Grimshaw remained at the Manor for about half an hour after Wilverley
had left. To his astonishment he discovered that the fire, from the
point of view of Lady Selina’s servants, was regarded as a blessing in
disguise. An enormous quantity of rubbish had been destroyed, the
accumulation of generations. It appeared, also, that dry-rot in the
ancient timbers had caused much anxiety and expense. And an immense roof
had leaked persistently.
None the less, Grimshaw gazed at the still smoking ruins with sorrowful
eyes. A clever architect would be able to preserve these. The
significance of this penetrated into Grimshaw’s mind. Certain elementary
things seemed destined to endure in a world of chance and decay.
Insensibly, he began to compare persons with things. The insoluble
problem of heredity and environment presented itself. It was difficult
to envisage Lady Selina Chandos in a new house. Would modern
improvements affect her? He remembered that Cicely had denied the
possibility of earthquakes in English villages. And within a few hours
an earthquake had taken place, something cataclysmic, to which,
willy-nilly, the lady of the manor must adapt herself.
He returned to his lodgings to swallow food without appetite. Then he
went to the dispensary to prepare Lady Selina’s sleeping-draught. In the
dispensary word came to him that Dr. Pawley wished to see him, not—so
it turned out—professionally. Indeed, the exciting events seemed to
have had a tonic effect. Pawley, very alert, had become a lively note of
interrogation, asking eager questions, interpolating shrewd remarks,
alive to the humours of the situation but full of sympathy for Lady
“Has it been an eye-opener?” he asked.
“I hope so.”
“I suppose I know the dear woman better than anybody else, better,
perhaps, than she knows herself. She has all the virtues of her
class—fortitude, courtesy, sincerity and pluck.”
“You can say as much of some of her dependents. Isaac Burble, for
instance, and old Stimson.”
“True. Extremes meet. I like to think of that. The trouble becomes acute
when extremes don’t meet. In a sense I have always regarded her as
Grimshaw nodded. Pawley’s never-failing interest in others invited
confidence. And his advice would be sincere and helpful. The impulse to
tell his secret became irresistible. He began tentatively:
“The breaking of the Wilverley-Chandos engagement rather upset you,
“For the moment. I was so sorry for the mother. And it meant so much to
the village. We old bachelors are confirmed matchmakers. Yes, yes; it
upset me, but I can admit frankly that I left little Cicely out of my
reckoning. She didn’t want a good fellow, and she cut loose from him.
The why and wherefore are beyond me, but the essential fact suffices.”
“Perhaps she cared for somebody else?”
Pawley shook his head.
“No, no; in that case I venture to think that I should have had an
inkling, eh? Since she came out, the child has met nobody—_nobody_.”
“Exactly. Now be prepared for a shock. I’m nobody. In Lady Selina’s eyes
that describes me to a dot.”
Pawley was not dense, but, for an instant, he was befogged, and Grimshaw
realised this, and with it the inevitable conclusion that even his
friend and colleague regarded him, like Lady Selina, as negligible. He
smiled derisively: and the smile was illuminating. Pawley understood.
“Good Lord! I’ve been blind.”
“There wasn’t much to see. I was blind myself till yesterday. And then,
suddenly, I saw. I’ll add this to you. I fell in love with her five
minutes after I met her. When I scraped that midge out of her eye the
big thing happened. I fought against it. Yesterday I succumbed. She—she
cares for me, bless her!”
“You mean it’s settled?”
“Settled! I wonder if anything more unsettling to all concerned could
Pawley remained silent, a silence misapprehended by Grimshaw, who
reflected, naturally enough, that congratulation was deemed impossible.
But the elder man had embarked upon a long pilgrimage at racing speed.
He was whirled back to those far-off days when he, a nobody, aspired to
enter a guarded pleasaunce, with its conspicuous notice: “Trespassers
Beware!” He had entered it and left it—alone. Ever since he had
remained alone a festering fact. His kindly eyes rested upon Grimshaw’s
tired face. He held out his thin hand.
“Can I help you to win through?”
His sympathy was so unexpected after a long silence that Grimshaw
stammered a reply:
“You—you think I am w-w-worthy?”
Pawley gripped the hand in his.
