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Title: Hepplestall's
Author: Brighouse, Harold
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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HEPPLESTALL’S

By Harold Brighouse

New York: Robert M. McBride & Company

1922


[Illustration: 0001]


[Illustration: 0009]



FOREWORD

RUMMAGING at a bargain-counter, I came across an object which puzzled
me, and, turning to the shopman, I asked him what it was. He took it up
contemptuously. “That,” he said. “Dear me, I thought I’d put it in the
dust-bin. It’s fit for nothing but destruction.”

“And you call it?” I persisted. “I call it by its name,” he said. “It’s
an outworn passion, and a pretty frayed one too. Look at that!”

I watched him pull gently at the passion and it came apart like mildewed
fabric. “There’s no interest in that,” he said. “That never led to a
murder or a divorce, a feeble fellow like that. If it ever got as far as
the First Offenders’ Court, I shall be surprised.”

“Yet it looks old,” I said. “In its youth, perhaps--”

He examined it more closely. “I don’t think it’s a love passion at all,”
 he said, shaking his head. “My suppliers are getting very careless.”

“You wouldn’t care to give me their address?” I coaxed.

He threw the passion down angrily. “This is a shop,” he said. “I’m here
to sell, not to make presents of my trade secrets.”

I apologized. “Of course,” I said, “I will always deal through you. And
as to this passion, what is the price of that?”

“I’m an honest man and to tell you the truth I’d rather put that in the
dust-bin than sell it. It goes against the grain to be trading in goods
that I know won’t satisfy.”

I said things such as that I would take the risk, that I would not hold
him responsible for any disappointment the passion might cause me and
I ended by offering him sixpence. So taken was he by the generosity of
this offer that he not only accepted it, but insisted on my taking, as
discount, a piece of newspaper which, he said, would serve very well to
wrap round the passion, pointing out, truthfully, that it was a cleanish
piece of paper, neither stained, by nor stinking of fried fish.

So we struck that bargain, and leaving the shop, which I have never
found again, I carried the passion home and unwrapped it from the
paper and put it on the table in my study. After a time, when it was
accustomed to its new surroundings, it showed unmistakably that it
wished to be friendly with me. At its age, I gathered, and in its
outworn condition, it thought fit to be grateful to me for having
purchased it at so great a price. The shopman was right; it was not a
love passion, it was a hate passion, but superannuated now, and if I
cared to watch it carefully it promised that I should see from the first
all that happened: how this hate which was so very strong a hundred
years ago had died and was now turned to such corruption and kindliness
that, before it fell utterly to pieces, it was to show me its career. To
me it seems that the story of this hate falls, like the hymns, into two
parts, ancient and modern, and I think it properest to begin by telling
you the ancient part first. Hates that are to live a hundred years are
not born in a day, so I shall first tell you how Reuben Hepplestall
turned from petty squire to cotton manufacturing and you will see later
for yourselves why this hate began.



HEPPLESTALL’S



PART I



CHAPTER I--REUBEN’S SEAL

EVEN to-day a man may be a Jacobite if he likes to be a Jacobite just
as he may read the Morning Post, and in the day when Reuben Hepplestall
was young there was a variety of reasons for being Jacobite, though
most of them were romantic and sentimental rather than practical or
good sense, and Hepplestall’s reason was rank absurdity because it was
absurdity unredeemed by conviction. He was Jacobite because Sir Harry
Whitworth was Hanoverian, from hatred of Sir Harry, not from love of the
Stuarts; but Hepplestall was young and as a general principle perversity
in youth is better than perversity in age, leaving the longer time for
correction.

Certainly, Hepplestall’s was a risky game, which may have had
attractiveness for him. He was strong, even in perversity, and having
set his hand to the plow, did not rest until he found himself accepted
as a power in the inner councils of the local Jacobites; but there was
something nourishing to his self-importance in this furtive prominence
and he savored the hazards of it not only because it marked to himself
his difference from the hard drinking sportsmen of Sir Harry’s set,
but as a mental exercise. He took a gambler’s risk in a gambling age,
backing his vigilance against all comers, feeling that to touch the
fringe of intrigue lifted him above a society which exercised its gullet
more than its wits. His secret, especially a dangerous secret, flattered
lus sense of superiority.

In sober fact young Hepplestall was intellectually superior to his
contemporaries and, aware of it, resented the deference they paid to
Sir Harry, the man of acres, the Beau, the Corinthian, the frequenter
of White’s and Almack’s, leader unchallenged of local society. By his
clandestine unorthodoxy, by his perpetual balancing on a tight-rope, he
expressed to himself his opposition to Sir Harry; and there was Dorothy
Verners, predestined in the eyes of the county for Sir Harry, waiting
only for a question which would have the force of a command. Reuben had,
in secret, his own idea of the future of Dorothy Verners. He aspired
where he knew himself fitted to aspire, but the county would have
dissolved in contemptuous guffaws at the thought of Reuben Hepplestall
in the character of rival to Sir Harry. He brooded darkly in rebellion,
outwardly accepting Whitworth’s social despotism, inwardly a choked
furnace of ambition.

It was little Bantison who involuntarily played the god in the machine
and died that the Hepplestalls might be cotton lords in Lancashire.
Bantison was not prepossessing; a short man, gross of body with a face
like raw beef and hands offensively white, dressed in his clerical coat
on which spatters of snuff and stains of wine smirked like a blasphemy,
endowed with fine capacity for other people’s Burgundy and distinguished
by an eye that earned him, by reason rather of alertness than deformity,
the nickname of “Swivel-Eyed Jack.” Some vicars, like Goldsmith’s, were
content with forty pounds a year; the Reverend Mr. Bantison had that
limited stipend with unlimited desires, and contrived by the use of his
alert eye and the practice of discreet blackmail to lead a bachelor
life of reasonable amplitude. Not to be nice about the fellow, he was as
unprincipled a wolf as ever masqueraded in a sheepskin; but he is not to
infest this narrative for long.

They were at table at Sir Harry Whitworth’s, who dined at six o’clock,
latish, as became a man of fashion. There was acquiescence in that
foible, but no imitation of a habit which was held to be an arbitrary
encroachment on the right to drink. The ladies had, in strict
moderation, to be treated civilly--at any rate, the ladies had to
eat--so that Sir Harry’s guests rarely drew up to the mahogany for the
serious entertainment of the evening before eight o’clock, and a man of
a position less assured than his would have been suspected of meanness
and too great care for the contents of his cellar. But Whitworth was
Whitworth and they shrugged their shoulders. After all, with good will
and good liquor one can achieve geniality in an evening not beginning
(for serious purposes) until eight.

The ladies dismissed to tea and to whatever insipid joys the
drawing-room might hold, the men addressed themselves with brisk
resolution to the task of doing noble justice to the best cellar in the
county. They were there, candidly and purposefully, to drink, and it was
never too late to mend sobriety, but under Sir Harry’s roof the process
had formality and the unbuttoned rusticity of native debauchery must be
disciplined to the restraint of ordered toasts. A pedantic host, this
young baronet, but his wines had quality, and they submitted with what
patience they could summon to his idiosyncrasy. There were no laggards
when Sir Harry bid them to his board.

Ignoring the parson--which, mostly, was what parsons were for and
certainly made no breach of etiquette--Sir Harry himself gave the toast
of “The King” with a faintly challenging air habitual to him but démodé.
Lancashire sentiment had veered since the forty-five and there was now
no need, especially in Whitworth’s company, to emphasize a loyalty they
all shared. It was not a fervent loyalty and no one was expected to be
exuberant about the Hanoverians, but bygones were bygones, and one took
the court one found as one took the climate.

But did one? Did every one? Did, in especial, Reuben Hepplestall, whom
Mr. Bantison watched so narrowly as he drank to the King? To Bantison
the enigmatic was a provocation and a hope and as a specialist in
enigmas he had his private notion that the whole of Hepplestall was
not apparent on the surface: he nursed suspicion, precious because
marketable if confirmed, that here was one who conserved the older
loyalty, and he watched as he had watched before. Finger-glasses were on
the table, but so crude a confession of faith as to pass his wine
over the water was neither expected nor forthcoming and Hepplest all’s
gesture, except that it repeated one which Bantison had noted mentally
when “The King” had been toasted on other occasions, was so nearly
imperceptible as to seem unlikely to have significance. But it was a
repetition, and did the repetition imply a ritual? It was improbable.
The risk was high, the gain non-existent, the defiance in such company
too blunt, the whole idea of expressing, however subtly, a rebellion
in a house of loyalists was unreasonable. Still, as Reuben raised his
glass, it hovered for an instant in the air, it made, ever so slightly,
a pause and (was it?) an obeisance which seemed directed to his, fob;
and when Mr. Bantison sat down he frowned meditatively at the pools
of mellow light reflected from the candles on the table and his face
puckered into evil wrinkles till he looked like an obscene animal
snarling to its spring; but that is only to say Mr. Bantison was
thinking unusually hard.

He was thinking of young men, their follies, their unreasoning
audacities and how these things happened by the grace of Providence
to benefit their wise elders. His face at its best, when he was doing
something agreeable like savoring Burgundy or (if so innocent an action
is to be conceived of him) when he smelled a violet, was a mask of
malice; it was horrible now as he weighed his chances of dealing to
his profit with Reuben. Whether he was right or wrong in his particular
suspicion, there was plainly something of the exceptional about this
dark young man. Hepplestall, considered as prey, struck him as a tough,
tooth-breaking victim, and Mr. Bantison had not the least desire
to break his teeth. He decided not to hazard their soundness--their
whiteness was remarkable--upon what was still conjecture. He wanted many
things which money would buy, but an orange already in his blackmailing
grip was yielding good juice and every circumstance conspired with the
excellence of Sir Harry’s Burgundy to persuade him to delay. His needs
were not urgent. And yet, and yet--

But it wasn’t Bantison’s lucky night. As they sat down, Sir Harry cast
a host’s glance round the table in search of a subject with which to set
the conversational ball rolling again, and saw the spasm of malevolence
which marked Bantison’s face in the moment of irresolution. “I’gad,”
 he cried to the table at large, “will you do me the favor to observe
Bantison? A gargoyle come to meat. If it isn’t the prettiest picture I
ever saw of devotion incarnate. Watch him meditating piety.”

The company gave tongue obsequiously, ready in any case to dance when
Whitworth piped, doubly ready in the case where a parson was the butt.
Their mirth happened inopportunely for Bantison, proving at that crisis
of his indecision, a turning point. Left alone, he would have remained
passive: the taunt awoke aggression.

“I crave your pardon, Sir Harry. I was in thought.”

“The pangs of it gave your face a woundy twist. Out with the harvest of
it, man! A musing that gave you so much travail should shed new light on
the kingdom of heaven.”

“I was thinking,” said Bantison, “of a kingdom more apocryphal; of the
kingdom of the Stuarts,” and his eye, called Swivel, fell accusingly on
Hepplestall.

The attack was sudden, with the advantage of surprise, but in that
company of slow-moving brains, already dulled by wine, there was none
but Reuben who saw in Bantison’s allusion and Bantison’s quick-darting
eye an attack at all. So far, the affair was easy. “They have their
place,” said Reuben gravely, “in history.”

“And--,” began Bantison combatively, but Sir Harry cut him short. “Drown
history,” he said, “and mend your thoughts, Bantison. A glass of wine
with you.” Aggression subsided in Bantison; he murmured, and felt, that
it was an honor to drink with Sir Harry. For the time, the incident was
closed.

Reuben pondered the case of Mr. Bantison, worm or adder, and admitted
to disquiet. This devil of an unconsidered parson, this Swivel-Eyed Jack
who seemed good for nothing but to suck up nourishment, and to be the
target of contemptuous and contemptible wit, had got within his guard,
had plainly detected the meaning of the obscure ritual by which he
honored the king over the water and mentally snapped his fingers at Sir
Harry even while he dined with him. And Reuben Hepplestall did not mean
to forego that mental luxury of finger-snapping at Sir Harry. He damned
Sir Harry, but damned more heartily this unexpected impediment to the
damning of Sir Harry. And if Bantison showed resolution, so much the
worse for him; of the two it was certainly not Reuben Hepplestall who
was coming to shipwreck; and how much the worse it was for Bantison
depended exactly on that reverend gentleman’s movements. The first move,
at any rate, had been a foolish one: it had warned Reuben.

The second move was still more foolish: really, Mr. Bantison’s career
as a blackmailer had lain in rosy places, and he grew careless through
success. Besides, since Sir Harry had silenced him, forgiven him, drunk
with him, Mr. Bantison, as blackmailer, was off duty and a man must have
some relaxation; but Burgundy plays the deuce with discretion and was,
all the time, brightening his wits in the same ratio as it made him
careless of Hepplestall’s resentment. An idea, that was not at all a
stupid idea, but in itself a dazzling idea, came into his mind, and the
glamor of it obscured any discretion the Burgundy might have left him.
Hanging from Hepplestall’s fob were several seals. They interested Mr.
Bantison.

By this time not a few appreciators of the Whitworth cellar had slid
from their chairs to the floor, and there was nothing exceptional about
that. For what reason were their chairs so well designed, so strongly
made and yet so excellently balanced but that a man might slide gently
from them without the danger of a nasty jar to his chin as it hit the
table? Chairs beautiful, and--adapted to their users when to be drunk
without shame was a habit. Some one was on the floor by Hepplestall,
leaving a vacant chair. Bantison, obsessed by his idea, exaggerated
slightly a drunkenness by no means imaginary, lurched from his seat on
a mission of discovery and took the empty place by Hepplestall. “What’s
the hour?” he asked.

Hepplestall gave him his shoulder, glanced at the clock on the wall
behind him and stated the time.

“You do not consult your watch,” said Bantison.

“I have the habit,” said Hepplestall, “of doing things in my own way,”
 and a soberer man than Bantison would have taken warning at his menace.
Mr. Bantison was either too far gone to recognize the mettle of his
adversary or else he was merely vinous and reckless. With his notable
eye on the seal which he suspected (rightly) to be, in fact, a phial
containing water, he made a bold snatch at Hepplestall’s fob.

Sir Harry, comparatively sober, no partisan of Hep-plestall’s, but
certainly none of the vicar’s, saw the snatch and rose with a “Good
God, has Bantison taken to picking pockets?” but there was, even at that
demonstration, nothing like a sensation in the room; they were neutrally
ready to acquiesce in picking pockets, in an outraged host, in anything.
They were country gentlemen late in the evening.

The snatch, ill-timed, had failed of its objective. Mr. Bantison clawed
thin air in ludicrous perplexity and Hep-plestall, assured by Sir
Harry’s gesture of his sympathy, took his opportunity. He rose, with his
hand down Bantison’s neck, clutching cravat, coat, all that there was to
clutch, and with a polite: “You permit?” and a bow to Whitworth, carried
the parson one-handed to the window. Bantison choked speechlessly,
imprecations and accusations alike smothered by the taut neck-band round
his throat. Hepplestall opened the window, breathing heavily, lifted the
writhing sinner and dropped him through it.

“And that’s the end of him,” commented Sir Harry, more truly than he
knew. “You’re in fine condition, sir. A glass of wine with you.”



CHAPTER II--SMOKED HERRING

THAT night ended, as the nights of such gatherings were wont to
end, with some safely, others precariously horsed, others bundled
unceremoniously by Sir Harry’s servants into coaches where their wives
received them without disapproval, and the rest accommodated on the
premises. The absence of Mr. Bantison escaped their notice.

The Reverend and unregretted Bantison was absent from the leave-taking
because he had already taken leave. Mr. Bantison was dead. To the sorrow
of none, and the satisfaction of a few who had paid forced tribute to
the observation of his eye, Mr. Bantison was dead. It was agreed at the
breakfast table that he died of apoplexy and a very probable end too,
though not strictly in accordance with the evidence. Apoplexy implies
a spontaneity of termination, and Mr. Bantison’s end had lacked
spontaneity.

They were all very heartily cynical about it, taking their formidable
breakfast at Sir Harry’s, and no one more cynical than Whitworth. A
parson more or less, what did it matter? There was none of that overnice
regard for the sanctity of human life characteristic of the late
nineteenth century, to which the early twentieth brought so drastic a
corrective; but though they agreed on their collective attitude, there
was nothing to prevent stray recollections coming to mind and the facts
of the case were known to more than Whitworth and Hepple-stall. In
public, it was apoplexy; in the wrong privacy it was still apoplexy, but
in the right, there was censure of Hepplestall. True, the snuffing-out
of Bantison was no more reprehensible in itself than the crushing of a
gnat, but who knew that the habit of manslaughter, once acquired, might
not grow on a man? It wasn’t worse than gossip, and idle whisper, but
the whisper reached Hepplestall and he felt that it was not good for
the man who hoped to marry Dorothy Verners to be the subject of gossip,
however quiet. The gossip was more humorous than malicious, and it was
confined to a circle, but that circle was the one which mattered and
Reuben felt that in his rivalry with Whitworth he had suffered a rebuff
through the death of Mr. Bantison. And there was that matter of the
Stuarts. “Curse the Stuarts” was his feeling now towards that charming
race; he saw them, with complete injustice, as first cause of
his eclipse. Besides, if Bantison had detected him, there was the
possibility of other open eyes. Altogether, the symbol of his defiance
of Sir Harry seemed ill-chosen and the sooner he changed it the better.
Something, he decided, was urgently required, not to silence chatter
(for chatter in itself was good, proclaiming him exceptional), but to
set tongues wagging so briskly with the new that they would forget to
wag about the old. He felt the need of something to play the part of
red herring across the trail, and his red herring took the sufficiently
surprising shape of a cotton-mill.

It surprised and scandalized the landed gentry, his friends of
the Whitworth set, because the caste system was nearly watertight:
certainly, of the two chief divisions, the landowners and the rest,
Reuben belonged with the first, while cotton spinners were rated low
amongst the rest. They were traders, of course, and not, at that stage,
individually rich traders: the master spinners were spinners who had
been men and rose by their own efforts to the control of other men.
This was the pastoral age of cotton, going but not gone. It went, in
one sense, when they harnessed machinery to water-power, but isolated
factories on the banks of tumbling streams were related rather to the
old regime of the scattered cottage hand-spinner and hand-weaver than
to the coming era of the steam-made cotton town with its factories
concentrated on the coal-fields; and, in the eyes of the gentry, steam
was the infamy.

In Reuben’s, steam was the ideal: he knew nothing about it, had hardly
heard of Arkwright or Hargreaves, Kay or Crompton who, amongst them,
made the water-power factory; and Watt of the practicable steam-engine,
Watt who gave us force and power, Watt the father of industrial
civilization, the inventor who was not responsible for the uses others
made of his inventions, so let us be equitable to his memory, let us
not talk of him as either the world’s greatest scapegoat or its most
fruitful accident--Watt was almost news to Reuben Hepplestall when he
met Martin Everett in Manchester.

The meeting was fortuitous. Everett, an architect, one of Arkwright’s
men who had quarreled with him, was kicking his heels in the ante-room
of a Manchester lawyer’s office when Reuben was shown in. Certainly,
Reuben was not to be kept waiting by the lawyer as Everett, a suppliant,
an applicant for capital, was likely to wait, but the lawyer was engaged
and the two young men fell to talking. Everett, something of a fanatic
for steam, the new, the unorthodox, the insurgent challenge to the
landed men, at once struck fire on Hepplestall. He turned lecturer,
steam’s propagandist, condemning waterpower as an archaism, and when
Reuben admitted he had come to his lawyer for the very purpose of giving
instructions for the sale of land and the initiation of plans for
a factory on, he suggested, the banks of a river, Everett had small
difficulty in converting him to steam.

“I meant to bury Bantison,” said Reuben. “Now we’ll boil him.” Everett
was puzzled.

“You burn wood in your house, sir?” he asked.

“And coal. Is it to the point?”

“The coal is. You get it--where?”

“There is a seam.”

“Then that is the site of your factory.”

“God!” said Hepplestall, “it will be a monstrous sight.” He spoke as if
that gladdened him.

“The building, sir, will have dignity,” the architect reproved him.

“Aye? But I’m thinking of the engine. The furnace. The coal. A red
herring? A smoked herring!”

He relished the thought again. By steam (Lord, was he ever in the camp
of those fantastical reactionaries, the Jacobites?), by steam he would
symbolize his opposition to Whitworth and the Bloods. He was going into
trade and so would be, anyhow, ostracized, but more than that, into
steam, gambling on the new, the hardly tried, the strange power that the
Bloods had only heard of to deride it; going into it blindly, on general
hearsay, and the particular _ipse dixit_ of a young enthusiast who might
be (except that Reuben trusted his insight and knew better) a charlatan
or a deluded fool; and for Reuben there was the attraction of taking
chances, of the impudent, audacious challenge to fortune and to the
outraged Bloods.

“Do you know, Everett,” he said, “a man might turn atheist expecting
less stricture than I expect who make the leap from land to steam.” It
came into his mind that Dorothy Verners was further off than ever
now. “Everett,” he said, “extremes meet. We’ll call that factory the
‘Dorothy.’ Gad, if we win! If we win!” He gripped Martin’s hand with
agonizing strength and went into the lawyer’s room, leaving Everett to
wonder what sort of an eccentric he had hooked.

The lawyer, who had been asked by letter to be prepared with advice,
found all that brushed curtly aside: he was to take instructions from a
client who knew what he wanted, not to minister to a mind in doubt, and
very definite and remarkable instructions he found them. “The whole of
your land to be sold, excepting where the presence of coal is, or will
be within a week, known? And all for a steam-driven factory! Sir, I
advised your father. I believe he trusted me. It is my duty to warn you
and--”

“Thankee, sir,” Reuben interrupted him. “I may tell you I looked for
this from you, but I don’t appreciate it the less because I expected it.
You advised my father, you shall continue to advise me.”

“That you may do the opposite?”

“No. That when I go driving through new country I may have a brake on my
wheels.”

“Well... am I to lock your wheels this time?”

“I’m going driving,” said Reuben resolutely, “but you shall find me some
one to teach me to handle the reins. I must learn my trade, sir. Find
me some factory owner who will sell me his secrets cheap, near my
coal-lands if that’s possible, that I may watch Everett at work.”

“If a Hepplestall condescends to trade,” said the lawyer without
conscious flattery, “he will be welcomed by the traders. There will be
no difficulty about that. Indeed you have one on your own land, Peter
Bradshaw, with a factory on a stream of yours and I believe he has both
spinning jennies and weaving-looms. Go and hear what Peter thinks of
steam.”

“His disapproval will be a testimony to it. I’ll see Peter,” said
Reuben, and was away before the lawyer had opportunity to voice the
score of stock arguments that age keeps handy for the correction of
rash youth. He had then the more to say to Everett, the corrupter,
the begetter in Reuben of his mad passion for steam, and it’s little
satisfaction he got out of that. Young Everett was to realize a dream,
he was to be given, he thought, a free hand to build a steam-driven
factory as he thought a steam-driven factory ought to be built, and the
prudent lawyer’s arguments, accusations, menaces, were no more to him
than the murmurings a man hears in his sleep when what he sees is a
vision splendid: it was only some time afterwards that Everett woke up
to find in Hepplestall not the casual financier of his dream in stone,
but a highly informed, critical collaborator who tempered zeal for
steam with disciplined knowledge and contributed as usefully as Everett
himself to make the “Dorothy” the finest instrument of its day for the
manufacture of cotton.

He got the knowledge chiefly from Bradshaw, partly from others who had
carried manufacture beyond the narrow methods of Bradshaw’s water-wheel.
It lay, this primitive factory, in a gentle valley amongst rounded hills
of gritstone and limestone: a chilly country, lacking the warmth of the
red earth of the South, backward in agriculture, nourishing more oats
than wheat and, in the bleak uplands, incapable of tillage. Coarse grass
fought there with heather, but if there was little color on the moors
save when the heather flowered in royal purple and the gorse hung out
its flame, there was rich green in the valleys and the polish of a humid
atmosphere on healthy trees. A spacious rolling country, swelling to
hills which, never spectacular, were still considerable: a clean country
of wide views and lambent distances in those days before the black smoke
came and seared.

Not many miles away, sheltered amongst old elms, was Hepplestall’s own
house; above it the hill known to be coal-bearing, where Everett was
to build, on the hill top, the steam-driven factory, a beacon and
a challenge to the old order. So, aptly to Reuben’s purpose, lay
Bradshaw’s factory and house, the two in one and the whole as little
intrusive on the scene as a farmhouse.

When he came in that first day, Peter was in the factory and if
Reuben had had any doubts of making this the headquarters of his
apprenticeship, the sight of Phoebe Bradshaw would have removed them.
To one man the finest scenery is improved by a first-class hotel in the
foreground; to another, a stiff task is made tolerable by the presence,
in his background, of a pretty woman. Phoebe had prettiness in her
linsey-woolsey gown with the cotton print handkerchief about her
shoulders; she was small and she was soft of feature. You could not
look at her face and say, of this feature or of that, that it had
shapeliness, but in a sort of gentle improvisation, she had her placid
charm. She sat at needlework, at something obscurely useful, but her
pose, as he entered, was that of a lady at leisure, amusing herself with
the counterfeit of toil.

Bradshaw’s daughter, had Bradshaw not thrived and lifted himself out of
the class of the employed, would have been in the factory, at work like
the other girls; but she aspired to ladyhood and, fondly, he abetted
her. He was on the up-grade, and let the fact be manifest in the
gentility of his daughter! There was pride in it, and somehow there
was the payment of a debt due to her dead mother who had worked at home
spinning while Peter wove the yarn she spun in a simpler day than this.
What the late Mrs. Bradshaw would have thought of a daughter who aped
the fine lady, or of a father who encouraged her, is not to the point:
Peter idolized Phoebe, and she sat in his house to figure for Reuben as
an unforeseen mitigation in his job of learning manufacture.

He proceeded to address himself with gallantry to the pleasing
mitigation. She rose, impressed, at the coming to that house of an
authentic Olympian. “Pray be seated, Miss Bradshaw,” he said. “For it
_is_ Miss Bradshaw?” he added, implying surprise to find her what she
was.

“I am Phoebe Bradshaw,” she told him. “You would see my father? He is in
the factory. Will you not sit while I go and call him?”

For a man intent upon stern purpose, Reuben felt remarkably unhurried.
“My business can wait,” he said, gesturing her again to her chair. “It
has no such urgency that you need disturb yourself for me and turn a
lady into a message-bearer.” He noted the quick flush of pleasure which
rose to her cheeks on the word “lady.”

“Indeed,” he went on, “I find myself blame-worthy and unaccountably a
laggard that this is the first time I have made your acquaintance.”

“Oh! I... I am not much in the world, sir.”

“The world is the loser, Miss Bradshaw. But it is not too late to find
a remedy for that. They tell us the North is poor soil for flowers and
with an answer like you to their lies it would be criminal to hide it.”

Crude flattery, but it hit the target. “I? A flower? Oh, sir--”

“Why call me sir? If you were what--well, to be frank, what I expected
to find you, a spinner’s wench, no more than that, why then your sirring
me would be justifiable. There are social laws. I don’t deny it.”

“We have no position,” she assented.

“What’s position when there’s beauty? You have that which cuts across
the laws. Beauty, and not rustic beauty either, but beauty that’s been
worked on and refined... I go too fast, I say too much. Excuse a man in
the heat of making a discovery for being frank about what he’s found and
forget my frankness and forgive it. I spoke only to convince you that a
‘sir’ from you to me is to reverse the verities.”

“But you are Mr. Hepplestall?”

“Then call me so. I mount no pedestal for you.” Then Peter came in, and
Hepplestall retired his thoughts of Phoebe to some secondary brain-cell
that lay becomingly remote from Dorothy Verners and from his immediate
plan of picking up knowledge from Peter. The lawyer had been right:
there was no question of Peter’s setting a price upon his trade secrets,
he was ravished by the interest his ground-landlord was pleased to
take in his little factory and if he was puzzled to find Hepplestall
intelligent and searching in his questions, there was none more pleased
than Peter to answer with painstaking elaboration. Once Reuben asked,
“Are there not factories driven by steam?”

And Peter was wonderfully shrewd. “There are fools in every trade,” he
said, “hotheads that let wild fancies carry off their commonsense.”

“Steam is a fancy, then? It does not work?”

“I have never seen it work,” said Peter, which was true; but he had
not gone to look as, presently, Reuben went, sucking up experience
everywhere with a bee-like industry. Meantime, he astonished Peter by
proposing himself as paying guest while he worked side by side with the
men and women in the factory.

“I have the whim,” said Reuben and saw astonishment fade from Peter’s
face. They had their whims, these gentry, and indulged them, and if
Hepplestall’s was the eccentric one of wishing to experience in his own
person the life of a factory hand, why, it wasn’t for Bradshaw to oppose
him. And Peter smiled aside when Reuben said that he would try it for a
week. A week! A day of such toil would cure any fine gentleman of such a
caprice. But Peter was to be surprised again, he was to find Reuben not
tiring in a day, nor in a week, not to be tempted from the factory even
by a cock-fight to which Peter and half his men went as a matter of
course, dropping the discipline of hours and forgetting in a common
sportsmanship that they ranked as master and man--oh, those gentler
days before the Frankenstein, machinery, quite gobbled up man who made
him!--but as time went on, still, after three months, working as spinner
at Peter’s water-driven jennies and becoming as highly skilled as
any man about the place. Even when the truth was out, when most of
Hepplestall’s acres had gone to the hammer, and one could see from
Bradshaw’s window the nascent walls of Reuben’s factory, Peter was still
obtuse, still happy at the thought of the honor done to cotton by the
Olympian, still blind to the implications of the coming into spinning,
so near to him, of a capitalist on the greater scale. He was to be cured
of that blindness, but what, even if he had foreseen the future from
the beginning, could he have done? In the matter of Phoebe, no doubt, he
could have acted, he could have sent her away; but Hepplestall in other
matters was not so much mere man as the representative of steam. What
could he have done to counter steam? Bradshaw was doomed and steam was
his undoing, and, though the particular instrument, Hepplestall, was to
have, for him, a peculiar malignancy, the seeds of his ruin were sown in
his own obstinate conservatism. He had seen visions of a great progress
when water-power superseded arm-power, but his vision stopped short of
steam. Peter was growing old.



CHAPTER III--PHOEBE BRADSHAW

IF Hepplestall calculated much, which is a damnable vice in youth, it
is possibly some consolation to know that he miscalculated the effect
upon the county of his plunge, for at this stage his eclipse was
total and he had not anticipated that. They did not forget Bantison
in remembering the rising walls of his factory, and still less in the
thought that Reuben who had sat at their tables was working with his
hands as a spinner. They added offense to offense; if he was seen he was
cut; and their chatter reached him even at Bradshaw’s where, as he knew
very well, gentry talk must be loud indeed to penetrate.

He had overestimated his strength to resist public opinion. He was a
proud man and he was outcast and, set himself as he did with ferocious
energy to his task, he fell short of forgetfulness. Dorothy Verners was
at the end of a stony, tortuous road; it would be, at the best, a long
time before he reached the end of that road and the chances that she
would still be there, that Whitworth, carelessly secure as he was, would
wait long enough to leave her there for Hepplestall, seemed to him, in
these days of despondency, too remote for reason. He would never bridge
the gulf in time and his patience ebbed away. Not that he ever doubted
that, in the end, in money, position, reputation, he would outdistance
Whitworth, but Dorothy Verners, as a symbol of his ascendancy, was
dwindling to the diminished status of an ambition now seen to be too
sanguine. He had not realized how much he would be irked by the contempt
of the county. If, at the end of all, he had them at his feet! Aye,
so he would, but wouldn’t it be more humbling for them if they came
licking, along with his, the feet of a wife of his who was not of their
order? Wouldn’t he so triumph the more exultantly? He argued the case
against his first intentions, seeking justification for falling honestly
in love with Phoebe Bradshaw.

Honest love was, at first, very far from his purpose. A gentleman didn’t
seduce his host’s daughter, but that rule of conduct postulated that
the host be equally a gentleman and Bradshaw seemed, when Reuben came,
un-fathomably his inferior, and Bradshaw’s daughter, for all her airs,
the sort of flower hung by the roadside to be plucked by any grand
seigneur. Nor did he ever, at the back of his mind, move far from that
attitude. His tolerant association with these people was an immense
condescension, justified only by ulterior purpose. But if marriage with
Phoebe fitted his purpose, as in his first reaction from the disdain
of the county it seemed to do, why, then, though he never thought of
himself as belonging with the manufacturers, it might in the long run
prove a famous score against the county.

Phoebe had advantages. She was at hand, he saw her every day at meals
and was ready to believe that she revealed every day some new, shy
prettiness, she was tractable, malleable in the future and his without
effort in the present, and it was comforting to think of her softness
when all his else was harsh endeavor and wounded pride and a long stern
struggle to success. While Dorothy Verners was of the struggle, yet
a man must relax sometimes, as Mr. Bantison had thought when he put
Burgundy before the discretion which becomes a blackmailer. Reuben
chewed upon it, not reconciled to surrendering Dorothy, not quite
convinced by the most convincing of arguments he addressed to himself,
unwilling, even if they had convinced, to let go any part of his full
scheme, but inclining, feeling himself a bit of a fool, a bit of an
apostate, and very much more a prodigy of generosity, to look upon
Phoebe as one whom he might make his wife.

Thus (on the whole) well-intentioned towards her, he proposed one
summer’s morning to take her out walking, which was partly a gesture
addressed to his hesitations, and partly a deliberate means to a closer
acquaintance than he could compass indoors in the single living-room
where Peter hampered by too faithful attendance on his pupil. He
mentioned his wish, a little too grandly, a little too much like a royal
command.

Phoebe had her wisdom and the weeks of their intercourse had rubbed away
the first bloom of his divinity: he ate like other mortals, and, like
the sort of mortals she despised in her pose of ladyhood, he labored
in the factory. She had conceived ambition which, as he seemed to level
himself down to her, looked not impossible to realize, if she sustained
in his eyes her quality of ladyhood. And to go out had its perils. She
flowered indoors and her little graces withered in the open air, when
she knew she reverted to type, walked freely with great strides and
swung across the moors like any weaver’s lass hurrying to work. These
things, she thought, were discounts off her value: but they might, just
possibly, be a winning card. They might announce that she had variety.

“To walk,” she said, “with you?”

“Oh, not too far for a lady,” he assured her, “and not too fast.”

“You,” she retorted, “ride too much. I’ll walk you off your legs.” So
she challenged him, with wisdom.

If they were to make a walking match of it, at least they were not to be
philanderers, they were not going out only as far as the first heather,
there to sit together in a solitude that might spell danger. And she
announced spirit to a man who would (she knew) appreciate it, she
declared that if her inches were few they had vigor, that if she had
ladyhood it was skin-deep, that she wasn’t a one-volume abridgment of
imbecility, not his for the beckoning; and she went defiantly, to put
on a bonnet and a shawl which would have been a violent and successful
assault on any complexion less admirable than hers. She was, indeed,
playing her gambling card.

And, to his surprise, he liked it. This, if it were not mere flicker, if
it were not instinctive counterfeiting of a feminine move in a
sex-game, was a spirit which would serve her well, and him too, in the
drawing-rooms of the county in the future he was contemplating for them
both. Wasn’t it fact that my Lord Montacute had married his cook and
that she had made him a notable Lady? And he wasn’t a lord nor Phoebe a
cook.

Small Phoebe kept her promise, too. She came of hardy stock, and she
hadn’t spent the day, as he had, standing at a spinning-jenny. He had to
cry her mercy, flinging himself exhausted on the heather.

“I said you ride too much,” she exulted, secure that he did not feign
fatigue, standing over him while the blood raced happily through
tingling limbs.

“And you,” he retorted, “too little.”

“I? I do not ride at all. You know we have no horses.”

“It will be necessary for you to ride,” he said.

“Why so?” she asked him. “Haven’t I proved that I can walk?”

“Still,” he said, “I shall have horses brought tomorrow. Will you have
me for riding master?”

“To ride I should need a habit.”

“Which I provide.”

She held her breath. For what was it “necessary” for her to ride if not
that he was thinking of a future for her that jumped giddily with her
ambition? Still, she kept her head; still, she sensed the value of
offering this man persistent opposition, and all she said was “Are you
rested now?”

He rose, to find himself aware of strange tremblings, not to be
accounted for by tiredness, of a dampness on his brow, and, when he
spoke, of a thickened voice. “You shall have the habit to-morrow,” he
promised her.

“They burned warlocks once,” she mocked him. A warlock is a wizard.
“Habits do not come in a day except by magic.”

“Yours will come by road, from Manchester. I ride in for it to-morrow.”

“Neglecting your work?”

“I choose my work,” he said, and strode off, leaving her to follow as
she might, but if he thought to outdistance her, he reckoned without
the grit of Phoebe. As a lady, he could find a dozen chinks a day in her
Brummagen armor; as a country lass she had a native energy that all her
vanities left unimpaired, and set what hot pace he could, she kept level
with him like a taunt which refuses to stop ringing in a man’s ears. If
this was a duel, Phoebe was scoring winning points that night. “But a
horse will test your mettle, my wench,” he was thinking savagely, and
with relief that the idea of a horse had come to him.

“When I go driving through new country,” he had told the lawyer, “I like
a brake on my wheels,” and he was feeling very urgently the need of
a brake on his wheels in the new country through which he suddenly
discovered himself to be driving now. He put it to himself in phrases
that may or may not be paradoxical.

“Damn her, I love her,” he said aloud as he undressed that night.

Phoebe, in her room across the passage, mingled fear with triumph.
If one is not born to horses, horses terrify. In that, more than in
anything else, lay the difference between Phoebe’s world and Reuben’s.
If her ladyhood was pretentious and calculated instead of instinctive,
well, theirs did not go very deep either. There was culture in that
age, but not, extensively, in Lancashire. Culture hugged the capital,
throwing outposts in the great houses of the Home Counties. In
Manchester itself there were bookish people, but in the county sport
was the touchstone, and if horsemanship in the skilled sense was not
expected of a woman, she must at any rate be not shy of a horse. It was
almost the test of gentry.

When the thought came to him as he panted on the heather it had not,
indeed, been as a test of her quality. At first, he was more generous
than that. To be his wife, she must ride; she did not ride; and he must
teach her. Only later did he see it as a trial of her fitness, as she,
at once, saw it, gathering courage for an ordeal. If she must ride to
win this husband, then, cost what it might, she would ride.

He kept his word, taking for the first time a full day off from his
education as a spinner, demanded measurements of her at breakfast, rode
with them into Manchester, was back by early evening with a habit
and, from his stables, a horse used to a side-saddle: doing all with
characteristic concentration of energy that brooked no opposition from
any such bombastical pleader for delay as the outraged habit-maker.

Hepplestall commanded, and Hepplestall received.

There are degrees in habits? Then this was a habit of high degree.
Whether it was a lover’s free-handed gift or the circumstance of a trial
by ordeal, it was the best it could be, and Phoebe’s prettiness was
equal to it. Indeed, she trended by choice to a fluffiness of dress and
a cheapness in taste that Reuben, who was not fastidious, had not failed
to note. You have seen, perhaps, a modern hospital nurse in uniform and
the same nurse in mufti? That was the difference between Phoebe in her
habit and Phoebe as he had seen her hitherto. More than ever, he felt
conviction that no ill-judged passion was leading him astray, that here,
when good dressmakers had clothed her, was his match and the match for
the county. He tried to be skeptical, to criticize, and found, at the
end of a scrutiny too frank to be well-mannered, that there was nothing
here to criticize.

She smiled, bravely, aware from her glass that what he saw was good,
aware that he could not see how big a thing her horse appeared to her,
how far above the ground the saddle was, how shrunken small she felt.
But it was consoling to know that if she was going to break her neck,
she was to do it in the finest clothes she had ever worn. His look of
candid admiration was a tonic.

“This is your horse,” he said. “We called him Hector.” She made
Hector’s acquaintance prettily, but, plainly, she missed his point, and
he made it more definitely. “Of course, you may rename him now that he
is your own.”

“Mine? My horse? But, Mr. Hepplestall--”

“Have you your salts?” he asked, cutting short her cry of surprise. A
horse more or less, he would have her think, was triviality when Reuben
Hepplestall was in the mood to give.

“Salts?” she repeated, puzzled.

“In case you swoon,” he said gravely, and not ironically either. It was
the swooning age.

But not for Phoebe. Did ladies swoon at a first riding-lesson? She
doubted it: they took that lesson young, as children, in the years
before they were modish and swooning, and, in any case, it wasn’t her
ladyhood that was in question now; it was her courage. “I shall not
swoon,” she said, and he relished the bravado of it.

Spirit? Aye, she had spirit to be wife of his, and it behoved him not to
break it. If he had had thoughts, brutally, of making this test of
her as harsh as he could, that was all altered now by the sight of
her adorning the habit instead of overwhelmed by it, caressing Hector
instead of shrinking from him, and he saw tenderness as the prime virtue
of a riding-master. She wasn’t going to take a fall if he could prevent
it.

Between them, between Reuben and Hector, a sober animal who had carried
Reuben’s mother and hadn’t forgotten his manners in the years since her
death, and between these two and Phoebe’s pluck, they managed a lesson
which gave her confidence for later lessons when the instructor’s mood
was less indulgent. Reuben hadn’t tenderness as a habit. Neither had
she very staunchly the habit of courage, but all the courage she had was
wrought up for these occasions and, thanks to the sobriety of the good
Hector, it served. She took a toss one day, but fell softly into heather
and rose smiling before he had leaped to the ground. His last doubts
that he loved her fled when she smiled that day. “’Fore Gad,” he cried,
“you’re thoroughbred.” It was the sweetest praise.

That was a moment of supreme exaltation, but, all the time, Phoebe was
living now in upper air. For her, manifestly and openly for her, he was
neglecting what had seemed the only thing he lived for; he spent long
days riding with Phoebe instead of laboring to learn in the factory.
Once or twice when he had the opportunity of inspecting some
steam-driven works not too remote, he took her with him, leaving her in
state obsequiously served in an inn while he studied the engine-house
and the driving bands and the power-looms of the factory, refusing the
manufacturer’s invitation to dinner and offending a host to come back
where she waited for him at the inn. Peter might croak, and Peter did
croak like any raven and shake his head, and Peter was told he was
old-fashioned, and was put in his place as parents have always been
put in their place when young love takes the bit between its teeth.
Hepplestall, and his lass? It was a piece of luck too rare to be true.
He prophesied sad fate for her, he wished she had a mother--men are
handicapped--he spoke of sending for her aunt: all the time, too
overawed by Hepplestall’s significance to be more effective as an
obstacle than a cork bobbing on the surface of a flood. Protest to
Reuben himself, or even appeal, was sheer impossibility for Bradshaw,
who was almost feudal in his subservience to gentry. He saw danger,
warned Phoebe, was laughed at for his pains and turned fatalist. Phoebe
cared for neither his spoken forebodings nor his morose resignation.
Phoebe was happy, she tasted victory, she was sure of Reuben now and so
sure that she began to look beyond the fact that she had got him and was
holding him, she began to concede herself the luxury of loving him.

Phoebe was a sprinter, capable of effort if the effort need not be
sustained. She had attracted Reuben, and in the doing it had submitted
to severe self-discipline, to a vigilance and a courage which went
beyond those of the normal Phoebe. Accomplishment went to her head like
wine; she wasn’t prudent Phoebe on a day when, as their horses were at
the door, a message came from Everett asking Reuben to go at once to
discuss some detail of equipment of the now nearly completed factory.
She wasn’t prudent or she would never have taken such an occasion to
plead that he had promised her that day for riding. She knew what his
factory meant to him, knew, too, how jealous he was of his hard-won
knowledge, how keen to match it against Everett’s older experience;
yet she asked him to imply, by keeping a promise to ride, that she came
before the factory. And he loved her. Whatever the depth of his love,
whatever the chances that this was the love that lasts, he loved her
then. “Tell Mr. Everett,” he said to the messenger, “that I authorize
him to use his own judgment.”

Which Everett very gladly did, promptly and, he thought, irremediably.
It was a point on which he had his own ideas, differing from Reuben’s,
and carte blanche at this stage, after the endless controversies, of
Reuben’s obstinate collaboration, was a godsend that Everett wasn’t
going to throw away by being dilatory.

It resulted that when Reuben next visited the works, he was confronted
by a _fait accompli_, and by Everett’s hardly concealed smirk of glee.
“The thing, as you see, is done now. I had your authority to do as I
thought best,” said Everett.

“Then undo and re-do,” said Reuben, sourly.

“Pull down!” gasped Everett. “But--”

“You heard me,” growled Reuben, turning on his heel from a disgruntled
architect who had been too previous with self-congratulations on getting
his own way for once.

And Phoebe was triumphing at home, secure of her Reuben, in ecstasy at
her tested power over him.

Reuben, too, was thinking of that power, of how he had yielded to it, of
Samson and Delilah and of the dry-rot that sets in in a man’s strength
when he delivers his will into a woman’s keeping. It was a dark,
inscrutable Reuben who came home that night to Bradshaw’s; beyond
Phoebe’s skill to smooth away the irritation furrows from that brow. She
used her artless remedy; she fed him well, and persuaded herself that
no more was wrong than that he came in hungry. He was watching her that
night with critical eyes and she was aware of nothing but that his gaze
never left her: its fidelity rejoiced her.

He flung himself vigorously at work, after that. There was woman, a
snare, and work, the sane alternative, there was the zest of it, the
mere exercise of it to sweat evil humors out of a man. By now he knew
all that Bradshaw’s factory could teach him, and, by his inspections of
modern factories, much more; but his own place was not quite ready, his
organization was complete on paper and till the day came for applying
his knowledge, time had to be filled somehow and as well at Bradshaw’s
as anywhere else. Phoebe found herself neglected. He did not ride, or,
if he did, it was alone. It came to her that she had made too sure of
him; he hadn’t mentioned marriage, he was drifting from her. What could
she do to bind him to her?

Then he relented. She was suffering and he thought, in a tender mood,
that it hurt him to see her suffer. Wasn’t he making a mountain of a
molehill, wasn’t he unjust to blame her for the consequences of his
weakness? He was a most chivalrous gentleman when he next invited her
to ride with him, and she accepted, meekly. There lay the difference
between the then and the now. Then they were comrades, now he
condescended and he did not know it. But it was still his thought that
Phoebe was to be his wife, and in the comfortable glow of forgiveness,
in horse-exercise on a pleasant afternoon with one whose complexion was
proof against any high light, who was a plucky rider and his accustomed
fellow on these rides, they achieved again a genuine companionship.
His doubts and her fears alike dissolved in what seemed the mellowed
infallibility of that perfect afternoon.

Two other riders came in sight, meeting them, along the road--a lady,
followed by her groom. Dorothy Verners sitting her horse as if she had
been cradled on it, straight, tall Dorothy whose beauty was so different
from Phoebe’s soft prettiness. Dorothy had beauty like a birthright. She
came of generations of women whose first duty was to be admirable, who
had, as it were, experimented long ago with beauty and had fixed its
lines for their successors. Where Phoebe suggested a hasty improvisation
of comeliness, where, in her, comeliness was unexpected and almost an
impertinence, in Dorothy it was authentic and assured.

Had Reuben, seeing Phoebe in the magic vision of his love, called her
a thoroughbred because she took a fall without blubbering? It was
a compliment, and he had meant it. He had meant it because she had,
surprisingly, not flinched. But of the real thoroughbreds, of those who
were, without compliment, thoroughbred, one would take for granted that
they did not flinch and the surprise would be not that they did not
flinch, but if they did. He had not been seeing Dorothy Verners lately;
he had been forgetting her authenticity; and he hadn’t the slightest
doubt, watching her approach, that he belonged with her order, that
he was an aristocrat who, if he stooped to trade, stooped only to rise
again. He saw himself through his own eyes.

And Dorothy looked at him through hers, seeing a dark man, not
unhandsome, who was of good stock, but a nonentity until he had brought
unpleasant notoriety upon himself by too summary a method of dealing
with Mr. Bantison and, after that, had stepped down to association with
the manufacturers. No doubt it was a manufacturer’s daughter with whom
he took his ride. Some of them she had heard, upstarts, did ride. A
man who had lost caste, a man to be ignored. Would it hurt him to be,
emphatically, ignored by her? He deserved to be hurt, but probably his
skin was thick and, in any case, why was she wasting thought on him? He
was cut by the county: she had not to create a precedent. She did what
she knew others did. She cut him dead, and it came, unreasonably, as a
shock to Hepplestall.

He was used to the cut direct, he didn’t even tighten his lips now when
one of his former acquaintance passed him by without a glance. But he
hadn’t anticipated this, he hadn’t included Dorothy, and her contempt
struck at him like a blow. It wasn’t what Dorothy stood for, it wasn’t
that she was the reigning toast, and that to carry her off was to have
been his splendid score off Whitworth. It was, simply, that she was the
one woman, and, yes, he admitted her right to be contemptuous; he had
permitted her to see him in demeaning company. He looked at Phoebe with
intolerable hatred in his eyes, he could have found satisfaction in
lashing her with his whip till he was exhausted. Well, he didn’t do
that.

But Phoebe comprehended something of his thought. She tried--God knows
she tried--to win him back to her as they rode home. She chattered
gayly, keeping it up bravely while jealousy and fear gnawed her heart,
and Hepplestall stared glumly straight ahead with never a word for
Phoebe. Her words were like sea foam breaking idly on granite.

Words didn’t do. Then, what would? Desperately, she came to her
decision. He was slipping from her, there was wreck, but there was
still the possibility of rescue. When she said “Good night,” there was
invitation in her eye; and something, not love, took him, later, across
the passage to her room. Phoebe’s last gambling card was played.



CHAPTER IV--ALMACK’S CLUB

MR. LUKE VERNERS put on his boots in his lodging in Albemarle Street,
St. James, in a very evil mood. He was in London, and ordinarily liked
to be in London although it was a place where a man must remember his
manners, where he wasn’t a cock crowing on his dung-hill, but a mighty
small atom in a mighty big crowd; but London with his wife and his
daughter was a cruel paradox. Why the plague did a man cramp his legs
in a coach for all those miles from Lancashire to London if it wasn’t
to get away from wife and daughter? And here he was tied to the family
petticoats, in London. It was enough to put any man into bad temper.

As a rule, Mr. Verners was a tolerant person. In a squat little volume
published in the year 1822 and called “A Man of the World’s Dictionary,”
 a Virtuous Man is defined as “a being almost imaginary. A name given
to him who has the art of concealing his vices and shutting his eyes to
those of others,” and so long as the vices of others did not interfere
with his own, and so long as the others were of his own order, Mr.
Verners was a candidate for virtue, under this definition. But the man
born to be a perfect individualist is at a disadvantage when he owns an
estate and feels bound by duty to marry and beget an heir: it isn’t the
moderns who discovered that marriage clogs selfishness.

Mr. Verners had an heir, but not, as it happened, till Dorothy had come
first. If she hadn’t come first, she would not have come at all; but she
came, and dazzlingly, and if there is something agreeable in being the
father of a beauty, there is also something harassing. A wife, after
all, is only a wife, but with a monstrous fine lady of a daughter about
the house a man has to mind his p’s and q’s. Mr. Verners was a sort of
a gentleman and he minded his p’s and q’s, but he wasn’t above admitting
that he looked forward to the day when, Dorothy well and truly married,
he could relax to reasonable carelessness at home.

And not only did Dorothy not get married, not only did Whitworth
procrastinate and play card games in London instead of the love-game in
Lancashire, but Dorothy, instead of waiting patiently, became strangely
restive. The queer thing is that her discontent began to show itself
soon after she had met Reuben Hepplestall riding in the road one day
now a year ago. She hadn’t mentioned the meeting at home. Why should she
mention a creature who was outcast? Why give him a second thought? What
possible connection could there be between the meeting and this change
in her hitherto entirely submissive habit of waiting for Whitworth?
None, to be sure, and no doubt Luke was perfectly right when he said it
was all the vapors.

“But the vapors,” said Mrs. Verners, “come from Sir Harry’s absence.”

And “Tush,” said Mr. Verners, who was not without his envious sympathy
of that rich bachelor in London, and there, for that time, they left it.

But the vapors came again, they turned endemic while Sir Harry continued
a parishioner of St. James’, a gay absentee from his estates and his
plain duty of marrying Dorothy, and Mr. Verners’ sympathy wore thin. A
tolerant man, but a daughter who (he held) moped and a wife who (he told
her in set terms) nagged, played the deuce with his tolerance and so,
finally, against his better judgment, they were come to London, “To dig
the fox out of his earth,” he said. “Aye, but do you fancy the fox will
relish it?”

He knew how he, in the character of fox, would have received this hunt.
“But we come naturally to London, for clothes for Dorothy and me,” said
Mrs. Verners.

“Do we?” he growled. “It’s heads I win and tails you lose every time
with a woman. What the hangment do I get except an empty purse?”

If the gods smiled, he got rid of Dorothy, but that wasn’t to be
emphasized now any more than was his very firm intention to spend on
himself the lion’s share of the contents of that purse. These things
were not to be mentioned because it was good to have a grievance against
his wife, to throw responsibility for their enterprise on her shoulders,
to seem wholly, when he was only half, convinced that they were doing an
unwise thing.

“Dorothy must come to London sometimes,” said Mrs. Verners placidly,
“and Sir Harry is hardly to be reminded by letter of his negligence,
whereas the sight of Dorothy--”

“Well, well,” said Luke, “you’re proud of your poppet.” Secretly, he
would have backed the looks of his daughter against those of any woman
in the land. “But,” he went on, “we’re in London now, and London’s full
of pretty women. Your wench may be the pride of Lancashire, but you’re
pitting her here against the full field of the country--”

“Mr. Verners, you are vulgar.”

“I’m stating facts,” he said. “We’re here to catch Whitworth and I am
indicating to your woman’s intelligence and your motherly prejudice that
the bait you’re offering may not look so juicy here as it did at home
where it hadn’t its peer.”

So he insured himself against failure, and the particular source of his
ill-humor as he prepared to go out on the day after their arrival in
town was not mental but physical. To jam gouty feet, used to roomy
riding boots, into natty gear ought to be nothing. In the past it had
been nothing, when he had drunk in the London air and found it the well
of youth, but, this time, remarkably, the boots pinched unforgettably,
and the realization that he hadn’t the resilience of youth, that he
was in London yet hipped, in a play-ground yet grave, disheartened
Mr. Verners, and it wasn’t till that skilled diplomat, the porter at
Almack’s, recognized him instantly with a salute that Mr. Verners felt
petulance oozed from him. It was a wonderful salute; it indicated the
porter’s joy at seeing Mr. Verners, his regret that Mr. Verners was only
an occasional visitor, his personal feeling that, but for the occasional
visits of Mr. Verners, the life of the porter of Almack’s Club would not
be worth living; it welcomed him home with a captivating, deferential
flattery and the mollified gentleman was to meet with further balm
inside the club, where play was not running spectacularly high and there
were idle members eager for the simple distraction to be had from
any face not wearisomely familiar. Besides, Mr. Verners came from
Lancashire; London had heard of Lancashire recently and was willing to
hear more.

He came in without much assurance, but hesitation fled when he found
himself the center of an interest not at all languid.

“Damme, it’s Luke Verners come to town. Business for locksmiths here,”
 was the coarse-witted welcome of a lord.

“Locksmiths?” asked Verners.

“Ain’t it locksmiths one employs to put bolts and bars on one’s wife’s
bedroom?”

“You flatter me, my lord,” said Verners.

The dandy eyed him appraisingly. “Perhaps I do, Verners, perhaps I do.
You are past your prime.”

“Does your lordship care to give me opportunity to prove otherwise, with
pistols, swords or--her ladyship?” A hot reception? Music in the ears of
Mr. Verners, who relished it for its coarseness, for what seemed to him
the authentic note of London Town, a greeting spoken propitiously by
a lord. And if this was a good beginning, better was to follow. Mr.
Seccombe rose from the chair where he was drowsing, recognized
Verners with a start and came up to him interestedly. “Rot your chaff,
Godalming,” he said. “Verners will give you as good as he gets any day.
Tell us the news of the North, man. Are things as queer as they say?”

“What do they say?” asked Luke.

“They speak of steam-engines.”

“Oh, Lord,” groaned Godaiming. “Old Seccombe’s on his hobby-horse.”

“Of steam-engines,” repeated Mr. Seccombe severely, “and of workers
whose bread is taken out of their mouths by machinery, so that they are
thrown upon the poor-rates that the landlords must pay.”

“Gospel truth, Mr. Seccombe,” said Luke feelingly, “and yond fellow
Arkwright, that began it, made a knight and a High Sheriff for doing us
the favor of ruining us. What’s the country coming to?”

“Corruption and decay,” said his lordship.

“Is that so sure?” queried Seccombe. “What is your word on that,
Verners?”

“Beyond doubt, it is the end of all things when landlords are milked
through the poor-rates,” said Luke.

“Yet steam would appear to have possibilities?”

“Oh, Seccombe’s a hopeless crank,” said Godalming.

“Possibilities for whom, Mr. Seccombe?” asked Vemers. “For a barber like
this Arkwright? Yes, he throve on steam, but what is that to us? Will
steam grow corn?”

“Steam is an infamy,” stated a gentleman called Collinson.

“You do not agree, Seccombe? No, why should you? You own houses in
London. Easy for you to play the philosopher. Those of us with land
are beginning to watch the trading classes closely, and steam has the
appearance of an ally to trade and enemy to us.”

“Then let the alliance be with us, Mr. Collinson,” said Seccombe.
“Indeed, I am making no original suggestion. We have had the cases
mentioned here of more than one man of our own order who--”

“Traitors! Outcasts!” cried Godalming.

“Or, perhaps, wise men, my lord. I do not know.”

“You don’t know if it is wise to sell your soul to the devil?”

“Personally,” said Mr. Seccombe, “I should regard that transaction
as precarious, but not to the present point. There was mentioned the
example of one Hepplestall.”

“You have heard of him--here?” Mr. Verners was astonished.

“We were interested to hear,” said Mr. Collinson.

“Of a perversion,” said Godalming.

“Godalming withholds from Mr. Hepplestall the light of his approval,”
 said Mr. Seccombe, “but--”

“Approve a turn-coat that was once a gentleman? Why, he has dined at
Brooks’ and now blacks his sweaty hands with coal. Is there defense for
him?” asked Godalming.

“I am prepared to defend him,” said Seccombe.

“Then you’re a Jacobin.” Godalming turned an outraged back.

