standing, with her weight half leaning on her parasol. The tall
man seemed to be talking to her vivaciously. His long, shadow-arms shot
across the grass, his head wagged.

"The shadows of Fate!" cried Valeria fantastically.

Then they moved into sight, advancing towards the terrace.

"Who are they I wonder? Oh, Professor Fortescue, for one!"

"Lady Engleton and Joseph Fleming. The other I don't know."

He was very broad and tall, having a slight stoop, and a curious way of
carrying his head, craned forward. The attitude suggested a keen
observer. He was attired in knickerbockers and rough tweed Norfolk
jacket, and he looked robust and powerful, almost to excess. The chin
and mouth were concealed by the thick growth of dark hair, but one
suspected unpleasant things of the latter. As far as one could judge his
age, he seemed a man of about five-and-thirty, with vigour enough to
last for another fifty years.

"That," said Valeria, "must be Professor Theobald. He has probably come
to see the house."

"I am sure I shall hate that man," exclaimed Hadria. "He is not to be
trusted; what nonsense he is talking to Lady Engleton!"

"You can't hear, can you?"

"No; I can see. And she laughs and smiles and bandies words with him. He
is amusing certainly; there is that excuse for her; but I wonder how she
can do it."

"What an extraordinary creature you are! To take a prejudice against a
man before you have spoken to him."

"He is cruel, he is cruel!" exclaimed Hadria in a low, excited voice.
"He is like some cunning wild animal. Look at Professor Fortescue! his
opposite pole--why it is all clearer, at this distance, than if we were
under the confusing influence of their speech. See the contrast between
that quiet, firm walk, and the insinuating, conceited tread of the other
man. Joseph Fleming comes out well too, honest soul!"

"He is carrying a fishing-rod. They have been fishing," said Valeria.

"Not Professor Fortescue, I am certain. _He_ does not find his pleasure
in causing pain."

"This hero-worship blinds you. Depend upon it, he is not without the
primitive instinct to kill."

"There are individual exceptions to all savage instincts, or the world
would never move."

"Instinct rules the world," said Miss Du Prel. "At least it is obviously
neither reason nor the moral sense that rules it."

"Then why does it produce a Professor Fortescue now and then?"

"Possibly as a corrective."

"Or perhaps for fun," said Hadria.



CHAPTER XXIII.


"Professor Theobald, if you are able to resist the fascinations of this
old house you are made of sterner stuff than I thought."

"I can never resist fascinations, Lady Engleton."

"Do you ever try?"

"My life is spent in the endeavour."

"How foolish!" Whether this applied to the endeavour or to the remark,
did not quite appear. Lady Engleton's graceful figure leant over the
parapet.

"Do you know, Mrs. Temperley," she said in her incessantly vivacious
manner, "I have scarcely heard a serious word since our two Professors
came to us. Isn't it disgraceful? I naturally expected to be improved
and enlightened, but they are both so frivolous, I can't keep them for a
moment to any important subject. They refuse to be profound. It is _I_
who have to be profound."

"While _we_ endeavour to be charming," said Professor Theobald.

"You may think that flattering, but I confess it seems to me a beggarly
compliment (as men's to women usually are)."

"You expect too much of finite intelligence, Lady Engleton."

"This is how I am always put off! If it were not that you are both such
old friends--you are a sort of cousin I think, Professor Fortescue--I
should really feel aggrieved. One has to endure so much more from
relations. No, but really; I appeal to Mrs. Temperley. When one is
hungering for erudition, to be offered compliments! Not that I can
accuse Professor Fortescue of compliments," she added with a laugh;
"wild horses would not drag one from him. I angle vainly. But he is so
ridiculously young. He enjoys things as if he were a schoolboy. Does one
look for that in one's Professors? He talks of the country as if it were
_Paradise Regained_."

"So it is to me," he said with a smile.

"But that is not your _rôle_. You have to think, not to enjoy."

"Then you must not invite us to Craddock Place," Professor Theobald
stipulated.

"As usual, a halting compliment."

"To take you seriously, Lady Engleton," said Professor Fortescue,
"(though I know it is a dangerous practice) one of the great advantages
of an occasional think is to enable one to relish the joys of mental
vacuity, just as the pleasure of idleness is never fully known till one
has worked."

"Ah," sighed Lady Engleton, "I know I don't extract the full flavour out
of _that_!"

"It is a neglected art," said the Professor. "After worrying himself
with the problems of existence, as the human being is prone to do, as
soon as existence is more or less secure and peaceful, a man can
experience few things more enjoyable than to leave aside all problems
and go out into the fields, into the sun, to feel the life in his veins,
the world at the threshold of his five senses."

"Ah, now you really are profound at last, Professor!"

"I thought it was risky to take you seriously."

"No, no, I am delighted. The world at the threshold of one's five
senses. One has but to look and to listen and the beauty of things
displays itself for our benefit. Yes, but that is what the artists say,
not the Professors."

"Even a Professor is human," pleaded Theobald.

Valeria quoted some lines that she said expressed Professor Fortescue's
idea.

          "Carry me out into the wind and the sunshine,
            Into the beautiful world!"

Lady Engleton's artistic instinct seemed to occupy itself less with the
interpretation of Nature than with the appreciation of the handiwork of
man. The lines did not stir her. Professor Theobald shared her
indifference for the poetic expression, but not for the reality
expressed.

"I quarrel with you about art," said Lady Engleton. "Art is art, and
nature is nature, both charming in their way, though I prefer art."

"Our old quarrel!" said the Professor.

"Because a wild glade is beautiful in its quality of wild glade, you
can't see the beauty in a trim bit of garden, with its delightful
suggestion of human thought and care."

"I object to stiffness," said Professor Theobald.

His proposals to improve the stately old gardens at the Priory by adding
what Lady Engleton called "fatuous wriggles to all the walks, for mere
wrigglings' sake," had led to hot discussions on the principles of art
and the relation of symmetry to the sensibilities of mankind. Lady
Engleton thought the Professor crude in taste, and shallow in knowledge,
on this point.

"And yet you appreciate so keenly my old enamels, and your eye seeks
out, in a minute, a picturesque roof or gable."

"Perhaps Theobald leans to the picturesque and does not care for the
classic," suggested his colleague; "a fundamental distinction in mental
bias."

"Then why does he enjoy so much of the _Renaissance_ work on caskets and
goblets? He was raving about them last night in the choicest English."

Lady Engleton crossed over to speak to Miss Du Prel. Professor Theobald
approached Mrs. Temperley and Joseph Fleming. Hadria knew by some
instinct that the Professor had been waiting for an opportunity to speak
to her. As he drew near, a feeling of intense enmity arose within her,
which reached its highest pitch when he addressed her in a fine,
low-toned voice of peculiarly fascinating quality. Every instinct rose
up as if in warning. He sat down beside her, and began to talk about
the Priory and its history. His ability was obvious, even in his choice
of words and his selection of incidents. He had the power of making dry
archæological facts almost dramatic. His speech differed from that of
most men, in the indefinable manner wherein excellence differs from
mediocrity. Yet Hadria was glad to notice some equally indefinable lack,
corresponding perhaps to the gap in his consciousness that Lady Engleton
had come upon in their discussions on the general principles of art.
What was it? A certain stilted, unreal quality? Scarcely. Words refused
to fit themselves to the evasive form. Something that suggested the term
"second class," though whether it were the manner or the substance that
was responsible for the impression, was difficult to say.

Sometimes his words allowed two possible interpretations to be put upon
a sentence. He was a master of the ambiguous. Obviously it was not lack
of skill that produced the double-faced phrases.

He did not leave his listeners long in doubt as to his personal history.
He enjoyed talking about himself. He was a Professor of archæology, and
had written various learned books on the subject. But his studies had by
no means been confined to the one theme. History had also interested him
profoundly. He had published a work on the old houses of England. The
Priory figured among them. It was not difficult to discover from the
conversation of this singular man, whose subtle and secretive instincts
were contradicted, at times, by a strange inconsequent frankness, that
his genuine feeling for the picturesque was accompanied by an equally
strong predilection for the appurtenances of wealth and splendour; his
love of great names and estates being almost of the calibre of the
housemaid's passion for lofty personages in her penny periodical. He
seemed to be a man of keen and cunning ability, who studied and played
upon the passions and weaknesses of his fellows, possibly for their
good, but always as a magician might deal with the beings subject to his
power. By what strange lapse did he thus naïvely lay himself open to
their smiles?

Hadria was amused at his occasional impulse of egotistic frankness (or
what appeared to be such), when he would solemnly analyse his own
character, admitting his instinct to deceive with an engaging and
scholarly candour.

His penetrating eyes kept a watch upon his audience. His very simplicity
seemed to be guarded by his keenness.

Hadria chafed under his persistent effort to attract and interest her.
She gave a little inward shiver on finding that there was a vague,
unaccountable, and unpleasant fascination in the personality of the man.

It was not charm, it was nothing that inspired admiration; it rather
inspired curiosity and stirred the spirit of research, a spirit which
evidently animated himself. She felt that, in order to investigate the
workings of her mind and her heart, the Professor would have coolly
pursued the most ruthless psychical experiments, no matter at what cost
of anguish to herself. In the interests of science and humanity, the
learned Professor would certainly not hesitate to make one wretched
individual agonize.

His appeal to the intellect was stimulatingly strong; it was like a
stinging wind, that made one walk at a reckless pace, and brought the
blood tingling through every vein. That intellectual force could alone
explain the fact of his being counted by Professor Fortescue as a
friend. Even then it was a puzzling friendship. Could it be that to
Professor Fortescue, he shewed only his best side? His manner was more
respectful towards his colleague than towards other men, but even with
him he was irreverent in his heart, as towards mankind in general.

To Hadria he spoke of Professor Fortescue with enthusiasm--praising his
great power, his generosity, his genial qualities, and his uprightness;
then he laughed at him as a modern Don Quixote, and sneered at his
efforts to save animal suffering when he might have made a name that
would never be forgotten, if he pursued a more fruitful branch of
research.

Hadria remarked that Professor Theobald's last sentence had added the
crowning dignity to his eulogium.

He glanced at her, as if taking her measure.

"Fortescue," he called out, "I envy you your champion. You point, Mrs.
Temperley, to lofty altitudes. I, as a mere man, cannot pretend to scale
them."

Then he proceeded to bring down feminine loftiness with virile reason.

"In this world, where there are so many other evils to combat, one feels
that it is more rational to attack the more important first."

"Ah! there is nothing like an evil to bolster up an evil," cried
Professor Fortescue; "the argument never fails. Every abuse may find
shelter behind it. The slave trade, for instance; have we not white
slavery in our midst? How inconsistent to trouble about negroes till our
own people are truly free! Wife-beating? Sad; but then children are
often shamefully ill-used. Wait till _they_ are fully protected before
fussing about wives. Protect children? Foolish knight-errant, when you
ought to know that drunkenness is at the root of these crimes! Sweep
away _this_ curse, before thinking of the children. As for animals, how
can any rational person consider _their_ sufferings, when there are men,
women, and children with wrongs to be redressed?"

Professor Theobald laughed.

"My dear Fortescue, I knew you would have some ingenious excuse for your
amiable weaknesses."

"It is easier to find epithets than answers, Theobald," said the
Professor with a smile. "I confess I wonder at a man of your logical
power being taken in with this cheap argument, if argument it can be
called."

"It is my attachment to logic that makes me crave for consistency," said
Theobald, not over pleased at his friend's attack.

Professor Fortescue stared in surprise.

"But do you really mean to tell me that you think it logical to excuse
one abuse by pointing to another?"

"I think that while there are ill-used women and children, it is
certainly inconsistent to consider animals," said Theobald.

"It does not occur to you that the spirit in man that permits abuse of
power over animals is precisely the same devil-inspired spirit that
expresses itself in cruelty towards children. Ah," continued Professor
Fortescue, shaking his head, "then you really are one of the many who
help wrong to breed wrong, and suffering to foster suffering, all the
world over. It is you and those who reason as you reason, who give to
our miseries their terrible vitality. What arguments has evil ever given
to evil! What shelter and succour cruelty offers eternally to cruelty!"

"I can't attempt to combat this hobby of yours, Fortescue."

"Again a be-littling epithet in place of an argument! But I know of old
that on this subject your intellectual acumen deserts you, as it deserts
nearly all men. You sink suddenly to lower spiritual rank, and employ
reasoning that you would laugh to scorn in connection with every other
topic."

"You seem bent on crushing me," exclaimed Theobald. "And Mrs. Temperley
enjoys seeing me mangled. Talk about cruelty to animals! I call this
cold-blooded devilry! Mrs. Temperley, come to my rescue!"

"So long as other forms of cruelty can be instanced, Professor Theobald,
I don't see how, on your own shewing, you can expect any consistent
person to raise a finger to help you," Hadria returned. Theobald
laughed.

"But I consider myself too important and valuable to be made the subject
of this harsh treatment."

"That is for others to decide. If it affords us amusement to torment
you, and amusement benefits our nerves and digestion, how can you justly
object? We must consider the greatest good of the greatest number; and
we are twice as numerous as you."

"You are delicious!" he exclaimed. Mrs. Temperley's manner stiffened.

Acute as the Professor was in many directions, he did not appear to
notice the change.

His own manner was not above criticism.

"It is strange," said Lady Engleton, in speaking of him afterwards to
Hadria, "it is strange that his cleverness does not come to the rescue;
but so far from that, I think it leads him a wild dance over boggy
ground, like some will-o'-the-wisp, but for whose freakish allurements
the good man might have trodden a quiet and inoffensive way."

The only means of procuring the indispensable afternoon tea was to go on
to the Red House, which Mrs. Temperley proposed that they should all do.

"And is there no shaking your decision about the Priory, Professor
Theobald?" Lady Engleton asked as they descended the steps.

The Professor's quick glance sought Mrs. Temperley's before he answered.
"I confess to feeling less heroic this afternoon."

"Oh, good! We may perhaps have you for a neighbour after all."



CHAPTER XXIV.


Hadria tried to avoid Professor Theobald, but he was not easily avoided.
She frequently met him in her walks. The return of spring had tempted
her to resume her old habit of rising with the sun. But she found, what
she had feared, that her strength had departed, and she was fatigued
instead of invigorated, as of yore. She did not regard this loss in a
resigned spirit. Resignation was certainly not her strong point. The
vicar's wife and the doctor's wife and the rest of the neighbours
compared their woes and weariness over five o'clock tea, and these
appeared so many and so severe that Hadria felt half ashamed to count
hers at all. Yet why lower the altars of the sane goddess because her
shrine was deserted? Health was health, though all the women of England
were confirmed invalids. And with nothing less ought reasonable
creatures to be satisfied. As for taking enfeeblement as a natural
dispensation, she would as soon regard delirium tremens in that light.

She chafed fiercely against the loss of that blessed sense of well-being
and overflowing health, that she used to have, in the old days. She
resented the nerve-weariness, the fatigue that she was now more
conscious of than ever, with the coming of the spring. The impulse of
creative energy broke forth in her. The pearly mornings and the birds'
songs stirred every instinct of expression. The outburst did not receive
its usual check. The influences of disenchantment were counteracted by
Professor Fortescue's presence. His sympathy was marvellous in its
penetration, brimming the cold hollows of her spirit, as a flooded
river fills the tiniest chinks and corners about its arid banks. He
called forth all her natural buoyancy and her exulting sense of life,
which was precisely the element which charged her sadness with such a
fierce electric quality, when she became possessed by it, as a cloud by
storm.

Valeria too was roused by the season.

"What a parable it all is, as old as the earth, and as fresh, each new
year, as if a messenger-angel had come straight from heaven, in his
home-spun of young green, to tell us that all is well."

If Hadria met Professor Theobald in her rambles, she always cut short
her intended walk. She and Valeria with Professor Fortescue wandered
together, far and wide. They watched the daily budding greenery, the
gleams of daffodils among their sword-blades of leaves, the pushing of
sheaths and heads through the teeming soil, the bursts of sunshine and
the absurd childish little gushes of rain, skimming the green country
like a frown.

"Truly a time for joy and idleness."

"If only," said Hadria, when Professor Theobald thus grew enthusiastic
on the subject, "if only my cook had not given a month's notice."

She would not second his mood, be it what it might. Each day, as they
passed along the lanes, the pale green had spread, like fire, on the
hedges, caught the chestnuts, with their fat buds shining in the sun,
which already was releasing the close-packed leaflets.

Hadria (apparently out of sheer devilry, said Professor Theobald) kept
up a running commentary on the season, and on her hapless position,
bound to be off on the chase for a cook at this moment of festival. Nor
was this all. Crockery, pots and pans, clothes for the children, clothes
for herself, were urgently needed, and no experienced person, she
declared, could afford to regard the matter as simple because it was
trivial.

"One of the ghastliest mistakes in this trivial and laborious world."

Valeria thought that cooks had simply to be advertised for, and they
came.

"What _naïveté!_" exclaimed Hadria. "Helen was persuaded to cross the
seas from her Spartan home to set Troy ablaze, and tarnish her fair
fame, but it would take twenty sons of Priam to induce a damsel to come
over dry land to Craddock Dene, to cook our dinners and retain her
character."

"You would almost imply that women don't so very much care about their
characters," said Valeria.

"Oh, they do! but sometimes the dulness that an intelligent society has
ordained as the classic accompaniment to social smiles, gets the better
of a select few--Helen _par exemple_."

It frequently happened that Hadria and Miss Du Prel came across Lady
Engleton and her guests, in the Priory garden. From being accidental,
the meetings had become intentional.

"I like to fancy we are fugitives--like Boccaccio's merry company--from
the plague of our daily prose, to this garden of sweet poetry!" cried
Miss Du Prel.

They all kindled at the idea. Valeria made some fanciful laws that she
said were to govern the little realm. Everyone might express himself
freely, and all that he said would be held as sacred, as if it were in
confidence. To speak ill or slightingly of anyone, was forbidden. All
local and practical topics were to be dropped, as soon as the moss-grown
griffins who guarded the Garden of Forgetfulness were passed.

Hadria was incorrigibly flippant about the banishment of important local
subjects. She said that the kitchen-boiler was out of order, and yet she
had to take part in these highly-cultivated conversations and smile, as
she complained, with that kitchen-boiler gnawing at her vitals. She
claimed to be set on a level with the Spartan boy, if not above him.
Valeria might scoff, as those proverbially did who never felt a wound.
Hadria found a certain lack of tender feeling among the happy few who
had no such tragic burdens to sustain.

Not only were these prosaic subjects banished from within the cincture
of the gentle griffins, but also the suspicions, spites, petty
jealousies, vulgar curiosities, and all the indefinable little darts and
daggers that fly in the social air, destroying human sympathy and
good-will. Each mind could expand freely, no longer on the defensive
against the rain of small stabs. There grew up a delicate, and
chivalrous code among the little group who met within the griffins'
territory.

"It is not for us to say that, individually, we transcend the average of
educated mortals," said Professor Theobald, "but I do assert that
collectively we soar high above that depressing standard."

Professor Fortescue observed that whatever might be said about their own
little band, it was a strange fact that bodies of human beings were able
to produce, by union, a condition far above or far below the average of
their separate values. "There is something chemical and explosive in
human relationships," he said.

These meetings stood out as a unique experience in the memory of all who
took part in them. Chance had brought them to pass, and they refused to
answer to the call of a less learned magician.

Lady Engleton and Mrs. Temperley alternately sent tea and fruit to the
terrace, on the days of meeting, and there the little company would
spend the afternoon serenely, surrounded by the beauties of the garden
with its enticing avenues, its chaunting birds, its flushes of bloom,
and its rich delicious scents.

"Why do we, in the nineteenth century, starve ourselves of these
delicate joys?" cried Valeria. "Why do we so seldom leave our stupid
pre-occupations and open our souls to the sun, to the spring, to the
gentle invitations of gardens, to the charm of conversation? We seem to
know nothing of the serenities, the urbanities of life."

"We live too fast; we are too much troubled about outward things--cooks
and dressmakers, Mrs. Temperley," said Professor Theobald.

"Poor cooks and dressmakers!" murmured Professor Fortescue, "where are
_their_ serenities and urbanities?"

"I would not deprive any person of the good things of life," cried
Valeria; "but at present, it is only a few who can appreciate and
contribute to the delicate essence that I speak of. I don't think one
could expect it of one's cook, after all."

"One is mad to expect anything of those who have had no chance," said
Professor Fortescue. "That nevertheless we consistently do,--or what
amounts to the same thing: we plume ourselves on what chance has enabled
us to be and to achieve, as if between us and the less fortunate there
were some great difference of calibre and merit. Nine times in ten,
there is nothing between us but luck."

"Oh, dear, you _are_ democratic, Professor!" cried Lady Engleton.

"No; I am merely trying to be just."

"To be just you must apply your theory to men and women, as well as to
class and class," Valeria suggested.

"_Mon Dieu!_ but so I do; so I always have done, as soon as I was
intellectually short-coated."

"And would you excuse all our weaknesses on that ground?" asked Lady
Engleton, with a somewhat ingratiating upward gaze of her blue eyes.

"I would account for them as I would account for the weaknesses of my
own sex. As for excusing, the question of moral responsibility is too
involved to be decided off-hand."

The atmosphere of Griffin-land, as Professor Theobald called it, while
becoming to his character, made him a little recklessly frank at times.

He admitted that throughout his varied experience of life, he had found
flattery the most powerful weapon in a skilled hand, and that he had
never known it fail. He related instances of the signal success which
had followed its application with the trowel. He reminded his listeners
of Lord Beaconsfield's famous saying, and chuckled over the unfortunate
woman, "plain as a pike-staff," who had become his benefactress, in
consequence of a discreet allusion to the "power of beauty" and a
well-placed sigh.

"The woman must have been a fool!" said Joseph Fleming.

"By no means; she was of brilliant intellect. But praises of that were
tame to her; she knew her force, and was perhaps tired of the solitude
it induced." Professor Theobald laughed mightily at his own sarcasm.
"But when the whisper of 'beauty' came stealing to her ear (which was by
no means like a shell) it was surpassing sweet to her. I think there is
no yearning more intense than that of a clever woman for the triumphs of
mere beauty. She would give all her powers of intellect for the smallest
tribute to personal and feminine charm. What is your verdict, Mrs.
Temperley?"

Mrs. Temperley supposed that clever women had something of human nature
in them, and valued overmuch what they did not possess.

Professor Theobald had perhaps looked for an answer that would have
betrayed more of the speaker's secret feelings.

"It is the fashion, I know," he said, "to regard woman as an enigma.
Now, without professing any unusual acuteness, I believe that this is a
mistake. Woman is an enigma certainly, because she is human, but that
ends it. Her conditions have tended to cultivate in her the power of
dissimulation, and the histrionic quality, just as the peaceful ilex
learns to put forth thorns if you expose it to the attacks of devouring
cattle. It is this instinct to develop thorns in self-defence, and yet
to live a little behind the prickly outposts, that leads to our notion
of mystery in woman's nature. Let a man's subsistence and career be
subject to the same powers and chances as the success of a woman's life
now hangs on, and see whether he too does not become a histrionic
enigma."

Professor Fortescue observed that the clergy, at times, developed
qualities called feminine, because in some respects their conditions
resembled those of women.

Theobald assented enthusiastically to this view. He had himself entered
the church as a young fellow (let not Mrs. Temperley look so
inconsiderately astonished), and had left it on account of being unable
to conscientiously subscribe to its tenets.

"But not before I had acquired some severe training in that sort of
strategy which is incumbent upon women, in the conduct of their lives.
Whatever I might privately think or feel, my office required that I
should only express that which would be more or less grateful to my
hearers. (Is not this the woman's case, in almost every position in
life?) Even orthodoxy must trip it on tiptoe; there was always some
prejudice, some susceptibility to consider. What was frankness in others
was imprudence in me; other men's minds might roam at large; mine was
tethered, if not in its secret movements, at least in its utterance; and
it is a curious and somewhat sinister law of Nature, that perpetual
denial of utterance ends by killing the power or the feeling so held in
durance."

Hadria coloured.

"That experience and its effect upon my own nature, which has lasted to
this day," added Theobald, "served to increase my interest in the
fascinating study of character in its relation to environment."

"Ah!" exclaimed Hadria, "then _you_ don't believe in the independent
power of the human will?"

"Certainly not. To talk of character overcoming circumstance is to talk
of an effect without a cause. Yet this phrase is a mere commonplace in
our speech. A man no more overcomes his circumstance than oxygen
overcomes nitrogen when it combines with it to form the air we breathe.
If the nitrogen is present, the combination takes place; but if there is
no nitrogen to be had, all the oxygen in the world will not produce our
blessed atmosphere!"

Joseph Fleming caused a sort of anti-climax by mentioning simply that he
didn't know that any nitrogen was required in the atmosphere. One always
heard about the oxygen.

Professor Theobald remarked, with a chuckle, that this was one of the
uses of polite conversation; one picked up information by the wayside.
Joseph agreed that it was wonderfully instructive, if the speakers were
intelligent.

"That helps," said the Professor, tapping Joseph familiarly on the
shoulder.

"When shall we have our next meeting?" enquired Lady Engleton, when the
moment came for parting.

"The sooner the better," said Valeria. "English skies have Puritan
moods, and we may as well profit by their present jocund temper. I never
saw a bluer sky in all Italy."

"I certainly shall not be absent from the next meeting," announced
Theobald, with a glance at Hadria.

"Nor I," said Lady Engleton. "Such opportunities come none too often."

"I," Hadria observed, "shall be cook-hunting."

Professor Theobald's jaw shut with a snap, and he turned and left the
group almost rudely.



CHAPTER XXV.


Hadria thought that Professor Theobald had not spoken at random, when he
said that the sweetest tribute a woman can receive is that paid to her
personal charm. This unwilling admission was dragged out of her by the
sight of Valeria Du Prel, as the central figure of an admiring group, in
the large drawing-room at Craddock Place.

She was looking handsome and animated, her white hair drawn proudly off
her brow, and placed as if with intention beside the silken curtains,
whose tint of misty pale green was so becoming to her beauty.

Valeria was holding her little court, and thoroughly enjoying the
admiration.

"If we have had to live by our looks for all these centuries, surely the
instinct that Professor Theobald thinks himself so penetrating to have
discovered in clever women, is accounted for simply enough by heredity,"
Hadria said to herself, resentfully.

Professor Theobald was bending over Miss Du Prel with an air of
devotion. Hadria wished that she would not take his compliments so
smilingly. Valeria would not be proof against his flattery. She kindled
with a child's frankness at praise. It stung Hadria to think of her
friend being carelessly classed by the Professor among women whose
weakness he understood and could play upon. He would imagine that he had
discovered the mystery of the sun, because he had observed a spot upon
it, not understanding the nature of the very spot. Granted that a little
salve to one's battered and scarified self-love was soft and grateful,
what did that prove of the woman who welcomed it, beyond a human
craving to keep the inner picture of herself as bright and fine as might
be? The man who, out of contempt or irreverence, set a bait for the
universal appetite proved himself, rather than his intended victim, of
meagre quality. Valeria complimented him generously by supposing him
sincere.

Occasional bursts of laughter came from her court. Professor Theobald
looked furtively round, as if seeking some one, or watching the effect
of his conduct on Mrs. Temperley.

Could he be trying to make her jealous of Valeria?

Hadria gave a sudden little laugh while Lord Engleton--a shy, rather
taciturn man--was shewing her his wife's last picture. Hadria had to
explain the apparent discourtesy as best she could.

The picture was of English meadows at sunset.

"They are the meadows you see from your windows," said Lord Engleton.
"That village is Masham, with the spire shewing through the trees. I
daresay you know the view pretty well."

"I doubt," she answered, with the instinct of extravagance that annoyed
Hubert, "I doubt if I know anything else."

Lord Engleton brought a portfolio full of sketches for her to see.

"Lady Engleton has been busy."

As Hadria laid down the last sketch, her eyes wandered round the
softly-lighted, dimly beautiful room, and suddenly she was seized with a
swift, reasonless, overpowering sense of happiness that she felt to be
atmospheric and parenthetical in character, but all the more keen for
that reason, while it lasted. The second black inexorable semicircle was
ready to enclose the little moment, but its contents had the condensed
character of that which stands within limits, and reminded her, with a
little sting, as of spur to horse, of her sharp, terrible aptitude for
delight and her hunger for it. Why not, why not? What pinched,
ungenerous philosophy was it that insisted on voluntary starvation? One
saw its offspring in the troops of thin white souls that hurry, like
ghosts, down the avenues of Life.

Again Professor Theobald's stealthy glance was directed towards Mrs.
Temperley.

"He is as determined to analyse me as if I were a chemical compound,"
she said to herself.

"Perhaps we may as well join the group," suggested Lord Engleton.

It opened to admit the new comers, disclosing Miss Du Prel, in a gown of
pale amber brocade, enthroned upon a straight-backed antique sofa. The
exquisiteness of the surroundings which Lady Engleton had a peculiar
gift in arranging, the mellow candle-light, the flowers and colours,
seem to have satisfied in Valeria an inborn love of splendour that often
opened hungry and unsatisfied jaws.

She had never looked so brilliant or so handsome.

Professor Theobald's face cleared. He explained to Mrs. Temperley that
they had been discussing the complexity of human character, and had come
to the conclusion that it was impossible to really understand even the
simplest man or woman alive. Professor Theobald said that it was a
dispensation of Providence which intended the human race for social
life. Lady Engleton upbraided the author of the cynical utterance.

"Which of us can dare to face his own basest self?" the culprit
demanded. "If any one is so bold, I fear I must accuse him (or even her)
of lack of self-knowledge rather than give praise for spotlessness."

"Oh, I don't believe all these dreadful things about my fellows!" cried
Miss Du Prel, flinging up her fine head defiantly; "one is likely to
find in them more or less what one expects. It's the same everywhere. If
you go seeking mole-hills and worms, and put nose to ground on the scent
for carrion, you will find them all, with the range of snow-capped Alps
in full view, and the infinite of blue above your blind head!"

Hadria, in justice, could not refuse to acknowledge that Professor
Theobald was open-minded.

"True," he said, "it is dangerous to seek for evil, unless you naturally
love it, and then----"

"You are past praying for," said Professor Fortescue.

"Or at least you never pray," added Hadria.

Both Professors looked at her, each with an expression of enquiry. It
was difficult to understand from exactly what sources of experience or
intuition the singular remark could have sprung.

The conversation took a slight swerve.

Professor Theobald contended that all our fond distinctions of vice and
virtue, right and wrong, were mere praise and blame of conditions and
events.

"We like to fancy the qualities of character inherent, while really they
are laid on by slow degrees, like paint, and we name our acquaintance by
the colour of his last coat."

This view offended Miss Du Prel. Joseph Fleming and Lord Engleton
rallied round her. Hubert Temperley joined them. Man, the sublime, the
summit of the creation, the end and object of the long and painful
processes of nature; sin-spotted perhaps, weak and stumbling, but still
the masterpiece of the centuries--was this great and mysterious creature
to be thought of irreverently as a mere plain surface for _paint_? Only
consider it! Professor Theobald's head went down between his shoulders
as he laughed.

"The sublime creature would not look well _un_painted, believe me."

"He dare not appear in that plight even to himself, if Theobald be right
in what he stated just now," said Professor Fortescue.

"Life to a character is like varnish to wood," asserted Miss Du Prel;
"it brings out the grain."

"Ah!" cried Professor Theobald, "Then _you_ insist on varnish, I on
paint."

"There is a difference."

"And it affects your respective views throughout," added Professor
Fortescue, "for if the paint theory be correct, then it is true that to
know one's fellows is impossible, you can only know the upper coat;
whereas if the truth lies in varnish, the substance of the nature is
revealed to you frankly, if you have eyes to trace the delicacies of the
markings, which tell the secrets of sap and fibre, of impetus and check:
all the inner marvels of life and growth that go forward in that most
botanic thing, the human soul."

"Professor Fortescue is eloquent, but he makes one feel distressingly
vegetable," said Temperley.

"Oh! not unless one has a human soul," Lady Engleton reassured him.

"Am I to understand that you would deprive me of mine?" he asked, with a
courtly bow.

"Not at all; souls are private property, or ought to be."

"I wish one could persuade the majority of that!" cried Professor
Fortescue.

"Impossible," said Theobald. "The chief interest of man is the condition
of his neighbour's soul."

"Could he not be induced to look after his own?" Hadria demanded.

"All fun would be over," said Professor Fortescue.

"I wish one could have an Act of Parliament, obliging every man to leave
his neighbour's soul in peace."

"You would sap the very source of human happiness and enterprise,"
Professor Fortescue asserted, fantastically.

"I should be glad if I could think the average human being had the
energy to look after _any_ business; even other people's!" cried Lady
Engleton.

"I believe that, as a matter of fact, the soul is a hibernating
creature," said Theobald, with a chuckle.

"It certainly has its drowsy winters," observed Hadria.

"Ah! but its spring awakenings!" cried Miss Du Prel.

The chime of a clock startled them with its accusation of lingering too
long. The hostess remonstrated at the breaking up the party. Why should
they hurry away?

"The time when we could lay claim to have 'hurried' has long since
passed, Lady Engleton," said Hubert, "we can only plead forgiveness by
blaming you for making us too happy."

Professor Theobald went to the window. "What splendid moonlight! Lady
Engleton, don't you feel tempted to walk with your guests to the end of
the avenue?"

The idea was eagerly adopted, and the whole party sallied forth together
into the brilliant night. Long black shadows of their forms stalked on
before them, as if, said Valeria, they were messengers from Hades come
to conduct each his victim to the abode of the shades.

Professor Theobald shuddered.

"I hate that dreadful chill idea of the Greeks. I have much too strong a
hold on this pleasant earth to relish the notion of that gloomy
under-world yet a while. What do you say, Mrs. Temperley?"

She made some intentionally trite answer.

Professor Theobald's quick eyes discovered a glow-worm, and he shouted
to the ladies to come and see the little green lantern of the spring.
The mysterious light was bright enough to irradiate the blades of grass
around it, and even to cast a wizard-like gleam on the strange face of
the Professor as he bent down close to the ground.

"Fancy being a lamp to oneself!" cried Lady Engleton.

"It's as much as most of us can do to be a lamp to others," commented
Hadria.

"Some one has compared the glow-worm's light to Hero's, when she waited,
with trimmed lamp, for her Leander," said Professor Theobald. "Look
here, Mr. Fleming, if you stoop down just here, you will be able to see
the little animal." The Professor resigned his place to him. When Joseph
rose from his somewhat indifferent survey of the insect, Professor
Theobald had established himself at Mrs. Temperley's right hand, and the
rest of the party were left behind.

"Talking of Greek ideas," said the Professor, "that wonderful people
perceived more clearly than we Christians have ever done, with all our
science, the natural forces of Nature. What we call superstitions were
really great scientific intuitions or prophecies. Of course I should not
dare to speak in this frank fashion to the good people of Craddock Dene,
but to _you_ I need not be on my guard."

"I appreciate your confidence."

"Ah, now, Mrs. Temperley, you are unkind. It is of no use for you to try
to persuade me that you are _of_ as well as in the village of Craddock
Dene."

"I have never set out upon that task."

"Again I offend!"

Hadria, dropping the subject, enquired whether the Professor was well
acquainted with this part of the country.

He knew it by heart. A charming country; warm, luxuriant, picturesque,
the pick of England to his mind. What could beat its woodlands, its
hills, its relics of the old world, its barns and churches and smiling
villages?

"Then it is not only Tudor mansions that attract you?" Hadria could not
resist asking.

Tudor mansions? There was no cottage so humble, provided it were
picturesque, that did not charm him.

"Really!" exclaimed Hadria, with a faintly emphasized surprise.

"Have I put my luckless foot into it again?"

"May I not be impressed by magnanimity?"

The Professor's mouth shut sharply.

"Mrs. Temperley is pleased to deride me. Craddock Dene must shrivel
under destroying blasts like these."

"Not so much as one might think."

The sound of their steps on the broad avenue smote sharply on their
ears. Their absurd-looking shadows stretched always in front of them. "A
splendid night," Hadria observed, to break the silence.

"Glorious!" returned her companion, as if waking from thought.

"Spring is our best season here, the time of blossoming."

"I am horribly tempted to take root in the lovely district, in the hope
of also blossoming. Can you imagine me a sort of patriarchal apple-tree
laden with snowy blooms?"

"You somewhat burden my imagination."

"I have had to work hard all my life, until an unexpected legacy from an
admirable distant relation put me at the end of a longer tether. I still
have to work, but less hard. I have always tried not to ossify, keeping
in view a possible serene time to come, when I might put forth blossoms
in this vernal fashion that tempts my middle-aged fancy. And where could
I choose a sweeter spot for these late efforts to be young and green,
than here in this perfect south of England home?"

"It seems large," said Hadria.

Professor Theobald grinned. "You don't appear to take a keen interest in
my blossoming."

Why in heaven's name _should_ she?

"I cannot naturally expect it," Professor Theobald continued, reading
her silence aright, "but I should be really obliged by your counsel on
this matter. You know the village; you know from your own experience
whether it is a place to live in always. Advise me, I beg."

"Really, Professor Theobald, it is impossible for me to advise you in a
matter so entirely depending on your own taste and your own affairs."

"You can at least tell me how you like the district yourself; whether it
satisfies you as to society, easy access of town, influence on the mind
and the spirits, and so forth."

"We are considered well off as to society. There are a good many
neighbours within a radius of five miles; the trains to town are not all
that could be wished. There are only two in the day worth calling such."

"And as to its effect upon the general aspect of life; is it rousing,
cheering, inspiring, invigorating?"

Hadria gave a little laugh. "I must refer you to other inhabitants on
this point. I think Lady Engleton finds it fairly inspiring."

"Lady Engleton is not Mrs. Temperley."

"I doubt not that same speech has already done duty as a compliment to
Lady Engleton."

"You are incorrigible!"

"I wish you would make it when she is present," said Hadria, "and see us
both bow!" The Professor laughed delightedly.

"I don't know what social treasures may be buried within your radius of
five miles, but the mines need not be worked. An inhabitant of the
Priory would not need them. Mrs. Temperley is a society in herself."

"An inhabitant of the Priory might risk disappointment, in supposing
that Mrs. Temperley had nothing else to do than to supply her neighbours
with society."

The big jaw closed, with a snap.

"I don't think, on the whole, that I will take the Priory," he said,
after a considerable pause; "it is, as you say, large."

Mrs. Temperley made no comment.

"I suppose I should be an unwelcome neighbour," he said, with a sigh.

"I fear any polite assurance, after such a challenge, would be a poor
compliment. As for entreating you to take the Priory, I really do not
feel equal to the responsibility."

"I accept in all humility," said the Professor, as he opened the gate of
the Red House, "a deserved reproof."



CHAPTER XXVI.


"A singular character!" said Professor Theobald.

"There is a lot of good in her," Lady Engleton asserted.

Lord Engleton observed that people were always speaking ill of Mrs.
Temperley, but he never could see that she was worse than her
neighbours. She was cleverer; that might be her offence.

Madame Bertaux observed in her short, decisive way that Craddock Dene
might have settled down with Mrs. Temperley peaceably enough, if it
hadn't been for her action about the schoolmistress's child.

"Yes; that has offended everybody," said Lady Engleton.

"What action was that?" asked Theobald, turning slowly towards his
hostess.

"Oh, haven't you heard? That really speaks well for this house. You
can't accuse us of gossip."

Lady Engleton related the incident. "By the way, you must remember that
poor woman, Professor. Don't you know you were here at the school-feast
that we gave one summer in the park, when all the children came and had
tea and games, and you helped us so amiably to look after them?"

The Professor remembered the occasion perfectly.

"And don't you recollect a very pretty, rather timid, fair-haired woman
who brought the children? We all used to admire her. She was a
particularly graceful, refined-looking creature. She had read a great
deal and was quite cultivated. I often used to think she must feel very
solitary at Craddock, with not a soul to sympathize with her tastes.
Mr. and Mrs. Walker used to preach to her, poor soul, reproving her love
of reading, which took her thoughts away from her duties and her
sphere."

Madame Bertaux snorted significantly. Lady Engleton had remarked a
strange, sad look in Ellen Jervis's eyes, and owned to having done her
best to circumvent the respected pastor and his wife, by lending her
books occasionally, and encouraging her to think her own thoughts, and
get what happiness she could out of her communings with larger spirits
than she was likely to find in Craddock. Of course Mrs. Walker now gave
Lady Engleton to understand that she was partly responsible for the poor
woman's misfortune. She attributed it to Ellen's having had "all sorts
of ideas in her head!"

"I admit that if _not_ having all sorts of ideas in one's head is a
safeguard, the unimpeachable virtue of a district is amply accounted
for."

Professor Theobald chuckled. He enquired if Lady Engleton knew Mrs.
Temperley's motive in adopting the child.

"Oh, partly real kindness; but I think, between ourselves, that Mrs.
Temperley likes to be a little eccentric. Most people have the instinct
to go with the crowd. Hadria Temperley has the opposite fault. She loves
to run counter to it, even when it is pursuing a harmless course."

Some weeks had now passed since the arrival of the two Professors. The
meetings in the Priory garden had been frequent. They had affected for
the better Professor Theobald's manner. Valeria's laws had curbed the
worst side of him, or prevented it from shewing itself so freely. He
felt the atmosphere of the little society, and acknowledged that it was
"taming the savage beast." As for his intellect it took to blazing, as
if, he said, without false modesty, a torch had been placed in pure
oxygen.

"My brain takes fire here and flames. I should make a very creditable
beacon if the burning of brains and the burning of faggots were only of
equal value."

The little feud between him and Mrs. Temperley had been patched up. She
felt that she had been rude to him, on one occasion at any rate, and
desired to make amends. He had become more cautious in his conduct
towards her.

During this period of the Renaissance, as Hadria afterwards called the
short-lived epoch, little Martha was visited frequently. Her protectress
had expected to have to do battle with hereditary weakness on account of
her mother's sufferings, but the child shewed no signs of this. Either
the common belief that mental trouble in the mother is reflected in the
child, was unfounded, or the evil could be overcome by the simple
beneficence of pure air, good food, and warm clothing.

Hadria had begun to feel a more personal interest in her charge. She had
taken it under her care of her own choice, without the pressure of any
social law or sentiment, and in these circumstances of freedom, its
helplessness appealed to her protective instincts. She felt the
relationship to be a true one, in contradistinction to the more usual
form of protectorate of woman to child.

"There is nothing in it that gives offence to one's dignity as a human
being," she asserted, "which is more than can be said of the ordinary
relation, especially if it be legal."

She was issuing from little Martha's cottage on one splendid morning,
when she saw Professor Theobald coming up the road from Craddock Dene.
He caught sight of Hadria, hesitated, coloured, glanced furtively up the
road, and then, seeing he was observed, came forward, raising his cap.

"You can't imagine what a charming picture you make; the English cottage
creeper-covered and smiling; the nurse and child at the threshold
equally smiling, yourself a very emblem of spring in your fresh gown,
and a domestic tabby to complete the scene."

"I wish I could come and see it," said Hadria. She was waving a twig of
lavender, and little Martha was making grabs at it, and laughing her
gurgling laugh of babyish glee. Professor Theobald stood in the road
facing up hill towards Craddock, whose church tower was visible from
here, just peeping through the spring foliage of the vicarage garden. He
only now and again looked round at the picture that he professed to
admire.

"Do you want to see a really pretty child, Professor Theobald? Because
if so, come here."

He hesitated, and a wave of dark colour flooded his face up to the roots
of his close-clipped hair.

He paused a moment, and then bent down to open the little gate. His
stalwart figure, in the diminutive enclosure, reduced it to the
appearance of a doll's garden.

"Step carefully or you will crush the young _ménage_," Hadria advised.
The rosy-cheeked nurse looked with proud expectancy at the face of the
strange gentleman, to note the admiration that he could not but feel.

His lips were set.

The Professor evidently knew his duty and proceeded to admire with due
energy. Little Martha shrank away a little from the bearded face, and
her lower lip worked threateningly, but the perilous moment was staved
over by means of the Professor's watch, hastily claimed by Hannah, who
dispensed with ceremony in the emergency.

Martha's eyes opened wide, and the little hands came out to grasp the
treasure. Hadria stood and laughed at the sight of the gigantic
Professor, helplessly tethered by his own chain to the imperious baby,
in whose fingers the watch was tightly clasped. The child was in high
delight at the loquacious new toy--so superior to foolish fluffy rabbits
that could not tick to save their skins. Martha had no notion of
relinquishing her hold, so they need not tug in that feeble way; if they
pulled too hard, she would yell!

She evidently meant business, said her captive. So long as they left her
the watch, they might do as they pleased; she was perfectly indifferent
to the accidental human accompaniments of the new treasure, but on that
one point she was firm. She proceeded to stuff the watch into her mouth
as far as it would go. The Professor was dismayed.

"It's all right," Hadria reassured him. "You have hold of the chain."

"Did you entice me into this truly ridiculous position in order to laugh
at me?" enquired the prisoner.

"I would not laugh at you for the world."

"Really this young person has the most astonishing grip! How long does
her fancy generally remain faithful to a new toy?"

"Well--I hope you are not pressed for time," said Hadria maliciously.

The Professor groaned, and struggled in the toils.

"Come, little one, open the fingers. Oh no, no, we mustn't cry." Martha
kept her features ready for that purpose at a moment's notice, should
any nonsense be attempted.

The victim looked round miserably.

"Is there nothing that will set me free from these tender moorings?"

Hadria shook her head and laughed. "You are chained by the most
inflexible of all chains," she said: "your own compunction."

"Oh, you little tyrant!" exclaimed the Professor, shaking his fist in
the baby's face, at which she laughed a taunting and triumphant laugh.
Then, once more, the object of dispute went into her mouth. Martha
gurgled with joy.

"What _am_ I to do?" cried her victim helplessly.

"Nothing. She has you securely because you fear to hurt her."

"Little imp! Come now, let me go please. Oh, _please_, Miss Baby--your
Majesty: will nothing soften you? She is beginning early to take
advantage of the chivalry of the stronger sex, and I doubt not she will
know how to pursue her opportunity later on."

"Oh! is _that_ your parable? Into my head came quite a different
one--_à propos_ of what we were talking of yesterday in Griffin-land."

"Ah, the eternal feminine!" cried the Professor. "Yes, you were very
brilliant, Mrs. Temperley."

"You now stand for an excellent type of woman, Professor: strong, but
chained."

"Oh, thank you! (Infant, I implore!)"

"The baby ably impersonates Society with all its sentiments and laws,
written and unwritten."

"Ah!--and my impounded property?"

"Woman's life and freedom."

"Ingenious! And the chain? (Oh, inexorable babe, have mercy on the
sufferings of imprisoned vigour!)"

"Her affections, her pity, her compunction, which forbid her to wrench
away her rightful property, because ignorant and tender hands are
grasping it. The analogy is a little mixed, but no matter."

"I should enjoy the intellectual treat that is spread before me better,
in happier circumstances, Mrs. Temperley."

"Apply your remark to your prototype--intelligently," she added.

"My intelligence is rapidly waning; I am benumbed. I fail to follow the
intricacies of analogy, in this constrained position."

"Ah, so does she!"

"Oh, pitiless cherub, my muscles ache with this monotony."

"And hers," said Hadria.

"Come, come, life is passing; I have but one; relax these fetters, or I
die."

Martha frowned and fretted. She even looked shocked, according to
Hadria, who stood by laughing. The baby, she pointed out, failed to
understand how her captive could so far forget himself as to desire to
regain his liberty.

"She reminds you, sternly, that this is your proper sphere."

"Perdition!" he exclaimed.

"As a general rule," she assented.

The Professor laughed, and said he was tired of being a Type.

At length a little gentle force had to be used, in spite of furious
resentment on the part of the baby. A more injured and ill-treated
mortal could not have been imagined. She set up a heaven-piercing wail,
evidently overcome with indignation and surprise at the cruel treatment
that she had received. What horrid selfishness to take oneself and one's
property away, when an engaging innocent enjoys grasping it and stuffing
it into its mouth!

"Don't you feel a guilty monster?" Hadria enquired, as the lament of the
offended infant followed them up the road.

"I feel as if I were slinking off after a murder!" he exclaimed
ruefully. "I wonder if we oughtn't to go back and try again to soothe
the child." He paused irresolutely.

Hadria laughed. "You _do_ make a lovely allegory!" she exclaimed. "This
sense of guilt, this disposition to go back--this attitude of
apology--it is speaking, inimitable!"

"But meanwhile that wretched child is shrieking itself into a fit!"
cried the allegory, with the air of a repentant criminal.

"Whenever you open your mouth, out falls a symbol," exclaimed Hadria.
"Be calm; Hannah will soon comfort her, and it is truer kindness not to
remind her again of her grievance, poor little soul. But we will go back
if you like (you are indeed a true woman!), and you can say you are
sorry you made so free with your own possessions, and you wish you had
done your duty better, and are eager to return and let Her Majesty hold
you captive. Your prototype always does, you know, and she is nearly
always pardoned, on condition that she never does anything of that kind
again."

Professor Theobald seemed too much concerned about the child, who was
still wailing, to pay much attention to any other topic. He turned to
retrace his steps.

"I think you make a mistake," said Hadria. "As soon as she sees you she
will want the watch, and then you will be placed between the awful
alternatives of voluntarily surrendering your freedom, and heartlessly
refusing to present yourself to her as a big plaything. In one respect
you have not yet achieved a thorough fidelity to your model; you don't
seem to enjoy sacrifice for its own sake. That will come with practice."

"I wish that child would leave off crying."

Hadria stopped in the road to laugh at the perturbed Professor.

"She will presently. That is only a cry of anger, not of distress. I
would not leave her, if it were. Yes; your vocation is clearly
allegorical. Feminine to your finger-tips, in this truly feminine
predicament. We are all--_nous autres femmes_--like the hero of the
_White Ship_, who is described by some delightful boy in an examination
paper as being 'melted by the shrieks of a near relation.'"

The Professor stumbled over a stone in the road, and looked back at it
vindictively.

"The near relation does so want to hold one's watch and to stuff it into
his mouth, and he shrieks so movingly if one brutally removes one's
property and person!"

"Alas! I am still a little bewildered by my late captivity. I can't see
the bearings of things."

"As allegory, you are as perfect as ever."

"I seem to be a sort of involuntary _Pilgrim's Progress_!" he exclaimed.

"Ah, indeed!" cried Hadria, "and how the symbolism of that old allegory
would fit this subject!"

"With me for wretched hero, I suppose!"

"Your archetype;--with a little adaptation--yes, and wonderfully
little--the Slough of Despond, Doubting Castle, the Valley of the Shadow
of Death--they all fall into place. Ah! the modern _Pilgrim's Progress_
would read strangely and significantly with woman as the pilgrim! But
the end--that would be a difficulty."

"One for your sex to solve," said the Professor.

When they arrived at the cottage the wails were dying away, and Hadria
advised that they should leave well alone. So the baby's victim somewhat
reluctantly retired.

"After all, you see, if one has strength of purpose, one _can_ achieve
freedom," he observed.

"At the expense of the affections, it would seem," said Hadria.

The walk was pursued towards Craddock. Hadria said she had to ask Dodge,
the old gravedigger, if he could give a few days' work in the garden at
the Red House.

The Professor was walking for walking's sake.

"She is a pretty child, isn't she?" said Hadria.

"Very; an attractive mite; but she has a will of her own."

"Yes; I confess I have a moment of exultation when that child sets up
one of her passionate screams--the thrilling shriek of a near relation!"

"Really, why?"

"She has to make her way in the world. She must not be too meek. Her
mother was a victim to the general selfishness and stupidity. She was
too gentle and obedient; too apt to defer to others, to be able to
protect herself. I want her child to be strengthened for the battle by a
good long draught of happiness, and to be armed with that stoutest of
all weapons--perfect health."

"You are very wise, Mrs. Temperley," murmured the Professor.

"_Mon Dieu!_ if one had always to judge for others and never for
oneself, what Solons we should all be!"

"I hear that you have taken the child under your protection. She may
think herself fortunate. It is an act of real charity."

Hadria winced. "I fear not. I have grown very much attached to Martha
now, poor little soul; but when I decided to adopt her, I was in a state
of red-hot fury."

"Against whom, may I ask?"

"Against the child's father," Hadria replied shortly.



CHAPTER XXVII.


"Yes, mum, I see un go up to the churchyard. He's tidyin' up the place a
bit for the weddin'."

"The wedding?" repeated Hadria vaguely. Mrs. Gullick looked at her as at
one whose claims to complete possession of the faculties there seems sad
reason to doubt.

"Oh, Miss Jordan's, yes. When is it?"

"Why, it's this mornin', ma'am!" cried Mrs. Gullick.

"Dear me, of course. I _thought_ the village looked rather excited."

People were all standing at their doors, and the children had gathered
at the gate of the church, with hands full of flowers. The wedding party
was, it appeared, to arrive almost immediately. The children set up a
shout as the first carriage was heard coming up the hill.

The bride appeared to be a popular character in Craddock. "Dear, dear,
she will be missed, she will, she was a real lady, she was; did her duty
too to rich _and_ poor."

The Professor asked his companion if she remarked that the amiable lady
was spoken of universally in the past tense, as some one who had passed
from the light of day.

Hadria laughed. "Whenever I am in a cynical mood I come to Craddock and
talk to the villagers."

Dodge was found resting on a broom-handle, with a flower in his
button-hole. Marion Jordan had supplied him with port wine when he was
"took bad" in the winter. Dodge found it of excellent quality. He
approved of the institution of landed property, and had a genuine regard
for the fair-haired, sweet-voiced girl who used to come in her pony-cart
to distribute her bounty to the villagers. Her class in the
Sunday-school, as he remarked, was always the best behaved.

The new schoolmistress, a sour and uncompromising looking person, had
issued from her cottage in her Sunday best to see the ceremony.

