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Chapter IX

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« on: November 26, 2022, 09:07:54 am »


"MARK! you've done the day's work of two people already!" cried Mrs. Matheson in a tone of distress. "You don't mean to say you're going in to Latchford again?---and without waiting for some food?"

She stood under the porch of Bridge End, remonstrating with her brother.

"Can't be helped, dear!" said Winnington, as he filled his pipe---"I'm certain there'll be a row to-night, and I must catch this train!"

"What, that horrid meeting! Delia Blanchflower lets you slave and slave for her, and never takes the smallest notice of your wishes or your advice! She ought to be ashamed!"

The sister's mild tone trembled with indignation.

"She isn't!" laughed Winnington. "I never knew anyone less so. But we can't have her ill treated. Expect me back when you see me!"

And kissing his hand to his sister, he went out into a dark and blustering evening. Something had just gone wrong with the little motor car he generally drove himself, and there was nothing for it but to walk the mile and a half to the railway station.

He had spent the whole day in County Council business at Wanchester, was tired out, and had now been obliged to leave home again without waiting even for a belated cup of tea. But there was no help for it. He had only just time to catch the Latchford train.

As he almost ran to the station he was not conscious however of any of these small discomforts; his mind was full of Delia. He did not encourage anyone but Madeleine Tonbridge to talk to him about his ward; but he was already quite aware, before his old friend laid stress on it, of the hostile feeling towards Delia and her chaperon that was beginning to shew itself in the neighbourhood. He knew that she was already pronounced heartless, odious, unprincipled, consumed with a love of notoriety, and ready for any violence, at the bidding of a woman who was probably responsible at that very moment---as a prominent organiser in the employ of the society contriving them---for some of the worst of the militant outrages. His condemnation of Delia's actions was sharp and unhesitating; his opinion of Miss Marvell not a whit milder than that of his neighbours. Yet he had begun, as we have seen, to discover in himself a willingness, indeed an eagerness, to excuse and pity the girl, which was wholly lacking in the case of the older woman. Under the influence, indeed, of his own responsive temperament, Winnington was rapidly drifting into a state of feeling where his perception of Delia's folly and unreason was almost immediately checked by some enchanting memory of her beauty, or of those rare moments in their brief acquaintance when the horrid shadow of the Movement had been temporarily lifted, and he had seen her, as in his indulgent belief she truly was---or was meant to be. She flouted and crossed him perpetually; and he was beginning to discover that he only thought of her the more, and that the few occasions when he had been able to force a smile out of her---a sudden softness in her black eyes, gone in a moment!---were constantly pleading for her in his mind. All part no doubt of his native and extreme susceptibility to the female race---the female race in general. For he could see himself, and laugh at himself, ab extra, better than most men.

At the station he came across Captain Andrews, and soon discovered from that artless warrior that he also was bound for Latchford, with a view to watching over Delia Blanchflower.

"Can't have a lot of hooligans attacking a good-looking girl like that---whatever nonsense she talks!" murmured the Captain, twisting his sandy moustache; "so I thought I'd better come along and see fair play. Of course I knew you'd be there."

The train was crowded. Winnington, separated from the Captain, plunged into a dimly lighted third class, and found himself treading on the toes of an acquaintance. He saluted an elderly lady wearing a bonnet and mantle of primæval cut, and a dress so ample in the skirt that it still suggested the days of crinoline. She was abnormally tall, and awkwardly built; she wore cotton gloves, and her boots were those of a peasant. She carried a large bag or reticule, and her lap was piled with brown parcels. Her large thin face was crowned by a few straggling locks of what had once been auburn hair, now nearly grey, the pale spectacled eyes were deeply wrinkled, and the nose and mouth slightly but indisputably crooked.

"My dear Miss Dempsey!--what an age since we met! Where are you off to? Give me some of those parcels!"

And Winnington, seizing what he could lay hands on, transferred them to his own knees, and gave a cordial grip to the right-hand cotton glove.

Miss Dempsey replied that she had been in Brownmouth for the day, and was going home. After which she smiled and said abruptly, bending across her still laden knees and his---so as to speak unheard by their neighbours---

"Of course I know where you're going to!"

"Do you?"

The queer head nodded.

"Why can't you keep her in order?"

"Her? Who?"

"Your ward. Why don't you stop it?"

