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


The day that succeeded was prelude to the night, sufficient to show Lucy her way into that spacious unknown. By her own desire she passed it quietly, and had leisure to review and to forecast.

She put it to herself, roughly, thus. I may guess, but I don’t know, who loves me so. It cannot continue it shall stop this very night. But this one night I must go to him, if only to say that it can never be again. And it won’t be again; I am sure of that. However he may take it, whatever he may be driven to, he will do what I say must be. As for me, I don’t think women can ever be very happy. I expect I shall get used to it one does, to almost anything, except toothache. And I have Lancelot. She put all this quite frankly to herself, not shirking the drab outlook or the anguish of doing a thing for the last time always a piercing ordeal for her. As for James, if she thought of him at all, it was with pity. Poor dear, he really was rather dry!

She ought to have been very angry with Urquhart, but she was not. “The first time he did it, I understand. I am sure he had a sudden thought, and couldn’t resist it. It must have been more than half fun, and the rest because it was so romantic. The other times were much more wrong. But I’m not angry with him. I ought to be but I’m not not at all. I suppose that is because I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried ... not if he did much more.... No, I am sure he doesn’t hold me cheap. He’s not at all like that. James might only James holds all women cheap. But He doesn’t. I never felt at all like this about a man before. Only it must stop, after this once....”

You see, he had not kindled passion in her, even if there were any to be kindled. Lucy, with a vehement imagination, lacked initiative. You could touch her in a moment, if you knew how, or if you were the right person. Now Urquhart had never touched, though he had excited, her. To be touched you must respond to a need of hers much more that than have a need of your own. And to be the right person you must be empowered, according to Lucy. Urquhart was not really empowered, but an usurper. Of course he didn’t know that. He reasoned hastily, and superficially. He thought her to be like most women, struck by audacity. What really struck her about him were his timeliness he had responded to a need of hers when he had first kissed her and his rare moments of tenderness. “You darling!” Oh, if James could only have said that instead of “My darling!” Poor James, what a goose he was.

It was a very peaceful day. James and Nugent had driven out to play golf on some first-class course or other by the sea. Lord Considine was busy with his secretary over a paper for the British Association. In the afternoon he promised Lucy sight of two golden orioles, and kept his promise. She had leisure to look about her and find traces of Urquhart in much that was original, and more that was comfortable and intimate, in Martley Thicket. It was a long two-storeyed house of whitewashed brick, with a green slate roof, intermixed with reed-thatch, deep-eaved and verandahed along the whole south front. The upper windows had green persanes. The house stood on the side of a hill, was terraced, and looked over a concave of fine turf into a valley, down whose centre ran the lake, at whose bottom was the wood; and beyond that the moors and beech-masses of the forest. Beside the house, and behind it, was a walled kitchen garden, white-walled, with a thatch atop. On the other side were stables, kennels and such-like. Everything was grown to the top of its bent; but there was nothing very rare. “No frills,” said Lord Considine, and approved of it all. “I dare say a woman would beautify it, but it would cease to be Jimmy’s and would cease to be interesting too. She would have more flowers and fewer shrubs. Now Jimmy knows enough about it to understand that shrubs and trees are the real test of gardening. Anybody can grow flowers; but shrubs want science.” Lucy felt rebuked. She had desiderated more flowers. James, who knew nothing and cared little about gardens, passed approval of the house and offices. “It doesn’t smell of money,” he said, “and yet you see what a lot it means when you look into it.” Success, in fact, without visible effort: one of James’s high standards. He didn’t know how Jimmy got his money, but had no doubts at all of its being there. A man who could lend Francis Lingen L10,000 without a thought must be richissime. Yet Jimmy had no men-servants in the house, and James glared about him for the reason. Lucy had a reason. “I suppose, you know, he wants to be really comfortable,” she proposed, and James transferred his mild abhorrence to her. “Comfortable, without a fellow to put out his things!” He scoffed at her. But she was rather short with him, even testy. “My dear James, Mr. Urquhart’s things are things to be put on or taken off like Lord Considine’s ‘so-called clothes.’ To you they seem to be robes of ceremony, or sacrificial vestments.” James stared rather through than at her, as if some enemy lurked behind her. “My clothes seem to annoy you. May I suggest that somebody must get the mud off them, and that I had rather it wasn’t me? As for ceremony ” But she had gone. James shrugged her out of mind, and wondered vaguely if she was rather attracted by Jimmy Urquhart. It was bound to be somebody at her age. Thirty-two she must be, when they begin to like a fling. Well, there was nothing in it. Later on it occurred to him that she was looking uncommonly well just now. He saw her, in white, cross the lawn: a springy motion, a quick lift, turn of the head. She looked a girl, and a pretty one at that. His heart warmed to her. How could a man have a better wife than that? Success without effort again! There it was.

