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Title: Whitewash
Author: Vachell, Horace Annesley
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Whitewash" ***

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                               WHITEWASH

                 *        *        *        *        *

                        HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL



                               WHITEWASH

                                   BY
                        HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL
           _Author “The Soul of Susan Yellam,” “Fishpingle,”_
                       _“Quinney’s,” etc., etc._


                             [Illustration]

                                NEW YORK
                        GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



                           _Copyright, 1920,_
                      _By George H. Doran Company_


               _Printed in the United States of America_



                                   TO
                             MORLEY ROBERTS



                                CONTENTS


                                CHAPTER             PAGE

                    I LADY SELINA CHANDOS              9

                   II HENRY GRIMSHAW                  40

                  III CUPID SPEEDS HIS SHAFTS         66

                   IV CHIEFLY CONCERNING CICELY       95

                    V TIDDY APPEARS                  127

                   VI GRIMSHAW RETURNS               156

                  VII TIDDY AND CICELY               186

                 VIII PEARLS OF DEW                  232

                   IX TIMOTHY FARLEIGH               239

                    X UNDER THE VILLAGE TREE         267

                   XI REVOLUTION                     297

                  XII RECONSTRUCTION                 320

       Transcriber’s Notes can be found at the end of this eBook.



                               WHITEWASH



                               CHAPTER I
                          LADY SELINA CHANDOS


                                   I

Lady Selina laid down her pen—a quill—smiling pensively. Early in life
she had been taught to smile by a mother with half a dozen attractive
but dowerless daughters, who had smiled themselves obediently into wives
and matrons. Critics admitted that the smile had quality. No derision
twisted it. Artlessly, with absolute sincerity, Lady Selina scattered
her smiles as largesse. Royalties know the value of such smiles, and so
do politicians.

Her eyes—blue, heavily-lidded, with arched brows above them—wandered
from her desk, the desk of a busy lady of the manor, to the portrait of
her late husband which hung above the chimney-piece. Henry Chandos had
been her senior by some five and twenty years. During another quarter of
a century of tranquil married life Lady Selina had loved, honoured and
obeyed him as the dominant partner. A stranger, looking at the portrait,
might have guessed that the Squire of Upworthy—if physiognomy is to be
trusted (which it isn’t)—was likely to inspire honour and obedience
rather than love. An uncompromising chin, a _Wellingtonia gigantea_ nose
and steel-grey eyes overhung by beetling brows, bespoke the autocrat. He
wore a stained red hunting coat and grasped a hunting horn in his left
hand. Hounds came swiftly to the toot of that horn; and eager horsemen,
you may be sure, followed at a respectful distance. Henry Chandos never
bullied his “field.” He checked “thrusters” with a glance. The wags
christened him “Old Gimlets.” And in the County Council, upon the Bench,
in and out of his own house, he exercised a gift of silence. His
neighbours knew that he took his own line over any country regardless of
obstacles. If damage ensued he paid for it generously.

When at work in her sitting-room, Lady Selina was always conscious of
her husband’s portrait, sensible that his counterfeit presentment looked
down approvingly upon her labours. He, too, had worked hard in this fine
room, and since his death the widow had carried on that work along his
lines, as, with his last breath, he had entreated her to do.

She rose from her chair and crossed to the sofa on which were piled many
red flannel cloaks. On a table lay pound packages of tea, and a small
basket holding gills of gin discreetly covered with a white napkin.
These were her particular gifts to her own people, to be bestowed
presently, _coram publico_, before tea was served on the lawn beneath
the approving eyes of the doctor, parson, and such of the local gentry
as might “drop in.”

As she rose, glancing at the neat piles of books and letters, a sigh
escaped her. Nobody knew how much her work perplexed and bothered her.
If her smile disarmed criticism, it was partly, perhaps, because pathos
informed it. At times it seemed to say: “I want to please people, but
it’s horribly difficult.” No business training had been vouchsafed her,
except such knowledge as had come from dealing with servants and
tradesmen. In the management of a large estate her husband had never
consulted her. And yet—a tremendous tribute—he had left her everything
during her lifetime, scorning to impose any conditions should she marry
again. Possibly he knew that she would not do so.

As she stood beside the sofa, plump and prosperous, erect mentally and
physically, an intelligent child might have proclaimed her to be what
she was, a superb specimen of the English châtelaine. Obviously a
gentlewoman, courteous alike to the Lord-Lieutenant of her county or to
the humblest of her many dependents, exacting respect from all and
affection from many, she had just passed her fifty-fifth birthday. But
her face remained free from wrinkles, smoothly pink as if glowing
autumnally after a sunny summer; and her features were on the happiest
terms with each other, firmly but delicately modelled, prominent, but
not aggressively so.

She wore clothes of no particular mode that became her admirably. Her
butler entered the room.

“Well, Stimson, what is it?”

Her voice was very pleasant and articulate. At the mere sound of it the
austere face of the old retainer relaxed. Deprecatingly, he informed his
mistress that Mr. Goodrich had arrived.

Lady Selina frowned slightly. Her guests had been invited for four. It
was not yet half-past three.

“Show Mr. Goodrich on to the lawn. Tell him, with my compliments, that I
will join him there in a few minutes.”

“Very good, my lady. Mr. Goodrich expressed a wish to see your ladyship
before the others came.”

Lady Selina retorted sharply:

“Bless the man! Why couldn’t you say so at once? I’ll see Mr. Goodrich
here.”

Stimson withdrew. Lady Selina returned to her desk and sat down. Perhaps
she wished to impress her parson, an old friend, that she was busy.
Beholding the lady of the manor engrossed in multifarious duties, Mr.
Goodrich might consider himself courteously admonished. None the less,
she received him with a gracious smile, and expressed herself as glad to
see him. The parson said genially:

“A charming day for our little fête.”

As he sat down near her, Lady Selina eyed him interrogatively, divining
something unpleasant. She was well aware that her general staff, so to
speak, were self-trained in the art of what is now called “camouflage.”
She had learnt to distrust the smiles of others, knowing well that her
own smiles often served to disguise her feelings.

Mr. Goodrich settled himself comfortably in his chair, and crossed a
pair of shapely legs which in his opinion ought to wear gaiters,
archdiaconal if not episcopal. He, too, like the lady of the manor,
presented a plump and prosperous exterior to a changing and
hypercritical world. From his relaxed, easy attitude one might guess
that this was not a soldier of the church militant, the more robust
physically because, perhaps, he habitually exercised his body instead of
his mind, an indefatigable walker and talker rather than a thinker. He
looked his best, indeed, from the back of a fat cob, not in the pulpit
or at the lectern, although his perfectly tied white cravat was
austerely clerical. Lady Selina wasted no time:

“You have something disagreeable to tell me?”

“No, no. Disagreeable is too strong a word. Worrying—m’yes. I dislike
being appealed to in such matters.”

“In what matters, my dear friend?”

“I went for a ride this morning, and—a—happened to look in upon old
Ephraim Exton. He asked me to speak to you, and the day being
so—a—propitious, I was beguiled against my better judgment into saying
I would.”

His slight hesitations did not annoy Lady Selina. She accepted them as
homage, a soaping of the ways, a desire upon the part of her staff to
“spare” their chief anything approximating to a shock. But she said
humorously:

“Then why don’t you?”

The parson smiled at her, nodding his handsome head.

“Old Ephraim is sorely troubled about his best cow.”

“But I’m not a cow doctor.”

“No, no, but Ephraim thinks that the trouble is not so much with the
cow, a valuable animal, so he tells me, but with the cowhouse. He thinks
it needs rebuilding.”

Lady Selina said trenchantly:

“You mean he said so to you?”

“M’yes. Not that he complained. He pointed out to me that the roof might
fall in on top of the cows.”

Lady Selina laughed, but her forehead was not quite smooth as she
replied:

“I see, Ephraim Exton didn’t complain, but he persuaded you to do it.
Really, the old fellow is quite hopeless.”

Mr. Goodrich nodded.

“M’yes; he so impressed me this morning.” Then he added genially:

“His son, John, is a bright young fellow—um?”

“Bright? He may brighten into a fire-brand. He labels himself Socialist.
I shall do my duty, Mr. Goodrich.”

The parson purred pleasantly, rubbing his hands.

“You’ll rebuild the cowsheds——? How good of you——!”

“No.” She spoke sharply. “The man’s a fool to house delicate high-bred
stock in ramshackle buildings. I’ve remitted part of his rent.”

“We all know how kind you are about that.”

Lady Selina made a deprecating gesture. Then, with her usual energy, she
set forth her case as against that of her tenant. Because of certain
concessions, Exton had undertaken to keep the farm buildings in
reasonable repair. But the money which ought to have been spent on roofs
had been diverted to the speculative purchase of valuable stock. The
parson lent an attentive and sympathetic ear, but he had heard the tale
before. One word explained the trouble as between landlord and
tenant—Compromise. Secretly, he was of opinion that outside repairs
should be done by landlords, regardless of other concessions, but he
didn’t say so to the lady of the manor. Plain speech meant an indictment
of Gridley, the bailiff, the power behind the throne. Lady Selina might
send for Gridley. Indeed she had done so before. And always
Gridley—bother him!—got the best of such talk.

Lady Selina ended on the highest note.

“Gridley wants me to give Exton notice to quit.”

“Oh, dear! Won’t that be very disagreeable?”

“Very. Do you shirk doing your duty, Mr. Goodrich, when it happens to be
disagreeable?”

The parson answered quite truthfully:

“Sometimes.”

Lady Selina smiled graciously, and the smile deepened as her two
children entered from the lawn. Brian, the son, was a handsome young man
of twenty-eight, a dashing hussar, cut to pattern. Cicely deserves more
attention. She had been born ten years after her brother, arriving on
earth as a surprise packet, so to speak. Intelligence sparkled in her
soft brown eyes, a charming alertness, often so distinctively the
attribute of children born to parents no longer young. Nobody could call
her a beauty. The rather smug comeliness of regular features had been
denied her. But her colouring was excellent, the clear red and brown of
the out-o’-doors girl. Her laugh warmed the cockles of all hearts; her
manners made her welcome everywhere. Fortunately for her, she had been
sent to school, much to the surprise of Lady Selina’s kinsmen. At school
she had achieved some sort of detachment from the cut-and-dried
traditions of Upworthy Manor. None could call her a rebel, but in less
robust moments her mother wondered whether the daring experiment had
been altogether a success. She could read her son easier than her
daughter.

Brian said gaily:

“The goodies are weighing in, Mums.” Then he turned to the parson,
holding out his hand. “And how are you coming up this fine day, Mr.
Goodrich?”

The parson shook his head. “I don’t know that I’m coming up, Brian.” He
smiled paternally at the young man whom he had baptised and confirmed,
adding regretfully: “I’m toddling down the shady slopes of sixty.
Cicely, my dear, how well you look!”

“Thank you, Mr. Goodrich.”

Brian approached the sofa.

“Shall we cart out this stuff?” he asked.

“One moment.”

Brian’s blue eyes lingered upon his mother’s serious face.

“Hullo! What’s up? You look portentous.”

“I am worried, my dear.”

“Poor old Mums! What about?”

She hesitated, glancing at the parson now erect upon the hearthrug and
smiling blandly. As a rule, Lady Selina acted after much indecision, and
discussed—not too often—her actions afterwards. But at this particular
moment she felt upset, cornered by circumstances, upon the sharp horns
of a dilemma. She had never evicted a tenant. To do so was intolerably
unpleasant. But these Extons, complaining behind her back, for ever
leaving undone what they had promised to do, exasperated her beyond
bearing. She answered her son quietly:

“The Extons. Tell me your candid opinion of Ephraim Exton.”

Brian replied promptly:

“One of the best.”

“Best of what?”

“Best of the best.”

Cicely murmured derisively:

“How illuminating!”

“Shut up, Cis. Mother knows what I mean.”

“I don’t,” said Lady Selina. “Your best of the best is always behind
with his rent.”

Goodrich interposed a seasonable word. He was prepared to side with
Brian against his august mother. The bishop of the diocese had been
appointed by a Liberal Prime Minister. His lordship held advanced views
upon the right administration of landed estates.

“He is a sound Churchman, Lady Selina.”

“Can you say as much of his son?” asked Lady Selina.

“’Um! Laodicean. I admit it—Laodicean.”

“Fiddle! John Exton is a free-thinker. Children——!”

Brian and Cicely looked at her gravely. Cicely realised that her mother
was dredging, as she called it, anxious to sweep public opinion into her
net. And Cicely, not Brian, was well aware that public opinion counted
with the lady of the manor, although she never admitted as much.

Lady Selina said with intense solemnity:

“I believe it is my duty to give Ephraim Exton notice to quit.”

Cicely exclaimed vehemently:

“Darling Mother, please don’t!”

Brian shrugged his shoulders, muttering:

“I went ferreting with old Ephraim. That ought to count.”

Cicely gave a better reason.

“The Extons were on the land here before us. That ought to count.”

Very wisely the parson held his tongue. Lady Selina replied tartly:

“My dears, the Extons may be here after us, if I allow sentiment to
overrule common sense.”

Having repeated this golden axiom so often on the lips of her late
husband, Lady Selina paused to stare at the lugubrious countenance of
her butler who had entered the room as she was speaking.

“Bless me! Stimson? Has the roof fallen in?”

“Not yet, my lady. The carrier has forgotten the buns.”

“No buns! I shall have to give the dear children pennies instead.”

She hurried out to find the necessary coppers, followed leisurely by
Stimson. Brian laughed.

“What a situation! My Lady Bountiful—bunless!”

Cicely crossed the room, and laid her hand upon the parson’s sleeve,
looking up into his pleasant face.

“Oh, Mr. Goodrich, this is awful.”

“Well, well, Cicely, really, you know, the little ones would sooner have
pennies.”

Cicely stared at him in amazement. Perhaps, for the first time, she
beheld her pastor as one concerned with parochial trifles oblivious of
great issues. She said almost gaspingly:

“I’m speaking of the Extons. Surely, surely, it can’t be Mother’s duty
to turn out such old tenants.”

At this Brian pulled himself together. Cis, evidently, was getting out
of hand.

“You can bet your boots, Cis, that Mums knows best. Don’t you run riot,
old thing! Any fool can see that she loathes the job as much as you do.”

“I suppose so,” Cicely admitted reluctantly. “And if Mr. Goodrich thinks
Mother right——?” She looked at the parson, interrogatively.

“Exton is certainly an unlucky farmer, still——”

“Suppose Mother turns him out, and suppose it kills him? Everybody will
say that she has done him in.”

Mr. Goodrich raised an expostulatory finger.

“Done him in? What an expression!”

Brian, meanwhile, had sauntered up to the open window. Suddenly he
turned.

“Dr. Pawley is outside. Oughtn’t I to ask him in here?”

“Of course,” said Cicely. “And we’ll find out what he thinks.”


                                   II

Dr. Pawley had introduced both Brian and Cicely to this wicked world.
Failing in health and energy, he carried with him a kind, whimsical
face, slightly sunk between high, narrow shoulders. Chronic sciatica
made him limp a little. In the pockets of his ill-fitting rusty coat he
carried sugar-plums which he popped deftly into the mouths of howling
children. From this it may be inferred that he was not an up-to-date
practitioner, and perhaps the more beloved in Upworthy on that account.
An old bachelor of small independent means, Lady Selina had long ago
accepted him as a friend and counsellor. He dined at the Manor
constantly in those remote days when medical attendants were rarely
offered luncheon. County magnates were less supercilious when they
remarked the esteem which Dr. Pawley had inspired in Henry Chandos and
his wife. And ultimately they, too, accepted him and entertained him,
almost regarding him as one of themselves. Pawley himself knew that he
owed his somewhat unique position in the county to Lady Selina.
Unbefriended by her, he would have remained obscure and ignored by the
quality. She gave him the opportunity which he had seized. After that he
had held his own as a talker and a listener. And he scorned gossip,
although he might swallow it with a faint smile curving his thin,
sensitive lips.

Cicely greeted him warmly.

“How nice of you to come to our tea-fight.”

“How are you, Pawley?” asked the parson.

“I’m not pulling my weight, Goodrich. People make cheap jokes about
doctors and a sickly season, but I want a partner and a holiday, and I
mean to have both.”

He sat down near Cicely, who said hastily:

“Why is there always sickness in Upworthy at midsummer?”

Some inflection in her young voice challenged attention. Goodrich
blinked; Pawley thought to himself: “At last, the inevitable
question——!” Temptation assailed him to evade it. And such evasion
might be justified by his sense of loyalty and gratitude to Lady Selina.
Nevertheless some truth-compelling quality in her glance made him answer
simply:

“Our people aren’t too healthy, my dear.”

“Why—why?”

“Partly a matter of drainage; wages are low. That means insufficient
nutrition, eh, Goodrich?”

“Quite so; quite so.”

Cicely turned to Brian, who was again at the window, watching the
arriving villagers.

“Brian, do you hear? Dr. Pawley says the village drains are wrong.”

Brian laughed carelessly.

“Drains? There aren’t any. Mother says open drainage is the best in
villages. She knows.”

“Does she?” Once more her eyes seemed to fix themselves inexorably upon
Pawley’s pale face. “Does Mother really know, Dr. Pawley? Has she ever
taken expert advice, for instance?”

“As to that, my dear child, the fact is we are comfortably
antediluvian.”

Cicely digested this, turning troubled orbs from doctor to parson,
sensible of tension, and—with the inherited instincts of a
fox-hunter—keenly aware that her quarry was escaping. She said with
something of her mother’s air of finality:

“Are we? Then the deluge is coming.” In a different voice, charmingly
persuasive, she went on: “And now, dear doctor, I want to talk to you
about something else of tremendous importance.”

“How you frighten me!”

She smiled at him.

“You’re a rare favourite with Mother. You and—and Mr. Goodrich”—the
parson was included as a happy after-thought—“are levers.”

“Levers? Bless me!”

“Yes. I always think of Mother as a sort of fixed star, but you two can
move her. And your influence with her is the greater because you hardly
ever exercise it.”

The parson accepted this as an indictment, and looked uneasy. Pawley’s
eyes twinkled, as the girl continued:

“Mother is thinking of evicting the Extons.”

Pawley’s eyes stopped twinkling.

“Bless my soul!”

“Brian and I are dead against it, aren’t we, Brian?”

Again the young man laughed, not heartlessly. Cicely, under the stress
of excitement, amused him. And excitement became her. She
looked—topping. At the same time she was riding for a fall. He must
shout out: “’Ware wire!” He did so.

“This isn’t our business, Cis.”

“But it is. Eventually, I suppose, Upworthy will go to you.”

“Oh no, not necessarily. Mother has a power of appointment. If I ran
rusty, b’Jove, Mother might feel it her duty to leave Upworthy to George
Chandos.”

“You selfish pig——!”

“Children, my dear children!” The parson lifted his hand. Cicely said
crossly:

“You’re all sitting on the fence.”

“We’re men of peace,” murmured the parson.

Instantly Cicely became penitent. “I’m ever so sorry. Doctor, can you
give me something not too nasty to cure a quick temper?”

Pawley chuckled.

“There’s no state of savage irritation which can’t be mitigated by the
exhibition of a little calomel.”

“Do you take that?”

“No. In my case it isn’t necessary. Now, what do you want a tired old
man to do?”

Cicely replied promptly:

“Pull the popularity stop.”

“Eh?”

“You jolly well know what I mean. You’re much cleverer than you look,
dear doctor.”

As she spoke Lady Selina majestically entered the room, pausing in
horror as Cicely’s clear tones penetrated her ears and her
understanding.

“My darling child! What are you saying to Dr. Pawley?”

“He is, Mums. Every doctor ought to be. To look clever is rather
alarming. To be clever and not look it is so very reassuring.”

Lady Selina held out her hand to her old friend, saying graciously:

“Very glad to see you, doctor. Brian, you can take the cloaks on to the
lawn.”

“Let me help you,” said the parson.

The two men disappeared with arms full of red flannel cloaks. Cicely,
standing dose to Pawley, laughed.

“Why do you laugh, child?” asked Lady Selina.

“Only because Mr. Goodrich is a man of peace.” She nudged Pawley, much
to her mother’s astonishment. “Why are you nudging Dr. Pawley?”

“Was I? Well, yes, I was. He’s a man of peace, too. I want him to say
something before we go on to the lawn.”

“Oh! You want him to say something which apparently can’t be said
without nudging. What is it?”

Cicely slipped to her mother’s side, taking her arm and pressing it
coaxingly.

“Dr. Pawley knows how worry affects you, don’t you, doctor?”

“Worry affects all of us.”

Lady Selina’s face relaxed beneath the pressure of Cicely’s arm.

“But I’m not worrying, you silly child.”

“Oh, Mother——! Not worrying about the poor Extons? You said you were
just now.”

“For the moment I had forgotten the Extons. Yes, yes, I must take action
at once, because to-morrow is Midsummer Day.”

She moved, like a line-of-battle ship, to her desk, and picked up an
Estate ledger. Cicely made a sign to Pawley, who shook his head
dubiously. Lady Selina, after a pause, said austerely:

“It’s as I thought. I must give Ephraim Exton a year’s notice from
to-morrow, or lose a quarter. Cicely, send Agatha Farleigh to me. She’s
on the lawn.”

Agatha was Lady Selina’s typist, and a protégée, a daughter of the
village, who, by virtue of a lively intelligence, had been taught
typewriting and stenography at the expense of the lady of the manor.

Cicely refused to budge, exclaiming loudly:

“If you turn out that old man, Mums, I don’t want to be here next
November.”

“Next November?”

“You’ll be burnt in effigy on the village green. Guy Fawkes’ Day!”

“Rubbish! Run away and send Agatha to me.”

Cicely, in desperation, turned to Dr. Pawley.

“Doctor, have you nothing to say?”

Pawley sighed, shrugging his shoulders. In a tired voice, he said
quietly:

“The Extons are much liked, Lady Selina.”

Lady Selina closed the Estate ledger, standing very erect, unconsciously
assuming the pose of her late husband. But she spoke pleasantly,
suppressing a rising exasperation. Pawley’s pale face affected her. And
he had grown old in her service, a loyal friend. Certainly she owed him
consideration. After tea, she might talk with him—alone.

“Well, well, the letter can be written any time before eight. I shall
give my dear people their tea.” She moved slowly to the open window,
turning on the threshold, smiling confidently. “I am not afraid of
becoming unpopular with them.”

As she swept out, Cicely whispered to Pawley:

“All is well. She won’t write the letter. Ah, doctor, you didn’t half
back me up.”

He took both her hands, looking gravely into her eager face.

“I am an old man, my dear, and I am devoted to your mother. Shall we
follow her on to the lawn?”


                                  III

The lawns of Upworthy Manor sloped from the house to the topiary garden.
This topiary garden was famous for its size and construction. In pre-war
days, some ten men were kept constantly at work from March to October
trimming the yews and mowing and rolling the grass alleys. Lady Selina
regarded it with reverence. Cicely hated it, but dared not say so. The
trimness and primness of it all affected her oddly. Apart from the waste
of labour which the care of such an absurdity involved, it symbolised
what she had learned at school to dislike and distrust—artificial
clipping of Nature. A yew, left to its own devices, was a glorious tree,
intimately associated with the history and expansion of England,
furnishing the long bows of Agincourt even as later the great oaks were
transformed miraculously into the wooden walls that kept our shore
inviolate. To turn a yew into a peacock seemed to Cicely a monstrous
perversion. And, as a child, looking out of her nursery window by
moonlight, she envisaged the dark beasts and birds coming to life, and
preying mercilessly upon beloved creatures such as lambs and puppies and
kittens. There was a legend, too, in the family, babbled by nursemaids,
that the Chandos who had laid out the topiary garden had designed it as
a sort of prison for a young and beautiful wife of whom he was morbidly
jealous. She had never been suffered to stray far from the walled-in
alleys and tunnels. The story had a tincture of truth in it, no more,
quite enough to fire the fancy of an imaginative child.

Upon fête days the villagers were graciously permitted to wander at will
through the topiary garden.

By the time that Cicely reached the lawn most of Lady Selina’s people
had assembled about the tea-tables. Cicely joined Brian. Her mother was
standing near the parson, who, with uplifted hand and voice, addressed
the company:

“My dear friends, once more we meet in this charming garden, where we
have enjoyed so often the gracious hospitality of the Lady of the
Manor.” (Cheers.) “Lady Selina desires me to thank you for this kind
reception, and I am quite sure that you wish me to thank her on your
behalf for her continued bounty and the good creature comforts which we
are about to enjoy. The gifts soon to be bestowed on the aged and infirm
are very precious oblations——”

At this point the speaker was shrilly interrupted by a small boy, not
ill-looking, but presenting a vacuous countenance to all beholders, and
regarded by them as the village softy.

“What do Pa’son say?”

Everybody smiled compassionately. Nick Farleigh, a cousin of Lady
Selina’s typist, was regarded as quite harmless and on occasion a source
of innocent amusement. Mr. Goodrich answered him:

“Oblations, my young friend, mean offerings, symbols of the love and
affection which Lady Selina has shown to all of us, gentle and simple,
ever since she came to Upworthy to reign over us with unremitting
generosity and kindliness. In her name I bid you welcome.”

More cheers.

Brian whispered to his sister:

“Old Goody lays it on a bit thick, but Mother has played the game, bless
her.”

The company sat down to tea. Cicely and Brian helped to wait, flitting
here and there, talking to everybody. Nick said in a loud voice: “I be
going to have a rare gorger.”

“I like to see ’em tuck in,” said Brian to Cicely.

“I don’t know. It looks, doesn’t it, as if they didn’t have quite enough
at home?”

After tea came the solemn bestowal of red cloaks, pounds of tea, and the
gills of gin furtively bestowed upon the old women. Cicely found herself
near Dr. Pawley.

“Timothy Farleigh isn’t here,” she said. “Is he ill?”

“I don’t think so.”

Cicely noticed an accent of restraint. She continued quickly: “I can’t
remember his ever coming to our bun-feasts, can you?” Pawley remained
silent. Cicely decided that something was eluding her.

“Is there any reason why he shouldn’t come?”

Her persistence amused and distressed an old friend. Obviously, she was
on the hunt for accurate information. If he put her off a hot scent, she
would return to it. And yet he shrank from telling the truth, although
well aware that it would come more gently from his lips than from any
others. Suddenly, so it seemed to him, a jolly girl had bloomed into a
woman. He answered reluctantly:

“Yes.”

“Do tell me the reason, please.”

Dr. Pawley lowered his voice.

“You see, his two little girls died of diphtheria long ago.”

“But what on earth has that got to do with his coming here? Surely he
can’t blame my mother?”

“I can’t go into that with you, Cicely. Speaking personally, I blame
John Gridley. He knew well enough that Farleigh’s cottage was hardly fit
for habitation.”

Cicely stared at him.

“Why, it’s the prettiest cottage in Upworthy.”

As she spoke Lady Selina bore down upon them, in full sail before a
brisk breeze of popularity. The Olympians had finished their tea; games
were started by the children; the sun shone in cloudless skies.

“My congratulations,” murmured Pawley, as Lady Selina paused in front of
him.

“Yes; the dear things do appreciate what one does for them. I was just
thinking to myself that this is England at her best. Will you come back
to my room, doctor? I want a word with you.”

He followed her obediently, but Cicely thought that his courteous smile
was slightly derisive. Her mother, of course, wanted to talk to him
about the Extons. The old fellow would plead for them. Lady Selina, in
high good humour, would be merciful.

And, quite easily, this came to pass. No promises were made, but Lady
Selina nodded when Pawley discreetly hinted that it might be inexpedient
to make martyrs of the Extons. Then, perceiving that enough had been
said, he changed the talk.

“I am thinking of taking a partner,” he began. “And I am happy to say
that the right man is likely to come here to help me. You have heard of
him, Henry Grimshaw.”

Lady Selina shook her head.

“Grimmer,” added Pawley.

“Grimmer? Dear me! Are you speaking of Brian’s friend at Winchester? The
wonderful Grimmer.” She laughed. “At one time Brian gave us too much
of—Grimmer. At school he was certainly a star of the first magnitude.
What has he done since?”

Pawley could only furnish a few details. Grimshaw had distinguished
himself as a student of medicine, taking several degrees. For some years
he had overworked himself in Poplar. Comparative rest and good country
air had been prescribed for him by a Harley Street specialist. Pawley
added quietly:

“When he answered my advertisement, he mentioned his friendship for
Brian at school.”

“I shall welcome Brian’s old friend cordially. I am glad that your
partner is a public-school man.”

“He isn’t my partner yet, Lady Selina, but he has promised to run down
to me and talk things over. It will be much for him and all of us if he
has your good-will. There is no doubt whatever of his capacity. I am
lucky to secure so up-to-date a colleague.”

“Up-to-date?” She barely winced. “I take it that you are speaking of him
professionally. Surgery, I am told, has made immense strides, but
medicine remains, doesn’t it, very much where it was?”

“Grimshaw is a surgeon, Lady Selina. And up-to-date in that. For the
rest I know nothing about him except this. In his two letters to me he
expressed himself modestly. I should imagine that he will give undivided
energies to his profession.”

“He will have very little to do, it seems to me.”

“Um. As to that I am not so sure.”

“My people are wonderfully healthy.”

“Some of them.”

Lady Selina’s eyes wandered to the lawn; through the open windows
floated much laughter. Euphrosyne is surely the sister of Hygeia. And at
that moment a patriarch was approaching, Nicodemus Burble, past
eighty-one, and able to do a day’s work in the fields. The lady of the
manor said triumphantly:

“Ah, there’s a fine specimen.”

Nicodemus halted at the open window and touched his cap.

“Well, Nicodemus, how are you?”

“I bain’t so wonnerful grand, my lady.”

“Dear me! If your boots are clean, come you in, and tell me what you
want.”

Nicodemus removed his cap and entered cautiously. Lady Selina indicated
a chair upon which the old man sat gingerly, staring about him. Lady
Selina, after eyeing him keenly, said with unction:

“If I look half as well as you do when I’m past eighty I shall be
heartily thankful. Now, what can I do for you?”

“I be fair twisted into knots wi’ they dratted rheumatics, my lady.”

“Didn’t you take the medicine which I asked Dr. Pawley to send you?”

“Be—utiful stuff, to be sure.”

But he rubbed his knees as he spoke. Lady Selina examined him more
critically. “Your medicine doesn’t seem to have done him much good,” she
observed.

Pawley, who knew his man, said confidentially:

“Own up, Nicodemus, you poured my medicine down the sink.”

Nicodemus gasped.

“Lard preserve our dear lives. How did ’ee know that, doctor?”

“So much of it has gone the same road,” replied Pawley.

Nicodemus was never without a plausible excuse.

“It give me such a rampagin’ in my innards as never was.”

Lady Selina could not accept this as adequate.

“Now, Nicodemus, if you threw the medicine down the sink you didn’t take
it.”

“’Twas the same sart seemin’ly, my lady—all in same blue bottle.
’Tisn’t physic I wants. ’Tis my roof that leaks so tarrible, and allers
has done, allers—allers.”

His voice droned away. Lady Selina said cheerfully:

“Your roof shall be mended.”

“’Tis a new roof as be needed, my lady.”

“Well, we’ll see about that presently. You got the port wine I sent
you?”

“Yes, my lady. I owes my long life to ’ee, my lady.” He rose with
difficulty. “Now I’ll march homealong.” He moved very stiffly to the
window. Pawley rose also, intercepting him.

“You’re going a bit short, granfer.”

“’Tis my near leg, doctor.”

“My car is outside. I’ll run you down to your cottage. Take my arm.”

Lady Selina smiled pleasantly as her two guests left her presence. In a
well-ordered village gentle and simple moved together in just such
harmonious relations. A pleasurable glow pervaded the tissues of mind
and body. Her people were properly cared for. And they responded—to use
a phrase of Dr. Pawley’s—to humane treatment. The cheers of that fine
summer’s afternoon still echoed in her ears.

She sat down at her desk to tackle, with appetite, a small pile of
unanswered letters.


                                   IV

She was writing leisurely, when a noise outside distracted her
attention. Noise, honest mirth, was to be expected upon such an
occasion. But common decency imposed limits upon that. Above the noise,
accentuating it, rose bucolic laughter, the laughter of the ale-house.
Lady Selina walked to the window, frowning. As she walked a sentence
rang out:

“Biff ’un again, Johnny, biff ’un again!”

Then she heard her son’s voice raised commandingly, the voice of an
officer on the parade ground.

“Shut up, you fellows, at once.”

The noise died down; giggles succeeded.

Lady Selina stood still, listening. She could trust her son to deal
drastically with anything approximating to a disturbance in her garden.
That such a disturbance should take place amongst her guests filled her
with dismay and astonishment.

She was enlightened forthwith by Brian, who entered hurriedly, rather
flushed in the face.

“What has happened, Brian?”

“A little scrap, Mums.”

“A little—scrap.” She repeated the words incredulously.

“Yes; Johnny Exton and Gridley.”

“You tell me that John Exton and Gridley have been fighting on my lawn.
Send them to me immediately. What an outrage!”

Brian withheld comment. Within a minute the offenders appeared looking
uncommonly sheepish. Brian ushered them into the presence, and closed
the French windows against a grinning and inquisitive crowd. Lady Selina
stared coldly at her bailiff. He presented a not too prepossessing
appearance, being hatless and breathless, with his tie undone, his hair
in disorder and a dash of blood upon his cheek. Hard eyes glared out of
a weather-beaten face. Lady Selina hardly recognised her smug,
obsequious Grand Vizier. She glanced swiftly at John Exton, the son of
Ephraim. The young man bore no marks of the encounter, but he appeared
to be still simmering with rage. Gridley was thick-set and slightly
corpulent; John Exton was tall and slim. Lady Selina turned to her
bailiff.

“What have you to say, Gridley?”

“He struck me first, my lady.”

She addressed the young man, coldly.

“You struck my bailiff on my lawn?”

“On my cheek, my lady.”

Gridley put his hand to his cheek, and discovering blood began to wipe
it off with a bandana. John looked at the knuckles of his right hand,
grinned, and hid his hand in his pocket. Lady Selina, judicially calm
outwardly, continued:

“Kindly tell me, John Exton, why you, my guest this afternoon, struck
another guest of mine?”

John fidgeted, blurting out the words:

“I’m not your guest, my lady.”

“What do you mean?”

The young man replied sullenly:

“With things as they are at our farm, I haven’t time, my lady, to be
anybody’s guest. Father put his money into valuable stock, and some of
’em are dying. We’re pretty nigh desperate. Father told me to find Mr.
Gridley this afternoon, and to ask for a little help. I went to his
house. They told me he was here——”

“Yes, yes; but why did you strike him?”

Excitedly, he didn’t pause to pick his words.

“Because, my lady, he’s a bully and a brute.”

Lady Selina made no attempt to hide her amazement. The young man spoke
with such passion that he became impressive.

“Bless my soul! What do you answer to that, Gridley?”

Gridley answered fiercely:

“He’s a liar.”

Immediately Lady Selina’s handsome face stiffened into impassivity.

“You forget yourself, my good man.”

“Infernal cheek,” muttered Brian.

Gridley cringed.

“I beg pardon, my lady. I’m your ladyship’s servant. Young Exton said
narsty things about you, my lady. Said you was responsible for the
rotten conditions at his father’s farm. That maddened me, my lady.”

She turned once more to John Exton. He confronted her boldly but not
brazenly, although it is likely that such a woman at such a time might
mistake courage for defiance.

“Did you say that?”

“Something of the sort, my lady.”

“And then——?”

Gridley answered eagerly:

“I spoke up for you, my lady. I told him that when you lowered his
father’s rent three years ago it was understood that you were not
responsible for the outside repairs.”

“Which is perfectly true.”

Gridley continued with less restraint, perceiving, possibly, that a
little warmth of speech might be deemed pardonable:

“With that he flies out at me, my lady. I’d be ashamed to repeat his
language to your ladyship. I aim to keep a clean tongue in my head, I
do.”

John interpolated quickly:

“Only when talking to her ladyship.”

“Silence, please.” She shot a disdainful glance at John and turned once
more to her bailiff. Her voice became velvety.

“Tell me what John Exton said with—a—decent reservations.”

Gridley began to inflate, striking an attitude and speaking in a loud,
derisive tone:

“I’m a humbug and a hypocrite, my lady. I’m grinding Gridley, I am. I
grind the face o’ the pore and my own axe at the same time.”

Lady Selina was able to fill in the lacunæ in this text. She looked very
coldly at the young man.

“You dared to say that to my bailiff?”

“It’s true, my lady; every word of it.”

“Stuff and nonsense! And how dare you hold me responsible for the
disease at your neglected farm?”

John spoke deprecatingly.

“Our buildings ought to be destroyed.”

Gridley nodded.

“What I’ve said many a time.”

Lady Selina nodded also.

“I’m inclined to agree with that. The buildings were never taken care
of.”

John exploded.

“They were taken too much care of.”

Gridley pursued his advantage, saying slyly:

“He thinks, my lady, that he and his father own your property.”

“No, I don’t,” John replied hotly. “All the same——” He broke off
abruptly.

“Pray, finish your sentence.”

The young man pulled himself together. Voice and hands trembled slightly
as he said more quietly:

“Property, my lady, is a trust, a sacred trust, or—or it ought to be.”

Lady Selina paused before she answered him, a pause characteristic of
her. She boasted, not without reason, that she was approachable, that
she listened patiently to what her people might wish to say to her. And
rarely indeed did she lose her temper with servants or those whom she
held beneath her in station. A faint smile flickered about her lips as
she asked quietly:

“Do you seriously accuse me of abusing a sacred trust?”

Gridley broke another silence.

“He says the land belongs to all of us.”

“Do you?”

Poor John became desperate, the champion of a lost cause, with his back
to the wall, sensible that further speech was futile, quite unable to
hold his tongue when challenged.

“I think the land belongs to England, my lady, although a few have been
allowed to do what they like with it.”

“Allowed?”

“Yes, your ladyship, _allowed_.”

“You can go.”

John stared at her and went out. Brian opened the door for him and then
closed it. Lady Selina spoke to Gridley:

“You will receive a letter from me tomorrow morning. Act upon it
promptly.”

“Very good, my lady.”

Mother and son were left alone.

Brian went up to Lady Selina and kissed her, murmuring:

“This has been beastly for you, Mums. I’m most awfully sorry.”

“Yes, yes; but what do you think of it?”

“As to that, I think, of course, what you think.”

“I call John Exton an anarchist.”

“So do I.”

“And I won’t have anarchists in Upworthy. Send Agatha Farleigh to me.”

“Right-o!”

He hurried away, with an air of relief. Lady Selina glanced at her late
husband’s portrait, frowning, and biting her lips. Then she went back to
her desk, reopening the Estate ledger and eyeing it grimly. Before
Agatha came in, she took up a cut-glass bottle holding crystals of
ammonia in eau de Cologne, and inhaled the pungent fumes. She had not
admitted to her son that she was stupefied with astonishment.

Agatha Farleigh, however, found her mistress calm as usual.

The girl approached the desk and stood respectfully at attention.


                                   V

She was the niece of that Timothy Farleigh of whom mention has been
made, the father of the two little girls who had died of diphtheria.
Timothy’s brother had worked as head carpenter upon the Upworthy estate,
but he had died when Agatha was fifteen. Since then the girl had been
educated by Lady Selina, and regarded by her as a deserving object.
Agatha had good looks and a quick intelligence, which carry a young
woman far upon any road. American slang, so descriptive, might have
summed her up as a “live wire.” Also, she was discreet, a creature of
odd reserves. Lady Selina had come to reckon her as a machine. As a
machine Agatha inspired respect. Lady Selina was not addicted to peering
beneath the surface of things and people. Her easy habit of mind
constrained her to move in what she devoutly called an “appointed”
groove. All her servants were well paid, and they remained long in her
service because she made them comfortable and disdained espionage. They
kept their places in every sense of the word.

Agatha carried a small head upon slender, shapely shoulders. Out of a
too pale face glowed a pair of fine grey eyes, set well apart, and
indicating breadth of vision. Much to Lady Selina’s satisfaction she
wore neat skirts and coats, and serviceable boots. She “did” her hair
simply; she kept her nails and teeth clean. Hitherto, intercourse with
her mistress had been without friction, and for this blessing Lady
Selina thanked herself. There might be moments when the lady of the
manor caught a glimpse of the real Agatha, disconcerting moments which
aroused apprehension. And then Lady Selina wondered vaguely whether it
was wise to give village girls “advantages.” Agatha had a trick of
opening expressive eyes too wide when Lady Selina might be laying down
her law upon some parochial matter. Did criticism lurk behind this
unabashed gaze? Again, the girl read the papers when she might have been
better employed with her needle. On the other hand, Agatha’s good memory
might be reckoned an asset. She could, and did, put her mistress right
upon small matters of fact, tactfully refraining from comment, never
obtruding advice. Such qualities carried with them defects. Lady Selina
listened to no village tittle-tattle, but she had learnt from Cicely
that Agatha Farleigh was a suffragist. When informed of this, the great
lady perpetrated a sniff and the austere remark: “I have done much for
Agatha, but if she undoes my stitches I cannot hold myself responsible.”

“Take down a letter,” commanded Lady Selina.

Agatha went to her typist’s desk and picked up a stenographer’s notebook
and a pencil.

“To John Gridley, The Home Farm.”

Agatha repeated the words. Lady Selina went on in a tone significantly
incisive:

“This letter must be typed, copied, and posted without fail to-night.”

“Certainly, my lady.”

Lady Selina sat very upright, but quite unaware that she was frowning.
Perhaps Agatha divined that she was oppressed by the weight of her
responsibilities.

“John Gridley:—After what happened this afternoon my mind is made
up—the Extons must go——”

Agatha dropped her notebook. Lady Selina started, much discomposed.
Agatha said deprecatingly:

“I beg pardon, my lady.”

Lady Selina drew a swift inference.

“I had forgotten. The Extons are friends of yours, eh?”

“Yes, my lady.”

“Ah!” She paused for an instant. The habit of years enjoined silence,
but she was upset and sensible, also, that she had upset her typist. And
for this she was sincerely sorry. It might be worth while to speak
confidentially to Agatha, who exercised some influence in the village.
Her voice became gentle again, as she leaned back in her chair.

“Do you happen to share John Exton’s political views?”

Agatha, taken aback, temporised:

“His political views, my lady?”

“You know what I mean, Agatha. John Exton, to put it mildly, is a
Socialist. Not ten minutes ago, in this very room, he aired his views
upon property for my benefit. It is true that I asked him to do so. Of
course he is at liberty to hold such views. And I am glad that I know
where he stands. Now I wish to know where you stand.”

Agatha answered respectfully enough:

“I do share some of his views.”

Lady Selina made a gesture. Agatha’s reserves might exasperate her, but
she respected them. After all, if the girl did her work properly, what
did her views matter? She sat up briskly.

“Where was I?”

Agatha glanced at her notebook.

“The Extons must go.”

“Yes, Ephraim will leave his farm a year from to-morrow. Be perfectly
pleasant with the old man, and make him see that I am acting in the
interests of a property which I regard as a sacred trust! Underline
_sacred trust_, Agatha. Lord Wilverley, if the Extons accept the
inevitable in the proper spirit, might at a word from me give Ephraim
one of his smaller farms. He is quite incapable of doing justice to a
large one.”

At this point a strangled sob escaped Agatha. Lady Selina suddenly
beheld, in perspective, a weeping community, bewailing the loss of the
Extons. Their lamentations filled the air.

“Are you in pain, Agatha?”

“Oh, my lady, of course I am. It’s terrible. And that I—I—their
friend—should—should——”

She became inarticulate with distress.

“Come, come, you silly girl. Control yourself! Type and copy that
letter, and I’ll sign it.”

“No.”

The devastating monosyllable threw Lady Selina off her balance. It
outraged her sense of decorum and deportment. Metaphorically, the solid
rock of tradition and custom seemed to give way; she positively
foundered in quicksands. Gaspingly, she exclaimed:

“What! You refuse——”

Agatha laid down her notebook and pencil.

“Yes, my lady.”

Lady Selina rose. She confronted the rebel with dignity; her voice
betrayed no emotion whatever. Inwardly, her mind had become
kaleidoscopic. She beheld a sort of cubist picture, a futurist nightmare
compounded of bits of history, mangled fragments. Marie Antoinette on a
tumbril—Charles the Martyr, without his head—Margaret of Anjou in a
forest—Nero fiddling when Rome was blazing——

“You must go, too, Agatha. I am sorry to lose your services. I shall be
happy to give you an excellent character. But I cannot keep you here.
Those who are not with me are against me.”



                               CHAPTER II
                             HENRY GRIMSHAW


                                   I

Dr. Pawley’s house was situate on the village green, opposite to the
church and to the left of the inn, The Chandos Arms. It presented a
Georgian exterior to the architectural eye, and the front door boasted a
pediment which resurrected Queen Anne. Red brick glowed rosily,
diffusing an air of hospitality. One might know that the cellarage was
excellent, that the larder was well stocked, and that the parlour
probably was panelled in oak. Behind the house a walled-in garden sloped
upwards to a small temple crowning a mound, which might have served as a
tumulus. In this temple, upon fine summer mornings, the doctor
breakfasted, consuming leisurely bacon of his own curing and eggs
freshly laid. Between herbaceous borders his eyes could wander to his
house, where he had lived so pleasantly during thirty years. Often he
wondered whether his successor would live as pleasantly. And the
conjecture troubled a kindly man, introspective and analytical,
distrusting the _laudator temporis acti_, but fully alive to the fact
that the England he knew and loved was changing profoundly. He confessed
that the eighteenth century was to his taste, as a period of consummate
craftsmanship. Slowly he had collected eighteenth century furniture and
porcelain and silver. Pope was his favourite poet. Everything in the
house was English. Old-fashioned flowers bloomed in his garden and in
his heart. And yet, in odd antithesis, he dealt honestly with the
present and the future. He had considered the future when the necessity
of taking a partner forced itself disagreeably upon his attention. Had
he consulted his own inclinations, he might have selected a colleague of
middle age, more or less satisfied with existing conditions. Such a
colleague would have been accepted by Lady Selina and the villagers as
the real right thing in doctors. To seek out a young up-to-date man
adumbrated possible disaster to peace of mind. At any rate, it salved a
somewhat sensitive conscience to reflect that another might do what he
had left undone. At the same time he was whimsically conscious that he
had done his best according to lights which glimmered none too brightly
when he perused the leading medical journals. Balm descended upon a
perturbed spirit when high authorities in his profession flatly
contradicted each other in and out of print. He had seen, not without
satisfaction, astounding theories spin centrifugally out of sight.
Tremendous assumptions had vanished in thin air. If he halted, out of
breath and sometimes out of pocket, behind the leaders, he could reflect
agreeably upon their divagations, conscious that he had stuck
religiously to the well-worn thoroughfare.

Of late, with failing health and energies, he had asked himself whether
he was doomed to attend the funeral of his own experience. Such an
interment made him shiver, as if an iconoclast were dancing a jig upon
his grave. At such times he wondered pathetically what might have been
had he taken arms against the lady of the manor after the death of her
husband. To work with her, to persuade her where persuasion was
possible, to accept resignedly conditions which he could not approve,
had proved difficult. Country doctors throughout that part of England
were constrained to compromise, although they might detest the word.
Parsons were in just the same boat. Goodrich, for example, after a good
dinner, might acclaim reforms which he was quite incapable of bringing
about. He, too, wandered in a vicious circle of impotent imaginings,
walled in by consequence and circumstance. Each man, perhaps, criticised
the other, but not too harshly. Both agreed that matters in the village
might be worse. Lady Selina spread the voluminous draperies of private
charity over insanitary cottages and low wages. Humanly speaking,
nothing would change her methods. Wise men made the best of them.

Grimshaw arrived in Upworthy some few days after the midsummer
bun-feast. Pawley asked him for a week-end, met him at the station,
installed him in a comfortable room, and, after luncheon, accepted with
gratitude the young man’s suggestion that he should “nose round” by
himself during the afternoon. Pawley was taken with his appearance,
because vitality exuded from him. He had expected to see signs of
overwork, hollow cheeks, a jaded look. And at luncheon he touched
lightly upon this. To his surprise, Grimshaw spoke with entire
frankness.

“My trouble was mental. I found myself up against vested interests, a
hopeless fight. I hostilised authority. And, at heart, I’m an open-air
man. I’m fed up with the slums.”

“I quite understand.”

“Yes; my ease of mind was menaced. And without that, where are you? In a
pea-soup fog.” He laughed boyishly, and added: “I say, how good your
mutton is!”

Presently he took the road without any directions or warnings from
Pawley.


                                   II

For a minute or two he stood still, admiring the village green, in the
centre of which was a cricket pitch in fairly good order. The church
faced him with its low square tower of concrete. Bits of the concrete
had fallen off, revealing the bricks beneath. “Not too much money here,”
thought the young man. His eyes rested upon the cottages, mostly
whitewashed, with heavy thatched roofs, very picturesque, and all of
them more than a hundred years old. The general effect pleased. Perhaps
the best house (barring the doctor’s) was The Chandos Arms, with a wide
gravel sweep in front of it, and ample stable accommodation. A house of
delightful rotundities—bow windows flanking a big hospitable door,
dormer windows winking at you out of the thatch, and the thatch
itself—a masterpiece of craftsmanship—not cut straight along the eaves
but undulating in semicircles of generous diameter. Grimshaw guessed
that it had been a prosperous inn during coaching-days, had suffered a
decline in custom, and was now blooming in a sort of Indian summer by
reason of the increased motor traffic. All the cottages stood back from
the road that skirted the green, with small front gardens ablaze with
old-fashioned flowers. From where he stood, looking to the left, he
could see the trees in the park, and above them the chimneys of the
Manor. If the lady of that Manor chose to stand upon her roof she could
survey the village, and outwardly at least it must have gladdened her
eye. Hard by the church, and beyond it, snuggled the Vicarage. In front
of the inn spread a large horse-pond, a treasure-house of fresh-water
infusoria. The face of any amateur microscopist would have brightened at
the sight of it.

Grimshaw strolled on, crossing the pitch. A wide street led from the
green into the grass country beyond, with cottages on both sides of it.
No modern buildings offended the artistic sense. Grimshaw passed the
post-office, the village store, the baker’s, and a cobbler’s. He could
see no chapel. Nonconformity obviously went without a place of worship
in Upworthy. Being Saturday afternoon, many children were playing in
front of the cottages. Grimshaw stared at them with professional
interest. They appeared to be clean, but not too robust. A few were
rickety.

From a blacksmith’s forge came the cheery sound of hammer on anvil.

Grimshaw nodded to the smith and bade him “Good day.” The smith, nothing
loath for a chat, paused in his work, observing critically:

“You be a stranger in these parts?”

“I am,” said Grimshaw.

“Ah-h-h! A sight o’ folks comes to our village, so pretty and peart it
be.”

“Not much new building going on.”

“Well, no. My lady don’t hold wi’ improvements. New cottages be needed
bad, too.”

“You’re a bit overcrowded, I take it?”

“That be God A’mighty’s truth. I ain’t one to complain, but ’tis a fact
that Upworthy don’t march wi’ the times. Never did, I reckons. When the
kids grows up they has to muck it like pigs in a sty. But I don’t tell
all I knows.”

Grimshaw passed on. He shot a glance upwards at the windows of bedrooms
that held too many children. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, but the
upper windows were closed. At the back of each cottage were sties. The
county was celebrated for its bacon. He could smell roses; and he could
smell pigs. His steps quickened as he left the village behind him.

He was now—as Pawley had informed him—in the heart of the Chandos
domain. Cattle browsed placidly in fields enclosed by hedgerows, not
hedges, hedgerows beloved by pheasants in October and November. Quite
close to the village lay a snipe-bog, which ought to have been drained.
From a man at work on the road Grimshaw learnt that the snipe-bog
harboured wild-fowl as well as snipe.

“’Tis as good a bit o’ rough shooting as I knows.”

“A lot of rabbits, eh?”

“Too many,” said the man. “A rare noosance they be.”

Grimshaw drew the inference. Here, at any rate, sport reigned supreme.
He examined the cows. Unless his experience was at fault, some few were
furnishing milk not fit for human consumption. The farmyards into which
he stared confirmed this unhappy conclusion. Water lay close to the
surface of a clayey soil, and in winter time must have oozed up
everywhere. The ditches were not deep enough, and overgrown with rank
vegetation. But he saw some handsome colts—prospective hunters—and
brood mares. Of high farming there was no evidence whatever. The plough,
for some occult reason, seemed to have been banished.

Grimshaw seated himself upon an ancient gate and lit his pipe.

“By their gates ye shall know them,” he murmured.

And then——

“Can I stick it?”

Sitting on the gate, his thoughts took a swallow’s flight into the past.
He had been born in just such a parish, where Peter was robbed to pay
Paul, where shift had degenerated into makeshift, where Compromise
crowed lustily over Justice and Common Sense. And his father, the parson
of the parish, had been a soured man, unable to cope with his
environment. Fortunately for Grimshaw an uncle and godfather had sent
him to Winchester, where he shone in the playing-fields rather than the
class-rooms. After that he had been pitchforked into Medicine, simply
because the uncle aforesaid happened to be a fairly prosperous
physician.

And then his father had died——!

Up to the very day of the funeral—and how dismal it had been!—Henry
Grimshaw had taken life very easily. Looking back, analytical of himself
and the motives that had governed and misgoverned him, he could remember
vividly how keen he had been to distinguish himself at cricket, partly
because his father had no stomach for games or sport. Really, he had
shirked Latin and Greek out of sheer contrariety, under the lash of a
tongue that perhaps unduly exalted classical attainments. And because
his sire had been something of an ascetic, he had decided to mortify
parental ambitions rather than his own flesh.

In the same odd spirit of contrariety, he had scrapped cricket and
football, concentrating all energies upon the study of his profession.
The friends of his own age held out the lure of playing for the
Gentlemen of England at Lord’s. Their insistence exasperated him. After
his father’s death he found himself in possession of a few thousand
pounds and a mother and sister on his hands. His uncle, something of a
cynic, said to him:

“Harry, you have good looks and good manners. In my profession these
count enormously. When I retire, which I intend to do, you can slide
into a capital practice chiefly amongst aged handmaidens of the Lord.”

Having good manners, Harry said nothing, but he thought: “I’m bothered
if I will.” And immediately afterwards, as luck would have it, he was
captivated by Babbington-Raikes, the famous gynecologist, who had
“enthused” him. Babbington-Raikes fought against diseases of women and
children with the ardour and self-sacrifice of a paladin. He was
amazing. Babbington-Raikes sent him to a God-forsaken parish in Essex
and afterwards to Poplar.

In each place he had learnt much; in each place he had been “downed,”
like his father before him, by the powers plenipotentiary of vested
interests.

And now, apparently, he was “up against them” again.

He returned, after an absence of some hours, in time to dress for
dinner. Pawley gave his visitor of his best, and, whilst the trim
parlourmaid waited upon them, the talk lingered in the eighteenth
century. Grimshaw showed appreciation of the furniture and silver,
drawing out his host to describe his adventures as a collector before
prices became prohibitive to a man of modest means. An agreeable hour
passed swiftly. Then the maid removed the cloth, brought in coffee, and
retired. The doctor placed on the well-polished mahogany an antique box
well filled with excellent cigars.

“Help yourself,” said Pawley.

Grimshaw did so.

“You are amazingly comfortable,” he said abruptly. “Your house is a sort
of sanctuary. To my notion it’s just right. No man could wish to spend
the evening of his life in more delightful surroundings.”

Pawley nodded. Grimshaw hesitated a moment, glancing at his host. The
whimsical face encouraged him to speak frankly.

“I am wondering,” he went on, “whether any design lurks behind your
charming hospitality?”

Pawley laughed.

“Design? An appeal, you mean, to the flesh?”

“Well, yes. You encourage me to be candid.”

“I like that.”

“Thanks.”

“There is no design behind my hospitality, save the wish to make you
heartily welcome here.”

“Thanks again. I have had a jolly letter from Brian Chandos.”

“Ah! His leave was up two days ago. Otherwise I should have asked him
here to-night. To-morrow you will meet his mother and sister.”

“Another appeal——!”

Pawley eyed him more keenly. Grimshaw strayed down a by-path.

“Tell me about the mother.”

“Am I to be biographical?”

“Please.”

“She was the daughter of Lord Saltaire, a West Country magnate. He
belonged to the _vieille souche_. He owned large estates heavily
mortgaged. His daughters were educated at home by a governess who, I
imagine, was not too highly paid. Probably she knew enough to cut the
girls to the Saltaire pattern. All of them married well. The conclusion
has been forced upon me that men like the late Henry Chandos fight shy
of cleverness in a wife.”

“Am I to infer that Lady Selina is stupid?”

“Heavens—no. What do you call cleverness in a woman?”

Grimshaw considered this. He felt himself to be challenged, and wished
to acquit himself adequately. But he had no answer pat to his lip.
Indeed, he had never considered the cleverness of women as something to
be differentiated from the cleverness of man. But he was quite sure that
his own sister might be reckoned clever. And he thought of her as he
replied:

“I should expect perception, sympathy, humour, adaptability, and a sound
business instinct.”

Pawley chuckled.

“I hope you will find all that in your wife, Grimshaw. If you do, you
won’t focus your affections on Chippendale furniture. To return to my
lady—she has perception and sympathy up to a point, and unsound
business instincts. I have her word for it that she never drew a cheque
till she found herself a widow.”

Grimshaw meditated a moment or two before he said tentatively:

“I am rather sorry you mentioned our possible partnership to Lady
Selina. From Brian’s letter he seems to take it for granted that the
thing is cut and dried.”

“And it isn’t?”

“The pitch—I spent four hours on it—looks bumpy. By the way, who is
your Sanitary Inspector?”

Pawley made a grimace.

“Um! An insanitary person, who doesn’t inspect.”

“Eats out of the hand of Authority.”

“An occasional luncheon.”

“Dines with the big farmers?”

“You seem to know our little ways.”

“I worked in Essex before I went to Poplar.”

“I’ll admit that you wouldn’t be idle here.”

“Idle? No. How much time should I have for research work?”

Pawley sighed, too well bred to express his disappointment. He had been
a fool to suppose that a young man of Grimshaw’s distinction would care
to kick against the pricks in an obscure village. Obviously Grimshaw had
“nosed about” to some purpose. He had read the writing on the
whitewashed walls. He might have wandered into the pretty churchyard and
noticed an undue proportion of tiny graves! But to a fighter that might
be an incentive, a provocation.

Possibly Grimshaw’s sharp ears caught the attenuated sigh. Pawley looked
up to find keenly penetrative eyes on his.

