THE GREAT SCHEME
The height of her esteem for Urquhart
was the measure of her growing disrelish for James.
It was hard to visit upon a man the sense that he
was not what he had never dreamed of being; but that
is what happened to him. By how much he had risen
in her eyes when she made an Eros of him, by so much
did he fall when she found out her mistake. Because
he was obviously no Eros, was he so obviously but
part of a man? It seemed so indeed. If he
discerned it there’s no wonder. He irritated
her; she found herself instinctively combating his
little preparations for completeness of effect she
was herself all for simplicity in these days.
She could not conceal her scorn, for instance, when
he refused to go with her to dine in a distant suburb
because he would not have time to dress. “As
if,” she said, “you eat your shirt-front!”
Trenchancy from James produced a silent disapproval.
As he said, if she didn’t sniff, she looked
as if she felt a cold coming on. She knew it
herself and took great pains; but it coloured her tone,
if not her words. Too often she was merely silent
when he was very much himself. Silence is contagious:
they passed a whole dinner through without a word,
Now James had his feelings, and was
rather unhappy over what he called her moods.
He thought she did not go out enough. She ought
to see more people: a woman liked to be admired.
It did not occur to him that she might have been very
glad of it from him; but then he didn’t know
how highly she had been elated with what she called,
thinking it really so, his love-in-the-darkness.
No, Macartney, if ever he looked into himself, found
nothing wrong there. He kept a wary eye through
his masking-glass upon Urquhart’s comings and
goings. As far as he could ascertain he was rarely
in London during June and early July. No doubt
he wrote to Lucy; James was pretty sure of it; yet
he could not stoop to examining envelopes, and had
to leave that to Providence and herself. He mingled
with his uneasiness a high sense of her integrity,
which he could not imagine ever losing. It was,
or might have been, curious to observe the difference
he made between his two jealousies. He had been
insolent to Francis Lingen, with his “Ha, Lingen,
you here?” He was markedly polite to Jimmy Urquhart,
much more so than his habit was. He used to accompany
him to the door when he left, an unheard-of attention.
But that may have been because Lucy went thither also.
As a matter of fact Urquhart saw very
little of her. He was very much away, on his
aerial and other affairs, and did not care to come
to the house unless James was there, nor, naturally,
very much when he was. They mostly met in the
Park, rarely at other people’s houses. Once
she lunched at the Nugents’ and had the afternoon
alone with him; twice he drove her to Kew Gardens;
once she asked him for a week-end to Wycross, and
they had some talks and a walk. He wrote perhaps
once a week, and she answered him perhaps once a fortnight.
Not more. She had to put the screw on herself
to outdo him in frugality. She respected him
enormously for his mastery of himself, and could not
have told how much it enhanced her love. It was
really comical that precisely what she had condemned
James for she found admirable in Jimmy. James
had neglected her for his occupations, and Jimmy was
much away about his. In the first case she resented,
in the second she was not far from adoration of such
a sign of serious strength.
They never alluded directly to what
had happened, but sometimes hinted at it. These
hints were always hers, for Urquhart was a random talker,
said what came into his head and had no eye for implications.
He made one odd remark, and made it abruptly, as if
it did not affect anybody present. “It’s
a very funny thing,” he said, “that last
year I didn’t know Macartney had a wife, and
now, six months later, I don’t realise that
you have got a husband.” It made her laugh
inwardly, but she said gently, “Try to realise
it. It’s true.”
“You wish me to make a point
of it?” he asked her that with a shrewd look.
“I wish you, naturally, to realise me as I am.”
“There doesn’t seem much
of you involved in it,” he said; but she raised
her eyebrows patiently.
“It is a fact, and the fact
is a part of me. Besides, there’s Lancelot.”
“Oh,” he said, “I
don’t forget him. You needn’t think
it. He is a symbol of you and almost
an emanation. Put it like this, that what you
might have been, he is.”
“Oh,” said she, “do you want me
to be different?”
He laughed. “Bless you,
no. But I like to see what you gave up to be
made woman. And I see it in your boy.”
She was impelled to say what she said
next by his words, which excited her. “I
can’t tell you and perhaps I ought
not how happy you make me by loving Lancelot.
