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


Macartney was right when he said to Lucy, in talking over the adventure, that Urquhart had no moral sense, though she had not then been convinced. But she was to be convinced before she had done with him.

He asked for her repeatedly, and with no regard at all to what had happened. At last he was told that if he excited himself she would leave the hotel. Vera Nugent told him that, having installed herself his nurse. Vera, who knew nothing but suspected much, guessed that Macartney had had as much of her brother as he cared about. As for Lucy, on the whole she despised her for preferring James with the Law to Jimmy without it. In this she did little justice to James’s use of his advantage; but, as I say, she didn’t know what had happened. All she could see for herself was that where she had once had a faible for Urquhart she was now ridiculously in love with her husband. Vera thought that any woman was ridiculous who fell into that position. She was not alone in the opinion.

However, the main thing was that Jimmy shouldn’t fret himself into a fever. If he kept quiet, she believed that he would recover. There was no dislocation, the doctors told her, but a very bad wrench. He must be perfectly still and we should see.

Lucy was not told how impatiently she was awaited. James, maybe, did not know anything about it. He felt great delicacy in telling what he had to tell her of the events of that day. But she guessed nearly everything, even that Urquhart had intended to break his own neck. “He would,” she said, being in a stare; “he’s like that.” James agreed, but pointed out that it had nearly involved his own end likewise. Lucy stared on, but said, “That wouldn’t occur to him at the time.” No, said James, on the contrary. It had occurred to him at the time that if he cut the rope, he, James, would immediately turn for home. She nodded her head several times. “He’s like that.” And then she turned and hid her face. “It’s all dreadful,” she said; “I don’t want to know any more.” It was then that James pronounced upon Urquhart’s absence of morality, and found out that she was very much interested in him anyhow.

She was curious about what had passed between him and James, for she was sure that there had been something. James admitted that. “It was very uncomfortable,” he said; “I cut him as short as I could but I was awfully sorry for him. After all, I had scored, you see.”

She gave him a long look. “Yes, you scored. All ways. Because, it was only when I was angry with you that I thought he might do.” There could be no comment on that. Then she said, “I’m thankful that I told you everything before he did.”

“So am I, by Jove,” said James. He put his arm round her. “If you hadn’t,” he said, “I think I could have let him die.” Lucy shook her head.

“No, you wouldn’t have done that. He would have but not you. If you had been capable of that you wouldn’t have called me to come to you as you did that day.” He knew which day she meant, and felt it necessary to tell her something about it.

“On that day,” he said, “though you didn’t know it, I was awfully in love with you.” She looked at him, wonderfully. “No, I didn’t know that! What a donkey I was! But I was wretched. I simply longed for you.”

“If you hadn’t cried, you would never have had me.” That she understood.

“You wanted to pity me.”

“No, I had been afraid of you. Your tears brought you down to earth.”

“That’s poetry,” said Lucy.

“It’s the nature of man,” he maintained.

She wanted to know if he “minded” her seeing Urquhart. He did, very much; but wouldn’t say so.

“You needn’t mind a bit,” she told him. “He has terrified me. I’m not adventurous at all; besides ”

“Besides ?”

“No, no, not now.” She would say nothing more.

An expedition was made to the foot of the snow-field for the benefit of the boys. From a distance they saw the great cornice, and the plateau where James had watched by Urquhart. Lancelot was here confronted with irony for the first time. His loyalty was severely tried. By rights Mr. Urquhart ought to have rescued the lot. Not for a moment could he doubt of that. As for his father, accepted on all hands as a hero, there were difficulties in the way which he could not get over. He had to go very warily to work because of his mother; but he went as far as he could. Why was it that Mr. Urquhart was hurt and Father was not, when they both had the same drop? Lucy could only say that Father dropped better or fell better. And then there was a pause. “What! With an eyeglass!” He allowed himself that with her; but with Patrick Nugent he was short and stern. Patrick had said something of the same kind, as they were journeying home together. Why hadn’t Lancelot’s governor smashed his eyeglass when he dropped? Lancelot sniffed offence immediately, and snorted, “Hoo! Jolly good thing for him he didn’t! It kept the cold out of his eye. It’s like feeding a mouse when you’re a prisoner in dungeons. Afterwards it comes and gnaws the rope. Pooh, any ass could see that.” And so much for Patrick and cheek.

