Annie Edith Foster Jameson.

The gossip shop online

. (page 17 of 22)
Online LibraryAnnie Edith Foster JamesonThe gossip shop → online text (page 17 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


pursued, captured and gained his desire. His chivalry
casts a cloak over the woman he is going to make his wife.
So Unwin, muttering rather dizzily to himself: "She's
a good sort ... a real, good sort," went on again to his
lodgings. Once there, he sat down in his armchair and
immediately fell asleep. Hour after hour passed and he
still remained in the dead sleep of mental and physical
exhaustion. At last dawn came, and he awoke to the day,
the promised husband of Delia Lambert.

Delia spoke to Miss Walker, helped to remove the supper
tray and went upstairs to her bedroom. But she had no
inclination for sleep. She sat on the edge of her bed star-
ing into the semi-darkness made by the candle for Miss
Walker had no gas upstairs and she saw during those
hours the pageant of her own life go past. Memory can-
not hold sensation, so it was only the silent dumb-show
of it all that she re-witnessed thus . . . love . . . heart-
breaking disillusion . . . fun . . . variety . . . death.
. . . She saw them slipping past one after the other be-
tween her and the wall-paper.

Then they ceased; so she saw the wall-paper beyond
with its green roses, and the rest of the little dingy room.
But it had a charm for her, because she had come here
beaten for the first time and had found a haven of ref-
uge where she could be quiet until she gained strength
to go on with life again.

She rose, finding herself stiff with the long sitting in
one position, and went to the window where she drew up
the blind. So she also saw the dawn, and thought of Un-
win. The smell of ripe corn and deep pastures and
gardens full of roses and lavender and southern-
wood made the morning air fragrant as it blew upon
her face through the open window. She, too, had under-
gone a Wendlebury change into something sweeter than
she was before she came. All she might have been, but for
the fiery tongues of scandal driving her out into the wil-



THE SWING OF THE PENDULUM 239

derness in early girlhood, showed in her face as she stood
there watching the sun rise over the clustered roofs of the
little town.

She thought of Unwin sleeping and her look grew won-
derfully tender. Poor boy ! Poor boy ! They would have
such a jolly time together. Then her brow contracted and
her glance turned inward as she remembered that pageant
of the night. What had she left to give him in return
for his youth and kindness? Faithfulness . . . affection
. . . that was all he wanted ; that was all he offered her.

But could she count on herself even for that, in the
long run ? She might get dead sick of it all and be driven
to take her own way again, because nothing had ever held
her fast but love. She had started to be a vagabond too
soon.

The tall spire of the church was now catching the early
sunlight. The town lay silent below. A pigeon wheeled
against the morning sky.

Delia thought of the grave beneath the shadow of that
spire, and her thoughts of the past night became less ach-
ingly vivid but more real. They grew simple, fragrant
of the good things of life, like the wind blowing in through
the Avindow.

She knew that though she had already loved twice, her
last love was indeed her last. Some fire of womanhood
had died within her when Dick Delamere went, and no
power on earth could bring it back. She had only so little
to offer in return for Unwin 's faithfulness of a lifetime,
and she knew that he was of the sort who keeps faith
with his wife, whatever the temptation. But how would
it be when he fell in love again, as he inevitably would
do, and she saw him struggling between his love and his
duty to herself?

Well, the fun would be worth the price. She would
follow the fun.

But even as she quoted Unwin 's words, the thought of



240 THE GOSSIP SHOP

his gaiety and kindness made her waver again. It was not
fair to take all that, and give so little in return.

Whatever happened, she had always played fair before.
. . . She looked out again, hearing faint sounds on the
road. The* carts were coming in laden with butter and
ggs and flowers for Market Day. The dearness and sim-
plicity of the little town seemed to be held up before her,
all daily fresh, like a bunch of country flowers.

A few tears forced themselves through her eyelids and
ran down her cheeks. She could not give up the sudden
vista of recovered youth and adventure that had opened
out before her. It was too hard. No one had any right
to expect it.

But she knew now in her heart that she expected it
of herself and must do it.

The cart lumbered past, piled high with its sweet load,
and the rosy-faced countryman whistled as he went. He
sounded so free of care.

It seemed odd to Delia that any one could be so care-
free that morning.

Then she glanced at the clock: so late already? And
began to empty her untidy drawers into her box.

The early morning light shone also on either side of
the bedroom blind which screened the connubial felicity of
Mr. and Mrs. Chubb. It illuminated first Mr. Chubb 's
nose and then Mrs. Chubb 's elbow, and finally twinkled
upon the closed eyelids of the recumbent cabman.

