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Our Library => Mrs. Humphry Ward - Delia Blanchflower (1915) => Topic started by: Admin on November 28, 2022, 08:18:46 am



Title: Chapter XIII
Post by: Admin on November 28, 2022, 08:18:46 am

"PACK the papers as quickly as you can---I am going to town this afternoon. Whatever can't be packed before then, you can bring up to me to-morrow."

A tired girl lifted her head from the packing-case before which she was kneeling.

"I'll do my best, Miss Marvell---but I'm afraid it will be impossible to finish to-day." And she looked wearily round the room laden with papers---letters, pamphlets, press-cuttings---on every available table and shelf.

Gertrude gave a rather curt assent. Her reason told her the thing was impossible; but her will chafed against the delay, which her secretary threatened, of even a few hours in the resumption of her work in London, and the re-housing of all its tools and materials. She was a hard mistress; though no harder on her subordinates than she was on herself.

She began to turn her own hand to the packing, and missing a book she had left in the drawing-room the night before, she went to fetch it. It was again a morning of frosty sunshine, and the garden outside lay in dazzling light. The drawing-room windows were open, and through one of them Gertrude perceived Delia moving about outside on the whitened grass. She was looking for the earliest snowdrops which were just beginning to bulge from the green stems, pushing up through the dead leaves under the beech trees. She wore a blue soft shawl round her head and shoulders, and she was singing to herself. As she raised herself from the ground, and paused a moment looking towards the house, but evidently quite unconscious of any spectators, Gertrude could not take her eyes from the vision she made. If radiant beauty, if grace, and flawless youth can "lift a mortal to the skies," Delia stood like a young goddess under the winter sun. But there was much more than beauty in her face. There was a fluttering and dreamy joy which belongs only to the children of earth. The low singing came unconsciously from her lips, as though it were the natural expression of the heart within. Gertrude caught the old lilting tune---

     "For oh, Greensleaves was all my joy---
      For oh, Greensleaves was my heart's delight---
      And who but my lady Greensleaves?---"


The woman observing her did so with a strange mixture of softness and repulsion. If Gertrude Marvell loved anybody, she loved Delia---the captive of her own bow and spear, and until now the most loyal, the most single-minded of disciples. But as she saw Delia walk away to a further reach of the garden, the mind of the elder woman bitterly accused the younger. Delia's refusal to join the militant forces in London, at this most critical and desperate time, on what seemed to Gertrude the trumpery excuse of Weston's illness, had made an indelible impression on a fanatical temper. If she had cared---if she had really cared---she could not have done any such thing. "What have I been wasting my time here for?" she asked herself; and reviewing the motives which had induced her to accept Delia's proposal that they should live together, she accused herself sharply of a contemptible lack of judgement and foresight.

For no mere affection for Delia Blanchflower would have influenced her, at the time when Delia, writing to tell her of the approaching death of Sir Robert, implored her to come and share her life. "You know I shall have money, dearest Gertrude,"---wrote Delia---"Come and help me to spend it---for the Cause." And for the sake of the Cause,---which was then sorely in want of money---and only for its sake, Gertrude had consented. She was at that time rapidly becoming one of the leading spirits in the London office of the "Daughters," so that to bury herself, even for a time, in a country village, some eighty miles from London, was a sacrifice. But to secure what seemed likely to be some thousands a year from a willing giver, such a temporary and modified exile had appeared to her worth while; and she had at once planned a campaign of "militant" meetings in the towns along the South Coast, by way of keeping in touch with "active work."

But, in the first place, the extraordinary terms of Sir Robert's will had proved far more baffling than she and Delia had ever been willing to believe. And, in the next place, the personality of Mark Winnington had almost immediately presented itself to Gertrude as something she had never reckoned with. A blustering and tyrannical guardian would have been comparatively easy to fight. Winnington was formidable, not because he was hostile, resolutely hostile, to their whole propaganda of violence; that might only have spurred a strong-willed girl to more passionate extremes. He was dangerous,---in spite of his forty years---because he was delightful; because, in his leisurely, old-fashioned way, he was so loveable, so handsome, so inevitably attractive. Gertrude, looking back, realised that she had soon perceived---vaguely at least---what might happen, what had now---as she dismally guessed---actually happened.

