The door of the little shop opened



The afternoon had slumbered in the sun, but now the August air freshened with an awakening breath, and Epping Thicks stirred and whispered through a myriad leaves. Far away beyond the heaving greenwoods distant clouds floated flat on the upper air, and a richer gold grew over the hills as the day went westward. This way and that, between and about trees and undergrowth, an indistinct path went straggling by easy grades to the lower ground by Wormleyton Pits; an errant path whose every bend gave choice of green passes toward banks of heather and bracken. It was by this way that an old man and a crippled child had reached the Pits. He was a small old man, white-haired, and a trifle bent; but he went his way with a sturdy tread, satchel at side and butterfly-net in hand. As for the child, she too went sturdily enough, but she hung from a crutch by the right shoulder, and she moved with a p. 10jog and a swing. The hand that gripped the crutch gripped also a little bunch of meadowsweet, and the other clasped tight against her pinafore a tattered old book that would else have fallen to pieces.

Once on the heathery slade, the old man lifted the strap over his head and put the satchel down by a tree clump at the wood’s edge.

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RECONSTRUCTION


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.

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REVOLUTION

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
tombstone.

Lady Selina sank pathetically into a comfortable arm-chair. Cicely
regarded her anxiously, but admiringly. She bent down to kiss her cheek,
murmuring:

“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
Cicely’s attention.

“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
hysterical.”

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
smouldering?”

“I—I suppose ever since his little girls died.”

“You were aware of it?”

“Ye—es.”

“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
of silence.”

“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
courteously:

“Forgive an unavoidable delay, Lady Selina. I had to dress your
coachman’s hand.”

“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
touch:

“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.”

“Many thanks.”

Grimshaw interposed.

“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
lightly:

“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
happened?”

“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?”

“Well, yes.”

“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
women.”

“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?”

“Aye.”

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
well—speak.”

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. . . .”

“True.”

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
courteously:

“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
a-purpose.”

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?”

“I dunno.”

“Exactly.”

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
words:

“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
continued lightly:

“Shall I tell you a secret?”

“Ah-h-h!”

“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.

“George Ball!”

“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
you, Nicky.”

“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?”

“Yas.”

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.

“Light up!”

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?”

“Yas.”

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
answered seriously:

“I dunno.”

Grimshaw was not satisfied. He tried another tack, saying lightly:

“You know, Nick, I often want to burn houses myself.”

“Do ’ee?”

“Why did you do it, my lad?”

“To please father.”

“To please father, eh? Did he ask you to do it?”

“No-o-o.”

“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.

“Nick.”

“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
replied sullenly:

“I be saft along o’ you. You bain’t so good as the Lard.”

“The Lord?”

“Him as lives Wilverley way. Upworthy pegs we be called by Wilverley
folk.”

His fatuous grin was unendurable. Lady Selina winced. Grimshaw
interposed hastily:

“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.”

II

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
me?”

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?”

“It might.”

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?”

“Well, yes.”

“Good-night, Mr. Grimshaw; and very many thanks.”

He bowed and went out.

III

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
that!”

“Yes.”

“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.

IV

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
deprecate violence.”

“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.,
eh?”

“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
do?”

“Please!”

“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.”

“Not straight!”

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.”

“Oh! London!”

“I said London—not Timbuctoo. Do you object to London?”

“N-no.”

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!

“Bournemouth! No.”

“Perhaps you will tell me what you would like before I try to go to
sleep.”

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.

Continue Reading

PEARLS OF DEW

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

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

_Arranged . . .!_

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

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

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

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

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

“You are in trouble,” he said courteously.

It was Grimshaw.

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

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

“_I_ can,” he answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you sure of that?”

“Absolutely.”

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

“How?”

Mischievously, she continued:

“There are such things as photographs.”

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

“Then you have no idea who I am?”

“None.”

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

“I am Arabella Tiddle.”

Grimshaw remained perfectly calm.

“My name is—a—unfamiliar?”

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

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

Grimshaw bowed, saying politely:

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

Was he pulling her leg?

“Miss Chandos never mentioned my name to you?”

“No.”

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

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

“Not yet.”

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

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

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

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

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

“What a good Samaritan!” she murmured.

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

“I’m sure you operate wonderfully.”

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

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

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

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

“Do you like country practice?”

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

“Too much,” observed Tiddy tranquilly.

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

“You are speaking of Upworthy?”

“I am speaking of the outside tyre.”

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

“Up, and away!”

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

“Not at all. Good-bye.”

“Certainly not. Au revoir.”

II

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

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

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

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

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

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

A superb engagement ring flashed upon Tiddy’s eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.”

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

“Oh, Tiddy——! I’m ever so sorry.”

Lady Selina said calmly:

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

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

Cicely observed pensively:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cicely led the way to Brian’s old rooms.

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

Tiddy said flippantly:

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

Something in her tone challenged Cicely’s attention.

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

“That appeals, too—muscle!”

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

Tiddy exclaimed rudely:

“Come off it.”

“Tiddy! Are you mad?”

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

She said sharply:

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

“Oh-h-h!”

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

Tiddy went on, relentlessly:

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

“I—I don’t know what you mean.”

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

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

Chandos silence . . .

“I thought so.”

III

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

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

Cut loose!

Could she?

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

“I _am_ fond of Arthur.”

Tiddy retorted disdainfully:

“I’m fond of chocs.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Say what you like.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She ended defiantly.

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

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

_Arthur_. . . .

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

“Tiddy.”

“Yes?”

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

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

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

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

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

Silence.

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

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

Tiddy pulled herself together.

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

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

Tiddy squirmed.

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

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

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

She cooled herself for the third time at the window.

IV

Minutes, hours, years glided by.

What a tiresome world it was!

Presently Cicely sighed. Tiddy exclaimed maliciously:

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

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

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

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

“_Cis!_”

“Nothing else is possible.”

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

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

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

“You did, thank God!”

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

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

Tiddy noticed that Cicely put her mother first.

“There will be appalling ructions.”

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

“Half-past four.”

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

“What?”

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

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

After a minute’s concentrated thought Tiddy said quickly.

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

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

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

Chandos silence. Tiddy continued:

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

“I believe you would.”

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

“Yes,” assented Cicely.

Further talk advanced them but little on the only way.

V

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

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

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

“No, I don’t my dear.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s Mr. Grimshaw,” said Cicely.

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

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

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

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

“Certainly. He is looking forward to that.”

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

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

“I must be off,” she declared.

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

“Are you weakening?” asked Tiddy.

“No.”

“Your mother was sweet to Mr. Grimshaw.”

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

“I took it to myself, Cis.”

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

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

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

Tiddy sped down the drive.

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

VI

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

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

“Yes, yes; pray enlighten me.”

“Do you know anything about our professional etiquette?”

“Absolutely nothing, Mr. Grimshaw.”

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

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

“I understand.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Not my dear old Nicodemus?”

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

“Quite naturally.”

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

“Perfectly horrible!”

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

“I am inexpressibly shocked, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“I knew you would be.”

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

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

“With my cordial approval.”

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

“How?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I will take your word for that.”

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

“If you say so it is so.”

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

Light was dawning upon Lady Selina. She blinked.

“I—I see.”

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

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

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

Lady Selina opened her eyes, saying tartly:

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

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

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

She retorted shrewdly.

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

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

“But he is not appointed by me.”

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

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

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

Lady Selina gasped. Grimshaw concluded quietly:

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

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

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

“Then you mean to call him in?”

Her voice quavered slightly.

“That depends.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is Mr. Goodrich.”

Grimshaw remained silent. Lady Selina continued, still petulantly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He made a sort of threat, my dear.”

“A threat? Mr. Grimshaw? Impossible.”

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

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

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

“Oh—h—h!”

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

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

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

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

“You are fairly up against it.”

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

“I shall speak to Arthur myself.”

“He comes to-morrow.”

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

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

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

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

“He means well,” complained Lady Selina.

Cicely replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But these labels mean nothing, mother.”

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

Chandos obstinately revealed itself. Cicely remarked tartly:

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

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

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

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

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

Lady Selina Chandos at the mercy of the Radical Press!

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

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

If she did not break her engagement?

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

She felt strangely tired.

So tired that she fell asleep.

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

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

And she had slept just twenty minutes!

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

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

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

II

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

And Brian lay dead in France!

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

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

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

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

Lady Selina laid down the letter and said solemnly:

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

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

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

“I don’t know them, mother.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is the golden rule, mother?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She opened the envelope.

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

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

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

She read on:

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

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

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

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

Could life be like that?

Would it be life?

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

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

III

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

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

“Good morning, Mary.”

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

“How are you?”

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

“What be that?” asked Nick.

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

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

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

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

Something in her face made Cicely say hastily:

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

Mary nodded doubtfully. Cicely passed slowly on.

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

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

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

Cicely left him still chuckling.

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

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

Cicely said tranquilly:

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

“Lady Selina has told you?”

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

“She will consult Lord Wilverley to-night.”

“Good!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The milk?”

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

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

“Heavens!”

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

Cicely wailed out:

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

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

“Please answer me.”

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

“And their daughters?”

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

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

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

“I can guess how you feel.”

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

“I promise to do that.”

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

“They are fighting in France,” replied Cicely.

IV

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

“Kiss me, my dear son.”

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

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

“Not to be missed,” affirmed Lady Selina.

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

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

“If the things are really good . . .”

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

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

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

“What does your mother mean?” asked Wilverley.

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

He displayed a tinge, nothing more, of irritability.

“Mystery . . .!”

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

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

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

He recovered his geniality at once.

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

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

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

“Yes?”

“That your mother allows me a free hand.”

“Mr. Grimshaw said that would be necessary.”

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

She repeated Grimshaw’s words almost verbatim.

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

“You don’t.”

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

She pressed his hand, and then released her own.

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

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

“What can I say?” she murmured.

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

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

“Why do you sigh?” he asked.

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

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

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

In every sense of the word she awoke.

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

“What is it?”

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

“I can’t do it, Arthur.”

He hardly understood her.

“Can’t do what?”

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

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

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

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

He came back to her.

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

“Just what I have said to you.”

He paced up and down the room, thinking.

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

She was very near tears as she faltered:

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

“You want me to go?”

“Please!”

He marched straight to the door.

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

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

“Your father’s face?”

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

He answered solemnly:

“Before God, I do.”

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

“Good-bye, my poor little Cicely.”

“Is it to be good-bye, Arthur?”

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

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

She shook her head sadly.

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

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

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

He released her hands and went out.

V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why has Arthur gone?” she asked calmly.

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

“Because I have broken off our engagement.”

Continue Reading

CUPID SPEEDS HIS SHAFTS

Dr. Pawley’s house was situate on the village green, opposite to the
church and to the left of the inn, The Chandos Arms. It presented a
Georgian exterior to the architectural eye, and the front door boasted a
pediment which resurrected Queen Anne. Red brick glowed rosily,
diffusing an air of hospitality. One might know that the cellarage was
excellent, that the larder was well stocked, and that the parlour
probably was panelled in oak. Behind the house a walled-in garden sloped
upwards to a small temple crowning a mound, which might have served as a
tumulus. In this temple, upon fine summer mornings, the doctor
breakfasted, consuming leisurely bacon of his own curing and eggs
freshly laid. Between herbaceous borders his eyes could wander to his
house, where he had lived so pleasantly during thirty years. Often he
wondered whether his successor would live as pleasantly. And the
conjecture troubled a kindly man, introspective and analytical,
distrusting the _laudator temporis acti_, but fully alive to the fact
that the England he knew and loved was changing profoundly. He confessed
that the eighteenth century was to his taste, as a period of consummate
craftsmanship. Slowly he had collected eighteenth century furniture and
porcelain and silver. Pope was his favourite poet. Everything in the
house was English. Old-fashioned flowers bloomed in his garden and in
his heart. And yet, in odd antithesis, he dealt honestly with the
present and the future. He had considered the future when the necessity
of taking a partner forced itself disagreeably upon his attention. Had
he consulted his own inclinations, he might have selected a colleague of
middle age, more or less satisfied with existing conditions. Such a
colleague would have been accepted by Lady Selina and the villagers as
the real right thing in doctors. To seek out a young up-to-date man
adumbrated possible disaster to peace of mind. At any rate, it salved a
somewhat sensitive conscience to reflect that another might do what he
had left undone. At the same time he was whimsically conscious that he
had done his best according to lights which glimmered none too brightly
when he perused the leading medical journals. Balm descended upon a
perturbed spirit when high authorities in his profession flatly
contradicted each other in and out of print. He had seen, not without
satisfaction, astounding theories spin centrifugally out of sight.
Tremendous assumptions had vanished in thin air. If he halted, out of
breath and sometimes out of pocket, behind the leaders, he could reflect
agreeably upon their divagations, conscious that he had stuck
religiously to the well-worn thoroughfare.

Of late, with failing health and energies, he had asked himself whether
he was doomed to attend the funeral of his own experience. Such an
interment made him shiver, as if an iconoclast were dancing a jig upon
his grave. At such times he wondered pathetically what might have been
had he taken arms against the lady of the manor after the death of her
husband. To work with her, to persuade her where persuasion was
possible, to accept resignedly conditions which he could not approve,
had proved difficult. Country doctors throughout that part of England
were constrained to compromise, although they might detest the word.
Parsons were in just the same boat. Goodrich, for example, after a good
dinner, might acclaim reforms which he was quite incapable of bringing
about. He, too, wandered in a vicious circle of impotent imaginings,
walled in by consequence and circumstance. Each man, perhaps, criticised
the other, but not too harshly. Both agreed that matters in the village
might be worse. Lady Selina spread the voluminous draperies of private
charity over insanitary cottages and low wages. Humanly speaking,
nothing would change her methods. Wise men made the best of them.

Grimshaw arrived in Upworthy some few days after the midsummer
bun-feast. Pawley asked him for a week-end, met him at the station,
installed him in a comfortable room, and, after luncheon, accepted with
gratitude the young man’s suggestion that he should “nose round” by
himself during the afternoon. Pawley was taken with his appearance,
because vitality exuded from him. He had expected to see signs of
overwork, hollow cheeks, a jaded look. And at luncheon he touched
lightly upon this. To his surprise, Grimshaw spoke with entire
frankness.

“My trouble was mental. I found myself up against vested interests, a
hopeless fight. I hostilised authority. And, at heart, I’m an open-air
man. I’m fed up with the slums.”

“I quite understand.”

“Yes; my ease of mind was menaced. And without that, where are you? In a
pea-soup fog.” He laughed boyishly, and added: “I say, how good your
mutton is!”

Presently he took the road without any directions or warnings from
Pawley.

II

For a minute or two he stood still, admiring the village green, in the
centre of which was a cricket pitch in fairly good order. The church
faced him with its low square tower of concrete. Bits of the concrete
had fallen off, revealing the bricks beneath. “Not too much money here,”
thought the young man. His eyes rested upon the cottages, mostly
whitewashed, with heavy thatched roofs, very picturesque, and all of
them more than a hundred years old. The general effect pleased. Perhaps
the best house (barring the doctor’s) was The Chandos Arms, with a wide
gravel sweep in front of it, and ample stable accommodation. A house of
delightful rotundities—bow windows flanking a big hospitable door,
dormer windows winking at you out of the thatch, and the thatch
itself—a masterpiece of craftsmanship—not cut straight along the eaves
but undulating in semicircles of generous diameter. Grimshaw guessed
that it had been a prosperous inn during coaching-days, had suffered a
decline in custom, and was now blooming in a sort of Indian summer by
reason of the increased motor traffic. All the cottages stood back from
the road that skirted the green, with small front gardens ablaze with
old-fashioned flowers. From where he stood, looking to the left, he
could see the trees in the park, and above them the chimneys of the
Manor. If the lady of that Manor chose to stand upon her roof she could
survey the village, and outwardly at least it must have gladdened her
eye. Hard by the church, and beyond it, snuggled the Vicarage. In front
of the inn spread a large horse-pond, a treasure-house of fresh-water
infusoria. The face of any amateur microscopist would have brightened at
the sight of it.

Grimshaw strolled on, crossing the pitch. A wide street led from the
green into the grass country beyond, with cottages on both sides of it.
No modern buildings offended the artistic sense. Grimshaw passed the
post-office, the village store, the baker’s, and a cobbler’s. He could
see no chapel. Nonconformity obviously went without a place of worship
in Upworthy. Being Saturday afternoon, many children were playing in
front of the cottages. Grimshaw stared at them with professional
interest. They appeared to be clean, but not too robust. A few were
rickety.

From a blacksmith’s forge came the cheery sound of hammer on anvil.

Grimshaw nodded to the smith and bade him “Good day.” The smith, nothing
loath for a chat, paused in his work, observing critically:

“You be a stranger in these parts?”

“I am,” said Grimshaw.

“Ah-h-h! A sight o’ folks comes to our village, so pretty and peart it
be.”

“Not much new building going on.”

“Well, no. My lady don’t hold wi’ improvements. New cottages be needed
bad, too.”

“You’re a bit overcrowded, I take it?”

“That be God A’mighty’s truth. I ain’t one to complain, but ’tis a fact
that Upworthy don’t march wi’ the times. Never did, I reckons. When the
kids grows up they has to muck it like pigs in a sty. But I don’t tell
all I knows.”

Grimshaw passed on. He shot a glance upwards at the windows of bedrooms
that held too many children. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, but the
upper windows were closed. At the back of each cottage were sties. The
county was celebrated for its bacon. He could smell roses; and he could
smell pigs. His steps quickened as he left the village behind him.

He was now—as Pawley had informed him—in the heart of the Chandos
domain. Cattle browsed placidly in fields enclosed by hedgerows, not
hedges, hedgerows beloved by pheasants in October and November. Quite
close to the village lay a snipe-bog, which ought to have been drained.
From a man at work on the road Grimshaw learnt that the snipe-bog
harboured wild-fowl as well as snipe.

“’Tis as good a bit o’ rough shooting as I knows.”

“A lot of rabbits, eh?”

“Too many,” said the man. “A rare noosance they be.”

Grimshaw drew the inference. Here, at any rate, sport reigned supreme.
He examined the cows. Unless his experience was at fault, some few were
furnishing milk not fit for human consumption. The farmyards into which
he stared confirmed this unhappy conclusion. Water lay close to the
surface of a clayey soil, and in winter time must have oozed up
everywhere. The ditches were not deep enough, and overgrown with rank
vegetation. But he saw some handsome colts—prospective hunters—and
brood mares. Of high farming there was no evidence whatever. The plough,
for some occult reason, seemed to have been banished.

Grimshaw seated himself upon an ancient gate and lit his pipe.

“By their gates ye shall know them,” he murmured.

And then——

“Can I stick it?”

Sitting on the gate, his thoughts took a swallow’s flight into the past.
He had been born in just such a parish, where Peter was robbed to pay
Paul, where shift had degenerated into makeshift, where Compromise
crowed lustily over Justice and Common Sense. And his father, the parson
of the parish, had been a soured man, unable to cope with his
environment. Fortunately for Grimshaw an uncle and godfather had sent
him to Winchester, where he shone in the playing-fields rather than the
class-rooms. After that he had been pitchforked into Medicine, simply
because the uncle aforesaid happened to be a fairly prosperous
physician.

And then his father had died——!

Up to the very day of the funeral—and how dismal it had been!—Henry
Grimshaw had taken life very easily. Looking back, analytical of himself
and the motives that had governed and misgoverned him, he could remember
vividly how keen he had been to distinguish himself at cricket, partly
because his father had no stomach for games or sport. Really, he had
shirked Latin and Greek out of sheer contrariety, under the lash of a
tongue that perhaps unduly exalted classical attainments. And because
his sire had been something of an ascetic, he had decided to mortify
parental ambitions rather than his own flesh.

In the same odd spirit of contrariety, he had scrapped cricket and
football, concentrating all energies upon the study of his profession.
The friends of his own age held out the lure of playing for the
Gentlemen of England at Lord’s. Their insistence exasperated him. After
his father’s death he found himself in possession of a few thousand
pounds and a mother and sister on his hands. His uncle, something of a
cynic, said to him:

“Harry, you have good looks and good manners. In my profession these
count enormously. When I retire, which I intend to do, you can slide
into a capital practice chiefly amongst aged handmaidens of the Lord.”

Having good manners, Harry said nothing, but he thought: “I’m bothered
if I will.” And immediately afterwards, as luck would have it, he was
captivated by Babbington-Raikes, the famous gynecologist, who had
“enthused” him. Babbington-Raikes fought against diseases of women and
children with the ardour and self-sacrifice of a paladin. He was
amazing. Babbington-Raikes sent him to a God-forsaken parish in Essex
and afterwards to Poplar.

In each place he had learnt much; in each place he had been “downed,”
like his father before him, by the powers plenipotentiary of vested
interests.

And now, apparently, he was “up against them” again.

He returned, after an absence of some hours, in time to dress for
dinner. Pawley gave his visitor of his best, and, whilst the trim
parlourmaid waited upon them, the talk lingered in the eighteenth
century. Grimshaw showed appreciation of the furniture and silver,
drawing out his host to describe his adventures as a collector before
prices became prohibitive to a man of modest means. An agreeable hour
passed swiftly. Then the maid removed the cloth, brought in coffee, and
retired. The doctor placed on the well-polished mahogany an antique box
well filled with excellent cigars.

“Help yourself,” said Pawley.

Grimshaw did so.

“You are amazingly comfortable,” he said abruptly. “Your house is a sort
of sanctuary. To my notion it’s just right. No man could wish to spend
the evening of his life in more delightful surroundings.”

Pawley nodded. Grimshaw hesitated a moment, glancing at his host. The
whimsical face encouraged him to speak frankly.

“I am wondering,” he went on, “whether any design lurks behind your
charming hospitality?”

Pawley laughed.

“Design? An appeal, you mean, to the flesh?”

“Well, yes. You encourage me to be candid.”

“I like that.”

“Thanks.”

“There is no design behind my hospitality, save the wish to make you
heartily welcome here.”

“Thanks again. I have had a jolly letter from Brian Chandos.”

“Ah! His leave was up two days ago. Otherwise I should have asked him
here to-night. To-morrow you will meet his mother and sister.”

“Another appeal——!”

Pawley eyed him more keenly. Grimshaw strayed down a by-path.

“Tell me about the mother.”

“Am I to be biographical?”

“Please.”

