Read CHAPTER II of A Great Success, free online book, by Mrs. Humphry Ward, on

It was a perfect June evening:  Doris was seated on one of the spreading lawns of Crosby Ledgers, ­a low Georgian house, much added to at various times, and now a pleasant medley of pillared verandahs, tiled roofs, cupolas, and dormer windows, apparently unpretending, but, as many people knew, one of the most luxurious of English country houses.

Lady Dunstable, in a flowing dress of lilac crepe and a large black hat, had just given Mrs. Meadows a second cup of tea, and was clearly doing her duty ­and showing it ­to a guest whose entertainment could not be trusted to go of itself.  The only other persons at the tea-table ­the Meadowses having arrived late ­were an elderly man with long Dundreary whiskers, in a Panama hat and a white waistcoat, and a lady of uncertain age, plump, kind-eyed, and merry-mouthed, in whom Doris had at once divined a possible harbour of refuge from the terrors of the situation.  Arthur was strolling up and down the lawn with the Home Secretary, smoking and chatting ­talking indeed nineteen to the dozen, and entirely at his ease.  A few other groups were scattered over the grass; while girls in white dresses and young men in flannels were playing tennis in the distance.  A lake at the bottom of the sloping garden made light and space in a landscape otherwise too heavily walled in by thick woodland.  White swans floated on the lake, and the June trees beyond were in their freshest and proudest leaf.  A church tower rose appropriately in a corner of the park, and on the other side of the deer-fence beyond the lake a herd of red deer were feeding.  Doris could not help feeling as though the whole scene had been lately painted for a new “high life” play at the St. James’s Theatre, and she half expected to see Sir George Alexander walk out of the bushes.

“I suppose, Mrs. Meadows, you have been helping your husband with his lectures?” said Lady Dunstable, a little languidly, as though the heat oppressed her.  She was making play with a cigarette and her half-shut eyes were fixed on the “lion’s” wife.  The eyes fascinated Doris.  Surely they were artificially blackened, above and below?  And the lips ­had art been delicately invoked, or was Nature alone responsible?

“I copy things for Arthur,” said Doris.  “Unfortunately, I can’t type.”

At the sound of the young and musical voice, the gentleman with the Dundreary whiskers ­Sir Luke Malford ­who had seemed half asleep, turned sharply to look at the speaker.  Doris too was in a white dress, of the simplest stuff and make; but it became her.  So did the straw hat, with its wreath of wild roses, which she had trimmed herself that morning.  There was not the slightest visible sign of tremor in the young woman; and Sir Luke’s inner mind applauded her.

“No fool! ­and a lady,” he thought.  “Let’s see what Rachel will make of her.”

“Then you don’t help him in the writing?” said Lady Dunstable, still with the same detached air.  Doris laughed.

“I don’t know what Arthur would say if I proposed it.  He never lets anybody go near him when he’s writing.”

“I see; like all geniuses, he’s dangerous on the loose.”  Was Lady Dunstable’s smile just touched with sarcasm?  “Well! ­has the success of the lectures surprised you?”

Doris pondered.

“No,” she said at last, “not really.  I always thought Arthur had it in him.”

“But you hardly expected such a run ­such an excitement!”

“I don’t know,” said Doris, coolly.  “I think I did ­sometimes.  The question is how long it will last.”

She looked, smiling, at her interrogator.

The gentleman with the whiskers stooped across the table.

“Oh, nothing lasts in this world.  But that of course is what makes a good time so good.”

Doris turned towards him ­demurring ­for the sake of conversation.  “I never could understand how Cinderella enjoyed the ball.”

“For thinking of the clock?” laughed Sir Luke.  “No, no! ­you can’t mean that.  It’s the expectation of the clock that doubles the pleasure.  Of course you agree, Rachel!” ­he turned to her ­“else why did you read me that very doleful poem yesterday, on this very theme? ­that it’s only the certainty of death that makes life agreeable?  By the way, George Eliot had said it before!”