"That's where little Martha's mother used to live," said Hadria, "and
that is where she died."

"Indeed, yes. I think Mr. Walker pointed it out to me."

"Ah! of course, and then you know the village of old."

"'Ere they comes!" announced a chorus of children's voices, as the first
carriage drove up. The excitement was breathless. The occupants alighted
and made their way to the church. After that, the carriages came in
fairly quick succession. The bridegroom was criticised freely by the
crowd. They did not think him worthy of his bride. "They du say as it
was a made up thing," Dodge observed, "and that it wasn't _'im_ as she'd
like to go up to the altar with."

"Well, _I_ don't sort o' take to 'im neither," Mrs. Gullick observed,
sympathizing with the bride's feeling. "I do hope he'll be kind to the
pore young thing; that I do."

"She wouldn't never give it 'im back; she's that good," another woman
remarked.

"Who's the gentleman as she had set her heart on?" a romantic young
woman enquired.

"Oh, it's only wot they say," said Dodge judicially; "it's no use a
listening to all one hears--not by a long way."

"You 'ad it from Lord Engleton's coachman, didn't you?" prompted Mrs.
Gullick.

"Which he heard it said by the gardener at Mr. Jordan's, as Miss Marion
was always about with Mr. Fleming."

The murmur of interest at this announcement was drowned by the sound of
carriage wheels. The bride had come.

"See the ideal and ethereal being whom you have been so faithfully
impersonating all the afternoon!" exclaimed Hadria.

A fair, faint, admirably gentle creature, floating in a mist of tulle,
was wafted out of the brougham, the spring sunshine burnishing the pale
hair, and flashing a dazzling sword-like glance on the string of
diamonds at her throat.

It seemed too emphatic, too keen a greeting for the faint ambiguous
being, about to put the teaching of her girlhood, and her pretty hopes
and faiths, to the test.

She gave a start and shiver as she stepped out into the brilliant day,
turning with a half-scared look to the crowd of faces. It seemed almost
as if she were seeking help in a blind, bewildered fashion.

Hadria had an impulse. "What would she think if I were to run down those
steps and drag her away?" Professor Theobald shook his head.

Within the church, the procession moved up the aisle, to the sound of
the organ. Hadria compared the whole ceremony to some savage rite of
sacrifice: priest and people with the victim, chosen for her fairness,
decked as is meet for victims.

"But she may be happy," Lady Engleton suggested when the ceremony was
over, and the organ was pealing out the wedding march.

"That does not prevent the analogy. What a magnificent hideous thing the
marriage-service is! and how exactly it expresses the extraordinary
mixture of the noble and the brutal that is characteristic of our
notions about these things!"

"The bride is certainly allowed to remain under no misapprehension as to
her function," Lady Engleton admitted, with a laugh that grated on
Hadria. Professor Theobald had fallen behind with Joseph Fleming, who
had turned up among the crowd.

"But, after all, why mince matters?"

"Why indeed?" said Hadria. Lady Engleton seemed to have expected
dissent.

"I think," she said, "that we are getting too squeamish nowadays as to
speech. Women are so frightened to call a spade a spade."

"It is the _spade_ that is ugly, not the name."

"But, my dear?"

"Oh, it is not a question of squeamishness, it is the insult of the
thing. One insult after another, and everyone stands round, looking
respectable."

Lady Engleton laughed and said something to lead her companion on.

She liked to listen to Mrs. Temperley when she was thoroughly roused.

"It is the hideous mixture of the delicately civilized with the brutally
savage that makes one sick. A frankly barbarous ceremony, where there
was no pretence of refinement and propriety and so forth, would be
infinitely less revolting."

"Which your language is plain," observed Lady Engleton, much amused.

"I hope so. Didn't you see how it all hurt that poor girl? One of her
training too--suspended in mid air--not an earthward glance. You know
Mrs. Jordan's views on the education of girls. Poor girls. They are
morally skinned, in such a way as to make contact with Fact a veritable
torture, and then suddenly they are sent forth defenceless into Life to
be literally curry-combed."

"They adjust themselves," said Lady Engleton.

"Adjust themselves!" Hadria vindictively flicked off the head of a
dandelion with her parasol. "They awake to find they have been living in
a Fool's Paradise--a little upholstered corner with stained glass
windows and rose-coloured light. They find that suddenly they are
expected to place in the centre of their life everything that up to that
moment they have scarcely been allowed even to know about; they find
that they must obediently veer round, with the amiable adaptability of a
well-oiled weather-cock. Every instinct, every prejudice must be thrown
over. All the effects of their training must be instantly overcome. And
all this with perfect subjection and cheerfulness, on pain of moral
avalanches and deluges, and heaven knows what convulsions of
conventional nature!"

"There certainly is some curious incongruity in our training," Lady
Engleton admitted.

"Incongruity! Think what it means for a girl to have been taught to
connect the idea of something low and evil with that which nevertheless
is to lie at the foundation of all her after life. That is what it
amounts to, and people complain that women are not logical."

Lady Engleton laughed. "Fortunately things work better in practice than
might be expected, judging them in the abstract. How bashful Professor
Theobald seems suddenly to have become! Why doesn't he join us, I
wonder? However, so much the better; I do like to hear you talk heresy."

"I do more than talk it, I _mean_ it," said Hadria. "I fail utterly to
get at the popular point of view."

"But you misrepresent it--there _are_ modifying facts in the case."

"I don't see them. Girls are told: 'So and so is not a nice thing for
you to talk about. Wait, however, until the proper signal is given, and
then woe betide you if you don't cheerfully accept it as your bounden
duty.' If _that_ does not enjoin abject slavishness and deliberate
immorality of the most cold-blooded kind, I simply don't know what
does."

Lady Engleton seemed to ponder somewhat seriously, as she stood looking
down at the grave beside her.

"How we ever came to have tied ourselves into such an extraordinary
mental knot is what bewilders me," Hadria continued, "and still more,
why it is that we all, by common consent, go on acting and talking as if
the tangled skein ran smooth and straight through one's fingers."

"Chiefly, perhaps, because women won't speak out," suggested Lady
Engleton.

"They have been so drilled," cried Hadria, "so gagged, so deafened, by
'the shrieks of near relations.'"

Lady Engleton was asking for an explanation, when the wedding-bells
began to clang out from the belfry, merry and roughly rejoicing.
"Tom-boy bells," Hadria called them. They seemed to tumble over one
another and pick themselves up again, and give chase, and roll over in a
heap, and then peal firmly out once more, laughing at their romping
digression, joyous and thoughtless and simple-hearted. "Evidently
without the least notion what they are celebrating," said Hadria.

The bride came out of church on her husband's arm. The children set up a
shout. Hadria and Lady Engleton, and, farther back, Professor Theobald
and Joseph Fleming, could see the two figures pass down to the carriage
and hear the carriage drive away. Hadria drew a long breath.

"I am afraid she was in love with Joseph Fleming," remarked Lady
Engleton. "I hoped at one time that he cared for her, but that Irish
friend of Marion's, Katie O'Halloran, came on the scene and spoilt my
little romance."

"I wonder why she married this man? I wonder why the wind blows?" was
added in self-derision at the question.

The rest of the party were now departing. "O sleek wedding guests,"
Hadria apostrophized them, "how solemnly they sat there, like
all-knowing sphinxes, watching, watching, and that child so
helpless--handcuffed, manacled! How many prayers will be offered at the
shrine of the goddess of Duty within the next twelve months!"

Mrs. Jordan, a British matron of solid proportions, passed down the path
on the arm of a comparatively puny cavalier. The sight seemed to stir up
some demon in Hadria's bosom. Fantastic, derisive were her comments on
that excellent lady's most cherished principles, and on her well-known
and much-vaunted mode of training her large family of daughters.

"Only the traditional ideas carried out by a woman of narrow mind and
strong will," said Lady Engleton.

"Oh those traditional ideas! They might have issued fresh and hot from
an asylum for criminal lunatics."

"You are deliciously absurd, Hadria."

"It is the criminal lunatics who are absurd," she retorted. "Do you
remember how those poor girls used to bewail the restrictions to their
reading?"

"Yes, it was really a _reductio ad absurdum_ of our system. The girls
seemed afraid to face anything. They would rather die than think. (I
wonder why Professor Theobald lingers so up there by the chancel? The
time must be getting on.)"

Hadria glanced towards him and made no comment. She was thinking of Mrs.
Jordan's daughters.

"What became of their personality all that time I cannot imagine: their
woman's nature that one hears so much about, and from which such
prodigious feats were to be looked for, in the future."

"Yes, _that_ is where the inconsistency of a girl's education strikes me
most," said Lady Engleton. "If she were intended for the cloister one
could understand it. But since she is brought up for the express purpose
of being married, it does seem a little absurd not to prepare her a
little more for her future life."

"Exactly," cried Hadria, "if the orthodox are really sincere in
declaring that life to be so sacred and desirable, why on earth don't
they treat it frankly and reverently and teach their girls to understand
and respect it, instead of allowing a furtive, sneaky, detestable spirit
to hover over it?"

"Yes, I agree with you there," said Lady Engleton.

"And if they _don't_ really in their hearts think it sacred and so on
(and how they _can_, under our present conditions, I fail to see), why
do they deliberately bring up their girls to be married, as they bring
up their sons to a profession? It is inconceivable, and yet good people
do it, without a suspicion of the real nature of their conduct, which it
wouldn't be polite to describe."

Mrs. Jordan--her face irradiated with satisfaction--was acknowledging
the plaudits of the villagers, who shouted more or less in proportion
to the eye-filling properties of the departing guests.

Hadria was seized with a fit of laughter. It was an awkward fact, that
she never could see Mrs. Jordan's majestic form and noble bonnet without
feeling the same overwhelming impulse to laugh.

"This is disgraceful conduct!" cried Lady Engleton.

Hadria was clearly in one of her most reckless moods to-day.

"You have led me on, and must take the consequences!" she cried.
"Imagine," she continued with diabolical deliberation, "if Marion, on
any day _previous_ to this, had gone to her mother and expressed an
overpowering maternal instinct--a deep desire to have a child!"

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Lady Engleton.

"Why so shocked, since it is so holy?"

"But that is different."

"Ah! then it is holy only when the social edict goes forth, and
proclaims the previous evil good and the previous good evil."

"Come, come; the inconsistency is not quite so bad as that. (How that
man does dawdle!)"

Hadria shrugged her shoulders. "It seems to me so; for now suppose, on
the other hand, that this same Marion, on any day _subsequent_ to this,
should go to that same mother, and announce an exactly opposite
feeling--a profound objection to the maternal function--how would she be
received? Heavens, with what pained looks, with what platitudes and
proverbs, with what reproofs and axioms and sentiments! She would issue
forth from that interview like another St. Sebastian, stuck all over
with wounds and arrows. 'Sacred mission,' 'tenderest joy,' 'holiest
mission,' 'highest vocation'--one knows the mellifluous phrases."

"But after all she would be wrong in her objection. The instinct is a
true one," said Lady Engleton.

"Oh, then why should she be pelted for expressing it previously, if the
question is not indiscreet?"

"Well, it would seem rather gruesome, if girls were to be overpowered
with that passion."

"So we are all to be horribly shocked at the presence of an instinct
to-day, and then equally shocked and indignant at its absence to-morrow;
our sentiment being determined by the performance or otherwise of the
ceremony we have just witnessed. It really shows a touching confidence
in the swift adaptability of the woman's sentimental organization!"

Lady Engleton gave an uneasy laugh, and seemed lost in uncomfortable
thought. She enjoyed playing with unorthodox speculations, but she
objected to have her customary feelings interfered with, by a reasoning
which she did not see her way to reduce to a condition of uncertainty.
She liked to leave a question delicately balanced, enjoying all the fun
of "advanced" thought without endangering her favourite sentiments. Like
many women of talent, she was intensely maternal, in the instinctive
sense; and for that reason had a vague desire to insist on all other
women being equally so; but the notion of the instinct becoming
importunate in a girl revolted her; a state of mind that struggled to
justify itself without conscious entrenchment behind mere tradition.
Lady Engleton sincerely tried to shake off prejudice.

"You are in a mixed condition of feeling, I see," Hadria said. "I am not
surprised. Our whole scheme of things indeed is so mixed, that the
wonder only is we are not all in a state of chronic lunacy. I believe,
as a matter of fact, that we _are_; but as we are all lunatics together,
there is no one left to put us into asylums."

Lady Engleton laughed.

"The present age is truly a strange one," she exclaimed.

"Do you think so? It always seems to me that the present age is finding
out for the first time how very strange all the _other_ ages have been."

"However that may be, it seems to me, that a sort of shiver is going
through all Society, as if it had suddenly become very much aware of
things and couldn't make them out--nor itself."

"Like a creature beginning to struggle through a bad illness. I do think
it is all extremely remarkable, especially the bad illness."

"You are as strange as your epoch," cried Lady Engleton.

"It is a sorry sign when one remarks health instead of disease."

"Upon my word, you have a wholesome confidence in yourself!"

"I do not, in that respect, differ from my kind," Hadria returned
calmly.

"It is that which _was_ that seems to you astonishing, not that which is
to be," Lady Engleton commented, pensively. "For my part I confess I am
frightened, almost terrified at times, at that which is to be."

"I am frightened, terrified, so that the thought becomes unbearable, at
that which _is_," said Hadria.

There was a long silence. Lady Engleton appeared to be again plunged in
thought.

"The maternal instinct--yes; it seems to be round that unacknowledged
centre that the whole storm is raging."

"A desperate question that Society shrinks from in terror: whether women
shall be expected to conduct themselves as if the instinct had been
weighed out accurately, like weekly stores, and given to all alike, or
whether choice and individual feeling is to be held lawful in this
matter--_there_ is the red-hot heart of the battle."

"Remember men of science are against freedom in this respect. (I do wish
_our_ man of science would make haste.)"

"They rush to the rescue when they see the sentimental defences giving
way," said Hadria. "If the 'sacred privilege' and 'noblest vocation'
safeguards won't hold, science must throw up entrenchments."

"I prefer the more romantic and sentimental presentment of the matter,"
said Lady Engleton.

"Naturally. Ah! it is pathetic, the way we have tried to make things
decorative; but it won't hold out much longer. Women are driving their
masters to plain speaking--the ornaments are being dragged down. And
what do we find? Bare and very ugly fact. And if we venture to hint that
this unsatisfactory skeleton may be modified in form, science becomes
stern. She wishes things, in this department, left as they are. Women
are made for purposes of reproduction; let them clearly understand that.
No picking and choosing."

"Men pick and choose, it is true," observed Lady Engleton in a musing
tone, as if thinking aloud.

"Ah, but that's different--a real scientific argument, though a
superficial observer might not credit it. At any rate, it is quite
sufficiently scientific for this particular subject. Our leaders of
thought don't bring out their Sunday-best logic on this question. They
lounge in dressing-gown and slippers. One gets to know the oriental
pattern of that dressing-gown and the worn-down heels of those old
slippers."

"They may be right though, notwithstanding their logic," said Lady
Engleton.

"By good luck, not good guidance. I wonder what her Serene Highness
Science would say if she heard us?"

"That we two ignorant creatures are very presumptuous."

"Yes, people always fall back on that, when they can't refute you."

Lady Engleton smiled.

"I should like to hear the question discussed by really competent
persons. (Well, if luncheon is dead cold it will be his own fault.)"

"Oh, really competent persons will tell us all about the possibilities
of woman: her feelings, desires, capabilities, and limitations, now and
for all time to come. And the wildly funny thing is that women are
ready, with open mouths, to reverently swallow this male verdict on
their inherent nature, as if it were gospel divinely inspired. I may
appear a little inconsistent," Hadria added with a laugh, "but I do
think women are fools!"

They had strolled on along the path till they came to the
schoolmistress's grave, which was green and daisy-covered, as if many
years had passed since her burial. Hadria stood, for a moment, looking
down at it.

"Fools, fools, unutterable, irredeemable fools!" she burst out.

"My dear, my dear, we are in a churchyard," remonstrated Lady Engleton,
half laughing.

"We are at this grave," said Hadria.

"The poor woman would have been among the first to approve of the whole
scheme, though it places her here beneath the daisies."

"Exactly. Am I not justified then in crying 'fool'? Don't imagine that I
exclude myself," she added.

"I think you might be less liable to error if you _were_ rather more of
a fool, if I may say so," observed Lady Engleton.

"Oh error! I daresay. One can guard against that, after a fashion, by
never making a stretch after truth. And the reward comes, of its kind.
How green the grave is. The grass grows so fast on graves."

Lady Engleton could not bear a churchyard. It made one think too
seriously.

"Oh, you needn't unless you like!" said Hadria with a laugh. "Indeed a
churchyard might rather teach us what nonsense it is to take things
seriously--our little affairs. This poor woman, a short while ago, was
dying of grief and shame and agony, and the village was stirred with
excitement, as if the solar system had come to grief. It all seemed so
stupendous and important, yet now--look at that tall grass waving in the
wind!"



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Professor Theobald had been engaged, for the last ten minutes, in
instructing Joseph Fleming and a few stragglers, among whom was Dodge,
in the characteristics of ancient architecture. He was pointing out the
fine Norman window of the south transept, Joseph nodding wearily, Dodge
leaning judicially on his broom and listening with attention. Joseph, as
Lady Engleton remarked, was evidently bearing the Normans a bitter
grudge for making interesting arches. The Professor seemed to have no
notion of tempering the wind of his instruction to the shorn lambs of
his audience.

"I _can't_ understand why he does not join us," said Lady Engleton. "It
must be nearly luncheon time. However, it doesn't much matter, as
everyone seems to be up here. I wonder," she went on after a pause,
"what the bride would think if she had heard our conversation this
morning!"

"Probably she would recognize many a half-thought of her own," said
Hadria.

Lady Engleton shook her head.

"They alarm me, all these ideas. For myself, I feel bound to accept the
decision of wise and good men, who have studied social questions
deeply."

Personal feeling had finally overcome her desire to fight off the
influence of tradition.

"I do not feel competent to judge in a matter so complex, and must be
content to abide by the opinions of those who have knowledge and
experience."

Lady Engleton thus retreated hastily behind cover. That was a strategic
movement always available in difficulties, and it left one's companion
in speculation alone in the open, arrogantly sustaining an eagle-gaze in
the sun's face. The advantages of feminine humility were obvious. One
could come out for a skirmish and then run for shelter, in awkward
moments. No woman ought to venture out on the bare plain without a
provision of the kind.

Hadria had a curious sensation of being so exposed, when Lady Engleton
retreated behind her "good and wise men," and she had the usual feminine
sense of discomfort in the feeling of presumption that it produced.
Heredity asserted itself, as it will do, in the midst of the fray, just
when its victim seems to have shaken himself free from the mysterious
obsession. But Hadria did not visibly flinch. Lady Engleton received the
impression that Mrs. Temperley was too sure of her own judgment to defer
even to the wisest.

She experienced a pleasant little glow of humility, wrapping herself in
it, as in a protecting garment, and unconsciously comparing her more
moderate and modest attitude favourably with her companion's
self-confidence. Just at that moment, Hadria's self-confidence was
gasping for breath. But her sense of the comic in her companion's
tactics survived, and set her off in an apparently inconsequent laugh,
which goaded Lady Engleton into retreating further, to an encampment of
pure orthodoxy.

"I fear there is an element of the morbid, in all this fretful revolt
against the old-established destiny of our sex," she said.

The advance-guard of Professor Theobald's party was coming up. The
Professor himself still hung back, playing the Ancient Mariner to Joseph
Fleming's Wedding Guest. Most unwilling was that guest, most
pertinacious that mariner.

Hadria had turned to speak to Dodge, who had approached, broom in hand.
"Seems only yesterday as we was a diggin' o' that there grave, don't it,
mum?" he remarked pleasantly, including Hadria in the credit of the
affair, with native generosity.

"It does indeed, Dodge. I see you have been tidying it up and
clearing away the moss from the name. I can read it now. _Ellen
Jervis.--Requiescat in pace._"

"We was a wonderin' wot that meant, me and my missus."

Hadria explained.

"Oh indeed, mum. She didn't die in peace, whatever she be a doin' now,
not _she_ didn't, pore thing. I was jest a tellin' the gentleman" (Dodge
indicated Professor Theobald with a backward movement of the thumb),
"about the schoolmarm. He was talkin' like a sermon--beautiful--about
the times wen the church was built; and about them as come over from
France and beat the English--shameful thing for our soldiers, 'pears to
me, not as I believes all them tales. Mr. Walker says as learnin' is a
pitfall, wich I don't swaller everything as Mr. Walker says neither.
Seems to me as it don't do to be always believin' wot's told yer, or
there's no sayin' wot sort o' things you wouldn't come to find inside o'
yer, before you'd done."

Hadria admitted the danger of indiscriminate absorption, but pointed out
that if caution were carried too far, one might end by finding nothing
inside of one at all, which also threatened to be attended with
inconvenience.

Dodge seemed to feel that the _désagréments_ in this last case were
trivial as compared with those of the former.

"Dodge is a born sceptic," said Lady Engleton. "What would you say,
Dodge, if some tiresome, reasonable person were to come and point out
something to you that you couldn't honestly deny, and yet that seemed to
upset all the ideas that you had felt were truest and best?"

Dodge scratched his head. "I should say as what he said wasn't true,"
replied Dodge.

"But if you couldn't help seeing that it was true?"

"That ud be arkard," Dodge admitted.

"Then what would you do?"

Dodge leant upon the broom-handle, apparently in profound thought. His
words were waited for.

"I think," he announced at last, "as I shouldn't do nothin' partic'lar."

"Dodge, you really are an oracle!" Hadria exclaimed. "What could more
simply describe the action of our Great Majority?"

"You are positively impish in your mood to-day!" exclaimed Lady
Engleton. "What should we do without our Great Majority, as you call
it? It is absolutely necessary to put some curb on the wild impulses of
pure reason"--a sentiment that Hadria greeted with chuckles of derision.

Joseph Fleming was looking longingly towards the grave, but his face was
resigned, for the Ancient Mariner had him button-holed securely.

"What _are_ they lingering for so long, I wonder?" cried Lady Engleton
impatiently. "Professor Theobald is really too instructive to-day. I
will go and hurry him."

Joseph welcomed her as his deliverer.

"I was merely waiting for you two ladies to move; I would have come on
with Mr. Fleming. I am extremely sorry," said the Professor.

He followed Lady Engleton down the path between the graves, with
something of the same set expression that had been on his face when he
came up the path of the cottage garden to admire the baby.

"It appears that we were all waiting for each other," said Lady
Engleton.

"This 'ere's the young woman's grave, sir--Ellen Jervis--'er as I was a
tellin' you of," said Dodge, pointing an earth-stained finger at the
mound.

"Oh, yes; very nice," said the Professor vaguely. Hadria's laugh
disconcerted him. "I mean--pretty spot--well chosen--well made."

Hadria continued to laugh. "I never heard less skilled comment on a
grave!" she exclaimed. "It might be a pagoda!"

"It's not so easy as you seem to imagine to find distinctive epithets. I
challenge you. Begin with the pagoda."

"One of the first canons of criticism is never to attempt the feat
yourself; jeer rather at others."

"The children don't like the new schoolmarm near so well as this 'un,"
observed Dodge, touching the grave with his broom. "Lord, it was an
unfort'nate thing, for there wasn't a better girl nor she were in all
Craddock (as I was a tellin' of you, sir), not when she fust come as
pupil teacher. It was all along of her havin' no friends, and her mother
far away. She used to say to me at times of an afternoon wen she was a
passin' through the churchyard--'Dodge,' says she, 'do you know I have
no one to care for, or to care for me, in all the world?' I used to
comfort her like, and say as there was plenty in Craddock as cared for
her, but she always shook her head, sort o' sad."

"Poor thing!" Lady Engleton exclaimed.

"And one mornin' a good time after, I found her a cryin' bitter, just
there by her own grave, much about where the gentleman 'as his foot at
this moment" (the Professor quickly withdrew it). "It was in the dusk o'
the evenin', and she was a settin' on the rail of old Squire Jordan's
grave, jes' where you are now, sir. We were sort o' friendly, and wen I
heard 'er a taking on so bad, I jes' went and stood alongside, and I
sez, 'Wy Ellen Jervis,' I sez, 'wot be you a cryin' for?' But she kep'
on sobbin' and wouldn't answer nothin'. So I waited, and jes' went on
with my work a bit, and then I sez again, 'Ellen Jervis, wot be you a
cryin' for?' And then she took her hands from her face and she sez,
'Because I am that miserable,' sez she, and she broke out cryin' wuss
than ever. 'Dear, dear,' I sez, 'wot is it? Can't somebody do nothin'
for you?'

"'No; nobody in the world can help me, and nobody wants to; it would be
better if I was under there.' And she points to the ground just where
she lies now--I give you my word she did--and sure enough, before
another six months had gone by, there she lay under the sod, 'xacly on
the spot as she had pointed to. She was a sinner, there's no denyin',
but she 'ad to suffer for it more nor most."

"Very sad," observed Professor Theobald nervously, with a glance at
Hadria, as if expecting derision.

"It is a hard case," said Lady Engleton, "but I suppose error _has_ to
be paid for."

"Well, I don't know 'xacly," said Dodge, "it depends."

"On the sex," said Hadria.

"I have known them as spent all their lives a' injurin' of others, and
no harm seemed to come to 'em. And I've seed them as wouldn't touch a
fly and always doin' their neighbours a kind turn, wot never 'ad a day's
luck."

"Let us hope it will be made up in the next world," said Lady Engleton.
Dodge hoped it would, but there was something in the turn of his head
that seemed to denote a disposition to base his calculations on this,
rather than on the other world. He was expected home by his wife, at
this hour, so wishing the company good day, and pocketing the
Professor's gratuity with a gleam of satisfaction in his shrewd and
honest face, he trudged off with his broom down the path, and out by the
wicket-gate into the village street.

"I never heard that part of the story before," said Lady Engleton, when
the gravedigger had left.

It was new to everybody. "It brings her nearer, makes one realize her
suffering more painfully."

Hadria was silent.

Professor Theobald cast a quick, scrutinizing glance at her.

"I can understand better now how you were induced to take the poor
child, Mrs. Temperley," Lady Engleton remarked.

They were strolling down the path, and Professor Theobald was holding
open the gate for his companions to pass through. His hand seemed to
shake slightly.

"I don't enjoy probing my motives on that subject," said Hadria.

"Why? I am sure they were good."

"I can't help hoping that that child may live to avenge her mother; to
make some man know what it is to be horribly miserable--but, oh, I
suppose it's like trying to reach the feelings of a rhinoceros!"

"There you are much mistaken, Mrs. Temperley," said the Professor. "Men
are as sensitive, in some respects, as women."

"So much the better."

"Then do you think it quite just to punish one man for the sin of
another?"

"No; but there is a deadly feud between the sexes: it is a hereditary
vendetta: the duty of vengeance is passed on from generation to
generation."

"Oh, Mrs. Temperley!" Lady Engleton's tone was one of reproach.

"Yes, it is vindictive, I know; one does not grow tender towards the
enemy at the grave of Ellen Jervis."

"At least, there were _two_ sinners, not only one."

"Only one dies of a broken heart."

"But why attempt revenge?"

"Oh, a primitive instinct. And anything is better than this meek
endurance, this persistent heaping of penalties on the scapegoat."

"No good ever came of mere revenge, however," said Professor Theobald.

"Sometimes that is the only form of remonstrance that is listened to,"
said Hadria. "When people have the law in their own hands and Society at
their back, they can afford to be deaf to mere verbal protest."

"As for the child," said Lady Engleton, "she will be in no little danger
of a fate like her mother's."

Hadria's face darkened.

"At least then, she shall have some free and happy hours first; at least
she shall not be driven to it by the misery of moral starvation,
starvation of the affections. She shall be protected from the solemn
fools--with sawdust for brains and a mechanical squeaker for heart--who,
on principle, cut off from her mother all joy and all savour in life,
and then punished her for falling a victim to the starved emotional
condition to which they had reduced her."

"The matter seems complex," said Lady Engleton, "and I don't see how
revenge comes in."

"It is a passion that has never been eradicated. Oh, if I could but find
that man!"

"A man is a hard thing to punish,--unless he is in love with one."

"Well, let him be in love!" cried Hadria fiercely.



CHAPTER XXIX.


The sound of music stole over the gardens of the Priory, at sunset. It
was the close of one of the most exquisite days of Spring. A calm had
settled over the country with the passing away of the sun-god. His
attendant winds and voices had been sacrificed on his funeral pyre.

Two figures sat on the terrace by the open window of the drawing-room,
listening to the utterance, in music, of a tumultuous, insurgent spirit.
In Professor Fortescue, the musical passion was deeply rooted, as it is
in most profoundly sympathetic and tender natures. Algitha anxiously
watched the effect of her sister's playing on her companion.

The wild power of the composer was not merely obvious, it was
overwhelming. It was like "a sudden storm among mountains," "the
wind-swept heavens at midnight," "the lonely sea": he struggled for the
exactly-fitting simile. There was none, because of its many-sidedness.
Loneliness remained as an ever-abiding quality. There were moon-glimpses
and sun-bursts over the scenery of the music; there was sweetness, and a
vernal touch that thrilled the listeners as with the breath of flowers
and the fragrance of earth after rain, but always, behind all fancy and
grace and tenderness, and even passion, lurked that spectral loneliness.
The performer would cease for some minutes, and presently begin again in
a new mood. The music was always characteristic, often wild and strange,
yet essentially sane.

"There is a strong Celtic element in it," said the Professor. "This is a
very wonderful gift. I suppose one never does really know one's fellows:
her music to-night reveals to me new sides of Hadria's character."

"I confess they alarm me," said Algitha.

"Truly, this is not the sort of power that can be safely shut up and
stifled. It is the sort of power for which everything ought to be set
aside. That is my impression of it."

"I am worried about Hadria," Algitha said. "I know her better than most
people, and I know how hard she takes things and what explosive force
that musical instinct of hers has. Yet, it is impossible, as things are,
for her to give it real utterance. She can only open the furnace door
now and then."

The Professor shook his head gravely. "It won't do: it isn't safe. And
why should such a gift be lost?"

"That's what I say! Yet what is to be done? There is no one really to
blame. As for Hubert, I am sorry for him. He had not the faintest idea
of Hadria's character, though she did her best to enlighten him. It is
hard for him (since he feels it so) and it is desperate for her. You are
such an old friend, that I feel I may speak to you about it. You see
what is going on, and I know it is troubling you as it does me."

"It is indeed. If I am not very greatly mistaken, here is real musical
genius of the first order, going to waste: strong forces being turned in
upon the nature, to its own destruction; and, as you say, it seems as if
nothing could be done. It is the more ironically cruel, since Hubert is
himself musical."

"Oh, yes, but in quite a different way. His fetish is good taste, or
what he thinks such. Hadria's compositions set his teeth on edge. His
nature is conventional through and through. He fears adverse comment
more than any earthly thing. And yet the individual opinions that
compose the general 'talk' that he so dreads, are nothing to him. He
despises them heartily. But he would give his soul (and particularly
Hadria's) rather than incur a whisper from people collectively."

"That is a very common trait. If we feared only the opinions that we
respect, our fear would cover but a small area."

The music stole out again through the window. The thoughts of the
listeners were busy. It was not until quite lately that Professor
Fortescue had fully realised the nature of Hadria's present
surroundings. It had taken all his acuteness and his sympathy to enable
him to perceive the number and strength of the little threads that
hampered her spontaneity. As she said, they were made of heart-strings.
A vast spider's web seemed to spread its tender cordage round each
household, for the crippling of every winged creature within its radius.
Fragments of torn wings attested the struggles that had taken place
among the treacherous gossamer.

"And the maddening thing is," cried Algitha, "that there is nobody to
swear at. Swearing at systems and ideas, as Hadria says, is a Barmecide
feast to one's vindictiveness."

"It is the tyranny of affection that has done so much to ruin the lives
of women," the Professor observed, in a musing tone.

Then after a pause: "I fear your poor mother has never got over _your_
little revolt, Algitha."

"Never, I am sorry to say. If I had married and settled in Hongkong, she
would scarcely have minded, but as it is, she feels deserted. Of course
the boys are away from home more than I am, yet she is not grieved at
that. You see how vast these claims are. Nothing less than one's entire
life and personality will suffice."

"Your mother feels that you are throwing your life away, remember. But
truly it seems, sometimes, as if people were determined to turn
affection into a curse instead of a blessing!"

"I never think of it in any other light," Algitha announced serenely.

The Professor laughed. "Oh, there are exceptions, I hope," he said.
"Love, like everything else that is great, is very, very rare. We call
the disposition to usurp and absorb another person by that name, but woe
betide him or her who is the object of such a sentiment. Yet happily,
the real thing _is_ to be found now and again. And from that arises
freedom."

Hadria was playing some joyous impromptu, which seemed to express the
very spirit of Freedom herself.

"I think Hadria has something of the gipsy in her," said Algitha. "She
is so utterly and hopelessly unfitted to be the wife of a prim,
measured, elegant creature like Hubert--good fellow though he is--and to
settle down for life at Craddock Dene."

"Yes," returned the Professor, "it has occurred to me, more than once,
that there must be a drop of nomad blood somewhere among the ancestry."

"Hadria always says herself, that she is a vagabond in disguise."

He laughed. Then, as he drew out a tobacco-pouch from his pocket and
proceeded to light his pipe, he went on, in quiet meditative fashion, as
if thinking aloud: "The fact of the matter is, that in this world, the
dead weight of the mass bears heavily upon the exceptional natures. It
comes home to one vividly, in cases like this. The stupidity and
blindness of each individual goes to build up the dead wall, the
impassable obstacle, for some other spirit. The burden that we have cast
upon the world has to be borne by our fellow man or woman, and perhaps
is doomed to crush a human soul."

"It seems to me that most people are engaged in that crushing industry,"
said Algitha with a shrug. "Don't I know their bonnets, and their
frock-coats and their sneers!"

The Professor smiled. He thought that most of us were apt to take that
attitude at times. The same spirit assumed different forms. "While we
are sneering at our fellow mortal, and assuring him loftily that he can
certainly prevail, if only he is strong enough, it may be _our_
particular dulness or _our_ hardness that is dragging him down to a
tragic failure, before our eyes."

The sun was low when the player came out to the terrace and took her
favourite seat on the parapet. The gardens were steeped in profound
peace. One could hear no sound for miles round. The broad country made
itself closely felt by its stirring silence. The stretches of fields
beyond fields, the woodlands in their tender green, the long, long sweep
of the quiet land, formed a benign circle round the garden, and led the
sense of peace out and out to the horizon, where the liquid light of the
sky touched the hills.

The face of the Professor had a transparent look and a singular beauty
of expression, such as is seen on the faces of the dead, or on the faces
of those who are carried beyond themselves by some generous enthusiasm.

They watched, in silence, the changes creeping over the heavens, the
subtle transmutations of tint; the fairylands of cloud, growing like
dreams, and melting in golden annihilation; the more delicate and
exquisite, the sooner the end.

The first pale hints of splendour had spread, till the whole West was
throbbing with the radiance. But it was short-lived. The soul of the
light, with its vital vibrating quality, seemed to die, and then slowly
the glow faded, till every sparkle was gone, and the amphitheatre of the
sky lay cold, and dusk, and empty. It was not till the last gleam had
melted away that a word was spoken.

"It is like a prophecy," said Hadria.

"To-morrow the dawn, remember."

Hadria's thoughts ran on in the silence.

The dawn? Yes; but all that lost splendour, those winged islands, those
wild ranges of mountain where the dreams dwell; to-morrow's dawn brings
no resurrection for them. Other pageants there will be, other
cloud-castles, but never again just those.

Had the Professor been following her thoughts?

"Life," he said, "offers her gifts as the Sibyl her books; they grow
fewer as we refuse them."

"Ah! that is the truth that clamours in my brain, warning and pointing
to an empty temple, like the deserted sky, a little while ahead."

"Be warned then."

"Ah! but what to do? I am out of myself now with the spring; there are
so many benign influences. I too have winged islands, and wild ranges
where the dreams dwell; life is a fairy-tale; but there is always that
terror of the departure of the sun."

"_Carpe diem._"

Hadria turned a startled and eager face towards the Professor, who was
leaning back in his chair, thoughtfully smoking. The smoke curled away
serenely through the calm air of the evening.

"You have a great gift," he said.

"One is afraid of taking a thing too seriously because it is one's own."

The Professor turned almost angrily.

"Good heavens, what does it matter whose it is? There may be a sort of
inverted vanity in refusing fair play to a power, on that ground. Alas!
here is one of the first morbid signs of the evil at work upon you. If
you had been wholesomely moving and striving in the right direction, do
you think you would have been guilty of that piece of egotism?"

"Vanity pursues one into hidden corners of the mind. I am so used to
that sort of spirit among women. Apparently I have caught the
infection."

"I would not let it go farther," advised the Professor.

"To do myself justice, I think it is superficial," said Hadria with a
laugh. "I would dare anything, _any_thing for a chance of freedom,
for----," she broke off, hesitating. "I remember once--years ago, when I
was quite a girl--seeing a young ash-tree that had got jammed into a
chink so that it couldn't grow straight, or spread, as its inner soul,
poor stripling, evidently inspired it to grow. Outside, there were
hundreds of upright, vigorous, healthful young trees, fulfilling that
innate idea in apparent gladness, and with obvious general advantage,
since they were growing into sound, valuable trees, straight of trunk,
nobly developed. I felt like the poor sapling in the cranny, that had
just the same natural impetus of healthy growth as all the others, but
was forced to become twisted, and crooked, and stunted and wretched. I
think most women have to grow in a cranny. It is generally known as
their Sphere." Algitha gave an approving chuckle. "I noticed," Hadria
added, "that the desperate struggle to grow of that young tree had begun
to loosen the masonry of the edifice that cramped it. There was a great
dangerous-looking crack right across the building. The tree was not
saved from deformity, _but_ it had its revenge! Some day that noble
institution would come down by the run."

"Yes. Well, the thing to do is to get out of it," said the Professor.

"You really advise that?"

"Advise? One dare not advise. It is too perilous. No general theories
will hold in all instances."

"Tell me," said Hadria, "what are the qualities in a human being that
make him most serviceable, or least harmful?"

"What qualities?" Professor Fortescue watched the smoke of his pipe
curling away, as if he expected to find the answer in its coils. He
answered slowly, and with an air of reflection.

"Mental integrity, and mercy. A resolute following of reason (in which I
should include insight) to its conclusion, though the heavens fall, and
an unfailing fellow-feeling for the pain and struggle and heart-ache and
sin that life is so full of. But one must add the quality of
imagination. Without imagination and its fruits, the world would be a
howling wilderness."

"I wish you would come down with me, some day, to the East End and hold
out the hand of fellowship to some of the sufferers there," cried
Algitha. "I am, at times, almost in despair at the mass of evil to be
fought against, but somehow you always make me feel, Professor, that the
race has all the qualities necessary for redemption enfolded within
itself."

"But assuredly it has!" cried the Professor. "And assuredly those
redeeming qualities will germinate. Otherwise the race would extinguish
itself in cruelty and corruption. Let people talk as they please about
the struggle for existence, it is through the development of the human
mind and the widening of human mercy that better things will come."

"One sees, now and then, in a flash, what the world may some day be,"
said Hadria. "The vision comes, perhaps, with the splendour of a spring
morning, or opens, scroll-like, in a flood of noble music. It sounds
unreal, yet it brings a sense of conviction that is irresistible."

"I think it was Pythagoras who declared that the woes of men are the
work of their own hands," said the Professor. "So are their joys.
Nothing ever shakes my belief that what the mind of man can imagine,
that it can achieve."

"But there are so many pulling the wrong way," said Algitha sadly.

"Ah, one man may be miserable through the deeds of others; the race can
only be miserable through its own."

After a pause, Algitha put a question: How far was it justifiable to
give pain to others in following one's own idea of right and reasonable?
How far might one attempt to live a life of intellectual integrity and
of the widest mercy that one's nature would stretch to?

Professor Fortescue saw no limits but those of one's own courage and
ability. Algitha pointed out that in most lives the limit occurred much
sooner. If "others"--those tyrannical and absorbent "others"--had
intricately bound up their notions of happiness with the prevention of
any such endeavour, and if those notions were of the usual negative,
home-comfort-and-affection order, narrowly personal, fruitful in nothing
except a sort of sentimental egotism that spread over a whole
family--what Hadria called an _egotism à douze_--how far ought these
ideas to be respected, and at what cost?

Professor Fortescue was unqualified in his condemnation of the sentiment
which erected sacrificial altars in the family circle. He spoke
scornfully of the doctrine of renunciation, so applied, and held the
victims who brought their gifts of power and liberty more culpable than
those who demanded them, since the duty of resistance to recognised
wrong was obvious, while great enlightenment was needed to teach one to
forego an unfair privilege or power that all the world concurred in
pressing upon one.

"Then you think a person--even a feminine person--justified in giving
pain by resisting unjust demands?"

"I certainly think that all attempts to usurp another person's life on
the plea of affection should be stoutly resisted. But I recognise that
cases must often occur when resistance is practically impossible."

"One ought not to be too easily melted by the 'shrieks of a near
relation,'" said Hadria. "Ah, I have a good mind to try. I don't fear
any risk for myself, nor any work; the stake is worth it. I don't want
to grow cramped and crooked, like my poor ash-tree. Perhaps this may be
a form of vanity too; I don't know, I was going to say I don't care."

The scent of young leaves and of flowers came up, soft and rich from the
garden, and as Hadria leant over the parapet, a gust of passionate
conviction of power swept over her; not merely of her own personal
power, but of some vast, flooding, beneficent well-spring from which her
own was fed. And with the inrush, came a glimpse as of heaven itself.

"I wonder," she said after a long silence, "why it is that when we
_know_ for dead certain, we call it faith."

"Because, I suppose, our certainty is certainty only for ourselves. If
you have found some such conviction to guide you in this wild world, you
are very fortunate. We need all our courage and our strength----"

"And just a little more," Hadria added.

"Yes; sometimes just a little more, to save us from its worst pitfalls."

It struck both Hadria and her sister that the Professor was looking very
ill and worn this evening.

"You are always giving help and sympathy to others, and you never get
any yourself!" Hadria exclaimed.

But the Professor laughed, and asserted that he was being spoilt at
Craddock Dene. They had risen, and were strolling down the yew avenue. A
little star had twinkled out.

"I am very glad to have Professor Fortescue's opinion of your
composition, Hadria. I was talking to him about you, and he quite agrees
with me."

"What? that I ought to----?"

"That you ought not to go on as you are going on at present."

"But that is so vague."

"I suppose you have long ago tried all the devices of self-discipline?"
said the Professor. "There are ways, of course, of arming oneself
against minor difficulties, of living within a sort of citadel.
Naturally much force has to go in keeping up the defences, but it is
better than having none to keep up."

Hadria gave a quiet smile. "There is not a method, mental or other, that
I have not tried, and tried hard. If it had not been for the sternest
self-discipline, my mind at this moment, would be so honeycombed with
small pre-occupations (pleasant and otherwise), that it would be
incapable of consecutive ideas of any kind. As it is, I feel a miserable
number of holes here"--she touched her brow--"a loss of absorbing power,
at times, and a mental slackness that is really alarming. What remains
of me has been dragged ashore as from a wreck, amidst a rush of wind and
wave. But just now, thanks greatly to your sympathy and Algitha's, I
seem restored to myself. I can never describe the rapture of that
sensation to one who has never felt himself sinking down and down into
darkness, to a dim hell, where the doom is a slow decay instead of the
fiery pains of burning."

"This is all wrong, wrong!" cried the Professor anxiously.

"Ah! but I feel now, such certainty, such courage. It seems as if Fate
were giving me one more chance. I have often run very close to making a
definite decision--to dare everything rather than await this fool's
disaster. But then comes that everlasting feminine humility, sneaking up
with its simper: 'Is not this presumptuous, selfish, mistaken, wrong?
What business have _you_, one out of so many, to break roughly through
the delicate web that has been spun for your kindly detention?' Of
course my retort is: 'What business have they to spin the web?' But one
can never get up a real sense of injured innocence. It is always the
spiders who seem injured and innocent. However, this time I am going to
try, though the heavens fall!"

A figure appeared, in the dusk, at the further end of the avenue. It
proved to be Miss Du Prel, who had come to find Hadria. Henriette had
arrived unexpectedly by the late afternoon train, and Valeria had
volunteered to announce her arrival to her sister-in-law.

"Ah!" exclaimed Hadria, "heaven helps him who helps himself! This will
fit in neatly with my plans."



CHAPTER XXX.


Valeria Du Prel, finding that Miss Temperley proposed a visit of some
length, returned to town by the early morning train.

"Valeria, do you know anyone in Paris to whom you could give me a letter
of introduction?" Hadria asked, at the last moment, when there was just
time to write the letter, and no more.

"Are you going to Paris?" Valeria asked, startled.

"Please write the letter and I will tell you some day what I want it
for."

"Nothing very mad, I hope?"

"No, only a little--judiciously mad."

"Well, there is Madame Bertaux, in the Avenue Kleber, but her you know
already. Let me see. Oh yes, Madame Vauchelet, a charming woman; very
kind and very fond of young people. She is about sixty; a widow; her
husband was in the diplomatic service."

Valeria made these hurried comments while writing the letter.

"She is musical too, and will introduce you, perhaps, to the great
Joubert, and others of that set. You will like her, I am sure. She is
one of the truly good people of this world. If you really are going to
Paris, I shall feel happier if I know that Madame Vauchelet is your
friend."

Sophia's successor announced that the pony-cart was at the door.

Miss Du Prel looked rather anxiously at Hadria and her sister-in-law, as
they stood on the steps to bid her good-bye. There was a look of elation
mixed with devilry, in Hadria's face. The two figures turned and
entered the house together, as the pony-cart passed through the gate.

Hadria always gave Miss Temperley much opportunity for the employment of
tact, finding this tact more elucidating than otherwise to the designs
that it was intended to conceal; it affected them in the manner of a
magnifying-glass. About a couple of years ago, the death of her mother
had thrown Henriette on her own resources, and set free a large amount
of energy that craved a legitimate outlet. The family with whom she was
now living in London, not being related to her, offered but limited
opportunities.

Henriette's eye was fixed, with increasing fondness, upon the Red House.
_There_ lay the callow brood marked out by Nature and man, for her
ministrations. With infinite adroitness, Miss Temperley questioned her
sister-in-law, by inference and suggestion, about the affairs of the
household. Hadria evaded the attempt, but rejoiced, for reasons of her
own, that it was made. She began to find the occupation diverting, and
characteristically did not hesitate to allow her critic to form most
alarming conclusions as to the state of matters at the Red House. She
was pensive, and mild, and a little surprised when Miss Temperley, with
a suppressed gasp, urged that the question was deeply serious. It amused
Hadria to reproduce, for Henriette's benefit, the theories regarding the
treatment and training of children that she had found current among the
mothers of the district.

Madame Bertaux happened to call during the afternoon, and that outspoken
lady scoffed openly at these theories, declaring that women made idiots
of themselves on behalf of their children, whom they preposterously
ill-used with unflagging devotion.

"The moral training of young minds is such a problem," said Henriette,
after the visitor had left, "it must cause you many an anxious thought."

Hadria arranged herself comfortably among cushions, and let every muscle
relax.

"The boys are so young yet," she said drowsily. "I have no doubt that
will all come, later on."

"But, my dear Hadria, unless they are trained now----"

"Oh, there is plenty of time!"

"Do you mean to say----?"

"Only what other people say. Nothing in the least original, I assure
you. I see the folly and the inconvenience of that now. I have consulted
hoary experience. I have sat reverently at the feet of old nurses. I
have talked with mothers in the spirit of a disciple, and I have learnt,
oh, so much!"

"Mothers are most anxious about the moral training of their little
ones," said Henriette, in some bewilderment.

"Of course, but they don't worry about it so early. One can't expect
accomplished morality from poor little dots of five and six. The charm
of infancy would be gone."

Miss Temperley explained, remonstrated. Hadria was limp, docile,
unemphatic. Perhaps Henriette was right, she didn't know. A sense of
honour? (Hadria suppressed a smile.) Could one, after all, expect of six
what one did not always get at six and twenty? Morals altogether seemed
a good deal to ask of irresponsible youth. Henriette could not overrate
the importance of early familiarity with the difference between right
and wrong. Certainly it was important, but Hadria shrank from an extreme
view. One must not rush into it without careful thought.

"But meanwhile the children are growing up!" cried Henriette, in
despair.

Hadria had not found that experienced mothers laid much stress on that
fact. Besides, there was considerable difficulty in the matter.
Henriette did not see it. The difference between right and wrong could
easily be taught to a child.

Perhaps so, but it seemed to be thought expedient to defer the lesson
till the distant future; at least, if one might judge from the
literature especially designed for growing minds, wherein clever
villainy was exalted, and deeds of ferocious cruelty and revenge
occurred as a daily commonplace among heroes. The same policy was
indicated by the practice of allowing children to become familiar with
the sight of slaughter, and of violence of every kind towards animals,
from earliest infancy. Hadria concluded from all this, that it was
thought wise to postpone the moral training of the young till a more
convenient season.

Henriette looked at her sister-in-law, with a sad and baffled mien.
Hadria's expression was solemn, and as much like that of Mrs. Walker as
she could make it, without descending to obvious caricature.

"Do you think it quite wise, Henriette, to run dead against the customs
of ages? Do you think it safe to ignore the opinion of countless
generations of those who were older and wiser than ourselves?"

"Dear me, how you _have_ changed!" cried Miss Temperley.

"Advancing years; the sobering effects of experience," Hadria explained.
She was grieved to find Henriette at variance with those who had
practical knowledge of education. As the child grew up, one could easily
explain to him that the ideas and impressions that he might have
acquired, in early years, were mostly wrong, and had to be reversed.
That was quite simple. Besides, unless he were a born idiot of criminal
tendencies, he was bound to find it out for himself.

"But, my dear Hadria, it is just the early years that are the
impressionable years. Nothing can quite erase those first impressions."

"Oh, do you think so?" said Hadria mildly.

"Yes, indeed, I think so," cried Henriette, losing her temper.

"Oh, well of course you may be right."

Hadria had brought out a piece of embroidery (about ten years old), and
was working peacefully.

On questions of hygiene, she was equally troublesome. She had taken
hints, she said, from mothers of large families. Henriette laid stress
upon fresh air, even in the house. Hadria believed in fresh air; but
was it not going a little far to have it in the house?

Henriette shook her head.

Fresh air was _always_ necessary. In moderation, perhaps, Hadria
admitted. But the utmost care was called for, to avoid taking cold. She
laid great stress upon that. Children were naturally so susceptible. In
all the nurseries that she had visited, where every possible precaution
was taken against draughts, the children were incessantly taking cold.

"Perhaps the precautions made them delicate," Henriette suggested. But
this paradox Hadria could not entertain. "Take care of the colds, and
the fresh air will take care of itself," was her general maxim.

"But, my dear Hadria, do you mean to tell me that the people about here
are so benighted as really not to understand the importance to the
system of a constant supply of pure air?"

Hadria puckered up her brow, as if in thought. "Well," she said,
"several mothers _have_ mentioned it, but they take more interest in
fluid magnesia and tonics."

Henriette looked dispirited.

At any rate, there was no reason why Hadria should not be more
enlightened than her neighbours, on these points. Hadria shook her head
deprecatingly. She hoped Henriette would not mind if she quoted the
opinion of old Mr. Jordan, whose language was sometimes a little strong.
He said that he didn't believe all that "damned nonsense about fresh air
and drains!" Henriette coughed.

"It is certainly not safe to trust entirely to nurses, however devoted
and experienced," she insisted. Hadria shrugged her shoulders. If the
nurse _did_ constitutionally enjoy a certain stuffiness in her
nurseries--well the children were out half the day, and it couldn't do
them much harm. (Hadria bent low over her embroidery.)

The night?

"Oh! then one must, of course, expect to be a little stuffy."

"But," cried Miss Temperley, almost hopeless, "impure air breathed,
night after night, is an incessant drain on the strength, even if each
time it only does a little harm."

Hadria smiled over her silken arabesques. "Oh, nobody ever objects to
things that only do a little harm." There was a moment of silence.

Henriette thought that Hadria must indeed have changed very much during
the last years. Well, of course, when very young, Hadria said, one had
extravagant notions: one imagined all sorts of wild things about the
purposes of the human brain: not till later did one realize that the
average brain was merely an instrument of adjustment, a sort of
spirit-level which enabled its owner to keep accurately in line with
other people. Henriette ought to rejoice that Hadria had thus come to
bow to the superiority of the collective wisdom.

But Henriette had her doubts.

Hadria carefully selected a shade of silk, went to the light to reassure
herself of its correctness, and returned to her easy chair by the fire.
Henriette resumed her knitting. She was making stockings for her
nephews.

"Henriette, don't you think it would be rather a good plan if you were
to come and live here and manage affairs--morals, manners, hygiene, and
everything?"

Henriette's needles stopped abruptly, and a wave of colour came into her
face, and a gleam of sudden joy to her eyes.

"My dear, what do you mean?"

"Hubert, of course, would be only too delighted to have you here, and I
want to go away."

"For heaven's sake----"

"Not exactly for heaven's sake. For my own sake, I suppose: frankly
selfish. It is, perhaps, the particular form that my selfishness
takes--an unfortunately conspicuous form. So many of us can have a nice
cosy pocket edition that doesn't show. However, that's not the point. I
know you would be happier doing this than anything else, and that you
would do it perfectly. You have the kind of talent, if I may say so,
that makes an admirable ruler. When it has a large political field we
call it 'administrative ability'; when it has a small domestic one, we
speak of it as 'good housekeeping.' It is a precious quality, wherever
it appears. You have no scope for it at present."

