Mrs. Humphry Ward.

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DELIA

BLANCHFLOWER


BY


MRS. HUMPHRY WARD

AUTHOR "LADY ROSE'S DAUGHTER," ETC.


Frontispiece in color by

WILL FOSTER




DELIA BLANCHFLOWER




Chapter I


"Not a Britisher to be seen - or scarcely! Well, I can do without 'em
for a bit!"

And the Englishman whose mind shaped these words continued his
leisurely survey of the crowded salon of a Tyrolese hotel, into which a
dining-room like a college hall had just emptied itself after the
mid-day meal. Meanwhile a German, sitting near, seeing that his tall
neighbour had been searching his pockets in vain for matches, offered
some. The Englishman's quick smile in response modified the German's
general opinion of English manners, and the two exchanged some remarks
on the weather - a thunder shower was splashing outside - remarks which
bore witness at least to the Englishman's courage in using such
knowledge of the German tongue as he possessed. Then, smoking
contentedly, he leant against the wall behind him, still looking on.

He saw a large room, some seventy feet long, filled with a
miscellaneous foreign crowd - South Germans, Austrians, Russians,
Italians - seated in groups round small tables, smoking, playing cards
or dominoes, reading the day's newspapers which the funicular had just
brought up, or lazily listening to the moderately good band which was
playing some Rheingold selection at the farther end.

To his left was a large family circle - Russians, according to
information derived from the headwaiter - and among them, a girl,
apparently about eighteen, sitting on the edge of the party and
absorbed in a novel of which she was eagerly turning the pages. From
her face and figure the half savage, or Asiatic note, present in the
physiognomy and complexion of her brothers and sisters, was entirely
absent. Her beautiful head with its luxuriant mass of black hair, worn
low upon the cheek, and coiled in thick plaits behind, reminded the
Englishman of a Greek fragment he had admired, not many days before, in
the Louvre; her form too was of a classical lightness and perfection.
The Englishman noticed indeed that her temper was apparently not equal
to her looks. When her small brothers interrupted her, she repelled
them with a pettish word or gesture; the English governess addressed
her, and got no answer beyond a haughty look; even her mother was
scarcely better treated.

Close by, at another table, was another young girl, rather younger than
the first, and equally pretty. She too was dark haired, with a delicate
oval face and velvet black eyes, but without any of the passionate
distinction, the fire and flame of the other. She was German,
evidently. She wore a plain white dress with a red sash, and her little
feet in white shoes were lightly crossed in front of her. The face and
eyes were all alive, it seemed to him, with happiness, with the mere
pleasure of life. She could not keep herself still for a moment. Either
she was sending laughing signals to an elderly man near her, presumably
her father, or chattering at top speed with another girl of her own
age, or gathering her whole graceful body into a gesture of delight as
the familiar Rheingold music passed from one lovely _motif_ to another.

"You dear little thing!" thought the Englishman, with an impulse of
tenderness, which passed into foreboding amusement as he compared the
pretty creature with some of the matrons sitting near her, with one in
particular, a lady of enormous girth, whose achievements in eating and
drinking at meals had seemed to him amazing. Almost all the middle-aged
women in the hotel were too fat, and had lost their youth thereby,
prematurely. Must the fairy herself - Euphrosyne - come to such a muddy
vesture in the end? Twenty years hence? - alack!

"Beauty that must die." The hackneyed words came suddenly to mind, and
haunted him, as his eyes wandered round the room. Amid many coarse or
commonplace types, he yet perceived an unusual number of agreeable or
handsome faces; as is indeed generally the case in any Austrian hotel.
Faces, some of them, among the very young girls especially, of a
rose-tinted fairness, and subtly expressive, the dark brows arching on
white foreheads, the features straight and clean, the heads well
carried, as though conscious of ancestry and tradition; faces, also, of
the _bourgeoisie_, of a simpler, Gretchen-like beauty; faces - a few - of
"intellectuals," as he fancied, - including the girl with the
novel? - not always handsome, but arresting, and sometimes noble. He
felt himself in a border land of races, where the Teutonic and Latin
strains had each improved the other; and the pretty young girls and
women seemed to him like flowers sprung from an old and rich soil. He
found his pleasure in watching them - the pleasure of the Ancient
Mariner when he blessed the water-snakes. Sex had little to say to it;
and personal desire nothing. Was he not just over forty? - a very busy
Englishman, snatching a hard-earned holiday - a bachelor, moreover,
whose own story lay far behind him.