"Stop these meetings? My ward is of age, please remember, and quite aware of it."

Miss Dempsey sighed. "Naughty young woman!" she said, yet with the gentlest of accents. "For us of the elder generation to see our work all undone by these maniacs! They have dashed the cup from our very lips."

"Ah! I forgot you were a Suffragist," said Winnington, smiling at her.

"Suffragist?" she held up her head indignantly---"I should rather think I am. My parents were friends of Mill, and I heard him speak for Woman Suffrage when I was quite a child. And now, after the years we've toiled and moiled, to see these mad women wrecking the whole thing!"

Winnington assented gravely. "I don't wonder you feel it so. But you still want it---the vote---as much as ever?"

"Yes!" she said, at first with energy; and then on a more wavering note---"Yes,---but I admit a great many things have been done without it that I thought couldn't have been done. And these wild women give one to think. But you? Are you against us?---or has Miss Delia converted you?"

He smiled again, but without answering her question. Instead, he asked her in a guarded voice---"You are as busy as ever?"

"I am there always---just as usual. I don't have much success. It doesn't matter."

She drew back from him, looking quietly out of the window at the autumn fields. Over her wrinkled face, with its crooked features, there dawned a look of strange intensity, mingled very faintly with something exquisite---a ray from a spiritual world.

Winnington looked at her with reverence. He knew all about her; so did many of the dwellers in the Maumsey neighbourhood. She had lived for half a century in the same little house in one of the backstreets of Latchford, a town of some ten thousand inhabitants. Through all that time her life had been given to what is called "rescue work"---though she herself rarely called it by that name. She loved those whom no one else would love---the meanest and feeblest of the outcast race. Every night her door stood on the latch, and as the years passed, thousands knew it. Scarcely a week went by, that some hand did not lift that latch, and some girl in her first trouble, or some street-walker, dying of her trade, did not step into the tiny hall where the lamp burnt all night, and wait for the sound of the descending footsteps on the stairs, which meant shelter and pity, warmth and food. She was constantly deceived, sometimes robbed; for such things she had no memory. She only remembered the things which cannot be told---the trembling voices of hope or returning joy---the tenderness in dying eyes, the clinging of weak hands, the kindness of "her poor children." She had written---without her name---a book describing the condition of a great seaport town where she had once lived. The facts recorded in it had inspired a great reforming Act. No one knew anything of her part in it---so far as the public was concerned. Many persons indeed came to consult her; she gave all her knowledge to those who wanted it; she taught, and she counselled, always as one who felt herself the mere humble mouthpiece of things divine and compelling; and those who went away enriched did indeed forget her in her message, as she meant them to do. But in her own town as she passed along the streets, in her queer garb, blinking and absently smiling as though at her own thoughts, she was greeted often with a peculiar reverence, a homage of which her short sight told her little or nothing.

Winnington especially had applied to her in more than one difficulty connected with his public work. It was to her he had gone at once when the Blanchflower agent had come to him in dismay reporting the decision of Miss Blanchflower with regard to the half-witted girl whose third illegitimate child by a quite uncertain father had finally proved her need of protection both from men's vileness and her own helplessness. Miss Dempsey had taken the girl first into her own house, and then, persuading and comforting the old father, had placed her in one of the Homes where such victims are sheltered.

Winnington briefly enquired after the girl. Miss Dempsey as briefly replied. Then she added---as other travellers got out and they were left to themselves---

"So Miss Blanchflower wanted to keep her in the village?"

Winnington nodded, adding---"She of course had no idea of the real facts."

"No. Why should she?---Why should she!"---the old lips repeated with passion. "Let her keep her youth while she can! It's so strange to me---how they will throw away their youth! Some of us must know. The black ox has trodden on us. A woman of thirty must look at it all. But a girl of twenty! Doesn't she see that she helps the world more by not knowing?---that her mere unconsciousness is our gain---our refreshment?"

The face of the man sitting opposite her reflected her own feeling.

"You and I always agree," he said warmly. "I wish you'd make friends with her."

"Who? Miss Blanchflower? What could she make out of an old stager like me!" Miss Dempsey's face broke into amusement at the notion. "And I don't know that I could keep my temper with a militant. Well, now you're going to hear her speak--and here we are."

