The Cup of Fury - A Novel of Cities and Shipyards
244 Pages
English

The Cup of Fury - A Novel of Cities and Shipyards

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Published 08 December 2010
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Cup of Fury, by Rupert Hughes This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Cup of Fury A Novel of Cities and Shipyards Author: Rupert Hughes Illustrator: Henry Raleigh Release Date: October 28, 2009 [EBook #30351] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE CUP OF FURY *** Produced by Roger Frank and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net THE CUP OF FURY BOOKS BY RUPERT HUGHES THE CUP OF FURY THE UNPARDONABLE SIN WE CAN’T HAVE EVERYTHING IN A LITTLE TOWN THE THIRTEENTH COMMANDMENT CLIPPED WINGS WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY? THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER EMPTY POCKETS LONG EVER AGO HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK Established 1817 “It would be nice to be married,” Marie Louise reflected, “if one could stay single at the same time.” The CUP OF FURY A Novel of Cities and Shipyards RUPERT HUGHES Author of “WE CAN’T HAVE EVERYTHING” “THE UNPARDONABLE SIN” ETC. BY ILLUSTRATED BY HENRY RALEIGH HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON THE CUP OF FURY Copyright, 1919, by Harper & Brothers Printed in the United States of America Published May, 1919 D-T ILLUSTRATIONS “It would be nice to be married,” Marie Louise reflected, “if one could stay single at the same time.” He tried to swing her to the pommel, but she fought herself free and came to the ground and was almost trampled. “This is the life for me. I’ve been a heroine and a warworker about as long as I can.” “‘It’s beautiful overhead if you’re going that way,’” Davidge quoted. He set out briskly, but Marie Louise hung back. “Aren’t you afraid to push on when you can’t see where you’re going?” she demanded. There was something hallowed and awesome about it all. It had a cathedral majesty. How quaint a custom it is for people who know each other well and see each other in plain clothes every day to get themselves up with meticulous skill in the evening like Christmas parcels for each other’s examination. “So I have already done something more for Germany. That’s splendid. Now tell me what else I can do.” Nicky was too intoxicated with his success to see through her thin disguise. Nobody recognized the lily-like beauty of Miss Webling in the smutty-faced passer-boy crouching at Sutton’s Frontispiece Facing p. 3 75 91 166 235 270 elbow. 282 BOOK I IN LONDON He tried to swing her to the pommel, but she fought herself free and came to the ground and was almost trampled. 3 THE CUP OF FURY CHAPTER I Then the big door swung back as if of itself. Marie Louise had felt that she would scream if she were kept a moment outside. The luxury of simply wishing the gate ajar gave her a fairy-book delight enhanced by the pleasant deference of the footman, whose face seemed to be hung on the door like a Japanese mask. Marie Louise rejoiced in the dull splendor of the hall. The obsolete gorgeousness of the London home had never been in good taste, but had grown as lovable with years as do the gaudy frumperies of a rich old relative. All the good, comfortable shelter of wealth won her blessing now as never before. The stairway had something of the grand manner, too, but it condescended graciously to escort her up to her own room; and there, she knew, was a solitude where she could cry as hard as she wanted to, and therefore usually did not want to. Besides, her mood now was past crying for. She was afraid of the world, afraid of the light. She felt the cave-impulse to steal into a deep nook and cower there till her heart should be replenished with courage automatically, as ponds are fed from above. Marie Louise wanted walls about her, and stillness, and people shut out. She was in one of the moods when the soul longs to gather its faculties together in a family, making one self of all its selves. Marie Louise had known privation and homelessness and the perils they bring a young woman, and now she had riches and a father and mother who were great people in a great land, and who had adopted her into their own hearts, their lives, their name. But to-day she asked nothing more than a deep cranny in a dark cave. She would have said that no human voice or presence could be anything but a torture to her. And yet, when she hurried up the steps, she was suddenly miraculously restored to cheerfulness by the tiny explosion of a child’s laughter instantly quenched. She knew that she was about to be ambushed as usual. She must pretend to be completely surprised once more, and altogether terrified with her perfect regularity. Her soul had been so utterly surprised and terrified in the outer world that this infantile parody was curiously welcome, since nothing keeps the mind in balance on the tight-rope of sanity like the counterweight that comedy furnishes to tragedy, farce to frenzy, and puerility to solemnity. The children called her “Auntie,” but they were not hers except through the adoption of a love that had to claim some kinship. They looked like her children, though––so