“Verners will correct me if I am wrong,” said Collinson, “but we hear of
Mr. Hepplestall that he has a great steam-driven factory, with a small
town at its feet, and by his steam is driving out of trade the older
traders in his district. Is that true?”

“Entirely,” said Mr. Verners, “though it staggers me that news of so
small a matter has traveled so far and so fast.”

“Some of us have our eyes on steam,” said Seccombe, “and some of us,” he
eyed Godalming with severity, “some of us prefer that a power like steam
should be in the hands of men of our order.”

“But they cannot be of our order,” protested Verners, scandalized. “They
cease, of their own conduct, to be of our order.”

“You do not dispute the facts about Hepplestall?”

“No. It’s your conclusions I find amazing.”

“Oh,” said Godalming, “this isn’t Almack’s Club at all. We’re in France,
and Mr. Collinson is wearing a red cap, and Mr. Seccombe has no breeches
and--rot me if I ever expected to hear such damned revolutionary
sentiments from an Englishman.”

“Will you do me the favor, my lord, to consider the picture Mr. Verners
has assented to be veracious?” Mr. Seccombe said, leaning back in his
chair and looking like nothing so much as Maclise’s Talleyrand in the
Fraser Portraits; elbows on the arms of his chair, hands caressing his
stomach, knees wide apart, the sole of one shoe rubbing against the
other, a look of placid benignity on his face. “That large factory,
dominating a town of cottages where its workers live, under the
owner’s eye, and that owner a gentleman who has extinguished the small
lower-class manufacturers of his neighborhood. I ask you to consider
that picture and to tell me what there is in it that you feel
undesirable. To me, my lord, it is an almost feudal picture. The Norman
Keep, with a village clustered around its walls, is to my mind the
precedent of Mr. Hepplestall’s factory with its workers in their
cottages about it. I confess to an admiration of this Hepplestall,
whom you regard as a traitor to our order and I as a benefactor to
that order. You will hardly assert that our order is unshaken by the
deplorable events in France, you will hardly say that, even before that
unparalleled outbreak of ruffianism, our order had maintained the high
prestige of the Feudal days. A man in whose action I see possibilities
of restoring in full our ancient privileges is a man to be approved and
to be supported by us. If we do not support him, and others like him,
what results? Abandoned by us, he must consort with somebody and he will
consort naturally with other steam-power manufacturers, adding to their
strength and weakening ours. It seems to me that this steam is a notable
instrument for keeping in their places those classes who might one day
follow the terrible French example: and the question is whether it
is better for us ourselves, men of our order, directly to handle
this instrument, or whether we are to trust it in the hands of the
manufacturing class. For my own part, I distrust that class, I like a
man who grasps his nettles boldly and I applaud Mr. Hepplestall.”

Several men had joined the circle by now, and Mr. Seecombe ended to find
himself the center of an attention close but hostile. Phrases such as
“rank heresy” and “devil’s advocate” made Mr. Collinson feel heroic
when he said, “Speaking for myself, I stand converted by your argument,
Seecombe.”

At which Godalming gave the theorist and his supporter the name of “a
brace of begad trucklers to Satan,” and such a whoop of applause went up
as caused Mr. Seccombe to look round quickly for cover. It was clear
that to touch steam was not condoned as an attempt to revitalize the
Feudal system: to touch steam was to defile oneself and to propose a
defense of a gentleman who stooped to steam was to be unpopular. Mr.
Seccombe liked his views very well, but liked popularity better and,
catching sight of Whitworth in the crowd, saw in him a means of
distracting attention from himself.

“Have you a word on this, Whitworth?” he asked. “You come from
Lancashire.”

“My word on this,” he said, “is Mr. Verners’ word. Like him I am the
victim of these steaming gentlemen, and I have only to remember my
bailiff’s accounts to know how much I am mulcted in poor-rates.”

“Imagine Harry Whitworth perusing an account!” said Godalming.

“One has one’s duties, I believe,” said Sir Harry. “But I have been too
long away from Lancashire to be a judge of this matter. I can tell you
nothing of Hepplestall and his factory, for this is the first I heard
of it, but I can tell you of Hepplestall and a parson.” And he told the
tale of Mr. Bantison.

“This is the stuff your hero is made of, Seccombe,” jeered Godalming.

“Not bad stuff,” Seccombe heard an unexpected ally say. “The stuff, as
Seccombe put it, that grasps a nettle firmly.”

“Oh,” conceded Sir Harry, “Bantison was nettle enough. But as to
steam--!” He shrugged his shoulders, and gave Mr. Seccombe the opening
for which he angled.

“It does not appeal to you to go to Lancashire and better Hepplestall’s
example?” he asked blandly.

“Good God!” said Sir Harry, and the Club was with him.

“There might be wisdom in a visit to your estates,” said Mr. Seccombe,
and the Club was, vociferously, with him. Mr. Seccombe smiled secretly:
he had, gently but thoroughly, accomplished his purpose of turning the
volatile thought of the Club away from his argument. He had raised a
laugh at Whitworth’s expense, a brutal laugh, a “Vae Victis” laugh: he
had focused attention on the case of Sir Harry Whitworth.

It was not an unusual case. This society had a leader known, with
grotesque inappropriateness, as the First Gentleman in Europe and the
First Gentleman in Europe had invented a shoe-buckle. Whitworth tripped
over the buckle; he criticized it in ill-chosen company and news of his
traitorous disparagement was carried to the Regent. Whitworth was in
disgrace.

The usual thing and the discreet thing was to efface oneself for a time,
but Harry Whitworth had the conceit to believe himself an ornament that
the Prince could not dispense with. He stayed in town, daily expecting
to be recalled to court: and the frank laughter of Almack’s was a
galling revelation of what public opinion thought of his prospects of
recall.

It was a humiliation for a high-spirited gentleman, and an
embarrassment. To challenge a Club was to invite more ridicule, while
to single out Mr. Seccombe, the first cause of his discomfiture, was
equally impossible; Seccombe was too old for dueling; one did not go out
with a man old enough to be one’s grandfather. There was Godalming,
but, again, he feared ridicule: Godalming’s special offense was that he
laughed loudly, but Godalming habitually laughed loudly and one couldn’t
challenge for insulting emphasis a man who was naturally emphatic.

Whitworth saw no satisfactory way out of it, till Verners, mindful of
Dorothy, supplied an opportunity for retreat.

“I may be able to give Sir Harry some little information about his
estates. They are in good hands, and though naturally we in Lancashire
would welcome amongst us the presence of so notable a landowner, the
estate itself is well managed by his people.” Which was quite a pretty
effort in tact from one unaware of Sir Harry’s misfortune, and puzzled
by the laughter.

Whitworth snatched at the opportunity, meager as it was. “I will come
with you to hear of it, Verners.” Then as he turned, a feeling that he
was making a poor show of it tempted him to say, “Gentlemen, I heard you
laugh. Next time we meet, next time I visit Almack’s, the laugh will be
upon the other side. Godalming, will you wager on it?” He could issue
that simulacrum of a challenge, at any rate. Men betted upon anything.

“A thousand guineas that you never come back,” suggested Godalming.

“A thousand that I am back--back, you understand me--in a month.”

“Agreed,” said Godalming. “I back Prinny’s resolution for a thousand for
a month.”

“Shall we go, Mr. Verners?” said Sir Harry to the mystified squire, and
“Gad, they’re betting on a weather-vane,” murmured Mr. Seccombe in the
ear of his friend, Mr. Collinson.



CHAPTER V--SIR HARRY WOOS

TO know one’s duty and to do it are often different things. Sir Harry’s
duty, as he knew, was to regard his wild oats as sown, to marry Dorothy,
and to go home quietly to Lancashire. In London, he competed on equal
terms with men far richer than himself at a pace disastrously too hot
for his means, but the competition had been, socially, a triumph for him
and to go back now of all times, when temporarily he was under a cloud,
was a duty against which his pride fought hard.

He hadn’t compromise in him and compromise, in this case was
unthinkable. It was either Lancashire with Dorothy, or London without
her. Dorothy in London was not to be thought of: no countrybred wife for
him unless on the exceptional terms of her bringing him a great fortune,
and what she was to bring was well enough in Lancashire but a bagatelle
to be lost or won at hazard in a night in London. Decidedly, she would
be a blunder in London: if a man of his standing in society put his head
under the yoke, it had to be for a price much greater than Dorothy could
pay. He would lose caste by such a marriage.

There remained the sensible alternative, the plan to be good and
dutiful, to abandon London, ambition, youth, and to become a dull and
rustic husband. Long ago, his father and Luke Vcrners had come to an
understanding on the matter, eminently satisfying to themselves, and he
had let things remain, vaguely, at that. Certainly he broke no promise
of his own making if he avoided Dorothy for ever: and here he was going
under escort (and it seemed to him a subtly possessive escort) of Luke
Verners to call on Dorothy, to, it was implied, clarify the situation
and, he supposed, to declare himself. Well, that was too cool and
however things happened they were not going to happen quite like that.
He didn’t mind going to survey Dorothy: indeed, Almack’s being closed to
him just now by his own action, he must have some occupation; but this
Dorothy--positively he remembered her obscurely through a haze of other
women--this Dorothy must needs be extraordinary if she were to reconcile
him to a duty he resented. It might be necessary to teach these good
people their place. Luke seemed to Sir Harry uninstructed in the London
perspective and in the importance of being Whitworth.

It was unfortunate that Mrs. Verners clucked over him like a hen who has
found a long-lost chicken. Her inquiries after his health seemed to
him even more assured in their possessiveness than Luke’s attitude of a
keeper. Mrs. Verners was the assertion of motherhood, and on every score
but that of hard duty, he was prepared to depreciate Dorothy, when she
came in, to the limits of justice and perhaps beyond them. Dorothy might
be a miracle, but Mrs. Verners as a mother was a handicap that would
discount anything.

Then Dorothy came in, carrying in her arm a kitten with an injured paw.
From her room she had heard it crying in Albemarle Street, had run out
and for the last ten minutes had been doctoring it somewhere at the back
of the house. Mrs. Verners was alarmed: Dorothy was still flushed with
running, or, perhaps, with tenderness; her hair was riotous; she was
thinking of the kitten, she had the barest curtsy for Sir Harry, she
was far from being the great lady her mother would have had her in this
moment of meeting with him. And he incontinently forgot that he was
there on a sort of compulsion, he nearly forgot that it was his duty to
like her. Emotionally, he surrendered at sight to a beautiful unkempt
girl who caressed a kitten and, somehow, brought cleanliness into the
room. “Good God!” said Sir Harry, his manners blown to pieces along with
his hesitations by one blast of honesty.

If they could have been married there and then, it was not Whitworth
who would have been backward. All that was best in him was devotedly and
immediately hers, and that best was not a bad best either: if he could
forget London and his craving to be a figure in the town, a courtier and
a modish rake, he had the making of a faithful husband to such a woman,
satisfied with her, with country sports and the management of his
estate, a good father, and a hearty, genial, eupeptic, hard drinking
but hard exercising representative of the permanent best in English
life--the outdoor gentleman.

If he could forget--and just now he utterly forgot, with one swift
backward glance at London women. What were they to her? Dressmakers’
dummies, perruquiers’ blocks, automata directed by a dancing-master,
cosmetical exteriors to vanity, greed, vice, if they were not, like some
he hated most, conceited bluestockings parading an erudition that it
didn’t become a woman to possess. Whereas, Dorothy! He felt from her a
whiff of moorland air, and a horse between his legs and the clean rush
past him of invigorating wind and all the zest of a great run behind the
hounds with the tang of burning peat in his nostrils and the scent of
heather coming down from, the hills. It wasn’t quite--it wasn’t yet, by
years--the case of the roué worn by experience who seeks a last piquant
emotion in religion or (what seems to him almost its equivalent) in a
fresh young girl, but his situation had those elements, with the
added glamor of discovering that his duty was not merely tolerable but
delicious.

“Good God,” he said again, quite irrepressibly in the spate of his
emotion, then realizing that he was guilty of breach of decorum,
lapsed to apologetic amenities from which they were to gather that his
ejaculations referred to the kitten.

His polite murmur roused Dorothy to self-consciousness. “What a hoyden
Sir Harry must be thinking me,” she said confusedly.

“They are wrong,” said Sir Harry, “who call red roses the flower of
Lancashire. That flower is the wild heather. That flower is you.”

“Yes,” said Dorothy with whimsical resignation, “the commonest flower
that blooms.”

“But a rarity in London,” he said, “and, bloom like yours, rare
anywhere. In London, Madam, we have a glass-house admiration for
glass-house flowers that wilt to ruin at a breath of open air. I have
been guilty of the bad taste to share that admiration. I have been
unpardonably forgetful of the flower of Lancashire.” And he bowed to
Dorothy in as handsome apology as a laggard lover could make. “We heard
a word at the club, Mr. Verner, which, as you observed, had the faculty
of annoying me. It annoyed me because in a club one thinks club-wise and
club-wisdom is opaque. I should not be annoyed now.”

“Are we to know what the word was?” asked Mrs. Verners not too
discreetly.

Sir Harry raised his eyebrows slightly. Decidedly, he thought again, a
clucking hen, but his management of her could wait: this was his hour of
magnanimity. “At the club, Madam,” he said, “we were allowed to hear a
Mr. Seccombe recommending me to visit my estates.” Sir Harry looked at
Dorothy. “And it is in my mind that Seceombe counseled well.”

Considering the man and remembering the wager with Godalming, that was
an admission even more handsome than his apology. It fell short, but
only short, of actual declaration and perhaps that might have come had
not Mrs. Verners attempted to force a pace which was astonishingly fast.
She saw her expedition turning in its first engagement to triumphant
victory, but she wanted the spoils of victory, she wanted a spade to be
called unmistakably a spade, she wanted his declaration in round terms
before he left that room.

“We are to see you back in Lancashire?” she said insinuatingly.

Sir Harry shuddered at her crude persistence, but, gallantly, “I have
good reason to believe so,” he replied, scanning the reason with an
admiration qualified now by wonder if she would become like her mother.

“And you will come to stay?”

“That I cannot say,” he was goaded to reply. Damn the woman! She was
arousing his worst, she was reawakening his rebellion to the thought
that he had had his fling, she was tempting him to continue it in the
hope that when his fling was ended, Mrs. Verners would have, mercifully,
also ended. He took his leave with some abruptness, treading a lower air
than that of his expectancy.

But Dorothy held her place with him. For wife of his, this was the
one woman and Mrs. Verners, in retrospect, diminished to the disarmed
impotence to hurt of a spikeless burr.

He weighed alternatives--Dorothy, heather, the moors, domesticity,
estates, his place in the county against the stews of St. James, the
excitement of gambling on a horse, a prizefighter or the dice, the hot
perfumes of balls, Ranelagh, the clubs, women. He even threw in Prinny
and his place at Court, and against all these Dorothy, and what she
stood for, held the balance down. He formed a resolution which he
thought immutable.

He assumed, and Mrs. Verners had fed that assumption, that there were to
be no difficulties about Dorothy and, fundamentally, she meant to make
none. She had looked away from Hepplestall when she met him on a road,
and many times since then she had looked back in mind to Hepplestall,
but Sir Harry was her fate and she did not quarrel with it. He had,
though, been bearishly slow in accepting her as his fate and she saw no
reason in that to smooth his passage to the end now that, clearly,
he was in the mood to woo. His careless absence had been one long
punishment for her: let her now see how he would take the short
punishment of being impaled for a week or two on tenterhooks about her.

He came again, heralded by gifts, with hot ardor to his wooing. He
brought passion and buttressed that with his self-knowledgeable desire
to force the issue, to make a contract from which there could be
no retreat: and thereby muddied pure element with lower motive. He
complimented her upon a new gown.

“It pleases you?” she asked.

“Much less than the wearer.”

“You are a judge of ladies’ raiment, are you not, Sir Harry?”

“No more than becomes a man of taste.”

“One hears,” she said, “of Lady Betty Standish who was at choosing
patterns with her dressmaker, and of a gentleman shown into the room
that chose her patterns for her, and of the bills that Lady Betty sent
to the gentleman, and of how he paid them.”

“You have heard of that?” he said. “Well, there are women in town
capable of such bad taste as that.”

“The bad taste of allowing you to choose her gowns? But were you not
competent to choose?”

“The bad taste,” he said, “of sending the bills to me. Would you have
had me decline to pay them?”

“Again,” she said, passing no judgment, “there is a story of a merchant
that lived in Hampstead and drove one night with a plump daughter in a
coach to eat a dinner in the City. The coach was stopped on the Heath by
a highwayman who wanted nothing of the merchant, but was most gallant to
his daughter.”

“I kissed the girl,” said Sir Harry. “It was done for a wager and I won
it. A folly, and a harmless one,” but he wondered, if she had heard
of these, if there were less innocent escapades that she had heard
of. There was no lack of them, nor, it appeared, of babblers eager to
gossip, to his disservice, about a man on whom the Regent frowned.

“One hears again,” she said, “that at Drury Lane Theater,”--he blushed
in good earnest: would she have the hardihood to mention a pretty
actress who--? and then he breathed again as she went on--“there was
once an orange wench--”

“That was a bet I lost,” he said. “I was to dress as a woman and stand
with my basket like the rest, and I was not to be identified. I was
identified and paid. But what are these but the freaks we all enjoy in
London? Vain trifles, I admit it, in the telling. Not feats to boast
of, not incidents that I take pleasure in hearing you refer to, but, I
protest, innocent enough and relishable in the doing.”

“Perhaps,” she said. “And while you relished them in London, did you
give thought to what I did at home?”

“You? To what you did? What did you do?” Sir Harry was flabbergasted at
her question.

“I was at home, Sir Harry.” She spoke without bitterness, without
emphasis, and when he looked sharply at her, she seemed to interpret
the look as an invitation and rose. “My mother, I think, is ready to
accompany us if you care to take me walking in the Park.”

Decidedly a check to a gentleman who proposed to make up for past delays
by a whirlwind wooing. She was at home, while he ruffled it in London.
And where else should she be? What did she imply? At any rate, she had
embarrassed him by the unexpectedness of her attack. Of course she
was at home, and of course he was a reveler in London. He was man, she
woman, and he hoped she recognized the elementary distinction. Whatever
her object, whether she had the incredible audacity to accuse him--him,
open-handed Harry--of something only to be defined as meanness, or
whether she was only being witty with him, she had certainly discouraged
the declaration he came to make.

Mrs. Vemers found him a moody squire of dames in the Park, while his
sudden puzzlement gave Dorothy a mischievously happy promenade. He
brought them, after the shortest of walks, to their door.

“You have been very silent, Sir Harry,” Mrs. Verners told him, with her
incurable habit of stating the obvious. “Are you not well to-day?”

“Perfectly, I thank you, Madam.”

“Oh, Lud, mother, it is but that you do not appreciate Sir Harry’s
capacity for disguise. In the past, he has been--many things. To-day we
are to admire him in the character of a thunderstorm.”

“Indeed?” he said. “Thunderstorms break.”

“But not on me,” said Dorothy, and ran into the house.

Sir Harry turned away with the scantest bow to Mrs. Verners. This was a
new flavor and he wanted to taste it well, to make sure that he approved
a Dorothy who could be a precipitate hoyden rushing out-of-doors to an
injured kitten and a woman of wit that stabbed him shrewdly. She had
variety, this Dorothy; she wasn’t the makings of a dull, complacent
wife. Well, and did he want dullness and complacency? He was going
to Lancashire, to a life that a Whitworth must live as an example to
others: there was to be nothing to demand a wife’s complacency. And
as to dullness, heaven save him from it--and heaven seemed, by making
Dorothy Verners, to have answered that prayer. He decided to be more in
love with Dorothy than before--which, as she wasn’t willing to fly into
his arms when he crooked a beckoning finger, was only natural; and
went into a shop from which he might express to her the warmth of his
sentiment at an appropriate cost. She should see if he was mean!

In the shop he found my Lord Godalming who was turning over some bright
trinkets intended for a lady who was not his wife. Godalming was surly,
eyeing Whitworth as he called for the best in necklaces that the shopman
had to show. “Oh, yes,” said his lordship, “bring out the best for Sir
Harry Whitworth. Jewels for Sir Harry and paste for me. I am only a
lord.”

“What’s put you out, Godalming?”

“Ain’t the sight of your radiant face enough to put me out? I hate
happiness in others.”

“Then I can offer you the consolation of knowing that my happiness will
not be visible to you long. I propose very shortly to go North, my lord,
and to stay there.” Godalming flopped back against the counter like a
fainting man who must support himself and, indeed, his astonishment was
genuine enough. “Go North?” he gasped. “Are you gone stark mad?”

“I have flattered myself to the contrary,” said Sir Harry, with
complacency. “I have believed that I have recovered my senses.”

“Rot me if I understand you,” said his lordship.

“Yet you find me in the article of choosing a necklace.”

“Damme, Whitworth, are there no women nearer than the North Pole? Is
there no difference between gallantry and lunacy?”

“I am thinking of marriage, my lord.”

“Oh, Lud, yes, we’ve all to come to that. But we don’t come to it
happily. We don’t think of it with our faces like the August sun. I’m
the last man to believe your smirking face covers thoughts of marriage.
I know too well what it does cover.”

“Indeed? And what?”

“What? Burn me if you are not the most exasperating man alive. Have you
no recollections of a wager?”

“I am bound to make you an admission, Godalming. Occupied with other
matters, I had for the moment forgot our wager. But you need have no
fears. I pay my debts.”

“Pay? Where in the devil’s name have you been hiding yourself if you
don’t know you’ve won the wager?”

“Won it?” cried Sir Harry.

“What else are you happy for?”

“I give you my word I did not know of this, Godalming.”

“The news has been about the town these last two hours. A courier has
ridden in from Brighton summoning you to Prinny’s table to-morrow. He is
tired of his shoe buckle and vows that you are right about it. They say
he wrote you the recall with his own gouty hand. There’s condescension,
damn you, and you let me be the one to tell you news of it, me that
loses a thousand by it!”

“I have been some hours absent from my rooms,” apologized Sir Harry.
“But this! This!” And if his face glowed before, it blazed now in the
intoxication of a great victory. He wasn’t thinking of the wager he had
won, and still less of the lady who was his to win: he was thinking of
a fat, graceful, capricious Prince who used his male friends as he used
his female, like dirt, who drove a coach with distinction and hadn’t
another achievement, who had taken Harry Whitworth back into a favor
that was a degradation; and Harry Whitworth thought of his restoration
to that slippery foothold as a triumph and a glimpse of paradise! The
Regent had forgiven him and nothing else mattered.

He savored it a while, then became conscious of a shopman with a tray of
jewels, and of why he came into the shop. He had the grace to lower his
voice from Godaiming’s hearing as he said, “You must have finer ones
than these. I desire the necklace to be of the value of one thousand
guineas.”

He chose, while Godalming bought his pretentious trifle, and gave
Dorothy’s address. Then, “I believe that I am now entitled to the
freedom of Almack’s Club, my lord,” he said. “Do you go in that
direction?” And Godalming, who was not a good loser, was too sensitive
to the social ascendency of the man whom the Regent forgave to decline
his proffered company. The wind blowing South for Whitworth, it wasn’t
desirable that word of Godalming’s wagering on its remaining North
should be carried to royal ears: he had better, on all counts, make
light of his loss and be seen companionably with this child of fortune.

Not to mention the simpler fact that Godalming was a thirsty soul and
that such a reversal of fortune as had come to Harry was only to be
celebrated with high junketing. Indirectly, in his person of loser of
the wager, Godalming was the host and it wasn’t proper for a host to be
absent from his own table.

Intrinsically, a wager of a thousand guineas was nothing to lift
eyebrows at: Mr. Fox once played for twenty-two hours at a sitting and
lost £500 an hour, and the celebration of a victory was what the victor
cared to make it. Sir Harry had more than the winning of a bet
to celebrate, he had a rehabilitation and proposed to himself the
considerable feat of making Almack’s drunk. It was afternoon, but any
time was drinking time, and only the darkness of mid-winter lasted long
enough to cloak their heroic debauchery. Men were not rare who kept
their wits and were steady on their legs after the sixth bottle, and why
indeed cloak drunkenness at all, if at the seventh bottle a gentleman
succumbed? There was no shame in falling in a good fight: the shame
was to the shirker and the unfortunate born with a weak head, a puny
three-bottle man.

This is to generalize, which, perhaps, is better than a particular
description in this squeamish day of the occasion when Harry Whitworth
made his re-appearance at Almack’s resolved to write his name large in
the Bacchanalian annals of the Club. He was to dine in the Pavilion at
Brighton with his Royal Highness next night, and, by the Lord, Almack’s
was to remember that he had come into his own again.

Some crowded hours had passed when the memorialist at the table’s head
unsteadily picked up a glass and saying mechanically, “A glass of wine
with you, sir,” found himself isolating from a ruddy haze the flushed
face of Mr. Verners.

“Verners!” he cried. “Verners! What’s the connection? Dorothy, by Gad!
Going Brighton kiss Prinny’s hand to-morrow, Verners. Going your house
kiss Dorothy’s hand to-night. Better the night, better the deed. Dorothy
first, Prinny second. Gentlemen, Dorothy Verners!”

There wasn’t more sobriety in the whole company than would have sufficed
to add two and two together, and nobody noticed, let alone protested,
when the host reeled from the table, linked his arm in that of Mr.
Verners and left the room. Mr. Verners’ mind was a blessed blank gently
suffused with joy. Incapable of thought, he felt that he had on his arm
a prisoner whose capture was to do him great honor. The servants put
them tenderly in a coach for the short drive to Albemarle Street.

“I shall call you Father,” said Sir Harry, and the singular spectacle
might have been observed, had the night been light and the coach open,
of an elderly gentleman endeavoring to kiss the cheek of a younger, his
efforts frustrated by the jolting of the coach, so that the pair of them
pivoted to and fro on their bases like those absurd weighted toy eggs
the pedlars sell, and came, swaying in ludicrous rhythm, to the Verners’
lodging.

During the afternoon the necklace had been delivered, and if Dorothy was
no connoisseur of jewels she was sufficiently informed to know that here
was a peace-offering of royal value. She had twitted Sir Harry with his
follies, she had watched him draw the right conclusion from her recital
of some of them--the conclusion that she resented his preference for
such a life to coming, long ago, to where she and duty and she and love
were waiting for him--she had mocked him at her door, and had mocked his
sullen face when she compared him with a thunderstorm: and she wondered
if she had not gone too far, been too severe. Mrs. Verners lectured her
unsparingly on her waywardness, and Dorothy inclined to think that she
deserved the lecture. Then the necklace came and if a gift like that was
not as plain a declaration as anything unspoken could be, Dorothy was
no judge, or her mother either. The lecture ended suddenly, turned to
a gush of admiration of such magnificence. Harry had won forgiveness,
Dorothy decided, and if he came next day in wooing vein it wasn’t
she who would check his ardor a second time. One need not be called a
materialist because a symbol that is costly convinced at once, when a
cheap symbol would be ineffective.

She was ready for Sir Harry, but not for this Sir Harry. The giver of
princely gifts should live up to his princedom, not in the sense of
His Royal Highness, George, but in the romantic sense. She had been
idealizing Harry since the precious token came and he came--like this,
lurching, thick-voiced, beastly. True, a gentleman lost nothing of
gentlemanliness by appearing flushed with wine before ladies; but there
were degrees and his was a condition beyond the most indulgent pale. Old
husbands--Mr. Verners is the example--might have no surprises for their
wives, but to come a-wooing in his cups was outrage.

Mrs. Verners made an effort. “Dorothy,” she whispered, “remember the
necklace. Don’t be too nice.” Dorothy remembered nothing but that this
beast that had been a man was reeling towards her, making endearing
noises, with the plain intention of kissing her. Her whole being seemed
to concentrate itself to defeat his intention: she hit him, and hit
hard, upon the face and Sir Harry sat stupidly on the floor. Then,
defying her mother with her eye, she remembered the necklace.

His man, undressing him that night, found an exceptional necklace round
his neck beneath his ruffles. He thought of Sir Harry and his condition,
of the obliterating effect of much alcohol, of theft and of the hanging
that befell a convicted thief and, after balancing these thoughts, he
stole the necklace. There were no inquiries made.



CHAPTER VI--THE MAN WHO WON

IT is said that the Chinese use a form of torture consisting in the
uninterrupted dripping, drop by drop, of water on the head of a victim
who eventually goes mad. Mrs. Verners, though not Chinese, used a
similar form of torture as they drove North from London in the coach,
but Dorothy did not go mad under the interminable flow of bitter
comment. Instead, she watched the milestones and, as each was passed,
made and kept the resolution not to scream, or to jump out or to strike
her mother until they reached the next, and so, by a series of mile-long
constraints, disciplined herself to bear the whole.

After Mrs. Verners had said that Dorothy was a graceless girl who had
made them all into laughing-stocks and an affected prude whose nicety
was monstrous, and a conceited, pedantic, prim ignoramus who had the
bumkinly expectation that men were saints, and a pampered milksop who
had made her unfortunate parents the jest of the town, there really was
not much more to say, but the lady had suffered disappointment and did
not suffer it silently.

Occasionally, for a change, she turned her batteries on Mr. Verners who,
poor man, was paying by an attack of gout for his London indulgences and
couldn’t sleep the miles away. There was some justice in her attacks on
Mr. Verners. He was first cause of Dorothy’s conduct to Sir Harry: he
had brought Sir Harry home to them that night: he was accessory to their
disaster.

“Well, well, but it is over,” he said a dozen times.

“But--,” and she began again with stupid and stupefying iteration.

Mr. Verners, after a trip to town, was matter apt for stupefaction. It
would need days of hard riding on penitential diet at home to sweat the
aches out of him, but even while Mrs. Verners was elaborating the theme
that all was lost, he was conscious of a reason, somewhere at the back
of his mind, for believing that all was not lost. He couldn’t dredge
the reason to the surface, and he couldn’t imagine what grounds for
cheerfulness there were, but he felt sure that something had happened in
London, or that something had been said in London which offered new hope
to a depressed family. For three days he fished vainly in the muddied
waters of his recollection for that bright treasure-trove, then, when
they were reaching their journey’s end and were within a few miles of
home, he saw Hepplestall’s factory crowning the hill-top, with its stack
belching black smoke, and remembered how unexpectedly significant this
Hepplestall had loomed in a conversation at Almack’s Club.

He didn’t at first associate that strange significance of Hepplestall
with his sense that he had brought hope with him from London. True,
there was this difference between his wife’s motives and his--that she
had wanted to see Dorothy married to Whitworth, and he wanted to see
Dorothy married. Dorothy in any man’s home, within reason; but his was
the ideal of the father who felt in her presence a cramping necessity
to restraint, and, if any man’s, why should he think of Hepplestall’s
in particular, when, since Sir Harry was out of the running, there was
a host of sufficiently eligible young men and when now he watched his
wife’s resentful glare as she looked at that unsightly chimney?

It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her at once that Whitworth was
not their only neighbor to be spoken of respectfully, but on second
thoughts that had better wait till Dorothy was not present to hear her
mother’s inevitable first pungencies. He wanted Dorothy married, and it
was easy to marry her to almost any bachelor in the county; yet here was
Luke Verners settling it obstinately in his mind that Hepplestall was
the husband he wished for her. Hepplestall had been heard of in London,
which was one wonder, and had been the subject of a serious discussion
at a gaming club, which was a greater wonder, and Verners, who
had helped to dig the gulf between Reuben and the county, was now
considering how the gulf was to be bridged. Was steam atrocious, when
it gained a man the commendation of Mr. Seccombe? He recalled Seccombe’s
comparison of the factory and its surrounding cottages with the feudal
chieftain’s keep, and as he looked again at Hepplestall’s creation, he
saw how apt the comparison was, he saw alliance with Reuben as an astute
move that might give him footing on the winning side, as, emphatically,
a “deep” thing. If steam were a success, it couldn’t be an atrocity.

Whether it were atrocity or not, there was no question but that steam,
in Reuben’s hands, was a success. He was working with a tigerish energy
that left no stone unturned in the consolidation of his position. As yet
he was a monopolist of steam in the district, but that was an advantage
that couldn’t last and he meant when he had to meet more up-to-date
competition than that of the water-power manufacturers to be impregnably
established to meet it. He hadn’t time to think of other things--such as
women, or the county, or Dorothy Verners or even Phoebe Bradshaw.

Phoebe had borne him a son. Reuben had not decided--he had not had time
to decide--but he didn’t think that mattered. If he was going to marry
her--to silence her he had promised marriage and, so far as he knew,
intended to keep his promise--it was because he had a fondness for her
but, beyond that, because he hoped to see the county cringe to his wife,
and if it was going to please him to watch them cringe to a Mrs. Reuben
Hepplestall who was Peter Bradshaw’s daughter, it was going to please
him more to watch them cringe to a woman who was the mother of his son
before he married her. That was his present view, and because of it he
permitted Peter to jog on at his little factory, he didn’t starve Peter
out of existence as he was starving the other water-power manufacturers
of the neighborhood, he wasn’t forcing Peter’s workpeople into the steam
factory by the simple process of leaving them no other place in which
to find employment. Peter was privileged, a King Canute miraculously
untouched by the tide of progress; but, for the rest of them, for
Peter’s like who were unprivileged, Reuben was ruthless. He wanted
their skilled laborers in his factory, and he undercut their prices,
naturally, thanks to steam, and unnaturally, thanks to policy, till he
drove them to ruin, filled his factory with their workpeople, sometimes
flinging an overseer’s job to the manufacturer he had ruined, sometimes
ignoring him. He was building a second factory now, out of the profits
of the first. He had to rise, to rise, to go on rising till he dominated
the county, till the gentry came to pay court to the man they had
flouted. That was the day he lived for, the day when they would fawn and
he would show them--perhaps with Phoebe by his side--what it meant to be
a Hepplestall in Lancashire. In his mine there were hewers of coal,
in the factory men, women and children, laboring extravagant hours for
derisory pay to the end that Hepplestall might set his foot upon the
county’s neck.

All this was background; motive, certainly, but motive so covert beneath
the daily need to plan fresh enterprise, to produce cotton yarn by
the thousand pounds and cloth by the mile as never to obtrude into his
conscious thought at all. This was his interim of building and till
he had built securely he could not pause to think of other issues. The
county, for example: he wasn’t speculating as to where he stood with
the county now: the time for the county’s attention would come when he
stood, a grown colossus, over it and he was only growing yet. He didn’t
anticipate that the county would make advances at this stage, that to
some of them this stage might seem already advanced while to him, with
his head full of plans for development, the stage was elementary. He
didn’t anticipate Luke Verners.

Mr. Verners, diplomat, came into the factory-yard leading a horse which
had shed a shoe, and called to a passing boy to know if Mr. Hepplestall
were in. Reuben was in, in the office, in his shirt-sleeves, and though
Verners did not know this, it was a score for the bridge-builder that
Reuben, on hearing of his presence, placed his pen on his desk instead
of behind his ear and put on his coat before going out.

“I deem this good fortune and not bad since it happened at your gates,
Hepplestall,” said Luke. “If you have a forge here, can I trouble you?
If not there’s a smithy not a mile away.” He gave Reuben a choice: his
advance was to be accepted or rejected as Reuben decided.

“I have the means to shoe my wagon horses,” said Reuben, indicating
at once that his was a self-supporting and a trading organization. If
Verners cared to have his horse shod on Reuben’s premises, the shoeing
would be good, but it would bring Luke into contact with trade.

Luke nodded as one who understood the implications. “I shall take it as
a favor, Hepplestall,” he said, and Reuben gave his orders, then, “I can
offer you a glass of wine,” he said, “but it will be in the office of a
manufacturer.” And the astonishing Mr. Verners bowed and said, “Why not?
Although an idle man must not waste your time.”

“I turned manufacturer,” said Reuben, “not slave,” and led the way into
the office. Followed amenities, and the implicit understanding that
there had never been a breach, that for Hepplestall to set up a factory
was the most natural thing in the world and when, presently, his horse
was announced to be ready, “When,” asked Luke, “are we to see you at
dinner, Hepplestall?”

Reuben felt that the olive branch oozed oil. “I have not dined much
from home of late,” he said, doubtfully. “Then let me make a feast to
celebrate your return.”

“To what fold, Mr. Verners?”

“Well,” said Luke, “if you are doubtful, let me tempt you. Let me tell
you of my wife and of my daughter but new returned from London with the
latest modes.”

“Thankee, Mr. Verners,” said Reuben, “it is not in my recollection that
I ever met you face to face and that you did not know me. But it
is firmly in my mind that Mistress Dorothy Verners gave me the cut
direct.”

“I did not know of this,” said Luke, truthfully.

“No? Yet she acted as others have acted. You will do me the justice to
note that if I find your invitation remarkable, I have reason.”

“Then I repeat it, Hepplestall. I press it. Dorothy shall repent her
discourtesy. I--” (he drew himself up to voice a boast he devoutly hoped
he could make good) “I am master in my house.”

“No,” said Reuben, “No, Mr. Verners, I will not come to dinner when my
appearance has been canvassed and prepared for. But I will ride home
with you now, if you are willing, and you shall tell me as we go what,
besides purchasing the latest modes, you did in London.”

Luke was regretting many things, the impulse which brought him riding
in that direction and made him loosen a horse-shoe up a lane near
the factory, and the cowardice that had prevented his mentioning his
intention to Mrs. Verners who had not _yet_ been given an opportunity
to look at Reuben Hepplestall through the sage eyes of Mr. Seccombe of
Almack’s Club. To take Reuben home now was to introduce a bolt from the
blue and Mr. Verners shuddered at the consequences. He couldn’t trust
his wife, taken by surprise, to be socially suave, and Dorothy, whom he
thought he could trust, had been rude to Reuben--naturally, inevitably,
in those circumstances quite properly, but, in these, how disastrously
inaptly! By Luke’s reading of the rules of the game, Reuben should have
been grateful for recognition on any terms, and, instead, the confounded
fellow was aggressive, dictating terms, impaling Mr. Verners on the
horns of dilemma. He had said, “If you are willing,” but that, it
seemed, was formal courtesy, for Reuben was calmly ordering his horse to
be saddled.

Had he no mercy? Couldn’t he see how the sweat was standing out on Mr.
Verners’ face? Was this another example like the case of Mr. Bantison
of doing what Seccombe admired, of grasping a nettle boldly? Mr. Verners
objected to be the nettle, but didn’t see how he was to escape the
grasp. The grasp of Reuben Hepplestall seemed inescapable.

He committed himself to fate, with an awful sinking feeling that he
whose fate it is to trust to women’s tact is lost.

“And in London,” asked Reuben as they rode out of the yard. “You did?”

Luke chatted with a pitiful vivacity of all the noncommittal things
he could, while Reuben listened grimly and said nothing. Did ever a
sanguine gentleman set out to condescend and come home so like a captive
and a criminal? He had the impression of being not only criminal but
condemned when Reuben said, dismounting at Verners’ door, “So far I have
not found the answer to this riddle, sir. Perhaps it is to be found in
your drawing-room?”

Mrs. Verners and Dorothy were to be found in the drawing-room, and if
Luke had been concerned about his wife’s attitude he might have spared
himself that trouble. She gave a little cry and looked helplessly at
Reuben as if he were a ghost, and he gave a little bow and that was
the end of her. She could have fainted or gone into hysterics or made a
speech as long as one of Mr. Burke’s and Reuben would have cared for the
one as little as the other. He was looking at Dorothy.

“I have brought Mr. Hepplestall home with me,” was Luke’s introduction.

“And,” said Reuben to Dorothy, “is Mr. Hepplestall visible?”

“Perfectly,” she said and bowed.

“I rejoice to hear,” he said gravely, “of the restoration of your
eyesight. You see me better than on a day a year ago?”

“I see you better,” said Dorothy, meeting his eye, “because I see you
singly,” and he had to acknowledge that a spirited reply to his attack.
It put him beautifully in the wrong, it suggested that he had permitted
himself to be seen by a lady when in the company of one who was not a
lady, it implied that the cut was not for him but his companion,
that there was no fault in Dorothy but in him who carried a blazing
indiscretion like Phoebe Bradshaw into the public road, and that he was
tactless now to remind Dorothy of her correct repudiation of him when he
paraded an impropriety.

She flung Phoebe to the gutter, she made a debating point and showed him
how easy it was to pretend that he had never been refused recognition.
All that was necessary for his acceptance of her point was his agreement
that Phoebe was, in fact, of no importance.

And Reuben concurred. “I have to apologize for an indiscretion,” he
said, deposing Phoebe from her precarious throne, and giving her the
disreputable status latent in Dorothy’s retort.

So much for Phoebe, whereas he, wonderfully, was being smiled upon by
Dorothy Verners. The gracious bow with which she accepted his apology
was an accolade, it was a sign that if he was a manufacturer he was
nevertheless a gentleman, that for him manufacturing was, uniquely,
condoned. But he thought it needful to make sure of that.

“There is a greater indiscretion,” he said, “for which I do not
apologize. I am a trader and trader I remain, unrepentant, Miss Verners,
unashamed.”

“I have heard of worse foibles,” said Dorothy, thinking of Sir Harry.

But he couldn’t leave it at that: he couldn’t be light and accept
lightness about steam. “A foible is a careless thing,” he said. “I am
passionate about my steam-engines.”

“Indeed, you have a notable great place up there,” said Luke.

“It will be greater,” said Reuben. “I am to grow and it with me.” Then
some sense either that he was knocking at an open door or merely of the
convenances made him add, “My hobby-horse is bolting with me, but I felt
a need to be definite.”

He was not, he meant, to be bribed out of his manufacturing by being
countenanced. He wanted Dorothy, but he wanted, too, his leadership in
cotton. And Dorothy was contrasting this man’s passion with Sir Harry’s,
which she took justifiably, but not quite justly, to be liquor, while
steam seemed romantically daring and mysterious. She knew what drink did
to a man and she did not know what steam was to do. Reuben seemed to her
a virile person; she was falling in love with him.

Mrs. Verners, inwardly one mark of interrogation, was taking her cue
from the others who so amazingly welcomed a prodigal, swallowing a pill
and hiding her judgment of its flavor behind a civil smile. “Does Mr.
Hepplestall know that we have been to London?” she asked.

Luke felt precipices gape for him; this was the road to revelations
of his motives, but Reuben turned it to a harmless by-path. “So I have
heard,” he said. “I was promised news of the fashions.” And fashions,
and the opinions of Mrs. Verners on fashions, gently nursed to
its placid end a call of which Luke had expected nothing short
of catastrophe. Reuben was sedulously attentive to Mrs. Verners,
wonderfully in agreement with her views, and Luke, returning from seeing
him to his horse, had the unhoped for satisfaction of hearing her say,
“What a pleasant young man Mr. Hepplestall is, after all.”

He took time by the forelock then. “His enterprise,” he said, “is the
talk of the London clubs. We have not been seeing what lies beneath our
noses. They think much of Hepplestall in London. They watch him with
approval.”

“I confess I like the way his hair grows,” said Mrs. Verners, and
Dorothy said nothing.

While as to Reuben, there is only one word for the mood in which he rode
home--that it was religious. Sincerely and reverently, he thanked his
God for Dorothy Verners, and to the end he kept her in his mind as
one who came to him from God. A miracle had happened--Luke was God’s
instrument bringing him to that drawing-room where Dorothy was--and
Reuben had a simple and a lasting faith in it.

Not that in the lump it softened him, not that he wasn’t all the same a
devil-worshiper of ambition and greed and hatred, for he was all these
things, besides being the humbly grateful man for whom God wrought the
miracle of Dorothy Verners. She was on one side, in her place apart, and
the rest was as it had been.

It may be that his conduct to Bradshaw resulted from this religious
mood. Religion is associated with the idea of sacrifice and if the
suffering was likely to be Peter’s rather than Reuben’s, Reuben
sacrificed, at least, the contemptuous kindliness he felt towards Peter.
His first action was to set in motion against Bradshaw the machinery by
which he had crushed other small manufacturers out of trade.

In those days, the power-loom had not become a serious competitor of the
hand-loom and the hand-weavers chiefly worked looms standing in sheds
attached to their cottages or (for humidity’s sake, not health’s) in a
cellar below them; but they used by now power-spun yarn which was
issued to them by the manufacturers. Reuben had permitted Peter to go
on spinning in his factory: he now sent round to the weavers the message
that Peter’s yarn was taboo and that if they dealt with Peter they would
never deal with Hepplestall. It was enough: the weavers were implicitly
Reuben’s thralls, for without his yarn they could no longer rely on
supplies at all. Peter was doomed. Reuben had not even, as had been
necessary at first, to go through the process of undercutting his
prices; he had only to tell the weavers that Peter was banned and they
had no alternative but to obey.

So far Peter had been allowed, by exception, to remain in being as a
factory-owner, which placed him on a sort of equality with Reuben, as
a little, very little brother, and now brotherliness between a Bradshaw
and the man on whom Dorothy Verners smiled was a solecism. Reuben could
not dictate in other districts--yet--but, in his own, there were to be
no people of Bradshaw’s caliber able to say of themselves that they,
like Hepplestall, had factories. There would be consequences for
Phoebe. He did not give them a second thought. They were what followed
inevitably from the placing of Phoebe by Dorothy Verners, they were
neither right nor wrong, just nor unjust, they had to be--because of
what Dorothy had said when she made, lightly, a dialectical score off
Reuben.

He left that fish to fry and went (miraculously directed) to dine with
the Verners. He dined more than once with the Verners, he was made to
feel that he was at home in the Verners house, so that one suave summer
evening, after he had had a pleasantly formal and highly satisfactory
little tête-à-tête with Luke as they sat together at their wine, he led
Dorothy through the great window on to the lawn and found an arbor in
a shrubbery. There was no question of her willingness, and it hardly
surprised him that there should be none, for he was growing accustomed
to his miracle as one grows accustomed to anything.

“Still, there is a thing which puzzles me,” he said. “You were in
London. Did you see Sir Harry Whitworth there?”

Dorothy made a hole in the gravel with her toe, and the hole seemed to
interest her gravely. Then she looked up slowly and met Reuben’s eye.
“Sir Harry Whitworth is nothing to me,” she said.

And he supposed Sir Harry to have proposed and to have been refused,
which was broad truth if it wasn’t literal fact.

Refused Sir Harry? And why? For him! The miracle increased.

“This is the crowning day of my life,” he said. “It is a day for which
I lived in hope. I saw this day, I saw you like golden sun on a far
horizon. That the day has come so soon is miracle.” He took her hand.
“Dorothy Verners, will you marry a manufacturer?”

“I will marry you, Reuben,” she said, and his kiss was sacramental.

He kissed her as man might kiss an emblem, or the Holy Grail, with a
sort of dispassionate passion that was all very well for a symbol or a
graven image, but not good enough for Dorothy, who was flesh and blood.

“No, no!” she cried. “Reuben, what are you thinking me? I am not like
that.”

“Like what?” he said. “I think you miracle.”

“Yes, but I’m not. I’m a woman--I’m not a golden sun on a far horizon.
I’m nearer earth than that.”

“Never for me,” he protested.

“Yes, always, please. Oh, must you drag confession from me? I love you,
Reuben, you, your straight clean strength. I went in shadows and in
doubt, I waded in muddied waters until you came and rescued me. You
touch me, and you kiss me now as if I were a goddess--”

“You are my goddess, Dorothy.”

“I want us to be honest in our love. You’ve shown me a great thing,
Reuben. You have shown me that there is a man in the world. My man, and
not my god, and, Reuben, don’t worship me either. Don’t let there be
fine phrases and pretense between us two.”

“Pretense?”

“The pretense that I am more than a woman and you more than a man.”

“You are the most beautiful woman in the world.”

She was looking at him quaintly. “Yes, if you please,” she said. So long
as it was admitted she was human, she liked to be lifted in his
eyes above the rest of feminine humanity. This was right, this was
reasonable, this wasn’t the fantastic blossom of love-making that must
needs wither in the chilly air of matrimony, this gave them both a
chance of not having to eat indigestible words afterwards, of not having
to allow in the future that they began their life together in a welter
of lies. She was a woman and she was beautiful and it was no more than
right that he should think her woman’s beauty was unique. “And I’ve
told you what I think of you,” she said. “I shall not change my mind on
that.”

“I shall never give you need,” he said, but he was finding this the
ultimate surprise of all. “I had supposed that women liked to be wooed.”

“I think they do. I’m sure I do, but I’m a plain-dealer, Reuben.”

“I find you very wonderful,” he said, and kissed her now as she would
have him kiss, with true and honest passion that had respect in it but
wasn’t bleached with reverence--and very sweetly and sincerely, she
kissed him back.

That was their mating and she brought it at once from the extravagant
heights where he would have carried it, into deep still waters. It came
quickly, it was to last permanently. These two loved, and the coming and
the lasting of their love had no more to do with reason than love
ever has. If Mr. Verners had the impression that he was a guileful
conspirator who had made this match, he flattered himself; at the most
he had only accelerated it. Inside, he sat looking forward to the
quick decline in his table manners which would follow upon the going of
Dorothy from his house; outside, two lovers paced the lawn in happiness,
and they did not look forward then. To look forward is to imply that
one’s present state can be improved.

Two months ago, they were in London; two months ago the idea that they
should entertain Hepplestall, the manufacturer, the gentleman who was,
in that tall Queen Anne Verners house which stood on the site of a
Verners house already old when the Stuarts came to reign, would have
seemed madness; the house itself would fall in righteous anger on such
a guest. Now he was coming into the drawing-room with Dorothy’s hand in
his, accepted suitor, welcomed son. Something of this was in Dorothy’s
mind as she led him, solemn-faced and twinkling-eyed round the room. On
the walls in full paintings or in miniatures, old dead Verners looked at
her, and to each she introduced him. “And not one of them changed their
color,” she announced.

Mrs. Verners had a last word to say. “But there is Tom.” Young Tom
Verners was with his regiment in the Peninsula.

“Tom!” cried Dorothy. “I’ll show you what Tom thinks of this.” She
raised a candlestick to light the face of her grandfather’s portrait on
the wall. Tom, they said, was the image of his grandfather who had been
painted in his youth in the uniform of a cornet of horse when he brought
victory home with Marlborough. She waved the candle and as she knew very
well it would, the minx, its flicker brought to the portrait the sudden
appearance of a smile. “That,” she said, “is what Tom thinks,” and
Mrs. Verners wept maudlin tears and felt exceedingly content. There was
happiness that night in the Verners house.

When he had mounted his horse, and had set off, she came running down
the steps after him. “Stop!” she cried. “No, don’t get off. Just listen.
My man, my steam-man, I love you, I love you,” and ran into the house.

In his own house, when he reached it, he found Peter and Phoebe Bradshaw
waiting for him, sad sights the pair of them, with drawn, suffering
faces and the sense of incomprehensible wrong gnawing at their hearts.
They couldn’t understand, they couldn’t believe; hours ago they had
talked themselves to a standstill, and waited now in silent apprehensive
misery.

“Well?” asked Reuben.

“The weavers tell me of an order of yours. I can’t believe--there must
be some mistake.”

“I gave an order.”

“But--”

“I gave an order. It closes your factory? Come into mine. You shall have
an overlooker’s job.” Peter was silent. He was to lose his factory,
his position, his independence. He who had been master was to turn man
again, to go back, in the afternoon of life, to the place from which as
young man he had raised himself. What was Hepplestall saying? “You had
no faith in steam, Bradshaw. This is where disbelief has brought you. I
did not hear your thanks.”

“Thanks?” repeated Peter.

“I offer you an overlooker’s job in my factory.”

“But Reuben,” said Phoebe, “Reuben!”

He turned upon her with a snarl. She used his Christian name. She dared!
“Reuben!” she said. “The boy. Our boy. Our John?”

“He will be--what--five months old?”

“Yes,” she said.

“At five years old, I take children into the factory. Good-night.”



CHAPTER VII--THE EARLY LIFE OF JOHN BRADSHAW

ONCE upon a time, a West Indian slave owner was in conversation with
three master-spinners and they spoke of labor conditions in the North
of England. “Well,” he said, “I have always thought myself disgraced by
being the owner of slaves, but we never in the West Indies thought it
possible for any human being to be so cruel as to require a child of
nine years old to work twelve and a half hours a day, and that, you
acknowledge, is your regular practice.”

That, and worse, was the early life of John Bradshaw, son of Reuben
Hepplestall. Peter went into Reuben’s factory: he took the meatless bone
Reuben contemptuously threw to a dog: he became an overlooker. Once he
had been a fighter, when he was raising himself from the ranks into the
position of a small factory owner: then contentment had come upon him
and fighting power went out of him. Whom, indeed, should he fight? He
was not encountering a man but a Thing, a System, which at its first
onslaught seemed to crush the spirit of a people.

The later Hepplestalls looked back to Reuben, their founder, and saw
him as a figure of romance. The romance of Lancashire is rather in the
tremendous fact that its common people survived this System that came
upon them from the unknown, that, so soon, they were hitting back at
the Thing which stifled life. Capital, unaggravated, had been tolerable;
capital, aggravated by steam, made the Factory System and the System was
intolerable.

Reuben might have chosen to make exceptions of the Bradshaws, but he
did not choose it. They had to be nothing to the husband of Dorothy
Hepplestall, they had to go, with the rest, into the jaws of the System.
So Peter lost his liberties and found nothing in the steam machines to
parallel the easy-going familiarities between master and man which had
humanized his primitive factory. A bell summoned him into the factory,
and he left it when the engines stopped, which might be twelve and a
half or might be fifteen hours later. He gave good work for bad pay
and his prayer was that the worst might not happen. The worst was that
Phoebe might be driven with him into the factory, and the worst beyond
the worst was that Phoebe’s son might be driven with her. So he gave
of his best and tried with a beaten man’s despair to hold off the worst
results of the creeping ruin that came upon his home.

Reuben was guiltless of personal malignancy. He had decided that the
Bradshaws must not be favorites, that they must do as others did, which
was a judgment, not a spite, and Reuben did not control the system, but
was controlled by it. He, like the Bradshaws, must do as others did.
He could, of course, have got out: his difference from them was that he
could abjure cotton. But he did not do that, and so long as he stayed
in, a competitor with other manufacturers, he was obliged, if he would
survive commercially, to use the methods of the rest. They may or may
not have been methods that revolted him by their barbarity, and it is
probable that, even in that callous age, what of the true gentleman was
left in him was, in fact, revolted. That is, at least, to be deduced
from the completely isolating veil he hung between Dorothy and the
factory. His house was the old home of the Hepplestalls, near the
factory but not, like many manufacturers’ houses, adjacent to it. It was
sufficiently far away for him, practically, to live two lives which
did not meet. He was a manufacturer and he was the husband of Dorothy’
Hepplestall; in the factory one man and at home another, not lying at
home about steam because there he never spoke of it, preserving her
romantic illusions about his work by keeping her remote from it. She
might have had her curiosities, but she loved Reuben, she consented at
his will to be incurious and the habit remained. It might have remained
even if love had faded, but their love was not to fade. And the county
took it that if Dorothy Verners had married a manufacturer, the factory
was not to be mentioned before her. In the presence of ladies they did
not mention it to Reuben, though, in the bad times, when the poor-rate
rose and half the weavers came upon the parish, Reuben was roasted to
his face with indignant heat after the ladies had left the table.

He was neither of the best nor of the worst. He was not patriarchal like
the Strutts and the Gregs who, while conforming to the System, qualified
it with school-houses and swimming baths, nor did he go to the extreme
of ordering his people into the cottages he built and compelling them
to pay rent for a cottage whether they occupied it or not. He didn’t
run shops, charging high prices, at which his people had to buy or where
they had to take goods in part payment of wages. Such devices, though
general, seemed to him petty and extraneous to the factory; but in the
factory he was a keen economist and one of the results of the System
was that the masters looked on wages not as paid to individuals but to
families. That was so much the normal view that a weaver was not allowed
to go on the parish unless he proved that his wife and children worked
in the mills and that the whole family wage was inadequate for their
support.

Phoebe had to go and, when he was old enough, that is to say at five,
John also went. The legal age for apprentices was seven--they were
workhouse children bound to the master till they were twenty-one--but
John was a “free” laborer, so, until the Act of 1819, which made nine
years and twelve working hours the minimum, John was “free” to work at
five, to be a breadwinner, to add his magnificent contribution to the
family wage which kept the Bradshaws from the workhouse.

The factory bell was the _leit motif_ of his life, but the Bradshaws had
a relic of their past which made them envied. They had a clock, and the
clock told them when it was time to get up to go to the factory. Others,
clockless, got up long before they needed and waited in the chill
of early morning, at five o’clock, for the door to open. The idea of
ringing the bell as a warning half an hour before working hours began
had not occurred to any one then, and people rose in panic and went
out, cutting short sleep shorter, stamping in snow (or, if snow is
sentimental, is it ever particularly joyous to rise, with a long day’s
work ahead, at five and earlier?), waiting for the doors to let them in
to warmth. No one was ever late. The fines made it expensive to be late,
and the knocker-up, the man who went round and for a penny or tuppence
a week rattled wires at the end of a clothes-prop against your bedroom
window till you opened the window and sang out to him--the knocker-up
was a late Victorian luxury. In John’s day, there was only the factory
bell, and one was inside the factory when it rang. The bell was
the symbol of the system, irritating the weavers especially, as the
power-loom increased in efficiency, and drove more and more of them
to the factories. The spinners, indeed, had had the interregnum of the
water-factory: it was not, for them, a straight plunge into the tyranny
of the system. The old hand-weaver, whose engine was his arms, began and
stopped work at will, which is not to say that he was a lazy fellow, but
is to say that he had time to grow potatoes in a garden, to take a share
in country sports and, on the whole, to lead a reasonable life: and his
wife had the art and the time to cook food for him. When she worked in
the factory, she had no time to cook, and there was nothing to cook,
either, and if she had worked from childhood, she had never learned how
to cook, and there was no need. They lived on bread and cheese, with
precious little cheese. They rarely lived to see forty.

John, son of Reuben (though he did not know that), came to the factory
at five in the morning and left it, at earliest, at seven or eight at
night, being the while in a temperature of 75 to 85. As to meal-times,
why, adults got their half hour or so for breakfast and their hour for
dinner and the machinery was stopped so that was just the time for
the children to nip under and over it, snatching their food while they
cleaned a machine from dust and flue. Bad for the lungs, perhaps, but
the work was so light and easy. John, who was small when he was five,
crawled under the machines picking up cotton waste.

There was a school of manufacturers who held, apparently without
hypocrisy, that this was a charming way to educate an infant into habits
of industry: a sort of work in play, with the cotton waste substituted
for a ball and the factory for the nursery. And they called the work
light and easy.