“The poem was by a friend of mine,” said Lady Dunstable, coldly.  “I read it to you to see how it sounded.  But I thought it poor stuff.”

“How unkind of you!  The man who wrote it says he lives upon your friendship.”

“That, perhaps, is why he’s so thin.”

Sir Luke laughed again.

“To be sure, I saw the poor man ­after you had talked to him the other night ­going to Dunstable to be consoled.  Poor George! he’s always healing the wounds you make.”

“Of course.  That’s why I married him.  George says all the civil things.  That sets me free to do the rude ones.”

“Rachel!” The exclamation came from the plump lady opposite, who was smiling broadly, and showing some very white teeth.  A signal passed from her eyes to those of Doris, as though to say “Don’t be alarmed!”

But Doris was not at all alarmed.  She was eagerly watching Lady Dunstable, as one watches for the mannerisms of some well-known performer.  Sir Luke perceived it, and immediately began to show off his hostess by one of the sparring matches that were apparently frequent between them.  They fell to discussing a party of guests ­landowners from a neighbouring estate ­who seemed to have paid a visit to Crosby Ledgers the day before.  Lady Dunstable had not enjoyed them, and her tongue on the subject was sharpness itself, restrained by none of the ordinary compunctions.  “Is this how she talks about all her guests ­on Monday morning?” thought Doris, with quickened pulse as the biting sentences flew about.

...  “Mr. Worthing?  Why did he marry her?  Oh, because he wanted a stuffed goose to sit by the fire while he went out and amused himself....  Why did she marry him?  Ah, that’s more difficult to answer.  Is one obliged to credit Mrs. Worthing with any reasons ­on any subject?  However, I like Mr. Worthing ­he’s what men ought to be.”

“And that is ?” Doris ventured to put in.

“Just ­men,” said Lady Dunstable, shortly.

Sir Luke laughed over his cigarette.

“That you may fool them?  Well, Rachel, all the same, you would die of Worthing’s company in a month.”

“I shouldn’t die,” said Lady Dunstable, quietly.  “I should murder.”

“Hullo, what’s my wife talking about?” said a bluff and friendly voice.  Doris looked up to see a handsome man with grizzled hair approaching.

“Mrs. Meadows?  How do you do?  What a beautiful evening you’ve brought!  Your husband and I have been having a jolly talk.  My word! ­he’s a clever chap.  Let me congratulate you on the lectures.  Biggest success known in recent days!”

Doris beamed upon her host, well pleased, and he settled down beside her, doing his kind best to entertain her.  In him, all those protective feelings towards a stranger, in which his wife appeared to be conspicuously lacking, were to be discerned on first acquaintance.  Doris was practically sure that his inner mind was thinking ­“Poor little thing! ­knows nobody here.  Rachel’s been scaring her.  Must look after her!”

And look after her he did.  He was by no means an amusing companion.  Lazy, gentle, and ineffective, Doris quickly perceived that he was entirely eclipsed by his wife, who, now that she was relieved of Mrs. Meadows, was soon surrounded by a congenial company ­the Home Secretary, one or two other politicians, the old General, a literary Dean, Lord Staines, a great racing man, Arthur Meadows, and one or two more.  The talk became almost entirely political ­with a dash of literature.  Doris saw at once that Lady Dunstable was the centre of it, and she was not long in guessing that it was for this kind of talk that people came to Crosby Ledgers.  Lady Dunstable, it seemed, was capable of talking like a man with men, and like a man of affairs with the men of affairs.  Her political knowledge was astonishing; so, evidently, was her background of family and tradition, interwoven throughout with English political history.  English statesmen had not only dandled her, they had taught her, walked with her, written to her, and ­no doubt ­flirted with her.  Doris, as she listened to her, disliked her heartily, and at the same time could not help being thrilled by so much knowledge, so much contact with history in the making, and by such a masterful way, in a woman, with the great ones of the earth.  “What a worm she must think me!” thought Doris ­“what a worm she does think me ­and the likes of me!”

