PEARLS OF DEW

Upon the Sunday following, the last Sunday in June, Miss Tiddle mounted
her bicycle and rode over to the Manor. Rain had fallen after a month’s
heat and drought, and a delicious fragrance was exhaled by fields full
of new-mown hay. As Tiddy sped along, she told herself that she had been
a fool. Being really clever, this reflection failed to annoy her.
Everybody made ghastly blunders when they interfered with the lives and
characters of others.

“A marriage has been arranged, and will take place in the autumn,
between Cicely Selina, only surviving child of the late Henry Chandos,
M.F.H., of Upworthy Manor, Melshire, and Arthur George, second Lord
Wilverley, of Wilverley Court in the same county.”

_Arranged . . .!_

The word rankled in Tiddy’s mind. But that mind she regarded as fully
open, like her round eyes which “took in,” with genuine hospitality,
everybody within her ken. Possibly this marriage had not been arranged.
During Cicely’s absence from Wilverley Court, Tiddy had talked much with
the noble owner. And noble he was! The two had become friends. Tiddy, as
we know, liked men; she had flirted with Midland “nuts.” And these had
not impressed her favourably, being, so she decided, concerned with
themselves and the colour of their ties and socks. Even young officers,
gallant fellows, “swanked” too much for Miss Tiddle’s democratic taste.
And she had come to Wilverley Court slightly prejudiced against a man
whom she had imagined to be quite other than he was. Arthur’s simplicity
and honesty delighted her. She believed that he, at any rate, loved
Cicely devotedly, although he might be incapable of tearing a passion to
tatters. Believing this, it was intolerable to contemplate his marriage
with a girl who did not love him as he deserved to be loved. On the
other hand, it was quite possible that Cicely’s friendship for him had
warmed into a sort of hard-and-fast, “stand-the-wash” attachment. As yet
she had not heard of Grimshaw’s return to Upworthy. A man with dark,
disconcerting eyes had flitted across a susceptible maid’s horizon, and
then disappeared. From what Cicely, being a Chandos, had left unsaid,
Tiddy was positive upon one point: Grimshaw had kindled in her friend
the divine spark. He had become, momentarily, _the_ divine spark. It was
likely, men being so amazingly unobservant, that Grimshaw, engrossed
with his profession, had left Upworthy unconscious of this. With all her
powers of intuition, Miss Tiddle lacked as yet the experience which
might guide her to the right conclusion. A profounder knowledge of the
conventional class to which she did not belong would have revealed that
obstinate pride which she herself was incapable of entertaining, which,
if she considered it, she dismissed impatiently as mid-Victorian and
idiotic. If, she reflected, Grimshaw had cared, he would have written to
Cicely. She could not conceive, because for her they did not exist, the
differences, hydra-headed, between a G.P. and a daughter of the House of
Chandos. When a man touched her fancy, however lightly, she “nestled
up,” as she put it, not flirtatiously, but with the deliberate intention
of analysing the effects of intimacy.

Yes; she had been a fool. Mrs. Roden exercised clearer vision.
Intuition, nothing else, had constrained Miss Tiddle to make a mountain
of romance out of a molehill.

The odds were that this marriage had not been “arranged” in the odious
sense.

Accordingly, Tiddy braced herself for the coming encounter, derisively
prepared to do and say the expected thing. Cicely’s artless prattle
about frocks and bridesmaids might be hard to endure, but she would
listen patiently and reply with enthusiasm—play the game, in fine. Then
she would try to get a billet in France.

Just before reaching Upworthy, her back tyre punctured. Tiddy jumped
off, got her repairing kit, and turned the bicycle upside down. She
prided herself upon taking with equanimity what an American lady has
called “the collateral slaps of Providence.” To her dismay, however, she
was unable to remove the tyre. It stuck obstinately. Tiddy became
uncomfortably hot. And she wished to remain cool, conscious that Lady
Selina’s blue eyes would turn protestingly from any evidences of . . .
perspiration. Why did open pores offend old-fashioned gentlewomen? Tiddy
was turning this over in her active mind, when she saw, with relief, an
approaching cyclist, identified first as a man and immediately after as
a gentleman. Tiddy sent out the S.O.S. signal; the cyclist jammed on his
brakes and leapt to the ground.

“You are in trouble,” he said courteously.

It was Grimshaw.

Tiddy was quite sure of it. A mere male cannot hazard a conjecture as to
the reasons which bring instant conviction to the female intelligence.
Perhaps she recognized the dark, disconcerting eyes burning out of a
thin, pale face; perhaps she saw a doctor’s service-bag strapped behind
the bicycle.

“Tyre stuck,” said Tiddy. “Can you tell me if there is anybody in
Upworthy who could get it off?”

“_I_ can,” he answered.

She protested, but he went to work promptly, removing his coat and
throwing his cap upon it. At this, any doubt as to his identity
vanished. Cicely had laid emphasis upon Grimshaw’s eagerness in
ministration. According to Cicely, his knightly quality was conspicuous.
Cicely, so Tiddy remembered, had used the word “halo,” which had
provoked a gibe from Miss Tiddle. At this moment she actually beheld the
halo. A vainer girl might have flattered herself into the belief that
bright eyes and curls were quickening these activities. But Grimshaw had
not looked keenly at her, but at the bicycle. She knew that he would
have helped the plainest maid in the village with equal alacrity.

“He’s a rare good sort,” she decided, “but he looks horribly ill, and
why is he here instead of in France?”

To ask herself questions when another could answer them was not Miss
Tiddle’s failing. The situation began to interest her. She said
casually:

“I thought you were in France, Mr. Grimshaw.”

Grimshaw looked up. She had no reason to complain of lack of penetration
in his glance. And his next words confirmed her first impression that he
was quite out of the ordinary. Wilverley, for instance, would have
looked puzzled, taking for granted he had met this sparkling stranger
before and forgotten her. Grimshaw said sharply:

“You know me, but I have never met you; never.”

She laughed, a delightful tinkle of sound which brought a smile to his
lips.

“Are you sure of that?”

“Absolutely.”

“Well, you happen to be right. We have never met. All the same, I know
you.”

“How?”

Mischievously, she continued:

“There are such things as photographs.”

“There are. It happens that I have not been photographed for about ten
years. I hate photographs.”

“Then you have no idea who I am?”

“None.”

Tiddy reflected that Cicely, evidently, had not taken undue pains to
describe her best friend to another friend. However . . .!

“I am Arabella Tiddle.”

Grimshaw remained perfectly calm.

“My name is—a—unfamiliar?”

“Not—unfamiliar. I have seen your surname on—on——”

“Hoardings. And in advertisements. Tiddle’s Family Pellets. I am Sir
Nathaniel Tiddle’s daughter.”

Grimshaw bowed, saying politely:

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance. This is much better than a
formal introduction.”

Was he pulling her leg?

“Miss Chandos never mentioned my name to you?”

“No.”

Tiddy experienced a tiny, triumphant thrill. She had brought out
Cicely’s name plumply, and designedly so, the artful baggage! And
Grimshaw had winced—_winced_! True, he recovered himself, swiftly, but
a glimpse had been vouchsafed her, all that she wanted at the moment.

“I am her school-friend. We worked together at Wilverley Court as
V.A.D.’s. I am on my way to the Manor now.”

“Not yet.”

She was delighted. Wilverley, much as she liked and esteemed that honest
fellow, was incapable of subtleties of speech. The “not yet” was
immensely revealing. He _could_ pull legs, she decided. That was a
greater accomplishment than setting them. She began to hope that the
recalcitrant tyre would not budge too easily. Grimshaw was hard at work
on it.

The tyre yielded suddenly. To test him, and to test, also, her own
powers of attraction, she said quickly:

“Thanks ever so much. I can repair the inner tube.”

“The tyre will not go on again too easily. Where is your repairing
stuff?”

He spoke peremptorily. And his attention appeared to be focussed on the
inner tube, as he searched for the puncture. Tiddy stood by with the
small box, opening it and taking out patches and sandpaper.

“What a good Samaritan!” she murmured.

His fingers challenged her admiration; how deftly they moved; how
swiftly. What exquisite instruments! Involuntarily, she exclaimed:

“I’m sure you operate wonderfully.”

Perhaps he hated compliments as much as photographs. He said with
professional curtness:

“Ah! you have worked in the theatre at Wilverley?”

“No. But I acted as ‘special’ for three weeks—dressings, and all that.
Miss Chandos told me you were in France. But I knew, of course, that
just before the war you were Dr. Pawley’s partner.”

Giving the rubber solution time to dry, he explained curtly, with an air
as if his concerns couldn’t possibly interest others, that he had been
invalided home and was taking up his old work.

“Do you like country practice?”

He replied evasively: “I like work, Miss Tiddle, and there is plenty of
it here.”

“Too much,” observed Tiddy tranquilly.

“Yes; too much. A month of drought has played the deuce. Now comes the
tug.”

“You are speaking of Upworthy?”

“I am speaking of the outside tyre.”

Tiddy had the impression that she was courteously snubbed. Grimshaw
wrestled with the tyre, and prevailed. Then he righted the bicycle with
a vigorous swing, and held it by the bars.

“Up, and away!”

“Thanks, Mr. Grimshaw, and thanks again.”

“Not at all. Good-bye.”

“Certainly not. Au revoir.”

II

Tiddy had ten minutes for reflection before she reached the Manor, and
she made the most of it. All that was feminine in Miss Tiddle became
ebullient. She simply effervesced with excitement and the consciousness
that the game was not over, hardly begun in point of fact. Romeo cared
and Juliet cared. Destiny had been beastly to them. Sir Nathaniel’s
daughter snapped her fingers at destiny, and then extended them, placing
her thumb to her tip-tilted nose.