“If you can ask that question sincerely, you are. I take it Lady Selina
Grimshaw plunged into fluent speech. When he finished, Pawley was in
possession of what had passed between the lovers, of the compromise
exacted by Cicely, of its effect upon Grimshaw. He listened with
pursed-up lips and frowning brows. Then he delivered his considered
“You are stumbling along in ruts. Where have they led me? Where have
they led Goodrich? Come out of them, my dear fellow. Cicely is wrong.
But there is every excuse for her.”
“Then Lady Selina is not to be ‘spared’?”
Pawley made a deprecating gesture.
“Has Omnipotence spared her? The longer I live, Grimshaw, the more
amazed I am at human fallibility. We mean well, most of us, and we do
ill. And ill follows our benevolent efforts. Per contra, good rises out
of evil. Anyway, compromise has been the curse of my life.” He paused,
adding in a lower tone: “Compromise came between me and the woman I
loved. It was too much for both of us. Be honest with Lady Selina. It’s
your best chance. In her heart, and it’s a big heart, she must have a
measure of contempt for poor old Goodrich and me, because we have
kowtowed to her.”
“If I could get at her heart——I have a weapon——”
“A weapon?” Pawley winced at the word. “What sort of weapon?”
“It would lose some of its edge if I showed it to you, I shall not use
it unless I am driven to do so.”
Pawley was too courteous to ask for further explanation.
Grimshaw returned to the Rockram cottage much the better for his talk
with Pawley, but conscious, also, that a wise old man was not optimistic
in regard to his chances. He had the wit and the will to plead his case
strongly. The real issue, so he reflected, lay between strength and
Mrs. Rockram was awaiting him.
“You made a pore dinner, sir, and I thought, maybe, you’d fancy some
nice hot soup.”
“Bless your kind heart, I do.”
As he ate his soup, she hovered about him, eager to talk over the fire
and the soul-stirring events on the green. Knowing her to be a faithful
servant of the House of Chandos and devoted to its mistress, he yielded
to the temptation to draw from her some expression of opinion. Obviously
she sided with Authority.
“My lady’ll never be the same again, never!”
“In what way do you think she will change?”
“The ingratitude of ’em’ll eat into her bones.”
“Ah! Lady Selina used that word.”
Mrs. Rockram expressed the positive opinion that no other word could be
used by a perfect lady. Emboldened by Grimshaw’s silence, she went on:
“I know my place, sir, but I did pass the remark to Rockram: ‘Her
ladyship’ll up and leave us,’ I says, ‘to stew in our own sauce.’”
“I can’t see her ladyship outside Upworthy.”
“Maybe. But I have seen her. In my day we went to London every year.”
“And am I to infer, Mrs. Rockram, that her ladyship is a different woman
away from Upworthy?”
Mrs. Rockram rebuked him delicately.
“A lady, like my lady, is a _lady_ wherever she may be. But in the room
we used to remark that her ladyship in town was different.”
“In what way? This is interesting.”
“Rockram was butler in them days. The little I knows I gets from him. My
lady took things easier in Curzon Street, never fussed like. Very
popular she was, too, with the _crême de la crême_.”
“I dare say your good cooking had something to do with that.”
“Maybe. There was no pinching in those days—the best of everything. And
no trouble neither. The best came to the kitchen door.”
“It doesn’t now, not even in London.”
“Well, sir, all I says is that my lady is at the age when peace and
comfort come first. If she can’t get ’em here, she’ll go elsewhere; and
quite right, too.”
Left alone, Grimshaw smoked a pipe before turning in. Tobacco, however,
failed to soothe him. Mrs. Rockram’s words rankled. Peace and comfort!
Peace at any price! With war raging over all the civilised world, who
wouldn’t set an extravagant value on peace? The merely material
difficulty of rebuilding her house, with every able-bodied man in khaki,
might drive Lady Selina out of Upworthy. And once out, once settled in a
snug town house, would she return?
At eleven next morning he crossed the green to dress Lady Selina’s arm.
Upworthy presented to his critical eye no apparent change from the
normal. What villagers he met greeted him with a sheepish and apologetic
air. Ebullition of feeling had simmered away. Even Timothy Farleigh had
reassumed his bovine mask, although his face was brighter, Mary being
decidedly better, and likely to improve from hour to hour. Agatha
thanked him effusively, on her marrow-bones before his “cleverness.” She
repeated the same phrase again and again:
“Oh! you are clever, sir; you saved us all, you did.”
