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Author of "The Forest Lovers," "The Life and
Death of Richard Yea and Nay," etc.

New York
Dodd, Mead and Company

Copyright, 1916
by Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc.




XVI _Amari Aliquid_ 196
EPILOGUE: _Quid Plura_? 306




This is a romantic tale. So romantic is it that I shall be forced to
pry into the coy recesses of the mind in order to exhibit a connected,
reasonable affair, not only of a man and his wife prosperously seated
in the mean of things, _nel mezzo del cammin_ in space as well as
time - for the Macartneys belonged to the middle class, and were well
on to the middle of life themselves - , but of stript, quivering and
winged souls tiptoe within them, tiptoe for flight into diviner spaces
than any seemly bodies can afford them. As you peruse you may find it
difficult to believe that Macartney himself - James Adolphus, that
remarkable solicitor - could have possessed a quivering, winged soul
fit to be stript, and have hidden it so deep. But he did though, and
the inference is that everybody does. As for the lady, that is not so
hard of belief. It very seldom is - with women. They sit so much at
windows, that pretty soon their eyes become windows themselves - out of
which the soul looks darkling, but preening; out of which it sometimes
launches itself into the deep, wooed thereto or not by _aubade_ or
_serena_. But a man, with his vanity haunting him, pulls the blinds
down or shuts the shutters, to have it decently to himself, and his
looking-glass; and you are not to know what storm is enacting deeply
within. Finally, I wish once for all to protest against the fallacy
that piracy, brigandage, pearl-fishery and marooning are confined to
the wilder parts of the habitable globe. Never was a greater, if more
amiable, delusion fostered (to serve his simplicity) by Lord Byron and
others. Because a man wears trousers, shall there be no more cakes and
ale? Because a woman subscribes to the London Institution, desires the
suffrage, or presides at a Committee, does the _bocca baciata perde
ventura_? Believe me, no. There are at least two persons in each of
us, one at least of which can course the starry spaces and inhabit
where the other could hardly breathe for ten minutes. Such is my own
experience, and such was the experience of the Macartney pair - and now
I have done with exordial matter.

The Macartneys had a dinner-party on the twelfth of January. There
were to be twelve people at it, in spite of the promised assistance of
Lancelot at dessert, which Lucy comforted herself by deciding would
only make twelve and a half, not thirteen. She told that to her
husband, who fixed more firmly his eyeglass, and grunted, "I'm not
superstitious, myself." He may not have been, but certainly, Lucy told
herself, he wasn't very good at little jokes. Lancelot, on the other
hand, was very good at them. "Twelve and a half!" he said, lifting one
eyebrow, just like his father. "Why, I'm twelve and a half myself!"
Then he propounded his little joke. "I say, Mamma, on the twelve and
halfth of January - because the evening is exactly half the day - twelve
and a half people have a dinner-party, and one of them _is_ twelve and
a half. Isn't that neat?"

Lucy encouraged her beloved. "It's very neat indeed," she said, and
her grey eyes glowed, or seemed to glow.

"It's what we call an omen at school," said Lancelot. "It means - oh,
well, it means lots of things, like you're bound to have it, and it's
bound to be a frightful success, or an utter failure, or something of
that kind." He thought about it. Developments crowded upon him. "I
say, Mamma - " all this was at breakfast, Macartney shrouding himself
in the _Morning Post_:

"Yes, Lancelot?"

"It would be awfully good, awfully ingenious and all that, if one of
the people was _twice_ twelve and a half."

She agreed. "Yes, I should like that. Very likely one of them is."

Lancelot looked extremely serious. "Not Mr. Urquhart?" he said.

"No," said Lucy, "I am sure Mr. Urquhart is older than that. But
there's Margery Dacre. She might do."

Lancelot had his own ideas as to whether women counted or not, in
omens, but was too polite to express them.

"Is she twenty-five, do you think? She's rather thin." Lucy exploded,
and had to kiss the unconscious humourist. "Do you think we grow
fatter as we grow older? Then you must think me immense, because I'm
much more than twenty-five," she said.