I love him so very much and James never
has. I can’t make out why; but it was so
from the beginning. That was the first thing
which made me unhappy in my life at home. It was
the beginning of everything. He seemed to lose
interest in me when he found me so devoted.”
Urquhart said nothing immediately.
Then he spoke slowly. “Macartney is uneasy
with boys because he’s uneasy with himself.
He is only really interested in one thing, and he
can see that they are obviously uninterested in it.”
“You mean ?” she began, and did
“I do,” said Urquhart.
“Most men are like that at bottom only
some of us can impose ourselves upon our neighbours
more easily than he can. Half the marriages of
the world break on that rock, and the other half on
She then confessed. “Do
you know what I believe in my heart? I believe
that James’s eyeglass stands in his way with
Lancelot as it certainly did with me.”
“I think you are right there,”
he agreed. “But you must allow for it.
He’s very uncertain of his foothold, and that’s
his war armour.”
She was more tolerant of James after
that conversation, and less mutinous against her lot.
She wondered, of course, what was to become of them,
how long she could hold him at arms’ length,
how she could bring herself to unsay what had been
said in the dark of Martley Thicket. But she
had boundless faith in Urquhart, and knew, among other
things, that any request she made him would be made
easy for her.
But when, at the end of June, he broached
to her his great scheme, she was brought face to face
with the situation, and had to ask herself, could
she be trusted? That he could she knew very well.
He had a project for a month or six
weeks in Norway. He had hinted at it when she
was at Martley, but now it was broached. He didn’t
disguise it that his interest lay wholly in her coming.
He laid it before her: she, Lancelot and James
were to be the nucleus. He should ask the Corbets
and their boys, Vera and hers. Nugent would refuse,
he knew. Meantime, what did she say? He
watched her shining eyes perpending, saw the gleam
of anticipated delight. What a plan! But
then she looked down, hesitating. Something must
now be said.
“Oh, of course Lancelot would
go mad with joy, and I dare say I could persuade James ”
“Well? But you?”
“I should live every moment
of the time, but sometimes life seems to
cost too much.”
He held out his hand to her, and she
took it very simply. “Promise to come,
and you shan’t repent it. Mind, you have
my word on that.” Then he let her go, and
they discussed ways and means. She would speak
to James; then he should come and dine, and talk it
out. Meantime, let him make sure of Vera, and
do his best with the Corbets. If they were fixed
up, as she thought probable, he might get some other
people. Considine might like it. “He’s
very much at your disposal, let me tell you.
You have him at your feet.”
So it was settled, and James was attacked
in front. She told him as they were driving out
to dinner that she had met Mr. Urquhart that afternoon.
“I dare say you might,” said James.
But he had stiffened to attention.
“He blazed upon me a plan for
August. I said I would ask you about it.”
James said, “H’m. Does it rest with
“Naturally it does. I should
not think of any plans without talking to you.”
“No, I suppose you wouldn’t,”
said he. Then he asked, “And what does
Urquhart want you to do?”
“He doesn’t want me, particularly.
He wants all three of us.”
“I think,” said James,
“you’ll find that he wants you most.”
She felt that this must be fathomed.
“And if he did,” she said, “should
you object to that?” He kept very dry.
“It isn’t a case of objecting
to that, or this. The question before me at present
is whether I want to form one of a party which doesn’t
want me, and where I might be in the way.”
“From what I know of Mr. Urquhart,”
she answered, “I don’t think he would
ever ask a person he didn’t want.”
“He might, if he couldn’t
get the person he did want in any other way,”
said James. “Who else is to come?”
“Vera Nugent and her boy, and
perhaps Lord Considine. He is going to ask Laurence
and Mabel and all the boys too.”
“It will be a kind of school-treat,”
said James. “I own it doesn’t sound
very exciting. Where are we to go to?”
“To Norway. He knows of
a house on the Hardanger Fiord, a house in a wood.
He wants to hire a steamer to take us up from Bergen,
and means to bring a motor-boat with him. There
will be fishing of sorts if you want it.”
“I don’t,” said
James; then held up his chin. “Is my tie
She looked. “Perfectly.
What am I to say to Mr. Urquhart?”
He said, “I’ll talk about
it; we’ll discuss it in all its bearings.
