(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

In the fall of 1891, Horace Pendyce invited several people to Worsted Skeynes, his country estate, for a hunt. Little had been changed at Worsted Skeynes since the time of Mr. Pendyce’s great-great-great-grandfather. Mr. Pendyce, as head of the house, naturally took a conservative political stand and expected each member of his family to follow suit.

Included in the party for the hunt was George Pendyce, the oldest son of Horace and Margery Pendyce, who now spent most of his time in London and who had recently become interested enough in racing to buy his own horse and have him trained for that sport. There was also Mrs. Helen Bellew, a very attractive young woman who had separated from her husband simply because they had grown tired of each other and who, it was being rumored, now encouraged the attentions of George. In the English country society of that time, separation of married couples was still frowned upon and for a lady in such a position to favor at all the attentions of a gentleman was for her to invite criticism. Unfortunately, the young couple were seen kissing passionately at a dance given by Mrs. Pendyce during the week of the hunt. The observer was the Reverend Hussell Barter, rector of the parish of Worsted Skeynes and another member of the party.

Soon after the week of the hunt, Gregory Vigil, cousin of Mrs. Pendyce and guardian of Mrs. Bellew, who was himself in love with his beautiful ward, decided that Helen’s situation was intolerable and had gone on quite long enough. After consulting Mrs. Pendyce on the matter, he approached his lawyer, Mr. Paramor, on the subject of divorce. Paramor advised against it, however, on the grounds that there must be some very tangible reason for the lady’s wanting a divorce and also because of the fact that such an act was always extremely public and painful, even for the one bringing the action. Helen Bellew was subject to certain charges, unknown to her guardian, because of her growing relationship with George Pendyce.

When Mr. Vigil decided to go on with the action, Mrs. Pendyce took up the matter with the rector without, however, suspecting in the least his strong feelings against both divorce and Mrs. Bellew. Mr. Barter objected, of course, because of what he considered an immoral act, which he himself had witnessed. In his mind, it was the husband,...

(The entire section is 960 words.)