“She was the daughter of Lord Saltaire, a West Country magnate. He
belonged to the _vieille souche_. He owned large estates heavily
mortgaged. His daughters were educated at home by a governess who, I
imagine, was not too highly paid. Probably she knew enough to cut the
girls to the Saltaire pattern. All of them married well. The conclusion
has been forced upon me that men like the late Henry Chandos fight shy
of cleverness in a wife.”

“Am I to infer that Lady Selina is stupid?”

“Heavens—no. What do you call cleverness in a woman?”

Grimshaw considered this. He felt himself to be challenged, and wished
to acquit himself adequately. But he had no answer pat to his lip.
Indeed, he had never considered the cleverness of women as something to
be differentiated from the cleverness of man. But he was quite sure that
his own sister might be reckoned clever. And he thought of her as he
replied:

“I should expect perception, sympathy, humour, adaptability, and a sound
business instinct.”

Pawley chuckled.

“I hope you will find all that in your wife, Grimshaw. If you do, you
won’t focus your affections on Chippendale furniture. To return to my
lady—she has perception and sympathy up to a point, and unsound
business instincts. I have her word for it that she never drew a cheque
till she found herself a widow.”

Grimshaw meditated a moment or two before he said tentatively:

“I am rather sorry you mentioned our possible partnership to Lady
Selina. From Brian’s letter he seems to take it for granted that the
thing is cut and dried.”

“And it isn’t?”

“The pitch—I spent four hours on it—looks bumpy. By the way, who is
your Sanitary Inspector?”

Pawley made a grimace.

“Um! An insanitary person, who doesn’t inspect.”

“Eats out of the hand of Authority.”

“An occasional luncheon.”

“Dines with the big farmers?”

“You seem to know our little ways.”

“I worked in Essex before I went to Poplar.”

“I’ll admit that you wouldn’t be idle here.”

“Idle? No. How much time should I have for research work?”

Pawley sighed, too well bred to express his disappointment. He had been
a fool to suppose that a young man of Grimshaw’s distinction would care
to kick against the pricks in an obscure village. Obviously Grimshaw had
“nosed about” to some purpose. He had read the writing on the
whitewashed walls. He might have wandered into the pretty churchyard and
noticed an undue proportion of tiny graves! But to a fighter that might
be an incentive, a provocation.

Possibly Grimshaw’s sharp ears caught the attenuated sigh. Pawley looked
up to find keenly penetrative eyes on his.

“If, Dr. Pawley, _if_ I tackle this job, what backing shall I have? Is
Lady Selina likely to stand by?”

“I—I don’t know.”

“That means she won’t. Brian Chandos used to be a good sort. Will he
help or hinder?”

Pawley answered evasively:

“Brian is devoted to his mother. And he’s dependent upon her.”

“All is said. What about the daughter?”

“You must form your own opinion. She and you together might influence
Lady Selina. She loves being loved. Of course she thinks Upworthy a
paradise.”

At this Grimshaw spoke for the first time with vehemence. It is likely
that some instinct warned him that he was being driven, against his
judgment, into a false position. Pawley’s honesty appealed to him. And
he liked him at sight, feeling sorry for him as the victim of autocracy.

“Your Lady Selina is swathed in cotton wool. I behold your Sanitary
Inspector bowing down in the house of Chandos. I behold doles instead of
decent habitations, thatch and phthisis, whitewash and eyewash.”

Pawley took this outburst humorously.

“How gently you young fellows hit.”

“I beg your pardon. You know, doctor, I have an objection to those who
swagger above me socially, but I hate still more the poor devils
cringing below me. The fact that lots of my fellow-countrymen aren’t fit
to associate with me makes me sick. There! that’s off my chest. Let me
ask a last question. Who does the dirty work in Upworthy? Who is the son
of a gun? I can see your Lady Selina handing out the smiles and
ha’pence. Who gives the kicks?”

“Her bailiff. Honest John Gridley—bother him!”

Then they both laughed. Grimshaw promised to talk with the lady of the
manor on the morrow. Beyond that he refused to pledge himself. Naturally
the talk soon wandered into the professional channel. The elder man
listened for the most part, interjecting a few questions, more and more
sensible that youth might succeed where he had failed, sensible, also,
that having, by the luck of things, found the right man, he was likely
to lose him. They parted for the night excellent friends.

III

Next day, at half-past four, Stimson—looking apostolic after Morning
Church—ushered them into the drawing-room at the Manor, an immense room
seldom used, filled with furniture collected by different generations,
some of it good, some of it bad. The ladies of the house didn’t appear
immediately, and Grimshaw was much amused by the expression on Pawley’s
face as he glanced sadly at mid-Victorian atrocities, shaking his head
dolefully, apparently too overcome for speech. Characteristically,
Grimshaw devoted his attention to the full-length portraits, staring at
Chandos chins and foreheads. He decided that they must be an obstinate,
obdurate race, pleasant to deal with when things ran smoothly,
honourable, kindly, and—unquestionably—quality.

Cicely entered first, in evident distress, holding her handkerchief to
her eye.

“Oh, Dr. Pawley! How clever of you to come in the very nick of time!”

“What is it, my dear?”

“Some enormous beast—it feels as big as a bluebottle—is committing
suicide in my eye. Please save its life and mine—quick!”

“Dear, dear! Where are my glasses?”

As he fumbled for his pince-nez, Grimshaw said promptly:

“Allow me, Miss Chandos. Your handkerchief, please.”

She smiled, gave him her handkerchief and held up her face. Very deftly
Grimshaw extracted a midge, and exhibited it.

“There!”

“Where? Oh, yes. What a tiny thing.”

As he flicked it away, returning the handkerchief, with a slight bow, he
murmured:

“May all your troubles be as small.”

She held out her hand.

“Thanks. You are Dr. Grimshaw?”

“Mr. Grimshaw,” he corrected her. She nodded, exclaiming gaily:

“I’m ever so glad to meet Brian’s old friend. Now, perhaps, I shall find
out what really happened at Winchester.”

“Never. We were in the same house.”

“And you were a tremendous swell.”

“And now a poor G.P.”

“G.P.?”

“General Practitioner,” Pawley explained. “With a few letters after his
name that some Harley Street men haven’t got. Now, my dear, I tried to
help you the other day. Will you help me?”

“Why, of course.” She gazed at him affectionately. “Mother will be down
in two jiffs. You caught her napping. Sunday luncheon. How can I help
you?”

“I have asked Mr. Grimshaw to become my partner.”

“I know. And I think it’s perfectly splendid.”

“But alas! he’s not very keen about it.”

Cicely raised her brows. Grimshaw wondered whether she was obstinate,
catching a glimpse of the Chandos chin, salient but with a dimple
mitigating its contour. He could see that she was surveying him from tip
to toe with the well-bred self-possession of her class, evidently mildly
astonished that he did not jump eagerly into such a picturesque village
as Upworthy. She said simply:

“There’s plenty of work for two, isn’t there, Dr. Pawley?”

Grimshaw laughed, although he answered seriously.

“That’s it. You see, there oughtn’t to be.”

At this her expression became interrogative. Pawley interposed hastily:

“Mr. Grimshaw thinks that the chronic sickness in Upworthy might be
wiped out, if—if he could count upon the active backing of authority.”

Cicely assimilated this.

“You mean Mother?”

Grimshaw added quickly:

“And you. Would you work with me on modern lines?”

“Modern lines? Are we modern, Dr. Pawley?”

Pawley glanced at her pretty frock.

“In our frocks, yes.”

Cicely accepted the compliment demurely, conscious of the fact that her
dressmaker was in the first flight, conscious, too, that Brian’s
wonderful friend, Old Grimmer, was indifferent, perhaps, to the envelope
but not to what it held. His penetrating glances had not escaped notice.
She wondered how much her powers of persuasion would count.

“You must talk to Mother, Mr. Grimshaw. She has the welfare of our
people next her heart. I hope you will stay here. As for me——”

“Yes?”

“I should like to work with you.”

He exclaimed gaily:

“Almost am I tempted. Well, I will talk with Lady Selina, the sooner the
better.”

“I wish you all luck.” She hesitated; a warmer tint suffused her cheeks,
as she added warningly: “Be—diplomatic.”

As the word left her lips, Stimson entered.

“Her ladyship’s compliments, Dr. Pawley, and she will join you in a
minute.” He turned to Cicely: “My lady wishes to see you, Miss Chandos.”

Cicely vanished with Stimson. Grimshaw said emphatically:

“What a jolly girl.”

Pawley chuckled.

“You’ve made an impression, my boy. Yes, yes; you’ll get on with Cicely
like one o’clock.”

“And be sacked by Lady Selina at half-past. By Jove! She’s a bit of a
witch, a fascinator. Where does the charm come from?”

“From her mother.”

Grimshaw looked incredulous. He had envisaged the lady of the manor as
formidable. He heard Pawley’s voice, slightly quavering with
apprehension.

“What are you going to say to Authority?”

“Something you have not said. It’s quite likely that her belated
entrance has been stage-managed. Lady Selina may wish to tackle me
alone. And, if so, take my tip—skedaddle before Authority uses you as a
Court of Appeal.”

Pawley owned up reluctantly:

“You read me. I want to bolt. I’m ashamed to admit that I have funked
plain speech all my life. But I’m hanged if I’ll funk it any longer.”

“Your heart’s in the right place,” said Grimshaw, almost with affection.
He had spent the morning with Pawley, pottering about the pretty,
insanitary cottages. And every minute had tightened the bond between
them, the bond that links strength with weakness, and age with youth.
That bond became tauter as Pawley murmured deprecatingly:

“My heart, I fancy, is not quite in the right place. Anyway, it doesn’t
do its work too well.”

Grimshaw became professional.

“Doesn’t it? You must let me go over you to-night. And, if you’ll back
me and Miss Chandos, I’m hanged if I’ll funk being your partner.”

“Thank you, my boy, thank you.” He added slyly: “I must thank little
Cicely, too.”

IV

Lady Selina swept in.

At once Grimshaw amended mistaken conceptions of her. He understood
swiftly that such a woman might inspire devotion in such a man as
Pawley. Graciousness, that priceless asset, shone luminously about her.
Conviction that she was exactly what she appeared to be, a lady of
quality, must—so Grimshaw decided—impose itself subtly upon everybody
coming in contact with her. At a distance one might criticise; in her
presence the homage she exacted with such sublime unconsciousness had to
be paid—tribute to Cæsar, whether copper or gold. The young man noted
the elegance of her gown, the delightful lines of draperies that
disdained fashion. He had expected formality, a cold courtesy, the more
chilling because good breeding imposed it. But Lady Selina advanced,
holding out two small hands.

“I am delighted to meet Old Grimmer.”

He said confusedly:

“Who is at your service.”

Presently they were seated. Grimshaw found himself close to Lady Selina,
so close that he could detect the faint fragrance of orris-root, the
only perfume she used.

“So you’re thinking of a partnership with my dear old friend here?”

Her soft voice, softer than her daughter’s, seemed to insinuate itself
into his mind, percolating here and there. Pawley answered her:

“Really, we have only just settled it.”

“Capital. And how do you like my dear village? Perhaps a foolish
question. If you didn’t like it, you wouldn’t choose to live here.”

Grimshaw recovered his self-possession. He spoke as tranquilly as his
hostess, but with renewed alertness.

“I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning wandering about Upworthy.”

“We are very proud of Upworthy. Our roses——! I have always encouraged
my people to grow sweet-smelling flowers.”

The young man recalled Cicely’s injunction. At the same time he told
himself that this first interview was all important. As an honest man,
he must make plain his position. To do so without giving offence became
a highly stimulating mental exercise.

“Botanically,” he replied, “Upworthy is remarkable. From a doctor’s
point of view, Lady Selina——”

“Yes? I am anxious to hear your verdict. I value nothing so much as
candour.”

“Thanks. There seems to be a lot of sickness.”

Lady Selina sighed. Her comely face assumed a resigned expression, as
she murmured devoutly:

“Alas! Poverty and disease are with us always.”

“Always, but not everywhere,” Grimshaw replied lightly. “Your neighbour,
Lord Wilverley, is proud of his exceptionally low death-rate, so I am
told.”

“Ah. Wilverley lies higher.”

“And enjoys a system of drainage.”

Lady Selina’s eyes sparkled. Lord Wilverley happened to be a personal
friend, and a magnate, comfortably independent because of London ground
rents, able to afford expensive improvements. Also he was a bachelor, on
the sunny side of forty. Nobody had guessed that Lady Selina cherished
the hope that Wilverley’s lord might come to Upworthy for a wife.
Already his friendship with Cicely had showed signs (to her eye alone)
of a warmer complexion. And yet, behind this rankled a certain jealousy,
because Wilverley had been acclaimed a model estate. She turned to
Pawley.

“We contend, don’t we, Dr. Pawley, that open drainage is best?”

“I have heard you say so, Lady Selina.”

“It is best for us doctors,” said Grimshaw. “I noticed that most of your
cottages are thatched.”

“We are very proud of our thatched cottages, aren’t we, Dr. Pawley?”

Pawley, with a touch of nervousness, squirming mentally, replied:

“Thatch upon thatch, Lady Selina, is hygienically unsound.”

She blinked at him, quite astounded. Grimshaw caught a sub-acid
inflection as she riposted swiftly:

“Is it? Why didn’t you say so before?” She looked at Grimshaw. “I’m
always approachable where the interests of my people are concerned. I
have never refused a favour to a tenant without giving him convincing
reasons. Have I, Dr. Pawley?”

“Never,” affirmed Pawley.

Grimshaw, sorry for Pawley but much amused, and not forgetting honest
John Gridley, said smoothly:

“Your land agent ought to have told you, Lady Selina. It was his
business.”

“But I am my own land agent. My bailiff is a capable fellow of the
farmer class. I can’t afford such an expert as Lord Wilverley employs.”
She continued gently: “Between ourselves, Mr. Grimshaw, lack of means
prevents my doing many desirable things. I ought to rebuild my garage,
which is perilously near my house. I ought to put in a local water
system. As for my bailiff, he obeys my orders. I don’t ask you to work
with him. I hope that you will work with me.”

She was getting the best of it, and knew it. Grimshaw acknowledged that
he was “touched,” as fencers put it.

“That is as it should be, Lady Selina. I think I can promise you a
cleaner bill of health if—if we work together.”

Unconsciously, he assumed a graver tone. Lady Selina eyed him pensively.
She told herself that she liked him. He was certainly a gentleman, and
as certainly a man of intelligence and capacity. A devastating thought
flooded her mind. Was he too attractive? Compared with Lord Wilverley,
for instance. Cicely had spoken of Old Grimmer with enthusiasm. And, as
Brian’s friend, as the partner of Pawley, her house must be open to him.
Young girls were susceptible, and it was impossible to play watch-dog in
this go-as-you-please twentieth century. Then, confident in her own
powers, she swept what she held to be an absurd possibility out of her
mind. Cicely was a Chandos. Meanwhile, she must “place” this up-to-date
young fellow more accurately. She continued sweetly:

“Have you any definite plan in your mind which might bring about this
clean bill of health?” He bowed. “What is it?”

“My plan would involve the expenditure of time——”

“I have never grudged that.”

“And—money.”

Slightly taken aback, she repeated the word:

“Money? Much money?”

“Probably some thousands of pounds.”

Lady Selina was horrified, throwing up her shapely hands in protest.
Habitually, she thought in pence, not in pounds. Her voice became sharp.

“Some _thousands_ of pounds——! What do you say to this amazing
statement, Dr. Pawley?”

Pawley, alive to a derisive gleam in Grimshaw’s eyes, replied hastily:

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Lady Selina became more and more perturbed. Grimshaw saw that he had
made an impression. It might be discreet to retire, leaving his
suggestions to soak in.

“My plan may be unworkable, Lady Selina.”

“But it is. I can tell you, in confidence, that my dear husband left
this estate to me clear of all debt. I can’t borrow money. He would turn
in his grave if I did. _Thousands of pounds_——!”

Stimson saved an unendurable situation by appearing with the tea-things.
Pawley rose. Lady Selina recovered her graciousness.

“You must stay to tea. I insist.”

Cicely came back, carrying a bunch of roses, fresh from the garden.

“Is it settled?” she asked gaily. “Do you join us?”

Grimshaw smiled back at her.

“Yes; it is settled, Miss Chandos.”

“I’m ever so glad.”

V

The partners walked home together across the park, which was not of
large extent and held no deer. Henry Chandos had put down the deer.
Sheep browsed placidly upon the rich grasses. Bordering the park was a
shrubbery of rhododendrons, and through this meandered a path which
ended at a fine wrought-iron gate opening upon the village green. As
they passed through the rhododendrons, Grimshaw noticed that they had
reverted to type—the familiar _Ponticum_.

“Lady Selina has let things rip,” he remarked.

“There isn’t too much money, as perhaps you have guessed.”

“But she told us that the estate was clear of debt.”

“To keep it so is her mission in life. Well, what did you think of her?”

“Wonderful! There is no other adjective. I can understand that there has
been a conspiracy of silence to ‘spare’ her. Forgive me for saying that
I am sure you are the chief conspirator.”

“I admit it. Goodrich has a second place. To disturb her admirable peace
of mind seemed to us—sacrilege. You upset her, but she cottoned to
you.”

“I rattled her,” said Grimshaw. “What the effect will be I can’t
predict. Obviously, I’m in for a fight. And the odds are against me,
because her son is devoted to her. I am sure that in his place I should
feel as he does. But Miss Chandos——!”

“All women are unknown quantities.”

“To old bachelors.”

Pawley rubbed his bony fingers together.

“To all of us and to themselves. I make no prognosis about Cicely. The
mother can be diagnosed with greater confidence. Henry Chandos ran this
place prehistorically. Lady Selina strolls placidly in his ruts. If I
can read the barometer, now apparently at ‘Set Stormy,’ we are likely to
witness confounding changes.”

“Here?”

“Everywhere. A universal upheaval.”

“But—good heavens!—you don’t think war is coming?”

“I am quite sure of it. A fight between Democracy and Autocracy.”

“England will keep out of it.”

“She can’t.”

They argued without acerbity, as thousands argued during those early
days of July, 1914. But it never occurred to either that war, if it did
come, would affect them personally. Soldiers and sailors would do their
duty; civilians would carry on much as usual. No modern war could last
very long. Finally, as they neared home, Grimshaw said with a laugh:

“Whatever happens, I can’t see your Autocrat ‘downed.’”

“It would be a pathetic spectacle,” observed Pawley. “I have the
kindliest feelings toward her, but I detest her system.”

“You blame Gridley.”

“Ah! He’s the source of most of the mischief. And she doesn’t know it. I
hope with all my heart that you will ‘down’ him.”

“He may ‘down’ me,” said Grimshaw, thinking of Essex experiences, where
his poorer patients had been grievously maltreated by just such another.

“I back you, my boy.” Pawley pressed a strong arm reassuringly.

VI

Alone with her daughter, Lady Selina, so to speak, uncorked herself.
Suppressed feeling bubbled forth in sparkling ebullition. Cicely
secretly felt rather flattered. As a rule, her mother withheld
confidence concerned with money. Cicely, for example, had no idea of
what the family income might be. It seemed to be adequate without
pinching. She had been promised a season in London; she was given plenty
of frocks; her hunter had cost a hundred and fifty pounds; Brian never
complained of his allowance. But, unlike her mother, Cicely had learnt
at school elementary business principles. She knew girls of her own age
who paid cash for their clothes, and passed anxious hours over the
problems of adjusting means and ends. She had discovered that it was bad
business to buy cheap shoes and underclothing. And debt was a synonym
for misery and humiliation.

Accordingly, she agreed with her mother that Mr. Grimshaw’s price for a
clean bill of health was preposterous.

“I like the young man, my dear; I am glad to entertain him but not his
ideas. It’s so easy to be lavish with other people’s money. Thousands of
pounds——!”

She repeated this intermittently, as if repetition might exorcise an
unholy suggestion.

“What does Mr. Grimshaw want to do?” asked the girl.

“Heaven knows! A system of drainage, waterworks, the rebuilding of
cottages.”

“What Lord Wilverley has done.”

“A very rich man, child. And the best of good fellows—a very sincere
friend of yours, by the way.”

“Is he?”

Then meeting the maternal eye, the girl blushed a little, much to Lady
Selina’s satisfaction. Wisely she abandoned further soundings. Arthur
Wilverley could be trusted to do his own courting. So her thought sped
back to Grimshaw. Already she had adopted a policy. Grimshaw had to be
reckoned with. To treat him coldly, to keep him at a distance, simply
meant a disturbance of the peace. If she were really “nice” to him, he
would be disarmed. In small things he should have a free hand.
Ultimately he would work with her, along her lines, without friction. So
she said lightly:

“I must ask Mr. Grimshaw to dinner. I wonder whether he belongs to the
Grimthorpe Grimshaws.”

“Does it matter?”

Lady Selina smiled tolerantly. This was one of the less happy
consequences of sending a girl to school. She said superbly:

“A Chandos ought to be able to answer that question.”

Cicely remained silent. Her great friend at school had been Arabella
Tiddle, the daughter of the millionaire pill-manufacturer. Lady
Tiddle—so Lady Selina had been credibly informed—once worked in a shoe
factory. Sometimes Lady Selina wondered what it felt like to be a
Tiddle. She shied at the name, as Cicely was well aware. Nevertheless,
Arabella had been invited to the Manor, where she comported herself
triumphantly. A small string of beautiful pearls was graciously approved
by Arabella’s hostess; whereupon the girl said ingenuously: “So very
appropriate, aren’t they?” Lady Selina, not sure of this, asked
pleasantly: “Why, my dear?” Arabella replied with a laugh: “They are
just like Daddy’s pills. Of course you know that he advertises them as
‘Tiddle’s Pearls.’” Lady Selina didn’t know this, but she smiled
amiably, and Arabella continued: “Mummy has ropes of them. _Tiddle’s
Priceless Pearls!_ Funny, isn’t it?” Lady Selina smiled again; a
different adjective occurred to her.

