wliich is in revolt against the law of labour. Picture Reuben
Elgar reduced to the necessity of toiling for daily bread â€”
that is to say, brought down from his pleasant heights of
civilization to the dull plain where nature tells a man that if
he would eat he must first sweat at the furrow ; one hears
his fierce objurgations, his haughty raihng against the gods,
Cecily did not represent that extreme type of woman to whom
the bearing of children has become in itself repugnant ; but
she was very far removed from that other type which the
world at large still makes its ideal of the feminine. With
what temper would she have heard the lady in her aunt's
drawing-room, who was of opinion that she should " stay at
home and mind the baby " ? Education had made her an
individual; she was nurtured into the disease of thought.
This child of hers showed in the frail tenure on which it
held its breath how unfit the mother was for fulfilling her
natural functions. Both parents seemed in admirable health,
yet their offspring was a poor, delicate, nervous creature,
formed for exquisite sensibility to every evil of life. Cecily
saw this, and partly understood it ; her heart was heavy
through the long anxious nights passed in watching by the
When they returned to London, Eeuhen at first made a
pretence of resuming his work. He went now and then to
the reading-room, and at home shut himself up in the study ;
but he no longer voluntarily talked of his task. Cecily knew
what had happened ; the fatal lack of perseverance had once
more declared itself. For some weeks she refrained from in-
viting his confidence, but of necessity they spoke together at
last. Reuben could no longer disguise the ennui under
wliicli he was labouring. Instead of sitting in the library,
lie loitered about the drawing-room ; he was often absent
through the whole day, and Cecily knew that he had not
been at the Museum.
" I'm at a stand-still," he admitted, when the opportunity
came. " I don't see my way so clearly as at first. I must
take up some other subject for a time, and rest my mind."
They had no society worth speaking of. Mrs. Lessingham
2/2 THE EMANCIPATED.
had supplied them with a few introductions, but these peopla
were now out of town. Earlier in the year neither of them
had cared to be assiduous in discharging social obligations,
with the natural result that little notice was taken of them
in turn. Eeuben had resumed two or three of his old con-
nections ; a bachelor acquaintance now and then came to
dine ; but this was not the kind of society they needed. Im-
possible for them to utter the truth, and confess that each
other's companionship was no longer all-sufficient. Had
Reuben been veritably engaged in serious work, Cecily might
have gone on for a long time with her own studies before
she wearied for lack of variety and friendly voices ; as it
was, the situation became impossible.
" Wouldn't you like to belong to a club ? " she one day
And Eeuben caught at the suggestion. Not long ago, it
would have caused him to smile rather scornfully.
Cecily had lost her faith in the great militant book on
Puritanism. Thinking about it, when it had been quite out
of her mind for a few days, she saw the project in a light
of such absurdity that, in spite of herself, she laughed.
It was laughter that pained her, like a sob. No, that was
not the kind of work for him. What was ?
She would think rather of her child and its future. If
Clarence lived â€” if he lived â€” she herself would take charge
of bis education for the first years. She must read the best
books that had been written on the training of children's
minds ; everything should be smoothed for him by skilful
methods. Thei-e could be little doubt that he would prove
a quick child, and the delight of watching his progress !
She imagined him a boy of ten, bright, trustful, happy ; he
would have no nearer friend than his mother ; between him
and her should exist limitless confidence. But a firm hand
would be necessary ; he would exhibit traits inherited from
Cecily remembered the day when she first knew that she
did not wish him to be altogether like his fathef . Perhaps
in no other way could she have come to so clear an under-
standing of Eeuben's character â€” at all events, of those parts
of it which had as yet revealed themselves in their wedded
Hfe. She thought of him with an impartiality which had
till of late been impossible. And then it occurred to her :
Had the same change come over his mind concerning
her ? Did he feel secret dissatisfactions ? If he had a
daughter, would he say to himself that in this and that he
would wish her not to resemble her mother ?
