MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
AUTHOR "LADY ROSE'S DAUGHTER," ETC.
Frontispiece in color by
"Not a Britisher to be seen—or scarcely! Well, I can do without 'em for a bit!"
And the Englishman whose mind shaped these words continued his leisurely survey of the crowded salon of a Tyrolese hotel, into which a dining-room like a college hall had just emptied itself after the mid-day meal. Meanwhile a German, sitting near, seeing that his tall neighbour had been searching his pockets in vain for matches, offered some. The Englishman's quick smile in response modified the German's general opinion of English manners, and the two exchanged some remarks on the weather—a thunder shower was splashing outside—remarks which bore witness at least to the Englishman's courage in using such knowledge of the German tongue as he possessed. Then, smoking contentedly, he leant against the wall behind him, still looking on.
He saw a large room, some seventy feet long, filled with a miscellaneous foreign crowd—South Germans, Austrians, Russians, Italians—seated in groups round small tables, smoking, playing cards or dominoes, reading the day's newspapers which the funicular had just brought up, or lazily listening to the moderately good band which was playing some Rheingold selection at the farther end.
To his left was a large family circle—Russians, according to information derived from the headwaiter—and among them, a girl, apparently about eighteen, sitting on the edge of the party and absorbed in a novel of which she was eagerly turning the pages. From her face and figure the half savage, or Asiatic note, present in the physiognomy and complexion of her brothers and sisters, was entirely absent. Her beautiful head with its luxuriant mass of black hair, worn low upon the cheek, and coiled in thick plaits behind, reminded the Englishman of a Greek fragment he had admired, not many days before, in the Louvre; her form too was of a classical lightness and perfection. The Englishman noticed indeed that her temper was apparently not equal to her looks. When her small brothers interrupted her, she repelled them with a pettish word or gesture; the English governess addressed her, and got no answer beyond a haughty look; even her mother was scarcely better treated.
Close by, at another table, was another young girl, rather younger than the first, and equally pretty. She too was dark haired, with a delicate oval face and velvet black eyes, but without any of the passionate distinction, the fire and flame of the other. She was German, evidently. She wore a plain white dress with a red sash, and her little feet in white shoes were lightly crossed in front of her. The face and eyes were all alive, it seemed to him, with happiness, with the mere pleasure of life. She could not keep herself still for a moment. Either she was sending laughing signals to an elderly man near her, presumably her father, or chattering at top speed with another girl of her own age, or gathering her whole graceful body into a gesture of delight as the familiar Rheingold music passed from one lovely motif to another.
"You dear little thing!" thought the Englishman, with an impulse of tenderness, which passed into foreboding amusement as he compared the pretty creature with some of the matrons sitting near her, with one in particular, a lady of enormous girth, whose achievements in eating and drinking at meals had seemed to him amazing. Almost all the middle-aged women in the hotel were too fat, and had lost their youth thereby, prematurely. Must the fairy herself—Euphrosyne—come to such a muddy vesture in the end? Twenty years hence?—alack!
"Beauty that must die." The hackneyed words came suddenly to mind, and haunted him, as his eyes wandered round the room. Amid many coarse or commonplace types, he yet perceived an unusual number of agreeable or handsome faces; as is indeed generally the case in any Austrian hotel. Faces, some of them, among the very young girls especially, of a rose-tinted fairness, and subtly expressive, the dark brows arching on white foreheads, the features straight and clean, the heads well carried, as though conscious of ancestry and tradition; faces, also, of the bourgeoisie, of a simpler, Gretchen-like beauty; faces—a few—of "intellectuals," as he fancied,—including the girl with the novel?—not always handsome, but arresting, and sometimes noble. He felt himself in a border land of races, where the Teutonic and Latin strains had each improved the other; and the pretty young girls and women seemed to him like flowers sprung from an old and rich soil. He found his pleasure in watching them—the pleasure of the Ancient Mariner when he blessed the water-snakes. Sex had little to say to it; and personal desire nothing. Was he not just over forty?—a very busy Englishman, snatching a hard-earned holiday—a bachelor, moreover, whose own story lay far behind him.
"Beauty that must die" The words reverberated and would not be dismissed. Was it because he had just been reading an article in a new number of the Quarterly, on "Contemporary Feminism," with mingled amazement and revolt, roused by some of the strange facts collected by the writer? So women everywhere—many women at any rate—were turning indiscriminately against the old bonds, the old yokes, affections, servitudes, demanding "self-realisation," freedom for the individuality and the personal will; rebelling against motherhood, and life-long marriage; clamouring for easy divorce, and denouncing their own fathers, brothers and husbands, as either tyrants or fools; casting away the old props and veils; determined, apparently, to know everything, however ugly, and to say everything, however outrageous? He himself was a countryman, an English provincial, with English public school and university traditions of the best kind behind him, a mind steeped in history, and a natural taste for all that was ancient and deep-rooted. The sketch of an emerging generation of women, given in the Quarterly article, had made a deep impression upon him. It seemed to him frankly horrible. He was of course well acquainted, though mainly through the newspapers, with English suffragism, moderate and extreme. His own country district and circle were not, however, much concerned with it. And certainly he knew personally no such types as the Quarterly article described. Among them, no doubt, were the women who set fire to houses, and violently interrupted or assaulted Cabinet ministers, who wrote and maintained newspapers that decent people would rather not read, who grasped at martyrdom and had turned evasion of penalty into a science, the continental type, though not as yet involved like their English sisters in a hand-to-hand, or fist-to-fist struggle with law and order, were, it seemed, even more revolutionary in principle, and to some extent in action. The life and opinions of a Sonia Kovalevski left him bewildered. For no man was less omniscient than he. Like the Cabinet minister of recent fame, in the presence of such femmes fortes, he might have honestly pleaded, mutatis mutandis, "In these things I am a child."
Were these light-limbed, dark-eyed maidens under his eyes touched with this new anarchy? They or their elders must know something about it. There had been a Feminist congress lately at Trient—on the very site, and among the ghosts of the great Council. Well, what could it bring them? Was there anything so brief, so passing, if she did but know it, as a woman's time for happiness? "Beauty that must die."
As the words recurred, some old anguish lying curled at his heart raised its head and struck. He heard a voice—tremulously sweet—"Mark!—dear Mark!—I'm not good enough—but I'll be to you all a woman can."
She had not played with life—or scorned it—or missed it. It was not her fault that she must put it from her.
In the midst of the crowd about him, he was no longer aware of it. Still smoking mechanically, his eyelids had fallen over his eyes, as his head rested against the wall.
He was interrupted by a voice which said in excellent though foreign English—
"I beg your pardon, sir—I wonder if I might have that paper you are standing on?"
He looked down astonished, and saw that he was trampling on the day's New York Herald, which had fallen from a table near. With many apologies he lifted it, smoothed it out, and presented it to the elderly lady who had asked for it.
She looked at him through her spectacles with a pleasant smile.
"You don't find many English newspapers in these Tyrolese hotels?"
"No; but I provide myself. I get my Times from home."
"Then, as an Englishman, you have all you want. But you seem to be without it to-night?"
"It hasn't arrived. So I am reduced, as you see, to listening to the music."
"You are not musical?"
"Well, I don't like this band anyway. It makes too much noise. Don't you think it rather a nuisance?"
"No. It helps these people to talk," she said, in a crisp, cheerful voice, looking round the room.
"But they don't want any help. Most of them talk by nature as fast as the human tongue can go!"
"About nothing!" She shrugged her shoulders.
Winnington observed her more closely. She was, he guessed, somewhere near fifty; her scanty hair was already grey, and her round, plain face was wrinkled and scored like a dried apple. But her eyes, which were dark and singularly bright, expressed both energy and wit; and her mouth, of which the upper lip was caught up a little at one corner, seemed as though quivering with unspoken and, as he thought, sarcastic speech. Was she, perchance, the Swedish Schriftstellerin of whom he had heard the porter talking to some of the hotel guests? She looked a lonely-ish, independent sort of body.
"They seem nice, kindly people," he said, glancing round the salon. "And how they enjoy life!"
"You call it life?"
He laughed out.
"You are hard upon them, madame. Now I—being a mere man—am lost in admiration of their good looks. We in England pride ourselves on our women, But upon my word, it would be difficult to match this show in an English hotel. Look at some of the faces!"
She followed his eyes—indifferently.
"Yes—they've plenty of beauty. And what'll it do for them? Lead them into some wretched marriage or other—and in a couple of years there will be neither beauty nor health, nor self-respect, nor any interest in anything, but money, clothes, and outwitting their husbands."
"You forget the children!"
"Ah—the children"—she said in a dubious tone, shrugging her shoulders again.
The Englishman—whose name was Mark Winnington—suddenly saw light upon her.
A Swedish writer, a woman travelling alone? He remembered the sketch of "feminism" in Sweden which he had just read. The names of certain woman-writers flitted through his mind. He felt a curiosity mixed with distaste. But curiosity prevailed.
He bent forward. And as he came thereby into stronger light from a window on his left, the thought crossed the mind of his neighbour that although so fully aware of other people's good looks, the tall Englishman seemed to be quite unconscious of his own. Yet in truth he appeared both to her, and to the hotel guests in general, a kind of heroic creature. In height he towered beside the young or middle-aged men from Munich, Buda-Pesth, or the north Italian towns, who filled the salon. He had all that athlete could desire in the way of shoulders, and lean length of body; a finely-carried head, on which the brown hair was wearing a little thin at the crown, while still irrepressibly strong and curly round the brow and temple; thick penthouse brows, and beneath them a pair of greyish eyes which had already made him friends with the children and the dogs and half the grown-ups in the place. The Swedish lady admitted—but with no cordiality—that human kindness could hardly speak more plainly in a human face than from those eyes. Yet the mouth and chin were thin, strong and determined; so were the hands. The man's whole aspect, moreover, spoke of assured position, and of a keen intelligence free from personal pre-occupations, and keeping a disinterested outlook on the world. The woman who observed him had in her handbag a book by a Russian lady in which Man, with a capital, figured either as "a great comic baby," or as the "Man-Beast," invented for the torment of women. The gentleman before her seemed a little difficult to fit into either category.
