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Title: The Marriages
Author: James, Henry
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Marriages" ***

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Transcribed from the 1922 Macmillan and Co. “Daisy Miller, Pandora, The
Patagonia and Other Tales” edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org.  Proofing by Elizabeth Manzelli and Vanessa Mosher.

                          [Picture: Book cover]



                              THE MARRIAGES
                              by Henry James


I


“WON’T you stay a little longer?” the hostess asked while she held the
girl’s hand and smiled.  “It’s too early for every one to go—it’s too
absurd.”  Mrs. Churchley inclined her head to one side and looked
gracious; she flourished about her face, in a vaguely protecting
sheltering way, an enormous fan of red feathers.  Everything in her
composition, for Adela Chart, was enormous.  She had big eyes, big teeth,
big shoulders, big hands, big rings and bracelets, big jewels of every
sort and many of them.  The train of her crimson dress was longer than
any other; her house was huge; her drawing-room, especially now that the
company had left it, looked vast, and it offered to the girl’s eyes a
collection of the largest sofas and chairs, pictures, mirrors, clocks,
that she had ever beheld.  Was Mrs. Churchley’s fortune also large, to
account for so many immensities?  Of this Adela could know nothing, but
it struck her, while she smiled sweetly back at their entertainer, that
she had better try to find out.  Mrs. Churchley had at least a high-hung
carriage drawn by the tallest horses, and in the Row she was to be seen
perched on a mighty hunter.  She was high and extensive herself, though
not exactly fat; her bones were big, her limbs were long, and her loud
hurrying voice resembled the bell of a steamboat.  While she spoke to his
daughter she had the air of hiding from Colonel Chart, a little shyly,
behind the wide ostrich fan.  But Colonel Chart was not a man to be
either ignored or eluded.

“Of course every one’s going on to something else,” he said.  “I believe
there are a lot of things to-night.”

“And where are _you_ going?” Mrs. Churchley asked, dropping her fan and
turning her bright hard eyes on the Colonel.

“Oh I don’t do that sort of thing!”—he used a tone of familiar resentment
that fell with a certain effect on his daughter’s ear.  She saw in it
that he thought Mrs. Churchley might have done him a little more justice.
But what made the honest soul suppose her a person to look to for a
perception of fine shades?  Indeed the shade was one it might have been a
little difficult to seize—the difference between “going on” and coming to
a dinner of twenty people.  The pair were in mourning; the second year
had maintained it for Adela, but the Colonel hadn’t objected to dining
with Mrs. Churchley, any more than he had objected at Easter to going
down to the Millwards’, where he had met her and where the girl had her
reasons for believing him to have known he should meet her.  Adela wasn’t
clear about the occasion of their original meeting, to which a certain
mystery attached.  In Mrs. Churchley’s exclamation now there was the
fullest concurrence in Colonel Chart’s idea; she didn’t say “Ah yes, dear
friend, I understand!” but this was the note of sympathy she plainly
wished to sound.  It immediately made Adela say to her “Surely you must
be going on somewhere yourself.”

“Yes, you must have a lot of places,” the Colonel concurred, while his
view of her shining raiment had an invidious directness.  Adela could
read the tacit implication: “You’re not in sorrow, in desolation.”

Mrs. Churchley turned away from her at this and just waited before
answering.  The red fan was up again, and this time it sheltered her from
Adela.  “I’ll give everything up—for _you_,” were the words that issued
from behind it.  “_Do_ stay a little.  I always think this is such a nice
hour.  One can really talk,” Mrs. Churchley went on.  The Colonel
laughed; he said it wasn’t fair.  But their hostess pressed his daughter.
“Do sit down; it’s the only time to have any talk.”  The girl saw her
father sit down, but she wandered away, turning her back and pretending
to look at a picture.  She was so far from agreeing with Mrs. Churchley
that it was an hour she particularly disliked.  She was conscious of the
queerness, the shyness, in London, of the gregarious flight of guests
after a dinner, the general _sauve qui peut_ and panic fear of being left
with the host and hostess.  But personally she always felt the contagion,
always conformed to the rush.  Besides, she knew herself turn red now,
flushed with a conviction that had come over her and that she wished not
to show.

Her father sat down on one of the big sofas with Mrs. Churchley;
fortunately he was also a person with a presence that could hold its own.
Adela didn’t care to sit and watch them while they made love, as she
crudely imaged it, and she cared still less to join in their strange
commerce.  She wandered further away, went into another of the bright
“handsome,” rather nude rooms—they were like women dressed for a
ball—where the displaced chairs, at awkward angles to each other, seemed
to retain the attitudes of bored talkers.  Her heart beat as she had
seldom known it, but she continued to make a pretence of looking at the
pictures on the walls and the ornaments on the tables, while she hoped
that, as she preferred it, it would be also the course her father would
like best.  She hoped “awfully,” as she would have said, that he wouldn’t
think her rude.  She was a person of courage, and he was a kind, an
intensely good-natured man; nevertheless she went in some fear of him.
At home it had always been a religion with them to be nice to the people
he liked.  How, in the old days, her mother, her incomparable mother, so
clever, so unerring, so perfect, how in the precious days her mother had
practised that art!  Oh her mother, her irrecoverable mother!  One of the
pictures she was looking at swam before her eyes.  Mrs. Churchley, in the
natural course, would have begun immediately to climb staircases.  Adela
could see the high bony shoulders and the long crimson tail and the
universal coruscating nod wriggle their horribly practical way through
the rest of the night.  Therefore she _must_ have had her reasons for
detaining them.  There were mothers who thought every one wanted to marry
their eldest son, and the girl sought to be clear as to whether she
herself belonged to the class of daughters who thought every one wanted
to marry their father.  Her companions left her alone; and though she
didn’t want to be near them it angered her that Mrs. Churchley didn’t
call her.  That proved she was conscious of the situation.  She would
have called her, only Colonel Chart had perhaps dreadfully murmured
“Don’t, love, don’t.”  This proved he also was conscious.  The time was
really not long—ten minutes at the most elapsed—when he cried out gaily,
pleasantly, as if with a small jocular reproach, “I say, Adela, we must
release this dear lady!”  He spoke of course as if it had been Adela’s
fault that they lingered.  When they took leave she gave Mrs. Churchley,
without intention and without defiance, but from the simple sincerity of
her pain, a longer look into the eyes than she had ever given her before.
Mrs. Churchley’s onyx pupils reflected the question as distant dark
windows reflect the sunset; they seemed to say: “Yes, I _am_, if that’s
what you want to know!”

What made the case worse, what made the girl more sure, was the silence
preserved by her companion in the brougham on their way home.  They
rolled along in the June darkness from Prince’s Gate to Seymour Street,
each looking out of a window in conscious prudence; watching but not
seeing the hurry of the London night, the flash of lamps, the quick roll
on the wood of hansoms and other broughams.  Adela had expected her
father would say something about Mrs. Churchley; but when he said nothing
it affected her, very oddly, still more as if he had spoken.  In Seymour
Street he asked the footman if Mr. Godfrey had come in, to which the
servant replied that he had come in early and gone straight to his room.
Adela had gathered as much, without saying so, from a lighted window on
the second floor; but she contributed no remark to the question.  At the
foot of the stairs her father halted as if he had something on his mind;
but what it amounted to seemed only the dry “Good-night” with which he
presently ascended.  It was the first time since her mother’s death that
he had bidden her good-night without kissing her.  They were a kissing
family, and after that dire event the habit had taken a fresh spring.
She had left behind her such a general passion of regret that in kissing
each other they felt themselves a little to be kissing her.  Now, as,
standing in the hall, with the stiff watching footman—she could have said
to him angrily “Go away!”—planted near her, she looked with unspeakable
pain at her father’s back while he mounted, the effect was of his having
withheld from another and a still more slighted cheek the touch of his
lips.

