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Title:      Mrs Ames
Author:     E. F. Benson
eBook No.:  0501171.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          December 2005
Date most recently updated: December 2005

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Title:      Mrs Ames
Author:     E. F. Benson

First published in 1912


Certainly the breakfast tongue, which was cut for the first time
that morning, was not of the pleasant reddish hue which Mrs. Altham
was justified in expecting, considering that the delicacy in
question was not an ordinary tinned tongue (you had to take things
as you found them, if your false sense of economy led you to order
tinned goods) but one that came out of a fine glass receptacle with
an eminent label on it.  It was more of the colour of cold mutton,
unattractive if not absolutely unpleasant to the eye, while to the
palate it proved to be singularly lacking in flavour.  Altogether
it was a great disappointment, and for this reason, when Mr. Altham
set out at a quarter-past twelve to stroll along to the local club
in Queensgate Street with the ostensible purpose of seeing if there
was any fresh telegram about the disturbances in Morocco, his wife
accompanied him to the door of that desirable mansion, round which
was grouped a variety of chained-up dogs in various states of
boredom and irritation, and went on into the High Street in order
to make in person a justifiable complaint at her grocer's.  She
would be sorry to have to take her custom elsewhere, but if Mr.
Pritchard did not see his way to sending her another tongue (of
course without further charge) she would be obliged . . .

So this morning there was a special and imperative reason why Mrs.
Altham should walk out before lunch to the High Street, and why her
husband should make a morning visit to the club.  But to avoid
misconception it may be stated at once that there was, on every day
of the week except Sunday, some equally compelling cause to account
for these expeditions.  If it was very wet, perhaps, Mrs. Altham
might not go to the High Street, but wet or fine her husband went
to his club.  And exactly the same thing happened in the case of
most of their friends and acquaintances, so that Mr. Altham was
certain of meeting General Fortescue, Mr. Brodie, Major Ames, and
others in the smoking-room, while Mrs. Altham encountered their
wives and sisters on errands like her own in the High Street.  She
often professed superior distaste for gossip, but when she met her
friends coming in and out of shops, it was but civil and reasonable
that she should have a few moments' chat with them.  Thus, if any
striking events had taken place since the previous afternoon, they
all learned about them.  Simultaneously there was a similar
interchange of thought and tidings going on in the smoking-room at
the club, so that when Mr. Altham had drunk his glass of sherry and
returned home to lunch at one-thirty, there was probably little of
importance and interest which had not reached the ears of himself
or his wife.  It could then be discussed at that meal.

Queensgate Street ran at right-angles to the High Street,
debouching into that thoroughfare at the bottom of its steep slope,
while the grocer's shop lay at the top of it.  The morning was a
hot day of early June, but to a woman of Mrs. Altham's spare frame
and active limbs, the ascent was no more than a pleasurable
exercise, and the vivid colour of her face (so unlike the
discouraging hues of the breakfast tongue) was not the result of
her exertions.  It was habitually there, and though that and the
restlessness of her dark and rather beady eyes might have made a
doctor, on a cursory glance (especially if influenza was about),
think that she suffered from some slight rise of temperature, he
would have been in error.  Her symptoms betokened not an unnatural
warmth of the blood, but were the visible sign of her eager and
slightly impatient mind.  Like the inhabitants of ancient Athens,
she was always on the alert to hear some new thing (though she
disliked gossip), but her mind appreciated the infinitesimal more
than the important.  The smaller a piece of news was, the more
vivid was her perception of it, and the firmer her grip of it:
large questions produced but a vague impression on her.

Her husband, a retired solicitor, was singularly well-adapted to be
the partner of her life, for his mind was very much akin to hers,
and his appetite for news no less rapacious.  Indeed, the chief
difference between them in this respect was that she snapped at her
food like a wolf in winter, whereas he took it quietly, in the
manner of a leisurely boa-constrictor.  But his capacity was in no
way inferior to hers.  Similarly, they practised the same harmless
hypocrisies on each other, and politely forbore to question each
other's sincerity.  An instance has already been recorded where
such lack of trust might have been manifested, but it never entered
Mrs. Altham's head to tell her husband just now that he cared
nothing whatever about the disturbances in Morocco, while she would
have thought it very odd conduct on his part to suggest that a
sharply worded note to Mr. Pritchard would save her the walk uphill
on this hot morning.  But it was only sensible to go on their
quests; had they not ascertained if there was any news, they would
have had nothing to talk about at lunch.  As it was, conversation
never failed them, for this little town of Riseborough was crammed
with interest and incident, for all who felt a proper concern in
the affairs of other people.

The High Street this morning was very full, for it was market-day,
and Mrs. Altham's progress was less swift than usual.  Barrows of
itinerant vendors were crowded into the road from the edge of the
pavements, leaving a straitened channel for a traffic swelled by
farmers' carts and occasional droves of dusty and perplexed looking
cattle, being driven in from the country round.  More than once
Mrs. Altham had to step into the doorway of some shop to avoid the
random erring of a company of pigs or sheep which made irruption on
to the pavement.  But it was interesting to observe, in one such
enforced pause, the impeded passage of Sir James Westbourne's
motor, with the owner, broad-faced and good-humoured, driving
himself, and to conjecture as to what business brought him into the
town.  Then she saw that there was his servant sitting in the body
of the car, while there were two portmanteaus on the luggage-rail
behind.  There was no need for further conjecture: clearly he was
coming from the South-Eastern station at the top of the hill, and
was driving out to his place four miles distant along the Maidstone
road.  Then he caught sight of somebody on the pavement whom he
knew, and, stopping the car, entered into conversation.

For the moment Mrs. Altham could not see who it was; then, as the
car moved on again, there appeared from behind it the tall figure
of Dr. Evans.  Mrs. Altham was not so foolish as to suppose that
their conversation had necessarily anything to do with medical
matters; she did not fly to the conclusion that Lady Westbourne or
any of the children must certainly be ill.  To a person of her
mental grasp it was sufficient to remember that Mrs. Evans was Sir
James' first cousin.  She heard also the baronet's cheerful voice
as the two parted, saying, "Saturday the twenty-eighth, then.  I'll
tell my wife."  That, of course, settled it; it required only a
moment's employment of her power of inference to make her feel
convinced that Saturday the twenty-eighth would be the date for
Mrs. Evans' garden-party.  There were a good many garden-parties in
Riseborough about then, for strawberries might be expected to be
reasonably cheap.  Probably the date had been settled only this
morning; she might look forward to receiving the "At-Home" card
(four to seven) by the afternoon post.

The residential quarters of Riseborough lay both at the top of the
hill, on which the town stood, clustering round the fine old Norman
church, and at the bottom, along Queensgate Street, which passed
into the greater spaciousness of St. Barnabas Road.  On the whole,
that might be taken to be the Park Lane of the place, and commanded
the highest rents; every house there, in addition to being
completely detached, had a small front garden with a carriage drive
long enough to hold three carriages simultaneously, if each horse
did not mind putting its nose within rubbing distance of the
carriage in front of it, while the foremost projected a little into
the road again.  But there were good houses also at the top of the
hill, where Dr. Evans lived, and those who lived below naturally
considered themselves advantageously-placed in being sheltered from
the bleak easterly winds which often prevailed in spring, while
those at the top wondered among themselves in sultry summer days
how it was possible to exist in the airless atmosphere below.  The
middle section of the town was mercantile, and it was here that the
ladies of the place, both from above and below, met each other with
such invariable fortuitousness in the hours before lunch.  To-day,
however, though the street was so full, it was for purposes of news-
gathering curiously deserted, and apart from the circumstance of
inferentially learning the date of Mrs. Evans' garden-party, Mrs.
Altham found nothing to detain her until she had got to the very
door of Mr. Pritchard's grocery.  But there her prolonged fast was
broken; Mrs. Taverner was ready to give and receive, and after the
business of the colourless tongue was concluded in a manner that
was perfectly creditable to Mr. Pritchard, the two ladies retraced
their steps (for Mrs. Taverner was of St. Barnabas Road) down the
hill again.

Mrs. Taverner quite agreed about the strong probability of Mrs.
Evans' garden-party being on the twenty-eighth; and proceeded to
unload herself of far more sensational information.  She talked
rather slowly, but without ever stopping of her own accord, so that
she got as much into a given space of time as most people.  Even if
she was temporarily stopped by an interruption, she kept her mouth
open, so as to be able to proceed at the earliest possible moment.

"Yes, three weeks, as you say, is a long notice, is it not?" she
said; "but I'm sure people are wise to give long notice, otherwise
they will find all their guests are already engaged, such a
quantity of parties as there will be this summer.  Mrs. Ames has
sent out dinner-cards for exactly the same date, I am told.  I
daresay they agreed together to have a day full of gaiety.  Perhaps
you are asked to dine there on the twenty-eighth, Mrs. Altham?"

"No, not at present."

"Well, then, it will be news to you," said Mrs. Taverner, "if what
I have heard is true, and it was Mrs. Fortescue's governess who
told me; whom I met taking one of the children to the dentist."

"That would be Edward," said Mrs. Altham unerringly.  "I have often
noticed his teeth are most irregular: one here, another there."

She spoke as if it was more usual for children to have all their
teeth on the same spot, but Mrs. Taverner understood.

"Very likely; indeed, I think I have noticed it myself.  Well, what
I have to tell you seems very irregular, too; Edward's teeth are
nothing to it.  It was talked about, so Miss--I can never recollect
her name, and, from what I hear, I do not think Mrs. Fortescue
finds her very satisfactory--it was talked about, so Mrs.
Fortescue's governess told me, at breakfast time, and it was agreed
that General Fortescue should accept, for if you are asked three
weeks ahead it is no use saying you are engaged.  No doubt Mrs.
Ames gave that long notice for that very reason."

"But what is it that is so irregular?" asked Mrs. Altham, nearly
dancing with impatience at these circumlocutions.

"Did I not tell you?  Ah, there is Mrs. Evans; I was told she was
asked too, without her husband.  How slowly she walks; I should not
be surprised if her husband had told her never to hurry.  She did
not see us; otherwise we might have found out more."

"About what?" asked the martyred Mrs. Altham.

"Why, what I am saying.  Mrs. Ames has asked General Fortescue to
dine that night, without asking Mrs. Fortescue, and has asked Mrs.
Evans to dine without asking Dr. Evans.  I don't know who the rest
of the party are.  I must try to find time this afternoon to call
on Mrs. Ames, and see if she lets anything drop about it.  It seems
very odd to ask a husband without his wife, and a wife without her
husband.  And we do not know yet whether Dr. Evans will allow his
wife to go there without him."

Mrs. Altham was suitably astounded.

"But I never heard of such a thing," she said, "and I expect my
memory is as" (she nearly said "long," but stopped in time) "clear
and retentive as that of most people.  It seems very strange: it
will look as if General Fortescue and his wife are not on good
terms, and, as far as I know, there is no reason to suppose that.
However, it is none of my business, and I am thankful to say that I
do not concern myself with things that do not concern me.  Had Mrs.
Ames wanted my advice as to the desirability of asking a husband
without a wife, or a wife without a husband, I should have been
very glad to give it her.  But as she has not asked it, I must
suppose that she does not want it, and I am sure I am very thankful
to keep my opinion to myself.  But if she asked me what I thought
about it, I should be compelled to tell her the truth.  I am very
glad to be spared any such unpleasantness.  Dear me, here I am at
home again.  I had no idea we had come all this way."

Mrs. Taverner seemed inclined to linger, but the other had caught
sight of her husband's face looking out of the window known as his
study, where he was accustomed to read the paper in the morning,
and go to sleep in the evening.  This again was very irregular, for
the watch on her wrist told her that it was not yet a quarter-past
one, the hour at which he invariably ordered a glass of sherry at
the club, to fortify him for his walk home.  Possibly he had heard
something about this revolutionary social scheme in the club, and
had hastened his return in order to be able to talk it over with
her without delay.  For a moment it occurred to her to ask Mrs.
Taverner to join them at lunch, but, after all, she had heard what
that lady had to tell, and one of the smaller bundles of asparagus
could not be considered ample for more than two.  So she checked
the hospitable impulse, and hurried into his study, alert with
suppressed information, though she did not propose to let it
explode at once, for the method of them both was to let news slip
out as if accidentally.  And, even as she crossed the hall, an idea
for testing the truth of what she had heard, which was both simple
and ingenious, came into her head.  She despised poor Mrs.
Taverner's scheme of calling on Mrs. Ames, in the hope of her
letting something drop, for Mrs. Ames never let things drop in that
way, though she was an adept at picking them up.  Her own plan was
far more effective.  Also it harmonized well with the system of
mutual insincerities.

"I have been thinking, my dear," she said briskly, as she entered
his study, "that it is time for us to be asking Major and Mrs. Ames
to dinner again.  Yes: Pritchard was reasonable, and will send me
another tongue, and take back the old one, which I am sure I am
quite glad that he should do, though it would have come in for
savouries very handily.  Still, he is quite within his rights,
since he does not charge for it, and I should not think of
quarrelling with him because he exercises them."

Mr. Altham was as keen a housekeeper as his wife.

"Its colour would not have signified in a savoury," he said.

"No, but as Pritchard supplies a new tongue without charge, we
cannot complain.  About Mrs. Ames, now.  We dined with them quite a
month ago: I do not want her to think we are lacking in the
exchange of hospitalities, which I am sure are so pleasant on both

Mr. Altham considered this question, caressing the side of his
face.  There was no doubt that he had a short pointed beard on his
chin, but about half-way up the jawbone the hair got shorter and
shorter, and he was quite clean-shaven before it got up to his ear.
It was always a question, in fact, among the junior and less
respectful members of the club, whether old Altham had whiskers or
not.  The general opinion was that he had whiskers, but was unaware
of that possession.

"It is odd that the idea of asking Mrs. Ames to dinner occurred to
you to-day," he said, "for I was wondering also whether we did not
owe her some hospitality.  And Major Ames, of course," he added.

Mrs. Altham smiled a bright detective smile.

"Next week is impossible, I know," she said, "and so is the week
after, as there is a perfect rush of engagements then.  But after
that, we might find an evening free.  How would it suit you, if I
asked Mrs. Ames and a few friends to dine on the Saturday of that
week?  Let me count--seven, fourteen, twenty-one, yes; on the
twenty-eighth.  I think that probably Mrs. Evans will have her
garden-party on that day.  It would make a pleasant ending to such
an afternoon.  And it would be less of an interruption to both of
us, if we give up that day.  It would be better than disarranging
the week by sacrificing another evening."

Mr. Altham rang the bell before replying.

"It is hardly likely that Major and Mrs. Ames would have an
engagement so long ahead," he said.  "I think we shall be sure to
secure them."

The bell was answered.

"A glass of sherry," he said.  "I forgot, my dear, to take my glass
of sherry at the club.  Young Morton was talking to me, though I
don't know why I call him young, and I forgot about my sherry.
Yes, I should think the twenty-eighth would be very suitable."

Mrs. Altham waited until the parlour-maid had deposited the glass
of sherry, and had completely left the room with a shut door behind

"I heard a very extraordinary story to-day," she said, "though I
don't for a moment believe it is true.  If it is, we shall find
that Mrs. Ames cannot dine with us on the twenty-eighth, but we
shall have asked her with plenty of notice, so that it will count.
But one never knows how little truth there may be in what Mrs.
Taverner says, for it was Mrs. Taverner who told me.  She said that
Mrs. Ames has asked General Fortescue to dine with her that night,
without asking Mrs. Fortescue, and has invited Mrs. Evans also
without her husband.  One doesn't for a moment believe it, but if
we asked Mrs. Ames for the same night we should very likely hear
about it.  Was anything said at the club about it?"

Mr. Altham affected a carelessness which he was very far from

"Young Morton did say something of the sort," he said.  "I was not
listening particularly, since, as you know, I went there to see if
there was anything to be learned about Morocco, and I get tired of
his tittle-tattle.  But he did mention something of the kind.
There is the luncheon-bell, my dear.  You might write your note
immediately and send it by hand, for James will be back from his
dinner by now, and tell him to wait for an answer."

Mrs. Altham adopted this suggestion at once.  She knew, of course,
perfectly well that the thrilling quality of the news had brought
her husband home without waiting to take his glass of sherry at the
club, a thing which had not happened since that morning a year ago,
when he had learned that Mrs. Fortescue had dismissed her cook
without a character, but she did not think of accusing him of
duplicity.  After all, it was the amiable desire to talk these
matters over with her without the loss of a moment which was the
motive at the base of his action, and so laudable a motive covered
all else.  So she had her note written with amazing speed and
cordiality, and the boot-and-knife boy, who also exercised the
function of the gardener, was instructed to wash his hands and go
upon his errand.

Criticism of Mrs. Ames' action, based on the hypothesis that the
news was true, was sufficient to afford brisk conversation until
the return of the messenger, and Mrs. Altham put back on her plate
her first stick of asparagus and tore the note open.  A glance was

"It is all quite true," she said.  "Mrs. Ames writes, 'We are so
sorry to be obliged to refuse your kind invitation, but General
Fortescue and Millicent Evans, with a few other friends, are dining
with us this evening.'  Well, I am sure!  So, after all, Mrs.
Taverner was right.  I feel I owe her an apology for doubting the
truth of it, and I shall slip round after lunch to tell her that
she need not call on Mrs. Ames, which she was thinking of doing.
I can save her that trouble."

Mr. Altham considered and condemned the wisdom of this slipping

"That might land you in an unpleasantness, my dear," he said.
"Mrs. Taverner might ask you how you were certain of it.  You would
not like to say that you asked the Ames' to dinner on the same
night in order to find out."

"No, that is true.  You see things very quickly, Henry.  But, on
the other hand, if Mrs. Taverner does go to call, Mrs. Ames might
let drop the fact that she had received this invitation from us.
I would sooner let Mrs. Taverner know it myself than let it get to
her in roundabout ways.  I will think over it; I have no doubt I
shall be able to devise something.  Now about Mrs. Ames' new
departure.  I must say that it seems to me a very queer piece of
work.  If she is to ask you without me, and me without you, is the
other to sit at home alone for dinner?  For it is not to be
expected that somebody else will on the very same night always ask
the other of us.  As likely as not, if there is another invitation
for the same night, it will be for both of us, for I do not suppose
that we shall all follow Mrs. Ames' example, and model our
hospitalities on hers."

Mrs. Altham paused a moment to eat her asparagus, which was getting

"As a matter of fact, my dear, we do usually follow Mrs. Ames'
example," he said.  "She may be said to be the leader of our
society here."

"And if you gave me a hundred guesses why we do follow her
example," said Mrs. Altham rather excitedly, picking up a head of
asparagus that had fallen on her napkin, "I am sure I could not
give you one answer that you would think sensible.  There are a
dozen of our friends in Riseborough who are just as well born as
she is, and as many more much better off; not that I say that money
should have anything to do with position, though you know as well
as I do that you could buy their house over their heads, Henry, and
afford to keep it empty, while, all the time, I, for one, don't
believe that they have got three hundred a year between them over
and above his pay.  And as for breeding, if Mrs. Ames' manners seem
to you so worthy of copy, I can't understand what it is you find to
admire in them, except that she walks into a room as if it all
belonged to her, and looks over everybody's head, which is very
ridiculous, as she can't be more than two inches over five feet,
and I doubt if she's as much.  I never have been able to see, and I
do not suppose I ever shall be able to see, why none of us can do
anything in Riseborough without asking Mrs. Ames' leave.  Perhaps
it is my stupidity, though I do not know that I am more stupid than

Henry Altham felt himself to blame for this agitated harangue.  It
was careless of him to have alluded to Mrs. Ames' leadership, for
if there was a subject in this world that produced a species of
frenzy and a complete absence of full-stops in his wife, it was
that.  Desperately before now had she attempted to wrest the
sceptre from Mrs. Ames' podgy little hands, and to knock the crown
off her noticeably small head.  She had given parties that were
positively Lucullan in their magnificence on her first coming to
Riseborough; the regimental band (part of it, at least) had played
under the elm-tree in her garden on the occasion of a mere
afternoon-party, while at a dance she had given (a thing almost
unknown in Riseborough) there had been a cotillion in which the
presents cost up to five and sixpence each, to say nothing of the
trouble.  She had given a party for children at which there was not
only a Christmas-tree, but a conjuror, and when a distinguished
actor once stayed with her, she had, instead of keeping him to
herself, which was Mrs. Ames' plan when persons of eminence were
her guests, asked practically the whole of Riseborough to lunch,
tea and dinner.  To all of these great parties she had bidden Mrs.
Ames (with a view to her deposition), and on certainly one occasion--
that of the cotillion--she had heard afterwards unimpeachable
evidence to show that that lady had remarked that she saw no reason
for such display.  Therefore to this day she had occasional bursts
of volcanic amazement at Mrs. Ames' undoubted supremacy, and made
occasional frantic attempts to deprive her of her throne.  There
was no method of attack which she had not employed; she had
flattered and admired Mrs. Ames openly to her face, with a view to
be permitted to share the throne; she had abused and vilified her
with a view to pulling her off it; she had refrained from asking
her to her own house for six months at a time, and for six months
at a time she had refused to accept any of Mrs. Ames' invitations.
But it was all no use; the vilifications, so she had known for a
fact, had been repeated to Mrs. Ames, who had not taken the
slightest notice of them, nor abated one jot of her rather
condescending cordiality, and in spite of Mrs. Altham's refusing to
come to her house, had continued to send her invitations at the
usual rate of hospitality.  Indeed, for the last year or two Mrs.
Altham had really given up all thought of ever deposing her, and
her husband, though on this occasion he felt himself to blame for
this convulsion, felt also that he might reasonably have supposed
the volcano to be extinct.  Yet such is the disconcerting habit of
these subliminal forces; they break forth with renewed energy
exactly when persons of exactly average caution think that there is
no longer any life in them.

He hastened to repair his error, and to calm the tempest, by
fulsome agreement.

"Well, my dear," he said, "certainly there is a great deal in what
you say, for we have no reason to suppose that everybody will ask
husband and wife singly, or that two of this new set of invitations
will always come for the same night.  Then, too, there is the
question of carriage-hire, which, though it does not much matter to
us, will be an important item to others.  For, every time that
husband and wife dine out, there will be two carriages needed
instead of one.  I wonder if Mrs. Ames had thought of that."

"Not she," said Mrs. Altham, whose indignation still oozed and
spurted.  "Why, as often as not, she comes on foot, with her great
goloshes over her evening shoes.  Ah, I have it!"

A brilliant idea struck her, which did much to restore her

"You may depend upon it," she said, "that Mrs. Ames means to ask
just husband or wife, as the case may be, and make that count.
That will save her half the cost of her dinners, and now I come to
think of it, I am sure I should not be surprised to learn that they
have lost money lately.  Major Ames may have been speculating, for
I saw the Financial News on the table last time I was there.  I
daresay that is it.  That would account, too, for the very poor
dinner we got.  Salmon was in season, I remember, but we only had
plaice or something common, and the ordinary winter desert, just
oranges and apples.  You noticed it, too, Henry.  You told me that
you had claret that couldn't have cost more than eighteenpence a
bottle, and but one glass of port afterwards.  And the dinner
before that, though there was champagne, I got little but foam.
Poor thing!  I declare I am sorry for her if that is the reason,
and I am convinced it is."

Mrs. Altham felt considerably restored by this explanation, and got
briskly up.

"I think I will just run round to Mrs. Taverner's," she said, "to
tell her there is no need for her to call on Mrs. Ames, since you
have heard the same story at the club, so that we can rest assured
that it is true.  That will do famously; it will account for
everything.  And there is Pritchard's cart at the gate.  That will
be the tongue.  I wonder if he has told his man to take away the
pale one.  If not, as you say, it will serve for savouries."

Summer had certainly come in earnest, and Mr. Altham, when he went
out on to the shaded verandah to the east of the house, in order to
smoke his cigar before going up to the golf-links, found that the
thermometer registered eighty degrees in the shade.  Consequently,
before enjoying that interval of quiescence which succeeded his
meals, and to which he felt he largely owed the serenity of his
health, he went upstairs to change his cloth coat for the light
alpaca jacket which he always wore when the weather was really hot.
Last year, he remembered, he had not put it on at all until the end
of July, except that on one occasion he wore it over his ordinary
coat (for it was loosely made) taking a drive along an extremely
dusty road.  But the heat to-day certainly called for the alpaca
jacket, and he settled himself in his chair (after tapping the
barometer and observing with satisfaction that the concussion
produced an upward tremor of the needle, which was at "Set Fair"
already) feeling much more cool and comfortable.

Life in general was a very cool and comfortable affair to this
contented gentleman.  Even in youth he had not been of very
exuberant vitality, and he had passed through his early years
without giving a moment's anxiety to himself or his parents.  Like
a good child who eats and digests what is given him, so Mr. Altham,
even in his early manhood, had accepted life exactly as he found
it, and had seldom wondered what it was all about, or what it was
made of.  His emotions had been stirred when he met his wife, and
he had once tried to write a poem to her--soon desisting, owing to
the obvious scarcity of rhymes in the English language, and since
then his emotional record had been practically blank.  If happiness
implies the power to want and to aspire, that quality must be
denied him, but his content was so profound that he need not be
pitied for the lack of the more effervescent emotions.  All that he
cared about was abundantly his: there was the Times to be read
after breakfast, news to be gleaned at the club before lunch, golf
to be played in the afternoon, and a little well-earned repose to
be enjoyed before dinner, while at odd moments he looked at the
thermometer and tapped the aneroid.  He was distinctly kindly by
nature, and would no doubt have cheerfully put himself to small
inconveniences in order to lighten the troubles of others, but he
hardly ever found it necessary to practise discomfort, since those
with whom he associated were sunk in precisely the same lethargy of
content as himself.  Being almost completely devoid of imagination,
no qualms or questionings as to the meaning of the dramas of life
presented themselves to him, and his annual subscriptions to the
local hospital and certain parish funds connoted no more to him
than did the money he paid at the station for his railway ticket.
He was, in fact, completely characteristic of the society of
Riseborough, which largely consisted of men who had retired from
their professions and spent their days, with unimportant
variations, in precisely the same manner as he did.  Necessarily
they were not aware of the amazing emptiness of their lives, for if
they had been, they would probably have found life very dull, and
have tried to fill it with some sort of interest.  As it was, golf,
gardening, and gossip made the days pass so smoothly and quickly
that it would really have been hazardous to attempt to infuse any
life into them, for it might have produced upset and fermentation.
But these chronicles would convey a very false impression if they
made it seem as if life at Riseborough appeared dull or empty at
Riseborough.  The affairs of other people were so perennial a
source of interest that it would only be a detached or sluggish
mind that was not perpetually stimulated.  And this stimulus was
not of alcoholic character, nor was it succeeded by reaction and
headache after undue indulgence.  Mr. Altham woke each morning with
a clean palate, so to speak, and an appetite and digestion quite
unimpaired.  As yet, he had not to seek to fill the hours of the
day with gardening, like Major Ames, or with continuous rubbers of
bridge in the card-room at the club; his days were full enough
without those additional distractions, which he secretly rather
despised as signs of senility, and wondered that Major Ames, who
was still, he supposed, not much more than forty-five, should so
soon have taken to a hobby that was better fitted for ladies and
septuagenarians.  It was not that he did not like flowers; he
thought them pretty enough things in their place, and was pleased
when he looked out of the bathroom window in the morning, and saw
the neat row of red geraniums which ran along the border by the
wall, between calceolarias and lobelias.  Very likely when he was
older, and other interests had faded, he might take to gardening,
too; at present he preferred that the hired man should spend two
days a week in superintending the operations of James.  Certainly
there would be some sense in looking after a vegetable garden, for
there was an intelligible end in view there--namely, the production
of early peas and giant asparagus for the table, but since the
garden at Cambridge House was not of larger capacity than was
occupied with a croquet lawn and a couple of flower borders, it was
impossible to grow vegetables, and the production of a new red
sweet-pea, about which Major Ames had really rendered himself
tedious last summer, was quite devoid of interest to him,
especially since there were plenty of other red flowers before.

His cigar was already half-smoked before he recalled himself from
this pleasant vacancy of mind which had succeeded the summer
resumal of his alpaca jacket, and for the ten minutes that still
remained to him before the cab from the livery-stables which was to
take him up the long hill to the golf-links would be announced, he
roused himself to a greater activity of brain.  It was natural that
his game with Mr. Turner this afternoon should first occupy his
thoughts.  He felt sure he could beat him if only he paid a very
strict attention to the game, and did not let his mind wander.  A
few days ago, Mr. Turner had won merely because he himself had been
rather late in arriving at the club-house, and had started with the
sense of hurry about him.  But to-day he had ordered the cab at ten
minutes to three, instead of at the hour.  Thus he could both start
from here and arrive there without this feeling of fuss.  Their
appointed hour was not till a quarter-past three, and it took a
bare fifteen minutes to drive up.  Also he had on his alpaca
jacket; he would not, as on the last occasion of their encounter,
be uncomfortably hot.  As usual, he would play his adversary for
the sum of half-a-crown; that should pay both for cab and caddie.

His thoughts took a wider range.  Certainly it was a strange thing
that Mrs. Ames should ask husbands without their wives, and wives
without their husbands.  Of course, to ask Mrs. Evans without the
doctor was less remarkable than to ask General Fortescue without
his wife, for it sometimes happened that Dr. Evans was sent for in
the middle of dinner to attend on a patient, and once, when he was
giving a party at his own house, he had received a note which led
him to get up at once, and say to the lady on his right, "I am
afraid I must go; maternity case," which naturally had caused a
very painful feeling of embarrassment, succeeded by a buzz of
feverish and haphazard conversation.  But to ask General Fortescue
without his wife was a very different affair; it was not possible
that Mrs. Fortescue should be sent for in the middle of dinner, and
cause dislocation in the party.  He felt that if any hostess except
Mrs. Ames had attempted so startling an innovation, she would, even
with her three-weeks' notice, have received chilling refusals
coupled with frankly incredible reasons for declining.  Thus with
growing radius of thought he found himself considering the case of
Mrs. Ames' undoubted supremacy in the Riseborough world.

Most of what his wife had said in her excited harangue had been
perfectly well-founded.  Mrs. Ames was not rich, and a marked
parsimony often appeared to have presided over the ordering of her
dinners; while, so far as birth was concerned, at least two other
residents here were related to baronets just as much as she was;
Mrs. Evans, for instance, was first cousin of the present Sir James
Westbourne, whereas Mrs. Ames was more distant than that from the
same fortunate gentleman by one remove.  Her mother, that is to
say, had been the eldest sister of the last baronet but one, and
older than he, so that beyond any question whatever, if Mrs. Ames'
mother had been a boy, and she had been a boy also, she would now
have been a baronet herself in place of the cheerful man who had
been seen by Mrs. Altham driving his motor-car down the High Street
that morning.  As for General Fortescue, he was the actual brother
of a baronet, and there was the end of the matter.  But though
Riseborough in general had a very proper appreciation of the
deference due to birth, Mr. Altham felt that Mrs. Ames' supremacy
was not really based on so wholesale a rearrangement of parents and
sexes.  Nor, again, were her manners and breeding such as compelled
homage; she seemed to take her position for granted, and very
seldom thanked her hostess for "a very pleasant evening" when she
went away.  Nor was she remarkable for her good looks; indeed, she
was more nearly remarkable for the absence of them.  Yet, somehow,
Mr. Altham could not, perhaps owing to his lack of imagination, see
anybody else, not even his own wife, occupying Mrs. Ames' position.
There was some force about her that put her where she was.  You
felt her efficiency; you guessed that should situations arise Mrs.
Ames could deal with them.  She had a larger measure of reality
than the majority of Mr. Altham's acquaintances.  She did not seem
to exert herself in any way, or call attention to what she did, and
yet when Mrs. Ames called on some slightly doubtful newcomer to
Riseborough, it was certain that everybody else would call too.
And one defect she had of the most glaring nature.  She appeared to
take the most tepid interest only in what every one said about
everybody else.  Once, not so long ago, Mrs. Altham had shown
herself more than ready to question, on the best authority, the
birth and upbringing of Mrs. Turner, the election of whose husband
to the club had caused so many members to threaten resignation.
But all Mrs. Ames had said, when it was clear that the shadiest
antecedents were filed, so to speak, for her perusal, was, "I have
always found her a very pleasant woman.  She is dining with us on
Tuesday."  Or again, when he himself was full of the praise of Mrs.
Taverer, to whom Mrs. Ames was somewhat coldly disposed--(though
that lady had called three times, and was perhaps calling again
this afternoon, Mrs. Ames had never once asked her to lunch or
dine, and was believed to have left cards without even inquiring
whether she was in)--Mrs. Ames had only answered his panegyrics by
saying, "I am told she is a very good-natured sort of woman."

Mr. Altham, hearing the stopping of a cab at his front-door, got
up.  It was still thirteen minutes to three, but he was ready to
start.  Indeed, he felt that motion and distraction would be very
welcome, for there had stolen into his brain a strangely upsetting
idea.  It was very likely quite baseless and ill-founded, but it
did occur to him that this defect on the part of Mrs. Ames as
regards her incuriousness on the subject of the small affairs of
other people was somehow connected with her ascendency.  He had so
often thought of it as a defect that it was quite a shock to find
himself wondering whether it was a quality.  In any case, it was a
quality which he was glad to be without.  The possession of it
would have robbed him of quite nine points of the laws that
governed his nature.  He would have been obliged to cultivate a
passion for gardening, like Major Ames.  Of course, if you married
a woman quite ten years your senior, you had to take to something,
and it was lucky Major Ames had not taken to drink.

He felt quite cynical, and lost the first four holes.  Later, but
too late, he pulled himself together.  But it was poor consolation
to win the bye only.


Mrs. Ames put up her black and white sunshade as she stepped into
the hot street outside Dr. Evans' house, about half-past six on the
evening of the twenty-eighth of June, and proceeded afoot past the
half-dozen houses that lay between it and the High Street.  In
appearance she was like a small, good-looking toad in half-
mourning; or, to state the comparison with greater precision, she
was small for a woman, but good-looking for a toad.  Her face had
something of the sulky and satiated expression of that harmless
reptile, and her mourning was for her brother, who had mercifully
died of delirium tremens some six months before.  This scarcely
respectable mode of decease did not curtail his sister's observance
of the fact, and she was proposing to wear mourning for another
three months.

She had not seen him much of late years, and, as a matter of fact,
she thought it was much better that his inglorious career, since he
was a hopeless drunkard, had been brought to a conclusion, but her
mourning, in spite of this, was a faithful symbol of her regret.
He had had the good looks and the frailty of her family, while she
was possessed of its complementary plainness and strength, but she
remembered with remarkable poignancy, even in her fifty-fifth year,
birds'-nesting expeditions with him, and the alluring of fish in
unpopulous waters.  They had shared their pocket-money together,
also, as children, and she had not been the gainer by it.
Therefore she thought of him with peculiar tenderness.

It would be idle to deny that she was not interested in the
Riseborough view of his blackness.  It was quite well known that he
was a drunkard, but she had stifled inquiry by stating that he had
died of "failure."  What organ it was that failed could not be
inquired into: any one with the slightest proper feeling--and she
was well aware that Riseborough had almost an apoplexy of proper
feeling--would assume that it was some organ not generally
mentioned.  She felt that there was no call on her to gratify any
curiosity that might happen to be rampant.  She also felt that the
chief joy in the possession of a sense of humour lies in the fact
that others do not suspect it.  Riseborough would certainly have
thought it very heartless of her to derive any amusement from
things however remotely connected with her brother's death;
Riseborough also would have been incapable of crediting her with
any tenderness of memory, if it had known that he had actually died
of delirium tremens.

In this stifling weather she almost envied those who, like Dr.
Evans, lived at the top of the town, where, in Castle Street, was
situated the charming Georgian house in the garden of which he for
a little while only, and his wife for three hours, had been
entertaining their friends and detractors at the garden-party.
Though the house was in a "Street," and not a "Road," it had a
garden which anybody would expect to belong to a "Road," if not a
"Place."  Streets seemed to imply small backyards looking into the
backs of other houses, whereas Dr. Evans' house did not, at its
back, look on other houses at all, but extended a full hundred
yards, and then looked over the railway cutting of the South-
Eastern line, on open fields.  Should you feel unkindly disposed,
it was easy to ask whether the noise of passing trains was not very
disagreeable, and indeed, Mrs. Taverner, in a moment of peevishness
arising from the fact that what she thought was champagne cup was
only hock cup, had asked that very question of Millicent Evans this
afternoon in Mrs. Ames' hearing.  But Millicent, in her most
confiding and child-like manner, had given what Mrs. Ames
considered to be a wholly admirable and suitable answer.  "Indeed
we do," she had said, "and we often envy you your beautiful big
lawn."  For everybody, of course, knew that Mrs. Taverner's
beautiful big lawn was a small piece of black earth diversified by
plantains, and overlooked and made odorous by the new gasworks.
Mrs. Taverner had, as was not unnatural, coloured up on receipt of
this silken speech, until she looked nearly as red as Mrs. Altham.
For herself, Mrs. Ames would not, even under this provocation, have
made so ill-natured a reply, though she was rather glad that
Millicent had done so, and to account for her involuntary smile,
she instantly asked Mrs. Altham to lunch with her next day.
Indeed, walking now down the High Street, she smiled again at the
thought, and Mr. Pritchard, standing outside his grocery store,
thought she smiled at him, and raised his hat.  And Mrs. Ames
rather hoped he saw how different a sort of smile she kept on tap,
so to speak, for grocers.

Mrs. Ames knew very well the manner of speeches that Mrs. Altham
had been indulging in during the last three weeks, about the little
dinner-party she was giving this evening, for she had been
indiscreet enough to give specimens of them to Millicent Evans, who
had promptly repeated them to her, and it is impossible adequately
to convey how unimportant she thought was anything that Mrs. Altham
said.  But the fact that she had said so much was indirectly
connected with her asking Mrs. Altham ("and your husband, of
course," as she had rather pointedly added) to lunch to-morrow, for
she knew that Mrs Altham would be bursting with curiosity about the
success of the new experiment, and she intended to let her burst.
She disliked Mrs. Altham, but that lady's hostility to herself only
amused her.  Of course, Mrs. Altham could not refuse to accept her
invitation, because it was a point of honour in Riseborough that
any one bidden to lunch the day after a dinner-party must, even at
moderate inconvenience, accept, for otherwise what was to happen to
the remains of salmon and of jelly too debilitated to be served in
its original shape, even though untouched, but still excellent if
eaten out of jelly-glasses?  So much malice, then, must be
attributed to Mrs. Ames, that she wished to observe the febrile
symptoms of Mrs. Altham's curiosity, and not to calm them, but
rather excite them further.

Mrs. Ames would not naturally have gone for social purposes to the
house of her doctor, had he not married Millicent, whose father was
her own first cousin, and would have been baronet himself had he
been the eldest instead of the youngest child.  As it was, Dr.
Evans was on a wholly different footing from that of an ordinary
physician, for by marriage he, as she by birth, was connected with
"County," which naturally was the crown and cream of Riseborough
society.  Mrs. Ames was well aware that the profession of a doctor
was a noble and self-sacrificing one, but lines had to be drawn
somewhere, and it was impossible to contemplate visiting Dr.
Holmes.  A dentist's profession was self-sacrificing, too, but you
did not dine at your dentist's, though his manipulations enabled
you to dine with comfort and confident smiles elsewhere.  Such
lines as these she drew with precision, but automatic firmness, and
the apparently strange case of Mr. Turner, whom she had induced her
husband to propose for election at the club, whom, with his wife,
she herself asked to dinner, was really no exception.  For it was
not Mr. Turner who had ever been a stationer in Riseborough, but
his father, and he himself had been to a public school and a
university, and had since then purged all taint of stationery away
by twenty years' impartiality as a police magistrate in London.
True, he had not changed his name when he came back to live in
Riseborough, which would have shown a greater delicacy of mind, and
the present inscription above the stationer's shop, "Burrows, late
Turner," was obnoxious, but Mrs. Ames was all against the
misfortunes of the fathers being visited on the children, and
Riseborough, with the exception of Mrs. Altham, had quite accepted
Mr. and Mrs. Turner, who gave remarkably good dinners, which were
quite equal to the finest efforts of the (Scotch) chef at the club.
Mrs. Altham said that the Turners had eaten their way into the
heart of Riseborough society, which sounded almost witty, until
Mrs. Ames pointed out that it was Riseborough, not the Turners, who
had done the eating.  On which the wit in Mrs. Altham's mot went
out like a candle in the wind.  It may, perhaps, be open to
question whether Mrs. Altham's rooted hostility to the Turners did
not predispose Mrs. Ames to accept them before their quiet
amiability disposed her to do so, for she was neither disposed nor
predisposed to like Mrs. Altham.

Mrs. Ames' way led through Queensgate Street, and she had to hold
her black skirt rather high as she crossed the road opposite the
club, for the dust was thick.  She felt it wiser also to screw her
small face up into a tight knot in order to avoid inhaling the
fetid blue smoke from an over-lubricated motorcar that very rudely
dashed by just in front of her.  She did not regard motors with any
favour, since there were financial reasons, whose validity was
unassailable, why she could not keep one; indeed, partly no doubt
owing to her expressed disapproval of them, but chiefly owing to
similar financial impediments, Riseborough generally considered
that hired flies were a more gentlemanly and certainly more
leisurely form of vehicular transport.  Mrs. Altham, as usual,
raised a dissentient voice, and said that she and her husband could
not make up their minds between a Daimler and a Rolles-Royce.  This
showed a very reasonable hesitancy, since at present they had no
data whatever with regard to either.

Mrs. Ames permitted herself one momentary glance at the bow-window
of the club, as she regained the pavement after this dusty passage,
and then swiftly looked straight in front of her again, since it
was not quite QUITE to look in at the window of a man's club.  But
she had seen several things: her husband was standing there with
face contorted by the imminent approach of a sneeze, which showed
that his hay-fever was not yet over, as he hoped it might be.
There was General Fortescue with a large cigar in his mouth, and a
glass, probably of sherry, in his hand; there was also the top of a
bald head peering over the geraniums in the window like a pink full
moon.  That no doubt was Mr. Turner (for no one was quite so bald
as he), enjoying the privilege which she had been instrumental in
securing for him.  Then Mrs. Altham passed her driving, and Mrs.
Ames waved and kissed her black-gloved hand to her, thinking how
very angular curiosity made people, while Mrs. Altham waved back
thinking that it was no use trying to look important if you were
only five foot two, so that honours were about divided.  Finally,
just before she turned into her own gate, she saw coming along the
road, walking very fast, as his custom was, the man she respected
and even revered more than any one in Riseborough.  She would have
liked to wave her hand to him too, only the Reverend Thomas Pettit
would certainly have thought such a proceeding to be very odd
conduct.  He was county too--very much county, although a clergyman--
being the son of that wealthy and distressing peer, Lord Evesham,
who occasionally came into Riseborough on county business.  On
these occasions he lunched at the club, instead of going to his
son's house, but did not eat the club lunch, preferring to devour
in the smoking-room, like an ogre with false teeth, sandwiches
which seemed to be made of fish in their decline.  Mrs. Ames, who
could not be called a religious woman, but was certainly very high
church, was the most notable of Mr. Pettit's admirers, and, indeed,
had set quite a fashion in going to the services at St. Barnabas',
which were copiously embellished by banners, vestments and incense.
Indeed, she went there in adoration of him as much as for any other
reason, for he seemed to her to be a perfect apostle.  He was rich,
and gave far more than half his goods to feed the poor; he was
eloquent, and (she would not have used so common a phrase) let them
all "have it" from his pulpit, and she was sure he was rapidly
wearing himself out with work.  And how thrilling it would be to
address her rather frequent notes to him with the title 'The
Reverend The Lord Evesham!' . . .  She gave a heavy sigh, and
decided to flutter her podgy hand in his direction for a greeting
as she turned into her gate.

The little dinner which had so agitated Riseborough for the last
three weeks gave Mrs. Ames no qualms at all.  Whatever happened at
her house was right, and she never had any reason to wonder, like
minor dinner-givers, if things would go off well, since she and no
other was responsible for the feast; it was Mrs. Ames' dinner
party.  It was summoned for a quarter to eight, and at half-past
ten somebody's carriage would be announced, and she would say, "I
hope nobody is thinking of going away yet," in consequence of which
everybody would go away at twenty minutes to eleven instead.  If
anybody expected to play cards or smoke in the drawing-room, he
would be disappointed, because these diversions did not form part
of the curriculum.  The gentlemen had one cigarette in the dining-
room after their wine and with their coffee: then they followed the
ladies and indulged in the pleasures of conversation.  Mrs. Ames
always sat in a chair by the window, and always as the clock struck
ten she re-sorted her conversationalists.  That was (without
disrespect) a parlour-trick of the most supreme and unfathomable
kind.  There was always some natural reason why she should get up,
and quite as naturally two or three people got up too.  Then a sort
of involuntary general post took place.  Mrs. Ames annexed the seat
of the risen woman whose partner she intended to talk to, and
instantly said, "Do tell me, because I am so much interested . . ."
upon which her new partner sat down again.  The ejected female then
wandered disconsolately forward till she found herself talking to
some man who had also got up.  Therefore they sat down again
together.  But no one in Riseborough could do the trick as Mrs.
Ames could do it.  Mrs. Altham had often tried, and her efforts
always ended in everybody sitting down again exactly where they had
been before, after standing for a moment, as if an inaudible grace
was being said.  But Mrs. Ames, though not socially jealous (for,
being the queen of Riseborough society, she had nobody to be
jealous of), was a little prone to spoil this parlour-trick when
she was dining at other houses, by suddenly developing an earnest
conversation with her already existing partner, when she saw that
her hostess contemplated a copy of her famous manoeuvre.  Yet, after
all, she was within her rights, for the parlour-trick was her own
patent, and it was quite proper to thwart the attempted
infringement of it.

Having waggled her hand in the direction of Mr. Pettit, she went
straight to the dining-room, where the dinner-table was being laid.
There was to be a company of eight to-night, and accordingly she
took three little cardboard slips from the top left-hand drawer of
her writing-table, on each of which was printed--

                       PLEASE TAKE IN


                         TO DINNER.

These were presented in the hall to the men before dinner (it was
unnecessary to write one for her husband), each folded, with the
name of the guest in question being written on the back, while the
name of the woman he was to take in filled the second line.  Thus
there were no separate and hurried communications to be made in the
drawing-room, as everything was arranged already.  This was not so
original as the other parlour-trick, but at present nobody else in
Riseborough had attempted it.  Then out of the same drawer she took--
what she took requires a fresh paragraph.

Printed Menu-cards.  There were a dozen packets of them, each
packet advertising a different dinner: an astounding device,
requiring enlargement of explanation.  She discovered them by
chance in the Military Stores in London, selected a dozen packets
containing fifty copies each, and kept the secret to herself.  The
parlour-maids had orders to tweak them away as soon as the last
course was served, so that no menu-collector, if there was such
retrospective glutton in Riseborough, could appropriate them, and
thus, perhaps, ultimately get a clue which might lead him to the
solution.  For by a portent of ill-luck, it might then conceivably
happen that a certain guest would find himself bidden for the third
or fourth time to eat precisely the same dinner as his odious
collection told him that he had eaten six months before.  But the
tweaking parlour-maids obviated that risk, and if the menu-cards
were still absolutely "unsoiled," Mrs. Ames used them again.  There
was one very sumptuous dinner among the twelve, there were nine
dinners good enough for anybody, there were two dinners that might
be described as "poor."  It was one of these, probably, which Mrs.
Altham had in her mind when she was so ruthless in respect to Mrs.
Ames' food.  But, poor or sumptuous, it appeared to the innocent
Riseborough world that Mrs. Ames had her menu-cards printed as
required; that, having constructed her dinner, she sent round a
copy of it to the printer's to be set up in type.  Probably she
corrected the proofs also.  She never called attention to these
menus, and seemed to take them as a matter of course.  Mrs. Altham
had once directly questioned her about them, asking if they were
not a great expense.  But Mrs. Ames had only shifted a bracelet on
her wrist and said, "I am accustomed to use them."

Mrs. Ames took four copies of one of these dinners which were good
enough for anybody, and propped them up, two on each of the long
sides of the table.  Naturally, she did not want one herself, and
her husband, also naturally, sometimes said, "What are you going to
give us to-night, Amy?"  In which case one of them was passed to
him.  But he had a good retentive memory with regard to food, and
with a little effort he could remember what the rest of the dinner
was going to be, when the nature of the soup had given him his cue.
Occasionally he criticized, saying in his hearty voice (this would
be in the autumn or winter), "What, what?  Partridge again?
Perdrix repetita, isn't it, General, if you haven't forgotten your
Latin."  And Amy from the other end of the table replied, "Well,
Lyndhurst, we must eat the game our friends are so kind as to send
us."  And yet Mrs. Altham declared that she had seen partridges
from the poulterers delivered at Mrs. Ames' house!  "But they are
getting cheap now," she added to her husband, "particularly the old
birds.  I got a leg, Henry, and the bird must have roosted on it
for years before Mrs. Ames' friends were so kind as to send it

So Mrs. Ames propped up the printed menu-cards, and spoke a
humorous word to her first parlour-maid.

"I have often told you, Parker, to wear gloves when you are putting
out the silver.  I am not a detective: I am not wanting to trace
you by your finger-prints."

Parker giggled discreetly.  Somehow, Mrs. Ames' servants adored
their rather exacting mistress, and stopped with her for years.
They did not get very high wages, and a great deal was required of
them, but Mrs. Ames treated them like human beings and not like
machines.  It may have been only because they were so far removed
from her socially; but it may have been that there was some
essential and innate kindliness in her that shut up like a parasol
when she had to deal with such foolish and trying folk as Mrs.
Altham.  Mrs. Altham, indeed, had tried to entice Parker away with
a substantial rise in wages, and the prospect of less arduous
service.  But that admirable serving-maid had declined to be
tempted.  Also, she had reported the occurrence to her mistress.
It only confirmed what Mrs. Ames already thought of the temptress.
She did not add any further black mark.

The table at present was devoid of any floral decoration, but that
was no part of Mrs. Ames' province.  Her husband, that premature
gardener, was responsible for flowers and wine when Mrs. Ames gave
a party, and always returned home half-an-hour earlier, to pick
such of his treasures as looked as if they would begin to go off to-
morrow, and make a subterranean excursion with a taper and the wine
book to his cellar.  In the domestic economy of the house he paid
the rent, the rates and taxes, the upkeep of the garden, the wine
bills, and the cost of their annual summer holiday, while Mrs.
Ames' budget was responsible for coal, electric light, servants'
wages, and catering bills.  Arising out of this arrangement there
occasionally arose clouds (though no bigger than Mrs. Ames' own
hand) that flecked the brightness of their domestic serenity.
Occasionally--not often--Mrs. Ames would be pungent about the
possibility of putting out the electric light on leaving a room,
occasionally her husband had sent for his coat at lunch-time, to
supplement the heat given out on a too parsimonious hearth.  But
such clouds were never seen by other eyes than theirs: the presence
of guests led Major Ames to speak of the excellence of his wife's
cook and say, "'Pon my word, I never taste better cooking than what
I get at home," and suggested to his wife to say to Mrs. Fortescue,
"My husband so much enjoys having the General to dinner, for he
knows a glass of good wine."  She might with truth have said that
he knew a good many glasses.

Finally, the two shared in equal proportions the upkeep of a rather
weird youth who was the only offspring of their marriage, and was
mistakenly called Harry, for the name was singularly ill-suited to
him.  He had lank hair, protuberant eyes, and a tendency to write
poetry.  Just now he was at home from Cambridge, and had rather
agitated his mother that afternoon by approaching her dreamily at
the garden-party and saying, "Mother, Mrs. Evans is the most
wonderful creature I ever saw!"  That seemed to her so wild an
exaggeration as to be quite senseless, and to portend poetry.
Harry made his father uncomfortable, too, by walking about with
some quite common rose in his hand, and pretending that the scent
of it was meat and drink to him.  Also he had queer notions about
vegetarianism, and said that a hunch of brown bread, a plate of
beans, and a lump of cheese, contained more nourishment than
quantities of mutton chops.  But though not much of a hand at
victuals, he found inspiration in what he called "yellow wine," and
he and a few similarly minded friends belonged to a secret Omar
Khayyam Club at Cambridge, the proceedings of which were carried on
behind locked doors, not for fear of the Jews, but of the
Philistines.  A large glass salad-bowl filled with yellow wine and
sprinkled with rose-leaves was the inspirer of these mild orgies,
and each Omarite had to write and read a short poem during the
course of the evening.  It was a point of honour among members
always to be madly in love with some usually unconscious lady, and
paroxysms of passion were punctuated by Byronic cynicism.  Just now
it seemed likely that Mrs. Evans would soon be the fount of
aspiration and despair.  That would create quite a sensation at the
next meeting of the Omar Club: nobody before had been quite so
daring as to fall in love with a married woman.  But no doubt that
phenomenon has occurred in the history of human passion, so why
should it not occur to an Omarite?

The wine at Mrs. Ames' parties was arranged by her husband on a
scale that corresponded with the food.  At either of the two "poor"
dinners, for instance, a glass of Marsala was accorded with the
soup, a light (though wholesome) claret moistened the rest of the
meal, and a single glass of port was offered at dessert.  The
course of the nine dinners good enough for anybody was enlivened by
the substitution of sherry for Marsala, champagne for claret, and
liqueurs presented with coffee, while on the much rarer occasions
of the one sumptuous dinner (which always included an ice) liqueur
made its first appearance with the ice, and a glass of hock
partnered the fish.  To-night, therefore, sherry was on offer, and
when, the dinner being fairly launched, Mrs. Ames took her first
disengaged look round, she observed with some little annoyance,
justifiable, even laudable, in a hostess, that Harry was talking in
the wrong direction.  In fact, he was devoting his attention to
Mrs. Evans, who sat between him and his father, instead of
entertaining Elsie, her daughter, whom he had taken in, and who now
sat isolated and silent, since General Fortescue, who was on her
other side, was naturally conversing with his hostess.  Certainly
it was rubbish to call Mrs. Evans a most wonderful creature; there
was nothing wonderful about her.  She was fair, with pretty yellow
hair (an enthusiast might have called it golden), she had small
regular features, and that look of distinction which Mrs. Ames
(drawing herself up a little as she thought of it) considered to be
inseparable from any in whose veins ran the renowned Westbourne
blood.  She had also that slim, tall figure which, though
characteristic of the same race, was unfortunately not quite
inseparable from its members, for no amount of drawing herself up
would have conferred it on Mrs. Ames, and Harry took after her in
this respect.