But if she was observing him, he had begun to question her.
"Will you forgive me if I ask an impertinent question?"
"Certainly. They are the only questions worth asking."
"You are, I think, from Sweden?"
"That is my country."
"And I am told you are a writer?" She bent her head. "I can see also that you are—what shall I say?—very critical of your sex—no doubt, still more of mine! I wonder if I may ask "—
He paused, his smiling eyes upon her.
"Ask anything you like."
"Well, there seems to be a great woman-movement in your country. Are you interested in it?"
"You mean—am I a feminist? Yes, I happen to dislike the word; but it describes me. I have been working for years for the advancement of women. I have written about it—and in the Scandinavian countries we have already got a good deal. The vote in Sweden and Norway; almost complete equality with men in Denmark. Professional equality, too, has gone far. We shall get all we want before long?" Her eyes sparkled in her small lined face.
"And you are satisfied?"
"What human being of any intelligence—and I am intelligent," she added, quietly,—"ever confessed to being 'satisfied'? Our shoe pinched us. We have eased it a good deal."
"You really find it substantially better to walk with?"
"Through this uncomfortable world? Certainly. Why not?"
He was silent a little. Then he said, with his pleasant look, throwing his head back to observe her, as though aware he might rouse her antagonism.
"All that seems to me to go such a little way."
"I daresay," she said, indifferently, though it seemed to him that she flushed. "You men have had everything you want for so long, you have lost the sense of value. Now that we want some of your rights, it is your cue to belittle them. And England, of course, is hopelessly behind!" The tone had sharpened.
He laughed again and was about to reply when the band struck up Brahm's Hungarian dances, and talk was hopeless. When the music was over, and the burst of clapping, from all the young folk especially, had died away, the Swedish lady said abruptly—
"But we had an English lady here last year—quite a young girl—very handsome too—who was an even stronger feminist than I."
"Oh, yes, we can produce them—in great numbers. You have only to look at our newspapers."
His companion's upper lip mocked at the remark.
"You don't produce them in great numbers—like the young lady I speak of."
"Ah, she was good-looking?" laughed Winnington. "That, of course, gave her a most unfair advantage."
"A man's jest," said the other dryly—"and an old one. But naturally women take all the advantage they can get—out of anything. They need it. However, this young lady had plenty of other gifts—besides her beauty. She was as strong as most men. She rode, she climbed, she sang. The whole hotel did nothing but watch her. She was the centre of everything. But after a little while she insisted on leaving her father down here to over-eat himself and play cards, while she went with her maid and a black mare that nobody but she wanted to ride, up to the Jagd-huette in the forest. There!—you can see a little blue smoke coming from it now"—
She pointed through the window to the great forest-clothed cliff, some five thousand feet high, which fronted the hotel; and across a deep valley, just below its topmost point, Mark Winnington saw a puff of smoke mounting into the clear sky.
—"Of course there was a great deal of talk. The men gossipped and the women scoffed. Her father, who adored her and could not control her in the least, shrugged his shoulders, played bridge all day long with an English family, and would sit on the verandah watching the path—that path there—which comes down from the Jagd-huette with a spy-glass. Sometimes she would send him down a letter by one of the Jager's boys, and he would send a reply. And every now and then she would come down—riding—like a Brunhilde, with her hair all blown about her—and her eyes—Ach, superb!"
The little dowdy woman threw up her hands.
Her neighbour's face shewed that the story interested and amused him.
"A Valkyrie, indeed! But how a feminist?"
"You shall hear. One evening she offered to give an address at the hotel on 'Women and the Future.' She was already of course regarded as half mad, and her opinions were well known. Some people objected, and spoke to the manager. Her father, it was said, tried to stop it, but she got her own way with him. And the manager finally decided that the advertisement would be greater than the risk. When the evening came the place was bonde; people came from every inn and pension round for miles. She spoke beautiful German, she had learnt it from a German governess who had brought her up, and been a second mother to her; and she hadn't a particle of mauvaise honte. Somebody had draped some Austrian and English flags behind her. The South Germans and Viennese, and Hungarians who came to listen—just the same kind of people who are here to-night—could hardly keep themselves on their chairs. The men laughed and stared—I heard a few brutalities—but they couldn't keep their eyes off her, and in the end they cheered her. Most of the women were shocked, and wished they hadn't come, or let their girls come. And the girls themselves sat open-mouthed—drinking it in."
"Amazing!" laughed the Englishman. "Wish I had been there! Was it an onslaught upon men?"
"Of course," said his companion coolly. "What else could it be? At present you men are the gaolers, and we the prisoners in revolt. This girl talked revolution—they all do. 'We women intend to have equal rights with you!—whatever it cost. And when we have got them we shall begin to fashion the world as we want it—and not as you men have kept it till now. Gare a vous! You have enslaved us for ages—you may enslave us a good while yet—but the end is certain. There is a new age coming, and it will be the age of the free woman!'—That was the kind of thing. I daresay it sounds absurd to you—but as she put it—as she looked it—I can tell you, it was fine!"
The small, work-worn hands of the Swedish lady shook on her knee. Her eyes seemed to hold the Englishman at bay. Then she added, in another tone.
"Some people of course walked out, and afterwards there were many complaints from fathers of families that their daughters should have been exposed to such a thing. But it all passed over."
"And the young lady went back to the forest?"
"Yes,—for a time."
"And what became of the black mare?"
"Its mistress gave her to an inn-keeper here when she left. But the first time he went to see the horse in the stable, she trampled on him and he was laid up for weeks."
"Like mistress, like mare?—Excuse the jest! But now, may I know the name of the prophetess?"
"She was a Miss Blanchflower," said the Swedish lady, boggling a little over the name. "Her father had been a governor of one of your colonies."
Winnington started forward in his chair.
"Good heavens!—you don't mean a daughter of old Bob Blanchflower!"
"Her father's name was Sir Robert Blanchflower."
The tanned face beside her expressed the liveliest interest.
"Why, I knew Blanchflower quite well. I met him long ago when I was staying with an uncle in India—at a station in the Bombay presidency. He was Major Blanchflower then"—
The speaker's brow furrowed a little as though under the stress of some sudden recollection, and he seemed to check himself in what he was saying. But in a moment he resumed:—
"A little after that he left the army, and went into Parliament. And—precisely!—after a few years they made him governor somewhere—not much of a post. Then last year his old father, a neighbour of mine in Hampshire, quite close to my little place, went and died, and Blanchflower came into a fortune and a good deal of land besides. And I remember hearing that he had thrown up the Colonial Service, had broken down in health, and was living abroad for some years to avoid the English climate. That's the man of course. And the Valkyrie is Blanchflower's daughter! Very odd that! I must have seen her as a child. Her mother"—he paused again slightly—"was a Greek by birth, and gloriously handsome. Blanchflower met her when he was military attache at Athens for a short time.—Well, that's all very interesting!"
And in a ruminating mood the Englishman took out his cigarette-case.
"You smoke, Madame?"
The Swedish lady quietly accepted the courtesy. And while the too insistent band paused between one murdered Wagnerian fragment and another, they continued a conversation which seemed to amuse them both.
* * * * *
A little later the Englishman went out into the garden of the hotel, meaning to start for a walk. But he espied a party of young people gathered about the new lawn-tennis court where instead of the languid and dishevelled trifling, with a broken net and a wretched court, that was once supposed to attract English visitors, he had been already astonished to find Austrians and Hungarians—both girls and boys—playing a game quite up to the average of a good English club. The growing athleticism and independence, indeed, of the foreign girl, struck, for Winnington, the note of change in this mid-European spectacle more clearly than anything else. It was some ten years since he had been abroad in August, a month he had been always accustomed to spend in Scotch visits; and these young girls, with whom the Tyrol seemed to swarm, of all European nationalities other than English, still in or just out of the schoolroom; hatless and fearless; with their knapsacks on their backs, sometimes with ice-axes in their hands; climbing peaks and passes with their fathers and brothers; playing lawn-tennis like young men, and shewing their shapely forms sometimes, when it was a question of attacking the heights, in knicker-bocker costume, and at other times in fresh white dresses and bright-coloured jerseys, without a hint of waist; these young Atalantas, budding and bloomed, made the strongest impression upon him, as of a new race. Where had he been all these years? He felt himself a kind of Rip van Winkle—face to face at forty-one with a generation unknown to him. No one of course could live in England, and not be aware of the change which has passed over English girls in the same direction. But the Englishman always tacitly assumes that the foreigner is far behind him in all matters of open-air sport and physical development. Winnington had soon confessed the touch of national arrogance in his own surprise; and was now the keen and much attracted spectator.
On one of the grounds he saw the little German girl—Euphrosyne, as he had already dubbed her—having a lesson from a bullying elder brother. The youth, amazed at his own condescension, scolded his sister perpetually, and at last gave her up in despair, vowing that she would never be any good, and he was not going to waste his time in teaching such a ninny. Euphrosyne sat down beside the court, with tears in her pretty eyes, her white feet crossed, her dark head drooping; and two girl companions, aged about sixteen or seventeen, like herself, came up to comfort her.