“If, Dr. Pawley, _if_ I tackle this job, what backing shall I have? Is
Lady Selina likely to stand by?”

“I—I don’t know.”

“That means she won’t. Brian Chandos used to be a good sort. Will he
help or hinder?”

Pawley answered evasively:

“Brian is devoted to his mother. And he’s dependent upon her.”

“All is said. What about the daughter?”

“You must form your own opinion. She and you together might influence
Lady Selina. She loves being loved. Of course she thinks Upworthy a
paradise.”

At this Grimshaw spoke for the first time with vehemence. It is likely
that some instinct warned him that he was being driven, against his
judgment, into a false position. Pawley’s honesty appealed to him. And
he liked him at sight, feeling sorry for him as the victim of autocracy.

“Your Lady Selina is swathed in cotton wool. I behold your Sanitary
Inspector bowing down in the house of Chandos. I behold doles instead of
decent habitations, thatch and phthisis, whitewash and eyewash.”

Pawley took this outburst humorously.

“How gently you young fellows hit.”

“I beg your pardon. You know, doctor, I have an objection to those who
swagger above me socially, but I hate still more the poor devils
cringing below me. The fact that lots of my fellow-countrymen aren’t fit
to associate with me makes me sick. There! that’s off my chest. Let me
ask a last question. Who does the dirty work in Upworthy? Who is the son
of a gun? I can see your Lady Selina handing out the smiles and
ha’pence. Who gives the kicks?”

“Her bailiff. Honest John Gridley—bother him!”

Then they both laughed. Grimshaw promised to talk with the lady of the
manor on the morrow. Beyond that he refused to pledge himself. Naturally
the talk soon wandered into the professional channel. The elder man
listened for the most part, interjecting a few questions, more and more
sensible that youth might succeed where he had failed, sensible, also,
that having, by the luck of things, found the right man, he was likely
to lose him. They parted for the night excellent friends.


                                  III

Next day, at half-past four, Stimson—looking apostolic after Morning
Church—ushered them into the drawing-room at the Manor, an immense room
seldom used, filled with furniture collected by different generations,
some of it good, some of it bad. The ladies of the house didn’t appear
immediately, and Grimshaw was much amused by the expression on Pawley’s
face as he glanced sadly at mid-Victorian atrocities, shaking his head
dolefully, apparently too overcome for speech. Characteristically,
Grimshaw devoted his attention to the full-length portraits, staring at
Chandos chins and foreheads. He decided that they must be an obstinate,
obdurate race, pleasant to deal with when things ran smoothly,
honourable, kindly, and—unquestionably—quality.

Cicely entered first, in evident distress, holding her handkerchief to
her eye.

“Oh, Dr. Pawley! How clever of you to come in the very nick of time!”

“What is it, my dear?”

“Some enormous beast—it feels as big as a bluebottle—is committing
suicide in my eye. Please save its life and mine—quick!”

“Dear, dear! Where are my glasses?”

As he fumbled for his pince-nez, Grimshaw said promptly:

“Allow me, Miss Chandos. Your handkerchief, please.”

She smiled, gave him her handkerchief and held up her face. Very deftly
Grimshaw extracted a midge, and exhibited it.

“There!”

“Where? Oh, yes. What a tiny thing.”

As he flicked it away, returning the handkerchief, with a slight bow, he
murmured:

“May all your troubles be as small.”

She held out her hand.

“Thanks. You are Dr. Grimshaw?”

“Mr. Grimshaw,” he corrected her. She nodded, exclaiming gaily:

“I’m ever so glad to meet Brian’s old friend. Now, perhaps, I shall find
out what really happened at Winchester.”

“Never. We were in the same house.”

“And you were a tremendous swell.”

“And now a poor G.P.”

“G.P.?”

“General Practitioner,” Pawley explained. “With a few letters after his
name that some Harley Street men haven’t got. Now, my dear, I tried to
help you the other day. Will you help me?”

“Why, of course.” She gazed at him affectionately. “Mother will be down
in two jiffs. You caught her napping. Sunday luncheon. How can I help
you?”

“I have asked Mr. Grimshaw to become my partner.”

“I know. And I think it’s perfectly splendid.”

“But alas! he’s not very keen about it.”

Cicely raised her brows. Grimshaw wondered whether she was obstinate,
catching a glimpse of the Chandos chin, salient but with a dimple
mitigating its contour. He could see that she was surveying him from tip
to toe with the well-bred self-possession of her class, evidently mildly
astonished that he did not jump eagerly into such a picturesque village
as Upworthy. She said simply:

“There’s plenty of work for two, isn’t there, Dr. Pawley?”

Grimshaw laughed, although he answered seriously.

“That’s it. You see, there oughtn’t to be.”

At this her expression became interrogative. Pawley interposed hastily:

“Mr. Grimshaw thinks that the chronic sickness in Upworthy might be
wiped out, if—if he could count upon the active backing of authority.”

Cicely assimilated this.

“You mean Mother?”

Grimshaw added quickly:

“And you. Would you work with me on modern lines?”

“Modern lines? Are we modern, Dr. Pawley?”

Pawley glanced at her pretty frock.

“In our frocks, yes.”

Cicely accepted the compliment demurely, conscious of the fact that her
dressmaker was in the first flight, conscious, too, that Brian’s
wonderful friend, Old Grimmer, was indifferent, perhaps, to the envelope
but not to what it held. His penetrating glances had not escaped notice.
She wondered how much her powers of persuasion would count.

“You must talk to Mother, Mr. Grimshaw. She has the welfare of our
people next her heart. I hope you will stay here. As for me——”

“Yes?”

“I should like to work with you.”

He exclaimed gaily:

“Almost am I tempted. Well, I will talk with Lady Selina, the sooner the
better.”

“I wish you all luck.” She hesitated; a warmer tint suffused her cheeks,
as she added warningly: “Be—diplomatic.”

As the word left her lips, Stimson entered.

“Her ladyship’s compliments, Dr. Pawley, and she will join you in a
minute.” He turned to Cicely: “My lady wishes to see you, Miss Chandos.”

Cicely vanished with Stimson. Grimshaw said emphatically:

“What a jolly girl.”

Pawley chuckled.

“You’ve made an impression, my boy. Yes, yes; you’ll get on with Cicely
like one o’clock.”

“And be sacked by Lady Selina at half-past. By Jove! She’s a bit of a
witch, a fascinator. Where does the charm come from?”

“From her mother.”

Grimshaw looked incredulous. He had envisaged the lady of the manor as
formidable. He heard Pawley’s voice, slightly quavering with
apprehension.

“What are you going to say to Authority?”

“Something you have not said. It’s quite likely that her belated
entrance has been stage-managed. Lady Selina may wish to tackle me
alone. And, if so, take my tip—skedaddle before Authority uses you as a
Court of Appeal.”

Pawley owned up reluctantly:

“You read me. I want to bolt. I’m ashamed to admit that I have funked
plain speech all my life. But I’m hanged if I’ll funk it any longer.”

“Your heart’s in the right place,” said Grimshaw, almost with affection.
He had spent the morning with Pawley, pottering about the pretty,
insanitary cottages. And every minute had tightened the bond between
them, the bond that links strength with weakness, and age with youth.
That bond became tauter as Pawley murmured deprecatingly:

“My heart, I fancy, is not quite in the right place. Anyway, it doesn’t
do its work too well.”

Grimshaw became professional.

“Doesn’t it? You must let me go over you to-night. And, if you’ll back
me and Miss Chandos, I’m hanged if I’ll funk being your partner.”

“Thank you, my boy, thank you.” He added slyly: “I must thank little
Cicely, too.”


                                   IV

Lady Selina swept in.

At once Grimshaw amended mistaken conceptions of her. He understood
swiftly that such a woman might inspire devotion in such a man as
Pawley. Graciousness, that priceless asset, shone luminously about her.
Conviction that she was exactly what she appeared to be, a lady of
quality, must—so Grimshaw decided—impose itself subtly upon everybody
coming in contact with her. At a distance one might criticise; in her
presence the homage she exacted with such sublime unconsciousness had to
be paid—tribute to Cæsar, whether copper or gold. The young man noted
the elegance of her gown, the delightful lines of draperies that
disdained fashion. He had expected formality, a cold courtesy, the more
chilling because good breeding imposed it. But Lady Selina advanced,
holding out two small hands.

“I am delighted to meet Old Grimmer.”

He said confusedly:

“Who is at your service.”

Presently they were seated. Grimshaw found himself close to Lady Selina,
so close that he could detect the faint fragrance of orris-root, the
only perfume she used.

“So you’re thinking of a partnership with my dear old friend here?”

Her soft voice, softer than her daughter’s, seemed to insinuate itself
into his mind, percolating here and there. Pawley answered her:

“Really, we have only just settled it.”

“Capital. And how do you like my dear village? Perhaps a foolish
question. If you didn’t like it, you wouldn’t choose to live here.”

Grimshaw recovered his self-possession. He spoke as tranquilly as his
hostess, but with renewed alertness.

“I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning wandering about Upworthy.”

“We are very proud of Upworthy. Our roses——! I have always encouraged
my people to grow sweet-smelling flowers.”

The young man recalled Cicely’s injunction. At the same time he told
himself that this first interview was all important. As an honest man,
he must make plain his position. To do so without giving offence became
a highly stimulating mental exercise.

“Botanically,” he replied, “Upworthy is remarkable. From a doctor’s
point of view, Lady Selina——”

“Yes? I am anxious to hear your verdict. I value nothing so much as
candour.”

“Thanks. There seems to be a lot of sickness.”

Lady Selina sighed. Her comely face assumed a resigned expression, as
she murmured devoutly:

“Alas! Poverty and disease are with us always.”

“Always, but not everywhere,” Grimshaw replied lightly. “Your neighbour,
Lord Wilverley, is proud of his exceptionally low death-rate, so I am
told.”

“Ah. Wilverley lies higher.”

“And enjoys a system of drainage.”

Lady Selina’s eyes sparkled. Lord Wilverley happened to be a personal
friend, and a magnate, comfortably independent because of London ground
rents, able to afford expensive improvements. Also he was a bachelor, on
the sunny side of forty. Nobody had guessed that Lady Selina cherished
the hope that Wilverley’s lord might come to Upworthy for a wife.
Already his friendship with Cicely had showed signs (to her eye alone)
of a warmer complexion. And yet, behind this rankled a certain jealousy,
because Wilverley had been acclaimed a model estate. She turned to
Pawley.

“We contend, don’t we, Dr. Pawley, that open drainage is best?”

“I have heard you say so, Lady Selina.”

“It is best for us doctors,” said Grimshaw. “I noticed that most of your
cottages are thatched.”

“We are very proud of our thatched cottages, aren’t we, Dr. Pawley?”

Pawley, with a touch of nervousness, squirming mentally, replied:

“Thatch upon thatch, Lady Selina, is hygienically unsound.”

She blinked at him, quite astounded. Grimshaw caught a sub-acid
inflection as she riposted swiftly:

“Is it? Why didn’t you say so before?” She looked at Grimshaw. “I’m
always approachable where the interests of my people are concerned. I
have never refused a favour to a tenant without giving him convincing
reasons. Have I, Dr. Pawley?”

“Never,” affirmed Pawley.

Grimshaw, sorry for Pawley but much amused, and not forgetting honest
John Gridley, said smoothly:

“Your land agent ought to have told you, Lady Selina. It was his
business.”

“But I am my own land agent. My bailiff is a capable fellow of the
farmer class. I can’t afford such an expert as Lord Wilverley employs.”
She continued gently: “Between ourselves, Mr. Grimshaw, lack of means
prevents my doing many desirable things. I ought to rebuild my garage,
which is perilously near my house. I ought to put in a local water
system. As for my bailiff, he obeys my orders. I don’t ask you to work
with him. I hope that you will work with me.”

She was getting the best of it, and knew it. Grimshaw acknowledged that
he was “touched,” as fencers put it.

“That is as it should be, Lady Selina. I think I can promise you a
cleaner bill of health if—if we work together.”

Unconsciously, he assumed a graver tone. Lady Selina eyed him pensively.
She told herself that she liked him. He was certainly a gentleman, and
as certainly a man of intelligence and capacity. A devastating thought
flooded her mind. Was he too attractive? Compared with Lord Wilverley,
for instance. Cicely had spoken of Old Grimmer with enthusiasm. And, as
Brian’s friend, as the partner of Pawley, her house must be open to him.
Young girls were susceptible, and it was impossible to play watch-dog in
this go-as-you-please twentieth century. Then, confident in her own
powers, she swept what she held to be an absurd possibility out of her
mind. Cicely was a Chandos. Meanwhile, she must “place” this up-to-date
young fellow more accurately. She continued sweetly:

“Have you any definite plan in your mind which might bring about this
clean bill of health?” He bowed. “What is it?”

“My plan would involve the expenditure of time——”

“I have never grudged that.”

“And—money.”

Slightly taken aback, she repeated the word:

“Money? Much money?”

“Probably some thousands of pounds.”

Lady Selina was horrified, throwing up her shapely hands in protest.
Habitually, she thought in pence, not in pounds. Her voice became sharp.

“Some _thousands_ of pounds——! What do you say to this amazing
statement, Dr. Pawley?”

Pawley, alive to a derisive gleam in Grimshaw’s eyes, replied hastily:

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Lady Selina became more and more perturbed. Grimshaw saw that he had
made an impression. It might be discreet to retire, leaving his
suggestions to soak in.

“My plan may be unworkable, Lady Selina.”

“But it is. I can tell you, in confidence, that my dear husband left
this estate to me clear of all debt. I can’t borrow money. He would turn
in his grave if I did. _Thousands of pounds_——!”

Stimson saved an unendurable situation by appearing with the tea-things.
Pawley rose. Lady Selina recovered her graciousness.

“You must stay to tea. I insist.”

Cicely came back, carrying a bunch of roses, fresh from the garden.

“Is it settled?” she asked gaily. “Do you join us?”

Grimshaw smiled back at her.

“Yes; it is settled, Miss Chandos.”

“I’m ever so glad.”


                                   V

The partners walked home together across the park, which was not of
large extent and held no deer. Henry Chandos had put down the deer.
Sheep browsed placidly upon the rich grasses. Bordering the park was a
shrubbery of rhododendrons, and through this meandered a path which
ended at a fine wrought-iron gate opening upon the village green. As
they passed through the rhododendrons, Grimshaw noticed that they had
reverted to type—the familiar _Ponticum_.

“Lady Selina has let things rip,” he remarked.

“There isn’t too much money, as perhaps you have guessed.”

“But she told us that the estate was clear of debt.”

“To keep it so is her mission in life. Well, what did you think of her?”

“Wonderful! There is no other adjective. I can understand that there has
been a conspiracy of silence to ‘spare’ her. Forgive me for saying that
I am sure you are the chief conspirator.”

“I admit it. Goodrich has a second place. To disturb her admirable peace
of mind seemed to us—sacrilege. You upset her, but she cottoned to
you.”

“I rattled her,” said Grimshaw. “What the effect will be I can’t
predict. Obviously, I’m in for a fight. And the odds are against me,
because her son is devoted to her. I am sure that in his place I should
feel as he does. But Miss Chandos——!”

“All women are unknown quantities.”

“To old bachelors.”

Pawley rubbed his bony fingers together.

“To all of us and to themselves. I make no prognosis about Cicely. The
mother can be diagnosed with greater confidence. Henry Chandos ran this
place prehistorically. Lady Selina strolls placidly in his ruts. If I
can read the barometer, now apparently at ‘Set Stormy,’ we are likely to
witness confounding changes.”

“Here?”

“Everywhere. A universal upheaval.”

“But—good heavens!—you don’t think war is coming?”

“I am quite sure of it. A fight between Democracy and Autocracy.”

“England will keep out of it.”

“She can’t.”

They argued without acerbity, as thousands argued during those early
days of July, 1914. But it never occurred to either that war, if it did
come, would affect them personally. Soldiers and sailors would do their
duty; civilians would carry on much as usual. No modern war could last
very long. Finally, as they neared home, Grimshaw said with a laugh:

“Whatever happens, I can’t see your Autocrat ‘downed.’”

“It would be a pathetic spectacle,” observed Pawley. “I have the
kindliest feelings toward her, but I detest her system.”

“You blame Gridley.”

“Ah! He’s the source of most of the mischief. And she doesn’t know it. I
hope with all my heart that you will ‘down’ him.”

“He may ‘down’ me,” said Grimshaw, thinking of Essex experiences, where
his poorer patients had been grievously maltreated by just such another.

“I back you, my boy.” Pawley pressed a strong arm reassuringly.


                                   VI

Alone with her daughter, Lady Selina, so to speak, uncorked herself.
Suppressed feeling bubbled forth in sparkling ebullition. Cicely
secretly felt rather flattered. As a rule, her mother withheld
confidence concerned with money. Cicely, for example, had no idea of
what the family income might be. It seemed to be adequate without
pinching. She had been promised a season in London; she was given plenty
of frocks; her hunter had cost a hundred and fifty pounds; Brian never
complained of his allowance. But, unlike her mother, Cicely had learnt
at school elementary business principles. She knew girls of her own age
who paid cash for their clothes, and passed anxious hours over the
problems of adjusting means and ends. She had discovered that it was bad
business to buy cheap shoes and underclothing. And debt was a synonym
for misery and humiliation.

Accordingly, she agreed with her mother that Mr. Grimshaw’s price for a
clean bill of health was preposterous.

“I like the young man, my dear; I am glad to entertain him but not his
ideas. It’s so easy to be lavish with other people’s money. Thousands of
pounds——!”

She repeated this intermittently, as if repetition might exorcise an
unholy suggestion.

“What does Mr. Grimshaw want to do?” asked the girl.

“Heaven knows! A system of drainage, waterworks, the rebuilding of
cottages.”

“What Lord Wilverley has done.”

“A very rich man, child. And the best of good fellows—a very sincere
friend of yours, by the way.”

“Is he?”

Then meeting the maternal eye, the girl blushed a little, much to Lady
Selina’s satisfaction. Wisely she abandoned further soundings. Arthur
Wilverley could be trusted to do his own courting. So her thought sped
back to Grimshaw. Already she had adopted a policy. Grimshaw had to be
reckoned with. To treat him coldly, to keep him at a distance, simply
meant a disturbance of the peace. If she were really “nice” to him, he
would be disarmed. In small things he should have a free hand.
Ultimately he would work with her, along her lines, without friction. So
she said lightly:

“I must ask Mr. Grimshaw to dinner. I wonder whether he belongs to the
Grimthorpe Grimshaws.”

“Does it matter?”

Lady Selina smiled tolerantly. This was one of the less happy
consequences of sending a girl to school. She said superbly:

“A Chandos ought to be able to answer that question.”

Cicely remained silent. Her great friend at school had been Arabella
Tiddle, the daughter of the millionaire pill-manufacturer. Lady
Tiddle—so Lady Selina had been credibly informed—once worked in a shoe
factory. Sometimes Lady Selina wondered what it felt like to be a
Tiddle. She shied at the name, as Cicely was well aware. Nevertheless,
Arabella had been invited to the Manor, where she comported herself
triumphantly. A small string of beautiful pearls was graciously approved
by Arabella’s hostess; whereupon the girl said ingenuously: “So very
appropriate, aren’t they?” Lady Selina, not sure of this, asked
pleasantly: “Why, my dear?” Arabella replied with a laugh: “They are
just like Daddy’s pills. Of course you know that he advertises them as
‘Tiddle’s Pearls.’” Lady Selina didn’t know this, but she smiled
amiably, and Arabella continued: “Mummy has ropes of them. _Tiddle’s
Priceless Pearls!_ Funny, isn’t it?” Lady Selina smiled again; a
different adjective occurred to her.

Cicely’s silence slightly exasperated her. Confidence ought to beget
confidence. Now that she was beginning to treat her daughter as “grown
up,” surely she might expect more response. Had Cicely learnt to hold
her tongue at school? The right selection of a school had worried Lady
Selina not a little. Dr. Pawley shared her anxieties. At thirteen Cicely
became rather anæmic, almost scraggy! Bracing air was prescribed;
reinvigorating games; the stimulus of competition in work and play.
After studying innumerable prospectuses, Lady Selina chose a big school
on the South Coast, a sort of Eton in petticoats. And there the child
had grown into a strong young woman. But, undoubtedly, she had lost
something vaguely described by Lady Selina as “bloom.” Attrition with
girls without grandfathers had rubbed it off. Miss Tiddle had no “bloom”
except upon her cheeks. The political tendencies of the school were
lamentably democratic.

She continued blandly, ignoring Cicely’s silence, taking for granted
that it meant nothing:

“I daresay Mr. Grimshaw plays tennis.”

“Fancy your not knowing——!”

“What?”

“He’s top hole at games. After leaving Winchester he played cricket for
his county. I’d bet sixpence that he plays tennis better than anyone
about here. He’s an athlete all over. He won’t play pat-ball with me. No
such luck!”

Lady Selina, after a penetrating glance at her daughter’s face, thought
to herself: “I shall see that he doesn’t.” Then she kissed Cicely and
laughed.

“We must be decently civil, my dear. That’s all.”

With that she went her way, not without misgivings. Why was it easier
for her to understand her son rather than her daughter? Brian, she felt
sure, would see eye to eye with his mother—a Chandos every inch of him.
But Cicely baffled her. Had she made a hero of this young surgeon? Did
she reckon breeding of no account? Still, her blush at mention of
Wilverley’s name was reassuring. Later, at Evensong, during a dull
sermon, she beguiled herself happily with a vision of Cicely and
Wilverley kneeling on the chancel steps, with the lawn sleeves of a
bishop raised above them in solemn benediction. She prayed fervently
that it might be so. And Cicely, at the same moment, sitting demurely by
her august mother, was wondering what sort of a woman Henry Grimshaw
would marry. Did his fancy prefer blondes to brunettes? Was he engaged
already? What deft fingers he had. Hardly had she felt the touch of them
on her lower eyelid. But she had thrilled. The fact provoked her. She
decided finally that he was the nicest young man she had ever met.

Perhaps it was as well for Lady Selina’s admirable peace of mind, not to
mention her robust Anglican piety and faith in what was established,
that she could not read Cicely as she read her son.



                              CHAPTER III
                        CUPID SPEEDS HIS SHAFTS


                                   I

Grimshaw went back to London to pack up his traps, and on the following
Tuesday dined with his maternal uncle, Sir Dion Titherage, at the
Parthenon. Sir Dion, lately raised to the dignity of knighthood, with an
excellent practice in Belgravia, chiefly amongst elderly ladies, had
paid—as has been said—for his nephew’s schooling, and regarded the
young man with a paternal eye. Long ago Sir Dion had led to the altar of
St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, one of his well-to-do patients, much older
than himself. There had been no children. Lady Titherage was now a
confirmed hypochondriac, but likely to make old bones, thanks to the
ministering care and skill of that optimist, her husband.

A small table at the farther end of the immense dining-room had been
reserved for Sir Dion and his guest. Through a big window a glimpse
could be obtained of lawn and trees, and, beyond, the façade of a famous
terrace. Dining at such a table, a member of the learned professions
could reflect pleasantly upon the fact that the privileged occupiers of
that terrace must each possess, on a reasonable average, at least twenty
thousand a year. But few members of the Parthenon dined at their club.
Here and there, oases in the desert, were bishops, who contented
themselves with simple fare. Sir Dion pointed out these pillars of the
Establishment, a Royal Academician, a hanging judge, an eminent
architect, and the club bore, who dined at the Parthenon nearly every
night, and kept sensitive and retiring members at bay. Sir Dion said,
with a chuckle:

“I don’t dare dine here without a guest, my boy; and even then he yaps
at me—he yaps at me. Really, it’s a sad breach of our unwritten rules.
This is recognised as a Temple of Silence and Snooze. Conversation is
very properly barred.”

Grimshaw laughed. His uncle amused him. Sir Dion continued:

“We only wake up at the club elections in the drawing-room. A lot of
pilling goes on. I asked one old boy to pill a particularly aggressive
candidate, and he said curtly: ‘Why?’ I replied, ‘Because he’s a
cantankerous, unclubbable ass.’ The old boy scowled at me and said
savagely: ‘I’m a cantankerous, unclubbable ass, and I shall vote for
him.’ _And he did!_”

A carefully chosen dinner was provided, admirably cooked. Sir Dion,
after the ice, took a Corona de Corona cigar from his ample case, and
sent it to the chef with his compliments and thanks. And he exchanged a
joke with the steward when he settled his bill before leaving the
dining-room.

Not till he had finished his coffee did Sir Dion speak seriously.

“So it’s the parish pump for you, eh?”

“With the pump out of order.”

Sir Dion nodded. Then he said, portentously for him:

“You are your father’s son. He tilted against windmills all his life,
poor dear fellow! As a schoolmaster he would have climbed high and ended
as a bishop. I used to offer him sound advice, although, to do him
justice, he never asked for it or took it. Now I am tempted to say a
word or two to you.”

“Thank you, Uncle.”

“From what you tell me you seem to like trouble. I don’t. That, of
course, is the essential difference between us. However, your partner,
Pawley, seems to have a good practice amongst country people. And, when
he retires, you ought to earn a decent income.”

“I hope so.”

“A good country practice is not to be sneezed at, but you will sneeze at
it, I’m afraid. I see you trying to drain that snipe-bog you mention
instead of keeping step on the high-road with Pawley.”

“I shall fight for more sanitary conditions.”

“Stripped already, I see. And up against a lady of quality! Now for my
two words: ‘Go slow!’ Women never surrender their opinions to men they
dislike. It’s a pity you can’t marry her and reach your objectives that
way. What? Fifty-five! And a marriageable daughter! Another tip. Don’t
make up to the daughter. Unless——” He chuckled, lighting a fresh
cigar.

“Unless——?”

“I remember some transpontine story of a stout fellow like you who
courted a rich widow with a pretty daughter. The rich widow accused the
stout fellow of loving her money-bags more than herself. He made a very
creditable bluff. Told her to deed every dollar she possessed to her
daughter. And, begad! she called the bluff and did so. Then he bolted
with the daughter!”

The evening ended where it began—in laughter.

On the steps of the Parthenon, when the nephew thanked the uncle for his
entertainment, Sir Dion shook his hand very heartily.

“I wish you luck, my boy. If you get any of that rough shooting, send me
a bird. I like the flavour of a wild pheasant. God bless you!”

Grimshaw, as he went back to his modest diggings, reflected that Sir
Dion’s ways were not his, and yet the old fellow brimmed over with
kindness, and assuredly attained his objectives.


                                   II

By the middle of July he was installed in rooms in Upworthy under the
fostering care of the Rockrams, two old servants from the Manor. Tom
Rockram had been Stimson’s predecessor, before the old Squire died, and
his wife had soared from scullery-maid to cook in the same
establishment. Their cottage faced the village green, and stood in its
own garden. Each spring and summer the Rockrams took in boarders, but,
at a hint from Dr. Pawley, they were glad to get a permanent
“gentleman.” Grimshaw was given a good bedroom and sitting-room, and he
had the use of Pawley’s dispensary.

Upon the faces of the two old servants were inscribed, with full
quarterings, the Chandos arms. Whatever a Chandos did was just right.
Brian, of course, in the judgment of Mrs. Rockram, was the handsomest
hussar in the kingdom; Tom Rockram spoke with even greater enthusiasm of
Cicely as the sweetest young lady in the world. Too sugary, perhaps,
these descriptions, from a hypercritical point of view, but indicating
loyalty and gratitude, qualities rare indeed in modern servants.
Grimshaw found himself valeted to perfection, and looked forward to
excellently cooked meals, a quite novel experience. The cosiness of it
all was in delightful contrast to domestic conditions in Poplar. He
wondered whether he would grow fat, like the weed on Lethe’s wharf, and
slowly rot at ease. For the first time in his life he began to spell
comfort with a capital “C.” To Pawley and Lady Selina he said
emphatically: “I never had such a billet.” To himself, he thought, with
amused apprehension: “Will this cosseting get a strangle-hold on me?”
And if it did, what of it? Good men and true toiled and moiled,
struggling on against adverse winds and currents, to achieve just such
snug anchorage.

Pawley introduced him to some of the local magnates, who smiled
graciously upon an old Wykhamist. Each day it became more certain to the
young man that a prosperous future was his if he played the cards
already in his hand. Sir Dion had been right. A sound country practice
was not to be sneezed at. And the premium paid to Pawley had been
negligible. In fine, he was treading a broad highway, walking briskly
towards fortune, if not fame. Pawley suggested that on occasion he might
ride.

“Would your means justify keeping a horse?” he asked.

“Do you mean a hunter? The doctor in boots?”

“Well, yes. A cavalier, you know, challenges attention. One day a week
in the season might be worth while from every point of view.”

Grimshaw laughed.

“And how about my research work?”

“As to that——! You see, my dear fellow, I hesitate to advise you. The
horse is a suggestion, nothing more. Long ago I gave up hunting. I’ve
regretted it. As for research work, doesn’t it exact too undivided
energies? I had to scrap my microscope before I put down my hunter.
Think it over.”

Grimshaw nodded. But he hardly dared to confess to himself how keen he
was to take up again open-air sports and pastimes. His first appearance
on the village green, as a cricketer, had been acclaimed by all
Upworthy. Lady Selina said solemnly: “Perhaps we shall beat Wilverley
next year.”

Playing cricket, he met John Exton, and exchanged some talk with him. In
Poplar it was impossible to throw a stone without hitting young men of
John’s kidney. They, however, threw the stones in Poplar quite
regardless of whom they might hit. Grimshaw knew that the Extons were
under notice to quit the old homestead; and he knew also that Lady
Selina had persuaded Lord Wilverley to entrust a small farm to Ephraim.
This had soaped the ways by which the Extons slid from one parish into
another. John was very bitter about it.

“We’ve never had a dog’s chance,” he told Grimshaw. “I don’t say, sir,
that Father was wise to buy thoroughbred stock when he hadn’t proper
buildings to house ’em in, but the old Squire egged him on to do it.
Things were a sight better in his time, because he kept the whip-hand of
Gridley. Now, Gridley does pretty much as he pleases, and my lady don’t
know what goes on behind her back. Gridley sees to it that she ain’t
bothered.”

“You’re up against a system,” said Grimshaw. “It’s no use blaming
individuals.”

“I blame my lady,” John replied doggedly.

He was not the only one in Upworthy who held that individual
responsible.

Nick Farleigh, the softy, did odd jobs for Tom Rockram, pumping water,
fetching and carrying like a retriever, blacking boots, and feeding
poultry. In common with many children of undeveloped minds, he had
strange gifts, fashioning queer objects out of unconsidered trifles.
Grimshaw won his devotion by showing him how to make a Chinese junk out
of a square of newspaper.

Nick said gratefully:

“I bain’t afeard of ’ee, zur.”

“Why should you be afraid of anybody, my boy?”

Nick became confidential.

“I be afeard o’ nothink ’cept they broody hens o’ Mrs. Rockram’s. You
know I be soft, zur, don’t ’ee?”

“Nonsense! We shall make a man of you yet, Nick.”

Nick considered this, with his head on one side. Then he whispered:

“I be soft along o’ my lady.”

Grimshaw asked Pawley to explain. With some reluctance, Pawley repeated
what he had said to Cicely, with these additions:

“Nick’s mother, just before he was born, lost her two little girls of
diphtheria. The boy was born wanting. Timothy Farleigh has never got
over it. Lady Selina had just buried the Squire. In your opinion,
Grimshaw, could mental suffering so affect and afflict an unborn child?”

“It might,” Grimshaw replied.

“Ever since Timothy Farleigh has smouldered with resentment.”

Grimshaw nodded. He had heard about Agatha Farleigh from John Exton.
Agatha was now working in London, earning good wages, but Timothy, at
the ale-house, accused Lady Selina of hounding a clever girl out of her
village.

“I smell foul weather,” said Grimshaw.

Within a week the Great War had broken out.

Upworthy remained perfectly calm.

Brian Chandos came home on short leave. His regiment would be one of the
first to go. He smoked many pipes with Grimshaw, picking up the old
friendship easily, just where he had left it, apparently the same
ingenuous youth whom Grimshaw remembered at Winchester. Really a Pacific
of essential differences rolled between them, differences of experience.
Grimshaw listened to Brian on the coming “show.” As a soldier he seemed
to know something about his “job.” As the prospective heir to a fine
property his ignorance was immeasurable. He viewed it, as it were, from
the wrong end of the telescope. What appeared big to him—the future of
foxhunting, for instance, game-preserving, and polo—was negligible to
Grimshaw in comparison with decent housing and a better wage for
land-workers. Brian cut him short when, tentatively, such reforms were
barely outlined:

“Cottages in the rural districts don’t pay, never did. We can’t raise
wages without hostilising the farmers—and I ask you, where are we if we
do that?” Again and again he silenced argument in Grimshaw by repeating
filially: “Mother knows; you talk to her; she’d do anything in reason,
anything.”

And at the first dinner at the Manor, rather to Grimshaw’s dismay, Brian
said, in a loud voice, as if it were a good joke: “I say, Mums, Old
Grimmer is a bit of a Rad. You must take him in hand. He’s an
out-and-out reformer.”

Cicely didn’t improve matters by adding:

“And a jolly good thing too. Dr. Pawley says we are antediluvians.”

Pawley was not present, having departed on his holiday. Lady Selina
looked down her nose.

“Are you quite sure Dr. Pawley said that, my dear?”

“Absolutely,” Cicely replied. “We are only modern in our frocks; and
that doesn’t apply to you, Mums.”

Unfortunately for Grimshaw, Lord Wilverley happened to be present. He,
at any rate, was recognised outside of his own county as an enlightened
and experienced agriculturist. And being a kindly man, secure in a great
position, he came to Grimshaw’s rescue. Lady Selina found herself
listening to the opinions of a magnate, who might be a son-in-law. And
the odds against such a desirable match diminished when she saw Cicely
eagerly assimilating what Wilverley said. And, of course, Wilverley
being Wilverley, could say what he pleased. Grimshaw realised, with
humorous dismay, that he was cast for the part of scapegoat. On his head
would fall the hardly-concealed resentment of the lady of the manor.

After dinner matters became worse. Brian wanted to talk to Wilverley
about horse-breeding. Lady Selina took up her embroidery. Cicely made
herself agreeable to Grimshaw, instead of improving the shining hour
with the best parti in the neighbourhood. And Grimshaw, grateful to a
charming girl, exerted himself to please and entertain. It seemed to be
predestined that he would gain in favour with the daughter what he might
lose with the mother. And who will blame him if he strove to distinguish
himself with the former after some extinguishment at the hands of the
latter? He could talk much better than Wilverley, and he knew it.
Wilverley spoke didactically. Grimshaw had a more graceful seat astride
his hobby-horse. He excelled in description, transporting Cicely to
Essex and Poplar, into the deep clay ruts of the one and the mean
streets of the other. Cicely could not help contrasting the two men, the
fidgety irritability of Wilverley with the easy good-humour of Grimshaw,
who laughed at his own failures. Wilverley grew red and heated in
argument; Grimshaw became pale and cool.

Nevertheless, there was a curious incandescence about him. Under
ordinary atmospheric pressure he might seem dull, sinking into odd
silences and introspections, but when a right vacuum was obtained, such
a vacuum as a charming young lady might present, an inquiring mind, let
us say, empty of essential facts, he glowed, giving out heat and light,
not a blazing, eye-blinking glare, but something softly and steadily
illuminating.

“I’ve had some humiliating experiences, Miss Chandos. Till you live and
work amongst the very poor, you can’t realise how difficult it is to
understand them, and how much more difficult it is for them to
understand us. Millions have never seen a woman like you. They live like
animals; they are animals; and, of course, that’s our fault.”

“Our fault?” she gasped. But she was the more interested because he had
made his theme personal.

“Oh, yes; we don’t give enough; and now, because of that, they, poor
things, at the mercy of any glib, red-rag revolutionary, want to take
too much. The privileged classes have never really exercised their
greatest privilege.”

“And what is that, Mr. Grimshaw?” she asked in a low voice.

“Why, helping others to help themselves. Ordinary charity only hinders.
Wage earners demand more than _panem et circenses_.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Bread and ‘movies.’ They don’t like dry bread; and the ‘movies’ serve
to fill them with envy for all they haven’t got.” Then, in a different
tone, with a queer astringent cynicism, he added: “I didn’t exercise my
privileges.”

“I’m sure you did,” she affirmed with conviction.

“No—I bolted. I couldn’t stick it. My own impotence maddened me.
Perhaps——” His voice died away. He began again: “It’s not what we do
that counts, but the way we do it. Talking to them is waste of time.
Words! Words! How one hates them after a time! I’ve waded through all
the dreary stuff that’s written about the poor. Most of it makes one
sick. I don’t believe that conditions can be bettered anywhere by talk,
not even when the talk is buried in the Statute Book. Something more is
needed. Some—some tremendous discipline that will change the point of
view of the classes and the masses so that they can see each other in
truer perspective. Do the waves wonder why they batter themselves into
spray against the rocks? But there is attrition all the time. Tremendous
forces win in the end.”

“Do you mean that we are the rocks?”

“We stand on the rocks, blandly looking at the waves, impressed by their
fury, but not attempting to control it and use it. Perhaps the biggest
rock on which we stand is class loyalty. I’m sure your mother prides
herself on that.”

“Of course she does.”

“Have you ever tried to analyse class loyalty?”

“No.”

“Self-preservation is behind and beneath it. At core lies a selfish,
primitive instinct—to hold on tight to what we have regardless of how
we came by it. Above this is a reticulation, a spider’s web, of
inherited prejudices and predilections, so tangled up that one despairs
of untangling them. On the surface, like a soft moss, love of ease
spreads itself. I feel that here in all my bones. I try to fight against
it. The lure of comfort——! What a bait——! Satan’s tit-bit——!”

His vehemence, the more insistent because he spoke so quietly, almost in
a whisper, made a profound impression. She had never heard any man talk
like this. The abysmal conviction in his tone amazed her. Wilverley, as
she knew, preached in and out of season a doctrine of reconstruction and
reform. But he did it with the air of a man who was grinding his own
axe, putting a finer edge upon a weapon which he intended to use to
better his own large fortune. He never lost sight of the fact that what
he did on his domains _paid_, brought grist to his mill. All his
excellent schemes for housing labourers comfortably, for paying them a
higher wage, for nourishing them adequately, for developing in them
capacities and potentialities, were really inspired by the force which
had raised his father from the lower middle class to the nobility.
Obviously, Grimshaw was actuated by no such essentially selfish motive.
He thought of others before himself; he seemed to behold a travailing
world with the detachment of a physician pledged, if need be, to
sacrifice his own comfort and advancement in the practice of his hard
profession. She said hesitatingly, groping her way towards his
conclusions:

“Surely, Mr. Grimshaw, there is something finer than that in what you
call class loyalty?”

“All loyalty is fine,” he replied, “but there can be no monopoly of it.
Do you think that the unprivileged classes do not feel it in a blind
sort of way? Of course they do. And that loyalty is a driving power
which the more unscrupulous of their mis-leaders are harnessing to their
own ambitions. Class loyalty, wherever you find it, is undiluted
Prussianism.”

She laughed a little.

“Is my mother a Prussian?” she asked mischievously.

“Your mother,” he replied less tensely, with a glance at that lady as
she bent over her embroidery, “is—is——”

“Covered with soft moss?” she suggested.

“We are all covered with moss, Miss Chandos. And, I suppose, the moss
must be raked off before we can see with clear vision.”

“You are raking some of it off me. I told you I wanted to work with you.
I do—more than ever, but you mustn’t rake at Mother. Perhaps you
noticed that Lord Wilverley tried raking at dinner.” He nodded. “Oh, you
did. Of course, she has to stand it from him.”

“Lord Wilverley, I noticed, made an impression on you.”

His eyes met hers. She noticed a twinkle in them. All tension had gone
from his pleasant voice.

“I like what he does more than I like what he says. He tries to spur
people to his ideas. You can’t spur Mother.”

“No.”

“I am glad that you are more—a—persuasive in your methods.”

“Am I?”

She smiled, nodding her head. He wondered whether there was a tincture
of the coquette in her. In criticising Wilverley was she trying to hide
her real feelings for him? He had not answered the question when
Wilverley left Brian and approached the pair on the sofa. Grimshaw made
sure he wanted to talk to Cicely, and rose at once. To his surprise,
Wilverley said without any condescension:

“I’m looking forward to making your better acquaintance, Mr. Grimshaw.
If you have no other engagement, will you dine and sleep at the Court
some day that suits you next week?”

“With great pleasure.”

A day was named, and shortly afterwards Wilverley took his leave.
Grimshaw left the Manor a few minutes later. Alone with her children,
Lady Selina said with a sigh:

“Dear me! It wasn’t a very pleasant dinner, was it?”

“I enjoyed myself,” said Cicely.

“Yes, b’Jove! We saw that, didn’t we, Mums? And the little baggage sided
against us. But we held our own—we held our own.”

Lady Selina smiled maternally, catching an echo of Brian’s father.
Cicely replied sharply:

“If you hold on too tight to what you think is your own, you may lose
it, if democracy wins this war.”

“Hark to her!” exclaimed Brian. “What a cry!”

Cicely, however, saw the expediency of running mute. She kissed her
mother and brother and went to bed. Lady Selina turned troubled eyes
upon her son.

“Have I made a mistake in being civil to this friend of yours, Brian?”

Brian hastened to reassure her: Old Grimmer was a thundering good sort.
And a mighty clever fellow, not likely to quarrel with his
bread-and-butter. Civility would tie him to his mother’s apron-strings.
Nothing like it. Ask him to shoot! Introduce him to all the swells! But
keep an eye peeled on Cis. Modern girls kicked over the traces. Arthur
Wilverley meant business. Any fool could see that. Grimshaw was a
gentleman. He wouldn’t attempt to poach in another fellow’s preserves.
All the same, make him feel the weight of obligation. Be civil, be
kind—keep it up!

Lady Selina was not quite comforted.

“Your Old Grimmer is very attractive. And, to-night, it seemed to me
that poor dear Arthur was rather eclipsed. Sometimes, Brian, I feel
discouraged, and then I want support. I can’t argue with Arthur, for
instance. He overwhelms me with words—words. And then, like your
father, I say nothing. But it comforts me greatly to feel that you think
as I do, that the old ways suffice you.”

“Ra-ther!”

“You are my dear son.”

She held his hand, gently caressing it, gazing at him with tears in her
eyes, which he pretended not to see. Thousands of mothers throughout the
land were indulging in these furtive caresses, saying little because
they feared to say too much. Thousands of sons respected such pathetic
silences.

Before Grimshaw’s brief visit to Wilverley Court, an incident took
place, trivial in itself, but fraught with far-reaching consequences.
The faithful Mrs. Rockram fell ill, taking to her bed with a neglected
cold likely to develop into pleurisy and pneumonia. Grimshaw, however,
came to the rescue and—as Mrs. Rockram affirms to this day—saved her
life. For twenty-four hours grave issues impended above a high
temperature and severe pain. Cicely was in and out of the cottage half a
dozen times, bringing what was required from the Manor kitchen, and
ministering eagerly to an old friend. Lady Selina, wisely or
otherwisely, made no protest. She must have known that two highly-strung
young people would be thrown together. But, at the moment, every young
woman in the kingdom had become a potential nurse. And also, as luck
would have it, no professional nurse could take Cicely’s place. And Mrs.
Rockram had served the Chandos family for five-and-twenty years . . .!

Man and maid, therefore, beheld each other with clear vision under the
happiest conditions of a temporary and unconventional intimacy. They
glided into comradeship, not recking where it might carry them. The
current bore them out of a prosaic present into a land of dreams, the
shadowy future where we fondly believe that we shall be more abundantly
blessed. Both were unaware of the interest and curiosity that each
kindled in the other, because, with all sincerity, they were engrossed
in a common task which exacted unceasing vigilance. Even Grimshaw, with
his habit of introspection and analysis, would have ridiculed the
suggestion of sentimental attraction between himself and Cicely. He knew
better than his amateur nurse how acute was the condition of his
patient, a stout, lymphatic woman, with but slight powers of resistance
to disease. And Cicely, for her part, could have sworn truthfully that
the mere sight of Grimshaw’s tense face, the mere sound of his incisive
voice, had frightened her out of her wits, constraining her to
uncompromising obedience and attention. For the first time she saw a man
fighting desperately to save the life of another. The only thing that
seemed to matter was to help him to the best of her ability.

Had she contented herself with that, no consequences would have ensued.
But she divined instantly that Grimshaw, unsparing of himself, needed
her special attention. Dr. Pawley’s cook was taking a holiday like her
master. The food at The Chandos Arms was primitive. And it did not occur
to Lady Selina to ask Grimshaw to stay at the Manor. Brian had rejoined
his regiment. Cicely rose triumphantly to a small emergency. Grimshaw
found cold ham on his sideboard, some delicious sandwiches and hot soup.
He gobbled these up without hazarding any conjecture as to whence they
came. Tom Rockram, however, enlightened him. The honest fellow had some
of the ham for his own dinner.

“You can thank my young lady,” he told him.

“Good heavens!” exclaimed Grimshaw, “I haven’t.”

His thanks, perhaps, were heartier because belated.

The crisis passed swiftly; and Grimshaw had other patients. But Cicely
stuck to her post till Mrs. Rockram was pronounced well able to fend for
herself. By that time Cupid had sped his shafts. The victims, as yet,
felt no smart, but each magnified the other, disdaining measurements.
Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa, twin peaks, soaring into the blue!

The intimacy ended as suddenly as it had begun. Grimshaw took leave of
his comrade with unaffected regret and slightly awkward apologies.

“I’m afraid I ordered you about, Miss Chandos.”

“Oh, you did. But I liked that. _Obedience is necessary to success._
That line is engraved on my heart. I used to write it out thousands of
times when I first went to school.”

“Did you? There’s a touch of the rebel in you.”

“Yes; there is. I used to spell ‘necessary’ with one ‘s’ on purpose to
annoy the mistress who set the pun. Such a silly pun too. Vain
repetitions!”

“Exasperating everywhere.”

“Particularly in church, from the mouth of dear old Goody.”

“You _are_ a rebel. And so am I.”

“Of course I know that.” Her eyes met his frankly, with an odd
challenge. Against his discreeter judgment he felt impelled to take up
that challenge.

“Do you still want to work with a rebel?”

She eyed him with self-possession, faintly smiling. But she was thinking
how difficult it would be to describe him adequately in a letter to Miss
Arabella Tiddle. By now she was able to view him in perspective,
ripening to full maturity. Immense possibilities were indicated, she
decided. Would he expand into a splendid _somebody_? Would he “furnish
up”?—to use Brian’s favourite expression about a four-year-old. Dr.
Pawley had said of him: “He rings true,” with an allusion to the
eighteenth-century wine-glasses which he collected. And, after that
happy comparison, she had never heard Grimshaw speak without noting the
lingering resonance of his tones. Head and body were admirably
proportioned, rich in line and contour, but not aggressively so. The
careless eye would wander past him. He was, admittedly, too thin, too
pale, to please the ordinary bouncing country miss; and yet he had the
colour of a fine black-and-white print.

She answered his question charmingly:

“If you still want to work with me.”

“I do—I do. But how to go to work bothers me. You see, I am not—I fear
I never can be—diplomatic.”

All traces of the doctor had vanished. He stood before her, clothed with
an endearing humility and humanity. Cicely might, at her age, be deemed
incapable of thus summing up a passing phase in a man who attracted her,
but she grasped the essential fact: he loathed to inflict pain on
others. His mission in life was obviously to alleviate suffering. Her
first thought was: “How wisely he has chosen his profession!” She said
softly:

“I think I understand and sympathise. But my Mother——?”

She broke off abruptly, unable, perhaps unwilling, to give words to
sensibilities still inarticulate. Very eagerly he took up the broken
sentence.

“But I understand too. And just because she is your mother,” he placed,
unconsciously, the slightest emphasis on the personal pronoun, “I feel
so much the more bothered.”

“Please don’t bother too much!”

She held out her hand and went her way.


                                  III

The visit to Wilverley, postponed on account of Mrs. Rockram’s illness,
duly took place. By this time Grimshaw was unable to disguise from
himself that Cicely had become The Woman. Without being squeamishly
modest, he could not believe that he was regarded by the maid as “The
Man.” A romantic situation might be heightened, if it could be recorded
that Cicely was The First Woman. She was nothing of the kind. But to a
man of imaginative temperament The First Woman is reincarnated in her
successors. The ideal survives. The elusive She approaches, beguiles,
and vanishes. Nevertheless, somewhere, some day, she may reappear and be
captured. A counterfeit presentment of Cicely had jilted Grimshaw rather
cruelly just before he buried himself in Essex. Babbington-Raikes, sound
psychologist, may have reflected that Champions of the Poor and
Oppressed are fashioned more easily out of men whose personal ambitions
have suffered eclipse. The gentlemen of the Lost Legion are the finest
fighters in the world.

Memories of the jilt still rankled. Like Cicely, she had shone brightly
as a young lady of quality, a brilliant of many facets. Shamelessly
breaking her engagement, she had married a rubber potentate who had
found a fortune and lost a liver in the Malay Peninsula. “O my cousin,
shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!” Now, he could thank God that
she was not his, and laugh derisively at his infatuation for her. But
how she had bewitched him!

His host at Wilverley welcomed Grimshaw with cordiality, and showed him
the model estate of the county, discussing eagerly plans for its further
improvement.

“And it pays, it pays,” he repeated several times. “You can take a
squint at my books if you like.”

“I’m sure it pays,” Grimshaw replied.

Wilverley’s father had been an ironmaster, who had bought an
impoverished property and was frowned on at first as a carpet-bagger by
the county families. They eyed him more favourably after Gladstone
ennobled him, and smiled approval when he became a Liberal-Unionist. As
a man of great executive ability he had applied business methods to
agriculture, scrapping obsolete machinery and buildings. His son—so
Grimshaw decided—seemed to have inherited his father’s business
aptitudes without his disabilities. Wilverley waxed confidential after
dinner.

“My father had a rotten digestion: bad grub when he was a kid. I can
digest anything—anything. The main trouble in the rural districts is
insufficient food, vilely cooked and poor in quality. I see to it that
my people are fed as well as my horses. Food and shelter, there you have
it in tabloid form. No able-bodied young men emigrate from here.”

Grimshaw listened, impressed by his host’s energy and cocksureness.
Obviously, this was a man who got what he wanted, because he wanted it
with a restless passion for achievement that couldn’t be denied. But the
professional eye, noting a heightened colour after meals, began to doubt
the assumption that Lord Wilverley could digest anything.

A luscious opulence characterised the immense house throughout, a
Victorian splendour of brocade, gilt cornices, mirrors, French polish,
and Axminster carpets. In effective contrast, Wilverley wore shabby
tweeds, and might have been mistaken by a short-sighted stranger for one
of his own less prosperous tenants. The amount of work he accomplished
in twenty-four hours amazed Grimshaw, who knew what hard work was. How
much time would be left to cherish a wife?

Wilverley spoke with entire frankness about the Chandos family.

“The good old sort, but reactionary; always have been. The prettiest
place in the country run abominably to seed. You have your work cut out
there. Pawley, I take it, will soon retire . . . _and then_ . . .?”

He stared fixedly at Grimshaw.

“I may retire first,” said Grimshaw.

“Then I’m mistaken in my man,” declared Wilverley, almost explosively.

“I know when I’m beaten, Lord Wilverley.” He added quietly: “But I
shan’t throw up the sponge yet. Miss Chandos is not reactionary.”

“Miss Chandos?” Wilverley frowned slightly. “Hardly out!”

“She counts.”

“Miss Chandos will marry. And, if I know her, she would never run
counter to her mother. Don’t make trouble between them, I beg you. She
sided with us the other evening merely out of a girlish desire to ginger
up a rather dull dinner.”

Grimshaw remained silent, and Wilverley began to talk about the war,
which, in his opinion, couldn’t last long, K. of K. to the contrary.
Soldiers were rank pessimists. Business interests would be paramount.
Civilisation wouldn’t tolerate the dislocation of industry . . . and so
forth.

Next morning Grimshaw left early, after promising to come again. He had
liked his host, reckoning him, quite rightly, to be an honest man and a
capable. He recalled a platitude often on the lips of his father: “We
are sent into this world to better it.” According to this gauge,
Wilverley had “made good.” And a wife, with a sense of humour, would
round off his corners, trim his quills, and conciliate his unfriends.
But probably she would give even more than she would get.

He reflected, not without bitterness, upon what Cicely Chandos would get
if she took Wilverley.


                                   IV

During the epoch-making weeks that followed he saw little of her, being
engrossed by his work. After the battle of the Marne, Wilverley Court
was turned into a Red Cross Hospital, and Cicely enrolled herself as a
V.A.D. Brian, by this time, was in France, having survived the retreat
from Mons. Pawley had come back, much the better for a long holiday. He
congratulated his partner with almost paternal effusion:

“They all like you, my boy. Gentle and simple——!”

“The simple are not as simple as they appear,” said Grimshaw.

“Ah! You have been talking to them, eh? Any—complaints?”

“Nothing verbal. They say what they think I wish them to say. I get most
of my information from the kiddies. They give the Chandos dynasty dead
away.”

Pawley made a deprecating gesture.

“I know—I know. But what can one do?”

Grimshaw answered grimly:

“Waking, and sometimes in my dreams, that question worries me
confoundedly. I’m at the cross-roads. For the moment, I suppose, I must
mark time. Dash it!” he continued, with rare irritability, “how can I
pester Lady Selina with my pet schemes when she is absorbed with anxiety
about her son?” Had he been absolutely truthful, he would have added:
“And how can I run the risk of hostilising the mother of the girl I
love?”

“Yes, yes; God help all these poor mothers.”

For a season the nettle was dropped, to be grasped firmly later on.

To make matters more difficult for a perplexed and unhappy man in love
with a young woman apparently predestined to be the bride of another,
Lady Selina had followed her son’s advice, and was being consistently
civil and kind, a much easier task than she had anticipated inasmuch as
Cicely was absent from home. Grimshaw enjoyed some rough shooting, and
found so many snipe in the bog behind the village that he reconsidered
the propriety of draining it. Tired by his day’s work, snug in a big
arm-chair, he was sorely tempted to let things drift. But every morning,
after his cold tub, fighting instincts reasserted themselves. The
gorgeous possibility of capturing mother and daughter rose with the sun
and illumined his heaven. Two birds to one shot—a notable right and
left! Meanwhile Mrs. Rockram had become his devoted slave. To talk to
Mrs. Rockram about Cicely would be indiscreet; to listen to her chatter
on the same fascinating subject was another matter. Indeed, what news he
got of Cicely generally filtered through this loyal old retainer. From
her he learned that Wilverley had left the Court and was living with his
agent. The big house was handed over to my lord’s married sister,
apparently a formidable person, bristling, like her brother, with
restless activities. Cicely, it seemed, went to bed each night nearly
foundered!

“I ain’t one to gossip,” remarked Mrs. Rockram as November drew to a
close. “I’ve never done it, never!”

“Oh, Mrs. Rockram! What a difference between us! I love a bit of gossip.
What is gossip? A kindly indication of interest in the affairs of
others.”

“Well, sir, that’s as may be. And the housekeeper at the Court is a
particular friend of mine, and not one to carry a foolish tale.”

“Out with it, Mrs. Rockram. What tale does she wag?”

Mrs. Rockram answered cautiously:

“It ends happily, sir, as tales should do—with the wedding bells.”

“I’m still in the dark,” said Grimshaw.

He felt, as he spoke, that he should remain so. Cimmerian blackness
encompassed him, a Stygian fog. Wilverley had retreated, so to speak,
before the final assault. He had trailed clouds of glory behind him.
Thanks to his organising powers, the new hospital had been acclaimed as
a model. And it was full of heroes and hero-worshippers. Grimshaw had
hoped that his services might have been required, but red-tape vetoed
this. The medical officer in charge was a “Major” in spurs. Wilverley,
of course, had made the most of his opportunities. Mrs. Rockram went on:

“I ain’t. When I seen Miss Cicely in her uniform, I says to Mr. Rockram,
‘My lord’s a goner.’”

Grimshaw attempted to smile. The music was out of his voice as he asked:

“Is it settled?”

Mrs. Rockram was inclined to think so. Could there be a better match?
One, surely, of Heaven’s own making. She concluded: “We have always
known that my lord was sweet as sweet on her.”

Grimshaw could not envisage Wilverley as “sweet.” And Mrs. Rockram’s
evidence was flimsy, mere hearsay from the housekeeper at the Court.
Still, the very likelihood of the affair gnawed at him raveningly. A day
or two later Pawley said to him:

“Thank God, Brian is now reasonably safe!”

“Why this fervour?”

“Lady Selina expects to lose Cicely.”

“Who told you so?”

An inflection in the young man’s voice made Pawley regard him more
attentively. Grimshaw’s face, however, remained expressionless. Pawley
replied as guardedly as Mrs. Rockram:

“She admitted to me that Wilverley had dropped the handkerchief; and it
seems reasonably certain that it will be picked up. He’s a masterful
man.”

“He is,” Grimshaw assented. “Would—would Lady Selina bring pressure to
bear?”

Again Pawley’s eyes showed surprise.

“Um! Pressure? Why should there be pressure, except from him?”

Cornered, rather confused, with a tinge of colour in his pale cheeks,
Grimshaw said hastily:

“I can’t see him as a lover. He would, as you put it, drop the
handkerchief and make sure of its being picked up at once. A girl of
spirit mightn’t quite like that.”


                                   V

With the colder weather, Upworthy boasted a cleaner bill of health,
although the more elderly villagers suffered abominably from rheumatism.
Anxious to “spare” Lady Selina, but even more anxious to mitigate
conditions which might be improved, Grimshaw tackled Gridley, the power
behind the throne exercising a sly, persistent authority which few could
measure, least of all the lady of the manor. Gridley had succeeded his
father as bailiff of the Chandos domain. Thousands of just such men are
to be found in our southern and western counties. And more than half the
misery in the rural districts can be traced to them, directly and
indirectly. Back of their abuse of power lies, of course, the indolence
of the landlord. And behind this again—ignorance. All Gridleys have in
common a desire to make things easy for their employers. They stand
doggedly as buffers between comfort and discomfort, between peace of
mind and innumerable pettifogging worries and acerbities. Villagers dare
not appeal to Cæsar. How many schoolboys beard a headmaster, indicting
some unjust member of his staff? Villagers are children. They never cut
loose from leading-strings. They whine to each other, and make a
“visiting face” in the presence of the “quality.” They live, most of
them, for the passing hour, seldom dwelling upon the future because,
instinctively, they dread it. Who denies them great qualities? But they
will be the better understood when it is admitted frankly that their
unwritten code is poles apart from the code of the privileged classes.
With the poor patience is a greater virtue than truthfulness; fidelity
ranks above chastity; justice counts for nothing in comparison with
generosity.

