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Title: Love and Lucy
Author: Hewlett, Maurice Henry, 1861-1923
Language: English
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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.

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LOVE AND LUCY

by

MAURICE HEWLETT

Author of "The Forest Lovers," "The Life and
Death of Richard Yea and Nay," etc.



New York
Dodd, Mead and Company
1916

Copyright, 1916
by Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc.



                           _BEATI POSSIDENTES_



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER

      I  ONSLOW SQUARE                    1
     II  A DINNER PARTY                  16
    III  IN THE DRAWING-ROOM             31
     IV  AFTER-TALK                      41
      V  EROS STEPS IN                   53
     VI  A LEAP OUTWARDS                 74
    VII  PATIENCE AND PSYCHE             84
   VIII  AGAIN                          102
     IX  SUNDRY ROMANTIC EPISODES       112
      X  AT A WORLD'S EDGE              121
     XI  ANTEROS                        134
    XII  MARTLEY THICKET (1)            148
   XIII  MARTLEY THICKET (2)            162
    XIV  THE GREAT SCHEME               175
     XV  JAMES                          188
    XVI  _Amari Aliquid_                196
   XVII  THE SHIVERING FIT              209
  XVIII  THE HARDANGER                  227
    XIX  THE MOON-SPELL                 235
     XX  FAIR WARNING                   247
    XXI  THE DEPARTURE                  256
   XXII  CATASTROPHE                    268
  XXIII  JAMES AND JIMMY                280
   XXIV  URQUHART'S APOLOGY             292
         EPILOGUE: _Quid Plura_?        306



LOVE AND LUCY


CHAPTER I

ONSLOW SQUARE


This is a romantic tale. So romantic is it that I shall be forced to
pry into the coy recesses of the mind in order to exhibit a connected,
reasonable affair, not only of a man and his wife prosperously seated
in the mean of things, _nel mezzo del cammin_ in space as well as
time--for the Macartneys belonged to the middle class, and were well
on to the middle of life themselves--, but of stript, quivering and
winged souls tiptoe within them, tiptoe for flight into diviner spaces
than any seemly bodies can afford them. As you peruse you may find it
difficult to believe that Macartney himself--James Adolphus, that
remarkable solicitor--could have possessed a quivering, winged soul
fit to be stript, and have hidden it so deep. But he did though, and
the inference is that everybody does. As for the lady, that is not so
hard of belief. It very seldom is--with women. They sit so much at
windows, that pretty soon their eyes become windows themselves--out of
which the soul looks darkling, but preening; out of which it sometimes
launches itself into the deep, wooed thereto or not by _aubade_ or
_serena_. But a man, with his vanity haunting him, pulls the blinds
down or shuts the shutters, to have it decently to himself, and his
looking-glass; and you are not to know what storm is enacting deeply
within. Finally, I wish once for all to protest against the fallacy
that piracy, brigandage, pearl-fishery and marooning are confined to
the wilder parts of the habitable globe. Never was a greater, if more
amiable, delusion fostered (to serve his simplicity) by Lord Byron and
others. Because a man wears trousers, shall there be no more cakes and
ale? Because a woman subscribes to the London Institution, desires the
suffrage, or presides at a Committee, does the _bocca baciata perde
ventura_? Believe me, no. There are at least two persons in each of
us, one at least of which can course the starry spaces and inhabit
where the other could hardly breathe for ten minutes. Such is my own
experience, and such was the experience of the Macartney pair--and now
I have done with exordial matter.

The Macartneys had a dinner-party on the twelfth of January. There
were to be twelve people at it, in spite of the promised assistance of
Lancelot at dessert, which Lucy comforted herself by deciding would
only make twelve and a half, not thirteen. She told that to her
husband, who fixed more firmly his eyeglass, and grunted, "I'm not
superstitious, myself." He may not have been, but certainly, Lucy told
herself, he wasn't very good at little jokes. Lancelot, on the other
hand, was very good at them. "Twelve and a half!" he said, lifting one
eyebrow, just like his father. "Why, I'm twelve and a half myself!"
Then he propounded his little joke. "I say, Mamma, on the twelve and
halfth of January--because the evening is exactly half the day--twelve
and a half people have a dinner-party, and one of them _is_ twelve and
a half. Isn't that neat?"

Lucy encouraged her beloved. "It's very neat indeed," she said, and
her grey eyes glowed, or seemed to glow.

"It's what we call an omen at school," said Lancelot. "It means--oh,
well, it means lots of things, like you're bound to have it, and it's
bound to be a frightful success, or an utter failure, or something of
that kind." He thought about it. Developments crowded upon him. "I
say, Mamma--" all this was at breakfast, Macartney shrouding himself
in the _Morning Post_:

"Yes, Lancelot?"

"It would be awfully good, awfully ingenious and all that, if one of
the people was _twice_ twelve and a half."

She agreed. "Yes, I should like that. Very likely one of them is."

Lancelot looked extremely serious. "Not Mr. Urquhart?" he said.

"No," said Lucy, "I am sure Mr. Urquhart is older than that. But
there's Margery Dacre. She might do."

Lancelot had his own ideas as to whether women counted or not, in
omens, but was too polite to express them.

"Is she twenty-five, do you think? She's rather thin." Lucy exploded,
and had to kiss the unconscious humourist. "Do you think we grow
fatter as we grow older? Then you must think me immense, because I'm
much more than twenty-five," she said.

Here was a vital matter. It is impossible to do justice to Lancelot's
seriousness, on the edge of truth. "How much more are you, really?"
he asked her, trembling for the answer.

She looked heavenly pretty, with her drawn-back head and merry eyes.
She was a dark-haired woman with a tender smile; but her eyes were
her strong feature--of an intensely blue-grey iris, ringed with
black. Poising to tantalise him, adoring the fun of it, suddenly she
melted, leaned until her cheek touched his, and whispered the dreadful
truth--"_Thirty-one_."

I wish I could do justice to his struggle, politeness tussling with
pity for a fall, but tripping it up, and rising to the proper
lightness of touch. "Are you really thirty-one? Oh, well, that's
nothing." It was gallantly done. She kissed him again, and Lancelot
changed the subject.

"There's Mr. Lingen, isn't there?" he asked, adding, "He's always
here."

"Much more than twenty-five," said his mother, very much aware of Mr.
Lingen's many appearances in Onslow Square. She made one more attempt
at her husband, wishing, as she always did wish, to draw him into the
company. It was not too successful. "Lingen? Oh, a stripling," he said
lightly and rustled the _Morning Post_ like an aspen tree.

"Father always talks as if he was a hundred himself," said Lancelot,
who was not afraid of him. He had to be content with Miss Dacre after
all. The others--the Judge and Lady Bliss, Aunt Mabel and Uncle
Corbet, the Worthingtons, were out of the question. As for Miss
Bacchus--oh, Miss Bacchus was, _at least_, five hundred, said
Lancelot, and wished to add up all the ages to see if they came to a
multiple of twelve and a half.

Meanwhile Mr. Macartney in his leisurely way had risen from the table,
cigar in mouth, had smoothed his hair before the glass on the
chimney-piece, looked at his boots, wriggled his toes in them with
gratifying results, adjusted his coat-collar, collected his letters in
a heap, and left the room. They saw no more of him. Half an hour later
the front door shut upon him. He had gone to his office, or, as he
always said, Chambers.

He was rather bleak, and knew it, reckoning it among his social
assets. Reduced into a sentence, it may be said of Macartney that the
Chief Good in his philosophy was to be, and to seem, successful
without effort. What effort he may have made to conceal occasional
strenuous effort is neither here nor there. The point is that, at
forty-two, he found himself solidly and really successful. The
husband of a very pretty wife, the father of a delightful and healthy
son, the best-dressed solicitor in London, and therefore, you may
fairly say, in the world, with an earned income of some three or four
thousand a year, with money in the funds, two houses, and all the rest
of it, a member of three very old-fashioned, most uncomfortable and
absurdly exclusive clubs--if this is not success, what is? And all got
smoothly, without a crease of the forehead, by means of an eyeglass, a
cold manner and an impassivity which nothing foreign or domestic had
ever disturbed. He had ability too, and great industry, but it was
characteristic of him to reckon these as nothing in the scales against
the eyeglass and the manner. They were his by the grace of God; but
the others, he felt, were his own additions, and of the best. These
sort of investments enabled a man to sleep; they assured one of
completeness of effect. Nevertheless he was a much more acute and
vigorous-minded man than he chose to appear.

He was a solicitor, it is true, and had once been called an attorney
by a client in a rage; but he could afford to smile at that because he
was quite a peculiar sort of solicitor, by no means everybody's
money. Rather, he was a luxury, an appanage of the great. His office,
which he called "Chambers," as if it was an old house in the country,
was in Cork Street; his clients were landed gentry, bankers, peers and
sons of peers. The superior clergy, too: he handled the affairs of a
Bishop of Lukesboro', and those of no less than three Deans and
Chapters. Tall, dark and trenchant, with a strong nose and chin, and
clouded grey eyes, a handsome man with a fine air of arrogant comfort
on him, he stood well, and you could not but see what good clothes he
wore--to my taste, I confess, a little too good. His legs were a
feature, and great play was made by wits with his trousers. He was
said to have two hundred pairs, and to be aiming at three hundred and
sixty-five. Certainly they had an edge, and must have been kept in
order like razors; but the legend that they were stropped after every
day's use is absurd. They used to say that they would cut paper
easily, and every kind of cheese except Parmesan.

He wore an eyeglass, which, with the wry smile made necessary by its
use, had the marked effect of intimidating his clients and driving
them into indiscretions, admissions and intemperate discourse.
Hypnotised by the unknown terrific of which the glitter of the blank
surface, the writhen and antick smile were such formidable symbols,
they thought that he knew all, and provided that he should by telling
it him. To these engines of mastery he had added a third. He practised
laconics, and carried them to the very breaking point. He had in his
time--I repeat the tale--gone without his breakfast for three days
running rather than say that he preferred his egg poached. His wife
had been preoccupied at the time--it had been just before Lancelot was
born, barely a year after marriage--and had not noticed that he left
cup and platter untouched. She was very penitent afterwards, as he had
intended she should be. The egg was poached--and even so she was
afraid to ask him when the time was ripe to boil it again. It made her
miserable; but he never spoke of it. Of course all that was old
history. She was hardened by this time, but still dreadfully conscious
of his comforts, or possible discomforts.

This was the manner of the man who, you may say, had quizzed, or
mesmerised, Lucy Meade into marriage. She had been scarcely eighteen;
I believe that she was just seventeen and a half when he presented
himself, the second of three pretty, dark-haired and grey-eyed girls,
the slimmest and, as I think, by far the prettiest. The Meades lived
at Drem House, which is practically within Bushey Park. Here the girls
saw much society, for the old Meades were hospitable, and the Mother
Meade, a Scotchwoman, had a great idea of establishing her daughters.
The sons she left to Father Meade and his competent money-bags. Here
then James Adolphus Macartney presented himself, and here sat smiling
bleakly, glaring through his glass, one eyebrow raised to enclose it
safely--and waited for her to give herself away. Swaying beneath that
shining disk, she did it infallibly; and he heard her out at leisure,
and accepted her.

That's poetry of course. Really, it came near to that. He had said to
her at a garden-party, in his easiest, airiest manner, "You can't help
knowing that I am in love with you. Now, don't you think that we
should be a happy couple? I do. What do you say, Lucy? Shall we have a
shot?" He had taken her hand--they were alone under a cedar tree--and
she had not known how to take it away. She was then kissed, and had
lost any opportunity there might have been. That was what really
happened, and as she told her sister Mabel some time afterwards, when
the engagement had been made public and there could be no question of
going back, "You know, Mabel, he seemed to expect it, and I couldn't
help feeling at the time that he was justified." Mabel, tossing her
head up, had protested, "Oh, my dear, nobody knows whether he was
justified but yourself;" and Lucy, "No, of course not." "The
question," Mabel went on, "is whether you encouraged him or not." Lucy
was clear about that: "No, not the least in the world. He--encouraged
himself. I felt that I simply had to do something."

I suspect that that is perfectly true. I am sure that he did just as I
said he always did, and bluffed her into marriage with an eyeglass and
smile awry. Whether or no he bluffed himself into it too, tempted by
the power of his magic apparatus, is precisely the matter which I am
to determine. It may have been so--but anyhow the facts show you how
successful he was in doing what had to be done. _Cosa fatta capo ha_,
as the proverb says. The thing done, whether wisely or not, was
smoothly done. Everything was of a piece with that. He pulled off
whatever he tried for, without any apparent effort. People used to say
that he was like a river, smoothly flowing, very deep, rippling,
constant in mutability, husbanding and guiding his eddies. It's not a
bad figure of him. He liked it himself, and smiled more askew and
peered more blandly when he heard it.

Small things betray men. Here is one. His signature was invariably in
full: "Yours very truly, James Adolphus Macartney." It was as if he
knew that Adolphus was rather comic opera, but wouldn't stoop to
disguise it. Why bother? He crowded it upon the Bishop, upon the Dean
and Chapter of Mells, upon old Lord Drake. He said, "Why conceal the
fact that my sponsors made a _faux pas_? There it is, and have done
with it. Such things have only to be faced to be seen as nothings.
What! are we reasonable beings?"

Now when Lucy Meade, practically a child for all her sedateness and
serious eyes, married him, two things terrified her on the day. One
was her husband and the other lest her friends should discover it.
They never did, and in time her panic wore off. She fought it in the
watches of the night and in the glare of her lonely days. Not a soul,
not her mother, not even Mabel, knew her secret. James never became
comic to her; she never saw him a figure of fun; but she was able to
treat him as a human being. Lancelot's arrival made all the
difference in the world to that matter as to all her other matters,
for even Lucy herself could not help seeing how absurdly jealous James
was of his offspring. For a time he was thrown clean out of the saddle
and as near falling in his own esteem as ever in life. But he
recovered his balance, and though he never regained his old
ascendency, which had been that of a Ju-ju, he was able to feel
himself, as he said, "Master in his own house," with a very real
reserve of terrorism--if it should be wanted. The great thing,
Macartney thought, was discipline, constant, watchful discipline. A
man must bend everything to that. Women have to learn the virtue of
giving up, as well as of giving. Giving is easy; any woman knows that;
but giving up. Let that be seen as a subtle, a sublimated form of
giving, and the lesson is learned. But practice makes perfect. You
must never relax the rein. He never did. There was all the ingenuity
and patience of a woman about him.

By this time, after twelve years and more of marriage, they were very
good friends; or, why not say, old acquaintances? There are two kinds
of crystallisation in love affairs, with all respect to M. de
Stendhal. One kind hardens the surfaces without any decorative
effect. There are no facets visible, no angles to catch the light. In
the case of the Macartney marriage I suspect this to have been the
only kind--a kind of callosity, protective and numbing. The less they
were thrown together, she found, the better friends they were. At home
they were really no more than neighbours; abroad she was Mrs.
Macartney, and never would dine out without him. She was
old-fashioned; her friends called her a prude. But she was not at all
unhappy. She liked to think of Lancelot, she said, and to be quiet.
And really, as Miss Bacchus (a terrible old woman) once said, Lucy was
so little of a married woman that she was perfectly innocent.

But she was one-and-thirty, and as sweet and pretty a woman as you
would wish to see. She had the tender, dragging smile of a Luini
Madonna; grave, twilight eyes, full of compassionate understanding;
very dark eyebrows, very long lashes, like the fringe of rain over a
moorland landscape. She had a virginal shape, and liked her clothes to
cling about her knees. Long fingers, longish, thin feet. But her
humorous sense was acute and very delightful, and all children loved
her. Such charms as these must have been as obvious to herself as they
were to everybody else. She had a modest little court of her own.
Francis Lingen was almost admittedly in love with her; one of
Macartney's friends. But she accepted her riches soberly, and did not
fret that they must be so hoarded. If, by moments, as she saw herself,
or looked at herself, in the glass, a grain of bitterness surged up in
her throat, that all this fair seeming could not be put out to
usury--! well, she put it to herself very differently, not at all in
words, but in narrowed scrutinising eyes, half-turns of the pretty
head, a sigh and lips pressed together. There had been--nay, there
was--Lancelot, her darling. That was usufruct; but usury was a
different thing. There had never been what you would call, or Miss
Bacchus would certainly call, usury. That, indeed! She would raise her
fine brows, compress her lips, and turn to her bed, then put out the
light. Lying awake very often, she might hear James chain the front
door, trumpet through his nose on the mat, and slowly mount the stairs
to his own room. She thought resolutely of Lancelot pursuing his
panting quests at school, or of her garden in mid-June, or of the
gorse afire on Wycross Common,--and so to sleep.

A long chapter, but you will know the Macartney pair by means of it.



CHAPTER II

A DINNER PARTY


This was not to be one of Macartney's grand full-dress dinner-parties,
the sort where you might have two lords, and would be sure to have one
with his lady; or a Cabinet Minister in a morning-coat and greenish
tie; or a squire and squiress from Northumberland up for a month of
the season; or the Dean of Mells. No, nor was it to be one which Lucy
had to give to her visiting-list, and at which, as Macartney rarely
failed to remark, there was bound to be a clergyman, and some lean
woman with straw-coloured hair interested in a Settlement. It was to
be a particular kind of dinner-party, this one, of which the first
object was to bring Urquhart in touch with Lingen. It could have been
done at a club, no doubt. Macartney admitted it. "Yes, I know, I
know,"--he used his most tired voice, as if he had been combating the
suggestion all along. "You are perfectly right. It might--if it had
not happened to be exactly what I didn't want. Jimmy Urquhart is
rather a queer fish. He is apt to shy off if one is not careful. It
don't suit me to bring them together explicitly, do you see? I want
them to happen on each other. They can do that better here than
anywhere. Do you see?"

Lucy saw, or saw enough. She never enquired into James's law affairs.
"Shall I like Mr. Urquhart, do you think?" she asked him.

The eyeglass focussed upon the cornice, and glared at a fly which
found itself belated there. "Oh, I think so. Why not?"

"Well, you see, I don't know why not--or why I should. Have I ever
seen him?"

James was bored. "No doubt you have. He's very much about."

"Yes," said Lucy, "but I am not."

James left the fly, and fixed her--apparently with horror. Then he
looked at his boots and moved his toes up and down. "He looks like a
naval officer," he said; "you instinctively seek the cuffs of his
coat. Beef-coloured face, blue eyes, a square-jawed chap. Yes, you
might like him. He might amuse you. He's a great liar." Lucy thought
that she might like Mr. Urquhart.

On those lines the party was arranged: the Blisses because "we owe
them a dinner; and I think the Judge will be amused by Jimmy;" the
Worthingtons--make-weights; but "She's a soft pink woman, like a
Persian kitten."

"Does Mr. Urquhart like that?" Lucy asked, but James, who didn't like
his jokes to be capped, said drily, "I don't know."

Then Lucy's favourite sister Mabel was to be allowed because James
rather liked Corbet. He thought him good style. Now we wanted two
women. One must be Miss Bacchus--"hideous, of course," said James; "a
kind of crime, but very smart." He meant that she mixed with the
aristocracy, which was true, though nobody knew why. The last was to
be Margery Dacre, a very pretty girl. Lucy put her forward, and James
thought her over, gazing out of window. "I like her name," he said--so
Lucy knew that she was admitted.

That was all. The rest was her care, and he washed his mind of it,
very sure that she would see to it. He wished the two men to meet for
a particular reason in a haphazard way, because it was better to drift
Urquhart into a thing than to lead him up to it. Moreover, it was not
at all disagreeable to him that Urquhart, a club and office
acquaintance, should see how comfortably placed he was, how well
appointed with wife and child, with manservant and maidservant and
everything that was his. Urquhart was a rich man, and to know that his
lawyer was rich was no bad thing. It inspired confidence. Now the
particular thing to be done with the two men, Francis Lingen and
Urquhart, was this. Francis Lingen, who might be a baronet some day
and well to do, was at the moment, as at most moments hitherto, very
short of money. Urquhart always had plenty. Macartney's idea was that
he might get Urquhart to fill Francis Lingen's pockets, on terms which
could easily be arranged. There was ample security, of course. Francis
Lingen could have gone to the Jews, or the bank, but if the thing
could be done in a gentlemanly way through one's lawyer, who also
happened to be a gentleman, in one's own set, and so on--well, why
not?

Hence the little dinner, over whose setting forth Lucy puckered her
brows with Mrs. Jenkins, her admirable cook, and wrote many notes on
little slips of paper which she kept for the purpose. She knew quite
well when James was "particular" about a party. He said less than
usual when he was "particular." Over this one he said practically
nothing. So she toiled, and made a success of it.

The drawing-room looked charming, and she herself in black over white,
with her pearls, the most charming thing in it. It wanted a week of
Lancelot's day for school; he was to come in to dessert--that was
understood. But the possible danger of a thirteenth was removed by
their being two tables of six each. James had suddenly ordered this
variation of practice--he did not say why--and so it was to be.
Crewdson, the invaluable butler-valet of the house, who presided over
a zenana of maids, and seemed to carry his whiskers into the fray like
an oriflamme, was visibly perturbed at this new notion. "Mr. Macartney
has his reason, we know. But how is one gentleman's servant to split
himself in halves? And where does he stand, Mrs. Jenkins? With tables
dotted about--like a café--or an archumpelygo?" He knew that it was
done in the highest places, but he knew his own place best. "We are
not what you call the smart set," he said. "We are not Park Lane or
Brook Street. But we are solid--the professions--the land and the
church. No jinks in this house. And small tables is jinks. Not a
dinner, but a kick-up." So Crewdson thought, and so he looked, but his
master was flint.

Mabel came the first, the lively and successful Mabel, two years
younger than Lucy--she and Laurence: he was Laurence Corbet, Esq., of
Peltry Park, Wavertree, and Roehampton, S.W., a hunting man and
retired soldier, as neatly groomed as a man may be. He was jolly, and
adored his Mabel. He was county, and approved by James. Lucy used to
say of him that his smile could cure a toothache. Lancelot pounced
upon the pair instantly and retired with them to the conservatory to
show off his orange-tree, whose pip had been plunged on his first
birthday. But before long a suspicious sliding of the feet and a shout
from Corbet of "Goal!" betrayed the orange-tree's eclipse.

Next plunged Miss Bacchus, with her front hair and front teeth, and
air of digging you in the ribs. She explained that she made a point of
being early lest she should be taken for an actress, and forestalled
Macartney's assurance that she never would be--which annoyed him. The
Worthingtons--she like an autumn flower-bed, and he pale and
sleek--and Francis Lingen came in together: Lingen, a very elegant,
pale pink and frail young man with a straw-coloured moustache, who
bowed when he shook your hand as if he was going to kiss it but
remembered just in time that he was in England. He lowered his voice
when he spoke to women, and most of them liked it. Lucy wasn't sure
whether she did or not. It made her self-conscious and perverse at
once. She found herself wondering (a) whether he was going to make
love to her, (b) when he was going to begin, and (c) how she might
best cut him out. All this was bewildering, made her feel stupid, and
annoyed her. But she really liked Francis Lingen, and had been amused
to discover how much he was "Francis" in her private mind. Certainly
he was very elegant. He had an outside pocket to his dress coat, and a
handkerchief which you could have plugged your tooth with.

He had just said to Lucy, "I'm so glad to see you. It's more than a
week since we met--and I want your advice--" when Crewdson, like a
priest, announced Sir Matthew and Lady Bliss. The Judge and his dame
were before Lucy--the lady had a motherly soul in crimson satin and
paste, the gentleman square and solid, like a pillar-box with a bald
head. That is a pretty exact description of him. The Judge was very
square-headed, very shiny and very plain; but he was solid, and he was
useful. Macartney used to say that he had a face like a bad egg.
Certainly he was curdled--but he shone and looked healthy.

Lucy allowed herself to be mothered, and in the meantime murmured the
Judge's name and Miss Bacchus's.

"Everybody knows Miss Bacchus," said the gallant man, and Miss Bacchus
briskly rejoined, "More people know Tom Fool--" After that they got on
excellently. Then she heard from the door, "Mr. Urquhart" and had time
to turn Francis Lingen over to Lady Bliss before she faced the ruddy
and blue-eyed stranger. Her first thought, the only one she had time
for, was "What very blue eyes, what a very white shirt-front!" when
she shook hands.

"How d'ye do? You won't know who I am," he said at once.

"Oh, but I do," she assured him. "James described you to me."

He blinked. "Oh, did he? I suppose he told you I was a great liar?"

James's very words. She nodded without speaking, but laughter
flickered over her face like summer lightning.

"Well," said Urquhart, "I am--to him. I've known Macartney for
years--long before you did. I like him, but I think he gives himself
airs. Now you can't, you know, when the man with you is a liar. You
never know where to have a liar, or whether you have him or not. And
then you get in a fright whether he's not having you. Macartney,
saving your presence, doesn't like being had."

Lucy laughed, and turned to wave her hand to Lancelot in the entry of
the conservatory.

"That your boy?" Urquhart asked. "But of course. He's like you--with
his father's tricks." That was perfectly true. "And that's your
sister, of course. Pretty woman. Like you too--you in a sunset."
Perfect unconsciousness robbed this open commentary of sting.

Upon him drifted Mrs. Worthington, like a peony in the tideway.
Urquhart bowed. "Your servant, ma'am."

She cried, "Hullo, Jimmy, you here?"

"Where else?"

"Why, I thought you were in Switzerland."

"So I was," he said. "All among the curates. But I came back--because
they didn't." He turned to Lucy. "And because I was asked here."

She asked him, "Were you ski-ing? Lancelot will grudge you that."

He told her, "I was not. No lonely death for me. I was bobbing it. You
are swept off by dozens at a time there--by fifties in a cave. It's
more cheerful." Then he seemed to remark something which he thought
she ought to know. "Jimmy. You heard her? Now Macartney and I are both
called James. But who ever made a Jimmy of him?" She was annoyed with
him--the man seemed to suppose she could be pleased by crabbing
James--and glad of Margery Dacre, a mermaid in sea-green, who swam in
with apologies--due to Macartney's abhorrent eyeglass upon her. And
then they all went in to their archumpelygo, where Crewdson and his
ladies were waiting for them, _rari nautes_.

Lucy's table--she was between the Judge and Urquhart and had Mabel,
Worthington and Miss Bacchus before her--at once took the mastery.
Urquhart fixed Crewdson with his eye and thenceforward commanded
him. James's eyeglass, speechless with horror over Lady Bliss's
shoulder, glared like a frosty moon.

Miss Bacchus, it seems, was his old acquaintance. She too called him
Jimmy, and drove at him with vigour. He charged her not to rally him,
and being between the two sisters, talked to both of them at once, or
rather started them off, as a music-hall singer starts the gallery,
and then let them go on over his head.

They talked of Wycross, Lucy's house in the country, compared it with
Peltry, which Mabel deprecated as a barrack, and came to hear of
Urquhart's house in the New Forest. It was called Martley Thicket.
Urquhart said it was a good sort of place. "I've made an immense
lake," he said, with his eyes so very wide that Miss Bacchus said,
"You're making two, now." He described Martley and the immense lake.
"House stands high in beech woods, but is cut out to the south. It
heads a valley--lawns on three sides, smooth as billiard tables--then
the lake with a marble lip--and steps--broad and low steps, in flights
of eight. Very good, you know. You shall see it."

Lucy wanted to know, "How big was the lake, really."

Urquhart said, "It looked a mile--but that's the art of the thing.
Really, it's two hundred and fifty yards. Much better than a jab in
the eye with a blunt stick. I did it by drainage, and a dam. Took a
year to get the water up. When a hunted stag took to it and swam
across, I felt that I'd done something. Fishing? I should think so.
And a bathing-house in a wooded corner--in a cane-brake of bamboos.
You'll like it."

Miss Bacchus said, "I don't believe a word of it;" but he seemed not
to hear her.

"When will you come and see it?" he asked Lucy.

She agreed that see it she must, if only to settle whether it existed
or not. "You see that Miss Bacchus has no doubts."

Urquhart said, "She never has--about anything. She is fixed in
certainty like a bee in amber. A dull life."

"Bless you, Jimmy," she said, "I thrive on it--and you'll never
thrive."

"Pooh!" said Urquhart, "what you call thriving I call degradation.
What! you snuggle in there out of the draughts--and then somebody
comes along and rubs you, and picks up bits of paper with you." His
good spirits made the thing go--and James's eyeglass prevailed not
against it.

But Urquhart's real triumph was at dessert--Lancelot sedately by his
mother; between her and the Judge, who briskly made way for him.
Lancelot in his Eton jacket took on an air of precocious, meditative
wisdom infinitely diverting to a man who reflects upon boys--and, no
doubt, infinitely provocative.

His coming broke up the talk and made one of those momentous pauses
which are sometimes paralysing to a table. This one was so, and even
threatened the neighbouring island. Upon it broke the voice of
Urquhart talking to Mabel Corbet.

"I was out in Corfù in 1906," he was heard to say; "I was in fact in
the bath, when one of my wives came to the door, and said that there
was a Turk in the almond-tree. I got a duck-gun which I had and went
out--" Lancelot's eyes, fixed and pulsing, interdicted him. They held
up the monologue. In his hand was a robust apple; but that was
forgotten.

"I say," he said, "have you got two wives?"

Urquhart's eyes met his with an extenuating look. "It was some time
ago, you see," he said; and then, passing it off, "There are as many
as you like out there. Dozens."

Lancelot absorbed this explanation through the eyes. You could see
them at it, chewing it like a cud. He was engrossed in it--Lucy
watched him. "I say--two wives!" and then, giving it up, with a savage
attack he bit into his apple and became incoherent. One cheek bulged
dangerously and required all his present attention. Finally, after a
time of high tension, Urquhart's wives and the apple were bolted
together, and given over to the alimentary juices. The Turk in the
almond-tree was lost sight of, and no one knows why he was there, or
how he was got out--if indeed he ever was. For all that, Urquhart
finished his story to his two ladies; but Lucy paid him divided
attention, being more interested in her Lancelot than in Urquhart's
Turk.

Francis Lingen, at the other table, kept a cold eye upon the easy man
who was to provide him with ready money, as he hoped. He admired ease
as much as anybody, and believed that he had it. But he was very much
in love with Lucy, and felt the highest disapproval of Urquhart's kind
of spread-eagle hardihood. He bent over his plate like the
willow-tree upon one. His eyelids glimmered, he was rather pink, and
used his napkin to his lips. To his neighbour of the left, who was
Lady Bliss, he spoke _sotto voce_ of "our variegated friend," and felt
that he had disposed of him. But that "one of his wives" filled him
with a sullen despair. What were you to do with that sort of man?
Macartney saw all this and was dreadfully bored. "Damn Jimmy
Urquhart," he said to himself. "Now I shall have to work for my
living--which I hate, after dinner."

But he did it. "We'll go and talk to the Judge," he said to his
company, and led the way. Urquhart settled down to claret, and was
taciturn. He answered Linden's tentative openings in monosyllables.
But he and the Judge got on very well.



CHAPTER III

IN THE DRAWING-ROOM


After dinner, when the men came into the drawing-room, Francis Lingen
went directly to Lucy and began to talk to her. Lancelot fidgeted for
Urquhart who, however, was in easy converse with the Judge and his
host--looking at the water-colours as the talk went on, and cutting in
as a thought struck him. Lucy, seeing that all her guests were
reasonably occupied, lent herself to Lingen's murmured conversation,
and felt for it just so much tolerance, so much compassion, you may
say, as to be able to brave Mabel's quizzing looks from across the
room. Mabel always had a gibe for Francis Lingen. She called him the
Ewe Lamb, and that kind of thing. It was plain that she scorned him.
Lucy, on the other hand, pitied him without knowing it, which was even
more desperate for the young man. It had never entered Lingen's head,
however, that anybody could pity him. True, he was poor; but then he
was very expensive. He liked good things; he liked them choice. And
they must have distinction; above all, they must be rare. He had some
things which were unique: a chair in ivory and bronze, one of a set
made for Mme. de Lamballe, and two of Horace Walpole's snuff-boxes. He
had a private printing-press, and did his own poems, on vellum. He had
turned off a poem to Lucy while she was inspecting the _appareil_
once. "To L. M. from the Fount." "Sonnets while you wait," said Mabel,
curving her upper lip; but there was nothing in it, because many
ladies had received the same tribute. He had borrowed that too from
Horace Walpole, and only wanted notice. Now you don't pity a man who
can do these things, even if he has got no money; and for what else
but want of money could you pity a man of taste?

I believe myself that both Mabel and Lucy overrated Francis Lingen's
attentions. I don't think that they amounted to much more than
providing himself with a sounding-board, and occasional looking-glass.
He loved to talk, and to know himself listened to; he loved to look
and to know himself looked at. You learned a lot about yourself that
way. You saw how your things were taken. A poet--for he called himself
poet, and had once so described himself in a hotel visitors' book--a
poet can only practise his art by exerting it, and only learn its
effect by studying his hearers. He preferred ladies for audience, and
one lady at a time: there were obvious reasons for that. Men never
like other men's poetry. Wordsworth, we know, avowedly read but his
own.

But Mabel, and Lucy too, read all sorts of implications. His lowered
tones, his frequency, his persistence--"My dear, he caresses you with
his eyes. You know he does," Mabel used to say. Lucy wondered whether
he really did, and ended by supposing it.

Just now, therefore, Francis Lingen flowed murmuring on his way, like
a purling brook, rippling, fluctuant, carrying insignificant straws,
insects of the hour, on his course, never jamming, or heaving up,
monotonous but soothing. And as for implications--! Good Heavens, he
was stuffed with them like a Michaelmas goose.... "I do so wish that
you could talk with her. You could do so much to straighten things out
for the poor child. You are so wise. There's a kind of balm in your
touch upon life, something that's aromatic and healing at once.
_Sainfoin_, the healing herb--that should be your emblem. I have
always thought so. By the by, have you an emblem? I wish you'd let me
find you one. Old Gerrard will give it me--and I will give it to you.
Some patient, nimble-fingered good soul has coloured my copy. You
shall have it faithfully rendered; and it shall be framed by Le Nôtre
of Vigo Street--do you know his work? You must--and stand on your
writing-table.... I see you are shaping a protest. Frugality? Another
of your shining qualities. Not of mine? No, no. I admire it in you. It
is not a manly virtue. A 'frugal swain' means a harassed wife. Now,
confess. Would you have me board? I believe I would do it if you asked
me...." Not very exciting, all this; but if you want implications--!

It was while this was going on that Lancelot, hovering and full of
purpose, annexed Urquhart. The Judge, suddenly aware of him between
them, put a hand upon his head as you might fondle the top of a
pedestal--which Lancelot, intent upon his prey, endured. Then his
moment came, a decent subsidence of anecdotes, and his upturned eyes
caught Urquhart's.

"I say, will you come and see my orange-tree? It's just over there,
in the conservatory. It's rather interesting--to me, you know."

Urquhart considered the proposition. "Yes," he said, "I'll do that."
And they went off, Lancelot on tiptoe. Lucy's attention strayed.

The orange-tree was exhibited, made the most of; its history was
related. There was nothing more to say about it. Lancelot, his purpose
growing, gave a nervous laugh.

"No Turk could hide in that, I expect," he said, and trembled.
Urquhart gazed at the weedy little growth.

"No," he said, "he couldn't--yet. But a ladybird could." He picked out
a dormant specimen. But Lancelot was now committed to action beyond
recall. The words burned his lips. "I say," he said, twiddling a leaf
of his orange-tree, "I expect you've been a pirate?"

The Judge had wandered in, and was surveying the pair, his hands deep
in his trousers-pockets.

Urquhart nodded. "You've bit it," he said.

Lancelot had been certain of it. Good Lord! The questions crowded upon
him. "What kind of a ship was yours?"

"She was a brigantine. Fifteen hundred tons."

"Oh! I say--" with the air of, You needn't tell me if you'd rather
not--"was she a good one?"

"She was a clipper."

"What name?"