The evening came, the close of a hot and airless day. The sun set heavy and red. A bluish mist seemed to steal out of the forest and shroud the house. The terrace was not used after dinner, and when the men joined Vera and her in the drawing-room Lord Considine, who had proposed a game of chess to James at the table, now came forward with board and box of men. Nugent, as usual, had disappeared. “He’s dormant when there’s no hunting,” his wife explained. “He has nothing to kill and hates his fellow-creatures.” “Then,” said James, “he might kill some of them. I could furnish him with a rough list.” Lucy felt restless and strayed about the room, looking at things here and there without seeing them. Vera watched her, saw her wander to the open window and stand there looking gravely into the dark. She said nothing, and presently Lucy stepped out and disappeared. Vera, with raised eyebrows and a half smile, resumed her book.

Lucy was now high-hearted on her quest her quest and mission. It was to be this once, and for the last time. She followed the peony path from the lake to the thicket, entered among the trees and pushed her way forward. Long before she reached the scene of last night’s wonder she was a prisoner, her lips a prize. There was very little disguise left now. For a full time they clung together and loved without words; but then he spoke. “So you came! I hoped, I waited, I thought that you might. Oh, my Lucy, what a fact for me!”

She answered simply and gently, “I came I had to come but ”

“Well, my love?”

“Ah,” she said, “but this must be for the last time.” This was not taken as she had meant it to be. Love began again. Then he said, “That’s absurd.”

“No, no,” she protested, “it’s right. It must be so. You would not have me do anything else.”

“And I must go?”

“Yes, indeed, you must go now.”

“Not yet, Lucy. Soon.”

“No, at once,” she told him. “The last time is come, and gone. You must not keep me.”

“Let me talk to you, so, for a few minutes. There’s everything to say.”

“No,” she said, “tell me nothing. I dare not know it. Please let me go now.”

“A last time, then, Lucy.” She yielded her lips, but unwillingly; for now her mind was made up. The thing had to be done, and the sooner the better.

“Ah,” he said, “how can I let you go?”

“Easily,” she answered, “when I ask you”; and was unanswerable. She forced herself free, and stood undecided.

“You needn’t go back yet,” he said, but she thought she must.

“I came out alone,” she told him, “but Vera was in the room. So were the others. I don’t know what they will think.”

“Nothing at all,” he said. “Well, everything shall be as you wish. You see that you have only to name your wish.”

“I have one thing to ask you I dare not ask any more,” she said. Her voice had a wavering sound.

“Ask,” he said, “and I’ll tell you the truth.”

“You don’t think it wicked of me, to have come? Because I did come. I thought that I must, because because I could never explain at any other time, in any other way. You don’t think lightly of me?”

“Oh, my dear, my dear,” he said and she felt him tremble, though he did not touch her. “I think more dearly of you than of anything in heaven. The world holds no other woman for me. So it will always be.”

She said quietly, “It’s very wonderful. I don’t understand it at all. I thought perhaps I wondered if I had been angry ”

“I deserve that, and more.”

“I know I ought to be angry. So I should be if ”

“Well, my love, well?”