“A bit of luck. I saw the wax vesta in the boy’s hand.”
“And so did I, sir. It told me just nothing, nothing.”
“You were too excited to notice trifles at such a time.” He paused,
adding significantly: “Are you still excited?”
She flushed a little, hesitating, but constrained to candour beneath his
“Things can’t go on as they are, sir, can they?”
Her tone was interrogative, not defiant. Recognising the change in her
mental attitude, he said genially:
“Things never do go on as they are, nor persons. The progress of the
world is intermittent; and it rolls on in curves, now up, now down, but
the mean level is steadily rising. Ill-considered speech and action clog
the wheels. You can give a motor too much lubricating oil, can’t you?”
“I am very sorry that I misunderstood you, sir.”
With these heartening words he left the Farleigh cottage and walked more
briskly to the Vicarage.
Cicely, you may be sure, contrived to see him alone for a minute. From
her manner he could divine nothing of her feelings, because they met in
the small hall within reach of curious eyes and ears. He fancied that
her hand lay cold in his. And her expression was troubled.
“Your mother has passed a bad night?”
“Mother slept soundly, thanks to your draught. She’s up; in the
drawing-room. She insists on going to London at once. We are likely to
stay there for several months.”
“But do you see? I can’t.” Her voice was almost piteous. “Perhaps it’s
for the best. I don’t know. And she talks of sending the family
solicitor down here to deal with Snitterfield and Gridley. But he’s an
old fossil. They’ll twist him round their fingers. Can’t you coax her
into staying here?”
“I am not very sanguine of succeeding where you have failed.”
He followed her into the drawing-room, where Lady Selina was enthroned
in a large chair, with energy exuding from her. Grimshaw did the little
that was necessary. He had to admit that the burn was not serious.
Cicely could attend to it. Lady Selina said briskly:
“I want to talk to you, Mr. Grimshaw. Please sit down. Cicely, my dear,
you needn’t go. You are vitally concerned in what I have to say.”
Cicely betrayed slight nervousness. Grimshaw sat down near Lady Selina.
He perceived that she was overbrimming with considered speech.
“I awoke with a clear mind,” she affirmed. “I have had an object-lesson,
not wasted upon me, I can assure you. I admit that I have been blind to
what has been going on under my nose. And I can take into consideration
the—the—a—consideration that has been, not too wisely, given to me.
Enough of that. I can’t, under the circumstances, call in Lord
Wilverley, as you suggested. But there are others. My own solicitor, for
instance. I shall instruct him to institute a sort of court of inquiry
here. He will know how to deal with this man Snitterfield and our
Inspector of Nuisances.”
“Will he?” asked Grimshaw quietly.
Lady Selina answered with slight acerbity:
“Of course he will. Before he meets these men, I shall ask him to have a
talk with you. Out of the chaos of yesterday, one phrase bites deeply
into my memory. I was told by Timothy Farleigh that my village is a
whited sepulchre. You didn’t contradict him.”
The unhappy Cicely wriggled in her chair. Grimshaw remained silent. Lady
Selina continued inexorably:
“It is possible, Mr. Grimshaw, that you didn’t contradict him because
you share his opinion of Upworthy. Do you?”
Cicely interposed hastily:
“Mother, do wait till you are yourself again.”
“Nonsense, child! I am very much myself this morning. Who wouldn’t be
after such an awakening? Mr. Grimshaw will do me the justice to believe
that I am in no mood to spare myself or anybody else. If Mr. Grimshaw
honestly thinks that Upworthy is a whited sepulchre, let him say so.”
“Mother. I entreat you!”
Lady Selina waved her hand impatiently.
“I must find out what the doctor of the parish thinks. I detest
evasions. Heaven knows we have had enough of them.”
Grimshaw replied eagerly:
“I am sorely tempted to evade your question, Lady Selina. And I could do
so easily. But you have chosen to raise the big issue between us, and I
dare not shirk it. _I dare not shirk it._” He repeated the words so
sorrowfully that she eyed him more attentively. After the pause he went
on: “The metaphor may be crude and harsh. It is. I should not have
chosen it myself. But conditions are fundamentally wrong here, as I
ventured to hint to you at our very first meeting.”
