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


A little cloud of witness, assembled at will like seagulls out of the blue inane, would come about her in after years. That madly exhilarating rush to Westgate, for instance, on a keen March morning; and that sudden question of hers to Urquhart, “What made you think of asking me?” And his laconic answer, given without a turn of the head, “Because I knew you would like it. You did before, you know. And that was January.” There was one. Another, connected with it, was her going alone up to the schoolhouse, and her flush of pleasure when Lancelot said, “Oh, I say, did He bring you down? Good then we’ll go immediately and see the car; perhaps it’s a new one.” She could afford to recall that after a long interval. They had had a roaring day, “all over the place,” as Lancelot said afterwards to a friend; and then there had been her parting with Urquhart in the dark at the open door of Queendon Court. “Aren’t you going to stop?” “No, my dear.” She remembered being amused with that. “Aren’t you even coming in?” “I am not. Good-bye. You enjoyed yourself?” “Oh, immensely.” “That’s what I like,” he had said, and “pushed off,” as his own phrase went. Atop of that, the return to James, and to nothingness. For nothing happened, except that he had been in a good temper throughout, which may easily have been because she had been in one herself until the Easter holidays, when he had been very cross indeed. Poor James, to get him to begin to understand Lancelot’s bluntness, intensity, and passion for something or other, did seem hopeless.

They were at Wycross, on her urgent entreaty, and James was bored at Wycross, she sometimes thought, because she loved it so much. Jealousy. A man’s wife ought to devote herself. She should love nothing but her husband. He had spent his days at the golf course, not coming home to lunch. Urquhart was asked for a Sunday on Lancelot’s account but couldn’t come, or said so at least. Then, on the Saturday, when he should have been there, James suddenly kissed her in the garden and, of course, in the dark.

She hadn’t known that he was in the house yet. He had contracted the habit of having tea at the club-house and talking on till dark. He did that, as she believed, because she always read to Lancelot in the evenings: she gave up the holidays entirely to him. Well, Lancelot that afternoon had been otherwise engaged with friends of a neighbour. She had cried off on the score of “seeing something of Father,” at which Lancelot had winked. But James was not in to tea, and at six and no sign of him she yielded to the liquid calling of a thrush in the thickening lilacs, and had gone out. There she stayed till it was dark, in a favourite place a circular garden of her contriving, with a pond, and a golden privet hedge, so arranged as to throw yellow reflections in the water. Standing there, it grew perfectly dark deeply and softly dark. The night had come down warm and wet, like manifold blue-black gauze. She heard his quick, light step. Her heart hammered, but she did not move. He came behind her, clasped and held her close. “Oh, you’ve come I wondered. Oh, how sweet, how sweet ” And then “My love!” had been said, and she had been kissed. In a moment he was gone. She had stayed on motionless, enthralled by the beauty of the act and when she had withdrawn herself at last, and had tiptoed to the house, she saw his lamp on the table, and himself reading the Spectator before a wood fire! Recalling all that, she remembered the happy little breath of laughter which had caught her. “If it wasn’t so perfectly sweet and beautiful, it would be the most comic thing in the world!” she had said to herself.

A telegram from Jimmy Urquhart came that night just before dinner. “Arriving to-morrow say ten-thirty for an hour or so, Urquhart.” It was sent from St. James’s Street. Lancelot had said, “Stout fellow,” and James took it quite well. She herself remembered her feeling of annoyance, how clearly she foresaw an interrupted reverie and a hampered Sunday and also how easily he had falsified her prevision. There had been an animated morning of garden inspection, in the course of which she had shown him (with a softly fluttering heart and perhaps enhanced colour) the hedged oval of last night’s romance; a pony race; a game of single cricket in the paddock Lancelot badly beaten; lunch, and great debate with James about aeroplanes, wherein Lancelot showed himself a bitter and unscrupulous adversary of his parent. Finally, the trial of the new car: an engine of destruction such as Lancelot had never dreamed of. It was admittedly too high-powered for England; you were across the county in about a minute. And then he had departed in a kind of thunderstorm of his own making. Lancelot, preternaturally moved, said to his mother, “I say, Mamma, what a man eh?” She, lightly, “Yes, isn’t he wonderful?” and Lancelot, with a snort: “A man? Ten rather small men easily.” And James, poor James, saw nothing kissable in that!