“She cares; she must care; and so does he.”

Again we are unable to divine how Tiddy arrived at this unshakable
conviction.

“I must _butt_ in,” she thought. “Pushing is no good.”

Stimson ushered her into Lady Selina’s sitting-room.

Mother and daughter received her cordially. It was simply impossible not
to like Tiddy, although you might criticise her. She possessed that
incomparable gift of raising the temperature of any room she entered.
All Lady Selma’s rooms were cool, even in the dog days, not yet arrived.

A superb engagement ring flashed upon Tiddy’s eyes.

She congratulated Cicely with effusion, upon the sound principle of
telling a good lie if you are forced to do so. Lady Selina purred.

“Everybody is so kind. Such letters . . .! And telegrams . . .!”

“You like my ring, don’t you, Tiddy? Arthur sent it down from London
yesterday. He wanted me to nip up with him, but I couldn’t leave mother,
could I?”

“You could,” thought Tiddy, “if you were engaged to the One and Only.”
Aloud she agreed graciously, “Of course not.”

“Any news, Tiddy? How are the V.A.D.s?”

“Clean bill of health. You heard about Agatha Farleigh?”

“No.”

“John Exton has been badly wounded—left arm amputated at the elbow.”

“Oh, Tiddy——! I’m ever so sorry.”

Lady Selina said calmly:

“So am I. My memories of John Exton are not of the happiest, but I wish
him well—I wish him well.”

“Agatha says that a truly united couple can worry along with three arms
between them. John will get his discharge and come home to his father.
Agatha means to marry him at once.”

Cicely observed pensively:

“How odd of Arthur not to have told me.”

“My dear child . . .!” Lady Selina raised a voice as soft as her hands.
“You can’t complain if dear Arthur’s mind is full of one young woman.”

“We only heard the news yesterday,” said Tiddy.

In a majestic tone, Lady Selina held forth upon the war. Would Roumania
come in after this disaster at Lemberg? The farther the Huns advanced
into Russia, the longer and the more disastrous would be their retreat.
She had refreshed her memory and fortified her faith in the ultimate
triumph of Right over Might by re-reading the history of the 1812
campaign. Tiddy guessed that Cicely’s engagement had turned a pessimist
into an optimist. Of late, throughout rural England, particularly
amongst the landed gentry, faith in victory had diminished. A stale-mate
was predicted by red-faced squires who derived all their information
from _The Times_, at that moment engrossed with advertising our
lamentable lack of high explosives.

“In our biggest factory,” said Tiddy, “we are making munitions instead
of pills.”

Lady Selina was delighted to hear it. Presently, she said gaily:

“You two girls trot off! You want to chatter together, I am sure. I
remember, as if it were yesterday, talking over my engagement with our
old parson’s daughter. She was engaged to her father’s curate. That made
the séance unduly long, because I had to listen to her after she had
listened to me.”

Cicely led the way to Brian’s old rooms.

Alone with her friend, Cicely became voluble. Was she talking to
disguise thought? The pupils of her eyes were dilated. Reluctantly she
confessed that she had not slept very well since her engagement, now
four days old! But Arthur was a dear . . .! The most thoughtful and
considerate of lovers . . .! And generous . . . He was bringing from
London a pearl necklace. Of course Tiddy would be chief bridesmaid,
possibly the only one grown-up. Children were adorable on such
occasions. She had some tiny cousins. To walk to the altar followed by a
troop of darlings . . .

Tiddy said flippantly:

“Coming events cast their shadows before. I daresay children mean
everything to you. Mrs. Roden showed me the old nurseries at Wilverley.
She expects a lot in that way.”

Something in her tone challenged Cicely’s attention.

“How oddly you said that! Perhaps you aren’t really pleased? You have
never been quite fair to Arthur. Once you called him fat. It’s muscle.”

“That appeals, too—muscle!”

“Heavens! If I didn’t know you so well, I should think you were
sneering.”

Tiddy exclaimed rudely:

“Come off it.”

“Tiddy! Are you mad?”

Miss Tiddle, in her way, was a student of strategy. For many months she
had read Mr. Hilaire Belloc’s articles in _Land and Water_. She had
faith in a vigorous offensive, shock tactics, beginning with a surprise.

She said sharply:

“I have met Mr. Grimshaw. I’ve talked with him.”

“Oh-h-h!”

Tiddy’s statement might mean anything or nothing. Tiddy, so Cicely
swiftly reflected, was capable of anything, even if she achieved
nothing. What had she said to Grimshaw? What had Grimshaw said to her?

Tiddy went on, relentlessly:

“I’ve a lot to say to you, and I don’t want to be flooded out before
I’ve done talking. Keep your powder dry! If there’s to be crying, I’ll
do it. I could burst into heart-breaking sobs at this minute. A nice
mess you’ve made of it.”

“I—I don’t know what you mean.”

Tiddy became melodramatic, not intentionally. She detested posing and
pretence. Violence served to disguise her feelings. Cicely’s miserable
face, her utter collapse at the first shot, moved Tiddy profoundly. She
had half hoped, half feared, that Cicely would return shot for shot,
justify her engagement, swear stoutly that she loved her lord. Instead,
she sat crumpled up in her chair.

“Swear to me,” said Tiddy vehemently, “that you don’t know what I mean,
that this Mr. Grimshaw is nothing to you, that you love Arthur Wilverley
whole-heartedly, and I will go down on my knees and beg your pardon.”

Chandos silence . . .

“I thought so.”

III

Tiddy walked to the window and looked out upon the stable-yard. As she
did so, the big stable clock struck four solemn notes. In one hour tea
would be served on the lawn.

After the heavy rain of the morning, a breeze blew chill upon Tiddy’s
cheek. But it failed to cool her mind, now burning with democratic
indignation against conventions and traditions which had brought her
beloved friend to this sorry pass. Was it an impasse? Had she driven
Cicely into a cul-de-sac? When she did speak, what would she say? And
what she might say was, of course, insignificant compared to what she
ought to do.

Cut loose!

Could she?

That would demand an immense effort, something cataclysmal. Tiddy had
not been deceived by Lady Selina’s surface gaiety, although much
impressed by it as proof positive of what good-breeding might achieve.
She knew perfectly well that Brian’s death must have been a shattering
blow. Lady Selina had plenty of heart. Because of that, because she
loved Cicely, she had assumed a mask. Nevertheless, it was equally
obvious that this engagement, evoking as it did maternal energies and
solicitude, had tempered the cruel bereavement. She heard a chastened
voice, slightly querulous:

“I _am_ fond of Arthur.”

Tiddy retorted disdainfully:

“I’m fond of chocs.”

“Have some,” said Cicely defiantly. “There’s a box over there, Charbonel
and Walker’s.”

Tiddy helped herself. Silently, she offered the box to Cicely, who shook
her head.

“I am fond of you,” said Tiddy, nibbling at a praline, “but I’m fonder
of myself. That is _the_ test. I shan’t marry till I find some man who
can make me forget how fond I am of myself.”

Cicely considered this. Tiddy had spoken sincerely. Cicely, not
sufficiently alert to weigh the effect of words, answered with equal
sincerity:

“Arthur and I agree that the sort of—of feeling you speak of may be
awakened—later.”

“You sit there and tell me you have calmly discussed _that_? I suppose
you told him that you had a sisterly regard for him. And then he said
that he’d warm you up—_later_! Heavens! Why did he send you chocs? What
you want is ginger.”

“Say what you like.”

“I shall. What you have done is indecent. There’s a woman in your
family, a first cousin, whom you never mention. But I happen to know all
about her. She ran away from her husband, who was a brute, with an
actor; she bolted afterwards from the actor because he made a fool of
himself with his leading lady; and she didn’t bolt alone. I have
infinitely more respect for her than you. What an engagement! Two babes
in the topiary garden, fatly gurgling, dreaming that the Voice that
breathed o’er Eden will bless ’em, devoutly praying that love will
awaken ’em. Take it from me that love is too busy to waste his time upon
such blighters.”

Tossing her curls, stamping her foot, the daughter of the twentieth
century glared at the daughter of the eighteenth.

Then, once more, she cooled herself at the window.

Cicely moistened her lips with a feverish tongue. Anger had engendered
anger. She was tempted to say, with frigid dignity: “That will do.
Please go.”

One consideration restrained her. Tiddy was fond of her. She might have
abused friendship, strained it to breaking-point, but no girl would have
spoken with such fierce vehemence unless she had been tremendously
moved. To part from such a friend would be terrible.

Having reached this conclusion, Cicely became again a dual personality.
Before, when this curious experience befell her, she had been conscious
of an uplifting. From altruistic heights she had surveyed her world.
Complacency had fallen, like refreshing dew, upon her. It was quite
otherwise now. The new Cicely beheld with Tiddy’s eyes the old Cicely.
The new Cicely challenged the old Cicely to mortal combat. The new
Cicely said savagely: “Tiddy is right—a marriage of convenience is
indecent.”

But the old Cicely was not to be vanquished easily. Tiddy heard her
friend’s voice, still querulous:

“You are horribly unkind. You—you are spoiling everything. Heaps of
girls, nice girls, marry without—without f—f—feeling
p—p—passionate. And their marriages turn out jolly well.”

She ended defiantly.

Tiddy, rather ashamed of her outburst, ashamed, also, to discover that
her eyes were wet, said without turning:

“Those anæmic sort of girls are not in love with somebody else, as you
are. That’s what makes this thing indecent. What you propose doing is an
outrage on Arthur.”

