The new tenant departed, and Elizabeth turned to
i88 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
' I really think we've caught a good man there,' she
said, with a smile. ' Now will you tell me, please, about
those timber proposals ? I hope to get a few words with
the Squire to-night.'
And leaning back in her chair, she listened intently
while Captain Dell, bringing a roll of papers out of his
pocket, read her the draft proposals of a well-known
firm of timber-merchants, for the purchase of some of
the Squire's outljdng woods of oak and beech. Lights
had been brought in, and Elizabeth sat shading her eyes
from the lamp before her, ā a strong and yet agreeable
figure. Was it the consciousness of successful work ā
of opening horizons, and satisfied ambitions, that had
made a physical presence, always attractive, so much
more attractive than before ā that had given it a
magnetism and fire it had never yet possessed ? Pamela,
who was developing fast, and was acutely conscious of
Elizabeth, asked herself the question, or something like
it, about once a week. And during a short Christmas
visit that Elizabeth had paid her own people, her gentle
mother, much puzzled and a little dazzled by her daughter,
had necessarily pondered the why and wherefore of a
change she felt, but could not analyse. One thing the
mother's insight had been clear about. Elizabeth was not
in love. On the contrary, the one love-affair of her life
seemed to be at last forgotten and put aside. Elizabeth
was now in love with efficiency ; with a great task given
into her hand. As to the Squire, the owner of Mannering,
who had provided her with the task, Mrs. Bremerton
could not imagine him or envisage him at all. Elizabeth's
accounts of him were so reticent and so contradictory.
. . . ' Well, that's very interesting ' ā said Elizabeth
thoughtfully, when Captain Dell laid down his papers
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 189
ā ' I wonder what Mr. Mannering will say to it. As
you know, I got his express permission for you to make
these enquiries. But he hates cutting down a single
tree, and this will mean a wide clearance ! '
' So it will ā but the country wants every stick of it.
And as to not cutting, one sees that from the woods ā
the tragedy of the woods ! ' ā said the young man with
emphasis. ' There has been no decent forestry on this
estate for half a century. I hope you will be able to
persuade him, Miss Bremerton. I expect, indeed, it's
' You mean the timber will be commandeered ? '
' Probably. The Government have just come down
on some of Lord Radley's woods just beyond our borders
ā with scarcely a week's warning. No " With your
leave " or " By your leave " ! The price fixed, Canadians
sent down to cut, and a light railway built from the
woods to the station to carry the timber, before you
could say " Jack Robinson." '
' You think the price these people offer is a fair one ? '
She pointed to the draft contract.
' Excellent ! The Squire won't get nearly as much
from the Government.'
' What one might do with some of it for the estate ! '
said Elizabeth, looking up, her blue eyes dancing in the
' Rebuild half i^the cottages ? ' said the other, smil-
ing, as he rose. ' A village club-house, a communal
kitchen, a small holdings scheme ā all the things
we've talked about ? Oh yes, you could do aU
that and more. The Squire doesn't '^know what he
' Well, I'll take the papers to him,' said Elizabeth,
190 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
holding out her hands for them. ' I may perhaps catch
A Httle more business talk, and the agent departed.
Then Elizabeth dreamily ā still cogitating a hundred
things ā touched an electric bell. A girl typist, who
acted as her clerk, came in from an adjoining room.
Elizabeth rapidly dictated a number of letters, stayed
for a little friendly gossip with the girl about her father
in the Army Service Corps, who had been in hospital
at Rouen, and had just finished, when the gong rang for
When Ehzabeth entered, the hall was crowded. It
was the principal sitting-room of the house, now that
for reasons of economy fires were seldom lit in the
drawing-rooms. Before Elizabeth's advent it had been
a dingy, uncomfortable place, but she and Pamela had
eijtirely transformed it. As in the estate so in the house,
the Squire did not know what he possessed. In aU old
houses with a continuous life, there are accumulations
of furniture and stores, discarded by the generation of
one day, and brought back by the fashion of the next.
