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´╗┐Title: All Roads Lead to Calvary
Author: Jerome, Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka), 1859-1927
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "All Roads Lead to Calvary" ***

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Transcribed from the 1919 Hutchinson & Co. edition by David Price, email


ALL ROADS LEAD TO CALVARY


CHAPTER I


She had not meant to stay for the service.  The door had stood invitingly
open, and a glimpse of the interior had suggested to her the idea that it
would make good copy.  "Old London Churches: Their Social and Historical
Associations."  It would be easy to collect anecdotes of the famous
people who had attended them.  She might fix up a series for one of the
religious papers.  It promised quite exceptional material, this
particular specimen, rich in tombs and monuments.  There was character
about it, a scent of bygone days.  She pictured the vanished
congregations in their powdered wigs and stiff brocades.  How picturesque
must have been the marriages that had taken place there, say in the reign
of Queen Anne or of the early Georges.  The church would have been
ancient even then.  With its air of faded grandeur, its sculptured
recesses and dark niches, the tattered banners hanging from its roof, it
must have made an admirable background.  Perhaps an historical novel in
the Thackeray vein?  She could see her heroine walking up the aisle on
the arm of her proud old soldier father.  Later on, when her journalistic
position was more established, she might think of it.  It was still quite
early.  There would be nearly half an hour before the first worshippers
would be likely to arrive: just time enough to jot down a few notes.  If
she did ever take to literature it would be the realistic school, she
felt, that would appeal to her.  The rest, too, would be pleasant after
her long walk from Westminster.  She would find a secluded seat in one of
the high, stiff pews, and let the atmosphere of the place sink into her.

And then the pew-opener had stolen up unobserved, and had taken it so for
granted that she would like to be shown round, and had seemed so pleased
and eager, that she had not the heart to repel her.  A curious little old
party with a smooth, peach-like complexion and white soft hair that the
fading twilight, stealing through the yellow glass, turned to gold.  So
that at first sight Joan took her for a child.  The voice, too, was so
absurdly childish--appealing, and yet confident.  Not until they were
crossing the aisle, where the clearer light streamed in through the open
doors, did Joan see that she was very old and feeble, with about her
figure that curious patient droop that comes to the work-worn.  She
proved to be most interesting and full of helpful information.  Mary
Stopperton was her name.  She had lived in the neighbourhood all her
life; had as a girl worked for the Leigh Hunts and had "assisted" Mrs.
Carlyle.  She had been very frightened of the great man himself, and had
always hidden herself behind doors or squeezed herself into corners and
stopped breathing whenever there had been any fear of meeting him upon
the stairs.  Until one day having darted into a cupboard to escape from
him and drawn the door to after her, it turned out to be the cupboard in
which Carlyle was used to keep his boots.  So that there was quite a
struggle between them; she holding grimly on to the door inside and
Carlyle equally determined to open it and get his boots.  It had ended in
her exposure, with trembling knees and scarlet face, and Carlyle had
addressed her as "woman," and had insisted on knowing what she was doing
there.  And after that she had lost all terror of him.  And he had even
allowed her with a grim smile to enter occasionally the sacred study with
her broom and pan.  It had evidently made a lasting impression upon her,
that privilege.

"They didn't get on very well together, Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle?" Joan
queried, scenting the opportunity of obtaining first-class evidence.

"There wasn't much difference, so far as I could see, between them and
most of us," answered the little old lady.  "You're not married, dear,"
she continued, glancing at Joan's ungloved hand, "but people must have a
deal of patience when they have to live with us for twenty-four hours a
day.  You see, little things we do and say without thinking, and little
ways we have that we do not notice ourselves, may all the time be
irritating to other people."

"What about the other people irritating us?" suggested Joan.

"Yes, dear, and of course that can happen too," agreed the little old
lady.

"Did he, Carlyle, ever come to this church?" asked Joan.

Mary Stopperton was afraid he never had, in spite of its being so near.
"And yet he was a dear good Christian--in his way," Mary Stopperton felt
sure.

