Great events took place during this summer of 1915. Italy joined the
Allies; and the Hun advance was stopped. Once again wise men said that
the war was coming to an end; and wiser than they contended stubbornly
that it wasn’t. Cicely remained at the Manor with Lady Selina. After the
first fortnight, they went for a month to Danecourt Abbey, where they
listened, not without impatience on Cicely’s part, to long jeremiads
from Lord Saltaire, who predicted the end of the world, and quoted the
Book of Revelation to prove that the All-Highest was the Beast. Expenses
at the Abbey had indeed been reduced to the minimum. The family butler,
accustomed to three tall footmen, whose places were filled by one boy,
gave notice. He had been with Lord Saltaire for many years.

“Why are you leaving me?” asked his master, fretfully.

“Because, my lord, if you will be good enough to pardon the expression,
I can’t stick it any longer.”

Lord Saltaire, as he confessed afterwards, was stupefied into silence.
The butler departed.

Cicely told herself that she, too, couldn’t stay on beyond the appointed
month. She beheld her uncle’s domains with uneasy eyes, sharpened to
critical detachment after six months at Wilverley. The same obsolete
system of estate management that howled for reform at Upworthy was even
more vocal at Danecourt. But Lady Selina, like her brother, remained
blind and deaf to signs and sounds that ate ravagingly into Cicely’s
sensibilities. Wages all over the vast property remained low, although
prices had risen. Old men in the gardens and stables followed the butler
into a more generous world, because they were unable to “stick it.”
Farmers were waxing fat and prosperous, whilst their labourers were
sweated. Spurred to speech, Cicely said one day to her mother:

“Things are going to pieces here, Mother.”

Lady Selina replied solemnly, with mournful resignation: “Our class is
hit harder than any other.”

“But Uncle could sell some of his land.”

“Sell his land? What are you talking about? Sell the land that has been
in our possession four hundred years——!”

Cicely murmured almost inaudibly:

“I think land poverty is awful.”

“We are all of the same mind about that, child.”

They duly returned to the Manor, where a pathetic surprise brought tears
to Cicely’s eyes. Hitherto she had occupied a small bedroom, a virginal
bower of blue-and-white. Across the corridor were Brian’s rooms, a
bedroom and a sitting-room. During their absence Lady Selina had
re-papered and re-decorated these two rooms charmingly:

“They are yours, my dear,” she said quietly.

It happened to be the first indication of the tremendous change in
Cicely’s prospects. Till now not a word had been said by Lady Selina in
remotest allusion to that change. But, at times, the girl had been
conscious of intent eyes gazing interrogatively into hers, as if to say:
“What will she do with it?” And, very rarely, when the pair were sitting
together, Lady Selina would take Cicely’s hand, and hold it tenderly and
yet tenaciously, as if it were a precious possession, more—an
instrument to be used for a definite purpose.

Lady Selina sat down. With an authoritative gesture she invited Cicely
to occupy Brian’s chair, now freshly covered with chintz. Cicely felt
curiously awed.

“One day,” said Lady Selina, “Upworthy will be yours.”

A vast burden seemed to the girl to be descending upon her. She looked
at Lady Selina with such an expression as might be glimpsed in the eyes
of an intelligent young horse about to be harnessed to a cart loaded
high with mother-earth. Tons of Upworthy clay!

“Property, my dear, is a very sacred trust.”

Suddenly, she frowned, for she remembered John Exton’s words. The
abominable scene reproduced itself vividly. She could see John’s eager,
resentful face and hear his provocative words. As instantly she beheld
the debonair Brian derisively amused by the Anarchist. Her voice was
less soft as she added:

“Opinions, of course, may vary in regard to the administration of a
trust.”

“Yes.”

Lady Selina continued more easily, as the vision of John Exton faded out
of her mind:

“With abundant private means, with such an income as dear Arthur enjoys,
for instance, an income happily independent of land, estate management
becomes easy—easy.”

Cicely was constrained to dispute this.

“I don’t think, Mother, that Arthur finds it so.”

“Well, well, you may know more about that than I do. Here, at any rate,
ways have to be adjusted to means. And the ways seem to increase as the
means diminish.”

She ended with a sigh. Cicely, sensible that her mother was expecting
from her some sort of positive declaration, sensible also that if she
spoke her mind freely she would wound and amaze a devoted mother,
hesitated. Had her mother purposely used Arthur’s name? Did she
contemplate estate management made easy by a rich son-in-law? She was
well aware that Tiddy had predicted aright. Brian’s death had cut short
a second proposal. Absence, she felt assured, had not cooled Arthur’s
feelings for her. Twice he had written. And every sentence in his
letters seemed to end with a note of interrogation: “Will you?” When
they met, in a day or two, he would exact the answer categorical. Did a
fond mother take for granted what that answer would be?

“You love the old ways, Mother?”

“Of course I do. Don’t you?”

Cicely felt herself sinking into Upworthy clay, deeper and deeper.

“Can we go on walking in them?”

“I shall walk in them to the end.”

