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Chapter X

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« on: November 27, 2022, 07:58:49 am »


TWO men sat smoking and talking with Paul Lathrop in the book-littered sitting-room of his cottage. One was a young journalist, Roger Blaydes, whose thin, close-shaven face wore the knowing fool's look of one to whom the world's his oyster, and all the tricks for opening it familiar. The other was a god-like creature, a poet by profession, with long lantern-jaws, grey eyes deeply set, and a mass of curly black hair, from which the face, with its pallor and its distinction, shone dimly out like a portrait of the Cinquecento. Lathrop, in a kind of dressing-gown, as clumsily cut as the form it wrapped, his reddish hair and large head catching the fire-light, had the look of one lazily at bay, as wrapped in a cloud of smoke he turned from one speaker to the other.

"And so you were at another of these meetings last night?" said Blaydes, with a mouth half smiling, half contemptuous.

"Yes. A disgusting failure. They didn't even take the trouble to pelt us."

The poet--Merian by name--moved angrily on his chair. Blaydes threw a sly look at him, as he knocked the ash from his cigarette.

"And what the deuce do you expect to get by it all?"

Paul Lathrop paused a moment--and at last said, with a lift of the eyebrows---"Well!--I have no illusions!"

Merian broke out indignantly---"I say, Lathrop---why should you try and play up to that cynic there? As if he ever had an illusion about anything!"

"Well, but one may have faith without illusions," protested Blaydes, with hard good temper. "I doubt whether Lathrop has an ounce of either."

Lathrop reached out for a match. "What's the good of 'faith'---and what does anybody mean by it? Sympathies---and animosities---they're enough for me."

"And you really sympathise with these women?" said the other. The tone was incredulous. Merian brought his hand violently down on the table.

"Don't you talk about them, Blaydes! I tell you, they're far out of your ken."

"I dare say," said Blaydes composedly. "I was only trying to get at what Lathrop means by going into the business."

Lathrop sat up. "I'm in sympathy with anything that harasses and bothers and stings the governing classes of this country!" he said, with an oratorical wave of his cigarette. "What fools they are! In this particular business the Government is an ass, the public is an ass, and the women if you like are asses. But so long as they don't destroy works of art that appeal to me, I prefer to bray with them than with their enemies."

Merian rose impatiently,---a slim, dark-browed St. George, towering over the other two.

"After that, I'd rather hear them attacked by Blaydes, than defended by you, Lathrop!" he said with energy, as he buttoned up his coat.

Lathrop threw him a cool glance. "So for you, they're all heroines---and saints?"

"Never mind what they are. I stand by them! I'm ready to give them what they ask."

"Ready to hand the Empire over to them---to smash like the windows in Piccadilly?" said Blaydes.

"Hang the Empire!---what does the Empire matter! Give the people in these islands what they want before you begin to talk about the Empire. Well, goodbye, I must be off!"

He nodded to the other two, and opened the door of the Hermitage which led directly into the outer air. On the threshold he turned, and looked back, irresolutely, as though in compunction for his loss of temper. Framed in the doorway against a background of sunset sky, his dark head and sparely noble features were of a singular though melancholy beauty. It was evident that he was full of speech, of which he could not in the end unburden himself. The door closed behind him, and he was gone.

"Poor devil!" said Blaydes, tipping the end of his cigarette into the fire---"he's in love with a girl who's been in prison three times. He thinks she'll kill herself---and he can't influence her at all. He takes it hard. Well now, look here"---the young man's expression changed and stiffened---"I understand that you too are seeing a good deal of one of these wild women,---and that she's both rich---and a beauty?" He looked up, with a laugh.

Lathrop's aspect was undisturbed. "Nothing to do with it!---though your silly little mind will no doubt go on thinking so."

The other laughed again--with a more emphatic mockery.

Lathrop reddened---then said quietly---"Well, I admit that was a lie! Yes, she is handsome---and if she were to stick to it---sacrifice all her life to it---in time she might make a horrible success of this thing. Will she stick to it?"

"Are you in love with her, Paul?"

"Of course! I am in love with all pretty women---especially when I daren't shew it."

"You daren't shew it?"

"The smallest advance on my part, in this quarter, brings me a rap on the knuckles. I try to pitch what I have to say in the most impersonal and romantic terms. No good at all! But all egg-dancing is amusing, so I dance---and accept all the drudgery she and Alecto give me to do."