"How do you mean 'in his way'?" demanded Joan.  It certainly, if Froude
was to be trusted, could not have been the orthodox way.

"Well, you see, dear," explained the little old lady, "he gave up things.
He could have ridden in his carriage"--she was quoting, it seemed, the
words of the Carlyles' old servant--"if he'd written the sort of lies
that people pay for being told, instead of throwing the truth at their
head."

"But even that would not make him a Christian," argued Joan.

"It is part of it, dear, isn't it?" insisted Mary Stopperton.  "To suffer
for one's faith.  I think Jesus must have liked him for that."

They had commenced with the narrow strip of burial ground lying between
the south side of the church and Cheyne Walk.  And there the little pew-
opener had showed her the grave of Anna, afterwards Mrs. Spragg.  "Who
long declining wedlock and aspiring above her sex fought under her
brother with arms and manly attire in a flagship against the French."  As
also of Mary Astell, her contemporary, who had written a spirited "Essay
in Defence of the Fair Sex."  So there had been a Suffrage Movement as
far back as in the days of Pope and Swift.

Returning to the interior, Joan had duly admired the Cheyne monument, but
had been unable to disguise her amusement before the tomb of Mrs.
Colvile, whom the sculptor had represented as a somewhat impatient lady,
refusing to await the day of resurrection, but pushing through her coffin
and starting for Heaven in her grave-clothes.  Pausing in front of the
Dacre monument, Joan wondered if the actor of that name, who had
committed suicide in Australia, and whose London address she remembered
had been Dacre House just round the corner, was descended from the
family; thinking that, if so, it would give an up-to-date touch to the
article.  She had fully decided now to write it.  But Mary Stopperton
could not inform her.  They had ended up in the chapel of Sir Thomas
More.  He, too, had "given up things," including his head.  Though Mary
Stopperton, siding with Father Morris, was convinced he had now got it
back, and that with the remainder of his bones it rested in the tomb
before them.

There, the little pew-opener had left her, having to show the
early-comers to their seats; and Joan had found an out-of-the-way pew
from where she could command a view of the whole church.  They were
chiefly poor folk, the congregation; with here and there a sprinkling of
faded gentility.  They seemed in keeping with the place.  The twilight
faded and a snuffy old man shuffled round and lit the gas.

It was all so sweet and restful.  Religion had never appealed to her
before.  The business-like service in the bare cold chapel where she had
sat swinging her feet and yawning as a child had only repelled her.  She
could recall her father, aloof and awe-inspiring in his Sunday black,
passing round the bag.  Her mother, always veiled, sitting beside her, a
thin, tall woman with passionate eyes and ever restless hands; the women
mostly overdressed, and the sleek, prosperous men trying to look meek.  At
school and at Girton, chapel, which she had attended no oftener than she
was obliged, had had about it the same atmosphere of chill compulsion.
But here was poetry.  She wondered if, after all, religion might not have
its place in the world--in company with the other arts.  It would be a
pity for it to die out.  There seemed nothing to take its place.  All
these lovely cathedrals, these dear little old churches, that for
centuries had been the focus of men's thoughts and aspirations.  The
harbour lights, illumining the troubled waters of their lives.  What
could be done with them?  They could hardly be maintained out of the
public funds as mere mementoes of the past.  Besides, there were too many
of them.  The tax-payer would naturally grumble.  As Town Halls, Assembly
Rooms?  The idea was unthinkable.  It would be like a performance of
Barnum's Circus in the Coliseum at Rome.  Yes, they would disappear.
Though not, she was glad to think, in her time.  In towns, the space
would be required for other buildings.  Here and there some gradually
decaying specimen would be allowed to survive, taking its place with the
feudal castles and walled cities of the Continent: the joy of the
American tourist, the text-book of the antiquary.  A pity!  Yes, but then
from the aesthetic point of view it was a pity that the groves of ancient
Greece had ever been cut down and replanted with currant bushes, their
altars scattered; that the stones of the temples of Isis should have come
to be the shelter of the fisher of the Nile; and the corn wave in the
wind above the buried shrines of Mexico.  All these dead truths that from
time to time had encumbered the living world.  Each in its turn had had
to be cleared away.