"_Beauty that must die_" The words reverberated and would not be
dismissed. Was it because he had just been reading an article in a new
number of the _Quarterly_, on "Contemporary Feminism," with mingled
amazement and revolt, roused by some of the strange facts collected by
the writer? So women everywhere - many women at any rate - were turning
indiscriminately against the old bonds, the old yokes, affections,
servitudes, demanding "self-realisation," freedom for the individuality
and the personal will; rebelling against motherhood, and life-long
marriage; clamouring for easy divorce, and denouncing their own
fathers, brothers and husbands, as either tyrants or fools; casting
away the old props and veils; determined, apparently, to know
everything, however ugly, and to say everything, however outrageous? He
himself was a countryman, an English provincial, with English public
school and university traditions of the best kind behind him, a mind
steeped in history, and a natural taste for all that was ancient and
deep-rooted. The sketch of an emerging generation of women, given in
the _Quarterly_ article, had made a deep impression upon him. It seemed
to him frankly horrible. He was of course well acquainted, though
mainly through the newspapers, with English suffragism, moderate and
extreme. His own country district and circle were not, however, much
concerned with it. And certainly he knew personally no such types as
the _Quarterly_ article described. Among them, no doubt, were the women
who set fire to houses, and violently interrupted or assaulted Cabinet
ministers, who wrote and maintained newspapers that decent people would
rather not read, who grasped at martyrdom and had turned evasion of
penalty into a science, the continental type, though not as yet
involved like their English sisters in a hand-to-hand, or fist-to-fist
struggle with law and order, were, it seemed, even more revolutionary
in principle, and to some extent in action. The life and opinions of a
Sonia Kovalevski left him bewildered. For no man was less omniscient
than he. Like the Cabinet minister of recent fame, in the presence of
such _femmes fortes_, he might have honestly pleaded, _mutatis
mutandis_, "In these things I am a child."

Were these light-limbed, dark-eyed maidens under his eyes touched with
this new anarchy? They or their elders must know something about it.
There had been a Feminist congress lately at Trient - on the very site,
and among the ghosts of the great Council. Well, what could it bring
them? Was there anything so brief, so passing, if she did but know it,
as a woman's time for happiness? "_Beauty that must die_."

As the words recurred, some old anguish lying curled at his heart
raised its head and struck. He heard a voice - tremulously
sweet - "Mark! - dear Mark! - I'm not good enough - but I'll be to you all
a woman can."

_She_ had not played with life - or scorned it - or missed it. It was not
_her_ fault that she must put it from her.

In the midst of the crowd about him, he was no longer aware of it.
Still smoking mechanically, his eyelids had fallen over his eyes, as
his head rested against the wall.

He was interrupted by a voice which said in excellent though foreign
English -

"I beg your pardon, sir - I wonder if I might have that paper you are
standing on?"

He looked down astonished, and saw that he was trampling on the day's
_New York Herald_, which had fallen from a table near. With many
apologies he lifted it, smoothed it out, and presented it to the
elderly lady who had asked for it.

She looked at him through her spectacles with a pleasant smile.

"You don't find many English newspapers in these Tyrolese hotels?"

"No; but I provide myself. I get my _Times_ from home."

"Then, as an Englishman, you have all you want. But you seem to be
without it to-night?"

"It hasn't arrived. So I am reduced, as you see, to listening to the
music."

"You are not musical?"

"Well, I don't like this band anyway. It makes too much noise. Don't
you think it rather a nuisance?"

"No. It helps these people to talk," she said, in a crisp, cheerful
voice, looking round the room.

"But they don't want any help. Most of them talk by nature as fast as
the human tongue can go!"

"About nothing!" She shrugged her shoulders.