"The _Dog Star_."

This was beyond everything. "Oh--good. Did you ever hang fellows?"

"We did."

"Many?"

"Some."

He had expected that too. He felt that he was being too obvious. The
man of the world in him came into use. "For treachery, I suppose, and
that kind of thing?"

"Yes," said Urquhart, "and for fun, of course."

Lancelot nodded gloomily. "I know," he said.

"So does Sir Matthew, now," he said. "You've led me into admissions,
you know."

"You are up to the neck," said the Judge. For a moment Lancelot looked
shrewdly from one to the other. Was it possible that--? No, no. He
settled all that. "It's all right. He's a guest, you see--the same as
you are."

Urquhart was looking about him. "I should smoke a cigarette, if I had
one," he said.

Lancelot's hospitality was awake. "Come into Father's room. He has
tons." He led the way for his two friends. They pierced the
conservatory and entered another open glass door. They were now in
James's private room.

On the threshold Lancelot paused to exhibit what he said was a jolly
convenient arrangement. These were two bay windows, with two glass
doors. Between them stretched the conservatory. "Jolly convenient,"
said Lancelot. "What, for burglars?" the Judge asked. "Yes, for
burglars, and policemen, and Father, you know ... I don't think," said
the terse Lancelot. "Why don't you think, my friend?" says the Judge,
and Lancelot became cautious. "Oh, Father won't come into the
drawing-room if he can possibly help it. He says it's Mamma's
province--but I expect he's afraid of meeting women, I mean ladies."
Urquhart blinked at him. "'Never be afraid of any one' will do for you
and me," he said; and Lancelot said deeply, "Rather not." Then they
went into the misogynist's study. The Judge and Urquhart were
accommodated with cigarettes, and Lancelot entertained them. But he
did not pry any further into Urquhart's past. A hint had been enough.

Conversation was easy. Lancelot talked freely of his father. "Father
will be awfully waxy with me for not going to bed. He might easily
come in here--hope he won't, all the same. But do you know what he
likes? He likes the same things to happen at the same time every day.
Now Mamma and I don't agree with him, you see. So it's rather pink
sometimes."

"I expect it is," Urquhart said.

"Mamma of course likes to be quiet a bit. She doesn't like
ructions--hay, and all that. So I keep myself pretty close."

"Quite right," said the Judge.

"I know," Lancelot said, dreamily, and then with great briskness,
"Beastly grind, all the same." The Judge had a fit of coughing, and
Urquhart got up and looked about. Then the Judge said that he too
should catch it if he didn't go back and make himself polite.

Lancelot led the way back, but at the entry of the drawing-room, where
the talk was buzzing like bees in a lime-tree, he put his hand on the
switch, and showed the whites of his eyes. "Shall I dare you to
switch it off?" he said to Urquhart, who replied, "Don't, or I shall
do it." Lancelot and he entered the room; but before the Judge
followed there was a momentary flicker of the lights. Lancelot nudged
Urquhart. "_He's_ all right," he said out of one corner of his mouth.
"Oh, he's all right," Urquhart agreed.

They both went to Lucy, and Lingen looked mildly round, interrupted in
his flow. Lancelot's greeting was, "Darling, you really must go to
bed." He knew it. It was so obvious--the abhorrent eyeglass
apart--that he didn't even try the pathetic "Only a week before
school."

He got up, enquiring of his mother if she would swear to come up
presently. "Well, good-bye," he said to Urquhart, and held out his
hand.

"Good night to you," said Urquhart. "Anyhow, you know the worst."

But Lancelot shook his cautious head. "No," he said, "not the
worst"--and then with a deep chuckle, "but the best. Hoho! Two wives!"
With that he went.

"Jolly chap," said Urquhart, and sat himself down by Lucy, to Lingen's
inexpressible weariness. She warmed to his praise, but denied him, her
conscience at work. "No, you mustn't sit down. I shall take you to
talk to Lady Bliss. You'll like her."

"No, I shan't," he said. "I can see that. And she'll think I've
corrupted her husband." But he had to go. Lingen, also, she recruited
for service. He had had a good innings and found himself able to be
enthusiastic about Urquhart. He could bear to discuss him--in possible
relations with himself, of course. Miss Bacchus sized him up aloud,
according to her habit. "Jimmy Urquhart--a good man? Yes, he's a live
man. No flies on Jimmy Urquhart. Been everywhere, had a bit of most
things. Why, I suppose Jimmy has eaten more things than you've ever
read about."

"I've read Brillat-Savarin," said Lingen modestly.

"I dare say Jimmy's had a notch out of _him_," said Miss Bacchus.
"He's what I call a blade."

Lingen didn't ask her what she called him.



CHAPTER IV

AFTER-TALK


Nevertheless the two men talked down to Knightsbridge together, and
Lingen did most of the talking. He chose to expand upon Macartney, the
nearest he dared get to the subject of his thoughts. "Now Macartney,
you know, is a very self-contained man. No doubt you've noticed how he
shies at expression. Chilling at times. Good in a lawyer, no doubt.
You get the idea of large reserves. But perhaps as a--well, as a
father, for instance-- That bright boy of theirs now. You may have
noticed how little there is between them. What do you think of the
Spartan parent--in these days?"

"Oh, I think Mr. Lancelot can hold his own," said Urquhart. "He'll
do--with his mother to help. I don't suppose the Spartan boy differed
very much from any other kind of boy. Mostly they haven't time to
notice anything; but they are sharp as razors when they do."

An eager note could be detected in Francis Lingen's voice, almost a
crow. "Ah, you've noticed then! The mother, I mean. Mrs. Macartney.
Now, there again, I think our friend overdoes the repression business.
A sympathetic attitude means so much to women."

"She'll get it, somewhere," said Urquhart shortly.

"Well," said Lingen, "yes, I suppose so. But there are the
qualifications of the martyr in Mrs. Macartney."

"Greensickness," Urquhart proposed; "is that what you mean?"

Lingen stared. "It had not occurred to me. But now you mention
it--well, a congestion of the faculties, eh?"

"I don't know anything about it," said Urquhart. "She seemed to me a
fond mother, and very properly. Do you mean that Macartney neglects
her?"

Lingen was timid by nature. "Perhaps I went further than I should. I
think that he takes a great deal for granted."

"I always thought he was a supercilious ass," said Urquhart, "but I
didn't know that he was a damned fool."

"I say,"--Lingen was alarmed. "I say, I hope I haven't made mischief."
Urquhart relieved him. "Bless you, not with me. I use a lawyer for
law. He's no fool there."

"No, indeed," Lingen said eagerly. "I've found him most useful. In
fact, I trust him further than any man I know."

"He's a good man," Urquhart said, "and he's perfectly honest. He'd
sooner put you off than on, any day. That's very sound in a lawyer.
But if he carries it into wedlock he's a damned fool, in my opinion."

They parted on very good terms, Lingen for the Albany, Urquhart
elsewhere.

Meantime Lancelot, wriggling in his bed, was discussing Urquhart. "I
say, Mamma," he said--a leading question--"do you think Mr. Urquhart
really had two wives?"

"No, darling, I really don't. I think he was pulling our legs."

That was bad. "All our legs?"

"All that were pullable. Certainly your two."

"Perhaps he was." Lancelot sighed. "Oh, what happened to the Turk? I
forgot him, thinking of his wives.... He said, 'one of my wives,' you
know. He might have had six then.... I say, perhaps Mr. Urquhart is a
Turk in disguise. What do you think?"

Lucy was sleepy, and covered a yawn. "I don't think, darling. I can't.
I'm going to bed, and you are going to sleep. Aren't you now?"

"Yes, of course, yes, of course. Did I tell you about the pirate part?
His ship was a brigantine ... called the _Dog Star_."

"Oh, was it?"

"Yes, it was. And he used to hang the chaps, sometimes for treachery,
and sometimes for fun."

"How horrid!" said Lucy. "Good night."

"Oh, well," came through the blankets, "of course you don't
understand, but I do. Good night." And he was asleep at the turn of
that minute.

James had disappeared into his room, so she took herself off to bed.
Surely he might have said a word! It had all gone off so well. Mr.
Urquhart had been such a success, and she really liked him very much.
And how the Judge had taken to him! And how Lancelot! At the first
stair she stopped, in three quarters of a mind to go in and screw a
sentence out of him. But no! She feared the angry blank of the
eyeglass. Trailing up to bed, she thought that she could date the
crumbling of her married estate by the ascendency of the eyeglass. And
to think, only to think, that when she was engaged to James she used
to play with it, to try it in her eye, to hide it from him! Well, she
had Lancelot--her darling boy. That brought to mind that, a week
to-night, she would be orphaned of him. The day she dreaded was coming
again--and the blank weeks and months which followed it.

True to his ideas of "discipline," of the value of doing a thing well
for its own sake, Macartney was dry about the merits of the
dinner-party when they met at breakfast. "Eh? Oh, yes, I thought it
went quite reasonably. Urquhart talked too much, I thought."

"My dear James,"--she was nettled--"you really are--"

He looked up; the eyeglass hovered in his hand. "_Plaît-il_?"

"Nothing. I only thought that you were hard to please."

"Really? Because I think a man too vivacious?"

Lancelot said to his porridge-bowl, over the spoon, "I think he's
ripping."

"You've hit it," said his father. "He'd rip up anybody."

Lucy, piqued upon her tender part, was provoked into what she always
avoided if she could--acrimony at breakfast.

"I was hostess, you see; and I must say that the more people talk the
more I am obliged to them. I suppose that you asked Mr. Urquhart so
that he might be amusing...."

James's head lifted again. You could see it over the _Morning Post_.
"I asked Urquhart for quite other reasons, you remember."

"I don't know what they were," said Lucy. "My own reason was that he
should make things go. 'A party in a parlour...'" She bit her lip. The
_Morning Post_ quivered but recovered itself.

"What was the party in a parlour, Mamma? Do tell me." That was
Lancelot, with a _flair_ for mischief.

"It was 'all silent and all damned,'" said Lucy.

"Jolly party," said Lancelot. "Not like yours, though." The _Morning
Post_ clacked like a bellying sail, then bore forward over an even
keel. Lucy, beckoning Lancelot, left the breakfast-room.

She was ruffled, and so much so that Lancelot noticed it, and, being
the very soul of tact where she was concerned, spoke neither of his
father nor of Urquhart all the morning. In the afternoon the weather
seemed more settled, and he allowed himself more play. He would like
to see Mr. Urquhart on horseback, in a battle, he thought. He expected
he'd be like Henry of Navarre. Lucy thought that he might be. Would he
wear a white plume though? Much head-shaking over this. "Bareheaded, I
bet you. He's just that sort. Dashing about! Absolutely
reckless!--frightfully dangerous!--a smoking sword!--going like one
o'clock! Oh, I bet you what you like." Then with startling conviction,
"Father doesn't like him. Feels scored off, I expect. He wasn't
though, but he might be, all the same ... I think Father always
expects he's going to be scored off, don't you? At any minute." Lucy
set herself to combat this hazard, which was very amusing and by no
means a bad shot. Poor James! What a pity it was that he couldn't let
himself like anybody. It was true--it was quite true--he was afraid
of being scored off. She husbanded a sigh. "Poor James!"

To pity James was a new experience. She felt all the better for it,
and was able to afford a lighter hand when they met at dinner. It may
even be that James himself had thought the time come for a little
relaxation of _askêsis_, or he may have had something to forestall: he
seldom spoke of his affairs without design. At any rate, he told her
that Francis Lingen had been with him, and that Urquhart was likely to
be of use. "I've written to him, anyhow. He will do as he thinks well.
Urquhart is a sharp man of business."

Lucy said, "He struck me so. I thought that he could never have any
doubt of his own mind."

James wriggled his eyeglass, to wedge it more firmly. "Ah, you noticed
that? Very acute of you, Lucy. We may have a meeting before long--to
arrange the whole thing.... It's a lot of money ... ten thousand
pounds.... Your Francis is an expensive young man ... or let's say
_ci-devant jeune homme_."

"Why do you call him 'my' Francis?" she asked--rather mischievous than
artless.

The eyeglass dropped with a click and had to be sought. "Well, I can
hardly call him _mine_, could I?"

"I don't see why he should be anybody's," said Lucy, "except his own."

"My dear girl," said Macartney, "_himself_ is the last person he
belongs to. Francis Lingen will always belong to somebody. I must say
that he has chosen very wisely. You do him a great deal of good."

"That's very nice of you," she said. "I own that I like Francis
Lingen. He's very gentle, not too foolish, and good to look at. You
must own that he's extremely elegant."

"Oh," said James, tossing up his foot, "elegant! He is what his good
Horace would have called 'a very pretty fellow'--and what I call 'a
nice girl.'"

"I'm sure he isn't worth so much savagery," Lucy said. "You are like
Ugolino--and poor Francis is your _fiero pasto_."

James instantly corrected himself. "My besetting sin, Lucy. But I must
observe--" He applied his glazed eye to her feet--"the colour of your
stockings, my friend. Ha! a tinge of blue, upon my oath!" So it passed
off, and that night when, after his half-hour with the evening paper
in the drawing-room, he prepared to leave her, she held out her hand
to him, and said good night. He took it, waved it; and then stooped to
her offered cheek and pecked it delicately. The good girl felt quite
elate. She did so like people to be kind to her.

Half an hour later yet, in her evening post was a letter from
Urquhart. He proposed for herself and Lancelot to go to the play with
him. The play, _Raffles_, "which ought to meet the case," he said. He
added, "I don't include Macartney in this jaunt, partly because he
won't want to come, but mainly because there won't be room for him. I
am taking a nephew, one Bob Nugent, an Osborne boy, but very gracious
to poor civilians like Lancelot and me." He signed himself, "Yours to
command."

Lucy was pleased, and accepted promptly; and Lancelot was pleased when
he heard of it. His hackles were up at the graciousness of the Osborne
kid. He honked over it like a heron. "Ho! I expect you'll tell him
that I'm R. E., or going to be," he said, which meant that he himself
certainly would. The event, with subsequent modifications on the
telephone, proved to be the kind of evening that Lancelot's
philosophy had never dreamed of. They dined at the Café Royal, where
Urquhart pointed out famous Anarchists and their wives to his young
guests; they went on to the theatre in what he called a 'bus, but
Lancelot saw to be a mighty motor which rumbled like a volcano at
rest, and proceeded by a series of violent rushes, accompanied by
explosions of a very dangerous kind. The whole desperate passage,
short as it was, had the right feeling of law-breaking about it.
Policemen looked reproachfully at them as they fled on. Lancelot, as
guest of honour, sat in front, and wagged his hand like a semaphore at
all times and in all faces; he felt part policeman and part
malefactor, which was just right. Then they thrilled at the smooth and
accomplished villainy of Mr. Du Maurier, lost not one line of his
faultless clothes, nor one syllable of his easy utterance, "like
treacle off a spoon," said Urquhart; and then they tore back through
the starry night to Onslow Square, leaving in their wake the wrecks
and salvage of a hundred frail taxis; finally, from the doorstep waved
the Destroyer, as the boys agreed she should be called, upon her
ruthless course, listened to the short and fierce bursts of her wrath
until she was lost in the great sea of sound; and then--replete to
speechlessness--Lancelot looked up to his mother and squeezed her
hand. She saw that his eyes were full. "Well, darling?" she said. "You
liked all that?" Lancelot had recovered himself. He let go her hand.
His reply was majestic. "Not bad," he said. Lucy immediately hugged
him.

Now that was exactly what James would have said, _mutatis mutandis_.
Yet she would not have hugged James for it, nor have loved him because
of it. "These are our crosses, Mr. Wesley!" Reflecting on the jaunt,
she warmed to the thought of Urquhart, who had, she felt, the knack of
making you at ease. What had he done, or how done it? Well, he seemed
to be interested in what you said. He looked at you, and waited for
it; then he answered, still looking at you. Now, so many men looked at
their toes when they answered you. James always did. Yet Mr. Urquhart
did not look too much: there were men who did that. No, not too much.



CHAPTER V

EROS STEPS IN


When she was told that Francis Lingen and Urquhart were coming on the
nineteenth, not to dine, Lucy said, "Oh, what a bore!" and seeing the
mild shock inflicted on the eyeglass by her remark, explained that it
was Lancelot's day for going to school, and that she was always
depressed at such times. The eyeglass dropped, and its master
stretched out his fine long legs, with a great display of black
speckled sock. "My dear, absurd as it may seem, they are coming to see
Me. I know your little way. You shan't be disturbed, if I may be
indulged so far as to contrive that the house hold us both. I had
thought that it would be only civil to bring them in to you for a
minute or two, when they've done. But that is for you to decide."

She was immediately penitent. "Oh, do, of course. I daresay they will
be useful. I'm very foolish to miss him so much." The eyeglass
ruefully stared at the fire.

"Urquhart consents," said James, "and Lingen will have his money.
More snuff-boxes, you'll find. But he's had to work for it. Insured
his life--and a letter from Sir Giles, which must have cost him
something." Sir Giles Lingen was the uncle of Francis, a childless
veteran. He turned his disk upon her for a moment. "You like
Urquhart?"

"Yes," Lucy said, "I do. I like him--because he likes Lancelot."

"Ah," said James, who thought her weak where the boy was concerned. He
added, "Urquhart gets on with children. He's a child himself."

"Why do you call him that?" she asked, with a tinge of offence in her
voice. James could raise the fine hairs at the back of her neck by a
mere inflection.

He accepted battle. "Because he only thinks of one thing at a time.
Because to get what he wants he'll sacrifice every mortal thing--very
often the thing itself which he's after."

But Lucy had heard all that before, and wasn't impressed. "All men are
like that," she said. "I could give you a much better reason."

James and his eyeglass both smiled. "Your exquisite reason?"

"He is like a child," said Lucy, "because he doesn't know that
anybody is looking at him, and wouldn't care if anybody was."

James clasped his shin. "Not bad," he said, "not at all bad. But the
test of that is the length to which you can carry it. Would he wear a
pot hat with a frock-coat?--that's the crux."

It really was, to James, as she knew very well. She perused the
glowing fire with its blue salt flames. Perhaps to most men. Probably
also to Mr. Urquhart. But she felt that she would be lowering a
generous ideal if she probed any further: so James was left to his
triumph.

       *       *       *       *       *

The fatal week wore on apace; one of the few remaining days was wholly
occupied with preparations for the last. A final jaunt together was
charged with a poignancy of unavailing regrets which made it a harder
trial than the supreme moment. Never, never, had she thought this
bright and intense living thing which she had made, so beautiful and
so dear. Nor did it make a straw's worth of difference to the passion
with which she was burdened that she felt precisely the same thing
every time he left her. As for Lancelot, he took her obvious trouble
like the gentleman he was. He regretted it, made no attempt to
conceal that, but was full of little comfortable suggestions which
made her want to cry. "You'll have no more sapping upstairs directly
after dinner, I suppose!" was one of them; another was, "No more
draughty adventures by the Round Pond." Lucy thought that she would
have stood like Jane Shore by the Round Pond, in a blizzard, for
another week of him. But she adored him for his intention, and was
also braced by it. Her sister Mabel, who had three boys, did not
conceal her satisfaction at the approaching release--but Mabel spent
Christmas at Peltry; and the hunting was a serious matter.

The worst of her troubles was over when they were at Victoria.
Lancelot immediately became one of a herd. And so did she: one of a
herd of hens at the pond's edge. Business was business. Lancelot
remained kind to her, but he was inflexible. This was no place for
tears. He even deprecated the last hug, the lingering of the last
kiss. He leaned nonchalantly at the window, he kept his eye on her;
she dared not have a tear. The train moved; he lifted one hand. "So
long," he said, and turned to his high affairs. She was almost aghast
to realise how very small, how very pale, how atomy he looked--to
confront a howling world! And so to listen to the comfortable words
of Mrs. Furnivall-Briggs. "My dear, they've no use for us. The utmost
we can do is to see that they have good food. And warm socks. I am
untiring about warm socks. That is what I am always girding my
committee about. I tell the Vicar, 'My dear sir, I will give you their
souls, if you leave me their soles.' Do you see? He is so much amused.
But he is a very human person. Except at the altar. _There_ he's every
inch the priest. Well, good-bye. I thought Lancelot looked delightful.
He's taller than my Geoff. But I must fly. I have a meeting of workers
at four-fifteen. Bless me, I had no idea it was four o'clock. The
parish-room, Alphonse." A Spartan mother.

Lucy paid two calls, on people who were out, and indulged herself with
shopping in Sloane Street. Lancelot had recently remarked on her
gloves. "You have jolly thin hands," he had said. "It's having good
gloves, I expect." The memory of such delightful sayings encouraged
her to be extravagant. She thought that perhaps he would find her
ankles worth a moment--if she took pains with them. Anyhow, he was
worth dressing for. James never noticed anything--or if he did, his
ambiguity was two-edged. "Extraordinary hat," he might say, and drop
his eyeglass, which always gave an air of finality to comments of the
sort. But her shopping done, for Lancelot's sake, life stretched
before her a grey waste. She went back to tea, to a novel, to a weekly
paper full of photographs of other people's houses, dogs, children and
motor-cars. It was dark, she was bored as well as child-sick,
dissatisfied with herself as well as heart-hungry. She must get
herself something to do, she said. Who was the Vicar of Onslow Square?
She didn't know. Somehow, religion, to her, had always seemed such a
very private affair. Not a soul must be near her when she said her
prayers--except Lancelot, of course. When he was at home she always
said them while he said his. Last night--ah, she had not been able to
say anything last night. All her faculties had been bent to watching
him at it. Was it bravery in him--or insensibility? She remembered Mr.
Urquhart had talked about it. "All boys are born stoics," he said,
"and all girls Epicureans. That's the instinct. They change places
when they grow up." Was James an Epicurean?

It was six o'clock. They would be at their meeting in James's room.
Surely they wouldn't want tea? Apparently Crewdson thought that they
might, otherwise--well, she would leave it to Crewdson. James never
seemed to care for anything done by anybody except Crewdson. Sometimes
he seemed to resent it. "Have we no servants then?" the eyeglass
seemed to inquire. She wondered if James knew for how much his
eyeglass was answerable. How could one like to be kissed, with that
glaring disk coming nearer and nearer? And if it dropped just at the
moment--well, it seemed simply to change all one's feelings. Oh, to
have her arms round Lancelot's salient young body, and hear him
murmur, "Oh, I say!" as she kissed his neck!...

At this moment, being very near to tears, the light was switched off.
She seemed to be drowning in dark. That was a favourite trick of
Lancelot's, who had no business, as a matter of fact, in his father's
room. It gave her a moment of tender joy, and for another she played
with the thought of him, tiptoeing towards her. Suddenly, all in the
dark, she felt a man's arms about her, and a man's lips upon hers. To
wild alarm succeeded warm gratitude. Lucy sobbed ever so lightly; her
head fell back before the ardent advance; her eyes closed. With
parted lips she drank deep of a new consolation: her heart drummed a
tune to which, as it seemed, her wings throbbed the answer. The kiss
was a long one--perhaps a full thirty seconds--but she was released
all too soon. He left her as he had come, on silent feet. The light
was turned up; everything looked as it had been, but everything was
not. She was not. She found herself an Ariadne, in a drawing-room,
still lax from Theseus' arms. Yes, but Theseus was next door, and
would come back to her.

To say that she was touched is to say little. She was more elated than
touched, and more interested than either. How utterly romantic, how
perfectly sweet, how thoughtful, how ardent of James! James, of all
people in the world! Her husband, of course: but who knew better than
she what that office had implied--and who less than she what it must
have hidden? Really, was it true? Could it be true?

For some time she sat luxurious where she had been left, gloating (the
word is fairly used) over this new treasure. But then she jumped up
and looked at herself in the glass, curiously, quizzingly, and even
perhaps shamefaced. Next she laughed, richly and from a full heart.
"My dear girl, it's not hard to see what has happened to you. You've
been--" Not even in her thoughts did she care to end the sentence. But
those shining dark eyes, that air of floating, of winged feet--"Ha, my
dear, upon my word! At thirty-one, my child. Really, it becomes you
uncommonly."

She found herself now walking swiftly up and down the room, clasping
and unclasping her hands. To think that James--the last man in the
world--had kept this up his coat-sleeve for years--and at last--! And
how like the dear thing to turn the light out! To save his own face,
of course, for he must have known, even _he_ must have known, that
_she_ wouldn't have cared. She would have liked the light--to see his
eyes! There had been no eyeglass this time, anyhow. But that was it.
That was a man's romance. In _Cupid and Psyche_, it had been Psyche
who had wanted to know, to see. Women were like that. Such realists.
And, as Psyche was, they were always sorry for it afterwards. Well,
bless him, he should love her in the dark, or how he pleased.

She stopped again--again in front of the glass. What had he seen--what
new thing had he seen to make him--want to kiss her like that?
Was she pretty? She supposed that she really was. She fingered the
crinkled whiteness at her neck; touched herself here and there; turned
her head sideways, and patted her hair, lifting her chin. Now, was
there anything she could put on--something she could put in--for
dinner? Her thoughts were now turned to serious matters--this and that
possibility flashed across her mind. They were serious matters,
because James had made them so by his most extraordinary, most
romantic, most beautiful action. Then she stretched out her hands, the
palms upward, and sighed out her heart. "Oh, what a load is lightened.
Oh, days to come!"

Voices in the conservatory suddenly made her heart beat violently. He
was coming! She heard James say--oh, the rogue!--"Yes, it's rather
nice. We put it up directly we came. Lucy's idea. Mind the little step
at the door, though." Urquhart, Francis Lingen were in the
room--Francis' topknot stood up like a bottle-brush. Then came the
hero of the evening, James, the unknown Eros. She beamed into the
shining disk. Sweet old spyglass, she would never abuse it again. All
the same, he had pocketed it for the occasion the last time he had
been in the room!

Urquhart refused tea. "Tea at seven o'clock at night!" All her eyes
were for James, who had sought her in love and given her heart again.
The eyeglass expressed its horror of tea at seven o'clock. "God
forbid," said James, dear, ridiculous creature.

Mr. Urquhart talked at once of Lancelot. "Well, he's off with all the
rest of them. They love it, you know. It's movement--it's towards the
unknown, the not impossible--the 'anything might turn up at any
minute.' Now, we don't feel so sure about the minutes, do we?"

Oh, don't we though? She laughed and tilted her chin. "We feel,
anyhow, for _their_ minutes, bless them," she said, and Urquhart
looked at her with narrowed eyes.

"'He for God only, she for God in him,'" he said. He added, "I like
that boy of yours. I think he understands me"--and pleased her.

There were a few minutes' desultory talk, in the course of which Lucy
gravitated towards James, and finally put her hand in his arm. You
should have seen the effect of this simple caress upon the eyeglass.
Like a wounded snake it lifted its head to ask, "Who has struck me?"
It wavered and wagged. But Lucy was glass-proof now.

Urquhart said that he was going away shortly, at least he supposed he
should. A man he knew wanted to try a new motor. They were to rush
down to Biarritz, and possibly over the frontier to Pampluna. But
nothing was arranged. Here he looked scrutinising and half quizzical
at her. "Are you adventurously inclined? Will you try my monster? It's
a dragon."

She was very adventurously inclined--as James might know! but not with
a Mr. Urquhart necessarily: therefore she hesitated. "Oh, I don't
really know--" Urquhart laughed. "Be bold--be bold--be not too bold.
Well, there it is. I start for the Newmarket road at eleven
to-morrow--but I'll fetch you for twopence. Ask _him_." He jerked his
head forward towards James, on whose arm her hand rested. Lucy looked
up at her romantic lord--a look which might have made a man proud. But
James may have been proud enough already. At any rate, he didn't see
her look, but was genial to Urquhart--over whom he considered that he
had triumphed in the library.

"Sooner her than me," he said. "I know that she likes it and so advise
her to go. But I should die a thousand deaths."

"She won't," said Urquhart; and then to Lucy, "Well, ma'am?"

Her eyes assented before she did. "Very well, I'll come. I dare say it
will be delightful."

"Oh, it will," he said.

Still he rambled on--plain, grumbling, easy, familiar talk, while Lucy
fumed and fidgeted to be alone with her joy and pride. "Your handsome
sister has asked me to hunt in Essex. Don't like hunting, but I do
like her--and there's a great deal waiting to be done at Martley. I
don't know. We'll talk about it to-morrow." Then he asked her, "Would
she come and look at Martley?" It seemed she had half promised.

She said, "Oh, yes, of course." Nothing of that kind seemed very
important. But James here looked down at her, which made it different.
"We might go at Whitsuntide," he said.

She looked deeply up--deeply into him, so to speak. "Very well, we
will. If you'll come."

"Oh, he'll come," Urquhart said; and James, "I should like it." So
that was settled. Heavens, how she wished these people would go. She
could see that Francis Lingen wanted to be asked to stay to dine, but
she didn't mean to have that. So when Urquhart held out his hand with
a blunt "Good night to you," she let hers hover about Francis as if
his was waiting for it--which it wasn't, but had to be. "Oh, good
night," said the embarrassed exquisite, and forgot to be tender.

James picked up the evening paper and was flickering his eye over the
leading articles, like a searchlight. Lucy, for her part, hovered
quick-footed in his neighbourhood. This was her hour of triumph, and
she played with it. She peeped at the paper over his shoulder till he
said, "Please," and moved it. Her fingers itched to touch his hair,
but very prudently refrained. She was too restless to settle to
anything, and too happy to wish it. If she had been a singing-bird she
would have trilled to the piano; but she had not a note of music. The
dressing-gong gave her direction. There was plenty to be done. "The
gong! I'm going to make myself smart, James. Quite smart. Are you
coming up?"

James had the paper open in the middle. "Eh? Oh, there's lots of
time--run away. I'm rather busy."

"You're not a bit busy. But I'll go." And she went with hardly a
perceptible hang-back at the door. Upstairs she rejected her usual
choice with a curled lip. "No, no, too stuffy." "Oh, Smithers, I
couldn't. It makes me look a hundred." No doubt she was absurd; but
she had been starved. Such a thing as this had not happened to her
since her days of betrothal, and then but seldom. When she had
satisfied herself she had a panic. Suppose he said, "Comic Opera!"

He said nothing at all. He was in a thoughtful mood, and talked mostly
of Urquhart's proposal for Whitsuntide. "I believe it's rather
remarkable. Quite a place to be seen. Jimmy does things well, you
know. He's really a rich man."

"As rich as you?" Lucy asked, not at all interested in Urquhart just
now.

The eyeglass was pained. "My dear soul! You don't know what you're
saying!" She quizzed him with a saucy look. "I didn't say anything,
dear. I asked something."

If eyeglasses shiver, so did James's. "Well, well--you quibble. I dare
say Urquhart has fifteen thousand a year, and even you will know that
I haven't half as much."

She quenched her eyes, and looked meek. "No, dear, I know. All right,
he's quite rich. Now what does he do with it?"

"Do with it?" James tilted his head and scratched his neck vigorously,
but not elegantly. "Very often nothing at all. There will be years
when he won't spend a hundred above his running expenses. Then he'll
get a kind of maggot in the brain, and squander every sixpence he can
lay hands on. Or he may see reason good, and drop ten thousand in a
lap like Lingen's. Why does he do it? God knows, Who made him. He's
made like that."

Lucy said it was very interesting, but only because she thought James
would be pleased.

Then she remembered, with a pang of doubt, that she was to be driven
by this wild man to-morrow. But James--would he--? He had never been
really jealous, and just now she didn't suppose he could possibly be
so; but you can't tell with men. So she said, "James dear," very
softly, and he looked over the table at her. "If you don't think
it--sensible, I could easily telephone."

"Eh? What about?--to whom?--how? I don't follow you."

"I mean to Mr. Urquhart, about his motor to-morrow. I don't care about
it in the least. In fact--"

"Oh," said James, "the motor? Ah, I had forgotten. Oh, I think you
might go. Urquhart's been very reasonable about this business of
Lingen's. I had a little trouble, of course--it's a lot of money, even
for him. Oh, yes, I should go if I were you. Why, he might want _me_
to go, you know--which would bore me to extinction. But I know you
like that sort of thing." He nodded at her. "Yes, I should go."

She pouted, and showed storm in her eyes--all for his benefit. But he
declined benefit. A strange, dear, bleak soul.

"Very well. If it saves you anything, I'll do it," she said. James was
gratified; as he was also by the peeling of walnuts and service of
them in a sherry glass, which she briskly performed, as if she liked
it. Further than that she was too shy to go; but in the drawing-room,
before it might be too late, she was unable to forbear her new
tenderness.

She stood behind him; her hand fell upon his shoulder, and rested
there, like a leaf. He could not but be conscious of it--he was very
conscious of it, and accepted it, as a tribute. Such a tribute was
gratifying. Lucy was a charming woman. She did pretty things in a
pretty way, as a man's wife should, but too seldom did. How many men's
wives--after fourteen years of it--would stand as she was standing
now? No--the luck held. He had a tradition of Success--success without
visible effort. The luck held! Like a steady wind, filling a sail.

Discipline, however; gentle but firm! He went on reading, but said,
most kindly, "Well, Luce, well--" adding, on an afterthought, "How can
I serve you?"

Her eyes were luminous, dilating her gentle mood, downcast towards his
smooth black hair. She sighed, "Serve me? Oh, you serve me well. I'm
happy just now--that's all."

"Not fretting after the boy?"

"No, no. Not now. Bless him, all the same."

"To be sure." Whereon, at a closer touch of her hand, he looked
comically up. Her head moved, ever so slightly, towards him. He
dropped his eyeglass with a smart click and kissed her cheek. She
shivered, and started back. A blank dismay fell upon her; her heart
seemed to stop. Good Heavens! Not so, not at all so, had James kissed
her in the dark.

There wasn't a doubt about that--not the shade of a doubt. Here had
been a brush on the cheek; here the cold point of his nose had pecked
a little above. She had felt that distinctly, more distinctly than the
touch of his lips. Whereas that other, that full-charged message of
hope and promise--oh, that had been put upon her mouth, soft and
close, and long. She recalled how her head had fallen back and back,
how her laden heart had sighed, how she had been touched, comforted,
contented. Good God, how strange men were! How entirely outside her
philosophy!

She strayed about her drawing-room, touching things here and there,
while he complacently fingered his _Punch_, flacking over the
leaves with brisk slaps of the hand. At this moment he was as
comfortably-minded a householder as any in London, engaged solely in
digestion, at peace at home and abroad, so unconscious of the
fretting, straining, passionate lost soul in the room with him,
hovering, flicking about it like a white moth, as to be supremely
ridiculous--to any one but Lucy. It is difficult to hit off her state
of mind in a word, or in two. She was fretted; yes, but she was
provoked too. She was provoked, but she was incredulous. It could not
continue; it was too much. Men were not made so. And yet--and
yet--James was a possible Eros, an Eros (bless him!) with an eyeglass:
and Eros loved in the dark.

She comforted herself with this thought, which seemed to her a bright
solution of the puzzle, and saw James rise and stretch his length
without mutiny. She received the taps on the cheek of his rolled
_Punch_, allowed, nay, procured, another chilly peck, with no pouting
lips, no reproachful eyes. Then came a jar, and her puzzlement
renewed. "Shall you be late?" "Oh, my dear soul, how can I possibly
say? I brought papers home with me--and you know what that means! It's
an interesting case. We have Merridew for us. I am settling the
brief." Alas, for her. The infatuate even stayed to detail points of
the cause. Much, it appeared, depended upon the Chancellor of the
diocese: a very shaky witness. He had a passion for qualification, and
might tie himself into as many knots as an eel on a night-line. Oh,
might he indeed? And this, this was in the scales against her pride
and joy! She was left--alone on Naxos now--while James went sharply
to his papers.

There I must leave her, till the hour when she could bear the room no
more. She had fought with beasts there, and had prevailed. Yet
unreason (as she had made herself call it) lifted a bruised head at
the last. Papers! Papers, after such a kiss! Oh, the folly of the
wise! Caught up she knew not whence, harboured in the mind she knew
not how, the bitter words of an old Scots song tasted salt upon her
lips:

  There dwelt a man into the West,
  And O gin he was cruel;
  For on his bridal night at e'en
  He up and grat for gruel.