But the sick man, fretting in his bed, took short views. To see Lucy again had become so desirable that he could think of nothing else. She glanced before him as a Promise, and his nature was such that a Promise was halfway to a fulfilling. As strength grew, so did he wax sanguine, and amused himself by reconstructing his Spanish castle.

Vera Nugent gave him no encouragement; and perhaps overdid it. “Hadn’t you really better let the woman alone? She’s perfectly happy in spite of you.” He could afford to laugh at this.

“She doesn’t know what happiness is. She thinks it is safety. I could teach her better.”

“You’ve made a great mess of it so far,” Vera said. He ignored that.

“You say that she’s happy. I suggest that she is merely snug. That’s what a dormouse calls happiness.”

“Well, there’s a good deal of the dormouse in Lucy,” Vera said. “If you stroke her she shines.”

“Silence!” he cried sharply out. “You don’t know anything at all. I have had her radiant like a moonstone. When am I to see her?”

“I’ll tell her that you want to see her but it would be reasonable if she refused.”

“She won’t refuse,” he said.

James must be told, of course. He took it quietly. “Yes, on the whole yes. I don’t think you can refuse him that. It will try you.”

“It will be horrid but anyhow you know everything he can say.”

“He doesn’t know that I do. He’ll build on that.”

“Build!” said Lucy quickly. “What sort of building?”

“Oh, fantastic architecture. Bowers by Bendemeer. Never mind. Are you going?”

“Yes,” said Lucy slowly. “Yes, I’ll go now.” She went to him and put her hands on his shoulders. Her eyes searched his face, and found it inscrutable. “You mind,” she said, “I know you do. You ought not but I’m glad of it.”

He humbled himself at once. They parted as lovers part; but for the life of him he could not understand how she could find the heart to go. With himself, now, it would have been a point of honour not to go. He did not see that the more a woman loves the more love she has to spare.

Vera Nugent took her into the room, pausing outside the door. “You’ll find him very jumpy,” she said; and then, “My dear, you’re so sensible.”

Lucy, who knew that she meant precisely the opposite, said, “No, I don’t think I am. I’m excitable myself. What do you want me to do?”

“Keep cool,” said Vera. “He won’t like it, but it’s important.” Then they went in. “Jimmy, here’s Mrs. Macartney.”

The quick eyes from the bed had been upon her from the first. It was immediately evident to her that she was not to be spared. She heard his “At last!” and braced herself for what that might mean.

“I should have come before if the doctors had approved so would James and Lancelot,” she said as briskly as she might. He took no notice of her addition. Vera Nugent, saying, “Don’t let him talk too much,” then left her with him.

She began matter-of-fact enquiries, but he soon showed her that she had not been brought in for such platitude. He played the mastery of the invalid without hesitation.

“Oh, I’m very sick, you know. They tell me that I shall be as fit as ever I was, if I behave but really I don’t know. I’ve a good deal behind me and not much before so that I’m comparatively indifferent how the thing goes.... Look here, Lucy,” he said suddenly and she stiffened at her name “I have to talk to you at last. It’s wonderful how we’ve put it off but here it has come.”

She said in low tones, “I don’t see why we should talk about anything. I would much rather not. Everything is changed now everything.”

Urquhart began with a touch of asperity ill disguised. “Might one be allowed to enquire...?” Scared perhaps by his pomposity, he broke off: “No, that won’t do. I’ll ask you simply, what has happened? You liked me to say no more. Now you don’t. No, no, don’t protest yet. Leave it at that. Well, and then there’s Macartney. Macartney didn’t know you existed. Now he doesn’t see that any one else does. What has happened, Lucy?”

She was annoyed at his Lucy, annoyed that she could be annoyed, annoyed at his question, and his right to ask it which she had given him. Mostly, perhaps, she was annoyed because her answer must sound ridiculous. Hateful, that such should be the lot of men and wives! She repeated his question, “What has happened? I don’t know how to tell you. I found out, before we started James found out Please don’t ask me to talk about it. Believe me when I say that everything is changed. I can’t say more than that.”