"I could soon shew you how to improve your service, Mademoiselle," said Winnington, smiling, as he passed her. Euphrosyne looked up startled, but at sight of the handsome middle-aged Englishman, whom she unkindly judged to be not much younger than her father, she timidly replied:—
"It is hateful, Monsieur, to be so stupid as I am!"
"Let me shew you," repeated Winnington, kindly. At this moment, a vigilant English governess—speaking with a strong Irish-American accent—came up, and after a glance at the Englishman, smilingly acquiesced. The two comforters of Euphrosyne, graceful little maids, with cherry-coloured jerseys over their white frocks, and golden brown hair tied with the large black bows of the Backfisch, were eager to share the lesson, and soon Winnington found himself the centre of a whole bevy of boys and girls who had run up to watch Euphrosyne's performance.
The English governess, a good girl, in spite of her accent, and the unconscious fraud she was thereby perpetrating on her employers, thought she had seldom witnessed a more agreeable scene.
"He treats them like princesses, and yet he makes them learn," she thought, a comment which very fairly expressed the mixture of something courtly with something masterful in the Englishman's manner. He was patience itself; but he was also frankness itself, whether for praise or blame; and the eagerness to please him grew fast and visibly in all these young creatures.
But as soon as he had brought back Euphrosyne's smiles, and roused a new and fierce ambition to excel in all their young breasts, he dropped the lesson, with a few gay slangy words, and went his way, leaving a stir behind him of which he was quite unconscious. And there was no Englishman looking on who might have told the charmed and conquered maidens that they had just been coached by one of the most famous of English athletes, born with a natural genius for every kind of game, from cricket downwards.
* * * * *
On his way to the eastern side of the pass on which stood the group of hotels, Winnington got his post from the concierge, including his nightly Times, and carried it with him to a seat with which he was already familiar.
But he left the Times unopened, for the spectacle before him was one to ravish the senses from everything but itself. He looked across the deep valley of the Adige, nearly four thousand feet below him, to the giant range of the Dolomite Alps on the eastern side. The shadow of the forest-clad mountain on which he stood spread downwards over the plain, and crept up the mountains on the farther edge. Above a gulf of deepest blue, inlaid with the green of vineyards and forest lakes, he beheld an aerial world of rose-colour—the giant Dolomites, Latemar, Rosengarten, Schlern—majestic rulers of an upper air, so pure and luminous, that every tiny shadow cast by every wisp of wandering cloud on the bare red peaks, was plainly visible across the thirty miles of space. Rosengarten, with its snowless, tempest-beaten crags, held the centre, flushing to its name; and to the right and left, peak ranged beyond peak, like courtiers crowding to their king; chief among them a vast pyramid, blood-red in the sunset, from which the whole side, it seemed, had been torn away, leaving a gash so fresh it might have been ripped by a storm of yesterday, yet older perhaps than Calvary....
The great show faded through every tone of delicate beauty to a starry twilight,—passion into calm. Winnington watched till it was done, still with the Keatsian tag in his mind, and that deep inner memory of loss, to which the vanished splendour of the mountains seemed to make a mystic answering. He was a romantic—some would have said a sentimental person, with a poet always in his pocket, and a hunger for all that might shield him from the worst uglinesses of life, and the worst despairs of thought; an optimist, and, in his own sense, Christian. He had come abroad to wander alone for a time, because as one of the busiest, most important and most popular men in a wide country-side, he had had a year of unceasing and strenuous work, with no time to himself; and it had suddenly been borne in upon him, in choosing between the Alps and Scotland, that a man must sometimes be alone, for his soul's health. And he had never relished the luxury of occasional solitude so sharply as on this pine-scented evening in Tyrol.
It was not till he was sitting again under the electric light of the hotel verandah that he opened his Times. The first paragraph which his eye lit upon was an obituary notice of Sir Robert Blanchflower "whose death, after a long illness and much suffering, occurred last week in Paris." The notice ended with the words—"the deceased baronet leaves a large property both in land and personalty. His only child, a daughter, Miss Delia Blanchflower, survives him."
Winnington laid down the paper. So the Valkyrie was now alone in the world, and mistress no doubt of all her father's wealth. "I must have seen her—I am sure there was a child about"; he said to himself again; and his thoughts went groping into a mostly forgotten past, and as he endeavoured to reconstruct it, the incident which had brought him for a few weeks into close relations with Robert Blanchflower, then Major Blanchflower of the—Dragoons, came at last vividly back to him.
An easy-going husband—a beautiful wife, not vicious, but bored to death—the inevitable third, in the person of a young and amorous cavalry officer—and a whole Indian station, waiting, half maliciously, half sadly, for the banal catastrophe:—it was thus he remembered the situation. Winnington had arrived on the scene as a barrister of some five years' standing, invalided after an acute attack of pneumonia, and the guest for the winter of his uncle, then Commissioner of the district. He discovered in the cavalry officer a fellow who had been his particular protege at Eton, and had owed his passionately coveted choice for the Eleven largely to Winnington's good word. The whole dismal little drama unveiled itself, and Winnington was hotly moved by the waste and pity of it. He was entertained by the Blanchflowers and took a liking to them both. The old friendship between Winnington and the cavalryman was soon noticed by Major Blanchflower, and one night he walked home with Winnington, who had been dining at his house, to the Commissioner's quarters. Then, for the first time, Winnington realised what it may be to wrestle with a man in torment. The next day, the young cavalryman, at Winnington's invitation, took his old friend for a ride, and before dawn on the following day, the youth was off on leave, and neither Major nor Mrs. Blanchflower, Winnington believed, had ever seen him again. What he did with the youth, and how he did it, he cannot exactly remember, but at least he doesn't forget the grip of Blanchflower's hand, and the look of deliverance in his strained, hollow face. Nor had Mrs. Blanchflower borne her rescuer any grudge. He had parted from her on the best of terms, and the recollection of her astonishing beauty grows strong in him as he thinks of her.
So now it is her daughter who is stirring the world! With her father's money and her mother's eyes,—not to speak of the additional trifles—eloquence, enthusiasm, &c.—thrown in by the Swedish woman, she ought to find it easy.
The dressing-gong of the hotel disturbed a rather sleepy reverie, and sent the Englishman back to his Times. And a few hours later he went to a dreamless bed, little guessing at the letter which was even then waiting for him, far below, in the Botzen post-office.
Winnington took his morning coffee on a verandah of the hotel, from which the great forests of Monte Vanna were widely visible. Upwards from the deep valley below the pass, to the topmost crags of the mountain, their royal mantle ran unbroken. This morning they were lightly drowned in a fine weather haze, and the mere sight of them suggested cool glades and verdurous glooms, stretches of pink willow herb lighting up the clearings—and in the secret heart of them such chambers "deaf to noise and blind to light" as the forest lover knows. Winnington promised himself a leisurely climb to the top of Monte Vanna. The morning foretold considerable heat, but under the pines one might mock at Helios.
She came, a vision of morning, tripping along in her white shoes and white dress; followed by her English governess, the lady, as Winnington guessed, from West Belfast, tempered by Brooklyn. The son apparently was still in bed, nor did anyone trouble to hurry him out of it. The father, a Viennese judge en retraite, as Winnington had been already informed by the all-knowing porter of the hotel, was a shrewd thin-lipped old fellow, with the quiet egotism of the successful lawyer. He came up to Winnington as soon as he perceived him, and thanked him in good English for his kindness to Euphrosyne of the day before. Winnington responded suitably and was soon seated at their table, chatting with them while they took their coffee. Euphrosyne shewed a marked pleasure in his society, and upon Winnington, steeped in a holiday reaction from much strenuous living, her charm worked as part of the charm of the day, and the magic of the mountain world. He noticed, however, with a revival of alarm, that she had a vigorous German appetite of her own, and as he watched the rolls disappear he trembled for the slender figure and the fawn-like gait.
After breakfast, while the governess and the girl disappeared, the father hung over the verandah smoking, beside the Englishman, to whom he was clearly attracted. He spoke quite frankly of his daughter, and her bringing up. "She is motherless; her mother died when she was ten years old; and since, I must educate her myself. It gives me many anxieties, but she is a sweet creature, dank sei gott! I will not let her approach, even, any of these modern ideas about women. My wife hated them; I do also. I shall marry her to an honest man, and she will make a good wife and a good house-mother."
"Mind you choose him well!" said Winnington, with a shrug. His eyes at that moment were critically bent on a group of Berliners, men of the commercial and stock-broking class, who, with their wives, had arrived a couple of nights before. The men were strolling and smoking below. They were all fat, red-faced and overbearing. When they went for walks, the man stalked in front along the forest paths, and the woman followed behind, carrying her own jacket. Winnington wondered what it might be like to be the wife of any of them. These Herren at any rate might not be the worse for a little hustling from the "woman movement." He could not, however, say honestly that the wives shewed any consciousness of ill-fortune. They were almost all plump, plumper even than their husbands, expensively dressed and prosperous looking; and the amount of Viennese beer they consumed at the forest restaurants to which their husbands conducted them, seemed to the Englishman portentous.
"Yes, my daughter is old-fashioned," resumed the ex-judge, complacently, after a pause. "And I am grateful to Miss Johnson, who has trained her very well. If she were like some of the girls one sees now! Last year there was a young lady here—Ach, Gott!" He raised his shoulders, with a contemptuous mouth.
"Miss Blanchflower?" asked Winnington, turning towards the speaker with sudden interest.