Gridley lived in a comfortable house at the Home Farm, with a wife whom
he regarded as a general servant, and several children. After his day’s
work, he befuddled himself with beer, but he prided himself upon rising
each morning perfectly sober. He was reasonably abstemious in local
taverns, and attended church, making the responses in a loud voice,
conscious that the approving ear of Lady Selina heard him. He was a
member of the district and parish councils. He could, and did, make life
hell for any beneath him in the social scale who presumed to thwart his
wishes and commands.

At first he showed himself obsequious and complaisant to the new doctor.
But he began to squirm under Grimshaw’s questions, wriggling out of
them, evading them, trying to throw dust into eyes penetratingly clear.
Grimshaw took his measure in five minutes. Nevertheless, for Lady
Selina’s sake, he wished to give the fellow a chance. Possibly Gridley
mistook courtesy for weakness. More than probably he took for granted
that country doctors prefer to travel along lines of least resistance.

Finally, after many exasperating and unavailing interviews, Grimshaw
spoke plainly:

“You are forcing me to the conclusion, Mr. Gridley, that you run
Upworthy to suit yourself.”

Doctor and bailiff had met outside a cottage which held a young married
woman sadly crippled by incipient arthritis. Her bed rested upon a floor
eaten up by dry-rot. Putting his foot through a board, Grimshaw had
discovered masses of thick, white, velvety fungus, which smelt horribly.
He discovered further that the waste-pipes from the eaves were choked
up; water trickled down the inside walls. When he called Gridley’s
attention to this state of things, the bailiff promptly promised
immediate repairs, which were not forthcoming. Grimshaw could have
appealed to Lady Selina. But anything of that sort meant open war with
Gridley, the precipitation of a crisis. It meant, for the lady of the
manor, an instant choice between an old servant and a comparative
stranger. It meant, if Grimshaw won (and the possibilities of losing
obtruded itself), finding a new bailiff, breaking him in, endless worry
and perplexity. To find the right man at such a time, when ability of
any sort was at a tremendous premium, might be impracticable. To add to
the difficulties of the case, he knew that witnesses for the prosecution
of a tyrant would be hard to find. Gridley, and his father before him,
had imposed silence upon Upworthy. The Extons were notable examples of
what might happen to the recalcitrant. Favours, innumerable doles—coal,
fire-wood, milk, clothing and small grants in aid—were distributed
amongst the optimists who, when Lady Selina made her periodical rounds,
presented shining faces and grateful hearts. The wise gaffers sang
praises of “honest John” behind his back and to his brazen face.
Nicodemus Burble, the octogenarian, piped the popular conviction: “I
allers says it pays to treat bailiffs wi’ respect, for why, my sonnies?
Because they can make it so danged uncomfortsome for we, if we don’t.”

Gridley, thus addressed by a young man whom he regarded hitherto as
negligible, was much taken aback. Clever enough to know that
procrastination would no longer avail him, he tried insolence instead:

“Do I? I’d have you to understand, Mr. Grimshaw, that I can mind my
business, as my father did before me, and I’ll thank you to mind yours.”

With that he turned on his heel, glaring savagely.

“Wait!” said Grimshaw, in his quietest tone.

Gridley swung round. Grimshaw met his congested glance.

“The misery in Upworthy is my business.”

“Ho, is it?”

“Yes; I can break a hornet’s nest about your ears, and I’m in the mood
to do it. I can get the medical officer of health for the county down
here, and if I do, you and your father’s business, which you manage as
abominably as he did, will be blown to—to your ultimate destination.”

Gridley stared at him in stupefaction. Hitherto, the local sanitary
inspector, with well-greased palms, had seen to it that his chief should
be spared such visitations. Altering his tone slightly, he growled out:

“Her ladyship will have something to say to that.”

“Cut her ladyship out of this. I propose to deal with you. Her ladyship
has entrusted you with powers which you have abused, grossly abused, to
your own advantage.”

Gridley, with unpleasant memories of John Exton, and confronted by a
tense athletic figure, said sullenly:

“I suppose I can’t stop you talking.”

“You can’t. You like being top dog. And because you came from the
people, you’re hard on the people. You treat them as dirt.”

Gridley laughed brutally, as a not unreasonable fear of personal
violence passed from him.

“That’s what they are, most of ’em—dirt.”

Grimshaw smiled derisively, beholding in Gridley the reactionary of the
Labour Party, the common type that rides rough-shod over the
foot-passengers, bespattering them with mud. Some of the self-styled
leaders of Labour in Poplar were just like him—arrogant, insolent and
ignorant, seeking their own advancement with specious canting words on
their thick lips, secretly distrusted by the very class whom they tried
to rule and direct. He divined that Gridley hated, in his heart, the
benefactress who trusted him, that he would be the first—given the
opportunity—to bite the hand that had fed him. And such men scorn
decent treatment. They can be subdued by the weapon they use—the lash.
Grimshaw continued, not so quietly:

“I’m on to your little games. You and that greedy idiot, the sanitary
inspector, and four-fifths of the district council, play into each
other’s hands, and laugh and wink over it.”

Gridley tried sarcasm:

“Ho! Downin’ one of your own sort now?”

“You allude to our local medical officer. I wonder how you’d like me to
take on that job?”

“Why don’t you?” He laughed again.

“I may,” replied Grimshaw incisively, “Lady Selina Chandos has always
wanted to do her best for her people, but that never suited your book.
Why? Because when light comes to her you’ll be scrapped first.”

“Have it your own way, Mr. Grimshaw, and thanks for warning me.”

“I do warn you. For the moment, I shall leave her ladyship in peace. I
am dealing with you. Mend your ways here and now. Does the new flooring
go in at once—or not?”

“I told you the job should be done. We’re short-handed.”

“Will it go in at once, within twenty-four hours?”

“Yes, it will.” He paused, adding cringingly:

“I didn’t mean to give offence, sir.”

Grimshaw replied tensely:

“Good. Keep what I’ve said to yourself, and I shall do the same.”

Within the time exacted the new flooring was put in. Grimshaw knew, of
course, that he had made a dangerous enemy, but this heartened rather
than dismayed him, salving a sensitive conscience. He believed that he
could deal with Gridley, and through Gridley with others. Lady Selina
must be left in peace till peace came back to a world in travail.



                               CHAPTER IV
                       CHIEFLY CONCERNING CICELY


                                   I

Cicely, till the war broke out, accepted life very much as she found it,
although at school a glimmering had come to her that it wasn’t for all
girls the pleasant pilgrimage from cradle to altar, and thence in the
remote future to the grave, which a daughter of the House of Chandos
might naturally deem it. She and Arabella Tiddle had agreed that they
belonged to the Sunshiners, as Arabella put it—flowers in a parterre,
carefully tended and cherished. It must be awful, for instance, to be
like Miss Spong and Miss Minchin, assistant mistresses, labelled by
their pupils as “Spot” and “Plain.” Everybody knew that Miss Spong’s
father drank, even on Sundays; and Miss Minchin, it was generally
believed, worked hard during the “hols” as a typist. The whole school
had sustained an appalling shock when little Doris Reed mysteriously
vanished from a classroom and was never seen again. Her father, a
fraudulent bankrupt, had walked into a tunnel, preferring to meet an
express train rather than his infuriated creditors. All the details were
in the daily papers. One of Cicely’s friends, a queer, tall, scraggy
girl, interested herself in criminology, collecting clippings wherever
she might find them which set forth horrors. She was honourably known as
“Old Goose-flesh,” and possessed a perfectly thrilling brooch revealing
under crystal a tiny strand of a rope upon which a murderer had been
hanged!

Cicely, however, as a “Sunshiner,” turned her head from these shadows. A
tithe of her pocket-money was given in charity. One girl, chronically
hard up, borrowed five shillings which were never repaid. Ought this to
be regarded as part of the tithe? Arabella, with inherited business
instincts, answered in the affirmative. Eventually Cicely wrote to Dr.
Pawley about it, and he decided against Arabella. A fortnight later
Cicely received a box of chocolates which Arabella priced at ten
shillings. For a week at least Cicely wondered who had sent the
chocolates. She wrote an effusive letter of thanks to Brian, who sent
another box, expressing regret that he had not thought of sending the
first. Cicely, with a chocolate in her mouth, observed triumphantly:

“You see, Tiddy, out of evil comes good.”

“Yes; you’re fifteen bob up on the deal.”

From this happy conclusion there was no budging. Goodrich preached the
comfortable doctrine from the pulpit; experience confirmed it. Evil had
to be, because good oozed out of it. In the same philosophic spirit
Arabella’s father advertised the virtues of Tiddle’s Family Pellets. If
people didn’t suffer with dyspepsia Lady Tiddle wouldn’t wear pearls.

Cicely left school and returned to Upworthy with half a dozen delightful
vistas of fun and enjoyment in front of her. Hunting, tennis, balls,
jolly house parties, presentation at Court, and a London season. . . .

The outbreak of war closed all these avenues down which she and Arabella
had hoped to dance so joyously.

Lady Selina, moreover, refused to share Arthur Wilverley’s conviction
that the interests of high finance and industry would be paramount in
determining hostilities within a year. Her brother, Lord Saltaire, held
no such rosy views. Inspissated gloom settled upon that nobleman, not
without reason. His vast estates were heavily dipped; he had never been
able to lay by a penny-piece; the calls upon his ever-diminishing purse
were innumerable. He said to his sister:

“The burden of increased taxation will be back-breaking, my dear Selina.
We shall be hit harder than any other class. So I advise you to
economise. Cut down expenses to the irreducible minimum! That’s my first
and last word.”

Lady Selina sent for Gridley.

“Lord Saltaire,” she told her obsequious bailiff, “is reducing expenses
to the minimum. We must do the same.”

“Very good, my lady.”

She added, with an irritability rare with her:

“So pray don’t come bothering me about money. For the present, and for
some time to come, we must ‘carry on’—that, I am told, is the correct
expression—as best we may.”

“Certainly, my lady. In my humble opinion, the Hearl is right. I hope
your ladyship knows that I shall cut down everything.”

He spoke as if the prospect of cheeseparing afforded him intense
satisfaction, but Lady Selina didn’t notice that, and remarked:

“Yes, yes; you are a good, faithful soul. We must practise self-denial,
even in our charities.”

Much to her gratification, Cicely behaved like a perfect darling. It
made the fond mother miserable to think that her girl should have her
“coming out” burked by cruel fate. But Cicely kissed her and said:

“I shall enjoy my good time all the more when it does come, Mums.”

Lady Selina inclined her head mournfully. She entertained no delusions
on that point. Procrastination did not enhance the virgin joys of
“coming out.” Nevertheless, she confronted an abominable situation with
fortitude, making no protest when Cicely insisted upon becoming a V.A.D.
That meant the loss of more “bloom.” Balm descended upon her lacerated
tissues, you may be sure, when Cicely went to Wilverley Court. If dear
Arthur seized this great opportunity all would be well. Striving to
interpret the inscrutable ways of Providence, she seemed to discern the
Omnipotent Finger tracing Cicely’s future in gleaming letters upon a
dark background. Left alone in her big house, she denied herself cream,
and drastically reduced her establishment.

It will be admitted that Grimshaw, bursting with impatience to give
Upworthy a cleaner bill of health, had not chosen the most opportune
moment to further his plans.


                                   II

We shall behold Cicely with clearer vision “on her own” at Wilverley.

She plunged eagerly into hard work, thereby winning an approving smile
from “Matron,” an uncompromising “pro,” not likely to favour a young
woman merely because she happened to belong to the “county.” Exalted
above “Matron” sat Mrs. Roden, Wilverley’s sister, who had married one
of the Quaker Rodens, a pillar of the Liberal Party, and as
indefatigable as his wife in what he considered to be “good works.”
George Roden was supposed to be in touch with the masses, although he
was a rich man. As an M.P. and a subordinate member of the Government,
he pulled many strings, being recognised as a peacemaker and
intermediary between Labour and Capital. His wife shared his views. In
and out of season Mrs. Roden preached solemnly the doctrines of
adjustment. She adjusted her own life and the lives of others,
particularly the lives of others. As an ardent democrat she contended
that all classes, not merely Labour, should be fairly treated in the New
Commonwealth at last to be discerned rising superbly above the troubled
waters. Fortunately, inasmuch as the good lady was something of a bore,
we are not much concerned with her or her excellent husband. But she
exercised influence upon Cicely at a moment when the girl was most
sensitive to outside impressions.

Mrs. Roden, after serious consideration, decided that Cicely was
destined to be the mother of Wilverley’s children. Motherhood may be
described as her _cheval de bataille_. Upon this charger she rode boldly
into the future, couching her lance against that dragon Infant
Mortality. Cicely’s physique, her feminine curves, her clear complexion
and candid eyes, fortified the conviction that she would nurse her
babies, and Mrs. Roden said so, with no squeamish reserves, to Wilverley
himself.

“Good heavens, Mary, what things you think of!”

Mrs. Roden replied austerely:

“I focus my thoughts, Arthur, on the essential. Large families will be
the crying need of the next decade.”

“I hope my kids won’t cry.”

“Pray don’t be flippant! I am honoured that you have given me your
confidence. Cicely is young, but I was nineteen when I married George. I
was a mother at twenty. I have never regretted it. I deplore years
wasted in bunny-hugging and fox trots. If this war trains young girls to
take themselves more seriously it will not have been waged in vain. I
shall talk to dear little Cicely.”

“Not—not about my babies?”

“You can leave all that to me.”

“Cicely, bless her! is a bit of a tomboy. I’m sure she would shrink
from—from—_you know_.”

Mrs. Roden enjoined silence, uplifting a large, capable hand.

“My dear Arthur, you have the disabilities of your sex. Never having
suffered from excess of modesty yourself, you imagine that young girls
are immaculately innocent and ignorant. Pray purge your mind of that!
They are nothing of the sort. They discuss everything nowadays with a
refreshing candour that is not the least significant sign of the times.
Now for a word of advice to you. If you want her, go for her—go for
her! Young girls fall easily in love with the first energetic bidder. I
take it you are the first?”

“I—I think so, Mary.”

“Then I repeat—go for her!”

Seldom indeed did Mrs. Roden use expressions even approximating to
slang. Wilverley saw that her interest was seriously engaged.


                                  III

Mrs. Roden had been right in assuming Cicely to be neither immaculately
innocent nor ignorant of what she termed “essential facts.” She and
Arabella had discussed marriage and even motherhood quite naturally, but
not often, being mainly engrossed with tennis and hockey and, subsidiary
to these, their work in class. Arabella insisted that they must be near
the head of the procession and maintain an honourable position without
undue “mugging.” A good report, indeed, at the close of her school
career had transmuted thousands of pills into the pearls which Lady
Selina so admired.

Arabella, it will be remembered, had this strangle-hold over Cicely.
Lady Tiddle had graduated in life at a shoe factory. Arabella
acknowledged, with pardonable pride, that her second cousin on the
maternal side was a housemaid. Cicely was friendly with housemaids at
the Manor, but, in strict obedience to Lady Selina, never familiar with
them. Arabella pronounced this abstention to be a loss, not a gain. She
had talked very freely with the second cousin.

“They have an enormous bulge over us, Cis. You see, they get to know
men. Our information is second-hand. Lily”—that happened to be the name
of the second cousin—“has had a dozen boys on and off. She began when
she was fifteen. She’s as straight as they make ’em, you know, but dead
nuts on spooning.”

Cicely winced at this, although curiosity pricked her. Conscious that
she needn’t ask for details, because Arabella always supplied them, she
held her tongue. Arabella continued:

“Lily can make comparisons, weigh Tom against Dick, scrap both, and take
on Bill. I call that true liberty. I don’t see why an intelligent girl,
anxious to get the right sort of hubby, as, of course, we all are,
shouldn’t be engaged half a dozen times.”

“Tiddy——!”

“That’s my idea. Probably Father, who is becoming rather rankly
conservative since he was knighted, will put the kibosh on that, but
how, I ask, can you know what a man is really like till he has kissed
you?”

“What perfectly awful things you say!”

“All right! I’m a red poppy, and proud of it. You’re the wee
crimson-tippit daisy. Be a daisy if you like. I’ll call you—Dais.”

“Tiddy, please don’t! I’ll try not to be a daisy. You do give one ideas.
But kissing——! That is housemaidy, if you like.” She frowned and then
quoted triumphantly: “‘Her lips are common as the stairs.’ Ugh!”

Arabella laughed. Perhaps she wanted to shock a too aristocratic friend.

“Oh, well, Lily thinks no more of that than you do of brushing your
teeth.”

“I should have to brush my teeth, Tiddy, if any man dared to kiss me.”

Such talks, infrequent as they might be, stimulated imagination. Lady
Selina may have wondered why Miss Tiddle was chosen by Cicely as her
particular “chum.” Surely there were—others? But the others lacked
personality. Arabella imposed herself. Her liveliness, her audacity, her
humour—were irresistible.

Cicely’s first action on becoming a V.A.D. was to write to Miss Tiddle,
entreating her to join the staff at Wilverley. Sir Nathaniel Tiddle,
after a heartening glance at the peerage and “Who’s Who,” raised no
objection. Finally it was arranged that Arabella should “weigh in” with
the New Year.

Meanwhile, Cicely was seeing Arthur Wilverley every day.


                                   IV

He “went for her” according to his own methods, not above criticism. The
“Ars Amatoria” of Ovid is hardly out of date, but that lively treatise
was not to be found in the Court library. Wilverley’s notion of courting
would have been termed by his sister—self-expression. The honest fellow
wanted Cicely to see him in all his moods and tenses before conjugation.
He talked unweariedly about Arthur Wilverley. Beware of branding him too
hastily as egoist or prig! He happened to be neither. Like his sister,
the welfare of others lay next his heart. At the same time it seemed to
be an imperative duty to reveal himself to his future wife.

Cicely was rather impressed at first.

And it is not unreasonable to affirm that he might have got her _au
premier coup_ had Grimshaw remained in Poplar. Comparisons between
Grimshaw and Wilverley became inevitable. Cicely was not unversed in
such mental exercises. At school young ladies of the ripe age of fifteen
were invited to compare, in parallel columns, Napoleon with Wellington,
Gladstone with Disraeli, Thackeray with Dickens. The prize-winning
contributions were published in the school magazine, typed and edited by
the overworked Miss Minchin.

Cicely wrote as follows to her dearest Tiddy:

“I do wish you were here, because I’m dying to talk to you about Arthur
Wilverley. I’m sure you will think him rather a dear. Anyway, he’s been
ever so nice to me. No chocs! He’s not that sort. Plenty of good,
sensible talk, which is flattering, isn’t it? I sometimes think that
he’s practising on me, trying on sentences which he means to use in
public. He’s our star landlord in these parts, and makes poor Mother
gasp when he tells her what she ought to do at Upworthy. Of course, he’s
frightfully rich. Have I mentioned Mr. Grimshaw to you?” (O Cicely——!)
“He’s Dr. Pawley’s new partner, and _very_ clever. But this cleverness
doesn’t stick out of him, thank goodness! Arthur and he took a fancy to
each other when they first met, because they have a lot in
common—better rural conditions, and all that. I told both of them that
it was no use hustling and bustling Mother. Mr. Grimshaw bottles himself
up; Arthur uncorks himself. Already I seem to know everything he has
done and is going to do. I’m afraid that you will say he’s not wildly
exciting. Nothing subtle about him. He strikes me as being immensely
‘safe.’ One couldn’t imagine him letting anybody down, or letting
himself down. Mr. Grimshaw is better-looking. He might come to grief if
things went very wrong with him. Or he might climb to giddy heights.

“Mother is pinching a bit—no cream! She says it’s fattening. Most of
our neighbours are pinching for patriotic reasons, but some of them like
it. This hateful war shows us all up. Mrs. Roden (Arthur’s sister) is a
_scream_! You will love pulling her leg. It’s rather against Arthur that
he can’t see how funny she is——”

A postscript was added:

“Mr. Grimshaw has dark, disconcerting eyes. I’m afraid he’s very poor.”

To this artless epistle Miss Tiddle replied by return of post.

“I wish I were at Wilverley,” she wrote, “because your letter is a dead
give-away. You’re working up a ‘pash’ for this young man with the
disconcerting eyes!!! And I’ll bet my string of pearls against a
boot-lace that he’s a better chap than your Arthur, who doesn’t appeal
to me at all. I see by the peerage that he’s nearly forty, and probably
getting bald. Why does he talk to you? Why not write to me as a pal
should? Before you get this, he may have proposed, without a word of
warning from me. And likely as not you’ll blush and say ‘yes,’ because,
obviously, the whole thing has been a put-up job. My tip is: flirt
sweetly with both of them, and _don’t commit yourself_! I have three
affairs on—no end of a rag! If necessary, I’ll have a go at your
Arthur. Try him out! I expect he’s too fat, mentally and physically, for
my taste. But I’d sacrifice myself for you. I shall look forward to
meeting Mr. Grimshaw. If he’s poor and clever, he’ll reach up and help
himself to the needful, with you dangling at the end of the pole as a
prize.

“My lady-mother is pinching too. We no longer dine the people we don’t
like. But we shall freeze on to our footmen till public opinion wrenches
them from us. . . .”

This letter constrained Cicely to collate her virginal thoughts with
Miss Tiddle’s vulgar words. Vulgar, be it noted, is used as
“vernacular.” Shakespeare might have described Miss Tiddle’s prose as
“naked as the vulgar air.” Lady Selina might have used the adjective in
its commoner acceptation. It would have shocked her inexpressibly had
she been told that her child was “working up a pash” for anybody, even
if he were a young duke with all the gifts of the gods. Cicely, however,
knew her “Tiddy,” and took no offence. But . . . was she thinking too
much of this man with the disconcerting eyes? Did he stand, square to
the four winds of heaven, between herself and Arthur? She asked herself
the question when she was engaged in preparing a pailful of
disinfectant. One would prefer to envisage the nymph in a fragrant
rose-garden, plucking the dewy blossoms, inhaling with them the sweet
freshness of morning. . . . Cicely had just finished scrubbing the floor
of the dispensary; the pungent odour of carbolic assailed her pretty
nose. And it served well enough, better perhaps than any rose, to kill
the parasitic sentimental growths which so often clog and obscure a
maiden’s true understanding of herself.

What was Grimshaw to her?

Being still a child in many ways, she applied the nursery test. If she
were in a boat with the two men, and the boat upset, and it were
possible for her to save one of the two, which one would be saved?

Her lively imagination, unduly stimulated by Tiddy’s prose, beheld the
two appealing faces mutely beseeching her for life and love. She
hesitated. The heads sank, to bob up again. She positively shivered with
indecision. Then she laughed. The prescient Tiddy had hit the mark.
Arthur was . . . well, not thin. He suggested floating. If he turned on
his broad back and stopped struggling, he would float. But Grimshaw
would sink . . .!

The test sufficed. Cicely filled her pail, and carried it demurely into
a ward.


                                   V

She knew by this time why Arthur talked to her with such flattering
insistence. Tiddy would call it “window dressing.” Was it flirting to
listen attentively, to appraise the wares, to smile demurely, to watch
him inflate with the deliberate intention of deflating him later on? At
this point, her thoughts became nebulous. If she knew Arthur better, she
might like him more. When did liking turn into a warmer sentiment?

She went home for a week-end before Christmas.

Immediately she realised that her mother’s first kiss included a
benediction. Lady Selina held her hands, gently pressing them. Then,
with an exclamation of dismay, she examined them, noting broken nails,
roughness of skin, and faint stains which defied Scrubbs’ Ammonia.

“Oh, dear!”

“Honourable scars, Mums.”

“The whole world is topsy-turvy. I hear you are called ‘Shandy.’”

“Matron calls me Chandos, and the V.A.D.S Shandy. What does it matter?
I’m as hard as nails, and frightfully hungry. I hope you have a topping
dinner.”

“Everything you like, darling. We shall be quite alone. Stimson is
single-handed. This is a season of fasting and prayer, but you shan’t
fast here.”

Cicely hugged her, exuberantly glad to be at home again, but sensible of
a change that tugged at her heart-strings. The old graciousness
remained, the erect figure, the well-poised head, all the tiny
authoritative gestures. But the smooth eyelids drooped more heavily,
hiding anxious eyes. The right word came to her later, when they sat
together in Lady Selina’s room.

_Forlorn_ . . .!

What a word to apply to her mother! Always, she had thought of that
mother as self-sufficing. Lady Selina, of course, was accustomed to
being alone. She liked to entertain at due intervals—a Chandos
tradition; she paid occasional visits; she spent periodic weeks at an
old-fashioned hotel in London, in a cul-de-sac, where a gentlewoman
could sleep between lavender-scented sheets, and almost believe that she
was in the country.

_Forlorn_ . . .!

Several reasons jumped into Cicely’s mind: maternal anxiety about Brian,
a reduced establishment that forbade entertaining, her own absence from
home at a time, possibly, when a devoted mother had set her heart upon
“doing things” with her and for her. Without hesitation, she said
abruptly:

“Would you like me to stay at home, Mums?”

Evidently, Lady Selina had considered this. She answered quickly:

“No. We must all do our duty, child.”

“You look so forlorn.”

It was impossible to keep back the insistent word. Lady Selina frowned.

“Forlorn? I didn’t know that I looked forlorn, whatever I may feel at
times. There are—moments . . .” She sighed, and then said with her
usual energy: “But they pass. You are a sympathetic creature, Cicely. I
ought to be ashamed of looking or feeling forlorn when I have two such
good children. And so many good friends. They have been very
considerate.” She paused, faintly smiling. “You know, dear, even Mr.
Grimshaw leaves me in peace.”

Cicely hoped that she was not blushing, as she murmured:

“Heavens! Why shouldn’t he?”

“I anticipated pesterings. A man with his ideas . . . Thousands of
pounds! And now, when we all have to think in pence. He is certainly
clever. Our people like him. I have given him some shooting. The
partridges we had at dinner were shot by him. I see very little of him.
Does he go to Wilverley?”

She shot a glance at Cicely, who thanked her stars that she was able to
answer truthfully:

“Never!”

Lady Selina brightened. Not for a king’s ransom would she have pleaded
dear Arthur’s cause. To do so, however delicately, might invite
disaster. And it would be equally indiscreet to “run down” a too
attractive, impecunious young man. She decided that a little faint
praise was much safer.

“By the way, he is _not_ one of the Grimthorpe Grimshaws. But he will do
very well, and in due time step into dear Dr. Pawley’s shoes.”

“His list slippers.”

Lady Selina blinked, and then shied away from rebuke, a notable
abstention. Cicely continued hastily:

“Mr. Grimshaw is a gentleman. Nothing else matters.”

“His grandfather, I am told, was a China merchant, whatever that may
mean. As for ‘gentleman,’ I am inclined to think my dear father defined
the now odious word properly.”

“What was his definition?”

“He contended that the word had nothing to do with moral attributes. A
‘gentleman,’ in his opinion, was a man neither directly nor indirectly
connected with trade.”

Cicely opened her lips, and then closed them. She could score heavily by
asking whether the son of an ironmaster could, under this definition, be
termed a gentleman. But she reflected that her mother would retort that
the ironmaster had been created a peer of the realm. Lady Selina went on
blandly:

“Your grandfather once ‘turned down,’ as you put it, a clever young man
who applied to him for the post of private secretary. He presented
himself at dinner in a made-up tie.”

“Heavens!”

“I think my father was quite right. A gentleman never offends in small
matters. I deplore the fact that your friend Arabella pronounces G-I-R-L
‘gurl.’ How do you pronounce it?”

Cicely smiled.

“It depends upon whom I’m talking to, Mums. I shouldn’t say ‘gurl’
before you. I suppose you’d have a fit if I asked for a ‘serviette’
instead of a ‘napkin’?”

“It would nearly kill me,” replied Lady Selina solemnly.

“Arabella nearly died when she heard an old duchess pronounce ‘yellow’
‘yaller.’”

“That used to be the proper pronunciation, my dear.”

Cicely held her tongue.

Lady Selina, as usual, blamed the school. A girl brought up at home
would not venture to criticise, even allusively, her elders. She was
aware that Miss Tiddle criticised the Author of her Being! Cicely
hastily changed the talk, describing, not without sprightliness, her
adventures and misadventures as a V.A.D. Incidentally she mentioned
Wilverley, conscious at once that the atmosphere became charged with
electricity. Lady Selina, at mere mention of his name, purred with
pleasure. To stroke her fur the right way became a temptation hard to
resist. Cicely, however, succeeded in pleasing her mother without
committing herself. That, at least, was her happy conviction when she
went to bed. Snug in bed, and congratulating herself upon a strategy
that Tiddy might have disdained, she heard a soft tap upon the door.
Lady Selina, majestic in a brocaded dressing-gown, entered. Cicely was
astonished and moved. Such visits were rare. Lady Selina fussed over
her, tucked her up, and kissed her fondly, whispering:

“You are my own little girl. You mustn’t worry about me. As I said,
there are moments when this unhappy world seems upside down. I ask
myself where I am. But I have the greatest confidence in you, darling.
That is such a comfort—to be sure of those you love. Sleep well, and
have breakfast in bed if you want to.”

Cicely did not sleep too well. She lay awake for at least an hour,
feeling strangely restless and uncomfortable. And she woke up many
times, tingling with an exasperation which she tried in vain to resolve
into elements. She wished both Wilverley and Grimshaw at Timbuctoo; she
wished that she was like Tiddy, who could “take on” three suitors as a
“rag”; she almost wished she had been born of humbler parentage. Tiddy
assured her that the old order was “down and out,” never to rise again.
Admittedly, Tiddy knew nothing of the old order. And Cicely dimly beheld
a new disorder, with blatant voices and not too clean linen, that might
exercise a greater tyranny than any aristocracy of rank and starched
shirts. For the moment, she ultimately decided, she knew what she
wanted—to be left alone.


                                   VI

She woke up delightfully surprised to find herself in her own pretty
room, and with no desire for breakfast in bed. Snow had fallen during
the night. Looking out of her window, she could see the conventional
Christmas landscape. Nature seemed to have tidied everything for the
great festival. Upon the previous afternoon Cicely noticed that the
gardens had lost something of their trim appearance. Leaves rotted upon
the paths and lawns. Rabbits had dared to invade the topiary garden! The
snow covered leaves and fallen timber. Presently Lady Selina appeared,
scattering crumbs for the friendly robins. Cicely greeted her gaily.

“You slept well, my darling?”

“Like a top.”

“Capital.”

They smiled at each other, Cicely reflecting that tops didn’t really
sleep. They spun round and round, just as she had during her vigils, and
went into a sort of silly trance. And then they fell flatly down. Cicely
had experienced all this and more; so she told the exact truth and
pleased her mother at the same time. As a matter of fact, she detested
lying, even white-lying. At school, lying, or any form of feminine
deceit or guile, had been voted by the leaders of public opinion—bad
form. Women, in the past, had been driven to subterfuge by brutal MAN.
The New Woman, educated like a public-school boy, must tell the truth,
and flaunt it if necessary, like an Oriflamme.

Mother and daughter attended Divine Service. Cicely perceived Dr. Pawley
in his pew, but Mr. Grimshaw was conspicuously absent, a fact which
distracted Cicely’s thoughts from the Liturgy. The small church was full
as usual, although many of the younger men had already joined up, not
without some pressure from the parson and the lady of the manor. The
more aged and infirm, in receipt of doles, quite understood that regular
attendance “paid.” Backsliders were overlooked when Lady Selina offered
her “oblations” at the Midsummer and Christmas bun-festivals. Just
before Christmas beef-time the attendance was remarkable.

After church Dr. Pawley accounted satisfactorily for the absence of his
colleague, who, it seemed, had spent the night with a child suffering
horribly from croup.

“He never spares himself, good fellow,” said Pawley. “In this case he
insisted on sparing me.”

Lady Selina inclined her head. The thought came to Cicely, to be
dismissed as disloyal, that her mother had not seemed too well pleased
when listening politely to Dr. Pawley’s praises of his partner. Did she
resent the young man’s ever-increasing popularity in the village? Lady
Selina strolled back to the Manor, saying nothing. In the old days Dr.
Pawley was often invited to luncheon on Sundays. Cicely said presently:

“Are you expecting Dr. Pawley to luncheon, Mums?”

“No. Stimson has enough to do as it is. Besides, it would be difficult
to leave out Mr. Grimshaw.”

“But why leave him out?”

Lady Selina shrugged her shoulders, saying carelessly:

“On ne s’entend pas avec tout le monde.”

Cicely felt as if she had been slapped. It was the first time that her
mother had deliberately chosen to indicate the social chasm between
herself and a G.P. Cicely, off her guard, said indiscreetly:

“Mother!—Mr. Grimshaw is Brian’s friend. I—I don’t understand.”

Lady Selina may have regretted a slip of the tongue. In her softest
voice, she replied:

“My dear child, I have been extremely civil to Brian’s friend. But there
are—limits! I regard Dr. Pawley as an exception that proves the rule
never broken by my dear father, for example.”

“What rule?”

“I dislike dotting my ‘i’s. However . . . the rule is quite simply this:
Solicitors and doctors, by reason of their callings, which impose upon
us, willy-nilly, an intimacy of a peculiarly personal and often
unpleasant character, must be received with formal courtesy upon
occasion. But the fact that they are paid as attendants, so to speak,
justifies us in keeping them at a discreet distance. Your grandfather
used to say: ‘How can I enjoy my glass of port when my doctor is
watching me drink it, after having strictly forbidden it?’ In the same
way, although your friend’s father, Sir Nathaniel Tiddle, may be an
exceptionally worthy person, I should not care to sit at table with him,
because he is a pill-manufacturer. How white the world is this morning!”

Cicely bit her lips in the effort to keep silence. Also, she realised
the fatuity of further argument. It seemed to her monstrous that
anybody, particularly a mother, should not want to sit at table with a
man who had spent a long, wearisome night in attendance upon a croupy
child. She said, with an inflection of acerbity:

“Yes; but I always think of snow as Nature’s whitewash.”

“What an idea!”

“Well, it is my idea. I thought this morning that it covered ever so
cleverly the rotten leaves which I smelt yesterday. I can’t smell them
now or see them, but they’re there just the same.”

Lady Selina eyed her pensively, murmuring:

“Really, child, your liver must be out of order.”


                                  VII

During the afternoon Cicely met Grimshaw. Whether by accident or design
will never be known. She told her mother, just before Lady Selina was
composing herself for a nap, that she intended to pop round the village,
but she popped no farther than Mrs. Rockram’s. That excellent woman
received her with effusion, congratulating the young lady heartily upon
her colour. Cicely’s cheeks certainly exhibited a deeper damask, and her
eyes were sparkling. Mrs. Rockram, honest soul, made no attempt to
disguise her interest in what might be happening at Wilverley, and her
broad hints and innuendoes nearly drove Cicely from a delightfully warm
kitchen. She guessed, of course, that Mrs. Rockram voiced the gossip of
the village. Tiddy, she reflected, would have been immensely amused. A
Chandos merely achieved exasperation tempered by patience. Nevertheless,
she was sensible that Wilverley had become immensely remote, and its
lord a mere vibrant blur upon the horizon.

“I didn’t come here to talk about Wilverley,” she said.

“No, no, suttingly not. But I’m such an old friend, Miss Cicely, so
you’ll forgive me, won’t you? I held you and Master Brian in my arms
when you wasn’t two hours born. I mind me how Master Brian yowled when
he was bathed, and I says to Rockram, I says: ‘You mark me, Thomas
Rockram, that young man’ll never like water’—and he never did.”

Cicely laughed.

“You tell me about Upworthy. Is there much sickness?”

“Nothing to worry about. Mr. Grimshaw sees to that, he do. And now that
we’re a-going to lose him——”

“What——?”

“Haven’t you heard, miss?”

“Not a word.”

Mrs. Rockram became interjectional. “Well, I never did!—Maybe, I’ve no
call to!—But there!—I did suppose my lady would know!” Boiled down,
her tale amounted to no more than this. A certain Dr. Babbington
Somebody-or-other had offered Mr. Grimshaw some post in France. Cicely
having grasped this as a fact, said:

“And Mr. Grimshaw has accepted the appointment?”

“Well, no, miss. Not to say—accepted. Leastways, he give me to
understand only yesterday that he ’adn’t answered the letter, but he’ll
go. Me and Rockram is of the same mind about that.”

“But why should he go?”

“Because, dearie, ’e’s wanted here. In my long life, I’ve never known a
man to be out o’ the way when ’e wasn’t wanted, or reely in it when he
was. Mr. Grimshaw’ll leave us, just because we can’t do without him.”

Cicely couldn’t cope with this. She said, with some tartness:

“Mr. Grimshaw is Dr. Pawley’s partner. From my knowledge of him, he’s
the last man to leave a partner in the lurch.”

Whereupon Mrs. Rockram became so interjectional that we cannot attempt
to follow her.

Cicely left the cottage, to find Grimshaw snowballing on the Green with
some of the village children. He came towards her, laughing, looking, so
she thought, like a jolly boy.

“How are you, Miss Chandos?”

Cicely wasted no time.

“What is this story about your leaving us?”

His face became slightly impassive as he replied:

“The good Mrs. Rockram has been indiscreet, I see.”

“But—are you going? And where? Do, please, satisfy my curiosity.”

“Are you curious?”

“Of course I am.”

“That’s very friendly and kind of you. Yes; I have been offered a rather
important billet in a French Field Hospital. Between ourselves, the
French Medical Staff were caught napping. It mustn’t leak out, but their
arrangements have proved wholly inadequate. Doctors and nurses are badly
wanted. I happen to speak French fairly well. I took a Paris degree.
Babbington-Raikes has written to me——”

“Oh!”

He hesitated, becoming a boy again.

“I—I should really like to know what you think about it.”

“How absurd!”

Irritation betrayed itself. Partly because she found herself in a false
position. During the previous vigils she had wished to be left alone.
Providence, apparently, had granted that wish, so far as Grimshaw was
concerned. He would leave Upworthy, never to return. If he cared——!
Already, like Arthur Wilverley, he seemed remote. His voice floated to
her as from a distance.

“I am sincere. I have talked the matter over with Dr. Pawley. His health
is much improved after his long holiday. He can carry on, so he says.”

Cicely said shortly:

“Of course he _says_ that.”

“Do you mean, Miss Chandos, that in your opinion it’s my duty to stay
here?”

Quite unreasonably—as she admitted to herself afterwards—Cicely became
conscious of exasperation. At the moment, naturally enough, she was
unable to analyse her emotions. Inasmuch as she wanted Grimshaw to stay
for her personal motives, inasmuch also as she knew that such men must
be sorely needed elsewhere, his grave question kindled civil war in her
own heart. Taken at a disadvantage, she temporised:

“My opinion doesn’t count.”

“But it does,” he assured her.

Man and maid looked at each other with troubled eyes, each dismally
conscious of spaces to be bridged, of bristling obstacles to be
surmounted. In each, moreover, was the somewhat inchoate conviction that
this horrible war imposed itself as paramount. Individuals were
engulfed. The best leapt, like Curtius, into the abyss. And dominating
this paralysing faith in the necessity of personal sacrifice was the
instinct to obey without questioning, to scrap self at any cost. Cicely
divined that Grimshaw must do his duty, and that he would do it,
ultimately, even if she urged him to stay in Upworthy. To test him, to
make certain of his quality, she said slowly, almost with defiance:

“And if I believed that, if—if I gave an opinion—which—which I
don’t,” she hastened to add, “what weight could it have against your
own?” As he remained silent, she continued vehemently: “No, no; you will
act for yourself. Nothing else is possible.”

“I suppose not.”

“I venture to guess that you have made up your mind, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“Not quite.”

Torn within, he presented an impassive face to his interlocutress. His
voice seemed to Cicely colder. An older woman would have read him
easily. Unhappily, too, for both of them, they were standing on the
village green within sight of inquisitive eyes. Alone in Mrs. Rockram’s
snug parlour, in front of a warming fire, Grimshaw might have spoken and
put his fate to the touch. The snow, the grey-white landscape, the
approaching shades of evening, chilled speech. But never had Cicely
appeared so sweet to him, so desirable. To go from her without a word
ravaged him. To speak with entire frankness meant trouble, a burden
placed upon slender shoulders. Was it possible to give her a glimpse of
his feelings? Could one cold-dispelling ray shoot from his heart to hers
before they parted? Physically speaking, hands and feet were growing
icy.

She shivered.

Instantly he recognized the inexorable power of environment. He spoke
with professional incisiveness:

“I beg your pardon for keeping you here. It is bitterly cold. We are in
for a sharp frost.”

She held out her hand.

“I return to Wilverley to-morrow.” Her voice softened delightfully.
“This may be—Good-bye. And if it is, good luck to you.”

“Thanks.”

With that Cicely sped homeward, a very unhappy maid, leaving an equally
unhappy man to his thoughts. Neither had understood the other; each had
trodden the well-worn path of convention and good-breeding, no longer
that gentle, pleasant exercise so commended and approved by the past
generation. Cicely told herself that he didn’t care; he was more doctor
than man. At the very last he had envisaged her as a possible patient
laid low by influenza. . . . Perhaps—her cheeks glowed at the
thought—he had guessed something. Deliberately he might be setting the
seas between them! Otherwise, surely he would have hinted at a return to
Upworthy. . . .

Grimshaw went back to his sitting-room and piled logs upon a dull
smouldering heap of cinders. Borrowing Mrs. Rockram’s bellows, he blew
these into a roaring fire, sat down, lit his pipe, and glared at the
leaping flames. He was sensible of failure to his marrow. He accused
himself of cowardice. He cross-questioned himself inexorably. Pride had
governed him; he had kow-towed to the code imposed by the lady of the
manor; he had missed his chance. Lord Wilverley would not miss his
chance.


                                  VIII

Alone with her mother, at tea-time, Cicely mentioned casually her visit
to Mrs. Rockram and her meeting with Grimshaw upon the village green.
Lady Selina nodded with Olympian majesty when she heard of the
Babbington-Raikes letter, saying blandly:

“Under the unhappy circumstances, I could not expect Mr. Grimshaw to
waste his undoubted talents and energies in Upworthy.”

Cicely said hastily:

“He seemed to ask for—for _our_ opinion, and of course I replied that
he would do what seemed right.”

Lady Selina smiled maternally:

“Very proper, my dear. And Dr. Pawley is so much stronger. Really, he
doesn’t need a partner now.”

She sipped her tea, hardly missing the cream. Cicely observed with
irrelevance:

“I often wonder why Dr. Pawley never married.”

“Ah, well, I could enlighten you, child, about that.”

“Do, please!”

Whereupon Lady Selina unfolded a romantic tale with a gusto in the
telling of it not wasted upon her listener. Pawley was presented as a
young, ardent man, whimsical, attractive, and something of a cavalier.
As a rider to hounds, he had won the friendship of the late Squire of
Upworthy. Cicely was well aware of this, a fact that tickled her humour.
With a full appreciation of the part played by fox-hunting in the making
of the nation, she learnt also, not with surprise, that a bold horseman
had captivated the interest of a daughter of the county, now a rotund
matron, the wife of a baronet who lived a dozen miles away. Lady Selina
was describing vividly, with corroborative detail, the process of
transmuting mere interest into love, when Cicely interjected rather
sharply:

“I understand—the affair was nipped.”

Lady Selina hated interruptions.

“Don’t nip me, my dear. What happened can be put adequately without
using slang. Common sense prevailed. Your dear father, indeed, had a
finger in the pie. . . .”

“Pressure!” exclaimed the young lady. “I should have thought,” she
added, “that Dr. Pawley would not have yielded to pressure.”

“Which shows, my dear, that you don’t know him. At any rate, he did the
wise and honourable thing. None of us, high or low, can afford to ignore
public opinion. In this case, everything turned out for the best. Dr.
Pawley’s straightforward conduct served to establish his position. When
the facts became known, the best houses opened their doors to him.”

“But he lost a partner.”

“That loss turned into a substantial gain. I have often thought that
celibacy is best for doctors and clergymen. If they marry, they should
choose helpmeets. But I can understand, also, that such a man as my dear
old friend, having loved truly a young lady of quality—she had very
great charm and distinction, I can assure you—would not care to look
elsewhere. And here again his fidelity to an ideal has endeared him to
all of us.”

Lady Selina sighed. Cicely murmured pensively:

“I wonder what Tiddy would say.”

“I can imagine what your friend would say, Cicely, and I am glad that
she is not here to say it. _Noblesse oblige_ happens to be a phrase
which the daughter of Sir Nathaniel Tiddle couldn’t be expected to
understand.”

“She understands it right enough, and she’s jolly glad that it doesn’t
apply to her. In ten days she comes to Wilverley.”

“Really!”

Lady Selina looked down her nose, and the shape of it may have
encouraged her to remark:

“You know, child, that this friendship of yours with a rather
unrestrained and undisciplined young woman is a certain anxiety to me.
However . . .!”

With a gesture that might have become the mother of the Gracchi, Lady
Selina dismissed Miss Tiddle.

But, till Cicely returned to duty the girl was lapped in tenderness and
solicitude. Let no man assume too hastily that design lurked beneath
soft glances and rare caresses. At any moment a few pencilled words upon
a telegram might apprise Lady Selina of the loss of a son. Because such
fear impended, she clutched desperately at her daughter, striving to
hold in her masterful grasp the essential possession, strangely
conscious that the spirit eluded her, that flesh and blood obscured the
real Cicely. It was hardly credible that her girl did not think as she
did upon matters supremely affecting conduct. Yet she dared not break
down virginal reserves with direct questions. And she could remember
that between herself and her mother there had been the same queer
intermittencies of sympathy, the thus-far-and-no-farther limit that
blighted full-blooming confidence.

You may be sure that she rejoiced unaffectedly at Grimshaw’s departure
from Upworthy, meaning to speed him on his way with gracious smiles,
hoping and praying that he would never return. During the five minutes
that she devoted each night to prayer and introspection, she decided
that Providence had deigned to stretch forth a delivering Hand. With
fervent faith she beheld clearly the Divine Intention.

Cicely had not inherited this clarity of vision.

She went back to Wilverley a much-bewildered maid, almost at the mercy
of circumstances and surroundings, feeling strangely invertebrate and
listless. For the moment we may compare her to a cog on a machine. Being
a true Chandos she intended to do her work efficiently. That would
suffice till—till Tiddy came. Tiddy would revitalise her. Meanwhile,
she contemplated with some dismay the certainty of talk not with but
from the tremendous Mrs. Roden.

That good lady eyed her critically.

“Too much Christmas,” she said trenchantly.

Out of sight and hearing of her august mother, Cicely often amused
herself by understudying Tiddy. So she replied calmly:

“Yes; I overrate myself. Plum-pudding and mince-pies. What can you
expect when a poor girl is hungry and greedy?”

Mrs. Roden smiled grimly. Cicely’s spirit did not displease her. The one
thing needful in a world to be regenerated by WOMAN was spirit.

“We missed you, my dear. Arthur was quite depressed. How is your
mother?”

“Just the same.”

“Wonderful woman! The world is in the melting-pot, but she doesn’t
change. Sometimes I envy her. Amazing powers of detachment.”

“And attachment. She was sweet to me, Mrs. Roden. I—I hated to leave
her alone in that big house.”

“You know that you are wanted here.”

As if this statement exacted emphasis, Wilverley came in, unmistakably
joyous, holding out two hands. And he happened to be looking his best in
riding-kit, exuding energy and goodwill, so delighted to see Cicely that
his genial tones betrayed him as lover and would-be conqueror. She felt
herself whirled away upon a flood of eager questions, which taken
collectively embodied the supreme question. Mrs. Roden tactfully
retired.

“He is going to propose now,” thought Cicely. “How can I prevent him?”

They were in the big library filled with superbly-bound tomes that were
never read, bought wholesale, with true decorative instinct, by the
first Lord Wilverley. Opulence characterised the room from floor to
ceiling. Cicely sank into the carpet and into an arm-chair, almost
overpowered by the sense of luxury and comfort. A violent temptation
assailed her. Why not float with the current instead of against it? The
excitement of any change from apathetic and dull conditions beguiled
her. All of us know how the Great War engendered excitement. Possibly
women were more susceptible to a craving for action than men. Action was
forced upon men.

She heard Wilverley’s sincere voice repeating what his sister had
affirmed, but with an emphasis not to be denied.

“I have missed you horribly.”

“But you hardly ever saw me.”

“You were here, in my house. When you left it seemed empty to me. Now
that you have come back——!”

He broke off abruptly, waiting, perhaps, for some encouraging glance.
Cicely stared at the carpet. Her cheeks were slightly flushed. Although
she wished to procrastinate, she was sensible that this big man, so
close to her, so alive with energy, was presenting himself insistently.
A strong mind was modifying and reconstructing hers. All that he
represented seemed to force itself upon her notice. If he won her, she
would be regarded as his most precious possession. He stood, first and
last, for—_Security_. The time and attention that he gave to the
humblest of his dependents would be hers inalienably. He would be
faithful and true to his marriage vows. She would be enshrined in a
velvet-lined casket.

Safe harbourage!

How much it means to women! And particularly to women of imaginative
temperament, who, like homing birds, are gifted with the sense of
direction. Cicely’s imagination had carried her afield. In Miss Tiddle’s
agreeable company she had explored highways and byways, wandering down
the latter with the comforting reflection that she could leave them at a
moment’s notice. Girls who indulge in such mental vagabondage are more
likely to return to the highways than the unimaginative, who may fly the
beaten track suddenly. With Miss Tiddle Cicely had dared to enter
(metaphorically) the Divorce Court; she had flown upon imaginative wings
into drawing-rooms where Mrs. Grundy refuses to go, where derelict wives
bewail their mistake in marrying the wrong men.

To such a girl as Cicely the broad high road appears to be the only way.
All the women of kin to her, with one notable exception, had stuck
religiously to the main thoroughfare which stretches from Mayfair to
John o’ Groat’s. And these kinswomen, taking them by and large, appeared
to be happy and contented. The notable exception, who was never
mentioned, remained an unseen object lesson of how not to do it!

Wilverley went on:

“The loneliness of a big house is rather disconcerting, Cis.”

He had never called her “Cis.”

“Even when it is a hospital?” she asked.

“The strange faces make it the more so. You must have noticed lately
that I have talked a lot about myself. I wanted you to know me. I want
desperately to know you, but somehow you are not very self-revealing.”

“Is anybody?”

If she could divert the talk into an impersonal channel procrastination
might be achieved. Wilverley refused the bait.

“I have tried to be so to you. Tell me, Cis, do you see me as I am, a
plain enough fellow who wishes with all his heart that he was more
attractive?”

“I think I see you,” she admitted, after an instant’s hesitation.

“I have not studied the arts that please women.”

His modesty was so disarming that her face relaxed. She replied frankly:

“Really and truly I distrust those arts.”

Such kindliness informed her voice that he plunged.

“You are going back to your drudgery tonight. And I am up to my eyes in
work also. So forgive me if I beat no bushes. You are too clever not to
know what I want. Will you be my wife?”

“I—I don’t know,” she faltered.

His face fell, but he recovered quickly. He muttered disconsolately:

“What a muddle I’ve made of this!” And then a happy inspiration came to
his rescue. He said awkwardly: “You see, dearest, it’s a first attempt,
but you encourage me to hope that it may not be the last. May I try
again?”

Cicely said desperately:

“I do feel such a fool. I—I don’t know my own mind, Arthur. It’s
humiliating to say so.”

“Nothing of the sort. Let us mark time. I believe I fell in love with
you when you were a tiny. Perhaps you will laugh at me when I tell you
that I sneaked a hanky of yours before you put your hair up.”

“Arthur! . . . I hope it was a nice one. Did—did you have to send it to
the wash?”

“Oh, no,” he reassured her.

They laughed, and the strain was over. Perhaps—who can say?—an
experienced courtier might have achieved less. Henceforward Cicely
beheld Wilverley in a more romantic light.

“When I try again,” he said shyly, “I shall show you the hanky.”

“I am like my hankies,” Cicely replied, “more ornamental than useful.”

Soon afterwards she went upstairs to the room which she was to share
with Miss Tiddle. As she put on her uniform she thought to herself:

“I wonder what Tiddy will think of him.”



                               CHAPTER V
                             TIDDY APPEARS


                                   I

Tiddy can best be described by the word “_éveillée_,” which cannot be
translated exactly into English. “Alert” comes near it. “Wideawake” is
not wide of the mark. Sir Nathaniel Tiddle’s daughter possessed shrewd
brains, but little beauty. Being well aware of this, she made the most
of what was likely to challenge interest and admiration. She cocked a
pert little head at an unusual angle and flaunted short, crisp curls,
which she shook in the face of Authority. The curls remained curly even
after immersion in sea-water. Shampooed they became irrepressibly alive.
Tiddy reckoned her curls to be a great asset. She awarded second place
to her eyes, large, round, saucer-eyes, neither grey nor green nor blue,
something of all three, fringed by short, thick, dark lashes, very
provocative, and even more interrogative. They seemed to say: “I want to
know everything about everybody.” Of her complexion (which was sallow),
of her nose (which was pug), of her large mouth, let us say no more. Her
teeth were small, white and even. Her figure lent itself to all vagaries
of fashion, being slender but not thin. She could pass as a jolly boy
without fear of her sex being detected. And she had in full measure a
boy’s agility and lissomness.

Mentally, too, she had a healthy boy’s outlook, although emotionally
feminine. Joy in life radiated from her. Dames of Lady Selina’s quality
might (and did) stigmatise this as pagan. Long ago, Miss Spong had
rebuked her for dancing or prancing to church. But, despite rebuke, she
had gone on dancing, conscious, possibly, of slim ankles and high
insteps.

Tiddy being an only child, it might be reasonably inferred that she was
spoilt by adoring parents. Nothing of the kind. Sir Nathaniel had become
a millionaire by the exercise of brains and indomitable will. Tiddy’s
mother, as we have said, began womanhood in a shoe factory. Both Sir
Nathaniel and she were excellent types of the successful industrial
class in this nation. The beacon which had led them upwards and onwards
was undiluted common sense. Sir Nathaniel had his weaknesses—what great
man is without them?—pride in what he had accomplished, pardonable
vanity, an ambition that vaulted as high as the Upper House, and an
ever-increasing desire to play the part of a magnate. But he remained,
like his wife, sound and simple at core. He had never, for example,
turned his back upon relations who had not soared. He was of the people,
and much too fond of saying so. Tiddy had inherited from him democratic
instincts. And if, with accumulating riches, Sir Nathaniel had become,
as his daughter hinted, conservative in regard to property, he never
faltered in his allegiance to the class from which he had sprung. His
great factories were models of organisation and administration. He
boasted that no strikes had taken place in them. Possibly his greatest
pleasure in life was taking appreciative guests—particularly
personages—round his factories, and, in their presence receiving the
homage of pleasant smiles and grateful words from his employés. It was
after such an agreeable excursion that the honour of knighthood had been
bestowed.


                                   II

Tiddy duly arrived at Wilverley, and that night Cicely and she sat up
talking till the small hours. As a rule, the nursing staff took their
meals together. Mrs. Roden and Wilverley dined apart. But, inasmuch as
Tiddy was Cicely’s friend, the two V.A.D.s were asked to square the
family circle at dinner. Tiddy would join the staff on the following
morning.

Cicely was amused to see that she made an immense impression both upon
Wilverley and his sister, asking innumerable questions, all of them to
the point, and describing her experiences in a big Red Cross Hospital in
the Midlands, not run upon model lines.

“Friction everywhere,” declared Tiddy. “Matron on bad terms with sisters
and nurses, favouritism——”

“Were you a favourite, Miss Tiddle?” asked Wilverley, much amused.

“Yes,” replied Tiddy. “As a martyr I might have stuck it, but just
because Daddy weighed in with big cheques they were much too civil to
me, and I loathed it. That’s why I’m here to-night,” she concluded with
a gay laugh.

“Pray go on,” entreated Mrs. Roden. “This is most instructive. We may
profit by your experiences, my dear young lady.”

“As to that,” said Tiddy frankly, “I should keep mum, if I didn’t know
from Cis that things are humming along here on the right lines. The poor
duchess meant well——”

“The duchess . . .?” interrogated Mrs. Roden. To Mrs. Roden a duchess
was not quite as other women.

“The Duchess of Mowbray. I thought you knew that I had been working at
Harborough Castle.”

“She was a D’Arcy,” murmured Mrs. Roden. “I never speak ill of others or
repeat ill-natured gossip. Still . . .”

“Please make an exception in this case, my dear Mary,” said Wilverley.
Cicely could see that his eyes twinkled. Certainly this rather stodgy
man had an elementary sense of humour. But you had to dig deep to find
it.

Mrs. Roden said solemnly:

“Her mother was a Dollope. We all know that the Dollopes are . . . well
. . . Dollopes . . .!”

“They would be with such a name,” Tiddy observed.

Mrs. Roden continued trenchantly:

“Old Lord D’Arcy was quite impossible. One couldn’t repeat what he did
or said.”

“Tell me all about him afterwards,” said Wilverley.

“I am serious, Arthur. Lord D’Arcy was a moral idiot, first and last a
crutch man, leaning on others. No sense of responsibility whatever. I
could tell you stories . . .!”

“But you won’t, Mary. That is so exasperating. However, let him rest in
peace!”

“In peace——? I should be false to my faith in the here and the
hereafter, if I let pass such a remark. Lord D’Arcy, wherever he may be,
is not in peace. But I thought—possibly I am mistaken—that the duchess
was in France.”

Tiddy answered promptly:

“She is. She ought to be at home. What has happened? The patients and
the servants—oh, those servants!!—get top-hole rations. The
nursing-staff were half-starved.”

“Dear, dear!” ejaculated Mrs. Roden. She looked shocked, but she felt
somehow rather pleased. The Duchess of Mowbray, before the war, had
overlooked Mrs. Roden’s claims to consideration upon more than one
occasion. Cicely, not too sharp in such matters, guessed that Tiddy was
“making good.”

“Yes,” continued Tiddy cheerfully; “the duchess, you see, arranged with
some contractor to feed us, and of course he didn’t.”

“I give undivided attention to these important matters,” said Mrs.
Roden.

“I know you do,” said Tiddy.

Presently, the talk drifted into Wilverley’s particular channel. Tiddy
listened to him attentively, chipping in, now and again, with apposite
remarks that astonished Cicely. Altogether, this first meeting was a
small triumph for Miss Tiddle.

“They like you, Tiddy,” said Cicely, as the pair warmed their toes over
the bedroom fire.