The young, impressionable creature, brought into close contact with this charming fellow---this agreeable reactionary---had fallen in love! That was all. But it was more than enough. Delia might be still unconscious of it herself. But this new shrinking from the most characteristic features of the violent policy---this new softness and fluidity in a personality that when they first reached Maumsey had begun already to stiffen in the fierce mould of militancy:---to what could any observer with eyes in their head attribute them but the influence of Mark Winnington---the daily unseen presence of other judgments and other ideals, embodied in a man to whom the girl's feelings had capitulated?

"If I could have kept her to myself for another year, he could have done nothing. But he has intervened before her opinions were anything more than the echoes of mine;---and for the future I shall have less and less chance against him. What shall we ever get out of her as a married woman? What would Mark Winnington---to whom she will give herself, body and soul,---allow us to get out of her? Better break with her now, and disentangle my own life!"

With such thoughts, a pale and brooding woman pursued the now distant figure of Delia. At the same time Gertrude Marvell had no intention whatever of provoking a premature breach which might deprive either the Cause or herself of any help they might still obtain from Delia in the desperate fight immediately ahead. She, personally, would have infinitely preferred freedom and a garret to Delia's flat, and any kind of dependence on Delia's money. "I was not born to be a parasite!" she angrily thought. But she had no right to prefer them. All that could be extracted from Delia should be extracted. She was now no more to Gertrude than a pawn in the game. Let her be used---if she could not be trusted!

But if this had fallen differently, if she had remained the true sister-in-arms, given wholly to the joy of the fight, Gertrude's stern soul would have clasped her to itself, just as passionately as it now dismissed her.

"No matter!" The hard brown eyes looked steadily into the future. "That's done with. I am alone---I shall be alone. What does it signify?---a little sooner or later?"

The vagueness of the words matched the vagueness of certain haunting premonitions in the background of the mind. Her own future always shaped itself in tragic terms. It was impossible---she knew it---that it should bring her any kind of happiness. It was no less impossible that she should pause and submit. That active defiance of the existing order, on which she had entered, possessed her, gripped her, irrevocably. She was like the launched stone which describes its appointed curve---till it drops.

As for any interference from the side of her own personal ties and affections,---she had none.

In her pocket she carried a letter she had received that morning, from her mother. It was plaintive, as usual.

"Winnie's third child arrived last week. It was an awful confinement. The first doctor had to get another, and they only just pulled her through. The child's a misery. It would be much better if it had died. I can't think what she'll do. Her husband's a wretched creature---just manages to keep in work---but he neglects her shamefully--and if there ever is anything to spend, he spends it---on his own amusement. She cried the other day, when we were talking of you. She thinks you're living with a rich lady, and have everything you want---and she and her children are often half-starved. 'She might forgive me now, I do think'---she'll say sometimes---'And as for Henry, if I did take him away from her, she may thank her stars she didn't marry him. She'd have killed him by now. She never could stand men like Henry. Only, when he was a young fellow, he took her in---her first, and then me. It was a bad job we ever saw him.'

"Why are you so set against us, Gertrude?---your own flesh and blood. I'm sure if I ever was unkind to you I'm sorry for it. You used to say I favoured Albert at your expense---Well, he's as good as dead to me now, and I've got no good out of all the spoiling I gave him. I sit at home by myself, and I'm a pretty miserable woman. I read everything I can in the papers about what you're doing---you, who were my only child, seven years before Albert came. It doesn't matter to you what I think---at least, it oughtn't. I'm an old woman, and whatever I thought I'd never quarrel with you. But it would matter to me a good deal, if you'd sometimes come in, and sit by the fire a bit, and chat. It's three years since I've even seen you. Winnie says you've forgotten us---you only care about the vote. But I don't believe it. Other people may think the vote can make up for everything---but not you. You're too clever. Hoping to see you,
    "Your lonely old mother, 
    "Janet Marvell." 

To that letter, Gertrude had already written her reply. Some time---in the summer, perhaps, she had said to her mother. And she had added the mental proviso---"if I am alive." For the matters in which she was engaged were no child's play, and the excitements of prison and hunger-striking might tell even on the strongest physique.