Cicely’s silence slightly exasperated her. Confidence ought to beget
confidence. Now that she was beginning to treat her daughter as “grown
up,” surely she might expect more response. Had Cicely learnt to hold
her tongue at school? The right selection of a school had worried Lady
Selina not a little. Dr. Pawley shared her anxieties. At thirteen Cicely
became rather anæmic, almost scraggy! Bracing air was prescribed;
reinvigorating games; the stimulus of competition in work and play.
After studying innumerable prospectuses, Lady Selina chose a big school
on the South Coast, a sort of Eton in petticoats. And there the child
had grown into a strong young woman. But, undoubtedly, she had lost
something vaguely described by Lady Selina as “bloom.” Attrition with
girls without grandfathers had rubbed it off. Miss Tiddle had no “bloom”
except upon her cheeks. The political tendencies of the school were
lamentably democratic.

She continued blandly, ignoring Cicely’s silence, taking for granted
that it meant nothing:

“I daresay Mr. Grimshaw plays tennis.”

“Fancy your not knowing——!”

“What?”

“He’s top hole at games. After leaving Winchester he played cricket for
his county. I’d bet sixpence that he plays tennis better than anyone
about here. He’s an athlete all over. He won’t play pat-ball with me. No
such luck!”

Lady Selina, after a penetrating glance at her daughter’s face, thought
to herself: “I shall see that he doesn’t.” Then she kissed Cicely and
laughed.

“We must be decently civil, my dear. That’s all.”

With that she went her way, not without misgivings. Why was it easier
for her to understand her son rather than her daughter? Brian, she felt
sure, would see eye to eye with his mother—a Chandos every inch of him.
But Cicely baffled her. Had she made a hero of this young surgeon? Did
she reckon breeding of no account? Still, her blush at mention of
Wilverley’s name was reassuring. Later, at Evensong, during a dull
sermon, she beguiled herself happily with a vision of Cicely and
Wilverley kneeling on the chancel steps, with the lawn sleeves of a
bishop raised above them in solemn benediction. She prayed fervently
that it might be so. And Cicely, at the same moment, sitting demurely by
her august mother, was wondering what sort of a woman Henry Grimshaw
would marry. Did his fancy prefer blondes to brunettes? Was he engaged
already? What deft fingers he had. Hardly had she felt the touch of them
on her lower eyelid. But she had thrilled. The fact provoked her. She
decided finally that he was the nicest young man she had ever met.

Perhaps it was as well for Lady Selina’s admirable peace of mind, not to
mention her robust Anglican piety and faith in what was established,
that she could not read Cicely as she read her son.

Grimshaw went back to London to pack up his traps, and on the following
Tuesday dined with his maternal uncle, Sir Dion Titherage, at the
Parthenon. Sir Dion, lately raised to the dignity of knighthood, with an
excellent practice in Belgravia, chiefly amongst elderly ladies, had
paid—as has been said—for his nephew’s schooling, and regarded the
young man with a paternal eye. Long ago Sir Dion had led to the altar of
St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, one of his well-to-do patients, much older
than himself. There had been no children. Lady Titherage was now a
confirmed hypochondriac, but likely to make old bones, thanks to the
ministering care and skill of that optimist, her husband.

A small table at the farther end of the immense dining-room had been
reserved for Sir Dion and his guest. Through a big window a glimpse
could be obtained of lawn and trees, and, beyond, the façade of a famous
terrace. Dining at such a table, a member of the learned professions
could reflect pleasantly upon the fact that the privileged occupiers of
that terrace must each possess, on a reasonable average, at least twenty
thousand a year. But few members of the Parthenon dined at their club.
Here and there, oases in the desert, were bishops, who contented
themselves with simple fare. Sir Dion pointed out these pillars of the
Establishment, a Royal Academician, a hanging judge, an eminent
architect, and the club bore, who dined at the Parthenon nearly every
night, and kept sensitive and retiring members at bay. Sir Dion said,
with a chuckle:

“I don’t dare dine here without a guest, my boy; and even then he yaps
at me—he yaps at me. Really, it’s a sad breach of our unwritten rules.
This is recognised as a Temple of Silence and Snooze. Conversation is
very properly barred.”

Grimshaw laughed. His uncle amused him. Sir Dion continued:

“We only wake up at the club elections in the drawing-room. A lot of
pilling goes on. I asked one old boy to pill a particularly aggressive
candidate, and he said curtly: ‘Why?’ I replied, ‘Because he’s a
cantankerous, unclubbable ass.’ The old boy scowled at me and said
savagely: ‘I’m a cantankerous, unclubbable ass, and I shall vote for
him.’ _And he did!_”

A carefully chosen dinner was provided, admirably cooked. Sir Dion,
after the ice, took a Corona de Corona cigar from his ample case, and
sent it to the chef with his compliments and thanks. And he exchanged a
joke with the steward when he settled his bill before leaving the
dining-room.

Not till he had finished his coffee did Sir Dion speak seriously.

“So it’s the parish pump for you, eh?”

“With the pump out of order.”

Sir Dion nodded. Then he said, portentously for him:

“You are your father’s son. He tilted against windmills all his life,
poor dear fellow! As a schoolmaster he would have climbed high and ended
as a bishop. I used to offer him sound advice, although, to do him
justice, he never asked for it or took it. Now I am tempted to say a
word or two to you.”

“Thank you, Uncle.”

“From what you tell me you seem to like trouble. I don’t. That, of
course, is the essential difference between us. However, your partner,
Pawley, seems to have a good practice amongst country people. And, when
he retires, you ought to earn a decent income.”

“I hope so.”

“A good country practice is not to be sneezed at, but you will sneeze at
it, I’m afraid. I see you trying to drain that snipe-bog you mention
instead of keeping step on the high-road with Pawley.”

“I shall fight for more sanitary conditions.”

“Stripped already, I see. And up against a lady of quality! Now for my
two words: ‘Go slow!’ Women never surrender their opinions to men they
dislike. It’s a pity you can’t marry her and reach your objectives that
way. What? Fifty-five! And a marriageable daughter! Another tip. Don’t
make up to the daughter. Unless——” He chuckled, lighting a fresh
cigar.

“Unless——?”

“I remember some transpontine story of a stout fellow like you who
courted a rich widow with a pretty daughter. The rich widow accused the
stout fellow of loving her money-bags more than herself. He made a very
creditable bluff. Told her to deed every dollar she possessed to her
daughter. And, begad! she called the bluff and did so. Then he bolted
with the daughter!”

The evening ended where it began—in laughter.

On the steps of the Parthenon, when the nephew thanked the uncle for his
entertainment, Sir Dion shook his hand very heartily.

“I wish you luck, my boy. If you get any of that rough shooting, send me
a bird. I like the flavour of a wild pheasant. God bless you!”

Grimshaw, as he went back to his modest diggings, reflected that Sir
Dion’s ways were not his, and yet the old fellow brimmed over with
kindness, and assuredly attained his objectives.

II

By the middle of July he was installed in rooms in Upworthy under the
fostering care of the Rockrams, two old servants from the Manor. Tom
Rockram had been Stimson’s predecessor, before the old Squire died, and
his wife had soared from scullery-maid to cook in the same
establishment. Their cottage faced the village green, and stood in its
own garden. Each spring and summer the Rockrams took in boarders, but,
at a hint from Dr. Pawley, they were glad to get a permanent
“gentleman.” Grimshaw was given a good bedroom and sitting-room, and he
had the use of Pawley’s dispensary.

Upon the faces of the two old servants were inscribed, with full
quarterings, the Chandos arms. Whatever a Chandos did was just right.
Brian, of course, in the judgment of Mrs. Rockram, was the handsomest
hussar in the kingdom; Tom Rockram spoke with even greater enthusiasm of
Cicely as the sweetest young lady in the world. Too sugary, perhaps,
these descriptions, from a hypercritical point of view, but indicating
loyalty and gratitude, qualities rare indeed in modern servants.
Grimshaw found himself valeted to perfection, and looked forward to
excellently cooked meals, a quite novel experience. The cosiness of it
all was in delightful contrast to domestic conditions in Poplar. He
wondered whether he would grow fat, like the weed on Lethe’s wharf, and
slowly rot at ease. For the first time in his life he began to spell
comfort with a capital “C.” To Pawley and Lady Selina he said
emphatically: “I never had such a billet.” To himself, he thought, with
amused apprehension: “Will this cosseting get a strangle-hold on me?”
And if it did, what of it? Good men and true toiled and moiled,
struggling on against adverse winds and currents, to achieve just such
snug anchorage.

Pawley introduced him to some of the local magnates, who smiled
graciously upon an old Wykhamist. Each day it became more certain to the
young man that a prosperous future was his if he played the cards
already in his hand. Sir Dion had been right. A sound country practice
was not to be sneezed at. And the premium paid to Pawley had been
negligible. In fine, he was treading a broad highway, walking briskly
towards fortune, if not fame. Pawley suggested that on occasion he might
ride.

“Would your means justify keeping a horse?” he asked.

“Do you mean a hunter? The doctor in boots?”

“Well, yes. A cavalier, you know, challenges attention. One day a week
in the season might be worth while from every point of view.”

Grimshaw laughed.

“And how about my research work?”

“As to that——! You see, my dear fellow, I hesitate to advise you. The
horse is a suggestion, nothing more. Long ago I gave up hunting. I’ve
regretted it. As for research work, doesn’t it exact too undivided
energies? I had to scrap my microscope before I put down my hunter.
Think it over.”

Grimshaw nodded. But he hardly dared to confess to himself how keen he
was to take up again open-air sports and pastimes. His first appearance
on the village green, as a cricketer, had been acclaimed by all
Upworthy. Lady Selina said solemnly: “Perhaps we shall beat Wilverley
next year.”

Playing cricket, he met John Exton, and exchanged some talk with him. In
Poplar it was impossible to throw a stone without hitting young men of
John’s kidney. They, however, threw the stones in Poplar quite
regardless of whom they might hit. Grimshaw knew that the Extons were
under notice to quit the old homestead; and he knew also that Lady
Selina had persuaded Lord Wilverley to entrust a small farm to Ephraim.
This had soaped the ways by which the Extons slid from one parish into
another. John was very bitter about it.

“We’ve never had a dog’s chance,” he told Grimshaw. “I don’t say, sir,
that Father was wise to buy thoroughbred stock when he hadn’t proper
buildings to house ’em in, but the old Squire egged him on to do it.
Things were a sight better in his time, because he kept the whip-hand of
Gridley. Now, Gridley does pretty much as he pleases, and my lady don’t
know what goes on behind her back. Gridley sees to it that she ain’t
bothered.”

“You’re up against a system,” said Grimshaw. “It’s no use blaming
individuals.”

“I blame my lady,” John replied doggedly.

He was not the only one in Upworthy who held that individual
responsible.

Nick Farleigh, the softy, did odd jobs for Tom Rockram, pumping water,
fetching and carrying like a retriever, blacking boots, and feeding
poultry. In common with many children of undeveloped minds, he had
strange gifts, fashioning queer objects out of unconsidered trifles.
Grimshaw won his devotion by showing him how to make a Chinese junk out
of a square of newspaper.

Nick said gratefully:

“I bain’t afeard of ’ee, zur.”

“Why should you be afraid of anybody, my boy?”

Nick became confidential.

“I be afeard o’ nothink ’cept they broody hens o’ Mrs. Rockram’s. You
know I be soft, zur, don’t ’ee?”

“Nonsense! We shall make a man of you yet, Nick.”

Nick considered this, with his head on one side. Then he whispered:

“I be soft along o’ my lady.”

Grimshaw asked Pawley to explain. With some reluctance, Pawley repeated
what he had said to Cicely, with these additions:

“Nick’s mother, just before he was born, lost her two little girls of
diphtheria. The boy was born wanting. Timothy Farleigh has never got
over it. Lady Selina had just buried the Squire. In your opinion,
Grimshaw, could mental suffering so affect and afflict an unborn child?”

“It might,” Grimshaw replied.

“Ever since Timothy Farleigh has smouldered with resentment.”

Grimshaw nodded. He had heard about Agatha Farleigh from John Exton.
Agatha was now working in London, earning good wages, but Timothy, at
the ale-house, accused Lady Selina of hounding a clever girl out of her
village.

“I smell foul weather,” said Grimshaw.

Within a week the Great War had broken out.

Upworthy remained perfectly calm.

Brian Chandos came home on short leave. His regiment would be one of the
first to go. He smoked many pipes with Grimshaw, picking up the old
friendship easily, just where he had left it, apparently the same
ingenuous youth whom Grimshaw remembered at Winchester. Really a Pacific
of essential differences rolled between them, differences of experience.
Grimshaw listened to Brian on the coming “show.” As a soldier he seemed
to know something about his “job.” As the prospective heir to a fine
property his ignorance was immeasurable. He viewed it, as it were, from
the wrong end of the telescope. What appeared big to him—the future of
foxhunting, for instance, game-preserving, and polo—was negligible to
Grimshaw in comparison with decent housing and a better wage for
land-workers. Brian cut him short when, tentatively, such reforms were
barely outlined:

“Cottages in the rural districts don’t pay, never did. We can’t raise
wages without hostilising the farmers—and I ask you, where are we if we
do that?” Again and again he silenced argument in Grimshaw by repeating
filially: “Mother knows; you talk to her; she’d do anything in reason,
anything.”

And at the first dinner at the Manor, rather to Grimshaw’s dismay, Brian
said, in a loud voice, as if it were a good joke: “I say, Mums, Old
Grimmer is a bit of a Rad. You must take him in hand. He’s an
out-and-out reformer.”

Cicely didn’t improve matters by adding:

“And a jolly good thing too. Dr. Pawley says we are antediluvians.”

Pawley was not present, having departed on his holiday. Lady Selina
looked down her nose.

“Are you quite sure Dr. Pawley said that, my dear?”

“Absolutely,” Cicely replied. “We are only modern in our frocks; and
that doesn’t apply to you, Mums.”

Unfortunately for Grimshaw, Lord Wilverley happened to be present. He,
at any rate, was recognised outside of his own county as an enlightened
and experienced agriculturist. And being a kindly man, secure in a great
position, he came to Grimshaw’s rescue. Lady Selina found herself
listening to the opinions of a magnate, who might be a son-in-law. And
the odds against such a desirable match diminished when she saw Cicely
eagerly assimilating what Wilverley said. And, of course, Wilverley
being Wilverley, could say what he pleased. Grimshaw realised, with
humorous dismay, that he was cast for the part of scapegoat. On his head
would fall the hardly-concealed resentment of the lady of the manor.

After dinner matters became worse. Brian wanted to talk to Wilverley
about horse-breeding. Lady Selina took up her embroidery. Cicely made
herself agreeable to Grimshaw, instead of improving the shining hour
with the best parti in the neighbourhood. And Grimshaw, grateful to a
charming girl, exerted himself to please and entertain. It seemed to be
predestined that he would gain in favour with the daughter what he might
lose with the mother. And who will blame him if he strove to distinguish
himself with the former after some extinguishment at the hands of the
latter? He could talk much better than Wilverley, and he knew it.
Wilverley spoke didactically. Grimshaw had a more graceful seat astride
his hobby-horse. He excelled in description, transporting Cicely to
Essex and Poplar, into the deep clay ruts of the one and the mean
streets of the other. Cicely could not help contrasting the two men, the
fidgety irritability of Wilverley with the easy good-humour of Grimshaw,
who laughed at his own failures. Wilverley grew red and heated in
argument; Grimshaw became pale and cool.

Nevertheless, there was a curious incandescence about him. Under
ordinary atmospheric pressure he might seem dull, sinking into odd
silences and introspections, but when a right vacuum was obtained, such
a vacuum as a charming young lady might present, an inquiring mind, let
us say, empty of essential facts, he glowed, giving out heat and light,
not a blazing, eye-blinking glare, but something softly and steadily
illuminating.

“I’ve had some humiliating experiences, Miss Chandos. Till you live and
work amongst the very poor, you can’t realise how difficult it is to
understand them, and how much more difficult it is for them to
understand us. Millions have never seen a woman like you. They live like
animals; they are animals; and, of course, that’s our fault.”

“Our fault?” she gasped. But she was the more interested because he had
made his theme personal.

“Oh, yes; we don’t give enough; and now, because of that, they, poor
things, at the mercy of any glib, red-rag revolutionary, want to take
too much. The privileged classes have never really exercised their
greatest privilege.”

“And what is that, Mr. Grimshaw?” she asked in a low voice.

“Why, helping others to help themselves. Ordinary charity only hinders.
Wage earners demand more than _panem et circenses_.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Bread and ‘movies.’ They don’t like dry bread; and the ‘movies’ serve
to fill them with envy for all they haven’t got.” Then, in a different
tone, with a queer astringent cynicism, he added: “I didn’t exercise my
privileges.”

“I’m sure you did,” she affirmed with conviction.

“No—I bolted. I couldn’t stick it. My own impotence maddened me.
Perhaps——” His voice died away. He began again: “It’s not what we do
that counts, but the way we do it. Talking to them is waste of time.
Words! Words! How one hates them after a time! I’ve waded through all
the dreary stuff that’s written about the poor. Most of it makes one
sick. I don’t believe that conditions can be bettered anywhere by talk,
not even when the talk is buried in the Statute Book. Something more is
needed. Some—some tremendous discipline that will change the point of
view of the classes and the masses so that they can see each other in
truer perspective. Do the waves wonder why they batter themselves into
spray against the rocks? But there is attrition all the time. Tremendous
forces win in the end.”

“Do you mean that we are the rocks?”

“We stand on the rocks, blandly looking at the waves, impressed by their
fury, but not attempting to control it and use it. Perhaps the biggest
rock on which we stand is class loyalty. I’m sure your mother prides
herself on that.”

“Of course she does.”

“Have you ever tried to analyse class loyalty?”

“No.”

“Self-preservation is behind and beneath it. At core lies a selfish,
primitive instinct—to hold on tight to what we have regardless of how
we came by it. Above this is a reticulation, a spider’s web, of
inherited prejudices and predilections, so tangled up that one despairs
of untangling them. On the surface, like a soft moss, love of ease
spreads itself. I feel that here in all my bones. I try to fight against
it. The lure of comfort——! What a bait——! Satan’s tit-bit——!”

His vehemence, the more insistent because he spoke so quietly, almost in
a whisper, made a profound impression. She had never heard any man talk
like this. The abysmal conviction in his tone amazed her. Wilverley, as
she knew, preached in and out of season a doctrine of reconstruction and
reform. But he did it with the air of a man who was grinding his own
axe, putting a finer edge upon a weapon which he intended to use to
better his own large fortune. He never lost sight of the fact that what
he did on his domains _paid_, brought grist to his mill. All his
excellent schemes for housing labourers comfortably, for paying them a
higher wage, for nourishing them adequately, for developing in them
capacities and potentialities, were really inspired by the force which
had raised his father from the lower middle class to the nobility.
Obviously, Grimshaw was actuated by no such essentially selfish motive.
He thought of others before himself; he seemed to behold a travailing
world with the detachment of a physician pledged, if need be, to
sacrifice his own comfort and advancement in the practice of his hard
profession. She said hesitatingly, groping her way towards his
conclusions:

“Surely, Mr. Grimshaw, there is something finer than that in what you
call class loyalty?”

“All loyalty is fine,” he replied, “but there can be no monopoly of it.
Do you think that the unprivileged classes do not feel it in a blind
sort of way? Of course they do. And that loyalty is a driving power
which the more unscrupulous of their mis-leaders are harnessing to their
own ambitions. Class loyalty, wherever you find it, is undiluted
Prussianism.”

She laughed a little.

“Is my mother a Prussian?” she asked mischievously.

“Your mother,” he replied less tensely, with a glance at that lady as
she bent over her embroidery, “is—is——”

“Covered with soft moss?” she suggested.

“We are all covered with moss, Miss Chandos. And, I suppose, the moss
must be raked off before we can see with clear vision.”

“You are raking some of it off me. I told you I wanted to work with you.
I do—more than ever, but you mustn’t rake at Mother. Perhaps you
noticed that Lord Wilverley tried raking at dinner.” He nodded. “Oh, you
did. Of course, she has to stand it from him.”

“Lord Wilverley, I noticed, made an impression on you.”

His eyes met hers. She noticed a twinkle in them. All tension had gone
from his pleasant voice.

“I like what he does more than I like what he says. He tries to spur
people to his ideas. You can’t spur Mother.”

“No.”

“I am glad that you are more—a—persuasive in your methods.”

“Am I?”

She smiled, nodding her head. He wondered whether there was a tincture
of the coquette in her. In criticising Wilverley was she trying to hide
her real feelings for him? He had not answered the question when
Wilverley left Brian and approached the pair on the sofa. Grimshaw made
sure he wanted to talk to Cicely, and rose at once. To his surprise,
Wilverley said without any condescension:

“I’m looking forward to making your better acquaintance, Mr. Grimshaw.
If you have no other engagement, will you dine and sleep at the Court
some day that suits you next week?”

“With great pleasure.”

A day was named, and shortly afterwards Wilverley took his leave.
Grimshaw left the Manor a few minutes later. Alone with her children,
Lady Selina said with a sigh:

“Dear me! It wasn’t a very pleasant dinner, was it?”

“I enjoyed myself,” said Cicely.

“Yes, b’Jove! We saw that, didn’t we, Mums? And the little baggage sided
against us. But we held our own—we held our own.”

Lady Selina smiled maternally, catching an echo of Brian’s father.
Cicely replied sharply:

“If you hold on too tight to what you think is your own, you may lose
it, if democracy wins this war.”

“Hark to her!” exclaimed Brian. “What a cry!”

Cicely, however, saw the expediency of running mute. She kissed her
mother and brother and went to bed. Lady Selina turned troubled eyes
upon her son.

“Have I made a mistake in being civil to this friend of yours, Brian?”

Brian hastened to reassure her: Old Grimmer was a thundering good sort.
And a mighty clever fellow, not likely to quarrel with his
bread-and-butter. Civility would tie him to his mother’s apron-strings.
Nothing like it. Ask him to shoot! Introduce him to all the swells! But
keep an eye peeled on Cis. Modern girls kicked over the traces. Arthur
Wilverley meant business. Any fool could see that. Grimshaw was a
gentleman. He wouldn’t attempt to poach in another fellow’s preserves.
All the same, make him feel the weight of obligation. Be civil, be
kind—keep it up!

Lady Selina was not quite comforted.

“Your Old Grimmer is very attractive. And, to-night, it seemed to me
that poor dear Arthur was rather eclipsed. Sometimes, Brian, I feel
discouraged, and then I want support. I can’t argue with Arthur, for
instance. He overwhelms me with words—words. And then, like your
father, I say nothing. But it comforts me greatly to feel that you think
as I do, that the old ways suffice you.”