“I like them, Cis. Mrs. Roden frightens you, I see, but you were right:
she’s a scream. I must pull up my socks, and take her as seriously as
she takes herself. Lord Wilverley is not quite the bromide you had led
me to expect.”

“I never said a word against him.”

“Oh! Didn’t you? Evidently he’s dead nuts on you. Has he proposed, old
thing?”

Cicely blushingly admitted that my lord had plunged into water too hot
for both of them. Tiddy went on ruthlessly:

“And Romeo with the disconcerting eyes . . .?”

“Shut up!”

“I couldn’t, if I tried. Let’s have it fresh from the oven.”

Cicely, after more pressure, gave a not too articulate version of what
had passed between Grimshaw and herself. Tiddy listened, with her head
on one side, bright-eyed, not unlike a robin watching another robin
picking up crumbs. From time to time, she shook her curls impatiently,
but she held her tongue till Cicely finished.

Then Miss Tiddle delivered judgment with all the wisdom of youth.

“It seems to me, Cis, that silence has extinguished you.”

Cicely admitted as much proudly.

“We Chandoses are like that.”

“We Chandoses——!” Tiddy laughed scornfully. “Cut all that cackle with
me, Cis. I have the greatest contempt for silence. Generally it means
stupidity. Idiots say nothing and are proud of it. Really, I’m ashamed
of you. However, I daresay I’ve nipped in in time.”

“In time for—what?”

“To put things right. I want to meet your Harry.”

“_My_ Harry! What an idea!”

Tiddy said obstinately: “We Tiddles are like that. We don’t look blandly
on when babies are playing on the edge of a precipice. I say that you
love Romy; and that Romy loves you. And that hateful Mrs. Grundy stands
between you.” Cicely exercised the Chandos gift of silence. Tiddy
continued warmly: “You may take Fatty out of pique.”

“Fatty——!”

“I used that word to annoy you, to rouse you. You are quite likely to
become fat yourself out of sheer indolence. Some of you swells have
brains, but you don’t use ’em. And if you don’t get a move on, you’ll be
down and out.”

Cicely murmured deprecatingly:

“Arthur Wilverley is a dear.”

“So is our butler at home. I might do worse than marry him, but I hope
to do better.”

“You won’t meet Mr. Grimshaw, Tiddy, because he’s going to France.”

“Settled, is it?”

“Yes. He—he”—her voice faltered—“went away yesterday, so dear Mother
wrote.”

“So dear Mother wrote . . .! I’ll bet my boots that dear Mother managed
all this.”

“She didn’t.”

“Anyhow, you mismanaged it. Well, if Romy cares he’ll come back.”

“Do you think he will?”

“_If he cares._”


                                  III

For some weeks nothing of interest happened at Wilverley Court. Cicely,
perhaps, was slightly disconcerted because, as a V.A.D., Miss Tiddle, a
new-comer, soared above her. Cicely remained a drudge; Tiddy was
accorded privileges. One of the patients required a special nurse. No
sister could be spared. Tiddy, by virtue of an alert physiognomy, was
selected by “Matron” out of a dozen eager aspirants for the post. And
poor Cicely gnashed her teeth when she found herself “clearing up,” as
it is technically called, after Miss Tiddle’s more congenial labours. To
remove, humbly and swiftly, the impedimenta of a sick-room, leaving
behind the immaculate Tiddy enthroned beside an interesting case, tried
Cicely to breaking point. Indeed, a too long apprenticeship to drudgery
failed to accustom a daughter of the ancient House of Chandos to
carrying away soiled dressings, washing bandages, and cleaning
dressing-buckets with Monkey soap, which roughens hands, takes the
polish from nails, and brightens everything except the temper. And,
after two hours’ sweeping and garnishing, it was mortifying to proud
flesh to hear judgment pronounced by a sister, who was the daughter of a
greengrocer: “This ward looks like nothing on earth.” After such
experiences and exercises Cicely was quite unable to tackle with
appetite the good food provided by Mrs. Roden at lunch.

She went to Wilverley Court aflame with patriotic ardour and brimming
over with excellent resolutions, assuring and reassuring herself that,
much as she might shrink from the sight of ugly wounds and cruel
sufferings, never, never would she exhibit irritability or impatience
with heroes who had bled for England. She had imagined that such heroes
would remain heroes. She had not realised the inconsideration, the
disobedience, the fractious unreasonableness that even a Victoria Cross
may fail to hide when its wearer is reduced by long weeks of pain to a
mere attenuated shadow of his true self.

But—there were illuminating compensations. One afternoon, she was
returning late from the village, through a dark lane. To her dismay, a
man in khaki joined her and passed her without a word. He walked just
ahead of her. Every minute Cicely feared that he would turn and confront
her with—with abominable effrontery. At the end of the dark lane, when
the lights of Wilverley Court were in sight, he did turn, and saluted
her, saying respectfully: “Good night, Sister.” Then he retraced his
steps—a _preux chevalier_!

Other experiences were equally illuminating. One of the patients, an
unusually handsome man, died after much suffering patiently endured. At
the last his wife was summoned, a respectable, plain-faced woman, who
was with him when he passed away. The man’s kit was duly given to her.
Late that same night, the Matron found her crying over some letters she
had discovered, written by another woman. Next day, early in the
morning, a good-looking, slightly brazen-faced young person presented
herself and asked to see the patient, not knowing that he was dead. The
Matron told her the truth. Whereupon she said calmly: “I’m his wife. I
want to see him.” The Matron, aghast, blurted out the truth: “His wife?
His lawful wife is here. We know that; we sent for her.” Whereupon, the
other replied quite coolly: “If you want to know, I ain’t his lawful
wife, but I mean to see him all the same.” The Matron went to the
genuine widow, and told her that the woman who had written the letters
wished to see the dead man. She asked the crucial question: “Are you big
enough to let this poor creature see him? She loved him.” To cut short a
poignant story, the two women went together into the mortuary-chamber.
This incident made a profound impression upon Tiddy. She analysed it
from every point of view. “If we grant,” said she, “that a man can love
two women”—because, according to Matron, the real wife had spoken of
her husband’s devotion—“is it equally certain that a woman can love two
men?” Cicely shrank from answering such a question. Tiddy had astonished
her by saying: “I believe it is possible. Why not? One man might appeal
physically; the other intellectually.”

“Horrible!” said Cicely.

“You can’t compromise with life by calling it bad names.”

Cicely remained obstinately silent much to Miss Tiddle’s exasperation.

Often Cicely went to bed with a headache and rose with it. To go on duty
feeling unfit, to contemplate ten hours of physical _malaise_, to count
the lagging minutes, to confront the pettiness and injustice of some
sister, perhaps, who held amateurs in contempt, to be conscious that she
was not rising adequately to these moral exigencies, to retire at length
discomfited and defeated, has been the experience of all V.A.D.S. Cicely
was no exception.

One night Tiddy found her in tears.

“What a soaker!” said Tiddy.

“I’m so miserable,” groaned Cicely.

“Why?”

“I’m such a failure, Tiddy.”

“Tosh! The real trouble with you, Cis, is excess of sentiment. You look
at my patient, for instance, with sweet girlish pity. He hates that. He
doesn’t want sweet girlish pity. Smiles buck him up, and strong
language.”

“I thought I could count on your sympathy.”

“So did my patient. Sympathy can be shown without being sloppy. I made
my patient laugh.”

“How?”

“I told him about the old woman who keeps our lodge. She left one doctor
and went to another, but, being a bit of a pincher, she went on taking
the medicine of the first with the medicine of the second, and a sort of
earthquake took place inside her.”

Cicely was beyond laughter, but she dabbed at her eyes. Tiddy continued:

“I know what upsets you, Cis. You have to do some of my old work; and
they rag you a bit downstairs. And then you don’t rag back, but glump.
You are glumping now.”

“I’m not. I suppose we’re different.”

“That’s your misfortune, not mine. I refuse to weep with you. ‘Weep, and
you weep alone.’ Good old Ella got there with both feet.”

Cicely smiled faintly.

In due time Tiddy returned to the normal duties of a V.A.D.

Meanwhile Arthur Wilverley had been absent from home. He came back in
March, burdened with fresh duties and lamenting the loss of his
secretary, who had joined up.

“What I want,” he said to Cicely, “is a clever girl who can do typing
and shorthand, and come and go when I want her. But she must have a head
on her shoulders.”

A name flew into Cicely’s mind and out of her mouth.

“Agatha Farleigh.”

If Agatha could be found, Cicely was sure that she would prove the real
right thing. Of course the Extons would know. Old Ephraim Exton had not
waited a year to leave his farm. He was now a tenant of Wilverley, and
likely to do well, breeding cattle and horses under happier conditions.
His son, John, had enlisted. Cicely, anxious to serve a kind host,
cycled next day, during off-time, to Exton’s farm, obtained from the old
man Agatha’s address in London, and then, at Wilverley’s request, wrote
to her at length, setting forth all details of duties, salary and so
forth. Agatha wired back promptly from a typewriting establishment in
the Strand, accepting the situation. Within a week she was at work in
Wilverley’s office. Within a fortnight Wilverley acclaimed Agatha as a
gem of purest ray serene.

He told Cicely, whenever they met (not too often), details about his
work. The mandarins had just begun to recognise the possibility of
famine. Wilverley, as an expert on agriculture, had been summoned and
impressed, without salary, into the Government service. To grow two
bushels of wheat where one grew in pre-war days engrossed his
activities. To persuade others to tread in his steps had become—so
Cicely noticed—a sort of obsession. No word of love slipped from his
lips. And a Chandos respected this silence. But, inevitably, the girl
came to full understanding of what work meant to Wilverley and others.
Comparisons were forced upon her. Inevitably, also, during her leisure,
intimacy developed between Agatha and her. Work in London had changed
Agatha from a girl into a woman. Her wits and tongue had been sharpened
upon the whetstone Competition. Cicely soon discovered that Agatha had
discarded reserves of speech imposed upon villagers. She had become,
perhaps, less of an individual and more of a type. She showed this in
her clothes, and in her talk. Obviously she preened herself after the
fashion of up-to-date typists and stenographers, acutely sensible of the
cash value of appearances. On the first Sunday at Wilverley Church she
wore a cony-seal coat and a hat that distracted the attention of every
young woman who was not “quality.” Under the coat waggled a
shepherd’s-plaid skirt, cut very short, exposing imitation-silk
stockings and high fawn-coloured cloth-topped boots, which, so Cicely
suspected, were not too large for her feet. Conscious of Cicely’s amused
smile, Agatha assumed a defiant expression, as much as to say: “If you
don’t like my costume I’m sorry for you. It’s quite the latest style,
and paid for. Not by a rich mother, but by a hard-working, independent
girl.” Cicely, greeting Agatha in the churchyard, observed without
malice:

“I say, Agatha, you must have saved a bit in London.”

To this Agatha replied sharply, imputing censure:

“What I saved I spent. And why not?”

Perceiving that she had provoked resentment, Cicely hastened to assuage
it.

“Why not?” she echoed. “I never was able to save a farthing out of my
allowance.”

“We grow old and ugly soon enough,” said Agatha, in a softened tone. “I
oughtn’t to have bought this coat, but that’s why I did it.”

Cicely’s laugh melted the little ice that remained. And Agatha’s
gratitude for the word spoken to Wilverley was whole hearted. She said
shyly:

“I wanted to come back to be near my own people and—and the Extons.”

As she spoke, she pulled off a white glove with black stitching and
revealed a ring sparkling upon the third finger of her left hand. Cicely
saw a small cluster of diamonds, a ring that she might have worn
herself.

“John Exton gave me this before he joined up.”

Cicely kissed her.

“I’m ever so glad. Tell me all about it.”

Agatha, nothing loath, remarked with urban complacency:

“I do believe that prinking did it. I was a terrible dowd before I went
to town. Those everlasting greys . . .! My lady liked that. So suitable
. . .! We girls talked a lot about clothes.”

“I always wondered what you did talk about.”

“I was ragged—a fair treat. I had to grin and bear it. Well, what was
in the Savings Bank came out of it—quick. In six months I didn’t know
myself. When John came up and saw me, I knew that I hadn’t been the fool
I secretly thought myself. It’s gospel truth; girls like me must march
with the band, or—or be left behind.”

“I don’t blame you or John,” declared Cicely.

Agatha continued in the same slightly complacent tone, which jarred upon
Lady Selina’s daughter, although it served to amuse and instruct her.
Her soft, respectful manner of address had evidently been cast as
rubbish to the void. Cicely divined that she had become something of an
echo.

“We girls must have a good time when we’re young, or do without for ever
and ever, amen! And as to catching the men, why, I suppose Bernard Shaw
knows what he’s talking about.”

“Man and Superman, eh?”

“Yes.”

Under some little pressure from Cicely, Agatha, with unabashed candour,
and without picking her phrases, set forth her experiences in London “on
her own.” Cicely was informed that girls of the wage-earning class who
want husbands must make the most of their opportunities before they
reach thirty, or find themselves stranded on the bleak shores of
celibacy, with a glimpse of the workhouse in the far distance.

“They do fight like animals for a good time,” said Agatha.

Then, to Cicely’s amazement, this protégée of her mother’s opened a
smart Dorothy bag, examined her nose in a tiny mirror, and proceeded
calmly to powder it. Cicely thought that she looked thinner, and
wondered if the colour on the girl’s cheeks came out of the Dorothy bag.

“Have you lost weight, Agatha?” she asked.

“Well, we do skimp food to buy clothes, but we’re greedy enough when
somebody else pays for our meals.”

After this unabashed talk, Cicely admitted consternation to Tiddy, who
gibed at her.

“I never saw such a change in a girl.”

“Pooh! We don’t change much. What was in her came out. She seizes joy
when it passes her way. No exception at all. I see you don’t talk much
with the other V.A.D.s. Silly—that! Take my tip, and study people at
first-hand. I do. I want to understand everybody. Of course, as we’re
pals, I dissemble a wee bit with your mother. Perhaps if she understood
me I should be out of bounds to you.”

Acting upon this advice, Cicely became more friendly with the farmers’
and tradesmen’s daughters now working at Wilverley Court. Most of them
called her “Shandy.” She had accepted this cheerfully, because such
familiarity would end, she reflected, with the war. Now, she was
beginning to wonder whether social distinctions were of paramount
importance. Freedom of intercourse, according to Tiddy, begetting a
truer sympathy, a kindlier understanding, might be a greater thing than
respectful salutations. In the Midlands, children neither curtsied nor
touched caps. Lamentable . . .! She was glad that she didn’t live there.

The V.A.D.s responded to Cicely’s advances. She found in them what she
had found in Agatha: pluck, fortitude and an invincible optimism in
regard to big things. They whined and wailed over trifles. They lacked
restraint, refinement, and lied magnificently to achieve their ends.
Tiddy talked to all and sundry, particularly the sundry. She didn’t
invite confidence timidly, like Cicely. She exacted and extracted it,
waving it triumphantly, as a dentist will hold aloft a big molar. With
the august Mrs. Roden Tiddy shared the conviction that women were coming
into their promised land. Agatha agreed with Miss Tiddle. Often Cicely
found herself in a minority of one when social questions were debated at
meal-time.

“Is nothing sacred to you?” she asked Tiddy.

“Oh, yes, but not tin gods. This war will scrap them for ever and ever.
Speed up.”

“Pace kills, Tiddy.”

“Tosh! Pace kills those who won’t get out of the way. Tin gods sat in a
row, graven images, obstructing progress. We shall knock ’em down like
ninepins. It’s a case of knock or be knocked. You’ve come on a lot. I
wonder what your mother thinks of you.”

Whereupon Cicely confessed that she too dissembled with Lady Selina. At
this Tiddy shrugged disdainful shoulders.

“I should have thought you were sick of whitewash in your village.”

“Whitewash? Mr. Grimshaw called it that.”

“Yes; he was the first to open your baby eyes.”

“Well, there’s no whitewash here.”

“Wrong again. Whitewash and eyewash. A full dose yesterday.”

Upon the previous afternoon, the Wilverley Court Red Cross Hospital had
been inspected by a medical Panjandrum. Wards and passages had been
swept and garnished with nauseating haste and diligence. A great house,
already in fine working order, had been scrubbed from basement to
attics. The tired scrubbers had presented smiling faces and spotless
uniforms to the cold stare of red-tabbed Authority. After his departure
they had retired—foundered!

“What’s the use of that?” asked Tiddy. “Why can’t these pestering old
duffers take us unawares, and find out how things really are? We should
have gloried in that test. At Harborough we played the same rotten game.
For half-an-hour the place was as it ought to have been. Next day we
went back to the old disorder and dirt. However, we women are going to
change all that.”

“Changes are so upsetting, Tiddy.”

“I repeat—knock or be knocked. Really, you privileged people can’t
complain; you’ve had a wonderful innings. But this war has bowled you
out.”

“Mother would have a fit if she heard you,” remarked Cicely.


                                   IV

Afterwards, long afterwards, Cicely could not recall with any exactness
when she began to look at Upworthy with eyes from which the scales had
fallen. Presently she beheld the beloved cottages through Miss Tiddle’s
twinkling orbs. Little escaped them. Called upon to admire thatched
roofs and walls brilliantly white against a background of emerald-green
fields, Tiddy perpetrated sniffs.

Cicely said defiantly:

“They’re the prettiest cottages in the county.”

“In our cottages, Cis, Daddy and I look at the kiddies. If they’re all
right, we’re satisfied.”

“Satisfied with rows of ugly brick houses with slate tiles . . .?”

“Absolutely.”

“What’s the matter with our children?” asked Cicely.

Tiddy replied with imperturbable and exasperating good humour:

“You must find that out for yourself, old thing. It’s no use jawing at
people. That only makes ’em the more obstinate. Sooner or later, if you
keep your peepers peeled, you’ll catch on. I’m wondering just how long
you will keep it up.”

“Keep what up?”

“Self-deception—humbugging your own powers of observation.”

Coming and going to the Manor, when off duty, the girls would drop into
the cottages and pass the time of day with smiling and obsequious
villagers. But their pleasant greetings failed to impress Sir
Nathaniel’s daughter. It happened, shortly after Agatha’s arrival, that
Cicely paid a visit to Timothy Farleigh, the typist’s uncle. Before she
tapped on the door, Cicely spoke a word of warning to Miss Tiddle.

“I want to tell Timothy how well Agatha is doing, but . . .”

“Yes?”

“Well, the old fellow has a grievance. Mrs. Farleigh is a dear. And you
will admire the kitchen.”

They tapped and entered. Tiddy was agreeably surprised and delighted.
The kitchen was charming; a quaint, old-fashioned room with a deep open
hearth and ingle-nook. A broad seat semi-circled a deeply-recessed bay
window, and above the seat was a ledge with flower-pots upon it. An oak
dresser set forth to advantage some blue-and-white pottery. Hams hung
from a big black rafter. Upon the walls gleamed an immense brass
warming-pan and a brass preserving-dish which seemed to have survived
the use and abuse of centuries. A large table was scrubbed immaculately
white. There were plain Windsor chairs and a huge arm-chair facing the
hearth. In this arm-chair sat Timothy Farleigh, reading a Sunday paper
with horn spectacles upon his bony nose. He rose when the young ladies
entered, and greeted them civilly but without the customary servility.
In the ingle-nook Nick, the softy, was crouching, crooning to himself.

Timothy thanked Cicely for bringing him information about his niece.
Tiddy eyed him critically noting his strong square chin, heavy brow and
deep-set eyes. A curious light smouldered in them. He spoke in the West
Country dialect still used in remote districts by the elder generation.

“Aggie be a fine young ’ooman, able, thank the Lard! to fend for
herself. I be proud o’ she, a gert, understanding lass I calls ’er.”

“I have brought my friend, Miss Tiddle, to see you, Timothy. She comes
from the Midlands, where folk are thick as bees in a hive.”

Timothy glanced with interest at Tiddy.

“Do they bide quiet in their hives, miss? I bain’t much of a scollard,
but I reads my Sunday paper, I do, and folks in your parts seemin’ly be
buzzin’ and swarmin’ like bees ready to leave old hive.”

“There is a good deal of that,” admitted Tiddy candidly.

“Ah-h-h!”

Timothy pressed his thin lips, as if fearing that buzzing might escape
from him. He shrugged his heavy shoulders, warped by constant toil in
the fields, and remained silent. Just then his wife bustled in, a frail,
spindling little woman with worried eyes. She greeted Cicely, so Tiddy
noticed, with genuine affection, and offered instantly a cup of tea. Her
obvious desire to ingratiate herself with the quality seemed pathetic to
the young woman from the Midlands.

“Stop your noise, Nicky,” said Mrs. Farleigh sharply. “You knows better
nor that.”

“Let ’un bide,” growled Timothy.

Nick stared and then grinned at Miss Tiddle, offering slyly his
customary greeting to strangers.

“I be soft, I be.”

“Don’t ’ee take no notice of him, miss.”

Cicely talked on cheerfully about Agatha till it was time to go. Outside
Tiddy said sharply:

“What is this grievance?”

Reluctantly, Cicely told the tale of diphtheria and two graves in the
churchyard. Tiddy refrained from comment. Crossing the village green,
after five minutes with Mrs. Rockram, they encountered Nicodemus Burble,
hearty and garrulous as ever.

“It do tickle me to death to see ’ee, miss,” he assured Cicely. “A fair
stranger you be.”

“How is everything in the village, granfer?”

“We be gettin’ older, miss, and more rheumaticky. But I keeps on my old
pins, I does, being scairt o’ takin’ to my bed wi no ’ooman to fend for
me.”

“An old bachelor?” asked Tiddy.

“Lard love ’ee, miss, I ha’ buried two wives, and might ha’ taken a
third, a very praper young wench, but too free wi’ her tongue like.”

“Was she?” asked Tiddy.

“Aye. Whatever do ’ee think she says to me, the lil’ besom, when I up
and axed her to be number three?”

“I can’t imagine,” said Cicely.

Tiddy observed thoughtfully:

“She might have said a good deal.”

The ancient chuckled.

“‘Granfer,’ she says, ‘a man o’ your gert age ought to go to bed wi’ a
candlestick.’”

Cicely threw back her head and laughed. Tiddy wanted more detail.

“And what did you reply to that, Mr. Burble?”

“Ah-h-h! I was too flambergasted, miss, for common speech, but a very
notable answer blowed into my yed just one fornit arter. I can’t go to
bed wi’ a candlestick, acause I ain’t got none, nary one.”

He hobbled on, still chuckling.

“They’re quite wonderful,” said Tiddy. “Prehistoric. How long will it
last?”

Cicely frowned, anticipating criticism.

“I suppose you would like to see everything cut to pattern, with the
colour out of the pattern, a drab monotony of millions doing and saying
the same thing; no distinctions, no differences—ugh?”

“Is that your own, Cis?”

Cicely had to admit that she was quoting from the _Morning Post_.

Tiddy laughed at her, as usual.

“You Tories are always so extreme. Changes needn’t be violent, but they
may be violent if you swells don’t climb down the pole a bit and get
nearer facts as they are. That’s all. What a very horrid smell!”

Under the stronger beams of a May sun odours of pig were wafted on the
breeze.

“I don’t mind the smell of pigs.”

“Does your mother ever notice it?”

“I don’t know.”

“If she kept away from her village I should understand, but she
doesn’t.”

Cicely was sharp enough to explain.

“That’s it. If she kept away . . .! Then she might notice. She has smelt
these smells for thirty years. She says that a smell you can smell is
not dangerous. Brian thinks just as she does.”

“France may take some dust out of his eyes.”

Retrenchment, expenses cut to the irreducible Saltaire minimum, was
inscribed upon gates, fences, and buildings. Cicely had an illuminating
word to say about the gates:

“Father said that he liked a gate that you could put a young horse at
without running much risk of breaking your neck.”

“What a humane man!”

Cicely added pensively:

“When hounds run across Wilverley I look before I leap.”

“Ah! Then you do see the difference between Wilverley and Upworthy?”

Reluctantly, feeling rather disloyal, Cicely had to confess that the
difference did obtrude itself. Since Arthur’s return, she had ridden out
with him about once a week. A groom accompanied them. Arthur would
dismount and take Cicely into his cottages, asking many questions,
insisting upon truthful answers, checking, so to speak, the reports,
written and spoken, of his agent, leaving nothing to chance or
mischance. His actions as a landlord revealed him far more clearly to
Cicely than the halting words with which at first he had tried to
capture her affections. She began to wonder what Upworthy would look
like under Wilverley management. If she married this good, capable
fellow, would he put his stout shoulder to the wheel of a mother-in-law?
Tentatively, with a faint flush upon her cheeks, she said to him:

“I wish, Arthur, that you could persuade Mother to make a few
improvements at Upworthy.”

He replied, with a touch of irritation:

“Good heavens! As it is, I can’t find time to mind my own business. Lady
Selina would resent any interference. I thought that Grimshaw——”

He broke off abruptly, realising that an indictment of Chandos methods
had almost escaped him.

“Please go on. What did you expect from Mr. Grimshaw?”

Evading the direct question, she pressed him vehemently:

“I do so want to know what might be done. If it isn’t your business, it
might be mine, mightn’t it?”

He eyed her keenly. Was she thinking of a dire possibility, the death of
her brother? Her next words reassured him.

“You see, Arthur, Brian knows nothing about estate management. He’s a
soldier, and I’m glad he is.”

“Perhaps you are sorry that I am not?”

She replied gracefully:

“But you are. You are fighting as hard as any man I know.”

“Thanks.” His voice softened. “What do you want to know?”

She picked her phrases carefully, and they had been prepared, pat to
just such an opportunity.

“I want to know why things have drifted into the present pass. I want to
know who is really responsible? And most of all I want to know if
anything can be done.”

The sincerity in her voice, the trouble in her eyes, moved him
poignantly. And this was the first appeal of weakness to strength always
so irresistible and captivating. He answered her as sincerely, plunging
headlong into the subject, speaking, however, with that tincture of
exasperation which marred somewhat his efforts on public platforms.
Knowledge is at heart intolerant of ignorance, but your silver-tongued
orator would lose half his power if he betrayed this.

“I’ll do my best, Cicely. But I propose to leave your mother out of it.
I can’t criticise her to you. And really she is the victim of
circumstances almost beyond her control.”

“Almost?”

“I said almost. Something utterly unforeseen might change her point of
view. She believes firmly that she is acting for the best. For the
moment let us leave it at that. Unhappily, she has a bad bailiff. And
your Inspector of Nuisances is in the hands of your Board of Guardians,
small farmers who are terrified of improvements because it would mean a
rise in rates. And then there’s Snitterfield——!”

“Dr. Snitterfield?”

“Your Health Officer, also in the hands of your Guardians, and elected
by them. Snitterfield, the Inspector, and Gridley pursue a policy of
masterly inactivity. Grimshaw found himself up against those three, up
against vested interests, up against absurd medical etiquette. I rather
hoped that he would call upon the Chief Medical Officer of the County, a
good man, but that would have meant an appalling rumpus. Grimshaw would
have had to prove his case up to the hilt; no easy matter. Probably he
would have hostilised your mother. Old Pawley, perhaps, restrained him.
I don’t know. I’m not surprised that Grimshaw bolted.”

“He didn’t.”

“I felt at the time that I should have bolted. Grimshaw told me that
just such intolerable conditions drove him out of Essex and Poplar.”

“Mr. Grimshaw went to France because he was needed there. I am sure of
that.”

“I daresay. Anyway, he left Upworthy. Where was I? Oh, yes. I can’t tell
you where responsibility begins or ends. Our land system howls to heaven
for reform. And I can’t tell you what ought to be done at Upworthy.
Tinkering with improvements is bad business. For the present, at any
rate, until this accursed war ends, Lady Selina must be left alone.
I—I’m sorry I spoke with such heat.”

“I am much obliged to you,” said Cicely.


                                   V

This confidential talk produced one unexpected effect. Cicely’s plastic
mind, plastic under any dominating hand, began to envisage Grimshaw as
driven out of Upworthy by circumstance. Instinct had told her that
Wilverley’s conjecture was wrong, and instinct happened to be right. But
her intelligence, much sharpened by Tiddy, reversed the first judgment.
She beheld Grimshaw turning his back upon a hopeless fight, as
admittedly he had done before. And if this were true, he would not come
back.

He had not written to her.

Not even to Tiddy would she admit that she had hoped for a letter. If he
cared, he would surely write. He might write, if he didn’t care. And he
had written to Mrs. Rockram, an epistle read aloud to Cicely and then
put away as a cherished souvenir of a perfect gentleman. Grimshaw had
written also more than once to Dr. Pawley, but Cicely had not read these
letters. She gathered from an old friend that Grimshaw was doing
first-class work, likely to be recognised, if not rewarded, at
Headquarters. Pawley said to her regretfully:

“This parish is too small for him.”

And at the time, Hope had whispered the flattering tale: “Yes, it is;
but I’m in it, and he’ll come back on my account.”

Now Hope faded out of sight.

Of course the sharp-eyed Tiddy perceived that her friend was passing
through a bad time. The flame of patriotism burned less brightly; the
daily drudgery went on imposing fresh exacerbations. Tiddy felt very
sorry, but she reflected, not without an inward smile, that Cicely would
profit by these bludgeonings. She would learn what Sir Nathaniel
called—values. Meanwhile, an unhappy young gentlewoman might mar her
own life, and that of another, by marrying the wrong man. Tiddy decided
that Arthur Wilverley was a good fellow. But he would take Cicely into
his ample maw and absorb her. She would become Lord Wilverley’s wife, an
amiable nonentity. She decided, also, with equal cocksureness, that such
a match would prove disastrous to the husband. Wilverley worked in a
circle likely to grow smaller if he were left alone with his
potentialities. His energies would centre upon himself and his
possessions. In this regard the author of Miss Tiddle’s being furnished
an object-lesson. He reigned supreme in the pill factories and on
occasion assumed the god, thereby shaking not the spheres but the sides
of those who beheld him.

Eventually Tiddy came to the conclusion that Cicely and Wilverley were
drifting, like leaves upon a stream, into marriage.

“I must take a hand in this game,” thought Miss Tiddle.

The necessity of doing “something” became even more imperative when she
marshalled the forces arrayed against her. Lady Selina, she decided, was
exercising, perhaps unconsciously, continual pressure. Mrs. Roden was
plainly bent upon lending Providence a helping finger. She said
majestically to Tiddy:

“You are a very sharp young lady.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Roden,” Tiddy demurely replied.

“Between ourselves, my dear”—Tiddy smiled—“I can assure you that the
happiness of others concerns me more, much more, than my own.”

This was quite untrue, and Tiddy knew it. Mrs. Roden continued:

“You must have noticed what is going on under our noses?”

Tiddy intimated, abstaining from slang, that her eyes were not
altogether ornamental.

Mrs. Roden, warming to altruistic work, pursued the even tenor of her
way.

“In my opinion, these two dear people want pushing.”

“Sometimes I could shake Cis,” said Tiddy.

“Yes, yes. Now, once more strictly between ourselves——”

“That is understood.”

“I have decided that you, my dear, should—a—give the little push.”

“Really?”

“I am sure of it.”

“I don’t think, Mrs. Roden, that I could push Lord Wilverley.”

“Certainly not. Being the man he is, of a somewhat nervous stolidity,
irritably energetic, if I may say so, he might resent pushing from you.
I propose to push him. I want you to push Cicely. Together we shall
achieve our purpose.”

“I see.”

“I can’t conceive of a happier, more suitable match. It would be, I
venture to affirm, abundantly blessed. Whenever I look at them, I think
of—a——”

“The multiplication table?”

“How quick you are! Yes, yes—the patter of little feet appeals to me
tremendously. I am glad to think that such a vital subject can be
frankly discussed between a matron and a maid. The maids will make
better matrons when absurd reserves become obsolete. All that is needed
in this case is adjustment, the little touch that turns the balance. It
is a great privilege to give such touches. I need say no more.”

“I understand,” said Tiddy. “I shall push for all I’m worth.”


                                   VI

“In the other direction,” she added mentally.

That same night, during the rite of hair-brushing, Tiddy said abruptly,
well aware, of course, that a push, to be effective, should be
administered without warning:

“Are you playing the game with Lord Wilverley?”

“I beg your pardon, Tiddy?”

“Never do that. It’s a device to gain time. You heard me. Are you
playing the game? If not—as Mrs. Roden would say—why not?”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Then I’ll say it for you. I advised you before I came here to flirt
with this nice big man. I was thinking for you, doing what I should do
myself. I hold that a sensible girl must get really intimate with a man
whom she may eventually marry. Under our stupid shibboleths and
conventions that is called ‘flirting.’ There’s no harm in it, up to a
point. In my opinion you have passed that point.”

“Have I?” Cicely considered this pensively.

“Yes; he has behaved with astounding patience and consideration. He is
crystal-clear. He wants you. If you don’t want him, say so, and have
done with it. I think I can read you as easily as you read him. You
would like to please your mother, who, for the first time in her amazing
life, is feeling, as you told me, forlorn; you are getting fed up with
war work and bottle-washing, and you hanker for a change, _any change_;
also, you have a vague and quite excellent notion that Lord Wilverley,
as a son-in-law, might persuade your mother to let him take Upworthy in
hand. Probably he would, with little coaxing from you. In your less
robust moments you rather gloat over this opportunity of self-sacrifice.
On the other hand, it’s obvious that you don’t really love this good,
honest fellow; you are piqued because Romeo did the vanishing stunt. You
might have come to some sort of an understanding, but silly pride
prevented that. Agatha captured her John right enough.”

“Because she knew that he loved her.”

“In your funny little heart you believe that Romeo loves you. Pride
upset his apple-cart. Now—what are you going to do?”

Cicely, to Miss Tiddle’s rage and disgust, answered the question by
melting into tears. Tiddy, without a word, rose from her chair, opened
an umbrella, and sat down under it with a derisive smile upon her lips.

“When the shower is over,” she remarked tartly, “I’ll put down my
umbrella.”

Cicely, feeling ridiculous, gulped down her sobs.

“I wish I had your brains.”

“Tosh! Your brains are O. K. You’re too indolent to use them. Marry the
wrong man, and your brains will become a negligible quantity. What beats
me is that Lord Wilverley should talk to you at all when he might talk
to me.”

At this Cicely “sat up,” literally and metaphorically. Tiddy closed her
umbrella, but held it ready for use. She added calmly:

“I could make him talk to me, if I tried.”

“Take him from me, you mean?”

“Quite easily.”

Cicely’s eyes began to sparkle.

“He ought to marry a woman with some snap and ginger. I could egg him on
to great things.”

Cicely made an incredulous gesture. Then she said acrimoniously:

“I suppose you don’t believe in friendship between a man and a girl?”

“I don’t.”

“Well, I do. Friendship between girls is rather difficult.”

“Friendship between any two persons is very difficult. Most women are
too exacting in their friendships. For instance, you expect a lot of
sloppy sentiment from me. You won’t get it. My object is to save you
from yourself. You are drifting. If you really want to drift, say so,
and I’ll shut up. But I warn you, within a day or two you’ll have to say
‘yes’ or ‘no’ to Arthur Wilverley. If you temporise, he’ll think you a
rotter.”

“If Arthur bustles me, I shall say ‘no.’”

“I knew it!” exclaimed Miss Tiddle, triumphantly. “You don’t love him.”

“I—I might.”

Tiddy wisely said no more.

Next day, Destiny interfered. At a moment when Lady Selina had good
reason to think that her son would be spared, because our cavalry were
well out of the danger zone, Brian Chandos was offered and accepted a
staff appointment.

Three days afterwards he was shot through the head, when carrying
despatches, and died instantly.

Cicely was summoned home. Lady Selina met her upon the threshold of the
great hall. Stimson hurried away, leaving mother and daughter alone.
Outwardly, Lady Selina remained calm. To Cicely she seemed to have
become suddenly an old woman. Her face was white and lined, but she held
her head erect. Her voice never faltered. When Cicely gripped her
convulsively, she took the girl’s face between her hands and gazed at it
mournfully.

“I want you, child; I want you—desperately.”



                               CHAPTER VI
                            GRIMSHAW RETURNS


                                   I

Great events took place during this summer of 1915. Italy joined the
Allies; and the Hun advance was stopped. Once again wise men said that
the war was coming to an end; and wiser than they contended stubbornly
that it wasn’t. Cicely remained at the Manor with Lady Selina. After the
first fortnight, they went for a month to Danecourt Abbey, where they
listened, not without impatience on Cicely’s part, to long jeremiads
from Lord Saltaire, who predicted the end of the world, and quoted the
Book of Revelation to prove that the All-Highest was the Beast. Expenses
at the Abbey had indeed been reduced to the minimum. The family butler,
accustomed to three tall footmen, whose places were filled by one boy,
gave notice. He had been with Lord Saltaire for many years.

“Why are you leaving me?” asked his master, fretfully.

“Because, my lord, if you will be good enough to pardon the expression,
I can’t stick it any longer.”

Lord Saltaire, as he confessed afterwards, was stupefied into silence.
The butler departed.

Cicely told herself that she, too, couldn’t stay on beyond the appointed
month. She beheld her uncle’s domains with uneasy eyes, sharpened to
critical detachment after six months at Wilverley. The same obsolete
system of estate management that howled for reform at Upworthy was even
more vocal at Danecourt. But Lady Selina, like her brother, remained
blind and deaf to signs and sounds that ate ravagingly into Cicely’s
sensibilities. Wages all over the vast property remained low, although
prices had risen. Old men in the gardens and stables followed the butler
into a more generous world, because they were unable to “stick it.”
Farmers were waxing fat and prosperous, whilst their labourers were
sweated. Spurred to speech, Cicely said one day to her mother:

“Things are going to pieces here, Mother.”

Lady Selina replied solemnly, with mournful resignation: “Our class is
hit harder than any other.”

“But Uncle could sell some of his land.”

“Sell his land? What are you talking about? Sell the land that has been
in our possession four hundred years——!”

Cicely murmured almost inaudibly:

“I think land poverty is awful.”

“We are all of the same mind about that, child.”

They duly returned to the Manor, where a pathetic surprise brought tears
to Cicely’s eyes. Hitherto she had occupied a small bedroom, a virginal
bower of blue-and-white. Across the corridor were Brian’s rooms, a
bedroom and a sitting-room. During their absence Lady Selina had
re-papered and re-decorated these two rooms charmingly:

“They are yours, my dear,” she said quietly.

It happened to be the first indication of the tremendous change in
Cicely’s prospects. Till now not a word had been said by Lady Selina in
remotest allusion to that change. But, at times, the girl had been
conscious of intent eyes gazing interrogatively into hers, as if to say:
“What will she do with it?” And, very rarely, when the pair were sitting
together, Lady Selina would take Cicely’s hand, and hold it tenderly and
yet tenaciously, as if it were a precious possession, more—an
instrument to be used for a definite purpose.

Lady Selina sat down. With an authoritative gesture she invited Cicely
to occupy Brian’s chair, now freshly covered with chintz. Cicely felt
curiously awed.

“One day,” said Lady Selina, “Upworthy will be yours.”

A vast burden seemed to the girl to be descending upon her. She looked
at Lady Selina with such an expression as might be glimpsed in the eyes
of an intelligent young horse about to be harnessed to a cart loaded
high with mother-earth. Tons of Upworthy clay!

“Property, my dear, is a very sacred trust.”

Suddenly, she frowned, for she remembered John Exton’s words. The
abominable scene reproduced itself vividly. She could see John’s eager,
resentful face and hear his provocative words. As instantly she beheld
the debonair Brian derisively amused by the Anarchist. Her voice was
less soft as she added:

“Opinions, of course, may vary in regard to the administration of a
trust.”

“Yes.”

Lady Selina continued more easily, as the vision of John Exton faded out
of her mind:

“With abundant private means, with such an income as dear Arthur enjoys,
for instance, an income happily independent of land, estate management
becomes easy—easy.”

Cicely was constrained to dispute this.

“I don’t think, Mother, that Arthur finds it so.”

“Well, well, you may know more about that than I do. Here, at any rate,
ways have to be adjusted to means. And the ways seem to increase as the
means diminish.”

She ended with a sigh. Cicely, sensible that her mother was expecting
from her some sort of positive declaration, sensible also that if she
spoke her mind freely she would wound and amaze a devoted mother,
hesitated. Had her mother purposely used Arthur’s name? Did she
contemplate estate management made easy by a rich son-in-law? She was
well aware that Tiddy had predicted aright. Brian’s death had cut short
a second proposal. Absence, she felt assured, had not cooled Arthur’s
feelings for her. Twice he had written. And every sentence in his
letters seemed to end with a note of interrogation: “Will you?” When
they met, in a day or two, he would exact the answer categorical. Did a
fond mother take for granted what that answer would be?

“You love the old ways, Mother?”

“Of course I do. Don’t you?”

Cicely felt herself sinking into Upworthy clay, deeper and deeper.

“Can we go on walking in them?”

“I shall walk in them to the end.”

The finality of her tone petrified Cicely into silence. All power of
resistance seemed to ooze from her, leaving her invertebrate. The
tentacles of tradition and heredity enwrapped her. What was the use of
struggling? She stole a glance at her mother’s face, now an impenetrable
mask. Obviously, the mere suggestion that the old ways were overgrown by
the new vegetation and becoming impassable had irritated Lord Saltaire’s
sister. It had never occurred to Cicely before that her mother was not a
Chandos. Now, furtively examining Lady Selina’s features, the likeness
to Lord Saltaire came out strikingly. Before the war her uncle had
presented the same gracious personality to a world that acclaimed him as
a distinguished ornament. To-day—and even Lord Saltaire recognised
this—manners were at a discount. Tiddy had said pertly: “Lords have
slumped.” More, Cicely had to confess to herself that her mother and
uncle seemed to have lost something almost indefinable, that assured
sense of position and rank. Out of heads still held high smouldered
anxious eyes, mutely asking questions which the owners of the eyes
refused to answer for themselves. Lord Saltaire no longer moved as
Agamemnon amongst his people. . . . And “pinching” had pinched him,
making him petulant, fractious, and “gey hard to live wi’.” With dismay
Cicely confronted the fact that she was half Chandos and half Danecourt.
Incredible that such high breeding might be reckoned a disability——

Her trembling lips refused their office. And the words that fluttered
into her perplexed mind seemed wholly inadequate. Being half Chandos,
she held her tongue, wondering miserably what Tiddy would have said. She
had wit enough to realise that protest would be futile. If she allowed
her mother one penetrating glance into her heart, civil war must be
declared between them. And her mother would suffer more than herself.
Swiftly she came to the conclusion that mother must be “spared.” She
decided that she would consult her old friend, Dr. Pawley. He, of
course, had held his tongue; so had Goodrich. And if of late she had
begun to wonder at and condemn their policy of _laissez faire_, now—in
one illuminating moment—she understood and condoned fully their seeming
moral cowardice.

She heard her mother’s voice again, soft and sweet.

“You are my own darling little girl, all I have. With God’s help and
blessing we will walk together and work together. I—I——” Her voice
faltered, and then became steady. “I am not selfish enough to wish to
keep you to myself. I know, none better, that you need a strong man’s
guidance and protection. I know, too, that you will choose your mate
wisely, with an intelligent sense of all, _all_, I repeat, that marriage
includes. Passion is an ephemeral emotion which gentlewomen distrust
instinctively. At the best it must die down with the years. I was very
happy in my marriage, because I found in your dear father the qualities
that endure—fidelity, high honour, stainless integrity, and an
unswerving purpose in the conduct of life. He did his duty. I was
fortunate, also, in finding a man older and wiser than myself, in whose
strength I could trust.”

She rose to her feet, standing very erect, an imposing figure in her
black draperies. She might have stood thus in a Greek tragedy,
impersonating one of the Parcæ. Cicely was immensely impressed. She rose
also. Her mother kissed her.

“These rooms,” she murmured, “are rather overpowering. I will go to my
own and be quiet for a little. But you—you are glad to be here, aren’t
you? Your memories of our dearest boy are all fragrant and happy.
Perhaps I allowed my ambitions for him too great an ascendancy in my
heart——”

She paused. Cicely divined that her mother’s careful choice of words
indicated previous thought, self-analysis. Yes; bitter disappointment
underlay her tranquil phrases. These rooms held the emptiness of an
ancient house. She understood why her mother had changed them almost out
of recognition.

“I am glad to be here,” she answered, in a strangled voice. “I—I hope,
Mother, that I—I—I——”

She couldn’t finish the sentence. Lady Selina kissed her again.

“You will take his place,” she whispered. “That is the one consolation
of my life.”

Cicely was left alone with her disquieting reflections.


                                   II

Next day, Arthur Wilverley rode over to the Manor. As he rode he gave a
loose rein to introspection, to which the easy canter of a good hack
lends itself. Strenuously as he would have denied it, this honest fellow
had hitherto cantered as easily through life, taking all fences in his
stride. And they had been small fences. He was now approaching what he
deemed to be the biggest fence which as yet he had tried to
negotiate—marriage. It annoyed him a little that he was not more
excited. A nodding acquaintance with the best fiction had encouraged him
to expect as a lover thrills and ardours which unaccountably had not
been experienced. Why? Was he different from other men? Had he strolled
into this attachment at an age when common sense overruled sentiment?
Had he atrophied, by disuse, certain nerve-centres quite wrongly
supposed by novelists to be cardiac? He had never, for example, even in
his salad days, contemplated the possibility of a world well lost for
love. But he had known men, lots of them, who had “chucked”
everything—position, honour, self-respect—to gratify one colossal
overwhelming desire. Amazing . . .!

Too honest to befool himself or anybody else, he was well aware that if
he “took a toss” over this next fence he would pick himself up, mount
his horse, and canter on as before. He might feel stiff and
sore—doubtless he would; he might funk that particular fence ever
after, but his well-ordered world would not fall into chaos.

This conviction, however, underlay another. Confidence in his
horsemanship sustained our cavalier. He did not anticipate a toss.
Cicely—bless her!—had been rushed the first time—his fault. It rather
pleased him to think that she, like himself, could exhibit restraint and
common sense. Once, some five years before, he had officiated as best
man to a friend younger than himself, a bit of a thruster. The thruster,
over a glass of champagne, had waxed confidential, describing a
tempestuous wooing and an unconditional surrender. Wilverley could
recall his friend’s exact words: “When I popped, she gave a sort of yelp
and rushed at me.”

At the time Wilverley had laughed, but later the lady in question had
yelped and rushed at another fellow. She was built that way. Cicely
would not yelp or rush. He pictured her yielding with virginal modesty
to the restrained advances of her lover, blushing adorably. Wilverley
had rehearsed the scene. He beheld himself and Cicely on a bench in the
more secluded part of the topiary garden, screened by yew hedges from
inquisitive eyes of gardeners. Then he would tell his tale. She would
listen demurely, with downcast eyes. The amorini in the garden would
approve this gentle wooing. Presently he would take her little hand in
his. When he ventured to kiss her cheek, she might turn her lips from
him. Yes; being a Chandos, she would. In his pocket, in tissue paper,
lay the filmy hanky. At the right moment he would show it to her. There,
would be pleasant talk about the choice of an engagement ring. Later
they would seek together Lady Selina, and receive the maternal sanction
and benediction. . . .

Mrs. Roden had given her push the day before. Six weeks had elapsed
since Brian’s death. She had considered the propriety of urging her
brother to propose again by letter, rejecting such consideration after
matured thought. Personality counted enormously in these affairs. Arthur
had a “way” with him. He “loomed up.” Young girls of the twentieth
century had just begun to enjoy the privileges of independent thought
and action. Mrs. Roden rejoiced that it was so. Still——! At this point
the adjuster paused to reflect upon the immense change in Cicely’s
fortunes. Alone in her room at Danecourt, turning from a mournful
present to a more alluring future, Cicely might well hesitate before she
imperilled her freedom. Alone with Wilverley, dominated by him,
conscious that she had encouraged him, the right answer must be
forthcoming.

Accordingly, Mrs. Roden had said at luncheon:

“Lady Selina returns to Upworthy to-morrow.”

“So Cicely told me.”

“Ah! She has written to you?”

“Yes.”

“Of course you will go over and pay your respects at once.”

“If I can spare the time——”

“My dear Arthur, try to rise to your full stature.”

Wilverley replied briskly:

“Now, Mary, out with it. What’s in your busy mind?”

“Concern for others. Concern for you. There are moments, Arthur, when
you impress me as being a big boy. At such moments I feel maternal.”

“Forrard! Forrard!”

“I told you some months ago to—to—let me see, what did I say?”

“You told me to ‘go’ for Cicely—and I did. She turned me down. No
complaints! I acted prematurely.”

“From what you told me she encouraged you to try again.”

“And I shall.”

“Quite. The right moment has come. Cicely must have recovered from her
bereavement. If I know anything of my sex”—her tone justified the
assumption that what Mrs. Roden did not know upon that fascinating
subject was negligible—“Cicely is ripe for the plucking.”

“You talk of her as if she were a goose,” he said.

“Pray don’t interrupt me! Cicely is a sensible girl, thank God! She is
also a good girl, fully alive to the responsibilities of marriage. As a
potential mother——”

Wilverley held up a hand.

“Don’t be obstetric, Mary, please.”

“What a word——! I am never _that_. However——! How you heckle my
thoughts! I repeat, Cicely is ripe for the plucking. You have only to
stretch forth your hand. Lady Selina will be much gratified if you call
at once. I refrain from accompanying you for obvious reasons. The
weather is settled. I regard that as a sign. I am quite sure that Cicely
has been dull and depressed at Danecourt Castle.”

“Abbey.”

“I call it a feudal stronghold. Probably she was bored to tears. She
comes home hankering for a change—any change. You appear—not wearing
that tie——”

“You shall select my tie.”

“Thank you, Arthur. You appear—the perfect knight——”

“Help!”

“You offer all, all that such a girl wants. _Voilà!_”

“There is something in what you say, Mary. Yes, you are right. I’ll take
the road to-morrow. I may not succeed in getting Cicely alone.”

“Then you are not the man I take you to be.”

Mrs. Roden left the dining-room. Wilverley finished a good cigar, quite
unconscious of having been “pushed.”


                                  III

Stimson ushered him into the big drawing-room. Left alone for a minute,
he stared, as Grimshaw had done, at the full-length portraits on the
walls. The ladies smiled down on him. Sir Marmaduke Chandos, the
Cavalier, curled a derisive lip, not offensively. He seemed to be
saying: “S’death! we need a tincture of blood less blue. Take the wench,
and a benison on ye both.”

Lady Selina sailed in, followed by Cicely.

Immediately the man perceived a change in the maid. She appeared to him
older. And something had vanished from her face. What was it? Youthful
radiancy—vitality——? He couldn’t find the word he wanted. She greeted
him with perfect ease of manner. But her hand rested supinely warm in
his, and he thought: “How soft her bones are.” Possibly she was tired;
and this home-coming must have been a bitter-sweet experience. Beneath
her eyes lay shadows, delicately tinted with lavender. All trace of the
V.A.D. had disappeared. Her mourning, so he decided, became her. In it
she looked distinguished. At any rate, she appealed to him more
irresistibly than ever, altogether feminine, a dear woman certain to
develop into a noble and gracious personality.

He drank a cup of tea, and listened to Lady Selina, who talked in the
grand manner, investing even weather conditions with a sort of
aristocratic gloss. All the Danecourts talked like this when they wished
to suppress feeling and emotion. Without a taint of affectation, Lady
Selina conveyed the impression that she towered above a crumbling world.
Marie Antoinette must have raised to heaven just such a dignified head
when she rode on a tumbril through the streets of Paris to the place of
execution. Lady Selina quoted her brother:

“Our order is doomed. Win or lose, this dreadful war means a débâcle for
us.”

Wilverley assured her that he took a less gloomy view. Lady Selina
smiled frostily.

“Saltaire has lost his butler, who has been with him five-and-twenty
years. Two parlourmaids have taken his place. One wears a bow upon her
tousled head; she refuses to wear a proper cap. My poor brother said to
me: ‘Selina, this is the beginning of the end.’ I agreed with him.”

After tea, when Wilverley was wondering how he could discreetly justify
Mrs. Roden’s faith in him as a man, Lady Selina said suavely:

“I daresay you will like to smoke your cigarette in the garden. A year
ago it was in full beauty. To-day——! Well—a wilderness. I can’t bear
to walk in it. Cicely will show you the roses. I must attack my
neglected correspondence.”

“I should like to see the roses,” said Wilverley.

Cicely and he wandered into the garden, which looked, so Wilverley
thought, very much as usual. At the Court he had discovered, not without
amusement, that a sadly diminished staff, if put to it, can achieve
remarkable results. Gazing about him, he said genially:

“Your mother exaggerates a little. I see no signs of a wilderness.”

Cicely replied quickly:

“Really, we are muddling along nicely. Mother will be all right in a day
or two. Danecourt was horribly depressing. And Brian——”

“Tell me,” he whispered. “I offered no wretched condolences. What can be
said?”

“Nothing. Even I—I can only guess how she feels. She adored Brian,
although she never showed it. I am so sorry for her that I could cry my
eyes out here and now. Because she bottles things up, it makes it just
twice as hard for me.”

“I understand,” he said. “I understand exactly how you feel.”

She looked sweetly at him, faintly blushing.

“Do you, Arthur?”

They found the bench; Wilverley lighted a cigarette. The sunk
rose-garden faced them, surrounded by the yew hedges. In the centre the
amorini guarded the fountain, which didn’t play in war-time. This spot
was the sanctuary, known as Mon Plaisir. Upon the white stone bench had
sat the lovely lady for whom the pleasaunce was planted, and in which,
according to tradition, she had passed so many hours kept a prisoner by
a jealous husband. Cicely told the story to Wilverley. A more
experienced lover would have used this romantic legend as a peg upon
which to hang his own love-tale. Wilverley, however, was not apt at
transpositions. He listened attentively, charmed by Cicely’s voice, but
determined, as soon as she had finished, to plead his suit in words, as
has been said, already rehearsed.

Cicely’s voice died away.

Wilverley said incisively:

“Poor little dear! Beastly for her, wasn’t it? No man could coop up a
wife that way in our times.”

“I don’t know, Arthur. In another sense, women coop themselves up. Some
of us are driven—driven into coops.”

He was astonished that she spoke so sadly, but, knowing little of women
and their tendency to make all argument personal, he never supposed that
what she said applied to herself. In a different tone he continued
briskly:

“My wife would have a free hand, Cicely. By the way, I have been talking
a lot with Tiddy whilst you were at Danecourt.”

“With Tiddy? Do you call her Tiddy?”

He laughed.

“Of course I do; everybody does. A jolly clever girl, sharp as a
needle—a rattling good sort. She will bike over here next Sunday.”

“Oh! Does Tiddy know that you are here to-day?”

“No.”

Chandos silence spread its impenetrable veil over Cicely. What was Tiddy
up to? Had she carried out her preposterous threat? Was she really
trying to capture Arthur? An uncomfortable, disconcerting emotion, which
Cicely would have repudiated vehemently if anybody had dared to call it
jealousy, quickened within. Wilverley, happily unconscious of virginal
alarums and excursions, went on cantering at his big fence.

“I have something to show you, dear.”

“Have you?”

He produced triumphantly the tiny handkerchief embroidered with a double
“C” intertwined and encircled with a wreath. Lady Selina had presented a
dainty dozen of these to Cicely on her seventeenth birthday, a _præmium
diligentiæ_.

Cicely, faintly smiling, gazed at the small square of cambric, and then
at Wilverley’s flushed, eager face. And at the moment, incredible as it
may seem to men, she felt, like Mrs. Roden, maternal. The prosperous
magnate of nearly forty became a jolly boy. Somehow she guessed that in
many things he would remain simple and boyish. He seemed to be enjoying
himself immensely. He reminded her of Brian going in to bat on the
village green, and quite sure that he was going to knock the bowling
about.

He whispered:

“I’ve heartened myself up with a squint at this, many and many a time.”

As he spoke, he put it reverently to his lips and kissed it. Cicely was
amazed. She had always imagined Wilverley, engrossed with his
never-ending activities, reading dry treatises upon agriculture, poring
over the blue tracings of plans, prodding fat bullocks, and so forth——

Two dimples appeared in her cheeks.

“How absurd you are!”

“Are you angry because I am absurd about you?”

He folded the hanky carefully and replaced it in his breast-pocket. Then
he valiantly captured her hand, a notable effort for him. Cicely made no
protest. An agreeable languor stole upon her. Somehow Wilverley’s firm
clasp warmed her chilled sensibilities. She sighed. A midsummer’s sun,
still high in the heavens, poured down his beams upon the rose-garden.
Out of the more old-fashioned roses came a sweet, pervasive fragrance.
From the shrubs and trees beyond Mon Plaisir floated the flutings of the
warblers. Cicely was learned enough in Arcadian lore to distinguish
their particular notes.

“I want you,” he whispered.

Her tissues seemed to relax, as she recalled these very words on the
lips of her mother, when they met in the big hall after news of Brian’s
death. It was much to be wanted; more than she had reckoned it to be. To
give, to go on giving, generously and selflessly, might be her true
mission in life. Parsons preached that gospel from the pulpit, but till
now she had never apprehended its significance and force. Yes—_force_.
Was there, indeed, a driving power greater, immeasurably greater, than
the human will, which informed all human action? Was marriage with
Wilverley the appointed way out of her worries and perplexities? His
strong arm stole round her waist; he pressed her to him. She recognised
and admired his self-restraint. And something told her that he was
really strong, able to bear her burdens whatever they might be. But—a
cold douche of honesty made her shiver—she didn’t love him as surely he
deserved to be loved. What had passed through his mind as he rode to
this artless wooing invaded hers. She ought to be thrilling and
yearning; she ought to be feeling that this was the greatest moment of
her life. And it wasn’t. Bravely she confronted a fundamental fact.

“Arthur——”

“Yes, you sweet little woman?”

“You say you want me. How much?”

It is not easy for a man to be absolutely honest with a maid when his
arm is round her waist, and he feels her yielding to his importunity.

“Tremendously,” he answered.

She remained silent. Encouraged by this, Wilverley pleaded his suit. He
had always wanted her. She was exactly right. With happy inspiration he
painted in vivid colours their future together. She could help him in
his work; he could help her. They both loved the country. They would
work and play together, a charming partnership. When he finished, she
said nervously:

“Suppose—suppose that I didn’t quite care for you as you seem to care
for me?”

“What do you mean, my dearest?”

“It’s so hard to put it into words. I am ever so fond of you, Arthur.
And I do want to be loved. You—you have drawn a picture which moves me
more than I can say. But somehow you haven’t swept me bang off my feet.
And that is my fault, not yours. Perhaps—I don’t know—I am simply
incapable of—of letting myself go. And when I look at mother and other
women of my family, I wonder if they are all like that. I wonder if—if
it is part of the curse——”

“The curse? Bless my soul!”

