Even the friends of the Colonel might have felt inclined

A fortnight later Jeannie, Miss Fortescue, and Arthur were all staying
at the Black Eagle Hotel, employed in settling in. Morton had been let,
but let unfurnished, and in order to avoid the expense of storing, it
was laid upon them that they should cram as much furniture into 8 Bolton
Street as it would possibly hold. Thus from morning to night the greater
part of the street was congested with Pantechnicon vans, and Jeannie and
Arthur might be seen many hours a day measuring wardrobes, and finding
for the most part that they would not go into any of the rooms. Miss
Fortescue sat in a large chair in the middle of the street and made
scathing comments on the appearance and behaviour of the others.

“I little thought,” said this magisterial lady one day, “that the time
would come when I should see my nephew in his shirt-sleeves wrestling
with towel-horses in the Queen’s highway.”

“No, dear Aunt,” said Arthur, “and if you will look round you will see a
distressed bicyclist who wants to pass. You must move.”

Miss Clifford, in fact, was approaching. She did not ride with any
overpowering command over her machine, and from the desire to avoid Miss
Fortescue was making a beeline for her. A collision was just avoided by
Miss Fortescue’s extreme agility in removing herself and her chair.

A wardrobe was just blocking the front door, and Arthur threw himself
down in another unoccupied chair for a moment’s rest. Jeannie’s voice
sounded in passionate appeal from inside the hall, but till the wardrobe
had been passed it was impossible to go to her aid.

“Oh, it is hot!” he said. “Why on earth did we move in this broiling
weather? Aunt Em, dear, I’m going to send for some beer from that
wine-merchant’s opposite, and if you don’t like to see me drink it in
the Queen’s highway you must look in the other direction.”

“The Aveshams have no sense of dignity,” said Miss Fortescue,
sweepingly.

“No, but it doesn’t matter; they’ll think that I’m not me, but the
footman.”

“You’re much too badly dressed for any footman,” said Aunt Em.

“Well, they’ll think you are the cook and I’m your young man,” said
Arthur.

Arthur sent one of the Pantechnicon men to get some beer, and while he
was gone:

“They told me there was so little traffic here,” he said, “and the
street is crowded with vans. Oh, there’s that man again! He has passed
and repassed a dozen times this morning, besides standing at the corner
for ever so long. Is he a friend of yours, Aunt Em?”

The man in question was Colonel Raymond, no less, strutting and swelling
down the other side of the street, and bursting with uneasy curiosity.
He had, as Arthur said, passed and repassed a dozen times, longing to
speak to one of them, and manage to introduce himself in some way. Once
he had given a hand to one of the van-men with a bookcase, but as
ill-luck would have it, all three of the house-party, as he called it,
were inside at the moment, and when the danger of the bookcase falling
on a washing-stand was over there was no excuse for lingering. On
another occasion he had waited a full two minutes while the foot-path
was congested, and on it being made possible for him to pass, he had
raised his hat with a gallant flourish to Jeannie, who stood at the
door. But she had appeared quite unconscious of his salute, and the
Colonel was working himself into a fever of impatience. It was one thing
to be able to say at the club that he had spent his morning in Bolton
Street, where his cousins had taken Number 8, but it was another to have
them definitely established in Wroxton, not knowing him from Adam. The
trying climate of India was nothing compared to the sultriness which
loomed over his prospects.

The amiable and kindly interest in the minutest dealings of others,
which is known as curiosity, was not wanting in the town of Wroxton.
Miss Clifford had hardly passed on her bicycle when she realized that it
was idle to struggle with so overmastering an emotion, and dismounted at
the end of the street, for she was no adept at turning round, and rode
straight back again. She would have done so if only to get another look
at the furniture which was being unloaded, though, as they had got on to
a bed-room layer of it, it might not have seemed engrossing to the
ordinary mind; but this was not all. She would get another look at the
lady who sat in the middle of the road, and at the young man in his
shirt-sleeves. She might even, if lucky, catch a glimpse of Miss Avesham
herself, whom she had not yet seen.

So she rode slowly back, and when about thirty yards distant saw Arthur
drinking out of a pewter mug. The disappointment was intense, for he
might even have been Lord Avesham himself, come to help his brother and
sister in the settling in. But this beer-drinking in public made it
impossible. It could only be the foreman of the Pantechnicon, or
perhaps–this would be better than nothing–the footman or a valet of
peers. But as she passed she distinctly heard him say, “Do have some
beer, Aunt Em.”