“Hints! Hints! Let us away with hints. Please tell me this: If—if
conditions are so fundamentally wrong here—which I don’t admit—why are
you working here? Why did you come back to—to a whited sepulchre?”
Her tone became indescribably ironic, charged, too, with a feeling that
she was unable to suppress. Feeling always engenders feeling. Something
about Grimshaw, the conviction that he was intensely moved, moved her.
She scented mystery. And immediately this suspicion was heightened as
she intercepted a glance of Cicely’s directed full at Grimshaw, a
supplicating glance, beseeching forbearance and patience. Tiddy had
predicted aright. Cicely was no actress. Grimshaw, unable for his part
to dissemble, returned the glance. Obviously there was an understanding,
or a misunderstanding, between these two. In a harder voice Lady Selina
addressed the silent Grimshaw.
“Why do you look at my daughter? That boy, last night, said that you
were afraid of her. Why? Is there any sort of—of league between you?”
The hunted Cicely burst out:
“A common desire to spare you.”
“To spare me? Thank you for nothing. I demand the truth. Why is Mr.
Grimshaw, a clever, distinguished man, working here under conditions
which he holds to be fundamentally wrong?”
Throughout this interview, so poignantly illuminating, Grimshaw had been
sensible of Lady Selina’s sincerity and intelligence. He had never
doubted the former; the latter gave him pause. Granting that she was
really intelligent, an acute observer, why had she drifted into this
_impasse_? Then he remembered what Pawley had said of her, her utter
lack of business training, the stigma of all women of her class, and
behind this the inherited instinct to move slowly in an appointed
groove. Out of this groove she had been rudely shaken. For the first
time she had a glimpse of what such women might accomplish if they were
freed from the fetters of tradition and convention. He replied calmly:
“What governs most of our actions, Lady Selina? Self-interest.
Self-interest lured me into staying here against my better judgment.
Self-interest brought me back to Upworthy, although I knew that the
basic conditions were not likely to be changed.”
“Self-interest?” She slowly repeated the two odious words, evidently
puzzled, but keenly alert. “I can’t for the life of me see where
self-interest comes in. Making due allowance for your modesty, Mr.
Grimshaw, I fail to follow you. A big town is the place for you, not a
country parish. You are the nephew of a distinguished London physician.
You must know, better than I do, that self-interest, if you are speaking
professionally, ought to have kept you away from Upworthy.”
“I was not speaking professionally.”
“I have been weak; something, too, of a coward; but I promise you that
self-interest is going to be scrapped here and now.”
“I am utterly at a loss——!”
“You will be enlightened at once.”
He stood up, the light from the windows falling full upon his face.
“I have stayed here because I love your daughter.”
Lady Selina gasped as she sat rigid in her chair, but of the three she
was the first to recover self-possession. Cicely, absolutely unprepared,
remained tremblingly silent. Grimshaw was too moved to say more. After
an interminable pause, he heard the autocrat’s soft, derisive voice:
“My son, Brian, warned me against that possibility, and I laughed at
him—I laughed at him.”
Grimshaw spoke less calmly.
“I am not ashamed of loving her, but I am ashamed of trying to win a
wife by playing the humbug and hypocrite.”
Lady Selina tried in vain to assimilate this. He loved Cicely; did she
love him? The girl was now, apparently, in one of her absurd trances,
looking exactly like her father. The mother was familiar with these
curious seizures, but Grimshaw knew nothing of them. Cicely seemed to be
turned into stone. She looked cold as marble. Beneath this impassive
surface a battle was raging, as before, between the two Cicelys. The
body remained aloof and inert. To the old Cicely Grimshaw’s declaration
seemed brutally inopportune. Without consulting her, he had sunk all the
little boats, a tiny fleet, which carried her plans and hopes. She felt
that she was swamped with them, foundering helplessly in mid-channel
with the farther shore almost within sight. With so much at stake, why
had he acted so precipitately? At such moment, odd phrases obsess the
mind. She kept on repeating to herself a French sentence learnt at
school, an exercise in articulation:
“_Je me précipite_,
“_Tu te précipites_,
“_Il se précipite_.”
Grimshaw was confounded, as he stared at her, and instantly he, too,
became the prey of mental civil war. Doubt assailed him. He was racked
by the tormenting thought that his judgment had been cruelly at fault.