John was promoted to be a piecer--he pieced together threads broken in
the spinning machines, and, of course, the machine as a whole didn’t
stop while he did it, and it was really rather skilled work, done very
rapidly with a few exquisitely skilled movements: and that was hardly
work at all, it was more amusement than toil. Only one Fielden, an
employer who, many years later, tried the experiment for himself, found
that in following the to-and-fro movements of a spinning machine for
twelve hours, he walked no less than twenty miles! Fielden was a
reformer; he didn’t call this light and easy work for a child, but
others did.

It would happen that--one knows how play tires a child--John would feel
sleepy towards evening. He didn’t go to sleep on a working machine, or
he would have died, and John did not die that way: he didn’t go to
sleep at all. He was beaten into wakefulness. Peter often beat him
into wakefulness, and Peter did it not because he was cruel to John
but because he was kind. If Peter had not beaten him lightly, other
overseers would have beaten him heavily, not with a ferule, but with a
billy-roller, which is a heavy iron stick. John also beat himself and
pinched himself and bit his tongue to keep awake. As the evening wore on
it became almost impossible to keep awake on any terms: sometimes, they
sang. Song is the expression of gladness, but that was not why they
sang. And they sang--hymns. It would have been most improper to sing
profane songs in a factory.

As to John’s home life, he went to bed: and if it hadn’t been for Phoebe
or Peter who carried him, he would often not have reached bed. He would
have gone to sleep in the road, and because he had never known any other
life than this, it was reasonable in him to suppose that the life he
led, if not right, was inevitable.

He did not suppose it for long. You can spring surprises on human
nature, you can de-humanize it for a time, but if you put faith in
the permanent enslavement of men and women, you shall find yourself
mistaken. Even while John was passing from a wretched childhood to a
wretched adolescence, the reaction was preparing, and mutely, hardly
consciously at all, he was questioning if the things that were, were
necessarily the things that had to be. There was the death of Peter, in
the factory, stopping to live as a machine stops functioning because it
is worn out, and there was the drop in their family wages, though John
was earning man’s pay then. And there was the human stir in the world,
the efforts of workers to combine for better conditions, for Trade
Unions, for Reformed Parliaments, and the efforts of the ruling classes,
qualified by the liberalism of a Peel or the insurgency of a Cobbett, to
repress. There were riots, machine-breaking, factory-burning, Peterloo,
the end of a great war, peace and disbanded soldiery, people who starved
and a panic-stricken Home Secretary who thought there was a revolution.

Most of it mattered very little to John, growing up in Hepplestall’s
factory, which escaped riot. It escaped not because its conditions
were not terrible but because conditions were often more terrible. As
employer, Reuben trod the middle way, and it was the extreme men, the
brutes who seemed to glory in brutality, at whom riots were aimed.
John knew that there were blacker hells than his, which was a sort
of mitigation, while mere habit was another. If life has never been
anything but miserable, than misery is life, and you make the best of
it. One of the ways by which John expected to make the best of it was to
marry. He married at seventeen, but when it is in the scheme of things
to be senile at forty, seventeen is a mature age. The family wage was
also in the scheme of things: the exploitation of children was the basis
of the cotton trade: and though love laughs at economics as heartily
as at locksmiths, marriage and child-bearing were not discouraged by
misery, but encouraged by it. John did not think of these things, nor
of himself and Annie as potential providers of child-slaves. He thought,
illogically, of being happy.

And, considering Annie, not without excuse. She was of the few’ who
stood up straight, untwisted by the factory, though it had caught her
young and tamed her cruelly. There was gypsy blood in her. She, of a
wandering tribe, had been taught “habits of industry,” and the lesson
had been a rack which, still, had not broken her. It hadn’t quenched
her light, though, within him, John had the fiercer fire. With him, the
signs of the factory hand were hung out for all to see. Pale-faced and
stunted, with a great shock of hair and weak, peering eyes, he was more
like some underground creature than a man living by the grace of God
and the light of the sun--he had lived so much of life by the artificial
light of the factory in the long evenings and the winter mornings; but
he had a kind of eagerness, a sort of Peeping Tom of a spirit refusing
to be ordered off, and a suggestion of wiriness both of mind and body,
which announced that here was one whose quality declined obliteration by
the System.

Lovers had a consolation in those days. Bone-tired as the long
work-hours left them, it was yet possible by a short walk to get out
of the town that Hepplestall had made. These two were married, and a
married woman had no manner of business to steal away from her house
when the factory had finished with her for the day, but that was what
Phoebe made Annie do. That was Phoebe’s tribute to youth, and a heavy
tribute, too. She, like them, had labored all day in the factory and at
night she labored in the home, sending them out to the moors as if they
were careless lovers still--at their age! Phoebe kept her secret, and
she had the sentiment of owing John reparation. It was not much that she
could do, but she did this--growing old, toil-worn, she took the lion’s
share of housework, she set them free, for an hour or so, to go upon the
moors. And Annie was grateful more than John. Already, he was town-bred,
already he craved for shelter, already the overheated factory seemed
nature’s atmosphere to John.

She threw herself on the yielding heather, smelling it, and earth and
air in ecstasy, then rolled on her back and looked at the stars. “Lad,
lad,” she cried, “there’s good in life for all that.”

“Aye, wench,” he said, “there’s you.”

“Me? There’s bigger things than me. There’s air and sky and a world that
is no beastly reek and walls and roofs.”

“It’s cold on the moor to-night,” he said, shivering.

She threw her shawl about him. “You’re clemmed,” she said, drawing him
close to the generous warmth of her. “Seems to me I come to life under
the stars. Food don’t matter greatly to me if there’s air as I can
breathe.”

“We’re prisoned in yon factory, Annie. Reckon I’m used to the prison.
There’s boggarts on the moor.”

She laughed at his fears. “Aye, you may laugh,” he said, “but there was
a gallows up here, and boggarts of the hanged still roam.”

The belief in witches, ghosts and supernatural visitants of all kinds
was a common one and it was not discouraged by educated people who
hoped, probably, to reconcile the ignorant to the towns by allowing
terrifying superstitions of the country to remain in circulation. But
Annie’s gypsy strain kept her immune from any such fears: her ancestors
had traded in superstition. “And,” he went on seriously, “when the
Reformers tried to meet on Cronkey-shaw Moor, it’s a known fact that
there were warlocks seen.” What was seen was a body of men grotesquely
decked in the semblance of the popular notion of a wizard, with
phosphorescent faces and so on. Somebody was using a better way to
scotch Reform than soldiers, but the trick was soon exposed and meetings
and drillings on the moors were phenomena of the time.

“You make too much o’ trouble o’ all sorts, John,” she said.

“I canna keep fro’ thinking, Annie,” he apologized. “I’m thinking now.”

“Aye, of old wives’ tales,” she mocked.

“No. I’m thinking of my grandfer and of Hepplestall’s factory.”

“I’m in the air,” she said. “That’s good enough for me.” She was
slightly jealous of John, who had known his grandfather. Very soundly
established people had known two grandfathers: John had known one,
but Annie none. However, he was not to be prevented from speaking his
thought.

“I’ve heard my grandfer tell o’ times that were easier than these. He
had a factory o’ his own--what they called a factory them days. Baby to
Hepplestall’s it were. I’ll show you its ruin down yonder by the stream
some day. He’s dead now, is grandfer. Sounds wonder-ful to hear me talk
of a grandfer wi’ a factory o’ his own.”

“Fine lot of good to thee now, my lad. I never had no grandfer that I
heard on, but I don’t see that it makes any difference atween thee and
me to-day.”

“I’m none boasting, Annie,” he said. “I’m nobbut looking back to the
times that used to be. Summat’s come o’er life sin’ then, summat that’s
like a great big cloud, on a summer’s day.”

“Well,” said Annie, “we’ve the factory. But there’s times like this when
I’ve my arms full of you and my head full of the smell of heather. And
there’s times like mischief-neet”--that is, the night of the first of
May--“and th’ Bush-Bearing in August. I like th’ Wakes, lad... oh, and
lots of times that aren’t all factory. There’s Easter and Whitsun and
Christmas.” There were: there were these survivals of a more jocund age,
honored still, if by curtailed celebrations. The trouble was that the
curtailments were too severe, that neither of cakes nor ale, neither
of bread nor circuses was there sufficient offset against the grinding
hardships of the factories. Both John and Annie had so recently emerged
from the status of child-slavery that the larger life of adults might
well have seemed freedom enough; to Annie, aided by Phoebe’s sacrifice,
to Annie, living more physically than John, to Annie, who rarely looked
beyond one short respite unless it was to the next, the present seemed
not amiss. Except the life of the roads and the heaths, to which she saw
no possibility of return, from which the factory had weaned her, she had
no traditions, while he had Peter Bradshaw for tradition. He had slipped
down the ladder, and there was resentment, usually dormant, of the fact
that he saw no chance to climb again.

“Things are,” was her philosophy. “I’m none in factory now, and I’m none
fretting about factory and you’d do best to hold your hush about your
grandfer, John. His’n weren’t a gradely factory.”

That was it. She accepted Hepplestall’s, while John accepted the habit
of Hepplestall’s, dully, subterraneously resenting it. She almost took
a pride in the size of Hepplestall’s. “And,” she said, good Methodist as
she was, “there’s a better life to come.”

He had no reply to make to that. The Methodist was the working class
religion, as opposed to the Church of the upper classes and, at first,
the rulers had seen danger in it, and in an unholy alliance of Methodism
with Reform. There was something, but not a great deal in their fear.
There was the fact, for instance, that in the Methodist Sunday Schools
reading and writing were taught. “The modern Methodists,” says Bamford
in his ‘Early Days,’ “may boast of this feat as their especial work. The
church party never undertook to instruct in writing on Sundays.” That
far, but not much farther, the Methodists stood for enlightenment.
Cobbett gave them no credit at all. He said, in 1824, “the bitterest
foes of freedom in England have been, and are, the Methodists.” Annie
had “got religion”: the sufferings and the hardships of this life were
mere preparations for radiant happiness to come, and a religion of this
sort was not for citizens but for saints; it gave no battle to the
Devil, Steam.

John stirred uncomfortably in her arms. He had an aching sense of wrong,
beyond expression and beyond relief. If he tried to express it, his
fumbling words were countered by her opportunism and, in the last
resort, by her religion. Things were, and there was nothing to be done
about them.



CHAPTER VIII--THE LONELY MAN

A MAN with a foot in two camps is likely to be welcomed in neither and
to be lonely in his life. The cotton manufacturers had grown rich, they
were established, they were a new order threatening to rival in wealth
and power the old order of the land interest, and they were highly
self-conscious about it. Land had no valid cause to be resentful of the
new capitalists. Land was hit by the increase in the poor rates, but
handsomely compensated for that by the rise in land values. But a new
power had arisen and land was jealous of its increasing influence in the
councils of the nation.

Reuben never forgot that he belonged to the old order, was of it, and
had married into it. In business affairs, it was necessary to have
associations with other manufacturers, but he had no hospitalities at
home for them on the occasions when they met to discuss measures of
common policy. He entertained them at the factory, he kept home and
affairs in separate water-tight compartments, and was loved of none. He
was his own land-owner and his own coal-owner, both long starts in the
race, and he was at least as efficient and enterprising as his average
competitor. A gentleman had come into trade and had made a great success
of it. More galling still, he insisted that he remained a gentleman in
the old sense, a landed man, “county.” Not in words but by actions and
inactions which bit deeper than any words he proclaimed his superiority.

And why not? He was superior, he was the husband of Dorothy Hepplestall
and it was that fact--the fact that he had married Dorothy and made a
success of their marriage--which counted against him with the county far
more than his having gone into trade and having made a success of that.
They would have welcomed a failure somewhere, and he had failed at
nothing. So though he had their society, he had it grudgingly.

He was then driven back, not unwillingly, on Dorothy. She was, for
Reuben, the whole of friendship, the whole of companionship, the whole
of love; after all, she was Dorothy and certainly he made no complaint
that he had no other friends and that he was a tolerated, unpopular
figure in society. His days were for the factory, his evenings for
Dorothy and their children and, when the children had gone to bed, for
Dorothy and his books. Books, though they were not unduly insisted upon
in the country districts of Lancashire, went then with gentlemanliness
and Reuben was not idiosyncratic, but normal, in becoming bookish in
middle-age. In Parliament they quoted the classics in their speeches,
and the Corinthian of the Clubs, whatever his sporting tastes, spared
time to keep his classics in repair. Bookishness, in moderation, was
part of the make-up of a man of taste, and for Reuben it had become a
recourse not for fashion’s sake but for its own.

Life for Reuben had its mellowness; he had struggled and he had won; he
was owner and despot, hardly bound by any law but that of his will, of
the several factories contained within the great wall, of a coal-mine,
of the town of cottages and shops about. The conditions of labor were
the usual conditions and they did not trouble his conscience. Things
were, indeed, rather smoother for Hepplestall’s workers than for some
others; he was above petty rent exactions and truck shops, as, being his
own coal supplier, he could very well afford to be.

What drawbacks there were to his position were rather in matters of
decoration than reality, but it was decided proof of his unpopularity
in both camps of influence that Hepplestall was not a magistrate. Other
great manufacturers, to a man, were on the bench and took good care to
be, because administration of the law was largely in the hands of the
magistrates and the manufacturers wanted the administration in trusty
hands--their own. It was a permanent rebuff to Reuben that he was not a
magistrate; there were less wealthy High Sheriffs.

It was a puny irritation, symptomatic of their spite, and it didn’t
matter much to Reuben, who was sure of his realities, sure, above all,
of the reality of Dorothy’s love. No love runs smooth for twenty years
and probably it would not be love if it did, but only a bad habit
masquerading as love, so that it would not be true to say of Reuben and
Dorothy that they had never had a difference. They had had many small
differences, and in this matter of love what happens is that which also
happens to a tree. Trees need wind; wind forces the roots down to a
stronger and ever stronger hold upon the earth. And so with love, which
cannot live in draughtless hothouse air, but needs to be wind-tossed to
prove and to increase its strength. Impossible to be a pacifist in love!
Love is a tussle, a thing of storms and calms: like everything in life
it cannot stand still but must either grow or decay, and for growth,
it must have strife. Sex that is placid and love that is immovable are
contradictions in terms. Love has to interest or love will cease to be,
and to interest it cannot stagnate.

The children came almost as milestones in the road of their love; each
marked the happy ending of a period of stress. They were not results
of a habit, but the achievements of a passion, live symbols of a thing
itself alive. These two hearts did not beat all the time as one, and the
restlessness of their love was as essential as its harmony.

But the shadow of a difference that might grow into a disaster was
being cast upon them. In a way, it was extraneous to their love, and in
another way was part and parcel of it. The question was the future of
Edward, the eldest son.

Dorothy lived in two worlds, in Reuben and in the county, and Reuben
lived in three, Dorothy, the factory and the county. He put the factory
second to Dorothy and she put it nowhere. There was a bargain between
them, unspoken but understood, that she should put it nowhere and yet he
was assuming, tacitly, that Edward was as a matter of course to succeed
him as controller of the factory and the mine: of these two he always
thought first of the factory and second of the mine.

She might have reconciled herself to the mine. There were Dukes, like
the Duke of Bridgewater, who owned coal-mines and her Edward might have
gained great honor, like that Duke, by developing canals. But she had
not moved with the times about factories, nor, indeed, had the times,
that is, her order of the old gentry, moved very far. The Secombes were
still exceptional, the Luke Verners still trimmers, land was still
land and respectable, steam was steam and questionable, and it is to be
supposed that though the coal of the Duke was used to make steam, coal
was land and therefore on the side of the angels, whatever the devils
did with it afterwards. Prejudice, in any case, has nothing to do with
consistency. She had no prejudice against Reuben’s connection with the
factory; he was her “steam-man” still, but she did not want Edward to be
her steam-son.

Edward himself was conscious of no talent for factory owning and hardly
of being the son of a factory owner.

The management of her children’s lives was in Dorothy’s hands, involving
no mention of the factory, and in her hands Reuben was content to leave
their lives until his sons had had the ordinary education of gentlemen,
until they were down from their Universities. He had not suffered
himself as a manufacturer because he was educated as a gentleman and saw
no reason to bring up his sons any differently from himself. Throw them
too young into the factory, and they would become manufacturers and
manufacturers only: he had the wish to make them gentlemen first and
manufacturers afterwards.

Edward had ideas of his own about his future, and it came as a surprise
to be invited at breakfast to visit the factory one day during vacation
from Oxford. Instinctively he glanced, not at his mother, but at his
clothes. He was not precisely a dandy, but had money to burn and burned
a good deal of it at his tailor’s.

“The factory, I said, not the coal-mine,” Reuben said, noting his son’s
impulse. “You have looked at your clothes. Now let us go and look at
the first cause of the clothes. As a young philosopher you should be
interested in first causes.”

“Oh, is it necessary, Reuben?” pleaded Dorothy.

“Sparks should know where the flames come from,” said Reuben.

“I have great curiosity to see the factory, sir,” said Edward. “I showed
surprise, but that was natural. You have hidden the factory from us all
as if it were a Pandora’s box and if you judge the time now come when
I am to see the place from which our blessings come, I assure you I
am flattered by your confidence. But I warn you I am not persuaded in
advance to admire the box.”

Reuben smiled grimly at his hinted opposition. “If you look with sense,
you will admire,” he said. “Factories run to usefulness, not beauty.
Shall we go?”

They went, and Reuben exhibited his factory with thoroughness, with the
zest of a man who had created it, but now and then with the impatience
of the expert who does not concede enough to the slow-following thought
of the lay mind. Edward began with every intention to appreciate, but as
Reuben explained the processes, found nothing but antipathy grow within
him.

He breathed a foul, hot, dust-laden air, he hadn’t a mechanical turn of
mind and was mystified by operations which Reuben imagined he expounded
lucidly. Once the thread was lost, the whole affair was simply
puzzlement and he had the feeling of groping in a fog, a hideously
noisy fog, where wheels monotonously went round, spinning mules beat
senselessly to and fro and dirty men and women looked resentfully at
him. It seemed to him a hell worse than any Dante had described, with
sufferers more hopeless, bound in stupid misery. He was not thinking of
the sufferers with any great humanitarianism: they were of a lower order
and this no doubt was all that they were fit for. He was thinking of
them with disgust, objecting to breathe the same air, revolted by their
smells, but he was conscious of, at least, some sentiment of pity. If
he had understood the meaning of it all, he felt that he would have seen
things like these in true perspective, but he missed the keys to it,
was nauseated when he ought to have been interested and his attempted
queries grew less and less to the point.

Reuben perceived at last that he was lecturing an inattentive audience.
“Come into the office,” he said, and in that humaner place, with its
great bureau, its library of ledgers and its capacious chairs for
callers, where the engine throbbed with a diminished hum, Edward tried
to collect his thoughts. “This,” Reuben emphasized, “is where I do my
work. I go through the factory twice a day, otherwise, I am to be found
in here. A glass of wine to wash the dust out of your throat?”

Edward was grateful: but wine could not wash his repugnance away. “Well,
now,” asked Reuben, “what do you think?”

“Frankly, sir, I am hardly capable of thought.”

“No,” said Reuben meditatively. “No. Its bigness takes the breath away.”

But Edward was not thinking of bigness. “If I say anything now which
appears strange to you, I hope you will attribute it to my inexperience.
I am thinking of those people I have seen. To spend so many hours a day
in such conditions seems to me a very dreadful thing.”

“Work has to be done, Edward, and they are used to it. You will find
that there are only two sorts of people in this world, the drivers and
the driven.” He leaned forward in his chair. “Which are you going to
be?”

“I?” The personal application caught him unawares, then he mentally
pulled himself together. If he was in for it, he could meet it.

“I did not bring you here as an idle sight-seer. At first blush you
dislike the factory, but it is my belief that you will come to like it
as well as, I do.” Edward stared at his father who was, he saw, serious.
He veritably “liked” the factory. “In fact,” Reuben was saying, “I can
go further. I love this place. I made it; it is my life’s work; and I
am proud of it. Hepplestall’s is a great heritance. When I hand it on to
you, it will be a great possession, a great trust. How great you do not
know and if I showed you now the figures in those books you would be no
wiser. As yet you do not understand. Even out there in the works where
things are simple you missed my meaning, but there is time to learn it
all before I leave the reins to you.”

“I am to decide now?”

“Decide? Decide? What is there to decide? You are my eldest son.”

Edward made an effort: Reuben was assuming his consent to everything.
“May I confess my hope, sir? My hope was that when I had finished at
Oxford, you would allow me to go to the bar.”

“The bar? A cover for idleness.” Sometimes, but Edward had not intended
to be idle. The bar was an occupation, gentlemanly, settling a man in
London amongst his Oxford friends; it seemed to Edward that the bar
would meet his tastes. If it had been land that he was to inherit,
naturally he would have taken a share in its management, but there was
no land: there was a factory, and he felt keen jealousy of Tom, his
younger brother. It was settled that Tom should follow his uncle, Tom
Verners, who was Colonel Verners now, into the Army, while he, the
eldest son, who surely should have first choice, he was apparently
destined will he, nill he, for this detestable factory!

“I will have no son of mine a loafer. You would live in London?”

“I should hope to practice there.”

“I’ll have no idlers and no cockneys in my family, Edward.
Hepplestall’s! Hepplestall’s! and he sneers at it.”

“Oh, no, sir. Please. Not that. I feel it difficult to explain.”

“Don’t try.”

“I must. I think what I feel is that if we were speaking of land I as
your eldest son should naturally come into possession. I should feel it,
in the word you used, as a trust. But we are not speaking of land.”

Reuben gripped his chair-arms till his hands grew white and recovered a
self-control that had nearly slipped away. The boy was ready to approve
the law of primogeniture so long as he could be fastidious about his
inheritance, so long as the inheritance was land. As it was not land, he
wanted to run away. He deprecated steam. He dared, the jackanapes!
“No,” said Reuben, “we are not speaking of land. We are speaking of
Hepplestall’s.”

“If it were land,” Edward went on ingenuously, “however great the
estate, you would not find me shirking my responsibility.”

“I see. And as it is not land? As it is this vastly greater thing than
land?” Then suavity deserted him. “Boy,” he cried, “don’t you see what
an enormous thing it is to be trustee of Hepplestall’s?”

“Oh,” said Edward, “it is big. But let me put a case.”

“What? Lawyering already?” scoffed Reuben. “Suppose one dislikes a cat.
Fifty cats don’t reconcile one.”

“You dislike the factory?”

“I may not fully understand--”

“Then wait till you do. Come here and learn.”

“That would be the thin end of the wedge.”

“It is meant to be,” said Reuben, and on that their conversation
was, not inopportunely, interrupted. A clerk knocked on the door and
announced Mr. Needham. “Don’t go, Edward,” said Reuben, “this can figure
as a detail in your education,” and introduced his son to the caller.

Edward looked hopelessly at the visitor. Reuben had told him that the
office was the place where his business life was spent and therefore
Edward’s contacts, if he came to the factory, would not be with the
squalid people he had seen at work, but with people who visited the
office. He looked at Mr. Needham, and decided that he had never seen a
coarser or more brutal man in his life. There were certain fellows of
his college justly renowned for grossness; there was the riffraff of the
town, there were hangers-on at the stables, there were the bruisers he
had seen, but in all his experience he had seen nothing comparable with
the untrammeled brutishness of Mr. Richard Needham. If this was
the company he was asked to keep, he preferred--what did one do _in
extremis?_ Enlist? Well, then, he preferred enlistment to the factory.

Needham was, however, not quite the usual caller, who was a merchant
come to buy, or a machinist come to sell, rather than, as Needham was,
a manufacturer and a notorious one at that. By this time, the repeal of
the Combination Acts had given Trade Unionism an opportunity to develop
in the open, and manufacturers who had known very well how to deal with
the earlier guerilla warfare of the then illegal Unions were seriously
alarmed by its progress. There was a strong movement to force the
reënactment of the Combination Laws. Contemporaneously, the growth
and proved efficiency of the power-loom drove the weavers to extremes.
Needham was self-appointed leader of the reactionaries amongst the
manufacturers: a man who had risen by sheer physical strength to a
position from which he now exercised considerable influence over the
more timid of the masters.

He had the curtest of nods for Edward. “My God, Hepplestall, we’re in
for a mort of trouble,” he said, mopping his brow with a huge printed
handkerchief and putting his beaver hat on the desk. He sank into a
stout chair which groaned under his weight, and Edward thought he had
never seen anything so indecent as the swollen calves of Mr. Needham.

Reuben silently passed the wine. It seemed a good answer.

Warts are a misfortune, not a crime: but the wart on Mr. Needham’s nose
struck Edward as an obscenity--and his father loved the factory! He
didn’t know that he was unduly sensitive, but certainly Needham on top
of his view of the workpeople made him queasy.

Needham emptied and refilled a glass. “I’d hang every man who strikes,”
 he said. “Look at ‘em here,” he went on, producing a hand-bill which he
offered to Reuben.

“After the peace of Amiens,” it read, “the wages of a Journeyman Weaver
would amount to 2/7 1/2 per day or 15/9 per week, and this was pretty
near upon a par with other mechanics and we maintained our rank in
society. We will now contrast our present situation with the past, and
it will demonstrate pretty clearly the degraded state to which we have
been reduced.

“During the last two years our wages have been reduced to so low an
ebb that for the greatest part of that time we have... the Journeyman’s
Wages of 9d or 10d a day or from 4/6 to 5/--per week, and we appeal to
your candor and good sense, whether such a paltry sum be sufficient to
keep the soul and body together.”

“What do you think of that?” asked Needham. “Printing it, mind you,
spreading sedition and disaffection like that. Not a word about their
wives and children all taken into the factories and all taking good
wages out. If commerce isn’t to be unshackled and free of the attacks of
a turbulent and insurrectionary spirit, I ask you, where are we? Where’s
our chance of keeping law and order when the law permits weavers to
combine and yap together and issue bills like yond? It’s fatal to allow
‘em to feel their strength and communicate with each other without
restraint. Allow them to go on uninterrupted and they become more
licentious every day. What do you say, Hepplestall?”

“Why, sir, it’s you who are making a speech, and I may add a speech
containing many very familiar phrases.”

“Aye, I’ve said it before, and to you. I might have spared my breath.
But hast heard the latest? Dost know that the strikers in Blackburn
destroyed every power-loom within six miles of the town and... and...”
 Mr. Needham drew in breath... “and they’ve been syringing cloth wi’
vitriol. Soft sawder in yond hand-bill, ‘appeal to your candor and good
sense,’ aye and vitriol on good cloth when it comes to deeds.”

“Yes, I heard of that. A nasty business, though I understand the
authorities have dealt strongly with the outbreak.”

“Aye, you’re a philosopher, because it happened at a distance from you.
It’s some one else’s looms that’s smashed, and some one else’s cloth
that’s rotted. What if it were youm, Hepplestall?”

“We don’t have Luddites here.”

“You allays think you’re out of everything. Now I’ve brought you the
facts and you know as well as I do what’s the cause of this uppishness
of the lower orders. It’s Peel, damn him. One of us, and ought to know
better. Sidmouth’s the man for my money. Sidmouth and Castlereagh.
There was sense about when they were in charge. Now, we let the spinners
combine and the weavers combine and they’re treading on our faces. Well,
are you standing by your lonesome as usual or are you in it with the
rest of us to petition against workmen’s combinations? That’s a straight
question, Hepplestall.”

“I shall take time to answer it, Mr. Needham. I have acted with you in
the past and I have taken leave to doubt the wisdom of your actions and
I have on such occasions acted neither with you nor against you. This
time--”

“This time, there’s no chance of doubt.”

“But I do doubt, sir. I doubt whether a factory, controlled by a strong
hand, has anything to fear from Workmen’s Combinations.”

“Damn it, look at Blackburn!”

“You shall have my decision when it is ready. At this moment, I tell you
candidly I do not incline to join you.”

“But union is strength. They’ve combined. So must we.”

“We always have, in essentials. I promise you I will give this matter
every thought.”

Needham looked angry, and then a cunning slyness passed across his face.
“I’m satisfied with that,” he said. “Aye, I’m satisfied, though you may
tell me I’ve come a long road to be satisfied wi’ so little at the end
o’ it.” Reuben rose, bowing gravely. “I am glad to have satisfied you,
Mr. Needham,” he said, blandly ignoring the hint that an invitation to
dinner was the natural expectation of a traveled caller.

“Aye,” said Needham, “Aye.” He finished the bottle, since nothing more
substantial was forthcoming, and rose to go. “Then I’ll be hearing from
you?”

“Yes,” Reuben assured him. “I will see you to your horse.”

“Nay, you’ll not. They don’t breed my make of horse. I’ve a coach at
door, and extra strong, too.”

“Then I will see you to your coach.” Needham nodded to the silent
Edward, and went out with Reuben. There was no strategical issue between
Needham and Hepple-stall. Needham, when he spoke, used phrases taken
from the writings of manufacturers more literate than himself, and
so stated, by such a man, his point of view sounded preposterously
obscurantist. But it was, in essence, Reuben’s view also, with the
difference that Reuben looked on attempts to combat the principle of
Unionism as tactical error. The Combination Acts, he felt, had gone
for ever, and the common policy of the masters should not be in the
direction of reviving those Acts but of meeting the consequences of
their repeal.

He was, indeed, habitually averse from open association with his fellow
manufacturers because of his self-conscious social difference, and,
where such a man as Needham led, was apt to pick more holes in his
policy than were reasonable. It was quite likely in the present case
that he would come round to Needham’s view, but certainly he would not
hurry. The troubles at Blackburn were remote from him and he felt his
own factory was out of the danger zone, and that if he threw in his
weight with the Needham petition it would be altruistically, and perhaps
a waste of influence which could have found better employment. His
own people were showing no signs of restiveness, and he didn’t think
Unionism was making much headway amongst them. Reason and self-interest
seemed allied with his native individualism to resist Needham’s policy.

He returned to find Edward staring gloomily at his boots. “Well,
Edward?” he asked cheerily. “Did you like your lesson?”

“The thing I liked, sir, the only thing I liked, is that you are not to
act with Mr. Needham.”

“Am I not?”

“It did not sound so. Tell me, is that a fair specimen of the type of
man you meet in business?”

“No. In many ways he is superior to the most.”

“Superior! That fat elephant!”

“Needham is one of the strongest men in the cotton trade, Edward.”

“Oh, I called him elephant. Elephants have strength.”

“And strength is despicable?”

“No. But--”

“But Needham is a gross pill to swallow. Well, if it will ease your
mind, I do not propose to act with him on this issue. You need not
swallow this pill, Edward. But I am not looking to a son of mine to be
a runaway from duty, to be a loiterer in smooth places. You have Oxford
which is, I hope, confirming you as a gentleman and you have the factory
which will confirm you as a man. I could make you an appeal. I could
first point out that I am single-handed here in a position which grows
beyond the strength of any single pair of hands. I could dub you my
natural ally at a time when I have need of an ally. But I shall make you
neither an appeal nor a command. Hepplestall’s is a greater thing than
I who made it or than you who will inherit it, and there is no occasion
for pressure. You are, naturally, inevitably, in its service.” Edward
felt rather than saw that somewhere at the opening of the well down
which this plunged him there was daylight. “I do not perceive the
inevitability,” he cried. “You doom me to a monstrous fate.”

“You are heroical,” said Reuben, “but as to the inevitability, take
time, and you will perceive it.”

“Daylight! Give me the daylight!” was what Edward wanted to say, but he
repressed that and hardly more happily he asked, “Is there no beauty in
life?”

“There is beauty in Hepplestall’s,” said Reuben, and meant it. He had
created Hepplestall’s.



CHAPTER IX--THE SPY

EDWARD’S “fat elephant” drove from Hepplestall’s meditating his retort
to Reuben’s intransigeancy. He held that it was necessary to weld the
manufacturers into a solid phalanx of opposition to the legalizing
of Trade Unions, and that if Reuben were allowed to stand out, other
masters, whom Needham regarded as weak-kneed, would stand out with him.
Needham was obstinate and unscrupulous, with a special grudge against
“kid-gloved” Hepplestall, and if there were no overt manifestations of
discontent in Hepplestall’s factory, his business was to provoke them.
There was surely latent discontent there as everywhere else and the
good days of Sidmouth and Castlereagh had shown what could be achieved
in the way of manufacturing riot by the use of informers. Informers
were paid to inform, and lost their occupation if no information were
forthcoming; they did not lose their occupation; they were agents
provocateurs, and Gentleman Hepplestall was, if Needham knew right from
left, to be thwacked into line by the activities of an informer.

He hadn’t much difficulty--he was that sort of man--in laying hands
upon a suitable instrument. The name of the instrument was Thomas
Barraclough, and it was, indeed, in Needham’s hands already working as
a weaver in his factory, not, to be sure, for the purpose of provoking
unrest there but merely for decent spying. There is honesty in spying as
in other things and the decent spy is the observer and reporter of what
others do spontaneously; the indecent spy is he who instigates the deeds
he afterwards reports. Barraclough was quite willing, for a higher
fee, to undertake to prove to Hepplestall that Trade Unions were murder
clubs.

The affair was not stated, even by blunt Needham to his spy, with quite
such candor as this, but, “If tha’ sees signs o’ trouble yonder, tell me
of ’em; and if tha’ sees no signs tha’s blinder than I tak’ thee
for,” was a sufficiently plain direction to an intelligent spy,
and Barraclough nodded comprehendingly as he went off to begin his
cross-country tramp to Hepplestall’s.

A spy who looks like a spy is disqualified at once, but what are the
symptoms of spying? What signs does spying hang out on a man that we
shall know him for a spy? Is he bent with a life spent in crouching at
key holes? A keen-eyed, large-eared ferret of a man? The fact is that
Barraclough was small and bent, and ferretty, that he looked like your
typical spy and yet did not look, in the Lancashire of those days, any
different from a famished weaver. They were “like boys of fifteen and
sixteen and most of them cannot measure more than 5 feet 2 or 3 inches.”

Steam fastened on this generation, stunting it, twisting it, blasting
it, and if Barraclough had been reasonably tall, reasonably well-made
and nourished he would have been marked at once as something different
from the workers who were to accept him as one of themselves. So,
in spite of looking like a spy, he was qualified to be a spy in
Hepplestall’s because he looked like any other undergrown, underpaid,
underfed weaver lad.

And there is good in all things, though Hepplestall was not thinking
of the Blackburn riots as good when he was cavalier about them with
Needham. There was the good, for Hepplestall’s, that the destruction of
the Blackburn looms and their products brought an exceptional rush of
orders to Reuben; and Thomas Barraclough, applying for work when he
ended his tramp at the factory gates, found himself given immediate
employment.

He found, too, that as an honest spy he had no occupation in this place.
He could report distress, sullen suffering and patient suffering; he
could report the ordinary things and would have to say, in honesty, that
here the ordinary things had extraordinary mitigations; and he found
nothing of the violent flavor expected by Needham. It remained for him
to take the initiative and to provide against disappointing his master’s
expectations, but the mental sketch he had made of himself as an
effective explosive did not seem likely to be justified in any hurry.
The Blackburn riots had not been followed by such ferocity of punishment
as had befallen the Luddites a few years previously, but there had been
men killed by soldiers during the riots: there were ten death sentences
at Lancaster Assizes, reduced afterwards to transportation for life: and
thirty-three rioters were sent to prison. That was fairly impressive, as
it was meant to be, but much more impressive was the appalling distress
which quite naturally fell upon the Blackburn people who had destroyed
the looms, and if all this was salutary from the point of view of law
and order it was excessively inopportune from the special point of view
of Mr. Barraclough.

Here he was, under orders to raise tumult, in a place where not only
were there no symptoms of tumult, but where those who might possibly
be tumultuously disposed were cowed by the tales, many true and many
exaggerated, of Blackburn’s sufferings. The malignant irony of the uses
of the agent provocateur was never better exemplified, but it wasn’t
for Needham’s trusty informer to chew upon that, but, whatever his
difficulties, to get on with his incitements. And he soon decided that
Hepplestall’s people, in the mass, were “windbags,” that is, they would
listen to him and they would, in conversation, be as vehement as he, but
their vehemence was in words not deeds and only deeds were of any use
to Barraclough. The method of the Luddites, machinery-smashing, was
discredited for ever by the Blackburn example and he gave up hope of
any large-scale demonstration at Hepple-stall’s. What was left was
the possibility of finding some individual who was capable of being
influenced to violent action.

Then, just as he was despairing of finding the rightly malleable
material, Annie Bradshaw’s second son was born and Annie Bradshaw died.
She had been almost luxuriously careful about the birth of her first
child: she had left the factory three days before his birth and had not
returned, with the child at her breast, for a full week afterwards; but
second babies were said to come more easily, wages were needed and she
had lifted heavy beams before. The child was born on the factory floor,
it lived and Annie died. There was no extraordinary pother made about
her death, because women were continually defying steam in this way and
most of them survived it. Annie did not survive. She was unlucky. That
was all.

“Don’t fret for me, lad,” she gasped to John. “I’m going through the
Golden Gates. Tak’ care o’ the childer.” The engine did not stop--guns
do not cease fire because a soldier falls on the battlefield--and to
John Bradshaw, nineteen, widower with two infant sons, it beat a devil’s
tattoo of stunning triumph. There were women gathered around her body,
somewhere a woman was washing his son, but he was seeing nothing of
them, nothing of the life that had come through death. Annie was gone
from him, his glorious Annie of the winds and the moors, lying white
and silent on the oily floor of a stinking factory, and already the
women were leaving her, already they were returning to their several
places. If they gave him sympathy, they took bread out of their mouths
and sympathy must be so brief as to appear callosity. It was not
callosity, and he knew it; knew, too, that he did not want long-winded
condolences or any condolences at all, yet their going so quickly from
that white body seemed to him a stark indecency adding to the monstrous
debt Steam owed him.

He was thinking of the small profanities of this death rather than of
the death itself. He hadn’t realized that yet, he was probing his way
through the attendant circumstances to the depths of his tragedy. He
knew that he would never lie beneath the stars again with Annie while
the breeze soughed through the heather and she crooned old songs of the
roads in his ear: he knew, but he did not believe it yet. She had been
so utterly protective of him. If she took down her hair, and held it
from her, and he crept beneath its curious warmth, what had mattered
then? He had loved her and by the grace of Phoebe--though he was not
thinking of Phoebe now--they had been given leave to love and to enjoy
each other in the hours which were not the factory’s.

The engine, thumped horribly on his ear and a gust of passionate hatred
struggled to make itself articulate. “You fiend!” he cried. “Curse you,
curse you!”

When an overseer came to tell him that a hand-cart was at the gates to
take Annie’s body and the baby home, and that Phoebe might go with him,
he was lying, dazed, on the floor and mechanically did what he was told
to do. He had no volition in him, and Mr. Barraclough, professional
observer, noting both his hysteria and his stupor decided that he had
found his man at last. Providence had ordained that Annie should die to
make an instrument for Richard Needham’s emissary.

In the days of her youth, Phoebe had her follies as she had her
prettiness; now, schooled by adversity, an old woman of forty, she was
without illusions as she was without comeliness; she had nothing but her
son, and, hidden like a miser’s gold, her hatred of the Hepplestalls,
of Reuben who betrayed her, of Dorothy whom he married, of his sons who
stood where her son should have stood. For two seconds she was weakened
now, for two seconds: as she folded Annie’s baby in her shawl and held
him closely to her she had the thought that she must go to Reuben with a
plea for help, then put that thought away.

“Don’t worry your head about the childer, lad,” she said, “I’ll manage.”
 She would work in the factory, she would order their cottage, she would
rear the babies, she would pay some older woman who was past more active
work a small sum (but the accepted rate) to look after the babies while
she was in the factory. She would take this burden off his shoulders
as she had taken the burden of housework off Annie’s. She had permitted
John and Annie to enjoy the luxury of love and now she was permitting
John the luxury of woe. She said that she would “manage,” he knew the
enormous implications of the word, but knew, because she said it, that
she would keep her promise. There was no limit to his faith in Phoebe
and he touched her shoulder gently, undemonstratively, saying in that
simple gesture all his unspeakable gratitude, accepting what she gave
not because he underrated it, not because he did not understand, but
because it was the only thing to do.

For her his touch and his acceptance were abundance of reward. Go to
Hepplestall! Take charity, when this sustaining faith was granted her?
Oh, she would manage though her body cracked. It was a soiling and a
shameful thought that these babes were Reuben’s grandchildren.

They were not his and John, please God, would never know who was his
father; they were hers and John’s and they two would keep them for their
own.

It wasn’t bravado either. It wasn’t a brief heroical resolution begotten
of the emotions caused by Annie’s death. She counted the cost and chose
her fight, spurning the thought of Hepplestall as if the justice he
might do her were an obscenity. She knew what she undertook to do and,
providing only that she had ten more years of life, she would do it.

John, mourning for Annie, was not too sunk in grief to be unaware of the
fineness of his mother. Would Annie--she who loved her life--have said
“Things are,” if she had foreseen how soon the things which were bad
were to be so infinitely worse? The factory had killed her, it had taken
his Annie from him, it had put upon his mother in her age the burden
she took up with a matter of fact resignation that seemed to him the
ultimate impeachment of the system which made heroism a commonplace.
“Mother!” he cried. “Mother!”

“Eh, lad,” she said, “we’ve got to take what comes.”

She did not, at least, as Annie did, answer his inarticulate revolt with
religion, but she had fundamentally the same resignation to the things
of this world, and for the same reason. She, too, looked forward to
a radiant life above: she saw in her present troubles the hand of God
justly heavy upon one who had been a light woman. John, knowing nothing
of that secret source of her humility, attributed all to the one cause,
to the Factory which crushed and maimed and killed in spirit as in body.
He refused his acceptance, his resignation. There was, there must be,
something to be done. But what? What?

First, at any rate, Annie had to be buried with the circumstance which
seemed to make for decency and for that they had provided through the
Benefit Society. This---decent burial--was the first thought behind the
weekly contributions paid, heaven knows at what sacrifice, to the
Society and they were rewarded now in the fact that Annie was not buried
at the expense of the parish. That was all, bare decency, not the
flaunting parody with plumes and gin of the slightly less poor: nor were
there many mourners. Leave was given to a select few to be absent for an
hour from the factory, and the severe fines for unauthorized absence
kept the numbers strictly, with one exception, to the few the overseer
chose to privilege. Phoebe and John were granted the full day, without
fine, and, of course, without wage, and so, it appeared, was Mr.
Barraclough. But Mr. Barraclough was on business, and the fine that he
would have to pay would figure in the expenses he would charge Mr.
Needham.

One or two old women--old in fact if not in years, incapacitated by the
factory, for the factory--had been at the graveside and were going home
with Phoebe, and it was natural that John should hold out his hand to
Barraclough, this unexpected, this so self-sacrificing sympathizer and
that they should fall into step as they moved away together.

“Man, I had to come. I’m that sorry for thee. Coming doan’t mean much
for sure, but--”

“It means a day’s wages, choose how,” said John, who knew that
Barraclough was not of the few who had been granted an hour’s leave to
come.

Barraclough nodded. “And a fine, an’ all,” he said, “but that all counts
somehow. Seems to me if it weren’t costing me summat, it u’d not be the
same relief it is to my feelings. I didna come for thy sake, I came to
please masel’, selfish like. I had to get away from yond damned place
that murdered her. I couldna’ stand the sight o’ it to-day.”

“Murdered her!” said John. He had, no doubt, used that word in thought,
but it had seemed to him audacious, a thought to be forbidden utterance.
And here, shaming him for his mildness was one, an outsider, a stranger,
who, untouched intimately by Annie’s death, yet spoke of it outright as
murder. John felt that he was failing Annie, that he had not risen to
his occasion, that it was this other, this fine spirit, who could not
“stand the sight” of the factory on the day of her funeral, who had
risen to the occasion more worthily than John, who was Annie’s husband.
“Aye,” he said somberly, “it was murder.”

“You never doubted that, surely,” said Barraclough.

“Oh,” said John, “when a woman dies in childbirth--”

“Aye, but fair treated women don’t. What art doing now? I mean for the
rest of the day. Looking at it from my point of view, I might as well
tak’ the chance to get out o’ sight o’ yond hell-spot. I’m going
on moors for a breath of air. Wilt come? Better nor settin’ to hoam
brooding, tha’ knows.”

His point was simply to get John in his emotional crisis to himself, but
luck was with him in his proposal further than he knew. For John, the
moors were a reminder of Annie at her sunniest, but for the moment all
that he was thinking of was that strange instinct for the sympathetic
stranger rather than for the sympathy, too poignant to be borne, of his
mother. And he did not wish to see his sons that day.

“‘Tis better nor brooding,” he agreed, and went. There was virtue, he
thought, in talking. Phoebe was all reserve and action, and on this
which resolved itself into a day off from the factory, she would be very
active in her house. He was quite sure that he did not want to go
home. Exercise for his legs, air for his lungs and the conversation,
comprehending but naturally not too intimate, of this kindly
stranger--these were the things to get him through the day.

But the conversation of Mr. Barraclough was not calculated to be an
anodyne.

“Thank God, we’ve gotten our backs to it. We’re walking away from yond
devilry, we’ve our faces to summat green.” How often had he not heard
something like that from Annie! “It beats me to guess what folks are
made of, both the folk that stand factories and t’other folks that drive
‘em into factories. I know I’ve gotten an answer to some of this under
my bed where I lodge and I’ll mak’ the answer speak one of these days
an’ all.”

“An answer? What answer? I’ve looked and found no answer.”

“No? They looked at Blackburn and found th’ wrong answer an’ all,
th’ould answer that the Luddites found and failed wi’. Smashing
machines! Burning factories! What’s, the good o’ that? They nobbut
put up new factories bigger and more hellish than before and mak’ new
machines that’ll do ten men’s work instead of two. Aye, they were on
wrong tack in them days. They were afraid to get on right tack.”

“Is there a tack that’s right?” he asked.

“There’s shooting,” said Barraclough.

“Shooting? Tha’ canna shoot an engine, nor a factory.”

“No, and that’s the old mistake. Trying to hit back at senseless brick
and iron. There’s men behind the factories, men that build and men that
manage. Men that own and tak’ the profits of our blood and death. For
instance, who killed thy wife?”

“Why... why...” hesitated John, who was still intrigued obscurely with
the idea that he, the father of her child, was author of her death.

“She died o’ th’ conditions o’ Hepplestall’s factory and yo’ canna’
bring yer verdict o’ willful murder against conditions. Yo’ bring it
against the fiend that made the conditions. Yo’ bring it against Reuben
Hepplestall.”

“Maister Hepplestall!”

“Aye, Maister. Maister o’ us fra’ head to heel. Maister o’ our lives and
deaths, and gotten hissel’ so high above us that I can see tha’s scared
to hear me talk that road of him.” That was true, Barraclough seemed to
John almost blasphemous. Hepplestall _was_ high above them, so that to
make free with his name in this manner was something outrageous. “Aye,
the spunk’s scared out of thee by the name of Hepplestall as if tha’
were a child and him a boggart. But I tell thee this, he isna a boggart.
He’s a man and if my bullet gets him, he’ll bleed and if it gets him in
the right place, he’ll die, and there’ll be one less in the world o’
the fiends that own factories and murder women to mak’ a profit for
theirselves.”

“You’d do that! You!”

“Some one must do the job. Th’ gun’s to hoam under my bed, loaded an’
all. Execution of a murderer, that’s what it’ll be. Justice on the
man that killed thy wife.” John halted abruptly. “What’s to do?” asked
Barraclough. “Let’s mak’ th’ most of this day out o’ factory. Folks like
thee and me mustna’ think too much of causes o’ things. The cause of
this day off was thy wife’s death, but we’ve agreed tha’s not to brood.
So come on into sunshine and mak’ the most of what we’ve gotten.”

“We’ll mak’ the most of it by turning to hoam,” said John.

“Thy hoam’s no plaice for thee to-day.”

“No. But thy hoam is,” said John. “I want to see yon gun. I’m thinkin’
that’ll be a better sight for me nor all the heather in Lankysheer.”

“For thee?” Mr. Barraclough was greatly surprised. “Nay, I doubt I was
wise to mention my secret to thee.”

“Art coming?” John was striding resolutely homewards.

“Well, seeing I have mentioned it, I suppose there’s no partiklar harm
in showing it. O’ course, tha’ canna’ use a gun?”

“Can’t I? No, you’re reight there. I’m not much of a man, am I? As tha’
told me, I’ve gotten no spunk, but I’ve spunk enough now. It weren’t
more than not seeing clear and tha’s cleared things up for me
wonnerful.”

“I have? How?”

“Tha’ can shoot, if I canna’, Barraclough.” Which was disappointing to
the spy, who thought things were going better than this.

Still he could bide his time and “Aye, I can shoot,” he said. “I’ve been
in militia.”

“Then tha’ can teach me,” said John, to Mr. Barraclough’s relief. “I’ll
be a quick learner.”

“Well, as tha’s interested, I’ll show thee how a trigger’s pulled,”
 and Barraclough was, in fact, not intending to go further than that in
musketry instruction. Hepplestall killed might, indeed, encourage
the others, it might array the manufacturers solidly under Needham’s
reactionary standard, but Barraclough read murder as going beyond his
directions, and supposed that if Reuben were fired on and missed (as
he would be by an amateur marksman), the demonstration of unrest at
Hepplestall’s would have been satisfyingly made.

He was, therefore, sparing in his tutorship when they had come into his
room and handled the gun together. “We munna call the whole neighborhood
about our ears by the sound of a shot,” he said.

“No,” said John, “but if tha’ll lend me this, I’ll find a plaice for
practicing up on moors.”

“Lend thee my gun! Nay, lad, tha’s asking summat. It wenna do to carry
that about in daylight.”

“I’ll tak’ it to-neight, and bring un back to-morrow neight.”

“To-neight? Tha’ canna’ practice in the dark.”

“Maybe I’ll ha’ no need to practice. Maybe there’s justice and summat
greater nor me to guide a bullet home. I can nobbut try and I’m bound to
try to-neight--the neight o’ the day I buried her, the neight when I’m
hot. I’m poor spirited and I know it, and I’m wrought up now. To-morrow
I’ll be frit.”

Barraclough balanced the gun in his hands. “I had my own ideas o’ this,”
 he said--the idea in particular, he might have added, had this been an
occasion for candor, that such precipitancy was contrary to the best
interests of an informer. Before an event occurred, a sagacious spy
should have prophesied it and here was this ardent boy in so desperate
a hurry for action that Barraclough was like to be cheated of the
opportunity of proving to Needham that he was dutifully accessory before
the fact.

But, he reflected, he had not found Hepplestall’s a fertile earth for
his seeds, and if he played pranks with this present opportunity, if he
attempted delay with a boy like John, a temperamentalist now in the
mood to murder, he might very well lose his only chance of justifying
himself. Besides, he could yet figure as a prophet and at the same time
establish a sound alibi for himself if immediately after handing the
gun over to John, he set off to report to Needham. On the whole, he saw
himself accomplishing the object of his mission satisfactorily enough.

“Who’s gotten the better right?” John was saying. “Thou that’s not had
nobhut a month o’ the plaice, or me that buried a wife this day killed
by Hepplestall?”

Barraclough bowed his head. He thought it politic to hide his face just
then, and the motion had the seeming of a reverent assent. “I’ve no
reply to that,” he said.

“Thy claim is strongest. Come when it’s dark, and tha’ shall have the
gun.”

John moved to the door.

“Where’st going now?” asked Barraclough, apprehensive of the slackening
of the spring he had wound up.

“To her grave,” said John, and Barraclough nodded approvingly. He
trusted Annie’s grave; there would be no slackening of the spring and
mentally he thanked John for thinking of a grave-side vigil. Barraclough
had not thought of anything so trustworthy; he had thought of an inn, to
which the objections were that he had no wish to be seen in company with
John, and that alcohol is capricious in effect.

Barraclough had given him a goal, and an outlet for all his pent-up
emotion. There was his dreadful childhood in the factory, then the
splendid mitigation whose name was Annie, and the tearing loss of her:
behind all that, there was the System and above it now was Hepple-stall.
He had an exaltation by her grave. There was a people enslaved by
Hepplestall and there was John Bradshaw, their deliverer, John Bradshaw
magnified till he was qualified for the high rôle of an avenging angel.
He was without fear of himself or of any consequences, he had no doubts
and no loose ends, he had simply a purpose--to kill Hepplestall. To be
sane is to think and John did not think: he felt.

There was some reason why he could not kill Hepplestall till it was
dark. Once or twice he tried, vaguely, to remember what the reason was,
then forgot that he was trying to remember anything. When it was dark
he was to go to Barraclough’s for the gun with which he would kill
Hepplestall. He was cold and hungry, shivering violently and aware of
nothing but that he was God’s executioner.

When dusk came he left the grave and went, dry-lipped, stumbling like
a man walking in a dream, to Barra-clough’s. At the sight of him,
Barraclough had more than doubt. Of what use a gun in these palsied
hands? What demonstration, other than one palpably insane, could this
trembling instrument effect?

But Bradshaw was the one hope of the agent and since there was nothing
else to trust, he must trust his luck.

“The gun! The gun!”

Barraclough placed it in his hands without a word and John turned with
it and was gone. The canny Barraclough, taking his precautions in case
the worst (or the best) happened, slept that night in a public-house
midway between Needham’s and Hepplestall’s. He had made himself pleasant
to several passers-by on the road; he had asked them the time; he had
established his alibi.



CHAPTER X--DOROTHY’S MOMENT

WHEN Edward came home on the day of his introduction to the factory,
Dorothy met him with an anxious, “Well, Edward?” and, “Oh, Mother,” he
had said, “I have to think of this. Pray do not ask me now.”

That was all and, if she liked, she could consider herself snubbed for
attempting an unwomanly inquisitiveness into the affairs of men, but he
intended no snub nor did she interpret him as side-tracking her. It was,
simply, that he refused to involve Dorothy in this trouble.

He might be forced to take some desperate measure--nothing more hopeful
than his first thought of enlistment had yet occurred to him--and if
things were to come to an ugly pass like that he wasn’t going to have
his mother concerned in them. He declined the factory, and discussion
would not help.

Reuben felt no surprise at Edward’s silence. The boy was, no doubt,
considering his situation and would come in time to the right
conclusions about it; he would see that this was not a thing to be
settled now, but one which had been settled twenty years ago by the fact
that Edward was Reuben’s firstborn son. No: he was not anxious about
Edward, with his jejune opinions, his young effervescence, his failure,
from the polities of Oxford, to perceive that life was earnest. Edward
wanted, did he, to play at being a lawyer: so had Reuben once played
at being a Jacobite. Youth had its green sickness. But Dorothy was
different: he couldn’t disembarrass himself so easily about Dorothy.

They were all putting a barrier between their thoughts and their words,
but marriage had not blunted, it had increased, his sensitiveness to
Dorothy’s moods, and he was aware that she was troubled now more deeply
than he had ever known her moved before. She seemed to him to be badly
missing the just perspective, to be making a mountain of a mole-hill, to
be making tragedy out of the commonplace comedy of ingenuous youth,
to be too much the mother and too little the wife, to be, by unique
exception, unreasonable: but all this counted for nothing with him when
Dorothy was pained. Yet he couldn’t, in justice, blame Edward as first
cause of her grief when the cause was not Edward, or Edward’s youth,
but the universal malady of youth. He reminded himself again of that
fantastic folly of his own youth, Jacobitism, and it was notably
forebearing in him to remember it now and to decide that his own green
sickness had been less excusable than Edward’s.

What it came to was that some one must clear the air, some one must
break this painful silence they were, by common consent, keeping about
the subject uppermost in their minds. In a few days now Edward
would return to Oxford for his last term and it must be understood,
explicitly, that when he came home it was to begin his apprenticeship at
the factory. Get this thing finally settled, get it definitely stated in
terms on both sides, and Dorothy would cease to make a grief of it. It
was the inconclusiveness, he thought, which perturbed her.

Edward had a Greek text on his knee when Reuben went into the
drawing-room: he might or he might not have been reading it. He might
have been conscious that Dorothy had suddenly got up and thrown the
curtains back from the window and had opened it and stood there now as
if she needed air. Reuben had the tact to make no comment.

He sat down. Then he said, “Edward, I have been thinking of the time
when I was your age and it came into my mind that had I then been shown
a factory such as I showed you the other week, I should have thought it
a very atrocious sight. I couldn’t, of course, actually have been shown
such a place when I was your age, for there were no such places. Steam
was in its infancy. But I put the matter as I do to show you that I
understand the feelings you did not trouble to conceal.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Edward. “I have to acknowledge that I was not
complimentary to your achievement. I was not thinking of it as an
achievement, but I, too, have been thinking and I see how cubbishly I
failed in my appreciation.”

“Come,” said Reuben, “this is better.”

“As far as it goes, sir, yes. But I am not to go much further. In the
shock of seeing the ugliness of that place, I believe that I forgot my
manners--more than my manners. I forgot your mastery of steam. I forgot
that having turned manufacturer, you became a great manufacturer. I--”
 he hesitated. “I am not trying to be handsome. I am trying to be just.”

“Just?”

“And, believe me, trying not to be smug. I only plead, sir, that I am
old enough to know my own tastes.”

“Are you? I can only look back to myself, Edward, and I am certain that
when I was your age, I had no taste for work.”

“A barrister’s is a busy life, sir. That is what I seek to persuade
you.”

“And I grant you that it may be. I will grant even that you may have a
taste for work, and work of a legal kind. And I have still to ask you if
you think it right to put selfish tastes in front of plain duty.”

“Oh, why did you send me to Oxford, sir? Why, if you destined me for the
factory, did you first show me the pleasantness of the world?”

“I wished my son to be an educated gentleman. You have seen Richard
Needham. He is a product, extreme, but still a product, of the factories
and nothing but the factories. He is, as I told you, an able man. But he
is coarse. He is a manufacturer who has no thought beyond manufacturing.
That is why I sent you to Oxford, where you went knowing that you were
heir to Hepplestall’s. You have treated this subject now as if the
factory was a surprise that I have sprung upon you.”

“In theory, sir, I suppose I knew what you expected of me. But I had
never seen the factory and the factory, in practice, after Oxford, after
some education, some glimpse of the humanities, is--”

“I, too,” Reuben warned him, “had my education.”