Henriette was bewildered, horrified, yet secretly thrilled with joy on
her own account. Was there a quarrel? Had any cloud come over the
happiness of the home? Hadria laughed and assured her to the contrary.
But where was she going, and for how long? What did she intend to do?
Did Hubert approve? And could she bear to be away from her children?
Hadria thought this was all beside the point, especially as the boys
were shortly going to school. The question was, whether Henriette would
take the charge.

Certainly, if Hadria came to any such mad decision, but that, Henriette
hoped, might be averted. What _would_ people say? Further discussion was
checked by a call from Mrs. Walker, whom Hadria had the audacity to
consult on questions of education and hygiene, leading her, by dexterous
generalship, almost over the same ground that she had traversed herself,
inducing the unconscious lady to repeat, with amazing accuracy, Hadria's
own reproduction of local views.

"Now _am_ I without authority in my ideas?" she asked, after Mrs. Walker
had departed. Henriette had to admit that she had at least one
supporter.

"But I believe," she added, "that your practice is better than your
preaching."

"It seems to be an ordinance of Nature," said Hadria, "that these things
shall never correspond."



CHAPTER XXXI.


Hadria said nothing more about her project, and when Henriette alluded
to it, answered that it was still unfurnished with detail. She merely
wished to know, for certain, Henriette's views. She admitted that there
had been some conversation on the subject between Hubert and herself,
but would give no particulars. Henriette had to draw her own conclusions
from Hadria's haggard looks, and the suppressed excitement of her
manner.

Henriette always made a point of being present when Professor Fortescue
called, as she did not approve of his frequent visits. She noticed that
he gave a slight start when Hadria entered. In a few days, she had grown
perceptibly thinner. Her manner was restless. A day or two of rain had
prevented the usual walks. When it cleared up again, the season had
taken a stride. Still more glorious was the array of tree and flower,
and their indescribable freshness suggested the idea that they were
bathed in the mysterious elixir of life, and that if one touched them,
eternal youth would be the reward. Professor Theobald gazed at Hadria
with startled and enquiring eyes, when they met again.

"You look tired," he said.

"I am, rather. The spring is always a little trying."

"Especially _this_ spring, I find."

The gardens of the Priory were now at the very perfection of their
beauty. The supreme moment had come of flowing wealth of foliage and
delicate splendour of blossom, yet the paleness of green and tenderness
of texture were still there.

Professor Theobald said suddenly, that Hadria looked as if she were
turning over some project very anxiously in her mind--a project on which
much depended.

"You are very penetrating," she replied, after a moment's hesitation,
"that is exactly what I _am_ doing. When I was a girl, my brothers and
sisters and I used to discuss the question of the sovereignty of the
will. Most of us believed in it devoutly. We regarded circumstance as an
annoying trifle, that no person who respected himself would allow to
stand in his way. I want to try that theory and see what comes of it."

"You alarm me, Mrs. Temperley."

"Yes, people always do seem to get alarmed when one attempts to put
their favourite theories in practice."

"But really--for a woman----"

"The sovereignty of the will is a dangerous doctrine?"

"Well, as things are; a young woman, a beautiful woman."

"You recall an interesting memory," she said.

"Ah, that is unkind."

Her smile checked him.

"When you fall into a mocking humour, you are quite impracticable."

"I merely smiled," she said, "sweetly, as I thought."

"It is really cruel; I have not had a word with you for days, and the
universe has become a wilderness."

"A pleasant wilderness," she observed, looking round.

"Nature is a delightful background, but a poor subject."

"Do you think so? I often fancy one's general outlook would be nicer, if
one had an indistinct human background and a clear foreground of
unspoiled Nature. But that may be a jaundiced view."

Hadria went off to meet Lady Engleton, who was coming down the avenue
with Madame Bertaux. Professor Theobald instinctively began to follow
and then stopped, reddening, as he met the glance of Miss Temperley. He
flung himself into conversation with her, and became especially animated
when he was passing Hadria, who did not appear to notice him. As both
Professors were to leave Craddock Dene at the end of the week, this was
the last meeting in the Priory gardens.

Miss Temperley found Professor Theobald entertaining, but at times a
little incoherent.

"Why, there is Miss Du Prel!" exclaimed Henriette. "What an erratic
person she is. She went to London the day before yesterday, and now she
turns up suddenly without a word of warning."

This confirmed Professor Theobald's suspicions that something serious
was going on at the Red House.

Valeria explained her return to Hadria, by saying that she had felt so
nervous about what the latter might be going to attempt, that she had
come back to see if she could be of help, or able to ward off any rash
adventure.

There was a pleasant open space among the shrubberies, where several
seats had been placed to command a dainty view of the garden and lawns,
with the house in the distance, and here the party gradually converged,
in desultory fashion, coming up and strolling off again, as the fancy
inspired them.

Cigars were lighted, and a sense of sociability and enjoyment suffused
itself, like a perfume, among the group.

Lady Engleton was delighted to see Miss Du Prel again. She did so want
to continue the hot discussion they were having at the Red House that
afternoon, when Mr. Temperley _would_ be so horridly logical. He smiled
and twisted his moustache.

"We were interrupted by some caller, and had to leave the argument at a
most exciting moment."

"An eternally interesting subject!" said Temperley; "what woman is, what
she is not."

"My dread is that presently, the need for dissimulation being over, all
the delightful mystery will have vanished," said Professor Theobald. "I
should tire, in a day, of a woman I could understand."

"You tempt one to enquire the length of the reign of a satisfactory
enigma," cried Lady Engleton.

"Precisely the length of her ability to mystify me," he replied.

"Your future wife ought to be given a hint."

"Oh! a wife, in no case, could hold me: the mere fact that it was my
duty to adore her, would be chilling. And when added to that, I knew
that she had placed it among the list of her obligations to adore
_me_--well, that would be the climax of disenchantment."

Hubert commended his wisdom in not marrying.

"The only person I could conceivably marry would be my cook; in that
case there would be no romance to spoil, no vision to destroy."

"I fear this is a cloak for a poor opinion of our sex, Professor."

"On the contrary. I admire your sex too much to think of subjecting them
to such an ordeal. I could not endure to regard a woman I had once
admired, as a matter of course, a commonplace in my existence."

Henriette plunged headlong into the fray, in opposition to the
Professor's heresy. The conversation became general.

Professor Theobald fell out of it. He was furtively watching Hadria,
whose eyes were strangely bright. She was sitting on the arm of a seat,
listening to the talk, with a little smile on her lips. Her hand clasped
the back of the seat rigidly, as if she were holding something down.

The qualities and defects of the female character were frankly
canvassed, each view being held with fervour, but expressed with
urbanity. Women were _always_ so and so; women were absolutely _never_
so and so: women felt, without exception, thus and thus; on the
contrary, they were entirely devoid of such sentiments. A large
experience and wide observation always supported each opinion, and
eminent authorities swarmed to the standard.

"I do think that women want breadth of view," said Lady Engleton.

"They sometimes want accuracy of statement," observed Professor
Theobald, with a possible second meaning in his words.

"It seems to me they lack concentration. They are too versatile," was
Hubert's comment.

"They want a sense of honour," was asserted.

"And a sense of humour," some one added.

"They want a feeling of public duty."

"They want a spice of the Devil!" exclaimed Hadria.

There was a laugh.

Hubert thought this was a lack not likely to be felt for very long. It
was under rapid process of cultivation.

"Why, it is a commonplace, that if a woman _is_ bad, she is always
_very_ bad," cried Lady Engleton.

"A new and intoxicating experience," said Professor Fortescue. "I
sympathize."

"New?" his colleague murmured, with a faint chuckle.

"You distress me," said Henriette.

Professor Fortescue held that woman's "goodness" had done as much harm
in the world as men's badness. The one was merely the obverse of the
other.

"This is strange teaching!" cried Lady Engleton.

The Professor reminded her that truth was always stranger than fiction.

"To the best men," observed Valeria, "women show all their meanest
qualities. It is the fatality of their training."

Professor Theobald had noted the same trait in other subject races.

"Pray, don't call us a subject race!" remonstrated Lady Engleton.

"Ah, yes, the truth," cried Hadria, "we starve for the truth."

"You are courageous, Mrs. Temperley."

"Like the Lady of Shallott, I am sick of shadows."

"The bare truth, on this subject, is hard for a woman to face."

"It is harder, in the long run, to waltz eternally round it with averted
eyes."

"But, dear me, why is the truth about ourselves hard to face?" demanded
Valeria.

"I am placed between the horns of a dilemma: one lady clamours for the
bare truth: another forbids me to say anything unpleasing."

"I withdraw my objection," Valeria offered.

"The ungracious task shall not be forced upon unwilling chivalry," said
Hadria. "If our conditions have been evil, some scars must be left and
may as well be confessed. Among the faults of women, I should place a
tendency to trade upon and abuse real chivalry and generosity when they
meet them: a survival perhaps from the Stone Age, when the fittest to
bully were the surviving elect of society."

Hadria's eyes sparkled with suppressed excitement.

"Freedom alone teaches us to meet generosity, generously," said
Professor Fortescue; "you can't get the perpendicular virtues out of any
but the really free-born."

"Then do you describe women's virtues as horizontal?" enquired Miss Du
Prel, half resentfully.

"In so far as they follow the prevailing models. Women's love,
friendship, duty, the conduct of life as a whole, speaking very roughly,
has been lacking in the quality that I call perpendicular; a quality
implying something more than _upright_."

"You seem to value but lightly the woman's acknowledged readiness for
self-sacrifice," said Lady Engleton. "That, I suppose, is only a
despised horizontal virtue."

"Very frequently."

"Because it is generally more or less abject," Hadria put in. "The
sacrifice is made because the woman is a woman. It is the obeisance of
sex; the acknowledgment of servility; not a simple desire of service."

"The adorable creature is not always precisely obeisant," observed
Theobald.

"No; as I say, she may be capricious and cruel enough to those who treat
her justly and generously" (Hadria's eyes instinctively turned towards
the distant Priory, and Valeria's followed them); "but ask her to
sacrifice herself for nothing; ask her to cherish the selfishness of
some bully or fool; assure her that it is her duty to waste her youth,
lose her health, and stultify her mind, for the sake of somebody's whim,
or somebody's fears, or somebody's absurdity, _then_ she needs no
persuasion. She goes to the stake smiling. She swears the flames are
comfortably warm, no more. Are they diminishing her in size? Oh no--not
at all--besides she _was_ rather large, for a woman. She smiles
encouragement to the other chained figures, at the other stakes. Her
reward? The sense of exalted worth, of humility; the belief that she has
been sublimely virtuous, while the others whom she serves have
been--well the less said about them the better. She has done her duty,
and sent half a dozen souls to hell!"

Henriette uttered a little cry.

"Where one expects to meet her!" Hadria added.

Professor Theobald was chuckling gleefully.

Lady Engleton laughed. "Then, Mrs. Temperley, you _do_ feel rather
wicked yourself, although you don't admire our nice, well-behaved,
average woman."

"Oh, the mere opposite of an error isn't always truth," said Hadria.

"The weather has run to your head!" cried Henriette.

Hadria's eyes kindled. "Yes, it is like wine; clear, intoxicating
sparkling wine, and its fumes are mounting! Why does civilisation never
provide for these moments?"

"What would you have? A modified feast of Dionysius?"

"Why not? The whole earth joins in the festival and sings, except
mankind. Some frolic of music and a stirring dance!--But ah! I suppose,
in this tamed England of ours, we should feel it artificial; we should
fear to let ourselves go. But in Greece--if we could fancy ourselves
there, shorn of our little local personalities--in some classic grove,
on sunlit slopes, all bubbling with the re-birth of flowers and alive
with the light, the broad all-flooding light of Greece that her children
dreaded to leave more than any other earthly thing, when death
threatened--could one not imagine the loveliness of some garlanded
dance, and fancy the naïads, and the dryads, and all the hosts of Pan
gambolling at one's heels?"

"Really, Mrs. Temperley, you were not born for an English village. I
should like Mrs. Walker to hear you!"

"Mrs. Walker knows better than to listen to me. She too hides somewhere,
deep down, a poor fettered thing that would gladly join the revel, if it
dared. We all do."

Lady Engleton dwelt joyously on the image of Mrs. Walker, cavorting,
garlanded, on a Greek slope, with the nymphs and water-sprites for
familiar company.

Lady Engleton had risen laughing, and proposed a stroll to Hadria.

Henriette, who did not like the tone the conversation was taking,
desired to join them.

"I never quite know how far you are serious, and how far you are just
amusing yourself, Hadria," said Lady Engleton. "Our talking of Greece
reminds me of some remark you made the other day, about Helen. You
seemed to me almost to sympathize with her."

Hadria's eyes seemed to be looking across miles of sea to the sunny
Grecian land.

"If a slave breaks his chains and runs, I am always glad," she said.

"I was talking about Helen."

"So was I. If a Spartan wife throws off her bondage and defies the laws
that insult her, I am still more glad."

"But not if she sins?" Henriette coughed, warningly.

"Yes; if she sins."

"Oh, Hadria," remonstrated Henriette, in despair.

"I don't see that it follows that Helen _did_ sin, however; one does not
know much about her sentiments. She revolted against the tyranny that
held her shut in, enslaved, body and soul, in that wonderful Greek world
of hers. I am charmed to think that she gave her countrymen so much
trouble to assert her husband's right of ownership. It was at _his_
door that the siege of Troy ought to be laid. I only wish elopements
always caused as much commotion!" Lady Engleton laughed, and Miss
Temperley tried to catch Hadria's eye.

"Well, that _is_ a strange idea! And do you really think Helen did not
sin? Seriously now."

"I don't know. There is no evidence on that point." Lady Engleton
laughed again.

"You do amuse me. Assuming that Helen did not sin, I suppose you would
(if only for the sake of paradox) accuse the virtuous Greek matrons--who
sat at home, and wove, and span, and bore children--of sinning against
the State!"

"Certainly," said Hadria, undismayed. "It was they who insidiously
prepared the doom for their country, as they wove and span and bore
children, with stupid docility. As surely as an enemy might undermine
the foundations of a city till it fell in with a crash, so surely they
brought ruin upon Greece."

"Oh, Hadria, you are quite beside yourself to-day!" cried Henriette.

"A love of paradox will lead you far!" said Lady Engleton. "We have
always been taught to think a nation sound and safe whose women were
docile and domestic."

"What nation, under those conditions, has ever failed to fall in with a
mighty crash, like my undermined city? Greece herself could not hold
out. Ah, yes; we have our revenge! a sweet, sweet revenge!"

Lady Engleton was looking much amused and a little dismayed, when she
and her companions rejoined the party.

"I never heard anyone say so many dreadful things in so short a space of
time," she cried. "You are distinctly shocking."

"I am frank," said Hadria. "I fancy we should all go about with our hair
permanently on end, if we spoke out in chorus."

"I don't quite like to hear you say that, Hadria."

"I mean no harm--merely that every one thinks thoughts and feels
impulses that would be startling if expressed in speech. Don't we all
know how terrifying a thing speech is, and thought? a chartered
libertine."

"Why, you are saying almost exactly what Professor Theobald said the
other day, and we were so shocked."

"And yet my meaning has scarcely any relation to his," Hadria hastened
to say. "He meant to drag down all belief in goodness by reminding us of
dark moments and hours; by placarding the whole soul with the name of
some shadow that moves across it, I sometimes think from another world,
some deep under-world that yawns beneath us and sends up blackness and
fumes and strange cries." Hadria's eyes had wandered far away. "Are you
never tormented by an idea, an impression that you know does not belong
to you?"

Lady Engleton gave a startled negative. "Professor Fortescue, come and
tell me what you think of this strange doctrine?"

"If we had to be judged by our freedom from rushes of evil impulse,
rather than by our general balance of good and evil wishing, I think
those would come out best, who had fewest thoughts and feelings of any
kind to record." The subject attracted a small group.

"Unless goodness is only a negative quality," Valeria pointed out, "a
mere _absence_, it must imply a soul that lives and struggles, and if it
lives and struggles, it is open to the assaults of the devil."

"Yes, and it is liable to go under too sometimes, one must not forget,"
said Hadria, "although most people profess to believe so firmly in the
triumph of the best--how I can't conceive, since the common life of
every day is an incessant harping on the moral: the smallest, meanest,
poorest, thinnest, vulgarest qualities in man and woman are those
selected for survival, in the struggle for existence."

There was a cry of remonstrance from idealists.

"But what else do we mean when we talk by common consent of the world's
baseness, harshness, vulgarity, injustice? It means surely--and think of
it!--that it is composed of men and women with the best of them killed
out, as a nerve burnt away by acid; a heart won over to meaner things
than it set out beating for; a mind persuaded to nibble at edges of dry
crust that might have grown stout and serviceable on generous diet, and
mellow and inspired with noble vintage."

"You really are shockingly Bacchanalian to-day," cried Lady Engleton.

Hadria laughed. "Metaphorically, I am a toper. The wonderful clear
sparkle, the subtle flavour, the brilliancy of wine, has for me a
strange fascination; it seems to signify so much in life that women
lose."

"True. What beverage should one take as a type of what they gain by the
surrender?" asked Lady Engleton, who was disposed to hang back towards
orthodoxy, in the presence of her uncompromising neighbour.

"Oh, toast and water!" replied Hadria.



Part III.



CHAPTER XXXII.


The speed was glorious. Back flashed field and hill and copse, and the
dear "companionable hedgeways." Back flew iterative telegraph posts with
Herculean swing, into the Past, looped together in rhythmic movement,
marking the pulses of old Time. On, with rack and roar, into the
mysterious Future. One could sit at the window and watch the machinery
of Time's foundry at work; the hammers of his forge beating, beating,
the wild sparks flying, the din and chaos whirling round one's
bewildered brain;--Past becoming Present, Present melting into Future,
before one's eyes. To sit and watch the whirring wheels; to think "Now
it is thus and thus; presently, another slice of earth and sky awaits
me"--ye Gods, it is not to be realized!

The wonder of the flying land--England, England with her gentle
homesteads, her people of the gentle voices; and the unknown wonder of
that other land, soon to change its exquisite dream-features for the
still more thrilling, appealing marvel of reality--could it all be true?
Was this the response of the genius of the ring, the magic ring that we
call _will_? And would the complaisant genius always appear and obey
one's behests, in this strange fashion?

Thoughts ran on rhythmically, in the steady, flashing movement through
verdant England. The Real! _that_ was the truly exquisite, the truly
great, the true realm of the imagination! What imagination was ever born
to conceive or compass it?

A rattle under a bridge, a roar through a tunnel, and on again, through
Kentish orchards. A time of blossoming. Disjointed, delicious
impressions followed one another in swift succession, often
superficially incoherent, but threaded deep, in the stirred
consciousness, on a silver cord:--the unity of the creation was as
obvious as its multiplicity.

Images of the Past joined hands with visions of the Future. In these
sweet green meadows, men had toiled, as thralls, but a few lifetimes
ago, and they had gathered together, as Englishmen do, first to protest
and reasonably demand, and then to buy their freedom with their lives.
Their countrywoman sent a message of thanksgiving, backward through the
centuries, to these stout champions of the land's best heritage, and
breathed an aspiration to be worthy of the kinship that she claimed.

The rattle and roar grew into a symphony--full, rich, magnificent, and
then, with a rush, came a stirring musical conception: it seized the
imagination.

Oh, why were they stopping? It was a little country station, but many
passengers were on the platform. A careworn looking woman and a little
girl entered the carriage, and the little girl fixed her eyes on her
fellow-traveller with singular persistence. Then the more practical
features of the occasion came into view, and all had an enthralling
quality of reality--poetry. The sound of the waiting engine breathing
out its white smoke into the brilliant air, the powerful creature
quiescent but ready, with the turn of a handle, to put forth its
slumbering might; the crunching of footsteps on the gravel, the
wallflowers and lilacs in the little station garden, the blue of the
sky, and ah! the sweetness of the air when one leant out to look along
the interminable straight line of rails, leading--whither? Even the very
details of one's travelling gear: the tweed gown meet for service, the
rug and friendly umbrella, added to the feeling of overflowing
satisfaction. The little girl stared more fixedly than ever. A smile and
the offer of a flower made her look down, for a minute, but the gaze was
resumed. Wherefore? Was the inward tumult too evident in the face?
Well, no matter. The world was beautiful and wide!

The patient monster began to move again, with a gay whistle, as if he
enjoyed this chase across country, on the track of Time. He was soon at
full speed again, on his futile race: a hapless idealist in pursuit of
lost dreams. The little girl watched the dawn of a smile on the face of
the kind, pretty lady who had given her the flower. A locomotive
figuring as an idealist! Where would one's fancy lead one to next?

Ah the sea! heaving busily, and flashing under the morning radiance.
Would they have a good crossing? The wind was fresh. How dreamy and
bright and windy the country looked, and how salt was the sea-breeze!
Very soon they would arrive at Folkestone. Rugs and umbrellas and
handbags must be collected. The simple, solid commonplace of it all,
touched some wholesome spring of delight. What a speed the train was
going at! One could scarcely stand in the jolting carriage. Old Time
must not make too sure of his victory. One felt a wistful partisanship
for his snorting rival, striving for ever to accomplish the impossible.
The labouring visionary was not without significance to aspiring
mortals.

The outskirts of the town were coming in sight; grey houses bleakly
climbing chalky heights. It would be well to put on a thick overcoat at
once. It was certain to be cold in the Channel.

Luckily Hannah had a head on her shoulders, and could be trusted to
follow the directions that had been given her.

The last five minutes seemed interminable, but they did come to an end.
There was an impression of sweet salt air, of wind and voices, of a
hurrying crowd; occasionally a French sentence pronounced by one of the
officials, reminiscent of a thousand dreams and sights of foreign lands;
and then the breezy quay and waiting steamboat.

The sound of that quiet, purposeful hiss of the steam sent a thrill
along the nerves. Hannah and her charge were safely on board; the small
luggage followed, and lastly Hadria traversed the narrow bridge,
wondering when the moment would arrive for waking up and finding herself
in her little bedroom at Craddock Dene? What was she thinking of? Dream?
_This_ was no dream, this bold, blue, dancing water, this living
sunshine, this salt and savour and movement and brilliancy!

The _other_ was the dream; it seemed to be drifting away already. The
picture of the village and the house and the meadows, and the low line
of the hills was recalled as through a veil; it would not stand up and
face the emphatic present. At the end of a few months, would there be
anything left of her connexion with the place where she had passed
six--seven years of her life? and such years! They had put scars on her
soul, as deep and ghastly as ever red-hot irons had marked on tortured
flesh. Perhaps it was because of this rabid agony undergone, that now
she seemed to have scarcely any clinging to her home,--for the present
at any rate. And she knew that she left only sorrow for conventional
disasters behind her. The joy of freedom and its intoxication drowned
every other feeling. It was sheer relief to be away, to stretch oneself
in mental liberty and leisure, to look round at earth and sky and the
hurrying crowds, in quiet enjoyment; to possess one's days, one's
existence for the first time, in all these long years! It was as the
home-coming of a dispossessed heir. This freedom did not strike her as
strange, but as obvious, as familiar. It was the first condition of a
life that was worth living. And yet never before had she known it.
Ernest and Fred and even Austin had enjoyed it from boyhood, and in far
greater completeness than she could ever hope to possess it, even now.

Yet even this limited, this comparative freedom, which a man could
afford to smile at, was intoxicating. Heavens! under what a leaden cloud
of little obligations and restraints, and loneliness and pain, she had
been living! And for what purpose? To make obeisance to a phantom
public, not because she cared one iota for the phantom or its opinions,
but because husband and parents and relations were terrified at the
prospect of a few critical and disapproving remarks, that they would not
even hear! How mad it all was! It was not true feeling, not affection,
that prompted Hubert's opposition; it was not care for his real
happiness that inspired Henriette with such ardour in this cause; they
would both be infinitely happier and more harmonious in Hadria's
absence. The whole source of their distress was the fear of what people
would say when the separation became known to the world. That was the
beginning and the end of the matter. Why could not the stupid old world
mind its own business, in heaven's name? Good people, especially good
women of the old type, would all counsel the imbecile sacrifice. They
would all condemn this step. Indeed, the sacrifice that Hadria had
refused to make, was so common, so much a matter of course, that her
refusal appeared startling and preposterous: scarcely less astonishing
than if a neighbour at dinner, requesting one to pass the salt, had been
met with a rude "I shan't."

"A useful phrase at times, of the nature of a tonic, amidst our
enervating civilisation," she reflected.

There was a tramping of passengers up and down the deck. People walked
obliquely, with head to windward. Draperies fluttered; complexions
verged towards blue. Only two ladies who had abandoned hope from the
beginning, suffered from the crossing. The kindly sailors occupied their
leisure in bringing tarpaulins to the distressed.

"Well, Hannah, how are you getting on?"

Hannah looked forward ardently to the end of the journey, but her charge
seemed delighted with the new scene.

"Have you ever been to France before, ma'am?" Hannah asked, perhaps
noticing the sparkle of her employer's eye and the ring in her voice.

"Yes, once; I spent a week in Paris with Mr. Temperley, and we went on
afterwards to the Pyrenees. That was just before we took the Red House."

"It must have been beautiful," said Hannah. "And did you take the
babies, ma'am?"

"They were neither of them in existence then," replied Mrs. Temperley. A
strange fierce light passed through her eyes for a second, but Hannah
did not notice it. Martha's shawl was blowing straight into her eyes,
and the nurse was engaged in arranging it more comfortably.

The coast of France had become clear, some time ago; they were making
the passage very quickly to-day. Soon the red roofs of Boulogne were to
be distinguished, with the grey dome of the cathedral on the hill-top.
Presently, the boat had arrived in the bright old town, and every detail
of outline and colour was standing forth brilliantly, as if the whole
scene had been just washed over with clear water and all the tints were
wet.

The first impression was keen. The innumerable differences from English
forms and English tones sprang to the eye. A whiff of foreign smell and
a sound of foreign speech reached the passengers at about the same
moment. The very houses looked unfamiliarly built, and even the letters
of printed names of hotels and shops had a frivolous, spindly
appearance--elegant but frail. The air was different from English air.
Some _bouillon_ and a slice of fowl were very acceptable at the
restaurant at the station, after the business of examining the luggage
was over. Hannah, evidently nourishing a sense of injury against the
natives for their eccentric jargon, and against the universe for the
rush and discomfort of the last quarter of an hour, was disposed to
express her feelings by a marked lack of relish for her food. She
regarded Hadria's hearty appetite with a disdainful expression. Martha
ate bread and butter and fruit. She was to have some milk that had been
brought for her, when they were _en route_ again.

"_Tout le monde en voiture!_" Within five minutes, the train was
puffing across the wastes of blowing sand that ran along the coast,
beyond the town. The child, who had become accustomed to the noise and
movement, behaved better than had been expected. She seemed to take
pleasure in looking out of the window at the passing trees. Hannah was
much struck with this sign of awakening intelligence. It was more than
the good nurse showed herself. She scarcely condescended to glance at
the panorama of French fields, French hills and streams that were
rushing by. How pale and ethereal they were, these Gallic coppices and
woodlands! And with what a dainty lightness the foliage spread itself to
the sun, French to its graceful finger-tips! That grey old house, with
high lichen-stained roof and narrow windows--where but in sunny France
could one see its like?--and the little farmsteads and villages, full of
indescribable charm. One felt oneself in a land of artists. There was no
inharmonious, no unfitting thing anywhere. Man had wedded himself to
Nature, and his works seemed to receive her seal and benediction.
English landscape was beautiful, and it had a particular charm to be
found nowhere else in the world; but in revenge, there was something
here that England could not boast. Was it fanciful to see in the
characteristics of vegetation and scenery, the origin or expression of
the difference of the two races at their greatest?

"Ah, if I were only a painter!"

They were passing some fields where, in the slanting rays of the sun,
peasants in blue blouses and several women were bending over their toil.
It was a subject often chosen by French artists. Hadria understood why.
One of the labourers stood watching the train, and she let her eyes rest
on the patient figure till she was carried beyond his little world. If
she could have painted that scene just as she saw it, all the sadness
and mystery of the human lot would have stood forth eloquently in form
and colour; these a magic harmony, not without some inner kinship with
the spirit of man at its noblest.

What was he thinking, that toil-bent peasant, as the train flashed by?
What tragedy or comedy was he playing on his rural stage? Hadria sat
down and shut her eyes, dazzled by the complex mystery and miracle of
life, and almost horrified at the overwhelming thought of the millions
of these obscure human lives burning themselves out, everywhere, at
every instant, like so many altar-candles to the unknown God!

"And each one of them takes himself as seriously as I take myself:
perhaps more seriously. Ah, if one could but pause to smile at one's
tragic moments, or still better, at one's sublime ones. But it can't be
done. A remembrancer would have to be engaged, to prevent lapses into
the sublime,--and how furious one would be when he nudged one, with his
eternal: 'Beware!'"

It was nearly eight o'clock when the train plunged among the myriad
lights of the great city. The brilliant beacon of the Eiffel Tower sat
high up in the sky, like an exile star.

Gaunt and grim was the vast station, with its freezing purplish electric
light. Yet even here, to Hadria's stirred imagination, there was a
certain quality in the Titanic building, which removed it from the
vulgarity of English utilitarian efforts of the same order.

In a fanciful mood, one might imagine a tenth circle of the Inferno,
wherein those stern grey arches should loftily rise, in blind and
endless sequence, limbing an abode of horror, a place of punishment for
those, empty-hearted, who had lived without colour and sunshine, in
voluntary abnegation, caring only for gain and success.

The long delay in the examination of the luggage, the fatigue of the
journey, tended to increase the disposition to regard the echoing
edifice, with its cold hollow reverberations, as a Circle of the Doomed.
It was as if they passed from the realm of the Shades through the Gates
of Life, when at length the cab rattled out of the courtyard of the
station, and turned leftwards into the brilliant streets of Paris. It
was hard to realize that all this stir and light and life had been going
on night after night, for all these years, during which one had sat in
the quiet drawing-room at Craddock Dene, trying wistfully, hopelessly,
to grasp the solid fact of an unknown vast reality, through a record
here and there. The journey was a long one to the Rue Boissy d'Anglas,
but tired as she was, Hadria did not wish it shorter. Even Hannah was
interested in the brilliantly lighted shops and _cafés_ and the
splendour of the boulevards. Now and again, the dark deserted form of a
church loomed out, lonely, amidst the gaiety of Parisian street-life.
Some electric lamp threw a distant gleam upon calm classic pillars,
which seemed to hold aloof, with a quality of reserve rarely to be
noticed in things Parisian. Hadria greeted it with a feeling of
gratitude.

The great Boulevard was ablaze and swarming with life. The _cafés_ were
full; the gilt and mirrors and the crowds of _consommateurs_ within, all
visible as one passed along the street, while, under the awning outside,
crowds were sitting smoking, drinking, reading the papers.

Was it really possible that only this morning, those quiet English
fields had been dozing round one, those sleepy villagers spreading their
slow words out, in expressing an absence of idea, over the space of time
in which a Parisian conveyed a pocket philosophy?

The cabman directed his vehicle down the Rue Royale, passing the stately
Madeleine, with its guardian sycamores, and out into the windy
spaciousness of the Place de la Concorde.

A wondrous city! Hannah pointed out the electric light of the Eiffel
Tower to her charge, and Martha put out her small hands, demanding the
toy on the spot.

The festooned lights of the Champs Elysées swung themselves up, in
narrowing line, till they reached the pompous arch at the summit, and
among the rich trees of those Elysian fields gleamed the festive lamps
of _cafés chantants_.

"_Si Madame désire encore quelque chose?_" The neat maid, in picturesque
white cap and apron, stood with her hand on the door of the little
bedroom, on one of the highest storeys of the _pension_. Half of one of
the long windows had been set open, and the sounds of the rolling of
vehicles over the smooth asphalte, mingled with those of voices, were
coming up, straight and importunate, into the dainty bedroom. The very
sounds seemed nearer and clearer in this keen-edged land. The bed stood
in one corner, canopied with white and blue; a thick carpet gave a sense
of luxury and deadened the tramp of footsteps; a marble mantel-piece was
surmounted by a mirror, and supported a handsome bronze clock and two
bronze ornaments. The furniture was of solid mahogany. A nameless French
odour pervaded the atmosphere, delicate, subtle, but unmistakeable. And
out of the open window, one could see a series of other lighted windows,
all of exactly the same tall graceful design, opening in the middle by
the same device and the same metal handle that had to be turned in order
to open or close the window. Within, the rooms obviously modelled
themselves on the one unvarying ideal. A few figures could be seen
coming and going, busy at work or play. Above the steep roofs, a
blue-black sky was alive with brilliant stars.

"_Merci;_" Madame required nothing more.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

            "... Rushes life on a race
             As the clouds the clouds chase;
                   And we go,
          And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
                   Even we,
                   Even so."


Just at first, it was a sheer impossibility to do anything but bask and
bathe in the sunny present, to spend the days in wandering incredulously
through vernal Paris, over whose bursting freshness and brilliancy the
white clouds seemed to be driven, with the same joy of life. The city
was crammed; the inhabitants poured forth in swarms to enjoy, in true
French fashion, the genial warmth and the universal awakening after the
long capricious winter. It was actually hot in the sun, and fresh light
clothing became a luxury, like a bath after a journey. The year had
raised its siege, and there was sudden amity between man and Nature.
Shrivelled man could relax the tension of resistance to cold and damp
and change, and go forth into the sun with cordial _insouciance_. In
many of the faces might be read this kindly amnesty, although there were
some so set and fixed with past cares that not even the soft hand of a
Parisian spring could smooth away the lines, or even touch the spirit.

These Hadria passed with an aching pity. Circumstance had been to them a
relentless taskmaster. Perhaps they had not rubbed the magic ring of
will, and summoned the obedient genius. Perhaps circumstance had
forbidden them even the rag wherewith to rub--or the impulse.

Sallying forth from the _pension_, Hadria would sometimes pause, for a
moment, at the corner of the street, where it opened into the Place de
la Concorde, irresolute, because of the endless variety of possible ways
to turn, and places to visit. She seldom made definite plans the day
before, unless it were for the pleasure of changing them. The letter of
introduction to Madame Vauchelet had remained unpresented. The sense of
solitude, combined for the first time with that of freedom, was too
delightful to forego. One must have time to realize and appreciate the
sudden calm and serenity; the sudden absence of claims and obstructions
and harassing criticisms. Heavens, what a price people consented to pay
for the privilege of human ties! what hard bargains were driven in the
kingdom of the affections! Thieves, extortionists, usurers--and in the
name of all the virtues!

"Yes, solitude has charms!" Hadria inwardly exclaimed, as she stood
watching the coming and going of people, the spouting of fountains, the
fluttering of big sycamore leaves in the Champs Elysées.

Unhappily, the solitude made difficulties. But meanwhile there was a
large field to be explored, where these difficulties did not arise, or
could be guarded against. Her sex was a troublesome obstruction. "One
does not come of centuries of chattel-women for nothing!" she wrote to
Algitha. Society bristled with insults, conscious and unconscious. Nor
had one lived the brightest, sweetest years of one's life tethered and
impounded, without feeling the consequences when the tether was cut.
There were dreads, shrinkings, bewilderments, confusions to encounter;
the difficulties of pilotage in unknown seas, of self-knowledge, and
guidance suddenly needed in new ranges of the soul; fresh temptations,
fresh possibilities to deal with; everything untested, the alphabet of
worldly experience yet to learn.

But all this was felt with infinitely greater force a little later, when
the period of solitude was over, and Hadria found herself in the midst
of a little society whose real codes and ideas she had gropingly to
learn. Unfamiliar (in any practical sense) with life, even in her own
country, she had no landmarks or finger-posts, of any kind, in this new
land. Her sentiment had never been narrowly British, but now she
realized her nationality over-keenly; she felt herself almost
grotesquely English, and had a sense of insular clumsiness amidst a
uprightly, dexterous people. Conscious of a thousand illusive, but very
real differences in point of view, and in nature, between the two
nations, she had a baffled impression of walking among mysteries and
novelties that she could not grasp. She began to be painfully conscious
of the effects of the narrow life that she had led, and of the
limitations that had crippled her in a thousand ways hitherto scarcely
realized.

"One begins to learn everything too late," she wrote to Algitha. "This
ought all to have been familiar long ago. I don't know anything about
the world in which I live. I have never before caught so much as a
distant glimpse of it. And even now there are strange thick wrappings
from the past that cling tight round and hold me aloof, strive as I may
to strip off that past-made personality, and to understand, by touch,
what things are made of. I feel as if I would risk anything in order to
really know that. Why should a woman treat herself as if she were
Dresden china? She is more or less insulted and degraded whatever
happens, especially if she obeys what our generation is pleased to call
the moral law. The more I see of life, the more hideous seems the
position that women hold in relation to the social structure, and the
more sickening the current nonsense that is talked about us and our
'missions' and 'spheres.' It is so feeble, so futile, to try to ornament
an essentially degrading fact. It is such insolence to talk to us--good
heavens, to _us!_--about holiness and sacredness, when men (to whom
surely a sense of humour has been denied) divide their women into two
great classes, both of whom they insult and enslave, insisting
peremptorily on the existence of each division, but treating one class
as private and the other as public property. One might as well talk to
driven cattle in the shambles about their 'sacred mission' as to women.
It is an added mockery, a gratuitous piece of insolence."

Having been, from childhood, more or less at issue with her
surroundings, Hadria had never fully realized their power upon her
personality. But now daily a fresh recognition of her continued
imprisonment, baffled her attempt to look at things with clear eyes. She
struggled to get round and beyond that past-fashioned self, not merely
in order to see truly, but in order to see at all. And in doing so, she
ran the risk of letting go what she might have done better to hold. She
felt painfully different from these people among whom she found herself.
Her very trick of pondering over things sent her spinning to hopeless
distances. They seemed to ponder so wholesomely little. Their
intelligence was devoted to matters of the moment; they were keen and
well-finished and accomplished. Hadria used to look at them in
astonishment. How did these quick-witted people manage to escape the
importunate inquisitive demon, the familiar spirit, who pursued her
incessantly with his queries and suggestions? He would stare up from
river and street and merry gardens; his haunting eyes looked mockingly
out of green realms of stirring foliage, and his voice was like a
sardonic echo to the happy voices of the children, laughing at their
play under the flickering shadows, of mothers discussing their cares and
interests, of men in blouses, at work by the water-side, or solemn, in
frock-coats, with pre-occupations of business and bread-winning. The
demon had his own reflections on all these seemingly ordinary matters,
and so bizarre were they at times, so startling and often so terrible,
that one found oneself shivering in full noontide, or smiling, or
thrilled with passionate pity at "the sad, strange ways of men."

It was sweet to stretch one's cramped wings to the sun, to ruffle and
spread them, as a released bird will, but it was startling to find
already little stiff habits arisen, little creaks and hindrances never
suspected, that made flight in the high air not quite effortless and
serene.

The Past is never past; immortal as the Gods, it lives enthroned in the
Present, and sets its limits and lays its commands.

Cases have been known of a man blind from birth being restored to sight,
at mature age. For a time, the appearance of objects was strange and
incomprehensible. Their full meaning was not conveyed to him; they
remained riddles. He could not judge the difference between near and
far, between solid and liquid; he had no experience, dating from
childhood, of the apparent smallness of distant things, of the connexion
between the impression given to the touch by solids and their effect on
the eye. He had all these things to learn. A thousand trifling
associations, of which those with normal senses are scarcely conscious,
had to be stumblingly acquired, as a child learns to connect sound and
sight, in learning to read.

Such were the changes of consciousness that Hadria found herself going
through; only realising each phase of the process after it was over, and
the previous confusion of vision had been itself revealed, by the newly
and often painfully acquired co-ordinating skill.

But, as generally happens, in the course of passing from ignorance to
knowledge, the intermediate stage was chaotic. Objects loomed up large
and indistinct, as through a mist; vague forms drifted by, half
revealed, to melt away again; here and there were clear outlines and
solid impressions, to be deemed trustworthy and given a place of honour;
thence a disproportion in the general conception; it being almost beyond
human power to allow sufficiently for that which is unknown.

For some time, however, the dominant impression on Hadria's mind was of
her own gigantic ignorance. This ignorance was far more confusing and
even misleading than it had been when its proportions were less defined.
The faint twinkle of light revealed the dusky outline, bewildering and
discouraging the imagination. Intuitive knowledge was disturbed by the
incursion of scraps of disconnected experience. This condition of mind
made her an almost insoluble psychological problem. Since she was
evidently a woman of pronounced character, her bewilderment and
tentative attitude were not allowed for. Her actions were regarded as
deliberate and cool-headed, when often they would be the outcome of
sheer confusion, or chance, or perhaps of a groping experimental effort.

The first three weeks in Paris had been given up to enjoying the new
conditions of existence. But now practical matters claimed consideration.
The _pension_ in the Rue Boissy d'Anglas was not suitable as a permanent
abode. Rooms must be looked for, combining cheapness with a good situation,
within easy distance of the scene of Hadria's future musical studies, and
also within reach of some park or gardens for Martha's benefit.

This ideal place of abode was at last found. It cost rather more than
Hadria had wished to spend on mere lodging, but otherwise it seemed
perfect. It was in a quiet street between the Champs Elysées and the
river. Two great thoroughfares ran, at a respectful distance, on either
side, with omnibuses always passing. Hadria could be set down within a
few minutes' walk of the School of Music, or, if she liked to give the
time, could walk the whole way to her morning's work, through some of
the most charming parts of Paris. As for Martha, she was richly provided
with playgrounds. The Bois could be quickly reached, and there were
always the Champs Elysées or the walk beneath the chestnuts by the
river, along the Cours de la Reine and the length of the quays. Even
Hannah thought the situation might do. Hadria had begun her studies at
the School of Music, and found the steady work not only a profound,
though somewhat stern enjoyment, but a solid backbone to her new
existence, giving it cohesion and form. Recreation deserved its name,
after work of this kind. Any lurking danger of too great speculative
restlessness disappeared. There had been a moment when the luxurious joy
of mere wandering observation and absorption, threatened to become
overwhelming, and to loosen some of the rivets of the character.

But work was to the sum-total of impulse what the central weight was to
one of Martha's toys: a leaden ballast that always brought the balance
right again, however wildly the little tyrant might swing the creature
off the perpendicular. When Hadria used to come in, pleasantly tired
with her morning's occupation, and the wholesome heat of the sun, to
take her simple _déjeuner_ in the little apartment with Martha, a
frivolous five minutes would often be spent by the two in endeavouring
to overcome the rigid principles of that well-balanced plaything. But
always the dead weight at its heart frustrated their attempts. Martha
played the most inconsiderate pranks with its centre of gravity, but
quite in vain. When a little French boy from the _étage_ above was
allowed to come and play with Martha, she proceeded to experiment upon
_his_ centre of gravity in the same way, and seemed much surprised when
Jean Paul Auguste not only howled indignantly, but didn't swing up again
after he was overturned. He remained supine, and had to be reinstated by
Hadria and Hannah, and comforted with sweetmeats. Martha's logic
received one of its first checks. She evidently made up her mind that
logic was a fallacious mode of inference, and determined to abandon it
for the future. These rebuffs in infancy, Hadria conjectured, might
account for much!

About three weeks passed in almost pure enjoyment and peace; and then it
was discovered that the cost of living, in spite of an extremely simple
diet, was such as might have provided epicurean luxuries for a family of
ten. Hadria's enquiries among her acquaintances elicited cries of
consternation. Obviously the landlady, who did the marketing, must be
cheating on a royal scale, and there was nothing for it but to move.
Hadria suggested to Madame Vauchelet, whose advice she always sought in
practical matters, that perhaps the landlady might be induced to pursue
her lucrative art in moderation; could she not put it honestly down in
the bill "Peculation--so much per week?"

Madame Vauchelet was horrified. "Impossible!" she cried; one must seek
another apartment. If only Hannah understood French and could do the
marketing herself. But Hannah scorned the outlandish lingo, and had a
poor opinion of the nation as a whole.

It was fatiguing and somewhat discouraging work to begin, all over
again, the quest of rooms, especially with the difficulty about the
landlady always in view, and no means of ascertaining her scale of
absorption. It really seemed a pity that it could not be mentioned as
an extra, like coal and lights. Then one would know what one was about.
This uncertain liability, with an extremely limited income, which was
likely to prove insufficient unless some addition could be made to it,
was trying to the nerves.

In order to avoid too great anxiety, Hadria had to make up her mind to a
less attractive suite of rooms, farther out of town, and she found it
desirable to order many of the comestibles herself. Madame Vauchelet was
untiring in her efforts to help and advise. She initiated Hadria into
the picturesque mysteries of Parisian housekeeping. It was amusing to go
to the shops and markets with this shrewd Frenchwoman, and very
enlightening as to the method of living cheaply and well. Hadria began
to think wistfully of a more permanent _ménage_ in this entrancing
capital, where there were still worlds within worlds to explore. She
questioned Madame Vauchelet as to the probable cost of a _femme de
ménage_. Madame quickly ran through some calculations and pronounced a
sum alluringly small. Since the landlady difficulty was so serious, and
made personal superintendence necessary, it seemed as if one might as
well have the greater comfort and independence of this more home-like
arrangement.

Madame Vauchelet recommended an excellent woman who would cook and
market, and, with Hannah's help, easily do all that was necessary. After
many calculations and consultations with Madame Vauchelet, Hadria
finally decided to rent, for three months, a cheerful little suite of
rooms near the Arc de Triomphe.

Madame Vauchelet drank a cup of tea in the little _salon_ with quiet
heroism, not liking to refuse Hadria's offer of the friendly beverage.
But she wondered at the powerful physique of the nation that could
submit to the trial daily.

Hadria was brimming over with pleasure in her new home, which breathed
Paris from every pore. She had already surrounded herself with odds and
ends of her own, with books and a few flowers. If only this venture
turned out well, how delightful would be the next few months. Hadria did
not clearly look beyond that time. To her, it seemed like a century. Her
only idea as to the farther future was an abstract resolve to let
nothing short of absolute compulsion persuade her to renounce her
freedom, or subject herself to conditions that made the pursuit of her
art impossible. How to carry out the resolve, in fact and detail, was a
matter to consider when the time came. If one were to consider future
difficulties as well as deal with immediate ones, into what crannies and
interstices were the affairs of the moment to be crammed?

There has probably never been a human experience of even a few months of
perfect happiness, of perfect satisfaction with conditions, even among
the few men and women who know how to appreciate the bounty of Fate,
when she is generous, and to take the sting out of minor annoyances by
treating them lightly. Hadria was ready to shrug her shoulders at
legions of these, so long as the main current of her purpose were not
diverted. But she could not steel herself against the letters that she
received from England.

Everyone was deeply injured but bravely bearing up. Her family was a
stricken and sorrowing family. Being naturally heroic, it said little
but thought the more. Relations whose names Hadria scarcely remembered,
seemed to have waked up at the news of her departure and claimed their
share of the woe. Obscure Temperleys raised astounded heads and
mourned. Henriette wrote that she was really annoyed at the way in which
everybody was talking about Hadria's conduct. It was most uncomfortable.
She hoped Hadria was able to be happy. Hubert was ready to forgive her
and to receive her back, in spite of everything. Henriette entreated her
to return; for her own sake, for Hubert's sake, for the children's. They
were just going off to school, poor little boys. Henriette, although so
happy at the Red House, was terribly grieved at this sad misunderstanding.
It seemed so strange, so distressing. Henriette had thoroughly enjoyed
looking after dear Hubert and the sweet children. They were in splendid
health. She had been very particular about hygiene. Hubert and she had
seen a good deal of the Engletons lately. How charming Lady Engleton was!
So much tact. She was advanced in her ideas, only she never allowed them
to be intrusive. She seemed just like everybody else. She hated to make
herself conspicuous; the very ideal of a true lady, if one might use the
much-abused word. Professor Fortescue was reported to be still far from
well. Professor Theobald had not taken the Priory after all. It was too
large. It looked so deserted and melancholy now.

Henriette always finished her letters with an entreaty to Hadria to
return. People were talking so. They suspected the truth; although, of
course, one had hoped that the separation would be supposed to be
temporary--as indeed Henriette trusted it would prove.

Madame Bertaux, who had just returned from England to her beloved Paris,
reported to Hadria, when she called on the latter in her new abode, that
everyone was talking about the affair with as much eagerness as if the
fate of the empire had depended on it. Madame Bertaux recommended
indifference and silence. She observed, in her sharp, good-natured,
impatient way, that reforming confirmed drunkards, converting the
heathen, making saints out of sinners, or a silk purse out of a sow's
ear, would be mere child's play compared with the task of teaching the
average idiot to mind his own business.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


The new _ménage_ went well. Therése was a treasure, and Martha's willing
slave. Expenses were kept fairly reasonable by her care and knowledge.
Still it must not be forgotten that the little income needed supplementing.
Hadria had been aware of this risk from the first, but had faced it,
regarding it as the less perilous of the alternatives that she had to
choose between. The income was small, but it was her own absolutely, and
she must live on that, with such auxiliary sums as she could earn. She
hoped to be able to make a little money by her compositions. The future
was all vague and unknown, but one thing was at least certain: it cost
money to live, and in some way or other it had to be made. She told her
kind friend, Madame Vauchelet, of her plan. Madame Vauchelet consulted her
musical friends. People were sympathetic, but rather vague in their advice.
It was always difficult, this affair. The beginning was hard. M. Thillard,
a kindly, highly-cultivated man of about sixty, who had heard Hadria play,
took great interest in her talent, and busied himself on her behalf.

He said he would like to interest the great Jouffroy in this work. It
had so distinct and remarkable an individuality that M. Thillard was
sure Jouffroy would be enchanted with it. For himself, he held that it
shewed a development of musical form and expression extremely
remarkable. He could not quite understand it. There was, he knew not
what, in it, of strange and powerful; a music of the North; something of
bizarre, something of mysterious, even of terrible, "_une emotion
épouvantable_," cried M. Thillard, working himself to a climax as the
theme inspired him, "There is genius in that work, but certainly
genius." Madame Vauchelet nodded gravely at this pronouncement. It ought
to be published, she said. But this supreme recompense of genius was
apparently hard to achieve. The score was sent from publisher to
publisher: "from pillar to post," said Hadria, "if one might venture on
a phrase liable to misconstruction on the lips of disappointed
ambition."

But at the end of a long and wearisome delay, the little packet was
returned in a tattered condition to its discouraged author. M. Thillard
made light of this. It was always thus at first. One must have patience.

"One must live," said Hadria, "or at least such is the prejudice under
which one has been brought up."

"All will come," said M. Thillard. "You will see."

On one sunny afternoon, when Hadria had returned, thrilled and inspired
by a magnificent orchestral performance at the Châtelet, she found
Madame Vauchelet, M. Thillard, and the great Jouffroy waiting in her
_salon_. Jouffroy was small, eccentric, fiery, with keen eager eyes,
thick black hair, and overhanging brows. M. Thillard reminded Madame
Temperley of her kind permission to present to her M. Jouffroy. Madame
Temperley was charmed and flattered by Monsieur's visit.

It was an exciting afternoon. Madame Vauchelet was eager to hear the
opinion of the great man, and anxious for Hadria to make a good
impression.

The warm-hearted Frenchwoman, who had lost a daughter, of whom Hadria
reminded her, had been untiring in her kindness, from the first. Madame
Vauchelet, in her young days, had cherished a similar musical ambition,
and Jouffroy always asserted that she might have done great things, as a
performer, had not the cares of a family put an end to all hope of
bringing her gifts to fruition.

The piano was opened. Jouffroy played. Madame Vauchelet, with her large
veil thrown back, her black cashmere folds falling around her, sat in
the large arm-chair, a dignified and graceful figure, listening gravely.
The kindly, refined face of M. Thillard beamed with enjoyment; an
occasional cry of admiration escaping his lips, at some exquisite touch
from the master.

The time slipped by, with bewildering rapidity.

Monsieur Thillard asked if they might be allowed to hear some of
Madame's compositions--those which she had already been so amiable as to
play to him.

Jouffroy settled himself to listen; his shaggy eyebrows lowering over
his eyes, not in severity but in fixity of attention. Hadria trembled
for a moment, as her hands touched the keys. Jouffroy gave a nod of
satisfaction. If there had been no such quiver of nerves he would have
doubted. So he said afterwards to M. Thillard and Madame Vauchelet.

After listening, for a time, without moving a muscle, he suddenly sat
bolt upright and looked round at the player. The character of the music,
always individual, had grown more marked, and at this point an effect
was produced which appeared to startle the musician. He withdrew his
gaze, after a moment, muttering something to himself, and resumed his
former attitude, slowly and gravely nodding his head. There was a long
silence after the last of the lingering, questioning notes had died
away.

"Is Madame prepared for work, for hard, faithful work?"

The answer was affirmative. She was only too glad to have the chance to
work.

"Has Madame inexhaustible patience?"

"In this cause--yes."

"And can she bear to be misunderstood; to be derided for departure from
old rules and conventions; to have her work despised and refused, and
again refused, till at last the dull ears shall be opened and all the
stupid world shall run shouting to her feet?"

The colour rushed into Hadria's cheeks. "_Voila!_" exclaimed Madame
Vauchelet. M. Thillard beamed with satisfaction. "Did I not tell you?"

Jouffroy clapped his friend on the back with enthusiasm. "_Il faut
travailler_," he said, "_mais travailler!_" He questioned Hadria
minutely as to her course of study, approved it on the whole, suggesting
alterations and additions. He asked to look through some more of her
work.

"_Mon Dieu_," he ejaculated, as his quick eye ran over page after page.

"If Madame has a character as strong as her genius, her name will one
day be on the lips of all the world." He looked at her searchingly.

