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on the right side of the road; he told the shopkeeper he
wouldn't pay, and the case is coming on. He simply
hasn't a ghost."

" But," asked Grace, " where d'you come in, Ed-
ward? "

" Well, this chap, Fenor "

" Fenor? That's a funny name; how do you spell it?
F-e-n-n-e-r? " Grace marvelled at herself as she spelled
the name. Would she have thought of such a subterfuge
a year before ?

" No, Fenor, F-e-n-o-r. A queer name, Enoch Fenor.
Sounds like a methodist preacher, doesn't it? But I as-
sure you he's nothing like that."

" Go on," said Grace. " Tell me just how you got the

" I didn't get the case," said Edward, a little acidly.
" Fenor 's solicitor wrote to me, saying his client had heard
a lot about me." He drew himself up. " Put in a lot
of butter about his admiration for my abilities. . . . Made
me quite blush." Edward did not look as if he had
blushed. " And then, to clinch it, they marked the brief
forty guineas. Simply absurd for a case like that, so I
took it."

" Oh, well," said Grace, airily, " so much the better.
But still," she added languidly, " it isn't what I should
call an interesting case."



During the next few weeks Grace heard a great deal
about the queer client. Enoch Fenor was extraordinarily
queer. He broke all the rules of etiquette and apparently
cared not in the least what his solicitor thought. He de-
manded several consultations; he behaved so abusively
to the injured shopkeeper that an action for slander might
very well mature, or perhaps one for assault. Edward
was immensely amused, and Grace was informed almost
every night of the extraordinary behaviour of the queer

' ' D 'you know, ' ' said Edward, ' ' I rather like that chap.
He's an engineer. He seems to have been about every-
where, but he's not the sort of traveller who tells you all
about it every time. I can't bear the man who can't keep
off his own topics. He's keen on everything, even on the
law; he came into my chambers this afternoon, and I
should say he stayed an hour. I like the chap," Edward
added, ruminatively. " I was telling him this afternoon
about the Shepherd's Bush murder; you remember. He
quite agreed with me. Yes, a very intelligent chap."

Two days later it seemed that Enoch Fenor had run into
Edward as the latter came out of Middle Temple Lane.
They had walked part of the way westwards together, for
Fenor lived near Victoria Street.

Then Edward lunched at Fenor 's club.

The case was coming on rather soon, it seemed, as the
list was very light that session.

" He's a very interesting chap," said Edward. " I
say, Grace, we haven't had a little dinner for a long time.
I think I'll ask him; I'm sure you'll like the fellow."


She was going to meet him again. And during the next
fortnight Grace reproached herself several times a day
because she had allowed this indignity to be put upon her


without protest. She knew she ought to have told Edward
the truth as soon as he pronounced the name. But in that
queer whirl of repulsion and pleasure which had seized
her when Edward first spoke of Fenor she had not spoken.
At once it had become too late to speak; she had not for-
bidden the banns which Edward and Fenor were having
called for the conclusion of their incredible friendship,
and now she must for ever hold her peace.

" I was a fool," she told herself. " I ought at once to
have cried out: " Fenor! Oh, Edward, I didn't like to
tell you, but he 's the man who ' '

And then Grace sketched a beautiful picture of herself
standing before her husband, the picture of the outraged
matron proclaiming that she respected herself. She made
a very fine speech; a moving speech, the sort of speech
that ladies with a past successfully make in the third act
of a play. After that Edward went out and thrashed
Fenor unless Fenor thrashed him. In novels and on the
stage the hero always thrashed the villain, but life was a
funny, upside-down thing. On the whole it was much
more likely that Fenor would do the hitting

Grace shivered. Yes, that was all very well, that speech.
Only she hadn't delivered it. Far from it. She had fished
for details, she had encouraged Edward to talk of his
agreeable acquaintance. And she had said: " Very well,
my dear," to the suggested invitation.

In the fortnight which separated the invitation from
the dinner, Grace found that Edward was more interesting
than usual. He talked of Fenor a great deal ; apparently
he was a man of great energy and decision who had shot
several people, mainly black or brown, in the course of
his career; who had been shipwrecked, laid up with yel-
low fever, held for ransom by brigands in Morocco, and
had now determined to settle down respectably.