Dr. Evans had not long been settled in Riseborough--indeed, it was
only last winter that he had bought his practice here, and taken
the delightful house in which his wife had given so populous a
garden-party that afternoon.  Their coming, as advertised by Mrs.
Ames, had been looked forward to with a high degree of expectancy,
since a fresh tenant for the Red House, especially when he was
known to be a man of wealth (though only a doctor), was naturally
supposed to connote a new and exclusive entertainer, while his
wife's relationship to Sir James Westbourne made a fresh link
between the "town" and the "county."  Hitherto, Mrs. Ames had been
the chief link, and though without doubt she was a genuine one (her
mother being a Westbourne), she had been a little disappointing in
this regard, as she barely knew the present head of the family, and
was apt to talk about old days rather than glorify the present ones
by exhibitions of the family to which she belonged.  But it was
hoped that with the advent of Mrs. Evans a more living intimacy
would be established.

Mrs. Evans was the fortunate possessor of that type of looks which
wears well, and it was difficult to believe that Elsie, with her
eighteen years and elderly manner, was her daughter.  She was
possessed also of that unemotional temperament which causes the
years to leave only the faintest traces of their passage, and they
had graven on her face but little record of joys and sorrows.  Her
mouth still possessed the softness of a girl's, and her eyes, large
and blue, had something of the shy, unconscious wonder of childhood
in their azure.  To judge by appearances (which we shall all
continue to do until the end of time, though we have made proverbs
to warn us against the fallibility of such conclusions), she must
have had the tender and innocent nature of a child, and though Mrs.
Ames saw nothing wonderful about her, it was really remarkable that
a woman could look so much and mean so little.  She did not talk
herself with either depth or volume, but she had, so to speak, a
deep and voluminous way of listening which was immensely
attractive.  She made the man who was talking to her feel himself
to be interesting (a thing always pleasant to the vainer sex), and
in consequence he generally became interested.  To fire the word
"flirt" at her, point-blank, would have been a brutality that would
have astounded her--nor, indeed, was she accustomed to use the
somewhat obvious arts which we associate with those practitioners,
but it is true that without effort she often established relations
of intimacy with other people without any giving of herself in
return.  Both men and women were accustomed to take her into their
confidence; it was so easy to tell her of private affairs, and her
eyes, so wide and eager and sympathetic, gave an extraordinary
tenderness to her commonplace replies, which accurately, by
themselves, reflected her dull and unemotional mind.  She
possessed, in fact, as unemotional but comely people do, the
potentiality of making a great deal of mischief without exactly
meaning it, and it would be safe to predict that, the mischief
being made, she would quite certainly acquit herself of any
intention of having made it.  It would be rash, of course, to
assert that no breeze would ever stir the pearly sleeping sea of
her temperament: all that can be said is that it had not been
stirred yet.

Mrs. Ames could not permit Elsie's isolation to continue, and she
said firmly to Harry, "Tell Miss Evans all about Cambridge," which
straightened conversation out again, and allowed Mrs. Evans to
direct all her glances and little sentences to Major Ames.  As was
usual with men who had the privilege of talking to her, he soon
felt himself a vivid conversationalist.

"Yes, gardening was always a hobby of mine," he was saying, "and in
the regiment they used to call me Adam.  The grand old gardener,
you know, as Tennyson says.  Not that there was ever anything grand
about me."

Mrs. Evans' mouth quivered into a little smile.

"Nor old, either, Major Ames," she said.

Major Ames put down the glass of champagne he had just sipped, in
order to give his loud, hearty laugh.

"Well, well," he said, "I'm pretty vigorous yet, and can pull the
heavy garden roller as well as a couple of gardeners could.  I
never have a gardener more than a couple of days a week.  I do all
the work myself.  Capital exercise, rolling the lawn, and then I
take a rest with a bit of weeding, or picking a bunch of flowers
for Amy's table.  Weeding, too--

          'An hour's weeding a day
           Keeps the doctor away.'

I defy you to get lumbago if you do a bit of weeding every

Again a little shy smile quivered on Millie Evans' mouth.

"I shall tell my husband," she said.  "I shall say you told me you
spend an hour a day in weeding, so that you shouldn't ever set eyes
on him.  And then you make poetry about it afterwards."

Again he laughed.

"Well, now, I call that downright wicked of you," he said,
"twisting my words about in that way.  General, I want your opinion
about that glass of champagne.  It's a '96 wine, and wants

The General applied his fish-like mouth to his glass.

"Wants drinking, does it?" he said.  "Well, it'll get it from me.
Delicious!  Goo' dry wine."

Major Ames turned to Millie Evans again.

"Beg your pardon, Mrs. Evans," he said, "but General Fortescue
likes to know what's before him.  Yes, downright wicked of you!
I'm sure I wish Amy had asked Dr. Evans to-night, but there--you
know what Amy is.  She's got a notion that it will make a
pleasanter dinner-table not to ask husband and wife always
together.  She says it's done a great deal in London now.  But they
can't put on to their tables in London such sweet-peas as I grow
here in my bit of a garden.  Look at those in front of you.  Black
Michaels, they are.  Look at the size of them.  Did you ever see
such sweet-peas?  I wonder what Amy is going to give us for dinner
to-night.  Bit of lamb next, is it? and a quail to follow.  Hope
you'll go Nap, Mrs. Evans; I must say Amy has a famous cook.  And
what do you think of us all down at Riseborough, now you've had
time to settle down and look about you?  I daresay you and your
husband say some sharp things about us, hey?  Find us very stick-in-
the-mud after London?"

She gave him one of those shy little deprecating glances that made
him involuntarily feel that he was a most agreeable companion.

"Ah, you are being wicked now!" she said.  "Every one is
delightful.  So kind, so hospitable.  Now, Major Ames, do tell me
more about your flowers.  Black Michaels, you said those were.  I
must go in for gardening, and will you begin to teach me a little?
Why is it that your flowers are so much more beautiful than
anybody's?  At least, I needn't ask: it must be because you
understand them better than anybody."

Major Ames felt that this was an uncommonly agreeable woman, and
for half a second contrasted her pleasant eagerness to hear about
his garden with his wife's complete indifference to it.  She liked
flowers on the table, but she scarcely knew a hollyhock from a

"Well, well," he said; "I don't say that my flowers, which you are
so polite as to praise, don't owe something to my care.  Rain or
fine, I don't suppose I spend less than an average of four hours a
day among them, year in, year out.  And that's better, isn't it,
than sitting at the club, listening to all the gossip and tittle-
tattle of the place?"

"Ah, you are like me," she said.  "I hate gossip.  It is so dull.
Gardening is so much more interesting."

He laughed again.

"Well, as I tell Amy," he said, "if our friends come here expecting
to hear all the tittle-tattle of the place, they will be in for a
disappointment.  Amy and I like to give our friends a hearty
welcome and a good dinner, and pleasant conversation about really
interesting things.  I know little about the gossip of the town;
you would find me strangely ignorant if you wanted to talk about
it.  But politics now--one of those beastly Radical members of
Parliament lunched with us only the week before last, and I assure
you that Amy asked him some questions he found it hard to answer.
In fact, he didn't answer them: he begged the question, begged the
question.  There was one, I remember, which just bowled him out.
She said, 'What is to happen to the parks of the landed gentry, if
you take them away from the owners?'  Well, that bowled him out, as
they say in cricket.  Look at Sir James's place, for instance, your
cousin's place, Amy's cousin's place.  Will they plant a row of
villas along the garden terrace?  And who is to live in them if
they do?  Grant that Lloyd George--she said that--grant that Lloyd
George wants a villa there, that will be one villa.  But the
terrace there will hold a dozen villas.  Who will take the rest of
them?  She asked him that.  They take away all our property, and
then expect us to build houses on other people's!  Don't talk to

The concluding sentence was not intended to put a stop on this
pleasant conversation; it was only the natural ejaculation of one
connected with landed proprietors.  Mrs. Evans understood it in
that sense.

"Do tell me all about it," she said.  "Of course, I am only a
woman, and we are supposed to have no brains, are we not? and to be
able to understand nothing about politics.  But will they really
take my cousin James's place away from him?  I think Radicals must
be wicked."

"More fools than knaves, I always say," said Major Ames
magnanimously.  "They are deluded, like the poor Suffragettes.
Suffragettes now!  A woman's sphere of influence lies in her home.
Women are the queens of the earth; I've often said that, and what
do queens want with votes?  Would Amy have any more influence in
Riseborough if she had a vote?  Not a bit of it.  Well, then, why
go about smacking the faces of policemen and chaining yourself to a
railing?  If I had my way--"

Major Ames became of lower voice and greater confidence.

"Amy doesn't wholly agree with me," he said; "and it's a pleasure
to thrash the matter out with somebody like yourself, who has
sensible views on the subject.  What use are women in politics?
None at all, as you just said.  It's for women to rock the cradle,
and rule the world.  I say, and I have always said, that to give
them a vote would be to wreck their influence, God bless them.  But
Amy doesn't agree with me.  I say that I will vote--she's a
Conservative, of course, and so am I--I will vote as she wishes me
to.  But she says it's the principle of the thing, not the
practice.  But what she calls principle, I call want of principle.
Home: that's the woman's sphere."

Mrs. Evans gave a little sigh.

"I never heard it so beautifully expressed," she said.  "Major
Ames, why don't you go in for politics?"

Major Ames felt himself flattered; he felt also that he deserved
the flattery.  Hence, to him now, it ceased to be flattery, and
became a tribute.  He became more confidential, and vastly more

"My dear lady," he said, "politics is a dirty business now-a-days.
We can serve our cause best by living a quiet and dignified life,
without ostentation, as you see, but by being gentlemen.  It is the
silent protest against these socialistic ideas that will tell in
the long run.  What should I do at Westminster?  Upon my soul, if I
found myself sitting opposite those Radical louts, it would take me
all my time to keep my temper.  No, no; let me attend to my garden,
and give my friends good dinners,--bless my soul, Amy is letting us
have an ice to-night--strawberry ice, I expect; that was why she
asked me whether there were plenty of strawberries.  Glace de
fraises; she likes her menu-cards printed in French, though I am
sure 'strawberry ice' would tell us all we wanted to know.  What's
in a name after all?"

Conversation had already shifted, and Major Ames turned swiftly to
a dry-skinned Mrs. Brooks who sat on his left.  She was a sad high-
church widow who embroidered a great deal.  Her dress was outlined
with her own embroideries, so, too, were many altar-cloths at the
church of St. Barnabas.  She and Mrs. Ames had a sort of religious
rivalry over its decoration; the one arranged the copious white
lilies that crowned the cloth made by the other.  Their rivalry was
not without silent jealousy, and it was already quite well known
that Mrs. Brooks had said that lilies of the valley were quite as
suitable as Madonna lilies, which shed a nasty yellow pollen on the
altar-cloth.  But Madonna lilies were larger; a decoration required
fewer "blooms."  In other moods also she was slightly acid.

Mrs. Evans turned slowly to her right, where Harry was sitting.
She might almost be supposed to know that she had a lovely neck, at
least it was hard to think that she had lived with it for thirty-
seven years in complete unconsciousness of it.  If she moved her
head very quickly, there was just a suspicion of loose skin about
it.  But she did not move her head very quickly.

"And now let us go on talking," she said.  "Have you told my little
girl all about Cambridge?  Tell me all about Cambridge too.  What
fun you must have!  A lot of young men together, with no stupid
women and girls to bother them.  Do you play a great deal of lawn-

Harry reconsidered for a moment his verdict concerning the
wonderfulness of her.  It was hardly happy to talk to a member of
the Omar Club about games and the advantages of having no girls

"No; I don't play games much," he said.  "The set I am in don't
care for them."

She tilted her head a little back, as if asking pardon for her

"I didn't know," she said.  "I thought perhaps you liked games--
football, racquets, all that kind of thing.  I am sure you could
play them beautifully if you chose.  Or perhaps you like gardening?
I had such a nice talk to your father about flowers.  What a lot he
knows about them!"

Flowers were better than games, anyhow; Harry put down his spoon
without finishing his ice.

"Have you ever noticed what a wonderful colour La France roses turn
at twilight?" he asked.  "All the shadows between the petals become
blue, quite blue."

"Do they really?  You must show me sometime.  Are there some in
your garden here?"

"Yes, but father doesn't care about them so much because they are
common.  I think that is so strange of him.  Sunsets are common,
too, aren't they?  There is a sunset every day.  But the fact that
a thing is common doesn't make it less beautiful."

She gave a little sigh.

"But what a nice idea," she said.  "I am sure you thought of it.
Do you talk about these things much at Cambridge?"

Mrs. Ames began to collect ladies' eyes at this moment, and the
conversation had to be suspended.  Millie Evans, though she was
rather taller than Harry, managed, as she passed him on the way to
the door, to convey the impression of looking up at him.

"You must tell me all about it," she said.  "And show me those
delicious roses turning blue at twilight."

Dinner had been at a quarter to eight, and when the men joined the
women again in the drawing-room, light still lingered in the
midsummer sky.  Then Harry, greatly daring, since such a procedure
was utterly contrary to all established precedents, persuaded Mrs.
Evans to come out into the garden, and observe for herself the
chameleonic properties of the roses.  Then he had ventured on
another violation of rule, since all rights of flower-picking were
vested in his father, and had plucked her half-a-dozen of them.
But on their return with the booty, and the establishment of the
blue theory, his father, so far from resenting this invasion of his
privileges, had merely said--

"The rascal might have found you something choicer than that, Mrs.
Evans.  But we'll see what we can find you to-morrow."

She had again seemed to look up at Harry.

"Nothing can be lovelier than my beautiful roses," she said.  "But
it is sweet of you to think of sending me some more.  Cousin Amy,
look at the roses Mr. Harry has given me."

Carriages arrived as usual that night at half-past ten, at which
hour, too, a gaunt, grenadier-like maid of certain age, rapped
loudly on the front door, and demanded Mrs. Brooks, whom she was to
protect on her way home, and as usual carriages and the grenadier
waited till twenty minutes to eleven.  But even at a quarter to, no
conveyance, by some mischance, had come for Mrs. Evans, and despite
her protests, Major Ames insisted on escorting her and Elsie back
to her house.  Occasionally, when such mistakes occurred, it had
been Harry's duty to see home the uncarriaged, but to-night, when
it would have been his pleasure, the privilege was denied him.  So,
instead, after saying good-night to his mother, he went swiftly to
his room, there to write a mysterious letter to a member of the
Omar Club, and compose a short poem, which should, however
unworthily, commemorate this amorous evening.

There is nothing in the world more rightly sacred than the first
dawnings of love in a young man, but, on the other hand, there is
nothing more ludicrous if his emotions are inspired, or even
tinged, by self-consciousness and the sense of how fine a young
spark he is.  And our unfortunate Harry was charged with this
absurdity; all through the evening it had been present to his mind,
how dashing and Byronic a tale this would prove at the next meeting
of the Omar Khayyam Club; with what fine frenzy he would throw off,
in his hour of inspiration after the yellow wine, the little heart-
wail which he was now about to compose, as soon as his letter to
Gerald Everett was written.  And lest it should seem unwarrantable
to intrude in the spirit of ridicule on a young man's rapture and
despair, an extract from his letter should give solid justification.

"Of course, I can't give names," he said, "because you know how
such things get about; but, my God, Gerald, how wonderful she is.
I saw her this afternoon for the first time, and she dined with us
tonight.  She understands everything--whatever I said, I saw
reflected in her eyes, as the sky is reflected in still water.
After dinner I took her out into the garden, and showed her how the
shadows of the La France roses turn blue at dusk.  I quoted to her
these two lines--

          'O, thou art fairer than the evening air,
           Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars.'

And I THINK she saw that I quoted AT her.  Of course, she turned it
off, and said, 'What pretty lines!' but I think she saw.  And she
carried my roses home.  Lucky roses!

"Gerald, I am miserable!  I haven't told you yet.  For she is
married.  She has a great stupid husband, years and years older
than herself.  She has, too, a great stupid daughter.  There's
another marvel for you!  Honestly and soberly she does not look
more than twenty-five.  I will write again, and tell you how all
goes.  But I think she likes me; there is clearly something in
common between us.  There is no doubt she enjoyed our little walk
in the dusk, when the roses turned blue. . . .  Have you had any
successes lately?"

He finished his letter, and before beginning his poem, lit the
candle on his dressing-table, and examined his small, commonplace
visage in the glass.  It was difficult to arrange his hair
satisfactorily.  If he brushed it back it revealed an excess of
high, vacant-looking forehead; if he let it drop over his forehead,
though his resemblance to Keats was distinctly strengthened, its
resemblance to seaweed was increased also.  The absence of positive
eyebrow was regrettable, but was there not fire in his rather pale
and far-apart eyes?  He rather thought there was.  His nose
certainly turned up a little, but what, if not that, did tip-tilted
imply?  A rather long upper-lip was at present only lightly fledged
with an adolescent moustache, but there was decided strength in his
chin.  It stuck out.  And having practised a frown which he rather
fancied, he went back to the table in the window again, read a few
stanzas of Dolores, in order to get into tune with passion and
bitterness (for this poem was not going to begin or end happily)
and wooed the lyric muse.

Major Ames, meantime, had seen Mrs. Evans to her door, and retraced
his steps as far as the club, where he was in half-a-mind to go in,
and get a game of billiards, which he enjoyed.  He played in a
loud, hectoring and unskilful manner, and it was noticeable that
all the luck (unless, as occasionally happened, he won) was
invariably on the side of his opponent.  But after an irresolute
pause, he went on again, and let himself into his own house.  Amy
was still sitting in the drawing-room, though usually she went to
bed as soon as her guests had gone.

"Very pleasant evening, my dear," he said; "and your plan was a
great success.  Uncommonly agreeable woman Mrs. Evans is.  Pretty
woman, too; you would never guess she was the mother of that great

"She was not considered pretty as a girl," said his wife.

"No?  Then she must have improved in looks afterwards.  Lonely life
rather, to be a doctor's wife, with your husband liable to be
called away at any hour of the day or night."

"I have no doubt Millie occupies herself very well," said Mrs.
Ames.  "Good-night, Lyndhurst.  Are you coming up to bed?"

"Not just yet.  I shall sit up a bit, and smoke another cigar."

He sat in the window, and every now and then found himself saying
half aloud, "Uncommonly agreeable woman."  Just overhead Harry was
tearing passion to shreds in the style (more or less) of Swinburne.


Dr. Evans was looking out of the window of his dining-room as he
waited the next morning for breakfast to be brought in, jingling a
pleasant mixture of money and keys in his trouser pockets and
whistling a tune that sounded vague and De Bussy-like until you
perceived that it was really an air familiar to streets and barrel-
organs, and owed its elusive quality merely to the fact that the
present performer was a little uncertain as to the comparative
value of tones and semitones.  But this slightly discouraging
detail was more than compensated for by the evident cheerfulness of
the executant; his plump, high-coloured face, his merry eye, the
singular content of his whole aspect betokened a personality that
was on excellent terms with life.

His surroundings were as well furnished and securely comfortable as
himself.  The table was invitingly laid; a Sheffield-plate urn (Dr.
Evans was an amateur in Georgian decoration and furniture) hissed
and steamed with little upliftings of the lid under the pressure
within, and a number of hot dishes suggested an English
interpretation of breakfast.  Fine mezzotints after the great
English portrait-painters hung on the walls, and a Chippendale
sideboard was spread with fruit dishes and dessert-plates.  The
morning was very hot, but the high, spacious room, with its thick
walls, was cool and fresh, while its potentialities for warmth and
cosiness in the winter were sponsored for by the large open fire-
place and the stack of hot-water pipes which stood beneath the
sideboard.  Outside, the windows at which Dr. Evans stood looked
out on to the large and secluded lawn, which had been the scene of
the garden-party the day before.  Red-brick walls ran along the two
sides of it at right angles to the house: opposite, a row of
espaliered fruit-trees screened off the homeliness of the kitchen-
garden beyond, and the railway cutting which formed the boundary of
this pleasant place.

Wilfred Evans had whistled the first dozen bars of the "Merry Widow
Waltz" some six or seven times through, before, with the retarded
consciousness that it was Sunday, he went on to "The Church's One
Foundation," and though, with his usual admirable appetite, he felt
the allure of the hot dishes, he waited, still whistling, for some
other member of his household, wife or daughter, to appear.  He was
one of the most gregarious and clubbable of men, and no hecatomb of
stalled oxen would have given him content, if he had had to eat his
beef alone.  A firm attachment to his domestic circle, combined
with the not very exacting calls of his practice, but truly fervent
investigations in the laboratory at the end of the garden, of the
habits and economy of phagocytes, comfortably filled up, to the
furthest horizon, the scenery of his mental territories.

He had not to wait long for his wife to appear, and he hailed her
with his wonted cordiality.

"Morning, little woman," he said.  "Slept well, I hope?"

Mrs. Evans did not practise at home all those arts of pleasing with
which she was so lavish in other people's houses.  Also, this
morning she felt rather cross, a thing which, to do her justice,
was rare with her.

"Not very," she said.  "I kept waking.  It was stiflingly hot."

"I'm sorry, my dear," said he.

Mrs. Evans busied herself with tea-making; her long, slender hands
moved with extraordinary deftness and silence among clattering
things, and her husband whistled the "Merry Widow Waltz" once or
twice more.

"Oh, Wilfred, do stop that odious tune," she said, without the
slightest hint of impatience in her voice.  "It is bad enough on
your pianola, which, after all, is in tune!"

"Which is more than can be said for my penny whistle?" asked he,
good-humouredly.  "Right you are, I'm dumb.  Tell me about your
party last night."

"My dear, haven't you been to enough Riseborough parties to know
that there is nothing to tell about any party?" she asked.  "I sat
between Major Ames and the son.  I talked gardening on one side
with the father, and something which I suppose was enlightened
Cambridge conversation on the other.  Harry Ames is rather a
dreadful sort of youth.  He took me into the garden afterwards to
show me something about roses.  And the carriage didn't come.
Major Ames saw me home.  When did you get in?"

"Not till nearly three.  Very difficult maternity case.  But we'll
pull them both through."

Millie Evans gave a little shudder, which was not quite entirely
instinctive.  She emphasized it for her husband's benefit.
Unfortunately, he did not notice it.

"Will you have your tea now?" she asked.

He looked at her with an air mainly conjugal but tinged with

"Bit upset with the heat, little woman?" he asked.  "You look a
trifle off colour.  We can't have you sleeping badly, either.  Show
me the man who sleeps his seven hours every night, and I'll show
you who will live to be ninety."

This prospect did not for the moment allure his wife

"I think I would sooner sleep less and die earlier," she said in
her even voice, "though I'm sure Elsie will live to a hundred at
that rate.  You encourage her to be lazy in the morning, Wilfred.
I'm sure any one can manage to be in time for breakfast at a
quarter past nine."

He shook his head.

"No, no, little woman," he said.  "Let a growing girl sleep just as
much as she feels inclined.  I would sooner stint a girl's food
than her sleep.  Give the red corpuscles a chance, eh?"

Millie got up from the table, and went to the sideboard to get some
fruit.  Then suddenly it struck her that all this was hardly worth
while.  It seemed a stupid business to come down every morning and
eat breakfast, to manage the household, to go for a walk, perhaps,
or sit in the garden, and after completing the round of these daily
futilities, to go to bed again and sleep, just for the recuperation
that sleep gave, to enable her to do it all over again.  But the
strawberries looked cool and moist, and standing by the sideboard
she ate a few of them.  Just above it hung the oblong Sheraton
mirror, which her husband had bought so cheaply at a local sale and
had brought home so triumphantly.  That, too, seemed to tell her a
stale story, and the reflection of her young face, crowned with the
shimmer of yellow hair, against the dark oak background of the
panelling seemed without purpose or significance.  She was doing
nothing with her beauty that stayed so long with her.  But it would
not stay many years longer: this morning even there seemed to be a
shadow over it, making it dim. . . .  Soon nobody would care if she
had ever been pretty or not; indeed, even now Elsie seemed by her
height and the maturity of her manner to be reminding everybody of
the fact that she herself must be approaching the bar which every
woman has to cross when she is forty or thereabouts. . . .  And,
strange enough it may appear, these doubts and questionings which
looked at Millie darkly from the Sheraton glass above the
sideboard, selfish and elementary as they were, resembled "thought"
far more closely than did the generality of those surface
impressions that as a rule mirrored her mind.  They were, too,
rather actively disagreeable, and generally speaking, nothing
disagreeable occurred to her.  The experiences of every day might
be mildly exhilarating, or mildly tedious.  But, whatever they
were, she was not accustomed to think closely about them.  Now, for
the moment, it seemed to her that some shadow, some vague presence
confronted her, and menacingly demanded her attention.

Riseborough is notable for the number of its churches, and before
long the air was mellow with bells.  As a rule, Millie Evans went
to church on Sunday morning with the same regularity as she ate hot
roast beef for lunch when it was over, but this morning she easily
let herself be persuaded to refrain from any act of public worship.
It seemed quite within the bounds of possibility that she might
feel faint during the psalms and, on her husband's advice, she
settled to stop at home, leaving him and Elsie, who was quite
unaware what faintness felt like, to attend.  But it was not the
fear of faintness that prompted her absence: she wanted, almost for
the first time in her life, to be alone and to think.  Even on the
occasion of her marriage, she had not found it necessary to employ
herself with original thought: her mother had done the thinking for
her, and had advised her, as she felt quite sure, sensibly and
well.  Nor had she needed to think when she was expecting her only
child, for on that occasion she had been perfectly content to do
exactly as her husband told her.  But now, at the age of thirty-
seven, the sight of her own face in the glass had suggested to her
certain possibilities, certain limitations.

Ill-health had, on infrequent Sundays, prevented her attendance at
church, and now, following merely the dictates of habit, she took
out with her to a basket chair below the big mulberry-tree in the
garden, a Bible and prayer-book, out of which she supposed that she
would read the psalms and lessons for the day.  But the Bible
remained long untouched, and when she opened it eventually at
random, she read but one verse.  It was at the end of Ecclesiastes
that the leaves parted, and she read, "When desire shall fail,
because man goeth to his long home."

That was enough, for it was that, here succinctly expressed, which
had been troubling her this morning, though so vaguely, that until
she saw her symptoms written down shortly and legibly, she had
scarcely known what they were.  But certainly this line and a half
described them.  No doubt it was all very elementary; by degrees
one ceased to care, and then one died.  But her case was rather
different from that, for she felt that with her desire had not
failed, simply because she never had had desire.  She had waked and
slept, she had eaten and walked, she had had a child; but all these
things had been of about the same value.  Once she had had a tooth
out, without gas; that was a slightly more vivid experience.  But
it was very soon over: she had not really cared.

But though she had not cared for any of those things, she had not
been bored with the repetition of them.  It had seemed natural that
one thing should follow another, that the days should become weeks,
and the weeks should become months, insensibly.  When the months
added themselves into years, she took notice of that fact by having
a birthday, and Wilfred, as he gave her some little present in a
morocco case, told her that she looked as young as when they first
met, which was very nearly true.  She had a quantity of these
morocco cases now: he never omitted the punctual presentation of
each.  And the mental vision of all these morocco cases, some
round, some square, some oblong, and the thought of their contents--
a little pearl brooch, a sapphire brooch, a pair of emerald ear-
rings, a jewelled hat-pin--suddenly came upon her with their
cumulative effect.  A lot of time had gone by; it chiefly lived in
her now through the memory of the morocco cases.

By virtue of her unemotional temperament and serene bodily health
she looked very young still, and certainly did not feel old.  But
as the bells for church ceased to jangle and clash in the hot still
air, leaving only for the ear the hum of multitudinous bees in the
long flower-bed, it dawned on her that whatever she felt, and
however she looked, she would soon be on the other side of that
barrier which for woman marks the end of their essential and
characteristic life.  There were a few years left her yet out of
the years of which she made so little use, and with a spasm, the
keenest perhaps she had ever known, even including the extraction
of the tooth without gas, the horror of middle-age fell upon her,
making her shiver.  All her life she had felt nothing: soon she
would be incapable of feeling, except in so far as regret, that
pale echo of what might once have been emotion, can be considered
an affair of the heart.  To feel, she readily perceived, implied
the existence of something or somebody to feel about.  But she did
not know where to look for her participant.  Long ago her husband
had become as much part of that dead level of life as had her
breakfast or her dressing for dinner.  Never had he stirred her
from her placid passivity, she had never yearned for him, in the
sense in which a thirsty man desires water.  She had no love of
nature: "the primrose by the river's brim" might have been a violet
for anything that she cared; charity, in its technical sense, was
distasteful to her, because the curious smell in the houses of the
poor made her only long to get away.  It was hard to know where to
turn to find an outlet for that drowsily awakening recognition of
life that to-day, so late and as yet so feebly, stirred within her.
Yet, though it stirred but feebly, there was movement there: it
wanted to be alive for a little, before it was indubitably dead.

Her thoughts went back to the topic concerning which she had told
her husband that there was nothing to be told--namely, the dinner-
party at the Ames' last night.  Certainly there was nothing
remarkable about it: she had conducted herself as usual, with the
usual result.  She was accustomed to deal out her little smiles and
deferential glances and flattering speeches to those who sat next
her at dinner, because in herself a mild amiability prompted her to
make herself pleasant, and because, with so little trouble to
herself, she could make a man behave as agreeably as he was capable
of behaving.  She attracted men very easily, cursorily one might
say, without attaching any importance to the interest she aroused,
and without looking further than the dinner-table for the fruits of
the attraction she exercised.  But this morning, this tardy and
drowsy recognition of life, beside which, so to speak, lay the
shadow of middle-age, gave her pause.  Was there some fruition and
development of herself, before the withered and barren years came
to her, to be found there?  It would be quite beyond the mark to
say that, sitting here, she definitely proposed to herself to try
to make herself emotionally interested in somebody else, in case
that might add a zest to life, but she considered the effect which
she so easily produced in others, and wondered what it meant to
feel like that.  Certainly Major Ames had enjoyed escorting her
home; certainly Harry had felt a touch of gauche romance when he
showed her the effect of twilight on the complexion of some rose or
other.  He had given her a whole bunch of roses, with an attempt at
a pretty speech.  Yes, that was it--the shadows in them looked pale-
blue, and he had said that they were just the colour of her eyes.
But the roses were pretty: she hoped that somebody had put them in

She was already more than a little interested in her reflections:
there was something original and exciting to her in them, and it
was annoying to have them broken in upon by the parlour-maid who
came towards her from the house.  Personally, she thought it absurd
not to keep men-servants, but Wilfred always maintained that a
couple of good parlour-maids produced greater comfort with less
disturbance, and yielding to him, as she always yielded to anybody
who expressed a definite opinion, she had acquiesced in female
service.  But she always called the head parlour-maid Watkins,
whereas her husband called her Mary.

"Major Ames wants to know if you will see him, ma'am," said

The interest returned.

"Yes, ask him to come out," she said.

Watkins went back to the house and returned with Major Ames in tow,
who carried a huge bouquet of sweet-peas.  There then followed the
difficulty of meeting and greeting gracefully and naturally which
is usual when the visitor is visible a long way off.  The Major put
on a smile far too soon, and had to take it off again, since Mrs.
Evans had not yet decided that it was time to see him.  Then she
began to smile, while he (without his smile) was looking
abstractedly at the top of the mulberry-tree, as if he expected to
find her there.  He looked there a moment too long, for one of the
lower branches suddenly knocked his straw hat off his head, and he
said, "God bless my soul," and dropped the sweet-peas.  However,
this was not an unmixed misfortune, for the recognition came quite
naturally after that.  She hoped he was not hurt, was he SURE that
silly branch had not hit his face?  It must be taken off!  WHAT
lovely flowers!  And were they for her?  They were.

Major Ames replaced his hat rather hastily, after a swift manoeuvre
with regard to his hair which Mrs. Evans did not accurately follow.
The fact was (though he believed the fact not to be generally
known) that the top of Major Ames' head was entirely destitute of
hair, and that the smooth crop which covered it was the produce of
the side of his head--just above the ear--grown long, and brushed
across the cranium so as to adorn it with seemingly local wealth
and sleekness.  The rough and unexpected removal of his hat by the
bough of the mulberry-tree had caused a considerable portion of it
to fall back nearly to the shoulder of the side on which it
actually grew, and his hasty manoeuvre with his gathered tresses was
designed to replace them.  Necessarily he put back his hat again
quickly, in the manner of a boy capturing a butterfly.

His mind, and the condition of it, on this Sunday morning, would
repay a brief analysis.  Briefly, then, a sort of aurora borealis
of youth had visited him: his heaven was streaked with inexplicable
lights.  He had told himself that a man of forty-seven was young
still, and that when a most attractive woman had manifested an
obvious interest in him, it was only reasonable to follow it up.
He was not a coxcomb, he was not a loose liver; he was only a very
ordinary man, well and healthy, married to a woman considerably
older than himself, and living in a town which, in spite of his
adored garden, presented but moderate excitements.  But indeed,
this morning call, paid with this solid tribute of sweet-peas, was
something of an adventure, and had not been mentioned by him to his
wife.  He had seen her start for St. Barnabas, and then had hastily
gathered his bouquet and set out, leaving Harry wandering dreamily
about the cinder-paths in the kitchen garden, in the full glory of
the discovery that the colour of the scarlet runners was like a
clarion.  Major Ames had plucked almost his rarest varieties, for
to pluck the rarest, since he wished to save their first bloom for
seed, would have been on the further side of quixotism and have
verged on imbecility, but he had brought the best of his second-
best.  Last night, too, he had hinted at his own remissness in the
matter of church attendance on Sunday-morning, and on his way up
here had permitted himself to wonder whether Millie would prove (in
consequence, perhaps, of that) to have abstained from worship also,
expecting, or at least considering possible, a morning call from
him.  As a matter of fact she had not indulged in any such hopes,
since it had been a matter of pure indifference to her whether he
went to church on Sunday or not.  But when he found on inquiry at
the door that she was at home, it was scarcely unreasonable, on the
part of a rather vain and gallantly minded man, to connect the fact
with the information he had given.

So he hastily readjusted his hat.

"My own stupidity entirely," he said; "do not blame the tree.  Yes,
I have brought you just a few flowers, and though they are not
worthy of your acceptance, they are not the worst bunch of sweet-
peas I have ever seen, not the worst.  These, Catherine the Great,
for instance, are not--well--they do not grow quite in every

Mrs. Evans opened her blue eyes a little wider.

"And are they really for me, Major Ames?" she asked again.  "It is
good of you.  My precious flowers!  They must be put in water at
once.  Watkins, bring me one of the big flower-bowls out here.  I
will arrange them myself."

"Lucky flowers, lucky flowers," chuckled Major Ames.

"It's I who am lucky," said she, acknowledging this subtle
compliment with a little smile.  "I stop away from church rather
lazily, and am rewarded by a pleasant visit and a beautiful
nosegay.  And what a charming party we had last night!  I could
hardly believe it when I came back here and found it was nearly
half-past eleven.  Such hours!"

Major Ames gave his great loud laugh.

"You are making fun of us, Mrs. Evans," he said; "'pon my word you
are making fun of us and our quiet ways down at Riseborough.  I'll
be bound that when you were in London, half-past eleven was more
the sort of time when you began to go out to your dances."

"I used to go out a good deal when I was quite young," she said.
"Wilfred used quite to urge me to go out, and certainly people were
very kind in asking me.  I remember one night in the season, I was
asked to two dinner-parties and a ball and an evening party.  After
all, it is natural to take pleasure in innocent gaiety when one is

Major Ames felt very hot after his walk, and, forgetting the
adventure of his hair, nearly removed his straw hat.  But
providentially he remembered it again just in time.

"Upon my word," Mrs. Evans, he said jovially, "you make me feel a
hundred years old when you talk like that, as if your days of youth
and success were over.  Why, some one at your garden-party
yesterday afternoon told me for a fact that Miss Elsie was the
daughter of your husband's first wife.  Wouldn't believe me when I
said she was your daughter.  Poor Sanders--it was Mr. Sanders who
said it--had to pay ten shillings to me for his positiveness.  He
betted, you know, he insisted on betting.  But really, any one who
didn't happen to know would be right to make such a bet ninety-nine
times out of a hundred."

She gave him a little smile with lowered eyelids.

"Dear Elsie!" she said.  "She is such a comfort to me.  She quite
manages the house for me, and spares me all the trouble.  She
always knows how much asparagus ought to cost, and what happens to
strawberry ice after a party.  I never was a good housekeeper.
Wilfred always used to say to me, 'Go out and enjoy yourself, my
dear, and I'll pay the bills.'  Of course, it was all his kindness,
I know, but sometimes I wonder if it would not have been truer
kindness to have made me think and contrive more.  Elsie does it
all now, but when my little girl marries it will be my turn again.
Tell me, Major Ames, is it you or cousin Amy who makes everything
go so beautifully at your house?  I think--shall I say it--I think
it must be you.  When a man manages a house there is always more
precision somehow: you feel sure that everything has been foreseen
and provided for.  Printed menu-cards, for instance--so chic, so
perfectly comme-il-faut."

Watkins had brought out a large dish, rather like a sponging-tin,
for the sweet-peas, and Mrs. Evans had begun the really Herculean
labour of putting them in water.  A grille of wire network fitted
over the rim of it: each pea was stuck in separately.  She looked
up from her task at him.

"Am I right?" she asked.

Major Ames was not really an untruthful man, but many men who
are not really untruthful get through a wonderful lot of

"Oh, you mustn't give me the credit for that," he said (truthfully
so far); "it's a dodge we always used to have at mess, so why not
at one's own house also?  It's better than written cards, which
take a lot of time to copy out again and again, and then, you see,
my dear Amy is not very strong at French, and doesn't want always
to be bothering me to tell her whether there's an accent in one
word, or two 's's' in another.  Saves time and trouble."

Mrs. Evans applauded softly with pink finger-tips.

"Ah, I knew it was you!" she said.

Now, clearly (though almost without intention) Major Ames had gone
too far to retreat: also retreat implied a flat contradiction of
what Mrs. Evans said she knew, which would have been a rudeness
from which his habitual gallantry naturally revolted.  Consequently,
being unable to retreat, he had to make himself as safe as possible,
to entrench himself.

"Perhaps it's a little extravagance," he said.  "Indeed, Amy thinks
it is, and I never mention the subject of menu-cards to her.  She's
apt to turn the subject a bit abruptly on the word menu-card.  Dear
Amy!  After all, it would be a very dull affair, our pleasant life
down here, if we all completely agreed with each other."

She gave a little sigh, shaking her head, and smiling at her sweet-

"Ah, how often I think that too," she said.  "At least, now you say
it, I feel I have often thought it.  It is so true.  Dear Wilfred
is such an angel to me, you see!  Whatever I do, he is sure to
think right.  But sometimes you wonder whether the people who know
you best, really understand you.  It is like--it is like learning
things by heart.  If you learn a thing by heart, you so often cease
to think what it means."

Mrs. Evans, it must be confessed, did not mean anything very
precisely by this: her life, that is to say, was not at all
circumstanced in the manner that her speech implied it to be,
except in so far that she often wished that more amusing things
happened to her, and that she would not so soon be forty years old.
But she certainly intended Major Ames to attach to her words their
natural implication: she wanted to seem vaguely unappreciated.  At
the same time, she desired him to see that she in no way blamed her
dear unconscious Wilfred.  If Major Ames thought that, it would
spoil a most essential feature of the picture she wished to present
of herself.  Why she wished to present it was also quite easy of
comprehension.  She wanted to be interesting, and was by nature
silly.  The fact that she was close on thirty-eight largely
conduced to her speech.

Major Ames made a perfectly satisfactory interpretation of it.  He
saw all the things he was meant to see, and nothing else.  And it
was deliciously delivered, so affectionately as regarded Wilfred,
so shyly as regarded herself.  He instantly made the astounding
mental discovery that she was somehow not very happy, owing to a
failure in domestic affinities.  He felt also that it was intuitive
of him to have guessed that, since she had not actually said it.
And he was tremendously conscious of the seduction of her presence,
as she sat there, cool and white on this hot morning, putting in
the last of the sweet-peas he had brought her.  She looked
enchantingly young and fresh, and evidently she found something in
him which disposed her to confidences.  In justice to him, it may
be said that he did not inquire in his own mind as to what that
was, but it was easy to see she trusted him.

"I think we all must feel that at times, my dear lady," he said,
anxious to haul the circumstance of his own home into the
discussion.  "I suppose that all of us who are not quite old yet,
not quite quite old yet, let us say, in order to include me, feel
at times that life is not giving us all that it might give; that
people do not really understand us.  No doubt many people, and I
daresay those, as you said, who know one best, do not understand
one.  And then we mustn't mind that, but march straight on, march
straight on, according to orders."

He sat up very straight in his chair as if about to march, as he
made thrillingly noble remarks, and hit himself a couple of
sounding blows with his clenched fist on his broad chest.  Then a
sudden suspicion seized him that he had displayed an almost too
Spartan unflinchingness, as if soldiers had no hearts.

"And then perhaps we shall meet some one who does understand us,"
he added.

The critical observer, the cynic, and that rarest of all products,
the entirely sincere and straightforward person, would have found
in this conversation nothing that would move anything beyond his
raillery or disgust.  Here sitting under the mulberry-tree in this
pleasant garden, on a Sunday morning, were two people, the man
nearly fifty, the woman nearly forty, both trying, with God knows
how many little insincerities by the way, to draw near to each
other.  Both had reached ages that were dangerous to such as had
lived (even as they had) extremely respectable and well-conducted
lives, without any paramount reason for their morality.  About
Major Ames' mode of life before he married, which, after all, was
at the early age of twenty-five, nothing need be said, because
there is really very little to say, and in any case the conduct of
a young man not yet in his twenty-fifth year has almost nothing to
do with the character of the same man when he is forty-seven.  In
that very long interval he had conducted himself always as a
married man should, and those years, married as he was to a woman
much his senior, had not been at all discreditably passed.  This
chronicle does not in the least intend to impute to him any high
principled character, for he had nothing of Galahad in his
composition.  But he was not a satyr.  Consequently, for this is
part of the ironical composition of a man--just in the years with
which we are dealing, at a time of life when a man might have been
condoned for having sown wild oats and seen the huskiness of them,
he was in that far more precarious position of not having sown them
(except, so to speak, in the smallest of flower-pots), nor of
having experienced the jejune quality of such a crop.  But it is
not implied that he now regretted the respectability of those
twenty-two years.  He did not do so: he had had a happy and
contented life, but he would soon be old.  Nor did he now at all
contemplate adventure.  Merely an Odysseus who had never voyaged
wondered what voyaging was like.  He was not in love with this
seductive long-lashed face that bent over the sweet-peas he had
brought her.  But if he had the picking of those sweet-peas over
again, he would probably have picked the very best, regardless of
the fact that he wanted the seeds for next year's sowing.  So as
regards him the cynic's sneers would have been out of place; he
contemplated nothing that the cynic would have called "a conquest."
The sincere, straightforward gentleman would have been equally
excessive in his disgust.  There was nothing, except the slight
absurdity of Major Ames' nature, to justify either laughter or
tears.  He was a moderate man of middle-age, about as well
intentioned as most of us.

Mrs. Evans, perhaps, was less laudable, and more deserved laughter
and tears.  She had consciously tried to produce a false impression
without saying false things--a lamentable posture.  She had wanted,
as was her nature, to attract without being correspondingly
attracted.  She was prepared for him to go a little further, which
is characteristic of the flirt.  She succeeded, as the flirt
usually does.

His last sentence was received in silence, and he thought well to
repeat it with slight variation.  The theme was clear.

"We may meet some one who understands us," he said.  "Who looks
into us, not at us, eh?  Who sees not what we wish only, but what
we want."

She put the last sweet-pea into the wire-netting.

"Oh, yes, yes," she said; "how beautiful that distinction is."

He was not aware of its being particularly beautiful, until she
mentioned it, but then it struck him that it was rather fine.  Also
the respectability of all his long years tugged at him, as with a
chain.  He was quite conscious that he was encouraged, and so he
was slightly terrified.  He had not much power of imagination, but
he could picture to himself a very uncomfortable home. . . .

Providence came to his aid--probably Providence.  Church time was
spent, and two black Aberdeen terriers, followed by Elsie, followed
by Dr. Evans, came out of the drawing-room door on to the lawn.
They were all in the genial exhilaration that accompanies the sense
of duty done.  The dogs had been let out from the house, where they
were penned on Sunday morning to prevent their unexpected
appearance in church; the other two had been let out from church.

Wilfred Evans had most clearly left church behind him: he had also
left in the house not only his top hat but his coat, as befitted
the heat of the morning, and appeared, stout, and strong, and
brisk.  Elsie was less vigorous: she sat down on the grass as soon
as she reached the shade of the tree.  She had the good sense to
shake hands with Major Ames first: otherwise her mother would have
made remarks to him about her manners.  But she was markedly less
elderly now than she had been at the formal dinner-party of the
night before.

Dr. Evans arrived last at the mulberry-tree.

"Jove! what jolly flowers," he said.  "That's you, Major Ames,
isn't it?  How de'do?  Well, little woman, how goes it?  You did
well not to come to church.  Awfully hot it was."

"And a very long sermon, Daddy," said Elsie.

"Twenty-two minutes: I timed it.  Very interesting, though.  You'll
stop to lunch, Major Ames, won't you?  We lunch at one always on

Now Major Ames knew quite well that there was going to be at his
house the lunch that followed parties, the resurrection lunch of
what was dead last night.  There would be little bits of salmon
slightly greyer than on the evening before, peeping out from the
fresh salad that covered them.  There would be some sort of chaud-
froid; there would be a pink and viscous fluid which was the
debilitated descendant of the strawberry ice which Amy had given
them.  There would also be several people, including Mrs. Altham,
who had not been bidden to the feast last night, but who, since
they came according to the authorized Riseborough version of
festivities, to the lunch next day, would certainly be bidden to
dinner on the next occasion.  Also, he knew well, he would have to
say to Mrs. Altham, "Amy has given us cold luncheon to-day.  Well,
I don't mind a cold luncheon on as hot a day as it is.  Chaud-froid
of chicken, Mrs. Altham.  I think you'll find that Amy's cook
understands chaud-froid."

And all the time he knew that chaud-froid meant a dinner-party on
the night before.  So did the viscous fluid in the jelly glasses,
so did everything else.  And of course Mrs. Altham knew: everybody
knew all about the lunch that followed a dinner-party.  Even if the
dinner-party last night had been as secret as George the Fourth's
marriage with Mrs. Fitzherbert, the lunch to-day would have made it
as public as any function at St. Peter's, Eaton Square.

He thought over the unimaginable dislocation in all this routine
that his absence would entail.

"I wonder if I ought to," he said.  "I fancy Amy told me she had a
few friends to lunch."

Millie Evans looked up at him.  Infinitesimal as was the point as
to whether he should lunch here or at home, she knew that she
definitely entered herself against his wife at this moment.

"Ah, do stop," she said.  "If Cousin Amy has a few friends why
shouldn't we have one?"

He got up: he nearly took off his hat again, but again remembered.

"I take it as a command," he said.  "Am I ordered to stop?"

"Certainly.  Telephone to Mrs. Ames, Wilfred, and say that Major
Ames is lunching with us."

" les ordres de votre Majest," said he brightly, forgetting for
the moment that his wife came to him for help with the elusive
language of our neighbours.  But the Frenchness of his bearing and
sentiment, perhaps, diverted attention from the curious character
of his grammar.


It was, of course, as inevitable as the return of day that Mrs.
Altham should start half-an-hour earlier than was necessary to go
to church that morning, in order to return to Mrs. Brooks, who had
been dining last night at the Ames', a couple of books that had
been lent her a month or two ago, and that Mrs. Brooks should
recount to her the unusual incident of Harry's taking Mrs. Evans
into the garden after dinner, and giving her a gradually growing
bouquet of roses torn from his father's trees.  Indeed, it was
difficult to settle satisfactorily which part of Harry's conduct
was the most astounding, with such completeness had he revolted
against both beneficiaries of the fifth commandment.

"They can't have been out in the garden for less than twenty
minutes," said Mrs. Brooks; "and I shouldn't wonder if it was more.
For we had scarcely settled ourselves after the gentlemen came in
from the dining-room, when they went out, and I'm sure we had
hardly got talking again after they came back, before my maid was
announced.  To be sure the gentlemen sat a long time after dinner
before joining us, which I notice is always the case when General
Fortescue is at a party, but it can't have been less than half-an-
hour that they were in the garden now one comes to add it up."

Mrs. Brooks surveyed for a moment in silence her piece of
embroidery.  Not for a moment must it be supposed that she would
have done embroidery for her own dress on Sunday morning; this was
a frontal for the lectern at St. Barnabas, which would make it
impossible for Mrs. Ames to decorate the lectern any more with her
flowers.  There was a cross, and a crown, and some initials, and
some rays of light, and a heart, and some passion flowers, and a
dove worked on it, with a profusion of gold thread that was
positively American in its opulence.  Hitherto, the lectern had
always been the field of one of Mrs. Ames' most telling
embellishments.  When this embroidery was finished (which it soon
would be) she would be driven from the lectern in disorder and

"A very rich effect," said Mrs. Altham sympathetically.  "Half-an-
hour!  Dear me!  And then I think you said she came back with a
dozen roses."

Mrs. Brooks closed her eyes, and made a short calculation.

"More than a dozen," she said.  "I daresay there were twenty roses.
It was very marked, very marked indeed.  And if you ask me what I
think of Mrs. Ames' plan of asking husband without wife and wife
without husband, I must say I do not like it at all.  Depend upon
it, if Dr. Evans had come too, there would have been no walking
about in the garden with our Master Harry.  But far be it from me
to say there was any harm in it, far!  I hope I am not one who
condemns other people's actions because I would not commit them
myself.  All I know is that the first time my late dear husband
asked me to walk about the garden after dinner with him, he
proposed to me; and the second time he asked me to walk in the
garden with him he proposed again, and I accepted him.  But then I
was not engaged to anybody else at the time, far less married, like
Mrs. Evans.  But it is none of my business, I am glad to say."

"Indeed, no, it does not concern us," said Mrs. Altham, with
avidity; "and as you say, there may be no harm in it at all.  But
young men are very impressionable, even if most unattractive, and I
call it distinct encouragement to a young man to walk about after
dinner in the garden with him, and receive a present of roses.  And
I'm sure Mrs. Evans is old enough to be his mother."

Mrs. Brooks tacked down a length of gold thread which was to form
part of the longest ray of all, and made another little
calculation.  It was not completely satisfactory.

"Anyhow, she is old enough to know better," she said; "but I have
noticed that being old enough to know better often makes people
behave worse.  Mind, I do not blame her: there is nothing I detest
so much as this censorious attitude; and I only say that if I gave
so much encouragement to any young man I should blame myself."

"And the dinner?" asked Mrs. Altham.  "At least, I need not ask
that, since I am going to lunch there, and so I shall soon know as
well as you what there was."

Mrs. Brooks smiled in a rather superior manner.

"I never know what I am eating," she said.  And she looked as if it
disagreed with her, too, whatever it was.

This was not particularly thrilling, for though it was generally
known that Harry had an emotional temperament and wrote amorous
poems, he appeared to Mrs. Altham an improbable Lothario.  In any
case, the slight interest that this aroused in her was nothing
compared to that which awaited her and her husband when they
arrived for lunch at Mrs. Ames'.

There had been a long-standing feud between Mrs. Altham and her
hostess on the subject of punctuality.  About two years ago Mrs.
Ames had arrived at Mrs. Altham's at least ten minutes late for
dinner, and Mrs. Altham had very properly retorted by arriving a
quarter of an hour late when next she was bidden to dinner with
Mrs. Ames, though that involved sitting in a dark cab for ten
minutes at the corner of the next turning.  So, next time that Mrs.
Altham "hoped to have the pleasure of seeing you and Major Ames at
dinner on Thursday at a quarter to eight," she asked the rest of
her guests at eight.  With the effect that Mrs. Ames and her
husband arrived a few minutes before anybody else, and Riseborough
generally considered that Mrs. Altham had scored.  Since then there
had been but a sort of desultory pea-shooting kept up, such as
would harm nobody, and to-day Mrs. Altham and her husband arrived
certainly within ten minutes of the hour named.  Mr. Pettit, who
generally lunched with Mrs. Ames or Mrs. Brooks on Sunday, was
already there with his sister.  Harry was morosely fidgeting in a
corner, and Mrs. Ames was the only other person present in the
small sitting-room where she received her guests, instead of
troubling them to go up to the drawing-room and instantly to go
down again.  She gave Mrs. Altham her fat little hand, and then
made this remarkable statement.

"We are not waiting for anybody else, I think."

Upon which they went into lunch, and Harry sat at the head of the
table, instead of his father.

Mrs. Ames was in her most conversational mood, and it was not until
the chaud-froid, consisting mainly of the legs of chickens pasted
over with a yellow sauce that concealed the long blue hair-roots
with which Nature has adorned their lower extremities, was being
handed round, that Mrs. Altham had opportunity to ask the question
that had been effervescing like an antiseptic lozenge on the tip of
her tongue ever since she remarked the Major's absence.

"And where is Major Ames?" she asked.  "I hope he is not ill?  I
thought he looked far from well at Mrs. Evans' garden-party

Mrs. Ames set her mind at rest with regard to the second point, and
inflamed it on the first.

"Oh, no!" she said.  "Did you think he looked ill?  How good of you
to ask after him.  But Lyndhurst is quite well.  Mr. Pettit, a
little more chicken?  After your sermon."

Mr. Pettit had a shrewd, ugly, delightful face, very lean, very
capable.  Humanly speaking, he probably abhorred Mrs. Ames.
Humanely speaking, he knew there was a great deal of good in her,
and a quantity of debatable stuff.  He smiled, showing thick white

"Before and after my sermon," he said.  "Also before a children's
service and a Bible class.  I cannot help thinking that God forgot
his poor clergymen when he defined the seventh day as one of rest."

Mrs. Ames hid a small portion of her little face with her little
hand.  She always said that Mr. Pettit was not like a clergyman at

"How naughty of you," she said.  "But I must correct you.  The
seventh day has become the first day now."

Harry gave vent to a designedly audible sigh.  The Omar Club were
chiefly atheists, and he felt bound to uphold their principles.

"That is the sort of thing that confuses me," he said.  "Mr. Pettit
says Sunday was called a day of rest, and my mother says that God
meant what we call Monday, or Saturday.  I have been behaving as if
it was Tuesday or Wednesday."

Mr. Pettit gave him a kindly glance.

"Quite right, my dear boy," he said.  "Spend your Tuesday or
Wednesday properly and God won't mind whether it is Thursday or

Harry pushed back his lank hair, and became Omar-ish.

"Do you fast on Friday, may I ask?" he said.

Mrs. Ames looked pained, and tried to think of something to say.
She failed.  But Mrs. Altham thought without difficulty.