He was going to his room, and after a moment she heard his door close.
Then she said to the servant “Shut up the house”—she tried to do
everything her mother had done, to be a little of what she had been,
conscious only of falling woefully short—and took her own way upstairs.
After she had reached her room she waited, listening, shaken by the
apprehension that she should hear her father come out again and go up to
Godfrey.  He would go up to tell him, to have it over without delay,
precisely because it would be so difficult.  She asked herself indeed why
he should tell Godfrey when he hadn’t taken the occasion—their drive home
being an occasion—to tell herself.  However, she wanted no announcing, no
telling; there was such a horrible clearness in her mind that what she
now waited for was only to be sure her father wouldn’t proceed as she had
imagined.  At the end of the minutes she saw this particular danger was
over, upon which she came out and made her own way to her brother.
Exactly what she wanted to say to him first, if their parent counted on
the boy’s greater indulgence, and before he could say anything, was:
“Don’t forgive him; don’t, don’t!”

He was to go up for an examination, poor lad, and during these weeks his
lamp burned till the small hours.  It was for the Foreign Office, and
there was to be some frightful number of competitors; but Adela had great
hopes of him—she believed so in his talents and saw with pity how hard he
worked.  This would have made her spare him, not trouble his night, his
scanty rest, if anything less dreadful had been at stake.  It was a
blessing however that one could count on his coolness, young as he
was—his bright good-looking discretion, the thing that already made him
half a man of the world.  Moreover he was the one who would care most.
If Basil was the eldest son—he had as a matter of course gone into the
army and was in India, on the staff, by good luck, of a
governor-general—it was exactly this that would make him comparatively
indifferent.  His life was elsewhere, and his father and he had been in a
measure military comrades, so that he would be deterred by a certain
delicacy from protesting; he wouldn’t have liked any such protest in an
affair of _his_.  Beatrice and Muriel would care, but they were too young
to speak, and this was just why her own responsibility was so great.

Godfrey was in working-gear—shirt and trousers and slippers and a
beautiful silk jacket.  His room felt hot, though a window was open to
the summer night; the lamp on the table shed its studious light over a
formidable heap of text-books and papers, the bed moreover showing how he
had flung himself down to think out a problem.  As soon as she got in she
began.  “Father’s going to marry Mrs. Churchley, you know.”

She saw his poor pink face turn pale.  “How do you know?”

“I’ve seen with my eyes.  We’ve been dining there—we’ve just come home.
He’s in love with her.  She’s in love with _him_.  They’ll arrange it.”

“Oh I say!” Godfrey exclaimed, incredulous.

“He will, he will, he will!” cried the girl; and with it she burst into
tears.

Godfrey, who had a cigarette in his hand, lighted it at one of the
candles on the mantelpiece as if he were embarrassed.  As Adela, who had
dropped into his armchair, continued to sob, he said after a moment: “He
oughtn’t to—he oughtn’t to.”

“Oh think of mamma—think of mamma!” she wailed almost louder than was
safe.

“Yes, he ought to think of mamma.”  With which Godfrey looked at the tip
of his cigarette.

“To such a woman as that—after _her_!”

“Dear old mamma!” said Godfrey while he smoked.

Adela rose again, drying her eyes.  “It’s like an insult to her; it’s as
if he denied her.”  Now that she spoke of it she felt herself rise to a
height.  “He rubs out at a stroke all the years of their happiness.”

“They were awfully happy,” Godfrey agreed.

“Think what she was—think how no one else will ever again be like her!”
the girl went on.

“I suppose he’s not very happy now,” her brother vaguely contributed.

“Of course he isn’t, any more than you and I are; and it’s dreadful of
him to want to be.”

“Well, don’t make yourself miserable till you’re sure,” the young man
said.

But Adela showed him confidently that she _was_ sure, from the way the
pair had behaved together and from her father’s attitude on the drive
home.  If Godfrey had been there he would have seen everything; it
couldn’t be explained, but he would have felt.  When he asked at what
moment the girl had first had her suspicion she replied that it had all
come at once, that evening; or that at least she had had no conscious
fear till then.  There had been signs for two or three weeks, but she
hadn’t understood them—ever since the day Mrs. Churchley had dined in
Seymour Street.  Adela had on that occasion thought it odd her father
should have wished to invite her, given the quiet way they were living;
she was a person they knew so little.  He had said something about her
having been very civil to him, and that evening, already, she had guessed
that he must have frequented their portentous guest herself more than
there had been signs of.  To-night it had come to her clearly that he
would have called on her every day since the time of her dining with
them; every afternoon about the hour he was ostensibly at his club.  Mrs.
Churchley _was_ his club—she was for all the world just like one.  At
this Godfrey laughed; he wanted to know what his sister knew about clubs.
She was slightly disappointed in his laugh, even wounded by it, but she
knew perfectly what she meant: she meant that Mrs. Churchley was public
and florid, promiscuous and mannish.

“Oh I daresay she’s all right,” he said as if he wanted to get on with
his work.  He looked at the clock on the mantel-shelf; he would have to
put in another hour.

“All right to come and take darling mamma’s place—to sit where _she_ used
to sit, to lay her horrible hands on _her_ things?”  Adela was
appalled—all the more that she hadn’t expected it—at her brother’s
apparent acceptance of such a prospect.

He coloured; there was something in her passionate piety that scorched
him.  She glared at him with tragic eyes—he might have profaned an altar.
“Oh I mean that nothing will come of it.”

“Not if we do our duty,” said Adela.  And then as he looked as if he
hadn’t an idea of what that could be: “You must speak to him—tell him how
we feel; that we shall never forgive him, that we can’t endure it.”

“He’ll think I’m cheeky,” her brother returned, looking down at his
papers with his back to her and his hands in his pockets.

“Cheeky to plead for _her_ memory?”

“He’ll say it’s none of my business.”

“Then you believe he’ll do it?” cried the girl.

“Not a bit.  Go to bed!”

“_I’ll_ speak to him”—she had turned as pale as a young priestess.

“Don’t cry out till you’re hurt; wait till he speaks to _you_.”

“He won’t, he won’t!” she declared.  “He’ll do it without telling us.”

Her brother had faced round to her again; he started a little at this,
and again, at one of the candles, lighted his cigarette, which had gone
out.  She looked at him a moment; then he said something that surprised
her.  “Is Mrs. Churchley very rich?”

“I haven’t the least idea.  What on earth has that to do with it?”

Godfrey puffed his cigarette.  “Does she live as if she were?”

“She has a lot of hideous showy things.”

“Well, we must keep our eyes open,” he concluded.  “And now you _must_
let me get on.”  He kissed his visitor as if to make up for dismissing
her, or for his failure to take fire; and she held him a moment, burying
her head on his shoulder.

A wave of emotion surged through her, and again she quavered out: “Ah why
did she leave us?  Why did she leave us?”

“Yes, why indeed?” the young man sighed, disengaging himself with a
movement of oppression.



