Maid in Waiting, by John Galsworthy

Chapter 12

The outline of a young Englishman of the inarticulate variety is difficult to grasp. The vocal variety is easily enough apprehended. Its manners and habits bulk large to the eye and have but little importance in the national life. Vociferous, critical, ingenious, knowing and advertising only its own kind, it forms an iridescence shimmering over the surface of the bog, and disguising the peat below. It constantly and brilliantly expresses almost nothing; while those whose lives are spent in the application of trained energy remain invisible, but none the less solid; for feelings continually voiced cease to be feelings, and feelings never voiced deepen with their dumbness. Hubert did not look solid, nor was he stolid; even those normal aids to the outline of the inarticulate were absent. Trained, sensitive, and no fool, he was capable of passing quiet judgment on people and events that would have surprised the vocal, but, except to himself, he never passed it. Till quite recently, indeed, he had lacked time and opportunity; but seeing him in a smoking-room, at a dinner-table, or wherever the expressive scintillate, you would know at once that neither time nor opportunity was going to make him vociferous. Going into the war, so early, as a professional, he had missed the expanding influences of the ‘Varsity and London. Eight years in Mesopotamia, Egypt and India, a year of illness and the Hallorsen expedition, had given him a remote, drawn, rather embittered look. He was of the temperament that, in idleness, eats its heart out. With dog and gun or on a horse, he found it bearable, but only just; and without those adventitious aids he wilted. Three days after the return to Condaford he came to Dinny on the terrace, with ‘The Times’ in his hand.

“Look at this!”

Dinny read:

“SIR —

“You will pardon me, I trust, this intrusion on your space. It has come to my knowledge that certain passages in my book, ‘Bolivia and Its Secrets,’ published last July, have grievously annoyed my second-incommand, Captain Hubert Charwell, D.S.O., who had charge of the transport of the expedition. On re-reading these passages I certainly believe that in the vexation caused me by the partial failure of the expedition, and owing to the over-strained state in which I returned from the adventure, I have passed undue criticism on Captain Charwell’s conduct; and I wish, pending the issue of the second and amended edition which I trust will not be long delayed, to take this opportunity of publicly withdrawing in your great journal the gravamen of my written words. It is my duty and pleasure to express to Captain Charwell and the British Army of which he is a member, my sincere apology, and my regret for any pain I may have caused him.

“Sir, Your obedient servant,

“EDWARD HALLORSEN (Professor).

“Piedmont Hotel,

“London.”

“Very handsome!” said Dinny, trembling a little. “Hallorsen in London! What the devil does he mean by this all of a sudden?”

She began pulling yellowed leaves out of an Agapanthus. The danger of doing things for other people was being disclosed to her.

“It almost looks like repentance, dear.”

“That fellow repent! Not he! There’s something behind it.”

“Yes, I am.”

“You!”

Dinny quailed behind her smile.

“I met Hallorsen at Diana’s in London; he was at Lippinghall, too. So I— er — got at him.”

Hubert’s sallowed face went red.

“You asked — you begged —?”

“Oh! no!”

“What then?”

“He seemed to take rather a fancy to me. It’s odd, but I couldn’t help it, Hubert.”

“He’s done this to curry favour with you?”

“You put it like a man and a brother.”

“Dinny!”

Dinny flushed too, angry now behind her smile.

“I didn’t lead him on. He took this highly unreasonable fancy, in spite of plenty of cold water. But, if you ask me, Hubert, he has quite a decent side to him.”

“You would naturally think so,” said Hubert, coldly. His face had resumed its sallow hue and was even a little ashened.

Dinny caught impulsively at his sleeve.

“Don’t be silly, dear! If he chooses to make a public apology for any reason, even such a bad one, isn’t it all to the good?”

“Not when my own sister comes into it. In this thing I’m like — I’m like a —” he put his hands to his head: “I’m in Chancery. Anyone can punch my head, and I can’t move.”

Dinny’s coolness had come back to her.

“You needn’t be afraid that I shall compromise you. This letter is very good news; it takes the wind out of the whole thing. In face of this apology, who can say anything?”

But Hubert, leaving the paper in her hand, went back into the house.