---

Winnington and Captain Andrews left the station together. Latchford owned a rather famous market, and market-day brought always a throng of country folk into the little town. A multitude of booths under flaring gas jets--for darkness had just fallen---held one side of the square, and the other was given up to the hurdles which penned the sheep and cattle, and to their attendant groups of farmers and drovers.

The market-place was full of people, but the crowd which filled it was not an ordinary market-day crowd. The cattle and sheep indeed had long since gone off with their new owners or departed homeward unsold. The booths were most of them either taken down or were in process of being dismantled. For the evening was falling fast; it was spitting with rain; and business was over. But the shop windows in the market-place were still brilliantly lit, and from the windows of the Crown Inn, all tenanted by spectators, light streamed out on the crowd below. The chief illumination came however from what seemed to be a large shallow waggon drawn up not far from the Crown. Three people stood in it: a man---who was speaking---and two women. From either side, a couple of motor lamps of great brilliance concentrated upon them threw their faces and figures into harsh relief.

The crowd was steadily pressing towards the waggon, and it was evident at once to Winnington and his companion that it was not a friendly crowd.

"Looks rather ugly, to me!" said Andrews in Winnington's ear. "They've got hold of that thing which happened at Wanchester yesterday, of the burning of that house where the caretaker and his children only just escaped."

A rush of lads and young men passed them as he spoke---shouting---"Pull 'em down---turn 'em out!"

Andrews and Winnington pursued, but were soon forced back by a retreating movement of those in front. Winnington's height enabled him to see over the heads of the crowd.

"The police are keeping a ring," he reported to his companion---"they seem to have got it in hand! Ah! now they've seen me---they'll let us through."

Meanwhile the shouts and booing of the hostile portion of the audience---just augmented by a number of rough-looking men from the neighbouring brickfields---prevented most of the remarks delivered by the male speaker on the cart from reaching the audience.

"Cowards!" said an excited woman's voice---"that's all they can do!---howl like wild beasts---that's all they're fit for!"

Winnington turned to see a tall girl, carrying an armful of newspapers. She had flaming red hair, and she wore a black and orange scarf, with a cap of the same colours. "Foster's daughter!" he thought, wondering. "What happens to them all?" For he had known Kitty Foster from her school days, and had never thought of her except as a silly simpering flirt, bent on the pursuit of man. And now he beheld a Mænad, a Fury.

Suddenly another woman's voice cut across the others---"Aren't you ashamed of those colours! Go home---and take them off. Go home and behave like a decent creature!"

Heads were turned---to see a middle-aged woman, of quiet dress and commanding aspect, sternly pointing to the astonished Kitty Foster. "Do you see that girl?"---the woman continued, addressing her neighbours,---"she's got the 'Daughters' colours on. Do you know what the Daughters have been doing in town? You've seen about the destroying of letters in London. Well, I'll tell you what that means. I had a little servant I was very fond of. She left me to go and live near her sister in town. The sister died, and she got consumption. She went into lodgings, and there was no one to help her. She wrote to me, asking me to come to her. Her letter was destroyed in one of the pillar-boxes raided---by those women!----" She pointed. "Then she broke her heart because she thought I'd given her up. She daren't write again. And now I've found her out---in hospital---dying. I've seen her to-day. If it hadn't ha' been for these demented creatures she might ha' lived for years!"

The woman paused, her voice breaking a little. Kitty Foster tossed her head. "What are most women in hospital for?" she said shrilly. "By the fault of men!---one way or the other. That's what we think of."

"Yes, I know---that's one of the shameless things you say---to us who have husbands and sons we thank God for!" said the elder woman, quivering. "Go and get a husband!---if you can find one to put up with you---and hold your tongue!" She turned her back.

The girl laughed affectedly. "I can do without one, thank you! It's you happy married women that are the chief obstacle in our path. Selfish things!---never care for anybody but yourselves!"

"Hallo---Lathrop's down---that's Miss Blanchflower!" said Andrews, excitedly. "Let's go on!"

And at the same moment a mounted constable, who had been steadily making his way to them, opened a way for the two J.P.'s through the crowd, which after the tumult of hooting, mingled with a small amount of applause, which had greeted Lathrop's peroration, had relapsed into sudden silence as Delia Blanchflower came forward, so that her opening words, in a rich clear voice, were audible over a large area of the market-place.