I don’t think I’m so attracted as you
are, but then ”
“It’s very evident you
aren’t,” Lucy said, and no more. She
felt in a prickly heat, and thought that she had never
wanted anything so much in her life as this which
was about to be denied her. She dared not write
to Lancelot about it; but to Urquhart she confessed
her despair and hinted at her longing. He replied
at once, “Ask me to dinner. I’ll
tackle him. Vera and child will come; not Considine.
The Corbets can’t going to Scotland,
yachting. We needn’t have another woman,
but Vera will be cross if there is no other man.
Up to you to find one.”
This again she carried to James, who
said, “Let him come any free night.
Tell me which you settle, will you?”
James had been thinking it out.
He knew he would have to go, and was prepared with
what he called a spoke for Jimmy’s wheel.
Incidentally it would be a nasty one for Lucy, and
none the worse for that. He considered that she
was getting out of hand, and that Urquhart might be
a nuisance because such a spiny customer to tackle.
But he had a little plan, and chuckled over it a good
deal when he was by himself.
He was, as usual, excessively urbane
to Urquhart when they met, and himself opened the
topic of the Norwegian jaunt. Urquhart took up
the ball. “I think you might come.
Your wife and boy will love it, and you’ll kindle
at their joy. ’They for life only, you for
life in them,’ to flout the bard. Besides,
you are not a fogey, if I’m not. I believe
our ages tally. You shall climb mountains with
me, Macartney, and improve the muscles of your calves.
You don’t fish, I think. Nor do I. I thought
I should catch your brother-in-law with that bait but
no. As for mine, he’ll spend the month in
“Is your sister coming?” James asked.
Urquhart nodded. “And her
youngster. Osborne boy, and a good sort.
Lancelot and he have met.”
said James, “and Mrs. Nugent and Lucy won’t
“Vera would speak, I’m
sure,” said Lucy, “and as for me, I seldom
get a chance.”
“A very true saying,”
said Urquhart. “I don’t believe the
Last Judgment would prevent Vera from talking.
Well, Macartney, what says the Man of the World?”
“If you mean me,” said
James, “I gather that you all want to go.
Lucy does, but that’s of course. Lancelot
will, equally of course. But I have a suggestion
to make. Might not the party be a little bigger?”
“It might, and it should,”
said Urquhart; “in fact, I asked Considine to
join us. He would love it, but he has to make
a speech at a Congress, or read a paper, and he says
he can’t get out of it. The Corbets can’t
come. I’ll ask anybody else you like.”
James, who was now about to enjoy
himself, said, “I leave the ladies to Lucy and
Mrs. Nugent. Their choice would no doubt be mine.
But I certainly think we want another man. Much
as you and I esteem each other, my dear Urquhart,
if there’s walking to be done serious
walking, I think we shall be better three than two.
I don’t at all agree that three is no company.
Where men are concerned I think it better than two
or four. If only to give a knee, or hold the sponge!
And with more than four you become a horde. We
want a man now.”
“I think so too,” Urquhart
said. “Well, who’s your candidate?”
James meditated, or appeared to meditate.
“Well,” he said, looking up and fixing
Urquhart with his eyeglass, “what do you say
to Francis Lingen? Lucy likes him, I am used
to him, and you will have to be some day.”
Lucy was extremely annoyed. That
was evident. She bit her lip, and crumbled her
bread. She said shortly, “Francis couldn’t
walk to save his life.”
“Let us put it another way,”
said James, enjoying his little coup.
“Let us say that if he did walk, he might save
Urquhart marked the breeze, and sailed
into it. “I leave all that to you.
All I know about Lingen is that I have done my best
to oblige him in his private affairs. I confess
that I find him mild, not to say insipid, but I dare
say he’s the life of a party when he’s
put to it.”
“Oh,” said James, not
averse from disparaging an old rival, “Oh, poor
chap, he hasn’t many party tricks. I’d
back him at cat’s-cradle, and I dare say he
plays a very fair game at noughts-and-crosses.
Besides, he’ll do what he’s told, and
fetch things for you. You’ll find him a
handy and obliging chap to have about.”
“Sounds delightful,” said
Urquhart pleasantly. He turned to Lucy.
“We’ll give him Lingen, shall we?”
She said, “By all means.
It doesn’t matter in the least to me.”
So James had his little whack, after all.