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The witness for the defense


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Title:WitnessForTheDefence
Author:A.E.W.Mason
ReleaseDate:June6,2004[EBook#12535]
Language:English
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THEWITNESSFORTHE
DEFENCE
BYA.E.W.MASON


1914


CONTENTS
CHAPTER

I.HENRYTHRESK
II.ONBIGNORHILL
III.INBOMBAY
IV.JANEREPTON
V.THEQUEST
VI.INTHETENTATCHITIPUR
VII.THEPHOTOGRAPH
VIII.ANDTHERIFLE
IX.ANEPISODEINBALLANTYNE'SLIFE
X.NEWSFROMCHITIPUR
XI.THRESKINTERVENES
XII.THRESKGIVESEVIDENCE
XIII.LITTLEBEEDINGAGAIN
XIV.THEHAZLEWOODS
XV.THEGREATCRUSADE


XVI.CONSEQUENCES
XVII.TROUBLEFORMR.HAZLEWOOD
XVIII.MR.HAZLEWOODSEEKSADVICE
XIX.PETTIFER'SPLAN
XX.ONTHEDOWNS
XXI.THELETTERISWRITTEN
XXII.AWAYOUTOFTHETRAP
XXIII.METHODSFROMFRANCE
XXIV.THEWITNESS
XXV.INTHELIBRARY
XXVI.TWOSTRANGERS
XXVII.THEVERDICT


THEWITNESSFORTHEDEFENCE



CHAPTERI
HENRYTHRESK

ThebeginningofallthisdifficultbusinesswasalittlespeechwhichMrs.Thresk
fellintoahabitofmakingtoherson.Shespokeitthefirsttimeonthespurof
themomentwithoutthoughtorintention.Butshesawthatithurt.Sosheusedit
again—tokeepHenryinhisproperplace.
"Youhavenorighttotalk,Henry,"shewouldsayinthehardpracticalvoice
whichsocompletedherself-sufficiency."Youarenotearningyourliving.You
arestilldependentuponus;"andshewouldaddwithanoteoftriumph:
"Remember,ifanythingweretohappentoyourdearfatheryouwouldhaveto
shiftforyourself,foreverythinghasbeenlefttome."
Mrs.Threskmeantnoharm.Shewasutterlywithoutimaginationandhadno
specialdelicacyoftastetosupplyitsplace—thatwasall.Peopleandwords—
shewasatpainstointerpretneithertheonenortheotherandsheusedbothat
random.Shenomorecontemplatedanythinghappeningtoherhusband,toquote
herphrase,thansheunderstoodtheeffectherbarbarouslittlespeechwouldhave
onaratherreservedschoolboy.
NordidHenryhimselfhelptoenlightenher.Hewasshrewdenoughtorecognise
thefutilityofanyattempt.No!Hejustlookedathercuriouslyandheldhis
tongue.Butthewordswerenotforgotten.Theyrousedinhimasenseof
injustice.Forintheordinarywell-to-docircle,inwhichtheThreskslived,boys
wereexpectedtobeanexpensetotheirparents;andafterall,asheargued,he
hadnotaskedtobeborn.Andsoaftermuchbrooding,theresprangupinhiman
antagonismtohisfamilyandafiercedeterminationtoowetoitaslittleashe
could.
Therewasafullshareofvanitynodoubtintheboy'sresolve,buttheantagonism


hadstruckrootsdeeperthanhisvanity;andatanagewhenotherladswere
vaguelydreamingthemselvesintoAdmiralsandField-MarshalsandPrimeMinistersHenryThresk,contentwithlowerground,wasmappingoutthestages
ofagoodbutperfectlyfeasiblecareer.Whenhereachedtheageofthirtyhe
mustbebeginningtomakemoney;atthirty-fivehemustbeonthewayto
distinction—hisnamemustbeknownbeyondtheimmediatecircleofhis
profession;atforty-fivehemustbeholdingpublicoffice.Norwashisprofession
inanydoubt.Therewasbutonewhichofferedtheserewardstoamanstartingin
lifewithoutmoneytoputdown—theBar.
SototheBarinduetimeHenryThreskwascalled;andwhensomethingdid
happentohisfatherhewastrainedforthebattle.Abankfailedandthefailure
ruinedandkilledoldMr.Thresk.Fromtheruinsjustenoughwasscrapedto
keephiswidow,andoneortwooffersofemploymentweremadetoHenry
Thresk.
Buthewastenaciousashewassecret.Herefusedthem,andwiththehelpof
pupils,journalismandanoccasionalspellasanelectionagent,hemanagedto
keephisheadabovewateruntilbriefsbeganslowlytocomein.
SofarthenMrs.Thresk'sstingingspeechesseemedtohavebeenjustified.Butat
theageoftwenty-eighthetookaholiday.Hewentdownforamonthinto
Sussex,andtheretheorderedschemeofhislifewasthreatened.Itstoodthe
attack;andagainitispossibletopleadinitsfavourwithagoodshowof
argument.Buttheattack,nevertheless,bringsintolightanotherpointofview.
Prudence,forinstance,thedisputantmighturge,isallverywellintheordinary
runoflife,butwhenthegreatmomentscomeconductwantsanotherinspiration.
SuchanonewouldconsiderthatholidaywithathoughttospareforStella
Derrick,whoduringitspassagesawmuchofHenryThresk.Theactualhour
whenthetestcamehappenedononeofthelastdaysofAugust.