A little routing in attics and forgotten cupboards and
chests had produced astonishing results. Chippendale
chairs and settees had been brought down from the
servants' bedrooms ; two fine Dutch cabinets had been
discovered amid a mass of lumber in an outhouse ; a
tall Japanese screen, dating from the end of the eighteenth
century, and many pairs of linen curtains embroidered
about the same time in branching oriental patterns by
the hands of Mannering ladies, had been unearthed, and
Pamela ā for Elizabeth having started the search had
interfered very little with its results ā had spent some
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 191
of her now scanty leisure in making the best of the finds.
The hall was now a charming place, scented, moreover,
on this January evening by the freesias and narcissus
that Elizabeth had managed to rear in the house itself,
and Pamela, who had always been ashamed of her own
ill-kept and out-at-elbows home, as compared with the
perfections of Chet worth, had been showing Arthur and
Beryl Chicksands what had been done to renovate the
old house since they were last in it ā ' and all without
spending a penny ! ' ā with a girlish pleasure which in
the Captain's opinion became her greatly. Pamela
needed indeed a good deal of animation to be as hand-
some as she deserved to be ! A very critical observer
took note that her stock of it was rapidly rising. It
was the same with the letters, too, which for a month or
so past, she had condescended to write him, after treating
him most uncivilly in the autumn, and never answering
a long screed ā ' and a jolly good one ! ' ā which he had
written her from Paris in November,
As Elizabeth came in, Pamela was reading aloud a
telegram just received, and Miss Bremerton was greeted
with the news ā ' Desmond's coming to-night, instead
of to-morrow ! They've given him forty-eight hours'
leave, and he goes to France on Thursday.'
' That's very short ! ' said Ehzabeth, as she took her
place beside Pamela, who was making tea. ' Does your
father know ? '
Forest, it appeared, had gone to tell him. Meanwhile
Captain Chicksands was watching with a keen eye the
relation between Miss Bremerton and Pamela. He saw
that the Squire's secretary was scrupulously careful to
give Pamela her place as daughter of the house ; but
Pamela's manner hardly showed any real intimacy
192 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
between them. And it was easy to see where the real
authority lay. As for himself he had lately begun to
ask himself seriously how much he was interested in
Pamela. For in truth, though he was no coxcomb, he
could not help seeing ā all the more because of Pamela's
variable moods towards him ā that she was at least
incipiently interested in him. If so, was it fair to her
that they should correspond ? ā and that he should come
to Mannering whenever he was asked and military duty
allowed, now that the Squire's embargo was at least
partially removed ?
He confessed to himself that he was glad to come,
that Pamela attracted him. At the same time there
was in him a stern sense that the time was no time for
love-making. The German hosts were gathering ; the
vast breakdown in Russia was freeing more and more
of them for the Western assault. He himself was for
the moment doing some important intelligence work,
in close contact with the High Command. No one out-
side a very small circle knew better than he what lay in
front of England ā the fierce death-struggle over a
thousand miles of front. And were men and women
to be kissing and marrying while these storm-clouds of
war ā this rain of blood ā ^were gathering overhead ?
Involuntarily he moved further from Pamela. His
fine face with the rather high cheek-bones, strong mouth,
and lined brow, seemed to put softness away. He
' What is the Squire doing about his woods. Miss
Bremerton ? The Government's desperately in want of
He spoke almost as one official might speak to another
ā comrade to comrade. What he had heard about her
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 193
doings from his father had filled his soldier's mind with
an eager admiration for her. That was how women
should bear themselves in this war ā as the practical
helpers of men.
He fell into the chair beside her, and Elizabeth was
soon deep in conversation with him, a conversation that
any one might overhear who would. It turned partly
on the armies abroad ā partly on the effort at home.
There was warmth ā even passion ā in it, studiously
restrained. But it was the passion of two patriots,
conscious through every pulse of their country's
The others listened. Pamela became silent and pale.
AU the old jealousy and misery of the autumn were alive
in her once more. She had looked forward for weeks to
this meeting with Arthur Chicksands. And for the first
part of his visit she had been happy ā before Elizabeth
came on the scene. Why should Elizabeth have all
the homage and the attention ? She, too, was doing her
best ! She was drudging every day as a V.A.D., washing
crockery and scrubbing floors ; and this was the first
afternoon off she had had for weeks. Her limbs were
dog-tired. But Arthur Chicksands never talked to her
ā Pamela ā in this tone of freedom and equality ā with
the whole and not the half of his mind. ' I could hold
my own,' she thought bitterly, ' but he never gives
me the chance ! I suppose he despises girls.'