Here was a vital matter. It is impossible to do justice to Lancelot's
seriousness, on the edge of truth. "How much more are you, really?"
he asked her, trembling for the answer.

She looked heavenly pretty, with her drawn-back head and merry eyes.
She was a dark-haired woman with a tender smile; but her eyes were
her strong feature - of an intensely blue-grey iris, ringed with
black. Poising to tantalise him, adoring the fun of it, suddenly she
melted, leaned until her cheek touched his, and whispered the dreadful
truth - "_Thirty-one_."

I wish I could do justice to his struggle, politeness tussling with
pity for a fall, but tripping it up, and rising to the proper
lightness of touch. "Are you really thirty-one? Oh, well, that's
nothing." It was gallantly done. She kissed him again, and Lancelot
changed the subject.

"There's Mr. Lingen, isn't there?" he asked, adding, "He's always

"Much more than twenty-five," said his mother, very much aware of Mr.
Lingen's many appearances in Onslow Square. She made one more attempt
at her husband, wishing, as she always did wish, to draw him into the
company. It was not too successful. "Lingen? Oh, a stripling," he said
lightly and rustled the _Morning Post_ like an aspen tree.

"Father always talks as if he was a hundred himself," said Lancelot,
who was not afraid of him. He had to be content with Miss Dacre after
all. The others - the Judge and Lady Bliss, Aunt Mabel and Uncle
Corbet, the Worthingtons, were out of the question. As for Miss
Bacchus - oh, Miss Bacchus was, _at least_, five hundred, said
Lancelot, and wished to add up all the ages to see if they came to a
multiple of twelve and a half.

Meanwhile Mr. Macartney in his leisurely way had risen from the table,
cigar in mouth, had smoothed his hair before the glass on the
chimney-piece, looked at his boots, wriggled his toes in them with
gratifying results, adjusted his coat-collar, collected his letters in
a heap, and left the room. They saw no more of him. Half an hour later
the front door shut upon him. He had gone to his office, or, as he
always said, Chambers.

He was rather bleak, and knew it, reckoning it among his social
assets. Reduced into a sentence, it may be said of Macartney that the
Chief Good in his philosophy was to be, and to seem, successful
without effort. What effort he may have made to conceal occasional
strenuous effort is neither here nor there. The point is that, at
forty-two, he found himself solidly and really successful. The
husband of a very pretty wife, the father of a delightful and healthy
son, the best-dressed solicitor in London, and therefore, you may
fairly say, in the world, with an earned income of some three or four
thousand a year, with money in the funds, two houses, and all the rest
of it, a member of three very old-fashioned, most uncomfortable and
absurdly exclusive clubs - if this is not success, what is? And all got
smoothly, without a crease of the forehead, by means of an eyeglass, a
cold manner and an impassivity which nothing foreign or domestic had
ever disturbed. He had ability too, and great industry, but it was
characteristic of him to reckon these as nothing in the scales against
the eyeglass and the manner. They were his by the grace of God; but
the others, he felt, were his own additions, and of the best. These
sort of investments enabled a man to sleep; they assured one of
completeness of effect. Nevertheless he was a much more acute and
vigorous-minded man than he chose to appear.

He was a solicitor, it is true, and had once been called an attorney
by a client in a rage; but he could afford to smile at that because he
was quite a peculiar sort of solicitor, by no means everybody's
money. Rather, he was a luxury, an appanage of the great. His office,
which he called "Chambers," as if it was an old house in the country,
was in Cork Street; his clients were landed gentry, bankers, peers and
sons of peers. The superior clergy, too: he handled the affairs of a
Bishop of Lukesboro', and those of no less than three Deans and
Chapters. Tall, dark and trenchant, with a strong nose and chin, and
clouded grey eyes, a handsome man with a fine air of arrogant comfort
on him, he stood well, and you could not but see what good clothes he
wore - to my taste, I confess, a little too good. His legs were a
feature, and great play was made by wits with his trousers. He was
said to have two hundred pairs, and to be aiming at three hundred and
sixty-five. Certainly they had an edge, and must have been kept in
order like razors; but the legend that they were stropped after every
day's use is absurd. They used to say that they would cut paper
easily, and every kind of cheese except Parmesan.