' ' Gar-r-rh ! ' ' said Mr. Chubb, waking with reluctance.
Then he sat up and demanded angrily: "What did you
do that for?"

Mrs. Chubb was alert on the instant, leaning on that
red elbow.

"I didn't do nothing, Chubb."

"You woke me up. If you hadn't woke me up I
shouldn't ha' woke up. I don't wake meself up, do I?
Not at this time."



THE SWING OF THE PENDULUM 241

"Hush!" said Mrs. Chubb. "It's somebody knocking.
That's what you heard."

"Silly woman! Who's to knock at such an' a time?

I telled you it was " Then he broke off and his \face

slowly changed. "Somebody is knocking now. But they
didn't knock afore, else I should have heard 'em."

"Who can it be?" said Mrs. Chubb. "Oh, I do hope
the house next door isn't afire. They're always that care-
less ..."

"Get up and see," commanded Chubb.

"Go yourself," retorted Mrs. Chubb yet had an angel
told her six months ago that she could so answer back her
lord she would have pronounced the thing to be impos-
sible.

' ' What ! ' ' said Chubb, and he remained a moment silent,
the mental blow being so great. "Very well," he said,
getting out of bed. ' ' Very well I '11 go ! "

But Chubb 's "very well," taken with his ready acqui-
escence, seemed so bodeful to Mrs. Chubb that she jumped
out of bed the other side and quavered forth hastily: "I
I'm going, Chubb, of course. It was only my joke."

"Joke!" said Chubb. "You joking! You'll be setting
up as a match for Unwin yet and a bonny pass it'll lead
you to, my woman. As it has him. Going out to lions
and tigers!"

"I won't go out to lions and tigers!" muttered Mrs,
Chubb tearfully, putting on garments. ' ' Though no doubt
you'd be pleased to know me all safely gobbled up so
that you and her "

"Bang! Bang!" went the impatient knuckles on the
outer door.

"Coming!" shouted Mrs. Chubb.

And the next minute she opened the house door to con-
front Delia on the door-step.

"You!" she gasped, as if Delia were a thought mate-
rialised before her, and nothing out of the comfortable,
tangible world. "You!"



242 THE GOSSIP SHOP

"I don't wonder you are surprised," said Delia. "But
I want Mr. Chubb as a great favour to get up and bring
his cab round at once. I shall just have nice time to
catch the first train up to town, where I am obliged to
go quite unexpectedly."

"You're going to London?" said Mrs. Chubb, peering
into Delia's face, which looked very lined and haggard
in the morning light.

"Yes."

"Are you coming back again to Wendlebury ? "

Delia hesitated, then she said with decision: "No."

"Not never?"

"No."

Mrs. Chubb turned round from the door and shouted
up the stairs : ' ' Come down ! Get the cab out. Miss Lam-
bert wants to go to London for ever."

There was a thud that shook the house as Chubb jumped
out of bed.

"The early train? All right. Plenty of time," he
shouted back.

"Your husband is always so obliging," said Delia,
smiling kindly at Mrs. Chubb, though she looked ab-
stracted and anxious. ' ' I knew he would not mind. Good-
bye!"

Mrs. Chubb opened her mouth, shut it, opened it again,
and said: "Good-bye. I I hope you'll enjoy London!"

Then she ran upstairs, and was so eager to help her
husband in his toilette that he bellowed at last with ex-
cusable anger

"Blast it! Can't you leave a man to button his own
braces?" and so drove her from the room.

But she hummed a tune in the kitchen as she boiled
the kettle and cut the bread and butter, and the burden
of her song was this

' ' Folks-that-lives-in-London-town
' ' Can 't-nypnotize-no-more. ' '



THE SWING OF THE PENDULUM 243

She spread her butter to that rhythm, and her face
shone so pleasantly joyful over the clean table that even
Chubb noticed it.

' ' Come, owd lass ! " he said. ' ' Give us a kiss. There's a
many worse."

Mrs. Chubb kissed him with butter on her lips, for she
had been tasting, but with tears of joy in her eyes. Her
Chubby would soon be all her own again. Already the
spell had lifted.

If Chubb could have seen into her mind as he swallowed
his tea, he would have thought her mad; and, indeed, the
fancies of a jealous woman are no less extravagant and
unfounded than the delusions of madness.



CHAPTER XX

PAEEWELL !

UNWIN stood before the door of Delia's lodgings and
stared at Miss Walker, who blinked nervously at him
from the shadow of the little passage.

' ' Gone ! " he said. ' ' That is impossible ! ' '

"You may come in and see for yourself," retorted Miss
Walker. "I'm as surprised as you are. She went out
early this morning and when she came back she paid me
up, and there was Chubb 's cab at the door. You could
have knocked me down with a feather ! ' '

"But she must have left some address?"