About once in three months they received a letter from
Miriam, addressed always to Cecily. She was living still
with the Spences, and still in Italy. Her letters offered no
explanation of this singular fact ; indeed, they threw as
little light as was possible on the state of her mind, so
brief were they, and so closely confined to statements of
events. Still, it was clear that Miriam no longer shrank
from the study of profane things. Of Bartles she never
Mrs. Spence also wrote to Cecily, the kind of letter to be
expected from her, delightful in the reading and pleasant in
the memory. But she said nothing significant concerning
" Would they welcome us, if we went to see them ? "
Cecily asked, one cheerless day this winter â€” it was Clarence's
" You can't take the child," answered Reuben, with some
" No ; I should not dare to. And it is just as impossible
to leave him with any one. In another year, perhaps."
Mrs. Lessingham occasionally mentioned Miriam in her
letters, and always with a jest. " I strongly suspect she is
studying Greek. Is she, perchance, the author of that
delightful paper on ' Modern Paganism,' in the current
Fortnifjlitly ? Something strange awaits us, be sure of that."
274 THE EMANCIPATED.
The winter dragged to its end, and with the sj)ring came
Mrs. Lessingham herself. Instantly the life of the Elgars
underwent a complete change. The vivacious lady from
Paris saw in the twinkling of an eye how matters stood ; she
considered the situation perilous, and set to work most
ejEcaciously to alter it. With what result, you are aware.
The first incident of any importance in the new life was that
which has already been related, yet something happened
one day at the Academy of which it is worth while
Cecilv. had looked in her catalogue for the name of a
certain artist, and had found it ; he exhibited one picture
only. Walking on through the rooms with her husband,
she came at length to the number she had in mind, and
paused before it.
" Whose is that ? " Reuben inquired, looking at the same
" Mr. Mallard's," she answered, with a smile, meeting his
" Old Mallard's ? Eeally ? I was wondering whether he
had anything this year."
He seemed to receive the information with genuine
pleasure. A little to Cecily's surprise, for the name was
never mentioned between them, and she had felt uneasy in
uttering it. The picture was a piece of coast-scenery in
Norway, very grand, cold, desolate ; not at all likely to hold
the gaze of Academy visitors, but significant enough for the
few who see with the imagination.
" Nobody looks at it, you notice," said Elgar, when they
had stood on the spot for five minutes.
Yet as soon as they had spoken, an old and a young lady
came in front of them, and they heard the young lady say,
as she pointed to Mallard's canvas :
"Where is that, mamma? "
" Oh, Land's End, or some such place," was the careless
reply. "Do just look at that sweet little creature playing
with the dog ! Look at its collar ! And that ribbon ! "
Eeuben turned away and muttered contemptuous
epithets ; Cecily cast a haughty and angry glance at the
speaker. They passed on, and for the present spoke no
more of Mallard ; but Cecily thought of him, and would
have liked to return to the picture before leaving. There
was a man who did something, and something worth the
doing. Eeuben must have had a thought not unlike this,
for he said, later in the same day :
" I am sorry I never took up painting. I believe I could
have made something of it. To a certain extent, you see, it
is a handicraft that any man may learn ; if one can handle
the tools, there's always the incentive to work and produce.
By-the-bye, why do you never draw nowadays ? "
" T hold the opinion of Miss Denyer â€” I wonder what's
become of her, poor girl ? â€” that it's no use ' pottering.'
Strange how a casual word can affect one. I've never cared
to draw since she spoke of my ' pottering.' "
This day was the last on which Reuben was quite his
wonted self. Cecily, who was not studying him closely just
now, did not for a while observe any change, but in the end
it forced itself upon her attention. She said nothing,
thinking it not impossible that he was again dissatisfied
with the fruitlessness of his life, and had been made to feel
it more strongly by associating with so many new people.
Any sign of that kind was still grateful to her.
She knew now how amiss was her interpretation. The
truth she could not accept as she would have done a year
ago ; it would then have seemed more than pardonable, as
proving that Ecubcn's love of her could drive liim into
grotesque inconsistencies. But now she only felt it an
injury, and in sitting down to write her painful letter to
Mrs. Travis, she acted for the first time in deliberate resent-
ment of her husl>and's conduct.
When the reply from Mrs. Travis iustinicted him in what
276 THE EMANCIPATED.
had been done, Eeuben left the house, and did not return
till late at night. Cecily stayed at home, idle. Visitors
called in the afternoon, but she received no one. After her
solitary dinner, she spent weary hours, now in one room,
now in another, unable to occupy herself in any way. At
eleven o'clock she wont down to the library, resolving to
wait there for Eeuben's return.