Miss Clifford rode on towards the High Street, away from the direction
of her home, lost and stupefied in a whirl of conjecture and perplexity.
If he was the footman, what was his Aunt Em doing there, unless–and
this was just possible–his Aunt Em was the cook? If, on the other hand,
he was the foreman, the presence of his aunt was still more difficult,
for that foremen of furniture companies should bring their aunts with
them to superintend seemed a proposition which might almost be negatived
offhand. Could it be–No, it was not possible, and Miss Clifford, by
this time having reached the High Street, dismounted again and
determined to go home without more delay. The shortest way home lay down
Bolton Street–at least to go down Bolton Street was so little longer
that the excellence of the road quite made up for it–and a minute
afterward she was again opposite the house. No very great change had
taken place since she saw it last. The possible footman was still
standing in the doorway with the pewter pot in his hand, and his Aunt Em
was sitting on a low black oak chest, which suggested to Miss Clifford’s
romantic mind all sorts of secret drawers and unsuspected wills,
confessions of crime, and proofs of innocence. As a matter of fact, it
contained Jeannie’s boot-trees and a knife-board, but Miss Clifford did
not know this. But her perseverance had its reward. Even as she passed,
a voice of lamentation sounded from the inside of the house.

“Oh, Arthur,” it wailed, “you said it was only four foot six, and it’s
four foot nine, and won’t go in. Do come here.”

And the possible footman put his pewter pot on the black oak chest and
went inside.

The chain of evidence was growing massive. Supposing, as before, Aunt Em
was the cook and Arthur’s aunt, whose was the wailing voice inside?
Could it be the lady’s-maid’s or the house-maid’s? Miss Clifford’s
masculine intellect decided that it scarcely could. Again, had not she
and her sister spent an hour last night in following the history of the
Avesham family in Debrett’s Peerage into all its ramifications and
collateral branches? “Sons living, Hon. Arthur John Talbot, b. 1873, ed.
at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford”–how was it possible for a person
of intelligence not to connect the subject of that entry with the person
called Arthur who lounged with a pewter pot? The coincidence was too
glaring to be overlooked. One thing would settle it, and Miss Clifford
cursed her defective memory. If either Lord Avesham or his wife had a
“sister living called Emma or Emmaline, that must be the Aunt Em” who
had sat so truculently in the highway and been offered beer. Miss
Clifford turned quite cold at the thought that she had perhaps been
within an ace of running into a sister or a sister-in-law of a peer.
What would her mother have said if she had been alive to see such a day?

Miss Clifford wasted no more time, but went home like a positive
race-horse, arriving in a breathing heat. She went straight to the room
called by her and her sister “the libry,” and took the Peerage from its
shelf.

No, the late Lord Avesham had only one sister living, who was called
Lucy, which could not possibly be abbreviated into Em, but he married
Frances Mary Fortescue, second daughter of late Mr. John Fortescue. It
was but the work of a moment to turn to the Fs in the landed gentry and
find John Lewis Fortescue, Esq., son of late John Fortescue, Esq., who
had one sister living, Emma Caroline. The thing was as good as proved,
and Miss Clifford was practically face to face with the fact that peers
(at any rate, the brothers of peers) drank beer in shirts, and that she
had nearly run down the sister of a peeress. It had been a most exciting
morning, and she waited with weary impatience for the return of her
sister, who was out, to pour into her horror-struck ears these
revelations about the aristocracy. “No wonder many people turn Radical,”
she said to herself.

Colonel Raymond’s temper at lunch that day bordered on the diabolical,
and when he savagely announced that he should take the children for a
walk afterward, the hearts of those unfortunate infants sank in their
shoes. They well knew what kind of an afternoon was in store for them.
While on the level they would be able to keep up, but they knew from
experience that when their father was in the state of mind which Mrs.
Raymond referred to in their presence as “looking worried” that their
way would be dark and slippery, and that their father would march up the
steep sides of the downs as if he was storming a breach. Long before the
most active of them was half-way up he would be there, and he would
revile them with marrowy and freezing expressions. Then as soon as their
aching legs had scaled the summit he would be off again, and ten minutes
later the same scene would be re-enacted with the same trembling and
breathless mutes. Occasionally, on the worst days, he would take one by
the hand and–“he called it helping”–drag her along in a grasp of iron.