"Alecto? Miss Marvell?"

"Naturally."

"These meetings must be pretty boring."

"Especially because I can't keep my temper. I lose it in the vulgarest way---and say the most idiotic things."

There was a pause of silence. The eyes of the journalist wandered round the room, coming back to Lathrop at last with renewed curiosity.

"How are your affairs, Paul?"

"Couldn't be worse. Everything here would have been seized long ago, if there had been anything to seize. But you can't distrain on trout---dear slithery things. And as the ponds afford my only means of sustenance, and do occasionally bring in something, my creditors have to leave me the house and a few beds and chairs so that I may look after them."

"Why don't you write another book?"

"Because at present I have nothing to say. And on that point I happen to have a conscience---some rays of probity left."

He got up as he spoke, and went across the room, to a covered basket beside the fire.

"Mimi!" he said caressingly---"poor Mimi!"

He raised a piece of flannel, and a Persian kitten lying in the basket lifted its head languidly. "Tu m'aimes, Mimi?"

Lathrop stooped for a saucer of warm milk standing by the fire. The kitten refused it, but when he dipped his fingers in the milk, it made a momentary effort to lick them, then subsiding, sank to sleep again.

"I'm never alone," said Lathrop, with decision. And rising he went to the door of the cottage---which opened straight on the hill-side, and set it open.

It was four o'clock on a November day. The autumn was late, and of a marvellous beauty. The month was a third gone, and still there were trees here and there, isolated trees, intensely green, as though they defied decay. The elder trees, the first to leaf under the spring, were now the last to wither. The elms in twenty-four hours had turned a pale gold atop, while all below was still round and green. But the beeches were nearly gone; all that remained of them was a thin pattern of separate leaves, pale gold and faintly sparkling against the afternoon sky. Such a sky! Bands of delicate pinks, lilacs and blues scratched across an inner-heaven of light, and in the mid-heaven a blazing furnace, blood-red, wherein the sun had just plunged headlong to its death. And under the sky, an English scene of field and woodland, fading into an all-environing forest, still richly clothed. While in the foreground and middle distance, some trees already stripped and bare, winter's first spoil, stood sharply black against the scarlet of the sunset. And fusing the whole scene, hazes of blue, amethyst or purple, beyond a Turner's brush.

"What beauty!---my God!"

Blaydes came to stand beside the speaker, glancing at him with eyes half curious, half mocking. "You get so much pleasure out of it?"

For answer, Lathrop murmured a few words as though to himself, a sudden lightening in his sleepy eyes---

     "L'univers---si liquide, si pur!---
      Une belle eau qu'on voudrait boire."

"I don't understand French"---said Blaydes, with a shrug---"not French verse, anyway."

"That's a pity"---was the dry reply---"because you can't read Madame de Noailles. Ah!---there are Lang's pheasants calling!---his tenant's, I suppose---for he's let the shooting."

He pointed to a mass of wood on his left hand from which the sound came.

"They say he's never here?"

"Two or three times a year,---just on business. His wife---a little painted doll---hates the place, and they've built a villa at Beaulieu."

"Rather risky leaving a big house empty in these days---with your wild women about!"

Lathrop looked round.

"Good heavens!---who would ever dream of touching Monk Lawrence! I bet even Gertrude Marvell hasn't nerve enough for that. Look here!---have you ever seen it?"

"Never."

"Come along then. There's just time---while this light lasts."

They snatched their caps, and were presently mounting the path which led ultimately through the woods of Monk Lawrence to the western front.