Grace was too interested to wonder whether Enoch
Fenor had begun his attempt to enter respectability when
he tackled her in Kensington High Street. Instead she
tried to induce Edward to talk of him, and, as Edward
readily responded, by a curious reflex process, as her bus-


band interested her, she liked him better. She was gay,
rallying; she could laugh now, and laugh with Edward
so much that sometimes she wondered whether those eight-
een months of unrest had not come from a little disorder
of the body, whether after all she did not love her husband
as always she had. Edward talked of Fenor and, as he
talked, Grace began to think that she loved him.

But there were moments of reaction. "What did this
interest of hers amount to? After all, was some taste for
low adventure in her ? She did not know the man, she did
not even like him. There was nothing between them or,
if there was anything between them, it was something dis-
graceful and humiliating. Oh ! if only she could tell the
truth! But she knew that she could not tell, that it was
too late. And then, if she pictured the result of the tell-
ing, the certainty of a breach, she knew that she was glad
that she had not told. But this too was ignominious.
Though glad that she had not told, she was sorry to be
glad, for that meant that something in her that had seemed
fine was not so fine. Then she would spurn her remorse,
call herself prejudiced, foolish, and again despise herself
because now she read as folly that which had seemed vir-
tue. From day to day, and very much at night, she tossed
in this uncertainty, hating herself for her own delight and
enjoying her own humiliation until, as the day drew
nearer, she found herself sleeping uneasily, until the word
" Fenor " began to echo in her ears as she formed it for
her pleasure and her mortification. In the early morning
she thought and visualised so violently that it was almost
an actual voice spoke in her brain, saying: " Beautiful
lady, your hair is like the autumn leaves. Why is there
no sun to gild it? "

It is not easy, ceasing to be a respectable woman.

The dinner itself turned out to be extraordinarily fright-
ening and extraordinarily normal. It was, beforehand,
wonderfully complex, for somehow Grace expended upon
the menu more time than she usually did. Hers had been,
for the first five or six years of her marriage, a bourgeois
household which had of late, and little by little, with the


growth of her taste for at homes and smart luncheon par-
ties, become less so. She sought for some rarity such as
swallow's nest soup, or terrapin. As these proved either
uncookable or unprocurable in London, she had to content
herself with the mildly recherche quality of river trout
meuniere, and later in the meal with some persimmons
which turned out to be very nasty. And there had been
reactions in the preparation of the menu: she had pulled
herself up, told herself there was nothing extraordinary
about this dinner, and that only by the conventions of
Campden Hill Road had she been prevented from foisting
upon her guests a steak and kidney pudding.

" Quite good enough for that sort of man," she re-
marked, and then wondered whether the entree should be
quails or larks.

It was a small dinner of eight. The Cheddons, the Mar-
burys, for Marbury gave Edward a great deal of work in
the course of the year, and, to balance Fenor, a creature
aged between twenty-five and thirty-five, owning between
a hundred and four hundred a year, with plenty of con-
versation of the metallically bright kind that makes a
dinner go, whom they call an odd girl. As a rule the
Kinnersleys dined at eight. On this occasion Grace sug-
gested to Edward that eight o'clock was " out," so they
began at eight-fifteen. Grace was taken in by Cheddon
because Cheddon was dull. Fenor sat on her right. It
had been easy to pair people at this dinner, as an odd girl
is so handy to put anywhere. It was a solemn little dinner,
not very successful perhaps, for Mrs. Cheddon wanted to
talk dogs, and so did Mr. Marbury. But as Mrs. Cheddon
was an expert, while Mr. Marbury was not, and as he felt
himself entitled to lay down the law to her because after
all he was a man, their intercourse was not quite har-
monious. Edward was so successful in engaging simul-
taneously Mrs. Marbury and the odd girl that Grace found
herself thrown back upon Cheddon, who was a small,
sandy-haired, silent thing. It was said that his wife had
married him because he looked like a ratting terrier. But,
alas, he had not the brightness of his breed. " My wife


likes dogs," he remarked at intervals. " Jolly good thing,

" Yes," said Grace. " Have you been to the opera
lately? "

Cheddon contributed views on not going to the opera.

