able woman ?
She hunted through three drawers. The Squire
meanwhile paced incessantly, sometimes muttering to
himself. Every time he came within the circle of lamp-
Hght his face was visible to EUzabeth, wrinkled and set,
with angry eyes ; and she saw him as a person possessed
by a stubborn demon of self-will. Once, as he passed
her, she heard him say to himself, ' Of course I can
write another at once — half a sheet will do.'
She replaced the third drawer. Was the Squire to
have a monopoly of stubbornness ? She thought not.
Waves of indefinite but strong indignation were beginning
to sweep through her. Why was the Squire hunting
for his will ? What had he been saying to his son — his
son who bore on his breast and on his body the marks
of his country's service ?
She rose to her feet.
' I can't find an5rthing, Mr. Mannering. And I
think, if you will aUow me, I will go to bed.'
He looked at her darkly.
' I see. You are a person who stickle for your hours —
you won't do anything extra for me.' There was a sneer
in his tone.
Elizabeth felt her cheeks suddenly burn. In the dim
light she looked amazingly tall, as she stood straightened
to her full height, confronting this man who really seemed
to her to be only half sane.
' I think I have done a great deal for you, Mr. Manner-
ing. But if you don't think so we had better end my
engagement ! '
His countenance changed at once. He eagerly
apologised. He was perfectly aware of her extraordinary
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 8i
merits, and should be entirely lost without her help.
The fact was he had had a painful scene, and was
Elizabeth received his explanation very coldly, only
repeating, ' May I go to bed ? '
The Squire drew his hand across his eyes.
' It is not very late — not yet eleven,' He pointed to
the grandfather clock opposite. ' If you will only wait
while I write something ? ' — he pointed to a chair. ' Just
take a book there, and give me a quarter of an hour, no
more — I want your signature, that's all. We won't look
any further for the will. I can do all I want by a fresh
document, I have been thinking it over, and can write
it in ten minutes. I know as much about it as the
lawyers — more. Now do oblige me, I am ashamed
of my discourtesy, I need not say that I regard you
as indispensable — and — I think I have been able to do
something for your Greek.'
He smiled — a smile that was like a foam-flake on a
stormy sea. But he could put on the grand manner
when he chose, and EUzabeth was to some extent
propitiated. After all he and his ways were no longer
strange to her. Very unwillingly she seated herself
again, and he went rapidly to his writing-table.
Then silence fell, except for the scratching of the
Squire's pen. Elizabeth sat pretending to read, but in
truth becoming every moment the prey of increasing
disquiet. What was he going to ask her to sign ? She
knew nothing of his threat to his eldest son — nothing,
that is, clear or direct, either from himself or from the
others ; but she guessed a good deal. It was impossible
to live even for a few weeks in close contact with the
Squire without guessing at most things.
82 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
In the silence she became aware of the soft autumn
wind — October had just begun — playing with a bhnd
on a distant window. And through the window came
another sound — Desmond and Pamela, no doubt, still
laughing and talking in the schoolroom.
The Squire rose from his seat.
' I shall be much obliged,' he said formally, ' if you
will kindly come here. We shall want another witness,
of course. I will call Forest.'
Elizabeth approached, but paused a yard or two
from him. He saw her in the light — her gold hair and
brilliant dress illuminated against the dark and splendid
background of the Nike in shadow.
She spoke with hesitation.
' I confess I should Uke to know, Mr. Mannering,
what it is you are asking me to sign.'
' That doesn't matter to a witness. It is nothing
which will in any way compromise you.'
' No — ^but ' — she drew herself up — ' I should blame
myself if I made it easier for you to do something you
would afterwards regret.'
' What do you mean ? '
She summoned all her courage.
' Of course I must know something. You have not
kept your affairs very secret. I guess that you are
angry with your son, with Major Mannering. If this
thing you ask me to sign is to hurt — to injure him — ^if it
is — ^well, then — I refuse to sign it ! '
And with a sudden movement she threw both her
hands behind her back and clasped them there.
' You refuse ? '
' If you admit my description of that paper.' She
motioned towards it as it lay on the writing-table.