Poor Mrs. Raymond always looked more than usually insignificant when her
husband was looking worried, but when things were very bad indeed
sometimes a strange sort of recklessness came over her. If you can
imagine a mouse or some soft feathered bird in a reckless humour, you
will have some picture of Mrs. Raymond when the Colonel was looking
worried. She had asked him some question about where he had been this
morning, and had been treated to a reply of this kind:

“Where have I been? Did you ask where I have been, Constance? You are
devoured by curiosity–devoured; and it would be better if you tried to
check it sometimes. But I’ll tell you–oh, I’ll tell you. I’ve been
hanging about Bolton Street all morning, and not one of those infernal
aristocrats had a word to say to me.”

“Do you mean the Aveshams, Robert?” asked his wife.

“Yes, I mean the Aveshams, and why shouldn’t I mean the Aveshams? Eh?”

“I don’t suppose they recognised you.”

“Not recognised me? I tell you, they cut me. Cut me, Constance. Blood is
thicker than water–thicker than water–and it’s a motto that I’ve
always stuck to myself, and it would be a good thing if others did the
same.”

Then Mrs. Raymond began to be reckless.

“You’re not a very near relative, Robert,” she said, in her meaningless
voice.

“Not a near relation?” stormed her husband. “Do you mean to put me in my
place? Confound it all, your brother-in-law’s sister, your sister-in-law
in fact, indeed my sister-in-law, was the late Lady Avesham. If we don’t
hang together it’s the ruin of England!”

Mrs. Raymond’s recklessness increased.

“If I were you I shouldn’t go about talking of the Aveshams as your
relatives, particularly now they’ve come to live in the town,” she said;
“it will only make people laugh.”

The Colonel glared at her a moment; he could literally not find words.

“Anything else, madam, anything else?” he asked at length.

The fit of recklessness was passed.

“No, that is all, Robert,” she said, listlessly; “I didn’t mean to make
you worried.”

“I shall call there this afternoon,” he said, “and you will go with me.”

Mrs. Raymond brightened.

“Then you won’t take the children out?” she asked, with a ray of hope in
her voice.

“Certainly I shall take them out,” he said, “and–and they shall come
and call, too. Go and get your things on, all of you.”

“You won’t go far then, if you are to be back in time to call?” asked
his wife.

“We shall go a good brisk walk,” he said, grimly, “and we shall be home
by four. Now, am I to wait all day?”

Dismal, faltering feet came down the passage outside, and the three
little victims appeared in the doorway.

“Now then, march,” said the Colonel.

It was some little while after four when the hot and jaded expedition
returned. The walk had been more severe than usual, and even the Colonel
flung himself with an air of fatigue into a chair.

“I’ve changed my mind,” he said; “I shall not go near the house. Not go
near it. At least, I sha’n’t go to-day. Tea–isn’t tea ready? Let it be
brought.”

Even the friends of the Colonel might have felt inclined to accuse him
of a slight duplicity for his action on this occasion. He had returned
by way of Bolton Street, like the burned moth to the candle, and sending
the children on with instructions to go home after waiting for five
minutes at the end of the street, he had rung the bell, which was opened
by a surprised maid. The hall was full of miscellaneous furniture, and
the maid had to go warily among pictures and stools to the drawing-room,
bearing his card. Jeannie’s voice was what is known as “carrying,” and
she did not reflect how near the front door was to the drawing-room,
where an agonizing measurement of a carpet was going on. Her words were
distinctly audible.

“Colonel who? Colonel Raymond. I never heard of him. Fancy calling when
we are in this state! Tell him we are all out. Did you say fifteen foot
six or fifteen foot eight, Arthur? It makes just the whole difference.”

Then somebody said “Hush!” and Jeannie’s voice said “Oh!”

A moment afterward the maid came out of the drawing-room, shutting the
door carefully after her.

“Not at home, sir,” she said, without a blush or a tremor in her voice.

The children did not have to wait long at the corner. The pace home was
perfectly appalling.