CHAPTERII
ONBIGNORHILL

TheywereridingalongthetopoftheSouthDownsbetweenSingletonand
Arundel,andwhentheycametowheretheoldRomanroadfromChichester
climbsoverBignorHill,StellaDerrickraisedherhandandhalted.Shewasthen
nineteenandaccountedlovelybyothersbesidesHenryThresk,whoonthis
morningrodeatherside.Shewasdelicatelyyethealthfullyfashioned,withblue
eyesunderbroadbrows,ravenhairandafacepaleandcrystal-clear.Butherlips
wereredandthecolourcameeasilyintohercheeks.
Shepointeddownwardstothetrackslantingacrosstheturffromthebrowofthe
hill.
"That'sStaneStreet.Ipromisedtoshowityou."
"Yes,"answeredThresk,takinghiseyesslowlyfromherface.Itwasamorning
richwithsunlight,noisywithblackbirds,andsheseemedtohimanecessarypart
ofit.Shewasalivewithitandgaveratherthantookofitsgold.Fornoteventhat
finelychisellednoseofherscouldimparttoheranythingofthelookofastatue.
"Yes.Theywentstraight,didn'tthey,thoseoldcenturions?"hesaid.
Hemovedhishorseandstoodinthemiddleofthetracklookingacrossavalley
offorestandmeadowtoHalnakerDown,sixmilesawayinthesouthwest.
Straightinthelineofhiseyesoverashoulderofthedownroseatallfinespire
—thespireofChichesterCathedral,andfartheronhecouldseethewaterin
BoshamCreeklikeasilvermirror,andtheChannelripplingsilverbeyond.He
turnedround.BeneathhimlaythebluedarkwealdofSussex,andthroughithe
imaginedthehiddenlineoftheroaddrivingstraightasarulertoLondon.


"Nogoingabout!"hesaid."Ifahillwasinthewaytheroadclimbedoverit;ifa
marshitwasbuiltthroughit."
Theyrodeonslowlyalongthegreatwhalebackofgrass,windinginandout
amongstbramblesandpatchesofyellow-flaminggorse.Thedaywasstilleven
atthisheight;andwhen,faraway,afieldoflonggrassunderastraywindbent
fromedgetoedgewiththeswiftmotionofrunningwater,ittookthembothby
surprise.Andtheymetnoone.Theyseemedtorideinthemorningofanew
cleanworld.TheyrosehigherontoDunctonDown,andthenthegirlspoke.
"Sothisisyourlastdayhere."
Hegazedabouthimouttowardsthesea,eastwardsdowntheslopetothedark
treesofArundel,backwardsoverthewealdtothehighridgeofBlackdown.
"Ishalllookbackuponit."
"Yes,"shesaid."It'sadaytolookbackupon."
Sheranoverinhermindthedaysofthislastmonthsincehehadcometotheinn
atGreatBeedingandfriendsofherfamilyhadwrittentoherparentsofhis
coming."It'sthemostperfectofallyourdayshere.Iamglad.Iwantyouto
carrybackwithyougoodmemoriesofourSussex."
"Ishalldothat,"saidhe,"butforanotherreason."
Stellapushedonafootortwoaheadofhim.
"Well,"shesaid,"nodoubttheTemplewillbestuffy."
"NorwasIthinkingoftheTemple."
"No?"
"No."
Sherodeonalittlewaywhilsthefollowed.Agreatbeebuzzedpasttheirheads
andsettledinthecupofawildrose.Inacopsebesidethemathrushshotintothe
airaquiverfulofclearmelody.