No---her family were nothing to her. Her mother's appeal, though it should not be altogether ignored, was an insincere one. She had always stood by the men of the family; and for the men of the family, Gertrude, its eldest daughter, felt nothing but loathing and contempt. Her father, a local government official in a western town, a small-minded domestic tyrant, ruined by long years of whisky-nipping between meals; her only brother, profligate and spendthrift, of whose present modes of life the less said the better; her brother-in-law, Henry Lewison, the man whom, in her callow, ignorant youth, she was once to have married, before her younger sister supplanted her---a canting hypocrite, who would spend his day in devising petty torments for his wife, and begin and end it with family prayers:---these types, in a brooding and self-centred mind, had gradually come to stand for the whole male race.

Nor had her lonely struggle for a livelihood, after she had fled from home, done anything to loosen the hold of these images upon her. She looked back upon a dismal type-writing office, run by a grasping employer; a struggle for health, warring with the struggle for bread; sick headache, sleeplessness, anĉmia, yet always, within, the same iron will driving on the weary body; and always the same grim perception on the dark horizon of an outer gulf into which some women fell, with no hope of resurrection. She burnt again with the old bitter sense of injustice, on the economic side; remembering fiercely her own stinted earnings, and the higher wages and larger opportunities of men, whom, intellectually, she despised. Remembering too the development of that new and ugly temper in men---men hard-pressed themselves---who must now see in women no longer playthings or sweethearts, but rivals and supplanters.

So that gradually, year by year, there had strengthened in her that strange, modern thing, a woman's hatred of men---the normal instincts of sex distorted and embittered. And when suddenly, owing to the slow working of many causes, economic and moral, a section of the Woman Suffrage movement had broken into flame and violence, she had flung her very soul to it as fuel, with the passion of one to whom life at last "gives room." In that outbreak were gathered up for her all the rancours and all the ideals of life, all its hopes and all its despairs. Not much hope!---and few ideals. Her passion for the Cause had been a grim force, hardly mixed with illusion; but it had held and shaped her.

Meanwhile among women she had found a few kindred souls. One of them, a fellow-student, came into money, died, and left Gertrude Marvell a thousand pounds. On that sum she had educated herself, had taken her degree at a west-country university, had moved to London and begun work as a teacher and journalist. Then, again, a breakdown in health, followed by a casual acquaintance with Lady Tonbridge---Sir Robert's offer---its acceptance---Delia!

How much had opened to her with Delia! Pleasure, for the first time; the sheer pleasure of travel, society, tropical beauty; the strangeness also of finding herself adored, of feeling that young loveliness, that young intelligence, all yielding softness in her own strong hands---

Well, that was done---practically done. She cheated herself with no vain hopes. The process which had begun in Delia would go forward. One more defeat to admit and forget. One more disaster to turn one's back upon. And no disabling lamentations! Her eyes cleared, her mouth stiffened. She went quietly back to her packing.

---

"Gertrude! What are you doing?" The voice was Delia's. She stood on the threshold of Gertrude's den, looking with amazement at the littered room and the packing-cases.

"I find I must go up at once. They want help at the office." Gertrude, who was writing a letter, delivered the information over her shoulder.

"But the flat won't be ready!"

"Never mind. I can go to a hotel for a few days."

A cloud dropped over the radiance of Delia's face, fresh from the sun and frost outside. "I can't bear your going alone!"

"Oh, you'll come later," said Gertrude indifferently.

"Did you---did you---have such urgent letters this morning?"

"Well---you know things are urgent! But then, you see, you have made up your mind to stay with Weston!" A slight mocking look accompanied the words.

"Yes---I must stay with Weston," said Delia slowly, and then perceiving that the typist shewed no signs of leaving them together, and that confidential talk was therefore impossible, she reluctantly went away.