_Arthur_. . . .

Instantly Cicely became alert. Tiddy had never spoken of Wilverley’s
lord as “Arthur.” The name had slipped from her lips naturally and with
a soft inflection that was unmistakable.

“Tiddy.”

“Yes?”

“Look at me, please. I want to see your face.”

Tiddy turned; Cicely rose. Melodrama is as catching as measles. Cicely
approached her friend, speaking intensely, in what is called in
theatre-land a stage whisper:

“You seem to be thinking more of Arthur than of me. Are you?”

“And what if I am? It’s time somebody did think for him; apparently the
poor fellow can’t think straight for himself.”

“Will you swear solemnly, as you tried to make me swear, that Arthur is
nothing to you? You had the cheek to tell me that you could, if you
tried, take him from me. It looks as if you had tried. And that, of
course, would account for your extraordinary behaviour. Now . . .
swear!”

Silence.

To be “hoist with one’s own petard” is an experience that few escape. To
accept such hoisting without whimpering is difficult. Hence Miss
Tiddle’s silence. Cicely had put to her a question which as yet she had
not put to herself. It fell, devastatingly, into the well where Truth
hides herself from a mendacious world.

“If you say nothing I shall think what I please.”

Tiddy pulled herself together.

“You are forcing me to be honest, not with you, but with myself. I have
not tried to take Arthur from you.”

“Could he”—Cicely’s voice was relentless—“could he, if he were free,
be more to you than a friend?”

Tiddy squirmed.

“I—I don’t know,” she admitted. “Really, this is ridiculous,
preposterous. If I apply to myself my own test, I can swear truthfully
that I am fonder of myself than Arthur. There!”

Cicely returned to her chair, sank into it, and stared at the carpet.
This was one of her tricks, an idiosyncrasy that occasionally
exasperated Lady Selina. She went into the same sort of trance that
afflicted Lord Saltaire when he found a hair in his soup. Cicely had
found a hair in her soup.

Tiddy could not guess that the two Cicelys were locked together at
strangle-grips—a fight to a finish.

She cooled herself for the third time at the window.

IV

Minutes, hours, years glided by.

What a tiresome world it was!

Presently Cicely sighed. Tiddy exclaimed maliciously:

“The sleeping Beauty wakes after a trance of one hundred years.”

“Yes, I am awake,” replied Cicely tranquilly.

The girls eyed each other. Tiddy had to admit that Cicely _was_
awake—wide awake. Something sparkled in her eyes which Tiddy recognised
with astonishment as determination—something, too, not absolutely
unfamiliar. Ah, she had it. Cicely was looking at her with exactly the
same expression that informed the portrait of her father—a portrait
acclaimed by Lady Selina as a “speaking” likeness. A banal phrase now
invested with new significance. Arthur Wilverley, describing the late
Henry Chandos to Miss Tiddle, had said: “I never saw the old boy funk an
ugly fence if his hounds were on the other side of it.”

“I shall break off this engagement,” said Cicely.

“_Cis!_”

“Nothing else is possible.”

“Well, I must say you are wonderful—_wonderful_!”

“I must be—decent. I loathe indecency. I suppose I looked—peeped—at
this marriage through drawn blinds. You have pulled them up. And I’m
much obliged to you.”

“You—you forgive me, Cis? I know that I rampaged like—like a factory
girl.”

“You did, thank God!”

Solemnly they kissed. Once more Miss Tiddle, not Cicely, wiped away two
trickling tears. Cicely, as tranquilly as before, said:

“Nothing remains but to think out, if we can, the easiest way of
breaking this to mother and—and Arthur.”

Tiddy noticed that Cicely put her mother first.

“There will be appalling ructions.”

“There won’t be ructions. I could buck up against ructions. Mother never
rages when she feels things deeply. She glumps, as you accuse me of
doing. She will look at me in stony silence. She will become more
forlorn than ever. I’ve been a wicked fool. What time is it?”

“Half-past four.”

“We must make this tea pleasant.” Tiddy nodded, too overcome for speech.
“To-night—she always comes to me at night since my engagement—I shall
tell her.”

“What?”

“Ah! What? If you can suggest anything?”

Tiddy sat down, placed her head between her hands, and stared in her
turn at the pattern on the carpet, which happened to be pale roses upon
a pale grey ground. Lady Selina had chosen it. Cicely walked to the open
window, astoundingly self-possessed.

After a minute’s concentrated thought Tiddy said quickly.

“You can’t tell her about Mr. Grimshaw?”

“Heavens, no! Do you think I’m breaking from Arthur with the deliberate
intention of—of engaging myself to somebody else?”

“Aren’t you? You do care for him; he must care for you. And there you
are!”

Chandos silence. Tiddy continued:

“I understand that it would be tactless to mention Mr. Grimshaw to Lady
Selina, although _that_—your feeling for him, I mean—justifies you,
forces you, to break this engagement. I believe I should tell my mother.
However, I am I and you are you. If I wanted a man, and he chose to
behave like a dumbwaiter loaded with rare and refreshing fruit, I—well,
I should help myself.”

“I believe you would.”

“I’m glad I don’t wear your shoes, because I take a smaller size, but I
try to stand in them. You can tell your mother the plain facts: you
accepted a good fellow, not loving him. You find yourself unable to love
him. As a gentlewoman—ring that bell—you retire as gracefully as
possible and you invite her to help you.”

“Yes,” assented Cicely.

Further talk advanced them but little on the only way.

V

A war tea was not spread that afternoon. Under the walnut tree, supposed
to keep flies at a distance, sat Lady Selina in front of a table not
groaning but pleasantly purring beneath pre-war delicacies. The Queen
Anne silver shimmered delightfully—it seemed to say to Tiddy: “We
impose ourselves because of our quality; we are of finer metal, less
alloy in us.” To behold Lady Selina making tea was a privilege. She
disdained the coarser blends. Her white hands hovered, as if in
benediction, above her equipage. The cups and saucers were early
Worcester. Once a collector had said protestingly: “My dear Lady, these
ought to be in a cabinet.” Lady Selina had replied blandly: “Really?” In
her drawing-room priceless bits of Chelsea were at the mercy of
housemaids. To lock up such objects seemed to Lady Selina equivalent to
putting a price upon them. It meant advertising your own possessions,
inviting envy as well as admiration. The _vieille souche_ took all that
for granted. Age, not rarity, sanctified porcelain and furniture—age
and use. There is a story of some duke who asked the village curate if
he liked the ducal claret. The curate replied thoughtlessly: “It’s very
good, your Grace.” Whereupon the great man growled out: “I didn’t ask
you, sir, if my claret was good; I asked you if you liked it.” In this
same spirit Lady Selina surveyed all guests. She hoped graciously that
they liked their entertainment. If they didn’t she remained blandly
indifferent.

The girls were not called upon to dissemble much. Lady Selina talked;
they listened politely. Her theme happened to be the treatment of her
own order in current fiction and on the stage. She contended that
justice had not been done to the upper classes. Dickens had imposed
caricatures, such as Lord Frederick Verisopht and Sir Mulberry Hawk,
upon an immense public, who accepted them as portraits. And ever since
men with no more real knowledge of the subject than Dickens had “played
to the gallery” in absurd endeavours to present lords as silly and
baronets as wicked. “We have our faults,” said Lady Selina, with a bleak
smile, “but we are not more foolish or wicked than others. If some of us
hide our vices we don’t advertise our virtues. This setting of class
against class is criminal. If it ends, as my poor brother predicts, in a
débâcle for us within a few years, some other class—Labour, if you
like—will establish a new tyranny far more unendurable than the old.
And always there will be distinctions. They flourish, so I am told, most
vigorously amongst the unprivileged. They grow rankly, as I know, in the
servants’ hall.”

“And in a Red Cross hospital,” added Tiddy. “But don’t you think, Lady
Selina, that the overlapping of the classes is a good thing?”

“No, I don’t my dear.”

“The House of Lords, for instance, is representative of all classes.”

“And you do away with it! I for one have never objected to the infusion
of fresh blood into the Upper House. Let supreme distinction be
ennobled. That is a very different thing from putting beggars on
horseback.”

As she spoke Stimson was seen approaching, followed by a male visitor.

“Oh dear!” exclaimed Lady Selina. “Stimson was told that we are not at
home.”

“It’s Mr. Grimshaw,” said Cicely.

Lady Selina’s brow grew smooth again. She might be “not at home” to a
county magnate, but her own people were never turned from her door. Mr.
Grimshaw, stepping into what Cicely had called Dr. Pawley’s list
slippers, had become, ex officio, one of her people. More, since
Cicely’s engagement she had reinstated him honourably as “my boy’s
friend.”

“He is bringing us good news of Dr. Pawley.”

She welcomed Grimshaw delightfully, so Tiddy thought. But the young man
did not acquit himself quite adequately. He appeared to be slightly
brusque and ill at ease. Was it possible that he kowtowed to the lady of
the manor? Or, more likely hypothesis, was he embarrassed in the
presence of Cicely? He accepted a cup of tea under pressure, and seated
himself beside his hostess. Yes, Dr. Pawley was in his garden,
convalescent. The faithful Ellen held him under a watchful eye. He would
remain in his chair till Grimshaw returned.

“I am very glad to hear such a good account of my dear old friend. Will
you allow me to see him to-morrow?”

“Certainly. He is looking forward to that.”

“Through him,” Lady Selina continued graciously, “we have heard of you
and your work in France. . . .”

She went on suavely, but Grimshaw responded in monosyllables. It
occurred to Tiddy that this visit might be professional. Grimshaw was
not behaving as a visitor. Tiddy jumped up.

