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


But pout as she might, she could not prevail with James, whose vanity had been scratched.

“My dear girl, I’d sooner perish,” he said. “Give up a jolly walk because Jimmy Urquhart talks about my heart and his own neck preposterous! Besides, there’s nothing in it.”

“But, James,” she said, “if I ask you ”

He kissed the back of her neck. She was before the glass, busy with her hair. “You don’t ask me. You wouldn’t ask me. No woman wants to make a fool of a man. If she does, she’s a vampire.”

“Mr. Urquhart is very impulsive,” she dared to say.

“I’ve known that for a long time,” said James. “Longer than you have, I fancy. But it takes more than impulse to break another man’s neck. Besides, I really have no reason to suppose that he wants to break my neck. Why should he?”

Here they were up against the wall again. If there were reasons, he could not know them. There was no getting over it yet. They were to start betimes in the morning, and sleep that night at Brattebo, which is the hithermost spur of the chain. Dinner and beds had been ordered at Odde, beyond the snow-field.

Dinner was a gay affair. They toasted the now declared lovers. True to his cornering instincts, Lingen had told Lucy all about it in the afternoon. “Your sympathy means so much to me and Margery, whose mind is exquisitely sensitive, is only waiting your nod to be at your feet, with me.”

“I should be very sorry to see either of you there,” Lucy said. “I’m very fond of her and I shouldn’t take it at all kindly if she demeaned herself. When do you think of marrying?”

He looked at her appealingly. “I must have time,” he said; “time to build the nest.”

“A flat, I suppose,” she said, declining such poetical flights.

“A flat!” said Francis Lingen. “Really, it hadn’t occurred to me.”

From Lucy the news went abroad, and so the dinner was gay. Urquhart confined himself to the two boys, and told them about the Folgefond of its unknown depth, of the crevasses, of the glacier on its western edge, of certain white snakes, bred by the snow, which might be found there. Their bite was death, he said.

“Frost-bite,” said Patrick Nugent, who knew his uncle’s way; but Lancelot favoured his mother.

“Hoo!” he said. “I expect that you’d give him what for. One blow of your sword and his head would lie at your feet.”

“That’s nasty, too,” said Urquhart. “They have white blood, I believe.” Lancelot blinked.

“Beastly,” he said. “Did Mamma hear you? You’d better not tell her. She hates whiteness. Secretly so do I, rather.”

It was afterwards, when the boys had gone to bed, that a seriousness fell upon those of them who were given to seriousness. James and Vera Nugent settled down squarely to piquet. Francis Lingen murmured to his affianced bride.

“I don’t disguise from myself and from you I can have no secrets that there is danger in the walk. The snow is very treacherous at this season. We take ropes, of course. Urquhart is said to know the place; but Urquhart is ”

“He’s very fascinating,” said Margery Dacre, and Francis lifted his eyebrows.

“You find that? Then I am distressed. I would share everything with you if I could. To me, I don’t know why, there is something crude some harsh note a clangour of metal. I find him brazen at times. But to you, my love, who could be strident? You are the very home of peace. When I think of you I think of doves in a nest.”

“You must think of me to-morrow, then,” said Margery. He rewarded her with a look.

Lucy, for her part, had another sort of danger in her mind. It seemed absolutely necessary to her now to speak to Urquhart, because she had a conviction that he and James had very nearly come to grips. Women are very sharp at these things. She was certain that Urquhart knew the state of her heart, just as certain as if she had told him of it. That being so, she dreaded his impulse. She suspected him of savagery, and as she had no pride where love was concerned she intended to appeal to him. Modesty she had, but no pride. She must leave great blanks in her discourse; but she trusted him to fill them up. Then there was another difficulty. She had no remains of tenderness left for him: not a filament. Unless she went warily he might find that out and be mortally offended. All this she battled with while the good-nights to Lancelot were saying upstairs. She kissed his forehead, and stood over him for a moment while he snuggled into his blankets. “Oh, my lamb, you are worth fighting for!” was her last thought, as she went downstairs full of her purpose.

The card-players sat in the recess; the lovers were outside. Urquhart was by himself on a divan. She thought that he was waiting for her.

With a book for shield against the lamp she took the chair he offered her. “Aren’t they extraordinary?” she said. He questioned.

“Who is extraordinary? Do you mean the card-sharpers? Not at all. It’s meat and drink to them. It’s we who are out of the common: daintier feeders.”

“No,” she said, “it’s not quite that. James’s strong point is that he can keep his feelings in separate pigeonholes. I’m simply quaking with fear, because my imagination has flooded me. But he won’t think about the risks he’s running until he is running them.”

Urquhart had been looking at her until he discovered that James had his eye upon her too. He crossed his leg and clasped the knee of it; he looked fixedly at the ceiling as he spoke.

“I should like to know what it is you’re afraid of,” he said in a carefully literal but carefully inaudible tone. He did that sort of thing very well.

Lucy was pinching her lip. “All sorts of things,” she said. “I suffer from presentiments. I think that you or James may be hurt, for instance ”

“Do you mean,” said Urquhart as if he had been saying “Where did you get this tobacco?” “Do you mean that you’re afraid we may hurt each other?”

She hung her head deeply.

“You needn’t be. If you can fear that you must forget my promise.” He saw her eyes clear, then cloud again before her difficulties.