"I knew it!" exclaimed M. Thillard. "_Madame, je vous félicite._"

"Ah!" cried Jouffroy, with a shake of his black shaggy head, "this is
not a fate to be envied. _C'est dur!_"

"I am bewildered!" cried Hadria at last, in a voice that seemed to her
to come from somewhere a long way off. The whole scene had acquired the
character of a dream. The figures moved through miles of clear distance.
Her impressions were chaotic. While a strange, deep confirmation of the
musician's words, seemed to stir within her as if they had long been
familiar, her mind entirely refused credence.

He had gone too far. Had he said a remarkable talent, but----

Yet was it not, after all, possible? Nature scattered her gifts wildly
and cruelly: cruelly, because she cared not into what cramped nooks and
crannies she poured her maddening explosive: cruelly, because she hurled
this fire from heaven with indiscriminate hand, to set alight one dared
not guess how many chained martyrs at their stakes. Nature did not pick
and choose the subjects of her wilful ministrations. She seemed to
scatter at random, out of sheer _gaieté de coeur_, as Jouffroy had said,
and if some golden grain chanced to be gleaming in this soul or that,
what cause for astonishment? The rest might be the worst of dross. As
well might the chance occur to one of Nature's children as to another.
She did not bestow even one golden grain for nothing, _bien sûr_; she
meant to be paid back with interest. Just one bright bead of the whole
vast circlet of the truth: perhaps it was hers, but more likely that
these kind friends had been misled by their sympathy.

M. Jouffroy came next day to have a long talk with Hadria about her work
and her methods. He was absolutely confident of what he had said, but he
was emphatic regarding the necessity for work; steady, uninterrupted
work. Everything must be subservient to the one aim. If she contemplated
anything short of complete dedication to her art--well (he shrugged his
shoulders), it would be better to amuse herself. There could be no
half-measures with art. True, there were thousands of people who
practised a little of this and a little of that, but Art would endure no
such disrespect. It was the affair of a lifetime. He had known many
women with great talent, but, alas! they had not persistence. Only last
year a charming, beautiful young woman, with--_mon Dieu!_--a talent that
might have placed her on the topmost rank of singers, had married
against the fervent entreaties of Jouffroy, and now--he shrugged his
shoulders with a gesture of pitying contempt--"_elle est mère tout
simplement_." Her force had gone from herself into the plump infant,
whose "_cris dechirants_" were all that now remained to the world of his
mother's once magnificent voice. _Hélas!_ how many brilliant careers had
he not seen ruined by this fatal instinct! Jouffroy's passion for his
art had overcome the usual sentiment of the Frenchman, and even the
strain of Jewish blood. He did not think a woman of genius well lost for
a child. He grudged her to the fetish _la famille_. He went so far as to
say that, even without the claims of genius, a woman ought to be
permitted to please herself in the matter. When he heard that Madame had
two children, and yet had not abandoned her ambition, he nodded gravely
and significantly.

"But Madame has courage," he commented. "She must have braved much
censure."

It was the first case of the kind that had come under his notice. He
hoped much from it. His opinion of the sex would depend on Hadria's
power of persistence. In consequence of numberless pupils who had shewn
great promise, and then had satisfied themselves with "a stupid
maternity," Jouffroy was inclined to regard women with contempt, not as
regards their talent, which he declared was often astonishing, but as
regards their persistency of character and purpose.

One could not rely on them. They had enthusiasm--Oh, but enthusiasm _à
faire peur_, but presently "_un monsieur avec des moustaches
seduisantes_" approaches, and then "_Phui, c'est tout fini!_" There was
something of fatality in the affair. The instinct was terrible; a
demoniacal possession. It was for women a veritable curse, a disease. M.
Jouffroy had pronounced views on the subject. He regarded the maternal
instinct as the scourge of genius. It was, for women, the devil's
truncheon, his rod of empire. This "reproductive rage" held them--in
spite of all their fine intuitions and astonishing ability--after all on
the animal plane; cut them off from the little band of those who could
break up new ground in human knowledge, and explore new heights of Art
and Nature.

"I speak to you thus, Madame, not because I think little of your sex,
but because I grudge them to the monster who will not spare us even
one!"

Hadria worked with sufficient energy to please even Jouffroy. Her heart
was in it, and her progress rapid. Everything was organized, in her
life, for the one object. At the School of Music, she was in an
atmosphere of work, everyone being bent on the same goal, each detail
arranged to further the students in their efforts. It was like walking
on a pavement after struggling uphill on loose sand; like breathing
sea-breezes after inhaling a polluted atmosphere.

In old days, Hadria used to be haunted by a singular recurrent
nightmare: that she was toiling up a steep mountain made of hard
slippery rock, the summit always receding as she advanced. Behind her
was a vast precipice down which she must fall if she lost her footing;
and always, she saw hands without bodies attached to them placing stones
in the path, so that they rolled down and had to be evaded at the peril
of her life. And each time, after one set of stones was evaded, and she
thought there would be a time of respite, another batch was set rolling,
amid thin, scarcely audible laughter, which came on the storm-wind that
blew precipice-wards across the mountain; and invariably she awoke just
as a final avalanche of cruel stones had sent her reeling over the
hideous verge.

One is disposed to make light of the sufferings gone through in a dream,
though it would trouble most of us to explain why, since the agony of
mind is often as extreme as possibly could be endured in actual life.
From the day of her arrival in Paris, Hadria was never again tormented
with this nightmare.

Composition went on rapidly now. Soon there was a little pile of new
work for M. Jouffroy's inspection. He was delighted, criticizing
severely, but always encouraging to fresh efforts. As for the
publishing, that was a different matter. In spite of M. Jouffroy's
recommendation, publishers could not venture on anything of a character
so unpopular. The music had merit, but it was eccentric. M. Jouffroy was
angry. He declared that he would play something of Madame's at the next
Châtelet concert. There would be opposition, but he would carry his
point. And he did. But the audience received it very coldly. Although
Hadria had expected such a reception, she felt a chill run through her,
and a sinking of the heart. It was like a cold word that rebuffs an
offer of sympathy, or an appeal for it. It sent her back into depths of
loneliness, and reminded her how cut off she was from the great majority
of her fellows, after all. And then Guy de Maupassant's dreadful
"Solitude" came to her memory. There is no way (the hero of the sketch
asserts) by which a man can break the eternal loneliness to which he is
foredoomed. He cannot convey to others his real impressions or emotion,
try as he may. By a series of assertions, hard to deny, the hero arrives
at a terrible conclusion amounting to this: Art, affection, are in
vain; we know not what we say, nor whom we love.

Jouffroy came out of the theatre, snorting and ruffled.

"But they are imbeciles, all!"

Hadria thought that perhaps _she_ was the "imbecile"; it was a
possibility to be counted with, but she dared not say so to the irate
Jouffroy.

He was particularly angry, because the audience had confirmed his own
fear that only very slowly would the quality of the music be recognized
by even the more cultivated public. It had invaded fresh territory, he
said, added to the range of expression, and was meanwhile a new language
to casual listeners. It was rebel music, offensive to the orthodox.
Hubert had always said that "it was out of the question," and he
appeared to have been right.

"_Bah, ce ne sont que des moutons!_" exclaimed Jouffroy. If the work had
been poorer, less original, there would not have been this trouble. Was
there not some other method by which Madame could earn what was
necessary, _en attendent_?

In one of Professor Fortescue's letters, he had reminded Hadria of his
eagerness to help her. Yet, what could he do? He had influence in the
world of science, but Hadria could not produce anything scientific! She
bethought her of trying to write light descriptive articles, of a kind
depending not so much on literary skill as on subject and epistolary
freshness of touch. These she sent to the Professor, not without
reluctance, knowing how overburdened he already was with work and with
applications for help and advice. He approved of her idea, and advised
the articles being sent the round of the magazines and papers.

Through his influence, one of the shorter articles was accepted, and
Hadria felt encouraged. Her day was now very full. The new art was
laborious, severely simple in character, though she studiously made her
articles. Her acquaintances had multiplied very rapidly of late, and
although this brought into her experience much that was pleasant and
interesting, the demands of an enlarging circle swallowed an
astonishing number of hours. An element of trouble had begun to come
into the life that had been so full of serenity, as well as of regular
and strenuous work. Hadria was already feeling the effects of anxiety
and hurry. She had not come with untried powers to the fray. The reserve
forces had long ago been sapped, in the early struggles, beginning in
her girlhood and continuing at increasing pressure ever since. There was
only enough nerve-force to enable one to live from hand to mouth.
Expenditure of this force having been so often in excess of income,
economy had become imperative. Yet, economy was difficult. M. Jouffroy
was always spurring her to work, to throw over everything for this
object; letters from England incessantly urged a very different course;
friends in Paris pressed her to visit them, to accompany them hither and
thither, to join musical parties, to compose little songs (some
bagatelle in celebration of a birthday or wedding), to drive to the
further end of the town to play to this person or that who had heard of
Madame's great talent. Hadria was glad to do anything she could to
express her gratitude for the kindness she had received on all hands,
but, alas! there were only a certain number of hours in the day, and
only a certain number of years in one's life, and art was long.
Moreover, nerves were awkward things to play with.

Insidiously, treacherously, difficulties crept up. Even here, where she
seemed so free, the peculiar claims that are made, by common consent, on
a woman's time and strength began to weave their tiny cords around her.
She took warning, and put an end to any voluntary increase of her
circle, but the step had been taken a little too late. The mischief was
done. To give pain or offence for the sake of an hour or two, more or
less, seemed cruel and selfish, yet Hadria often longed for the
privilege that every man enjoys, of quietly pursuing his work without
giving either.

A disastrous sense of hurry and fatigue began to oppress her. This was
becoming serious. She must make a stand. Yet her attempts at
explanation were generally taken as polite excuses for neglecting those
who had been kind and cordial.

Jouffroy taxed her with looking tired. One must not be tired. One must
arrange the time so as to secure ample rest and recreation after the
real work was over. Women were so foolish in that way. They did
everything feverishly. They imagined themselves to have inexhaustible
nerves.

Hadria hinted that it was perhaps others who demanded of them what was
possible only to inexhaustible nerves.

True; towards women, people behaved as idiots. How was it possible to
produce one's best, if repose were lacking? Serenity was necessary for
all production.

As well expect water perpetually agitated to freeze, as expect the
crystals of the mind to produce themselves under the influence of
incessant disturbance.

Work? Yes. Work never harmed any man or woman. It was harassment that
killed. Work of the mind, of the artistic powers, that was a tonic to
the whole being. But little distractions, irregular duties, worries,
uncertainties--Jouffroy shook his head ominously. And not only to the
artist were they fatal. It was these that drew such deep lines on the
faces of women still young. It was these that destroyed ability and
hope, and killed God only knew how many of His good gifts! Poverty: that
could be endured with all its difficulties, if that were the one
anxiety. It was never the _one_ but the multitude of troubles that
destroyed. Serenity there must be. A man knew that, and insisted on
having it. Friends were no true friends if they robbed one of it. For
him, he had a poor opinion of that which people called affection,
regard. As for _l'amour_, that was the supreme egotism. The affections
were simply a means to "make oneself paid." Affection! Bah! One did not
offer it for nothing, _bien sûr_! It was through this insufferable
pretext that one arrived at governing others. "_Comment?_ Your presence
can give me happiness, and you will not remain always beside me? It is
nothing to you how I suffer? To me whom you love you refuse this small
demand?" Jouffroy opened his eyes, with a scornful glare. "It is in
_that_ fashion, I promise you, that one can rule!"

"Ah, monsieur," said Hadria, "you are a keen observer. How I wish you
could live a woman's life for a short time. You are wise now, but after
_that_----"

"Madame, I have sinned in my day, perhaps to merit purgatorial fires;
but, without false modesty, I do not think that I have justly incurred
the penalty you propose to me."

Hadria laughed. "It would be a strange piece of poetic justice," she
said, "if all the men who have sinned beyond forgiveness in this
incarnation, should be doomed to appear in the next, as well-brought-up
women."

Jouffroy smiled.

"Fancy some conquering hero reappearing in ringlets and mittens, as
one's maiden aunt."

Jouffroy grinned. "_Ce serait dur!_"

"_Ah, mon Dieu!_" cried Madame Vauchelet, "if men had to endure in the
next world that which they have made women suffer in this--that would be
an atrocious justice!"



CHAPTER XXXV.


Stubbornly Hadria sent her packets to the publishers; the publishers as
firmly returned them. She had two sets flying now, like tennis balls,
she wrote to Miss Du Prel: one set across the Channel. The publishers,
she feared, played the best game, but she had the English quality of not
knowing when she was beaten. Valeria had succeeded in finding a place
for two of the articles. This was encouraging, but funds were running
alarmingly low.

The _apartement_ would have either to be given up, or to be taken on for
another term, at the end of the week. A decision must be made. Hadria
was dismayed to find her strength beginning to fail. That made the
thought of the future alarming. With health and vigour nothing seemed
impossible, but without that----

It seemed absurd that there should be so much difficulty about earning a
living. Other women had done it. Valeria had always made light of the
matter--when she had the theory of the sovereignty of the will to
support.

Another couple of articles which seemed to their creator to possess
popular qualities were sent off.

But after a weary delay, they shared the fate of their predecessors.
Hadria now moved into a smaller suite of rooms, parting regretfully with
Therése, and flinging herself once more on the mercy of a landlady. This
time M. Thillard had discovered the lodging for her; a shabby, but sunny
little house, kept by a motherly woman with a reputation for perfect
honesty. Expenses were thus kept down, but unhappily very little was
coming in to meet them. It was impossible to pull through the year at
this rate. But, of course, there was daily hope of something turning up.
The arrival of the post was always an exciting moment. At last Hadria
wrote to ask Algitha to try and sell for her a spray of diamonds, worth
about eighty pounds.

Time must be gained, at all hazards. Algitha tried everywhere, and
enquired in all directions, but could not get more than five-and-twenty
pounds for it. She felt anxious about her sister, and thought of coming
over to Paris to see her, in order to talk over some matters that could
no longer be kept out of sight.

Algitha had wished to give Hadria an opportunity for work and rest, and
to avoid recurrence of worry; but it was no longer possible or fair to
conceal the fact that there were troubles looming ahead, at Dunaghee.
Their father had suffered several severe losses through some bank
failures; and now that wretched company in which he had always had such
faith appeared to be shaky, and if that were also to smash, the state of
affairs would be desperate. Their father, in his optimistic fashion,
still believed that the company would pull through. Of course all this
anxiety was telling seriously on their mother. And, alas! she had been
fretting very much about Hadria. After Algitha's misdeed, this second
blow struck hard.

One must act on one's own convictions and not on those of somebody else,
however beloved that other person might be, but truly the penalty of
daring to take an independent line of action was almost unbearably
severe. It really seemed, at times, as if there were nothing for it but
to fold one's hands and do exactly as one was bid. Algitha was beginning
to wonder whether her own revolt was about to be expiated by a life-long
remorse!

"Ah, if mother had only not sacrificed herself for us, how infinitely
grateful I should feel to her now! What sympathy there might have been
between us all! If she had but given herself a chance, how she might
have helped us, and what a friend she might have been to us, and we to
her! But she would not."

Algitha said that her mother evidently felt Hadria's departure as a
disgrace to the family. It was pathetic to hear her trying to answer
people's casual questions about her, so as to conceal the facts without
telling an untruth. Hadria was overwhelmed by this letter. Her first
impulse was to pack up and go straight to Dunaghee. But as Algitha was
there now, this seemed useless, at any rate for the present. And ought
she after all to abandon her project, for which so much had been risked,
so much pain inflicted? The question that she and Algitha thought they
had decided long ago, began to beat again at the door of her conscience
and her pity. Her reason still asserted that the suffering which people
entail upon themselves, through a frustrated desire to force their own
law of conduct on others, must be borne by themselves, as the penalty of
their own tyrannous instinct and of their own narrow thought. It was
utterly unfair to thrust that natural penalty of prejudice and of
self-neglect on to the shoulders of others. Why should they be protected
from the appointed punishment, by the offering of another life on the
altar of their prejudice? Why should such a sacrifice be made in order
to gratify their tyrannical desire to dictate? It was not fair, it was
not reasonable.

Yet this conclusion of the intellect did not prevent the pain of pity
and compunction, nor an inconsequent sense of guilt.

Meanwhile it would be best, perhaps, to await Algitha's arrival, when
affairs might be in a less uncertain state. All decision must be
postponed till then. "Try and come soon," she wrote to her sister.

To add to the anxieties of the moment, little Martha seemed to lose in
energy since coming to the new abode, and Hadria began to fear that the
house was not quite healthy. It was very cheap, and the landlady was
honest, but if it had this serious drawback, another move, with probably
another drawback, seemed to threaten. This was particularly troublesome,
for who could tell how long it would be possible to remain in Paris?
Hadria thought of the doctrine of the sovereignty of the will, and of
all the grand and noble things that the Preposterous Society had said
about it, not to mention Emerson and others--and she smiled.

However, she worked on, putting aside her anxieties, as far as was
possible. She would not fail for lack of will, at any rate. But it was a
hard struggle. Martha had to be very carefully watched just now.

Happily, after a few anxious days, she began to recover her fresh colour
and her high spirits. The move would not be necessary, after all. Hadria
had become more and more attached to the child, whose lovable qualities
developed with her growth. She was becoming singularly like her unhappy
mother, in feature and in colouring. Her eyes were large and blue and
sweet, with a little touch of pathos in them that Hadria could not bear
to see. It seemed almost like the after-glow of the mother's suffering.

Although adding to Hadria's anxieties, the child gave a sense of
freshness and youth to the little _ménage_. She made the anxieties
easier to bear.

Hadria came in, one morning, from her work, tired and full of
foreboding. Hat and cloak were laid aside, and she sank into an
arm-chair, lying back to lazily watch the efforts of the child to
overturn the obstinate blue man, who was still the favourite plaything,
perhaps because he was less amenable than the rest.

Martha looked up for sympathy. She wished to be helped in her persistent
efforts to get the better of this upstart blue man with the red cap, who
serenely resumed his erect position just as often as he was forced to
the ground. He was a stout, healthy-looking person, inclining to
_embonpoint_; bound to succeed, if only from sheer solidity of person.
Hadria was drawn into the game, and the two spent a good half hour on
the rug together, playing with that and other toys which Martha toddled
off to the cupboard to collect. The child was in great delight. Hadria
was playing with her; she liked that better than having Jean Paul
Auguste to play with. He took her toys away and always wanted to play a
different game.

The clock struck two. Hadria felt that she ought to go and see Madame
Vauchelet; it was more than a week since she had called, and the kind
old friend was always gently pained at an absence of that length.

Then there was an article to finish, and she ought really to write to
Dunaghee and Henriette and--well the rest must wait. Several other calls
were also more than due, but it was useless even to consider those
to-day. In spite of an oppressive sense of having much to do--perhaps
_because_ of it--Hadria felt as if it were a sheer impossibility to rise
from that hearthrug. Besides, Martha would not hear of it. A desire to
rest, to idle, to float down the stream, instead of trying always to
swim against it, became overpowering. The minutes passed away.

"The question is, Martha," Hadria said gravely, as she proceeded to pile
up a towering edifice of bricks, at the child's command, "the question
is: Are we going to stick to our plan, or are we going to be beaten? Oh,
take care, don't pull down the fairy palace! That is a bad trick that
little fingers have. No, no, I must have my fairy palace; I won't have
it pulled down. It is getting so fine, too; minarets and towers, and
domes and pinnacles, all mixed beautifully. Such an architecture as you
never saw! But some day perhaps you will see it. Those blue eyes look as
if they were made for seeing it, in the time to come."

"Pretty eyes!" said Martha with frank vanity, and then: "Pretty house!"

"It is indeed a pretty house; they all are. But they are so horribly
shaky. The minarets are top-heavy, I fear. That's the fault of the
makers of these bricks. They ought to make the solid ones in proper
proportion. But they can't be persuaded."

"Knock it down," said Martha, thrusting forth a mischievous hand, which
was caught in time to prevent entire destruction of the precious
edifice. Half the minarets had fallen.

"They must go up again," said Hadria. "How cruel to spoil all the work
and all the beauty." But Martha laughed with the delight of easy
conquest.

She watched with great interest the reconstruction, and seemed anxious
that every detail should be finished and worthy her iconoclasm. Having
satisfied herself that her strength would not be wasted on an incomplete
object, she made a second attempt to lay the palace low. Again she was
frustrated. The building had soared, by this time, to an ambitious
height, and its splendour had reached the limits of the materials at
command. The final pinnacle which was required to cope the structure had
been mislaid. Hadria was searching for it, when Martha, seizing her
chance, struck the palace a blow in its very heart, and in an instant,
the whole was a wreck.

"Oh, if that is to be the way of it, why should I build?" asked Hadria.

Martha gave the command for another ornamental object which she might
destroy.

"One would suppose you were a County-Council," Hadria exclaimed, "or the
practical man. No, you shall have no more beauty to annihilate, little
Vandal."

Martha, however, was now engaged in dissecting a doll, and presently a
stream of sawdust from its chest announced that she had accomplished her
dearest desire. She had found out what was inside that human effigy.

"I wish I could get at the sawdust that _I_ am stuffed with," Hadria
thought dreamily, as she watched the doll grow flabbier. "It is
wonderful how little one does know one's own sawdust. It would be
convenient to feel a little surer just now, for evidently I shall need
it all very soon. And I feel somewhat like that doll, with the stream
pouring out and the body getting limp."

She rose at last, and went to the window. The radiance of sun and green
trees and the stir of human life; the rumble of omnibuses and the sound
of wheels; the suggestion to the imagination of the river just a little
way off, and the merry little _bateaux-mouches_--it was too much. Hadria
rang for Hannah; asked her to take the child for a walk in the Bois,
stooped down to kiss the little upturned face, and went off.

In another ten minutes she was on board one of the steamboats, on her
way up the river.

She had no idea whither she was going; she would leave that to chance.
She only desired to feel the air and the sun and have an opportunity to
think. She soothed her uneasiness at the thought of Madame Vauchelet's
disappointment by promising herself to call to-morrow. She sat watching
the boats and the water and the gay banks of the river with a sense of
relief, and a curious sort of fatalism, partly suggested perhaps, by the
persistent movement of the boat, and the interminable succession of new
scenes, all bubbling with human life, full of the traces of past events.
One layer of consciousness was busily engaged in thinking out the
practical considerations of the moment, another was equally busy with
the objective and picturesque world of the river side. If the two or
more threads of thought were not actually followed at the same instant,
the alternation was so rapid as not to be perceived. What was to be
done? How was the situation to be met, if the worst came to the worst?
Ah! what far harder contests had gone on in these dwellings that one
passed by the hundred. What lives of sordid toil had been struggled
through, in the effort to earn the privilege of continuing to toil!

Hadria was inspired by keen curiosity concerning these homes and
gardens, and the whole panorama that opened before her, as the little
steamer puffed up the river. She longed to penetrate below the surface
and decipher the strange palimpsest of human life. What scenes, what
tragedies, what comedies, those bright houses and demure little villas
concealed. It was not exactly consoling to remember how small her own
immediate difficulties were in comparison to those of others, but it
seemed to help her to face them. She would not be discouraged. She had
her liberty, and that had to be paid for. Surely patience would prevail
in the end. She had learnt so much since she left home; among other
things, the habit of facing practical difficulties without that dismay
which carefully-nurtured women inevitably feel on their first movement
out of shelter. Yes, she had learnt much, surprisingly much, in the
short time. Her new knowledge contained perhaps rather dangerous
elements, for she had begun to realize her own power, not only as an
artist, but as a woman. In this direction, had she so chosen.... Her
thoughts were arrested at this point, with a wrench. She felt the
temptation assail her, as of late it had been assailing her faintly, to
explore this territory.

But no, that was preposterous.

It was certainly not that she regarded herself as accountable, in this
matter, to any one but herself; it was not that she acknowledged the
suzerainty of her husband. A mere legal claim meant nothing to her, and
he knew it. But there were moral perils of no light kind to be guarded
against; the danger such as a gambler runs, of being drawn away from the
real objects of life, of losing hold of one's main purpose, to say
nothing of the probable moral degeneration that would result from such
experiment. Yet there was no blinking the fact that the desire had been
growing in Hadria to test her powers of attraction to the utmost, so as
to discover exactly their range and calibre. She felt rather as a boy
might feel who had come upon a cask of gunpowder, and longed to set a
match to it, just to see exactly how high it would blow off the roof.
She had kept the growing instincts at bay, being determined that nothing
avoidable should come between her and her purpose. And then--well
considering in what light most men, in their hearts, regarded women--if
one might judge from their laws and their conduct and their literature,
and the society that they had organized--admiration from this sex was a
thing scarcely to be endured. Yet superficially, it was gratifying.

Why it should be so, was difficult to say, since it scarcely imposed
upon one's very vanity. Yet it was easy enough to understand how women
who had no very dominant interest in life, might come to have a thirst
for masculine homage and for power over men till it became like the
gambler's passion for play; and surely it had something in it of the
same character.

The steamer was stopping now at St. Cloud. Yielding to an impulse,
Hadria alighted at the landing-stage and walked on through the little
town towards the palace.

The sun was deliciously hot; its rays struck through to the skin, and
seemed to pour in life and well-being. The wayfarer stood looking up the
steep green avenue, resting for a moment, before she began the ascent.
At the top of the hill she paused again to look out over Paris, which
lay spread far and wide beneath her, glittering and brilliant; the
Eiffel Tower rising above domes and spires, in solitary inconsequence.
It seemed to her as if she were looking upon the world and upon life,
for the last time. A few weeks hence, would she be able to stand there
and see the gay city at her feet? She plunged back along one of the
converging avenues, yielding to the fascination of green alleys leading
one knows not whither. Wandering on for some time, she finally drifted
down hill again, towards the stately little garden near the palace. She
was surprised by a hurrying step behind her, and Jouffroy's voice in her
ear. She was about to greet him in her usual fashion, when he stopped
her by plunging head foremost into a startling tirade--about her art,
and her country, and her genius, and his despair; and finally his
resolve that she should not belong to the accursed list of women who
gave up their art for "_la famille_."

The more Hadria tried to discover what had happened and what he meant,
the faster he spoke and the more wildly he gesticulated.

He had seen how she was drifting away from her work and becoming
entangled in little affairs of no importance, and he would not permit
it. He cared not what her circumstances might be; she had a great talent
that she had no right to sacrifice to any circumstances whatever. He
had come to save her. Not finding her at her _apartement_, he had
concluded that she had taken refuge at her beloved St. Cloud. _Mon
Dieu!_ was he to allow her to be taken away from her work, dragged back
to a narrow circle, crushed, broken, ruined--she who could give such a
sublime gift to her century--but it was impossible! It would tear his
heart. He would not permit it; she must promise him not to allow herself
to be persuaded to abandon her purpose, no matter on what pretext they
tried to lure her. Hadria, in vain, enquired the cause of this sudden
excitement. Jouffroy only repeated his exhortations. Why did she not cut
herself entirely adrift from her country, her ties?

"They are to you, Madame, an oppression, a weariness, a----"

"M. Jouffroy, I have never spoken to you about these things. I cannot
see how you are in a position to judge."

"Ah, but I know. Have I not heard _cette chère Madame Bertaux_ describe
the life of an English village? And have I not seen----?"

"Seen what?"

"_Cette dame._ I have seen her at your apartment this afternoon. Do not
annihilate me, Madame; I mean not to offend you. The lady has come from
England on purpose to entrap you; she came last night, and she stays at
the Hotel du Louvre. She spoke to me of you." Jouffroy raised his hands
to heaven. "Ha! then I understood, and I fled hither to save you."

"Tell me, tell me quickly, Monsieur, has she fair hair and large grey
eyes. Is she tall?"

No, the lady was small, with dark hair, and brown, clever eyes.

"A lady, elegant, well-dressed, but, ah! a woman to destroy the soul of
an artist merely by her presence. I told her that you had decided to
remain in France, to adopt it as your country, for it was the country of
your soul!"

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Hadria, unable to repress a little burst of
laughter, in spite of her disappointment and foreboding.

"I told her that your friends would not let you go back to England, to
the land of fogs, the land of the _bourgeois_. The lady seemed
astonished, even indignant," continued Jouffroy, waving his hands
excitedly, "and she endeavoured to make me silent, but she did not have
success, I promise you. I appealed to her. I pointed out to her your
unique power. I reminded her that such power is a gift supreme to the
world, which the world must not lose. For the making of little ones and
the care of the _ménage_, there were other women, but you--you were a
priestess in the temple of art, you were without prejudice, without the
_bourgeois_ conscience, _grâce au ciel!_ you had the religion of the
artist, and your worship was paid at the shrine of Apollo. _Enfin_, I
counselled this elegant lady to return to England and to leave you in
peace. Always with a perfect politeness," added Jouffroy, panting from
excess of emotion. Hadria tried in vain to gather the object of this
sudden visit on the part of Henriette (for Henriette the elegant lady
must certainly be).

"I must return at once," she said. "I fear something must have gone
wrong at home." Jouffroy danced with fury.

"But I tell you, Madame, that she will drag you back to your fogs; she
will tell you some foolish story, she will address herself to your pity.
Your family has doubtless become ill. Families have that habit when they
desire to achieve something. Bah, it is easy to become ill when one is
angry, and so to make oneself pitied and obeyed. It is a common usage.
Madame, beware; it is for you the critical moment. One must choose."

"It is not always a matter of choice, M. Jouffroy."

"Always," he insisted. He endeavoured to induce her to linger, to make a
decision on the spot. But Hadria hastened on towards the river. Jouffroy
followed in despair. He ceased not to urge upon her the peril of the
moment and the need for resolute action. He promised to help her by
every means in his power, to watch over her career, to assist her in
bringing her gift to maturity. Never before had he felt a faith so
profound, or an interest so fervid in the genius of any woman. One had,
after all, regarded them ("les femmes") as accomplished animals.

"But of whom one demands the duties of human beings and the courage of
heroes," added Hadria.

"_Justement_," cried Jouffroy. But Madame had taught him a superb truth.
For her, he felt a sentiment of admiration and reverence the most
profound. She had been to him a revelation. He entreated her to bestow
upon him the privilege of watching over her career. Let her only make
the wise decision now, everything would arrange itself. It needed only
courage.

"This is the moment for decision. Remain now among us, and pursue your
studies with a calm mind, and I promise you--I, Jouffroy, who have the
right to speak on this matter--I promise you shall have a success beyond
the wildest dreams of your ambition. Madame, you do not guess your own
power. I know how your genius can be saved to the world; I know the
artist's nature. Have I not had the experience of twenty years? I know
what feeds and rouses it, and I know what kills it. And this I tell you,
Madame, that if you stay here, you have a stupendous future before you;
if you return to your fogs and your tea-parties--ah, then, Madame, your
genius will die and your heart will be broken."



CHAPTER XXXVI.


It was with great reluctance that Jouffroy acceded to Hadria's wish to
return home alone. She watched the river banks, and the boats coming and
passing, with a look of farewell in her eyes. She meant to hold out to
the utmost limits of the possible, but she knew that the possible _had_
limits, and she awaited judgment at the bar of destiny.

She hurried home on arriving at the quay, and found Henriette waiting
for her.

"What is it? Tell me at once, if anything is wrong."

"Then you knew I was here!" exclaimed Miss Temperley.

"Yes; M. Jouffroy told me. He found me at St. Cloud. Quick, Henriette,
don't keep me in suspense."

"There is nothing of immediate seriousness," Henriette replied, and her
sister-in-law drew a breath of relief. Tea was brought in by Hannah, and
a few questions were asked and answered. Miss Temperley having been
installed in an easy chair, and her cloak and hat removed, said that her
stay in Paris was uncertain as to length. It would depend on many
things. Hadria rang for the tray to be taken away, after tea was over,
and as Hannah closed the door, a sensation of sick apprehension overcame
her, for a moment. Henriette had obviously come to Paris in order to
recapture the fugitive, and meant to employ all her tact in the delicate
mission. She was devoted to Hubert and the children, heart and soul, and
would face anything on their behalf, including the present disagreeable
task. Hadria looked at her sister-in-law with admiration. She offered
homage to the prowess of the enemy.

Miss Temperley held a commanding position, fortified by ideas and
customs centuries old, and supported by allies on every side.

It ran through Hadria's mind that it was possible to refuse to allow the
subject to be broached, and thus escape the encounter altogether. It
would save many words on both sides. But Henriette had always been in
Hubert's confidence, and it occurred to Hadria that it might be well to
define her own position once more, since it was thus about to be
directly and frankly attacked. Moreover, Hadria began to be fired with
the spirit of battle. It was not merely for herself, but on behalf of
her sex, that she longed to repudiate the insult that seemed to her, to
be involved in Henriette's whole philosophy.

However, if the enemy shewed no signs of hostility, Hadria resolved that
she also would keep the truce.

Miss Temperley had already mentioned that Mrs. Fullerton was now staying
at the Red House, for change of air. She had been far from well, and of
course was worrying very much over these money troubles and perils
ahead, as well as about Hadria's present action. Mrs. Fullerton had
herself suggested that Henriette should go over to Paris to see what
could be done to patch up the quarrel.

"Ah!" exclaimed Hadria, and a cloud settled on her brow. Henriette had
indeed come armed _cap à pie!_

There was a significant pause. "And your mission," said Hadria at
length, "is to recapture the lost bird."

"We are considering your own good," murmured Miss Temperley.

"If I have not always done what I ought to have done in my life, it is
not for want of guidance and advice from others," said Hadria with a
smile and a sigh.

"You are giving everyone so much pain, Hadria. Do you never think of
that?"

There was another long pause. The two women sat opposite one another.
Miss Temperley's eyes were bent on the carpet; Hadria's on a patch of
blue sky that could be seen through a side street, opposite.

"If you would use your ability on behalf of your sex instead of against
it, Henriette, women would have cause to bless you, for all time!"

"Ah! if you did but know it, I _am_ using what ability I have on their
behalf," Miss Temperley replied. "I am trying to keep them true to their
noble mission. But I did not come to discuss general questions. I came
to appeal to your best self, Hadria."

"I am ready," said Hadria. "Only, before you start, I want you to
remember clearly what took place at Dunaghee before my marriage; for I
foresee that our disagreement will chiefly hang upon your lapse of
memory on that point, and upon my perhaps inconveniently distinct
recollection of those events."

"I wish to lay before you certain facts and certain results of your
present conduct," said Henriette.

"Very good. I wish to lay before you certain facts and certain results
of your past conduct."

"Ah! do not let us wrangle, Hadria."

"I don't wish to wrangle, but I must keep hold of these threads that you
seem always to drop. And then there is another point: when I talked of
leaving home, it was not _I_ who suggested that it should be for ever."

"I know, I know," cried Henriette hastily. "I have again and again
pointed out to Hubert how wrong he was in that, and how he gave you a
pretext for what you have done. I admit it and regret it deeply. Hubert
lost his temper; that is the fact of the matter. He thought himself
bitterly wronged by you."

"Quite so; he felt it a bitter wrong that I should claim that liberty of
action which I warned him before our marriage that I _should_ claim. He
made no objection _then_: on the contrary, he professed to agree with
me; and declared that he did not care what I might think; but now he
says that in acting as I have acted, I have forfeited my position, and
need not return to the Red House."

"I know. But he spoke in great haste and anger. He has made me his
_confidante_."

"And his ambassador?"

Henriette shook her head. No; she had acted entirely on her own
responsibility. She could not bear to see her brother suffering. He had
felt the quarrel deeply.

"On account of the stupid talk," said Hadria. "_That_ will soon blow
over."

"On account of the talk partly. You know his sensitiveness about
anything that concerns his domestic life. He acutely feels your leaving
the children, Hadria. Try to put yourself in his place. Would _you_ not
feel it?"

"If I were a man with two children of whom I was extremely fond, I have
no doubt that I should feel it very much indeed if I lost an intelligent
and trustworthy superintendent, whose services assured the children's
welfare, and relieved me of all anxiety on their account."

"If you are going to take this hard tone, Hadria, I fear you will never
listen to reason."

"Henriette, when people look popular sentiments squarely in the face,
they are always called hard, or worse. You have kept yourself thoroughly
informed of our affairs. Whose parental sentiments were gratified by the
advent of those children--Hubert's or mine?"

"But you are a mother."

Hadria laughed. "You play into my hands, Henriette. You tacitly
acknowledge that it was not for _my_ gratification that those children
were brought into the world (a common story, let me observe), and then
you remind me that I am a mother! Your mentor must indeed be slumbering.
You are simply scathing--on my behalf! Have you come all the way from
England for this?"

"You _won't_ understand. I mean that motherhood has duties. You can't
deny that."

"I can and I do."

Miss Temperley stared. "You will find no human being to agree with you,"
she said at length.

"That does not alter my opinion."

"Oh, Hadria, explain yourself! You utter paradoxes. I want to understand
your point of view."

"It is simple enough. I deny that motherhood has duties except when it
is absolutely free, absolutely uninfluenced by the pressure of opinion,
or by any of the innumerable tyrannies that most children have now to
thank for their existence."

Miss Temperley shook her head. "I don't see that any 'tyranny,' as you
call it, exonerates a mother from her duty to her child."

"There we differ. Motherhood, in our present social state, is the sign
and seal as well as the means and method of a woman's bondage. It forges
chains of her own flesh and blood; it weaves cords of her own love and
instinct. She agonizes, and the fruit of her agony is not even legally
hers. Name me a position more abject! A woman with a child in her arms
is, to me, the symbol of an abasement, an indignity, more complete, more
disfiguring and terrible, than any form of humiliation that the world
has ever seen."

"You must be mad!" exclaimed Miss Temperley. "That symbol has stood to
the world for all that is sweetest and holiest."

"I know it has! So profound has been our humiliation!"

"I don't know what to say to anyone so wrong-headed and so twisted in
sentiment."

Hadria smiled thoughtfully.

"While I am about it, I may as well finish this disclosure of feeling,
which, again I warn you, is _not_ peculiar to myself, however you may
lay that flattering unction to your soul. I have seen and heard of many
a saddening evidence of our sex's slavery since I came to this terrible
and wonderful city: the crude, obvious buying and selling that we all
shudder at; but hideous as it is, to me it is far less awful than this
other respectable form of degradation that everyone glows and smirks
over."

Miss Temperley clasped her hands in despair.

"I simply can't understand you. What you say is rank heresy against all
that is most beautiful in human nature."

"Surely the rank heresy is to be laid at the door of those who degrade
and enslave that which they assert to be most beautiful in human nature.
But I am not speaking to convince; merely to shew where you cannot count
upon me for a point of attack. Try something else."

"But it is so strange, so insane, as it seems to me. Do you mean to
throw contempt on motherhood _per se_?"

"I am not discussing motherhood _per se_; no woman has yet been in a
position to know what it is _per se_, strange as it may appear. No woman
has yet experienced it apart from the enormous pressure of law and
opinion that has, always, formed part of its inevitable conditions. The
illegal mother is hounded by her fellows in one direction; the legal
mother is urged and incited in another: free motherhood is unknown
amongst us. I speak of it as it is. To speak of it _per se_, for the
present, is to discuss the transcendental."

There was a moment's excited pause, and Hadria then went on more
rapidly. "You know well enough, Henriette, what thousands of women there
are to whom the birth of their children is an intolerable burden, and a
fierce misery from which many would gladly seek escape by death. And
indeed many _do_ seek escape by death. What is the use of this eternal
conspiracy of silence about that which every woman out of her teens
knows as well as she knows her own name?"

But Henriette preferred to ignore that side of her experience. She
murmured something about the maternal instinct, and its potency.

"I don't deny the potency of the instinct," said Hadria, "but I do say
that it is shamefully presumed upon. Strong it obviously must be, if
industrious cultivation and encouragements and threats and exhortations
can make it so! All the Past as well as all the weight of opinion and
training in the Present has been at work on it, thrusting and alluring
and coercing the woman to her man-allotted fate."

"_Nature_-allotted, if you please," said Henriette. "There is no need
for alluring or coercing."

"Why do it then? Now, be frank, Henriette, and try not to be offended.
Would _you_ feel no sense of indignity in performing a function of this
sort (however noble and so on you might think it _per se_), if you knew
that it would be demanded of you as a duty, if you did not welcome it as
a joy?"

"I should acknowledge it as a duty, if I did not welcome it as a joy."

"In other words, you would accept the position of a slave."

"How so?"

"By bartering your womanhood, by using these powers of body, in return
for food and shelter and social favour, or for the sake of so-called
'duty' irrespective of--perhaps in direct opposition to your feelings.
How then do you differ from the slave woman who produces a progeny of
young slaves, to be disposed of as shall seem good to her perhaps
indulgent master? I see no essential difference."

"I see the difference between honour and ignominy," said Henriette.
Hadria shook her head, sadly.

"The differences are all in detail and in circumstance. I am sorry if I
offend your taste. The facts are offensive. The bewildering thing is
that the facts themselves never seem to offend you; only the mention of
them."

"It would take too long to go into this subject," said Henriette. "I can
only repeat that I fail to understand your extraordinary views of the
holiest of human instincts."

"_That_ catch-word! And you use it rashly, Henriette, for do you not
know that the deepest of all degradation comes of misusing that which is
most holy?"

"A woman who does her duty is not to be accused of misusing anything,"
cried Miss Temperley hotly.

"Is there then no sin, no misuse of power in sending into the world
swarms of fortuitous, poverty-stricken human souls, as those souls must
be who are born in bondage, with the blended instincts of the slave and
the master for a proud inheritance? It sounds awful I know, but truth is
apt to sound awful. Motherhood, as our wisdom has appointed it, among
civilized people, represents a prostitution of the reproductive powers,
which precisely corresponds to that other abuse, which seems to most of
us so infinitely more shocking."

Miss Temperley preferred not to reply to such a remark, and the entrance
of little Martha relieved the tension of the moment. Henriette, though
she bore the child a grudge, could not resist her when she came forward
and put up her face to be kissed.

"She is really growing very pretty," said Henriette, in a tone which
betrayed the agitation which she had been struggling to hide.

Martha ran for her doll and her blue man, and was soon busy at play, in
a corner of the room, building Eiffel Towers out of stone bricks, and
knocking them down again.

"I don't yet quite understand, Henriette, your object in coming to
Paris." Hadria's voice had grown calmer.

"I came to make an appeal to your sense of duty and your generosity."

"Ah!"

"I came," Henriette went on, bracing herself as if for a great effort,
"to remind you that when you married, you entered into a contract which
you now repudiate."

Hadria started up, reddening with anger.

"I did no such thing, and you know it, Henriette. How do you _dare_ to
sit there and tell me that?"

"I tell you nothing but the truth. Every woman who marries enters, by
that fact, into a contract."

Miss Temperley had evidently regarded this as a strong card and played
it hopefully.

Hadria was trembling with anger. She steadied her voice. "Then you
actually intended to _entrap_ me into this so-called contract, by
leading me to suppose that it would mean nothing more between Hubert and
myself than an unavoidable formality! You tell me this to my face, and
don't appear to see that you are confessing an act of deliberate
treachery."

"Nonsense," cried Henriette. "There was nothing that any sane person
would have objected to, in our conduct."

Hadria stood looking down scornfully on her sister-in-law. She shrugged
her shoulders, as if in bewilderment.

"And yet you would have felt yourselves stained with dishonour for the
rest of your lives had you procured anything _else_ on false pretences!
But a woman--that is a different affair. The code of honour does not
here apply, it would seem. _Any_ fraud may be honourably practised on
_her_, and wild is the surprise and indignation if she objects when she
finds it out."

"You are perfectly mad," cried Henriette, tapping angrily with her
fingers on the arm of her chair.

"What I say is true, whether I be mad or sane. What you call the
'contract' is simply a cunning contrivance for making a woman and her
possible children the legal property of a man, and for enlisting her own
honour and conscience to safeguard the disgraceful transaction."

"Ah," said Henriette, on the watch for her opportunity, "then you admit
that her honour and conscience _are_ enlisted?"

"Certainly, in the case of most women. That enlistment is a masterpiece
of policy. To make a prisoner his own warder is surely no light stroke
of genius. But that is exactly what I refused to be from the first, and
no one could have spoken more plainly. And now you are shocked and
pained and aggrieved because I won't eat my words. Yet we have talked
over all this, in my room at Dunaghee, by the hour. Oh! Henriette, why
did you not listen to your conscience and be honest with me?"

"Hadria, you insult me."

"Why could not Hubert choose one among the hundreds and thousands of
women who would have passed under the yoke without a question, and have
gladly harnessed herself to his chariot by the reins of her own
conscience?"

"I would to heaven he _had_!" Henriette was goaded into replying.

Hadria laughed. Then her brow clouded with pain. "Ah, why did he not
meet my frankness with an equal frankness, at the time? All this trouble
would have been saved us both if _only_ he had been honest."

"My dear, he was in love with you."

"And so he thought himself justified in deceiving me. There is _indeed_
war to the knife between the sexes!" Hadria stood with her elbows on
the back of a high arm-chair, her chin resting on her hands.

"It is not fair to use that word. I tell you that we both confidently
expected that when you had more experience you would be like other women
and adjust yourself sensibly to your conditions."

"I see," said Hadria, "and so it was decided that Hubert was to pretend
to have no objections to my wild ideas, so as to obtain my consent,
trusting to the ponderous bulk of circumstance to hold me flat and
subservient when I no longer had a remedy in my power. You neither of
you lack brains, at any rate." Henriette clenched her hands in the
effort of self-control.

"In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, our forecasts would have come
true," she said. "I mean----"

"That is refreshingly frank," cried Hadria.

"We thought we acted for the best."

"Oh, if it comes to that, the Spanish Inquisitors doubtless thought that
they were acting for the best, when they made bonfires of heretics in
the market-places." Henriette bent her head and clasped the arms of the
chair, tightly.

"Well, if there be any one at fault in the matter, _I_ am the culprit,"
she said in a voice that trembled. "It was _I_ who assured Hubert that
experience would alter you. It was I who represented to him that though
you might be impulsive, even hard at times, you could not persist in a
course that would give pain, and that if you saw that any act of yours
caused him to suffer, you would give it up. I was convinced that your
character was good and noble _au fond_, Hadria, and I have believed it
up to this moment."

Hadria drew herself together with a start, and her face darkened. "You
make me regret that I ever had a good or a pitiful impulse!" she cried
with passion.

She went to the window and stood leaning against the casement, with
crossed arms.

Henriette turned round in her chair.

"Why do you always resist your better nature, Hadria?"

"You use it against me. It is the same with all women. Let them beware
of their 'better natures,' poor hunted fools! for that 'better nature'
will be used as a dog-chain, by which they can be led, like
toy-terriers, from beginning to end of what they are pleased to call
their lives!"

"Oh, Hadria, Hadria!" cried Miss Temperley with deep regret in her tone.

But Hadria was only roused by the remonstrance.

"It is cunning, shallow, heartless women, who really fare best in our
society; its conditions suit them. _They_ have no pity, no sympathy to
make a chain of; _they_ don't mind stooping to conquer; _they_ don't
mind playing upon the weaker, baser sides of men's natures; _they_ don't
mind appealing, for their own ends, to the pity and generosity of
others; _they_ don't mind swallowing indignity and smiling abjectly,
like any woman of the harem at her lord, so that they gain their object.
_That_ is the sort of 'woman's nature' that our conditions are busy
selecting. Let us cultivate it. We live in a scientific age; the fittest
survive. Let us be 'fit.'"

"Let us be womanly, let us do our duty, let us hearken to our
conscience!" cried Henriette.

"Thank you! If my conscience is going to be made into a helm by which
others may guide me according to their good pleasure, the sooner that
helm is destroyed the better. That is the conclusion to which you drive
me and the rest of us, Henriette."

"Charity demands that I do not believe what you say," said Miss
Temperley.

"Oh, don't trouble to be charitable!"

Henriette heaved a deep sigh. "Hadria," she said, "are you going to
allow your petty rancour about this--well, I will call it error of ours,
if you like to be severe--are you going to bear malice and ruin your own
life and Hubert's and the children's? Are you so unforgiving, so lacking
in generosity?"

"_You_ call it an error. _I_ call it a treachery," returned Hadria. "Why
should the results of that treachery be thrust on to _my_ shoulders to
bear? Why should _my_ generosity be summoned to your rescue? But I
suppose you calculated on that sub-consciously, at the time."

"_Hadria!_"

"This is a moment for plain speaking, if ever there was one. You must
have reckoned on an appeal to my generosity, and on the utter
helplessness of my position when once I was safely entrapped. It was
extremely clever and well thought out. Do you suppose that you would
have dared to act as you did, if there had been means of redress in my
hands, after marriage?"

"If I _did_ rely on your generosity, I admit my mistake," said Henriette
bitterly.

"And now when your deed brings its natural harvest of disaster, you and
Hubert come howling, like frightened children, to have the mischief set
straight again, the consequences of your treachery averted, by _me_, of
all people on this earth!"

"You are his wife, the mother of his children."

"In heaven's name, Henriette, why do you always run into my very jaws?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Why do you catalogue my injuries when your point is to deny them?"

Henriette rose with a vivid flush.

"Hadria, Hubert is one of the best men in England. I----"

"When have I disputed that?"

Hadria advanced towards Miss Temperley, and stood looking her full in
the face.

"I believe that Hubert has acted conscientiously, according to his
standard. But I detest his standard. He did not think it wrong or
treacherous to behave as he did towards me. But it is _that very fact_
that I so bitterly resent. I could have forgiven him a sin against
myself alone, which he acknowledged to be a sin. But this is a sin
against my entire sex, which he does _not_ acknowledge to be a sin. It
is the insolence that is implied in supposing it allowable for a man to
trick a woman in that way, without the smallest damage to his
self-respect, that sticks so in my throat. What does it imply as regards
his attitude towards all women? Ah! it is _that_ which makes me feel so
rancorous. And I resent Hubert's calm assumption that he had a right to
judge what was best for me, and even to force me, by fraud, into
following his view, leaving me afterwards to adjust myself with
circumstance as best I might: to make my bitter choice between
unconditional surrender, and the infliction of pain and distress, on
him, on my parents, on everybody. Ah, you calculated cunningly,
Henriette! I _am_ a coward about giving pain, little as you may now be
disposed to credit it. You have tight hold of the end of my chain."

Hadria was pacing restlessly up and down the room. Little Martha ran out
with her doll, and offered it, as if with a view to chase away the
perturbed look from Hadria's face. The latter stooped mechanically and
took the doll, smiling her thanks, and stroking the child's fair curls
tenderly. Then she recommenced her walk up and down the room, carrying
the doll carefully on her arm.

"Take care of dolly," Martha recommended, and went back to her other
toys.

"Yes, Henriette, you and Hubert have made your calculations cleverly.
You have advocates only too eloquent in my woman's temperament. You have
succeeded only too well by your fraud, through which I now stand here,
with a life in fragments, bound, chafe as I may, to choose between
alternative disasters for myself and for all of us. Had you two only
acted straightly with me, and kindly allowed me to judge for myself,
instead of treacherously insisting on judging for me, this knot of your
tying which you naïvely bring me to unravel, would never have wrung the
life out of me as it is doing now--nor would it have caused you and
Hubert so much virtuous distress."

Hadria recommenced her restless pacing to and fro.

"But, Hadria, _do_ be calm, _do_ look at the matter from our point of
view. I have owned my indiscretion." (Hadria gave a little scornful
cry.) "Surely you are not going to throw over all allegiance to your
husband on _that_ account, even granting he was to blame." Hadria
stopped abruptly.

"I deny that I owe allegiance to a man who so treated me. I don't deny
that he had excuses. The common standards exonerate him; but, good
heavens, a sense of humour, if nothing else, ought to save him from
making this grotesque claim on his victim! To preach the duties of wife
and mother to _me!_" Hadria broke into a laugh. "It is inconceivably
comic."

Henriette shrugged her shoulders. "I fear my sense of humour is
defective. I can't see the justice of repudiating the duty of one's
position, since there the position _is_, an accomplished fact not to be
denied. Why not make the best of it?"

"Henriette, you are amazing! Supposing a wicked bigamist had persuaded a
woman to go through a false marriage ceremony, and when she became aware
of her real position, imagine him saying to her, with grave and virtuous
mien, 'My dear, why repudiate the duties of your position, since there
your position _is_, an accomplished fact not to be denied?'"

"Oh, that's preposterous," cried Henriette.

"It's preposterous and it's parallel."

"Hubert did not try to entrap you into doing what was wrong."

"We need not discuss that, for it is not the point. The point is that
the position (be that right or wrong) was forced on the woman in both
cases by fraud, and is then used as a pretext to exact from her the
desired conduct; what the author of the fraud euphoniously calls
'duty.'"

"You are positively insulting!" cried Henriette, rising.

By this time, Hadria had allowed the doll to slip back, and its limp
body was hanging down disconsolately from her elbow, although she was
clutching it, with absent-minded anxiety, to her side, in the hope of
arresting its threatened fall.

"Oh, look at dolly, look, look!" cried Martha reproachfully. Hadria
seized its legs and pulled it back again, murmuring some consolatory
promise to its mistress.

"It is strange how you succeed in putting me on the defensive,
Henriette--I who have been wronged. A horrible wrong it is too. It has
ruined my life. You will never know all that it implies, never, never,
though I talk till Doomsday. Nobody will--except Professor Fortescue."

Henriette gave a horrified gesture. "I believe you are in love with that
man. _That_ is the cause of all this wild conduct."

Miss Temperley had lost self-control for a moment.

Hadria looked at her steadily.

"I beg your pardon. I spoke in haste, Hadria. You have your faults, but
Hubert has nothing to fear from you in that respect, I am sure."

"Really?" Hadria had come forward and was standing with her left elbow
on the mantel-piece, the doll still tucked under her right arm. "And you
think that I would, at all hazards, respect a legal tie which no feeling
consecrates?"

"I do you that justice," murmured Henriette, turning very white.

