A Poor Wise Man HTML version

Lily had not left the house since her return. During that family conclave which had
followed her arrival, a stricken thing of few words and long anxious pauses, her
grandfather had suggested that. He had been curiously mild with her, her grand
father. He had made no friendly overtures, but he had neither jibed nor sneered.
"It's done," he had said briefly. "The thing now is to keep her out of his clutches."
He had turned to her. "I wouldn't leave the house for few days, Lily."
It was then that Willy Cameron had gone. Afterwards she thought that he must
have been waiting, patiently protective, to see how the old man received her.
Her inability to reach Elinor began to dismay her, at last. There was something.
sinister about it, and finally Howard himself went to the Doyle house. Lily had
come back on Thursday, and on the following Tuesday he made his call, timing it
so that Doyle would probably be away from home. But he came back baffled.
"She was not at home," he said. "I had to take the servant's word for it, but: I
think the girl was lying."
"She may be ill. She almost never goes out."
"What possible object could they have in concealing her illness?" Howard said
But he was very uneasy, and what Lily had told him since her return only
increased his anxiety. The house was a hotbed of conspiracy, and for her own
reasons Elinor was remaining there. It was no place for a sister of his. But Elinor
for years had only touched the outer fringes of his life, and his days were
crowded with other things; the increasing arrogance of the strikers, the utter
uselessness of trying to make terms with them, his own determination to continue
to fight his futile political campaign. He put her out of his mind.
Then, at the end of another week, a curious thing happened. Anthony and Lily
were in the library. Old Anthony without a club was Old Anthony lost, and he had
developed a habit, at first rather embarrassing to the others, of spending much of
his time downstairs. He was no sinner turned saint. He still let the lash of his
tongue play over the household, but his old zest in it seemed gone. He made,
too, small tentative overtures to Lily, intended to be friendly, but actually absurdly
self-conscious. Grace, watching him, often felt him rather touching. It was
obvious to her that he blamed himself, rather than Lily, for what had happened.
On this occasion he had asked Lily to read to him.
"And leave out the politics," he had said, "I get enough of that wherever I go."