She heard him enter, and heard the servant speaking
with him. He came into the room, closed the door, and
Bauntered forwards, his hands in his pockets.
" Why didn't you tell me you would be away all day ? "
Cecily asked, without stress of remonstrance.
" I didn't know that I should be."
He took his favourite position on the corner of the table.
Examining him, Cecily saw that his face expressed ennui
rather than active displeasure ; there was a little sullenness
about his lips, but the knitting of his brows was not of the
kind that threatens tempest.
" Where have you been, dear ? "
" At the Museum, the club, and a music-hall."
"A music-hall? " she repeated, in surprise.
" Why not ? I had to get through the time somehow. I
was in a surly temper ; if I'd come home sooner, I should
have raged at you. Don't say anything to irritate me, Ciss ;
I'm not quite sure of myself yet."
" But I think the raging would have been preferable ;
I've had the dreariest day I ever spent."
" I suppose some one or other called ? '*
"Yes, but I didn't see them. You have made me
very uncertain of how I ought to behave. I thought it better
to keep to myself till we had come to a -clearer understand-
" That is perversity, you know. And it was perversity
that led you to write in such a way to Mrs. Travis."
" You are quite right. But the provocation was great.
And after all I don't see that there is much difference
GRADA TION. 277
between writing to lier that she mustn't come, and giving
directions to a servant that she isn't to be admitted."
" You said in the letter that I had forbidden it ? "
"Yes, I did."
" And so made me ridiculous ! " he exclaimed petu-
"My dear, you ivere ridiculous. It's better that you
should see it plainly,"
" The letter will be shown to all sorts of people. Your
aunt will see it, of course. You are ingenious in revenging
Cecily bent her head, and could not trust herself to speak.
All day she had been thinking of this, and had repented of
her foolish haste. Yet confession of error was impossible
in her present mood.
" As you make such a parade of obedience," he continued,
with increasing anger, " I should think it would be better to
obey honestly. I never said that I wished you to break
with her in this fashion."
" Anything else would be contemptible. I can't subdue
myself to that."
" Very well ; then to be logical you must give up
society altogether. It demands no end of contemptible
" Will you explain to me why you think that letter will
make you ridiculous ? "
" Is it ridiculous," she added, " for a man to forbid his
wife to associate with a woman of doubtful character ? "
" I told you distinctly that I had no definite charge
to bring against her. Caution would have been reasonable
enough, but to act as you have rei^rescnted me is sheer
" Precisely. And it was Philistinism in you to take the
matter as you did. Be frank with me, Why should you
wish to have q, name for liberal thinking among your
278 THE EMANCIPATED.
acquaintances, and yet behave in private like the most
narrow of men ? "
"That is your misrepresentation. Of course, if you
refuse to understand me "
He broke off, and went to another part of the room.
" Shall I tell you what all this means, Eeuben ? " said
Cecily, turning towards him. " We have lived so long in
solitude, that the common circumstances of society are
strange and disturbing to us. Solitary people are theoreti-
cal people. You would never have thought of forbidding
me to read such and such a book, on the ground that it took
me into doubtful company; the suggestion of such
intolerance would have made you laugh scornfully.
Tou have become an idealist of a curious kind ; you
like to think of me as an emanciijated woman, and yet,
when I have the opportunity of making my independence
practical, you show yourseK alarmed. I am not sure that I
understand you entirely ; I should be very sorry to explain
your words of the other night in the sense tbey would bear
on the lips of an ordinary man. Can't you help me out of
this difficulty ? "
Eeuben was reflecting, and had no reply ready.
" If there is to be all this difference between theory and
practice," Cecily continued, " it must either mean that you
think otherwise than you sj^eak, or else that I have shown
myself in some way very untrustworthy. You say you
have been angry with me ; I have felt both angry and
deeply hurt. Suppose you had known certainly that Mrs.