One evening, about a fortnight after the attack of congestion in Bolton
Street, Canon and Mrs. Collingwood were sitting in their dining-room
lingering over their dessert. The butler had filled their claret-glasses
to the brim with water, and had left the room. It was a warm night in
mid-July, and the French window opening on to the garden was flung wide,
admitting breaths of soft and flower-scented air. The dusk was not yet
passed the bounding line between day and night, and the eye was led over
a cool, spacious square of grass, framed in flower-beds in which colour
still lingered, to a red brick wall at the end of the garden over which
rose the gray pinnacle of the Cathedral. It was still near enough to
midsummer to dine without candles if your dinner-hour was 7.45, and the
absence of them and decanters gave to the table a certain virginal and
ascetic air. Both the Canon and his wife were teetotalers, she of the
kind which we may call intemperate–that is to say, she regarded alcohol
not only as poison, but as an essentially immoral thing. Mrs.
Collingwood was a woman of strong will, and ruled her husband; and
though his own inclination would have been to set wine before his guests
when they were entertaining, her detestation of fermented liquids
overruled hospitality, and, unless one particular person was dining with
them, you would no more see a decanter on the table than you would see a
roulette board. But the exception was made in favour of their Bishop,
who was under doctor’s orders to drink the abominable thing, and on
these occasions a half bottle of Burgundy blushed before Mrs.
Collingwood’s eyes. How exactly it is possible to conceive of a natural
and lifeless product as being in itself wicked is a problem at which the
ordinary mind stumbles. But Mrs. Collingwood had solved it, and we
should show a more becoming modesty if we lamented our mediocrity of
grasp and silently envied Mrs. Collingwood’s extraordinary powers of
conception, than if we called her point of view unreasonable. It is
possible also that if a guest had produced a doctor’s certificate that
he must drink wine, he would have been accorded some of the Bishop’s
Burgundy, but his wine would be understood to be of the nature of
medicine, which custom has ordained that we shall not indulge in at the
dinner-table.

Now it was not the habit of Canon Collingwood or his wife to linger over
the pleasures of the table, but they were discussing a subject which had
probably been discussed at thirty or forty other tables that evening,
namely, the advent of Jeannie and Arthur to Wroxton.

“I don’t feel certain that she will be helpful,” said Mrs. Collingwood;
“to me she seemed not in earnest. There was no depth about her.”

And she put a hard piece of gingerbread into her rather wide mouth.

Canon Collingwood stroked his beard for a moment in silence.

“She is young,” he said, doubtfully.

“One can never be too young to be in earnest,” said his wife. “And I did
not like the look of the drawing-room. There were several books on the
table which I should never allow in my house, and there was an organ in
the hall.”

Canon Collingwood had been married many years, but even now his wife
occasionally puzzled him.

“Why not, my dear?” he said.

“Because an organ should only be used for sacred music,” said Mrs.
Collingwood, “and I have no doubt that they use it for other pieces.
Indeed, I saw some opera of Wagner’s standing open on it.”

“Did you call there to-day?” he asked.

“Yes, I paid a long call there. I tried to interest Miss Avesham in
various things, but I had to begin at the beginning. She did not even
know what G. F. S. meant. It is very strange how unreal life must be to
some people.”

“Is not their aunt staying with them?”

Mrs. Collingwood could not reply for a moment, for the gingerbread was
very hard.

“Yes, she is living with them for the present,” she said. “I am bound to
say that Miss Fortescue baffled me. I could make nothing whatever out
of her. She seemed to me at first most keenly interested in the
prevention of cruelty to animals, but when I spoke of the prevention of
cruelty to children–much more important, of course–she did not seem to
pay the slightest attention. And later, when we were speaking of
household matters, she urged Miss Avesham to see that the mulberries
from their tree in the garden were picked for making mulberry gin. She
asked me if I did not think it was delicious.”

“She could not know how you felt about such matters,” said the Canon,
apologetically.

“I should have thought that gin was not a subject usually mentioned,”
said Mrs. Collingwood. “No one can be ignorant of how terrible a curse
it is to so many households.”

Canon Collingwood sighed.

“I met Miss Avesham a day or two ago at the Lindsays’,” he said. “She
seemed to me a nice, pleasant girl, and very full of life.”

Mrs. Collingwood folded her napkin up in silence. Her husband’s remark
seemed to her fatuous. Either a person was earnest and helpful or not.
Any other quality, particularly that very dangerous quality known as
“life,” was only trimming, and a possible temptation. Earnestness and
helpfulness were to be rated by the desire to aid in good works. But as
she rose she made a great concession.

“If you mean energy by life, William,” she said, “I agree with you that
it is admirable as an instrument if properly used. You have not said
grace.”