II


ADELA was so far right as that by the end of the week, though she
remained certain, her father had still not made the announcement she
dreaded.  What convinced her was the sense of her changed relations with
him—of there being between them something unexpressed, something she was
aware of as she would have been of an open wound.  When she spoke of this
to Godfrey he said the change was of her own making—also that she was
cruelly unjust to the governor.  She suffered even more from her
brother’s unexpected perversity; she had had so different a theory about
him that her disappointment was almost an humiliation and she needed all
her fortitude to pitch her faith lower.  She wondered what had happened
to him and why he so failed her.  She would have trusted him to feel
right about anything, above all about such a question.  Their worship of
their mother’s memory, their recognition of her sacred place in their
past, her exquisite influence in their father’s life, his fortune, his
career, in the whole history of the family and welfare of the
house—accomplished clever gentle good beautiful and capable as she had
been, a woman whose quiet distinction was universally admired, so that on
her death one of the Princesses, the most august of her friends, had
written Adela such a note about her as princesses were understood very
seldom to write: their hushed tenderness over all this was like a
religion, and was also an attributive honour, to fall away from which was
a form of treachery.  This wasn’t the way people usually felt in London,
she knew; but strenuous ardent observant girl as she was, with secrecies
of sentiment and dim originalities of attitude, she had already made up
her mind that London was no treasure-house of delicacies.  Remembrance
there was hammered thin—to be faithful was to make society gape.  The
patient dead were sacrificed; they had no shrines, for people were
literally ashamed of mourning.  When they had hustled all sensibility out
of their lives they invented the fiction that they felt too much to
utter.  Adela said nothing to her sisters; this reticence was part of the
virtue it was her idea to practise for them.  _She_ was to be their
mother, a direct deputy and representative.  Before the vision of that
other woman parading in such a character she felt capable of ingenuities,
of deep diplomacies.  The essence of these indeed was just tremulously to
watch her father.  Five days after they had dined together at Mrs.
Churchley’s he asked her if she had been to see that lady.

“No indeed, why should I?” Adela knew that he knew she hadn’t been, since
Mrs. Churchley would have told him.

“Don’t you call on people after you dine with them?” said Colonel Chart.

“Yes, in the course of time.  I don’t rush off within the week.”

Her father looked at her, and his eyes were colder than she had ever seen
them, which was probably, she reflected, just the way hers appeared to
himself.  “Then you’ll please rush off to-morrow.  She’s to dine with us
on the 12th, and I shall expect your sisters to come down.”

Adela stared.  “To a dinner-party?”

“It’s not to be a dinner-party.  I want them to know Mrs. Churchley.”

“Is there to be nobody else?”

“Godfrey of course.  A family party,” he said with an assurance before
which she turned cold.

The girl asked her brother that evening if _that_ wasn’t tantamount to an
announcement.  He looked at her queerly and then said: “_I’ve_ been to
see her.”

“What on earth did you do that for?”

“Father told me he wished it.”

“Then he _has_ told you?”

“Told me what?” Godfrey asked while her heart sank with the sense of his
making difficulties for her.

“That they’re engaged, of course.  What else can all this mean?”

“He didn’t tell me that, but I like her.”

“_Like_ her!” the girl shrieked.

“She’s very kind, very good.”

“To thrust herself upon us when we hate her?  Is that what you call kind?
Is that what you call decent?”

“Oh _I_ don’t hate her”—and he turned away as if she bored him.

She called the next day on Mrs. Churchley, designing to break out
somehow, to plead, to appeal—“Oh spare us! have mercy on us! let him
alone! go away!”  But that wasn’t easy when they were face to face.  Mrs.
Churchley had every intention of getting, as she would have said—she was
perpetually using the expression—into touch; but her good intentions were
as depressing as a tailor’s misfits.  She could never understand that
they had no place for her vulgar charity, that their life was filled with
a fragrance of perfection for which she had no sense fine enough.  She
was as undomestic as a shop-front and as out of tune as a parrot.  She
would either make them live in the streets or bring the streets into
their life—it was the same thing.  She had evidently never read a book,
and she used intonations that Adela had never heard, as if she had been
an Australian or an American.  She understood everything in a vulgar
sense; speaking of Godfrey’s visit to her and praising him according to
her idea, saying horrid things about him—that he was awfully
good-looking, a perfect gentleman, the kind she liked.  How could her
father, who was after all in everything else such a dear, listen to a
woman, or endure her, who thought she pleased him when she called the son
of his dead wife a perfect gentleman?  What would he have been, pray?
Much she knew about what any of them were! When she told Adela she wanted
her to like her the girl thought for an instant her opportunity had
come—the chance to plead with her and beg her off.  But she presented
such an impenetrable surface that it would have been like giving a
message to a varnished door.  She wasn’t a woman, said Adela; she was an
address.

When she dined in Seymour Street the “children,” as the girl called the
others, including Godfrey, liked her.  Beatrice and Muriel stared shyly
and silently at the wonders of her apparel (she was brutally
over-dressed) without of course guessing the danger that tainted the air.
They supposed her in their innocence to be amusing, and they didn’t know,
any more than she did herself, how she patronised them.  When she was
upstairs with them after dinner Adela could see her look round the room
at the things she meant to alter—their mother’s things, not a bit like
her own and not good enough for her.  After a quarter of an hour of this
our young lady felt sure she was deciding that Seymour Street wouldn’t do
at all, the dear old home that had done for their mother those twenty
years.  Was she plotting to transport them all to her horrible Prince’s
Gate?  Of one thing at any rate Adela was certain: her father, at that
moment alone in the dining-room with Godfrey, pretending to drink another
glass of wine to make time, was coming to the point, was telling the
news.  When they reappeared they both, to her eyes, looked unnatural: the
news had been told.

She had it from Godfrey before Mrs. Churchley left the house, when, after
a brief interval, he followed her out of the drawing-room on her taking
her sisters to bed.  She was waiting for him at the door of her room.
Her father was then alone with his _fiancée_—the word was grotesque to
Adela; it was already as if the place were her home.

“What did you say to him?” our young woman asked when her brother had
told her.

“I said nothing.”  Then he added, colouring—the expression of her face
was such—“There was nothing to say.”

“Is that how it strikes you?”—and she stared at the lamp.

“He asked me to speak to her,” Godfrey went on.

“In what hideous sense?”

“To tell her I was glad.”

“And did you?” Adela panted.

“I don’t know.  I said something.  She kissed me.”

“Oh how _could_ you?” shuddered the girl, who covered her face with her
hands.

“He says she’s very rich,” her brother returned.

“Is that why you kissed her?”

“I didn’t kiss her.  Good-night.”  And the young man, turning his back,
went out.

When he had gone Adela locked herself in as with the fear she should be
overtaken or invaded, and during a sleepless feverish memorable night she
took counsel of her uncompromising spirit.  She saw things as they were,
in all the indignity of life.  The levity, the mockery, the infidelity,
the ugliness, lay as plain as a map before her; it was a world of gross
practical jokes, a world _pour rire_; but she cried about it all the
same.  The morning dawned early, or rather it seemed to her there had
been no night, nothing but a sickly creeping day.  But by the time she
heard the house stirring again she had determined what to do.  When she
came down to the breakfast-room her father was already in his place with
newspapers and letters; and she expected the first words he would utter
to be a rebuke to her for having disappeared the night before without
taking leave of Mrs. Churchley.  Then she saw he wished to be intensely
kind, to make every allowance, to conciliate and console her.  He knew
she had heard from Godfrey, and he got up and kissed her.  He told her as
quickly as possible, to have it over, stammering a little, with an “I’ve
a piece of news for you that will probably shock you,” yet looking even
exaggeratedly grave and rather pompous, to inspire the respect he didn’t
deserve.  When he kissed her she melted, she burst into tears.  He held
her against him, kissing her again and again, saying tenderly “Yes, yes,
I know, I know.”  But he didn’t know else he couldn’t have done it.
Beatrice and Muriel came in, frightened when they saw her crying, and
still more scared when she turned to them with words and an air that were
terrible in their comfortable little lives: “Papa’s going to be married;
he’s going to marry Mrs. Churchley!”  After staring a moment and seeing
their father look as strange, on his side, as Adela, though in a
different way, the children also began to cry, so that when the servants
arrived with tea and boiled eggs these functionaries were greatly
embarrassed with their burden, not knowing whether to come in or hang
back.  They all scraped together a decorum, and as soon as the things had
been put on table the Colonel banished the men with a glance.  Then he
made a little affectionate speech to Beatrice and Muriel, in which he
described Mrs. Churchley as the kindest, the most delightful of women,
only wanting to make them happy, only wanting to make _him_ happy, and
convinced that he would be if they were and that they would be if he was.