“I must be off,” she declared.

But in Melshire all leave-takings are protracted. Five minutes elapsed
before Miss Tiddle mounted her bicycle. Cicely accompanied her to the
front door.

“Are you weakening?” asked Tiddy.

“No.”

“Your mother was sweet to Mr. Grimshaw.”

“She is sweet to all her subjects. He is now a subject. To-morrow he
will be regarded as an object. You heard what she said about the
overlapping of class distinctions? A shot at me.”

“I took it to myself, Cis.”

“It was meant for me—or, rather, for the future Lady Wilverley.”

“One last word, Cis. I repeat—you are wonderful. Now, if it will help
at all, pile up the agony on me.”

“And lose you? I can’t risk that. Besides, my trump card with mother
will be that I am acting on my own, as I am. You are a brick, all the
same.”

Tiddy sped down the drive.

As she pedalled away she remembered that Grimshaw had not alluded to
their meeting just outside Upworthy. Cicely had murmured coolly to him:
“You have met Miss Tiddle?” and he had bowed. She wondered whether a
clever man was aware that he had given himself away with a wince?

VI

Left alone with Lady Selina, Grimshaw gave the real reason for his
visit.

“I am placed in an abominable situation,” he said abruptly. “You will
believe, Lady Selina, that I should not bother you on Sunday afternoon
without some cause.”

“Yes, yes; pray enlighten me.”

“Do you know anything about our professional etiquette?”

“Absolutely nothing, Mr. Grimshaw.”

He made a gesture which might mean that ladies of manors should know
more than they usually did about matters that might concern them
intimately. But he spoke temperately, avoiding medical terminology:

“Put briefly, it is this: No doctor interferes with another qualified
practitioner in the exercise of his profession.”

“I understand.”

“Unhappily, opinions differ as to a man’s qualifications. Legally
speaking, Dr. Snitterfield is a qualified practitioner.”

Lady Selina, unable to wean her mind from Dr. Snitterfield and decanter
stoppers, said blandly:

“I barely know Dr. Snitterfield. He is not, of course, a gentleman. His
practice is confined, I imagine, to—to those who are unable to employ
you or Dr. Pawley.”

Grimshaw brightened. Obviously Lady Selina did not hold Dr. Snitterfield
in high esteem. He continued:

“This afternoon I was visiting a patient—one of the Burbles.”

“Not my dear old Nicodemus?”

“Not Nicodemus—a niece of his. She told me that her father was in great
pain, suffering horribly. I admit frankly that I ought to have asked her
if some other doctor was attending him. My excuse—if it be an
excuse—is that I was much rushed, also I have hardly had time to pick
up the threads of Dr. Pawley’s practice. I supposed that my patient’s
father, living in the same house, had been attended by Dr. Pawley.”

“Quite naturally.”

“So I went up. I found the old fellow in the most shocking condition—a
mass of bedsores, and suffering from an abscess in the hip.”

“Perfectly horrible!”

“With the greatest reluctance, I must still further lacerate your
feelings. It seems that two months ago the man broke his leg. Dr.
Snitterfield refused to set it, partly on account of the man’s age—he
is over seventy—and partly because of the hip disease. I can assure you
positively that his leg could have been set two months ago. Ever since
he has lain there, most shamefully neglected. Probably he will die of
the bedsores.”

“I am inexpressibly shocked, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“I knew you would be.”

“But I don’t quite understand what I can do.”

“This poor old fellow requires constant attention. If I take over the
case Dr. Snitterfield will be furious. I care nothing about that. I
propose to take it over—I have taken it over.”

“With my cordial approval.”

“Thanks. This, however, is not the only case of disgraceful neglect on
the part of Dr. Snitterfield. I could cite others, but for the moment
I’ll spare you. The point is this: Action should be taken against
Snitterfield.”

“How?”

“I can ask the chief medical officer at Melchester to come here and
investigate these cases himself.”

For the first time Lady Selina displayed uneasiness. She had, as we
know, a nose for approaching trouble. In a vague way she divined that
Grimshaw himself had reasons against the summoning of authority.
However, she said suavely:

“If you deem that necessary it must be done.”

Grimshaw hesitated. Would Lady Selina stand plain speech? Ought he to
be—diplomatic? He could see lines of suffering upon her face. The pink
glow that had suffused it at tea-time was gone. The fingers of her hands
were trembling. He decided to pick his way as cautiously as possible.

“Dr. Snitterfield is, of course, our local health officer. That adds
enormously to his responsibility. He would lose his job if his chief did
come here.”

“I will take your word for that.”

“Perhaps, Lady Selina, you are not aware that Snitterfield was appointed
by the district council?”

“If you say so it is so.”

“Your bailiff, John Gridley, was chairman of the council at the time of
Snitterfield’s appointment and is still.”

Light was dawning upon Lady Selina. She blinked.

“I—I see.”

“I cannot disguise from you—it would be criminal on my part to do
so—that Snitterfield has powerful friends, Gridley amongst the number,
and several of your farmers. From my knowledge of the chief, his
investigation, if he comes to Upworthy, will be thorough. I fear that
the results of his investigation would become public property. The
Radical Press might take the matter up.”

“The Radical Press!” The light was now so intolerably strong that Lady
Selina closed her eyes.

“In short, you, as lady of the manor, would be exposed to much hostile
criticism and inevitable humiliation.”

Lady Selina opened her eyes, saying tartly:

“Humiliation is rather a strong word Mr. Grimshaw. Can you tell me why I
should be humiliated because a local health officer is proved derelict
in his duty?”

Grimshaw hesitated again. Why had destiny selected him of all men as an
instrument to inflict cruel pain upon a woman already bludgeoned? Always
she would associate him with her humiliation, for humbled she must be,
whether the chief was summoned from Melchester or not.

“I wish I could spare you the answer to that.”

She retorted shrewdly.

“You raised the question. You must answer it frankly.”

“Very good. Such an investigation as I have indicated will involve the
inspector of nuisances.”

“But he is not appointed by me.”

“He also was appointed by the district council. He is a friend of
Gridley.”

Lady Selina remained silent. She had just recalled Cicely’s words,
repeating what Arthur Wilverley had said. Obviously Arthur knew these
unpleasant facts. Grimshaw went on inexorably.

“It comes to this: without your knowledge, without any suspicion on your
part, these three unscrupulous men—Snitterfield, Gridley and the
inspector of nuisances—aided and abetted by small farmers, who dreaded
an increase of rates, have formed a sort of ring. They have all played
into each other’s hands and pockets. They have abused grossly the power
entrusted to them. And, lastly, their most outrageous misdoings have
been done upon your property and often under your name.”

Lady Selina gasped. Grimshaw concluded quietly:

“Now you will understand why I used the word humiliation.”

“I admit, Mr. Grimshaw, that I should be humiliated if I were convinced
that outrages had been done on my property and under my name. But, in
justice to an old servant, I must suspend judgment till I hear what
Gridley says.”

“He will have plenty to say,” Grimshaw observed drily “Meanwhile,
whatever he says, action must be taken. I ask you to condemn no man
unheard, Lady Selina, but in this case the chief medical officer will be
the judge if he is called in—not you.”

“Then you mean to call him in?”

Her voice quavered slightly.

“That depends.”

“Oh? Then you have an alternative in your mind?” He bowed. “What is it?”

“I have come here to suggest that alternative. There is no man in this
county who has such first-hand knowledge of rural conditions, good and
bad, as Lord Wilverley. Privately and publicly he has power, more than
he himself is aware of. Lord Wilverley, under all the circumstances,
could, if you can persuade him, deal with these men adequately. It is
likely that if this matter becomes open to official investigation Lord
Wilverley might be summoned as an expert. I don’t know. He is an expert,
and his agent is an expert. As your prospective son-in-law, he ought to
help you, and, if he does, I am content to leave the issue in his
hands.”

Lady Selina smiled faintly. In a sense she was grateful to Grimshaw for
this really invaluable suggestion. She never doubted that Wilverley
would help her. And, by this time, she felt certain that Grimshaw was
incapable of speaking ill against any man behind his back without due
provocation. Nevertheless, he stood before her as a disturber of the
peace. He had assailed cruelly her peace of mind. And, of course, as a
reformer, he suffered, like all reformers, from excess of zeal.

She said petulantly, with a fluttering of her delicate hands:

“I will speak to Lord Wilverley as soon as I see him. Why—why has Isaac
Burble suffered like this? It—it exasperates me. Had I known I should
have dealt with Dr. Snitterfield myself. Tell me, if you can, why these
stupid reticences exist between me and my people? I am approachable
always; I want to help. Why couldn’t Isaac’s daughter come to me quietly
and tell me about her father’s condition?”

“You have been away and in great trouble. Had you been at home, probably
she would have come. And Dr. Pawley was ill.”

“There is Mr. Goodrich.”

Grimshaw remained silent. Lady Selina continued, still petulantly:

“You answered the particular question. I was away, and these poor people
never write—never! But I repeat—there are always these reticences; one
simply can’t get the truth out of them. And why?”

Grimshaw had almost exhausted his patience. He had “spared” Cicely’s
mother as best he could. He reflected humorously what might have been
said, what would be said, scathingly, by the Radical Press if they got
hold of such good copy. And now he was pathetically invited to tear off
his bandages and inflict more pain.