much so, indeed, that strangers thought that she was their young mother. But it was because she looked like their mother, who had died, that the American girl was a member of this British household, inheriting some of its wealth and much of its perilous destiny. She had been ambuscaded in the street to-day by demons not of faery, but of fact, that had leaped out at her from nowhere. It solaced her somehow to burlesque the terror that had whelmed her, and, now that she was assailed by ruthless thugs of five and seven years, the shrieks she had not dared to release in the street she gave forth with vigor, as two nightgowned tots flung themselves at her with milk-curdling cries of: “Boo-ooh!” Holding up pink fat hands for pistols, they snapped their thumbs at her and said: “Bang! Bang!” And she emitted most amusing squeals of anguish and staggered back, stammering: 4 “Oh, p-p-please, Mr. Robbobber and Miss Burgurgular, take my l-l-life but spare my m-m-money.” She had been so genuinely scared before that she marred the sacred text now, and the First Murderer, who had all the conservative instincts of childhood, had to correct her misquotation of the sacred formula: “No, no, Auntie. Say, ‘Take my money but spare my life!’ Now we dot to do it all over.” “I beg your pardon humbly,” she said, and went back to be ambushed again. This time the boy had an inspiration. To murder and robbery he would add scalping. But Marie Louise was tired. She had had enough of fright, real or feigned, and refused to be scalped. Besides, she had been to the hairdresser’s, and she explained that she really could not afford to be scalped. The boy was bitterly disappointed, and he grew furious when the untimely maid came for him and for his ruthless sister and demanded that they come to bed at once or be reported. As the warriors were dragged off to shameful captivity, Marie Louise, watching them, was suddenly shocked by the thought of how early in life humanity begins to revel in slaughter. The most innocent babes must be taught not to torture animals. Cruelty comes with them like a caul, or a habit brought in from a previous existence. They always almost murder their mothers and sometimes quite slay them when they are born. Their first pastimes are killing games, playing dead, stories of witches, cannibalistic ogres. The American Indian is the international nursery pet because of his traditional fiendishness. It seemed inconsistent, but it was historically natural that the boy interrupted in his massacre of his beloved aunt should hang back to squall that he would say his prayers only to her. Marie Louise glanced at her watch. She had barely time to dress for dinner, but the children had to be obeyed. She made one weak protest. “Fräulein hears your prayers.” “But she’s wented out.” “Well, I’ll hear them, then.” “Dot to tell us fairy-’tory, too,” said the girl. “All right, one fairy-’tory––” She went to the nursery, and the cherubs swarmed up to her lap demanding “somefin bluggy.” Invention failed her completely. She hunted through her memory among the Grimms’ fairy-tales. She could recall nothing that seemed sweet and guileless enough for these two lambs. All that she could think of seemed to be made up of ghoulish plots; of children being mistreated by harsh stepmothers; of their being turned over to peasants to slay; of their being changed into animals or birds; of their being seized by wolves, or by giants that drank blood and crunched children’s bones as if they were reed birds; of hags that cut them up into bits or thrust them into ovens and cooked them for gingerbread. It occurred to her that all the German fairy-stories 6 5 were murderously cruel. She felt a revulsion against each of the legends. But her mind could not find substitutes. After a period of that fearful ordeal when children tyrannize for romances that will not come, her mind grew mutinous and balked. She confessed her poverty of ideas. The girl, Bettina, sulked; the boy screamed: “Aw, botheration! We might as well say our prayers and go to bed.” In the least pious of moods they dropped from her knees to their own and put their clasped hands across her lap. They became in a way hallowed by their attitude, and the world seemed good to her again as she looked down at the two children, beautiful as only children can be, innocent of wile, of hardship and of crime, safe at home and praying to their heavenly Father from whose presence they had so recently come. But as she brooded over them motherly and took strength from them as mothers do, she thought of other children in other countries orphaned in swarms, starving in multitudes, waiting for food like flocks of lambs in the blizzard of the war. She thought still more vividly of children flung into the ocean. She had seen these children at her knees fighting against bitter medicines, choking on them and blurting them out at mouth and nose and almost, it seemed, at eyes. So it was very vivid to her how children thrown into the sea must have gagged with terror at the bitter medicine of death, strangled and smothered as they drowned. She heard the prayers mumbled through, but at the hasty “Amen” she protested. “You didn’t thank God for anything. Haven’t you anything to thank God