“What do such words mean?” Adela asked herself.  She declared privately
that they meant nothing, but she was silent, and every one was silent, on
account of the advent of Miss Flynn the governess, before whom Colonel
Chart preferred not to discuss the situation.  Adela recognised on the
spot that if things were to go as he wished his children would
practically never again be alone with him.  He would spend all his time
with Mrs. Churchley till they were married, and then Mrs. Churchley would
spend all her time with him.  Adela was ashamed of him, and that was
horrible—all the more that every one else would be, all his other
friends, every one who had known her mother.  But the public dishonour to
that high memory shouldn’t be enacted; he shouldn’t do as he wished.

After breakfast her father remarked to her that it would give him
pleasure if in a day or two she would take her sisters to see their
friend, and she replied that he should be obeyed.  He held her hand a
moment, looking at her with an argument in his eyes which presently
hardened into sternness.  He wanted to know that she forgave him, but
also wanted to assure her that he expected her to mind what she did, to
go straight.  She turned away her eyes; she was indeed ashamed of him.

She waited three days and then conveyed her sisters to the _repaire_, as
she would have been ready to term it, of the lioness.  That queen of
beasts was surrounded with callers, as Adela knew she would be; it was
her “day” and the occasion the girl preferred.  Before this she had spent
all her time with her companions, talking to them about their mother,
playing on their memory of her, making them cry and making them laugh,
reminding them of blest hours of their early childhood, telling them
anecdotes of her own.  None the less she confided to them that she
believed there was no harm at all in Mrs. Churchley, and that when the
time should come she would probably take them out immensely.  She saw
with smothered irritation that they enjoyed their visit at Prince’s Gate;
they had never been at anything so “grown-up,” nor seen so many smart
bonnets and brilliant complexions.  Moreover they were considered with
interest, quite as if, being minor elements, yet perceptible ones, of
Mrs. Churchley’s new life, they had been described in advance and were
the heroines of the occasion.  There were so many ladies present that
this personage didn’t talk to them much; she only called them her
“chicks” and asked them to hand about tea-cups and bread and butter.  All
of which was highly agreeable and indeed intensely exciting to Beatrice
and Muriel, who had little round red spots in _their_ cheeks when they
came away.  Adela quivered with the sense that her mother’s children were
now Mrs. Churchley’s “chicks” and a part of the furniture of Mrs.
Churchley’s dreadful consciousness.

It was one thing to have made up her mind, however; it was another thing
to make her attempt.  It was when she learned from Godfrey that the day
was fixed, the 20th of July, only six weeks removed, that she felt the
importance of prompt action.  She learned everything from Godfrey now,
having decided it would be hypocrisy to question her father.  Even her
silence was hypocritical, but she couldn’t weep and wail.  Her father
showed extreme tact; taking no notice of her detachment, treating it as a
moment of _bouderie_ he was bound to allow her and that would pout itself
away.  She debated much as to whether she should take Godfrey into her
confidence; she would have done so without hesitation if he hadn’t
disappointed her.  He was so little what she might have expected, and so
perversely preoccupied that she could explain it only by the high
pressure at which he was living, his anxiety about his “exam.”  He was in
a fidget, in a fever, putting on a spurt to come in first; sceptical
moreover about his success and cynical about everything else.  He
appeared to agree to the general axiom that they didn’t want a strange
woman thrust into their life, but he found Mrs. Churchley “very jolly as
a person to know.”  He had been to see her by himself—he had been to see
her three times.  He in fact gave it out that he would make the most of
her now; he should probably be so little in Seymour Street after these
days.  What Adela at last determined to give him was her assurance that
the marriage would never take place.  When he asked what she meant and
who was to prevent it she replied that the interesting couple would
abandon the idea of themselves, or that Mrs. Churchley at least would
after a week or two back out of it.

“That will be really horrid then,” Godfrey pronounced.  “The only
respectable thing, at the point they’ve come to, is to put it through.
Charming for poor Dad to have the air of being ‘chucked’!”

This made her hesitate two days more, but she found answers more valid
than any objections.  The many-voiced answer to everything—it was like
the autumn wind round the house—was the affront that fell back on her
mother.  Her mother was dead but it killed her again.  So one morning at
eleven o’clock, when she knew her father was writing letters, she went
out quietly and, stopping the first hansom she met, drove to Prince’s
Gate.  Mrs. Churchley was at home, and she was shown into the
drawing-room with the request that she would wait five minutes.  She
waited without the sense of breaking down at the last, and the impulse to
run away, which were what she had expected to have.  In the cab and at
the door her heart had beat terribly, but now suddenly, with the game
really to play, she found herself lucid and calm.  It was a joy to her to
feel later that this was the way Mrs. Churchley found her: not confused,
not stammering nor prevaricating, only a little amazed at her own
courage, conscious of the immense responsibility of her step and
wonderfully older than her years.  Her hostess sounded her at first with
suspicious eyes, but eventually, to Adela’s surprise, burst into tears.
At this the girl herself cried, and with the secret happiness of
believing they were saved.  Mrs. Churchley said she would think over what
she had been told, and she promised her young friend, freely enough and
very firmly, not to betray the secret of the latter’s step to the
Colonel.  They were saved—they were saved: the words sung themselves in
the girl’s soul as she came downstairs.  When the door opened for her she
saw her brother on the step, and they looked at each other in surprise,
each finding it on the part of the other an odd hour for Prince’s Gate.
Godfrey remarked that Mrs. Churchley would have enough of the family, and
Adela answered that she would perhaps have too much.  None the less the
young man went in while his sister took her way home.



III


SHE saw nothing of him for nearly a week; he had more and more his own
times and hours, adjusted to his tremendous responsibilities, and he
spent whole days at his crammer’s.  When she knocked at his door late in
the evening he was regularly not in his room.  It was known in the house
how much he was worried; he was horribly nervous about his ordeal.  It
was to begin on the 23rd of June, and his father was as worried as
himself.  The wedding had been arranged in relation to this; they wished
poor Godfrey’s fate settled first, though they felt the nuptials would be
darkened if it shouldn’t be settled right.

Ten days after that performance of her private undertaking Adela began to
sniff, as it were, a difference in the general air; but as yet she was
afraid to exult.  It wasn’t in truth a difference for the better, so that
there might be still a great tension.  Her father, since the announcement
of his intended marriage, had been visibly pleased with himself, but that
pleasure now appeared to have undergone a check.  She had the impression
known to the passengers on a great steamer when, in the middle of the
night, they feel the engines stop.  As this impression may easily sharpen
to the sense that something serious has happened, so the girl asked
herself what had actually occurred.  She had expected something serious;
but it was as if she couldn’t keep still in her cabin—she wanted to go up
and see.  On the 20th, just before breakfast, her maid brought her a
message from her brother.  Mr. Godfrey would be obliged if she would
speak to him in his room.  She went straight up to him, dreading to find
him ill, broken down on the eve of his formidable week.  This was not the
case however—he rather seemed already at work, to have been at work since
dawn.  But he was very white and his eyes had a strange and new
expression.  Her beautiful young brother looked older; he looked haggard
and hard.  He met her there as if he had been waiting for her, and he
said at once: “Please tell me this, Adela—what was the purpose of your
visit the other morning to Mrs. Churchley, the day I met you at her
door?”

She stared—she cast about.  “The purpose?  What’s the matter?  Why do you
ask?”

“They’ve put it off—they’ve put it off a month.”

“Ah thank God!” said Adela.

“Why the devil do you thank God?” Godfrey asked with a strange
impatience.