  They brought him in a gude sheepshead,
  A bason and a towel.
  "Gar take thae whimwhams far frae me,
  I winna want my gruel!"

Standing in the hall while these words were ringing in her head, she
stayed after they were done, a rueful figure of indecision. Instinct
fought instinct, and the acquired beat down the innate. She regarded
the shut door, with wise and tender eyes, without reproach; then bent
her head and went swiftly upstairs.



CHAPTER VI

A LEAP OUTWARDS


She arose, a disillusioned bride, with scarcely spirit enough to cling
to hope, and with less taste for Urquhart's motor than she had ever
had for any duller task-work. Nothing in the house tended to her
comfort. James was preoccupied and speechless; the coffee was wrong,
the letters late and stupid. She felt herself at cross-purposes with
her foolish little world. If James had resought her love overnight, it
had been a passing whim. She told herself that love so desired was
almost an insult.

Nevertheless at eleven o'clock the motor was there, and Urquhart in
the hall held out his hand. "She can sprint," he said; "so much I've
learned already. I think you'll be amused."

Lucy hoped so. She owned herself very dull that morning. Well, said
Urquhart, he could promise her that she should not be that. She might
cry for mercy, he told her, or stifle screams; but she wouldn't stifle
yawns. "Macartney," he said, "would sooner see himself led out by a
firing-party than in such an engine as I have out there." She smiled
at her memory. "James is not of the adventurous," she said--but wasn't
he? "Shall I be cold?"

"Put on everything you have," he bade her, "and then everything else.
She can do sixty."

"You are trying to terrify me," she said, "but you won't succeed. I
don't know why, but I feel that you can drive. I think I have caught
Lancelot's complaint."

"Perhaps so. I know that I impose upon the young and insipient."

"And which am I, pray?"

He looked at her. "Don't try me too far."

She came forth finally to see Crewdson and her own chauffeur grouped
with Urquhart. The bonnet was open; shining coils, mighty cylinders
were in view, and a great copper feed-pipe like a burnished
boa-constrictor. The chauffeur, a beady-eyed Swiss, stared approval;
Crewdson, rubbing his chin, offered a deft blend of the deferential
butler and the wary man of the world. She was tucked in; the Swiss
started the monster; they were off with a bound.

They slashed along Knightsbridge, won Piccadilly Circus by a series
of short rushes; avoided the City, and further East found a broad road
and slow traffic. Soon they were in the semi-urban fringe, among villa
gardens, over-glazed public-houses, pollarded trees and country
glimpses in between. There was floating ice on the ponds, a violet
rime traversed with dun wheelmarks in the shady parts of the way.
After that a smooth white road, deep green fields, much frozen water,
ducks looking strangely yellow, and the low blue hills of Essex.

Urquhart was a sensitive driver; she noticed that. The farseeing eye
was instantly known in the controlling foot. He used very little
brake; when he pushed his car there was no mark upon him of urgency.
Success without effort! The Gospel of James! Urquhart accepted it as a
commonplace, and sought his gospel elsewhere.

He began to talk without any palpable beginning, and drifted into
reminiscence. "I remember being run away with by a mule train in
Ronda ... the first I had ever handled. They got out of hand--it was a
nasty gorge with a bend in it where you turn on to the bridge. I got
round that with a well-directed stone which caught the off-side leader
exactly at the root of his wicked ear. He had only one ear, so you
couldn't mistake it. He ducked his head and up with his heels. He went
over, and the next pair on top of him. We pulled up, not much the
worse. Well, the point of that story is that the pace of that old
coach and six mokes, I assure you, has always seemed to me faster than
any motor I've ever driven. It was nothing to be compared with it, of
course; but the effort of those six mad animals, the _élan_ of the
thing, the rumbling and swaying about, heeling over that infernal
gorge of stone--! You can't conceive the whirl and rush of it. Now
we're doing fifty, yet you don't know it. Wind-screen: yes, that's
very much; but the concealment of effort is more."

"You've had a life of adventure," she said. "Lancelot may have been
right."

"He wasn't far wrong," Urquhart said. "As a fact, I have never been a
pirate; but I have smuggled tobacco in the Black Sea, and that's as
near as you need go. I excuse myself by saying that it was a long time
ago--twenty years I dare say; that I was young at the time; that I was
very hard up, and that I liked the fun. Lovely country, you know, that
strip of shore. You never saw such oleanders in your life. And sand
like crumbled crystal. We used to land the stuff at midnight, up to
our armpits in water sometimes; and a man would stand up afterwards
shining with phosphorus, like a golden statue. Romantic! No poet could
relate it. They used to cross and recross in the starlight--all the
gleaming figures. Like a ballet done for a Sultan in the Arabian
Nights. I was at that for a couple of years, and then the gunboats got
too sharp for us and the game didn't pay."

She had forgotten her spleen. Her eyes were wide at the enlarging
landscape. "And what did you do next--or what had you done before?
Tell me anything."

"I really don't know what I did before. I went out to the Chersonese
from Naples. I remember that well. I had been knocking about Vesuvius
for a bit, keeping very bad company, which, nevertheless, behaved very
well to me. But finally there was a row with knives, which rather
sickened me of the Vesuvians; so I shipped for Constantinople and fell
in with a very nice old chap on board. He took me on at his contraband
job. I didn't get very much money, but I got some, and saw a deal of
life. When it was over I went to Greece. I like the Greeks. They are
a fine people."

"What did you do in Greece?" she insisted, not interested in the
fineness of the people.

"Blasting, first," he said. "They were making the railway from Larissa
through Tempe. That was a dangerous job, because the rock breaks so
queerly. You never know when it has finished. I had seen a good deal
of it in South America, so I butted in, and was taken on. Then I did
some mining at Lavrion, and captained a steamer that carried mails
among the islands. That was the best time I had. You see, I like
responsibility, and I got it. Everything else was tame--out there, I
mean....

"I got into Government service at Corfù and stopped there six years or
more ... I was all sorts of things--lighthouse-keeper, inspector of
marine works, harbour-master ... And then my wicked old father (I must
tell you about him some day. You could write a book about him) up and
died--in his bed of all places in the world, and left me a good deal
of money. That was the ruin of me. I really might have done something
if it hadn't been for that. Strange thing! He turned me out of the
house in a rage one day, and had neither seen me nor written me a
letter from my seventeenth to my thirtieth birthday, when he died--or
thereabouts. But at the last, when he was on his bed of death, he
rolled himself over and said to the priest, 'There's Jimmy out at his
devilry among the haythen Turks,' he says. 'Begob, that was a fine
boy, and I'll leave him a plum.' And so he did. I wish he hadn't. I
was making my hundred and fifty in Corfù and was the richest man in
the place. And I liked the life."

"That was where you had so many wives," she reminded him.

"So it was. Well, perhaps I needn't assure you that the number has
been exaggerated. I've very nearly had some wives, but there was
always something at the last minute. There was a girl at Valletta, I
remember--a splendid girl with the figure of a young Venus, and a
tragic face and great eyes that seemed to drown you in dark. Lady
Macbeth as a child might have been like that--or Antigone with the
doom on her, or perhaps Elektra. No, I expect Elektra took after her
mother: red-haired girl, I fancy. But there you are. She was a lovely,
solemn, deep-eyed, hag-ridden goose. Not a word to say--thought
mostly of pudding. I found that out by supposing that she thought of
me. Then I was piqued, and we parted. I suppose she's vast now, and
glued to an upper window-ledge with her great eyes peering through a
slat in the shutter. Living in a bed-gown. Imagine a wife who lives in
a bed-gown!"

They were lunching at Colchester when these amorous chapters were
reached. Lucy was quite at her ease with her companion. "A wife who
was always at the dressmaker's would suit you no better. But I don't
know that mixed marriages often answer. After all, so dreadfully much
can never be opened between you."

"That's quite true," he said, "and by no means only of mixed
marriages. How much can your average husband and wife open between
them? Practically nothing, since they choose to live by speech."

"But what else have we?"

"I would choose to live by touch," he said. "If two people can't
communicate fully and sufficiently by the feelers they are not in the
same sphere and have no common language. But speech is absurd. Why,
every phrase, and nearly every word, has a conventional value."

By touch! She was set dreaming by that. So she and James--a James she
had had no conception of--had communicated not four-and-twenty hours
ago. Certainly subsequent speech had not advanced the intelligence
then conveyed.

But she resumed Urquhart's affairs. "And do you despair of finding a
woman with whom you can hold communion?"

"No," he said, looking at the bread which he broke. "I don't despair
at all. I think that I shall find her." And then he looked steadily at
her, and she felt a little uncomfortable. But it was over in a minute.

She feared to provoke that again, so made no fishing comment; but she
was abundantly curious of what his choice would be. Meantime he mused
aloud.

"What you want for a successful marriage is--a layer of esteem,
without which you will infallibly, if you are a man, over-reach
yourself and be disgusted; then a liberal layer of animal
passion--and I only shrink from a stronger word for fear of being
misunderstood--which you won't have unless you have (a) vitality, (b)
imagination; thirdly, for a crown, respect. You must know your due,
and your duty, and fear to omit the one or excuse the other.
Everything follows from those three."

"And how do you know when you have found them?"

He looked up and out into the country. "A sudden glory," he said, "a
flare of insight. There's no mistake possible."

"Who was the man," she asked him, rather mischievously, "who saw a
girl at a ball, and said, 'That's a fine girl; I'll marry her'--and
did it--and was miserable?"

He twinkled as he answered, "That was Savage Landor; but it was his
own fault. He could never make concessions." She thought him a very
interesting companion.

On the way home he talked more fitfully, with intervals of brooding
silence. But he was not morose in his fits, and when he excused
himself for sulking, she warmly denied that he did any such thing. "I
expect you are studying the motor," she said; and he laughed. "I'm
very capable of that."

Altogether, a successful day. She returned braced to her duties, her
James, and his hidden-up Eros. To go home to James had become an
exciting thing to do.



CHAPTER VII

PATIENCE AND PSYCHE


There are two ways of encountering an anti-climax, an heroic, an
unheroic. Lucy did her best to be a heroine, but her temperament was
against her. Her imagination was very easily kindled, and her reasons
much at the mercy of the flames. By how much she was exalted, by so
much was she dashed. But she had a conscience too, a lively one with a
forefinger mainly in evidence. It would be tedious to recount how
often that wagged her into acquiescence with a James suddenly revealed
freakish, and how often she relapsed into the despair of one sharply
rebuffed when she found him sedately himself. However, or by means of
her qualities, the time-cure worked its way; her inflammation wore
itself out, and her life resumed its routine of dinner-parties, calls
and callers, Francis Lingen's purring, and letters to or from
Lancelot--with this difference, mind you, that far recessed in her
mind there lay a grain, a grain of promise: that and a glamorous
memory.

She was able to write her first letter to Lancelot in high spirits,
then, to tell him her little bits of news and to remind him (really to
remind herself) of good days in the past holiday-time. Something she
may have said, or left unsaid, as the chance may be, drew the
following reply. She always wrote to him on Friday, so that he might
answer her on Sunday.

"Dear Mama," he wrote, "I was third in weakly order which was rather
good (I.d.t.)*. Mr. Tonks said if I go up so fast I shall brake the
ceialing. Bad spelling I know but still. Last Wendesday a boy named
Jenkinson swalowed a button-hook but recovered it practically as good
as when bought (or perhaps a Xmas present). He was always called
Bolter for a nickname, so it was jolly convene. For once he did the
right thing. Mostly he is an utter ass. How is the polligamous pirate
getting on with wives &c.? That comes from a Greek word polis,
a city, so I suppose in the country they are too conventual. I like
him awfully. He's my sort (not Father's though). Well, the term is
waring away. Five days crost off on new diery. Where shall we go this
time three months? Easter I mean. Wycross I hope, but suppose dreery
Brighton, hope not. I must swot now Kings of Isereel and such-like so
goodby now or so long as we say here--LANCELOT."

She thought that she must show the letter to Urquhart when next she
saw him, and meantime, of course, showed it to James. The eyeglass
grew abhorrent over the spelling. "This boy passes belief. Look at
this, Lucy. C-e-i-a-ling!" "Oh, don't you see?" she cried. "He had it
perfectly: c-e-i. Well, and then a devil of doubt came in, and he
tried an _a_. Oh, I can see it now, on his blotting-pad! Whichever he
decided on, he must have forgotten to cross out the other. You
shouldn't be so hard on your own son. His first letter too."

James felt compunction. "No, no, I won't be hard. It's all right, of
course." He read on. The polligamous pirate with wives &c. had to be
explained. She told him the story. The eyeglass became a searchlight
exploring her.

"Did Urquhart tell that tale? Upon my soul--!"

"It was sheer nonsense, of course, but--"

"Oh, I don't know," said James. "You can't tell with a man of that
sort. He can be a March hare if he's in the mood. He'd as soon shoot a
Turk as a monkey, or keep two women as half a dozen. By the by, Lucy,"
and the eyeglass went out like a falling star, "don't let that
sentimental idiot make too much of an ass of himself."

Lucy's eyes concentrated; they shone. "Who is your sentimental idiot?
I haven't the least notion what you mean."

"I mean Francis Lingen, of course. You must admit-- Oh," and he nipped
her indignation in the bud, "I know you won't misunderstand me. I am
not at all a fool. You are kindness itself, generosity itself. But
there it is. He's an ass, and there's really nothing more to say."

Lucy was mollified. She was, indeed, amused after the first flash.
Remembering the James of a week ago, the eager wooer of the dark, she
was able to be playful with a little jealousy. But if he could have
known--or if she had cared to tell him--what she had been thinking of
on Sunday afternoon when Francis purred to her about himself and
sought her advice how best to use his ten thousand of Urquhart's
pounds--well, James would have understood, that's all!

So she laughed. "Poor Francis Lingen! He is not very wise. But I must
say that your honour is perfectly safe with me."

"My dear child--" said James, frowning.

"No, no, I shall go on. It will do you good. There is one thing you
may always be quite sure of, dear, and that is that the more Francis
Lingen is a goose, the less likely I am to encourage him in goosery,
if there is such a word."

James pished, but she pursued him. Mabel was announced, up from the
country to dine and sleep. The Parthian shot was delivered actually on
the way to Mabel's embrace. "But I'm flattered to see you
jealous--please understand that. I should like you to be jealous of
the chair I sit on."

James was hurt and uncomfortable. He thought all this rank form. And
Mabel--the bright and incisive Mabel with her high hunting
colour--made it much worse. "What! Is James jealous? Oh, how perfectly
splendid! Is he going to give secret orders to Crewdson not to admit
Mr.--? As they do in plays at the St. James's? Oh, James, do tell me
whom you darkly suspect? Cæsar's wife! My dear and injured man--"
James writhed, but he was in the trap. You may be too trenchant, it
would seem, and your cleaver stick fast in the block.

It behooved him to take a strong line. This kind of raillery must be
stopped. He must steer between the serious and the flippant. He hated
to be pert; on the other hand, to be solemn would be offensive to
Lucy--which he would not be. For James was a gentleman. "Mabel, my
dear, you stretch the privileges of a guest--" a promising beginning,
he thought; but Lucy pitied him plunging there, and cut all short by a
way of her own. "Oh, Mabel, you are a goose. Come and take your things
off, and tell me all about Peltry, and the hunting, and the new horse.
Mr. Urquhart told me he was going to stay with you. Is he? I'm so glad
you like him. Lancelot and I highly approve. I must show you
Lancelot's letter about him. He calls him the polligamous pirate--with
two _l_'s of course."

"Yes," said James, who had recovered his composure, "yes, my dear; but
he gives you the accent in polis."

"Does he though? I'm afraid that was beyond me." She paused to beam
at James. "That pleases you?"

"It's a sign of grace, certainly." So the squall blew over.

James was dining out somewhere, so the sisters had a short dinner and
a very long evening by the fire. Lucy dallied with her great news
until Crewdson had served the coffee--then out it came, with
inordinate and delightful delicacy of approach. Mabel's eyes
throughout were fixed upon her face.... "And of course, naturally--"
Here Lucy turned away her own. "But nothing--not a sign. Neither then
nor since. I--"; she stopped, bit her lip, then broke forth. "I shall
never understand it. Oh, I do think it extraordinary!"

Mabel said at once, "It's not at all extraordinary. It would be with
any one else; but not with James."

Lucy lifted her head. "What do you mean, Mabel?"

"Well, it's difficult to explain. You are so odd about James. He is
either the sort of being you name in a whisper--or makes you edgy all
over--like a slate-pencil. But James--I dare say you haven't noticed
it: you think he's a clever man, and so he may be; but really he has
never grown up."

Lucy's foot began to rock. "My dear girl, really--"

"Oh, I know. I know. Of course you're annoyed, especially after such a
queer experience. We won't discuss it--it will be useless. But that's
my opinion, you know. I think that he was completely successful,
according to his own ideas." The battle raged; I need not add that the
mystery, far from being undiscussed, was driven up and down the field
of possibility till a late hour; nor that Mabel held to her position,
in high disparagement, as Lucy felt, of Lancelot, deeply involved.

An upshot, and a shrewd one, was Mabel's abrupt, "Well, what are you
going to do now? I mean, supposing he does it again?"

Lucy mused. "I don't somehow think he will, for a long time." She
added naïvely, "I wish he would. I like it."

Mabel understood her. "You mean that you like him for doing it." And
dreamy Lucy nodded. "Yes, that's exactly what I mean. I do, awfully."

Mabel here kissed Lucy. "Dearest, you're wonderfully sweet. You would
love anybody who loved you."

"I don't think I would," Lucy said, "but I should certainly have loved
James more if he had ever seemed to love me. And I can't possibly
doubt that he did that day that Lancelot went back. What bothers me is
that he stopped there." And so, to it again, in the manner of women,
tireless in speculation about what is not to be understood.

James, restored in tone, was affable, and even considerate, in the
morning. Mabel, studying him with new eyes, had to admire his flawless
surface, though her conviction of the shallow depth of him was
firmlier rooted than before. "He is--he really is--a tremendous
donkey, poor James," she thought to herself as he gave out playful
sarcasms at her expense, and was incisive without loss of urbanity.
Mabel was urgent with her sister to join the party at Peltry when
Urquhart was there. "I do wish you would. He's rather afraid of you, I
think, and that will throw him upon me--which is what is wanted." That
was how she put it.

James, quite the secure, backed her up. "I should go if I were you,"
he said to Lucy from behind the _Morning Post_. "It will do you a
great deal of good. You always choose February to moult in, and you
will have to be feathered down there. Besides, it's evident you can be
useful to Mabel." Lucy went so far as to get out her engagement book,
and to turn up the date, not very seriously. What she found confirmed
her. "I can't," she said; "it's out of the question."

"Why, what is happening?" Mabel must know.

"It's an Opera night," said Lucy. "The _Walküre_ is happening."

"Oh, are they? H'm. Yes, I suppose I can't expect you."

Lucy was scornfully clear. "I should think not indeed. Not for a
wilderness of Urquharts!"

"Not all the peltry of Siberia--" said James, rather sharply, as he
thought; and dismissed the subject in favour of his own neatly-spatted
foot. "Wagner!" he said. "I am free to confess that, apart from the
glory of the thing, I had rather--"

"Marry one of Mr. Urquhart's wives," said the hardy Mabel.

"Two," said James, quite ready for her.

Mabel rattled away to her Essex and left her sister all the better for
the astringent she had imparted. Lucy did not agree with her by any
means; it made her hot with annoyance to realise that anybody could so
think of James. At the same time she felt that she must steady
herself. After all, a man might kiss his wife if he pleased, and he
might do it how he pleased. It was undignified to speculate about it.
She tried very hard to drive that home to herself, and she did succeed
in imposing it upon her conduct. But she was not convinced. She was
too deeply romantic for conviction by any such specious reasoning.
That affair in the dark had been the real thing; it implied--oh,
everything. Let come what might, let be what was, that was the true
truth of the mystery. And to be loved like that was--oh, everything!

But she dismissed it from her thoughts with an effort of will, and
relations with James resumed their old position. They became formal,
they were tinged now and again with the old asperity; they were rather
dreary. Lancelot's star rose as James's sank in the heavens. His
letters became her chief preoccupation. But James's star, fallen low
though it were, still showed a faint hue of rose-colour.

Some little time after this--somewhere in early February, she met
Urquhart at a luncheon party, and was glad to see him. He shook hands
in his usual detached way, as if her gladness and their acquaintance
were matters of course. He sat next to her without ceremony, removing
another man's name-card for the purpose, and after a few short,
snapped phrases about anything or nothing, they drifted into easy
talk. Lucy's simplicity made her a delightful companion, when she was
sure of her footing. She told him that she had been saving up
Lancelot's letter to show him. "Good," he said. "I want it."

But it was not here, as it happened. So she wrote out from memory the
sentence about Urquhart: the polligamous pirate, with wives &c.
"Aren't you flattered?" she asked him, radiant with mirthful malice.
He frowned approval. He was pleased, but, like all those who make
laughter, he had none of his own. "That shot told. I got him with the
first barrel. Trust a boy to love a law-breaker. He'll never forget me
that. He's my friend for life." He added, as if to himself, "Hope so,
anyhow."

Lucy at this, had she been a cat, would have purred and kneaded the
carpet. As it was, her contentment emboldened her to flights. She was
much more bird than cat. "I wonder if you are really a law-breaker,"
she said. "I don't think I should be surprised to know it of you."

He frowned again. "No, I should say that the ground had been prepared
for that. You wouldn't be surprised--but would you be disturbed?
That's what I want to know before I tell you."

This had to be considered. What did she in her private mind think of
law-breakers? One thing was quite clear to her. Whatever she might
think of them, she was not prepared to tell him.

"I'm a lawyer's wife, you know."

"That tells me nothing," he said. "That would only give you the
position of an expert. It doesn't commit you to a line. I'll tell you
this--it may encourage you to a similar confidence. If I wanted to
break a law very badly, I shouldn't do it on reflection perhaps; but I
could never resist a sudden impulse. If somebody told me that it would
be desirable in all sorts of ways to break a man's head I shouldn't do
it, because I should be bothering myself with all the possibilities of
the thing--how desirable it might be, or how undesirable. But if,
happening to be in his company, I saw his head in a breakable
aspect--splosh! I should land him a nasty one. That's a certainty.
Now, what should you say to that? It happens that I want to know." It
was evident to her that he really did.

Lucy gave him one of her kind, compassionate looks, which always made
her seem beautiful, and said, "I should forgive you. I should tell you
that you were too young for your years; but I should forgive you, I'm
sure."

"That's what I wanted to know," said Urquhart, and remained silent for
a while. When he resumed it was abruptly, on a totally new matter. "I
shall bring my sister over to you after this. She's here. I don't know
whether you'll like her. She'll like you."

"Where is she?" Lucy asked, rather curious.

"She's over there, by our hostess. That big black hat is hers. She's
underneath it." Lucy saw a spry, black-haired youngish woman, very
vivacious but what she herself called "good." James would have said,
"Smart." Not at all like her brother, she thought, and said so. "She's
not such a scoundrel," Urquhart admitted, "but she takes a line of
her own. Her husband's name is Nugent. He is South Irish, where we are
North. That boy who went with us to the play is her son. He is a
lively breed--so it hasn't turned out amiss. She's not at all your
sort, but as you know the worst of us you may as well know what we can
do when we exert ourselves." He added, "My old father, now with
Beelzebub, was a terror."

"Do tell me about him."

"It would take too long. He was very old-fashioned in most ways. They
used to call him King Urquhart in Donegal. The worst of it was that he
knew good claret and could shoot. That makes a bad combination. He
used to sit on a hogshead of it in his front yard and challenge all
and sundry to mortal combat. He really did. Duels he used to call
them. He said, 'Me honour's involved, d'ye see?' and believed it. But
they were really murders, because he was infallible with a revolver.
He adored my mother, but she couldn't do anything with him. 'Tush, me
dear,' he used to say, 'I wouldn't hurt a hair of his bald head.' And
then he'd have to bolt over to France for a bit and keep quiet. But
everybody liked him, I'm sorry to say. They gave him a public funeral
when he died. They took him out of the hearse--imagine the great sooty
plumes of it--and carried him to the chapel--half a mile away." Lucy
didn't know how much of this to believe, which made it none the worse.

"He was a Catholic?"

"He was."

"And so are you?"

He looked up. "Eh? I suppose I am--if any."

"What _do_ you mean?" she insisted.

"Well," he said. "It's there, I expect. You don't get rid of it." She
considered this to herself.

Mrs. Nugent--the Honourable Mrs. Nugent, as it afterwards
appeared--made herself very amiable. "We both like boys," she said,
"which makes everything easy. I hope you liked my Pat--you met him, I
know. Yours seems to be an unconscious humourist. Jimmy is always
chuckling over him. Mine takes after the Urquharts; rather grim, but
quite sound when you know them. My husband is really Irish. He might
say 'Begorra' at any minute. The Urquharts are a mixed lot. Jimmy
says we're Eurasians when he's cross with us--which means with
himself. I suppose we were border thieves once, like the Turnbulls and
Pringles. But James I planted us in Ireland, and there have been James
Urquharts ever since. I don't know why that seems satisfactory, but it
does."

"I saw what Jimmy was saying, you know," she said presently. "He began
upon me, and then slid off to our deplorable father. An inexhaustible
subject to Jimmy, who really admires that kind of thing."

Lucy smilingly deprecated the criticism.

"Oh, but he does. If he could be like that, he would be. But he wants
two qualities--he can't laugh, and he can't cry. Father could only
laugh internally. He used to get crimson, and swallow hard. That was
his way. Jimmy can't laugh at all, that's the mischief of it. And
crying too. Father could cry rivers. One of the best things I remember
of him was his crying before Mother. 'Damn it all, Meg, I missed him!'
he said, choking with grief. Mother knew exactly what to say. 'You'll
get him next time, Jimmy. Come and change your stockings now.' Well,
_our_ Jimmy couldn't do that. To begin with, of course, he wouldn't
have 'missed him.'"

"No," said Lucy, reflecting, "I don't think he would miss--unless he
was in too much of a hurry to hit."

Mrs. Nugent looked quickly at her. "That is very clever of you. You
have touched on his great difference from Father. He is awfully
impatient."

All this did Lucy a great deal of good. James thought that she had
better call on Mrs. Nugent. He knew all about her.



CHAPTER VIII

AGAIN


The second time was in late February, at the Opera: the _Walküre_, of
all operas in the world, where passion of the suddenest is seen on its
most radiant spring morning. James, who was dreadfully bored by
Wagner, and only went because it was the thing to do, and truly also
because "a man must be seen with his wife," could not promise to be
there, dressed, at such an unearthly hour as half-past six--James, I
say, did not go with her, but vowed to be there "long before seven."
That he undertook. So she went alone, and sat, as she always did, half
hidden behind the curtain of her box on the second tier.

The place was flooded with dark. The great wonder began--the amazing
prelude with its brooding, its surmisals, its storms, its pounding
hooves remorselessly pursuing, and flashes of the horn, like the blare
of lightning. She surrendered herself, and as the curtain rose settled
down to drink with the eyes as well as with the ears; for she was no
musician, and could only be deeply moved by this when she saw and
heard. It immediately absorbed her; the music "of preparation and
suspense" seemed to turn her bones to liquor--and at this moment she
again felt herself possessed by man's love: the strong hand over her
heart, the passion of his hold, the intoxication of the kiss. To the
accompaniment of shrill and wounded violins she yielded herself to
this miracle of the dark. She seemed to hear in a sharp whisper, "You
darling!" She half turned, she half swooned again, she drank, and she
gave to drink. The music speared up to the heights of bliss, then
subsided as the hold on her relaxed. When she stretched out her hand
for her lover's, he was not near her. She was alone. The swift and
poignant little drama may have lasted a minute; but like a dream it
had the suggestion of infinity about it, transcending time as it
defied place. Confused, bemused, she turned her attention to the
stage, determined to compose herself at all cost. She sat very still,
and shivered; she gave all her powers to her mind, and succeeded by
main effort. Insensibly the great drama doing down there resumed its
hold; and it was even with a slight shock that she became aware by
and by of James sitting sedately by her, with the eyeglass sharply set
for diversion anywhere but on the scene. Again she remembered with
secret amusement that she had not been conscious of the eyeglass
when--for reasons of his own--he had paid his mysterious homage to
love and her.

She kept a firm grip of herself: she would not move an inch towards
him. She could never do that again. But she passed him over the
play-bill, and lifted the glasses to show him where they were. She
saw the eyeglass dip as he nodded his thanks, and heard him whisper as
he passed back the bill, "No good. Dark as the grave." Oh,
extraordinary James! She suffered hysterical laughter, but persisted
against it, and succeeded.

When the lights went up she afforded herself a gay welcome of him,
from gleaming, happy and conscious eyes. He met it blandly, smiled
awry and said, "You love it?"

"Oh," she sighed, meaning all that she dared not say, "how I love it!"

James said, "Bravo. I was very punctual, you'll admit." That very
nearly overcame her. But all she said was, "I didn't hear you come
in--or go out."

James looked very vague at that. He was on the point of frowning over
it, but gave it up. It was a Lucyism. He rose and touched his
coat-collar, to feel that it gripped where it should. "Let's see who's
in the house," he said, and searched the boxes. "Royalty, as usual!
That's what I call devotion. Who's that woman in a snow-leopard? Oh,
yes, of course. Hullo. I say, my child, will you excuse me? I've just
seen some people I ought to see. There's lots of time--and I won't be
late." And he was off. A very remarkable lover indeed was James.

Mrs. Nugent waved her hand across the parterre. Francis Lingen knocked
and entered. She could afford that; and presently a couple added
themselves, young married people whom she liked for their poverty,
hopefulness and unaffected pleasure in each other. She made Lingen
acquainted with them, and talked to young Mr. Pierson. He spoke with a
cheer in his voice. "Ripping opera. Madge adores it. We saw your
husband downstairs, but I don't think he knew us."... And through her
head blew the words like a searching wind: "You darling! You darling!"
Oh, that was great love! Small wonder that James saw nothing of the
Piersons. And yet--ah, she must give up speculating and judging.
That had undone poor Psyche. Young Mr. Pierson chattered away about
Madge and Wagner, both ripping; James returned, bland, positive,
dazzling the man of exclusive clubs; was reminded of young Mrs.
Pierson, with whom he shook hands, of young Mr. Pierson, to whom he
nodded and said "Ha!" and finally of Francis Lingen. "Ha, Lingen, you
here!" Francis shivered. That seemed to him to ring a knell. Since
when had he been Lingen to James. Since this moment. Now why had James
cold-shouldered him? Was it possible that he had noticed too much
devotion?... And if he had, was it not certain that she must have
noticed it? He stopped midway of the stairs, and passers-by may have
thought he was looking for a dropt sixpence. Not at all. The earth
seemed to be heaving beneath his feet. But a wave of courage surged up
through him. Pooh! no woman yet ever disregarded the homage of a man.
He would send some roses to-morrow, without a card. She would
understand. And so it went on. Wagner came back to his own.

On this occasion, after this second great adventure, Lucy had no
conflict with fate. Thankfully she took the gift of the God; she took
it as final, as a thing complete in itself, a thing most beautiful,
most touching, most honourable to giver and recipient. It revived all
her warmth of feeling, but this time without a bitter lees to the
dram. And she was immensely the better for it. She felt in charity
with all the world, her attitude to James was one of clear sight. Oh,
now she understood him through and through. She would await the
fulness of time; sufficient for the day was the light of the day.

She was happier than she had been for many years. Half-term was
approaching, when she would be allowed to go down and see Lancelot; in
these days she felt Spring in the air. February can be kind to us, and
show a golden threshold to March. She had a letter from Mabel telling
her of Mr. Urquhart's feats in the hunting field.... "He's quite mad,
I think, and mostly talks about you and Lancelot. He calls you
Proserpine. As for his riding, my dear, it curdles the blood. He
doesn't ride, he drives; sits well back, and accelerates on the near
side. He brought his own horses, luckily for ours and his neck. They
seem to understand it. He hunted every day but one; and then he rushed
up to town to keep some appointment and came back to a very late
dinner, driving himself in his motor. He is a tempestuous person, but
can be very grave when he likes. He talked beautifully one
evening--mostly about you." Lucy's eyes smiled wisely over this
letter. She liked to think that she could induce gravity upon a
hunting party. She had never quite approved of the Peltry atmosphere.
Hard riding seemed to involve hard living, and hard swearing. She had
once heard Laurence let himself go to some rider over hounds, and had
put him on a back shelf in her mind--him and his Peltry with him. A
prude? No, she was sure she was nothing of the sort; but she liked
people to keep a hold on themselves.

A gay little dinner-party, one of hers, as she told James, finished a
month of high light. The young Pierson couple, some Warreners, a Mrs.
Treveer and Jimmy Urquhart--eight with themselves. The faithful
Francis Lingen was left out as a concession to James and love in the
dark. She noticed, with quiet amusement, how gratified James was. He
was so gratified that he did not even remark upon it. Now James's
little weakness, or one of them, let us say, was that he could not
resist a cutting phrase, when the thing did not matter. Therefore--she
reasoned--Francis Lingen, absurdly enough, did matter. That he
should, that anything of the sort should matter to James was one more
sign to her of the promise, just as the weather was one. The Spring
was at hand, and soon we should all go a-maying.

So we dined at one table, and had a blaze of daffodils from Wycross,
and everybody seemed to talk at once. Pierson told her after dinner
that Madge thought Urquhart ripping (as she had thought Wagner); and
certainly he was one to make a dinner-party go. He was ridiculous
about Laurence Corbet and his sacred foxes. "Don't _shoot_ that thing!
God of Heaven, what are you about?" "Oh, I beg your pardon, I
thought--" "Are you out of your senses? That must be torn to pieces by
dogs." He was very good at simulating savagery, but had a favourite
trick of dropping it suddenly, or turning it on himself. He caught
Mrs. Treveer, a lady of ardour not tempered by insight. She agreed
with him about hunting. "Oh, you are so right! Now can't something be
done about it? Couldn't a little paper be written--in that vein, you
know?" "Not by me," said Urquhart. "I'm a hunting man, you see." Mrs.
Treveer held up her fan, but took no offence.

Lucy, with Mabel's letter in mind, gave her guest some attention; but
for the life of her could not see that he paid her any beyond what he
had for the others or for his dinner. He joined Pierson at her side,
and made no effort to oust him. He did not flatter her by recalling
Lancelot; he seemed rather to muse out loud. James with his coat-tails
to the fire was quite at his ease--and when Urquhart offered to drive
her down to Westgate for the half-term (which she herself mentioned),
it was James who said, "Capital! That will be jolly for you." "But
_you_ wouldn't come, would you?" "My child, it is that I _couldn't_
come. A motor in March! I should die. Besides," he added, "as you
know, I have to be at Brighton that Sunday." She had known it, and she
had known also that Brighton was an excuse. One of the bogies she kept
locked in a cupboard was James's _ennui_ when Lancelot was to the
fore. Could this too be jealousy!

"I'll tell you what I'll do," Jimmy Urquhart said. "The run down would
be rather jolly, but the run back in the dark might be a bore. The
Nugents have got a house at Sandwich. Why shouldn't you go there? You
know my sister Nugent, as they used to say."

"Yes, of course I do," Lucy said, "but I couldn't really--"

"But she is there, my dear ma'am. That's the point. I'll drop you
there on my way back. I wish I could stop too, but that's not
possible. She'll arrange it."

James thought it an excellent plan; but Lucy had qualms. Odd, that the
visit of Eros should a second time be succeeded by a motor-jaunt! To
go motoring, again, with a Mr. Urquhart--oh! But she owned that she
was absurd. James did not conceal his sarcasms. "She either fears her
fate too much..." he quoted at her. She pleaded with him.