And yet was it altogether a dead truth: this passionate belief in a
personal God who had ordered all things for the best: who could be
appealed to for comfort, for help?  Might it not be as good an
explanation as any other of the mystery surrounding us?  It had been so
universal.  She was not sure where, but somewhere she had come across an
analogy that had strongly impressed her.  "The fact that a man feels
thirsty--though at the time he may be wandering through the Desert of
Sahara--proves that somewhere in the world there is water."  Might not
the success of Christianity in responding to human needs be evidence in
its favour?  The Love of God, the Fellowship of the Holy Ghost, the Grace
of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Were not all human needs provided for in that
one comprehensive promise: the desperate need of man to be convinced that
behind all the seeming muddle was a loving hand guiding towards good; the
need of the soul in its loneliness for fellowship, for strengthening; the
need of man in his weakness for the kindly grace of human sympathy, of
human example.

And then, as fate would have it, the first lesson happened to be the
story of Jonah and the whale.  Half a dozen shocked faces turned suddenly
towards her told Joan that at some point in the thrilling history she
must unconsciously have laughed.  Fortunately she was alone in the pew,
and feeling herself scarlet, squeezed herself into its farthest corner
and drew down her veil.

No, it would have to go.  A religion that solemnly demanded of grown men
and women in the twentieth century that they should sit and listen with
reverential awe to a prehistoric edition of "Grimm's Fairy Stories,"
including Noah and his ark, the adventures of Samson and Delilah, the
conversations between Balaam and his ass, and culminating in what if it
were not so appallingly wicked an idea would be the most comical of them
all: the conception of an elaborately organized Hell, into which the God
of the Christians plunged his creatures for all eternity!  Of what use
was such a religion as that going to be to the world of the future?

She must have knelt and stood mechanically, for the service was ended.
The pulpit was occupied by an elderly uninteresting-looking man with a
troublesome cough.  But one sentence he had let fall had gripped her
attention.  For a moment she could not remember it, and then it came to
her: "All Roads lead to Calvary."  It struck her as rather good.  Perhaps
he was going to be worth listening to.  "To all of us, sooner or later,"
he was saying, "comes a choosing of two ways: either the road leading to
success, the gratification of desires, the honour and approval of our
fellow-men--or the path to Calvary."

And then he had wandered off into a maze of detail.  The tradesman,
dreaming perhaps of becoming a Whiteley, having to choose whether to go
forward or remain for all time in the little shop.  The statesman--should
he abide by the faith that is in him and suffer loss of popularity, or
renounce his God and enter the Cabinet?  The artist, the writer, the mere
labourer--there were too many of them.  A few well-chosen examples would
have sufficed.  And then that irritating cough!

And yet every now and then he would be arresting.  In his prime, Joan
felt, he must have been a great preacher.  Even now, decrepit and wheezy,
he was capable of flashes of magnetism, of eloquence.  The passage where
he pictured the Garden of Gethsemane.  The fair Jerusalem, only hidden
from us by the shadows.  So easy to return to.  Its soft lights shining
through the trees, beckoning to us; its mingled voices stealing to us
through the silence, whispering to us of its well-remembered ways, its
pleasant places, its open doorways, friends and loved ones waiting for
us.  And above, the rock-strewn Calvary: and crowning its summit, clear
against the starlit sky, the cold, dark cross.  "Not perhaps to us the
bleeding hands and feet, but to all the bitter tears.  Our Calvary may be
a very little hill compared with the mountains where Prometheus suffered,
but to us it is steep and lonely."