Stellaspokeagain,notlookingathercompanion,andinalowvoiceandbravely
withasweetconfusionofherblood.
"Iamverygladtohearyousaythat,forIwasafraidthatIhadletyouseemore
thanIshouldhavecaredforyoutosee—unlessyouhadbeenanxioustoseeit
too."
Shewaitedforananswer,stillkeepingherdistancejustafootortwoahead,and
theanswerdidnotcome.Avagueterrorbegantopossessherthatthingswhich
couldneverpossiblybewereactuallyhappeningtoher.Shespokeagainwitha
tremorinhervoiceandalltheconfidencegoneoutofit.Almostitappealedthat
sheshouldnotbeputtoshamebeforeherself.
"Itwouldhavebeenalittlehumiliatingtoremember,ifthathadbeentrue."
ThenuponthegroundshesawtheshadowofThresk'shorsecreepupuntilthe
tworodesidebyside.Shelookedathimquicklywithadoubtfulwaveringsmile
andlookeddownagain.Whatdidallthetroubleinhisfaceportend?Herheart
thumpedandsheheardhimsay:
"Stella,Ihavesomethingverydifficulttosaytoyou."
Helaidahandgentlyuponherarm,butshewrenchedherselffree.Shamewas
uponher—shameunendurable.Shetingledwithitfromheadtofoot.Sheturned
tohimsuddenlyafacegrowncrimsonandeyeswhichbrimmedwithtears.
"Oh,"shecriedaloud,"thatIshouldhavebeensuchafool!"andsheswayed
forwardinhersaddle.Butbeforehecouldreachoutanarmtoholdhershewas
uprightagain,andwithacutofherwhipshewasoffatagallop.
"Stella,"hecried,butsheonlyusedherwhipthemore.Shegallopedmadlyand
blindlyoverthegrass,notknowingwhither,notcaring,loathingherself.Thresk
gallopedafterher,butherhorse,maddenedbyherwhipandthethudofthe
hoofsbehind,helditsadvantage.Hesettleddowntothepursuitwithajumbleof
thoughtsinhisbrain.
"Ifto-daywereonlytenyearson…Asitisitwouldbemadness…madness
andsqualorandtheendofeverything…Betweenuswehaven'tacoupleof
penniestorubtogether…Howsherides!…ShewasnevermeantforBrixton
…No,norI…Whydidn'tIholdmytongue?…Ohwhatafool,whatafool!


ThankHeaventhehorsescomeoutofaliverystable…Theycan'tgoonfor
everand—oh,myGod!therearerabbit-holesontheDowns."Andhisvoicerose
toashout:"Stella!Stella!"
Butsheneverlookedoverhershoulder.Shefledthemoredesperately,shamed
throughandthrough!Alongthehighridge,betweenthebushesandthebeechtrees,theirshadowsflittedovertheturf,toajingleofbitsandthethunderof
hoofs.DunctonBeaconrosefarbehindthem;theyhadcrossedtheroadand
Charltonforestwasslippingpastlikedarkwaterbeforethemadracecametoan
end.Stellabecameawarethatescapewasimpossible.Herhorsewasspent,she
herselfreeling.Sheletherreinsdroplooseandthegallopchangedtoatrot,the
trottoawalk.ShenoticedwithgratitudethatThreskwasgivinghertime.Hetoo
hadfallentoawalkbehindher,andquiteslowlyhecametoherside.Sheturned
tohimatonce.
"Thisisgoodcountryforagallop,isn'tit?"
"Rabbit-holesthough,"saidhe."Youwerelucky."
Heansweredabsently.Therewassomethingwhichhadgottobesaidnow.He
couldnotletthisgirltowhomheowed—well,theonlyholidaythathehadever
taken,gohomeshamedbyamistake,whichafterallshehadnotmade.Hewas
verynearindeedtosayingyetmore.Theinclinationwasstronginhim,butnot
sostrongasthemethodsofhislife.Marriagenow—thatmeanttohisviewthe
closingofalltheavenuesofadvancement,andalifeforbothbelowboththeir
needs.
"Stella,justlistentome.IwantyoutoknowthathadthingsbeendifferentI
shouldhaverejoicedbeyondwords."
"Oh,don't!"shecried.
"Imust,"heansweredandshewassilent."Iwantyoutoknow,"herepeated,
stammeringandstumbling,afraidlesteachwordmeanttohealshouldonly
piercethedeeper."BeforeIcameheretherewasnoone.SinceIcameherethere
hasbeen—you.Oh,mydear,Iwouldhavebeenveryglad.ButIamobscure—
withoutmeans.ThereareyearsinfrontofmebeforeIshallbeanythingelse.I
couldn'taskyoutosharethem—orIshouldhavedonesobeforenow."
Inhermindranthethought:whatqueerunimportantthingsmenthinkabout!