---

What did she say? Certainly nothing new! Winnington knew it all by heart---had read it dozens of times in their strident newspaper, which he now perused weekly, simply that he might discover, if he could, what projects his ward might be up to.

The wrongs of women, their wrongs as citizens, as wives, as the victims of men, as the "refuse of the factory system"---Winnington remembered the phrase in the Tocsin of the week before---the uselessness of constitutional agitation, the need "to shake England to make her hear"---it was all the "common form" of the Movement; and yet she was able to infuse it with passion, with conviction, with a wild and natural eloquence. Her voice stole upon him---hypnotised him. His political and economic knowledge told him that half the things she said were untrue, and the rest irrelevant. His moral sense revolted against her violence---her defence of violence. A girl of twenty-one addressing this ugly, indifferent crowd, and talking calmly of stone-throwing and arson, as though they were occupations as natural to her youth as dancing or love-making!---the whole thing was abhorrent---preposterous---to a man of order and peace. And yet he had never been more stirred, more conscious of the mad, mixed poetry of life, than he was, as he stood watching the slender figure on the waggon---the gestures of the upraised arm, and the play of the lights from the hotel and from the side lamps, now on the deep white collar that lightened her serge jacket, and now on the gesticulating hand, or the face that even in these disfiguring cross-lights could be nothing else than lovely.

She was speaking too long---a common fault of women.

He looked from her to the faces of the crowd, and saw that the spell, compounded partly of the speaker's good looks and partly of sheer gaping curiosity, was breaking. They were getting restless, beginning to heckle and laugh.

Then he heard her say---

"Of course we know---you think us fools---silly fools! You say it's a poor sort of fighting---and what do we hope to get by it? Pin-pricks you call it---all that women can do. Well, so it is---we admit it. It is a poor sort of fighting---we don't admire it any more than you. But it's all men have left to women. You have disarmed us---and fooled us---and made slaves of us. You won't allow us the constitutional weapon of the vote, so we strike as we can, and with what weapons we can----"

"Makin' bonfires of innercent people an' their property ain't politics, Miss!" shouted a voice.

"Hear, Hear!" from the crowd.

"We haven't killed anybody---but ourselves!" The answer flashed.

"Pretty near it! Them folks at Wanchester only just got out---an' there were two children among 'em," cried a man near the waggon.

"An' they've just been up to something new at Brownmouth----"

All heads turned towards a young man who spoke from the back of the audience. "News just come to the post-office"---he shouted---"as the new pier was burnt out early this morning. There's a bit o' wanton mischief for you!"

A howl of wrath rose from the audience, amid which the closing words of Delia's speech were lost. Winnington caught a glimpse of her face---pale and excited---as she retreated from the front of the waggon in order to make room for her co-speaker.

Gertrude Marvell, as Winnington soon saw, was far more skilled in street oratory than her pupil. By sheer audacity she caught her audience at once, and very soon, mingling defiance with sarcasm, she had turned the news of the burnt pier into a Suffragist parable. What was that blaze in the night, lighting up earth and sea, but an emblem of women's revolt flaming up in the face of dark injustice and oppression? Let them rage! The women mocked. All tyrannies disliked being disturbed---since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. And thereupon, without any trace of excitement, or any fraction of Delia's eloquence, she built up bit by bit, and in face of the growing hostility of the crowd, an edifice of selected statements, which could not have been more adroit. It did not touch or persuade, but it silenced; till at the end she said---each word slow and distinct---"Now---all these things you may do to women, and nobody minds---nobody troubles at all! But if we make a bonfire of a pier, or an empty house, by way of drawing attention to your proceedings, then, you see red. Well, here we are!---do what you like---torture, imprison us!---you are only longing, I know---some of you---to pull us down now and trample on us, so that you may shew us how much stronger men are than women! All right!---but where one woman falls, another will spring up. And meanwhile the candle we are lighting will go on burning till you give us the vote. Nothing simpler---nothing easier. Give us the vote!---and send your canting Governments, Liberal or Tory, packing, till we get it. But until then---windows and empty houses, and piers and suchlike, are nothing---but so many opportunities of making our masters uncomfortable, till they free their slaves! Lucky for you, if the thing is no worse!"