Miss Walker shook her head.

"You can't call London an address. She only said she
was going to London."

"But did you not ask her for one in case of letters
coming?" demanded Unwin.

"I did. And she said she never knew where she might
be." Miss Walker blinked still more, but with emotion
this time, and a tear ran down her face. "I feel it, Mr.
Unwin. I do, indeed. Her and me have been friends,
in a manner of speaking; and now for her to go off like
this into the wide world as you may say, and no hopes of
seeing her again."

"She may return," said Unwin.

"No. I said, 'When shall we see you again?' and she
said, 'I am not coming back to Wendlebury, Miss Walker.
This is good-bye!' Then she kissed me, but never a tear
she shed. Her eyes were as dry and bright as anything.
Still, I do think she felt it too, Mr. Unwin/'

244



FAREWELL ! 245

"I can't believe it," muttered Unwin, looking down at
the pavement.

"Nor I couldn't," said Miss "Walker, voluble in her
agitation. "But there it is! I suppose with the fortune-
telling and all that, she is one of the wandering sort
blowing where she listeth, if you'll forgive me quoting
Scripture, not meaning any irreverence. And no doubt
she suddenly got the fit on her. She had to go."

"Perhaps that was it," said Unwin, after a pause.

"Never mind!" said Miss Walker. "But you are off
to foreign parts yourself, Mr. Unwin, so you and Miss
Lambert Avouldn 't have seen much more of each other any-
way. " Then she glanced towards the untidy sitting-room
and added briskly: "Well! I must just get Mrs. Chubb to
come round and clean me up while I am out working to-
day. Somebody else may be coming to look at the lodg-
ings. I must stand a bucket or two of water about to
take off the smell of her cigarettes."

Thus was Delia set outside the life of the little place,
definitely, as if a deed of banishment had been read over
her. As Unwin turned from the door after making his
farewell, he saw the narrow, pellucid, chattering stream of
existence, so like the beck behind Wendlebury market
place, already flowing over the spot where Delia had been.

At first he was only conscious of a feeling of blankness.
Why had she gone like that? He simply could not under-
stand it.

Then anger began to stir. She had treated him abom-
inably. Now that she was gone and he could not marry
her, he experienced a bitter sense of frustration. He felt
for the moment that he ardently desired the marriage now
it was placed beyond his reach.

But even as he turned into the market square a blessed
sense of relief began to creep Over him. The registrar's
office was there, facing him, and all that it implied. He
felt his heart give a great thud against his ribs, like that
of a man who has narrowly escaped a great danger.



246 THE GOSSIP SHOP

Then the Vicar came by, hurrying to matins.

"Sorry to lose you, Unwin. Off next week, I suppose?"

"Yes." Suddenly Unwin made a determination. "No.
That is, I find I have to go to-day instead."

"Ah! Always things you want in London at the last
moment. Don't forget a solar tope, and insect powder.
Hope to see you back well and hearty before long. Good-
bye!"

So the Vicar bustled along full of his own business, and
Unwin looked at the time. Yes, his heavy baggage was
all gone; by using the telephone and working hard, lie
could be ready to take the three o'clock train.

But behind all the farewells and the thousand small pre-
occupations of that day, one thought urged like a gnawing
toothache at the back of his mind he was going away
without seeing Pauline. He had done with women, and
was indeed now shaking the dust of the female kingdom
off his feet for ever but he was going away without see-
ing Pauline.

At last Chubb 's cab stood at the door and it was time
to go.

Pauline sat by Aunt Dickson mending stockings with
her pale, pointed face and shadowy hair she sat running
the threads in and out, more like a will-o '-the-wisp trained
to domestic duties than ever. Her soul had retained from
childhood the power of going long secret journeys even
while she was working or talking, and perhaps this was
one reason for her not aloofness but some quality which
has no equivalent in words. Those to whom such people
speak have a subtle knowledge that the speaker is on such
a journey, though there is no indication of it, and they do
not know they know. Perhaps a rush of coolness in the
mental air. . . . Thus Aunt Dickson felt at times a little
repelled by Pauline, though loving her so much.

It was a relief to-day, for instance, when a tinkle of
china announced that Eva had returned from an errand



FAREWELL ! 247

and was bringing in the tea. An onrush of warm, human
thoughts came with her. Pauline rose and put a little
table near Aunt Dickson, giving her a caress as if uncon-
sciously asking forgiveness for having left her alone so
long.