“I mean the curse of belonging to families that think it right and wise
to suppress feeling. I am half Chandos and half Danecourt. Mother and
Uncle have never let themselves go. They couldn’t. It is part of their
nature to wear a mask. They wear it night and day. Till it becomes a
sort of hard crust. I—I wish I could talk as Tiddy does.”

“I understand, Cicely. I think you put it most awfully well. But this
feeling will come. I should hate to have you——” he paused, and ended
with the words which had made such an impression on him: “Yelp and rush
at me.”

“Do you mean that you want me as I am, that you will trust to chance
about my caring properly later?”

“Trust to chance? No, no. I have never trusted to chance. I am
confident, dear, that I shall make you care if you give yourself to me.
The feelings you speak of are dormant. It will be my great privilege to
awaken them.”

He kissed the cheek slightly turned from him.

The fence had been leaped.

And afterwards, just what he had envisaged came to pass easily and
naturally. The selection of a right engagement ring was discussed, a
visit to London, all the pleasant little plans so dear to people about
to marry. Before they sought Lady Selina, Cicely asked a direct
question:

“You will help to make things better in Upworthy?”

“Um! Do you mean now?”

“Oh, the sooner the better.”

“If your mother asks for my advice——I can speak to you quite candidly,
darling. To put things right at Upworthy means, in one word—money.”

“Mother knows that, and she says that her means are diminishing.”

“Heavy taxation—likely to be heavier. It would be quite impracticable
to put things right out of income.”

“Oh, dear!”

“Don’t look so miserable! Improvements are investments. I borrow money
for my improvements—everybody does; and your mother must do the same.”

“She won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because she is terrified of debt; because, I believe, she promised my
father not to encumber the property.”

Wilverley nodded his head. Then, hastily, he changed the subject.


                                   IV

A memorable evening followed. When Lady Selina learnt what had passed in
the rose-garden, years seemed to drop from her tired face. The change
was almost uncanny. Colour flowed again into her cheeks; her eyes
sparkled with animation. Dear Arthur must stay to dinner; they would
dine on the lawn under the big walnut-tree; he could ride home by
moonlight. As she talked, her mind flew into the future. Before she
drank to the health of the lovers, she had definitely decided that the
second son of this perfect marriage would take the name of Chandos and
inherit Upworthy. He would be, of course, another Brian. The eldest son
would go to Eton; Brian II. must be entered at Winchester. It was a
mistake to send brothers to the same school.

Throughout dinner she achieved the remarkable feat of being in two
places at the same time, like Sir Boyle Roche’s bird.

When Wilverley had mounted his hack, mother and daughter sat together,
nearer and dearer to each other than they had ever been before. But it
was Lady Selina who revealed her inmost feelings. Apparently, she took
for granted that Cicely was head over ears in love. The girl dared not
undeceive her. And Lady Selina, with her really transcendent gift of
ignoring what lay beneath the surface, dwelt persistently upon the
phylacteries of life. All energy seemed to have passed from Cicely to
her. Obviously Cicely was ten years older and Lady Selina ten years
younger. They drifted closer together in their quest of what was
appropriate and conventional. Lady Selina had no patience with long
engagements. The wedding ought to take place in the early autumn, so
that the honeymoon could be spent in sunshine. She quoted:

“God knows how I love the sweet fall of the year.”

Cicely realised that her engagement had made the fall of her mother’s
year sweet and comforting.

During this long talk, Lady Selina happened to mention that, since
Brian’s death, she had pigeon-holed village affairs. But she had heard
from Stimson that Dr. Pawley was ill. Not, she trusted, seriously—a
passing indisposition. Upon the morrow Cicely might pop down in person
and get more details. She herself would be busy with Gridley. At the
mention of the bailiff’s name, Cicely, girding up her loins for an
encounter, said hurriedly:

“Is John Gridley all he ought to be?”

Lady Selina replied trenchantly:

“My dear child—what a question! Gridley is—Gridley. Are any of us what
we ought to be? I am well aware of Gridley’s disabilities. I pay him
little more than a labourer’s wages. I regard him as a spade.”

“Yes; I have thought sometimes that Gridley is too rough with our
people. He—he bullies them.”

“Possibly. Their ways are not our ways. Being of the people, he knows
how to deal with them. He is an honest, faithful servant, quite
impossible to replace in these troublous times. Also, as you know, I am
the last person in the world to ‘scrap,’ as your friend Tiddy would put
it, old retainers.”

“Do you feel that way about Dr. Snitterfield?”

“Dr. Snitterfield! What on earth have I to do with him?”

“He is the local Health Officer. Arthur thinks that he is—a—ignorant
and irresponsible.”

“Does he? I didn’t appoint Dr. Snitterfield. He happens to be the chosen
representative of our district. I hardly know the man. Personally, of
course, I regard him as impossible. Long ago, I asked him to luncheon.
He was attending one of our maids. She, not I, insisted upon seeing him.
At luncheon the stopper of one of the decanters stuck. Dr. Snitterfield
got it out, licked it—_licked_ it, my dear!—and calmly assured me that
he did that to his stoppers! After that Stimson kept him at a discreet
distance.”

Cicely abandoned both Gridley and Snitterfield. Could she spoil a
wonderful evening by insisting upon the disqualifications of bailiff and
Health Officer? When she remained silent, Lady Selina said decidedly:

“After I am gone, Arthur and you will cope with my difficulties.
Arthur’s agent will take Upworthy in hand; Arthur’s money will do the
needful.”

“If—if, Mother, Arthur wanted to help in your lifetime?”

“I could not accept thousands of pounds from Arthur. Now, my darling,
please don’t worry about me and my responsibilities. This is your hour.
Make the most of it. Your happiness makes me happy. I can think of
nothing else.”


                                   V

Upon the following morning, Cicely, in a white frock with black ribands,
walked from the Manor to Dr. Pawley’s house. At Lady Selina’s request
she was wearing the white frock. The weather happened to be very hot; a
heat-wave had spread itself over the south of England. This alone
justified thin and light garments, but Cicely knew that another reason
lay at the back of her mother’s mind. From now on she would be expected
to play the part of bride-elect. Lady Selina, coming early to Cicely’s
bedroom, had said gently:

“I am sure that our dear boy would urge you not to wear black. I feel at
this moment that he is sharing our great joy. And you owe it to Arthur
to make yourself look as nice as possible.”

“Very well, Mother.”

That appeared to be the only answer possible to dozens of just such
well-meant suggestions. Already Lady Selina had prepared an itinerary,
so to speak. She had decided what tradesmen should be honoured by her
patronage. Not a moment was to be wasted. The selection of a trousseau
for Lord Wilverley’s wife exacted undivided energies and a pleasant
pilgrimage to certain shrines of fashion, where the high-priests would
assuredly refuse to be hurried and harried in the performance of their
sacred offices. Anything approximating to what Tiddy called
“reach-me-downs” filled Lady Selina with revulsion. What her girl wore
must be hand-sewn, hand-embroidered, stamped (to the understanding eye)
with a cachet of its own.

Cicely lingered for a minute on the village green. Inevitably the
thought rushed to her mind: “All this will be mine some day.” For the
first time, she gazed at the familiar landscape with an intimate sense
of possession. Out of the present, she flitted into the future. Pious
aspirations bore her upward and onward. She floated upon outstretched
wings above a reconstructed and regenerated Upworthy . . . It lay
beneath her, bathed in sunshine, an object lesson in the administration
of a sacred trust . . . She beheld her life’s mission accomplished.

Presently, as was natural, her thoughts swooped from others to herself.
She could survey herself as bride-elect with an odd detachment. Indeed,
for the moment she became a dual personality. The new Cicely in V.A.D.
kit, alert, critical, conscious of the immense changes taking place
under her nose, met the old Cicely, diffident, silent, moving slowly
along lines of least resistance, the “Yes, Mother . . . No, Mother,”
girl, without initiative, without definite ambitions, content to follow,
not daring to lead. This queerly-contrasted pair stared at each other.
Possibly, a sense of humour played the part of common denominator. The
old Cicely could smile derisively at her own frock! When a maid can do
this, none need despair of her. The old Cicely was aware that she might
have stepped out of one of the gilded frames in the Manor drawing-room.
Gainsborough might have portrayed her exactly as she stood without fear
of anachronism. She wore a big, black picture-hat. Across her bosom was
folded a black lace fichu, arranged by Lady Selina, and caught together
with a mourning brooch which held a miniature. Around her waist,
cleverly twisted by the same tender hands, was a black watered-silk
sash. To complete the portrait, and as it was unduly hot, she had
discarded gloves for long black silk mittens. And she carried a small
black silk bag, with her cipher on it in paste.

She could not escape the conviction that the old Cicely was pleased with
herself.

Henceforward, she would be at peace. That remained the dominating
thought. Pleasing others, she had pleased herself. And Arthur would be
“good” to her. They would be “pals.” The new Cicely observed that so
busy a man wouldn’t be in the way when he wasn’t wanted. Some uxorious
husbands bored their wives. Arthur had said that his wife would have a
free hand. The new Cicely then proceeded to startle the old Cicely by
the mention of—babies. After the first shock, the old Cicely confronted
motherhood without blushing. Proudly she reflected that she had chosen
the real right sort to be the father of the babies. Tiddy had discussed
Eugenics with her. During her short experience as a V.A.D., Cicely had
seen enough of men to discriminate between good and bad. Speaking
generally, the Tommies had been splendid, but now and again an exception
outrageously revealed himself a beast By accident, Cicely had been in a
ward when a patient was brought in mad with delirium tremens. And Tiddy,
who was also present, said afterwards that the patient ought to be
locked up for the term of his unnatural life, not merely because of his
offence, but to enforce celibacy upon him. Dwelling tenderly upon her
babies, Cicely recalled a crayon drawing of Arthur, taken when he was
two years old—a fat, dimpled darling in a red coral necklace and
holding a red coral rattle in his hand. Practically, he wore nothing
else. Yes; she had chosen the right man.

Immediately, the new Cicely accused the old Cicely of complacency. Well,
why not? At the same time, the new Cicely pointed out exciting avenues
down which, as Lady Wilverley, she could prance triumphantly. It would
be delightful to entertain, after the war, clever people, who—so Tiddy
affirmed—could be lured into the country if you “did” them properly.
Also, she would ride perfect hunters, and drive her own Rolls-Royce car.
The new Cicely agreed with the old Cicely that it was possible to
combine two centuries, the eighteenth and the twentieth, taking from
each what was desirable and charming. That would be a real achievement.

Descending to earth, her still dreaming orbs rested upon Martha Giles’s
cottage. It stood by itself, tumbling over a corner where the village
street impinged upon the village green. Even Lady Selina admitted
deprecatingly that Martha’s cottage was an eyesore. And in it lived
Martha and nine children. There were only four rooms. But, oddly enough,
Martha loved it, and just because of that Lady Selina had promised not
to pull it down. Of course it leaked like a sieve, and the cracked walls
streamed with moisture, rain or shine. At the back were the sties.
Martha lived by her pigs, on her pigs, and with her pigs. Buckets of
wash came as doles from the Manor. Kindly neighbours, knowing that
Martha’s pride refused actual cash, substituted meal and bran. Martha’s
chickens and geese picked up what they could find on the green.

Cicely greeted Martha, and braced herself to meet condolence. Martha
wiped a dry eye with a corner of a clean apron. How she managed to keep
clean aprons on herself and clean pinafores on her children was one of
the mysteries that defy explanation, like the Indian rope trick.

She said wailingly:

“Master Brian be gone to Kingdom Come, miss. You must up and bear this
like a Christian ’ooman. Yas ... I mind me when my pore Giles was took.
I give ’un a rare funeral . . .” This was another unelucidated mystery.
The poorer the widow the richer the funeral! Martha continued: “But
after funeral I sez to myself, I sez: ‘Better him nor me.’”

A wild impulse surged through Cicely to laugh. Happily, she restrained
herself. She accepted Martha’s statement literally, saying gravely:
“Giles couldn’t have looked after the children as you do.”

“That’s how I feels, miss. ’Tis God Amighty’s marcy as we wimmenfolk
don’t have to fight these tremenjous battles. If we was killed in ’eaps
what would the children do?”

“What indeed?” asked Cicely. “I hope you are well, Martha?”

“I be allers troubled wi’ my sciaticky, miss. But there, a widder wi’
nine children to fend for bain’t able to enjy her bad health.” She added
obsequiously: “I be a grateful ’ooman, miss. I tells the little ’uns
that they’d be lying snug in churchyard, if ’twasn’t for my lady. We
doesn’t get all the milk we uster do.”

“Oh, dear! I must inquire about that. Good morning, Martha.”

“Good morning, miss, and thank ’ee kindly.”

She curtsied deferentially to the heiress of Upworthy, the future
autocrat, the dispenser of wash and eyewash. Cicely hurried on.

Exhilaration was tempered by exasperation. Martha Giles forced thought
upon her; she invaded peace of mind, most dear to us after storm and
stress. Martha presented a composite photograph of all dependents who
accept doles gratefully with a very lively sense of injury if they are
withheld or curtailed. Danecourt simply swarmed with just such
parasites. And a year ago Cicely would have resented angrily the use of
such an ugly word. It was almost as unmentionable as fleas or . . . Even
in thought a Chandos could not assign the common, loathsome name applied
to pests that a toothcomb removed from the heads of dirty children!

Why was Martha such a parasite?

Why would it break her heart if her ramshackle hovel was pulled down?


                                   VI

Cicely ascended the white, shining steps of Dr. Pawley’s house, pulled a
shining brass bell-knob, and then grasped a shining brass knocker. But
she didn’t knock, because she remembered that her kind old friend was
ill. The trim parlourmaid opened the door. Cicely’s eyes, with keener
powers of observation, dwelt for an instant upon a large, spotless mob
cap. No hair from that well-covered head would fall into Dr. Pawley’s
soup. This shocking incident had taken place at Danecourt, in the
historic dining-room. Lord Saltaire had almost succumbed, falling into
what appeared to be a cataleptic trance from which he emerged to refuse
fish.

“Good morning, Ellen. How is Dr. Pawley?”

“He’s in bed, miss. Won’t you come in out of the sun?”

Cicely followed her into the drawing-room, which seemed deliciously
cool. The windows had been shut to keep out the heat. Through them
Cicely could see the garden sloping upward to the temple. War had
respected this sanctuary. It looked as it had always looked,
meticulously ordered. And the drawing-room presented the same prim
demeanour. Surely the parlourmaid was mistaken. In a minute the dear old
bachelor would hasten in, full of sympathy and affection, taking both
her hands in his, bending down, perhaps, to kiss her forehead, the
customary salute when she was a child. To distract her, he would show
her some “find,” a bit of glass or porcelain, upon which he would hold
forth with whimsical enthusiasm.

Cicely sat down. She was in no hurry; she wanted full particulars.

“It’s his heart, miss.”

“You are frightening me, Ellen.”

“It’s much better, miss. It’s the old trouble come back. Me and cook
said it would. With rest, he’ll be himself again. You see, miss, when
trouble came to the Hall—and about that I ask you to accept my
respectful sympathy——”

“Thank you, Ellen.”

“When trouble came to the Hall, it came to the village. We’ve had a lot
of sickness. And the doctor single-handed . . .”

“A number of our people employ Dr. Snitterfield.”

Ellen sniffed.

“Only them as has to, miss. Well, just a week ago, the master fainted as
he was lacing of his boots. But he went about his work just the same. He
fainted again when he was taking them off. For an hour, miss, he sat
huddled-up like in his chair, white as death and shivering. I gave him
brandy and put hot bottles to his feet. His orders, miss. I had to help
put him to bed.”

“I’m sure you did everything you could.”

“Yes, miss, with the tears streaming down my face. That night me and
cook looked out our black.”

“But, heavens! surely you sent for a doctor?”

“Yes, miss. Not—Dr. Snitterfield. I sent a telegram to Mr. Grimshaw.”

“Mr. Grimshaw?” The name literally smote her. “But he’s in France.”

“Oh, no, miss. Mr. Grimshaw is ill too.”

Pelion piled upon Ossa!

“What next?” gasped Cicely.

“Mr. Grimshaw ain’t confined to his bed, miss. It seems he got invalided
home with malaria or trench fever, something or other that jumps on and
off.”

“Yes, yes; please go on. You wired for Mr. Grimshaw, and he couldn’t
come?”

“Bless you, miss, he ain’t like that. He came by the next train from
London. The master brightened up the instant minute he saw him. And Mr.
Grimshaw had his own way with him, you may be sure. And, of course, he
took on Dr. Pawley’s other cases. He’s in the dispensary now. I daresay,
miss, you’d like to see Mr. Grimshaw?”

Cicely could have shrieked at her: “Not for the world!” Grimshaw’s
presence in the house, the fact that he was within forty feet of her,
that he was ill, that his fine work in France had been cut short,
probably ended . . . these accumulative surprises simply ravaged her.
She wanted to bolt out of the house, to hide herself in the bracken, to
think, think, think, till order evolved itself out of chaos.

Instead, she said faintly:

“Of course I will see Mr. Grimshaw. Please tell him that I am here.”

“Very good, miss.”

Ellen swept out. She had a nose—what servant has not?—for a situation.
Something in Cicely’s face had stimulated curiosity. As she hurried to
the dispensary, detached from the house, she wondered vaguely whether
there had been “carryings-on” between Miss Chandos and Mr. Grimshaw.
Quite likely, she decided.

Cicely rose from her chair and stared at herself in a sun-burst mirror
above the mantelpiece. She bit her lips and slapped her cheeks,
miserably conscious that such actions were humiliating and condemnatory.
Why was she pale and trembling?

Fortunately for her—or perhaps the gods took pity—Grimshaw was
preparing a tincture that exacted time and attention. Several minutes
elapsed before he entered the room. Cicely, meanwhile, had recovered her
self-possession.

“I am so glad to see you,” she said.

Sapphira might have envied her!

Nevertheless, the first glance at Grimshaw’s face was devastating. He
was thin and haggard; he had lost weight; he had lost entirely the bloom
of youth. Contrasting him with Wilverley, he seemed to be all angles and
irregularities. The bones of his face had become sharply prominent.

Grimshaw spoke nervously but incisively:

“You can guess, Miss Chandos, that I cannot say what I feel. Your
brother has made the supreme sacrifice. My sympathy is for you, not for
him. There are moments when I envy him. I have seen the best go
joyously, as if it were, as perhaps it is, the last and greatest
adventure . . .” He changed his tone, adopting the professional note:
“Pray don’t alarm yourself about Dr. Pawley. The trouble has been acute;
I cannot disguise from you that it is organic. He is perfectly aware of
this. It means, to speak frankly, that his working life is over. There
is no reason why he shouldn’t enjoy many years of leisure.”

“Thank you.”

“I hope to get him downstairs in a day or two. It will do him good to
see his friends. I need hardly add that he has accepted the situation
with courage and common sense.”

A slight pause followed. Cicely said quietly:

“Can you tell me something about yourself?”

He shrugged his thin shoulders.

“A month ago I was given my walking-papers. A nasty jolt! No man living,
as yet, can lay his finger upon the bacillus that expects me to furnish
him and his family with board and lodging. He is, I believe, a tropical
beast. Anyhow, I have him in hand. He is less obstreperous. Ultimately,
he and his brood will perish. The English climate will wipe him out.”

“Ought you to be working here?”

“Oh, yes. The reasonable exercise of my profession does me good. In
France, when a convoy of wounded came in, we had to stick it till the
last case. Here I can cosset myself.”

“You . . . you are thinking of staying on?”

“Yes. That is understood between Dr. Pawley and me. He urged it. And I
have paid a premium which now I can’t afford to forfeit.” Suddenly, his
voice brightened, he seemed to speak naturally, sincerely:

“You remember you promised to work with me?” She nodded. “I am looking
forward to that. We shan’t be idle.” He laughed, as he added: “I hear
from Mrs. Rockram that you are an experienced nurse.”

“A bottlewasher. Still . . . I learnt a lot at Wilverley.”

“How is Lady Selina?”

Without thinking, Cicely answered:

“Mother is wonderful. She is almost herself again. Poor dear! she will
be terribly upset when she hears about more sickness in Upworthy.”

Grimshaw, rather astonished at her light manner, said quietly:

“I feared that Brian’s death would overwhelm her.”

“It did, it did. But . . .”

“Yes?”

She flushed. The truth must be told; and a desperate desire possessed
her to tell it, to put it behind her, to face this man bravely and
secure him as a friend. He would be hurt if she went away, leaving him
to hear the story from another. She assured herself that he had never
_cared_.

“Yesterday, Mr. Grimshaw, Lord Wilverley asked me to become his wife.”

“Ah!”

The sharp exclamation escaped him. Instantly she knew. As instantly he
recovered himself. But telepathy had been established. _He did care!_ He
had always cared. Intuition revealed everything. Fate had ordained that
they should meet just twenty-four hours too late.

“I accepted him,” she continued calmly, wondering at her power of
dissimulation. “And that has consoled Mother tremendously. This morning
she is another woman.”

“I wish you all happiness, Miss Chandos.” His voice was as calm as hers.
“From the little I saw of Lord Wilverley, I can congratulate you with
all my heart; and him.”

She walked back to the Manor with slow, reluctant steps. The brook that
flows between maidenhood and womanhood had been passed.



                              CHAPTER VII
                            TIDDY AND CICELY


                                   I

Upon the Sunday following, the last Sunday in June, Miss Tiddle mounted
her bicycle and rode over to the Manor. Rain had fallen after a month’s
heat and drought, and a delicious fragrance was exhaled by fields full
of new-mown hay. As Tiddy sped along, she told herself that she had been
a fool. Being really clever, this reflection failed to annoy her.
Everybody made ghastly blunders when they interfered with the lives and
characters of others.

“A marriage has been arranged, and will take place in the autumn,
between Cicely Selina, only surviving child of the late Henry Chandos,
M.F.H., of Upworthy Manor, Melshire, and Arthur George, second Lord
Wilverley, of Wilverley Court in the same county.”

_Arranged . . .!_

The word rankled in Tiddy’s mind. But that mind she regarded as fully
open, like her round eyes which “took in,” with genuine hospitality,
everybody within her ken. Possibly this marriage had not been arranged.
During Cicely’s absence from Wilverley Court, Tiddy had talked much with
the noble owner. And noble he was! The two had become friends. Tiddy, as
we know, liked men; she had flirted with Midland “nuts.” And these had
not impressed her favourably, being, so she decided, concerned with
themselves and the colour of their ties and socks. Even young officers,
gallant fellows, “swanked” too much for Miss Tiddle’s democratic taste.
And she had come to Wilverley Court slightly prejudiced against a man
whom she had imagined to be quite other than he was. Arthur’s simplicity
and honesty delighted her. She believed that he, at any rate, loved
Cicely devotedly, although he might be incapable of tearing a passion to
tatters. Believing this, it was intolerable to contemplate his marriage
with a girl who did not love him as he deserved to be loved. On the
other hand, it was quite possible that Cicely’s friendship for him had
warmed into a sort of hard-and-fast, “stand-the-wash” attachment. As yet
she had not heard of Grimshaw’s return to Upworthy. A man with dark,
disconcerting eyes had flitted across a susceptible maid’s horizon, and
then disappeared. From what Cicely, being a Chandos, had left unsaid,
Tiddy was positive upon one point: Grimshaw had kindled in her friend
the divine spark. He had become, momentarily, _the_ divine spark. It was
likely, men being so amazingly unobservant, that Grimshaw, engrossed
with his profession, had left Upworthy unconscious of this. With all her
powers of intuition, Miss Tiddle lacked as yet the experience which
might guide her to the right conclusion. A profounder knowledge of the
conventional class to which she did not belong would have revealed that
obstinate pride which she herself was incapable of entertaining, which,
if she considered it, she dismissed impatiently as mid-Victorian and
idiotic. If, she reflected, Grimshaw had cared, he would have written to
Cicely. She could not conceive, because for her they did not exist, the
differences, hydra-headed, between a G.P. and a daughter of the House of
Chandos. When a man touched her fancy, however lightly, she “nestled
up,” as she put it, not flirtatiously, but with the deliberate intention
of analysing the effects of intimacy.

Yes; she had been a fool. Mrs. Roden exercised clearer vision.
Intuition, nothing else, had constrained Miss Tiddle to make a mountain
of romance out of a molehill.

The odds were that this marriage had not been “arranged” in the odious
sense.

Accordingly, Tiddy braced herself for the coming encounter, derisively
prepared to do and say the expected thing. Cicely’s artless prattle
about frocks and bridesmaids might be hard to endure, but she would
listen patiently and reply with enthusiasm—play the game, in fine. Then
she would try to get a billet in France.

Just before reaching Upworthy, her back tyre punctured. Tiddy jumped
off, got her repairing kit, and turned the bicycle upside down. She
prided herself upon taking with equanimity what an American lady has
called “the collateral slaps of Providence.” To her dismay, however, she
was unable to remove the tyre. It stuck obstinately. Tiddy became
uncomfortably hot. And she wished to remain cool, conscious that Lady
Selina’s blue eyes would turn protestingly from any evidences of . . .
perspiration. Why did open pores offend old-fashioned gentlewomen? Tiddy
was turning this over in her active mind, when she saw, with relief, an
approaching cyclist, identified first as a man and immediately after as
a gentleman. Tiddy sent out the S.O.S. signal; the cyclist jammed on his
brakes and leapt to the ground.

“You are in trouble,” he said courteously.

It was Grimshaw.

Tiddy was quite sure of it. A mere male cannot hazard a conjecture as to
the reasons which bring instant conviction to the female intelligence.
Perhaps she recognized the dark, disconcerting eyes burning out of a
thin, pale face; perhaps she saw a doctor’s service-bag strapped behind
the bicycle.

“Tyre stuck,” said Tiddy. “Can you tell me if there is anybody in
Upworthy who could get it off?”

“_I_ can,” he answered.

She protested, but he went to work promptly, removing his coat and
throwing his cap upon it. At this, any doubt as to his identity
vanished. Cicely had laid emphasis upon Grimshaw’s eagerness in
ministration. According to Cicely, his knightly quality was conspicuous.
Cicely, so Tiddy remembered, had used the word “halo,” which had
provoked a gibe from Miss Tiddle. At this moment she actually beheld the
halo. A vainer girl might have flattered herself into the belief that
bright eyes and curls were quickening these activities. But Grimshaw had
not looked keenly at her, but at the bicycle. She knew that he would
have helped the plainest maid in the village with equal alacrity.

“He’s a rare good sort,” she decided, “but he looks horribly ill, and
why is he here instead of in France?”

To ask herself questions when another could answer them was not Miss
Tiddle’s failing. The situation began to interest her. She said
casually:

“I thought you were in France, Mr. Grimshaw.”

Grimshaw looked up. She had no reason to complain of lack of penetration
in his glance. And his next words confirmed her first impression that he
was quite out of the ordinary. Wilverley, for instance, would have
looked puzzled, taking for granted he had met this sparkling stranger
before and forgotten her. Grimshaw said sharply:

“You know me, but I have never met you; never.”

She laughed, a delightful tinkle of sound which brought a smile to his
lips.

“Are you sure of that?”

“Absolutely.”

“Well, you happen to be right. We have never met. All the same, I know
you.”

“How?”

Mischievously, she continued:

“There are such things as photographs.”

“There are. It happens that I have not been photographed for about ten
years. I hate photographs.”

“Then you have no idea who I am?”

“None.”

Tiddy reflected that Cicely, evidently, had not taken undue pains to
describe her best friend to another friend. However . . .!

“I am Arabella Tiddle.”

Grimshaw remained perfectly calm.

“My name is—a—unfamiliar?”

“Not—unfamiliar. I have seen your surname on—on——”

“Hoardings. And in advertisements. Tiddle’s Family Pellets. I am Sir
Nathaniel Tiddle’s daughter.”

Grimshaw bowed, saying politely:

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance. This is much better than a
formal introduction.”

Was he pulling her leg?

“Miss Chandos never mentioned my name to you?”

“No.”

Tiddy experienced a tiny, triumphant thrill. She had brought out
Cicely’s name plumply, and designedly so, the artful baggage! And
Grimshaw had winced—_winced_! True, he recovered himself, swiftly, but
a glimpse had been vouchsafed her, all that she wanted at the moment.

“I am her school-friend. We worked together at Wilverley Court as
V.A.D.’s. I am on my way to the Manor now.”

“Not yet.”

She was delighted. Wilverley, much as she liked and esteemed that honest
fellow, was incapable of subtleties of speech. The “not yet” was
immensely revealing. He _could_ pull legs, she decided. That was a
greater accomplishment than setting them. She began to hope that the
recalcitrant tyre would not budge too easily. Grimshaw was hard at work
on it.

The tyre yielded suddenly. To test him, and to test, also, her own
powers of attraction, she said quickly:

“Thanks ever so much. I can repair the inner tube.”

“The tyre will not go on again too easily. Where is your repairing
stuff?”

He spoke peremptorily. And his attention appeared to be focussed on the
inner tube, as he searched for the puncture. Tiddy stood by with the
small box, opening it and taking out patches and sandpaper.

“What a good Samaritan!” she murmured.

His fingers challenged her admiration; how deftly they moved; how
swiftly. What exquisite instruments! Involuntarily, she exclaimed:

“I’m sure you operate wonderfully.”

Perhaps he hated compliments as much as photographs. He said with
professional curtness:

“Ah! you have worked in the theatre at Wilverley?”

“No. But I acted as ‘special’ for three weeks—dressings, and all that.
Miss Chandos told me you were in France. But I knew, of course, that
just before the war you were Dr. Pawley’s partner.”

Giving the rubber solution time to dry, he explained curtly, with an air
as if his concerns couldn’t possibly interest others, that he had been
invalided home and was taking up his old work.

“Do you like country practice?”

He replied evasively: “I like work, Miss Tiddle, and there is plenty of
it here.”

“Too much,” observed Tiddy tranquilly.

“Yes; too much. A month of drought has played the deuce. Now comes the
tug.”

“You are speaking of Upworthy?”

“I am speaking of the outside tyre.”

Tiddy had the impression that she was courteously snubbed. Grimshaw
wrestled with the tyre, and prevailed. Then he righted the bicycle with
a vigorous swing, and held it by the bars.

“Up, and away!”

“Thanks, Mr. Grimshaw, and thanks again.”

“Not at all. Good-bye.”

“Certainly not. Au revoir.”


                                   II

Tiddy had ten minutes for reflection before she reached the Manor, and
she made the most of it. All that was feminine in Miss Tiddle became
ebullient. She simply effervesced with excitement and the consciousness
that the game was not over, hardly begun in point of fact. Romeo cared
and Juliet cared. Destiny had been beastly to them. Sir Nathaniel’s
daughter snapped her fingers at destiny, and then extended them, placing
her thumb to her tip-tilted nose.

“She cares; she must care; and so does he.”

Again we are unable to divine how Tiddy arrived at this unshakable
conviction.

“I must _butt_ in,” she thought. “Pushing is no good.”

Stimson ushered her into Lady Selina’s sitting-room.

Mother and daughter received her cordially. It was simply impossible not
to like Tiddy, although you might criticise her. She possessed that
incomparable gift of raising the temperature of any room she entered.
All Lady Selma’s rooms were cool, even in the dog days, not yet arrived.

A superb engagement ring flashed upon Tiddy’s eyes.

She congratulated Cicely with effusion, upon the sound principle of
telling a good lie if you are forced to do so. Lady Selina purred.

“Everybody is so kind. Such letters . . .! And telegrams . . .!”

“You like my ring, don’t you, Tiddy? Arthur sent it down from London
yesterday. He wanted me to nip up with him, but I couldn’t leave mother,
could I?”

“You could,” thought Tiddy, “if you were engaged to the One and Only.”
Aloud she agreed graciously, “Of course not.”

“Any news, Tiddy? How are the V.A.D.s?”

“Clean bill of health. You heard about Agatha Farleigh?”

“No.”

“John Exton has been badly wounded—left arm amputated at the elbow.”

“Oh, Tiddy——! I’m ever so sorry.”

Lady Selina said calmly:

“So am I. My memories of John Exton are not of the happiest, but I wish
him well—I wish him well.”

“Agatha says that a truly united couple can worry along with three arms
between them. John will get his discharge and come home to his father.
Agatha means to marry him at once.”

Cicely observed pensively:

“How odd of Arthur not to have told me.”

“My dear child . . .!” Lady Selina raised a voice as soft as her hands.
“You can’t complain if dear Arthur’s mind is full of one young woman.”

“We only heard the news yesterday,” said Tiddy.

In a majestic tone, Lady Selina held forth upon the war. Would Roumania
come in after this disaster at Lemberg? The farther the Huns advanced
into Russia, the longer and the more disastrous would be their retreat.
She had refreshed her memory and fortified her faith in the ultimate
triumph of Right over Might by re-reading the history of the 1812
campaign. Tiddy guessed that Cicely’s engagement had turned a pessimist
into an optimist. Of late, throughout rural England, particularly
amongst the landed gentry, faith in victory had diminished. A stale-mate
was predicted by red-faced squires who derived all their information
from _The Times_, at that moment engrossed with advertising our
lamentable lack of high explosives.

“In our biggest factory,” said Tiddy, “we are making munitions instead
of pills.”

Lady Selina was delighted to hear it. Presently, she said gaily:

“You two girls trot off! You want to chatter together, I am sure. I
remember, as if it were yesterday, talking over my engagement with our
old parson’s daughter. She was engaged to her father’s curate. That made
the séance unduly long, because I had to listen to her after she had
listened to me.”

Cicely led the way to Brian’s old rooms.

Alone with her friend, Cicely became voluble. Was she talking to
disguise thought? The pupils of her eyes were dilated. Reluctantly she
confessed that she had not slept very well since her engagement, now
four days old! But Arthur was a dear . . .! The most thoughtful and
considerate of lovers . . .! And generous . . . He was bringing from
London a pearl necklace. Of course Tiddy would be chief bridesmaid,
possibly the only one grown-up. Children were adorable on such
occasions. She had some tiny cousins. To walk to the altar followed by a
troop of darlings . . .

Tiddy said flippantly:

“Coming events cast their shadows before. I daresay children mean
everything to you. Mrs. Roden showed me the old nurseries at Wilverley.
She expects a lot in that way.”

Something in her tone challenged Cicely’s attention.

“How oddly you said that! Perhaps you aren’t really pleased? You have
never been quite fair to Arthur. Once you called him fat. It’s muscle.”

“That appeals, too—muscle!”

“Heavens! If I didn’t know you so well, I should think you were
sneering.”

Tiddy exclaimed rudely:

“Come off it.”

“Tiddy! Are you mad?”

Miss Tiddle, in her way, was a student of strategy. For many months she
had read Mr. Hilaire Belloc’s articles in _Land and Water_. She had
faith in a vigorous offensive, shock tactics, beginning with a surprise.

She said sharply:

“I have met Mr. Grimshaw. I’ve talked with him.”

“Oh-h-h!”

Tiddy’s statement might mean anything or nothing. Tiddy, so Cicely
swiftly reflected, was capable of anything, even if she achieved
nothing. What had she said to Grimshaw? What had Grimshaw said to her?

Tiddy went on, relentlessly:

“I’ve a lot to say to you, and I don’t want to be flooded out before
I’ve done talking. Keep your powder dry! If there’s to be crying, I’ll
do it. I could burst into heart-breaking sobs at this minute. A nice
mess you’ve made of it.”

“I—I don’t know what you mean.”

Tiddy became melodramatic, not intentionally. She detested posing and
pretence. Violence served to disguise her feelings. Cicely’s miserable
face, her utter collapse at the first shot, moved Tiddy profoundly. She
had half hoped, half feared, that Cicely would return shot for shot,
justify her engagement, swear stoutly that she loved her lord. Instead,
she sat crumpled up in her chair.

“Swear to me,” said Tiddy vehemently, “that you don’t know what I mean,
that this Mr. Grimshaw is nothing to you, that you love Arthur Wilverley
whole-heartedly, and I will go down on my knees and beg your pardon.”

Chandos silence . . .

“I thought so.”


                                  III

Tiddy walked to the window and looked out upon the stable-yard. As she
did so, the big stable clock struck four solemn notes. In one hour tea
would be served on the lawn.

After the heavy rain of the morning, a breeze blew chill upon Tiddy’s
cheek. But it failed to cool her mind, now burning with democratic
indignation against conventions and traditions which had brought her
beloved friend to this sorry pass. Was it an impasse? Had she driven
Cicely into a cul-de-sac? When she did speak, what would she say? And
what she might say was, of course, insignificant compared to what she
ought to do.

Cut loose!

Could she?

That would demand an immense effort, something cataclysmal. Tiddy had
not been deceived by Lady Selina’s surface gaiety, although much
impressed by it as proof positive of what good-breeding might achieve.
She knew perfectly well that Brian’s death must have been a shattering
blow. Lady Selina had plenty of heart. Because of that, because she
loved Cicely, she had assumed a mask. Nevertheless, it was equally
obvious that this engagement, evoking as it did maternal energies and
solicitude, had tempered the cruel bereavement. She heard a chastened
voice, slightly querulous:

“I _am_ fond of Arthur.”

Tiddy retorted disdainfully:

“I’m fond of chocs.”

“Have some,” said Cicely defiantly. “There’s a box over there, Charbonel
and Walker’s.”

Tiddy helped herself. Silently, she offered the box to Cicely, who shook
her head.

“I am fond of you,” said Tiddy, nibbling at a praline, “but I’m fonder
of myself. That is _the_ test. I shan’t marry till I find some man who
can make me forget how fond I am of myself.”

Cicely considered this. Tiddy had spoken sincerely. Cicely, not
sufficiently alert to weigh the effect of words, answered with equal
sincerity:

“Arthur and I agree that the sort of—of feeling you speak of may be
awakened—later.”

“You sit there and tell me you have calmly discussed _that_? I suppose
you told him that you had a sisterly regard for him. And then he said
that he’d warm you up—_later_! Heavens! Why did he send you chocs? What
you want is ginger.”

“Say what you like.”

“I shall. What you have done is indecent. There’s a woman in your
family, a first cousin, whom you never mention. But I happen to know all
about her. She ran away from her husband, who was a brute, with an
actor; she bolted afterwards from the actor because he made a fool of
himself with his leading lady; and she didn’t bolt alone. I have
infinitely more respect for her than you. What an engagement! Two babes
in the topiary garden, fatly gurgling, dreaming that the Voice that
breathed o’er Eden will bless ’em, devoutly praying that love will
awaken ’em. Take it from me that love is too busy to waste his time upon
such blighters.”

Tossing her curls, stamping her foot, the daughter of the twentieth
century glared at the daughter of the eighteenth.

Then, once more, she cooled herself at the window.

Cicely moistened her lips with a feverish tongue. Anger had engendered
anger. She was tempted to say, with frigid dignity: “That will do.
Please go.”

One consideration restrained her. Tiddy was fond of her. She might have
abused friendship, strained it to breaking-point, but no girl would have
spoken with such fierce vehemence unless she had been tremendously
moved. To part from such a friend would be terrible.

Having reached this conclusion, Cicely became again a dual personality.
Before, when this curious experience befell her, she had been conscious
of an uplifting. From altruistic heights she had surveyed her world.
Complacency had fallen, like refreshing dew, upon her. It was quite
otherwise now. The new Cicely beheld with Tiddy’s eyes the old Cicely.
The new Cicely challenged the old Cicely to mortal combat. The new
Cicely said savagely: “Tiddy is right—a marriage of convenience is
indecent.”

But the old Cicely was not to be vanquished easily. Tiddy heard her
friend’s voice, still querulous:

“You are horribly unkind. You—you are spoiling everything. Heaps of
girls, nice girls, marry without—without f—f—feeling
p—p—passionate. And their marriages turn out jolly well.”

She ended defiantly.

Tiddy, rather ashamed of her outburst, ashamed, also, to discover that
her eyes were wet, said without turning:

“Those anæmic sort of girls are not in love with somebody else, as you
are. That’s what makes this thing indecent. What you propose doing is an
outrage on Arthur.”

_Arthur_. . . .

Instantly Cicely became alert. Tiddy had never spoken of Wilverley’s
lord as “Arthur.” The name had slipped from her lips naturally and with
a soft inflection that was unmistakable.

“Tiddy.”

“Yes?”

“Look at me, please. I want to see your face.”

Tiddy turned; Cicely rose. Melodrama is as catching as measles. Cicely
approached her friend, speaking intensely, in what is called in
theatre-land a stage whisper:

“You seem to be thinking more of Arthur than of me. Are you?”

“And what if I am? It’s time somebody did think for him; apparently the
poor fellow can’t think straight for himself.”

“Will you swear solemnly, as you tried to make me swear, that Arthur is
nothing to you? You had the cheek to tell me that you could, if you
tried, take him from me. It looks as if you had tried. And that, of
course, would account for your extraordinary behaviour. Now . . .
swear!”

Silence.

To be “hoist with one’s own petard” is an experience that few escape. To
accept such hoisting without whimpering is difficult. Hence Miss
Tiddle’s silence. Cicely had put to her a question which as yet she had
not put to herself. It fell, devastatingly, into the well where Truth
hides herself from a mendacious world.

“If you say nothing I shall think what I please.”

Tiddy pulled herself together.

“You are forcing me to be honest, not with you, but with myself. I have
not tried to take Arthur from you.”

“Could he”—Cicely’s voice was relentless—“could he, if he were free,
be more to you than a friend?”

Tiddy squirmed.

“I—I don’t know,” she admitted. “Really, this is ridiculous,
preposterous. If I apply to myself my own test, I can swear truthfully
that I am fonder of myself than Arthur. There!”

Cicely returned to her chair, sank into it, and stared at the carpet.
This was one of her tricks, an idiosyncrasy that occasionally
exasperated Lady Selina. She went into the same sort of trance that
afflicted Lord Saltaire when he found a hair in his soup. Cicely had
found a hair in her soup.

Tiddy could not guess that the two Cicelys were locked together at
strangle-grips—a fight to a finish.

She cooled herself for the third time at the window.


                                   IV

Minutes, hours, years glided by.

What a tiresome world it was!

Presently Cicely sighed. Tiddy exclaimed maliciously:

“The sleeping Beauty wakes after a trance of one hundred years.”

“Yes, I am awake,” replied Cicely tranquilly.

The girls eyed each other. Tiddy had to admit that Cicely _was_
awake—wide awake. Something sparkled in her eyes which Tiddy recognised
with astonishment as determination—something, too, not absolutely
unfamiliar. Ah, she had it. Cicely was looking at her with exactly the
same expression that informed the portrait of her father—a portrait
acclaimed by Lady Selina as a “speaking” likeness. A banal phrase now
invested with new significance. Arthur Wilverley, describing the late
Henry Chandos to Miss Tiddle, had said: “I never saw the old boy funk an
ugly fence if his hounds were on the other side of it.”

“I shall break off this engagement,” said Cicely.

“_Cis!_”

“Nothing else is possible.”

“Well, I must say you are wonderful—_wonderful_!”

“I must be—decent. I loathe indecency. I suppose I looked—peeped—at
this marriage through drawn blinds. You have pulled them up. And I’m
much obliged to you.”

“You—you forgive me, Cis? I know that I rampaged like—like a factory
girl.”

“You did, thank God!”

Solemnly they kissed. Once more Miss Tiddle, not Cicely, wiped away two
trickling tears. Cicely, as tranquilly as before, said:

“Nothing remains but to think out, if we can, the easiest way of
breaking this to mother and—and Arthur.”

Tiddy noticed that Cicely put her mother first.

“There will be appalling ructions.”

“There won’t be ructions. I could buck up against ructions. Mother never
rages when she feels things deeply. She glumps, as you accuse me of
doing. She will look at me in stony silence. She will become more
forlorn than ever. I’ve been a wicked fool. What time is it?”

“Half-past four.”

“We must make this tea pleasant.” Tiddy nodded, too overcome for speech.
“To-night—she always comes to me at night since my engagement—I shall
tell her.”

“What?”

“Ah! What? If you can suggest anything?”

Tiddy sat down, placed her head between her hands, and stared in her
turn at the pattern on the carpet, which happened to be pale roses upon
a pale grey ground. Lady Selina had chosen it. Cicely walked to the open
window, astoundingly self-possessed.

After a minute’s concentrated thought Tiddy said quickly.

“You can’t tell her about Mr. Grimshaw?”

“Heavens, no! Do you think I’m breaking from Arthur with the deliberate
intention of—of engaging myself to somebody else?”

“Aren’t you? You do care for him; he must care for you. And there you
are!”

Chandos silence. Tiddy continued:

“I understand that it would be tactless to mention Mr. Grimshaw to Lady
Selina, although _that_—your feeling for him, I mean—justifies you,
forces you, to break this engagement. I believe I should tell my mother.
However, I am I and you are you. If I wanted a man, and he chose to
behave like a dumbwaiter loaded with rare and refreshing fruit, I—well,
I should help myself.”

“I believe you would.”

“I’m glad I don’t wear your shoes, because I take a smaller size, but I
try to stand in them. You can tell your mother the plain facts: you
accepted a good fellow, not loving him. You find yourself unable to love
him. As a gentlewoman—ring that bell—you retire as gracefully as
possible and you invite her to help you.”

“Yes,” assented Cicely.

Further talk advanced them but little on the only way.


                                   V

A war tea was not spread that afternoon. Under the walnut tree, supposed
to keep flies at a distance, sat Lady Selina in front of a table not
groaning but pleasantly purring beneath pre-war delicacies. The Queen
Anne silver shimmered delightfully—it seemed to say to Tiddy: “We
impose ourselves because of our quality; we are of finer metal, less
alloy in us.” To behold Lady Selina making tea was a privilege. She
disdained the coarser blends. Her white hands hovered, as if in
benediction, above her equipage. The cups and saucers were early
Worcester. Once a collector had said protestingly: “My dear Lady, these
ought to be in a cabinet.” Lady Selina had replied blandly: “Really?” In
her drawing-room priceless bits of Chelsea were at the mercy of
housemaids. To lock up such objects seemed to Lady Selina equivalent to
putting a price upon them. It meant advertising your own possessions,
inviting envy as well as admiration. The _vieille souche_ took all that
for granted. Age, not rarity, sanctified porcelain and furniture—age
and use. There is a story of some duke who asked the village curate if
he liked the ducal claret. The curate replied thoughtlessly: “It’s very
good, your Grace.” Whereupon the great man growled out: “I didn’t ask
you, sir, if my claret was good; I asked you if you liked it.” In this
same spirit Lady Selina surveyed all guests. She hoped graciously that
they liked their entertainment. If they didn’t she remained blandly
indifferent.

The girls were not called upon to dissemble much. Lady Selina talked;
they listened politely. Her theme happened to be the treatment of her
own order in current fiction and on the stage. She contended that
justice had not been done to the upper classes. Dickens had imposed
caricatures, such as Lord Frederick Verisopht and Sir Mulberry Hawk,
upon an immense public, who accepted them as portraits. And ever since
men with no more real knowledge of the subject than Dickens had “played
to the gallery” in absurd endeavours to present lords as silly and
baronets as wicked. “We have our faults,” said Lady Selina, with a bleak
smile, “but we are not more foolish or wicked than others. If some of us
hide our vices we don’t advertise our virtues. This setting of class
against class is criminal. If it ends, as my poor brother predicts, in a
débâcle for us within a few years, some other class—Labour, if you
like—will establish a new tyranny far more unendurable than the old.
And always there will be distinctions. They flourish, so I am told, most
vigorously amongst the unprivileged. They grow rankly, as I know, in the
servants’ hall.”

“And in a Red Cross hospital,” added Tiddy. “But don’t you think, Lady
Selina, that the overlapping of the classes is a good thing?”

“No, I don’t my dear.”

“The House of Lords, for instance, is representative of all classes.”

“And you do away with it! I for one have never objected to the infusion
of fresh blood into the Upper House. Let supreme distinction be
ennobled. That is a very different thing from putting beggars on
horseback.”

As she spoke Stimson was seen approaching, followed by a male visitor.

“Oh dear!” exclaimed Lady Selina. “Stimson was told that we are not at
home.”

“It’s Mr. Grimshaw,” said Cicely.

Lady Selina’s brow grew smooth again. She might be “not at home” to a
county magnate, but her own people were never turned from her door. Mr.
Grimshaw, stepping into what Cicely had called Dr. Pawley’s list
slippers, had become, ex officio, one of her people. More, since
Cicely’s engagement she had reinstated him honourably as “my boy’s
friend.”

“He is bringing us good news of Dr. Pawley.”

She welcomed Grimshaw delightfully, so Tiddy thought. But the young man
did not acquit himself quite adequately. He appeared to be slightly
brusque and ill at ease. Was it possible that he kowtowed to the lady of
the manor? Or, more likely hypothesis, was he embarrassed in the
presence of Cicely? He accepted a cup of tea under pressure, and seated
himself beside his hostess. Yes, Dr. Pawley was in his garden,
convalescent. The faithful Ellen held him under a watchful eye. He would
remain in his chair till Grimshaw returned.

“I am very glad to hear such a good account of my dear old friend. Will
you allow me to see him to-morrow?”

“Certainly. He is looking forward to that.”

“Through him,” Lady Selina continued graciously, “we have heard of you
and your work in France. . . .”

She went on suavely, but Grimshaw responded in monosyllables. It
occurred to Tiddy that this visit might be professional. Grimshaw was
not behaving as a visitor. Tiddy jumped up.

“I must be off,” she declared.

But in Melshire all leave-takings are protracted. Five minutes elapsed
before Miss Tiddle mounted her bicycle. Cicely accompanied her to the
front door.

“Are you weakening?” asked Tiddy.

“No.”

“Your mother was sweet to Mr. Grimshaw.”

“She is sweet to all her subjects. He is now a subject. To-morrow he
will be regarded as an object. You heard what she said about the
overlapping of class distinctions? A shot at me.”

“I took it to myself, Cis.”

“It was meant for me—or, rather, for the future Lady Wilverley.”

“One last word, Cis. I repeat—you are wonderful. Now, if it will help
at all, pile up the agony on me.”

“And lose you? I can’t risk that. Besides, my trump card with mother
will be that I am acting on my own, as I am. You are a brick, all the
same.”

Tiddy sped down the drive.

As she pedalled away she remembered that Grimshaw had not alluded to
their meeting just outside Upworthy. Cicely had murmured coolly to him:
“You have met Miss Tiddle?” and he had bowed. She wondered whether a
clever man was aware that he had given himself away with a wince?


                                   VI

Left alone with Lady Selina, Grimshaw gave the real reason for his
visit.

“I am placed in an abominable situation,” he said abruptly. “You will
believe, Lady Selina, that I should not bother you on Sunday afternoon
without some cause.”

“Yes, yes; pray enlighten me.”

“Do you know anything about our professional etiquette?”

“Absolutely nothing, Mr. Grimshaw.”

He made a gesture which might mean that ladies of manors should know
more than they usually did about matters that might concern them
intimately. But he spoke temperately, avoiding medical terminology:

“Put briefly, it is this: No doctor interferes with another qualified
practitioner in the exercise of his profession.”

“I understand.”

“Unhappily, opinions differ as to a man’s qualifications. Legally
speaking, Dr. Snitterfield is a qualified practitioner.”

Lady Selina, unable to wean her mind from Dr. Snitterfield and decanter
stoppers, said blandly:

“I barely know Dr. Snitterfield. He is not, of course, a gentleman. His
practice is confined, I imagine, to—to those who are unable to employ
you or Dr. Pawley.”

Grimshaw brightened. Obviously Lady Selina did not hold Dr. Snitterfield
in high esteem. He continued:

“This afternoon I was visiting a patient—one of the Burbles.”

“Not my dear old Nicodemus?”

“Not Nicodemus—a niece of his. She told me that her father was in great
pain, suffering horribly. I admit frankly that I ought to have asked her
if some other doctor was attending him. My excuse—if it be an
excuse—is that I was much rushed, also I have hardly had time to pick
up the threads of Dr. Pawley’s practice. I supposed that my patient’s
father, living in the same house, had been attended by Dr. Pawley.”

“Quite naturally.”

“So I went up. I found the old fellow in the most shocking condition—a
mass of bedsores, and suffering from an abscess in the hip.”

“Perfectly horrible!”

“With the greatest reluctance, I must still further lacerate your
feelings. It seems that two months ago the man broke his leg. Dr.
Snitterfield refused to set it, partly on account of the man’s age—he
is over seventy—and partly because of the hip disease. I can assure you
positively that his leg could have been set two months ago. Ever since
he has lain there, most shamefully neglected. Probably he will die of
the bedsores.”

“I am inexpressibly shocked, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“I knew you would be.”

“But I don’t quite understand what I can do.”

“This poor old fellow requires constant attention. If I take over the
case Dr. Snitterfield will be furious. I care nothing about that. I
propose to take it over—I have taken it over.”

“With my cordial approval.”

“Thanks. This, however, is not the only case of disgraceful neglect on
the part of Dr. Snitterfield. I could cite others, but for the moment
I’ll spare you. The point is this: Action should be taken against
Snitterfield.”

“How?”

“I can ask the chief medical officer at Melchester to come here and
investigate these cases himself.”

For the first time Lady Selina displayed uneasiness. She had, as we
know, a nose for approaching trouble. In a vague way she divined that
Grimshaw himself had reasons against the summoning of authority.
However, she said suavely:

“If you deem that necessary it must be done.”

Grimshaw hesitated. Would Lady Selina stand plain speech? Ought he to
be—diplomatic? He could see lines of suffering upon her face. The pink
glow that had suffused it at tea-time was gone. The fingers of her hands
were trembling. He decided to pick his way as cautiously as possible.

“Dr. Snitterfield is, of course, our local health officer. That adds
enormously to his responsibility. He would lose his job if his chief did
come here.”

“I will take your word for that.”

“Perhaps, Lady Selina, you are not aware that Snitterfield was appointed
by the district council?”

“If you say so it is so.”

“Your bailiff, John Gridley, was chairman of the council at the time of
Snitterfield’s appointment and is still.”

Light was dawning upon Lady Selina. She blinked.

“I—I see.”

“I cannot disguise from you—it would be criminal on my part to do
so—that Snitterfield has powerful friends, Gridley amongst the number,
and several of your farmers. From my knowledge of the chief, his
investigation, if he comes to Upworthy, will be thorough. I fear that
the results of his investigation would become public property. The
Radical Press might take the matter up.”

“The Radical Press!” The light was now so intolerably strong that Lady
Selina closed her eyes.

“In short, you, as lady of the manor, would be exposed to much hostile
criticism and inevitable humiliation.”

Lady Selina opened her eyes, saying tartly:

“Humiliation is rather a strong word Mr. Grimshaw. Can you tell me why I
should be humiliated because a local health officer is proved derelict
in his duty?”

Grimshaw hesitated again. Why had destiny selected him of all men as an
instrument to inflict cruel pain upon a woman already bludgeoned? Always
she would associate him with her humiliation, for humbled she must be,
whether the chief was summoned from Melchester or not.

“I wish I could spare you the answer to that.”

She retorted shrewdly.

“You raised the question. You must answer it frankly.”

“Very good. Such an investigation as I have indicated will involve the
inspector of nuisances.”

“But he is not appointed by me.”

“He also was appointed by the district council. He is a friend of
Gridley.”

Lady Selina remained silent. She had just recalled Cicely’s words,
repeating what Arthur Wilverley had said. Obviously Arthur knew these
unpleasant facts. Grimshaw went on inexorably.

“It comes to this: without your knowledge, without any suspicion on your
part, these three unscrupulous men—Snitterfield, Gridley and the
inspector of nuisances—aided and abetted by small farmers, who dreaded
an increase of rates, have formed a sort of ring. They have all played
into each other’s hands and pockets. They have abused grossly the power
entrusted to them. And, lastly, their most outrageous misdoings have
been done upon your property and often under your name.”

Lady Selina gasped. Grimshaw concluded quietly:

“Now you will understand why I used the word humiliation.”

“I admit, Mr. Grimshaw, that I should be humiliated if I were convinced
that outrages had been done on my property and under my name. But, in
justice to an old servant, I must suspend judgment till I hear what
Gridley says.”

“He will have plenty to say,” Grimshaw observed drily “Meanwhile,
whatever he says, action must be taken. I ask you to condemn no man
unheard, Lady Selina, but in this case the chief medical officer will be
the judge if he is called in—not you.”

“Then you mean to call him in?”

Her voice quavered slightly.

“That depends.”

“Oh? Then you have an alternative in your mind?” He bowed. “What is it?”

“I have come here to suggest that alternative. There is no man in this
county who has such first-hand knowledge of rural conditions, good and
bad, as Lord Wilverley. Privately and publicly he has power, more than
he himself is aware of. Lord Wilverley, under all the circumstances,
could, if you can persuade him, deal with these men adequately. It is
likely that if this matter becomes open to official investigation Lord
Wilverley might be summoned as an expert. I don’t know. He is an expert,
and his agent is an expert. As your prospective son-in-law, he ought to
help you, and, if he does, I am content to leave the issue in his
hands.”

Lady Selina smiled faintly. In a sense she was grateful to Grimshaw for
this really invaluable suggestion. She never doubted that Wilverley
would help her. And, by this time, she felt certain that Grimshaw was
incapable of speaking ill against any man behind his back without due
provocation. Nevertheless, he stood before her as a disturber of the
peace. He had assailed cruelly her peace of mind. And, of course, as a
reformer, he suffered, like all reformers, from excess of zeal.

She said petulantly, with a fluttering of her delicate hands:

“I will speak to Lord Wilverley as soon as I see him. Why—why has Isaac
Burble suffered like this? It—it exasperates me. Had I known I should
have dealt with Dr. Snitterfield myself. Tell me, if you can, why these
stupid reticences exist between me and my people? I am approachable
always; I want to help. Why couldn’t Isaac’s daughter come to me quietly
and tell me about her father’s condition?”

“You have been away and in great trouble. Had you been at home, probably
she would have come. And Dr. Pawley was ill.”

“There is Mr. Goodrich.”

Grimshaw remained silent. Lady Selina continued, still petulantly:

“You answered the particular question. I was away, and these poor people
never write—never! But I repeat—there are always these reticences; one
simply can’t get the truth out of them. And why?”

Grimshaw had almost exhausted his patience. He had “spared” Cicely’s
mother as best he could. He reflected humorously what might have been
said, what would be said, scathingly, by the Radical Press if they got
hold of such good copy. And now he was pathetically invited to tear off
his bandages and inflict more pain.