She tried him on dances, but he didn't dance; she tried
him on books, but he had views on not reading books ; she
even tried him on his digestion, but unfortunately he was
in perfect health ; so, for a long time, Fenor did not have
any share in her conversation. She was just conscious of
him beside her: very tall, rather heavy about the shoul-
ders, and, in his silence, menacing. He had greeted her
on arriving with the most perfect assumption of calm;
that is, she tried to believe this, but felt there was nothing
assumed about his calmness. He was not disturbed. And,
while she hated him for this shamelessness, she delighted
to feel him shameless. It was like going to the theatre and
seeing the Sicilian players raving and weeping, despising
them for their exaggeration, and yet wishing one could do
it oneself. He had said: " Good evening, Mrs. Kinnersley,
I'm delighted to make your acquaintance."

She had felt herself blush, and she knew that, as she
blushed, the rose in her cheeks united the freckles with the
white and assured her of her beauty.

Every now and then, as the dinner went on, she spoke
to Fenor a little. He answered briefly, crisp things. He
seemed to analyse or sum her up. She had the sensation
that whenever he talked he meant something; it did not
feel at all like a dinner party. She asked him how he
liked London after his many travels. He became enthusi-

" It's a wonderful place, isn't it? So swollen, like some
dreadful fungus, swamping the country, the fields."

" It doesn't sound very nice," said Grace.

" Well, it isn't at first, is it? to see the country turned
into building-plots ? and the poppy expelled by the sardine
tin? But it's alive like a heap of radium, you know."

" Oh, you see things too scientifically," said Grace,
laughing. " Is that because you're an engineer? "

" Perhaps. Some of my friends say I don't see things
scientifically enough. ' '

Then Grace had to attend to Cheddon. It was only a
little later that Fenor, who had been entertaining Mrs.
Cheddon with a description of Dugdug, his yellow Somali
hound, turned to her again. Grace had been listening
while he talked; it had been quite easy, for her conversa-
tion with Cheddon needed no great mental effort. And
she was amused, for she was a little suspicious. Fenor
had been describing to Mrs. Cheddon some extraordinary
creature that he called the Patagonian branquito and then,
as this seemed to interest her, some Chinese dogs called,
according to him, chooloos, that were half pekinese and
half something else, probably cat. Mrs. Cheddon had lis-
tened very gravely to this traveller's tale told her with
equal gravity, and a little streak of delight ran through
Grace as she realised that Fenor was " pulling his neigh-
bour's leg." But when she managed to turn to him in
the later stages of the dinner, the burgundy had already
followed upon the hock while champagne was in sight.

Marbury was engaged in a fierce argument with Mrs.
Cheddon, for the latter had handed on to him Fenor 's
story of the chooloo dogs which were partly cats, while the
odd girl, inspired by an unaccustomedly good dinner, had
fastened upon Edward with a story of what they did to
her when she was a ward in Chancery, as if she had quite
forgotten that she was only the odd girl and Edward the

So Mrs. Marbury, a statuesque person with black hair
who looked like an advertisement of an obesity cure " be-
fore," had taken Cheddon in hand and was slowly passing,
in an interesting lecture, from ankylosis of the joints to
fatty degeneration of the heart. Whenever Cheddon 's
mouth was not full he held it open, giving every sign of
horror. In that moment of isolation there was so much
noise that Grace found herself compelled to talk to Fenor
of his motor accident.

" Was it a new car? " she asked.

" Yes, I'd only had it a couple of months.**


" Did you damage it badly? "

" Yes, pretty badly, smashed the radiator and the bon-
net. And as for the window '

He laughed, and Grace joined in less easily. While he
laughed, she considered him more carefully. No, he was
not handsome. That broad lumpy forehead and that nose
which she now saw was so irregular that it looked as if it
had been broken, and that thick, hard chin, all that was not
relieved by the red and brown, almost glazed and crackled
surface of a skin burned by tropical suns. Nature had
not been artistic, and the eyes, she found, with their
large whites, more than ever disturbed her, and the quick,
piercing quality of their grey pupils. Indeed, in that min-
ute she thought him ugly; he looked strong, harsh, fierce
perhaps, and quite beyond any ruling. That would not
have mattered, but he looked coarse also. Then Fenor
turned to look at her and as, without speaking for a mo-
ment, his eyes dwelt upon the beautiful forward curve
of her throat, and upon the flush, half pink, half cream,
which tinted her arms and breast, she suddenly realised
that the mouth that smiled at her almost cried out to her.
Yes, it was a delicate, pitiful mouth. Set there amid all
the roughness of his features it was like a lost child.