She gave a strained intense smile.  “You know I think it all wrong.”

He stood looking at her up and down.  “What did you do there?  How did
you interfere?”

“Who told you I interfered?” she returned with a deep flush.

“You said something—you did something.  I knew you had done it when I saw
you come out.”

“What I did was my own business.”

“Damn your own business!” cried the young man.

She had never in her life been so spoken to, and in advance, had she been
given the choice, would have said that she’d rather die than be so
handled by Godfrey.  But her spirit was high, and for a moment she was as
angry as if she had been cut with a whip.  She escaped the blow but felt
the insult.  “And _your_ business then?” she asked.  “I wondered what
that was when I saw _you_.”

He stood a moment longer scowling at her; then with the exclamation
“You’ve made a pretty mess!” he turned away from her and sat down to his
books.

They had put it off, as he said; her father was dry and stiff and
official about it.  “I suppose I had better let you know we’ve thought it
best to postpone our marriage till the end of the summer—Mrs. Churchley
has so many arrangements to make”: he was not more expansive than that.
She neither knew nor greatly cared whether she but vainly imagined or
correctly observed him to watch her obliquely for some measure of her
receipt of these words.  She flattered herself that, thanks to Godfrey’s
forewarning, cruel as the form of it had been, she was able to repress
any crude sign of elation.  She had a perfectly good conscience, for she
could now judge what odious elements Mrs. Churchley, whom she had not
seen since the morning in Prince’s Gate, had already introduced into
their dealings.  She gathered without difficulty that her father hadn’t
concurred in the postponement, for he was more restless than before, more
absent and distinctly irritable.  There was naturally still the question
of how much of this condition was to be attributed to his solicitude
about Godfrey.  That young man took occasion to say a horrible thing to
his sister: “If I don’t pass it will be your fault.”  These were dreadful
days for the girl, and she asked herself how she could have borne them if
the hovering spirit of her mother hadn’t been at her side.  Fortunately
she always felt it there, sustaining, commending, sanctifying.  Suddenly
her father announced to her that he wished her to go immediately, with
her sisters, down to Brinton, where there was always part of a household
and where for a few weeks they would manage well enough.  The only
explanation he gave of this desire was that he wanted them out of the
way.  “Out of the way of what?” she queried, since there were to be for
the time no preparations in Seymour Street.  She was willing to take it
for out of the way of his nerves.

She never needed urging however to go to Brinton, the dearest old house
in the world, where the happiest days of her young life had been spent
and the silent nearness of her mother always seemed greatest.  She was
happy again, with Beatrice and Muriel and Miss Flynn, with the air of
summer and the haunted rooms and her mother’s garden and the talking oaks
and the nightingales.  She wrote briefly to her father, giving him, as he
had requested, an account of things; and he wrote back that since she was
so contented—she didn’t recognise having told him that—she had better not
return to town at all.  The fag-end of the London season would be
unimportant to her, and he was getting on very well.  He mentioned that
Godfrey had passed his tests, but, as she knew, there would be a tiresome
wait before news of results.  The poor chap was going abroad for a month
with young Sherard—he had earned a little rest and a little fun.  He went
abroad without a word to Adela, but in his beautiful little hand he took
a chaffing leave of Beatrice.  The child showed her sister the letter, of
which she was very proud and which contained no message for any one else.
This was the worst bitterness of the whole crisis for that somebody—its
placing in so strange a light the creature in the world whom, after her
mother, she had loved best.

Colonel Chart had said he would “run down” while his children were at
Brinton, but they heard no more about it.  He only wrote two or three
times to Miss Flynn on matters in regard to which Adela was surprised he
shouldn’t have communicated with herself.  Muriel accomplished an upright
little letter to Mrs. Churchley—her eldest sister neither fostered nor
discouraged the performance—to which Mrs. Churchley replied, after a
fortnight, in a meagre and, as Adela thought, illiterate fashion, making
no allusion to the approach of any closer tie.  Evidently the situation
had changed; the question of the marriage was dropped, at any rate for
the time.  This idea gave our young woman a singular and almost
intoxicating sense of power; she felt as if she were riding a great wave
of confidence.  She had decided and acted—the greatest could do no more
than that.  The grand thing was to see one’s results, and what else was
she doing?  These results were in big rich conspicuous lives; the stage
was large on which she moved her figures.  Such a vision was exciting,
and as they had the use of a couple of ponies at Brinton she worked off
her excitement by a long gallop.  A day or two after this however came
news of which the effect was to rekindle it.  Godfrey had come back, the
list had been published, he had passed first.  These happy tidings
proceeded from the young man himself; he announced them by a telegram to
Beatrice, who had never in her life before received such a missive and
was proportionately inflated.  Adela reflected that she herself ought to
have felt snubbed, but she was too happy.  They were free again, they
were themselves, the nightmare of the previous weeks was blown away, the
unity and dignity of her father’s life restored, and, to round off her
sense of success, Godfrey had achieved his first step toward high
distinction.  She wrote him the next day as frankly and affectionately as
if there had been no estrangement between them, and besides telling him
how she rejoiced in his triumph begged him in charity to let them know
exactly how the case stood with regard to Mrs. Churchley.

Late in the summer afternoon she walked through the park to the village
with her letter, posted it and came back.  Suddenly, at one of the turns
of the avenue, half-way to the house, she saw a young man hover there as
if awaiting her—a young man who proved to be Godfrey on his pedestrian
progress over from the station.  He had seen her as he took his short
cut, and if he had come down to Brinton it wasn’t apparently to avoid
her.  There was nevertheless none of the joy of his triumph in his face
as he came a very few steps to meet her; and although, stiffly enough, he
let her kiss him and say “I’m so glad—I’m so glad!” she felt this
tolerance as not quite the mere calm of the rising diplomatist.  He
turned toward the house with her and walked on a short distance while she
uttered the hope that he had come to stay some days.

“Only till to-morrow morning.  They’re sending me straight to Madrid.  I
came down to say good-bye; there’s a fellow bringing my bags.”

“To Madrid?  How awfully nice!  And it’s awfully nice of you to have
come,” she said as she passed her hand into his arm.

The movement made him stop, and, stopping, he turned on her in a flash a
face of something more than, suspicion—of passionate reprobation.  “What
I really came for—you might as well know without more delay—is to ask you
a question.”

“A question?”—she echoed it with a beating heart.

They stood there under the old trees in the lingering light, and, young
and fine and fair as they both were, formed a complete superficial
harmony with the peaceful English scene.  A near view, however, would
have shown that Godfrey Chart hadn’t taken so much trouble only to skim
the surface.  He looked deep into his sister’s eyes.  “What was it you
said that morning to Mrs. Churchley?”

She fixed them on the ground a moment, but at last met his own again.
“If she has told you, why do you ask?”

“She has told me nothing.  I’ve seen for myself.”

“What have you seen?”

“She has broken it off.  Everything’s over.  Father’s in the depths.”

“In the depths?” the girl quavered.

“Did you think it would make him jolly?” he went on.

She had to choose what to say.  “He’ll get over it.  He’ll he glad.”

“That remains to be seen.  You interfered, you invented something, you
got round her.  I insist on knowing what you did.”

Adela felt that if it was a question of obstinacy there was something
within her she could count on; in spite of which, while she stood looking
down again a moment, she said to herself “I could be dumb and dogged if I
chose, but I scorn to be.”  She wasn’t ashamed of what she had done, but
she wanted to be clear.  “Are you absolutely certain it’s broken off?”

“He is, and she is; so that’s as good.”

“What reason has she given?”

“None at all—or half a dozen; it’s the same thing.  She has changed her
mind—she mistook her feelings—she can’t part with her independence.
Moreover he has too many children.”

“Did he tell you this?” the girl asked.

“Mrs. Churchley told me.  She has gone abroad for a year.”