The finality of her tone petrified Cicely into silence. All power of
resistance seemed to ooze from her, leaving her invertebrate. The
tentacles of tradition and heredity enwrapped her. What was the use of
struggling? She stole a glance at her mother’s face, now an impenetrable
mask. Obviously, the mere suggestion that the old ways were overgrown by
the new vegetation and becoming impassable had irritated Lord Saltaire’s
sister. It had never occurred to Cicely before that her mother was not a
Chandos. Now, furtively examining Lady Selina’s features, the likeness
to Lord Saltaire came out strikingly. Before the war her uncle had
presented the same gracious personality to a world that acclaimed him as
a distinguished ornament. To-day—and even Lord Saltaire recognised
this—manners were at a discount. Tiddy had said pertly: “Lords have
slumped.” More, Cicely had to confess to herself that her mother and
uncle seemed to have lost something almost indefinable, that assured
sense of position and rank. Out of heads still held high smouldered
anxious eyes, mutely asking questions which the owners of the eyes
refused to answer for themselves. Lord Saltaire no longer moved as
Agamemnon amongst his people. . . . And “pinching” had pinched him,
making him petulant, fractious, and “gey hard to live wi’.” With dismay
Cicely confronted the fact that she was half Chandos and half Danecourt.
Incredible that such high breeding might be reckoned a disability——

Her trembling lips refused their office. And the words that fluttered
into her perplexed mind seemed wholly inadequate. Being half Chandos,
she held her tongue, wondering miserably what Tiddy would have said. She
had wit enough to realise that protest would be futile. If she allowed
her mother one penetrating glance into her heart, civil war must be
declared between them. And her mother would suffer more than herself.
Swiftly she came to the conclusion that mother must be “spared.” She
decided that she would consult her old friend, Dr. Pawley. He, of
course, had held his tongue; so had Goodrich. And if of late she had
begun to wonder at and condemn their policy of _laissez faire_, now—in
one illuminating moment—she understood and condoned fully their seeming
moral cowardice.

She heard her mother’s voice again, soft and sweet.

“You are my own darling little girl, all I have. With God’s help and
blessing we will walk together and work together. I—I——” Her voice
faltered, and then became steady. “I am not selfish enough to wish to
keep you to myself. I know, none better, that you need a strong man’s
guidance and protection. I know, too, that you will choose your mate
wisely, with an intelligent sense of all, _all_, I repeat, that marriage
includes. Passion is an ephemeral emotion which gentlewomen distrust
instinctively. At the best it must die down with the years. I was very
happy in my marriage, because I found in your dear father the qualities
that endure—fidelity, high honour, stainless integrity, and an
unswerving purpose in the conduct of life. He did his duty. I was
fortunate, also, in finding a man older and wiser than myself, in whose
strength I could trust.”

She rose to her feet, standing very erect, an imposing figure in her
black draperies. She might have stood thus in a Greek tragedy,
impersonating one of the Parcæ. Cicely was immensely impressed. She rose
also. Her mother kissed her.

“These rooms,” she murmured, “are rather overpowering. I will go to my
own and be quiet for a little. But you—you are glad to be here, aren’t
you? Your memories of our dearest boy are all fragrant and happy.
Perhaps I allowed my ambitions for him too great an ascendancy in my
heart——”

She paused. Cicely divined that her mother’s careful choice of words
indicated previous thought, self-analysis. Yes; bitter disappointment
underlay her tranquil phrases. These rooms held the emptiness of an
ancient house. She understood why her mother had changed them almost out
of recognition.

“I am glad to be here,” she answered, in a strangled voice. “I—I hope,
Mother, that I—I—I——”

She couldn’t finish the sentence. Lady Selina kissed her again.

“You will take his place,” she whispered. “That is the one consolation
of my life.”

Cicely was left alone with her disquieting reflections.

II

Next day, Arthur Wilverley rode over to the Manor. As he rode he gave a
loose rein to introspection, to which the easy canter of a good hack
lends itself. Strenuously as he would have denied it, this honest fellow
had hitherto cantered as easily through life, taking all fences in his
stride. And they had been small fences. He was now approaching what he
deemed to be the biggest fence which as yet he had tried to
negotiate—marriage. It annoyed him a little that he was not more
excited. A nodding acquaintance with the best fiction had encouraged him
to expect as a lover thrills and ardours which unaccountably had not
been experienced. Why? Was he different from other men? Had he strolled
into this attachment at an age when common sense overruled sentiment?
Had he atrophied, by disuse, certain nerve-centres quite wrongly
supposed by novelists to be cardiac? He had never, for example, even in
his salad days, contemplated the possibility of a world well lost for
love. But he had known men, lots of them, who had “chucked”
everything—position, honour, self-respect—to gratify one colossal
overwhelming desire. Amazing . . .!

Too honest to befool himself or anybody else, he was well aware that if
he “took a toss” over this next fence he would pick himself up, mount
his horse, and canter on as before. He might feel stiff and
sore—doubtless he would; he might funk that particular fence ever
after, but his well-ordered world would not fall into chaos.

This conviction, however, underlay another. Confidence in his
horsemanship sustained our cavalier. He did not anticipate a toss.
Cicely—bless her!—had been rushed the first time—his fault. It rather
pleased him to think that she, like himself, could exhibit restraint and
common sense. Once, some five years before, he had officiated as best
man to a friend younger than himself, a bit of a thruster. The thruster,
over a glass of champagne, had waxed confidential, describing a
tempestuous wooing and an unconditional surrender. Wilverley could
recall his friend’s exact words: “When I popped, she gave a sort of yelp
and rushed at me.”

At the time Wilverley had laughed, but later the lady in question had
yelped and rushed at another fellow. She was built that way. Cicely
would not yelp or rush. He pictured her yielding with virginal modesty
to the restrained advances of her lover, blushing adorably. Wilverley
had rehearsed the scene. He beheld himself and Cicely on a bench in the
more secluded part of the topiary garden, screened by yew hedges from
inquisitive eyes of gardeners. Then he would tell his tale. She would
listen demurely, with downcast eyes. The amorini in the garden would
approve this gentle wooing. Presently he would take her little hand in
his. When he ventured to kiss her cheek, she might turn her lips from
him. Yes; being a Chandos, she would. In his pocket, in tissue paper,
lay the filmy hanky. At the right moment he would show it to her. There,
would be pleasant talk about the choice of an engagement ring. Later
they would seek together Lady Selina, and receive the maternal sanction
and benediction. . . .