She was impressed but she tried to be light.

"Rather hard lines for you, an accident like that after
only two months."

Fenor paused. She saw him throw a glance round the

" Yes," he said, " rather hard lines if it was an acci-

For several seconds Grace did not see the table. She
answered something to something Cheddon said, she didn't
at all know what.

"If it was an accident? " The man upon her right
had calmly said " if it was an accident." But what could
his reason be?

Then suddenly a new creature seemed to rise up in Grace
and to cry out to her: " Good heavens! stop this pos-
turing to yourself. You know perfectly well that it wasn't


an accident. You know perfectly well that he only did
it to get hold of your husband and of you. Be honest,
woman, just for once."

She turned to Fenor and met his eyes bravely:

" So you did it on purpose," she whispered.

The grey pupils were serious as he said:

" Perhaps. An accident which I can bless, any way,
whether it was an accident or not."

She was not listening. " But you might . . . but . . .
but you might have hurt yourself or somebody else . . .
splinters of glass "

He almost shrugged his shoulders.

' ' All in the day 's work, and ' '

" It'll cost you a good deal, what with the car and the
case you '11 lose ' '

" Oh, come Mrs. Kinnersley, don't give your husband
away like that. I may not lose. Besides, if I do, a hun-
dred and fifty will cover the lot."

Again Grace was silent. It was not only that a hundred
and fifty pounds was a good deal, but the idea of this car
driven full-speed, leaping the pavement, dashing into
plate-glass through flying splinters . . . just to allow that
man to sit beside her at dinner. It was terrific. It was
Quixote tilting at a windmill, and as she realised it she
was stirred. She looked at him with something soft and
humid in the green eyes which the lids half veiled. Be-
fore she knew what she was saying, she had murmured:

" Was it worth it? "

And he, imperturbable : " Of course . . . and it is only
the beginning."

She turned so sharply that almost the whole of her back
was towards him. She talked feverishly to Cheddon, but
Fenor smiled for he could see the blush which was over-
running her neck and shoulders. His delicate mouth set
close and, for a moment, was in harmony with the rest
of his harsh features. His eyes narrowed, his black eye-
brows came together until his dogged, relentless, assault-
ing air gave him the look of those monstrous dogs carved
in brown stone out of the mountain, near the sources of
the Nile.



MARY was having an interval. That is, she had fully
recovered from her last child and, as yet, no other child
was coining. So she had given parties, for she was accus-
tomed to give her parties when she could, to have what
she thought little debauches of entertainment during
those periods, always too short, when she could appear
without blushing before the eyes of men. It had been a
long interval for her, fifteen months, and, when she con-
sidered her nursery where now a nursery governess figured,
because Rose was nearly seven, she wondered whether she
would ever have another child. Sometimes, as she stood,
calm rather than joyful, at the gate of her farm, she
told herself that she wanted no more children, that these
five were enough. But at the same time she reflected that
here they were, Rose, Maud, Ella, Gladys, and baby Lou-
ise all girls, only girls. Just now it angered her rather
than hurt her to think that she should have no man-child.
Tom had never reproached her, but sometimes it hurt her
as he talked of the son who, he fervently believed, would
yet be born to them. Once he had come in with a present
for Rose: Mr. Midshipman Easy.

" Oh, Tom," she said, " Rosie won't read that, she
couldn't. She may like boys' books by and by, as all nice
girls do, but not Midshipman Easy."

" Never mind," said Tom, his red face wonderfully
jovial and optimistic, " it'll do for Jack."

Mary said nothing, but it hurt. That son to be born to
them, they always called him Jack. And now, as she
stood in her nursery and watched her five little girls, some
having their hair plaited, others being told to keep still


while their shoes were put on, while she heard the shrill
voices of the two nurses and the advice to young ladies
given by the nursery governess, she was overwhelmed by
a sense of a world all female, which proceeded from her:
five little girls and three women attendants, and she the
mother. All women. She sighed.

There was something disgraceful, she felt, in this ex-
traordinary dominance of the female principle which, she
thought, or rather felt, ought to be slave and not master.
What am I doing for the Stanleys? she reflected.