"I suppose Major Ames is away, Mr. Harry?" she said.

Even then, though her intentions might easily be supposed to be
amiable, she was not allowed the privilege of being replied to, for
Mr. Pettit cheerfully answered Harry's question, without a shadow
of embarrassment, just as if he did not mind what the Omar Khayyam
Club thought.

"Of course I do, my dear fellow," he said, "because our Lord and
dearest friend died that day.  He allows us to watch and pray with
Him an hour or two."

Harry appeared indulgent.

"Curious," he said.

Mr. Pettit looked at him for just the space of time any one looks
at the speaker, with cheerful cordiality of face, and then turned
to his mother again.

"I want you at church next Sunday," he said, "with a fat purse, to
be made thin.  I am going to have an offertory to finance a
children's treat.  I want to send every child in the parish to the
sea-side for a day."

Harry interrupted in the critical manner.

"Why the sea-side?" he asked.

Mr. Pettit turned to him with unabated cordiality.

"How right to ask!" he said.  "Because the sea is His, and He made
it!  Also, they will build sand-castles, and pick up shells.  You
must come too, my dear Harry, and help us to give them a nice day."

Harry felt that this was a Philistine here, who needed to be put in
his place.  He was not really a very rude youth, but one who felt
it incumbent on him to oppose Christianity, which he regarded as
superstition.  A bright idea came into his head.

"But His hands prepared the dry land," he said, "on the same

"Certainly; and as the dear mites have always seen the dry land,"
said Mr. Pettit, with the utmost good-humour, "we want to show them
that God thought of something they never thought of.  And then
there are the sand-castles."

Harry was tired, and did not proceed to crush Mr. Pettit with the
atheistical arguments that were but commonplace to the Omar Khayyam
Club.  He was not worth argument: you could only really argue with
the enlightened people who fundamentally agreed with you, and he
was sure that Mr. Pettit did not fulfil that requirement.  So,
indulgently, he turned to Mrs. Altham.

"I saw you at Mrs. Evans' garden-party yesterday," he said.  "I
think she is the most wonderful person I ever met.  She was dining
here last night, and I took her into the garden--"

"And showed her the roses," said Mrs. Altham, unable to restrain

Harry became a parody of himself, though that might seem to be a
feat of insuperable difficulty.

"I supposed it would get about," he said.  "That is the worst of a
little place like this.  Whatever you do is instantly known."

The slightly viscous remains of the strawberry ice were being
handed, and Mr. Pettit was talking to Mrs. Ames and his sister from
a pitiably Christian standpoint.

"What did you hear?" asked Harry, in a low voice.

"Merely that she and you went out into the garden after dinner, and
that you picked roses for her--"

Harry pushed back his lank hair with his bony hand.

"You have heard all," he said.  "There was nothing more than that.
I did not see her home.  Her carriage did not come: there was some
mistake about it, I suppose.  But it was my father who saw her
home, not I."

He laid down the spoon with which he had been consuming the viscous

"If you hear that I saw her home, Mrs. Altham," he said, "tell them
it is not true.  From what you have already told me, I gather there
is talk going on.  There is no reason for such talk."

He paused a moment, and then a line or two of the intensely
Swinburnian effusion which he had written last night fermented in
his head, making him infinitely more preposterous.

"I assure you that at present there is no reason for such talk," he
said earnestly.

Now Mrs. Altham, with her wide interest in all that concerned
anybody else, might be expected to feel the intensest curiosity on
such a topic, but somehow she felt very little, since she knew that
behind the talk there was really very little topic, and the gallant
misgivings of poor, ugly Harry seemed to her destitute of any real
thrill.  On the other hand, she wanted very much to know where
Major Ames was, and being endowed with the persistence of the
household cat, which you may turn out of a particular arm-chair a
hundred times, without producing the slightest discouragement in
its mind, she reverted to her own subject again.

"I am sure there is no reason for such talk, Mr. Harry," she said,
with strangely unwelcome conviction, "and I will be sure to
contradict it if ever I hear it.  I am so glad to hear Major Ames
is not ill.  I was afraid that his absence from lunch to-day might
mean that he was."

Now Harry, as a matter of fact, had no idea where his father was,
since the telephone message had been received by Mrs. Ames.

"Father is quite well," he said.  "He was picking sweet-peas half
the morning.  He picked a great bunch."

Mrs. Altham looked round: the table was decorated with the roses of
the dinner-party of the evening before.

"Then where are the sweet-peas?" she asked.

But Harry was not in the least interested in the question.

"I don't know," he said.  "Perhaps they are in the next room.  I
showed Mrs. Evans last night how the La France roses looked blue
when dusk fell.  She had never noticed it, though they turn as blue
as her eyes."

"How curious!" said Mrs. Altham.  "But I didn't see the sweet-peas
in the next room.  Surely if there had been a quantity of them I
should have noticed them.  Or perhaps they are in the drawing-

At this moment, Mrs. Ames' voice was heard from the other end of
the table.

"Then shall we have our coffee outside?" she said.  "Harry, if you
will ring the bell--"

There was the pushing back of chairs, and Mrs. Altham passed along
the table to the French windows that opened on to the verandah.

"I hear Major Ames has been picking the loveliest sweet-peas all
the morning," she said to her hostess.  "It would be such a
pleasure to see them.  I always admire Major Ames' sweet-peas."

Now this was unfortunate, for Mrs. Altham desired information
herself, but by her speech she had only succeeded in giving
information to Mrs. Ames, who guessed without the slightest
difficulty where the sweet-peas had gone, which she had not yet
known had been picked.  She was already considerably annoyed with
her husband for his unceremonious desertion of her luncheon-party,
and was aware that Mrs. Altham would cause the fact to be as well
known in Riseborough as if it had been inserted in the column of
local intelligence in the county paper.  But she felt she would
sooner put it there herself than let Mrs. Altham know where he and
his sweet-peas were.  She had no greater objection (or if she had,
she studiously concealed it from herself even) to his going to
lunch in this improvising manner with Mrs. Evans than if he had
gone to lunch with anybody else; what she minded was his non-
appearance at an institution so firmly established and so
faithfully observed as the lunch that followed the dinner-party.
But at the moment her entire mind was set on thwarting Mrs. Altham.
She looked interested.

"Indeed, has he been picking sweet-peas?" she said.  "I must scold
him if it was only that which kept him away from church.  I don't
know what he has done with them.  Very likely they are in his
dressing-room: he often likes to have flowers there.  But as you
admire his sweet-peas so much, pray walk down the garden, and look
at them.  You will find them in their full beauty."

This, of course, was not in the least what Mrs. Altham wanted,
since she did not care two straws for the rest of the sweet-peas.
But life was scarcely worth living unless she knew where those
particular sweet-peas were.  As for their being in his dressing-
room, she felt that Mrs. Ames must have a very poor opinion of her
intellectual capacities, if she thought that an old wife's tale
like that would satisfy it.  In this she was partly right: Mrs.
Ames had indeed no opinion at all of her mind; on the other hand,
she did not for a moment suppose that this suggestion about the
dressing-room would content that feeble organ.  It was not designed
to: the object was to stir it to a wilder and still unsatisfied
curiosity.  It perfectly succeeded, and from by-ways Mrs. Altham
emerged full-speed, like a motor-car, into the high-road of direct

"I am sure they are lovely," she said.  "And where is Major Ames

Mrs. Ames raised the pieces of her face where there might have been
eyebrows in other days.  She told one of the truths that Bismarck

"He did not tell me before he went out," she said.  "Perhaps Harry
knows.  Harry, where is your father lunching?"

Now this was ludicrous.  As if it was possible that any wife in
Riseborough did not know where her husband was lunching!  Harry
apparently did not know either, and Mrs. Ames, tasting the joys of
the bull-baiter, goaded Mrs. Altham further by pointedly asking
Parker, when she brought the coffee, if she knew where the Major
was lunching.  Of course Parker did not, and so Parker was told to
cut Mrs. Altham a nice bunch of sweet-peas to carry away with her.

This pleasant duty of thwarting undue curiosity being performed,
Mrs. Ames turned to Mr. Pettit, though she had not quite done with
Mrs. Altham yet.  For she had heard on the best authority that Mrs.
Altham occasionally indulged in the disgusting and unfeminine habit
of cigarette smoking.  Mrs. Brooks had several times seen her
walking about her garden with a cigarette, and she had told Mrs.
Taverner, who had told Mrs. Ames.  The evidence was overwhelming.

"Mr. Pettit, I don't think any of us mind the smell of tobacco,"
she said, "when it is out of doors, so pray have a cigarette.
Harry will give you one.  Ah!  I forgot!  Perhaps Mrs. Altham does
not like it."

Mrs. Altham hastened to correct that impression.  At the same time
she had a subtle and not quite comfortable sense that Mrs. Ames
knew all about her and her cigarettes, which was exactly the
impression which that lady sought to convey.

These tactics were all sound enough in their way, but a profounder
knowledge of human nature would have led Mrs. Ames not to press
home her victory with so merciless a hand.  In her determination to
thwart Mrs. Altham's odious curiosity, she had let it be seen that
she was thwarting it: she should not, for instance, have asked
Parker if she knew of the Major's whereabouts, for it only served
to emphasize the undoubted fact that Mrs. Ames knew (that might be
taken for granted) and that she knew that Parker did not, for
otherwise she would surely not have asked her.

Consequently Mrs. Altham (erroneously, as far as that went) came to
the conclusion that the Major was lunching alone where his wife did
not wish him to lunch alone.  And in the next quarter of an hour,
while they all sat on the verandah, she devoted the mind which her
hostess so despised, to a rapid review of all houses of this
description.  Instantly almost, the wrong scent which she was
following led her to the right quarry.  She argued, erroneously,
the existence of a pretty woman, and there was a pretty woman in
Riseborough.  It is hardly necessary to state that she made up her
mind to call on that pretty woman without delay.  She would be very
much surprised if she did not find there an immense bunch of sweet-
peas and perhaps their donor.

Mrs. Ames' guests soon went their ways, Mr. Pettit and his sister
to the children's service at three, the Althams on their detective
mission, and she was left to herself, except in so far as Harry,
asleep in a basket chair in the garden, can be considered
companionship.  She was not gifted with any very great acuteness of
imagination, but this afternoon she found herself capable of
conjuring up (indeed, she was incapable of not doing so) a certain
amount of vague disquiet.  Indeed, she tried to put it away, and
refresh her mind with the remembrance of her thwarting Mrs. Altham,
but though her disquiet was but vague, and was concerned with
things that had at present no real existence at all, whereas her
victory over that inquisitive lady was fresh and recent, the
disquiet somehow was of more pungent quality, and at last she faced
it, instead of attempting any longer to poke it away out of sight.

Millie Evans was undeniably a good-looking woman, undeniably the
Major had been considerably attracted last night by her.
Undeniably also he had done a very strange thing in stopping to
have his lunch there, when he knew perfectly well that there were
people lunching with them at home for that important rite of eating
up the remains of last night's dinner.  Beyond doubt he had taken
her this present of sweet-peas, of which Mrs. Altham had so
obligingly informed her; beyond doubt, finally, she was herself ten
years her husband's senior.

It has been said that Mrs. Ames was not imaginative, but indeed,
there seemed to be sufficient here, when it was all brought
together, to occupy a very prosaic and literal mind.  It was not as
if these facts were all new to her: that disparity of age between
herself and her husband had long lain dark and ominous, like a
distant thunder-cloud on the horizon of her mind.  Hitherto, it had
been stationary there, not apparently coming any closer, and not
giving any hint of the potential tempest which might lurk within
it.  But now it seemed to have moved a little up the sky, and
(though this might be mere fancy on her part), there came from it
some drowsy and distant echo of thunder.

It must not be supposed that her disquiet expressed itself in Mrs.
Ames' mind in terms of metaphor like this, for she was practically
incapable of metaphor.  She said to herself merely that she was ten
years older than her husband.  That she had known ever since they
married (indeed, she had known it before), but till now the fact
had never seemed likely to be of any significance to her.  And yet
her grounds for supposing that it might be about to become
significant were of the most unsubstantial sort.  Certainly if
Lyndhurst had not gone out to lunch to-day, she would never have
dreamed of finding disquiet in the happenings of the evening
before; indeed, apart from Harry's absurd expedition into the
garden, the party had been a markedly successful one, and she had
determined to give more of those undomestic entertainments.  But
the principle of them assumed a strangely different aspect when her
husband accepted an invitation of the kind instead of lunching at
home, and that aspect presented itself in vivid colours when she
reflected that he was ten years her junior.

Mrs. Ames was a practical woman, and though her imagination had run
unreasonably riot, so she told herself, over these late events, so
that she already contemplated a contingency that she had no real
reason to anticipate, she considered what should be her practical
conduct if this remote state of affairs should cease to be remote.
She had altogether passed from being in love with her husband, so
much so, indeed, that she could not recall, with any sense of
reality, what that unquiet sensation was like.  But she had been in
love with him years ago, and that still gave her a sense of
possession over him.  She had not been in the habit of guarding her
possession, since there had never been any reason to suppose that
anybody wanted to take it away, but she remembered with sufficient
distinctness the sense that Lyndhurst's garden was becoming to him
the paramount interest in his life.  At the time that sense had
been composed of mixed feelings: neglect and relief were its
constituents.  He had ceased to expect from her that indefinable
sensitiveness which is one of the prime conditions of love, and the
growing atrophy of his demands certainly corresponded with her own
inclinations.  At the same time, though this cessation on his part
of the imperative need of her, was a relief, she resented it.  She
would have wished him to continue being in love with her on credit,
so to speak, without the settlement of the bill being applied for.
Years had passed since then, but to-day that secondary discontent
assumed a primary importance again.  It was more acute now than it
had ever been, for her possession was not being quietly absorbed
into the culture of impersonal flowers, but, so it seemed possible,
was directly threatened.

There was the situation which her imagination presented her with,
practically put, and she proceeded to consider it from a practical
standpoint.  What was she to do?

She had the justice to acknowledge that the first clear signals of
coolness in their mutual relations, now fifteen years ago, had been
chiefly flown by her: she had essentially welcomed his transference
of affection to his garden, though she had secretly resented it.
At the least, the cooling had been condoned by her.  Probably that
had been a mistake on her part, and she determined now to rectify
it.  She, pathetically enough, felt herself young still, and to
confirm herself in her view, she took the trouble to go indoors,
and look at herself in the glass that hung in the hall.  It was
inevitable that she should see there not what she really saw, but
what, in the main, she desired to see.  Her hair, always slightly
faded in tone, was not really grey, and even if there were signs of
greyness in it there was nothing easier, if you could trust the
daily advertisements in the papers, than to restore the colour, not
by dyes, but by "purely natural means."  There had been an
advertisement of one such desirable lotion, she remembered, in the
paper to-day, which she had noticed was supplied by any chemist.
Certainly there was a little grey in her hair: that would be easy
to remedy.  That act of mental frankness led on to another.  There
were certain premonitory symptoms of stringiness about her throat
and of loose skin round her mouth and eyes.  But who could keep
abreast of the times at all, and not know that there were skin-
foods which were magical in their effect?  There was one which had
impressed itself on her not long before: an actress had written in
its praise, affirming that her wrinkles had vanished with three
nights' treatment.  Then there was a little, just a little,
sallowness of complexion, but after all, she had always been rather
sallow.  It was a fortunate circumstance: when she got hot she
never got crimson in the face like poor Mrs. Taverner. . . .  She
was going to town next week for a night, in order to see her
dentist, a yearly precaution, unproductive of pain, for her teeth
were really excellent, regular in shape, white, undecayed.
Lyndhurst, in his early days, had told her they were like pearls,
and she had told him he talked nonsense.  They were just as much
like pearls still, only he did not tell her so.  He, poor fellow,
had had great trouble in this regard, but it might be supposed his
trouble was over now, since artifice had done its utmost for him.
She was much younger than him there, though his last set fitted
beautifully.  But probably Millie had seen they were not real.  And
then he was distinctly gouty, which she was not.  Often had she
heard his optimistic assertion that an hour's employment with the
garden-roller rendered all things of rheumatic tendency an
impossibility.  But she, though publicly she let these random
statements pass, and even endorsed them, knew the array of bottles
that beleaguered the washing-stand in his dressing-room, where the
sweet-peas were not.

The silent colloquy with the mirror in the hall occupied her some
ten minutes, but the ten minutes sufficed for the arrival of one
conclusion--namely, that she did not intend to be an old woman yet.
Subtle art, the art of the hair-restorer (which was not a dye), the
art of the skin-feeder must be invoked.  She no longer felt at all
old, now that there was a possibility of her husband's feeling
young.  And lip-salve: perhaps lip-salve, yet that seemed hardly
necessary: a few little bitings and mumblings of her lips between
her excellent teeth seemed to restore to them a very vivid colour.

She went back to the verandah, where her little luncheon-party had
had their coffee, and pondered the practical manoeuvres of her
campaign of invasion into the territory of youth which had once
been hers.  The lotion for the hair, as she verified by a
consultation with the Sunday paper, took but a fortnight's
application to complete its work.  The wrinkle treatment was easily
comprised in that, for it took, according to the eminent actress,
no more than three days.  It might therefore be wiser not to let
the work of rejuvenation take place under Lyndhurst's eye, for
there might be critical passages in it.  But she could go away for
a fortnight (a fortnight was the utmost time necessary for the
wonderful lotion to restore faded colour) and return again after
correspondence that indicated that she felt much better and
younger.  Several times before she had gone to stay alone with a
friend of hers on the coast of Norfolk: there would be nothing in
the least remarkable in her doing it again.

An objection loomed in sight.  If there was any reality in the
supposition that prompted her desire to seem young again--namely, a
possible attraction of her husband towards Millie Evans, she would
but be giving facility and encouragement to that by her absence.
But then, immediately the wisdom of the course, stronger than the
objection to it, presented itself.  Infinitely the wiser plan for
her was to act as if unconscious of any such danger, to disarm him
by her obvious rejection of any armour of her own.  She must either
watch him minutely or not at all.  Mr. Pettit had alluded in his
sermon that morning to the finer of the two attitudes when he
reminded them that love thought no evil.  It seemed to poor Mrs.
Ames that if by her conduct she appeared to think no evil, it came
to the same thing.

Her behaviour towards Lyndhurst, when he should come back from
Millie's house, followed as a corollary.  She would be completely
genial: she would hope he had had a pleasant lunch, and, if he made
any apology for his absence, assure him that it was quite
unnecessary.  Her charity would carry her even further than that:
she would say that his absence had been deplored by her guests, but
that she had been so glad that he had done as he felt inclined.
She would hope that Millie was not tired with her party, and that
she and her husband would come to dine with them again soon.  It
must be while Harry was at home, for he was immensely attracted by
Millie.  So good for a boy to think about a nice woman like that.

Mrs. Ames carried out her programme with pathetic fidelity.  Her
husband did not get home till nearly tea-time, and she welcomed him
with a cordiality that would have been unusual even if he had not
gone out to lunch at all.  And to do him justice, it must be
confessed that his wife's scheme, as already recounted, was framed
to meet a situation which at present had no real existence, except
in the mind of a wife wedded to a younger husband.  There were data
for the situation, so to speak, rather than there was danger of it.
He, on his side, was well aware of the irregularity of his conduct,
and was prepared to accept, without retaliation, a modicum of blame
for it.  But no blame at all awaited him; instead of that a
cordiality so genuine that, in spite of the fact that a particularly
good dinner was provided him, the possible parallel of the prodigal
son did not so much as suggest itself to his mind.

Harry had retired to his bedroom soon after dinner with a certain
wildness of eye which portended poetry rather than repose, and
after he had gone his father commented in the humorous spirit about

"Poor old Harry!" he said.  "Case of lovely woman, eh, Amy?  I was
just the same at his age, until I met you, my dear."

This topic of Harry's admiration for Mrs. Evans, which his mother
had intended to allude to, had not yet been touched on, and she
responded cordially.

"You think Harry is very much attracted by Millie, do you mean?"
she said.

He chuckled.

"Well, that's not very difficult to see," he said.  "Why, the
rascal tore off a dozen of my best roses for her last night, though
I hadn't the heart to scold him for it.  Not a bad thing for a
young fellow to burn a bit of incense before a charming woman like
that.  Keeps him out of mischief, makes him see what a nice woman
is like.  As I said, I used to do just the same myself."

"Tell me about it," said she.

"Well, there was the Colonel's wife.  God bless me, how I adored
her.  I must have been just about Harry's age, for I had only
lately joined, and she was a woman getting on for forty.  Good
thing, too, for me, as I say, for it kept me out of mischief.  They
used to say she encouraged me, but I don't believe it.  Every woman
likes to know that she's admired, eh?  She doesn't snub a boy who
takes her out in the garden, and picks his father's roses for her.
But we mustn't have Harry boring her with his attentions.  That'll
never do."

It seemed to Mrs. Ames of singularly little consequence whether
Harry bored Millie Evans or not.  She would much have preferred to
be assured that her husband did.  But the subsequent conversation
did not reassure her as to that.

"Nice little woman, she is," he said.  "Thoroughly nice little
woman, and naturally enough, my dear, since she is your cousin, she
likes being treated in neighbourly fashion.  We had a great talk
after lunch to-day, and I'm sorry for her, sorry for her.  I think
we ought to do all we can to make life pleasant for her.  Drop in
to tea, or drop in to lunch, as I did to-day.  A doctor's wife, you
know.  She told me that some days she scarcely set eyes on her
husband, and when she did, he could think of nothing but microbes.
And there's really nobody in Riseborough, except you and me, with
whom she feels--dear me, what's that French word--yes, with whom
she feels in her proper milieu.  I should like us to be on such
terms with her--you being her cousin--that we could always
telephone to say we were dropping in, and that she would feel
equally free to drop in.  Dropping in, you know: that's the real
thing; not to be obliged to wait till you are asked, or to accept
weeks ahead, as one has got to do for some formal dinner-party.  I
should like to feel that we mightn't be surprised to find her
picking sweet-peas in the garden, and that she wouldn't be
surprised to find you or me sitting under her mulberry-tree,
waiting for her to come in.  After all, intimacy only begins when
formality ceases.  Shall I give you some soda water?"

Mrs. Ames did not want soda-water: she wanted to think.  Her
husband had completely expressed the attitude she meant to adopt,
but her own adoption of it had presupposed a certain contrition on
his part with regard to his unusual behaviour.  But he gave her no
time for thought, and proceeded to propose just the same sort of
thing as she (in her magnanimity) had thought of suggesting.

"Dinner, now," he said.  "Up till last night we have always been a
bit formal about dinner here in Riseborough.  If you asked General
Snookes, you asked Mrs. Snookes; if you asked Admiral Jones, you
asked Lady Jones.  You led the way, my dear, about that, and what
could have been pleasanter than our little party last night?  Let
us repeat it: let us be less formal.  If you want to see Mr.
Altham, ask him to come.  Mrs. Altham, let us say, wants to ask me:
let her ask me.  Or if you meet Dr. Evans in the street, and he
says it is lunch time, go and have lunch with him, without
bothering about me.  I shall do very well at home.  I'm told that
in London it is quite a constant practice to invite like that.  And
it seems to me very sensible."

All this had seemed very sensible to Mrs. Ames, when she had
thought of it herself.  It seemed a little more hazardous now.  She
was well aware that this plan had caused a vast amount of talk in
Riseborough, the knowledge of which she had much enjoyed, since it
was of the nature of subjects commenting on the movements of their
queen, without any danger to her of dethronement.  But she was not
so sure that she enjoyed her husband's cordial endorsement of her
innovation.  Also, in his endorsement there was some little
insincerity.  He had taken as instance the chance of his wishing to
dine without his wife at Mrs. Altham's, and they both knew how
preposterous such a contingency would be.  But did this only
prepare the way for a further solitary excursion to Mrs. Evans'?
Had Mrs. Evans asked him to dine there?  She was immediately

"Of course, we talked over your delightful dinner-party of last
night," he said, "and agreed in the agreeableness of it.  And she
asked me to dine there, en garon, on Tuesday next.  Of course, I
said I must consult you first; you might have asked other people
here, or we might be dining out together.  I should not dream of
upsetting any existing arrangement.  I told her so: she quite
understood.  But if there was nothing going on, I promised to dine
there en garon."

That phrase had evidently taken Major Ames' fancy; there was a ring
of youth about it, and he repeated it with gusto.  His wife, too,
perfectly understood the secret smack of the lips with which he
said it: she knew precisely how he felt.  But she was wise enough
to keep the consciousness of it completely out of her reply.

"By all means," she said; "we have no engagement for that night.
And I am thinking of proposing myself for a little visit to Mrs.
Bertram next week, Lyndhurst.  I know she is at Overstrand now, and
I think ten days on the east coast would do me good."

He assented with a cordiality that equalled hers.

"Very wise, I am sure, my dear," he said.  "I have thought this
last day or two that you looked a little run down."

A sudden misgiving seized her at this, for she knew quite well she
neither looked nor felt the least run down.

"I thought perhaps you and Harry would take some little trip
together while I was away," she said.

"Oh, never mind us, never mind us," said he.  "We'll rub along, en
garon, you know.  I daresay some of our friends will take pity on
us, and ask us to drop in."

This was not reassuring: nor would Mrs. Ames have been reassured if
she could have penetrated at that moment unseen into Mrs. Altham's
drawing-room.  She and her husband had gone straight from Mrs.
Ames' house that afternoon to call on Mrs. Evans, and had been told
she was not at home.  But Mrs. Altham of the eagle-eye had seen
through the opened front door an immense bowl of sweet-peas on the
hall table, and by it a straw hat with a riband of regimental
colours round it.  Circumstantial evidence could go no further, and
now this indefatigable lady was looking out Major Ames in an old
army list.

"Ames, Lyndhurst Percy," she triumphantly read out.  "Born 1860,
and I daresay he is older than that, because if ever there was a
man who wanted to be thought younger than his years, that's the
one.  So in any case, Henry, he is over forty-seven.  And there's
the front-door bell.  It will be Mrs. Brooks.  She said she would
drop in for a chat after dinner."

There was plenty to chat about that evening.


Mrs. Ames might or might not have been run down when she left
Riseborough the following week, but nothing can be more certain
than that she was considerably braced up seven days after that.
The delicious freshness of winds off the North Sea, tempering the
heat of brilliant summer suns, may have had something to do with
it, and she certainly had more colour in her face than was usual
with her, which was the legitimate effect of the felicitous
weather.  There was more colour in her hair also, and though that,
no doubt, was a perfectly legitimate effect too, being produced by
purely natural means, as the label on the bottle stated, the sun
and wind were not accountable for this embellishment.

She had spent an afternoon in London--chiefly in Bond Street--on
her way here, and had gone to a couple of addresses which she had
secretly snipped out of the daily press.  The expenditure of a
couple of pounds, which was already yielding her immense dividends
in encouragement and hope, had put her into possession of a bottle
with a brush, a machine that, when you turned a handle, quivered
violently like a motor-car that is prepared to start, and a small
jar of opaque glass, which contained the miraculous skin-food.
With these was being wrought the desired marvels; with these, as
with a magician's rod, she was conjuring, so she believed, the
remote enchantments of youth back to her.

After quite a few days change became evident, and daily that change
grew greater.  As regards her hair, the cost, both of time and
material, in this miracle-working, was of the smallest possible
account.  Morning and evening, after brushing it, she rubbed in a
mere teaspoonful of a thin yellow liquid, which, as the
advertisement stated, was quite free from grease or obnoxious
smell, and did not stain the pillow.  This was so simple that it
really required faith to embark upon the treatment, for from the
time of Hebrew prophets, mankind have found it easier to do "some
great thing" than merely to wash in the Jordan.  But Mrs. Ames,
luckily, had shown her faith, and by the end of a week the
marvellous lotion had shown its works.  Till now, though her hair
could not be described as grey, there was a considerable quantity
of grey in it: now she examined it with an eye that sought for
instead of shutting itself to such blemish, and the reward of its
search was of the most meagre sort.  There was really no grey left
in it: it might have been, as far as colour could be taken as a
test of age, the hair of a young woman.  It was not very abundant
in quantity, but the lotion had held out no promises on that score;
quality, not quantity, was the sum of its beckoning.  The
application of the skin-food was more expensive: she had to use
more and it took longer.  Nightly she poured a can of very hot
water into her basin, and with a towel over her head to concentrate
the vapour, she steamed her face over it for some twenty minutes.
Emerging red and hot and stifled, she wiped off the streams of
moisture, and with finger-tips dipped in this marvellous cream,
tapped and dabbed at the less happy regions between her eyebrows,
outside her eyes, across her forehead, at the corners of her mouth,
and up and down her neck.  Then came the use of the palpitating
machine; it whirred and buzzed over her, tickling very much.  For
half-an-hour she would make a patient piano of her face, then
gently remove such of the skin-food as still stayed on the surface,
and had not gone within to do its nurturing work.  Certainly this
was a somewhat laborious affair, but the results were highly
prosperous.  There was no doubt that to a perfectly candid and even
sceptical eye, a week's treatment had produced a change.  The
wrinkles were beginning to be softly erased: there was a
perceptible plumpness observable in the leaner places.  Between the
bouts of tapping and dabbing she sipped the glass of milk which she
brought up to bed with her, as the deviser of the skin-food
recommended.  She drank another such glass in the middle of the
morning, and digested them both perfectly.

As these external signs appeared and grew there went on within her
an accompanying and corresponding rejuvenation of spirit.  She felt
very well, owing, no doubt, to the brisk air, the milk, the many
hours spent out-of-doors, and in consequence she began to feel much
younger.  An unwonted activity and lightness pervaded her limbs:
she took daily a walk of a couple of hours without fatigue, and was
the life and soul of the dinner-table, whose other occupants were
her hosts, Mrs. Bertram, a cold, grim woman with a moustache, and
her husband, milder, with whiskers.  Their only passion was for
gardening, and they seldom left their grounds; thus Mrs. Ames took
her walks unaccompanied.

Miles of firm sands, when the tide was low, subtended the cliffs on
which Mr. Bertram's house stood, and often Mrs. Ames preferred to
walk along the margin of the sea rather than pursue more inland
routes, and to-day, after her large and wholesome lunch (the
physical stimulus of the east coast, combined with this mental
stimulus of her object in coming here, gave her an appetite of
dimensions unknown at Riseborough) she took a maritime way.  The
tide was far out, and the lower sands, still shining and firm from
the retained moisture of its retreat, made uncommonly pleasant
walking.  She had abandoned heeled footgear, and had bought at a
shop in the village, where everything inexpensive, from wooden
spades to stamps and sticking plaster, was sold, a pair of canvas
coverings technically known as sandshoes.  They laced up with a
piece of white tape, and were juvenile, light, and easily
removable.  They, and the great sea, and the jetsam of stranded
seaweed, and the general sense of youth and freshness, made most
agreeable companions, and she felt, though neither Mr. nor Mrs.
Bertram was with her, charmingly accompanied.  Her small, toadlike
face expressed a large degree of contentment, and piercing her
pleasant surroundings as the smell of syringa pierces through the
odour of all other flowers, was the sense of her brown hair and
fast-fading wrinkles.  That gave her an inward happiness which
flushed with pleasure and interest all she saw.  In the lines of
pebbles left by the retreating tide was an orange-coloured
cornelian, which she picked up, and put in her pocket.  She could
have bought the same, ready polished, for a shilling at the cheap
and comprehensive shop, but to find it herself gave her a pleasure
not to be estimated at all in terms of silver coinage.  Further on
there was an attractive-looking shell, which she also picked up,
and was about to give as a companion to the cornelian, when a
sudden scurry of claw-like legs about its aperture showed her that
a hermit-crab was domiciled within, and she dropped it with a
little scream and a sense of danger escaped both by her and the
hermit-crab.  There were attractive pieces of seaweed, which
reminded her of years when she collected the finer sorts, and set
them, with the aid of a pin, on cartridge-paper, spreading out
their delicate fronds and fern-like foliage.  There were creamy
ripples of the quiet sea, long-winged gulls that hovered fishing;
above all there was the sense of her brown hair and smoothed face.
She felt years younger, and she felt she looked years younger,
which was scarcely less solid a satisfaction.

It pleased her, but not acutely or viciously, to think of Mrs.
Altham's feelings when she made her rejuvenated appearance in
Riseborough.  It was quite certain that Mrs. Altham would suspect
that she had been "doing something to herself," and that Mrs.
Altham would burst with envy and curiosity to know what it was she
had done.  Although she felt very kindly towards all the world, she
did not deceive herself to such an extent as to imagine that she
would tell Mrs. Altham what she had done.  Mrs. Altham was
ingenious and would like guessing.  But that lady occupied her mind
but little.  The main point was that in a week from now she would
go home again, and that Lyndhurst would find her young.  She might
or might not have been right in fearing that Lyndhurst was becoming
sentimentally interested in Millie Evans, and she was quite willing
to grant that her grounds for that fear were of the slenderest.
But all that might be dismissed now.  She herself, in a week from
now, would have recaptured that more youthful aspect which had been
hers while he was still of loverlike inclination towards her.  What
might be called regular good looks had always been denied her, but
she had once had her share of youth.  To-day she felt youthful
still, and once again, she believed, looked as if she belonged to
the enchanted epoch.  She had no intention of using this recapture
promiscuously: she scarcely desired general admiration: she only
desired that her husband should find her attractive.

For a little while, as she took her quick, short steps along these
shining sands, she felt herself grow bitter towards Millie Evans.
A sort of superior pity was mixed with the bitterness, for she told
herself that poor Millie, if she had tried to flirt with Lyndhurst,
would speedily find herself flirting all alone.  Very likely Millie
was guiltless in intention; she had only let her pretty face
produce an unchecked effect.  Men were attracted by a pretty face,
but the owners of such faces ought to keep a curb on them, so to
speak.  Their faces were not their faults, but rather their
misfortunes.  A woman with a pretty face would be wise to make
herself rather reserved, so that her manner would chill anybody who
was inclined. . . .  But the whole subject now was obsolete.  If
there had been any danger, there would not be any more, and she did
not blame Millie.  She must ask Millie to dine with them en
famille, which was much nicer than en garon, as soon as she got

It might be gathered from this account of Mrs. Ames' self-
communings that deep down in her nature there lay a strain of
almost farcical fatuousness.  But she was not really fatuous,
unless it is fatuous to have preserved far out into the plains of
middle-age some vision of the blue mountains of youth.  It is true
that for years she had been satisfied to dwell on these plains;
now, her fear that her husband, so much younger than herself, was
turning his eyes to blue mountains that did not belong to him, made
her desire to get out of the plains and ascend her own blue
mountains again and wave to him from there, and encourage his
advance.  She felt exceedingly well, and in consequence told
herself that in mind, as well as physical constitution, she was
young still, while the effect of the bottles which she used with
such regularity made her believe that the outward signs of age were
erasible.  She seemed to have been granted a new lease of life in a
tenement that it was easy to repair.  Her whole nature felt itself
to be quickened and vivified.

She had gone far along the sands, and the tide was beginning to
flow again.  All round her were great empty spaces, a shipless sea,
a cloudless sky, a beach with no living being in sight.  A sudden
unpremeditated impulse seized her, and without delay she sat down
on the shore, and took off her shoes and stockings.  Then, pulling
up her skirts, she hastily ran down to the edge of the water,
across a little belt of pebbles that tickled and hurt her soft-
soled feet, and waded out into the liquid rims of the sea.  She was
astonished and amazed at herself that the idea of paddling had ever
come into her head, and more amazed that she had had the temerity
to put it into execution.  For the first minute or two the cold
touch of the water on her unaccustomed ankles and calves made her
gasp a little, but for all the strangeness of these sensations she
felt that paddling, playing like a child in the shallow waters,
expressed the tone of her mind, just as the melody of a song
expresses the words to which it is set.  If she had had a spade,
she would certainly have built a sand-castle and dug moats about
it, and a smile lit up her small face at the thought of purchasing
one at the universal shop, and furtively conveying it to these
unfrequented beaches.  And the smile almost ended in a blush when
she tried to imagine what Riseborough society would say if it
became known that their queen not only paddled in the sea, but
seriously contemplated buying a wooden spade in order to conduct
building operations on lonely shores.

The paddling, though quite pleasant, was not so joyous as the
impulse to paddle had been, and it was not long before she sat down
again on the beach and tried to get the sand out of the small,
tight places between her toes, and to dry her feet and plump little
legs with a most exiguous handkerchief.  But even in the midst of
these troublesome operations, her mind still ran riot, and she
planned to secrete about her person one of her smaller bedroom
towels when she went for her walk next day.  And she felt as if
this act of paddling must have aided in the elimination of
wrinkles.  For who except the really young could want to paddle?
To find that she had the impulse of the really young was even
better than to cultivate, though with success, the appropriate
appearance.  All the way home this effervescence of spirit was
hers, which, though it definitely sprang from the effects of the
lotion, the skin-food and the tonic air, produced in her an
illusion that was complete.  She was certainly ascending her remote
blue mountains again, and through a clarified air she could look
over the plains, and see how very flat they had been.  That must
all be changed: there must be more variety and gaiety introduced
into her days.  For years, as she saw now, her life had been spent
in small, joyless hospitalities, in keeping her place as accredited
leader of Riseborough's socialities, in paying her share towards
the expenses of the house.  They did not laugh much at home: there
had seemed nothing particular to laugh about, and certainly they
did not paddle.  She was forming no plan for paddling there now,
irrespective of the fact that a muddy canal, which was the only
water in the neighbourhood, did not encourage the scheme, but there
must be introduced into her life and Lyndhurst's more of the spirit
that had to-day prompted her paddling.  Exactly what form it should
take she did not clearly foresee, but when she had recaptured the
spirit as well as the appearance of youth, there was no fear that
it would find any difficulty in expressing itself suitably.  All
aglow, especially as to her feet, which tingled pleasantly, she
arrived at her host's house again.  They were both at work in the
garden: Mrs. Bertram was killing slugs in the garden beds, Mr.
Bertram worms on the lawn.

Major Ames proved himself during the next week to be a good
correspondent, if virtue in correspondents is to be measured by the
frequency of their communications.  His letters were not long, but
they were cheerful, since the garden was coming on well in this
delightful weather, which he hoped embraced Cromer also, and since
he had on two separate occasions made a grand slam when playing
Bridge at the club.  He and Harry were jogging along quite
pleasantly, but there had been no gaieties to take them out, except
a tea-party with ices at Mrs. Brooks'.  Unfortunately, some
disaster had befallen the ices: personally, he thought it was salt
instead of sugar, but Harry had been unwell afterwards, which
suggested sour cream.  But his indisposition had been but short,
though violent.  He himself had dropped in to dine en garon with
the Evans', and the doctor was very busy.  Finally (this came at
the end of every letter), as the place was doing her so much good,
why not stop for another week?  He was sure the Bertrams (poor
things!) would be delighted if she would.

But that suggestion did not commend itself to Mrs. Ames.  She had
come here for a definite purpose, and when on the morning before
her departure she looked very critically at herself in the glass,
she felt that her purpose had been accomplished.  Her skin had not,
so much she admitted, the unruffled smoothness of a young woman's,
but she had not been a young woman when she married.  But search
where she might in her hair, there was no sign of greyness in it
all, while the contents of the bottle were not yet half used.  But
she would take back the more than moiety with her, since an
occasional application when the hair had resumed its usual colour
was recommended.  It appeared to her that it undoubtedly had
resumed its original colour: the change, though slight (for the
grey had never been conspicuous), was complete; she felt equipped
for youth again.  And psychologically she felt equipped: every day
since the first secret paddling she had paddled again in secret,
and from a crevice in a tumble of fallen rock she daily extracted a
small wooden spade, by aid of which, with many glancings around for
fear of possible observers, she dug in the sand, making moats and
ramparts.  The "first fine careless rapture" of this, it must be
admitted, had evaporated: after one architectural afternoon she had
dug not because this elementary pursuit expressed what she felt, so
much as because it expressed what she desired to feel.  After all,
she did not propose to rejuvenate herself to the extent of being
nine or ten years old again. . . .

The manner of her return to Riseborough demanded consideration: it
was not sufficient merely to look up in a railway guide the
swiftest mode of transit and adopt it, for this was not quite an
ordinary entry, and it would never do to take the edge off it by
making a travel-soiled and dusty first appearance.  So she laid
down a plan.

The bare facts about the trains were these.  A train starting at a
convenient hour would bring her to London a short half-hour before
another convenient train from another and distant terminus started
for Riseborough.  It was impossible to make certain of catching
this, so she wrote to her husband saying that she would in all
probability get to Riseborough by a later train that arrived there
at eight.  She begged him not to meet her at the station, but to
order dinner for half-past eight.  It would be nice to be at home
again.  Then came the plan.  Clearly it would never do to burst on
him like that, to sit down opposite him at the dinner-table beneath
the somewhat searching electric light there, handicapped by the
fatigues of a hot journey only imperfectly repaired by a hasty
toilet.  She must arrive by the early train, though not expected
till the later.  Thus she would secure a quiet two hours for
bathing, resting and dressing.  If Lyndhurst did not expect her to
arrive till eight it was a practical certainty that he would be at
the club till that hour, and walk home in time to welcome her
arrival.  He would then learn that she had already come and was
dressing.  She would be careful to let him go downstairs first, and
a minute later she would follow.  He should see. . . .

So in order to catch this earlier train from town she left Cromer
while morning was yet dewy, and had the peculiar pleasure, on her
arrival at Riseborough, of seeing her husband, from the windows of
her cab, passing along the street to the club.  She had a moment's
qualm that he would see her initialled boxes on the top, but by
grace of a punctual providence Mrs. Brooks came out of her house at
the moment, and the Major raised a gallant hat and spoke a cheerful
word to her.  Certainly he looked very handsome and distinguished,
and Mrs. Ames felt a little tremor of anticipation in thinking of
the chapters of life that were to be re-read by them.  She felt
confident also; it never entered her head to have any misgivings as
to what the last fortnight, which had contained so much for her,
might have contained for him.

Harry had gone back to Cambridge for the July term the day before,
and she found on her arrival that she had the house to herself.
The afternoon had turned a little chilly, and she enjoyed the
invigoration of a hot bath, and a subsequent hour's rest on her
sofa.  Then it was time to dress, and though the dinner was of the
simplest conjugal character, she put on a dress she had worn but
some half-dozen of times before, but which on this one occasion it
was meet should descend from the pompous existence that was its
destiny for a year or two to come.  It was of daring rose-colour,
the most resplendent possible, and never failed to create an
impression.  Indeed, she had, on one of its infrequent appearances,
heard Lyndhurst say to his neighbour in an undertone, "Upon my
soul, Amy looks very well to-night."  And Amy meant to look very
well again.

All happened as she had planned.  Shortly after eight Lyndhurst
tapped at her door on his return from the club, but could not be
admitted, and at half-past, having heard him go downstairs, she
followed him.  He had not dressed, according to their custom when
they were alone.

Major Ames was writing a note when she entered, and only turned
round in his chair, not getting up.

"Glad to see you home, my dear," he said.  "Excuse me one moment.
I must just direct this."

She kissed him and waited while he scrawled an address.  Then he
got up and rang the bell.

"Just in time to catch the post," he said.  "By Jove!  Amy, you've
put on the famous pink gown.  I would have dressed if I had known.
You're tired with your journey, I expect.  It was a very hot day
here, until a couple of hours ago."

He gave the note to the servant.

"And dinner's ready, I think," he said.

They sat down opposite each other at ends of the rather long table.
There were no flowers on it, for it had not occurred to him to get
the garden to welcome her home-coming, and the whole of her
resplendency was visible to him.  He began eating his soup

"Capital plan in summer to have dinner at half-past eight," he
said.  "Gives one most of the daylight and not so long an evening
afterwards.  Excellent pea-soup, this.  Fresh peas from my garden.
The Evans' dine at eight-thirty.  And how have you been, Amy?"

Some indefinable chill of misgiving, against which she struggled,
had laid cold fingers on her.  Things were not going any longer as
she had planned them.  He had noticed her gown, but he had noticed
nothing else.  But then he had scarcely looked up since they had
come into the dining-room.  But now he finished his soup, and she
challenged his attention.

"I have been very well indeed," she said.  "Don't I look it?"

He looked her straight in the face, saw all that had seemed almost
a miracle to her--the softened wrinkles, the recovered colour of
her hair.

"Yes, I think you do," he said.  "You've got a bit tanned too,
haven't you, with the sun?"

The cold fingers closed a little more tightly on her.

"Have I?" she said.  "That is very likely.  I was out-of-doors all
day.  I used to take quite long walks every afternoon."

He glanced at the menu-card.

"I hope you'll like the dinner I ordered you," he said.  "Your cook
and I had a great talk over it this morning.  'She'll have been in
the train all day,' I said, 'and will feel a little tired.
Appetite will want a bit of tempting, eh?'  So we settled on a
grilled sole, and a chicken and a macdoine of fruit.  Hope that
suits you, Amy.  So you used to take long walks, did you?  Is the
country pretty round about?  Bathing, too.  Is it a good coast for

Again he looked at her as he spoke, and for the moment her heart-
beat quickened, for it seemed that he could not but see the change
in her.  Then his sole required dissection, and he looked at his
plate again.

"I believe it is a good coast," she said.  "There were a quantity
of bathing-machines.  I did not bathe."

"No.  Very wise, I am sure.  One has to be careful about chills as
one gets on.  I should have been anxious about you, Amy, if I had
thought you would be so rash as to bathe."

Some instinct of protest prompted her.

"There would have been nothing to be anxious about," she said.  "I
seldom catch a chill.  And I often paddled."

He laid down his knife and fork and laughed.

"You paddled!" he asked.  "Nonsense, nonsense!"

She had not meant to tell him, for her reasonable mind had informed
her all the time that this was a secret expression of the
rejuvenation she was conscious of.  But it had slipped out, a
thoughtless assertion of the youthfulness she felt.

"I did indeed," she said, "and I found it very bracing and

Then for a moment a certain bitterness welled up within her, born
from disappointment at his imperceptiveness.

"You see I never suffer from gout or rheumatism like you,
Lyndhurst," she said.  "I hope you have been quite free from them
since I have been away."

But his amusement, though it had produced this spirit of rancour in
her, had not been in the least unkindly.  It was legitimate to find
entertainment in the thought of a middle-aged woman gravely
paddling, so long as he had no idea that there was a most pathetic
side to it.  Of that he had no inkling: he was unaware that this
paddling was expressive of her feeling of recaptured youth, just as
he was unaware that she believed it to be expressed in her face and
hair.  But this remark was distinctly of the nature of an attack:
she was retaliating for his laughter.  He could not resist one
further answer which might both soothe and smart (like a patent
ointment) before he changed the subject.

"Well, my dear, I'm sure you are a wonderful woman for your years,"
he said.  "By Jove!  I shall be proud if I'm as active and healthy
as you in ten years' time."

Dinner was soon over after this, and she left him, as usual, to
have his cigarette and glass of port, and went into the drawing-
room, and stood looking on the last fading splendour of the sunset
in the west.  The momentary bitterness in her mind had quite died
down again: there was nothing left but a vague, dull ache of
flatness and disappointment.  He had noticed nothing of all that
had caused her such tremulous and secret joy.  He had looked on her
smoothed and softened face, and seen no difference there, on her
brown unfaded hair and found it unaltered.  He had only seen that
she had put her best gown on, and she almost wished that he had not
noticed that, since then she might have had the consolation of
thinking that he was ill.  It was not, it must be premised, that
she meant she would find pleasure in his indisposition, only that
an indisposition would have explained his imperceptiveness, which
she regretted more than she would have regretted a slight headache
for him.

For a few minutes she was incapable of more than blank and empty
contemplation of the utter failure of that from which she had
expected so much.  Then, like the stars that even now were
beginning to be lit in the empty spaces of the sky, fresh points in
the dreary situation claimed her attention.  Was he preoccupied
with other matters, that he was blind to her?  His letters, it is
true, had been uniformly cheerful and chatty, but a preoccupied man
can easily write a letter without betraying the preoccupation that
is only too evident in personal intercourse.  If this was so, what
was the nature of his preoccupation?  That was not a cheerful star:
there was a green light in it. . . .  Another star claimed her
attention.  Was it Lyndhurst who was blind, or herself who saw too
much?  She had no idea, till she came to look into the matter
closely, how much grey hair was mingled with the brown.  Perhaps he
had no idea either: its restoration, therefore, would not be an
affair of surprise and admiration.  But the wrinkles. . . .

She faced round from the window as he entered, and made another
call on her courage and conviction.  Though he saw so little, she,
quickened perhaps by the light of the green star, saw how good-
looking he was.  For years she had scarcely noticed it.  She put up
her small face to him in a way that suggested, though it did not
exactly invite a kiss.

"It is so nice to be home again," she said.

The suggestion that she meant to convey occurred to him, but, very
reasonably, he dismissed it as improbable.  A promiscuous caress
was a thing long obsolete between them.  Morning and evening he
brushed her cheek with the end of his moustaches.

"Well, then, we're all pleased," he said good-humouredly.  "Shall I
ring for coffee, Amy?"

She was not discouraged.

"Do," she said, "and when we have had coffee, will you fetch a
shawl for me, and we will stroll in the garden.  You shall show me
what new flowers have come out."

The intention of that was admirable, the actual proposal not so
happy, since a glimmering starlight through the fallen dusk would
not conduce to a perception of colour.

"We'll stroll in the garden by all means," he said, "if you think
it will not be risky for you.  But as to flowers, my dear, it will
be easier to appreciate them when it is not dark."

Again she put up her face towards him.  This time he might,
perhaps, have taken the suggestion, but at the moment Parker
entered with the coffee.

"How foolish of me," she said.  "I forgot it was dark.  But let us
go out anyhow, unless you were thinking of going round to the

"Oh, time for that, time for that," said he.  "I expect you will be
going to bed early after your long journey.  I may step round then,
and see what's going on."

Without conscious encouragement or welcome on her part, a suspicion
darted into her mind.  She felt by some process, as inexplicable as
that by which certain people are aware of the presence of a cat in
the room, that he was going round to see Mrs. Evans.

"I suppose you have often gone round to the club in the evening
since I have been away," she said.

"Yes, I have looked in now and again," he said.  "On other evenings
I have dropped in to see our friends.  Lonely old bachelor, you
know, and Harry was not always very lively company.  It's a good
thing that boy has gone back to Cambridge, Amy.  He was always
mooning round after Mrs. Evans."

That was a fact: it had often been a slightly inconvenient one.
Several times the Major had "dropped in" to see Millie, and found
his son already there.

"But I thought you were rather pleased at that, Lyndhurst," she
said.  "You told me you considered it not a bad thing: that it
would keep Harry out of mischief."

He finished his coffee rather hastily.

"Yes, within reason, within reason," he said.  "Well, if we are to
stroll in the garden, we had better go out.  You wanted a shawl,
didn't you?  Very wise: where shall I find one?"

That diverted her again to her own personal efforts.

"There are several in the second tray of my wardrobe," she said.
"Choose a nice one, Lyndhurst, something that won't look hideous
with my pink silk."

The smile, as you might almost say, of coquetry, which accompanied
this speech, faded completely as soon as he left the room, and her
face assumed that business-like aspect, which the softest and
youngest faces wear, when the object is to attract, instead of
letting a mutual attraction exercise its inevitable power.  Even
though Mrs. Ames' object was the legitimate and laudable desire to
attract her own husband, it was strange how common her respectable
little countenance appeared.  She had adorned herself to attract
admiration: coquetry and anxiety were pitifully mingled, even as
you may see them in haunts far less respectable than this detached
villa, and on faces from which Mrs. Ames would instantly have
averted her own.  She hoped he would bring a certain white silk
shawl: two nights ago she had worn it on the verandah after dinner
at Overstrand, and the reflected light from it, she had noticed, as
she stood beneath a light opposite a mirror in the hall, had made
her throat look especially soft and plump.  She stood underneath
the light now waiting for his return.

Fortune was favourable: it was that shawl that he brought, and she
turned round for him to put it on her shoulders.  Then she faced
him again in the remembered position, underneath the light,

"Now, I am ready, Lyndhurst," she said.

He opened the French window for her, and stood to let her pass out.
Again she smiled at him, and waited for him to join her on the
rather narrow gravel path.  There was actually room for two abreast
on it, for, on the evening of her dinner-party, Harry had walked
here side by side with Mrs. Evans.  But there was only just room.

"You go first, Amy," he said, "or shall I?  We can scarcely walk
abreast here."

But she took his arm.

"Nonsense, my dear," she said.  "There: is there not heaps of

He felt vaguely uncomfortable.  It was not only the necessity of
putting his feet down one strictly in front of the other that made
him so.

"Anything the matter, my dear?" he asked.

The question was not cruel: it was scarcely even careless.  He
could hardly be expected to guess, for his perceptions were not
fine.  Also he was thinking about somebody else, and wondering how
late it was.  But even if he had had complete knowledge of the
situation about which he was completely ignorant, he could not have
dealt with it in a more peremptory way.  The dreary flatness to
which she had been so impassive a prey directly after dinner, the
sense of complete failure enveloped her like impenetrable fog.  Out
of that fog, she hooted, so to speak, like an undervitalized siren.

"I am only so glad to get back," she said, pressing his arm a
little.  "I hoped you were glad, too, that I was back.  Tell me
what you have been doing all the time I have been away."

This, like banns, was for the third time of asking.  He recalled
for her the days one by one, leaving out certain parts of them.
Even at the moment, he was astonished to find how vivid his
recollection of them was.  On Thursday, when he had played golf in
the morning, he had lunched with the Evans' (this he stated, for
Harry had lunched there too) and he had culled probably the last
dish of asparagus in the afternoon.  He had dined alone with Harry
that night, and Harry had toothache.  Next day, consequently, Harry
went to the dentist in the morning, and he himself had played golf
in the afternoon.  That he remembered because he had gone to tea
with Mrs. Evans afterwards, but that he did not mention, for he had
been alone with her, and they had talked about being misunderstood
and about affinities.  On Saturday Harry had gone back to
Cambridge, but, having missed his train, he had made a second start
after lunch.  He had met Dr. Evans in the street that day, going up
to the golf links, and since he would otherwise be quite alone in
the evening, he had dined with them, "en garon."