Aunt Dickson looked up with a wistful smile on her
big red face. What should she do when Pauline went?
And yet, of course, she would marry and go away some
time. She thought it strange that the affair with Unwin
had altogether stopped, and a delicacy of feeling rare in
elderly people's dealings with the young prevented her
from asking a direct question, while Pauline evaded indi-
rect remarks on the subject. But here Eva, the outsider
as so often happens plunged carelessly into the midst of
the hidden thoughts of both.

"I've just seen Mr. Unwin," she began excitedly. "I
was at the fish shop when he drove in Chubb 's cab across
the square. People were calling out 'Good-luck' to him,
and he was waving back at them it was a fair treat like
a circus going round or something. It only wanted him
to be throwing out little handbills. But he waved and
shouted a good 'un, so he did!"

"Then he did not seem to mind-leaving Wendlebury?"
said Aunt Dickson.

"Not a bit of it," replied Eva; "he was off on the jolly
jaunt, he was! And I for one don't blame him. A young
man wants to see a bit o' life. I shall ever remember when
I cried at coming into placing at Wendlebury I was only
twelve and my mother says to me, 'Eva,' she says, 'some
sticks to one fowl-run till it goes sour, but not us Martins.
Stop hollering at once, pack your box.' So I did. And I
haven't never regretted it. I dessay Mr. Unwin won't
neither."

"I hope not; I'm sure I hope not," said Aunt Dickson,
conscious of Pauline's silence.

"Oh, and there's another bit of news," said Eva.
"Miss Lambert's gone too!"



248 THE GOSSIP SHOP

"Miss Lambert! You don't mean they have gone to-
gether?" cried Aunt Dickson.

There was a pause as Eva put a cake on the table. And
into that pause clashed the sudden breaking of the cup
which Pauline held. Her tense grasp of it had broken the
delicate china.

' ' Oh, lor ! Let me pick up the bits. Accidents will hap-
pen, Miss," said Eva.

"Did they go together?" said Pauline.

"No. She went by the first train this morning. I met
Mrs. Chubb and she told me Miss Lambert knocked them
up before six for a cab. But both him and her went to
London. There wouldn't be no law against their meeting
in London, of course," concluded Eva, retiring.

"Thousands of people go to London every day who
never meet there," said Aunt Dickson, as the door closed.

"Oh, yes," said Pauline, and she began to speak of a
knitting pattern which Aunt Dickson wished her to find.
But behind the quiet desultory talk an unspoken conver-
sation went on in which both took part without knowing
it. Aunt Dickson saying more beautifully than any words
could do, how dear Pauline was, and how she would be
always loved best and always welcome here, whatever the
world might do to her. While Pauline replied in the same
way that she knew, and was comforted, so long as the un-
spoken words did not translate themselves into language.

But aloud she only said

"I think I'll go out for a walk now. I have been in all
day."

And Aunt Dickson answered

"Do; you want some exercise."

But that unspoken conversation with Aunt Dickson was
one which Pauline always remembered very tenderly;
more tenderly as the years went on, and she knew how
hard it is for experience to keep silence in the face of un-
tried youth.

At this time, however, she was only conscious of a sense



FAREWELL ! 249

of intense relief as she ran down the clean steps of the
little house, leaving it all behind her. And as she tramped
along the Ryeford Road, seeing the dissipated scarecrow
breast-high in the ripe corn, she thought and feared and
wondered until her tired brain refused to conjecture any
longer. One fact at least was plain: Unwin had gpne
away without saying good-bye or trying to see her. He
could not have done that if he had not quite finished
with her. She had nothing to hope for now. No more
listening for the bell or watching from the window. Only
a dead certainty that she must live her life as best she
might without him.

And in saying that to herself, she realised that in spite
of assuming despair she had really always kept full of
hope.

Next morning, being Sunday, Pauline stood in the win-
dow buttoning her gloves.

' ' It looks rather like rain, ' ' said Aunt Dickson, glancing
at Pauline's slim figure in the filmy grey gown. "I don't
think I should go to church if I were you!"

"Oh, yes, I think it will keep off until I get back," said
Pauline.

But both knew that it was one of Wendlebury's rare
days of absolutely settled dry weather, and that Aunt
Dickson was advising Pauline to spare herself an ordeal.

"Well, good-bye," said Pauline, hastily breaking one
of those pauses in which unspoken things grow too loud.
"Don't I look a swell in my new frock?"

"It suits you down to the ground," said Aunt Dickson
cheerily. "Good-bye, dear."

So the door banged and she was left alone by the win-
dow, while the bells rang out, as always on Sunday morn-
ing

"Come, you Wendlebury people,
Come and pray beneath your steeple."