“Do you really expect the truth from them? They all feel as I felt just
now when I approached this pleasant tea-table. You smiled on me
graciously, and this is my first visit to you since my return from
France. I knew that I was going to distress you horribly. But I am
independent of you. Your people are not. For generations they have
suppressed the truth. Their fixed idea is to ingratiate themselves with
authority, not—not to imperil the doles which they receive from
authority, the doles which stand between them and actual want. One of
your labourers has brought up fifteen children on just fifteen shillings
a week. How has he done it? Because you give him a cottage and a bit of
land, because you send milk and medicine, because you allow his wife to
pick up fallen timber in the park. And he is terrified of losing these
privileges. When you enter his cottage his wife greets you with smiles
and curtsies, the children smile _under instructions_. A cheerful smile
means sixpence. Do you—can you expect these strugglers to tell you
disagreeable facts, knowing, as they do, that it doesn’t pay,
_it_—_doesn’t_—_pay_, to make trouble? Their pluck, not their
reticence, amazes me.”

Lady Selina nodded, too dazed by his vehemence to reply. Grimshaw
glanced at his watch, muttered something about Pawley, and was striding
across the lawn before the lady of the manor had recovered her powers of
speech.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                             PEARLS OF DEW


                                   I

Cicely noticed that her mother was unusually silent during dinner, and
that she trifled with her food. Since Cicely’s engagement the cook, a
trusty retainer, had been given a freer hand with eggs and butter.
Possibly the Spartan fare at Danecourt Abbey had been too much for Lady
Selina. More probably, so Cicely reflected, the bride of Arthur
Wilverley must be brought to the post in proper condition. Stimson
waited upon her with even greater deference and assiduity. It was almost
pathetic to witness his activities, deprived of two footmen. He had
asked Lady Selina, almost with tears in his voice, not to engage a
parlourmaid. And when Cicely had asked promptly: “Do you object to a
parlourmaid, Stimson?” he had replied mournfully: “It means, miss, a
loss of dignity. I can manage very well.”

Not till he had left the dining-room did the lady of the manor speak of
Grimshaw and his visit. She recited the essential facts truthfully, but
they were presented with the usual Chandos gloss and with a note of
petulance which Cicely could understand and with which, also, she could
sympathise. The details about Isaac Burble horrified her, as, indeed,
they had horrified Lady Selina. An awkward silence ensued. Then Lady
Selina said slowly:

“He made a sort of threat, my dear.”

“A threat? Mr. Grimshaw? Impossible.”

“I regarded it as a threat, child—a threat which involved, as Mr.
Grimshaw made quite plain, humiliation for me. He spoke of calling in
the chief medical officer of the county.”

In answer to eager questions from Cicely she explained what authority
might do, and the publicity which his doings would entail. Cicely looked
miserable. Noting her daughter’s expression, Lady Selina said quietly:

“And then he proposed a happy alternative. For that I am very truly
grateful. In fact, I can see no other way out of the wood. He suggests
that I should consult dear Arthur, and through him his agent.”

“Oh—h—h!”

“I dislike intensely asking Arthur, but I admit that he is vitally
concerned. I need hardly add that I shall give Gridley a chance of
pleading his case before I pass judgment, but I fear he has exceeded the
powers entrusted to him. Anyway, he will have to explain himself before
Arthur.”

“I told you that Arthur does not see eye to eye with Gridley.”

“Yes, you did. I am prepared for the worst. Arthur, no doubt, will
insist upon my discharging this old servant. And how I shall find
another bailiff in these times is a problem beyond me. However, I count
upon Arthur and his agent.”

Cicely felt dazed. But one lobe of her mind worked clearly. Arthur could
show her mother a way out of the wood. He would do cheerfully and
splendidly everything she demanded. Nobody else could do it half as
well. And her mother was well aware of this, although pride would hardly
allow her to admit as much. Lady Selina smiled faintly when she
mentioned Arthur, and her voice indicated maternal affection. Arthur,
for the first time possibly was envisaged as a son. The other lobe of
Cicely’s brain refused to function at all. Out of a welter of chaotic
sensibilities arose the appalling conviction that the breaking of her
engagement had become a task beyond her powers. Dare she procrastinate?
Could she permit her mother to ask such a service from a prospective
son-in-law only to discover afterwards that the marriage so delightfully
arranged would never take place? What would Tiddy say? She could hear
Tiddy speaking, as it were, through a long-distance telephone:

“You are fairly up against it.”

Then she heard her mother’s voice, leisurely continuing:

“I shall speak to Arthur myself.”

“He comes to-morrow.”

“So you told me. I hope I shan’t spoil his pleasure in giving you your
pearls.”

Cicely had forgotten the pearls. At mere mention of them she
contemplated flight. Why not feign indisposition and remain in bed? Wild
ideas surged through her head. Could she make a personal appeal to
Grimshaw? The one old friend, Dr. Pawley, to whom she might have fled,
for counsel, was physically debarred. Her mother said sharply:

“Don’t look so wretched, child. I am positive that Arthur can save this
abominable situation. I regard it as saved, so cheer up. After dinner
to-morrow night, when he is smoking his cigar, I shall come back here
and talk to him.”

Having dismissed Arthur with gracious finality, she turned once more to
Grimshaw. Immediately the inflections of her soft voice became
querulous. In just the same tone Lord Saltaire bewailed the passing of
the old order. All the Danecourts, in fact—and there were not many left
of them except Cicely’s aunts—aired certain grievances in private. As a
rule Cicely listened patiently enough to a tale—long as the Cromwell
Road—which concerned itself mainly with the shortcomings of gardeners,
grooms and tradesmen: all the many-headed who interfered directly or
indirectly with that love of ease which Grimshaw long ago had described
as moss. Grimshaw, during a few minutes, had raked a lot of moss from
poor Lady Selina. Cicely reflected humorously, occupied though she was
with her own affairs, that her mother presented the appearance of an
ancient lawn cruelly lacerated by an up-to-date gardener.

“He means well,” complained Lady Selina.

Cicely replied:

“Who doesn’t? We all mean well. Mr. Grimshaw, so it seems to me, does
well. Anyway, he never spares himself.”

“Or others. This afternoon, for instance, he showed little consideration
for me. He might have broken this shocking news more gently. And he knew
that I was the person most affected.”

“Well, I should have thought that Isaac Burble was that.”

Lady Selina looked penetratingly at her daughter, and then blinked,
unable to see her quite clearly. What was the matter with the child?

“Of course, that goes without saying. It annoys me that you should say
it.”

This, too, was a Danecourt attribute. A Danecourt cornered, a Danecourt
at bay was likely to snarl. When Lady Selina missed a train she blamed
invariably the railway company or appeared to do so. Once Lord Saltaire
had summoned a man for using bad language. But, according to the
testimony of others, the defendant was impeccably innocent. Indeed, it
transpired that some swearing had been done by Lord Saltaire. When the
case was dismissed Lord Saltaire remarked petulantly: “All I know is
this—bad language was used; the fellow is a rogue and a vagabond.”

Cicely was discreet enough to apologise. Lady Selina continued in the
same aggrieved tone:

“Mr. Grimshaw is a radical. I deplore that.”

“But these labels mean nothing, mother.”

“Heavens! That a child of mine should say so!”

Chandos obstinately revealed itself. Cicely remarked tartly:

“It happens that Mr. Grimshaw does not label himself as a Radical. He
detests party politics. I have his own word for that. Are you angry with
him because he disturbs our peace?”

“Angry? And peace! I despair of peace anywhere. Still, one expects
consideration from one’s own people. And at such a time as this . . .”

She rose majestically and swept out of the dining-room. Cicely lingered
to ring the bell and to pull herself together. How stupid to argue with
her mother upon subjects like politics! And in a true sense Grimshaw was
a Radical. He went to the root of things—an uncompromising reformer.

When she joined her mother Lady Selina smiled sweetly and silently upon
her.

Alone in her bedroom Cicely attempted the impossible—an adjustment of
utterly conflicting interests. If she considered herself, if she broke
her engagement, Lady Selina would be confronted by the chief medical
officer. It is likely that an inexperienced girl exaggerated the powers
wielded by that official. But Lady Selina had made plain to her that
ultimately the lady of the manor would be held responsible for any
abuses discovered on that manor. Already she had a glimpse of a dreadful
photograph of her mother in some daily illustrated paper. And beneath
. . . a scarifying lie! Her uncle, as a many-acred magnate, had not
escaped criticism.

Lady Selina Chandos at the mercy of the Radical Press!

She remembered that Tiddy had hinted at such a catastrophe. And at the
time Cicely laughed. And then Tiddy, resenting ridicule, had cited
cases. According to Miss Tiddy, landlord-baiting to certain journalists
was more fun than drawing badgers.

She lay back in her arm-chair, closing her eyes.

If she did not break her engagement?

She tried to sense what that would mean to Upworthy, her mother and
Arthur—a feat almost equivalent to looking on at a four-ring circle. It
is only fair to a bewildered, unhappy girl to state emphatically that
she considered Arthur first and last. If she married him would she be
perpetrating what Tiddy called an outrage on him? This involved, more or
less, a consideration of matrimonial obligations. What did such a man
really want from his wife? Did Arthur want more than she could give.
Could she not give all that her mother had given to her father? And at
this moment she saw Arthur with extraordinary distinctness, thanks,
possibly, to the trouble that he had taken to reveal himself to her. She
guessed that he had never been swept off his feet by passion. He wanted
affection, fidelity, an atmosphere of domestic peace that would enable
him to concentrate energy upon his work. All that she could bestow.

She felt strangely tired.

So tired that she fell asleep.

And she dreamed vividly of Grimshaw, although purposely she had banished
him from her waking thoughts. Perhaps on that account he took possession
of her subconscious mind. When she awoke every detail of the dream
presented itself with sharpest definition. She had been working with him
as his wife in an enchanting intimacy of spirit and flesh. Interpreters
of dreams, those who endeavor to explain the why and wherefore of the
amazing vicissitudes which may befall us in our sleep, might affirm with
reason that Cicely’s mind had dwelt persistently upon work with
Grimshaw. She had wished from the first to work with him; he had wished
that she should do so. Also, she had thought more than she dared to
admit even to herself of what it might be like to be Grimshaw’s wife.
One other point: she had never thought of Grimshaw apart from his work.
Accordingly the dream in itself may be logically accepted as natural,
almost inevitable. Her first impression on waking was the curious sense
of reality that some dreams impose. Everything had been just right. She
came out of the dream as a man may walk out of a playhouse after seeing
a sincere and convincing presentment of life as it is. It is difficult,
on such rare occasions, to realise that what we have seen and felt has
not taken place. We believe that somewhere, somehow, the dream has been
enacted. That, perhaps, is the great test of a good play.

She had dreamed that Grimshaw and she were fighting death and disease in
Upworthy. Together they wandered in and out of cottages familiar to
Cicely from childhood. The drudgery of the Red Cross Hospital fell to
her. But in the dream this drudgery became glorified, equal to the
highly-skilled labours of her husband: a partnership of mind and muscle.
Her work, in its way, made what he did possible and successful. And the
joy of the dream, the ineffable benediction of it, was this sense of
working together for a common end. In the dream the hands of her
husband, not his lips, touched hers again and again, each time with an
increasing thrill. He hardly spoke to her, nor she to him; because each
understood the unspoken thought of the other. It was as if spirit and
flesh had been thrown into a melting-pot, to be fused eternally. He
became her and she became him.

And she had slept just twenty minutes!

The dream forced upon her what she had avoided—a more rigorous
examination of her own feelings. So far, although bewildered and
miserable, she had glanced at three rings in the circus. She had
realised what marriage with Arthur would mean to Upworthy, to her
mother, and to her husband. What it would mean to herself had been left
in abeyance.

Presently she saw herself as Arthur’s wife. She remembered what Tiddy
had once said about loving two men at the same time. To her that was
impossible, preposterous. If she resolutely banished Grimshaw from her
mind for ever and ever she believed that the affection she felt for
Arthur might bloom into just the same steady, work-a-day love that had
sufficed her own parents. She would be reasonably happy and make him
happy. She would adore her babies if they came to her. She would play
gracefully the part of Lady Bountiful. It would all be so easy, so free
from friction and discomfort. In her dream she had seen herself as the
wife of Grimshaw. Now, wide-awake, she beheld herself as Lady Wilverley.
But any image of Cicely Chandos, unmarried, regarded by her own
kinswomen as a foolish jilt, always conscious of her mother’s silent
disapproval, was hopelessly blurred.

She undressed and went to bed. For hours she wriggled restlessly between
lavender-scented sheets. Then she dropped off into a troubled sleep.


                                   II

She awoke at the usual time, jumped out of bed, went to the window, and
gazed into the garden. The incomparable freshness of early morning fell
like dew upon her still tired mind. The rains of two days had been
absorbed by the thirsty earth; the sun shone again in cloudless skies.

And Brian lay dead in France!

It was delightful to think that all her memories of him were happy. But
why had he been taken and she left? What design underlay these
heart-breaking separations? They had been so jolly together. But she
recalled, with an odd pang that always, always, they had sought the
sunshine and shunned the shadows. Love of ease had enwrapped them from
the cradle. And if Grimshaw were right, if love of ease were a parasitic
growth like moss, if it strangled other growths, must it be raked out
ruthlessly and cast as rubbish to the void? He had said, upon that
memorable evening when Arthur and he met for the first time, when
subconsciously she had compared the two men, arriving intuitively at a
right understanding of each, that some great discipline might change
character. What effect had Brian’s death had upon her?

She couldn’t answer the insistent question percolating through jaded
tissues.

At breakfast Lady Selina glowed maternally. No mention was made of
Snitterfield and Gridley. A letter from Lord Saltaire was read aloud:

    “MY DEAR SELINA” (it ran).—“I am rejoiced to hear of little
    Cicely’s engagement. From my personal knowledge of Wilverley she
    has chosen well and wisely. I hope that I shall enjoy the
    privilege of giving the bride away. Tell her, with my love, that
    I shall send her a tiara. As I cannot afford to buy diamonds, I
    shall give her the one that I chose for my wife, which does not
    belong to the family jewels. If you think it old-fashioned, I
    can have it re-set. . . .”

Lady Selina laid down the letter and said solemnly:

“Your uncle is the most generous of men. The tiara is simply
magnificent—pearls and diamonds. It won’t need re-setting. It was
bought in the rue de la Paix.”

Cicely murmured what was expected of her. Lady Selina read aloud other
letters of warm congratulation, with a sly jibe at some of the
well-wishers:

“Should we hear from these old cats if you were marrying Tom or Dick?”

“I don’t know them, mother.”

“You will, my dear. They’ll attend to that. I see them licking their
lips over your cream.”

“If they are like that, I needn’t know them.”

“But you must. In your position a lot of boring, self-seeking people
will impose themselves on you. But you can do with them as I
did—entertain them _en gros_. Make your small parties as select as
possible.”

Throughout breakfast Lady Selina dealt delicately but amusingly with
modern society. She had withdrawn from Mayfair after the death of her
husband, selling the lease of a comfortable house in Curzon Street; but
she had never lost touch with “the people who count.” And you may be
sure that it was not disagreeable for her to reflect that Lord Wilverley
would pass thresholds with his wife which he would never cross without
her. But she would have perished at the stake rather than say this.

As she talked, Cicely was sensible that the diamond-and-pearl tiara had
brought down this freshet of worldly-wise counsel and reminiscence. Lady
Selina’s eyes lingered upon her daughter’s hair. She saw the tiara
flashing and scintillating in sanctuaries where innumerable wax candles
were still provided instead of electric light. The mother tasted again
bygone triumphs. She ended in a minor key:

“Of course, society has changed for the worse. Half a dozen houses, not
more, preserve inviolate the old conditions and traditions. I see no
reason why you, my dear child, quite unostentatiously, should not
enforce the golden rule.”

“What is the golden rule, mother?”

“Slam your doors,” said Lady Selina trenchantly, “in the face of
indecency, impudence, and bad breeding. I admit sorrowfully that
impudence can be amusing.”

“Would you have me slam my doors in Tiddy’s face?”

“Tiddy, as you call her, is your personal friend, and therefore the
exception that proves the rule.”

There was a letter from Arthur beside Cicely’s plate, but she didn’t
mean to open it till she was alone. Lady Selina marked and approved this
abstention. Evidently, school had not rubbed off all the bloom. She
kissed her daughter after breakfast, pinched her cheek, and whispered:

“Run into the garden, darling. Read your love-letter in the place where
your lover asked you to be his. My thoughts will be with you.”

Cicely, however, out of sight of a pair of keen eyes, did not stroll
into the topiary garden, but skirted it, making for the lower end of the
park, where her beloved mare had been turned out. She would come
trotting up at sight of her and rub her velvety nose against her hand.
Sugar was becoming scarce, but Cicely had three or four lumps of it in
her pocket.

The park looked invitingly secluded and spacious. Not a human being
could be seen. The cattle were grazing on the higher slopes; the horses
stood near the small lake, not far from some dumps of trees, into which
they would wander when the sun approached the zenith. On the edge of the
lake, almost hidden by tall reeds and bamboos, was a tiny boathouse
which held an ancient punt. Cicely intended to read her letter in the
punt.

Her grey mare, Chinchilla, neighed and then trotted up. Cicely fed and
caressed her, thinking of the good hunts before the war. A couple of
bunnies watched these endearments, ready to pop into their burrows if a
terrier appeared. Upon the surface of the lake were some wild duck and
moor-hens. Overhead a heron flapped lazily along.

Followed by the faithful and sugar-loving Chinchilla, Cicely made her
way to the boat-house and entered it. Chinchilla mounted guard outside.
Cicely gazed, as some girls do, at the firm writing on the envelope,
indicating—to those who have skill in reading character from
caligraphy—love of order, a sense of proportion, generosity, and
rectitude. Cicely had no such skill, but Arthur’s handwriting pleased
her because it was so unlike her own. And it never varied.

She opened the envelope.

    “MY DARLING LITTLE GIRL,—I shall have you in my arms within a
    few hours of your reading this, and I can think of nothing else.
    To have and to hold you fills my heart and mind. I can’t add
    much to that, can I? Indeed, it is difficult to realise that you
    are really mine, because there is something elusive about
    you—something, in spite of your fine physical health, which
    seems to me frail and easily bruised. It is my ardent wish to
    cherish and protect you——”

Cicely paused. The sincerity of the writer was extraordinarily
impressive. That would be his unswerving purpose. He took care of all
his possessions. Solicitude, henceforward, would be concentrated upon
her.

Tiddy would say, shaking her curls, “Cotton-wool for you, Cis.”

She read on:

    “I have been glancing at some houses and flats. I am inclined to
    the latter—at any rate, until this war is over and the servant
    question becomes less of a nuisance. My own rooms are not good
    enough. My poor father had a hideous house full of hideous
    things. After my mother’s death I sold it. I have the offer of a
    very fine apartment overlooking the Green Park, and have secured
    an option on it, pending your final decision. But you won’t be
    bothered with details, and we shall buy our furniture
    together—make a jolly lark of it. We may have to spend some
    time in London, if my Government work becomes, as is likely,
    more exacting. The apartment I speak of is charmingly furnished,
    and we could, if you preferred it, buy everything as it stands.
    That is for you to decide.”

The letter ended curtly: “Yours faithfully, A.”

The “faithfully” was exactly like him. And no word in the letter was
written so firmly, with such uncompromising up-and-down strokes of a
full pen. Obviously he had intended her to digest its significance.

The letter dropped into her lap; she stared through the reeds at the
placid surface of the lake reflecting the cloudless blue and the trees
upon the farther shore.

Could life be like that?

Would it be life?

That morning she had decided to drift on with her engagement. All
vitality seemed to have left her, after uneasy vigils and travailings.
She had been born to tread the old ways, like her mother, like all her
people, except that one unfortunate who was never mentioned.

Probably she would lose Tiddy. And such a loss filled her with dismay
and apprehension. She computed her debt to Tiddy. Tiddy had opened her
eyes. Tiddy would go to France, and hurl herself into the danger zone,
if she could get anywhere near it. Why was she so different from Tiddy?


                                  III

Presently inaction became prickly. She decided to walk to the village
and inquire after Isaac Burble. Mixed up with all her thoughts and
speculations was this neglected old man who had served faithfully the
House of Chandos. He had suffered abominably. Because of that it seemed
a soft of judgment that Lady Selina’s daughter must suffer too. The
mills of God worked that way.

By the time she reached Upworthy the sun was nearly overhead, pouring
down redhot shafts upon just and unjust. Once more the smell of the
unclean animal assailed Cicely’s nostrils as she passed Martha Giles’s
sties. Close by, in striking apposition, stood Timothy Farleigh’s
picturesque, heavily-thatched cottage. Mary Farleigh was in her garden,
hanging out the Monday washing. Cicely beheld garments patched and
darned incredibly. Mary’s pale, thin face seemed paler and thinner; she
looked an attenuated shadow of a woman, worn to skin and bone. Nick, the
softy, was helping her, with a vacuous grin upon his round, amorphous
face.

“Good morning, Mary.”

“Marning, miss. A be-utiful marning, to be sure.”

“How are you?”

“I bain’t feeling very grand, miss. Tired-like. But I allers feels that
way o’ Mondays. ’Tis the washing, I reckons. So you be marriage-ripe,
they tells me.”

“What be that?” asked Nick.

“’Tis something you’ll never be, my pore lad,” replied his mother, not
tartly, but with pathetic resignation. She looked penetratingly at
Cicely, adding softly: “I wishes you all happiness, Miss Cicely; you be
a rare good, kind maid.”

“Thank you, Mary. Can I send you anything? A little strong beef-tea?”

Mary’s eyes brightened, but her thin lips closed.

“Thank’ee kindly, miss. I ain’t much stomach for my vittles. ’Tis the
heat, maybe.”

Something in her face made Cicely say hastily:

“If you feel ailing, Mary, send for Mr. Grimshaw. Don’t put it off till
it’s too late. He’s very clever.”

Mary nodded doubtfully. Cicely passed slowly on.

She did not hear very encouraging news from Isaac Burble’s niece, who
seemed to be more concerned—as well she might—with her own
“symptings,” as she called them. Her uncle, so Cicely gathered, had long
survived his usefulness. The thought that mainly engrossed the niece was
obviously the difficulty and necessity of providing a respectable
funeral for one whose time had come.

Cicely insisted on seeing him, and found him fairly comfortable and
cheerful. At any rate, Isaac was not contemplating his own funeral. He
said with a chuckle:

“I be going to disappint Maggie. Yas, we Burbles be long-lived. Take a
squint at Nicodemus. He was here along this marning. I told ’un I’d
wager a tankard of ale that this young doctor sets my old leg. ’Twill be
a rare joke on Dr. Snitterfield.”

Cicely left him still chuckling.

Soon afterwards she ran into Grimshaw, although she wished to avoid him.
He spoke of Isaac:

“I believe he’ll pull through. The amazing thing is, he won’t
die—positively refuses to do so. If the bed-sores yield to treatment, I
shall tackle his leg.”

Cicely said tranquilly:

“I have faith in you, and so has he. It’s too awful that he should be in
this condition.”

“Lady Selina has told you?”

He spoke with his usual incisiveness. Beneath his glance she flushed,
saying hurriedly:

“She will consult Lord Wilverley to-night.”

“Good!”

“If—if you have anything you care to say to me—something you may have
withheld from my mother out—out of consideration for her, I want to
hear it.”

He hesitated. They had met in the middle of the green, and it was now
unbearably hot, swelteringly so. Close to Farleigh’s cottage stood an
immense tree, with a seat encircling it. Grimshaw indicated this with a
wave of his hand.

“Shall we get into the shade for a minute?”

Cicely assented, reflecting that she would remain in the shade for the
rest of her life. She was torn in two by the wish to leave Grimshaw and
the desire to hear what he might have to say. Must more horrors be
faced?

She sat down on the rustic bench and furled her parasol. He stood near
her, removed his soft felt hat, and began crumpling it between his
hands. Her eyes rested upon his thin, nervous fingers.

“I dared not tell Lady Selina about the milk.”

“The milk?”

Very deliberately, in his most professional tone and manner, he dropped
the bomb.

“I have examined fifteen samples of milk taken from cows in and about
Upworthy. All—_all_ the samples held organisms derived from manure.”

“Heavens!”

“Worse than that—some of the cows are tuberculous.”

Cicely wailed out:

“How and why have things come to this pass? It isn’t as if mother didn’t
care. She does. So do I—tremendously. And with good-will on our part,
with—with the sincere wish to do our duty—why have we failed?”

“If I could answer all questions as easily as that!”

“Please answer me.”

“I hate preaching. I hate indicting individuals. What is wrong here, and
in thousands of other parishes, is the system. Peter is robbed to pay
Paul. Compromise is the _mot d’ordre_. How can your mother or you know
whether milk is pure or not? Of course, there is a man who is supposed
to attend to these matters, a state-paid official. In my experience,
most of these fellows—not too well paid, by the way—shirk their
duties. Why? Because the foundations of the land system are rotten. Now
and again a big fuss is made, and then things go on as before, simply
because there is, as yet, no real awakening, no vital co-operation
amongst land-owners. Many are good, some are outrageously bad—and they
are ear-marked. The immense majority are indifferent, because they are
ignorant. They simply don’t know what ought to be done. It’s futile to
blame individuals. In a sense Gridley is responsible for the insanitary
conditions in your pretty village. But I only blame him up to a point.
With the best will in the world he would blunder horribly if he
attempted drastic reform. Your mother would say that she can’t afford to
employ an expert, but, between ourselves, she can’t afford not to do so.
And really it comes to this: if land-owners can’t afford experts they
must become experts themselves and teach their sons to become experts.”

“And their daughters?”

“And their daughters. This war, of course, has made things, the bad
things, blatant. All the farmers are short-handed. I see an immense
change in cow-sheds since I left last autumn. What drainage was done is
now left undone. All I have said, Miss Chandos—and I have said it under
pressure from you, and with the greatest reluctance—applies to
everything here. Snitterfield, for instance, would not have neglected a
patient so—so damnably, if he were not overworked. In his way, too, he
is just as ignorant as Gridley. If ever he knew anything he has
forgotten it. And there you are!”

She thanked him for his candour. He stared rather ruefully at his
crumpled hat, smoothed it, and straightened it, put it on his head, and
laughed.

“I feel these things too much,” he admitted.

“I can guess how you feel.”

“If your mother will be guided by Lord Wilverley, all will be well. He
is a man of remarkable executive ability. But, if you have any
influence, entreat Lady Selina to give him a free hand.”

“I promise to do that.”

“What it will mean to this village is—immeasurable. And co-operation
between two large owners may lead to the one thing needful—a more
general realisation of what union can achieve. A league of landlords is
wanted. The farmers should be asked to adopt a more definite policy, but
most of them, again, are ignorant and obstinate.” His voice softened.
“All this is hard luck on you.”

“They are fighting in France,” replied Cicely.


                                   IV

Arthur Wilverley motored over at three, bringing with him his evening
clothes and the pearls. The pearls and Lord Saltaire’s tiara had become,
by this time, symbols to Cicely, symbols impossible to ignore. At a
glance, she perceived that her lover had bought a perfect string,
superbly gradated. It must have cost thousands! Their first greeting had
been perfunctory. He came into Lady Selina’s sitting-room and kissed
Cicely. He was about to shake hands with Lady Selina, when she said
impulsively:

“Kiss me, my dear son.”

She spoke with such a charming spontaneity that he hugged her. And then
he began to speak boyishly of what he had done in London, describing the
apartment and its furniture. Apparently, it had belonged to a
connoisseur, a collector, whose daughter, oddly enough, disdained
Chippendale chairs, and porcelain, and mezzotints.

“I’m offered the lot, so the agent says, cheap. Really it’s a gilt-edged
opportunity.”

“Not to be missed,” affirmed Lady Selina.

Cicely dissembled. She had looked forward to buying the furniture of her
London house, but she distrusted her taste. Probably, left to her own
devices, she would achieve the commonplace.

“What do you say, Cis?” asked Wilverley.

“If the things are really good . . .”

“They are, they are. We should save time, money, and worry. I told the
agent that I’d wire him.”

“Talk it over together,” advised Lady Selina. She added gravely: “I
commend any saving of time and worry to you, Arthur, because I am
constrained, much to my distress, to ask you to spend time and worry on
me. But we will talk of that later.”

With that she smiled graciously, and sailed out of the room.

“What does your mother mean?” asked Wilverley.

“She will tell you, Arthur, after dinner.”

He displayed a tinge, nothing more, of irritability.

“Mystery . . .!”

“You hate mystery, don’t you?” She spoke lightly, but he detected
nervousness, and saw troubled eyes.

“I do,” he replied emphatically. “But if this mystery doesn’t concern
you, my dearest . . .”

“But it does. Perhaps I had better prepare you. After all, mother asks
your help, because I am so concerned in your giving it.”

He recovered his geniality at once.

“If that is the case, dear, the help shall be given. Be sure of that.”

She sat down upon the big couch facing her father’s portrait. It was too
hot to go out. He sat beside her and captured her hand which lay, he
thought, too passively in his. Within five minutes he understood exactly
what was expected of him, and rose finely to the emergency.

“Why, of course. Any possibility of a public inquiry must be burked. I
know what to do. I can deal with the three culprits, Snitterfield,
Gridley and the Sanitary Inspector. And I’ll undertake more, provided
. . .”

“Yes?”

“That your mother allows me a free hand.”

“Mr. Grimshaw said that would be necessary.”

“Grimshaw? You have talked with him?” She nodded. “What did he say?”

She repeated Grimshaw’s words almost verbatim.

“Yes, yes. Grimshaw is right. The trouble is deep-seated, and goes back
to feudal times. Most of us muddle through somehow.”

“You don’t.”

“Oh, well,” he laughed, “I’m a bit of a carpet-bagger, and I’ve applied
to estate management the methods which succeed in our big industries.
The temper of this country won’t stand much more muddling. As Grimshaw
says, we land-owners must try to mobilise. And the old machinery must be
scrapped. I told you once before that money is needed, the sinews of
war. Because, mind you, this means war, a fight to a finish against
inefficiency and stupidity, with most of your mother’s farmers arrayed
against us. I shan’t have so much time to spend with you, Cis.”

She pressed his hand, and then released her own.

“I have your pearls in my pocket,” he whispered.

A moment afterwards the lustrous string dangled before her eyes.
Instantly, as has been said, she appreciated the splendour of the gift.
And, as instantly, she knew that it exacted a response. Why couldn’t she
fling her arms about his neck and press her lips to his? The fingers
that held the pearls trembled; the colour ebbed from her cheeks.

“What can I say?” she murmured.

“Bless you! You needn’t _say_ anything.”

She kissed him timidly. As it was her first kiss he may be excused, poor
fellow, for thinking that the shy caress was merely something on
account. Being shy himself where women were concerned, he accepted it
gratefully, and with a restraint which made Cicely heartily ashamed of
herself. He watched her fingers softly stroking the pearls, and wondered
why she remained so silent. And all the time she was thinking miserably:
“This is my price, or part of it. I am selling myself to this gallant
gentleman. _If he knew it_. . . .!” The tiara would go admirably with
these pearls. And whenever she wore them, the same thought would spoil
all pleasure in them. Unconsciously she sighed.

“Why do you sigh?” he asked.

It was an unfortunate question at such a moment. Swiftly she divined
that he was the sort of man who put such questions and expected them to
be answered truthfully. If she let this minute pass, always she must
dissemble, become an actress for ever and ever. And she couldn’t do it.

Hanging, so it seemed to her, between heaven and hell, she glanced up
and saw her stern father staring down at her. On his familiar face she
read contempt, condemnation, derision. The Danecourt half of her
withered.

Nevertheless, so persistently does moss cling to us, that she might have
procrastinated, if sudden passion had not broken loose in Wilverley. The
soft sigh inflamed him. He became, what he wanted to be, the lover of
romance. It is invariably your shy man who, on occasion, bursts out of
his fetters. He misinterpreted the sigh and the silence that followed
it. He jumped to the conclusion that the awakening he had predicted was
at hand. He would exercise the supreme privilege of the male, and infuse
into this sweet, trembling creature the ardour that informed him so
ecstatically. Without warning, his strong arms crushed her against his
broad chest; he kissed her lips, her eyes, her throat . . .

In every sense of the word she awoke.

With a strangled cry she broke from him, and stood up. He rose with her,
facing her, grasping the one essential fact that she had repulsed him,
that she shrank from him. He said hoarsely:

“What is it?”

She answered him with the directness that had characterised her father.
He had been a “yea”-or-“nay” man.

“I can’t do it, Arthur.”

He hardly understood her.

“Can’t do what?”

“I can’t marry you. It’s simply impossible. It wouldn’t be fair to you.
I am ashamed and humiliated beyond words. Don’t torture me by asking
questions. You are too generous for that. I wanted to love you, but it’s
not in me. It never will be in me. I ought to have obeyed my instinct in
the garden. I have hurt you horribly; I shall make mother miserable; I
shall be wretched myself; but I can’t marry you.”

He walked to the window. She was sorely tempted to rush from the room,
but strength came back to her. She perceived that the pearls were still
in her hand.

                 “And those pearls of dew she wears
                  Prove to be presaging tears.”

Milton’s lines came into her mind, as she placed the string upon her
mother’s desk. But no tears came into her eyes. She waited for Wilverley
to turn and speak. What would he say? Would he attempt protest,
argument, reproach . . .?

He came back to her.

“I am sorry,” he said kindly. “If you feel that way, I—I admire your
pluck. Of course, I was not prepared. I blame myself. I suppose I ought
to have taken your first ‘no’ as final. I understand anyway that this
last ‘no’ is final. Now . . . What are you going to say to Lady Selina?”

“Just what I have said to you.”

He paced up and down the room, thinking.

“Shall I speak to her? It might make it easier.”

She was very near tears as she faltered:

“How generous of you! No; I shall tell her, poor dear! The simple truth
will suffice. She will say nothing. Her silence will be my punishment.
Nothing, nothing will bridge that.”

“You want me to go?”

“Please!”

He marched straight to the door.

“Arthur, you have forgotten the pearls. Let me say this to you. The
pearls did it—and my father’s face.”

She pointed to the portrait, but it seemed to her entirely different.

“Your father’s face?”

“Yes.” She gave a bitter laugh. “He forbade the banns. I can’t explain.
It was something far beyond me. But I knew. And the pearls, those lovely
pearls, were the pearls of price—my price. You understand? You pity
me?”

He answered solemnly:

“Before God, I do.”

Hastily he caught up the pearls and pocketed them. Then he held out his
hands.

“Good-bye, my poor little Cicely.”

“Is it to be good-bye, Arthur?”

He held her hands, gripping them. She saw that he was thinking hard.

“We remain neighbours and friends. I will help your mother.”

She shook her head sadly.

“Mother is too proud. More punishment for me.”

At this he smiled faintly, pressing her hands. He never appeared to
better advantage than when he murmured tenderly:

“If you have done the right thing, Cicely, other things will adjust
themselves.”

He released her hands and went out.


                                   V

Meanwhile, as luck would have it, Lady Selina happened to be in Cicely’s
rooms. Already she envisaged them as suitable for a day—and
night—nursery. The old nursery at the Manor was not too happily
situated. It looked north. Lady Selina could remember the day when she
had suggested to her husband a bigger and better room, but he had
expressed positively the opinion that what had been good enough for
himself and his father, was good enough for his children. He was no
believer in coddling. And if babies howled, which in his day was
reckoned to be a natural lamentation over Original Sin, let them howl
next to the servants’ quarters!

Now, with a more enlightened understanding, Lady Selina admitted that
howling was no longer tolerated. And something told her that she would
hasten, despite her advanced years, more swiftly to Cicely’s babies than
she had ever hastened to her own. Conscious of this, and able to analyse
her sensibilities with an odd detachment, she smilingly considered the
right placing of cots out of draughts, and the substitution of thick
curtains instead of chintz. Chintz rustled when windows were open at
night; flimsy curtains bulged inwards; a nervous child might be
frightened.

These thoughts were put to flight by the soft purring of Wilverley’s
motor. And then, to her utter confounding, looking out of the window,
she beheld Wilverley and his chauffeur, and, a moment later, the
faithful Stimson crossed the stable-yard carrying a suit-case.

What, in the name of the Sphinx, could have happened? And where was
Cicely? Had the dear young people quarrelled? As her prospective
son-in-law, she insisted upon regarding Arthur as young; Cicely she
reckoned to be a mere child.

Her heart began to beat uncomfortably, as a premonition of disaster
gripped her. She sat down, trembling, realising that her hands and feet
were cold. Deep down in her mind, possibly in some zone of
subconsciousness, lay latent the fear that a marriage so exactly right
from every point might never take place. She had been aware, from the
first, of Cicely’s hesitations and doubts. But always she had
impatiently dismissed her own forebodings as unduly pessimistic.

For a minute or two she sat still, unable to think articulately. She
heard the motor leave the stable-yard. A long, dismal silence followed.
Being a lady of quality, she realised instantly that Arthur was
incapable of rushing away from her house without a word of explanation
unless something quite out of the ordinary had happened. A man in his
position might, of course, receive an urgent telegram. But, in that
case, Cicely would have speeded him on his way.

She waited, knowing that Cicely would soon come to her own rooms.

Cicely, meanwhile, believing that her mother was quite unaware of
Wilverley’s departure, had not yet considered how and when she could
tell the abominable truth. The paramount necessity of the moment was to
be alone. Accordingly, after Arthur had disappeared, she remained on the
sofa, staring at her father’s portrait. She made sure that her mother
was in the garden under the tree where tea was served on hot afternoons.

Presently, she opened the door, saw that the corridor was empty, and
stole swiftly to her sitting-room. As she entered it, Lady Selina rose
to meet her.

“Why has Arthur gone?” she asked calmly.

Cicely, completely taken aback, unable to temporise, faltered out:

“Because I have broken off our engagement.”



                               CHAPTER IX
                            TIMOTHY FARLEIGH


                                   I

Lady Selina, you may be sure, betrayed at first neither surprise nor
anger. She lifted her arched brows, smiled faintly, and murmured:

“Indeed! Am I to take that literally, child? You, not Arthur, have
broken off this solemn engagement?”

Cicely, on the verge of tears, pulled herself together, retorting
sharply:

“That’s it, Mother. I broke off the engagement because really it was not
what you mean by ‘solemn.’” As Lady Selina, slightly taken aback, paused
to reply suitably, Cicely continued with vehemence: “I blame myself for
that. Arthur has behaved splendidly. I have been stupidly weak. I
suppose it comes to this. I simply can’t give him what he wants and what
he deserves. If I married him, feeling as I feel, the punishment would
fall on him quite as heavily as on me.”

The sincerity and conviction of her voice and manner were not wasted
upon a woman who, whatever her faults might be, was honest herself and
quick to approve honesty in others. Lady Selina sat down, gazing
intently at her daughter’s flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes.

“What do you feel?” she asked quietly.

It was a difficult question for any young girl to answer adequately.
Cicely made a gesture indicating protest. To Lady Selina it may have
indicated more. Perhaps at that moment she measured the distance between
herself and her child. Perhaps she wondered if it could be bridged by a
mother’s kiss. Deep down in her heart anger smouldered. To suppress
this, to use tact, to invite confidence courteously—these
considerations burked the natural impulse.

“Have I not the right to ask you how you feel?”

“Of course. But could you tell me exactly how you feel? No. But I can
guess how you feel—all the disappointment and vexation and humiliation.
But you, being you, couldn’t put all that into words. And it is the same
with me. To please you—and I know how it would please you—I would
marry Arthur if I could, but I can’t. I have at any rate been brave
enough to make that plain to him. He wouldn’t take me now if I hurled
myself at his head.”

“You mean there is nothing more to be said?”

“Yes; I mean that.”

Lady Selina stood up. Once more impulse assailed her. And, oddly enough,
behind impulse, fortifying it, was the certain assurance that love would
break down all barriers. Behind that again, a grim portcullis, was the
impossibility of playing a part, of pretending to be other than what she
had been trained to be. She told herself that she could kiss this
unhappy child when anger had been exorcised by prayer and reflection,
not before.

“I will leave you, Cicely. Before I do so I will say this: I would not
force marriage upon you or anybody else. Apparently the knot has been
irrevocably cut by you for reasons which you may wish to keep to
yourself. However, a girl who changes her mind so swiftly may change it
again. Before your decision is made public I entreat you to weigh well
the consequences. Even to-day, when the world seems in chaos, no girl
can jilt a man with impunity.”

“As if I didn’t know that! . . .”

At the door Lady Selina fired her most telling shot.

“One thing,” she said slowly, “would excuse and account for your
impropriety of conduct, to give it no harsher word—a change of heart as
well as mind. If you care for another man it would indeed be wicked to
give yourself to Arthur.”

The door closed gently behind her.


                                   II

Left alone, and reasonably certain that her mother had retired
majestically to her own room, Cicely reflected that a flood of tears
might wash away some of the more importunate thoughts that were
attacking her. The conviction that Tiddy would not sit down and howl put
to flight this reflection. Tiddy, probably, would attempt to fight
reaction with action. Tiddy would work things off.

_Le travail est consolateur._

No work lying ready to her hand, Cicely decided to go for a brisk walk.

She escaped from the house, and sped swiftly towards the beloved
village. Instantly she became conscious of her freedom. A breeze was
cooling the hot afternoon, rustling delightfully amongst the leaves of
the beeches and elms. The world seemed incomparably fresher and younger.
The sense of having done the real right thing quickened her pulses. As
she walked she heard the stable clock strike five. It was tea-time, and
actually she felt hungry and thirsty. She had trifled with her luncheon.
To forego tea would be silly. Mrs. Rockram would provide it with
pleasure. She stood still, hesitating. She might meet Grimshaw. But it
was almost certain that Grimshaw would drink his tea with Dr. Pawley.
The risk of meeting Grimshaw might be considered negligible. So she
walked on nimbly as before, wondering whether Arthur had any appetite
for his tea.

Mrs. Rockram received her effusively, but Cicely cleverly silenced an
old servant’s eager questions concerning courtship and matrimony.

“I came here to escape from all that,” she affirmed positively.

“What a tale!”

“The truth and nothing but the truth. Let us have a good gossip about
the village. I saw Mary Farleigh this morning. She looked very thin and
worn.”

“Pore dear soul!”

“I told her to send for Mr. Grimshaw.”

“She won’t never do that, miss. She’s the sart that stands up till she
tumbles down. I told her, I did: ‘You’ll carry on,’ I says, ‘till you’re
carried out toes first,’ I says.”

“What a way to put it!”

“That’s as may be. She passes the remark to me: ‘My time’ll come,’ she
says, ‘when I bain’t needed so badly herealong.’ And ’tis true. The dear
Lord only knows what Timothy’d do wi’out her.”

“Mr. Grimshaw must see her.”

“She won’t send for him, miss. But, maybe, he’d go to her if you asked
him, as a favour like.”

Cicely answered quickly: “I will.”

Before she had finished her tea she decided that she would write to
Grimshaw about Mary Farleigh. Also, she might hint delicately that
reform in the sanitary conditions of Upworthy might come about the more
surely if not pressed too vigorously at first. If her mother refused,
under present conditions, to accept Arthur’s help, somebody else must be
found.

She was sipping a second cup of Mrs. Rockram’s tea when Grimshaw came
into the kitchen. To make matters worse he had not had his tea. Mrs.
Rockram bustled out, leaving man and maid together. Grimshaw was the
more self-possessed. At once Cicely said hurriedly:

“I was going to write to you.”

“Yes?”

“Will you, as a personal favour, see Mary Farleigh? She won’t send for
you. She looks wretchedly.”

Grimshaw consented, adding a few disconcerting words. “What you told me
this morning was heartening. Lord Wilverley is a man of tremendous
executive ability. With his cordial co-operation everything is
possible.”

Cicely murmured, almost inaudibly:

“But . . . if . . . if he should be unable to help?”

“_Unable?_”

He looked so astonished that the unhappy Cicely found herself blushing.
To save an intolerable situation she made another blunder.

“I mean if . . . my mother was too proud to accept his help?”

Grimshaw replied with a sub-acid inflection. He detested the waste of
labour in making mountains out of molehills.

“But, frankly, Miss Chandos, is she too proud to accept the help of her
own son-in-law?”

Cicely’s eyes, beneath his sharp glance, showed a hunted expression. Why
was Mrs. Rockram so long making a fresh brew of tea? Why had Fate
ordained that she should meet this man twice in one day? What would
Tiddy do in such an emergency? It is certain that Tiddy would not have
looked piteous. Grimshaw’s voice became tender as he put another
question.

“Am I distressing you?”

“N-no.”

“But, forgive me, you look distressed. It is possible, of course, that
my zeal for the welfare of Upworthy has caused—how shall I put it
without offence—some friction between Lady Selina and you?”

She assured him too eagerly that this was not the case.

“But something must have happened since this morning?”

“Yes; something has happened.”

Mrs. Rockram entered with the teapot just half a minute too late.
Fortified by her presence, Cicely might have pigeon-holed further
explanations. In a moment she would be alone again with Grimshaw, and
some insistent quality about him would evoke the truth. And why not?
Wasn’t evasion the meanest weapon used by women?

“I’ll make you a bit of toast, sir,” said Mrs. Rockram.

“Please,” replied Grimshaw. “_Two_ bits,” he added as Mrs. Rockram
turned to leave the parlour.

“You are hungry, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“Not particularly. It takes time to make two bits of toast.”

He smiled encouragingly at her, inviting confidence, dropping his
slightly formal manner and address. She said abruptly:

“What has happened is this: I have broken my engagement to Lord
Wilverley.”

“Good God!”

The sharp ejaculation indicated amazement—and what else? Cicely was too
nervous to analyse her own emotions, much less those of another; but the
light in Grimshaw’s eyes illuminated his deeps unmistakably. He was
glad—glad. And in a second an amazing change took place in him. He
became the friend, eager to help and console. The two met again upon
equal terms. Ten years seemed to drop from him as he exclaimed
fervently:

“I knew it.”

“What did you know?”

She asked the question calmly, although her heart was throbbing.

“I knew that he was not the man for you and that you were not the woman
for him. I understand exactly how you drifted into the engagement. And
how plucky to have broken it! He is such a good fellow that he made it
less hard for you, didn’t he?”

She nodded, hardly able to speak. He continued in the same boyish tones:

“And your mother? . . . I’m most awfully sorry for her.”

“Mother is miserable, too miserable to scold me. And she is not the
scolding sort. At this moment she is lying down—brooding. She will go
on brooding. At dinner, to-night, she will be ever so nice to me, but
the distance between us will be immense. Tell me how I can lessen it.
There must be a way.”

“You love her; she loves you. Pin your faith to that.”

“And then there is you. I am sure that she will not ask Lord Wilverley
to help her, and you . . . you . . .”

“Yes?”

“You see, you have held a sort of pistol to her head.”

He weighed her words carefully, slightly frowning, as he wrestled with
the issues involved. When he spoke no boyishness informed his tones.

“Do you ask me to lower that pistol?”

“I feel such a helpless fool.”

“Well, if you want the whole truth, so do I. We are both in the same
boat. As an honest man I have to face the fact that conditions here are
getting worse every day. Action, to be of real use, should be immediate
and sustained.”

“I suppose you must do your duty.”

“What is my duty? To better conditions if I can. How? That’s the rub.
That’s where my helplessness comes in. If I rush things, kick up a
horrid rumpus, shall I achieve my ends? I doubt it.”

“Don’t rush things, Mr. Grimshaw, please.”

“So be it! And, perhaps, your mother is not quite so proud as you think.
She may yet be guided by Lord Wilverley.”

To this Cicely replied with an emphatic “Never!” as Mrs. Rockram
appeared with the toast.


                                  III

Two or three days slipped by without incident. What Cicely had predicted
with such assurance came to pass. Lady Selina accepted the thwackings of
Fate in silence. She remained consistently “nice” to her daughter. But
she refused peremptorily the help that Arthur Wilverley offered within
twenty-four hours of his dismissal. Before the week was out the usual
announcement appeared in the columns of the _Morning Post_.

Upon the Monday following Cicely heard at breakfast that Mary Farleigh
was sick abed and dying. Stimson told the tale.

“Dying?” repeated Lady Selina. “Did you say ‘dying,’ Stimson?”

“The word was used, my lady, by Annie, at ten o’clock last night. She
had been in the village, her Sunday out, my lady.”

“I shall go down at once,” said Cicely.

“I will follow,” added Lady Selina. “Probably Annie is exaggerating. Mr.
Grimshaw thought that Isaac Burble was dying. My people, I am glad to
think, do not die easily.”

“What is the matter, Stimson?” asked Cicely.

Stimson, treading delicately, murmured:

“They say the fever, miss.”

“Heavens! What fever?”

“Typhoid, miss.”

“I don’t believe it,” declared Lady Selina.

Nevertheless, she filled a small basket with soup and wine, and
dispatched Cicely with it immediately. Obviously the lady of the manor
was distressed. Her fingers trembled as she tied on the lid of the
basket, and she said nervously: “I send you first, Cicely, because I am
aware of Timothy Farleigh’s hostility. I saw poor Mary a week ago. There
was nothing about her appearance to suggest this.”

“I saw her too. I—I thought she looked ill, so ill that I begged her to
see Mr. Grimshaw.”

“Quite right. And has she?”

“I don’t know.”

On arrival at Timothy’s pretty cottage, Cicely found Martha Giles and
Timothy in the kitchen. Grimshaw, so she learned, was upstairs with his
patient. Timothy received Cicely civilly but coldly. Martha chattered
away as usual:

“Ramblin’ in her talk, pore Mary be. ’Tis the fever seemin’ly.”

“Does Mr. Grimshaw say so?”

“He bain’t sure yet.”

“I be sure,” growled Timothy. “I know by my bees that Mary be dying,
yes, I do. She loved her bees, she did. They’ll up and leave the hives
when she goes.”

“You be daffy,” said Martha cheerfully. “Mary bain’t dead yet. I mind me
when my lil’ Willie lay cold an’ stiff in his bed, and old Doctor Pawley
he says to me: ‘Martha Giles,’ he says, ‘Willie be gone.’ An’ the lil’
dear opens both his eyes and says: ‘No, I bain’t.’ And I speaks quite
sharp to the lad: ‘Now, Willie,’ I says, ‘don’t ’ee conterdict Doctor,
because he knows best.’ And Lard bless ’ee! Miss Cicely, Willum be
cartin’ manure this instant minute. I’ve some nice cow-heel broth for
Mary, if so be as her pore stummick can stand it.”

“I have some nourishing soup,” said Cicely.

Timothy never thanked her. In the same apathetic tone as before he
informed Cicely that his niece Agatha was coming to nurse her aunt, and
when Cicely expressed her approval of this, adding a few pleasant words
about Agatha, Mrs. Giles burst out again:

“Full o’ beans she be, and quite the lady.”

“Ladies be damned!” grunted Farleigh.

“Timothy Farleigh! . . . And before Miss Cicely too! You’ll excuse his
ignerunce, miss, I know.”

“I’ve nothing agen she,” continued the old man, indicating Cicely with a
gesture. “When I says ‘Ladies be damned!’ I speaks of fine ladies, who
toil not neither do they spin, and Solomon in all his glory bain’t
arrayed like unto ’un.”

Mrs. Giles was unaffectedly shocked.

“I never heard such blasphemious talk.”

“You’ll hear more of it, Marthy, afore you find yourself snug i’
churchyard. They do say as Aggie and Johnny Exton have fixed things up
to get married soon as never.”

“I think I hear Mr. Grimshaw’s step,” said Cicely.

Grimshaw came in, carrying his small doctor’s bag. Timothy confronted
him, a gaunt, eager man; all trace of apathy had vanished.

“What be the trouble, Doctor?”

“I am not quite certain yet, Farleigh. I shall find out to-night.” He
took Farleigh’s arm, pressing it. “We shall fight for her. Go to her. Be
as cheerful as possible. For the moment she is rather dazed.”

Timothy went out, followed by Martha.

“Is it typhoid?” asked Cicely breathlessly.

“It may be,” he answered cautiously.

“Oh, dear! oh, dear! And his children, who died here! How could he go on
living in this cottage!”

Grimshaw, looking very tired and worn, answered curtly:

“Men like Farleigh can’t uproot themselves. He is part of your soil.
And—forgive my saying so—Lady Selina doesn’t exactly encourage her
labourers to labour elsewhere.”

“Of course she doesn’t. You . . . you look very tired, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“I’ve had a bout of that malaria. It prevented my coming here, as you
asked me, earlier. It’s not easy for a doctor to bear patiently his own
physical infirmities. Please tell Timothy that I’ll look in again
presently. For the moment nothing can be done.”

He bowed and moved towards the door. Cicely was infinitely distressed by
his appearance and manner. Did he deliberately wish to impose barriers
between herself and him? Sympathy for him welled up and overbrimmed.

“Stay one moment,” she faltered.

He turned quickly, standing still, with his eyes upon her troubled face.
She continued hurriedly:

“I thought we were friends.”

“We are friends.”

“Are we? Surely friendship pulls down barriers; it doesn’t deliberately
build them.”

She spoke so ingenuously that Grimshaw was disarmed. More than physical
infirmity had been his portion during the week that had passed since he
met Cicely at Mrs. Rockram’s. Before the malaria seized him, he had lain
awake hour after hour, fighting furiously against his love for a girl
whose happiness had become dearer to him than his own. The issues were
crystal-clear. Something told him that her friendship for him, so
artlessly revealed, might be fanned by him into the more ardent flame.
The mere thought was intoxicating. Then in colder blood he began to
calculate the consequences to her if he won her love. The mother would
withhold her consent. It lay within her power to disinherit a
disobedient daughter. And, unless all his knowledge of Lady Selina’s
character were at fault, she would exercise that power in the firm
conviction that she was doing so conscientiously. All these
considerations tore to tatters the primal instinct of the male to pursue
and capture. Another thought distracted him and kept sleep from his
pillow. Sure as he was of himself, of his ability to provide the
necessaries of life, with some of its superfluities, for his wife, he
was not yet sure of Cicely’s adaptability to conditions widely differing
from those to which she was accustomed. As a practitioner he had seen
enough and to spare of the miseries brought about by comparative
poverty. It became torment to reflect that Cicely, if she married him,
might live to regret it. Add to this that he was proud and perhaps
unduly sensitive. Finally, he had reached the sum-total of many
computations. For the present at least, till his own position was more
assured, he must mark time, an exercise he cordially detested.

He replied awkwardly: “If there are barriers between our friendship,
Miss Chandos, they are not of my building.”

“What are they—these barriers?”

“Almost as big and as old as the Pyramids.”

He spoke harshly, angry with himself, conscious that he was dissembling
badly. He went out quickly, leaving Cicely erect and defiant. But, as
the door closed behind him, a faint exclamation of dismay escaped her.
She sank back into a chair close to the big kitchen table, and covered
her face with her hands. At the same moment Grimshaw, passing the open
casement, glanced in and beheld her. His quick ears caught a muffled
sob. This was more than flesh and blood could stand. Cicely looked up as
he came back. In silence each read the heart of the other. No words were
needed. She stood up, trembling. He took her in his arms, kissing her
hair, her brow, her cheeks. She remained passive, almost swooning under
this revelation of feeling and passion. She heard his voice, broken and
insistent:

“I want you. I want you more than all the world. I have always wanted
you, from the day I first saw you. Is it possible that you want me?”

He found on her lips the answer to that question.

When they returned to earth she whispered:

“You didn’t wear your heart upon your sleeve!”

“How could I, when you had stolen it?”

“Blind man!”

“Not altogether.”

“What! You saw?”

“I saw the Pyramids. I see them still. I believed them to be
unsurmountable after Brian’s death, but when you told me about Wilverley
I knew somehow that it was not love that made you take him. But the
Pyramids remain.”

She disengaged herself gently, raising rueful eyes to his.

“I had forgotten—Mother.”

“So had I, for one blessed minute.”

“What are we going to do?”

He answered decisively:

“I’ll see her at once and plead my case as best I may.”

His grim tone was not exactly encouraging. Cicely, however, nothing
daunted, put both her hands upon his shoulders, smiling at him.

“I know,” he said, smiling back at her.

“What do you know?”

“You are about to ask me to leave your mother to you.”

“What a clever man! Frighteningly so. Yes; I have a little plan. How
much do you love me, Harry?”

The name slipped from her so easily that he guessed how often it must
have been in her thoughts.

“Ah! How much? I came back here, against my judgment, my pride,
everything, because I loved you so desperately.”

She exclaimed joyfully:

“That is how a girl wants to be loved. I am ever so proud that you love
me like that.”

She kissed him, so sweetly, with such self-surrender, that he asked
himself, humbly and gratefully, “Am I worthy of her?” And behind the
question rankled the fact that he had doubted her strength of character
and ability to rise above conventions rigorously imposed since her
childhood. He heard her soft voice, so beguiling:

“I suppose you know that Mother loves me very dearly?”

He laughed, pressing her to him.

“Well, I think I can guess what sort of strangle-hold you have on her.”

“Since Brian died she has been so tender to me, and more dependent. And
I’m all she has.” She sighed a little.

“You would like to spare me,” he said. “Your mother is not very likely
to love me.”

“If she knew you as I do, she would consent to our marriage.”

“Would she? Um! My time this morning is not my own, darling. Let’s hear
your little plan.”

“I want you to make love to Mother. You never half wooed me. But I’ll
forgive you, if you woo her. You must woo her.”

“But she doesn’t give me many opportunities. And, you see, I’m no
courtier.”

She stepped back from him, eyeing him critically, but still smiling.

“You aren’t, if you won’t try to do the first thing I ask you. But you
will, won’t you?”

“I antagonised her at the start.”

“I can assure you she’s getting over that. She admits you are
tremendously clever. She says that you have resurrected old Isaac Burble
from the dead. And you will save poor Mary Farleigh. Her illness will
bring you together. When you meet, will it be so frightfully difficult
to be nice to her?”

“And hold my tongue about you?”

“Her ways,” she pleaded, “are not your ways, but can’t you walk in them
for a little while to—to please me?”

“What a witch! I prefer more direct methods.”

“Oh-h-h!”

Tears filled her eyes. Feeling a brute, he kissed them away, whispering:
“I’ll do my best, dearest. Now, tell me, when shall I see you again?”

“I may be here when you come back presently. And to-morrow I shall be
under the big tree on the green at six-thirty.”

Grimshaw laughed gaily.

“What a coincidence! I, too, shall be under the big tree at that very
time.”

With that pleasant assurance he went his way. Cicely took from her
basket a pint of port wine, some linen, and a small basin of clear soup
in jelly. Whilst she was doing this, Nicky, the softy, came in and
grinned at her knowingly. Cicely greeted him:

“Well, Nicky, how are you?”

