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Denzil Quarrier By George Gissing Characters: 14282

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


Something less than a year after his marriage, Glazzard was summoned back to England by news of his brother's death. On the point of quitting Highmead, with Ivy, for a sojourn abroad, William Glazzard had an apoplectic seizure and died within the hour. His affairs were in disorder; he left no will; for some time it would remain uncertain whether the relatives inherited anything but debt.

Eustace and his wife took a house in the north of London, a modest temporary abode. There, at the close of March, Serena gave birth to a child.

During the past year Glazzard had returned to his old amusement of modelling in clay. He drew and painted, played and composed, at intervals; but plastic art seemed to have the strongest hold upon him. Through April he was busy with a head for which he had made many studies-a head of Judas; in Italy he had tried to paint the same subject, but ineffectually. The face in its latest development seemed to afford him some satisfaction.

One morning, early in May, Serena was sitting with him in the room he used as a studio. Experience of life, and a certain measure of happiness, had made the raw girl a very pleasing and energetic woman; her face was comely, her manner refined, she spoke softly and thoughtfully, but with spirit.

"It is wonderful," she said, after gazing long, with knitted brows, at the Judas, "but horrible. I wish it hadn't taken hold of you so."

"Taken hold of me? I care very little about it."

"Oh, nonsense! That's your worst fault, Eustace. You seem ashamed of being in earnest. I wish you had found a pleasanter subject, but I am delighted to see you do something. Is it quite finished?"

A servant appeared at the door.

"Mr. Quarrier wishes to see you, sir."

Denzil entered, and had a friendly greeting. The Glazzards did not see much of him, for he was over head and ears in politics, social questions, philanthropic undertakings-these last in memory of Lilian, whose spirit had wrought strongly in him since her death. He looked a much riper and graver man than a year ago. His language was moderate; he bore himself reservedly, at moments with diffidence. But there was the old frank cordiality undiminished. To Serena he spoke with the gentle courtesy which marks a man's behaviour to women when love and grief dwell together in his heart.

"Our friend Judas?" he said, stepping up to the model. "Finished at last?"

"Something like it." Glazzard replied, tapping the back of his hand with a tool.

"Discontented, as usual! I know nothing about this kind of thing, but I should say it was very good. Makes one uncomfortable-doesn't it, Mrs. Glazzard? Do something pleasanter next time."

"Precisely what I was saying," fell from Serena.

They talked awhile, and Mrs. Glazzard left the room.

"I want to know your mind on a certain point," said Denzil. "Mrs. Wade has been asking me to bring her together with your wife and you. Now, what is your feeling?"

The other stood in hesitation, but his features expressed no pleasure.

"What is your feeling?" he asked, in return.

"Why, to tell you the truth, I can't advise you to make a friend of her. I'm sorry to say she has got into a very morbid state of mind. I see more of her than I care to. She has taken up with a lot of people I don't like-rampant women-extremists of many kinds. There's only one thing: it's perhaps my duty to try and get her into a more sober way of life, and if all steady-going people reject her--Still, I don't think either you or your wife would like to have her constantly coming here."

"I think not," said Glazzard, with averted face.

"Well, I shall tell her that she would find you very unsympathetic. I'm sorry for her; I wish she could recover a healthy mind."

He brooded for a moment, and the lines that came into his face gave it an expression of unrest and melancholy out of keeping with its natural tone.

In a few minutes he was gone, and presently Serena returned to the studio. She found her husband in a dark reverie, a mood to which he often yielded, which she always did her best to banish.

"Do you think, Eustace," she asked, "that Mr. Quarrier will marry again?"

"Oh, some day, of course."

"I shall be sorry. There's something I have often meant to tell you about his wife; I will now."

He looked up attentively. Serena had never been admitted to his confidence regarding Lilian's story; to her, the suicide was merely a woful result of disordered health.

"But for her," she continued, smiling archly, "I should perhaps not have married you. I was with doubts about myself and about you. Then I went to Mrs. Quarrier, and-what a thing to do!-asked her what she thought of you! She told me, and I came away without a doubt left.-That's why I cried so much when we heard of her death. I should have told you then if you hadn't got vexed with me-I'm sure I don't know why."