Blaydes frowned as he walked. He was a young man of a very practical turn of mind, who in spite of an office-boy's training possessed an irrelevant taste for literature which had made him an admirer of Lathrop's two published volumes. For some time past he had been Lathrop's chancellor of the exchequer---self-appointed, and had done his best to keep his friend out of the workhouse. From the tone of Paul's recent letters he had become aware of two things---first, that Lathrop was in sight of his last five-pound note and did not see his way to either earning or borrowing another; and secondly, that a handsome girl had appeared on the scene, providentially mad with the same kind of madness as had recently seized on Lathrop, belonging to the same anarchical association, and engaged in the same silly defiance of society; likely therefore to be thrown a good deal in his company; and last, but most important, possessed of a fortune which she would no doubt allow the "Daughters of Revolt" to squander---unless Paul cut in. The situation had begun to seem to him interesting, and having already lent Lathrop more money than he could afford, he had come down to enquire about it. He himself possessed an income of three hundred a year, plus two thousand pounds left him by an uncle. Except for the single weakness which had induced him to lend Lathrop a couple of hundred pounds, his principles with regard to money were frankly piratical. Get what you can---and how you can. Clearly it was Lathrop's game to take advantage of this queer friendship with a militant who happened to be both rich and young, which his dabbling in their "nonsense" had brought about. Why shouldn't he achieve it? Lathrop was as clever as sin; and there was the past history of the man, to shew that he could attract women.

He gripped his friend's arm as they passed into the shadow of the wood. Lathrop looked at him with surprise.

"Look here, Paul"---said the younger man in a determined voice---"You've got to pull this thing off."

"What thing?"

"You can marry this girl if you put your mind to it. You tell me you're going about the country with her, speaking at meetings---that you're one of her helpers and advisers. That is---you've got an A1 chance with her. If you don't use it, you're a blithering idiot."

Paul threw back his head and laughed.

"And what about other people? What about her guardian, for instance---who is the sole trustee of the property---who has a thousand chances with her to my one---and holds, I venture to say---if he knows anything about me---the strongest views on the subject of my moral character?"

"Who is her guardian?"

"Mark Winnington. Does that convey anything to you?"

Blaydes whistled. "Great Scott!"

"Yes. Precisely `Great Scott!'" said Lathrop, mocking. "I may add that everybody here has their own romance on the subject. They are convinced that Winnington will soon cure her of her preposterous notions, and restore her, tamed, to a normal existence."

Blaydes meditated,---his aspect shewing a man checked. "I saw Winnington playing in a county match last August," he said---with his eyes on the ground---"I declare no one looked at anybody else. I suppose he's forty; but the old stagers tell you that he's just as much of an Apollo now as he was in his most famous days---twenty years ago."

"Don't exaggerate. He is forty, and I'm thirty---which is one to me. I only meant to suggest to you a reasonable view of the chances."

"Look here---is she as handsome as people say?"

"Blaydes!--this is the last time I shall allow you to talk about her---you get on my nerves. Handsome? I don't know."

He walked on, muttering to himself and switching at the trees on either hand.

"I am simply putting what is your duty to yourself---and your creditors," said Blaydes sulkily---"You must know your affairs are in a pretty desperate state."

"And a girl like that is to be sacrificed---to my creditors! Good Lord!"

"Oh well, if you regard yourself as such an undesirable, naturally, I've nothing to say. Of course I know---there's that case against you. But it's a good while ago; and I declare women don't look at those things as they used to do. Why don't you play the man of letters business? You know very well, Paul, you could earn a lot of money if you chose. But you're such a lazy dog!"

"Let me alone!" said Lathrop, rather fiercely. "The fact that you've lent me a couple of hundred really doesn't give you the right to talk to me like this."

"I won't lend you a farthing more unless you promise me to take this thing seriously," said Blaydes doggedly.

Lathrop burst into a nervous shout of laughter. "I say, do shut up! I assure you, you can't bully me. Now then---here's the house!"

And as he spoke they emerged on the green oblong, bordered by low yew hedges, from which, as from a flat and spacious shelf carved out of the hill, Monk Lawrence surveyed the slopes below it, the clustered village, the middle distance with its embroidery of fields and trees, with the vaporous stretches of the forest beyond, and in the far distance, a shining line of sea.

"My word!---that is a house!" cried Blaydes, stopping to survey it and get his townsman's breath, after the steep pitch of hill.

"Not bad?"

"Is it shewn?"

"Used to be. It has been shut lately for fear of the militants."

"But they keep somebody in it?"

"Yes---in some rooms at the back. A keeper, and his three children. The wife's dead. Shall I go and see if he'll let us in? But he won't. He'll have seen my name at that meeting, in the Latchford paper."

"No, no. I shall miss my train. Let's walk round. Why, you'd think it was on fire already!" said Blaydes, with a start, gazing at the house.