At the same time, the spectator must needs admit there was something else in Lady Dunstable’s talk than mere intelligence or mere mannishness.  There was undoubtedly something of “the good fellow,” and, through all her hard hitting, a curious absence ­in conversation ­of the personal egotism she was quite ready to show in all the trifles of life.  On the present occasion her main object clearly was to bring out Arthur Meadows ­the new captive of her bow and spear; to find out what was in him; to see if he was worthy of her inner circle.  Throwing all compliment aside, she attacked him hotly on certain statements ­certain estimates ­in his lectures.  Her knowledge was personal; the knowledge of one whose father had sat in Dizzy’s latest Cabinet, while, through the endless cousinship of the English landed families, she was as much related to the Whig as to the Tory leaders of the past.  She talked familiarly of “Uncle This” or “Cousin That,” who had been apparently the idols of her nursery before they had become the heroes of England; and Meadows had much ado to defend himself against her store of anecdote and reminiscence.  “Unfair!” thought Doris, breathlessly watching the contest of wits.  “Oh, if she weren’t a woman, Arthur could easily beat her!”

But she was a woman, and not at all unwilling, when hard pressed, to take advantage of that fact.

All the same, Meadows was stirred to most unwonted efforts.  He proved to be an antagonist worth her steel; and Doris’s heart swelled with secret pride as she saw how all the other voices died down, how more and more people came up to listen, even the young men and maidens, ­throwing themselves on the grass, around the two disputants.  Finally Lady Dunstable carried off the honours.  Had she not seen Lord Beaconsfield twice during the fatal week of his last general election, when England turned against him, when his great rival triumphed, and all was lost?  Had he not talked to her, as great men will talk to the young and charming women whose flatteries soften their defeats; so that, from the wings, she had seen almost the last of that well-graced actor, caught his last gestures and some of his last words?

“Brava, brava!” said Meadows, when the story ceased, although it had been intended to upset one of his own most brilliant generalisations; and a sound of clapping hands went round the circle.  Lady Dunstable, a little flushed and panting, smiled and was silent.  Meadows, meanwhile, was thinking ­“How often has she told that tale?  She has it by heart.  Every touch in it has been sharpened a dozen times.  All the same ­a wonderful performance!”

Lord Dunstable, meanwhile, sat absolutely silent, his hat on the back of his head, his attention fixed on his wife.  As the group broke up, and the chairs were pushed back, he said in Doris’s ear ­“Isn’t she an awfully clever woman, my wife?”

Before Doris could answer, she heard Lady Dunstable carelessly ­but none the less peremptorily ­inviting her women guests to see their rooms.  Doris walked by her hostess’s side towards the house.  Every trace of animation and charm had now vanished from that lady’s manner.  She was as languid and monosyllabic as before, and Doris could only feel once again that while her clever husband was an eagerly welcomed guest, she herself could only expect to reckon as his appendage ­a piece of family luggage.

Lady Dunstable threw open the door of a spacious bedroom.  “No doubt you will wish to rest till dinner,” she said, severely.  “And of course your maid will ask for what she wants.”  At the word “maid,” did Doris dream it, or was there a satiric gleam in the hard black eyes?  “Pretender,” it seemed to say ­and Doris’s conscience admitted the charge.

And indeed the door had no sooner closed on Lady Dunstable before an agitated knock announced Jane ­in tears.

She stood opposite her mistress in desperation.

“Please, ma’am ­I’ll have to have an evening dress ­or I can’t go in to supper!”

“What on earth do you mean?” said Doris, staring at her.

“Every maid in this ’ouse, ma’am, ’as got to dress for supper.  The maids go in the ‘ousekeeper’s room, an’ they’ve all on ’em got dresses V-shaped, or cut square, or something.  This black dress, ma’am, won’t do at all.  So I can’t have no supper.  I couldn’t dream, ma’am, of goin’ in different to the others!”