Glazzard laughed, and dismissed the subject carelessly.

Not long after, he was alone. After much pacing about the room, he came to a stand before his clay masterpiece, and stared at it as though the dull eyes fascinated him. Of a sudden he raised his fist and with one blow beat the head into a shapeless mass.

Then he went out, locking the door behind him.

On leaving the Glazzards, Quarrier pursued the important business that had brought him into this part of London. He drove to a hospital, newly opened, with which he was connected in the capacity of treasurer. Talk with the secretary occupied him for half an hour; about to set forth again, he encountered on the staircase two ladies, the one a hospital nurse, the other Mrs. Wade.

"Could you grant me five minutes?" asked the widow, earnestly. "I didn't hope to see you here, and must have called upon you-but you are so busy."

There was a humility in her suppressed voice which, had the speaker been another person, would have prepared Denzil for some mendicant petition of the politer kind. She spoke hurriedly, as if fearing a rebuff.

"Let us step this way," he said, opening a door which led into an unoccupied room.

Mrs. Wade was dressed rather more simply than had been her wont when she lived at Polterham. One conjectured that her circumstances were not improved. She looked tired, harassed; her eyes wanted something of their former brightness, and she had the appearance of a much older woman.

There were no seats in the room. Quarrier did not refer to the fact, but stood in an attitude of friendly attention.

"I saw Northway yesterday," Mrs. Wade began.

The listener's face expressed annoyance.

"Need we speak of him?" he said, briefly.

"I am obliged to. He told me something which I had long suspected-something you certainly must learn."

"Is it a fresh attack on my pocket?" asked Denzil, with resignation.

"No, but something that will grieve you far more. I have been trying for a long time to get it out of him, and now that I have succeeded I almost wish the thought had never occurred to me."

"Pray, pray don't keep me in suspense, Mrs. Wade."

"Northway did not make his discovery by chance. You were betrayed t

o him-by a seeming friend."

Denzil looked steadily at her.

"A friend?-He has deceived you. Only one acquaintance of mine knew."

"Mr. Glazzard. It was he who laid a plot for your downfall."

Quarrier moved impatiently.

"Mrs. Wade, you are being played upon by this scoundrel. There is no end to his contrivances."

"No, he has told me the truth," she pursued, with agitated voice. "Listen to the story, first of all."

She related to him, in accurate detail, all that had passed between Northway and Mr. Marks.

"And Mr. Marks was Mr. Glazzard, undoubtedly. His description tallies exactly."

Denzil broke out indignantly.

"The whole thing is a fabrication I not only won't believe it, but simply can't. You say that you have suspected this?"

"I have-from the moment when Lilian told me that Mr. Glazzard knew."

"That's astounding!-Then why should you have desired to be on friendly terms with the Glazzards?"

Mrs. Wade sank her eyes.

"I hoped," she made answer, "to find out something. I had only in view to serve you."

"You have deluded yourself, and been deluded, in the strangest way. Now, I will give you one reason (a very odd, but a very satisfactory one) why it is impossible to believe Glazzard guilty of such baseness-setting aside the obvious fact that he had no motive. He goes in for modelling in clay, and for some time he has been busy on a very fine head. What head do you think?-That of Judas Iscariot."

He laughed.

"Now, a man guilty of abominable treachery would not choose for an artistic subject the image of an arch-traitor."

Mrs. Wade smiled strangely as she listened to his scornful demonstration.

"You have given me," she said, "a most important piece of evidence in support of Northway's story."

Denzil was ill at ease. He could not dismiss this lady with contempt. Impossible that he should not have learnt by this time the meaning of her perpetual assiduity on his behalf; the old friendliness (never very warm) had changed to a compassion which troubled him. Her image revived such painful memories that he would have welcomed any event which put her finally at a distance from him The Polterham scandal, though not yet dead, had never come to his ears; had he known it, he could scarcely have felt more constrained in her society.

"Will you oblige me," he said, with kindness, "by never speaking of this again?"