Theearlyyears!Wouldn'ttheirdifficulties,theirsorrowsbetherealsavourof
lifeandmakeitworthremembrance,worthtreasuring?Butmenhadtherightof
speech.Notagainwouldsheforgetthat.Shebowedherheadandheblundered
on.
"Foryouthere'llbeabetterdestiny.There'sthatgreathouseintheParkwithits
burntwalls.Ishouldliketoseethatrebuiltandyouinyourrightplace,its
mistress."AndhiswordsceasedasStellaabruptlyturnedtohim.Shewas
breathingquicklyandshelookedathimwithawonderinhertrouble.
"Andithurtsyoutosaythis!"shesaid."Yes,itactuallyhurtsyou."
"WhatelsecouldIsay?"
Herfacesoftenedasshelookedandheard.Itwasnotthathewascoldofblood
ordidnotcare.Therewasmorethandiscomfortinhisvoice,therewasavery
realdistress.Andinhiseyeshisheartachedforhertosee.Somethingofher
pridewasrestoredtoher.Shefellatoncetohistune,butshewasconsciousthat
bothofthemtalkedtreacheries.
"Yes,youareright.Itwouldn'thavebeenpossible.Youhaveyournameand
yourfortunetomake.Itoo—Ishallmarry,Isuppose,someone"—andshe
suddenlysmiledratherbitterly—"whowillgivemeaRolls-Roycemotor-car."
Andsotheyrodeonveryreasonably.
Noonhadpassed.Ahushhadfallenuponthathighworldofgrassandsunlight.
Thebirdswerestill.Theytalkedofthisandthat,thelatestcrisisinEuropeand
thegrowthofSocialism,allverywiselyandwithgreatindifferencelikewellbredpeopleatadinner-party.NotthushadStellathoughttoridehomewhenthe
messagehadcomethatmorningthatthehorseswouldbeatherdoorbeforeten.
Shehadriddenoutclothedonwithdreamsofgold.Sherodebackwithher
dreamsintattersandasortofincredulitythattohertoo,astoothergirls,allthis
painhadcome.
Theycametoabridle-pathwhichleddownwardsthroughathicketoftreesto
thewealdandsodescendeduponGreatBeeding.Theyrodethroughthelittle
town,pasttheinnwhereThreskwasstayingandtheirongatesofaParkwhere,
amidstelm-trees,theblackenedruinsofagreathousegapedtothesky.
"Somedayyouwilllivethereagain,"saidThresk,andStella'slipstwitchedwith


asmileofhumour.
"Ishallbeverygladafterto-daytoleavethehouseIamlivingin,"shesaid
quietly,andthewordsstruckhimdumb.Hehadsubtletyenoughtounderstand
her.Theroomswouldmockherwithmemoriesofvaindreams.Yethekept
silence.Itwastoolateinanycasetotakebackwhathehadsaid;andevenifshe
wouldlistentohimmarriagewouldn'tbefair.Hewouldbehampered,andthat,
justatthistimeinhislife,wouldmeanfailure—failureforhernolessthanfor
him.Theymustbeprudent—prudentandmethodical,andsothegreatprizes
wouldbetheirs.
Amilebeyond,amileofyellowlanesbetweenhighhedges,theycametothe
villageofLittleBeeding,onebighouseandafewthatchedcottagesclustered
amongstrosesandgreattreesonthebankofasmallriver.ThitheroldMr.
DerrickandhiswifeandhisdaughterhadgoneafterthefireatHinkseyParkhad
completedtheruinwhichdisastrousspeculationshadbegun;andatthegateof
oneofthecottagestheridersstoppedanddismounted.
"Ishallnotseeyouagainafterto-day,"saidStella."Willyoucomeinfora
moment?"
Threskgavethehorsestoapassinglabourertoholdandopenedthegate.
"Ishallbedisturbingyourpeopleattheirluncheon,"hesaid.
"Idon'twantyoutogointothem,"saidthegirl."Iwillsaygoodbyetothemfor
you."
Threskfollowedherupthegarden-path,wonderingwhatitwasthatshehadstill
tosaytohim.Sheledhimintoasmallroomatthebackofthehouse,looking
outuponthelawn.Thenshestoodinfrontofhim.
"Willyoukissmeonce,please,"shesaidsimply,andshestoodwithherarms
hangingatherside,whilsthekissedheronthelips.
"Thankyou,"shesaid."Nowwillyougo?"
Heleftherstandinginthelittleroomandledthehorsesbacktotheinn.That
afternoonhetookthetraintoLondon.


CHAPTERIII
INBOMBAY

ItwasnotuntiladaylateinJanuaryeightyearsafterwardsthatThresksawthe
faceofStellaDerrickagain;andthenitwasonlyinaportrait.Hecameuponit
tooinamostunlikelyplace.Aboutfiveo'clockuponthatafternoonhedroveout
ofthetownofBombayuptooneofthegreathousesonMalabarHillandasked
forMrs.Carruthers.Hewasshownintoadrawing-roomwhichlookedover
BackBaytothegreatbuildingsofthecity,andinamomentMrs.Carruthers
cametohimwithherhandsoutstretched.
"Soyou'vewon.Myhusbandtelephonedtome.Wedothankyou!Victory
meanssomuchtous."
TheCarrutherswereayoungcouplewho,themomentaftertheyhadinherited
thelargershareinthegreatfirmofTempleton&Carruthers,Bombaymerchants,
hadfoundthemselvesinvolvedinapartnershipsuitduetooneortwocareless
phrasesinasolicitor'sletter.Thecasehadbeenthegreatcaseoftheyearin
Bombay.Theissuehadbeendoubtful,thestakeenormousandThresk,who
threeyearsbeforehadtakensilk,hadbeenfetchedbyyoungCarruthersfrom
Englandtofightit.
"Yes,we'vewon,"hesaid."Judgmentwasgiveninourfavorthisafternoon."
"Youarediningwithusto-night,aren'tyou."
"Thankyou,yes,"saidThresk."Athalf-pasteight."
"Yes."
Mrs.Carruthersgavehimsometeaandchatteredpleasantlywhilehedrankit.


