Mother and daughter were left alone in the Vicarage drawing-room,
pending the arrival of Grimshaw, who was likely to come in at any
moment. The parson bustled off to collogue with an ancient parlour-maid,
who exacted tactful treatment. Long ago the parson’s wife had passed to
a much-needed rest, a fact, indeed, stated positively upon her
Lady Selina sank pathetically into a comfortable arm-chair. Cicely
regarded her anxiously, but admiringly. She bent down to kiss her cheek,
“Dear mother, you are brave.”
Lady Selina sighed, leaning her head upon her uninjured hand. It was
difficult to interpret the expression upon her fine face. Behind the
physical weariness, an odd look of bewilderment revealed itself. When
she spoke, something else—was it acrimony or amazement?—challenged
“How smug this room is!”
Cicely glanced round. Her mother had hit the right word. Smug, indeed!
But, familiar as she was from childhood with every stick of furniture,
Cicely had never till this moment realised the smugness. And that, of
course, jumped to the eye when it was mentioned. Every room has its
particular message. Cicely knew that nothing in that prim apartment had
been changed during five-and-twenty years. Anæmic water-colour drawings
adorned the walls, which were demurely grey, a lasting tint. The
curtains and the seats of sundry chairs were excellent samples of Mrs.
Goodrich’s tireless needlework. They seemed to say, modestly: “See what
patient industry can achieve!” The steel fender and fire-irons were more
vocal “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.” The
well-worn carpet was immaculate; not a speck of dust could be detected
upon the china ornaments or upon the rosewood furniture. A betting man
would have laid heavy odds against finding cobwebs under the upright
piano, starkly upright, naked and not ashamed. Cicely could remember the
parson’s wife playing hymns and sonatinas upon it. Surely it would
explode with indignation if the syncopated rhythm of rag-time were
blasphemously imposed upon the ivory keys——! It was terrible to
reflect that such an instrument, sanctified, so to speak, to Divine
Service, might be debased—after a defiling public sale—to a worst
inn’s best room, to be banged by trippers.
These thoughts flashed into Cicely’s mind.
“It is smug,” she assented. “It knows, probably, that it’s just right.
Yes, self-righteousness is the note.”
She laughed a little, but Lady Selina remained unamused.
“Cicely, some of my people didn’t help at the fire.”
This was an arresting statement, impossible to assimilate at a gulp.
Cicely replied hastily:
“I saw many helping.”
“I saw some—laughing.”
“I laughed myself a moment ago. It’s just excitement. I felt
Lady Selina appeared to be wandering down a maze of introspection,
picking her way in and out of blind alleys. She asked a question.
“How long has this bitter feeling of the Farleighs against me been
“I—I suppose ever since his little girls died.”
“You were aware of it?”
“Then, why didn’t you warn me?”
“I—I don’t know.”
After a pause Lady Selina continued heavily:
“I am forced to the conclusion that things—important things—have been
kept from me. Why? Why?”
Cicely blushed faintly, thinking of Grimshaw’s phrase: “the conspiracy
“Perhaps, Mother, those who loved you wanted to spare you.”
Lady Selina nodded.
“I understand. I have been regarded by those who loved me as a fool
content in her paradise.”
As she spoke Grimshaw was ushered in. He crossed to his patient, saying
“Forgive an unavoidable delay, Lady Selina. I had to dress your
“My poor Hutchings——! Is he much hurt?”
“He thinks so. It’s nothing. He hasn’t your pluck.”
As he spoke, he took from his bag a roll of absorbent cotton wool and a
bottle of picric acid solution, which he placed upon a table where such
articles were eyed askance by a Parian-marble lady under a glass dome.
Deftly, he removed the sling.
“Tell me if I hurt you.”
“I shall do nothing of the sort.”
In the presence of a comparative stranger, Lady Selina had reassumed her
manner, so natural to her, so indisputably her shining armour. The
sudden change confounded Cicely. Which was the real woman?
Grimshaw addressed Cicely professionally:
“More light, Miss Chandos.”