"Darling," she said--and he was immensely complacent over that--"I
suppose it's a sign of old age, but-- After all, why shouldn't I go by
train--or in our own car, if it comes to that?"

"Firstly," said James through his eyeglass, "because Urquhart asks you
to go in his--a terror that destroyeth in the noonday compared to
ours; and secondly because, if you don't want it, I should rather like
to go to Brighton in mine."

"Oh," said she, "then you don't mind motoring in March!"

"Not in a closed car," said James--"and not to Brighton." This acted
as an extinguisher of the warmer feelings. Let Mr. Urquhart do his
worst then.



CHAPTER IX

SUNDRY ROMANTIC EPISODES


A little cloud of witness, assembled at will like seagulls out of the
blue inane, would come about her in after years. That madly
exhilarating rush to Westgate, for instance, on a keen March morning;
and that sudden question of hers to Urquhart, "What made you think of
asking me?" And his laconic answer, given without a turn of the head,
"Because I knew you would like it. You did before, you know. And that
was January." There was one. Another, connected with it, was her going
alone up to the schoolhouse, and her flush of pleasure when Lancelot
said, "Oh, I say, did He bring you down? Good--then we'll go
immediately and see the car; perhaps it's a new one." She could afford
to recall that--after a long interval. They had had a roaring day,
"all over the place," as Lancelot said afterwards to a friend; and
then there had been her parting with Urquhart in the dark at the open
door of Queendon Court. "Aren't you going to stop?" "No, my dear."
She remembered being amused with that. "Aren't you even coming in?" "I
am not. Good-bye. You enjoyed yourself?" "Oh, immensely." "That's what
I like," he had said, and "pushed off," as his own phrase went. Atop
of that, the return to James, and to nothingness. For nothing
happened, except that he had been in a good temper throughout, which
may easily have been because she had been in one herself--until the
Easter holidays, when he had been very cross indeed. Poor James, to
get him to begin to understand Lancelot's bluntness, intensity, and
passion for something or other, did seem hopeless.

They were at Wycross, on her urgent entreaty, and James was bored at
Wycross, she sometimes thought, because she loved it so much.
Jealousy. A man's wife ought to devote herself. She should love
nothing but her husband. He had spent his days at the golf course, not
coming home to lunch. Urquhart was asked for a Sunday--on Lancelot's
account--but couldn't come, or said so at least. Then, on the
Saturday, when he should have been there, James suddenly kissed her in
the garden--and, of course, in the dark.

She hadn't known that he was in the house yet. He had contracted the
habit of having tea at the club-house and talking on till dark. He did
that, as she believed, because she always read to Lancelot in the
evenings: she gave up the holidays entirely to him. Well, Lancelot
that afternoon had been otherwise engaged--with friends of a
neighbour. She had cried off on the score of "seeing something of
Father," at which Lancelot had winked. But James was not in to tea,
and at six--and no sign of him--she yielded to the liquid calling of a
thrush in the thickening lilacs, and had gone out. There she stayed
till it was dark, in a favourite place--a circular garden of her
contriving, with a pond, and a golden privet hedge, so arranged as to
throw yellow reflections in the water. Standing there, it grew
perfectly dark--deeply and softly dark. The night had come down warm
and wet, like manifold blue-black gauze. She heard his quick, light
step. Her heart hammered, but she did not move. He came behind her,
clasped and held her close. "Oh, you've come--I wondered. Oh, how
sweet, how sweet--" And then "My love!" had been said, and she had
been kissed. In a moment he was gone. She had stayed on motionless,
enthralled by the beauty of the act--and when she had withdrawn
herself at last, and had tiptoed to the house, she saw his lamp on the
table, and himself reading the _Spectator_ before a wood fire!
Recalling all that, she remembered the happy little breath of laughter
which had caught her. "If it wasn't so perfectly sweet and beautiful,
it would be the most comic thing in the world!" she had said to
herself.

A telegram from Jimmy Urquhart came that night just before dinner.
"Arriving to-morrow say ten-thirty for an hour or so, Urquhart." It
was sent from St. James's Street. Lancelot had said, "Stout fellow,"
and James took it quite well. She herself remembered her feeling of
annoyance, how clearly she foresaw an interrupted reverie and a
hampered Sunday--and also how easily he had falsified her prevision.
There had been an animated morning of garden inspection, in the course
of which she had shown him (with a softly fluttering heart and perhaps
enhanced colour) the hedged oval of last night's romance; a pony race;
a game of single cricket in the paddock--Lancelot badly beaten; lunch,
and great debate with James about aeroplanes, wherein Lancelot showed
himself a bitter and unscrupulous adversary of his parent. Finally,
the trial of the new car: an engine of destruction such as Lancelot
had never dreamed of. It was admittedly too high-powered for England;
you were across the county in about a minute. And then he had departed
in a kind of thunderstorm of his own making. Lancelot, preternaturally
moved, said to his mother, "I say, Mamma, what a man--eh?" She,
lightly, "Yes, isn't he wonderful?" and Lancelot, with a snort: "A
man? Ten rather small men--easily." And James, poor James, saw nothing
kissable in that!

It hadn't been till May of that year that Lucy began to think about
Urquhart--or rather it was in May that she discovered herself to be
thinking about him. Mabel assisted her there. Mabel was in Cadogan
Square for the season, and the sisters saw much of each other. Now it
happened that one day Mabel had seen Lucy with Urquhart walking down
Bond Street, at noon or thereabouts, and had passed by on the other
side with no more than a wave of the hand. It was all much simpler
than it looked, really, because Lucy had been to James's office, which
was in Cork Street, and coming away had met Jimmy Urquhart in
Burlington Gardens. He had strolled on with her, and was telling her
that he had been waterplaning on Chichester Harbour and was getting
rather bitten with the whole business of flight. "I'm too old, I know,
but I'm still ass enough to take risks. I think I shall get the
ticket," he had said. What ticket? The pilot's ticket, or whatever
they might call it. "I expect you are too old," she had said, and
then-- "How old are you, by the way?" He told her. "We call it
forty-two." "Exactly James's age; and exactly ten years older than me.
Yes, too old. I think I wouldn't."

He had laughed. "I'm certain I shall. It appeals to me." Then he had
told her, "The first time I saw a man flying I assure you I could have
shed tears." She remembered that this was out of his power. "Odd
thing! What's gravitation to me, or I to gravitation? A commonplace
whereby I walk the world. Never mind. There was that young man
breaking a law of this planet. Well--that's a miracle. I tell you I
might have wept. And then I said to myself, "My man, you'll do this or
perish." Then she: "And have you done it?" and he: "I have not, but
I'm going to." She had suddenly said, "No, please don't." His quick
look at her she remembered, and the suffusion on his burnt face. "Oh,
but I shall. Do you wish to know why? Because you don't mean it;
because you wouldn't like me if I obeyed you." She said gravely, "You
can't know that." "Yes, but I do. You like me--assume that--" Lucy
said, "You may"; and he, "I do. You like me because I am such as I am.
If I obeyed you in this I should cease to be such as I am and become
such as I am not and never have been. You might like me more--but you
might not. No, that's too much of a risk. I can't afford it." She had
said, "That's absurd," but she hadn't thought it so.

Mabel came to her for lunch and rallied her. "I saw you, my dear. But
I wouldn't spoil sport. All right--you might do much worse. He's very
much alive. Anyhow, he doesn't wear an--" Then Lucy was hurt. "Oh,
Mabel, that's horrid. You know I hate you to talk like that." Mabel
stood rebuked. "It was beastly of me. But you know I never could stand
his eyeglass. It is what they call anti-social in their novels.
Really, you might as well live in the Crystal Palace." Then she held
out her hand, and Lucy took it after some hesitation. But Mabel was
irrepressible. Almost immediately she had jumped into the fray again,
with "You're both going to his place in Hampshire, aren't you?" Then
Lucy had flushed; and Mabel had given her a queer look.

"That's all right," she presently said. "He asked us, you know, but we
can't. I hear that Vera Nugent is to be hostess. I rather liked her,
though of course you can never tell how such copious conversation will
wear. I don't think she stopped talking for a single moment. Laurence
thought he was going mad. It makes him broody, you know, like a hen.
He rubs his ears, and says his wattles are inflamed."

It was either that day, or another such day--it really doesn't matter
which day it was--that Mabel drifted into the subject of what she
called "the James romance." Did James--? Had James--? And where were
we standing now? Lucy, whose feelings upon the subject were more
complicated than they had been at first, was not very communicative;
but she owned there had been repetitions. Mabel, who was desperately
quick to notice, judged that she was mildly bored. "I see," she said;
"I see. But--that's all."

"All!" cried Lucy. "Yes, indeed."

Mabel said again, "I see." Lucy, who certainly didn't see, was silent;
and then Mabel with appalling candour said, "I suppose you would have
it out with him if you weren't afraid to."

Lucy was able to cope with that kind of thing. "Nothing would induce
me to do it. I shouldn't be able to lift my head up if I did. It would
not only be--well, horrible, but it would be very cruel as well. I
should feel myself a brute." On Mabel's shrug she was stung into an
attack of her own. "And whatever you may say, to me, I know that you
couldn't bring yourself to such a point. No woman could do it, who
respected herself." Mabel had the worst of it in the centre, but by a
flanking movement recovered most of the ground. She became very vague.
She said, as if to herself, "After all, you know, you may be mistaken.
Perhaps the less you say the better."

Mistaken! And "the less you say"! Lucy's grey eyes took intense
direction. "Please tell me what you mean, my dear. Do you think I'm
out of my senses? Do you really think I've imagined it all?"

"No, no," said Mabel quickly, and visibly disturbed. "No, no, of
course I don't. I really don't know what I meant. It's all too
confusing for simple people like you and me. Let's talk about
something else." Lucy, to whom the matter was distasteful, agreed; but
the thought persisted. Mistaken ... and "the less you say...!"



CHAPTER X

AT A WORLD'S EDGE


It was after that queer look, after her too conscious blush that she
began to envisage the state of her affairs. She was going to Martley
Thicket for Whitsuntide; it was an old engagement, comparatively old,
that is; she did want to go, and now she knew that she did. Well, how
much did she want to go? Ought she to want it? What had happened?

Questions thronged her when once she had opened a window. What did it
matter to her whether Urquhart qualified as an aviator or not? What
had made her ask him not to do it? How had she allowed him to say
"Assume that you like me"? The short dialogue stared at her in red
letters upon the dark. "Assume that you like me--" "You may assume
it." "I do." She read the packed little sentences over and over, and
studied herself with care. No, honestly, nothing jarred. There was no
harm; she didn't feel any tarnish upon her. And yet--she was looking
forward to Martley Thicket with a livelier blood than she had felt
since Easter when James had kissed her in the shrouded garden. A
livelier blood? Hazarding the looking-glass, she thought that she
could detect a livelier iris too. What had happened? Well, of course,
the answer to that question was involved in another: how much was she
to assume? How much did Urquhart like her? She hoped, against
conviction, that she might have answered these questions before she
met him again--which would probably be at Martley. Just now, stoutly
bearing her disapproval, he was doubtless at Byfleet or elsewhere
risking his neck. She answered a question possibly arising out of this
by a shrewd smile. "Of course I don't disapprove. He knows that. I
shiver; but I know he's perfectly right. He may be sure." The meeting
at Martley would, at the very least, be extremely interesting. She
left it there for the moment.

But having once begun to pay attention to such matters as these, she
pursued her researches--in and out of season. It was a busy time of
year, and James always laid great stress on what he called "the duties
of her station." She must edge up crowded stairways behind him, stand
at his side in hot and humming rooms where the head spun with the
effort not to hear what other people were saying--so much more
important, always, than what your partner was. James's height and
eyeglass seemed to give him an impartial air at these dreadful
ceremonies. Behind his glass disk he could afford to be impertinent.
And he was certainly rude enough to be an Under-Secretary. Without
that shining buckler of the soul he would have been simply nobody;
with it, he was a demi-god. Here then, under the very shadow of his
immortality, Lucy pursued her researches. What of the romantic,
hidden, eponymous James? Where did he stand now in her regard?

Since Easter at Wycross, James had not been her veiled Eros, but the
possibilities were all there. He was not a garden god, by any means,
nor a genius of the Spring. January and Onslow Square had not frozen
his currents; February and the Opera House had heightened his passion.
At any moment he might resume his devotional habit--even here in
Carlton House Terrace. And what then? Well--and this was odd--this
ought to have produced a state of tension very trying to the nerves;
and, well--it hadn't. That's all. At that very party in Carlton House
Terrace, with a band braying under the stairs, and a fat lord
shouting in her ear, her secret soul was trembling on a brink. She was
finding out to her half-rueful dismay--it was only half--that she was
prepared to be touched, prepared to be greatly impressed, but not
prepared to be thrilled as she had been, if James should kiss her
again. She was prepared, in fact, to present--as statesmen do when
they write to their sovereign--her grateful, humble duty--and no more.
In vain the band brayed, in vain Lord J----, crimson by her ear,
roared about the weather in the West of Ireland, Lucy's soul was
peering over the edge of her old world into the stretches of a misty
new one.

This was bad enough, and occupied her through busy nights and days;
but there was more disturbing matter to come, stirred up to cloud her
mind by Mabel's unwonted discretion. Mabel had been more than
discreet. She had been frightened. Pushing out into a stream of new
surmise, she had suddenly faltered and hooked at the quay. Lucy
herself was at first merely curious. She had no doubts, certainly no
fears. What had been the matter with Mabel, when she hinted that
perhaps, after all, James had never done anything? What could Mabel
know, or guess, or suspect? Lucy owned to herself, candidly, that
James was incomprehensible. After thirteen years, or was it
fourteen?--suddenly--with no warning symptoms, to plunge into such
devotion as never before, when everything had been new, and he only
engaged--! Men were like that when they were engaged. They aren't
certain of one, and leave no chances. But James, even as an engaged
man, had always been certain. He had taken her, and everything else,
for granted. She remembered how her sisters, not only Mabel, but the
critical Agnes (now Mrs. Riddell in the North), had discussed him and
found him too cocksure to be quite gallant. Kissed her? Of course he
had kissed her. Good Heavens. Yes, but not as he had that night at the
Opera. "You darling! You darling!" Now James had called her "my
darling" as often as you please--but never until then "you darling."
There's a world of difference. Anybody can see it.

And then--after the beautiful, the thrilling, the deeply touching
episode--the moment after it--there was the old, indifferent, slightly
bored James with the screwed eye and the disk. Not a hint, not a
ripple, not the remains of a flush. It was the most bewildering, the
most baffling jig-saw of a business she had ever heard of. You would
have said that he was two quite separate people; you might have
said--Mabel would have said at once--that James had had nothing to do
with it.

But she _had_ said so! The discovery stabbed Lucy in the eyes like a
flash of lightning, left her blind and quivering, with a swim of red
before her hurt vision. That was why Mabel had been frightened. And
now Lucy herself was frightened.

Francis Lingen, absurd! Mr. Urquhart? Ah, that was quite another
thing. She grew hot, she grew quite cold, and suddenly she began to
sob. Oh, no, no, not that. A flood of tossing thoughts came rioting
and racing in, flinging crests of foam, like white and beaten water.
She for a time was swept about, a weed in this fury of storm. She was
lost, effortless, at death's threshold. But she awoke herself from the
nightmare, walked herself about, and reason returned. It was nonsense,
unwholesome nonsense. Why, that first time, he was in the library with
James and Francis Lingen, his second visit to the house! Why, when she
was at the Opera he had been at Peltry with the Mabels. And as for
Wycross, he had wired from St. James's in the afternoon, and come on
the next day. Absurd--and thank God for it. And poor Francis Lingen!
She could afford to laugh at that. Francis Lingen was as capable of
kissing the Duchess of Westbury--at whose horrible party she had been
the other night--as herself.

She felt very safe, and enormously relieved. So much so that she could
afford herself the reflection that if hardihood had been all that was
wanting, Jimmy Urquhart would have had plenty and to spare. Oh, yes,
indeed. But--thank God again--he was a gentleman if ever there was
one. Nobody but a gentleman could afford to be so simple in dealing.

Having worked all this out, she felt that her feet at least were on
solid ground. A spirit of adventure was renewed in her, and a rather
unfortunate _contretemps_ provoked it. Before she knew where she was,
she was up to the neck, as Urquhart would have said, in a turbid
stream.

Francis Lingen, that elegant unfortunate, was certainly responsible,
if you could call one so tentative and clinging responsible for
anything. He had proposed the Flower Show, to which she had been, as
an earnest gardener, early in the morning, by herself, with a
note-book. She did not want to go with him at all; and moreover she
had an appointment to meet James at a wedding affair in Queen's Gate.
However, being ridiculously amiable where the pale-haired hectic was
concerned, go she did, and sat about at considerable length. He had
only cared to look at the sweet-peas, his passion of the hour, and
urged a chair upon her that he might the better do what he really
liked, look at her and talk about himself. So he did, and read her a
poem, and made great play with his tenderness, his dependence upon her
judgment and his crosses with the world. He pleaded for tea, which,
ordered, did not come; then hunted for the motor, which finally she
found for herself. She arrived late at Queen's Gate; the eyeglass
glared in horror. James, indeed, was very cross. What any chance
victim of his neighbourhood may have endured is not to be known. So
far as Lucy could see he did not open his mouth once while he was
there. He refused all nourishment with an angry gleam, and seemed
wholly bent upon making her self-conscious, uncomfortable and,
finally, indignant. Upon this goodly foundation he reared his mountain
of affront.

He made himself a monument of matter-of-fact impassivity during the
drive home. His arms were folded, he stared out of window; she thought
once she heard him humming an air. But he didn't smoke, as he
certainly would have done had relations been easy. He kept her at a
distance, but not aggressively.

Lucy was by this time very much annoyed. Her apologies had been frozen
at the front by his angry glare. She had no intention now of renewing
them, nor did she care to justify herself, as she might have done, by
pointing out that, while she was half-an-hour late, he was probably a
quarter of an hour too early. This would have been a safe venture, for
his fussiness over an appointment and tendency to be beforehand with
it were quite well known to himself. She kept the best face she could
upon the miserable affair, but was determined that she would force a
crisis at home, come what might.

Arrived at Onslow Square, James strode into the library and shut the
door behind him. When Crewdson was disposed of on his numerous
affairs, Lucy followed her lord. He turned, he stared, and waited for
her to speak.

Lucy said, "I think that you must be sorry that you have treated me
so. I feel it very much, and must ask you how you justify it."

James did his best to an easy calm. "Apologies should be in the air. I
should have looked for one myself an hour or so ago."

"You should have had it," she said, "if you had given me time. But you
stared me out of countenance the moment I came in. Anger before you
had even heard me is not a nice thing to face."

James turned pale. He used his most incisive tones. "I am ready to
hear your explanation. Perhaps I had better say that I know it."

Lucy showed him angry eyes. "If you know it, there is no need for me
to trouble you with it. You must also know that it isn't easy to get
away from a great crowd in a minute."

But he seemed not to hear her. He had another whip in waiting, which
nothing could have kept him from the use of. "I think that I must
trouble you, rather. I think I should be relieved by hearing from you
where the crowd was of which you were one--or two, indeed."

She discovered that he was white with rage, though she had never seen
him so before. "What do you mean, James?" she said--and he, "I know
that you were at the Flower Show. You were there with Lingen."

"Yes," said Lucy, "I was indeed. And why shouldn't I be?"

"I have told you before this what my views are about that. I don't
intend to repeat them, at present."

"I think you must be mad," said Lucy. "Do you mean to tell me that you
object to Francis Lingen to that extent--to the extent of such a scene
as this?"

He faced her from his height. "I do mean that."

"Then," she said, out of herself, "you are insulting me. I don't think
you can intend to do that. And I should like to say also that you, of
all the men in the world, are the last person to be jealous or
suspicious of anybody where I am concerned."

She hadn't meant to say that; but when she saw that he took it as a
commonplace of marital ethics, she determined to go further still.

He took it, in fact, just so. It seemed to him what any wife would say
to any indignant husband. "I beg your pardon," he said, "you don't
quite follow me. I agree with you that I should be the last person;
but I beg to point out to you that I should also be the first person.
And I will go on to add, if you will excuse me, that I should be the
only person."

"No person at all," said Lucy, "has the right or the reason to suspect
me of anything, or to be jealous of any of my acquaintance. You didn't
understand me: I suppose because you are too angry. What I meant you
to remember was how much, how very much, you are bound to believe in
me--now of all times in our life."

Here then was a Psyche with the lamp in her hand. Here was Lucy on the
limit of a world unknown. Here she stood, at her feet the tufted
grasses and field herbs, dusty, homely, friendly things, which she
knew. Beyond her, beyond the cliff's edge were the dim leagues of a
land and sea unknown. What lay out there beyond her in the mist? What
mountain and forest land lay there, what quiet islands, what sounding
mains?

But it was done now. James gazed blankly, but angrily, puzzled into
her face.

"I haven't the faintest notion what you mean," he said. Evidently he
had not.

She must go on, though she hated it. "You are very surprising. I can
hardly think you are serious. Let me remind you of the opera--of the
_Walküre_."

He gave his mind to it, explored the past, and so entirely failed to
understand her that he looked rather foolish. "I remember that we were
there." Then he had a flash of light--and shed it on her, God knows.
"I remember also that Lingen was in the box."

"Oh, Lingen! Are you mad on--? Do you not remember that you were there
before Lingen?"

"Yes, I do remember it." He stood, poor fool, revealed. Lucy's voice
rang clear.

"Very well. If that is all that your memory brings you, I have nothing
more to say."

She left him swiftly, and went upstairs in the possession of an
astounding truth, but rapt with it in such a whirlwind of wonder that
she could do no more than clutch it to her bosom as she flew. She sent
out word that she was not coming down to dinner, and locked herself in
with her truth, to make what she could of it.



CHAPTER XI

ANTEROS


Macartney was no fool in his own world, where a perfectly clear idea
of what you want to do combined with a nonchalant manner of "Take it
or leave it" had always carried him through the intricacies of
business. If he was a fool in supposing that precisely the same
armoury would defend him at home, there is this excuse for him, that
Lucy had encouraged him to suppose it. When she dashed from the room
at this recent moment he sat for some time with his eyes fixed upon
his foolscap; but presently found himself reading the same sentence
over and over again without understanding one word in it. He dropped
the document, rose and picked himself out a cigar, with deliberation
and attention disproportionate to the business. He cut, stabbed and
lighted the cigar, and stood by the mantelpiece, smoking and gazing
out of window.

He had overdone it. He had stretched _régime_ too far. There had been
a snap. Now, just where had he failed? Was it with Francis Lingen?
Perhaps. He must admit, though, that some good had come out of the
trouble. He felt reassured about Francis Lingen, because, as he
judged, women don't get angry in cases of the kind unless the husband
has nothing to be angry about. He felt very world-wise and shrewd as
he propounded this. Women like their husbands to be jealous,
especially if they are jealous with reason. Because, then, they say to
themselves, "Well, anyhow, he loves me still. I have him to fall back
upon, at all events." Capital! He gave a short guffaw, and resumed his
cigar. But Lucy was angry: obviously because he had wasted good
jealousy on a mere fancy. Damn it, he had overdone it. The next
thing--if he didn't look out--would be that she would give him
something to be jealous of. He must calm her--there would be no
difficulty in that, no loss of prestige.

Prestige: that was the thing you wanted to maintain. Discipline be
jiggered--that might do mischief--if you drove it too hard. The fact
was, he was a little too sharp with Lucy. She was a dear, gentle
creature, and no doubt one fell into the habit of pushing a willing
horse. He could see it all now perfectly. He had been put out when he
arrived at the Marchants' too early--she was not there; and then that
old fool Vane with his, "Saw your wife at the Chelsea thing, with
Lingen. They looked very settled"; that had put the lid on. That was
how it was; and he had been too sharp. Well, one must make
mistakes--

He wondered what she had meant about the Opera. Why had she harped
upon that string? "You were there before Francis Lingen," she had
said--well, and then--she had been furious with him. He had said, "I
know that I was," and she, "If that is all your memory brings you--"
and off she went. He smoked hard--lifted his hand and dropped it
smartly to his mantelpiece. No; that was a thing no man could fathom.
A Lucyism--quite clear to herself, no doubt. Well, he'd leave that
alone. The more one tried to bottom those waters, the less one fished
up. But he would make peace with her after dinner.

He heard, "Mrs. Macartney is not dining this evening; she has a bad
headache, and doesn't wish to be disturbed," received it with a curt
nod, and accepted it simply. Better to take women at their word. Her
troubles would have simmered down by the morning, whereas if he were
to go up now, one of two things: either she'd be angry enough to let
him batter at the door to no purpose--and feel an ass for his pains;
or she would let him in, and make a fuss--in which case he would feel
still more of an ass. "Ask Mrs. Macartney if I can do anything," he
had said to Smithers, and was answered, "I think Mrs. Macartney is
asleep, sir." He hoped she was. That would do her a world of good.

Morning. In the breakfast-room he faced a Lucy self-possessed, with
guarded eyes, and, if he could have seen it, with implied reproach
stiffening every line of her. Her generosity gratified him, but should
have touched him keenly. She came to him at once, and put up her face.
"I'm sorry I was so cross, James." His immediate feeling, I say, was
one of gratification. That was all right. She had come in. To that
succeeded a wave of kindness. He dropped his glass, and took her
strongly in his arms. "Dearest, I behaved very badly. I'm truly
sorry." He kissed her, and for a moment she clung to him, but avoided
his further kisses. Yet he had kissed her as a man should. She had
nothing more to say, but he felt it her due that he should add
something while yet he held her. "As for poor Francis--I know that I
was absurd--I admit it frankly." He felt her shake and guessed her
indignation. "You'll believe me, dear. You know I don't like owning
myself a fool." Then she had looked up, still in his arms--"Why
should you be so stupid? How can you possibly be? You, of all people!"
There she was again.

But he intended to make peace once and for all. "My dearest, I can't
be more abject, for the life of me. I have confessed that I was an
abounding ass. Please to believe in me. Ask Francis Lingen to tea for
a month of days--and not a word from me!"

She had laughed, rather scornfully, and tried to free herself. He
kissed her again before he let her go. Almost immediately he resumed
his habits--eyeglass, _Morning Post_, and scraps of comment. He made
an effort and succeeded, he thought, in being himself. "Johnny Mallet
gives another party at the Bachelors to-day. I believe I go. Has he
asked you? He means to. He's a tufthunter--but he gets tufts.... I see
that the Fathers in God are raving about the Tithe Bill. I shall have
Jasper Mellen at me--and the Dean too. Do you remember--did you ever
hear, I wonder, of _Box and Cox_? They have a knack of coming to me on
the same day. Once they met on the doorstep, and each of them turned
and fled away. It must have been very comic...." Lucy busied herself
with her letters and her coffee-cups. She wished that she did not feel
so ruffled, but--a walk would do her good. She would go into the Park
presently, and look at the tulips and lilacs. It was horrid to feel so
stuffy on such a perfect day. How long to Whitsuntide? That was to be
heavenly--if James didn't get inspired by the dark! Something would
have to be prepared for that. In her eyes, sedate though they were,
there lurked a gleam: the beacon-fire of a woman beleaguered.
Certainly Jimmy Urquhart liked her. He had said that she liked him.
Well, and so she did. Very much indeed.

James went, forgiven, to his Bishops and Deans, and to lunch with his
Johnny Mallet and the tufted. Lucy, her household duties done, arrayed
herself for the tulips of the Park.

The grey watches of the night with their ache and moments of panic,
the fever and fret, the wearing down of rage and emptying of wonder
and dismay, the broken snatches of dream-sleep, and the heavy slumber
which exhaustion finally gave her--all this had brought downstairs, to
be kissed, embraced and forgiven, a Lucy disillusioned and tired to
death, but schooled to patience. Her conclusion of the whole matter
now was that it was James who had indeed loved her in the dark, with
an access of passion which he had never shown before and could drop
apparently as fitfully as he won to it, and also with a fulness of
satisfaction to himself which she did not pretend to understand. It
was James and no other, simply because any other was unthinkable. Such
things were not done. Jimmy Urquhart--and what other could she imagine
it?--was out of the question. She had finally brushed him out as a
girl flecks the mirror in a cotillon. It was James; but why he had
been so moved, how moved, how so lightly satisfied, how his conduct at
other times could be fitted in--really, it didn't matter two straws.
It meant nothing but a moment's silliness, it led to nothing, it
mended nothing--and it broke nothing. Her soul was her own, her heart
was her own. It was amiable of him, she dared say, but had become
rather a bore. She conceived of a time at hand when she might have to
be careful that he shouldn't. But just now she wouldn't make a fuss.
Anything but that. He was within his rights, she supposed; and let it
rest at that. So arrayed, she faced him, and, to let nothing be
omitted on her part, she herself apologised for what had been his
absurd fault, and so won as much from him as he could ever have given
anybody. As for Francis Lingen--she had not once given him a thought.

Now, however, James away to his Bishops, she arrayed herself anew, and
went out, _fraîche et dispose_, into the Park, intending that she
should see Urquhart. And so she did. He was on horseback and
dismounted the moment he saw her. He was glad to see her, she could
tell, but did not insist upon his gladness. He admired her, she could
see, but took his admiration as a matter of course. She wore
champagne-colour. She had snakeskin shoes, a black hat. She was
excited, and had colour; her eyes shone.

"Well," he said, "here you are then. That's a good thing. I began to
give you up."

"How did you know--?" She stopped, and bit her lip.

"I didn't. But I'm very glad to see you. You look very well. Where are
you going?"

She nodded her direction. "Tulips. Just over there. I always
pilgrimise them."

"All right. Let us pilgrimise them. Tulips are like a drug. A little
is exquisite, and you are led on. Excess brings no more enchantment,
only nausea. You buy a million and plant your woodland, and the result
is horror. A hundred would have been heavenly. That's what I find."

She had mockery in her look, gleams of it shot with happiness to be
there. "Is that what you've done at Martley? I shan't praise you when
I see it. I hate too-muchness."

"So do I, but always too late. I ought to learn from you, whose
frugality is part of your charm. One can't imagine too much Lucy."

"Ah, don't be sure," she cautioned him. "Ask James."

"I shall. I'm quite equal to that. I'll ask him to-day. He's to be at
an idiotic luncheon, to which I'm fool enough to be going.
Marchionesses and all the rest of it."

"How can you go to such things when you might be--flying?"

"Earning your displeasure? Oh, I know, I know. I didn't know how to
refuse Mallet. He seemed to want me. I was flattered. As a matter of
fact--I _have_ flown."

"Alone?"

"Good Lord, no. I had an expert there. He let me have the levers. I
had an illusion. But I always do."

"Do tell me your illusion."

"I thought that I could sing."

"You did sing, I'm sure."

"I might have. One miracle the more. As for the machine--it wasn't a
machine, it was a living spirit."

"A male spirit or a female spirit?"

"Female, I think. Anyhow I addressed it as such."

"What did you say to her?"

"I said, 'You darling.'"

That startled her, if you like! She looked frightened, then coloured
deeply. Urquhart seemed full of his own thoughts.

"How's Lancelot?" he asked her.

That helped her. "Oh, he delights me. Another 'living spirit.' He
never fails to ask after you."

"Stout chap."

"He harps on your story. The first you ever told us. This time he put
in his postscript, 'How is Wives and Co?'"

He nodded. "Very good. I begat an immortal. That tale will never die.
He'll tell it to his grandchildren."

They stood, or strolled at ease, by the railings, she within them, he
holding his horse outside them. The tulips were adjudged, names taken,
colours approved.

"You'll see mine," he said, "in ten days. Do you realise that?"

She was radiant. "I should think so. That has simply got to happen.
Are you going to have other people there?"

"Vera," he said, "and her man, and I rather think Considine, her man's
brother. Fat and friendly, with a beard, and knows a good deal about
machines, one way and another. I want his advice about hydroplanes,
among other things. You'll like him."

"Why shall I like him?"

"Because he's himself. He has no manners at all, only feelings. Nice
feelings. That's much better than manners."

"Yes, I dare say they are." She thought about it. "There's a
difference between manner and manners."

"Oh, rather. The more manner you have the less manners."

"Yes, I meant that. But even manners don't imply feelings, do they?"

"I was going to say, Never. But that wouldn't be true. You have
charming manners: your feelings' clothes and a jolly good fit."

"How kind you are." She was very pleased. "Now, _you_--what shall I
say?"

"You might say that I have no manners, and not offend me. I have no
use for them. But I have feelings, sometimes nice, sometimes horrid."

"I am sure that you couldn't be horrid."

"Don't be sure," he said gravely. "I had rather you weren't. I have
done amiss in my day, much amiss; and I shall do it again."

She looked gently at him; her mouth showed the Luini compassion,
long-drawn and long-suffering, because it understood. "Don't say that.
I don't think you mean it."

He shook his head, but did not cease to watch her. "Oh, but I mean it.
When I want a thing, I try to get it. When I see my way, I follow it.
It seems like a law of Nature. And I suppose it is one. What else is
instinct?"

"Yes," she said, "but I suppose we have feelings in us so that we may
realise that other people have them too."

"Yes, yes--or that we may give them to those who haven't got any of
their own."

They had become grave, and he, at least, moody. Lucy dared not push
enquiry. She had the ardent desire to help and the instinct to make
things comfortable on the surface, which all women have, and which
makes nurses of them. But she discerned trouble ahead. Urquhart's
startling frankness had alarmed her before, and she didn't trust
herself to pass it off if it flashed once too often. Flashes like that
lit up the soul, and not of the lamp-holder only.

They parted, with unwillingness on both sides, at Prince's Gate, and
Lucy sped homewards with feet that flew as fast as her winged
thoughts. That "You darling" was almost proof positive. And yet he had
been at Peltry that night; and yet he couldn't have dared! Now even as
she uttered that last objection she faltered; for when daring came
into question, what might he not dare? Remained the first. He had been
at Peltry, she knew, because she had been asked to meet him there and
had refused on the opera's account. Besides, she had heard about his
riding horses as if they were motors, and-- Here she stood still; and
found herself shaking. That letter--in that letter of Mabel's about
his visit to Peltry, had there not been something of a call to London,
and return late for dinner? And the opera began at half-past six. What
was the date of his call to London? Could she find that letter? And
should she hunt for it, or leave it vague? And then she thought of
Martley. And then she blushed.



CHAPTER XII

MARTLEY THICKET (1)


Urquhart was a man of explosive action and had great reserve of
strength. He was moved by flashes of insight, and was capable of
long-sustained flights of vehement effort; but his will-power was
nourished entirely by those moments of intense prevision, which showed
him a course, and all the stages of it. The mistakes he made, and they
were many and grievous, were mostly due to overshooting his mark,
sometimes to underrating it. In the headlong and not too scrupulous
adventure he was now upon, both defects were leagued against him.

When he first saw Lucy at her dinner-party, he said to himself,
"That's a sweet woman. I shall fall in love with her." To say as much
was proof that he had already done so; but it was the sudden
conviction of it which inspired him, filled him with effervescent
nonsense and made him the best of company, for a dinner-party.
Throughout it, at his wildest and most irresponsible, his fancy and
imagination were at work upon her. He read her to the soul, or
thought so.

Chance, and Lancelot, gave him the chart of the terrain. The switch at
the drawing-room door gave him his plan. The opportunity came, and he
dared to take it. He marked the effect upon her. It was exactly what
he had foreseen. He saw her eyes humid upon Macartney, her hand at
rest on his arm. Jesuitry palliated what threatened to seem monstrous,
even to him. "God bless her, I drive her to her man. What's the harm
in that?"

So he went on--once more, and yet again; and in the meantime by
daylight and by more honest ways he gained her confidence and her
liking. He saw no end to the affair so prosperously begun, and didn't
trouble about one. All he cared about just now were two
courtships--the vicarious in the dark, and the avowed of the daylight.