He wore an eyeglass, which, with the wry smile made necessary by its
use, had the marked effect of intimidating his clients and driving
them into indiscretions, admissions and intemperate discourse.
Hypnotised by the unknown terrific of which the glitter of the blank
surface, the writhen and antick smile were such formidable symbols,
they thought that he knew all, and provided that he should by telling
it him. To these engines of mastery he had added a third. He practised
laconics, and carried them to the very breaking point. He had in his
time - I repeat the tale - gone without his breakfast for three days
running rather than say that he preferred his egg poached. His wife
had been preoccupied at the time - it had been just before Lancelot was
born, barely a year after marriage - and had not noticed that he left
cup and platter untouched. She was very penitent afterwards, as he had
intended she should be. The egg was poached - and even so she was
afraid to ask him when the time was ripe to boil it again. It made her
miserable; but he never spoke of it. Of course all that was old
history. She was hardened by this time, but still dreadfully conscious
of his comforts, or possible discomforts.

This was the manner of the man who, you may say, had quizzed, or
mesmerised, Lucy Meade into marriage. She had been scarcely eighteen;
I believe that she was just seventeen and a half when he presented
himself, the second of three pretty, dark-haired and grey-eyed girls,
the slimmest and, as I think, by far the prettiest. The Meades lived
at Drem House, which is practically within Bushey Park. Here the girls
saw much society, for the old Meades were hospitable, and the Mother
Meade, a Scotchwoman, had a great idea of establishing her daughters.
The sons she left to Father Meade and his competent money-bags. Here
then James Adolphus Macartney presented himself, and here sat smiling
bleakly, glaring through his glass, one eyebrow raised to enclose it
safely - and waited for her to give herself away. Swaying beneath that
shining disk, she did it infallibly; and he heard her out at leisure,
and accepted her.

That's poetry of course. Really, it came near to that. He had said to
her at a garden-party, in his easiest, airiest manner, "You can't help
knowing that I am in love with you. Now, don't you think that we
should be a happy couple? I do. What do you say, Lucy? Shall we have a
shot?" He had taken her hand - they were alone under a cedar tree - and
she had not known how to take it away. She was then kissed, and had
lost any opportunity there might have been. That was what really
happened, and as she told her sister Mabel some time afterwards, when
the engagement had been made public and there could be no question of
going back, "You know, Mabel, he seemed to expect it, and I couldn't
help feeling at the time that he was justified." Mabel, tossing her
head up, had protested, "Oh, my dear, nobody knows whether he was
justified but yourself;" and Lucy, "No, of course not." "The
question," Mabel went on, "is whether you encouraged him or not." Lucy
was clear about that: "No, not the least in the world. He - encouraged
himself. I felt that I simply had to do something."

I suspect that that is perfectly true. I am sure that he did just as I
said he always did, and bluffed her into marriage with an eyeglass and
smile awry. Whether or no he bluffed himself into it too, tempted by
the power of his magic apparatus, is precisely the matter which I am
to determine. It may have been so - but anyhow the facts show you how
successful he was in doing what had to be done. _Cosa fatta capo ha_,
as the proverb says. The thing done, whether wisely or not, was
smoothly done. Everything was of a piece with that. He pulled off
whatever he tried for, without any apparent effort. People used to say
that he was like a river, smoothly flowing, very deep, rippling,
constant in mutability, husbanding and guiding his eddies. It's not a
bad figure of him. He liked it himself, and smiled more askew and
peered more blandly when he heard it.

Small things betray men. Here is one. His signature was invariably in
full: "Yours very truly, James Adolphus Macartney." It was as if he
knew that Adolphus was rather comic opera, but wouldn't stoop to
disguise it. Why bother? He crowded it upon the Bishop, upon the Dean
and Chapter of Mells, upon old Lord Drake. He said, "Why conceal the
fact that my sponsors made a _faux pas_? There it is, and have done
with it. Such things have only to be faced to be seen as nothings.
What! are we reasonable beings?"