Cicely pulled back the curtains, which always slightly obscured the
light, because ample folds revealed the needlework.
“That’s much better.”
He examined the burn, and then cut off a pad of the sterilised cotton,
which he wetted with the picric solution.
“How red the burn looks!” remarked Cicely. She could see that her mother
was not only grateful to the doctor, but pleased with the man. Lady
Selina murmured approval.
“Your touch is as light as a woman’s. What are you using?”
“Picric acid solution.”
She never winced as he dressed the burn. Her tones were as light as his
“Dear me! You were going to dine with us this evening! And I had ordered
such a nice little dinner.”
Behind Lady Selina a French window opened upon the lawn, which faced the
village green. Through this window floated noises culminating in cheers.
“Please shut that window,” commanded Grimshaw.
“Please don’t,” said the Lady of the Manor. “The atmosphere of this room
is slightly oppressive. I suppose the dear souls are cheering me.”
“Safety-pin, Miss Chandos.”
The parson entered, blandly beaming.
“Your chauffeur has come back from Wilverley, Lady Selina. The fire
engine is at the Hall, under Lord Wilverley’s direction. Lord Wilverley
has put the Court at your disposal, but I told him that you had accepted
my own more modest shelter.”
“I should like you to go to bed at once.”
“My dear doctor! _After_ I have dined.”
“_Before._ You have sustained a shock.”
“I have.” She smiled ironically. “But I am myself again.”
Goodrich went out. From the green came raucous laughter, punctuated by
groans and cat-calls. Lady Selina sat upright, frowning.
“I don’t understand this noise.”
“Nor I,” said Cicely.
“It sounds like a sort of—a—demonstration.”
She glanced interrogatively at Grimshaw, who was apparently intent upon
his dressing. He said pleasantly:
“I think I can promise you that there won’t be any scar.”
“Not on my arm, you mean?”
“Not on your arm.”
Attempting to interpret the derisive inflection of her voice, he asked
“I hope your house was well insured?”
“Oh, yes. Fully. This noise is very extraordinary.”
“I think I must insist upon shutting that window, Lady Selina. It would
be unwise to run risks of taking cold, you know.”
“I don’t take cold.”
Grimshaw went to the window and closed it. Lady Selina submitted.
Stimson appeared, much perturbed.
“What is it, Stimson?”
“I’ve been on the green, my lady, and—and——” he broke off gaspingly.
“Bless the man! What’s the matter with him?”
“Nothing, my lady. They left me alone, my lady. It’s Mr. Gridley. He—he
wanted to break up the crowd. He said . . .”
“Well, what did he say?”
The unhappy Stimson, dirty and dishevelled, grasping the rags of his
former dignity, replied austerely:
“I beg your ladyship’s pardon; I must be excused from repeating what Mr.
Gridley said. Very rough tongue he has.”
Beside herself with impatience, Lady Selina rapped out:
“Am I never to get the plain truth from my own people? What has
“As I left the green, my lady, they were chasing Mr. Gridley into the
pond. It isn’t a deep pond, my lady, but full of horseleeches.”
“I must go out at once.”
“No,” said Grimshaw as positively.
Cicely signed to Stimson to leave the room; he obeyed deprecatingly.
“The Riot Act must be read by me, Mr. Grimshaw. When you crossed the
green just now did you notice bad temper on the part of the crowd?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
He replied quietly:
“Because you are my patient.”
“What has caused this?”
“John Exton’s arrest.”
“I must go at once.”
She stood up. Grimshaw said firmly:
“Forgive me—it isn’t safe.”
Lady Selina smiled incredulously. At the same time she was sensible of
Grimshaw’s sympathy, of his unmistakable solicitude, expressed not so
much by his voice, but by his eyes. She thought to herself: “This young
man is considerate; he has the old-fashioned protective instincts about
“Not safe, you mean, for your patient?”
Grimshaw never answered the question, because Goodrich came in through
the French window, closing it after him; but significant sounds entered
with him. Obviously some of the unruly were trespassing upon the
Vicarage lawn, stamping down the moss.