“You silly creature!” said Doris, springing up.  “Look here ­I’ll lend you my spare blouse.  You can turn it in at the neck, and wear my white scarf.  You’ll be as smart as any of them!”

And half laughing, half compassionate, she pulled her blouse out of the box, adjusted the white scarf to it herself, and sent the bewildered Jane about her business, after having shown her first how to unpack her mistress’s modest belongings, and strictly charged her to return half an hour before dinner.  “Of course I shall dress myself, ­but you may as well have a lesson.”

The girl went, and Doris was left stormily wondering why she had been such a fool as to bring her.  Then her sense of humour conquered, and her brow cleared.  She went to the open window and stood looking over the park beyond.  Sunset lay broad and rich over the wide stretches of grass, and on the splendid oaks lifting their dazzling leaf to the purest of skies.  The roses in the garden sent up their scent, there was a plashing of water from an invisible fountain, and the deer beyond the fence wandered in and out of the broad bands of shadow drawn across the park.  Doris’s young feet fidgeted under her.  She longed to be out exploring the woods and the lake.  Why was she immured in this stupid room, to which Lady Dunstable had conducted her with a chill politeness which had said plainly enough “Here you are ­and here you stay! ­till dinner!”

“If I could only find a back-staircase,” she thought, “I would soon be enjoying myself!  Arthur, lucky wretch, said something about playing golf.  No! ­there he is!”

And sure enough, on the farthest edge of the lawn going towards the park, she saw two figures walking ­Lady Dunstable and Arthur!  “Deep in talk of course ­having the best of times ­while I am shut up here ­half-past six! ­on a glorious evening!” The reflection, however, was, on the whole, good-humoured.  She did not feel, as yet, either jealous or tragic.  Some day, she supposed, if it was to be her lot to visit country houses, she would get used to their ways.  For Arthur, of course, it was useful ­perhaps necessary ­to be put through his paces by a woman like Lady Dunstable.  “And he can hold his own.  But for me?  I contribute nothing.  I don’t belong to them ­they don’t want me ­and what use have I for them?”

Her meditations, however, were here interrupted by a knock.  On her saying “Come in” ­the door opened cautiously to admit the face of the substantial lady, Miss Field, to whom Doris had been introduced at the tea-table.

“Are you resting?” said Miss Field, “or only ’interned’?”

“Oh, please come in!” cried Doris.  “I never was less tired in my life.”

Miss Field entered, and took the armchair that Doris offered her, fronting the open window and the summer scene.  Her face would have suited the Muse of Mirth, if any Muse is ever forty years of age.  The small, up-turned nose and full red lips were always smiling; so were the eyes; and the fair skin and still golden hair, the plump figure and gay dress of flower-sprigged muslin, were all in keeping with the part.

“You have never seen my cousin before?” she inquired.

“Lady Dunstable?  Is she your cousin?”

Miss Field nodded.  “My first cousin.  And I spend a great part of the year here, helping in different ways.  Rachel can’t do without me now, so I’m able to keep her in order.  Don’t ever be shy with her!  Don’t ever let her think she frightens you! ­those are the two indispensable rules here.”

“I’m afraid I should break them,” said Doris, slowly.  “She does frighten me ­horribly!”

“Ah, well, you didn’t show it ­that’s the chief thing.  You know she’s a much more human creature than she seems.”

“Is she?” Doris’s eyes pursued the two distant figures in the park.

“You’d think, for instance, that Lord Dunstable was just a cipher?  Not at all.  He’s the real authority here, and when he puts his foot down Rachel always gives in.  But of course she’s stood in the way of his career.”

Doris shrank a little from these indiscretions.  But she could not keep her curiosity out of her eyes, and Miss Field smilingly answered it.