Weston that morning was in much pain, and Delia sat beside her, learning by some new and developing instinct how to soothe her. The huntress of the Tyrolese woods had few caressing ways, and pain had always been horrible to her; a thing to be shunned, even by the spectator, lest it should weaken the wild natural energies. But Weston was very dear to her, and the maid's suffering stirred deep slumbering powers in the girl's nature. She watched the trained nurse at her work, and copied her anxiously. And all the time she was thinking, thinking, now of Gertrude, now of her letter to Winnington. Gertrude was vexed with her, thought her a poor creature---that was plain. "But in a fortnight, I'll go to her,---and they'll see!"--thought the girl's wrestling mind. "And before that, I shall send her money. I can't help what she thinks. I'm not false!---I'm not giving in! But I must have this fortnight,---just this fortnight;---for Weston's sake, and---"

For her proud sincerity would not allow her to lie to herself. What had happened to her? She felt the strangest lightness---as though some long restraint had broken down; a wonderful intermittent happiness, sweeping on her without reason, and setting the breath fluttering. It made her think of what an old Welsh nurse of her childhood had once told her of "conversion," in a Welsh revival, and its marvellous effects: how men and women walked on air, and the iron bands of life and custom dropped away.

Then she rose impatiently, despising herself, and went downstairs again to try and help Gertrude. But the packing was done, the pony-cart was ordered, and in a hour more, Gertrude was gone. Delia was left standing on the threshold of the front door, listening to the sound of the receding wheels. They had parted in perfect friendliness, Gertrude with civil wishes for Weston's complete recovery, Delia with eager promises---"I shall soon come---very soon!"---promises of which, as she now remembered, Gertrude had taken but little notice.

But as she went back into the house, the girl had a queer feeling of catastrophe, of radical change. She passed the old gun room, and looked in. All its brown paper bundles, its stacks of leaflets, its books of reference were gone; only a litter of torn papers remained here and there, to shew what its uses had been. And suddenly, a swell of something like exultation, a wild sense of deliverance, rushed upon her, driving out depression. She went back to the drawing-room, with little dancing steps, singing under her breath. The flowers wanted freshening. She went out to the greenhouse, and brought in some early hyacinths and violets till the room was fragrant. Some of them she took up to Weston, chatting to the patient and her nurse as she arranged them, with such sweetness, such smiles, such an abandonment of kindness, that both looked after her amazed, when, again, she vanished. What had become of the imperious absent-minded young woman of ordinary days?

Delia lunched alone. And after lunch she grew restless.

He must have received her letter at breakfast-time. Probably he had some tiresome meetings in the morning, but soon---soon---

She tried to settle to some reading. How long it was since she had read anything for the joy of it!---anything that in some shape or other was not the mere pemmican of the Suffrage Movement; dusty arguments for, or exasperating arguments against. She plunged into poetry---a miscellaneous volume of modern verse---and the new world of feeling in which her mind had begun to move, grew rich, and deep, and many-coloured about her.

Surely---a sound at the gate! She sat up, crimson. Well?---she was going to make friends with her guardian---to bury the hatchet---for a whole fortnight at least. Only that. Nothing more---nothing---nothing!

Steps approached. She hastily unearthed a neglected work-basket, and a very ancient piece of half-done embroidery. Was there a thimble anywhere---or needles? Yes!---by good luck. Heavens!---what shamming! She bent over the dingy bit of silk, her cheeks dimpling with laughter.

---

Their first greetings were done, and Winnington was sitting by her---astride a chair, his arms lying along the top of it, his eyes looking down upon her, as she made random stitches in what looked like a Futurist design.

"Do you know that you wrote me a very, very nice letter?" And as he spoke, she heard in his voice that tone---that lost tone, which she had heard in it at their very first interview, before she had chilled and flouted him, and made his life a burden to him. Her pulses leapt; but she did not look up.

"I wonder whether---you quite deserved it? You were angry with me---for nothing!"

"I am afraid I can't agree!" The voice now was a little dry, and a pair of very keen grey eyes examined her partially hidden face.

She pushed her work away and looked up. "You ought!" she said vehemently. "You accused me---practically---of flirting with Mr. Lathrop. And I was doing nothing of the kind!"

He laughed. "I never imagined that you were---or could be---flirting with Mr. Lathrop."

"Then why did you threaten to give me up if I went on seeing him?"

He hesitated--but said at last---gravely---"Because I could not take the responsibility."

"How would it help me---to give me up? According to you"---she breathed fast---"I should only---go to perdition---the quicker!" Her eyes still laughed, but behind the laughter there was a rush of feeling which communicated itself to him.

"May I suggest that it is not necessary to go to perdition---at all---fast or slow?"

She shook her head. Silence followed; which Winnington broke.

"You said you would like to come and see some of the village people---your own people---and the school. Was that serious?"