There he should have stopped.  It would have been a good note on which to
finish.  But it seemed there was another point he wished to make.  Even
to the sinner Calvary calls.  To Judas--even to him the gates of the life-
giving Garden of Gethsemane had not been closed.  "With his thirty pieces
of silver he could have stolen away.  In some distant crowded city of the
Roman Empire have lived unknown, forgotten.  Life still had its
pleasures, its rewards.  To him also had been given the choice.  The
thirty pieces of silver that had meant so much to him!  He flings them at
the feet of his tempters.  They would not take them back.  He rushes out
and hangs himself.  Shame and death.  With his own hands he will build
his own cross, none to help him.  He, too--even Judas, climbs his
Calvary.  Enters into the fellowship of those who through all ages have
trod its stony pathway."

Joan waited till the last of the congregation had disappeared, and then
joined the little pew-opener who was waiting to close the doors.  Joan
asked her what she had thought of the sermon, but Mary Stopperton, being
a little deaf, had not heard it.

"It was quite good--the matter of it," Joan told her.  "All Roads lead to
Calvary.  The idea is that there comes a time to all of us when we have
to choose.  Whether, like your friend Carlyle, we will 'give up things'
for our faith's sake.  Or go for the carriage and pair."

Mary Stopperton laughed.  "He is quite right, dear," she said.  "It does
seem to come, and it is so hard.  You have to pray and pray and pray.  And
even then we cannot always do it."  She touched with her little withered
fingers Joan's fine white hand.  "But you are so strong and brave," she
continued, with another little laugh.  "It won't be so difficult for
you."

It was not until well on her way home that Joan, recalling the
conversation, found herself smiling at Mary Stopperton's literal
acceptation of the argument.  At the time, she remembered, the shadow of
a fear had passed over her.

Mary Stopperton did not know the name of the preacher.  It was quite
common for chance substitutes to officiate there, especially in the
evening.  Joan had insisted on her acceptance of a shilling, and had made
a note of her address, feeling instinctively that the little old woman
would "come in useful" from a journalistic point of view.

Shaking hands with her, she had turned eastward, intending to walk to
Sloane Square and there take the bus.  At the corner of Oakley Street she
overtook him.  He was evidently a stranger to the neighbourhood, and was
peering up through his glasses to see the name of the street; and Joan
caught sight of his face beneath a gas lamp.

And suddenly it came to her that it was a face she knew.  In the dim-lit
church she had not seen him clearly.  He was still peering upward.  Joan
stole another glance.  Yes, she had met him somewhere.  He was very
changed, quite different, but she was sure of it.  It was a long time
ago.  She must have been quite a child.



CHAPTER II


One of Joan's earliest recollections was the picture of herself standing
before the high cheval glass in her mother's dressing-room.  Her clothes
lay scattered far and wide, falling where she had flung them; not a shred
of any kind of covering was left to her.  She must have been very small,
for she could remember looking up and seeing high above her head the two
brass knobs by which the glass was fastened to its frame.  Suddenly, out
of the upper portion of the glass, there looked a scared red face.  It
hovered there a moment, and over it in swift succession there passed the
expressions, first of petrified amazement, secondly of shocked
indignation, and thirdly of righteous wrath.  And then it swooped down
upon her, and the image in the glass became a confusion of small naked
arms and legs mingled with green cotton gloves and purple bonnet strings.

"You young imp of Satan!" demanded Mrs. Munday--her feelings of outraged
virtue exaggerating perhaps her real sentiments.  "What are you doing?"

"Go away.  I'se looking at myself," had explained Joan, struggling
furiously to regain the glass.

"But where are your clothes?" was Mrs. Munday's wonder.

"I'se tooked them off," explained Joan.  A piece of information that
really, all things considered, seemed unnecessary.

"But can't you see yourself, you wicked child, without stripping yourself
as naked as you were born?"

"No," maintained Joan stoutly.  "I hate clothes."  As a matter of fact
she didn't, even in those early days.  On the contrary, one of her
favourite amusements was "dressing up."  This sudden overmastering desire
to arrive at the truth about herself had been a new conceit.

"I wanted to see myself.  Clothes ain't me," was all she would or could
vouchsafe; and Mrs. Munday had shook her head, and had freely confessed
that there were things beyond her and that Joan was one of them; and had
succeeded, partly by force, partly by persuasion, in restoring to Joan
once more the semblance of a Christian child.

