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


Nevertheless the two men talked down to Knightsbridge together, and Lingen did most of the talking. He chose to expand upon Macartney, the nearest he dared get to the subject of his thoughts. “Now Macartney, you know, is a very self-contained man. No doubt you’ve noticed how he shies at expression. Chilling at times. Good in a lawyer, no doubt. You get the idea of large reserves. But perhaps as a well, as a father, for instance That bright boy of theirs now. You may have noticed how little there is between them. What do you think of the Spartan parent in these days?”

“Oh, I think Mr. Lancelot can hold his own,” said Urquhart. “He’ll do with his mother to help. I don’t suppose the Spartan boy differed very much from any other kind of boy. Mostly they haven’t time to notice anything; but they are sharp as razors when they do.”

An eager note could be detected in Francis Lingen’s voice, almost a crow. “Ah, you’ve noticed then! The mother, I mean. Mrs. Macartney. Now, there again, I think our friend overdoes the repression business. A sympathetic attitude means so much to women.”

“She’ll get it, somewhere,” said Urquhart shortly.

“Well,” said Lingen, “yes, I suppose so. But there are the qualifications of the martyr in Mrs. Macartney.”

“Greensickness,” Urquhart proposed; “is that what you mean?”

Lingen stared. “It had not occurred to me. But now you mention it well, a congestion of the faculties, eh?”

“I don’t know anything about it,” said Urquhart. “She seemed to me a fond mother, and very properly. Do you mean that Macartney neglects her?”

Lingen was timid by nature. “Perhaps I went further than I should. I think that he takes a great deal for granted.”

“I always thought he was a supercilious ass,” said Urquhart, “but I didn’t know that he was a damned fool.”

“I say,” Lingen was alarmed. “I say, I hope I haven’t made mischief.” Urquhart relieved him. “Bless you, not with me. I use a lawyer for law. He’s no fool there.”

“No, indeed,” Lingen said eagerly. “I’ve found him most useful. In fact, I trust him further than any man I know.”

“He’s a good man,” Urquhart said, “and he’s perfectly honest. He’d sooner put you off than on, any day. That’s very sound in a lawyer. But if he carries it into wedlock he’s a damned fool, in my opinion.”

They parted on very good terms, Lingen for the Albany, Urquhart elsewhere.

Meantime Lancelot, wriggling in his bed, was discussing Urquhart. “I say, Mamma,” he said a leading question “do you think Mr. Urquhart really had two wives?”

“No, darling, I really don’t. I think he was pulling our legs.”

That was bad. “All our legs?”

“All that were pullable. Certainly your two.”

“Perhaps he was.” Lancelot sighed. “Oh, what happened to the Turk? I forgot him, thinking of his wives.... He said, ‘one of my wives,’ you know. He might have had six then.... I say, perhaps Mr. Urquhart is a Turk in disguise. What do you think?”

Lucy was sleepy, and covered a yawn. “I don’t think, darling. I can’t. I’m going to bed, and you are going to sleep. Aren’t you now?”

“Yes, of course, yes, of course. Did I tell you about the pirate part? His ship was a brigantine ... called the Dog Star.”

“Oh, was it?”

“Yes, it was. And he used to hang the chaps, sometimes for treachery, and sometimes for fun.”

“How horrid!” said Lucy. “Good night.”

“Oh, well,” came through the blankets, “of course you don’t understand, but I do. Good night.” And he was asleep at the turn of that minute.

James had disappeared into his room, so she took herself off to bed. Surely he might have said a word! It had all gone off so well. Mr. Urquhart had been such a success, and she really liked him very much. And how the Judge had taken to him! And how Lancelot! At the first stair she stopped, in three quarters of a mind to go in and screw a sentence out of him. But no! She feared the angry blank of the eyeglass. Trailing up to bed, she thought that she could date the crumbling of her married estate by the ascendency of the eyeglass. And to think, only to think, that when she was engaged to James she used to play with it, to try it in her eye, to hide it from him! Well, she had Lancelot her darling boy. That brought to mind that, a week to-night, she would be orphaned of him. The day she dreaded was coming again and the blank weeks and months which followed it.

True to his ideas of “discipline,” of the value of doing a thing well for its own sake, Macartney was dry about the merits of the dinner-party when they met at breakfast. “Eh? Oh, yes, I thought it went quite reasonably. Urquhart talked too much, I thought.”

“My dear James,” she was nettled “you really are ”

He looked up; the eyeglass hovered in his hand. “Plait-il?”

“Nothing. I only thought that you were hard to please.”

“Really? Because I think a man too vivacious?”

Lancelot said to his porridge-bowl, over the spoon, “I think he’s ripping.”

“You’ve hit it,” said his father. “He’d rip up anybody.”

Lucy, piqued upon her tender part, was provoked into what she always avoided if she could acrimony at breakfast.

“I was hostess, you see; and I must say that the more people talk the more I am obliged to them. I suppose that you asked Mr. Urquhart so that he might be amusing....”

James’s head lifted again. You could see it over the Morning Post. “I asked Urquhart for quite other reasons, you remember.”

“I don’t know what they were,” said Lucy. “My own reason was that he should make things go. ‘A party in a parlour...’” She bit her lip. The Morning Post quivered but recovered itself.

“What was the party in a parlour, Mamma? Do tell me.” That was Lancelot, with a flair for mischief.

“It was ‘all silent and all damned,’” said Lucy.

“Jolly party,” said Lancelot. “Not like yours, though.” The Morning Post clacked like a bellying sail, then bore forward over an even keel. Lucy, beckoning Lancelot, left the breakfast-room.