"That I believe was her name. She was mad, of course. Ach, they have told you?—of that Vortrag she gave?—and the rest? After ten minutes, I made a sign to my daughter, and we walked out. I would not have had her corrupted with these ideas for the whole world. And such beauty, you understand! That makes it more dangerous. Ja, ja, Liebchen—ich komme gleich!"
For there had been a soft call from Euphrosyne, standing on the steps of the hotel, and her fond father hurried away to join her.
At the same moment, the porter emerged, bearing a bundle of letters and newspapers which had just arrived. Eager for his Times Winnington went to meet him, and the man put into his hands what looked like a large post. He carried it off into the shelter of the pines, for the sun was already blazing on the hotel. Two or three letters on county business he ran through first. His own pet project, as County Councillor,—a county school for crippled children, was at last getting on. Foundation stone to be laid in October—good! "But how the deuce can I get hold of some more women to help work it! Scandalous, how few of the right sort there are about! And as for the Asylums Committee, if we really can't legally co-opt women to it, as our clerk says"—he looked again at a letter in his hand—"the law is an ass!—a double-dyed ass. I swear I won't visit those poor things on the women's side again. It's women's work—let them do it. The questions I have to ask are enough to make an old gamp blush. Hallo, what's this?"
He turned over a large blue envelope, and looked at a name stamped across the back. It was the name of a well-known firm of London solicitors. But he had no dealings with them, and could not imagine why they should have written to him.
He opened the letter carelessly, and began to read it,—presently with eager attention, and at last with amazement.
It ran as follows:
"From Messrs. MORTON, MANNERS & LATHOM, Solicitors, Adelphi, London, W. C."
"Dear Sir,—We write on behalf of Lord Frederick Calverly, your co-executor, under Sir Robert Blanchflower's will, to inform you that in Sir Robert's last will and testament—of which we enclose a copy—executed at Meran six weeks before his decease, you are named as one of his two executors, as sole trustee of his property, and sole guardian of Sir Robert's daughter and only child, Miss Delia Blanchflower, until she attains the age of twenty-five. We believe that this will be a complete surprise to you, for although Sir Robert, according to a statement he made during his last illness to his sister, Miss Elizabeth Blanchflower, intended to communicate with you before signing the will, his weakness increased so rapidly, after it was finally drawn up, that he was never able to do so. Indeed the morning after his secretary had written out a clear copy of what he himself had put together, he had a most alarming attack from which he rallied with difficulty. That afternoon he signed the will, and was just able to write you the letter which we also enclose, marked by himself, as you will see. He was never properly conscious afterwards, and he died in Paris last Thursday, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery at Mont Parnasse on the Saturday following. The will which was in our custody was opened in London yesterday, by Lord Frederick Calverly, in Miss Blanchflower's presence. We understand from her that she has already written to you on the subject. Lord Frederick would also have done so, but that he has just gone to Harrogate, in a very poor state of health. He begs us to say that he is of course quite aware that your engagements may not allow you to accept the functions offered you under the will, and that he will be in considerable anxiety until he knows your decision. He hopes that you will at least accept the executorship; and indeed ventures to appeal very strongly on that account to your old friendship for Sir Robert; as he himself sees no prospect of being able to carry out unaided the somewhat heavy responsibilities attaching to the office.
"You will see that a sum of L4000 is left to yourself under the will."
We remain, dear Sir,
Your obedient servants,
MORTON, MANNERS & LATHOM. "(Solicitors.)"
"MARK WINNINGTON, Esq., J. P. Bridge End, Maumsey, Hants."
A bulky document on blue paper, and also a letter had dropped to the ground. Winnington stooped for the letter, and turned it over in stupification. It was addressed in a faltering hand, and marked, "To be forwarded after my death." He hastily broke the seal.
"MY DEAR MARK WINNIXGTON,—I know well what I am laying upon you. I have no right to do it. But I remember certain days in the past, and I believe if you are still the same man you were then, you will do what I ask. My daughter ought to be a fine woman. At present she seems to me entirely and completely out of her mind. She has been captured by the extreme suffrage movement, and by one of the most mischievous women in it; and I have no influence with her whatever. I live in terror of what she may do; of what they may lead her to do. To attempt to reason with her is useless; and for a long time my health has been such that I have avoided conflict with her as much as possible. But things have now come to such a pass that something must be done, and I have tried in these last weeks, ill as I am, to face the future. I want if I can to save Delia from wasting herself, and the money and estates I should naturally leave her, upon this mad campaign. I want, even against her will, to give her someone to advise and help her. I feel bitterly that I have done neither. The tropics ruined me physically, and I seem to have gone to pieces altogether the last few years. But I love my child, and I can't leave her without a real friend or support in the world. I have no near relations, except my sister Elizabeth, and she and Delia are always at feud. Freddie Calverly my cousin, is a good fellow in his way, though too fussy about his health. He has a fair knowledge of business, and he would have been hurt if I had not made him executor. So I have appointed him, and have of course left him a little money. But he could no more tackle Delia than fly. In the knock-about life we have led since I left the Colonial Service, I seem to have shed all my old friends. I can think of no one who could or would help me in this strait but you—and you know why. God bless you for what you once did for me. There was never any other cloud between my poor wife and me. She turned to me after that trouble, and we were happy till the end.
"I have heard too something of you from Maumsey people, since I inherited Maumsey, though I have never been able to go there. I know what your neighbours think of you. And now Delia is going to be your neighbour. So, drawing a bow at a venture, as a dying man must, I have made you Delia's guardian and trustee, with absolute power over her property and income till she is twenty-five. When she attains that age—she is now nearly twenty-two—if she marries a man approved by you, or if you are satisfied that her connection with militant suffragism has ceased, the property is to be handed over to her in full possession, and the trust will come to an end. If on the contrary, she continues in her present opinion and course of action, I have left directions that the trust is to be maintained for Delia's life-time, under certain conditions as to her maintenance, which you will find in the will. If you yourself are not willing to administer the trust, either now or later, the property will devolve to the Public Trustee, for whom full instructions are left. And at Delia's death it will be divided among her heirs, if she has any, and various public objects.
"I cannot go further into details. My strength is almost out. But this one thing may I beg?—if you become my child's guardian, get the right person to live with her. I regard that as all-important. She must have a chaperon, and she will try to set up one of the violent women who have divided her from me. Especially am I in dread of a lady, an English lady, a Miss Marvell, whom I engaged two years ago to stay with us for the winter and read history with Delia. She is very able and a very dangerous woman, prepared I believe, to go to any length on behalf of her 'cause.' At any rate she filled Delia's head with the wildest suffragist notions, and since then my poor child thinks of nothing else. Even since I have been so ill—this last few weeks—I know she has been in communication with this woman. She sympathises with all the horrible things they do, and I am certain she gives all the money she can to their funds. Delia is a splendid creature, but she is vain and excitable and they court her. I feel that they might tempt her into any madness.
"Goodbye. I made the doctor give me strychnine and morphia enough to carry me through this effort. I expect it will be the last. Help me, and my girl—if you can—for old sake's sake. Goodbye."
Your grateful old friend,
"Good heavens!" was all Winnington could find to say, as he put down the letter.
Then, becoming aware, as the verandah filled after breakfast, that he was in a very public place, he hastily rose, thrust the large solicitor's envelope, with its bulky enclosures into his coat pocket, and proceeded to gather up the rest of his post. As he did so, he suddenly perceived a black-edged letter, addressed in a remarkably clear handwriting, with the intertwined initials D. B. in the corner.
A fit of silent laughter, due to his utter bewilderment, shook him. He put the letter with all its fellows into another pocket and hurried away into the solitude of the woods. It was some time before he had succeeded in leaving all the tourists' paths and seats behind. At last in a green space of bilberry and mossy rock, with the pines behind him, and the chain of the Dolomites, sun-bathed, in front, he opened and read his "ward's" first letter to him.
"DEAR MR. WINNINGTON,—I understood—though very imperfectly—from my father, before he died, that he had appointed you my guardian and trustee till I should reach the age of twenty-five, and he explained to me so far as he could his reason for such a step. And now I have of course read the will, and the solicitors have explained to me clearly what it all means.
"You will admit I think that I am placed in a very hard position. If my poor father had not been so ill, I should certainly have tried to argue with him, and to prevent his doing anything so unnecessary and unjust as he has now done—unjust both to you and to me. But the doctors absolutely forbade me to discuss any business with him, and I could do nothing. I can only hope that the last letter he wrote to you, just before his death, and the alterations he made in his will about the same time, gave him some comfort. If so, I do not grudge them for one moment.
"But now you and I have to consider this matter as sensible people, and I suggest that for a man who is a complete stranger to me, and probably altogether out of sympathy with the ideas and principles, I believe in and am determined to act upon—(for otherwise my father would not have chosen you)—to undertake the management of my life and affairs, would be really grotesque. It must lead to endless friction and trouble between us. If you refuse, the solicitors tell me, the Public Trustee—which seems to be a government office—will manage the property, and the Court of Chancery will appoint a guardian in accordance with my father's wishes. That would be bad enough, considering that I am of full age and in my right mind—I can't promise to give a guardian chosen in such a way, a good time. But at any rate, it would be less odious to fight a court and an office, if I must fight, than a gentleman who is my near neighbour in the county, and was my father's and mother's friend. I do hope you will think this over very carefully, and will relieve both yourself and me from an impossible state of things. I perfectly realise of course that my father appointed you my guardian, in order to prevent me from making certain friends, and doing certain things. But I do not admit the right of any human being—not even a father—to dictate the life of another. I intend to stick to my friends, And to do what my conscience directs.