"You think that I should regard myself as so completely the property of
a man whom I do not love, and who actively dislikes me, as to hold my
very feelings in trust for him. Disabuse yourself of that idea,
Henriette. I claim rights over myself, and I will hold myself in pawn
for no man. This is no news either to you or to Hubert. Why pretend that
it is?"

Henriette covered her face with her hands.

"I can but hope," she said at length, "that even now you are saying
these horrible things out of mere opposition. I cannot, I simply
_cannot_ believe, that you would bring disgrace upon us all."

"If you chose to regard it as a disgrace that I should make so bold as
to lay claim to myself, that, it seems to me, would be your own fault."
Henriette sprang forward white and trembling, and clutched Hadria's arm
excitedly.

"Ah! you _could_ not! you _could_ not! Think of your mother and father,
if you will not think of your husband and children. You terrify me!"

Hadria was moved with pity at Henriette's white quivering face.

"Don't trouble," she said, more gently. "There is no thunderbolt about
to fall in our discreet circle." (A hideous crash from the overturning
of one of Martha's Eiffel Towers seemed to belie the words.)

Miss Temperley's clutch relaxed, and she gave a gasp of relief.

"Tell me, Hadria, that you did not mean what you said."

"I can't do that, for I meant it, every syllable."

"Promise me then at least, that before you do anything to bring misery
and disgrace on us all, you will tell us of your intention, and give us
a chance of putting our side of the matter before you."

"Of protecting your vested interests," said Hadria; "your right of way
through my flesh and spirit."

"Of course you put it unkindly."

"I will not make promises for the future. The future is quite enough
hampered with the past, without setting anticipatory traps and springes
for unwary feet. But I refuse this promise merely on general principles.
I am not about to distress you in that particular way, though I think
you would only have yourselves to blame if I _were_."

Miss Temperley drew another deep breath, and the colour began to return
to her face.

"So far, so good," she said. "Now tell me--Is there nothing that would
make you accept your duties?"

"Even if I were to accept what you call my duties, it would not be in
the spirit that you would desire to see. It would be in cold
acknowledgment of the force of existing facts--facts which I regard as
preposterous, but admit to be coercive." Henriette sank wearily into her
chair.

"Do you then hold it justifiable for a woman to inflict pain on those
near to her, by a conduct that she may think justifiable in itself?"

Hadria hesitated for a moment.

"A woman is so desperately entangled, and restricted, and betrayed, by
common consent, in our society, that I hold her justified in using
desperate means, as one who fights for dear life. She may harden her
heart--if she can."

"I am thankful to think that she very seldom _can_!" cried Henriette.

"Ah! that is our weak point! For a long time to come, we shall be
overpowered by our own cage-born instincts, by our feminine conscience
that has been trained so cleverly to dog the woman's footsteps, in man's
interest--his detective in plain clothes!"

"Of course, if you repudiate all moral claim----" began Henriette,
weakly.

"I will not insult your intelligence by considering that remark."

"Are you determined to harden yourself against every appeal?" Hadria
looked at her sister-in-law, in silence.

"Why don't you answer me, Hadria?"

"Because I have just been endeavouring, evidently in vain, to explain in
what light I regard appeals on this point."

"Then Hubert and the children are to be punished for what you are
pleased to call his fraud--the fraud of a man in love with you, anxious
to please you, to agree with you, and believing you too good and noble
to allow his life to be spoilt by this girl's craze for freedom. It is
inconceivable!"

"I fear that Hubert must be prepared to endure the consequences of his
actions, like the rest of us. It is the custom, I know, for the sex that
men call weaker, to saddle themselves with the consequences of men's
deeds, but I think we should have a saner, and a juster world if the
custom were discontinued."

"You have missed one of the noblest lessons of life, Hadria," cried Miss
Temperley, rising to leave. "You do not understand the meaning of
self-sacrifice."

"A principle that, in woman, has been desecrated by misuse," said
Hadria. "There is no power, no quality, no gift or virtue, physical or
moral, that we have _not_ been trained to misuse. Self-sacrifice stands
high on the list."

Miss Temperley shrugged her shoulders, sadly and hopelessly.

"You have fortified yourself on every side. My words only prompt you to
throw up another earthwork at the point attacked. I do harm instead of
good. I will leave you to think the matter over alone." Miss Temperley
moved towards the door.

"Ah, you are clever, Henriette! You know well that I am far better
acquainted with the weak points of my own fortifications than you can
be, who did not build them, and that when I have done with the defence
against you, I shall commence the attack myself. You have all the
advantages on your side. Mine is a forlorn hope:--a handful of Greeks at
Thermopylae against all the host of the Great King. We are foredoomed;
the little band must fall, but some day, Henriette, when you and I shall
be no more troubled with these turbulent questions--some day, these
great blundering hosts of barbarians will be driven back, and the Greek
will conquer. Then the realm of liberty will grow wide!"

"I begin to hate the very name!" exclaimed Henriette.

Hadria's eyes flashed, and she stood drawn up, straight and defiant,
before the mantel-piece.

"Ah! there is a fiercer Salamis and a crueller Marathon yet to be
fought, before the world will so much as guess what freedom means. I
have no illusions now, regarding my own chances, but I should hold it as
an honour to stand and fall at Thermopylae, with Leonidas and his
Spartans."

"I believe that some day you will see things with different eyes," said
Henriette.

The doll fell with a great crash, into the fender among the fire-irons,
and there was a little burst of laughter. Miss Temperley passed through
the door, at the same instant, with great dignity.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


As Hadria had foretold, she commenced the attack on herself as soon as
Henriette had departed, and all night long, the stormy inner debate was
kept up. Her mind never wavered, but her heart was rebellious. Hubert
deserved to pay for his conduct; but if we all had to pay for our
conduct to the uttermost farthing, that would be hard, if just. If
Hadria assumed the burden of Hubert's debt, it would mean what M.
Jouffroy had pointed out. Hubert's suffering would be only on account of
offended public opinion; hers--but then her parents would suffer as well
as Hubert. Round and round went the thoughts, like vast wheels, and when
towards morning, she dozed off a little, the wheels were still turning
in a vague, weary way, and as they turned, the life seemed to be crushed
gradually out of the sleeper.

Jouffroy came to enquire whether the decision had been made. He was in a
state of great excitement. He gave fervent thanks that Hadria had stood
firm.

"You do not forget my words, Madame?"

"I shall never forget them, Monsieur."

Henriette discreetly forbore to say anything further on the subject of
dispute. She waited, hopefully.

"Hubert has been troubled about the money that your father set apart, on
your marriage, as a contribution to the household expenses," she said,
one morning. "Your father did not place it all in your name."

"I know," said Hadria. "It is tied up, in some way, for the use of the
family. I have a small sum only in my own control."

"Hubert is now leaving half of it to accumulate. The other half has
still to go towards the expenses at the Red House. I suppose you
approve?"

"Certainly," said Hadria. "My father designed it for that purpose."

"But Hubert feared you might be running short of money, and wished to
send you some; but the trustees say it is against the conditions of the
trust."

"So I suppose."

"I wanted you to know about it, that is all," said Henriette. "Also, I
should like to say that though Hubert does not feel that he can ask you
to return to the Red House, after what has happened--he cannot risk your
refusing--yet I take it on myself to tell you, that he would only be too
glad if you would go back."

"Thank you, I understand."

Next morning, Henriette came with a letter in her hand.

"Bad news!" Hadria exclaimed.

The letter announced the failure of the Company. It was the final blow.
Dunaghee would have to be given up. Mrs. Fullerton's settlement was all
that she and her husband would now have to live upon.

Hadria sat gazing at the letter, with a dazed expression. Almost before
the full significance of the calamity had been realized, a telegram
arrived, announcing that Mrs. Fullerton had fallen dangerously ill.

The rest of that day was spent in packing, writing notes, settling
accounts, and preparing for departure.

"When--how are you going?" cried Madame Vauchelet, in dismay.

"By the night boat, by the night boat," Hadria replied hurriedly, as if
the hurry of her speech would quicken her arrival in England.

The great arches of the station which had appealed to her imagination,
at the moment of arrival, swept upward, hard and grey, in the callous
blue light. Hadria breathed deep. Was she the same person who had
arrived that night, with every nerve thrilled with hope and resolve? Ah!
there had been so much to learn, and the time had been so short.
Starting with her present additional experience, she could have managed
so much better. But of what use to think of that? How different the
homeward journey from the intoxicating outward flight, in the heyday of
the spring!

What did that telegram mean? _Ill; dangerously, dangerously._ The words
seemed to be repeated cruelly, insistently, by the jogging of the train
and the rumble of the wheels. The anxiety gnawed on, rising at times
into terror, dulling again to a steady ache. And then remorse began to
fit a long-pointed fang into a sensitive spot in her heart. In vain to
resist. It was securely placed. Let reason hold her peace.

A thousand fears, regrets, self-accusations, revolts, swarmed
insect-like in Hadria's brain, as the train thundered through the
darkness, every tumultuous sound and motion exaggerated to the
consciousness, by the fact that there was no distraction of the
attention by outside objects. Nothing offered itself to the sight except
the strange lights and shadows of the lamp thrown on the cushions of the
carriage; Henriette's figure in one corner, Hannah, with the child, in
another, and the various rugs and trappings of wandering Britons.
Everything was contracted, narrow. The sea-passage had the same sinister
character. Hadria compared it to the crossing of the Styx in Charon's
gloomy ferry-boat.

She felt a patriotic thrill on hearing the first mellow English voice
pronouncing the first kindly English sentence. The simple, slow, honest
quality of the English nature gave one a sense of safety. What splendid
raw material to make a nation out of! But, ah, it was sometimes dull to
live with! These impressions, floating vaguely in the upper currents of
the mind, were simultaneous with a thousand thoughts and anxieties, and
gusts of bitter fear and grief.

What would be the end of it all? This uprooting from the old home--it
wrung one's heart to think of it. Scarcely could the thought be faced.
Her father, an exile from his beloved fields and hills; her mother
banished from her domain of so many years, and after all these
disappointments and mortifications and sorrows! It was piteous. Where
would they live? What would they do?

Hadria fought with her tears. Ah! it was hard for old people to have to
start life anew, bitterly hard. This was the moment for their children
to flock to their rescue, to surround them with care, with affection,
with devotion; to make them feel that at least _some_thing that could be
trusted, was left to them from the wreck.

"Ah! poor mother, poor kind father, you were very good to us all, very,
very good!"



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


Mrs. Fullerton's illness proved even more serious than the doctor had
expected. She asked so incessantly for her daughters, especially Hadria,
that all question of difference between her and Hubert was laid aside,
by tacit consent, and the sisters took their place at their mother's
bedside. The doctor said that the patient must have been suffering, for
many years, from an exhausted state of the nerves and from some kind of
trouble. Had she had any great disappointment or anxiety?

Hadria and Algitha glanced at one another. "Yes," said Algitha, "my
mother has had a lot of troublesome children to worry and disappoint
her."

"Ah!" exclaimed the doctor, nodding his head. "Well, now has come a
crisis in Mrs. Fullerton's condition. This illness has been incubating
for years. She must have undergone mental misery of a very acute kind,
whether or not the cause may have been adequate. If her children desire
to keep her among them, it will be necessary to treat her with the
utmost care, and to oppose her in _nothing_. Further disappointment or
chagrin, she has no longer the power to stand. There are complications.
Her heart will give trouble, and all your vigilance and forbearance are
called for, to avoid serious consequences. I think it right to speak
frankly, for everything depends--and always hereafter will depend--on
the patient's being saved as much as possible from the repetition of any
former annoyance or sorrow. At best, there will be much for her to
endure; I dread an uprooting of long familiar habits for any one of her
age. Her life, if not her reason, are in her children's hands."

A time of terrible anxiety followed, for the inmates of the Red House.
The doctor insisted on a trained nurse. Algitha and Hadria felt uneasy
when they were away, even for a moment, from the sick-room, but the
doctor reminded them of the necessity, for the patient's sake as well as
their own, of keeping up their strength. He warned them that there would
be a long strain upon them, and that any lack of common sense, as
regards their own health, would certainly diminish the patient's chances
of recovery. Nobody had his clearest judgment and his quickest
observation at command, when nervously exhausted. Everything might
depend on a moment's decision, a moment's swiftness of insight. The
warning was not thrown away, but both sisters found the incessant
precautions trying.

Every thought, every emotion was swallowed up in the one awful anxiety.

"Oh, Hadria, I feel as if this were my fault," cried Algitha, on one
still, ominous night, after she had resigned her post at the bedside to
the nurse, who was to fill it for a couple of hours, after which Hadria
took her turn of watching.

"You? It was I," said Hadria, with trembling lips.

"Mother has never been strong," Algitha went on. "And my leaving home
was the beginning of all this trouble."

"And _my_ leaving home the end of it," her sister added.

Algitha was walking restlessly to and fro.

"And I went to Dunaghee so often, so often," she cried tearfully, "so
that mother should not feel deserted, and you too came, and the boys
when they could. But she never got over my leaving; she seemed to resent
my independence, my habit of judging for myself; she hated every detail
in which I differed from the girls she knew. If I had married and gone
to the Antipodes, she would have been quite satisfied, but----"

"Ah, why do people need human souls for their daily food?" cried Hadria
mournfully. She flung open the window of the bedroom, and looked out
over the deadly stillness of the fields and the heavy darkness. "But
they do need them," she said, in the same quiet, hopeless tone, "and
the souls have got to be provided."

"What is the time?" asked Algitha. A clock had struck, outside. "Could
it be the clock of Craddock church? The sound must have stolen down
hill, through the still air."

"It struck three."

"You ought to get some sleep," cried Algitha. "Remember what the doctor
said."

"I feel so nervous, so anxious. I could not sleep."

"Just for a few minutes," Algitha urged. Hadria consented at last, to go
into her room, which adjoined her sister's, and lie down on the bed. The
door was open between the rooms. "You must do the same," she stipulated.

There was silence for some minutes, but the silence swarmed with the
ghosts of voices. The air seemed thick with shapes, and terrors, and
strange warnings.

The doctor had not disguised the fact that the patient was fighting hard
for life, and that it was impossible to predict the result. Everything
depended on whether her strength would hold out. The weakness of the
heart was an unfortunate element in the case. To save strength and give
plentiful nourishment, without heightening the fever, must be the
constant effort. Algitha's experience stood her in good stead. Her
practical ability had been quickened and disciplined by her work. She
had trained herself in nursing, among other things.

Hadria's experience was small. She had to summon her intelligence to the
rescue. The Fullerton stock had never been deficient in this particular.
In difficult moments, when rule and tradition had done their utmost,
Hadria had often some original device to suggest, to fit the individual
case, which tided them over a crisis, or avoided some threatening
predicament.

"Are you sleeping?" asked Algitha, very softly.

"No," said Hadria; "I feel very uneasy to-night. I think I will go
down."

"Do try to get a little rest first, Hadria; your watch is next, and you
must not go to it fagged out."

"I know, but I feel full of dread. I _must_ just go and see that all is
right."

"Then I will come too," said Algitha.

They stole down stairs together, in the dim light of the oil lamps that
were kept burning all night. The clock struck the half-hour as they
passed along the landing. A strange fancy came to Hadria, that a dusky
figure drifted away before her, as she advanced. It seemed as though
death had receded at her approach. The old childish love for her mother
had revived in all its force, during this long fight with the reaper of
souls. She felt all her energies strung with the tension of battle. She
fought against a dark horror that she could not face. Knowing, and
realising vividly, that if her mother lived, her own dreams were ended
for ever, she wrestled with desperate strength for the life that was at
stake. Her father's silent wretchedness was terrible to see. He would
not hear a word of doubt as to the patient's recovery. He grew angry if
anyone hinted at danger. He insisted that his wife was better each day.
She would soon be up and well again.

"Never well again," the doctor had confided to Hubert, "though she may
possibly pull through."

Mr. Fullerton's extravagant hopefulness sent a thrill along the nerves.
It was as if he had uttered the blackest forebodings. The present crisis
had stirred a thousand feelings and associations, in Hadria, which had
long been slumbering. She seemed to be sent back again, to the days of
her childhood. The intervening years were blotted out. She realized now,
with agonising vividness, the sadness of her mother's life, the long
stagnation, the slow decay of disused faculties, and the ache that
accompanies all processes of decay, physical or moral. Not only the
strong appeal of old affection, entwined with the earliest associations,
was at work, but the appeal of womanhood itself:--the grey sad story of
a woman's life, bare and dumb and pathetic in its irony and pain: the
injury from without, and then the self-injury, its direct offspring;
unnecessary, yet inevitable; the unconscious thirst for the sacrifice of
others, the hungry claims of a nature unfulfilled, the groping instinct
to bring the balance of renunciation to the level, and indemnify oneself
for the loss suffered and the spirit offered up. And that propitiation
had to be made. It was as inevitable as that the doom of Orestes should
follow the original crime of the house of Atreus. Hadria's whole thought
and strength were now centred on the effort to bring about that
propitiation, in her own person. She prepared the altar and sharpened
the knife. In that subtle and ironical fashion, her fate was steadily at
work.

The sick-room was very still when the sisters entered. It was both warm
and fresh. A night-light burnt on the table, where cups and bottles were
ranged, a spirit-lamp and kettle, and other necessaries. The night-light
threw long, stealthy shadows over the room. The fire burnt with a red
glow. The bed lay against the long wall. As the two figures entered,
there was a faint sound of quick panting, and a moan. Hadria rushed to
the bedside.

"Quick, quick, some brandy," she called. Algitha flew to the table for
the brandy, noticing with horror, as she passed, that the nurse had
fallen asleep at her post. Algitha shook her hastily.

"Go and call Mr. Fullerton," she said sharply, "and quick, quick." The
patient was sinking. The nurse vanished. Algitha had handed the cup of
brandy to Hadria. The sisters stood by the bedside, scarcely daring to
breathe. Mr. Fullerton entered hurriedly, with face pallid and drawn.

"What is it? Is she----?"

"No, no; I hope not. Another moment it would have been too late, but I
think we were in time."

Hadria had administered the brandy, and stood watching breathlessly, for
signs of revival. She gave one questioning glance at Algitha. Her trust
in the nurse was gone. Algitha signed hope. The patient's breathing was
easier.

"I wonder if we ought to give a little more?" Hadria whispered.

"Wait a minute. Ah! don't speak to her, father; she needs all her
strength."

The ticking of the clock could be heard, in the dim light.

Algitha was holding her mother's wrist. "Stronger," she said. Hadria
drew a deep sigh. "We must give food presently. No more brandy."

"She's all right again, all right again!" cried Mr. Fullerton, eagerly.

The nurse went to prepare the extract which the doctor had ordered for
the patient, when quickly-digested nourishment was required. It gave
immediate strength. The brandy had stimulated the sinking organs to a
saving effort; the food sustained the system at the level thus achieved.
The perilous moment was over.

"Thank heaven!" cried Algitha, when the patient's safety was assured,
and she sank back on the pillow, with a look of relief on her worn face.

"If it had not been for you, Hadria----. What's the matter? Are you
ill?"

Algitha rushed forward, and the nurse dragged up a chair.

Hadria had turned deadly white, and her hand groped for support.

She drew herself together with a desperate effort, and sat down
breathing quickly. "I am not going to faint," she said, reassuringly.
"It was only for a moment." She gave a shudder. "What a fight it was! We
were only just in time----"

A low voice came from the bed. The patient was talking in her sleep.
"Tell Hadria to come home if she does not want to kill me. Tell her to
come home; it is her duty. I want her."

Then, after a pause, "I have always done _my_ duty,--I have sacrificed
myself for the children. Why do they desert me, why do they desert me?"
And then came a low moaning cry, terrible to hear. The sisters were by
the bedside, in a moment. Their father stood behind them.

"We are here, mother dear; we are here watching by you," Hadria
murmured, with trembling voice.

Algitha touched the thin hand, quietly. "We are with you, mother," she
repeated. "Don't you know that we have been with you for a long time?"

The sick woman seemed to be soothed by the words.

"Both here, both?" she muttered vaguely. And then a smile spread over
the sharpened features; she opened her eyes and looked wistfully at the
two faces bending over her.

A look of happiness came into her dimmed eyes.

"My girls," she said in a dreamy voice, "my girls have come back to
me--I knew they were good girls----"

Then her eyes closed, and she fell into a profound and peaceful
slumber.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


"But, Doctor, is there no hope that with care and time, she will be able
to walk again?"

"I am sorry to say, none whatever. I am only thankful that my patient
has survived at all. It was little short of a miracle, and you must be
thankful for that."

Mrs. Fullerton had always been an active woman, in spite of not being
very robust, and a life passed on a couch had peculiar terrors for her.
The nervous system had been wrecked, not by any one shock or event, but
by the accumulated strains of a lifetime. The constitution was broken
up, once and for all.

A cottage had been taken, as near as possible to the Red House, where
the old couple were to settle for the rest of their days, within reach
of their children and grandchildren. Every wish of the invalid must be
respected, just or unjust. Absolute repose of mind and body was
imperatively necessary, and this could only be attained for her by a
complete surrender, on the part of her children, of any course of action
that she seriously disapproved. The income was too limited to allow of
Algitha's returning to her parents; otherwise Mrs. Fullerton would have
wished it. Algitha had now to provide for herself, as the allowance that
her father had given her could not be continued. She had previously done
her work for nothing, but now Mrs. Trevelyan, under whose care she had
been living, offered her a paid post in a Convalescent Home in which she
was interested.

"I am exceptionally fortunate," said Algitha, "for Mrs. Trevelyan has
arranged most kindly, so that I can get away to see mother and father at
the end of every week."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Fullerton had taken it for granted that Hadria would
remain at the Red House, and that Hubert would "forgive" her, as they
put it.

Circumstances seemed to take it equally for granted. Mrs. Fullerton
would now depend entirely on her children for every solace and pleasure.
She would require cheering, amusing, helping, in a thousand ways.
Algitha was to come down each week from Saturday till Monday, and the
brothers when they could. During the rest of the week, the invalid would
depend on her younger daughter. Hadria's leaving home, and the rumour of
a quarrel between her and Hubert, had conduced to her mother's illness,
perhaps had even caused it. Mrs. Fullerton had taken it bitterly to
heart. It had become obvious that Hadria would have now to remain at the
Red House, for her mother's sake, and that being so, she and Hubert
agreed that it was useless to discuss any other reasons for and against
it. Hubert was only too glad of her return, for appearance' sake.
Neither of them thought, for a moment, of what Henriette called a
"reconciliation." What had passed before Hadria's departure had revealed
finally, the hopelessness of such an attempt. Matters settled down
heavily and with an air of finality.

If only her mother's declining years were happy and peaceful, that would
be something of importance gained, but, alas! Mrs. Fullerton seemed
anything but happy. Her helplessness was hard to bear, and she felt the
worldly downfall, severely. All this, and the shattered state of her
nerves tended to make her exacting and irritable; and as she had felt
seriously aggrieved for so many years of her life, she now regarded the
devotion of her children as a debt tardily paid, and the habit grew
insensibly upon her of increasing her demands, as she found everyone so
ready to submit to them. The possession of power had its usual effect.
She knew no mercy in its use. Her daughters were made to feel that if
they had been less headstrong and selfish in the past, she would have
been a vigorous and active woman to this day. Obviously, the very least
they could do, was to try by all means in their power, to lighten the
burden they had laid upon her. Yet Mrs. Fullerton was, by nature,
unselfish. She would have gladly sacrificed herself for her children's
good, as indeed she had persistently and doggedly sacrificed herself for
them, during their childhood, but naturally she had her own view of what
constituted their "good." It did not consist in wasting one's youth and
looks among the slums of the East End, or in deserting one's home to
study music and mix in a set of second-rate people, in an out-of-the-way
district of Paris. As for Hadria's conduct about little Martha, Mrs.
Fullerton could scarcely bring herself to speak about it. It terrified
her. She thought it indicated some taint of madness in her daughter's
mind. Two charming children of her own and--but Mrs. Fullerton, with a
painful flush, would turn her mind from the subject. She had to believe
her daughter either mad or bad, and that was terrible to her maternal
pride. She could indeed scarcely believe that it had not all been a
painful dream, for Hadria was now so good and dutiful, so tender and
watchful; how _could_ she have behaved so abominably, so crazily? Every
day Hadria came to the cottage, generally with a bunch of fresh flowers
to place by her mother's couch, and then all the affairs of the
household were talked over and arranged, the daughter doing what was
needed in the way of ordering provisions or writing notes, for the
invalid could now write only with the greatest difficulty. Then Mrs.
Fullerton liked to have a chat, to hear what was in the papers, what was
going on in the neighbourhood, and to discuss all sorts of dreary
details, over and over again. Books that Hadria would sometimes bring
were generally left unread, unless they were light novels of a rigidly
conventional character. Mrs. Fullerton grew so excited in her
condemnation of any other kind, that it was dangerous to put them before
her. In the evenings, the old couple liked to have a rubber, and often
Hubert and Hadria would make up the necessary quartett; four silent
human beings, who sat like solemn children at their portentous play,
while the clock on the mantel-piece recorded the moments of their lives
that they dedicated to the mimic battle. Hours and hours were spent in
this way. But Hadria found that she could not endure it every night,
much to the surprise of her parents. The monotony, the incessant
recurrence, had a disastrous effect on her nerves, suggesting wild and
desperate impulses.

"I should go out of my mind, if I had no breaks," she said at last,
after trying it for some months. "In the interests of future rubbers, I
_must_ leave off, now and then. He that plays and runs away, will live
to play another day."

Mrs. Fullerton thought it strange that Hadria could not do even this
little thing for her parents, without grumbling, but she did not wish to
make a martyr of her. They must try and find some one else to take her
place occasionally.

Sometimes Joseph Fleming would accept the post, sometimes Lord Engleton,
and often Ernest or Fred, whose comparatively well-ordered minds were
not sent off their balance so easily as Hadria's. In this fashion, the
time went by, and the new state of affairs already seemed a hundred
years old. Paris was a clear, but far-off dream. An occasional letter
from Madame Vauchelet or Jouffroy, who mourned and wailed over Hadria's
surrender of her work, served to remind her that it had once been actual
and living. There still existed a Paris far away beyond the hills,
brilliant, vivid, exquisite, inspiring, and at this very moment the
people were coming and going, the river was flowing, the little steamers
plying,--but how hard it was to realise!

The family was charmed with the position of affairs.

"It is such a mercy things have happened as they have!" was the verdict,
delivered with much wise shaking of heads. "There can be no more mad or
disgraceful behaviour on the part of Hubert's wife, that is one comfort.
She can't murder her mother outright, though she has not been far off
it!"

From the first, Hadria had understood what the future must be. These
circumstances could not be overcome by any deed that she could bring
herself to do. Even Valeria was baffled. Her theories would not quite
work. Hadria looked things straight in the face. That which was
strongest and most essential in her must starve; there was no help for
it, and no one was directly to blame, not even herself. Fate, chance,
Providence, the devil, or whatever it was, had determined against her
particular impulses and her particular view of things. After all, it
would have been rather strange if these powers had happened exactly to
agree with her. She was not so ridiculous (she told herself) as to feel
personally aggrieved, but so long as fate, chance, Providence, or the
devil, gave her emotions and desires and talent and will, it was
impossible not to suffer. She might fully recognise that the suffering
was of absolutely no importance in the great scheme of things, but that
did not make the suffering less. If it must be, it must be, and there
was an end to it. Should someone gain by it, that was highly
satisfactory, and more than could be said of most suffering, which
exists, it would seem, only to increase and multiply after the manner of
some dire disease. This was what Hadria dreaded in her own case: that
the loss would not end with her. The children, Martha, everyone who came
under her influence, must share in it.

Henriette irritated her by an approving sweetness of demeanour,
carefully avoiding any look of triumph, or rather triumphing by that air
which said: "I wouldn't crow over you for the world!"

She was evidently brimming over with satisfaction. A great peril, she
felt, had been averted. The family and its reputation were saved.

"You appear to think that the eyes of Europe are riveted on the
Temperley family," said Hadria; "an august race, I know, but there _are_
one or two other branches of the human stock in existence."

"One _must_ consider what people say," said Henriette.

Hadria's time now was filled more and more with detail, since there were
two households instead of one to manage. The new charge was
particularly difficult, because she had not a free hand.

Without entirely abandoning her music, it had, perforce, to fall into
abeyance. Progress was scarcely possible. But as Henriette pointed
out--it gave so much pleasure to others--when Hadria avoided music that
was too severely classical.

At Craddock Place, one evening, she was taken in to dinner by a callow
youth, who found a fertile subject for his wit, in the follies and
excesses of what he called the "new womanhood." It was so delightful, he
said, to come to the country, where women were still charming in the
good old way. He knew that this new womanhood business was only a phase,
don't you know, but upon his word, he was getting tired of it. Not that
he had any objection to women being well educated (Hadria was glad of
that), but he could _not_ stand it when they went out of their sphere,
and put themselves forward and tried to be emancipated, and all that
sort of nonsense.

Hadria was not surprised that he could not stand it.

There had been a scathing article, the youth said, in one of the evening
papers. He wondered how the "New Woman" felt after reading it! It simply
made mincemeat of her.

"Wretched creature!" Hadria exclaimed.

The youth wished that women would really _do_ something, instead of
making all this fuss.

Hadria agreed that it _was_ a pity they were so inactive. Could not one
or two of the more favoured sex manage to inspire them with a little
initiative?

The youth considered that women were, by nature, passive and reflective,
not original.

Hadria thought the novelty of that idea not the least of its charms.

The youth allowed that, in her own way, and in her own sphere, woman was
charming and singularly intelligent. He had no objection to her
developing as much as she pleased, in proper directions. (Hadria felt
really encouraged.) But it was so absurd to pretend that women could do
work that was peculiar to men. (Hadria agreed, with a chuckle.) When had
they written one of Shakespeare's dramas? (When indeed? History was
ominously silent on that point.)

"Hadria, what is amusing you?" enquired her hostess, across the table.

"Oh, well--only the discouraging fact that no woman, as Mr. St. George
convincingly points out, has ever written one of Shakespeare's dramas!"

"Oh," said Lady Engleton with a broad smile, "but you know, Mr. St.
George, we really haven't had quite the same chances, have we?"

Perhaps not quite, as far as literature went, the youth admitted
tolerantly, but there was failure in original work in every direction.
This was no blame to women; they were not made that way, but facts _had_
to be recognised. Women's strength lay in a different domain--in the
home. It was of no use to try to fight against Nature. Look at music for
instance; one required no particular liberty to pursue _that_ art, yet
where were the women-composers? If there was so much buried talent among
women, why didn't they arise and bring out operas and oratorios?

Hadria couldn't understand it; especially as the domestic life was
arranged, one might almost say, with a special view to promoting musical
talent in the mistress of the household. Yet where were those oratorios?
She shook her head. Mr. St. George, she thought, had clearly proved that
the inherent nature of women was passive and imitative, while that of
man, even in the least remarkable examples of the sex, was always
powerful and original to the verge of the perilous!

"I think we had better go to the drawing-room," said Lady Engleton,
discreetly. The youth twirled his moustaches thoughtfully, as the ladies
filed out.

Hadria's happiest hours were now those that she spent with little
Martha, who was growing rapidly in stature and intelligence. The
child's lovable nature blossomed sweetly under the influence of Hadria's
tenderness. When wearied, and sad at heart, an hour in the Priory
garden, or a saunter along the roadside with little Martha, was like the
touch of a fresh breeze after the oppression of a heated room. Hadria's
attachment to the child had grown and grown, until it had become almost
a passion. How was the child to be saved from the usual fate of
womanhood? Hadria often felt a thrill of terror, when the beautiful blue
eyes looked out, large and fearless, into the world that was just
unfolding before them, in its mysterious loveliness.

The little girl gave promise of beauty. Even now there were elements
that suggested a moving, attracting nature. "At her peril," thought
Hadria, "a woman moves and attracts. If I can only save her!"

Hadria had not seen Professor Fortescue since her return from Paris. She
felt that he, and he alone, could give her courage, that he and he alone
could save her from utter despondency. If only he would come! For the
first time in her life, she thought of writing to ask him for personal
help and advice. Before she had carried out this idea, the news came
that he was ill, that the doctor wished him to go abroad, but that he
was forced to remain in England, for another three months, to complete
some work, and to set some of his affairs in order. Hadria, in
desperation, was thinking of throwing minor considerations to the winds,
and going to see for herself the state of affairs (it could be managed
without her mother's knowledge, and so would not endanger her health or
life), when the two boys were sent back hastily from school, where
scarlet fever had broken out. They must have caught the infection before
leaving, for they were both taken ill.

Valeria came down to Craddock Dene, for the day. She seemed almost
distraught. Hadria could see her only at intervals. The sick children
required all her attention. Valeria wished to visit them. She had
brought the poor boys each a little gift.

"But you may take the fever," Hadria remonstrated.

Valeria gave a scornful snort.

"Are you tired of life?"

"I? Yes. It is absurd. I have no place in it, no tie, nothing to bind me
to my fellows or my race. What do they care for a faded, fretful woman?"

"You know how your friends care for you, Valeria. You know, for
instance, what you have been in my life."

"Ah, my dear, I _don't_ know! I have a wretched longing for some strong,
absorbing affection, something paramount, satisfying. I envy you your
devotion to that poor little child; you can shew it, you can express it,
and you have the child's love in return. But I, who want much more than
that, shall never get even that. I threw away the chance when I had it,
and now I shall end my days, starving."

Hadria was silent. She felt that these words covered something more than
their ostensible meaning.

"I fear Professor Fortescue is very ill," said Valeria restlessly.

Her face was flushed, and her eyes burnt.

"I fear he is," said Hadria sadly.

"If--if he were to die----" Hadria gave a low, horrified exclamation.

"Surely there is no danger of that!"

"Of course there is: he told me that he did not expect to recover."

Valeria was crouching before the fire, with a look of blank despair.
Hadria, pale to the lips, took her hand gently and held it between her
own. Valeria's eyes suddenly filled with tears. "Ah, Hadria, you will
understand, you will not despise me--you will only be sorry for me--why
should I not tell you? It is eating my heart out--have you never
suspected, never guessed----?"

Hadria, with a startled look, paused to consider, and then, stroking
back the beautiful white hair with light touch, she said, "I think I
have known without knowing that I knew. It wanted just these words of
yours to light up the knowledge. Oh, Valeria, have you carried this
burden for all these years?"

"Ever since I first met him, which was just before he met his wife. I
knew, from the first, that it was hopeless. He introduced her to me
shortly after his engagement. He was wrapped up in her. With him, it was
once and for all. He is not the man to fall in love and out of it, over
and over again. We were alike in that. With me, too, it was once for
all. Oh, the irony of life!" Valeria went on with an outburst of energy,
"I was doomed to doom others to similar loss; others have felt for me,
in vain, what I, in vain, felt for him! I sent them all away, because I
could not bring myself to endure the thought of marrying any other man,
and so I pass my days alone--a waif and stray, without anything or
anyone to live for."

"At least you have your work to live for, which is to live for many,
instead of for one or two."

"Ah, that does not satisfy the heart."

"What _does_?" Hadria exclaimed.

Anxiety about Professor Fortescue now made a gloomy background to the
responsibilities of Hadria's present life. Valeria's occasional visits
were its bright spots. She looked forward to them, with pathetic
eagerness. The friendship became closer than it had ever been before,
since Valeria had confided her sad secret.

"Yet, Valeria, I envy you."

"Envy me?" she repeated blankly.

"I have never known what a great passion like that means; I have never
felt what you feel, and surely to live one's life with all its pettiness
and pain, yet never to know its extreme experiences, is sadder than to
have those experiences and suffer through them."

"Ah, yes, you are right," Valeria admitted. "I would not be without it
if I could."

The thought of what she had missed was beginning to take a hold upon
Hadria. Her life was passing, passing, and the supreme gifts would never
be hers. She must for ever stand outside, and be satisfied with shadows
and echoes.

"Are you very miserable, Hadria?" Valeria asked, one day.

"I am benumbed a little now," Hadria replied. "That must be, if one is
to go on at all. It is a provision of nature, I suppose. All that was
threatening before I went to Paris, is now being fulfilled. I can
scarcely realize how I could ever have had the hopefulness to make that
attempt. I might have known I could not succeed, as things are. How
_could_ I? But I am glad of the memory. It pains me sometimes, when all
the acute delight and charm return, at the call of some sound or scent,
some vivid word; but I would not be without the memory and the dream--my
little illusion."

"Supposing," said Valeria after a long pause, "that you could live your
life over again, what would you do?"

"I don't know. It is my impression that in my life, as in the lives of
most women, all roads lead to Rome. Whether one does this or that, one
finds oneself in pretty much the same position at the end. It doesn't
answer to rebel against the recognized condition of things, and it
doesn't answer to submit. Only generally one _must_, as in my case. A
choice of calamities is not always permitted."

"It is so difficult to know which is the least," said Valeria.

"I don't believe there _is_ a 'least.' They are both unbearable. It is a
question which best fits one's temperament, which leads soonest to
resignation."

"Oh, Hadria, you would never achieve resignation!" cried Valeria.

"Oh, some day, perhaps!"

Valeria shook her head. She had no belief in Hadria's powers in that
direction. Hopelessness was her nearest approach to that condition of
cheerful acquiescence which, Hadria had herself said, profound faith or
profound stupidity can perhaps equally inspire.

"At least," said Valeria, "you know that you are useful and helpful to
those around you. You make your mother happy."

"No, my mother is not happy. My work is negative. I just manage to
prevent her dying of grief. One must not be too ambitious in this stern
world. One can't make people happy merely by reducing oneself, morally,
to a jelly. Sometimes, by that means, one can dodge battle and murder
and sudden death."

"It is terrible!" cried Valeria.

"But meanwhile one lays the seed of future calamities, to avoid which
some other future woman will have to become jelly. The process always
reminds me of the old practice of the Anglo-Saxon kings, who used to buy
off the Danes when they threatened invasion, and so pampered the enemy
whom their successors would afterwards have to buy off at a still more
ruinous cost. I am buying off the Danes, Valeria."



CHAPTER XL.


"Do you know it is a year to-day, since we came to this cottage?"
exclaimed Mrs. Fullerton. "How the time flies!"

The remark was made before the party settled to the evening's whist.

"You are looking very much better than you did a month after your
illness, Mrs. Fullerton," said Joseph Fleming, who was to take a hand,
while Hadria played Grieg or Chopin, or Scottish melodies to please the
old people. The whist-players enjoyed music during the game.

"Ah, I shall never be well," said Mrs. Fullerton. "One can't recover
from long worry, Mr. Fleming. Shall we cut for partners?"

It was a quaint, low-pitched little room, filled with familiar furniture
from Dunaghee, which recalled the old place at every turn. The game went
on in silence. The cards were dealt, taken up, shuffled, sorted, played,
massed together, cut, dealt, sorted, and so on, round and round; four
grave faces deeply engrossed in the process, while the little room was
filled with music.

Mrs. Fullerton had begun to feel slightly uneasy about her daughter. "So
much nursing has told upon her," said everyone. The illness of the two
boys had come at an unfortunate moment. She looked worn and white, and
dreadfully thin. She seemed cheerful, and at times her mood was even
merry, but she could not recover strength. At the end of the day, she
would be completely exhausted. This had not been surprising at first,
after the long strain of nursing, but Mrs. Fullerton thought it was
time that she began to mend. She feared that Hadria spent too many hours
over her composing; she sat up at night, perhaps. What good did all this
composing do? Nobody ever heard of it. Such a sad pity that she could
not see the folly of persevering in the fruitless effort.

Lady Engleton was sure that Hadria saw too few people, lived too
monotonous a life. Craddock Place was filled with guests just now, and
Lady Engleton used her utmost persuasion to induce Hubert and Hadria to
come to dinner, or to join the party, in the evening, whenever they
could.

Hadria shrank from the idea. It was adding another burden to her already
failing strength. To talk coherently, to be lively and make oneself
agreeable, to have to think about one's dress,--it all seemed
inexpressibly wearisome. But Lady Engleton was so genuinely eager to
administer her cure that Hadria yielded, half in gratitude, half in
order to save the effort of further resistance.

She dragged herself upstairs to dress, wishing to heaven she had
refused, after all. The thought of the lights, the sound of voices, the
complexity of elements and of life that she had to encounter, made her
shrink into herself. She had only one evening gown suitable for the
occasion. It was of some white silken stuff, with dull rich surface. A
bunch of yellow roses and green leaves formed the decoration. Hubert
approved of her appearance. To her own surprise she felt some new
feeling creep into her, under the influence of the exquisite attire. It
put her a little more in tune. At least there were beautiful and dainty
things in the world. The fresh green of the rose leaves, and the full
yet delicate yellow of the fragrant roses on the creamy lace, evoked a
feeling akin to the emotion stirred by certain kinds of music; or, in
other words, the artistic sensibility had been appealed to through
colour and texture, instead of through harmony.

The drawing-room at Craddock Place was glowing with subdued
candle-light. Lady Engleton's rooms carried one back to a past epoch,
among the dainty fancies and art of a more leisurely and less vulgar
century. Lady Engleton admitted nothing that had not the quality of
distinction, let it have what other quality it might. Hadria's mood,
initiated at home, received impetus at Craddock Place. It was a
luxurious mood. She desired to receive rather than to give: to be
delicately ministered to; to claim the services of generations of
artists, who had toiled with fervour to attain that grand ease and
simplicity, through faithful labour and the benison of heaven.

Hadria had attracted many eyes as she entered the room. Unquestionably
she was looking her best to-night, in spite of her extreme pallor. She
was worthy to take her place among the beautiful objects of art that
Lady Engleton had collected round her. She had the same quality. Hubert
vaguely perceived this. He heard the idea expressed in so many words by
a voice that he knew. He looked round, and saw Professor Theobald
bending confidentially towards Joseph Fleming.

"Oh, Professor, I did not know you were to be here to-night!"

"What has your guardian spirit been about, not to forewarn you?" asked
the Professor.

"I am thinking of giving my guardian spirit a month's warning," returned
Hubert; "he has been extremely neglectful of late. And how have you been
getting on all this time, Professor?"

Theobald gave some fantastic answer, and crossed the room to Mrs.
Temperley, who was by this time surrounded by a group of acquaintances,
among them Madame Bertaux, who had just come from Paris, and had news of
all Hadria's friends there.

"Mrs. Temperley, may I also ask for one passing glance of recognition?"

Hadria turned round with a little start, and a sudden unaccountable
sense of disaster.

"Professor Theobald!"

She did not look pleased to see him, and as they shook hands, his mouth
shut sharply, as it always did when his self-love was wounded. Then, a
gleam of resolve or cunning came into his face, and the next instant he
was at his suavest.

"Do you know, Mrs. Temperley, I scarcely recognized you when you first
came in. 'Who can this beautiful, distinguished-looking woman be?' I
said to myself."

Hadria smiled maliciously.

"You think I am so much changed?"

Professor Theobald began to chuckle.

"The trowel, I see, is still your weapon," she added, "but I am
surprised that you have not learnt to wield the implement of sway with
more dexterity, Professor."

"I am not accustomed to deal with such quick-witted ladies, Mrs.
Temperley."

"You shew your hand most frankly," she answered; "it almost disarms
one."

A few introductory chords sounded through the room. Hadria was sitting
in front of the window, across which the pale green curtains had been
drawn. Many eyes wandered towards her.

"I should like to paint you just like that," murmured Lady Engleton;
"you can't imagine what a perfect bit of harmony you make, with my
brocade." A cousin of Lord Engleton was at the piano. He played an old
French gavotte.

"That is the finishing touch," added Lady Engleton, below her breath. "I
should like to paint you and the curtains and Claude Moreton's gavotte
all together."

The performance was received with enthusiasm. It deepened Hadria's mood,
set her pulses dancing. She assented readily to the request of her
hostess that she should play. She chose something fantastic and dainty.
It had a certain remoteness from life.

"Like one of Watteau's pictures," said Claude Moreton, who was hanging
over the piano. He was tall and dark, with an expression that betrayed
his enthusiastic temperament. A group had collected, among them
Professor Theobald. Beside him stood Marion Fenwick, the bride whose
wedding had taken place at Craddock Church about eighteen months
before.

It seemed as if Hadria were exercising some influence of a magnetic
quality. She was always the point of attraction, whether she created a
spell with her music, or her speech, or her mere personality. In her
present mood, this was peculiarly gratifying. The long divorce from
initiative work which events had compelled, the loss of nervous vigour,
the destruction of dream and hope, had all tended to throw her back on
more accessible forms of art and expression, and suggested passive
rather than active dealings with life. She was wearied with petty
responsibilities, and what she called semi-detached duties. It was a
relief to sit down in white silk and lace, and draw people to her simply
by the cheap spell of good looks and personal magnetism. That she
possessed these advantages, her life in Paris had made obvious. It was
the first time that she had been in contact with a large number of
widely differing types, and she had found that she could appeal to them
all, if she would. Since her return to England, anxieties and influences
extremely depressing had accustomed her to a somewhat gloomy atmosphere.
To-night the atmosphere was light and soft, brilliant and enervating.

"This is my Capua," she said laughingly, to her hostess.

It invited every luxurious instinct to come forth and sun itself. Marion
Fenwick's soft, sweet voice, singing Italian songs to the accompaniment
of the guitar, repeated the invitation.

It was like a fairy gift. Energy would be required to refuse it. And
why, in heaven's name, if she might not have what she really wanted, was
she to be denied even the poor little triumphs of ornamental womanhood?
Was the social order which had frustrated her own ambitions to dominate
her conscience, and persuade her voluntarily to resign that _one_
kingdom which cannot be taken from a woman, so long as her beauty lasts?

Why should she abdicate? The human being was obviously susceptible to
personality beyond all other things. And beauty moved that absurd
creature preposterously. _There_, at least, the woman who chanced to be
born with these superficial attractions, had a royal territory, so long
as she could prevent her clamorous fellows from harassing and wearing
those attractions away. By no direct attack could the jealous powers
dethrone her. They could only do it indirectly, by appealing to the
conscience which they had trained; to the principles that they had
instilled; by convincing the woman that she owed herself, as a debt, to
her legal owner, to be paid in coined fragments of her being, till she
should end in inevitable bankruptcy, and the legal owner himself found
her a poor investment!

It would have startled that roomful of people, who expressed everything
circuitously, pleasantly, without rough edges, had they read beneath
Mrs. Temperley's spoken words, these unspoken thoughts.

Marion Fenwick's songs and the alluring softness of her guitar, seemed
the most fitting accompaniment to the warm summer night, whose breath
stirred gently the curtains by the open window, at the far end of the
room.

Lady Engleton was delighted with the success of her efforts. Mrs.
Temperley had not looked so brilliant, so full of life, since her
mother's illness. Only yesterday, when she met her returning from the
Cottage, her eyes were like those of a dying woman, and now----!

"People say ill-natured things about Mrs. Temperley," she confided to an
intimate friend, "but that is because they don't understand her."

People might have been forgiven for not understanding her, as perhaps
her hostess felt, noticing Hadria's animation, and the extraordinary
power that she was wielding over everyone in the room, young and old.
That power seemed to burn in the deep eyes, whose expression changed
from moment to moment. Hadria's cheeks, for once, had a faint tinge of
colour. The mysterious character of her beauty became more marked.
Professor Theobald followed her, with admiring and studious gaze.
Whether she had felt remorseful for her somewhat unfriendly greeting at
the beginning of the evening, or from some other cause, her manner to
him had changed. It was softer, less mocking. He perceived it instantly,
and pursued his advantage. The party still centred eagerly round the
piano. Hadria was under the influence of music; therefore less careful
and guarded than usual, more ready to sway on the waves of emotion. And
beyond all these influences, tending in the same direction, was the
underlying spirit of rebellion against the everlasting "Thou shalt not"
that met a woman at every point, and turned her back from all paths save
one. And following that one (so ran Hadria's insurrectionary thoughts),
the obedient creature had to give up every weapon of her womanhood;
every grace, every power; tramping along that crowded highway, whereon
wayworn sisters toil forward, with bandaged eyes, and bleeding feet; and
as their charm fades, in the pursuing of their dusty pilgrimage, the
shouts, and taunts, and insults, and laughter of their taskmasters
follow them, while still they stumble on to the darkening land that
awaits them, at the journey's end: Old Age, the vestibule of Death.

Hadria's eyes gleamed strangely.

"They shall not have their way with me too easily. I can at least give
my pastors and masters a little trouble. I can at least fight for it,
losing battle though it be."

The only person who seemed to resist Hadria's influence to-night, was
Mrs. Jordan, the mother of Marion Fenwick.

"My dear madam," said Professor Theobald, bending over the portly form
of Mrs. Jordan, "a woman's first duty is to be charming."

"Oh, that comes naturally, Professor," said Hadria, "though it is rather
for _you_ than for _me_ to say that. You are always missing
opportunities."

"Believe me, I will miss them no more," he said emphatically.

"Tell us _your_ idea of a woman's duty, Mrs. Jordan," prompted Madame
Bertaux maliciously. Mrs. Jordan delivered herself of various immemorial
sentiments which met the usual applause. But Madame Bertaux said
brusquely that she thought if that sort of thing were preached at women
much longer, they would end by throwing over duty altogether, in sheer
disgust at the whole one-sided business. Mrs. Jordan bristled, and
launched herself upon a long and virtuous sentence. Her daughter Marion
looked up sharply when Madame Bertaux spoke. Then a timid, cautious
glance fell on her mother. Marion had lost her freshness and her
exquisite ætherial quality; otherwise there was little change in her
appearance. Hadria was struck by the way in which she had looked at
Madame Bertaux, and it occurred to her that Marion Fenwick was probably
not quite so acquiescent and satisfied as her friends supposed. But she
would not speak out. Early training had been too strong for her.

Professor Theobald was unusually serious to-night. He did not respond to
Hadria's flippancy. He looked at her with grave, sympathetic eyes. He
seemed to intimate that he understood all that was passing in her mind,
and was not balked by sprightly appearances. There was no sign of
cynicism now, no bandying of compliments. His voice had a new ring of
sincerity. It was a mood that Hadria had noticed in him once or twice
before, and when it occurred, her sympathy was aroused; she felt that
she had done him injustice. _This_ was evidently the real man; his
ordinary manner must be merely the cloak that the civilized being
acquires the habit of wrapping round him, as a protection against the
curiosity of his fellows. The Professor himself expressed it almost in
those words: "It is because of the infinite variety of type and the
complexity of modern life which the individual is called upon to
encounter, that a sort of fancy dress has to be worn by all of us, as a
necessary shield to our individuality and our privacy. We cannot go
through the complex process of adjustment to each new type that we come
across, so by common consent, we wear our domino, and respect the
unwritten laws of the great _bal masqué_ that we call society."

The conversation took more and more intimate and serious turns. Mrs.
Jordan was the only check upon it. Madame Bertaux followed up her first
heresy by others even more bold.

"Whenever one wants very particularly to have one's way about a matter,"
she said, "one sneaks off and gets somebody else persuaded that it is
his duty to sacrifice himself for us--_c'est tout simple_--and the
chances are that he meekly does it. If he doesn't, at least one has the
satisfaction of making him feel a guilty wretch, and setting oneself up
with a profitable grievance for life."

"To the true woman," said Mrs. Jordan, who had ruled her family with a
rod of iron for thirty stern years, "there is no joy to equal that of
self-sacrifice."

"Except that of exacting it," added Hadria.

"I advise everyone desirous of dominion to preach that duty, in and out
of season," said Madame Bertaux. "It is seldom that the victims even
howl, so well have we trained them."

"Truly I hope so!" cried Professor Theobald. "It must be most galling
when their lamentations prevent one from committing one's justifiable
homicide in peace and quietness. Imagine the discomfort of having a
half-educated victim to deal with, who can't hold his tongue and let one
perform the operation quietly and comfortably. It is enough to embitter
any Christian!"

The party broke up, with many cordial expressions of pleasure, and
several plans were made for immediately meeting again. Lady Engleton was
delighted to see that Mrs. Temperley entered with animation, into some
projects for picnics and excursions in the neighbourhood.

"Did I not tell you that all you wanted was a little lively society?"
she said, with genuine warmth, as the two women stood in the hall, a
little apart from the others.

Hadria's eye-lids suddenly fell and reddened slightly.

"Oh, you are so kind!" she exclaimed, in a voice whose tones betrayed
the presence of suppressed tears.

Lady Engleton, in astonishment, stretched out a sisterly hand, but
Hadria had vanished through the open hall door into the darkness
without.



CHAPTER XLI.


Mrs. Temperley was much discussed at Craddock Place. Professor Theobald
preserved the same grave mood whenever she was present. He only returned
to his usual manner, in her absence. "Theobald has on his Mrs. Temperley
manner," Claude Moreton used to say. The latter was himself among her
admirers.

"I begin to be afraid that Claude is taking her too seriously," Lady
Engleton remarked to her husband. He had fired up on one occasion when
Professor Theobald said something flippant about Mrs. Temperley. Claude
Moreton's usual calmness had caused the sudden outburst to be noticed
with surprise. He hated Professor Theobald.

"What possesses you both to let that fellow come here so much?"

"The Professor? Oh, he is a very old friend, you know, and extremely
clever. One has to put up with his manner."

Claude Moreton grunted. "These, at any rate, are no reasons why Mrs.
Temperley should put up with his manner!"

"But, my dear Claude, as you are always pointing out, the Professor has
a special manner which he keeps exclusively for her."

The special manner had already worked wonders. The Professor was to
Hadria by far the most entertaining person of the party. He had always
amused her, and even the first time she saw him, he had exercised a
strange, unpleasant fascination over her, which had put her on the
defensive, for she had disliked and distrusted him. The meetings in the
Priory gardens had softened her hostility, and now she began to feel
more and more that she had judged him unfairly. In those days she had a
strong pre-occupying interest. He had arrived on the scene at an
exciting moment, just when she was planning out her flight to Paris.
She had not considered the Professor's character very deeply. There were
far too many other things to think of. It was simpler to avoid him. But
now everything had changed. The present moment was not exciting; she had
no plans and projects in her head; she was not about to court the fate
of Icarus. That fate had already overtaken her. The waves were closing
over-head; her wings were wet and crippled, in the blue depths. Why not
take what the gods had sent and make the most of it?