Shewasfair-hairedandpretty,aladyofenthusiasmsandupliftedhands,quite
withoutobservationorknowledge,yetwithpowertoastonish.Foreverynow
andthensomelittleshrewdwisesayingwouldgleamoutoftheplacidflowof
hertrivialitiesandmakewhoeverhearditwonderforamomentwhetheritwas
herownorwhethershehadhearditfromanother.Butitwasherown.Forshe
gavenospecialimportancetoitasshewouldhavedonehaditbeenaremarkshe
hadthoughtworthremembering.Shejustuttereditandslippedon,noticingno
differenceinvaluebetweenwhatshenowsaidandwhatshehadsaidasecond
ago.Toherthewholeworldwasamarvelandallthingsinitequallyamazing.
Besidesshehadnomemory.
"Isupposethatnowyouarefree,"shesaid,"youwillgoupintothecentral
ProvincesandseesomethingofIndia."
"ButIamnotfree,"repliedThresk."Imustgetimmediatelybackto
England."
"Sosoon!"exclaimedMrs.Carruthers."Nowisn'tthatapity!Yououghttosee
theTaj—oh,youreallyought!—bymoonlightorinthemorning.Idon'tknow
whichisbest,andtheRidgetoo!—theRidgeatDelhi.Youreallymustn'tleave
IndiawithoutseeingtheRidge.Can'tthingswaitinLondon?"
"Yes,thingscan,butpeoplewon't,"answeredThresk,andMrs.Carrutherswas
genuinelydistressedthatheshoulddepartfromIndiawithoutasinglejourneyin
atrain.
"Ican'thelpit,"hesaid,smilingbackintohermournfuleyes."Apartfrommy
work,ParliamentmeetsearlyinFebruary."
"Oh,tobesure,youareinParliament,"sheexclaimed."Ihadforgotten."She
shookherfairheadinwonderattheindustryofhervisitor."Ican'tthinkhow
youmanageitall.Oh,youmustneedaholiday."
Thresklaughed.
"Iamthirty-six,soIhaveayearortwostillinfrontofmebeforeIhavetheright
tobreakdown.I'llsaveupmyholidaysformyoldage."
"Butyouarenotmarried,"criedMrs.Carruthers."Youcan'tdothat.Youcan't
growcomfortablyoldunlessyou'remarried.Youwillwanttoworkthentoget


throughthetime.Youhadbettertakeyourholidaysnow."
"Verywell.Ishallhavetwelvedaysuponthesteamer.Whendoesitgo?"asked
Threskasherosefromhischair.
"OnFriday,andthisisMonday,"saidMrs.Carruthers."Youcertainlyhaven't
muchtimetogoanywhere,haveyou?"
"No,"repliedThresk,andMrs.Carrutherssawhisfacequickensuddenlyto
surprise.Heactuallycaughthisbreath;hestared,nolongerawareofher
presenceintheroom.Hewaslookingoverherheadtowardsthegrandpiano
whichstoodbehindherchair;andshebegantorunoverinhermindthevarious
ornamentswhichencumberedit.ApieceofIndiandraperycoveredthetopand
onthedraperystoodalittlegroupofDresdenChinafigures,acrystalcigarettebox,someknick-knacksandhalf-a-dozenphotographsinsilverframes.Itmust
beoneofthosephotographs,shedecided,whichhadcaughthiseye,whichhad
donemorethancatchhiseye.ForshewaslookingupatThresk'sfaceallthis
while,andthesurprisehadgonefromit.Itseemedtoherthathewasmoved.
"Youhavetheportraitofafriendofminethere,"hesaid,andhecrossedthe
roomtothepiano.
Mrs.Carruthersturnedround.
"Oh,StellaBallantyne!"shecried."Doyouknowher,Mr.Thresk?"
"Ballantyne?"saidThresk.Foramomentortwohewassilent.Thenheasked:
"Sheismarriedthen?"
"Yes,didn'tyouknow?Shehasbeenmarriedforalongtime."
"It'salongtimesinceIhaveheardofher,"saidThresk.Helookedagainatthe
photograph.
"Whenwasthistaken?"
"Afewmonthsago.ShesentittomeinOctober.Sheisbeautiful,don'tyou
think?"
"Yes."