For the marvellous evening, now marching from the western forest, was dyeing the whole earth in crimson, and the sun just emerging from one bank of cloud, before dropping into the bank below, was flinging a fierce glare upon the wide grey front of Monk Lawrence. Every window blazed, and some fine oaks still thick with red leaf, which flanked the house on the north, flamed in concert. The air was suffused with red; every minor tone, blue or brown, green or purple, shewed through it, as through a veil.

And yet how quietly the house rose, in the heart of the flame! Peace, brooding on memory, seemed to breathe from its rounded oriels, its mossy roof, its legend in stone letters running round the eaves, the carved trophies and arabesques which framed the stately doorway, the sleepy fountain with its cupids, in the courtyard, the graceful loggia on the northern side. It stood, aloof and self-contained, amid the lightnings and arrows of the departing sun.

"No---they'd never dare to touch that!" said Lathrop as he led the way to the path skirting the house. "And if I caught Miss Marvell at it, I'm not sure I shouldn't hand her over myself!"

"Aren't we trespassing?" said Blaydes, as their footsteps rang on the broad flagged path which led from the front court to the terrace at the back of the house.

"Certainly. Ah, the dog's heard us."

And before they had gone more than a few steps further, a burly man appeared at the further corner of the house, holding a muzzled dog---a mastiff---on a leash.

"What might you be wanting, gentlemen?" he said gruffly.

"Why, you know me, Daunt. I brought a friend up to look at your wonderful place. We can walk through, can't we?"

"Well, as you're here, Sir, I'll let you out by the lower gate. But this is private ground, Sir, and Sir Wilfrid's orders are strict,---not to let anybody through that hasn't either business with the house or an order from himself."

"All right. Let's have a look at the back and the terrace, and then we'll be off. Sir Wilfrid coming here?"

"Not that I know of, Sir," said the keeper shortly, striding on before the two men, and quieting his dog, who was growling at their heels.

As he spoke he led the way down a stately flight of stone steps by which the famous eastern terrace at the back of the house was reached. The three men and the dog disappeared from view.

Steadily the sunset faded. An attacking host of cloud rushed upon it from the sea, and quenched it. The lights in the windows of Monk Lawrence went out. Dusk fell upon the house and all its approaches.

Suddenly, two figures---figures of women---emerged in the twilight from the thick plantation which protected the house on the north. They reached the flagged path with noiseless feet, and then pausing, they began what an intelligent spectator would have soon seen to be a careful reconnoitring of the whole northern side of the house. They seemed to examine the windows, a garden door, the recesses in the walls, the old lead piping, the creepers and shrubs. Then one of them, keeping close to the house wall, which was in deep shadow, went quickly round to the back. The other awaited her. In the distance rose at intervals a dog's uneasy bark.

In a very few minutes the woman who had gone round the house returned and the two, slipping back into the dense belt of wood from which they had come, were instantly swallowed up by it. Their appearance and their movements throughout had been as phantomlike and silent as the shadows which were now engulfing the house. Anyone who had seen them come and go might almost have doubted his own eyes.

---

Daunt the keeper returned in a leisurely manner to his quarters in some back premises of Monk Lawrence, at the south-eastern corner of the house. But he had only just opened his own door when he again heard the sound of footsteps in the fore-court.

"Well, what's come to the folk to-night!"---he muttered, with some ill-humour, as he turned back towards the front.

A woman!---standing with her back to the house, in the middle of the fore-court, as though the place belonged to her, and gazing at the piled clouds of the west, still haunted by the splendour just passed away.

A veritable Masque of Women, all of the Mænad sort, had by now begun to riot through Daunt's brain by night and day. He raised his voice sharply---"What's your business here, Ma'am? There is no public road past this house."

The lady turned, and came towards him.

"Don't you know who I am, Mr. Daunt? But I remember you when I was a child."

Daunt peered through the dusk.

"You have the advantage of me, Madam," he said stiffly. "Kindly give me your name."

"Miss Blanchflower---from Maumsey Abbey!" said a young, conscious voice. "I used to come here with my grandmother, Lady Blanchflower. I have been intending to come and pay you a visit for a long time---to have a look at the old house again. And just now I was passing the foot of your hill in a motor; something went wrong with the car, and while they were mending it, I ran up. But it's getting dark so quickly, one can hardly see anything!"

Daunt's attitude shewed no relaxation. Indeed, swift recollections assailed him of certain reports in the local papers, now some ten days old. Miss Blanchflower indeed! She was a brazen one---after all done and said.

