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Letty was at home, just about to share her Those, on the other hand, who were urging lunch with Harding Watton, who had dropped the House to a yet sterner vigilance in proin. Hearing her husband's voice, she came tecting the worker-even the grown manout to the stair-head to speak to him. But from his own helplessness and need, who beafter a minute or two George dashed down lieved that law spells freedom, and that the again to his study, that he might write a hur- experience of half a century was wholly on ried note to a middle-aged cousin of his mo- their side-these friends of a strong cause ther's, asking her to go round to Warwick were also at their best, on their mettle. OwSquare early in the afternoon, and making ing to the wide-spread flow of a great reacexcuses for Letty, who was «very much tion, the fight had become a representative engaged.” For Letty had met his request contest between two liberties-a true battle with a smiling disdain. Why, she was simply of ideas. « crowded up » with engagements of all sorts Yet George, sitting below the gangway beand kinds!
side his leader, his eyes staring at the ceil« Mother is really unwell,” said George, ing and his hands in his pockets, listened to standing with his hands on his sides, looking it all in much languor and revolt. He himself down upon her. He was fuming with irrita- had made his speech on the third day of the tion and hurry, and had to put a force on debate. It had cost him endless labor, only himself to speak persuasively.
to seem to him in the end — by contrast with « My dear old boy!»-she rose on tiptoe the vast majority of speeches made in the and twisted his mustache for him- « don't course of the debate, even those by men we know all about your mother's ailments by clearly inferior to himself in mind and trainthis time? I suppose she wants to give me a ing-to be a hollow and hypocritical performscolding, or to hear about the Ardaghs, or to ance. What did he really think and believe? tell me all about the smart parties she has What did he really desire? He vowed to been to, or something of the sort. No, really; himself once more, as he had vowed at Ferth, it's quite impossible—this afternoon. I know that his mind was a chaos, without convicI must go and see her some time; of course I tions, either intellectual or moral; that he will.»
had begun what he was not able to finish; and She said this with the air of some one mak- that he was doomed to make a failure of his ing a great concession. It was, indeed, her parliamentary career, as he was already makfirst formal condonement of the offense of- ing a failure of coal-owning, and a failurefered her just before the Castle Luton visit. He curbed something bitter and springing
George attempted a little more argument that haunted his inmost mind. But his efand entreaty, but in vain. Letty was rather fort could not prevent his dwelling angrily puzzled by his urgency, but quite obdurate. for a minute on the thought of Letty laughAnd as he ran down the stairs he heard her ing with Harding Watton-laughing because laugh in the drawing-room, mingled with he had asked her a small kindness and she Harding Watton's. No doubt they were mak- had most unkindly refused it. ing merry over the discipline » which Letty Yet she must help him with his poor mofound it necessary to apply to her mother-in- ther. How softened were all his thoughts law.
about that difficult and troublesome lady! As
it happened, he had a good deal of desultory In the House of Commons the afternoon was medical knowledge, for the problems and once more given up to the adjourned debate perils of the body had always attracted his on the second reading of the Maxwell bill. pessimist sense; yet it did not help him much The House was full, and showing itself to at this juncture. At one moment he said advantage. On the whole, the animation to himself, « Eighteen months-she will live and competence of the speeches reflected eighteen months »; and at another, « Battye the general rise in combative energy and the was probably right: Barham took an unneceswide kindling of social passions which the sarily gloomy view; she may quite well last bill had so far brought about both in and out as long as the rest of us.» of Parliament. Those who figured as the defenders of industries, harassed beyond bear- SUDDENLY he was startled by a movement ing by the Socialist meddlers, spoke with beside him. more fire, with more semblance, at any rate, « The honorable member has totally misof putting their hearts into it, than any men understood me,» cried Fontenoy, springing of their kind had been able to attain since to his feet and looking eagerly toward the the « giant >> days of the first factory debates. Speaker.