This catalogue of trivial happenings took quite a long time in the
recitation.  But below the trivialities there was a lurking
significance.  He was not really in love with Millie Evans, and his
assurance to himself on that point was perfectly honest.  But (this
he did not put so distinctly to himself) he thought that she was
tremendously attracted by him.  Here was an appeal to a sort of
deplorable sense of gallantry--so terrible a word only can describe
his terrible mind--and mentally he called her "poor little lady."
She was pretty, too, and not very happy.  It seemed to be incumbent
on him to interest and amuse her.  His "droppings in" amused her:
when he got ready to drop out again, she always asked when he would
come to see her next.  These "droppings in" were clearly bright
spots to her in a drab day.  They were also bright spots to him,
for he was more interested in them than in all his sweet-peas.
There was a "situation" come into his life, something clandestine.
It would never do, for instance, to let Amy or the estimable doctor
get a hint of it.  Probably they would misunderstand it, and
imagine there was something to conceal.  He had the secret joys of
a bloodless intrigue.  But, considering its absolute bloodlessness,
he was amazingly wrapped up in it.  It was no wonder that he did
not notice the restored colour of Amy's hair.

He, or rather Mrs. Evans, had made a conditional appointment for to-
night.  If possible, the possibility depending upon Amy's fatigue,
he was going to drop in for a chat.  Primarily the chat was to be
concerned with the lighting of the garden by means of Chinese
lanterns, for a nocturnal fte that Mrs. Evans meant to give on her
birthday.  The whole garden was to be lit, and since the
entertainment of an illuminated garden, with hot soup, quails and
ices, under the mulberry-tree was obviously new to Riseborough, it
would be sufficiently amusing to the guests to walk about the
garden till supper-time.  But there would be supererogatory
diversions beyond that, bridge-tables in the verandah, a small band
at the end of the garden to intervene its strains between the
guests and the shrieks of South-Eastern expresses, and already
there was an idea of fancy dress.  Major Ames favoured the idea of
fancy dress, for he had a red velvet garment, sartorially known as
a Venetian cloak, locked away upstairs, which was a dazzling affair
if white tights peeped out from below it.  He knew he had a leg,
and only lamented the scanty opportunities of convincing others of
the fact.  But the lighting of the garden had to be planned first:
there was no use in having a leg in a garden, if the garden was not
properly lit.  But the whole affair was as yet a pledged secret: he
could not, as a man of honour, tell Amy about it.  Short notice for
a fte of this sort was of no consequence, for it was to be a post-
prandial entertainment, and the only post-prandial entertainment at
present existent in Riseborough was going to bed.  Thus everybody
would be able to be happy to accept.

A rapid rsum of this made an undercurrent in his mind, as he went
through, in speaking voice, the history of the last days.  Up and
down the narrow path they passed, she still with her hand in his
arm, questioning, showing an inconceivable interest in the passage
of the days from which he had left out all real points of interest.
His patience came to an end before hers.

"Upon my word, my dear," he said, "it's getting a little chilly.
Shall we go in, do you think?  I'm sure you are tired with your

There was nothing more coming: she knew that.  But even in the
midst of her disappointment, she found consolation.  Daylight would
show the re-establishment of her youthfulness more clearly than
electric light had done.  Every one looked about the same by
electric light.  And though, in some secret manner, she distrusted
his visit to the club, she knew how impolitic it would be to hint,
however remotely, at such distrust.  It was much better this
evening to acquiesce in the imputation of fatigue.  Nor was the
imputation groundless; for failure fatigues any one when under the
same conditions success would only stimulate.  And in the
consciousness of that, her bitterness rose once more to her lips.

"You mustn't catch cold," she said.  "Let us go in."

It was still only half-past ten: all this flatness and failure had
lasted but a couple of hours, and Major Ames, as soon as his wife
had gone upstairs, let himself out of the house.  His way lay past
the doors of the club, but he did not enter, merely observing
through its lit windows that there were a good many men in the
smoking-room.  On arrival at the Doctor's he found that Elsie and
her father were playing chess in the drawing-room, and that Mrs.
Evans was out in the garden.  He chose to go straight into the
garden, and found her sitting under the mulberry, dressed in white,
and looking rather like the Milky Way.  She did not get up, but
held out her hand to him.

"That is nice of you," she said.  "How is Cousin Amy?"

"Amy is very well," said he.  "But she's gone to bed early, a
little tired with the journey.  And how is Cousin Amy's cousin?"

He sat down on the basket chair close beside her which creaked with
his weight.

"I must have a special chair made for you," she said.  "You are so
big and strong.  Have you seen Cousin Amy's cousin's husband?"

"No: I heard you were out here.  So I came straight out."

She got up.

"I think it will be better, then, if we go in, and tell him you are
here," she said.  "He might think it strange."

Major Ames jumped up with alacrity: with his alacrity was mingled a
pleasing sense of adventure.

"By all means," he said.  "Then we can come out again."

She smiled at him.

"Surely.  He is playing chess with Elsie.  I do not suppose he will
interrupt his game."

Apparently Dr. Evans did not think anything in the least strange.
On the whole, this was not to be wondered at, since he knew quite
well that Major Ames was coming to talk over garden illumination
with his wife.

"Good evening, Major," he said; "kind of you to come.  You and my
little woman are going to make a pauper of me, I'm told.  There,
Elsie, what do you say to my putting my knight there?  Check."

"Pig!" said Elsie.

"Then shall we go out, Major Ames?" said Millie.  "Are you coming
out, Wilfred?"

"No, little woman.  I'm going to defeat your daughter indoors.
Come and have a glass of whisky and soda with me before you go,

They went out again accordingly into the cool starlight.

"Wilfred is so fond of chess," she said.  "He plays every night
with Elsie, when he is at home.  Of course, he is often out."

This produced exactly the effect that she meant.  She did not
comment or complain: she merely made a statement which arose
naturally from what was going on in the drawing-room.

But Major Ames drew the inference that he was expected to draw.

"Glad I could come round," he said.  "Now for the lanterns.  We
must have them all down the garden wall, and not too far apart,
either.  Six feet apart, eh?  Now I'll step the wall and we can
calculate how many we shall want there.  I think I step a full yard
still.  Not cramped in the joints yet."

It took some half hour to settle the whole scheme of lighting,
which, since Major Ames was not going to pay for it, he recommended
being done in a somewhat lavish manner.  With so large a number of
lanterns, it would be easily possible to see his leg, and he was
strong on the subject of fancy dress.

"There'll be some queer turn-outs, I shouldn't wonder," he said;
"but I expect there will be some creditable costumes too.  By Jove!
it will be quite the event of the year.  Amy and I, with our little
dinners, will have to take a back seat, as they say."

"I hope Cousin Amy won't think it forward of me," said Millie.

Major Ames said that which is written "Pshaw."  "Forward?" he
cried.  "Why, you are bringing a bit of life among us.  Upon my
word, we wanted rousing up a bit.  Why, you are a public

They had sat down to rest again after their labour of stepping out
the brick walls under the mulberry-tree, where the grass was dry,
and only a faint shimmer of starlight came through the leaves.  At
the bottom of the garden a train shrieked by, and the noise died
away in decrescent thunder.  She leaned forward a little towards
him, putting up her face much as Amy had done.

"Ah, if only I thought I was making things a little pleasant," she

Suddenly it struck Major Ames that he was expected to kiss her.  He
leaned forward, too.

"I think you know that," he said.  "I wish I could thank you for

She did not move, but in the dusk he could see she was smiling at
him.  It looked as if she was waiting.  He made an awkward forward
movement and kissed her.

There was silence a moment: she neither responded to him nor
repelled him.

"I suppose people would say I ought not to have let you," she said.
"But there is no harm, is there?  After all, you are a--a sort of
cousin.  And you have been so kind about the lanterns."

Major Ames was thinking almost entirely about himself, hardly at
all about her.  An adventure, an intrigue had begun.  He had kissed
somebody else's wife and felt the devil of a fellow.  But with the
wine of this emotion was mingled a touch of alarm.  It would be
wise to call a halt, take his whisky and soda with her husband, and
get home to Amy.


Mrs. Altham waited with considerable impatience next day for the
return of her husband from the club, where he went on most
afternoons, to sit in an armchair from tea-time to dinner and
casually to learn what had happened while he had been playing golf.
She had been to call on Mrs. Ames in the afternoon, and in
consequence had matter of considerable importance to communicate.
She could have supported that retarded spate of information, though
she wanted to burst as soon as possible, but she had also a
question to ask Henry on which a tremendous deal depended.  At
length she heard the rattle of his deposited hat and stick in the
hall, and she went out to meet him.

"How late you are, Henry," she said; "but you needn't dress.  Mrs.
Brooks, if she does come in afterwards, will excuse you.  Dinner is
ready: let us come in at once.  Now, you were at the club last
night, after dinner.  You told me who was there; but I want to be
quite sure."

Mr. Altham closed his eyes for a moment as he sat down.  It looked
as if he was saying a silent grace, but appearances were deceptive.
He was only thinking, for he knew his wife would not ask such a
question unless something depended on it, and he desired to be

Then he opened them again, and helped the soup with a name to each

"General Fortescue," he said.  "Young Morton.  Mr. Taverner,
Turner, Young Turner."

That was five spoonfuls--three for his wife, two for himself.  He
was not very fond of soup.

"And you were there all the time between ten and eleven?" asked his

"Till half-past eleven."

"And there was no one else?"

Mr. Altham looked up brightly.

"The club waiter," he said, "and the page.  The page has been
dismissed for stealing sugar.  The sugar bill was preposterous.
That was how we found out.  Did you mean to ask about that?"

"No, my dear.  Nor do I want to know."

At the moment the parlour-maid left the room, and she spoke in an
eager undertone.

"Mrs. Ames told me that Major Ames went up to the club last night,
when she went to bed at half-past ten," she said.  "You told me at
breakfast whom you found there, but I wanted to be sure.  Call them
Mr. and Mrs. Smith and then we can go on talking."

The parlour-maid came back into the room.

"Yes, Mr. Smith apparently went up to the club at half-past ten,"
she said.  "But he can't have gone to the club, for in that case
you would have seen him.  It has occurred to me that he didn't feel
well, and went to the doctor's."

"It seems possible," said Mr. Altham, not without enthusiasm,
understanding that "doctor" meant "doctor," and which doctor.

"We have all noticed how many visits he has been paying to--to Dr.
Jones," said Mrs. Altham, "during the time Mrs. Smith was away.
But to pay another one on the very evening of her return looks as
if--as if something serious was the matter."

"My dear, there's nothing whatever to show that Major Ames went to
the doctor's last night," he said.

Mrs. Altham gave him an awful glance, for the parlour-maid was in
the room, and this thoughtless remark rendered all the diplomatic
substitution of another nomenclature entirely void and useless.

"Mrs. Smith, I should say," added Mr. Altham in some confusion,
proceeding to make it all quite clear to Jane, in case she had any
doubts about it.

"Suggest to me any other reasonable theory as to where he was,
then," said Mrs. Altham.

"I can't suggest where he was, my dear," said Mr. Altham, finding
his legal training supported him, "considering that there is no
evidence of any kind that bears upon the matter.  But to know that
a man was not in one given place does not show with any
positiveness that he was at any other given place."

"No doubt, then, he went shopping at half-past ten last night,"
said Mrs. Altham, with deep sarcasm.  "There are so many shops open
then.  The High Street is a perfect blaze of light."

Mr. Altham could be sarcastic, too, though he seldom exercised this

"It quite dazzles one," he observed.

Mrs. Altham no doubt was vexed at her husband's sceptical attitude,
and she punished him by refraining from discussing the point any
further, and from giving him the rest of her news.  But this
severity punished herself also, for she was bursting to tell him.
When Jane had finally withdrawn, the internal pressure became

"Mrs. Ames has done something to her hair, Henry," she said; "and
she has done something to her face.  I had a good mind to ask her
what she had used.  I assure you there was not a grey hair left
anywhere, and a fortnight ago she was as grey as a coot!"

"Coots are bald, not grey," remarked her husband.

"That is mere carping, Henry.  She is brown now.  Is this another
fashion she is going to set us at Riseborough?  What does it all
mean?  Shall we all have to plaster our faces with cold cream, and
dye our hair blue?"

Mr. Altham was in a painfully literal mood this evening and could
not disentangle information from rhetoric.

"Has she dyed her hair blue?" he asked in a slightly awestricken

"No, my dear: how can you be so stupid?  And I told you just now
she was brown.  But at her age!  As if anybody cared what colour
her hair was.  Her face, too!  I don't deny that the wrinkles are
less marked, but who cares whether she is wrinkled or not?"

These pleasant considerations were discontinued by the sound of the
postman's tap on the front door, and since the postman took
precedence of everybody and everything, Mr. Altham hurried out to
see what excitements he had piloted into port.  Unfortunately,
there was nothing for him, but there was a large, promising-looking
envelope for his wife.  It was stiff, too, and looked like the
receptacle of an invitation card.

"One for you, my dear," he said.

Mrs. Altham tore it open, and gave a great gasp.

"You would not guess in a hundred tries," she said.

"Then be so kind as to tell me," remarked her husband.

Mrs. Altham read it out all in one breath without stops.

"Mrs. Evans at home Thursday July 20 10 p.m.  Shakespeare Fancy
Dress well I never!"

For a little while the silence of stupefaction reigned.  Then Mr.
Altham gave a great sigh.

"I have never been to a fancy dress ball," he said.  "I think I
should feel very queer and uncomfortable.  What are we meant to do
when we get there, Julia?  Just stand about and look at each other.
It will seem very strange.  What would you recommend me to be?  I
suppose we ought to be a pair."

Mrs. Altham, to do her justice, had not thought seriously about her
personal appearance for years.  But, as she got up from the table,
and consciously faced the looking-glass over the chimney-piece, it
is idle to deny that she considered it now.  She was not within ten
years of Mrs. Ames' age, and it struck her, as she carefully
regarded herself in a perfectly honest glass, that even taking into
full consideration all that Mrs. Ames had been doing to her hair
and her face, she herself still kept the proper measure of their
difference of years between them.  But it was yet too early to
consider the question of her impersonation.  There were other
things suggested by the contemplation of a fancy-dress ball to be
considered first.  There was so much, in fact, that she hardly knew
where to begin.  So she whisked everything up together, in the
manner of a sea-pie, in which all that is possibly edible is put in
the oven and baked.

"There will be time enough to talk over that, my dear," she said,
"for if Mrs. Evans thinks we are all going to lash out into no end
of expense in getting dresses for her party, she is wrong as far as
I, for one, am concerned.  For that matter you can put on your
oldest clothes, and I can borrow Jane's apron and cap, and we can
go as Darby and Joan.  Indeed, I do not know if I shall go at all--
though, of course, one wouldn't like to hurt Mrs. Evans' feelings
by refusing.  Do you know, Henry, I shouldn't in the least wonder
if we have seen the last of Mrs. Ames and all her airs of
superiority and leadership.  You may depend upon it that Mrs. Evans
did not consult her before she settled to give a fancy dress party.
It is far more likely that she and Major Ames contrived it all
between them, while Mrs. Ames was away, and settled what they
should go as, and I daresay it will be Romeo and Juliet.  I should
not be in the least surprised if Mrs. Ames did not go to the party
at all, but tried to get something up on her own account that very
night.  It would be like her, I am sure.  But whether she goes or
not, it seems to me that we have seen the last of her queening it
over us all.  If she does not go, I should think she would be the
only absentee, and if she does, she goes as Mrs. Evans' guest.  All
these years she has never thought of a fancy dress party--"

Mrs. Altham broke off in the middle of her address, stung by the
splendour of a sudden thought.

"Or does all this staying away on her part," she said, "and dyeing
her hair, and painting her face, mean that she knew about it all
along, and was going to be the show-figure of it all?  I should not
wonder if that was it.  As likely as not, she and Major Ames will
come as Hamlet and Ophelia, or something equally ridiculous, though
I am sure as far as the 'too too solid flesh' goes, Major Ames
would make an admirable Hamlet, for I never saw a man put on weight
in the manner he does, in spite of all the garden rolling, which I
expect the gardener does for him really.  But whatever is the truth
of it all, and I'm sure every one is so secretive here in
Riseborough nowadays, that you never know how many dined at such a
place on such a night unless you actually go to the poulterer's and
find out whether one chicken or two was sent,--what was I saying?"

She had been saying a good deal.  Mr. Altham correctly guessed the
train of thought which she desired to recall.

"In spite of the secretiveness--" he suggested.

That served the purpose.

"No, my dear Henry," said his wife rapidly, "I accuse no one of
secretiveness: if I did, you misunderstood me.  All I meant was
that when we have settled what we are to go as, we will tell
nobody.  There is very little sense in a fancy dress entertainment
if you know exactly what you may expect, and as soon as you see a
Romeo can say for certain that it is Major Ames, for instance; and
I'm sure if he is to go as Romeo, it would be vastly suitable if
Mrs. Ames went as Juliet's nurse."

"I am not sure that I shall like so much finery," said Mr. Altham,
who was thinking entirely about his own dress, and did not care two
straws about Major or Mrs. Ames.  "It will seem very strange."

"Nonsense, my dear; we will dine in our fancy dresses for an
evening or two before, and you will get quite used to it, whatever
it is.  Henry, do you remember my white satin gown, which I
scarcely wore a dozen times, because it seemed too grand for
Riseborough?  It was too, I am sure: you were quite right.  It has
been in camphor ever since.  I used to wear my Roman pearls with
it.  There are three rows, and the clasp is of real pearls.  The
very thing for Cleopatra."

"I recollect perfectly," said Mr. Altham.  His mind instantly
darted off again to the undoubted fact that whereas Major Ames was
stout, he himself was very thin.  If he had been obliged to
describe his figure at that moment, he would have said it was
boyish.  The expense of a wig seemed of no account.

"Well, my dear, white dress and pearls," said his wife.  "You are
not very encouraging.  With that book of Egyptian antiquities, I
can easily remodel the dress.  And I remember reading in a Roman
history that Cleopatra was well over thirty when Julius Csar was
so devoted to her.  And by the busts he must have been much balder
than you!"

It is no use denying that this was a rather heavy blow.  Ever since
the mention of the word Cleopatra, he had seen himself complete,
with a wig, in another character.

"But Julius Csar was sixty," he observed, with pardonable
asperity.  "I do not see how I could make up as a man of sixty.
And for that matter, my dear, though I am sure no one would think
you were within five years of your actual age, I do not see how you
could make up as a mere girl of thirty.  Why should we not go as
'Antony and Cleopatra, ten years later'?  It would be better than
to go as Julius Csar arid Cleopatra ten years before!"

Mrs. Altham considered this.  It was true that she would find it
difficult to look thirty, however many Roman pearls she wore.

"I do not know that it is such a bad idea of yours, Henry," she
said.  "Certainly there is no one in the world who cares about her
age, or wants to conceal it, less than I.  And there is something
original about your suggestion--Antony and Cleopatra ten years
later--Ah, there is the bell, that will be Mrs. Brooks coming in.
And there is the telephone also.  Upon my word, we never have a
moment to ourselves.  I should not wonder if half Riseborough came
to see us to-night.  Will you go to the telephone and tell it we
are at home?  And not a word to anybody, Henry, as to what we are
thinking of going as.  There will be our surprise, at any rate,
however much other people go talking about their dresses.  If you
are being rung up to ask about your costume, say that you haven't
given it a thought yet."

For the next week Mrs. Altham was thoroughly in her element.  She
had something to conceal, and was in a delicious state of tension
with the superficial desire to disclose her own impersonation, and
the deep-rooted satisfaction of not doing so.  To complete her
happiness, the famous white satin still fitted her, and she was
nearly insane with curiosity to know what Major and Mrs. Ames "were
going to be," and what the whole history of the projected festivity
was.  In various other respects her natural interest in the affairs
of other people was satiated.  Mrs. Turner was to be Mistress Page,
which was very suitable, as she was elderly and stout, and did not
really in the least resemble Miss Ellen Terry.  Mr. Turner had
selected Falstaff, and could be recognized anywhere.  Young Morton,
with unwonted modesty, had chosen the part of the Apothecary in
Romeo and Juliet.  Mrs. Taverner was to be Queen Catherine, and--
almost more joyous than all--she had persuaded Mrs. Brooks not to
attempt to impersonate Cleopatra.  What Mrs. Brooks' feelings would
be when it dawned on her, as it not inconceivably might, that Mrs.
Altham had seen in her a striking likeness to her conception of
Hermione, because she did not want there to be two Cleopatras, did
not particularly concern her.  She had asked Mrs. Brooks to dinner
the day after the entertainment, and her acceptance would bury the
hatchet, if indeed there was such a thing as a hatchet about.
Finally, she had called on Mrs. Evans, who had vaguely talked about
Midsummer Night's Dream.  Mrs. Altham had taken that to be
equivalent to the fact that she would appear as Titania, and Mrs.
Evans had distinctly intended that she should so take it.  Indeed,
the idea had occurred to her, but not very vividly.  Her husband
was going to be Timon of Athens.  That, again, was quite
satisfactory: nobody knew at all distinctly who Timon of Athens
was, and nobody knew much about Dr. Evans, except that he was
usually sent for in the middle of something.  Probably the same
thing happened to Timon of Athens.

Indeed, within a couple of hours of the reception of Mrs. Evans'
invitations, which all arrived simultaneously by the local evening
post, a spirit of demoniacal gaiety, not less fierce than that
which inspired Mrs. Altham, possessed the whole of those invited.
Though it was gay, it was certainly demoniacal, for a quite
prodigious amount of ill-feeling was mingled with it which from
time to time threatened to wreck the proceedings altogether.  For
instance, only two days after all the invitations had been
accepted, Mrs. Evans had issued a further intimation that there was
to be dancing, and that the evening would open at a quarter past
ten precisely with a quadrille in which it was requested that
everybody would take part.  It is easy to picture the private
consternation that presided over that evening; how in one house,
Mrs. Brooks having pushed her central drawing-room table to one
side, all alone and humming to herself, stepped in perplexed and
forgotten measures, and how next door Mrs. and Mr. Altham violently
wrangled over the order of the figures, and hummed different tunes,
to show each other, or pranced in different directions.  For here
was the bitter affair: these pains had to be suffered in
loneliness, for it was clearly impossible to confess that the
practice of quadrilles was so long past that the memory of them had
vanished altogether.  But luckily (though at the moment the
suggestion caused a great deal of asperity in Mrs. Altham's mind)
Mrs. Ames came to the rescue with the suggestion that as many of
them, no doubt, had forgotten the precise manner of quadrilles, she
proposed to hold a class at half-past four to-morrow afternoon,
when they would all run through a quadrille together.

"There!  I thought as much!" said Mrs. Altham.  "That means that
neither Major nor Mrs. Ames can remember how the quadrille goes,
and we, forsooth, must go and teach them.  And she puts it that she
is going to teach us!  I am sure she will never teach me: I shall
not go near the house.  I do not require to be taught quadrilles by
anybody, still less by Mrs. Ames.  There is no answer," she added
to Jane.

Mr. Altham fidgeted in his chair.  Last night he had been quite
sure he was right, in points where he and his wife differed, and
that the particular "setting partners" which they had shown each
other so often did not come in the quadrille at all, but occurred
in lancers, just before the ladies' chain.  But she had insisted
that both the setting to partners and ladies' chain came in
quadrilles.  This morning, however, he did not feel quite so
certain about it.

"You might send a note to Mrs. Ames," he observed, "and tell her
you are not coming."

"No answer was asked for," said his wife excitedly.  "She just said
there was to be a quadrille practice at half-past four.  Let there
be.  I am sure I have no objection, though I do think you might
have thought of doing it first, Henry."

"But she will like to know how many to expect," said Henry.  "If it
is to be at half-past four, she must be prepared for tea.  It is
equivalent to a tea-party, unless you suppose that the class will
be over before five."

During the night Mrs. Altham had pondered her view about the
ladies' chain.  It would be an awful thing if Henry happened to be
right, and if, on the evening of the dance itself, she presented
her hand for the ladies' chain, and no chain of any sort followed.
She decided on a magnanimous course.

"Upon my word, I am not sure that I shall not go," she said, "just
to see what Mrs. Ames' idea of a quadrille is.  I should not wonder
if she mixed it up with something quite different, which would be
laughable.  And after all, we ought not to be so unkind, and if
poor Mrs. Ames feels she will get into difficulties over the
quadrille, I am sure I shall be happy to help her out.  No doubt
she has summoned us like this, so that she need not show that she
feels she wants to be helped.  We will go, Henry, and I daresay I
shall get out of her what she means to dress up as!  But pray
remember to say that we, at any rate, have not given a thought to
our costumes yet.  And on our way, we may as well call in at Mr.
Roland's, for if I am to wear my three rows of pearls, he must get
me a few more, since I find there is a good deal of string showing.
I daresay that ordinary pearl beads would answer the purpose
perfectly.  I have no intention of buying more of the real Roman
pearls.  They belonged to my mother, and I should not like to add
to them.  And if you will insist on having some red stone in your
cap, to make a buckle for the feather, I am sure you could not do
better than get a piece of what he called German ruby that is in
his shop now.  I do not suppose anybody in Riseborough could tell
it from real, and after all this is over, I would wear it as a
pendant for my pearls.  If you wish, I will pay half of it, and it
is but a couple of pounds altogether."

It did not seem a really handsome offer, but Henry had the sense to
accept it.  He wanted a stone to buckle the feather in a rather
coquettish cap that they had decided to be suitable for Mark
Antony, and did not really care what happened to it after he had
worn it on this occasion, since it was unlikely that another
similar occasion would arise.  Deep in his mind had been an idea of
turning it into a solitaire, but he knew he would not have the
practical courage of this daring conception.  It would want another
setting, also.

In other houses there were no fewer anticipatory triumphs and
present perplexities.  There was also, in some cases, wild and
secret intrigue.  For instance, a few evenings after, Mrs. Brooks
next door, sorting out garments in her wardrobe from which she
might devise a costume that should remind the beholder of Hermione,
looked from her bedroom window, where her quest was in progress,
and saw a strange sight in the next garden.  There was a lady in
white satin with pearls; there was a gentleman in Roman toga with a
feathered cap.  The Roman gentleman was a dubious figure; the lady
indubitable.  If ever there was an elderly Cleopatra, this was she.

Mrs. Brooks sat heavily down, after observing this sight.  It
certainly was Cleopatra in the next garden: as certainly it was a
snake in the grass.  In a moment her mind was made up.  She saw why
she had been discouraged from being Cleopatra; the false Mrs.
Altham had wanted to be Cleopatra herself, without rival.  But she
would be Cleopatra too.  Riseborough should judge between the
effectiveness of the two representations.  Of course, every one
knew that Mrs. Altham had three rows of Roman pearls, which were
nothing but some sort of vitreous enamel.  But Mrs. Brooks, as
Riseborough also knew, had five or six rows of real seed-pearls.
It was impossible to denigrer seed-pearls: they were pearls, though
small, and did not pretend to be anything different to what they
were.  But the Roman prefix, to any fair-minded person, invalidated
the word "pearls."  Besides, even as Cleopatra without pearls, she
would have been willing to back herself against Mrs. Altham.
Cleopatra ought to be tall, which she was.  Also Cleopatra ought to
be beautiful, which neither was.  And Mrs. Altham had urged her to
go as Hermione!  Of course, she had to revise her toilet, but
luckily it had progressed no further than the sewing of white
rosettes on to a pair of slightly worn satin shoes, which were
equally suitable for any of Shakespeare's heroines.

The week which had passed for Mr. and Mrs. Altham in a succession
of so pleasing excitements and anxieties, had not been without
incident to Mrs. Ames.  When (by the same post that bore their
invitations to the other guests) the announcement of the fancy
dress ball reached her, and she read it out to her husband (even as
Mrs. Altham had done) towards the end of dinner, he expressed his
feelings with a good deal of pooh-ing and the opinion that he, at
any rate, was past the years of dressing-up.  This attitude (for it
had been settled that the invitation was to come as a surprise to
him) he somewhat overdid, and found to his dismay that his wife
quite agreed with him, and was prepared as soon as dinner was over
to write regrets.  The reason was not far to seek.

"I hope I am not what--what the servants call 'touchy,'" she said
(and indeed, it was difficult to see what else the servants could
call it), "but I must say that, considering the length of time we
have been in Riseborough, and the number of entertainments we have
provided for the people here, I think dear Millie might have
consulted me--or you, of course, Lyndhurst, in my absence--as to
any such novelty as a fancy dress ball.  I have no wish to
interfere in any way with any little party that dear Millie may
choose to give, but I suppose since she can plan it without me, she
can also enjoy it without me.  I am aware I am by no means
necessary to the success of any party.  And since you think that
you are a little beyond the age of dressing up, Lyndhurst--though I
do not say I agree with you--I think we shall be happier at home
that night.  I will write quite kindly to dear Millie, and say we
are engaged.  No doubt the Althams would dine with us, as I do not
imagine that she would care to get up in fancy dress."

Major Ames was not a quick thinker, but he saw several things
without a pause.  One was that he, at any rate, must certainly go,
but that he did not much care whether Amy went or not.  A second
was that, having expressed surprise at the announcement of the
party, it was too late now to say that he knew about it from the
first, and was going to impersonate Antony, while Mrs. Evans was to
be Cleopatra.  A third was that something had to be done, a fourth
that he did not know what.

"I will leave you to your cigarette, Lyndhurst," said his wife,
rising, "and will write to dear Millie.  Let us stroll in the
garden again to-night."

She passed out of the dining-room, he closed the door behind her,
and she went straight to her writing-table in the drawing-room.
Above it hung a looking-glass, and (still not in the frame of mind
which servants call "touchy") she sat down to write the kind note.
A considerable degree of sunset still lingered in the western sky,
and there would be no need to light a candle to write by.  There
was light enough also for her to see a rosy-tinted image of herself
in the glass, and she paused.  She saw there, what she was aware
Mrs. Altham had seen this afternoon--namely, the absence of grey in
her hair, and the softened and liquated wrinkles of her face.
True, not even yet had her husband observed, or at any rate
commented on those refurbished signals of her youth, but Mrs. Ames
had by no means yet despaired, and daily (as directed) tapped in
the emollient cream.  This rosy light of sunset gave her face a
flush of delicate colour, and she unconsciously claimed for her own
the borrowed enchantment of the light. . . .  Then that which was
not touchiness underwent a similar softening to that of her
wrinkles.  She knew she had been guilty of sarcastic intention when
she said she was aware that her presence was not necessary to the
success of any party.  It would be unkind to dear Millie if she
refused to go, for a dinner-party at home was no excuse at all; she
could perfectly well go on there when carriages came at twenty
minutes to eleven.  Also it was absurd for Lyndhurst to say that he
was past the age when "dressing up" is seemly.  In spite of his
hair, which he managed very well, he was still young enough in face
to excuse the yielding to the temptation of embellishing himself,
and a Venetian mantle would naturally conceal his tendency to
corpulence.  No doubt dear Millie had not meant to put herself
forward in any way; no doubt she had not yet really grasped the
fact that Mrs. Ames was acknowledged autocrat in all that concerned

All this train of thought needed but a few seconds for passage,
and, as she still regarded herself, the name of the heroines of
enchantment sounded delicately in her brain.  Juliet and Ophelia
she passed over without a pang, for she was not so unfocussed of
imagination as to see her reflection capable of recapturing the
budding spring of those, or the slim youthfulness of Rosalind.
She wanted no girlish role, nor did she read into herself the
precocious dignity of Portia.  But was there not one who came down
the green Nile to the sound of flutes in a gilded barge--no girl,
but a woman in the charm of her full maturity?

The idea detailed itself in plan and manoeuvre.  She wanted to burst
on Lyndhurst like that, to let him see in a flash of revelation how
bravely she could support the rle of that sorceress. . . .  At the
moment the drawing-room door opened, and simultaneously they both
began a sentence in identical words.

"Do you know, my dear, I've been thinking . . ."

They both stopped, and he gave his genial laugh.

"Upon my soul, my dear Amy," he said, "I believe we always have the
same thoughts.  I'll tell you what you were going to say.  You were
going to say, 'I've been thinking it wouldn't be very kind to dear
Millie'--that is what YOU would say, of course--not very kind to
Mrs. Evans if we declined.  And I agree with you, my dear.  No
doubt she should have consulted you first, or if you were away she
might even, as you suggested, have mentioned it to me.  But you can
afford to be indulgent, my dear--after all, she is your cousin--and
you wouldn't like to spoil her party, poor thing, by refusing to
go.  And if you go, why, of course, I shall put on one side my
natural feelings about an old fogey like myself making a guy of
himself, and I shall dress up somehow.  I think I have an old
costume with a Venetian cloak laid aside somewhere, though I
daresay it's moth-eaten and rusty now, and I'll dress myself up
somehow and come with you.  I suppose there are some old stagers in
Shakespeare--I must have a look at the fellow's plays again--which
even a retired old soldier can impersonate.  Falstaff, for instance--
some stout old man of that sort."

Some of this speech, to say the least of it, was not, it is to be
feared, quite absolutely ingenuous.  But then, Major Ames was not
naturally quite ingenuous.  He had already satisfied himself that
the old costume in question had been perfectly preserved by the
naphthaline balls which he was careful to renew from time to time,
and was not in the least moth-eaten or rusty.  Again, since he had
settled to go as Antony, it was not perfectly straightforward to
make allusion to Falstaff.  But after all, the speech expressed all
he meant to say, and it is only our most fortunate utterances that
can do as much.  Indeed, perhaps it leaned over a little to the
further side of expression, for it struck Mrs. Ames at that moment
(struck her as violently and inexplicably as a cocoa-nut falling on
her head) that the question of the Venetian cloak had not come into
her husband's mind for the first time that evening.  She felt,
without being able to explain her feeling, that the idea of the
fancy dress ball was not new to him.  But it was impossible to tax
him with so profound a duplicity; indeed, when she gave a moment's
consideration to the question, she dismissed her suspicion.  But
the suspicion had been there.

She met him quite half-way.

"You have guessed quite right, Lyndhurst," she said; "I think it
would be unkind to dear Millie if you and I did not go.  I dare say
she will have difficulty enough as it is to make a gathering.  I
will write at once."

This was soon done, and even as she wrote, poor Mrs. Ames' vision
of herself grew more roseate in her mind.  But she must burst upon
her husband, she must burst upon him.  Supposing her preposterous
suspicion of a moment before was true, there was all the more need
for bursting upon him, for Cleopatraizing herself. . . .  He,
meantime, was wondering how on earth to keep the secret of his
costume and his hostess's, should Amy proceed to discuss costumes,
or suggest the King and Queen of Denmark as suitable for
themselves.  It might even be better to accept the situation as
such, and tell Mrs. Evans that his wife wanted to go as "a pair"
(so Mrs. Altham expressed it) and that it was more prudent to
abandon the idea of a stray Antony and a stray Cleopatra meeting on
the evening itself unpremeditatedly.  But her next words caused all
these difficulties to disappear; they vanished as completely as a
watch or a rabbit under the wave of the conjurer's wand.

Mrs. Ames never licked envelopes; she applied water on a camel's-
hair brush, from a little receptacle like a tear-bottle.

"What nonsense, my dear Lyndhurst," she said.  "Fancy you going as
Falstaff!  You must think of something better than that!  Dear me,
it is a very bold idea of Millie's, but really it seems to me that
we might have great fun.  I do hope that all Riseborough will not
talk their costumes over together, so that we shall know exactly
what to expect.  There is little point in a fancy dress ball unless
there are some surprises.  I must think over my costume too.  I am
not so fortunate as to have one ready."

She got up from the table, still with the roseate image of herself
in her mind.

"I think I shall not tell you who I am going to be," she said,
"even when I have thought of something suitable.  I shall keep
myself as a surprise for you.  And keep yourself as a surprise for
me, Lyndhurst.  Let us meet for the first time in our costumes when
the carriage is at the door ready to take us to the party.  Do you
not think that would be fun?  But you must promise me, my dear,
that you will not make yourself up as Falstaff, or any old guy.
Else I shall be quite ashamed of you."

He rang the bell effusively (the heartiness of the action was
typical of the welcome he gave to his wife's suggestion), and
ordered the note to be sent.

"By Jove!  Amy," he said, "what a one you always are for thinking
of things.  And if you wish it, I'll try to make a presentable
figure of myself, though I'm sure I should be more in place at home
waiting for your return to hear all about it.  But I'll do my best,
I'll do my best, and I dare say the Venetian cloak isn't so shabby
after all.  I have always been careful to keep a bit of naphthaline
in the box with it."

Flirtation may not be incorrectly defined as making the pretence of
being in love, and yet it is almost too solid a word to apply to
Major Ames' relations with Mrs. Evans during the week or two before
the ball, and it would be more accurate to say that he was making
the pretence of having a flirtation.  Even as when he kissed her on
that daring evening already described, he was thinking entirely
about himself and the dashingness of this proceeding, so in the
days that succeeded, this same inept futility and self-satisfaction
possessed him.  He made many secret visits to the house, entering
like a burglar, in the middle of the afternoon, by an unfrequented
passage from the railway cutting, at hours when she had told him
that her husband and daughter would certainly be out, and the
secrecy of those meetings added spice to them.  He felt--so
deplorable a frame of mind almost defies description--he felt a
pleasing sense of wickedness which was endorsed, so to speak, by
the certificate which attested to his complete innocence.  As far
as he was concerned, it was a mere farce of a flirtation.  But the
farce filled him with a kind of childish glee; he persuaded himself
that his share in it was real, and that by a tragic fate he and the
woman who were made for each other were forbidden to find the
fruition of their affinity.  It was an adventure without danger, a
mine without gunpowder.  For even on two occasions when he was
paying one of these clandestine visits, Dr. Evans had unexpectedly
returned and found them together.  The poor blind man, it seemed,
suspected nothing; indeed, his welcome had been extremely cordial.

"Good of you to come and help my wife over her party," he said.
"What you'd do without Major Ames, little woman, I don't know.
Won't you stop for dinner, Major?"

Then, after a suitable reply, and a digression to other matters,
the Major's foolish eye would steal a look at Millie, and for a
moment her eyes would meet his, and flutter and fall.  And
considering that there was not in all the world probably a worse
judge of human nature than Major Ames, it is a strange thing that
his mental comment was approximately true.

"Dear little woman," he said to himself; "she's deuced fond of me!"


Jupiter Pluvius, or Mr. J. Pluvius, by which name Major Ames was
facetiously wont to allude to the weather, seemed amiably inclined
to co-operate with Mrs. Evans' scheme, for the evening of her party
promised to be ideal for the purpose.  The few days previous had
been very hot, and no particle of moisture lurked in the baked
lawns, so that her guests would be able to wander at will without
risk of contracting catarrh, or stains on such shoes as should
prove to be white satin.  Moreover, by a special kindness of
Providence, there was no moon, so that the illumination of fairy-
lights and Chinese lanterns would suffer no dispiriting comparison
with a more potent brightness.  Over a large portion of the lawn
Mrs. Evans, at Major Ames' suggestion (not having to pay for these
paraphernalia he was singularly fruitful in suggestions), had
caused a planked floor to be laid; here the opening procession and
quadrille and the subsequent dances would take place, while
conveniently adjacent was the mulberry-tree under shade of which
were spread the more material hospitalities.  Tree and dancing-
floor were copiously outlined with lanterns, and straight rows of
fairy-lights led to them from the garden door of the house.
Similarly outlined was the garden wall and the hedge by the railway-
cutting, while the band (piano, two strings and a cornet of
amazingly piercing quality) was to be concealed in the small cul-de-
sac which led to the potting shed and garden roller.  The shrubbery
was less vividly lit; here Hamlets and Rosalinds could stray in
sequestered couples, unharassed by too searching an illumination.
Major Ames had paid his last clandestine visit this afternoon, and
had expressed himself as perfectly pleased with the arrangements.
Both Elsie and the doctor had been there.

The party had been announced to begin at half-past ten, and it was
scarcely that hour when Mrs. Ames came downstairs from her bedroom
where she had so long been busy since the end of the early dinner.
Her arms were bare from finger-tip to her little round shoulders,
over which were clasped, with handsome cairngorm brooches, the
straps of her long tunic.  But there was no effect of an excessive
display of human flesh, since her arms were very short, and in
addition they were plentifully bedecked.  On one arm a metallic
snake writhed from wrist to elbow, on the other there was clasped
above the elbow a plain circlet of some very bright and shining
metal.  A net of blue beads altogether too magnificent to be
turquoises, was pinned over her unfaded hair, and from the front of
it there depended on her forehead a large pear-shaped pearl,
suggestive of the one which the extravagant queen subsequently
dissolved in vinegar.  Any pearl, so scientists tell us, which is
capable of solution in vinegar must be a curious pearl; that which
Mrs. Ames wore in the middle of her forehead was curious also.  Art
had been specially invoked, over and above the normal skin-food to-
night, in the matter of Mrs. Ames' face, and a formal Egyptian
eyebrow, as indicated in the illustration to "Rameses" in the
Encyclopdia, decorated in charcoal the place where her own eyebrow
once was.  Below her eye a touch of the same charcoal added
brilliancy to the eye itself; several touches of rouge contributed
their appropriate splendour to her cheeks.

The long tunic which was held up over her shoulders by the
cairngorm brooches, reached to her knee.  It was a little tight,
perhaps, but when you have only one Arab shawl, shot with copious
gold thread, you have to make it go as far as it can, and after
all, it went to her knees.  A small fold of it was looped up, and
fell over her yellow girdle, it was parted at the sides below the
hips, and disclosed a skirt made of two Arab shawls shot with
silver, which, stitched together, descended to her ankle.  She did
not mean to dance anything except the opening quadrille.  Below
this silver-streaked skirt appeared, as was natural, her pretty
plump little feet.  On them she wore sandals which exhibited their
plumpness and prettiness and smallness to the fullest extent.  A
correct strap lay between the great toe and the next, and the
straps were covered with silver paper.  For years Riseborough had
known how small were her shoes; to-night Riseborough should see
that those shoes had been amply large enough for what they
contained.  Round her neck, finally, were four rows of magnificent
pearl beads; no wonder Cleopatra thought nothing of dissolving one
pearl, when its dissolution would leave intact so populous a
company of similar treasures.

As she came downstairs she heard a sudden noise in the drawing-
room, as if a heavy man had suddenly stumbled.  It required no more
ingenuity than was normally hers to conjecture that Lyndhurst was
already there, and had tripped himself up in some novel
accoutrement.  And at that, a sudden flush of excitement and
anticipation invaded her, and she wondered what he would be like.
As regards herself she felt the profoundest confidence in the
success of her garniture.  He could scarcely help being amazed,
delighted.  And an emotion never keenly felt by her, but as such
long outworn, shook her and made her knees tremulous.  She felt so
young, so daring.  She wished that at this moment he would come
out, for as she descended the stairs he could not but see how small
and soft were her feet. . . .

Almost before her wish was formed, it was granted.

A well-smothered oath succeeded the stumbling noise, and Major
Ames, in white Roman toga and tights came out into the hall.  There
was no vestige of Venetian cloak about him; he was altogether
different from what she had expected.  A profuse wig covered his
head, the toga completely masked what the exercise with the garden
roller had not completely removed, and below, his big calves rose
majestic over his classical laced shoes.  If ever there was a Mark
Antony with a military moustache, he was not in Egypt nor in Rome,
but here; by a divine chance, without consultation, he had chosen
for himself the character complementary to hers.  He looked up and
saw her, she looked down and saw him.

"Bless my soul," he said.  "Amy!  Cleopatra!"

She gave him a happy little smile.

"Bless my soul," she said.  "Lyndhurst!  Mark Antony!"

There was a long and an awful pause.  It was quite clear to her
that something had occurred totally unexpected.  She had wanted to
be unexpected, but there was something wrong about the quality of
his surprise.  Then such manliness as there was in him came to his

"Upon my word," he said, "you have got yourself up splendidly, Amy.
Cleopatra now, pearls and all, and sandals!  Why, you'll take the
shine out of them all!  Here we go, eh?  Antony and Cleopatra!  Who
would have thought of it!  The cab's round, dear.  We had better be
starting, if we're to take part in the procession.  Not want a
cloak or anything?  Antony and Cleopatra; God bless my soul!"

That was sufficient to allay the immediate embarrassment.  True, he
had not been knocked over by this apparition of her in the way she
had meant, and the astonished pause, she was afraid, was not one of
surrendering admiration.  And yet, perhaps, he was feeling shy,
even as she was; standing here in all this splendour of shining
pantomime he might well feel her to be as strange to him, as she
felt him to be to her.  Moreover, she had not only to look
Cleopatra, but to be Cleopatra, to behave herself with the gaiety
and youth which her appearance gave him the right to expect.  In
the meantime he also had earned her compliments, for no man who
thinks it worth while to assume a fancy dress has a soul so unhuman
as to be unappreciative of applause.

She fell back a step or two to regard him comprehensively.

"My dear," she said, "you are splendid; that toga suits you to
admiration.  And your arms look so well coming out of the folds of
it.  What great strong arms, Lyndhurst!  You could pick up your
little Cleopatra and carry her back--back to Egypt so easily."

Something of their irresponsibility which, as by a special
Providence, broods over the audacity of assuming strange guises,
descended on her.  She could no more have made such a speech to him
in her ordinary morning-clothes, nor yet in the famous rose-
coloured silk, than she could have flown.  But now her costume
unloosed her tongue.  And despite the dreadful embarrassment that
he knew would await him when they got to the party, and a second
Cleopatra welcomed them, this intoxication of costume (liable,
unfortunately, to manifest itself not only in vin gai) mounted to
his head also.

"Ma reine!" he said, feeling that French brought them somehow
closer to the appropriate Oriental atmosphere.

She held up her skirt with one hand, and gave him the other.

"We must be off, my Antony," she said.

They got into the cab; a somewhat jaded-looking horse was lashed
into a slow and mournful trot, and they rattled away down the hard,
dry road.

A queue of carriages was already waiting to disembark its cargoes
when they drew near the house, and leaning furtively and feverishly
from the window, Mrs. Ames saw a Hamlet or two and some Titanias
swiftly and shyly cross the pavement between two rows of the
astonished proletariat.  Beside her in the cab her husband grunted
and fidgeted; she guessed that to him this entrance was of the
nature of bathing on a cold day; however invigorating might be the
subsequent swim, the plunge was chilly.  But she little knew the
true cause of his embarrassment and apprehension; had his military
career ever entailed (which it had not) the facing of fire, it was
probable, though his courage was of no conspicuous a kind, that he
would have met the guns with greater blitheness than he awaited the
moment that now inevitably faced him.  Then came their turn; there
was a pause, and then their carriage door was flung open, and they
descended from the innocent vehicle that to him was as portentous
as a tumbril.  In a moment Cleopatra would meet Cleopatra, and he
could form no idea how either Cleopatra would take it.  The
Cleopatra-hostess, as he knew, was going to wear sandals also;
snakes were to writhe up her long white arms. . . .

Mrs. Ames adjusted the pear-shaped pearl on her forehead.

"I think if we say half-past one it will be late enough,
Lyndhurst," she said.  "If we are not ready he can wait."

It seemed to Lyndhurst that half-past one would probably be quite
late enough.

The assemblage of guests took place in the drawing-room which
opened into the garden; a waiter from the "Crown" inn, with a chin
beard and dressed in a sort of white surplice and carrying a
lantern in his hand, who might with equal reasonableness be
supposed to be the Man in the Moon out of the Midsummer Night's
Dream, or a grave-digger out of Hamlet, said "Character names,
please, ma'am," and preceded them to the door of this chamber.  He
bawled out "Cleopatra and Mark Antony."

Another Cleopatra, a "different conception of this part," as the
Kent Chronicle said in its next issue, a Cleopatra dim and white
and willowy, advanced to them.  She looked vexed, but as she ran
her eyes up and down Mrs. Ames' figure, like a practised pianist
playing a chromatic scale, her vexation seemed completely to clear.

"Dear Cousin Amy," she said, "how perfectly lovely!  I never saw--
Wilfred, make your bow to Cleopatra.  And Antony!  Oh, Major Ames!"

Again she made the chromatic scale, starting at the top, so to
speak (his face), with a long note, and dwelling there again when
she returned to it.

Other arrivals followed, and this particular Antony and Cleopatra
mingled with such guests as were already assembled.  The greater
part had gathered, and Mrs. Ames' habitual manner and bearing
suited excellently with her regal role.  The Turner family, at any
rate, who were standing a little apart from the others, not being
quite completely "in" Riseborough society, and, feeling rather hot
and feverish in the thick brocaded stuffs suitable to Falstaff,
Mistress Page and King Theseus, felt neither more nor less
uncomfortable when she made a few complimentary remarks to them
than they did when, with her fat prayer-book in her hand, she spoke
to them after church on Sunday.  Elsewhere young Morton, with a
white face and a red nose, was the traditional Apothecary, and Mrs.
Taverner was so copiously apparalled as Queen Catherine that she
was looking forward very much indeed to the moment when the
procession should go forth into the greater coolness of the night
air.  Then a stentorian announcement from the waiter at the Crown
made every one turn again to the door.

"Antony and Cleopatra ten years later," he shouted.

There was a slight pause.  Then entered Mr. and Mrs. Altham with
high-held hands clasped at fingertips.  They both stepped rather
high, she holding her skirt away from her feet, and both pointing
their toes as if performing a pavanne.  This entry had been much
rehearsed, and it was arresting to the point of producing a sort of

Mrs. Evans ran her eye up and down the pair, and was apparently

"Dear Mrs. Altham," she said, "how perfectly lovely!  AND Mr.
Altham.  But ten years later!  You must not ask us to believe

She turned to her husband and spoke quickly, with a look on her
face less amiable than she usually wore in public.

"Wilfred," she said, "tell the band to begin the opening march at
once for the procession, in case there are any more--"

But he interrupted--

"Here's another, Millie," he said cheerfully.  "Yes, we'd better

His speech was drowned by the voice of the brazen-lunged waiter.

"Cleopatra!" he shouted.

Mrs. Brooks entered with all the rows of seed-pearls.

Riseborough, if the census papers were consulted, might perhaps not
prove to have an abnormally large percentage of inhabitants who had
reached middle-age, but certainly in the festivities of its upper
circles, maturity held an overwhelming majority over youth.  It was
so to-night, and of the half-hundred folk who thus masqueraded,
there were few who were not, numerically speaking, of thoroughly
discreet years.  The diffused knowledge of this undoubtedly gave
confidence to their gaiety, for there was no unconscious standard
of sterling youth by which their slightly mature exhilaration could
be judged and found deficient in genuine and natural effervescence.
Thus, despite the somewhat untoward conjunction of four matronly
Cleopatras, a spirit of extraordinary gaiety soon possessed the
entire party.  Odious comparisons might conceivably spring up
mushroom-like tomorrow, and (unmushroom-like) continue to wax and
flourish through many days and dinners, but to-night so large an
environment of elderly people gave to every one of those elderly
people a pleasant sense of not suffering but rather shining in
comparison with the others.  Even the Cleopatras themselves were
content; Mrs. Ames, for instance, saw how sensible it was that Mrs.
Altham should announce herself as a Cleopatra of ten years later,
while Mrs. Altham, observing Mrs. Ames, saw how supererogatory her
titular modesty had been, and wondered that Mrs. Ames cared to show
her feet like that, while Mrs. Brooks knew that everybody was
mentally contrasting her queenliness of height with Mrs. Ames'
paucity of inches, and her abundance of beautiful hair with Mrs.
Altham's obvious wig.  While, all the time, Mrs. Evans, whom the
appearance of a fourth Cleopatra had considerably upset for the
moment, felt that at this rate she could easily continue being
Cleopatra for more years than "the ten after," so properly assumed
by Mrs. Altham.  In the same way Major Ames, with his six feet of
solid English bone and muscle, and his fifth decade of years still
but half-consumed, felt that Mr. Altham had but provided a scale of
comparison uncommonly flattering to himself.  Simultaneously, Mr.
Altham, with a laurel-wreath round his head, reflected how
uncomfortable he would have felt if his laurel-wreath was anchored
on no sounder a foundation than a wig, and wondered if gardening
(on the principle that all flesh is grass) invariably resulted in
so great a growth of tissue.  But all these pleasant self-
communings were, indeed, but a minor tributary to the real river of
enjoyment that danced and chattered through the starlit hours of
this July night.  Somehow the whole assembly seemed to have shifted
off themselves the natural and inevitable burden of their years;
they danced and mildly flirted, they sat out in the dim shrubbery,
and played on the sea-shore of life again, finding the sand-castles
had become real once more.  Mrs. Ames, for instance, had intended
to dance nothing but the opening quadrille, but before the second
dance, which was a waltz, had come to a close, she had accepted Mr.
Altham's offer, and was slowly capering round with him.  A little
care was necessary in order not to put too unjust a strain on the
sandal straps, but she exercised this precaution, and was sorry,
though hot, when the dance came to an end.  Then Major Ames, who
had been piloting Mrs. Altham, joined them at the moselle-cup

"'Pon my word, Altham," he said, "I don't know what to say to you.
You've taken my Cleopatra, but then I've taken yours.  Exchange no
robbery, hey?"

His wife tapped him on the arm with her palmette fan.

"Lyndhurst, go along with you!" she said, employing an expression,
the mental equivalent of which she did not know ever existed in her

"I'll go along," he said.  "But which is my Cleopatra?"

At the moment, Mrs. Evans approached.

"My two Cleopatras must excuse me," said this amazing man.  "I am
engaged for this next dance to the Cleopatra of us all.  Ha!  Ha!"

He offered his arm to Mrs. Evans, and they went out of the cave of
the mulberry-tree again.

The band had not yet struck up for the next dance, the majority of
the guests were flocking under the mulberry-tree at the conclusion
of the last, and for the moment they had the cool starlit dusk to
themselves.  And then, all at once, the Major's sense of boisterous
enjoyment deserted him; he felt embarrassed with a secret knowledge
that he was expected to say something in tune with this privacy.
How that expectation was conveyed he hardly knew; the slight
pressure on his arm seemed to announce it unmistakably.  It
reminded him that he was a man, and yet with all that gaiety and
gallantry that were so conspicuous a feature in his behaviour to
women in public, he felt awkward and ill at ease.  He embarked on a
course of desperate and fulsome eulogy, longing in his private soul
for the band to begin.

"'Pon my soul, you are an enchantress, Millie!" he said.  "You come
to our staid, respectable old Riseborough, and before you have been
here six months you take us all into fairyland.  Positively
fairyland.  And--and I've never seen you looking so lovely as to-

"Let us stroll all round the garden," she said.  "I want you to see
it all now it is lit up.  And the shrubbery is pretty, too, with--
with the filter of starlight coming through the trees.  Do tell me
truthfully, like a friend, is it going all right?  Are they
enjoying themselves?"

"Kicking up their heels like two-year-olds," said Major Ames.

"How wicked of you to say that!  But really I had one bad moment,
when--when the last Cleopatra came in."

She paused a moment.  Then in her clear, silky voice--

"Dear old things!" she said.