He intended to go on. He was full of it--in the midst of his other
passions of the hour, such as this of the air. He was certain of his
direction, as certain as he had ever been. But now his mistakes and
miscalculations began. He had mistaken his Lucy, and his Macartney
too.

What he didn't know about Macartney, Lucy did know; what he didn't
know about Lucy was that she had found out James. James as Eros
wouldn't do, chiefly because such conduct on James's part would have
been incredible. Urquhart didn't know it would be incredible, nor did
he know that she did.

One other thing he didn't know, which was that Lucy was half his own
before she started for Martley. She, in fact, didn't know it either.
She had been his from the moment when she had asked him to keep out of
the air, and he had declined.

All this is necessary matter, because in the light of it his next
deliberated move in his game was a bad mistake.

On the night before she was expected at Martley, being there himself,
he wrote her a letter to this effect:

    "Dear Mrs. Macartney: To my dismay and concern I find that I
    can't be here to receive you, nor indeed until you are on the
    point to go away. I shall try hard for Sunday, which will give
    me one day with you--better to me than a thousand elsewhere.
    Vera will be my curate. Nothing will be omitted which will
    show you how much Martley owes you, or how much I am, present
    or absent, yours,

                                                     "J. U."

That letter he gave to Vera Nugent to deliver to Lucy. Vera wanted to
know what it was all about.

"It's to say that I can't be here," he said. "That is the fact,
unfortunately."

"Why, my dear Jimmy, I thought you adored her. Isn't the poor lady the
very latest?"

"My dear girl, I do adore her. Leave it at that. It's an excellent
reason for not being here: the best. But I'm going up with a star,
which is another reason. And I hope to be here on Sunday, which is the
most I can afford myself. Really, that's all. But you like her, you
say; or you should."

"I do like her. She's not very talkative--to me; but listens well.
Considine will like her. Listeners are rare with him, poor dear. But
you move me. I didn't know you were so far gone."

"Never mind how far I am gone, provided that I go," said Urquhart.

"Oh, at this rate, I will hasten you. I can't be bothered with a
_cause célèbre_. But what am I to tell the lady? You must be
practical, my fine man."

"Tell her that I was sent for in a hurry. Hint at the air if you think
proper. I think I have said all that is necessary in the note."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Macartneys were expected to lunch. Urquhart left his house at
noon, driving himself in a motor. He disappeared in the forest, but
didn't go very far.

James heard of his host's defection with impassivity and a glance of
his eyeglass. "Wonder what Jimmy has shied off for?" he said to Lucy
through the dressing-room door. "Aeroplaning or royalty, do you think?
The ----s may have sent for him. I know he knows them. But it's
characteristic. He makes a fuss about you, so that you think you're
his life or death; and then you find out--not at all! You simply don't
exist--that's all. What do you think?"

"I don't think that we don't exist," she said. "I think that something
important has happened."

"Oh, well," said James, "one had got into the way of thinking that one
was important oneself. D----d cool, I call it."

There had been a moment when Lucy knew anger; but that had soon
passed. She knew that she was bitterly disappointed, and found a
rueful kind of happiness in discovering how bitterly. She had reached
the stage where complete happiness seems to be rooted in
self-surrender. In a curious kind of way the more she suffered the
more surely she could pinch herself on the chin and say, "My dear, you
are caught." There was comfort in this--and Martley itself, house,
gardens, woodlands, the lake, the vistas of the purple wolds of forest
country, all contributed to her enchaining. Luncheon passed off well
under Vera Nugent's vivacious brown eyes, which could not penetrate
the gentle mask of Lucy's manner. Nugent the husband was a sleepy,
good-humoured giant; Lord Considine, whose beard was too long, and
jacket-sleeves much too short--as were his trousers--"his so-called
trousers," as James put it in his scorn--talked fiercely about
birds'-nests and engaged Lucy for the whole afternoon. This was not
allowed him by his sister-in-law, who had other more sociable plans,
but the good man had his pleasure of a docile listener after tea, took
her for a great walk in the woods, and exhibited nearly all his
treasures, though, as he said, she should have been there six weeks
earlier. Alas, if she had been, she would have had a more open mind
to give to the birds and their affairs.

After dinner, when they were on the terrace under the stars, he
returned to his subject. There were nightingales, it seemed. What did
Mrs. Macartney say to that? It appeared that six miles away the
nightingale was an unknown fowl. Here, of course, they were
legionaries. You might hear six at a time: two triangles of them. Did
she know that they sang in triangles? She did not. Very well, then:
what did she say? What about shoes--a cloak--a shawl? All these things
could be brought. Lucy said that she would fetch them for herself, and
went upstairs--shallow, broad stairs of black oak, very much admired
by the experts. But of them and their excellence she had no thought.
She did not care to let her thoughts up to the surface just then.
Adventure beckoned her.

When she returned Nugent had withdrawn himself to the smoking-room,
and James was talking to Vera Nugent about people one knew. Neither of
them was for nightingales. "You are very foolhardy," James said. "I
can't help you with nightingales." Lord Considine, in a black Spanish
cloak, with the staff of a pilgrim to Compostella, offered his arm.
"We'll go first to the oak Spinney," he said. "It's rather spongy, I'm
afraid, but who minds a little cold water?" Vera assured him that she
did for one, and James added that he was rather rheumatic. "Come
along, Mrs. Macartney," said the lord. "These people make me sorry for
them." So they went down the steps and dipped into the velvet night.

It was barely dark skirting the lake. You could almost see the rings
made by rising trout, and there was enough of you visible at least to
send the waterfowl scuttering from the reeds. Beyond that again, you
could descry the pale ribbon of the footpath, and guess at the
exuberant masses of the peony bushes, their heavy flowers, when they
were white, still smouldering with the last of the sunset's fire. But
once in the woods you had to feel your way, and the silence of it all,
like the darkness, was thick, had a quality which you discovered only
by the soft close touch of it upon your cheeks and eyes. It seemed to
clog the ears, and made breathing a deeper exercise. The further in
they went the greater the guesswork of the going. Lord Considine went
in front, to keep the branches from her face.

Upon that rich, heavy silence the first birds' song stole like a
sense of tears: the low, tentative, pensive note which seems like the
welling of a vein. Lucy stayed and breathlessly listened. The
doubtfulness, the strain of longing in it chimed with her own mood,
which was one, perhaps, of passive wonderment. She waited, as one who
is to receive; she was not committed, but she was prepared: everything
was to come. The note was held, it waxed, it called, and then broke,
as it were, into a fountain of crystal melody. Thereafter it purred of
peace, it floated and stopped short as if content. But out of the dark
another took up the song, and further off another, provoking our first
musician to a new stave. Lucy, with parted lips, held her heart. Love
was in this place, overshadowing her; her sightless eyes were wide,
waiting upon it; and it came. She heard a step in the thicket; she
stayed without motion, will or thought. _Expectans expectavit._ She
was in the strange arms, and the strange kisses were on her parted
lips.

She knew not, nor cared, how long this rapture held. She got, and she
gave. James, or another, this was Eros who had her now. She heard,
"Oh, Lucy, oh, my love, my love," and she thought to have answered,
"You have me--what shall I do?" But she had no reply to her question,
and seemed to have no desire unsatisfied.

Lord Considine's voice calling, "I say, shall we go on--or do you
think you had better go in?" sounded a very homely note. Her Eros
still held her, even as she answered, "Perhaps we had better turn back
now. I could stop out forever on such a night. It has been more
beautiful than I can say." Approval of the sentiment expressed was
stamped upon her. For a moment of wild surrender she clung as she
kissed; then she was gently relinquished, and the lord was at hand.
"There's nothing quite like it, is there?" he said. "I've heard
astounding orchestras of birds in South America; but nothing at all
like this--which, moreover, seems to me at its best in England. In
Granada, up there in the Wellington elms, they absolutely--mind, mind,
here's a briar-root--they shout at you. There's a brazen hardihood
about them. In Athens, too, in the King's Garden, it is a kind of
clamour of sound--like an Arab wedding. No, no, I say that we are
unrivalled for nightingales." The enthusiastic man galloped on, and
Lucy, throbbing in the dark, was grateful to him.

The lights of the house recalled her to the world. Presently, up the
slope, she saw Vera Nugent, at the piano, turning to say something to
somebody. It was James, rather bored in an arm-chair. James liked
neither the society of women nor the notes of a piano. But he liked
still less for such things to be known of him. His own social standard
may perhaps be put thus: he liked to appear bored without boring his
companions. On the whole he flattered himself that, high as it was, he
nearly always reached it.

"Where's my beautiful young brother?" said Lord Considine, plunging in
upon them. "Asleep, I'll take my oath. My dear Vera, you are too easy
with him. The man is getting mountainous. You two little know what
you've missed--hey, Mrs. Macartney?" He was obviously overheated, but
completely at ease with himself.

"What do you say we have missed?" Vera asked of James, and he now, on
his feet, said bravely, "For myself, a nasty chill." A chill--out
there!

       *       *       *       *       *

Lucy was asked, Did she like it all, and boldly owned, All. "The dark
is like an eiderdown bed. Impossible to imagine anything softer." She
rubbed her eyes. "It has made me dreadfully sleepy," she said. "I
think, if you won't be horrified--" Vera said that she should go up
with her. James stooped to her cheek, Lord Considine bowed over her
hand.

In Lucy's room the pair had a long talk, all of which I don't pretend
to report. It began with, "I'm so glad that you take to poor
Considine. You are so very much his sort of woman. He's a dear, simple
creature, far too good for most of us--and a Nugent freak, I assure
you. They've never known the like in the County of Cork.... I like him
immensely, but of course he's too remote for the like of me. No small
talk, you know, and I'm aburst with it. I talk while I'm thinking, and
he when he _has_ thought. You understand that kind, evidently. I
suppose your clever husband is like that. Not that I don't get on with
_him_. We did excellently--I think he knew everybody that I could
think of, and I everybody he chose to mention. But Jimmy likes
Considine, you know.... By the way, it was very disgraceful of Jimmy,
but not so disgraceful as you might think. In its way it's a
compliment. He thinks so much of you--Oh, I may as well tell you the
shocking truth. He ran away. What a moth in the drawing-room ought to
do, but never can, Jimmy, not at all a moth, quite suddenly did. My
dear Mrs. Macartney, Jimmy ran away from you. Flying! I doubt it
profoundly. Wrestling, I fancy, fighting beasts at Ephesus. You have
doubtless discovered how enthusiastic Jimmy is. Most attractive, no
doubt, but sometimes embarrassing. As once, when we were in Naples--in
the funicolare, halfway up Vesuvius--Jimmy sees a party at the other
end of the carriage: mother, daughter, two pig-tailed children, _and_
a governess--quite a pretty gel. Jimmy was enormously struck with this
governess. He could see nothing else, and nobody else either, least of
all me, of course. He muttered and rolled his eyes about--his chin
jutted like the bow of a destroyer. Presently he couldn't stand it. He
marched across the carriage and took off his hat with a bow--my dear,
to the governess, poor gel! 'I beg your pardon,' says he, 'but I have
to tell you something. I think you are the most beautiful person I
ever saw in my life, and take pride in saying so.' Wasn't it awful? I
didn't dare look at them--but it seemed all right afterwards. I
suppose she told her people that of course he was mad. So he is, in a
way; but it's quite nice madness. I won't say that Jimmy never goes
too far--but nobody could be nicer about it afterwards than Jimmy--no
one. He's awfully sorry, and contrite, and all that. Most people like
him amazingly. I suppose he's told you about our father? He loves all
the stories there are about him ..." and so on. Vera Nugent was a
great talker.

Lucy at her prayers, Lucy in her bed, had large gaps in the sequence
of her thoughts. Safety lay only with Lancelot. She could centre
herself in him. Lancelot it was who with forceful small fingers, and
half-shy, half-sly eyes, finally closed down hers, with a "Go to
sleep, you tired mamma."



CHAPTER XIII

MARTLEY THICKET (2)


The day that succeeded was prelude to the night, sufficient to show
Lucy her way into that spacious unknown. By her own desire she passed
it quietly, and had leisure to review and to forecast.

She put it to herself, roughly, thus. I may guess, but I don't know,
who loves me so. It cannot continue--it shall stop this very night.
But this one night I must go to him, if only to say that it can never
be again. And it won't be again; I am sure of that. However he may
take it, whatever he may be driven to, he will do what I say must be.
As for me, I don't think women can ever be very happy. I expect I
shall get used to it--one does, to almost anything, except
toothache. And I have Lancelot. She put all this quite frankly to
herself, not shirking the drab outlook or the anguish of doing a thing
for the last time--always a piercing ordeal for her. As for James, if
she thought of him at all, it was with pity. Poor dear, he really was
rather dry!

She ought to have been very angry with Urquhart, but she was not. "The
first time he did it, I understand. I am sure he had a sudden thought,
and couldn't resist it. It must have been more than half fun, and the
rest because it was so romantic. The other times were much more wrong.
But I'm not angry with him. I ought to be--but I'm not--not at all. I
suppose that is because I couldn't be angry with him if I tried ...
not if he did much more.... No, I am sure he doesn't hold me cheap.
He's not at all like that. James might--only James holds all women
cheap. But He doesn't. I never felt at all like this about a man
before. Only--it must stop, after this once...."

You see, he had not kindled passion in her, even if there were any to
be kindled. Lucy, with a vehement imagination, lacked initiative. You
could touch her in a moment, if you knew how, or if you were the right
person. Now Urquhart had never touched, though he had excited, her. To
be touched you must respond to a need of hers--much more that than
have a need of your own. And to be the right person you must be
empowered, according to Lucy. Urquhart was not really empowered, but
an usurper. Of course he didn't know that. He reasoned hastily, and
superficially. He thought her to be like most women, struck by
audacity. What really struck her about him were his timeliness--he had
responded to a need of hers when he had first kissed her--and his rare
moments of tenderness. "You darling!" Oh, if James could only have
said that instead of "My darling!" Poor James, what a goose he was.

It was a very peaceful day. James and Nugent had driven out to play
golf on some first-class course or other by the sea. Lord Considine
was busy with his secretary over a paper for the British Association.
In the afternoon he promised Lucy sight of two golden orioles, and
kept his promise. She had leisure to look about her and find traces of
Urquhart in much that was original, and more that was comfortable and
intimate, in Martley Thicket. It was a long two-storeyed house of
whitewashed brick, with a green slate roof, intermixed with
reed-thatch, deep-eaved and verandahed along the whole south front.
The upper windows had green _persanes_. The house stood on the side of
a hill, was terraced, and looked over a concave of fine turf into a
valley, down whose centre ran the lake, at whose bottom was the wood;
and beyond that the moors and beech-masses of the forest. Beside the
house, and behind it, was a walled kitchen garden, white-walled, with
a thatch atop. On the other side were stables, kennels and such-like.
Everything was grown to the top of its bent; but there was nothing
very rare. "No frills," said Lord Considine, and approved of it all.
"I dare say a woman would beautify it, but it would cease to be
Jimmy's and would cease to be interesting too. She would have more
flowers and fewer shrubs. Now Jimmy knows enough about it to
understand that shrubs and trees are the real test of gardening.
Anybody can grow flowers; but shrubs want science." Lucy felt rebuked.
She had desiderated more flowers. James, who knew nothing and cared
little about gardens, passed approval of the house and offices. "It
doesn't smell of money," he said, "and yet you see what a lot it means
when you look into it." Success, in fact, without visible effort: one
of James's high standards. He didn't know how Jimmy got his money, but
had no doubts at all of its being there. A man who could lend Francis
Lingen £10,000 without a thought must be _richissimè_. Yet Jimmy had
no men-servants in the house, and James glared about him for the
reason. Lucy had a reason. "I suppose, you know, he wants to be really
comfortable," she proposed, and James transferred his mild abhorrence
to her. "Comfortable, without a fellow to put out his things!" He
scoffed at her. But she was rather short with him, even testy. "My
dear James, Mr. Urquhart's things are things to be put on or taken
off--like Lord Considine's 'so-called clothes.' To you they seem to be
robes of ceremony, or sacrificial vestments." James stared rather
through than at her, as if some enemy lurked behind her. "My clothes
seem to annoy you. May I suggest that somebody must get the mud off
them, and that I had rather it wasn't me? As for ceremony--" But she
had gone. James shrugged her out of mind, and wondered vaguely if she
was rather attracted by Jimmy Urquhart. It was bound to be
somebody--at her age. Thirty-two she must be, when they begin to like
a fling. Well, there was nothing in it. Later on it occurred to him
that she was looking uncommonly well just now. He saw her, in white,
cross the lawn: a springy motion, a quick lift, turn of the head. She
looked a girl, and a pretty one at that. His heart warmed to her. How
could a man have a better wife than that? Success without effort
again! There it was.

The evening came, the close of a hot and airless day. The sun set
heavy and red. A bluish mist seemed to steal out of the forest and
shroud the house. The terrace was not used after dinner, and when the
men joined Vera and her in the drawing-room Lord Considine, who had
proposed a game of chess to James at the table, now came forward with
board and box of men. Nugent, as usual, had disappeared. "He's dormant
when there's no hunting," his wife explained. "He has nothing to kill
and hates his fellow-creatures." "Then," said James, "he might kill
some of them. I could furnish him with a rough list." Lucy felt
restless and strayed about the room, looking at things here and there
without seeing them. Vera watched her, saw her wander to the open
window and stand there looking gravely into the dark. She said
nothing, and presently Lucy stepped out and disappeared. Vera, with
raised eyebrows and a half smile, resumed her book.

Lucy was now high-hearted on her quest--her quest and mission. It was
to be this once, and for the last time. She followed the peony path
from the lake to the thicket, entered among the trees and pushed her
way forward. Long before she reached the scene of last night's wonder
she was a prisoner, her lips a prize. There was very little disguise
left now. For a full time they clung together and loved without words;
but then he spoke. "So you came! I hoped, I waited, I thought that you
might. Oh, my Lucy, what a fact for me!"

She answered simply and gently, "I came--I had to come--but--"

"Well, my love?"

"Ah," she said, "but this must be for the last time." This was not
taken as she had meant it to be. Love began again. Then he said,
"That's absurd."

"No, no," she protested, "it's right. It must be so. You would not
have me do anything else."

"And I must go?"

"Yes, indeed, you must go now."

"Not yet, Lucy. Soon."

"No, at once," she told him. "The last time is come, and gone. You
must not keep me."

"Let me talk to you, so, for a few minutes. There's everything to
say."

"No," she said, "tell me nothing. I dare not know it. Please let me go
now."

"A last time, then, Lucy." She yielded her lips, but unwillingly; for
now her mind was made up. The thing had to be done, and the sooner the
better.

"Ah," he said, "how can I let you go?"

"Easily," she answered, "when I ask you"; and was unanswerable. She
forced herself free, and stood undecided.

"You needn't go back yet," he said, but she thought she must.

"I came out alone," she told him, "but Vera was in the room. So were
the others. I don't know what they will think."

"Nothing at all," he said. "Well, everything shall be as you wish. You
see that you have only to name your wish."

"I have one thing to ask you--I dare not ask any more," she said. Her
voice had a wavering sound.

"Ask," he said, "and I'll tell you the truth."

"You don't think it wicked of me, to have come? Because I did come. I
thought that I must, because--because I could never explain at any
other time, in any other way. You don't think--lightly of me?"

"Oh, my dear, my dear," he said--and she felt him tremble, though he
did not touch her. "I think more dearly of you than of anything in
heaven. The world holds no other woman for me. So it will always be."

She said quietly, "It's very wonderful. I don't understand it at all.
I thought perhaps--I wondered--if I had been angry--"

"I deserve that, and more."

"I know I ought to be angry. So I should be if--"

"Well, my love, well?"

But she couldn't tell him, and asked him to let her go. They parted at
the entry of the wood with Good night, and Lucy flitted back with a
pain in her heart like the sound of wailing. But women can wail at
heart and show a fair face to the world. Her stretched smile had lost
none of its sweetness, her eyes none of their brightness. Vera Nugent
watched her narrowly, and led the conversation upstairs. She thought
that she detected a pensive note, but assured herself that all was
pretty well. "That's a remarkable woman," she said to herself, "who
would rather have a heartache now than grin with misery next week.
After this I'd trust her anywhere."

       *       *       *       *       *

On Sunday morning Urquhart made an explicit return to Martley,
arriving at the hour of eleven in his motor of battleship grey colour
and formidable fore-extension. Behind it looked rather like a toy.
Lucy had gone to church alone, for James never went, and Vera Nugent
simply looked appealing and then laughed when she was invited. That
was her way of announcing her religion, and a pleasant one. Lord
Considine was out for the day, with sandwiches bulging his pockets.
Nugent had been invisible since overnight. He was slugging, said his
wife.

Returning staidly through the wood, she saw Urquhart waiting for her
at the wicket, and saw him, be it owned, through a veil of mist. But
it was soon evident, from his address, that the convention set up was
to be maintained. The night was to take care of itself; the day was to
know nothing of it, officially. His address was easy and
light-hearted. "Am I to be forgiven? Can I expect it? Let me tell you
that I do expect it. You know me better than to suppose that I didn't
want to be here on your first visit."

She answered him with the same spirit. "I think you might have been, I
must say."

"No, I couldn't. There was no doubt about it. I simply had to go."

"So Vera told me." Then she dared. "May I ask if you went far?"

He tipped his head sideways. "Too far for my peace of mind, anyhow."

"That tells me nothing. I am not to know any more?"

"You are to know what you please."

"Well," she said, "I please to forget it. Now I had better tell you
how much I love Martley. James says that the house is perfect in its
way; but I say that you have done justice to the site, and think it
higher praise."

"It is. I'm much obliged to you. The problem was--not to enhance the
site, for that was out of the question; rather to justify the
impertinence of choosing to put any building there. Because of course
you see that any house is an impertinence in a forest."

"Yes, of course--but not yours."

Urquhart shrugged. "I'm not afraid of your flatteries, because I
know," he said. "The most that can be said for me is that I haven't
choked it up with scarlet and orange flowers. There's not a geranium
in the place, and I haven't even a pomegranate in a tub, though I
might."

"Oh, no," she said warmly, "there's nothing finicky about your
garden--any more than there is about you. There was never such a man
of direction--at least I never met one." The moment she had said it
she became embarrassed; but he took no notice. His manner was perfect.
They returned by the lake, and stayed there a while to watch Nugent
trying to catch trout. The rest of the day she spent in Urquhart's
company, who contrived with a good deal of ingenuity to have her to
himself while appearing to be generally available. After dinner,
feeling sure of him, she braved the tale-bearing woods and
nightingales vocal of her sweet unease. There was company on this
occasion, but she felt certain it would not have been otherwise had
they been retired with the night. She was thoughtful and quiet, and
really her heart was full of complaining. He was steadily cheerful,
and affected a blunt view of life at large.

She did not look forward to leaving him on the morrow, and as good as
said so. "I have been enchanted here," she said, "and hate the thought
of London. But James won't hear of Wycross in June. He loves the
world."

Urquhart said, "What are you going to do in August? Wycross?"

"No, we never go there in August. It's too hot-- And there's
Lancelot. A boy must have excitement. I expect it will come to my
taking him to the sea, unless James consents to Scotland. We used to
do that, but now--well, he's bored there."

He was looking at her, she felt, though she couldn't see him. "Did you
ever go to Norway?" She shook her head. He said no more on that head
just then.

"I shall see you in London," he told her. "I am going to take my
Certificate at Brooklands. Next week I hope. You might come and
applaud."

"No, indeed," said she. "I couldn't bear to see you in those
conditions. I have nerves, if you have none."

"I have plenty," he said, "but you ought to do it. Some day you will
have to face it."

"Why shall I?" He wouldn't tell her.

That made her daring. "Why shall I?"

His first answer was a steady look; his second, "Nothing stops, you
know. Things all swim to a point. Ebb and flow. They don't go back
until they reach it."

"And then?"

"And then they may--or they may not blot it out and swim on."



CHAPTER XIV

THE GREAT SCHEME


The height of her esteem for Urquhart was the measure of her growing
disrelish for James. It was hard to visit upon a man the sense that he
was not what he had never dreamed of being; but that is what happened
to him. By how much he had risen in her eyes when she made an Eros of
him, by so much did he fall when she found out her mistake. Because he
was obviously no Eros, was he so obviously but part of a man? It
seemed so indeed. If he discerned it there's no wonder. He irritated
her; she found herself instinctively combating his little preparations
for completeness of effect--she was herself all for simplicity in
these days. She could not conceal her scorn, for instance, when he
refused to go with her to dine in a distant suburb because he would
not have time to dress. "As if," she said, "you eat your shirt-front!"
Trenchancy from James produced a silent disapproval. As he said, if
she didn't sniff, she looked as if she felt a cold coming on. She
knew it herself and took great pains; but it coloured her tone, if not
her words. Too often she was merely silent when he was very much
himself. Silence is contagious: they passed a whole dinner through
without a word, sometimes.

Now James had his feelings, and was rather unhappy over what he called
her moods. He thought she did not go out enough. She ought to see more
people: a woman liked to be admired. It did not occur to him that she
might have been very glad of it from him; but then he didn't know how
highly she had been elated with what she called, thinking it really
so, his love-in-the-darkness. No, Macartney, if ever he looked into
himself, found nothing wrong there. He kept a wary eye through his
masking-glass upon Urquhart's comings and goings. As far as he could
ascertain he was rarely in London during June and early July. No doubt
he wrote to Lucy; James was pretty sure of it; yet he could not stoop
to examining envelopes, and had to leave that to Providence and
herself. He mingled with his uneasiness a high sense of her integrity,
which he could not imagine ever losing. It was, or might have been,
curious to observe the difference he made between his two jealousies.
He had been insolent to Francis Lingen, with his "Ha, Lingen, you
here?" He was markedly polite to Jimmy Urquhart, much more so than his
habit was. He used to accompany him to the door when he left, an
unheard-of attention. But that may have been because Lucy went thither
also.

As a matter of fact Urquhart saw very little of her. He was very much
away, on his aerial and other affairs, and did not care to come to the
house unless James was there, nor, naturally, very much when he was.
They mostly met in the Park, rarely at other people's houses. Once she
lunched at the Nugents' and had the afternoon alone with him; twice he
drove her to Kew Gardens; once she asked him for a week-end to
Wycross, and they had some talks and a walk. He wrote perhaps once a
week, and she answered him perhaps once a fortnight. Not more. She had
to put the screw on herself to outdo him in frugality. She respected
him enormously for his mastery of himself, and could not have told how
much it enhanced her love. It was really comical that precisely what
she had condemned James for she found admirable in Jimmy. James had
neglected her for his occupations, and Jimmy was much away about his.
In the first case she resented, in the second she was not far from
adoration of such a sign of serious strength.

They never alluded directly to what had happened, but sometimes hinted
at it. These hints were always hers, for Urquhart was a random talker,
said what came into his head and had no eye for implications. He made
one odd remark, and made it abruptly, as if it did not affect anybody
present. "It's a very funny thing," he said, "that last year I didn't
know Macartney had a wife, and now, six months later, I don't realise
that you have got a husband." It made her laugh inwardly, but she said
gently, "Try to realise it. It's true."

"You wish me to make a point of it?" he asked her that with a shrewd
look.

"I wish you, naturally, to realise me as I am."

"There doesn't seem much of you involved in it," he said; but she
raised her eyebrows patiently.

"It is a fact, and the fact is a part of me. Besides, there's
Lancelot."

"Oh," he said, "I don't forget him. You needn't think it. He is a
symbol of you--and almost an emanation. Put it like this, that what
you might have been, he is."

"Oh," said she, "do you want me to be different?"

He laughed. "Bless you, no. But I like to see what you gave up to be
made woman. And I see it in your boy."

She was impelled to say what she said next by his words, which excited
her. "I can't tell you--and perhaps I ought not--how happy you make me
by loving Lancelot. I love him so very much--and James never has. I
can't make out why; but it was so from the beginning. That was the
first thing which made me unhappy in my life at home. It was the
beginning of everything. He seemed to lose interest in me when he
found me so devoted."

Urquhart said nothing immediately. Then he spoke slowly. "Macartney is
uneasy with boys because he's uneasy with himself. He is only really
interested in one thing, and he can see that they are obviously
uninterested in it."

"You mean--?" she began, and did not finish.

"I do," said Urquhart. "Most men are like that at bottom--only some of
us can impose ourselves upon our neighbours more easily than he can.
Half the marriages of the world break on that rock, and the other half
on idleness."

She then confessed. "Do you know what I believe in my heart? I believe
that James's eyeglass stands in his way with Lancelot--as it certainly
did with me."

"I think you are right there," he agreed. "But you must allow for it.
He's very uncertain of his foothold, and that's his war armour."

She was more tolerant of James after that conversation, and less
mutinous against her lot. She wondered, of course, what was to become
of them, how long she could hold him at arms' length, how she could
bring herself to unsay what had been said in the dark of Martley
Thicket. But she had boundless faith in Urquhart, and knew, among
other things, that any request she made him would be made easy for
her.

But when, at the end of June, he broached to her his great scheme, she
was brought face to face with the situation, and had to ask herself,
could she be trusted? That he could she knew very well.

He had a project for a month or six weeks in Norway. He had hinted at
it when she was at Martley, but now it was broached. He didn't
disguise it that his interest lay wholly in her coming. He laid it
before her: she, Lancelot and James were to be the nucleus. He should
ask the Corbets and their boys, Vera and hers. Nugent would refuse, he
knew. Meantime, what did she say? He watched her shining eyes
perpending, saw the gleam of anticipated delight. What a plan! But
then she looked down, hesitating. Something must now be said.

"Oh, of course Lancelot would go mad with joy, and I dare say I could
persuade James--"

"Well? But you?"

"I should live every moment of the time, but--sometimes life seems to
cost too much."

He held out his hand to her, and she took it very simply. "Promise to
come, and you shan't repent it. Mind, you have my word on that." Then
he let her go, and they discussed ways and means. She would speak to
James; then he should come and dine, and talk it out. Meantime, let
him make sure of Vera, and do his best with the Corbets. If they were
fixed up, as she thought probable, he might get some other people.
Considine might like it. "He's very much at your disposal, let me tell
you. You have him at your feet."

So it was settled, and James was attacked in front. She told him as
they were driving out to dinner that she had met Mr. Urquhart that
afternoon. "I dare say you might," said James. But he had stiffened to
attention.

"He blazed upon me a plan for August. I said I would ask you about
it."

James said, "H'm. Does it rest with me?"

"Naturally it does. I should not think of any plans without talking to
you."

"No, I suppose you wouldn't," said he. Then he asked, "And what does
Urquhart want you to do?"

"He doesn't want me, particularly. He wants all three of us."

"I think," said James, "you'll find that he wants you most."

She felt that this must be fathomed. "And if he did," she said,
"should you object to that?" He kept very dry.

"It isn't a case of objecting to that, or this. The question before me
at present is whether I want to form one of a party which doesn't want
me, and where I might be in the way."

"From what I know of Mr. Urquhart," she answered, "I don't think he
would ever ask a person he didn't want."

"He might, if he couldn't get the person he did want in any other
way," said James. "Who else is to come?"

"Vera Nugent and her boy, and perhaps Lord Considine. He is going to
ask Laurence and Mabel and all the boys too."

"It will be a kind of school-treat," said James. "I own it doesn't
sound very exciting. Where are we to go to?"

"To Norway. He knows of a house on the Hardanger Fiord, a house in a
wood. He wants to hire a steamer to take us up from Bergen, and means
to bring a motor-boat with him. There will be fishing of sorts if you
want it."

"I don't," said James; then held up his chin. "Is my tie straight?"

She looked. "Perfectly. What am I to say to Mr. Urquhart?"

He said, "I'll talk about it; we'll discuss it in all its bearings. I
don't think I'm so attracted as you are, but then--"

"It's very evident you aren't," Lucy said, and no more. She felt in a
prickly heat, and thought that she had never wanted anything so much
in her life as this which was about to be denied her. She dared not
write to Lancelot about it; but to Urquhart she confessed her despair
and hinted at her longing. He replied at once, "Ask me to dinner.
I'll tackle him. Vera and child will come; not Considine. The Corbets
can't--going to Scotland, yachting. We needn't have another woman, but
Vera will be cross if there is no other man. Up to you to find one."

This again she carried to James, who said, "Let him come--any free
night. Tell me which you settle, will you?"

James had been thinking it out. He knew he would have to go, and was
prepared with what he called a spoke for Jimmy's wheel. Incidentally
it would be a nasty one for Lucy, and none the worse for that. He
considered that she was getting out of hand, and that Urquhart might
be a nuisance because such a spiny customer to tackle. But he had a
little plan, and chuckled over it a good deal when he was by himself.

He was, as usual, excessively urbane to Urquhart when they met, and
himself opened the topic of the Norwegian jaunt. Urquhart took up the
ball. "I think you might come. Your wife and boy will love it, and
you'll kindle at their joy. 'They for life only, you for life in
them,' to flout the bard. Besides, you are not a fogey, if I'm not. I
believe our ages tally. You shall climb mountains with me, Macartney,
and improve the muscles of your calves. You don't fish, I think. Nor
do I. I thought I should catch your brother-in-law with that bait--but
no. As for mine, he'll spend the month in bed somewhere."

"Is your sister coming?" James asked.

Urquhart nodded. "And her youngster. Osborne boy, and a good sort.
Lancelot and he have met."

"They'll fight," said James, "and Mrs. Nugent and Lucy won't speak."

"Vera would speak, I'm sure," said Lucy, "and as for me, I seldom get
a chance."

"A very true saying," said Urquhart. "I don't believe the Last
Judgment would prevent Vera from talking. Well, Macartney, what says
the Man of the World?"

"If you mean me," said James, "I gather that you all want to go. Lucy
does, but that's of course. Lancelot will, equally of course. But I
have a suggestion to make. Might not the party be a little bigger?"

"It might, and it should," said Urquhart; "in fact, I asked Considine
to join us. He would love it, but he has to make a speech at a
Congress, or read a paper, and he says he can't get out of it. The
Corbets can't come. I'll ask anybody else you like."

James, who was now about to enjoy himself, said, "I leave the ladies
to Lucy and Mrs. Nugent. Their choice would no doubt be mine. But I
certainly think we want another man. Much as you and I esteem each
other, my dear Urquhart, if there's walking to be done--serious
walking, I think we shall be better three than two. I don't at all
agree that three is no company. Where men are concerned I think it
better than two or four. If only to give a knee, or hold the sponge!
And with more than four you become a horde. We want a man now."

"I think so too," Urquhart said. "Well, who's your candidate?"

James meditated, or appeared to meditate. "Well," he said, looking up
and fixing Urquhart with his eyeglass, "what do you say to Francis
Lingen? Lucy likes him, I am used to him, and you will have to be some
day."

Lucy was extremely annoyed. That was evident. She bit her lip, and
crumbled her bread. She said shortly, "Francis couldn't walk to save
his life."

"Let us put it another way," said James, enjoying his little _coup_.
"Let us say that if he did walk, he might save his life."

Urquhart marked the breeze, and sailed into it. "I leave all that to
you. All I know about Lingen is that I have done my best to oblige him
in his private affairs. I confess that I find him mild, not to say
insipid, but I dare say he's the life of a party when he's put to it."

"Oh," said James, not averse from disparaging an old rival, "Oh, poor
chap, he hasn't many party tricks. I'd back him at cat's-cradle, and I
dare say he plays a very fair game at noughts-and-crosses. Besides,
he'll do what he's told, and fetch things for you. You'll find him a
handy and obliging chap to have about."

"Sounds delightful," said Urquhart pleasantly. He turned to Lucy.
"We'll give him Lingen, shall we?"

She said, "By all means. It doesn't matter in the least to me."

So James had his little whack, after all.