As the hall clock struck half-past five, however,
Elizabeth rose from her seat, gathering up the papers
she had brought in from the office, and disappeared.
Arthur Chicksands looked at his watch. Beryl
exclaimed : ā¢
' Oh, no, Arthur, not yet ! Let's wait for Desmond ! '
194 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
Pamela said perfunctorily ā ' No, please don't go !
He'll be here directly.'
But as they gathered round the fire, expecting the
young gunner, she hardly opened her lips again. Arthur
Chicksands was quite conscious that he had wounded
her. She appeared to him, as she sat there in the fire-
light, in all the first fairness and freshness of her youth,
as an embodied temptation. Again he said to himself
that other men might love and marry on the threshold
of battle ; he could not bring himself to think it justifiable
ā whether for the woman or the man. In a few weeks'
time he would be back in France and in the very thick,
perhaps, of the final struggle ā of its preparatory stages,
at any rate. Could one make love to a beautiful creature
like that at such a moment, and then leave her, with
a whole mind ? ā the mind and the nerve that were the
country's due ?
All the same he had never been so aware of her
before. And simultaneously his mind was invaded by
the mute, haunting certainty that her life was reaching
out towards his, and that he was repelling and hurting
Suddenly ā into the midst of them, while Mrs.
Gaddesden was talking endlessly in her small plaintive
voice about rations and queues ā there dropped the sound
of a car passing the windows, and a boy's clear voice.
' Desmond ! ' cried Pamela, with almost a sob of
relief, and like one escaping from a nightmare she sprang
up and ran to greet her brother.
Meanwhile Elizabeth had found the Squire waiting
for her, and, as she saw at once, in a state of tension.
' What was that you were saying to me about timber
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 195
last week ? ' he demanded imperiously as she entered,
without giving her time to speak. ' I hear this intoler-
able Government are behaving like madmen, cutting
down everything they can lay hands on. They shan't
have my trees 1 would burn them first ! '
Elizabeth paused in some dismay.
' You remember ' she began.
' Remember what ? ' It was long since she had
heard so snappish a tone.
' That you authorised me '
' Oh, I daresay, I gave myself away ā I'm always
doing so. I don't mean half I say. You're too full of
business ā you take me up too quick. What are those
papers you've got there ? '
Elizabeth's red cheeks showed her taken aback. It
was the first time for weeks that her employer had
turned upon her so. She had grown so accustomed to
managing him, to taming the irritable temper that no
one else but she could cope with, and, unconsciously, so
proud of her success, that she was not prepared for this
attack. She met it meekly.
' I have a proposal here to submit to you, from
& Co. (she named a firm of timber-merchants famous
throughout the Midlands). ' There is nothing in it ā
Captain Dell is certain ā that would injure the estate.
You have such masses of timber ! And, if you don't sell,
you may find it commandeered. You know what's
happened to Lord Radley ? '
The Squire sulkily demanded to be informed. Eliza-
beth told the story, standing at his desk, like a clerk
making a report. It seemed to enrage her auditor.
' This accursed war ! ' he broke out, when she had
finished ā ' it makes slaves and idiots of us all. It must
196 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
ā it shall end ! ' And marching tempestuously up and
down, he went off into one of the pessimist and pacifist
harangues to which she was more or less accustomed.
Who would rid the country of a Government that could
neither make peace nor make war ? ā that foresaw
nothing ā that was making life unbearable at home, by
a network of senseless restrictions, while it wasted
millions abroad, and in the military camps ! The
Labour Party were the only people with a grain of sense.
They at least would try to make peace. Only, when
they had made it, to be governed by them would be even
worse than to be governed by Lloyd George. There
was no possible life anywhere for decent quiet people.
And as for the ravaging and ruin of the woods that was
going on all over England
' The submarine return is worse this week,' said
Elizabeth in a low voice.
She had gone to her own table and was sitting there
till the hurricane should pass over. There was in her
a fresh and chafing sense of the obstacles laid in her
path ā the path of the scientific and successful organiser
ā by the Squire's perversities. It was not as though
he were a pacifist by conviction, religious or other.