Mrs. Roden had given her push the day before. Six weeks had elapsed
since Brian’s death. She had considered the propriety of urging her
brother to propose again by letter, rejecting such consideration after
matured thought. Personality counted enormously in these affairs. Arthur
had a “way” with him. He “loomed up.” Young girls of the twentieth
century had just begun to enjoy the privileges of independent thought
and action. Mrs. Roden rejoiced that it was so. Still——! At this point
the adjuster paused to reflect upon the immense change in Cicely’s
fortunes. Alone in her room at Danecourt, turning from a mournful
present to a more alluring future, Cicely might well hesitate before she
imperilled her freedom. Alone with Wilverley, dominated by him,
conscious that she had encouraged him, the right answer must be
forthcoming.

Accordingly, Mrs. Roden had said at luncheon:

“Lady Selina returns to Upworthy to-morrow.”

“So Cicely told me.”

“Ah! She has written to you?”

“Yes.”

“Of course you will go over and pay your respects at once.”

“If I can spare the time——”

“My dear Arthur, try to rise to your full stature.”

Wilverley replied briskly:

“Now, Mary, out with it. What’s in your busy mind?”

“Concern for others. Concern for you. There are moments, Arthur, when
you impress me as being a big boy. At such moments I feel maternal.”

“Forrard! Forrard!”

“I told you some months ago to—to—let me see, what did I say?”

“You told me to ‘go’ for Cicely—and I did. She turned me down. No
complaints! I acted prematurely.”

“From what you told me she encouraged you to try again.”

“And I shall.”

“Quite. The right moment has come. Cicely must have recovered from her
bereavement. If I know anything of my sex”—her tone justified the
assumption that what Mrs. Roden did not know upon that fascinating
subject was negligible—“Cicely is ripe for the plucking.”

“You talk of her as if she were a goose,” he said.

“Pray don’t interrupt me! Cicely is a sensible girl, thank God! She is
also a good girl, fully alive to the responsibilities of marriage. As a
potential mother——”

Wilverley held up a hand.

“Don’t be obstetric, Mary, please.”

“What a word——! I am never _that_. However——! How you heckle my
thoughts! I repeat, Cicely is ripe for the plucking. You have only to
stretch forth your hand. Lady Selina will be much gratified if you call
at once. I refrain from accompanying you for obvious reasons. The
weather is settled. I regard that as a sign. I am quite sure that Cicely
has been dull and depressed at Danecourt Castle.”

“Abbey.”

“I call it a feudal stronghold. Probably she was bored to tears. She
comes home hankering for a change—any change. You appear—not wearing
that tie——”

“You shall select my tie.”

“Thank you, Arthur. You appear—the perfect knight——”

“Help!”

“You offer all, all that such a girl wants. _Voilà!_”

“There is something in what you say, Mary. Yes, you are right. I’ll take
the road to-morrow. I may not succeed in getting Cicely alone.”

“Then you are not the man I take you to be.”

Mrs. Roden left the dining-room. Wilverley finished a good cigar, quite
unconscious of having been “pushed.”

III

Stimson ushered him into the big drawing-room. Left alone for a minute,
he stared, as Grimshaw had done, at the full-length portraits on the
walls. The ladies smiled down on him. Sir Marmaduke Chandos, the
Cavalier, curled a derisive lip, not offensively. He seemed to be
saying: “S’death! we need a tincture of blood less blue. Take the wench,
and a benison on ye both.”

Lady Selina sailed in, followed by Cicely.

Immediately the man perceived a change in the maid. She appeared to him
older. And something had vanished from her face. What was it? Youthful
radiancy—vitality——? He couldn’t find the word he wanted. She greeted
him with perfect ease of manner. But her hand rested supinely warm in
his, and he thought: “How soft her bones are.” Possibly she was tired;
and this home-coming must have been a bitter-sweet experience. Beneath
her eyes lay shadows, delicately tinted with lavender. All trace of the
V.A.D. had disappeared. Her mourning, so he decided, became her. In it
she looked distinguished. At any rate, she appealed to him more
irresistibly than ever, altogether feminine, a dear woman certain to
develop into a noble and gracious personality.

He drank a cup of tea, and listened to Lady Selina, who talked in the
grand manner, investing even weather conditions with a sort of
aristocratic gloss. All the Danecourts talked like this when they wished
to suppress feeling and emotion. Without a taint of affectation, Lady
Selina conveyed the impression that she towered above a crumbling world.
Marie Antoinette must have raised to heaven just such a dignified head
when she rode on a tumbril through the streets of Paris to the place of
execution. Lady Selina quoted her brother:

“Our order is doomed. Win or lose, this dreadful war means a débâcle for
us.”

Wilverley assured her that he took a less gloomy view. Lady Selina
smiled frostily.

“Saltaire has lost his butler, who has been with him five-and-twenty
years. Two parlourmaids have taken his place. One wears a bow upon her
tousled head; she refuses to wear a proper cap. My poor brother said to
me: ‘Selina, this is the beginning of the end.’ I agreed with him.”

After tea, when Wilverley was wondering how he could discreetly justify
Mrs. Roden’s faith in him as a man, Lady Selina said suavely:

“I daresay you will like to smoke your cigarette in the garden. A year
ago it was in full beauty. To-day——! Well—a wilderness. I can’t bear
to walk in it. Cicely will show you the roses. I must attack my
neglected correspondence.”

“I should like to see the roses,” said Wilverley.