“She’s absorbed him so!  You see he watches her all the time.  She’s like an endless play to him.  He really doesn’t care for anything else ­he doesn’t want anything else.  Of course they’re very rich.  But he might have done something in politics, if she hadn’t been so much more important than he.  And then, naturally, she’s made enemies ­powerful enemies.  Her friends come here of course ­her old cronies ­the people who can put up with her.  They’re devoted to her.  And the young people ­the very modern ones ­who think nice manners ‘early Victorian,’ and like her rudeness for the sake of her cleverness.  But the rest! ­What do you think she did at one of these parties last year?”

Doris could not help wishing to know.

“She took a fancy to ask a girl near here ­the daughter of a clergyman, a great friend of Lord Dunstable’s, to come over for the Sunday.  Lord Dunstable had talked of the girl, and Rachel’s always on the look-out for cleverness; she hunts it like a hound!  She met the young woman too somewhere, and got the impression ­I can’t say how ­that she would ‘go.’  So on the Saturday morning she went over in her pony-carriage ­broke in on the little Rectory like a hurricane ­of course you know the people about here regard her as something semi-divine! ­and told the girl she had come to take her back to Crosby Ledgers for the Sunday.  So the poor child packed up, all in a flutter, and they set off together in the pony-carriage ­six miles.  And by the time they had gone four Rachel had discovered she had made a mistake ­that the girl wasn’t clever, and would add nothing to the party.  So she quietly told her that she was afraid, after all, the party wouldn’t suit her.  And then she turned the pony’s head, and drove her straight home again!”

“Oh!” cried Doris, her cheeks red, her eyes aflame.

“Brutal, wasn’t it?” said the other.  “All the same, there are fine things in Rachel.  And in one point she’s the most vulnerable of women!”

“Her son?” Doris ventured.

Miss Field shrugged her shoulders.

“He doesn’t drink ­he doesn’t gamble ­he doesn’t spend money ­he doesn’t run away with other people’s wives.  He’s just nothing! ­just incurably empty and idle.  He comes here very little.  His mother terrifies him.  And since he was twenty-one he has a little money of his own.  He hangs about in studios and theatres.  His mother doesn’t know any of his friends.  What she suffers ­poor Rachel!  She’d have given everything in the world for a brilliant son.  But you can’t wonder.  She’s like some strong plant that takes all the nourishment out of the ground, so that the plants near it starve.  She can’t help it.  She doesn’t mean to be a vampire!”

Doris hardly knew what to say.  Somehow she wished the vampire were not walking with Arthur!  That, however, was not a sentiment easily communicable; and she was just turning it into something else when Miss Field said ­abruptly, like someone coming to the real point ­

“Does your husband like her?”

“Why yes, of course!” stammered Doris.  “She’s been awfully kind to us about the lectures, and ­he loves arguing with her.”

“She loves arguing with him!” ’said Miss Field triumphantly.  “She lives just for such half-hours as that she gave us on the lawn after tea ­and all owing to him ­he was so inspiring, so stimulating.  Oh, you’ll see, she’ll take you up tremendously ­if you want to be taken up!”

The smiling blue eyes looked gaily into Doris’s puzzled countenance.  Evidently the speaker was much amused by the Meadowses’ situation ­more amused than her sense of politeness allowed her to explain.  Doris was conscious of a vague resentment.

“I’m afraid I don’t see what Lady Dunstable will get out of me,” she said, drily.

Miss Field raised her eyebrows.

“Are you going then to let him come here alone?  She’ll be always asking you!  Oh, you needn’t be afraid ­” and this most candid of cousins laughed aloud.  “Rachel isn’t a flirt ­except of the intellectual kind.  But she takes possession ­she sticks like a limpet.”

There was a pause.  Then Miss Field added: 

“You mustn’t think it odd that I say these things about Rachel.  I have to explain her to people.  She’s not like anybody else.”