“This is a revolt,” said the Lady of the Manor.
Goodrich might have replied: “No, madame; it’s revolution,” but he was
beyond quotation. In a troubled voice he delivered a message.
“Timothy Farleigh wants to see you.”
“Don’t see him, Mother,” entreated Cicely. “You’re not up to it.”
“Not up to it? What an idea! I will see any of my people, or all of
them, at any time.”
“He is on my lawn,” said Goodrich. “My privet fence is broken down.”
“Can I see him here, Mr. Goodrich?”
“Certainly, if you insist.”
He went out, carrying a head out of which distressed and congested eyes
bulged prominently. When he came back, Timothy accompanied him. Agatha
and the softy followed. Nobody noticed them. The parson shut the window.
Timothy approached Lady Selina, very erect in her chair.
“What do you want?” she asked quietly.
Timothy confronted her with a dignity quite as impressive, in its way,
as hers. The despairing fury had burnt itself out, partly, possibly,
because his Mary was mending, partly, also, because it had served its
purpose, whether designed or not—it had fired others.
“I want justice.”
Lady Selina replied scornfully:
“You shall have it, I promise you. So you, _you_ have raised my own
people against me?”
He spoke impersonally, as if he were aware that he had but served as an
instrument. And he continued in a low voice, pathetically apathetic:
“I ha’ waited fifteen year for this hour—fifteen year.”
Agatha stood beside him, still defiant. Nick, unnoticed, save by
Grimshaw, crept furtively to the fireplace, apparently astonished and
distressed to find no fire in it. Grimshaw leapt to the conclusion that
the softy had been brought to the Vicarage purposely. Presently he would
serve as an object-lesson, a notable part of Timothy’s indictment.
“You can say what you have to say,” observed Lady Selina. “Apparently
you are here to speak for some of your neighbours?” He nodded. “Very
Timothy prepared himself for a tremendous effort, how tremendous none
can understand who is not intimately acquainted with the rustic mind,
almost atrophied by disuse, when it attempts to measure itself against
authority. Grimshaw, watching him closely, reflected that his attitude
and expression were more eloquent than any speech could be. Bent and
bowed by interminable toil, his gnarled hands trembling with agitation,
he spoke very slowly:
“You might ha’ been burned this day along wi’ your gert house. . . .”
No rancour could be detected in her voice. Grimshaw wondered what she
was feeling. Her perfect manners might have misled a less acute
observer, but he divined somehow that she, also, was intensely affected,
blind for the moment because a cataract had been torn from her eyes.
“Be you prepared to die, my lady?”
At this the parson raised a protesting finger. To break through his
privet fence was a grave misdemeanour; to trespass upon his spiritual
domain in his presence palsied a tongue apter at asking rather than
answering such direct questions. However, Lady Selina replied
“Why do you put such a question?”
“I puts it to ’ee. We brings nothing into this world, and we takes
nothing out. But the reckonin’ must be paid. What ha’ you done, my lady,
wi’ us? We’ve worked for ’ee . . . crool hard, at a low wage.”
He stretched out his rough hands, palms uppermost, revealing the scars
and callouses, but quite unconscious of them.
“You could have left my service, Timothy Farleigh, if you thought the
work too hard and the wage too low.”
“Aye. Fair warning I had fifteen years ago, when my lil’ maids died. I
might ha’ gone then, but someways I couldn’t leave the old land, and
so—God forgi’ me—I stayed. We pore souls, my lady, bain’t free. . . .
We be, seemin’ly, just beasts o’ burden, your beasts—under your yoke.”
Lady Selina never flinched from his intent gaze. Grimshaw was unable to
decide whether indeed her clear blue eyes were fixing upon the trembling
speaker or upon herself. Could she see him as he thus revealed himself?
Could she see herself with anything approximating to true definition?
She said firmly enough:
“My yoke has not been heavy; you know that.”
His hands fell to his sides.