ButitwasnotthebeautyofthegirlwhohadriddenalongtheSouthDownswith
himeightyearsago.Therewasmoreofcharacterinthefacenow,less,much
less,ofyouthandnoneoftheoldgaiety.Theopenfranknesshadgone.Thebig
darkeyeswhichlookedoutstraightatThreskashestoodbeforethemhad,even
inthatlikeness,somethingofaloofnessandreserve.Andunderneath,ina
contrastwhichseemedtohimstartling,therewashernamesignedinthefirm
runninghandinwhichshehadwrittenthefewnoteswhichpassedbetweenthem
duringthatmonthinSussex.Thresklookedbackagainatthephotographand
thenresumedhisseat.
"Tellmeabouther,Mrs.Carruthers,"hesaid."Youhearfromheroften?"
"Ohno!Stelladoesn'twritemanyletters,andIdon'tknowherverywell."
"Butyouhaveherphotograph,"saidThresk,"andsignedbyher."
"Ohyes.ShestayedwithmelastChristmas,andIsimplymadehergether
portraittaken.Justthink!Shehadn'tbeentakenforyears.Canyouunderstand
it?Shedeclaredshewasboredwithit.Isn'tthatcurious?However,Ipersuaded
herandshegavemeone.ButIhadtoforcehertowriteonit."
"ThenshewasinBombaylastwinter?"saidThreskslowly.
"Yes."AndthenMrs.Carruthershadanidea.
"Oh,"sheexclaimed,"ifyouarereallyinterestedinStellaI'llput
Mrs.Reptonnexttoyouto-night."
"Thankyouverymuch,"saidThresk."ButwhoisMrs.Repton?"
Mrs.Carrutherssatforwardinherchair.
"Well,she'sStella'sgreatfriend—verylikelyheronlyrealfriendinIndia.
Stella'ssoreserved.Isimplyadoreher,butshequiteprettilyandpolitelykeeps
mealwaysatarm'slength.Ifshehaseveropenedouttoanybodyit'stoJane
Repton.YouseeCharlieReptonwasCollectoratAgrabeforehecameintothe
BombayPresidency,andsotheywentuptoMussoorieforthehotweather.The
Ballantyneshappenedactuallytohavetheverynextbungalow—nowwasn'tthat
strange?—sonaturallytheybecameacquainted.ImeantheBallantynesandthe
Reptonsdid…"


"Butonemoment,Mrs.Carruthers,"saidThresk,breakinginuponthetorrentof
words."AmIrightinguessingthatMrs.BallantynelivesinIndia?"
"Butofcourse!"criedMrs.Carruthers.
"SheisactuallyinIndianow?"
"Tobesuresheis!"
Threskwasquitetakenabackbythenews.
"Ihadnoideaofit,"hesaidslowly,andMrs.Carruthersrepliedsweetly:
"ButlotsofpeopleliveinIndia,Mr.Thresk.Didn'tyouknowthat?Wearenot
theuttermostendsoftheearth."
Thresksettoworktomakehispeace.HehadnotheardofMrs.Ballantynefor
solong.Itseemedstrangetohimtofindhimselfsuddenlyneartohernow—that
isifhewasnear.HejustavoidedthatotherexasperatingtrickoftreatingIndiaas
ifitwasaprovincialtownandallitsinhabitantsneighbours.Butheonlyjust
avoidedit.Mrs.Carruthers,however,waseasilyappeased.
"Yes,"shesaid."StellahaslivedinIndiaforthebestpartofeightyears.She
cameoutwithsomefriendsinthewinter,madeCaptainBallantyne's
acquaintanceandmarriedhimalmostatonce—inJanuary,Ithinkitwas.Of
courseIonlyknowfromwhatI'vebeentold.IwasaschoolgirlinEnglandatthe
time."
"Ofcourse,"Threskagreed.Hewasconsciousofasharplittlestabof
resentment.SoveryquicklyStellahadforgottenthatmorningontheDowns!It
musthavebeenintheautumnofthatsameyearthatshehadgoneouttoIndia,
andbyFebruaryshewasmarried.Theresentmentwasquiteunjustified,asno
oneknewbetterthanhimself.Buthewasaman;andmencannoteasilyendure
soswiftanobliterationoftheirimagesfromthethoughtsandtheheartsofthe
ladieswhohaveadmittedthattheylovedthem.Nonethelesshepressedfor
details.WhowasBallantyne?Whatwashisposition?Afterallhewasobviously
notthemillionairetowhominamoregenerousmomenthehadgivenStella.He
caughthimselfonadescenttothemeannessofrejoicinguponthat.Meanwhile
Mrs.Carruthersrippledon.


"CaptainBallantyne?Oh,he'samostremarkableman!OlderthanStella,
certainly,butamanofgreatknowledgeandinsight.Peoplethinkmosthighlyof
him.Languagescomeaseasilytohimascrochet-worktoawoman."
ThisparagonhadbeenResidentinthePrincipalityofBakutatothenorthof
BombaywhenStellahadfirstarrived.ButhehadbeenmovednowtoChitipur
inRajputana.Itwassupposedthathewaswritinginhisleisuremomentsawork
whichwouldbetheverylastworduponthenativePrincipalitiesofCentral
India.Oh,Stellawastobecongratulated!AndMrs.Carruthers,inherfine
mansiononMalabarHill,breathedasighofenvyatthepositionofthewifeofa
highofficialoftheBritishRaj.
Thresklookedoveragaintotheportraitonthepiano.
"Iamveryglad,"hesaidcordiallyasoncemoreherose.
"ButyoushallsitnexttoMrs.Reptonto-night,"saidMrs.Carruthers.
"Andshewilltellyoumore."
"Thankyou,"answeredThresk."Ionlywishedtoknowthatthingsaregoing
wellwithMrs.Ballantyne—thatwasall."