Now Mrs. Evans was not in any way a clever woman, but had she had
the brains and the wit of Cleopatra herself, she could not have
spoken three more consummately chosen words.  All the cool,
instinctive confidence of a younger woman, and a pretty woman
speaking of the more elderly and plain was there; there, too, was
the deliberate challenge of the coquette.  And Major Ames was quite
helpless against the simplicity of such art.  Mere manners, the
ordinary code of politeness, demanded that he should agree with his
hostess.  Besides, though he was not in any way in love with her,
he could not resist the assumption that her words implied, and,
after all, she was a pretty woman, whom he had kissed, and he was
alone in the star-hung dusk with her.

"Poor dear Amy!" he said.

Millie Evans gave a soft little sigh, as of a contented child.  He
had expressed with the most ruthless accuracy exactly what she
wished him to feel.  Then, in the manner of a woman whose nature is
warped throughout by a slight but ingrained falsity, she spoke as
if it was not she who had prompted the three words which she had
almost made him say.

"She is enjoying herself so," she said.  "I have never seen Cousin
Amy look so thoroughly pleased and contented.  I thought she looked
so charming, too, and what dear, plump little feet she has.  But,
my dear, it was rather a surprise when you and she were announced.
It looked as if this poor Cleopatra was going to be Antony-less!
Dear me, what a word."

Here was a more direct appeal, and again Major Ames was powerless
in her soft clutch.  Hers was not exactly an iron hand in a velvet
glove, but a hand made of fly-catching paper.  She had taken her
glove off now.  And he was beginning to stick to her.

"Pshaw!" he said.

That, again, had a perfectly satisfactory sound to her ears.  The
very abruptness and bluffness of it pleased her more than any
protestation could have done.  He was so direct, so shy, so manly.

She laughed softly.

"Hush, you mustn't say those things," she said.  "Ah, there is the
band beginning, and it is our dance.  But let us just walk through
the shrubbery before we go back.  The dusk and quiet are such a
relief after the glare.  Lyndhurst--ah, dear me.  Cousin Lyndhurst
I ought to say--you really must not go home till my little dance is
quite finished.  You make things go so well.  Dear Wilfred is quite
useless to me.  Does he not look an old darling as Timon of Athens?
A sort of mixture between George the Fourth in tights and a lion-

Mrs. Evans was feeling more actively alive to-night than she had
felt for years.  Her tongue, which was generally a rather halting
adjutant to her glances and little sinuous movements, was almost
vivified to wit.  Certainly her description of her husband had
acuteness and a sense of the ludicrous to inspire it.  Through the
boughs of laburnums in the shrubbery they could see him now,
escorting the tallest and oldest Cleopatra, who was Mrs. Brooks, to
the end of the garden.  Dimly, through the curtain of intervening
gloom, they saw the populous wooden floor that had been laid down
on the grass; Mrs. Ames--the dance was a polka--was frankly
pirouetting in the arms of a redoubtable Falstaff.  Mrs. Altham was
wrestling with the Apothecary, and Elsie Evans, one of the few
young people present, was vainly trying to galvanize General
Fortescue, thinly disguised as Henry VII, into some semblance of

Mrs. Evans gave another sigh, a sigh of curious calibre.

"It all seems so distant," she said.  "All the lights and dancing
are less real than the shadows and the stillness."

That was not quite extemporaneous; she had thought over something
of the sort.  It had the effect of making Major Ames feel suddenly
hot with an anxious kind of heat.  He was beginning to perceive the
truth of that which he had foppishly imagined in his own self-
communings, namely, that this "poor little lady" was very, very
much attached to him.  He had often dwelt on the thought before
with odious self-centred satisfaction; now the thought was less
satisfactory; it was disquieting and mildly alarming.  Like the fly
on the fly-paper, with one leg already englued, he put down a
second to get leverage with which to free the first, and found that
it was adhering also.

Mrs. Evans spoke again.

"I took such pleasure in all the preparations." she said.  "You
were so much interested in it all.  Tell me, Cousin Lyndhurst, that
you are not disappointed."

It was hardly possible for him to do less than what he did.  What
he did was little enough.  He pressed the arm that lay in his
rather close to his white toga, and an unwonted romanticism of
speech rose to his lips.

"You have enchanted me," he said.  "Me, us, all of us."

She gave a little laugh; in the dusk it sounded no louder than a
breeze stirring.

"You needn't have added that," she said.

Where she stood a diaper of light and shadow played over her.  A
little spray of laburnum between her face and the lights on the
lawn outside, swaying gently in a breeze that had gone astray in
this calm night, cast wavering shadows over her.  Now her arms
shone white under freckles of shadow, now it was her face that was
a moon to him.  Or again, both would be in shade and a diamond star
on her bright yellow hair concentrated all the light into itself.
All the elusive mysterious charm of her womanhood was there, made
more real by the fantastic setting.  He was kindled to a greater
warmth than he had yet known, but, all the time, some dreadful
creature in his semi-puritanical semi-immoral brain, told him that
this was all "devilish naughty."  He was as unused to such scruples
as he was unused to such temptations, and in some curious fashion
he felt as ashamed of the one as he felt afraid of the other.  At
length he summed up the whole of these despicable conclusions.

"Will you give me just one kiss, Millie!" he said; "just one cousin-
kiss, before we go and dance?"

Such early worms next morning in Major Ames' garden as had escaped
the early bird, must certainly have all been caught and laid out
flat by the garden roller, so swift and incessant were its
journeyings.  For though the dawn had overspread the sky with the
hueless tints of approaching day when Antony and Cleopatra were
charioteered home again by a somnolent cabman; though Major Ames'
repose had been of the most fragmentary kind, and though breakfast,
in anticipation of late hours, had been ordered the night before at
an unusual half-past nine, he found his bed an intolerable abode by
seven o'clock, and had hoped to expatriate somewhat disquieting
thoughts from his mind by the application of his limbs to severe
bodily exertion.

He and his wife had been the last guests to leave; indeed, after
the others had gone they lingered a little, smoking a final
cigarette.  Even Mrs. Ames had been persuaded to light one, but a
convulsive paroxysm of coughing, which made the pear-shaped pearl
to quiver and shake like an aspen-leaf, led her to throw it away,
saying she enjoyed it very much.  He had danced with Mrs. Evans
three or four times; three or four times they had sat in the cool
darkness of the shrubbery, and he had said to her several things
which at the moment it seemed imperative to say, but which he did
not really mean.  But as the evening went on he had meant them
more; she had a helpless, childlike charm about her that began to
stir his senses.  And yet below that childlike confiding manner he
was dimly aware that there was an eager woman's soul that sought
him.  Her charm was a weapon; a very efficient will wielded it.
All the same, he reflected as the honest dews of toil poured from
his forehead this morning in the hot early sunlight, he had not
said very much . . . he had said that Riseborough was a different
place since she--or had he said "they"? had come there; that her
eyes looked black in the starlight, that--honestly, he could not
remember anything more intimate than this.  But that which had made
his bed intolerable was the sense that the situation had not
terminated last night, that his boat, so to speak, had not been
drawn up safely ashore, but was still in the midst of accelerating
waters.  And yet it was in his own power to draw the boat ashore at
any moment; he had but to take a decisive stroke to land, to step
out and beach it, to return--surely it was not difficult--to his
normal thoughts and activities.  For years his garden, his club,
his domestic concerns, his daily paper, had provided him with a
sufficiency of pursuits; he had but to step back into their safe if
monotonous circle, and look upon these disturbances as episodic.
But already he had ceased to think of Mrs. Evans as "dear little
woman" or "poor little woman"; somehow it seemed as if she had got
her finger--to use a prosaic metaphor--into his works.  She was
prodding about among the internal wheels and springs of his
mechanism.  Yet that was stating his case too strongly; it was that
of contingency that he was afraid.  But with the curious
irresponsibility of a rather selfish and unimaginative man, the
fact that he had allowed himself to prod about in her internal
mechanism represented itself to him as an unimportant and
negligible detail.  It was only when she began prodding about in
him, producing, as it were, extraordinary little whirrings and
racings of wheels that had long gone slow and steady, that he began
to think that anything significant was occurring.  But, after all,
there was nothing like a pull at the garden roller for giving a
fellow an appetite for breakfast and for squashing worms and
unprofitable reflections.

Though half-past nine had seemed "late enough for anybody," as Mrs.
Ames had said the evening before, it was not till nearly ten that
she put an extra spoonful of tea into her silver teapot, for she
felt that she needed a more than usually fortifying beverage, to
nullify her disinclination for the day's routine.  The sight of her
Cleopatra costume also, laid upon the sofa in her bedroom, and
shone upon by a cheerful and uncompromising summer sun, had
awakened in her mind a certain discontent, a certain sense of
disappointment, of age, of grievance.  The gilt paper had moulted
off one of the sandal-straps, a spilt dropping of strawberry-ice
made a disfiguring spot on the tunic of Arab shawl, and she herself
felt vaguely ungilded and disfigured.

The cigarette, too--she had so often said in the most liberal
manner that she did not think it wicked of women to smoke, but only
horrid.  Certainly she did not feel wicked this morning, but as
certainly she felt disposed to consider anybody else horrid, and--
and possibly wicked.  Decidedly a cup of strong tea was indicated.

Major Ames had gone upstairs again to have his bath, and to dress
after his exercise in the garden, and came down a few minutes
later, smelling of soap, with a jovial boisterousness of demeanour
that smelt of unreality.

"Good-morning, my dear Amy," he said.  "And how do you feel after
the party?  I've been up a couple of hours; nothing like a spell of
exercise to buck one up after late hours."

"Will you have your tea now, Lyndhurst?" she asked.

"Have it now, or wait till I get it, eh?  I'll have it now.
Delicious!  I always say that nobody makes tea like you."

Now boisterous spirits at breakfast were not usual with Major Ames,
and, as has been said, his wife easily detected a false air about
them.  Her vague sense of disappointment and grievance began to
take more solid outlines.

"It is delightful to see you in such good spirits, Lyndhurst," she
observed, with a faint undertone of acidity.  "Sitting up late does
not usually agree with you."

There was enough here to provoke repartee.  Also his superficial
boisterousness was rapidly disappearing before his wife's acidity,
like stains at the touch of ammonia.

"It does not, in this instance, seem to have agreed with you, my
dear," he said.  "I hope you have not got a headache.  It was
unwise of you to stop so late.  However, no doubt we shall feel
better after breakfast.  Shall I give you some bacon?  Or will you
try something that appears to be fish?"

"A little kedjeree, please," said Mrs. Ames, pointedly ignoring
this innuendo on her cook.

"Kedjeree, is it?  Well, well, live and learn."

"If you have any complaint to make about Jephson," said she, "pray
do so."

"No, not at all.  One does not expect, a cordon bleu.  But I dare
say Mrs. Evans pays no more for her cook than we do, and look at
the supper last night."

"I thought the quails were peculiarly tasteless," said Mrs. Ames;
"and if you are to be grand and have pches  la Melba, I should
prefer to offer my guests real peaches and proper ice-cream,
instead of tinned peaches and custard.  I say nothing about the
champagne, because I scarcely tasted it."

"Well then, my dear, I'm sure you are quite right not to criticize
it.  All I can say is that I never want to eat a better supper."

Suddenly Mrs. Ames became aware that another piece of solid outline
had appeared round her vague discontent and reaction.

"No doubt you think that all Millie's arrangements are perfect in
every way," she observed.

"I don't know what you mean by that," said he, rather hotly; "but I
do know that when a woman has been putting herself to all that
trouble and expense to entertain her friends, her friends would
show a nicer spirit if they refrained from carping and depreciating

"No amount of appreciation would make tinned peaches fresh, or turn
custard into ice-cream," said Mrs. Ames, laying down the fork with
which she had dallied with the kedjeree, which indeed was but a
sordid sort of creation.  "It is foolish to pretend that a thing is
perfect when it is not.  Nor do I consider her manners as a hostess
by any means perfect.  She looked as cross as two sticks when poor
Mrs. Brooks appeared.  I suppose she thought that nobody had a
right to be Cleopatra besides herself.  To be sure poor Mrs. Brooks
looked very silly, but if everybody who looked silly last night
should have stayed away, there would not have been much dancing

She took several more sips of the strong tea, while he unfolded and
appeared engrossed in the morning paper, and under their
stimulating influence saw suddenly and distinctly how ill-advised
was her attack.  She had yielded to temporary ill-temper, which is
always a mistake.  It was true that in her mind she was feeling
that Lyndhurst last night had spent far too much time with his
hostess; in a word, she felt jealous.  It was, therefore,
abominably stupid, from a merely worldly point of view, to
criticize and belittle Millie to him.  If there was absolutely no
ground for her jealousy--which at present was but a humble little
green bud--such an attack was uncalled for; if there was ground it
was most foolish, at this stage, at any rate, to give him the least
cause for suspecting that it existed.  But she was wise enough now,
not to hasten to repair her mistake, but to repair it slowly and
deliberately, as if no repair was going on at all.

"But I must say the garden looked charming," she said after a
pause.  "Did she tell you, Lyndhurst, whether it was she or her
husband who saw to the lighting?  The scheme was so comprehensive;
it took in the whole of the lawn; there was nothing patchy about
it.  I suspect Dr. Evans planned it; it looked somehow more like a
man's work."

A look of furtive guilt passed over the Major's face; luckily it
was concealed by the Daily Mail.

"No; Evans told me himself that he had nothing to do with it," he
said.  "It was pretty, I thought; very pretty."

"If the nights continue hot," said she, "it would be nice to have
the garden illuminated one night, if dear Millie did not think we
were appropriating her ideas.  I do not think she would; she is
above that sort of thing.  Well, dear, I must go and order dinner.
Have you any wishes?"

Clearly it was wiser, from the Major's point of view, to accept
this bouquet of olive branches.  After all, Amy was far too
sensible to imagine that there could be anything to rouse the
conjugal watch-dog.  Nor was there; hastily he told himself that.
A cousinly kiss, which at the moment he would willingly have

Certainly last night he had been a little super-stimulated.  There
was the irresponsibility of fancy dress, there was the knowledge
that Millie was not insensitive to him; there was the sense of his
own big, shapely legs in tights, there was dancing and lanterns,
and all had been potent intoxicants to Riseborough, which for so
long had practised teetotalism with regard to such excitements.
Amy herself had been so far carried away by this effervescence of
gaiety as to smoke a cigarette, and Heaven knew how far removed
from her ordinary code of conduct was such an adventure.
Generously, he had forborne to brandish that cigarette as a weapon
against her during this acrimonious episode at breakfast, and he
had no conscious intention of hanging it, like Damocles' sword over
her head, in case she pursued her critical and carping course
against Millie.  But whatever he had said last night, she had done
that.  Without meaning to make use of his knowledge, he knew it was
in his power to do so.  What would not Mrs. Altham, for instance,
give to be informed by an eye-witness that Mrs. Ames had blown--it
was no more than that--on the abhorred weed?  So, conscious of a
position that he could make offensive at will, he accepted the
olive branch, and suggested a cold curry for lunch.

Breakfast at Mrs. Altham's reflected less complicated conditions of
mind.  Both she and her husband were extremely pleased with
themselves, and in a state of passion with regard to everybody
else.  Since their attitude was typical of the view that
Riseborough generally took of last night's festivity, it may be
given compendiously in a rhetorical flight of Mrs. Altham's, with
which her husband was in complete accord.

In palliation, it may be mentioned that they had both partaken of
large quantities of food at an unusual hour.  It is through the
body that the entry is made by the subtle gateways of the soul, and
vitriolic comments in the morning are often the precise equivalent
of unusual indulgence the night before.

"Well, I'm sure if I had known," said Mrs. Altham, "I should not
have taken the trouble I did.  Of course, everybody said 'How
lovely your dress is,' simply to make one say the same to them.
And I never want to hear the word Cleopatra again, Henry, so pray
don't repeat it.  Fancy Mrs. Ames appearing as Cleopatra, and us
taking the trouble to say we were Antony and Cleopatra ten years
later!  Twenty years before would have been more the date if we had
known.  Perhaps I am wrong, but when a woman arrives at Mrs. Ames'
time of life, whether she dyes her hair or not, she is wiser to
keep her feet concealed, not to mention what she must have looked
like in the face of half the tradesmen of Riseborough who were
lining the pavements when she stepped out of her cab.  I thought I
heard a great roar of laughter as we were driving up the High
Street; I should not wonder if it was the noise of them all
laughing as she got out of her carriage.  Of course, it was all
very prettily done, as far as poor Mrs. Evans was concerned, but I
wonder that Dr. Evans likes her to spend money like that, for,
however unsuitable the supper was, I feel sure it was very
expensive, for it was all truffles and aspic.  There must have been
a sirloin of beef in the cup of soup I took between two of the
dances, and strong soup like that at dead of night fills one up
dreadfully.  And Mrs. Brooks appearing as another Cleopatra, after
all I had said about Hermione!  Well, I'm sure if she chooses to
make a silly of herself like that, it is nobody's concern but hers.
She looked like nothing so much as a great white mare with the
staggers.  If you are going up to the club, Henry, I should not
wonder if I came out with you.  It seems to me a very stuffy
morning, and a little fresh air would do me good.  As for the big
German ruby in your cap, I don't believe a soul noticed it.  They
were all looking at Mrs. Evans' long white arms.  Poor thing, she
is probably very anmic; I never saw such pallor.  I saw little of
her the whole evening.  She seemed to be popping in and out of the
shrubbery like a rabbit all the time with Major Ames.  I should not
wonder if Mrs. Ames was giving him a good talking-to at this

Then, like all the rest of Riseborough, and unlike the scorpion,
there was a blessing instead of a sting in her tail.

"But certainly it was all very pretty," she said; "though it all
seemed very strange at the time.  I can hardly believe this morning
that we were all dressed up like that, hopping about out of doors.
Fancy dress balls are very interesting; you see so much of human
nature, and though I looked the procession up and down, Henry, I
saw nobody so well dressed as you.  But I suppose there is a lot of
jealousy everywhere.  And anyhow, Mrs. Evans has quite ousted Mrs.
Ames now.  Nobody will talk about anything but last night for the
next fortnight, and I'm sure that when Mrs. Ames had the conjurer
who turned the omelette into the watch, we had all forgotten about
it three days afterwards.  And after all, Mrs. Evans is a very
pleasant and hospitable woman, and I wouldn't have missed that
party for anything.  If you hear anything at the club about her
wanting to sell her Chinese lanterns and fairy-lights second-hand,
Henry, or if you find any reason to believe that she had hired them
out for the night from the Mercantile Stores, you might ask the
price, and if it is reasonable get a couple of dozen.  If the
weather continues as hot as this we might illuminate the garden
when we give our August dinner-party.  At least, I suppose Mrs.
Evans does not consider that she has a monopoly of lighting up

Henry found himself quite in accord with the spirit of this

"I will remember, my dear," he said; "if I hear anything said at
the club.  I shall go up there soon, for I should not be surprised
if most of the members spent their morning there.  I think I will
have another cup of tea."

"You have had two already," said his wife.

He was feeling a little irritable.

"Then this will make three," he observed.

Mrs. Evans, finally, had breakfast in her room.  When she came
downstairs, she found that her husband had already left the house
on his visits, which was a relief.  She felt that if she had seen
his cheerful smiling face this morning, she would almost have hated

She ordered dinner, and then went out into the garden.  Workmen
were already there, removing the dancing-floor, and her gardener
was collecting the fairy-lights in trays, and carrying them
indoors.  Here and there were charred, burnt places on the grass,
and below the mulberry-tree the dbris of supper had not yet been
removed.  But the shrubbery, as last night, was sequestered and
cool, and she sat for an hour there on the garden bench overlooking
the lawn.  Little flakes of golden sunlight filtered down through
the foliage, and a laburnum, delicate-sprayed, oscillated in the
light breeze.  She scarcely knew whether she was happy or not, and
she gave no thought to that.  But she felt more consciously alive
than ever before.


Discussion about the fancy dress ball, as Mrs Altham had said, was
paramount over all other topics for at least a fortnight after the
event, and the great question which annually became of such
absorbing interest during July--namely, as to where to spend
August, was dwarfed and never attained to its ordinary proportions
till quite late on in the month.  These discussions did not, as a
rule, bear fruit of any kind, since, almost without exception,
everybody spent August exactly where August had been spent by him
for the last dozen years or so, but it was clearly wise to consider
the problem afresh every year, and be prepared, in case some fresh
resort suggested itself, to change the habit of years, or at least
to consider doing so.  The lists of hotels at the end of Bradshaw,
and little handbooks published by the South-Eastern Railway were,
as a rule, almost the only form of literature indulged in during
these evenings of July, and Mr. Altham, whose imagination was
always fired by pictures of ships, often studied the sailings of
River Plate steamers, and considered that the fares were very
reasonable, especially steerage.  The fact that he was an appalling
bad sailor in no way diminished the zest with which he studied
their sailings and the prices thereof.  Subsequently he and Mrs.
Altham always spent August at Littlestone-on-Sea, in a completely
detached villa called Blenheim, where a capable Scotchwoman, who,
to add colour to the illusion, maintained that her name really was
Churchill, boarded and lodged them on solid food and feather beds.
During July, it may be remarked, Mrs. Altham usually contrived to
quarrel with her cook, who gave notice.  Thus there was one mouth
less to feed while they were away, and yearly, on their return,
they had the excitement of new and surprising confections from the

Mrs. Ames, it may be remembered, had already enjoyed a fortnight's
holiday at Overstrand this year, and the last week of July saw her
still disinclined to make holiday plans.  They had taken a sort of
bungalow near Deal for the last year or two, which, among other
advantages, was built in such a manner that any remark made in any
part of the house could be heard in any other part of the house.
It was enough almost for her to say, as she finished dressing, "We
are ready for breakfast," to hear Parker replying from the kitchen,
"The kettle's just on the boil, ma'am."  This year, however, she
had been late in inquiring whether it was vacant for August, and
she found, when her belated letter was answered, that it was
already engaged.

This fact she broke to her husband and Harry, who had returned from
Cambridge with hair unusually wild and lank, with tempered

"Considering how many years we have taken it," she said, "I must
say that I think they should have told us before letting it over
our heads like this.  But I always thought that Mrs. Mackenzie was
a most grasping sort of person who would be likely to take the
first offer that turned up, and I'm sure the house was never very
comfortable.  I have no doubt we can easily find a better without
much bother!"

"My bedroom ceiling always leaked," said Harry; "and there was
nowhere to write at!"

Mrs. Ames had finished her breakfast and got up.  She felt faintly
in her mind that after the fancy dress ball it was time for her to
do something original.  Yet the whole idea was so novel. . . .
Riseborough would be sure to say that they had not been able to
afford a holiday.  But, after all, that mattered very little.

"I really don't know why we always take the trouble to go away to
an uncomfortable lodging during August," she said, "and leave our
own comfortable house standing vacant."

Major Ames, had he been a horse, would have pricked up his ears at
this.  But the human ear being unadapted to such movements, he
contented himself with listening avidly.  He had seen little of
Millie this last fortnight, and was beginning to realize how much
he missed her presence.  Between them, it is true, they had come
near to an intimacy which had its dangers, which he really feared
more than he desired, but he felt, with that self-deception that
comes so easily to those who know nothing about themselves, that he
was on his guard now.  Meantime, he missed her, and guessed quite
truly that she missed him.  And, poor prig, he told himself that he
had no right to cut off that which gave her pleasure.  He could be
Spartan over his own affairs, if so minded, but he must not play
Lycurgus to others.  And an idea that had privately occurred to
him, which at the time seemed incapable of realization, suddenly
leaped into the possible horizons.

"And you always complain of the dampness of strange houses,
Lyndhurst," she added; "and as Harry says, he has no place for
writing and study.  Why should we go away at all?  I am sure, after
the excitement of the last month, it would be a complete rest to
remain here when everybody else is gone.  I have not had a moment
to myself this last month, and I should not be at all sorry to stop
quietly here."

Major Ames knew with sufficient accuracy the influence he had over
his wife.  He realized, that is to say, as far as regarded the
present instance, that slight opposition on his part usually
produced a corresponding firmness on hers.  Accentuated opposition
produced various results; sometimes he won, sometimes she.  But
mild remonstrance always confirmed her views in opposition to his.
He had a plan of his own on this occasion, and her determination to
remain in Riseborough would prove to be in alliance with it.
Therefore he mildly remonstrated.

"You would regret it before the month was out," he said.  "For me,
I'm an old campaigner, and I hope I can make myself comfortable
anywhere.  But you would get bored before the end of August, Amy,
and when you get bored your digestion is invariably affected."

"I should like to stop in Riseborough," said Harry.  "I hate the

"You will go wherever your mother settles to go, my boy," said
Major Ames, still pursuing his plan.  "If she wishes to go to
Sheffield for August, you and I will go too, and--and no doubt
learn something useful about cutlery.  But don't try stopping in
Riseborough, my dear Amy.  At least, if you take my advice, you

Major Ames was not very intelligent, but the highest intelligence
could not have done better.  He had learned the trick of slight
opposition, just as a stupid dog with a Conservative master can
learn to growl for Asquith by incessant repetition.  When it has
learned it, it does it right.  The Major had done it right on this

"I do not see why Harry should not have a voice in the question of
where we spend his vacation," she said.  "Certainly your room at
the bungalow, Lyndhurst, was comfortable enough, but that was the
only decent room in the house.  In any case we cannot get the
bungalow for this August.  Have you any other plans as to where we
should go?"

There was room for a little more of his policy of opposition.

"Well, now, Brighton," he said.  "Why not Brighton?  There's a club
there; I dare say I should get a little Bridge in the evening, and
no doubt you would pick up some acquaintances, Amy.  I think the
Westbournes went there last year."

This remarkable reason for going to Brighton made Mrs. Ames almost

"And then we could go on to Margate," she remarked, "and curry
favour there."

"By all means, my dear," said he.  "I dare say the curry would be
quite inexpensive."

Mrs. Ames opened the door on to the verandah.

"Pray let me know, Lyndhurst," she said, "if you have any serious
proposition to make."

It was Major Ames' custom to start work in the garden immediately
after breakfast, but this morning he got out one of his large-sized
cheroots instead (these conduced to meditation), and established
himself in a chair on the verandah.  His mental development was
not, in most regards, of a very high or complex order, but he
possessed that rather rare attainment of being able to sit down and
think about one thing to the exclusion of others.  With most of us
to sit down and think about one thing soon resolves itself into a
confused survey of most other things; Major Ames could do better
than that, for he could, and on this occasion did exclude all other
topics from his mind, and at the end return, so to speak, "bringing
his sheaves with him."  He had made a definite and reasonable plan.

Harry had communicated the interesting fact of his passion for Mrs.
Evans to the Omar Khayyam Club, and was, of course, bound to
prosecute his nefarious intrigue.  He had already written several
galloping lyrics, a little loose in grammar and rhyme, to his
enchantress, which he had copied into a small green morocco note-
book, the title-page of which he had inscribed as "Dedicated to M.
E."  This looked a Narcissus-like proceeding to any one who did not
remember what Mrs. Evans' initials were.  This afternoon, feeling
the poetic afflatus blowing a gale within him, but having nothing
definite to say, he decided to call on the inspirer of his muse, in
order to gather fresh fuel for his fire.  Arrayed in a very low
collar, which showed the full extent of his rather scraggy neck,
and adorned with a red tie, for socialism was no less an orthodoxy
in the club than atheistic principles and illicit love, he set
secretly out, and had the good fortune to find the goddess alone,
and was welcomed with that rather timid, childlike deference that
he had found so adorable before.

"But how good of you to come and see me," she said, "when I'm sure
you must have so many friends wanting you.  I think it is so kind."

Clearly she was timid; she did not know her power.  Her eyes were
bluer than ever; her hair was of palest gold, "As I remembered her
of old," he thought to himself, referring to the evening at the end
of June.  Indeed, there was a poem dated June 28, rather a daring

"The kindness is entirely on your side," he said, "in letting me
come, and"--he longed to say--"worship," but did not quite dare--
"and have tea with you."

"Dear me, that is a selfish sort of kindness," she said.  "Let us
go into the garden.  I think it was very unkind of you, Mr. Harry,
not to come to my dance last week.  But of course you Cambridge men
have more serious things to think about than little country

"I thought about nothing else but your dance for days," said he;
"but my tutor simply refused to let me come down for it.  A narrow,
pedantic fellow, who I don't suppose ever danced.  Tell me about
your dress; I like to picture you in a fancy dress."

She could not help appearing to wish to attract.  It was as much
the fault of the way her head was set on to her neck, of the colour
of her eyes, as of her mind.

"Oh, quite a simple white frock," she said; "and a few pearls.
They--they wanted me to go as Cleopatra.  So silly--me with a grown-
up daughter.  But my husband insisted."

The fancy dress ball had not been talked about at Mrs. Ames'
lately, and he had heard nothing about it in the two days he had
been at home.  Both his parents had reason for letting it pass into
the region of things that are done with.

"Did mother and father go?" he asked.  "I suppose they felt too old
to dress up?"

"Oh, no.  They came as Antony and Cleopatra.  Have they not told
you?  Cousin Amy looked so--so interesting.  And your father was
splendid as Mark Antony."

"Then was Dr. Evans Mark Antony too?" asked Harry.

"No; he was Timon of Athens."

"Then who was your Mark Antony?" he asked.

Mrs. Evans felt herself flushing, and her annoyance at herself made
her awkward in the pouring out of tea.

She felt that Harry's narrow, gimlet-like eyes were fixed on her.

"See how stupid I am," she said.  "I have spilled your tea in the
saucer.  Dear Mr. Harry, we had heaps of Cleopatras: Mrs. Altham
was one, Mrs. Brooks was another.  We danced with Hamlets, and--and

But this crude, ridiculous youth, she felt, had some idea in his

"And did father and mother dance together all the evening?" he

She felt herself growing impatient.

"Of course not.  Everybody danced with everybody.  We had
quadrilles; all sorts of things."

Then, with the mistaken instinct that makes us cautious in the
wrong place, she determined to say a little more.

"But your father was so kind to me," she said.  "He helped me with
all the arrangements.  I could never have managed it except for
him.  We had tremendous days of talking and planning about it.  Now
tell me all about Cambridge."

But Harry was scenting a sonnet of the most remarkable character.
It might be called The Rivals, and would deal with a situation
which the Omar Khayyam Club would certainly feel to be immensely

"I suppose mother helped you, too?" he said.

This was Byronic, lacerating.  She had to suffer as well as he . . .
there was a pungent line already complete.  "But who had suffered
as much as me?" was the refrain.  There were thrills in store for
the Omar Khayyam Club.  After a sufficiency of yellow wine.

"Cousin Amy was away," said Mrs. Evans.  "She was staying at Cromer
till just before my little dance.  That is not far from Cambridge,
is it?  I suppose she came over to see you."

Harry spared her, and did not press these questions.  But enough
had been said to show that she had broken faith with him.  "Rivals"
could suitably become quite incoherent towards the close.
Incoherency was sometimes a great convenience, for exclamatory
rhymes were not rare.

He smoothed the lank hair off his forehead, and tactfully changed
the subject.

"And I suppose you are soon going away now," he said.  "I am lucky
to have seen you at all.  We are going to stop here all August, I
think.  My mother does not want to go away.  Nor do I; not that
they either of them care about that."

Mrs. Evans' slight annoyance with him was suddenly merged in

"How wise!" she said.  "It is so absurd to go to stay somewhere
uncomfortably instead of remaining comfortably.  I wish we were
doing the same.  But my husband always has to go to Harrogate for a
few weeks.  And he likes me to be with him.  I shall think of you
all and envy you stopping here in this charming Riseborough."

"You like it?" asked Harry.

"How should I not with so many delightful people being friendly to
me?  Relations too; Cousin Amy, for instance, and Major Ames, and,
let me see, if Mrs. Ames is my cousin, surely you are cousin

Harry became peculiarly fascinating, and craned his long neck

"Oh, leave out the 'cousin,'" he said.

"How sweet of you--Harry," she said.

That, so to speak, extracted the poison-fangs from the projected
"Rivals," and six mysterious postcards were placed by the author's
hand in the pillar-box that evening.  Each consisted of one mystic
sentence.  "She calls me by my Christian name."  By a most
convenient circumstance, too apt to be considered accidental, there
had here come to birth an octosyllabic line, of honeyed sweetness
and simplicity.  He was not slow to take advantage of it, and the
moon setting not long before daybreak saw another completed gem of
the M. E. series.

Mrs. Evans that afternoon, like Major Ames that morning, "sat and
thought," after Harry had left her.  Independently of the fact that
all admirers, even the weirdest, always found welcome in her pale
blue eyes, she felt really grateful to Harry, for he had given her
the information on which she based a plan which was quite as sound
and simple as Major Ames', and was designed to secure the same
object.  Since the night of the fancy dress ball she had only seen
him once or twice, and never privately, and the greater vitality
which, by the wondrous processes of affinity, he had stirred in
her, hungered for its sustenance.  It cannot be said that she was
even now really conscious in herself of disloyalty to her husband,
or that she actually contemplated any breach of faith.  She had not
at present sufficient force of feeling to imagine a decisive
situation; but she could at most lash her helm, so to speak, so
that the action of the wind would take her boat in the direction in
which she wished to go, and then sit idly on deck, saying that she
was not responsible for the course she was pursuing.  The wind, the
tide, the currents were irresistibly impelling her; she had nothing
to do with the rudder, having tied it, she did not touch it.  Like
the majority in this world of miserable sinners, she did not
actively court the danger she desired, but she hung about expectant
of it.  At the same time she kept an anxious eye on the shore
towards which she was driving.  Was it really coming closer?  If
so, why did she seem to have made no way lately?

To-day her plan betokened a more active hand in what she thought of
as fate, but unfortunately, though it was as sound in itself as
Major Ames', it was made independently and ignorantly of that which
had prompted his slight opposition this morning, so that, while
each plan was admirable enough in itself, the two, taken in
conjunction, would, if successful, result in a fiasco almost
sublime in its completeness.  The manner of which was as follows.

Elsie, it so happened, was not at home that evening, and she and
her husband dined alone, and strolled out in the garden afterwards.

"You will miss your chess this evening, dear," she said.  "Or would
it amuse you to give me a queen and a few bishops and knights, and
see how long it takes you to defeat me?  Or shall we spend a little
cosy chatty evening together?  I hope no horrid people will be
taken ill, and send for you."

"So do I, little woman," he said (she was getting to detest the
appellation).  "And as if I shouldn't enjoy a quiet evening of talk
with you more than fifty games of chess!  But, dear me, I shall be
glad to get away to Harrogate this year!  I need a month of it
badly.  I shall positively enjoy the foul old rotten-egg smell."

She gave a little shudder.

"Oh, don't talk of it," she said.  "It is bad enough without
thinking of it beforehand."

"Poor little woman!  Almost a pity you are not gouty too.  Then we
should both look forward to it."

She sat down on one of the shrubbery seats, and drew aside her
skirts, making room for him to sit beside her.

"Yes, but as I am not gouty, Wilfred," she said.  "It is no use
wishing I was.  And I do hate Harrogate so.  I wonder--"

She gave a little sigh and put her arm within his.

"Well, what's the little woman wondering now?" he asked.

"I hardly like to tell you.  You are always so kind to me that I
don't know why I am afraid.  Wilfred, would you think it dreadful
of me, if I suggested not going with you this year?  I'm sure it
makes me ill to be there.  You will have Elsie; you will play chess
as usual with her all evening.  You see all morning you are at your
baths, and you usually are out bicycling all afternoon with her.  I
don't think you know how I hate it."

She had begun in her shy, tentative manner.  But her voice grew
more cold and decided.  She put forward her arguments like a woman
who has thought it all carefully over, as indeed she had.

"But what will you do with yourself, my dear?" he said.  "It seems
a funny plan.  You can't stop here alone."

She sat up, taking her hand from his arm.

"Indeed, I should not be as lonely here as I am at Harrogate," she
said.  "We don't know anybody there, and if you think of it, I am
really alone most of the time.  It is different for you, because it
is doing you good, and, as I say, you are bicycling with Elsie all
the afternoon, and you play chess together in the evening."

A shade of trouble and perplexity came over the doctor's face; the
indictment, for it was hardly less than that, was as well-ordered
and digested as if it had been prepared for a forensic argument.
And the calm, passionless voice went on.

"Think of my day there," she said, going into orderly detail.
"After breakfast you go off to your baths, and I have to sit in
that dreadful sitting-room while they clear the things away.  Even
a hotel would be more amusing than those furnished lodgings; one
could look at the people going in and out.  Or if I go for a stroll
in the morning, I get tired, and must rest in the afternoon.  You
come in to lunch, and go off with Elsie afterwards.  That is quite
right; the exercise is good for you, but what is the use of my
being there?  There is nobody for me to go to see, nobody comes to
see me.  Then we have dinner, and I have the excitement of learning
where you and Elsie have been bicycling.  You two play chess after
dinner, and I have the excitement of being told who has won.  Here,
at any rate, I can sit in a room that doesn't smell of dinner, or I
can sit in the garden.  I have my own books and things about me,
and there are people I know whom I can see and talk to."

He got up, and began walking up and down the path in front of the
bench where they had been sitting, his kindly soul in some

"Nothing wrong, little woman?" he asked.

"Certainly not.  Why should you think that?  I imagine there is
reason enough in what I have told you.  I do get so bored there,
Wilfred.  And I hate being bored.  I am sure it is not good for me,
either.  Try to picture my life there, and see how utterly
different it is from yours.  Besides, as I say, it is doing you
good all the time, and as you yourself said, you welcome the
thought of that horrible smelling water."

He still shuffled up and down in the dusk.  That, too, got on her

"Pray sit down, Wilfred," she said.  "Your walking about like that
confuses me.  And surely you can say 'Yes' or 'No' to me.  If you
insist on my going with you, I shall go.  But I shall think it very
unreasonable of you."

"But I can't say 'Yes' or 'No' like that, little woman," he said.
"I don't imagine you have thought how dull Riseborough will be
during August.  Everybody goes away, I believe."

For a moment she thought of telling him that the Ames' were going
to stop here: then, with entirely misplaced caution, she thought
wiser to keep that to herself.  She, guilty in the real reason for
wishing to remain here, though coherent and logical enough in the
account she had given him of her reason, thought, grossly wronging
him, that some seed of suspicion might hereby enter her husband's

"There is sure to be some one here," she said.  "The Althams, for
instance, do not go away till the middle of August."

"You do not particularly care for them," said he.

"No, but they are better than nobody.  All day at Harrogate I have
nobody.  It is not companionship to sit in the room with you and
Elsie playing chess.  Besides, the Westbournes will be at home.  I
shall go over there a great deal, I dare say.  Also I shall be in
my own house, which is comfortable, and which I am fond of.  Our
lodgings at Harrogate disgust me.  They are all oilcloth and plush;
there is nowhere to sit when they are clearing away."

His face was still clouded.

"But it is so odd for a married woman to stop alone like that," he

"I think it is far odder for her husband to want her to spend a
month of loneliness and boredom in lodgings," she said.  "Because I
have never complained, Wilfred, you think I haven't detested it.
But on thinking it over it seems to me more sensible to tell you
how I detest it, and ask you that I shouldn't go."

He was silent a moment.

"Very well, little woman," he said at length.  "You shall do as you

Instantly the cold precision of her speech changed.  She gave that
little sigh of conscious content with which she often woke in the
morning, and linked her arm into his again.

"Ah, that is dear of you," she said.  "You are always such a
darling to me."

He was not a man to give grudging consents, or spoil a gift by
offering it except with the utmost cordiality.

"I only hope you'll make a great success of it, little woman," he
said.  "And it must be dull for you at Harrogate.  So that's
settled, and we're all satisfied.  Let us see if Elsie has come in

She laughed softly.

"You are a dear," she said again.

Wilfred Evans was neither analytical regarding himself nor curious
about analysis that might account for the action of others.  Just
as in his professional work he was rather old-fashioned, but
eminently safe and sensible, so in the ordinary conduct of his life
he did not seek for abstruse causes and subtle motives.  It was
quite enough for him that his wife felt that she would be
excruciatingly bored at Harrogate, and less acutely desolate here.
On the other hand, it implied violation of one of the simplest
customs of life that a wife should be in one place and her husband
in another.  That was vaguely disquieting to him.  Disquieting also
was the cold, precise manner with which she had conducted her case.
A dozen times only, perhaps, in all their married life had she
assumed this frozen rigidity of demeanour; each time he had
succumbed before it.  In the ordinary way, if their inclinations
were at variance, she would coax and wheedle him into yielding or,
though quietly adhering to her own opinion, she would let him have
his way.  But with her calm rigidity, rarely assumed, he had never
successfully combated; there was a steeliness about it that he knew
to be stronger than any opposition he could bring to it.  Nothing
seemed to affect it, neither argument nor conjugal command.  She
would go on saying "I do not agree with you," in the manner of cool
water dripping on a stone.  Or with the same inexorable quietness
she would repeat, "I feel very strongly about it: I think it very
unkind of you."  And a sufficiency of that always had rendered his
opposition impotent: her will, when once really aroused, seemed to
paralyse his.  Once or twice her line had turned out conspicuously
ill.  That seemed to make no difference: the cold, precise manner
was on higher plane than the material failure which had resulted
therefrom.  She would merely repeat, "But it was the best thing to
do under the circumstances."

In this instance he wondered a little that she had used this manner
over a matter that seemed so little vital as the question of
Harrogate, but by next morning he had ceased to concern himself
further with it.  She was completely her usual self again, and soon
after breakfast set off to accomplish some little errands in the
town, looking in on him in his laboratory to know if there were any
commissions she could do for him.  His eye at the moment was glued
to his microscope: a culture of staphylococcus absorbed him, and
without looking up, he said--

"Nothing, thanks, little woman."

He heard her pause: then she came across the room to him, and laid
her cool hand on his shoulder.

"Wilfred, you are such a dear to me," she said.  "You're not vexed
with me?"

He interrupted his observations, and put his arm round her.

"Vexed?" he said.  "I'll tell you when I'm vexed."

She smiled at him, dewily, timidly.

"That's all right, then," she said.

So her plan was accomplished.

The affair of the staphylococcus did not long detain the doctor,
and presently after Major Ames was announced.  He had come to
consult Dr. Evans with regard to certain gouty symptoms into which
the doctor inquired and examined.

"There's nothing whatever to worry about," he said, after a very
short investigation.  "I should recommend you to cut off alcohol
entirely, and not eat meat more than once a day.  A fortnight's
dieting will probably cure you.  And take plenty of exercise.  I
won't give you any medicine.  There is no use in taking drugs when
you can produce the same effect by not taking other things."

Major Ames fidgeted and frowned a little.

"I was thinking," he said at length, "of taking myself more
thoroughly in hand than that.  I've never approved of half-
measures, and I can't begin now.  If a tooth aches have it out, and
be done with it.  No fiddling about for me.  Now my wife does not
want to go away this August, and it seemed to me that it would be a
very good opportunity for me to go, as you do, I think, and take a
course of waters.  Get rid of the tendency, don't you know,
eradicate it.  What do you say to that?  Harrogate now; I was
thinking of Harrogate, if you approved.  Harrogate does wonders for
gout, does it not?"

The doctor laughed.

"I am certainly hoping that Harrogate will do wonders for me," he
said.  "I go there every year.  And no doubt many of us who are
getting on in years would be benefited by it.  But your symptoms
are very slight.  I think you will soon get rid of them if you
follow the course I suggest."

But Major Ames showed a strange desire for Harrogate.

"Well, I like to do things thoroughly," he said.  "I like getting
rid of a thing root and branch, you know.  You see I may not get
another opportunity.  Amy likes me to go with her on her holiday in
August, but there is no reason why I should stop in Riseborough.  I
haven't spoken to her yet, but if I could say that you recommended
Harrogate, I'm sure she would wish me to go.  Indeed, she would
insist on my going.  She is often anxious about my gouty
tendencies, more anxious, as I often tell her, than she has any
need to be.  But an aunt of hers had an attack which went to her
heart quite unexpectedly, and killed her, poor thing.  I think,
indeed, it would be a weight off Amy's mind if she knew I was going
to take myself thoroughly in hand, not tinker and peddle about with
diet only.  So would you be able to recommend me to go to

"A course of Harrogate wouldn't be bad for any of us who eat a good
dinner every night," said Dr. Evans.  "But I think that if you

Major Ames got up, waving all further discussion aside.

"That's enough, doctor," he said.  "If it would do me good, I know
Amy would wish me to go; you know what wives are.  Now I'm pressed
for time this morning, and so I am sure are you.  By the way, you
needn't mention my plan till I've talked it over with Amy.  But
about lodgings, now.  Do you recommend lodgings or an hotel?"

Dr. Evans did not mention that his wife was not going to be with
him this year, for, having obtained permission to say that
Harrogate would do him good, Major Ames had developed a prodigious
hurry, and a few moments after was going jauntily home, with the
address of Dr. Evans' lodgings in his pocket.  He trusted to his
own powers of exaggeration to remove all possible opposition on his
wife's part, and felt himself the devil of a diplomatist.

So his plan was arranged.

The third factor in this network of misconceived plots occurred the
same morning.  Mrs. Ames, visiting the High Street on account of an
advanced melon, met Cousin Millie on some similar errand to the
butcher's on account of advanced cutlets, for the weather was
trying.  It was natural that she announced her intention of
remaining in Riseborough with her family during August: it was
natural also that Cousin Millie signified the remission from
Harrogate.  Cousin Amy was cordial on the subject, and returned
home.  Probably she would have mentioned this fact to her husband,
if he had given her time to do it.  But he was bursting with a more
immediate communication.

"I didn't like to tell you before, Amy," he said, "because I didn't
want to make you unnecessarily anxious.  And there's no need for
anxiety now."

Mrs. Ames was not very imaginative, but it occurred to her that the
newly-planted magnolia had not been prospering.

"No real cause for anxiety," he said.  "But the fact is that I went
to see Dr. Evans this morning--don't be frightened, my dear--and
got thoroughly overhauled by him, thoroughly overhauled.  He said
there was no reason for anxiety, assured me of it.  But I'm gouty,
my dear, there's no doubt of it, and of course you remember about
your poor Aunt Harriet.  Well, there it is.  And he says Harrogate.
A bore, of course, but Harrogate.  But no cause for anxiety: he
told me so twice."

Mrs. Ames gave one moment to calm, clear, oysterlike reflection,
unhurried, unalarmed.  There was no shadow of reason why she should
tell him what Mrs. Evans' plans were.  But it was odd that she
should suddenly decide to stop in Riseborough, instead of going to
Harrogate, having heard from Harry that the Ames' were to remain at
home, and Lyndhurst as suddenly be impelled to go to Harrogate,
instead of stopping in Riseborough.  A curious coincidence.
Everybody seemed to be making plans.  At any rate she would not add
to their number, but only acquiesce in those which were made.

"My dear Lyndhurst, what an upset!" she said.  "Of course, if you
tell me there is no cause for anxiety, I will not be anxious.  Does
Dr. Evans recommend you to go to Harrogate now?  You must tell me
all he said.  They always go in August, do they not?  That will be
pleasant for you.  But I am afraid you will find the waters far
from palatable."

Major Ames felt that he had not made a sufficiently important

"Of course, I told Dr. Evans I could decide nothing till I had
consulted you," he said.  "It seems a great break-up to leave you
and Harry here and go away like this.  It was that I was thinking
of, not whether waters are palatable or not.  I have more than half
a mind not to go.  I daresay I shall worry through all right

Again Mrs. Ames made a little pause.

"You must do as Dr. Evans tells you to do," she said.  "I am sure
he is not faddy or fussy."

Major Ames' experience of him this morning fully endorsed this.
Certainly he had been neither, whatever the difference between the
two might be.

"Well, my dear, if both you and Dr. Evans are agreed," he said, "I
mustn't set myself up against you."

"Now did he tell you where to go?"

"He gave me the address of his own lodgings."

"What a convenient arrangement!  Now, my dear, I beg you to waste
no time.  Send off a telegram, and pay the reply, and we'll pack
you off to-morrow.  I am sure it is the right thing to do."

A sudden conviction, painfully real, that he was behaving
currishly, descended on Major Ames.  The feeling was so entirely
new to him that he would have liked to put it down to an obsession
of gout in a new place--the conscience, for instance, for he could
hardly believe that he should be self-accused of paltry conduct.
He felt as if there must be some mistake about it.  He almost
wished that Amy had made difficulties; then there would have been
the compensatory idea that she was behaving badly too.  But she
could not have conducted herself in a more guilelessly sympathetic
manner; she seemed to find no inherent improbability in Dr. Evans
having counselled Harrogate, no question as to the advisability of
following his advice.  It was almost unpleasant to him to have
things made so pleasant.

But then this salutary impression was effaced, for anything that
savoured of self-reproach could not long find harbourage in his
mind.  Instead, he pictured himself at Harrogate station, welcoming
the Evans'.  She would probably be looking rather tired and fragile
after the journey, but he would have a cab ready for her, and tea
would be awaiting them when they reached the lodgings. . . .


A week later Mrs. Ames was sitting at breakfast, with Harry
opposite her, expecting the early post, and among the gifts of the
early post a letter from her husband.  He had written one very soon
after his arrival at Harrogate, saying that he felt better already.
The waters, as Amy had conjectured, could not be described as
agreeable, since their composition chiefly consisted of those
particular ingredients which gave to rotten eggs their characteristic
savour, but what, so said the valiant, did a bad taste in the mouth
matter, if you knew it was doing you good?  An excellent band
encouraged the swallowing of this disagreeable fluid, and by lunch-
time baths and drinking were over for the day.  He was looking
forward to the Evans' arrival; it would be pleasant to see somebody
he knew.  He would write again before many days.

The post arrived; there was a letter for her in the Major's large
sprawling handwriting, and she opened it.  But it was scarcely a
letter: a blister of expletives covered the smoking pages . . . and
the Evans'--two of them--had arrived.

Mrs. Ames' little toadlike face seldom expressed much more than a
ladylike composure, but had Harry been watching his mother he might
have thought that a shade of amusement hovered there.

"A letter from your father," she said.  "Rather a worried letter.
The cure is lowering, I believe, and makes you feel out of sorts."

Harry was looking rather yellow and dishevelled.  He had sat up
very late the night before, and the chase for rhymes had been
peculiarly fatiguing and ineffectual.

"I don't feel at all well, either," he said.  "And I don't think
Cousin Millie is well."

"Why?" asked Mrs. Ames composedly.

"I went to see her yesterday and she didn't attend.  She seemed
frightfully surprised to hear that father had gone to Harrogate."

"I suppose Dr. Evans had not told her," remarked Mrs. Ames.
"Please telephone to her after breakfast, Harry, and ask her to
dine with us this evening."

"Yes.  How curious women are!  One day they seem so glad to see
you, another you are no more to them than foam on a broken wave."

This was one of the fragments of last night.

"On a broken what?" asked Mrs. Ames.  The rustling of the turning
leaf of the Morning Post had caused her not to hear.  There was no
sarcastic intention in her inquiry.

"It does not matter," said Harry.

His mother looked up at him.

"I should take a little dose, dear," she said, "if you feel like
that.  The heat upsets us all at times.  Will you please telephone
now, Harry?  Then I shall know what to order for dinner."

Mrs. Ames' nature was undeniably a simple one; she had no misty
profundities or curious dim-lit clefts on the round, smooth surface
of her life, but on occasion simple natures are capable of curious
complexities of feeling, the more elusive because they themselves
are unable to register exactly what they do feel.  Certainly she
saw a connection between the non-arrival of dear Millie at
Harrogate and the inflamed letter from her husband.  She had
suspected also a connection between dear Millie's decision to spend
August at Riseborough and her belief that Major Ames was going to
do so too.  But the completeness of the fiasco sucked the sting out
of the resentment she might otherwise have felt: it was impossible
to be angry with such sorry conspirators.  At the same time, with
regard to her husband, she felt the liveliest internal satisfaction
at his blistering communication, and read it through again.  The
thought of her own slighted or rather unperceived rejuvenescence
added point to this; she felt that he had been "served out."  Not
for a moment did she suspect him of anything but the most innocent
of flirtations, and she was disposed to credit dear Millie with
having provoked such flirtation as there was.  By this time also it
must have been quite clear to both the thwarted parties that she
was in full cognizance of their futile designs; clearly, therefore,
her own beau rle was to appear utterly unconscious of it all, and,
unconsciously, to administer nasty little jabs to each of them with
a smiling face.  "They have been making sillies of themselves,"
expressed her indulgent verdict on the whole affair.  Then in some
strange feminine way she felt a sort of secret pride in her husband
for having had the manhood to flirt, however mildly, with somebody
else's wife; but immediately there followed the resentment that he
had not shown any tendency to flirt with his own, when she had
encouraged him.  But, anyhow, he had chosen the prettiest woman in
Riseborough, and he was the handsomest man.

But her mood changed; the thought at any rate of administering some
nasty little jabs presented itself in a growingly attractive light.
The two sillies had been wanting to dance to their own tune; they
should dance to hers instead, and by way of striking up her own
tune at once she wrote as follows, to her husband.


"I can't tell you how glad I was to get your two letters, and to
know how much good Harrogate is doing you.  What an excellent thing
that you went to Dr. Evans (please remember me to him), and that he
insisted so strongly on your taking yourself thoroughly in hand."

She paused a moment, wondering exactly how strong this insistence
had been.  It was possible that it was not very strong.  So much
the more reason for letting the sentence stand.  She now underlined
the words "so strongly."

"Of course the waters are disgusting to take, and I declare I can
almost smell them when I read your vivid description, but, as you
said in your first letter, what is a bad taste in the mouth when
you know it is doing you good?  And your second letter convinces me
how right you were to go, and when things like gout begin to come
out, it naturally makes you feel a little low and worried.  I want
you to stop there the whole of August, and get thoroughly rid of

"Here we are getting along very happily, and I am so glad I did not
go to the sea.  Millie is here, as you will know, and we see a
great deal of her.  She is constantly dropping in, en fille, I
suppose you would call it, and is in excellent spirits and looks so
pretty.  But I am not quite at ease about Harry (this is private).
He is very much attracted by her, and she seems to me not very wise
in the way she deals with him, for she seems to be encouraging him
in his silliness.  Perhaps I will speak to her about it, and yet I
hardly like to."

Again Mrs. Ames paused: she had no idea she had such a brilliant
touch in the administration of these jabs.  What she said might not
be strictly accurate, but it was full of point.

"I remember, too, what you said, that it was so good for a boy to
be taken up with a thoroughly nice woman, and that it prevented his
getting into mischief, I am sure Harry is writing all sorts of
poems to her, because he sighs a great deal, and has a most inky
forefinger, for which I give him pumice-stone.  But if she were not
so nice a woman, and so far from anything like flirtatiousness, I
should feel myself obliged to speak to Harry and warn him.  She
seems very happy and cheerful.  I daresay she feels like me, and is
rejoiced to think that Harrogate is doing her husband good.