CHAPTER XV

JAMES


James, hardly knowing it, was bracing himself for a serious situation.
He had a keen eye for a man, a feeling for style; in his judgment
Urquhart was momentous, so much so that he could not afford to be
irritated. Jealousy to him was a weakness, only pardonable when the
cause was trivial. It had been trivial with poor Lingen. Fishing in
heavy water, a skipjack snaps at your fly, and you jerk him out to
bank with a Devil take you. But the swirling shoulder, the long ridge
across the pool, and the steady strain: you are into a twelve-pounder,
and the Devil is uninvoked.

He asked Jimmy to lunch at his club, and took the candid line about
the Norwegian project. Lucy was desperately tired, he said, so he was
pleased with the scheme. The poor dear girl was run down, the fact
was. "You are very good for her, I believe. You exhilarate her; she
forgets her troubles. She admires audacity--from the bank."

"I'll be as audacious as you please," said Jimmy.

"Oh, you won't take me in," James said. "I'm an old hand. I know my
Urquhart. But Lucy will expect feats of strength. You are a champion."

"D---- your eyes!" said Urquhart to himself.

"The boy is one of your slaves, too. I can't tell you how contented I
am that you approve of him."

"He's all right," said Urquhart, who didn't like all this. James, on
the contrary, liked it awfully. He became a chatterbox.

"He's more than that in his mother's esteem. But Lucy's a wise mother.
She moves with her finger on her lip. And that, mind you, without
coddling. She'll risk him to the hair's-breadth--and never a word. But
she won't risk herself. Not she! Why, she might be wanted! But there
it is. Women can do these things, God knows how! It's men who make a
fuss. Well, well--but I babble."

"My dear man," said Urquhart, "not at all. It's a thing you never do."

Thus encouraged, James plugged onwards. He talked more of himself and
his affairs than he had ever done in his life before; expatiated upon
his growing business, assumed his guest's contentment in his
happiness, invited praise of his Lucy, and was not rebuffed at their
denial. Urquhart, at first amused, ended by being annoyed. He felt as
if James was a busy dwarf engaged in tying him up in lengths of black
cotton. Round and round he went, coil after coil was added; before
luncheon was over he could move neither hand nor foot. It was rather
ludicrous, really; reduced to speechlessness, he sat and stared
blankly at a voluble James, prattling away about things which didn't
matter. He found himself even admiring things about him: the way he
could bite pull-bread, for instance; the relish he had for his food.
But all this chatter! He was too uncomfortable to see that James's
present relish was chiefly for that. The Stilton and biscuits, the
glass of port were but salt to the handling of Jimmy Urquhart; for
James was a good fighter when he had a good man against him.

His parting words were these: "Now I shouldn't be surprised if she
found herself out of conceit with this beano before we start. She's
like that, you know. In such a case it's up to you to do something.
You and Lancelot between you. That's an irresistible pair. I defy a
gentlewoman, and a mother, to lose heart. Come in when you can. Tell
us tales of far Cashmere. Sing us songs of Araby. I won't promise to
join in the chorus--if you have choruses; but I shall revel in my
quiet way. Now don't forget. I count upon you. By-bye."

"D---- your eyes, oh, d---- your eyes!" said Jimmy, shouldering the hill
as he went his way.

Really, he began to lose nerve a little--and for such a sanguine man a
little was much. It was as if he was on the downward slide of the
wave, no longer cresting the flow, which surged on ahead of him,
carrying him no longer. The fact was that he was now at the difficult
part of an enterprise which had been so far too easy. At the moment it
was not obvious to him what he was to do. James was aware, that was
plain; and James had a strong hand--if he knew that too, he had an
unassailable hand. But did he? Urquhart thought not. He chuckled
grimly to himself as he saw his complacent host taken at his word. He
looked at his wrist. "Half-past three? D---- him, I'll go and see her
now."

But Lucy, as James had truly put it, held firmly to the bank. Glad of
him she certainly was, amused by his audacities; but not tempted to
plunge. He saw very soon that he must be careful with her. A reference
to the Hardanger woods at night, to the absence of nightingales,
absence of the dark--she veiled her eyes with blankness, and finally
shut down the topic. "Don't let's talk of what is not in Norway. Tell
me what is there. I have to keep Lancelot supplied you know." No man
has so little self-esteem as to suppose that a woman can definitely
put him away. Urquhart had plenty, and preferred to think that she
thrust him more deeply within her heart. "Quite right," he said, and
exerted himself on her amusement. James, coming home early, found him
on the hearth-rug, talking really well about his flying. Nobody could
have behaved better than James. He took his cup of tea, listened, was
interested, smoked a cigarette; then touched Lucy's shoulder, saying,
"I leave you to your escapades." He went to his own room, with nothing
to do there, and sat it out. He fought his nervousness, refused to see
his spectres, sat deep in his chair, grimly smoking. He heard the
drawing-room door open, Urquhart's voice: "Yes, it will be all right.
Leave all that to me." Lucy said something, he could not tell what.
His heart beat faster to hear her tones. Urquhart let himself out: she
had not gone with him to the front door. Was that a good sign? or a
bad one? He frowned over that intricate question; but kept himself
from her until dinner-time. She might have come in--he half expected
her; but she did not. What was she doing in there by herself? Was she
thinking where she stood? So pretty as she was, so innocent, such a
gentle, sweet-natured creature! Alas, alas!

In short, James was growing sentimental about Lucy. Man of fashion as
he was, with that keen eye for style and the mode, it may well be that
Urquhart's interest in her was a kind of _cachet_. A hall-mark!
However that may be, James looked at her more curiously during that
July than he had done since he saw her first in the garden of Drem
House. Yes, Lucy was pretty; more than that, she had charm. He saw it
now. She moved her head about like a little bird--and yet she was not
a little woman by any means; tall, rather, for a woman. But there was
an absence of suspicion about Lucy--or rather of fundamental suspicion
(for she was full of little superficial alarms), which was infinitely
charming--but how pathetic! It was deeply pathetic; it made him
vaguely unhappy, and for a long time he did not know why tears swam
into his eyes as he watched her over the top of his evening paper, or
was aware (at the tail of his eye) of her quick and graceful motions
before her dressing-glass. Studying his feelings deeply, as never
before, he found himself out. It was that he was to lose her, had
perhaps lost her, just as he had found out how inexpressibly dear she
was to be. And amazement came upon him, and dismay to realise that
this sweetness of hers, this pliancy of temper, this strength within
beauty were really there in her apart from him. As if he had believed
that they lay in his esteem! No, indeed: they were her own; she could
bestow them where she pleased.

But he couldn't touch her--now: he would die sooner than touch her.
And he couldn't say anything to her: that would have been to throw up
the game. She should never pity him, and give him for pity what would
have become, in the very giving, negligible to herself. He knew
himself well: he could never ask for a thing. No! but could he get her
to ask for something? Ah, then she might find out whom she had
married! A man, he judged, of spendthrift generosity, a prodigal of
himself. Yes, that was how it must be, if to be at all. He kept his
eyes wide, and followed her every movement, with a longing to help
which was incessant, like toothache. At the same time he was careful
to keep himself quiet. Not a tone of voice must vary, not a daily
action betray him. That hand on the shoulder, now, when Urquhart was
last here. Too much. There must be no more of it, though he could
still feel the softness of her in the tips of his fingers. Thus he
braced himself.

He held good cards: but he didn't know how good.



CHAPTER XVI

AMARI ALIQUID


Lingen was exceedingly gratified by Lucy's letter. James had thought
the invitation should come from her, and, as the subject-matter was
distasteful to her, sooner than discuss it she had acquiesced. Few
pin-pricks had rankled as this one. She had never had any feeling but
toleration for Lingen; James had erected him as a foible; and that he
should use him now as a counter-irritant made her both sore and
disgustful. She wished to throw up the whole scheme, but was helpless,
because she could neither tell James, who would have chuckled, nor
Urquhart either. To have told Urquhart, whether she told him her
reason or left him to guess it, would have precipitated a confession
that her present position was untenable. In her heart she knew it, for
the heart knows what the mind stores; but she had not the courage to
summon it up, to table it, and declare, "This robe is outworn,
stretched at the seams, ragged at the edges. Away with it." Just now
she could not do it; and because she could not do it she was trapped.
James had her under his hand.

Therefore she wrote her, "Dear Francis," and had his grateful
acceptance, and his solemn elation, visible upon his best calling
face. "I can't tell you how happy you have made me. It is beautiful,
even for you, to make people happy. That is why you do it: what else
could you do? Life is made up of illusions, I think. Let me therefore
add to the sum of mine that you have desired my happiness." This sort
of thing, which once had stirred her to gentle amusement, now made her
words fall dry. "You mustn't forget that James has desired it too."
"Oh," said Francis Lingen, "that's very kind of him."

"Really, it is Mr. Urquhart's party. He invented it."

"Did he desire my happiness too?" asked Lingen, provoked into mockery
of his own eloquence by these chills upon it.

"At least he provided for it," said Lucy, "and that you shouldn't be
uncomfortable I have asked Margery Dacre to come."

Lingen felt this to be unkind. But he closed his eyes and said, "How
splendid."

That was the fact. It had been an afterthought of hers, and partially
countered on James. Margery Dacre also had accepted. She had said,
"How too delicious!" James, when made aware that she was coming,
ducked his head, it is true, but made a damaging defence.

"Is she?" he said. "Why?"

"She'll make our number a square one," she replied, "to begin with.
And she might make it more pleasant for the others--Francis Lingen and
Mr. Urquhart."

If she hadn't been self-conscious she would never have said such a
thing as that. James's commentary, "I see," and the subsequent
digestion of the remark by the eyeglass, made her burn with shame. She
felt spotted, she felt reproach, she looked backward with compunction
and longing to the beginning of things. There was now a tarnish on the
day. Yet there was no going back.

Clearly she was not of the hardy stuff of which sinners must be made
if they are to be cheerful sinners. She was qualmish and easily
dismayed. Urquhart was away, or she would have dared the worst that
could befall her, and dragged out of its coffer her poor tattered robe
of romance. Between them they would have owned to the gaping seams
and frayed edges. Then he might have kissed her--and Good-bye. But he
was not at hand, and she could not write down what she could hardly
contemplate saying.

Never, in fact, was a more distressful lady on the eve of a party of
pleasure. Lancelot's serious enjoyment of the prospect, evident in
every line of his letters, was her only relish; but even that could
not sting her answers to vivacity. "I hope the Norwegians are very
sensible. They will need all their sense, because we shall have none
when the pirate is there." "There used to be vikings in Norway. They
came to England and stole wives and animals. Now we bring them a man
for wives. That is what for with the chill of." "I must have a new
reel to my fishing-rod. The old one has never been the same since I
made a windlass of it for the battleship when it was a canal-boat, and
it fell into the water when we made a landslide and accident which was
buried for three days and had a worm in the works. Also a v. sharp
knife for reindeer, etc. They are tough, I hear, and my knife is
sharpest at the back since opening sardines and other tins, all rather
small." He drove a fevered pen, but retained presence of mind enough
to provide for his occasions: "The excitement of Norway may lose me
some marks in term's order. Not many I dare say." Again, "When you are
excited reports go bad. I have been shouting rather, kicking up a
shine. Once there was a small fight which was twigged. Norway is a
serious matter." There was an undercurrent of nervousness, discernible
only to her eyes. She could not account for it till she had him home,
and they were on the edge of adventure. It was lest he should be
seasick and disgrace himself in the esteem of young Nugent, who, as a
naval officer, was of course sea-proof. "I expect Nugent likes it very
rough," he said--and then, "I don't, you know, much. Not for weeks at
a time. Rather a nuisance." However, it was solved in the event by
Nugent being prostrate from the time they left the Tyne. Between his
spasms he urged his mother to explain that Lord Nelson was always
seasick. But Lancelot was very magnanimous about it.

There was diversion in much of this, and she used it to lighten her
letters to Urquhart, which, without it, had been as flat as
yesterday's soda-water. As the time came near when they should leave
home she grew very heavy, had forebodings, wild desires to be done
with it all. Then came a visitation from the clear-eyed Mabel and a
cleansing of the conscience.

Mabel said that she was sorry to miss Norway. It would have amused her
enormously. "To see you in the saddle, with two led horses!" She
always talked as if she was an elder sister. "I almost threw Laurence
over; but of course I couldn't do that. He's so dependent and silent
and pathetic--but thank goodness, he hasn't found out, like James, the
real use of wives. That is, to have somebody to grumble to who really
minds. There's your James for you. He doesn't want to go a bit; he'd
much rather be at Harrogate or somewhere of that sort. Perhaps he'd
like Homburg. But he wouldn't go for the world. He's not pathetic at
all, though he wants to be; but he wants to be sarcastic at the same
time, and is cross because the two things won't go together. Of course
he stuck in Francis Lingen. He would. As if he cared about Francis
Lingen, a kind of poodle!"

"You oughtn't to abuse James to me," Lucy said, not very stoutly; "I
don't abuse Laurence."

"Abuse him!" cried Mabel. "Good Heavens, child, I only say out loud
what you are saying to yourself all day. We may as well know where we
are." Then came a pause; and then, "I suppose you and Jimmy Urquhart
are in a mess."

Lucy said nothing; whereupon Mabel showed her clear sight. "And I
suppose you know now who turned the light off." At that terrible
surmise Lucy got up and stood above her sister. "Mabel, I don't know
what to do."

"I am sure you don't," said Mabel. "On the other hand, you know what
you have to do."

"Yes," Lucy replied; "but it isn't so easy as you would think. You
see, I have never spoken to him about it, nor he to me; and it seems
almost impossible to begin--now."

Mabel was out of her depth. "Do you mean--? What do you really mean?"

"I mean exactly what I say. I found out the truth, by a kind of
accident--one day. It wasn't possible to doubt. Well, then--it went
on, you know--"

"Of course it did," said Mabel. "Well?"

--"And there was no disguise about it, after there couldn't be."

"Why should there be, if there couldn't be?" Mabel was at her wits'
end.

"There was no disguise about it, while it was going on, you know. But
in the daytime--well, we seemed to be ordinary people, and nothing was
said. Now do you see?"

Mabel did. "It makes it very awkward for you. But feeling as you do
now, you simply must have it out."

"I can't," Lucy said with conviction. "I know I can't do that. No, it
must stop another way. I must--be hateful."

"Do you mean to make him dislike you? To put him off?"

Lucy nodded. "Something like that."

"Try it," said Mabel.

"You mean it won't answer?"

"I mean that _you_ won't, my dear. You are not that sort. Much too
kind. Now I could be perfectly beastly, if I felt it the only thing."

Lucy was in a hard stare. "I don't feel kind just now. James has given
me a horror of things of the sort. I don't believe he meant it. I
think he felt snappish and thought he would relieve his feelings that
way. But there it is. He has made it all rather disgusting. It's
become like a kind of intrigue of vulgar people, in a comedy."

"These things do when you take them out and look at them," Mabel said.
"Like sham jewellery. They are all right in their cases. The velvet
lining does so much. But although you may be disgusted with James's
handling of your private affairs, you are not disgusted with--the
other?"

"No, I suppose not. I really don't know. He is the most understanding
man in the world, and I would trust him through everything. I don't
think he could tell me an untruth. Not one that mattered, anyhow. I
could see him go away from me for a year, for two, and not hear a word
from him, and yet be sure that he would come back, and be the same,
and know me to be the same. I feel so safe with him, so proud of his
liking me, so settled in life--I never felt settled before--like being
in a nest. He makes everything I love or like seem more beautiful and
precious--Lancelot, oh, I am much prouder of Lancelot than I used to
be. He has shown me things in Lancelot which I never saw. He has made
the being Lancelot's mother seem a more important, a finer thing. I
don't know how to say it, but he has simply enhanced everything--as
you say, like a velvet lining to a jewel. All this is true--and
something in me calls for him, and urges me to go to him. But now--but
yet--all this hateful jealousy--this playing off one man against
another--Francis Lingen! As if I ever had a minute's thought of
Francis Lingen--oh, it's really disgusting. I didn't think any one in
our world could be like that. It spots me--I want to be clean. I'd
much rather be miserable than feel dirty."

Here she stopped, on the edge of tears, which a sudden access of anger
dried up. She began again, more querulously. "It's his fault, of
course. It was outrageous what he did. I'm angry with him because I
can't be angry with myself--for not being angry. How could I be angry?
Oh, Mabel, if it had been James after all! But of course it wasn't,
and couldn't be; and I should be angry with him if I wasn't so awfully
sorry for him."

Mabel stared. "Sorry for James!"

"Yes, naturally. He's awfully simple, you know, and really rather
proud of me in his way. I see him looking at me sometimes, wondering
what he's done. It's pathetic. But that's not the point. The point is
that I can't get out."

"Do you want to get out?" Mabel asked.

"Yes, I do in a way. It has to be--and the sooner the better. And
whether I do or not, I don't like to feel that I can't. Nobody likes
to be tied."

"Then nobody should be married," said Mabel, who had listened to these
outbursts of speech, and pauses which had been really to find words
rather than breath, with staring and hard-rimmed eyes. She had a gift
of logic, and could be pitiless. "What it comes to, you know," she
said, "is that you want to have your fun in private. We all do, I
suppose; but that can't come off in nine cases out of ten. Especially
with a man like James, who is as sharp as a razor, and just as edgy.
The moment anybody peers at you you show a tarnish, and get put off.
It doesn't look to me as if you thought so highly of--the other as you
think you do. After all, if you come to that, the paraphernalia of a
wedding is pretty horrid; one feels awfully like a heifer at the
Cattle Show. At least, I did. The complacency of the bridegroom is
pretty repulsive. You feel like a really fine article. But one lives
it down, if one means it."

Lucy told her to go, or as good as told her. Sisters may be plain with
each other. She wasn't able to answer her, though she felt that an
answer there was.

What she had said was partly true. Lucy was a romantic without knowing
it. So had Psyche been, and the fatal lamp should have told her so.
The god removed himself. Thus she felt it to be. He seemed just
outside the door, and a word, a look, would recall him to his dark
beauty of presence. That he was beautiful so she knew too well, that
he was unbeautiful in the glare of day she felt rather than knew. The
fault, she suspected, lay in her, who could not see him in the light
without the blemish of circumstance--not his, but circumstance, in
whose evil shade he must seem smirched. What could she do with her
faulty vision, but send him away? Was that not less dishonourable than
to bid him remain and dwindle as she looked at him? What a kink in her
affairs, when she must be cruel to her love, not because she loved him
less, but rather that she might love him more!

But the spirit of adventure grew upon her in spite of herself, the
sense of something in the wind, of the morning bringing one nearer to
a great day. It pervaded the house; Crewdson got in the way of saying,
"When we are abroad, we shall find that useful, ma'am"; or "Mr.
Macartney will be asking for that in Norway." As for James, it had
changed his spots, if not his nature. James bought marvellous climbing
boots, binoculars, compasses of dodgy contrivance, sandwich-cases,
drinking-flasks, a knowing hat. He read about Norway, studied a
dictionary, and ended by talking about it, and all to do with it,
without any pragmatism. Lucy found out how he relied upon Urquhart and
sometimes forgot that he was jealous of him. Jealous he was, but not
without hope. For one thing, he liked a fight, with a good man. Lingen
caught the epidemic, and ceased to think or talk about himself. He had
heard of carpets to be had, of bold pattern and primary colouring; he
had heard of bridal crowns of silver-gilt worthy of any collector's
cabinet. He also bought boots and tried his elegant leg in a
flame-coloured sock. And to crown the rocking edifice, Lancelot came
home in a kind of still ecstasy which only uttered itself in
convulsions of the limbs, and sudden and ear-piercing whistles through
the fingers. From him above all she gained assurance. "Oh, Mr.
Urquhart, he'll put all that straight, I bet you--in two ticks!..."
and once it was, "I say, Mamma, I wonder where you and I would be
without Mr. Urquhart." James heard him, and saw Lucy catch her breath.
Not very pleasant.



CHAPTER XVII

THE SHIVERING FIT


They were to start on the 8th of August, and it was now the 5th.
Packing had begun, and Crewdson, as usual, was troublesome. He had the
habit of appearing before Lucy and presenting some small deficiency as
a final cause of ruin and defeat. "I can't find any of the Brown
Polish, ma'am. I don't know what Mr. Macartney will do without it."
This, or something like it, had become a classic in the family. It had
always been part of the fun of going away. But this year Lucy was
fretted by it. She supposed herself run down and whipped herself to
work. She found herself, too, lingering about the house, with an
affection for the familiar aspect of corners, vistas, tricks of light
and shadow, which she had never thought to possess. She felt extremely
unwilling to leave it all. It was safety, it was friendliness; it
asked no effort of her. To turn away from its lustrous and ordered
elegance and face the unknown gave her a pain in the heart. It was
odd to feel homesick before she had left home; but that was the sum of
it. She was homesick. Urquhart was very much in her mind; a letter of
his was in her writing-table drawer, under lock and key; but Urquhart
seemed part of a vague menace now, while James, though he did his
unconscious utmost to defeat himself, got his share of the sunset glow
upon the house. Fanciful, nervous, weary of it all as she was, she
devoted herself to her duties; and then, on this fifth of August, in
the afternoon, she had a waking vision, perfectly distinct, and so
vivid that, disembodied and apart, she could see herself enacting it.
It was followed by a shivering fit and depression; but that must tell
its own tale.

       *       *       *       *       *

The vision occurred while she was on her knees, busied beside a trunk,
turning over garments of lace and fine linen and pale blue ribbons
which a maid, in the same fair attitude, was bestowing as she received
them. Lancelot was out for the afternoon with Crewdson and a friend.
They had gone to the Zoological Gardens, and would not be back till
late. She had the house to herself; it was cool and shadowed from the
sun. The Square, muffled in the heat, gave no disturbing sounds.
Looking up suddenly, for no apparent reason, she saw herself with
Jimmy Urquhart in a great empty, stony place, and felt the dry wind
which blew upon them both. All but her own face was visible; of that
she saw nothing but the sharp outline of her cheek, which was very
white. She saw herself holding her hat, bending sideways to the
gale; she saw her skirt cling about her legs, and flack to get free.
She wondered why she didn't hold it down. The wind was a hot one; she
felt that it was so. It made her head ache, and burned her cheek-bone.
Urquhart was quite visible. He looked into the teeth of the wind,
frowning and fretful. Why didn't she say something to him? She had a
conviction that it was useless. "There's nothing to say, nothing to
say." That rang in her head, like a church bell. "Nothing to say,
nothing to say." A sense of desolation and total loss oppressed her.
She had no hope. The vacancy, the silence, the enormous dry emptiness
about her seemed to shut out all her landmarks. Why didn't she think
of Lancelot? She wondered why, but realised that Lancelot meant
nothing out there. She saw herself turn about. She cried out, "James!
James!" started up with a sense of being caught, and saw the maid's
face of scare. She was awake in a moment. "What is it, ma'am? What is
it?"

Lucy had recovered her faculties: "Nothing, Emily; it's nothing. I was
giddy." But she was shivering and couldn't go on. "I think I'll lie
down for a minute," she said, and asked for the aspirin. She took two
tabloids and a sip of water, was covered up and left to herself. Emily
tiptoed away, full of interest in the affair.

The shivering fit lasted the better part of an hour. Lucy crouched and
suffered, open-eyed but without any consciousness. Something had
happened, was happening still; a storm was raging overhead; she lay
quaking and waited for it to pass. She fell asleep, slept profoundly,
and awoke slowly to a sense of things. She had no doubt of what lay
immediately before her. Disrelish of the Norwegian expedition was
now a reasonable thing. Either it must be given up, or the disaster
reckoned with. _Advienne que pourra._ But in either case she must
"have it out" with James. What did that mean? Jimmy Urquhart would be
thrown over. He would go--and she would not. She lay, picturing rather
than reasoning; saw him superbly capable, directing everything. She
felt a pride in him, and in herself for discovering how fine he was.
His fineness, indeed, was a thing shared. She felt a sinking of the
heart to know that she could not be there. But the mere thought of
that sickened her. Out of the question.

She must "have it out" with James. That might be rather dreadful; it
might take her where she must refuse to go--but on the whole, she
didn't think it need. The certainty that she couldn't go to Norway,
that James must be made to see it, was a moral buttress. Timidity of
James would not prevail against it. Besides that, deeply within
herself, lay the conviction that James was kind if you took him the
right way. He was irritable, and very annoying when he was sarcastic;
but he was good at heart. And it was odd, she thought, that directly
she got into an awkward place with a flirtation, her first impulse was
to go to James to get her out. In her dream she had called to him,
though Urquhart had been there. Why was that?

She was thinking now like a child, which indeed she was where such
matters were concerned. She was not really contrite for what she had
done, neither regretted that she had done it, nor that it was done
with. She wanted to discharge her bosom of perilous stuff. James would
forgive her. He must not know, of course, what he was forgiving;
but--yes, he would forgive her.

       *       *       *       *       *

At six or thereabouts, listening for it, she heard the motor bring
James home; she heard his latch-key, and the shutting of the door
behind him. Her heart beat high, but she did not falter. He was
reading a letter in the hall when she came downstairs; he was very
much aware of her, but pretended not to be. She stood on the bottom
stair looking at him with wide and fixed eyes; but he would not look
up. He was not just then in a mood either to make advances or to
receive them. His grievance was heavy upon him.

"James," said Lucy, "I've been listening for you."

"Too good," said he, and went on with his letter.

"I wanted to tell you that I don't think--that I don't much want to go
to Norway."

Then he did look up, keenly, with a drawn appearance about his mouth,
showing his teeth. "Eh?" he said. "Oh, absurd." He occupied himself
with his letter, folding it for its envelope, while she watched him
with a pale intensity which ought to have told him, and perhaps did
tell him, what she was suffering.

"I don't think you should call me absurd," she said. "I was never very
certain of it."

"But, my dearest child, you made me certain, at any rate," he told
her. "You made everybody certain. So much so that I have the tickets
in my pocket at this moment."

"I'm very sorry. I could pay for mine, of course--and I'm sure Vera
would look after Lancelot. I wouldn't disappoint him for the world."

"What are you going to tell Urquhart?" said James. Her eyes paled.

"I believe that he would take it very simply," she said. James plunged
his hands into his pockets. He thought that they were on the edge of
the gulf.

"Look here, Lucy," he said; "hadn't you better tell me something more
about this? Perhaps you will come into the library for a few minutes."
He led the way without waiting for her, and she stood quaking where
she was.

She was making matters worse: she saw that now. Naturally she couldn't
tell James the real state of the case, because that would involve her
in history. James would have to understand that he had been believed
to have wooed her when he had done nothing of the kind. That was a
thing which nothing in the world would bring her to reveal to him. And
if she left that out and confined herself to her own feelings for
Urquhart--how was all that to be explained? Was it fair to herself, or
to Urquhart, to isolate the flowering of an affair unless you could
show the germinating of it? Certainly it wasn't fair to herself--as
for Urquhart, it may be that he didn't deserve any generous treatment.
She knew that there was no defence for him, though plenty of
excuse--possibly. No--she must go through with the Norway business.
Meantime James was waiting for her.

She stood by the library table while James, back to the fireplace,
lifted his head and watched her through cigar-smoke. He had no mercy
for her at this moment. Suspicions thronged his darkened mind. But
nothing of her rueful beauty escaped him. The flush of sleep was upon
her, and her eyes were full of trouble.

"It isn't that I have any reason which would appeal to you," she told
him. She faltered her tale. "I think I have been foolish--I know that
I'm very tired and worried; but--I have had presentiments."

James clicked his tongue, which he need not have done--as he knew very
well. But he had not often been arbiter of late.

"My child," he said, "really--" and annoyed her.

"Of course you are impatient. I can't help it, all the same. I am
telling you the truth. I don't know what is going to happen. I feel
afraid of something--I don't know what--"

"Run down," said James, looking keenly at her, but kindly; "end of the
season. Two days at sea will do the job for you. Anyhow, my dear, we
go." He threw himself in his deep chair, stretched his legs out and
looked at Lucy.

She was deeply disappointed; she had pictured it so differently. He
would have understood her, she had thought. But he seemed to be in his
worst mood. She stood, the picture of distressful uncertainty, hot and
wavering; her head hung, her hand moving a book about on the table. To
his surprise and great discomfort he now discerned that she was
silently crying. Tears were falling, she made no effort to stop them,
nor to conceal them. Her weakness and dismay were too much for her.
She accepted the relief, and neither knew nor cared whether he saw it.

James was not hard-hearted unless his vanity was hurt. This was the
way to touch him, as he was prepared to be touched. "My child," he
said, "why, what's the matter with you?" She shook her head, tried to
speak, failed, and went on crying.

"Lucy," said James, "come here to me." She obeyed him at once.

Something about her attitude moved him to something more than pity.
Her pretty frock and her refusal to be comforted by it; her youthful
act--for Lucy had never yet cried before him; her flushed cheeks, her
tremulous lips--what? If I could answer the question I should resolve
the problem of the flight of souls. He looked at her and knew that he
desired her above all things. A Lucy in tears was a new Lucy; a James
who could afford to let his want be seen was a new James. That which
stirred him--pity, need, desire, kindness--vibrated in his tones. To
hear was to obey.

He took her two hands and drew her down to his knee. He made her sit
there, embraced her with his arm. "There, my girl, there," he said;
"now let me know all about it. Upon my soul, you are a baffling young
woman. You will, and you won't; and then you cry, and I become
sentimental. I shall end by falling in love with you."

At these strange words she broke down altogether, and sobbed her soul
out upon his shoulder. Again he assured himself that he had never seen
her cry before. He was immensely touched by it, and immensely at his
ease too. His moral status was restored to him. He knew now what he
wanted. "You poor little darling, I can't bear to see you cry so.
There then--cry away, if it does you good. What does me good is to
have you here. Now what made you so meek as to come when I called you?
And why weren't you afraid that I should eat you up? So I might, Lucy,
you know; for you've made me madly in love with you."

It seemed to her beating heart that indeed he was. He held her very
close, kissed her wet cheeks, her wet eyes and her lips. She struggled
in his embrace, but not for long. She yielded, and returned his
kisses. So they clung together, and in the silence, while time seemed
to stand still, it really did nothing of the kind; for if he gained
experience she lost it.

He must have grown more experienced, for he was able to return without
embarrassment to the affairs so strangely interrupted. She must have
grown less so, because she answered him simply, like a child. He asked
her what had upset her, and she told him, a dream. A dream? Had she
been asleep? No, it was a waking dream. She told him exactly what it
was. She was with Mr. Urquhart in a horrible place--a dry, sandy place
with great rocks in it. "And where did I come in?" "You didn't come
in. That was why I called you." "You called for me, did you? But
Urquhart was there?" "Yes, I suppose he was still there. I didn't
look." "Why did you call for me, Lucy?" "Because I was frightened."
"I'm grateful to you for that. That's good news to me," he said; and
then when he kissed her again, she opened her eyes very wide, and
said, "Oh, James, I thought you didn't care for me any more."

James, master of himself, smiled grimly. "I thought as much," he said;
"and so you became interested in somebody else?"

Lucy sat up. "No," she said, "I became interested in you first."

That beat him. "You became interested in _me_? Why? Because I didn't
care for you?"

"No," she said sharply; "no! Because I thought that you did."

James felt rather faint. "I can't follow you. You thought that I
didn't, you said?" Lucy was now excited, and full of her wrongs.

"How extraordinary! Surely you see? I had reason to think that you
cared for me very much--oh, very much indeed; and then I found out
that you didn't care a bit more than usual; and then--well, then--"
James, who was too apt to undervalue people, did not attempt to pursue
the embroilment. But he valued her in this melting mood. He held her
very close.

"Well," he said, "and now you find that I do care--and what then?"

She looked at him, divinely shy. "Oh, if you really care--"

This would have made any man care. "Well, if I really do--?"

"Ah!" She hid her face on his shoulder. "I shall love to be in
Norway."

James felt very triumphant; but true to type, he sent her upstairs to
dress with the needless injunction to make herself look pretty.

Presently, however, he stood up and stared hard at the ground. "Good
Lord!" he said. "I wonder what the devil--" Then he raised his
eyebrows to their height. "This is rather interesting."

       *       *       *       *       *

The instinct was strong in him to make her confess--for clearly there
was something to be known. But against that several things worked. One
was his scorn of the world at large. He felt that it was beneath him
to enquire what that might be endeavouring against his honour or
peace. Another--and a very new feeling to him--was one of compassion.
The poor girl had cried before him--hidden her face on his shoulder
and cried. To use strength, male strength, upon that helplessness; to
break a butterfly on a wheel--upon his soul, he thought he couldn't do
it.

And after all--whether it was Lingen or Urquhart--he was safe. He knew
he was safe because he wanted her. He knew that he _could_ not want
what was not for him. That was against Nature. True to type again, he
laughed at himself, but owned it. She had been gone but five or ten
minutes, but he wanted to see her again--now. He craved the sight of
that charming diffidence of the woman who knows herself desired. He
became embarrassed as he thought of it, but did not cease to desire.
Should he yield to the whim--or hold himself...?

At that moment Lancelot was admitted. He heard him race upstairs
calling, "Mamma, Mamma! frightfully important!" That decided the
thing. He opened his door, listening to what followed. He heard Lucy's
voice, "I'm here. You can come in...." and was amazed. Was that Lucy's
voice? She was happy, then. He knew that by her tone. There was a lift
in it, a _timbre_. Was it just possible, by some chance, that he had
been a damned fool? He walked the room in some agitation, then went
hastily upstairs to dress.

Whether to a new James or not, dinner had a new Lucy to reveal; a Lucy
full of what he called "feminine charm"; a Lucy who appealed to him
across the table for support against a positive Lancelot; who brought
him in at all points; who was concerned for his opinion; who gave him
shy glances, who could even afford to be pert. He, being essentially
a fair-weather man, was able to meet her half-way--no more than that,
because he was what he was, always his own detective. The discipline
which he had taught himself to preserve was for himself first of all.

Lancelot noticed his father. "I say," he said, when he and Lucy were
in the drawing-room, "Father's awfully on the spot, isn't he? It's
Norway, I expect. Bucks him up."

"Norway is enough to excite anybody," Lucy said--"even me."

"Oh, you!" Lancelot was scornful. "Anything would excite you. Look at
Mr. Urquhart."

Lucy flickered. "How do you mean?" Lancelot was warm for his absent
friend.

"Why, you used to take a great interest in all his adventures--you
know you did."

This must be faced. "Of course I did. Well--?"

"Well," said Lancelot, very acutely, "now they seem rather
ordinary--rather chronic." _Chronic_ was a word of Crewdson's, used as
an augmentive. Lucy laughed, but faintly.

"Yes, I expect they are chronic. But I think Mr. Urquhart is very
nice."

"He's ripping," said Lancelot, in a stare.

James in the drawing-room that evening was studiously himself, and
Lucy fought with her restlessness, and prevailed against it. He was
shy, and spun webs of talk to conceal his preoccupations. Lucy watched
him guardedly, but with intense interest. It was when she went
upstairs that the amazing thing happened.

She stood by him, her hand once more upon his shoulder. He had his
book in his hand.

"I'm going," she said. "You have been very sweet to me. I don't
deserve it, you know."

He looked up at her, quizzing her through the detested glass. "You
darling," he said calmly, and she thrilled. Where had she heard that
phrase? At the _Walküre_!

"You darling," he said; "who could help it?"

"Oh, but--" she pouted now. "Oh, but you can help it often--if you
like."

"But, you see, I don't like. I should hate myself if I thought that I
could."

"Do let me take your glass away for one minute."

"You may do what you please with it, or me."

The glass in eclipse, she looked down at him, considering, hesitating,
choosing, poised. "Oh, I was right. You look much nicer without it.
Some day I'll tell you."

He took her hand and kept it. "Some day you shall tell me a number of
things."

She did not cease to look at him, but he saw fear in her eyes. "Some
day, perhaps, but not yet."

"No," said he, "not yet--perhaps."

"Will you trust me?"

"I always have."

She sighed. "Oh, you are good. I didn't know how good." Then she
turned to go. "I told you I was going--and I am. Good night."

He put his book down. She let his eyeglass fall. He drew her to his
knee, and looked at her.