“I knows what you ha’ done; and I knows what you ha’ left undone. We be
housed lil’ better than the beasts o’ the field. We be kept helpless
Lady Selina glanced at Agatha’s tense face.
“No. Your niece here has risen above her station, and I helped her.
Whether such help was wisely given is another matter.”
“Aggie be a clever maid. I speaks for us as bain’t clever. I speaks,”
his voice rang out emphatically, “for every man in Upworthy as has a
wife and lil’ ’uns to lose, if so be as you remains blind and deaf to
the writin’ on your own smoulderin’ walls. Better, I says, far better
that you should ha’ perished this day wi’ your grand house than live on
wi’ your heel upon our bodies and our hearts.”
His words, coming from such a man, amazed Grimshaw. And yet they
confirmed an ever-increasing conviction that true inspiration is kindled
from without, that Man is indeed but the receiver and transmitter of a
purpose far transcending finite intelligence. No trained orator could
have chosen better words than these which had fallen, like water from a
rock, out of the mouth of a peasant. Grimshaw watched their effect. They
had brought softening dews to the eyes of Agatha and Cicely; they had
penetrated the parson’s hide-bound understanding. He stood agape in his
own drawing-room, deflated, thinking, possibly, of Balaam’s ass. Lady
Selina seemed to be petrified. Nick alone remained indifferent, the
usual grin upon his face. He had taken from a pocket a match, and was
contemplating the neatly laid fire, obsessed—so Grimshaw decided—with
the desire to light it.
Lady Selina replied, after a pause. What she said came from within, as
sincere, in one sense, as the message from without. Grimshaw realised
that she was delivering a message, a tradition rather, entrusted to her
keeping. Her brother, her father, all her distinguished ancestors would
have spoken the same words in exactly the same tone.
“I have listened to you patiently, Timothy Farleigh. Listen to me. I am
not blind to the writing on my smouldering walls. And one word stands
out flaming—Ingratitude! You come here asking for justice. Justice
shall be meted out to you. And now go!”
She pointed to the door. Timothy hesitated.
“You be a hard ’ooman. But Johnny Exton be innocent. Let ’un out—let
’un out, I says.”
“My house has been burnt. If John Exton didn’t do it, who did?”
Grimshaw moved nearer to her.
“I think I know,” he said, almost in a whisper, because he was humbly
aware that inspiration had descended upon him. Lady Selina repeated his
“You think you know, Mr. Grimshaw?”
He beckoned to Nick, saying in his kindliest tone:
“Come you here, my lad.”
The softy shambled up to him. Grimshaw sat down upon a chair near the
fireplace, assuming an easy attitude, but his eyes caught and held the
eyes of the boy.
“I bain’t afeard of ’ee, I bain’t.”
“Of course not. I wish I was as brave as you, Nicky.”
The softy swelled with pride. The others stared at Grimshaw, who
dominated them as he did the stunted intelligence in front of him. He
“Shall I tell you a secret?”
“I am a bit afeard of somebody. Guess.”
An unexpected answer introduced a touch of comedy. Nick grinned broadly:
“I knows—Miss Cicely.”
For an instant Grimshaw was disconcerted; Cicely blushed. Fortunately
nobody perceived this.
“No, no. I am afeard of George Ball, the constable.”
The shot went home. Nick squirmed.
“Aye. Sit on that stool, my lad. Listen to me.” Nick obeyed, staring up
at the keen face bent over his own. “Let’s have a little chat. I like
“Do ’ee, now? I likes you; yas, I do.” He grinned again, adding slily:
“An’ so does Miss Cicely.”
This second allusion challenged Lady Selina’s attention. She turned to
glance at her daughter, but, happily, the tell-tale blushed had faded.
“Do you ever smoke cigarettes, Nick?”
“Times, I do, when fellers gi’ me some.”
“Have one with me.”
He held out his cigarette-case. Nick selected one; Grimshaw took
another, saying lightly:
“Have you a match?”
A murmur from Agatha nearly broke the spell. Nick, however, intent upon
Grimshaw, opened his left hand, and revealed a match, a wax vesta.