“Do you really expect the truth from them? They all feel as I felt just
now when I approached this pleasant tea-table. You smiled on me
graciously, and this is my first visit to you since my return from
France. I knew that I was going to distress you horribly. But I am
independent of you. Your people are not. For generations they have
suppressed the truth. Their fixed idea is to ingratiate themselves with
authority, not—not to imperil the doles which they receive from
authority, the doles which stand between them and actual want. One of
your labourers has brought up fifteen children on just fifteen shillings
a week. How has he done it? Because you give him a cottage and a bit of
land, because you send milk and medicine, because you allow his wife to
pick up fallen timber in the park. And he is terrified of losing these
privileges. When you enter his cottage his wife greets you with smiles
and curtsies, the children smile _under instructions_. A cheerful smile
means sixpence. Do you—can you expect these strugglers to tell you
disagreeable facts, knowing, as they do, that it doesn’t pay,
_it_—_doesn’t_—_pay_, to make trouble? Their pluck, not their
reticence, amazes me.”

Lady Selina nodded, too dazed by his vehemence to reply. Grimshaw
glanced at his watch, muttered something about Pawley, and was striding
across the lawn before the lady of the manor had recovered her powers of
speech.

Cicely noticed that her mother was unusually silent during dinner, and
that she trifled with her food. Since Cicely’s engagement the cook, a
trusty retainer, had been given a freer hand with eggs and butter.
Possibly the Spartan fare at Danecourt Abbey had been too much for Lady
Selina. More probably, so Cicely reflected, the bride of Arthur
Wilverley must be brought to the post in proper condition. Stimson
waited upon her with even greater deference and assiduity. It was almost
pathetic to witness his activities, deprived of two footmen. He had
asked Lady Selina, almost with tears in his voice, not to engage a
parlourmaid. And when Cicely had asked promptly: “Do you object to a
parlourmaid, Stimson?” he had replied mournfully: “It means, miss, a
loss of dignity. I can manage very well.”

Not till he had left the dining-room did the lady of the manor speak of
Grimshaw and his visit. She recited the essential facts truthfully, but
they were presented with the usual Chandos gloss and with a note of
petulance which Cicely could understand and with which, also, she could
sympathise. The details about Isaac Burble horrified her, as, indeed,
they had horrified Lady Selina. An awkward silence ensued. Then Lady
Selina said slowly:

“He made a sort of threat, my dear.”

“A threat? Mr. Grimshaw? Impossible.”

“I regarded it as a threat, child—a threat which involved, as Mr.
Grimshaw made quite plain, humiliation for me. He spoke of calling in
the chief medical officer of the county.”

In answer to eager questions from Cicely she explained what authority
might do, and the publicity which his doings would entail. Cicely looked
miserable. Noting her daughter’s expression, Lady Selina said quietly:

“And then he proposed a happy alternative. For that I am very truly
grateful. In fact, I can see no other way out of the wood. He suggests
that I should consult dear Arthur, and through him his agent.”

“Oh—h—h!”

“I dislike intensely asking Arthur, but I admit that he is vitally
concerned. I need hardly add that I shall give Gridley a chance of
pleading his case before I pass judgment, but I fear he has exceeded the
powers entrusted to him. Anyway, he will have to explain himself before
Arthur.”

“I told you that Arthur does not see eye to eye with Gridley.”

“Yes, you did. I am prepared for the worst. Arthur, no doubt, will
insist upon my discharging this old servant. And how I shall find
another bailiff in these times is a problem beyond me. However, I count
upon Arthur and his agent.”

Cicely felt dazed. But one lobe of her mind worked clearly. Arthur could
show her mother a way out of the wood. He would do cheerfully and
splendidly everything she demanded. Nobody else could do it half as
well. And her mother was well aware of this, although pride would hardly
allow her to admit as much. Lady Selina smiled faintly when she
mentioned Arthur, and her voice indicated maternal affection. Arthur,
for the first time possibly was envisaged as a son. The other lobe of
Cicely’s brain refused to function at all. Out of a welter of chaotic
sensibilities arose the appalling conviction that the breaking of her
engagement had become a task beyond her powers. Dare she procrastinate?
Could she permit her mother to ask such a service from a prospective
son-in-law only to discover afterwards that the marriage so delightfully
arranged would never take place? What would Tiddy say? She could hear
Tiddy speaking, as it were, through a long-distance telephone:

“You are fairly up against it.”

Then she heard her mother’s voice, leisurely continuing:

“I shall speak to Arthur myself.”

“He comes to-morrow.”

“So you told me. I hope I shan’t spoil his pleasure in giving you your
pearls.”

Cicely had forgotten the pearls. At mere mention of them she
contemplated flight. Why not feign indisposition and remain in bed? Wild
ideas surged through her head. Could she make a personal appeal to
Grimshaw? The one old friend, Dr. Pawley, to whom she might have fled,
for counsel, was physically debarred. Her mother said sharply:

“Don’t look so wretched, child. I am positive that Arthur can save this
abominable situation. I regard it as saved, so cheer up. After dinner
to-morrow night, when he is smoking his cigar, I shall come back here
and talk to him.”

Having dismissed Arthur with gracious finality, she turned once more to
Grimshaw. Immediately the inflections of her soft voice became
querulous. In just the same tone Lord Saltaire bewailed the passing of
the old order. All the Danecourts, in fact—and there were not many left
of them except Cicely’s aunts—aired certain grievances in private. As a
rule Cicely listened patiently enough to a tale—long as the Cromwell
Road—which concerned itself mainly with the shortcomings of gardeners,
grooms and tradesmen: all the many-headed who interfered directly or
indirectly with that love of ease which Grimshaw long ago had described
as moss. Grimshaw, during a few minutes, had raked a lot of moss from
poor Lady Selina. Cicely reflected humorously, occupied though she was
with her own affairs, that her mother presented the appearance of an
ancient lawn cruelly lacerated by an up-to-date gardener.

“He means well,” complained Lady Selina.

Cicely replied:

“Who doesn’t? We all mean well. Mr. Grimshaw, so it seems to me, does
well. Anyway, he never spares himself.”

“Or others. This afternoon, for instance, he showed little consideration
for me. He might have broken this shocking news more gently. And he knew
that I was the person most affected.”

“Well, I should have thought that Isaac Burble was that.”

Lady Selina looked penetratingly at her daughter, and then blinked,
unable to see her quite clearly. What was the matter with the child?

“Of course, that goes without saying. It annoys me that you should say
it.”

This, too, was a Danecourt attribute. A Danecourt cornered, a Danecourt
at bay was likely to snarl. When Lady Selina missed a train she blamed
invariably the railway company or appeared to do so. Once Lord Saltaire
had summoned a man for using bad language. But, according to the
testimony of others, the defendant was impeccably innocent. Indeed, it
transpired that some swearing had been done by Lord Saltaire. When the
case was dismissed Lord Saltaire remarked petulantly: “All I know is
this—bad language was used; the fellow is a rogue and a vagabond.”

Cicely was discreet enough to apologise. Lady Selina continued in the
same aggrieved tone:

“Mr. Grimshaw is a radical. I deplore that.”

“But these labels mean nothing, mother.”

“Heavens! That a child of mine should say so!”

Chandos obstinately revealed itself. Cicely remarked tartly:

“It happens that Mr. Grimshaw does not label himself as a Radical. He
detests party politics. I have his own word for that. Are you angry with
him because he disturbs our peace?”

“Angry? And peace! I despair of peace anywhere. Still, one expects
consideration from one’s own people. And at such a time as this . . .”

She rose majestically and swept out of the dining-room. Cicely lingered
to ring the bell and to pull herself together. How stupid to argue with
her mother upon subjects like politics! And in a true sense Grimshaw was
a Radical. He went to the root of things—an uncompromising reformer.

When she joined her mother Lady Selina smiled sweetly and silently upon
her.

Alone in her bedroom Cicely attempted the impossible—an adjustment of
utterly conflicting interests. If she considered herself, if she broke
her engagement, Lady Selina would be confronted by the chief medical
officer. It is likely that an inexperienced girl exaggerated the powers
wielded by that official. But Lady Selina had made plain to her that
ultimately the lady of the manor would be held responsible for any
abuses discovered on that manor. Already she had a glimpse of a dreadful
photograph of her mother in some daily illustrated paper. And beneath
. . . a scarifying lie! Her uncle, as a many-acred magnate, had not
escaped criticism.

Lady Selina Chandos at the mercy of the Radical Press!

She remembered that Tiddy had hinted at such a catastrophe. And at the
time Cicely laughed. And then Tiddy, resenting ridicule, had cited
cases. According to Miss Tiddy, landlord-baiting to certain journalists
was more fun than drawing badgers.

She lay back in her arm-chair, closing her eyes.

If she did not break her engagement?

She tried to sense what that would mean to Upworthy, her mother and
Arthur—a feat almost equivalent to looking on at a four-ring circle. It
is only fair to a bewildered, unhappy girl to state emphatically that
she considered Arthur first and last. If she married him would she be
perpetrating what Tiddy called an outrage on him? This involved, more or
less, a consideration of matrimonial obligations. What did such a man
really want from his wife? Did Arthur want more than she could give.
Could she not give all that her mother had given to her father? And at
this moment she saw Arthur with extraordinary distinctness, thanks,
possibly, to the trouble that he had taken to reveal himself to her. She
guessed that he had never been swept off his feet by passion. He wanted
affection, fidelity, an atmosphere of domestic peace that would enable
him to concentrate energy upon his work. All that she could bestow.

She felt strangely tired.

So tired that she fell asleep.