It was Mrs. Munday, poor soul, who all unconsciously had planted the
seeds of disbelief in Joan's mind.  Mrs. Munday's God, from Joan's point
of view, was a most objectionable personage.  He talked a lot--or rather
Mrs. Munday talked for Him--about His love for little children.  But it
seemed He only loved them when they were good.  Joan was under no
delusions about herself.  If those were His terms, well, then, so far as
she could see, He wasn't going to be of much use to her.  Besides, if He
hated naughty children, why did He make them naughty?  At a moderate
estimate quite half Joan's wickedness, so it seemed to Joan, came to her
unbidden.  Take for example that self-examination before the cheval
glass.  The idea had come into her mind.  It had never occurred to her
that it was wicked.  If, as Mrs. Munday explained, it was the Devil that
had whispered it to her, then what did God mean by allowing the Devil to
go about persuading little girls to do indecent things?  God could do
everything.  Why didn't He smash the Devil?  It seemed to Joan a mean
trick, look at it how you would.  Fancy leaving a little girl to fight
the Devil all by herself.  And then get angry because the Devil won!  Joan
came to cordially dislike Mrs. Munday's God.

Looking back it was easy enough to smile, but the agony of many nights
when she had lain awake for hours battling with her childish terrors had
left a burning sense of anger in Joan's heart.  Poor mazed, bewildered
Mrs. Munday, preaching the eternal damnation of the wicked--who had loved
her, who had only thought to do her duty, the blame was not hers.  But
that a religion capable of inflicting such suffering upon the innocent
should still be preached; maintained by the State!  That its educated
followers no longer believed in a physical Hell, that its more advanced
clergy had entered into a conspiracy of silence on the subject was no
answer.  The great mass of the people were not educated.  Official
Christendom in every country still preached the everlasting torture of
the majority of the human race as a well thought out part of the
Creator's scheme.  No leader had been bold enough to come forward and
denounce it as an insult to his God.  As one grew older, kindly mother
Nature, ever seeking to ease the self-inflicted burdens of her foolish
brood, gave one forgetfulness, insensibility.  The condemned criminal
puts the thought of the gallows away from him as long as may be: eats,
and sleeps and even jokes.  Man's soul grows pachydermoid.  But the
children!  Their sensitive brains exposed to every cruel breath.  No
philosophic doubt permitted to them.  No learned disputation on the
relationship between the literal and the allegorical for the easing of
their frenzied fears.  How many million tiny white-faced figures
scattered over Christian Europe and America, stared out each night into a
vision of black horror; how many million tiny hands clutched wildly at
the bedclothes.  The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children,
if they had done their duty, would have prosecuted before now the
Archbishop of Canterbury.

Of course she would go to Hell.  As a special kindness some generous
relative had, on Joan's seventh birthday, given her an edition of Dante's
"Inferno," with illustrations by Dore.  From it she was able to form some
notion of what her eternity was likely to be.  And God all the while up
in His Heaven, surrounded by that glorious band of praise-trumpeting
angels, watching her out of the corner of His eye.  Her courage saved her
from despair.  Defiance came to her aid.  Let Him send her to Hell!  She
was not going to pray to Him and make up to Him.  He was a wicked God.
Yes, He was: a cruel, wicked God.  And one night she told Him so to His
face.