"If you will first grant me one test of my opinion. Will you meet Northway in some public place where Mr. Glazzard can be easily seen, and ask the man to point out his informant-Mr. Marks?"

After much debate, and with great reluctance, he consented. From his conversation of an hour ago he knew that Glazzard would be at the Academy on the morrow. He had expressed a hope for a meeting there. At the Academy, accordingly, the test should be applied. It was all a fabrication; Northway, laying some new plot, might already know Glazzard by sight. But the latter should be put on his guard, and Mrs. Wade should then be taught that henceforth she was forbidden to concern herself with his-Quarrier's-affairs.

He went home and passed a cheerless time until the next morning. Suspicion, in spite of himself, crept into his thoughts. He was sick at heart under the necessity, perhaps life-long, of protecting Lilian's name against a danger which in itself was a sort of pollution. His sanguine energy enabled him to lose the thought, at ordinary times, of the risks to which he himself was exposed; but occasionally he reflected that public life might even yet be made impossible for him, and then he cursed the moral stupidity of people in general.

At eleven o'clock next morning he entered Burlington House. In the vestibule at the head of the stairs stood Mrs. Wade, and Northway, indistinguishable from ordinary frequenters of the exhibition, was not far off. This gentleman had a reason for what he was doing; he wished to discover who Mr. Marks really was, and what (since the political plea could no longer be credited) had been his interest in Lilian.

"He is here already," said Mrs. Wade, as she joined Denzil. "Among the sculpture-the inner room."

"Then I shall follow you at a distance. Challenge that fellow to go up to Glazzard and address him as Mr. Marks."

The widow led in the direction she had indicated, through the central hall, then to the right, Northway following close. Denzil had, of course, to take it for granted that Mrs. Wade was acting honourably; he did not doubt her good faith. If it came to a mere conflict of assertions between his friend and Northway, he knew which of them to believe. But he was much perturbed, and moved forward with a choking in his throat.

Arrived at the threshold of the Lecture Room, he saw that only some dozen people were standing about. No sooner had he surveyed them than he became aware that Northway was sauntering directly towards the place where Glazzard stood; Mrs. Wade remained in the doorway. Unperceived, the informer came close behind his confederate and spoke quietly.

Glazzard turned as if some one had struck him.

It was forcible evidence, confirmed moreover by the faces of the two men as they exchanged a few words.

Seeing Northway retire, Quarrier said to Mrs. Wade:

"Please to go away. You have done your part."

With a look of humble entreaty, she obeyed him. Denzil, already observed by Glazzard, stepped forward.

"Do you know that man?" he asked, pointing to Northway, who affected a study of some neighbouring work of art.

"I have met him," was the subdued answer.

It was necessary to speak so that attention should not be drawn hither. Though profoundly agitated, Quarrier controlled himself sufficiently to use a very low tone.

"He has told an incredible story, Glazzard. I sha'n't believe it unless it is confirmed by your own lips."

"I have no doubt he has told the truth."

Denzil drew back.

"But do you know what he has said?"

"I guess from the way he addressed me-as Mr. Marks."

Glazzard was deadly pale, but he smiled persistently, and with an expression of relief.

"You-you-betrayed us to him?"

"I did."

Each could hear the other's breathing.

"Why did you do that?" asked Denzil, the excess of his astonishment declaring itself in a tone which would have suited some every-day inquiry. He could not speak otherwise.

"I can't tell you why I did it. I'm not sure that I quite understand now. I did it, and there's no more to be said."

Denzil turned away, and stood with his eyes fixed on the ground. A minute passed, and Glazzard's voice again sounded close to him.

"Quarrier, you can't forgive me, and I don't wish you to. But may I hope that you won't let my wife know of it?"

"You are safe from me," answered Denzil, barely glancing at him, and at once walked away.

He returned to the vestibule, descended the stairs, went out into the court. There, aside from vehicles and people, he let his thoughts have their way. Presently they summed themselves in a sentence which involuntarily he spoke aloud:

"Now I understand the necessity for social law!"

THE END

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