Travis was not an honourable woman, even then it was
wrong to speak to me as you did. Even then it would have
been inconsistent to forbid me to see her. You put yourself
and me on different levels. You make "me your inferior^
morally your inferior. What should you say if I began to
warn you against one or other of the men you know â€” if I j)ut
on a stem face, and told you that your moi'als were io
" Pooli ! wliat harm can a man take ? "
" And pray what harm can a woman take, if her name
happens to be Cecily Elgar ? "
She drew herself up, and stood regarding him with
" Without meaning it, you insult me, Eeuben. You treat
me as a vulgar husband treats a vulgar wife. "What harm
to me do you imagine ? Don't let us deal in silly evasions
and roundabout phrases. Do you distrust my honour ?
Do you think I can be degraded by association? What
woman living has power to make me untrue to myself ? "
" You are gettijvg rhetorical, Cecily. Then at this rate 1
should never be justified in interfering? "
" In interfering with mere command, never."
" N"ot if I saw you going to destruction ? "
She smiled haughtily.
" When it comes to that, we'll discuss the question anew.
But I see that you think it possible. Evidently I have
given proof of some dangerous weakness. Tell me what it
is, and I shall understand you better."
" I'm afraid all this talk leads to nothing. You claim an
independence which will make it very diflScult for us to live
on the old terms."
" I claim nothing more than your own theories have
" Then practice shows that the theories are untenable, as
in many another case."
" You refuse me the right to think for myself."
" In some things, yes. Because, as I said before, you
haven't experience enough to go upon,"
Cecily cast down her eyes. She forced herself to keep
silence until that rush of indignant rebellion had gone by.
Reuben loolced at her askance.
" If you still loved me as you once did," he said, in a
lower voice, " this would be no hardship. Indeed, I should
never have had to utter such words,"
28o THE EMANCIPATED.
"I still do love you," she answered, very quietly. "If I
did not, I should revolt against your claim. But it is too
certain that we no longer live on the old terms."
They avoided each other's eyes, and after a long silence
left the loom without again speaking.
THE DENYERS IN ENOLAND.
" Theee ! " said Mrs. Denyer, laying money on the table.
" There are your wages, up to the end of Ajjril â€” notwith-
standing your impertinence to me this morning, you see.
Once more I forgive you. And now get on with your work,
and let us have no more unpleasantness."
It was in the back parlour of a small house at Hampstead,
a room scantily furnished and not remarkably clean. Mrs.
Denyer sat at the table, some loose paj)ers before her. She
was in mourning, but still fresh of complexion, and a trifle
stouter than when she lived at Naples, two years and a half
ago. Her words were addressed to a domestic (most plainly,
of all work), who without ceremony gathered the coins up
in both her hands, counted them, and then said with de-
" Now I'm goin', mum."
" Going ? Indeed you are not, my girl ! You don't leave
this house without the due notice."
"Notice or no notice, I'm a-goin'," said the other, firmly.
" I never thought to a' got even this much, an' now I've got
it, I'm a-goin'. It's wore me out, has this 'ouse ; what
Tbo conflict lo-sted for 9, good quarter of an hour, but the
THE DENYERS IN ENGLAND. 28 1
domestic was to be staken neither with threats nor prayers.
Resolutely did she ascend to her bedroom, promptly did she
pack her box. Almost before Mrs. Denyer could realize the
disaster that had befallen, her house was servantless.
She again sat in the back parlour, gazing blankly at the
table, when there came the sound of the house-door opening,
followed by a light tread in the passage.
â€¢' Barbara ! " called Mrs. Denyer.
Barbara presented herself. She also wore mourning,
genteel but inexpensive. Her prettiness endured, but she
was pale, and had a chronic look of discontent.
" Well, now, what do you think has happened ? Shut the
door. I paid Charlotte the wages, and the very first thing
she did was to pack and go ! "
" And you mean to say you let her ? Why, you must be
crazy ! "
" Don't speak to me in that way ! " cried her mother,
hotly. "How could I prevent her, when she was deter-
mined ? I did my utmost, but nothing could induce her
to stay. Was ever anything so distracting ? The very day
after letting our rooms ! How are we to manage ? "
" I shall have nothing to do with it. The girl wouldn't
have gone if I'd been here. You must manage how you
" It's no use talking like that, Barbara. You're bound to
wait upon Mrs. Travis until we get another girl."
"â– I ? " exclaimed her daughter. " Wait on her yourself !
I certainly shall do nothing of the kind."