It had been a pretty crowded day, even for so busy a sinner as little
Joan.  It was springtime, and they had gone into the country for her
mother's health.  Maybe it was the season: a stirring of the human sap,
conducing to that feeling of being "too big for one's boots," as the
saying is.  A dangerous period of the year.  Indeed, on the principle
that prevention is better than cure, Mrs. Munday had made it a custom
during April and May to administer to Joan a cooling mixture; but on this
occasion had unfortunately come away without it.  Joan, dressed for use
rather than show, and without either shoes or stockings, had stolen
stealthily downstairs: something seemed to be calling to her.
Silently--"like a thief in the night," to adopt Mrs. Munday's
metaphor--had slipped the heavy bolts; had joined the thousand creatures
of the wood--had danced and leapt and shouted; had behaved, in short,
more as if she had been a Pagan nymph than a happy English child.  She
had regained the house unnoticed, as she thought, the Devil, no doubt,
assisting her; and had hidden her wet clothes in the bottom of a mighty
chest.  Deceitfulness in her heart, she had greeted Mrs. Munday in sleepy
tones from beneath the sheets; and before breakfast, assailed by
suspicious questions, had told a deliberate lie.  Later in the morning,
during an argument with an active young pig who was willing enough to
play at Red Riding Hood so far as eating things out of a basket was
concerned, but who would not wear a night-cap, she had used a wicked
word.  In the afternoon she "might have killed" the farmer's only son and
heir.  They had had a row.  In one of those sad lapses from the higher
Christian standards into which Satan was always egging her, she had
pushed him; and he had tumbled head over heels into the horse-pond.  The
reason, that instead of lying there and drowning he had got up and walked
back to the house howling fit to wake the Seven Sleepers, was that God,
watching over little children, had arranged for the incident taking place
on that side of the pond where it was shallow.  Had the scrimmage
occurred on the opposite bank, beneath which the water was much deeper,
Joan in all probability would have had murder on her soul.  It seemed to
Joan that if God, all-powerful and all-foreseeing, had been so careful in
selecting the site, He might with equal ease have prevented the row from
ever taking place.  Why couldn't the little beast have been guided back
from school through the orchard, much the shorter way, instead of being
brought round by the yard, so as to come upon her at a moment when she
was feeling a bit short-tempered, to put it mildly?  And why had God
allowed him to call her "Carrots"?  That Joan should have "put it" this
way, instead of going down on her knees and thanking the Lord for having
saved her from a crime, was proof of her inborn evil disposition.  In the
evening was reached the culminating point.  Just before going to bed she
had murdered old George the cowman.  For all practical purposes she might
just as well have been successful in drowning William Augustus earlier in
the day.  It seemed to be one of those things that had to be.  Mr.
Hornflower still lived, it was true, but that was not Joan's fault.  Joan,
standing in white night-gown beside her bed, everything around her
breathing of innocence and virtue: the spotless bedclothes, the chintz
curtains, the white hyacinths upon the window-ledge, Joan's Bible, a
present from Aunt Susan; her prayer-book, handsomely bound in calf, a
present from Grandpapa, upon their little table; Mrs. Munday in evening
black and cameo brooch (pale red with tomb and weeping willow in white
relief) sacred to the memory of the departed Mr. Munday--Joan standing
there erect, with pale, passionate face, defying all these aids to
righteousness, had deliberately wished Mr. Hornflower dead.  Old George
Hornflower it was who, unseen by her, had passed her that morning in the
wood.  Grumpy old George it was who had overheard the wicked word with
which she had cursed the pig; who had met William Augustus on his
emergence from the pond.  To Mr. George Hornflower, the humble instrument
in the hands of Providence, helping her towards possible salvation, she
ought to have been grateful.  And instead of that she had flung into the
agonized face of Mrs. Munday these awful words:

"I wish he was dead!"

"He who in his heart--" there was verse and chapter for it.  Joan was a
murderess.  Just as well, so far as Joan was concerned, might she have
taken a carving-knife and stabbed Deacon Hornflower to the heart.

Joan's prayers that night, to the accompaniment of Mrs. Munday's sobs,
had a hopeless air of unreality about them.  Mrs. Munday's kiss was cold.

How long Joan lay and tossed upon her little bed she could not tell.
Somewhere about the middle of the night, or so it seemed to her, the
frenzy seized her.  Flinging the bedclothes away she rose to her feet.  It
is difficult to stand upon a spring mattress, but Joan kept her balance.
Of course He was there in the room with her.  God was everywhere, spying
upon her.  She could distinctly hear His measured breathing.  Face to
face with Him, she told Him what she thought of Him.  She told Him He was
a cruel, wicked God.