"Write to me soon again, my dear, and give me another excellent
account of yourself.  Was it not queer that you settled to go to
Harrogate just when Millie settled not to?  If you were not such
good friends, one would think you wanted to avoid each other!
Well, I must stop.  Millie is dining with us, and I must order

She read through what she had written with considerable content.
"That will be nastier than the Harrogate waters," she thought to
herself, "and quite as good for him."  And then, with a certain
largeness which lurked behind all her littlenesses, she practically
dismissed the whole silly business from her mind.  But she
continued the use of the purely natural means for restoring the
colour of the hair, and tapped and dabbed the corners of her eyes
with the miraculous skin-food.  That was a prophylactic measure;
she did not want to appear "a fright" when Lyndhurst came back from

Mrs. Ames was well aware that the famous fancy dress ball had
caused her a certain loss of prestige in her capacity of queen of
society in Riseborough.  It had followed close on the heels of her
innovation of asking husbands and wives separately to dinner, and
had somewhat taken the shine out of her achievement, and indeed
this latter had not been as epoch-making as she had expected.  For
the last week or two she had felt that something new was required
of her, but as is often the case, she found that the recognition of
such a truth does not necessarily lead to the discovery of the
novelty.  Perhaps the paltriness of Lyndhurst's conduct, leading to
reflections on her own superior wisdom, put her on the path, for
about this time she began to take a renewed interest in the
Suffragette movement which, from what she saw in the papers, was
productive of such adventurous alarums in London.  For herself, she
was essentially law-abiding by nature, and though, in opposition to
Lyndhurst, sympathetically inclined to women who wanted the vote,
she had once said that to throw stones at Prime Ministers was
unladylike in itself, and only drew on the perpetrators the
attention of the police to themselves, rather than the attention of
the public to the problem.  But a recrudescence of similar acts
during the last summer had caused her to wonder whether she had
said quite the last word on the subject, or thought the last
thought.  Certainly the sensational interest in such violent acts
had led her to marvel at the strength of feeling that prompted
them.  Ladies, apparently, whose breeding--always a word of potency
with Mrs. Ames--she could not question, were behaving like
hooligans.  The matter interested her in itself apart from its
possible value as a novelty for the autumn.  Also an election was
probably to take place in November.  Hitherto that section of
Riseborough in which she lived had not suffered its tranquillity to
be interrupted by political excitements, but like a man in his
sleep, drowsily approved a Conservative member.  But what if she
took the lead in some political agitation, and what if she
introduced a Suffragette element into the election?  That was a
solider affair than that a quantity of Cleopatras should skip about
in a back garden.

She had always felt a certain interest in the movement, but it was
the desire to make a novelty for the autumn, peppered, so to speak,
by an impatience at the futile treachery of her husband's Harrogate
plans, and an ambition to take a line of her own in opposition to
him, that presented their crusade in a serious light to her.  The
militant crusaders she had hitherto regarded as affected by a
strange lunacy, and her husband's masculine comment, "They ought to
be well smacked, by Jove!" had had the ring of common-sense,
especially since he added, for the benefit of such crusaders as
were of higher social rank, "They're probably mad, poor things."

But during this tranquil month of August her more serious interest
was aroused, and she bought, though furtively, such literature in
the form of little tracts and addresses as was accessible on the
subject.  And slowly, though still the desire for an autumn novelty
that would eclipse the memory of the congregations of Cleopatras
was a moving force in her mind, something of the real ferment began
to be yeasty within her, and she learned by private inquiry what
the Suffragette colours were.  Naturally the introduction of an
abstract idea into her mind was a laborious process, since her life
had for years consisted of an endless chain of small concrete
events, and had been lived among people who had never seen an
abstract idea wild, any more than they had seen an elephant in a
real jungle.  It was always tamed and eating buns, as in the Zoo,
just as other ideas reached them peptonized by the columns of daily
papers.  But a wild thing lurked behind the obedient trunk; a wild
thing lurked behind the reports of ludicrous performances in the
Palace Yard at Westminster.

August was still sultry, and Major Ames was still at Harrogate,
when one evening she and Harry dined with Millie.  Since nothing of
any description happened in Riseborough during this deserted month,
the introductory discussion of what events had occurred since they
last met in the High Street that morning was not possible of great
expansion.  None of them had seen the aeroplane which was believed
to have passed over the town in the afternoon, and nobody had heard
from Mrs. Altham.  Then Mrs. Ames fired the shot which was destined
to involve Riseborough in smoke and brimstone.

"Lyndhurst and I," she said, "have never agreed about the
Suffragettes, and now that I know something about them, I disagree
more than ever."

Millie looked slightly shocked: she thought of Suffragettes as she
thought of the persons who figure in police news.  Indeed, they
often did.  She knew they wanted to vote about something, but that
was practically all she knew except that they expressed their
desire to vote by hitting people.

"I know nothing about them," she said.  "But are they not very

"They are a disgrace to their sex," said Harry.  "We soon made them
get out of Cambridge!  They tried to hold a meeting in the backs,
but I and a few others went down there, and--well, there wasn't
much more heard of them.  I don't call them women at all.  I call
them females."

Mrs. Ames had excellent reasons for suspecting romance in her son's
account of his exploits.

"Tell me exactly what happened in the backs at Cambridge, Harry,"
she said.

Harry slightly retracted.

"There is nothing much to tell," he said.  "Our club felt bound to
make a protest, and we went down there, as I said.  It seemed to
cow them a bit!"

"And then did the proctors come and cow you?" asked his inexorable

"I believe a proctor did come; I did not wait for that.  They made
a perfect fiasco, anyhow.  They told me it was all a dead failure,
and we heard no more about it."

"So that was all?" said Mrs. Ames.

"And quite enough.  I agree with father.  They disgrace their sex!"

"My dear, you know as little about it as your father," she said.

"But surely a man's judgment--" said Millie, making weak eyes at

"Dear Millie, a man's judgment is not of any value, if he does not
know anything about what he is judging.  We have all read accounts
in the papers, and heard that they are very violent and chain
themselves up to inconvenient places like railings, and are taken
away by policemen.  Sometimes they slap the policemen, but surely
there must be something behind that makes them like that.  I am
finding out what it is.  It is all most interesting.  They say that
they have to pay their rates and taxes, but get no privileges.  If
a man pays rates and taxes he gets a vote, and why shouldn't a
woman?  It is all very well expressed.  They seem to me to reason
just as well as a man.  I mean to find out much more about it all.
Personally I don't pay rates and taxes, because that is Lyndhurst's
affair, but if we had arranged differently and I paid for the house
and the rates and taxes, why shouldn't I have a vote instead of
him?  And from what I can learn the gardener has a vote, just the
same as Lyndhurst, although Lyndhurst does all the garden-rolling,
and won't let Parkins touch the flowers."

Mrs. Evans sighed.

"It all seems very confused and upside down," she said.  "Do smoke,
Harry, if you feel inclined.  Will you have a cigarette, Cousin
Amy?  I am afraid I have none.  I never smoke."

Harry was a little sore from his mother's handling, and was not
unwilling to hit back.

"I never knew mother smoked," he said.  "Do you smoke, mother?  How
delightful!  How Eastern!  I never knew you were Eastern.  I always
thought you said it was not wicked for women to smoke, but only
horrid.  Do be horrid.  I am sure Suffragettes smoke."

Mrs. Ames turned a swift appealing eye on Millie, entreating
confidence.  Then she lied.

"Dear Millie, what are you thinking of?" she said.  "Of course I
never smoke, Harry."

But the appeal of the eyes had not taken effect.

"But on the night of my little dance, Cousin Amy," she said,
"surely you had a cigarette.  It made you cough, and you said how
nice it was!"

Mrs. Ames wished she had not been so ruthless about the
Suffragettes at Cambridge.

"There is a great difference between doing a thing once," she said,
"and making a habit of it.  I think I did want to see what it was
like, but I never said it was nice, and as for its being Eastern, I
am sure I am glad to belong to the West.  I always thought it
unfeminine, and then I knew it.  I did not feel myself again till I
had brushed my teeth and rinsed my mouth.  Now, dear Millie, I am
really interested in the Suffragettes.  Their demands are
reasonable, and if we are unreasonable about granting them, they
must be unreasonable too.  For years they have been reasonable and
nobody has paid any attention to them.  What are they to do but be
violent, and call attention to themselves?  It is all so well
expressed; you cannot fail to be interested."

"Wilfred would never let me hit a policeman," said Millie.  "And I
don't think I could do it, even if he wanted me to."

"But it is not the aim of the movement to hit policemen," said Mrs.
Ames.  "They are very sorry to have to--"

"They are sorrier afterwards," said Harry.

Mrs. Ames turned a small, withering eye upon her offspring.

"If you had waited to hear what they had to say instead of running
away before the proctor came," she said, "you might have learnt a
little about them, dear.  They are not at all sorry afterwards;
they go to prison quite cheerfully, in the second division, too,
which is terribly uncomfortable.  And many of them have been
brought up as luxuriously as any of us."

"I could not go to prison," said Mrs. Evans faintly, but firmly.
"And even if I could, it would be very wrong of me, for I am sure
it would injure Wilfred's practice.  People would not like to go to
a doctor whose wife had been in prison.  She might have caught
something.  And Elsie would be so ashamed of me."

Mrs. Ames gave the suppressed kind of sigh which was habitual with
her when Lyndhurst complained that the water for his bath was not
hot, although aware that the kitchen boiler was being cleaned.

"But you need not go to prison in order to be a Suffragette, dear
Millie," she said.  "Prison life is not one of the objects of the

Mrs. Evans looked timidly apologetic.

"I didn't know," she said.  "It is so interesting to be told.  I
thought all the brave sort went to prison, and had breakfast
together when they were let out.  I am sure I have read about their
having breakfast together."

A faint smile quivered on her mouth.  She was aware that Cousin Amy
thought her very stupid, and there was a delicate pleasure in
appearing quite idiotic like this.  It made Cousin Amy dance with
irritation in her inside, and explain more carefully yet.

"Yes, dear Millie," she said, "but their having breakfast together
has not much to do with their objects--"

"I don't know about that," said Harry; "there is a club at
Cambridge to which I belong, whose object is to dine together."

"Then it is very greedy of you, dear," said Mrs. Ames, "and the
Suffragettes are not like that.  They go to prison and do all sorts
of unladylike things for the sake of their convictions.  They want
to be treated justly.  For years they have asked for justice, and
nobody has paid the least attention to them; now they are making
people attend.  I assure you that until I began reading about them,
I had very little sympathy with them.  But now I feel that all
women ought to know about them.  Certainly what I have read has
opened my eyes very much, and there are a quantity of women of very
good family indeed who belong to them."

Harry pulled his handkerchief out of the sleeve of his dress-coat;
he habitually kept it there.  Just now the Omar Khayyam Club was
rather great on class distinctions.

"I do not see what that matters," he said.  "Because a man's great-
grandmother was created a duchess for being a king's mistress--"

Mrs. Evans and Mrs. Ames got up simultaneously; if anything Mrs.
Ames got up a shade first.

"I do not think we need go into that, Harry," said Mrs. Ames.

Millie tempered the wind.

"Will you join us soon, Harry?" she said.  "If you are too long I
shall come and fetch you.  We have been political to-night!  Will
it be too cold for you in the garden, Cousin Amy?"

Left to himself, Harry devoted several minutes' pitiful reflection
to his mother's state of mind.  In spite of her awakened interest
in the Suffragette movement, she seemed to him deplorably old-
fashioned.  But with his second glass of port his thoughts assumed
a rosier tone, and he determined to wait till Cousin Millie came to
fetch him.  Surely she meant him to do that: no doubt she wanted to
have just one private word with him.  She had often caught his eye
during dinner, with a deprecating look, as if to say this tiresome
rigmarole about Suffragettes was not her fault.  He felt they
understood each other. . . .

There was a large Chippendale looking-glass above the sideboard,
and he got up from the table and observed the upper part of his
person which was reflected in it.  A wisp of hair fell over his
forehead; it might more rightly be called a plume.  He appeared to
himself to have a most interesting face, uncommon, arresting.  He
was interestingly and characteristically dressed, too, with a
collar Byronically low, a soft frilled shirt, and in place of a
waistcoat a black cummerbund.  Then hastily he mounted on a chair
in order to see the whole of his lean figure that seemed so
slender.  It was annoying that at this moment of critical
appreciation a parlour-maid should look in to see if she could
clear away. . . .

There is nothing that so confirms individualism in any character as
periods of comparative solitude.  In men such confirmation is
liable to be checked by the boredom to which their sex is subject,
but women, less frequently the prey of this paralysing emotion,
when the demands made upon them by household duties and domestic
companionship are removed, enter very swiftly into the kingdoms of
themselves.  This process was very strongly at work just now with
Millie Evans; superficially, her composure and meaningless
smoothness were unaltered, so that Mrs. Ames, at any rate, almost
wondered whether she had been right in crediting her with any hand
in the Harrogate plans, so unruffled was her insipid and
deferential cordiality, but down below she was exploring herself
and discovering a capacity for feeling that astonished her by its
intensity.  All her life she had been content to arouse emotion
without sharing it, liking to see men attentive to her, liking to
see them attracted by her and disposed towards tenderness.  They
were more interesting like that, and she gently basked in the
warmth of their glow, like a lizard on the wall.  She had not
wanted more than that; she was lizard, not vampire, and to sun
herself on the wall, and then glide gently into a crevice again,
seemed quite sufficient exercise for her emotions.  Luckily or
unluckily (those who hold that calm and complete respectability is
the aim of existence would prefer the former adverb, those who
think that development of individuality is worth the risk of a
little scorching, the latter) she had married a man who required
little or nothing more than she was disposed to give.  He had not
expected unquiet rapture, but a comfortable home with a "little
woman" always there, good-tempered, as Millie was, and cheerful and
pliable as, with a dozen exceptions when the calm precision came
into play, she had always been.  Temperamentally, he was nearly as
undeveloped as she, and the marriage had been what is called a very
sensible one.  But such sensible marriages ignore the fact that
human beings, like the shores of the bay of Naples, are
periodically volcanic, and the settlers there assume that their
little property, because no sulphurous signs have appeared on the
surface, is essentially quiescent, neglecting the fact that at one
time or another emotional disturbances are to be expected.  But
because many quiet years have passed undisturbed, they get to
believe that the human and natural fires have ceased to smoulder,
and are no longer alive down below the roots of their pleasant
vines and olive trees.  All her life up till now, Millie Evans had
been like one of these quiescent estates; now, when middle-age was
upon her, she began to feel the stir of vital forces.  The surface
of her life was still undisturbed, she went about the diminished
business of the household with her usual care, and in the weeks of
this solitary August knitted a couple of ties for her husband, and
read a couple of novels from the circulating library, with an
interest not more markedly tepid than usual.  But subterranean stir
was going on, though no fire-breathing clefts appeared on the
surface.  Subconsciously she wove images and dreams, scarcely yet
knowing that it is out of such dreams that the events and deeds of
life inevitably spring.  She had scarcely admitted even to herself
that her projects for August had gone crookedly: the conviction
that Lyndhurst Ames had found himself gouty and in need of
Harrogate punctually at the date when he knew that she might be
expected there, sufficiently straightened them.  The intention more
than compensated the miscarriage of events.

To-night, when her two guests had gone, the inevitable step
happened: her unchecked impulses grew stronger and more definite,
and out of the misty subconsciousness of her mind the disturbance
flared upwards into the light of her everyday consciousness.  With
genuine flame it mounted; it was no solitary imagining of her own
that had kindled it; he, she knew, was a conscious partner, and she
had as sign the memory that he had kissed her.  Somehow, deep in
her awakening heart, that meant something stupendous to her.  It
had been unrealized at the time, but it had been like the touch of
some corrosive, sweet and acid, burrowing down, eating her and yet
feeding her.  Up till now, it seemed to have signified little, now
it invested itself with a tremendous significance.  Probably to him
it meant little; men did such things easily, but it was that which
had burrowed within her, making so insignificant an entry, but
penetrating so far.  It was not a proof that he loved her, but it
had become a token that she loved him.  Otherwise, it could not
have happened.  There was something final in the beginning of it
all.  Then he had kissed her a second time on the night of the
fancy dress ball.  He had called that a cousinly kiss, and she
smiled at the thought of that, for it showed that it required to be
accounted for, excused.  She felt a sort of tenderness for that
fluttering, broken-winged subterfuge, so transparent, so
undeceptive.  If cousins kissed, they did not recollect their
relationship afterwards, especially if there was no relationship.
He had not kissed her because she was some sort of cousin to his

Yet it was hardly stating the case correctly to say that he had
kissed her.  Doubtless, on that first occasion below the mulberry-
tree it was his head that had bent down to hers, while she but
remained passive, waiting.  But it was she who had made him do it,
and she gloried in the soft compulsion she had put on him.  Even as
she thought of it this evening, her eye sparkled.  "He could not
help it," she said to herself.  "He could not help it."

Out of the sequestered cloistral twilight of her soul there had
stepped something that had slumbered there all her life, something
pagan, something incapable of scruples or regrets, as void of
morals as a nymph or Bacchanal on a Greek frieze.  It did not
trouble, so it seemed, to challenge or defy the traditions and
principles in which she had lived all these years; it appeared to
be ignorant of their existence, or, at the most, they were but
shadows that lay in unsubstantial bars across a sunlit pavement.
At present, it stood there trembling and quiescent, like a moth
lately broken out from its sheathed chrysalis, but momently, now
that it had come forth, it would grow stronger, and its crumpled
wings expand into pinions feathered with silver and gold.

But she made no plans, she scarcely even turned her eyes towards
the future, for the future would surely be as inevitable as the
past had been.  One by one the hot August days dropped off like the
petals of peach blossom, which must fall before the fruit begins to
swell.  She neither wanted to delay or hurry their withering.
There were but few days left, few petals left to fall, for within a
week, so her husband had written, he would be back, vastly better
for his cure, and Major Ames was coming with him.  "I shall be so
glad to see my little woman again," he had said.  "Elsie and I have
missed her."

Occasionally she tried to think about her husband, but she could
not concentrate her mind on him.  She was too much accustomed to
him to be able to fix her thoughts on him emotionally.  She was
equally well accustomed to Elsie, or rather equally well accustomed
to her complete ignorance about Elsie.  She could no more have
drawn a chart of the girl's mind than she could have drawn a
picture of the branches of the mulberry-tree under which she so
often sat, beholding the interlacement of its boughs but never
really seeing them.  Never had she known the psychical bond of
motherhood; even the physical had meant little to her.  She was
Elsie's mother by accident, so to speak; and she was but as a tree
from which a gardener has made a cutting, planting it near, so that
sapling and parent stem grow up in sight of each other, but quite
independently, without sense of their original unity.  Even when
her baby had lain at her breast, helpless, and still deriving all
from her, the sweet intimate mystery of the life that was common to
them both had been but a whispered riddle to her; and that was long
ago, its memory had become a faded photograph that might really
have represented not herself and her baby, but any mother and
child.  It was very possible that before long Elsie would be
transplanted by marriage, and she herself would have to learn a
little more about chess in order to play with her husband in the

Such, hitherto, had been her emotional life: this summary of it and
its meagre total is all that can justly be put to her credit.  She
liked her husband, she knew he was kind to her, and so, in its
inanimate manner, was the food which she ate kind to her, in that
it nourished and supported her.  But her gratitude to it was
untinged with emotion; she was not sentimental over her breakfast,
for it was the mission of food to give support, and the mission of
her husband had not been to her much more than that.  Neither
wifehood nor motherhood had awakened her womanhood.  Yet, in that
she was a woman, she was that most dangerous of all created or
manufactured things, an unexploded shell, liable to blow to bits
both itself and any who handled her.  The shell was alive still,
its case uncorroded, and its contents still potentially violent.
That violence at present lay dark and quiet within it; its sheath
was smooth and faintly bright.  It seemed but a plaything, a
parlour-ornament; it could stand on any table in any drawing-room.
But the heart of it had never been penetrated by the love that
could transform its violence into strength: now its cap was screwed
and its fuse fixed.  Until the damp and decay of age robbed it of
its power, it would always be liable to wreck itself and its

These same days that for her were kindling dangerous stuff, passed
for Mrs. Ames in a crescendo of awakening interest.  All her life
she had been wrapped round like the kernel of a nut, in the hard,
dry husk of conventionalities, her life had been encased in a
succession of minute happenings, and, literally speaking, she had
never breathed the outer air of ideas.  As has been noticed, she
gave regular patronage to St. Barnabas' Church, and spent a solid
hour or two every week in decorating it with the produce of her
husband's garden, from earliest spring, when the faint, shy
snowdrops were available, to late autumn, when October and November
frosts finally blackened the salvias and chrysanthemums.  But all
that had been of the nature of routine: a certain admiration for
the vicar, a passionless appreciation of his nobly ascetic life,
his strong, lean face, and the fire of his utterances had made her
attendance regular, and her contributions to his charities quite
creditably profuse in proportion to her not very ample means.  But
she had never denied herself anything in order to increase them,
while the time she spent over the flowers was amply compensated for
when she saw the eclipse they made of Mrs. Brooks' embroideries, or
when the lilies dropped their orange-staining pollen on to the
altar-cloth.  Stranger, perhaps, from the emotional point of view,
had been her recently attempted rejuvenescence, but even that had
been a calculated and materialistic effort.  It had not been a
manifestation of her love for her husband, or of a desire to awaken
his love for her.  It was merely a decorative effort to attract his
attention, and prevent it wandering elsewhere.

But now, with her kindled sympathy for the Suffragette movement,
there was springing up in her the consciousness of a kinship with
her sex whom, hitherto, she had regarded as a set of people to
whom, in the matter of dinner-giving and entirely correct social
behaviour, she must be an example and a law, while even her
hospitalities had not been dictated by the spirit of hospitality
but rather by a sort of pompous and genteel competition.  Now she
was beginning to see that behind the mere events of life, if they
were to be worth anything, must lie an idea, and here behind this
woman's crusade, with all its hooliganism, its hysteria, its apish
fanaticism, lay an idea of justice and sisterhood.  They seemed
simple words, and she would have said off-hand that she knew what
they meant.  But, as she began faintly to understand them, she knew
that she had been as ignorant of them as of what Australia really
was.  To her, as it was a geographical expression only, so justice
was an abstract expression.  But the meaning of justice was known
to those who gave up the comforts and amenities of life for its
sake, and for its sake cheerfully suffered ridicule and prison life
and misunderstanding.  And the fumes of an idea, to one who had
practically never tasted one, intoxicated her as new wine mounts to
the head of a teetotaler.

Ideas are dangerous things, and should be kept behind a fireguard,
for fear that the children, of whom this world largely consists,
should burn their fingers, thinking that these bright, sparkling
toys are to be played with.  Mrs Ames, in spite of her unfamiliarity
with them, did not fall into this error.  She realized that if she
was to warm herself, to get the glow of the fire in her cramped and
frozen limbs, she must treat it with respect, and learn to handle
it.  That, at any rate, was her intention, and she had a certain
capacity for thoroughness.

It was in the last week of August that Major Ames was expected
back, after three weeks of treatment.  At first, as reflected in
his letters, his experiences had been horrifying; the waters
nauseated him, and the irritating miscarriage of the plan which was
the real reason for his going to Harrogate, caused him fits of
feeble rage which were the more maddening because they had to be
borne secretly and silently.  Also the lodgings he had procured
seemed to him needlessly expensive, and all this efflux of bullion
was being poured out on treatment which Dr. Evans had told him was
really quite unnecessary.  Regular and sparkling letters from his
wife, in praise of August spent at Riseborough, continued to arrive
and filled him with impotent envy.  He, too, might be spending
August at Riseborough if he had not been quite so precipitate.  As
it was, his mornings were spent in absorbing horrible draughts and
gently stewing in the fetid waters of the Starbeck spring: his
meals were plain to the point of grotesqueness, his evenings were
spent in playing inane games of patience, while Elsie and the
doctor pored silently over their chessboard, saying "Check" to each
other at intervals.  But through the days and their tedious
uniformity there ran a certain unquietness and desire.  It was
clear that Millie, no less than he, had planned that they should be
together in August, but his desire did not absorb him, rather it
made him restless and anxious about the future.  He did not even
know if he was really in love with her; he did not even know if he
wanted to be.  The thought of her kindled his imagination, and he
could picture himself in love with her: at the same time he was not
certain whether, if the last two months could be lived over again,
he would let himself drift into the position where he now found
himself.  There was neither ardour nor anything imperative in his
heart; something, it is true, was heated, but it only smouldered
and smoked.  It was of the nature of such fire as bursts out in
haystacks: it was born of stuffiness and packed confinement, and
was as different as two things of the same nature can be, from the
swift lambency and laudable flame of sun-kindled and breeze-fed
flame.  It disquieted and upset him; he could not soberly believe
in the pictures his imagination drew of his being irresistibly in
love with her: their colour quickly faded, their outlines were
wavering and uncertain.  And the background was even more difficult
to fill in . . . how was the composition to be arranged?  Where
would Amy stand?  What aspect would Riseborough wear?  And then,
after a long silence, Elsie said "Check."

Major Ames was due to arrive at Riseborough soon after four in the
afternoon, and Mrs. Ames was at pains to be at home by that hour to
welcome him and give him tea, and had persuaded Harry to go up to
the station to meet him.  She had gathered a charming decoration of
flowers to make the room bright, and had put a couple more vases of
them in his dressing-room.  Before long a cab arrived from the
station bearing his luggage, but neither he nor Harry occupied it.
So it was natural to conclude that they were walking down, and she
made tea, since they would not be many minutes behind the leisurely
four-wheeler.  She wanted very particularly to give him an
auspicious and comfortable return: he must not think that, because
this Suffragette movement occupied her thoughts so much, she was
going to become remiss in care for him.  But still the minutes went
on, and she took a cup of tea herself, and found it already growing
astringent.  What could have detained him she could not guess, but
certainly he should have another brew of tea made for him, for he
hated what in moments of irritation he called tincture of tannin.
Five o'clock struck, and the two quarters that duly followed it.
Before that a conjecture had formed itself in her mind.

Then came the rattle of his deposited hat and stick in the hall,
and the rattle of the door-handle for his entry.

"Well, Amy," he said, "and here's your returned prodigal.  Train
late as usual, and I walked down.  How are you?"

She got up and kissed him.

"Very well indeed, Lyndhurst," she said; "and there is no need to
ask you how you are."

She paused a moment.

"Your luggage arrived nearly an hour ago," she said.

He had forgotten that detail.

"An hour ago?  Surely not," he said.

She gave him one more pause in which he could say more, but nothing

"You have had tea, I suppose," she said.

"Yes; Evans insisted on my dropping in to his house, and taking a
cup there.  That rogue Harry has stopped on.  Well, well: we were
all young once!  You remember the old story I told you about the
Colonel's wife when I was a lad."

She remembered it perfectly.  She felt sure also that he had not
meant to tell her where he had been since his arrival at the


The day was of early October, and Dr. Evans, who was driving his
swift, steady cob, harnessed to the light dogcart, along the flat
road towards Norton, had leisure to observe the beauty of the
flaming season.  He had but a couple of visits to make, and neither
of the cases caused him any professional anxiety.  But it was with
conscious effort that he commanded his obedient mind to cease
worrying, and drink in the beneficent influence of this genial
morning that followed on a night that had given them the first
frost of the year.  The road, after leaving Riseborough, ran
through a couple of level miles of delectable woodland; ditches
filled and choked with the full-grown grass and herbage of the
summer bordered it on each side.  On the left, the sun had turned
the frozen night-dews into a liquid heraldry, on the right where
the roadside foliage was still in shadow, the faceted jewels of the
frost that hinted of the coming winter still stiffened the herbage,
and was white on the grey beards of the sprawling clematis in the
hedges.  But high above these low-growing tangles of vegetation, an
ample glory flamed, and the great beech forest was all ablaze with
orange and red flame tremulous in the breeze.  Here and there a yew-
tree, tawny-trunked and green-velveted with undeciduous leaf,
seemed like a black spot of unconsumed fuel in the fire of the
autumn; here a company of sturdy oaks seemed like a group of square-
shouldered young men amid the maidens of the woodland.  It had its
fairies too, the sylph-like birches, whose little leaves seemed
shed about their white shapeliness like a shower of confetti.
Then, in the more open glades, short and rabbit-cropped turf
sparkled emerald-like amid the sober greys and browns of the
withering heather and the russet antlers of the bracken.  Now and
then a rabbit with white scutt*, giving a dot-and-dash signal of
danger to his family, would scamper into shelter at the rattle of
the approaching dogcart.  Now and then a pheasant, whose plumage
seemed to reproduce in metal the tints of the golden autumn, strode
with lowered head and tail away from the dangerous vicinity of man.
Below the beeches the ground was uncarpeted by any vegetation, but
already the "fallen glories" of the leaf were beginning to lie
there, and occasionally a squirrel ran rustling across them, and
having gained the security of his lofty ways among the trees,
scolded Puck-like at the interruption that had made him leave his
breakfast of the burst beech-nuts.  To the right, below the high-
swung level road, the ground declined sharply, and gave glimpses of
the distant sun-burnished sea; above, small companies of feathery
clouds, assembled together as if migrating for the winter,
fluttered against the summer azure of the sky.

* [Ed. note:  An obsolete early Saxon word for a rabbit's white bob-

Dr. Evans' alert and merry eye dwelt on those delectable things,
and in obedience to his brain, noted and appreciated the manifold
festivity of the morning, but it did so not as ordinarily, by
instinct and eager impulses, but because he consciously bade it.
It needed the spur; its alertness and its merriness were pressed on
it, and by degrees the spur failed to stimulate it, and he fell to
regarding the well-groomed quarters of his long-stepping cob, which
usually afforded him so pleasant a contemplation of strong and
harmonious muscularity.  But this morning even they failed to
delight him, and the rhythm of its firm trot made no music in his
mind.  There came a crease which deepened into a decided frown
between his eyes, and he communed with the trouble in his mind.

There were various lesser worries, not of sufficient importance to
disturb seriously the equanimity of a busy and well-balanced man,
and though each was trivial enough in itself, and distinctly had a
humorous side to a mind otherwise content, the cumulative effect of
them was not amusing.  In the first place, there was the affair of
Harry Ames, who, in a manner sufficiently ludicrous and calfish,
had been making love to his wife.  As any other sensible man would
have done, Wilfred Evans had seen almost immediately on his return
to Riseborough that Harry was disposed to make himself ridiculous,
and had given a word of kindly warning to his wife.

"Snub him a bit, little woman," he had said.  "We're having a
little too much of him.  It's fairer on the boy, too.  You're too
kind to him.  A woman like you so easily turns a boy's head.  And
you've often said he is rather a dreadful sort of youth."

But for some reason she took the words in ill part, becoming rather

"I don't know what you mean," she said.  "Will you explain,

"Easy enough, my dear.  He's here too much; he's dangling after
you.  Laugh at him a little, or yawn a little."

"You mean that he's in love with me?"

"Well, that's too big a word, little woman, though I'm sure you see
what I mean."

"I think I do.  I think your suggestion is rather coarse, Wilfred,
and quite ill-founded.  Is every one who is polite and attentive
supposed to be in love with me?  I only ask for information."

"I think your own good sense will supply you with all necessary
information," he said.

But her good sense apparently had done nothing of the kind, and
eventually Dr. Evans had spoken to Harry's father on the subject.
The visits had ceased with amazing abruptness after that, and Dr.
Evans had found himself treated to a stare of blank unrecognition
when he passed Harry in the street, and a curl of the lip which he
felt must have been practised in private.  But the Omar Khayyam
Club would be the gainers, for they owed to it those stricken and
embittered stanzas called "Parted."

Here comedy verged on farce, but the farce did not amuse him.  He
knew that his own interpretation of Harry's assiduous presence was
correct, so why should his wife have so precisely denied that those
absurd attentions meant nothing?  There was nothing to resent in
the sensible warning that a man was greatly attracted by her.  Nor
was there warrant for Colonel Ames' horror and dismay at the
suggestion, when the doctor spoke to him about it.  "Infamous young
libertine" was surely a hyperbolical expression.

Dr. Evans unconsciously flicked the cob rather sharply with his
whip-lash, to that excellent animal's surprise, for he was covering
his miles in five minutes apiece, and the doctor conveyed his
apologies for his unintentional hint with a soothing remark.  Then
his thoughts drifted back again.  That was not all the trouble with
the Ames' family, for his wife had had a quarrel with Mrs. Ames.
This kindly man hated to quarrel with anybody, and, for his part,
successfully refused to do so, and that his wife should find
herself in such a predicament was equally distressing to him.  No
doubt it was all a storm in a tea-cup, but if you happen to be
living in the tea-cup too, a storm there is just as upsetting as a
gale on the high seas.  It is worse, indeed, for on the high seas a
ship can run into fairer weather, but there is no escape from these
tea-cup disturbances.  The entire tea-cup was involved: all
Riseborough, which a year ago had seemed to him so suitable a place
in which to pursue an unexacting practice, to conduct mild original
work, in the peace and quiet of a small society and domestic
comfort, was become a tempest of conflicting winds.  "And all
arising from such a pack of nonsense," as the doctor thought
impatiently to himself, only just checking the whip-lash from
falling again on the industrious cob.

The interest of Mrs. Ames in the Suffragette movement had given
rise to all this.  She had announced a drawing-room meeting to be
held in her house, now a fortnight ago, and the drawing-room
meeting had exploded in mid-career, like a squib, scattering sparks
and combustible material over all Riseborough.  It appeared that
Mrs. Ames, finding that the comprehension of Suffragette aims
extended to the middle-class circles in Riseborough, had asked the
wives and daughters of tradesmen to take part in it.  It wanted but
little after that to make Mrs. Altham remark quite audibly that she
had not known that she was to have the privilege of meeting so many
ladies with whom she was not previously acquainted, and the
sarcastic intention of her words was not lost upon her new friends.
Tea seemed but to increase the initial inflammation, and the
interest Mrs. Ames had intended to awake on the subject of votes
for women was changed into an interest in ascertaining who could be
most offensively polite, a very pretty game.  It is not to be
wondered at that, before twenty-four hours had passed, Mrs. Altham
had started an anti-Suffragette league, and Millie, still strong in
the conviction that under no circumstances could she go to prison,
had allowed herself to be drawn into it.  Next night at dinner she
softly made a terrible announcement.

"I passed Cousin Amy in the street just now," she said; "she did
not seem to see me."

"Perhaps she didn't see you, little woman," said her husband.

"So I did not seem to see her," added Millie, who had not finished
her sentence.  "But if she cares to come to see me and explain, I
shall behave quite as usual to her."

"Come, come, little woman!" said Dr. Evans in a conciliating

"And I do not see what is the good of saying 'Come, come,'" she
said, with considerable precision.

All this was sufficient to cause very sensible disquiet to a man
who attached so proper an importance to peaceful and harmonious
conditions of life, yet it was but a small thing compared to a far
deeper anxiety that brooded over him.  Till now he had not let
himself directly contemplate it, but to-day, as he returned from
his two visits, he made himself face this last secret trouble.  He
felt it was necessary for him to ascertain, for the sake of others
no less than himself, what part, if any, of his disquiet was
grounded on certainty, what part, if any, might be the figment of
an over-anxious imagination.  But he knew he was not anxious by
temperament, nor given to imagine troubles.  If anything, he was
more prone, in his desire for a pleasant and studious life, to shut
his eyes to the apparent approach of storm, trusting that it would
blow by.  He was anxious about Millie, not without cause; a hundred
symptoms justified his anxiety.  She who for so long had been of
such imperturbable serenity of temper that a man who did not feel
her charm might have called her jelly-fish was the prey of fifty
moods a day.  She had strange little fits of tenderness to him,
with squalls of peevishness quite as strange.  She was restless and
filled with an energy that flamed and flickered and vanished,
leaving her indolent and inert.  She would settle herself for a
morning of letter writing, and after tearing up a couple of notes,
put on her gardening gloves and get as far as the herbaceous bed.
Then she would find an imperative reason for going into the town,
and so sit down at her piano to practise.  Her appetite, usually of
the steady reliable order, failed her, and she passed broken and
tossing nights.  Had she been a girl, he would have said those
symptoms all pointed one way; and it would probably not have been
difficult to guess who was the young man in question.  Yet he could
scarcely face the conclusion applied to his wife.  It was a hideous
thing that a husband should harbour such a suspicion, more hideous
that the husband should be himself.  And perhaps more hideous of
all, that he should guess--again without difficulty--who was the
man in question.

He had no conception what to do, or whether to do nothing; it
seemed that action and inaction might alike end in disaster.  And,
again, the whole of his explanation of Millie's symptoms might be
erroneous.  There might be other explanations--indeed, there were
others possible.  As to that, time would show; at present the best
course, perhaps the only right course, was to be watchful, yet not
suspicious, observant, not prying.  Rather than pry or be
suspicious he would go to Millie herself, and without reservation
tell her all that had been in his mind.  He was well aware what the
heroic attitude, the attitude of the virile, impetuous Englishman,
dear to melodrama, would have been.  It was quite easy for him to
"tax" Major Ames with baseness, to grind his teeth at his wife, and
then burst into manly tears, each sob of which seemed to rend him.
But to his quiet, sensible nature, it seemed difficult to see what
was supposed to happen next.  In melodrama the curtain went down,
and you started ten years later in Queensland with regenerated
natures distributed broadcast.  But in actual life it was
impossible to start again ten years later, or ten minutes later.
You had to go on all the time.  Willingly would he, on this divine
October morning, have started again, indefinitely later.  The
difficulty was how to go on now.

His cases had not long detained him, and it was still not long
after noon when the cob, still pleased and alert with motion, but
with smoking flanks, drew up at his door.  The clear chill of the
morning had altogether passed, and the air in the basin or tea-cup
of a town was still and sultry.  There was a familiar hat on the
table in the hall, a bunch of long-stemmed tawny chrysanthemums lay
by it.  And at that sight some distant echo of barbaric and simple
man, deplorable to the smoothness of civilization and altogether
obsolete, was resonant in him.  He pitched the chrysanthemums into
the street, where they flew like a shooting star close by the head
of General Fortescue, who was tottering down to the club, and
slammed the door.  It was melodramatic and foolish enough, but the
desire that prompted it was quite sincere and irresistible, and if
at the moment Major Ames had been in that cool oak-panelled hall,
there is little doubt that Dr. Evans would have done his best to
pitch him out after his flowers.

The doctor gave himself a moment to recover from his superficial
violence, and then went out into the garden.  They were sitting
together on the bench under the mulberry-tree, and Major Ames got
up with his usual briskness as he approached.  Somehow Dr. Evans
felt as if he was being welcomed and made to feel at home.

"Good morning," said Major Ames.  "Glorious day, isn't it?  I just
stepped over with a handful of flowers, and we've been having a bit
of a chat, a bit of a chat."

"Cousin Lyndhurst has very kindly come to talk over all these
little disturbances," said Millie.

She looked at him.

"Shall I explain?" she asked.

Dr. Evans took the seat that Major Ames had vacated, leaving him
free to sit down in a garden chair opposite, or to stand, just as
he pleased.

"It is like this, Wilfred," she said.  "Cousin Amy did not like my
joining the anti-Suffragette league which Mrs. Altham started, and
I have told Lyndhurst that I did not care a straw one way or the
other, except that I could not go to prison to please Cousin Amy or
any one else.  But it looked like taking sides, she thought.  So
Lyndhurst thought it would make everything easy if I didn't join
any league at all.  I think it very clever and tactful of him to
think of that, and I will certainly tell Mrs. Altham I find I am
too busy.  Of course, there is no quarrel between Cousin Amy and
me, and Lyndhurst wants to assure us that he isn't mixed up in it,
though there isn't any--and, of course, if Cousin Amy didn't see me
the other day when I thought she pretended not to, it makes a

Millie delivered herself of these lucid statements with her usual
deferential air.

"I think it is very kind of Cousin Lyndhurst to take so much
trouble," she added.  "He is stopping to lunch."

Major Ames made a noble little gesture that disclaimed any credit.

"It's nothing, a mere nothing," he said, quite truly.  "But I'm
sure you hate little domestic jars as much as I do.  As Amy once
said, my profession was to be a man of war, but my instinct was to
be a man of peace.  Ha!  Ha!  I'm only delighted my little olive
branch has--has met with success," he added rather feebly, being
unable to think of any botanical metaphor.

The doctor got up.  It is to be feared that, in his present state
of mind, he felt not the smallest admiration or gratitude for the
work of Lyndhurst the Peacemaker, but only saw in it a purely
personal desire to secure an uninterrupted va et vient between the
two houses.

"I'm sure I haven't the slightest intention of quarrelling with
anybody," he said.  "It seems to me the most deplorable waste of
time and energy, besides being very uncomfortable.  Let us go in to
lunch, Millie; I have to go out again at two o'clock."

Millie wrote an amiable and insincere little note to Mrs. Altham,
which Major Ames undertook to deliver on his way home, explaining
how, since Elsie had gone to Dresden to perfect herself in the
German language, she herself had become so busy that she did not
know which way to turn, besides missing Elsie very much.  She felt,
therefore, that since she would not be able to give as much time as
she wished to this very interesting anti-Suffragette movement, it
would be better not to give to it any time at all.  This she wrote
directly after her husband had gone out again, and brought to Major
Ames, who was waiting for it.  He, too, had said he would have to
be off at once.  She gave him the note.

"There it is," she said; "and so many thanks for leaving it.  But
you are not hurrying away at once, are you?"

"Am I not keeping you in?" he asked.

She pulled down the lace blinds over the window that looked into
the street; the October sun, it is true, beat rather hotly into the
room, but the instinct that dictated her action was rather a desire
for privacy.

"As if I would not sooner sit and talk to you," she said, "than go
out.  I have no one to go out with.  I am rather lonely since Elsie
has gone, and I daresay I shall not see Wilfred again till dinner-
time.  It is rather amusing that I have just written to Mrs. Altham
to say how busy I am."

He came and sat a little closer to her.

"Upon my word," he said, "I am in the same boat as you.  I haven't
set eyes on Amy all morning, and this afternoon I know she has a
couple of meetings.  It's extraordinary how this idea of votes for
women has taken hold of her.  Not a bad thing, though, as long as
she doesn't go making a fool of herself in public, and as long as
she doesn't have any more quarrels with you."

"What would you have done if she had really wished to quarrel with
me over Mrs. Altham's league?" she asked.

"Just what I told her.  I said I would be no partner to it, and as
long as you would receive me here en garon I should always come."

"That was dear of you," she said softly.

She paused a moment.

"Sometimes I think we made a mistake in coming to settle here," she
said; "but you know how obstinate Wilfred is, and how little
influence I have with him.  But then, again, I think of our
friendship.  I have not had many friends.  I think, perhaps, I am
too shy and timid with people.  When I like them very much I find
it difficult to express myself.  It is rather sad not to be able to
show what you feel quite frankly.  It prevents your being
understood by the people whom you most want to understand you."

But beneath this profession of incompetence, it seemed to Major
Ames that there lurked a very efficient strength.  He felt himself
being gradually overpowered by a superior force, a force that did
not strike and disable and overbear, but cramped and paralysed the
power of its adversary, enfolding him, clinging to him.  There was
still something in him, some part of his will which was hostile and
opposed to her: it was just that which she assailed.  And in
alliance with that paralysing force was her attraction and charm--
soft, yielding, feminine; the two advanced side by side, terrible

He did not answer for a moment, and it flashed across his mind that
this cool room, shaded from the street glare by the lace curtains,
and suffused with the greenish glow of the sunlight reflected from
the lawn outside, was like a trap. . . .  She gave a little laugh.

"See how badly I express myself," she said.  "You are puzzling,
frowning.  Don't frown, you look best when you are laughing.  I get
so tired of frowning faces.  Wilfred so often frowns all dinner-
time when he is thinking over something connected with microbes.
And he frowns over his chess, when he cannot make up his mind
whether to exchange bishops.  We play chess every evening."

Instinctively she had drawn back a little, when she saw he did not
advance to meet her, and spoke as if chess and the pathos of her
dumbness to express friendship were things of equal moment.  There
was no calculation about it: it was the expression of one type, the
eternal feminine attracted and wishing to attract.  Her descent to
these commonplaces restored his confidence; the room was a trap no
longer, but the pleasant drawing-room he knew so well, with its
charming mistress seated by him.  It was almost inevitable that he
should contrast the hot plushes and saddle-bag cushions of his own,
its angular chairs and Axminster carpets with the cool chintzes
here, the lace-shrouded windows, the Persian rugs.  More marked was
the contrast between the mistresses of the two houses.  Amy had
been writing at her davenport a good deal lately, and her short,
stiff back had been the current picture of her.  Here was a woman,
dim in the half light, wanting to talk to him, to make timid
confidences, to make him realize how much his friendship meant to
her.  His confidence returned with disarming completeness.

"Well, I'm sure I should find it dismal enough at home," he said,
"if I hadn't somewhere to go to, knowing I should find a welcome.
Mind you, I don't blame Amy.  For years now, when we've been alone
in the evening, she has done her work, and I have read the paper,
and I daresay we haven't said a dozen words till Parker brought in
the bedroom candles, or sometimes we play picquet--for love.  But
now evenings spent like that seem to me very prosy and dismal.
Perhaps it's Harrogate that has made me a bit more supple and
youthful, though I'm sure it's ridiculous enough that a tough old
campaigner like me should feel such things--"

Mrs. Evans put forward her chin, raising her face towards him.

"But why ridiculous?" she asked.  "You must be so much younger than
dear Cousin Amy.  I wonder--I wonder if she feels that too?"

There was there a very devilish suggestion, the more so because, in
proportion to the suggestion, so very little was stated.  It
succeeded admirably.

"Poor dear Amy!" said he.

He had said that once before, when Cleopatra-Amy was contrasted
with Cleopatra-Millie.  But there was a significance in the
repetition of it.  Once the assumed identity of character had
suggested the comment, now there was no assumed character.  It
concerned Millie and Amy themselves.

Mrs. Evans put back her chin.

"I am sure Cousin Amy ought to be very happy," she said softly.
"You are so devoted to her, and all.  I almost think you spoil her,
Lyndhurst.  It is all so romantic.  Fancy being a woman, and as old
as Cousin Amy, and yet having a young man so devoted.  Harry, too!"

Again a billow of confidence tinged with self-appreciation surged
over Major Ames.  After all, his wife was much older than him, for
he was still a young man, and his youth was being expanded on sweet-
peas and the garden roller.  And he was stirred into a high flight
of philosophical conjecture.

"My God, what a puzzle life is!" he observed.

She rose to this high-water mark.

"And it might be so simple," she said.  "It should be so easy to be

Then Major Ames knew where he was.  In one sense he was worthy of
the occasion, in another he did not feel up to all that it implied.
He rose hastily.

"I had better go," he said rather hoarsely.

But he had smoked five cigarettes since lunch.  The hoarseness
might easily have been the result of this indulgence.

She did not attempt to keep him, nor did she make it incumbent on
him to give her a kiss, however cousinly.  She did not even rise,
but only looked up at him from her low chair as she gave him her
hand, smiling a little secretly, as Mona Lisa smiles.  But she felt
quite satisfied with their talk; he would think over it, and find
fresh signals and private beckonings in it.

"Come and see me again," she said.  There was a touch of
imperativeness in her tone.

She looked through the lace curtain and saw him go out into the
street.  There was something in the gutter of the roadway which he
inquired into with the end of his stick.  It looked like a withered
bunch of dusty chrysanthemums.

Mrs. Ames, meantime, had lunched at home, and gone off immediately
afterwards, as her husband had conjectured, to a meeting.  In the
last month the membership of her league had largely increased, and
it was no longer possible to convene its meetings in her own
drawing-room, for it numbered some fifty persons, including a dozen
men of enlightened principles.  Even at first, as has been seen,
she had welcomed (thereby incurring Mrs. Altham's disapproval)
several ladies with whom she did not usually associate, and now the
gathering was entirely independent of all class distinctions.  The
wife of the station-master, for instance, was one of the most
active members and walked up and down the platform with a large
rosette of Suffragette colours selling current copies of the
Clarion.  And no less remarkable than this growth of the league was
the growth of Mrs. Ames.  She was neither pompous nor condescending
to those persons whom, a couple of months ago, she would have
looked upon as being barely existent, except if they were all in
church, when she would very probably have shared a hymn-book with
any of them, the "Idea" for which they had assembled galvanizing
them, though strictly temporarily, into the class of existent
people.  Now, the idea which brought them together in the
commodious warehouse, kindly lent and sufficiently furnished by Mr.
Turner, had given them a permanent existence, and they were not
automatically blotted out of her book of life the moment these
meetings were over, as they would have been so short a time ago in
church, when the last "Amen" was said.  The bonds of her barren and
barbaric conventionality were bursting; indeed, it was not so much
that others, not even those of "her class," were becoming women to
her, as that she was becoming a woman herself.  She had scarcely
been one hitherto; she had been a piece of perfect propriety.  And
how far she had travelled from her original conception of the
Suffragette movement as suitable to supply a novelty for the autumn
that would eclipse the memory of the Shakespearean ball, may be
gathered from the fact that she no longer took the chair at these
meetings, but was an ordinary member.  Mr. Turner had far more
experience in the duties of a chairman: she had herself proposed
him and would have seconded him as well, had such a step been in

To-day the meeting was assembled to discuss the part which the
league should take in the forthcoming elections.  The Tory
Government was at present in power, and likely to remain in office,
while Riseborough itself was a fairly safe seat for the Tory
member, who was Sir James Westbourne.  Before polemical or
obstructive measures could be decided on, it had clearly been
necessary to ascertain Sir James' views on the subject of votes for
women, and to-day his answer had been received and was read to the
meeting.  It was as unsatisfactory as it was brief, and their
"obedient servant" had no sympathy with, and so declined to promise
any support to, their cause.  Mr. Turner read this out, and laid it
down on his desk.

"Will ladies or gentlemen give us their views on the course we are
to adopt?" he said.

A dozen simultaneously rose, and simultaneously sat down again.
The chairman asked Mrs. Brooks to address the meeting.  Another and
another succeeded her, and there was complete unanimity of purpose
in their suggestions.  Sir James' meetings and his speeches to his
constituents must not be allowed to proceed without interruption.
If he had no sympathy with the cause, the cause would show a marked
lack of sympathy with him.  Thereafter the league resolved itself
into a committee of ways and means.  The President of the Board of
Trade was coming to support Sir James' candidature at a meeting the
date of which was already fixed for a fortnight hence, and it was
decided to make a demonstration in force.  And as the discussion
went on, and real practical plans were made, that strange
fascination and excitement at the thought of shouting and
interrupting at a public meeting, of becoming for the first time of
some consequence, began to seethe and ferment.  Most of the members
were women, whose lives had been passed in continuous self-
repression, who had been frozen over by the narcotic ice of a
completely conventional and humdrum existence.  Many of them were
unmarried and already of middle-age; their natural human instincts
had never known the blossoming and honey which the fulfilment of
their natures would have brought.  To the eagerness and sincerity
with which they welcomed a work that demanded justice for their
sex, there was added this excitement of doing something at last.
There was an opportunity of expansion, of stepping out, under the
stimulus of an idea, into an experience that was real.  In kind,
this was akin to martyrs, who rejoiced and sang when the prospects
of persecution came near; as martyrs for the sake of their faith
thought almost with glee of the rack and the burning, so, minutely,
the very prospect of discomfort and rough handling seemed
attractive, if, by such means, the cause was infinitesimally
advanced.  To this, a sincere and wholly laudable desire, was added
the more personal stimulus.  They would be doing something, instead
of suffering the tedium of passivity, acting instead of being acted
on.  For it is only through centuries of custom that the woman,
physically weak and liable to be knocked down, has become the
servant of the other sex.  She is fiercer at heart, more
courageous, more scornful of consequences than he; it is only
muscular inferiority of strength that has subdued her into the
place that she occupies, that, and the periods when, for the
continuance of the race, she must submit to months of tender and
strong inaction.  There she finds fruition of her nature, and there
awakes in her a sweet indulgence for the strange, childish lust of
being master, of parading, in making of laws and conventions, his
adventitious power, of the semblance of sovereignty that has been
claimed by man.  At heart she knows that he has but put a tinsel
crown on his head, and robed himself in spangles that but parody
real gold.  She lays a woman's hand on his child-head, and to
please him says, "How wise you are, how strong, how clever."  And
the child is pleased, and loves her for it.  And there is her
weakness, for the most dominant thing in her nature is the need of
being loved.  From the beginning it must have been so.  When Adam's
rib was taken from him in sleep, he lost more than was left him,
and woke to find all his finer self gone from him.  He was left a
blundering bumble-bee: to the rib that was taken from him clung the
courage of the lioness, the wisdom of the serpent, the gentleness
of the dove, the cunning of the spider, and the mysterious charm of
the firefly that dances in the dusk.  But to that rib also clung
the desire to be loved.  Otherwise, in the human race, the male
would be slain yearly like the drone of the hive.  But the strange
thing that grew from the rib, like flowers from buried carrion,
desired love.  There was its strength and its weakness.

It desired love, and in its desire it suffered all degradation to
obtain it.  And no leanness of soul entered into the gratification
of its desire.  Only when its desire was pinched and rationed, or
when, by the operation of civilized law, all fruit of desire was
denied it, so that the blossom of sex was made into one unfruitful
bud, did revolt come.  Long generations produced the germ, long
generations made it active.  At length it swam up to sight, from
subaqueous dimnesses, feeble and violent, conscious of the justice
of its cause and demanding justice.  But what helped to make the
desire for justice so attractive was the violence, the escape from
self-repression that the demand gave opportunity for, to many who,
all their lives, had been corked or wired down in comfort, which no
woman cares about, or sealed up in spinster-hood and decorous
emptiness of days.  There was justice in the demand, and hysterical
excitement in demanding.