" You're a bad, cruel, undutiful girl ! " cried Mrs. Denyer,
her face on fire. *' Neither of your sisters ever treated me
as you do. You're the only one of the family that has never
given the least help, and you're the only one that day by
day insults me and behaves with heartless selfishness ! I'm
to wait on the lodger myself, am I ? Very well ! I will do
so, and sec if anything in the world will shame you. She
shall know ivky I wait on her, be sure of that ! "
282 THE EMANCIPATED.
Barbar?. swept out of the room, and ascended the stairs to
the second floor. Here again she heard her name called, in
a soft voice and interrogatively ; in reply, she entered a small
bedroom, saying impatiently :
" What is it, Mad ? "
It was seen at the first glance that this had long been a
sick-chamber. The arrangement of the furniture, the medi-
cine-bottles, the appliances for the use of one who cannot
rise from bed, all told their story. The air had a peculiar
scent ; an unnatural stillness seemed to pervade it. Against
the raised white pillow showed a face hardly less white.
" Isn't it provoking, Barbara ? " said the invalid, without
moving in the least. " Whatever shall you do ? "
" As best we can, I suppose. I've to turn cook and house-
maid and parlour-maid, now. Scullery-maid too. I suppose
I shall clean the steps to-morrow morning."
" Oh, but you must go to the registry-office the very first
thing. Don't upset yourself about it. If you can just
manage to get that lady's dinner."
" It's all very well for you to talk ! How would you like
to wait on people, like a girl in a restaurant ? "
" Ah, if only I could ! " replied Madehne, with a little
laugh that was heart-breaking. " If only I could ! "
In a month it would be two years since Madeline stood
and walked Hke other people ; live as long as she might, she
would never rise from her bed. It came about in this way.
Whilst the Denyers were living in the second-class hotel at
Southampton, and when Mr. Denyer had been gone to Vera
Cruz some five months, a little ramble was taken one day in
a part of the New Forest. Madeline was in particularly
good spirits ; she had succeeded in getting an engagement
to teach some children, and her work was to begin the next
day. In a frolic she set herself to jump over a fallen tree ;
her feet slipped on the dry grass beyond, and she fell with
her back upon the tnmk.
THE DENYERS IN ENGLAND. 283
This was pleasant news to send to liei- father ! With him
things were going as well as he had anticipated, and before
long he was able to make substantial remittances, but his
letters were profoundly sad. In a year's time, ths family
quitted Southampton and took the house at Hampstead ;
with much expense and difficulty Madeline was removed.
Mrs. Denyer and Barbara were weary of provincial life, and
considered nothing in their resolve to be within reach of
London amusements. Zillah was living as governess with a
family in Yorkshire.
They had been settled at Hampstead three weeks, when
information reached them that Mr. Denyer was dead of
On the day when this news came, the house received no
less important a visitor than Mr. Musselwhite. Long ago,
Mrs. Denyer had written to him from Southampton, address-
ing her letter to the club in London of which he had spoken ;
she had received a prompt reply, dated from rooms in London,
and thenceforth the correspondence was established. But
Mr. Musselwhite never spoke of coming to Southampton ;
his letters ended with " Sincere regards to Miss Denyer and
the other young ladies," but they contained nothing that
was more to the point. He wrote about the weather chiefly.
Arrived in London, Mrs. Denyer at once sent an invitation,
and to her annoyance this remained unanswered. To-day
the explanation was forthcoming; Mr. Musselwhite had
been on a journey, and by some mistake the letter had only
come into his hands when he returned. He was most
gentlemanly in his expressions of condolemcnt with the
family in their distress ; he sat with them, moreover, much
longer than was permissible under the circumstances by the
code of society. And on going, he begged to be allowed to
see them frequently â€” that was all.
Barbara could not control herself for irritation ; Mrs.
Denyer was indignant. Yet, after all, was it to be expected
that the visitor should say or do more on such an occasion
284 THE EMANCIPATED.
as this ? In any case, lie knew what their j)o.sition was ; all
had been put before him, as though he were a member of the
family. If they succeeded in obtaining whatever Mr. Den-
yer had died possessed of, it would certainly be nothing
more than a provision for the present. When they spoke of
taking a lodger for their first floor, Mr. Musselwhite agreed
that this was a good thought, whilst shaking his gentlemanly
head over the necessity.
He came again and again, always sadly sympathetic. He