“Yes,” said Edward. “Yes,” and looked at his father with something like
awe. It was true that Reuben was educated--if Edward wanted proof,
there was that bookishness of his which bordered at least on
scholarliness--and he had stomached the factory; he had stomached it and
remained a gentleman! He impressed Edward by his example: he had had the
cleverness, in this conversation, to suggest that Edward, young, was in
the same case as Reuben, young, had been.

As a fact, their cases were not parallel at all. Circumstances such as
Mr. Bantison had pressed Reuben into manufacturing: he had discovered,
almost at once, his enthusiasm for steam: he had surrendered himself
with the imaginative glamor of the pioneer and if the road was stony, if
once he had strayed down the by-path whose name was Phoebe, he had, at
the end of it, Dorothy, that bright objective. Edward had none of these.
Edward came from Oxford, with his spruce ambition to cut a figure at
the bar, and was confronted with the menacing immensity of the great
factory, full-grown in naked ugliness. He was without motive, other than
the commands of his father, to do outrage on his prejudices.

But it was not for Reuben to point out these differences, nor, it
seemed, for Dorothy to intervene with word of such of them as she
perceived. She was all with Edward in this struggle, but she was loyal
to Reuben and he did her grave injustice if he thought she had made
alliance with her son against her husband. She had kept silence and she
meant to keep silent to the end--if she could, if, that is, Reuben did
not drive too hard: and she had to acknowledge that, so far, he had
not used the whip. As for her private sufferings, she hoped she had the
courage to keep them private. That was the badge of women.

“Then I can only admire,” Edward was saying. “I can only give you best.
I can only say you are a stronger man than I.”

Reuben thought so too, but “Pooh,” he said, “an older man.”

“But you were young when you took up manufacturing. I--I cannot take it
up. Let me be candid, sir. I abhor the factory.”

“We spoke just now of tastes. Will it help you to think of the factory
as an acquired taste? You are asked to make a trial of it and it is not
usual to refuse things that are known to be acquired tastes--olives, for
example--without making fair trial of them.”

“No,” said Edward, meeting his father’s eye. “But it is usual to eat
olives. It is not usual for a gentleman to turn manufacturer.”

“Edward!” Dorothy broke silence there.

“Oh!” said Reuben, “this is natural. Our limb of the law has ambitions.
Already he is fancying himself a judge--my judge.”

“I apologize, sir,” said Edward. “I acknowledge, I have never doubted,
that you are both manufacturer and gentleman. But I cannot hope to
repeat that miracle myself.”

“You can try.”

“I have the law very obstinately in my mind, sir. I could, as you say,
try to become a manufacturer. One can try to do anything, even things
that are contrary to one’s inclinations and beyond one’s strength.”

“I will lend you strength.”

“You could do that and I am the last to deny you have abundance of
strength. But I believe in spite of your aid that I should fail, and the
failure would not be a single but a double one. After failing here as
manufacturer, I could hardly hope to succeed elsewhere as a barrister. I
should have wasted my most valuable years in demonstrating to you what
I know for myself without any necessity of trial, that I am unfitted for
trade.”

“You believe yourself above it. That is the truth, Edward.”

It was the truth. Reuben had stooped and Edward did not intend to
perpetuate the stoop. Edward was a wronged man cheated of his due,
robbed by the unintelligible apostasy of his father of his birthright
of land ownership and if the attitude and the language with which he
now confronted Reuben were unfilially independent, they were, at least,
reticent and considerate expressions of what he actually thought. Reuben
imagined him youthfully extravagant: he was, on the contrary, a model of
self-restraint, he was a dam unbreakable, withstanding an urgent flood.
The indictment he could fling at his father! The resentments he could
voice! And, instead, he was doing no more than refusing to go into a
disreputable factory. Above it? He should think he was above it.

“I used the word ‘unfitted,’” he said. “Shall we let that stand?”

“Till you disprove it, it may stand. When you come down from Oxford, you
will go into the factory and disprove it.”

“No.”

“I have been very patient, Edward. I have let you talk yourself out,
but--”

“Lord, sir, the things I haven’t said!”

“Indeed? Do you wish to say them?”

Edward did, but he glanced at his mother, whose one contribution to
their discussion had been a reproof of him, of him, who had been so
splendidly restrained! Why, then, should he spare her? Why, if she
had deserted to the other side, should he not roll out his whole
impeachment? Why not, even though it implicated her, even though he must
suggest’ that she was accessory to the weaving of the web in which
he struggled? He thought she was, because of that one sharp cry, on
Reuben’s side in this.

She read that thought. She saw how wildly he who should have known
better was misunderstanding her, and it added to a suffering she had
not thought possible to increase. Was this her moment, then? Sooner or
later, she must intervene, she must throw in her weight for Edward at
whatever strain upon her loyalty to Reuben, but it must be at the right
moment and probably that moment would not come yet, when Edward was
present to confuse her by his indiscretions, but later, when she was
alone with Reuben. It was enormously, it was vitally important that she
should choose her moment well. If she spoke now, she would of course
correct the mistake that Edward was so cruelly making about her, but
that was not to the main point. She would not, if she could help it,
speak till she was sure that the favorable moment had arrived. All else
was to be subordinate to that.

Reuben followed Edward’s glance. “Yes,” he said, “you are distressing
your mother,” and, certainly, she felt her moment was escaping her. If
she spoke now she must say, “No, Reuben. You, not Edward, are the
cause of my distress,” and she could not say that. She could only wait,
feeling that to wait was to risk her moment’s never coming at all.

“I see we are distressing her,” said Edward, studiously abstaining from
putting emphasis upon the “we.”

“And the many more things that I might say shall not be said. I will
take a short cut to the end. The end is my absolute refusal to go into
the factory upon any terms whatever.”

Reuben rose, with clenched fists. He had not the intention of striking
his son, but the impulse was irresistible to dominate the slighter man,
to stand menacingly over him. How in this should she find her moment?
Where if temper rose, if Reuben did the unforgivable, if he struck
Edward, where was her opportunity to make a peace and gain her point? As
she had cried “Edward!”, so now, “Reuben!” she cried, and put a hand on
his.

He responded instantly to the sound of her voice and the touch of her
hand. “You are right, Dorothy,” he said. “We must not flatter our young
comedian by taking him gravely.”

“That is an insult, sir,” said Edward.

“In comedy,” Reuben smiled suavely at him, “it may be within the rules
for a father to insult a vaporing son. In life, such possibilities do
not exist.”

Ridicule! Edward could fight against any weapon but this. “You treat me
like a child,” he said in plaintive impotence.

“Oh, no,” said Reuben. “So far, I have given you the benefit of the
doubt. I have not whipped you yet.”

“Whipped!”

“A method of correction, Edward, used upon children and sometimes on
those whose years outstrip their sense.”

“Do you seriously picture me, sir, remaining here to be a whipping
block?”

“Children run away: and children are brought back.” Her moment! Oh, it
was slipping from her as they squabbled, Edward’s future was at stake,
and not his alone. If young Tom Hepplestall was for the army, there were
still her younger sons; there were Edward’s own unborn sons. The stake
was not Edward’s future only, it was the future of the Hepplestalls and
all her landed instincts were in revolt against the thought that her
sons were to follow Reuben in his excursion, his strange variation, from
the type she knew. Once his factory had seemed mysterious and romantic.
Now, she was facing it, she was seeing it through Edward’s outraged
eyes. Incredible mercy that she had not seen it before, but not
incredible in the light of her love for Reuben. It had been a thing
apart from her life and now, implacably, was come into it. There was no
evading the factory now; there was no facile blinking at it as a dark
place in Reuben’s life about which she could be incurious, it was
claiming her Edward, it had come, through him, into her life now.

It was crouching for her, like a beast in the jungle and what was to
happen when the beast sprang, to her, to Reuben, to their love? She had
held aloof from the factory and she had kept Reuben’s love. Were these
cause and effect and was her aloofness a condition of his love? Was her
hold on him the hold of one consenting to be a decoration, and no more
than a decoration in his life? Had she shied from facts all these years,
and was retribution at hand?

These were desperate questionings, but Edward was her son and she must
take her risks for him, even this risk imperiling her all, this so much
greater risk than the life she risked for him when he was born. But when
to speak? When to put all to the test? Surely not just now when this
pair of men, one calling the other “child,” both, one as bully, the
other as Gasconader, were behaving like children. She groped helplessly
for her moment.

Then, suddenly, as she seemed to drown in deep water and to clutch
feebly upwards, she knew that her moment was come. She had not heard the
sound of the shot coming from the shrubbery and felt no pain. She only
knew that she was weak, that her moment, safely, surely, was come, and
that she must use it quickly.

Because she was lying on the floor and Reuben and Edward were bending
over her, she was looking up into their faces. That seemed strange to
her, but everything was strange because everything was right. In this
moment, there was nothing jeopardous; she had only to speak, indeed
she need not actually trouble to put her message into words, and Reuben
would infallibly agree with her. There were no difficulties, after all.
She had felt that it was only a question of the right moment, and here
was her moment, exquisitely, miraculously, compellingly right.

Her hand seemed very heavy to lift but, somehow, she lifted it, somehow
she was holding Reuben’s hand and Edward’s, somehow she was joining them
in friendship and forgiveness. It was right, it was right beyond all
doubt. Reuben would never coerce Edward now, and she smiled happily up
at them.

“Reuben,” she said, then “Edward,” that was all. Her hand fell to the
floor.

Edward looked up from Dorothy’s dead face to see his father disappearing
through the window, but Reuben need not have hurried. John Bradshaw was
standing in the shrubbery twenty yards from the window, making no effort
to run. There was no effort left in him. He was the spring wound up by
Mr. Barraclough; now he had acted and he was relaxed; he was relaxed and
happy. A life for a life, and such a life--Hepplestall’s! He had led his
people out of slavery. He had shot Hepplestall.

And in the light from the window, he saw rushing at him the man who was
dead. There was no Annie now to laugh his superstitious fears away and
to fold him in her protective arms: there was no one to tell him that
the silent figure was not Hepplestall’s ghost. He believed utterly that
a “boggart” was leaping at him.

True, there was a leap, and a blow delivered straight at his jaw with
all the force of Reuben’s passionate grief behind it, and the blow met
empty air. John, felled by a mightier force than Reuben’s, felled by
his ghostly fear, lay crumpled on the ground and Hepplestall, recovering
balance, flung him over his shoulder like a sack and was carrying him
into the house before the servants, alarmed by the shot, had reached the
room.

Edward met him. “I am riding for the doctor, sir,” he said.

“Doctor?” said Reuben. “It’s not a doctor that is needed now, it’s a
hangman. Lock that in the cellar,” he said to the servants, dropping his
sprawling burden on the floor, “and go for the constables.” Then, when
they were gone, when he had silenced by one look their cries of horror
and they had slunk out of the door as if they and not the senseless boy
they carried were the murderers, “Leave me, Edward, leave me,” he said.

Edward stretched out his hand. There was sympathy in his gesture and
there was, too, a claim to a share in the sorrow that had come to them.
Dorothy was Edward’s mother.

“Go,” said Reuben fiercely; and Edward left him with his dead.

The beast had made his spring. Dorothy had not gone to the factory, and
the factory had come to her.



CHAPTER XI--THE HATE OF THE HEPPLESTALLS

PHOEBE made all reasonable, and a few indulgent, allowances for the
weaknesses of manflesh, but when she awoke to the knowledge that
John had not been home all night, she was downright angry with him. A
bereaved husband might accept the consolation offered by his friends on
the day of his wife’s funeral, and might go on accepting it late into
the night. She had left the door on the latch for him with the thought
that it wasn’t like John to drown his sorrow, but men were men, even the
best of them, and she had put a lot of housework behind her that day. He
would have been constantly getting in her way with his clumsy efforts to
help, and if he had found forgetfulness, no matter how, they had both of
them come through the day very well.

But he had not come home at all; he had forgotten too thoroughly, and
Phoebe intended to give him “the rough side of her tongue” the moment
she came across him in the factory. It never occurred to her that he
would not be in the factory. To be out all night was a departure from
his custom, and on such a night a departure from decency, but to be
absent from work was more than either of these; it was defiance of
necessity, a treachery to her and to his children and she knew her
John better than to suspect him of conduct like that. He might be
grief-stricken and, after that (homeopathically), ale-stricken, but the
law of nature was “Work or Clem,” and John would be at work.

He was not at work, and that was not the only thing to be remarked that
morning. Nobody appeared to have a word for her, though there was an
exceptional disposition to gossip. Even the overseers had caught the
infection and formed gossiping groups to the detriment of discipline.
She was too preoccupied at first to notice that she was their cynosure
or to wonder what it meant, but she couldn’t for long be unconscious of
their gaze.

They were looking at her, every one was looking at her, and her first
impulse was to be angry with them for staring so curiously and her
second was to conceal her awareness of their gaze. They stared? Let them
stare. She had not been at the factory on the previous day, but she had
had leave of absence. She had been burying her daughter-in-law, and if
they wanted to stare at her for that, they could stare. And then she
connected their fixed regard with John’s absence. There was something
serious then? Something about John of which they knew and she did not?
She dropped abruptly her pretense of unconsciousness.

“For God’s sake tell me what’s to do,” she cried. “If it’s John, I’m his
mother and I’ve the right to know.”

Will Aspinall, the overseer, detached himself from his group. “Get
at work,” he bawled at large, then with a rare gentleness, led Phoebe
aside. “Either tha’s gotten th’ brassiest faice i’ Lankysheer, or else
tha’ doan’t kna’,” he said.

“Is it to do with John?” she asked.

“Aye,” he said, “it’s all to do wi’ thy John.”

“I know nothing beyond that he’s not been home all night.”

“A kna’ he’s not bin hoam. He’s done wi’ coming hoam.”

“Why? Why? What has happened?”

“A’m, striving to tell thee that. Th’ job’s not easy, though.” He looked
at her. “Wilt have it straight?”

“I’m never afraid of truth.”

“Truth can hit hard. Well, I’ll tell thee. Thy John shot at th’
maister’s wife last neight an’ hit her. They’ve gotten him.” He upturned
a waste-bin. “Now, A’m real sorry for thee and it weren’t a pleasant job
for me to break th’ news. That’s over, though, and tha’ knaws now. Next
sit thee down on this. It’s in a corner, like, and folks canna watch
thee. When tha’ feels like work, come and tell me.” He left her with
rough kindliness, and relieved his feelings by cuffing a child who was
peering round a loom at them. He was paid to be brutal, and the child,
gathering himself up from the floor, might have thought that the
overseer was earning his wages: but the shrewd blow was rather a warning
to the rest and an expression of his sympathy with Phoebe than an
episode in his day’s work.

That Aspinall, and not he alone but the general sense of the workers,
should be sympathetic towards her was in its way remarkable enough. They
expected naturally that John would hang, but they had definitely
the idea that retribution for his deed would not stop at the capital
punishment of the actual malefactor. Hepplestall would “tak’ it out of
all on us,” and “We’ll go ravenous for this,” “Skin an’ sorrow--that’s
our shape,” and (from a humorist) “Famished? He’ll spokeshave us” were
some of the phrases by which they expressed their belief in the
widespread severity of Hepplestall’s vengeance.

Yet they had no bitterness against John, nor against Phoebe who, as his
mother, might be supposed to have a special responsibility. It was a
dreadful deed and the more dreadful since his bullet had miscarried and
had killed a woman; but it had fanned to quick fire their smoldering
hatred of Hepplestall and there was more rejoicing than regret that he
was, through Dorothy, cast down. They would have preferred to know that
John had hit the true target but, as it was, it was well enough and
they were not going to squeal at the price they expected to pay.
Their commiseration was not for the bereaved master, but for the
about-to-be-bereaved mother of the murderer.

Somebody moved a candle so that Phoebe in her corner should be the more
effectually screened from observation. It was a kindly act, but one
which she hardly needed. Her thoughts were with John, but not with a
John who was going to be hanged; they were with a John who was going to
be saved.

Murderers were hanged and so for the matter of that were people
convicted of far less heinous crimes. That was the law, but she had
never a doubt but that Hepplestall was above the law, that he was the
law, and that John’s fate was not with an impersonal entity called
justice but, simply, with Hepplestall. Probably two-thirds of her
fellow-workers were firmly of the same belief in his omnipotence, though
they hadn’t, as she supposed she had, grounds for thinking that he would
intervene on John’s behalf.

When Annie died she had told herself vehemently that she would never
go, a suppliant, to Hepplestall, she would never let him share in John’s
children wrho were his grandchildren; but that resolution was rescinded
now. Reuben had never hinted since the day when Peter and Phoebe went to
him, aghast at the edict which broke Peter’s factory, that he remembered
he had had a son by Phoebe. It was so long ago and perhaps he had indeed
forgotten, but she must go to him and remind him now. She must tell him
that John Bradshaw was his son. He could not hang his son.

Daylight was penetrating through the sedulously cleaned windows of
the factory. It was the hour when expensive artificial light could be
dispensed with and candles were being extinguished; it was the hour,
too, when Reuben might ordinarily be expected in his office. He had the
usual manufacturers’ habit of riding or walking to the factory for half
an hour before breakfast, and to-day word was passed through the rooms
that he had, surprisingly, arrived as usual.

The word had not reached Phoebe, but she expected nothing else. She had
to speak with Reuben, and therefore he would be there. She came from her
corner and told Aspinall what she intended.

“Nay, nay!” he said.

“Please open the door for me.”

“A canna’,” he said. “Coom, missus, what art thinking? He’ll spit at
thee.”

“I have to speak to him about John,” said Phoebe. “Open the door and let
me through.”

“It’s more nor my plaice is worth,” he said, but, nevertheless, he was
weakening. She was not making a request, she was not a weaver asking a
favor of an overseer, she was Phoebe Bradshaw, whom Peter had brought
up to be a lady, giving an order to a workman in the tone of one who
commands obedience as a habit.

He scratched his head in doubt, then turned to a fellow-overseer and
consulted with him. They murmured together with a wealth of puzzlement
and headshaking and, presently, “Now, Mrs. Bradshaw,” said Aspinall,
“tak’ heed to me. Yon door’s fast, but me an’ Joe here are goin’ to open
it on factory business, understand. If happen tha’s creeping up behind
us, it’s none likely we’ll see thee coomin’ and if tha’ slips through
door and into office while we’ve gotten door open on our business, it’s
because tha’ was too spry for us to stop thee. That’s best we can do for
thee and it’s takkin’ big risks an’ all.”

“I’m grateful,” said Phoebe.

They opened the door and made loud sounds of protest as she slipped
through, causing Reuben to look up from the bureau where he was opening
his letters and to see both Phoebe standing in his office and the actors
at the door. He waved them off and, when the door was closed, “Well?” he
said.

“Reuben!” said Phoebe.

He rose with an angry cry. How dared she, this weaver, this roughened,
withered old woman, address him by his Christian name? This gray wraith,
whose hair hung mustily about her like the jacket of lichen about a
ruined tree, she to call him by the name his Dorothy alone had used!
That morning of all mornings it was outrage of outrages.

He did not know her whom once he nearly loved. Twenty years ago he had
put her from him and had excluded her from his recollection. Long ago
the factory had outgrown the stage when an employer has knowledge of
his workpeople as individuals; he did not know her nor had the
identification of the prisoner as John Bradshaw, a spinner in the
factory, conveyed any personal significance to him. Bradshaw was a
common name, and he had never known that Phoebe had called their son
John.

“But I am Phoebe,” she said, standing her ground before his menacing
advance. “Phoebe, Reuben. Phoebe, who--Phoebe Bradshaw.”

He remembered now, he had remembered at the second “Phoebe”--and at the
second “Reuben.” He was even granting her, grimly, her right to call him
by that name when the “Bradshaw” struck upon his ear.

“Bradshaw?” he repeated. “Bradshaw?” And this second time, there was an
angry question in it.

“I came about John,” she said. “John is our son, Reuben. Of course he
did not know, but--” Reuben had covered the space between them at a
bound. He was holding her hands tightly, he was looking at her with eyes
that seared. In moments like these, thought outspaces time. John, his
wife’s murderer, was his son, and the son of Phoebe Bradshaw whom he
had--well, he supposed he had betrayed her. She had told the son, of
course. He had nursed a grievance, he had shot Dorothy in revenge.
Whether he had aimed at Reuben and hit Dorothy, or whether he lied when
he had made that statement to the constable and had, in fact, aimed at
Dorothy, they had the true motive now. Reuben might have put it that his
sin had found him out, but his thought did not run on those lines. Then,
what was she saying? “Of course, he did not know.” Oh, that was absurd,
that took them back for motive to what John had been telling the
constable--that he shot at Hepplestall to--to--(what was the boy’s
wind-bagging phrase which the constable reported?)--“to set the people
free from a tyrant.”

“Say that again,” he said.

She met his eye fearlessly. “Of course he did not know. You could not
think that I would tell of my shame. Father and I, we invented a second
cousin Bradshaw whom I married, who died before John was born.”

Yes, she was speaking the truth, and, after all, he didn’t know that
it mattered very much. Dorothy was dead, either way, but, yes, it did
matter. It mattered enormously, because of Dorothy’s sons. If John
had known, there must have been disclosures at the trial, things said
against Reuben, ordinary enough but not the things he cared to have
Dorothy’s sons know about their father.

It wasn’t criminal to have seduced a woman twenty years ago, and the
exceptional thing about Reuben was that he had seduced no more women,
that he had not abused his position as employer. Needham was known,
with grim humor, as “the father of his people.” Whereas Reuben had been
Dorothy’s husband.

He saw the trial and that disclosure insulting to Dorothy’s memory.
He heard the jeers of Needham and his kind. Hepplestall, Gentleman
Hepplestall, reduced by public ordeal to a common brutishness with the
coarse libertines he had despised! He saw Dorothy’s sons contemptuous
of their father. This, they would take occasion to think, was where
factory-owning led a man.

“You’re sure of this?” he asked. “You’re absolutely sure he did not know
he is my son?”

“Absolutely,” she said.

“Ah,” he said, “that’s good. If he had known, I believe I must have
taken measures to defeat justice. I should have done all in my power
to have spirited him away before the trial, and I believe I should have
contrived it. I feel quite keenly enough about the matter to have
done that.” Which was, to Phoebe, confirmation of her belief in his
omnipotence. “But, as it is,” he went on, “as it is, thank God, the law
can take its course.” He was back in his chair now, looking at her with
a relief that was almost a smile, if tigerish. She, he was thinking,
might still speak to his discomfiture if she were put in the box at the
trial, but he would see that she was not called. There was no need to
call her to establish John’s absence from home that night, when he had
been caught red-handed. They could do without Phoebe, and he would take
care they should.

“Can take its course,” she repeated, bewildered. What had Reuben meant
if not, incredibly, that had she told John of her “shame,” he would have
been saved now, but that, as it was, John must--“But it cannot tak’ its
course, John is your son. Your son. Reuben, he’s your son. You cannot
hang your son.”

“He killed my wife.”

“But you haven’t understood. They haven’t told you. John was not
himself. He--”

“Drunk?”

“No, no. Oh, Reuben. He was crazed with grief on account of his wife.
Don’t they tell you when the likes of that chances in the factory? Annie
Bradshaw, that was John’s wife and your daughter-in-law--she bore a
child on the floor in there and died. You must have heard of it.”

Reuben nodded. “These women,” he said, “are always cutting it too fine.”
 His gesture disclaimed responsibility for the reckless greed of women.

“Yes,” she said, brazenly agreeing with his monstrous imputation, “but
John loved Annie and he’s been in a frenzy since she died and in his
mazed brain we can see how it seemed to him. We can, can’t we, Reuben?
She died in the factory and it looked to him that the factory had killed
her. And then he must have got a gun. I don’t know how, but we can see
the crazy lad with a gun in his hands and the wild thought in his mind
that the factory killed Annie. It’s your factory, it’s Hepple-stall’s,
and it ‘ud seem to him that Hepplestall killed. Annie, so he took his
gun and came to your house and tried to kill you. A daft lad and a
senseless deed and an awful, awful end to it, but we can read the
frantic thoughts in his grief-struck brain, we can understand them,
Reuben--you and I.” She sought to draw him into partnership with her, to
make him share in the plea which she addressed to him.

But “He killed my wife,” Reuben said again.

She had a momentary vision of Reuben and Phoebe twenty years ago riding
home to Bradshaw’s on the afternoon when they had met Dorothy in the
road, and Dorothy had cut him. She had talked then, she had chattered,
she had striven to be gay and her talk had rebounded, like a ball off a
wall, from the stony taciturnity of his abstraction and that night, that
very night.... It had been Dorothy then, and it was Dorothy now. “He
killed my wife.”

“But, Reuben, he was mad.”

“Still--”

She flung herself upon her knees. “Reuben, you cannot hang your son. Not
your son, Reuben.”

“Quiet,” he commanded. “Quiet.”

“Oh, I will be very quiet.” She lowered her voice obediently. “If there
are clerks through that door, they shall not hear. No one shall ever
know he is your son. You can save him and you must. He is your son and
there are babies, two little boys, your grandchildren, Reuben. What can
I do alone for them? Give John back to me and we can manage. It will be
mortal hard, but we shall do it.”

The woman was impossible. Actually she was pleading not only for the
murderer’s release, but for his return. His wife, Dorothy, lay dead at
this boy’s hands, and Phoebe was assuming that nothing was to happen!
But, by the Lord, things were going to happen. Crazy or not that phrase
of John’s stuck in his throat--“to set the people free from a tyrant.”
 Where there was one man thinking that sort of thing, there were others;
it was a breeding sort of thought. Well, he’d sterilize it, he’d bleed
these thinkers white. Meantime, there was Phoebe, and, it seemed, there
were two young encumbrances. “There is the workhouse,” he said.

“Not while I live,” said Peter Bradshaw’s daughter.

“But to live, Phoebe, you must earn, and there will be no more earning
here for you.” The workhouse was a safe place for a woman with a
dangerous story and anything that escaped those muffling walls could
be set down as the frantic ravings of a hanged man’s mother. This
side-issue of Phoebe was a triviality, but he had learned the value of
looking after the pence--as well as the pounds.

“Oh, do with me what you like. You always have done. But John--John!”

He looked his unchanging answer.

“I am to go to the workhouse. Is not that enough? I to that place and
his children with me, John to--to the gallows, and why? Why? Because
through all these years I have given you a gift. The gift of my silence.
You are going to hang my son because I did not tell him he was your son.
You could save him and you don’t because he did not know. Reuben, is
there no mercy in you?” There was none. John had killed Dorothy. “Then,
if I shriek the truth aloud? If I cry out now so that your clerks can
hear me, that John is your son? If--”

“It would make this difference, Phoebe. You would go to the madhouse,
instead of to the workhouse. In the one you would be alone. In the other
you would sometimes see John’s brats.” He rang the hand-bell on his
desk.

“And teach them,” she said, “teach them to speak their first words, ‘I
hate the Hepplestalls.’”

Perhaps he heard her through the sound of the bell, perhaps not. A
well-drilled clerk came promptly in upon his summons. “This woman is to
go at once to the workhouse, with two children,” he said. “If there are
forms to go through refer the officials to me.”

In the factory they called him “Master.” He was master of them all. She
did not doubt it and she went.

Reuben finished reading his letters before he went home to breakfast. He
read attentively, doing accustomed things in his accustomed way because
it seemed that only so could he drug himself to forgetfulness of
Dorothy’s death, then gravely, with thoughts held firmly on business
affairs, he mounted his horse to where skilled hands had made death’s
aftermath a. gracious thing.

Edward had spoken to his brothers. “Give me five minutes alone with
Father when he comes in,” he said. It seemed to him this morning that
once, a prodigious while ago, he had been fatuously young and either
he had quarreled with his father or had come near to quarreling--he
couldn’t be expected to remember which across so long a time as the
night he had passed since then--about so obvious a certainty as his
going into the factory. Dorothy, in that moment when she held their
hands together, had made him see so clearly what he had to do. A moment
of reconcilement and of clarification, when she had indicated her last
wish. It was a law, indeed, and sweetly sane. “Why, of course, Mother,”
 he had been telling her through the night, “Father and I must stand
together now.” He told, and she could not reply. She could not tell him
how grotesquely he misinterpreted her moment.

He met Reuben at the door. “Father,” he said, “there is something you
must let me say at once. My mother joined our hands last night. May we
forget what passed between us earlier? May we remember only that she
joined our hands last night, and that they will remain joined?”

“I hope they will,” said Reuben, not quite certain of him yet.

“The man who killed her came from the factory. I should like your
permission to omit my last term at Oxford. I want very deeply to begin
immediately at the factory.” His voice rose uncontrollably. “‘Drive or
be driven,’ sir, you said the other day. And by God, I’ll drive. I’ll
drive. That blackguard came from there.”

“Come with me after breakfast,” Reuben said, shaking the hand of his
heir. And in that spirit Edward went to Hepplestall’s to begin his
education.

Dorothy had died happy in the bright certainty of her authentic moment!



PART II



CHAPTER I--THE SERVICE

IF there is a man whose job I’ve never envied, it’s the A Prince of
Wales,” groaned Rupert Hepplestall, looking in his mirror with an air of
cynical boredom and fastening white linen round a bronzed neck. “And I’m
going to get the taste of it to-day.”

The point was that it was Rupert’s sixteenth birthday, and the sixteenth
birthday of a Hepplestall was an occasion of such moment that he had
been brought back from Harrow to spend that day at home.

On their sixteenth birthdays, the Hepplestall boys, and some others who
were favored though only their mothers were Hepplestalls, were received
in the office and from thence escorted through the mills by the Head
of the Firm with as much ceremonious aplomb as if they were Chinese
mandarins, Argentine financiers, Wall Street magnates, Russian nobles,
German professors or any of the miscellaneous but always distinguished
foreigners, who, visiting Lancashire, procured invitations: to inspect
that jewel in its crown, the mills at Staithley Bridge. For the boys
it was the formal ritual of initiation into the service of the firm.
A coming of age was nothing if not anti-climactic to the sixteenth
birthday of a Hepplestall.

Not all Hepplestalls were chosen; there were black sheep in every flock,
but if a Hepplestall meant to go black, he was expected to show symptoms
early and in Rupert’s case, at any rate, there was no question of
choice. Rupert was the eldest son.

He would return to school, he would go to a university, but to-day he
set foot in the mills, and the step was final. The Service would have
marked him for its own.

Rupert was cynical about it. “It’s like getting engaged to a barmaid in
the full and certain knowledge that you can’t buy her off,” he said and
that “Barmaid” indicated what he secretly thought of the show-mills of
Lancashire. But he was not proposing resistance; he was going into this
with open eyes; he knew what had happened to that recreant Hepplestall
who, so to speak, had broken his vows--the man who bolted, last heard
of as a hanger-on in a gambling hell in Dawson City, “combined,” the
informant had said, “with opium.” It wasn’t for Rupert. He knew on which
side his bread was buttered. But “Damn the hors d’ouvres,” he said.
“Damn to-day.” Then, “Pull yourself together. Won’t do to look peevish.
Come, be a little prince.”

He composed in front of the mirror a compromise between boyish eagerness
and an overwhelming sense of a dignified occasion, surveyed his
reflection and decided that he was hitting off very neatly the
combination of aspects which his father would expect. Then he jeered
at his efforts and the jeer degenerated into an agitated giggle: he was
uncomfortably nervous; “This prince business wants getting used to,” he
said, recapturing his calculated expression and going downstairs to the
breakfast room.

Only his father and mother were there. To-night there would be a dinner
attended by such uncles as were not abroad in the service of the firm,
but for the present he was spared numbers and it seemed a very ordinary
birthday when his mother kissed him with good wishes and his father
shook his hand and left a ten pound note in it.

He expected an oration from his father, but what Sir Philip said was
“Tyldesley’s not out, Rupert. 143. Would you like to go to Old Trafford
after lunch?”

“To-day!” he gasped. Could normal things like cricket co-exist with his
ordeal?

“Yes, I think I can spare the time this afternoon,” and so on, to
a discussion of Lancashire’s chances of being the champion
county--anything to put the boy at his ease. Sir Philip had been through
that ordeal himself. He talked cricket informally, but what he was
thinking was “Shall I tell him he’s forgotten to put a tie on or shall
I take him round the place without?” But he could hardly introduce a
tie-less heir to the departmental managers, who, if they were employees
had salaries running up to fifteen hundred a year, with bonus, and were,
quite a surprising number of them, magistrates. So he proceeded to let
the boy down gently. “Heredity’s a queer thing,” he said. “It’s natural
to think of it to-day, and I shall have some instances to tell you of
later, when we get down to the office. But what sets me on it now is
that precisely the same accident happened to me on my sixteenth birthday
as has happened to you. I forgot my tie.”

“Oh, Lord!” Rupert was aghast, feeling with twitching fingers for the
tie that wasn’t there.

“I take it as a happy omen that you should have done the same.”

“You really did forget yours, dad?”

“Really,” lied Sir Philip.

“Then I don’t mind feeling an ass,” said Rupert, and his father savored
the compliment as Rupert left the room. It implied that the boy had
a wholesome respect for him, while, as to his own diplomacy, “The
recording angel,” he said, turning to his wife, “will dip in invisible
ink.”

Lady Hepplestall touched his shoulder affectionately, and left him to
his breakfast-table study of the market reports.

The baronetcy was comparatively new. Any time these fifty years the
Hepplestalls could have had it by lifting a finger in the right room;
and they had had access to that room. But titles, especially as the
Victorian shower of honors culminated in “Jubilee Knights,” seemed
vulgar things, and Sir Philip consented to take one only when it seemed
necessary that he should consent, after much pressure from his brothers.
It seemed necessary in 1905 and the Hepplestall baronetcy, included
amongst the Resignation Honors conferred by the late Balfour
administration, was a symbol of the defeat of Joseph Chamberlain and
“Tariff Reform.” It advertised the soundness of the Unionist Party, even
in the thick of the great landslide of Liberalism, it registered the
close of the liaison with Protection. If Hepplestall of Lancashire,
Unionist and Free Trader, accepted a baronetcy from the outgoing
Government, the sign was clear for all to read; it could mean only that
Hepplestall had received assurances that the Party was going to be good,
to avoid the horrific pitfalls of “Tariff Reform.” Lancashire
could breathe again and Sir Philip, sacrificing much, immolated his
inclinations on the twin altars of Free Trade and the Party. If ever
man became baronet _pour le bon motif_, it was Sir Philip Hepplestall. A
gesture, but a gallant one.

Rupert spoke many things aloud in lurid English to his reflection in
his mirror; the banality of having so carefully studied his facial
expressions while not perceiving the absence of a tie struck him as
pluperfect, but his vituperative language was, happily, adequate to the
occasion and he successful relieved his feelings. One combination of
words, indeed, struck him as inspired and he was occupied in committing
it to memory as he went downstairs to Sir Philip.

“I feel like the kid who had too much cake and when they told him he’d
be ill, he said it was worth it,” he announced. “It was worth it to
forget my tie.”

“In what way in particular?” asked Sir Philip, mentally saluting a
spirited recovery.

“Will you ask me that next time I beat you at golf and words fail you?
I’ve got the words.”

Anyhow, he’d got his impudence back and Sir Philip, knowing the massive
impressiveness of the mills, was glad of it. He wanted his boy to
bear himself well that day, and he was not afraid of levity or
over-confidence when he confronted him with Hepplestall’s. He had, he
admitted to himself, feared timidity; he had, at any rate, diagnosed
acute nervousness in Rupert’s breakfast-table appearance, and feeling
that the attack was vanished now, he rang for the car with his mind
easy.

The site of old Reuben’s “Dorothy” factory was still the center whose
extended perimeter held the mills known to Lancashire, and nearly
as well known to dealers in Shanghai, or in the Malji Jritha market,
Bombay, as Hepplestall’s, but the town of Staithley Bridge lay in the
valley, extending down-stream away from the mills, so that there was
country still, smoky but pleasant, between the Hall and the town.
Electric trams bumped up the inclines through sprawling main-streets off
which ran the rows upon uniform rows of cell-like houses, back-to-back,
airless, bathless, insanitary, in which the bulk of the workers lived.
Further afield, there were better, more modern houses, costing no more
than those built before the age of sanitation--and these were more often
to be let than the houses of the close-packed center. It may have been
considered bumptious in Staithley to demand a bath, and a back-garden;
it may have been held that, if one lived in Staithley, one should do
the thing thoroughly; or it may have been that cleanliness too easily
attained was thought equivalent to taking a light view of life. In their
rooms, if not in their persons, they were clean in Staithley, even to
the point of being “house-proud” about their cleanliness; but medicine
that does not taste foul is suspect, and so is cleanliness in a house
when it is attained without the greatest possible mortification of
female flesh. You didn’t, anyhow, bribe a Staithley man by an electric
tram and a bright brick house with a bath to “flit” from his gray stone
house in an interminable row when that house was within reasonable
walking distance of the mills or the pits. No decentralization for him,
if he could help it: he was townbred, in a place where coal was cheap
and fires extravagant, and a back garden was a draughty, shiversome
idea.

But all this compress of humanity, and the joint efforts of the
municipality and the jerry-builder to relieve it, lay on the side of the
mills remote from the Hall--old Reuben had seen far enough to plant the
early Staithley out of his sight, and where he planted it, it grew--and
the short drive through dairy farm-land and market-gardens was not
distressing to eyes accustomed to the pseudo-green, sobered by smoke, of
Lancashire. Nor had the private office of the Hepplestalls any eyesores
for the neophyte. He had been in less comfortable club-rooms.

Indeed, this office, with its great fireplace, its Turkey carpet, its
shapely bureau that had been Reuben’s, and its chairs, authentically
old, chosen to be on terms with the historic bureau, its padded leather
sofa and the armchairs before the fire, and above all, the paintings on
the wall, had all the appearance of a writing-room in a wealthy club.

“This is where I work, Rupert,” said Sir Philip, and Rupert wondered if
“work” was quite the justifiable word. He thought the room urbane and
almost drowsily urbane, he thought of work rather as the Staithley
people thought of cleanliness, as a thing that went with mortification
of the flesh, and things looked very easy in this room. But he reserved
judgment. Sir Philip was apt to come home looking very tired. Perhaps
the easiness was deceptive.

A telephone rang, and his father went to the instrument with an apology.
“This is your day, Rupert, but I must steal five minutes of it now.”
 He spoke to his broker in Liverpool, and there were little jokes and
affabilities mingled with mysterious references to “points on” and other
technicalities. There was an argument about the “points on,” and Sir
Philip seemed very easily to get the better of it, and then, having
bought a thousand bales of raw cotton futures, he put the telephone down
and said, “That’s the end of business for to-day.” An insider would have
known that something rather important had happened, that the brain of
Sir Philip had been very active indeed in those few minutes when he
lingered over the market-reports at the breakfast-table, that trained
judgment had decided a largish issue and that a brilliant exhibition of
the art of buying had been given on the telephone. Rupert’s impression
was that some enigmatic figures had casually intruded while Sir Philip
passed the time of day with a friend in Liverpool who had rather
superfluously rung him up. At Harrow, veneration of the business man was
at a discount, and he believed Harrow was right. To write Greek verse
was a stiffer job than to be a cotton-lord--on the evidence so far
before the court.

“Well,” said Sir Philip, “I’m going to try to show you what
Hepplestall’s is, and the portraits on these walls make as good a
starting-point as I can think of. That is Reuben, our Founder. There are
a few extant businesses in Lancashire founded so long ago as ours;
there are even older firms. But such age as ours is rare. It’s been an
in-and-out business, the cotton trade. You know the proverb here that
‘It’s three generations from clogs to clogs.’ That is, some fine
fellow born to nothing makes a mark in life, rises, fights his way, and
beginning as man ends as master, giving the business he founded such
momentum as carries it along for the next generation. His son is born to
boots, not clogs, but he hasn’t as a rule the strength his father had.
He’s lived soft and his stock degenerates through softness. The business
of the old man doesn’t go to pieces in the son’s time, but it travels
downhill as the momentum given it by its founder loses force. And the
grandson of the founder is apt to be born to boots and to die in
clogs; he begins as master and ends as man. That is the cycle of three
generations on which that proverb is founded, and not unjustly founded.
It’s one of the points about the cotton trade that a strong man could
force his way out of the ranks, but it’s the fact that his successors
were more likely to lose what he left them than to keep it or improve
upon it. I’ll go so far as to say that making money is easier than
keeping it.

“We Hepplestalls have had the gift of keeping it. What a father won,
a son has not let go. The sons have been fighters like their fathers
before them and with each son the battleground has grown. Well,
that might terrify you if I don’t explain that long ago, in your
great-grandfather’s time indeed, the firm had outgrown the power of any
one man to control it utterly. There were partnerships and a share of
the responsibility for the younger sons. More recently, in fact when
my father died, we made a private limited company of it. Two of your
uncles, Tom and William, in charge in Manchester, have great authority,
though mine is the final word. What I am seeking to tell you is that
while it is a tremendous thing--tremendous, Rupert--to be the Head of
Hepplestall’s, the burden is not one which you will ever be called upon
to bear single-handed. The day of the complete autocrat went long ago.
But this is true, that the Head of Hep-plestall’s has been the general
in command, the chief-of-staff, the man who guarded what his ancestors
had won and who increased the stake. That is the Hepplestall tradition
in its minimum significance.”

Rupert started. In spite of his boyish skepticism he was already seeing
himself as the Lilliputian changeling in a house of the Brobdingnagians,
and if this were the minimum tradition, what, he wondered, was the
maximum?

“We have the tradition of trusteeship,” Sir Philip proceeded. “And the
trusteeship’ of Hepplestall’s is an anxious burden. It includes what I
have spoken of already; it includes our family interests, but they are
the smallest portion of the whole. We are trustees for our workpeople:
we do not coddle them, but we find them work. That is a serious matter,
Rupert. I have of course become accustomed to it as you will become
accustomed to it, but the thought is never absent from my mind that on
us, ultimately on me alone, is laid the burden of providing work for our
thousands of employees. Trade fluctuates and my problem is, as far as is
humanly possible, to safeguard our people against unemployment.”

“I never thought of it like that,” said Rupert, whose crude ideas of
Labor were rather derived from his public school, and occasional reading
of reactionary London newspapers, than from his home. “I wonder if they
are grateful?”

“Their gratitude or their ingratitude has no bearing on my duty,” said
Sir Philip.

“But aren’t there strikes?”

“You might put it that since ’ninety-three we have bowdlerized
strikes in Lancashire. We fight with buttons on our foils, thanks to the
Brooklands agreement.”

Rupert tried to look comprehending, but he could only associate
motor-racing with Brooklands. “Still,” he said, “I don’t believe they
are grateful. There’s that Bradshaw beast.”

“Ah!” said Philip, “Bradshaw! Bradshaw!” The name pricked him shrewdly.
“But no,” he said, “he’s not a beast.”

“He’s Labor Member for Staithley,” said Rupert. “I see their gratitude
less and less.”

“Well,” said his father, “we were speaking of tradition. The Bradshaws
come into the Hepplestall tradition. A wastrel gang and queerly against
us in every period. A Bradshaw was hanged for the murder of Reuben’s
wife. There were Chartist Bradshaws, two turbulent brothers, in my
grandfather’s day. In my day, Tom Bradshaw was strike leader here in the
great strike of ’ninety-two.”

“And they sent him to Parliament for it,” said Rupert hotly.

“Tom’s not a bad fellow, Rupert. I admit he’s their masterpiece. The
rest of the Bradshaws are work-shys and some of them are worse than
that. But they do crop up as a traditional thorn in our flesh and
I daresay you’ll have your battle with a Bradshaw. Nearly every
Hepplestall has had, but if he’s no worse a chap than Tom, M. P., you’ll
have a clean fighter against you. But there’s a more serious tradition
than the Bradshaws, a fighting tradition, too, a Hepplestall against a
Hepplestall, a son against a father.”

“Oh!” Rupert protested.

“Yes. I expect to have my fight with you. It’s the march of progress.
Look at old Reuben there and Edward his son. Reuben was a fighter for
steam when he was young. Other people thought steam visionary then if
they didn’t think it flat blasphemy. But he grew old and he couldn’t
rise to railways. Edward brought the railway to Hepplestall’s, right
into the factory yard, in the teeth of Reuben’s opposition and when
Reuben saw railway trains actually doing what Edward said they would
do, carrying cotton in and goods out and coal out from the pit-mouth, he
retired. He gave Edward best and went, and Edward lit the factory with
gas, made here from his own coal, and Reuben prophesied fire and sudden
death and the only death that came was his own.

“That portrait is of William, Edward’s son. Their fight was over the
London warehouse. William did not see why we sold to London merchants
who re-sold to shops; and William had his way, and later quarreled with
his son Martin over so small a thing as the telegraph. That was before
telephones, and you had an alphabetical switchboard and slowly spelt out
sentences on it. William called it a toy, and Martin was right and saved
thousands of valuable hours. But I had the honor of telling my father,
who was Martin, that he had an intensive mind and that lighting the
mills by electricity, and rebuilding on the all-window design to save
artificial light and installing lifts and sprinklers (to keep the
insurance low) were all very useful economies but they didn’t extend
the trade of Hepplestall’s. I went round the world and I established
branches in the East. I didn’t see why the Manchester shipping merchants
should market Hepplestall’s Shirtings in Shanghai and Calcutta. My
father told me I had bitten off more than I could chew, but he let me
have the money to try with. Well, there’s your uncle Hubert in charge
at Calcutta now, and your uncle Reuben Bleackley at Shanghai, you’ve
cousins at Rio and Buenos Aires and Montreal and on the whole I can
claim my victory. I wonder,” he looked quizzically at Rupert, “what your
victory over me will be? To run our own line of steamers? To work the
mills by electricity? I give you warning here and now that I’m against
both. Oil--oil’s a possibility; but we needn’t go into those things now.

“I hope I shall never oppose you, sir,” said Rupert.

“Then you’ll be no true Hepplestall--and you are going to be. You’ll go
through it as the rest of us went through it, and you’ll come out tried
and true. I’ll tell you what I mean by going through it. That’s no
figure of speech. We are practical men, we Hepplestalls, every man
of us. We’ve diverse duties and responsibilities, but we’ve a common
knowledge, and an exact one, of the processes of cotton manufacture. We
all got it in the same way, and the only right way--not by theory, not
by looking on, but by doing with our own hands whatever is done in these
mills--or nearly everything. You’re going to be a carder and a spinner
and a doubler and a weaver. You’re going to come into the place at
six in the morning with the rest of the people and the only difference
between you and them is that when you’ve learned a job you’ll be moved
on to learn another. You’ll come to it from your university and you’ll
hate it. You’ll hate it like hell, and it’ll last two years. Then you’ll
have a year in Manchester and then you’ll go round the world to every
branch of Hepplestalls. In about five years after you come here, you’ll
begin to be fit to work with me, and if you don’t make a better Head
than I am, you’ll disappoint me, Rupert.”

Rupert was conscious of mutinous impulses as his father forecasted the
rigorous training he was expected to undergo. How cruel a mockery was
that suave office of Sir Philip! And Sir Philip himself, and all the
Hepplestalls--they had all submitted to the training. They had all been
“through it.” And they called England a free country! Well, he, at any
rate--

He felt his father’s hand upon his knee, and looked up from his
meditations. “It is a trust, Rupert,” said Sir Philip.

Rupert began to hate that word and perhaps his suppressed rebellion hung
out some signs, for Sir Philip added, almost, but not quite, as if he
were making an appeal, “always the eldest son has been the big man of
his time amongst the Hepplestalls. It hasn’t been position that’s made
us; each eldest son has made himself, each has won out by merit, My
brothers were a tough lot, but I’m the toughest. And you. You won’t
spoil the record. You’ll be the big man, Rupert. And now we’ll go
through the mill,” he went on briskly, giving Rupert no opportunity to
reply.

Rupert was shown cotton from the mixing room where the bales of raw
material were opened, through its processes of cleaning, combing,
carding to the spinning-mill whence it emerged as yarn to go through
warping and sizing to the weaving sheds and thence to the packing rooms
where the pieces were made up and stamped for the home or the foreign
markets. Hepplestall’s had their side-lines but principally they were
concerned with the mass production of cotton shirtings and Rupert was
given a kinematographic view of the making of a shirting till, stamped
in blue with the world-famous “Anchor” brand, it was ready for the
warehouse, which might be anywhere from Manchester to Valparaiso or
Hongkong; and as they went through the rooms he was introduced to
managers, to venerable overseers who had known his grandfather,
fine loyalists who shook his hand as if he were indeed a prince, and
everywhere he was conscious of eyes that bored into his back, envious,
hostile sometimes, but mostly admiring and friendly. He was the heir.

He walked, literally, for miles amongst these men and women and
these children (there were children still in the mills of Lancashire,
“half-timers,” which meant that they went to the factory for half the
day, and to school the other half, and much good school did them after
that exhilarating morning!), and he bore himself without confessing
openly his consciousness that he was not so much inspecting the factory
as being inspected by it. All that he saw, he loathed, and he couldn’t
rid his mind of the thought that he was condemned to hard labor in these
surroundings. But there were mitigations.

“And,” said a white-haired overseer as he shook Rupert’s hand, “’appen
we shall see you playing for Lanky-sheer one of these days.”

“You have ambitions for me,” he smiled back.

“Well, you’re on the road to it.”

That was the delightful thing, that they should know that he was on
the road to it. They must be keenly interested to know so much when his
place in the Harrow first eleven was only a prospect--as yet--a pretty
secure prospect, but one of those intimate securities which were
decidedly not published news. It was a reconciling touch, bracing him to
keep up his gallant show as they made their progress, but neither
this nor the self-respecting deference of the high-salaried, efficient
managers resigned him to the price he was expected to pay for being
Hepplestall. That dour apprenticeship, which Sir Philip had candidly
prophesied he would “hate like hell,” daunted him; those five years
out of his life before he “began to work.” It was a tradition of the
service, was it? Then it was a bad tradition. He didn’t object to serve,
but this was to make service into slavery.

Allowing for school and university, he wouldn’t come to it for another
six years yet, and by then he ought to be better equipped for a
rebellion. But--the infernal cunning of this sixteenth-birthday
initiation--it would be too late then. From to-day, if he let the day
pass without protest, he wore the chains of slavery, he was doomed,
marked down for sacrifice, and he was so young! He resented the
unfairness of his youth pitted in unequal conflict with his father.

“One last tradition of the Hepplestalls, Rupert,” Sir Philip said as
they returned to his office, “though I expect you’re hating the word
‘tradition.’” Oh, did his father understand everything and forestall it?
“The eldest sons have not come to it easily. Sometimes there’s been open
refusal. There’ve been ugly rows. There’s always been a feeling on the
son’s part that the terms of service were too harsh. Well, I have come
to know that they are necessary terms. We are masters of men, and we
gain mastery of ourselves in those days when we learn our trade by the
side of the tradesmen. We cannot take this great place of ours lightly,
not Hepplestall’s, not the heavy trust that is laid upon us. We cannot
risk the failure of a Hepplestall through lack of knowledge of his trade
or through personal indiscipline. Imagination, the gifts of leadership
are things we cannot give you here; either you have them in you or you
will never have them, and it is reasonable to think you have them. They
have seemed to be the birthright of a Hepplestall. But we can train you
to their use.

“There is that Japanese ideal of the Samurai. I don’t think that it is
absent from our English life, but perhaps we have not been very explicit
about our ideals. There’s money made here, and if I told some people
that what actuates me is not money but the idea of service, I should not
be believed. I should be told that I confused Mammon with God: but I am
here to serve, and money is inescapable because money is the index of
successful service in present day conditions. Service, not money, is the
mainspring of the Hepplestalls, the service of England because it is
the service of Lancashire. We lead--not exclusively but we are of the
leaders--in Lancashire. We are keepers of the cotton trade, trustees of
its efficiency, guarantors of its progress.

“I am earnest with you, Rupert. Probably I’m offending your sense of
decent reticence. Ideals are things to be private about, but let us just
for once take the wrappings off them and let us have a look at them....
Well, we’ve looked and we’ll hide them again, but we won’t forget
they’re there. I suppose we keep a shop, but the soul of the shopkeepers
isn’t in the cash-register.”

How could he reply to this that the training which had been good enough
for his father and his uncles was not good enough for him? Somewhere, he
felt certain there were flaws to be found and that Sir Philip was rather
a special pleader than a candid truth-teller, but he impressed, and
Rupert despised himself for remaining obstinately suspicious of his
father’s sincerity.

“And you’re a Hepplestall. That is not to be questioned, is it, Rupert?
In the present and in the future, in the small things and the large,
that is not to be questioned.”

It was now or never for his protest. Mentally he wriggled like a kitten
held under water by some callous child and as desperately. He would
drown if he could not reach the aid of two life-buoys, courage to
outface Sir Philip and wits to put words to his thoughts.

“No, sir, that is not to be questioned,” he heard himself, unexpectedly,
say, and Sir Philip’s warm handshake sealed the bargain. He had not
meant to say it; he did not mean to stand by what he had said, but his
hand responded heartily to his father’s and his eye met Sir Philip’s
gaze with the charming smile of frank, ingenuous youth.

He was thinking that six years were a long time and that there were men
who had come to great honor after they had broken vows.



CHAPTER II--THE VOICE FROM THE STREET

THE room held a grand piano, a great fire and two men of fifty who were
playing chess. The stout, bullet-headed man with the mustache which did
not conceal the firmness of his mouth was Tom Bradshaw; the lean man
with the goatee beard, who wore spectacles, was Walter Pate. Both were
autocrats in their way. Tom ran the Spinners’ Union and was M. P. in his
spare time, Walter ran music in Staithley Bridge and had no spare time
except, on rare occasions, for chess.

Tom made a move. “That’s done you, you beggar,” he said, gleefully
rising and filling a pipe.

Walter’s fine hand flickered uncertainly over the board. He saw defeat
ahead. “If I weren’t a poor man, I’d have the law on you,” he said.

“You can’t play chess, Walter. It’s a question of brain.”

Pate shied the matches at him, and Tom sat at the piano and picked out a
tune with one hand.

“Stop it!” cried Walter.

“On terms,” said Tom.

“I hate you,” said Walter. “Come away.”

“The terms are the Meistersinger,” said Tom.

“On a piano! You’re a Goth.”

“No. I’m paying you a compliment you deserve. Get at it.”

Walter got.

Young Rupert in his Slough of Despond had been too busy with himself to
wonder why Sir Philip had corrected him when he described Tom Bradshaw
as a “beast.”

At his mother’s knee, Tom, like all the Bradshaws of the seed of John,
had lisped, “’A ’ate th’ ’epplestalls,” and, when he was a little
older, had learned that he hated them “Because they’re dirty thieves.
Because yon mills o’ theirn are ourn by rights.” This was not socialism
and had nothing to do with the doctrine that all property is theft; it
was the family superstition of the Bradshaws, and they believed it as
the first article of their faith.

They believed it blindly and perhaps none of them were eager to have
their eyes opened because other people’s eyes might have been opened at
the same time and, as things usefully were, it was romantic to be
the wronged heirs to Hepplestall’s. It excused so much, it invited
compassion for the victims of injustice, it extorted charity for these
martyrs to foul play. Details were conspicuously lacking, but the
legend had life and won sympathy for the view the Bradshaws took of
themselves--that they couldn’t be expected to go to work in the mills of
the usurping Hepplestalls. As a family, they were professional cadgers
whose stock-in-trade was their legend, and Staithley held enough people
who were credulous or who were “agin the government” on principle
(whether they took the Bradshaw claim seriously or not) to make the
legend a profitable asset. Repetition is infallible, as the advertiser
knows, and these ragged Ortons of the Staithley slums had plenty of
adherents.

There were several scores of ways of earning a livelihood in Staithley
without working at Hepplestall’s, but the average Bradshaw pretended
that as a natural pride prevented him from serving the despoiler, he
was barred from work entirety, though he did not object to his children
working for him, and Tom began as a half-timer in the mills. A bad time
he had of it too at first. He did not say it for himself, but the other
half-timers said it for him: he was the “lad as owned Hepplestall’s,”
 and if there was any dirty work going, the owner did it, nursing anger
against his family and coming young to a judicious opinion of their
pretensions.

He had his handicap in life, but soon gave proof that if he was a
Bradshaw it was an accident which other people would be wise to forget,
fighting his way from the status of a butt till he was cock of the walk
amongst the half-timers. There is much to be said for a wiry physique as
the basis of success, but Tom shed blood and bruised like any other
boy and the incidents of his battling career amongst the half-timers
at Hepplestall’s did nothing to disturb that first lesson of his life,
“’A ’ate th’ ’epple-stalls.”

Hatred is a motive, like any other, and a strong one. It resulted in
Tom’s conceiving the ambition, while he was a “little piecer,” that he
would some day be secretary of the Spinners’ Union and in that office
would lead labor against the Hepplestalls. He was his own man now,
living not at home but in lodgings, hardily keeping himself on the wages
of a “little piecer” of eighteen, reading the _Clarion_, and presently
startling a Sunday School debating society with the assertion that
he read Marx and Engels in the original. It was not long after that
astonishing revelation of his secret studies that he became unofficial
assistant to the local secretary of the spinners, and might regard
himself as launched on a career which was to take him in 1906 to the
House of Commons.

An election incident accounted chiefly for Sir Philip’s good opinion
of Tom Bradshaw. Tom might forget the legend, but the legend could not
forget a candidate, and it was thrown into the cockpit by some zealous
supporter who imagined that Tom would ride that romantic horse and win
in a canter. Tom thought otherwise; a story obscurely propagated amongst
Staithley’s tender-hearted Samaritans was one thing, emerging into the
fierce light which beats upon a candidate it was another. He was out
to win on the merits of his case, not by means of a sentimental appeal
which, anyhow, might be a boomerang if the other side took the matter up
with the concurrence of the Hepplestalls.

But it was not that afterthought, it was purely his resolution that the
issues should not be confused, that took him straight to Sir Philip. Sir
Philip looked a question at him.

“It might be Union business,” said Tom, “but it isn’t. It’s the election
and I’m here, which is the other camp, to make you an appeal. There’s
a thing being said in Staithley that touches you and me. I haven’t said
it, but it was said by folk that thought they spoke on my behalf. You’ll
have heard tell of it?”

“I’ve heard,” said Sir Philip.

“Well,” said Tom, “there’s always a lot of rubbish shot at elections,
but the less the better. Will you help me to get rid of this particular
load of rubbish? Will you help me to tell the truth?”

“Is there question of the truth?”