Grimshaw took it, looked at it, and smiled ingratiatingly:
“What a nice wax match!”
“Aye, same as quality use.”
Grimshaw struck the match on his heel.
He leaned forward and downward. Nick lighted his cigarette, puffing at
it complacently. Grimshaw lighted his, and then blew out the match. With
his face still close to Nick’s, he asked suddenly:
“But where is the match-box?”
“I dunno. I lost ’un.”
“What bad luck! You found a silver match-box this afternoon and lost it
inside of—of an hour?”
“Yas, I did. How do ’ee know that?”
“I’m a doctor. I can see inside your head. Shall I give you a shilling?”
Grimshaw took a shilling from his pocket, flicked it into the air, and
caught it. Then, with a laugh, he held it out. Nick tried to take it.
Grimshaw deftly palmed it. Nick was confounded.
“It be gone. You be a wondersome man, you be.”
“Hallo! Here it is again—in your ear, by Jove!”
He exhibited the shilling to the excited boy, flicked it up again and
allowed it to drop on the carpet.
“It’s yours, Nicky.”
Nick picked up the shilling, going down on his knees. As he rose to his
feet Grimshaw stood up, taking him gently by the shoulder:
“I say, tell me something. Why did you set my lady’s house afire?”
Once more, inarticulate murmurs from those present might have broken the
spell, but Nick was too absorbed in his possession of the shilling. He
Grimshaw was not satisfied. He tried another tack, saying lightly:
“You know, Nick, I often want to burn houses myself.”
“Why did you do it, my lad?”
“To please father.”
“To please father, eh? Did he ask you to do it?”
“Johnny Exton may say that he burnt the big house.”
Nick replied jealously:
“Not he. Johnny bain’t brave enough for that. ’Twas me done it. I be
allers ready for a lark.”
Grimshaw turned to Lady Selina.
“Are you satisfied?”
“Yes. I—I am infinitely obliged to you.”
Agatha exclaimed fervently:
“God bless you, sir!”
Lady Selina had spoken stiffly, still erect in her chair. And she gazed
mournfully at Nick, not at Grimshaw.
“Yes, my lady?”
“Do you hate me?”
All softies are extremely sensitive to the tones of the voice. Nick must
have felt the hostility which Lady Selina had purposely veiled. He
“I be saft along o’ you. You bain’t so good as the Lard.”
“Him as lives Wilverley way. Upworthy pegs we be called by Wilverley
His fatuous grin was unendurable. Lady Selina winced. Grimshaw
“That will do, Nick.”
Agatha added as quickly:
“You come home along with father and me.”
“Yes,” murmured Lady Selina. “Take him away. John Exton shall be
released from custody at once.” She added bitterly to Timothy: “You see
what your words have done.”
He replied starkly:
“Upworthy be a whited sepulchre, naught but a whited sepulchre.”
The tension was relaxed slightly after the Farleighs had left the room.
At once Lady Selina instructed Goodrich, as magistrate, to take the
necessary steps to deliver John Exton out of durance vile. As she was
speaking, cheers were heard outside. Goodrich, peering out, announced
that the villagers were leaving the lawn. He mentioned that dinner would
be ready in a quarter of an hour, adding:
“May I prescribe a glass of champagne for your patient, Grimshaw?”
Lady Selina said wearily:
“You are very kind. I shall go to bed.”
“Please,” murmured Grimshaw.
The parson went out. Lady Selina lay back in her chair, closing her
eyes. Cicely glanced anxiously at Grimshaw. Had the inevitable reaction
set in? Grimshaw approached his patient, and laid his hand upon her
wrist. She opened her eyes.
“I’m rather tired. That’s all.”
“No wonder.” He held her wrist for half a minute, saying reassuringly:
“Your pulse is excellent. Some light food in bed and a night’s rest will
quite restore you.”