The member who was speaking on the gov- tainly, of which he had not had ample inforernment side smiled, put on his hat, and sat mation before. Under the fresh spur of the down. Fontenoy flung out a few stinging talk that occupied th: Maxwell circle he had sentences, was hotly cheered both by his own made one or two rounds through some dismal supporters and from a certain area of the regions in Whitechapel, Mile End, and HackLiberal benches, and sat down again trium- ney, where some of the worst of the home phant, having scored an excellent point. industries to which, at last, after long hesi
George turned round to his companion. tation on the part of successive governments,
« Good!» he said, with emphasis. « That Maxwell's bill was intended to put an end, rubbed it in! »
crowded every house and yard. He saw some But when the man opposite was once more of it in the company of a lady rent-collector, on his legs, doing his best to undo the im- an old friend of the Maxwells, who had charge pression which had been made, George found of several tenement blocks where the trousers himself wondering whether, after all, the and vest trade was largely carried on; and he point had been so good, and why he had been welcomed the chance of one or two walks in so quick to praise. She would have said, of quest of law-breaking workshops with a young course, that it was a point scored against inspector who could not say enough in praise common sense, against humanity. He began of the bill. But if it had been only a question to fancy the play of her scornful eyes, the of fact, George would have felt, when the eloquence of her white hand moving and rounds were done, merely an added respect quivering as she spoke.
for Fontenoy, perhaps even for his own party How long was it-one hurried month only as a whole. Not a point raised by his guides -since he had walked with her along the but had been abundantly discussed and realriver at Castle Luton? While the crowded ized-on paper, at any rate-by Fontenoy and House about him was again listening with at- his friends. The young inspector, himself a tention to the speech on behalf of the govern- hot partizan, and knowing with whom he had ment from one of the senior London members to deal, would have liked to convict his comwhich had just brought the protesting Fonte- panion of sheer and simple ignorance; but, on noy to his legs; while his leader was fidgeting the contrary, Tressady was not to be caught and muttering beside him; while to his left napping. As far as the trade details and the crowd of members about the door was statistics of this gruesome slop-work of East constantly melting, constantly reassembling, London went, he knew all that could be Tressady's mind withdrew itself from its sur- shown him. roundings, saw nothing, heard nothing but Nevertheless, cool and impassive as his the scenes of a far-off London and a figure manner was throughout, the experience in the that moved among them.
main did mean the exchange of a personal for How often had he been with her since a paper and hearsay knowledge. When, inCastle Luton? Once or twice a week, cer- deed, had he or Fontenoy or any one else tainly, either at St. James's Square or in the ever denied that the life of the poor was an East End, in spite of Parliament and Fonte- odious and miserable struggle, a scandal to noy and his many engagements as Letty's gods and men? What then? Did they make husband. Strange phenomenon-that little the world and its iron conditions? And yet salon of hers in the far East! For it was this long succession of hot and smelling dens; practically a salon, though it existed for pur- this series of pale, stooping figures, toiling poses the Hôtel Rambouillet knew nothing of. hour after hour, at fever pace, in these stifling He found himself one of many there, and like back-yards, while the June sun shone outside, all salons, it had an inner circle. Charles reminding one of English meadows and the Naseby, Edward Watton, Lady Madeleine ripple of English grass; these panting, diPenley, the Levens--some or all of these sheveled women slaving beside their huswere generally to be found in Lady Maxwell's bands and brothers amid the rattle of the neighborhood, rendering homage or help in machines and the steam of the pressers' one way or another. It was touching to see irons, with the sick or the dying, perhaps, in that girl, Lady Madeleine, looking at the the bed beside them, and their starved childocker or the shirt-maker with her restless dren at their feet-sights of this sort, thus greenish eyes, as though she realized for the translated from the commonplace of reports first time what hideous bond it is—the one and newspapers into a poignant, unsavory true commonalty—that crushes the human truth, had at least this effect: they vastly family together.
quickened the personal melancholy of the Well, and what had he seen? Nothing, cer- spectator; they raised and drove home a num
ber of piercing questions which, probably, his own misfortune. Had he not rushed upon George Tressady would never have raised, his marriage with less care-relatively to the and would have lived happily without raising, weight of the human interest in such a matif it had not been for a woman and a woman's ter-than an animal shows when it mates? charm.