For Mary was wife more than mother. It was of the
Stanleys she thought, not of her ancestral Westfields.
Tom's people were her people, and she had no other. She
might not have repined if Tom had put her away because
she gave him no son. It would have been right so.

Still she had had too many children, too many satisfac-
tions, too many periods of calm, and she had given too
freely of her blood and her strength before her thirtieth
year to have much of that nervous energy which made
Grace and Clara tear at their own flesh. Indeed, though
the idea of the son haunted her, it did not oppress her.
Free from motherhood, she felt like a girl having a holiday,
and she looked about her eagerly, wondering what she
could do ; she was excited like a child taken into a pastry-
cook's shop, told to choose the cake which it liked best,
and secretly anxious to eat them all.

During that winter there had been dinner-parties at
Hammersmith Road. They had not been carefully selected
political affairs like those of Clara, nor blends of com-
mercial adventure with excursions into Bohemia, like
Grace's. Mary's dinner-parties had not taken place at a
quarter past eight, nor even at eight, but at half-past
seven, and they had not been " little dinners; " nor had
her guests been asked to dine " quietly." No, they had
been long, bulky, sumptuous dinners, copied in spirit from
the dinners of a livery company. There had been two of
these banquets, each one of sixteen guests ; there had been
'38 Madeira, positively '38, plenty of good red and white
wines; champagne had been tolerated. And it was char-


acteristic that, somehow or other, a saddle of mutton had
crept into the menu. Everybody had eaten a good deal,
and the men had sat an hour over the port, while the
women, in the big drawing-room, discussed their servants,
their children, the advantages of Folkestone over Cromer,
the immorality of the current fashions and the ailments of
their aunts.

And there had been another kind of dinner now and
then, the sort of dinner that Tom really loved, when, in-
spired by a sort of fury of entertaining, he would range
round the Baltic and capture half a dozen of his old friends
to come in just as they were. These functions were em-
barrassing, for they were rigged up at a day's notice, and
Mary always found it a little difficult to cope with four
or five women she had never seen before, who belonged to
Hampstead tennis clubs, or Surbiton golf clubs of which
she had never heard. The men sat together in groups,
and one by one, rather shyly, pipes appeared; everybody
talked Baltic, fluctuations of the provision market, freight
rates, discounts

Sometimes, at the very end of the evening, when most
of the guests had caught their train, Tom would detain
the last in the dining-room, send Mary to bed, saying
they had some business matter to discuss. Mary would
retire very respectfully, for she belonged to that section
of society where the woman may talk of art, politics and
even religion, but where she may lay no hands upon the
sacred and imperial trade.

They were clumsy parties, and Tom always had rather
bloodshot eyes and a smoker's cough next morning, but
" He likes them," said Mary, and beamed as if her face
were becoming larger with satisfaction. They were getting
older, these two, but they did not know it. They were not
illumined by any very clear ideal. Mainly, they were
eating, drinking, sleeping, rearing children so that those
might eat, drink, sleep, and also rear children. But right
through this apparent coarseness there ran a few fine
threads. Now and then, especially about half-past six in
the evening, when Tom visited the nursery and stood


silently at the door, his bull-dog pipe stuck in the corner
of his mouth, his waistcoat rather prominent, by the side
of his placid, white wife, he had a vision of his five little
girls when they would be a little more grown up. They
would all be dressed in white, and wear sashes. The tall-
est would stand on the right, the smallest on the left . . .
they would go to children's parties, and they would be
well brought up; they would not grab cakes, and they
would not ask for the principal parts in private theatricals ;
they would dance well, without showing off, and when
they left would, each in turn, tell the hostess that they
thanked her for a pleasant afternoon. And later they
would learn French; one of them would probably paint
flowers, and it would do no harm if, just to vary the selec-
tion, one of them rode in the Row. Later they would
marry nice, steady, young men with enough money to keep
them in comfort, and enough prospects to keep them in
cheerfulness. Then they would have nice little children:
Tom Stanley saw rows and rows of nice little grandchil-
dren. But none interested him so much as Jack's children.
That unborn Jack would come by and by: already, in-
spired by his mistake about Mr. Midshipman Easy, he was

Online LibraryWalter Lionel GeorgeThe second blooming → online text (page 14 of 35)