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 83
' I have no objection whatever to your knowing what
it is — as you seem determined to know,' he said sar-
castically, ' It is a codicil revoking my wiU in favour
of my eldest son, and leaving all the property of which
I die possessed, and which is in my power to bequeath,
to my younger son Desmond. What have you to do
with that ? What possible responsibility can you have ? '
Ehzabeth wavered, but held her ground, though in
' Only that — if I don't sign it — you would have time
to consider it again. Mr. Mannering — isn't it — isn't it
— very unjust ? '
The Squire laughed.
' How do you know that in refusing you are not
unjust to Desmond ? '
' Oh no ! ' she said fervently. ' Mr. Desmond would
never wish to supplant his brother — and for such a
reason. And especially ' she paused. There were
tears rising in her throat.
' Especially — what ? Upon my word, you claim a
rather remarkable knowledge of my family — ^in six
weeks ! '
' I do know something of Desmond ! ' Her voice
showed her agitation. ' He is the dearest, the most
generous boy. In a few months he will be going out —
he wiU be saying good-bye to you all.'
' And then ? '
' Is this a time to make him unhappy — to send him
out with something on his mind ? — something that might
' Well, go on ! '
' Might even make him wish ' — her voice dropped —
' not to come back.'
84 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
There was silence. Then the Squire violently threw
down the pen he was holding on the table beside him.
' Thank you, Miss Bremerton. That will do. I bid
you good-night ! '
Ehzabeth did not wait to be told twice. She turned
and fled down the whole length of the library. The door
at the further end closed upon her.
' A masterful young woman ! ' said the Squire after
a moment, drawing a long breath. Then he took up the
codicil, thrust it into a drawer of his writing-table, lit
a cigarette, and walked up and down smoking it. After
which he went to bed and slept remarkably well.
Ehzabeth cried herself to sleep. No comforting
sprite whispered to her that she had won the first round
in an arduous campaign. On the contrary, she fully
expected dismissal on the morrow.
It was a misty but warm October day, and a pleasant
veiled light lay on the pillared front of Chetworth
House, designed in the best taste of a fastidious school.
The surroundings of the house, too, were as perfect
as those of Mannering were slatternly and neglected.
All the young men had long since gone from the
gardens, but the old labourers and the girls in overalls
who had taken their places, under the eye of a
white-haired gardener, had been wonderfully efficient
so far. Sir Henry supposed he ought to have let
the lawns stand for hay, and the hedges go undipped ;
but as a matter of fact the lawns had never been
smoother, or the creepers and yew hedges more beauti-
fully in order, so that even the greatest patriot fails
Beryl Chicksands was walking along a stone-flagged
path under a yew hedge, from which she commanded
the drive and a bit of the road outside. Every now
and then she stopped to peer into the sunlit haze that
marked the lower slopes of the park, and the delicate
hand that shaded her eyes shook a little.
Aubrey was coming — and she was going seriously to
offer to give him up — to try and persuade him indeed
to break it off. Since her first agitated letter to him
begging him not to think of her, but to decide only
86 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
what was best for his own future, she had received a few
words from him.
' Dearest Beryl — Nothing has happened to inter-
fere with what we promised each other last summer —
nothing at all ! My poor father seems to be half out of
his mind under the stress of war. If he does what he
threatens, it will matter very Httle to me ; but of course
you must consider it carefully, for I shall have uncom-
monly little in the worldly way to offer you. Your
father has written very kindly, and your dear little note
is just like you. But j^ou must consider.
* I sometimes doubt whether my father will do what
he threatens, but we should have to take the risk. Any-
way we shall meet directly, and I am always, and un-
alterably, your devoted
That had been followed by a boyish note from
Desmond — dear, joUy feUow !
' My father's clean daft ! Don't bother, my dear
Beryl. If he tries to leave me this funny old place,
instead of Aubrey, well, there are two can play at that
game. I wouldn't touch it with a barge-pole. You
and A. have only got to stick it a httle, and it'U be
' I've given him a bit of my mind about the park and
the farm. He stands it from me and only chaffs.
That's because he always treats me hke a baby.
' Very sorry I can't come on Tuesday with Aubrey,
but there's some good-bye calls I must pay. Hope
Arthur wUl be about. I want awfuUy to see him. Hard
luck his being hit Uke that, after all the rest. Snipers
are beasts !
