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


She arose, a disillusioned bride, with scarcely spirit enough to cling to hope, and with less taste for Urquhart’s motor than she had ever had for any duller task-work. Nothing in the house tended to her comfort. James was preoccupied and speechless; the coffee was wrong, the letters late and stupid. She felt herself at cross-purposes with her foolish little world. If James had resought her love overnight, it had been a passing whim. She told herself that love so desired was almost an insult.

Nevertheless at eleven o’clock the motor was there, and Urquhart in the hall held out his hand. “She can sprint,” he said; “so much I’ve learned already. I think you’ll be amused.”

Lucy hoped so. She owned herself very dull that morning. Well, said Urquhart, he could promise her that she should not be that. She might cry for mercy, he told her, or stifle screams; but she wouldn’t stifle yawns. “Macartney,” he said, “would sooner see himself led out by a firing-party than in such an engine as I have out there.” She smiled at her memory. “James is not of the adventurous,” she said but wasn’t he? “Shall I be cold?”

“Put on everything you have,” he bade her, “and then everything else. She can do sixty.”

“You are trying to terrify me,” she said, “but you won’t succeed. I don’t know why, but I feel that you can drive. I think I have caught Lancelot’s complaint.”

“Perhaps so. I know that I impose upon the young and insipient.”

“And which am I, pray?”

He looked at her. “Don’t try me too far.”

She came forth finally to see Crewdson and her own chauffeur grouped with Urquhart. The bonnet was open; shining coils, mighty cylinders were in view, and a great copper feed-pipe like a burnished boa-constrictor. The chauffeur, a beady-eyed Swiss, stared approval; Crewdson, rubbing his chin, offered a deft blend of the deferential butler and the wary man of the world. She was tucked in; the Swiss started the monster; they were off with a bound.

They slashed along Knightsbridge, won Piccadilly Circus by a series of short rushes; avoided the City, and further East found a broad road and slow traffic. Soon they were in the semi-urban fringe, among villa gardens, over-glazed public-houses, pollarded trees and country glimpses in between. There was floating ice on the ponds, a violet rime traversed with dun wheelmarks in the shady parts of the way. After that a smooth white road, deep green fields, much frozen water, ducks looking strangely yellow, and the low blue hills of Essex.

Urquhart was a sensitive driver; she noticed that. The farseeing eye was instantly known in the controlling foot. He used very little brake; when he pushed his car there was no mark upon him of urgency. Success without effort! The Gospel of James! Urquhart accepted it as a commonplace, and sought his gospel elsewhere.

He began to talk without any palpable beginning, and drifted into reminiscence. “I remember being run away with by a mule train in Ronda ... the first I had ever handled. They got out of hand it was a nasty gorge with a bend in it where you turn on to the bridge. I got round that with a well-directed stone which caught the off-side leader exactly at the root of his wicked ear. He had only one ear, so you couldn’t mistake it. He ducked his head and up with his heels. He went over, and the next pair on top of him. We pulled up, not much the worse. Well, the point of that story is that the pace of that old coach and six mokes, I assure you, has always seemed to me faster than any motor I’ve ever driven. It was nothing to be compared with it, of course; but the effort of those six mad animals, the elan of the thing, the rumbling and swaying about, heeling over that infernal gorge of stone ! You can’t conceive the whirl and rush of it. Now we’re doing fifty, yet you don’t know it. Wind-screen: yes, that’s very much; but the concealment of effort is more.”

“You’ve had a life of adventure,” she said. “Lancelot may have been right.”

“He wasn’t far wrong,” Urquhart said. “As a fact, I have never been a pirate; but I have smuggled tobacco in the Black Sea, and that’s as near as you need go. I excuse myself by saying that it was a long time ago twenty years I dare say; that I was young at the time; that I was very hard up, and that I liked the fun. Lovely country, you know, that strip of shore. You never saw such oleanders in your life. And sand like crumbled crystal. We used to land the stuff at midnight, up to our armpits in water sometimes; and a man would stand up afterwards shining with phosphorus, like a golden statue. Romantic! No poet could relate it. They used to cross and recross in the starlight all the gleaming figures. Like a ballet done for a Sultan in the Arabian Nights. I was at that for a couple of years, and then the gunboats got too sharp for us and the game didn’t pay.”

She had forgotten her spleen. Her eyes were wide at the enlarging landscape. “And what did you do next or what had you done before? Tell me anything.”

“I really don’t know what I did before. I went out to the Chersonese from Naples. I remember that well. I had been knocking about Vesuvius for a bit, keeping very bad company, which, nevertheless, behaved very well to me. But finally there was a row with knives, which rather sickened me of the Vesuvians; so I shipped for Constantinople and fell in with a very nice old chap on board. He took me on at his contraband job. I didn’t get very much money, but I got some, and saw a deal of life. When it was over I went to Greece. I like the Greeks. They are a fine people.”