And she dreamed vividly of Grimshaw, although purposely she had banished
him from her waking thoughts. Perhaps on that account he took possession
of her subconscious mind. When she awoke every detail of the dream
presented itself with sharpest definition. She had been working with him
as his wife in an enchanting intimacy of spirit and flesh. Interpreters
of dreams, those who endeavor to explain the why and wherefore of the
amazing vicissitudes which may befall us in our sleep, might affirm with
reason that Cicely’s mind had dwelt persistently upon work with
Grimshaw. She had wished from the first to work with him; he had wished
that she should do so. Also, she had thought more than she dared to
admit even to herself of what it might be like to be Grimshaw’s wife.
One other point: she had never thought of Grimshaw apart from his work.
Accordingly the dream in itself may be logically accepted as natural,
almost inevitable. Her first impression on waking was the curious sense
of reality that some dreams impose. Everything had been just right. She
came out of the dream as a man may walk out of a playhouse after seeing
a sincere and convincing presentment of life as it is. It is difficult,
on such rare occasions, to realise that what we have seen and felt has
not taken place. We believe that somewhere, somehow, the dream has been
enacted. That, perhaps, is the great test of a good play.

She had dreamed that Grimshaw and she were fighting death and disease in
Upworthy. Together they wandered in and out of cottages familiar to
Cicely from childhood. The drudgery of the Red Cross Hospital fell to
her. But in the dream this drudgery became glorified, equal to the
highly-skilled labours of her husband: a partnership of mind and muscle.
Her work, in its way, made what he did possible and successful. And the
joy of the dream, the ineffable benediction of it, was this sense of
working together for a common end. In the dream the hands of her
husband, not his lips, touched hers again and again, each time with an
increasing thrill. He hardly spoke to her, nor she to him; because each
understood the unspoken thought of the other. It was as if spirit and
flesh had been thrown into a melting-pot, to be fused eternally. He
became her and she became him.

And she had slept just twenty minutes!

The dream forced upon her what she had avoided—a more rigorous
examination of her own feelings. So far, although bewildered and
miserable, she had glanced at three rings in the circus. She had
realised what marriage with Arthur would mean to Upworthy, to her
mother, and to her husband. What it would mean to herself had been left
in abeyance.

Presently she saw herself as Arthur’s wife. She remembered what Tiddy
had once said about loving two men at the same time. To her that was
impossible, preposterous. If she resolutely banished Grimshaw from her
mind for ever and ever she believed that the affection she felt for
Arthur might bloom into just the same steady, work-a-day love that had
sufficed her own parents. She would be reasonably happy and make him
happy. She would adore her babies if they came to her. She would play
gracefully the part of Lady Bountiful. It would all be so easy, so free
from friction and discomfort. In her dream she had seen herself as the
wife of Grimshaw. Now, wide-awake, she beheld herself as Lady Wilverley.
But any image of Cicely Chandos, unmarried, regarded by her own
kinswomen as a foolish jilt, always conscious of her mother’s silent
disapproval, was hopelessly blurred.

She undressed and went to bed. For hours she wriggled restlessly between
lavender-scented sheets. Then she dropped off into a troubled sleep.

II

She awoke at the usual time, jumped out of bed, went to the window, and
gazed into the garden. The incomparable freshness of early morning fell
like dew upon her still tired mind. The rains of two days had been
absorbed by the thirsty earth; the sun shone again in cloudless skies.

And Brian lay dead in France!

It was delightful to think that all her memories of him were happy. But
why had he been taken and she left? What design underlay these
heart-breaking separations? They had been so jolly together. But she
recalled, with an odd pang that always, always, they had sought the
sunshine and shunned the shadows. Love of ease had enwrapped them from
the cradle. And if Grimshaw were right, if love of ease were a parasitic
growth like moss, if it strangled other growths, must it be raked out
ruthlessly and cast as rubbish to the void? He had said, upon that
memorable evening when Arthur and he met for the first time, when
subconsciously she had compared the two men, arriving intuitively at a
right understanding of each, that some great discipline might change
character. What effect had Brian’s death had upon her?

She couldn’t answer the insistent question percolating through jaded
tissues.

At breakfast Lady Selina glowed maternally. No mention was made of
Snitterfield and Gridley. A letter from Lord Saltaire was read aloud:

“MY DEAR SELINA” (it ran).—“I am rejoiced to hear of little
Cicely’s engagement. From my personal knowledge of Wilverley she
has chosen well and wisely. I hope that I shall enjoy the
privilege of giving the bride away. Tell her, with my love, that
I shall send her a tiara. As I cannot afford to buy diamonds, I
shall give her the one that I chose for my wife, which does not
belong to the family jewels. If you think it old-fashioned, I
can have it re-set. . . .”

Lady Selina laid down the letter and said solemnly:

“Your uncle is the most generous of men. The tiara is simply
magnificent—pearls and diamonds. It won’t need re-setting. It was
bought in the rue de la Paix.”

Cicely murmured what was expected of her. Lady Selina read aloud other
letters of warm congratulation, with a sly jibe at some of the
well-wishers:

“Should we hear from these old cats if you were marrying Tom or Dick?”

“I don’t know them, mother.”

“You will, my dear. They’ll attend to that. I see them licking their
lips over your cream.”

“If they are like that, I needn’t know them.”

“But you must. In your position a lot of boring, self-seeking people
will impose themselves on you. But you can do with them as I
did—entertain them _en gros_. Make your small parties as select as
possible.”

Throughout breakfast Lady Selina dealt delicately but amusingly with
modern society. She had withdrawn from Mayfair after the death of her
husband, selling the lease of a comfortable house in Curzon Street; but
she had never lost touch with “the people who count.” And you may be
sure that it was not disagreeable for her to reflect that Lord Wilverley
would pass thresholds with his wife which he would never cross without
her. But she would have perished at the stake rather than say this.

As she talked, Cicely was sensible that the diamond-and-pearl tiara had
brought down this freshet of worldly-wise counsel and reminiscence. Lady
Selina’s eyes lingered upon her daughter’s hair. She saw the tiara
flashing and scintillating in sanctuaries where innumerable wax candles
were still provided instead of electric light. The mother tasted again
bygone triumphs. She ended in a minor key:

“Of course, society has changed for the worse. Half a dozen houses, not
more, preserve inviolate the old conditions and traditions. I see no
reason why you, my dear child, quite unostentatiously, should not
enforce the golden rule.”

“What is the golden rule, mother?”

“Slam your doors,” said Lady Selina trenchantly, “in the face of
indecency, impudence, and bad breeding. I admit sorrowfully that
impudence can be amusing.”

“Would you have me slam my doors in Tiddy’s face?”

“Tiddy, as you call her, is your personal friend, and therefore the
exception that proves the rule.”

There was a letter from Arthur beside Cicely’s plate, but she didn’t
mean to open it till she was alone. Lady Selina marked and approved this
abstention. Evidently, school had not rubbed off all the bloom. She
kissed her daughter after breakfast, pinched her cheek, and whispered:

“Run into the garden, darling. Read your love-letter in the place where
your lover asked you to be his. My thoughts will be with you.”

Cicely, however, out of sight of a pair of keen eyes, did not stroll
into the topiary garden, but skirted it, making for the lower end of the
park, where her beloved mare had been turned out. She would come
trotting up at sight of her and rub her velvety nose against her hand.
Sugar was becoming scarce, but Cicely had three or four lumps of it in
her pocket.

The park looked invitingly secluded and spacious. Not a human being
could be seen. The cattle were grazing on the higher slopes; the horses
stood near the small lake, not far from some dumps of trees, into which
they would wander when the sun approached the zenith. On the edge of the
lake, almost hidden by tall reeds and bamboos, was a tiny boathouse
which held an ancient punt. Cicely intended to read her letter in the
punt.

Her grey mare, Chinchilla, neighed and then trotted up. Cicely fed and
caressed her, thinking of the good hunts before the war. A couple of
bunnies watched these endearments, ready to pop into their burrows if a
terrier appeared. Upon the surface of the lake were some wild duck and
moor-hens. Overhead a heron flapped lazily along.

Followed by the faithful and sugar-loving Chinchilla, Cicely made her
way to the boat-house and entered it. Chinchilla mounted guard outside.
Cicely gazed, as some girls do, at the firm writing on the envelope,
indicating—to those who have skill in reading character from
caligraphy—love of order, a sense of proportion, generosity, and
rectitude. Cicely had no such skill, but Arthur’s handwriting pleased
her because it was so unlike her own. And it never varied.

She opened the envelope.

“MY DARLING LITTLE GIRL,—I shall have you in my arms within a
few hours of your reading this, and I can think of nothing else.
To have and to hold you fills my heart and mind. I can’t add
much to that, can I? Indeed, it is difficult to realise that you
are really mine, because there is something elusive about
you—something, in spite of your fine physical health, which
seems to me frail and easily bruised. It is my ardent wish to
cherish and protect you——”

Cicely paused. The sincerity of the writer was extraordinarily
impressive. That would be his unswerving purpose. He took care of all
his possessions. Solicitude, henceforward, would be concentrated upon
her.

Tiddy would say, shaking her curls, “Cotton-wool for you, Cis.”

She read on:

“I have been glancing at some houses and flats. I am inclined to
the latter—at any rate, until this war is over and the servant
question becomes less of a nuisance. My own rooms are not good
enough. My poor father had a hideous house full of hideous
things. After my mother’s death I sold it. I have the offer of a
very fine apartment overlooking the Green Park, and have secured
an option on it, pending your final decision. But you won’t be
bothered with details, and we shall buy our furniture
together—make a jolly lark of it. We may have to spend some
time in London, if my Government work becomes, as is likely,
more exacting. The apartment I speak of is charmingly furnished,
and we could, if you preferred it, buy everything as it stands.
That is for you to decide.”