Now when Lucy Meade, practically a child for all her sedateness and
serious eyes, married him, two things terrified her on the day. One
was her husband and the other lest her friends should discover it.
They never did, and in time her panic wore off. She fought it in the
watches of the night and in the glare of her lonely days. Not a soul,
not her mother, not even Mabel, knew her secret. James never became
comic to her; she never saw him a figure of fun; but she was able to
treat him as a human being. Lancelot's arrival made all the
difference in the world to that matter as to all her other matters,
for even Lucy herself could not help seeing how absurdly jealous James
was of his offspring. For a time he was thrown clean out of the saddle
and as near falling in his own esteem as ever in life. But he
recovered his balance, and though he never regained his old
ascendency, which had been that of a Ju-ju, he was able to feel
himself, as he said, "Master in his own house," with a very real
reserve of terrorism - if it should be wanted. The great thing,
Macartney thought, was discipline, constant, watchful discipline. A
man must bend everything to that. Women have to learn the virtue of
giving up, as well as of giving. Giving is easy; any woman knows that;
but giving up. Let that be seen as a subtle, a sublimated form of
giving, and the lesson is learned. But practice makes perfect. You
must never relax the rein. He never did. There was all the ingenuity
and patience of a woman about him.

By this time, after twelve years and more of marriage, they were very
good friends; or, why not say, old acquaintances? There are two kinds
of crystallisation in love affairs, with all respect to M. de
Stendhal. One kind hardens the surfaces without any decorative
effect. There are no facets visible, no angles to catch the light. In
the case of the Macartney marriage I suspect this to have been the
only kind - a kind of callosity, protective and numbing. The less they
were thrown together, she found, the better friends they were. At home
they were really no more than neighbours; abroad she was Mrs.
Macartney, and never would dine out without him. She was
old-fashioned; her friends called her a prude. But she was not at all
unhappy. She liked to think of Lancelot, she said, and to be quiet.
And really, as Miss Bacchus (a terrible old woman) once said, Lucy was
so little of a married woman that she was perfectly innocent.

But she was one-and-thirty, and as sweet and pretty a woman as you
would wish to see. She had the tender, dragging smile of a Luini
Madonna; grave, twilight eyes, full of compassionate understanding;
very dark eyebrows, very long lashes, like the fringe of rain over a
moorland landscape. She had a virginal shape, and liked her clothes to
cling about her knees. Long fingers, longish, thin feet. But her
humorous sense was acute and very delightful, and all children loved
her. Such charms as these must have been as obvious to herself as they
were to everybody else. She had a modest little court of her own.
Francis Lingen was almost admittedly in love with her; one of
Macartney's friends. But she accepted her riches soberly, and did not
fret that they must be so hoarded. If, by moments, as she saw herself,
or looked at herself, in the glass, a grain of bitterness surged up in
her throat, that all this fair seeming could not be put out to
usury - ! well, she put it to herself very differently, not at all in
words, but in narrowed scrutinising eyes, half-turns of the pretty
head, a sigh and lips pressed together. There had been - nay, there
was - Lancelot, her darling. That was usufruct; but usury was a
different thing. There had never been what you would call, or Miss
Bacchus would certainly call, usury. That, indeed! She would raise her
fine brows, compress her lips, and turn to her bed, then put out the
light. Lying awake very often, she might hear James chain the front
door, trumpet through his nose on the mat, and slowly mount the stairs
to his own room. She thought resolutely of Lancelot pursuing his
panting quests at school, or of her garden in mid-June, or of the
gorse afire on Wycross Common, - and so to sleep.

A long chapter, but you will know the Macartney pair by means of it.