“Ra-ther!”

“You are my dear son.”

She held his hand, gently caressing it, gazing at him with tears in her
eyes, which he pretended not to see. Thousands of mothers throughout the
land were indulging in these furtive caresses, saying little because
they feared to say too much. Thousands of sons respected such pathetic
silences.

Before Grimshaw’s brief visit to Wilverley Court, an incident took
place, trivial in itself, but fraught with far-reaching consequences.
The faithful Mrs. Rockram fell ill, taking to her bed with a neglected
cold likely to develop into pleurisy and pneumonia. Grimshaw, however,
came to the rescue and—as Mrs. Rockram affirms to this day—saved her
life. For twenty-four hours grave issues impended above a high
temperature and severe pain. Cicely was in and out of the cottage half a
dozen times, bringing what was required from the Manor kitchen, and
ministering eagerly to an old friend. Lady Selina, wisely or
otherwisely, made no protest. She must have known that two highly-strung
young people would be thrown together. But, at the moment, every young
woman in the kingdom had become a potential nurse. And also, as luck
would have it, no professional nurse could take Cicely’s place. And Mrs.
Rockram had served the Chandos family for five-and-twenty years . . .!

Man and maid, therefore, beheld each other with clear vision under the
happiest conditions of a temporary and unconventional intimacy. They
glided into comradeship, not recking where it might carry them. The
current bore them out of a prosaic present into a land of dreams, the
shadowy future where we fondly believe that we shall be more abundantly
blessed. Both were unaware of the interest and curiosity that each
kindled in the other, because, with all sincerity, they were engrossed
in a common task which exacted unceasing vigilance. Even Grimshaw, with
his habit of introspection and analysis, would have ridiculed the
suggestion of sentimental attraction between himself and Cicely. He knew
better than his amateur nurse how acute was the condition of his
patient, a stout, lymphatic woman, with but slight powers of resistance
to disease. And Cicely, for her part, could have sworn truthfully that
the mere sight of Grimshaw’s tense face, the mere sound of his incisive
voice, had frightened her out of her wits, constraining her to
uncompromising obedience and attention. For the first time she saw a man
fighting desperately to save the life of another. The only thing that
seemed to matter was to help him to the best of her ability.

Had she contented herself with that, no consequences would have ensued.
But she divined instantly that Grimshaw, unsparing of himself, needed
her special attention. Dr. Pawley’s cook was taking a holiday like her
master. The food at The Chandos Arms was primitive. And it did not occur
to Lady Selina to ask Grimshaw to stay at the Manor. Brian had rejoined
his regiment. Cicely rose triumphantly to a small emergency. Grimshaw
found cold ham on his sideboard, some delicious sandwiches and hot soup.
He gobbled these up without hazarding any conjecture as to whence they
came. Tom Rockram, however, enlightened him. The honest fellow had some
of the ham for his own dinner.

“You can thank my young lady,” he told him.

“Good heavens!” exclaimed Grimshaw, “I haven’t.”

His thanks, perhaps, were heartier because belated.

The crisis passed swiftly; and Grimshaw had other patients. But Cicely
stuck to her post till Mrs. Rockram was pronounced well able to fend for
herself. By that time Cupid had sped his shafts. The victims, as yet,
felt no smart, but each magnified the other, disdaining measurements.
Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa, twin peaks, soaring into the blue!

The intimacy ended as suddenly as it had begun. Grimshaw took leave of
his comrade with unaffected regret and slightly awkward apologies.

“I’m afraid I ordered you about, Miss Chandos.”

“Oh, you did. But I liked that. _Obedience is necessary to success._
That line is engraved on my heart. I used to write it out thousands of
times when I first went to school.”

“Did you? There’s a touch of the rebel in you.”

“Yes; there is. I used to spell ‘necessary’ with one ‘s’ on purpose to
annoy the mistress who set the pun. Such a silly pun too. Vain
repetitions!”

“Exasperating everywhere.”

“Particularly in church, from the mouth of dear old Goody.”

“You _are_ a rebel. And so am I.”

“Of course I know that.” Her eyes met his frankly, with an odd
challenge. Against his discreeter judgment he felt impelled to take up
that challenge.

“Do you still want to work with a rebel?”

She eyed him with self-possession, faintly smiling. But she was thinking
how difficult it would be to describe him adequately in a letter to Miss
Arabella Tiddle. By now she was able to view him in perspective,
ripening to full maturity. Immense possibilities were indicated, she
decided. Would he expand into a splendid _somebody_? Would he “furnish
up”?—to use Brian’s favourite expression about a four-year-old. Dr.
Pawley had said of him: “He rings true,” with an allusion to the
eighteenth-century wine-glasses which he collected. And, after that
happy comparison, she had never heard Grimshaw speak without noting the
lingering resonance of his tones. Head and body were admirably
proportioned, rich in line and contour, but not aggressively so. The
careless eye would wander past him. He was, admittedly, too thin, too
pale, to please the ordinary bouncing country miss; and yet he had the
colour of a fine black-and-white print.

She answered his question charmingly:

“If you still want to work with me.”

“I do—I do. But how to go to work bothers me. You see, I am not—I fear
I never can be—diplomatic.”

All traces of the doctor had vanished. He stood before her, clothed with
an endearing humility and humanity. Cicely might, at her age, be deemed
incapable of thus summing up a passing phase in a man who attracted her,
but she grasped the essential fact: he loathed to inflict pain on
others. His mission in life was obviously to alleviate suffering. Her
first thought was: “How wisely he has chosen his profession!” She said
softly:

“I think I understand and sympathise. But my Mother——?”

She broke off abruptly, unable, perhaps unwilling, to give words to
sensibilities still inarticulate. Very eagerly he took up the broken
sentence.

“But I understand too. And just because she is your mother,” he placed,
unconsciously, the slightest emphasis on the personal pronoun, “I feel
so much the more bothered.”

“Please don’t bother too much!”

She held out her hand and went her way.

III

The visit to Wilverley, postponed on account of Mrs. Rockram’s illness,
duly took place. By this time Grimshaw was unable to disguise from
himself that Cicely had become The Woman. Without being squeamishly
modest, he could not believe that he was regarded by the maid as “The
Man.” A romantic situation might be heightened, if it could be recorded
that Cicely was The First Woman. She was nothing of the kind. But to a
man of imaginative temperament The First Woman is reincarnated in her
successors. The ideal survives. The elusive She approaches, beguiles,
and vanishes. Nevertheless, somewhere, some day, she may reappear and be
captured. A counterfeit presentment of Cicely had jilted Grimshaw rather
cruelly just before he buried himself in Essex. Babbington-Raikes, sound
psychologist, may have reflected that Champions of the Poor and
Oppressed are fashioned more easily out of men whose personal ambitions
have suffered eclipse. The gentlemen of the Lost Legion are the finest
fighters in the world.

Memories of the jilt still rankled. Like Cicely, she had shone brightly
as a young lady of quality, a brilliant of many facets. Shamelessly
breaking her engagement, she had married a rubber potentate who had
found a fortune and lost a liver in the Malay Peninsula. “O my cousin,
shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!” Now, he could thank God that
she was not his, and laugh derisively at his infatuation for her. But
how she had bewitched him!

His host at Wilverley welcomed Grimshaw with cordiality, and showed him
the model estate of the county, discussing eagerly plans for its further
improvement.

“And it pays, it pays,” he repeated several times. “You can take a
squint at my books if you like.”

“I’m sure it pays,” Grimshaw replied.

Wilverley’s father had been an ironmaster, who had bought an
impoverished property and was frowned on at first as a carpet-bagger by
the county families. They eyed him more favourably after Gladstone
ennobled him, and smiled approval when he became a Liberal-Unionist. As
a man of great executive ability he had applied business methods to
agriculture, scrapping obsolete machinery and buildings. His son—so
Grimshaw decided—seemed to have inherited his father’s business
aptitudes without his disabilities. Wilverley waxed confidential after
dinner.

“My father had a rotten digestion: bad grub when he was a kid. I can
digest anything—anything. The main trouble in the rural districts is
insufficient food, vilely cooked and poor in quality. I see to it that
my people are fed as well as my horses. Food and shelter, there you have
it in tabloid form. No able-bodied young men emigrate from here.”

Grimshaw listened, impressed by his host’s energy and cocksureness.
Obviously, this was a man who got what he wanted, because he wanted it
with a restless passion for achievement that couldn’t be denied. But the
professional eye, noting a heightened colour after meals, began to doubt
the assumption that Lord Wilverley could digest anything.

A luscious opulence characterised the immense house throughout, a
Victorian splendour of brocade, gilt cornices, mirrors, French polish,
and Axminster carpets. In effective contrast, Wilverley wore shabby
tweeds, and might have been mistaken by a short-sighted stranger for one
of his own less prosperous tenants. The amount of work he accomplished
in twenty-four hours amazed Grimshaw, who knew what hard work was. How
much time would be left to cherish a wife?

Wilverley spoke with entire frankness about the Chandos family.

“The good old sort, but reactionary; always have been. The prettiest
place in the country run abominably to seed. You have your work cut out
there. Pawley, I take it, will soon retire . . . _and then_ . . .?”

He stared fixedly at Grimshaw.

“I may retire first,” said Grimshaw.

“Then I’m mistaken in my man,” declared Wilverley, almost explosively.

“I know when I’m beaten, Lord Wilverley.” He added quietly: “But I
shan’t throw up the sponge yet. Miss Chandos is not reactionary.”

“Miss Chandos?” Wilverley frowned slightly. “Hardly out!”

“She counts.”

“Miss Chandos will marry. And, if I know her, she would never run
counter to her mother. Don’t make trouble between them, I beg you. She
sided with us the other evening merely out of a girlish desire to ginger
up a rather dull dinner.”

Grimshaw remained silent, and Wilverley began to talk about the war,
which, in his opinion, couldn’t last long, K. of K. to the contrary.
Soldiers were rank pessimists. Business interests would be paramount.
Civilisation wouldn’t tolerate the dislocation of industry . . . and so
forth.

Next morning Grimshaw left early, after promising to come again. He had
liked his host, reckoning him, quite rightly, to be an honest man and a
capable. He recalled a platitude often on the lips of his father: “We
are sent into this world to better it.” According to this gauge,
Wilverley had “made good.” And a wife, with a sense of humour, would
round off his corners, trim his quills, and conciliate his unfriends.
But probably she would give even more than she would get.

He reflected, not without bitterness, upon what Cicely Chandos would get
if she took Wilverley.

IV

During the epoch-making weeks that followed he saw little of her, being
engrossed by his work. After the battle of the Marne, Wilverley Court
was turned into a Red Cross Hospital, and Cicely enrolled herself as a
V.A.D. Brian, by this time, was in France, having survived the retreat
from Mons. Pawley had come back, much the better for a long holiday. He
congratulated his partner with almost paternal effusion:

“They all like you, my boy. Gentle and simple——!”

“The simple are not as simple as they appear,” said Grimshaw.

“Ah! You have been talking to them, eh? Any—complaints?”

“Nothing verbal. They say what they think I wish them to say. I get most
of my information from the kiddies. They give the Chandos dynasty dead
away.”

Pawley made a deprecating gesture.

“I know—I know. But what can one do?”

Grimshaw answered grimly:

“Waking, and sometimes in my dreams, that question worries me
confoundedly. I’m at the cross-roads. For the moment, I suppose, I must
mark time. Dash it!” he continued, with rare irritability, “how can I
pester Lady Selina with my pet schemes when she is absorbed with anxiety
about her son?” Had he been absolutely truthful, he would have added:
“And how can I run the risk of hostilising the mother of the girl I
love?”

“Yes, yes; God help all these poor mothers.”

For a season the nettle was dropped, to be grasped firmly later on.

To make matters more difficult for a perplexed and unhappy man in love
with a young woman apparently predestined to be the bride of another,
Lady Selina had followed her son’s advice, and was being consistently
civil and kind, a much easier task than she had anticipated inasmuch as
Cicely was absent from home. Grimshaw enjoyed some rough shooting, and
found so many snipe in the bog behind the village that he reconsidered
the propriety of draining it. Tired by his day’s work, snug in a big
arm-chair, he was sorely tempted to let things drift. But every morning,
after his cold tub, fighting instincts reasserted themselves. The
gorgeous possibility of capturing mother and daughter rose with the sun
and illumined his heaven. Two birds to one shot—a notable right and
left! Meanwhile Mrs. Rockram had become his devoted slave. To talk to
Mrs. Rockram about Cicely would be indiscreet; to listen to her chatter
on the same fascinating subject was another matter. Indeed, what news he
got of Cicely generally filtered through this loyal old retainer. From
her he learned that Wilverley had left the Court and was living with his
agent. The big house was handed over to my lord’s married sister,
apparently a formidable person, bristling, like her brother, with
restless activities. Cicely, it seemed, went to bed each night nearly
foundered!

“I ain’t one to gossip,” remarked Mrs. Rockram as November drew to a
close. “I’ve never done it, never!”

“Oh, Mrs. Rockram! What a difference between us! I love a bit of gossip.
What is gossip? A kindly indication of interest in the affairs of
others.”

“Well, sir, that’s as may be. And the housekeeper at the Court is a
particular friend of mine, and not one to carry a foolish tale.”

“Out with it, Mrs. Rockram. What tale does she wag?”

Mrs. Rockram answered cautiously:

“It ends happily, sir, as tales should do—with the wedding bells.”

“I’m still in the dark,” said Grimshaw.

He felt, as he spoke, that he should remain so. Cimmerian blackness
encompassed him, a Stygian fog. Wilverley had retreated, so to speak,
before the final assault. He had trailed clouds of glory behind him.
Thanks to his organising powers, the new hospital had been acclaimed as
a model. And it was full of heroes and hero-worshippers. Grimshaw had
hoped that his services might have been required, but red-tape vetoed
this. The medical officer in charge was a “Major” in spurs. Wilverley,
of course, had made the most of his opportunities. Mrs. Rockram went on:

“I ain’t. When I seen Miss Cicely in her uniform, I says to Mr. Rockram,
‘My lord’s a goner.’”

Grimshaw attempted to smile. The music was out of his voice as he asked:

“Is it settled?”

Mrs. Rockram was inclined to think so. Could there be a better match?
One, surely, of Heaven’s own making. She concluded: “We have always
known that my lord was sweet as sweet on her.”

Grimshaw could not envisage Wilverley as “sweet.” And Mrs. Rockram’s
evidence was flimsy, mere hearsay from the housekeeper at the Court.
Still, the very likelihood of the affair gnawed at him raveningly. A day
or two later Pawley said to him:

“Thank God, Brian is now reasonably safe!”

“Why this fervour?”

“Lady Selina expects to lose Cicely.”

“Who told you so?”

An inflection in the young man’s voice made Pawley regard him more
attentively. Grimshaw’s face, however, remained expressionless. Pawley
replied as guardedly as Mrs. Rockram:

“She admitted to me that Wilverley had dropped the handkerchief; and it
seems reasonably certain that it will be picked up. He’s a masterful
man.”

“He is,” Grimshaw assented. “Would—would Lady Selina bring pressure to
bear?”

Again Pawley’s eyes showed surprise.

“Um! Pressure? Why should there be pressure, except from him?”

Cornered, rather confused, with a tinge of colour in his pale cheeks,
Grimshaw said hastily:

“I can’t see him as a lover. He would, as you put it, drop the
handkerchief and make sure of its being picked up at once. A girl of
spirit mightn’t quite like that.”

V

With the colder weather, Upworthy boasted a cleaner bill of health,
although the more elderly villagers suffered abominably from rheumatism.
Anxious to “spare” Lady Selina, but even more anxious to mitigate
conditions which might be improved, Grimshaw tackled Gridley, the power
behind the throne exercising a sly, persistent authority which few could
measure, least of all the lady of the manor. Gridley had succeeded his
father as bailiff of the Chandos domain. Thousands of just such men are
to be found in our southern and western counties. And more than half the
misery in the rural districts can be traced to them, directly and
indirectly. Back of their abuse of power lies, of course, the indolence
of the landlord. And behind this again—ignorance. All Gridleys have in
common a desire to make things easy for their employers. They stand
doggedly as buffers between comfort and discomfort, between peace of
mind and innumerable pettifogging worries and acerbities. Villagers dare
not appeal to Cæsar. How many schoolboys beard a headmaster, indicting
some unjust member of his staff? Villagers are children. They never cut
loose from leading-strings. They whine to each other, and make a
“visiting face” in the presence of the “quality.” They live, most of
them, for the passing hour, seldom dwelling upon the future because,
instinctively, they dread it. Who denies them great qualities? But they
will be the better understood when it is admitted frankly that their
unwritten code is poles apart from the code of the privileged classes.
With the poor patience is a greater virtue than truthfulness; fidelity
ranks above chastity; justice counts for nothing in comparison with
generosity.

Gridley lived in a comfortable house at the Home Farm, with a wife whom
he regarded as a general servant, and several children. After his day’s
work, he befuddled himself with beer, but he prided himself upon rising
each morning perfectly sober. He was reasonably abstemious in local
taverns, and attended church, making the responses in a loud voice,
conscious that the approving ear of Lady Selina heard him. He was a
member of the district and parish councils. He could, and did, make life
hell for any beneath him in the social scale who presumed to thwart his
wishes and commands.

At first he showed himself obsequious and complaisant to the new doctor.
But he began to squirm under Grimshaw’s questions, wriggling out of
them, evading them, trying to throw dust into eyes penetratingly clear.
Grimshaw took his measure in five minutes. Nevertheless, for Lady
Selina’s sake, he wished to give the fellow a chance. Possibly Gridley
mistook courtesy for weakness. More than probably he took for granted
that country doctors prefer to travel along lines of least resistance.

Finally, after many exasperating and unavailing interviews, Grimshaw
spoke plainly:

“You are forcing me to the conclusion, Mr. Gridley, that you run
Upworthy to suit yourself.”

Doctor and bailiff had met outside a cottage which held a young married
woman sadly crippled by incipient arthritis. Her bed rested upon a floor
eaten up by dry-rot. Putting his foot through a board, Grimshaw had
discovered masses of thick, white, velvety fungus, which smelt horribly.
He discovered further that the waste-pipes from the eaves were choked
up; water trickled down the inside walls. When he called Gridley’s
attention to this state of things, the bailiff promptly promised
immediate repairs, which were not forthcoming. Grimshaw could have
appealed to Lady Selina. But anything of that sort meant open war with
Gridley, the precipitation of a crisis. It meant, for the lady of the
manor, an instant choice between an old servant and a comparative
stranger. It meant, if Grimshaw won (and the possibilities of losing
obtruded itself), finding a new bailiff, breaking him in, endless worry
and perplexity. To find the right man at such a time, when ability of
any sort was at a tremendous premium, might be impracticable. To add to
the difficulties of the case, he knew that witnesses for the prosecution
of a tyrant would be hard to find. Gridley, and his father before him,
had imposed silence upon Upworthy. The Extons were notable examples of
what might happen to the recalcitrant. Favours, innumerable doles—coal,
fire-wood, milk, clothing and small grants in aid—were distributed
amongst the optimists who, when Lady Selina made her periodical rounds,
presented shining faces and grateful hearts. The wise gaffers sang
praises of “honest John” behind his back and to his brazen face.
Nicodemus Burble, the octogenarian, piped the popular conviction: “I
allers says it pays to treat bailiffs wi’ respect, for why, my sonnies?
Because they can make it so danged uncomfortsome for we, if we don’t.”

Gridley, thus addressed by a young man whom he regarded hitherto as
negligible, was much taken aback. Clever enough to know that
procrastination would no longer avail him, he tried insolence instead:

“Do I? I’d have you to understand, Mr. Grimshaw, that I can mind my
business, as my father did before me, and I’ll thank you to mind yours.”

With that he turned on his heel, glaring savagely.

“Wait!” said Grimshaw, in his quietest tone.

Gridley swung round. Grimshaw met his congested glance.

“The misery in Upworthy is my business.”

“Ho, is it?”

“Yes; I can break a hornet’s nest about your ears, and I’m in the mood
to do it. I can get the medical officer of health for the county down
here, and if I do, you and your father’s business, which you manage as
abominably as he did, will be blown to—to your ultimate destination.”

Gridley stared at him in stupefaction. Hitherto, the local sanitary
inspector, with well-greased palms, had seen to it that his chief should
be spared such visitations. Altering his tone slightly, he growled out:

“Her ladyship will have something to say to that.”

“Cut her ladyship out of this. I propose to deal with you. Her ladyship
has entrusted you with powers which you have abused, grossly abused, to
your own advantage.”

Gridley, with unpleasant memories of John Exton, and confronted by a
tense athletic figure, said sullenly:

“I suppose I can’t stop you talking.”

“You can’t. You like being top dog. And because you came from the
people, you’re hard on the people. You treat them as dirt.”

Gridley laughed brutally, as a not unreasonable fear of personal
violence passed from him.

“That’s what they are, most of ’em—dirt.”

Grimshaw smiled derisively, beholding in Gridley the reactionary of the
Labour Party, the common type that rides rough-shod over the
foot-passengers, bespattering them with mud. Some of the self-styled
leaders of Labour in Poplar were just like him—arrogant, insolent and
ignorant, seeking their own advancement with specious canting words on
their thick lips, secretly distrusted by the very class whom they tried
to rule and direct. He divined that Gridley hated, in his heart, the
benefactress who trusted him, that he would be the first—given the
opportunity—to bite the hand that had fed him. And such men scorn
decent treatment. They can be subdued by the weapon they use—the lash.
Grimshaw continued, not so quietly:

“I’m on to your little games. You and that greedy idiot, the sanitary
inspector, and four-fifths of the district council, play into each
other’s hands, and laugh and wink over it.”

Gridley tried sarcasm:

“Ho! Downin’ one of your own sort now?”

“You allude to our local medical officer. I wonder how you’d like me to
take on that job?”

“Why don’t you?” He laughed again.

“I may,” replied Grimshaw incisively, “Lady Selina Chandos has always
wanted to do her best for her people, but that never suited your book.
Why? Because when light comes to her you’ll be scrapped first.”

“Have it your own way, Mr. Grimshaw, and thanks for warning me.”

“I do warn you. For the moment, I shall leave her ladyship in peace. I
am dealing with you. Mend your ways here and now. Does the new flooring
go in at once—or not?”