The letter ended curtly: “Yours faithfully, A.”

The “faithfully” was exactly like him. And no word in the letter was
written so firmly, with such uncompromising up-and-down strokes of a
full pen. Obviously he had intended her to digest its significance.

The letter dropped into her lap; she stared through the reeds at the
placid surface of the lake reflecting the cloudless blue and the trees
upon the farther shore.

Could life be like that?

Would it be life?

That morning she had decided to drift on with her engagement. All
vitality seemed to have left her, after uneasy vigils and travailings.
She had been born to tread the old ways, like her mother, like all her
people, except that one unfortunate who was never mentioned.

Probably she would lose Tiddy. And such a loss filled her with dismay
and apprehension. She computed her debt to Tiddy. Tiddy had opened her
eyes. Tiddy would go to France, and hurl herself into the danger zone,
if she could get anywhere near it. Why was she so different from Tiddy?

III

Presently inaction became prickly. She decided to walk to the village
and inquire after Isaac Burble. Mixed up with all her thoughts and
speculations was this neglected old man who had served faithfully the
House of Chandos. He had suffered abominably. Because of that it seemed
a soft of judgment that Lady Selina’s daughter must suffer too. The
mills of God worked that way.

By the time she reached Upworthy the sun was nearly overhead, pouring
down redhot shafts upon just and unjust. Once more the smell of the
unclean animal assailed Cicely’s nostrils as she passed Martha Giles’s
sties. Close by, in striking apposition, stood Timothy Farleigh’s
picturesque, heavily-thatched cottage. Mary Farleigh was in her garden,
hanging out the Monday washing. Cicely beheld garments patched and
darned incredibly. Mary’s pale, thin face seemed paler and thinner; she
looked an attenuated shadow of a woman, worn to skin and bone. Nick, the
softy, was helping her, with a vacuous grin upon his round, amorphous
face.

“Good morning, Mary.”

“Marning, miss. A be-utiful marning, to be sure.”

“How are you?”

“I bain’t feeling very grand, miss. Tired-like. But I allers feels that
way o’ Mondays. ’Tis the washing, I reckons. So you be marriage-ripe,
they tells me.”

“What be that?” asked Nick.

“’Tis something you’ll never be, my pore lad,” replied his mother, not
tartly, but with pathetic resignation. She looked penetratingly at
Cicely, adding softly: “I wishes you all happiness, Miss Cicely; you be
a rare good, kind maid.”

“Thank you, Mary. Can I send you anything? A little strong beef-tea?”

Mary’s eyes brightened, but her thin lips closed.

“Thank’ee kindly, miss. I ain’t much stomach for my vittles. ’Tis the
heat, maybe.”

Something in her face made Cicely say hastily:

“If you feel ailing, Mary, send for Mr. Grimshaw. Don’t put it off till
it’s too late. He’s very clever.”

Mary nodded doubtfully. Cicely passed slowly on.

She did not hear very encouraging news from Isaac Burble’s niece, who
seemed to be more concerned—as well she might—with her own
“symptings,” as she called them. Her uncle, so Cicely gathered, had long
survived his usefulness. The thought that mainly engrossed the niece was
obviously the difficulty and necessity of providing a respectable
funeral for one whose time had come.

Cicely insisted on seeing him, and found him fairly comfortable and
cheerful. At any rate, Isaac was not contemplating his own funeral. He
said with a chuckle:

“I be going to disappint Maggie. Yas, we Burbles be long-lived. Take a
squint at Nicodemus. He was here along this marning. I told ’un I’d
wager a tankard of ale that this young doctor sets my old leg. ’Twill be
a rare joke on Dr. Snitterfield.”

Cicely left him still chuckling.

Soon afterwards she ran into Grimshaw, although she wished to avoid him.
He spoke of Isaac:

“I believe he’ll pull through. The amazing thing is, he won’t
die—positively refuses to do so. If the bed-sores yield to treatment, I
shall tackle his leg.”

Cicely said tranquilly:

“I have faith in you, and so has he. It’s too awful that he should be in
this condition.”

“Lady Selina has told you?”

He spoke with his usual incisiveness. Beneath his glance she flushed,
saying hurriedly:

“She will consult Lord Wilverley to-night.”

“Good!”

“If—if you have anything you care to say to me—something you may have
withheld from my mother out—out of consideration for her, I want to
hear it.”

He hesitated. They had met in the middle of the green, and it was now
unbearably hot, swelteringly so. Close to Farleigh’s cottage stood an
immense tree, with a seat encircling it. Grimshaw indicated this with a
wave of his hand.

“Shall we get into the shade for a minute?”

Cicely assented, reflecting that she would remain in the shade for the
rest of her life. She was torn in two by the wish to leave Grimshaw and
the desire to hear what he might have to say. Must more horrors be
faced?

She sat down on the rustic bench and furled her parasol. He stood near
her, removed his soft felt hat, and began crumpling it between his
hands. Her eyes rested upon his thin, nervous fingers.

“I dared not tell Lady Selina about the milk.”

“The milk?”

Very deliberately, in his most professional tone and manner, he dropped
the bomb.

“I have examined fifteen samples of milk taken from cows in and about
Upworthy. All—_all_ the samples held organisms derived from manure.”

“Heavens!”

“Worse than that—some of the cows are tuberculous.”

Cicely wailed out:

“How and why have things come to this pass? It isn’t as if mother didn’t
care. She does. So do I—tremendously. And with good-will on our part,
with—with the sincere wish to do our duty—why have we failed?”

“If I could answer all questions as easily as that!”

“Please answer me.”

“I hate preaching. I hate indicting individuals. What is wrong here, and
in thousands of other parishes, is the system. Peter is robbed to pay
Paul. Compromise is the _mot d’ordre_. How can your mother or you know
whether milk is pure or not? Of course, there is a man who is supposed
to attend to these matters, a state-paid official. In my experience,
most of these fellows—not too well paid, by the way—shirk their
duties. Why? Because the foundations of the land system are rotten. Now
and again a big fuss is made, and then things go on as before, simply
because there is, as yet, no real awakening, no vital co-operation
amongst land-owners. Many are good, some are outrageously bad—and they
are ear-marked. The immense majority are indifferent, because they are
ignorant. They simply don’t know what ought to be done. It’s futile to
blame individuals. In a sense Gridley is responsible for the insanitary
conditions in your pretty village. But I only blame him up to a point.
With the best will in the world he would blunder horribly if he
attempted drastic reform. Your mother would say that she can’t afford to
employ an expert, but, between ourselves, she can’t afford not to do so.
And really it comes to this: if land-owners can’t afford experts they
must become experts themselves and teach their sons to become experts.”

“And their daughters?”

“And their daughters. This war, of course, has made things, the bad
things, blatant. All the farmers are short-handed. I see an immense
change in cow-sheds since I left last autumn. What drainage was done is
now left undone. All I have said, Miss Chandos—and I have said it under
pressure from you, and with the greatest reluctance—applies to
everything here. Snitterfield, for instance, would not have neglected a
patient so—so damnably, if he were not overworked. In his way, too, he
is just as ignorant as Gridley. If ever he knew anything he has
forgotten it. And there you are!”

She thanked him for his candour. He stared rather ruefully at his
crumpled hat, smoothed it, and straightened it, put it on his head, and
laughed.

“I feel these things too much,” he admitted.

“I can guess how you feel.”

“If your mother will be guided by Lord Wilverley, all will be well. He
is a man of remarkable executive ability. But, if you have any
influence, entreat Lady Selina to give him a free hand.”

“I promise to do that.”

“What it will mean to this village is—immeasurable. And co-operation
between two large owners may lead to the one thing needful—a more
general realisation of what union can achieve. A league of landlords is
wanted. The farmers should be asked to adopt a more definite policy, but
most of them, again, are ignorant and obstinate.” His voice softened.
“All this is hard luck on you.”

“They are fighting in France,” replied Cicely.

IV

Arthur Wilverley motored over at three, bringing with him his evening
clothes and the pearls. The pearls and Lord Saltaire’s tiara had become,
by this time, symbols to Cicely, symbols impossible to ignore. At a
glance, she perceived that her lover had bought a perfect string,
superbly gradated. It must have cost thousands! Their first greeting had
been perfunctory. He came into Lady Selina’s sitting-room and kissed
Cicely. He was about to shake hands with Lady Selina, when she said
impulsively:

“Kiss me, my dear son.”

She spoke with such a charming spontaneity that he hugged her. And then
he began to speak boyishly of what he had done in London, describing the
apartment and its furniture. Apparently, it had belonged to a
connoisseur, a collector, whose daughter, oddly enough, disdained
Chippendale chairs, and porcelain, and mezzotints.

“I’m offered the lot, so the agent says, cheap. Really it’s a gilt-edged
opportunity.”

“Not to be missed,” affirmed Lady Selina.

Cicely dissembled. She had looked forward to buying the furniture of her
London house, but she distrusted her taste. Probably, left to her own
devices, she would achieve the commonplace.

“What do you say, Cis?” asked Wilverley.

“If the things are really good . . .”

“They are, they are. We should save time, money, and worry. I told the
agent that I’d wire him.”

“Talk it over together,” advised Lady Selina. She added gravely: “I
commend any saving of time and worry to you, Arthur, because I am
constrained, much to my distress, to ask you to spend time and worry on
me. But we will talk of that later.”

With that she smiled graciously, and sailed out of the room.

“What does your mother mean?” asked Wilverley.

“She will tell you, Arthur, after dinner.”

He displayed a tinge, nothing more, of irritability.

“Mystery . . .!”