"Certainly!" She raised an indignant countenance. "I suppose you think---like everybody---that because I want the vote, I can't care about anything else?"

"You'll admit it has a way of driving everything else out," he said mildly. "Have you ever been into the village---for a month?---for two months? The things you wanted have been done. But you haven't been to see."

She sprang to her feet. "Shall I come now?"

"If it suits you. I've saved the afternoon."

She ran out of the room to put on her things, upsetting as she did so the work-basket with which she had been masquerading, and quite unconscious of it. Winnington, smiling to himself, stooped to pick up the reels and skeins of silk. One, a skein of pink silk with which she had been working, he held in his hand a moment, and, suddenly, put in his pocket. After which he drifted absently to the hearthrug, and stood waiting for her, hat in hand. He was thinking of that moment in the wintry dawn when he had read her letter. The shock of emotion returned upon him. But what was he to do? What was really in her mind?---or, for the matter of that, in his own?

She re-appeared, radiant in a moleskin cap and furs, and then they both awkwardly remembered---he, that he had made no enquiry about Weston, and she, that she had said nothing of Gertrude Marvell's hurried departure.

"Your poor maid! Tell me about her. Oh, but she'll do well. We'll take care of her. France is an awfully good doctor."

Her eyes thanked him. She gave him a brief account of Weston's state; then looked away. "Do you know---that I'm quite alone? Gertrude went up to town this morning."

Winnington gave a low whistle of astonishment.

"She had to"---said Delia hurriedly. "It was the office---they couldn't do without her."

"I thought she had undertaken to be your chaperon?"

The girl coloured. "Well, yes---but of course---the other claim came first."

"You don't expect me to admit that," said Winnington, with energy. "Miss Marvell has left you alone?---alone?---at a moment's notice---with your maid desperately ill---and without a word to me, or anybody?" His eyes sparkled.

"Don't let's quarrel!" cried Delia, as she stood opposite to him, putting on her gloves. "Don't! Not to-day---not this afternoon! And we're sure to quarrel if we talk about Gertrude."

His indignation broke up in laughter.

"Very well. We won't mention her. Well, but look here"---he pondered---"You must have somebody. I would propose that Alice should come and keep you company, but I left her in bed with what looks like the flu. Ah!---I have it. But---am I really to advise? You are twenty-one, remember,---nearly twenty-two!"

The tender sarcasm in his voice brought a flood of colour to her cheeks. "Go on!" she said, and stood quivering.

"Would you consider asking Lady Tonbridge to come and stay with you? Nora is away on a visit."

Delia moved quietly to the writing-table, pulled off her gloves, and sat down to write a note. He watched her, standing behind her; his strained yet happy look resting on the beautiful dark head.

She rose, and held out the note, addressed to Lady Tonbridge. He took the note, and the hand together. The temptation was irresistible. He raised the hand and kissed it. Both were naturally reminded of the only previous occasion on which he had done such a thing; and as he dropped his hold, Delia saw the ugly scar which would always mark his left wrist.

"Thank you!"---he said warmly---"That'll be an immense relief to my mind."

"You mustn't think she'll convert me," said Delia quickly.

"Why, she's a Suffragist!"

Delia shrugged her shoulders. "Pour rire!"

"Let's leave the horrid subject alone---shall we?"

Delia assented; and they set out, just as the winter sun of a bright and brilliant afternoon was beginning to drop towards its setting.

---

When Delia afterwards looked back on those two hours in Mark Winnington's company, she remembered them as a time enskied and glorified. First, the mere pleasure of the senses---the orange glow of the January evening, the pleasant crackling of the frosty ground, the exhilaration of exercise, and of the keen pungent air; then the beauty of the village and of the village lanes in the dusk, of the blue smoke drifting along the hill, of the dim reds and whites of the old houses, and the occasional gleams of fire and lamp through the small-paned windows; the gaiety of the children racing home from school, the dignity of the old labourers, the seemliness of the young. It was good to be alive---in England---breathing English air. It was good to be young and strong-limbed, with all one's life before one.

And next---and greater---there was the pleasure of Winnington beside her, of his changed manner, of their new comradeship. She felt even a curious joy in the difference of age between them. Now that, by some queer change, she had ceased to stand on her dignity with him, to hold him arrogantly at arm's length, there emerged in her a childish confidence and sweetness, enchanting to the man on whom it played. "May I?---" "Do you think I might?---" she would say gently, throwing out some suggestion or other, in the course of their visiting, and the humbleness in her dark eyes, as though a queen stooped, began to turn his head.