Conscious that he had risen to opportunity, that he had soared high
above mean and material considerations, he seemed to be looking down
upon his beloved grovelling in the dust of the ages—dust of that
dust—disintegrating before his eyes——! Impetuously he spoke:
“I can, of course, leave Upworthy.”
Lady Selina hesitated, but not for long. She observed coldly:
“Under the circumstances, Mr. Grimshaw, that is the wise thing to do.”
The hypercritical may affirm that it was not, under the circumstances,
the wise thing for a mother to say, inasmuch as it forced into action an
apparently apathetic and dazed creature. For the moment, Cicely remained
as before. Then, with a sharp exclamation, she stood up—revitalised,
quickened incredibly. She seemed to Grimshaw to expand from a girl into
a woman, a complete individuality, self-reliant, capable, almost
dominating; the new Cicely, the daughter of strenuous times, born of
them, exulting in them, as fresh as Aphrodite when she rose from the
“I shall go with him.”
Swiftly she crossed to his side, lifting a radiant face to his. Then she
addressed her mother, speaking very softly, but clearly, with enchanting
“I love him as devotedly as he loves me.”
Lady Selina shivered, as if seized by a rigor. In a pathological sense
this had indeed happened. A rigor of the mind caused a sort of collapse.
She lay back in her chair, closing her eyes. Cicely hastened to her.
“Mother, this is a dreadful surprise to you. But you love me, don’t you?
You won’t be unkind?”
A dreary voice, hardly recognisable, answered her:
“In a few hours I have lost my house, my people, and my daughter.”
Cicely fell on her knees beside her.
“Not your daughter!” she exclaimed passionately.
Lady Selina opened her eyes at the touch of Cicely’s hands. Something of
the girl’s determination may have flowed to her. Possibly, too, the
presence of Grimshaw hardened her, although, deliberately, she ignored
him. Her strength returned, the energy which she had never frittered
away during a long, tranquil life.
“Is your mind really made up, Cicely? Is it?”
The firmness of tone was sufficiently convincing.
“You wish to marry a man who is against me, who sides with my enemies?”
Grimshaw answered her.
“I am not against _you_, Lady Selina. You belong to the old order. I
belong to the new. I have never indicted your sincerity of purpose. I
hope you won’t indict mine.”
She shrugged her shoulders, saying with finality:
“I stick to my order. I can’t change. We don’t change.”
He came nearer.
“But—your son changed.”
Obviously, she considered herself challenged, and unfairly challenged.
She sat up. Her eyes sparkled. She spoke with intensity:
“He did not change. My boy stood by me always—always.”
“He changed after he had faced—realities.”
Cicely was no longer on her knees. She had risen, when Grimshaw
approached, retreating a little, divining somehow that her lover was
about to use a weapon of which she knew nothing. But the weapon, when
she saw it, inspired little confidence. Brian, so far as she was aware,
had not changed. Were he alive, he would stand beside his mother now and
always, as she affirmed with such poignant conviction. None the less
faith in her lover remained constant.
Lady Selina addressed Cicely, not Grimshaw.
“Do you remember, child, that Brian came home on leave shortly after Mr.
Grimshaw left Upworthy to go to France?”
“Your brother was Mr. Grimshaw’s friend, and fully alive to his many
sterling qualities and, and—attractions. Because of these he guessed
what might happen. And he warned me. And, as I say, I laughed at him.
Brian would say, if he were present, what I am about to say.”
She paused to select the right words, thinking not only of her son but
of her husband. Brian, possibly, was more Danecourt than Chandos, and
dearer to the mother on that account. But in matters which concerned the
women of his family he was unquestionably his father’s son, a stickler
for tradition, an upholder of the unwritten law which forbade marriage
between persons of unequal social position. She continued with austere
“I can hardly believe, Cicely, that you have considered what is at
stake. This big property was left to me to pass on to a successor, to a
child whom your dear father and I believed to be bone of our bone,
sharing our ideas and governing principles, content, like us, to walk in
the old ways, to carry on our work. Brian would have done so. But he
Her voice died away mournfully.