Winnington observed her more closely. She was, he guessed, somewhere
near fifty; her scanty hair was already grey, and her round, plain face
was wrinkled and scored like a dried apple. But her eyes, which were
dark and singularly bright, expressed both energy and wit; and her
mouth, of which the upper lip was caught up a little at one corner,
seemed as though quivering with unspoken and, as he thought, sarcastic
speech. Was she, perchance, the Swedish _Schriftstellerin_ of whom he
had heard the porter talking to some of the hotel guests? She looked a
lonely-ish, independent sort of body.

"They seem nice, kindly people," he said, glancing round the salon.
"And how they enjoy life!"

"You call it life?"

He laughed out.

"You are hard upon them, madame. Now I - being a mere man - am lost in
admiration of their good looks. We in England pride ourselves on our
women, But upon my word, it would be difficult to match this show in an
English hotel. Look at some of the faces!"

She followed his eyes - indifferently.

"Yes - they've plenty of beauty. And what'll it do for them? Lead them
into some wretched marriage or other - and in a couple of years there
will be neither beauty nor health, nor self-respect, nor any interest
in anything, but money, clothes, and outwitting their husbands."

"You forget the children!"

"Ah - the children" - she said in a dubious tone, shrugging her shoulders
again.

The Englishman - whose name was Mark Winnington - suddenly saw light
upon her.

A Swedish writer, a woman travelling alone? He remembered the sketch of
"feminism" in Sweden which he had just read. The names of certain
woman-writers flitted through his mind. He felt a curiosity mixed with
distaste. But curiosity prevailed.

He bent forward. And as he came thereby into stronger light from a
window on his left, the thought crossed the mind of his neighbour that
although so fully aware of other people's good looks, the tall
Englishman seemed to be quite unconscious of his own. Yet in truth he
appeared both to her, and to the hotel guests in general, a kind of
heroic creature. In height he towered beside the young or middle-aged
men from Munich, Buda-Pesth, or the north Italian towns, who filled the
_salon_. He had all that athlete could desire in the way of shoulders,
and lean length of body; a finely-carried head, on which the brown hair
was wearing a little thin at the crown, while still irrepressibly
strong and curly round the brow and temple; thick penthouse brows, and
beneath them a pair of greyish eyes which had already made him friends
with the children and the dogs and half the grown-ups in the place. The
Swedish lady admitted - but with no cordiality - that human kindness
could hardly speak more plainly in a human face than from those eyes.
Yet the mouth and chin were thin, strong and determined; so were the
hands. The man's whole aspect, moreover, spoke of assured position, and
of a keen intelligence free from personal pre-occupations, and keeping
a disinterested outlook on the world. The woman who observed him had in
her handbag a book by a Russian lady in which Man, with a capital,
figured either as "a great comic baby," or as the "Man-Beast," invented
for the torment of women. The gentleman before her seemed a little
difficult to fit into either category.

But if she was observing him, he had begun to question her.

"Will you forgive me if I ask an impertinent question?"

"Certainly. They are the only questions worth asking."

He laughed.

"You are, I think, from Sweden?"

"That is my country."

"And I am told you are a writer?" She bent her head. "I can see also
that you are - what shall I say? - very critical of your sex - no doubt,
still more of mine! I wonder if I may ask " -

He paused, his smiling eyes upon her.

"Ask anything you like."

"Well, there seems to be a great woman-movement in your country. Are
you interested in it?"

"You mean - am I a feminist? Yes, I happen to dislike the word; but it
describes me. I have been working for years for the advancement of
women. I have written about it - and in the Scandinavian countries we
have already got a good deal. The vote in Sweden and Norway; almost
complete equality with men in Denmark. Professional equality, too, has
gone far. We shall get all we want before long?" Her eyes sparkled in
her small lined face.

"And you are satisfied?"

"What human being of any intelligence - and I am intelligent," she
added, quietly, - "ever confessed to being 'satisfied'? Our shoe pinched
us. We have eased it a good deal."

"You really find it substantially better to walk with?"

"Through this uncomfortable world? Certainly. Why not?"

He was silent a little. Then he said, with his pleasant look, throwing
his head back to observe her, as though aware he might rouse her
antagonism.

"All that seems to me to go such a little way."

"I daresay," she said, indifferently, though it seemed to him that she
flushed. "You men have had everything you want for so long, you have
lost the sense of value. Now that we want some of your rights, it is
your cue to belittle them. And England, of course, is hopelessly
behind!" The tone had sharpened.