“I seen you mumbudgettin’ wi’ doctor, I did.”

Cicely exhibited slight confusion.

“Oh! How did you see us?”

“Through crack i’ door, I did.”

What he saw, however, was not destined to be revealed, because a sharp
tap at the cottage door interrupted the duologue.

“Come in,” said Cicely, much relieved.

Nick slipped out as Agatha Farleigh entered, followed by John Exton,
carrying Agatha’s neat suit-case. John was wearing khaki and a
sergeant’s stripes. Upon his chest was the D.C.M. After greeting Cicely
Agatha said briskly:

“You remember John Exton, Miss Cicely?”

“Indeed I do. He hasn’t let us forget him. We were so dreadfully sorry
to hear you had lost an arm, John.”

“I gave it, miss.”

“You look very well.”

Agatha glanced at the port wine and the basin.

“Is my aunt seriously ill?” she asked. “Uncle wired for me this morning.
I got leave at once. I suppose Mr. Grimshaw is attending her?”

“Yes; he has just left. I am afraid it is serious, Agatha. It may be
typhoid.”

Agatha, without a word, crossed the room and hurried out. Cicely said to
John:

“This is a cruel shock for her. You are still in the army?”

“With a month’s leave. I was so sorry, miss, to hear about Mr. Brian.”

“Thank you, John. It hardly bears speaking about. How is your father?”

“He’s well, and doing well, thank God!”

A slight emphasis on the last half of the sentence had significance. An
awkward pause was broken by the return of Agatha, somewhat excited.

“Uncle Timothy wouldn’t let me in. Why did he send for me, if he doesn’t
want me?”

“Of course he wants you,” replied Cicely. “Naturally, he is very upset.
I will call again this afternoon to see if you want anything.”

She moved to the door, which John politely opened for her. Agatha began
to take off her hat. As soon as she was alone with the young man she
exclaimed bitterly:

“Typhoid! . . . I expected it.”

“Expected it, Aggie?”

“Regular poison trap, this cottage. Ought to have been pulled down years
ago. I’ll bet Mr. Grimshaw agrees with that.”

Agatha’s obvious exasperation was excusable. Her uncle’s telegram
summoning her to nurse Mary Farleigh happened to arrive at a moment when
she was expecting to spend a well-earned leave with the Extons. Also, it
seemed to her that John accepted her disappointment too coolly. Surely
he must know that she was “fed up” with work. The equanimity of the
trained soldier, his acquiescence in misfortune, his good-temper under
it, would have provoked admiration from Aggie at any other time. Let us
make due allowance for her. John attempted to soothe her, not very
successfully. And then Martha Giles poked in her comical old head
explaining:

“Well, I never! . . . Johnny Exton—a gentleman officer!”

John took her hand heartily.

“Only a sergeant, Mrs. Giles.”

“With three wound-stripes,” added Agatha proudly. Her tone became
aggrieved again, as she added: “Uncle Timothy wouldn’t let me in,
Martha.”

“Let ’un bide wi’ the pore sick soul. She be tarr’ble low, dazed an’
mazed as never was; but Mary be tough, and the dear Lard well knows that
she bain’t to be spared, no more than I be.”

“Is there proper food in the house?” asked Agatha.

“Yes; my cow-heel broth. Hark! Timothy be comin’ down.”

A heavy step was heard on a creaking stair. Martha whispered hurriedly:

“Now, don’t ’ee be miffed, if he acts flustratious, pore dear man!”

Timothy entered, carefully closing the door behind him. For an instant
he stared questioningly at John Exton and Agatha, a mute, tragic figure
bowed by years of toil. Agatha went up to him and kissed him.

“How is she?”

“She don’t know me. Aggie; she don’t know me. I ain’t no use to her.
Who’s that?”

“John Exton, whom I’m going to marry.”

“Aye, aye. You two do as I bids ye. Bring no childer into this world.
Where’s doctor?”

“He’ll be herealong soon,” said Martha.

“Doctor can’t do nothink. I might as well get coffin-stools out.”

“Shall I go?” said John to Agatha.

“Not yet.” She addressed her uncle: “You’ll be wanting your dinner,
dear?”

“No; I wants my old Mary. I be fair lost wi’out she.”

He sat down in the big worn arm-chair near the hearth. Mrs. Giles said
in a piping voice:

“I’ll bide wi’ Mary till Aggie be ready to take my place.”

“I’m ready now, Martha.”

Timothy growled out: “You bide wi me a bit, my girl. I’ve summat to say
to ’ee.” As Martha slipped away he addressed John Exton: “Your father
was allers my good friend.”

“Yes, yes; indeed he was—and is.”

Timothy thumped the stout oak arm of his chair.

“Ah-h-h! My lady turned ’un out. And she killed my lil’ maids! . . . An’
now ’tis Mary’s turn.”

John said quietly:

“Steady on. I thought I was dead in the trenches, but I wasn’t.”

Timothy rose up, lifting a heavy, misshapen hand.

“Gi’ me the Book,” he commanded, pointing dramatically at the big Bible
lying upon the window-ledge between two pots of scented geranium. John
fetched it, laying it upon the kitchen table.

“Where be my specs?”

Agatha saw them on the chimney-piece, and handed them to him in silence.
With trembling fingers he put them on. Then he opened the Bible, turning
a page or two, till he found the fly-leaf.

“I be going blind,” he muttered feebly.

“No, no; let me wipe your glasses.”

Agatha wiped his glasses.

“That be better, my girl. Aye.” He ran his finger along an entry in
faded ink. “Here we be. . . . ‘Mary Jane, barn October 2nd, 1897, died
June 7th, 1904.’ My first-barn, a dinky lil’ maid as never was.”

Agatha, much moved, and relapsing unconsciously into the Doric, said
excitedly:

“I mind her curly lil’ head, I do.”

“Ah-h-h! Here we be agen. ‘Ellen Adeliza, barn November 9th, 1898, died
June 9th, 1904,’ just two days arter her sister.”

He glared at Agatha. Suddenly his voice became harsh and fierce.

“Gi’ me pen and ink, Aggie.”

“Whatever for, Uncle?”

“To make proper entry, my girl.”

John said softly:

“But the proper entry is there, Mr. Farleigh.”

“No, it bain’t. I be going to scratch out ‘died’ an’ write—‘murdered.’”

John approached him, saying firmly:

“Don’t do that, Mr. Farleigh.”

Timothy snarled at him:

“Be I master in my own house, or be you, young man?”

At that Agatha took his arm.

“Dear Uncle, John is right. ’Twould make Aunt Mary so unhappy if she
knew.”

“Gi’ me pen an’ ink,” he replied with all the obstinacy of the peasant.

The ink-pot stood on the window-ledge, near the open casement. Timothy
was staring at Agatha. John, standing close to the window, deftly
emptied the ink-pot without being perceived.

“No,” said Agatha.

“I says—yes.”

John held up the ink-pot.

“There’s no ink in the pot, Mr. Farleigh, not a drop.” He held the
ink-pot upside down, as proof positive.

“No ink—no ink,” he mumbled, dazed again and irresolute. Agatha pushed
him gently toward his chair. He sank into it, still mumbling. John’s
face softened; Agatha’s assumed a hard expression. The silence was
broken by voices outside. Timothy took no notice.

“Who is it?” asked Agatha impatiently.

John looked through the casement before he answered:

“The Ancient, Nicodemus Burble, and Nick.”

“We don’t want that old gaffer. Tell him he can’t come in.”

But Timothy objected.

“Let ’un in; let ’un in. All friends be heartily welcome.”

Agatha shrugged her shoulders. John opened the door to Nicodemus, who
entered gallantly, carrying his many years as if they were feathers.

“Marning, all.”

Nick followed, and espying a newspaper which John had stuck into the
strap of Agatha’s suit-case, furtively purloined it, sidling into the
ingle-nook, where he remained more or less invisible.

“Glad to see you looking so hearty, Mr. Burble,” said John.

“John Exton, I do declare, and Aggie Farleigh! Well, well!”

“How are you, granfer?” asked Agatha.

Nicodemus squared his shoulders.

“I be the most notable man in village. How be Auntie, Aggie?”

“Very sick. I’ve not seen her yet.”

Nicodemus greeted Timothy, and then smacked his lips as he envisaged the
small bottle of port wine.

“Ah-h-h! Her ladyship ha’ been herealong. Part wine, as I live!”

At once Timothy jumped up, fierce and menacing.

“Her wine? In my house? Gi’ me that bottle!”

“We may need it,” protested Agatha. Timothy pushed her roughly aside and
seized the bottle, exclaiming with biblical fervour:

“Death be in her loving-kindness, and sorrow in her cups o’ wine. I be
goin’ to throw ’un away.”

The Ancient tottered at such a threat.

“Throw away good liquor! What an onchristian act! A rare churchgoer,
such as you be, Tim Farleigh, ought to behave hisself more genteel.
Throw away my lady’s part wine! I never heard such hellish talk.”

Timothy turned upon him aggressively, but the Ancient stood his ground.

“There be no heaven and hell, save on this earth. The quality gets the
heaven, and we pore folks walks in hell. I be done wi’
church-goin’—done wi’ it for ever—done!”

He went out. A crash of breaking glass was heard. Nicodemus looked up to
Heaven.

“Lard help ’un!”

To his immense amazement, Agatha snapped out:

“My lady’s wine is poison to him, and no wonder.”

“Part wine bain’t pison, neighbours. Why not drink the wine, and then
smash bottle?”

“Because his wife may be dying, Mr. Burble.”

“Fevers and such comes from Providence, Aggie. I holds tight to
Providence, I do. And I don’t hold wi’ talk agen the quality. That was
never my way.”

Timothy came back.

“What be saying?” he asked.

Nicodemus wagged his head solemnly.

“I don’t hold wi’ talk agen the quality, Tim. Her ladyship spends money
on we wi’ both hands.”

“You tell me how much she spends,” sneered Timothy.

“I dunno.”

“I can tell you,” said Agatha. “I was her secretary. I know all about
her doles.”

“Doles? What be doles, Aggie?”

“Soup, blankets, cloaks, a dozen or two of port from the wood.”

Nicodemus looked incredulous.

“Part from the wood? What a queer place to get ’un. There be allers beef
at Yuletide, milk for widders and little ’uns, a mort o’ comfort for
them as keers for cows’ gifts. A gert charitable ’ooman, my lady be.
Rich folk should be treated wi’ respect.”

“And what does it all come to in cash?” asked Agatha. “I’ll tell you.
About five hundred pounds—counting everything.”

Nicodemus chuckled, rubbing together his gnarled hands, which indicated
more than his face great age.

“A gert noble sum, neighbours. My lady has done her dooty.”

“What hasn’t she done?” asked John sharply.

“Dang my old boans, I dun’no.”

“She hasn’t pulled down a score of cottages like this.”

“Pulled down cottages?” Nicodemus wiped his shining brow.

“They ought to be burnt—burnt,” repeated Agatha excitedly.

“Aye,” said Timothy, “and the Hall wi’ ’un.”

Nick’s voice was heard from the ingle-nook, shrill and ear-piercing:

“’Twould be a rare lark!”

Nobody noticed the boy. The Ancient thumped the tiled floor with his oak
stick, exclaiming angrily: “What blarsted talk! ’Tis a fool’s cap you be
wanting, Aggie Farleigh.”

Nick interposed again:

“I’ll make ’ee one, Aggie.”

The tension was increasing. Timothy’s deep-set eyes glowered; John
Exton, thinking of his father, and recalling old calculations, said
emphatically:

“I’ve been into this. Upworthy ought to have fifty new cottages. At the
old prices, three hundred apiece, that would make fifteen thousand. Two
thousand more would lay down decent drains.”

Nicodemus thumped the floor more vigorously:

“I says in my common way: ‘Drains be damned!’”

John continued, warming to his work:

“Eight thousand more would be little enough to spend on the farms. That
foots up twenty-five thousand pound.”

“Ah-h-h!” The Ancient shook a trembling forefinger at him. “’Tis easy to
make free wi’ other folk’s cash. Johnny’d have my lady so pore as we.”

Agatha turned upon him.

“That’s nonsense, granfer. Her income is six thousand a year. She could
borrow twenty-five thousand by giving up one thousand a year. Instead of
putting this big property in order, she bribes you all with doles. And
she saves herself five hundred a year. Have you got it?”

Nicodemus retorted smartly:

“I holds wi’ King Solomon, a wiser man even than I be, there bain’t no
fool so irksome as a female fool.”

“Meaning, you rude old man?”

“That you be a lovesick maid, Aggie, and so soft as Nicky there.”

John, still at the window, electrified the company by his next remark:

“My lady is here.”

As he spoke, Lady Selina’s stately figure was seen passing the casement.
Timothy hurried from the kitchen; a firm tap was heard upon the door.

“Come in,” said Agatha.


                                   IV

Lady Selina, more imposing even than usual in her deep mourning, entered
the kitchen. Nicodemus removed his hat deferentially. John stood stiffly
at attention; Agatha remained near the table.

“Good morning to you.”

Her eyes rested sympathetically upon John’s empty sleeve. She held out
her hand very graciously:

“My daughter told me that you and Agatha were engaged. You have my
sincere good wishes.”

John took the outstretched hand, and grasped it so awkwardly that Lady
Selina slightly winced.

“Thank you, my lady.”

Lady Selina turned to Agatha.

“I only heard this morning that your poor aunt was ill. I should like to
see your uncle.”

Agatha, taken aback, hesitated. Nicodemus said promptly: “I’ll ask ’un
to step down, my lady.”

As he went out, Nick emerged from the ingle-nook, carrying a fool’s cap,
cleverly fashioned out of the newspaper he had purloined. Quite ignoring
the great lady, intent only upon himself, he said pipingly:

“Here be your fool’s cap, Aggie.”

“What does he mean?” asked Lady Selina. She was conscious of the hostile
atmosphere, mildly resentful that Agatha had not asked her to sit down,
but willing to make due allowance for this breach of manners, because
serious illness had obviously upset a tiny household.

“He means nothing,” replied Agatha hastily.

“Granfer Burble told me to make ’un.”

“Yes, yes. You can run away, Nick. You aren’t afraid of me, are you?”

“I bain’t afeard o’ nothing, excep’, maybe, our old broody hen.”

He retired to his ingle-nook, as Nicodemus stumped back, his face redder
than usual, his large mouth agape with consternation.

“Well, Nicodemus? . . .”

“Timothy won’t come, my lady.”

“Won’t?” she repeated sharply. “Surely he sent some message?”

Nicodemus gasped out:

“I be too flustrated to gi’ his message.”

“Rubbish, my good man! Give me his message at once.”

“Not me, my lady. I dassent repeat to your ladyship his sinful words.”

“You will please obey me, Nicodemus, and kindly deliver the message
exactly, _exactly_ as it was given to you.”

The Ancient almost whimpered:

“If so be as I do, you’ll stop my—my——” the right word planted
securely in his memory by Agatha slipped out unexpectedly—“doles.”

“Doles! doles! What an extraordinary word for you to use to me!”

“’Twas Aggie’s word, not mine, my lady. I means the milk and good wine
you sends me.”

“Oh!” Lady Selina glanced at Agatha, who by this time was
expressionless. To Nicodemus she said tartly:

“I may stop your doles, if you disobey me.”

“Timothy Farleigh be daffy, my lady.”

“I insist upon being told what Timothy said, and at once.”

Nicodemus, helplessly cornered, exploded with brutal violence.

“He said you might go to hell, my lady.”

“Bless my soul!”

Lady Selina, however, was the first to recover her self-possession. She
spoke very kindly to the unhappy old man.

“Thank you, Nicodemus. I beg your pardon. Had I guessed that such a
message could be sent to me, I should not have asked you to deliver it.
The man, of course, is mad.”

“With grief,” added Agatha defiantly.

Lady Selina ignored her, looking at Nicodemus.

“When he recovers his senses he will apologise.”

“Not if I knows ’un,” quavered the old man. “I allers says that rich
folk should be treated wi’ respect.”

At this moment Agatha scrapped self-control. Her nerves, of course, were
on edge. Possibly, too, Arthur Wilverley had overworked a too willing
typist. And the spirit of revolt, as we know, was beginning at that time
to stir the hearts of women. Agatha ought to have remembered what she
owed to Lady Selina, who, in a material sense, had helped her to find
herself. But, even here, the sense of obligation may have rankled. At
any rate, the really irritating cause was the conviction that her
holiday had been wrecked by Lady Selina’s neglect of great issues
entrusted to her. She addressed Nicodemus angrily:

“Yes; treated with respect—if they deserve it.”

John attempted a warning cough.

“What do you mean, Agatha?”

Lady Selina spoke very softly, but she assumed quite unconsciously the
look and pose of a mistress addressing a servant. To the emancipated
Agatha this was unendurable.

“I mean,” she retorted bitterly, “that my dear uncle is not mad. Words
have burst from him because for all these dreary years he has been
dumb—dumb.”

Lady Selina eyed her derisively, thinking of past benefits conferred
upon the undeserving.

“I am waiting for further enlightenment, you thankless young woman.”

But Agatha, having shot her bolt, burst into tears. John came forward.
What else could he do? A hunted glance from his future wife had set him
afire. He pointed to the Bible.

“Enlightenment is in that,” he said coldly.

“The Bible!” She stared at the big book and then at John. Was he
deliberately trying to be insolent? “Do you read it?” she asked, with a
lift of her eyebrows.

John opened the Bible and found the fly-leaf. His voice was trembling as
he replied:

“Here, on this page, are the death-dates of Farleigh’s two children, who
died of diphtheria. Ever since, he has thought of things. You never
guessed why he was so silent. How should you know what goes on in
people’s hearts? If Farleigh is mad, who made him so? Just now I emptied
the ink-pot out of that window to prevent him altering ‘died’ to——”

“Go on! To—what?”

“To—_murdered_.”

“Murdered by whom?”

John closed the Bible and made no answer. He withdrew quietly to the
window. Meanwhile, Agatha had controlled her emotions and was dabbing at
her eyes with a pocket-handkerchief which Lady Selina perceived to be of
cambric as fine as her own. She addressed Agatha:

“Obviously you two think that I murdered these little girls.”

Agatha replied without acrimony:

“I know what causes diphtheria and typhoid.”

“I wonder if others in this village share your views and judgments.”

Nicodemus made bold to say:

“I bain’t one o’ they, my lady.”

“No, no; I am quite sure of that, my old friend.” As she spoke she heard
the crunching of gravel outside. “Who is this?”

“Mr. Grimshaw,” answered John.

“You can ask him what he thinks,” murmured Agatha, sensible that she and
her John had exhausted their munitions.

“I will ask him,” said Lady Selina.



                               CHAPTER X
                         UNDER THE VILLAGE TREE


                                   I

Grimshaw had quite lost his look of wear and tear when he re-entered
Farleigh’s cottage. Love, we may presume, is omnipotent even over the
ravages of malaria. Vitality expressed itself in his eyes and in every
movement of his athletic body. He had just visited Isaac Burble; and he
knew—humanly speaking—that he had pulled through the plucky old man.
He believed, also, that he could restore Mary to the arms of the
pessimistic Timothy. In short, his fighting instincts were agreeably
quickened. The man’s mind had become triumphant. Perhaps his dominant
thought was the conviction that if he could win for his own a girl as
sweet as Cicely, he could win also her mother. Cicely had imposed this
task upon him. To “make good” in her eyes became the object paramount.

At the first glance round the kitchen he suspected nothing amiss, simply
because his vision was slightly blurred by Cupid. He beheld Lady Selina,
possibly for the first time, as the mother of his beloved rather than
the lady of an ill-administered manor. And in her eyes he seemed to
perceive a sort of appeal, which, of course, was there, although Lady
Selina would have repudiated the fact had she been aware of it. Cicely’s
word “forlorn” obtruded itself. She looked exactly what she felt at the
moment—solitary and practically aloof, a fine survival of a doomed
aristocracy.

She greeted him courteously. Nicodemus stumped out. Agatha and John
remained. After speaking to them, Grimshaw was crossing the kitchen when
Lady Selina lifted her hand and voice:

“One moment, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“Certainly.”

“A grave charge has been brought against me.”

She spoke very suavely, but he noticed that her tone was pitched higher
than usual.

“A charge, Lady Selina?”

“In connection with the sickness in this house to-day, and the
diphtheria long ago that took from Timothy Farleigh his two little
girls.”

The young man instantly realised what had taken place. A swift glance at
Agatha confirmed his worst fears. The girl’s lips were quivering; her
bosom heaved. John, disciplined on the field of battle, stood doggedly
at attention.

“These young people,” continued Lady Selina, “accuse me of no less a
crime than murder.”

“Uncle Timothy used the word,” said Agatha defiantly.

“And his niece, whom I have befriended in many ways, dares to lay the
death of the two Farleigh children at my door.”

Between two fires, and enfiladed by his own thoughts, stood the uneasy
Grimshaw. Cicely’s kisses were still warm on his lips. To do him
justice, he was uneasy because all consideration, naturally enough,
became centred upon Cicely. Swiftly, he perceived one way out of the
wilderness. Taken aback, too honest to temporise deliberately, he said
impetuously:

“A charge of murder is preposterous.” He turned, almost angrily, upon
Agatha, “Why do you talk nonsense? There can be no murder without
motive.”

Lady Selina smiled faintly.

“Thank you, Mr. Grimshaw. That ought to be obvious to any intelligence.”

Agatha’s face indicated confoundment. Stung more by Grimshaw’s manner
than his words, she said acrimoniously:

“So you side with Authority, Mr. Grimshaw?”

Once again, Grimshaw’s part in the proceedings was forced. A different
appeal from weakness to strength might have been met in a very different
fashion. Irritated by the consciousness of being in a false position,
irritated even more by Agatha’s undisguised sneer, he said emphatically:

“I detest violence, Miss Farleigh. Violence, let me tell you, always
defeats its ends.”

He turned to Lady Selina who was visibly impressed.

“You are too generous, Lady Selina, not to make allowance for Timothy
Farleigh, a man beside himself with misery and anxiety.”

More and more pleased with Grimshaw, Lady Selina replied graciously:

“I hope so.”

“If you will allow me,” Grimshaw went on, “I will go to my patient.”

He bowed and left the kitchen.

Lady Selina swept to the door. John opened it for her. Without a word,
she passed into the hot sunshine.

John came back to Agatha, dropping this ointment upon her lacerated
tissues:

“Grimshaw’s a damned timeserver, Aggie, like the rest of ’em.”

“I couldn’t have believed it,” she faltered. “I—I thought he was
different.”

Suddenly, from the ingle-nook came a burst of vivid flame. Nick had set
his fool’s-cap afire. His shrill, uncanny laugh rang through the
kitchen.

“Damn the boy,” exclaimed the startled John. Nick confronted him with
his imbecile grin.

“I be saft along o’ my lady,” he piped. “Father says so; yas, I be saft
along o’ she.”


                                   II

Twenty-four hours elapsed.

During this time Upworthy celebrated the return of a hero, for as such
the fathers of the hamlet regarded John Exton. Much ale, some of it
pre-war strength, was drunk in his honour. At the Chandos Arms, upon the
afternoon following, the gaffers toasted him again and again. He had to
tell the tale of his adventures and misadventures in Flanders and
France. Everybody knew that he was engaged to Agatha.

It was well after five when John escaped from his entertainers and
returned to Timothy’s cottage. Crossing the green he noticed that the
sky was thunderously overcast. Agatha hurried out of the cottage as he
approached it. All trace of anger and disappointment had vanished. She
greeted her lover delightfully.

“I heard the cheers, Johnnie. I’m ever so proud of you.”

He nodded modestly.

“I asked ’em not to follow me because of your aunt. How is she?”

“A bit better, we fancy. Mr. Grimshaw is with her. He sent me out for a
whiff of air. Perhaps he saw you crossing the green.”

John pointed to the tree and its comfortable encircling bench. He sat
down, fanning his heated brow with his cap.

“Sultry, ain’t it? I say, Aggie, guess what bucks me most?”

“All the ale you’ve drunk.”

“They didn’t propose my health straight. They gave the toast: ‘Ephraim
Exton’s son.’ They haven’t forgotten the old man.” Laying down his cap
he fished out his pipe, regarding it rather helplessly.

“Let me fill your pipe, dear,” said Agatha.

John laughed.

“Can you do it, old girl?”

“Can I do it?”

She went to work with a skill that argued some practice, but John was
not of a jealous disposition. He watched her deft fingers with
admiration, remarking pleasantly:

“Little chunk of all-right, you are.”

“Don’t use up all your sugar, sergeant. There!”

She put the pipe between his smiling lips.

“Any matches, Johnnie?”

John took a silver match-box from his pocket.

“Catch!”

Agatha caught it, and examined it with interest. It was a queer old box,
much engraved, obviously not of English make or design.

“What a handsome box!”

“Loot, Aggie. It belonged to a Boche. He’d no further use for it.”

She struck a match and lit his pipe, which John smoked as if he enjoyed
it. Agatha stepped back and regarded him attentively. He was just right,
in her opinion: a man who had done “his bit,” the man of her delicate
choice, likely to make a sober, hard-working husband, clever enough and
not too clever, one to be gently pushed by capable hands on to fortune.
Smiling complacently, she seated herself beside him. John slipped his
one available arm round her shapely waist. She held the match-box in her
hand.

“Put your dear head on my shoulder,” he commanded.

“On the village green?”

“On my shoulder, I said.”

“I’ll risk it.”

She had glanced round, not seeing Nick, who had wandered out of his
father’s garden, and was now behind the tree grinning broadly. John
kissed the lips so near to his.

“Short o’ these rations, I am,” he declared with fervour. “Snug, I call
it.”

Agatha, half-closing her eyes, murmured:

“I feel as if I was floating in heaven.”

“Blighty!” ejaculated the lover.

At this happy moment, Nick, crawling close up to Agatha, gripped her leg
above the ankle, growling like a dog. Agatha screamed and jumped up.

“You blithering idiot!” said John. “Hop it—hop it!”

“Yes, I be village idiot, I be.”

“Not half the fool you look. Shift, I tell you.”

“I’ll make Aggie another fool’s-cap, I will. I can make anythin’ wi’
paper.”

He laughed shrilly and hopped off, as enjoined. John stared at his
retreating figure, observing sapiently:

“He can make anything with paper. Fools make paper laws. Papers rule us
in England.”

Agatha sat down again, nodding her intelligent head.

“That’s right. Papers do rule us. Why don’t you write to them, Johnnie?”

John betrayed slight astonishment.

“What about, dear?”

Agatha answered tartly:

“Conditions here.”

“Napoo,” replied John lazily.

Agatha was revolving this refusal in her mind when Grimshaw came out of
the cottage carrying his bag. He was smiling, thinking of Cicely and her
tryst with him.

Agatha nudged the somnolent John.

“Mr. Grimshaw is coming.”

John rose, and saluted stiffly as Grimshaw approached.

“Good day, sergeant. Going down the old, old trail, eh?”

John answered perfunctorily: “Yes, sir.”

Grimshaw looked at Agatha, who had not risen. This abstention was part
of her new creed.

“I’ve no new instructions for you, Miss Farleigh. Keep your aunt quiet.”

Agatha replied as formally as John:

“Yes, sir. Is it typhoid, Mr. Grimshaw?”

“I did a Widal last night.” He added quickly, “that is a blood test. I
am inclined to think your aunt has paratyphoid.”

John, impressed by the long word, said dismally:

“Then she’s a goner.”

“Oh, no. Paratyphoid is much less dangerous than typhoid. With ordinary
care Mrs. Farleigh will recover. And, thank the Lord, I can trust you,
Miss Farleigh, to see that she has more than ordinary care. Perhaps you
will go to her now.”

Poor Agatha, thus torn from her lover, rose obediently, but with much
ruffled plumage. Without a word she stalked into the cottage. Grimshaw
said pleasantly:

“I’m sorry, but her aunt is alone.”

John answered bluntly but respectfully:

“Agatha’s upset after yesterday, and so am I.”

“After yesterday?” Grimshaw frowned, a frown that deepened as John
continued emphatically:

“We expected you to stand by us, Mr. Grimshaw, and you didn’t. You know
what lies behind things here; you must know that her ladyship hasn’t
done her duty. And when I think of the trenches and the men in ’em it
maddens me”—his voice trembled with excitement—“to see great ladies,
like Lady Selina Chandos, downing those whom we are fighting, aye, and
dying for. It makes me want to down her. And I will, by God!”

Grimshaw said quietly, but not without sympathy:

“You’re a good fellow, John Exton, but, believe me, you only see one
side of this.”

“I see pretty plain that you’re not on that side, sir.”

“I’m not on the side of ranting. Ranting has wrecked many causes. It
antagonises sane men and women. To charge Lady Selina with murder is—as
I said yesterday—preposterous and ridiculous. I want to down not an
individual but a system.”

“Her ladyship is part of the system, and the biggest part in Upworthy.
That’s enough for me.”

He strode off without saluting. Grimshaw glanced at his watch. Cicely
was not due yet. He sat down in John’s place, thinking hard, dismally
conscious that he must appear a sorry figure in the eyes of Sergeant
Exton, conscious also that he had won the very thing he wanted, Lady
Selina’s approval, under false pretences. It was horrible to think that
Exton regarded him as a hypocrite with malevolent eyes. And what did the
man mean by his threats of “downing” Lady Selina? Then he laughed a
little, because it was almost impossible to think of Lady Selina
“downed.” Such imperturbable personalities were not downed by others. If
the whole village rose in arms against her, if she were stoned on the
village green, she would stand superbly erect till the end.

A light laugh roused these reflections. Cicely stood in front of him,
smiling gaily. The pressure of her little hand was reassuring.

“Did you get mother’s invitation to dine with us to-night?”

“The august Stimson delivered it in person.”

“Who was wise?”

He laughed with her, although he replied sincerely:

“That question, dearest, can’t be answered yet.”

Ignoring this, Cicely sat down, saying:

“I am ever so happy. You don’t know what an impression you made upon
mother yesterday. Now—keep it up.”

“That’s all right; but can I?”

“Of course you can, if you try hard enough.” Captivated by her manner,
sitting close to her, he heard her soft whisper:

“Did you dream of me last night?”

“I didn’t sleep much last night.”

“Didn’t you? Well, I lay awake till after one thinking of you.”

“You blessed little dear!”

She raised her eyes to his as if inviting him to gaze into their clear
depths and to behold there his own image innocently enshrined. To
dissemble with so artless a creature was quite impossible.

“Something is troubling you, Harry. Tell me!”

“Call it my conscience. To accept so much”—he spoke passionately—“and
to be able to give so little; to know, as I do, that my love may bring
distress and unhappiness upon you! Ah, that tears me! I must speak
plainly now, or never. What is Upworthy to you? Have you ever tried to
measure your feeling for this village and all that goes with it? Are you
able to set a valuation, so to speak, upon it?”

“My dear old home. . . . I don’t quite see what you are driving at. What
do you mean by a valuation?”

“I mean this. I lay awake last night realising the inevitable fact that
if you marry me against your mother’s wishes you risk—disinheritance.”

“Disinheritance! Why, Harry, mother loves me. She would never do that.
Never, never, never. You don’t know her——”

“I don’t. Do you? Does she know herself? Do any of us know ourselves?
Are we able to say confidently what we would do, or not do, till some
supreme test comes along?”

She considered his words carefully; her eyes clouded with perplexity,
her lips quivered.

“You are making me miserable.”

“At what a cost to my own feelings! But we must face things together, as
they are, not as we would like them to be. First and last, it comes to
this: In your own irresistible way you have invited me to join what I
call the great conspiracy of silence in Upworthy. Better men than I are
amongst the conspirators. Dear old Pawley, for example. It is natural
for him, ten thousand times more so for you, to ‘spare’ your mother, to
keep her in cotton wool, to please, in a word, a personality so
gracious, so kindly at heart, so sincerely anxious to do the right thing
in, alas! the wrong way. But, as an honest man, Cicely, I side with her
tenants as against her.”

“Heavens! Do you mean that you took mother’s part yesterday against your
conscience, and that I tempted you to do so?”

“No, no; the murder charge was absurd. But I conveyed the impression to
others that my sympathies lay with your mother in her management of this
estate, and they don’t.”

“If you would listen to me. . . .”

“God knows I want to listen to you, you witch.”

Cicely picked her way. To the man who was watching her it became plain
that she knew her ground. Her confidence would have been amusing if
lesser issues had been at stake.

“You can’t change things or people quickly, can you?”

“Earthquakes do.”

“Perhaps. Earthquakes don’t happen in English villages. If mother learnt
to trust you instead of Gridley all that you wish might be brought about
without—without friction. And if not altogether in her
lifetime—afterwards. I will work hand-in-hand with you, Harry. I shall
love it. Between us we will change Upworthy into a model village. I ask
for nothing better. I know that mother wants me to-day as she never
wanted me before. To hurt her now, to let others hurt her . . . ah!
. . . that isn’t in me. Win mother as you have won me and we shall find
our future happiness without imperilling hers.”

Her exact choice of words indicated her intelligence and the amount of
thought that she must have given to so difficult a subject. Fiercest
temptation assailed Grimshaw. And he had yielded, under far less
pressure, to importunity in Essex and Poplar. After a tormenting pause
he said hoarsely:

“It means whitewash, Cicely. I can find no other word.”

She touched his arm gently.

“I wish I were strong like you.”

“But I’m not strong,” he protested vehemently. “No one is. The strong
man we read about is a writer’s lie. There isn’t a so-called strong man
in history without a weak spot somewhere. Don’t make me weaker than I
am. Perhaps—perhaps I ought to go away for a year and leave you free.”

The test propounded so tentatively failed utterly. In her turn she
became vehement.

“No, no. If you leave me, Harry, it will be because your love is less
than mine.”

As they gazed searchingly at each other a senile whistling was borne
down the breeze. Cicely said desperately:

“Somebody is coming. Harry—suspense will kill me. Women understand
women. Be patient, and mother will accept you as a son. I am sure of it.
And I shall love the strength in you more if you show a little weakness
now for my sake. Direct methods, which men use, are so brutal. I am
pleading for our happiness. Promise me—quick!”

In her agitation she clung to him, pressing her soft body against his.
He answered dully:

“All right, Cicely.”

The Ancient approached, redder than usual in the face. His gait was not
perfectly steady. Cicely said hurriedly:

“It’s Nicodemus. He may pass on. Good day, granfer.”

Nicodemus halted, surveying the pair whimsically.

“Good day, miss. Good day, doctor. A rare starm be comin’ up. I feel ’un
in my old boans.”

“You mustn’t get wet, Master Burble,” said the artful Cicely.

“Ah-h-h! I bain’t in no sart o’ hurry to invite meself, as the sayin’
is, to my own funeral. I be come from drinkin’ Johnny Exton’s health—a
very notable set-to.”

Cicely still hoping that the garrulous old man would move on, said
briskly:

“Yes; we heard some cheering up at the Hall.”

“Did ’ee now? Johnny be a valiant soul, but a sad Raddicle. I hope,
miss, that her ladyship won’t mix me up wi’ him and Aggie Farleigh. I
don’t hold wi’ such flustratious talk.”

“My mother knows that.”

Nicodemus uplifted his voice, thinking, possibly, that his wise words
might penetrate the open windows in the Farleigh cottage:

“Rich folks, I allers say, should be treated wi’ respect—because why?
They can make we pore ’uns so danged uncomfortsome. Beggin’ your pardon,
miss, but I’ll sit me down under old tree. It ha’ seen a sight o’
things, to be sure.”

Grimshaw and Cicely exchanged rueful glances, sensible that the Ancient
had diddled them squarely. He cackled on:

“Lumbager has me this instant minute. ’Twas the third tankard as done
it.”

Grimshaw stood up, looking at his watch and addressing Cicely:

“I must see a patient on the Wilverley road.”

Cicely nodded, as he continued formally for the benefit of Nicodemus:
“Better get home, Miss Chandos, before the storm breaks.
Till—to-night.”

“Eight punctually, Mr. Grimshaw.”

He picked up his bag and strode off. Nicodemus smacked his lips.

“A very forcible man, doctor.”

“Yes, he is—and so are you, granfer.”

“A-h-h! Father o’ five I was at his age. How be Mary Farleigh, miss?”

“A shade better.” She looked up at the darkening skies. “I shall just
have time to get home. Good night, Master Burble.”

“Good night, miss.”


                                  III

After Cicely had left him, the Ancient dozed pleasantly, being full of
ale paid for by others. Martha Giles awoke him by shaking his shoulder.

“Be you quite sober, Master Burble?” she asked in a neighbourly spirit,
and not unmindful of the change in the weather.

Nicodemus wagged his head, remarking chirrupingly:

“I’ve had a rare skin-full, Martha, and my old legs tell me so, not my
head, old girl. Call it a touch o’ lumbager, as I did to Miss Cicely. So
Mary be better, hey?”

“Yas, Mary be better and Timothy worse, pore dear soul!”

“What? Down wi’ the fever, too?”

“Fev’rish in his mind, look you. And that set agen my lady ’tis a mortal
sin. Yas, Mary be mendin’. A be-utiful corpse she’d ha’ made. ’Twould
ha’ been a sad pleasure to lay her out. Aggie got miffed when I passed
the remark to her las’ night.”

Nicodemus heaved a sigh.

“Young folks be upsettin’, Martha. We be livin’ in fearful and
wondersome times.”

Martha did not answer him, her attention being engrossed by a sudden
sight of Nick capering wildly across the green.

“Come you here,” she shouted.

Nick danced up, grinning.

“Wheer ha’ you been, Nick? Up to some mischief, I’ll be bound.”

“He can bide along wi’ me,” said Nicodemus comfortably.

“I likes you,” said Nick.

“Do ’ee now? For why?”

“Because you be so nice an’ hairy, like old baboon I sees at Wilverley
Fair.”

Nicodemus accepted this as a compliment. A bell began to boom loudly.
Both Martha and the Ancient were startled.

“Dang me, if that bain’t big bell up at Hall!”

He half-staggered to his feet, and fell back.

“I be fair ashamed o’ my legs,” he observed solemnly. Then, as the bell
boomed out even more violently, he cocked his head at Martha.

“Something be up, Marthy. You climb tree, Nicky, and tell us what you
sees.”

“The lad might break his neck,” suggested Martha.

“You climb tree,” commanded Nicodemus, “or I’ll warm your starn-sheets
for ’ee.”

“I likes to climb trees, I do.”

“Then up you goes.”

Nicky obeyed with alacrity. As he reached the first branch, Agatha
appeared at the cottage window which fronted the green.

“What has happened?” she asked. The bell went on ringing. Then a sharp
whistle was heard.

“Constable’s whistle,” remarked the Ancient. “I knows ’un.”

Excitement gripped them, as a man tore past on a bicycle, heading for
Wilverley. As he passed the tree, he yelled out: “Fire! Fire!”

“That was Wilson. My lady’s shover,” faltered Martha. “Oh, dear! oh,
dear! Where be fire?”

“’Tis a rick, maybe,” hazarded Nicodemus.

By this time, Nick was high up the tree. He shouted down:

“I sees a gert smoke, I do.”

“Wheer? Wheer?” shouted Nicodemus.

Martha Giles expressed a positive opinion that Wilson was riding fast
for the Wilverley fire-engine.

“Why didn’t ’un take my lady’s car?”

Nick shouted again, very shrilly:

“I sees yeller flames, I do.”

Agatha rushed out of the cottage.

“It’s the Hall,” she said, tremblingly. “Maybe ’tis only a chimney.”

“Ah-h-h. Best thing for that is a wet turf a-top o’ chimney pot, and a
wet blanket stuffed up the flue. I knows.”

Martha covered her face with her apron. But Nicodemus tried to hearten
her up with his coagulated wisdom.

“Things might be worse, Marthy. Our cottages might be afire—see.”

Nevertheless, one and all stared at each other, helpless and almost
tongue-tied under the stress of emergency.

“I wish I knew where my John was,” said Agatha.

Nick yelled out:

“’Tis the Hall, neighbours. The roof be blazin’.”

Agatha, very pale, hurried back into the cottage. Martha observed, less
tearfully:

“Lard, presarve us! That pore soul in bed needs rousin’. This’ll do it.
Here be Timothy Farleigh.”

Timothy stood in his doorway. His deepset eyes smouldered sullenly. Not
a word escaped from his tightly-compressed lips. Nicodemus piped shrilly
at him:

“Timothy, man, old Hall be afire.”

“Let ’un burn,” replied Timothy, in diapason tones. “Let ’un burn, I
says.”

The Ancient glared at him.

“Shame on ’ee—shame! Think o’ the good liquor down cellar.”

“Let ’un burn, I says.”

Nicodemus, full of righteous indignation, replied sharply:

“I don’t want to listen to what you says. You listen to what I says. I
be old in wisdom, and you be old in your blarsted ignerunce. We pore
folks’ll suffer for this.”

A red glow suffused itself. Almost immediately a peal of distant thunder
was heard. Timothy, erect and menacing, exclaimed solemnly:

“This be the Day o’ Judgment.”

Nicodemus shook his fist at him.

“If that be so, you stand wi’ the goats.”

But really he was impressed by Timothy’s deportment. The man seemed to
have expanded. He had the air of an inspired prophet as he lifted his
deep voice:

“May God A’mighty deal this day wi’ Lady Selina Chandos as she has dealt
wi’ me and mine!”


                                   IV

George Ball, the village constable, joined the group under the tree, and
dismounted from his bicycle. He was a heavy, good-natured man,
ordinarily lethargic. He spoke with authority:

“Is Doctor Grimshaw here?”

“No, he bain’t, Garge. What be wantin’ doctor for, hey?”

“I dun’no. Miss Cicely told me to fetch ’un quick. Old Hall be done for.
That’s sartain.”

A quarter of an hour at least had elapsed before George appeared. During
that time, men and boys had been seen hurrying up to the Hall.
Nicodemus, unable to budge, had remained under the tree. No rain had
fallen as yet, but the storm was coming nearer, and the intermittent
lightning became more vivid with each succeeding flash. From the top of
the tree Nick’s eerie laughter floated earthwards.

“Anybody burned?” asked the Ancient.

George Ball couldn’t be sure of this. He furnished a few details, avidly
swallowed. The fire had started in the garage, and thence spread to the
house; all the servants were safe, and busy rescuing pictures and
furniture. He concluded on a high, nerve-shattering note:

“’Tis arson, I reckons.”

“What be arson?” asked Martha Giles.

“Settin’ other folks’ houses afire,” replied the constable. Noting a
derisive smile on Timothy’s face, he asked officially:

“Why ain’t you up at Hall—helpin’?”

Timothy replied defiantly:

“Because I bain’t.”

George Ball went on:

“Arson it seems to be, accordin’ to Wilson. He told me in servants’ hall
that he had left the garage not five minutes afore fire started.
Positive, he was, that all was snug. In my quiet way I spoke o’
cigarettes, but Fred Wilson don’t smoke terbacker in no form. And he
swears that no match was lighted by him this blessed afternoon. Bag o’
mystery this be, because my lady had no enemies in these parts.”

“Liar!” remarked Timothy.

The astonished constable glared at him.

“What you say?”

“I said, liar. I be her enemy.”

George, utterly dazed, wiped his forehead, ejaculating:

“Queer talk, I must say.”

To this Timothy replied savagely:

“You’ll be wiser afore you’re older.”

Nicodemus interrupted sharply:

“Timothy Farleigh’ll be dead afore he’s wise at all Now, Garge, I minds
me that Doctor Grimshaw walked off Wilverley way. If that bit o’ news be
worth a tankard, don’t ’ee forget it, my good man.”

“You might ha’ said as much five minutes ago.”

He mounted his bicycle and sped off.

Nicodemus, active of mind and unduly elated because ale had impaired
underpinning, instead of understanding, was now the centre of a small
group of women, children and gaffers. Everybody else, of course, was
watching the fire in the Hall gardens, or helping to remove furniture.
From the first none dared even to hope that so old a house, so heavily
timbered, could escape being burnt to the ground.

Martha Giles said mournfully:

“Her ladyship, pore dear soul, ’ll be lacking shelter.”

By the luck of things, she addressed this innocent remark to Timothy,
who remained at his wicket gate, sullenly rejoicing over this great
calamity. He replied harshly:

“Shelter? Aye. Not under my roof.”

Nicodemus, trembling with rage, exclaimed:

“’Twon’t be your roof much longer, you damned fool. You be headin’
straight for porehouse, you be. No part wine there, and the vittles so
ontasty as never was.”

Agatha, noting the angry faces glaring at her uncle, said entreatingly:

“Better go in, uncle.”

“No,” said Timothy, “not till the house of that woman be utterly
destroyed.”


                                   V

Destroyed it was within an incredibly short space of time.

From the moment when the garage burst into flame Lady Selina behaved
with fortitude, directing operations and exhibiting amazing pluck and
resource. The most valuable furniture, the pictures, china and plate
were carried to the farther end of the topiary garden. Despite the
entreaties of Cicely, the lady of the manor was almost the last to leave
the house. As she did so a tongue of flame licked her arm. Unmindful of
this, she commanded a general retreat, a withdrawal to a slight eminence
in the garden, whence the last act of the tragedy was witnessed. Here,
to her satisfaction, she learned that nobody except herself had been
injured. Already Cicely had dispatched George Ball in search of
Grimshaw. Lady Selina, however, made light of her scorching, concerned
only with the housing of her establishment. It was settled that Cicely
and she would go to the Vicarage for the night. The worthy Goodrich
hovered about her, scant of breath but full of sympathy and warm with
indignation because the dreadful word “arson” lay pat on every lip
except his own.

Towards the end, after the roof had fallen in, the rain poured down.
Lady Selina gazed sadly at the ruins of her home, saying nothing. Cicely
clutched her.

“Come, mother, you will be wet through.”

Lady Selina yielded at length to importunity. She passed, erect, through
her people, and took the path to the village, pausing to speak to the
landlord of the Chandos Arms, to whom the board and lodging of her
servants had been entrusted.

“I will see to it myself that all is in order.”

“Very good, my lady.”

Then, resolutely, she turned her back upon all that was left of the home
to which she had come as a bride. In silence, leaning upon her
daughter’s arm, she walked wearily, spent by her physical exertions.
Goodrich followed, and others. Burdens greater than those of fatigue
weighed heavily upon her. By the time she had reached the tree upon the
green, the first tropical downpour was over.

“I must rest a moment,” she said faintly.

“Are you in pain, mother?”

“Of course I am, but that is of no consequence.”

“When will Mr. Grimshaw be here?”

Lady Selina sat down, gasping a little. Nicodemus tried to stand up.

“Sit you down, old friend,” commanded Lady Selina.

“A very sad mishap, my lady.”

“Very.”

Then, for the first time, she heard the word that was distressing the
parson. The Ancient, feeling as if he were enthroned beside the queen
regnant, and regarded as a trusty councillor, remarked solemnly:

“Garge Ball do say ’twas arson.”

Instantly Lady Selina became alert. She sat up in every sense of the
phrase, alert, interrogative, almost excited.

“Arson?” she repeated sharply. “Impossible!”

Nicodemus wagged his hoary head. This was his great moment. To rise to
it adequately became a sort of obsession.

“I knows what I knows,” he affirmed positively.

“Stuff and nonsense!” exclaimed the parson.

Lady Selina spoke gently to the old man.

“Tell me what you know, Nicodemus.”

Thus encouraged, the Ancient expanded visibly, raising his voice so that
all and sundry might hear him.

“’Tis ondeniably true that your ladyship has enemies in this yere
parish.”

Probably he expected protest. Lady Selina said quietly:

“So I discovered yesterday.”

“I bain’t one to carry tales, my lady.”

It says much for Lady Selina Chandos that this affirmation provoked her
humour. In the familiar tone that so endeared her to her dependents, she
bantered the old gaffer:

“That won’t do, Nicodemus. We have gossiped together a score of times.
Any service you can render me will not be forgotten, I can assure you.”

“Ah-h-h! I did hear wicked talk about burning down this village.”

“Where?”

Goodrich, as a Justice of the Peace, was constrained to interrupt:

“Dear lady,” he said warningly, “may I suggest that any inquiry ought to
take place at another time, and in a more private place?”

Slightly irritated, conscious, perhaps, that Nicodemus might not speak
at another time and in another place with entire frankness, Lady Selina
said tartly:

“Please allow me to be the judge of that.” In a more conciliatory tone
she addressed Nicodemus: “Where did you hear this talk?”

“In cottage yonder.” He pointed to Farleigh’s house.

“From whom?”

“From Aggie Farleigh and John Exton.”

“Quite so.”

Cicely interrupted eagerly:

“Mother, you don’t—you can’t think either of them capable of——”

Lady Selina cut her short.

“My dear, long ago I thought of them as firebrands, and firebrands they
are.”

Goodrich, much perturbed, but ever the peacemaker, suggested blandly:

“If you are rested sufficiently, Lady Selina, shall we go on to my
house? Another heavy shower impends.”

“Rested! . . . Do you think that rest is possible till I have got to the
bottom of this?” She raised her voice again, glancing round at the
circle of familiar faces, some of them not looking too friendly,
inasmuch as Agatha and John were favourites in the village. Even to the
rustic mind, prone to leap hastily to wrong conclusions, this indictment
of two persons on so grave a charge, an indictment unsupported by
evidence, seemed unjust and intolerable. A faint murmur of protest was
heard.

“Does anybody present,” continued Lady Selina, “know anything that would
throw light on this dreadful charge of arson? If so, I ask him or her to
speak.”

Stimson stepped forward. He was hardly recognisable. The staid,
respectable butler had covered himself with glory and grime in a beloved
mistress’s service.

She smiled graciously upon him.

“Yes, my lady. I saved all the plate, every bit of it, my lady.”

“Oh, Stimson! We could have spared that ugly Early-Victorian
tea-service. Well, well, you faithful soul, do you know anything?”

“There is this clue, my lady. We found it on the grass near the garage.”

He held out a silver match-box.

“A match-box?”

“Yes, my lady.”

She examined it carefully. The parson, pince-nez on nose, took it gently
from her hand. Then, with the air of Sherlock Holmes, he said
portentously:

“It bears a German inscription. I draw the obvious inference—it was
made in Germany.”

The crowd sighed with relief as the parson continued in the tones
ordinarily sacrosanct to the lectern and pulpit:

“I infer more. One of our enemies, some alien, possibly, who has escaped
internment, must have committed this terrible crime.”

The crowd hummed approval. Lady Selina, more alert than ever, observed
derisively:

“Your inference will hold water, Mr. Goodrich, if any alien has been
seen about my premises.”

Goodrich replied hastily:

“’M’yes—a question pat to the point.”

“Many persons,” continued Lady Selina, “carry objects like match-boxes,
made in Germany.”

At this Agatha came forward. Timothy had gone back into his cottage as
soon as he saw Lady Selina approaching. Agatha had remained near the
cottage gate, looking anxiously for her lover.

“May I look at the match-box?” she asked quietly.

“Certainly.”

It was handed to her. The crowd edged in closer. Agatha said positively:

“This match-box belongs to John Exton. I struck a match on it not an
hour ago, here, on this very spot. I—I had it in my hand. I must have
dropped it or left it on this bench. I can’t remember returning it
to—to its owner.”

A dramatic silence followed, broken by Goodrich, no longer the parson
but the magistrate.

“You testify to that, Agatha Farleigh?”

“Testify?” she repeated blankly.

“It is my duty to warn you that anything said by you now may be used
against you later.”

“What does this all mean?” groaned Cicely.

Her mother answered grimly: “It means something very terrible, child.”

As she spoke, Grimshaw, mounted upon the constable’s bicycle, was seen
approaching.

“Mr. Grimshaw at last!” exclaimed Cicely. As he dismounted she said to
him nervously: “Mother has been burnt.”

“Scorched, my dear; scorched.”

“It’s a very nasty burn,” said Cicely.

Grimshaw insisted upon instant examination. He unstrapped his bag,
opened it, and took out a pair of scissors. Deftly he slit up the
sleeve, saying:

“Ball could not tell me what was saved.”

“The servants saved themselves,” said Lady Selina. “We saved the more
valuable miniatures and my Chelsea. There is a pantechnicon van-load of
furniture on the lawns.”

Grimshaw nodded, intent on his work. He pulled a broad bandage from his
bag and made an impromptu sling, adding professionally:

“This must be dressed properly elsewhere. Where are you going, Lady
Selina?”

“To my house,” said Goodrich.

“In five minutes,” murmured Lady Selina. Obviously she was in pain, but
her eyes rested tranquilly upon Grimshaw. She appreciated the delicacy
of his touch, and said so. Then she addressed Agatha coldly:

“The match-box, please.”

Agatha returned it, bursting out vehemently:

“I know what you think, my lady, but it’s simply impossible. I wish
Sergeant Exton were here to defend himself. As for me,” she drew herself
up with dignity, “I have been in attendance upon my aunt, as Martha
Giles can _testify_.”

She glanced at the parson, using the word scornfully.

“Johnnie Exton be here,” exclaimed one of the crowd.

The villagers made way for John, who approached Agatha. The young man
was dishevelled and his khaki was scorched and stained by smoke. Out of
a grimy face his eyes sparkled brilliantly.

“Where have you been, John?” asked Agatha.

“Helping up at the Hall.”

“Helping?” repeated Lady Selina.

“I did what a one-armed man could, my lady.”

“Of course you did,” said Agatha. “No one who knows you,” she added
defiantly, “would question that.”

Lady Selina, bent upon conducting the inquiry in her own way, said
sharply:

“Where were you, sergeant, when the fire broke out?”

“I was in the park.”

“In my park—but why?”

“There is a right of way through the park, my lady.”

“True. Now, Nicodemus, speak up, speak the whole truth? Did you or did
you not hear Sergeant Exton and Agatha say that my village ought to be
burnt?”

The Ancient, never forgetting doles, piped up valiantly:

“I heard ’un, my lady; I heard more, too.”

“I did say that a score of cottages ought to be burnt, including Timothy
Farleigh’s. And what of it? It’s true. Let the whole truth come out.
Nicodemus Burble heard more. What? I’ll tell you. He heard Timothy
Farleigh, a man crazy with misery, say that the Hall ought to be burnt
first.”

The crowd, inarticulate with astonishment, buzzed like a swarm of bees.
Grimshaw, thinking first of his patient, anxious to keep her quiet,
suggested an immediate withdrawal to the Vicarage.

“Not yet,” replied Lady Selina firmly. Perhaps she was conscious of
latent sympathy from her people. In a very few she may have divined
hostility. She addressed the parson.

“You know, Mr. Goodrich, what was said by Sergeant Exton when I had to
give his father notice to leave his farm?”

“I grieve to say I do,” answered Goodrich.

“Agatha Farleigh, here, whom Sergeant Exton is going to marry, lays the
death of the two Farleigh children at my door. And now my house is
burnt.”

She betrayed no excitement, no animosity. Slowly she held up the
match-box.

“Is this yours?”

John stared at it.

Lady Selina continued impassively:

“It was picked up near the garage. An hour ago it was in your
possession.”

“It was,” John admitted. “But I haven’t been near the garage.”

Goodrich said impatiently:

“All this is irregular. At the same time, matters having gone so far, I
will take it upon myself to ask you a question, sergeant: Will you tell
us exactly where you happened to be when the fire broke out?”

“I happened to be near the house.”

“Alone?”

“Alone.”

The villagers were tremendously impressed. Of all now present, and many
others had sauntered up, possibly Exton and Lady Selina alone remained
self-possessed. Agatha said emotionally:

“Miss Cicely—you—you don’t accuse my John? You—can’t!”

A sob broke from her. As Cicely, on the edge of tears, did not answer
quickly, Agatha turned impetuously to Grimshaw.

“I appeal to you, Mr. Grimshaw.”

Lady Selina nodded majestically:

“I shall be glad to hear what you think, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“I think, Lady Selina, that John Exton is innocent of this charge.”

“Thank you, sir,” said John.

“Is that thought,” said Goodrich, “grounded on some evidence not yet
forthcoming?”

Grimshaw replied quietly: “You see, I know the man. Does not character
weigh with you, Mr. Goodrich?”

“Of course.”

Lady Selina, looking earnestly at Grimshaw, continued:

“But, unhappily, this young man’s character as—as an agitator, as a
stirrer-up of strife, is against him.”

“To my knowledge,” Grimshaw replied firmly, “he has been a good son and
a good soldier. Doesn’t that appeal to you, Lady Selina?”

“It does. You say, Mr. Grimshaw, that you know Sergeant Exton. Has he,
in talk with you, ever shown any personal animus against me?”

Grimshaw betrayed his uneasiness, conscious once again that his hand was
being forced by Fate, that, against his own convictions and principles,
he was constrained to take, seemingly, the side of Authority. He
hesitated, and then answered quickly:

“Well, yes; he has, but——”

John Exton cut him short.

“I’m not ashamed of what I said. I told Doctor Grimshaw, my lady, that I
wanted to see you—_downed_.”

“Ah.”

The fact that she made no comment strengthened her case enormously in
the eyes and ears of those who might still be counted loyal subjects. On
the other hand, John’s handsome admission, his frank countenance, his
soldierly deportment made a profound impression. Cecily, torn in two,
exclaimed vehemently:

“It’s incredible! You, a brave man, a soldier of the King, actually
wanted to down a woman!”

Lady Selina, with uplifted hand, imposed silence. Goodrich delivered his
verdict:

“I am grieved—grieved. Where is the constable, George Ball?”

“Here, sir.”

Goodrich addressed him magisterially:

“If a constable has reasonable ground for suspecting that a felony has
been committed, he can arrest the person so suspected without a
warrant.”

Agatha interposed hotly:

“The grounds are unreasonable.”

“Are they, Mr. Grimshaw?”

Lady Selina’s smooth, soft voice silenced the murmuring crowd.
Breathlessly Grimshaw’s answer was awaited. He replied promptly:

“Not altogether.”

“Thank you.”

For the second time, using him as a sort of court of final appeal, she
had triumphed, and triumph informed her tones. She continued, as quietly
as before:

“I put it to you, as an impartial observer, as a comparative stranger to
this village and its ways, is it unreasonable to give this man into
custody pending a proper enquiry?”

“Perhaps not.”

The crowd buzzed with excitement. It was impossible to interpret that
buzzing. Grimshaw continued professionally:

“As your medical attendant, Lady Selina, I must insist upon dressing
your arm at once. I will go to Dr. Pawley’s dispensary to fetch what is
necessary, and rejoin you at the Vicarage.”

He bowed and went his way. Lady Selina stood up, surveying her people.

“Quite obviously, Mr. Grimshaw gave an honest opinion against a kindly
wish to help an old acquaintance.”

George Ball, knowing instinctively the temper of the villagers, and
divining trouble, said tentatively:

“Be I to take John Exton into custody, my lady?”