"Should you however accept the guardianship—after this candid statement of mine—you will, I suppose, feel bound to carry out my father's wishes by refusing me money for the purposes he disapproved. He told me indeed that I should be wholly dependent on my guardian for money during the next three years, even though I have attained my legal majority. I can say to you what I could not say to him, that I bitterly resent an arrangement which treats a grown person like a child. Such things are not done to men. It is only women who are the victims of them. It would be impossible to keep up friendly relations with a guardian, who would really only be there—only exist—to thwart and coerce me.
"Let me point out that at the very beginning a difference must arise between us, about the lady I am to live with. I have chosen my chaperon already, as it was my moral, if not my legal right to do. But I am quite aware that my father disapproved of her, and that you will probably take the same view. She belongs to a militant suffrage society, and is prepared at any moment to suffer for the great cause she and I believe in. As to her ability, she is one of the cleverest women in England. I am only too proud that she has consented—for a time—to share my life, and nothing will induce me to part with her—as long as she consents to stay. But of course I know what you—or any ordinary man—is likely to think of her.
"No!—we cannot agree—it is impossible we should agree—as guardian and ward. If indeed, for the sake of your old friendship with my father, you would retain the executorship—I am sure Lord Frederick Calverly will be no sort of use!—till the affairs of the will, death-duties, debts, and so on, are settled—and would at the same time give up any other connection with the property and myself, I should be enormously grateful to you. And I assure you I should be very glad indeed—for father's sake—to have your advice on many points connected with my future life; and I should be all the more ready to follow it, if you had renounced your legal power over me.
"I shall be much obliged if you will make your decision as soon as possible, so that both the lawyer and I may know how to proceed."
Mark Winnington put down the letter. Its mixture of defiance, patronage and persuasion—its young angry cleverness—would have tickled a naturally strong sense of humour at any other time. But really the matter was too serious to laugh at.
"What on earth am I to do!"
He sat pondering, his mind running through a number of associated thoughts, of recollections old and new; those Indian scenes of fifteen years ago; the story told him by the Swedish lady; recent incidents and happenings in English politics; and finally the tone in which Euphrosyne's father had described the snatching of his own innocent from the clutches of Miss Blanchflower.
Then it occurred to him to look at the will. He read it through; a tedious business; for Sir Robert had been a wealthy man and the possessions bequeathed—conditionally bequeathed—to his daughter were many and various. Two or three thousand acres of land in one of the southern counties, bordering on the New Forest; certain large interests in Cleveland ironstone and Durham collieries, American and South African shares, Canadian mortgage and railway debentures:—there was enough to give lawyers and executors work for some time, and to provide large pickings for the Exchequer. Among the legacies, he noticed the legacy of L4000 to himself.
"Payment for the job!" he thought, and shook his head, smiling.
The alternative arrangements made for transferring the trust to the Public Trustee, should Winnington decline, and for vesting the guardianship of the daughter in the Court of Chancery, subject to the directions of the will, till she should reach the age of twenty-five, were clear; so also was the provision that unless a specific signed undertaking was given by the daughter on attaining her twenty-fifth birthday, that the moneys of the estate would not be applied to the support of the "militant suffrage" propaganda, the trust was to be made permanent, a life income of L2000 a year was to be settled on Miss Blanchflower, and the remainder, i.e. by far the major part of Sir Robert's property, was to accumulate, for the benefit of his daughter's heirs should she have any, and of various public objects. Should Miss Blanchflower sign the undertaking and afterwards break it, the Public Trustee was directed to proceed against her, and to claim the restitution of the property, subject always to her life allowance.
"Pretty well tied up," thought Winnington, marvelling at the strength of feeling, the final exasperation of a dying man, which the will betrayed. His daughter must somehow—perhaps without realising it—have wounded him to the heart.
He began to climb again through the forest that he might think the better. What would be the situation, supposing he undertook what his old friend asked of him?
He himself was a man of moderate means and settled habits. His small estate and modest house which a widowed sister shared with him during six months in the year, left him plenty of leisure from his own affairs, and he had filled that leisure, for years past, to overflowing, with the various kinds of public work that fall to the country gentleman with a conscience. He was never idle; his work interested him, and there was no conceit in his quiet knowledge that he had many friends and much influence. Since the death of the girl to whom he had been engaged for six short months, fifteen years before this date, he had never thought of marriage. The circumstances of her death—a terrible case of lingering typhoid—had so burnt the pity of her suffering and the beauty of her courage into his mind, that natural desire seemed to have died with her. He had turned to hard work and the bar, and equally hard physical exercise, and so made himself master both of his grief and his youth. But his friendships with women had played a great part in his subsequent life. A natural chivalry, deep based, and, in manner, a touch of caressing charm, soon evoked by those to whom he was attached, and not easily confounded in the case of a man so obviously manly with any lack of self-control, had long since made him a favourite of the sex. There were few women among his acquaintances who did not covet his liking; and he was the repository of far more confidences than he had ever desired. No one took more trouble to serve; and no one more carelessly forgot a service he had himself rendered, or more tenaciously remembered any kindness done him by man, woman or child.
His admiration for women was mingled indeed often with profound pity; pity for the sorrows and burdens that nature had laid upon them, for their physical weakness, for their passive role in life. That beings so hampered could yet play such tender and heroic parts was to him perennially wonderful, and his sense of it expressed itself in an unconscious homage that seemed to embrace the sex. That the homage was not seldom wasted on persons quite unworthy of it, his best women friends were not slow to see; but in this he was often obstinate and took his own way.
This mingling in him of an unfailing interest in the sex with an entire absence of personal craving, gave him a singularly strong position with regard to women, of which he had never yet taken any selfish advantage; largely, no doubt, because of the many activities, most of them disinterested, by which his life was fed and freshened; as a lake is by the streams which fill it.
He was much moved by his old friend's letter, and he walked about pondering it, till the morning was almost gone. The girl's position also seemed to him particularly friendless and perilous, though she herself, apparently, would be the last person to think so, could she only shake herself free from the worrying restrictions her father had inflicted on her. Her letter, and its thinly veiled wrath, shewed quite plainly that the task of any guardian would be a tough one. Miss Blanchflower was evidently angry—very angry—yet at the same time determined, if she could, to play a dignified part; ready, that is, to be civil, on her own conditions. The proposal to instal as her chaperon, instantly, without a day's delay, the very woman denounced in her father's last letter, struck him as first outrageous, and then comic. He laughed aloud over it.
Certainly—he was not bound in any way to undertake such a business. Blanchflower had spoken the truth when he said that he had no right to ask it. And yet—
His mind dallied with it. Suppose he undertook it, on what lines could he possibly run it? His feeling towards the violent phase of the "woman's movement," the militancy which during the preceding three or four years had produced a crop of outrages so surprising and so ugly, was probably as strong as Blanchflower's own. He was a natural Conservative, and a trained lawyer. Methods of violence in a civilised and constitutional State, roused in him indignant abhorrence. He could admit no excuse for them; at any rate no justification.
But, fundamentally? What was his real attitude towards this wide-spread claim of women, now so general in many parts of the world admitted indeed in some English Colonies, in an increasing number of the American states, in some of the minor European countries—to share the public powers and responsibilities of men? Had he ever faced the problem, as it concerned England, with any thoroughness or candour? Yet perhaps Englishmen—all Englishmen—had now got to face it.
Could he discover any root of sympathy in himself with what were clearly the passionate beliefs of Delia Blanchflower, the Valkyrie of twenty-one, as they were also the passionate beliefs of the little Swedish lady, the blue-stocking of fifty? If so, it might be possible to guide, even to control such a ward, for the specified three years, at any rate, without exciting unseemly and ridiculous strife between her and her guardian.
"I ought to be able to do it"—he thought—"without upsetting the apple-cart!"
For, as he examined himself he realised that he held no closed mind on the subject of the rights or powers or grievances of women. He had taken no active part whatever in the English suffragist struggle, either against woman suffrage or for it; and in his own countryside it mattered comparatively little. But he was well aware what strong forces and generous minds had been harnessed to the suffrage cause, since Mill first set it stirring; and among his dearest women friends there were some closely connected with it, who had often mocked or blamed his own indifference. He had always thought indeed, and he thought still—for many reasons—that they attributed a wildly exaggerated importance to the vote, which, as it seemed to him, went a very short way in the case of men. But he had always been content to let the thing slide; having so much else to do and think about.
Patience then, and respect for honest and disinterested conviction, in any young and ardent soul; sharp discrimination between lawful and unlawful means of propaganda, between debate, and stone-throwing; no interference with the first, and a firm hand against the second:—surely, in that spirit, one might make something of the problem? Winnington was accustomed to be listened to, to get round obstacles that other men found insuperable. It was scarcely conceit, but a just self-confidence which suggested to him that perhaps Miss Blanchflower would not prove so difficult after all. Gentleness, diplomacy, decision,—by Jove, they'd all be wanted! But his legal experience (he had been for some years a busy barrister), and his later life as a practical administrator had not been a bad training in each and all of these qualities.
Of course, if the girl were merely obstinate and stupid, the case might indeed be hopeless. But the picture drawn by the Swedish woman of the "Valkyrie" on her black mare, of the ardent young lecturer, facing her indifferent or hostile audience with such pluck and spirit, dwelt with him, and affected him strongly. His face broke into amusement as he asked himself the frank question—"Would you do it, if you hadn't heard that tale?—if you knew that your proposed ward was just a plain troublesome chit of a schoolgirl, bitten with suffragism?"