CHAPTERIV
JANEREPTON

Mrs.Carrutherskeptherpromise.ShewentinherselfwithHenryThresk,asshe
hadalwaysmeanttodo,butsheplacedMrs.Reptonuponhisleftjustroundthe
bendofthetable.Threskstoleaglanceathernowandthenashelistenedtothe
ripplinglaughterofhishostessduringthefirstcourses.Shewasatallwoman
andratherstout,withapleasantfaceandadirectgaze.Threskgavehertheage
ofthirty-fiveandputherdownasacheerysoul.Whethershewasmorehehad
towaittolearnwithwhatpatiencehecould.Hewasfreetoturntoheratlast
andhebeganwithoutanypreliminaries.
"Youknowafriendofmine,"hesaid.
"Ido?"
"Yes."
"Whoisit?"
"Mrs.Ballantyne."
HenoticedatonceachangeinMrs.Repton.Thefranknessdisappearedfromher
face;hereyesgrewwary.
"Isee,"shesaidslowly."IwaswonderingwhyIwasplacednexttoyou,foryou
arethelionoftheeveningandtherearepeoplehereofmoreimportancethan
myself.Iknewitwasn'tformybeauxyeux."
SheturnedagaintoThresk.
"SoyouknowmyStella?"


"Yes.IknewherinEnglandbeforeshecameouthereandmarried.Ihavenot,of
course,seenhersince.Iwantyoutotellmeabouther."
Mrs.Reptonlookedhimoverwithacarefulscrutiny.
"Mrs.Carruthershasnodoubttoldyouthatshemarriedverywell."
"Yes;andthatBallantyneisaremarkableman,"saidThresk.
Mrs.Reptonnodded.
"Verywellthen?"shesaid,andhervoicewasachallenge.
"Iamnotcontented,"Threskreplied.Mrs.Reptonturnedhereyestoherplate
andsaiddemurely:
"Theremightbemorethanonereasonforthat."
Threskabandonedallattempttofencewithher.Mrs.Reptonwasnotofthose
womenwhowouldlightlygivetheirwomen-friendsaway.Herphrase"my
Stella"had,besides,revealedaworldofloveandchampionship.Threskwarmed
toherbecauseofit.Hethrewreticencetothewinds.
"Iamgoingtogiveyoutherealreason,Mrs.Repton.Isawherphotographthis
afternoononMrs.Carruthers'piano,anditleftmewonderingwhetherhappiness
couldsetsomuchcharacterinawoman'sface."
Mrs.Reptonshruggedhershoulders.
"Someofusagequicklyhere."
"AgewasnotthenewthingwhichIreadinthatphotograph."
Mrs.Reptondidnotanswer.Onlyhereyessoundedhim.Sheseemedtobe
judgingthestuffofwhichhewasmade.
"AndifIdoubtedherhappinessthisafternoonImustdoubtitstillmorenow,"he
continued.
"Why?"exclaimedMrs.Repton.


"Becauseofyourreticence,Mrs.Repton,"heanswered."Foryouhavebeen
reticent.Youhavebeenonguard.Ilikeyouforit,"headdedwithasmileof
genuinefriendliness."MayIsaythat?ButfromthefirstmomentwhenI
mentionedStellaBallantyne'snameyoushoulderedyourmusket."
Mrs.Reptonneitherdeniednoracceptedhisstatement.Shekeptlookingathim
andawayfromhimasthoughshewerestillnotsureofhim,andattimesshe
drewinherbreathsharply,asthoughshehadalreadytakenuponherselfsome
greatresponsibilityandnowregrettedit.Intheendsheturnedtohimabruptly.
"Iampuzzled,"shecried."Ithinkit'sstrangethatsinceyouare
Stella'sfriendIknewnothingofthatfriendship—nothingwhatever."
Threskshruggedhisshoulders.
"Itisyearssincewemet,asItoldyou.Shehasnewinterests."
"Theyhavenotdestroyedtheoldones.Werememberhomethingsouthere,all
ofus.Stellaliketherest.Why,IthoughtthatIknewherwholelifeinEngland,
andhere'sadefinitepartofit—perhapsaveryimportantpart—ofwhichIam
utterlyignorant.Shehasspokenofmanyfriendstome;ofyounever.Iam
wonderingwhy."
Shespokeobviouslywithoutanywishtohurt.Yetthewordsdidhurt.Shesaw
Threskreddenassheutteredthem,andaswiftwildhopeflamedlikearosein
herheart:ifthismanwiththebrainsandthemoneyandtheperseverancesitting
athersideshouldturnouttobethePerseusforherbeautifulchained
Andromeda,farawaythereinthestateofChitipur!Thelinesofapoemcame
intoherthoughts.
"Iknow;theworldproscribesnotlove,
Allowsmyfingertocaress
Yourlips'contouranddowniness
Provideditsuppliestheglove."
Supposethathereathersidewasthemanwhowoulddispensewiththeglove!
ShelookedagainatThresk.Theleanstrongfacesuggestedthathemight,ifhe
wantedhardenough.Allherlifehadbeenpassedinthesupportofauthorityand
law.Authority—thatwasherhusband'sprofession.Butjustforthishour,asshe
thoughtofStellaBallantyne,lawlessnessshoneouttoherdesirableasastar.