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 87
' P.S. — You can't think what a brainy young woman
father's got for his new secretary. And she's not half
bad either. Pamela's rather silly about her, but she'll
Beryl paid small attention to the postscript. She
had heard a good deal from Pamela about the newcomer,
but it did not concern her. As to the business aspect of
the Squire's behaviour, Beryl was well aware that she
was an heiress. Aubrey would lose nothing financially
by giving up the Mannering estate to marry her.
Personally she cared nothing about Mannering, and
she had enough for both. But still there was the old
name and place. How much did he care about it ? how
much would he regret it ? Supposing his extraordinary
father really cut him off ?
Beryl felt she did not know. And therewith came
the recurrent pang — how little she really knew about
the man to whom she was engaged ! She adored him.
Every fibre in her slight sensitive body still remembered
the moment when he first kissed her, when she first felt
his arm about her. But since — how often there had
been moments when she had been conscious of a great
distance between them — of something that did not fit —
that jarred !
For herself, she could never remember a time since
she was seventeen when Aubrey Mannering had not
meant more to her than any one else in the world. On
his first departure to France, she had said good-bye to
him with secret agonies of spirit, which no one guessed
but her mother, a colourless, silent woman, who had a
way of knowing unexpectedly much of the people about
her. Then when he was badly wounded in some fighting
88 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
near Festubert, in May 1915, and came home for two
months' leave, he seemed hke a stranger, and Beryl had
not known what to be at with him. She was told that he
had suffered very much — it had been a severe thigh
wound implicating the sciatic nerve — and that he had
been once, at least, very near to death. But when she
tried to express sympathy with what he had gone
through, or timidly to question him about it, her courage
fled, her voice died in her throat. There was something
unapproachable in her old playfellow, something that
held her, and indeed every one else, at bay.
He was always courteous, and mostly cheerful. But
his face in repose had an absent, haunted look, the eyes
alert but fixed on vacancy, the brow overcast and
frowning. In old days Aubrey's smile had been his best
natural gift. To win a smile from him in her childhood.
Beryl would have done anything — have gone on her
knees up the drive, or offered up the only doll she cared
for, or gone without jam for a week. Now when he
came home invalided, she had the same craving ; but
what she craved for came her way very rarely. He
would laugh and talk with her as with other people.
But that exquisite brightness of eye and lip, which
seemed to be for one person only, and, when it came, to
lift that person to the seventh heaven, she waited for
Then he went back to France, and in due course came
the Somme. Aubrey Mannering went through the whole
five months without a scratch. He came back with
a D.S.O. and a Staff appointment for a short Christ-
mas leave, everybody, except his father, turning out to
welcome him as the local hero. Then, for a time, he
went to Aldershot as the head of an Officers' School
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 89
there, and was able to come down occasionally to
Chetworth or Mannering.
During that first Christmas leave he paid several
visits to Chetworth, and evidently felt at home there.
To Lady Chicksands, whom most people regarded as
a tiresome nonentity, he was particularly kind and
courteous. It seemed to give him positive pleasure to
listen to her garrulous housekeeping talk, or to hold her
wool for her while she wound it. And as she, poor lady,
was not accustomed to such attention from brilliant
young men, his three days' visit was to her a red-letter
time. With Sir Henry also he was on excellent terms,
and made just as good a hstener to the details of country
business as to Lady Chicksands' domestic tales.
And yet to Beryl he was in some ways more of a
riddle than ever. He talked curiously little about the
war — at least to her. He had a way of finding out, both
at Chicksands and Mannering, men who had lost sons
in France, and when he and Beryl took a walk, it seemed
to Beryl as though they were constantly followed by
friendly furtive looks from old labourers who passed
them on the road, and nodded as they went by. But
when the daily war news was being discussed he had
a way of sitting quite silent, unless his opinion was
definitely asked. When it was, he would answer,
generally in a rather pessimistic spirit, and escape the
conversation as soon as he could. And the one thing
that roused him and put him out of temper was the easy
complacent talk of people who were sure of speedy
victory and talked of ' knock-out blows.'