He put the question to himself, standing on a pinnacle of shadowed rock, from which the world seemed to sink into blue gulfs beneath him, till on the farther side of immeasurable space the mountains re-emerged, climbing to the noonday sun.
And he answered it without hesitation. Certainly, the story told him had added a touch of romance to the bare case presented by the batch of letters:—had lent a force and point to Robert Blanchflower's dying plea, it might not otherwise have possessed. For, after all, he, Winnington, was a very busy man; and his life was already mortgaged in many directions. But as it was—yes—the task attracted him.
At the same time, the twinkle in his grey eyes shewed him ironically aware of himself.
"Understand, you old fool!—the smallest touch of philandering—and the whole business goes to pot. The girl would have you at her mercy—and the thing would become an odious muddle and hypocrisy, degrading to both. Can you trust yourself? You're not exactly made of flint: Can you play the part as it ought to be played?"
Quietly, his face sank into rest. For him, there was that in memory, which protected him from all such risks, which had so protected him for fifteen years. He felt quite sure of himself. Ever since his great loss he had found his natural allies and companions among girls and young women as much as among men. The embarrassment of sex seemed to have passed away for him, but not the charm. Thus, he took what for him was the easier path of acceptance. Kindly and scrupulous as he was, it would have been hard for him in any case to say No to the dead, more difficult than to say it to the living. Yes!—he would do what was possible. The Times that morning contained a long list of outrages committed by militant suffragists—houses burnt down, meetings disturbed, members attacked. In a few months, or weeks, perhaps, without counsel to aid or authority to warn her, the Valkyrie might be running headlong into all the perils her father foresaw. He pledged himself to protect her if he could.
* * * * *
The post which left the hotel that evening took with it a short note from Mark Winnington to Messrs. Morton, Manners & Lathom, accepting the functions of executor, guardian and trustee offered him under Sir Robert Blanchflower's will, and appointing an interview with them at their office; together with a somewhat longer one addressed to "Miss Delia Blanchflower, Claridge's Hotel, London.
"DEAR MISS BLANCHFLOWER, Pray let me send you my most sincere condolence. Your poor father and I were once great friends, and I am most truly sorry to hear of his death.
"Thank you for your interesting letter. But I find it impossible to refuse your father's dying request to me, nor can I believe that I cannot be of some assistance to his daughter. Let me try. We can always give it up, if we cannot work it, but I see no reason why, with good will on both sides, we should not make something of it.
"I am returning to London ten days from now, and hope to see you within a fortnight.
"Please address, 'Junior Carlton Club, Pall Mall.'"
Believe me, Yours very truly, "MARK WINNINGTON."
On his arrival, in London, Winnington found a short reply awaiting him.
"DEAR MR. WINNINGTON,—As you please. I am however shortly leaving for Maumsey with Miss Marvell, who, as I told you, has undertaken to live with me as my chaperon.
"We shall hope to see you at Maumsey."
Yours faithfully, "DELIA BLANCHFLOWER."
A few days later, after long interviews with some very meticulous solicitors, a gentleman, very much in doubt as to what his reception would be, took train for Maumsey and the New Forest, with a view to making as soon as possible a first call upon his ward.
"We ought soon to see the house."
The speaker bent forward, as the train, sweeping round a curve, emerged from some thick woods Into a space of open country. It was early September and a sleepy autumnal sunshine lay upon the fields. The Stubbles just reaped ran over the undulations of the land in silky purples and gold; the blue smoke from the cottages and farms hung poised in mid air; the eye could hardly perceive any movement in the clear stream beside the line, as it slipped noiselessly by over its sandy bed; it seemed a world where "it was always afternoon"; and the only breaks in its sunny silence came from the occasional coveys of partridges that rose whirring from the harvest-fields as the train passed.
Delia Blanchflower looked keenly at the English scene, so strange to her after many years of Colonial and foreign wandering. She thought, but did not say—"Those must be my fields—and my woods, that we have just passed through. Probably I rode about them with Grandpapa. I remember the pony—and the horrid groom I hated!" Quick the memory returned of a tiny child on a rearing pony, alone with a sulky groom, who, out of his master's sight, could not restrain his temper, and struck the pony savagely and repeatedly over the head, to an accompaniment of oaths; frightening out of her wits the little girl who sat clinging to the creature's neck. And next she saw herself marching in erect—a pale-faced thing of six, with a heart of fury,—to her grandfather, to demand justice on the offender. And grandpapa had done her bidding then as always; the groom was dismissed that day. It was only grandmamma who had ever tried to manage or thwart her; result, perpetual war, decided often for the time by the brute force at command of the elder, but ever renewed. Delia's face flamed again as she thought of the most humiliating incident of her childhood; when Grandmamma, unable, to do anything with her screaming and stamping self, had sent in despair for a stalwart young footman, and ordered him to "carry Miss Delia up to the nursery." Delia could still feel herself held, wriggling and shrieking face downwards, under the young man's strong arm, unable either to kick or to scratch, while Grandmamma half fearful, half laughing, watched the dire ascent from the bottom of the stairs.
"Male tyranny—my first taste of it!" thought Delia, smiling at herself. "It was fated then that I should be a militant."
She looked across at her friend and travelling companion, half inclined to tell the story; but the sight of Gertrude Marvell's attitude and expression checked the trivial reminiscence on her lips.
"Are you tired?" she said, laying her hand on the other's knee.
"Oh, no. Only thinking."
"Thinking of what?"—
"Of all there is to do."—
A kind of flash passed from one face to the other, Delia's eyes darkly answering. They looked at each other for a little, as though in silent conversation, and then Delia turned again to the landscape outside.
Yes, there was the house, its long, irregular line with the village behind it. She could not restrain a slight exclamation as she caught sight of it, and her friend opposite turned interrogatively.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing—only there's the Abbey. I don't suppose I've seen it since I was twelve."
The other lady put up an eye-glass and looked where Miss Blanchflower pointed; but languidly, as though it were an effort to shake herself free from pre-occupying ideas. She was a woman of about thirty-five, slenderly made, with a sallow, regular face, and good, though short-sighted eyes. The eyes were dark, so was the hair, the features delicate. Under the black shady hat, the hair was very closely and neatly coiled. The high collar of the white blouse, fitting tightly to the slender neck, the coat and skirt of blue serge without ornament of any kind, but well cut, emphasized the thinness, almost emaciation, of the form. Her attitude, dress, and expression conveyed the idea of something amazingly taut and ready—like a ship cleared for action. The body with its clothing seemed to have been simplified as much as possible, so as to become the mere instrument of the will which governed it. No superfluity whatever, whether of flesh on her small bones, or of a single unnecessary button, fold, or trimming on her dress, had Gertrude Marvell ever allowed herself for many years. The general effect was in some way formidable; though why the neat precision of the little lady should convey any notion of this sort, it would not at first sight have been easy to say.
"How old did you say it is?"—she asked, after examining the distant building, which could be now plainly seen from the train across a stretch of green park.
"Oh, the present building is nothing—a pseudo-Gothic monstrosity, built about 1830," laughed Delia; "but there are some old remains and foundations of the abbey. It is a big, rambling old place, and I should think dreadfully in want of doing up. My grandfather was a bit of a miser, and though he was quite rich, he never spent a penny he could help."
"All the better. He left the more for other people to spend." Miss Marvell smiled—a slight, and rather tired smile, which hardly altered the face.
"Yes, if they are allowed to spend it!" said Delia, with a shrug. "Oh well, anyway the house must be done up—painted and papered and that kind of thing. A trustee has got to see that things of that sort are kept in order, I suppose. But it won't have anything to do with me, except that for decency's sake, no doubt, he'll consult me. I shall be allowed to choose the wall-papers I suppose!"
"If you want to," said the other drily.
Delia's brows puckered.
"We shall have to spend some time here, you know, Gertrude! We may as well have something to do."
"Nothing that might entangle us, or take too much of our thoughts," said Miss Marvell, gently, but decidedly.
"I'm afraid I like furnishing," said Delia, not without a shade of defiance.
"And I object—because I know you do. After all—you understand as well as I do that every day now is important. There are not so many of us, Delia! If you're going to do real work, you can't afford to spend your time or thoughts on doing up a shabby house."
There was silence a moment. Then Delia said abruptly—"I wonder when that man will turn up? What a fool he is to take it on!"
"The guardianship? Yes, he hardly knows what he's in for." A touch of grim amusement shewed itself for a moment in Miss Marvell's quiet face.
"Oh, I daresay he knows. Perhaps he relies on what everyone calls his 'influence.' Nasty, sloppy word—nasty sloppy thing! Whenever I'm 'influenced,' I'm degraded!" The young shoulders straightened themselves fiercely.
"I don't know. It has its uses," said the other tranquilly.
Delia laughed radiantly.
"O well—if one can make the kind of weapon of it you do. I don't mean of course that one shouldn't be rationally persuaded. But that's a different thing. 'Influence' makes me think of canting clergymen, and stout pompous women, who don't know what they're talking about, and can't argue—who think they've settled everything by a stale quotation—or an appeal to 'your better self'—or St. Paul. If Mr. Winnington tries it on with 'influence'—we'll have some fun."
Delia returned to her window. The look her companion bent upon her was not visible to her. It was curiously detached—perhaps slightly ironical.
"I'm wondering what part I shall play in the first interview!" said Miss Marvell, after a pause. "I represent the first stone in Mr. Winnington's path. He will of course do his best to put me out of it."