She paused a moment, and then added with sharp and quiet emphasis---"And why is it specially necessary that we should try to stir up this district---whether you like our methods or whether you don't? Because---you have living here among you one of the worst of the persecutors of women! You have here a man who has backed up every cruelty of the Government---who has denied us every right, and scoffed at all our constitutional demands---your neighbour and great landlord, Sir Wilfrid Lang! I call upon every woman in this district, to avenge women on Sir Wilfrid Lang! We are not out indeed to destroy life or limb---we leave that to the men who are trying to coerce women---but we mean to sweep men like Sir Wilfrid Lang out of our way! Meanwhile we can pay special attention to his meetings---we can harass him at railway stations---we can sit on his doorstep---we can put the fear of God into him in a hundred ways---in short, we can make his life a tenth part as disagreeable to him as he can make ours to us. We can, if we please, make it a burden to him;---and we intend to do so! And don't let men---or women either---waste their breath in preaching to us of 'law and order.' Slaves who have no part in making the law are not bound by the law. Enforce it if you can! But while you refuse to free us, we despise both the law and the making of the law. Justice---which is a very different thing from law---Justice is our mistress!---and to her we appeal."

Folding her arms, she looked the crowd in the face. They seemed to measure each other; on one side, the lines of upturned faces, gaping youths, and smoking workmen, farmers and cattlemen, women and children; on the other, defying them, one thin, neatly dressed woman, her face, under the lamps, a gleaming point in the dark.

Then a voice rose from a lounging group of men, smoking like chimneys--powerful fellows, smeared with the clay of the brickfields---

"Who's a-makin' slaves of you, Ma'am? There's most of us workin' for a woman!"

A woman in the middle of the crowd laughed shrilly---a queer, tall figure in a battered hat---

"Aye---and a lot yo' give 'er ov a Saturday night, don't yer?"

"Sir Wilfrid's a jolly good feller, Miss," shouted another man. "Pays 'is men good money, an' no tricks. If you come meddlin' with him, in these parts, you'll catch it."

"An' we don't want no Suffragettes here, thank you!" cried a sarcastic woman's voice. "We was quite 'appy till you come along, an' we're quite willin' now for to say 'Good-bye, an' God bless yer!'"

The crowd laughed wildly, and suddenly a lad on the outskirts of the meeting picked up a cabbage-stalk that had fallen from one of the market-stalls, and flung it at the waggon. The hooligan element, scattered through the market-place, took up the hint at once; brutal things began to be shouted; and in a moment the air was thick with missiles of various sorts, derived from the refuse of the day's market---vegetable remains of all kinds, fragments of wood and cardboard boxes, scraps of filthy matting, and anything else that came handy.

The audience at first disapproved. There were loud cries of "Stow it!"---"Shut up!"---"Let the ladies alone!"---and there was little attempt to obstruct the police as they moved forward. But then, by ill-luck, the powerfully built fair-haired man, who had been speaking when Winnington and Andrews entered the market-place, rushed to the front of the waggon, and in a white heat of fury began to denounce both the assailants of the speakers, and the crowd in general, as "cowardly louts"---on whom argument was thrown away---who could only be reached "through their backs, or their pockets"---with other compliments of the same sort, under which the temper of the "moderates" rapidly gave way.

"What an ass! What a damned ass!" groaned Andrews indignantly. "Look here, Winnington, you take care of Miss Blanchflower---I'll answer for the other!"

And amid a general shouting and scuffling, through which some stones were beginning to fly, Winnington found himself leaping on the waggon, followed by Andrews and a couple of police.

Delia confronted him---undaunted, though breathless. "What do you want? We're all right!"

"You must come away at once. I can get you through the hotel."

"Not at all! We must put the Resolution."

"Come, Miss!"---said the tall constable behind Winnington---"no use talking! There's a lot of fellows here that mean mischief. You go with this gentleman. He'll look after you."

"Not without my friend!" cried Delia, both hands behind her on the edge of the waggon---erect and defiant. "Gertrude!"---she raised her voice---"What do you wish to do?"

But amid the din her appeal was not heard.

Gertrude Marvell however could be clearly seen on the other side of the waggon, with Paul Lathrop beside her, listening to the remonstrances and entreaties of Andrews, with a smile as cool as though she were in the drawing-room of Maumsey Abbey, and the Captain were inviting her to trifle with a cup of tea.