Cicely and he wandered into the garden, which looked, so Wilverley
thought, very much as usual. At the Court he had discovered, not without
amusement, that a sadly diminished staff, if put to it, can achieve
remarkable results. Gazing about him, he said genially:

“Your mother exaggerates a little. I see no signs of a wilderness.”

Cicely replied quickly:

“Really, we are muddling along nicely. Mother will be all right in a day
or two. Danecourt was horribly depressing. And Brian——”

“Tell me,” he whispered. “I offered no wretched condolences. What can be
said?”

“Nothing. Even I—I can only guess how she feels. She adored Brian,
although she never showed it. I am so sorry for her that I could cry my
eyes out here and now. Because she bottles things up, it makes it just
twice as hard for me.”

“I understand,” he said. “I understand exactly how you feel.”

She looked sweetly at him, faintly blushing.

“Do you, Arthur?”

They found the bench; Wilverley lighted a cigarette. The sunk
rose-garden faced them, surrounded by the yew hedges. In the centre the
amorini guarded the fountain, which didn’t play in war-time. This spot
was the sanctuary, known as Mon Plaisir. Upon the white stone bench had
sat the lovely lady for whom the pleasaunce was planted, and in which,
according to tradition, she had passed so many hours kept a prisoner by
a jealous husband. Cicely told the story to Wilverley. A more
experienced lover would have used this romantic legend as a peg upon
which to hang his own love-tale. Wilverley, however, was not apt at
transpositions. He listened attentively, charmed by Cicely’s voice, but
determined, as soon as she had finished, to plead his suit in words, as
has been said, already rehearsed.

Cicely’s voice died away.

Wilverley said incisively:

“Poor little dear! Beastly for her, wasn’t it? No man could coop up a
wife that way in our times.”

“I don’t know, Arthur. In another sense, women coop themselves up. Some
of us are driven—driven into coops.”

He was astonished that she spoke so sadly, but, knowing little of women
and their tendency to make all argument personal, he never supposed that
what she said applied to herself. In a different tone he continued
briskly:

“My wife would have a free hand, Cicely. By the way, I have been talking
a lot with Tiddy whilst you were at Danecourt.”

“With Tiddy? Do you call her Tiddy?”

He laughed.

“Of course I do; everybody does. A jolly clever girl, sharp as a
needle—a rattling good sort. She will bike over here next Sunday.”

“Oh! Does Tiddy know that you are here to-day?”

“No.”

Chandos silence spread its impenetrable veil over Cicely. What was Tiddy
up to? Had she carried out her preposterous threat? Was she really
trying to capture Arthur? An uncomfortable, disconcerting emotion, which
Cicely would have repudiated vehemently if anybody had dared to call it
jealousy, quickened within. Wilverley, happily unconscious of virginal
alarums and excursions, went on cantering at his big fence.

“I have something to show you, dear.”

“Have you?”

He produced triumphantly the tiny handkerchief embroidered with a double
“C” intertwined and encircled with a wreath. Lady Selina had presented a
dainty dozen of these to Cicely on her seventeenth birthday, a _præmium
diligentiæ_.

Cicely, faintly smiling, gazed at the small square of cambric, and then
at Wilverley’s flushed, eager face. And at the moment, incredible as it
may seem to men, she felt, like Mrs. Roden, maternal. The prosperous
magnate of nearly forty became a jolly boy. Somehow she guessed that in
many things he would remain simple and boyish. He seemed to be enjoying
himself immensely. He reminded her of Brian going in to bat on the
village green, and quite sure that he was going to knock the bowling
about.

He whispered:

“I’ve heartened myself up with a squint at this, many and many a time.”

As he spoke, he put it reverently to his lips and kissed it. Cicely was
amazed. She had always imagined Wilverley, engrossed with his
never-ending activities, reading dry treatises upon agriculture, poring
over the blue tracings of plans, prodding fat bullocks, and so forth——

Two dimples appeared in her cheeks.

“How absurd you are!”

“Are you angry because I am absurd about you?”

He folded the hanky carefully and replaced it in his breast-pocket. Then
he valiantly captured her hand, a notable effort for him. Cicely made no
protest. An agreeable languor stole upon her. Somehow Wilverley’s firm
clasp warmed her chilled sensibilities. She sighed. A midsummer’s sun,
still high in the heavens, poured down his beams upon the rose-garden.
Out of the more old-fashioned roses came a sweet, pervasive fragrance.
From the shrubs and trees beyond Mon Plaisir floated the flutings of the
warblers. Cicely was learned enough in Arcadian lore to distinguish
their particular notes.

“I want you,” he whispered.

Her tissues seemed to relax, as she recalled these very words on the
lips of her mother, when they met in the big hall after news of Brian’s
death. It was much to be wanted; more than she had reckoned it to be. To
give, to go on giving, generously and selflessly, might be her true
mission in life. Parsons preached that gospel from the pulpit, but till
now she had never apprehended its significance and force. Yes—_force_.
Was there, indeed, a driving power greater, immeasurably greater, than
the human will, which informed all human action? Was marriage with
Wilverley the appointed way out of her worries and perplexities? His
strong arm stole round her waist; he pressed her to him. She recognised
and admired his self-restraint. And something told her that he was
really strong, able to bear her burdens whatever they might be. But—a
cold douche of honesty made her shiver—she didn’t love him as surely he
deserved to be loved. What had passed through his mind as he rode to
this artless wooing invaded hers. She ought to be thrilling and
yearning; she ought to be feeling that this was the greatest moment of
her life. And it wasn’t. Bravely she confronted a fundamental fact.

“Arthur——”

“Yes, you sweet little woman?”

“You say you want me. How much?”

It is not easy for a man to be absolutely honest with a maid when his
arm is round her waist, and he feels her yielding to his importunity.