“And she didn’t tell you what I said to her?”

Godfrey showed an impatience.  “Why should I take this trouble if she
had?”

“You might have taken it to make me suffer,” said Adela.  “That appears
to be what you want to do.”

“No, I leave that to you—it’s the good turn you’ve done me!” cried the
young man with hot tears in his eyes.

She stared, aghast with the perception that there was some dreadful thing
she didn’t know; but he walked on, dropping the question angrily and
turning his back to her as if he couldn’t trust himself.  She read his
disgust in his averted, face, in the way he squared his shoulders and
smote the ground with his stick, and she hurried after him and presently
overtook him.  She kept by him for a moment in silence; then she broke
out: “What do you mean?  What in the world have I done to you?”

“She would have helped me.  She was all ready to help me,” Godfrey
portentously said.

“Helped you in what?”  She wondered what he meant; if he had made debts
that he was afraid to confess to his father and—of all horrible
things—had been looking to Mrs. Churchley to pay.  She turned red with
the mere apprehension of this and, on the heels of her guess, exulted
again at having perhaps averted such a shame.

“Can’t you just see I’m in trouble?  Where are your eyes, your senses,
your sympathy, that you talk so much about?  Haven’t you seen these six
months that I’ve a curst worry in my life?”

She seized his arm, made him stop, stood looking up at him like a
frightened little girl.  “What’s the matter, Godfrey?—what _is_ the
matter?”

“You’ve gone against me so—I could strangle you!” he growled.  This image
added nothing to her dread; her dread was that he had done some wrong,
was stained with some guilt.  She uttered it to him with clasped hands,
begging him to tell her the worst; but, still more passionately, he cut
her short with his own cry: “In God’s name, satisfy me!  What infernal
thing did you do?”

“It wasn’t infernal—it was right.  I told her mamma had been wretched,”
said Adela.

“Wretched?  You told her such a lie?”

“It was the only way, and she believed me.”

“Wretched how?—wretched when?—wretched where?” the young man stammered.

“I told her papa had made her so, and that _she_ ought to know it.  I
told her the question troubled me unspeakably, but that I had made up my
mind it was my duty to initiate her.”  Adela paused, the light of bravado
in her face, as if, though struck while the words came with the
monstrosity of what she had done, she was incapable of abating a jot of
it.  “I notified her that he had faults and peculiarities that made
mamma’s life a long worry—a martyrdom that she hid wonderfully from the
world, but that we saw and that I had often pitied.  I told her what they
were, these faults and peculiarities; I put the dots on the i’s.  I said
it wasn’t fair to let another person marry him without a warning.  I
warned her; I satisfied my conscience.  She could do as she liked.  My
responsibility was over.”

Godfrey gazed at her; he listened with parted lips, incredulous and
appalled.  “You invented such a tissue of falsities and calumnies, and
you talk about your conscience?  You stand there in your senses and
proclaim your crime?”

“I’d have committed any crime that would have rescued us.”

“You insult and blacken and ruin your own father?” Godfrey kept on.

“He’ll never know it; she took a vow she wouldn’t tell him.”

“Ah I’ll he damned if _I_ won’t tell him!” he rang out.

Adela felt sick at this, but she flamed up to resent the treachery, as it
struck her, of such a menace.  “I did right—I did right!” she vehemently
declared “I went down on my knees to pray for guidance, and I saved
mamma’s memory from outrage.  But if I hadn’t, if I hadn’t”—she faltered
an instant—“I’m not worse than you, and I’m not so bad, for you’ve done
something that you’re ashamed to tell me.”

He had taken out his watch; he looked at it with quick intensity, as if
not hearing nor heeding her.  Then, his calculating eyes raised, he fixed
her long enough to exclaim with unsurpassable horror and contempt: “You
raving maniac!”  He turned away from her; he bounded down the avenue in
the direction from which they had come, and, while she watched him,
strode away, across the grass, toward the short cut to the station.



IV


HIS bags, by the time she got home, had been brought to the house, but
Beatrice and Muriel, immediately informed of this, waited for their
brother in vain.  Their sister said nothing to them of her having seen
him, and she accepted after a little, with a calmness that surprised
herself, the idea that he had returned to town to denounce her.  She
believed this would make no difference now—she had done what she had
done.  She had somehow a stiff faith in Mrs. Churchley.  Once that so
considerable mass had received its impetus it wouldn’t, it couldn’t pull
up.  It represented a heavy-footed person, incapable of further agility.
Adela recognised too how well it might have come over her that there were
too many children.  Lastly the girl fortified herself with the reflexion,
grotesque in the conditions and conducing to prove her sense of humour
not high, that her father was after all not a man to be played with.  It
seemed to her at any rate that if she _had_ baffled his unholy purpose
she could bear anything—bear imprisonment and bread and water, bear
lashes and torture, bear even his lifelong reproach.  What she could bear
least was the wonder of the inconvenience she had inflicted on Godfrey.
She had time to turn this over, very vainly, for a succession of
days—days more numerous than she had expected, which passed without
bringing her from London any summons to come up and take her punishment.
She sounded the possible, she compared the degrees of the probable;
feeling however that as a cloistered girl she was poorly equipped for
speculation.  She tried to imagine the calamitous things young men might
do, and could only feel that such things would naturally be connected
either with borrowed money or with bad women.  She became conscious that
after all she knew almost nothing about either of those interests.  The
worst woman she knew was Mrs. Churchley herself.  Meanwhile there was no
reverberation from Seymour Street—only a sultry silence.

At Brinton she spent hours in her mother’s garden, where she had grown
up, where she considered that she was training for old age, since she
meant not to depend on whist.  She loved the place as, had she been a
good Catholic, she would have loved the smell of her parish church; and
indeed there was in her passion for flowers something of the respect of a
religion.  They seemed to her the only things in the world that really
respected themselves, unless one made an exception for Nutkins, who had
been in command all through her mother’s time, with whom she had had a
real friendship and who had been affected by their pure example.  He was
the person left in the world with whom on the whole she could speak most
intimately of the dead.  They never had to name her together—they only
said “she”; and Nutkins freely conceded that she had taught him
everything he knew.  When Beatrice and Muriel said “she” they referred to
Mrs. Churchley.  Adela had reason to believe she should never marry, and
that some day she should have about a thousand a year.  This made her see
in the far future a little garden of her own, under a hill, full of rare
and exquisite things, where she would spend most of her old age on her
knees with an apron and stout gloves, with a pair of shears and a trowel,
steeped in the comfort of being thought mad.

One morning ten days after her scene with Godfrey, on coming back into
the house shortly before lunch, she was met by Miss Flynn with the
notification that a lady in the drawing-room had been waiting for her for
some minutes.  “A lady” suggested immediately Mrs. Churchley.  It came
over Adela that the form in which her penalty was to descend would be a
personal explanation with that misdirected woman.  The lady had given no
name, and Miss Flynn hadn’t seen Mrs. Churchley; nevertheless the
governess was certain Adela’s surmise was wrong.

“Is she big and dreadful?” the girl asked.

Miss Flynn, who was circumspection itself, took her time.  “She’s
dreadful, but she’s not big.”  She added that she wasn’t sure she ought
to let Adela go in alone; but this young lady took herself throughout for
a heroine, and it wasn’t in a heroine to shrink from any encounter.
Wasn’t she every instant in transcendent contact with her mother?  The
visitor might have no connexion whatever with the drama of her father’s
frustrated marriage; but everything to-day for Adela was part of that.

