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


The second time was in late February, at the Opera: the Walkuere, of all operas in the world, where passion of the suddenest is seen on its most radiant spring morning. James, who was dreadfully bored by Wagner, and only went because it was the thing to do, and truly also because “a man must be seen with his wife,” could not promise to be there, dressed, at such an unearthly hour as half-past six James, I say, did not go with her, but vowed to be there “long before seven.” That he undertook. So she went alone, and sat, as she always did, half hidden behind the curtain of her box on the second tier.

The place was flooded with dark. The great wonder began the amazing prelude with its brooding, its surmisals, its storms, its pounding hooves remorselessly pursuing, and flashes of the horn, like the blare of lightning. She surrendered herself, and as the curtain rose settled down to drink with the eyes as well as with the ears; for she was no musician, and could only be deeply moved by this when she saw and heard. It immediately absorbed her; the music “of preparation and suspense” seemed to turn her bones to liquor and at this moment she again felt herself possessed by man’s love: the strong hand over her heart, the passion of his hold, the intoxication of the kiss. To the accompaniment of shrill and wounded violins she yielded herself to this miracle of the dark. She seemed to hear in a sharp whisper, “You darling!” She half turned, she half swooned again, she drank, and she gave to drink. The music speared up to the heights of bliss, then subsided as the hold on her relaxed. When she stretched out her hand for her lover’s, he was not near her. She was alone. The swift and poignant little drama may have lasted a minute; but like a dream it had the suggestion of infinity about it, transcending time as it defied place. Confused, bemused, she turned her attention to the stage, determined to compose herself at all cost. She sat very still, and shivered; she gave all her powers to her mind, and succeeded by main effort. Insensibly the great drama doing down there resumed its hold; and it was even with a slight shock that she became aware by and by of James sitting sedately by her, with the eyeglass sharply set for diversion anywhere but on the scene. Again she remembered with secret amusement that she had not been conscious of the eyeglass when for reasons of his own he had paid his mysterious homage to love and her.

She kept a firm grip of herself: she would not move an inch towards him. She could never do that again. But she passed him over the play-bill, and lifted the glasses to show him where they were. She saw the eyeglass dip as he nodded his thanks, and heard him whisper as he passed back the bill, “No good. Dark as the grave.” Oh, extraordinary James! She suffered hysterical laughter, but persisted against it, and succeeded.

When the lights went up she afforded herself a gay welcome of him, from gleaming, happy and conscious eyes. He met it blandly, smiled awry and said, “You love it?”

“Oh,” she sighed, meaning all that she dared not say, “how I love it!”

James said, “Bravo. I was very punctual, you’ll admit.” That very nearly overcame her. But all she said was, “I didn’t hear you come in or go out.”

James looked very vague at that. He was on the point of frowning over it, but gave it up. It was a Lucyism. He rose and touched his coat-collar, to feel that it gripped where it should. “Let’s see who’s in the house,” he said, and searched the boxes. “Royalty, as usual! That’s what I call devotion. Who’s that woman in a snow-leopard? Oh, yes, of course. Hullo. I say, my child, will you excuse me? I’ve just seen some people I ought to see. There’s lots of time and I won’t be late.” And he was off. A very remarkable lover indeed was James.

Mrs. Nugent waved her hand across the parterre. Francis Lingen knocked and entered. She could afford that; and presently a couple added themselves, young married people whom she liked for their poverty, hopefulness and unaffected pleasure in each other. She made Lingen acquainted with them, and talked to young Mr. Pierson. He spoke with a cheer in his voice. “Ripping opera. Madge adores it. We saw your husband downstairs, but I don’t think he knew us."... And through her head blew the words like a searching wind: “You darling! You darling!” Oh, that was great love! Small wonder that James saw nothing of the Piersons. And yet ah, she must give up speculating and judging. That had undone poor Psyche. Young Mr. Pierson chattered away about Madge and Wagner, both ripping; James returned, bland, positive, dazzling the man of exclusive clubs; was reminded of young Mrs. Pierson, with whom he shook hands, of young Mr. Pierson, to whom he nodded and said “Ha!” and finally of Francis Lingen. “Ha, Lingen, you here!” Francis shivered. That seemed to him to ring a knell. Since when had he been Lingen to James. Since this moment. Now why had James cold-shouldered him? Was it possible that he had noticed too much devotion?... And if he had, was it not certain that she must have noticed it? He stopped midway of the stairs, and passers-by may have thought he was looking for a dropt sixpence. Not at all. The earth seemed to be heaving beneath his feet. But a wave of courage surged up through him. Pooh! no woman yet ever disregarded the homage of a man. He would send some roses to-morrow, without a card. She would understand. And so it went on. Wagner came back to his own.

On this occasion, after this second great adventure, Lucy had no conflict with fate. Thankfully she took the gift of the God; she took it as final, as a thing complete in itself, a thing most beautiful, most touching, most honourable to giver and recipient. It revived all her warmth of feeling, but this time without a bitter lees to the dram. And she was immensely the better for it. She felt in charity with all the world, her attitude to James was one of clear sight. Oh, now she understood him through and through. She would await the fulness of time; sufficient for the day was the light of the day.

