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


Macartney fell easily into habits, and was slow to renounce them. Having got into the way of making love to his wife, he by no means abandoned it; at the same time, and in as easy a fashion, it came to be a matter of routine with him to play piquet with Vera Nugent after dinner. It was she who had proposed it, despairing of a quartette, or even of a trio, for the Bridge which was a dram to her. Here also James would have been only too happy; but nobody else would touch it. Lucy never played cards; Urquhart, having better things to do, said that he never did. Margery Dacre and Lingen preferred retirement and their own company. Lingen, indeed, was exhibiting his heart to the pale-haired girl as if it was a specimen-piece. “I am really a very simple person,” he told her, “one of those who, trusting once, trust for ever. I don’t expect to be understood, I have no right to ask for sympathy. That would be too much to look for in a jostling, market-day world like ours. But I cherish one or two very fragrant memories of kindnesses done. I open, at need, a drawer; and, like the scent of dry rose-leaves, or lavender, a sweet hint steals out that there are good women in the world, that life is not made up of receipted bills. Don’t you understand the value of such treasures? I am sure that you do. You always seem to me so comprehending in your outlook.” Margery said that she hoped she was.

It was Lucy’s business immediately after dinner to see that Lancelot was decently abed. The lad took the last ounce out of himself before that time came, and was to be brought by main force to the bath, crimson to the roots of his hair and dripping with sweat. Protesting to the uttermost, still panting with his final burst in the open, she saw to it that he was quiet before she could be so herself. Then she was free, and Urquhart found or looked for his chance. The woods called her, the wondrous silver-calm of the northern night. She longed to go; but now she dreaded Urquhart, and dared not trust herself. It had come to this, that, possessed as she was, and happy in possession, he and all that he stood for could blot the whole fair scene up in cold fog. That was how she looked at it in the first blush of her new life.

He didn’t understand that; but he saw that she was nervous, and set himself to reassure her. He assumed his dryest tone, his most negligent manner. When she came downstairs from Lancelot, and after watching the card-players, fingering a book or magazine, drifted to the open window and stood or leaned there, absorbing the glory of the night Urquhart left her, and pulled at his pipe. When she spoke to the room at large “Oh, you stuffy people, will you never understand that all the world is just out here?” he was the first to laugh at her, though he would have walked her off into that world of magic and dream, straight from the window where she stood. He was a wild idealist himself, and was sure of her. But he must wait her good time.

Often, therefore, she drifted out by herself, and he suffered damnably. But she never went far he comforted himself with that assurance. “She has the homing instinct. She won’t go without me; and she knows that I can’t come but oh, to be kissing her under those birches by the water’s edge!”

He was not the only one who was aware that she had flitted. Macartney was always intensely aware of it, and being by this time exceedingly fond, it tended to spoil his play. So long as Urquhart left her alone he was able to endure it.

Then came an evening when, tending to the open door, she found Urquhart there before her. He had behaved so admirably that her fears were asleep. He acted with the utmost caution, saying just enough, with just enough carelessness of tone, to keep her unsuspicious. The boreal lights were flashing and quivering in the sky: very soon he saw her absorbed in the wonder and beauty of them. “A night,” she said, “when anything might happen!”

“Yes, it looks like that,” he agreed. “But that is not what enraptures you.”

“What do you think enraptures me?” she wished to know.

“The certainty,” he replied, “that nothing will.”

She waited a while, then said, “Yes, you are right. I don’t want anything else to happen.”

“You have everything you want, here in the house. Safe to hand! Your Lancelot in bed, your James at cards, and myself at the window. Wonderful! And you are contented?”

“Yes, yes. I ask so little, you see. But you despise me for it.”

“God forbid. I promised you that you shouldn’t repent this trip. And you don’t, I hope?”

Her eyes were wide open and serious. “No, indeed. I never expected to be so happy as this. It never happened to me before.” She had no compunctions at all but he was in the fatuous stage, drugged by his own imaginings.

“That’s good. Shall we go down to the water?”

“I think we might,” she said, not daring to look back into the room, lest he should think that she feared him.

They strolled leisurely through the wood, she in a soft rapture of delight at the still grey beauty of the night; Urquhart in a state of mind bordering upon frenzy. He gripped himself by both hands to make sure of the mastery. What gave him conviction was his constant sense of Lucy’s innocency. This beautiful woman had the heart of a child and the patience of the mother of a god. To shock the one or gibe at the other were a blasphemy he simply couldn’t contemplate. What then was to be the end of it? He didn’t know; he didn’t care. She loved him, he believed; she had kissed him, therefore she must love him. Such women don’t give their lips without their hearts. But then she had been scared, and had cried off? Well, that, too, he seemed to understand. That was where her sense of law came in. He could not but remember that it would have come in before, had she known who her lover was. As things fell out, she slipped into love without knowing it. The moment she had known it, she withdrew to the shadow of her hearth. That was his Lucy all over. His Lucy? Yes, for that wasn’t the Solicitor’s Lucy if, indeed, the solicitor had a Lucy. But had he? A little weakness of Urquhart’s was to pride himself on being a man of whims, and to suppose such twists of the mind his unique possession. All indeed that he had of unique was this, that he invariably yielded to his whims; whereas other people did not.