for?” If they had expressed any doubt, she would have told them of dozens of special mercies, but almost instantly they answered, “Oh yes!” They looked at each other, understood, nodded, clapped their hands, and chuckled with pride. Then they bent their heads, gabled their finger-tips, and the boy said: “We t’ank Dee, O Dod, for making sink dat old Lusitania.” And the girl said, “Amen!” Marie Louise gave a start as if she had been stabbed. It was the loss of the Lusitania that had first terrified her. She had just seen it announced on the placards of newsboys in London streets, and had fled home to escape from the vision, only to hear the children thank Heaven for it! She rose so suddenly that she flung the children back from their knees to their haunches. They stared up at her in wondering fear. She stepped outside the baleful circle and went striding up and down the room, fighting herself back to self-control, telling herself that the children were not to blame, yet finding them the more repulsive for their very innocence. The purer the lips, the viler the blasphemy. She was not able to restrain herself from denouncing them with all her ferocity. She towered over them and cried out upon them: “You wicked, wicked little beasts, how dare you put such loathsome words into a prayer! God must have gasped with horror in heaven at the shame of it. Wherever did you get so hateful an idea?” “Wicked your own self!” the boy snapped back. “Fräulein read it in the paper 7 about the old boat, and she walked up and down the room like what you do, and she said, ‘Ach, unser Dott––how dood you are to us, to make sink dat Lusitania!’” He was going on to describe her ecstasy, but Marie Louise broke in: “It’s Fräulein’s work, is it? I might have known that! Oh, the fiend, the harpy!” The boy did not know what a harpy was, but he knew that his beloved Fräulein was being called something, and he struck at Marie Louise fiercely, kicked at her shins and tried to bite her hands, screaming: “You shall not call our own precious Fräulein names. Harpy, your own self!” And the little girl struck and scratched and made a curdled face and echoed, “Harpy, your own self!” It hurt Marie Louise so extravagantly to be hated by these irascible cherubs that her anger vanished in regret. She pleaded: “But, my darlings, you don’t know what you are saying. The Lusitania was a beautiful ship––” The boy, Victor, was loyal always to his own: “She wasn’t as beautiful as my yacht what I sail in the Round Pond.” Marie Louise condescended to argue: “Oh yes, she was! She was a great ship, noble like Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and she was loaded with passengers, men and women and children: and then suddenly she was ripped open and sunk, and little children like you were thrown into the water, into the deep, deep, deep ocean. And the big waves tore them from their mothers’ arms and ran off with them, choking and strangling them and dragging them down and down––forever down.” She was dizzied by the horde of visions mobbing her brain. Then the onrush of horror was checked abruptly as she saw the supercilious lad regarding her frenzy calmly. His comment was: “It served ’em jolly well right for bein’ on ’at old boat.” Marie Louise almost swooned with dread of such a soul. She shrank from the boy and groaned, “Oh, you toad, you little toad!” He was frightened a little by her disgust, and he took refuge in a higher authority. “Fräulein told us. And she knows.” The bit lassiky stormed to his support: “She does so!” and drove it home with the last nail of feminine argument: “So there now!” Marie Louise retorted, weakly: “We’ll see! We’ll soon see!” And she rushed out of the room, like another little girl, straight to the door of Sir Joseph, where she knocked impatiently. His man appeared and murmured through a crevice: “Sorry, miss, but Seh Joseph is dressing.” Marie Louise went to Lady Webling’s door, and a maid came to whisper: “She is in her teb. We’re having dinner at tome to-night, miss.” Marie Louise nodded. Dinner must be served, and on time. It was the one remaining solemnity that must not be forgotten or delayed. She went to her own room. Her maid was in a stew about the hour, and the gown that was to be put on. Marie Louise felt that black was the only wear on such a Bartholomew’s night. But Sir Joseph hated black so well that he had put a clause in his will against its appearance even at his own funeral. Marie 8 Louise loved him dearly, but she feared his prejudices. She had an abject terror of offending him, because she felt that she owed everything she had, and was, to the whim of his good grace. Gratitude was a passion with her, and it doomed her, as all passions do, good or bad, to the penalties human beings pay for every excess of virtue or vice––if, indeed, vice is anything but an immoderate, untimely virtue. 