There are no Victoria Crosses for sinners, or surely little Joan that
night would have earned it.  It was not lack of imagination that helped
her courage.  God and she alone, in the darkness.  He with all the forces
of the Universe behind Him.  He armed with His eternal pains and
penalties, and eight-year-old Joan: the creature that He had made in His
Own Image that He could torture and destroy.  Hell yawned beneath her,
but it had to be said.  Somebody ought to tell Him.

"You are a wicked God," Joan told Him.  "Yes, You are.  A cruel, wicked
God."

And then that she might not see the walls of the room open before her,
hear the wild laughter of the thousand devils that were coming to bear
her off, she threw herself down, her face hidden in the pillow, and
clenched her hands and waited.

And suddenly there burst a song.  It was like nothing Joan had ever heard
before.  So clear and loud and near that all the night seemed filled with
harmony.  It sank into a tender yearning cry throbbing with passionate
desire, and then it rose again in thrilling ecstasy: a song of hope, of
victory.

Joan, trembling, stole from her bed and drew aside the blind.  There was
nothing to be seen but the stars and the dim shape of the hills.  But
still that song, filling the air with its wild, triumphant melody.

Years afterwards, listening to the overture to _Tannhauser_, there came
back to her the memory of that night.  Ever through the mad Satanic
discords she could hear, now faint, now conquering, the Pilgrims' onward
march.  So through the jangled discords of the world one heard the Song
of Life.  Through the dim aeons of man's savage infancy; through the
centuries of bloodshed and of horror; through the dark ages of tyranny
and superstition; through wrong, through cruelty, through hate; heedless
of doom, heedless of death, still the nightingale's song: "I love you.  I
love you.  I love you.  We will build a nest.  We will rear our brood.  I
love you.  I love you.  Life shall not die."

Joan crept back into bed.  A new wonder had come to her.  And from that
night Joan's belief in Mrs. Munday's God began to fade, circumstances
helping.

Firstly there was the great event of going to school.  She was glad to
get away from home, a massive, stiffly furnished house in a wealthy
suburb of Liverpool.  Her mother, since she could remember, had been an
invalid, rarely leaving her bedroom till the afternoon.  Her father, the
owner of large engineering works, she only saw, as a rule, at
dinner-time, when she would come down to dessert.  It had been different
when she was very young, before her mother had been taken ill.  Then she
had been more with them both.  She had dim recollections of her father
playing with her, pretending to be a bear and growling at her from behind
the sofa.  And then he would seize and hug her and they would both laugh,
while he tossed her into the air and caught her.  He had looked so big
and handsome.  All through her childhood there had been the desire to
recreate those days, to spring into the air and catch her arms about his
neck.  She could have loved him dearly if he had only let her.  Once,
seeking explanation, she had opened her heart a little to Mrs. Munday.  It
was disappointment, Mrs. Munday thought, that she had not been a boy; and
with that Joan had to content herself.  Maybe also her mother's illness
had helped to sadden him.  Or perhaps it was mere temperament, as she
argued to herself later, for which they were both responsible.  Those
little tricks of coaxing, of tenderness, of wilfulness, by means of which
other girls wriggled their way so successfully into a warm nest of cosy
affection: she had never been able to employ them.  Beneath her
self-confidence was a shyness, an immovable reserve that had always
prevented her from expressing her emotions.  She had inherited it,
doubtless enough, from him.  Perhaps one day, between them, they would
break down the barrier, the strength of which seemed to lie in its very
flimsiness, its impalpability.

And then during college vacations, returning home with growing notions
and views of her own, she had found herself so often in antagonism with
him.  His fierce puritanism, so opposed to all her enthusiasms.  Arguing
with him, she might almost have been listening to one of his Cromwellian
ancestors risen from the dead.  There had been disputes between him and
his work-people, and Joan had taken the side of the men.  He had not been
angry with her, but coldly contemptuous.  And yet, in spite of it all, if
he had only made a sign!  She wanted to fling herself crying into his
arms and shake him--make him listen to her wisdom, sitting on his knee
with her hands clasped round his neck.  He was not really intolerant and
stupid.  That had been proved by his letting her go to a Church of
England school.  Her mother had expressed no wish.  It was he who had
selected it.