“You hate mystery, don’t you?” She spoke lightly, but he detected
nervousness, and saw troubled eyes.

“I do,” he replied emphatically. “But if this mystery doesn’t concern
you, my dearest . . .”

“But it does. Perhaps I had better prepare you. After all, mother asks
your help, because I am so concerned in your giving it.”

He recovered his geniality at once.

“If that is the case, dear, the help shall be given. Be sure of that.”

She sat down upon the big couch facing her father’s portrait. It was too
hot to go out. He sat beside her and captured her hand which lay, he
thought, too passively in his. Within five minutes he understood exactly
what was expected of him, and rose finely to the emergency.

“Why, of course. Any possibility of a public inquiry must be burked. I
know what to do. I can deal with the three culprits, Snitterfield,
Gridley and the Sanitary Inspector. And I’ll undertake more, provided
. . .”

“Yes?”

“That your mother allows me a free hand.”

“Mr. Grimshaw said that would be necessary.”

“Grimshaw? You have talked with him?” She nodded. “What did he say?”

She repeated Grimshaw’s words almost verbatim.

“Yes, yes. Grimshaw is right. The trouble is deep-seated, and goes back
to feudal times. Most of us muddle through somehow.”

“You don’t.”

“Oh, well,” he laughed, “I’m a bit of a carpet-bagger, and I’ve applied
to estate management the methods which succeed in our big industries.
The temper of this country won’t stand much more muddling. As Grimshaw
says, we land-owners must try to mobilise. And the old machinery must be
scrapped. I told you once before that money is needed, the sinews of
war. Because, mind you, this means war, a fight to a finish against
inefficiency and stupidity, with most of your mother’s farmers arrayed
against us. I shan’t have so much time to spend with you, Cis.”

She pressed his hand, and then released her own.

“I have your pearls in my pocket,” he whispered.

A moment afterwards the lustrous string dangled before her eyes.
Instantly, as has been said, she appreciated the splendour of the gift.
And, as instantly, she knew that it exacted a response. Why couldn’t she
fling her arms about his neck and press her lips to his? The fingers
that held the pearls trembled; the colour ebbed from her cheeks.

“What can I say?” she murmured.

“Bless you! You needn’t _say_ anything.”

She kissed him timidly. As it was her first kiss he may be excused, poor
fellow, for thinking that the shy caress was merely something on
account. Being shy himself where women were concerned, he accepted it
gratefully, and with a restraint which made Cicely heartily ashamed of
herself. He watched her fingers softly stroking the pearls, and wondered
why she remained so silent. And all the time she was thinking miserably:
“This is my price, or part of it. I am selling myself to this gallant
gentleman. _If he knew it_. . . .!” The tiara would go admirably with
these pearls. And whenever she wore them, the same thought would spoil
all pleasure in them. Unconsciously she sighed.

“Why do you sigh?” he asked.

It was an unfortunate question at such a moment. Swiftly she divined
that he was the sort of man who put such questions and expected them to
be answered truthfully. If she let this minute pass, always she must
dissemble, become an actress for ever and ever. And she couldn’t do it.

Hanging, so it seemed to her, between heaven and hell, she glanced up
and saw her stern father staring down at her. On his familiar face she
read contempt, condemnation, derision. The Danecourt half of her
withered.

Nevertheless, so persistently does moss cling to us, that she might have
procrastinated, if sudden passion had not broken loose in Wilverley. The
soft sigh inflamed him. He became, what he wanted to be, the lover of
romance. It is invariably your shy man who, on occasion, bursts out of
his fetters. He misinterpreted the sigh and the silence that followed
it. He jumped to the conclusion that the awakening he had predicted was
at hand. He would exercise the supreme privilege of the male, and infuse
into this sweet, trembling creature the ardour that informed him so
ecstatically. Without warning, his strong arms crushed her against his
broad chest; he kissed her lips, her eyes, her throat . . .

In every sense of the word she awoke.

With a strangled cry she broke from him, and stood up. He rose with her,
facing her, grasping the one essential fact that she had repulsed him,
that she shrank from him. He said hoarsely:

“What is it?”

She answered him with the directness that had characterised her father.
He had been a “yea”-or-“nay” man.

“I can’t do it, Arthur.”

He hardly understood her.

“Can’t do what?”

“I can’t marry you. It’s simply impossible. It wouldn’t be fair to you.
I am ashamed and humiliated beyond words. Don’t torture me by asking
questions. You are too generous for that. I wanted to love you, but it’s
not in me. It never will be in me. I ought to have obeyed my instinct in
the garden. I have hurt you horribly; I shall make mother miserable; I
shall be wretched myself; but I can’t marry you.”

He walked to the window. She was sorely tempted to rush from the room,
but strength came back to her. She perceived that the pearls were still
in her hand.

“And those pearls of dew she wears
Prove to be presaging tears.”

Milton’s lines came into her mind, as she placed the string upon her
mother’s desk. But no tears came into her eyes. She waited for Wilverley
to turn and speak. What would he say? Would he attempt protest,
argument, reproach . . .?

He came back to her.

“I am sorry,” he said kindly. “If you feel that way, I—I admire your
pluck. Of course, I was not prepared. I blame myself. I suppose I ought
to have taken your first ‘no’ as final. I understand anyway that this
last ‘no’ is final. Now . . . What are you going to say to Lady Selina?”

“Just what I have said to you.”

He paced up and down the room, thinking.

“Shall I speak to her? It might make it easier.”

She was very near tears as she faltered:

“How generous of you! No; I shall tell her, poor dear! The simple truth
will suffice. She will say nothing. Her silence will be my punishment.
Nothing, nothing will bridge that.”

“You want me to go?”

“Please!”

He marched straight to the door.

“Arthur, you have forgotten the pearls. Let me say this to you. The
pearls did it—and my father’s face.”

She pointed to the portrait, but it seemed to her entirely different.

“Your father’s face?”

“Yes.” She gave a bitter laugh. “He forbade the banns. I can’t explain.
It was something far beyond me. But I knew. And the pearls, those lovely
pearls, were the pearls of price—my price. You understand? You pity
me?”

He answered solemnly:

“Before God, I do.”

Hastily he caught up the pearls and pocketed them. Then he held out his
hands.

“Good-bye, my poor little Cicely.”

“Is it to be good-bye, Arthur?”

He held her hands, gripping them. She saw that he was thinking hard.

“We remain neighbours and friends. I will help your mother.”

She shook her head sadly.

“Mother is too proud. More punishment for me.”

At this he smiled faintly, pressing her hands. He never appeared to
better advantage than when he murmured tenderly:

“If you have done the right thing, Cicely, other things will adjust
themselves.”

He released her hands and went out.

V

Meanwhile, as luck would have it, Lady Selina happened to be in Cicely’s
rooms. Already she envisaged them as suitable for a day—and
night—nursery. The old nursery at the Manor was not too happily
situated. It looked north. Lady Selina could remember the day when she
had suggested to her husband a bigger and better room, but he had
expressed positively the opinion that what had been good enough for
himself and his father, was good enough for his children. He was no
believer in coddling. And if babies howled, which in his day was
reckoned to be a natural lamentation over Original Sin, let them howl
next to the servants’ quarters!

Now, with a more enlightened understanding, Lady Selina admitted that
howling was no longer tolerated. And something told her that she would
hasten, despite her advanced years, more swiftly to Cicely’s babies than
she had ever hastened to her own. Conscious of this, and able to analyse
her sensibilities with an odd detachment, she smilingly considered the
right placing of cots out of draughts, and the substitution of thick
curtains instead of chintz. Chintz rustled when windows were open at
night; flimsy curtains bulged inwards; a nervous child might be
frightened.

These thoughts were put to flight by the soft purring of Wilverley’s
motor. And then, to her utter confounding, looking out of the window,
she beheld Wilverley and his chauffeur, and, a moment later, the
faithful Stimson crossed the stable-yard carrying a suit-case.

What, in the name of the Sphinx, could have happened? And where was
Cicely? Had the dear young people quarrelled? As her prospective
son-in-law, she insisted upon regarding Arthur as young; Cicely she
reckoned to be a mere child.

Her heart began to beat uncomfortably, as a premonition of disaster
gripped her. She sat down, trembling, realising that her hands and feet
were cold. Deep down in her mind, possibly in some zone of
subconsciousness, lay latent the fear that a marriage so exactly right
from every point might never take place. She had been aware, from the
first, of Cicely’s hesitations and doubts. But always she had
impatiently dismissed her own forebodings as unduly pessimistic.

For a minute or two she sat still, unable to think articulately. She
heard the motor leave the stable-yard. A long, dismal silence followed.
Being a lady of quality, she realised instantly that Arthur was
incapable of rushing away from her house without a word of explanation
unless something quite out of the ordinary had happened. A man in his
position might, of course, receive an urgent telegram. But, in that
case, Cicely would have speeded him on his way.

She waited, knowing that Cicely would soon come to her own rooms.

Cicely, meanwhile, believing that her mother was quite unaware of
Wilverley’s departure, had not yet considered how and when she could
tell the abominable truth. The paramount necessity of the moment was to
be alone. Accordingly, after Arthur had disappeared, she remained on the
sofa, staring at her father’s portrait. She made sure that her mother
was in the garden under the tree where tea was served on hot afternoons.

Presently, she opened the door, saw that the corridor was empty, and
stole swiftly to her sitting-room. As she entered it, Lady Selina rose
to meet her.

“Why has Arthur gone?” she asked calmly.

Cicely, completely taken aback, unable to temporise, faltered out:

“Because I have broken off our engagement.”

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