To do her justice, Mrs. Collingwood’s time was spent in good works, and
her thoughts (when not thus occupied) in passing judgments on other
people. Her favourite text, the text by which her life was conducted,
was, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” In her youth she must have been
remarkably handsome, but she had got over that, which was lucky, since
she now tended to consider that good looks, if not actually the
invention of the evil one, were an open door by which he entered,
bringing with him pride, vanity, and self-esteem. Like alcohol and
tobacco, she regarded them as almost more than dangerous, as something
in themselves not right. But with what might be hastily considered as
inconsistent, she thought it her duty to admire the beauties of nature
when not exhibited in human beings. The green of forest trees, the level
lines of the sunset, the Gothic architecture, particularly when seen
from a Cathedral close, and thus, as it were, chastely framed, she
thought were meant to lead one’s aspirations heavenward. These things
(the trees and light, at any rate) had been at the Creation pronounced
good, and that was enough for Mrs. Collingwood, who, if she could pin a
text on to any conclusion, put it away in a drawer as proved. Her
drawers were full of such. Similarly, man had fallen, and his face was
the face of a fallen thing.

Thus this evening, when she and her husband left the dining-room, and he
retired to his study to finish his sermon for the next day, she stood a
full minute at the open window of the drawing-room looking at the view.
Then she sat down at her davenport to finish writing a paper on the
Downward Tendency of Modern Fiction, which she was to read at a meeting
of the Wroxton Ladies’ Literary Union next week. She proposed to deal
more particularly with novels which discuss theological problems, and
were so upsetting to the faith of the weaker, for what is known as the
Higher Criticism seemed to Mrs. Collingwood to be synonymous with the
temptation of the devil. But she was a just woman, and one of her
sentences began, “What a very clever book we all feel this to be, but
how immoral!” Mrs. Collingwood found literary composition presented no
difficulties, and she looked upon it, provided the motive of it was
earnest and helpful, as an agreeable relaxation. Her style was
conversational, and there was a good deal of “dear friends” in it.

The view on which she so resolutely turned her back in order to give
this timely warning to the literary ladies of Wroxton against
theological, or rather infidel, novels, justified her minute’s
contemplation. The lawn, a cool, restful space of sober green, sloped
down to a prattling tributary of the chalk stream which ran through the
town, and in the dusk the flower-beds (the Canon’s hobby was gardening)
glowed with subdued and darkening colour. The scent of the
tobacco-plant (like Adam and Eve, still in its garden innocence) came
floating in through the window, dominating all other perfumes. Thrushes
still called to each other from the bushes, or crossed the lawn with
quick, scudding steps, and an owl floated by with a flute-like note. To
the right rose the gray piled mass of the Cathedral in all the dignity
and sobriety of Norman work, set there, it might seem, like the rainbow,
a pledge to the benignity of the circling seasons, serene and steadfast
with centuries of service. From here, too, for the drawing-room was on
the second floor, it was possible to see over the bounding garden-wall,
and westward the river lay in sheets and pools of cloud-reflected
crimson. Patches of light mist lay like clothes to dry over the
water-meadows through which it ran, but beyond the great chalk down lay
clear and naked. The sky at the horizon was cloudless, and the evening
star hung like a jewel on blue velvet. Peaceful, protected stability was
the keynote of the scene.

Canon Collingwood had been at Wroxton for twenty mildly useful but not
glorious years. From the years between the ages of twenty and forty he
had lived entirely at Cambridge as Fellow and subsequently classical
tutor of his college. The effect, if not the object, of his life had
been uneventfulness, and twenty years of looking over pieces of Latin
verse and prose had been succeeded by twenty years of busy indolence as
Canon of Wroxton. To keep one’s hands and heart moderately clean in this
random business of life is a sufficient task for the most of mankind,
and if Canon Collingwood had not experienced the braver joys of
adventure, or even the rapture of mere living, it is not to be assumed
that his life was useless. He set an admirable pattern of unruffled
serenity and complete inoffensiveness, and though he could never set the
smallest stream on fire, his passage through the world was bordered with
content. At Wroxton, apart from the merely animal needs of sleep and
exercise, his time was fairly equally divided between hardy annuals and
an extensive though not profound study of patristic literature. Eight
times in the year he delivered a sermon from the Cathedral pulpit, and
never failed to give careful preparation to it. In the summer he and
his wife always spent a month at the lakes, but otherwise they seldom
slept a night outside their own house. He got up every morning at half
past seven, and breakfasted at a quarter past eight. He attended
Cathedral service at ten, and read or wrote in his study till a quarter
past one. Three-quarters of an hour brought him to lunch-time, and a
walk along one of three roads or two hours among his flowers prepared
him for tea. His dinner he earned by two hours’ more reading, and his
rest at night was the natural sequel to this wholesomely spent day,
rounded off by three-quarters of an hour’s Patience in the drawing-room,
or, if the game proved very exciting, it sometimes extended to a full
hour.