The Professor had all sorts of strange lore, which he used, in his
conversations with Hadria, almost as a fisherman uses his bait. If she
shewed an inclination to re-join the rest of the party, he always
brought out some fresh titbit of curious learning, and Hadria was seldom
able to resist the lure.

They met often, almost of necessity. It was impossible to feel a
stranger to the Professor, in these circumstances of frequent and
informal meeting. Often when Hadria happened to be alone with him, she
would become suddenly silent, as if she no longer felt the necessity to
talk or to conceal her weariness. The Professor knew it too well; he saw
how heavily the burden of life weighed upon her, and how it was often
almost more than she could do, to drag through the day. She craved for
excitement, no matter of what kind, in order to help her to forget her
weariness. Her anxiety about Professor Fortescue preyed upon her. She
was restless, over-wrought, with every nerve on edge, unable now for
consecutive work, even had events permitted it. She followed the advice
and took the medicines of a London doctor, whom Mrs. Fullerton had
entreated her to consult, but she gained no ground.

"I begin to understand how it is that people take to drinking," she said
to Algitha, who used to bemoan this vice, with its terrible results, of
which she had seen so much.

"Ah! don't talk of it in that light way!" cried Algitha. "It is the
fashion to treat it airily, but if people only knew what an awful curse
it is, I think they would feel ashamed to be 'moderate' and indifferent
about it."

"I don't mean to treat it or anything that brings harm and suffering
'moderately,'" returned Hadria. "I mean only that I can see why the vice
is so common. It causes forgetfulness, and I suppose most people crave
for that."

"I think, Hadria, if I may be allowed to say so, that you are finding
your excitement in another direction."

"You mean that I am trying to find a substitute for the pleasures of
drunkenness in those of flirtation."

"I should not like to think that you had descended to _conscious_
flirtation."

Hadria looked steadily into the flames. They were in the morning-room,
where towards night-fall, even in summer, a small fire usually burnt in
the grate.

"When I remember what you used to think and what you used to be to us
all, in the old days at Dunaghee, I feel bitterly pained at what you are
doing, Hadria. You don't know where it may lead to, and besides it seems
so beneath you in every way."

"Appeals to the conscience!" cried Hadria, "I knew they would begin!"

"You knew _what_ would begin?"

"Appeals, exhortations to forego the sole remaining interest,
opportunity, or amusement that is left one! Ah, dear Algitha, I know you
mean it kindly and I admire you for speaking out, but I am not going to
be cajoled in that way! I am not going to be turned back and set
tramping along the stony old road, so long as I can find a pleasanter
by-way to loiter in. It sounds bad I know. Our drill affects us to the
last, through every fibre. My duty! By what authority do people choose
for me my duty? If I can be forced to abide by their decision in the
matter, let them be satisfied with their power to coerce me, but let
them leave my conscience alone. It does not dance to their piping."

"But you cannot care for this sort of excitement, Hadria."

"If I can get nothing else----?"

"Even then, I can't see what you can find in it to make you willing to
sink from your old ideals."

"Ideals! A woman with ideals is like a drowning creature with a
mill-stone round its neck! I have had enough of ideals!"

"It is a sad day to me when I hear you say so, Hadria!" the sister
exclaimed.

"Algitha, there is just one solitary weapon that _can't_ be taken from a
woman--and so it is considerately left to her. Ah, it is a dangerous toy
when brandished dexterously! Sometimes it sends a man or two away
howling. Our pastors and masters have a wholesome dread of the murderous
thing--and what wails, and satires, and lamentations it inspires!
Consult the literature of all lands and ages! Heaven-piercing! The only
way of dealing with the awkward dilemma is to get the woman persuaded to
be 'good,' and to lay down her weapon of her own accord, and let it
rust. How many women have been so persuaded! Not I!"

"I know, and I understand how you feel; but oh, Hadria, _this_ is not
the way to fight, _this_ will bring no good to anyone. And as for
admiration, the admiration of men--why, you know it is not worth
having--of this sort."

"Oh, do I not know it! It is less than worthless. But I am not seeking
anything of permanent value; I am seeking excitement, and the
superficial satisfaction of brandishing the weapon that everyone would
be charmed to see me lay in the dust. I _won't_ lay it down to please
anybody. Dear me, it will soon rust of its own accord. You might as well
ask some luckless warrior who stands at bay, facing overwhelming odds,
to yield up his sword and leave himself defenceless. It is an insult to
one's common sense."

Algitha's remonstrance seemed only to inflame her sister's mood, so she
said no more. But she watched Hadria's increasingly reckless conduct,
with great uneasiness.

"It really _is_ exciting!" exclaimed Hadria, with a strange smile. The
whole party had migrated for the day, to the hills at a distance of
about ten miles from Craddock Dene. A high spot had been chosen, on the
edge of woodland shade, looking out over a wide distance of plain and
far-off ranges. Here, as Claude Moreton remarked, they were to spoil the
landscape, by taking their luncheon.

"Or what is worse, by giving ourselves rheumatism," added Lord
Engleton.

"What grumbling creatures men are!" exclaimed his wife, "and what
pleasures they lose for themselves and make impossible for others, by
this stupid habit of dwelling upon the disadvantages of a situation,
instead of on its charms."

"We ought to dwell upon the fowl and the magnificent prospect, and
ignore the avenging rheumatism," said Claude Moreton.

"Oh no, guard against it," advised Algitha, with characteristic common
sense. "Sit on this waterproof, for instance."

"Ah, there you have the true philosophy!" cried Professor Theobald.
"Contentment and forethought. Observe the symbol of forethought." He
spread the waterproof to the wind.

"There is nothing like a contented spirit!" cried Lady Engleton.

"Who is it that says you knock a man into a ditch, and then you tell him
to remain content in the position in which Providence has placed him?"
asked Hadria.

"Even contentment has its dangers," said Claude Moreton, dreamily.

At the end of the meal, Hadria rose from the rug where she had been
reclining, with the final assertion, that she thought the man who was
knocked into the ditch and told to do his duty there, would do the best
service to mankind, as well as to himself, by making a horrid clamour
and trying to get out again. A group collected round her, almost
immediately.

"Mrs. Fenwick, won't you give us a song!" cried Madame Bertaux. "I see
you have been kind enough to bring your guitar."

Marion was enthroned upon the picnic-basket, with much pomp, and her
guitar placed in her hand by Claude Moreton. Her figure, in her white
gown and large straw hat, had for background the shadows of thick woods.

Professor Theobald sank down on the grass at Hadria's side. She felt
that his mood was agitated. She could not be in much doubt as to its
cause. The reckless _rôle_ that she had been playing was bringing its
result. Hadria was half alarmed, half exultant. She had a strange, vague
notion of selling her life dearly, to the enemy. Only, of late, this
feeling had been mixed with another, of which she was scarcely
conscious. The subtle fascination which the Professor exercised over her
had taken a stronger hold, far stronger than she knew.

She was sitting on a little knoll, her arm resting on her knee, and her
cheek in her hand. In the exquisitely graceful attitude, was an element
of self-abandonment. It seemed as if she had grown tired of guiding and
directing herself, and were now commending herself to fate or fortune,
to do with her as they would, or must.

Marion struck a quiet chord. Her voice was sweet and tender and full,
admirably suited to the song. Every nerve in Hadria answered to her
tones.

          "Oh, gather me the rose, the rose
           While yet in flower we find it;
           For summer smiles, but summer goes,
           And winter waits behind it.

          "For with the dream foregone, foregone,
           The deed foreborne for ever,
           The worm regret will canker on,
           And time will turn him never."

Professor Theobald shifted his position slightly.

          "Ah, well it were to love, my love,
           And cheat of any laughter
           The fate beneath us and above,
           The dark before and after.

          "The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
           The sunlight and the swallow,
           The dream that comes, the dream that goes,
           The memories that follow."

The song was greeted with a vague stir among the silent audience. A
little breeze gave a deep satisfied sigh, among the trees.

Several other songs followed, and then the party broke up. They were to
amuse themselves as they pleased during the afternoon, and to meet on
the same spot for five o'clock tea.

"I _wish_ Hadria would not be so reckless!" cried Algitha anxiously.
"Have you seen her lately?"

"When last I saw her," said Valeria, "she had strolled off with the
Professor and Mr. Moreton. Mr. Fleming and Lord Engleton were following
with Mrs. Fenwick."

"There is safety in numbers, at any rate, but I am distressed about her.
It is all very well what she says, about not allowing her woman's sole
weapon to be wrenched from her, but she can't use it in this way,
safely. One can't play with human emotions without coming to grief."

"A man, at any rate, has no idea of being led an emotional dance," said
Miss Du Prel.

"Hadria has, I believe, at the bottom of her heart, a lurking desire to
hurt men, because they have hurt women so terribly," said Algitha.

"One can understand the impulse, but the worst of it is, that one is
certain to pay back the score on the good man, and let the other go
free."

Algitha shook her head, regretfully.

"Did Hadria never show this impulse before?"

"Never in my life have I seen her exercise her power so ruthlessly."

"I rather think she is wise after all," said Miss Du Prel reflectively.
"She might be sorry some day never to have tasted what she is tasting
now."

"But it seems to me dreadful. There is not a man who is not influenced
by her in the strangest manner; even poor Joseph Fleming, who used to
look up to her so. In my opinion, she is acting very wrongly."

"'He that has eaten his fill does not pity the hungry,' as the Eastern
proverb puts it. Come now, Algitha, imagine yourself to be cut off from
the work that supremely interests you, and thrown upon Craddock Dene
without hope of respite, for the rest of your days. Don't you think you
too might be tempted to try experiments with a power whose strength you
had found to be almost irresistible?"

"Perhaps I should," Algitha admitted.

"I don't say she is doing right, but you must remember that you have
not the temperament that prompts to these outbursts. I suppose that is
only to say that you are better than Hadria, by nature. I think perhaps
you are, but remember you have had the life and the work that you chose
above all others--she has not."

"Heaven knows I don't set myself above Hadria," cried Algitha. "I have
always looked up to her. Don't you know how painful it is when people
you respect do things beneath them?"

"Hadria will disappoint us all in some particular," said Miss Du Prel.
"She will not correspond exactly to anybody's theory or standard, not
even her own. It is a defect which gives her character a quality of the
unexpected, that has for me, infinite attraction."

Miss Du Prel had never shewn so much disposition to support Hadria's
conduct as now, when disapproval was general. She had a strong
fellow-feeling for a woman who desired to use her power, and she was
half disposed to regard her conduct as legitimate. At any rate, it was a
temptation almost beyond one's powers of resistance. If a woman might
not do this, what, in heaven's name, _might_ she do? Was she not
eternally referred to her woman's influence, her woman's kingdom? Surely
a day's somewhat murderous sport was allowable in _that_ realm! After
all, energy, ambition, nervous force, _must_ have an outlet somewhere.
Men could look after themselves. They had no mercy on women when they
lay in their power. Why should a woman be so punctilious?

"Only the man is sure to get the best of it," she added, bitterly. "He
loses so little. It is a game where the odds are all on one side, and
the conclusion foregone."

Unexpectedly, the underwood behind the speakers was brushed aside and
Hadria appeared before them. She looked perturbed.

"What is it? Why are you by yourself?"

"Oh, our party split up, long ago, into cliques, and we all became so
select, that, at last, we reduced each clique to one member. Behold the
very acme of selectness!" Hadria stood before them, in an attitude of
hauteur.

"This sounds like evasion," said Algitha.

"And if it were, what right have you to try to force me to tell what I
do not volunteer?"

"True," said her sister; "I beg your pardon."

Miss Du Prel rose. "I will leave you to yourselves," she said, walking
away.

Hadria sat down and rested one elbow on the grass, looking over the
sweep of the hill towards the distance. "That is almost like our old
vision in the caves, Algitha; mist and distant lands--it was a false
prophecy. You were talking about me when I came up, were you not?"

"Did you hear?"

"No, but I feel sure of it."

"Well, I confess it," said Algitha. "We are both very uneasy about you."

"If one never did anything all one's life to make one's friends uneasy,
I wonder if one would have any fun."

Algitha shook her head anxiously.

"'Choose what you want and pay for it,' is the advice of some accredited
sage," Hadria observed.

"Women have to pay so high," said Algitha.

"So much the worse, but there is such a thing as false economy."

"But seriously, Hadria, if one may speak frankly, I can't see that the
game is worth the candle. You have tested your power sufficiently. What
more do you want? Claude Moreton is too nice and too good a man to
trifle with. And poor Joseph Fleming! That is to me beyond everything."

Hadria flushed deeply.

"I never dreamt that he--I--I never tried, never thought for a
moment----"

"Ah! that is just the danger, Hadria. Your actions entail unintended
consequences. As Miss Du Prel says, 'It is always the good men whom one
wounds; the others wound us.'" Hadria was silent. "And Claude Moreton,"
continued Algitha presently. "He is far too deeply interested in you,
far too absorbed in what you say and do. I have watched him. It is
cruel."

Hadria grew fierce. "Has _he_ never cruelly injured a woman? Has _he_
not at least given moral support to the hideous indignities that all
womanhood has to endure at men's hands? At best one can make a man
suffer. But men also humiliate us, degrade us, jeer at, ridicule the
miseries that they and their society entail upon us. Yet for sooth, they
must be spared the discomfort of becoming a little infatuated with a
woman for a time--a short time, at worst! Their feelings must be
considered so tenderly!"

"But what good do you do by your present conduct?" asked Algitha,
sticking persistently to the practical side of the matter.

"I am not trying to do good. I am merely refusing to obey these rules
for our guidance, which are obviously drawn up to safeguard man's
property and privilege. Whenever I can find a man-made precept, that
will I carefully disobey; whenever the ruling powers seek to guide me
through my conscience, there shall they fail!"

"You forget that in playing with the feelings of others you are placing
yourself in danger, Hadria. How can you be sure that you won't yourself
fall desperately in love with one of your intended victims?" Hadria's
eyes sparkled.

"I wish to heaven I only could!" she exclaimed. "I would give my right
hand to be in the sway of a complete undoubting, unquestioning passion
that would make all suffering and all life seem worth while; some
emotion to take the place of my lost art, some full and satisfying sense
of union with a human soul to rescue one from the ghastly solitude of
life. But I am raving like a girl. I am crying for the moon."

"Ah, take care, take care, Hadria; that is a mood in which one may
mistake any twopenny-halfpenny little luminary for the impossible moon."

"I think I should be almost ready to bless the beautiful illusion,"
cried Hadria passionately.



CHAPTER XLII.


In the conversation with her sister, the name which Hadria had dreaded
to hear had not been mentioned. She felt as if she could not have met
her sister's eyes, at that moment, had she alluded to Professor
Theobald; for only five minutes before, in the wood, he had spoken to
her in a way that was scarcely possible to misunderstand, though his
wording was so cautious that she could not have taken offence, had she
been so minded, without drawing upon herself the possible retort. "My
dear lady, you have completely misunderstood me." The thought made her
flush painfully. But suppose he really _had_ meant what his words seemed
to imply? He could intend no insult, because he despised, and knew that
she despised, popular social creeds. Into what new realms was she
drifting? There was something attractive to Hadria, in the idea of
defying the world's laws. It was not as the dutiful property of another,
but as herself, a separate and responsible individual, that she would
act and feel, rightly or wrongly, as the case might be. That was a
matter between herself and her conscience, not between herself and the
world or her legal owner.

The Professor's ambiguous and yet startling speech had forced her to
consider her position. She remembered how her instinct had always been
to hold him aloof from her life, just because, as she now began to
believe, there was something in him that powerfully attracted her. She
had feared an attraction that appeared unjustified by the man's
character. But now the fascination had begun to take a stronger grip, as
the pre-occupying ideas of her life had been chased from their places.
It had insensibly crept in to fill the empty throne. So long as she had
cherished hope, so long as she was still struggling, this insidious
half-magnetic influence had been easily resisted. Now, she was set
adrift; her anchor was raised; she lay at the wind's mercy,
half-conscious of the peril and not caring.

Professor Theobald had an acute perception of the strange and confused
struggle that was going on in her mind. But he had no notion of the
peculiar reasons, in her case, for an effect that he knew to be far from
rare among women; he did not understand the angry, corroding action of a
strong artistic impulse that was incessantly baulked in full tide. The
sinister, menacing voices of that tide had no meaning for him, except as
expressing a _malaise_ which he had met with a hundred times before. He
put it down to an excess of emotional or nervous energy, in a nature
whose opportunities did not offer full scope to its powers. He had
grasped the general conditions, but he had not perceived the particular
fact that added tenfold to the evil which exists in the more usual, and
less complicated case.

He thought but little of a musical gift, having no sympathy with music;
and since he had never known what it was to receive anything but help
and encouragement in the exercise of his own talents, the effect upon
the mind and character of such an experience as Hadria's, was beyond the
range of his conceptions. He understood subtly, and misunderstood
completely, at one and the same time. But to Hadria, every syllable
which revealed how much he did understand, seemed to prove, by
implication, that he understood the whole. It never occurred to her that
he was blinder than Henriette herself, to the real centre and heart of
the difficulty.

It has been said that what the human being longs for above all things,
is to be understood: that he prefers it infinitely to being over-rated.
Professor Theobald gave Hadria this desired sensation. His attraction
for her was composed of many elements, and it was enhanced by the fact
that she had now grown so used to his presence, as to cease to notice
many little traits that had repelled her, at the beginning. Her critical
instincts were lulled. Thus had come to pass that which is by no means
an uncommon incident in human history: a toleration for and finally a
strong attraction towards a nature that began by creating distrust, and
even dislike.

Hadria's instinct now was to hunt up reasons for desiring the society of
Professor Theobald, for the gladness that she felt at the prospect of
seeing him. She wished to explain to herself how it was that he had
become so prominent a figure in her life. It was surprising how rapidly
and how completely he had taken a central position. Her feeling towards
him, and her admiring affection for Professor Fortescue, were as
different as night from day. She shrank from comparing the two emotions,
because at the bottom of her heart, she felt how infinitely less fine
and sound was this latter attachment, how infinitely less to be
welcomed. If any one spoke disparagingly of Professor Theobald, Hadria's
instinct was to stand up for him, to find ingenious reasons for his
words or his conduct that threw upon him the most favourable light, and
her object was as much to persuade herself as to convince her
interlocutor. What the Professor had said this afternoon, had brought
her to a point whence she had to review all these changes and
developments of her feeling. She puzzled herself profoundly. In
remembering those few words, she was conscious of a little thrill
of--not joy (the word was too strong), but of something akin to it. She
thought--and then laughed at herself--that it had a resemblance to the
sensation that is caused to the mind by the suggestion of some new and
entrancingly interesting idea--say about astronomy! And if she consulted
her mere wishes in the matter, apart from all other considerations, she
would explore farther in this direction. Whether curiosity or sentiment
actuated her, she could not detect. It would certainly be deeply
exciting to find out what her own nature really was, and still more so
to gain greater insight into his. Was this heartless, cold-blooded? Or
was it that she felt a lurking capacity for a feeling stronger than--or
at any rate different from--any that she had hitherto felt? This was a
secret that she could not discover. Hadria gave a frightened start. Was
she finding herself to be bad in a way that she had never suspected? If
she could but fully and completely escape from tradition, so that her
judgment might be quite unhampered. Tradition seemed either to make
human beings blindly submissive, or to tempt them to act out of an
equally blind opposition to its canons. One could never be entirely
independent. In her confusion, she longed to turn to some clear mind and
sound conscience, not so much for advice, as in order to test the effect
upon such a mind and conscience of the whole situation.

Professor Fortescue was the only person upon whose judgment and feeling
she could absolutely rely. What would he think of her? His impression
would be the best possible guide, for no one opposed more strongly than
he did the vulgar notion of proprietary rights between husband and wife,
no one asserted more absolutely the independence of the individual. Yet
Hadria could not imagine that he would be anything but profoundly sorry,
if he knew the recklessness of her feeling, and the nature of her
sentiment for Professor Theobald. But then he did not know how she
stood; he did not know that the blue hopeful distance of life had
disappeared; that even the middle-distance had been cut off, and that
the sticks and stones and details of a very speckly foreground now
confronted her immovably. She would like to learn how many women of her
temperament, placed in her position, would stop to enquire very closely
into the right and wrong of the matter, when for a moment, a little
avenue seemed on the point of opening, misty and blue, leading the eye
to hidden perilous distances.

And then Professor Theobald had, after all, many fine qualities. He was
complex, and he had faults like the rest of us; but the more one knew
him, the more one felt his kindness of heart (how good he was to little
Martha), his readiness to help others, his breadth of view and his
sympathy. These were not common qualities. He was a man whom one could
admire, despite certain traits that made one shrink a little, at times.
These moreover had disappeared of late. They were accidental rather than
intrinsic. It was a matter of daily observation that people catch
superficial modes of thought and speech, just as they catch accent, or
as women who have given no thought to the art of dress, sometimes
misrepresent themselves, by adopting, unmodified, whatever happens to be
in the fashion. Hadria had a wistful desire to be able to respect
Professor Theobald without reserve, to believe in him thoroughly, to
think him noble in calibre and fine in fibre. She had a vague idea that
emphatic statement would conduce to making all this true.

She had never met him alone since that day of the picnic, except for a
few chance minutes, when he had expressed over again, rather in tone
than in words, the sentiment before implied.

Algitha and Miss Du Prel were relieved to see that Hadria had, after
all, taken their advice. Without making any violent or obvious change in
her conduct, she had ceased to cause her friends anxiety. Something in
her manner had changed. Claude Moreton felt it instantly. He spoke of
leaving Craddock Place, but he lingered on. The house had begun to
empty. Lady Engleton wished to have some time to herself. She was
painting a new picture. But Professor Theobald remained. Joseph Fleming
went away to stay with his married sister. About this time Hubert had to
go abroad to attend to some business matters of a serious and tedious
character, connected with a law-suit in which he was professionally
interested.

From some instinct which Hadria found difficult to account for, she
avoided meeting the Professor alone. Yet the whole interest of the day
centred in the prospect of seeing him. If by chance, she missed him, she
felt flat and dull, and found herself going over in her mind every
detail of their last meeting. He had the art of making his most
trifling remark interesting. Even his comments on the weather had a
colour and quality of their own. Lady Engleton admired his lightness of
touch.

"Did you know that our amiable Professor shews his devotion to you, by
devotion to your _protégée_?" she asked one day, when she met Hadria
returning from the Priory with the two boys, whose holidays were not yet
over. "I saw him coming out of the child's cottage this morning, and she
shewed me the toy he had given her."

"He is very fond of her, I know," said Hadria.

"He gives her lots of things!" cried Jack, opening round and envious
eyes.

"How do _you_ know, sir?" enquired Lady Engleton.

"Because Mary says so," Jack returned.

Hadria was pleased at the kindness which the act seemed to indicate.

The doctor had ordered her to be in the open air as much as possible,
and to take a walk every day. Sometimes she would walk with the boys,
sometimes alone. In either case, the thought of Professor Theobald
pursued her. She often grew wearied with it, but it could not be
banished. If she saw a distant figure on the road, a little sick,
excited stir of the heart, betrayed her suspicion that it might be he.
She could not sincerely wish herself free from the strange infatuation,
for the thought of life without it, troublesome and fatiguing though it
was, seemed inexpressibly dull. It had taken the colour out of
everything. It had altered the very face of nature, in her eyes. Her
hope had been to escape loneliness, but with this preposterous secret,
she was lonelier than she had ever been before. She could no longer make
a confidante of herself. She was afraid of her own ridicule, her own
blame, above all of finding herself confronted with some accusation
against the Professor, some overpowering reason for thinking poorly of
him. Whenever they met, she was in terror lest he should leave her no
alternative. She often opened conversational channels by which he could
escape his unknown peril, and she would hold her breath till it was
over. She dreaded the cool-headed, ruthless critic, lurking within her
own consciousness, who would hear of no ingenious explanations of words
or conduct. But she would not admit to this dread--that would have been
to admit everything. She had not the satisfaction of openly thinking the
matter out, for the suspicion that so profoundly saddened her, must be
kept scrupulously hidden. Hadria was filled with dismay when she dared
to glance at the future. No wonder Valeria had warned her against
playing with fire! Was it always like this when people fell in love?
What a ridiculous, uncomfortable, outrageous thing it was! How
destructive to common sense and sanity and everything that kept life
running on reasonable lines. A poor joke at best, and oh, how stale!

       *       *       *       *       *

"Shall I tell you your ruling passion, Mrs. Temperley?"

"If you can, Professor Theobald."

Before them stretched a woodland glade. The broad fronds of the bracken
made bright patches of light where the sun caught them, and tall plants,
such as hemlock and wild parsley, stood out, almost white against the
shade; the flies and midges moving round them in the warmth. At some
distance behind, the sound of voices could be heard through the windings
of the wood. There were snatches of song and laughter.

"Your ruling passion is power over others."

"It has been sadly thwarted then," she answered, with a nervous laugh.

"Thwarted? Surely not. What more can you want than to touch the emotions
of every one who comes across your path? It is a splendid power, and
ought to be more satisfying to the possessor than a gift of any other
kind."

Professor Theobald waited for her reply, but she made none.

He looked at her fixedly, eagerly. She could do nothing but walk on in
silence.

"Even an actor does not impress himself so directly upon his fellows as
a woman of--well, a woman like yourself. A painter, a writer, a
musician, never comes in touch at all with his public. We hear his name,
we admire or we decry his works, but the man or the woman who has
toiled, and felt, and lived, is unknown to us. He is lost in his work."

Hadria gave a murmur of assent.

"But you, Mrs. Temperley, have a very different story to tell. It is
_you_, yourself, your personality, in all its many-sided charm that we
all bow to; it is _you_, not your achievements that--that we love."

Hadria cleared her throat; the words would not come. A rebellious little
nerve was twitching at her eye-lid. After all, what in heaven's name was
she to say? It was too foolish to pretend to misunderstand; for tone,
look, manner all told the same story; yet even now there was nothing
absolutely definite to reply to, and her cleverness of retort had
deserted her.

"Ah! Mrs. Temperley--Hadria----" Professor Theobald had stopped short in
the path, and then Hadria made some drowning effort to resist the force
that she still feared. But it was in vain. She stood before him, paler
even than usual, with her head held high, but eye-lids that drooped and
lips that trembled. The movement of the leaves made faint quivering
little shadows on her white gown, and stirred delicately over the lace
at her throat. The emotion that possessed her, the mixture of joy and
dismay and even terror, passed across her face, in the moment's silence.
The two figures stood opposite to one another; Hadria drawing a little
away, swayed slightly backward, the Professor eagerly bending forward.
He was on the point of speaking, when there came floating through the
wood, the sound of a woman's voice singing. The voice was swiftly
recognised by them both, and the song.

Hadria's eye-lids lifted for a second, and her breathing quickened.

          "Oh, gather me the rose, the rose,
            While yet in flower we find it;
          For summer smiles, but summer goes,
            And winter waits behind it.

          "For with the dream foregone, foregone,
            The deed foreborne for ever,
          The worm regret will canker on,
            And time will turn him never."

Professor Theobald advanced a step. Hadria drew back.

          "So well it were to love, my love,
             And cheat of any laughter
           The fate beneath us and above,
             The dark before and after.

          "The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
             The sunshine and the swallow,
           The dream that comes, the dream that goes,
             The memories that follow!"

The sweet cadence died away. A bird's note took up the dropped thread of
music. The Professor broke into passionate speech.

"My cause is pleaded in your own language, Hadria, Hadria; listen to it,
listen. You know what is in my heart; I can't apologize for feeling it,
for I have no choice; no man has where you are concerned, as you must
have discovered long ago. And I do not apologize for telling you the
truth, you know it does you no wrong. This is no news to you; you must
have guessed it from the first. Your coldness, your rebuffs, betrayed
that you did. But, ah! I have struggled long enough. I can keep silence
no longer. I have thought of late that your feeling for me had changed;
a thousand things have made me hope--good heavens, if you knew what that
means to a man who had lost it! Ah! speak--don't look like that,
Hadria,--what is there in me that you always turn from? Speak, speak!"

"Ah! life is horribly difficult!" she exclaimed. "I wish to heaven I
had never budged from the traditions in which I was educated--either
that, or that everybody had discarded them. I feel one way and think
another."

"Then you do love me, Hadria," he cried.

Her instinct was to deny the truth, but there seemed to her something
mean in concealment, especially if she were to blame, especially if
those who respected tradition, and made it their guide and rule through
thick and thin, in the very teeth of reason, were right after all, as it
seemed to her, at this moment, that they were. If there were evil in
this strange passion, let her at least acknowledge her share in it. Let
her not "assume a virtue though she had it not."

Professor Theobald was watching her face, as for a verdict of life and
death.

"Oh, answer me, answer me--Yes or no, yes or no?" She had raised her
eyes for a moment, about to speak; the words were stifled at their
birth, for the next instant she was in his arms. Again came the voice of
the singer, nearer this time. The song was hummed softly.

          "Oh, gather me the rose, the rose,
             While yet in flower we find it,
           For summer smiles, but summer goes,
             And winter waits behind it."



CHAPTER XLIII.


The need for vigilance over that hidden distrust was more peremptory now
than ever. The confession once made, the die once cast, anything but
complete faith and respect became intolerable. Outwardly, affairs seemed
to run on very much as before. But Hadria could scarcely believe that
she was living in the same world. The new fact walked before her,
everywhere. She did not dare to examine it closely. She told herself
that a great joy had come to her, or rather that she had taken the joy
in spite of everything and everybody. She would order her affections
exactly as she chose. If only she could leave Craddock Dene! Hubert and
her parents considered the opinion of the public as of more importance
than anything else in life; for her mother's sake she was forced to
acquiesce; otherwise there was absolutely no reason why she and Hubert
should live under the same roof. It was a mere ceremony kept up on
account of others. That had been acknowledged by him in so many words.
And a wretched, ridiculous, irksome ceremony it was for them both.

Hadria refused now to meet Professor Theobald at the Cottage. His visits
there, which had been timed to meet her, must be paid at a different
hour. He remonstrated in vain. She shewed various other inconsistencies,
as he called them. He used to laugh affectionately at her "glimpses of
conscience," but said he cared nothing for these trifles, since he had
her assurance that she loved him. How he had waited and longed for that!
How hopeless, how impossible it had seemed. He professed to have fallen
in love at first sight. He even declared that Hadria had done the same,
though in a different way, without knowing it. Her mind had resisted
and, for the time, kept her feelings in abeyance. He had watched the
struggle. Her heart, he rejoiced to believe, had responded to him from
the beginning. By dint of repeating this very often, he had half
convinced Hadria that it was so. She preferred to think that her feeling
was of the long-standing and resistless kind.

Sometimes she had intervals of reckless happiness, when all doubts were
kept at bay, and the condition of belief that she assiduously
cultivated, remained with her freely. She felt no secret tug at the
tether. Professor Theobald would then be at his best; grave, thoughtful,
gentle, considerate, responsive to every mood.

When they met at Craddock Place and elsewhere, Hadria suffered miseries
of anxiety. She was terrified lest he should do or say something in bad
taste, and that she would see her own impression confirmed on the faces
of others. She put it to herself that she was afraid people would not
understand him as she did. The history of his past life, as he had
related it to her, appealed overpoweringly to all that was womanly and
protective in her nature. He was emotional by temperament, but
circumstance had doomed him to repression and solitude. This call on her
sympathy did more than anything to set Hadria's mind at rest. She gave a
vast sigh when that feeling of confidence became confirmed. Life, then,
need no longer be ridiculous! Hard and cruel it might be, full of lost
dreams, but at least there would be something in it that was perfect.
This new emotional centre offered the human _summum bonum_: release from
oneself.

Hadria and the Professor met, one morning, in the gardens of the Priory.
Hadria had been strolling down the yew avenue, her thoughts full of him,
as usual. She reached the seat at the end where once Professor Fortescue
had found her--centuries ago, it seemed to her now. How different was
_this_ meeting! Professor Theobald came by the path through the thick
shrubberies, behind the seat. There was a small space of grass at the
back. Here he stood, bending over the seat, and though he was usually
prudent, he did not even assure himself that no one was in sight, before
drawing Hadria's head gently back, and stooping to kiss her on the
cheek, while he imprisoned a hand in each of his. She flushed, and
looked hastily down the avenue.

"I wonder what our fate would be, if anyone had been there?" she said,
with a little shudder.

"No one was there, darling." He stood leaning over the high back of the
seat, looking down at his companion, with a smile.

"Do you know," he said, "I fear I shall have to go up to town to-morrow,
for the day."

Hadria's face fell. She hated him to go away, even for a short time; she
could not endure her own thoughts when his influence was withdrawn. His
presence wrapped her in a state of dream, a false peace which she
courted.

"Oh no, no," she cried, with a childish eagerness that was entirely
unlike her, "don't go."

"Do you really care so very much?" he asked, with a deep flush of
pleasure.

"Of course I do, of course." Her thoughts wandered off through strange
by-ways. At times, they would pass some black cavernous entrance to
unknown labyrinths, and the frightened thoughts would hurry by.
Sometimes they would be led decorously along a smooth highway, pacing
quietly; sometimes they would rise to the sunlight and spread their
wings, and then perhaps take sudden flight, like a flock of startled
birds.

Yes, he needed sympathy, and faith, and love. He had never had anyone to
believe in him before. He had met with hardness and distrust all his
life. She would trust him. He had conquered, step by step, his inimical
conditions. He was lonely, unused to real affection. Let her try to make
up for what he had lost. Let her forget herself and her own little woes,
in the effort to fill his life with all that he had been forced to
forego. (An impish thought danced before her for a second--"Fine talk,
but you know you love to be loved.") If her love were worth anything,
that must be her impulse. Let her beware of considering her own
feelings, her own wishes and fears. If she loved, let it be fully and
freely, generously and without reserve. That or nothing. ("Probably it
will be nothing," jeered the imp.) "Then what, in heaven's name, _is_ it
that I feel?" the other self seemed to cry in desperation.

"An idea has struck me," said the Professor, taking her hand and holding
it closely in his, "Why should you not come up to town, say on
Friday--don't start, dearest--it would be quite simple, and then for
once in our lives we should stand, as it were, alone in the world, you
and I, without this everlasting dread of curious eyes upon us. Alone
among strangers--what bliss! We could have a day on the river, or I
could take you to see--well, anything you liked--we should be free and
happy. Think of it, Hadria! to be rid of this incessant need for
caution, for hypocrisy. We have but one life to live; why not live it?"

"Why not live it, why not live it?" The words danced in her head, like
circles of little sprites carrying alluring wreaths of roses.

"Ah, we must be careful; there is much at stake," she said.

He began to plead, eloquently and skilfully. He knew exactly what
arguments would tell best with her. The imps and the other selves
engaged in a free fight.

"No; I must not listen; it is too dangerous. If it were not for my
mother, I should not care for anything, but as it is, I must risk
nothing. I have already risked too much."

"There would be no danger," he argued. "Trust to me. I have something to
lose too. It is of no use to bring the whole dead stupid weight of the
world on our heads. There is no sense in lying down under a heap of
rubbish, to be crushed. Let us go our way and leave other people to go
theirs."

"Easier said than done."

"Oh no; the world must be treated as one would treat a maniac who
brandished a razor in one's face. Direct defiance argues folly worse
than his."

"Of course, but all this subterfuge and deceit is hateful."

"Not if one considers the facts of the case. The maniac-world insists
upon uniformity and obedience, especially in that department of life
where uniformity is impossible. You don't suppose that it is ever
_really_ attained by any human being who deserves the name? Never! We
all wear the livery of our master and live our own lives not the less."

"Ah, I doubt that," said Hadria. "I think the livery affects us all,
right through to the bones and marrow. What young clergyman was it who
told me that as soon as he put on his canonicals, he felt a different
man, mind, heart, and personality?"

"Well, _your_ livery has never made you, Hadria, and that is all I care
for."

"Indeed, I am not so sure."

"It has not turned you out a Mrs. Jordan or a Mrs. Walker, for
instance."

"To the great regret of my well-wishers."

"To the great regret of your inferiors. There is nothing that people
regret so bitterly as superiority to themselves." Hadria laughed.

"I am always afraid of the gratifying argument based on the assumption
of superiority; one is apt to be brought down a peg, if ever one
indulges in it."

"I can't see that much vanity is implied in claiming superiority to the
common idiot of commerce," said the Professor, with a shrug.

"He is in the family," Hadria reminded him.

"The human family; yes, confound him!" They laughed, and the Professor,
after a pause, continued his pleading.

"It only needs a little courage, Hadria. My love, my dear one, don't
shake your head."

He came forward and sat down on the seat beside her, bending towards her
persuasively.

"Promise me to come to town on Friday, Hadria--promise me, dearest."

"But if--oh, how I hate all the duplicity that this involves! It creates
wretched situations, whichever way one turns. I never realized into what
a labyrinth it would lead one. I should like to speak out and be honest
about it."

"And your mother?"

"Oh, I know of course----" Hadria set her teeth. "It drives me mad, all
this!"

"Oh, Hadria! And you don't count _me_ then?"

"Obviously I count you. But one's whole life becomes a lie."

"That is surely schoolgirl's reasoning. Strange that you should be
guilty of it! Is one's life a lie because one makes so bold as to keep
one's own counsel? Must one take the world into one's confidence, or
stand condemned as a liar? Oh, Hadria, this is childish!"

"Yes, I am getting weak-minded, I know," she said feverishly. "I resent
being forced to resort to this sort of thing when I am doing nothing
wrong, according to my own belief. Why should I be forced to behave as
if I _were_ sinning against my conscience?"

"So you may say; that is your grievance, not your fault. But, after all,
compromise is necessary in _everything_, and the best way is to make the
compromise lightly and with a shrug of the shoulders, and then you find
that life becomes fairly manageable and often extremely pleasant."

"Yes, I suppose you are right." Hadria was picking the petals off a
buttercup one by one, and when she had destroyed one golden corolla, she
attacked another.

"Fate _is_ ironical!" she exclaimed. "Never in my life did I feel more
essentially frank and open-hearted than I feel now."

The Professor laughed.

"My impulse is to indulge in that sort of bluff, boisterous honesty
which forms so charming a feature of our national character. Is it not
disastrous?"

"It _is_ a little inopportune," Theobald admitted with a chuckle.

"Oh, it is no laughing matter! It amounts to a monomania. I long to take
Mrs. Walker aside and say 'Hi! look here, Mrs. Walker, I just want to
mention to you----' and so on; and Mrs. Jordan inspires me with a still
more fatal impulse of frankness. If only for the fun of the thing, I
long to do it."

"You are quite mad, Hadria!" exclaimed the Professor, laughing.

"Oh, no," she said, "only bewildered. I want desperately to be bluff and
outspoken, but I suppose I must dissemble. I long painfully to be like
'truthful James,' but I must follow in the footsteps of the sneaky
little boy who came to a bad end because he told a lie. The question is:
Shall my mother be sacrificed to this passionate love of truth?"

"Or shall I?" asked the Professor. "You seem to forget me. You frighten
me, Hadria. To indulge in frankness just now, means to throw me over,
and if you did that, I don't know how I should be able to stand it. I
should cut my throat."

Hadria buried her face in her hands, as if to shut out distracting
sights and sounds, so that she might think more clearly.

It seemed, at that moment, as if cutting one's throat would be the only
way out of the growing difficulty.

How _could_ it go on? And yet, how could she give him up? (The imp gave
a fiendish chuckle.) It would be so unfair, so cruel, and what would
life be without him? ("Moral development impossible!" cried the imp,
with a yell of laughter.) It would be so mean to go back
now--("Shocking!" exclaimed the imp.) Assuming that she ought never to
have allowed this thing to happen ("Oh, fie!") because she bore another
man's name (not being permitted to retain her own), ought she to throw
this man over, on second and (per assumption) better thoughts, or did
the false step oblige her to continue in the path she had entered?

"I seem to have got myself into one of those situations where there is
_no_ right," she exclaimed.

"You forget your own words: A woman in relation to society is in the
position of a captive; she may justly evade the prison rules, if she
can."

"So she may; only I want so desperately to wrench away the bars instead
of evading the rules."

"Try to remember that you----" The Professor stopped abruptly and stood
listening. They looked at one another. Hadria was deadly white. A step
was advancing along the winding path through the bushes behind them: a
half overgrown path, that led from a small door in the wall that ran
round the park. It was the nearest route from the station to the house,
and a short cut could be taken this way through the garden, to Craddock
Place.

"It's all right," the Professor said in a low voice; "we were saying
nothing compromising."

The step drew nearer.

"Some visitor to Craddock Place probably, who has come down by the 4.20
from town."

"Professor Fortescue!"

Hadria had sprung up, and was standing, with flushed cheeks, beside her
calmer companion.

Professor Fortescue's voice broke the momentary silence. He gave a warm
smile of pleasure and came forward with out-stretched hand.

"The hoped-for instant has come sooner than I thought," he cried
genially.

Hadria was shocked to see him looking very ill. He said that his doctor
had bullied him, at last, into deciding to go south. His arrangements
for departure had been rather hastily made, and he had telegraphed this
morning, to Craddock Place, to announce his coming. His luggage was
following in a hand-cart, and he was taking the short cut through the
Priory gardens. He had come to say good-bye to them all. Miss Du Prel,
he added, had already made up her mind to go abroad, and he hoped to
come across her somewhere in Italy. She had given him all news. He
looked anxiously at Hadria. The flush had left her face now, and the
altered lines were but too obvious.

"You ought to have change too," he said, "you are not looking well."

She laughed nervously. "Oh, I am all right."

"Let's sit down a moment, if you were not discussing anything very
important----"

"Indeed, we were, my dear Fortescue," said Professor Theobald, drawing
his colleague on to the seat, "and your clear head would throw much
light on the philosophy of the question."

"Oh, a question of abstract philosophy," said Professor Fortescue. "Are
you disagreeing?"

"Not exactly. The question that turned up, in the course of discussion,
was this: If a man stands in a position which is itself the result of an
aggression upon his liberty and his human rights, is he in honour bound
to abide by the laws which are laid down to coerce him?"

"Obviously not," replied Professor Fortescue.

"Is he morally justified in using every means he can lay hold of to
overcome the peculiar difficulties under which he has been tyrannously
placed?"

"Not merely justified, but I should say he was a poor fool if he
refrained from doing so."

"That is exactly what _I_ say."

"Surely Mrs. Temperley does not demur?"

"No; I quite agree as to the _right_. I only say that the means which
the situation may make necessary are sometimes very hateful."

"Ah, that is among the cruelest of the victim's wrongs," said Professor
Fortescue. "He is reduced to employ artifices that he would despise,
were he a free agent. Take a crude instance: a man is overpowered by a
band of brigands. Surely he is justified in deceiving those gentlemen of
the road, and in telling and acting lies without scruple."

"The parallel is exact," said Theobald, with a triumphant glance at
Hadria.

"Honour departs where force comes in. No man is bound in honour to his
captor, though his captor will naturally try to persuade his prisoner to
regard himself as so bound. And few would be our oppressions, if that
persuasion did not generally succeed!"

"The relations of women to society for instance----" began Theobald.

"Ah, exactly. The success of that device may be said to constitute the
history of womanhood. Take my brigand instance and write it large, and
you have the whole case in a nutshell."

"Then you would recommend rank rebellion, either by force or artifice,
according as circumstances might require?" asked Hadria.

Professor Fortescue looked round at her, half anxiously, half
enquiringly.

"There are perils, remember," he warned. "The woman is, by our
assumption, the brigand's captive. If she offends her brigand, he has
hideous punishments to inflict. He can subject her to pain and indignity
at his good pleasure. Torture and mutilation, metaphorically speaking,
are possible to him. How could one deliberately counsel her to risk all
that?"

There was a long silence.

Hadria had been growing more and more restless since the arrival of the
new-comer. She took no further part in the conversation. She was
struggling to avoid making comparisons between her two companions. The
contrast was startling. Every cadence of their voices, every gesture,
proclaimed the radical difference of nature and calibre.

Hadria rose abruptly. She looked pale and perturbed.

"Don't you think we have sat here long enough?" she asked.

They both looked a little surprised, but they acquiesced at once. The
three walked together down the yew avenue, and out across the lawn.
Professor Fortescue recalled their past meetings among these serene
retreats, and wished they could come over again.

"Nothing ever does come over again," said Hadria.

Theobald glanced at her, meaningfully.

"Look here, my dear fellow," he said, grasping Professor Fortescue by
the arm, and bending confidentially towards him, "I should like those
meetings to repeat themselves _ad infinitum_. I have made up my mind at
last. I want to take the Priory."

Hadria turned deadly pale, and stumbled slightly.

"Well, take it by all means. I should be only too glad to let it to a
tenant who would look after the old place."

"We must talk it over," said Theobald.

"That won't take long, I fancy. We talked it over once before, you
remember, and then you suddenly changed your mind."

"Yes; but my mind is steady now. The Priory is the place of all others
that I should like to pass my days in."

"Well, I think you are wise, Theobald. The place has great charm, and
you have friends here."

"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Theobald.

Professor Fortescue looked vaguely round, as if expecting Hadria to
express some neighbourly sentiment, but she said nothing. He noticed how
very ill she was looking.

"Are you feeling the heat too severe?" he asked in concern. "Shall we
take a rest under these trees?"

But Hadria preferred to go on and rest at home. She asked when Professor
Fortescue was coming to see them at the Red House, but her tone was less
open and warm than usual, in addressing him. He said that to-morrow he
would walk over in the afternoon, if he might. Hadria would not allow
her companions to come out of their way to accompany her home. At the
Priory gate--where the griffins were grinning as derisively as ever at
the ridiculous ways of men--they took their respective roads.

Some domestic catastrophe had happened at the Red House. The cook had
called Mary "names," and Mary declared she must leave. Hadria shrugged
her shoulders.

"Oh, well then, I suppose you must," she said wearily, and retired to
her room, in a mood to be cynically amused at the tragedies that the
human being manufactures for himself, lest he should not find the
tragedies of birth and death and parting, and the solitude of the
spirit, sufficient to occupy him during his little pilgrimage. She sat
by the open window that looked out over the familiar fields, and the
garden that was gay with summer flowers. The red roof of the Priory
could just be caught through the trees of the park. She wished the
little pilgrimage were over. A common enough wish, she commented, but
surely not unreasonable.

The picture of those two men came back to her, in spite of every effort
to banish it. Professor Fortescue had affected her as if he had brought
with him a new atmosphere, and disastrous was the result. It seemed as
if Professor Theobald had suddenly become a stranger to her, whom she
criticised, whose commonness of fibre, ah me! whose coarseness, she saw
as she might have seen it in some casual acquaintance. And yet she had
loved this man, she had allowed him to passionately profess love for
her. His companionship, in the deepest sense, had been chosen by her for
life. To sit by and listen to that conversation, feeling every moment
how utterly he and she were, after all, strangers to one another, how
completely unbroken was the solitude that she had craved to dispel--that
had been horrible. What had lain at the root of her conduct? How had she
deceived herself? Was it not for the sake of mere excitement,
distraction? Was it not the sensuous side of her nature that had been
touched, while the rest had been posing in the foreground? But no, that
was only partly true. There had been more in it than that; very much
more, or she could not have deceived herself so completely. It was this
craving to fill the place of her lost art,--but oh, what morbid nonsense
it had all been! Why, for the first time in her life, did she feel
ashamed to meet Professor Fortescue? Obviously, it was not because she
thought he would disapprove of her breaking the social law. It was
because she had fallen below her own standard, because she had been
hypocritical with herself, played herself false, and acted contemptibly,
hatefully! Professor Fortescue's mere presence had hunted out the truth
from its hiding-place. He had made further self-sophistication
impossible. She buried her face in her hands, in an agony of shame. She
had known all along, that this had not been a profound and whole-hearted
sentiment. She had known all along, of what a poor feverish nature it
was; yet she had chosen to persuade herself that it was all, or nearly
all, that she had dreamed of a perfect human relationship. She had tried
to arrange facts in such a light as to simulate that idea. It was so
paltry, so contemptible. Why could she not at least have been honest
with herself, and owned to the nature of the infatuation? That, at any
rate, would have been straightforward. Her self-scorn made the colour
surge into her cheeks and burn painfully over neck and brow. "How little
one knows oneself. Here am I, who rebel against the beliefs of others,
sinning against my own. Here am I, who turn up my nose at the popular
gods, deriding my own private and particular gods in their very temples!
That I have done, and heaven alone knows where I should have stopped in
the wild work, if this had not happened. Professor Fortescue has no need
to speak. His gentleness, his charity, are as rods to scourge one!"



CHAPTER XLIV.


When Professor Fortescue called at the Red House, he found that the
blinds, in the drawing-room, were all half down. Hadria held the
conversation to the subject of his plans. He knew her well enough to
read the meaning of that quiet tone, with a subtle cadence in it, just
at the end of a phrase, that went to his heart. To him it testified to
an unspeakable regret.

It was difficult to define the change in her manner, but it conveyed to
the visitor the impression that she had lost belief in herself, or in
some one; that she had received a severe shock, and knew no longer what
to trust or how to steer. She seemed to speak across some vast spiritual
distance, an effect not produced by reserve or coldness, but by a
wistful, acquiescent, subdued quality, expressive of uncertainty, of
disorder in her conceptions of things.

"How tempting those two easy-chairs look, under the old tree on your
lawn," said the Professor. "Wouldn't it be pleasant to go out?"

Hadria hesitated for a second, and then rose. "Certainly; we will have
tea there."

When they were seated under the shade taking their tea, with the canopy
of walnut leaves above their heads, the Professor saw that Hadria shewed
signs of serious trouble. The haggard lines, the marks of suffering,
were not to be hidden in the clear light of the summer afternoon. He
insensibly shifted his chair so as not to have to gaze at her when he
spoke. That seemed to be a relief to her.

"Valeria is here till the day after to-morrow," she said. "She has gone
for a walk, and has probably forgotten the tea-hour but I hope you will
see her."

"I want to find out what her plans are. It would be pleasant to come
across one another abroad. I wish you were coming too."

"Ah, so do I."

"I suppose it's impossible."

"Absolutely."

"For the mind, there is no tonic like travel," he said.

"It must be a sovereign cure for egoism."

"If anything will cure that disease." Her face saddened.

"You believe it is quite incurable?"

"If it is constitutional."

"Don't you think that sometimes people grow egoistic through having to
fight incessantly for existence--I mean for individual existence?"

"It certainly is the instinct of moral self-preservation. It corresponds
to the raised arm when a blow threatens."

"One has the choice between egoism and extinction."

"It almost amounts to that. Perhaps, after long experience and much
suffering, the individuality may become secure, and the armour no longer
necessary, but this is a bitter process. Most people become extinct, and
then congratulate themselves on self-conquest."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Hadria musingly. "How dangerous it is to
congratulate oneself on anything! One never is so near to folly as
then."

The Professor threw some crumbs to a chaffinch, which had flown down
within a few yards of the tea-table.

"I think you are disposed, at present, to criticise yourself too
mercilessly," he said in a tone that had drawn forth many a confidence.
It was not to be resisted.

"No; that would be difficult."

"Your conscience may accuse you severely, but who of us escapes such
accusations? Be a little charitable with yourself, as you would with
others. Life, you know, is not such an easy game to play. Beginners
must make wrong moves now and then."

There was a long pause.

"It sounds so mild when you put it like that. But I am not a beginner. I
am quite a veteran, yet I am not seasoned. My impulses are more
imperious, more blinding than I had the least idea of." (The words
hastened on.) "Life comes and pulls one by the sleeve; stirs, prompts,
bewilders, tempts in a thousand ways; emotion rises in whirlwinds--and
one is confused, and reels and gropes and stumbles, and then some cruel,
clear day one awakes to find the print of intoxicated footsteps in the
precincts of the sanctuary, and recognises oneself as desecrator."

The Professor leant forward in his low chair. The chaffinch gave a light
chirp, as if to recall him to his duty. Hadria performed it for him. The
chaffinch flew off with the booty.

"There is no suffering so horrible as that which involves remorse or
self-contempt," he said, and his voice trembled. "To have to settle down
to look upon some part of one's action, of one's moral self, with shame
or scorn, is almost intolerable."

"Quite intolerable!"

"We will not extend to ourselves the forbearance due to erring humanity.
This puts us too much on a level with the rest--is that not often the
reason of our harsh self-judgments?"

"Oh, I have no doubt there is something mean and conceited at the bottom
of it!" exclaimed Hadria.

There was a step on the lawn behind them.

The Professor sprang up. He went to meet Valeria and they came to the
table together, talking. Valeria's eyes were bright and her manner
animated. Yes, she was going abroad. It would be delightful to meet
somewhere, if chance favoured them. She thought of Italy. And at that
magic name, they fell into reminiscences of former journeyings; they
talked of towns and temples and palaces, of art, of sunshine; and Hadria
listened silently.

Once, in her girlhood, when she was scarcely sixteen, she had gone with
her parents and Algitha for a tour in Italy. It was a short but vivid
experience which had tinged her life, leaving a memory and a longing
that never died. The movement of travel, the sense of change and
richness offered to eye and mind, remained with her always; the vision
of a strange, tumultuous, beautiful world; of exquisite Italian cities,
of forests and seas; of classic plains and snow-capped mountains; of
treasures of art--the eternal evidence of man's aloofness, on one side
of him, from the savage element in nature--and glimpses of cathedral
domes and palace walls; and villages clinging like living things to the
hill-sides, or dreaming away their drowsy days in some sunny valley. And
then the mystery that every work of man enshrines; the life, the
thought, the need that it embodies, and the passionate histories that it
hides! It was as if the sum and circumstance of life had mirrored itself
in the memory, once and for all. The South lured her with its languor,
its colour, its hot sun, and its splendid memories. It was exquisite
pleasure and exquisite pain to listen to the anticipations of these two,
who were able to wander as they would.