“Tremendously,” he answered.

She remained silent. Encouraged by this, Wilverley pleaded his suit. He
had always wanted her. She was exactly right. With happy inspiration he
painted in vivid colours their future together. She could help him in
his work; he could help her. They both loved the country. They would
work and play together, a charming partnership. When he finished, she
said nervously:

“Suppose—suppose that I didn’t quite care for you as you seem to care
for me?”

“What do you mean, my dearest?”

“It’s so hard to put it into words. I am ever so fond of you, Arthur.
And I do want to be loved. You—you have drawn a picture which moves me
more than I can say. But somehow you haven’t swept me bang off my feet.
And that is my fault, not yours. Perhaps—I don’t know—I am simply
incapable of—of letting myself go. And when I look at mother and other
women of my family, I wonder if they are all like that. I wonder if—if
it is part of the curse——”

“The curse? Bless my soul!”

“I mean the curse of belonging to families that think it right and wise
to suppress feeling. I am half Chandos and half Danecourt. Mother and
Uncle have never let themselves go. They couldn’t. It is part of their
nature to wear a mask. They wear it night and day. Till it becomes a
sort of hard crust. I—I wish I could talk as Tiddy does.”

“I understand, Cicely. I think you put it most awfully well. But this
feeling will come. I should hate to have you——” he paused, and ended
with the words which had made such an impression on him: “Yelp and rush
at me.”

“Do you mean that you want me as I am, that you will trust to chance
about my caring properly later?”

“Trust to chance? No, no. I have never trusted to chance. I am
confident, dear, that I shall make you care if you give yourself to me.
The feelings you speak of are dormant. It will be my great privilege to
awaken them.”

He kissed the cheek slightly turned from him.

The fence had been leaped.

And afterwards, just what he had envisaged came to pass easily and
naturally. The selection of a right engagement ring was discussed, a
visit to London, all the pleasant little plans so dear to people about
to marry. Before they sought Lady Selina, Cicely asked a direct
question:

“You will help to make things better in Upworthy?”

“Um! Do you mean now?”

“Oh, the sooner the better.”

“If your mother asks for my advice——I can speak to you quite candidly,
darling. To put things right at Upworthy means, in one word—money.”

“Mother knows that, and she says that her means are diminishing.”

“Heavy taxation—likely to be heavier. It would be quite impracticable
to put things right out of income.”

“Oh, dear!”

“Don’t look so miserable! Improvements are investments. I borrow money
for my improvements—everybody does; and your mother must do the same.”

“She won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because she is terrified of debt; because, I believe, she promised my
father not to encumber the property.”

Wilverley nodded his head. Then, hastily, he changed the subject.

IV

A memorable evening followed. When Lady Selina learnt what had passed in
the rose-garden, years seemed to drop from her tired face. The change
was almost uncanny. Colour flowed again into her cheeks; her eyes
sparkled with animation. Dear Arthur must stay to dinner; they would
dine on the lawn under the big walnut-tree; he could ride home by
moonlight. As she talked, her mind flew into the future. Before she
drank to the health of the lovers, she had definitely decided that the
second son of this perfect marriage would take the name of Chandos and
inherit Upworthy. He would be, of course, another Brian. The eldest son
would go to Eton; Brian II. must be entered at Winchester. It was a
mistake to send brothers to the same school.

Throughout dinner she achieved the remarkable feat of being in two
places at the same time, like Sir Boyle Roche’s bird.

When Wilverley had mounted his hack, mother and daughter sat together,
nearer and dearer to each other than they had ever been before. But it
was Lady Selina who revealed her inmost feelings. Apparently, she took
for granted that Cicely was head over ears in love. The girl dared not
undeceive her. And Lady Selina, with her really transcendent gift of
ignoring what lay beneath the surface, dwelt persistently upon the
phylacteries of life. All energy seemed to have passed from Cicely to
her. Obviously Cicely was ten years older and Lady Selina ten years
younger. They drifted closer together in their quest of what was
appropriate and conventional. Lady Selina had no patience with long
engagements. The wedding ought to take place in the early autumn, so
that the honeymoon could be spent in sunshine. She quoted:

“God knows how I love the sweet fall of the year.”

Cicely realised that her engagement had made the fall of her mother’s
year sweet and comforting.

During this long talk, Lady Selina happened to mention that, since
Brian’s death, she had pigeon-holed village affairs. But she had heard
from Stimson that Dr. Pawley was ill. Not, she trusted, seriously—a
passing indisposition. Upon the morrow Cicely might pop down in person
and get more details. She herself would be busy with Gridley. At the
mention of the bailiff’s name, Cicely, girding up her loins for an
encounter, said hurriedly:

“Is John Gridley all he ought to be?”

Lady Selina replied trenchantly:

“My dear child—what a question! Gridley is—Gridley. Are any of us what
we ought to be? I am well aware of Gridley’s disabilities. I pay him
little more than a labourer’s wages. I regard him as a spade.”

“Yes; I have thought sometimes that Gridley is too rough with our
people. He—he bullies them.”

“Possibly. Their ways are not our ways. Being of the people, he knows
how to deal with them. He is an honest, faithful servant, quite
impossible to replace in these troublous times. Also, as you know, I am
the last person in the world to ‘scrap,’ as your friend Tiddy would put
it, old retainers.”

“Do you feel that way about Dr. Snitterfield?”

“Dr. Snitterfield! What on earth have I to do with him?”

“He is the local Health Officer. Arthur thinks that he is—a—ignorant
and irresponsible.”