"Pleased to see you, Miss, if you'll kindly get an order from Sir Wilfrid. But I have strict instructions from Sir Wilfrid not to admit anyone---not anyone whatsoever---to the gardens or the house, without his order."

"I should have thought, Mr. Daunt, that only applied to strangers." The tones, shewed annoyance. "My father, Sir Robert Blanchflower, was an old friend of Sir Wilfrid's."

"Can't help it, Miss," said Daunt, not without the secret zest of the Radical putting down his "betters." "There are queer people about. I can't let no one in without an order."

As he spoke, a gate slammed on his left, and Daunt, with the feeling of one beset, turned in wrath to see who might be this new intruder. Since the house had been closed to visitors, and a notice to the effect had been posted in the village, scarcely a soul had penetrated through its enclosing woods, except Miss Amberley, who came to teach Daunt's cripple child. And now in one evening here were three assaults upon its privacy!

But as to the third he was soon reassured.

"Hullo, Daunt, is that you? Did I hear you telling Miss Blanchflower you can't let her in? But you know her, of course?" said a man's easy voice.

Delia started. The next moment her hand was in her guardian's, and she realised that he had heard the conversation between herself and Daunt, realised also that she had committed a folly not easily to be explained, either to Winnington or herself, in obeying the impulse which---half memory, half vague anxiety,---had led her to pay this sudden visit to the house. Gertrude Marvell had left Maumsey that morning, saying she should be in London for the day. Had Gertrude been with her, Delia would have let Monk Lawrence go by. For in Gertrude's company it had become an instinct with her---an instinct she scarcely confessed to herself---to avoid all reference to the house.

At sight of Winnington, however, who was clearly a privileged person in his eyes, Daunt instantly changed his tone.

"Good evening, Sir. Perhaps you'll explain to this young lady? We've got to keep a sharp lookout---you know that, Sir."

"Certainly, Daunt, certainly. I am sure Miss Blanchflower understands. But you'll let me shew her the house, I imagine?"

"Why, of course, Sir! There's nothing you can't do here. Give me a few minutes---I'll turn on some lights. Perhaps the young lady will walk in?" He pointed to his own rooms.

"So you still keep the electric light going?"

"By Sir Wilfrid's wish, Sir,---so as if anything did happen these winter nights, we mightn't be left in darkness. The engine works a bit now and then."

He led the way towards his quarters. The door into his kitchen stood open, and in the glow of fire and lamp stood his three children, who had been eagerly listening to the conversation outside. One of them, a little girl, was leaning on a crutch. She looked up happily as Winnington entered.

"Well, Lily"---he pinched her cheek---"I've got something to tell father about you. Say 'How do you do?' to this lady." The child put her hand in Delia's, looking all the while ardently at Winnington.

"Am I going to be in your school, Sir?"

"If you're good. But you'll have to be dreadfully good!"

"I am good," said Lily confidently. "I want to be in your school, please, Sir."

"But such a lot of other little girls want to come too! Must I leave them out?"

Lily shook her head perplexed. "But you promithed," she lisped, very softly.

Winnington laughed. The child's hand had transferred itself to his, and nestled there.

"What school does she mean?" asked Delia.

At the sound of her voice Winnington turned to her for the first time. It was as though till then he had avoided looking at her, lest the hidden thought in each mind should be too plain to the other. He had found her---Robert Blanchflower's daughter---on the point of being curtly refused admission to the house where her father had been a familiar inmate, and where she herself had gone in and out as a child. And he knew why; she knew why; Daunt knew why. She was a person under suspicion, a person on whom the community was keeping watch.

Nevertheless, Winnington entirely believed what he had overheard her say to the keeper. It was no doubt quite true that she had turned aside to see Monk Lawrence on a sudden impulse of sentiment or memory. Odd that it should be so!---but like her. That she could have any designs on the beautiful old place was indeed incredible; and it was equally incredible that she would aid or abet them in anyone else. And yet---there was that monstrous speech at Latchford, made in her hearing, by her friend and co-militant, the woman who shared her life! Was it any wonder that Daunt bristled at the sight of her?

He had, however, to answer her question.