“Not in my mind. But in theirs, there is. They believed what they said
of you and me.” And he went on to tell Sir Philip of the belief of the
Bradshaws and of its acceptance by others. “You can put it that it’s
never been an easy thing for me to be a Bradshaw in Staithley. We’re
known as the Begging Bradshaws and it’s been a load I’ve had to carry
that I’m one of them by birth. They’ve begged on the strength of this
story. But it’s only hurt me up to now. It’s going to hurt others
to-day, it’s going to hurt my cause and I’m here not to apologize for
folks that have done no more than said what they believe: I’m here to
ask if you will join with me in publishing the truth.”

“Shall I tell you the only fact known to me which may have bearing on
your family’s belief, Mr. Bradshaw?”

“I wish you would. That there’s a fact of any sort behind it is news to
me.”

“A man called Bradshaw was hanged for the murder of an ancestress of
mine. It is possible you are descended from this man.”

“By gum!” said Tom. “That’s an ugly factor. I didn’t know I was in for
one like that when I came here asking you to help me with the truth.
Well, we’ll publish it. It’ll not help me, but I’m for the truth whether
it’s for me or against me.”

Sir Philip crossed the room to him. “Shake hands, Mr. Bradshaw,” he
said. “We’ll tell the truth in this together, but at the moment we’ve
not gone very far. Your opinion of your family in general makes you
rather too ready to believe that they are in fact the descendants of
this murderer.”

“Thank you, Sir Philip,” said Tom. “But I’m not doubting it.”

“What we can do, at any rate, is to go together through the records of
the firm. Or I will employ some one who is accustomed to research and we
will issue his report. My cupboard may have a skeleton in it, but it is
open to you to investigate.”

Tom Bradshaw sweated hard. “It’s making a mountain out of a mole hill,”
 he said. He had never, since the half-timers taught him commonsense, had
anything but contempt for the legend of the Bradshaws; at every stage
of his upward path it had embarrassed him, but never had he felt before
to-day that it pursued him with such poisonous malignity. He had no hope
that any point favoring the Bradshaws would emerge from an examination
of the records; it would be a fair examination of dispassionate title
deeds and its fairness would be the more damaging. And he had pleaded
for the truth, he had put this rapier into his political opponents’
hands! The Labor candidate was the descendant of a murderer!

“Thank you again,” he said.

“Oh, as to that,” said Sir Philip, “the existence of this belief
interests me. If our searcher finds any grounds for it here or in parish
registers or elsewhere, I shall of course acknowledge them. But the odds
are that the legend springs from a perverted view of the murder of which
I have told you, and if that is so, I fear the disclosure will hardly
profit you.”

“It won’t,” said Tom gloomily. “But it’ll shut their silly mouths.”
 If, he reflected, it did not open them in full cry on a new and odious
scent.

“So we go on with it?”

“We go on.”

“May I say this, Mr. Bradshaw? That your attitude to this affair
increases an admiration of you which was considerable before? If you
beat us in this election we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that
we are beaten by a man.” Which was handsome, seeing that there was
the stuff of libel in the statements of Tom’s well-meaning supporter.
Amenities, but Tom did not doubt their sincerity, and his sentiment of
personal hatred, already weakened by contact with the Hepplestalls in
his Union affairs, merged into his general and tolerantly professional
opposition to capitalists.

In the event, what was issued was a statement simply denying, on the
authority of a historian, of Sir Philip and of Tom, that the claim
made by the Bradshaw family, and repeated during the election, had any
foundation whatsoever, and whether the denial had effect or not, it
cannot have made much difference to Tom’s candidature. He had a clear
two thousand majority over both Liberal and Unionist opponents, and had
held the seat ever since, while the legend of the Bradshaws, like any
lie that gets a long start of the truth, flourished as impudently as
ever. In Bradshaw opinion, Tom Bradshaw had been bought, and they found
fresh evidence for this view whenever Tom’s matured attitude toward the
Masters’ Federation earned for him the disapproval of extremists. They
did not cease to teach their children that if every one had their own,
Hepplestall’s was Bradshaws’. “A gang of wastrels,” Sir Philip had
called them to Rupert, and could have quoted chapter and verse for his
opinion. As he read the history dredged by his searcher, the Bradshaws
began with John, a murderer, and ended in a family of beggars; but he
excepted Tom. When the Union spoke to him through Tom, there was no
bitterness between them; there was a meeting on equal terms between two
men who respected each other. Sir Philip recalled the Bradshaws as they
figured in his historian’s report, and he recalled the Hepplestalls.
“Dying fires,” he thought; Tom Bradshaw was eminently the reasonable
negotiator.

Walter Pate crashed out the final chords.

“Aye,” said Tom, “aye. A grand lad, Wagner. And when I hear you play
him, it’s a comfort to know I can wipe the floor with you at chess.”
 Which Mr. Pate accepted as a merited salute to a brilliant performance,
and unscrewed the stopper from a bottle of beer. A moment later Tom
stared at his friend in blank amazement; he was staggered to see Pate
raise the glass to his lips and put it down again.

“Man, are you ill?” he cried. The beer foamed assuringly, but, to be on
the safe side, Tom tasted it. “The beer’s fine, what’s to do?”

“Shut up, you slave to alcohol. Shut up and listen.”

Walter opened the window, the cold night air blew in and with it came
from the street the strains of “Lead Kindly Light,” sung in a fresh
girlish voice.

Fires are fires in Staithley, as Tom was in the habit of telling
Londoners who put coal by the dainty shovelful into a doll’s house
grate, and if he was commanded to shut up he could do it, but the open
window was a persecution. There was a silent pantomime of two elderly
gentlemen one of whom struggled to close a window, the other to keep it
open, then Tom turned to the defeated Walter with a “What the hangment’s
come over you?”

“Have you no soul at all, Tom? Couldn’t you hear her?”

“I heard a street-singer.”

“You heard a class voice, and you’re going to hear it again.” Mr. Pate
was at the window.

“Then bring her in,” said Tom. “I’ll freeze for no fad of yours. A class
voice in Staithley streets!”

“A capacity to play chess is a limiting thing,” was fired at him as
Mr. Pate left the room. Tom took an amicable revenge by emptying both
glasses of beer. “I’ve cubic capacity, choose how,” he said, indicating
their emptiness as Walter returned with the girl who had been singing.

“Get warm,” said Walter to her. “Then we’ll have a look at you.”

She had, clearly, the habit of taking things as they came, and went to
the fire with as little outward emotion as she had shown when Walter
pounced upon her in the street. She accepted warmth, this strange,
queerly luxurious room, these two men in it, as she would have accepted
the blow which Walter’s upraised hand and voice had seemed to presage in
the street--with a fatalism full of pitiable implications.

She was of any age, beyond first childhood, that went with flat-chested
immaturity; she was dirty beyond reason, but she had beauty that shone
through her gamin disorder like the moon through storm-tossed cloud. Her
tangled hair was dark auburn, her eyes were hazel and as the fire’s heat
soaked into her a warm flush spread over her pinched face like sunshine
after rain on ripening corn.

“Can you sing anything besides ‘Lead Kindly Light?’” asked Walter.

“Of course she can’t,” said Tom. “It’s the whole of the beggar’s opera.”
 He was sore about that opened window and resented this girl who
had disturbed a musical evening. He had appetite for more than the
“Meister-singer,” and seemed likely, through the intruder, to go
unsatisfied.

She looked pertly at Tom. “’A can, then,” she said. “Lots more, but,”
 her eyes strayed round the room, “’a dunno as you’d fancy ’em.”

“Go on,” said Walter. “There’ll be supper afterwards.”

“Crikey,” she said, and sang till he stopped her, which was very soon.
They had a taste in the meaner public-houses of Staithley for the sort
of song which it is libelous to term Rabelaisian. Her song, if she did
not know the meaning of its words, was a violent assault upon decency;
if she did know--and her hesitation had suggested that she did--it was
precocious outrage.

“Stop it,” cried Walter, horrified.

Tom spat into the fire. “My constituents!” he groaned. “Walter, it’s a
queasy thought.”

“I thought you favored education,” said Walter.

“I do, but--”

“Go on favoring it. It’s a growing child.”

“Thanks,” said Tom gratefully. “You’re right. This is foul-tasting
tonic, but it’s good to be reminded how far we haven’t traveled yet.”

Walter’s hand strayed gently to his friend’s shoulder.

“Short fights aren’t interesting,” he said, and turned to the
girl, whose patient aloofness through this little conversation, so
unintelligible to her, was, again, revealing.

“Go back to the hymn,” he said.

“A hymn?” The word had no meaning for her.

“‘Lead Kindly Light,’” he explained.

“Oh, that,” she said, and sang it through without interruption. It
was street singing, adapted to penetrate through the closed windows
of Staithley and by sheer shrillness to wring the withers of the
charitable. Tom Bradshaw, amateur of music, found nothing in this
insistent volume of song to account for Walter Pate’s interest; she
made, tunefully, a great noise in a little room, and he wished that
Walter would stop her, though not for the same reason as before.
But Walter did not stop her, he listened and he watched with acute
absorption and when she had finished, “again,” he said, gesturing Tom
back into his chair with a menacing fist.

“It goes through me like a dentist’s file in a hollow tooth,” Tom
protested.

“You fool,” said Mr. Pate pityingly, and, to the girl, “Sing.”

“Now,” he said when she had ended, “I don’t say art. Art’s the
unguessable. I say voice and I say lungs. I say my name’s Walter Pate
and I know. Give me two years on her and you’ll know too. If you’d
like me to tell you who’ll sing soprano when the Choral Society do the
‘Messiah’ at Christmas of next year, it’s that girl.”

“’Oo are you gettin’ at?” she asked.

“I’m getting at you, getting at you with the best voice-producing system
in the North of England--Walter Pate’s. And when I’ve finished with you,
you’ll be--well, you won’t be singing in the street.”

“Well, I can’t see it, Walter,” said Tom.

“You’ve the wrong letters after your name to see it,” said Walter, “but
I’ve made a find to-night, and I’m gambling two years’ hard work on the
find’s being something that will make the musical world sit up. Buy a
cheap brooch and it’s tin washed with gold. That voice is the other way
round. It’s tin on top and gold beneath and I’m going digging for the
gold.” Not, he might have added, because gold has value in the market.
If Walter Pate had discovered a voice which, under training, was to
become the pride of Staithley, that was all he wanted; he wouldn’t hide
under a bushel his light as the discoverer and the instructor, but all
he wanted else was proof in support of his often expressed opinion that
musically Staithley led Lancashire (the rest of the world didn’t matter)
and he thought he had found his proof in--he turned to the girl. “You
haven’t told us your name,” he said.

“Mary Ellen Bradshaw,” she told him, and “Lord!” said Tom. “You’ll waste
your time.”

“I shan’t,” said Walter. “There’s grit amongst that tribe. You’re here
to prove it.”

“Where do you live?” Tom asked her.

“Brick-yards, mostly,” she said. “I’m good at dodging bobbies.” There is
warm sleeping by the kilns, and the police know it.

“Got any parents, Mary Ellen?”

“’A dunno. They was there last time ’A went to Jackman’s Buildings.
There weren’t no baggin’ there, so ’a ’opped it. That’s a long time
sin’.”

“This gentleman is called Bradshaw,” said Walter, to Tom’s annoyance.

“Is ’e?” she said. “’A ’ate th’ ’epplestalls.” It might have been
a password, and Tom thought she had the intention, in speaking it,
to curry favor with a rich relation, but as it happened Mary Ellen
was sincere. She did not say she hated the Hepplestalls to please Tom
Bradshaw. She said it because it was true.

Tom certainly wasn’t pleased. He reached for his hat. “I’m off out of
this,” he said, and when Walter looked at him with surprise, “Man,” he
said, “it’s beyond all to find that old ghost jibbering at me when I’ve
sweated blood to lay it. You do not hate the Hepplestalls,” he roared at
Mary Ellen. “They’re decent folk and you’re mud.”

“Aye,” she said submissively. That she was mud, at any rate, was not
news to her.

“Aye, what?”

“What yo’ said.”

“Come,” said Walter. “There’s tractability.”

“I call it cunning. Beggar’s cunning. She’s a Bradshaw.”

“Not to me. She’s a Voice, and, by the Lord, I’ll train her how to use
it.”

“What are you going to do, Walter?” Tom put his hat down, feeling that
it was ungenerous to leave his friend in the grip of a mistaken impulse.

“Steal her. Well, no. That’s not to do; it’s done. She’s here. Mary
Ellen, you’re going to sleep in a bed to-night, with sheets and a
striped quilt on it like you see in the windows of the Co-op.”

“Oo--er,” said Mary Ellen.

“But,” said Walter, “you’re going to be washed first. The water won’t be
cold. It’ll be warm, and it’ll be in a bath. You’ve heard of baths?”

She nodded. “Aye,” she said, “you ’ave ’em when you go to quod.”

Tom turned suddenly away and when he looked round there were marks of
suffering on his face. “I’ve been living too soft, Walter,” he said.
“I’ve been forgetting.”

“No,” said Walter, “your whole life is remembering. Education, Tom.
Isn’t that the sovereign remedy?”

“I’m believing in nothing just now,” said Tom Bradshaw.

“Then I am. I’m believing in the voice of Mary Ellen and I’m going to
educate it.”

“Will it ’urt?” asked Mary Ellen.

“No,” said Tom, “but I will if you’re not grateful to Mr. Pate. I’ll
break your neck.”

“Tom, Tom!” protested Walter.

“Eh, lad,” said Tom, “I’ve got the heartache for the waif, but you’re
aiming to sink two years’ good work in her, and she a Bradshaw. Man,
they’re the Devil’s Own. They’ll take and take and--do you fancy this
is like me, Walter? Me arguing against one of the downs being given
a chance to get up! But when it’s you that’s giving the chance and a
Bradshaw that’s to take it I’ve a sinking feeling that the risk’s too
big. They’ll bite the hand that feeds them, they’ll--”

“Well, I’ll be bitten then. There are times when I doubt if you’ve a
proper sense of the place of music in the world and I tell you, this
is one of them. If I’m vouchsafed the chance of giving that voice to
mankind, I can do without having her gratitude thrown in. I’m doing this
to please myself, my lad, and for the honor and the glory of Staithley
Bridge. If she goes on to where I’m seeing her, she’ll wipe her boots on
me in any case, but she’ll not wipe out the fame of Staithley that bred
her.”

“She was bred in Jackman’s Buildings. The beastliest slum in the town.”

“They’ll go pilgrimages to her birthplace.”

“You don’t believe that. Music’s as bad as drink for damaging a man’s
sense of proportion.”

Mary Ellen fidgeted, not with, the distress which may be supposed to
assail a sensitive child who is discussed before her face, but because
the conversation missed her main point. “When’s supper?” she asked.

“After your bath,” said Walter, defying Tom with his eyes. Tom took
up his hat again. “I’m off,” he said. “I’ve never found the cure for
fools.”

“All right,” said Walter. “In two years’ time, you’ll be the fool. I’m
going bail for that Voice, and it’s neither here nor there that the
Voice goes with a Bradshaw.”

“Good night,” said Tom, and went.

Mary Ellen “pulled bacon” at the door he closed behind him. “’A ’ate
th’ ’epplestalls,” she said cheekily, but her impudence fell from her
as he returned. She thought he had heard her and had come to inflict
punishment.

But Tom had not heard. “Walter,” he said, “if you value my friendship,
there’s a thing you’ll not deny me.”

“Well?”

“I pay half. Let’s be fools together.”

Walter sucked meditatively at an empty pipe. “Aye,” he said, “we’re both
bachelors and,” holding out the hand of partnership, “I’m generous by
nature, Tom. Tell Mrs. Butterworth I want her as you go downstairs.”



CHAPTER III--MARY ELLEN

MARY ELLEN heard with trepidation that there was a Mrs. Butterworth on
the premises; she was old enough to know that it was one thing to “get
round” two men, and another to cozen a woman.

Her cozening had not been much more culpable than that of any one who
sees a chance and determines not to fritter it away by understatement.
It was not quite true, it was a propagandist gloss upon the truth,
to say that she slept out on the brickfields, implying that she was
homeless when she had sleeping rights in the fourth part of a bed in
Jackman’s Buildings. But there had been no dissembling, no thought to
please Tom Bradshaw, when she said she hated the Hepplestalls. She hated
them because she hated the misery in which she lived and because they
were the cause of her living in misery. That was her implicit belief
and the guile had not been in stating it but in denying it when Tom
commanded her denial.

The guile had succeeded, too. Tom Bradshaw was not a strong man of his
faction without knowing that there is a cant of the underdog as of the
upper, and he had suspected her of “beggar’s cunning.” Then she had won
him round; he had remembered that she was of his clan, he had felt that
there, but for the grace of God and the difference of age and sex, went
Tom Bradshaw, and he had gone partners with Walter in her future.

She had conquered males, but she feared Mrs. Butterworth and drew closer
to the fire lest the woman should detect her as not so unsophisticated
as she seemed nor so young as she looked.

She did not know Mrs. Butterworth nor the strength of Mrs. Butterworth’s
affection for Walter. Mrs. Butterworth was, in nominal office, his
housekeeper; actually she was slave, without knowing she was slave, to
a man who did not know he had enslaved her. Stoically she took whatever
came from Walter, and things like lost kittens and broken-legged
puppies came habitually. This time, making unprecedently a call upon
her tolerance, a girl came and Mrs. Butterworth might have been provoked
into defining the duties of a housekeeper to a bachelor. Instead, she
listened to instructions, put on an overall, got out her disinfectants
and prepared to clean Mary Ellen and to burn her clothes with a placid
competence which asserted that she was not to be overcome by any freak
of Walter’s, no matter how eccentric.

“If she’s to go into the spare bed,” she said, “she’ll go clean.”

No need to dwell on happenings in the bathroom; they were there for a
long time, and when Mary Ellen came out, wrapped in a night-dress of
Mrs. Butterworth’s, she felt raw from head to foot. But she had two
satisfactions which sent her very happily to sleep in spite of her
rawness. One was bread and milk in quantity, the other was the assurance
she derived from the looking-glass that if her parents saw her, they
would not recognize her. Her voice had been an asset to her parents who
had been therefore not so indifferent to the existence of their Mary
Ellen as her story had suggested.

Mrs. Butterworth returned to the sitting room. “She’s in bed,” she
reported.

“Thank you,” said Walter and then, by way of explanation, added, “She
can sing.”

“I thought it would be that,” she said.

“Yes, yes, it is quite extraordinarily that. Did I make it clear to you
that she will live here?”

“I’ll keep her clean,” said Mrs. Butterworth, shouldering the burden.

“And she had better be described as my niece, from, let us say, Oldham.
You will buy her clothes to-morrow. Her name is Mary. We will call her
Mary Pate.”

“It’s a good name to take risks with,” she warned him.

“Wait till I’ve taught her how to sing.”

“Oh, aye,” she said, with seeming skepticism; but she was not skeptical.
She accepted Mary, she believed in her because Walter believed in her
and because his belief was so strong that he bestowed on her the name of
Pate. That settled, for Mrs. Butterworth, that Mary was remarkable.

Walter himself was doubtful if he was justified in sharing his name with
her. It was an honored name in Staith-ley, but when Mary Ellen soared
she would cast luster on the name she bore, and he questioned if he were
not highhandedly appropriating that luster to his name. But on other
grounds, of convenience, of propriety (a singing master had to be
circumspect), of cover from the possible quest of bereft parents, he
decided she had better be Pate.

Why, it Italianized into Patti! He hadn’t thought of that before, but it
seemed a good omen and before he went to bed that night he had planned
in full his scheme for the education of a pupil who did not merely
come to him for lessons while spending the rest of her time out of his
control, but of one who from her uprising to her retiring should be
ordered by him to the single end that she should be a great singer.

No one but a bachelor, and a Mrs. Butterworth-spoiled bachelor at that,
would have imagined that a system so drastic, and so monastic, would
prove workable, but at first Mary Ellen was docile. She had gone without
creature comforts for too long not to appreciate them when she had them,
and she was docile through her fear of losing them, of being sent back
to Jackman’s Buildings or of being dragged back by her parents. Their
beat, certainly, was not her beat now, and the almost suburban street in
which she had been singing when Walter heard her was well away from the
Staithley Beggar’s Mile. But there were always off-chances (such as her
own coming there), and perhaps she knew or perhaps she did not know that
she was one of those people who can be seen across a wide road by
the short-sighted: a quality she had of which there is no particular
explanation except that it is one of the Almighty’s conjuring tricks,
performed for the ugly as compensation for their ugliness and for the
beautiful because to them that hath shall be given.

At any rate, so long as she feared the clutch of her past she subdued
her rebelliousness to the discipline of study, and all too soon he was
treating her companionably, he was letting her into the secret of
the ambition he had for her, he was assuming that because he knew the
necessity of a long, arduous training, she would reasonably submit to
it.

But her submissiveness to his regimen passed with the passing of her
fears. She trusted the disguise of clothes, of the manner she acquired
and of speech, which was no longer that of Jackman’s Buildings,
to confound the Bradshaws even if she met them face to face and as
confidence grew her motive for acquiescence in much that his system
implied was weakened. It implied, especially, the secreting of her
talent until he deemed it ripe for exhibition, and Mary Ellen grew
impatient.

Perhaps he had not clearly stated his ambition or perhaps she had not
clearly understood, but while he expected her to be a pupil long after
her Staithley days were past, she was not looking beyond Staithley, she
was not seeing why work should be continuous now that it had ceased to
be a new sensation. She was avid of results and grew sullen at her labor
which seemed to lead nowhere but to more labor.

He consulted Mrs. Butterworth: was Mary Ellen ill? “I’ll? She’s got
horse-strength, but you can overdrive a horse. All work and no play is
good for nobody.”

“She goes to concerts,” he protested.

“That’s part of her work, and part of her trouble, too. Going and
hearing others sing and you telling her to watch them and to learn what
to avoid, and she fancying she’s better than they are, an’ all.”

“She is better.”

“Then it doesn’t help her to know it and to know they sing in public and
she doesn’t.”

“She shan’t sing yet. What am I to do?”

“Take her mind off it. It’s always concerts. There are theaters.”

There were. There was one in Staithley (there was even, depth below the
deep, a music-hall), but the feeling existed that if playgoing was done
at all it should be done furtively and though Walter would not have
dreamed of putting music and drama in two categories the one labeled
respectable and the other disreputable, he had to defer to the
prejudices of those who did. He lived by teaching music and singing to
the offspring of Staithley’s upper ten, and there might be tolerance
amongst them, but he had to be on the safe side and to take the view
that the theater was a detrimental place. This was self-protective habit
which recently had crystallized into something approaching conviction
through the action of one Chown. The crime of Mr. Chown, and to Walter
it was no less than crime, was to translate the Staithley Hand Bell
Ringers to the music-halls, where they had made much money by (Walter
held) debasing their musical standards. But the music-hall was not the
theater and he had to admit, on reflection, that there was really no
connection between Mr. Chown’s vulgarization of the musical taste of the
Staithley Hand Bell Ringers and Mary Ellen’s going to the play. There
was Shakespeare and if it was prudent for him not to go with her
himself, there was Mrs. Butterworth, who stood awaiting his decision
with a notable and not disinterested anxiety.

It was not disinterested because the slave had her relaxation, her
weekly “night out” when she threw the shackles off and forgot in the pit
of the Theater Royal that she was housekeeper, valet, nurse and mother
to Walter Pate. Not his to ask nor his to tell what delicious freedom
she found in those emancipated hours, but hers the hope to add to them
when she cunningly prescribed the theater as a cure for Mary Ellen’s
restiveness.

“Would you go with her?” he asked shyly, his tone implying that now, if
never before, he was her petitioner.

“If you wish it,” she said, exulting secretly. “I’m sure she needs a
change.”

So, Shakespeare conveniently arriving at Staithley in the hands of a
troupe of actors of heroic good intentions, Mary Ellen went to fairyland
with Mrs. Butterworth who proved, however, when she had grown used to
sitting on a plush chair in the circle instead of on a hard bench in the
pit, an unromantic guide. Mary was lost with Rosalind in Arden and Mrs.
Butterworth took advantage of the interval to parade her knowledge of
the private concerns of the actors. It was, for the most part, a recital
of the sycophantic slush handed by the advance agent to the office of
the _Staithley Evening Reporter_, and printed each Friday unedited. She
knew how Jacques and Phoebe, though they only met when this tour began,
had been married last week at. Huddersfield, and what difficulties had
been overcome to secure legal marriage for a pair of strolling players
who only stayed in a town for a week. And she knew where Rosalind lodged
in Staithley. Mary did not find this disenchanting: for her it linked
fairyland with Staithley. Rosalind was not a dream, mysterious,
impalpably detached from life, but a real woman lodging in a street
which Mary Ellen knew: she walked the pavements in skirts when she
wasn’t ruffling it in doublet and hose, bewitching young Orlando in a
glamorous wood, and if Rosalind why not, some magical day, Mary Ellen?
She gasped at her audacity, at the egregious fantasy of leaping
thought. She was earth-bound by Staithley, and these were the fetterless
imaginings of a freer world.

She couldn’t and she didn’t look beyond Staithley, and the stage seemed
something so remotely beyond her reach that she bid her thought, even
from herself. She had the trick, when chocolate came her way, of
getting on a chair and of putting the packet on the top of her wardrobe,
hoarding it not too long but long enough to make her feel nobly
conscious of severe self-restraint. So with this thought of the stage:
she put it, wrapped in silver paper, at the top of her mental wardrobe,
not wholly inaccessible, but difficult of access, not forgotten but
put where it was not easy to remember it. But it had all the same its
reactions and the chief of these operated in a manner precisely contrary
to Walter’s intentions when he allowed her to go to the play. “She
shan’t sing yet,” (in public, that is) he had said decidedly to Mrs.
Butter-worth, and Mary Ellen, if she admitted doublet and hose to be,
for her, the fabric of a dream, was spurred by that impossible to demand
her possible, to demand her right to wear an evening dress and in it to
appear upon a platform and to sing in public.

“Not yet,” he said. “Not for a long while yet.”

“Oh, Daddy Pate, I can’t wait for ever.”

“Nobody’s asking you to. But you’ll wait till you’re ready.”

“How long?”

“Some time. Years.”

“Years? But you told Mr. Bradshaw I was to sing in the ‘Messiah.’ I’ve
been learning it.”

“You heard that? That night you came? Well, it was a foolish boast
of mine. You practiced it as you have practiced other things, for the
groundwork on which you’ll build.”

“You mean I’m not good enough. Then why have you told me I’m good?”

“You’re too good to spoil.”

“But I’m spoiling now.”

“No: you’re learning.”

She cried piteously and when, surprisingly, that did not move him, she
sulked and refused to eat and managed to make herself so unwell
that work was out of the question and Mrs. Butterworth was guilty of
disloyalty to Walter.

“She’ll fret herself into a decline,” she said. “You’d best give way to
her.”

“She’ll damage her voice if this goes on,” he had to admit. “Can’t
you talk sense to her?” and Mrs. Butter-worth, swinging back to her
allegiance, promised she would try, but her talking was to ears that
were deaf. Mary Ellen, appealed to in the name of gratitude she owed
Walter, was stubbornly unmoved. “I was better off in the streets,” she
said. “I sang. People heard me.”

Mrs. Butterworth held up her hands in scandalized protest. “Oh, dearie!”
 she said, incapable of more.

“Why am I kept down like this?” demanded Mary Ellen. “Mr. Pate knows
best.”

“He knows he’s got me in prison. He thinks he can amuse himself by
trying his experiments on me. His perfect system that has never been
tried before! No, because nobody would stand it, so he picked me off
the street to have me to try it on because he thought I was helpless.
He doesn’t care about me. I’m not a girl. I’m not human flesh and blood.
I’m a thing with a voice that he’s testing a system on, and he thinks
I’ll let him go on testing till he’s tired of it. Years, he said. Years
in a prison! Years, while he bribes me to stand it by making lying
promises--”

“Oh! he never!” said Mrs. Butterworth, stung to defend Walter, though
secretly in sympathy with much of her passionate distortion of his
motives.

“He did! He said I was to sing solo in the ‘Messiah’ and now he says I
shan’t. He isn’t tired of his experiments yet.”

“I’m sure he means it for your good.”

“Yes. Father’s licked me saying that and loving me I’m being kept
down for his pleasure and I’m tired if he isn’t. I’m going back to the
streets.”

“That’s foolish talk, Mary.”

“I’m going to sing somewhere. That may be foolish, but it’s fact.”

“Well, I’ll tell him. Now eat your breakfast.”

“No,” said Mary Ellen, hunger-striker, and Mrs. Butterworth reported
a total failure in guarded misquotation of the rebel. “I can put bacon
before her, but I cannot make her eat. And she’ll run away. She will, as
sure as eggs are eggs, and you’ll lose her then. We can’t lock her up.”

“No.” Walter mused upon the authority of a foster-father, clamping his
anger down, recognizing the weakness of his position. He was not her
guardian; he had no reason to suppose that her parents were alive or
that any one had better right than he had to command her, but he had
assumed possession of Mary Ellen as if she were a kitten and a girl was
not a kitten. He could only rule by the consent of the ruled, and he
thought he had earned her consent. He had given her so much--even,
treating her as of discreet age, his confidence--and he had thought she
had responded, he had thought she had reasonably understood what he was
doing and why. But if she put it that he was simply a tyrant, there was
nothing to do but to humor her till, in time, she saw indisputably that
he was right. To let her go, to lose what had been so well begun, was
unthinkable.

Mrs. Butterworth, sensitive to Walter’s suffering, broke in upon his
thoughts. “I’d like to whip the thankless brat,” she said viciously,
and if she was hinting at a policy it might have been a sound one.
But Walter was not thinking whether Mary Ellen was or was not still of
whipable age, he was going back, whimsically, to his beginnings with
her, he was thinking how he had said to Tom, “If she goes on to where
I’m seeing her, she’ll wipe her boots on me.” The boot-wiping had begun
before he looked for it; that was all except that it was his system on
which she wiped her boots, his system off which she rubbed the bloom.

He went to Mary, still staring at her uneaten meal, with a compromise.
“I think you might sing this season with the Choral Society, Mary,”
 he said, “attending their practices and appearing in public when they
appear.”

“Daddy Pate,” she said, “I didn’t mean to be a nuisance, but I had to
make you see it. The Choral Society? That means just in the chorus.”

“Well, for this season, Mary.”

“But the ‘Messiah’? You promised me.”

“Oh, hardly. But we shall see, Mary. We shall see.” And knowing that she
had got him, so to speak, with his foot on the butter-side, she kissed
him very sweetly and then, to show him what a practical, commonsensical
person she really was, she sat down to breakfast. “And I don’t mind,”
 she said, “if the bacon is cold,” and ate, magnanimously.



CHAPTER IV--MR. CHOWN OF LONDON

THE best that could be said about the Wheatsheaf Hotel at Staithley
Bridge was very good indeed; it was that when a certain eminent
actor-manager was appearing in Manchester, he put up at the Wheatsheaf
in Staithley and motored in and out. It is thirty miles each way, there
is a Midland Hotel in Manchester, and actor-managers know all there is
to know about personal comfort. That places the Wheatsheaf.

It was Staithley’s sporting hotel, and golf club-houses, not to mention
the habit of golfers of motoring to their sport, have dispelled the
illusion that sportsmen are a hardy race. The Wheatsheaf had its crowded
hour when the visiting teams of professional footballers who came to
oppose Staithley Rovers arrived in a charabanc, and attracted customers,
who paid reckless prices for drinks in a place where they could get near
views of authentic heroes: but for the most part, solid, quiet comfort
was the keynote of the Wheatsheaf and commercial travelers knew it.

Those of them who were not victims of the falling status of the
traveler, and the too closely scrutinized expense accounts, went to the
Wheatsheaf; the others envied them and went where they could afford to
go. The uninstructed Londoner would have passed it by without a second
glance; the Wheatsheaf did not advertise. It was innocent of gilt, and
its whisky was unwatered. It was a very good hotel.

Nevertheless, Mr. Alastair Montagu, who always stayed there when his
company was at the Theater Royal, was surprised to see Lexley Chown
in the smoking room of the Wheatsheaf. He remembered the eminent
actor-manager, and his surprise was not that Chown, being in Staith-ley,
should have the discrimination to stay at the Wheatsheaf, but that
Chown should be in Staithley. Chown was a figure in the profession, but
emphatically a London figure.

The business of Mr. Chown was that of an “artiste’s agent.” A middleman
trading in human flesh and blood? Perhaps; but Chown was a useful
clearing-house. He was an impressive person, floridly handsome,
beautifully dressed, and the routine work which kept him and the
expensively rented, exquisitely furnished suite of offices near
Leicester Square was something like this. A manager would ring up and
say that by to-morrow he must have a snub-nosed actor, six feet tall,
with red hair and a cockney accent to play a part worth seven pounds a
week. Mr. Chown, or Mr. Chown’s secretary, consulted the card index and,
by its means, collected half a dozen unemployed actors who answered,
roughly, to the manager’s specification, and sent them to see the
manager, who might choose one of them but more probably would not. He
would probably ring up and say, “I say, Chown, I’ve looked over this
bunch. Not one of them a bit like it.” Chown would reply, truthfully,
that each of his applicants had a snub nose, red hair, was six feet high
and a cockney who was prepared to act for seven pounds a week, and that
these were the qualifications the manager had demanded. The manager
would not deny it, but “I had a brain-wave last night. Billy Wren is the
man I want for that part. He was born to play it, only,” pathetically,
“I don’t know where he is.”

“I do,” Mr. Chown would say calmly. “He’s in ‘The Poppy Plant,’ which is
at Eastbourne this week and at Torquay next week.”

“Get him out of that for me, old man.”

“I’ll try, but Billy is five feet six, his hair is black and he’s got a
Roman nose.”

“I don’t care: I want him.”

“And his salary is sixteen.”

“Who cares?” Billy would be wired for, cajoled into giving up the
certainty of his tour for the uncertainty of a London run, his touring
manager would be placated with a substitute at half Billy’s salary,
and the London Manager would pay Mr. Chown precisely nothing for these
services. Did Mr. Chown, then, help lame dogs over stiles for nothing?
Not at all: he received ten per cent of the actor’s salary for the first
ten weeks of a run, from the actor. His brains and his system were at
the service of the manager, but it was the actor who paid all while
receiving certainly not more than the manager who paid nothing, not
even compliments to Mr. Chown on the astonishing efficiency of that
compilation of many years, his card index.

That was the bread and butter work of Mr. Lexley Chown, but his portly
form was not nourished on Lenten fare, nor was his wine bill paid out of
his card index. He was an industrious seeker after talent buried in the
English provinces; he had the flair--not the nose, for, remarkably, Mr.
Chown was not a Jew--for discovering young people of merit whose market
value, under intelligent handling, would in a few years be in the
neighborhood of a hundred pounds a week. It is a profitable thing to be
sole agent of a number of people each earning a hundred pounds a week.

When business was good--and Staithley was a good “No. 2” town--Mr.
Alastair Montagu was capable of believing what his posters asked the
public to believe about the merits of his company, but in his most
optimistic, his most characteristically showman-like mood, he could not
persuade himself that Lexley Chown had come from London to Staithley
looking for stars of the future amongst the sprightly old women and
elderly young men of “The Woman Who Paid” company. There was old Tom
Hall, of course, a sound actor who ought to be in London, but Chown knew
all about Tom, and about Tom’s trouble, too. Whisky drinkers on Tom’s
scale weren’t Chown’s quarry, nor, indeed, he reflected, were sound
actors either. To be a “sound actor” is to be damned with faint
praise and a mediocre salary. No: Chown must be after something at the
music-hall, and Montagu had “popped in” the other evening without seeing
anything extraordinary. But that was just it, with Chown. There was
nothing extraordinary about the people he discovered until after he
discovered them; then every one saw how extraordinary they were.

Chown, shaking Montagu’s hand and bending over it with an inclination of
the body which seemed derived from Paris rather than London, was merely
Chown not differentiating between this unimportant touring manager
and the great ones of the earth who paid high salaries to established
reputations. But Mr. Montagu was flattered, he had a fine capacity for
flattery.

“My dear Montagu, I’m delighted,” said Mr. Chown. “You will honor me by
dining with me? They have a Chablis here that really is not unworthy of
your acceptance.”

It was flattering to be thought a connoisseur of wine, and Chown had
skillfully mentioned a wine that couldn’t go beyond Montagu’s _savoir
vivre_, instead of the more esoteric drinks of his own preferring. Yet
Mr. Chown, taking trouble to secure a guest, wanted nothing of Montagu
but his company. The theater is at once convivial and self-insulating.
Chown hated solitude, and though there were hail-fellow-well-met
commercial travelers in the hotel whose conversation would have been
a tonic, he preferred the limited Mr. Montagu. Erroneously, Mr. Chown
despised commercial travelers.

Mr. Montagu, in gratitude, decided to give Mr. Chown a hint. Mr. Chown
was in evening dress.

“I am glad to hear,” said Mr. Chown, who had heard nothing at all, “that
you are having excellent houses.”

The houses were no better than Montagu’s inexpensive company deserved.
“I am not,” he confessed, “doing musical comedy business. Still, they
have a feeling for the legitimate here. Staithley’s a good town, if,” he
added, trying to give his kindly hint, “it isn’t dressy.”

“No. I suppose one mustn’t judge these people by their clothes. They
don’t put their money on their backs in the North. They’ve more left to
spend on the theater, Montagu.”

“And the music-hall.”

“Ah! You feel the competition?”

“I wasn’t meaning that. Look here, Chown, are you coming in to see my
show to-night?”

“Well--” Mr. Chown’s whole anatomy, as seen above the table, was apology
incarnate.

“No. You’re not. I didn’t think it and that’s why I didn’t ask at once.
It’s some one at the Palace you’ve come to see, isn’t it?”

“What makes you think so?”

“Well, there’s nothing else in Staithley.” The theater _is_
self-insulating. “And you haven’t come here for your health. But, if
you’ll excuse my saying it, they don’t dress for the theater, let alone
the Palace, and if you go there as you are, they’ll throw things at you
from the gallery.”

“Montagu, I shan’t forget this kindness,” said Chown.

“You put me under obligation to you. But--did you never hear of an
Eisteddfod?”

“Is it a new act on the halls?” asked Mr. Montagu, who did not rapidly
clear his mind of an obsession.

Mr. Chown smiled. “Not yet,” he said, but “out of the mouths of
babes and sucklings,” he thought, mentally filing an idea for future
reference.

“Wait a moment,” said Mr. Montagu. “Why am I thinking of Lloyd George?”

“Because of a natural association of ideas. Staithley Eisteddfod,
however, is a Lancashire occasion with a Welsh label that hasn’t much to
do with it. You may recall the Hand Bell Ringers who were on the halls
some years ago. I picked them up at Staithley Eisteddfod. It’s a sort of
competitive festival of song, and if I were not dressed, I should not be
admitted to the stalls.”

Staithley was, so to speak, on Montagu’s beat, and it was not on,
obviously, Chown’s. Yet here was Chown telling Montagu something
about Staithley quite material to his business, which he did not know.
Staithley Eisteddfod did not advertise: the largest hall in the town was
too small to hold the friends of the competitors, let alone the hardly
more dispassionate public, and Chown had his ticket for the stalls
because he was a subscriber to the funds. Short of theft, it was the
only way by which one could become possessed of a ticket.

He did not add, though he knew, that Montagu’s second-rate company
with their third-rate play was at the Staithley Theater Royal that week
because more alert managers, with better attractions, steered clear
of the place in that week of musical ferment, and the resident theater
manager had to take what he could, by diplomatic silence, get. One lives
and learns and Mr. Montagu would learn that week without a living wage;
his moderate houses belonged with the early, pre-Eisteddfod nights of
the week and though only the favored few would crowd into the Eisteddfod
Hall, the rest of Staithley, hot partisans of the performers, watched
and waited.

Music is music in Lancashire.

“Ah.” said the innocent Mr. Montagu, “if it’s music, and dressed at
that, it’ll not affect me at the theater.”

“Let me fill your glass.” said Mr. Chown. “What’s your opinion of the
cinemas?”

Mr. Montagu was of the opinion, current, in 1912. that, the cinemas were
of no account. Revolutions in the making are apt to go unperceived by
their contemporaries. Chown was less insular, but “Imagine.” he said,
“the strangled emotions of the young man in the stalls who desires
a woman he sees on the cinema and then realizes she is a shadow on a
screen.” They finished dinner on a genially Rabelaisian note.

Chown chose this, the first evening of the Eisteddfod, because there
were to be no Hand Bell Ringers and no instrumentalists: there was
choral singing and there were soloists. He was going to hear Choral
Societies from all over Lancashire sing, one after the other, the same
chorus from “King Olaf,” and he was going to hear soloists, one after
the other, sing the same song. It was, on the face of it, the dullest
possible way of spending an evening, yet the packed audience in
Staithley Drill Hall considered themselves privileged to be there. The
official judges who were Walter Pate and two others (which meant, for
practical purposes. Walter Pate alone) sat screened oft from view of the
performers, lest prejudice should mar the fairness of their decisions.
They heard but did not see.

The audience heard and saw, and the singers were not numbers to them but
“our Annie”’ or “our Sam”’ or “our lot fra? Blackburn”’ and so on. Local
feeling ran high under an affectation of cool discrimination and broke
out in wild applause, intended to influence the judges’ verdict, coming,
curiously localized, from parts of the hall where adherents had gathered
together in the belief that union is strength. But they were, one
and all, susceptible to fine shades of singing; they didn’t withhold
applause from a fine rendering because the singers were of some other
district than their own. Local patriotism was disciplined to their
musical appreciations.

Mr. Chown, of London, had ceased, as an annual visitor, to be surprised
by this musical cockpit, where not money but taintless glory was the
prize. They competed for the honor of their birthplaces, and for the
privilege of holding a “challenge shield,” inscribed with the winners’
names, until the nest contest. He had ceased even to wonder at that
drastic rule of an autocratic committee imposing evening dress upon the
occupants of the front seats and at its phenomenal results. He was a
worker in research, he was scientifically unemotional about the motive
of his research, but he was on fertile ground here, and if he drew blank
at Staithley Eisteddfod, then Lancashire was not the county he took it
for.

Yet his was not the point of view of Mr. Pate, and the capacity to
sing was the least of the qualities for which he looked. To a sufficing
extent, the capacity would be present in all of to-night’s competitors,
even in those who sang only in chorus, and what Mr. Chown was looking
for was best indicated by the algebraic symbol, X. He couldn’t, himself,
have defined the quality he sought. The reflection of Mr. Montagu about
the actor Tom Hall may be recalled. Tom Hall was a sound actor, lacking
X. If there is a word for X, it is personality. Good locks went for
something, and so did the evident possession of either sex but the whole
of X depended neither upon good looks nor upon sex, and was a mystery of
the stars whom Mr. Chown, with his trustworthy flair, discovered before
they were stars. Technique could be acquired, and Mr.

Chown did not condemn technique, but X _was_ and it was not possible
to acquire it. Add X to technique and the result was a hundred pounds
a week: technique without X was Tom Hall, “The Woman Who Paid” and the
whisky of conscious failure in life.

He sat down with a silent prayer that an X performer would appear on
the platform and that he might not repeat his poignant disappointment
of last year when he had found an unmistakable X only to learn that
its possessor was a Wesleyan who looked upon a theater door as the main
entrance to hell. “But you’re a great artist,” he had told her and “I’m
a Christian woman,” she had replied and left him frustrate.

His program informed him that the first part of the evening would be
occupied by choral singing, and he settled himself on a spartan chair to
await, with what patience he might, the turn of the soloists. There were
ten choirs on the program; at least two hours of it, he reckoned,
but Mr. Chown was no quitter and the zeal of the conductors and the
rusticity of the choirs’ clothing might be trusted to afford him some
amusement. And yet he flagged; the monotony was drugging him, and the
Wheatsheaf had done him very well....

Had he slept? That was the question he asked himself as he saw the girl.
Had he slept through the choral and perhaps half of the solo singing? He
sat up sharply, and, as he did so, realized that a full choir was on
the platform. But his first impression had been that the girl was alone,
and, even now, he found it difficult to see that there were thirty-nine
other people with her.

She eclipsed them. “She’s got it,” he prevented himself with difficulty
from shouting aloud--and Mr. Chown was no easy prey to enthusiasm.
Still, a girl who could wipe out thirty-nine other people, who could
glow uniquely in a crowd! “Put her on a stage,” he was thinking, “and
they’ll feel her to the back row of the gallery.” He noted as additional
facts, accidentals but fortifying, that she had youth and good looks. He
tried, honestly, to fix his attention on a large-headed man in the choir
who had a red handkerchief stuck into his shirt-front, and a made-up tie
that had wandered below his ear. The fellow was richly droll, but it was
no use: the girl drew him back to her. He tried again, with an earnest
spinsterish lady who looked strong-minded enough for anything: and the
girl had him in the fraction of a minute. “She’ll do,” he thought--“if
she hasn’t got religion,” he added ruefully. “Number seven--Staithley
Bridge Choral Society,” he read on his program. That was a
simplification, anyhow: the girl must live in Staithley.

They were the home choir, Staithley’s own, and the applause was
long, detaining them in embarrassed acknowledgment on a platform they
vehemently wished to quit, but Mr. Chown, making for the pass-door under
cover of the applause, observed that there was no embarrassment about
the girl. “Um,” he thought, “no nerves. They’re better with them. Well,
one can’t have everything.” At the pass-door, a steward stood sentinel.
“Press,” said Mr. Chown with aplomb, using an infallible talisman, and
the sentinel made way for him.

When the verdict was announced, the winning choir was to appear again
on the platform to sing a voluntary and to receive acclamations and the
challenge shield. Meanwhile, the whole four hundred contestants were
herded together in the Drill Hall cellarage and Mr. Chown added himself
inconspicuously to their number. Mistaken, as he hoped to be, for
a Staithlwite just come off the platform, he found beer pressed
fraternally upon him, and, heroically, he drank. Self-immolation and
research are traditional companions. He felt that the beer had made him
one of them, but could not withhold a backward glance at the vanity
of West End tailoring. When he had said “Press” to the steward at the
pass-door he had wondered if his costly cut were plausible and now that
same cut was blandly accepted amongst the nondescript swallowtails of
this unconforming mob. But he welcomed their inappreciation; he wanted
to make the girl’s acquaintance first as one of themselves.

A press of women came down the stairs into the cellar and Mary Ellen
was with them but not of them. They chattered incessantly, excitedly,
letting taut nerves relax in a spate of shouted words; she was silent,
unmoved by the ordeal of the platform and the applause, nursing her
sulky, secret resentment of Walter Pate who had refused to let her
compete amongst the soloists. Mr. Pate was guarding his treasure against
premature publicity; he was guarding her, specifically, against Mr.
Chown, that annual raider who had so damnably ruined the Staithley Hand
Bell Ringers by taking them to the music-halls; he hid her in the Choral
Society and he underrated Mr. Chown’s perceptiveness.

She had taken many things from Walter Pate--the good food which had so
unrecognizably developed her, with the physical exercises he prescribed,
from a sexless child into a woman of gracious curves; the good
education, the good musical instruction; the good beginnings of every
kind; and in return she gave him work. He was almost certain of her
now: the tin was gone from her golden voice and when he let his hoarded
secret loose upon the world he knew that, under God, he would be making
a great gift to the concert-platform. He would give a glorious voice,
perfectly trained, and perhaps more than that. But the more was still
only “perhaps.”

“Art,” he had said, “is unguessable” and it remained unguessable. But,
“she’s not awakened yet,” he thought, and hoped for a time when her
voice would be more than well-produced.

It lacked color, warmth, feeling, but she was young and, meanwhile, he
was doing his possible. It was the hardest thing to keep her back
from public trial, both because of the girl herself and because of Tom
Bradshaw, who was paying half her costs and didn’t share Walter’s faith.
But they must wait, they must all wait, and if two years were not long
enough they must wait longer.

Mr. Pate, who looked upon her as the great servant he would give to
music, was screened away in the judges’ box: Mr. Chown, who looked upon
her as an income, watched Mary Ellen take her cloak from a long row
hanging on the wall and go towards the stairs she had just descended.

Evidently, she was for a breath of air and he thought it would be a
shrewd air on his bare head, but the opportunity of private conversation
was too good to be missed and he awaited her return at the foot of the
stair.

“Oh, you are going out?” he said. “So’m I. It’s hot in here.” He
modified the Gallicism of his bow.

“Yes,” she said, consenting to his escort. She knew, better than he did,
that the sort of boisterous crowd which awaits the declaration of
an election result was assembled round the Drill Hall; it would be
convenient to have this big man with her to shoulder a way through it.

Their clothes stamped them as competitors and the crowd gave passage.
Evening dress was licensed in Staithley that night, but his arm was
agreeably protective till they were through the crush; then he withdrew
it.

“I’m glad to be out of that,” he said.

“There’s too much crowd to-night,” said Mary Ellen.

“Ah, you feel that, do you?”

“Choral singing!” she said, with immense disgust.

“Yes, indeed. It does make one feel one of a crowd. I’ve often wondered,
in my own case, if I shouldn’t have done better to have gone on the
stage.”

She looked him over. “Well,” she said, “I suppose you weren’t always
fat. It’s too late now.”

Mr. Chown swallowed hard. “Yes, for me,” he said. “Not for you. Would
you care to go on the stage if the chance came?”

“Would a duck swim?”

Ducks, he thought, more often drowned than swam on the stage; that was
why there was always so much room at the top. “It’s very hard work,” he
said.

“I’m not afraid of work,” she said, and then remembered her grievance,
“if I can see it leading anywhere. Work that only leads to singing with
the crowd isn’t funny.”

“Oh, I can do better than that for you.”

“You can? You?”

“If you will work. If, for instance, you will get rid of your Lancashire
accent.”

“Tha’ gornless fule,” she said, “if tha’ doan’t kna’ th’ differ
’atween Lankysheer an’ t’other A’ll show thee. Me got an accent? Me
that’s worked like a Fury these last two years to lose my accent? Let me
tell you I’ve had the best teachers in Staithley and--”

“Yes,” he interrupted. “The difference is amazing. I realize how you
must have worked. It is only a question now of, so to speak, a finishing
school. The best teachers in Staithley are, after all, Staithley
teachers. I am thinking of London and perhaps not so much of conscious
work as unconscious imitation of the speech of the people who are around
you.”

“London!” she said. “London! Who are you?”

“I’m a well-known theatrical agent, and I became well-known by making
the right people famous. You are one of the right people, but there is
work before you. You can’t act yet. You have it all to learn, acting,
dancing--”

“Not all,” she said. “I can sing.”

“In a Choral Society,” he said.

“You go and ask Walter Pate,” she said, professing a faith in Walter’s
judgment which might, in her circumstances, have been to her credit, but
that all Staithley shared that faith.

All Staithley and Mr. Chown who was at once impressed by her giving
Walter Pate so confidently as reference for her abilities. “Does Mr.
Pate believe in you?” he asked.

“Ask him yourself. Ask him why he keeps me and teaches me and when he’s
told you that, ask him a question for me. Ask why he wouldn’t let me go
in for the solo competition to-night when he says I’m to sing solo in
the ‘Messiah’ at Christmas, and if you get the answer to that, tell me,
for I don’t know.”

Chown thought he could tell her without asking, and marked, gladly, her
bitterness. If Pate was training this girl, it was because he believed
in her. Pate did not take all who came, and wasted no time on fools, but
he had not let her sing as a soloist to-night, though she was to sing
“The Messiah” in a few months. Why? Because tonight was Chown’s night
for being in Staithley and Pate was afraid of Chown. Pate (the dog) had
found something in this girl and was keeping it to himself. He imagined
he had hidden her safely in that choir, did he? But old Chown had the
flair, Chown had spotted the girl’s possession of something Pate did not
know her to possess. Pate only knew she had a voice: Chown knew she
had the stuff in her that stars were made of. Certainly her voice, a
Pate-approved, Pate-produced voice, put an even better complexion on the
matter than Chown had suspected; it meant that here was immediate, and
not merely future, exploitability. She was ripe at once for musical
comedy on tour and when she had shed her accent and picked up some
tricks of the trade, he would stun London with her--if he could filch
her from the wary Mr. Pate.

He did not think of it, precisely, as filching, because his conscience
was quite clear that he, being Chown, could do immensely more for her
than Pate. Pate would be thinking of the salary of a musical comedy
star. Pate would do her positive damage by over-training her up to some
impossible standard ridiculously above the big public’s head; and the
big public was the only public that counted. Mr. Chown saw himself, in
all sincerity, as the girl’s benefactor, if not as her savior.

A word of hers came back to him as a menace to his hopes. “Did I
understand you to say that Mr. Pate keeps you?”

Mary Ellen nodded, and he felt he had struck a snag.

“You are a relative of his?”

“I’m not then. If you want to know, he found me singing in the streets.”

“And was this long ago?”

“Getting on for two years.”

Mr. Chown had the grace to feel a twinge: she was, beyond a doubt,
Pate’s property. But he recovered balance, telling himself very firmly
that Pate would mismanage the property; that life was a battlefield and
that “Vae Victis” was its motto; that one must live and that if Pate had
taken reasonable precautions, he would not have exposed the girl to the
marauding Mr. Chown. And, anyhow, Pate was a provincial.

He asked her age, and “Twenty-one,” she said brazenly, aware of the
trammels of minority. He guessed her eighteen at most, but she wasn’t
impossibly twenty-one and he had his reasons for believing her.

“You couldn’t be a better age,” he said. “I have some doubt as to what
Mr. Pate will say to my proposal of the stage for you.”

“Are you going to tell him about it?” she asked in alarm.

“I will tell you,” he said, “now. If you come with me to-morrow to
London, you can begin at once in a musical comedy on tour.” She gave
a gasp. “Oh,” he said, “you wish to hear no more. You are anxious to
return to the Drill Hall. You are, perhaps, cold?” He was very cold, but
not too cold to play his fish.

“Cold? I could listen all night to this.” Mr. Chown envied her the
undistinguished cloak she wore: _per ardua ad astra_.

“Well,” he said, “it is true that the work I have to offer you is very
different from the restrained, the almost caged existence you have been
enduring. But you will begin in the chorus. You have stage fright to
get over, and all the green sickness of a raw beginner. My friend Hubert
Rossiter”--even Mary Ellen had heard of Rossiter--“will take you and I
shall see that he passes you on from company to company. Soon you will
play small parts, and then leading parts. Possibly, for experience, a
pantomime at Christmas. And while you are learning your business in this
way you will be paid all the time.”

“How much?” she asked promptly.

“Exactly what you are worth,” he said. “You won’t starve and I call your
attention to this point. I act as your agent and I take a ten per cent
commission of your salary. That is all I take, and you will see that it
is to my interests that your salary shall be large. If I did not believe
that your salary in a very few years will be considerable, I should not
be standing bareheaded and without a coat in a Staithley by-street. The
train to London leaves at ten in the morning. Am I to take a ticket for
you?”

“Yes,” she said.

“It is a curious fact,” he remarked, “that I do not know your name. Mine
is Chown. Lexley Chown.”

“Mine’s Mary Ellen Bradshaw,” she said, jettisoning the name of Pate as
useless cargo now.

“Mary,” he mused. “I think we’ll keep the Mary. But we’ll improve the
rest. And now that you and I have settled this between ourselves, when
do I see Mr. Pate?”

“He’s very busy to-night,” said Mary Ellen, “and the train leaves early
to-morrow.”

Mr. Chown looked hard at her, and she met his eye unflinchingly. It was
perfectly understood between them that Walter Pate was a ladder by which
she had reached a secure place. Having reached it, she could kick the
ladder from her, and “Well,” thought Mr. Chown, “she can do it to Pate,
but I’m forewarned.” He turned to go back to the Drill Hall expecting
her to follow. She did not follow, she was gazing fixedly up the street
in which they stood and when he returned, a trifle ill-tempered at
being kept longer than need be in the chilling air, her remark was
disconcerting.

The street ran uphill from the valley of the town, by daylight bleak and
mean, each small house monotonously the repetition of its neighbor,
but seen as she saw it now, blurred in the misty night, it led like
an escape from man’s sordid handiwork to the everlasting hills beyond.
Dimly the rim of Staithley Edge showed as she raised her eyes, vague
blackness obscurely massed beneath a gloomy sky, and above it floated
the trail of smoke emitted from some factory-stack where the night
stokers fed a furnace. Chimneys, the minarets of Staithley; stokers,
the muezzins; smoke, the prayer. Somewhere wind stirred on the blemished
moors and a fresher air blew through the street. Mary Ellen breathed
deeply, greedily filling her lungs as if she feared that to go from
Staithley was to dive into some strange element which would suffocate
her unless she had a stored reserve of vital air. But she was not
thinking that.

Mr. Chown was watching her in some bewilderment. She brought her eyes
down from Staithley Edge to the level of his face. “London’s flat,”
 asserted Mary Ellen.

“Not absolutely,” he assured her.

“It’s flat,” she insisted. “I’m going to miss the Staithley hills.”

It was right and proper for Mr. Chown, agent, to have his offices near
Leicester Square and his beautifully furnished rooms in the Albany; but
it was not right for Mary Ellen Bradshaw to adumbrate the instincts of
the homing pigeon. In Mr. Chown’s opinion, home was a superstition of
the middle-classes, and if an artist was not a nomad at heart, the worse
artist she.

He returned to his seat in the Drill Hall, with his bright certainty of
Mary Ellen a trifle dimmed by her unreadiness to forget the Staithley
hills, just as Walter Pate announced the judges’ decision of the choral
competition. Staithley Bridge were not the first; he faced an audience
which was three parts Staithley and gave the verdict to another choir.
It was wonderful proof of their opinion of Walter Pate that there was no
disposition to mob the referee.



CHAPTER V--HUGH DARLEY’S HANDIWORK

IT is not to be gainsaid that Tom Bradshaw heard of the flight of Mary
Ellen with relief. “I don’t know if I’m a doubting Thomas: I’m sure I’m
a doubting Quixote,” had been his thought lately when he remitted Walter
his half share of her expenses. He was very certain now that he was the
one good Bradshaw, and whatever backward glances Walter might cast Tom
closed the account of Mary Ellen with finality. He would neither see nor
hear that young woman again. “I blame myself,” he wrote to Walter. “She
is a Bradshaw and I ought to have stopped your foolishness instead of
going shares in it. I’ll stop it now, though, and when you write of
going to the police I say I won’t have it. Forget her. (If it comes to
police, owd lad, what price yon pair of white-slaving procurers, thee
and me?). This man Chown that you say you suspect. I’ve made enquiries
and there’s nothing the matter with Chown. And if he looted her from
us, who looted first? It’s a blow to you, but honestly, Walter, better
sooner than later and she would have cut and run when it suited her.
She’s a Bradshaw. Bar me, Bradshaws are muck.”