Letty's personal idiosyncrasies even-her For that woman's solutions remained as way of entering a room, her mean little dedoubtful to him as ever. He would go back vices for attracting social notice, the stubto that strange little house where she kept born extravagance of her dress and personal her strange court, meet her eager eyes, and habits, her manner to her servants, her sharp be roused at once to battle. How they had voice as she retailed some scrap of slanderargued! He knew that she had less hope ous gossip, her husband had by now ceased than ever of persuading him even to modify to be blind or deaf to any of them. Indeed, his view of the points at issue between the his senses in relation to many things she said government and his own group. She could not and did were far more irritable at this mohope for a moment that any act of his would ment-possibly far less just-than a stranbe likely to stand between Maxwell and de- ger's would have been. Often and often he feat. He had not talked of his adventures to would try to recall to himself the old sense Fontenoy-would rather, indeed, that Fonte- of charm, of piquancy. In vain. It was all noy knew nothing of them. But he and she gone; he could only miserably wonder at the knew that Fontenoy, so far, had little to fear past. Was it that he knew now what charm from them.
might mean, and what divinity may breathe And yet she had not turned from him. To around a woman? her personal mood, to her wifely affection even, he must appear more plainly than ever «I SAY, where are you off to ? » as the callous and selfish citizen, ready and Tressady looked up with a start as Fonteglad to take his own ease while his brethren noy rose beside him. perished. He had been skeptical and sarcas- « Good opportunity for dinner, I think,» tic; he had declined to accept her evidence; said Fontenoy, with a motion of the head he had shown a persistent preference for the toward the man who had just caught the drier and more brutal estimate of things. Speaker's eye. « Are you coming? I should Yet she had never parted from him without like a word with you.» gentleness, without a look in her beautiful George followed him into the lobby. As the eyes that had often tormented his curiosity. swing-door closed behind him, they plunged What did it mean? Pity ? Or some unspoken into a whirlpool of talk and movement. All comment of a personal kind she could not the approaches to the House were full of folk. persuade her womanly reticence to put into Everybody was either giving news or getting words? Or, rather, had she some distant it; for the excitement of a coming crisis was inkling of the real truth-that he was be- in the air. This was Friday, and the division ginning to hate his own convictions— to feel on the second reading was expected on the that to be right with Fontenoy was nothing, following Monday. but to be wrong with her would be delight? « What a crowd, and what a temperature!>>
What absurdity! With a strong effort he said Fontenoy. «Come out upon the terrace pulled himself together, steadied his rushing a moment.» pulse. It was like some one waking at night They made their way into the air, and as in a nervous terror, and feeling the pressure they walked up and down Fontenoy talked in of some iron dilemma from which he cannot his hoarse, hurried voice of the latest aspect free himself-cold vacancy and want on the of affairs. The government would get their one side, calamity on the other.