“I told you the job should be done. We’re short-handed.”

“Will it go in at once, within twenty-four hours?”

“Yes, it will.” He paused, adding cringingly:

“I didn’t mean to give offence, sir.”

Grimshaw replied tensely:

“Good. Keep what I’ve said to yourself, and I shall do the same.”

Within the time exacted the new flooring was put in. Grimshaw knew, of
course, that he had made a dangerous enemy, but this heartened rather
than dismayed him, salving a sensitive conscience. He believed that he
could deal with Gridley, and through Gridley with others. Lady Selina
must be left in peace till peace came back to a world in travail.

I

Cicely, till the war broke out, accepted life very much as she found it,
although at school a glimmering had come to her that it wasn’t for all
girls the pleasant pilgrimage from cradle to altar, and thence in the
remote future to the grave, which a daughter of the House of Chandos
might naturally deem it. She and Arabella Tiddle had agreed that they
belonged to the Sunshiners, as Arabella put it—flowers in a parterre,
carefully tended and cherished. It must be awful, for instance, to be
like Miss Spong and Miss Minchin, assistant mistresses, labelled by
their pupils as “Spot” and “Plain.” Everybody knew that Miss Spong’s
father drank, even on Sundays; and Miss Minchin, it was generally
believed, worked hard during the “hols” as a typist. The whole school
had sustained an appalling shock when little Doris Reed mysteriously
vanished from a classroom and was never seen again. Her father, a
fraudulent bankrupt, had walked into a tunnel, preferring to meet an
express train rather than his infuriated creditors. All the details were
in the daily papers. One of Cicely’s friends, a queer, tall, scraggy
girl, interested herself in criminology, collecting clippings wherever
she might find them which set forth horrors. She was honourably known as
“Old Goose-flesh,” and possessed a perfectly thrilling brooch revealing
under crystal a tiny strand of a rope upon which a murderer had been
hanged!

Cicely, however, as a “Sunshiner,” turned her head from these shadows. A
tithe of her pocket-money was given in charity. One girl, chronically
hard up, borrowed five shillings which were never repaid. Ought this to
be regarded as part of the tithe? Arabella, with inherited business
instincts, answered in the affirmative. Eventually Cicely wrote to Dr.
Pawley about it, and he decided against Arabella. A fortnight later
Cicely received a box of chocolates which Arabella priced at ten
shillings. For a week at least Cicely wondered who had sent the
chocolates. She wrote an effusive letter of thanks to Brian, who sent
another box, expressing regret that he had not thought of sending the
first. Cicely, with a chocolate in her mouth, observed triumphantly:

“You see, Tiddy, out of evil comes good.”

“Yes; you’re fifteen bob up on the deal.”

From this happy conclusion there was no budging. Goodrich preached the
comfortable doctrine from the pulpit; experience confirmed it. Evil had
to be, because good oozed out of it. In the same philosophic spirit
Arabella’s father advertised the virtues of Tiddle’s Family Pellets. If
people didn’t suffer with dyspepsia Lady Tiddle wouldn’t wear pearls.

Cicely left school and returned to Upworthy with half a dozen delightful
vistas of fun and enjoyment in front of her. Hunting, tennis, balls,
jolly house parties, presentation at Court, and a London season. . . .

The outbreak of war closed all these avenues down which she and Arabella
had hoped to dance so joyously.

Lady Selina, moreover, refused to share Arthur Wilverley’s conviction
that the interests of high finance and industry would be paramount in
determining hostilities within a year. Her brother, Lord Saltaire, held
no such rosy views. Inspissated gloom settled upon that nobleman, not
without reason. His vast estates were heavily dipped; he had never been
able to lay by a penny-piece; the calls upon his ever-diminishing purse
were innumerable. He said to his sister:

“The burden of increased taxation will be back-breaking, my dear Selina.
We shall be hit harder than any other class. So I advise you to
economise. Cut down expenses to the irreducible minimum! That’s my first
and last word.”

Lady Selina sent for Gridley.

“Lord Saltaire,” she told her obsequious bailiff, “is reducing expenses
to the minimum. We must do the same.”

“Very good, my lady.”

She added, with an irritability rare with her:

“So pray don’t come bothering me about money. For the present, and for
some time to come, we must ‘carry on’—that, I am told, is the correct
expression—as best we may.”

“Certainly, my lady. In my humble opinion, the Hearl is right. I hope
your ladyship knows that I shall cut down everything.”

He spoke as if the prospect of cheeseparing afforded him intense
satisfaction, but Lady Selina didn’t notice that, and remarked:

“Yes, yes; you are a good, faithful soul. We must practise self-denial,
even in our charities.”

Much to her gratification, Cicely behaved like a perfect darling. It
made the fond mother miserable to think that her girl should have her
“coming out” burked by cruel fate. But Cicely kissed her and said:

“I shall enjoy my good time all the more when it does come, Mums.”

Lady Selina inclined her head mournfully. She entertained no delusions
on that point. Procrastination did not enhance the virgin joys of
“coming out.” Nevertheless, she confronted an abominable situation with
fortitude, making no protest when Cicely insisted upon becoming a V.A.D.
That meant the loss of more “bloom.” Balm descended upon her lacerated
tissues, you may be sure, when Cicely went to Wilverley Court. If dear
Arthur seized this great opportunity all would be well. Striving to
interpret the inscrutable ways of Providence, she seemed to discern the
Omnipotent Finger tracing Cicely’s future in gleaming letters upon a
dark background. Left alone in her big house, she denied herself cream,
and drastically reduced her establishment.

It will be admitted that Grimshaw, bursting with impatience to give
Upworthy a cleaner bill of health, had not chosen the most opportune
moment to further his plans.

II

We shall behold Cicely with clearer vision “on her own” at Wilverley.

She plunged eagerly into hard work, thereby winning an approving smile
from “Matron,” an uncompromising “pro,” not likely to favour a young
woman merely because she happened to belong to the “county.” Exalted
above “Matron” sat Mrs. Roden, Wilverley’s sister, who had married one
of the Quaker Rodens, a pillar of the Liberal Party, and as
indefatigable as his wife in what he considered to be “good works.”
George Roden was supposed to be in touch with the masses, although he
was a rich man. As an M.P. and a subordinate member of the Government,
he pulled many strings, being recognised as a peacemaker and
intermediary between Labour and Capital. His wife shared his views. In
and out of season Mrs. Roden preached solemnly the doctrines of
adjustment. She adjusted her own life and the lives of others,
particularly the lives of others. As an ardent democrat she contended
that all classes, not merely Labour, should be fairly treated in the New
Commonwealth at last to be discerned rising superbly above the troubled
waters. Fortunately, inasmuch as the good lady was something of a bore,
we are not much concerned with her or her excellent husband. But she
exercised influence upon Cicely at a moment when the girl was most
sensitive to outside impressions.

Mrs. Roden, after serious consideration, decided that Cicely was
destined to be the mother of Wilverley’s children. Motherhood may be
described as her _cheval de bataille_. Upon this charger she rode boldly
into the future, couching her lance against that dragon Infant
Mortality. Cicely’s physique, her feminine curves, her clear complexion
and candid eyes, fortified the conviction that she would nurse her
babies, and Mrs. Roden said so, with no squeamish reserves, to Wilverley
himself.

“Good heavens, Mary, what things you think of!”

Mrs. Roden replied austerely:

“I focus my thoughts, Arthur, on the essential. Large families will be
the crying need of the next decade.”

“I hope my kids won’t cry.”

“Pray don’t be flippant! I am honoured that you have given me your
confidence. Cicely is young, but I was nineteen when I married George. I
was a mother at twenty. I have never regretted it. I deplore years
wasted in bunny-hugging and fox trots. If this war trains young girls to
take themselves more seriously it will not have been waged in vain. I
shall talk to dear little Cicely.”

“Not—not about my babies?”

“You can leave all that to me.”

“Cicely, bless her! is a bit of a tomboy. I’m sure she would shrink
from—from—_you know_.”

Mrs. Roden enjoined silence, uplifting a large, capable hand.

“My dear Arthur, you have the disabilities of your sex. Never having
suffered from excess of modesty yourself, you imagine that young girls
are immaculately innocent and ignorant. Pray purge your mind of that!
They are nothing of the sort. They discuss everything nowadays with a
refreshing candour that is not the least significant sign of the times.
Now for a word of advice to you. If you want her, go for her—go for
her! Young girls fall easily in love with the first energetic bidder. I
take it you are the first?”

“I—I think so, Mary.”

“Then I repeat—go for her!”

Seldom indeed did Mrs. Roden use expressions even approximating to
slang. Wilverley saw that her interest was seriously engaged.

III

Mrs. Roden had been right in assuming Cicely to be neither immaculately
innocent nor ignorant of what she termed “essential facts.” She and
Arabella had discussed marriage and even motherhood quite naturally, but
not often, being mainly engrossed with tennis and hockey and, subsidiary
to these, their work in class. Arabella insisted that they must be near
the head of the procession and maintain an honourable position without
undue “mugging.” A good report, indeed, at the close of her school
career had transmuted thousands of pills into the pearls which Lady
Selina so admired.

Arabella, it will be remembered, had this strangle-hold over Cicely.
Lady Tiddle had graduated in life at a shoe factory. Arabella
acknowledged, with pardonable pride, that her second cousin on the
maternal side was a housemaid. Cicely was friendly with housemaids at
the Manor, but, in strict obedience to Lady Selina, never familiar with
them. Arabella pronounced this abstention to be a loss, not a gain. She
had talked very freely with the second cousin.

“They have an enormous bulge over us, Cis. You see, they get to know
men. Our information is second-hand. Lily”—that happened to be the name
of the second cousin—“has had a dozen boys on and off. She began when
she was fifteen. She’s as straight as they make ’em, you know, but dead
nuts on spooning.”

Cicely winced at this, although curiosity pricked her. Conscious that
she needn’t ask for details, because Arabella always supplied them, she
held her tongue. Arabella continued:

“Lily can make comparisons, weigh Tom against Dick, scrap both, and take
on Bill. I call that true liberty. I don’t see why an intelligent girl,
anxious to get the right sort of hubby, as, of course, we all are,
shouldn’t be engaged half a dozen times.”

“Tiddy——!”

“That’s my idea. Probably Father, who is becoming rather rankly
conservative since he was knighted, will put the kibosh on that, but
how, I ask, can you know what a man is really like till he has kissed
you?”

“What perfectly awful things you say!”

“All right! I’m a red poppy, and proud of it. You’re the wee
crimson-tippit daisy. Be a daisy if you like. I’ll call you—Dais.”

“Tiddy, please don’t! I’ll try not to be a daisy. You do give one ideas.
But kissing——! That is housemaidy, if you like.” She frowned and then
quoted triumphantly: “‘Her lips are common as the stairs.’ Ugh!”

Arabella laughed. Perhaps she wanted to shock a too aristocratic friend.

“Oh, well, Lily thinks no more of that than you do of brushing your
teeth.”

“I should have to brush my teeth, Tiddy, if any man dared to kiss me.”

Such talks, infrequent as they might be, stimulated imagination. Lady
Selina may have wondered why Miss Tiddle was chosen by Cicely as her
particular “chum.” Surely there were—others? But the others lacked
personality. Arabella imposed herself. Her liveliness, her audacity, her
humour—were irresistible.

Cicely’s first action on becoming a V.A.D. was to write to Miss Tiddle,
entreating her to join the staff at Wilverley. Sir Nathaniel Tiddle,
after a heartening glance at the peerage and “Who’s Who,” raised no
objection. Finally it was arranged that Arabella should “weigh in” with
the New Year.

Meanwhile, Cicely was seeing Arthur Wilverley every day.

IV

He “went for her” according to his own methods, not above criticism. The
“Ars Amatoria” of Ovid is hardly out of date, but that lively treatise
was not to be found in the Court library. Wilverley’s notion of courting
would have been termed by his sister—self-expression. The honest fellow
wanted Cicely to see him in all his moods and tenses before conjugation.
He talked unweariedly about Arthur Wilverley. Beware of branding him too
hastily as egoist or prig! He happened to be neither. Like his sister,
the welfare of others lay next his heart. At the same time it seemed to
be an imperative duty to reveal himself to his future wife.

Cicely was rather impressed at first.

And it is not unreasonable to affirm that he might have got her _au
premier coup_ had Grimshaw remained in Poplar. Comparisons between
Grimshaw and Wilverley became inevitable. Cicely was not unversed in
such mental exercises. At school young ladies of the ripe age of fifteen
were invited to compare, in parallel columns, Napoleon with Wellington,
Gladstone with Disraeli, Thackeray with Dickens. The prize-winning
contributions were published in the school magazine, typed and edited by
the overworked Miss Minchin.

Cicely wrote as follows to her dearest Tiddy:

“I do wish you were here, because I’m dying to talk to you about Arthur
Wilverley. I’m sure you will think him rather a dear. Anyway, he’s been
ever so nice to me. No chocs! He’s not that sort. Plenty of good,
sensible talk, which is flattering, isn’t it? I sometimes think that
he’s practising on me, trying on sentences which he means to use in
public. He’s our star landlord in these parts, and makes poor Mother
gasp when he tells her what she ought to do at Upworthy. Of course, he’s
frightfully rich. Have I mentioned Mr. Grimshaw to you?” (O Cicely——!)
“He’s Dr. Pawley’s new partner, and _very_ clever. But this cleverness
doesn’t stick out of him, thank goodness! Arthur and he took a fancy to
each other when they first met, because they have a lot in
common—better rural conditions, and all that. I told both of them that
it was no use hustling and bustling Mother. Mr. Grimshaw bottles himself
up; Arthur uncorks himself. Already I seem to know everything he has
done and is going to do. I’m afraid that you will say he’s not wildly
exciting. Nothing subtle about him. He strikes me as being immensely
‘safe.’ One couldn’t imagine him letting anybody down, or letting
himself down. Mr. Grimshaw is better-looking. He might come to grief if
things went very wrong with him. Or he might climb to giddy heights.

“Mother is pinching a bit—no cream! She says it’s fattening. Most of
our neighbours are pinching for patriotic reasons, but some of them like
it. This hateful war shows us all up. Mrs. Roden (Arthur’s sister) is a
_scream_! You will love pulling her leg. It’s rather against Arthur that
he can’t see how funny she is——”

A postscript was added:

“Mr. Grimshaw has dark, disconcerting eyes. I’m afraid he’s very poor.”

To this artless epistle Miss Tiddle replied by return of post.

“I wish I were at Wilverley,” she wrote, “because your letter is a dead
give-away. You’re working up a ‘pash’ for this young man with the
disconcerting eyes!!! And I’ll bet my string of pearls against a
boot-lace that he’s a better chap than your Arthur, who doesn’t appeal
to me at all. I see by the peerage that he’s nearly forty, and probably
getting bald. Why does he talk to you? Why not write to me as a pal
should? Before you get this, he may have proposed, without a word of
warning from me. And likely as not you’ll blush and say ‘yes,’ because,
obviously, the whole thing has been a put-up job. My tip is: flirt
sweetly with both of them, and _don’t commit yourself_! I have three
affairs on—no end of a rag! If necessary, I’ll have a go at your
Arthur. Try him out! I expect he’s too fat, mentally and physically, for
my taste. But I’d sacrifice myself for you. I shall look forward to
meeting Mr. Grimshaw. If he’s poor and clever, he’ll reach up and help
himself to the needful, with you dangling at the end of the pole as a
prize.

“My lady-mother is pinching too. We no longer dine the people we don’t
like. But we shall freeze on to our footmen till public opinion wrenches
them from us. . . .”

This letter constrained Cicely to collate her virginal thoughts with
Miss Tiddle’s vulgar words. Vulgar, be it noted, is used as
“vernacular.” Shakespeare might have described Miss Tiddle’s prose as
“naked as the vulgar air.” Lady Selina might have used the adjective in
its commoner acceptation. It would have shocked her inexpressibly had
she been told that her child was “working up a pash” for anybody, even
if he were a young duke with all the gifts of the gods. Cicely, however,
knew her “Tiddy,” and took no offence. But . . . was she thinking too
much of this man with the disconcerting eyes? Did he stand, square to
the four winds of heaven, between herself and Arthur? She asked herself
the question when she was engaged in preparing a pailful of
disinfectant. One would prefer to envisage the nymph in a fragrant
rose-garden, plucking the dewy blossoms, inhaling with them the sweet
freshness of morning. . . . Cicely had just finished scrubbing the floor
of the dispensary; the pungent odour of carbolic assailed her pretty
nose. And it served well enough, better perhaps than any rose, to kill
the parasitic sentimental growths which so often clog and obscure a
maiden’s true understanding of herself.

What was Grimshaw to her?

Being still a child in many ways, she applied the nursery test. If she
were in a boat with the two men, and the boat upset, and it were
possible for her to save one of the two, which one would be saved?

Her lively imagination, unduly stimulated by Tiddy’s prose, beheld the
two appealing faces mutely beseeching her for life and love. She
hesitated. The heads sank, to bob up again. She positively shivered with
indecision. Then she laughed. The prescient Tiddy had hit the mark.
Arthur was . . . well, not thin. He suggested floating. If he turned on
his broad back and stopped struggling, he would float. But Grimshaw
would sink . . .!

The test sufficed. Cicely filled her pail, and carried it demurely into
a ward.

V

She knew by this time why Arthur talked to her with such flattering
insistence. Tiddy would call it “window dressing.” Was it flirting to
listen attentively, to appraise the wares, to smile demurely, to watch
him inflate with the deliberate intention of deflating him later on? At
this point, her thoughts became nebulous. If she knew Arthur better, she
might like him more. When did liking turn into a warmer sentiment?

She went home for a week-end before Christmas.

Immediately she realised that her mother’s first kiss included a
benediction. Lady Selina held her hands, gently pressing them. Then,
with an exclamation of dismay, she examined them, noting broken nails,
roughness of skin, and faint stains which defied Scrubbs’ Ammonia.

“Oh, dear!”

“Honourable scars, Mums.”

“The whole world is topsy-turvy. I hear you are called ‘Shandy.’”

“Matron calls me Chandos, and the V.A.D.S Shandy. What does it matter?
I’m as hard as nails, and frightfully hungry. I hope you have a topping
dinner.”

“Everything you like, darling. We shall be quite alone. Stimson is
single-handed. This is a season of fasting and prayer, but you shan’t
fast here.”

Cicely hugged her, exuberantly glad to be at home again, but sensible of
a change that tugged at her heart-strings. The old graciousness
remained, the erect figure, the well-poised head, all the tiny
authoritative gestures. But the smooth eyelids drooped more heavily,
hiding anxious eyes. The right word came to her later, when they sat
together in Lady Selina’s room.

_Forlorn_ . . .!

What a word to apply to her mother! Always, she had thought of that
mother as self-sufficing. Lady Selina, of course, was accustomed to
being alone. She liked to entertain at due intervals—a Chandos
tradition; she paid occasional visits; she spent periodic weeks at an
old-fashioned hotel in London, in a cul-de-sac, where a gentlewoman
could sleep between lavender-scented sheets, and almost believe that she
was in the country.

_Forlorn_ . . .!

Several reasons jumped into Cicely’s mind: maternal anxiety about Brian,
a reduced establishment that forbade entertaining, her own absence from
home at a time, possibly, when a devoted mother had set her heart upon
“doing things” with her and for her. Without hesitation, she said
abruptly:

“Would you like me to stay at home, Mums?”

Evidently, Lady Selina had considered this. She answered quickly:

“No. We must all do our duty, child.”

“You look so forlorn.”

It was impossible to keep back the insistent word. Lady Selina frowned.

“Forlorn? I didn’t know that I looked forlorn, whatever I may feel at
times. There are—moments . . .” She sighed, and then said with her
usual energy: “But they pass. You are a sympathetic creature, Cicely. I
ought to be ashamed of looking or feeling forlorn when I have two such
good children. And so many good friends. They have been very
considerate.” She paused, faintly smiling. “You know, dear, even Mr.
Grimshaw leaves me in peace.”

Cicely hoped that she was not blushing, as she murmured:

“Heavens! Why shouldn’t he?”

“I anticipated pesterings. A man with his ideas . . . Thousands of
pounds! And now, when we all have to think in pence. He is certainly
clever. Our people like him. I have given him some shooting. The
partridges we had at dinner were shot by him. I see very little of him.
Does he go to Wilverley?”

She shot a glance at Cicely, who thanked her stars that she was able to
answer truthfully:

“Never!”

Lady Selina brightened. Not for a king’s ransom would she have pleaded
dear Arthur’s cause. To do so, however delicately, might invite
disaster. And it would be equally indiscreet to “run down” a too
attractive, impecunious young man. She decided that a little faint
praise was much safer.

“By the way, he is _not_ one of the Grimthorpe Grimshaws. But he will do
very well, and in due time step into dear Dr. Pawley’s shoes.”

“His list slippers.”

Lady Selina blinked, and then shied away from rebuke, a notable
abstention. Cicely continued hastily:

“Mr. Grimshaw is a gentleman. Nothing else matters.”

“His grandfather, I am told, was a China merchant, whatever that may
mean. As for ‘gentleman,’ I am inclined to think my dear father defined
the now odious word properly.”

“What was his definition?”

“He contended that the word had nothing to do with moral attributes. A
‘gentleman,’ in his opinion, was a man neither directly nor indirectly
connected with trade.”

Cicely opened her lips, and then closed them. She could score heavily by
asking whether the son of an ironmaster could, under this definition, be
termed a gentleman. But she reflected that her mother would retort that
the ironmaster had been created a peer of the realm. Lady Selina went on
blandly:

“Your grandfather once ‘turned down,’ as you put it, a clever young man
who applied to him for the post of private secretary. He presented
himself at dinner in a made-up tie.”

“Heavens!”

“I think my father was quite right. A gentleman never offends in small
matters. I deplore the fact that your friend Arabella pronounces G-I-R-L
‘gurl.’ How do you pronounce it?”

Cicely smiled.

“It depends upon whom I’m talking to, Mums. I shouldn’t say ‘gurl’
before you. I suppose you’d have a fit if I asked for a ‘serviette’
instead of a ‘napkin’?”

“It would nearly kill me,” replied Lady Selina solemnly.

“Arabella nearly died when she heard an old duchess pronounce ‘yellow’
‘yaller.’”