"No,shehasneveroncementionedyourname,Mr.Thresk."
AgainThreskwasconsciousofthelittlepulseofresentmentbeatingathisheart.
"Shehasnodoubtforgottenme."
Mrs.Reptonshookherhead.
"That'soneexplanation.Theremightbeanother."
"Whatisit?"
"Thatsheremembersyoutoomuch."
Mrs.Reptonwasalittlestartledbyherownaudacity,butitprovokednothing
butanincredulouslaughfromhercompanion.
"Iamafraidthat'snotverylikely,"hesaid.Therewasnohintofelationinhis
voicenoranyannoyance.Ifhefelteither,why,hewasonguardnolessthanshe.
Mrs.Reptonwasinclinedtothrowupherhandsindespair.Shewasbaffledand
shewaslittlelikely,assheknew,togetanylight.
"Ifyoutakethemanyouknowbestofall,"sheusedtosay,"youstillknow
nothingatallofwhathe'slikewhenhe'salonewithawoman,especiallyifit'sa
womanforwhomhecares—unlessthewomantalks."
Veryoftenthewomandoestalkandthemostintimateandprivatefactscomein
alittlewhiletobeshoutedfromthehousetops.ButStellaBallantynedidnot
talk.Shehadtalkedonce,andonceonly,underagreatstresstoJaneRepton;but
eventhenThreskhadnothingtodowithherstoryatall.
Threskturnedquicklytowardsher.
"InamomentMrs.Carrutherswillgetup.Hereyesarecollectingthewomen
andthewomenarecollectingtheirshoes.Whathaveyoutotellme?"
Mrs.Reptonwantedtospeak.Threskgaveherconfidence.Heseemedtobea
manwithoutmanyillusions,hewasnoromanticsentimentalist.Shewentback
tothepoemofwhichthelineshadbeenchasingoneanotherthroughherheadall
throughthisdinner,asasortofaccompanimenttotheirconversation.Hadhe


founditout?sheaskedherself—
"Theworldandwhatitfears."
ThusshehunghesitatingwhileMrs.Carruthersgatheredinherhandshergloves
andherfan.Therewasawomanattheotherendofthetablehoweverwho
wouldnotstoptalking.Shewasinthemidstofsomestoryandheedednotthe
signalsofherhostess.JaneReptonwishedshewouldgoontalkingfortherest
oftheevening,andrecognisedthatthewishwasawasteoftimeandgrew
flurried.Shehadtomakeuphermindtosaysomethingwhichshouldbetrueor
tolie.Yetshewastoostaunchtobetraytheconfidenceofherfriendunlessthe
betrayalmeantherfriend'ssalvation.Butjustasthewomanattheendofthe
tableceasedtotalkaninspirationcametoher.ShewouldsaynothingtoThresk,
butifhehadeyestoseeshewouldplacehimwheretheviewwasgood.
"Ihavethistosay,"sheansweredinalowquickvoice."GoyourselftoChitipur.
YousailonFriday,Ithink?Andto-dayisMonday.Youcanmakethejourney
thereandbackquiteeasilyinthetime."
"Ican?"askedThresk.
"Yes.Travelbythenight-mailuptoAjmeretomorrownight.Youwillbein
ChitipuronWednesdayafternoon.Thatgivesyoutwenty-fourhoursthere,and
youcanstillcatchthesteamerhereonFriday."
"Youadvisethat?"
"Yes,Ido,"saidMrs.Repton.
Mrs.CarruthersrosefromthetableandJaneReptonhadnofurtherwordwith
Threskthatnight.Inthedrawing-roomMrs.Carruthersledhimfromwomanto
woman,allowinghimtenminutesforeachone.
"HemightbeRoyaltyorherpetPekingese,"criedMrs.Reptoninexasperation.
Fornowthatherbloodhadcooledshewasnotsosurethatheradvicehadbeen
good.Thehabitofrespectforauthorityresumeditsancientplaceinher.She
mightbeplantingthatnighttheseedofaveryevilflower."Respectability"had
seemedtoheramagnificentpoemasshesatatthedinner-table.Hereinthe
drawing-roomshebegantothinkthatitwasnotforevery-dayuse.Shewisheda
wordnowwithThresk,sothatshemightmakelightoftheadvicewhichshehad


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