She nodded. He was about to take leave of her when she said abruptly:
“What did that poor boy mean by saying that he was born soft along of
Grimshaw answered with slight constraint:
“As to that, I have the facts at second-hand. Some six months before he
was born his mother had diphtheria. She was distracted about that time
by the death of her two little girls from the same disease.”
“I see. Would that account for this boy being born wanting?”
Lady Selina refused to accept this as final. The constraint in
Grimshaw’s voice had not escaped her.
“But in your opinion, with such facts as you have, it did, didn’t it?”
“Good-night, Mr. Grimshaw; and very many thanks.”
He bowed and went out.
As he crossed the green he noticed that the villagers had left it.
Cheering, at a distance, lent colour to the hypothesis that John Exton’s
release would lead to more ale-drinking. After that Upworthy would
forgive and forget. On the morrow, popular feeling would be as flat as
the dregs of ale left in the big tankards.
Lady Selina would not forget.
His feeling for her was now one of intensest pity, and, as he walked, he
beheld himself as the fateful instrument by which fresh laceration must
be inflicted. She had thanked him civilly for his services, but she had
not held out her uninjured hand, simply because his final expression of
opinion ranked him amongst her critics. Very few women of the better
sort, conscious, as they are, of self-sacrifice to what they conceive to
be duty, can endure criticism. He knew, also, that he had disappointed
Cicely, too young and too loving a daughter not to resent plain-speaking
if it hurt an already stricken creature. Many a gallant gentleman, he
reflected, would have lied convincingly at such a moment.
Dinner was awaiting him at Mrs. Rockram’s, but he had no appetite. To
distract attention from himself, he decided to walk up to the Hall and
see what was left of it. Mounting the gentle slopes of the park, fatigue
assailed him afresh; every bone in his body seemed to be aching. But the
storm had passed away, leaving clear skies and a delicious freshness of
atmosphere. He stopped to inhale the odours of grateful earth.
In the mid-distance he could see the walls of the house, still standing.
Smoke ascended from them and steam, for the Wilverley fire engine was at
work. He could hear the sharp rap of the pistons. The roof had vanished;
out of the blackened walls, like sightless eyes, glared what had been
windows, the windows that reflected so gloriously the setting sun.
An ancient home had been destroyed.
It would be rebuilt, of course, with all modern improvements, electric
light, bathrooms, and labour-saving devices—a change for the better, so
Mrs. Grundy would affirm. Lady Selina would not think so. Could she,
could anybody of her age adjust themselves to new conditions?
When he reached the lawn he was greeted by two energetic persons, Arthur
Wilverley and Tiddy. In a few words Wilverley stated that his labours
were ended. The stables and some outbuildings had been saved. He added:
“Lady Selina ought to have had a small engine here.”
He looked exuberantly strong and fit, with no air of the dejected and
rejected lover about him. Here was one who could adapt himself to new
conditions. Presently he led Grimshaw aside and listened attentively to
a terse recital of what had happened in Upworthy, laughing heartily when
he heard of Gridley and the horsepond, expressing sympathy tempered by
humour for Lady Selina.
“If this wakes her up, Grimshaw, all will be well.”
Grimshaw made no reply. Wilverley continued in a different tone:
“Ought I to see her to-night before I go home?”
“As her doctor I’m afraid I must veto that.”
“Thank you; I understand. I shall write. Miss Tiddle wants to see Miss
Chandos. I can wait in the car.” Then, sensible of constraint in
Grimshaw’s manner, and misinterpreting it, he added frankly: “You are a
good chap; you can size up a delicate situation. I will say this to you.
This fire has burnt away some humiliation. I believe that good must crop
out. If I can help, I will. Miss Tiddle feels as I do—a remarkable girl
“You look rather fagged.”
“I have a touch of malaria on me.”
They sauntered back to the engine. Wilverley described with enthusiasm
Miss Tiddle’s executive abilities. Under her capable direction all the
more valuable pictures, porcelain and plate had been stored in the
coach-house. Other outbuildings held furniture and household stores.
“That young lady can get a move on,” declared Wilverley.