He didn’t move his eyes from her. She knew they were there though she would not face them. “Everything isn’t changed. I’m not changed. I don’t know that you are, although you say so.” She faced him.

“Indeed, I am. I hope you’ll understand that.” He frowned, his fever flushed him.

“You can’t be. We can never be ordinary acquaintance. I have kissed you ”

“You had no right ”

“You have kissed me ”

“You are cruel indeed.”

“I am not cruel I don’t pretend to excuse myself. The first time it was the act of a cad but I worked it all out. It couldn’t fail; I knew exactly how it would be. You would of course think it was he. You would be awfully touched, awfully pleased set up. And you were. I saw that you were when we all came into the room. You went over and stood by him. You put your hand on his arm. I said, ’You divine, beautiful, tender thing, now I’ll go through the fire to get you....’”

Lucy had covered her face with her hands; but now she lifted it and showed him as it might be the eyes of an Assessing Angel.

“You went through no fire at all. But you put me in the fire.” But he continued as if she had said nothing material.

“I had made up my mind to be satisfied. I thought if I could see you exalted, proud of what you had, that would be enough. But you found him out; and then you found me out too ... and we never spoke of it. But there it was, Lucy, all the time; and there it is still, my dear ”

Her face was aflame, but her eyes clear and cold. “No,” she said, “it’s not there. There is nothing there at all. You are nothing to me but a thought of shame. I think I deserve all that you can say but surely you have said enough to me now. I must leave you if you go on with this conversation. Nothing whatever is there ”

He laughed, not harshly, but comfortably, as a man does who is sure of himself. “Yes, there is something there still. I count on that. There is a common knowledge, unshared by any one but you and me. He would have it so. I was ready to tell him everything, but he wouldn’t hear me. It was honourable of him. I admired him for it; but it left me sharing something with you.”

She stared at him, as if he had insulted her in the street.

“What can you mean? How could he want to hear from you what he knew already from me?”

Urquhart went pale. Grey patches showed on his cheeks and spread like dry places in the sand.

“You told him?”

“Everything. Two nights before you went.”

He fell silent. His eyes left her face. Power seemed to leave him.

“That tears it,” he said. “That does for me.” He was so utterly disconcerted that she could have pitied him.

“So that’s why he didn’t want to hear me! No wonder. But why didn’t he tell me that he knew it? I taunted him with not knowing.” He turned towards her; his eyes were bright with fever. “If you know, perhaps you’ll tell me.”

Lucy said proudly, “I believe I know. He didn’t want to change your thoughts of me.” He received that in silence.

Then he said, “By George, he’s a better man than I am.”

Lucy said, “Yes, he is.” Her head was very fixed, her neck very stiff. She was really angry, and Urquhart had sense enough to see it. She got up to leave him, really angry, but unwilling to appear so. “You must forget all this,” she said, “and get well. Then you will do wonderful things.”

He said, “I’ve been a blackguard; but I meant something better.”

“Oh, I am sure you did,” she said warmly.

“I won’t see Macartney, if he doesn’t mind. Tell him from me that he’s a better man than I am.”

“He won’t believe you,” said Lucy.

“Oh, yes, he will,” Urquhart held. “Good-bye. Love to Lancelot.”

That melted her. “Don’t give us up. We are all your friends now.”

He wouldn’t have it. “No. I am a neck-or-nothing man. It can’t be. There’s no cake in the cupboard. I’ve eaten it. Send Vera in if you see her about. Good-bye.” She left him.

She went through the hall, with a word to Vera, who was writing letters there. “He asked for you.”

Vera looked up at her. “He’s excited, I suppose?”

“No, not now,” said Lucy. Then she went into the sitting-room and saw the party at tea on the balcony. James paused in his careful occupations, and focussed her with his eyeglass. She went quickly to the table.

“Oh, let me do it, let me.” And then she sighed deeply.

“Hulloa,” said James, knowing very well. “What’s up?”

She poured the tea. “Only that I’m glad to be here.”

Glances were exchanged, quick but reassuring.

Lancelot said, “There’s a ripping cake. Mr. Urquhart would like some,
I bet you.”

Lucy said, “He can’t have any cake just yet.” Upon which remark she avoided James’s eye, and eyeglass, with great care. But on a swift afterthought she stooped and kissed Lancelot.