"Siena?" said Valeria with a sigh, "I used to know Siena when I was
young and happy. That was where I made the fatal mistake in my life. It
is all a thing of the past now. I might have married a good and
brilliantly intellectual man, whom I could respect and warmly admire;
for whom I had every feeling but the one that we romantic women think so
essential, and that people assure us is the first to depart."

"You regret that you held fast to your own standard?" said Hadria.

"I regret that I could not see the wisdom of taking the good that was
offered to me, since I could not have that which I wished. Now I have
neither."

"How do you know you would have found the other good really
satisfactory!"

"I believe in the normal," said Valeria, "having devoted my existence to
an experiment of the abnormal."

"I don't think what we call the normal is, by any means, so safe as it
sounds, for civilized women at any rate," observed the Professor.

Valeria shook her head, and remained silent. But her face expressed the
sad thoughts left unsaid. In youth, it was all very well. One had the
whole world before one, life to explore, one's powers to test. But later
on, when all that seemed to promise fades away, when the dreams drift
out of sight, and strenuous efforts repeated and repeated, are beaten
down by the eternal obstacles; when the heart is wearied by delay,
disappointment, infruition, vain toil, then this once intoxicating world
becomes a place of desolation to the woman who has rebelled against the
common lot. And all the old instincts awake, to haunt and torment; to
demand that which reason has learnt to deny or to scorn; to burden their
victims with the cruel heritage of the past; to whisper regrets and
longings, and sometimes to stir to a conflict and desperation that end
in madness.

"I believe I should have been happier, if I had married some commonplace
worthy in early life, and been the mother of ten children," Valeria
observed, aloud.

Hadria laughed. "By this time, you or the ten children would have come
to some tragic end. I don't know which I would pity most."

"I don't see why I shouldn't be able to do what other women have done,"
cried Valeria.

"A good deal more. But think, Valeria, of ten particular constitutions
to grapple with, ten sets of garments to provide, ten series of ailments
to combat, ten--no, let me see, two hundred and forty teeth to take to
the dentist, not to mention characters and consciences in all their
developments and phases, rising, on this appalling decimal system of
yours, to regions of arithmetic far beyond my range."

"You exaggerate preposterously!" cried Valeria, half annoyed, although
she laughed. She had the instinctive human desire to assert her ability
in the direction where of all others it was lacking.

"And think of the uprush of impulse, good and evil; the stirring of the
thought, the movements of longing and wonder, and then all the greedy
selfishness of youth, with its untamed vigours and its superb hopes.
What help does a child get from its parents, in the midst of this
tumult, out of which silently, the future man or woman emerges--and
grows, remember, according to the manner in which the world meets these
generous or these baser movements of the soul?"

"You would frighten anyone from parenthood!" cried Valeria,
discontentedly.

"Admit at least, that eight, or even seven, would have satisfied you."

"Well, I don't mind foregoing the last three or four," said Valeria.
"But seriously, I think that a home and so forth, is the best that life
has to offer to us women. It is, perhaps, not asking much, but I believe
if one goes further, one fares worse."

"We all think the toothache would be so much more bearable, if it were
only in the other tooth," said the Professor.

A silence fell upon the three. Their thoughts were evidently busy.

"I feel sorry," the Professor said at last, "that this should be your
testimony. It has always seemed to me ridiculous that a woman could not
gratify her domestic sentiments, without being claimed by them, body and
soul. But I hoped that our more developed women would show us that they
could make a full and useful and interesting life for themselves, even
if that particular side of existence were denied them. I thought they
might forego it for the sake of other things."

"Not without regretting it."

"Yet I have met women who held different opinions."

"Probably rather inexperienced women," said Valeria.

"Young women, but----"

"Ah, young women. What do _they_ know? The element of real horror in a
woman's life does not betray itself, until the moment when the sense of
age approaches. Then, and not till then, she knows how much mere
superficial and transitory attractions have had to do with making her
life liveable and interesting. Then, and not till then, she realizes
that she has unconsciously held the position of adventuress in society,
getting what she could out of it, by means of personal charm; never
resting on established right, for she has none. As a wife, she acquires
a sort of reflected right. One must respect her over whom Mr. So-and-So
has rights of property. Well, is it not wise to take what one can
get--the little glory of being the property of Mr. So-and-So? I have
scorned this opportunism all my life, and now I regret having scorned
it. And I think, if you could get women to be sincere, they would tell
you the same tale."

"And what do you think of the scheme of life, which almost forces upon
our finest women, or tempts them to practise, this sort of opportunism?"

"I think it is simply savage," answered Valeria.

Again a silence fell on the little group. The spoken words seemed to
call up a host of words unspoken. There was to Hadria, a personal as
well as a general significance in each sentence, that made her listen
breathlessly for the next.

"How would you define a good woman?" she asked.

"Precisely as I would define a good man," replied the Professor.

"Oh, I think we ask more of the woman," said Valeria.

"We do indeed!" cried Hadria, with a laugh.

"One may find people with a fussy conscience, a nervous fear of
wrong-doing, who are without intelligence and imagination, but you never
meet the noblest, and serenest, and largest examples of goodness without
these attributes," said the Professor.

"This is not the current view of goodness in women," said Hadria.

"Naturally. The less intelligence and imagination the better, if our
current morality is to hold its own. We want our women to accept its
dogmas without question. We tell them how to be good, and if they don't
choose to be good in that way, we call them bad. Nothing could be
simpler."

"I believe," said Hadria, "that the women who are called good have much
to do with the making of those that are called bad. The two kinds are
substance and shadow. We shall never get out of the difficulty till they
frankly shake hands, and admit that they are all playing the same game."

"Oh, they will never do that," exclaimed Valeria, laughing and shaking
her head. "What madness!"

"Why not? The thing is so obvious. They are like the two sides of a
piece of embroidery: one all smooth and fair, the other rough and ugly,
showing the tag ends and the fastenings. But since the embroidery is
insisted on, I can't see that it is of any moral consequence on which
side of the canvas one happens to be."

"It is chiefly a matter of luck," said the Professor.

A long shadow fell across Hadria as she spoke, blotting out the little
flicker of the sunlight that shone through the stirring leaves.
Professor Theobald had crept up softly across the lawn, and as the
chairs were turned towards the flower-borders, he had approached
unobserved.

Hadria gave so violent a start when she heard his voice, that Professor
Fortescue looked at her anxiously. He thought her nerves must be
seriously out of order. The feverish manner of her greeting to the
new-comer, confirmed his fear. Professor Theobald apologized for
intruding. He had given up his intention of going up to town to-day. He
meant to put it off till next week. He could not miss Fortescue's visit.
One could not tell when one might see him again.

And Professor Theobald led the conversation airily on; talking fluently,
and at times brilliantly, but always with that indefinable touch of
something ignoble, something coarse, that now filled Hadria with
unspeakable dismay. She was terrified lest the other two should go, and
he should remain. And yet she ought to speak frankly to him. His
conversation was full of little under-meanings, intended for her only to
understand; his look, his manner to her made her actually hate him. Yet
she felt the utter inconsequence and injustice of her attitude. _He_
had not changed. There was nothing new in him. The change was in
herself. Professor Fortescue had awakened her. But, of course, he was
one in ten thousand. It was not fair to make the comparison by which
Professor Theobald suffered so pitiably. At that moment, as if Fate had
intended to prove to her how badly Professor Theobald really stood
comparison with any thoroughly well-bred man, even if infinitely beneath
him intellectually, Joseph Fleming happened to call. He was his old self
again, simple, friendly, contented. Theobald was in one of his
self-satisfied moods. Perhaps he enjoyed the triumph of his position in
regard to Hadria. At any rate, he seemed to pounce on the new-comer as a
foil to his own brilliancy. Joseph had no talent to oppose to it, but he
had a simple dignity, the offspring of a kind and generous nature, which
made Professor Theobald's conduct towards him appear contemptible.
Professor Fortescue shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Hadria tried to
change the topic; the flush deepening in her cheeks. Professor Fortescue
attempted to come to her aid. Joseph Fleming laughed good-naturedly.

They sat late into the evening. Theobald could not find an excuse to
outstay his colleague, since they were both guests at the same house.

"I must see you alone some time to-morrow," he managed to whisper. There
was no time for a reply.

"I shall go and rest before dinner," said Valeria.

Hadria went into the house by the open window of the drawing-room. She
sank back on the sofa; a blackness came before her eyes.

"No, no, I won't, I _won't_. Let me learn not to let things overpower
me, in future."

When Valeria entered, dressed for dinner, she found Hadria, deadly pale,
standing against the sofa, whose arm she was grasping with both hands,
as if for dear life. Valeria rushed forward.

"Good heavens, Hadria! are you going to faint?"

"No," said Hadria, "I am not going to faint, if there is such a thing as
human will."



CHAPTER XLV.


The morning had passed as usual, but household arrangements at the
Cottage had required much adjustment, one of the maids being ill. She
had been sent away for a rest, and the difficulty was to find another.
Mary went from the Red House as substitute, in the mean time, and the
Red House became disorganised.

"You look distracted with these little worries, Hadria. I should have
said that some desperate crisis was hanging over you, instead of merely
a domestic disturbance." Valeria was established on the lawn, with a
book.

"I am going to seek serenity in the churchyard," explained Hadria.

"But I thought Professor Theobald said something about calling."

"I leave you to entertain him, if he comes," Hadria returned, and
hastened away. She stopped at Martha's cottage for the child. Ah! What
would become of her if it were not for Martha? The two sauntered
together along the Craddock road.

All night long, Hadria had been trying to decide when and how to speak
to Professor Theobald. Should she send for him? Should she write to him?
Should she trust to chance for an opportunity of speaking? But, no, she
could not endure to see him again in the presence of others, before she
had spoken! Yesterday's experience had been too terrible. She had
brought pencil and paper with her, in order to be able to write to him,
if she decided on that course. There were plenty of retired nooks under
the shade of the yew-trees in the churchyard, where one could write.
The thick hedges made it perfectly secluded, and at this hour, it was
always solitary. Little Martha was gathering wild-flowers in the hedges.
She used to pluck them to lay on her mother's grave. She had but a vague
idea of that unknown mother, but Hadria had tried to make the dead woman
live again, in the child's mind, as a gentle and tender image. The
little offering was made each time that they took their walk in the
direction of Craddock. The grave looked fresh and sweet in the summer
sunshine, with the ivy creeping up the tomb-stone and half obliterating
the name. A rose-tree that Hadria and Martha had planted together, was
laden with rich red blooms.

The two figures stood, hand in hand, by the grave. The child stooped to
place her little tribute of flowers at the head of the green mound.
Neither of them noticed a tall figure at the wicket gate. He stood
outside, looking up the path, absolutely motionless. Martha let go
Hadria's hand, and ran off after a gorgeous butterfly that had fluttered
over the headstone: a symbol of the soul; fragile, beautiful, helpless
thing that any rough hand may crush and ruin. Hadria turned to watch the
graceful, joyous movement of the child, and her delight in the beauty of
the rich brown wings, with their enamelled spots of sapphire.

"Hadria!"

She gave a little gasping cry, and turned sharply. Professor Theobald
looked at her with an intent, triumphant expression. She stood before
him, for the moment, as if paralysed. It was by no means the first time
that this look had crossed his face, but she had been blind, and had not
fully understood it. He interpreted her cry and her paleness, as signs
of the fullness of his power over her. This pleased him immeasurably.
His self-love basked and purred. He felt that his moment of triumph had
come. Contrasting this meeting with the last occasion when they had
stood together beside this grave, had he not ground for self-applause?
He remembered so well that unpleasant episode. It was Hadria who stood
_then_ in the more powerful position. He had actually feared to meet her
eye. He remembered how bitterly she had spoken, of her passion for
revenge, of the relentless feud between man and woman. They had
discussed the question of vengeance; he had pointed out its futility,
and Hadria had set her teeth and desired it none the less. Lady Engleton
had reminded her of a woman's helplessness if she places herself in
opposition to a man, for whom all things are ordered in the society that
he governs; her only chance of striking a telling blow being through his
passions. If he were in love with her, _then_ there might be some hope
of making him wince. And Hadria, with a fierce swiftness had accepted
the condition, with a mixture of confidence in her own power of rousing
emotion, if she willed, and of scorn for the creature who could be
appealed to through his passions, but not through his sense of justice.
That she might herself be in that vulnerable condition, had not appeared
to strike her as possible. It was a challenge that he could not but
accept. She attracted him irresistibly. From the first moment of
meeting, he had felt her power, and recognized, at the same time, the
strange spirit of enmity that she seemed to feel towards him, and to
arouse in him against her. He felt the savage in him awake, the desire
of mere conquest. Long had he waited and watched, and at last he had
seen her flush and tremble at his approach; and as if to make his
victory more complete and insolent, it was at _this_ grave that she was
to confess herself ready to lose the world for his sake! Yes; and she
should understand the position of affairs to the full, and consent
nevertheless!

Her adoption of the child had added to his triumph. He could not think
of it without a sense of something humourous in the relation of events.
If ever Fate was ironical, this was the occasion! He felt so sure of
Hadria to-day, that he was swayed by an overpowering temptation to
reveal to her the almost comic situation. It appealed to his sense of
the absurd, and to the savagery that lurked, like a beast of prey, at
the foundation of his nature. Her evident emotion when he arrived
yesterday afternoon and all through his visit, her agitation to-day, at
the mere sound of his voice, assured him that his hold over her was
secure. He must be a fool indeed if he could not keep it, in spite of
revelations. To offer himself to her threatened vengeance of his own
accord, and to see her turned away disarmed, because she loved him; that
would be the climax of his victory!

There was something of their old antagonism, in the attitude in which
they stood facing one another by the side of the grave, looking straight
into one another's eyes. The sound of the child's happy laughter floated
back to them across the spot where its mother lay at rest. Whether
Theobald's intense consciousness of the situation had, in some way,
affected Hadria, or whether his expression had given a clue, it would be
difficult to say, but suddenly, as a whiff of scent invades the senses,
she became aware of a new and horrible fact which had wandered into her
mind, she knew not how; and she took a step backwards, as if stunned,
breathing shortly and quickly. Again he interpreted this as a sign of
intense feeling.

"Hadria," he said bending towards her, "you do love me?" He did not wait
for her answer, so confident did he feel. "You love me for myself, not
for my virtues or qualities, for I have but few of those, alas!" She
tried to speak, but he interrupted her. "I want to make a confession to
you. I can never forget what you said that day of Marion Fenwick's
wedding, at the side of this very grave; you said that you wanted to
take vengeance on the man who had brought such misery to this poor
woman. You threatened--at least, it amounted to a threat--to make him
fall in love with you, if ever you should meet him, and to render him
miserable through his passion. I loved you and I trembled, but I thought
to myself, 'What if I could make her return my love? Where would the
vengeance be _then_?'"

Hadria had remained, for a second, perfectly still, and then turned
abruptly away.

"I knew it would be a shock to you. I did not dare to tell you before.
Think what depended on it for me. Had I told you at that moment, I knew
all hope for me would be at an end. But now, it seems to me my duty to
tell you. If you wish for vengeance still, here I am at your mercy--take
it." He stretched out his arms and stood waiting before her. But she was
silent. He was not surprised. Such a revelation, at such a moment, must,
of necessity, stun her.

"Hadria, pronounce my fate. Do you wish for vengeance still? You have
only to take it, if you do. Only for heaven's sake, don't keep me in
suspense. Tell me your decision."

Still silence.

"Do you want to take revenge on me now?" he repeated.

"No;" she said abruptly, "of what use would it be? No, no, wait, wait a
moment. I want no vengeance. It is useless for women to try to fight
against men; they can only _hate_ them!"

The Professor started, as if he had been struck.

They stood looking at one another.

"In heaven's name, what is the meaning of this? Am I to be hated for a
sin committed years ago, and long since repented? Have you no breadth of
sympathy, no tolerance for erring humanity? Am I never to be forgiven?
Oh, Hadria, Hadria, this is more than I can bear!"

She was standing very still and very calm. Her tones were clear and
deliberate.

"If vengeance is futile, so is forgiveness. It undoes no wrong. It is
not a question of forgiveness or of vengeance. I think, after all, if I
were to attempt the impossible by trying to avenge women whom men have
injured, I should begin with the wives. In this case" (she turned to the
grave), "the tragedy is more obvious, but I believe the everyday tragedy
of the docile wife and mother is even more profound."

"You speak as coldly, as bitterly, as if you regarded me as your worst
enemy--I who love you." He came forward a step, and she drew back
hurriedly.

"All that is over. I too have a confession to make."

"Good heavens, what is it? Are you not what I thought you? Have you some
history, some stain--? Don't for pity's sake tell me that!"

Hadria looked at him, with a cold miserable smile. "That is really
amusing!" she cried; "I should not hold myself responsible to you, for
my past, in any case. My confession relates to the present. I came up
here with this pencil and paper, half resolved to write to you--I wanted
to tell you that--that I find--I find my feelings towards you have
changed----"

He gave a hoarse, inarticulate cry, and turned sharply round. His hands
went up to his head. Then he veered suddenly, and went fiercely up to
her.

"Then you _are_ in earnest? You _do_ hate me! for a sin dead and buried?
Good God! could one have believed it? Because I was honest with you,
where another man would have kept the matter dark, I am to be thrown
over without a word, without a chance. Lord, and this is what a woman
calls love!"

He broke into a laugh that sounded ghastly and cruel, in the serene calm
of the churchyard. The laugh seemed to get the better of him. He had
lost self-control. He put his hands on his hips and went on laughing
harshly, yet sometimes with a real mirth, as if by that means only could
he express the fierce emotions that had been roused in him. Mortified
and furious as he was, he derived genuine and cynical amusement from the
incident.

"And the devotion that we have professed--think of it! and the union of
souls--ha, ha, ha! and the common interests and the deep sympathy--it is
screaming! Almost worth the price I pay, for the sake of the rattling
good joke! And by this grave! Great heavens, how humourous is destiny!"
He leant his arms on the tomb-stone and laughed on softly, his big form
shaking, his strange sinister face appearing over the stone, irradiated
with merriment. In the dusk, among the graves, the grinning face looked
like that of some mocking demon, some gargoyle come to life, to cast a
spell of evil over the place.

"Ah, me, life has its comic moments!" His eyes were streaming. "I fear I
must seem to you flippant, but you will admit the ludicrous side of the
situation. I am none the less ready to cut my throat--ha, ha, ha! Admit,
my dear Hadria--Mrs. Temperley--that it appeals also to _your_ sense of
humour. A common sense of humour, you know, was one of our bonds of
union. What more appropriate than that we should part with shaking
sides? Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! what am I to do? One can't live on a good
joke for ever."

He grasped his head in his hands; then suddenly, he broke out into
another paroxysm. "The feminine nature always the same, always, always;
infinitely charming and infinitely volatile. Delicious, and oh how
instructive!"

He slowly recovered calmness, and remained leaning on the gravestone.

"May I ask when this little change began to occur!" he asked presently.

"If you will ask in a less insolent fashion."

He drew himself up from his leaning attitude, and repeated the question,
in different words.

Hadria answered it, briefly.

"Oh, I see," he said, the savage gleam coming back to his eyes. "The
change in your feelings began when Fortescue appeared?"

Hadria flushed.

"It was when he appeared that I became definitely aware of that which I
had been struggling with all my might and main to hide from myself, for
a long time."

"And that was----?"

"That there was something in you that made me--well, why should I not
say it?--that made me shrink."

He set his lips.

"You have not mentioned the mysterious something."

"An element that I have been conscious of from the first day I saw you."

"Something that _I_ had, and Fortescue had _not_, it would seem."

"Yes."

"And so, on account of this diaphanous, indescribable, exquisite
something, I am to be calmly thrown over; calmly told to go about my
business!" He began to walk up and down the pathway, with feverish
steps, talking rapidly, and representing Hadria's conduct in different
lights, each one making it appear more absurd and more unjust than the
last.

"I have no defence to make," she said, "I know I have behaved
contemptibly; self-deception is no excuse. I can explain but not justify
myself. I wanted to escape from my eternal self; I was tired of fighting
and always in vain. I wanted to throw myself into the life and hopes of
somebody else, somebody who _had_ some chance of a real and effective
existence. Then other elements of attraction and temptation came; your
own memory will tell how many there were. You knew so well how to
surround me with these. Everything conspired to tempt me. It seemed as
if, in you, I had found a refuge from myself. You have no little power
over the emotions, as you are aware. My feeling has been genuine, heaven
knows! but, always, always, through it all, I have been aware of this
element that repels me; and I have distrusted you."

"I knew you distrusted me," he said gloomily.

"It is useless to say I bitterly regret it all. Naturally, I regret it
far more bitterly than you can do. And if my conduct towards you rankles
in your heart, you can remember that I have to contend with what is far
worse than any sense of being badly treated: the sense of having treated
someone badly."

He walked up and down, with bent head and furrowed brows. He looked like
some restless wild animal pacing its cage. Intense mortification gave
him a strange, malicious expression. He seemed to be casting about for a
means of returning the stunning blow that he had received, just at the
moment of expected triumph.

"Damn!" he exclaimed with sudden vehemence, and stood still, looking
down into Hadria's face, with cruel, glittering eyes.

He glanced furtively around. There was no one in sight. Even little
Martha was making mud-pies by the church door. The thick yew trees shut
in the churchyard from the village. There was not a sound, far or near,
to break the sense of seclusion.

"And you mean to tell me we are to part? You mean to tell me that this
is your final decision?"

She bowed her head. With a sudden strong movement, he flung his arms
round her and clasped her in an embrace, as fierce and revengeful as the
sweep of the wind which sends great trees crashing to the ground, and
ships to the bottom of the sea.

"You don't love me?" he enquired.

"Let me go, let me go--coward--madman!"

"You don't love me?" he repeated.

"I _hate_ you--let me go!"

"If this is the last time----"

"I wish I could _kill_ you!"

"Ah, that is the sort of woman I like!"

"You make me know what it is to feel like a murderess!"

"And to look like one, by heaven!"

She wrenched herself away, with a furious effort.

"Coward!" she cried. "I did right to mistrust you!"

Little Martha ran up and offered her a wild heartsease which she had
found on one of the graves. Hadria, trembling and white, stooped
instinctively to take the flower, and as she did so, the whole
significance of the afternoon's revelation broke over her, with fresh
intensity. His child!

He stood watching her, with malice in his eyes.

"Come, come, Martha, let us go, let us go," she cried, feverishly.

He moved backwards along the path, as they advanced.

"I have to thank you for bestowing a mother's care on my poor child. You
can suppose what a joy the thought has been to me all along."

Hadria flushed.

"You need not thank me," she answered. "As you know, I did it first for
her mother's sake, and out of hatred to you, unknown as you then were to
me. Now I will do it for her own sake, and out of hatred to you,
bitterer than ever."

She stooped to take the child's hand.

"You are most kind, but I could not think of troubling you any longer. I
think of taking the little one myself. She will be a comfort to me, and
will cheer my lonely home. And besides you see, duty, Mrs. Temperley,
duty----"

Hadria caught her breath, and stopped short.

"You are going to take her away from me? You are going to revenge
yourself like that?"

"You have made me feel my responsibilities towards my child, as I fear I
did not feel them before. I am powerless, of course, to make up for the
evil I have done her, but I can make some reparation. I can take her to
live with me; I can give her care and attention, I can give her a good
education. I have made up my mind."

Hadria stood before him, white as the gravestone.

"You said that vengeance was futile. So it is. Leave the child to me.
She shall--she shall want for nothing. Only leave her to me."

"Duty must be our first consideration," he answered suavely.

"I can give her all she needs. Leave her to me."

But the Professor shook his head.

"How do I know you have told me the truth?" Hadria exclaimed, with a
flash of fury.

"Do you mean to dispute it?" he asked.

She was silent.

"I think you would find that a mistaken policy," he said, watching her
face.

"I don't believe you can take her away!" cried Hadria. "I am acting for
her mother, and her mother, not having made herself into your legal
property, _has_ some legal right to her own child. I don't believe you
can make me give her up."

The Professor looked at her calmly.

"I think you will find that the law has infinite respect for a father's
holiest feelings. Would you have it interfere with his awakening
aspirations to do his duty towards his child? What a dreadful thought!
And then, I think you have some special views on the education of the
little one which I cannot entirely approve. After all, a woman has
probably to be a wife and mother, on the good old terms that have served
the world for a fair number of centuries, when one comes to consider it:
it is a pity to allow her to grow up without those dogmas and sentiments
that may help to make the position tolerable, if not always
satisfactory, to her. Though, as a philosopher, one may see the
absurdity of popular prejudices, yet as a practical man, one feels the
inexpediency of disturbing the ideas upon which the system depends, and
thus adding to the number of malcontents. All very well for those who
think things out for themselves; but the education of a girl should be
on the old lines, believe me. You will not believe me, I know, so I
think it better, for this as well as for other reasons, to take my
daughter under my own care. I am extremely sorry that you should have
had all this trouble and responsibility for nothing. And I am grieved
that your educational idea should be so frustrated, but what am I to do?
My duty is obvious!"

"I regret that you did not become a devotee to duty, either a little
sooner or a little later," Hadria returned. "For the present, I suppose
Martha will remain with Hannah, until your conscience decides what
course you will take, and until I see whether you can carry out your
threat."

"Certainly, certainly! I don't wish to give you any unnecessary pain."

"You are consideration itself." Hadria stooped to take the child's hand.
The little fingers nestled confidingly in her palm.

"Will you say good-bye, Martha?" asked the Professor, stooping to kiss
her. Martha drew away, and struck her father a sturdy blow on the face.
She had apparently a vague idea that he had been unkind to her
protectress, and that he was an enemy.

"Oh, cruel, cruel! What if I don't bring her any more toys?" Martha
threatened tears.

"Will you allow us to pass?" said Hadria. The Professor stood aside, and
the two went, hand in hand, down the narrow path, and through the wicket
gate out of the churchyard. Hadria carried still the drooping yellow
heartsease that the little girl had given her.



CHAPTER XLVI.


Professor Theobald made his confession to Lady Engleton on that same
night, when he also announced that he found it suddenly necessary to
return to town.

It was some time before she recovered from her astonishment and horror.
He told his story quietly, and without an effort to excuse himself.

"Of course, though I can't exonerate you, Professor, I blame her more
than you," she said finally, "for her standard in the matter was so
different from your's--you being a man."

The Professor suppressed a smile. It always seemed strange to him that a
woman should be harder on her own sex than on his, but he had no
intention of discouraging this lack of _esprit de corps_; it had its
obvious conveniences.

"Did she confess everything to her aunt after her return from
Portsmouth?" asked Lady Engleton.

"Yes; I have that letter now."

"In which your name is mentioned?"

"In which my name is mentioned. I sent money to the girl, but she
returned it. She said that she hated me, and would not touch it. So I
gave the money to the aunt, and told her to send it on, in her own name,
to Ellen, for the child's support. Of course I made secrecy a condition.
So as a matter of fact, I have acknowledged the child, though not
publicly, and I have contributed to its support from its birth."

"But I thought Mrs. Temperley had been supporting it!" cried Lady
Engleton.

"Nevertheless I have continued to send the money to the aunt. If Mrs.
Temperley chose to take charge of the child, I certainly had nothing to
complain of. And I could not openly contribute without declaring
myself."

"Dear me, it is all very strange! What would Hadria say if she knew?"

"She does know."

"What, all along?"

"No, since yesterday."

"And how does she take it?"

"She is bitter against me. It is only natural, especially as I told her
that I wanted to have the child under my own care."

"Ah, that will be a blow to her. She was wrapped up in the little girl."

Professor Theobald pointed out the difficulties that must begin to crop
up, as she grew older. The child could not have the same advantages, in
her present circumstances, as the Professor would be able to give her.
Lady Engleton admitted that this was true.

"Then may I count on you to plead my cause with Mrs. Temperley?"

"If Hadria believes that it is for the child's good, she will not stand
in the way."

"Unless----. You remember that idea of vengeance that she used to have?"

"Oh, she would not let vengeance interfere with the child's welfare!"

"I hope not. You see I don't want to adopt strong measures. The law is
always odious."

"The law!" Lady Engleton looked startled. "Are you sure that the law
would give you the custody of the child?"

"Sure of the law? My dear lady, one might as well be sure of a
woman--pardon me; you know that I regard this quality of infinite
flexibility as one of the supreme charms of your sex. I can't say that I
feel it to be the supreme charm of the law. Mrs. Temperley claims to
have her authority through the mother, because she has the written
consent of the aunt to the adoption, but I think this is rather
stretching a point."

"I fear it is, since the poor mother was dead at the time."

"I can prove everything I have said to the satisfaction of anybody,"
continued Theobald, "I think my claim to take charge of my child is well
established, and you will admit the wish is not unreasonable."

"It does you great credit, but, oh dear, it will be hard for Mrs.
Temperley."

"I fear it will. I am most grieved, but what am I to do? I must consider
the best interests of the child."

"Doubtless, but you are a trifle late, Professor, in thinking of that."

"Would you prefer it to be never than late?"

"Heaven forbid!"

"Then I may rely on you to explain the position of affairs to Mrs.
Temperley? You will understand that it is a painful subject between us."

Lady Engleton readily promised. She called at the Red House immediately
after Professor Theobald's departure. The interview was long.

"Then I have not spoken in vain, dear Hadria?" said Lady Engleton, in
her most sympathetic tone. Hadria was very pale.

"On the contrary, you have spoken to convince."

"I knew that you would do nothing to stand in the way of the child."

Hadria was silent.

"I am very sorry about it. You were so devoted to the little girl, and
it does seem terribly hard that she should be taken away from you."

"It was my last chance," Hadria muttered, half audibly.

"Then I suppose you will not attempt to resist?"

"No," said Hadria.

"He thinks of leaving Martha with you for another month."

"Really? It has not struck him that perhaps I may not keep her for
another month. Now that it is once established that Martha is to be
regarded as under _his_ guardianship and authority, and that my
jurisdiction ceases, he must take her at once. I will certainly not act
for _him_ in that matter. Since you are in his confidence, would you
kindly tell him that?"

Lady Engleton looked surprised. "Certainly; I suppose he and his sister
will look after the child."

"I shall send Martha up with Hannah."

"It will astonish him."

"Does he really think I am going to act as his deputy?"

"He thought you would be glad to have Martha as long as possible."

"As the child of Ellen Jervis, yes--not as his child."

"I don't see that it matters much, myself," said Lady Engleton,
"however, I will let him know."

"By telegram, please, because Martha will be sent to-morrow."

"What breathless haste!"

"Why delay? Hannah will be there--she knows everything about her charge;
and if she is only allowed to stay----"

"He told me he meant to keep her."

"I am thankful for that!"

By this time, the story had flown through the village; nothing else was
talked of. The excitement was intense. Gossip ran high in hall and
cottage. Professor Fortescue alone could not be drawn into the
discussion. Lady Engleton took him aside and asked what he really
thought about it. All he would say was that the whole affair was deeply
tragic. He had no knowledge of the circumstances and feelings involved,
and his judgment must therefore be useless. It seemed more practical to
try to help one's fellows to resist sin, than to shriek at convicted
sinners.

His departure had been fixed for the following morning.

"So you and poor little Martha will go up together by the afternoon
train, I suppose," said Lady Engleton.

Hadria spent the rest of the day at Martha's cottage. There were many
preparations to make. Hannah was bustling about, her eyes red with
weeping. She was heart-broken. She declared that she could never live
with "that bad man." But Hadria persuaded her, for Martha's sake, to
remain. And Hannah, with another burst of tears, gave an assurance which
amounted to a pledge, that she would take a situation with the Father of
Evil himself, rather than desert the blessed child.

"I wonder if Martha realizes at all what is going to happen," said
Hadria sadly, as she stood watching the little girl playing with her
toys. Martha was talking volubly to the blue man. He still clung to a
precarious existence (though he was seriously chipped and faded since
the Paris days), and had as determined a centre of gravity as ever.

"I don't think she understands, ma'am," said Hannah. "I kep' on tellin'
her, and once she cried and said she did not want to go, but she soon
forgot it."

Hadria remained till it was time to dress for dinner. Professor
Fortescue had promised to dine with her and Valeria on this last
evening. Little Martha had been put early to bed, in order that she
might have a long rest before the morrow's journey. The golden curls lay
like strands of silk on the pillow, the bright eyes were closed in
healthful slumber. The child lay, the very image of fresh and pure and
sweet human life, with no thought and no dread of the uncertain future
that loomed before her. Hannah had gone upstairs to pack her own
belongings. The little window was open, as usual, letting the caressing
air wander in, as sweet and fresh as the little body and soul to which
it had ministered from the beginning.

The busy, loud-ticking clock was working on with cheerful unconcern, as
if this were just like every other day whose passing moments it had
registered. The hands were pointing towards seven, and the dinner hour
was half-past seven. Hadria stood looking down at the sleeping child,
her hands resting on the low rail of the cot. There was a desolate look
in her eyes, and something more terrible still, almost beyond
definition. It was like the last white glow of some vast fire that has
been extinguished.

Suddenly--as something that gives way by the run, after a long
resistance--she dropped upon her knees beside the cot with a slight cry,
and broke into a silent storm of sobs, deep and suppressed. The
stillness of the room was unbroken, and one could hear the loud
tick-tack of the little clock telling off the seconds with business-like
exactness.



CHAPTER LVII.


The evening was sultry. Although the windows of the dining-room were
wide open, not a breath of air came in from the garden. A dull, muggy
atmosphere brooded sullenly among the masses of the evergreens, and in
the thick summer foliage of the old walnut tree on the lawn.

"How oppressive it is!" Valeria exclaimed.

She had been asked to allow a niece of Madame Bertaux, who was to join
some friends in Italy, to make the journey under her escort, and the
date of her departure was therefore fixed. She had decided to return to
town on the morrow, to make her preparations.

Valeria declared impulsively that she would stay at home, after all. She
could not bear to leave Hadria for so many lonely months.

"Oh, no, no," cried Hadria in dismay, "don't let me begin _already_ to
impoverish other lives!"

Valeria remonstrated but Hadria persisted.

"At least I have learnt _that_ lesson," she said. "I should have been a
fool if I hadn't, for my life has been a sermon on the text."

Professor Fortescue gave a little frown, as he often did when some
painful idea passed through his mind.

"It is happening everywhere," said Hadria, "the poor, sterile lives
exhaust the strong and full ones. I will not be one of those vampire
souls, at least not while I have my senses about me."

Again, the little frown of pain contracted the Professor's brow.

The dusk had invaded the dinner table, but they had not thought of
candles. They went straight out to the still garden. Valeria had a fan,
with which she vainly tried to overcome the expression of the
atmosphere. She was very low-spirited. Hadria looked ill and exhausted.
Little Martha's name was not mentioned. It was too sore a subject.

"I can't bear the idea of leaving you, Hadria, especially when you talk
like that. I wish, _how_ I wish, that some way could be found out of
this labyrinth. Is this sort of thing to be the end of all the grand new
hopes and efforts of women? Is all our force to be killed and
overwhelmed in this absurd way?"

"Ah, no, not all, in heaven's name!"

"But if women won't repudiate, in practice, the claims that they hold to
be unjust, in theory, how can they hope to escape? We may talk to all
eternity, if we don't act."

Hadria shrugged her shoulders.

"Your reasoning is indisputable, but what can one do? There _are_
cases----in short, some things are impossible!"

Valeria was silent. "I have thought, at times, that you might make a
better stand," she said at last, clinging still to her theory of the
sovereignty of the will.

Hadria did not reply.

The Professor shook his head.

"You know my present conditions," said Hadria, after a silence. "I can't
overcome them. But perhaps some one else in my place might overcome
them. I confess I don't see how. Do you?"

Valeria hesitated. She made some vague statement about strength of
character, and holding on through storm and stress to one's purpose; had
not this been the history of all lives worth living?

Hadria agreed, but pressed the practical question. And that Valeria
could not answer. She could not bring herself to say that the doctor's
warnings ought to be disregarded by Hadria, at the risk of her mother's
life. It was not merely a risk, but a practical certainty that any
further shock or trouble would be fatal. Valeria was tongue-tied.

"Now do you see why I feel so terrified when anyone proposes to narrow
down his existence, even in the smallest particular, for my sake?" asked
Hadria. "It is because I see what awful power a human being may acquire
of ravaging and of ruling other lives, and I don't want to acquire that
power. I see that the tyranny may be perfectly well-intentioned, and
indeed scarcely to be called tyranny, for it is but half conscious, yet
only the more irresistible for that."

"It is one's own fault if one submits to _conscious_ tyranny," the
Professor put in, "and I think tyrant and victim are then much on a
par."

"A mere _demand_ can be resisted," Hadria added; "it is _grief_, real
grief, however unreasonable, that brings people to their knees. But, oh,
may the day hasten, when people shall cease to grieve when others claim
their freedom!"

Valeria smiled. "I don't think you are in much danger of grudging
liberty to your neighbours, Hadria; so you need not be so frightened of
becoming a vampire, as I think you call it."

"Not _now_, but how can one tell what the result of years and years of
monotonous existence may be, or the effect of example? How did it happen
that my mother came to feel aggrieved if her daughters claimed some
right of choice in the ordering of their lives? I suppose it is because
_her_ mother felt aggrieved if _she_ ventured to call her soul her own."

Valeria laughed.

"But it is true," said Hadria. "Very few of us, if any, are in the least
original as regards our sorrowing. We follow the fashion. We are not so
presumptuous as to decide for ourselves what shall afflict us."

"Or what shall transport us with joy," added Valeria, with a shrug.

"Still less perhaps. Tradition says 'Weep, this is the moment,' or
'Rejoice, the hour has come,' and we chant our dirge or kindle our
bonfires accordingly. Why, it means a little martyrdom to the occasional
sinner who selects his own occasion for sorrow or for joy."

Valeria laughed at the notion of Hadria's being under the dictatorship
of tradition, or of anything else, as to her emotions.

But Hadria held that everybody was more or less subject to the thraldom.
And the thraldom increased as the mind and the experience narrowed. And
as the narrowing process progressed, she said, the exhausting or vampire
quality grew and grew.

"I have seen it, I have seen it! Those who have been starved in life,
levy a sort of tax on the plenty of others, in the instinctive effort to
replenish their own empty treasure-house. Only that is impossible. One
can gain no riches in that fashion. One can only reduce one's victim to
a beggary like one's own."

Valeria was perturbed.

"The more I see of life, the more bitter a thing it seems to be a woman!
And one of the discouraging features of it is, that women are so ready
to oppress each other!"

"Because they have themselves suffered oppression," said the Professor.
"It is a law that we cannot evade; if we are injured, we pay back the
injury, whether we will or not, upon our neighbours. If we are blessed,
we bless, but if we are cursed, we curse."

"These moral laws, or laws of nature, or whatever one likes to call
them, seem to be stern as death!" exclaimed Valeria. "I suppose we are
all inheriting the curse that has been laid upon our mothers through so
many ages."

"We are not free from the shades of our grandmothers," said Hadria,
"only I hope a little (when I have not been to the Vicarage for some
time) that we may be less of a hindrance and an obsession to our
granddaughters than our grandmothers have been to us."

"Ah! that way lies hope!" cried the Professor.

"I wish, I _wish_ I could believe!" Valeria exclaimed. "But I was born
ten years too early for the faith of this generation."

"It is you who have helped to give this generation its faith," said
Hadria.

"But have you real hope and real faith, in your heart of hearts? Tell
me, Hadria."

Hadria looked startled.

"Ah! I knew it. Women _don't_ really believe that the cloud will lift.
If they really believed what they profess, they would prove it. They
would not submit and resign themselves. Oh, why don't you shew what a
woman can do, Hadria?"

Hadria gave a faint smile.

She did not speak for some time, and when she did, her words seemed to
have no direct reference to Valeria's question.

"I believe that there are thousands and thousands of women whose lives
have run on parallel lines with mine."

She recalled a strange and grotesque vision, or waking-dream, that she
had dreamt a few nights before: of a vast abyss, black and silent, which
had to be filled up to the top with the bodies of women, hurled down to
the depths of the pit of darkness, in order that the survivors might, at
last, walk over in safety. Human bodies take but little room, and the
abyss seemed to swallow them, as some greedy animal its prey. But Hadria
knew, in her dream, that some day it would have claimed its last victim,
and the surface would be level and solid, so that people would come and
go, scarcely remembering that beneath their feet was once a chasm into
which throbbing lives had to descend, to darkness and a living death.

Valeria looked anxious and ill at ease. She watched Hadria's face.

She was longing to urge her to leave Craddock Dene, but was deterred by
the knowledge of the uselessness of such advice. Hadria could not take
it.

"I chafe against these situations!" cried Valeria. "I am so unused, in
my own life, to such tethers and limitations. They would drive me
crazy!"

"Oh," Hadria exclaimed, with an amused smile, "this is a new cry!"

"I don't care," said Valeria discontentedly. "I never supposed that one
_could_ be tied hand and foot, in this way. I should never stand it. It
is intolerable!"

"These are what you have frequently commended to me as 'home ties,'"
said Hadria.

"Oh, but it is impossible!"

"You attack the family!" cried the Professor.

"If the family makes itself ridiculous----?"

The Professor and Hadria laughed. Valeria was growing excited.

"The natural instinct of man to get his fun at his neighbour's expense
meets with wholesome rebuffs in the outer world," said the Professor,
"but in the family it has its chance. That's why the family is so
popular."

Valeria, with her wonted capriciousness, veered round in defence of the
institution that she had been just jeering at.

"Well, after all, it is the order of Nature to have one's fun at the
expense of someone, and I don't believe we shall ever be able to
practise any other principle, I mean on a national scale, however much
we may progress."

"Oh, but we shan't progress unless we _do_," said the Professor.

"You are always paradoxical."

"There is no paradox here. I am just as certain as I am of my own
existence, that real, solid, permanent progress is impossible to any
people until they recognise, as a mere truism, that whatever is gained
by cruelty, be it towards the humblest thing alive, is not gain, but the
worst of loss."

"Oh, you always go too far!" cried Valeria.

"I don't admit that in a horror of cruelty, it is possible to go too
far," the Professor replied. "Cruelty is the one unpardonable sin." He
passed his hand across his brow, with a weary gesture, as if the
pressure of misery and tumult and anguish in the world, were more than
he could bear.

"You won't give up your music, Hadria," Valeria said, at the end of a
long cogitation.

"It is a forlorn sort of pursuit," Hadria answered, with a whimsical
smile, "but I will do all I can." Valeria seemed relieved.

"And you will not give up hope?"

"Hope? Of what?"

"Oh, of--of----. What an absurd question!"

Hadria smiled. "It is better to face facts, I think, than to shroud them
away. After all, it is only by the rarest chance that character and
conditions happen to suit each other so well that the powers can be
developed. They are generally crushed. One more or less----." Hadria
gave a shrug.

The Professor broke in, abruptly.

"It is exactly the one more or less that sends the balance up or down,
that decides the fate of men and nations. An individual often counts
more than a generation. If that were not so, nothing would be possible,
and hope would be insane."

"Perhaps it is!" said Hadria beneath her breath.

The Professor had risen. He heard the last words, but made no
remonstrance. Yet there was a something in his expression that gave
comfort.

"I fear I shall have to be going back," he said, looking at his watch.
As he spoke, the first notes of a nightingale stole out of the
shrubbery. Voices were hushed, and the three stood listening spellbound,
to the wonderful impassioned song. Hadria marvelled at its strange
serenity, despite the passion, and speculated vaguely as to the
possibility of a paradox of the same kind in the soul of a human being.
Passion and serenity? Had not the Professor combined these apparent
contradictions?

There was ecstasy so supreme in the bird's note that it had become calm
again, like great heat that affects the senses, as with frost, or a
flooded river that runs swift and smooth for very fulness.

Presently, a second nightingale began to answer from a distant tree, and
the garden was filled with the wild music. One or two stars had already
twinkled out.

"I ought really to be going," said the Professor.

But he lingered still. His eyes wandered anxiously to Hadria's white
face. He said good-night to Valeria, and then he and Hadria walked to
the gate together.

"You will come back and see us at Craddock Dene soon after you return,
won't you?" she said wistfully.

"Of course I will. And I hope that meanwhile, you will set to work to
get strong and well. All your leisure ought to be devoted to that
object, for the present. I should be so delighted to hear from you now
and again, when you have a spare moment and the spirit moves you. I will
write and tell you how I fare, if I may. If, at any time, I can be of
service to you, don't forget how great a pleasure it would be to me to
render it. I hope if ever I come back to England----"

"When you come back," Hadria corrected, hastily.

----"that we may meet oftener."

"Indeed, that will be something to look forward to!"

They exchanged the hearty, lingering handshake of trusty friendship and
deep affection. The last words, the last good wishes, were spoken, the
last wistful effort was made of two human souls to bid each other be of
good cheer, and to bring to one another comfort and hope. Hadria leant
on the gate, a lonely figure in the dim star-light, watching the form
that had already become shadowy, retreating along the road and gradually
losing itself in the darkness.



CHAPTER XLVIII.


Autumn had come round again. Craddock Dene had calmed down after the
exciting event of the summer. Martha's little cottage was now standing
empty, the virginia creeper trailing wildly, in thick festoons and
dangling sprays over the porch and creeping up round the windows, even
threatening to cover them with a ruddy screen, since now the bright
little face no longer looked out of the latticed panes, and the cottage
was given over to dust and spiders.

Mrs. Temperley was often seen by the villagers passing along the road
towards Craddock. She would sometimes pause at the cottage, to gather a
few of the flowers that still came up in the tiny garden. It was said
that she gathered them to lay on Ellen Jervis's grave.

"Dear, dear, she do take on about that child!" Dodge used to say, as she
passed up the street of Craddock. And Mrs. Gullick, good soul, would
shake her head and express her sympathy, in spite of not "holding" with
Mrs. Temperley's "ways."

Her poorer neighbours understood far more than the others could
understand, how sorely she was grieving about the child. Because she
said nothing on the subject, it was generally supposed that she had
ceased to care. After all, it was an act of charity that she had
undertaken, on an impulse, and it was quite as well that she should be
relieved of the responsibility.

Hannah used to write regularly, to let her know how Martha was.
Professor Theobald had directed Hannah to do this. The nurse had to
admit that he was very good and very devoted to the child. She throve in
her new home, and seemed perfectly happy.

Hadria was now delivered over to the tender mercies of her own thoughts.
Her memories burnt, as corrosive acids, in her brain. She could find no
shadow of protection from her own contempt. There was not one nook or
cranny into which that ruthless self-knowledge could not throw its cruel
glare. In the hours of darkness, in the haunted hours of the early
morning, she and her memories played horrible games with one another.
She was hunted, they the hunters. There was no thought on which she
could rest, no consoling remembrance. She often wished that she had
followed her frequent impulse to tell Miss Du Prel the whole wretched
story. But she could not force herself to touch the subject through the
painful medium of speech. Valeria knew that Hadria was capable of any
outward law-breaking, but she would never be prepared for the breaking
of her own inner law, the real canon on which she had always laid so
much stress. And then she had shrunk from the idea of betraying a secret
not solely her own. If she told the story, Valeria would certainly guess
the name. She felt a still greater longing that Professor Fortescue
should know the facts; he would be able to help her to face it all, and
to take the memory into her life and let its pain eat out what was base
and evil in her soul. He would give her hope; his experience, his
extraordinary sympathy, would enable him to understand it all, better
than she did herself. If he would look at this miserable episode
unflinchingly, and still hold out his hand to her, as she knew he would,
and still believe in her, then she might believe still in herself, in
her power of rising after this lost illusion, this shock of
self-detection, and of going on again, sadder, and perhaps stronger; but
if he thought that since she was capable of a real treason against her
gods, that she was radically unsound at heart, and a mass of
sophistication, then--Hadria buried her face in the pillow. She went
through so often now, these paroxysms of agony. Do what she would, look
where she might, she saw no relief. She was afraid to trust herself. She
was afraid to accept her own suggestions of comfort, if ever a ray of it
came to her, lest it should be but another form of self-deception,
another proof of moral instability. In her eternal tossing to and fro,
in mental anguish, the despairing idea often assailed her: that after
all, it did not matter what she did or thought. She was but an atom of
the vast whole, a drop in the ocean of human life.

She had no end or motive in anything. She could go on doing what had to
be done to the last, glad if she might bring a little pleasure in so
acting, but beyond that, what was there to consider? The wounds to her
vanity and her pride ached a little, at times, but the infinitely deeper
hurt of disillusion overwhelmed the lesser feeling. She was too
profoundly sad to care for that trivial mortification.

Sometimes, Professor Fortescue used to write to Hadria, and she looked
forward to these letters as to nothing else. She heard from Valeria
also, who had met the Professor at Siena. She said he did not look as
well as she had hoped to find him. She could not see that he had gained
at all, since leaving England. He was cheerful, and enjoying sunny Italy
as much as his strength would allow. Valeria was shocked to notice how
very weak he was. He had a look in his face that she could not bear to
see. If he did not improve soon, she thought of trying to persuade him
to return home to see his doctor again. When one was ill, home was the
best place after all.

"You and Professor Fortescue," she said, in closing her letter, "are the
two people I love in the world. You are all that I have in life to cling
to. Write to me, dearest Hadria, for I am very anxious and wretched."

The affairs of life and death mix themselves incongruously enough, in
this confused world. The next news that stirred the repose of Craddock
Dene, was that of Algitha's engagement to Wilfrid Burton. In spite of
his socialistic views, Mrs. Fullerton was satisfied with the marriage,
because Wilfrid Burton was well-connected and had good expectations. The
mother had feared that Algitha would never marry at all, and she not
only raised no objection, but seemed relieved. Wilfrid Burton had come
down to stay at the Red House, during one of Algitha's holidays, and it
was then that the betrothal had taken place. The marriage promised to be
happy, for the couple were deeply attached and had interests in common.
They intended to continue to work on the same lines after they were
married. Both parents were favourably impressed by the son-in-law elect,
and the Cottage became the scene of exciting arguments on the subject of
socialism. Mr. Fullerton insisted on holding Wilfrid Burton responsible
for every sort of theory that had ever been attributed not merely to
socialists, but to communists, anarchists, collectivists, nihilists, and
the rest; and nothing would persuade him that the young man was not
guilty of all these contradictory enormities of thought. Wilfrid's
personality, however, overcame every prejudice against him, on this
account, after the first meeting.

Joseph Fleming, among others, congratulated Algitha heartily on her
engagement.

"I can see you are very happy," he said naïvely. She laughed and
coloured.

"Indeed I ought to be. Life is gloriously worth living, when it is lived
in the presence of good and generous souls."

"I wish _I_ had married," said Joseph pensively.

"It is not too late to mend," suggested Algitha.

"How reckless you are!" exclaimed her sister. "How can you recommend
marriage in the abstract? You happen to have met just the right person,
but Mr. Fleming hasn't, it would seem."

"If one person can be so fortunate, so can another," said Algitha.

"Why tempt Providence? Rather bear the ills you have----"

"I am surprised to hear you take a gloomy view of anything, Mrs.
Temperley," said Joseph; "I always thought you so cheerful. You say
funnier things than any lady I have ever met, except an Irish girl who
used to sing comic songs."

Both sisters laughed.

"How do you know that, in the intervals of her comic songs, that girl
has not a gloomy disposition?" asked Hadria.

"Oh no, you can see that she is without a care in the world; she is like
Miss Fullerton, always full of good cheer and kindness."

"Had she also slums to cheer her up?" asked Hadria.

"No, not at all. She never does anything in particular."

"I am surprised that she is cheerful then," said Algitha. "It won't
last."

"It is her slums that keep my sister in such good spirits," said Hadria.

"Really! Well, if you are fond of that sort of thing, Mrs. Temperley,
there are some nasty enough places at the lower end of Craddock----"

"Oh, it isn't that one clings to slums for slums' sake," cried Hadria
laughing.

"I am afraid they are already overrun with visitors," Joseph added.
"There are so many Miss Walkers."

It was not long after this conversation, that Craddock Dene was thrilled
by another piece of matrimonial news. Joseph Fleming was announced to be
engaged to the Irish girl who sang comic songs. She was staying with
Mrs. Jordan at the time. And the Irish girl, whose name was Kathleen
O'Halloran, came and sang her comic songs to Craddock Dene, while Joseph
sat and beamed in pride and happiness, and the audience rippled with
laughter.

Kathleen was very pretty and very fascinating, with her merry,
kind-hearted ways, and she became extremely popular with her future
neighbours.

Little changes had taken place in the village, through death or marriage
or departure. Dodge had laid to rest many victims of influenza, which
visited the neighbourhood with great severity. Among the slain, poor
Dodge had to number his own wife. The old man was broken down with his
loss. He loved to talk over her illness and death with Hadria, whose
presence seemed to comfort him more than anything else, as he assured
her, in his quaint dialect.

Sometimes, returning through the Craddock Woods, Hadria would pass
through the churchyard on her way home, after her walk, and there she
would come upon Dodge patiently at work upon some new grave, the sound
of his pickaxe breaking the autumn silence, ominously. His head was more
bent than of yore, and his hair was whiter. His old face would brighten
up when he heard Hadria's footstep, and he would pause, a moment or two,
for a gossip. The conversation generally turned upon his old "missus,"
who was buried under a yew tree, near the wicket gate. Then he would ask
after Hadria's belongings; about her father and mother, about Hubert,
and the boys. Mr. Fullerton had made the gravedigger's acquaintance, and
won his hearty regard by many a chat and many a little kindness. Dodge
had never ceased to regret that Martha had been taken away from
Craddock. The place seemed as if it had gone to sleep, he said. Things
weren't as they used to be.