Grimshaw wondered whether he was contrasting Miss Tiddle with Cicely,
not to the advantage of the latter. Quite sincerely he hoped that it
might be so. In time—Wilverley would take time—Miss Tiddle might play
Jill to his Jack. They would mount the hill of life together, and not
trouble down it. The pail of water carried by such a pair would be used
to irrigate the waste patches of others. He refused a lift back to the
village in the big car, and watched it whirl off, Wilverley at the wheel
and Miss Tiddle beside him.
By this time Lady Selina was a-bed and Cicely was dining tête-à-tête
with the parson. You may be sure that the good man played the host in
the old-fashioned way. Port mellowed him, banishing disagreeable
reflections. Cicely, unable to peer beneath a polished surface, tried to
reflect herself in that surface and stared ruefully at a very blurred
image. The parson’s slightly patronising tone when speaking of Grimshaw
irritated her intensely, the more so because he laid an insistent finger
upon what had irritated her.
“Your dear mother is no more responsible than I am. Why didn’t he say
so? Heaven knows she needed a word of comfort. As her medical attendant,
it was the man’s positive duty to cheer her up.”
Cicely said bravely:
“Mr. Goodrich, forgive me, but aren’t we all partly responsible?”
He blinked at her and sipped his wine.
“In a way, m’yes. Collectively the responsibility must be divided up. I
“So does Mr. Grimshaw.”
“Of course, he’s an outsider, and something of an iconoclast. A square
peg, I grant you, in a round hole.”
“You admit that Upworthy is a hole?”
He blinked again, but the juice of the grape fortified him.
“It lies low; hence these grievous visitations. I remain loyal to
Upworthy and your dear mother.”
The parlour-maid told her that Miss Tiddle was in the drawing-room.
“I’ll see her at once.”
Cicely rushed into Tiddy’s warm embrace.
“I want you more than anybody else,” she declared fervently.
“I’ve five minutes.”
Two of these precious minutes were devoted to details, but Cicely
apparently took for granted what had been accomplished at the Hall. And,
to Tiddy’s astonishment, she seemed equally indifferent to the exciting
events on the green. She held Tiddy’s hand, squeezing it.
“When can I see you, Tiddy? I must see you. I must have a long talk.”
“Long talks are nearly always too long. You’ve something on your chest.
Now pull up your socks and pin up your skirts and out with it. Wait!
I’ll bet daddy’s pile that you and the Man with the Disconcerting Eyes
have been passing more than the time o’ day.”
“You’re wonderful,” Cicely admitted.
“I’m alive,” remarked Miss Tiddle, complacently. “And my shot wasn’t a
fluke; I played for it. What does dear mother say?”
“That’s it. She doesn’t know.”
“Nor do I yet. But I take it that you have really bounced out of the
frying-pan into the fire?”
“Yes; I have.”
“I’m delighted to hear it. There _is_ stuff in you, but only a
can-opener, like me, is able to get it out. So the signal is S. O. S.,
“Yes. Why can’t you sleep with me to-night?”
“Because I’m on duty, apart from other reasons. What are you going to
do? Hide your head in the sand?”
“I don’t know what to do.”
Tiddy’s eyes sparkled.
“_He_ does, though.”
Cicely answered evasively:
“A man’s methods are always so brutal.”
“That’s why really we love them. If I keep Lord Wilverley waiting he’ll
be brutal; but for your sake I’ll risk that. Shall I tell you what to
“Scrap the buskins! You can’t act for nuts. Nor can he. Both of you will
give the show away if you try dissembling—always a rotten game.”
“Have you seen Mr. Grimshaw?”
“I left him up at the Hall.”
Cicely’s eyes softened.
“And he hasn’t had dinner.”
“He didn’t look as if he wanted dinner. But I’m sure he wants
you—desperately. He appeared to me worn and torn to tatters. Make no
error; you can’t rig him up in your moss.”
“There’s not much moss left.”
“Lots of it, believe me. I haven’t time to argue with you, Cis. I can
make a guess at what’s in your mind, because, as I say, you’re easy to
read, a big asset, if you knew it, and probably the thing that appeals
tremendously to Mr. Grimshaw. If he begins to think you’re not straight
he’ll fly the track.”