Then six months later, after the capture of the
Messines Ridge, in which he took part, he reappeared,
and finding his father, apparently, almost intolerable.
go THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
and Pamela and Desmond away, he migrated to Chet-
worth. And there he and Beryl were constantly thrown
together. He never talked to her with much intimacy ;
he certainly never made love to her. But suddenly she
became aware that she had grown very necessary to
him, that he missed her when she was away, that his
eyes Ut up when she came back. A special relation was
growing up between them. Her father perceived it ;
so did her brother Arthur ; and they had both done
their best to help it on. They were both very fond of
Aubrey ; and nothing could be more natural than that
she should marry one who had been her neighbour and
playmate from childhood.
The thing drifted on, and one day, in the depths of a
summer beechwood, some look in the girl's eyes, some
note of tremulous and passionate sweetness, beyond her
control, in her deep quiet voice, touched something
irrepressible in him, and he turned to her with a face of
intense, almost hungry yearning, and caught her hands —
' Dear — dearest Beryl, could you ? '
The words broke off, but her eyes spoke in reply to
his, and her sudden whiteness. He drew her to him,
and folded her close.
' I don't think I ought ' — the faltering, broken voice
startled her — ' I don't know whether I can make you
happy. Dear, dear little Beryl ! '
At that she put up her mouth instinctively, only to
shrink back under the energy of his kiss. Then they had
walked on together, hand in hand ; but she remembered
that, even before they left the wood, something seemed to
have dimmed the extraordinary bliss of the first moment —
some restlessness in him — some touch of absent-minded-
ness, as though he grudged himself his own happiness.
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 91
And so it had been ever since. He had resumed his
work at Aldershot, and owing to certain consequences of
the wound in 1915 was not hkely, in spite of desperate
efforts on his own part, to be sent back to the front. His
letters varied just as his presence did. Something
always seemed to be kept back from her — ^was always
beyond her reach. Sometimes she supposed she was
not clever enough, that he found her inadequate and
irresponsive. Sometimes, with a sudden, half-guilty
sense of disloyalty to him, she vaguely wondered whether
there was some secret in his life — some past of which she
knew nothing. How could there be ? A man of stain-
less and brilhant reputation — modest, able, foolhardily
brave, of whom all men spoke warmly ; of a sensitive
refinement too, which made it impossible to think of any
ordinary vulgar skeleton in the background of his life.
Yet her misgivings had grown and grown upon her,
till now they were morbidly strong. She did not satisfy
him ; she was not making him happy ; it would be better
for her to set him free. This action of his father's
offered the opportunity. But as she thought of doing
it — how she would do it, and how he might possibly
accept it — she was torn with misery.
She and her girl-friend Pamela were very different.
She was the elder by a couple of years, and much more
mature. But Pamela's undeveloped powers, the flashes
of daring, of romance, in the awkward reserved girl, the
suggestion in her of a big and splendid flowering, fascin-
ated Beryl, and in her humility she never dreamt that
she, with her dehcate pensiveness, the mingled subtlety
and purity of her nature, was no less exceptional. She
had been brought up very much alone. Her mother
was no companion for her, and the brother nearest her
92 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
own age and nearest her heart had been killed at the
opening of the war. Arthur and she were very good
friends, but not altogether congenial. She was rather
afraid of him — of his critical temper, and his abrupt
intolerant way, with people or opinions he disliked.
Beryl was quite aware of his effect on Pamela Mannering,
and it made her anxious. For she saw Httle chance for
Pamela. Before the war, Arthur in London had been
very much sought after, in a world where women are
generally good-looking, and skilled besides in all the
arts of pursuit. His standards were ridiculously high.
His women friends were many and of the best. Why
should he be attracted by anything so young and
immature as Pamela ?
At last ! A pony-cart coming up from the lodge, with
two figures in it — Aubrey and Pamela. So poor Pam had
at last got hold of something in the nature of an animal !
Beryl gripped the balustrading which bordered one
side of the path, and stood watching intently — a slender
creature, in a broad purple hat, shading her small,
Presently, as the visitors approached the house, she
waved to them, and they to her. They disappeared
from view for a minute. Then a man's figure emerged
alone from a garden door opening on the flagged path.