“That used to be the proper pronunciation, my dear.”

Cicely held her tongue.

Lady Selina, as usual, blamed the school. A girl brought up at home
would not venture to criticise, even allusively, her elders. She was
aware that Miss Tiddle criticised the Author of her Being! Cicely
hastily changed the talk, describing, not without sprightliness, her
adventures and misadventures as a V.A.D. Incidentally she mentioned
Wilverley, conscious at once that the atmosphere became charged with
electricity. Lady Selina, at mere mention of his name, purred with
pleasure. To stroke her fur the right way became a temptation hard to
resist. Cicely, however, succeeded in pleasing her mother without
committing herself. That, at least, was her happy conviction when she
went to bed. Snug in bed, and congratulating herself upon a strategy
that Tiddy might have disdained, she heard a soft tap upon the door.
Lady Selina, majestic in a brocaded dressing-gown, entered. Cicely was
astonished and moved. Such visits were rare. Lady Selina fussed over
her, tucked her up, and kissed her fondly, whispering:

“You are my own little girl. You mustn’t worry about me. As I said,
there are moments when this unhappy world seems upside down. I ask
myself where I am. But I have the greatest confidence in you, darling.
That is such a comfort—to be sure of those you love. Sleep well, and
have breakfast in bed if you want to.”

Cicely did not sleep too well. She lay awake for at least an hour,
feeling strangely restless and uncomfortable. And she woke up many
times, tingling with an exasperation which she tried in vain to resolve
into elements. She wished both Wilverley and Grimshaw at Timbuctoo; she
wished that she was like Tiddy, who could “take on” three suitors as a
“rag”; she almost wished she had been born of humbler parentage. Tiddy
assured her that the old order was “down and out,” never to rise again.
Admittedly, Tiddy knew nothing of the old order. And Cicely dimly beheld
a new disorder, with blatant voices and not too clean linen, that might
exercise a greater tyranny than any aristocracy of rank and starched
shirts. For the moment, she ultimately decided, she knew what she
wanted—to be left alone.

VI

She woke up delightfully surprised to find herself in her own pretty
room, and with no desire for breakfast in bed. Snow had fallen during
the night. Looking out of her window, she could see the conventional
Christmas landscape. Nature seemed to have tidied everything for the
great festival. Upon the previous afternoon Cicely noticed that the
gardens had lost something of their trim appearance. Leaves rotted upon
the paths and lawns. Rabbits had dared to invade the topiary garden! The
snow covered leaves and fallen timber. Presently Lady Selina appeared,
scattering crumbs for the friendly robins. Cicely greeted her gaily.

“You slept well, my darling?”

“Like a top.”

“Capital.”

They smiled at each other, Cicely reflecting that tops didn’t really
sleep. They spun round and round, just as she had during her vigils, and
went into a sort of silly trance. And then they fell flatly down. Cicely
had experienced all this and more; so she told the exact truth and
pleased her mother at the same time. As a matter of fact, she detested
lying, even white-lying. At school, lying, or any form of feminine
deceit or guile, had been voted by the leaders of public opinion—bad
form. Women, in the past, had been driven to subterfuge by brutal MAN.
The New Woman, educated like a public-school boy, must tell the truth,
and flaunt it if necessary, like an Oriflamme.

Mother and daughter attended Divine Service. Cicely perceived Dr. Pawley
in his pew, but Mr. Grimshaw was conspicuously absent, a fact which
distracted Cicely’s thoughts from the Liturgy. The small church was full
as usual, although many of the younger men had already joined up, not
without some pressure from the parson and the lady of the manor. The
more aged and infirm, in receipt of doles, quite understood that regular
attendance “paid.” Backsliders were overlooked when Lady Selina offered
her “oblations” at the Midsummer and Christmas bun-festivals. Just
before Christmas beef-time the attendance was remarkable.

After church Dr. Pawley accounted satisfactorily for the absence of his
colleague, who, it seemed, had spent the night with a child suffering
horribly from croup.

“He never spares himself, good fellow,” said Pawley. “In this case he
insisted on sparing me.”

Lady Selina inclined her head. The thought came to Cicely, to be
dismissed as disloyal, that her mother had not seemed too well pleased
when listening politely to Dr. Pawley’s praises of his partner. Did she
resent the young man’s ever-increasing popularity in the village? Lady
Selina strolled back to the Manor, saying nothing. In the old days Dr.
Pawley was often invited to luncheon on Sundays. Cicely said presently:

“Are you expecting Dr. Pawley to luncheon, Mums?”

“No. Stimson has enough to do as it is. Besides, it would be difficult
to leave out Mr. Grimshaw.”

“But why leave him out?”

Lady Selina shrugged her shoulders, saying carelessly:

“On ne s’entend pas avec tout le monde.”

Cicely felt as if she had been slapped. It was the first time that her
mother had deliberately chosen to indicate the social chasm between
herself and a G.P. Cicely, off her guard, said indiscreetly:

“Mother!—Mr. Grimshaw is Brian’s friend. I—I don’t understand.”

Lady Selina may have regretted a slip of the tongue. In her softest
voice, she replied:

“My dear child, I have been extremely civil to Brian’s friend. But there
are—limits! I regard Dr. Pawley as an exception that proves the rule
never broken by my dear father, for example.”

“What rule?”

“I dislike dotting my ‘i’s. However . . . the rule is quite simply this:
Solicitors and doctors, by reason of their callings, which impose upon
us, willy-nilly, an intimacy of a peculiarly personal and often
unpleasant character, must be received with formal courtesy upon
occasion. But the fact that they are paid as attendants, so to speak,
justifies us in keeping them at a discreet distance. Your grandfather
used to say: ‘How can I enjoy my glass of port when my doctor is
watching me drink it, after having strictly forbidden it?’ In the same
way, although your friend’s father, Sir Nathaniel Tiddle, may be an
exceptionally worthy person, I should not care to sit at table with him,
because he is a pill-manufacturer. How white the world is this morning!”

Cicely bit her lips in the effort to keep silence. Also, she realised
the fatuity of further argument. It seemed to her monstrous that
anybody, particularly a mother, should not want to sit at table with a
man who had spent a long, wearisome night in attendance upon a croupy
child. She said, with an inflection of acerbity:

“Yes; but I always think of snow as Nature’s whitewash.”

“What an idea!”

“Well, it is my idea. I thought this morning that it covered ever so
cleverly the rotten leaves which I smelt yesterday. I can’t smell them
now or see them, but they’re there just the same.”

Lady Selina eyed her pensively, murmuring:

“Really, child, your liver must be out of order.”

VII

During the afternoon Cicely met Grimshaw. Whether by accident or design
will never be known. She told her mother, just before Lady Selina was
composing herself for a nap, that she intended to pop round the village,
but she popped no farther than Mrs. Rockram’s. That excellent woman
received her with effusion, congratulating the young lady heartily upon
her colour. Cicely’s cheeks certainly exhibited a deeper damask, and her
eyes were sparkling. Mrs. Rockram, honest soul, made no attempt to
disguise her interest in what might be happening at Wilverley, and her
broad hints and innuendoes nearly drove Cicely from a delightfully warm
kitchen. She guessed, of course, that Mrs. Rockram voiced the gossip of
the village. Tiddy, she reflected, would have been immensely amused. A
Chandos merely achieved exasperation tempered by patience. Nevertheless,
she was sensible that Wilverley had become immensely remote, and its
lord a mere vibrant blur upon the horizon.

“I didn’t come here to talk about Wilverley,” she said.

“No, no, suttingly not. But I’m such an old friend, Miss Cicely, so
you’ll forgive me, won’t you? I held you and Master Brian in my arms
when you wasn’t two hours born. I mind me how Master Brian yowled when
he was bathed, and I says to Rockram, I says: ‘You mark me, Thomas
Rockram, that young man’ll never like water’—and he never did.”

Cicely laughed.

“You tell me about Upworthy. Is there much sickness?”

“Nothing to worry about. Mr. Grimshaw sees to that, he do. And now that
we’re a-going to lose him——”

“What——?”

“Haven’t you heard, miss?”

“Not a word.”

Mrs. Rockram became interjectional. “Well, I never did!—Maybe, I’ve no
call to!—But there!—I did suppose my lady would know!” Boiled down,
her tale amounted to no more than this. A certain Dr. Babbington
Somebody-or-other had offered Mr. Grimshaw some post in France. Cicely
having grasped this as a fact, said:

“And Mr. Grimshaw has accepted the appointment?”

“Well, no, miss. Not to say—accepted. Leastways, he give me to
understand only yesterday that he ’adn’t answered the letter, but he’ll
go. Me and Rockram is of the same mind about that.”

“But why should he go?”

“Because, dearie, ’e’s wanted here. In my long life, I’ve never known a
man to be out o’ the way when ’e wasn’t wanted, or reely in it when he
was. Mr. Grimshaw’ll leave us, just because we can’t do without him.”

Cicely couldn’t cope with this. She said, with some tartness:

“Mr. Grimshaw is Dr. Pawley’s partner. From my knowledge of him, he’s
the last man to leave a partner in the lurch.”

Whereupon Mrs. Rockram became so interjectional that we cannot attempt
to follow her.

Cicely left the cottage, to find Grimshaw snowballing on the Green with
some of the village children. He came towards her, laughing, looking, so
she thought, like a jolly boy.

“How are you, Miss Chandos?”

Cicely wasted no time.

“What is this story about your leaving us?”

His face became slightly impassive as he replied:

“The good Mrs. Rockram has been indiscreet, I see.”

“But—are you going? And where? Do, please, satisfy my curiosity.”

“Are you curious?”

“Of course I am.”

“That’s very friendly and kind of you. Yes; I have been offered a rather
important billet in a French Field Hospital. Between ourselves, the
French Medical Staff were caught napping. It mustn’t leak out, but their
arrangements have proved wholly inadequate. Doctors and nurses are badly
wanted. I happen to speak French fairly well. I took a Paris degree.
Babbington-Raikes has written to me——”

“Oh!”

He hesitated, becoming a boy again.

“I—I should really like to know what you think about it.”

“How absurd!”

Irritation betrayed itself. Partly because she found herself in a false
position. During the previous vigils she had wished to be left alone.
Providence, apparently, had granted that wish, so far as Grimshaw was
concerned. He would leave Upworthy, never to return. If he cared——!
Already, like Arthur Wilverley, he seemed remote. His voice floated to
her as from a distance.

“I am sincere. I have talked the matter over with Dr. Pawley. His health
is much improved after his long holiday. He can carry on, so he says.”

Cicely said shortly:

“Of course he _says_ that.”

“Do you mean, Miss Chandos, that in your opinion it’s my duty to stay
here?”

Quite unreasonably—as she admitted to herself afterwards—Cicely became
conscious of exasperation. At the moment, naturally enough, she was
unable to analyse her emotions. Inasmuch as she wanted Grimshaw to stay
for her personal motives, inasmuch also as she knew that such men must
be sorely needed elsewhere, his grave question kindled civil war in her
own heart. Taken at a disadvantage, she temporised:

“My opinion doesn’t count.”

“But it does,” he assured her.

Man and maid looked at each other with troubled eyes, each dismally
conscious of spaces to be bridged, of bristling obstacles to be
surmounted. In each, moreover, was the somewhat inchoate conviction that
this horrible war imposed itself as paramount. Individuals were
engulfed. The best leapt, like Curtius, into the abyss. And dominating
this paralysing faith in the necessity of personal sacrifice was the
instinct to obey without questioning, to scrap self at any cost. Cicely
divined that Grimshaw must do his duty, and that he would do it,
ultimately, even if she urged him to stay in Upworthy. To test him, to
make certain of his quality, she said slowly, almost with defiance:

“And if I believed that, if—if I gave an opinion—which—which I
don’t,” she hastened to add, “what weight could it have against your
own?” As he remained silent, she continued vehemently: “No, no; you will
act for yourself. Nothing else is possible.”

“I suppose not.”

“I venture to guess that you have made up your mind, Mr. Grimshaw.”

“Not quite.”

Torn within, he presented an impassive face to his interlocutress. His
voice seemed to Cicely colder. An older woman would have read him
easily. Unhappily, too, for both of them, they were standing on the
village green within sight of inquisitive eyes. Alone in Mrs. Rockram’s
snug parlour, in front of a warming fire, Grimshaw might have spoken and
put his fate to the touch. The snow, the grey-white landscape, the
approaching shades of evening, chilled speech. But never had Cicely
appeared so sweet to him, so desirable. To go from her without a word
ravaged him. To speak with entire frankness meant trouble, a burden
placed upon slender shoulders. Was it possible to give her a glimpse of
his feelings? Could one cold-dispelling ray shoot from his heart to hers
before they parted? Physically speaking, hands and feet were growing
icy.

She shivered.

Instantly he recognized the inexorable power of environment. He spoke
with professional incisiveness:

“I beg your pardon for keeping you here. It is bitterly cold. We are in
for a sharp frost.”

She held out her hand.

“I return to Wilverley to-morrow.” Her voice softened delightfully.
“This may be—Good-bye. And if it is, good luck to you.”

“Thanks.”

With that Cicely sped homeward, a very unhappy maid, leaving an equally
unhappy man to his thoughts. Neither had understood the other; each had
trodden the well-worn path of convention and good-breeding, no longer
that gentle, pleasant exercise so commended and approved by the past
generation. Cicely told herself that he didn’t care; he was more doctor
than man. At the very last he had envisaged her as a possible patient
laid low by influenza. . . . Perhaps—her cheeks glowed at the
thought—he had guessed something. Deliberately he might be setting the
seas between them! Otherwise, surely he would have hinted at a return to
Upworthy. . . .

Grimshaw went back to his sitting-room and piled logs upon a dull
smouldering heap of cinders. Borrowing Mrs. Rockram’s bellows, he blew
these into a roaring fire, sat down, lit his pipe, and glared at the
leaping flames. He was sensible of failure to his marrow. He accused
himself of cowardice. He cross-questioned himself inexorably. Pride had
governed him; he had kow-towed to the code imposed by the lady of the
manor; he had missed his chance. Lord Wilverley would not miss his
chance.

VIII

Alone with her mother, at tea-time, Cicely mentioned casually her visit
to Mrs. Rockram and her meeting with Grimshaw upon the village green.
Lady Selina nodded with Olympian majesty when she heard of the
Babbington-Raikes letter, saying blandly:

“Under the unhappy circumstances, I could not expect Mr. Grimshaw to
waste his undoubted talents and energies in Upworthy.”

Cicely said hastily:

“He seemed to ask for—for _our_ opinion, and of course I replied that
he would do what seemed right.”

Lady Selina smiled maternally:

“Very proper, my dear. And Dr. Pawley is so much stronger. Really, he
doesn’t need a partner now.”

She sipped her tea, hardly missing the cream. Cicely observed with
irrelevance:

“I often wonder why Dr. Pawley never married.”

“Ah, well, I could enlighten you, child, about that.”

“Do, please!”

Whereupon Lady Selina unfolded a romantic tale with a gusto in the
telling of it not wasted upon her listener. Pawley was presented as a
young, ardent man, whimsical, attractive, and something of a cavalier.
As a rider to hounds, he had won the friendship of the late Squire of
Upworthy. Cicely was well aware of this, a fact that tickled her humour.
With a full appreciation of the part played by fox-hunting in the making
of the nation, she learnt also, not with surprise, that a bold horseman
had captivated the interest of a daughter of the county, now a rotund
matron, the wife of a baronet who lived a dozen miles away. Lady Selina
was describing vividly, with corroborative detail, the process of
transmuting mere interest into love, when Cicely interjected rather
sharply:

“I understand—the affair was nipped.”

Lady Selina hated interruptions.

“Don’t nip me, my dear. What happened can be put adequately without
using slang. Common sense prevailed. Your dear father, indeed, had a
finger in the pie. . . .”

“Pressure!” exclaimed the young lady. “I should have thought,” she
added, “that Dr. Pawley would not have yielded to pressure.”

“Which shows, my dear, that you don’t know him. At any rate, he did the
wise and honourable thing. None of us, high or low, can afford to ignore
public opinion. In this case, everything turned out for the best. Dr.
Pawley’s straightforward conduct served to establish his position. When
the facts became known, the best houses opened their doors to him.”

“But he lost a partner.”

“That loss turned into a substantial gain. I have often thought that
celibacy is best for doctors and clergymen. If they marry, they should
choose helpmeets. But I can understand, also, that such a man as my dear
old friend, having loved truly a young lady of quality—she had very
great charm and distinction, I can assure you—would not care to look
elsewhere. And here again his fidelity to an ideal has endeared him to
all of us.”

Lady Selina sighed. Cicely murmured pensively:

“I wonder what Tiddy would say.”

“I can imagine what your friend would say, Cicely, and I am glad that
she is not here to say it. _Noblesse oblige_ happens to be a phrase
which the daughter of Sir Nathaniel Tiddle couldn’t be expected to
understand.”

“She understands it right enough, and she’s jolly glad that it doesn’t
apply to her. In ten days she comes to Wilverley.”

“Really!”

Lady Selina looked down her nose, and the shape of it may have
encouraged her to remark:

“You know, child, that this friendship of yours with a rather
unrestrained and undisciplined young woman is a certain anxiety to me.
However . . .!”

With a gesture that might have become the mother of the Gracchi, Lady
Selina dismissed Miss Tiddle.

But, till Cicely returned to duty the girl was lapped in tenderness and
solicitude. Let no man assume too hastily that design lurked beneath
soft glances and rare caresses. At any moment a few pencilled words upon
a telegram might apprise Lady Selina of the loss of a son. Because such
fear impended, she clutched desperately at her daughter, striving to
hold in her masterful grasp the essential possession, strangely
conscious that the spirit eluded her, that flesh and blood obscured the
real Cicely. It was hardly credible that her girl did not think as she
did upon matters supremely affecting conduct. Yet she dared not break
down virginal reserves with direct questions. And she could remember
that between herself and her mother there had been the same queer
intermittencies of sympathy, the thus-far-and-no-farther limit that
blighted full-blooming confidence.

You may be sure that she rejoiced unaffectedly at Grimshaw’s departure
from Upworthy, meaning to speed him on his way with gracious smiles,
hoping and praying that he would never return. During the five minutes
that she devoted each night to prayer and introspection, she decided
that Providence had deigned to stretch forth a delivering Hand. With
fervent faith she beheld clearly the Divine Intention.

Cicely had not inherited this clarity of vision.

She went back to Wilverley a much-bewildered maid, almost at the mercy
of circumstances and surroundings, feeling strangely invertebrate and
listless. For the moment we may compare her to a cog on a machine. Being
a true Chandos she intended to do her work efficiently. That would
suffice till—till Tiddy came. Tiddy would revitalise her. Meanwhile,
she contemplated with some dismay the certainty of talk not with but
from the tremendous Mrs. Roden.

That good lady eyed her critically.

“Too much Christmas,” she said trenchantly.

Out of sight and hearing of her august mother, Cicely often amused
herself by understudying Tiddy. So she replied calmly:

“Yes; I overrate myself. Plum-pudding and mince-pies. What can you
expect when a poor girl is hungry and greedy?”

Mrs. Roden smiled grimly. Cicely’s spirit did not displease her. The one
thing needful in a world to be regenerated by WOMAN was spirit.

“We missed you, my dear. Arthur was quite depressed. How is your
mother?”

“Just the same.”

“Wonderful woman! The world is in the melting-pot, but she doesn’t
change. Sometimes I envy her. Amazing powers of detachment.”

“And attachment. She was sweet to me, Mrs. Roden. I—I hated to leave
her alone in that big house.”

“You know that you are wanted here.”

As if this statement exacted emphasis, Wilverley came in, unmistakably
joyous, holding out two hands. And he happened to be looking his best in
riding-kit, exuding energy and goodwill, so delighted to see Cicely that
his genial tones betrayed him as lover and would-be conqueror. She felt
herself whirled away upon a flood of eager questions, which taken
collectively embodied the supreme question. Mrs. Roden tactfully
retired.

“He is going to propose now,” thought Cicely. “How can I prevent him?”

They were in the big library filled with superbly-bound tomes that were
never read, bought wholesale, with true decorative instinct, by the
first Lord Wilverley. Opulence characterised the room from floor to
ceiling. Cicely sank into the carpet and into an arm-chair, almost
overpowered by the sense of luxury and comfort. A violent temptation
assailed her. Why not float with the current instead of against it? The
excitement of any change from apathetic and dull conditions beguiled
her. All of us know how the Great War engendered excitement. Possibly
women were more susceptible to a craving for action than men. Action was
forced upon men.

She heard Wilverley’s sincere voice repeating what his sister had
affirmed, but with an emphasis not to be denied.

“I have missed you horribly.”

“But you hardly ever saw me.”

“You were here, in my house. When you left it seemed empty to me. Now
that you have come back——!”

He broke off abruptly, waiting, perhaps, for some encouraging glance.
Cicely stared at the carpet. Her cheeks were slightly flushed. Although
she wished to procrastinate, she was sensible that this big man, so
close to her, so alive with energy, was presenting himself insistently.
A strong mind was modifying and reconstructing hers. All that he
represented seemed to force itself upon her notice. If he won her, she
would be regarded as his most precious possession. He stood, first and
last, for—_Security_. The time and attention that he gave to the
humblest of his dependents would be hers inalienably. He would be
faithful and true to his marriage vows. She would be enshrined in a
velvet-lined casket.

Safe harbourage!

How much it means to women! And particularly to women of imaginative
temperament, who, like homing birds, are gifted with the sense of
direction. Cicely’s imagination had carried her afield. In Miss Tiddle’s
agreeable company she had explored highways and byways, wandering down
the latter with the comforting reflection that she could leave them at a
moment’s notice. Girls who indulge in such mental vagabondage are more
likely to return to the highways than the unimaginative, who may fly the
beaten track suddenly. With Miss Tiddle Cicely had dared to enter
(metaphorically) the Divorce Court; she had flown upon imaginative wings
into drawing-rooms where Mrs. Grundy refuses to go, where derelict wives
bewail their mistake in marrying the wrong men.

To such a girl as Cicely the broad high road appears to be the only way.
All the women of kin to her, with one notable exception, had stuck
religiously to the main thoroughfare which stretches from Mayfair to
John o’ Groat’s. And these kinswomen, taking them by and large, appeared
to be happy and contented. The notable exception, who was never
mentioned, remained an unseen object lesson of how not to do it!