“Does he? I didn’t appoint Dr. Snitterfield. He happens to be the chosen
representative of our district. I hardly know the man. Personally, of
course, I regard him as impossible. Long ago, I asked him to luncheon.
He was attending one of our maids. She, not I, insisted upon seeing him.
At luncheon the stopper of one of the decanters stuck. Dr. Snitterfield
got it out, licked it—_licked_ it, my dear!—and calmly assured me that
he did that to his stoppers! After that Stimson kept him at a discreet
distance.”

Cicely abandoned both Gridley and Snitterfield. Could she spoil a
wonderful evening by insisting upon the disqualifications of bailiff and
Health Officer? When she remained silent, Lady Selina said decidedly:

“After I am gone, Arthur and you will cope with my difficulties.
Arthur’s agent will take Upworthy in hand; Arthur’s money will do the
needful.”

“If—if, Mother, Arthur wanted to help in your lifetime?”

“I could not accept thousands of pounds from Arthur. Now, my darling,
please don’t worry about me and my responsibilities. This is your hour.
Make the most of it. Your happiness makes me happy. I can think of
nothing else.”

V

Upon the following morning, Cicely, in a white frock with black ribands,
walked from the Manor to Dr. Pawley’s house. At Lady Selina’s request
she was wearing the white frock. The weather happened to be very hot; a
heat-wave had spread itself over the south of England. This alone
justified thin and light garments, but Cicely knew that another reason
lay at the back of her mother’s mind. From now on she would be expected
to play the part of bride-elect. Lady Selina, coming early to Cicely’s
bedroom, had said gently:

“I am sure that our dear boy would urge you not to wear black. I feel at
this moment that he is sharing our great joy. And you owe it to Arthur
to make yourself look as nice as possible.”

“Very well, Mother.”

That appeared to be the only answer possible to dozens of just such
well-meant suggestions. Already Lady Selina had prepared an itinerary,
so to speak. She had decided what tradesmen should be honoured by her
patronage. Not a moment was to be wasted. The selection of a trousseau
for Lord Wilverley’s wife exacted undivided energies and a pleasant
pilgrimage to certain shrines of fashion, where the high-priests would
assuredly refuse to be hurried and harried in the performance of their
sacred offices. Anything approximating to what Tiddy called
“reach-me-downs” filled Lady Selina with revulsion. What her girl wore
must be hand-sewn, hand-embroidered, stamped (to the understanding eye)
with a cachet of its own.

Cicely lingered for a minute on the village green. Inevitably the
thought rushed to her mind: “All this will be mine some day.” For the
first time, she gazed at the familiar landscape with an intimate sense
of possession. Out of the present, she flitted into the future. Pious
aspirations bore her upward and onward. She floated upon outstretched
wings above a reconstructed and regenerated Upworthy . . . It lay
beneath her, bathed in sunshine, an object lesson in the administration
of a sacred trust . . . She beheld her life’s mission accomplished.

Presently, as was natural, her thoughts swooped from others to herself.
She could survey herself as bride-elect with an odd detachment. Indeed,
for the moment she became a dual personality. The new Cicely in V.A.D.
kit, alert, critical, conscious of the immense changes taking place
under her nose, met the old Cicely, diffident, silent, moving slowly
along lines of least resistance, the “Yes, Mother . . . No, Mother,”
girl, without initiative, without definite ambitions, content to follow,
not daring to lead. This queerly-contrasted pair stared at each other.
Possibly, a sense of humour played the part of common denominator. The
old Cicely could smile derisively at her own frock! When a maid can do
this, none need despair of her. The old Cicely was aware that she might
have stepped out of one of the gilded frames in the Manor drawing-room.
Gainsborough might have portrayed her exactly as she stood without fear
of anachronism. She wore a big, black picture-hat. Across her bosom was
folded a black lace fichu, arranged by Lady Selina, and caught together
with a mourning brooch which held a miniature. Around her waist,
cleverly twisted by the same tender hands, was a black watered-silk
sash. To complete the portrait, and as it was unduly hot, she had
discarded gloves for long black silk mittens. And she carried a small
black silk bag, with her cipher on it in paste.

She could not escape the conviction that the old Cicely was pleased with
herself.

Henceforward, she would be at peace. That remained the dominating
thought. Pleasing others, she had pleased herself. And Arthur would be
“good” to her. They would be “pals.” The new Cicely observed that so
busy a man wouldn’t be in the way when he wasn’t wanted. Some uxorious
husbands bored their wives. Arthur had said that his wife would have a
free hand. The new Cicely then proceeded to startle the old Cicely by
the mention of—babies. After the first shock, the old Cicely confronted
motherhood without blushing. Proudly she reflected that she had chosen
the real right sort to be the father of the babies. Tiddy had discussed
Eugenics with her. During her short experience as a V.A.D., Cicely had
seen enough of men to discriminate between good and bad. Speaking
generally, the Tommies had been splendid, but now and again an exception
outrageously revealed himself a beast By accident, Cicely had been in a
ward when a patient was brought in mad with delirium tremens. And Tiddy,
who was also present, said afterwards that the patient ought to be
locked up for the term of his unnatural life, not merely because of his
offence, but to enforce celibacy upon him. Dwelling tenderly upon her
babies, Cicely recalled a crayon drawing of Arthur, taken when he was
two years old—a fat, dimpled darling in a red coral necklace and
holding a red coral rattle in his hand. Practically, he wore nothing
else. Yes; she had chosen the right man.

Immediately, the new Cicely accused the old Cicely of complacency. Well,
why not? At the same time, the new Cicely pointed out exciting avenues
down which, as Lady Wilverley, she could prance triumphantly. It would
be delightful to entertain, after the war, clever people, who—so Tiddy
affirmed—could be lured into the country if you “did” them properly.
Also, she would ride perfect hunters, and drive her own Rolls-Royce car.
The new Cicely agreed with the old Cicely that it was possible to
combine two centuries, the eighteenth and the twentieth, taking from
each what was desirable and charming. That would be a real achievement.