To others, and in this little league of Riseborough there were many
such, the prospect of making those demands was primarily appalling,
and to none more than to poor Mrs. Ames, when the plan of campaign
was discussed, decided on, and entrusted to the members of the
league.  It required almost more courage than the idea was capable
of inspiring to face, even in anticipation, the thought of shouting
"Votes for Women" when good-humoured Cousin James rose and said
"Ladies and gentlemen!"  Very possibly, as had often happened in
Cousin James' previous candidatures, Lyndhurst would wish his wife
to ask him and the President of the Board of Trade to dinner before
the meeting, an occasion which would warrant the materialization of
the most sumptuous of all the dinners tabulated on the printed menu-
cards, while sherry would be given with soup, hock with fish, and a
constant flow of champagne be kept up afterwards, until port time.
In that case Cousin James would certainly ask them to sit on the
platform, and they would roll richly to the town hall in his motor,
all blazing with Conservative colours, while she, in a small bag,
would be surreptitiously conveying there her great Suffragette
rosette, and a small steel chain with a padlock.  She would be
sitting probably next the Mayor, who would introduce the speakers,
and no doubt refer to "the presence of the fair sex" who graced the
platform.  During this she would have to pin her colours on her
dress, chain herself up like Andromeda, snap the patent spring-lock
of the padlock, and when Sir James rose . . . her imagination could
not grapple with the picture: it turned sickly away, refusing to
contemplate.  And this to a cousin and a guest, who had just eaten
the best salt, so to speak, of her table, from one who all her life
had been so perfect a piece of propriety!  She felt far too old a
bottle for such new wine.  Sitting surrounded by fellow-crusaders,
and infected by the proximity of their undiluted enthusiasm, it
would be difficult enough, but that she should chain herself,
perhaps, to the very leg of the table which Cousin James would soon
thump in the fervour of his oratory, as he announced all those Tory
platitudes in which she so firmly believed, and which she must so
shrilly interrupt, while sitting solitary in the desert of his
sleek and staid supporters, was not only an impossible but an
unthinkable achievement.  Whatever horrors fate, that gruesome
weaver of nightmares, might have in store for her, she felt that
here was something that transcended imagination.  She could not sit
on the platform with Lyndhurst and Cousin James and the Mayor and
Lady Westbourne, and do what was required of her, for the sake of
any crusade.  Curfew, so to speak, would have to ring that night.

She and Lyndhurst were dining alone the evening after this meeting
of "ways and means," he in that state of mind which she not inaptly
described as "worried" when she felt kind, and "cross" when she
felt otherwise.  He had come home hot from his walk, and, having
sat in his room where there was no fire, when evening fell chilly,
had had a smart touch of lumbago.  Thus there were clearly two
causes for complaint against Amy, and a third disturbing topic, for
there was no shadow of doubt that it was his bouquet of
chrysanthemums that he had found in the road outside Dr. Evans'
house, and even before the lumbago had produced its characteristic
pessimism, he had been unable to find any encouraging explanation
of this floral castaway.

"I'm sure I don't know what was the good of my spending all
August," he said, "in that filthy hole of a Harrogate, at no end of
expense, too, if I'm to be crippled all winter.  But you urged me
to so strongly: should never have thought of going there

"My dear, you have only been crippled for half-an-hour at present,"
she observed.  "It is a great bore, but if only you will take a
good hot bath to-night, and have a very light dinner, I expect you
will be much better in the morning.  Parker, tell them to see that
there is plenty of hot water in the kitchen boiler."

"It'll be the only warm thing in the house, if there is," said he.
"My room was like an ice-house when I came in.  Positively like an
ice-house.  Enough to give a man pneumonia, let alone lumbago.
Soup cold, too."

"My dear, you should take more care of yourself," said Mrs. Ames
placidly.  "Why did you not light the fire instead of being cold?
I'm sure it was laid."

"And have it just burning up at dinner-time," said he, "when I no
longer wanted it."

It was still early in the course of dinner.

"Light the fire in the drawing-room, Parker," said Mrs. Ames.  "Let
there be a good fire when we come out of dinner."

"Get roasted alive," said Major Ames, half to himself, but
intending to be heard.

But Mrs. Ames' mind had been feasting for weeks past on things
which had a solider existence than her husband's unreasonable
strictures.  Since this new diet had been hers, his snaps and
growls had produced no effect: they often annoyed her into
repartee, and as likely as not, a few months ago, she would have
said that his claret seemed a very poor kind of beverage.  But to-
night she felt not the smallest desire to retort.  She was very
sorry for his lumbago, but felt no inclination to carry the war
into his territories, or to tell him that if people, perspiring
freely, and of gouty habit, choose to sit down without changing,
and get chilly, they must expect reprisal for their imprudence.

"Then we will open the window, dear," she said, "if we find we are
frizzling.  But I don't think it will be too hot.  Evenings are
chilly in October.  Did you have a pleasant lunch, Lyndhurst?
Indeed, I don't know where you lunched.  I ordered curry for you.
I sat down at a quarter to two as you did not come in."

It was all so infinitesimal . . . yet it was the mental diet which
had supported her for years.  Perhaps after dinner they would play
picquet.  The garden, the kitchen, for years, except for gossip
infinitely less real, these had been the topics.  There had been no
joy for him in the beauty of the garden, only a pleased sense of
proprietorship, if a rare plant flowered, or if there were more
roses than usual.  For her, she had been vaguely pleased if
Lyndhurst had taken two helpings of a dish, and both of them had
been vaguely disquieted if Harry quoted Swinburne.

"I lunched with the Evans'," he said.  "By the way, I met your
cousin James Westbourne this afternoon, when I was on my walk.
Extraordinarily cordial he gets when there's business ahead that
brings him into Riseborough, and he wants to cadge a dinner or two.
It's little notice he takes of us the rest of the year, and I'm
sure it's a couple of years since he so much as sent you a brace of
pheasants, and more than that since he asked me to shoot there.
But as I say, when he wants to pick up a dinner or two in
Riseborough, he's all heartiness, and saying he doesn't see half
enough of us.  He doesn't seem to strain himself in trying to see
more, and there's seldom a week-end when he and that great guy of a
wife of his don't have the house packed with people.  I suppose
we're not smart enough for them, except when it's convenient to
dine in Riseborough.  Then he's not above drinking a bottle of my

Mrs. Ames was eager in support of her husband.

"I'm sure there's no call for you to open any more bottles for him,
my dear," she said.  "If Cousin James wants to see us, he can take
his turn in asking us.  And Harriet is a great guy, as you say,
with her big fiddle-head."

Major Ames shrugged his shoulders rather magnificently.

"I'm sure I don't grudge him his dinner," he said, "and, in point
of fact, I told him he could come and dine with us before his first
meeting.  He's got some Cabinet Minister with him, and I said he
could bring him too.  You might get up a little party, that's to
say if I'm not in bed with this infernal lumbago.  And Cousin James
will return our hospitality by giving us seats on the platform to
hear him stamp and stammer and rant.  An infernal bad speaker.
Never heard a worse.  Wretched delivery, nothing to say, and says
it all fifty times over.  Enough to make a man turn Radical.
However, he'll have made himself at home with my Mumm, and perhaps
he'll go to sleep himself before he sends us off."

This, of course, represented the lumbago-view.  Major Ames had been
fulsomely cordial to Cousin James, and had himself urged the dinner
that he represented now as being forced on him.

"Have you actually asked him, Lyndhurst?" said Mrs. Ames rather
faintly.  "Did he say he would come?"

"Did you ever know your Cousin James refuse a decent dinner?" asked
Lyndhurst.  "And he was kind enough to say he would like it at a
quarter past seven.  Cool, upon my word!  I wish I had asked him if
he'd have thick soup or clear, and if he preferred a wing to a leg.
That's the sort of thing one never thinks of till afterwards."

Mrs. Ames was not attending closely: there was that below the
surface which claimed all her mind.  Consequently she missed the
pungency of this irony, hearing only the words.

"Cousin James never takes soup at all," she said.  "He told me it
always disagreed."

Major Ames sighed; his lumbago felt less acute, his ill-temper had
found relief in words, and he had long ago discovered that women
had no sense of humour.  On the whole, it was gratifying to find
the truth of this so amply endorsed.  For the moment it put him
into quite a good temper.

"I'm afraid I've been grumbling all dinner," he said.  "Shall we go
into the other room?  There's little sense in my looking at the
decanters, if I mayn't take my glass of port.  Eh!  That was a


"It is no use, Henry," said Mrs. Altham on that same evening,
"telling me it is all stuff and nonsense, when I've seen with my
own eyes the parcel of Suffragette riband being actually directed
to Mrs. Brooks; for pen and ink is pen and ink, when all is said
and done.  Tapworth measured off six yards of it on the counter-
measure that gives two feet, for he gave nine lengths of it and put
it in paper and directed it.  Of course, if nine lengths of two
feet doesn't make eighteen feet, which is six yards, I am wrong and
you are right, and twice two no longer makes four.  And there were
two other parcels already done up of exactly the same shape.  You
will see if I am not right.  Or do you suppose that Mrs. Brooks is
ordering it just to trim her nightgown with it?"

"I never said anything about Mrs. Brooks' nightgown," said Henry,
who, to do him justice, had been goaded into slightly Rabelaisian
mood:  "I never thought about Mrs. Brooks' nightgown.  I didn't
know she wore one--I mean--"

Mrs. Altham made what children would call "a face."  Her eyes grew
suddenly fixed and boiled, and her mouth assumed an acidulated
expression as if with a plethora of lemon-juice.  The "face" was
due to the entry of the parlour-maid with the pudding.  It was
jelly, and was served in silence.  Mrs. Altham waited till the door
was quietly closed again.

"It is not a question of Mrs. Brooks' nightgown," she said, "since
we both agree that she would not order six yards of Suffragette
riband to trim it.  I spoke sarcastically, Henry, and you
interpreted me literally, as you often do.  It was the same at
Littlestone in August, when the bacon was so salt one day that I
said to Mrs. Churchill that a little bacon in the bath would be
equivalent to sea-bathing.  Upon which you must needs tell her next
morning to send your bacon to the bath-room, which she did, and
there was a plate of bacon on the sponge-tray, so extraordinary.
But all that is beside the point, though what she can have thought
of you I can't imagine.  After all, your gift of being literal may
help you now.  Why does Mrs. Brooks want six yards of Suffragette
riband, and why are there two similar parcels on Tapworth's
counter?  If I had had a moment alone I would certainly have looked
at the other addresses, and seen where they were being sent.  But
young Tapworth was there all the time--that one with the pince-nez,
and the ridiculous chin--and he put them into the errand-boy's
basket, and told him to be sharp about it.  So I had no chance of

"You might have strolled along behind the boy to see where he
went," suggested Mr. Altham.

"He went on a bicycle," said Mrs. Altham, "and it is impossible to
stroll behind a boy on a bicycle and hope to get there in time.
But he went up the High Street.  I should not in the least wonder
if Mrs. Evans had turned Suffragette, after that note to me about
her not having time to attend the anti-Suffragette meetings."

"Especially since there was only one," said Henry, in the literal
mood that had been forced on him, "and nobody came to that.  It
would not have sacrificed very much of her time.  Not that I ever
heard it was valuable."

"What she can do with her day I can't imagine," said Mrs. Altham,
her mind completely diverted by this new topic.  "Her cook told
Griffiths that as often as not she doesn't go down to the kitchen
at all in the morning, and she's hardly ever to be seen shopping in
the High Street before lunch, and what with Elsie gone to Dresden,
and her husband away on his rounds all day, she must be glad when
it's bedtime.  And she's a small sleeper, too, for she told me
herself that she considers six hours a good night, though I expect
she sleeps more than she knows, and I daresay has a nap after lunch
as well.  Dear me, what were we talking about?  Ah, yes, I was
saying I should not wonder if she had turned Suffragette, though I
can't recall what made me think so."

"Because Tapworth's boy went up the High Street on a bicycle," said
Mr. Altham, who had a great gift of picking out single threads from
the tangle of his wife's conversation; "though, after all, the High
Street leads to other houses besides Mrs. Evans'.  The station, for

"You seem to want to find fault with everything I say, to-night,
Henry.  I don't know what makes you so contrary.  But there it is:
I saw eighteen yards of Suffragette riband being sent out when I
happened to be in Tapworth's this morning, and I daresay that's but
a tithe of what has been ordered, though I can't say as to that,
unless you expect me to stand in the High Street all day and watch.
And as to what it all means, I'll let you conjecture for yourself,
since if I told you what I thought, you would probably contradict
me again."

It was no wonder that Mrs. Altham was annoyed.  She had been
thrilled to the marrow by the parcels of Suffragette riband, and
when she communicated her discovery, Henry, who usually was so
sympathetic, had seen nothing to be thrilled about.  But he had not
meant to be unsympathetic, and repaired his error.

"I'm sure, my dear, that you will have formed a very good guess as
to what it means," he said.  "Tell me what you think."

"Well, if you care to know," said she, "I think it all points to
there being some demonstration planned, and I for one should not be
surprised if I looked out of the window some morning, and saw Mrs.
Ames and Mrs. Brooks and the rest of them marching down the High
Street with ribands and banners.  They've been keeping very quiet
about it all, at least not a word of what they've been doing has
come to my ears, and I consider that's a proof that something is
going on and that they want to keep it secret."

Mr. Altham's legal mind cried out to him to put in the plea that a
complete absence of news does not necessarily constitute a proof
that exciting events are occurring, but he rightly considered that
such logic might be taken to be a sign of continued "contrariness."
So he gave an illogical assent to his wife's theory.

"Certainly it is odd that nothing more has been heard of it all,"
he said.  "I wonder what they are planning.  The election coming on
so soon, too!  Can they be planning anything in connection with

Mrs. Altham got up, letting her napkin fall on the floor.

"Henry, I believe you have hit it," she said.  "Now what can it be?
Let us go into the drawing-room, and thresh it out."

But the best threshing-machines in the world cannot successfully
fulfil their function unless there is some material to work upon;
they can but show by their whirling wheels and rattling gear that
they are capable of threshing should anything be provided for them.
The poor Althams were somewhat in this position, for their rations
of gossip were sadly reduced, their two chief sources being cut off
from them.  For ever since the mendacious Mrs. Brooks had appeared
as Cleopatra, when she had as good as promised to be Hermione,
chill politeness had taken the place of intimacy between the two
houses, since there was no telling what trick she might not play
next, while the very decided line which Mrs. Altham had taken when
she found she was expected to meet people like tradesmen's wives
had caused a complete rupture in relations with the Ames'.  That
Suffragette meetings were going on was certain, else what sane mind
could account for the fact that only to-day a perfect stream of
people, some of them not even known by sight to Mrs. Altham, and
therefore probably of the very lowest origin, with Mrs. Ames and
the wife of the station-master among them, had been seen coming out
of Mr. Turner's warehouse.  It was ridiculous "to tell me" that
they had been all making purchases (nobody had told her), and such
a supposition was thoroughly negatived by the subsequent discovery
that the warehouse in question contained only a quantity of chairs.
All this, however, had been threshed out at tea-time, and the fly-
wheels buzzed emptily.  Against the probability of an election-
demonstration was the fact that the Unionist member, to whom these
attentions would naturally be directed, was Mrs. Ames' cousin,
though "cousin" was a vague word, and Mrs. Altham would not wonder
if he was a very distant sort of cousin indeed.  Still, it would be
worth while to get tickets anyhow for the first of Sir James'
meetings, when the President of the Board of Trade was going to
speak, so as to be certain of a good place.  HE was not Mrs. Ames'
cousin, so far as Mrs. Altham knew, though she did not pretend to
follow the ramifications of Mrs. Ames' family.

The fly-wheels were allowed to run on in silence for some little
while after this meagre material had been thoroughly sifted, in
case anything further offered itself; then Mr. Altham proposed
another topic.

"You were saying that you wondered how Mrs. Evans got through her
time," he began.

But there was no need for him to say another word, nor any

Mrs. Altham stooped like a hawk on the quarry.

"You mean Major Ames," she said.  "I'm sure I never pass the house
but what he's either going in or coming out, and he does a good
deal more of the going in than of the other, in my opinion."

Henry penetrated into the meaning of what sounded a rather curious
achievement and corroborated.

"He was there this morning," he said, "on the doorstep at eleven
o'clock, or it might have been a quarter-past, with a bouquet of
chrysanthemums big enough to do all Mrs. Ames' decorations at St.
Barnabas.  What is the matter, my dear?"

For Mrs. Altham had literally bounced out of her chair, and was
pointing at him a forefinger that trembled with a nameless emotion.

"At a quarter-past one, or a few minutes later," she said, "that
bouquet was lying in the middle of the road.  Let us say twenty
minutes past one, because I came straight home, took off my hat,
and was ready for lunch.  It was more like a haystack than a
bouquet: I'm sure if I hadn't stepped over it, I should have
tripped and fallen.  And to think that I never mentioned it to you,
Henry!  How things piece themselves together, if you give them a
chance!  Now did you actually see Major Ames carry it into the

"The door was opened to him, just as I came opposite," said Henry
firmly, "and in he went, bouquet and all."

"Then somebody MUST have thrown it out again," said Mrs. Altham.

She held up one hand, and ticked off names on its fingers.

"Who was then in the house?" she said.  "Mrs. Evans, Dr. Evans,
Major Ames.  Otherwise the servants--how they can find work for six
servants in that house I can't understand--and servants would never
have thrown chrysanthemums into the street.  So we needn't count
the servants.  Now can you imagine Mrs. Evans throwing away a
bouquet that Major Ames had brought her?  If so, I envy you your
power of imagination.  Or--"

She paused a moment.

"Or can there have been a quarrel, and did she tell him she had too
much of him and his bouquets?  Or--"

"Dr. Evans," said Henry.

She nodded portentously.

"Turned out of the house, he and his bouquet," she said.  "Dr.
Evans is a powerful man, and Major Ames, for all his size, is
mostly fat.  I should not wonder if Dr. Evans knocked him down.
Henry, I have a good mind to treat Mrs. Ames as if she had not been
so insulting to me that day (and after all that is only Christian
conduct) and to take round to her after lunch to-morrow the book
she said she wanted to see last July.  I am sure I have forgotten
what it was, but any book will do, since she only wants it to be
thought that she reads.  After all, I should be sorry to let Mrs.
Ames suppose that anything she can do should have the power of
putting me out, and I should like to see if she still dyes her
hair.  After the chrysanthemums in the road I should not be the
least surprised to be told that Major Ames is ill.  Then we shall
know all.  Dear me, it is eleven o'clock already, and I never felt
less inclined to sleep."

Henry stepped downstairs to drink a mild whisky and soda after all
this conversation and excitement, but while it was still half
drunk, he felt compelled to run upstairs and tap at his wife's

"I am not coming in, dear," he said, in answer to her impassioned
negative.  "But if you find Major Ames is not ill?"

"No one will be more rejoiced than myself, Henry," said she, in a
disappointed voice.

Henry went gently downstairs again.

Mrs. Ames was at home when the forgiving Mrs. Altham arrived on the
following afternoon, bearing a copy of a book of which there were
already two examples in the house.  But she clearly remembered
having wanted to see some book of which they had spoken together,
last July, and it was very kind of Mrs. Altham to have attempted to
supply her with it.  Beyond doubt she had ceased to dye her hair,
for the usual grey streaks were apparent in it, a proof (if Mrs.
Altham wanted a proof, which she did not) that artificial means had
been resorted to.  And even as Mrs. Altham, with her powerful
observation, noticed the difference in Mrs. Ames' hair, so also she
noticed a difference in Mrs. Ames.  She no longer seemed pompous:
there was a kindliness about her which was utterly unlike her usual
condescension, though it manifested itself only in the trivial
happenings of an afternoon call, such as putting a cushion in her
chair, and asking if she found the room, with its prospering fire,
too hot.  This also led to interesting information.

"It is scarcely cold enough for a fire to-day," she said, "but my
husband is laid up with a little attack of lumbago."

"I am so sorry to hear that," said Mrs. Altham feverishly.  "When
did he catch it?"

"He felt it first last night before dinner.  It is disappointing,
for he expected Harrogate to cure him of such tendencies.  But it
is not very severe: I have no doubt he will be in here presently
for tea."

Mrs. Altham felt quite convinced he would not, and hastened to
glean further enlightenment.

"You must be very busy thinking of the election," she said.  "I
suppose Sir James is safe to get in.  I got tickets for the first
of his meetings this morning."

"That will be the one at which the President of the Board of Trade
speaks," said Mrs. Ames.  "My cousin and he dine with us first."

Mrs. Altham determined on more direct questions.

"Really, it must require courage to be a politician nowadays," she
said, "especially if you are in the Cabinet.  Mr. Chilcot has been
hardly able to open his mouth lately without being interrupted by
some Suffragette.  Dear me, I hope I have not said the wrong thing!
I quite forgot your sympathies."

"It is certainly a subject that interests me," said Mrs. Ames,
"though as for saying the wrong thing, dear Mrs. Altham, why, the
world would be a very dull place if we all agreed with each other.
But I think it requires just as much courage for a woman to get up
at a meeting and interrupt.  I cannot imagine myself being bold
enough.  I feel I should be unable to get on my feet, or utter a
word.  They must be very much in earnest, and have a great deal of
conviction to nerve them."

This was not very satisfactory; if anything was to be learned from
it, it was that Mrs. Ames was but a tepid supporter of the cause.
But what followed was still more vexing, for the parlour-maid
announced Mrs. Evans.

"So sorry to hear about Major Ames, dear cousin Amy," she said.
"Wilfred told me he had been to see him."

Mrs. Ames made a kissing-pad, so to speak, of her small toad's
face, and Millie dabbed her cheek on it.

"Dear Millie, how nice of you to call!  Parker, tell the Major that
tea is ready, and that Mrs. Evans and Mrs. Altham are here."

But by the time Major Ames arrived Mrs. Altham was there no longer.
She was thoroughly disgusted with the transformation into chaff of
all the beautiful grain that they had taken the trouble to thresh
out the night before.  She summed it up succinctly to her husband
when he came back from his golf.

"I don't believe the Suffragettes are going to do anything at all,
Henry," she said, "and I shouldn't wonder if these chrysanthemums
had nothing to do with anybody.  The only thing is that her hair is
dyed, because it was all speckled with grey again as thickly as
yours, and I declare I left The Safety of the Race behind me,
instead of bringing it back again, as I meant to do."

Henry, who had won his match at golf, was naturally optimistic.

"Then you didn't actually see Major Ames?" he asked.

"No, but there was no longer any doubt about it all," she said.  "I
do not think I am unduly credulous, but it was clear there was
nothing the matter with him except a touch of lumbago.  And all
this Suffragette business means nothing at all, in spite of the
yards of riband.  You may take my word for it."

"Then there will be no point in going to Sir James' meeting," said
Henry, "though the President of the Board of Trade is going to

"Not unless you want to hear the biggest windbag in the country
buttering up the greatest prig in the county.  I should be sorry to
waste my time over it; and he is dining with the Ames', and so I
suppose all there will be to look at will be the row of them on the
platform, all swollen with one of Mrs. Ames' biggest dinners.  We
might have gone to bed at our usual time last night, for all the
use that there has been in our talk.  And it was you saw the
chrysanthemums, from which you expected so much and thought it
worth while to tell me about them."

And Henry felt too much depressed at the utter flatness of all that
had made so fair a promise, to enter any protest against the
palpable injustice of these conclusions.

Major Ames' lumbago was of the Laodicean sort, neither hot nor
cold.  It hung about, occasionally stabbing him shrewdly, at times
retreating in the Parthian mode, so that he was encouraged to drink
a glass of port, upon which it shot at him again, and he had to get
back to his stew of sloppy diet and depressing reflections.  Most
of all, the relations into which he had allowed himself to drift
with regard to Millie filled him with a timorous yet exultant
agitation, but he almost, if not quite, exaggerated his
indisposition, in order to escape from the responsibility of
deciding what should come of it.  Damp and boisterous weather made
it prudent for him to keep to the house, and she came to see him
daily.  Behind her demure quietness he divined a mind that was
expectant and sure: there was no doubt as to her view of the
situation that had arisen between them.  She had played with the
emotions of others once too often, and was caught in the agitation
which she had so often excited without sharing in it.  Mrs. Ames
was generally present at these visits, but when it was quite
certain that she was not looking, Millie often raised her eyes to
his, and this disconcerting conviction lurked behind them.  Her
speech was equally disconcerting, for she would say, "It will be
nice when you are well again," in a manner that quite belied the
commonplace words.  And this force that lay behind strangely
controlled him.  Involuntarily, almost, he answered her signals,
gave himself the lover-like privilege of seeming to understand all
that was not said.  All the time, too, he perfectly appreciated the
bad taste of the affair--namely, that a woman who was in love with
him, and to whom he had given indications of the most unmistakable
kind that he was on her plane of emotion, should play these unacted
scenes in his wife's house, coming there to make pass his invalid
hours, and that he should take his part in them.  It was
common, and he could not but contrast that commonness with the
unconsciousness of his wife.  Occasionally he was inclined to
think, "Poor Amy, how little she sees," but as often it occurred to
him that she was too big to be aware of such smallnesses as he and
Millie were guilty of.  And, in reality, the truth lay between
these extreme views.  She was not too big to be aware of it; she
was quite aware of it, but she was big enough to appear too big to
be aware of it.  She watched, and scorned herself for her watching.
She fed herself with suspicions, but was robust enough to spew them
forth again.  Also, and this allowed the robuster attitude to
flourish, she was concerned with a nightmare of her own which daily
grew more vivid and unescapable.

A decade of streaming October days passed in this trying atmosphere
of suspicion and uncertainty and apprehension.  Of the three of
them it was Major Ames who was most thoroughly ill at ease, for he
had no inspiration which enabled him to bear this sordid martyrdom.
He divined that Millie was evolving some situation in which he
would be expected to play a very prominent part, and such ardour as
was his he felt not to be of the adequate temperature, and he
looked back over the peaceful days when his garden supplied him not
only with flowers, but with the most poignant emotions known to his
nature, almost with regret.  It had all been so peaceful and
pleasant in that land-locked harbour, and now she, like a steam-
tug, was slowly towing him out past the pier-head into a waste of
breakers.  Strictly speaking, it was possible for him at any moment
to cast the towing-rope off and return to his quiet anchorage, but
he was afraid he lacked the moral power to do so.  He had let her
throw the rope aboard him, he had helped to attach it to the
bollard, thinking, so to speak, that he was the tug and she the
frail little craft.  But that frail little craft had developed into
an engined apparatus, and it was his turn to be towed, helpless and
at least unwilling, and wholly uninspired.  The others, at any
rate, had inspiration to warm their discomfort: Mrs. Ames the sense
of justice and sisterhood which was leavening her dumpy existence,
Mrs. Evans the fire which, however strange and illicit are its
burnings, however common and trivial the material from which it
springs, must still be called love.

It was the evening of Sir James' first meeting, and Mrs. Ames at
six o'clock was satisfying herself that nothing had been omitted in
the preparations for dinner.  The printed menu-cards were in place,
announcing all that was most sumptuous; the requisite relays of
knives, spoons and forks were on the sideboard; the plates of
opalescent glass for ice were to hand, and there was no longer
anything connected with this terrible feast, that to her had the
horror of a murderer's breakfast on the last morning of his life,
which could serve to distract her mind any more.  Millie was to
dine with them and with them come to the meeting, but just now it
did not seem to matter in the slightest what Millie did.  All day
Mrs. Ames had been catching at problematic straws that might save
her: it was possible that Mr. Chilcot would be seized with sudden
indisposition, and the meeting be postponed.  But she herself had
seen him drive by in Cousin James' motor, looking particularly
hearty.  Or Cousin James might catch influenza: Lady Westbourne
already had it, and it was pleasantly infectious.  Or Lyndhurst
might get an attack of really acute lumbago, but instead he felt
absolutely well again to-day, and had even done a little garden-
rolling.  One by one these bright possibilities had been
extinguished--now no reasonable anchor remained except that dinner
would acutely disagree with her (and that was hardly likely, since
she felt incapable of eating anything) or that the motor which was
to take them to the town hall would break down.

At half-past six she went upstairs to dress; she would thus secure
a quarter of an hour before the actual operation of decking herself
began, in which to be alone and really face what was going to
happen.  It was no use trying to face it in one piece: taken all
together the coming evening had the horror and unreality of
nightmare brooding over it.  She had to take it moment by moment
from the time when she would welcome her guests, whom, so it seemed
to her, she was then going to betray, till the time when, perhaps
four hours from now, she would be back again here in her room, and
everything that had happened had woven itself into the woolly
texture of the past, in place of being in the steely, imminent
future.  There was dinner to be gone through; that was only
tolerable to think of because of what was to follow: in itself it
would please her to entertain her cousin and so notable a man as a
Cabinet Minister.  Clearly, then, she must separate dinner from the
rest, and enjoy it independently.  But when she went down to dinner
she must have left here in readiness the little black velvet
bag . . . that was not so pleasant to think of.  Yet the little
black velvet bag had nothing to do yet.  Then there would follow the
drive to the town hall: that would not be unpleasant: in itself she
would rather enjoy the stir and pomp of their arrival.  Sir James
would doubtless say to the scrutinizing doorkeeper, "These ladies
are with me," and they would pass on amid demonstrations of
deference.  Probably there would be a little procession on to the
platform . . . the Mayor would very likely lead the way with her,
her and her little black velvet bag . . .

And then poor Mrs. Ames suddenly felt that if she thought about it
any more she would have a nervous collapse.  And at that thought
her inspiration, so to speak, reached out a cool, firm hand to her.
At any cost she was going through with this nightmare for the sake
of that which inspired it.  It was no use saying it was pleasant,
nor was it pleasant to have a tooth out.  But any woman with the
slightest self-respect, when once convinced that it was better to
have the tooth out, went to the dentist at the appointed hour,
declined gas (Mrs. Ames had very decided opinions about those who
made a fuss over a little pain), opened her mouth, and held the
arms of the chair very firmly.  One wanted something to hold on to
at these moments.  She wondered what she would find to hold on to
this evening.  Perhaps the holding on would be done by somebody
else--a policeman, for instance.

There was one more detail to attend to before dressing, and she
opened the little black velvet bag.  In it were two chains--light,
but of steel: they had been sold her with the gratifying
recommendation that either of them alone would hold a mastiff,
which was more than was required.  One was of such length as to go
tightly round her waist: a spring lock with hasp passing through
the last link of it, closing with an internal snap, obviated the
necessity of a key.  This she proposed to put on below the light
cloak she wore before they started.  The second chain was rather
longer but otherwise similar.  It was to be passed through the one
already in place on her waist, and round the object to which she
desired to attach herself.  Another snap lock made the necessary

She saw that all was in order and, putting the big Suffragette
rosette on top of the other apparatus, closed the bag: it was
useless to try to accustom herself to it by looking; she might as
well inspect the dentist's forceps, hoping thus to mollify their
grip.  Cloak and little velvet bag she would leave here and come up
for them after dinner.  And already the quarter of an hour was
over, and it was time to dress.

The daring rose-coloured silk was to be worn on this occasion, and
she hoped that it would not experience any rough treatment.  Yet it
hardly mattered: after to-night she would very likely never care to
set eyes on it again, and emphatically Lyndhurst would find it full
of disagreeable associations.  And then she felt suddenly and
acutely sorry for him and for the amazement and chagrin that he was
about to feel.  He could not fail to be burningly ashamed of her,
to choke with rage and mortification.  Perhaps it would bring on
another attack of lumbago, which she would intensely regret.  But
she did not anticipate feeling in the least degree ashamed of
herself.  But she intensely wished it had not got to be.

And now she was ready: the rose-coloured silk glowed softly in the
electric light, the pink satin shoes which "went with it" were on
her plump, pretty little feet, the row of garnets was clasped round
her neck.  There was a good deal of colour in her face, and she was
pleased to see she looked so well.  The last time she had worn all
these fine feathers was on the evening she returned home with brown
hair and softened wrinkles from Overstrand.  That was not a
successful evening: it seemed that the rose-coloured silk was
destined to shine on inauspicious scenes.  But now she was ready:
this was her last moment alone.  And she plumped down on her knees
by the bedside, in a sudden of despair at what lay before her, and
found her lips involuntarily repeating the words that were used in
the hugest and most holy agony that man's spirit has ever known,
when for one moment He felt that even He could not face the
sacrifice of Himself or to drink of the cup.  But next moment she
sprang from her knees again, her face all aflame with shame at her
paltriness.  "You wretched little coward!" she said to herself.
"How dare you?"

Dinner, that long expensive dinner, brought with it trouble
unanticipated by Mrs. Ames.  Mr. Chilcot, it appeared, was a
teetotaler at all times, and never ate anything but a couple of
poached eggs before he made a speech.  He was also, owing to recent
experiences, a little nervous about Suffragettes, and required
reiterated assurances that unaccountable females had not been seen

"It's true that a week or two ago I received a letter asking me my
views," said Sir James, "but I wrote a fairly curt reply, and have
heard nothing more about it.  My agent's pretty wide awake.  He
would have known if there was likely to be any disturbance.  No
thanks, Major, one glass of champagne is all I allow myself before
making a speech.  Capital wine, I know; I always say you give one
the best glass of wine to be had in Kent.  How's time, by the way?
Ah, we've got plenty of time yet."

"I like to have five minutes' quiet before going on to the
platform," said Mr. Chilcot.

"Yes, that will be all right.  Perhaps we might have the motor five
minutes earlier, Cousin Amy.  No, no sweetbread thanks.  Dear me,
what a great dinner you are giving us."

An awful and dismal atmosphere descended.  Mr. Chilcot, thinking of
his speech, frowned at his poached eggs, and, when they were
finished, at the table-cloth.  Cousin James refused dish after
dish, Mrs. Ames felt herself incapable of eating, and Major Ames
and Mrs. Evans, who was practically a vegetarian, were left to do
the carousing.  Wines went round untouched, silences grew longer,
and an interminable succession of dishes failed to tempt anybody
except Major Ames.  At this rate, not one, but a whole series of
luncheon-parties would be necessary to finish up the untouched
dainties of this ill-starred dinner.  Outside, a brisk tattoo of
rain beat on the windows, and the wind having got up, the fire
began to smoke, and Mr. Chilcot to cough.  A readjustment of door
and window mended this matter, but sluiced Cousin James in a chilly
draught.  Mr. Chilcot brightened up a little as coffee came round,
but the coffee was the only weak spot in an admirable repast, being
but moderately warm.  He put it down.  Mrs. Ames tried to repair
this error.

"I'm afraid it is not hot enough," she said.  "Parker, tell them to
heat it up at once."

Cousin James looked at his watch.

"Really, I think we ought to be off," he said.  "I'm sure they can
get a cup of coffee for Mr. Chilcot from the hotel.  We might all
go together unless you have ordered something, Cousin Amy.  The
motor holds five easily."

A smart, chill October rain was falling, and they drove through
blurred and disconsolate streets.  A few figures under umbrellas
went swiftly along the cheerless pavements, a crowd of the very
smallest dimensions, scarce two deep across the pavement opposite
the town hall, watched the arrival of those who were attending the
meeting.  There was an insignificant queue of half-a-dozen
carriages awaiting their disembarkments, but as the hands of the
town hall clock indicated that the meeting was not timed to begin
for twenty minutes yet, even Mr. Chilcot could not get agitated
about the possibility of a cup of coffee before his effort.
Through the rain-streaked windows Mrs. Ames could see how meagre,
owing no doubt to the inclement night, was the assembly of the
ticket-holders.  It was possible, of course, that crowds might soon
begin to arrive, but Riseborough generally made a point of being in
its place in plenty of time, and she anticipated a sparsely
attended room.  Mrs. Brooks hurried by in mackintosh and goloshes,
the cheerful Turner family, who were just behind them in a cab,
dived into the wet night, and emerged again under the awning.  Mrs.
Currie (wife of the station-master), with her Suffragette rosette
in a paper parcel, had a friendly word with a policeman at the
door, and at these sights, since they indicated a forcible
assemblage of the league, she felt a little encouraged.  Then the
car moved on and stopped again opposite the awning, and their party

A bustling official demanded their tickets, and was summarily
thrust aside by another, just as bustling but more enlightened, who
had recognized Sir James, and conducted them all to the Mayor's
parlour, where that dignitary received them.  There was coffee
already provided, and all anxiety on that score was removed.  Mr.
Chilcot effaced himself in a corner with his cup and his notes,
while the others, notably Sir James, behaved with that mixture of
social condescension and official deference which appears to be the
right attitude in dealing with mayors.  Then the Mayoress said,
"George, dear, it has gone the half-hour; will you escort Mrs.

George asked Mrs. Ames if he might have the honour, and observed--

"We shall have but a thin meeting, I am afraid.  Most inclement for

Mrs Ames pulled her cloak a little closer round her, in order to
hide a chain that was more significant than the Mayor's, and felt
the little black velvet bag beating time to her steps against her

They walked through the stark bare passages, with stone floors that
exuded cold moisture in sympathy with the wetness of the evening,
and came out into a sudden blaze of light.

A faint applause from nearly empty benches heralded their
appearance, and they disposed themselves on a row of plush arm-
chairs behind a long oak table.  The Mayor sat in the centre, to
right and left of him Sir James and Mr. Chilcot.  Just opposite
Mrs. Ames was a large table-leg, which had for her the significance
of the execution-shed.

She put her bag conveniently on her knees, and quietly unloosed the
latch that fastened it.  There were no more preparations to be made
just yet, since the chain was quite ready, and in a curious
irresponsible calm she took further note of her surroundings.
Scarcely a hundred people were there, all told, and face after
face, as she passed her eyes down the seats, was friendly and
familiar.  Mrs. Currie bowed, and the Turner family, in a state of
the pleasantest excitement, beamed; Mrs. Brooks gave her an excited
hand-wave.  They were all sitting in encouraging vicinity to each
other, but she was alone, as on the inexorable seas, while they
were on the pier . . .  Then the Mayor cleared his throat.

It had been arranged that the Mayor was to be given an
uninterrupted hearing, for he was the local grocer, and it had,
perhaps, been tacitly felt that he might adopt retaliatory measures
in the inferior quality of the subsequent supplies of sugar.  He
involved himself in sentences that had no end, and would probably
have gone on for ever, had he not, with commendable valour, chopped
off their tails when their coils threatened to strangle him, and
begun again.  The point of it all was that they had the honour to
welcome the President of the Board of Trade and Sir James
Westbourne.  Luckily, the posters, with which the town had been
placarded for the last fortnight, corroborated the information, and
no reasonable person could any longer doubt it.

He was rejoiced to see so crowded an assembly met together--this
was not very happy, but the sentence had been carefully thought
out, and it was a pity not to reproduce it--and was convinced that
they would all spend a most interesting and enjoyable evening,
which would certainly prove to be epoch-making.  Politics were
taken seriously in Riseborough, and it was pleasant to see the
gathering graced by so many members of the fair sex.  He felt he
had detained them all quite long enough (no) and he would detain
them no longer (yes), but call on the Right Honourable Mr. Chilcot

As Mr. Chilcot rose, Mr. Turner rose also, and said in a clear,
cheerful voice, "Votes for Women."  He had a rosette, pinned a
little crookedly, depending from his shoulder.  Immediately his
wife and daughter rose too, and in a sort of Gregorian chant said,
"Women's rights," and a rattle of chains made a pleasant light
accompaniment.  From beneath her seat Mrs. Currie produced a banner
trimmed with the appropriate colours, on which was embroidered
"Votes for Women."  But the folds clung dispiritingly together:
there was never a more dejected banner.  Two stalwart porters whom
she had brought with her also got up, wiped their mouths with the
backs of their hands, and said in low, hoarse tones, "Votes for

This lasted but a few seconds, and there was silence again.  It was
impossible to imagine a less impressive demonstration: it seemed
the incarnation of ineffectiveness.  Mr. Chilcot had instantly sat
down when it began, and, though he had cause to be shy of
Suffragettes, seemed quite undisturbed; he was smiling good-
naturedly, and for a moment consulted his notes again.  And then,
suddenly, Mrs. Ames realized that she had taken no share in it; it
had begun so quickly, and so quickly ended, that for the time she
had merely watched.  But then her blood and her courage came back
to her: it should not be her fault, in any case, if the proceedings
lacked fire.  The Idea, all that had meant so much to her during
these last months, seemed to stand by her, asking her aid.  She
opened the little black velvet bag, pinned on her rosette, passed
the second chain (strong enough to hold a mastiff) through the
first, and round the leg of the table in front of her, heard the
spring lock click, and rose to her feet, waving her hand.

"Votes for Women!" she cried.  "Votes for Women.  Hurrah!"

Instantly every one on the platform turned to her: she saw
Lyndhurst's inflamed and astonished face, with mouth fallen open in
incredulous surprise, like a fish in an aquarium: she saw Cousin
James' frown of distinguished horror.  Mrs. Evans looked as if
about to laugh, and the Mayoress said, "Lor'!"  Mr. Chilcot turned
round in his seat, and his good-humoured smile faded, leaving an
angry fighting face.  But all this hostility and amazement, so far
from cowing or silencing her, seemed like a draught of wine.
"Votes for Women!" she cried again.

At that the cry was taken up in earnest: by a desperate effort Mrs.
Currie unfurled her banner, so that it floated free, her porters
roared out their message with the conviction they put into their
announcements to a stopping train that this was Riseborough, the
Turner family gleefully shouted together: Mrs. Brooks, unable to
adjust her rosette, madly waved it, and a solid group of
enthusiasts just below the platform emitted loud and militant
cries.  All that had been flat and lifeless a moment before was
inspired and vital.  And Mrs. Ames had done it.  For a moment she
had nothing but glory in her heart.

Mr. Chilcot leaned over the table to her.

"I had no idea," he said, "when I had the honour of dining with you
that you proposed immediately afterwards to treat me with such
gross discourtesy."

"Votes for Women!" shouted Mrs. Ames again.

This time the cry was less vehemently taken up, for there was
nothing to interrupt.  Mr. Chilcot conferred a moment quietly with
Sir James, and Mrs. Ames saw that Lyndhurst and Mrs. Evans were
talking together: the former was spluttering with rage, and Mrs.
Evans had laid her slim, white-gloved hand on his knee, in the
attempt, it appeared, to soothe him.  At present the endeavour did
not seem to be meeting with any notable measure of success.  Even
in the midst of her excitement, Mrs, Ames thought how ludicrous
Lyndhurst's face was; she also felt sorry for him.  As well, she
had the sense of this being tremendous fun: never in her life had
she been so effective, never had she even for a moment paralysed
the plans of other people.  But she was doing that now; Mr. Chilcot
had come here to speak, and she was not permitting him to.  And
again she cried "Votes for Women!"

An inspector of police had come on to the platform, and after a few
words with Sir James, he vaulted down into the body of the hall.
Next moment, some dozen policemen tramped in from outside, and
immediately afterwards the Turner family, still beaming, were being
trundled down the gangway, and firmly ejected.  Sundry high notes
and muffled shoutings came from outside, but after a few seconds
they were dumb, as if a tap had been turned off.  There was a
little more trouble with Mrs. Currie, but a few smart tugs brought
away the somewhat flimsy wooden rail to which she had attached
herself, and she was taken along in a sort of tripping step, like a
cheerful dancing bear, with her chains jingling round her, after
the Turners, and quietly put out into the night.  Then Sir James
came across to Mrs. Ames.

"Cousin Amy," he said, "you must please give us your word to cause
no more disturbance, or I shall tell a couple of men to take you

"Votes for Women!" shouted Mrs. Ames again.  But the excitement
which possessed her was rapidly dying, and from the hall there came
no response except very audible laughter.

"I am very sorry," said Cousin James

And then, with a sudden overwhelming wave, the futility of the
whole thing struck her.  What had she done?  She had merely been
extremely rude to her two guests, had seriously annoyed her
husband, and had aroused perfectly justifiable laughter.  General
Fortescue was sitting a few rows off: he was looking at her through
his pince-nez, and his red, good-humoured face was all a-chink with
smiles.  Then two policemen, one of whom had his beat in St.
Barnabas Road, vaulted up on to the platform, and several people
left their places to look on from a more advantageous position.

"Beg your pardon, ma'am," said the St. Barnabas policeman, touching
his helmet with imperturbable politeness.  "She's chained up too,

Bill was a slow, large, fatherly-looking man, and examined Mrs.
Ames' fetters.  Then a broad grin broke out over his amiable face.

"It's only just passed around the table-leg," he said.  "Hitch up
the table-leg, mate, and slip it off."

It was too true . . . patent lock and mastiff-holding chain were
slipped down the table-leg, and Mrs. Ames, with the fatherly-
looking policeman politely carrying her chains and the little
velvet bag, was gently and inevitably propelled through the door
which, a quarter of an hour ago, she had entered escorted by the
Mayor, and down the stone passage and out into the dripping street.
The rain fell heavily on to the rose-coloured silk dress, and the
fatherly policeman put her cloak, which had half fallen off, more
shelteringly round her.

"Better have a cab, ma'am, and go home quietly," he said.  "You'll
catch cold if you stay here, and we can't let you in again, begging
your pardon, ma'am."

Mrs. Ames looked round: Mrs. Currie was just crossing the road,
apparently on her way home, and a carriage drove off containing the
Turner family.  A sense of utter failure and futility possessed
her: it was cold and wet, and a chilly wind flapped the awning,
blowing a shower of dripping raindrops on to her.  The excitement
and courage that had possessed her just now had all oozed away:
nothing had been effected, unless to make herself ridiculous could
be counted as an achievement.

"Call a cab for the lady, Bill," said her policeman soothingly.

This was soon summoned, and Bill touched his helmet as she got in,
and before closing the door pulled up the window for her.  The
cabman also knew her, and there was no need to give him her
address.  The rain pattered on the windows and on the roof, and the
horse splashed briskly along through the puddles in the roadway.

Parker opened the door to her, surprised at the speediness of her

"Why, ma'am!" she exclaimed, "has anything happened?"

"No, nothing, Parker," said she, feeling that a dreadful truth
underlay her words.  "Tell the Major, when he comes in, that I have
gone to bed."

She looked for a moment into the dining-room.  So short a time had
passed that the table was not yet cleared: the printed menu-cards
had been collected, but the coffee, which had not been hot enough,
still stood untasted in the cups, and the slices of pineapple, cut,
but not eaten, were ruinously piled together.  The thought of all
the luncheons that would be necessary to consume all this expensive
food made her feel sick. . . .  These little things had assumed a
ridiculous size to her mind; that which had seemed so big was
pitifully dwindled.  She felt desperately tired, and cold and


"And what's to be done now?" said Major Ames, chipping his bacon
high into the air above his plate.  "If you didn't hear me, I said,
'What's to be done now?'  I don't know how you can look Riseborough
in the face again, and, upon my word, I don't see how I can.
They'll point at me in the street, and say, 'That's Major Ames,
whose wife made a fool of herself.'  That's what you did, Amy.  You
made a fool of yourself.  And what was the good of it all?  Are you
any nearer getting the vote than before, because you've screamed
'Votes for Women' a dozen times?  You've only given a proof the
more of how utterly unfit you are to have anything at all of your
own, let alone a vote.  I passed a sleepless night with thinking of
your folly, and I feel infernally unwell this morning."

This clearly constituted a climax, and Mrs. Ames took advantage of
the rhetorical pause that followed.

"Nonsense, Lyndhurst," she said; "I heard you snoring."

"It's enough to make a man snore," he said.  "Snore, indeed!  Why
couldn't you even have told me that you were going to behave like a
silly lunatic, and if I couldn't have persuaded you to behave
sanely, I could have stopped away, instead of looking on at such an
exhibition?  Every one will suppose I must have known about it, and
have countenanced you.  I've a good mind to write to the Kent
Chronicle and say that I was absolutely ignorant of what you were
going to do.  You've disgraced us; that's what you've done."

He took a gulp of tea, imprudently, for it was much hotter than he

"And now I've burned my mouth!" he said.

Mrs. Ames put down her napkin, left her seat, and came and stood by

"I am sorry you are so much vexed," she said, "but I can't and I
won't discuss anything with you if you talk like that.  You are
thinking about nothing but yourself, whether you are disgraced, and
whether you have had a bad night."

"Certainly you don't seem to have thought about me," he said.

"As a matter of fact I did," she said.  "I knew you would not like
it, and I was sorry.  But do you suppose I liked it?  But I thought
most about the reason for which I did it."

"You did it for notoriety," said Major Ames, with conviction.  "You
wanted to see your name in the papers, as having interrupted a
Cabinet Minister's speech.  You won't even have that satisfaction,
I am glad to say.  Your cousin James, who is a decent sort of
fellow after all, spoke to the reporters last night and asked them
to leave out all account of the disturbance.  They consented; they
are decent fellows too; they didn't want to give publicity to your
folly.  They were sorry for you, Amy; and how do you like half-a-
dozen reporters at a pound a week being sorry for you?  Your cousin
James was equally generous.  He bore no malice to me, and shook
hands with me, and said he saw you were unwell when he sat down to
dinner.  But when a man of the world, as your Cousin James is, says
he thinks that a woman is unwell, I know what he means.  He thought
you were intoxicated.  Drunk, in fact.  That's what he thought.  He
thought you were drunk.  My wife drunk.  And it was the kindest
interpretation he could have put upon it.  Mad or drunk.  He chose
drunk.  And he hoped I should be able to come over some day next
week and help him to thin out the pheasants.  Very friendly,
considering all that had happened."

Mrs. Ames moved slightly away from him.

"Do you mean to go?" she asked.

"Of course I mean to go.  He shows a very generous spirit, and I
think I can account for the highest of his rocketters.  He wants to
smooth things over and be generous, and all that--hold out the
olive branch.  He recognizes that I've got to live down your folly,
and if it's known that I've been shooting with him, it will help
us.  Forgive and forget, hey?  I shall just go over there, en
garon, and will patch matters up.  I dare say he'll ask you over
again some time.  He doesn't want to be hard on you.  Nor do I, I
am sure.  But there are things no man can stand.  A man's got to
put his foot down sometimes, even if he puts it down on his wife.
And if I was a bit rough with you just now, you must realize, Amy,
you must realize that I felt strongly, strongly and rightly.  We've
got to live down what you have done.  Well, I'm by you.  We'll live
it down together.  I'll make your peace with your cousin.  You can
trust me."

These magnificent assurances failed to dazzle Mrs. Ames, and she
made no acknowledgment of them.  Instead, she went back rather
abruptly and inconveniently to a previous topic.

"You tell me that Cousin James believed I was drunk," she said.
"Now you knew I was not.  But you seem to have let it pass."

Major Ames felt that more magnanimous assurances might be in place.

"There are some things best passed over," he said.  "Let sleeping
dogs lie.  I think the less we talk about last night the better.  I
hope I am generous enough not to want to rub it in, Amy, not to
make you more uncomfortable than you are."

Mrs. Ames sat down in a chair by the fireplace.  A huge fire burned
there, altogether disproportionate to the day, and she screened her
face from the blaze with the morning paper.  Also she made a mental
note to speak to Parker about it.

"You are making me very uncomfortable indeed, Lyndhurst," she said;
"by not telling me what I ask you.  Did you let it pass, when you
saw James thought I was drunk?"

"Yes; he didn't say so in so many words.  If he had said so, well,
I dare say I should have--have made some sort of answer.  And, mind
you, it was no accusation he made against you; he made an excuse
for you!"

Mrs. Ames' small, insignificant face grew suddenly very firm and

"We do not need to go into that," she said.  "You saw he thought I
was drunk, and said nothing.  And after that you mean to go over
and shoot his pheasants.  Is that so?"

"Certainly it is.  You are making a mountain out of--"

"I am making no mountain out of anything.  Personally, I don't
believe Cousin James thought anything of the kind.  What matters is
that you let it pass.  What matters is that I should have to tell
you that you must apologize to me, instead of your seeing it for

Major Ames got up, pushing his chair violently back.

"Well, here's a pretty state of things," he cried; "that you should
be telling me to apologize for last night's degrading exhibition!
I wonder what you'll be asking next?  A vote of thanks from the
Mayor, I shouldn't wonder, and an illuminated address.  You
teaching me what I ought to do!  I should have thought a woman
would have been only too glad to trust to her husband, if he was so
kind, as I have been, as to want to get her out of the consequences
of her folly.  And now it's you who must sit there, opposite a fire
fit to roast an ox, and tell me I must apologize.  Apologies be
damned!  There!  It's not my habit to swear, as you well know, but
there are occasions--Apologies be damned!"

And a moment later the house shook with the thunder of the slammed
front door.

Mrs. Ames sat for a couple of minutes exactly where she was, still
shielding her face from the fire.  She felt all the chilling
effects of the reaction that follows on excitement, whether the
excitement is rapturous or as sickening as last night's had been,
but not for a moment did she regret her share either in the events
of the evening before or in the sequel of this morning.  Last night
had ended in utter fiasco, but she had done her best; this
morning's talk had ended in a pretty sharp quarrel, but again she
found it impossible to reconsider her share in it.  Humanly she
felt beaten and ridiculed and sick at heart, but not ashamed.  She
had passed a sleepless night, and was horribly tired, with that
tiredness that seems to sap all pluck and power of resistance, and
gradually her eyes grew dim, and the difficult meagre tears of
middle age, which are so bitter, began to roll down her cheeks, and
the hard inelastic sobs to rise in her throat. . . .  Yet it was no
use sitting here crying, lunch and dinner had to be ordered whether
she felt unhappy or not; she had to see how extensive was the
damage done to her pink satin shoes by the wet pavements last
night; she had to speak about this ox-roasting fire.  Also there
was appointed a Suffragette meeting at Mr. Turner's house for
eleven o'clock, at which past achievements and future plans would
be discussed.  She had barely time to wash her face, for it was
unthinkable that Parker or the cook should see she had been crying,
and get through her household duties, before it was time to start.

She dried her eyes and went to the window, through which streamed
the pale saffron-coloured October sunshine.  All the stormy trouble
of the night had passed, and the air sparkled with "the clear
shining after rain."  But the frost of a few nights before had
blackened the autumn flowers, and the chill rain had beaten down
the glory of her husband's chrysanthemums, so that the garden-beds
looked withered and dishevelled, like those whose interest in life
is finished, and who no longer care what appearance they present.
The interest of others in them seemed to be finished also; it was
not the gardener's day here, for he only came twice in the week,
and Major Ames, who should have been assiduous in binding up the
broken-stemmed, encouraging the invalids, and clearing away the
havoc wrought by the storm, had left the house.  Perhaps he had
gone to the club, perhaps even now he was trying to make light of
it all.  She could almost hear him say, "Women get queer notions
into their heads, and the notions run away with them, bless them.
You'll take a glass of sherry with me, General, won't you?  Are you
by any chance going to Sir James' shoot next week?  I'm shooting
there one day."  Or was he talking it over somewhere else, perhaps
not making light of it?  She did not know; all she knew was that
she was alone, and wanted somebody who understood, even if he
disagreed.  It did not seem to matter that Lyndhurst utterly
disagreed with her, what mattered was that he had misunderstood her
motives so entirely, that the monstrous implication that she had
been intoxicated seemed to him an excuse.  And he was not sorry.
What could she do since he was not sorry?  It was as difficult to
answer that as it was easy to know what to do the moment he was
sorry.  Indeed, then it would be unnecessary to do anything; the
reconciliation would be automatic, and would bring with it
something she yearned after, an opportunity of making him see that
she cared, that the woman in her reached out towards him, in some
different fashion now from that in which she had tried to recapture
the semblance of youth and his awakened admiration.  To-day, she
looked back on that episode shamefacedly.  She had taken so much
trouble with so paltry a purpose.  And yet that innocent and
natural coquetry was not quite dead in her; no woman's heart need
be so old that it no longer cares whether she is pleasing in her
husband's eyes.  Only to-day, it seemed to Mrs. Ames that her pains
had been as disproportionate to her purpose as they had been to its
result; now she longed to take pains for a purpose that was
somewhat deeper than that for which she softened her wrinkles and
refreshed the colour of her hair.