"My county school," he explained. "The school for invalid children---'physical defectives'---that we are going to open next summer. I came to tell Daunt there'd be a place for this child. She's an old friend of mine." He smiled down upon the nestling creature---"Has Miss Amberley been to see you lately, Lily?"

At this moment Daunt returned to the kitchen, with the news that the house was ready. "The light's not quite what it ought to be, Sir, but I dare say you'll be able to see a good deal. Miss Amberley, Sir, she's taught Lily fine. I'm sure we're very much obliged to her---and to you for asking her."

"I don't know what the sick children here will do without her, Daunt. She's going away---wants to be a nurse."

"Well, I'm very sorry, Sir. She'll be badly missed."

"That she will. Shall we go in?" Winnington turned to Delia, who nodded assent, and followed him into the dim passages beyond the brightly lighted kitchen. The children, looking after them, saw the beautiful lady disappearing, and felt vaguely awed by her height, her stiff carriage and her proud looks.

Delia, indeed, was again---and as usual---in revolt, against herself and circumstances. Why had she been such a fool as to come to Monk Lawrence at all, and then to submit to seeing it---on sufferance!---in Winnington's custody? And how he must be contrasting her with Susy Amberley!---the soft sister of charity, plying her womanly tasks, in the manner of all good women since the world began! She saw herself as the anarchist prowling outside, tracked, spied on, held at arm's length by all decent citizens, all lovers of ancient beauty, and moral tradition; while, within, women like Susy Amberley sat Madonna-like, with the children at their knee. "Well, we stand for the children too---the children of the future!" she said to herself defiantly.

"This is the old hall---and the gallery that was put up in honour of Elizabeth's visit here in 1570"---she heard Winnington saying---"One of the finest things of its kind. But you can hardly see it."

The electric light indeed was of the feeblest. A dim line of it ran round the carved ceiling and glimmered in the central chandelier. But the mingled illumination of sunset and moonrise from outside contended with it on more than equal terms; and everything in the hall---tapestries, armour, and old oak, the gallery above, the dais with its carved chairs below---had the dim mystery of a stage set ready for the play, before the lights are on.

Daunt apologised. "The gardener'll be here directly, Sir. He knows how to manage it better than I."

And in spite of protests from the two visitors he ran off again to see what could be done to better the light. Delia turned impetuously on her companion.

"I know you think I have no business to be here!"

Winnington paused a moment, then said---"I was rather astonished to see you here, certainly."

"Because of what we said at Latchford the other day?"

"You didn't say it!"

"But I agreed with it---I agreed with every word of it!"

"Then indeed I am astonished that you should wish to see Sir Wilfrid Lang's house!" he said, with energy.

"My recollections of it have nothing to do with Sir Wilfrid. I never saw him that I know of."

"All the same, it belongs to him."

"No!---to history---to the nation!"

"Then let the nation guard it---and every individual in the nation! But do you think Miss Marvell would take much pains to protect it?"

"Gertrude said nothing about the house."

"No; but if I had been one of the excitable women you command, my one desire after that speech would have been to do some desperate damage to Sir Wilfrid, or his property. If anything does happen, I am afraid everyone in the neighbourhood will regard her as responsible."

Delia moved impatiently. "Can't we say what we think of Sir Wilfrid---because he happens to possess a beautiful house?"

"If you care for Monk Lawrence, you do so---with this campaign on foot---only at great risk. Confess, Miss Delia!---that you were sorry for that speech!" He turned upon her with animation.

She spoke as though under pressure, her head thrown back, her face ivory within the black frame of the veil. "I---I shouldn't have made it."

"That's not enough. I want to hear you say you regret it!"

The light suddenly increased, and she saw him looking at her, his eyes bright and urgent, his attitude that of the strong yet mild judge, whose own moral life watches keenly for any sign of grace in the accused before him. She realised for an angry moment what his feeling must be---how deep and invincible, towards these "outrages" which she and Gertrude Marvell regarded by now as so natural and habitual---outrages that were calmly planned and organised, as she knew well, at the head offices of their society, by Gertrude Marvell among others, and acquiesced in---approved---by hundreds of persons like herself, who either shrank from taking a direct part in them, or had no opportunity of doing so. "But I shall soon make opportunities!"---she thought, passionately; "I'm not going to be a shirker!" Aloud she said in her stiffest manner---"I stand by my friends, Mr. Winnington, especially when they are ten times better and nobler than I!"