“Yes.”

George Ball, attempting to justify himself before his fellow-villagers,
added deprecatingly:

“It do seem as if the Hall couldn’t, so to speak, set fire to itself.
All the same, my lady——”

“Well?”

“I be only parish constable, my lady, and if I exceeds my dooty I be
liable to lose my job.”

“I will assume all responsibility,” the lady of the manor assured him.
Thus fortified, Ball turned to John.

“I be bound to ax you to come along wi’ me.”

Sergeant Exton answered cheerfully:

“That’s all right, George. You can’t help yourself. Aggie, dear——”

She flung herself into his embrace, sobbing bitterly.

“You didn’t do it, Johnnie! You didn’t do it!”

“Bless your heart! I didn’t.”

“It’s begun to rain again,” said Cicely.

She took her mother’s arm. Lady Selina nodded, too tired to speak. In
silence, followed by the parson, mother and daughter passed through the
gaping villagers.



                               CHAPTER XI
                               REVOLUTION


                                   I

Mother and daughter were left alone in the Vicarage drawing-room,
pending the arrival of Grimshaw, who was likely to come in at any
moment. The parson bustled off to collogue with an ancient parlour-maid,
who exacted tactful treatment. Long ago the parson’s wife had passed to
a much-needed rest, a fact, indeed, stated positively upon her
tombstone.

Lady Selina sank pathetically into a comfortable arm-chair. Cicely
regarded her anxiously, but admiringly. She bent down to kiss her cheek,
murmuring:

“Dear mother, you are brave.”

Lady Selina sighed, leaning her head upon her uninjured hand. It was
difficult to interpret the expression upon her fine face. Behind the
physical weariness, an odd look of bewilderment revealed itself. When
she spoke, something else—was it acrimony or amazement?—challenged
Cicely’s attention.

“How smug this room is!”

Cicely glanced round. Her mother had hit the right word. Smug, indeed!
But, familiar as she was from childhood with every stick of furniture,
Cicely had never till this moment realised the smugness. And that, of
course, jumped to the eye when it was mentioned. Every room has its
particular message. Cicely knew that nothing in that prim apartment had
been changed during five-and-twenty years. Anæmic water-colour drawings
adorned the walls, which were demurely grey, a lasting tint. The
curtains and the seats of sundry chairs were excellent samples of Mrs.
Goodrich’s tireless needlework. They seemed to say, modestly: “See what
patient industry can achieve!” The steel fender and fire-irons were more
vocal “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.” The
well-worn carpet was immaculate; not a speck of dust could be detected
upon the china ornaments or upon the rosewood furniture. A betting man
would have laid heavy odds against finding cobwebs under the upright
piano, starkly upright, naked and not ashamed. Cicely could remember the
parson’s wife playing hymns and sonatinas upon it. Surely it would
explode with indignation if the syncopated rhythm of rag-time were
blasphemously imposed upon the ivory keys——! It was terrible to
reflect that such an instrument, sanctified, so to speak, to Divine
Service, might be debased—after a defiling public sale—to a worst
inn’s best room, to be banged by trippers.

These thoughts flashed into Cicely’s mind.

“It is smug,” she assented. “It knows, probably, that it’s just right.
Yes, self-righteousness is the note.”

She laughed a little, but Lady Selina remained unamused.

“Cicely, some of my people didn’t help at the fire.”

This was an arresting statement, impossible to assimilate at a gulp.
Cicely replied hastily:

“I saw many helping.”

“I saw some—laughing.”

“I laughed myself a moment ago. It’s just excitement. I felt
hysterical.”

Lady Selina appeared to be wandering down a maze of introspection,
picking her way in and out of blind alleys. She asked a question.

“How long has this bitter feeling of the Farleighs against me been
smouldering?”

“I—I suppose ever since his little girls died.”

“You were aware of it?”

“Ye—es.”

“Then, why didn’t you warn me?”

“I—I don’t know.”

After a pause Lady Selina continued heavily:

“I am forced to the conclusion that things—important things—have been
kept from me. Why? Why?”

Cicely blushed faintly, thinking of Grimshaw’s phrase: “the conspiracy
of silence.”

“Perhaps, Mother, those who loved you wanted to spare you.”

Lady Selina nodded.

“I understand. I have been regarded by those who loved me as a fool
content in her paradise.”

As she spoke Grimshaw was ushered in. He crossed to his patient, saying
courteously:

“Forgive an unavoidable delay, Lady Selina. I had to dress your
coachman’s hand.”

“My poor Hutchings——! Is he much hurt?”

“He thinks so. It’s nothing. He hasn’t your pluck.”

As he spoke, he took from his bag a roll of absorbent cotton wool and a
bottle of picric acid solution, which he placed upon a table where such
articles were eyed askance by a Parian-marble lady under a glass dome.
Deftly, he removed the sling.

“Tell me if I hurt you.”

“I shall do nothing of the sort.”

In the presence of a comparative stranger, Lady Selina had reassumed her
manner, so natural to her, so indisputably her shining armour. The
sudden change confounded Cicely. Which was the real woman?

Grimshaw addressed Cicely professionally:

“More light, Miss Chandos.”

Cicely pulled back the curtains, which always slightly obscured the
light, because ample folds revealed the needlework.

“That’s much better.”

He examined the burn, and then cut off a pad of the sterilised cotton,
which he wetted with the picric solution.

“How red the burn looks!” remarked Cicely. She could see that her mother
was not only grateful to the doctor, but pleased with the man. Lady
Selina murmured approval.

“Your touch is as light as a woman’s. What are you using?”

“Picric acid solution.”

She never winced as he dressed the burn. Her tones were as light as his
touch:

“Dear me! You were going to dine with us this evening! And I had ordered
such a nice little dinner.”

Behind Lady Selina a French window opened upon the lawn, which faced the
village green. Through this window floated noises culminating in cheers.

“Please shut that window,” commanded Grimshaw.

“Please don’t,” said the Lady of the Manor. “The atmosphere of this room
is slightly oppressive. I suppose the dear souls are cheering me.”

“Safety-pin, Miss Chandos.”

The parson entered, blandly beaming.

“Your chauffeur has come back from Wilverley, Lady Selina. The fire
engine is at the Hall, under Lord Wilverley’s direction. Lord Wilverley
has put the Court at your disposal, but I told him that you had accepted
my own more modest shelter.”

“Many thanks.”

Grimshaw interposed.

“I should like you to go to bed at once.”

“My dear doctor! _After_ I have dined.”

“_Before._ You have sustained a shock.”

“I have.” She smiled ironically. “But I am myself again.”

Goodrich went out. From the green came raucous laughter, punctuated by
groans and cat-calls. Lady Selina sat upright, frowning.

“I don’t understand this noise.”

“Nor I,” said Cicely.

“It sounds like a sort of—a—demonstration.”

She glanced interrogatively at Grimshaw, who was apparently intent upon
his dressing. He said pleasantly:

“I think I can promise you that there won’t be any scar.”

“Not on my arm, you mean?”

“Not on your arm.”

Attempting to interpret the derisive inflection of her voice, he asked
lightly:

“I hope your house was well insured?”

“Oh, yes. Fully. This noise is very extraordinary.”

“I think I must insist upon shutting that window, Lady Selina. It would
be unwise to run risks of taking cold, you know.”

“I don’t take cold.”

Grimshaw went to the window and closed it. Lady Selina submitted.

Stimson appeared, much perturbed.

“What is it, Stimson?”

“I’ve been on the green, my lady, and—and——” he broke off gaspingly.

“Bless the man! What’s the matter with him?”

“Nothing, my lady. They left me alone, my lady. It’s Mr. Gridley. He—he
wanted to break up the crowd. He said . . .”

“Well, what did he say?”

The unhappy Stimson, dirty and dishevelled, grasping the rags of his
former dignity, replied austerely:

“I beg your ladyship’s pardon; I must be excused from repeating what Mr.
Gridley said. Very rough tongue he has.”

Beside herself with impatience, Lady Selina rapped out:

“Am I never to get the plain truth from my own people? What has
happened?”

“As I left the green, my lady, they were chasing Mr. Gridley into the
pond. It isn’t a deep pond, my lady, but full of horseleeches.”

“I must go out at once.”

“No,” said Grimshaw as positively.

Cicely signed to Stimson to leave the room; he obeyed deprecatingly.

“The Riot Act must be read by me, Mr. Grimshaw. When you crossed the
green just now did you notice bad temper on the part of the crowd?”

“Well, yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

He replied quietly:

“Because you are my patient.”

“What has caused this?”

“John Exton’s arrest.”

“I must go at once.”

She stood up. Grimshaw said firmly:

“Forgive me—it isn’t safe.”

Lady Selina smiled incredulously. At the same time she was sensible of
Grimshaw’s sympathy, of his unmistakable solicitude, expressed not so
much by his voice, but by his eyes. She thought to herself: “This young
man is considerate; he has the old-fashioned protective instincts about
women.”

“Not safe, you mean, for your patient?”

Grimshaw never answered the question, because Goodrich came in through
the French window, closing it after him; but significant sounds entered
with him. Obviously some of the unruly were trespassing upon the
Vicarage lawn, stamping down the moss.

“This is a revolt,” said the Lady of the Manor.

Goodrich might have replied: “No, madame; it’s revolution,” but he was
beyond quotation. In a troubled voice he delivered a message.

“Timothy Farleigh wants to see you.”

“Don’t see him, Mother,” entreated Cicely. “You’re not up to it.”

“Not up to it? What an idea! I will see any of my people, or all of
them, at any time.”

“He is on my lawn,” said Goodrich. “My privet fence is broken down.”

“Can I see him here, Mr. Goodrich?”

“Certainly, if you insist.”

He went out, carrying a head out of which distressed and congested eyes
bulged prominently. When he came back, Timothy accompanied him. Agatha
and the softy followed. Nobody noticed them. The parson shut the window.
Timothy approached Lady Selina, very erect in her chair.

“What do you want?” she asked quietly.

Timothy confronted her with a dignity quite as impressive, in its way,
as hers. The despairing fury had burnt itself out, partly, possibly,
because his Mary was mending, partly, also, because it had served its
purpose, whether designed or not—it had fired others.

“I want justice.”

Lady Selina replied scornfully:

“You shall have it, I promise you. So you, _you_ have raised my own
people against me?”

“Aye.”

He spoke impersonally, as if he were aware that he had but served as an
instrument. And he continued in a low voice, pathetically apathetic:

“I ha’ waited fifteen year for this hour—fifteen year.”

Agatha stood beside him, still defiant. Nick, unnoticed, save by
Grimshaw, crept furtively to the fireplace, apparently astonished and
distressed to find no fire in it. Grimshaw leapt to the conclusion that
the softy had been brought to the Vicarage purposely. Presently he would
serve as an object-lesson, a notable part of Timothy’s indictment.

“You can say what you have to say,” observed Lady Selina. “Apparently
you are here to speak for some of your neighbours?” He nodded. “Very
well—speak.”

Timothy prepared himself for a tremendous effort, how tremendous none
can understand who is not intimately acquainted with the rustic mind,
almost atrophied by disuse, when it attempts to measure itself against
authority. Grimshaw, watching him closely, reflected that his attitude
and expression were more eloquent than any speech could be. Bent and
bowed by interminable toil, his gnarled hands trembling with agitation,
he spoke very slowly:

“You might ha’ been burned this day along wi’ your gert house. . . .”

“True.”

No rancour could be detected in her voice. Grimshaw wondered what she
was feeling. Her perfect manners might have misled a less acute
observer, but he divined somehow that she, also, was intensely affected,
blind for the moment because a cataract had been torn from her eyes.

“Be you prepared to die, my lady?”

At this the parson raised a protesting finger. To break through his
privet fence was a grave misdemeanour; to trespass upon his spiritual
domain in his presence palsied a tongue apter at asking rather than
answering such direct questions. However, Lady Selina replied
courteously:

“Why do you put such a question?”

“I puts it to ’ee. We brings nothing into this world, and we takes
nothing out. But the reckonin’ must be paid. What ha’ you done, my lady,
wi’ us? We’ve worked for ’ee . . . crool hard, at a low wage.”

He stretched out his rough hands, palms uppermost, revealing the scars
and callouses, but quite unconscious of them.

“You could have left my service, Timothy Farleigh, if you thought the
work too hard and the wage too low.”

“Aye. Fair warning I had fifteen years ago, when my lil’ maids died. I
might ha’ gone then, but someways I couldn’t leave the old land, and
so—God forgi’ me—I stayed. We pore souls, my lady, bain’t free. . . .
We be, seemin’ly, just beasts o’ burden, your beasts—under your yoke.”

Lady Selina never flinched from his intent gaze. Grimshaw was unable to
decide whether indeed her clear blue eyes were fixing upon the trembling
speaker or upon herself. Could she see him as he thus revealed himself?
Could she see herself with anything approximating to true definition?
She said firmly enough:

“My yoke has not been heavy; you know that.”

His hands fell to his sides.

“I knows what you ha’ done; and I knows what you ha’ left undone. We be
housed lil’ better than the beasts o’ the field. We be kept helpless
a-purpose.”

Lady Selina glanced at Agatha’s tense face.

“No. Your niece here has risen above her station, and I helped her.
Whether such help was wisely given is another matter.”

“Aggie be a clever maid. I speaks for us as bain’t clever. I speaks,”
his voice rang out emphatically, “for every man in Upworthy as has a
wife and lil’ ’uns to lose, if so be as you remains blind and deaf to
the writin’ on your own smoulderin’ walls. Better, I says, far better
that you should ha’ perished this day wi’ your grand house than live on
wi’ your heel upon our bodies and our hearts.”

His words, coming from such a man, amazed Grimshaw. And yet they
confirmed an ever-increasing conviction that true inspiration is kindled
from without, that Man is indeed but the receiver and transmitter of a
purpose far transcending finite intelligence. No trained orator could
have chosen better words than these which had fallen, like water from a
rock, out of the mouth of a peasant. Grimshaw watched their effect. They
had brought softening dews to the eyes of Agatha and Cicely; they had
penetrated the parson’s hide-bound understanding. He stood agape in his
own drawing-room, deflated, thinking, possibly, of Balaam’s ass. Lady
Selina seemed to be petrified. Nick alone remained indifferent, the
usual grin upon his face. He had taken from a pocket a match, and was
contemplating the neatly laid fire, obsessed—so Grimshaw decided—with
the desire to light it.

Lady Selina replied, after a pause. What she said came from within, as
sincere, in one sense, as the message from without. Grimshaw realised
that she was delivering a message, a tradition rather, entrusted to her
keeping. Her brother, her father, all her distinguished ancestors would
have spoken the same words in exactly the same tone.

“I have listened to you patiently, Timothy Farleigh. Listen to me. I am
not blind to the writing on my smouldering walls. And one word stands
out flaming—Ingratitude! You come here asking for justice. Justice
shall be meted out to you. And now go!”

She pointed to the door. Timothy hesitated.

“You be a hard ’ooman. But Johnny Exton be innocent. Let ’un out—let
’un out, I says.”

“My house has been burnt. If John Exton didn’t do it, who did?”

“I dunno.”

“Exactly.”

Grimshaw moved nearer to her.

“I think I know,” he said, almost in a whisper, because he was humbly
aware that inspiration had descended upon him. Lady Selina repeated his
words:

“You think you know, Mr. Grimshaw?”

He beckoned to Nick, saying in his kindliest tone:

“Come you here, my lad.”

The softy shambled up to him. Grimshaw sat down upon a chair near the
fireplace, assuming an easy attitude, but his eyes caught and held the
eyes of the boy.

“I bain’t afeard of ’ee, I bain’t.”

“Of course not. I wish I was as brave as you, Nicky.”

The softy swelled with pride. The others stared at Grimshaw, who
dominated them as he did the stunted intelligence in front of him. He
continued lightly:

“Shall I tell you a secret?”

“Ah-h-h!”

“I am a bit afeard of somebody. Guess.”

An unexpected answer introduced a touch of comedy. Nick grinned broadly:

“I knows—Miss Cicely.”

For an instant Grimshaw was disconcerted; Cicely blushed. Fortunately
nobody perceived this.

“No, no. I am afeard of George Ball, the constable.”

The shot went home. Nick squirmed.

“George Ball!”

“Aye. Sit on that stool, my lad. Listen to me.” Nick obeyed, staring up
at the keen face bent over his own. “Let’s have a little chat. I like
you, Nicky.”

“Do ’ee, now? I likes you; yas, I do.” He grinned again, adding slily:
“An’ so does Miss Cicely.”

This second allusion challenged Lady Selina’s attention. She turned to
glance at her daughter, but, happily, the tell-tale blushed had faded.

“Do you ever smoke cigarettes, Nick?”

“Times, I do, when fellers gi’ me some.”

“Have one with me.”

He held out his cigarette-case. Nick selected one; Grimshaw took
another, saying lightly:

“Have you a match?”

“Yas.”

A murmur from Agatha nearly broke the spell. Nick, however, intent upon
Grimshaw, opened his left hand, and revealed a match, a wax vesta.
Grimshaw took it, looked at it, and smiled ingratiatingly:

“What a nice wax match!”

“Aye, same as quality use.”

Grimshaw struck the match on his heel.

“Light up!”

He leaned forward and downward. Nick lighted his cigarette, puffing at
it complacently. Grimshaw lighted his, and then blew out the match. With
his face still close to Nick’s, he asked suddenly:

“But where is the match-box?”

“I dunno. I lost ’un.”

“What bad luck! You found a silver match-box this afternoon and lost it
inside of—of an hour?”

“Yas, I did. How do ’ee know that?”

“I’m a doctor. I can see inside your head. Shall I give you a shilling?”

“Yas.”

Grimshaw took a shilling from his pocket, flicked it into the air, and
caught it. Then, with a laugh, he held it out. Nick tried to take it.
Grimshaw deftly palmed it. Nick was confounded.

“It be gone. You be a wondersome man, you be.”

“Hallo! Here it is again—in your ear, by Jove!”

He exhibited the shilling to the excited boy, flicked it up again and
allowed it to drop on the carpet.

“It’s yours, Nicky.”

Nick picked up the shilling, going down on his knees. As he rose to his
feet Grimshaw stood up, taking him gently by the shoulder:

“I say, tell me something. Why did you set my lady’s house afire?”

Once more, inarticulate murmurs from those present might have broken the
spell, but Nick was too absorbed in his possession of the shilling. He
answered seriously:

“I dunno.”

Grimshaw was not satisfied. He tried another tack, saying lightly:

“You know, Nick, I often want to burn houses myself.”

“Do ’ee?”

“Why did you do it, my lad?”

“To please father.”

“To please father, eh? Did he ask you to do it?”

“No-o-o.”

“Johnny Exton may say that he burnt the big house.”

Nick replied jealously:

“Not he. Johnny bain’t brave enough for that. ’Twas me done it. I be
allers ready for a lark.”

Grimshaw turned to Lady Selina.

“Are you satisfied?”

“Yes. I—I am infinitely obliged to you.”

Agatha exclaimed fervently:

“God bless you, sir!”

Lady Selina had spoken stiffly, still erect in her chair. And she gazed
mournfully at Nick, not at Grimshaw.

“Nick.”

“Yes, my lady?”

“Do you hate me?”

All softies are extremely sensitive to the tones of the voice. Nick must
have felt the hostility which Lady Selina had purposely veiled. He
replied sullenly:

“I be saft along o’ you. You bain’t so good as the Lard.”

“The Lord?”

“Him as lives Wilverley way. Upworthy pegs we be called by Wilverley
folk.”

His fatuous grin was unendurable. Lady Selina winced. Grimshaw
interposed hastily:

“That will do, Nick.”

Agatha added as quickly:

“You come home along with father and me.”

“Yes,” murmured Lady Selina. “Take him away. John Exton shall be
released from custody at once.” She added bitterly to Timothy: “You see
what your words have done.”

He replied starkly:

“Upworthy be a whited sepulchre, naught but a whited sepulchre.”


                                   II

The tension was relaxed slightly after the Farleighs had left the room.
At once Lady Selina instructed Goodrich, as magistrate, to take the
necessary steps to deliver John Exton out of durance vile. As she was
speaking, cheers were heard outside. Goodrich, peering out, announced
that the villagers were leaving the lawn. He mentioned that dinner would
be ready in a quarter of an hour, adding:

“May I prescribe a glass of champagne for your patient, Grimshaw?”

Lady Selina said wearily:

“You are very kind. I shall go to bed.”

“Please,” murmured Grimshaw.

The parson went out. Lady Selina lay back in her chair, closing her
eyes. Cicely glanced anxiously at Grimshaw. Had the inevitable reaction
set in? Grimshaw approached his patient, and laid his hand upon her
wrist. She opened her eyes.

“I’m rather tired. That’s all.”

“No wonder.” He held her wrist for half a minute, saying reassuringly:
“Your pulse is excellent. Some light food in bed and a night’s rest will
quite restore you.”

She nodded. He was about to take leave of her when she said abruptly:
“What did that poor boy mean by saying that he was born soft along of
me?”

Grimshaw answered with slight constraint:

“As to that, I have the facts at second-hand. Some six months before he
was born his mother had diphtheria. She was distracted about that time
by the death of her two little girls from the same disease.”

“I see. Would that account for this boy being born wanting?”

“It might.”

Lady Selina refused to accept this as final. The constraint in
Grimshaw’s voice had not escaped her.

“But in your opinion, with such facts as you have, it did, didn’t it?”

“Well, yes.”

“Good-night, Mr. Grimshaw; and very many thanks.”

He bowed and went out.


                                  III

As he crossed the green he noticed that the villagers had left it.
Cheering, at a distance, lent colour to the hypothesis that John Exton’s
release would lead to more ale-drinking. After that Upworthy would
forgive and forget. On the morrow, popular feeling would be as flat as
the dregs of ale left in the big tankards.

Lady Selina would not forget.

His feeling for her was now one of intensest pity, and, as he walked, he
beheld himself as the fateful instrument by which fresh laceration must
be inflicted. She had thanked him civilly for his services, but she had
not held out her uninjured hand, simply because his final expression of
opinion ranked him amongst her critics. Very few women of the better
sort, conscious, as they are, of self-sacrifice to what they conceive to
be duty, can endure criticism. He knew, also, that he had disappointed
Cicely, too young and too loving a daughter not to resent plain-speaking
if it hurt an already stricken creature. Many a gallant gentleman, he
reflected, would have lied convincingly at such a moment.

Dinner was awaiting him at Mrs. Rockram’s, but he had no appetite. To
distract attention from himself, he decided to walk up to the Hall and
see what was left of it. Mounting the gentle slopes of the park, fatigue
assailed him afresh; every bone in his body seemed to be aching. But the
storm had passed away, leaving clear skies and a delicious freshness of
atmosphere. He stopped to inhale the odours of grateful earth.

In the mid-distance he could see the walls of the house, still standing.
Smoke ascended from them and steam, for the Wilverley fire engine was at
work. He could hear the sharp rap of the pistons. The roof had vanished;
out of the blackened walls, like sightless eyes, glared what had been
windows, the windows that reflected so gloriously the setting sun.

An ancient home had been destroyed.

It would be rebuilt, of course, with all modern improvements, electric
light, bathrooms, and labour-saving devices—a change for the better, so
Mrs. Grundy would affirm. Lady Selina would not think so. Could she,
could anybody of her age adjust themselves to new conditions?

When he reached the lawn he was greeted by two energetic persons, Arthur
Wilverley and Tiddy. In a few words Wilverley stated that his labours
were ended. The stables and some outbuildings had been saved. He added:

“Lady Selina ought to have had a small engine here.”

He looked exuberantly strong and fit, with no air of the dejected and
rejected lover about him. Here was one who could adapt himself to new
conditions. Presently he led Grimshaw aside and listened attentively to
a terse recital of what had happened in Upworthy, laughing heartily when
he heard of Gridley and the horsepond, expressing sympathy tempered by
humour for Lady Selina.

“If this wakes her up, Grimshaw, all will be well.”

Grimshaw made no reply. Wilverley continued in a different tone:

“Ought I to see her to-night before I go home?”

“As her doctor I’m afraid I must veto that.”

“Thank you; I understand. I shall write. Miss Tiddle wants to see Miss
Chandos. I can wait in the car.” Then, sensible of constraint in
Grimshaw’s manner, and misinterpreting it, he added frankly: “You are a
good chap; you can size up a delicate situation. I will say this to you.
This fire has burnt away some humiliation. I believe that good must crop
out. If I can help, I will. Miss Tiddle feels as I do—a remarkable girl
that!”

“Yes.”

“You look rather fagged.”

“I have a touch of malaria on me.”

They sauntered back to the engine. Wilverley described with enthusiasm
Miss Tiddle’s executive abilities. Under her capable direction all the
more valuable pictures, porcelain and plate had been stored in the
coach-house. Other outbuildings held furniture and household stores.

“That young lady can get a move on,” declared Wilverley.

Grimshaw wondered whether he was contrasting Miss Tiddle with Cicely,
not to the advantage of the latter. Quite sincerely he hoped that it
might be so. In time—Wilverley would take time—Miss Tiddle might play
Jill to his Jack. They would mount the hill of life together, and not
trouble down it. The pail of water carried by such a pair would be used
to irrigate the waste patches of others. He refused a lift back to the
village in the big car, and watched it whirl off, Wilverley at the wheel
and Miss Tiddle beside him.


                                   IV

By this time Lady Selina was a-bed and Cicely was dining tête-à-tête
with the parson. You may be sure that the good man played the host in
the old-fashioned way. Port mellowed him, banishing disagreeable
reflections. Cicely, unable to peer beneath a polished surface, tried to
reflect herself in that surface and stared ruefully at a very blurred
image. The parson’s slightly patronising tone when speaking of Grimshaw
irritated her intensely, the more so because he laid an insistent finger
upon what had irritated her.

“Your dear mother is no more responsible than I am. Why didn’t he say
so? Heaven knows she needed a word of comfort. As her medical attendant,
it was the man’s positive duty to cheer her up.”

Cicely said bravely:

“Mr. Goodrich, forgive me, but aren’t we all partly responsible?”

He blinked at her and sipped his wine.

“In a way, m’yes. Collectively the responsibility must be divided up. I
deprecate violence.”

“So does Mr. Grimshaw.”

“Of course, he’s an outsider, and something of an iconoclast. A square
peg, I grant you, in a round hole.”

“You admit that Upworthy is a hole?”

He blinked again, but the juice of the grape fortified him.

“It lies low; hence these grievous visitations. I remain loyal to
Upworthy and your dear mother.”

The parlour-maid told her that Miss Tiddle was in the drawing-room.

“I’ll see her at once.”

Cicely rushed into Tiddy’s warm embrace.

“I want you more than anybody else,” she declared fervently.

“I’ve five minutes.”

Two of these precious minutes were devoted to details, but Cicely
apparently took for granted what had been accomplished at the Hall. And,
to Tiddy’s astonishment, she seemed equally indifferent to the exciting
events on the green. She held Tiddy’s hand, squeezing it.

“When can I see you, Tiddy? I must see you. I must have a long talk.”

“Long talks are nearly always too long. You’ve something on your chest.
Now pull up your socks and pin up your skirts and out with it. Wait!
I’ll bet daddy’s pile that you and the Man with the Disconcerting Eyes
have been passing more than the time o’ day.”

“You’re wonderful,” Cicely admitted.

“I’m alive,” remarked Miss Tiddle, complacently. “And my shot wasn’t a
fluke; I played for it. What does dear mother say?”

“That’s it. She doesn’t know.”

“Nor do I yet. But I take it that you have really bounced out of the
frying-pan into the fire?”

“Yes; I have.”

“I’m delighted to hear it. There _is_ stuff in you, but only a
can-opener, like me, is able to get it out. So the signal is S. O. S.,
eh?”

“Yes. Why can’t you sleep with me to-night?”

“Because I’m on duty, apart from other reasons. What are you going to
do? Hide your head in the sand?”

“I don’t know what to do.”

Tiddy’s eyes sparkled.

“_He_ does, though.”

Cicely answered evasively:

“A man’s methods are always so brutal.”

“That’s why really we love them. If I keep Lord Wilverley waiting he’ll
be brutal; but for your sake I’ll risk that. Shall I tell you what to
do?”

“Please!”

“Scrap the buskins! You can’t act for nuts. Nor can he. Both of you will
give the show away if you try dissembling—always a rotten game.”

“Have you seen Mr. Grimshaw?”

“I left him up at the Hall.”

Cicely’s eyes softened.

“And he hasn’t had dinner.”

“He didn’t look as if he wanted dinner. But I’m sure he wants
you—desperately. He appeared to me worn and torn to tatters. Make no
error; you can’t rig him up in your moss.”

“There’s not much moss left.”

“Lots of it, believe me. I haven’t time to argue with you, Cis. I can
make a guess at what’s in your mind, because, as I say, you’re easy to
read, a big asset, if you knew it, and probably the thing that appeals
tremendously to Mr. Grimshaw. If he begins to think you’re not straight
he’ll fly the track.”

“Not straight!”

Tiddy answered impatiently:

“You want to have it both ways. You are most awfully sorry for your
mother; you would like to be sweet to her, to play the devoted daughter;
but what will all that sort of thing be worth when she finds you out?
And she will. You want to be just as sweet, perhaps sweeter, to Mr.
Grimshaw, and all the time he’ll see you playing a part with your
mother, and, worse, forcing him to do the same. Really, you’re risking
his love and your mother’s respect.”

Cicely frowned. Moss-scraping hurts.

“I suppose you’d rush in to mother, and, on top of this awful calamity,
hit her hard on the head when she’s lying down.”

“If you speak of the fire, I don’t regard it as an awful calamity; nor
do you. As to speaking to-night, that is absurd. To-morrow, or the day
after, will be time enough. I am much sorrier for her than I am for you.
I can measure her disappointment, but I can’t measure your folly if you
play the wrong game. And now—I must hop it.”

“When are you going to France, Tiddy?”

“Why should I go to France?”

This was rank evasion, and Tiddy, challenged to practise what she had
preached, knew it. A little red flowed into her cheeks.

“Because you told me that was your intention.”

“Well, we all change our minds, don’t we? I’m doing my bit here, and
like the job. So that’s that.”

Her curls were a-flutter as she went out.

Cicely stood still listening, till she heard the purr of the big car.
The thought came to her, as it had come to Grimshaw, that Tiddy was not
going to France because she had more than liking for her present job.
Jealous pangs assailed her. If Tiddy wanted Arthur she would get him.

And why not?

Presently she went upstairs to sit beside her mother. To her
astonishment Lady Selina, fortified by soup and a cutlet, declared
herself ready to discuss present and future.

“We can’t impose ourselves upon Mr. Goodrich, my dear, and Danecourt,
under the circumstances, would be too depressing. Heaven alone knows
when we shall get into our own house again. A fairly comfortable flat in
London seems the one thing possible.”

“Oh! London!”

“I said London—not Timbuctoo. Do you object to London?”

“N-no.”

Lady Selina eyed her daughter sharply. As a matter of fact, she had
thought of London entirely on Cicely’s account. Her own friends were
living quietly in the country, more or less engrossed by patriotic work.
London, she felt, would distract the child. And she hated flats.

“Would you prefer Bournemouth?”

A derisive inflection underlay the question. Lady Selina detested
popular watering-places and big hotels, where food you didn’t want was
placed before you at stated hours, and even earls’ daughters were known
by chambermaids as numbers!

“Bournemouth! No.”

“Perhaps you will tell me what you would like before I try to go to
sleep.”

Hunted into a corner, Cicely said hastily:

“There is Happy Mead, isn’t there?”

Happy Mead, with its preposterous name, had long been a source of
unhappiness to Lady Selina, because, in accordance with her principles,
she had declined to spend much money upon a dilapidated house,
tenantless for more years than she dared to reckon. Too big for people
of small means, and not likely to appeal to the well-to-do accustomed to
modern comforts, it was situated about a mile from Upworthy in a pretty
but neglected garden.

“That ruin! What a suggestion!” She continued irritably: “I don’t
pretend to understand you, Cicely. I should have thought that a girl not
absolutely devoid of pride would have seen the propriety of leaving her
own county for a season if she was offered the chance.”

Chandos silence countered this observation, and, looking at Cicely’s
firm little chin, Lady Selina told herself that the child had really
very little of the Danecourt pride. Having taken her own line over a
stiff country, she would stick to it. The mother went on after a pause:

“I dislike London in war-time, but we must go there.”

Having delivered this ultimatum, Lady Selina indicated by her manner
that she intended to compose herself to sleep, adding:

“I expect to lie awake half the night.”

However, Grimshaw, it appeared, had provided against this unpleasant
probability. A mild sleeping-draught was sent from Pawley’s dispensary.
Cicely, when she administered the Lethean liquid, regretted that so
thoughtful a man had not sent enough for two.



                              CHAPTER XII
                             RECONSTRUCTION


                                   I

Grimshaw remained at the Manor for about half an hour after Wilverley
had left. To his astonishment he discovered that the fire, from the
point of view of Lady Selina’s servants, was regarded as a blessing in
disguise. An enormous quantity of rubbish had been destroyed, the
accumulation of generations. It appeared, also, that dry-rot in the
ancient timbers had caused much anxiety and expense. And an immense roof
had leaked persistently.

None the less, Grimshaw gazed at the still smoking ruins with sorrowful
eyes. A clever architect would be able to preserve these. The
significance of this penetrated into Grimshaw’s mind. Certain elementary
things seemed destined to endure in a world of chance and decay.
Insensibly, he began to compare persons with things. The insoluble
problem of heredity and environment presented itself. It was difficult
to envisage Lady Selina Chandos in a new house. Would modern
improvements affect her? He remembered that Cicely had denied the
possibility of earthquakes in English villages. And within a few hours
an earthquake had taken place, something cataclysmic, to which,
willy-nilly, the lady of the manor must adapt herself.

He returned to his lodgings to swallow food without appetite. Then he
went to the dispensary to prepare Lady Selina’s sleeping-draught. In the
dispensary word came to him that Dr. Pawley wished to see him, not—so
it turned out—professionally. Indeed, the exciting events seemed to
have had a tonic effect. Pawley, very alert, had become a lively note of
interrogation, asking eager questions, interpolating shrewd remarks,
alive to the humours of the situation but full of sympathy for Lady
Selina.

“Has it been an eye-opener?” he asked.

“I hope so.”

“I suppose I know the dear woman better than anybody else, better,
perhaps, than she knows herself. She has all the virtues of her
class—fortitude, courtesy, sincerity and pluck.”

“You can say as much of some of her dependents. Isaac Burble, for
instance, and old Stimson.”

“True. Extremes meet. I like to think of that. The trouble becomes acute
when extremes don’t meet. In a sense I have always regarded her as
short-circuited.”

Grimshaw nodded. Pawley’s never-failing interest in others invited
confidence. And his advice would be sincere and helpful. The impulse to
tell his secret became irresistible. He began tentatively:

“The breaking of the Wilverley-Chandos engagement rather upset you,
didn’t it?”

“For the moment. I was so sorry for the mother. And it meant so much to
the village. We old bachelors are confirmed matchmakers. Yes, yes; it
upset me, but I can admit frankly that I left little Cicely out of my
reckoning. She didn’t want a good fellow, and she cut loose from him.
The why and wherefore are beyond me, but the essential fact suffices.”

“Perhaps she cared for somebody else?”

Pawley shook his head.

“No, no; in that case I venture to think that I should have had an
inkling, eh? Since she came out, the child has met nobody—_nobody_.”

Grimshaw laughed.

“Exactly. Now be prepared for a shock. I’m nobody. In Lady Selina’s eyes
that describes me to a dot.”

Pawley was not dense, but, for an instant, he was befogged, and Grimshaw
realised this, and with it the inevitable conclusion that even his
friend and colleague regarded him, like Lady Selina, as negligible. He
smiled derisively: and the smile was illuminating. Pawley understood.

“Good Lord! I’ve been blind.”

“There wasn’t much to see. I was blind myself till yesterday. And then,
suddenly, I saw. I’ll add this to you. I fell in love with her five
minutes after I met her. When I scraped that midge out of her eye the
big thing happened. I fought against it. Yesterday I succumbed. She—she
cares for me, bless her!”

“You mean it’s settled?”

“Settled! I wonder if anything more unsettling to all concerned could
have happened.”

Pawley remained silent, a silence misapprehended by Grimshaw, who
reflected, naturally enough, that congratulation was deemed impossible.
But the elder man had embarked upon a long pilgrimage at racing speed.
He was whirled back to those far-off days when he, a nobody, aspired to
enter a guarded pleasaunce, with its conspicuous notice: “Trespassers
Beware!” He had entered it and left it—alone. Ever since he had
remained alone a festering fact. His kindly eyes rested upon Grimshaw’s
tired face. He held out his thin hand.

“Can I help you to win through?”

His sympathy was so unexpected after a long silence that Grimshaw
stammered a reply:

“You—you think I am w-w-worthy?”

Pawley gripped the hand in his.

“If you can ask that question sincerely, you are. I take it Lady Selina
doesn’t know?”

Grimshaw plunged into fluent speech. When he finished, Pawley was in
possession of what had passed between the lovers, of the compromise
exacted by Cicely, of its effect upon Grimshaw. He listened with
pursed-up lips and frowning brows. Then he delivered his considered
judgment:

“You are stumbling along in ruts. Where have they led me? Where have
they led Goodrich? Come out of them, my dear fellow. Cicely is wrong.
But there is every excuse for her.”

“Then Lady Selina is not to be ‘spared’?”

Pawley made a deprecating gesture.

“Has Omnipotence spared her? The longer I live, Grimshaw, the more
amazed I am at human fallibility. We mean well, most of us, and we do
ill. And ill follows our benevolent efforts. Per contra, good rises out
of evil. Anyway, compromise has been the curse of my life.” He paused,
adding in a lower tone: “Compromise came between me and the woman I
loved. It was too much for both of us. Be honest with Lady Selina. It’s
your best chance. In her heart, and it’s a big heart, she must have a
measure of contempt for poor old Goodrich and me, because we have
kowtowed to her.”

“If I could get at her heart——I have a weapon——”

“A weapon?” Pawley winced at the word. “What sort of weapon?”

“It would lose some of its edge if I showed it to you, I shall not use
it unless I am driven to do so.”

Pawley was too courteous to ask for further explanation.


                                   II

Grimshaw returned to the Rockram cottage much the better for his talk
with Pawley, but conscious, also, that a wise old man was not optimistic
in regard to his chances. He had the wit and the will to plead his case
strongly. The real issue, so he reflected, lay between strength and
obstinacy.

Mrs. Rockram was awaiting him.

“You made a pore dinner, sir, and I thought, maybe, you’d fancy some
nice hot soup.”

“Bless your kind heart, I do.”

As he ate his soup, she hovered about him, eager to talk over the fire
and the soul-stirring events on the green. Knowing her to be a faithful
servant of the House of Chandos and devoted to its mistress, he yielded
to the temptation to draw from her some expression of opinion. Obviously
she sided with Authority.

“My lady’ll never be the same again, never!”

“In what way do you think she will change?”

“The ingratitude of ’em’ll eat into her bones.”

“Ah! Lady Selina used that word.”

Mrs. Rockram expressed the positive opinion that no other word could be
used by a perfect lady. Emboldened by Grimshaw’s silence, she went on:

“I know my place, sir, but I did pass the remark to Rockram: ‘Her
ladyship’ll up and leave us,’ I says, ‘to stew in our own sauce.’”

“I can’t see her ladyship outside Upworthy.”

“Maybe. But I have seen her. In my day we went to London every year.”

“And am I to infer, Mrs. Rockram, that her ladyship is a different woman
away from Upworthy?”

Mrs. Rockram rebuked him delicately.

“A lady, like my lady, is a _lady_ wherever she may be. But in the room
we used to remark that her ladyship in town was different.”

“In what way? This is interesting.”

“Rockram was butler in them days. The little I knows I gets from him. My
lady took things easier in Curzon Street, never fussed like. Very
popular she was, too, with the _crême de la crême_.”

“I dare say your good cooking had something to do with that.”

“Maybe. There was no pinching in those days—the best of everything. And
no trouble neither. The best came to the kitchen door.”

“It doesn’t now, not even in London.”

“Well, sir, all I says is that my lady is at the age when peace and
comfort come first. If she can’t get ’em here, she’ll go elsewhere; and
quite right, too.”

Left alone, Grimshaw smoked a pipe before turning in. Tobacco, however,
failed to soothe him. Mrs. Rockram’s words rankled. Peace and comfort!
Peace at any price! With war raging over all the civilised world, who
wouldn’t set an extravagant value on peace? The merely material
difficulty of rebuilding her house, with every able-bodied man in khaki,
might drive Lady Selina out of Upworthy. And once out, once settled in a
snug town house, would she return?


                                  III

At eleven next morning he crossed the green to dress Lady Selina’s arm.
Upworthy presented to his critical eye no apparent change from the
normal. What villagers he met greeted him with a sheepish and apologetic
air. Ebullition of feeling had simmered away. Even Timothy Farleigh had
reassumed his bovine mask, although his face was brighter, Mary being
decidedly better, and likely to improve from hour to hour. Agatha
thanked him effusively, on her marrow-bones before his “cleverness.” She
repeated the same phrase again and again:

“Oh! you are clever, sir; you saved us all, you did.”

“A bit of luck. I saw the wax vesta in the boy’s hand.”

“And so did I, sir. It told me just nothing, nothing.”

“You were too excited to notice trifles at such a time.” He paused,
adding significantly: “Are you still excited?”

She flushed a little, hesitating, but constrained to candour beneath his
kindly glance.

“Things can’t go on as they are, sir, can they?”

Her tone was interrogative, not defiant. Recognising the change in her
mental attitude, he said genially:

“Things never do go on as they are, nor persons. The progress of the
world is intermittent; and it rolls on in curves, now up, now down, but
the mean level is steadily rising. Ill-considered speech and action clog
the wheels. You can give a motor too much lubricating oil, can’t you?”

“I am very sorry that I misunderstood you, sir.”

With these heartening words he left the Farleigh cottage and walked more
briskly to the Vicarage.

Cicely, you may be sure, contrived to see him alone for a minute. From
her manner he could divine nothing of her feelings, because they met in
the small hall within reach of curious eyes and ears. He fancied that
her hand lay cold in his. And her expression was troubled.

“Your mother has passed a bad night?”

“Mother slept soundly, thanks to your draught. She’s up; in the
drawing-room. She insists on going to London at once. We are likely to
stay there for several months.”

“I see.”

“But do you see? I can’t.” Her voice was almost piteous. “Perhaps it’s
for the best. I don’t know. And she talks of sending the family
solicitor down here to deal with Snitterfield and Gridley. But he’s an
old fossil. They’ll twist him round their fingers. Can’t you coax her
into staying here?”

“I am not very sanguine of succeeding where you have failed.”

He followed her into the drawing-room, where Lady Selina was enthroned
in a large chair, with energy exuding from her. Grimshaw did the little
that was necessary. He had to admit that the burn was not serious.
Cicely could attend to it. Lady Selina said briskly:

“I want to talk to you, Mr. Grimshaw. Please sit down. Cicely, my dear,
you needn’t go. You are vitally concerned in what I have to say.”

Cicely betrayed slight nervousness. Grimshaw sat down near Lady Selina.
He perceived that she was overbrimming with considered speech.

“I awoke with a clear mind,” she affirmed. “I have had an object-lesson,
not wasted upon me, I can assure you. I admit that I have been blind to
what has been going on under my nose. And I can take into consideration
the—the—a—consideration that has been, not too wisely, given to me.
Enough of that. I can’t, under the circumstances, call in Lord
Wilverley, as you suggested. But there are others. My own solicitor, for
instance. I shall instruct him to institute a sort of court of inquiry
here. He will know how to deal with this man Snitterfield and our
Inspector of Nuisances.”

“Will he?” asked Grimshaw quietly.

Lady Selina answered with slight acerbity:

“Of course he will. Before he meets these men, I shall ask him to have a
talk with you. Out of the chaos of yesterday, one phrase bites deeply
into my memory. I was told by Timothy Farleigh that my village is a
whited sepulchre. You didn’t contradict him.”

The unhappy Cicely wriggled in her chair. Grimshaw remained silent. Lady
Selina continued inexorably:

“It is possible, Mr. Grimshaw, that you didn’t contradict him because
you share his opinion of Upworthy. Do you?”

Cicely interposed hastily:

“Mother, do wait till you are yourself again.”

“Nonsense, child! I am very much myself this morning. Who wouldn’t be
after such an awakening? Mr. Grimshaw will do me the justice to believe
that I am in no mood to spare myself or anybody else. If Mr. Grimshaw
honestly thinks that Upworthy is a whited sepulchre, let him say so.”

“Mother. I entreat you!”

Lady Selina waved her hand impatiently.

“I must find out what the doctor of the parish thinks. I detest
evasions. Heaven knows we have had enough of them.”

Grimshaw replied eagerly:

“I am sorely tempted to evade your question, Lady Selina. And I could do
so easily. But you have chosen to raise the big issue between us, and I
dare not shirk it. _I dare not shirk it._” He repeated the words so
sorrowfully that she eyed him more attentively. After the pause he went
on: “The metaphor may be crude and harsh. It is. I should not have
chosen it myself. But conditions are fundamentally wrong here, as I
ventured to hint to you at our very first meeting.”

“Hints! Hints! Let us away with hints. Please tell me this: If—if
conditions are so fundamentally wrong here—which I don’t admit—why are
you working here? Why did you come back to—to a whited sepulchre?”

Her tone became indescribably ironic, charged, too, with a feeling that
she was unable to suppress. Feeling always engenders feeling. Something
about Grimshaw, the conviction that he was intensely moved, moved her.
She scented mystery. And immediately this suspicion was heightened as
she intercepted a glance of Cicely’s directed full at Grimshaw, a
supplicating glance, beseeching forbearance and patience. Tiddy had
predicted aright. Cicely was no actress. Grimshaw, unable for his part
to dissemble, returned the glance. Obviously there was an understanding,
or a misunderstanding, between these two. In a harder voice Lady Selina
addressed the silent Grimshaw.

“Why do you look at my daughter? That boy, last night, said that you
were afraid of her. Why? Is there any sort of—of league between you?”

The hunted Cicely burst out:

“A common desire to spare you.”

“To spare me? Thank you for nothing. I demand the truth. Why is Mr.
Grimshaw, a clever, distinguished man, working here under conditions
which he holds to be fundamentally wrong?”

Throughout this interview, so poignantly illuminating, Grimshaw had been
sensible of Lady Selina’s sincerity and intelligence. He had never
doubted the former; the latter gave him pause. Granting that she was
really intelligent, an acute observer, why had she drifted into this
_impasse_? Then he remembered what Pawley had said of her, her utter
lack of business training, the stigma of all women of her class, and
behind this the inherited instinct to move slowly in an appointed
groove. Out of this groove she had been rudely shaken. For the first
time she had a glimpse of what such women might accomplish if they were
freed from the fetters of tradition and convention. He replied calmly:

“What governs most of our actions, Lady Selina? Self-interest.
Self-interest lured me into staying here against my better judgment.
Self-interest brought me back to Upworthy, although I knew that the
basic conditions were not likely to be changed.”

“Self-interest?” She slowly repeated the two odious words, evidently
puzzled, but keenly alert. “I can’t for the life of me see where
self-interest comes in. Making due allowance for your modesty, Mr.
Grimshaw, I fail to follow you. A big town is the place for you, not a
country parish. You are the nephew of a distinguished London physician.
You must know, better than I do, that self-interest, if you are speaking
professionally, ought to have kept you away from Upworthy.”

“I was not speaking professionally.”

“Oh-h-h!”

“I have been weak; something, too, of a coward; but I promise you that
self-interest is going to be scrapped here and now.”

“I am utterly at a loss——!”

“You will be enlightened at once.”

He stood up, the light from the windows falling full upon his face.

“I have stayed here because I love your daughter.”


                                   IV

Lady Selina gasped as she sat rigid in her chair, but of the three she
was the first to recover self-possession. Cicely, absolutely unprepared,
remained tremblingly silent. Grimshaw was too moved to say more. After
an interminable pause, he heard the autocrat’s soft, derisive voice:

“My son, Brian, warned me against that possibility, and I laughed at
him—I laughed at him.”

Grimshaw spoke less calmly.

“I am not ashamed of loving her, but I am ashamed of trying to win a
wife by playing the humbug and hypocrite.”

Lady Selina tried in vain to assimilate this. He loved Cicely; did she
love him? The girl was now, apparently, in one of her absurd trances,
looking exactly like her father. The mother was familiar with these
curious seizures, but Grimshaw knew nothing of them. Cicely seemed to be
turned into stone. She looked cold as marble. Beneath this impassive
surface a battle was raging, as before, between the two Cicelys. The
body remained aloof and inert. To the old Cicely Grimshaw’s declaration
seemed brutally inopportune. Without consulting her, he had sunk all the
little boats, a tiny fleet, which carried her plans and hopes. She felt
that she was swamped with them, foundering helplessly in mid-channel
with the farther shore almost within sight. With so much at stake, why
had he acted so precipitately? At such moment, odd phrases obsess the
mind. She kept on repeating to herself a French sentence learnt at
school, an exercise in articulation:

“_Je me précipite_,

“_Tu te précipites_,

“_Il se précipite_.”

Grimshaw was confounded, as he stared at her, and instantly he, too,
became the prey of mental civil war. Doubt assailed him. He was racked
by the tormenting thought that his judgment had been cruelly at fault.
Conscious that he had risen to opportunity, that he had soared high
above mean and material considerations, he seemed to be looking down
upon his beloved grovelling in the dust of the ages—dust of that
dust—disintegrating before his eyes——! Impetuously he spoke:

“I can, of course, leave Upworthy.”

Lady Selina hesitated, but not for long. She observed coldly:

“Under the circumstances, Mr. Grimshaw, that is the wise thing to do.”

The hypercritical may affirm that it was not, under the circumstances,
the wise thing for a mother to say, inasmuch as it forced into action an
apparently apathetic and dazed creature. For the moment, Cicely remained
as before. Then, with a sharp exclamation, she stood up—revitalised,
quickened incredibly. She seemed to Grimshaw to expand from a girl into
a woman, a complete individuality, self-reliant, capable, almost
dominating; the new Cicely, the daughter of strenuous times, born of
them, exulting in them, as fresh as Aphrodite when she rose from the
waves.

“I shall go with him.”

Swiftly she crossed to his side, lifting a radiant face to his. Then she
addressed her mother, speaking very softly, but clearly, with enchanting
tenderness.

“I love him as devotedly as he loves me.”

Lady Selina shivered, as if seized by a rigor. In a pathological sense
this had indeed happened. A rigor of the mind caused a sort of collapse.
She lay back in her chair, closing her eyes. Cicely hastened to her.

“Mother, this is a dreadful surprise to you. But you love me, don’t you?
You won’t be unkind?”

A dreary voice, hardly recognisable, answered her:

“In a few hours I have lost my house, my people, and my daughter.”


                                   V

Cicely fell on her knees beside her.

“Not your daughter!” she exclaimed passionately.

Lady Selina opened her eyes at the touch of Cicely’s hands. Something of
the girl’s determination may have flowed to her. Possibly, too, the
presence of Grimshaw hardened her, although, deliberately, she ignored
him. Her strength returned, the energy which she had never frittered
away during a long, tranquil life.

“Is your mind really made up, Cicely? Is it?”

“Yes.”

The firmness of tone was sufficiently convincing.

“You wish to marry a man who is against me, who sides with my enemies?”

Grimshaw answered her.

“I am not against _you_, Lady Selina. You belong to the old order. I
belong to the new. I have never indicted your sincerity of purpose. I
hope you won’t indict mine.”

She shrugged her shoulders, saying with finality:

“I stick to my order. I can’t change. We don’t change.”

He came nearer.

“But—your son changed.”

“What——?”

Obviously, she considered herself challenged, and unfairly challenged.
She sat up. Her eyes sparkled. She spoke with intensity:

“He did not change. My boy stood by me always—always.”

“He changed after he had faced—realities.”

Cicely was no longer on her knees. She had risen, when Grimshaw
approached, retreating a little, divining somehow that her lover was
about to use a weapon of which she knew nothing. But the weapon, when
she saw it, inspired little confidence. Brian, so far as she was aware,
had not changed. Were he alive, he would stand beside his mother now and
always, as she affirmed with such poignant conviction. None the less
faith in her lover remained constant.

Lady Selina addressed Cicely, not Grimshaw.

“Do you remember, child, that Brian came home on leave shortly after Mr.
Grimshaw left Upworthy to go to France?”

“I remember.”

“Your brother was Mr. Grimshaw’s friend, and fully alive to his many
sterling qualities and, and—attractions. Because of these he guessed
what might happen. And he warned me. And, as I say, I laughed at him.
Brian would say, if he were present, what I am about to say.”

She paused to select the right words, thinking not only of her son but
of her husband. Brian, possibly, was more Danecourt than Chandos, and
dearer to the mother on that account. But in matters which concerned the
women of his family he was unquestionably his father’s son, a stickler
for tradition, an upholder of the unwritten law which forbade marriage
between persons of unequal social position. She continued with austere
solemnity:

“I can hardly believe, Cicely, that you have considered what is at
stake. This big property was left to me to pass on to a successor, to a
child whom your dear father and I believed to be bone of our bone,
sharing our ideas and governing principles, content, like us, to walk in
the old ways, to carry on our work. Brian would have done so. But he
died——”

Her voice died away mournfully.

Cicely edged nearer, much moved. But when she attempted to take her
mother’s hand, Lady Selina repulsed her, saying quietly:

“I am speaking now for Brian, for your father, and for myself. If you
decide to marry what I firmly believe to be the wrong man, Upworthy and
all it includes will go to your cousin George.”

Cicely gazed incredulously at her mother. Slowly, incredulity vanished.
The familiar figure of Brian took its place. He stood between her and
happiness. He had been resurrected from the dead for this one inflexible
purpose. Then he, too, melted away, and she beheld Upworthy, the village
with its pretty thatched cottages, the rich pastures, and beyond them
the woods and uplands—an Arcadian paradise out of which Brian was
driving her——

Lastly, she perceived her cousin George, lord of this goodly manor. She
had never liked George. And he was one of the “Indispensables” at the
War Office, a-glitter with decorations not earned upon the field of
battle. The last time she had talked to George, he had held forth
prosingly upon the good old days before the war. Whatever happened,
George would “carry on” in the easy grooves, and be more concerned about
breeding pheasants than the housing of peasants——

Her mind cleared as she glanced at Grimshaw. Here stood the
flesh-and-blood reality, the man of her choice. Their eyes met,
flashing. Each disdained Cupid’s adventitious lures and guiles. He
seemed to be saying: “Read me! Look well before you leap!”

Accordingly, she looked deep into a mind and heart open for her
inspection. Then she leapt without fear.

“If I have to choose between Upworthy and my lover, I take him.”

With a noble gesture she held out her hand. Grimshaw took it, holding it
tenderly.

“I am the proudest and happiest man in the kingdom.”

Lady Selina, not untouched, and sensible, perhaps, that duty was goading
her on along the appointed path, observed judicially:

“I have spoken for my dead son, you understand?”

“But not his last word?” said Grimshaw.

“Not his last word?” she repeated. “What can you mean?”

“I have a letter from him, written just before he went. He spoke in that
letter of you, Lady Selina, and of Upworthy, and of me.”

“Have you seen this letter, Cicely?” asked Lady Selina.

“No.”

“No one has seen it,” said Grimshaw, “except myself. I brought it with
me this morning.”

“Please give it to me.”

She held out a trembling hand. Grimshaw took an envelope from his
pocket. Lady Selina saw the familiar writing through a mist of unshed
tears.

“I c-can’t read it,” she faltered.

“May I?” Cicely asked eagerly. Hardly waiting for an affirmative, she
took the letter and glanced at it.

“Oh-h-h!”

“What is it, child?”

“It is dated only two days before he died.”

“Read it aloud.”

As Cicely obeyed, the mother covered her face with her hand. Cicely’s
voice faltered and broke more than once, but she read on and on till
almost the end.

“‘My dear old Grimmer,—I shall be over the top in a few hours, and
mayn’t come back. In the old days you tried to make me think. I’ve had
to do it out here. If there isn’t a purpose behind all this slaughter,
one must come out of it. I see now it’s up to us to do what we can, not
only at the Front, but where our men come from. They deserve it. By God!
they do. I know at long last that I was wrong not to back you up about
our village. I sided with my mother. She’s the dearest thing, but
however beautiful the past may be, we can’t live in it. And she does. If
Upworthy ever comes to me, I’ll do what you want, if it costs me my last
bob. I should like to see England come out of this splendid all through.
It might be so, and it isn’t. If things go wrong, tell my mother this
some day, but not yet, because she isn’t ripe for it. If I know her,
she’ll try to do something for me that I can’t do for myself. She always
did. There’s one more thing heavy on my mind——’”

Cicely paused.

“Go on!”

The command was almost inaudible. Cicely read on:

“‘It’s about Cis. I put a spoke in your wheel because I shared Mother’s
ideas about suitable matches, and all that. Now, whether I win through
or not, I hope that you and she will come together. Bless you both!’”

Silently, Grimshaw moved to the window and stood with his back to the
two women. He could see the trim lawn, once more in order. The gap
through which the excited villagers had burst their way was still open.
He heard Lady Selina’s voice:

“Give me the letter, child.”

For a moment, Lady Selina held the letter, murmuring: “My son!—my son!”

Then she re-read it, Cicely kneeling beside her, hiding her tear-stained
face in her mother’s lap. The letter fluttered to the ground. Cicely
felt her mother’s hand upon her head.

“I—I wonder if he knows?”

Cicely looked up.

“What should he know, Mother?”

“He might know that his message to me has been delivered, and——”

“And——?”

“And accepted.”



By HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL

    NOVELS
       WHITEWASH
       THE SOUL OF SUSAN YELLAM
       SOME HAPPENINGS
       FISHPINGLE
       THE TRIUMPH OF TIM
       SPRAGGE’S CANYON
       QUINNEY’S
       LOOT
       BLINDS DOWN
       JOHN VERNEY
       THE OTHER SIDE

    PLAYS
       QUINNEY’S
       SEARCHLIGHTS
       JELF’S

    GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
            NEW YORK

                 *        *        *        *        *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Archaic spellings and hyphenation have been retained. Obvious
typesetting and punctuation errors have been corrected without note.
Other errors have been corrected as noted below. List of Works by the
author has been moved from the front of the book to the back of the
book.

page 83, But your Mother——?” ==> But my Mother——?”

                 *        *        *        *        *

[End of _Whitewash_, by Horace Annesley Vachell]





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