Wilverley went on:

“The loneliness of a big house is rather disconcerting, Cis.”

He had never called her “Cis.”

“Even when it is a hospital?” she asked.

“The strange faces make it the more so. You must have noticed lately
that I have talked a lot about myself. I wanted you to know me. I want
desperately to know you, but somehow you are not very self-revealing.”

“Is anybody?”

If she could divert the talk into an impersonal channel procrastination
might be achieved. Wilverley refused the bait.

“I have tried to be so to you. Tell me, Cis, do you see me as I am, a
plain enough fellow who wishes with all his heart that he was more
attractive?”

“I think I see you,” she admitted, after an instant’s hesitation.

“I have not studied the arts that please women.”

His modesty was so disarming that her face relaxed. She replied frankly:

“Really and truly I distrust those arts.”

Such kindliness informed her voice that he plunged.

“You are going back to your drudgery tonight. And I am up to my eyes in
work also. So forgive me if I beat no bushes. You are too clever not to
know what I want. Will you be my wife?”

“I—I don’t know,” she faltered.

His face fell, but he recovered quickly. He muttered disconsolately:

“What a muddle I’ve made of this!” And then a happy inspiration came to
his rescue. He said awkwardly: “You see, dearest, it’s a first attempt,
but you encourage me to hope that it may not be the last. May I try
again?”

Cicely said desperately:

“I do feel such a fool. I—I don’t know my own mind, Arthur. It’s
humiliating to say so.”

“Nothing of the sort. Let us mark time. I believe I fell in love with
you when you were a tiny. Perhaps you will laugh at me when I tell you
that I sneaked a hanky of yours before you put your hair up.”

“Arthur! . . . I hope it was a nice one. Did—did you have to send it to
the wash?”

“Oh, no,” he reassured her.

They laughed, and the strain was over. Perhaps—who can say?—an
experienced courtier might have achieved less. Henceforward Cicely
beheld Wilverley in a more romantic light.

“When I try again,” he said shyly, “I shall show you the hanky.”

“I am like my hankies,” Cicely replied, “more ornamental than useful.”

Soon afterwards she went upstairs to the room which she was to share
with Miss Tiddle. As she put on her uniform she thought to herself:

“I wonder what Tiddy will think of him.”

Tiddy can best be described by the word “_éveillée_,” which cannot be
translated exactly into English. “Alert” comes near it. “Wideawake” is
not wide of the mark. Sir Nathaniel Tiddle’s daughter possessed shrewd
brains, but little beauty. Being well aware of this, she made the most
of what was likely to challenge interest and admiration. She cocked a
pert little head at an unusual angle and flaunted short, crisp curls,
which she shook in the face of Authority. The curls remained curly even
after immersion in sea-water. Shampooed they became irrepressibly alive.
Tiddy reckoned her curls to be a great asset. She awarded second place
to her eyes, large, round, saucer-eyes, neither grey nor green nor blue,
something of all three, fringed by short, thick, dark lashes, very
provocative, and even more interrogative. They seemed to say: “I want to
know everything about everybody.” Of her complexion (which was sallow),
of her nose (which was pug), of her large mouth, let us say no more. Her
teeth were small, white and even. Her figure lent itself to all vagaries
of fashion, being slender but not thin. She could pass as a jolly boy
without fear of her sex being detected. And she had in full measure a
boy’s agility and lissomness.

Mentally, too, she had a healthy boy’s outlook, although emotionally
feminine. Joy in life radiated from her. Dames of Lady Selina’s quality
might (and did) stigmatise this as pagan. Long ago, Miss Spong had
rebuked her for dancing or prancing to church. But, despite rebuke, she
had gone on dancing, conscious, possibly, of slim ankles and high
insteps.

Tiddy being an only child, it might be reasonably inferred that she was
spoilt by adoring parents. Nothing of the kind. Sir Nathaniel had become
a millionaire by the exercise of brains and indomitable will. Tiddy’s
mother, as we have said, began womanhood in a shoe factory. Both Sir
Nathaniel and she were excellent types of the successful industrial
class in this nation. The beacon which had led them upwards and onwards
was undiluted common sense. Sir Nathaniel had his weaknesses—what great
man is without them?—pride in what he had accomplished, pardonable
vanity, an ambition that vaulted as high as the Upper House, and an
ever-increasing desire to play the part of a magnate. But he remained,
like his wife, sound and simple at core. He had never, for example,
turned his back upon relations who had not soared. He was of the people,
and much too fond of saying so. Tiddy had inherited from him democratic
instincts. And if, with accumulating riches, Sir Nathaniel had become,
as his daughter hinted, conservative in regard to property, he never
faltered in his allegiance to the class from which he had sprung. His
great factories were models of organisation and administration. He
boasted that no strikes had taken place in them. Possibly his greatest
pleasure in life was taking appreciative guests—particularly
personages—round his factories, and, in their presence receiving the
homage of pleasant smiles and grateful words from his employés. It was
after such an agreeable excursion that the honour of knighthood had been
bestowed.

II

Tiddy duly arrived at Wilverley, and that night Cicely and she sat up
talking till the small hours. As a rule, the nursing staff took their
meals together. Mrs. Roden and Wilverley dined apart. But, inasmuch as
Tiddy was Cicely’s friend, the two V.A.D.s were asked to square the
family circle at dinner. Tiddy would join the staff on the following
morning.

Cicely was amused to see that she made an immense impression both upon
Wilverley and his sister, asking innumerable questions, all of them to
the point, and describing her experiences in a big Red Cross Hospital in
the Midlands, not run upon model lines.

“Friction everywhere,” declared Tiddy. “Matron on bad terms with sisters
and nurses, favouritism——”

“Were you a favourite, Miss Tiddle?” asked Wilverley, much amused.

“Yes,” replied Tiddy. “As a martyr I might have stuck it, but just
because Daddy weighed in with big cheques they were much too civil to
me, and I loathed it. That’s why I’m here to-night,” she concluded with
a gay laugh.

“Pray go on,” entreated Mrs. Roden. “This is most instructive. We may
profit by your experiences, my dear young lady.”

“As to that,” said Tiddy frankly, “I should keep mum, if I didn’t know
from Cis that things are humming along here on the right lines. The poor
duchess meant well——”

“The duchess . . .?” interrogated Mrs. Roden. To Mrs. Roden a duchess
was not quite as other women.

“The Duchess of Mowbray. I thought you knew that I had been working at
Harborough Castle.”

“She was a D’Arcy,” murmured Mrs. Roden. “I never speak ill of others or
repeat ill-natured gossip. Still . . .”

“Please make an exception in this case, my dear Mary,” said Wilverley.
Cicely could see that his eyes twinkled. Certainly this rather stodgy
man had an elementary sense of humour. But you had to dig deep to find
it.

Mrs. Roden said solemnly:

“Her mother was a Dollope. We all know that the Dollopes are . . . well
. . . Dollopes . . .!”

“They would be with such a name,” Tiddy observed.

Mrs. Roden continued trenchantly:

“Old Lord D’Arcy was quite impossible. One couldn’t repeat what he did
or said.”

“Tell me all about him afterwards,” said Wilverley.

“I am serious, Arthur. Lord D’Arcy was a moral idiot, first and last a
crutch man, leaning on others. No sense of responsibility whatever. I
could tell you stories . . .!”

“But you won’t, Mary. That is so exasperating. However, let him rest in
peace!”

“In peace——? I should be false to my faith in the here and the
hereafter, if I let pass such a remark. Lord D’Arcy, wherever he may be,
is not in peace. But I thought—possibly I am mistaken—that the duchess
was in France.”

Tiddy answered promptly:

“She is. She ought to be at home. What has happened? The patients and
the servants—oh, those servants!!—get top-hole rations. The
nursing-staff were half-starved.”

“Dear, dear!” ejaculated Mrs. Roden. She looked shocked, but she felt
somehow rather pleased. The Duchess of Mowbray, before the war, had
overlooked Mrs. Roden’s claims to consideration upon more than one
occasion. Cicely, not too sharp in such matters, guessed that Tiddy was
“making good.”

“Yes,” continued Tiddy cheerfully; “the duchess, you see, arranged with
some contractor to feed us, and of course he didn’t.”

“I give undivided attention to these important matters,” said Mrs.
Roden.

“I know you do,” said Tiddy.

Presently, the talk drifted into Wilverley’s particular channel. Tiddy
listened to him attentively, chipping in, now and again, with apposite
remarks that astonished Cicely. Altogether, this first meeting was a
small triumph for Miss Tiddle.

“They like you, Tiddy,” said Cicely, as the pair warmed their toes over
the bedroom fire.

“I like them, Cis. Mrs. Roden frightens you, I see, but you were right:
she’s a scream. I must pull up my socks, and take her as seriously as
she takes herself. Lord Wilverley is not quite the bromide you had led
me to expect.”

“I never said a word against him.”

“Oh! Didn’t you? Evidently he’s dead nuts on you. Has he proposed, old
thing?”

Cicely blushingly admitted that my lord had plunged into water too hot
for both of them. Tiddy went on ruthlessly:

“And Romeo with the disconcerting eyes . . .?”

“Shut up!”

“I couldn’t, if I tried. Let’s have it fresh from the oven.”

Cicely, after more pressure, gave a not too articulate version of what
had passed between Grimshaw and herself. Tiddy listened, with her head
on one side, bright-eyed, not unlike a robin watching another robin
picking up crumbs. From time to time, she shook her curls impatiently,
but she held her tongue till Cicely finished.

Then Miss Tiddle delivered judgment with all the wisdom of youth.

“It seems to me, Cis, that silence has extinguished you.”

Cicely admitted as much proudly.

“We Chandoses are like that.”

“We Chandoses——!” Tiddy laughed scornfully. “Cut all that cackle with
me, Cis. I have the greatest contempt for silence. Generally it means
stupidity. Idiots say nothing and are proud of it. Really, I’m ashamed
of you. However, I daresay I’ve nipped in in time.”

“In time for—what?”

“To put things right. I want to meet your Harry.”

“_My_ Harry! What an idea!”

Tiddy said obstinately: “We Tiddles are like that. We don’t look blandly
on when babies are playing on the edge of a precipice. I say that you
love Romy; and that Romy loves you. And that hateful Mrs. Grundy stands
between you.” Cicely exercised the Chandos gift of silence. Tiddy
continued warmly: “You may take Fatty out of pique.”

“Fatty——!”

“I used that word to annoy you, to rouse you. You are quite likely to
become fat yourself out of sheer indolence. Some of you swells have
brains, but you don’t use ’em. And if you don’t get a move on, you’ll be
down and out.”

Cicely murmured deprecatingly:

“Arthur Wilverley is a dear.”

“So is our butler at home. I might do worse than marry him, but I hope
to do better.”

“You won’t meet Mr. Grimshaw, Tiddy, because he’s going to France.”

“Settled, is it?”

“Yes. He—he”—her voice faltered—“went away yesterday, so dear Mother
wrote.”

“So dear Mother wrote . . .! I’ll bet my boots that dear Mother managed
all this.”

“She didn’t.”

“Anyhow, you mismanaged it. Well, if Romy cares he’ll come back.”

“Do you think he will?”

“_If he cares._”

III

For some weeks nothing of interest happened at Wilverley Court. Cicely,
perhaps, was slightly disconcerted because, as a V.A.D., Miss Tiddle, a
new-comer, soared above her. Cicely remained a drudge; Tiddy was
accorded privileges. One of the patients required a special nurse. No
sister could be spared. Tiddy, by virtue of an alert physiognomy, was
selected by “Matron” out of a dozen eager aspirants for the post. And
poor Cicely gnashed her teeth when she found herself “clearing up,” as
it is technically called, after Miss Tiddle’s more congenial labours. To
remove, humbly and swiftly, the impedimenta of a sick-room, leaving
behind the immaculate Tiddy enthroned beside an interesting case, tried
Cicely to breaking point. Indeed, a too long apprenticeship to drudgery
failed to accustom a daughter of the ancient House of Chandos to
carrying away soiled dressings, washing bandages, and cleaning
dressing-buckets with Monkey soap, which roughens hands, takes the
polish from nails, and brightens everything except the temper. And,
after two hours’ sweeping and garnishing, it was mortifying to proud
flesh to hear judgment pronounced by a sister, who was the daughter of a
greengrocer: “This ward looks like nothing on earth.” After such
experiences and exercises Cicely was quite unable to tackle with
appetite the good food provided by Mrs. Roden at lunch.

She went to Wilverley Court aflame with patriotic ardour and brimming
over with excellent resolutions, assuring and reassuring herself that,
much as she might shrink from the sight of ugly wounds and cruel
sufferings, never, never would she exhibit irritability or impatience
with heroes who had bled for England. She had imagined that such heroes
would remain heroes. She had not realised the inconsideration, the
disobedience, the fractious unreasonableness that even a Victoria Cross
may fail to hide when its wearer is reduced by long weeks of pain to a
mere attenuated shadow of his true self.

But—there were illuminating compensations. One afternoon, she was
returning late from the village, through a dark lane. To her dismay, a
man in khaki joined her and passed her without a word. He walked just
ahead of her. Every minute Cicely feared that he would turn and confront
her with—with abominable effrontery. At the end of the dark lane, when
the lights of Wilverley Court were in sight, he did turn, and saluted
her, saying respectfully: “Good night, Sister.” Then he retraced his
steps—a _preux chevalier_!

Other experiences were equally illuminating. One of the patients, an
unusually handsome man, died after much suffering patiently endured. At
the last his wife was summoned, a respectable, plain-faced woman, who
was with him when he passed away. The man’s kit was duly given to her.
Late that same night, the Matron found her crying over some letters she
had discovered, written by another woman. Next day, early in the
morning, a good-looking, slightly brazen-faced young person presented
herself and asked to see the patient, not knowing that he was dead. The
Matron told her the truth. Whereupon she said calmly: “I’m his wife. I
want to see him.” The Matron, aghast, blurted out the truth: “His wife?
His lawful wife is here. We know that; we sent for her.” Whereupon, the
other replied quite coolly: “If you want to know, I ain’t his lawful
wife, but I mean to see him all the same.” The Matron went to the
genuine widow, and told her that the woman who had written the letters
wished to see the dead man. She asked the crucial question: “Are you big
enough to let this poor creature see him? She loved him.” To cut short a
poignant story, the two women went together into the mortuary-chamber.
This incident made a profound impression upon Tiddy. She analysed it
from every point of view. “If we grant,” said she, “that a man can love
two women”—because, according to Matron, the real wife had spoken of
her husband’s devotion—“is it equally certain that a woman can love two
men?” Cicely shrank from answering such a question. Tiddy had astonished
her by saying: “I believe it is possible. Why not? One man might appeal
physically; the other intellectually.”

“Horrible!” said Cicely.

“You can’t compromise with life by calling it bad names.”

Cicely remained obstinately silent much to Miss Tiddle’s exasperation.

Often Cicely went to bed with a headache and rose with it. To go on duty
feeling unfit, to contemplate ten hours of physical _malaise_, to count
the lagging minutes, to confront the pettiness and injustice of some
sister, perhaps, who held amateurs in contempt, to be conscious that she
was not rising adequately to these moral exigencies, to retire at length
discomfited and defeated, has been the experience of all V.A.D.S. Cicely
was no exception.

One night Tiddy found her in tears.

“What a soaker!” said Tiddy.

“I’m so miserable,” groaned Cicely.

“Why?”

“I’m such a failure, Tiddy.”

“Tosh! The real trouble with you, Cis, is excess of sentiment. You look
at my patient, for instance, with sweet girlish pity. He hates that. He
doesn’t want sweet girlish pity. Smiles buck him up, and strong
language.”

“I thought I could count on your sympathy.”

“So did my patient. Sympathy can be shown without being sloppy. I made
my patient laugh.”

“How?”

“I told him about the old woman who keeps our lodge. She left one doctor
and went to another, but, being a bit of a pincher, she went on taking
the medicine of the first with the medicine of the second, and a sort of
earthquake took place inside her.”

Cicely was beyond laughter, but she dabbed at her eyes. Tiddy continued:

“I know what upsets you, Cis. You have to do some of my old work; and
they rag you a bit downstairs. And then you don’t rag back, but glump.
You are glumping now.”

“I’m not. I suppose we’re different.”

“That’s your misfortune, not mine. I refuse to weep with you. ‘Weep, and
you weep alone.’ Good old Ella got there with both feet.”

Cicely smiled faintly.

In due time Tiddy returned to the normal duties of a V.A.D.

Meanwhile Arthur Wilverley had been absent from home. He came back in
March, burdened with fresh duties and lamenting the loss of his
secretary, who had joined up.

“What I want,” he said to Cicely, “is a clever girl who can do typing
and shorthand, and come and go when I want her. But she must have a head
on her shoulders.”

A name flew into Cicely’s mind and out of her mouth.

“Agatha Farleigh.”

If Agatha could be found, Cicely was sure that she would prove the real
right thing. Of course the Extons would know. Old Ephraim Exton had not
waited a year to leave his farm. He was now a tenant of Wilverley, and
likely to do well, breeding cattle and horses under happier conditions.
His son, John, had enlisted. Cicely, anxious to serve a kind host,
cycled next day, during off-time, to Exton’s farm, obtained from the old
man Agatha’s address in London, and then, at Wilverley’s request, wrote
to her at length, setting forth all details of duties, salary and so
forth. Agatha wired back promptly from a typewriting establishment in
the Strand, accepting the situation. Within a week she was at work in
Wilverley’s office. Within a fortnight Wilverley acclaimed Agatha as a
gem of purest ray serene.

He told Cicely, whenever they met (not too often), details about his
work. The mandarins had just begun to recognise the possibility of
famine. Wilverley, as an expert on agriculture, had been summoned and
impressed, without salary, into the Government service. To grow two
bushels of wheat where one grew in pre-war days engrossed his
activities. To persuade others to tread in his steps had become—so
Cicely noticed—a sort of obsession. No word of love slipped from his
lips. And a Chandos respected this silence. But, inevitably, the girl
came to full understanding of what work meant to Wilverley and others.
Comparisons were forced upon her. Inevitably, also, during her leisure,
intimacy developed between Agatha and her. Work in London had changed
Agatha from a girl into a woman. Her wits and tongue had been sharpened
upon the whetstone Competition. Cicely soon discovered that Agatha had
discarded reserves of speech imposed upon villagers. She had become,
perhaps, less of an individual and more of a type. She showed this in
her clothes, and in her talk. Obviously she preened herself after the
fashion of up-to-date typists and stenographers, acutely sensible of the
cash value of appearances. On the first Sunday at Wilverley Church she
wore a cony-seal coat and a hat that distracted the attention of every
young woman who was not “quality.” Under the coat waggled a
shepherd’s-plaid skirt, cut very short, exposing imitation-silk
stockings and high fawn-coloured cloth-topped boots, which, so Cicely
suspected, were not too large for her feet. Conscious of Cicely’s amused
smile, Agatha assumed a defiant expression, as much as to say: “If you
don’t like my costume I’m sorry for you. It’s quite the latest style,
and paid for. Not by a rich mother, but by a hard-working, independent
girl.” Cicely, greeting Agatha in the churchyard, observed without
malice:

“I say, Agatha, you must have saved a bit in London.”

To this Agatha replied sharply, imputing censure:

“What I saved I spent. And why not?”

Perceiving that she had provoked resentment, Cicely hastened to assuage
it.

“Why not?” she echoed. “I never was able to save a farthing out of my
allowance.”

“We grow old and ugly soon enough,” said Agatha, in a softened tone. “I
oughtn’t to have bought this coat, but that’s why I did it.”

Cicely’s laugh melted the little ice that remained. And Agatha’s
gratitude for the word spoken to Wilverley was whole hearted. She said
shyly:

“I wanted to come back to be near my own people and—and the Extons.”

As she spoke, she pulled off a white glove with black stitching and
revealed a ring sparkling upon the third finger of her left hand. Cicely
saw a small cluster of diamonds, a ring that she might have worn
herself.

“John Exton gave me this before he joined up.”

Cicely kissed her.

“I’m ever so glad. Tell me all about it.”

Agatha, nothing loath, remarked with urban complacency:

“I do believe that prinking did it. I was a terrible dowd before I went
to town. Those everlasting greys . . .! My lady liked that. So suitable
. . .! We girls talked a lot about clothes.”

“I always wondered what you did talk about.”

“I was ragged—a fair treat. I had to grin and bear it. Well, what was
in the Savings Bank came out of it—quick. In six months I didn’t know
myself. When John came up and saw me, I knew that I hadn’t been the fool
I secretly thought myself. It’s gospel truth; girls like me must march
with the band, or—or be left behind.”

“I don’t blame you or John,” declared Cicely.

Agatha continued in the same slightly complacent tone, which jarred upon
Lady Selina’s daughter, although it served to amuse and instruct her.
Her soft, respectful manner of address had evidently been cast as
rubbish to the void. Cicely divined that she had become something of an
echo.

“We girls must have a good time when we’re young, or do without for ever
and ever, amen! And as to catching the men, why, I suppose Bernard Shaw
knows what he’s talking about.”

“Man and Superman, eh?”

“Yes.”

Under some little pressure from Cicely, Agatha, with unabashed candour,
and without picking her phrases, set forth her experiences in London “on
her own.” Cicely was informed that girls of the wage-earning class who
want husbands must make the most of their opportunities before they
reach thirty, or find themselves stranded on the bleak shores of
celibacy, with a glimpse of the workhouse in the far distance.

“They do fight like animals for a good time,” said Agatha.

Then, to Cicely’s amazement, this protégée of her mother’s opened a
smart Dorothy bag, examined her nose in a tiny mirror, and proceeded
calmly to powder it. Cicely thought that she looked thinner, and
wondered if the colour on the girl’s cheeks came out of the Dorothy bag.

“Have you lost weight, Agatha?” she asked.

“Well, we do skimp food to buy clothes, but we’re greedy enough when
somebody else pays for our meals.”

After this unabashed talk, Cicely admitted consternation to Tiddy, who
gibed at her.

“I never saw such a change in a girl.”

“Pooh! We don’t change much. What was in her came out. She seizes joy
when it passes her way. No exception at all. I see you don’t talk much
with the other V.A.D.s. Silly—that! Take my tip, and study people at
first-hand. I do. I want to understand everybody. Of course, as we’re
pals, I dissemble a wee bit with your mother. Perhaps if she understood
me I should be out of bounds to you.”