Descending to earth, her still dreaming orbs rested upon Martha Giles’s
cottage. It stood by itself, tumbling over a corner where the village
street impinged upon the village green. Even Lady Selina admitted
deprecatingly that Martha’s cottage was an eyesore. And in it lived
Martha and nine children. There were only four rooms. But, oddly enough,
Martha loved it, and just because of that Lady Selina had promised not
to pull it down. Of course it leaked like a sieve, and the cracked walls
streamed with moisture, rain or shine. At the back were the sties.
Martha lived by her pigs, on her pigs, and with her pigs. Buckets of
wash came as doles from the Manor. Kindly neighbours, knowing that
Martha’s pride refused actual cash, substituted meal and bran. Martha’s
chickens and geese picked up what they could find on the green.

Cicely greeted Martha, and braced herself to meet condolence. Martha
wiped a dry eye with a corner of a clean apron. How she managed to keep
clean aprons on herself and clean pinafores on her children was one of
the mysteries that defy explanation, like the Indian rope trick.

She said wailingly:

“Master Brian be gone to Kingdom Come, miss. You must up and bear this
like a Christian ’ooman. Yas … I mind me when my pore Giles was took.
I give ’un a rare funeral . . .” This was another unelucidated mystery.
The poorer the widow the richer the funeral! Martha continued: “But
after funeral I sez to myself, I sez: ‘Better him nor me.’”

A wild impulse surged through Cicely to laugh. Happily, she restrained
herself. She accepted Martha’s statement literally, saying gravely:
“Giles couldn’t have looked after the children as you do.”

“That’s how I feels, miss. ’Tis God Amighty’s marcy as we wimmenfolk
don’t have to fight these tremenjous battles. If we was killed in ’eaps
what would the children do?”

“What indeed?” asked Cicely. “I hope you are well, Martha?”

“I be allers troubled wi’ my sciaticky, miss. But there, a widder wi’
nine children to fend for bain’t able to enjy her bad health.” She added
obsequiously: “I be a grateful ’ooman, miss. I tells the little ’uns
that they’d be lying snug in churchyard, if ’twasn’t for my lady. We
doesn’t get all the milk we uster do.”

“Oh, dear! I must inquire about that. Good morning, Martha.”

“Good morning, miss, and thank ’ee kindly.”

She curtsied deferentially to the heiress of Upworthy, the future
autocrat, the dispenser of wash and eyewash. Cicely hurried on.

Exhilaration was tempered by exasperation. Martha Giles forced thought
upon her; she invaded peace of mind, most dear to us after storm and
stress. Martha presented a composite photograph of all dependents who
accept doles gratefully with a very lively sense of injury if they are
withheld or curtailed. Danecourt simply swarmed with just such
parasites. And a year ago Cicely would have resented angrily the use of
such an ugly word. It was almost as unmentionable as fleas or . . . Even
in thought a Chandos could not assign the common, loathsome name applied
to pests that a toothcomb removed from the heads of dirty children!

Why was Martha such a parasite?

Why would it break her heart if her ramshackle hovel was pulled down?

VI

Cicely ascended the white, shining steps of Dr. Pawley’s house, pulled a
shining brass bell-knob, and then grasped a shining brass knocker. But
she didn’t knock, because she remembered that her kind old friend was
ill. The trim parlourmaid opened the door. Cicely’s eyes, with keener
powers of observation, dwelt for an instant upon a large, spotless mob
cap. No hair from that well-covered head would fall into Dr. Pawley’s
soup. This shocking incident had taken place at Danecourt, in the
historic dining-room. Lord Saltaire had almost succumbed, falling into
what appeared to be a cataleptic trance from which he emerged to refuse
fish.

“Good morning, Ellen. How is Dr. Pawley?”

“He’s in bed, miss. Won’t you come in out of the sun?”

Cicely followed her into the drawing-room, which seemed deliciously
cool. The windows had been shut to keep out the heat. Through them
Cicely could see the garden sloping upward to the temple. War had
respected this sanctuary. It looked as it had always looked,
meticulously ordered. And the drawing-room presented the same prim
demeanour. Surely the parlourmaid was mistaken. In a minute the dear old
bachelor would hasten in, full of sympathy and affection, taking both
her hands in his, bending down, perhaps, to kiss her forehead, the
customary salute when she was a child. To distract her, he would show
her some “find,” a bit of glass or porcelain, upon which he would hold
forth with whimsical enthusiasm.

Cicely sat down. She was in no hurry; she wanted full particulars.

“It’s his heart, miss.”

“You are frightening me, Ellen.”

“It’s much better, miss. It’s the old trouble come back. Me and cook
said it would. With rest, he’ll be himself again. You see, miss, when
trouble came to the Hall—and about that I ask you to accept my
respectful sympathy——”

“Thank you, Ellen.”

“When trouble came to the Hall, it came to the village. We’ve had a lot
of sickness. And the doctor single-handed . . .”

“A number of our people employ Dr. Snitterfield.”

Ellen sniffed.

“Only them as has to, miss. Well, just a week ago, the master fainted as
he was lacing of his boots. But he went about his work just the same. He
fainted again when he was taking them off. For an hour, miss, he sat
huddled-up like in his chair, white as death and shivering. I gave him
brandy and put hot bottles to his feet. His orders, miss. I had to help
put him to bed.”

“I’m sure you did everything you could.”

“Yes, miss, with the tears streaming down my face. That night me and
cook looked out our black.”

“But, heavens! surely you sent for a doctor?”