Miss Flynn’s description had prepared her for a considerable shock, but
she wasn’t agitated by her first glimpse of the person who awaited her.
A youngish well-dressed woman stood there, and silence was between them
while they looked at each other.  Before either had spoken however Adela
began to see what Miss Flynn had intended.  In the light of the
drawing-room window the lady was five-and-thirty years of age and had
vivid yellow hair.  She also had a blue cloth suit with brass buttons, a
stick-up collar like a gentleman’s, a necktie arranged in a sailor’s
knot, a golden pin in the shape of a little lawn-tennis racket, and
pearl-grey gloves with big black stitchings.  Adela’s second impression
was that she was an actress, and her third that no such person had ever
before crossed that threshold.

“I’ll tell you what I’ve come for,” said the apparition.  “I’ve come to
ask you to intercede.”  She wasn’t an actress; an actress would have had
a nicer voice.

“To intercede?”  Adela was too bewildered to ask her to sit down.

“With your father, you know.  He doesn’t know, but he’ll have to.”  Her
“have” sounded like “’ave.”  She explained, with many more such sounds,
that she was Mrs. Godfrey, that they had been married seven mortal
months.  If Godfrey was going abroad she must go with him, and the only
way she could go with him would be for his father to do something.  He
was afraid of his father—that was clear; he was afraid even to tell him.
What she had come down for was to see some other member of the family
face to face—“fice to fice,” Mrs. Godfrey called it—and try if he
couldn’t be approached by another side.  If no one else would act then
she would just have to act herself.  The Colonel would have to do
something—that was the only way out of it.

What really happened Adela never quite understood; what seemed to be
happening was that the room went round and round.  Through the blur of
perception accompanying this effect the sharp stabs of her visitor’s
revelation came to her like the words heard by a patient “going off”
under ether.  She afterwards denied passionately even to herself that she
had done anything so abject as to faint; but there was a lapse in her
consciousness on the score of Miss Flynn’s intervention.  This
intervention had evidently been active, for when they talked the matter
over, later in the day, with bated breath and infinite dissimulation for
the school-room quarter, the governess had more lurid truths, and still
more, to impart than to receive.  She was at any rate under the
impression that she had athletically contended, in the drawing-room, with
the yellow hair—this after removing Adela from the scene and before
inducing Mrs. Godfrey to withdraw.  Miss Flynn had never known a more
thrilling day, for all the rest of it too was pervaded with agitations
and conversations, precautions and alarms.  It was given out to Beatrice
and Muriel that their sister had been taken suddenly ill, and the
governess ministered to her in her room.  Indeed Adela had never found
herself less at ease, for this time she had received a blow that she
couldn’t return.  There was nothing to do but to take it, to endure the
humiliation of her wound.

At first she declined to take it—having, as might appear, the much more
attractive resource of regarding her visitant as a mere masquerading
person, an impudent impostor.  On the face of the matter moreover it
wasn’t fair to believe till one heard; and to hear in such a case was to
hear Godfrey himself.  Whatever she had tried to imagine about him she
hadn’t arrived at anything so belittling as an idiotic secret marriage
with a dyed and painted hag.  Adela repeated this last word as if it gave
her comfort; and indeed where everything was so bad fifteen years of
seniority made the case little worse.  Miss Flynn was portentous, for
Miss Flynn had had it out with the wretch.  She had cross-questioned her
and had not broken her down.  This was the most uplifted hour of Miss
Flynn’s life; for whereas she usually had to content herself with being
humbly and gloomily in the right she could now be magnanimously and
showily so.  Her only perplexity was as to what she ought to do—write to
Colonel Chart or go up to town to see him.  She bloomed with
alternatives—she resembled some dull garden-path which under a copious
downpour has begun to flaunt with colour.  Toward evening Adela was
obliged to recognise that her brother’s worry, of which he had spoken to
her, had appeared bad enough to consist even of a low wife, and to
remember that, so far from its being inconceivable a young man in his
position should clandestinely take one, she had been present, years
before, during her mother’s lifetime, when Lady Molesley declared gaily,
over a cup of tea, that this was precisely what she expected of her
eldest son.  The next morning it was the worst possibilities that seemed
clearest; the only thing left with a tatter of dusky comfort being the
ambiguity of Godfrey’s charge that her own action had “done” for him.
That was a matter by itself, and she racked her brains for a connecting
link between Mrs. Churchley and Mrs. Godfrey.  At last she made up her
mind that they were related by blood; very likely, though differing in
fortune, they were cousins or even sisters.  But even then what did the
wretched boy mean?

Arrested by the unnatural fascination of opportunity, Miss Flynn received
before lunch a telegram from Colonel Chart—an order for dinner and a
vehicle; he and Godfrey were to arrive at six o’clock.  Adela had plenty
of occupation for the interval, since she was pitying her father when she
wasn’t rejoicing that her mother had gone too soon to know.  She
flattered herself she made out the providential reason of that cruelty
now.  She found time however still to wonder for what purpose, given the
situation, Godfrey was to be brought down.  She wasn’t unconscious indeed
that she had little general knowledge of what usually was done with young
men in that predicament.  One talked about the situation, but the
situation was an abyss.  She felt this still more when she found, on her
father’s arrival, that nothing apparently was to happen as she had taken
for granted it would.  There was an inviolable hush over the whole
affair, but no tragedy, no publicity, nothing ugly.  The tragedy had been
in town—the faces of the two men spoke of it in spite of their other
perfunctory aspects; and at present there was only a family dinner, with
Beatrice and Muriel and the governess—with almost a company tone too, the
result of the desire to avoid publicity.  Adela admired her father; she
knew what he was feeling if Mrs. Godfrey had been at him, and yet she saw
him positively gallant.  He was mildly austere, or rather even—what was
it?—august; just as, coldly equivocal, he never looked at his son, so
that at moments he struck her as almost sick with sadness.  Godfrey was
equally inscrutable and therefore wholly different from what he had been
as he stood before her in the park.  If he was to start on his career
(with such a wife!—wouldn’t she utterly blight it?) he was already
professional enough to know how to wear a mask.

Before they rose from table she felt herself wholly bewildered, so little
were such large causes traceable in their effects.  She had nerved
herself for a great ordeal, but the air was as sweet as an anodyne.  It
was perfectly plain to her that her father was deadly sore—as pathetic as
a person betrayed.  He was broken, but he showed no resentment; there was
a weight on his heart, but he had lightened it by dressing as
immaculately as usual for dinner.  She asked herself what immensity of a
row there could have been in town to have left his anger so spent.  He
went through everything, even to sitting with his son after dinner.  When
they came out together he invited Beatrice and Muriel to the
billiard-room, and as Miss Flynn discreetly withdrew Adela was left alone
with Godfrey, who was completely changed and not now in the least of a
rage.  He was broken too, but not so pathetic as his father.  He was only
very correct and apologetic he said to his sister: “I’m awfully sorry
_you_ were annoyed—it was something I never dreamed of.”

She couldn’t think immediately what he meant; then she grasped the
reference to her extraordinary invader.  She was uncertain, however, what
tone to take; perhaps his father had arranged with him that they were to
make the best of it.  But she spoke her own despair in the way she
murmured “Oh Godfrey, Godfrey, is it true?”

“I’ve been the most unutterable donkey—you can say what you like to me.
You can’t say anything worse than I’ve said to myself.”

“My brother, my brother!”—his words made her wail it out.  He hushed her
with a movement and she asked: “What has father said?”

He looked very high over her head.  “He’ll give her six hundred a year.”

“Ah the angel!”—it was too splendid.

“On condition”—Godfrey scarce blinked—“she never comes near me.  She has
solemnly promised, and she’ll probably leave me alone to get the money.
If she doesn’t—in diplomacy—I’m lost.”  He had been turning his eyes
vaguely about, this way and that, to avoid meeting hers; but after
another instant he gave up the effort and she had the miserable
confession of his glance.  “I’ve been living in hell.”

“My brother, my brother!” she yearningly repeated.