This was not to be one of Macartney's grand full-dress dinner-parties,
the sort where you might have two lords, and would be sure to have one
with his lady; or a Cabinet Minister in a morning-coat and greenish
tie; or a squire and squiress from Northumberland up for a month of
the season; or the Dean of Mells. No, nor was it to be one which Lucy
had to give to her visiting-list, and at which, as Macartney rarely
failed to remark, there was bound to be a clergyman, and some lean
woman with straw-coloured hair interested in a Settlement. It was to
be a particular kind of dinner-party, this one, of which the first
object was to bring Urquhart in touch with Lingen. It could have been
done at a club, no doubt. Macartney admitted it. "Yes, I know, I
know," - he used his most tired voice, as if he had been combating the
suggestion all along. "You are perfectly right. It might - if it had
not happened to be exactly what I didn't want. Jimmy Urquhart is
rather a queer fish. He is apt to shy off if one is not careful. It
don't suit me to bring them together explicitly, do you see? I want
them to happen on each other. They can do that better here than
anywhere. Do you see?"

Lucy saw, or saw enough. She never enquired into James's law affairs.
"Shall I like Mr. Urquhart, do you think?" she asked him.

The eyeglass focussed upon the cornice, and glared at a fly which
found itself belated there. "Oh, I think so. Why not?"

"Well, you see, I don't know why not - or why I should. Have I ever
seen him?"

James was bored. "No doubt you have. He's very much about."

"Yes," said Lucy, "but I am not."

James left the fly, and fixed her - apparently with horror. Then he
looked at his boots and moved his toes up and down. "He looks like a
naval officer," he said; "you instinctively seek the cuffs of his
coat. Beef-coloured face, blue eyes, a square-jawed chap. Yes, you
might like him. He might amuse you. He's a great liar." Lucy thought
that she might like Mr. Urquhart.

On those lines the party was arranged: the Blisses because "we owe
them a dinner; and I think the Judge will be amused by Jimmy;" the
Worthingtons - make-weights; but "She's a soft pink woman, like a
Persian kitten."

"Does Mr. Urquhart like that?" Lucy asked, but James, who didn't like
his jokes to be capped, said drily, "I don't know."

Then Lucy's favourite sister Mabel was to be allowed because James
rather liked Corbet. He thought him good style. Now we wanted two
women. One must be Miss Bacchus - "hideous, of course," said James; "a
kind of crime, but very smart." He meant that she mixed with the
aristocracy, which was true, though nobody knew why. The last was to
be Margery Dacre, a very pretty girl. Lucy put her forward, and James
thought her over, gazing out of window. "I like her name," he said - so
Lucy knew that she was admitted.

That was all. The rest was her care, and he washed his mind of it,
very sure that she would see to it. He wished the two men to meet for
a particular reason in a haphazard way, because it was better to drift
Urquhart into a thing than to lead him up to it. Moreover, it was not
at all disagreeable to him that Urquhart, a club and office
acquaintance, should see how comfortably placed he was, how well
appointed with wife and child, with manservant and maidservant and
everything that was his. Urquhart was a rich man, and to know that his
lawyer was rich was no bad thing. It inspired confidence. Now the
particular thing to be done with the two men, Francis Lingen and
Urquhart, was this. Francis Lingen, who might be a baronet some day
and well to do, was at the moment, as at most moments hitherto, very
short of money. Urquhart always had plenty. Macartney's idea was that
he might get Urquhart to fill Francis Lingen's pockets, on terms which
could easily be arranged. There was ample security, of course. Francis
Lingen could have gone to the Jews, or the bank, but if the thing
could be done in a gentlemanly way through one's lawyer, who also
happened to be a gentleman, in one's own set, and so on - well, why

Hence the little dinner, over whose setting forth Lucy puckered her
brows with Mrs. Jenkins, her admirable cook, and wrote many notes on
little slips of paper which she kept for the purpose. She knew quite
well when James was "particular" about a party. He said less than
usual when he was "particular." Over this one he said practically
nothing. So she toiled, and made a success of it.

The drawing-room looked charming, and she herself in black over white,
with her pearls, the most charming thing in it. It wanted a week of
Lancelot's day for school; he was to come in to dessert - that was
understood. But the possible danger of a thirteenth was removed by
their being two tables of six each. James had suddenly ordered this
variation of practice - he did not say why - and so it was to be.
Crewdson, the invaluable butler-valet of the house, who presided over
a zenana of maids, and seemed to carry his whiskers into the fray like

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Online LibraryMaurice HewlettLove and Lucy → online text (page 1 of 14)