However, he set a watch upon himself on this night of witchery, and succeeded perfectly. They talked leisurely and quietly of anything or nothing; the desultory, fragmentary interjections of comment which pass easily between intimates. Lucy’s share was replete with soft wonderings at the beauty of the world. Neither of them answered the other.

Under the birch-trees it was light, but very damp. He wouldn’t allow her to stop there, but bade her higher up the hillside. There were pines there which were always dry. “Wait you there,” he said; “I’m going back to get you a wrap.” She would have stopped him, but he had gone.

Urquhart, walking up sharply to the house, was not at all prepared for Macartney walking as sharply down from it. In fact, he was very much put out, and the more so because from the first James took the upper hand.

“Hulloa,” said the lord of the eyeglass.

“Hulloa, yourself,” said Urquhart, and stopped, which he need not have done, seeing that Macartney with complete nonchalance continued his walk.

“Seen my wife anywhere?” came from over his shoulder. Urquhart turned on his heels. “Yes,” he said, and walked on.

There was an end of one, two and three as the rhyme goes. Urquhart was hot with rage. That bland, blundering fool, that glasshouse, that damned supercilious ass: all this and more he cried upon James. He scorned him for his jealousy; he cursed him for it; he vowed that he would carry her off before his very eyes. “Let her give the word, lift an eyebrow, and I take her across the world.” And the lad too, bless him. What did the quill-driver want of them but credit? Damn him, he hung them up in his house, as tradesmen use the royal arms. He baited for his deans and chapters with them. He walked far into the night in a passion of anger. It never once occurred to him that James was a rival. And there he was right.

He thought that Urquhart had certainly been with Lucy; he knew that he was in love with her; but oddly enough that stimulated instead of quelled him. It enhanced her. It made her love worth keeping. He had a great respect, in his heart of hearts, for Urquhart’s validity in a world of action which certainly comprehended the taking and keeping of hearts. Now he came to think of it, he must confess that he had never loved Lucy as he did now until he had observed that so redoubtable a champion was in the lists against him. Odd thing! He had been jealous of Francis Lingen, as he now was of Urquhart; but it was the latter jealousy which had made him desire Lucy. The former had simply disgusted him, the latter had spurred him to rivalry and now to main desire. James was no philosopher; he had an idle mind except in the conduct of his business. He could not attempt, then, to explain his state of mind but he was very much interested. Soon he saw her in the dusk under the pines: a slim white shape, standing with one hand upon the trunk of a tree. Her back was towards him; she did not turn.

She supposed that it was Urquhart come back, and was careful not to seem waiting for him. “How quick you have been!” she said lightly, and stood where she was. No answer was returned. Then came a shock indeed, and her head seemed to flood with fear. Two hands from behind her covered her eyes; her head was drawn gently back, and she was kissed ardently on the lips. She struggled wildly; she broke away. “Oh!” she said, half sobbing. “Oh, how cruel you are how cruel! How could you dare to do it?” And then, free of the hands, she turned upon Urquhart and saw James. “Oh, my love!” she said, and ran to him and broke into tears.

James had secured his eyeglass, but now let it drop. He allowed her to cry her fill, and then made the best of a rather bad business. “If every man who kissed his wife,” said he, “was answered like that, lips would go dry.”

She said through her tears, “You see, I thought you were Mr. Urquhart with my wrap.”

“Oh, the dickens you did,” said James. “And is that how Mr. Urquhart usually brings you a wrap?”

She clung to him. “Well, no. If he did, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so angry by this time.”

“That’s a very good answer,” James allowed. “I’ll only make one comment upon it. You cried out upon the cruelty of the attack. Now if it had been assume it for the moment our well, friend, let us say, why would it have been cruel of him? Shameful, flagrant, audacious, impudent, insolent, all that I can understand. But cruel, Lucy?”

Lucy’s cheek was upon his shoulder, and she let it stay there, even while she answered. The moment was serious. She must tell him as much as she dared. Certain things seemed out of the question; but something she must tell him.

“You see, James,” she said, “I think Mr. Urquhart is fond of me in fact, I’m sure of it ”

“Has he told you so?”

“Not in so many words but ”

“But in so many other words, eh? Well, pursue.”

“And I told him that I couldn’t possibly join the party on that account.”

“Did you tell him it was on that account?”

“No,” said Lucy, “I didn’t; but he understood that. I know he understood it, because he immediately said that if I would come I shouldn’t repent it. And I haven’t. He has never made me feel uncomfortable. But just now when I was expecting him oh, it seemed to me quite horrible and I was furious with him.”

“You were indeed. It didn’t occur to you that it might have been well, somebody with more right.”

Her arm tightened, but she said nothing. The unconscious James went on. “I was wrong. A man has no right to kiss a woman unawares in the dark. Even if it’s his wife. She’ll always want to know who it was, and she’s bound to find out. And he’ll get no thanks for it, either.” Then it became necessary for Lucy to thank him.

“Mind you, my dear,” he told her. “I have no quarrel with Jimmy Urquhart up to now. You say he’s in love with you, and I think that he is. I’ve thought so for some time, and I confess that I didn’t relish the idea that he should be out here with us. But since we are in for confessions I’ll make one more. If he hadn’t been in love with you I don’t believe that I should be as I am now.”

Lucy laughed the laugh of a woman rich. “Then I’m very much obliged to him,” she said.

But Urquhart was harder to convince than James.