"It's not good night," he said. "That's to come."

She gave him a startled, wide look, and then her lips, before she
fled.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE HARDANGER


That enchanted land of sea and rock, of mountains rooted in the water,
and water which pierces the secret valleys of the mountains, worked
its spell upon our travellers, and freed them from themselves for a
while. For awhile they were as singleminded as the boys, content to
live and breathe that wine-tinctured air, and watch out those flawless
days and serene grey nights. London had sophisticated some of them
almost beyond redemption: Francis Lingen was less man than sensitive
gelatine; James was the offspring of a tradition and a looking-glass.
But the zest and high spirits of Urquhart were catching, and after a
week Francis Lingen ceased to murmur to ladies in remote corners, and
James to care whether his clothes were pressed. Everybody behaved
well: Urquhart, who believed that he possessed Lucy's heart, James,
who knew now what he possessed, Vera Nugent, who was content to sit
and look on, and Lucy herself, who simply and honestly forgot
everything except the beauty of the world, and the joy of physical
exertion. She had been wofully ill on the passage from Newcastle and
had been invisible from beginning to end. But from the moment of
landing at Bergen she had been transformed. She was now the sister of
her son, a wild, wilful, impetuous creature, a nymph of the heath,
irresponsible and self-indulgent, taking what she could get of comfort
and cherishing, and finding a boundless appetite for it. It was
something, perhaps, to know in her heart that every man in the party
was in love with her; it was much more--for the moment at least--to be
without conscience in the matter. She had put her conscience to sleep
for once, drugged it with poppy and drowsy syrups, and led the life of
a healthy and vigorous animal.

Urquhart enjoyed that; he was content to wait and watch. For the time
James did not perceive it. The beauty and freshness of this new world
was upon him. Francis Lingen, born to cling, threw out tentative
tendrils to Margery Dacre.

Margery Dacre was a very pretty girl; she had straw-coloured hair and
a bright complexion. She wore green, especially in the water. Urquhart
called her Undine, and she was mostly known as the Mermaid. She had
very little mind, but excellent manners; and was expensive without
seeming to spend anything. For instance, she brought no maid, because
she thought that it might have looked ostentatious, and always made
use of Lucy's, who didn't really want one. That was how Margery Dacre
contrived to seem very simple.

For the moment Urquhart took natural command. He knew the country, he
owned the motor-boat; he believed that he owned Lucy, and he believed
that James was rather a fool. He thought that he had got the better of
James. But this could not last, because James was no more of a fool
than he was himself, though his intelligence worked in a different
way. Things flashed upon Urquhart, who then studied them intensely and
missed nothing. They dawned on James, who leisurely absorbed them, and
allowed them to work out their own development.

It was very gradually now dawning upon James that Urquhart had assumed
habits of guidance over Lucy and was not aware of any reason why he
should relinquish them. He believed that he understood her thoroughly;
he read her as a pliant, gentle nature, easily imposed upon, and
really at the mercy of any unscrupulous man who was clever enough to
see how she should be treated. He had never thought that before. It
was the result of his cogitations over recent events. So while he kept
his temper and native jealousy under easy control, he watched
comfortably--as well he might--and gained amusement, as he could well
afford to do, from Urquhart's marital assumptions. When he was tempted
to interfere, or to try a fall with Urquhart, he studiously refrained.
If Urquhart said, as he did sometimes, "I advise you to rest for a
bit," James calmly embraced the idea. If Urquhart brought out a cloak
or a wrap and without word handed it to her, James, watching, did not
determine to forestall him on the next occasion. And Lucy, as he
admitted, behaved beautifully, behaved perfectly. There were no
grateful looks from her, such as he would expect to see pass between
lovers. Keenly as he watched her, he saw no secret exchange. On the
other hand, her eyes frequently sought his own, as if she wanted him
to understand that she was happy, as if, indeed, she wanted him to be
happy by such an understanding. This gave him great pleasure, and
touched him too. If he had been capable of it, he would have told her;
but he was not. It was part of his nature to treat those whom he
loved _de haut en bas_. He found that it was so, and hated himself for
it. The one thing he really grudged Urquhart was his simplicity and
freedom from ulterior motive. Urquhart was certainly able to enjoy the
moment for the moment's worth. But James must always be calculating
exactly what it was worth, and whether to be enhanced by what might
follow it.

He was kinder to her than he had ever been before. In fact, he was
remarkably interesting. She told him of it in their solitary moments
of greatest intimacy. "This is my honeymoon," she said, "and I never
had one before."

"Goose," said he, "don't attempt to deceive me." But she reasserted
it.

"It's true, James. You may have loved me in your extraordinary way,
but I'm sure I didn't love you. I was much too frightened of you."

"Well," he laughed, "I don't discover any terrors now." She wouldn't
say that there were none. So far as she dared she was honest.

"We aren't on an exact equality. We never shall be. But we are much
nearer. Own it."

He held her closely and kissed her. "You are a little darling, if
that's what you mean."

"Oh, but it isn't; it isn't at all what I mean. Why, you wouldn't call
me 'little' if you didn't know you were superior. Because I'm rather
tall for a woman."

He knew that she was right, and respected her for the discernment. "My
love," he said, "I'm a self-centred, arrogant beast, and I don't like
to think about it. But you'll make something of me if you think it
worth while. But listen to me, Lucy. I'm going to talk to you
seriously." Then he whispered in her ear: "Some day you must talk to
me." He could feel her heart beat, he could feel her shiver as she
clung.

"Yes," she said very low; "yes, I promise--but not now."

"No," he said, "not now. I want to be happy as long as I can." She
started away, and he felt her look at him in the dark.

"You'll be happier when I've told you," she said.

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I shall be happier myself then," she said; and James hoped
that she was right about him. One thing amazed him to discover--how
women imputed their own virtues to the men they loved. It struck him a
mortal blow to realise that his evident happiness would give Lucy
joy, whereas hers would by no means necessarily add to his. "What does
give me happiness, then?" he asked himself; "what could conceivably
increase my zest for life? Evidence of power, exercise of faculty: so
far as I know, nothing else whatever. A parlous state of affairs. But
it is the difference, I presume, between a giving creature and a
getting one which explains all. Is a man, then, never to give, and be
happy? Has he ever tried? Is a woman not to get? Has she ever had a
chance of it?" He puzzled over these things in his prosaic, methodical
way. One thing was clear to everybody there but Urquhart in his
present fatuity: Lucy was thriving. She had colour, light in her eyes,
a bloom upon her, a dewiness, an auroral air. She sunned herself like
a bird in the dust; she bathed her body, and tired herself with long
mountain and woodland walks. When she was alone with her husband she
grew as sentimental as a housemaid and as little heedful of the
absurd. She grew young and amazingly pretty, the sister of her son. It
would be untrue to say that, being in clover, she was unaware of it.
For a woman of one-and-thirty to have her husband for a lover, and her
lover for a foil, is a gift of the gods. So she took it--with the sun
and green water, and wine-bright air. Let the moralists battle it out
with the sophists: it did her a world of good.



CHAPTER XIX

THE MOON-SPELL


Macartney fell easily into habits, and was slow to renounce them.
Having got into the way of making love to his wife, he by no means
abandoned it; at the same time, and in as easy a fashion, it came to
be a matter of routine with him to play piquet with Vera Nugent after
dinner. It was she who had proposed it, despairing of a quartette, or
even of a trio, for the Bridge which was a dram to her. Here also
James would have been only too happy; but nobody else would touch it.
Lucy never played cards; Urquhart, having better things to do, said
that he never did. Margery Dacre and Lingen preferred retirement and
their own company. Lingen, indeed, was exhibiting his heart to the
pale-haired girl as if it was a specimen-piece. "I am really a very
simple person," he told her, "one of those who, trusting once, trust
for ever. I don't expect to be understood, I have no right to ask for
sympathy. That would be too much to look for in a jostling,
market-day world like ours. But I cherish one or two very fragrant
memories of kindnesses done. I open, at need, a drawer; and, like the
scent of dry rose-leaves, or lavender, a sweet hint steals out that
there are good women in the world, that life is not made up of
receipted bills. Don't you understand the value of such treasures? I
am sure that you do. You always seem to me so comprehending in your
outlook." Margery said that she hoped she was.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Lucy's business immediately after dinner to see that Lancelot
was decently abed. The lad took the last ounce out of himself before
that time came, and was to be brought by main force to the bath,
crimson to the roots of his hair and dripping with sweat. Protesting
to the uttermost, still panting with his final burst in the open, she
saw to it that he was quiet before she could be so herself. Then she
was free, and Urquhart found--or looked for--his chance. The woods
called her, the wondrous silver-calm of the northern night. She longed
to go; but now she dreaded Urquhart, and dared not trust herself. It
had come to this, that, possessed as she was, and happy in possession,
he and all that he stood for could blot the whole fair scene up in
cold fog. That was how she looked at it in the first blush of her new
life.

He didn't understand that; but he saw that she was nervous, and set
himself to reassure her. He assumed his dryest tone, his most
negligent manner. When she came downstairs from Lancelot, and after
watching the card-players, fingering a book or magazine, drifted to
the open window and stood or leaned there, absorbing the glory of the
night--Urquhart left her, and pulled at his pipe. When she spoke to
the room at large--"Oh, you stuffy people, will you never understand
that all the world is just out here?" he was the first to laugh at
her, though he would have walked her off into that world of magic and
dream, straight from the window where she stood. He was a wild
idealist himself, and was sure of her. But he must wait her good time.

Often, therefore, she drifted out by herself, and he suffered
damnably. But she never went far--he comforted himself with that
assurance. "She has the homing instinct. She won't go without me; and
she knows that I can't come--but oh, to be kissing her under those
birches by the water's edge!"

He was not the only one who was aware that she had flitted. Macartney
was always intensely aware of it, and being by this time exceedingly
fond, it tended to spoil his play. So long as Urquhart left her alone
he was able to endure it.

Then came an evening when, tending to the open door, she found
Urquhart there before her. He had behaved so admirably that her fears
were asleep. He acted with the utmost caution, saying just enough,
with just enough carelessness of tone, to keep her unsuspicious. The
boreal lights were flashing and quivering in the sky: very soon he saw
her absorbed in the wonder and beauty of them. "A night," she said,
"when anything might happen!"

"Yes, it looks like that," he agreed. "But that is not what enraptures
you."

"What do you think enraptures me?" she wished to know.

"The certainty," he replied, "that nothing will."

She waited a while, then said, "Yes, you are right. I don't want
anything else to happen."

"You have everything you want, here in the house. Safe to hand! Your
Lancelot in bed, your James at cards, and myself at the window.
Wonderful! And you are contented?"

"Yes, yes. I ask so little, you see. But you despise me for it."

"God forbid. I promised you that you shouldn't repent this trip. And
you don't, I hope?"

Her eyes were wide open and serious. "No, indeed. I never expected to
be so happy as this. It never happened to me before." She had no
compunctions at all--but he was in the fatuous stage, drugged by his
own imaginings.

"That's good. Shall we go down to the water?"

"I think we might," she said, not daring to look back into the room,
lest he should think that she feared him.

They strolled leisurely through the wood, she in a soft rapture of
delight at the still grey beauty of the night; Urquhart in a state of
mind bordering upon frenzy. He gripped himself by both hands to make
sure of the mastery. What gave him conviction was his constant sense
of Lucy's innocency. This beautiful woman had the heart of a child and
the patience of the mother of a god. To shock the one or gibe at the
other were a blasphemy he simply couldn't contemplate. What then was
to be the end of it? He didn't know; he didn't care. She loved him,
he believed; she had kissed him, therefore she must love him. Such
women don't give their lips without their hearts. But then she had
been scared, and had cried off? Well, that, too, he seemed to
understand. That was where her sense of law came in. He could not but
remember that it would have come in before, had she known who her
lover was. As things fell out, she slipped into love without knowing
it. The moment she had known it, she withdrew to the shadow of her
hearth. That was his Lucy all over. _His_ Lucy? Yes, for that wasn't
the Solicitor's Lucy--if, indeed, the solicitor had a Lucy. But had
he? A little weakness of Urquhart's was to pride himself on being a
man of whims, and to suppose such twists of the mind his unique
possession. All indeed that he had of unique was this, that he
invariably yielded to his whims; whereas other people did not.

However, he set a watch upon himself on this night of witchery, and
succeeded perfectly. They talked leisurely and quietly--of anything or
nothing; the desultory, fragmentary interjections of comment which
pass easily between intimates. Lucy's share was replete with soft
wonderings at the beauty of the world. Neither of them answered the
other.

Under the birch-trees it was light, but very damp. He wouldn't allow
her to stop there, but bade her higher up the hillside. There were
pines there which were always dry. "Wait you there," he said; "I'm
going back to get you a wrap." She would have stopped him, but he had
gone.

Urquhart, walking up sharply to the house, was not at all prepared for
Macartney walking as sharply down from it. In fact, he was very much
put out, and the more so because from the first James took the upper
hand.

"Hulloa," said the lord of the eyeglass.

"Hulloa, yourself," said Urquhart, and stopped, which he need not have
done, seeing that Macartney with complete nonchalance continued his
walk.

"Seen my wife anywhere?" came from over his shoulder. Urquhart turned
on his heels. "Yes," he said, and walked on.

There was an end of one, two and three--as the rhyme goes. Urquhart
was hot with rage. That bland, blundering fool, that glasshouse, that
damned supercilious ass: all this and more he cried upon James. He
scorned him for his jealousy; he cursed him for it; he vowed that he
would carry her off before his very eyes. "Let her give the word, lift
an eyebrow, and I take her across the world." And the lad too, bless
him. What did the quill-driver want of them but credit? Damn him, he
hung them up in his house, as tradesmen use the royal arms. He baited
for his deans and chapters with them. He walked far into the night in
a passion of anger. It never once occurred to him that James was a
rival. And there he was right.

He thought that Urquhart had certainly been with Lucy; he knew that he
was in love with her; but oddly enough that stimulated instead of
quelled him. It enhanced her. It made her love worth keeping. He had a
great respect, in his heart of hearts, for Urquhart's validity in a
world of action which certainly comprehended the taking and keeping of
hearts. Now he came to think of it, he must confess that he had never
loved Lucy as he did now until he had observed that so redoubtable a
champion was in the lists against him. Odd thing! He had been jealous
of Francis Lingen, as he now was of Urquhart; but it was the latter
jealousy which had made him desire Lucy. The former had simply
disgusted him, the latter had spurred him to rivalry--and now to main
desire. James was no philosopher; he had an idle mind except in the
conduct of his business. He could not attempt, then, to explain his
state of mind--but he was very much interested. Soon he saw her in the
dusk under the pines: a slim white shape, standing with one hand upon
the trunk of a tree. Her back was towards him; she did not turn.

She supposed that it was Urquhart come back, and was careful not to
seem waiting for him. "How quick you have been!" she said lightly, and
stood where she was. No answer was returned. Then came a shock indeed,
and her head seemed to flood with fear. Two hands from behind her
covered her eyes; her head was drawn gently back, and she was kissed
ardently on the lips. She struggled wildly; she broke away. "Oh!" she
said, half sobbing. "Oh, how cruel you are--how cruel! How could you
dare to do it?" And then, free of the hands, she turned upon
Urquhart--and saw James. "Oh, my love!" she said, and ran to him and
broke into tears.

James had secured his eyeglass, but now let it drop. He allowed her to
cry her fill, and then made the best of a rather bad business. "If
every man who kissed his wife," said he, "was answered like that, lips
would go dry."

She said through her tears, "You see, I thought you were Mr. Urquhart
with my wrap."

"Oh, the dickens you did," said James. "And is that how Mr. Urquhart
usually brings you a wrap?"

She clung to him. "Well, no. If he did, I suppose I shouldn't have
been so angry--by this time."

"That's a very good answer," James allowed. "I'll only make one
comment upon it. You cried out upon the cruelty of the attack. Now if
it had been--assume it for the moment--our--well, friend, let us say,
why would it have been cruel of him? Shameful, flagrant, audacious,
impudent, insolent, all that I can understand. But cruel, Lucy?"

Lucy's cheek was upon his shoulder, and she let it stay there, even
while she answered. The moment was serious. She must tell him as much
as she dared. Certain things seemed out of the question; but something
she must tell him.

"You see, James," she said, "I think Mr. Urquhart is fond of me--in
fact, I'm sure of it--"

"Has he told you so?"

"Not in so many words--but--"

"But in so many other words, eh? Well, pursue."

"And I told him that I couldn't possibly join the party--on that
account."

"Did you tell him it was on that account?"

"No," said Lucy, "I didn't; but he understood that. I know he
understood it, because he immediately said that if I would come I
shouldn't repent it. And I haven't. He has never made me feel
uncomfortable. But just now--when I was expecting him--oh, it seemed
to me quite horrible--and I was furious with him."

"You were indeed. It didn't occur to you that it might have
been--well, somebody with more right."

Her arm tightened, but she said nothing. The unconscious James went
on. "I was wrong. A man has no right to kiss a woman unawares--in the
dark. Even if it's his wife. She'll always want to know who it was,
and she's bound to find out. And he'll get no thanks for it, either."
Then it became necessary for Lucy to thank him.

"Mind you, my dear," he told her. "I have no quarrel with Jimmy
Urquhart up to now. You say he's in love with you, and I think that
he is. I've thought so for some time, and I confess that I didn't
relish the idea that he should be out here with us. But since we are
in for confessions I'll make one more. If he hadn't been in love with
you I don't believe that I should be--as I am now."

Lucy laughed--the laugh of a woman rich. "Then I'm very much obliged
to him," she said.

But Urquhart was harder to convince than James.



CHAPTER XX

FAIR WARNING


Vera Nugent, a brisk woman of the world, with a fondness for vivid
clothing and a Spanish air which went oddly with it, took the trouble
one fine day to tackle her brother. "Look here, Jimmy," she said as
they breasted a mountain pass, "are you quite sure what you are up to
with these people?"

Urquhart's eyes took a chill tinge--a hard and pebbly stare. "I don't
know what you mean," he said.

"Men always say that, especially when they know very well. Of course I
mean the Macartneys. You didn't suppose I was thinking of the
Poplolly?" The Poplolly, I regret to say, was Francis Lingen, whom
Vera abhorred. The term was opprobrious, and inexact.

But Urquhart shrouded himself in ice. "Perhaps you might explain
yourself," he said.

Vera was not at all sure that she would. "You make it almost
impossible, you know."

They were all out in a party, and were to meet the luncheon and the
boys, who had gone round in the boat. As parties will have it, they
had soon scattered. Lingen had taken Margery Dacre to himself, Lucy
was with her husband. Urquhart, now he came to think of it, began to
understand that the sceptre was out of his hands. The pass, worn out
of the shelving rock by centuries of foot-work, wound itself about
the breasting cliffs like a scarf; below them lay the silver fiord,
and upon that, a mere speck, they could see the motor-boat, with a
wake widening out behind her like parallel lines of railway.

Urquhart saw in his mind that he would be a fool to quarrel with Vera.
She was not on his side, he could feel; but he didn't despair of her.
One way of putting her off him forever was to allow her to think him a
fool. That he could not afford.

"Don't turn against me for a mannerism, my dear," he said.

"I turn against you, if at all, for a lack of mannerism," said Vera
briskly. "It's too bad of you. Here I am as so much ballast for your
party, and when I begin to make myself useful, you pretend I'm not
there. But I _am_ there, you know."

"I was cross," he said, "because I'm rather worried, and I thought you
were going to worry me more."

"Well, maybe that I am,"--she admitted that. "But I don't like to see
a sharp-faced man make a donkey of himself. The credit of the family
is at stake."

He laughed. "I wouldn't be the first of us--and this wouldn't be the
first time. There's whimsy in the blood. Well--out with it. Let me
know the worst."

Vera stopped. "I intend to do it sitting. We've heaps of time. None of
the others want us."

Urquhart hit the rock with his staff. "That's the point, my child. Do
they--or don't they?"

"You believe," Vera said, "that Lucy is in love with you."

Urquhart replied, "I know that she was."

"There you have the pull over me," she answered. "I haven't either
your confidence or hers. All I can tell you is that now she isn't."
Urquhart was all attention. "Do you mean, she has told you anything?"

"Good Heavens," Vera scoffed, "what do you take me for? Do you think I
don't know by the looks of her? If you weren't infatuated you'd know
better than I do."

"My dear girl," Urquhart said, with a straight look at her, "the fact
is, I am infatuated."

"I'm sorry for you. You've made a mess of it. But I must say that I'm
not at all sorry for her. Don't you suppose that she is the sort to
find the world well lost for your _beaux yeux_. Far from that. She'd
wilt like a rose in a window-box."

"I'd take her into fairy-land," said Urquhart. "She should walk in the
dawn. She wouldn't feel her feet."

"She would if they were damp," said Vera, who could be as direct as
you please. "If you think she's a wood nymph in a cage, you're very
much mistaken. She's very domestic."

"I know," said the infatuate, "that I touched her." Vera tossed her
head.

"I'll be bound you did. You aren't the first man to light a fire.
That's what you did. You lit a fire for Macartney to warm his hand at.
She's awfully in love with him."

Urquhart grew red. "That's not probable," he said.

Vera said, "It's certain. Perhaps you'll take the trouble to satisfy
yourself before you take tickets for fairy-land. It's an expensive
journey, I believe. Had you thought what you would be doing about
Lancelot--a very nice boy?"

"No details had been arranged," said Urquhart, in his very annoying
way.

"Not even that of the lady's inclinations, it appears. Well, I've
warned you. I've done it with the best intentions. I suppose even you
won't deny that I'm single-minded? I'm not on the side of your
solicitor." That made Urquhart very angry.

"I'm much obliged to you, my dear. We'll leave my solicitor out of
account for the moment." But that nettled Vera, who flamed.

"Upon my word, Jimmy, you are too sublime. You can't dispose of people
quite like that. How are you to leave him out of account, when you
brought his wife into it? If you ever supposed that Macartney was
nothing but a solicitor, you were never more mistaken in your
life--except when you thought that Lucy was a possible law-breaker."

At the moment, and from where they stood, the sea-scape and the
coast-road stood revealed before and behind them for many a league. In
front it descended by sharp spirals to a river-bed. Vera Nugent
standing there, her chin upon her hands, her hands upon her staff,
could see straight below her feet two absorbed couples, as it were on
different grades of the scene. In the first the fair Margery Dacre
leaned against a rock while Lingen, on his knees, tied her shoestring;
at a lower level yet Macartney, having handed his Lucy over a torrent,
stooped his head to receive his tribute. Vera, who had a grain of pity
in her, hoped that Urquhart had been spared; but whether he was or not
she never knew. No signs of disturbance were upon him at the ensuing
picnic, unless his treatment of Macartney--with a kind of humorous
savagery--betrayed him. They talked of the Folgefond, that mighty
snow-field beyond the fiord which the three men intended to traverse
in a day or two's time.

"Brace yourself, my friend," Urquhart said. "Hearts have been broken
on that ground before now."

James said that he had made his peace with God--but Lucy looked
full-eyed and serious.

"I never know when you are laughing at us," she said to Urquhart.

"Be sure that I have never laughed at you in my life," he said across
the table-cloth.

"He laughs at me," said James behind his eyeglass; "but I defy him.
The man who can laugh at himself is the man I envy. Now I never could
do that."

"You've hit me in a vital spot," Urquhart said. "That's my little
weakness; and that's why I've never succeeded in anything--even in
breaking my neck."

Lancelot nudged his friend Patrick. "Do you twig that?"

Patrick blinked, having his mouth too full to nod conveniently.

"Can't drive a motor, I suppose! Can't fly--I don't think."

"As to breaking your neck," said James, "there's still a chance for
you."

"I shall make a mess of it," Urquhart retorted.

"Is this going to be a neck-breaking expedition?" That was from
Lingen, who now had an object in life.

"I never said so," Urquhart told him. "I said heart-breaking--a far
simpler affair."

"What is going to break your heart in it, please?" Lucy asked him.
She saw that there lay something behind his rattle.

"Well," said Urquhart, brazening it out, "it would break mine to get
over the snow-field--some eight miles of it, there are--and to find
that I couldn't get down. That might easily happen."

"And what would you do?"

James fixed her with his eyeglass. "That's where the neck-breaking
might intervene," he said. "Jimmy would rather risk his neck any day."

"Than his heart!"

"Heart!" said Vera. "No such thing. Quite another organ. It's a case
of dinner. He'd risk his neck for a dinner, and so would any man."

"I believe you are right," said James.

Lucy with very bright eyes looked from one to the other of her lovers.
Each wore a mask. She determined to ask James to give up the
Folgefond, discerning trouble in the air.

They went home by water, and Lancelot added his unconscious testimony.
He was between Urquhart's knees, his hand upon the tiller, his mood
confidential.

"I say--" he began, and Urquhart encouraged him to say on.

--"It's slightly important, but I suppose I couldn't do the Folgefond
by any chance?"

"You are saying a good deal," said Urquhart. "I'll put it like this,
that by some chance you might, but by no chance in the world could
Patrick."

"Hoo!" said Lancelot, "and why not, pray?"

"His mother would put her foot on it. Splosh! it would go like a
cockroach."

"I know," said dreamy Lancelot. "That's what would happen to me, I
expect." Then he added, "That's what will happen to my father."

"Good cockroach," said Urquhart, looking ahead of him. "You think she
won't want him to go."

Lancelot snorted. "_Won't_ want him! Why, she doesn't already. And
he'll do what she wants, I'll bet you."

"Does he always?"

"He always does now. It's the air, I fancy."



CHAPTER XXI

THE DEPARTURE


But pout as she might, she could not prevail with James, whose vanity
had been scratched.

"My dear girl, I'd sooner perish," he said. "Give up a jolly walk
because Jimmy Urquhart talks about my heart and his own
neck--preposterous! Besides, there's nothing in it."

"But, James," she said, "if I ask you--"

He kissed the back of her neck. She was before the glass, busy with
her hair. "You don't ask me. You wouldn't ask me. No woman wants to
make a fool of a man. If she does, she's a vampire."

"Mr. Urquhart is very impulsive," she dared to say.

"I've known that for a long time," said James. "Longer than you have,
I fancy. But it takes more than impulse to break another man's neck.
Besides, I really have no reason to suppose that he wants to break my
neck. Why should he?"

Here they were up against the wall again. If there were reasons, he
could not know them. There was no getting over it yet. They were to
start betimes in the morning, and sleep that night at Brattebö, which
is the hithermost spur of the chain. Dinner and beds had been ordered
at Odde, beyond the snow-field.

Dinner was a gay affair. They toasted the now declared lovers. True to
his cornering instincts, Lingen had told Lucy all about it in the
afternoon. "Your sympathy means so much to me--and Margery, whose mind
is exquisitely sensitive, is only waiting your nod to be at your feet,
with me."

"I should be very sorry to see either of you there," Lucy said. "I'm
very fond of her and I shouldn't take it at all kindly if she demeaned
herself. When do you think of marrying?"

He looked at her appealingly. "I must have time," he said; "time to
build the nest."

"A flat, I suppose," she said, declining such poetical flights.

"A flat!" said Francis Lingen. "Really, it hadn't occurred to me."

From Lucy the news went abroad, and so the dinner was gay. Urquhart
confined himself to the two boys, and told them about the
Folgefond--of its unknown depth, of the crevasses, of the glacier on
its western edge, of certain white snakes, bred by the snow, which
might be found there. Their bite was death, he said.

"Frost-bite," said Patrick Nugent, who knew his uncle's way; but
Lancelot favoured his mother.

"Hoo!" he said. "I expect that you'd give him what for. One blow of
your sword and his head would lie at your feet."

"That's nasty, too," said Urquhart. "They have white blood, I
believe." Lancelot blinked.

"Beastly," he said. "Did Mamma hear you? You'd better not tell her.
She hates whiteness. Secretly--so do I, rather."

It was afterwards, when the boys had gone to bed, that a seriousness
fell upon those of them who were given to seriousness. James and Vera
Nugent settled down squarely to piquet. Francis Lingen murmured to his
affianced bride.

"I don't disguise from myself--and from you I can have no
secrets--that there is danger in the walk. The snow is very
treacherous at this season. We take ropes, of course. Urquhart is said
to know the place; but Urquhart is--"

"He's very fascinating," said Margery Dacre, and Francis lifted his
eyebrows.

"You find that? Then I am distressed. I would share everything with
you if I could. To me, I don't know why, there is something
crude--some harsh note--a clangour of metal. I find him brazen--at
times. But to you, my love, who could be strident? You are the very
home of peace. When I think of you I think of doves in a nest."

"You must think of me to-morrow, then," said Margery. He rewarded her
with a look.

Lucy, for her part, had another sort of danger in her mind. It seemed
absolutely necessary to her now to speak to Urquhart, because she had
a conviction that he and James had very nearly come to grips. Women
are very sharp at these things. She was certain that Urquhart knew the
state of her heart, just as certain as if she had told him of it. That
being so, she dreaded his impulse. She suspected him of savagery, and
as she had no pride where love was concerned she intended to appeal to
him. Modesty she had, but no pride. She must leave great blanks in her
discourse; but she trusted him to fill them up. Then there was
another difficulty. She had no remains of tenderness left for him: not
a filament. Unless she went warily he might find that out and be
mortally offended. All this she battled with while the good-nights to
Lancelot were saying upstairs. She kissed his forehead, and stood over
him for a moment while he snuggled into his blankets. "Oh, my lamb,
you are worth fighting for!" was her last thought, as she went
downstairs full of her purpose.

The card-players sat in the recess; the lovers were outside. Urquhart
was by himself on a divan. She thought that he was waiting for her.

With a book for shield against the lamp she took the chair he offered
her. "Aren't they extraordinary?" she said. He questioned.

"Who is extraordinary? Do you mean the card-sharpers? Not at all. It's
meat and drink to them. It's we who are out of the common: daintier
feeders."

"No," she said, "it's not quite that. James's strong point is that he
can keep his feelings in separate pigeonholes. I'm simply quaking with
fear, because my imagination has flooded me. But he won't think about
the risks he's running--until he is running them."

Urquhart had been looking at her until he discovered that James had
his eye upon her too. He crossed his leg and clasped the knee of it;
he looked fixedly at the ceiling as he spoke.

"I should like to know what it is you're afraid of," he said in a
carefully literal but carefully inaudible tone. He did that sort of
thing very well.

Lucy was pinching her lip. "All sorts of things," she said. "I suffer
from presentiments. I think that you or James may be hurt, for
instance--"

"Do you mean," said Urquhart--as if he had been saying "Where did you
get this tobacco?"--"Do you mean that you're afraid we may hurt each
other?"

She hung her head deeply.

"You needn't be. If you can fear that you must forget my promise." He
saw her eyes clear, then cloud again before her difficulties.

"James, at least," she said, "has never done you any harm." It was
awfully true. But it annoyed him. Damn James!

"None whatever," he answered sharply. "I wonder if I haven't done him
any good."

Looking at her guardedly, through half-closed eyes, he saw that she
was strongly moved. Her bosom rose and fell hastily, like short waves
lipping a wharf. Her hands were shut tight. "You have been the best
friend I ever had," she said. "Don't think I'm not grateful."

That came better. He tapped his pipe on the ash-tray at hand. "My
dear," he said, "I intend to live on your gratitude. Don't be afraid
of anything. _Lascia fare a me._" She rewarded him with a shy look. A
rueful look, it cut him like a knife; but he could have screwed it
round in the wound to get more of such pain. There's no more
bitter-sweet torment to a man than the thanks of the beloved woman for
her freedom given back to her.

He felt very sick indeed--but almost entirely with himself. For her he
chose to have pity; of Macartney he would not allow himself to think
at all. Danger lay that way, and he did not intend to be dangerous. He
would not even remember that he was subject to whims. The thought
flitted over his mind, like an angel of death, but he dismissed it
with an effort. After all, what good could come of freebooting? The
game was up. Like all men of his stamp, he cast about him far and wide
for a line of action; for directly the Folgefond walk was over he
would be off. To stay here was intolerable--just as to back out of the
walk would be ignominious. No, he would go through with that somehow;
but from Odde, he thought, he might send for his things and clear out.
It did not occur to him that he might have to deal with Macartney.
What should Macartney want that he had not? He had vindicated the law!

But the hour was come when Macartney was to know everything. Lucy was
adorable, and he simply adored her; then in the melting mood which
follows she sobbed and whispered her broken confession. He had the
whole story from the beginning.

He listened and learned; he was confounded, he was deeply touched. He
might have been humiliated, and so frozen; he might have been
offended, and so bitter; but he was neither. Her tears, her sobs, her
clinging, her burning cheeks, the flood of her words, or the sudden
ebb which left her speechless--all this taught him what he might be to
a woman who dared give him so much. He said very little himself, and
exacted the last dregs from her cup. He drank it down like a thirsty
horse. Probably it was as sweet for him to drink as for her to pour;
for love is a strange affair and can be its own poison and antidote.

At the end he forgot his magnanimity, so great was his need of hers.
"You have opened my eyes to my own fatuity. You have made me what I
never thought I could be. I am your lover--do you know that? And I
have been your husband for how long? Your husband, Lucy, and now your
lover. Never let these things trouble you any more."

She clung to him with passion. "I love you," she said. "I adore you.
If I've been wicked, it was to prove you good to me, and to crush me
to the earth. Love me again--I am yours forever."

Later she was able to talk freely to him, as of a thing past and done.
"It's very odd; I can't understand it. You didn't begin to love me
until he did, and then you loved me for what he saw in me. Isn't that
true?"

"I couldn't tell you," he said, "because I don't know what he did
see."

"He thought I was pretty--"

"So you are--"

"He thought that I liked to be noticed--"

"Well, and you do--"

"Of course. But it never struck you."

"No--fool that I was."

"I love you for your foolishness."

"Yes, but you didn't."

"No," she said quickly. "No! because you wouldn't allow it. You must
let women love before you can expect them to be meek."

He laughed. "Do you intend to be meek?"

Then it was her turn to laugh. "I should think I did! That's my pride
and joy. You may do what you like now."

He found that a hard saying; but it is a very true one.

The departure was made early. Lucy came down to breakfast, and the
boys; but Margery Dacre did not appear. Vera of course did not. Noon
was her time. The boys were to cross the fiord with them and return in
the boat. Lucy would not go, seeing what was the matter with Urquhart.

Urquhart indeed was in a parlous frame of mind. He was very grim to
all but the boys. He was to them what he had always been. Polite and
very quiet in his ways with Lucy, he had no word for either of his
companions. James treated him with deference; Francis Lingen, who felt
himself despised, was depressed.

"Jolly party!" said Lancelot, really meaning it, and made Urquhart
laugh. But Lucy shuddered at such a laugh. She thought of the wolves
in the Zoological Gardens when at sundown they greet the night. It
made her blood feel cold in her veins.

"If no one's going to enjoy himself, why does anybody go?" she said at
a venture. James protested that he was going to enjoy himself
prodigiously. As for Lingen, he said, it would do him no end of good.

"I jolly well wish I could go," was Lancelot's fishing shot, and Lucy,
who was really sorry for Urquhart, was tempted to urge it. But James
would not have heard of such a thing, she knew.

Then they went, with a great deal of fuss and bustle. James, a great
stickler for the conventions, patted her shoulder for all good-bye.
Urquhart waited his chance.

"Good-bye, my dear," he said. "I've had my innings here. You won't see
me again, I expect. I ask your pardon for many things--but I believe
that we are pretty well quits. Trust me with your James, won't you?
Good-bye." He asked her that to secure himself against whims.

She could do no more than give him her hand. He kissed it, and left
her. The boat was pushed out. Urquhart took the helm, with Lancelot in
the crook of his arm. He turned once and waved his cap.

"There goes a man any woman could love," she told herself. If she had
a regret she had it not long. "Some natural tears they shed, but dried
them soon."

They made a good landing, bestowed their gear in a cart, and set out
for a long climb to Brattebö, which they reached in the late
afternoon--a lonely farm on the side of a naked hill. They slept
there, and were to rise at four for the snow-field.