Cicely edged nearer, much moved. But when she attempted to take her
mother’s hand, Lady Selina repulsed her, saying quietly:
“I am speaking now for Brian, for your father, and for myself. If you
decide to marry what I firmly believe to be the wrong man, Upworthy and
all it includes will go to your cousin George.”
Cicely gazed incredulously at her mother. Slowly, incredulity vanished.
The familiar figure of Brian took its place. He stood between her and
happiness. He had been resurrected from the dead for this one inflexible
purpose. Then he, too, melted away, and she beheld Upworthy, the village
with its pretty thatched cottages, the rich pastures, and beyond them
the woods and uplands—an Arcadian paradise out of which Brian was
Lastly, she perceived her cousin George, lord of this goodly manor. She
had never liked George. And he was one of the “Indispensables” at the
War Office, a-glitter with decorations not earned upon the field of
battle. The last time she had talked to George, he had held forth
prosingly upon the good old days before the war. Whatever happened,
George would “carry on” in the easy grooves, and be more concerned about
breeding pheasants than the housing of peasants——
Her mind cleared as she glanced at Grimshaw. Here stood the
flesh-and-blood reality, the man of her choice. Their eyes met,
flashing. Each disdained Cupid’s adventitious lures and guiles. He
seemed to be saying: “Read me! Look well before you leap!”
Accordingly, she looked deep into a mind and heart open for her
inspection. Then she leapt without fear.
“If I have to choose between Upworthy and my lover, I take him.”
With a noble gesture she held out her hand. Grimshaw took it, holding it
“I am the proudest and happiest man in the kingdom.”
Lady Selina, not untouched, and sensible, perhaps, that duty was goading
her on along the appointed path, observed judicially:
“I have spoken for my dead son, you understand?”
“But not his last word?” said Grimshaw.
“Not his last word?” she repeated. “What can you mean?”
“I have a letter from him, written just before he went. He spoke in that
letter of you, Lady Selina, and of Upworthy, and of me.”
“Have you seen this letter, Cicely?” asked Lady Selina.
“No one has seen it,” said Grimshaw, “except myself. I brought it with
me this morning.”
“Please give it to me.”
She held out a trembling hand. Grimshaw took an envelope from his
pocket. Lady Selina saw the familiar writing through a mist of unshed
“I c-can’t read it,” she faltered.
“May I?” Cicely asked eagerly. Hardly waiting for an affirmative, she
took the letter and glanced at it.
“What is it, child?”
“It is dated only two days before he died.”
“Read it aloud.”
As Cicely obeyed, the mother covered her face with her hand. Cicely’s
voice faltered and broke more than once, but she read on and on till
almost the end.
“‘My dear old Grimmer,—I shall be over the top in a few hours, and
mayn’t come back. In the old days you tried to make me think. I’ve had
to do it out here. If there isn’t a purpose behind all this slaughter,
one must come out of it. I see now it’s up to us to do what we can, not
only at the Front, but where our men come from. They deserve it. By God!
they do. I know at long last that I was wrong not to back you up about
our village. I sided with my mother. She’s the dearest thing, but
however beautiful the past may be, we can’t live in it. And she does. If
Upworthy ever comes to me, I’ll do what you want, if it costs me my last
bob. I should like to see England come out of this splendid all through.
It might be so, and it isn’t. If things go wrong, tell my mother this
some day, but not yet, because she isn’t ripe for it. If I know her,
she’ll try to do something for me that I can’t do for myself. She always
did. There’s one more thing heavy on my mind——’”
The command was almost inaudible. Cicely read on:
“‘It’s about Cis. I put a spoke in your wheel because I shared Mother’s
ideas about suitable matches, and all that. Now, whether I win through
or not, I hope that you and she will come together. Bless you both!’”
Silently, Grimshaw moved to the window and stood with his back to the
two women. He could see the trim lawn, once more in order. The gap
through which the excited villagers had burst their way was still open.
He heard Lady Selina’s voice:
“Give me the letter, child.”
For a moment, Lady Selina held the letter, murmuring: “My son!—my son!”
Then she re-read it, Cicely kneeling beside her, hiding her tear-stained
face in her mother’s lap. The letter fluttered to the ground. Cicely
felt her mother’s hand upon her head.
“I—I wonder if he knows?”
Cicely looked up.
“What should he know, Mother?”
“He might know that his message to me has been delivered, and——”