He came towards her with outstretched hands, looked
round him snuling to see that no one was in sight, and
then kissed her. Beryl knew she ought to have resisted
the kiss ; she had meant to do it ; but all the same
' Your father met us at the door. Arthur has carried
Pamela off somewhere. Very sporting of them, wasn't
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 93
it ? So I've got you alone ! How nice you look ! And
what a jolly place this is ! '
He first looked her up and down with admiring eyes,
and then made a gesture towards the beautiful modern
house, and the equally beautiful and modem gardens
in which it stood, with their still unspoilt autumn
flowers, their cunning devices in steps and fountains
' How on earth do you keep it so trim ? ' He put a
hand through her arm, and drew her on towards the
wood-walk which opened beyond the formal garden and
' With two or three old men, and two girls from the
village,' said Beryl. ' Father doesn't mind what he
gives up so long as it isn't the garden.'
' It's his pet vice ! ' laughed Aubrey — ' his public-
house, like my father's Greek pots. I say — you've
heard of the secretary ? '
It seemed to Beryl that he was fencing with her —
delaying their real talk. But she accepted his lead.
' Yes, Desmond seems to like her. I don't gather
that Pamela cares very much about her.'
' Oh, Pamela takes time. But what do you think
the secretary did last night ? '
' What ? ' They had paused under a group of limes
clad in a glory of yellow leaf, and she was looking up
in surprise at the unusual animation plajdng over the
features of the man beside her.
' She refused to sign a codicil to my father's will,
disinheriting me, and came to teU me so this morning !
You should have heard her ! Very formal and cere-
monious — very much on her dignity. But such a
brick ! '
94 THE WAR AND ELIZABETH
Mannering's deep-set eyes under his lined thinker's
brow shone with amusement. Beryl, with the instinctive
jealousy of a girl in love, was conscious of a sudden
annoyance that Miss Bremerton should have been
mixed up in Aubrey's personal affairs.
' What do you mean ? '
Aubrey put an arm round her shoulder. She knew
she ought to shake it off, but the pressure of it was too
welcome. They strolled on.
' I had my talk with father last night. I told him
he was absurd, and I was my own master. That you
were perfectly free to give me up — that I had begged
you to consider it — but I didn't think you would,' he
smiled down upon her, but more gravely ; ' and failing
dismissal from you, we should be married as soon as it
was reasonably possible. Was that right, darling ? '
She evaded the question,
' Well— and then ? '
' Then he broke out. Sir Henry of course was the
hete noire. You can imagine the kind of things he said,
I needn't repeat them. He is in a mood of perfectly
mad opposition to all this war legislation, and it is not
the least good arguing with him. Finally he told me
that my allowance would be stopped, and Mannering
would be left to Desmond, if we married. " All right ! "
I said, " I daresay, if he and I survive you, Desmond
will let me look round sometimes." Not very respect-
ful, perhaps, but by that time I was fed up. So then I
wished him good-night, and went back to the drawing-
room. In a few minutes he sent for Miss Bremerton —
nobody knew why. I was dog-tired, and went to bed, and
didn't I sleep ! — nine good hours. Then this morning,
just after breakfast, when I was strolling in the garden
THE WAR AND ELIZABETH 95
with a cigarette waiting for Pamela, who should come
out but Miss Bremerton ! Have you seen her ? '
' Only in the distance.'
' Well, she's really a very fine creature, not pretty
exactly — oh, not pretty at all — but wonderfully well set
up, with beautiful hair, and a general look of — what shall
I say ? — dignity, refinement, knowing her own mind.
You feel she would set you down in a moment if you took
the smallest hberty. I could not think what she wanted.
But she came up to me — of course we had made ac-
quaintance the night before — " May I speak to you.
Major Mannering ? I wish to say something private.
Shall we walk down to the kitchen garden ? " So we
walked down to the kitchen garden, and then she told
me what had happened after dinner, when my father sent
for her. She told it very stifily, rather curtly in fact,
as though she were annoyed to have to bother about
such unprofessional things, and hated to waste her time.
" But I don't wish, I don't intend," she said, " to have
the smallest responsibility in the matter. So after
thinking it over, I decided to inform you — and Mr. Des-
mond too, if you will kindly tell him — as to what I had
done. That is all I have to say," with her chin very
much in the air ! "I did it, of course, because I did not