"Take her along, Sir!" said the policeman, with a nod to Winnington. "It's getting ugly." And as he spoke, a man jumped upon the waggon, a Latchford doctor, an acquaintance of Winnington's, who said something in his ear.

The next moment, a fragment of a bottle, flung from a distance, struck Winnington on the wrist. The blood rushed out, and Delia, suddenly white, looked from it to Winnington's face. The only notice he took of the incident was expressed in the instinctive action of rolling his handkerchief round it. But it stirred him to lay a grasp upon Delia's arm, which she could hardly have resisted. In fact she did not resist. She felt herself lifted down from the waggon, and hurried along, the police keeping back the crowd, into the open door of the hotel. Shouts of a populace half enraged, half amused, pursued her.

"Brutes---Cowards!" she gasped, between her teeth---then to Winnington---"Where are you taking me? I have the car!"

"There's a motor belonging to a doctor ready at once in the yard of the hotel. Better let me take you home in it. Andrews, I assure you, will look after Miss Marvell!"

They passed through the brilliantly lighted inn, where landlady, chambermaids, and waiters stood grinning in rows to see, and Winnington hurried his charge into the closed motor standing at the inn's back door.

"Take the street behind the hotel, and get out by the back of the town. Be quick!" said Winnington to the chauffeur.

Booing groups had already begun to gather at the entrance of the yards, and in the side street to which it led. The motor passed slowly through them, then quickened its pace, and in what seemed an incredibly short time they were in country lanes.

Delia leant back, drawing long breaths of fatigue and excitement. Then she perceived with disgust that her dress was bemired with scraps of dirty refuse, and that some mud was dripping from her hat. She took off the hat, shook it out of the window of the car, but could not bring herself to put it on again. Her hair, loosely magnificent, framed a face that was now all colour and passion. She hated herself; she hated the crowd; it seemed to her she hated the man at her side. Suddenly Winnington turned on the electric light---with an exclamation.

"So sorry to be a nuisance---but have you got a spare handkerchief? I'm afraid I shall spoil your dress!"

And Delia saw, to her dismay, that his own handkerchief which he had originally tied round his wound was already soaked, and the blood was dripping from it on to the motor-rug.

"Yes---yes---I have!" And opening her little wrist-bag, she took out of it two spare handkerchiefs, and tied them, with tremulous hands, round the wrist he held out to her,---a wrist brown and spare and powerful, like the rest of him.

"Now---have you got anything you could tie round the arm, above the wound---and then twist the knot?"

She thought. "My veil!" She slipped it off in a moment, a long motor veil of stout make. He turned towards her, pushing up his coat sleeve as high as it would go, and shewing her where to put the bandage. She helped him to turn back his shirt sleeve, and then wound the veil tightly round the arm, so as to compress the arteries. Her fingers were warm and strong. He watched them---he felt their touch---with a curious pleasure.

"Now, suppose you take this pencil, and twist it in the knot---you know how? Have you done any First Aid?"

She nodded. "I know."

She did it well. The tourniquet acted, and the bleeding at once slackened.

"All right!" said Winnington, smiling at her. "Now if I keep it up that ought to do!" She drew down the sleeve, and he put his hand into the motor-strap hanging near him, which supported it. Then he threw his head back a moment against the cushions of the car. The sudden loss of blood on the top of a long fast had made him feel momentarily faint.

Delia looked at him uneasily---biting her lip.

"Let us go back to Latchford, Mr. Winnington, and find a doctor."

"Oh dear, no! I'm only pumped for a moment. It's going off. I'm perfectly fit. When I've taken you home, I shall go in to our Maumsey man, and get tied up."

There was silence. The hedges and fields flew by outside, under the light of the motor, stars overhead. Delia's heart was full of wrath and humiliation.

"Mr. Winnington---"

"Yes!" He sat up, apparently quite revived.

"Mr. Winnington---for Heaven's sake---do give me up!"

He looked at her with amused astonishment. "Give you up!---How?"

"Give up being my guardian! I really can't stand it. I---I don't mind what happens to myself. But it's too bad that I should be forced to---to make myself such a nuisance to you---or desert all my principles. It's not fair to me---that's what I feel---it's not indeed!" she insisted stormily.