Hadria would often go to see the old man, trying to cheer him and
minister to his growing ailments. His shrewdness was remarkable. Mr.
Fullerton quoted Dodge as an authority on matters of practical
philosophy, and the old gravedigger became a sort of oracle at the
Cottage. Wilfrid Burton complained that he was incessantly confronted
with some saying of Dodge, and from this there was no appeal.

The news from Italy was still far from reassuring. Valeria was terribly
anxious. But she felt thankful, she said, to be with the invalid and
able to look after him. The doctors would not hear of his returning to
England at the approach of winter. It would be sheer suicide. He must go
further south. Valeria had met some old friends, among them Madame
Bertaux, and they had decided to go on together, perhaps to Naples or
Sorrento. Her friends had all fallen in love with the Professor, as
every one did. They were a great help and comfort to her. If it were not
for the terrible foreboding, Valeria said she would be perfectly happy.
The Professor's presence seemed to change the very atmosphere. He spoke
often about Hadria, and over and over again asked Valeria to watch over
her and help her. And he spoke often about his wife. Valeria confessed
that, at one time, she used to be horribly and shamefully jealous of
this wife, whom he worshipped so faithfully, but now that feeling had
left her. She was thankful for the great privilege of his friendship. A
new tone had come over Valeria's letters, of late; the desperate, almost
bitter element had passed away, and something approaching serenity had
taken its place.

No one, she said, could be in the Professor's presence every day, and
remain exactly the same as before. She saw his potent, silent influence
upon every creature who crossed his path. He came and went among his
fellows, quietly, beneficently, and each was the better for having met
him, more or less, according to the fineness and sensitiveness of the
nature.

"My love for him," said Valeria, "used at one time to be a great trouble
to me. It made me restless and unhappy. Now I am glad of it, and though
there must be an element of pain in a hopeless love, yet I hold myself
fortunate to have cherished it."

Hadria received this letter from the postman when she was coming out of
Dodge's cottage.

It threw her into a conflict of strong and painful feeling: foreboding,
heart-sickness, a longing so strong to see her friends that it seemed as
if she must pack up instantly and go to them, and through it all, a
sense of loneliness that was almost unbearable. How she envied Valeria!
To love with her whole heart, without a shadow of doubt; to have that
element of warmth in her life which could never fail her, like sunshine
to the earth. Among the cruelest elements of Hadria's experience had
been that emptying of her heart; the rebuff to the need for love, the
conviction that she was to go through life without its supreme emotion.
Professor Theobald had thrown away what might have been a
master-passion. The outlook was so blank and cold, so unutterably
lonely! She looked back to the days at Dunaghee, as if several lifetimes
had passed between her and them. What illusions they had all harboured
in those strange old days!

"Do you remember our famous discussion on Emerson in the garret?" she
said to Algitha.

"Do I? It is one of the episodes of our youth that stands out most
distinctly."

"And how about Emerson's doctrine? _Are_ we the makers of our
circumstances? _Does_ our fate 'fit us like a glove?'"

Algitha looked thoughtful. "I doubt it," she said.

"Yet you have brilliantly done what you meant to do."

"My own experience does not overshadow my judgment entirely, I hope,"
said Algitha. "I have seen too much of a certain tragic side of life to
be able to lay down a law of that sort. I can't believe, for instance,
that among all those millions in the East End, not _one_ man or woman,
for all these ages, was born with great capacities, which better
conditions might have allowed to come to fruition. I think you were
right, after all. It is a matter of relation."

The autumn was unusually fine, and the colours sumptuous beyond
description. The vast old trees that grew so tall and strong, in the
genial English soil, burnt away their summer life in a grand
conflagration.

Hubert had successfully carried the day with regard to the important
case which had taken him abroad, and had now returned to Craddock Dene.
Henriette came to stay at the Red House.

She followed her brother, one day, into the smoking-room, and there,
with much tact and circumlocution, gave him to understand that she
thought Hadria was becoming more sensible; that she was growing more
like other people, less opinionated, wiser, and better in every way.

"Hadria was always very sweet, of course," said Henriette, "but she had
the faults of her qualities, as we all have. You have had your trials,
dear Hubert, but I rejoice to believe that Hadria will give you little
further cause for pain or regret." Hubert made no reply. He placed the
tips of his fingers together and looked into the fire.

"I think that the companionship of Lady Engleton has been of great
service to Hadria," he observed, after a long pause.

"Unquestionably," assented Henriette. "She has had an enormous influence
upon her. She has taught Hadria to see that one may hold one's own ideas
quietly, without flying in everybody's face. Lady Engleton is a
pronounced agnostic, yet she never misses a Sunday at Craddock Church,
and I am glad to see that Hadria is following her example. It must be a
great satisfaction to you, Hubert. People used to talk unpleasantly
about Hadria's extremely irregular attendance. It is such a mistake to
offend people's ideas, in a small place like this."

"That is what I told Hadria," said Hubert, "and her mother has been
speaking seriously to her on the subject. Hadria made no opposition,
rather to my surprise. She said that she would go as regularly as our
dining-room clock, if it gave us all so much satisfaction."

"How charming!" cried Henriette benevolently, "and how characteristic!"

As Hadria sank in faith and hope, she rose in the opinion of her
neighbours. She was never nearer to universal unbelief than now, when
the orthodox began to smile upon her.

Life presented itself to her as a mere welter of confused forces. If
goodness, or aspiration, or any godlike thing arose, for a moment--like
some shipwrecked soul with hands out-stretched above the waves--swiftly
it sank again submerged, leaving only a faint ripple on the surface,
soon overswept and obliterated.

She could detect no light on the face of the troubled waters. Looking
around her at other lives, she saw the story written in different
characters, but always the same; hope, struggle, failure. The pathos of
old age wrung her heart; the sorrows of the poor, the lonely, the
illusions of the seeker after wealth, the utter vanity of the objects of
men's pursuit, and the end of it all!

"I wonder what is the secret of success, Hadria?"

"Speaking generally, I should say to have a petty aim."

"Then if one succeeds after a long struggle," said Algitha pensively.

"One finds it, I doubt not, the dismalest of failures."

A great cloud of darkness seemed to have descended over the earth.
Hadria felt cut off even from Nature. The splendours of the autumn
appeared at a vast distance from her. They belonged to another world.
She could not get near them. Mother earth had deserted her child.

A superficial apathy was creeping over her, below which burnt a slow
fire of pain. But the greater the apathy, which expressed itself
outwardly in a sort of cheerful readiness to take things as they came,
the more delighted everybody appeared to be with the repentant sinner.
Her associates seemed to desire earnestly that she should go to church,
as they did, in her best bonnet----and why not? She would get a best
bonnet, as ridiculous as they pleased, and let Mr. Walker do his worst.
What did it matter? Who was the better or the worse for what she thought
or how she acted? What mattered it, whether she were consistent or not?
What mattered it if she seemed, by her actions, to proclaim her belief
in dogmas that meant nothing to her, except as interesting products of
the human mind? She had not enough faith to make it worth while to stand
alone.

Lord Engleton said he thought it right to go to church regularly, for
the sake of setting an example to the masses, a sentiment which always
used to afford Hadria more amusement than many intentional witticisms.

She went often to the later service, when the autumn twilight lay heavy
and sad upon the churchyard, and the peace of evening stole in through
the windows of the church. Then, as the sublime poetry of psalmist or
prophet rolled through the Norman arches, or the notes of the organ
stole out of the shadowed chancel, a spirit of repose would creep into
the heart of the listener, and the tired thoughts would take a more
rhythmic march. She felt nearer to her fellows, at such moments, than at
any other. Her heart went out to them, in wistful sympathy. They seemed
to be standing together then, one and all, at the threshold of the great
Mystery, and though they might be parted ever so widely by circumstance,
temperament, mental endowment, manner of thought, yet after all, they
were brethren and fellow sufferers; they shared the weakness, the
longing, the struggle of life; they all had affections, ambitions,
heart-breakings, sins, and victories; the differences were slight and
transient, in the presence of the vast unknown, the Ultimate Reality for
which they were all groping in the darkness. This sense of brotherhood
was strongest with regard to the poorer members of the congregation: the
labourers with their toil-stained hands and bent heads, the wives, the
weary mothers, their faces seamed with the ceaseless strain of
child-bearing, and hard work, and care and worry. In their prematurely
ageing faces, in their furrowed brows, Hadria could trace the marks of
Life's bare and ruthless hand, which had pressed so heavily on those
whose task it had been to bestow the terrible gift. Here the burden had
crushed soul and flesh; here that insensate spirit of Life had worked
its will, gratified its rage to produce and reproduce, it mattered not
what in the semblance of the human, so long only as that wretched
semblance repeated itself, and repeated itself again, _ad nauseam_,
while it destroyed the creatures which it used for its wild purpose----

And the same savage story was written, once more, on the faces of the
better dressed women: worry, weariness, apathy, strain; these were
marked unmistakeably, after the first freshness of youth had been driven
away, and the features began to take the mould of the habitual thoughts
and the habitual impressions.

And on these faces, there was a certain pettiness and coldness not
observable on those of the poorer women.

Often, when one of the neighbours called and found Hadria alone, some
chance word of womanly sympathy would touch a spring, and then a sad,
narrow little story of trouble and difficulty would be poured out; a
revelation of the bewildered, toiling, futile existences that were being
passed beneath a smooth appearance; of the heart-ache and heroism and
misplaced sacrifice, of the ruined lives that a little common sense and
common kindness might have saved; the unending pain and trouble about
matters entirely trivial, entirely absurd; the ceaseless travail to
bring forth new elements of trouble for those who must inherit the deeds
of to-day; the burdened existences agonizing to give birth to new
existences, equally burdened, which in their turn, were to repeat the
ceaseless oblation to the gods of Life.

"Futile?" said Lady Engleton. "I think women are generally fools, _entre
nous_; that is why they so often fill their lives with sound and fury,
accomplishing nothing."

Hadria felt that this was a description of her own life, as well as that
of most of her neighbours.

"I can understand so well how it is that women become conventional," she
said, apparently without direct reference to the last remark, "it is so
useless to take the trouble to act on one's own initiative. It annoys
everybody frightfully, and it accomplishes nothing, as you say."

"My dear Hadria, you alarm me!" cried Lady Engleton, laughing. "You must
really be very ill indeed, if you have come to this conclusion!"

In looking over some old papers and books, one afternoon, Hadria came
upon the little composition called _Futility_, which a mood had called
forth at Dunaghee, years ago. She had almost forgotten about it, and in
trying it over, she found that it was like trying over the work of some
other person.

It expressed with great exactness the feelings that overwhelmed her now,
whenever she let her imagination dwell upon the lives of women, of
whatever class and whatever kind. Futility! The mournful composition,
with its strange modern character, its suggestion of striving and
confusion and pain, expressed as only music could express, the yearning
and the sadness that burden so many a woman's heart to-day.

She knew that the music was good, and that now she could compose music
infinitely better. The sharpness of longing for her lost art cut through
her. She half turned from the piano and then went back, as a moth to the
flame.

How was this eternal tumult to be stilled? Facts were definite and
clear, there was no room for doubt or for hope. These facts then had to
be dealt with. How did other women deal with them? Not so much better
than she did, after all, as it appeared when one was allowed to see
beneath the amiable surface of their lives. They were all spinning round
and round, in a dizzy little circle, all whirling and toiling and
troubling, to no purpose.

Even Lady Engleton, who appeared so bright and satisfied, had her secret
misery which spoilt her life. She had beauty, talent, wealth, everything
to make existence pleasant and satisfactory, but she had allowed
externals and unessentials to encroach upon it, to govern her actions,
to usurp the place of her best powers, to creep into her motives, till
there was little germ and heart of reality left, and she was beginning
to feel starved and aimless in the midst of what might have been plenty.
Lady Engleton had turned to her neighbour at the Red House in an
instinctive search for sympathy, as the more genuine side of her nature
began to cry out against the emptiness of her graceful and ornate
existence. Hadria was startled by the revelation. Hubert had always held
up Lady Engleton as a model of virtue and wisdom, and perfect
contentment. Yet she too, it turned out, for all her smiles and her
cheerfulness, was busy and weary with futilities. She too, like the
fifty daughters of Danaus, was condemned to the idiot's labour of
eternally drawing water in sieves from fathomless wells.



CHAPTER XLIX.


Algitha's marriage took place almost immediately. There was no reason
for delay. She stayed at the Cottage, and was married at Craddock
Church, on one of the loveliest mornings of the year, as the villagers
noticed with satisfaction. Both sisters had become favourites in the
neighbourhood among the poorer people, and the inhabitants mustered to
see the wedding.

It was only for her mother's sake that Algitha had consented to a
conventional ceremony. She said that she and Wilfrid both hated the
whole barbaric show. They submitted only because there was no help for
it. Algitha's mother would have broken her heart if they had been bound
merely by the legal tie, as she and Wilfrid desired.

"Indeed, the only tie that we respect is that of our love and faith. If
that failed, we should scorn to hold one another in unwilling bondage.
We are not entirely without self-respect."

The couple were to take a tour in Italy, where they hoped to meet
Valeria and Professor Fortescue. Joseph Fleming was married, almost at
the same time, to his merry Irish girl.

The winter came suddenly. Some terrific gales had robbed the trees of
their lingering yellow leaves, and the bare branches already shewed
their exquisite tracery against the sky. Heavy rain followed, and the
river was swollen, and there were floods that made the whole country
damp, and rank, and terribly depressing. Mrs. Fullerton felt the
influence of the weather, and complained of neuralgia and other
ailments. She needed watching very carefully, and plenty of cheerful
companionship. This was hard to supply. In struggling to belie her
feelings, day after day, Hadria feared, at times, that she would break
down disastrously. She was frightened at the strange haunting ideas that
came to her, the dread and nameless horror that began to prey upon her,
try as she would to protect herself from these nerve-torments, which she
could trace so clearly to their causes. If only, instead of making one
half insane and stupid, the strain of grief would but kill one outright,
and be done with it!

Old Dodge was a good friend to Hadria, at this time. He saw that
something was seriously wrong, and he managed to convey his affectionate
concern in a thousand little kindly ways that brought comfort to her
loneliness, and often filled her eyes with sudden tears. Nor was he the
only friend she had in the village, whose sympathy was given in generous
measure. Hadria had been able to be of use, at the time of the
disastrous epidemic which had carried off so many of the population, and
since then had been admitted to more intimate relationship with the
people; learning their troubles and their joys, their anxieties, and the
strange pathos of their lives. She learnt, at this time, the quality of
English kindness and English sympathy, which Valeria used to say was
equalled nowhere in the world.

Before the end of the winter, Algitha and her husband returned.

"I'm real glad, mum, that I be," said Dodge, "to think as you has your
sister with you again. There ain't nobody like one's kith and kin, wen
things isn't quite as they should be, as one may say. Miss
Fullerton--which I means Mrs. Burton--is sure to do you a sight o' good,
bless 'er."

Dodge was right. Algitha's healthy nature, strengthened by happiness and
success, was of infinite help to Hadria, in her efforts to shake off the
symptoms that had made her frightened of herself. She did not know what
tricks exhausted nerves might play upon her, or what tortures they had
in store for her.

Algitha's judgments were inclined to be definite and clear-cut to the
point of hardness. She did not know the meaning of over-wrought nerves,
nor the difficulties of a nature more imaginative than her own. She had
found her will-power sufficient to meet all the emergencies of her life,
and she was disposed to feel a little contemptuous, especially of late,
at a persistent condition of difficulty and confusion. Her impulse was
to attack such a condition and bring it to order, by force of will. The
active temperament is almost bound to misunderstand the imaginative or
artistic spirit and its difficulties. A real _cul de sac_ was to Algitha
almost unthinkable. There _must_ be some means of finding one's way out.

Hadria's present attitude amazed and irritated her. She objected to her
regular church-going, as dishonest. Was she not, for the sake of peace
and quietness, professing that which she did not believe? And how was it
that she was growing more into favour with the Jordans and Walkers and
all the narrow, wooden-headed people? Surely an ominous sign.

After the long self-suppression, the long playing of a fatiguing rôle,
Hadria felt an unspeakable relief in Algitha's presence. To her, at
least, she need not assume a false cheerfulness.

Algitha noticed, with anxiety, the change that was coming over her
sister, the spirit of tired acquiescence, the insidious creeping in of a
slightly cynical view of things, in place of the brave, believing,
imaginative outlook that she had once held towards life. This cynicism
was more or less superficial however, as Algitha found when they had a
long and intimate conversation, one evening in Hadria's room, by her
fire; but it was painful to Algitha to hear the hopeless tones of her
sister's voice, now that she was speaking simply and sincerely, without
bitterness, but without what is usually called resignation.

"No; I don't think it is all for the best," said Hadria. "I think, as
far as my influence goes, it is all for the worst. What fatal argument
my life will give to those who are seeking reasons to hold our sex in
the old bondage! My struggles, my failure, will add to the staggering
weight that we all stumble under. I have hindered more--that is the
bitter thing--by having tried and failed, than if I had never tried at
all. Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Gordon herself, has given less arguments to the
oppressors than I."

"But why? But how?" cried Algitha incredulously.

"Because no one can point to _them_, as they will to me, and say, 'See,
what a ghastly failure! See how feeble after all, are these pretentious
women of the new order, who begin by denying the sufficiency of the life
assigned them, by common consent, and end by failing in that and in the
other which they aspire to. What has become of all the talent and all
the theories and resolves?' And so the next girl who dares to have
ambitions, and dares to scorn the _rôle_ of adventuress that society
allots to her, will have the harder fate because of my attempt. Now
nothing in the whole world," cried Hadria, her voice losing the even
tones in which she had been speaking, "nothing in the whole world will
ever persuade me that _that_ is all for the best!"

"I never said it was, but when a thing has to be, why not make the best
of it?"

"And so persuade people that all is well, when all is not well! That's
exactly what women always do and always have done, and plume themselves
upon it. And so this ridiculous farce is kept up, because these wretched
women go smiling about the world, hugging their stupid resignation to
their hearts, and pampering up their sickly virtue, at the expense of
their sex. Hang their virtue!"

Algitha laughed.

"It _is_ somewhat self-regarding certainly, in spite of the incessant
renunciation and sacrifice."

"Oh, self-sacrifice in a woman, is always her easiest course. It is the
nearest approach to luxury that society allows her," cried Hadria,
irascibly.

"It is most refreshing to hear you exaggerate, once more, with the old
vigour," her sister cried.

"If I have a foible, it is under-statement," returned Hadria, with a
half-smile.

"Then I think you haven't a foible," said Algitha.

"That I am ready to admit; but seriously, women seem bent on proving
that you may treat them as you like, but they will 'never desert Mr.
Micawber.'"

Algitha smiled.

"They are so mortally afraid of getting off the line and doing what
might not be quite right. They take such a morbid interest in their own
characters. They are so particular about their souls. The female soul is
such a delicate creation--like a bonnet. Look at a woman trimming and
poking at her bonnet--that's exactly how she goes on with her soul."

Algitha laughed and shrugged her shoulders.

"It has trained her in a sort of heroism, at any rate," she said.

"Heroism! talk of Spartan boys, they are not in it! A woman will endure
martyrdom with the expression of a seraph,--an extremely aggravating
seraph. She looks after her soul as if it were the ultimate fact of the
universe. She will trim and preen that ridiculous soul, though the
heavens fall and the rest of her sex perish."

"Come now, I think there are exceptions."

"A few, but very few. It is a point of honour, a sacred canon. Women
will go on patiently drawing water in sieves, and pretend they are
usefully employed because it tires them!"

"They believe it," said Algitha.

"Perhaps so. But it's very silly."

"It is really well meant. It is a submission to the supposed will of
heaven."

"A poor compliment to Heaven!" Hadria exclaimed.

"Well, it is not, of course, your conception nor mine of the will of
heaven, but it is their's."

Hadria shrugged her shoulders. "I wish women would think a little less
of Heaven in the abstract, and a little more of one another, in the
concrete."

"Nobody has ever taught them to think of one another; on the contrary,
they have always been trained to think of men, and of Heaven, and their
souls. That training accounts for their attitude towards their own sex."

"I suppose so. A spirit of sisterhood among women would have sadly upset
the social scheme, as it has been hitherto conceived. Indeed the social
scheme has made such a spirit well-nigh impossible."

"A conquering race, if it is wise, governs its subjects largely through
their internecine squabbles and jealousies. _But what if they
combine----?_"

"Ah!" Hadria drew a deep sigh. "I wish the moment of sisterhood were a
little nearer."

"Heaven hasten it!" cried Algitha.

"Perhaps it is nearer than we imagine. Women are quick learners, when
they begin. But, oh, it is hard sometimes to make them begin. They are
so annoyingly abject; so painfully diffident. It is their pride to be
humble. The virtuous worm won't even turn!"

"Poor worm! It sometimes permits itself the relief of verbal
expression!" observed Algitha.

Hadria laughed. "There are smiling, villainous worms, who deny
themselves even _that!_"

After a long silence, Algitha taking the poker in her hand and altering
the position of some of the coals, asked what Hadria meant to do in the
future; how she was going to "turn," if that was her intention.

"Oh, I cannot even turn!" replied Hadria. "Necessity knows no law. The
one thing I won't do, is to be virtuously resigned. And I won't 'make
the best of it.'"

Algitha laughed. "I am relieved to hear so wrong-headed a sentiment from
you. It sounds more like your old self."

"I won't be called wrong-headed on this account," said Hadria. "If my
life is to bear testimony to the truth, its refrain ought to be, 'This
is wrong, this is futile, this is cruel, this is damnable.' I shall warn
every young woman I come across, to beware, as she grows older, and has
people in her clutches, not to express her affection by making
unlimited demands on the beloved objects, nor by turning the world into
a prison-house for those whom she honours with her devotion. The hope of
the future lies in the rising generation. You can't alter those who have
matured in the old ideas. It is for us to warn. I _won't_ pretend to
think that things are all right, when I know they are not all right.
That would be mean. What is called making the best of it, would testify
all the wrong way. My life, instead of being a warning, would be a sort
of a trap. Let me at least play the humble rôle of scarecrow. I am in
excellent condition for it," she added, grasping her thin wrist.

Algitha shook her head anxiously.

"I fear," she said, "that the moral that most people will draw will be:
'Follow in the path of Mrs. Gordon, however distasteful it may seem to
you, and whatever temptations you feel towards a more independent life.
If you don't, you will come to grief.'"

"Then you think it would be better to be 'resigned,' and look after
one's own soul?"

"Heaven knows what would be better!" Algitha exclaimed. "But one thing
is certain, you ought to look after your body, for the present at any
rate."



CHAPTER L.


Hadria had found the autumn saddening, and the winter tempt her to
morbid thoughts, but the coming of spring made her desperate. It would
not allow her to be passive, it would not permit her emotions to lie
prone and exhausted. Everything was waking, and she must wake too, to
the bitterest regret and the keenest longings of which she was capable.

She had tried to avoid everything that would arouse these futile
emotions; she had attempted to organise her life on new lines,
persisting in her attitude of non-surrender, but winning, as far as she
was able, the rest that, at present, could only be achieved by means of
a sort of inward apathy. It was an instinctive effort of
self-preservation. She was like a fierce fire, over which ashes have
been heaped to keep down the flames, and check its ardour. She had to
eat her heart out in dullness, to avoid its flaming out in madness. But
the spring came and carried her away on its torrent. She might as well
have tried to resist an avalanche. She thought that she had given up all
serious thought of music; the surrender was necessary, and she had
judged it folly to tempt herself by further dallying with it. It was too
strong for her. And the despair that it awoke seemed to break up her
whole existence, and render her unfit for her daily task. But now she
found that, once more, she had underrated the strength of her own
impulses. For some time she resisted, but one day, the sun shone out
strong and genial, the budding trees spread their branches to the warm
air, a blackbird warbled ecstatically from among the Priory shrubberies,
and Hadria passed into the garden of the Griffins.

The caretaker smiled, when she saw who stood on the doorstep.

"Why ma'am, I thought you was never coming again to play on the piano; I
_have_ missed it, that I have. It makes the old place seem that
cheerful--I can almost fancy it's my poor young mistress come back
again. She used to sit and play on that piano, by the hour together."

"I am glad you have enjoyed it," said Hadria gently. The blinds were
pulled up in the drawing-room, the piano was uncovered, the windows
thrown open to the terrace.

"You haven't had much time for playing since your mamma has been ill,"
the woman continued, dusting the keys and setting up the music-rest.

"To-day my mother has a visitor; Mrs. Joseph Fleming is spending the
afternoon with her," said Hadria.

"To be sure, ma'am, to be sure, a nice young lady, and so cheerful,"
said the good woman, bustling off to wind up the tall old clock with the
wise-looking face, that had been allowed to run down since Hadria's last
visit. "Seems more cheerful like," observed the caretaker, as the steady
tick-tack began to sound through the quiet room.

"And have you fed my birds regularly, Mrs. Williams?" asked Hadria,
taking off her hat and standing at the open window looking out to the
terrace.

"Yes indeed, ma'am, every day, just as you used to do when you came
yourself. And they has got so tame; they almost eats out of my hand."

"And my robin? I hope he has not deserted us."

"Oh, no, he comes right into the room sometimes and hops about, just as
he did that afternoon, the last time you was here! I think it's the same
bird, for he likes to perch on that table and pick up the crumbs."

"Poor little soul! If you will give me a scrap of bread, Mrs.
Williams----"

The caretaker left the room, and returned with a thick slice, which
Hadria crumbled and scattered on the window-sill, as she stepped out to
the terrace.

The calm old mansion with its delicate outlines, its dreamy exquisite
stateliness, spoke of rest and sweet serenity. The place had the
melancholy but also the repose of greatness. It was rich in all that
lies nearest to the heart of that mysterious, dual-faced divinity that
we call beauty, compounded of sorrow and delight.

Ah! if only its owner could come and take up his abode here. If only he
would get well! Hadria's thoughts wandered backwards to that wonderful
evening, when she had played to him and Algitha, and they had all
watched the sunset afterwards, from the terrace. How long was it since
she had touched the piano in this old drawing-room? Never since she
returned from Paris. Even her own piano at home had been almost equally
silent. She believed that she had not only quite abandoned hope with
regard to music, but that she had prepared herself to face the
inevitable decay of power, the inevitable proofs of her loss, as time
went on. But so far, she had only had proofs that she could do
astonishingly much if she had the chance.

To-day, for the first time, the final ordeal had to be gone through. And
her imagination had never conceived its horror. She was to be taken at
her word. The neglected gift was beginning to show signs of decay and
enfeeblement. It had given fair warning for many a year, by the
persistent appeal that it made, the persistent pain that it caused; but
the famine had told upon it at last. It was dying. As this fact
insinuated itself into the consciousness, in the teeth of a wild effort
to deny it, despair flamed up, fierce and violent. She regretted that
she had not thrown up everything long ago, rather than endure this
lingering death; she cursed her hesitation, she cursed her fate, her
training, her circumstances, she cursed herself. Whatever there was to
curse, she cursed. What hideous nonsense to imagine herself ready to
face this last insult of fate! She was like a martyr, who invites the
stake and the faggot, and knows what he has undertaken only when the
flames begin to curl about his feet. She had offered up her power, her
imperious creative instinct, to the Lares and Penates; those greedy
little godlets whom there was no appeasing while an inch of one remained
that they could tear to pieces. She clenched her hands, in agony. The
whole being recoiled now, at the eleventh hour, as a fierce wild
creature that one tries to bury alive. She looked back along the line of
the past and saw, with too clear eyes, the whole insidious process, so
stealthy that she had hardly detected it, at the time. She remembered
those afternoons at the Priory, when the restless, ill-trained power
would assert itself, free for the moment, from the fetters and the
dismemberment that awaited it in ordinary life. But like a creature
accustomed to the yoke, she had found it increasingly difficult to use
the moments of opportunity when they came. The force of daily usage, the
necessary bending of thoughts in certain habitual directions, had
assisted the crippling process, and though the power still lay there,
stiffer than of yore, yet the preliminary movements and readjustments
used up time and strength, and then gradually, with the perpetual
repetition of adverse habits, the whole process became slower, harder,
crueler.

"Good heavens! are _all_ doors going to be shut against me?"

It was more than she could bear! And yet it must be borne--unless--no,
there was no "unless." It was of no use to coquet with thoughts of
suicide. She had thought all that out long ago, and had sought, at more
than one crisis of desperate misery, for refuge from the horror and the
insults of life. But there were always others to be considered. She
could not strike them so terrible a blow. Retreat was ruthlessly cut
off. Nothing remained but the endurance of a conscious slow decay;
nothing but increasing loss and feebleness, as the surly years went by.
They were going, going, these years of life, slipping away with their
spoils. Youth was departing, everything was vanishing; her very self,
bit by bit, slowly but surely, till the House of Life would grow narrow
and shrunken to the sight, the roof descend. The gruesome old story of
the imprisoned prince flashed into her mind; the wretched captive, young
and life-loving, who used to wake up, each morning, to find that of the
original seven windows of his dungeon, one had disappeared, while the
walls had advanced a foot, and to-morrow yet another foot, till at
length the last window had closed up, and the walls shrank together and
crushed him to death.

"I can't, I _can't_ endure it!"

Hadria had leaned forward against the key-board, which gave forth a loud
crash of discordant notes, strangely expressive of the fall and failure
of her spirit.

She remained thus motionless, while the airs wandered in from the
garden, and a broad ray of sunlight showed the strange incessant
gyrations of the dust atoms, that happened to lie within the revealing
brightness. The silence was perfect.

Hadria raised her head at last, and her eyes wandered out to the sweet
old garden, decked in the miraculous hues of spring. The unutterable
loveliness brought, for a second, a strange, inconsequent sense of
peace; it seemed like a promise and a message from an unknown god.

But after that momentary and inexplicable experience, the babble of
thought went on as before. The old dream mounted again heavenwards, like
a cloud at sunset; wild fancies fashioned themselves in the brain. And
then, in fantastic images, Hadria seemed to see a panorama of her own
life and the general life pass before her, in all their incongruity and
confusion. The great mass of that life showed itself as prose, because
the significance of things had not been grasped or suspected; but here
and there, the veil was pierced--by some suffering soul, by some poet's
vision--and the darkness of our daily, pompous, careworn, ridiculous
little existence made painfully visible.

"It is all absurd, all futile!" (so moved the procession of the
thoughts); "and meanwhile the steady pulse of life beats on, not
pausing while we battle out our days, not waiting while we decide how we
shall live. We are possessed by a sentiment, an ideal, a religion; old
Time makes no comment, but moves quietly on; we fling the thing aside as
tawdry, insufficient; the ideal is tarnished, experience of the world
converts us--and still unmoved, he paces on. We are off on another
chase; another conception of things possesses us; and still the beat of
his footstep sounds in our ears, above the tumult. We think and aspire
and dream, and meanwhile the fires grow cold upon the hearth, the daily
cares and common needs plead eloquently for our undivided service; the
stupendous movement of Existence goes on unceasingly, at our doors;
thousands struggling for gold and fame and mere bread, and resorting to
infamous devices to obtain them; the great commercial currents flow and
flow, according to their mystic laws; the price of stocks goes up, goes
down, and with them, the life and fate of thousands; the inconsequent
bells ring out from Craddock Church, and the people congregate; the
grave of the schoolmistress sleeps in the sunshine, and the sound of the
bells streams over it--meaning no irony--to lose itself in the quiet of
the hills; rust and dust collect in one's house, in one's soul; and this
and that, and that and this,--like the pendulum of the old time-piece,
with its solemn tick--dock the moments of one's life, with each its dull
little claim and its tough little tether, and lead one decorously to the
gateway of Eternity."

There was a flutter of wings, in the room. A robin hopped in at the
window and perched daintily on the table-ledge, its delicate claws
outlined against the whiteness of the dust-sheet, its head inquisitively
on one side, as if it were asking the reason of the musician's unusual
silence. Suddenly, the little creature fluffed out its feathers, drew
itself together, and warbled forth a rich ecstatic song, that seemed to
be deliberately addressed to its human companion. Hadria raised her
bowed head. Up welled the swift unaccustomed tears, while the robin,
with increasing enthusiasm, continued his song. His theme, doubtless,
was of the flicker of sunlit shrubberies, the warmth of summer, the
glory of spring, the sweetness of the revolving seasons. For cure of
heart-ache, he suggested the pleasantness of garden nooks, and the
repose that lingers about a dew-sprinkled lawn. All these things were
warmly commended to the human being whose song of life had ceased.

"But they break my heart, little singer, they break my heart!"

The robin lifted up its head and warbled more rapturously than ever.

The tears were falling fast now, and silently. The thoughts ran on and
on. "I know it all, I know it all, and my heart is broken--and it is my
own fault--and it does not matter--the world is full of broken
hearts--and it does not matter, it does not matter. But, oh, if the pain
might stop, if the pain might stop! The robin sings now, because the
spring is here; but it is not always spring. And some day--perhaps not
this winter, but some day--the dear little brown body will agonize--it
will die alone, in the horrible great universe; one thinks little of a
robin, but it agonizes all the same when its time comes; it agonizes all
the same."

The thoughts were drowned, for a moment, in a flood of terrible,
unbearable pity for all the sorrow of the world.

The robin seemed to think that he had a mission to cheer his companion,
for he warbled merrily on. And beside him, the dust-motes danced the
wildest of dances, in the shaft of sunshine.

"It is very lovely, it is very lovely--the world is a miracle, but it is
all like a taunt, it is like an insult, this glory of the world. I am
born a woman, and to be born a woman is to be exquisitely sensitive to
insult and to live under it always, always. I wish that I were as marble
to the magic of Life, I wish that I cared for nothing and felt nothing.
I pray only that the dream and the longing may be killed, and killed
quickly!"

In the silence, the bird's note sounded clear and tender. The dance of
the dust-motes, like the great dance of Life itself, went on without
ceasing.

The robin seemed to insist on a brighter view of things. He urged his
companion to take comfort. Had the spring not come?

"But you do not understand, you do not understand, little soul that
sings--the spring is torturing me and taunting me. If only it would kill
me!"

The robin fluffed out his feathers, and began again to impart his sweet
philosophy. Hadria was shedding the first unchecked tears that she had
shed since her earliest childhood. And then, for the second time to-day,
that strange unexplained peace stole into her heart. Reason came quickly
and drove it away with a sneer, and the horror and the darkness closed
round again.

"If I might only die, if I might only die!"

But the little bird sang on.



CHAPTER LI.


"Quite hopeless!"

Joseph Fleming repeated the words incredulously.

"Yes," said Lady Engleton, "it is the terrible truth."

The Professor had been growing worse, and at length, his state became so
alarming that he decided to return to England. Miss Du Prel and an old
friend whom she had met abroad, accompanied him.

"I understand they are all at the Priory," said Joseph.

"Yes; Miss Du Prel telegraphed to Mrs. Temperley, and Mrs. Temperley and
I put our heads together and arranged matters as well as we could in the
emergency, so that the Professor's wish might be gratified. He desired
to return to the Priory, where his boyhood was spent."

"And is there really no hope?"

"None at all, the doctor says."

"Dear me, dear me!" cried Joseph. "And is he not expected to live
through the summer?"

"The summer! ah no, Mr. Fleming, he is not expected to live many days."

"Dear me, dear me!" was all that Joseph could say. Then after a pause,
he added, "I fear Mrs. Temperley will feel it very much. They were such
old friends."

"Oh! poor woman, she is heart-broken."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Professor lingered longer than the doctor had expected. He was very
weak, and could not bear the fatigue of seeing many people. But he was
perfectly cheerful, and when feeling a little better at times, he would
laugh and joke in his old kindly way, and seemed to enjoy the fragment
of life that still remained to him.

"I am so glad I have seen the spring again," he said, "and that I am
here, in the old home."

He liked to have the window thrown wide open, when the day was warm.
Then his bed would be wheeled closer to it, so that the sunshine often
lay across it, and the scent of the flowering shrubs and the odour of
growth, as he called it, floated in upon him. He looked out into a world
of exquisite greenery and of serene sky. The room was above the
drawing-room, and if the drawing-room windows were open, he could hear
Hadria playing. He often used to ask for music.

The request would come generally after an exhausting turn of pain, when
he could not bear the fatigue of seeing people.

"I can't tell you what pleasure and comfort your music is to me," he
used to say, again and again. "It has been so ever since I knew you.
When I think of the thousands of poor devils who have to end their lives
in some wretched, lonely, sordid fashion, after hardships and struggles
and very little hope, I can't help feeling that I am fortunate indeed,
now and all through my life. I have grumbled at times, and there have
been sharp experiences--few escape those--but take it all round, I have
had my share of good things."

He had one great satisfaction: that he had discovered, before the end of
his days, the means which he had so long been seeking, of saving the
death-agony of animals that are killed for food. Some day perhaps, he
said, men might cease to be numbered among the beasts of prey, but till
then, at least their victims might be spared as much pain as possible.
He had overcome the difficulty of expense, which had always been the
main obstacle to a practical solution of the problem. Henceforth there
was no need for any creature to suffer, in dying for man's use. If
people only knew and realized how much needless agony is inflicted on
these helpless creatures, in order to supply the daily demands of a vast
flesh-eating population, they would feel that, as a matter of fact, he
had been doing the human race a good turn as well as their more
friendless fellow-beings. It was impossible to imagine that men and
women would not suffer at the thought of causing suffering to the
helpless, if once they realized that suffering clearly. Men and women
were not devils! Theobald had always laughed at him for this part of his
work, but he felt now, at the close of his life, that he could dwell
upon that effort with more pleasure than on any other, although others
had won him far more applause, and this had often brought him contempt.
If only he could be sure that the discovery would not be wasted.

"It shall be our business to see that it is not," said Valeria, in a
voice tremulous with unshed tears.

The Professor heaved a sigh of relief, at this assurance.

"My earlier work is safe; what I have done in other directions, is
already a part of human knowledge and resource, but this is just the
sort of thing that might be so easily lost and forgotten. These
sufferings are hidden, and when people do not see a wrong, they do not
think of it; make them think, make them think!"

A week had gone by since the Professor's arrival at the Priory. He was
in great pain, but had intervals of respite. He liked, in those
intervals, to see his friends. They could scarcely believe that he was
dying, for he still seemed so full of interest in the affairs of life,
and spoke of the future as if he would be there to see it. One of the
most distressing interviews was with Mr. Fullerton, who could not be
persuaded that the invalid had but a short time to live. The old man
believed that death meant, beyond all question, annihilation of the
personality, and had absolutely no hope of meeting again.

"Don't be too sure, old friend," said the Professor; "don't be too sure
of anything, in this mysterious universe."

The weather kept warm and genial, and this was favourable to his
lingering among them a little longer. But his suffering, at times, was
so great that they could scarcely wish for this delay. Hadria used
always to play to him during some part of the afternoon. The robin had
become a constant visitor, and had found its way to the window of the
sick-room, where crumbs had been scattered on the sill. The Professor
took great pleasure in watching the little creature. Sometimes it would
come into the room and hop on to a chair or table, coquetting from perch
to perch, and looking at the invalid, with bright inquisitive eyes. The
crumbs were put out at a certain hour each morning, and the bird had
acquired the habit of arriving almost to the moment. If, by chance, the
crumbs had been forgotten, the robin would flutter ostentatiously before
the window, to remind his friends of their neglected duty.

During the last few days, Hadria had fancied that the Professor had
divined Valeria's secret, or that she had betrayed it.

There was a peculiar, reverent tenderness in his manner towards her,
that was even more marked than usual.

"Can't we save him? can't we save him, Hadria?" she used to cry
piteously, when they were alone. "Surely, surely there is some hope.
Science makes such professions; why doesn't it do something?"

"Ah, don't torture yourself with false hope, dear Valeria."

"The world is monstrous, life is unbearable," exclaimed Valeria, with a
despairing break in her voice.

But one afternoon, she came out of the sick-room with a less distraught
expression on her worn face, though her eyes shewed traces of tears.

The dying man used to speak often about his wife to Hadria. This had
been her room, and he almost fancied her presence about him.

"Do you know," he said, "I have found, of late, that many of my old
fixed ideas have been insidiously modifying. So many things that I used
to regard as preposterous have been borne in upon me, in a singular
fashion, as by no means so out of the question. I have had one or two
strange experiences and now a hope--I might say a faith--has settled
upon me of an undying element in our personality. I feel that we shall
meet again those we have loved here--some time or another."

"What a sting that would take from the agony of parting," cried Hadria.

"And, after all, is it less rational to suppose that there is some
survival of the Self, and that the wild, confused earthly experience is
an element of a spiritual evolutionary process, than to suppose that the
whole universe is chaotic and meaningless? For what we call mind exists,
and it must be contained in the sum-total of existence, or how could it
arise out of it? Therefore, some reasonable scheme appears more likely
than a reasonless one. And then there is that other big fact that stares
us in the face and puts one's fears to shame: human goodness."

Hadria's rebellious memory recalled the fact of human cruelty and
wickedness to set against the goodness, but she was silent.

"What earthly business has such a thing as goodness or pity to appear in
a fortuitous, mindless, soulless universe? Where does it come from? What
is its origin? Whence sprang the laws that gave it birth?"

"It gives more argument to faith than any thing I know," she said, "even
if there had been but one good man or woman since the world began."

"Ah, yes; the pity and tenderness that lie in the heart of man, even of
the worst, if only they can be appealed to before they die, may teach us
to hope all things."

There was a long silence. Through the open window, they could hear the
soft cooing of the wood-pigeons. Among the big trees behind the house,
there was a populous rookery, noisy now with the squeaky voices of the
young birds, and the deeper cawing of the parent rooks.

"I have been for many years without one gleam of hope," said the
Professor slowly. "It is only lately that some of my obstinate
preconceptions have begun to yield to other suggestions and other
thoughts, which have opened up a thousand possibilities and a thousand
hopes. And I have not been false to my reason in this change; I have but
followed it more fearlessly and more faithfully."

"I have sometimes thought," said Hadria, "that when we seem to cling
most desperately to our reason, we are really refusing to accept its
guidance into unfamiliar regions. We confuse the familiar with the
reasonable."

"Exactly. And I want you to be on your guard against that intellectual
foible, which I believe has held me back in a region of sadness and
solitude that I need not have lingered in, but for that."

There was a great commotion in the rookery, and presently a flock of
rooks swept across the window, in loud controversy, and away over the
garden in a circle, and then up and up till they were a grey little
patch of changing shape, in the blue of the sky.

The dying man followed them with his eyes. He had watched such streaming
companies start forth from the old rookery, ever since his boyhood. The
memories of that time, and of the importunate thoughts that had haunted
him then, at the opening of life, returned to him now.

He had accomplished a fraction of what he had set out to attempt, with
such high hopes. His dream of personal happiness had failed; many an
illusion had been lost, many a bitterly-regretted deed had saddened him,
many an error had revenged itself upon him. He drew a deep sigh.

"And if the scheme of the universe be a reasonable one," he said half
dreamily, "then one can account better for the lives that never fulfil
themselves; the apparent failure that saddens one, in such numberless
instances, especially among women. For in that case, the failure is only
apparent, however cruel and however great. If the effort has been
sincere, and the thought bent upon the best that could be conceived by
the particular soul, then that effort and that thought must play their
part in the upward movement of the race. I cannot believe otherwise."

Hadria's head was bent. Her lips moved, as if in an effort to speak, but
no sound came.

"To believe that all the better and more generous hopes of our kind are
to be lost and ineffectual, that genius is finally wasted, and goodness
an exotic to be trampled under foot in the blind movements of
Nature--that requires more power of faith than I can muster. Once
believe that thought is the main factor, the motive force of the
universe, then everything settles into its place, and we have room for
hope; indeed it insists upon admission; it falls into the shadow of our
life like that blessed ray of sunlight."

It lay across the bed, in a bright streak.

"The hope leads me far. My training has been all against it, but it
comes to me with greater and greater force. It makes me feel that
presently, when we have bid one another farewell, it will not be for
ever. We shall meet again, dear Hadria, believe me." She was struggling
with her tears, and could answer nothing.

"I wish so much that I could leave this hope, as a legacy to you. I wish
I could leave it to Valeria. Take care of her, won't you? She is very
solitary and very sad."

"I will, I will," Hadria murmured.

"Do not turn away from the light of rational hope, if any path should
open up that leads that way. And help her to do the same. When you think
of me, let it be happily and with comfort."

Hadria was silently weeping.

"And hold fast to your own colours. Don't take sides, above all, with
the powers that have oppressed you. They are terrible powers, and yet
people won't admit their strength, and so they are left unopposed. It is
worse than folly to underrate the forces of the enemy. It is always
worse than folly to deny facts in order to support a theory. Exhort
people to face and conquer them. You can help more than you dream, even
as things stand. I cannot tell you what you have done for me, dear
Hadria." (He held out his hand to her.) "And the helpless, human and
animal--how they wring one's heart! Do not forget them; be to them a
knight-errant. You have suffered enough yourself, to know well how to
bind their wounds." The speaker paused, for a moment, to battle with a
paroxysm of pain.

"There is so much anguish," he said presently, "so much intolerable
anguish, even when things seem smoothest. The human spirit craves for so
much, and generally it gets so little. The world is full of tragedy; and
sympathy, a little common sympathy, can do so much to soften the worst
of grief. It is for the lack of that, that people despair and go down. I
commend them to you."

       *       *       *       *       *

The figure lay motionless, as if asleep. The expression was one of utter
peace. It seemed as if all the love and tenderness, all the breadth and
beauty of the soul that had passed away, were shining out of the quieted
face, from which all trace of suffering had vanished. The look of
desolation that used, at times, to come into it, had entirely gone.

Hadria and Valeria stood together, by the bedside. At the foot of the
bed was a glass vase, holding a spray of wild cherry blossom; Hadria had
brought it, to the invalid's delight, the day before. There were other
offerings of fresh flowers; a mass of azaleas from Lady Engleton;
bunches of daffodils that Valeria had gathered in the meadows; and old
Dodge had sent a handful of brown and yellow wallflower, from his
garden. The blind had been raised a few inches, so as to let in the
sunlight and the sweet air. It was a glorious morning. The few last hot
days had brought everything out, with a rush. The boughs of the trees,
that the Professor had loved so to watch during his illness, were
swaying gently in the breeze, just as they had done when his eyes had
been open to see them. The wood-pigeons were cooing, the young rooks
cawing shrilly in the rookery. Valeria seemed to be stunned. She stood
gazing at the peaceful face, with a look of stony grief.

"I _can't_ understand it!" she exclaimed at last, with a wild gesture,
"I _can't_ believe he will never speak to me again! It's a horrible
dream--oh, but too horrible--ah, why can't I die as well as he?" She
threw herself on her knees, shaken with sobs, silent and passionate.
Hadria did not attempt to remonstrate or soothe her. She turned away, as
a flood of bitter grief swept over her, so that she felt as one
drowning.

Some minutes passed before Valeria rose from her knees, looking haggard
and desolate. Hadria went towards her hastily.

"What's that?" cried Valeria with a nervous start and a scared glance
towards the window.

"The robin!" said Hadria, and the tears started to her eyes.

The bird had hopped in at his usual hour, in a friendly fashion. He
picked up a few stray crumbs that had been left on the sill from
yesterday, and then, in little capricious flights from stage to stage,
finally arrived at the rail of the bed, and stood looking from side to
side, with black, bright eyes, at the motionless figure. Hitherto it had
been accustomed to a welcome. Why this strange silence? The robin hopped
round on the rail, polished his beak meditatively, fluffed out his
feathers, and then, raising his head, sang a tender requiem.



THE END.


       *       *       *       *       *


APPENDIX

"Does Marriage Hinder a Woman's Self-development?"

_In 1899,_ The Ladies' Realm _asked several well-known women to write on
the set topic, "Does Marriage Hinder a Woman's Self-development?" We
reprint Mona Caird's ingenious response._


Perhaps it might throw some light on the question whether marriage
interferes with a woman's self-development and career, if we were to ask
ourselves honestly how a man would fare in the position, say, of his own
wife.

We will take a mild case, so as to avoid all risk of exaggeration.

Our hero's wife is very kind to him. Many of his friends have far sadder
tales to tell. Mrs. Brown is fond of her home and family. She pats the
children on the head when they come down to dessert, and plies them with
chocolate creams, much to the detriment of their health; but it amuses
Mrs. Brown. Mr. Brown superintends the bilious attacks, which the lady
attributes to other causes. As she never finds fault with the children,
and generally remonstrates with their father, in a good-natured way,
when _he_ does so, they are devoted to the indulgent parent, and are
inclined to regard the other as second-rate.

Meal-times are often trying in this household, for Sophia is very
particular about her food; sometimes she sends it out with a rude
message to the cook. Not that John objects to this. He wishes she would
do it oftener, for the cook gets used to Mr. Brown's second-hand
version of his wife's language. He simply cannot bring himself to hint
at Mrs. Brown's robust objurgations. She _can_ express herself when it
comes to a question of her creature comforts!

John's faded cheeks, the hollow lines under the eyes, and hair out of
curl, speak of the struggle for existence as it penetrates to the
fireside. If Sophia but knew what it meant to keep going the
multitudinous details and departments of a household! Her idea of adding
housemaids and pageboys whenever there is a jolt in the machinery has
landed them in expensive disasters, time out of mind. And then, it
hopelessly cuts off all margin of income for every other purpose. It is
all rather discouraging for the hero of this petty, yet gigantic tussle,
for he works, so to speak, in a hostile camp, with no sympathy from his
entirely unconscious spouse, whom popular sentiment nevertheless regards
as the gallant protector of his manly weakness.

If incessant vigilance, tact, firmness, foresight, initiative, courage
and judgment--in short, all the qualities required for governing a
kingdom, and more--have made things go smoothly, the wife takes it as a
matter of course; if they go wrong, she naturally lays the blame on the
husband. In the same way, if the children are a credit to their parents,
that is only as it should be. But if they are naughty, and fretful, and
stupid, and untidy, is it not clear that there must be some serious flaw
in the system which could produce such results in the offspring of Mrs.
Brown? What word in the English language is too severe to describe the
man who neglects to watch with sufficient vigilance over his children's
health and moral training, who fails to see that his little boys'
sailor-suits and knickerbockers are in good repair, that their boot-lace
ends do not fly out from their ankles at every step, that their hair is
not like a hearth-brush, that they do not come down to dinner every day
with dirty hands?

To every true man, the cares of fatherhood and home are sacred and
all-sufficing. He realises, as he looks around at his little ones, that
they are his crown and recompense.

John often finds that _his_ crown-and-recompense gives him a racking
headache by war-whoops and stampedes of infinite variety, and there are
moments when he wonders in dismay if he is really a true man! He has had
the privilege of rearing and training five small crowns and recompenses,
and he feels that he could face the future if further privilege, of this
sort, were denied him. Not but that he is devoted to his family. Nobody
who understands the sacrifices he has made for them could doubt that.
Only, he feels that those parts of his nature which are said to
distinguish the human from the animal kingdom, are getting rather
effaced.

He remembers the days before his marriage, when he was so bold, in his
ignorant youth, as to cherish a passion for scientific research. He even
went so far as to make a chemical laboratory of the family box-room,
till attention was drawn to the circumstance by a series of terrific
explosions, which shaved off his eyebrows, blackened his scientific
countenance, and caused him to be turned out, neck and crop, with his
crucibles, and a sermon on the duty that lay nearest him,--which
resolved itself into that of paying innumerable afternoon calls with his
father and brothers, on acquaintances selected--as he declared in his
haste--for their phenomenal stupidity. His father pointed out how
selfish it was for a young fellow to indulge his own little fads and
fancies, when he might make himself useful in a nice manly way, at home.

When, a year later, the scapegrace Josephine, who had caused infinite
trouble and expense to all belonging to her, showed a languid interest
in chemistry, a spare room was at once fitted up for her, and an
extraordinary wealth of crucibles provided by her delighted parents; and
when explosions and smells pervaded the house, her father, with a proud
smile, would exclaim: "What genius and enthusiasm that dear girl does
display!" Josephine afterwards became a distinguished professor, with an
awestruck family, and a husband who made it his chief duty and privilege
to save her from all worry and interruption in her valuable work.

John, who knows in his heart of hearts that he could have walked round
Josephine, in the old days, now speaks with manly pride of his sister,
the Professor. His own bent, however, has always been so painfully
strong that he even yet tries to snatch spare moments for his
researches; but the strain in so many directions has broken down his
health. People always told him that a man's constitution was not fitted
for severe brain-work. He supposes it is true.

During those odd moments, he made a discovery that seemed to him of
value, and he told Sophia about it, in a mood of scientific enthusiasm.
But she burst out laughing, and said he would really be setting the
Thames on fire if he didn't take care.

"Perhaps you will excuse my remarking, my dear, that I think you might
be more usefully, not to say becomingly employed, in attending to your
children and your household duties, than in dealing with explosive
substances in the back dining-room."

And Sophia tossed off her glass of port in such an unanswerable manner,
that John felt as if a defensive reply would be almost of the nature of
a sacrilege. So he remained silent, feeling vaguely guilty. And as
Johnny took measles just then, and it ran through the house, there was
no chance of completing his work, or of making it of public value.

Curiously enough, a little later, Josephine made the very same
discovery--only rather less perfect--and every one said, with
acclamation, that science had been revolutionised by a discovery before
which that of gravitation paled.

John still hoped, after twenty years of experience, that presently, by
some different arrangement, some better management on his part, he would
achieve leisure and mental repose to do the work that his heart was in;
but that time never came.

No doubt John was not infallible, and made mistakes in dealing with his
various problems: do the best of us achieve consummate wisdom? No doubt,
if he had followed the advice that we could all have supplied him with,
in such large quantities, he might have done rather more than he did.
But the question is: Did his marriage interfere with his
self-development and career, and would many other Johns, in his
circumstances, have succeeded much better?





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