CHAPTER XXII

CATASTROPHE


They were up and away before the light, taking only one guide with
them, a sinewy, dark man with a clubbed beard on his chin. If they had
had two it had been better, and Urquhart, who knew that, made a great
fuss; but to no purpose. All the men were at the sæters, they were
told; haymaking was in full swing out there. There was nothing to be
done. Urquhart was put out, and in default of another man of sense
made James his partner in griefs. "I know these chaps," he said. "When
they are alone they lose their heads. The least little difficulty,
they shy off and turn for home. I judge this man of ours to have the
heart of a mouse. He don't want to go at all. If there are two of them
they egg each other on. They talk it over. Each tries to be the bolder
man."

"But is there going to be any difficulty?" James enquired, surveying
the waste through his eyeglass. "I don't see why there should be."

"You never know," Urquhart said curtly; but presently he was more
confidential. "Don't tell that ass Lingen; but it might be quite
difficult to get off this place."

James stared about him. "You know best. But is it harder to get off
than on?"

"Of course it is, my dear chap," said Urquhart, quite in his old vein
of good-tempered scorn. "We are going up on the north side, where the
snow is as hard as a brick."

"Ah," said James, "now I see. And we go down on the south, where it's
as soft--"

"Where it may be as soft as a bran-mash. Or blown over into cornices."

James saw, or said that he did. In his private mind he judged Urquhart
of trying to intimidate him. The vice of the expert! But he noticed
that the guide had a coil of rope, and that Urquhart carried a shovel.

It was easy going until near noon, with no snow to speak about. They
climbed a series of ridges, like frozen waves; but each was higher
than the last, and took them closer to the clouds. When they lunched
under the shelter of some tumbled rocks a drifting rain blew across
the desolation.

"Jolly!" said James, but quite happily. Lingen shivered.

"My dear man," said Urquhart, "just you wait. I'll surprise you in a
quarter of an hour's time." He spoke in his old way, as hectoring whom
he tolerated. James noticed it, and was amused. He hadn't yet had time
to be angry with this rascal; and now he began to doubt whether he
should. After all, he had gained so very much more than he had lost.
Honour? Oh, that be jiggered. Something too much of his own honour.
Why, it was through Urquhart's attack upon Lucy that he had found out
what Lucy was. Urquhart, at this time, was marching rather in front of
him: James looked him over. A hardy, impudent rogue, no doubt--with
that square, small head on him, that jutting chin--and his pair of
blue eyes which would look through any woman born and burn her heart
to water. Yes, and so he had had Lucy's heart--as water to be poured
over his feet. By Heaven, when he thought of it, he, James Adolphus,
had been the greater rogue: to play the Grand Turk; to hoard that
lovely, quivering creature in his still seraglio; to turn the key, and
leave her there! And Jimmy Urquhart got in by the window. Of course
he did. He was not an imaginative man by nature; but he was now a
lover and had need to enhance his mistress. How better do that than by
calling himself a d----d fool (the greatest blame he knew)? It follows
that if he had been a fool, Urquhart had not! Impudent dog, if you
like, but not a fool. Now, for the life of him, James could not
despise a man who was not a fool. Nor could he hate one whom he had
bested. He did not hate Urquhart; he wasn't angry with him; he
couldn't despise him. On the contrary, he was sorry for him.

But now the miracle happened, and one could think of nothing else. As
they tramped through the cold mist, over snow that was still crisp and
short with frost, the light gained by degrees. The flying fog became
blue, then radiant: quite suddenly they burst into the sun. The
dazzling field stretched on all sides so far as the eye could see.
Snow and cloud, one could not distinguish them; and above them the
arch of hyaline, a blue interwoven with light, which throbbed to the
point of utterance, and drowned itself in the photo-sphere. The light
seemed to make the sun, to climb towards the zenith, to mass and then
to burst in flame. All three men took it in, each in his fashion.
Lingen was greatly moved; Urquhart became jocular.

"Well," he said to Macartney, "what do you make of that? That's worth
coming up for. That ought to extenuate a good deal." James was quick
to notice the phrase.

"Oh," he said, "you can show me things. I'm very much obliged to you.
This is a wonder of the world."

"Now what the deuce does he mean by that?" Urquhart thought to
himself. Had Lucy told him anything? He didn't believe it. Impossible.
Women don't tell.

They had seven miles of snow, pretty soft by now, and steadily up
hill. They bent themselves seriously to it, and found no occasion for
talk. There were crevasses--green depths of death--to be avoided.
Their guide, light-eyed for scares, seemed to know them all, and
reserved his alarm for signs in the sky invisible to the party. He
mended the pace, which became rather severe. Francis Lingen was
distressed; Macartney kept back to give him company. Urquhart forged
on ahead with the guide.

By four in the afternoon one at least of them was gruelled. That was
Lingen. "If we don't get down after all, it'll go hard with
Poplolly," Urquhart said to James. James replied, "Oh, we must get
down. That's all nonsense." Urquhart said nothing, and they went on.

They reached a point where their guide, stopping for a moment, looked
back at them and pointed forward with his staff. "Odde is over there,"
he said, and Urquhart added that he knew whereabouts they were. "If it
were clear enough," he told them, "you might see it all lying below
you like a map; but I doubt if you'll see anything." They pushed on.

Before the last slope, which was now close at hand, the ground became
very bad. The crevasses showed in every direction, raying out like
cracks on an old bench. The guide was evidently anxious. He gave up
all appearance of conducting his party and went off rapidly by
himself. They waited for him in silence; but presently Urquhart said,
"I bet you any money he won't want to go down."

"Don't he want to dine as much as we do?" said James.

"He doesn't want to break his neck," said Urquhart; "that's his little
weakness."

"I sympathise with him," James said; "but I should like to know more
before I turn back."

"You'll only know what he chooses to tell you," Urquhart answered.
Lingen was sitting on the snow.

The guide came back with firm steps. His eyes sought Urquhart's
naturally.

"Well?" he was asked; and lifted his stock up.

"Impossible," he said.

"Why impossible?" James asked Urquhart, having none of the language,
but guessing at the word.

Urquhart and the man talked; the latter was eloquent.

"He says," Urquhart told them, "that there's a great cornice, and a
drop of forty feet or so. Then he thinks there's another; but he's not
sure of that. He intends to go back. I knew he did before he went out
to look. It's a beastly nuisance."

James looked at Lingen, who was now on his feet. "Well," he said,
"what do you feel about it?"

Lingen, red in the face, said, "You'll excuse me, but I shall do what
the guide proposes, though I admit to great fatigue. I don't think it
would be right, under the circumstances, to do otherwise. I feel a
great responsibility; but I gather that, in any case, he himself would
decline to go down. You will think me timid, I dare say."

"No, no," James said. "That's all right, of course. Personally, I
should be inclined to try the first cornice anyhow. There's always a
chance, you know."

Urquhart looked at him keenly. "Do you mean that?" he asked him.

"Yes," James said. "Why do you ask?" Urquhart turned away. When he
faced James again he was strangely altered. His eyes were narrower;
lines showed beside his mouth. Temptation was hot in the mouth. "We'd
better talk about it," he said, and jerked his head sideways.

James walked with him a little way. "What's all this mystery?" he
asked.

"I wonder if you know what you are doing," Urquhart said; "I wonder if
you know what this means. Do you know, for instance, that I don't care
a damn whether I break my neck or not, and on the whole would rather
that you did than didn't? You ought to know it. But I'm asking you."

James kept his eyeglass to his eye. "I think you are talking
nonsense," he said, "but I don't suppose you intend it for nonsense.
You inspire me to say, taking you on your face value, that I shall try
the first cornice. If it's a forty-foot drop, we ought to have rope
enough."

Urquhart peered at him. "You mean what you say?"

"Certainly I do." Urquhart turned on his heel.

"All right," he said, and went over to the other two.

"Macartney and I are going down," he said to Lingen. "I don't at all
blame you for going back, but I'll trouble you to see that this man
does the needful to-morrow. The needful is to come out here as early
as he can get over the ground, to see if we want him. He had better
fire a gun, or shout. If we are alive we shall answer him. If we don't
answer, he had better see about it. I don't want to scare you, but
this is not a joke, and I can't afford to be misunderstood. Now I'm
going to tell him all that in his own lingo."

Lingen took it very badly; but said nothing. Urquhart spoke vehemently
to the guide, who raised his staff and appeared to be testifying to
Heaven. He handed over the rope, the shovel, and the kit with an air
of Pilate washing his hands.

"Now," Urquhart said to James, "we'll rope, and see if we can cut some
steps through this thing. I've seen that done." James, dropping his
eyeglass, said that he was in his hands. Everybody was quiet, but they
were all in a hurry.

Lingen came up to say good-bye. He was very much distressed, nearly
crying. The guide, on the other hand, was chafing to be off. "If that
chap calls himself a guide," said Urquhart, "he ought to be shot." The
guide thereupon threw up his hands with a gesture of despair. Lingen
said that he couldn't possibly go until he had seen them down. The
guide, who was sullen and nervous, remained to help them. Even that
seemed to be against his convictions.

They fixed one of the stocks in a crevasse; Urquhart roped. Then he
went forward to the edge, or what seemed to be the edge, and having
crawled on his belly so far as to be almost invisible, presently was
seen to be standing up, then to fall to it with the shovel. He seemed
to be cutting steps, and descending as he worked. Gradually he
disappeared, and the pull on the rope began. They paid out cautiously
and regularly--all seemed well. He might have had twenty feet of it;
and then there was a sudden violent wrench at it, and it came back
limp in Macartney's hands.

"He's gone," he said. Then he shouted with all his might. No answer
came. They all shouted; the echoes rang round the waste, driven back
on them from the hidden mountain tops. In the deathlike hush which
followed one of them thought to hear an answering cry. Lingen heard
it, or thought that he did, and began to haul up the rope. When they
had the end of it in their hands it was found to be cut clean. "He did
that himself," James said, then added, "I'm going down. Give me out
this rope--for what it's worth." To Lingen he said, "Get back as quick
as you can, and bring up some men to-morrow." Then, having secured
himself, he went down the flawless snow slope, and they paid out the
cord as he wanted it. He had no particular sensation of fear; he knew
too little about it to have any. It is imaginative men who fear the
unknown. True, the rope had been cut once, and might have to be cut
again. If Urquhart had had to cut, it was because it had been too
short. And now it would be shorter. But there was no time to think of
anything.

The snow seemed to be holding him. He had got far beyond Urquhart's
ledges, was upon the place where Urquhart must have slid rapidly down.
All was well as yet, but he didn't want to overshoot the mark. He kept
his nerve steady, and tried to work it all out in his mind. If this
were really a cornice it must now be very thin, he thought. He drove
at it with his staff, and found that it was so. It was little more
than a frozen crust. He kicked into it with his feet, got a foothold,
and worked the hole bigger. Then he could peer down into the deep,
where the shadows were intensely blue. It looked a fearful drop; but
he saw Urquhart lying there, and went on. He descended some ten, or
perhaps fifteen feet more, and found himself dangling in the air. He
was at the end of the rope then. "I'll risk it," he said, and got his
knife out.

He dropped within a few yards of Urquhart.



CHAPTER XXIII

JAMES AND JIMMY


Macartney found him lying very still; nothing, in fact, seemed to be
alive but his eyes, which were wide open and missed nothing.

"You're hurt, I'm afraid. Can you tell me anything?"

Urquhart spoke in a curiously level tone. It seemed to give
impartiality to what he said, as if he had been discussing the
troubles of a man he hardly knew.

"Back broken, I believe. Anyhow, I can't feel anything. I'm sorry you
came down after me."

"My dear fellow," said James, "what do you take me for?"

Those bright, all-seeing, steady eyes were fixed upon him. They had
the air of knowing everything.

"Well, you knew what I _did_ take you for, anyhow, and so it would
have been reasonable--"

"We won't talk about all that," James said. "Let me cover you up with
something--and then I'll see what can be done about moving you."

Urquhart spoke indifferently about that. "I doubt if you can get
down--and it's a good step to Odde. Four hours, I dare say."

"Yes, but there would be a house nearer than Odde. If I could get some
bearers--we'd get you comfortable before dark."

"Oh, I'm comfortable enough now," Urquhart said. James thought that a
bad sign.

He unpacked the rücksacks, got out the brandy-flask, a mackintosh, a
sweater and a cape. "Now, my dear man, I'm going to hurt you, I'm
afraid; but I must have you on a dry bed; and you must drink some of
this liquor. Which will you have first?"

"The brandy," said Urquhart, "and as soon as you like."

He helped as much as he could, groaned once or twice, sweated with the
effort; but the thing was done. He lay on the mackintosh, his head on
a rücksack, the cape and sweater over him. Macartney went to the edge
of the plateau to prospect. A billowy sea of white stretched out to a
blue infinity. The clouds had lifted or been vaporised. He could see
nothing of Odde; but he believed that he could make out a thread of
silver, which must be the fiord. It would take him too long to get out
there and back--and yet to stay here! That meant that the pair of them
would die. It is but just to him to say that no alternative presented
itself to him. The pair of them would die? Well, yes. What else was
there? He returned. Urquhart was waiting for him, intensely awake to
everything.

"Old chap," said James, "that's no go. I didn't try the snow; but I
can judge distances. It's a deuce of a way down, even if there _is_ a
way, and--"

"It's all right," Urquhart said, "there isn't a way. I'm cornered this
time. But there's just a chance for you--if you work at it. It'll
begin to freeze--in fact, it has begun already. Now if you can find
the shovel, you might employ yourself finely, digging a stairway.
You'll be up by midnight."

"Never mind about me," James said. "I'm going to keep you warm first."

But Urquhart was fretting. He frowned and moved his head about. "No,
no, don't begin that. It's not worth it--and I can't have you do it.
You ought to know who I am before you begin the Good Samaritan stunt.
I want to talk to you while I can. I've got a good deal to tell you.
That will be better for me than anything." Jimmy was prepared for
something of the kind.

"I believe it will," he said. "Go on, then, and get it over."

It had been his first impulse to assure the poor chap that he knew all
about it; but a right instinct stopped him. He would have to hear it.

So Urquhart began his plain tale, and as he got into it the contrast
between it and himself became revolting, even to him. A hale man might
have brazened it out with a better air. A little of the romance with
which it had begun, which indeed alone made it tolerable, would have
been about it still. A sicker man than Urquhart, who made a hard death
for himself, would have given up the battle, thrown himself at James's
feet and asked no quarter. Urquhart was not so far gone as that; a
little bluster remained. He did it badly. He didn't mean to be brutal;
he meant to be honest; but it sounded brutal, and James could hardly
endure it.

He saw, too, as the poor chap went on, that he was getting angry, and
doing himself harm. That was so. Every step he took in his narrative
sharpened the edge of the fate which cut him off. He would have made
a success of it if he could--but he had been really broken before he
broke his back, and the knowledge exasperated him.

So he took refuge in bluster, made himself out worse than he was, and
in so doing distorted Lucy. James was in torment, remembering what he
must. He felt her arms close about his neck; he felt the rush of her
words: "And oh, darling, I thought it was you--of course I thought
so--and I was proud and happy--that you should like me so much! I
looked at myself in the glass afterwards. I thought, 'You must be
rather pretty.' ..." Oh, Heaven, and this mocking, dying devil, with
his triumphs!

"Say no more, man, say no more," broke from him. "I understand the
rest. I have nothing to say to you. You did badly--you did me a
wrong--and her too. But it's done with, and she (God bless her!) can
take no harm. How can she? She acted throughout with a pure mind. She
thought that you were me, and when she found that you weren't--well,
well, take your pride in that. I give it up to you. Why shouldn't I?
She gave you her innocent heart. I don't grudge you."

"You needn't," said Urquhart, "since I'm a dead man. But if I had been
a living one, who knows--?" He laughed bitterly, and stung the other.

"You forget one thing," said James, with something of his old frozen
calm. "For all that you knew, ten minutes after you had left my house
that day--the first of them--I might have benefited by your act--and
you been none the wiser, nor I any the worse off. And there would have
been an end of it."

Urquhart considered the point. James could have seen it working in his
poor, wicked, silly mind, but kept his face away.

"Yes," Urquhart said, "you might; but you didn't." Then he laughed
again--not a pleasant sound.

"Man," said James indignant, "don't you see? What robs me of utterance
is that I _have_ benefited by what you have done."

"It's more than you have deserved, in my opinion," Urquhart retorted.
"I'll ask you not to forget that she has loved me, and doesn't blame
me. And I'll ask you not to forget that it is I who am telling you all
this, and not she." It was his last bite.

The retort was easy, and would have crushed him; but James did not
make it. Let him have his pitiful triumph. He was not angry any more;
he couldn't be--and there was Lucy to be thought of. What would
Urquhart think of a Lucy who could have revealed such things as these?
He would have judged her brazen, little knowing the warm passion of
her tears. Ah, not for him these holy moments. No, let him die
thinking honour of her--honour according to his own code. He put his
hand out and touched Urquhart's face with the back of it.

"Let us leave it at this," he said; "we both love her. We are neither
of us fit. She would have taken either of us. But I came first, and
then came Lancelot--and she loves the law. Put it no other way."

"The law, the law!" said the fretful, smitten man.

"The law of her nature," said James.

He felt Urquhart's piercing eyes to be upon him and schooled himself
to face them and to smile into them. To his surprise he saw them fill
with tears.

"You are a good chap," Urquhart said. "I never knew that before."
Macartney blew his nose.

No more was said, but the sufferer now allowed him to do what he
would. He chafed his hands and arms with brandy; took off his boots
and chafed his feet. He succeeded in getting a certain warmth into
him, and into himself too. He began to be hopeful.

"I think I shall pull you through," he told him. "You ought to be a
pretty hard case. I suppose you don't know how you came to fall so
badly."

"Well, I do," Urquhart said.

"Don't tell me if you'd rather not."

"Oh, what does it matter now? It was a whim."

James smiled. "Another whim?"

"Yes--and another fiasco. You see, in a way, I had dared you to come."

"I admit that."

"Well, I hadn't played fair. I knew, and you didn't, that it was a bad
job. You can't get down this way--not when the snow's like this."

"Oh, can't you?"

"I think not. Well, I ought to have told you. I was tempted. That's
the worst thing I ever did. I ask your pardon for that."

"You have it, old chap," said James.

"You can afford to be magnanimous," Urquhart snapped out fiercely.
"Damn it, you have everything. But I felt badly about it as I was
going down, and I thought, 'They'll feel the break, and know it's all
over. So I cut the painter--do you see?"

"Yes," said James, "I see." He did indeed see.

Urquhart began to grow drowsy and to resent interference. He was too
far gone to think of anything but the moment's ease. James, on the
other hand, was entirely absorbed in his patient. "I'm not going to
let you sleep," he said. "It's no good making a fuss. I've got the
kinch on you now." It was as much as he had. The air was biting cold,
and the colder it got the more insistent on sleep Urquhart became.

James stared about him. Was this the world that he knew? Were kindly
creatures moving about somewhere in it, helping each other? Was Lucy
in this place? Had she lain against his heart two nights ago? Had he
been so blessed? Had life slipped by--and was this the end? Which was
the reality, and which the dream? If both had been real, and this was
the end of men's endeavour--if this were death--if one slipped out in
this cur's way, the tail between the legs--why not end it? He could
sleep himself, he thought. Suppose he lay by this brother cur of his
and slept? Somewhere out beyond this cold there were men by firelight
kissing their wives. Poor chaps, they didn't know the end. This was
the end--loneliness and cold. Yes, but you could sleep!...

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly he started, intent and quivering. He had heard a cry. Every
fibre of him claimed life. He listened, breathlessly. Above the
knocking of his own heart he heard it again. No doubt at all. He
turned to Urquhart and shook him. "They are coming--they are
coming--we are going to be saved!" He was violently moved; tears were
streaming down his face. Urquhart, out of those still, aware,
dreadfully intelligent eyes, seemed to see them coming--whoever they
were. He too, and his pitiful broken members, were calling on life.

James, on his feet, shouted with might and main, and presently was
answered from near at hand. Then he saw Lingen and the guide wading
through the snow. "They have found us," he told Urquhart; "it's
Francis Lingen and the guide. How they've done it I don't pretend to
guess."

"They've got around the cornice," Urquhart said. "It can be done I
know." He seemed indifferent again, even annoyed again that he
couldn't be allowed to sleep. James thought it a pose, this time.

Lingen, out of breath but extremely triumphant, met James.

"Thank God," he said. James with lifted brows waved his head backward
to indicate the sufferer.

"He's very bad," he said. "How did you get him to come?" He meant the
guide.

Flaming Lingen said, "I made him. I was desperate. I've never done
such a thing before, but I laid hands on him."

"You are a brick," said James.

Lingen said, "It's something to know that you can throttle a man when
you want to badly enough. I hadn't the slightest idea. It's a thing I
never did before. I rather like it."

Throttled or not, the guide saved the situation. He saved it,
undisguisedly, for his own sake; for he had no zest for helping to
carry a bier over the Folgefond. They made a litter of alpen-stocks
and the mackintosh, and so between them carried Urquhart down the
mountain. No need to dwell on it. They reached the hotel at Odde about
midnight, but halfway to it they found help.



CHAPTER XXIV

URQUHART'S APOLOGY


Macartney was right when he said to Lucy, in talking over the
adventure, that Urquhart had no moral sense, though she had not then
been convinced. But she was to be convinced before she had done with
him.

He asked for her repeatedly, and with no regard at all to what had
happened. At last he was told that if he excited himself she would
leave the hotel. Vera Nugent told him that, having installed herself
his nurse. Vera, who knew nothing but suspected much, guessed that
Macartney had had as much of her brother as he cared about. As for
Lucy, on the whole she despised her for preferring James with the Law
to Jimmy without it. In this she did little justice to James's use of
his advantage; but, as I say, she didn't know what had happened. All
she could see for herself was that where she had once had a _faible_
for Urquhart she was now ridiculously in love with her husband. Vera
thought that any woman was ridiculous who fell into that position.
She was not alone in the opinion.

However, the main thing was that Jimmy shouldn't fret himself into a
fever. If he kept quiet, she believed that he would recover. There was
no dislocation, the doctors told her, but a very bad wrench. He must
be perfectly still--and we should see.

Lucy was not told how impatiently she was awaited. James, maybe, did
not know anything about it. He felt great delicacy in telling what he
had to tell her of the events of that day. But she guessed nearly
everything, even that Urquhart had intended to break his own neck. "He
would," she said, being in a stare; "he's like that." James agreed,
but pointed out that it had nearly involved his own end likewise. Lucy
stared on, but said, "That wouldn't occur to him at the time." No,
said James, on the contrary. It had occurred to him at the time that
if he cut the rope, he, James, would immediately turn for home. She
nodded her head several times. "He's like that." And then she turned
and hid her face. "It's all dreadful," she said; "I don't want to know
any more." It was then that James pronounced upon Urquhart's absence
of morality, and found out that she was very much interested in him
anyhow.

She was curious about what had passed between him and James, for she
was sure that there had been something. James admitted that. "It was
very uncomfortable," he said; "I cut him as short as I could--but I
was awfully sorry for him. After all, I had scored, you see."

She gave him a long look. "Yes, you scored. All ways. Because, it was
only when I was angry with you that I--thought he might do." There
could be no comment on that. Then she said, "I'm thankful that I told
you everything before he did."

"So am I, by Jove," said James. He put his arm round her. "If you
hadn't," he said, "I think I could have let him die." Lucy shook her
head.

"No, you wouldn't have done that. He would have--but not you. If you
had been capable of that you wouldn't have called me to come to you as
you did--that day." He knew which day she meant, and felt it necessary
to tell her something about it.

"On that day," he said, "though you didn't know it, I was awfully in
love with you." She looked at him, wonderfully. "No, I didn't know
that! What a donkey I was! But I was wretched. I simply longed for
you."

"If you hadn't cried, you would never have had me." That she
understood.

"You wanted to pity me."

"No, I had been afraid of you. Your tears brought you down to earth."

"That's poetry," said Lucy.

"It's the nature of man," he maintained.

She wanted to know if he "minded" her seeing Urquhart. He did, very
much; but wouldn't say so.

"You needn't mind a bit," she told him. "He has terrified me. I'm not
adventurous at all; besides--"

"Besides--?"

"No, no, not now." She would say nothing more.

       *       *       *       *       *

An expedition was made to the foot of the snow-field--for the benefit
of the boys. From a distance they saw the great cornice, and the
plateau where James had watched by Urquhart. Lancelot was here
confronted with irony for the first time. His loyalty was severely
tried. By rights Mr. Urquhart ought to have rescued the lot. Not for
a moment could he doubt of that. As for his father, accepted on all
hands as a hero, there were difficulties in the way which he could not
get over. He had to go very warily to work because of his mother; but
he went as far as he could. Why was it that Mr. Urquhart was hurt and
Father was not, when they both had the same drop? Lucy could only say
that Father dropped better--or fell better. And then there was a
pause. "What! With an eyeglass!" He allowed himself that--with her;
but with Patrick Nugent he was short and stern. Patrick had said
something of the same kind, as they were journeying home together. Why
hadn't Lancelot's governor smashed his eyeglass when he dropped?
Lancelot sniffed offence immediately, and snorted, "Hoo! Jolly good
thing for him he didn't! It kept the cold out of his eye. It's like
feeding a mouse when you're a prisoner in dungeons. Afterwards it
comes and gnaws the rope. Pooh, any ass could see that." And so much
for Patrick and cheek.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the sick man, fretting in his bed, took short views. To see Lucy
again had become so desirable that he could think of nothing else.
She glanced before him as a Promise, and his nature was such that a
Promise was halfway to a fulfilling. As strength grew, so did he wax
sanguine, and amused himself by reconstructing his Spanish castle.

Vera Nugent gave him no encouragement; and perhaps overdid it. "Hadn't
you really better let the woman alone? She's perfectly happy--in spite
of you." He could afford to laugh at this.

"She doesn't know what happiness is. She thinks it is safety. I could
teach her better."

"You've made a great mess of it so far," Vera said. He ignored that.

"You say that she's happy. I suggest that she is merely snug. That's
what a dormouse calls happiness."

"Well, there's a good deal of the dormouse in Lucy," Vera said. "If
you stroke her she shines."

"Silence!" he cried sharply out. "You don't know anything at all. I
have had her radiant--like a moonstone. When am I to see her?"

"I'll tell her that you want to see her--but it would be reasonable if
she refused."

"She won't refuse," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

James must be told, of course. He took it quietly. "Yes, on the
whole--yes. I don't think you can refuse him that. It will try you."

"It will be horrid--but anyhow you know everything he can say."

"He doesn't know that I do. He'll build on that."

"Build!" said Lucy quickly. "What sort of building?"

"Oh, fantastic architecture. Bowers by Bendemeer. Never mind. Are you
going?"

"Yes," said Lucy slowly. "Yes, I'll go now." She went to him and put
her hands on his shoulders. Her eyes searched his face, and found it
inscrutable. "You mind," she said, "I know you do. You ought not--but
I'm glad of it."

He humbled himself at once. They parted as lovers part; but for the
life of him he could not understand how she could find the heart to
go. With himself, now, it would have been a point of honour not to go.
He did not see that the more a woman loves the more love she has to
spare.

Vera Nugent took her into the room, pausing outside the door. "You'll
find him very jumpy," she said; and then, "My dear, you're so
sensible."

Lucy, who knew that she meant precisely the opposite, said, "No, I
don't think I am. I'm excitable myself. What do you want me to do?"

"Keep cool," said Vera. "He won't like it, but it's important." Then
they went in. "Jimmy, here's Mrs. Macartney."

The quick eyes from the bed had been upon her from the first. It was
immediately evident to her that she was not to be spared. She heard
his "At last!" and braced herself for what that might mean.

"I should have come before if the doctors had approved--so would James
and Lancelot," she said as briskly as she might. He took no notice of
her addition. Vera Nugent, saying, "Don't let him talk too much," then
left her with him.

She began matter-of-fact enquiries, but he soon showed her that she
had not been brought in for such platitude. He played the mastery of
the invalid without hesitation.

"Oh, I'm very sick, you know. They tell me that I shall be as fit as
ever I was, if I behave--but really I don't know. I've a good deal
behind me--and not much before--so that I'm comparatively indifferent
how the thing goes.... Look here, Lucy," he said suddenly--and she
stiffened at her name--"I have to talk to you at last. It's wonderful
how we've put it off--but here it has come."

She said in low tones, "I don't see why we should talk about anything.
I would much rather not. Everything is changed now--everything."

Urquhart began with a touch of asperity ill disguised. "Might one be
allowed to enquire...?" Scared perhaps by his pomposity, he broke off:
"No, that won't do. I'll ask you simply, what has happened? You liked
me--to say no more. Now you don't. No, no, don't protest yet. Leave it
at that. Well, and then there's Macartney. Macartney didn't know you
existed. Now he doesn't see that any one else does. What has happened,
Lucy?"

She was annoyed at his _Lucy_, annoyed that she could be annoyed,
annoyed at his question, and his right to ask it--which she had given
him. Mostly, perhaps, she was annoyed because her answer must sound
ridiculous. Hateful, that such should be the lot of men and wives! She
repeated his question, "What has happened? I don't know how to tell
you. I found out, before we started--James found out-- Please don't
ask me to talk about it. Believe me when I say that everything is
changed. I can't say more than that."

He didn't move his eyes from her. She knew they were there though she
would not face them. "Everything isn't changed. I'm not changed. I
don't know that you are, although you say so." She faced him.

"Indeed, I am. I hope you'll understand that." He frowned, his fever
flushed him.

"You can't be. We can never be ordinary acquaintance. I have kissed
you--"

"You had no right--"

"You have kissed me--"

"You are cruel indeed."

"I am not cruel--I don't pretend to excuse myself. The first time--it
was the act of a cad--but I worked it all out. It couldn't fail; I
knew exactly how it would be. You would of course think it was he. You
would be awfully touched, awfully pleased--set up. And you were. I saw
that you were when we all came into the room. You went over and stood
by him. You put your hand on his arm. I said, 'You divine,
beautiful, tender thing, now I'll go through the fire to get you....'"

Lucy had covered her face with her hands; but now she lifted it and
showed him as it might be the eyes of an Assessing Angel.

"You went through no fire at all. But you put me in the fire." But he
continued as if she had said nothing material.

"I had made up my mind to be satisfied. I thought if I could see you
exalted, proud of what you had, that would be enough. But you found
him out; and then you found me out too ... and we never spoke of it.
But there it was, Lucy, all the time; and there it is still, my
dear--"

Her face was aflame, but her eyes clear and cold. "No," she said,
"it's not there. There is nothing there at all. You are nothing to me
but a thought of shame. I think I deserve all that you can say--but
surely you have said enough to me now. I must leave you if you go on
with this conversation. Nothing whatever is there--"

He laughed, not harshly, but comfortably, as a man does who is sure of
himself. "Yes, there is something there still. I count on that. There
is a common knowledge, unshared by any one but you and me. He would
have it so. I was ready to tell him everything, but he wouldn't hear
me. It was honourable of him. I admired him for it; but it left me
sharing something with you."

She stared at him, as if he had insulted her in the street.

"What can you mean? How could he want to hear from you what he knew
already from me?"

Urquhart went pale. Grey patches showed on his cheeks and spread like
dry places in the sand.

"You told him?"

"Everything. Two nights before you went."

He fell silent. His eyes left her face. Power seemed to leave him.

"That tears it," he said. "That does for me." He was so utterly
disconcerted that she could have pitied him.

"So that's why he didn't want to hear me! No wonder. But--why didn't
he tell me that he knew it? I taunted him with not knowing." He turned
towards her; his eyes were bright with fever. "If you know, perhaps
you'll tell me."

Lucy said proudly, "I believe I know. He didn't want to change your
thoughts of me." He received that in silence.

Then he said, "By George, he's a better man than I am."

Lucy said, "Yes, he is." Her head was very fixed, her neck very stiff.
She was really angry, and Urquhart had sense enough to see it. She got
up to leave him, really angry, but unwilling to appear so. "You must
forget all this," she said, "and get well. Then you will do wonderful
things."

He said, "I've been a blackguard; but I meant something better."

"Oh, I am sure you did," she said warmly.

"I won't see Macartney, if he doesn't mind. Tell him from me that he's
a better man than I am."

"He won't believe you," said Lucy.

"Oh, yes, he will," Urquhart held. "Good-bye. Love to Lancelot."

That melted her. "Don't give us up. We are all your friends now."

He wouldn't have it. "No. I am a neck-or-nothing man. It can't be.
There's no cake in the cupboard. I've eaten it. Send Vera in if you
see her about. Good-bye." She left him.

       *       *       *       *       *

She went through the hall, with a word to Vera, who was writing
letters there. "He asked for you."

Vera looked up at her. "He's excited, I suppose?"

"No, not now," said Lucy. Then she went into the sitting-room and saw
the party at tea on the balcony. James paused in his careful
occupations, and focussed her with his eyeglass. She went quickly to
the table.

"Oh, let me do it, let me." And then she sighed deeply.

"Hulloa," said James, knowing very well. "What's up?"

She poured the tea. "Only that I'm glad to be here."

Glances were exchanged, quick but reassuring.

Lancelot said, "There's a ripping cake. Mr. Urquhart would like some,
I bet you."

Lucy said, "He can't have any cake just yet." Upon which remark she
avoided James's eye, and eyeglass, with great care. But on a swift
afterthought she stooped and kissed Lancelot.



EPILOGUE


Really, the only fact I feel called upon to add is the following
announcement, culled from a fashionable newspaper.

"On the 3rd June," we read, "at ---- Onslow Square, to Mr. and Mrs.
James Adolphus Macartney, a daughter."

That ought to do instead of the wedding bells once demanded by the
average reader. Let it then stand for the point of my pair's
pilgrimage.

I promised a romantic James and have given you a sentimental one. It
is a most unfortunate thing that it should be thought ridiculous for a
man to fall in love with his wife, for his wife to fall in love with
him; and we have to thank, I believe, the high romanticks for it. They
must have devilry, it seems, or cayenne pepper. But I say, Scorn not
the sentimental, though it be barley-sugar to ambrosia, a canary's
flight to a skylark's. Scorn it not; it's the romantic of the
unimaginative; and if it won't serve for a magic carpet, it makes a
useful anti-macassar.

The Macartneys saw no more of Urquhart, who, however, recovered the
use of his backbone, and with it his zest for the upper air. He sent
Lucy some flowers after the event of June, and later on, at the end of
July, a letter, which I reproduce.

    "_Quid plura_? I had news of you and greeted it, and am gone.
    I have hired myself to the Greeks for the air. I take two
    machines of my own, and an m. b. If you can forgive me when
    I have worked out my right we shall meet again. If you, I
    shall know, and keep off. Good-bye, Lucy.

                                                      "J. U.

    "The one thing I can't forgive myself was the first, a wild
    impulse, but a cad's. All the rest was inevitable. Good-bye."

She asked Lancelot what _Quid plura_ meant. He snorted. "Hoo! Stale!
It means, what are you crying about? naturally. Who said it? That
letter? Who's it from? Mr. Urquhart, I suppose?"

"Yes, it's from Mr. Urquhart, to say Good-bye. He's going to Greece,
to fly for the navy."

"Oh. Rather sport. Has he gone?"

"Yes, dear, I think so."

"You'll write to him, I suppose?"

"I might."

"I shall too, then. Rather. I should think so."



                                THE END



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Note:

1) Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been retained from the original.

2) The original text includes Greek characters. For this text version
   these letters have been replaced with transliterations.

3) Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

4) The following misprints have been corrected:
     vicacious corrected to vivacious (page 97)
     "s[oe]ters" corrected to "sæters" (page 268)
     missing text "w____" corrected to "where" (page 279)

5) Other than the corrections listed above, printer's inconsistencies
   in spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, and ligature usage have been
   retained.





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