“James, at least,” she said, “has never done you any harm.” It was awfully true. But it annoyed him. Damn James!

“None whatever,” he answered sharply. “I wonder if I haven’t done him any good.”

Looking at her guardedly, through half-closed eyes, he saw that she was strongly moved. Her bosom rose and fell hastily, like short waves lipping a wharf. Her hands were shut tight. “You have been the best friend I ever had,” she said. “Don’t think I’m not grateful.”

That came better. He tapped his pipe on the ash-tray at hand. “My dear,” he said, “I intend to live on your gratitude. Don’t be afraid of anything. Lascia fare a me.” She rewarded him with a shy look. A rueful look, it cut him like a knife; but he could have screwed it round in the wound to get more of such pain. There’s no more bitter-sweet torment to a man than the thanks of the beloved woman for her freedom given back to her.

He felt very sick indeed but almost entirely with himself. For her he chose to have pity; of Macartney he would not allow himself to think at all. Danger lay that way, and he did not intend to be dangerous. He would not even remember that he was subject to whims. The thought flitted over his mind, like an angel of death, but he dismissed it with an effort. After all, what good could come of freebooting? The game was up. Like all men of his stamp, he cast about him far and wide for a line of action; for directly the Folgefond walk was over he would be off. To stay here was intolerable just as to back out of the walk would be ignominious. No, he would go through with that somehow; but from Odde, he thought, he might send for his things and clear out. It did not occur to him that he might have to deal with Macartney. What should Macartney want that he had not? He had vindicated the law!

But the hour was come when Macartney was to know everything. Lucy was adorable, and he simply adored her; then in the melting mood which follows she sobbed and whispered her broken confession. He had the whole story from the beginning.

He listened and learned; he was confounded, he was deeply touched. He might have been humiliated, and so frozen; he might have been offended, and so bitter; but he was neither. Her tears, her sobs, her clinging, her burning cheeks, the flood of her words, or the sudden ebb which left her speechless all this taught him what he might be to a woman who dared give him so much. He said very little himself, and exacted the last dregs from her cup. He drank it down like a thirsty horse. Probably it was as sweet for him to drink as for her to pour; for love is a strange affair and can be its own poison and antidote.

At the end he forgot his magnanimity, so great was his need of hers. “You have opened my eyes to my own fatuity. You have made me what I never thought I could be. I am your lover do you know that? And I have been your husband for how long? Your husband, Lucy, and now your lover. Never let these things trouble you any more.”

She clung to him with passion. “I love you,” she said. “I adore you. If I’ve been wicked, it was to prove you good to me, and to crush me to the earth. Love me again I am yours forever.”

Later she was able to talk freely to him, as of a thing past and done. “It’s very odd; I can’t understand it. You didn’t begin to love me until he did, and then you loved me for what he saw in me. Isn’t that true?”

“I couldn’t tell you,” he said, “because I don’t know what he did see.”

“He thought I was pretty ”

“So you are ”

“He thought that I liked to be noticed ”

“Well, and you do ”

“Of course. But it never struck you.”

“No fool that I was.”

“I love you for your foolishness.”

“Yes, but you didn’t.”

“No,” she said quickly. “No! because you wouldn’t allow it. You must let women love before you can expect them to be meek.”

He laughed. “Do you intend to be meek?”

Then it was her turn to laugh. “I should think I did! That’s my pride and joy. You may do what you like now.”

He found that a hard saying; but it is a very true one.

The departure was made early. Lucy came down to breakfast, and the boys; but Margery Dacre did not appear. Vera of course did not. Noon was her time. The boys were to cross the fiord with them and return in the boat. Lucy would not go, seeing what was the matter with Urquhart.

Urquhart indeed was in a parlous frame of mind. He was very grim to all but the boys. He was to them what he had always been. Polite and very quiet in his ways with Lucy, he had no word for either of his companions. James treated him with deference; Francis Lingen, who felt himself despised, was depressed.

“Jolly party!” said Lancelot, really meaning it, and made Urquhart laugh. But Lucy shuddered at such a laugh. She thought of the wolves in the Zoological Gardens when at sundown they greet the night. It made her blood feel cold in her veins.

“If no one’s going to enjoy himself, why does anybody go?” she said at a venture. James protested that he was going to enjoy himself prodigiously. As for Lingen, he said, it would do him no end of good.

“I jolly well wish I could go,” was Lancelot’s fishing shot, and Lucy, who was really sorry for Urquhart, was tempted to urge it. But James would not have heard of such a thing, she knew.

Then they went, with a great deal of fuss and bustle. James, a great stickler for the conventions, patted her shoulder for all good-bye. Urquhart waited his chance.

“Good-bye, my dear,” he said. “I’ve had my innings here. You won’t see me again, I expect. I ask your pardon for many things but I believe that we are pretty well quits. Trust me with your James, won’t you? Good-bye.” He asked her that to secure himself against whims.

She could do no more than give him her hand. He kissed it, and left her. The boat was pushed out. Urquhart took the helm, with Lancelot in the crook of his arm. He turned once and waved his cap.

“There goes a man any woman could love,” she told herself. If she had a regret she had it not long. “Some natural tears they shed, but dried them soon.”

They made a good landing, bestowed their gear in a cart, and set out for a long climb to Brattebo, which they reached in the late afternoon a lonely farm on the side of a naked hill. They slept there, and were to rise at four for the snow-field.