She had seen him rout and trample on not a few genuine
professors of the faith. His whole opposition to the
war rested on the limitations and discomforts inflicted
on his own life. It reminded her of certain fragments
of dialogue she had overheard in the winter, where she
had chanced to find herself alone in a railway carriage
full of a group of disaffected workmen returning from
a strike meeting at Leicester. ' If there are many like
these, is the country worth saving ? ' she was saying to
herself all the time, in a dumb passion.
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 197
Yet, after all, those men had done months and years
of labour for the country. Saying ' I will not go ! '
they had yet gone. Without a spark of high feeling or
conscious self-sacrifice to ease their toil, they had yet,
week by week, made the guns and the shells which had
saved the armies of England. When this temporary
outbreak was over they would go back and make them
again. And they were tired men ā sallow-faced, and
bowed before their time.
But what had this whimsical, accomplished man
before her ever done for his country that he should
rail like this ? It was difficult after a tiring day to keep
scorn and dissent concealed. They probably showed in
her expression, for the Squire turned upon her as she
made her remark about the submarines, examining her
with a pair of keen eyes.
' Oh, I know very well what you and that fellow
Chicksands think about persons like me who endeavour
to see things as they are ! ' ā he smote a chair before him
ā ' and not as you and our war-party wish them to be.
Well, well ā now then to business. Who wants to cut
my woods ā and what do they offer for them ? '
Elizabeth put the papers in front of him. He turned
' H'm ā they want the Cross Wood ā one of the most
beautiful woods in England. I have spent days there
when I was young drawing the trees. And who's the
idiot ' ā he pointed to some marginal notes ā ' who is
always carping and girding ? " Good forestry " would
have done this and not done that. " Mismanagement "
ā " neglect " ! Upon my word, who made this man a
judge over me ? '
. And flushed with wrath, the Squire looked angrily
igS THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
at his secretary. ' Heavens ! ' ā thought Ehzabeth ā
' why didn't I edit the papers before I showed them ? '
But aloud she said with her good-tempered smile ā
' I am afraid I took all those remarks as applying
to Mr. Hull. He was responsible for the woods, wasn't
he ? He told me he was.'
' Nothing of the kind ! In the end the owner is
responsible. This fellow is attacking me ! '
Elizabeth said nothing. She could only wait in hope
to see how the large sums mentioned in the contract
' " Maximum price " ! What's this ? ā " Had Mr.
Mannering been willing to enter into negotiations with
us last year," ' ā the Squire began to read a letter
accompanying the draft contract ā ' " when we ap-
proached him, we should probably have been able to
offer him a better price. But under the scale of prices
now fixed by the Government " '
The owner of Mannering bounded out of his seat.
' And you actually mean to say that I may not only
be forced to sell my woods ā but whether I am forced
or not, I can only sell them at the Government price ?
Intolerable! ā absolutely intolerable] Every day that
Englishmen put up with these tyrannies is a disgrace to
the country ! '
' The country must have artillery waggons and aero-
planes,' said Ehzabeth softly. ' Where are we to get
the wood ? There are not ships enough to bring it
overseas ? '
' And suppose I grant you that ā why am I not to get
my fair price ā like anybody else ? Just tell me that ! '
' Why, everybody's " controlled " ! ' cried Elizabeth.
' Pshaw ! I am sorry to be uncivil ' ā a sarcastic bow
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 199
in her direction ā ' but I really must point out that you
talk nonsense. Look at the money in the banks ā look
at the shops and the advertisements ā look at the money
that people pay for pictures, and old books, and auto-
graphs. Somebody's making profits ā that's clear. But
a wretched landowner ā with a few woods to sell ā it is
easy to victimise him ! '
' It comes to a large sum,' said Elizabeth, looking
down. At last she was conscious of a real exasperation
with the Squire. For four months now she had been
wrestling with him ā for his own good and the country's,
and everything had always to be begun again. Suddenly
her spirits drooped.
The Squire observed her furtively out of the corners
of his eyes. Then he turned to the last page of the
contract, with its final figures. His eyebrows went up.
' The man's a fool ! ' he said vehemently. ' I know
the value of my own timber a great deal better than he.
They're not worth a third of what they put them at.'
