Read CHAPTER I of Love and Lucy , free online book, by Maurice Hewlett, on


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 here.”

“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.