He saw her dimly as she spoke---the beautiful oval of the face, the white brow, the general graciousness of line, so feminine, in truth!---so appealing. The darkness hid away all that shewed the "female franzy." Distress of mind---distress for his trumpery wound?---had shaken her, brought her back to youth and childishness? Again he felt a rush of sympathy---of tender concern.

"Do you think you would do any better with a guardian chosen by the Court?" he asked her, smiling, after a moment's pause.

"Of course I should! I shouldn't mind fighting a stranger in the least."

"They would be very unlikely to appoint a stranger. They would probably name Lord Frederick."

"He wouldn't dream of taking it!" she said, startled. "And you know he is the laziest of men."

They both laughed. But her laugh was a sound of agitation, and in the close contact of the motor he was aware of her quick breathing.

"Well, it's true he never answers a letter," said Winnington. "But I suppose he's ill."

"He's been a malade imaginaire all his life, and he isn't going to begin to put himself out for anybody now!" she said scornfully.

"Your aunt, Miss Blanchflower?"

"I haven't spoken to her for years. She used to live with us when I was eighteen. She tried to boss me, and set father against me. But I got the best of her."

"I am sure you did," said Winnington.

She broke out---"Oh, I know you think me a perfectly impossible creature whom nobody could ever get on with!"

He paused a moment, then said gravely---"No, I don't think anything of the kind. But I do think that, given what you want, you are going entirely the wrong way to get it."

She drew a long and desperate breath. "Oh, for goodness' sake don't let's argue!"

He refrained. But after a moment he added still more gravely---"And I do protest---most strongly!---against the influence upon you of the lady you have taken to live with you!"

Delia made a vehement movement. "She is my friend!---my dearest friend!" she said, in a shaky voice. "And I believe in her, and admire her with all my heart!"

"I know---and I am sorry. Her speech this evening---all the latter part of it---was the speech of an Anarchist. And the first half was a tissue of misstatements. I happen to know something about the facts she dealt with."

"Of course you take a different view!"

"I know," he said quietly---a little sternly. "Miss Marvell either does not know, or she wilfully misrepresents."

"You can't prove it!"

"I think I could. And as to that man---Mr. Lathrop---but you know what I think."

They both fell silent. Through all his own annoyance and disgust, Winnington was sympathetically conscious of what she too must be feeling---chafed and thwarted, at every turn, by his legal power over her actions, and by the pressure of his male will. He longed to persuade her, convince her, soothe her; but what chance for it, under the conditions she had chosen for her life?

The motor drew up at the door of the Abbey, and Winnington turned on the light. "I am afraid I can't help you out. Can you manage?"

She stooped anxiously to look at his wrist. "It's bleeding worse again! I am sure I could improve that bandage. Do come in. My maid's got everything."

He hesitated---then followed her into the house. The maid was summoned, and proved an excellent nurse. The wound was properly bandaged, and the arm put in a sling.

Then, as the maid withdrew, Delia and her guardian were left standing together in the drawing-room, lit only by a dying gleam of fire, and a single lamp.

"Good night," said Winnington gently. "Don't be the least alarmed about Miss Marvell. The train doesn't arrive for ten minutes yet. Thank you for looking after me so kindly."

Delia laughed---but it was a sound of distress.

Suddenly he stooped, lifted her hand, and kissed it. "What you are doing seems to me foolish---and wrong! I am afraid I must tell you so plainly," he said with emotion. "But although I feel like that---my one wish---all the time---is---forgive me if it sounds patronising!---to help you---and stand by you. To see you in that horrid business to-night---made me---very unhappy. I am old-fashioned, I suppose---but I could hardly bear it. I wish I could make you trust me a little!"

"I do!" she said, choked. "I do---but I must follow my conscience."

He shook his head, but said no more. She murmured Good Night, and he went. She heard the motor drive away, and remained standing where he had left her, the hand he had kissed hanging at her side. She still felt the touch of his lips upon it, and as the blood rushed into her cheeks, her heart was conscious of new and strange emotions. She longed to go to him as a sister or a daughter might, and say---"Forgive me---understand me---don't despair of me!"

The trance of feeling broke, and passed away. She caught up a cloak and went to the hall door to listen for Gertrude Marvell.

"What I shall have to say to him, before long, is---'I have tricked you this quarter out of five hundred pounds---and I mean to do it again next quarter---if I can!' He won't want to kiss my hand again!"

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