But she couldn’t tell him, and asked him to let her go. They parted at the entry of the wood with Good night, and Lucy flitted back with a pain in her heart like the sound of wailing. But women can wail at heart and show a fair face to the world. Her stretched smile had lost none of its sweetness, her eyes none of their brightness. Vera Nugent watched her narrowly, and led the conversation upstairs. She thought that she detected a pensive note, but assured herself that all was pretty well. “That’s a remarkable woman,” she said to herself, “who would rather have a heartache now than grin with misery next week. After this I’d trust her anywhere.”

On Sunday morning Urquhart made an explicit return to Martley, arriving at the hour of eleven in his motor of battleship grey colour and formidable fore-extension. Behind it looked rather like a toy. Lucy had gone to church alone, for James never went, and Vera Nugent simply looked appealing and then laughed when she was invited. That was her way of announcing her religion, and a pleasant one. Lord Considine was out for the day, with sandwiches bulging his pockets. Nugent had been invisible since overnight. He was slugging, said his wife.

Returning staidly through the wood, she saw Urquhart waiting for her at the wicket, and saw him, be it owned, through a veil of mist. But it was soon evident, from his address, that the convention set up was to be maintained. The night was to take care of itself; the day was to know nothing of it, officially. His address was easy and light-hearted. “Am I to be forgiven? Can I expect it? Let me tell you that I do expect it. You know me better than to suppose that I didn’t want to be here on your first visit.”

She answered him with the same spirit. “I think you might have been, I must say.”

“No, I couldn’t. There was no doubt about it. I simply had to go.”

“So Vera told me.” Then she dared. “May I ask if you went far?”

He tipped his head sideways. “Too far for my peace of mind, anyhow.”

“That tells me nothing. I am not to know any more?”

“You are to know what you please.”

“Well,” she said, “I please to forget it. Now I had better tell you how much I love Martley. James says that the house is perfect in its way; but I say that you have done justice to the site, and think it higher praise.”

“It is. I’m much obliged to you. The problem was not to enhance the site, for that was out of the question; rather to justify the impertinence of choosing to put any building there. Because of course you see that any house is an impertinence in a forest.”

“Yes, of course but not yours.”

Urquhart shrugged. “I’m not afraid of your flatteries, because I know,” he said. “The most that can be said for me is that I haven’t choked it up with scarlet and orange flowers. There’s not a geranium in the place, and I haven’t even a pomegranate in a tub, though I might.”

“Oh, no,” she said warmly, “there’s nothing finicky about your garden any more than there is about you. There was never such a man of direction at least I never met one.” The moment she had said it she became embarrassed; but he took no notice. His manner was perfect. They returned by the lake, and stayed there a while to watch Nugent trying to catch trout. The rest of the day she spent in Urquhart’s company, who contrived with a good deal of ingenuity to have her to himself while appearing to be generally available. After dinner, feeling sure of him, she braved the tale-bearing woods and nightingales vocal of her sweet unease. There was company on this occasion, but she felt certain it would not have been otherwise had they been retired with the night. She was thoughtful and quiet, and really her heart was full of complaining. He was steadily cheerful, and affected a blunt view of life at large.

She did not look forward to leaving him on the morrow, and as good as said so. “I have been enchanted here,” she said, “and hate the thought of London. But James won’t hear of Wycross in June. He loves the world.”

Urquhart said, “What are you going to do in August? Wycross?”

“No, we never go there in August. It’s too hot And there’s Lancelot. A boy must have excitement. I expect it will come to my taking him to the sea, unless James consents to Scotland. We used to do that, but now well, he’s bored there.”

He was looking at her, she felt, though she couldn’t see him. “Did you ever go to Norway?” She shook her head. He said no more on that head just then.

“I shall see you in London,” he told her. “I am going to take my Certificate at Brooklands. Next week I hope. You might come and applaud.”

“No, indeed,” said she. “I couldn’t bear to see you in those conditions. I have nerves, if you have none.”

“I have plenty,” he said, “but you ought to do it. Some day you will have to face it.”

“Why shall I?” He wouldn’t tell her.

That made her daring. “Why shall I?”

His first answer was a steady look; his second, “Nothing stops, you know. Things all swim to a point. Ebb and flow. They don’t go back until they reach it.”

“And then?”

“And then they may or they may not blot it out and swim on.”