Doris did not quite see the necessity, but she kept the reflection to herself, and Miss Field passed lightly to the other guests ­Sir Luke, a tame cat of the house, who quarrelled with Lady Dunstable once a month, vowed he would never come near her again, and always reappeared; the Dean, who in return for a general submission, was allowed to scold her occasionally for her soul’s health; the politicians whom she could not do without, who were therefore handled more gingerly than the rest; the military and naval men who loved Dunstable and put up with his wife for his sake; and the young people ­nephews and nieces and cousins ­who liked an unconventional hostess without any foolish notions of chaperonage, and always enjoyed themselves famously at Crosby Ledgers.

“Now then,” said Miss Field, rising at last, “I think you have the carte du pays ­and there they are, coming back.”  She pointed to Meadows and Lady Dunstable, crossing the lawn.  “Whatever you do, hold your own.  If you don’t want to play games, don’t play them.  If you want to go to church to-morrow, go to church.  Lady Dunstable of course is a heathen.  And now perhaps, you might really rest.”

“Such a jolly walk!” said Meadows, entering his wife’s room flushed with exercise and pleasure.  “The place is divine, and really Lady Dunstable is uncommonly good talk.  Hope you haven’t been dull, dear?”

Doris replied, laughing, that Miss Field had taken pity on what would otherwise have been solitary confinement, and that now it was time to dress.  Meadows kissed her absently, and, with his head evidently still full of his walk, went to his dressing-room.  When he reappeared, it was to find Doris attired in a little black gown, with which he was already too familiar.  She saw at once the dissatisfaction in his face.

“I can’t help it!” she said, with emphasis.  “I did my best with it, Arthur, but I’m not a genius at dressmaking.  Never mind.  Nobody will take any notice of me.”

He quite crossly rebuked her.  She really must spend more on her dress.  It was unseemly ­absurd.  She looked as nice as anybody when she was properly got up.

“Well, don’t buy any more copper coal-scuttles!” she said slyly, as she straightened his tie, and dropped a kiss on his chin.  “Then we’ll see.”

They went down to dinner, and on the staircase Meadows turned to say to his wife in a lowered voice: 

“Lady Dunstable wants me to go to them in Scotland ­for two or three weeks.  I dare say I could do some work.”

“Oh, does she?” said Doris.

What perversity drove Lady Dunstable during the evening and the Sunday that followed to match every attention that was lavished on Arthur Meadows by some slight to his wife, will never be known.  But the fact was patent.  Throughout the diversions or occupations of the forty-eight hours’ visit, Mrs. Meadows was either ignored, snubbed, or contradicted.  Only Arthur Meadows, indeed, measuring himself with delight, for the first time, against some of the keenest brains in the country, failed to see it.  His blindness allowed Lady Dunstable to run a somewhat dangerous course, unchecked.  She risked alienating a man whom she particularly wished to attract; she excited a passion of antagonism in Doris’s generally equable breast, and was quite aware of it.  Notwithstanding, she followed her whim; and by the Sunday evening there existed between the great lady and her guest a state of veiled war, in which the strokes were by no means always to the advantage of Lady Dunstable.

Doris, for instance, with other guests, expressed a wish to attend morning service on Sunday at a famous cathedral some three miles away.  Lady Dunstable immediately announced that everybody who wished to go to church would go to the village church within the park, for which alone carriages would be provided.  Then Doris and Sir Luke combined, and walked to the cathedral, three miles there and three miles back ­to the huge delight of the other and more docile guests.  Sunday evening, again, was devastated by what were called “games” at Crosby Ledgers.  “Gad, if I wouldn’t sooner go in for the Indian Civil again!” said Sir Luke.  Doris, with the most ingratiating manner, but quite firmly, begged to be excused.  Lady Dunstable bit her lip, and presently, a propos de bottes, launched some observations on the need of co-operation in society.  It was shirking ­refusing to take a hand, to do one’s best ­false shame, indeed! ­that ruined English society and English talk.  Let everybody take a lesson from the French!  After which the lists were opened, so to speak, and Lady Dunstable, Meadows, the Dean, and about half the young people produced elegant pieces of translation, astounding copies of impromptu verse, essays in all the leading styles of the day, and riddles by the score.  The Home Secretary, who had been lassoed by his hostess, escaped towards the middle of the ordeal, and wandered sadly into a further room where Doris sat chatting with Lord Dunstable.  He was carrying various slips of paper in his hand, and asked her distractedly if she could throw any light on the question ­“Why is Lord Salisbury like a poker?”