Mrs. Collingwood, as has been stated, was somewhat given to passing
judgment on other people, but these judgments were never of a gossipy or
malicious nature, and she judged without being in any way critical. Her
judgments were straightforward decisions, of the jury rather than the
judge, as to whether the prisoner at the bar was guilty or not guilty.
To be not guilty, it need hardly be indicated, meant to be earnest and
helpful. Now, whether she could, with her hand on her heart, say that
her husband was earnest or helpful is doubtful, but no decision was
necessary, and for this reason: Though he took no part in her good
works, nor even organized Christian associations, he was a Canon. To be
a Canon implied to live in a close, and to live in a close (if we run
Mrs. Collingwood to ground) meant to be not guilty. Furthermore, in what
we may call her more Bohemian moments, she would have acknowledged that
life could be looked at from more than one point of view. She would even
have allowed that it might be possible to live otherwise than she lived,
and yet be saved at the last. Yet some people had been known to think
her narrow!

Mrs. Collingwood, it must be considered, was not ill content with
living. Her aims were too definite, and her devotion to them too
complete to allow her to indulge in any vague dissatisfactions. She
could lament the wickedness of the world, yet find the antidote for the
sorrow the thought had caused in efforts to remedy it. Further, in the
sphere of inevitable and intimate things, she and her husband had
perhaps only one weak spot, so to speak, in the armour in which they met
the world. She, at any rate, went armed like a dragoon through the
routine of life, armed against danger and difficulty and snares of the
evil one. But this weak spot was in a vital place. She had a son, now
some twenty-five years old, who did not live in a close, or anywhere
near one. He was an artist–not a landscape painter, for Mrs.
Collingwood could have borne that–but a painter of men and women, a
recorder of human beauty. That he was rising and successful in his
profession was no consolation to his mother, but rather the reverse, and
she had before now hesitated whether the text, “I also have seen the
wicked in great prosperity,” was not to be pinned to him, for that he
was essentially sober and straight in his life she could scarcely
believe. He seldom came to Wroxton, for his profession, at which he
worked very hard, naturally kept him in London, but he was going to
spend a week or two with them in September, after their return from the
lakes, and she always found his visits trying. In the first place, it
was quite certain that, though he did not smoke in the house out of
deference to his mother’s abhorrence of the act, he did smoke in the
garden; and in the second, though he never alluded to wine at lunch or
dinner, a half-empty bottle of whisky had been found in his bed-room
after he had gone. It often seemed cruel to Mrs. Collingwood that she
should have had such a son, and in her own mind she was disposed to
regard him as but a dubious gift, partaking more of the nature of a
cross than of a crown.

Jeannie Avesham that afternoon had spoken of him to his mother, saying
that, though she did not know him personally, he had been at Oxford with
her brother, and the mention of those Oxford days had roused terrible
memories in the mind of Mrs. Collingwood, and made her attack on modern
fiction bitter and incisive. For he had gone to Oxford with the object
of reading theology, and eventually of taking orders, but a day came
when he wrote to his father saying he could not do so. He wanted to talk
it all over with him, but he feared his decision was irrevocable.

Now it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that his mother would sooner
have seen him in his coffin than that he should have written such a
letter. It was a complete break-up of her hopes. Her world, hard and
narrow as it might be, was all the world she had, and it was overturned.
The last straw had been added when he decided to become an artist, and
on that occasion she had said to her husband, and had meant it, “He will
go to the devil.”

Time, of course, had done something to heal the wound, and in the five
years which had passed since then Mrs. Collingwood had in a way grown
used to it. But she was naturally rigid and incapable of adapting
herself, for any change meant a change in her principles. She prayed for
him with her accustomed fervour, but as long as he did not give up his
profession she was forced to believe that her prayers, if answered, were
answered in a way beyond her comprehension.

By half past nine she had finished her warning against infidel novels,
and her husband had finished his sermon for the next day. He read
prayers in the dining-room, and afterward they went up together to the
drawing-room again, and he played Patience till half past ten. The town
was already settling itself to sleep, and only a faint hum of living
came in through the windows. They talked for a few minutes on
indifferent subjects, and by eleven the house was dark.

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