Acting upon this advice, Cicely became more friendly with the farmers’
and tradesmen’s daughters now working at Wilverley Court. Most of them
called her “Shandy.” She had accepted this cheerfully, because such
familiarity would end, she reflected, with the war. Now, she was
beginning to wonder whether social distinctions were of paramount
importance. Freedom of intercourse, according to Tiddy, begetting a
truer sympathy, a kindlier understanding, might be a greater thing than
respectful salutations. In the Midlands, children neither curtsied nor
touched caps. Lamentable . . .! She was glad that she didn’t live there.

The V.A.D.s responded to Cicely’s advances. She found in them what she
had found in Agatha: pluck, fortitude and an invincible optimism in
regard to big things. They whined and wailed over trifles. They lacked
restraint, refinement, and lied magnificently to achieve their ends.
Tiddy talked to all and sundry, particularly the sundry. She didn’t
invite confidence timidly, like Cicely. She exacted and extracted it,
waving it triumphantly, as a dentist will hold aloft a big molar. With
the august Mrs. Roden Tiddy shared the conviction that women were coming
into their promised land. Agatha agreed with Miss Tiddle. Often Cicely
found herself in a minority of one when social questions were debated at
meal-time.

“Is nothing sacred to you?” she asked Tiddy.

“Oh, yes, but not tin gods. This war will scrap them for ever and ever.
Speed up.”

“Pace kills, Tiddy.”

“Tosh! Pace kills those who won’t get out of the way. Tin gods sat in a
row, graven images, obstructing progress. We shall knock ’em down like
ninepins. It’s a case of knock or be knocked. You’ve come on a lot. I
wonder what your mother thinks of you.”

Whereupon Cicely confessed that she too dissembled with Lady Selina. At
this Tiddy shrugged disdainful shoulders.

“I should have thought you were sick of whitewash in your village.”

“Whitewash? Mr. Grimshaw called it that.”

“Yes; he was the first to open your baby eyes.”

“Well, there’s no whitewash here.”

“Wrong again. Whitewash and eyewash. A full dose yesterday.”

Upon the previous afternoon, the Wilverley Court Red Cross Hospital had
been inspected by a medical Panjandrum. Wards and passages had been
swept and garnished with nauseating haste and diligence. A great house,
already in fine working order, had been scrubbed from basement to
attics. The tired scrubbers had presented smiling faces and spotless
uniforms to the cold stare of red-tabbed Authority. After his departure
they had retired—foundered!

“What’s the use of that?” asked Tiddy. “Why can’t these pestering old
duffers take us unawares, and find out how things really are? We should
have gloried in that test. At Harborough we played the same rotten game.
For half-an-hour the place was as it ought to have been. Next day we
went back to the old disorder and dirt. However, we women are going to
change all that.”

“Changes are so upsetting, Tiddy.”

“I repeat—knock or be knocked. Really, you privileged people can’t
complain; you’ve had a wonderful innings. But this war has bowled you
out.”

“Mother would have a fit if she heard you,” remarked Cicely.

IV

Afterwards, long afterwards, Cicely could not recall with any exactness
when she began to look at Upworthy with eyes from which the scales had
fallen. Presently she beheld the beloved cottages through Miss Tiddle’s
twinkling orbs. Little escaped them. Called upon to admire thatched
roofs and walls brilliantly white against a background of emerald-green
fields, Tiddy perpetrated sniffs.

Cicely said defiantly:

“They’re the prettiest cottages in the county.”

“In our cottages, Cis, Daddy and I look at the kiddies. If they’re all
right, we’re satisfied.”

“Satisfied with rows of ugly brick houses with slate tiles . . .?”

“Absolutely.”

“What’s the matter with our children?” asked Cicely.

Tiddy replied with imperturbable and exasperating good humour:

“You must find that out for yourself, old thing. It’s no use jawing at
people. That only makes ’em the more obstinate. Sooner or later, if you
keep your peepers peeled, you’ll catch on. I’m wondering just how long
you will keep it up.”

“Keep what up?”

“Self-deception—humbugging your own powers of observation.”

Coming and going to the Manor, when off duty, the girls would drop into
the cottages and pass the time of day with smiling and obsequious
villagers. But their pleasant greetings failed to impress Sir
Nathaniel’s daughter. It happened, shortly after Agatha’s arrival, that
Cicely paid a visit to Timothy Farleigh, the typist’s uncle. Before she
tapped on the door, Cicely spoke a word of warning to Miss Tiddle.

“I want to tell Timothy how well Agatha is doing, but . . .”

“Yes?”

“Well, the old fellow has a grievance. Mrs. Farleigh is a dear. And you
will admire the kitchen.”

They tapped and entered. Tiddy was agreeably surprised and delighted.
The kitchen was charming; a quaint, old-fashioned room with a deep open
hearth and ingle-nook. A broad seat semi-circled a deeply-recessed bay
window, and above the seat was a ledge with flower-pots upon it. An oak
dresser set forth to advantage some blue-and-white pottery. Hams hung
from a big black rafter. Upon the walls gleamed an immense brass
warming-pan and a brass preserving-dish which seemed to have survived
the use and abuse of centuries. A large table was scrubbed immaculately
white. There were plain Windsor chairs and a huge arm-chair facing the
hearth. In this arm-chair sat Timothy Farleigh, reading a Sunday paper
with horn spectacles upon his bony nose. He rose when the young ladies
entered, and greeted them civilly but without the customary servility.
In the ingle-nook Nick, the softy, was crouching, crooning to himself.

Timothy thanked Cicely for bringing him information about his niece.
Tiddy eyed him critically noting his strong square chin, heavy brow and
deep-set eyes. A curious light smouldered in them. He spoke in the West
Country dialect still used in remote districts by the elder generation.

“Aggie be a fine young ’ooman, able, thank the Lard! to fend for
herself. I be proud o’ she, a gert, understanding lass I calls ’er.”

“I have brought my friend, Miss Tiddle, to see you, Timothy. She comes
from the Midlands, where folk are thick as bees in a hive.”

Timothy glanced with interest at Tiddy.

“Do they bide quiet in their hives, miss? I bain’t much of a scollard,
but I reads my Sunday paper, I do, and folks in your parts seemin’ly be
buzzin’ and swarmin’ like bees ready to leave old hive.”

“There is a good deal of that,” admitted Tiddy candidly.

“Ah-h-h!”

Timothy pressed his thin lips, as if fearing that buzzing might escape
from him. He shrugged his heavy shoulders, warped by constant toil in
the fields, and remained silent. Just then his wife bustled in, a frail,
spindling little woman with worried eyes. She greeted Cicely, so Tiddy
noticed, with genuine affection, and offered instantly a cup of tea. Her
obvious desire to ingratiate herself with the quality seemed pathetic to
the young woman from the Midlands.

“Stop your noise, Nicky,” said Mrs. Farleigh sharply. “You knows better
nor that.”

“Let ’un bide,” growled Timothy.

Nick stared and then grinned at Miss Tiddle, offering slyly his
customary greeting to strangers.

“I be soft, I be.”

“Don’t ’ee take no notice of him, miss.”

Cicely talked on cheerfully about Agatha till it was time to go. Outside
Tiddy said sharply:

“What is this grievance?”

Reluctantly, Cicely told the tale of diphtheria and two graves in the
churchyard. Tiddy refrained from comment. Crossing the village green,
after five minutes with Mrs. Rockram, they encountered Nicodemus Burble,
hearty and garrulous as ever.

“It do tickle me to death to see ’ee, miss,” he assured Cicely. “A fair
stranger you be.”

“How is everything in the village, granfer?”

“We be gettin’ older, miss, and more rheumaticky. But I keeps on my old
pins, I does, being scairt o’ takin’ to my bed wi no ’ooman to fend for
me.”

“An old bachelor?” asked Tiddy.

“Lard love ’ee, miss, I ha’ buried two wives, and might ha’ taken a
third, a very praper young wench, but too free wi’ her tongue like.”

“Was she?” asked Tiddy.

“Aye. Whatever do ’ee think she says to me, the lil’ besom, when I up
and axed her to be number three?”

“I can’t imagine,” said Cicely.

Tiddy observed thoughtfully:

“She might have said a good deal.”

The ancient chuckled.

“‘Granfer,’ she says, ‘a man o’ your gert age ought to go to bed wi’ a
candlestick.’”

Cicely threw back her head and laughed. Tiddy wanted more detail.

“And what did you reply to that, Mr. Burble?”

“Ah-h-h! I was too flambergasted, miss, for common speech, but a very
notable answer blowed into my yed just one fornit arter. I can’t go to
bed wi’ a candlestick, acause I ain’t got none, nary one.”

He hobbled on, still chuckling.

“They’re quite wonderful,” said Tiddy. “Prehistoric. How long will it
last?”

Cicely frowned, anticipating criticism.

“I suppose you would like to see everything cut to pattern, with the
colour out of the pattern, a drab monotony of millions doing and saying
the same thing; no distinctions, no differences—ugh?”

“Is that your own, Cis?”

Cicely had to admit that she was quoting from the _Morning Post_.

Tiddy laughed at her, as usual.

“You Tories are always so extreme. Changes needn’t be violent, but they
may be violent if you swells don’t climb down the pole a bit and get
nearer facts as they are. That’s all. What a very horrid smell!”

Under the stronger beams of a May sun odours of pig were wafted on the
breeze.

“I don’t mind the smell of pigs.”

“Does your mother ever notice it?”

“I don’t know.”

“If she kept away from her village I should understand, but she
doesn’t.”

Cicely was sharp enough to explain.

“That’s it. If she kept away . . .! Then she might notice. She has smelt
these smells for thirty years. She says that a smell you can smell is
not dangerous. Brian thinks just as she does.”

“France may take some dust out of his eyes.”

Retrenchment, expenses cut to the irreducible Saltaire minimum, was
inscribed upon gates, fences, and buildings. Cicely had an illuminating
word to say about the gates:

“Father said that he liked a gate that you could put a young horse at
without running much risk of breaking your neck.”

“What a humane man!”

Cicely added pensively:

“When hounds run across Wilverley I look before I leap.”

“Ah! Then you do see the difference between Wilverley and Upworthy?”

Reluctantly, feeling rather disloyal, Cicely had to confess that the
difference did obtrude itself. Since Arthur’s return, she had ridden out
with him about once a week. A groom accompanied them. Arthur would
dismount and take Cicely into his cottages, asking many questions,
insisting upon truthful answers, checking, so to speak, the reports,
written and spoken, of his agent, leaving nothing to chance or
mischance. His actions as a landlord revealed him far more clearly to
Cicely than the halting words with which at first he had tried to
capture her affections. She began to wonder what Upworthy would look
like under Wilverley management. If she married this good, capable
fellow, would he put his stout shoulder to the wheel of a mother-in-law?
Tentatively, with a faint flush upon her cheeks, she said to him:

“I wish, Arthur, that you could persuade Mother to make a few
improvements at Upworthy.”

He replied, with a touch of irritation:

“Good heavens! As it is, I can’t find time to mind my own business. Lady
Selina would resent any interference. I thought that Grimshaw——”

He broke off abruptly, realising that an indictment of Chandos methods
had almost escaped him.

“Please go on. What did you expect from Mr. Grimshaw?”

Evading the direct question, she pressed him vehemently:

“I do so want to know what might be done. If it isn’t your business, it
might be mine, mightn’t it?”

He eyed her keenly. Was she thinking of a dire possibility, the death of
her brother? Her next words reassured him.

“You see, Arthur, Brian knows nothing about estate management. He’s a
soldier, and I’m glad he is.”

“Perhaps you are sorry that I am not?”

She replied gracefully:

“But you are. You are fighting as hard as any man I know.”

“Thanks.” His voice softened. “What do you want to know?”

She picked her phrases carefully, and they had been prepared, pat to
just such an opportunity.

“I want to know why things have drifted into the present pass. I want to
know who is really responsible? And most of all I want to know if
anything can be done.”

The sincerity in her voice, the trouble in her eyes, moved him
poignantly. And this was the first appeal of weakness to strength always
so irresistible and captivating. He answered her as sincerely, plunging
headlong into the subject, speaking, however, with that tincture of
exasperation which marred somewhat his efforts on public platforms.
Knowledge is at heart intolerant of ignorance, but your silver-tongued
orator would lose half his power if he betrayed this.

“I’ll do my best, Cicely. But I propose to leave your mother out of it.
I can’t criticise her to you. And really she is the victim of
circumstances almost beyond her control.”

“Almost?”

“I said almost. Something utterly unforeseen might change her point of
view. She believes firmly that she is acting for the best. For the
moment let us leave it at that. Unhappily, she has a bad bailiff. And
your Inspector of Nuisances is in the hands of your Board of Guardians,
small farmers who are terrified of improvements because it would mean a
rise in rates. And then there’s Snitterfield——!”

“Dr. Snitterfield?”

“Your Health Officer, also in the hands of your Guardians, and elected
by them. Snitterfield, the Inspector, and Gridley pursue a policy of
masterly inactivity. Grimshaw found himself up against those three, up
against vested interests, up against absurd medical etiquette. I rather
hoped that he would call upon the Chief Medical Officer of the County, a
good man, but that would have meant an appalling rumpus. Grimshaw would
have had to prove his case up to the hilt; no easy matter. Probably he
would have hostilised your mother. Old Pawley, perhaps, restrained him.
I don’t know. I’m not surprised that Grimshaw bolted.”

“He didn’t.”

“I felt at the time that I should have bolted. Grimshaw told me that
just such intolerable conditions drove him out of Essex and Poplar.”

“Mr. Grimshaw went to France because he was needed there. I am sure of
that.”

“I daresay. Anyway, he left Upworthy. Where was I? Oh, yes. I can’t tell
you where responsibility begins or ends. Our land system howls to heaven
for reform. And I can’t tell you what ought to be done at Upworthy.
Tinkering with improvements is bad business. For the present, at any
rate, until this accursed war ends, Lady Selina must be left alone.
I—I’m sorry I spoke with such heat.”

“I am much obliged to you,” said Cicely.

V

This confidential talk produced one unexpected effect. Cicely’s plastic
mind, plastic under any dominating hand, began to envisage Grimshaw as
driven out of Upworthy by circumstance. Instinct had told her that
Wilverley’s conjecture was wrong, and instinct happened to be right. But
her intelligence, much sharpened by Tiddy, reversed the first judgment.
She beheld Grimshaw turning his back upon a hopeless fight, as
admittedly he had done before. And if this were true, he would not come
back.

He had not written to her.

Not even to Tiddy would she admit that she had hoped for a letter. If he
cared, he would surely write. He might write, if he didn’t care. And he
had written to Mrs. Rockram, an epistle read aloud to Cicely and then
put away as a cherished souvenir of a perfect gentleman. Grimshaw had
written also more than once to Dr. Pawley, but Cicely had not read these
letters. She gathered from an old friend that Grimshaw was doing
first-class work, likely to be recognised, if not rewarded, at
Headquarters. Pawley said to her regretfully:

“This parish is too small for him.”

And at the time, Hope had whispered the flattering tale: “Yes, it is;
but I’m in it, and he’ll come back on my account.”

Now Hope faded out of sight.

Of course the sharp-eyed Tiddy perceived that her friend was passing
through a bad time. The flame of patriotism burned less brightly; the
daily drudgery went on imposing fresh exacerbations. Tiddy felt very
sorry, but she reflected, not without an inward smile, that Cicely would
profit by these bludgeonings. She would learn what Sir Nathaniel
called—values. Meanwhile, an unhappy young gentlewoman might mar her
own life, and that of another, by marrying the wrong man. Tiddy decided
that Arthur Wilverley was a good fellow. But he would take Cicely into
his ample maw and absorb her. She would become Lord Wilverley’s wife, an
amiable nonentity. She decided, also, with equal cocksureness, that such
a match would prove disastrous to the husband. Wilverley worked in a
circle likely to grow smaller if he were left alone with his
potentialities. His energies would centre upon himself and his
possessions. In this regard the author of Miss Tiddle’s being furnished
an object-lesson. He reigned supreme in the pill factories and on
occasion assumed the god, thereby shaking not the spheres but the sides
of those who beheld him.

Eventually Tiddy came to the conclusion that Cicely and Wilverley were
drifting, like leaves upon a stream, into marriage.

“I must take a hand in this game,” thought Miss Tiddle.

The necessity of doing “something” became even more imperative when she
marshalled the forces arrayed against her. Lady Selina, she decided, was
exercising, perhaps unconsciously, continual pressure. Mrs. Roden was
plainly bent upon lending Providence a helping finger. She said
majestically to Tiddy:

“You are a very sharp young lady.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Roden,” Tiddy demurely replied.

“Between ourselves, my dear”—Tiddy smiled—“I can assure you that the
happiness of others concerns me more, much more, than my own.”

This was quite untrue, and Tiddy knew it. Mrs. Roden continued:

“You must have noticed what is going on under our noses?”

Tiddy intimated, abstaining from slang, that her eyes were not
altogether ornamental.

Mrs. Roden, warming to altruistic work, pursued the even tenor of her
way.

“In my opinion, these two dear people want pushing.”

“Sometimes I could shake Cis,” said Tiddy.

“Yes, yes. Now, once more strictly between ourselves——”

“That is understood.”

“I have decided that you, my dear, should—a—give the little push.”

“Really?”

“I am sure of it.”

“I don’t think, Mrs. Roden, that I could push Lord Wilverley.”

“Certainly not. Being the man he is, of a somewhat nervous stolidity,
irritably energetic, if I may say so, he might resent pushing from you.
I propose to push him. I want you to push Cicely. Together we shall
achieve our purpose.”

“I see.”

“I can’t conceive of a happier, more suitable match. It would be, I
venture to affirm, abundantly blessed. Whenever I look at them, I think
of—a——”

“The multiplication table?”

“How quick you are! Yes, yes—the patter of little feet appeals to me
tremendously. I am glad to think that such a vital subject can be
frankly discussed between a matron and a maid. The maids will make
better matrons when absurd reserves become obsolete. All that is needed
in this case is adjustment, the little touch that turns the balance. It
is a great privilege to give such touches. I need say no more.”

“I understand,” said Tiddy. “I shall push for all I’m worth.”

VI

“In the other direction,” she added mentally.

That same night, during the rite of hair-brushing, Tiddy said abruptly,
well aware, of course, that a push, to be effective, should be
administered without warning:

“Are you playing the game with Lord Wilverley?”

“I beg your pardon, Tiddy?”

“Never do that. It’s a device to gain time. You heard me. Are you
playing the game? If not—as Mrs. Roden would say—why not?”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Then I’ll say it for you. I advised you before I came here to flirt
with this nice big man. I was thinking for you, doing what I should do
myself. I hold that a sensible girl must get really intimate with a man
whom she may eventually marry. Under our stupid shibboleths and
conventions that is called ‘flirting.’ There’s no harm in it, up to a
point. In my opinion you have passed that point.”

“Have I?” Cicely considered this pensively.

“Yes; he has behaved with astounding patience and consideration. He is
crystal-clear. He wants you. If you don’t want him, say so, and have
done with it. I think I can read you as easily as you read him. You
would like to please your mother, who, for the first time in her amazing
life, is feeling, as you told me, forlorn; you are getting fed up with
war work and bottle-washing, and you hanker for a change, _any change_;
also, you have a vague and quite excellent notion that Lord Wilverley,
as a son-in-law, might persuade your mother to let him take Upworthy in
hand. Probably he would, with little coaxing from you. In your less
robust moments you rather gloat over this opportunity of self-sacrifice.
On the other hand, it’s obvious that you don’t really love this good,
honest fellow; you are piqued because Romeo did the vanishing stunt. You
might have come to some sort of an understanding, but silly pride
prevented that. Agatha captured her John right enough.”

“Because she knew that he loved her.”

“In your funny little heart you believe that Romeo loves you. Pride
upset his apple-cart. Now—what are you going to do?”

Cicely, to Miss Tiddle’s rage and disgust, answered the question by
melting into tears. Tiddy, without a word, rose from her chair, opened
an umbrella, and sat down under it with a derisive smile upon her lips.

“When the shower is over,” she remarked tartly, “I’ll put down my
umbrella.”

Cicely, feeling ridiculous, gulped down her sobs.

“I wish I had your brains.”

“Tosh! Your brains are O. K. You’re too indolent to use them. Marry the
wrong man, and your brains will become a negligible quantity. What beats
me is that Lord Wilverley should talk to you at all when he might talk
to me.”

At this Cicely “sat up,” literally and metaphorically. Tiddy closed her
umbrella, but held it ready for use. She added calmly:

“I could make him talk to me, if I tried.”

“Take him from me, you mean?”

“Quite easily.”

Cicely’s eyes began to sparkle.

“He ought to marry a woman with some snap and ginger. I could egg him on
to great things.”

Cicely made an incredulous gesture. Then she said acrimoniously:

“I suppose you don’t believe in friendship between a man and a girl?”

“I don’t.”

“Well, I do. Friendship between girls is rather difficult.”

“Friendship between any two persons is very difficult. Most women are
too exacting in their friendships. For instance, you expect a lot of
sloppy sentiment from me. You won’t get it. My object is to save you
from yourself. You are drifting. If you really want to drift, say so,
and I’ll shut up. But I warn you, within a day or two you’ll have to say
‘yes’ or ‘no’ to Arthur Wilverley. If you temporise, he’ll think you a
rotter.”

“If Arthur bustles me, I shall say ‘no.’”

“I knew it!” exclaimed Miss Tiddle, triumphantly. “You don’t love him.”

“I—I might.”

Tiddy wisely said no more.

Next day, Destiny interfered. At a moment when Lady Selina had good
reason to think that her son would be spared, because our cavalry were
well out of the danger zone, Brian Chandos was offered and accepted a
staff appointment.

Three days afterwards he was shot through the head, when carrying
despatches, and died instantly.

Cicely was summoned home. Lady Selina met her upon the threshold of the
great hall. Stimson hurried away, leaving mother and daughter alone.
Outwardly, Lady Selina remained calm. To Cicely she seemed to have
become suddenly an old woman. Her face was white and lined, but she held
her head erect. Her voice never faltered. When Cicely gripped her
convulsively, she took the girl’s face between her hands and gazed at it
mournfully.

“I want you, child; I want you—desperately.”

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