“I can’t think of anything to say,” he said helplessly, “except ’because they are both upright.’  And here’s another ­’Why is the Pope like a thermometer?’ I did see some light on that!” His countenance cheered a little.  “Would this do?  ’Because both are higher in Italy than in England.’  Not very good! ­but I must think of something.”

Doris put her wits to his.  Between them they polished the riddle; but by the time it was done the Home Secretary had begun to find Meadows’s little wife, whose existence he had not noticed hitherto, more agreeable than Lady Dunstable’s table with its racked countenances, and its too ample supply of pencils and paper.  A deadly crime!  When Lady Dunstable, on the stroke of midnight, swept through the rooms to gather her guests for bed, she cast a withering glance on Doris and her companion.

“So you despised our little amusements?” she said, as she handed Mrs. Meadows her candle.

“I wasn’t worthy of them,” smiled Doris, in reply.

“Well, I call that a delightful visit!” said Meadows as the train next morning pulled out of the Crosby Ledgers station for London.  “I feel freshened up all over.”

Doris looked at him with rather mocking eyes, but said nothing.  She fully recognised, however, that Arthur would have been an ungrateful wretch if he had not enjoyed it.  Lady Dunstable had been, so to speak, at his feet, and all her little court had taken their cue from her.  He had been flattered, drawn out, and shown off to his heart’s content, and had been most naturally and humanly happy.  “And I,” thought Doris with sudden repentance, “was just a spiky, horrid little toad!  What was wrong with me?” She was still searching, when Meadows said reproachfully: 

“I thought, darling, you might have taken a little more trouble to make friends with Lady Dunstable.  However, that’ll be all right.  I told her, of course, we should be delighted to go to Scotland.”

“Arthur!” cried Doris, aghast.  “Three weeks!  I couldn’t, Arthur!  Don’t ask me!”

“And, pray, why?” he angrily inquired.

“Because ­oh, Arthur, don’t you understand?  She is a man’s woman.  She took a particular dislike to me, and I just had to be stubborn and thorny to get on at all.  I’m awfully sorry ­but I couldn’t stay with her, and I’m certain you wouldn’t be happy either.”

“I should be perfectly happy,” said Meadows, with vehemence.  “And so would you, if you weren’t so critical and censorious.  Anyway” ­his Jove-like mouth shut firmly ­“I have promised.”

“You couldn’t promise for me!” cried Doris, holding her head very high.

“Then you’ll have to let me go without you?”

“Which, of course, was what you swore not to do!” she said, provokingly.  “I thought my wife was a reasonable woman!  Lady Dunstable rouses all my powers; she gives me ideas which may be most valuable.  It is to the interest of both of us that I should keep up my friendship with her.”

“Then keep it up,” said Doris, her cheeks aflame.  “But you won’t want me to help you, Arthur.”

He cried out that it was only pride and conceit that made her behave so.  In her heart of hearts, Doris mostly agreed with him.  But she wouldn’t confess it, and it was presently understood between them that Meadows would duly accept the Dunstables’ invitation for August, and that Doris would stay behind.

After which, Doris looked steadily out of the window for the rest of the journey, and could not at all conceal from herself that she had never felt more miserable in her life.  The only person in the trio who returned to the Kensington house entirely happy was Jane, who spent the greater part of the day in describing to Martha, the cook-general, the glories of Crosby Ledgers, and her own genteel appearance in Mrs. Meadows’s blouse.