Tiddy answered impatiently:
“You want to have it both ways. You are most awfully sorry for your
mother; you would like to be sweet to her, to play the devoted daughter;
but what will all that sort of thing be worth when she finds you out?
And she will. You want to be just as sweet, perhaps sweeter, to Mr.
Grimshaw, and all the time he’ll see you playing a part with your
mother, and, worse, forcing him to do the same. Really, you’re risking
his love and your mother’s respect.”
Cicely frowned. Moss-scraping hurts.
“I suppose you’d rush in to mother, and, on top of this awful calamity,
hit her hard on the head when she’s lying down.”
“If you speak of the fire, I don’t regard it as an awful calamity; nor
do you. As to speaking to-night, that is absurd. To-morrow, or the day
after, will be time enough. I am much sorrier for her than I am for you.
I can measure her disappointment, but I can’t measure your folly if you
play the wrong game. And now—I must hop it.”
“When are you going to France, Tiddy?”
“Why should I go to France?”
This was rank evasion, and Tiddy, challenged to practise what she had
preached, knew it. A little red flowed into her cheeks.
“Because you told me that was your intention.”
“Well, we all change our minds, don’t we? I’m doing my bit here, and
like the job. So that’s that.”
Her curls were a-flutter as she went out.
Cicely stood still listening, till she heard the purr of the big car.
The thought came to her, as it had come to Grimshaw, that Tiddy was not
going to France because she had more than liking for her present job.
Jealous pangs assailed her. If Tiddy wanted Arthur she would get him.
And why not?
Presently she went upstairs to sit beside her mother. To her
astonishment Lady Selina, fortified by soup and a cutlet, declared
herself ready to discuss present and future.
“We can’t impose ourselves upon Mr. Goodrich, my dear, and Danecourt,
under the circumstances, would be too depressing. Heaven alone knows
when we shall get into our own house again. A fairly comfortable flat in
London seems the one thing possible.”
“I said London—not Timbuctoo. Do you object to London?”
Lady Selina eyed her daughter sharply. As a matter of fact, she had
thought of London entirely on Cicely’s account. Her own friends were
living quietly in the country, more or less engrossed by patriotic work.
London, she felt, would distract the child. And she hated flats.
“Would you prefer Bournemouth?”
A derisive inflection underlay the question. Lady Selina detested
popular watering-places and big hotels, where food you didn’t want was
placed before you at stated hours, and even earls’ daughters were known
by chambermaids as numbers!
“Perhaps you will tell me what you would like before I try to go to
Hunted into a corner, Cicely said hastily:
“There is Happy Mead, isn’t there?”
Happy Mead, with its preposterous name, had long been a source of
unhappiness to Lady Selina, because, in accordance with her principles,
she had declined to spend much money upon a dilapidated house,
tenantless for more years than she dared to reckon. Too big for people
of small means, and not likely to appeal to the well-to-do accustomed to
modern comforts, it was situated about a mile from Upworthy in a pretty
but neglected garden.
“That ruin! What a suggestion!” She continued irritably: “I don’t
pretend to understand you, Cicely. I should have thought that a girl not
absolutely devoid of pride would have seen the propriety of leaving her
own county for a season if she was offered the chance.”
Chandos silence countered this observation, and, looking at Cicely’s
firm little chin, Lady Selina told herself that the child had really
very little of the Danecourt pride. Having taken her own line over a
stiff country, she would stick to it. The mother went on after a pause:
“I dislike London in war-time, but we must go there.”
Having delivered this ultimatum, Lady Selina indicated by her manner
that she intended to compose herself to sleep, adding:
“I expect to lie awake half the night.”
However, Grimshaw, it appeared, had provided against this unpleasant
probability. A mild sleeping-draught was sent from Pawley’s dispensary.
Cicely, when she administered the Lethean liquid, regretted that so
thoughtful a man had not sent enough for two.