Meanwhile, the organizer of victory was making first tactical moves in
his Mary Ellen campaign. He made them in a spacious room whose admirable
furniture suggested that this was the Holy of Holies of some eminent
dealer in antiques until one noticed the large, floridly signed
photographs on the walls and the parti-colored advertising sheet which
announced all West End attractions and contradicted crudely the Persian
rugs on the floor: the private office of Mr. Hubert Rossiter, that
elderly miracle of youthful dapperness whose queer high-stepping walk
suggested, especially when he rehearsed a crowd of chorus-girls, nothing
so much as a bantam-cock. He had developed, to an extraordinary degree,
the knack of knowing what the public wanted and of fitting together,
like the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle, incongruous parts that merged under
his touch into the ordered whole of a popular entertainment. He
wasn’t, artistically, without scruple, but Hubert Rossiter with his
two sweetstuff shops in town and his several touring companies in the
country was a prophet of theatrical standardization: a safe man, with no
highbrow pretensions about him, never short of other people’s money for
the financing of his productions.

Chown had been called into the Presence about a matter which might
have caused friction on any other day. Today, Chown wanted something of
Rossiter and the threatening clouds dissolved in smiling sunshine. That
affair settled, Chown took up his hat, then stopped.

“By the way, Hubert,” he said, “whom would you say is the toughest stage
manager you’ve got on tour?”

“There’s Darley. Darley doesn’t wear kid gloves. He’s out with ‘The
Little Viennese.’ I’m told they call that company ‘The Little Ease.’”

“Just what I’m looking for. That’s the South tour, isn’t it?” asked
Chown who did not want Mary Ellen to visit Staithley.

“Yes.”

“Well, will you take a girl from me and put her in the chorus and ask
Darley with my compliments to give her hell?”

“I conclude from this that you want to get back on some one who’s been
pestering you to get a perfect lady on the stage.”

“If I were not an honest man, I’d let you go on thinking that. But when
she’s had three months of Darley, I’m going to ask you to give her a
part in another show and then a lead and--”

“My dear Lexley, you have only to command. I run my companies solely for
your convenience.”

“Seriously, Hubert, you can have first option on this girl at a hundred
a week in town two years hence, and she’ll be cheap at that. Would you
like to see her now?”

“I hate looking at raw meat. What are her points?”

“She can sing.”

Mr. Rossiter shrugged his shoulders. “She’s nothing in my life for
that,” he said.

“She’s got youth.”

“Flapper market’s depressed, Lexley. Give me experience all the time.”

“Darley’s seeing to the experience. I tell you, Hubert--”

“Oh, I know. The perfect Juliet. I’m always hearing of her. Never seen
her yet.” Mr. Rossiter pressed a bell, and the immediacy of the response
suggested that Mr. Claud Drayton, who entered, lived up to the part for
which he was cast, of Field-Marshal to the Napoleon, Rossiter. “Got her
with you, Chown?” asked Rossiter.

“I did venture to bring her.”

“You would. Drayton, Chown’s got a girl here. Chorus in ‘The Little
Viennese’ for three months. Maisie in ‘The Girl from Honolulu’ after
that. Get reports and let me see them. That’ll do. Good-by, Chown.” He
pressed another bell and a shorthand typist appeared as if by magic: he
was dictating letters to her before Chown and Drayton had left the room.
It was efficiency raised to the histrionic degree.

Drayton had eliminated surprise from his official life, but he couldn’t
restrain an instinctive gasp at the sight of Mary Ellen when Chown
urbanely ushered her into his room. He gasped because she did not
comply with, she violated, the first principle of an applicant for an
engagement in the chorus. The first principle was that to apply with any
chance of success for a job worth thirty-five shillings a week, you must
wear visible clothing worth thirty-five pounds; and Mary Ellen was in
the Sunday clothes of Staithley. Her costume was three seasons behind
the fashions when it was new, her shoes were made for durability, and
her hair-dressing made Mr. Drayton think of his boyhood, when he had
gone to Sunday school. But he had his orders and here was Lexley
Chown remarkably sponsoring this incredible applicant. He took out
a contract-form. “Name? Sign here. The company’s at Torquay. Report
yourself at the theater to Mr. Darley to-morrow. You’ll travel midnight.
Show this in the office and they’ll give you your fare.” He fired it all
at her almost without interval, sincerely flattering the manner in which
his chief addressed him, and, as a rule, he flustered the well-dressed,
experienced ladies he addressed. Here was one who was not experienced,
who was dressed so badly that he thought of her as a joke in bad taste
and, confound her, she was not flustered. She took the contract and
the payment-slip from him calmly, eyeing him with a steady gaze which
reduced his self-importance to the vanishing point. “Good-by. Good
luck,” he jerked at her with the involuntariness of an automaton.

She did not intend to seem disdainful; she was merely tired and the
summary marching orders by a midnight train bewildered her. Mr. Chown,
squiring her in her incongruous clothes from the Rossiter headquarters,
thought he had reason to congratulate himself.

There was, first, the document, terrifyingly bespattered with red seals,
which she had signed in his office. She might be a minor, but she had
set hand and seal to the statement that she was legally of age and to
the undertaking on the part of Mary Ellen Bradshaw, hereinafter known as
the artiste and for professional purposes to be known as Mary Arden, to
employ Lexley Chown as her sole agent at the continuing remuneration
of ten per cent of her salary, paid weekly by the artiste to the
agent. Formidable penalties were mentioned, two clerks witnessed their
signatures with magisterial gravity and “Altogether,” thought Mr. Chown,
refraining from handing her a copy of their agreement, “if she shuffles
out of that, she’ll be spry.”

There was, second, the compliance of Mr. Rossiter and the coming
noviciate under Darley. Deliberately he had left her in her country
clothes, trusting them to disguise in the Rossiter offices a quality he
did not wish to be clearly apparent yet: deliberately, he had rushed
her affair thinking all the while of Darley--or if not of him, of a
Darley, of some crude martinet who was to lick her into shape. He wanted
her ill-dressed, he wanted her bewildered. He wanted Darley to know how
raw she was; he wanted hot fire for her and he saw her Staithley clothes
acting upon Darley like compressed air on a blast furnace. The girl was
too cool, she showed no nervousness. “Darley will teach you to feel,
my girl,” he thought: “I’m making your path short, but I don’t want it
smooth. Soft places don’t make actresses. I’m cruel to be kind.” And
being kind he advanced her two pounds on account of commission, told her
the station for Torquay was Paddington and left her on Rossiter’s steps.
He had exposed himself unavoidably to the lifted brows which could not
help saluting the glossy Lexley Chown in the company of these obsolete
clothes, but the necessity was past now and he lost no time in
indicating to her that, for better or for worse, her future was in her
own hands. He had other business to attend to.

Mary Ellen, who had surrendered herself confidingly to his large
protectiveness, was braced by his departure. Their journey together,
the wonder of lunching at a table in a train, the oppressiveness of
offices--these were behind her now and she stood on Rossiter’s busy
steps breathing hard like a swimmer who comes to surface after a long
dive. She breathed the air of London and looked from that office down
a street across Piccadilly Circus, nameless to her. The whirl of it
assaulted her; the swimmer was in the breakers now.

Mr. Rossiter’s commissionaire, not unaccustomed to the sight of young
women pausing distressfully on those steps where they had left their
hopes behind them, addressed her with kindly intent. “Shall I get you a
taxi, miss?”

“No, thanks,” said Mary Ellen, who had noted the immense sums Mr. Chown
had paid to the drivers of those vehicles. “I’ll walk,” and “others
walk” she thought. “I can do what they can,” and hardily set foot upon
the London streets. Let that commissionaire perceive that Mary Ellen was
afraid? Not she, and presently she was so little afraid that she asked
the way to Euston of a policeman. Her suit-case--in strict fact, Mr.
Pate’s suitcase--was at Euston.

The man in the left luggage office at Euston was good enough to tell her
the way to Paddington, but “You can’t carry that,” he said. “Why not?”
 said Mary Ellen, and carried it. The case was heavy and grew heavier:
but there were stretches of her route, the part, for instance, between
Tottenham Court Road and Portland Road, which revived her spirit. That
might have been a bit of Staithley. London was flat; she had seen no
reason in the slight rise of Shaftesbury Avenue to justify Mr. Chown’s
qualifying “Not absolutely”; but there were sights and smells along the
road to Paddington which she accepted gratefully as evidence of some
affinity with Staithley. Piccadilly Circus was not the whole of
London; one could breathe here and there, Praed Street way, in cheering
shabbiness. She saw a barefoot girl, and a ragged boy offered to carry
her bag. There was still a confused echo of the surging West End in her
ears and she hadn’t conquered London, but she had received comforting
assurance that, in spots, London was habitable.

She fortified herself with tea at Paddington, remembered the night
journey and bought buns at the counter, remembered the night journey
again and slept in a waiting-room, cushioned on her bag, till it was
nearly midnight. There was nothing in this precautionary garnering
of sleep to prevent her from sleeping in the train, and her through
carriage to Torquay was being shunted at Newton Abbot when she awoke and
hungrily ate buns. Near Dawlish, she had the first sight in her life
of the sea, and all the emotions proper to the child of an island race
ought to have besieged her in the gray dawn. “It’s big,” she thought,
grudging the sea the character of space, then turned her eyes inland
to the cliffs. “They’re small, but they’re better than the sea.” Not
Staithley Edge, but elevation of a sort.

Mr. Hugh Darley, arriving at the theater at eleven o’clock, was told by
the doorkeeper that a young lady was waiting for him.

“Been here long?” he asked, looking through Mary Ellen who stood in the
passage.

“I came on duty when the night-watchman went off at nine. She was here
then.”

“More fool she,” he said. “Got my letters there?” The doorkeeper had his
letters, including one from Mr. Drayton.

Darley was a small man, with a shock of red hair and intensely blue eyes
which gleamed sometimes with the light of an almost maniacal fury. It
was this uncontrolled temper which kept him out of London: at his job,
the job of infusing energy and “go” into bored chorus girls and
of supplying spontaneity and drollery to comedians who had neither
spontaneity nor drollery of their own, he was masterly when he kept his
temper. A stage manager needn’t suffer fools gladly, but he must suffer
them suavely, he must hide his sufferings and must cajole when his every
instinct is to curse, and Darley was a touring stage manager instead of
a London “producer” because he simply could not roar them as ’twere
any nightingale and London players were too well established not to be
able effectually to resent his Eccles’ vein: the strollers were not.

He read Drayton’s letter through. “Where is she?” he asked.

“Why, here,” said the doorkeeper.

“But,” said Mr. Darley and then “Christ!” he cried, and bit through
his pipe. That often happened: he carried sealing was in his pocket
for plugging the hole. “Comes to a theater at eight in the morning and
dresses like a scullery maid’s night out. What’ll they send me next? I
suppose you _are_ what they’ve sent me? What’s your name?”

“Mary Arden.”

He consulted the advice note of these extraordinary goods. “That’s
right,” he admitted. “Arden! Whom did you see as Rosalind?”

Mary Ellen blushed: he seemed to her to read her secrets. “And me a man
that respects Shakespeare,” he said. “There’s one line of the Banished
Duke you may remember. ‘Sweet are the uses of adversity.’ If you don’t
remember the line, you’re going to, Miss Mary Arden. You chose the name.
I don’t know that I don’t choose to make you worthy of it.”

“Oh, will you?” she cried.

“You’ve got no sense of humor,” he said. “Come on the stage and we’ll
see what you have got. It’ll be like going water-finding in the Sahara.
Can you read music?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Then be looking at those songs. There’s a piano in the orchestra. I’m
going down to it.”

She was staring in amazement at the sheeted auditorium into which the
unexpected rake of the stage seemed threatening to precipitate her.
Vague masses hung over her head in the half-light seeming about to fall
and crush her in the grisly loneliness to which she was abandoned as
Mr. Darley went round to the orchestra. The diminished echoes of his
footfalls were a wan assurance that this place, shunned by daylight as
if it were a tomb, had contacts with humanity. But he had said it was
the stage and however disconcerting she might find its obscure menace,
the stage was where she wished to be and she was not to be put down
either by it or by a little man who was rude about her best clothes,
while he had not shaved that morning and his knickerbockers showed a
rent verging on the scandalous. She had to sing to him and she expelled
her terrors of her strange, her so alarmingly dreary surroundings, and
strained her eyes to read the music he had put into her hands.

He seemed to bob up below her like a jack-in-the-box, and struck some
chords on the piano. “Have you got that one?” he asked.

“Yes.” she said, fighting her impulse to scream at the phenomenon of his
sudden reappearance.

“Then let her go.”

She sang the opening chorus of “The Little Viennese.”

“You’ve sung that before,” he said, accusingly.

“Oh, no.”

“Don’t try to kid me. It won’t pay. Read through the one you’ve got
there marked 3.” No. 3 was a new interpolation; she might know the
rest, but she couldn’t know No. 3. “Ready? Go on,” and, in a minute,
surprised, satisfied but by no means inclined to show his satisfaction
other than by cutting the trial short, “That’ll do, that’ll do,” he said
resentfully. “This isn’t the Albert Hall. What about your dancing?”

“I’m afraid I haven’t danced yet,” said Mary.

“You will,” he said savagely, “and to my piping. I knew there was a
catch in it somewhere,” he thought, “but it comes to me that I’ve found
a hobby for the rest of this tour. They don’t often send me stuff that’s
worth working on.--I suppose you took the name of Arden because you’ve
got a wooden leg,” he jeered aloud.

Mary Ellen’s face clouded, then an accomplishment of her street days
came back to her. They were not, after all, so long ago. She pitched her
hat into the wings and, reckless of the rake of the stage, turned rapid
cartwheels.

“It’s that sort of wood,” she said, breathless but defiant.

“Thanks for the assurance,” he said, “only this isn’t a circus and your
legs are wooden. They’re wooden because you’ve no brains in them and
till you have brains in your toes you’re no use to me. You’ve got an
accent that’s as thick as pea-soup and till you’ve cleared it, it’ll
stay hidden in the chorus. If you’ll work, I’ll teach you to act but,
by the Lord, you’ve work ahead of you. If I take trouble and you don’t
work, I’ll flay you alive. Is that understood? Very well. There’s a
matinee to-day. You come in and see the show this afternoon and you see
it again to-night. You’ll be sitting where I can see you and if I catch
you laughing, I’ll eat you. Leave laughing to the audience; it’s their
job. You’re there to learn. Watch what the other girls do and when they
do it. They’ll love you because I’m calling a chorus rehearsal for you
to-morrow. Make mistakes then if you dare. You’ll play to-morrow night.
See the wardrobe mistress between the shows to-day about your clothes.
I’m paid to make you a chorus girl; you’ll be in the chorus tomorrow
night. Then I begin to have my fun with you. I begin to make your name
something else than an impertinence. I get busy on you, my girl. You’re
clay and I’m the potter. Meantime, we’ll go to the door and I’ll tell
the first girl who comes for her letters to show you where you’re likely
to find rooms and you can ask her why Hugh Darley proposes to spend four
hours a day breaking in a chorus girl.”

Mary asked the other girl, who looked curiously at her. “I never knew
Darley to make love before,” she said.

“Love!” said Mary, blinking startled eyes as if a flashlight had blazed
at her out of darkness.

“Well,” said her cynical friend, “when you’ve been more than five
minutes on the stage, you’ll know that the way to success lies through
the manager’s bedroom. Don’t look at me like that. Down your nose.
I’m not a success, I’m in the chorus running straight on thirty-five
shillings a week, and there are more of us keep straight than don’t.”

Mary was not conscious that she had looked, fastidiously or otherwise,
at her companion. She had a feeling of vertigo; she was thinking of
herself, not of the other girl, and of this shameful threat before which
she seemed to stand naked in her bones.

“We don’t look after other people’s morals,” Dolly Chandler assured her,
“but you may care to know Darley’s married.”

“You think he meant--this?”

Dolly shrugged her shoulders. “He’s a man.”

“And he meant you to tell me what you are telling me?”

“You’re pretty green, you know. I expect he thought I’d put you wise.
Though I tell you again it’s not like what I’ve seen of Darley to do the
sultan stunt.”

And in ordinary clothes she had turned cartwheels before this man! Mary
Ellen blushed scarlet consternation.

Mr. Chown’s thought, “Darley will teach you to feel,” was taking rapid
substance, but she must drive it from her, she must go to the theater
and sit through two performances and memorize, memorize.

“That will do,” said Darley after the rehearsal next day. “Miss Arden
will stay behind. You can go on to-night,” he told her as the rest went
up the stairs. “You’ve got the tunes if you haven’t got the words
and they’re damn fool enough not to matter though you’ll know them by
Saturday. You’ve got a clumsy notion of the movements, but you don’t
know how to move. Your idea of walking is to put one foot in front
of the other. You’re as God made you, but he’s sent you to a good
contractor for the alterations. He’s sent you to me. Did you get Dolly
Chandler to answer that question?”

She failed to meet his eye. Telling herself she was a coward, she tried
and failed.

“I see,” he said. “She answered it the way they’ll all answer it. I’m
going to put in four hours a day with you and Dolly’s told you what
they’ll think of you. Thought’s free and it’s mostly dregs and I don’t
mind. What about you, Rosalind?”

“You mean it won’t be true?” There was a hope and she clutched at it
with words that came unbidden to her lips.

“True?” he roared. “You--papoose, you whippet! Don’t cry, you whelp. I
asked you a question. I asked you if you mind their thoughts?”

“No,” she said.

“Then we start fair,” he said. “I’m having you on the stage and I’m
coming to see you at your rooms, and if you’d like to know your name in
this company, it’s Dar-ley’s Darling. Only you and I’ll know we meet
for work, not play. I’m stage manager of a rotten musical comedy on
a scrubby tour, but I’m a servant of the theater and I’ll prove it on
you.”

He was, disinterestedly, the theater’s servant, and service purged of
self-interest is rare though there is plenty of voluntary work done in
the theater. An actor rehearses for weeks and performs without fee in a
special production: he may have an enthusiasm for the play he is to
act, he may feel that such a play must, at all costs, come to birth,
but somewhere self-interest lurks. The play may succeed at its special
performance; it may be taken for a run, and, if not, the actor still has
the hope that his acting will focus on him the attention of critics and
managers. And if the part he plays is so inconsiderable that he cannot
hope to attract notice to himself, his hope is that the organizers of
special productions will note him as a willing volunteer to be rewarded,
next time, with a distinctive part.

For Darley, proposing to spend laborious hours in molding Mary Ellen,
there was nothing concrete to be gained; no credit from the Rossiter
headquarters and the positive loss of a reputation for asceticism which
had been a shield against the advances of aspirants who believed that
success in the theater was reached by the road Dolly had indicated to
Mary. He did not flatter his company by supposing that his reputation
for austerity would survive association with Mary. But, intimately,
he would have his incomparable gain, the matchless joy of the creative
artist working on apt material.

“You can take the rest of this week in getting used to jigging about
in the chorus,” he said. “Then we’ll begin to work. Only you needn’t
despise musical comedy. There are as many great actresses who came out
of a musical comedy training as out of Shakespeare. Perhaps for the same
reason that white sheep eat more than black ones.”

He drilled her on a dozen stages as the tour went on, in a dozen walks
from the Parisian’s to the peasant’s (“You’ve never heard of pedestrian
art,” he said, “but this is it”), and for dancing, “You’re too old, but
we’ll get a colorable imitation,” and in her rooms they went through
Rosalind and Juliet till she spoke the lines in English and made every
intonation to his satisfaction. “Feel it, you parrot, feel it,” was his
cry, and he stopped his mockery of calling her Rosalind. He called her
“Iceberg.”

He had taken her far, very far, along the technical way, and he had come
to a barrier. Where there was question of the grand emotions, her voice
was stupid. She seemed intelligently enough to understand with her
brain, but there was a lapse between understanding and expression. “I’ve
done all I’m going to,” thought Harley. “She’s not an actress yet, she’s
only ready to be one when somebody breaks the eggs to make the omelette.
I’m not the somebody.”

Except that she did not shirk work, she gave no sign of gratitude.
Harley was another Pate, another man who was, to please himself,
experimenting on her with a system. She was not afraid of him now; men
in her experience were usable stepping-stones and when their use to her
was gone, she stepped from one to another. In the present case she saw
clearly what he was aiming at and the necessity of this training in
technique. It had visible results, it wasn’t, like Pate’s, a journey to
a peak mistily beyond a far horizon and it would, in any case, last
only for the three months she was to spend in the chorus of “The Little
Viennese.” He could take pains with her and she would generously
be there to be taken pains with; it was a sort of exercise which
he preferred to playing golf with the men or the other girls of the
company, and she permitted his enjoyment of the preference because it
was of use to her.

“What did you want to go on the stage for, anyhow?” he asked her once.

“To hold them,” she said, “there!” And made a gesture, imperious,
queenly, that almost wrung applause from him. “To have them in my grip
like that. To know I’ve got them in my power.”

“I think you’ll do it, Mary, when you have learned to feel,” he told her
soberly.

She looked at him with glittering eyes. “Gee, does it get you like
that?” he said, amazed. Here, to be welcomed with both hands, was
feeling at last.

“Yes,” said Mary, dashing him to earth, “there’s money in it.”

“You miserable slut!” he said, and flung out of her room.

Money! Yet hadn’t she excuse? She feared poverty, having known it.
Poverty, for her, was not a question of what would happen to an income
of a thousand a year if the income tax went up; it was Jackman’s
Buildings and the Staithley streets. If she could help it, she was not
going back to poverty. To Staithley perhaps she would go back: she was
indeed fixed in her idea to go back, to buy, with her stage-made wealth,
a house in Staithley like Walter Pate’s and to be rich in Staithley. So
far, in her journeyings, she had seen no place like Staithley: either
there was flatness which depressed her, or hills which were too urbane,
or too low, too much like mounds in a park to be worthy of the name of
hills. The stage was a means to an end, and the end was Staithley,
a house of her own, an independence--and her present salary was
thirty-five shillings a week, less ten per cent to Chown! She was, at
any rate, thrifty with it, seeing no need, on tour, with her contract in
her pocket, to revise her wardrobe in the direction of effectiveness and
keeping her nose too closely to the grindstone Darley held to have time
for money-spending in other ways. She watched with satisfaction her Post
Office Savings Bank account increase by a weekly ten shillings.

Darley relented and came back next day with the Maisie part in “The
Girl from Honolulu” in his pocket. “Damn her,” he thought, “she’s honest
about it and there have been avaricious artists. Avarice and Art aren’t
contradictory.” He expected no more at their parting than the cool
“Good-by” she gave him.

“Full of possibilities,” he reported her to Drayton, and when Drayton
asked him to be more definite, “I can’t,” he wrote, “be more definite
than this. You know those Chinese toys consisting of a box within a box
of beautiful wood, wonderfully made? You marvel at the workmanship and
you open box after box. You get tired and you go on opening because each
box is beautiful and because of a faint hope you have that there’ll
be something in the last box. I don’t know what’s in hers. That’s her
secret and her mystery, and, by the way, you can discount what Pettigrew
is going to tell you of her Maisie. It isn’t her Maisie. It’s mine. I’ve
rehearsed her in it.”

“Darley’s mad about her,” Drayton interpreted this to Rossiter.

Darley was, anyhow, sufficiently interested to travel across half
England to see her play Maisie on her first Saturday night, in
Liverpool. He stood at the side of the circle where he could watch both
her and the house, and he waited, especially for a scene which was one
of the weaknesses of the piece, when Maisie, by sheer blague, has to
subdue a rascally beachcomber who intends robbery. He wasn’t afraid of
her song, but this scene called for acting; it wasn’t plausible, even
for musical comedy, unless Maisie carried it off _con brio_.

And he had, that night, his reward for the labor of these months. It
was Saturday night, and the audience stopped eating chocolates. Darley
wasn’t looking at the stage, he was looking at the audience and he knew
triumph when he saw it. They stopped eating. Darley looked upon his work
and knew that it was good.

“_Ich dieu_” he muttered. “By God, I do. Where’s the bar?”



CHAPTER VI--THE DREAM IN STONE

IF some one idiosyncratic and original, some one bold to challenge the
accepted order, had dared to put Mary Arden on her defense, if it had
been asked what she was doing in the war, she would have replied with
cool assurance that she was keeping her head about it when nothing was
more easy than intemperance. Every day her post brought letters which
encouraged the belief, not that she made an opportunity of war, but that
she held high rank amongst home-keeping indispensables. Her letters
from unknown men in the trenches were explicit that Mary Arden was the
England they were fighting for--food, if she had cared to eat it, for
the grossest conceit.

She was, by now, the leading musical comedy exponent of demureness, with
Chown as her undroppable pilot; and Pate, Darley and a procession of
stage managers who had steered less ably than that devoted pair were
forgotten’ rungs on the ladder she had climbed. She kept her head about
things more yeasty, in her microcosm more demoralizing, than the war;
she kept her head about success and kept it about men. She rode vanity
on the snaffle because she was herself ridden by ambition.

Once the ambition had been trivial, once she had aimed no higher than a
house in Staithley as big as Walter Pate’s, but she had grown since then
and, with her, ambition grew, rooted in something older than her vanity
or than herself, rooted in the Bradshaw hatred of the Hepplestalls.
Secretly she nursed her ambition to possess a great house on Staithley
Edge, high, dominating the town of the Hepplestalls, a house to make the
old Hall look like a cottage, a house where she would live, resuming her
name of Bradshaw, eclipsing the Hepplestalls in Staithley.

In eyes accustomed to the London she had conquered, the Hepplestalls
dwindled while Mary Arden, star, looked very big. There was veritable
conspiracy to augment her sense of self-importance and even the
newspapers, as the war degenerated into routine, gave of their
restricted space to say, repeatedly, that Mary Arden was a “person.”
 To such an one, her ambition seemed no foolishness, but it wasn’t to be
done just yet--nor by practicing such crude economies as those of her
first cheese-paring tour. Dress mattered to her now; it belonged with
her position like other sumptuosities inseparable from a position which
was itself a symbol of extravagance. She rode the whirlwind of the war,
a goddess of the Leave Front, dressing daintily as men would have
her dress, but if there was lavishness at all it was for professional
purposes only. It was lavishness corrected by prudence, lavishness
calculated to maintain a position which was to lead her to a house in
Staithley Edge. She was a careful spendthrift, and she was careful, too,
in other ways. The dancing and the dining, the being seen with the
right man at the right places--these were not so much the by-products
of success as its buttresses; and to be expert in musical comedy acting
implies expertness in the technique of being a gay companion. She
exercised fastidious selectiveness, but, having chosen, gave her company
at costly meals to young officers who returned to France swaggering in
soul, mentioning aloud with infinite casualness that they had lunched
with Mary Arden. It was tremendously the thing to do: one might be a
lieutenant in France but one had carried a baton in London: and
one didn’t, even when the sense of triumph led one to the mood of
after-dinner boasting, hint that there was anything but her company at
meals or at a dance to be had from Mary Arden. The Hepplestalls were
going to find no chink in her immaculate armor when she queened it over
them from her great house on the hill, but to suggest that mere pride
was the motive of her continence is to do her an injustice.

Socially as well as theatrically, then, she had her vogue and nothing
seemed to threaten it; yet Mr. Rossiter had the strange caprice to
be not wholly satisfied with Mary Arden. As a captain of the light
entertainment industry, he was doing exceedingly well out of the war; he
had a high opinion of the Colonial soldiery; the young British officer
was hardly behind the Colonial private in his eagerness to occupy Mr.
Rossiter’s stalls, and at times when leave was suspended the civilian
population filled the breach in its very natural desire for an antidote
to anxiety. Surely he was captious to be finding fault anywhere, last
of all with Mary Arden? But Hubert Rossiter did not hold his position
by taking short views or by seeing only the obvious, and he sent for Mr.
Chown to discuss with him the shortcomings of his client, Miss Arden.

“Sit down, Lexley,” he said. “Have you read that script I sent you?”

Mr. Chown produced from a neat attaché-case the typescript of Mr.
Rossiter’s next play, with a nod which managed to convey, besides mere
affirmation, his deep admiration of the inspired managerial judgment.

“Well, now,” said Rossiter briskly, “about Mary Arden. There’s, every
musical reason why I should cast her for Teresa in this piece. She can
sing the music. Leslie’s the alternative and Leslie can’t sing it. The
question is, can Mary act it?”

Mr. Chown’s geese were not swans: he knew that his clients, even if they
were his clients, had limitations. “I saw her in the other part as I
read it, Hubert,” he fenced.

“The flapper part isn’t worth Mary’s salary. Now, is it? Seriously, I’m
troubled about Mary.”

“What’s the matter with her?”

“She keeps her heart at her banker’s for one thing. Do you know she
once came into this office with a ’bus ticket stuck in the cuff of her
sleeve? A leading part at the Galaxy Theatre, and rides in a ’bus!”

“That wasn’t recently. Be fair, Hubert. And where do you want her to
keep her heart?”

“Where she wore the ’bus ticket. On her sleeve. If she’s so fond of
money, Lexley, why doesn’t she go after it? There’s plenty about.”

Chown stiffened in his chair. “As Miss Arden’s agent, Hubert,” he said
severely, “I protest against that suggestion.”

Rossiter smiled blandly. “Right. You’ve done your duty to your client
and to the proprieties. Now we’ll get down to facts.”

“But anyhow, Hubert, don’t forget what this girl is. She plays on her
demureness. It’s Mary’s winning card.”

“A nunnery’s the place for her sort of demureness. In the theater a
woman only scores by demureness when it’s known to the right people that
she’s a devil off the stage.”

“No! No,” cried Chown. “You--”

“The theater is a place of illusion, my friend. In any case, Mary’s been
doing flappers too long. She’s getting old.”

“You’re simply being perverse, Hubert.” Mr. Chown was genuinely angry.
“Mary Arden old!”

“Then,” said Rossiter, “she began young and it comes to the same thing.
What’s a play-going generation? Five years? Very well, for a generation
of playgoers she’s been doing demure flappers and it’s time she did
something else and time somebody else did the flappers. And can she do
anything else? Can she? I’ll tell you in one word what’s the matter with
Mary--virginity.”

Mr. Chown could only bow his head in sorrowing agreement. “She is
immoderate,” he said gloomily and Rossiter stared at him, finding
the adjective surprising until, “‘Everything in moderation, including
virginity,’” quoted Chown.

“Is that your own?” asked Rossiter with relish.

But Chown disclaimed originality and even personal knowledge of his
mot’s authorship. He did not read books. He read life and, especially on
Thursdays, the _Daily Telegraph_. “The man who said it to me said it was
Samuel Butler’s.”

“It’s good,” pronounced Rossiter, writing the name down. “I’ll get
Drayton to write to this man Butler and see if he’ll do me a libretto. I
like his flavor.”

“I’m afraid he’s dead,” said Chown.

“Oh, this war!” grieved Rossiter. “This awful war! Is it to take all our
promising young men? Well, to come back to Mary. I want to cast her for
Teresa and now, candidly, she being what she is, can I?”

“No,” agreed Chown.

“There it is! Waste. Constriction of her possibilities. I wish you’d
make her see that it’s bad for her art. You and I have to watch over our
young women like fathers. You brought this girl to me and I’ve endorsed
your judgment so far: but she’s got no future if she doesn’t mend her
ways. I’ve been thinking of reviving ‘The Duchess of Dantzic.’”

“For her?” gasped Chown. “Mary to play Sans-Gene?”

“She can sing it, but she can’t act it--yet. If she’s out for marriage,
get her married. Marry her yourself. Do something. But a woman who
shirks life will never play Sans-Gêne.” Rossiter rose to administer
a friendly pat to Chown’s shoulder. “Think it over, old man,” he said
earnestly. “Meantime,” he conceded graciously, “I’ll give Teresa to
Leslie and Mary can flap once more. But, I warn you, it’s the last time.
I’m tired of real demureness. I want real acting.”

Chown hesitated slightly, then “Do you know, I’ve a card up my sleeve
about Mary,” he said.

“Then, for God’s sake, play it, my lad. Play it. It’s overdue.”

“What about giving her a character part?”

“Character? That’s not her line. You know as well as I do that we can’t
monkey with the public’s expectations. An actress can afford anything
except versatility.”

“Listen,” said Chown. “I picked her up in Lancashire and her accent’s
amazing. I needn’t remind you that Lancashire is almost as popular on
the stage as Ireland. As you said, the theater’s a place of illusion.”

“Did you notice,” asked Rossiter witheringly, “that the scene of this
piece is laid in Granada?”

“Does that matter?” asked Chown blandly.

Rossiter was turning over the pages of the script. “Not a bit,”
 he hardily admitted. “I’ll take the chance, Lexley. We’ll make her
Lancashire, and there’s a male part that’ll have to go to Lancashire
too. What a pity that chap Butler was killed in the war. He’d have been
just the man to write it in.”

“I don’t think he was Lancashire,” said Chown and, in his turn, “Does
that matter?” asked Rossiter. “You go and have that talk with Mary and
leave me to look after authors. It takes doing nowadays. Surprising what
they’ll ask for doing a bit of re-writing. Makes a hole in a ten-pound
note if you don’t watch it.”

Chown had a talk, rather than “that” talk, with Mary, omitting, for
instance, Rossiter’s recommendation of matrimony as essential to an
actress. Experience, with or without marriage lines, might tap an
emotional reservoir but, in her case, the experience would certainly go
with marriage and Chown had suffered too often by the retirement of his
successful clients after marriage to risk advising it. He considered
Rossiter incautious. “There’s a part for you in ‘Granada the Gay,’” he
told her, “that is going to make you a new reputation. A Lancashire part
and London will think you’re acting it. You and I know you _are_ it, but
we won’t mention that.”

“This is interesting,” said Mary Ellen with shining eyes. “I’ll work at
this. I’ll show them something.”

Chown nodded, satisfied that she would, in fact, “show them” enough to
silence Rossiter’s murmurings for the next two years--nobody looked for
a shorter run than that from a musical comedy in war time--and Rossiter
was indeed ungrudging in his admission that Mary’s demure Lancastrian,
with the terrific and accurate accent coming with such rugged veracity
from those pretty lips, was the success of “Granada the Gay.” People
were going with scant selectiveness to all theaters alike, but there
were a few, and the Galaxy among them, which had their special lure.

It was a curiosity of the time, full though the theaters were, that
advance bookings were low. No one could see ahead, no one’s time was his
own and perhaps that was the reason or perhaps it was only the sentiment
which underlay the practice of going impulsively to theaters without the
solemnity of premeditation involved in booking seats many days ahead;
and the two young officers, sitting down to dinner, were not remarkable
in expecting at that late hour to get stalls at any theater
they pleased. “Libraries”--that curious misnomer of the ticket
agencies--perhaps kept up their sleeves a parcel of certainly saleable
tickets for the benefit of abrupt men in khaki, but libraries were
crowded places to be avoided by those who had the officering habit of
telling some one else to do the tedious little things.

“We might go on to a show after this,” said Derek Carton. “Don’t you
think so, Fairy? Waiter, send a page with the theater list. I want
tickets for something.”

His companion, only arrived that day from France, let his eyes stray
sensuously over the appointments of the restaurant. He was to eat in a
room decorated in emulation of a palace at Versailles; the chefs were
French; the guests, when they were not American, were of every allied
or neutral European nationality; the band played jazz music; and to the
marrow of him, as he contemplated the ornate evidences of materialistic
civilization, he exulted in his England. The hardship was that he
couldn’t spend the whole of this leave in London: he must go,
to-morrow, to Staithley. He was, he had been for six months, Sir Rupert
Hepplestall, but when his father died the 1918 German push was on and
leave impossible. Decidedly he must go North, this time, this once,
though--oh, hang the Hepplestalls! Why couldn’t they let him go quietly,
to look in decent privacy at his father’s grave? But no: they must
make him a director of the firm and they must call a meeting for him to
attend. Well-meaning but absurd old men who had not or who would not
see that Rupert was free of Hepplestall’s now. Sincerely he mourned
his father’s death, and they wouldn’t let him be simple about it, they
complicated a fellow’s pilgrimage to Sir Philip’s grave by their obtuse
attempt to thrust his feet into Sir Philip’s shoes.

That needn’t matter to-night, though, that sour affront to the idea of
leave: it was his complication not Carton’s who, good man, had met him
at the station. Like Rupert, Carton had gone from Cambridge to the war,
then he had lost a leg and now had a job at the War Office: and the
jolly thing was that Carton hadn’t altered, he was as he used to be even
to calling Rupert by that old nickname. If you have seventy-three inches
you are naturally called Fairy and out there nobody ever thought of
calling you anything else except on frigidly official occasions. But
you were never quite sure of the home point of view; the thing called
war-mind made such amazing rabid asses of the people who were not
fighting and you weren’t certain even of Carton and now you were a
little ashamed of having been uncertain. Of course, old Carton would not
rot him about his title; of course, he would call him Fairy, he wouldn’t
allude to that baronetcy of which Rupert was still so shy.

“Stop dreaming, Fairy,” said Derek, and he looked across the table to
find a page-boy at Derek’s elbow and a theater-list on the table before
him. “What shall it be?”

“Oh, Robey, I suppose.”

“Yes,” Derek agreed. “Usually Robey’s first choice. Just now, it’s Robey
or ‘Granada the Gay,’ with a girl called Arden.”

“You’re in charge,” said Rupert. “I’ve heard of Mary Arden.”

Derek tried not to look superior. “It’s usual,” he said. “Galaxy
Theater, boy,” and presently received a pink slip of paper entitling him
to the occupancy of two stalls that night. Nothing would have surprised
him more than not to have received it, an hour before the curtain rose
on a musical comedy in the first flush of brilliant success.

They ate and mostly their talk was superficial. It preserved a
superficial air when men who had been killed were spoken of and only
once did there seem divergence in their points of view. Some technical
point of gunnery came up and Derek, who was at the War Office, agreed
that “We can’t improve it yet. But I tell you, old man, in the next
war--”

“That--that was a topping Turkish Bath we went to before dinner,” said
Rupert.

Derek stared. “What!” he gasped.

“I’m changing the subject,” said Rupert with a smile of forgiveness for
his friend who had been home too long, too near to the newspapers and
the War Office. At the Front, they didn’t talk of the next war, they
were fighting the last of the wars. But he didn’t want argument with
Derek to-night. “Are you through that liqueur?” he asked. “Let’s go on
to this theater, shall we?”

Rossiter could not and did not expect his commissionaires to emulate the
silky suppleness of cosmopolitan head waiters, but it was impressed upon
them that they were not policemen on point duty but the servants of
a gentleman receiving their master’s guests; he neglected nothing,
“producing” the front of the house as he produced the entertainment on
the stage or the business organization in his office. It was whispered
to husbands that his most exquisite achievement was the ladies’
cloak-room. You might leave your restaurant savage at the bill, but by
the time you had progressed from the Galaxy entrance to your stall, you
were so saluted, blarneyed, caressed, that there was no misanthropy in
you.

It captivated Rupert; he couldn’t, try as he would, duplicate Derek’s
stylish air of matter-of-fact boredom. Yesterday he was in hell and
to-morrow, very likely, he would swear if the waiter at the hotel
brought up tepid tea to his bedside; but to-night he hadn’t made
adjustments, to-night he was impressible by amenity. And he had read
in the papers that London had grown unmannerly! Outrageous libel on an
earthly paradise.

But it may be hazarded that first steps, even in paradise, are not
sure-footed, and in spite of his bodily ease, and the “atmosphere”
 of Mr. Rossiter’s stalls and his eagerness to be amused, his mind,
accustomed to the grotesque convention, war, did not immediately accept
the grotesque convention, musical comedy. In a day or two he would,
no doubt, be as greedy of unreality as any believer in the fantastic
untruths distributed to the Press by the War Office propaganda
departments, but he was too lately come to Cloud Cuckoo Land to have
sloughed his sanity yet. He had yearned for color and he had it now; and
the vivid glare of a Rossiter musical comedy put an intolerable strain
upon his eyes, while the humor of the comedians put his brain in
chancery. Home-grown jokes, he supposed, and yet their mess had fancied
itself at wit. He was regretful that he had not insisted on Robey. Robey
was the skilled liaison officer between Front and Leave. Robey jerked
one’s thoughts irresistibly into the right groove at once; he wouldn’t
have sat under Robey wilting to the dismal conviction that his first
evening on leave was turning to failure.

Then, from off-stage, a girl began to speak, and Rupert sat taut in his
stall. He all but rose and stood to attention as Mary Arden appeared
in the character of that inapposite Lancastrian in Granada. She did
not merely salt the meat for him; there was no meat but her. He thought
that, then blushed at the coarseness of a metaphor which compared this
girl with meat. She spoke in the dialect of Lancashire and where he had
been dull to the humor of the comedians, all was crystal now. Boredom
left him; the morose sentiment of a ruined evening melted like cloud in
the sunshine of Mary Arden; phoenixlike leave rose again to the level of
anticipation and beyond.

Tell him that he was ravished because she reminded him of Staithley, and
he would not have denied that he was ravished but he would have denied
very hotly that Staithley had anything to do with it. Suggest that he
was seized and held because she spoke a dialect which was his as well as
hers, and he would have denied knowledge of a single dialect word. But
Rupert was born in Staithley where dialect, like smoke, is in the air
and inescapable and Mary was calling to something so deep in him that
he did not know he had it, his love of Lancashire covered up and locked
beneath his school, Cambridge, the Army. She turned the key, she sent
him back to the language he spoke in boyhood, not in the nursery or the
schoolroom, but in emancipated hours in the garage and the stables where
dialect prevailed. Obstinate in his creed of hatred of the Lancashire of
the Hepplestalls, he did not know what she had done to him, but he felt
for Mary the intimacy of old, tried acquaintanceship. He was unconscious
of others on the stage, even as background: he was unconscious of being
in a theater at all and sat gaping when the curtain cut him off from her
and Derek began to push past him with an impatient “Buck up. Just time
for a drink before they close. Always a scram in the bar. Come along.”

“But,” said Rupert still sitting, still stupidly resenting the intrusion
of the curtain, “but--Mary Arden.”

“If that’s the trouble, I’ll take you round and introduce you
afterwards. Anything, so long as we don’t miss this drink.”

Derek led his friend to the bar, where there was opportunity for Rupert,
amongst a thirsting thrusting mob, to revise his estimate of London
manners in war-time. When they had secured whiskies, “You know
her!” Rupert said, jealous for the first time of Derek’s enforced
home-service.

“I’ve met her once,” said Derek. “That’s a good enough basis for
introducing you, to an actress. But I might as well warn you. Mary’s
as good as her reputation. A lot of men have wasted time making sure of
that.”

“I see,” said Rupert curtly. “But you’ll introduce me.”

“Yes,” said Derek, “if you insist.” He had brought Rupert to the Galaxy
because it was the thing to do, just as he had met Mary for the same
reason, but he resented her strangeness. To Derek an actress who was not
only notoriously but actually “straight” was simply not playing the game
and he was reluctant to add Rupert to the train of her exhibited
and deluded admirers. Whereas Rupert would have shrunk aghast at the
temerity of his thoughts if he had realized Mary as an actress and a
famous one. He was, in all modesty, seeing her possessively because she
and he were alone in a crowd.

He had to mar with Lancashire this leave which had suddenly turned so
glamorous; there was the more reason, then, for boldness, for grasping
firmly the opportunity presented by Carton’s introduction, but it
troubled him to shyness to think that he had so greatly the advantage of
her. He had watched her for three hours and she hadn’t seen him yet. It
seemed to him unfair.

His first impression, as her dressing-room door opened to Derek and he
looked over his friend’s shoulder, was of cool white walls and chintz
hangings. The gilt Empire chairs, relics of a forgotten Rossiter
production, which furnished the cell-like room as if it were a great
lady’s prison de luxe in bygone France, added in some indefinable way to
its femininity. The hangings bulged disconcertingly over clothing.

In his stall he had established that he knew her, but this seemed too
abrupt a plunge into her intimacy. She sat, with her back to him, at a
table littered with mysteries, and her hair hung loosely down her white
silk dressing-gown. He turned away, with burning face, only to find in
that room of mirrors no place to which to turn. Carton, that lump of
ice, was unaffected, and so was Mary herself who continued, messily,
to remove grease-paint from her face with vaseline and a vigorous towel
while she gave Carton, sideways, an oily hand. She was not incommoding
herself for a man she hardly remembered.

“Weren’t there two of you when you came in?” she asked and Derek
realized that Rupert had fled. “Fairy!” he called, and opened the door.
“Come in, man.”

Mary laughed. “Fairy?” she said. “You’ve a quaint name. Fairy by name
and nature. Fairies disappear.”

He was distressingly embarrassed. Carton had, merely instinctively,
called him by the usual nickname, and was he, to escape her gay
quizzing, to draw himself up grandly and to say that he wasn’t Fairy
but Sir Rupert? “Fairy” set her first impressions against him, but to
attempt their correction by announcing that he had a title might, by
its pompousness, only turn bad to worse. Better, for the moment, let it
slide. He smiled gallantly. “When I disappear again,” he said, “it will
be because you tell me to.” He cursed his unreadiness to rise above the
level of idiocy.

“Do you know, Miss Arden, Fairy comes from Lancashire,” said Derek, by
way of magnanimously helping a lame dog over a stile.

“Does he?” said Mary listlessly. She could see in her glass without
turning round his large supple frame and his handsome face which would,
she thought, look better without the conventional mustache. She placed
men quickly now. Well-bred, this boy, gentle. Too gentle? Probably not.
Big men were apt to be gentle through very consciousness of strength,
and he was graceful for all his size. “Fairy” would do: decidedly he
would do to replace as her decorative companion across restaurant tables
her latest cavalier who had just gone back to France.

“Oh,” he was saying, “it won’t interest Miss Arden that I come from
Lancashire.”

“Well,” she said, hinting a gulf impassable between North and South,
“I’m a London actress.”

“That’s the miracle of it,” he said. “Lancashire’s an old slag-heap of
a county and one couldn’t be proud of it. Only, by Jove, I am, since
hearing you. It’s queer, but when you spoke Lancashire it was as if
I met an old friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. I know it’s awful
cheek, Miss Arden, but it seemed to put me on an equality with you.”

She did not know he was a Hepplestall, she missed the poignant irony
of their identities, but when Sir Rupert haltingly told her that it was
“awful cheek” in him to feel on an equality with the exalted Mary Ellen
Bradshaw, she had, unusually, the thought that she ought to check this
absurd diffidence by blurting out that she learned her Lancashire on
Staithley Streets, that she was not acting but was the real, raw thing.
It was not often, these days, that Mary blushed to accept homage. She
hadn’t put herself, the times, the strange perverted times, had put her
on a pinnacle and, being there, she did what men seemed gratified that
she should do, she looked down on them. But because she kept her head,
she had not resented, she had welcomed, the one or two occasions when
she had been made to feel ashamed. There was a man, now dead, whom she
recalled because Rupert was making her in the same way look at herself
through a diminishing-glass. He had, unlike the most, talked to her
of the things they were doing over there: he had told her in a
matter-of-fact way of their daily life and she had made comparisons with
hers, she had dwindled to her true dimensions. And Rupert by means she
couldn’t analyze was giving a similar, salutary experience. She felt
shrunken before him and was happy to shrink.

Derek’s formula for the correct welcome of a fighting soldier on leave
included supper at a night club, and they were wasting time on the
impossible woman. “I expect you want to turn us out so that you can
dress,” he cut in.

“Oh!” cried Rupert, alarmed at the idea of going so pat upon their
coming. “But--yes, I suppose you must. Only I--” he took courage, if
it wasn’t desperation, in both hands and added, “Will you lunch with me
to-morrow at the Carlton?”

She pretended to consult a full engagement-book. “I might just manage
it,” she grudged defensively. Though he shrank her and she realized
being shrunk by him, he was not to think that lunch with Mary Arden was
less than a high privilege.

He took that view himself. “I shall be greatly honored,” he said
sincerely: then Derek hustled him away, but not to the night club.
Rupert resisted that anti-climax, he who had held Mary’s hand in his,
“But I’m so grateful to you, Derek,” he emphasized.

“Are you? Then don’t be ungrateful if I tell you that no one’s quite
sane on leave,” and sane or not, Rupert went to bed in the elated mood
of a man who knows he has created something. “Like a hen clucking over
an egg,” was Derek’s private-comment on his friend.



CHAPTER VII--MARY AND RUPERT

RUPERT lay in bed morosely contemplating the first fact about
Leave--its brutal elasticity. If he did not know, on the one hand, what
he had done to deserve the acquaintanceship of Mary Arden, he did not
know, on the other, that he deserved that dark intrusion on brief London
days, the Staithley visit. Fortune first smiled, then apishly grimaced,
but he threw off peevishness with the bed-clothes and the tang of cold
water. Soberly, if intrusion was in question, then it was Mary who
intruded and if he hadn’t learned, by now, to take things as they came,
he had wasted his time in France.

He must go to Staithley, he must attend the conclave of the
Hepplestalls, but he need not then and there make his protest
articulate. Would it, indeed, be decent, coming as he would straight
from his first reverent visit to his father’s grave, to fling defiance
at his uncles? If they cared to read consent into an attitude studiously
noncommittal, why, they must; but he wouldn’t in so many words announce
his irrevocable decision never to be bondsman to Hepplestall’s; he
wouldn’t by any sign of his invite a tedium of disputation which might
keep him, heaven knew how long, from London and his Mary.

His Mary! That was thought which outran discretion, truth and even hope.
The most he sanguinely expected of her was that she would consent, for
the period of his leave, to “play” with him and, of course, there was a
matter, trivial but annoying, to be set right first. That introduction
under his nickname bothered him: his silence suggested that he was
ashamed to acknowledge himself at the moment of being presented to an
actress, and the suggestion was insulting to her. So far, and so far as
the invitation to lunch went, she had accepted him as her companion
“on his face,” and it might have been romantic enterprise to see if
she would continue to consort with a Fairy, a man cursed with a name as
grotesque as Cyrano’s nose, but he took Mary too seriously to put their
playtime in jeopardy by keeping up a masquerade. The last thing he would
do was to traffic on his title, but the first was to let her know that
he wasn’t a Fairy! By telling a waiter to address him as Sir Rupert?
He didn’t like that way. The way of an intriguer. No, he must face
his dilemma, hoping to find means to bring out the truth without (God
forbid!) advertising it, and in the first moments of their meeting, too.

What prevented him from telling her when she came into the restaurant
and held out her hand with an “Ah, Captain Fairy,” was her disconcerting
frock. It was not an unusual frock except that it was a fashionable and
supreme frock and Mary had torn off two other fashionable frocks before
she decided that this was an occasion for a supreme frock. It was an
occasion, she admitted by stages marked by the change of frock, for her
best defenses. She had welcomed medicinally the purge to pride he had
unconsciously administered but he must not make a habit of it and
from head to foot, within and without, she wrapped herself in
dress-assurance.

“You’re stunning,” he said at sight of her, stupidly and truthfully,
missing the finer excellences of her frock, disconcerted by it simply
because it was a frock. Idiot, he called himself, did he expect her to
come to the Carlton in a white silk dressing-gown with her hair down her
shoulders? But neither on the stage nor in her dressing-room had he seen
her with her hair up and he hadn’t, in that particular, been imaginative
about her. He saw her now a well-dressed woman, superbly a woman, but
so different from the Mary of stage-costume or of dishabille, so
wonderfully more mysterious, that his illusion of knowing her very soul
dropped from him and left him bankrupt of confidence in the presence of
a lady charming but unknown.

They were at a table and Mary had the conversation under control long
before he realized that she was still addressing him as Captain Fairy.
Perhaps, after all, his assertion of himself would go best with the
coffee: he resolved very firmly that he wouldn’t let it slide beyond the
coffee. He became aware of subtle oppositions between them, of pleasant
undercurrents in action and reaction making an electricity of their own;
he sensed her evident desire to lead the conversation. Well, she would
naturally play first fiddle to a Fairy, but perhaps there was something
else and, if so, he could put that right without embarrassing himself.
She had said last night, as if pointedly, “I’m a London actress,”
 thinking of him, no doubt, as a provincial.

He said, “By the way, Carton mentioned last night that I come from
Lancashire. His point was, I suppose, that it would interest you because
you happen to be playing a Lancashire part. I’m Lancashire by the
accident of birth, but I hope I’ve outlived it in my life.”

“Oh!” said Mary, thinking of a photograph of Staithley Edge which hung
on the wall of her flat almost with the significance of the ikon in a
Russian peasant’s room, “oh, are you ashamed of Lancashire?”

“I’m going there this afternoon, as a matter of fact, probably for the
last time. I don’t think the word is ‘ashamed,’ though. I’ve outgrown
Lancashire. I shall settle in London after the war. Look here, may
I tell you about it? Theoretically, I was supposed to go back to
Lancashire some day, after I’d finished at Cambridge. To go back on
terms I loathed, and I didn’t mean to go back. I was reading pretty hard
at Cambridge, not for fun, but to get a degree--a decent degree; to have
something to wave in their faces as a fairly solid reason for not going
back. I thought of going to the bar, just by way of being something
reasonable, but I don’t know that it matters now. I mean after the war
they can’t possibly expect the things of a man that they thought it was
possible, and I didn’t, to expect before. My father’s dead, too, since
then. And that makes a lot of difference. I’m awfully sorry he died,
but I can’t help seeing that his death liberates me. I shan’t go back to
Lancashire at any price.”

He had the earnest fluency of a man talking about himself to a woman.
How well she knew it! And how old, how wise, how much more experienced
than the oldest war-scarred veteran of them all did she not feel when
her young men poured out their simple histories to her! But she was used
to the form of consultation. They put it to her, as a rule, that they
sought her advice and though she knew quite well that their object
was to flatter, it piqued her now that Rupert did not ask advice. He
reasoned, perhaps, and his assertion was not of what he would do after
the war but of what he positively would not. He was not going back to
Lancashire and, “You do pay compliments,” she said a little tartly. “You
bring out to lunch an actress who’s doing a Lancashire part and you tell
her that Lancashire’s not good enough for you.”

“But that’s your art,” he cried, “to be so wonderfully not yourself.
Seriously, Miss Arden, for you, a London actress, to be absolutely
a Lancashire girl on the stage is sheer miracle. But that’s not the
question and between us two, is Lancashire a place fit to live in?” So
he bracketed them together, people of the great world.

“I won’t commit myself,” she said. It was not her art, it was herself,
but she couldn’t answer back his candor with candor of her own and felt
again at disadvantage with him. He attacked and she could not defend.
She said, “Oh, I expect you’ll get what you want. You look the sort that
does.” She was almost vicious about it.

“I hope I shall,” he said, gazing ingenuous admiration at her. “For
instance--”

She moved sharply as if she dodged a blow. Men did queer things on
leave; she had had proposals from them though she knew them as little as
she knew Rupert. “For instance,” he went on imperviously, “shall I get
this? Shall I get your promise to have lunch with me here on Thursday? I
shall be back from Lancashire by then.”

“Yes, I’ll lunch,” she said convulsively, calling herself a fool to have
misjudged him and a soppy fool, like the soppiest fool of a girl at the
theater, to be so apt to think of marriage. Yet Mary thought much of
marriage, not as the “soppy fools” thought, hopefully, but defensively.
Marriage did not march with her dream in stone and the thought of Mary
Ellen Bradshaw on Staithley Edge. She fought always for that idea, and
refusals were the trophies she had won in her campaigns for it, usually
easy victories, but once or twice she had not found it easy to refuse.
Did Rupert jeopardize the dream? She couldn’t say and, thank God, she
needn’t say. He hadn’t asked her, but she admitted apprehension, she
confessed that he belonged with those very few who had made her dream
appear a bleak and empty thing. This man disturbed her: she was right to
be on her guard, to bristle in defense of her dream at the least sign
of passion in him. But she despised herself for bristling unnecessarily,
for imagining a sign which wasn’t there. He had, confoundedly, the habit
of making her despise herself.

Then it happened, not what she had feared would happen but something
even more disturbing.

“Ah,” he said gayly, “then that’s a bet. That’s something to look
forward to while I’m at Staithley.”

Staithley! Staithley! It rang in her brain. Stammering she spoke it.
“Staithley!”

“Yes,” he said. “It’s a Lancashire town. I don’t suppose you’ve ever
heard of it, but my people, well, we’re rather big pots up there.”

“In Staithley?” she repeated.

“Yes. We’re called Hepplestall.” He looked at her guiltily. Mary’s
teeth were clenched and her bloodless hands gripped the table hard, but
actress twice over, woman and Mary Arden, and modern with cosmetics,
her face showed nothing of her inward storm. “That idiotic name Carton
called me by--they all do it,” he protested loyally. “It’s odds on that
they’ve forgotten what my real name is but I’m Rupert Hepplestall really
and... oh, as a matter of form, I’m Sir Rupert Hepplestall. I--I can’t
help it, you know.”

One didn’t make a scene in a restaurant. One didn’t scream in a
restaurant. One didn’t go into hysterics in a restaurant. That was all
she consciously thought, clutching the table till it seemed the veins in
her fingers must burst. Hepplestall--and she. And Mary Ellen Bradshaw.
Lunching together. Oh, it--but she was thinking and she must not think.
She must repeat, over and over again, “One does not make a scene, one--”

Immensely surprised she heard herself say, “No, you can’t help it,”
 and as she saw him smile--the smile of a schoolboy who is “let off” a
peccadillo--she concluded that she must have smiled at him.

“I’m better now I’ve got that off my chest,” he said. “I had to do it
before we parted though, by George, I’ve cut it fine.” There are several
ways, besides the right way, of looking at a wrist-watch. She was
annoyed to find herself capable of noticing that Rupert’s was the right
way. “I shall have to dash for my train. Where can I put you down? I
must go now: I’ll apologize on Thursday for abruptness.”

“I’m going to the flat,” she said. “Baker Street.” He was paying the
bill, getting his cap and stick, urging pace on the taxi-driver, busy in
too many ways to be observant of Mary.

“Hepplestall,” she thought going up her stairs, “Hepplestall, and I’ve
to act to-night.” Her bed received her.

*****

Incongruous in youth and khaki he sat abashed amongst black-coated
elders of the service at the board of Hepplestall’s.