"How can he?" cried Delia ardently. "What can he do? He can't send for the police and turn you out of the house. At least I suppose he could, but he certainly won't. The last thing a gentleman of his sort wants is to make a scandal. Every one says, after all, that he is a nice fellow!"—the tone was unconsciously patronising—"It isn't his fault if he's been placed in this false position. But the great question for me is—how are we going to manage him for the best?"
She leant forward, her chin on her hands, her sparkling eyes fixed on her friend's face.
"The awkward thing is"—mused Miss Marvell—"that there is so little time in which to manage him. If the movement were going on at its old slow pace, one might lie low, try diplomacy, avoid alarming him, and so forth. But we've no time for that. It is a case of blow on blow—action on action—and the publicity is half the battle."
"Still, a little management there must be, to begin with!—because I—we—want money, and he holds the purse-strings. Hullo, here's the station!"
She jumped up and looked eagerly out of the window.
"They've sent a fly for us. And there's the station-master on the lookout. How it all comes back to me!"
Her flushed cheek showed a natural excitement. She was coming back as its mistress to a house where she had been happy as a child, which she had not seen for years. Thoughts of her father, as he had been in the old days before any trouble had arisen between them, came rushing through her mind—tender, regretful thoughts—as the train came slowly to a standstill.
But the entire indifference or passivity of her companion restrained her from any further expression. The train stopped, and she descended to the platform of a small country station, alive apparently with traffic and passengers.
"Miss Blanchflower?" said a smiling station-master, whose countenance seemed to be trying to preserve the due mean between welcome to the living and condolence for the dead, as, hat in hand, he approached the newcomers, and guided by her deep mourning addressed himself to Delia.
"Why, Mr. Stebbing, I remember you quite well," said Delia, holding out her hand. "There's my maid—and I hope there's a cart for the luggage. We've got a lot."
A fair-haired man in spectacles, who had also just left the train, turned abruptly and looked hard at the group as he passed them. He hesitated a moment, then passed on, with a curious swinging gait, a long and shabby over-coat floating behind him—to speak to the porter who was collecting tickets at the gate opening on the road beyond.
Meanwhile Delia had been accosted by another gentleman, who had been sitting reading his Morning Post on the sunny platform, as the train drew up. He too had examined the new arrivals with interest, and while Delia was still talking to the station-master, he walked up to her.
"I think you are Miss Blanchflower: But you won't remember me." He lifted his hat, smiling.
Delia looked at him, puzzled.
"Don't you remember that Christmas dance at the Rectory, when you were ten, and I was home from Sandhurst?"
"Perfectly!—and I quarrelled with you because you wouldn't give me champagne, when I'd danced with you, instead of lemonade. You said what was good for big boys wasn't good for little girls—and I called you a bully—"
"You kicked me!—you had the sharpest little toes!"
"Did I?" said Delia composedly. "I was rather good at kicking. So you are Billy Andrews?"
"Right. I'm Captain now, and they've just made me adjutant down here for the Yeomanry. My mother keeps house for me. You're coming here to live? Please let me say how sorry I was to see your sad news." The condolence was a little clumsy but sincere.
"Thank you. I must go and see to the luggage. Let me introduce you to Miss Marvell—Captain Andrews—Miss Marvell."
That lady bowed coldly, as Delia departed. The tall, soldierly man, whose pleasant looks were somewhat spoilt by a slightly underhung mouth, and prominent chin, disguised, however, by a fine moustache, offered assistance with the luggage.
"There is no need, thank you," said Miss Marvell. "Miss Blanchflower and her maid will see to it."
And the Captain noticed that the speaker remained entirely passive while the luggage was being collected and piled into a fly by the porters, directed by Miss Blanchflower and her maid. She stood quietly on the platform, till all was ready, and Delia beckoned to her. In the intervals the soldier tried to make conversation, but with very small success. He dwelt upon some of the changes Miss Blanchflower would find on the estate; how the old head-keeper, who used to make a pet of her, was dead, and the new agent her father had put in was thought to be doing well, how the village had lost markedly in population in the last few years—this emigration to Canada was really getting beyond a joke!—and so forth. Miss Marvell made no replies. But she suddenly asked him a question.
"What's that house over there?"
She pointed to a grey facade on a wooded hill some two miles off.
"That's our show place—Monk Lawrence! We're awfully proud of it—Elizabethan, and that kind of thing. But of course you've heard of Monk Lawrence! It's one of the finest things in England."
"It belongs to Sir Wilfrid Lang?"
"Certainly. Do you know him? He's scarcely been there at all, since he became a Cabinet Minister; and yet he spent a lot of money in repairing it a few years ago. They say it's his wife's health—that it's too damp for her. Anyway it's quite shut up,—except that they let tourists see it once a month."
"Does anybody live in the house?"—
"Oh—a caretaker, of course,—one of the keepers. They let the shooting. Ah! there's Miss Blanchflower calling you."
Miss Marvell—as the gallant Captain afterwards remembered—took a long look at the distant house and then went to join Miss Blanchflower. The Captain accompanied her, and helped her to stow away the remaining bags into the fly, while a small concourse of rustics, sprung from nowhere, stolidly watched the doings of the heiress and her friend. Delia suddenly bent forward to him, as he was about to shut the door, with an animated look—"Can you tell me who that gentleman is who has just walked off towards the village?"—she pointed.
"His name is Lathrop. He lives in a place just the other side of yours. He's got some trout-hatching ponds—will stock anybody's stream for them. Rather a queer customer!"—the good-natured Captain dropped his voice. "Well, good-bye, my train's just coming. I hope I may come and see you soon?"
Delia nodded assent, and they drove off.
"By George, she's a beauty!" said the Captain to himself as he turned away. "Nothing wrong with her that I can see. But there are some strange tales going about. I wonder who that other woman is. Marvell—Gertrude Marvell?—I seem to have heard the name somewhere.—Hullo, Masham, how are you?" He greeted the leading local solicitor who had just entered the station, a man with a fine ascetic face, and singularly blue eyes. Masham looked like a starved poet or preacher, and was in reality one of the hardest and shrewdest men of business in the southern counties.
"Well, did you see Miss Blanchflower?" said the Captain, as Masham joined him on the platform, and they entered the up train together.
"I did. A handsome young lady! Have you heard the news?"
"Your neighbor, Mr. Winnington—Mark Winnington—is named as her guardian under her father's will—until she is twenty-five. He is also trustee, with absolute power over the property."
The Captain shewed a face of astonishment.
"Gracious! what had Winnington to do with Sir Robert Blanchflower!"
"An old friend, apparently. But it is a curious will."
The solicitor's abstracted look shewed a busy mind. The Captain had never felt a livelier desire for information.
"Isn't there something strange about the girl?"—he said, lowering his voice, although there was no one else in the railway carriage. "I never saw a more beautiful creature! But my mother came home from London the other day with some very queer stories, from a woman who had met them abroad. She said Miss Blanchflower was awfully clever, but as wild as a hawk—mad about women's rights and that kind of thing. In the hotel where she met them, people fought very shy of her."
"Oh, she's a militant suffragist," said the solicitor quietly—"though she's not had time yet since her father's death to do any mischief. That—in confidence—is the meaning of the will."
The adjutant whistled.
"Goodness!—Winnington will have his work cut out for him. But he needn't accept."
"He has accepted. I heard this morning from the London solicitor."
"Your firm does the estate business down here?"
"For many years. I hope to see Mr. Winnington to-morrow or next day. He is evidently hurrying home—because of this."
There was silence for a few minutes; then the Captain said bluntly:
"It's an awful pity, you know, that kind of thing cropping up down here. We've escaped it so far."
"With such a lot of wild women about, what can you expect?" said the solicitor briskly. "Like the measles—sure to come our way sooner or later."
"Do you think they'll get what they want?" "What—the vote? No—not unless the men are fools." The refined, apostolic face set like iron.
"None of the womanly women want it," said the Captain with conviction. "You should hear my mother on it."
The solicitor did not reply. The adjutant's mother was not in his eyes a model of wisdom. Nor did his own opinion want any fortifying from outside.
Captain Andrews was not quite in the same position. He was conscious of a strong male instinct which disavowed Miss Blanchflower and all her kind; but at the same time he was exceedingly susceptible to female beauty, and it troubled his reasoning processes that anybody so wrong-headed should be so good-looking. His heart was soft, and his brain all that was wanted for his own purposes. But it did not enable him-it never had enabled him—to understand these extraordinary "goings-on," which the newspapers were every day reporting, on the part of well-to-do, educated women, who were ready—it seemed—to do anything outrageous—just for a vote! "Of course nobody would mind if the rich women—the tax-paying women—had a vote—help us Tories famously. But the women of the working-classes—why, Good Lord, look at them when there's any disturbance on—any big strike—look at Tonypandy!—a deal sight worse than the men! Give them the vote and they'd take us to the devil, even quicker than Lloyd George!"
Aloud he said—
"Do you know anything about that lady Miss Blanchflower had with her? She introduced me. Miss Marvell—I think that was the name. I thought I had heard it somewhere."
The solicitor lifted his eyebrows.
"I daresay. She was in the stone-throwing raid last August. Fined 20s. or a month, for damage in Pall Mall. She was in prison a week; then somebody paid her fine. She professed great annoyance, but one of the police told me it was privately paid by her own society. She's too important to them—they can't do without her. An extremely clever woman."
"Then what on earth does she come and bury herself down here for?" cried the Captain.
Masham shewed a meditative twist of the lip.
"Can't say, I'm sure. But they want money. And Miss Blanchflower is an important capture."
"I hope that girl will soon have the sense to shake them off!" said the Captain with energy. "She's a deal too beautiful for that kind of thing. I shall get my mother to come and talk to her."