' Even at the Government price ? ' Elizabeth ven-
tured slyly. ' He'll be very glad to give it ! '
' Then it's blackmailing the country,' said the Squire
obstinately. ' I loathe the war, but I'm not a profiteer.'
Elizabeth was silent. If the Squire persisted in
rejecting this deal, which he had himself invited in
another mood, half her dreams for the future, the dreams
of a woman just beginning to feel the intoxication of
power, or, to put it better, the creative passion of the
reformer, were undone. She had already saved the
Squire much money. When all reasonable provision
had been made for investment, replanting, and the rest,
this sale would still leave enough to transform the estate
and scores of human lives upon it. Her will chafed
200 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
hotly under the curb imposed upon it by the caprices
of a master for whom ā save only as a Greek scholar ā
she had little respect. After a while, as the Squire was
still turning over the contract with occasional grunts
and mutterings, she asked ā
' Will you please tell me what I am to reply ? '
Her voice was cold and measured.
The Squire threw up his white head.
' What hurry is there ? ' he said testily.
' Oh, none ā if you wish it delayed. Only ā ' she
hesitated ā ' Captain Dell tells me the Government
inspectors are already in the neighbourhood. He expects
them here before long.'
' And if I make a stand ā if I oppose you ā well ā it'll
be the gates over again ? ' She shrugged her shoulders.
' We must try to find the money some other way.
It is badly wanted. I thought '
' You thought I had authorised this ā and you've
given all your work for nothing ? You think I'm an
impossible person ? '
Suddenly she found him sitting beside her. Perforce
she looked him in the face.
' Don't give notice again ! ' he said, almost with
' It's not so easy now,' she said, with a rather uncertain
' Because you've done so much for me ? ā because
you've slaved and put your heart into it ? That's true.
Well now, look here. We'll put that beastly thing away
to-night ā perhaps I shall be in a better temper in a
There was a note in his voice he seemed unable to
keep out of it. Elizabeth looking up caught the fire
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 201
light on the sketch of Desmond. Had the Squire's eyes
been on it too ? Impossible to say ā for he had already
' Oh, yes, ā put it away ! ' she said hurriedly.
' And I'll go over the woods with you on ā Friday,'
said the Squire after a pause. ' Oh, I don't deny that
the money is tempting. I'm not such a pauper as I
once was, thanks to you. I seem to have some money
in the bank ā astonishing situation ! And ā there's a
jolly good sale at Christie's coming on.'
He looked at her half-shamefaced, half-ready to resent
it if she laughed at him.
Her eyes laughed.
' I thought you'd forgotten that. I saw you mark
' Beech and oak between two and three hundred years
old ā in exchange for Greek gems, between two and
three thousand. Well ā I'll consider it. Now then, are
you feeling better ? '
And to her amazement he approached her with an
outstretched hand. Elizabeth mechanically placed her
own in it.
' I know what you want,' he said impetuously.
' You've got a head full of dreams. They're not my
dreams ā but you've a right to them ā so long as you're
kind to mine.'
' I try to be,' she said, with a rather tremulous lip.
At that moment the library door opened. Neither
perceived it. Desmond came in softly, lest his father
should be at work. A carved oak screen round the door
hid his entrance, and as he emerged into the light his
eyes caught the two distant figures standing hand in
202 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
Instinctively he stepped back a few paces and noisily
opened the door. The Squire walked away.
' Why, Desmond ! ' said his father, as the boy
emerged into the light, ' your train's punctual for once.
Thank you, Miss Bremerton ā that'll do. Kindly write
to those people and say that I am considering the matter.
I needn't keep you any longer. . . .'
That night a demon came to EHzabeth and offered
her a Faust-like bargain. Ambition ā noble ambition on
the one side ā an ' elderly lunatic ' on the other. And
she began to consider it !
Everybody in Mannering had gone to bed but Desmond
and Pamela. It was not certain indeed that the Squire
had gone to bed, but as there was a staircase beside one
of the doors of the Hbrary leading direct to his room,
it was not likely that he would cross the hall again.
The twins felt themselves alone.
' I daresay there'll be a raid to-night,' said Desmond,
' it's so bright and still. Put down that lamp a
She obeyed, and he threw away his cigarette, went
to one of the windows, and drew up the blinds.
' Listen ! ' he said, holding up his hand. Pamela
came to his side, and they both heard through the