He wanted urgently to scoff, to feel that it all didn’t matter because
nothing mattered but the war, and they set the war in a perspective
new to him, as passing episode reacting certainly upon the permanency,
Hepple-stall’s, but reacting temporarily as the Cotton Famine had
reacted in the days of the American Civil War.

He did not fail to perceive the significance of old Horace, Sir Philip’s
uncle, who was seventy, with fifty years to his credit of leadership
in the Service, a living link with heaven knew what remote ancestors.
Perhaps old Horace in his youth had seen the Founder himself. It bridged
time, it was like shaking hands with a man who had been patted on the
head by Wellington, and, like Horace, Rupert was subjected to the fact
of being Hepplestall. The law of his people, the dour and stable law,
ran unchangeable by time.

Complacent he had not been as he bared his head before Sir Philip’s
grave, but he had kept his balance.

Death, that lay outside youth’s normal thought and entered it with
monstrousness, was Rupert’s known familiar and a father dead could
sadden, but could not startle, a soldier who had seen comrades killed
at his side. It touched him, quite unselfishly, to think that Sir Philip
had gone knowing him not as rebel, not as apostate of the Hepplestalls,
but as a son of whom he could be proud--Rupert the cricketer, the solid
schoolboy who developed, unexpectedly but satisfactorily, into a reading
man at Cambridge, and then the soldier; but he was stirred to other and
far deeper feelings by the references made at the board to Sir Philip.
They were not formal tributes, they were chatty reminiscences hitting
Rupert the shrewder because there was nothing conventional about them,
bringing home to the son how his father had seemed to other eyes than
his. How little he had known Sir Philip! How carelessly he’d failed in
his appreciations! And it was double-edged, because the very object of
this meeting was to salute him as heir to the chieftainship, implying
that in the son they saw a successor worthy of the father.

They even apologized to him for having, in his absence, appointed an
interim successor. Sir Philip’s death created a situation unprecedented
in the history of the firm because never before had the Head died with
his son unready to take the reins, and the war aggravated the situation.
Rupert’s training could not begin till the war ended; it would be many
years before he took his place at the head of the table, Chairman of the
Board.

Behind the training they underwent was the theory of the machine
with interchangeable parts; it was assumed that the general technical
knowledge they all acquired fitted each for any post to which the
Service might appoint him. They did not overrate mere technique but
they relied upon the quality of the Hepplestalls. If occasion called a
Hepplestall, he rose to it. This occasion, the occasion of a regency,
had called William Hepplestall, Sir Philip’s brother next in age to him.

William had not sought, but neither did he shirk, the burden of
responsibility. “I will do my duty,” he had said. “You know me. I am not
an imaginative man, and the times are difficult. But I will do my duty.”

It would, certainly, not have occurred to William in the first days of
the war to convert their Dye-House from, cotton dyeing to woolen: that
sort of march into foreign territory, so extraordinarily lucrative,
would have occurred to none but to Sir Philip, and they understood very
well that under William, or under any of them now, the control would
be prudent and uninspired. They looked to Rupert as inheritor cf the
Hepplestall tradition of inspiration in leadership. Calmly they made
the vast assumption not only that he was coming to them but that he was
coming to be, eventually, a leader to them as brilliant as Sir Philip
had been.

“I shall not see it,” said old Horace, “but I do not need to see. We
continue, we Hepplestalls; we serve.”

Amiably, implacably, with embarrassing deference to Sir Philip’s son,
they pinned him to his doom, and in France, when he had heard of
this meeting they arranged for him, he had thought of it as a comic
interlude, and of himself as one who would relax from great affairs
to watch these little men at play! He sat weighed down, in misery. In
London he had decided that he wouldn’t argue, but he hadn’t known that
he could not argue. He was oppressed to taciturnity, to speechless
sulking which they took, since Rupert did everything, even sulking,
pleasantly, to mean that he was overwhelmed by the renewal, through
their eulogies, of his personal grief for the loss of his father. They
spoke tactfully of the war, deferring to him as a soldier; they aimed
with family news in gossipy vein of this and that Hepplestall in and
out of the war, to put him at his ease, and soon the meeting ended.
They took it as natural that he wished to spend his leave in London. It
seemed they understood. They advised about trains.

Rupert escaped, miserable because he was not elated to leave that
torture-chamber. He hadn’t faced the music. But he couldn’t. Altogether
apart from his wish to get out of Staithley at the first possible
moment, he couldn’t face that music. Their expectations of him were so
massive, so serene, so sure, their line unbreakable.

In the train, he recurred to that thought of the Hepplestall line. No:
he could not break it, but there might be a way round. He was going
to London, where Mary was, and the point, surely the point about the
training of a Hepplestall was that they caught their Hepplestalls
young. They cozened them with the idea of service and sent them, willing
victims, to labor with their hands in Staithley Mills--because they
caught them young. Rupert was twenty-five. Cynically he “placed” that
meeting now: it was a super-cozening addressed to a Hepplestall who was
no longer a boy: it admitted his age and the intolerable indignities the
training held for a man of his age, for a captain who had a real chance
of becoming a major very soon. It was their effort, their demonstration,
and he saw his way to make an effort and a counter demonstration.
Clearly, they saw that it wasn’t reasonable to train a man of his
years to spinning and the rest of it; then they would see the absolute
impossibility of compelling a married man to undergo that training. A
man couldn’t leave his wife at some Godless early morning hour to go to
work with his hands, he couldn’t come home, work-stained, after a day’s
consorting with the operatives, to the lady who was Lady Hepplestall.

He realized, awed by his presumptuousness, that he was thinking of Mary
Arden as the lady who was Lady Hep-plestall.

He thought of her with awe because he was not seeing Mary Arden, musical
comedy actress, through the elderly eyes of his uncles, still less of
his aunts, but from the angle of our soldiers in France who made Mary a
romantic symbol of the girls they left behind them. To marry Mary Arden
would be an awfully big adventure.

*****

She had time, while he was at Staithley, to come to terms with his
disclosure. In the restaurant, when it came upon her suddenly, it had
sent her, certainly, heels over head, but, soberly considered, she began
to ask herself what there was in it that should disconcert her. She
was Bradshaw and he a Hepplestall and she believed that without effort,
merely by not discouraging him, she could make him marry her. What could
be neater? What revenge more exquisite upon the Hepplestalls than Mary
Ellen Bradshaw, Lady Hepplestall?

True--if she hated them. But her hatred, reexamined, seemed a visionary
thing; at the most it was romantic decoration to a fact and in this mood
of inquisition Mary sought facts without their trimmings. She sought her
hatred of the Hepplestalls and found she had no hatred in her.

She raised her eyes to the photograph of Staithley Edge. Yes, that was
authentic feeling, that passion for the Staithley hills, but she didn’t
want to go there in order to take the shine out of the Hepplestalls. She
had romanticized that feeling, she had made hatred the excuse for her
ambition, so arbitrary in an actress with a vogue, to go back to live
bleakly amongst smoke-tarnished moors. Rupert, for instance, was firmly
set against return.

It was deflating, like losing a diamond ring, and she did not humble
herself to the belief that the diamond had never been there. It had, in
the clan-hatred of the Bradshaws, but she had been stagey about it. She
had magnified a childish memory into a living vendetta and, scrutinized
to-day, she saw it as a tinsel wrapping, crumbling at exposure to
daylight, round her sane sweet passion for the hills: and the conclusion
was that Rupert Hepplestall meant no more to her than Rupert Fairy--or
little more. She had mischief enough in her to savor the thought of Mary
Ellen squired in London by Sir Rupert Hepplestall and decided that if
he wanted to take his orders from her for the period of his leave, she
would take particular pleasure in ordering him imperiously.

She calculated, she thought, with comprehensiveness, but missed two
factors, one (which she should have remembered) that Rupert had seemed
lovable, the other (which she could not guess) that he returned from
Staithley to begin his serious wooing. He laid siege before defenses
which she had deliberately weakened by her re-orientation of her facts.

One day, before he must go back to France, he spoke outright of love.
If he hadn’t, half a dozen times, declared himself, then he didn’t know
what mute announcement was, but leave was running out and addressing
silent questions to a sphinx left him a long way short of tangible
result.

“Oh, love!” she jeered. “What’s love?”

“I can tell you that,” he said, “better than I could ten days ago.
Love’s selfishness _à deux_. I’m one of the two and my idea of love is
finding comfort in your arms.”

She thought it a good answer, so good that it brought her to her feet
and to (they were in her flat) the drawer in her desk where she had
hidden a photograph. Holding it to him, “Do you recognize that?” she
asked. “The other day, when we were talking, I said I had no people
and--”

“Was that mattering before the war? I’m sure it doesn’t matter now,” he
said.

“And this photograph?”

He shook his head. “It might be any hill.”

“But it is Staithley Edge.”

For a moment he was radiant. “You got it,” he glowed, “because of me.”

“I got it because of me. Listen. I’m Mary Arden, actress. I’m
twenty-five years old and I’m about as high as any one can get in
musical comedy. I began in the chorus, but I’ve had a soft passage up
because I was pushed by an agent who believed in me. If you think I’m
more than that, you’re wrong. And I’m much less than that. I said I had
no people, and it isn’t true.”

“I don’t want to know about your people. We’re you and I. We’re Mary and
Rupert.”

“Yes. But we’re Mary Bradshaw and Rupert Hepplestall.”

With that, she thought, she slaughtered hope, not his alone but
something that grew in her, something she was thinking of as hope
because she dared not think of it as love. Now she need no longer think
of it at all; she had killed it; she had met his candor with her candor,
she had announced herself a Bradshaw. It was the death of hope.

Suffering herself but compassionate for the pain she must have given
him, she raised her eyes to his. And the response to a lady martyring
herself to truth was an indulgent smile and maddening misapprehension.
“Is there anything in that? Bradshaw instead of Arden? Surely it’s usual
to have a stage-name.”

“You haven’t understood. When I pretend to be Lancashire on the stage, I
don’t pretend. Is that clear?”

It irked him that he couldn’t say, “As mud.” She was too passionately in
earnest for him to dare the flippancies. He said, “Yes, that’s clear.”

“And Staithley in particular. I’m Staithley born and bred. Bred, I’m
telling you, in Staithley Streets. My name’s Bradshaw.”

He lashed his memory, aware dimly that Bradshaw had associations for him
other than the railway-guide. It was coming to him now. The Staithley
Bradshaws, that sixteenth birthday interview with his father, his own
disparaging of Tom Bradshaw and Sir Philip’s defense of him. His father
had been right, too. Tom was in some office under the Coalition, pulling
his weight like all the rest. The war had proved his sportsmanship,
as it had everybody’s. He hadn’t a doubt that any of the Staithley
Bradshaws who were in the army were splendid soldiers.

In the ranks, though.

One thought twice about marrying their sister. He wished she hadn’t
told him, and as he wished it she was emphasizing, “I’m from the Begging
Bradshaws.”

He forced a smile. “You’re a long way from them, then,” he said, and she
agreed on that.

“Oh, yes,” she said, “I’m eight years from them. I don’t know them and
they don’t know me. I’m Mary Arden to every one but you: only when you
say your idea of love is finding comfort in my arms, I had to tell you
just whose arms they are. I’m Bradshaw and I’ve sung for pennies in the
Staithley Streets.”

Some of the implications he did not perceive at once, but he saw the
one that mattered. His sphinx had spoken now. She “had” to tell him, and
there were only two reasons why. The first was that she loved him, and
the second was that she was honest in her love--“Mary,” he said, “you’ll
marry me.”

“No.”

“If you want arguments about a thing that’s settled, I’ll give you
them,” he said. “You don’t know what a gift you’ve brought me. You don’t
know how magnificently it suits me that you’re Bradshaw.”

“Suits you!” she cried incredulously, and he told her why of all the
things she might have been she was the one which definitely wiped out
all possibility of his return to Staithley. They couldn’t force him
there with a Bradshaw for his wife, they would be the first to cry out
that it wouldn’t do: she was his master-card, Mary, whom he loved; she
was Mary Arden and tremendously a catch; she was Mary Bradshaw, his sure
defense against the rigid expectations of the Hepplestalls and... oh,
uncounted things besides. “And I apologize,” he said, “I apologize for
arguing, for dragging in the surrounding circumstance. But you tell me
you’re Bradshaw as if it unmade us and I tell you it’s the best touch in
the making of us.”

She wasn’t sure of that. She was idiosyncratic and peculiar herself in
wishing to go back to Staithley, but she felt that her dream, though she
had stripped it of romantic hate, yet stood for something sounder than
his mere obstinate refusal to return. He left himself in air; he was
a negative; rejecting Staithley, he had no plans of what he was to do
after the war.

But that was to prejudge him, it was certainly to calculate, and she had
calculated too much in her life. Caution be hanged! There was a place
for wildness.

They would say, of course, that she was marrying for position. Let them
say: she would, certainly, be Lady Hepplestall, but at what a discount!
To be Lady Hep-plestall and not to live in Lancashire, in the one place
where the significance of being Hepplestall was grasped in full! It was
like marrying a king in exile, it was like receiving a rope of pearls
upon condition that she never wore them. It excluded the pungent climax
of Mary Ellen as Mistress of Staithley Hall.

Her dream had set, indeed, in a painted sky, but she would not linger in
gaze upon its afterglow; she was not looking at sunset but at dawn, and
raised her eyes to his. She discovered that she was being kissed. She
had the sensation, ecstatic and poignant, surrendering and triumphant,
of being kissed by the man she loved.

She had not, hitherto, conceived a high opinion of kissing. On the stage
and off, it was a professional convention, fractionally more expressive
than a handshake. This was radically different; this was, tinglingly,
vividly, to feel, to be aware of herself and, through their lips, of
him. She had the exaltation of the giver who gives without reserve, and
from up there, bemused in happiness, star-high with Rupert’s kiss and
her renunciations, she fell through space when he unclasped her and
said with brisk assurance, “Engagement ring before lunch. License after
lundi. That’s a reasonable program, isn’t it?”

Perhaps it was reasonable to a time-pressed man whose leave could now
be counted by the hour. Perhaps she hadn’t seen that there is only one
first kiss. It came, and no matter what the sequel held, went lonely,
unmatched, unique. What passion-laden words could she expect from him to
lengthen a moment that was gone?

It wasn’t he who was failing’ her, it was herself who must, pat upon
their incomparable moment, be criticizing him because he was not
miraculous but practical. And this was thought, a sickly thing, when her
business was to feel, it was opposition when her business was surrender.
The wild thing was the right thing now. She purged herself of thought.

“Yes,” she said. She was to marry. Marry. And then he would go back to
France; but first he was to find comfort in her arms.



CHAPTER VIII--THE REGENCY

THE rigorous theory that a Hepplestall was instantly prepared at the
word of command to go to the ends of the earth in the interests of
the firm was, in practice, softened by expediency. They did not, for
instance, recall their manager at Calcutta or Rio and expect him to
fill a home berth as aptly as a man who had not spent half a lifetime in
familiarizing himself with special foreign conditions; they used their
man-power with discretion and humanity, and there seemed nothing harsh
in expecting William Hepplestall, chief of their Manchester offices, to
remove to Staithley when he became the acting Head.

William was a man who, in other circumstances, would have deserved
the epithet “worthy,” perhaps with its slightly mocking significance
emphasized by a capital W. A “Worthy” has solid character bounded by
parochial imagination; and William rose, but only by relentless effort,
to thinking in the wide-world terms of trade imposed upon the chief of
Hepplestal’s Manchester warehouse. He was masterly in routine; under Sir
Philip, a trusted executant of that leader’s conceptions; and since
he bore his person with great dignity, he cut a figure ambassadorial,
impressive, fit representative in Manchester of the Hepplestalls who
took the view of that city that it was an outpost--their principal
outpost--of Staithley Bridge.

Probably Sir Philip, had he been alive, would have prevented William’s
promotion; but Sir Philip had died suddenly, without chance to nominate
a successor who, most likely, would have been unobvious and, most
certainly, the best. And even Sir Philip would have saluted ungrudgingly
the spirit, humble yet resolute, in which William accepted his
responsibility. The Board, weakened in personnel by the war, did, as
Boards do, the obvious thing, and were very well satisfied with the
wisdom of their choice.

What they did not understand, what William himself did not foresee, was
that his difficulties were to be increased by the conduct of his wife.
Mrs. William had failed to realize that in marrying William she married
a Service. She thought she married the head of Hepplestall’s Manchester
offices and that she had, as a result, her position in Manchester and
her distinguished home in Alderley Edge, which is almost a rural suburb
and, also, the seat of a peer. Short of living in London, to which she
had vague aspirations when William retired, she was very well content
with her degree; and the news that she was expected to uproot herself
and to live in Staithley came as a startling assault on settled
prepossessions. While she hadn’t the challenging habit of asserting that
she was of Manchester and proud of it, she knew the difference between
Manchester, where one could pretend one was not provincial, and
Staithley, where no such pretense was possible, and it was vainly that
William told her of Lady Hepplestall’s offer to leave the Hall in
their favor. Sir Philip’s widow knew, if Mrs. William didn’t, what was
incumbent on a Hepplestall.

“In other words, we’re to be caretakers for Rupert,” she said. “What
will become of my Red Cross committee work here?”

William suggested that by using the car she need be cut off from none of
her activities. “But I’m to live down there,” she said, “decentralized,
in darkest Lancashire,” and she had her alternative. If the firm
required this irrational sacrifice of William’s wife, he had surely his
reply that he was rich enough to retire and would retire with her,
to London. Her friend, Lady Duxbury, was already preparing to move to
London after the war; the William Hepplestalls could move now. They were
forced to move now.

“It is not a question of being rich enough to retire,” he said. “No
doubt I am that; but I am an able-bodied servant of the firm. We
Hepplestalls do not retire while we are capable of service.”

She had never thought him so dull a dog before; she whistled at the
obligations of the Service, and she exaggerated the influence of a wife
which persuades in proportion as it is ventured sparingly, seasonably,
and with due regard to the example of pig-drivers who, when they would
have their charges go to the left, make a feint of driving them to the
right.

“Sir Ralph Duxbury is younger than you,” she argued, “and he’s retiring
at the end of the war. They’re going to London to enjoy life before
they’re too old.”

“Duxbury,” said William severely, “is a war-profiteer. His future plans
tally with his present.”

“Oh, how can you say that of your friend?”

“I can say it of most of my friends. But you would hardly suggest that
it is true of me. You would hardly put the case of a Hepplestall on all
fours with the case of a Duxbury.”

She did suggest it. “But surely you are all in business to make money!”

“My dear,” he said, with dignified rebuke, “I am a Hepplestall,” and
left it, without more argument, at that. He knew no cure for eyes which
saw no difference between the Service and the nimble men who had thriven
by the mushroom trades of temporary war-contractors. “And we go to
Staithley.”

If it was a matter of capitulations, he had his own to make in
his disappearance from Manchester, his familiar scene. The Head of
Hepplestalls made no half-and-half business of it, dividing his days
between the mills, the Manchester office and the Manchester Exchange. He
left others to cut a figure on ‘Change and to hold court in the offices.
His place was at the source, at the mills, a standard-bearer of the
cotton trade, a manufacturer first and a salesman and distributor only
by proxy. It meant, for William, the change in the habits of half
a lifetime, the end of his pleasant Cheshire County associations at
Alderley, the end of his lunches in his club in Manchester, and, so
far, he could have sympathized with Gertrude if only she hadn’t, by the
violence of her expression, driven him hotly to resent her view.

She called it “darkest Lancashire”--Staithley, the Staithley of the
Hepplestalls! “Caretakers for Rupert!” There was truth in that, though
the caretaking, by reason of the war and because when the war ended
Rupert had still to begin at the beginning, would last ten years and
(confound Gertrude), couldn’t she see what it meant to William that he
was going to live and to have his children live in Staithley Hall where
he had spent his boyhood? Caretakers! They were all caretakers, they
were all trustees. Above all, he, William, was Head of Hepple-stall’s
and his wife had so little appreciation of the glory that was his as to
be captious about the trivial offsets.

The responsibility, heaven knew, was heavy enough without Gertrude’s
adding to it this galling burden of her discontent, but, though she
submitted, it was never gracefully. She went to Staithley determined
that their time there should be short, that she would lose no
opportunity to press for his retirement; but she had learned the need of
subtlety. She had found her William a malleable husband, but there
were hard places in the softest men and here was one of them not to be
negotiated easily or hurriedly, but by a gentle tactfulness. Perhaps she
knew, better than he knew himself, that there was no granite in him.

She reminded him, not every day or every week, but sufficiently often
to show that she did not relent, of her hatred of Staithley. She had
the wisdom not to criticize the Hall--indeed she couldn’t, even when she
flogged resentment, disrelish that aging place of mellow beauty--but,
“If it were anywhere but at Staithley!” she cried with wearying
monotony, and in a score of ways she made dissatisfaction rankle. It was
a fact in their lives which she intended to turn into a factor.

She made a minor counter of Rupert’s marriage to a musical comedy
actress. “I’m caretaker for a slut,” she said, and when, after the war,
William was indulgent about Rupert who was demobilized and yet did not
come to Staithley, her fury was uncontrolled. “He has had no honeymoon
and no holiday,” said William. “Both are due to him before he comes
here.”

“Here,” she said, “to the Hall, to turn me out of the only thing
that made Staithley tolerable. You expect me to live in a villa in
Staithley?”

“The Hall is Rupert’s. If he were a bachelor, he would no doubt ask us
to stay on. As he is married, we must find other quarters.”

“But not in Staithley. William, say it shall not be in Staithley.”

“It must.”

“I’m evicted for that slut! Have you no more thought for your wife than
to humiliate me like that?”

“There is no humiliation, Gertrude. And, I expect, no need to think of
this at all yet. Rupert deserves a long holiday.”

“Keeping me on tenterhooks, never knowing from one day to the next when
I shall get orders to quit. And, all the time we could do the reasonable
thing. We could leave Staithley and go to London.”

“We shall not leave Staithley,” he said. “Staithley is the home of the
Head of Hepplestall’s.”

“The homeless Head,” she taunted, and he did, in fact, almost as much
as she, resent the implications of Rupert’s marriage. It had been suave
living at the Hall, peopled with memories of his race and, important
point, affording room for a man to escape into from his wife. Certainly
he had been dull about Rupert’s marriage, he hadn’t sufficiently
perceived that he must leave the Hall to live elsewhere in Staithley. “A
villa in Staithley,” Gertrude put it, and truly he supposed that he
must live in a house which would be correctly described as a villa. He
couldn’t expect the associations of the Hall, but he wanted scope in a
Staithley home in which to flee from Gertrude, and looked ahead with a
sense of weariness to the long period of Rupert’s noviciate. Then, and
not till then, he might chant his “_Nunc dîmittis_” he might retire and
go, as Gertrude wished, to London, but not before then. Certainly not
before then.

But war disintegrates. William was wrong in thinking that he had to pit
his tenacity and his sense of duty only against Gertrude. The end of the
war and its immediate sequel were to blow a shrewd side-wind upon his
resolution to endure.

The great delusion of the war was that its end would be peace. William
was encouraged by that delusion to wrestle with the war-problems of his
business: the shortage of raw cotton, the leaping costs of production,
the shortage of shipping. The home trade was good beyond precedent, it
almost seemed that the higher the price the greater the demand; but
the home market, at its most voracious, took only a minor part of
Hepplestall’s output. Turkey was an enemy; India, China and South
America followed warily the upward trend of prices, expecting the end of
the war to bring a sudden fall, and, also, were difficult of access by
reason of the transport shortage. In spite of the military service act,
in spite of their woolen dyeing, and of every device that William and
the Board could contrive to keep the great mills active, there was
unemployment at Hepplestall’s. Cotton was rationed in Lancashire and
Hepplestall’s quota of the common stock was insufficient to keep their
spindles at work. The situation was met adequately by the Cotton Control
Board and the Unions and by the substitution of corporate spirit for
individualism; by high wages; by a pool of fines imposed on those who
worked more spindles and took more cotton than their due; and ends were
met all round, but, however different the case of the munition trades,
cotton was no beneficiary of the war.

The year 1919 brought a great and a dangerous reaction. It was seen by
the foreign markets that their expectations of a spectacular fall in
prices were not to be realized, and, for a time, buyers scrambled
to supply, at any price, cotton goods to countries starved of cotton
practically throughout the war. William looked back to his father’s time
when the margin of profit on a pound of yarn had been reckoned by an
eighth or a farthing: it was now sixpence or more, and he trembled
for the cotton trade. Such margins had the febrile unhealthiness of an
overheated forcing-house. He hadn’t expected peace to duplicate for him
the conditions of 1913, but these profits, current in 1919, expressed
for him the hazards of the peace. There was a madness in the very air,
and a frenzy of speculation resulted from this rebound of the cotton
trade from war-depression to extreme buoyancy. The profits were
notorious, and Labor could not be expected to remain without its share
of the loot. That was reasonable enough, but William had no faith in
the boom’s lasting and knew the difficulty of persuading Labor to accept
reduction when the tight times came. Meanwhile, certainly, Labor had a
sound case for a large advance in wages, even though wages had
steadily risen throughout the war. William wondered if any helmsman
of Hepple-stall’s had ever faced such anxious times as these; the very
appearance of prosperity, deceptive and fleeting as he held it to be,
was incalculable menace. In spite of himself, he was a profiteer--not a
war, but an as-a-result-of-the-war profiteer--and both hated and feared
it. This was not peace but pyrotechny; they were up like a rocket and he
feared to come down like the stick.

Lancashire was turned into a speculator’s cockpit and cotton mill shares
were changing hands sometimes at ten times their nominal value. The
point, especially, was the prohibitive cost of building, so that
existing mills had monopoly valuations. The general anticipation, which
William did not share, was that a world hunger for cotton goods would
sustain the boom for four or five years; there was plenty of war-made
wealth ready for investment, and the cotton trade appeared a promising
field for high and quick returns.

So much money was there and so attractive did cotton trade prospects
appear that the local speculator began to be outbidden very greatly to
his patriotic annoyance. The annoyance, indeed, was more than patriotic
or parochial, it was sensible. A highly technical trade can be run
to advantage only when its controllers have not only full technical
knowledge, but full knowledge of local characteristics and prejudices,
and Lancashire was, historically, self-supporting with its finance as
well as its trade under Lancashire direction. From its brutal origins
to its present comparatively humane organization, its struggles and its
achievements had been its own.

The interests of the financier are financial; one-eyed, short-sighted,
parasitic interests. Steam and the factory system fell like a blight
on Lancashire, but they had in them the elements of progress of a kind;
they worked out, outrageously, in the course of a century to a balance
where the power was not exclusively the employers’. The object of the
London financiers who now perceived in Lancashire a fruitful field was
to buy up mills, run them under managers for the first years of the
boom, then, before new mills could be built, to show amazing profits and
to unload on the guileless public before the boom collapsed. It was
a raid purely in financial interests and opposed to the permanent
interests of Lancashire, which would be left to bear, in a new era of
distress, the burdens imposed by over-capitalization. To the financier,
Lancashire was a counter in whose future he had no interest after he
had floated his companies and got out with his profits. And he collected
mills like so many tricks in his game.

The owners were fraudulent trustees to sell even under temptation of
such prices as were offered? Well, many did not sell, and for others
there was the excuse, besides natural greed, of war-weariness. They had
the feeling that here was security offered them, ease after years of
strain; it was a _sauve qui peut_ and the devil take the hindmost. They
were men who hadn’t been in business for their health and were offered
golden opportunity to retire from business. They had been, perhaps, a
little jealous of others who had made strictly war wealth, and this
was their chance to get hold, at second hand, of a share of those war
profits. There was the example of others... there would be stressful
times ahead for the cotton trade... Labor upheavals... it was good to be
out of it all, with one’s money gently in the Funds.

And Finance goes stealthily to work: it was not at first apparent,
even to sellers, that behind the nominal buyers were non-Lancashire
financiers. There was no immediate apprehension of the objects; nobody
took quick alarm. Labor, especially the Oldham spinners, had cotton
shares to sell and took a profit with the rest. They started a special
share exchange in Oldham: it was open through the Christmas holidays
and on New Year’s Day of 1920. That speaks more than volumes for the
dementia of that boom. Working on New Year’s Day in Oldham! What was
the use of being sentimentally annoyed at being outbidden by a Londoner,
even if you perceived he was a Londoner, when the congenital idiot
offered ten pounds for a pound share on which you had only paid up five
shillings?

Appetite grew by what it fed on and Finance ceased to be satisfied with
acquiring small mills whose names, at any rate, were unknown to the
outside investor. Hepplestall’s was different, Hepplestall’s was known
to every shopkeeper and every housewife in the land. It was, in the
opinion of Finance, only a question of price; and prices did not cow
Finance.

William sat in the office of the Hepplestalls with a letter before him
which was Finance’s opening gambit in the game. It was addressed to
him personally, marked “private and confidential,” by a London firm
of chartered accountants whose national eminence left no doubt of the
serious intentions of their clients.

Which of us does not know the fearful joy of mental flirtation with
crime? William, restraining his first sound impulse to tear up the
letter and to put its fragments where they properly belonged, in
the waste-paper basket, persuaded himself that his motive was simple
curiosity. It had nothing to do with Gertrude, nor with her impatience
of Rupert who was prolonging a holiday into a habit, and who, if he made
no signal that her reign in Staithley Hall must end, made no signal,
either, that his training for the Service must begin. By this time,
William had, distinctly, his puzzled misgivings about Rupert, but he
hadn’t quite reached the point of seeing in Rupert’s absence and his
uncommunicativeness a deliberate challenge to the Service. He attributed
to thoughtlessness an absence which was thoughtful.

He had at first no other idea than to calculate what fabulous figure
would, in existing circumstances, be justly demanded for Hepplestall’s
on the ridiculous hypothesis of Hepplestall’s being for sale. There
was surely no harm on a slack morning in a little theoretic financial
exercise of that kind. There wasn’t; but, for all that, he went about
the collecting of data, alone in his office under the pictured _eyes_ of
bygone Hepplestalls, with the furtive air of a criminal.

For insurance purposes, in view of post-war values, they had recently
had a professional valuation made of the mills, machinery, office and
warehouse buildings in Staithley and Manchester. Providential, William
thought, meaning, of course, no more than that he need not waste more
than an hour or so in satisfying his natural curiosity. It was, he
asserted, defiantly daring the _gaze_ of the Founder on the wall,
natural to be curious.

He had the valuation for insurance before him now: he applied the
multiplication table to reach an estimate of the market value. He
meditated goodwill. Guiltily he attempted to capitalize the name of
Hepplestall’s, and it made him feel less guilty to capitalize it in
seven figures. The total result was so large that, notwithstanding the
national eminence of the chartered accountants whose letter was in his
pocket, he felt justified in regarding his proceedings as completely
extravagant.

So he might just as well amuse himself further. He might, for instance,
refresh his memory of the distribution of Hepplestall’s shares, and
he might turn up the articles of association and see if that document,
usually so comprehensive, had anticipated this unlikeliest of all
improbabilities, a sale of Hepplestall’s: and what emerged from his
investigation was the fact that if he and Rupert voted, on their joint
holdings of shares, for a sale at a legally summoned general meeting of
Hepplestall’s shareholders, a sale would be authorized. He and Rupert!
William found himself sweating violently. It was impure, obscene
nightmare, but style his communings what he would, the pass was there
and he and Rupert had the power to sell it.

He rose and paced the room. War disintegrates, but not to this degree,
not to the degree of dissipating the tradition of the Hepplestalls. He,
the Head, the Chief Trustee, had meditated treachery, but only (he faced
the portraits reassuringly), only speculatively, only in pursuit of a
train of thought started by an impertinent letter, which he had not torn
up. No, he had not torn it up, he had preserved it as laughable proof
of the insensibility to finer issues of these financial people. He would
show it to his brothers or to Rupert: it would become quite a family
jest.

To Rupert? Indeed he ought to show it first to Rupert, the future Head.
He could, jokingly, good-humoredly, use it as a lever to make Rupert
conscious of his responsibilities, he could say “if you don’t come
quickly, there’ll be no Hepplestall’s for you to come to. Look at this
letter. You and I, between us, have controlling interest; we could sell
the firm, and the rest of the Board could not effectively prevent us.
I’m joking, of course. That sort of thing isn’t in the tradition of the
Hepplestalls. And, by the way, speaking of the tradition, when are we to
expect you amongst us?”

Something like that; not a bit a business letter, not serious; genial
and avuncular; but there was, manifestly, a Rupert affair, and this
impudent inquiry of the eminent chartered accountants was the very means
to bring the affair to a head. The boy was exceeding the license allowed
even to one who had been in the war from the beginning; it was nearly a
year since his demobilization.

William thought that his letter would seem more friendly if he addressed
it from the Hall and looked in his desk for notepaper. He seemed to have
run out of the supply of private notepaper he kept in his desk; then the
spinning manager interrupted him. He put the letter in his pocket again:
he would write to Rupert after lunch at the Hall.

He was busy for some time with the spinning manager, and went home
convinced that the only serious thought he had ever had about the letter
in his pocket was of its opportuneness in the matter of Rupert. It was
nothing beyond a plausible excuse for writing to Rupert essentially on
another subject and the figures in his note-book were not a traitor’s
secret but the meaningless result of a middle-aged gentleman’s mental
gymnastics.

He lunched alone with Gertrude and, “I’m writing to Rupert to-day,” he
said incautiously.

“Oh?” She bristled. “Why?”

He perceived and regretted his incaution. It was indiscreet to say that
his object was to urge Rupert to Staithley when that coming could only
mean Gertrude’s going from the Hall. “Oh,” he said, “I’ve to send on a
letter which will amuse him.” He had decided that the only use of
that letter was humorous; it was a jest, questionable in taste but
illustrative of the times and therefore to be mentioned in the family
and preserved as a curiosity amongst the papers of the firm. And if it
were going to be a family diversion, who had better right than William’s
wife to be the first to enjoy it with him? She had unreal grievances
enough without his adding to them the real grievance of his denying her
the right to laugh at those harlequin accountants who so grotesquely
misapprehended Hepplestall’s. “This is the letter,” he said, passing it
across to her, expecting, actually, that she would smile.

She did not smile. “I see,” she said, and, in fact, saw very well.
Women’s incomprehension of business has been exaggerated. “Why, to
arrive at the figure they ask for would take weeks of work.”

“I got at it roughly in half an hour this morning,” he boasted.

“And sent it to them?” she asked quickly.

“Oh dear, no. I was only doing it as a matter of curiosity. If I sent
them my result, I should frighten them.”

“They must expect something big, though. Shan’t you reply at all or are
you consulting Rupert first?”

“I’d hardly say ‘consult,’” he said. “I’m sending it him as I show
it you--as a joke. I shall point out to him, as a form, that he and I
between us have a controlling share interest. I shall jest about
our powers. It’s an opportunity of making Rupert awake to his
responsibilities.”

“Yes,” said Gertrude, “I see. And you know best, dear.” She was
dangerously uncombative, arranging her mental notes that, though he
derided the letter, he had prepared an estimate and that he was writing
to Rupert who, with William, could take decisive action. By way purely
of showing him how little seriously she took it, she changed the
subject.

“I heard from Connie Duxbury this morning,” she said.

“Not the most desirable of your acquaintances, I think,” said William.

“Oh, my dear. Sir Ralph’s a member of Parliament now.”

“It isn’t a certificate of respectability.”

She looked thoughtfully at him, as he rose and went into the library to
write to Rupert, with the careful, anxious gaze of a wife who sees in
her husband the symptoms of ill-health. She wished to leave Staithley
for her own sake, but decidedly it was for William’s sake as well. In
Manchester, if he had not been advanced, if (for instance) his play at
Bridge was circumspect while hers was dashing, he had been broadminded.
She remembered that he had spoken of Sir Ralph as a profiteer, but had
admitted that most of their friends were profiteers. Staithley, already,
was narrowing William, in months. What would it not do for him in years?
She must get him out of Staithley before it was too late.

He was writing to Rupert; so would she write to Rupert. She would
assume, and she had her shrewd idea that the assumption was correct,
that Rupert’s views of Staithley marched with her own. She would paint
in lurid colors a picture of life in Staithley; she would exhibit
William, his furrowed brow, his whitening hair, as an awful warning;
she would enlarge upon the post-war difficulties, so immensely more
wearisome than in Sir Philip’s time. She would suggest that the
accountants’ letter was a salvation, a means honorable and reasonable,
of cutting the entail, of escaping from the Service. And she would tell
him to regard her letter as confidential.

She had no doubt whatever of her success with Rupert and as to William,
waverer was written all over him. Rupert’s decision would decide
William, and the William Hepplestalls would go to London. There were
housing troubles, but if you had money and if you took time by the
forelock, trouble melted. She proceeded to take time by the forelock and
wrote to Lady Duxbury to ask her to keep an eye open for a large house
near her own. She whispered to her dearest Connie in the very, very
strictest confidence that Hepplestall’s was going to be sold.



CHAPTER IX--MARY ARDEN’S HUSBAND

GIVE up the stage!” echoed Mr. Chown, assuming an appearance of
thunderstruck amazement.

“Don’t act at me, my friend,” said Mary. “You must have had the
probability in mind ever since I told you I was married.”

He had; that was the worst of women; an agent sweated blood to make a
woman into a star, and the thankless creature manned and retired.
But Mary had not immediately retired and he thought he had reasonable
grounds for hoping that she would continue to pay him his commission for
many years; a woman who married well and yet remained on the stage could
surely be acting only because she liked it, and Mr. Chown had a lure to
dangle before her which could hardly fail of its effect upon any actress
who cared two straws for her profession.

He remembered the day when he had rung up Rossiter and had said, “Mary’s
married,” and Rossiter had replied, “Right, I’ll watch her,” and, a
little later, had told him “Mary will do. She can play Sans-Gêne.”

That was the bait he had for Mary. When (if ever), London tired
of “Granada the Gay,” she was to play Sans-Gêne. She was to stand
absolutely at the head of her profession. He reviewed musical comedy
and could think of no woman’s part in all its repertoire which was so
signally the blue riband of the lighter stage; and Rossiter destined it
for the wear of Mary Arden!

“Listen to this, Mary. Do you know what Rossiter is doing next?”

“I’ll see it from the stalls,” she said.

“No. You’ll be it. You’ll be Sans-Gêne in ‘The Duchess of Dantzig.’ ”

“I didn’t tell you I’m retiring from the stage, did I? All I said was
that it’s possible.”

“Ah!” said Chown, watching his bait at work.

“You’re wrong,” she said. “You’re wrong.”

He put his hand on hers. “Am I, Mary? Absolutely?”

“No,” she confessed, “and I’m grateful. You’ve done many things for me
and this is the biggest of them all. If I stay on the stage, I’ll play
it and I’ll... I’ll not make a failure. But you haven’t tempted me to
stay. I’m getting mixed. I mean I’m tempted, horribly. I’ve a megaphone
in my brain that’s shouting at me to damn everything and just jolly well
show them what I can do with that part. But I won’t damn everything. I
won’t forget the things that make it doubtful whether I’ll stay on the
stage or not. I’ll give up Sans-Gêne rather than forget them, and I know
as well as you do what Rossiter means by casting me for that part. He
means that Mary’s right there.”

“Yes,” said Chown, “he means that.”

“It’s decent of him. We’ll be decent, too, please. We’ll tell him
there’s a doubt.”

“Look here, Mary, I know you well enough to ask. Is it a baby?”

She shook her head. “Not that sort of baby,” she said, and puzzled him.

It was Rupert. In Mary’s opinion, Rupert was in danger of becoming the
husband of Mary Arden, one of those deplorable hangers-on of the theater
who assert a busy self-importance because they are married to somebody
who is famous. He hadn’t, quite, come to that yet, but it was difficult
to see what else he could assert of himself beyond his emphatic negative
against going to Staithley; and she proposed very definitely that he
should not come to it, either. He should not, even if she had to leave
the stage, even if she must sacrifice so great, so climactic a part as
Sans-Gêne.

She had not come painlessly to that opinion of him. She had not watched
him since his demobilization and she had not come to her profound
conviction that something was very wrong with Rupert, without feeling
shame at her scrutiny and distrust of this love of hers which could
disparage. At first, while he was still at the Front, she went on acting
simply to drug anxiety. She acted on the stage by night and for the
films by day, and later it was to see if she could not, by setting an
example, persuade him that work was a sound diet; and now she was afraid
that the example had miscarried and that her associations with the stage
were doing him a mischief. To work in the Galaxy was one thing, to loaf
in it another, and he, who had no work to do there, was in it a good
deal.

If Rupert was developing anything, it was listlessness. He had an animal
content in Mary, and was allowing a honeymoon to become a routine.
Perhaps because she was a certainty and because the war had sated him
with hazards, he could not bear to be away from her. She had suggested
Cambridge and, though it was flat, was ready to go there with him.
He went and looked at Cambridge, found it overcrowded and returned to
London. Through the summer he played some cricket, in minor M. C. C.
matches, and did not find his form. He thought of golf for the winter,
found that the good clubs had long waiting lists, and, though friends
offered to rush him in, refused to have strings pulled for him.

Privately, he had self-criticism and tried to stifle it. There was
a miasma of disillusionment everywhere; there was the Peace that was
mislaid by French pawnbrokers instead of being made by gentlemen; there
was the impulse to forget the war on the part of the civilian population
who now seemed so brutally in possession; there was the treatment of
disbanded soldiery which, this time, was to have belied history, and
didn’t. He strained to believe the current dicta of the minority mind
and to find in them excuse for his lethargy.

He was, no doubt, tired; but whatever subtle infections of the soul
might be distressing him, materially at any rate he was immune from the
common aggravation of high prices. He made that explicitly one of his
excuses. It wasn’t fair that he, who had all the money he needed, should
take a job from a man who needed money. “There’s unpaid work,” thought
Mary, but she did not say it. She thought he must sooner or later see it
for himself.

He did see it and tried to blink at it. He was of the Hepplestalls, of a
race who weren’t acclimatized to leisure, who found happiness in setting
their teeth in work. He was born with a conscience and couldn’t damp it
down. He was aware, at the back of behind, that it was hurting him to
turn a deaf ear to the call of Staithley. He had done worse things
than Staithley implied in the necessity of war, and there was also a
necessity of peace. He felt nobly moral to let such sentiments find
lodgment in his mind.

His father’s diffident comparison of the Hepplestalls with the Samurai
came back to him. Yes, one ought to serve, but it wasn’t necessary to
go to Staithley to be a Samurai. One could be a Samurai in London. He,
decisively, was forced to be a Samurai in London because he had married
Mary Arden and to wrench her from her vocation, to take her away from
London, was unthinkable.

There was no hurry to set about discovering the place of a Samurai in
modern London. Like everybody else he had, with superlative reason,
promised himself a good time after the war, and if the good time had its
unforeseen drawbacks, that was no ground for refusing to enjoy all the
good there was. Mary was not the whole of the good time, but she was its
center. He supposed he couldn’t--certainly he couldn’t; there were other
things in life than a wife--concentrate indefinitely on Mary, but this
world of the theater to which she belonged was so jolly, so strange to
him, so unaccountably enthralling. He became expert in its politics
and its gossip. He was obsessed by it through her who had never been
obsessed. He was duped, as she had never been since Hugh Darley applied
his corrective to her childish errors, by the terribly false perspective
of the theater. He saw the theater, indeed, in terms of Mary; several
times a week he sat through her scenes in a stall at the Galaxy,
and when she scoffed at the idiotic pride he took in gleaning inside
information, in knowing what so and so was going to do before the
announcement appeared in the papers, and at being privileged to go to
some dress-rehearsals, it was, he thought, only because she was used to
it all while he came freshly to it. He might even find that a Samurai
was needed in the theater. Would Mary like him to put up a play for her?
He thought her reply hardly fair to the excellence of his intentions.
But if she refused, incisively, to let him be a Samurai of the theater,
she was troubled to see him continue his education of an initiate.

He was self-persuaded that his fussy loafing had importance, when it
was, at most, a turbid retort to conscience. He was feeling his way, he
was learning the ropes, he was meditating his plans, and there was no
lack of flattering council offered to the husband of Mary Arden who was,
besides, rich.

                   Big fleas have little fleas
                   Upon their backs to bite ’em.
                   These fleas have other fleas
                   And so, ad infinitum.

Morally, he was the little flea on Mary’s back, and he was collecting
parasites on his own. Then William’s letter came, offering a clean cut
from Staithley and an annihilating reply to his conscience.

He didn’t need Gertrude’s letter to show him exactly what William’s
and William’s enclosure meant. He read clearly between the lines that
William wobbled. “He’s on the fence,” he thought, “he doesn’t need a
push to shove him over,--he needs a touch.” Then Rupert and William,
acting together, must face a hostile Board of conservative Hepplestalls,
and a nasty encounter he expected it to be. They wouldn’t spare words
about his father’s son.

But that was a small price to pay for freedom; Rupert and William
had the whip hand and the rest of the Hepplestalls could howl,
they could--they would; he could hear them--shriek “Treachery” and
“Blasphemy” at him, but it was only a case of keeping a stiff upper lip
through an unpleasant quarter of an hour, and he was quit of the Service
for ever. There would no longer be a Service.

That was a tremendous thought, breath-catching like--oh, like half a
hundred things which had happened to him in France. Yes, that was the
true perspective. The war had played the deuce with tradition, it had
finished bigger things than the service of the Hepplestalls. They would
have to see, these Hepplestalls, that he was a man of the new era, a
realist, not to be bamboozled by their antique sentimentalities. If they
wanted still to serve, it could be arranged, as part of the conditions
of the purchase, that they should serve the incoming owner. He was
disobliging nobody.

He looked up to find Mary studying his face. “Sorry, old thing,” he
said, “but these are rather important. Letters from Staithley.”

“Staithley!”

“Yes. I expect you’d forgotten there is such a place. I haven’t spoken
of it, but Staithley has been in my mind a good deal lately. I’ve found
myself wondering if I was altogether right in giving it the go-by. I’ve
wondered if I quite played the game.” It didn’t hurt to say these things
now that the means to abolish the Service were in his hands; he could
admit aloud to Mary what he hadn’t cared, before, to admit to himself.
And he was too interested in his point of view to note the quick
thankfulness in Mary’s face, and her joy at his confession. Complacently
he went on, “That’s putting it too strongly, but... ancestors. It’s
absurd, but I’ve been in the street and I’ve had the idea that one of
those musty old fellows who are hung up on the walls in Hepplestall’s
office was following me about, going to trip me up or knock me on the
head or something. I’ve looked over my shoulder. I’ve jumped into a
taxi. Nerves, of course, and you’d have thought my nerves were tough
enough at this time of day. I’m telling you this so that you’ll rejoice
with me in these letters. They’re the answer to it all. There’s no
question about playing the game when the game’s no longer there to
play.”

He gave her the letters. She hadn’t known how much she had continued to
be hopeful of the Staithley idea, not for herself, not for a Bradshaw
who might live in Staithley Hall, but for him; and his admission that
Staithley had been in his mind was evidence that he knew occultly the
root cause of his derangement. These letters, he told her, were the
answer to it all, and they could be nothing but the call to Staithley,
an ultimatum which he meant to obey, of which he had the charming grace
to admit that he was glad. Indeed, indeed, she would rejoice with him.
He was going to Staithley, to work, to be cured by work and the tonic
air of the moors of the poison London had dropped into his system.

“This will finish off that old bogey,” he exulted and she exulted with
him as she bent her eyes to read the letters. She read and saw with what
disastrous optimism she had misunderstood. And he stood there aglow
with happiness, expectant of her congratulations when this was not the
beginning of new life but the death of hope! “Well?” he asked. “Well?”

“It does seem to depend on you,” she hedged.

“Uncle William would if he dared, eh? He’s as good as asking me to dare
for him, and I’ll dare all right. I’ll wire that I’ll see him to-morrow
afternoon. That’s soon enough. I’ll go by car. It’s a beastly railway
journey.”

“Aren’t you deciding very quickly, Rupert?”

“I thought for a solid five minutes before I handed the letters across
to you.” He was most indignant at her imputation of hastiness.

“I was watching you. Five minutes! Not long to give to the consideration
of a death sentence.”

“A--what?”

“Staithley. Staithley Mills without the Hepplestalls!”

“Oh, they’ll survive it. This tiling’s a gift from God, and I’m not
going to turn my back on the deity. It’s bad manners. Candidly, I’m
surprised at you, Mary. You might be thinking there’s something to argue
about. You might be sentimental for the Hepplestalls.”

“No,” she said. “For a Hepplestall. For you. Rupert, I’ll leave the
stage to-morrow if you will go and do your work at Staithley.”

“Good Lord! Besides, aren’t you rather forgetting? Aren’t you forgetting
you’re a Bradshaw?”

“It is quite safe to forget that. I’m Mary Arden. Nobody knows me. It’s
too long since I was anything but that.”

“Oh, it wouldn’t do. Too risky altogether. Oh, never. Staithley’s the
one place that’s absolutely barred.”

“Rupert, you’re making me responsible. You’re using me as your excuse.”

“Damn it, Mary, do you want us to live in Staithley?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m sorry. We can’t. I do you the justice to tell you I’ve never
found you a capricious woman before. But it’s plain that this is one of
the times when a man has to put his foot down on... on sentimentality
and all that sort of thing.”

“Your conscience was troubling you, Rupert.”

“It was, I’ve admitted it. And this letter is my quittance. It washes
conscience out. It closes the account.”

“No. You’re still troubled.”

“I’ll be hanged! Do you keep my conscience?”

“I want us to go to Staithley, Rupert.”

“This time, I can’t give you what you want, Mary. I’m going to Staithley
alone, for the purpose of cutting Staithley out of my life for ever.
I’m sorry about your attitude. I’m completely fogged by it, but I’m not
going to talk about it any more. This is the nearest we’ve ever come to
quarreling and we’ll get no nearer. I’ll go along for the car now.”

“Just one moment first, though. You say you’re putting your foot down. I
have a foot as well as you.”

“I adore your foot, Mary. If I were a sculptor--”

“Seriously, Rupert, I’m going to fight this. You’re doing wrong, you
know you’re doing wrong--”

“Fight?” he said. “My dear Mary, perhaps you own half of Hepplestall’s
shares? Now I’d an idea it was I.”

“Yes, it is you. It’s the man I love, and I won’t see you do this rotten
thing and raise no hand to stop you.”

“There are two things that I deny. It isn’t rotten and you can’t stop
me. So, won’t you just admit that you’re a woman and that you’re out of
your depth? Let’s kiss and be friends.”

“When we’ve just declared war?” she smiled.

“Oh, that’s rubbish. You’ve no munitions, my dear.”

“I’ve love,” she said, “and love will find me weapons. Perhaps love
won’t be particular what weapons it finds, either. If love finds
poison-gas, you won’t forget there’s love behind the gas, will you? I
want you to understand. You offered me something. You offered to put
Mary Arden in a theater of her own. Well, it’s the dream of every
actress and God knows it’s good enough for Mary Arden. To be in
management, and in management where there’s lots of money to do exactly
as I want!”

“And more money when this sale’s gone through,” he said eagerly.

“Yes,” she said, “it’s fine for Mary. It’s more than good enough for
her. But it isn’t good enough for Mary’s Rupert. Don’t you see it? You
must, you must. To be running an entertainment factory, when you might
be running Hepplestall’s?”

“You know, you’re looking at the theater through the wrong end of the
telescope, and at Hepplestall’s through the right. You haven’t a notion
of the wonderful things I’d planned to do for you in the theater. You’ve
never let me speak of them. And it isn’t running Hepplestall’s either.
Not for a long time. If I just went up there and walked into the office
as head of Hepplestall’s, there might be some sense in what you say,
but I don’t do that. I go into the mills and spin and do all sorts of
footling jobs for years. Years, I tell you,” he shouted and then it
occurred to him that he was arguing and had said he would not argue.
“The simple fact is that you don’t know what you’re talking about and
that I do. We’ll let it rest at that, except that I’m now going for the
car.”

“And except,” said Mary, “that I am fighting.”

“You darling,” he said contemptuously, and went out.

Advocacy has its perils for the advocate. In the heat of argument, she
had felt confident of her weapon and now she doubted if it were a weapon
or hers to use. In promising Rupert a fight she had Tom Bradshaw in
mind; it had seemed to her that Labor had only to lift its voice
in order to obtain anything it demanded, and wasn’t Tom member for
Staithley? But now that Rupert had gone and she was able coolly to
examine the weapon she proposed to enlist, she couldn’t imagine why she
ever thought it would fight in her cause. Why should she, after so many
years, have thought of Tom at all? He had nothing to thank her for; that
much was certain, but she had instinctively thought of him as her true
ally in her struggle for the soul of Rupert Hepplestall. So, though she
saw no reason in it, she would carry out her intention, she would send
for Tom Bradshaw. If he was nothing else, he was a Staithley man, and
he was something else. He was a Bradshaw. So was she. That was reason
enough to send for him.

Time was against her and she didn’t know how to set about finding his
address, but the paper informed her--she didn’t as a rule take stock of
the fact--that the House was sitting. A phrase caught her eye. “Labor
members absented themselves from the debate.” Suppose he were absent
to-day? She could only try. She wrote--

_Dear Mr. Bradshaw:_

_I am writing in ease I do not find you at the House. I want to see
you urgently. You may possibly have noticed that Sir Rupert Hepplestall
married Mary Arden of the Galaxy Theatre. I enclose tickets for both
this afternoon and to-night. I must see you, please. If I am on the
stage when you come, have a look at me, but come round behind the moment
I am off. They will bring you to me at once. Failing that, telephone me
here. It is really important._

_Yours sincerely,_

_Mary Hepplestall._

She meant to have written that Mary Arden was Mary Ellen Bradshaw, but
she couldn’t resist, even in her anxiety, springing that surprise upon
him when he heard her speaking the tongue of Staithley on the stage.
He might know already, he might have seen the piece. She wasn’t
unsophisticated enough to suppose that Labor members were any more
austere in their recreations than other people, but Tom wasn’t likely to
frequent musical comedy. He liked music.

She went to the theater for the tickets, enclosed them with her letter
and took it to the House of Commons, where she was assured that Tom
would certainly receive it during the day. That was comforting as far
as it went, and what went further was that both policemen of whom she
enquired in the precincts of the House addressed her as “Miss Arden.”
 There are people who do not gain confidence by finding themselves known
to the police. Mary was helped just then to be reminded that she was
famous.

She had conquered London; surely she could conquer Rupert Hepplestall.

Reading her letter, Tom couldn’t imagine what need she had of him in
that galley, but the Coalition could coalesce without his opposition for
an hour or two that afternoon, and he might as well go and see what was
perturbing her play-acting Ladyship.

He followed instructions, went to the front of the house and asked
Rossiter’s impressive attendant if Miss Arden was at that moment on the
stage. “Mr. Bradshaw, Sir?” He was, and a surprised and flattered Mr.
Bradshaw by the time the Galaxy staff had ushered him to his stall with
the superlative deference shown to those about whom they had special
instructions. He was not royalty, and he was not received by Mr.
Rossiter, but he was Miss Arden’s guest and the technique of his welcome
was based accurately on that of Hubert Rossiter receiving royalty.

As a Labor Member he ought, properly, to have scowled at flunkeydom; he
ought to have bristled at the full house, at the sight of so many people
idle in the afternoon; and he did neither of these reasonable things.
He was in the Galaxy, and, besides, he was looking at the stage and on a
bit of authentic Lancashire on the stage. “Yon wench is the reet stuff,”
 he thought, slipping mentally back into the vernacular. “By gum, she
is.” She was remarkably the right stuff; if his ear went for anything,
she was Staithley stuff. That must be why she seemed familiar to him
as if he had met her, or somebody very like her. But he decided that he
hadn’t met her; he had only met typical Lancashire women, and this was
the sublimation of the type. She finished her scene and left the stage.
An attendant was murmuring softly to him. Would he go round and see Miss
Arden now?

Tom pulled himself together. A queer place, the theater, making a man
forget so completely that he was there on business. It dawned upon
him that this Lancashire witch he had gazed at with such absorbed
appreciation was Mary Arden, Lady Hepplestall. “If she wants anything
of me that’s mine to give, it’s hers for the asking,” he thought, as
he followed his guide, still chuckling intimately at the racy flavor
of her; no bad compliment to an actress who was thinking that day of
anything but acting.

She awaited him in her room unchanged, in the clogs and shawl of the
first act, which were not very different, except in cleanliness, from
the clothes Mrs. Butterworth had burned.

“Well, Mr. Bradshaw,” she greeted him, “and who am I?”

“Who are you? Why, Lady Hepplestall.”

“You’ve seen me from the front, haven’t you? And you didn’t know me? I’m
safer than I thought I was. Will it help you if I mention Walter Pate?”

It didn’t; he saw nothing in this splendid woman to take him back to the
starveling waif whom Pate and he adopted or to the crude, if physically
more developed, girl he had seen on one or two later occasions at
Staithley. Mary relished his bewilderment: if Rupert made seriously the
point against going to Staithley that she was Bradshaw, here was apt
confirmation of her reply that nobody would know her. Tom Bradshaw saw
her in clogs and shawl and did not know her. She hummed a bar or two of
“Lead Kindly Light.”

“Mary Ellen!” he cried. “Yes, I ought to have seen it. But Lady
Hepplestall to Mary Ellen Bradshaw. It’s a long way to look.”

“And you don’t much care to look? Not at that thankless girl who
bolted.”

But she was Lady Hepplestall and she was the artist, yes, by God, the
artist, who had gripped him magically five minutes ago. He could not
see her as a Bradshaw. “You’ve traveled far since then,” he said
ungrudgingly. “I’m proud I was in at the start.”

“I wrote to you,” she said, “because I wanted help. I don’t know why it
came to me that you were the one person who could help and even when I
wrote I saw no reason in it. No reason at all. Instinct, perhaps. We’re
both Bradshaws, and he’s a Hepplestall, but I’m not pretending that I
care about this thing except as it concerns my husband. I do think it
concerns a lot of other people, but I don’t care for them. I don’t
care if it’s good or bad for them, and this is just a matter between
my husband and myself. You see how little reason I have to suppose that
you’ll do anything.”

“The way you’re putting it is that I’m to interfere between man and
wife. That’s a mug’s game. But you can go on. I’m here to hear.”

“If I knew that mine was just a war marriage, I think I’d kill myself.
It isn’t yet, but he’s in danger, and he can be saved. It’ll save him if
he’ll go to Staithley and take up his work.”

“Hasn’t he yet?”

“No: he’s killing time in London.”