second reading, of course; that had never For that cool power of judgment in his own been really doubtful, though Fontenoy was case which he had always possessed did not certain that the normal majority would be a fail him now. He saw everything nakedly and good deal reduced. But all the hopes of the coldly. His marriage was not three months heterogeneous coalition which had been slowly old, but no spectator could have discussed its forming throughout the spring hung upon the results more frankly than he was now pre- committee stage, and Fontenoy's mind was pared to discuss them with himself. It was now full of the closest calculations as to the monstrous, no doubt. He felt his whole posi- voting on particular amendments. For him tion to be as ugly as it was abnormal. Who the bill fell into three parts. The first part, could feel any sympathy with it or him? He which was mainly confined to small amendhimself had been throughout the architect of ments and extensions of former acts, would
be sharply criticized, but would probably pass of carrying it into action, and found it in the without much change. The second part con- landlords. The landlords were to be the tained the famous clause by which it became policemen of the new act. To every owner penal to practise certain trades, such as tail- of every tenement or other house in London oring, boot-finishing, and shirt-making, in a the bill said: You are responsible. If, after man's or woman's own home- in the same a certain date, you allow certain trades to be place, that is to say, as the worker uses for carried on within your walls at all, even by eating and sleeping. This clause, which rep- the single man or the single woman working resented the climax of a long series of re- in their own rooms, penalty and punishment strictions
upon the right of a man to stitch shall follow. even his own life away, still more upon his Of this clause in the bill Fontenoy could right to force his children or bribe his neigh- never speak with calmness. One might see bor to a like waste of the nation's force, was his heart thumping in his breast as he deby now stirring the industrial mind of Eng- nounced it. At bottom it was to him the last land far and wide.
and vilest step in a long and slanderous camAnd not the mind of England only. Ireland paign against the class to which he belonged and Scotland, town and country, talked of it, -against property-against the existing soseethed with it. The new law, if it passed, cial order. was to be tried, indeed, at first in London He fell upon the subject to-night apropos only. But every provincial town and every of a Socialist letter in the morning papers; country district knew that, if it succeeded, and George, who was mostly conscious at the there was not a corner of the land that moment of a sick fatigue with Fontenoy and would not ultimately feel the yoke or the Fontenoy's arguments, had to bear it as best deliverance of it. Every workman's club, he might. Presently he interrupted: every trade-union meeting, every mechanics' « One assumption you make I should like to institute was ringing with it. Organized contest. You imagine, I think, that if they labor, dragged down at every point
in Lon- carry the «prohibition, and the hours) clauses don, at any rate - by the competition of the we shall be able to whip up a still fiercer atstarving and struggling crew of home-work- tack on the landlords) clause. Now, that is n't ers, clamored for the bill. The starving and my view.» struggling crew themselves were partly voice- Fontenoy turned upon him, startled. less, partly bewildered; now drawn by the « Why is n't it your view ? » he said abeloquence of their trade-union fellows to ruptly. shout for the revolution that threatened « Because there are always waverers who them, now surging tumultuously against it will accept a fait accompli, and you know how
. On this vital clause, in Fontenoy's belief, opposition always has a trick of cooling tothe government would go down. But if, by ward the end of a bill. Maxwell has carried amazing good fortune and good generalship, his main point, they will say; this is a questhey should get through with it, then the tion of machinery. Besides, many of those fight would but rage the more fiercely round Liberals who will be with us on the main the last two sections of the bill.
point don't love the landlords. No; don't The third section dealt with the hours of flatter yourself that, if we lose the main enlabor in the new workshops that were to be. gagement, there will be any Prussians to For the first time it became directly penal bring up. The thing will be done.» for a man, as well as a woman, to work more « Well, thank God!» grumbled Fontenoy, than the accepted factory day of ten and a « we don't mean to lose the main engagehalf hours, with a few exceptions and exemp- ment. But if one of our men were to argue tions in the matter of overtime. On this in that way I should know what to say to clause, if it ever were reached, the Socialist him.» vote, were it given solidly for the govern- George made no reply. ment, might, no doubt, pull them through. They walked on in silence, the summer « But if we have any luck- damn it! they twilight falling softly over the river and the won't get the chance, » Fontenoy would say, hospital, over the terrace, with its groups, with that grim, sudden reddening which re- and the towering pile of buildings beside them. vealed from moment to moment the feverish Presently Fontenoy said in another voice: tension of the man.
« I have really never had the courage to In the last section of the bill the govern- talk to you of the matter, Tressady; but did n't ment, having made its revolution, looked you see something of that lad Ancoats before round for a class on which to lay the burden he went off abroad ? »
« Yes, I saw him several times: first at the «Ancoats told me nothing. I have heard club, then he came and dined with me here some gossip from Harding Watton,» said one night.»