And how beautiful this common human life seemed that evening---after all the fierce imaginings in which she had lived so long! In the great towns beyond the hills women were still starved and sweated,---still enslaved and degraded. Man no doubt was still the stupid and vicious tyrant, the Man-Beast that Gertrude Marvell believed him. But here in this large English village, how the old primal relations stood out!---sorrow-laden and sin-stained often, yet how touching, how worthy, in the main, of reverence and tenderness! As they went in and out of the cottages of her father's estate, the cottages where Winnington was at home, and she a stranger, all that "other side" of any great argument began to speak to her---without words. The world of politics and its machinery, how far away!--instead, the world of human need, and love, and suffering unveiled itself this winter evening to Delia's soul, and spoke to her in a new language. And always it was a language of sex, as between wives and husbands, mothers and sons, sisters and brothers. No isolation of one sex or the other. No possibility of thinking of them apart, as foes and rivals, with jarring rights and claims. These old couples tending each other, clinging together, after their children had left them, till their own last day should dawn; these widowed men or women, piteously lost without the old companion, like the ox left alone in the furrow; these young couples with their first babies; these dutiful or neglectful sons, these hard or tender daughters; these mothers young and old, selfish or devoted:---with Winnington beside her, Delia saw them all anew, heard them all anew. And Love, in all its kinds, everywhere the governing force, by its presence or its absence!--Love abused and degraded, or that Love, whether in the sunken eyes of the old, or on the cheeks of the young, which is but "a little lower than the angels."

And what frankly amazed her was Winnington's place in this world of labouring folk. He had given it ten years of service; not charity, but simply the service of the good citizen; moved by a secret, impelling motive, which Delia had yet to learn. And how they rewarded him! She walked beside a natural ruler, and felt her heart presently big with the pride of it.

"But the cripples?" She enquired for them, with a touch of sarcasm. So far, she said, the population of Maumsey appeared to be quite exceptionally able-bodied.

"Goodness!"---said Winnington---"I can't shew you more than two or three cripples to a village! Maumsey only rejoices in two. My county school will collect from the whole county. And I should never have found out the half of them, if it hadn't been for Susy Amberley."

"How did she discover them?" asked Delia, without any sort of cordiality.

"We---the County Council---put the enquiry into her hands. I shewed her---a bit. But she's done it admirably. She's a wonderful little person, Susy. What the old parents will do without her when she goes to London I can't think."

"Why is she going?"

Winnington shrugged his shoulders kindly. "Wants a training---wants something more to do. Quite right---if it makes her happy. You women have all grown so restless nowadays." He laughed into the rather sombre face beside him. And the face lit up---amazingly.

"Because the world's so marvellous!" said Delia, with her passionate look. "And there's so little time to explore it in. You men have always known that. Now we women know it too."

He pondered the remark---half smiling. "Well, you'll see a good deal of it before you've done," he
said at last. "Now come and look at what I've been trying to do for the women who complained to you."

And he shewed her how everything had been arranged to please her, at the cost of much trouble, and some expense. The woman with the eight children had been moved into a spacious new cottage made out of two old ones; the old granny, alone in a house now too big for her, had been induced to take in a prim little spinster, the daughter of a small grocer just deceased; and the father of the deficient girl, for whom Miss Dempsey had made herself responsible, received Winnington with a lightening of his tired eyes, and taking him out of earshot of Delia, told him how Bessie had "got through her trouble," and was now earning money at some simple hand-work under Miss Dempsey's care.

"I didn't know you were doing all this!" said Delia remorsefully, as they walked along the village street. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I think I did tell you---once or twice. But you had other things to think about."

"I hadn't!" said Delia with angry energy. "I hadn't. You needn't make excuses for me!"

He smiled at her, but said nothing---till they reached a path leading to an isolated cottage---

"Here's a cripple at last! Susy!---You here?"

For as the door opened to his knock, a lady rose from a low seat, and faced them.

Winnington grasped her by the hand. "I thought you were already gone."