He looked at her, wondering if he could accuse her of playing the Syren.
If Mary Ellen piped, a man would dance to her tune and small blame to
him either; but he couldn’t assume that she was holding Rupert in London
when it was she who saw salvation for him in Staithley. If he had to
take a side, he took hers so far as to say, “A work-shy Hepplestall is
something new.”

“You’re thinking that it’s my fault,” she said. “You’re thinking of me
that first time you met Mary Ellen. You’re thinking of her ‘’A ’ate
th’ ’Epplestalls.’”

“I did think of it,” he admitted. “Then I thought again. He ought to be
in Staithley.”

“And he’s on his way there now to sell Hepplestall’s.”

“What!” said Tom, rising to his feet, with his hand tugging at his
collar as a flush, almost apoplectic, discolored his neck. “What! Sell
Hepplestall’s!”

She told him of the letters. “And you thought it was no business of
mine?” he said. “You saw no reason in sending for me? Instinct, eh!
Well, thank God for instinct then. Sell Hepplestall’s! By God, they
won’t. Who to? To a damned syndicate, that offers through a London
accountant? Londoners! outsiders! Know-nothing grab-alls that have the
same idea of Trades Unions as they have of Ireland. There’s been too
much of this selling of Lancashire to pirates, and happen Labor’s been
dull about it, and all. But Hepplestall’s. I didn’t think they’d go for
Hepplestall’s. That’s big business, if you like; that’s swallowing the
camel but they’re not to do it, Mary, and if you want to know who’ll
stop them, I will.” He was racing up and down her room, not like a caged
tiger which only paces, but like an angry man who tries to move his legs
in time with rushing thought. “Ugh! you don’t know what you’ve done,
letting this cat out of the bag. I’ll be careful for your sake, but I
tell you I’m tempted to be careless. Would you like to know what they
called me in the _Times_ the other day? An Elder Statesman of the Labor
Party. That means I’ve gone to sleep, with toothless jaws that couldn’t
bite a millionaire if I caught his hand in my pocket. It means I’m a
harmless fossil and you can bet your young life the bright lads of the
advanced movement that think Tom Bradshaw lives by selling passes are
on to that damned phrase. If I go down to Staithley and call the young
crowd together and tell them this, I could blossom into an idol of
the lads. They’re ready for any lead, but it ’ud let hell loose in
Lancashire and I’ll not do it if I can find another way. I’ll be
an elder statesman, but if the Hepplestalls don’t like my British
statesmanship, by God, I’ll give ’em Russian. I’ll show them there’s
to be an end of this buying and selling Labor like cattle.”

Mary sat overwhelmed by the spate she had provoked; she hadn’t dreamed
that she would so strangely touch him on the raw, and he, too, sat,
shaken, hiding his face in his hands on her dressing-table. Presently he
looked up, and she saw that the storm had passed. “I’m an old fool,”
 he said, “ranting like a boy. But I’m upset. I didn’t think it of the
Hepplestalls. This lad of yours... what would Sir Philip have thought of
him?”

She was fighting Rupert, and Tom Bradshaw was the ally she had called to
help her, but she was stung to seek defense for him. “Sir Philip did
not go through the war, as Rupert did,” she said. “All that’s the matter
with Rupert is that he is still--still rather demobilized.”

“Post-war,” groaned Tom. “I know. It’s the word for everything that’s
deteriorated: but Hepplestall’s shan’t go post-war.”

She spoke of William, and, “Aye,” he agreed. “I know William. William’s
weak--for a Hepplestall. Well, it’s those two then. Your spark and
William. I think I can do it. Mary. They meet to-morrow, eh? Well, it
won’t be the duet they think it will. It will be a trio and I’ll be
singing to a tune of my own.”

“If,” said Mary, “it isn’t a quartette. I’m coming with you. It’ll make
my understudy grateful, anyhow.”



CHAPTER X--THE PEAK IN DARIEN

RUPERT was annoyed, and annoyed with himself for being annoyed, when he
drove up to the main gate of Staithley Mills on the following afternoon
and found that the gate-keeper did not know him. It was plainly the
man’s duty to warn strangers off the premises, and Rupert was, by
hypothesis and in fact, a stranger, but he felt it a reproach that Sir
Rupert Hepplestall was forced to make himself known to Hepplestal’s
gate-keeper.

The man, an old workman, who preferred this mildly honorific wardenship
to a pension, made him a backhanded apology. “It’s so long sin’ we’ve
seen thee,” he said. “Us had a hoam-coming ready for thee arter the war,
but tha’ didno come.” No sirring and no obsequiousness from this old
servant of the firm, and Rupert gave a quick, resentful glance as he
pulled the car up in the yard.

Then he remembered that this was Lancashire--and he knew now what
Lancashire thought of him. There was no reason why he should, and every
reason why he should not, care what Lancashire thought, seeing that he
came there solely to arrange his clean cut from Staithley; but an old
fellow in a factory yard who did not scrape, but told him frankly that
he had not come up to local expectations, had been able to thwack him
shrewdly.

It was not much better after that to be treated like a prodigal, to
be conducted possessively to the office entrance and to hear the
gate-keeper announce in a great and genial voice, “I’ve a glad surprise
for yo’, There’s th’ young maister.”

He was not and he refused to be “th’ young maister,” but he could not
explain to this guide that he wasn’t what he seemed; the infernal fellow
was so naively proud to be his herald. “I feel like Judas,” he thought,
and tried wryly to laugh the thought away. It was a tremendous and a
preposterous simile to be occasioned by the candid loyalty of one old
workman, but things did not go much better with him inside the offices.

Theoretically, they should have shrunk, to his maturer gaze, from his
boyish recollection of them, but they were authentically impressive. He
couldn’t think lightly of this regiment of desks, nor could he pretend
that the eyes which turned towards him as his loud-voiced pilot
announced him, were hostile. Theory was in chancery again; all employees
ought to hate all employers, but the elderly gentlemen who were
hastening towards him wore on their faces expressions of genuine
pleasure instead of the decent deference that might cloak a mortal
hatred. Ridiculously as if he had been indeed a prince on the day when
Sir Philip took him round and introduced him, he discovered a royal
memory, and remembered their names. It was developing into a reception;
this wasn’t at all what he had come for. He wondered what the younger
clerks were thinking, men of his own age, ex-service men, but he had not
the chance even to look at them. A positive guard of honor was escorting
him to William’s room, that joss-house of the Hepplestalls.

If only he could laugh at their formality and at their quaint
appreciativeness of his knowing their names! He felt he ought to laugh;
he felt it was all something out of Dickens. Or if he could blurt out
that he had come to slip the collar for ever from his neck! They would
scuttle from him as though he were the plague; but he could neither
laugh aloud nor tell the truth to those solemn mandarins. They were not
pompous fools, or he could have laughed, he could have scattered them
impishly with his truth; but they were captains in a Service where
promotion went by merit, they were proven efficients in an organization
whose efficiency was world-renowned, and their homage was not absurd
because it was paid not to the young man, Rupert Hepplestall, but to Sir
Philip’s son, to the successor to the Headship of the Service. That made
it the more hypocritical in him to seem to accept their homage, but if
he was going to forfeit what good opinion they retained of a truant, he
was going to keep it, at any rate, until the die was unalterably cast.

It was certain to be cast, but Hepplestal’s was retorting on him with
unexpected power. Mary was right: the bigness of Hepplestal’s had been
escaping him. From London the sale had seemed no more than signatures on
documents, and a check. Up here, confronted with Staithley Mills as so
much brick, mortar and machinery, and confronted with no more than one
crude loyalist in the yard and half a dozen grayboards of the Service in
the office, the thing loomed colossal. Let it loom: he held its future
in the hollow of his hand, and this, of all times, was no moment for
second thoughts. He had to tackle William, the waverer, the fence-sitter
who must be met with firmness, and not by one who was himself
momentarily awed by the bigness of Hepplestal’s into being a waverer.
With the air of nailing his colors to the mast, even if they were the
skull and crossbones, he recovered his resolution in the moment when
that ambassadorial figure, the Chief Cashier of Hepplestall’s, threw
open William’s door and announced “Sir Rupert Hepplestall”; and a grave
assurance, inflexible and self-reliant, seemed to enter the room with
him.

William raised careworn eyes as this bright incarnation of sanguine
youth came into the office in which he sat almost as if it were a
condemned cell. He knew, better than Rupert who knew the Hepplestalls so
little, what wrath would come when they two faced an outraged Board, and
this sedate, this almost smiling confidence seemed to him as offensive
as buffoonery at a funeral. “You look very cheerful,” he greeted his
nephew resentfully.

“Why not?” said Rupert. “It’s a mistake to call optimism a cheap virtue.
How are you, Uncle?”

“I suppose you slept last night,” was the reply from which Rupert was to
gather that sleep at such a crisis was considered gross.

“Yes, thanks,” he said. “At Matlock. I drove up quietly, because I
wanted to think. Really, of course, I’d decided in the first five
minutes after opening your letter.”

“You decided very quickly,” said William, who had come to no decision.

“My wife made the same remark,” said Rupert. “But that’s a day and a
half ago, and my first opinion stands. I’ve decided to sell.” Speaking,
he gave a just perceptible jerk of the head which William remembered as
a characteristic of Sir Philip when he, too, announced one of his quick
decisions, and the little movement was not a grateful sight to William.
Sir Philip’s son had his father’s trick and, it seemed, his father’s way
of arriving rapidly at a conclusion. William, victim to irresolution
as he always was, was sliding off his fence into opposition, through
nothing more logical than jealousy of this boy who had the gift of
making up his mind swiftly. “Am I to understand that your wife has other
views?” he asked. It was hardly likely in such a wife, in an actress,
but Rupert’s words seemed to suggest that Mary had given him pause, and
if William was going to oppose this headstrong boy, any ally, however
unlikely, would be welcome.

But, “Wives don’t count in this,” said Rupert bruskly, and, he thought,
truthfully. It was true at any rate between Rupert and the wife of
William; Rupert’s decision had been made before he opened Gertrude’s
prompting letter. But William and William’s wife were another matter,
and William shuffled uneasily on his chair as he admitted the
influence in this crisis of the Service of Gertrude who was not born a
Hepplestall. He must be strong.

“Quite right,” lie said firmly. “Wives don’t count. But it isn’t the
case that you decide, Rupert. The Board decides.”

“I make it from your letter that for the practical purposes of this
deal, you and I decide.”

“It still is not the case that you decide.”

“Oh, naturally, when I said I’d decided, I meant as regards myself.
I’m here to get your views. But, even if you’re against me, Uncle,
that won’t stop me from going on. I mean there may be others who aren’t
romantic about Hepplestall’s. I may find others who’ll pool their shares
with mine in favor of a sale.”

William inclined to tell him to go and try. He didn’t think it likely
that there would be any others, but if there were, let them join with
Rupert and let William be able to say that his hand was forced. It would
be a comforting solution.

“You’re hoping it, Uncle. I’m perfectly aware you want to sell. Why did
you write to me at all if you didn’t want to sell?”

“Is that fair, Rupert? You would have been the first to blame me if I
had not told you of this.”

“I should never have known anything about it. I know nothing of lots of
important things you decide.”

“And doesn’t that seem a shameful thing for your father’s son to have
to say, Rupert? Suppose I sent you that letter just to make you see what
sort of important things we had to decide in your absence. To arouse
your sense of responsibility.”

“That cock won’t fight, Uncle. You could decide other things very well
without me. You could decide this, too, if the decision were a negative.
But the decision you hoped for was an affirmative and so you wrote to
me. Are you going to deny that you hoped I’d want to sell?”

“You’re... you’re very headstrong, Rupert.”

“I’ve come here to get down to facts. And the flat fact is that both you
and I want to sell. You want more pleasure in life than being Head of
Hepplestall’s allows you. You want to get out and I don’t mean to get
in. We both know that from the point of view of those old Johnnies on
the wall”--William shuddered at his catastrophic levity--“it’s a crime
to sell Hepplestall’s. But I’m not a Chinaman and I won’t worship my
ancestors. I’ve my own view of the sort of life I mean to live. And we
both know that the whole of the rest of the Board may be against us and
that some of them virulently will. Very well, then we don’t tell the
Board before it’s necessary. We go into the question of price, and we
quote the figure to these accountants. We see what reply we draw. As to
the price, that’s your affair.”

“Well,” confessed William, “tentatively, purely as a matter of
curiosity, I have gone into that.”

“Uncle,” said Rupert, surprising William with a giant’s hand-grip,
“you and I speak the same language. And we won’t stammer, either. These
accountants wrote to you, so the reply must be from you. You have not
had an opportunity to consult your Board and you speak for yourself in
estimating the market value of Hepplestall’s at so much. This figure
should not be regarded as the basis of negotiation, but as the minimum
financial consideration on which other terms of sale could be founded.
Something like that, eh? Now show me the figure and tell me how you
arrived at it.”

From nephew to uncle, this did not strain courtesy; it was hot
pace-making irresistibly recalling to William occasions when Sir Philip,
well in his stride, had made him wonder whether such alert efficiency
was quite gentlemanly. But with the figures in his pocket he had been no
sloven himself, and if Rupert and he did indeed speak the same language,
he hadn’t stammered.

At the same time, this production of the figures, to one so pertinacious
as Rupert, advanced matters to a stage from which there was no retreat
and he hesitated until a thought, sophistical but consoling, came into
his mind. He had heard it rumored that the Banks were beginning to frown
on the excessive speculation in mills; of course, and time, too. The
Government had cried, “Trade! Trade!” and had inspired the Banks to
encourage trade by lending money readily. Then it was found that too
much of the money lent was being used not for sound trade but for
speculation, and borrowers were faced with a decided change of front on
the part of bank managers. William conveniently forgot that the type of
rich man behind the accountants who had written to him would be above
the caprice of bank managers, and decided happily that the whole affair
had merely an academic interest; in that case, there was no harm in
discussing the figures with Rupert behind the backs of the rest of
the Board, and in submitting them to London. The nationally eminent
accountants would have been infuriated to know that William Hepplestall
imagined them capable of having to do with a mare’s-nest; but that it
was all a mare’s-nest was the salve he applied to his conscience as he
went to the safe to collect his data for Rupert.

Rupert had no sophistical conclusions to draw from a general situation
of which he knew nothing; it was clear to him that they had passed the
turning-point and were safely on the tack for home. There would be
any amount of detail to be settled, but the supreme issue was decided;
William and he were at one, and Hepplestal’s was to be sold! No wonder
he had hectored a little. He had had to rout William and not only
William but the belated hesitations in himself born of his dismay at the
formidable size of Hepplestal’s; and success had justified his methods.
In here, the massiveness of the mills did not oppress and a modern man
whose thinking was not confused by the portraits of his ancestors
could see this thing singly, stripped of sentiment, in terms of pounds,
shillings and pence. If Staithley Mills were large, so would be the
figure William was to declare; if the tradition was fine, it was
commutable into the greater number of thousands. That was sanity,
anything else was muddled-headedness, and he awaited William’s
scratches on paper as one who has swept away obfuscating side-issues and
concentrates on essentials.

“It makes a very considerable total, Rupert,” said William gravely.

“We’ve got used to considerable totals, haven’t we? I don’t suppose it’s
more than a day’s cost of the war.”

“Then I’ve a surprise for you,” said William.

“Yes?” asked Rupert with an eager anticipation which was hardly due to
greed so much as to impatience to learn what fabulous key to the pageant
of life was to be his to turn. Let it only be big enough and he had
no doubt that it would dazzle Mary out of her queer, old-fashioned
timidities. He stood upon his peak in Darien. “Yes,” he asked again as
William paused, not because he had a sense of the dramatic but because
he was nervous.

There was a knock at the door, apologetic if ever knock apologized, and
an embarrassed henchman of the Service came in upon William’s indignant
response.

“I wouldn’t dream of disturbing you, sir, but Lady Hepplestall is here.”

“My wife?” cried Rupert, hoping against hope that it was his mother.

“Yes, Sir Rupert, and Bradshaw’s with her. Mr. Bradshaw of the spinners.
The M. P. He... well, sir, he put it that he knew you didn’t want to be
interrupted and he’s come to interrupt.”

“Thank you,” said William. “We will not keep Lady Hepplestall waiting.”
 William was very dignified as he said the only possible thing, and
he hoped Rupert would perceive in his dignity a reproach to his own
exhibition of crude amazement before an understrapper. Rupert was
ludicrously like a boy caught in the act of robbing an orchard, and
William’s eye was alight as he contrasted this crestfallen Rupert with
the Rupert who had declared roundly that “Wives don’t count in this.”
 William had hopes of Mary, who was shown in with Tom before Rupert had
time to attempt an explanation of her presence to his uncle.

Rupert recovered himself and made a tolerable show of hauteur; he wasn’t
the small boy in the apple orchard but a very grand gentleman making his
pained protest at her intrusion. “Mary!” he began.

“No, not now, Rupert,” she checked him. “I’m here to watch. I told
Mr. Bradshaw and he is here to speak.” To watch, she did not add, with
desperately anxious eyes the effect upon him both of her summons to Tom
and of what Tom had to say. She thought she had saved Hep-plestall’s,
she thought Tom had a medicine that would cure them of their wish to
sell, but had she saved Rupert? That was her larger question and she saw
no answer to it yet. She was there to watch and pray.

“Well,” said Tom, “that’s a good opening. As she says, Lady Hepplestall
told me what you’re up to and we’re saved the trouble of bluffing round
the point. You’re out to sell Hepplestall’s; I’m here to stop you.”

“The devil you are,” cried Rupert.

Tom turned to William. “Does Sir Rupert know I’m secretary of the
Spinners’ Union?” he asked.

“Indeed?” said Rupert. “And what business may this be of the Spinners’
Union, or any other Union?”

“Vital business,” said Tom, “of theirs and every other cotton trade
Union. I’m usually asked to sit down in this office, Mr. Hepplestall.”

“You are usually asked to come into it, Mr. Bradshaw. You have hardly
asked to-day,” said William.

“Please yourself,” said Tom. “I’ve been sitting a long while in the
train. I can stand, only I’ve a bad habit of making speeches when I’m on
my feet and I’d as lief have had this friendly.”

It surprised and annoyed Rupert that William pointed to a chair with
an “If you please, Mr. Bradshaw.” Himself, he would have kicked the
confounded fellow into the street and when he had gone it would have
been Mary’s turn for--not for kicking, certainly, but for something
severe in the way of disciplinary measures. “Friendly!” he scoffed.

“What you might call a benevolent enemy, Sir Rupert,” said Tom. “If I
weren’t benevolent, I’d have gone into Staithley streets and cried
it aloud that Hepplestall’s was being sold to Londoners, and I’d have
watched the hornets sting you. But, being benevolent, I’d rather you
didn’t get stung, and I’m here till I get your assurance that all
thought of a sale is off.”

“That means you’re making quite a long stay with us, Mr. Bradshaw,” said
Rupert elaborately.

“I wonder how much you know of the Staithley folk, Sir Rupert,” said
Tom. “They’re fighting stock. You maybe know there’s a likely chance of
things coming to a big strike in the cotton trade on the wages question,
but that’s not just yet and if you don’t watch it there’ll be an urgency
strike in Staithley that might begin to-night. One of these wicked
strikes you read about. Without notice.”

“But you... Mr. Bradshaw, you’re the chief Union official.”

“Oh, yes,” said Tom, “and officially the strike would be unofficial.
But I’d be roundabout, unofficially. Rum sort of strike, eh? Striking
against the Hepplestalls for the Hepplestalls, and a Bradshaw leading
it. If you knew owt of Bradshaws and Hepplestalls, you’ll see the
rumminess of that.”

“Against us for us. Yes, I see. One might almost conclude you like the
Hepplestalls, Mr. Bradshaw.”

“Like ‘em!” said Tom. “Like ‘em!” His eyes glanced at William with the
suspicion of a twinkle in it. William wondered if there was a twinkle;
Sir Philip would not have wondered, he would have seen and he would
have understood. He would have discounted Tom’s next words, “I take
the liberty of telling you the Hepplestalls are a thieving gang of
blood-sucking capitalists, but I prefer to stick to the blood-suckers
I know. I know the Hepplestalls and I can talk to them. I don’t know, I
won’t talk to a soulless mob of a London syndicate. You can think of it
like this, Sir Rupert. There was steam, and it fastened like a vampire
on Lancashire. It fastened on your sort as well as on my sort, and we’ve
been working up to where we’re getting steam in its place, obeying us,
not mastering us. We’re doing well against steam. Shorter hours are
here, and factory work before breakfast has gone. Half-timers are going,
and education’s going to get a sporting chance. And we’re not beating
steam to let ourselves be ruined by water.”

William nodded sober acquiescence, but Rupert was uninformed. “Water?”
 he asked.

“Watered capital,” Tom explained. “Lancashire’s water-logged, but we’ll
keep Staithley out of what’s coming to Lancashire. You have mills here
that are the pride of the county. You wouldn’t turn them into the pride
of speculators as the biggest grab they ever made in Lancashire! You
wouldn’t make Staithley suffer from the rot of watered capital.”

William stirred furtively on his chair and avoided Tom’s eye with the
shiftiness of a wrongdoer who is shown the results of misdeed, and then
remembered that he had done no wrong and nodded approval of Tom’s words
which were not addressed to him but to Rupert. Mentally he thanked Tom
for saying outright things which he had himself thought. He had merely
kept them in reserve, unspoken until he had entertained himself by
proceeding a little further with the accountants; but that was, perhaps,
not the most honorable form of entertainment, based as it would have
been on the false pretense that William was prepared to sell, and he was
grateful to Tom for an intrusion which cleared the air. He did not blame
himself: he had not played with fire, or, if he had, it had been while
wearing asbestos gloves; but what Tom said to Rupert--of course it
was to Rupert--was the final argument against a sale, and he drew out
notepaper and bent to write.

To Rupert, Tom was simply a nuisance. He had sighted victory, he
had carried William, he had resolutely defeated such difficulties as
sentiment and the frowning ponderosity of Hepplestall’s, and he saw Tom
Bradshaw, with his croaking prophecies of after-effects of the sale
upon some fifty thousand inhabitants of Staithley, as a monstrous
impertinence. He was so busy seeing Tom as an impertinence that he did
not see William writing a letter.

“I’ve heard of the tyranny of Trade Unions,” he said. “I’ve heard of
what they call their rights and what most people call their privileges.
But I’ve never heard of a Trade Union’s right to veto a sale. I have the
right to transfer possession of my own to anubody. If you think you can
engineer a strike against that elementary right of property, I tell you
to go ahead and see what happens.”

“I know what will happen in this case, Sir Rupert. If we let you sell--”

“You let! You can’t prevent.”

“If you sold,” Tom went on, “some undesirable results would arise. I am
dealing with them before they arise. I am dealing on the principle that
prevention is better than cure.”

“Are you? Then suppose I said strike and be damned to you?”

“If you said that you would be a young man speaking in anger and I
shouldn’t take you too seriously.”

“What!” cried Rupert. There was no doubt about his anger now.

“One moment,” said Tom. “I’m against a strike, but it’s a good weapon.
It’s maybe a better weapon when it isn’t used than when it is. It can
hit the striker as well as the struck.”

“Oh? That’s dawned on you, has it?”

“Some time before you were born. But this strike wouldn’t hurt the
striker. There’s somebody ready to buy Hepplestall’s. I’ll call him Mr.
B., because B stands for butcher, and a butcher will buy a bull but
he won’t buy a mad bull. Mr. B. will think twice before he buys
Hepplestall’s when Hepplestall’s men are on strike against being sold.
No one buys trouble with his eyes open. That’s why we can stop this.
That’s the public way, but I’ve still great hopes we’ll stop it
privately, in this room.”

“Then you--” Rupert began hotly, but William interrupted. “You may have
noticed that I was writing, Mr. Bradshaw. This letter goes to-night
finally declining to treat in any way for a sale of Hepplestall’s. I
have signed it and I am Head of Hepplestall’s. I hope, Sir Rupert, the
future Head will sign it with me.”

“Uncle!” he said, and turned his back.

“It isn’t needful,” said Tom, “for me to add that nobody shall ever know
from me that there was any question of a sale.”

“Thank you,” said William. “As a fact, Mr. Bradshaw, there never was.”
 He believed what he said, too. He believed he had never been influenced
by Gertrude or convinced by Rupert. He believed he had merely toyed
pleasantly with the idea, standing himself superior to it. “But that
shall not prevent me from appreciating your actions, yours, Lady
Hepplestall, and yours, Mr. Bradshaw. We Hepplestalls are all trustees,
all of us,” he emphasized, looking at Rupert’s stiff back, “but you have
shown to-day that you are sharer in the trust.”

Tom wondered for a moment what was the polite conversational equivalent
of ironical cheers; William was escaping too easily, but the chief
point was not the regent but the heir, Mary’s Rupert, and he could spare
William the knowledge that he had deceived nobody.

“Sir Rupert spoke just now,” he said, “of the rights of property.
They are rightful rights only when they are matched with a sense of
responsibility, and capital that forgets responsibility is going to get
it in the neck.”

“We have,” said William superbly, “the idea of service in this firm.”

“Man,” said Tom, “if you hadn’t had, I shouldn’t be here to-day talking
to you in headlines. If you hadn’t had that idea and if you hadn’t lived
up to it and if I didn’t hope you’d go _on_ living up to it, I’d have
had a very different duty. Shall I tell you what that duty would have
been, Sir Rupert? To keep my mouth shut and let you sell. The higher you
sold the higher they’d resell when they floated their company, and the
sooner they’d start squeezing the blood out of Staithley.”

Rupert turned a puzzled face. “That would have been your duty? Why?” he
asked.

“Hot fevers are short,” said Tom. “It ‘ud bring the end more quickly.
I don’t know if you read the _Times_. If you do you may have seen that
they mentioned my name the other day along with some more and called us
the elder statesmen of the Labor Party. Too old to hurry. Brakes on the
wheels of progress. Maybe; but I’m one that looks for other roads than
the road that leads to revolution and you Hepplestalls have been a
sign-post on a road I like. You’ve been too busy overpaying yourselves
to go far up the road yet, but you’re leaders of the cotton trade and by
the Lord that ship needs captaincy. That’s why I didn’t do what lots
in the Party would tell me was my duty--to let you rip, and rip another
rent in the rotting fabric of capitalism.” Mary’s hand was on his arm.
“Because you love the Hepplestalls,” she said.

“And me a Bradshaw?” he said indignantly. “Me a Labor Member and they
capital? Did you ever hear of the two old men who’d been mortal enemies
all their lives, and when one of them was killed in a railway accident,
the other took to his bed and died because he’d nothing left to live
for? That’s me and the Hepplestalls.”

She shook her head, smiling. “It’s not like that,” she said.

“It ought to be,” said Tom, “but it isn’t. Service, not greed, and
there’s a hope for all of us in that, and if you want to know who taught
me to see it, it was Sir Philip Hepplestall.”

Rupert was in distress. Why should London, his schemes, theaters, seem
so incredibly remote? Why wasn’t he angry with this grizzled fellow from
the Staithley stews who dared, directly and indirectly, to lecture him?
Why didn’t he resent Mary, another Bradshaw, who had brought Tom
there to reprimand a Hepplestall? And why weren’t ladders provided for
climbing down from high horses?

“My father?” he said. “My father taught you?” It was his ancestors
he declined to worship. A father was not an ancestor, and Rupert was
hearing again Sir Philip’s deep sincerity as he spoke of the Samurai.
“We have both learned from Sir Philip, Mr. Bradshaw. I have been near to
forgetting the lesson. Did he ever speak to you of Samurai?”

“Sam who?” asked Tom.

“Ah,” said Rupert happily. That was his secret, that intimate ideal
which Sir Philip had revealed only to his son. He hadn’t, perhaps, the
soundest evidence for supposing that the confidence had been uniquely to
him, but in his present dilemma it seemed entirely satisfactory--a way
out and a way down. And, after all, he came down by a ladder.

A great noise filled the room, ear-splitting, nerve-jarring to those
who were not used to it. Rupert was not used to it, but for a moment
wondered if it were external or the turmoil of his thoughts. “Only the
buzzer,” William smiled.

“Staithley goes home,” said Tom.

But not yet. The Chief Cashier knocked perfunctorily on the door and
came in with the bland air of one who had the entree at all times. “If
Sir Rupert could speak to the workpeople,” he said. “Word was passed
that he is here. This window looks upon the yard. May I open it?”

Rupert paused for one of time’s minor fractions, and his head jerked as
his father’s used to jerk. “Mr. Bradshaw,” he said, “will you step to
the window with us?”

It was grand; it was too grand; it was a gesture which began finely and
ran to seed like rhubarb. It was florid when he wanted to be simple
and he harked back in mind to a _Punch_ cartoon of some years earlier,
representing the Yellow Press as a horrible person up to the knee in
mud, calling out, “Chuck us another ha’penny and I’ll wallow in it.” He
felt himself up to the midriff in a mud of sentimentality; for two pins,
he would with ironic grace wallow in the mud. His surrender was too
loathsome and insincere: he held out his hand to Tom, feeling that he
was going the whole hog, parading his humiliation before the men and
women of Hepplestall’s who had the idiotic wish to salute a traitor as
their prince.

Tom offered first aid here and shook his head. “No, thanks,” he said.
“I’ve to be careful what company I keep in public. I’m Member for
Staithley, but I’m Labor Member and you’re Capital.”

“Aren’t we to work together in the future?” asked Rupert.

“If they see me standing there with you, they’ll throw brickbats at
me, and some of them will hit you. You’ve a lot to learn, Sir Rupert.
Old-fashioned Labor men like me, that want to hurry slowly, are between
the devil and the deep sea. If I show myself standing by the devil, the
sea will come up and drown me.”

“By George,” said Rupert, feeling half clean of mud and insincerity, “by
George, this is going to be interesting. I’ve... I’ve a lot to learn,
haven’t I?”

“Thank God, you know it,” said Tom Bradshaw reverently.

And in another minute, Rupert knew it better still, when he moved to
the window with William. The factory yard below them was packed with a
cheering mass of workpeople, and every inlet to it showed a sea of heads
stretching as far as the eye could reach. Not one tenth the employees of
the great mills could stand within sight of the window; those who
were there had gained priority of place because they worked in the
departments nearest the yard, but not by any means all whose work was
nearby had come and it struck William, if not Rupert, that the people
here assembled were chiefly elderly or very young. The elders, like the
gate-keeper who had passed the word of Rupert’s coming into the mills,
had genuinely an impulse of loyalty to a Hepplestall; the very young
were ready to make a noise in a crowd gathered upon any occasion; and
the merely young had for the most part made no effort to struggle into
the yard.

To Rupert, this was Hepplestall’s making spontaneous levy in mass to
welcome him; a little absurd of them, even if their prince had
been princely, but undeniably affecting. He must play up to these
acclamations, he must say something gracious, and he must not
condescend. He was an ass whom they lionized, but he wouldn’t bray. He
offered to speak, and the hearty roar below him diminished.

It has been observed before to-day that the contemptuous noise known as
“booing” is unable to assert itself against cheers, whereas a few sharp
hisses cut like a whip across any but the greatest uproar. As the cheers
diminished in anticipation of his speech, the appearance of unanimity
was shattered by derisive hissing, drowned at once by renewed volume of
cheers, but more than sufficient to indicate an opposition.

Behind him in the room he heard Mary’s quick “What’s that?” he heard
Tom say “Poor lad! Poor lad!” Who was a poor lad? He? He never did like
honey; he didn’t want the leadership of sheep and he began to speak
without preamble.

“It’s a tremendous thing to be a Hepplestall and if you cheered just now
because my name is Hepplestall I think that you were right. Some of you
hissed. If that was because I am a Hepplestall, I think that you were
wrong, but if it was because I’ve been a long time in coming here, then
you were right. I shirked the responsibility. I had the thought to take
my capital out of Hepplestall’s and to put it into something soft. But a
man said to me lately that capital that failed to accept responsibility
was going to get it in the neck. I agreed and my capital stops in
something tough, in Hepplestall’s. And another thing. We’ve made hay of
the hereditary principle as such. If I’ve no merit, I shan’t presume on
being Sir Philip’s son. In the mills side by side with you, it will
be discovered whether I have merit or no. Now, I am not a socialist.
I shall take the wages of capital and if I rise to be your manager, I
shall take the wages of management. That’s blunt and I expect some of
you are taking it as a challenge. Then those are the very fellows who
are going to help me most. We’ll arrive amongst us at the knowledge of
what is capital’s fair wage and what is management’s fair wage. I am
here to learn and I am here to serve. If you will believe that, it will
help us all; it will help more than had I kept my motives to myself and
simply made you a speech of thanks for the home-coming welcome you have
given me. The welcome expressed some disapproval and I should not have
been honest if I had pretended that I didn’t notice it. I am not out to
earn your approval by methods which might be contrary to the interests
of Staithley Mills. I am out to serve Hepplestall’s, not sectionally,
but as a whole. I look to you to show me my way, and while I have to
thank you wholeheartedly for your cheers, I am absolutely sincere in
thanking you for your hisses. They are the beginning of my education. I
haven’t a sweet tooth and I liked them. We’re not going to get together
easily, I and those fellows who hissed. Well, strong bonds aren’t forged
easily and I can’t be more than a trier. I’m Hepplestall and proud of
it, and I dare say that’s enough for some of you. It isn’t enough for me
until I’ve proved myself and it isn’t enough for the fellows who hissed.
I’m asking them for fair play for a Hepplestall. I’m asking for a
chance. I’m going to do my best and I’m keeping you from home. It’s good
of you to stay and I’ve said my say. You’ve not had butter; you’ve had
facts. My thanks to you for listening. Good night.”

They cheered and he stood at the window as they dispersed, trying to
remember what he had said, trying to gauge its effect upon the men.
There were no hisses, but that meant nothing; a demonstration of
opposition had been made and needn’t be repeated. But, anyhow, he hadn’t
lied; he hadn’t pretended that he had their esteem before he earned it;
and he meant to earn it.

He turned from the window to Tom Bradshaw; neither to Mary nor to
William, but to Tom. “Did I talk awful tosh?” he asked. “Honestly, I
don’t know what I said.”

“A young speaker never does, and, some ways, he’s the better for having
no tricks of the trade. You’ll do, lad. You’ll do.”

Rupert’s face was bright as he heard the approbation of a Bradshaw under
the portrait of Reuben Hepplestall. “Hepplestall and proud of it! Did I
say that?”

William nodded and Rupert looked at him with a puzzled face. “Damn
it, it’s true,” he said wonderingly. “May I sign that letter, Uncle
William?”



CHAPTER XI--STAITHLEY EDGE

RUPERT in the office had been all that Mary had dared to hope, and that
was the danger of it. She watched him almost distrusting her eyes as she
might have watched a sudden conversion at a Salvation Army meeting, as
a spectacle that was too fantastic to be accepted at face value. She
had an idea that somebody suffered when the penitent reacted from the
emotion of the bench.

“Always a catch in everything,” she had thought when she avowed her
origin to Rupert, though she feared to lose him by the confession, and
now she was adventuring again in skepticism, she was hunting the catch,
the flaw latent in human happiness. She had won a victory and she
expected to pay the price.

William invited them to the Hall and Rupert deferred to her with
conventional politeness which seemed to her bleak menace. He froze her
by his courtesy after he had so pointedly ignored her presence except
for the pained surprise with which he had welcomed her, but she tried to
believe that she was hypersensitive.

She had butted in, into an affair of men, and even if he recognized
that she had done the one thing possible, she could hardly expect him
to applaud her meddling. Men were not grateful to meddling women. Heaven
knew she did not want him to eat the leek for her; and often there were
understandings which were better left unspoken. If that was it, if they
were tacitly to agree that her trespass was extreme but justified, then
she could do very well without more words. She could exult in his silent
approbation; but silent resentment would be terrible.

It would be terrible but bearable: she was thinking too much of herself
and too little of him. She loved, and what mattered in love was not what
one got out of it but what one put into it. By a treachery, if he liked
to take that view of her interference, she had put more into her love
than she had ever put before, she had taken a greater risk and he was
signally the gainer by it. He was going to Hepplestall’s, he was a
greater Rupert now.

She couldn’t have it both ways and what had been wrong in London was
that he had loved her too much, in the sense that he had spent his
life upon her and on things which came into his life only through his
relationship with her. To be beautiful, love must have proportion and
his had grown unshapely. If all her loss were to be loss of superfluity,
her price of victory would be low indeed. He would not in Staithley be
the great lover he had been in London, but there was double edge to that
phrase “great lover”: the great lovers were too often the little men.
Certainly and healthily he would love her less uxoriously now, and that
must be all to the good.

All, even if he loved her no more. That was the risk she had taken with
open eyes, and love her sanely or love her not at all, he had come to
Hepplestall’s: Rupert the man was of more importance than Rupert the
husband. And the right man would not cease to love her because she had
gone crusading for his soul under the banner of a Bradshaw.

She saw that she had come round to optimism and found herself in such a
port with a thousand new alarms. She was crying safety when there was no
safety, she...

Rupert and William were talking and she had not been listening. She must
have missed clews to Rupert’s thought and forced herself to hear. It
didn’t sound revealing talk, though. Lightly--and how could they be
light?--they were chaffing each other about their cars.

“I’ll prove it to you now,” William was saying. “We’ll garage your crock
here and I’ll drive you up to the Hall in a car that is a car.”

“No, thanks,” said Rupert, “I’ve something to do first, with Mary. We’ll
follow you soon. I dare say my aunt won’t be sorry to have warning of
our coming.”

William’s face fell. Gertrude could make herself unpleasant when she did
not get her way, and this time her hopes had gone sadly agley. He would
have liked a bodyguard when he announced to her that Rupert was coming
to Staithley. “I had hoped--” he began.

Rupert nodded curtly. “Yes,” he said, surprising William by a look which
seemed strangely to comprehend his dilemma, “but we shall not be long.”

Mary thrilled through all preoccupation to the heady thought that a
Bradshaw was to dine at Staithley Hall, but her way there was not, it
seemed, to be an easy one. Rupert chose, she supposed, to have things
out with her first, and if she did not relish the anticipation, she
could admire his promptitude. He had an air of grim gayety which
mystified by its contradiction, but of which the grimness seemed
addressed to William and the gayety to her.

“Got any luggage?” he asked her. She had quitted Staithley with a
suitcase; she returned with no more outward show of possession, and they
picked up her case in the ante-room where she had left it as they passed
through to get the car.

“Well, Mary Ellen,” he said, using her full name which certainly was
normal in Lancashire where the Mary Ellens and the John Thomases are
almost double-barreled names, “this is Staithley. How well do you
remember it? Is there a road round the mills?”

“I think so,” she said, “but you’ll meet cobbles.”

“It’s Staithley,” he said, and drove the circuit of the mills in
silence. “Um,” he said. “London. Furthest East, which is the Aldwych
Theater, to Furthest West, which is the St. James, to Furthest North,
which is the Oxford, and back East by Drury Lane. We’ve driven further
than that round these mills. Somebody once mentioned to me that they’re
big. There’s a coal mine, too, that’s a bit of detail nobody bothers to
think of. Well, is there any way of looking down on this village?”

“There’s Staithley Edge,” she said. “There’s a road up by the Drill
Hall.”

“Point it out,” he said. “You understand that we’re doing this to
give Aunt Gertrude time to powder her nose. It isn’t really a waste of
petrol.”

Whatever it was, and certainly she found no harsh reactions here, they
were doing it in the dark which fell like a benediction on Staithley.
Their wheels churned up rich mud of the consistency, since for days it
had been fine, of suet pudding, and the road, worn by the heavy traffic
of the mills, bumped them inexorably. “Staithley!” he said. “Staithley!”
 but she did not detect contempt. They reached the Drill Hall and the
Square, unchanged except by a War Memorial and a cinema, and turned
into the street up which she had once gazed while Mr. Chown waited,
ill-lighted, ill-paved, a somber channel between two scrubby rows of
deadly uniform houses. “Staithley goes home,” Tom Bradshaw had said,
and this was where an appreciable percentage of it had gone; but neither
Rupert nor Mary were being sociological now. She did not know what he
was thinking; she thought of Staithley Edge and of the moors beyond,
wondering a little why she should find Staithley so good when it was so
good to get out of it up here.

A tang of burning peat assailed her nostrils, indicating that they had
reached the height where peat from, the moors cost less than coal from
the pits, and soon the upland air blew coolly in their faces as they
left the topmost house behind. The road led on, over the hill, across
the moor which showed no signs, in the darkness, of men’s ravaging
handiwork, but at the first rise Rupert stopped the car and got out.

“So that’s it.” He looked on Staithley, where the streets, outlined by
their lamps, seemed to lead resolutely to an end which was nothing. It
was not nothing; it was the vast bulk of Staithley Mills, unlighted save
for a glimmer here and there, but possibly he was seeing in these human
roadways which debouched on that black inhuman nullity, a symbol of
futility. The gayety seemed gone from him like air from a punctured
balloon, as he said again, in a dejected voice, “So that’s it. That pool
of darkness. They’re a great size, the Staithley Mills.”

She was out of the car and at his elbow as she said, “A man’s size in
jobs, Rupert.”

“Or in prisons,” he said bitterly.

“Prisons!” And she had been feeling so secure! Here was sheer
miracle--she and Rupert were standing together on Staithley Edge;
they were in her land of heart’s desire, and the Edge, her Mecca, was
betraying her, the miracle was declining to be miraculous. “Prisons!”
 she said, in an agony of disillusionment.

“Oh, aren’t we all in prison?” he asked. “The larger, the smaller--does
it matter?”

This was philosophy, and Mary wanted the practicalities. “Are you seeing
me as jailer? Is that what you mean?”

“Resenting you?” he asked. “You!” and left it so with luminous emphasis.
“No. Life’s the jailer. For four years I was every day afraid of death.
I’m afraid of life to-night. What shall I make of Staithley? Those
mills, to which each Hepplestall since the first who built there has
added something great. Those milestones of my race. I meant to run away,
I meant to dodge and shirk and make belief. You’ve steered me back and
I thank you for it, Mary. But it’s a mouthful that I’ve bitten off.
Hepplestall’s! What shall I add? I don’t know. I’m overpowered. It’s so
solemn. It’s so big.”

“You’re big, Rupert.”

He seemed not to hear or to feel her hand on his. “‘On me, ultimately on
me alone rests the responsibility.’ That is what my father, who was
Head of Hepplestall’s, said to me. Look at those mills, then look at me.
They’re big. They’re terrifying in their bigness.”

“No. Worth while in their bigness.”

“I don’t know what you were thinking as we drove round the mills. I was
wondering,” he smiled a little, “if they speak of a cliff as beetling
because it makes one feel the size of a beetle under it. And I thought
of a machine I remembered seeing in the works that they call a beetle.
It’s got great rollers with weights that clump and thump the cloth till
it shines and the noise of it splits your ears. Each huge wall of the
mills, God knows how many stories high, seemed to fall on me like
so many successive blows from a beetling machine. I was under
Hepplestall’s, as people talk of being under the weather, and it’s
always Hepplestall’s weather in Staithley. I wasn’t lying when I spoke
to those fellows in the yard, I had some confidence then, but it’s
oozed, it’s oozed. Look at the size of it all.”

“I’m looking,” said Mary, “and from Staithley Edge it’s in perspective.
Rupert, this air up here! I’m not afraid. Not here. Not now. You...
you’ve got growing pains, and they say they’re imaginary, but I know
they’re good. You’re a bigger man already than you were.”

“I’m a hefty brute for a growing child,” he smiled down at her.

“You can take it smiling, though,” she approved.

“It’s this modern flippancy,” he grinned. “A generation of scoffers. But
you can’t get over Hepplestall’s by scoffing at it. I came up here
to look down on it, and I’m only more aware than ever that it’s big.
You--you’ve got your idea of me. It’s a nice idea, but it’s pure
flattery.”

“No.”

“Oh, yes, it is, to-day. But it’s something to grow up to, and it’s
worth while because it’s your idea. If this family gang of mine told me
they believed in me I should know they were talking through their hats.
They wouldn’t be believing in me, they’d be believing in who I am,
they’d be believing in a tradition which declares that my father’s son
must be up to standard. You’re different. You know me and they don’t,
and you’ve brought me to Staithley. It’s your doing, and I want like
hell not to let you down. Your idea of me’s not true. It’s too good to
be true. But I mean to make it true.”

Mary looked uphill to where, a hundred feet above them, the darkling rim
of the Edge was silhouetted against the sky. “Staithley Edge,” she said,
“and in my mind I was calling you a cheat.” She stooped to the bank by
the road, she plucked coarse grass and held it to her lips. “Staithley
Edge, will you forgive me? The dreams I’ve had of you, and then the
shameful doubts and now the better than all dreaming that this is. I was
going to build a house on Staithley Edge, and I have built a man.”

“Of course,” said Rupert, “I knew you had a passion for hills.”

“I never told you,” Mary said.

“No. But I knew. This is a hill. It isn’t an Alp. It isn’t a mountain.
It’s Staithley Edge. I wonder what they’re doing about houses in
Staithley. I don’t want to rob any one, but I’d like a house up here.”

“Rupert!” she cried.

“It’s Aunt Gertrude, you know,” he seemed to apologize. “Poor old thing,
she’s got the same bee in her bonnet that her nephew used to have.
London. Well, William’s the Head and he ought to go on at the Hall, and
if he does it should pacify Gertrude. I expect he’s going through it
while we’re loafing up here. Shall we go and break the news to her that
there’s no eviction on the program?”

“Oh, my dear, there are a thousand things we haven’t said.”

“There’s the point, for instance, that if I look down on Staithley Mills
every morning from my bedroom I ought to feel less scared of them.”

“I don’t believe a word of it,” said Mary and, kissing him, some
hundreds of the things they hadn’t said seemed lustrously expressed. She
found no insincerities in him now; the gesture and the bravado and the
air that it was all something he was doing for a wager--these had
gone and in their place was his task acknowledged and approached with
humility. It was a beginning and she thought so well of his beginning
that she had time to think of herself.

He turned the car towards the Hall, and the thought that she was going
there was no longer heady. He had spoken contemptuously of “this family
gang”; he had said, and she adored him for it, that she was different.
They had, perhaps, some comfort for Gertrude; they were going to her
with a message which should reconcile her to the news she would have
heard from William; but, for all that, Mary was daunted at her coming
encounter with Gertrude Hepplestall.

“Rupert,” she said, “you must help me to-night. Your aunt, and all the
Hepplestalls, your family--and me.”

He frowned. “Well?” he said.

“There’s the tradition, and you married me. You married into musical
comedy.”

“Hasn’t it dawned on you that you’re my wife, Mary?” But that was
precisely what had dawned upon her and his question made her wonder
if he saw what was implied. In London, he was all but explicitly the
husband of Mary Arden; in Staithley she was no longer Mary Arden, she
was the wife of Sir Rupert Hepplestall. That might not mean that the
foundations of their relationship had shifted, but it certainly meant a
vital difference in its values above the surface. She was Cæsar’s wife
and people ought not to be able to remember against Cæsar that he had
married an actress.

“Yes, your wife, Rupert. Your wife who was an actress.”

“Are you making the suggestion that you are something to be ashamed of?”

“I’ve the conceit to believe I’m not. You love me and I’ve the right to
be conceited. But it isn’t what I think of myself, it’s what Staithley
will think of me. London’s inured to actresses. Staithley--”

“Excuse an interruption,” he said, “but if you want to know what
Staithley will think to-morrow, look there.” He slowed the car
and pointed to the cinema across the Square. A man on a ladder
was hand-printing in large letters on a white sheet above the door
“Tomorrow. Mary Arden in...”

“That’s enterprise, isn’t it? The fellow can’t have heard more than half
an hour ago that I was here, then he’d to think of you and he must have
been busy on the ’phone to have made sure of getting that film here
tomorrow.”

“Rupert, how awful for you. They will never forget what I was now.”

“Never. Thank God.”

“Don’t you care?”

“Oh, yes, I care and if I cared cheaply, I should thank you for being my
propagandist. I should thank you for making me popular because you are
popular and I’m your husband. You can’t deny there’s that in it, Mary,
but there’s more. There’s the bridging of a gulf. There’s a breach
made in a bad tradition. We Hepple-stalls must drop being Olympian.
Aloofness; that’s to go and it’ll get a shove when Lady Hepplestall is
seen on the screen in Staithley. What do a thousand Gertrudes matter if
we can bridge the gulf? We’ve got to get together, we’ve got to reach
those men who hissed. Do you see that cinema as a cheap way? I don’t.
It’s a modern way if you like and it isn’t a way I made but one you
made for me. It’s a reach-me-down, and I shan’t stop at ways that are
ready-made. I’ll find my own. Up on the Edge I asked what I would add to
Hepplestall’s. I’ll add this if I can--I’ll add humanity.”

“And I can help. Music, for instance.”

“You’ll make me jealous soon. You have so many advantages of me. I’m not
even sure if I’m good enough for Lancashire League cricket. It’s good
stuff, I can tell you. Whereas you...”

“Am I to manage Staithley Mills?”

“Nor I, for years. Never, if I’m unequal to it. But you’re right. The
mills are the important thing, the rest’s decoration and decoration
won’t go far. Staithley won’t stand you and me as Lady and Lord
Bountiful. Those hissing friends of ours--circuses won’t satisfy them
and I’d think the worse of them if they would. I’ll talk to William
to-night and I expect he’ll snap my head off. He’s of the old gang,
William is. There’s the war between William and me, but, Lord, he’ll
know, he’ll know it all and I know nothing. I’m so young.”

“Yes,” said Mary, “and you’ll stay young, please. You’ll keep your hope,
my faith, your youth.”

“I’m young all right,” he said. “Listen to me if you doubt it. ‘I’ll
add humanity.’ Did I say that? With a voice beautifully vibrant with
earnestness? Young enough to be capable of anything. But I will add it,”
 he finished as he drew up at the door of the Hall.

Hope burnished them as they came into the old home of the Hepplestalls;
they were the keepers of a great light lit on Staithley Edge; they had
a radiance which seemed to Gertrude a personal affront to her
chatelainship. They came with the insolence of conquerors into the
somber scene of her defeat, but she was on guard against revealing her
feelings to the actress woman who was Lady Hepplestall. She had failed,
she was doomed to Staithley, she had to explain away to her friend the
letter she had written announcing that she was coming to live in London,
she was to be evicted from the Hall by a saucy baggage out of a musical
comedy; but even if the baggage proved as bad as her worst anticipations
she would not lower to her by the fraction of an inch her flag of
resolutely suave politeness.

She went upstairs to change her face after a tempestuous interview with
William, and, expectant of a Mary strident in jazz coloring, changed
also her frock to a sedate gray which should contrast the lady with the
Lady. Then Mary came, with hair wind-tossed, and round her lips were
marks as if she were a child sticky with toffee (but that was because
when you pluck grass on Staithley Edge and press it to your cheek
and kiss it, it leaves behind traces of the smoky livery it wears),
apologizing for her plain traveling dress, looking so unlike Gertrude’s
idea of the beauty-chorus queen who had captured Rupert that immediately
she was off on a new trail and saw in Mary a tool made for her through
which to work on Rupert and after all to bring about the sale
of Hepple-stall’s. She could manage this smudge-faced piece of
insignificance and she could manage a Rupert who had been caught by it.
Her spirits rose, and their happiness seemed to her no longer offensive
but imbecile.

Later on, she wondered why she forgot that the business of an actress
was to act. She meditated ruefully upon the vanity of human hopes and
the fallibility of first impressions, and she had no doubt but
that Mary, for some dark purpose of her own, had counterfeited
insignificance.

Mary hadn’t, as a fact, acted, but she had thought of Mary Ellen
Bradshaw and of Jackman’s Buildings and Staithley streets as the door
of the Hall opened to her, and she had continued to think of Mary Ellen
Bradshaw through the few moments when Gertrude was greeting her. She
didn’t know that the mourning grass of Staithley Edge had left its mark
on her face; if she had known, she would have felt more insignificant
still, but she had washed since then, she had kissed Rupert in their
bedroom in Staithley Hall and her effect now upon Gertrude was that
of the bottle marked “Drink me” upon Alice in Wonderland. Gertrude
had drunk of no magic bottle, but she dwindled before Mary. It was
disconcerting to an intriguer who had so lately seen Mary as her pliant
instrument, but “Pooh! some actress trick,” she thought, making an
effort to believe that she dominated the table.

“I’m afraid you will find Staithley very dull,” she said, “but we shall
all do our best for you.”

“Thank you,” said Mary. “It’s exciting so far.”

“Yes. It must be strangely novel to you. Of course, I never go into the
town. One needn’t, living in the Hall; but I’m forgetting. I shan’t be
living here.”

“Oh, you will, aunt,” said Rupert. “We went up on the Edge to have
a look at it all, and we decided--it arose out of a suggestion of
Mary’s--to build a house up there. You see, uncle, you’re the Head. The
Hall is naturally yours and aunt’s.”

“Naturally? It’s your property, Rupert.”

“Then that settles it. We’ll get some one to run us up a cottage on the
Edge quite quickly. Really a cottage, I mean. I shall be working as a
workman and I ought to live as one. I shan’t do that, but it won’t be a
mansion pretending to be a cottage.”

“Well!” said Gertrude. “A cottage on the Edge!”

“We have to grow, Rupert and I,” said Mary. “We aren’t big enough for
the Hall yet.”

“I feel about a quarter of an inch high, uncle, when I think of those
mills... those thousands of men.”

“Oh, the workpeople,” said Gertrude, putting them in their place. “Your
uncle tells me some of them dared to hiss.”

“Yes, I want to talk to you about that, uncle.”

William shuffled in his chair. “Not very nice of them, was it?”

“Impertinents,” said Gertrude. “They ought to be locked up.”

Rupert stared at her. If this was the attitude of the Hall, he
thought, no wonder there had been a show of resentment. But it was only
Gertrude’s attitude. “Would you also lock up,” said William, “the very
many who did a deadlier thing than hissing? The men who stayed away,
the men who went home ignoring Rupert altogether? We’d have to close the
mills for lack of labor.”

“Lord,” said Rupert, “that’s telling me something.”

“I thought it best that you should know.”

Rupert thought so too, even if it was a piece of knowledge which seemed
to bring him off a high place with a bump.

“Oh, my dears,” Gertrude put in, “you’ve no idea how difficult it all
is.”

“No,” said Mary, “but Rupert knows that he knows nothing and he’s here
to learn.”

“Yes. I’m here to learn. Can you put your finger on this for me, uncle?
Why did they hiss? Why did they stay away?”

“What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?” asked. Gertrude.

“It’s to be noted, Rupert,” said William, “that the hisses came before
you spoke, not afterwards.”

“You mean I said the right thing?”

“Did you mean what you said? Look at those books over there.” Behind the
glass of the old mahogany case to which he pointed, the titles looked
queerly incongruous. There were books on such subjects as Welfare
Societies, Works Committees, Co-Partnership, and Rupert thought them
incongruous not only in connection with that bookcase but with William.

“People have sent them to you?” he guessed.

“No. I bought them. If in the short years that I’ve been Head I have
left my mark on Hepplestall’s, it is in this direction. Your father, as
perhaps you know, was against what he called coddling the men. I
would not coddle, but I have encouraged Welfare Societies and I have
instituted Works Committees.”

Rupert had the sensation of deflation. He had called William of “the
old gang,” and here was William’s contribution to the march of
Hepplestall’s. Rupert was to add humanity, was he? Well, William had
added it first. “I did these things with hope,” William was saying.
“I pinned my faith to them, and what are they worth? There were two
Hepplestalls hissed in Staithley Mills today. That is the reply to what
I have tried to do. Can you wonder that I feel I’ve shot my bolt and
missed my aim? The detail of my Works Committees scheme took me a year
to evolve. I thought it was accepted and welcomed; and I was hissed
to-day in Staithley Mills.”

For a moment even Mary was daunted, not by the thing she had brought
Rupert here to do but by the realization of what release had meant to
William.

“Not you, uncle,” Rupert cried. “They hissed me for being a laggard.”

“We’re Hepplestalls. That’s why they hissed. They hissed the Service.”

It had seemed solemn enough on Staithley Edge, but that was childish
levity compared with this. What should one answer back to men who
hissed the Service which served them? Gertrude’s pig with a grunt
seemed justified in the light of William’s revelation of his progressive
efforts.

“And you,” William said, “you spoke, and they cheered you for it. Well,
it’s in those books. Co-Partnership. No: I’ve not done that. Limitation
of profits--I’ve thought the Government was doing that drastically. I
don’t know. You went too far for me, but they didn’t hiss you when
you’d done, You sav you’re here to learn. Well, I can’t teach you. The
technical side and the ordinary business side--oh, yes, we’ll teach you
those. But what Labor wants, what, short of something catastrophic on
the Russian scale, will satisfy Labor, I cannot tell you for I do not
know.”

Once, unimaginably long ago, Rupert had found the beginnings of a
solution in his wife’s appearance on the screen in a Staithley cinema.
It was so long ago that he thought he must have grown stupendously since
then.

Perhaps he had; it was a far cry from that uninformed optimism to this
throttling doubt.

The doubt, though, was almost as uninformed as the optimism. He could
see Mary’s lips moving: what was she signaling to him? Ah, that was it.
She was repeating what she had said as they turned up the drive. “You’ll
stay young, please. You’ll keep your hope, my faith, your youth.”

Yes, so he would. He wouldn’t let Mary down, he wouldn’t be beaten by
Staithley. _Punch_--queer how much he turned to memories of _Punch_ for
mental figures--had a cartoon in an _Almanac_ during the war. A tattered
soldier, beaten to the knee, represented one year; a fresh upstanding
soldier, taking the standard from the first, represented the next year.
Was the motto “Carry on”? Well, a good motto for peace too. William was
coming to the end of his tether, and Rupert must make ready to take from
his hands the standard of the Service.

He had to learn, to learn, and for this thing which mattered most he
had not found a teacher, but he must keep his hope. Somewhere was light.
Somewhere was illumination. Somewhere was a teacher.

A servant came into the room. “Mr. Bradshaw wishes to speak to Sir
Rupert on the telephone,” he said, and a scoffing laugh from Gertrude
died stillborn at a look from the ci-devant, insignificant Lady
Hepplestall. Rupert went to the door, like a blind man who is promised
sight; and it is permissible to hope that Phoebe Bradshaw, from the
place in which she was, saw the face of Rupert Hepplestall as he
answered the call to the telephone of Tom Bradshaw, his adviser.

THE END





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