The solicitor concealed his smile behind his Daily Telegraph. He had a real liking and respect for the Captain, but the family affection of the Andrews household was a trifle too idyllic to convince a gentleman so well acquainted with the seamy side of life. What about that hunted-looking girl, the Captain's sister? He didn't believe, he never had believed that Mrs. Andrews was quite so much of an angel as she pretended to be.
Meanwhile, no sooner had the fly left the station than Delia turned to her companion—
"Gertrude!—did you see what that man was reading who passed us just now? Our paper!—the Tocsin."
Gertrude Marvell lifted her eyebrows slightly.
"No doubt he bought it at Waterloo—out of curiosity."
"Why not out of sympathy? I thought he looked at us rather closely. Of course, if he reads the Tocsin he knows something about you! What fun it would be to discover a comrade and a brother down here!"
"It depends entirely upon what use we could make of him," said Miss Marvell. Then she turned suddenly on her companion—"Tell me really, Delia—how long do you want to stay here?"
"Well, a couple of months at least," said Delia, with a rather perplexed expression. "After all, Gertrude, it's my property now, and all the people on it, I suppose, will expect to see one and make friends. I don't want them to think that because I'm a suffragist I'm going to shirk. It wouldn't be good policy, would it?"
"It's all a question of the relative importance of things," said the other quietly. "London is our head quarters, and things are moving very rapidly."
"I know. But, dear, you did promise! for a time"—pleaded Delia. "Though of course I know how dull it must be for you, when you are the life and soul of so many things in London. But you must remember that I haven't a penny at this moment but what Mr. Winnington chooses to allow me! We must come to some understanding with him, mustn't we, before we can do anything? It is all so difficult!"—the girl's voice took a deep, passionate note—"horribly difficult, when I long to be standing beside you—and the others—in the open—fighting—for all I'm worth. But how can I, just yet? I ought to have eight thousand a year, and Mr. Winnington can cut me down to anything he pleases. It's just as important that I should get hold of my money—at this particular moment—as that I should be joining raids in London,—more important, surely—because we want money badly!—you say so yourself. I don't want it for myself; I want it all—for the cause! But the question is, how to get it—with this will in our way. I—"
"Ah, there's that house again!" exclaimed Miss Marvell, but in the same low restrained tone that was habitual to her. She bent forward to look at the stately building, on the hill-side, which according to Captain Andrews' information, was the untenanted property of Sir Wilfrid Lang, whom a shuffle of offices had just admitted to the Cabinet.
"What house?"—said Delia, not without a vague smart under the sudden change of subject. She had a natural turn for declamation; a girlish liking to hear herself talk; and Gertrude, her tutor in the first place, and now her counsellor and friend, had a quiet way of snubbing such inclinations, except when they could be practically useful. "You have the gifts of a speaker—we shall want you to speak more and more," she would say. But in private she rarely failed to interrupt an harangue, even the first beginnings of one.
However, the smart soon passed, and Delia too turned her eyes towards the house among the trees. She gave a little cry of pleasure.
"Oh, that's Monk Lawrence!—such a lovely—lovely old place! I used often to go there as a child—I adored it. But I can't remember who lives there now."
Gertrude Marvell handed on the few facts learned from the Captain.
"I knew"—she added—"that Sir Wilfrid Lang lived somewhere near here. That they told me at the office."
"And the house is empty?" Delia, flushing suddenly and vividly, turned to her companion.
"Except for the caretaker—who no doubt lives some where on the ground-floor."
There was silence a moment. Then Delia laughed uncomfortably.
"Look here, Gertrude, we can't attempt anything of that kind there: I remember now—it was Sir Wilfrid's brother who had the house, when I used to go there. He was a great friend of Father's; and his little girls and I were great chums. The house is just wonderful—full of treasures! I am sorry it belongs to Sir Wilfrid—but nobody could lift a finger against Monk Lawrence!"
Miss Marvell's eyes sparkled.
"He is the most formidable enemy we have," she said softly, between her closed lips. A tremor seemed to run through her slight frame.
Then she smiled, and her tone changed.
"Dear Delia, of course I shan't run you into any—avoidable—trouble, down here, apart from the things we have agreed on."
"What have we agreed on? Remind me!"
"In the first place, that we won't hide our opinions—or stop our propaganda—to please anybody."
"Certainly!" said Delia. "I shall have a drawing-room meeting as soon as possible. You seem to have fixed up a number of speaking engagements for us both. And we told the office to send us down tons of literature." Then her face broke into laughter—"Poor Mr. Winnington!"
* * * * *
"A rather nice old place, isn't it?" said Delia, an hour later, when the elderly housekeeper, who had received them with what had seemed to Delia's companion a quite unnecessary amount of fuss and family feeling, had at last left them alone in the drawing-room, after taking them over the house.
The girl spoke in a softened voice. She was standing thoughtfully by the open window looking out, her hands clasping a chair behind her. Her thin black dress, made short and plain, with a white frill at the open neck and sleeves, by its very meagreness emphasized the young beauty of the wearer,—a beauty full of significance, charged—over-charged—with character. The attitude should have been one of repose; it was on the contrary one of tension, suggesting a momentary balance only, of impetuous forces. Delia was indeed suffering the onset of a wave of feeling which had come upon her unexpectedly; for which she had not prepared herself. This rambling old house with its quiet garden and early Victorian furniture, had appealed to her in some profound and touching way. Her childhood stirred again in her, and deep inherited things. How well she remembered the low, spacious room, with its oak wainscotting, its book-cases and its pictures! That crayon over the writing-table of her grandmother in her white cap and shawl; her grandfather's chair, and the old Bible and Prayer-book, beside it, from which he used to read evening prayers; the stiff arm-chairs with their faded chintz covers; the writing-table with its presentation inkstand; the groups of silhouettes on the walls, her forbears of long ago; the needlework on the fire-screen, in which, at nine years old, she had been proud to embroider the white rose-bud still so lackadaisically prominent; the stool on which she used to sit and knit beside her grandmother; the place on the run where the old collie used to lie—she saw his ghost there still!—all these familiar and even ugly objects seemed to be putting out spiritual hands to her, playing on nerves once eagerly responsive. She had never stayed for long in the house; but she had always been happy there. The moral atmosphere of it came back to her, and with a sense of the old rest and protection. Her grandfather might have been miserly to others; he had always been kind to her. But it was her grandmother who had been supreme in that room. A woman of clear sense and high character; narrow and prejudiced in many respects, but sorely missed by many when her turn came to die; a Christian in more than name; sincerely devoted to her teasing little granddaughter. A woman who had ordered her household justly and kindly; a personality not soon forgotten.
"There is something of her in me still," thought Delia—"at least, I hope there is. And where—is the rest of me going?"
"I think I'll take off my things, dear," said Gertrude Marvell, breaking in on the girl's reverie. "Don't trouble. I know my room."
The door closed. Delia was now looking out into the garden, where on the old grass-slopes the September shadows lay—still and slumbrous. The peace of it, the breath of its old-world tradition, came upon her, relaxing the struggle of mind and soul in which she had been living for months, and that ceaseless memory which weighed upon her of her dying father,—his bitter and increasing recoil from all that, for a while, he had indulgently permitted—his final estrangement from her, her own obstinacy and suffering.
"Yes!"—she cried suddenly, out loud, to the rosebushes beyond the open window—"but it had a reason—it had a reason!" She clasped her hands fiercely to her breast. "And there is no birth without pain."
A few days after her arrival, Delia woke up in the early dawn in the large room that had been her grandmother's. She sat up in the broad white bed with its dimity curtains, her hands round her knees, peering into the half darkened room, where, however, she had thrown the windows wide open, behind the curtains, before going to sleep. On the opposite wall she saw an indifferent picture of her father as a boy of twelve on his pony; beside it a faded photograph of her mother, her beautiful mother, in her wedding dress. There had never been any real sympathy between her mother and her grandmother. Old Lady Blanchflower had resented her son's marriage with a foreign woman, with a Greek, in particular. The Greeks were not at that moment of much account in the political world, and Lady Blanchflower thought of them as a nation of shams, trading on a great past which did not belong to them. Her secret idea was that out of their own country they grew rich in disreputable ways, and while at home, where only the stupid ones stayed, they were a shabby, half-civilised people, mostly bankrupt. She could not imagine how a girl got any bringing up at Athens, and believed nothing that her son told her. So that when the young Mrs. Blanchflower arrived, there were jars in the household, and it was not long before the spoilt and handsome bride went to her husband in tears, and asked to be taken away. Delia was surprised and touched, therefore, to find her mother's portrait in her grandmother's room, where nothing clearly had been admitted that had not some connection with family affection or family pride. She wondered whether on her mother's death her grandmother had hung the picture there in dumb confession of, or penance for, her own unkindness.
The paper of the room was a dingy grey, and the furniture was heavily old-fashioned and in Delia's eyes inconvenient. "If I'm going to keep the room I shall make it all white," she thought, "with proper fitted wardrobes, and some low bookcases—a bath, too, of course, in the dressing-room. And they must put in electric light at once! How could they have done without it all this time! I believe with all its faults, this house could be made quite pretty!"
And she fell into a reverie,—eagerly constructive—wherein Maumsey became, at a stroke, a House Beautiful, at once modern and aesthetically right, a dim harmony in lovely purples, blues and greens, with the few fine things it possessed properly spaced and grouped, the old gardens showing through the latticed windows, and golden or silvery lights, like those in a Blanche interior, gleaming in its now dreary rooms.