"No---they've put it off again for a week or two---no vacancy yet." She shook hands formally with Delia. "I came to have another look at this boy. Isn't he splendid?"

She pointed to a grinning child of five sitting on the edge of the kitchen table, and dangling a pair of heavily ironed legs. The mother proudly shewed them. He had been three months in the Orthopaedic Hospital, she told Delia. The legs twisted with rickets had been broken and set twice, and now he was "doing fine." She set him down, and made him walk. "I never thought to see him do that!" she said, her wan face shining. "And it's all his doing"---she pointed to Winnington---"and Miss Susy's."

Meanwhile Susy and Winnington were deep in conversation---very technical much of it---about a host of subjects they seemed to have in common.

Delia, silent and rather restless, watched them both, the girl's sweet, already faded face, and Winnington's expression. When they emerged from the cottage Susy said shyly to Delia---

"Won't you come to tea with me some day next week?"

"Thank you. I should like to. But my maid is very ill. Else I should be in London."

"Oh, I'm very sorry. May I come to you?"

Delia thanked her coldly. She could have beaten herself for a rude, ungracious creature; yet for the life of her she could not command another manner. Susy drew back. She and Winnington began to talk again, ranging over persons and incidents quite unknown to Delia---the frank talk, full of matter, of comrades in a public service. And again Delia watched them, acutely jealous---yet not in any ordinary sense. When Susy turned back towards the Rectory, Delia said abruptly---

"She's helped you a great deal?"

"Susy!" He went off at score, ending with---"What France and I shall do without her, I don't know. If we could only get more women---scores more women---to do the work! There we sit, perched up aloft on the Council, and what we want are the women to advise us, and the women's hands---to do the little things---which make just all the difference!"

She was silent a moment, and then said sorely---"I suppose that means, that if we did all the work we might do---we needn't bother about the vote."

He turned upon her with animation---"I vow I wasn't thinking about the vote!"

"Miss Amberley doesn't seem to bother about it."

Winnington's voice shewed amusement. "I can't imagine Susy a 'suff.' It simply isn't in her."

"I know plenty of Suffragists just as good and useful as she is," said Delia, bristling.

Winnington did not immediately reply. They had left the village behind, and were walking up the Maumsey lane in a gathering darkness, each electrically conscious of the other. At last he said in a changed tone---

"Have I been saying anything to wound you? I didn't mean it."

She laughed unsteadily. "You never say anything to wound me. I was only---a kind of fretful porcupine---standing up for my side."

"And the last thought in my mind to-night was to attack your 'side,'" he protested.

Her tremulous sense drank in the gentleness of his voice, the joy of his strong, enveloping presence, and the sweetness of her own surrender which had brought him back to her, the thought of it vibrating between them, unspoken. Until, suddenly, at the door of the Abbey, Winnington halted and took her by both hands.

"I must go home. Good night! Have you got books to amuse you?"

"Plenty."

"Poor child!---all alone! But you'll have Lady Tonbridge to-morrow."

"How do you know? She mayn't come."

"I'm going there now. I'll make her. You---you won't be doing any more embroidery to-night?"

He looked at her slyly. Delia laughed out. "There!---when one tries to be feminine, that's how you mock!"

"'Mock!'---I was admiring. Good night!---I shall be here to-morrow."

He was gone---into the darkness.

Delia entered the lonely house, in a bewilderment of feeling. As she passed Gertrude's deserted sitting-room on her way to the staircase, she saw that the parlour-maid had lit a useless lamp there. She went in to put it out. As she did so, a torn paper among the litter on the floor attracted her notice. She stooped and took it up.

It seemed to be a fragment of a plan---a plan of a house. It shewed two series of rooms, divided by a long passage. One of the rooms was marked "Red Parlour," another, "Hall," and at the end of the passage, there were some words, clearly in Gertrude Marvell's handwriting---

"Garden door, north."

With terror in her heart, Delia brought the fragment to the lamp, and examined every word and line of it.

Recollections flashed into her mind, and turned her pale. That what she held was part of a general plan of the Monk Lawrence ground-floor, she was certain---dismally certain. And Gertrude had made it. Why?

Delia tore the paper into shreds and burnt the shreds. Afterwards she spent an oppressed and miserable night. Her friend reproached her, on the one side; and Winnington, on the other.