Dinny had practically no ‘small’ pride. Her sense of humour prevented her from attaching value to her own performances. She felt that she ought to have provided against this contingency, though she did not see how.

Hubert’s resentment was natural enough. If Hallorsen’s apology had been dictated by conviction, it would have soothed him; arising from a desire to please his sister, it was only the more galling; and he clearly abhorred the Professor’s fancy for her. Still, there was the letter — an open and direct admission of false criticism, which changed the whole position! At once she began to consider what use could be made of it. Should she send it to Lord Saxenden? Having meddled so far, she decided that she would, and went in to write the covering letter.

‘Condaford Grange. Sept. 21.

‘Dear Lord Saxenden —

‘I am venturing to send you the enclosed cutting from today’s “Times,” for I feel it excuses me to some extent for my effrontery the other evening. I really ought not to have bored you at the end of a long day with those passages of my brother’s diary. It was unpardonable, and I don’t wonder that you sought refuge. But the enclosed will show you the injustice from which my brother has suffered; and I hope you will forgive me.

‘Sincerely yours,

‘Elizabeth Charwell.’

Enclosing the cutting, she looked up Lord Saxenden in ‘Who’s Who,’ and addressed the envelope to his London abode, marking it ‘Personal.’

A little later, trying to find Hubert, she was told that he had taken the car and gone up to London . . . .

Hubert drove fast. Dinny’s explanation of the letter had disturbed him greatly. He covered the fifty odd miles in a little under two hours and reached the Piedmont Hotel at one o’clock. Since he had parted from Hallorsen nearly six months ago, no word had passed between them. He sent his card in and waited in the hall with no precise knowledge of what he wanted to say. When the American’s tall figure approached behind the buttoned boy, a cold stillness possessed his every limb.

“Captain Cherrell,” said Hallorsen, and held out his hand.

With a horror of ‘scenes’ deeper than his more natural self, Hubert took it, but without pressure in his fingers.

“I saw you were here, from ‘The Times.’ Is there anywhere we could go and talk for a few minutes?”

Hallorsen led towards an alcove. “Bring some cocktails,” he said to a waiter.

“Not for me, thank you. But may I smoke?”

“I trust this is the pipe of peace, Captain.”

“I don’t know. An apology that does not come from conviction means less than nothing to me.”

“Who says it doesn’t come from conviction?”

“My sister.”

“Your sister, Captain Cherrell, is a very rare and charming young lady, and I would not wish to contradict her.”

“Do you mind my speaking plainly?”

“Why, surely no!”

“Then I would much rather have had no apology from you than know I owed it to any feeling of yours for one of my family.”

“Well,” said Hallorsen, after a pause, “I can’t write to the ‘Times’ and say I was in error when I made that apology. I judge they wouldn’t stand for that. I had a sore head when I wrote that book. I told your sister so, and I tell you so now. I lost all sense of charity, and I have come to regret it.”

“I don’t want charity. I want justice. Did I or did I not let you down?”

“Why, there’s no question but that your failure to hold that pack together did in fact finish my chance.”

“I admit that. Did I fail you from my fault, or from yours in giving me an impossible job?”

For a full minute the two men stood with their eyes on each other, and without a word. Then Hallorsen again held out his hand.

“Put it there,” he said; “my fault.”

Hubert’s hand went out impulsively, but stopped half way.

“One moment. Do you say that because it would please my sister?”

“No, Sir; I mean it.”

Hubert took his hand.

“That’s great,” said Hallorsen. “We didn’t get on, Captain; but since I’ve stayed in one of your old homes here, I think I’ve grasped the reason why. I expected from you what you class Englishmen seemingly will never give — that’s the frank expression of your feelings. I judge one has to translate you, and I just couldn’t do it, so we went on in the dark about each other. And that’s the way to get raw.”

“I don’t know why, but we got raw all right.”

“Well, I wish it could come all over again.”

Hubert shivered. “I don’t.”

“Now, Captain, will you lunch with me, and tell me how I can serve you? I will do anything you say to wipe out my mistake.”

For a moment Hubert did not speak, his face was unmoved, but his hands shook a little.

“That’s all right,” he said. “It’s nothing.”

And they moved towards the grill-room.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/galsworthy/john/maid/chapter12.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37