9 10 CHAPTER II Marie Louise let her maid select the gown. She was an exquisite picture as she stood before the long mirror and watched the buckling on of her armor, her armor of taffeta and velvet with the colors of sunlit leaves and noon-warmed flowers in carefully elected wrinkles assured with many a hook and eye. Her image was radiant and pliant and altogether love-worthy, but her thoughts were sad and stern. She was resolved that Fräulein should not remain in the house another night. She wondered that Sir Joseph had not ousted her from the family at the first crash of war. The old crone! She could have posed for one of the Grimms’ most vulturine witches. But she had kept a civil tongue in her head till now; the children adored her, and Sir Joseph had influence enough to save her from being interned or deported. Hitherto, Marie Louise had felt sorry for her in her dilemma of being forced to live at peace in the country her own country was locked in war with. Now she saw that the woman’s oily diplomacy was only for public use, and that all the while she was imbruing the minds of the little children with the dye of her own thoughts. The innocents naturally accepted everything she told them as the essence of truth. Marie Louise hoped to settle the affair before dinner, but by the time she was gowned and primped, the first premature guest had arrived like the rashest primrose, shy, surprised, and surprising. Sir Joseph had gone below already. Lady Webling was hull down on the stairway. Marie Louise saw that her protest must wait till after the dinner, and she followed to do her duty to the laws of hospitality. Sir Joseph liked to give these great affairs. He loved to eat and to see others eat. “The more the merrier,” was his motto––one of the most truthless of the old saws. Little dinners at Sir Joseph’s––what he called “on fameals”––would have been big dinners elsewhere. A big dinner was like a Lord Mayor’s banquet. He needed only a crier at his back and a Petronius to immortalize his gourmandise. To-night he had great folk and small fry. Nobody pretended to know the names of everybody. Sir Joseph himself leaned heavily on the man who sang out the labels of the guests, and even then his wife whispered them to him as they came forward, and for a precaution, kept slipping them into the conversation 11 as reminders. There were several Americans present: a Doctor and Mrs. Clinton Worthing who had come over with a special shipload of nurses. The ship had been fitted out by Mrs. Worthing, who had been Muriel Schuyler, daughter of the giant plutocrat, Jacob Schuyler, who was lending England millions of money weekly. A little American millionaire, Willie Enslee, living in England now on account of some scandal in his past, was there. He did not look romantic. Marie Louise had no genius for names, or faces, either. To-night she was frightened, and she made some horrible blunders, greeting the grisly Mr. Verrinder by the name of Mr. Hilary. The association was clear, for Mr. Hilary had called Mr. Verrinder atrocious names in Parliament; but it was like calling “Mr. Capulet” “Mr. Montague.” Marie Louise tried to redeem her blunder by putting on an extra effusiveness for the sake of Mr. and Mrs. Norcross. Mrs. Norcross had only recently shaken off the name of Mrs. Patchett after a resounding divorce. So Marie Louise called her new husband by the name of her old, which made it very pleasant. Her wits were so badly dispersed that she gave up the attempt to take in the name of an American whom Lady Webling passed along to her as “Mr. Davidge, of the States.” And he must have been somebody of importance, for even Sir Joseph got his name right. Marie Louise, however, disliked him cordially at once––for two reasons: first, she hated herself so much that she could not like anybody just then; next, this American was entirely too American. He was awkward and indifferent, but not at all with the easy amble and patrician unconcern of an English aristocrat. Marie Louise was American-born herself, and humbly born, at that, but she liked extreme Americanism never the more. Perhaps she was a bit of a snob, though fate was getting ready to beat the snobbery out of her. And hers was an unintentional, superficial snobbery, at worst. Some people said she was affected and that she aped the swagger dialect. But she had a habit of taking on the accent and color of her environments. She had not been in England a month before she spoke Piccadilly almost impeccably. She had caught French and German intonations with equal speed and had picked up music by ear with the same amazing facility in the days when certain kinds of music were her livelihood. In one respect her Englishness of accent was less an imitation or an affectation than a certain form of politeness and modesty. When an Englishwoman said, “Cahn’t you?” it seemed tactless to answer, “No, I cann’t.” To respond to “Good mawning” with “Good morrning” had the effect of a contradiction or a correction. She had none of the shibboleth spirit that leads certain people to die or slay for a pronunciation. The pronunciation of the people she was talking to was good enough for her. She conformed also because she hated to see people listening less to what she said than to the Yankee way she said it. This man Davidge had a superb brow and a look of success, but he bored her before he reached her. She made ready for flight to some other group. Then he startled her––by being startled as he caught sight of her. When Lady Webling transmitted him with a murmur of his name and a tender, “My daughter,” Davidge stopped short and mumbled: 12