She was ruffled, and so much so that Lancelot noticed it, and, being the very soul of tact where she was concerned, spoke neither of his father nor of Urquhart all the morning. In the afternoon the weather seemed more settled, and he allowed himself more play. He would like to see Mr. Urquhart on horseback, in a battle, he thought. He expected he’d be like Henry of Navarre. Lucy thought that he might be. Would he wear a white plume though? Much head-shaking over this. “Bareheaded, I bet you. He’s just that sort. Dashing about! Absolutely reckless! frightfully dangerous! a smoking sword! going like one o’clock! Oh, I bet you what you like.” Then with startling conviction, “Father doesn’t like him. Feels scored off, I expect. He wasn’t though, but he might be, all the same ... I think Father always expects he’s going to be scored off, don’t you? At any minute.” Lucy set herself to combat this hazard, which was very amusing and by no means a bad shot. Poor James! What a pity it was that he couldn’t let himself like anybody. It was true it was quite true he was afraid of being scored off. She husbanded a sigh. “Poor James!”

To pity James was a new experience. She felt all the better for it, and was able to afford a lighter hand when they met at dinner. It may even be that James himself had thought the time come for a little relaxation of askesis, or he may have had something to forestall: he seldom spoke of his affairs without design. At any rate, he told her that Francis Lingen had been with him, and that Urquhart was likely to be of use. “I’ve written to him, anyhow. He will do as he thinks well. Urquhart is a sharp man of business.”

Lucy said, “He struck me so. I thought that he could never have any doubt of his own mind.”

James wriggled his eyeglass, to wedge it more firmly. “Ah, you noticed that? Very acute of you, Lucy. We may have a meeting before long to arrange the whole thing.... It’s a lot of money ... ten thousand pounds.... Your Francis is an expensive young man ... or let’s say ci-devant jeune homme.”

“Why do you call him ‘my’ Francis?” she asked rather mischievous than artless.

The eyeglass dropped with a click and had to be sought. “Well, I can hardly call him mine, could I?”

“I don’t see why he should be anybody’s,” said Lucy, “except his own.”

“My dear girl,” said Macartney, “himself is the last person he belongs to. Francis Lingen will always belong to somebody. I must say that he has chosen very wisely. You do him a great deal of good.”

“That’s very nice of you,” she said. “I own that I like Francis Lingen. He’s very gentle, not too foolish, and good to look at. You must own that he’s extremely elegant.”

“Oh,” said James, tossing up his foot, “elegant! He is what his good Horace would have called ’a very pretty fellow’ and what I call ’a nice girl.’”

“I’m sure he isn’t worth so much savagery,” Lucy said. “You are like Ugolino and poor Francis is your fiero pasto.”

James instantly corrected himself. “My besetting sin, Lucy. But I must observe ” He applied his glazed eye to her feet “the colour of your stockings, my friend. Ha! a tinge of blue, upon my oath!” So it passed off, and that night when, after his half-hour with the evening paper in the drawing-room, he prepared to leave her, she held out her hand to him, and said good night. He took it, waved it; and then stooped to her offered cheek and pecked it delicately. The good girl felt quite elate. She did so like people to be kind to her.

Half an hour later yet, in her evening post was a letter from Urquhart. He proposed for herself and Lancelot to go to the play with him. The play, Raffles, “which ought to meet the case,” he said. He added, “I don’t include Macartney in this jaunt, partly because he won’t want to come, but mainly because there won’t be room for him. I am taking a nephew, one Bob Nugent, an Osborne boy, but very gracious to poor civilians like Lancelot and me.” He signed himself, “Yours to command.”

Lucy was pleased, and accepted promptly; and Lancelot was pleased when he heard of it. His hackles were up at the graciousness of the Osborne kid. He honked over it like a heron. “Ho! I expect you’ll tell him that I’m R. E., or going to be,” he said, which meant that he himself certainly would. The event, with subsequent modifications on the telephone, proved to be the kind of evening that Lancelot’s philosophy had never dreamed of. They dined at the Cafe Royal, where Urquhart pointed out famous Anarchists and their wives to his young guests; they went on to the theatre in what he called a ’bus, but Lancelot saw to be a mighty motor which rumbled like a volcano at rest, and proceeded by a series of violent rushes, accompanied by explosions of a very dangerous kind. The whole desperate passage, short as it was, had the right feeling of law-breaking about it. Policemen looked reproachfully at them as they fled on. Lancelot, as guest of honour, sat in front, and wagged his hand like a semaphore at all times and in all faces; he felt part policeman and part malefactor, which was just right. Then they thrilled at the smooth and accomplished villainy of Mr. Du Maurier, lost not one line of his faultless clothes, nor one syllable of his easy utterance, “like treacle off a spoon,” said Urquhart; and then they tore back through the starry night to Onslow Square, leaving in their wake the wrecks and salvage of a hundred frail taxis; finally, from the doorstep waved the Destroyer, as the boys agreed she should be called, upon her ruthless course, listened to the short and fierce bursts of her wrath until she was lost in the great sea of sound; and then replete to speechlessness Lancelot looked up to his mother and squeezed her hand. She saw that his eyes were full. “Well, darling?” she said. “You liked all that?” Lancelot had recovered himself. He let go her hand. His reply was majestic. “Not bad,” he said. Lucy immediately hugged him.

Now that was exactly what James would have said, mutatis mutandis. Yet she would not have hugged James for it, nor have loved him because of it. “These are our crosses, Mr. Wesley!” Reflecting on the jaunt, she warmed to the thought of Urquhart, who had, she felt, the knack of making you at ease. What had he done, or how done it? Well, he seemed to be interested in what you said. He looked at you, and waited for it; then he answered, still looking at you. Now, so many men looked at their toes when they answered you. James always did. Yet Mr. Urquhart did not look too much: there were men who did that. No, not too much.