His expression changed. He turned, like any courteous stranger, to playing the part of showman of the house. Once more a veil had fallen between them.

He led her through the great suite of rooms on the ground-floor, the drawing-room, the Red Parlour, the Chinese room, the Library. They recalled her childish visits to the house with her grandmother, and a score of recollections, touching or absurd, rushed into her mind---but not to her lips. Dumbness had fallen on her;---nothing seemed worth saying, and she hurried through. She was conscious only of a rich confused impression of old seemliness and mellowed beauty,---steeped in fragrant and famous memories, English history, English poetry, English art, breathing from every room and stone of the house. "In the Red Parlour, Sidney wrote part of the 'Arcadia.'---In the room overhead Gabriel Harvey slept.---In the Porch Room Chatham stayed---his autograph is there.---Fox advised upon all the older portion of the Library"---and so on. She heard Winnington's voice as though through a dream. What did it matter? She felt the house an oppression---as though it accused or threatened her.

As they emerged from the library into a broad passage, Winnington noticed a garden door at the north end of the passage, and called to Daunt who was walking behind them. They went to look at it, leaving Delia in the corridor.

"Not very secure, is it?" said Winnington, pointing to the glazed upper half of the door---"anyone might get in there."

"I've told Sir Wilfrid, Sir, and sent him the measurements. There's to be an iron shutter."

"H'm---that may take time. Why not put up something temporary?---cross-bars of some sort?"

They came back towards Delia, discussing it. Unreasonably, absurdly, she held it an offence that Winnington should discuss it in her presence; her breath grew stormy.

Daunt turned to the right at the foot of a carved staircase, and down a long passage leading to the kitchens, he and Winnington still talking. Suddenly---a short flight of steps, not very visible in a dark place. Winnington descended them, and then turned to look for Delia who was just behind---"Please take care!---"

But he was too late. Head in air---absorbed in her own passionate mood, Delia never saw the steps, till her foot slipped on the topmost. She would have fallen headlong, had not Winnington caught her. His arms received her, held her, released her. The colour rushed into his face as into hers. "You are not hurt?" he said anxiously. "I ought to have held a light," said Daunt, full of concern. But the little incident had broken the ice. Delia laughed, and straightened her Cavalier hat, which had suffered. She was still rosy as they entered Daunt's kitchen, and the children who had seen her half an hour before hardly recognised the creature all life and animation who returned to them.

The car stood waiting in the fore-court. Winnington put her in. As Delia descended the hill alone in the dark, she closed her eyes, that she might the more completely give herself to the conflict of thoughts which possessed her. She was bitterly ashamed and sore, torn between her passionate affection for Gertrude Marvell, and what seemed to her a weak and traitorous wish to stand better with Mark Winnington. Nor could she escape from the memory---the mere physical memory---of those strong arms round her, resent it as she might.

---

As for Winnington, when he reached home in the moonlight, instead of going in to join his sister at tea, he paced a garden path till night had fallen. What was this strong insurgent feeling he could neither reason with nor silence? It seemed to have stolen upon him, amid a host of other thoughts and pre-occupations, secretly and insidiously, till there it stood---full-grown---his new phantom self---challenging the old, the normal self, face to face.

Trouble, self-scorn overwhelmed him. Recalling all his promises to himself, all his assurances to Lady Tonbridge, he stood convicted, as the sentry who has shut his eyes and let the invader pass. Monstrous!---that in his position, with this  difference of age between them, he should have allowed such ideas to grow and gather head. Beautiful wayward creature!---all the more beguiling, because of the difficulties that bristled round her. His common sense, his judgment were under no illusions at all about Delia Blanchflower. And yet---

This then was passion!---which must be held down and reasoned down. He would reason it down. She must and should marry a man of her own generation---youth with youth. And, moreover, to give way to these wild desires would be simply to alienate her, to destroy all his own power with her for good.

The ghostly presence of his life came to him. He cried out to her, made appeal to her, in sackcloth and ashes. And then, in some mysterious, heavenly way she was revealed to him afresh; not as an enemy whom he had offended, not as a lover slighted, but as his best and tenderest friend. She closed no gates against the future:---that was for himself to settle, if closed they were to be. She seemed to walk with him, hand in hand, sister with brother---in a deep converse of souls.

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