George, unwillingly. It was one of his strong« And did he confide in you ? »
est characteristics, this fastidious and even « More or less,» said George, smiling rather haughty dislike of chatter about other peoqueerly at the recollection.
ple's private affairs-a dislike which, in the Fontenoy made a sound between a growl present case, had been strengthened by his and a sigh.
growing antipathy to Harding. « Really, it's rather too much to have to « How should he know?» said Fontenoy, think out that young man's affairs as well as angrily. He was glad enough to use Watton one's own. And the situation is so extraor- as a political tool, but had never yet admitted dinary. Maxwell and I have to be in constant him to the smallest social intimacy. consultation. I went to see him in his room Yet with Tressady he felt no difficulty in in the House of Lords the other night, and talking over these private affairs, and he did, met a man coming out, who stopped, and in fact, report the whole story-that same stared as though he were shot. Luckily I story with which Marcella had startled Betty knew him, and could say a word to him, or Leven on the night in question: how Ancoats there would have been all sorts of cock-and- on that Sunday evening had decoyed the handbull stories abroad.
some, impressionable girl, to whom through« Well, and what are you and Maxwell out the winter he had been paying decided and doing ? »
even ostentatious court, into a tête-à-tête; Trying to get at the young woman. One had poured out to her frantic confessions of can't buy her off, of course. Ancoats is his his attachment to the theatrical lady--a own master, and could outbid us. But Max- woman he could never marry, whom his well has found a brother-a decent sort of mother could never meet, but with whom, fellow-a country solicitor. And there is a nevertheless, come what might, he was deterRitualist curate, a Father somebody,») – Fon- mined to live and die. She (Madeleine) was tenoy raised his shoulders, -«who seems to his friend, his good angel. Would she go to have an intermittent hold on the girl. When his mother and break it to her? Would she she has fits of virtue she goes to confess to understand and forgive him? There must be him. Maxwell has got hold of him.) no opposition, or he would shoot himself. And
« And meanwhile Ancoats is at Bad Wild- so on, till the poor girl, worn out with exciteheim?»
ment and grief, tottered into Mrs. Allison's « Ancoats is at Bad Wildheim, and be- room more dead than alive. having himself, as I hear from his poor But at that point Fontenoy stopped abmother. Fontenoy sighed. «But the boy ruptly. was frightened, of course, when they went George agreed that the story was almost abroad. Now she is getting better, and one incredible, and added the inward and natural can't tell —»
comment of the public-school man- that if .« No, one can't tell,» said George. people will keep their boys at home, and de
«I wish I knew what the thing really fraud them of the kickings that are their due, meant,said Fontenoy, presently, in a tone of they may look out for something unwholeperplexed reverie. «What do you think? Is some in the finished product. Then, aloud, it a passion - ? »
he said: « Or a pose ? »
« I should imagine that Ancoats was acting George pondered.
through the greater part of that. He had said « H'm,” he said at last; « more of a pose, I to himself that such a scene would be effecthink, than a passion. Ancoats always seems tive, and would be new.) to me the jeune premier in his own play. He « Good heavens! Why, that makes it ten sees his life in scenes, and plays them accord- thousand times more abominable than being to all the rules.»
fore!» « Intolerable!” said Fontenoy, in exaspera»
« I dare say,» said George, coolly. «But it tion. «And at least he might refrain from also makes the future, perhaps, a little more dragging a girl into it! We were n't saints hopeful—throws some light on the passion or in my day, but we were n't in the habit of pose alternative. My impression is that if we choosing well-brought-up maidens of twenty can only find an effective exit for Ancoats, in our own set for our confidantes. You a last act that he would consider worthy of know, I suppose, what broke up the party at him,- he will bow himself out of the business Castle Luton ? »