“I’m not an idiot; yet for her I’ve behaved like one.  Don’t ask me—you
mustn’t know.  It was all done in a day, and since then fancy my
condition; fancy my work in such a torment; fancy my coming through at
all.”

“Thank God you passed!” she cried.  “You were wonderful!”

“I’d have shot myself if I hadn’t been.  I had an awful day yesterday
with the governor; it was late at night before it was over.  I leave
England next week.  He brought me down here for it to look well—so that
the children shan’t know.”

“_He’s_ wonderful too!” Adela murmured.

“Wonderful too!” Godfrey echoed.

“Did _she_ tell him?” the girl went on.

“She came straight to Seymour Street from here.  She saw him alone first;
then he called me in.  _That_ luxury lasted about an hour.”

“Poor, poor father!” Adela moaned at this; on which her brother remained
silent.  Then after he had alluded to it as the scene he had lived in
terror of all through his cramming, and she had sighed forth again her
pity and admiration for such a mixture of anxieties and such a triumph of
talent, she pursued: “Have you told him?”

“Told him what?”

“What you said you would—what _I_ did.”

Godfrey turned away as if at present he had very little interest in that
inferior tribulation.  “I was angry with you, but I cooled off.  I held
my tongue.”

She clasped her hands.  “You thought of mamma!”

“Oh don’t speak of mamma!” he cried as in rueful tenderness.

It was indeed not a happy moment, and she murmured: “No; if you _had_
thought of her—!”

This made Godfrey face her again with a small flare in his eyes.  “Oh
_then_ it didn’t prevent.  I thought that woman really good.  I believed
in her.”

“Is she _very_ bad?”

“I shall never mention her to you again,” he returned with dignity.

“You may believe _I_ won’t speak of her!  So father doesn’t know?” the
girl added.

“Doesn’t know what?”

“That I said what I did to Mrs. Churchley.”

He had a momentary pause.  “I don’t think so, but you must find out for
yourself.”

“I shall find out,” said Adela.  “But what had Mrs. Churchley to do with
it?”

“With _my_ misery?  I told her.  I had to tell some one.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

He appeared—though but after an instant—to know exactly why.  “Oh you
take things so beastly hard—you make such rows.”  Adela covered her face
with her hands and he went on: “What I wanted was comfort—not to be
lashed up.  I thought I should go mad.  I wanted Mrs. Churchley to break
it to father, to intercede for me and help him to meet it.  She was
awfully kind to me, she listened and she understood; she could fancy how
it had happened.  Without her I shouldn’t have pulled through.  She liked
me, you know,” he further explained, and as if it were quite worth
mentioning—all the more that it was pleasant to him.  “She said she’d do
what she could for me.  She was full of sympathy and resource.  I really
leaned on her.  But when _you_ cut in of course it spoiled everything.
That’s why I was so furious with you.  She couldn’t do anything then.”

Adela dropped her hands, staring; she felt she had walked in darkness.
“So that he had to meet it alone?”

“_Dame_!” said Godfrey, who had got up his French tremendously.

Muriel came to the door to say papa wished the two others to join them,
and the next day Godfrey returned to town.  His father remained at
Brinton, without an intermission, the rest of the summer and the whole of
the autumn, and Adela had a chance to find out, as she had said, whether
he knew she had interfered.  But in spite of her chance she never found
out.  He knew Mrs. Churchley had thrown him over and he knew his daughter
rejoiced in it, but he appeared not to have divined the relation between
the two facts.  It was strange that one of the matters he was clearest
about—Adela’s secret triumph—should have been just the thing which from
this time on justified less and less such a confidence.  She was too
sorry for him to be consistently glad.  She watched his attempts to wind
himself up on the subject of shorthorns and drainage, and she favoured to
the utmost of her ability his intermittent disposition to make a figure
in orchids.  She wondered whether they mightn’t have a few people at
Brinton; but when she mentioned the idea he asked what in the world there
would be to attract them.  It was a confoundedly stupid house, he
remarked—with all respect to _her_ cleverness.  Beatrice and Muriel were
mystified; the prospect of going out immensely had faded so utterly away.
They were apparently not to go out at all.  Colonel Chart was aimless and
bored; he paced up and down and went back to smoking, which was bad for
him, and looked drearily out of windows as if on the bare chance that
something might arrive.  Did he expect Mrs. Churchley to arrive, did he
expect her to relent on finding she couldn’t live without him?  It was
Adela’s belief that she gave no sign.  But the girl thought it really
remarkable of her not to have betrayed her ingenious young visitor.
Adela’s judgement of human nature was perhaps harsh, but she believed
that most women, given the various facts, wouldn’t have been so
forbearing.  This lady’s conception of the point of honour placed her
there in a finer and purer light than had at all originally promised to
shine about her.

She meanwhile herself could well judge how heavy her father found the
burden of Godfrey’s folly and how he was incommoded at having to pay the
horrible woman six hundred a year.  Doubtless he was having dreadful
letters from her; doubtless she threatened them all with hideous
exposure.  If the matter should be bruited Godfrey’s prospects would
collapse on the spot.  He thought Madrid very charming and curious, but
Mrs. Godfrey was in England, so that his father had to face the music.
Adela took a dolorous comfort in her mother’s being out of that—it would
have killed her; but this didn’t blind her to the fact that the comfort
for her father would perhaps have been greater if he had had some one to
talk to about his trouble.  He never dreamed of doing so to her, and she
felt she couldn’t ask him.  In the family life he wanted utter silence
about it.  Early in the winter he went abroad for ten weeks, leaving her
with her sisters in the country, where it was not to be denied that at
this time existence had very little savour.  She half expected her
sister-in-law would again descend on her; but the fear wasn’t justified,
and the quietude of the awful creature seemed really to vibrate with the
ring of gold-pieces.  There were sure to be extras.  Adela winced at the
extras.  Colonel Chart went to Paris and to Monte Carlo and then to
Madrid to see his boy.  His daughter had the vision of his perhaps
meeting Mrs. Churchley somewhere, since, if she had gone for a year, she
would still be on the Continent.  If he should meet her perhaps the
affair would come on again: she caught herself musing over this.  But he
brought back no such appearance, and, seeing him after an interval, she
was struck afresh with his jilted and wasted air.  She didn’t like it—she
resented it.  A little more and she would have said that that was no way
to treat so faithful a man.

They all went up to town in March, and on one of the first days of April
she saw Mrs. Churchley in the Park.  She herself remained apparently
invisible to that lady—she herself and Beatrice and Muriel, who sat with
her in their mother’s old bottle-green landau.  Mrs. Churchley, perched
higher than ever, rode by without a recognition; but this didn’t prevent
Adela’s going to her before the month was over.  As on her great previous
occasion she went in the morning, and she again had the good fortune to
be admitted.  This time, however, her visit was shorter, and a week after
making it—the week was a desolation—she addressed to her brother at
Madrid a letter containing these words: “I could endure it no longer—I
confessed and retracted; I explained to her as well as I could the
falsity of what I said to her ten months ago and the benighted purity of
my motives for saying it.  I besought her to regard it as unsaid, to
forgive me, not to despise me too much, to take pity on poor _perfect_
papa and come back to him.  She was more good-natured than you might have
expected—indeed she laughed extravagantly.  She had never believed me—it
was too absurd; she had only, at the time, disliked me.  She found me
utterly false—she was very frank with me about this—and she told papa she
really thought me horrid.  She said she could never live with such a
girl, and as I would certainly never marry I must be sent away—in short
she quite loathed me.  Papa defended me, he refused to sacrifice me, and
this led practically to their rupture.  Papa gave her up, as it were, for
_me_.  Fancy the angel, and fancy what I must try to be to him for the
rest of his life!  Mrs. Churchley can never come back—she’s going to
marry Lord Dovedale.”





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