250 THE GOSSIP SHOP

Then, changing the chime

"Come Wen bur peo

you die y pie,
"Come and pray be-neath your steeple!"

And lastly

"Come! Come! Come!"

Aunt Dickson listened to it all through the open win-
dow, and watched the churchgoers hurrying past. She
smiled at one, waved to another, and at last the street was
empty.

She took up the prayer-book and began to read the
service; no doubt finding in it that which could soothe
and console her active spirit as she sat there, bound by
her infirmities.

The service was over, and the congregation emerged into
the pleasant flowery greenness of the churchyard. A
group formed beside the path consisting of several Wen-
dlebury ladies who were well acquainted. They wore
turned silks and pale alpacas that had done duty for many
summers, but each gown somehow possessed a delicate
freshness which seemed to be unfading, like the scent of
lavender. Mrs. Delamere and Pauline alone wore dresses
new that year, but Mrs. Delamere 's gloves were less fresh
than Miss Harriet's, and Pauline's silk stockings were not
so fine as Miss Amelia's often mended summer Sunday
ones, which had belonged to her mother. Mrs. Carter
wore the purple cashmere that all affectionately remem-
bered, while the Vicar's wife had brought forth again the
silk which she bought for her sister's wedding the sister
who now possessed a baby able to read.

On the whole there was something very charming about
the group delicate skins, clear, faded eyes as if the



FAREWELL! 251

ladies themselves had been put by very carefully in silver
paper. And Pauline harmonised with them well enough,
but Mary Carter, coming briskly up the path, seemed a
thought too new and strongly coloured. There was a pleas-
ant murmur of greetings.

''So glad to see you out again, Miss Harriet."

' ' Yes, delightful weather ! Mr. Unwin will have a calm
passage."

"Oh, he does not actually sail until Wednesday."

So they spoke together in little short phrases, preening
themselves in the sunshine.

Then Miss Argle said, speaking with clear precision

"I hope Mr. Unwin will do well. A nice young fellow,
but better away from Wendlebury."

"Why?" demanded Mary Carter abruptly.

"Oh, a new beginning . . . always a good thing," said
Miss Argle, rather taken aback.

"He hadn't done anything wrong," said Mary.

"No," agreed Miss Argle apologetically; "but I am
afraid his money affairs must have been . . . My people
found a pawn ticket when they picked him up. The mo-
tor accident, you know?"

"Then they ought to have kept it to themselves," an-
nounced Mary Carter. "Least they could do after knock-
ing him down was to keep silence about what he had in
his pockets." She turned to Pauline. "Don't you think
so, Pauline?"

"Yes," answered Pauline, unable to say more.

"I am sure my relatives are most scrupulously honour-
able," said Miss Argle, turning very red. "They never
meant it to go any further . . . they would never dream
... I was only showing what a good thing it was that
young Unwin had left Wendlebury."

"Only fancy!" said Miss Harriet in her deep tones,
"Reduced to pawning his wardrobe! I fear he must have
led a sad life before being brought to such straits! How
little one knows of what is taking place even within the



252 THE GOSSIP SHOP

narrow radius of one's own social circle. What's that!"
For a strange little noise, something resembling the sneeze
of a cat, had come from the billowy mass of grey and
lavender of which Miss Amelia was the centre.

"Has Mrs. Delamere's Midge escaped and come to meet
her?" said the Vicar's wife, stepping quickly aside, for
every one hated and feared that pampered canine morsel.

Then the noise came again and it was plainly human.

"Amelia!" thundered Miss Harriet.

"It " Poor Miss Amelia choked and then went on,

turning tragic eyes from one to the other of those as-
tounded faces, "It was my pawn ticket!"

"Yours!" gasped Miss Harriet.

"I got Mr. Unwin to pawn some jewelry for me. I was
short of money when you were ill. I didn't want to worry
you," faltered Miss Amelia.

"And you could think of no better solution than such
a one as this," said Miss Harriet, also in her way tragic.
"Amelia, I thank heaven our father is not alive to see this
day "

"Oh, I know," said Miss Amelia, wringing her hands
in the cleaned lavender-coloured gloves and weeping bit-
terly. "I know I have brought disgrace on the family."

' ' I wish my tongue had been cut out ! ' ' said Miss Argle,
also weeping.

Then Pauline stepped forward and put a sheltering arm
round the poor trembling Miss Amelia.

"There is nothing to cry about," she said gently.
"Why, it was just the most sensible thing you could have
done. We should all have done the same if we had only
had pluck and initiative enough to think of it. ' '

"No, no. Don't say that! Don't let my example lead


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryAnnie Edith Foster JamesonThe gossip shop → online text (page 17 of 22)