It hadn’t been till May of that year that Lucy began to think about Urquhart or rather it was in May that she discovered herself to be thinking about him. Mabel assisted her there. Mabel was in Cadogan Square for the season, and the sisters saw much of each other. Now it happened that one day Mabel had seen Lucy with Urquhart walking down Bond Street, at noon or thereabouts, and had passed by on the other side with no more than a wave of the hand. It was all much simpler than it looked, really, because Lucy had been to James’s office, which was in Cork Street, and coming away had met Jimmy Urquhart in Burlington Gardens. He had strolled on with her, and was telling her that he had been waterplaning on Chichester Harbour and was getting rather bitten with the whole business of flight. “I’m too old, I know, but I’m still ass enough to take risks. I think I shall get the ticket,” he had said. What ticket? The pilot’s ticket, or whatever they might call it. “I expect you are too old,” she had said, and then “How old are you, by the way?” He told her. “We call it forty-two.” “Exactly James’s age; and exactly ten years older than me. Yes, too old. I think I wouldn’t.”

He had laughed. “I’m certain I shall. It appeals to me.” Then he had told her, “The first time I saw a man flying I assure you I could have shed tears.” She remembered that this was out of his power. “Odd thing! What’s gravitation to me, or I to gravitation? A commonplace whereby I walk the world. Never mind. There was that young man breaking a law of this planet. Well that’s a miracle. I tell you I might have wept. And then I said to myself, “My man, you’ll do this or perish.” Then she: “And have you done it?” and he: “I have not, but I’m going to.” She had suddenly said, “No, please don’t.” His quick look at her she remembered, and the suffusion on his burnt face. “Oh, but I shall. Do you wish to know why? Because you don’t mean it; because you wouldn’t like me if I obeyed you.” She said gravely, “You can’t know that.” “Yes, but I do. You like me assume that ” Lucy said, “You may”; and he, “I do. You like me because I am such as I am. If I obeyed you in this I should cease to be such as I am and become such as I am not and never have been. You might like me more but you might not. No, that’s too much of a risk. I can’t afford it.” She had said, “That’s absurd,” but she hadn’t thought it so.

Mabel came to her for lunch and rallied her. “I saw you, my dear. But I wouldn’t spoil sport. All right you might do much worse. He’s very much alive. Anyhow, he doesn’t wear an ” Then Lucy was hurt. “Oh, Mabel, that’s horrid. You know I hate you to talk like that.” Mabel stood rebuked. “It was beastly of me. But you know I never could stand his eyeglass. It is what they call anti-social in their novels. Really, you might as well live in the Crystal Palace.” Then she held out her hand, and Lucy took it after some hesitation. But Mabel was irrepressible. Almost immediately she had jumped into the fray again, with “You’re both going to his place in Hampshire, aren’t you?” Then Lucy had flushed; and Mabel had given her a queer look.

“That’s all right,” she presently said. “He asked us, you know, but we can’t. I hear that Vera Nugent is to be hostess. I rather liked her, though of course you can never tell how such copious conversation will wear. I don’t think she stopped talking for a single moment. Laurence thought he was going mad. It makes him broody, you know, like a hen. He rubs his ears, and says his wattles are inflamed.”

It was either that day, or another such day it really doesn’t matter which day it was that Mabel drifted into the subject of what she called “the James romance.” Did James ? Had James ? And where were we standing now? Lucy, whose feelings upon the subject were more complicated than they had been at first, was not very communicative; but she owned there had been repetitions. Mabel, who was desperately quick to notice, judged that she was mildly bored. “I see,” she said; “I see. But that’s all.”

“All!” cried Lucy. “Yes, indeed.”

Mabel said again, “I see.” Lucy, who certainly didn’t see, was silent; and then Mabel with appalling candour said, “I suppose you would have it out with him if you weren’t afraid to.”

Lucy was able to cope with that kind of thing. “Nothing would induce me to do it. I shouldn’t be able to lift my head up if I did. It would not only be well, horrible, but it would be very cruel as well. I should feel myself a brute.” On Mabel’s shrug she was stung into an attack of her own. “And whatever you may say, to me, I know that you couldn’t bring yourself to such a point. No woman could do it, who respected herself.” Mabel had the worst of it in the centre, but by a flanking movement recovered most of the ground. She became very vague. She said, as if to herself, “After all, you know, you may be mistaken. Perhaps the less you say the better.”

Mistaken! And “the less you say”! Lucy’s grey eyes took intense direction. “Please tell me what you mean, my dear. Do you think I’m out of my senses? Do you really think I’ve imagined it all?”

“No, no,” said Mabel quickly, and visibly disturbed. “No, no, of course I don’t. I really don’t know what I meant. It’s all too confusing for simple people like you and me. Let’s talk about something else.” Lucy, to whom the matter was distasteful, agreed; but the thought persisted. Mistaken ... and “the less you say...!”