He laughed again and was about to reply when the band struck up Brahm's
Hungarian dances, and talk was hopeless. When the music was over, and
the burst of clapping, from all the young folk especially, had died
away, the Swedish lady said abruptly -

"But we had an English lady here last year - quite a young girl - very
handsome too - who was an even stronger feminist than I."

"Oh, yes, we can produce them - in great numbers. You have only to look
at our newspapers."

His companion's upper lip mocked at the remark.

"You don't produce them in great numbers - like the young lady I speak
of."

"Ah, she was good-looking?" laughed Winnington. "That, of course, gave
her a most unfair advantage."

"A man's jest," said the other dryly - "and an old one. But naturally
women take all the advantage they can get - out of anything. They need
it. However, this young lady had plenty of other gifts - besides her
beauty. She was as strong as most men. She rode, she climbed, she sang.
The whole hotel did nothing but watch her. She was the centre of
everything. But after a little while she insisted on leaving her father
down here to over-eat himself and play cards, while she went with her
maid and a black mare that nobody but she wanted to ride, up to the
_Jagd-hütte_ in the forest. There! - you can see a little blue smoke
coming from it now" -

She pointed through the window to the great forest-clothed cliff, some
five thousand feet high, which fronted the hotel; and across a deep
valley, just below its topmost point, Mark Winnington saw a puff of
smoke mounting into the clear sky.

- "Of course there was a great deal of talk. The men gossipped and the
women scoffed. Her father, who adored her and could not control her in
the least, shrugged his shoulders, played bridge all day long with an
English family, and would sit on the verandah watching the path - that
path there - which comes down from the _Jagd-hütte_ with a spy-glass.
Sometimes she would send him down a letter by one of the Jager's boys,
and he would send a reply. And every now and then she would come
down - riding - like a Brunhilde, with her hair all blown about her - and
her eyes - _Ach_, superb!"

The little dowdy woman threw up her hands.

Her neighbour's face shewed that the story interested and amused him.

"A Valkyrie, indeed! But how a feminist?"

"You shall hear. One evening she offered to give an address at the
hotel on 'Women and the Future.' She was already of course regarded as
half mad, and her opinions were well known. Some people objected, and
spoke to the manager. Her father, it was said, tried to stop it, but
she got her own way with him. And the manager finally decided that the
advertisement would be greater than the risk. When the evening came the
place was _bondé_; people came from every inn and pension round for
miles. She spoke beautiful German, she had learnt it from a German
governess who had brought her up, and been a second mother to her; and
she hadn't a particle of _mauvaise honte_. Somebody had draped some
Austrian and English flags behind her. The South Germans and Viennese,
and Hungarians who came to listen - just the same kind of people who are
here to-night - could hardly keep themselves on their chairs. The men
laughed and stared - I heard a few brutalities - but they couldn't keep
their eyes off her, and in the end they cheered her. Most of the women
were shocked, and wished they hadn't come, or let their girls come. And
the girls themselves sat open-mouthed - drinking it in."

"Amazing!" laughed the Englishman. "Wish I had been there! Was it an
onslaught upon men?"

"Of course," said his companion coolly. "What else could it be? At
present you men are the gaolers, and we the prisoners in revolt. This
girl talked revolution - they all do. 'We women _intend_ to have equal
rights with you! - whatever it cost. And when we have got them we shall
begin to fashion the world as _we_ want it - and not as you men have
kept it till now. _Gare à vous!_ You have enslaved us for ages - you may
enslave us a good while yet - but the end is certain. There is a new age
coming, and it will be the age of the free woman!' - That was the kind
of thing. I daresay it sounds absurd to you - but as she put it - as she
looked it - I can tell you, it was fine!"

The small, work-worn hands of the Swedish lady shook on her knee. Her
eyes seemed to hold the Englishman at bay. Then she added, in another
tone.

"Some people of course walked out, and afterwards there were many
complaints from fathers of families that their daughters should have
been exposed to such a thing. But it all passed over."

"And the young lady went back to the forest?"

"Yes, - for a time."

"And what became of the black mare?"

"Its mistress gave her to an inn-keeper here when she left. But the
first time he went to see the horse in the stable, she trampled on him
and he was laid up for weeks."