“What did you do in Greece?” she insisted, not interested in the fineness of the people.

“Blasting, first,” he said. “They were making the railway from Larissa through Tempe. That was a dangerous job, because the rock breaks so queerly. You never know when it has finished. I had seen a good deal of it in South America, so I butted in, and was taken on. Then I did some mining at Lavrion, and captained a steamer that carried mails among the islands. That was the best time I had. You see, I like responsibility, and I got it. Everything else was tame out there, I mean....

“I got into Government service at Corfu and stopped there six years or more ... I was all sorts of things lighthouse-keeper, inspector of marine works, harbour-master ... And then my wicked old father (I must tell you about him some day. You could write a book about him) up and died in his bed of all places in the world, and left me a good deal of money. That was the ruin of me. I really might have done something if it hadn’t been for that. Strange thing! He turned me out of the house in a rage one day, and had neither seen me nor written me a letter from my seventeenth to my thirtieth birthday, when he died or thereabouts. But at the last, when he was on his bed of death, he rolled himself over and said to the priest, ’There’s Jimmy out at his devilry among the haythen Turks,’ he says. ’Begob, that was a fine boy, and I’ll leave him a plum.’ And so he did. I wish he hadn’t. I was making my hundred and fifty in Corfu and was the richest man in the place. And I liked the life.”

“That was where you had so many wives,” she reminded him.

“So it was. Well, perhaps I needn’t assure you that the number has been exaggerated. I’ve very nearly had some wives, but there was always something at the last minute. There was a girl at Valletta, I remember a splendid girl with the figure of a young Venus, and a tragic face and great eyes that seemed to drown you in dark. Lady Macbeth as a child might have been like that or Antigone with the doom on her, or perhaps Elektra. No, I expect Elektra took after her mother: red-haired girl, I fancy. But there you are. She was a lovely, solemn, deep-eyed, hag-ridden goose. Not a word to say thought mostly of pudding. I found that out by supposing that she thought of me. Then I was piqued, and we parted. I suppose she’s vast now, and glued to an upper window-ledge with her great eyes peering through a slat in the shutter. Living in a bed-gown. Imagine a wife who lives in a bed-gown!”

They were lunching at Colchester when these amorous chapters were reached. Lucy was quite at her ease with her companion. “A wife who was always at the dressmaker’s would suit you no better. But I don’t know that mixed marriages often answer. After all, so dreadfully much can never be opened between you.”

“That’s quite true,” he said, “and by no means only of mixed marriages. How much can your average husband and wife open between them? Practically nothing, since they choose to live by speech.”

“But what else have we?”

“I would choose to live by touch,” he said. “If two people can’t communicate fully and sufficiently by the feelers they are not in the same sphere and have no common language. But speech is absurd. Why, every phrase, and nearly every word, has a conventional value.”

By touch! She was set dreaming by that. So she and James a James she had had no conception of had communicated not four-and-twenty hours ago. Certainly subsequent speech had not advanced the intelligence then conveyed.

But she resumed Urquhart’s affairs. “And do you despair of finding a woman with whom you can hold communion?”

“No,” he said, looking at the bread which he broke. “I don’t despair at all. I think that I shall find her.” And then he looked steadily at her, and she felt a little uncomfortable. But it was over in a minute.

She feared to provoke that again, so made no fishing comment; but she was abundantly curious of what his choice would be. Meantime he mused aloud.

“What you want for a successful marriage is a layer of esteem, without which you will infallibly, if you are a man, over-reach yourself and be disgusted; then a liberal layer of animal passion and I only shrink from a stronger word for fear of being misunderstood which you won’t have unless you have (a) vitality, (b) imagination; thirdly, for a crown, respect. You must know your due, and your duty, and fear to omit the one or excuse the other. Everything follows from those three.”

“And how do you know when you have found them?”

He looked up and out into the country. “A sudden glory,” he said, “a flare of insight. There’s no mistake possible.”

“Who was the man,” she asked him, rather mischievously, “who saw a girl at a ball, and said, ’That’s a fine girl; I’ll marry her’ and did it and was miserable?”

He twinkled as he answered, “That was Savage Landor; but it was his own fault. He could never make concessions.” She thought him a very interesting companion.

On the way home he talked more fitfully, with intervals of brooding silence. But he was not morose in his fits, and when he excused himself for sulking, she warmly denied that he did any such thing. “I expect you are studying the motor,” she said; and he laughed. “I’m very capable of that.”

Altogether, a successful day. She returned braced to her duties, her James, and his hidden-up Eros. To go home to James had become an exciting thing to do.