“Yes, miss. Not—Dr. Snitterfield. I sent a telegram to Mr. Grimshaw.”

“Mr. Grimshaw?” The name literally smote her. “But he’s in France.”

“Oh, no, miss. Mr. Grimshaw is ill too.”

Pelion piled upon Ossa!

“What next?” gasped Cicely.

“Mr. Grimshaw ain’t confined to his bed, miss. It seems he got invalided
home with malaria or trench fever, something or other that jumps on and
off.”

“Yes, yes; please go on. You wired for Mr. Grimshaw, and he couldn’t
come?”

“Bless you, miss, he ain’t like that. He came by the next train from
London. The master brightened up the instant minute he saw him. And Mr.
Grimshaw had his own way with him, you may be sure. And, of course, he
took on Dr. Pawley’s other cases. He’s in the dispensary now. I daresay,
miss, you’d like to see Mr. Grimshaw?”

Cicely could have shrieked at her: “Not for the world!” Grimshaw’s
presence in the house, the fact that he was within forty feet of her,
that he was ill, that his fine work in France had been cut short,
probably ended . . . these accumulative surprises simply ravaged her.
She wanted to bolt out of the house, to hide herself in the bracken, to
think, think, think, till order evolved itself out of chaos.

Instead, she said faintly:

“Of course I will see Mr. Grimshaw. Please tell him that I am here.”

“Very good, miss.”

Ellen swept out. She had a nose—what servant has not?—for a situation.
Something in Cicely’s face had stimulated curiosity. As she hurried to
the dispensary, detached from the house, she wondered vaguely whether
there had been “carryings-on” between Miss Chandos and Mr. Grimshaw.
Quite likely, she decided.

Cicely rose from her chair and stared at herself in a sun-burst mirror
above the mantelpiece. She bit her lips and slapped her cheeks,
miserably conscious that such actions were humiliating and condemnatory.
Why was she pale and trembling?

Fortunately for her—or perhaps the gods took pity—Grimshaw was
preparing a tincture that exacted time and attention. Several minutes
elapsed before he entered the room. Cicely, meanwhile, had recovered her
self-possession.

“I am so glad to see you,” she said.

Sapphira might have envied her!

Nevertheless, the first glance at Grimshaw’s face was devastating. He
was thin and haggard; he had lost weight; he had lost entirely the bloom
of youth. Contrasting him with Wilverley, he seemed to be all angles and
irregularities. The bones of his face had become sharply prominent.

Grimshaw spoke nervously but incisively:

“You can guess, Miss Chandos, that I cannot say what I feel. Your
brother has made the supreme sacrifice. My sympathy is for you, not for
him. There are moments when I envy him. I have seen the best go
joyously, as if it were, as perhaps it is, the last and greatest
adventure . . .” He changed his tone, adopting the professional note:
“Pray don’t alarm yourself about Dr. Pawley. The trouble has been acute;
I cannot disguise from you that it is organic. He is perfectly aware of
this. It means, to speak frankly, that his working life is over. There
is no reason why he shouldn’t enjoy many years of leisure.”

“Thank you.”

“I hope to get him downstairs in a day or two. It will do him good to
see his friends. I need hardly add that he has accepted the situation
with courage and common sense.”

A slight pause followed. Cicely said quietly:

“Can you tell me something about yourself?”

He shrugged his thin shoulders.

“A month ago I was given my walking-papers. A nasty jolt! No man living,
as yet, can lay his finger upon the bacillus that expects me to furnish
him and his family with board and lodging. He is, I believe, a tropical
beast. Anyhow, I have him in hand. He is less obstreperous. Ultimately,
he and his brood will perish. The English climate will wipe him out.”

“Ought you to be working here?”

“Oh, yes. The reasonable exercise of my profession does me good. In
France, when a convoy of wounded came in, we had to stick it till the
last case. Here I can cosset myself.”

“You . . . you are thinking of staying on?”

“Yes. That is understood between Dr. Pawley and me. He urged it. And I
have paid a premium which now I can’t afford to forfeit.” Suddenly, his
voice brightened, he seemed to speak naturally, sincerely:

“You remember you promised to work with me?” She nodded. “I am looking
forward to that. We shan’t be idle.” He laughed, as he added: “I hear
from Mrs. Rockram that you are an experienced nurse.”

“A bottlewasher. Still . . . I learnt a lot at Wilverley.”

“How is Lady Selina?”

Without thinking, Cicely answered:

“Mother is wonderful. She is almost herself again. Poor dear! she will
be terribly upset when she hears about more sickness in Upworthy.”

Grimshaw, rather astonished at her light manner, said quietly:

“I feared that Brian’s death would overwhelm her.”

“It did, it did. But . . .”

“Yes?”

She flushed. The truth must be told; and a desperate desire possessed
her to tell it, to put it behind her, to face this man bravely and
secure him as a friend. He would be hurt if she went away, leaving him
to hear the story from another. She assured herself that he had never
_cared_.

“Yesterday, Mr. Grimshaw, Lord Wilverley asked me to become his wife.”

“Ah!”

The sharp exclamation escaped him. Instantly she knew. As instantly he
recovered himself. But telepathy had been established. _He did care!_ He
had always cared. Intuition revealed everything. Fate had ordained that
they should meet just twenty-four hours too late.

“I accepted him,” she continued calmly, wondering at her power of
dissimulation. “And that has consoled Mother tremendously. This morning
she is another woman.”

“I wish you all happiness, Miss Chandos.” His voice was as calm as hers.
“From the little I saw of Lord Wilverley, I can congratulate you with
all my heart; and him.”

She walked back to the Manor with slow, reluctant steps. The brook that
flows between maidenhood and womanhood had been passed.

Share