"Like mistress, like mare? - Excuse the jest! But now, may I know the
name of the prophetess?"

"She was a Miss Blanchflower," said the Swedish lady, boggling a little
over the name. "Her father had been a governor of one of your
colonies."

Winnington started forward in his chair.

"Good heavens! - you don't mean a daughter of old Bob Blanchflower!"

"Her father's name was Sir Robert Blanchflower."

The tanned face beside her expressed the liveliest interest.

"Why, I knew Blanchflower quite well. I met him long ago when I was
staying with an uncle in India - at a station in the Bombay presidency.
He was Major Blanchflower then" -

The speaker's brow furrowed a little as though under the stress of some
sudden recollection, and he seemed to check himself in what he was
saying. But in a moment he resumed: -

"A little after that he left the army, and went into Parliament.
And - precisely! - after a few years they made him governor
somewhere - not much of a post. Then last year his old father, a
neighbour of mine in Hampshire, quite close to my little place, went
and died, and Blanchflower came into a fortune and a good deal of land
besides. And I remember hearing that he had thrown up the Colonial
Service, had broken down in health, and was living abroad for some
years to avoid the English climate. That's the man of course. And the
Valkyrie is Blanchflower's daughter! Very odd that! I must have seen
her as a child. Her mother" - he paused again slightly - "was a Greek by
birth, and gloriously handsome. Blanchflower met her when he was
military attaché at Athens for a short time. - Well, that's all very
interesting!"

And in a ruminating mood the Englishman took out his cigarette-case.

"You smoke, Madame?"

The Swedish lady quietly accepted the courtesy. And while the too
insistent band paused between one murdered Wagnerian fragment and
another, they continued a conversation which seemed to amuse them both.

* * * * *

A little later the Englishman went out into the garden of the hotel,
meaning to start for a walk. But he espied a party of young people
gathered about the new lawn-tennis court where instead of the languid
and dishevelled trifling, with a broken net and a wretched court, that
was once supposed to attract English visitors, he had been already
astonished to find Austrians and Hungarians - both girls and
boys - playing a game quite up to the average of a good English club.
The growing athleticism and independence, indeed, of the foreign girl,
struck, for Winnington, the note of change in this mid-European
spectacle more clearly than anything else. It was some ten years since
he had been abroad in August, a month he had been always accustomed to
spend in Scotch visits; and these young girls, with whom the Tyrol
seemed to swarm, of all European nationalities other than English,
still in or just out of the schoolroom; hatless and fearless; with
their knapsacks on their backs, sometimes with ice-axes in their hands;
climbing peaks and passes with their fathers and brothers; playing
lawn-tennis like young men, and shewing their shapely forms sometimes,
when it was a question of attacking the heights, in knicker-bocker
costume, and at other times in fresh white dresses and bright-coloured
jerseys, without a hint of waist; these young Atalantas, budding and
bloomed, made the strongest impression upon him, as of a new race.
Where had he been all these years? He felt himself a kind of Rip van
Winkle - face to face at forty-one with a generation unknown to him. No
one of course could live in England, and not be aware of the change
which has passed over English girls in the same direction. But the
Englishman always tacitly assumes that the foreigner is far behind him
in all matters of open-air sport and physical development. Winnington
had soon confessed the touch of national arrogance in his own surprise;
and was now the keen and much attracted spectator.

On one of the grounds he saw the little German girl - Euphrosyne, as he
had already dubbed her - having a lesson from a bullying elder brother.
The youth, amazed at his own condescension, scolded his sister
perpetually, and at last gave her up in despair, vowing that she would
never be any good, and he was not going to waste his time in teaching
such a ninny. Euphrosyne sat down beside the court, with tears in her
pretty eyes, her white feet crossed, her dark head drooping; and two
girl companions, aged about sixteen or seventeen, like herself, came up
to comfort her.

"I could soon shew you how to improve your service, Mademoiselle," said
Winnington, smiling, as he passed her. Euphrosyne looked up startled,
but at sight of the handsome middle-aged Englishman, whom she unkindly
judged to be not much younger than her father, she timidly replied: -

"It is hateful, Monsieur, to be so stupid as I am!"



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