She was happier than she had been for many years. Half-term was approaching, when she would be allowed to go down and see Lancelot; in these days she felt Spring in the air. February can be kind to us, and show a golden threshold to March. She had a letter from Mabel telling her of Mr. Urquhart’s feats in the hunting field.... “He’s quite mad, I think, and mostly talks about you and Lancelot. He calls you Proserpine. As for his riding, my dear, it curdles the blood. He doesn’t ride, he drives; sits well back, and accelerates on the near side. He brought his own horses, luckily for ours and his neck. They seem to understand it. He hunted every day but one; and then he rushed up to town to keep some appointment and came back to a very late dinner, driving himself in his motor. He is a tempestuous person, but can be very grave when he likes. He talked beautifully one evening mostly about you.” Lucy’s eyes smiled wisely over this letter. She liked to think that she could induce gravity upon a hunting party. She had never quite approved of the Peltry atmosphere. Hard riding seemed to involve hard living, and hard swearing. She had once heard Laurence let himself go to some rider over hounds, and had put him on a back shelf in her mind him and his Peltry with him. A prude? No, she was sure she was nothing of the sort; but she liked people to keep a hold on themselves.

A gay little dinner-party, one of hers, as she told James, finished a month of high light. The young Pierson couple, some Warreners, a Mrs. Treveer and Jimmy Urquhart eight with themselves. The faithful Francis Lingen was left out as a concession to James and love in the dark. She noticed, with quiet amusement, how gratified James was. He was so gratified that he did not even remark upon it. Now James’s little weakness, or one of them, let us say, was that he could not resist a cutting phrase, when the thing did not matter. Therefore she reasoned Francis Lingen, absurdly enough, did matter. That he should, that anything of the sort should matter to James was one more sign to her of the promise, just as the weather was one. The Spring was at hand, and soon we should all go a-maying.

So we dined at one table, and had a blaze of daffodils from Wycross, and everybody seemed to talk at once. Pierson told her after dinner that Madge thought Urquhart ripping (as she had thought Wagner); and certainly he was one to make a dinner-party go. He was ridiculous about Laurence Corbet and his sacred foxes. “Don’t shoot that thing! God of Heaven, what are you about?” “Oh, I beg your pardon, I thought ” “Are you out of your senses? That must be torn to pieces by dogs.” He was very good at simulating savagery, but had a favourite trick of dropping it suddenly, or turning it on himself. He caught Mrs. Treveer, a lady of ardour not tempered by insight. She agreed with him about hunting. “Oh, you are so right! Now can’t something be done about it? Couldn’t a little paper be written in that vein, you know?” “Not by me,” said Urquhart. “I’m a hunting man, you see.” Mrs. Treveer held up her fan, but took no offence.

Lucy, with Mabel’s letter in mind, gave her guest some attention; but for the life of her could not see that he paid her any beyond what he had for the others or for his dinner. He joined Pierson at her side, and made no effort to oust him. He did not flatter her by recalling Lancelot; he seemed rather to muse out loud. James with his coat-tails to the fire was quite at his ease and when Urquhart offered to drive her down to Westgate for the half-term (which she herself mentioned), it was James who said, “Capital! That will be jolly for you.” “But you wouldn’t come, would you?” “My child, it is that I couldn’t come. A motor in March! I should die. Besides,” he added, “as you know, I have to be at Brighton that Sunday.” She had known it, and she had known also that Brighton was an excuse. One of the bogies she kept locked in a cupboard was James’s ennui when Lancelot was to the fore. Could this too be jealousy!

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” Jimmy Urquhart said. “The run down would be rather jolly, but the run back in the dark might be a bore. The Nugents have got a house at Sandwich. Why shouldn’t you go there? You know my sister Nugent, as they used to say.”

“Yes, of course I do,” Lucy said, “but I couldn’t really ”

“But she is there, my dear ma’am. That’s the point. I’ll drop you there on my way back. I wish I could stop too, but that’s not possible. She’ll arrange it.”

James thought it an excellent plan; but Lucy had qualms. Odd, that the visit of Eros should a second time be succeeded by a motor-jaunt! To go motoring, again, with a Mr. Urquhart oh! But she owned that she was absurd. James did not conceal his sarcasms. “She either fears her fate too much...” he quoted at her. She pleaded with him.

“Darling,” she said and he was immensely complacent over that “I suppose it’s a sign of old age, but After all, why shouldn’t I go by train or in our own car, if it comes to that?”

“Firstly,” said James through his eyeglass, “because Urquhart asks you to go in his a terror that destroyeth in the noonday compared to ours; and secondly because, if you don’t want it, I should rather like to go to Brighton in mine.”

“Oh,” said she, “then you don’t mind motoring in March!”

“Not in a closed car,” said James “and not to Brighton.” This acted as an extinguisher of the warmer feelings. Let Mr. Urquhart do his worst then.