She turned from the window and the empty garden, wishing that the
rain would be renewed, so that there would be an excuse for her to
go to Mr. Turner's in a shut cab.  As it was, there was no such
excuse, and she felt that it would require an effort to walk past
the club window, and to traverse the length of the High Street.
Female Riseborough, on this warm sunny morning, she knew would be
there in force, popping in and out of shops, and holding little
conversations on the pavement.  There would be but one topic to-
day, and for many days yet; it would be long before the autumn
novelty lost anything of its freshness.  She wondered how her
appearance in the town would be greeted; would people smile and
turn aside as she approached, and whisper or giggle after she had
gone by?  What of the Mayor who, like an honest tradesman, was
often to be seen at the door of his shop, or looking at the
"dressing" of his windows?  A policeman always stood at the bottom
of the street, controlling the cross-traffic from St. Barnabas
Road.  Would he be that one who had helped to further her movements
last night? . . .  She almost felt she ought to thank him. . . .
And then quite suddenly her pluck returned again, or it was that
she realized that she did not, comparatively speaking, care two
straws for any individual comment or by-play that might take place
in the High Street, or for its accumulated weight.  There were
other things to care about.  For them she cared immensely.

The High Street proved to be paved with incident.  Turning quickly
round the corner, she nearly ran into Bill, the policeman, off duty
at this hour, and obviously giving a humorous recital of some sort
to a small amused circle outside the public-house.  It was abruptly
discontinued when she appeared, and she felt that the interest that
his audience developed in the sunny October sky, which they
contemplated with faint grins, would be succeeded by stifled
laughter after she had passed.  A few paces further on, controlling
the traffic of market-day, was her other policeman Bill, who smiled
in a pleasant and familiar manner to her, as if there was some
capital joke private to them.  Twenty yards further along the
street was standing the Mayor, contemplating his shop-window; he
saw her, and urgent business appeared to demand his presence
inside.  After that there came General Fortescue tottering to the
club; he crossed the street to meet her, and took off his hat and
shook hands.

"By Jove!  Mrs. Ames," he said, "I never enjoyed a meeting so much,
and my wife's wild that she didn't go.  What a lark!  Made me feel
quite young again.  I wanted to shout too, and tell them to give
the ladies a vote.  Monstrously amusing!  Just going to the club to
have a chat about it all."

And he went on his way, with his fat old body shaking with
laughter.  Then, feeling rather ill from this encounter, she heard
rapid steps in pursuit of her, and Mrs. Altham joined her.

"Oh, Mrs. Ames," she said.  "I could die of vexation that I was not
there.  Is it really true that you threw a glass of water at Mr.
Chilcot and hit the policeman?  Fancy, that it should have been
such a terribly wet night, and Henry and I just sat at home, never
thinking that five minutes in a cab would make such a difference.
We sat and played patience; I should have been most impatient if I
had known.  And what is to happen next?  It was so stupid of me not
to join your league; I wonder if it is too late."

This was quite dreadful; Mrs. Ames had been prepared for her
husband's anger, and for pride and aversion from people like Mrs.
Altham.  What was totally unexpected and unwelcome was that she was
supposed to have scored a sort of popular success, that Riseborough
considered the dreadful fiasco of last night as an achievement,
something not only to talk about, but a kind of new game, more
exciting than croquet or criticism.  She had begun by thinking of
the Suffragette movement as an autumn novelty, but leanness came
very near her soul when she found that it now appeared to others as
she had first thought of it herself.  She had travelled since then;
she had seen the hinterland of it; the idea that rose up behind it,
austere and beautiful and wise.  All that these others saw was just
the hysterical jungle that bounded the coast.  To her this morning,
after her experience of it, the hysterical jungle seemed--an
hysterical jungle.  If it was only by that route that the heights
could be attained, then that route must be followed.  She was
willing to try it again.  But was there not somewhere and somehow a
better road?

It was not necessary to be particularly cordial to Mrs. Altham, and
she held out no certain prospect of an immediate repetition of last
night's scenes, nor of a desire for additional recruits.  But
further trials awaited her in this short walk.  Dr. Evans, driving
the high-stepping cob, wheeled round, and dismounted, throwing the
reins to the groom.

"I must just congratulate you," he said, "for Millie told me about
last night.  I've been telling her that if she had half your pluck,
she would be the better for it.  I hope you didn't catch cold;
beastly night, wasn't it?  Do let me know when it will come on
again.  I hate your principles, you know, but I love your practise.
I shall come and shout, too!"

This was perfectly awful.  Nobody understood; they all sympathized
with her, but cared not two straws for that which had prompted her
to do these sensational things. . . .  They liked the sensational
things . . . it was fun to them.  But it was no fun to those who
believed in the principles which prompted them.  They thought of
her as a clown at a pantomime; they wanted to see Dan Leno. . . .

She was some minutes late when she reached Mr. Turner's house,
depressed and not encouraged by this uncomprehending applause that
took as an excellent joke all the manifestations which had been
directed by so serious a purpose.  What to her was tragic and
necessary, was to them a farce of entertaining quality.  But now
she would meet her coreligionists again, those who knew, those
whose convictions, of the same quality as hers, were of such weight
as to make her feel that even her quarrel with Lyndhurst was light
in comparison.

The jovial Turner family, father, mother, daughter, were in the
drawing-room, and they hailed her as a heroine.  If it had not been
for her, there would have been no "scene" at all.  Did the
policemen hurt?  Mr. Turner had got a small bruise on his knee, but
it was quite doubtful whether he got it when he was taken out.
Mrs. Turner had lost a small pearl ornament, but she was not sure
whether she had put it on before going to the meeting.  Miss Turner
had a cold to-day, but it was certain that she had felt it coming
on before they were all put out into the rain.  None of them had
seen the end; it was supposed that Mrs. Ames had thrown a glass of
water at a policeman, and had hit Mr. Chilcot.  They were all quite
ready for Sir James' next meeting; or would he be a coward, and
cause scrutiny to be held on those who desired admittance?

Mrs. Brooks arrived; she had not been turned out last night, but
she had caught cold, and did not think that much had been achieved.
Mr. Chilcot had made his speech, apparently a very clever one,
about Tariff Reform, and Sir James had followed, without
interruption, telling the half empty but sympathetic benches about
the House of Lords.  There had been no allusion made to the
disturbance, or to the motives that prompted it.  Also she had lost
her Suffragette rosette.  It must have been torn off her, though
she did not feel it go.

Mrs. Currie brought more life into the proceedings.  She could get
four porters to come to the next meeting, and could make another
banner, as well as ensuring the proper unfurling of the first,
which had stuck so unaccountably.  It had waved quite properly when
she had tried it an hour before, and it had waved quite properly
(for it had been returned to her after she had been ejected) when
she tried it again an hour later at home.  Two banners expanding
properly would be a vastly different affair from one that did not
expand at all.  Her husband had laughed fit to do himself a damage
over her account of the proceedings.

A dozen more only of the league made an appearance, for clearly
there was a reaction and a cooling after last night's conflagration,
but all paid their meed of appreciation to Mrs. Ames.  Their
little rockets had but fizzed and spluttered until she "showed
them the way," as Mrs. Currie expressed it.  But to them
even it was the ritual, so to speak, the disturbance, the shouting,
the sense of doing something, rather than the belief that lay
behind the ritual, which stirred their imaginations.  Could the
cause be better served by the endurance of an hour's solitary
toothache, than by waving banners in the town hall, and being
humanely ejected by benevolent policemen, there would have been
less eagerness to suffer.  And Mrs. Ames would so willingly have
passed many hours of physical pain rather than suffer the heartache
which troubled her this morning.  And nobody seemed to understand;
Mrs. Currie with her four porters and two banners, Mrs. Brooks with
her cold in the head and odour of eucalyptus, the cheerful Turners
who thought it would be such a good idea to throw squibs on to the
platform, were all as far from the point as General Fortescue,
chatting at the club, or even as Lyndhurst with the high-chipped
bacon and the slammed front door.  It was a game to them, as it had
originally presented itself to her, an autumn novelty for, say,
Thursday afternoon from five till seven.  If only the opposite
effects had been produced; if they all had taken it as poignantly
as Lyndhurst, and he as cheerily as they!

He, meantime, after slamming the front door, had stormed up St.
Barnabas Road, in so sincere a passion that he had nearly reached
the club before he remembered that he had hardly touched his
breakfast or glanced at the paper.  So, as there was no sense in
starving himself (the starvation consisting in only having half his
breakfast), he turned in at those hospitable doors, and ordered
himself an omelette.  Never in his life had he been so angry, never
in the amazing chronicle of matrimony, so it seemed to him, had a
man received such provocation from his wife.  She had insulted the
guests who had dined with her, she made a public and stupendous ass
of herself, and when, next morning, he, after making such
expostulations as he was morally bound to make, had been so nobly
magnanimous as to assure her that he would patch it all up for her,
and live it down with her, he had been told that it was for him to
apologize!  No wonder he had sworn; Moses would have sworn; it
would have been absolutely wrong of him not to swear.  There were
situations in which it was cowardly for a man not to say what he
thought.  Even now, as he waited for his omelette, he emitted
little squeaks and explosive exclamations, almost incredulous of
his wrongs.

He ate his omelette, which seemed but to add fuel to his rage, and
went into the smoking-room, where, over a club cigar, for he had
actually forgotten to bring his own case with him, he turned to the
consideration of practical details.  It was not clear how to re-
enter his house again.  He had gone out with a bang that made the
windows rattle, but it was hardly possible to go on banging the
door each time he went in and out, for no joinery would stand these
reiterated shocks.  And what was to be done, even if he could
devise an effective re-entry?  Unless Amy put herself into his
hands, and unreservedly took back all that she had said, it was
impossible for him to speak to her.  Somehow he felt that there
were few things less likely to happen than this.  Certainly it
would be no good to resume storming operations, for he had no guns
greater than those he had already fired, and if they were not of
sufficient calibre, he must just beleaguer her with silence--
dignified, displeased silence.

He looked up and saw that Mr. Altham was regarding him through the
glass door; upon which Mr. Altham rapidly withdrew.  Not long
afterwards young Morton occupied and retired from the same
observatory.  A moment's reflection enabled Major Ames to construe
this singular behaviour.  They had heard of his wife's conduct, and
were gluttonously feeding on so unusual a spectacle as himself in
the club at this hour, and reconstructing in their monkey-minds his
domestic disturbances.  They would probably ascertain that he had
breakfasted here.  It was all exceedingly unpleasant; there was no
sympathy in their covert glances, only curiosity.

No one who is not a brute, and Major Ames was not that, enjoys a
quarrel with his wife, and no one who is not utterly self-centred,
and he was not quite that either, fails to desire sympathy when
such a quarrel has occurred.  He wanted sympathy now; he wanted to
pour out into friendly ears the tale of Amy's misdeeds, of his own
magnanimity, to hear his own estimation of his conduct confirmed,
fairly confirmed, by a woman who would see the woman's point of
view as well as his.  The smoking-room with these peeping Toms was
untenable, but he thought he knew where he could get sympathy.

Millie was in and would see him; from habit, as he crossed the hall
he looked to the peg where Dr. Evans hung his hat and coat, and,
seeing they were not there, inferred that the doctor was out.  That
suited him; he wanted to confide and be sympathized with, and felt
that Evans' breezy optimism and out-of-door habit of mind would not
supply the kind of comfort he felt in need of.  He wanted to be
told he was a martyr and a very fine fellow, and that Amy was
unworthy of him. . . .

Millie was in the green, cool drawing-room, where they had sat one
day after lunch.  She rose as he entered and came towards him with
a tremulous smile on her lips, and both hands outstretched.

"Dear Lyndhurst," she said.  "I am so glad you have come.  Sit
down.  I think if you had not come I should have telephoned to ask
if you would not see me.  I should have suggested our taking a
little walk, perhaps, for I do not think I could have risked seeing
Cousin Amy.  I know how you feel, oh, so well.  It was abominable,

Certainly he had come to the right place.  Millie understood him:
he had guessed she would.  She sat down close beside him, and for a
moment held her hand over her eyes.

"Ah, I have been so angry this morning," she said; "and it has
given me a headache.  Wilfred laughed about it all; he said also
that what Amy did showed a tremendous lot of pluck.  It was utterly
heartless.  I knew how you must be suffering, and I was so angry
with him.  He did not understand.  Oh no, my headache is nothing;
it will soon be gone--now."

She faintly emphasized the last word, stroked it, so to speak, as
if calling attention to it.

"I'm broken-hearted about it," said Major Ames, which sounded
better than to say, "I'm in a purple rage about it."  "I'm broken-
hearted.  She's disgraced herself and me--"

"No, not you."

"Yes; a woman can't do that sort of thing without the world
believing that her husband knew about it.  And that's not all.
Upon my word I'm not sure whether what she did this morning isn't
worse than what you saw last night."

Millie leaned forward.

"Tell me," she said, "if it doesn't hurt you too much."

He decided it did not hurt him too much.

"Well, I came down this morning," he said, "willing and eager to
make the best of a bad job.  So were we all: James Westbourne last
night was just as generous, and asked the reporters to say nothing
about it, and invited me to a day's shooting next week.  Very
decent of him.  As I say, I came down this morning, willing to make
it as easy as I could.  Of course, I knew I had to give Amy a good
talking to: I should utterly have failed in my duty to her as a
husband if I did not do that.  I gave her a blowing-up, though not
half of what she deserved, but a blowing up.  Even then, when I had
said my say I told her we would live it down together, which was
sufficiently generous, I think.  But, for her good, I told her that
James Westbourne said he saw she was unwell, and that when a man
says that he means that she is drunk.  Perhaps Westbourne didn't
mean that, but that's what it sounded like.  And would you believe
it, just because I hadn't knocked him down and stamped on his face,
she tells me I ought to apologize to her for letting such a
suggestion pass.  Well, I flared up at that: what man of spirit
wouldn't have flared up?  I left the house at once, and went and
finished my breakfast at the club.  I should have choked--upon my
word, I should have choked if I had stopped there, or got an
apoplexy.  As it is, I feel devilish unwell."

Millie got up, and stood for a moment in silence, looking out of
the window, white and willowy.

"I can never forgive Cousin Amy," she said at length.  "Never!"

"Well, it is hard," said Major Ames.  "And after all these years!
It isn't exactly the return one might expect, perhaps."

"It is infamous," said Millie.

She came and sat down by him again.

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"I don't know.  If she apologizes, I shall forgive her, and I shall
try to forget.  But I didn't think it of her.  And if she doesn't
apologize--I don't know.  I can't be expected to eat my words: that
would be countenancing what she has done.  I couldn't do it: it
would not be sincere.  I'm straight, I hope: if I say a thing it
may be taken for granted that I mean it."

She looked up at him with her chin raised.

"I think you are wonderful," she said, "to be able even to think of
forgiving her.  If I had behaved like that, I should not expect
Wilfred to forgive me.  But then you are so big, so big.  She does
not understand you: she can't understand one thing about you.  She
doesn't know--oh, how blind some women are!"

It was little wonder that by this time Major Ames was beginning to
feel an extraordinarily fine fellow, nor was it more wonderful that
he basked in the warm sense of being understood.  But from the
first Millie had understood him.  He felt that particularly now, at
this moment, when Amy had so hideously flouted and wronged him.
All through this last summer, the situation of to-day had been
foreshadowed; it had always been in this house rather than in his
own that he had been welcomed and appreciated.  He had been the
architect and adviser in the Shakespeare ball, while at home Amy
dealt out her absurd printed menu-cards without consulting him.
And the garden which he loved--who had so often said, "These sweet
flowers, are they really for me?"  Who, on the other hand, had so
often said, "The sweet-peas are not doing very well, are they?"
And then he looked at Millie's soft, youthful face, her eyes, that
sought his in timid, sensitive appeal, her dim golden hair, her
mouth, childish and mysterious.  For contrast there was the small,
strong, toad's face, the rather beady eyes, the hair--grey or
brown, which was it?  Also, Millie understood; she saw him as he
was--generous, perhaps, to a fault, but big, big, as she had so
properly said.  She always made him feel so comfortable, so
contented with himself.  That was the true substance of a woman's
mission, to make her husband happy, to make him devoted to her,
instead of raising hell in the town hall, and insisting on
apologies afterwards.

"You've cheered me up, Millie," he said; "you've made me feel that
I've got a friend, after all, a friend who feels with me.  I'm
grateful; I'm--I'm more than grateful.  I'm a tough old fellow, but
I've got a heart still, I believe.  What's to happen to us all?"

It was emotion, real and genuine emotion, that made Millie clever
at that moment.  Her mind was of no high order; she might, if she
thought about a thing, be trusted to exhibit nothing more subtle
than a fair grasp of the obvious.  But now she did not think: she
was prompted by an instinct that utterly transcended any
achievement of which her brain was capable.

"Go back to your house," she said, "and be ready for Cousin Amy to
say she is sorry.  Very likely she is waiting for you there now.
Oh, Lyndhurst--"

He got up at once: those few words made him feel completely noble;
they made her feel noble likewise.  The atmosphere of nobility was
almost suffocating. . . .

"You are right," he said; "you are always all that is right and
good and delicious?  Ha!"

There was no question about the cousinly relations between them.
So natural and spontaneous a caress needed no explanation.

The house was apparently empty when he got back, but he made
sufficiently noisy an entry to advise the drawing-room, in any
case, that he was returned, and personally ready, since he did not
enter "full of wrath," like Hyperion, to accept apologies.
Eventually he went in there, as if to look for a paper, in case of
its being occupied, and, with the same pretext, strolled into his
wife's sitting-room.  Then, still casually, he went into his
dressing-room, where he had slept last night, and satisfied himself
that she was not in her bedroom.  Her penitence, therefore, which
would naturally be manifested by her waiting, dim-eyed, for his
return, had not been of any peremptory quality.

He went out into the garden, and surveyed the damage of last
night's rain.  There was no need to punish the plants because Amy
had been guilty of behaviour which her own cousin said was
infamous: he also wanted something to employ himself with till
lunch-time.  As his hands worked mechanically, tying up some clumps
of chrysanthemums which had a few days more of flame in their
golden hearts, removing a dbris of dead leaves and fallen twigs,
his mind was busy also, working not mechanically but eagerly and
excitedly.  How different was the sympathy with which he was
welcomed and comforted by Millie from the misunderstandings and
quarrels which made him feel that he had wasted his years with one
who was utterly unappreciative of him.  Yet, if Amy was sorry, he
was ready to do his best.  But he wondered whether he wanted her to
be sorry or not.

At half-past one the bell for lunch sounded, and, going into the
drawing-room, he found that she had returned and was writing a note
at her table.  She did not look up, but said to him, just as if
nothing had happened--

"Will you go in and begin, Lyndhurst?  I want to finish my note."

He did not answer, but passed into the dining-room.  In a little
while she joined him.

"There seems to have been a good deal of rain in the night," she
said.  "I am afraid your flowers have suffered."

Certainly this did not look like penitence, and he had no reply for
her.  In some strange way this seemed to him the dignified and
proper course.

Then Mrs. Ames spoke for the third time.

"I think, Lyndhurst, if we are not going to talk," she said, "I
shall see what news there is.  Parker, please fetch me the morning

At that moment he hated her.


Three days later Major Ames was walking back home in the middle of
the afternoon, returning from the house in which he had lately
spent so considerable a portion of his time.  But this was the last
day on which he would go there, nor would he, except for this one
time more, cross the threshold of his own house.  The climax had
come, and within an hour or two he and Millie were going to leave
Riseborough together.

Now that their decision had been made, it seemed to him that it had
been inevitable from the first.  Ever since the summer, when, from
some mixture of genuine liking and false gallantry, he had allowed
himself to drift into relations with her, the force that drew and
held him had steadily increased in strength, and to-day it had
proved itself irresistible.  The determining factor no doubt had
been his quarrel with his wife; that gave the impulse that had been
still lacking, the final push which upset the equilibrium of that
which was tottering and ready to fall over.

The scene this afternoon had been both short and quiet, as such
scenes are.  Dr. Evans had been called up to town on business
yesterday morning, returning possibly this evening but more
probably to-morrow, and they had lunched alone.  Afterwards Major
Ames had again spoken of his wife.

"The situation is intolerable," he had said.  "I can't stand it.
If it wasn't for you, Millie, I should go away."

She had come close to him.

"I'm not very happy, either," she said.  "If it wasn't for you, I
don't think I could stand it."

And then it was already inevitable.

"It's too strong for us," she said.  "We can't help it.  I will
face anything with you.  We will go right away, Lyndhurst, and
live, instead of being starved like this."

She took both his hands in hers, completely carried away for the
first time in her life by something outside herself.  Treacherous
and mean as was that course on which she was determined, she was,
perhaps, a finer woman at this moment of supreme disloyalty than in
all the years of her blameless married life.

"I've never loved before, Lyndhurst," she said quietly, "nor have I
ever known what it meant.  Now I can't consider anything else; it
doesn't matter what happens to Wilfred and Elsie.  Nothing matters
except you."

This time it was not he who kissed her; it was she who pressed her
mouth to his.

There was but little to settle, their plans were perfectly simple
and ruthless.  They would cross over to Boulogne that night, and,
as soon as the law set them free, marry each other.  A train to
Folkestone left Riseborough in a little over an hour's time,
running in connection with the boat.  They could easily catch it.
But it was wiser not to go to the station together: they would meet

As he walked home through the gleaming October afternoon, Major
Ames was conscious neither of struggle nor regret.  The power which
Millie had had over him all these months, so that it was she always
who really took the lead, and urged him one step forward and then
another, gripped him and led him on here to the last step of all.
He still obeyed and followed that slender, fragile woman who so
soon would be his; it was as necessary to do her bidding here as it
had been to kiss her, when first, under the mulberry-tree, she had
put up her face towards his.  These last days seemed to have killed
all sense of loyalty and manhood within him; he gave no thought at
all to his wife, and thought of Harry only as Amy's son.  Besides,
he was not responsible: man though he was, he was completely in the
hands of this woman.  All his life he had had no real principles to
direct him, he had lived a decent life only because no temptation
to live otherwise had ever really come near him, and even now it
was in no way the wickedness of what he purposed that at all
dragged him back; it was mere timidity at taking an irrevocable

Amy, he knew, was out: at breakfast she had announced to him that
she did not expect to be in till dinner-time, and he had told her
that he would be out for dinner.  Such sentences dealing with
household arrangements had been the sum of their discourse for the
last days, and they were spoken not so much to each other as to the
air, heard by, rather than addressed to any one in particular.

And yet the prospect of the life that should open for him, when
once this irrevocable step had been taken, did not fill him with
the resistless longing which, though it cannot excuse, at any rate
accounts for the step itself.  Millie, though throughout she had
led him on until the climax was reached, had at least the authentic
goad to drive her: life with him seemed to her to be real life: it
was passionately that she desired it.  But with him, apart from the
force with which she dominated him, it was the escape from the very
uncomfortable circumstances of home that chiefly attracted him.  In
a way, he loved her; he felt for her a warmth and a tenderness of
stronger quality than he could remember having ever experienced
before, and since it is not given to all men to love violently, it
may be granted that he was feeling the utmost fire of which his
nature was capable.  But it was of sufficient ardour to burn up in
his mind the rubbish of minor considerations and material

Cabs were of infrequent occurrence at this far end of St. Barnabas
Road, and meeting one by hazard just outside his house, he told the
driver to wait.  Then, letting himself in, he went straight up to
his dressing-room.  There was not time for him to pack his whole
wardrobe, and a moderate portmanteau would be all he really needed.
And here the trivialities began to wax huge and engrossing: though
the afternoon was warm, it would no doubt be fresh, if not chilly
on the boat, and it would certainly be advisable to take his thick
overcoat, which at present had not left its summer quarters.  Those
were in a big cupboard in the passage outside, overlooking the
garden, where it was packed away with prophylactic little balls of
naphthaline.  These had impregnated it somewhat powerfully, but it
was better to be odorously than insufficiently clad.  Passing the
window he saw that the chrysanthemums had responded bravely to his
comforting a few mornings ago: if there was no more frost they
would be gay for another fortnight yet.  Should he take a bouquet
of them with him?  He did not see why he should not have the
enjoyment of them.  Yet there was scarcely time to pick them: he
must hurry on with the packing of his small portmanteau, which
presented endless problems.

A panama hat should certainly be included; also a pair of white
tennis shoes, in which he saw himself promenading on the parade: a
white flannel suit, though it was October, seemed to complete the
costume.  He need not cumber himself with a dress coat: a dinner
jacket was all that would be necessary.  She had told him she had
six hundred a year of her own: he had another three.  It was
annoying that his sponge was rather ragged; he had meant to buy a
new one this morning.  Perhaps Parker could draw it together with a
bit of thread.  An untidy sponge always vexed him: it was
unsoldierly and slovenly.  "Show me a man's washhand-stand," he had
once said, "and I'll tell you about the owner."  His own did not
invite inspection, with its straggly sponge.

Then for a moment all these trivialities stood away from him, and
for an interval he saw where he stood and what he was doing--the
vileness, the sordidness, the vulgarity of it.  High principles,
nobility of life were not subjects with which hitherto he had much
concerned himself, and it would be useless to expect that they
should come to his rescue now, but for this moment his kindliness,
such as it was, his affection for his wife, such as it was, but
above all the continuous, unbroken smug respectability of his days
read him a formidable indictment.  What could he plead against such
an accusation?  No irresistible or imperative necessity of soul
that claimed Millie as his by right of love.  He knew that his
desire for her was not of that fiery order, for he could see,
undazzled and unburned, the qualities which attracted him.  He
admired her frail beauty, the youth that still encompassed her, he
fed with the finest appetite on the devotion and admiration which
she brought him.  He loved being the god and the hero of this
attractive woman, and it was this, far more than the devotion he
brought her, that dominated him.

Respectability cried out against him and his foolishness.  There
would be no more strutting and swelling about the club among the
mild and honourable men who frequented it, and looked up to him as
an authority on India and gardening, nor any more of those pompous
and satisfactory evenings when General Fortescue assured him that
there was not such a good glass of port in Kent as that with which
the Major supplied his guests.  To be known as Major Ames, late of
the Indian Army, had been to command respect; now, the less that he
was known as Major Ames, late of Riseborough, the better would be
the chance of being held in esteem.  And to what sort of life would
he condemn the woman, who for his sake was leaving a respectability
no less solid than his own?  To the companionship of such as
herself, to the soiled doves of a French watering-place.  That, of
course, would be but a temporary habitation, but after that, what?
Where was the society which would receive them, by which there
would be any satisfaction in being received?  Neither of them had
the faintest touch of Bohemianism in their natures: both were of
the school that is accustomed to silver teapots and life in houses
with a garden behind.  For a moment he hesitated as he folded back
the sleeves of his dinner-jacket: then the tide of trivialities
swept over him again, and he noticed that there was a spot of
spilled wax on the cuff.

Among other engagements that Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Ames was
occupied with the decoration of St. Barnabas' Church for the Sunday
service next day, and she had gone there after lunch with an
adornment of foliage tinted red by October, for she had not felt
disposed to ask Lyndhurst if she might pick the remnant of his
chrysanthemums.  She, too, like him, felt the impossibility of the
present situation, and, as she worked, she asked herself if it was
in any way in her power to end this parody of domestic life.  Every
day she had made the attempt to begin the breaking of this
ridiculous and most uncomfortable silence which lay between them,
by the introduction of ordinary topics, hoping by degrees to build
up again the breach that yawned between them, but at present she
had got no sense of the slightest answering effort on his side.
Psychically no less than conversationally he had nothing whatever
to say to her.  If in the common courtesies of daily life he had
nothing for her, it seemed idle to hope to find further
receptiveness if she opened discussion of their quarrel.  Besides,
a certain very natural pride blocked her way: he owed her an
apology, and when she indicated that, he had sworn at her.  It did
not seem unreasonable (even when decorating a church) to expect the
initiatory step to be taken by him.  But what if he did not do so?

Mrs. Ames gave a little sigh, and her mouth and throat worked
uncomfortably.  The quarrel was so childish, yet it was serious,
for it was not a light thing, whatever her provocation might have
been, to pass days like these.  Half-a-dozen times she went over
the circumstances, and half-a-dozen times she felt that it was only
just that he should make the advance to her, or at any rate behave
with ordinary courtesy in answer to her ordinary civilities.  It
was true that the original dissension was due to her, but she
believed with her whole heart in the cause for which she provoked
it.  All these last months she had felt her nature expand under the
influence of this idea: she knew herself to be a better and a
bigger woman than she had been.  She believed in the rights of her
sex, but had they not their duties too?  It was nearly twenty-five
years since she had voluntarily undertaken a certain duty.  What if
that came first, before any rights or privileges?  What if that
which she had undertaken then as a duty was in itself a right?

Yet even then, what could she do?  In itself, she was very far from
being ashamed of the part she had taken, yet was it possible to
weigh this independently, without considering the points at which
it conflicted with duties which certainly concerned her no less?
She could not hope to convince her husband of the justice of the
cause, nor of the expediency of promoting it in ways like these.
For herself, she knew the justice of it, and saw no other expedient
for promoting it.  Those who had worked for the cause for years
said that all else had been tried, that there remained only this
violent crusading.  But was not she personally, considering what
her husband felt about it, debarred from taking part in the
crusade?  She had deeply offended and vexed him.  Could anything
but the stringency of moral law justify that?  Nothing that he had
done, nothing that he could do, short of the violation of the
essential principles of married life, could absolve her from the
accomplishment of one tittle of her duty towards him.

For a moment, in spite of her perplexity and the difficulty of her
decision, Mrs. Ames smiled at herself for the mental use of all
these great words like duty and privilege, over so small an
incident.  For what had happened?  She had been a militant
Suffragette on one occasion only, and at breakfast next morning he
had, in matters arising therefrom, allowed himself to swear at her.
Yet it seemed to her that, with all the pettiness and insignificance
of it, great laws were concerned.  For the law of kindness is broken
by the most trumpery exhibition of inconsiderateness, the law of
generosity by the most minute word of spite or backbiting.  Indeed,
it is chiefly in little things, since most of us are not concerned
with great matters, that these violations occur, and in cups of cold
water that they are fulfilled.  And for once Mrs. Ames did not
finish her decoration with tidiness and precision, a fact clearly
noted by Mrs. Altham next day.

There was a Suffragette meeting at four, but she was prepared to be
late for that, or, if necessary, to fail in attendance altogether.
In any case, she would call in at home on her way there, on the
chance that her husband might be in.  She made no definite plan: it
was impossible to forecast her share in the interview.  But she had
determined to try to suffer long, to be kind . . . to keep the
promise of twenty-five years ago.  There was a cab drawn up at the
entrance, and it vaguely occurred to her that Millie might be here,
for she had not seen her for some days, and it was possible she
might have called.  Yet it was hardly likely that she would have
waited, since the servants would have told her that she herself was
not expected home till dinner-time.  Or was Lyndhurst giving her
tea?  And Mrs. Ames grew suddenly alert again about matters to
which she had scarcely given a thought during these last months.

She let herself in, and went to the drawing-room: there was no one
there, nor in the little room next it where they assembled before
dinner on nights when they gave a party.  But directly overhead she
heard steps moving: that was in Lyndhurst's dressing-room.

She went up there, knocked, and in answer to his assent went in.
The portmanteau was nearly packed, he stood in shirt-sleeves by it.
In his hand was his sponge-bag--he had anticipated the entry of
Parker with the stitched sponge.

She looked from the portmanteau to him, and back and back again.

"You are going away, Lyndhurst?" she asked.

He made a ghastly attempt to devise a reasonable answer, and
thought he succeeded.

"Yes, I'm going--going to your cousin's to shoot.  I told you he
had asked me.  You objected to my going, but I'm going all the
same.  I should have left you a note.  Back to-morrow night."

Then she felt she knew all, as certainly as if he had told her.

"Since when has Cousin James been giving shooting parties on
Sunday?" she asked.  "Please don't lie to me, Lyndhurst.  It makes
it much worse.  You are not going to Cousin James, and--you are not
going alone.  Shall I tell you any more?"

She was not guessing: all the events of the last month, the
Shakespeare ball, Harrogate, their own quarrel, and on the top this
foolish lie about a shooting party made a series of data which
proclaimed the conclusion.  And the suddenness of the discovery,
the magnitude of the issues involved, but served to steady her.
There was an authentic valour in her nature; even as she had stood
up to interrupt the political meeting, without so much as dreaming
of shirking her part, so now her pause was not timorous, but rather
the rallying of all her forces, that came eager and undismayed to
her summons.

Apparently Lyndhurst did not want to be told any more: he did not,
at any rate, ask for it.  Just then Parker came in with the mended
sponge.  She gave it him, and he stood with sponge-bag in one hand,
sponge in the other.

"Shall I bring up tea, ma'am?" she said to Mrs. Ames.

"Yes, take it to the drawing-room now.  And send the cab away.  The
Major won't want it."

Lyndhurst crammed the sponge into its bag.

"I shall want the cab, Parker," he said.  "Don't send it away."

Mrs. Ames whisked round on Parker with amazing rapidity.

"Do as I tell you, Parker," she said, "and be quick!"

It was a mere conflict of will that, for the next five seconds,
silently raged between them, but as definite and as hard-hitting as
any affair of the prize ring.  And it was impossible that there
should be any but the one end to it, for Mrs. Ames devoted her
whole strength and will to it, while from the first her husband's
heart was not in the battle.  But she was fighting for her all, and
not only her all, but his, and not only his, but Millie's.  Three
existences were at stake, and the ruin of two homes was being
hazarded.  And when he spoke, she knew she was winning.

"I must go," he said.  "She will be waiting at the station."

"She will wait to no purpose," said Mrs. Ames.

"She will be"--no word seemed adequate--"be furious," he said.  "A
man cannot treat a woman like that."

Any blow would do: he had no defence: she could strike him as she

"Elsie comes home next week," she said.  "A pleasant home-coming.
And Harry will have to leave Cambridge!"

"But I love her!" he said.

"Nonsense, my dear," she said.  "Men don't ruin the women they
love.  Men, I mean!"

That stung; she meant that it should.

"But men keep their word," he said.  "Let me pass."

"Keep your word to me," said she, "and try to help poor Millie to
keep hers to her husband.  It is not a fine thing to steal a man's
wife, Lyndhurst.  It is much finer to be respectable."

"Respectable!" he said.  "And to what has respectability brought
us?  You and me, I mean?"

"Not to disgrace, anyhow," she said.

"It's too late," said he.

"Never quite too late, thank God," she said.

Mrs. Ames gave a little sigh.  She knew she had won, and quite
suddenly all her strength seemed to leave her.  Her little
trembling legs refused to uphold her, a curious buzzing was in her
ears, and a crinkled mist swam before her eyes.

"Lyndhurst, I'm afraid I am going to make a goose of myself and
faint," she said.  "Just help me to my room, and get Parker--"

She swayed and tottered, and he only just caught her before she
fell.  He laid her down on the floor and opened the door and window
wide.  There was a flask of brandy in his portmanteau, laid on the
top, designed to be easily accessible in case of an inclement
crossing of the Channel.  He mixed a tablespoonful of this with a
little water, and as she moved, and opened her eyes again, he knelt
down on the floor by her, supporting her.

"Take a sip of this, Amy," he said.

She obeyed him.

"Thank you, my dear," she said.  "I am better.  So silly of me."

"Another sip, then."

"You want to make me drunk, Lyndhurst," she said.

Then she smiled: it would be a pity to lose the opportunity for a
humorous allusion to what at the time had been so far from humour.

"Really drunk, this time," she said.  "And then you can tell Cousin
James he was right."

She let herself rest longer than was physically necessary in the
encircling crook of his arm, and let herself keep her eyes closed,
though, if she had been alone, she would most decidedly have opened
them.  But those first few minutes had somehow to be traversed, and
she felt that silence bridged them over better than speech.  It was
appropriate, too, that his arm should be round her.

"There, I am better," she said at length.  "Let me get up,
Lyndhurst.  Thank you for looking after me."

She got on to her feet, but then sat down again in his easy-chair.

"Not quite steady yet?" he said.

"Very nearly.  I shall be quite ready to come downstairs and give
you your tea by the time you have unpacked your little portmanteau."

She did not even look at him, but sat turned away from him and the
little portmanteau.  But she heard the rustle of paper, the opening
and shutting of drawers, the sound of metallic articles of toilet
being deposited on dressing-table and washing-stand.  After that
came the click of a hasp.  Then she got up.

"Now let us have tea," she said.

"And if Millie comes?" he asked.

She had been determined that he should mention her name first.  But
when once he had mentioned it she was more than ready to discuss
the questions that naturally arose.

"You mean she may come back here to see what has happened to you?"
she asked.  "That is well thought of, dear.  Let us see.  But we
will go downstairs."

She thought intently as they descended the staircase, and busied
herself with tea-making before she got to her conclusion.

"She will ask for you," she said, "if she comes, and it would not
be very wise for you to see her.  On the other hand, she must be
told what has happened.  I will see her, then.  It would be best
that way."

Major Ames got up.

"No, I can't have that," he said.  "I can't have that!"

"My dear, you have got to have it.  You are in a dreadful mess.  I,
as your wife, am the only person who can get you out of it.  I will
do my best, anyhow."

She rang the bell.

"I am going to tell Parker to tell Millie that you are at home if
she asks for you, and to show her in here," she said.  "There is no
other way that I can see.  I do not intend to have nothing more to
do with her.  At least I want to avoid that, if possible, for that
is a weak way out of difficulties.  I shall certainly have to see
her some time, and there is no use in putting it off.  I am afraid,
Lyndhurst, that you had better finish your tea at once, or take it
upstairs.  Take another cup upstairs; you have had but one, and
drink it in your dressing-room, in the comfortable chair."

There was an extraordinary wisdom in this minute attention to
detail, and it was by this that she was able to rise to a big
occasion.  It was necessary that he should feel that her full
intention was to forgive him, and make the best of the days that
lay before them.  She had no great words and noble sentiment with
which to convey this impression, but, in a measure, she could show
him her mind by minute arrangements for his comfort.  But he
lingered, irresolute.

"You have got to trust me," she said.  "Do as I tell you, my dear."

She had not long to wait after he had gone upstairs.  She heard the
ring at the bell, and next moment Millie came into the room.  Her
face was flushed, her breathing hurried, her eyes alight with
trouble, suspense, and resentment.

"Lyndhurst," she began.  "I waited--"

Then she saw Mrs. Ames, and turned confusedly about, as if to leave
the room again.  But Amy got up quickly.

"Come and sit down at once, Millie," she said.  "We have got to
talk.  So let us make it as easy as we can for each other."

Millie was holding her muff up to her face, and peered at her from
above it, wild-eyed, terrified.

"It isn't you I want," she said.  "Where is Lyndhurst?  I--I had an
appointment with him.  He was late--we--we were going a drive
together.  What do you know, Cousin Amy?" she almost shrieked; "and
where is he?"

"Sit down, Millie, as I tell you," said Mrs. Ames very quietly.
"There is nothing to be frightened at.  I know everything."

"We were going a drive," began Millie again, still looking wildly
about.  "He did not come, and I was frightened.  I came to see
where he was.  I asked you if you knew--if you knew anything about
him, did I not?  Why do you say you know everything?"

Suddenly Mrs. Ames saw that there was something here infinitely
more worthy of pity than she had suspected.  There was no question
as to the agonized earnestness that underlay this futile, childish
repetition of nonsense.  And with that there came into her mind a
greater measure of understanding with regard to her husband.  It
was not so wonderful that he had been unable to resist the face
that had drawn him.

"Let us behave like sensible women, Millie," she said.  "You have
come down from the station.  Lyndhurst was not there.  Do you want
me to tell you anything more?"

Millie wavered where she stood, then she stumbled into a chair.

"Has he given me up?" she said.

"Yes, if you care to put it like that.  It would be truer to say
that he has saved you and himself.  But he is not coming with you."

"You made him?" she asked.

"I helped to make him," said Mrs. Ames.

Millie got up again.

"I want to see him," she said.  "You don't understand, Cousin Amy.
He has got to come.  I don't care whether it is wicked or not.  I
love him.  You don't understand him either.  You don't know how
splendid he is.  He is unhappy at home; he has often told me so."

Mrs. Ames took hold of the wretched woman by both hands.

"You are raving, Millie," she said.  "You must stop being
hysterical.  You hardly know whom you are talking to.  If you do
not pull yourself together, I shall send for your husband, and say
you have been taken ill."

Millie gave a sudden gasp of laughter.

"Oh, I am not so stupid as you think!" she said.  "Wilfred is away.
Where is Lyndhurst?"

Mrs. Ames did not let go of her.

"Millie," she said, "if you are not sensible at once, I will tell
you what I shall do.  I shall call Parker, and together we will put
you into your cab, and you shall be driven straight home.  I am
perfectly serious.  I hope you will not oblige me to do that.  You
will be much wiser to pull yourself together, and let us have a
talk.  But understand one thing quite clearly.  You are not going
to see Lyndhurst."

The tension of those wide, childish eyes slowly relaxed, and her
head sank forward, and there came the terrible and blessed tears,
in wild cataract and streaming storm.  And Mrs. Ames, looking at
her, felt all her righteousness relax; she had only pity for this
poor destitute soul, who was blind to all else by force of that
mysterious longing which, in itself, is so divine that, though it
desires the disgraceful and the impossible, it cannot wholly make
itself abominable, nor discrown itself of its royalty.  Something
of the truth of that, though no more than mere fragments and
moulted feather, came to Mrs. Ames now, as she sat waiting till the
tempest of tears should have abated.  The royal eagle had passed
over her; as sign of his passage there was this feather that had
fallen, and she understood its significance.

Slowly the tears ceased and the sobs were still, and Millie raised
her dim, swollen eyes.

"I had better go home," she said.  "I wonder if you would let me
wash my face, Cousin Amy.  I must be a perfect fright."

"Yes, dear Millie," said she; "but there is no hurry.  See, shall I
send your cab back to your house?  It has your luggage on it; yes?
Then Parker shall go with it, and tell them to take it back to your
room and unpack it, and put everything back in place.  Afterwards,
when we have talked a little, I will walk back with you."

Again the comfort of having little things attended to reached
Millie, that and the sense that she was not quite alone.  She was
like a child that has been naughty and has been punished, and she
did not much care whether she had been naughty or not.  What she
wanted primarily was to be comforted, to be assured that everybody
was not going to be angry with her for ever.  Then, returning, Mrs.
Ames made her some fresh tea, and that comforted her too.

"But I don't see how I can ever be happy again," she said.

There was something childlike about this, as well as childish.

"No, Millie," said the other.  "None of us three see that exactly.
We shall all have to be very patient.  Very patient and ordinary."

There was a long silence.

"I must tell you one thing," said Millie, "though I daresay that
will make you hate me more.  But it was my fault from the first.  I
led him on--I--I didn't let him kiss me, I made him kiss me.  It
was like that all through!"

She felt that Mrs. Ames was waiting for something more, and she
knew exactly what it was.  But it required a greater effort to
speak of that than she could at once command.  At last she raised
her eyes to those of Mrs. Ames.

"No, never," she said.

Mrs. Ames nodded.

"I see," she said baldly.  "Now, as I said, we have got to be
patient and ordinary.  We have got, you and I, to begin again.  You
have your husband, so have I.  Men are so easily pleased and made
happy.  It would be a shame if we failed."

Again the helpless, puzzled look came over Millie's face.

"But I don't see how to begin," she said.  "Tomorrow, for instance,
what am I to do all to-morrow?  I shall only be thinking of what
might have happened."

Mrs. Ames took up her soft, unresisting, unresponsive hand.

"Yes, by all means, think what might have happened," she said.
"Utter ruin, utter misery, and--and all your fault.  You led him
on, as you said.  He didn't care as you did.  He wouldn't have
thought of going away with you, if he hadn't been so furious with
me.  Think of all that."

Some straggler from that host of sobs shook Millie for a moment.

"Perhaps Wilfred would take me away instead," she said.  "I will
ask him if he cannot.  Do you think I should feel better if I went
away for a fortnight, Cousin Amy?"

Mrs. Ames' twisted little smile played about her mouth.

"Yes," she said.  "I think that is an excellent plan.  I am quite
sure you will feel better in a fortnight, if you can look forward
like that, and want to be better.  And now would you like to wash
your face?  After that, I will walk home with you."


It was a brisk morning in November, and Mr. and Mrs. Altham, who
breakfasted at half-past eight in the summer, and nine in the
winter, were seated at breakfast, and Mr. Altham was thinking how
excellent was the savour of grilled kidneys.  But he was not sure
if they were really wholesome, and he was playing an important
match at golf this afternoon.  Perhaps two kidneys approached the
limits of wisdom.  Besides, his wife was speaking of really
absorbing things; he ought to be able to distract his mind from the
kidneys he was proposing to deny himself, under the sting of so
powerful a counter-interest.

"And to think that Mrs. Ames isn't going to be a Suffragette any
more!" she said.  "I met Mrs. Turner when I took my walk just now,
and she told me all about it."

A word of explanation is necessary.  The fact was that Swedish
exercises, and a short walk on an empty stomach, were producing
wonderful results in Riseborough at the moment, especially among
its female inhabitants.  They now, instead of meeting in the High
Street before lunch, to stand about on the pavement and exchange
news, met there before breakfast, when on these brisk autumn
mornings it was wiser not to stand about.  They therefore skimmed
rapidly up and down the street together, in short skirts and
walking boots.  Rain and sunny weather, in this first glow of
enthusiasm, were alike to them, and they had their baths
afterwards.  These exercises gave a considerable appetite for
breakfast, and produced a very pleasant and comfortable feeling of
fatigue.  But this fatigue was a legitimate, indeed, a desirable
effect, for their systems naturally demanded repose after exertion,
and an hour's rest after breakfast was recommended.  Thus this
getting up earlier did not really result in any actual saving of
time, though it made everybody feel very busy, and they all went to
bed a little earlier.

Mr. Altham found he got on very nicely without these gymnastics,
but then he played golf after lunch.  It was no use playing tricks
with your health if it was already excellent: you might as well
poke about in the works of a punctual watch.  He had already had a
pretty sharp lesson on this score, over the consumption of sour
milk.  It had made him exceedingly unwell, and he had sliced his
drive for a fortnight afterwards.  Just now he weaned his mind from
the thoughts of kidneys, and gave it in equitable halves to
marmalade and his wife's conversation.  To enjoy either, required
silence on his part.

"She went to a meeting yesterday," said Mrs. Altham, "so Mrs.
Turner told me, and said that though she had the success of the
cause so deeply at heart as ever, she would not be able to take any
active part in it.  That is a very common form of sympathy.  I
suppose, from what one knows of Mrs. Ames, we might have expected
something of the sort.  Do you remember her foolish scheme of
asking wives without husbands, and husbands without wives?  I
warned you at the time, Henry, not to take any notice of it,
because I was sure it would come to nothing, and I think I may say
I am justified.  I don't know what YOU think."

Mr. Altham, by a happy coincidence, had finished masticating his
last piece of toast at this moment, and was at liberty to reply.

"I do not think anything about it at present," said he.  "I daresay
you are quite right, but why?"

Mrs. Altham gave a little shrill laugh.  The sprightliness at
breakfast produced by this early walk and the exercises was very

"I declare," she said, "that I had forgotten to tell you.  Mrs.
Ames wrote to ask us both to dine on Saturday.  I had quite
forgotten!  There is something in the air before breakfast that
makes one forgetful of trifles.  It says so in the pamphlet.
Worries and household cares vanish, and it becomes a joy to be
alive.  I don't think we have any engagement.  Pray do not have a
third cup of tea, Henry.  Tannin combines the effects of stimulants
and narcotics.  A cup of hot water, now--you will never regret it.
Let me see!  Yes, dinner at the Ames' on Saturday, and she isn't a
Suffragette any longer.  As I said, one might have guessed.  I
daresay her husband gave her a good talking-to, after the night
when she threw the water at the policeman.  I should not wonder if
there was madness in the family.  I think I heard that Sir James'
mother was very queer before she died!"

"She lived till ninety," remarked Mr. Altham.

"That is often the case with deranged people," said Mrs. Altham.
"Lunatics are notoriously long-lived.  There is no strain on the

"And she wasn't any relation of Mrs. Ames," continued Henry.  "Mrs.
Ames is related to the Westbournes.  She has no more to do with Sir
James' mother than I have to do with yours.  I will take tea, my
dear, not hot water."

"You want to catch me up, Henry," said she, "and prove I am wrong
somehow.  I was only saying that very likely there is madness in
Mrs. Ames' family, and I was going to add that I hoped it would not
come out in her.  But you must allow that she has been very
flighty.  You would have thought that an elderly woman like that
could make up her mind once and for all about things, before she
made an exhibition of herself.  She thinks she is like some royal
person who goes and opens a bazaar, and then has nothing more to do
with it, but hurries away to Leeds or somewhere to unveil a
memorial.  She thinks it is sufficient for her to help at the
beginning, and get all the advertisement, and then drop it all like
cold potatoes."

"Hot," said Henry.

"Hot or cold: that is just like her.  She plays hot and cold.  One
day she is a Suffragette and the next day she isn't.  As likely as
not she will be a vegetarian on Saturday, and we shall be served
with cabbages."

"Major Ames went over to Sir James' to shoot,--she wasn't asked,"
said Henry, reverting to a previous topic.

"There you are!" exclaimed Mrs. Altham.  "That will account for her
abandoning this husband and wife theory.  I am sure she did not
like that, she being Sir James' relative and not being asked.  But
I never could quite understand what the relationship is, though I
daresay Mrs. Ames can make it out.  There are people who say they
are cousins, because a grandmother's niece married the other
grandmother's nephew.  We can all be descendants of Queen Elizabeth
or of Charles the Second at that rate."

"It would be easier to be a descendant of Charles the Second than
of Queen Elizabeth, my dear," remarked Henry.

Mrs. Altham pursed her lips up for a moment.

"I do not think we need enter into that," she said.  "I was asking
you if you wished to accept Mrs. Ames' invitation for Saturday.
She says she expects Sir James and his wife, so perhaps we shall
hear some more about this wonderful relationship, and Dr. Evans and
his wife and one or two others.  To my mind that looks rather as if
the husband and wife plan was not quite what she expected it would
be.  And giving up all active part in the Suffragette movement,
too!  But I daresay she feels her age, though goodness only knows
what it is.  However, it is clearly going to be a grand party on
Saturday, and the waiter from the Crown will be there to help
Parker, going round and pouring a little foam into everybody's
glass.  I do not know where Major Ames gets his champagne from, but
I never get anything but foam.  But I am sure I do not wish to be
unkind, and certainly poor Major Ames does not look well.  I
daresay he has worries we do not know of, and, of course, there is
no reason why he should speak of them to us.  The Evans', too!  I
never satisfied myself as to why they went away in October.  They
must have been away nearly three weeks, for it was only yesterday
that I saw them driving down from the station, with so much luggage
on the top of the cab I wonder it did not fall over."

"It can't have been yesterday, my dear," said Mr. Altham, "because
you spoke of it to me two days ago."

"You shall have it your own way, Henry," said she.  "I am quite
willing that you should think it was a twelvemonth ago, if you
choose.  But I suppose you will not dispute that they went away in
October, which is a very odd time to take for a holiday.  Of
course, Mrs. Evans stopped here all August, or so she says, and she
might answer that she wanted a little change of air.  But for my
part, I think there must have been something more, though, as I
say, I cannot guess what it is.  Luckily, it is no concern of mine,
and I need not worry my head about it.  But I have always thought
Mrs. Evans looked far from strong, and it seems odd that a doctor's
wife should not be more robust, when she has all his laboratory to
choose from."

Henry lit his cigarette, and strolled to the window.  The lawn was
still white with the unmelted hoar-frost, and the gardener was busy
in the beds, putting things tidy for the winter.  This consisted in
plucking up anything of vegetable origin and carrying it off in a
wheelbarrow.  Thus the beds were ready to receive the first bedded-
out plants next May.

"I remember, my dear," said Henry, "that you once thought that
there had been some--some understanding between Mrs. Evans and
Major Ames, and some misunderstanding between Major Ames and Dr.

Mrs. Altham brought her eyebrows together and put her finger on her

"I seem to remember some ridiculous story of yours, Henry, about a
bunch of chrysanthemums in the road outside Dr. Evans' house, how
you had seen Major Ames take them in, and there they were
afterwards in the road.  I seem to remember your being so much
excited about it that I made a point of going round to Mrs. Ames'
next day with--with a book.  I think that at the time--correct me
if I am wrong--I convinced you that there was nothing whatever in
it. . . .  Or have you seen or heard anything since that makes you
think differently?" she added rather more briskly.

"No, my dear, nothing whatever," said he.

Mrs. Altham got up.

"I am glad, very glad," she said.  "At any rate, we know in
Riseborough that we are safe from that sort of thing.  I declare
when I went to London last week, I hardly slept with thinking of
the dreadful things that might be going on round me.  Dear me, it
is nearly ten o'clock.  I do not know whether the hours or the days
go quickest!  It is always half-an-hour later than I expect it to
be, and here we are in November already.  I shall rest for an hour,
Henry, and I will write to Mrs. Ames before lunch saying we shall
be delighted to come on Saturday.  November the twelfth, too!
Nearly half November will be gone by then, and that leaves us but
six weeks to Christmas, and it will be as much as we shall be able
to manage to get through all that has to be done before that.  But
with these Swedish exercises, I declare I feel younger every day,
and more able to cope with everything.  You should take to them,
Henry; by eleven o'clock they are finished and you have had your
rest.  With a little management you would find time for

Henry sat over the dining-room fire, considering this.  As has been
mentioned, he did not want to make any change in his excellent
health, but, on the other hand, a little rest after breakfast would
be pleasant, and when that was over it would be almost time to go
to the club.

But it was impossible to settle a question like that offhand.
After he had read the paper he would think about it.

Mrs. Altham came hurrying back into the room.

"Henry, you would never guess what I have seen!" she said.  "I
glanced out of the window in the hall on the way to my room, and
there was Mrs. Ames wobbling about the road on a bicycle.  Major
Ames was holding it upright with both hands, and it looked to be as
much as he could manage.  Yet she has no time for Suffragettes!  I
should be sorry if I thought I should ever make such a hollow
excuse as that.  And at her age, too!  I had no time to call you,
but I dare say she will be back soon if you care to watch.  The
window-seat in the hall is quite comfortable."

Henry took his paper there.

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