Of her mother she had always stood somewhat in fear, never knowing when
the mood of passionate affection would give place to a chill aversion
that seemed almost like hate.  Perhaps it had been good for her, so she
told herself in after years, her lonely, unguided childhood.  It had
forced her to think and act for herself.  At school she reaped the
benefit.  Self-reliant, confident, original, leadership was granted to
her as a natural prerogative.  Nature had helped her.  Nowhere does a
young girl rule more supremely by reason of her beauty than among her
fellows.  Joan soon grew accustomed to having her boots put on and taken
off for her; all her needs of service anticipated by eager slaves,
contending with one another for the privilege.  By giving a command, by
bestowing a few moments of her conversation, it was within her power to
make some small adoring girl absurdly happy for the rest of the day;
while her displeasure would result in tears, in fawning pleadings for
forgiveness.  The homage did not spoil her.  Rather it helped to develop
her.  She accepted it from the beginning as in the order of things.  Power
had been given to her.  It was her duty to see to it that she did not use
it capriciously, for her own gratification.  No conscientious youthful
queen could have been more careful in the distribution of her
favours--that they should be for the encouragement of the deserving, the
reward of virtue; more sparing of her frowns, reserving them for the
rectification of error.

At Girton it was more by force of will, of brain, that she had to make
her position.  There was more competition.  Joan welcomed it, as giving
more zest to life.  But even there her beauty was by no means a
negligible quantity.  Clever, brilliant young women, accustomed to sweep
aside all opposition with a blaze of rhetoric, found themselves to their
irritation sitting in front of her silent, not so much listening to her
as looking at her.  It puzzled them for a time.  Because a girl's
features are classical and her colouring attractive, surely that has
nothing to do with the value of her political views?  Until one of them
discovered by chance that it has.

"Well, what does Beauty think about it?" this one had asked, laughing.
She had arrived at the end of a discussion just as Joan was leaving the
room.  And then she gave a long low whistle, feeling that she had
stumbled upon the explanation.  Beauty, that mysterious force that from
the date of creation has ruled the world, what does It think?  Dumb,
passive, as a rule, exercising its influence unconsciously.  But if it
should become intelligent, active!  A Philosopher has dreamed of the vast
influence that could be exercised by a dozen sincere men acting in unity.
Suppose a dozen of the most beautiful women in the world could form
themselves into a league!  Joan found them late in the evening still
discussing it.

Her mother died suddenly during her last term, and Joan hurried back to
attend the funeral.  Her father was out when she reached home.  Joan
changed her travel-dusty clothes, and then went into the room where her
mother lay, and closed the door.  She must have been a beautiful woman.
Now that the fret and the restlessness had left her it had come back to
her.  The passionate eyes were closed.  Joan kissed the marble lids, and
drawing a chair to the bedside, sat down.  It grieved her that she had
never loved her mother--not as one ought to love one's mother,
unquestioningly, unreasoningly, as a natural instinct.  For a moment a
strange thought came to her, and swiftly, almost guiltily, she stole
across, and drawing back a corner of the blind, examined closely her own
features in the glass, comparing them with the face of the dead woman,
thus called upon to be a silent witness for or against the living.  Joan
drew a sigh of relief and let fall the blind.  There could be no
misreading the evidence.  Death had smoothed away the lines, given back
youth.  It was almost uncanny, the likeness between them.  It might have
been her drowned sister lying there.  And they had never known one
another.  Had this also been temperament again, keeping them apart?  Why
did it imprison us each one as in a moving cell, so that we never could
stretch out our arms to one another, except when at rare intervals Love
or Death would unlock for a while the key?  Impossible that two beings
should have been so alike in feature without being more or less alike in
thought and feeling.  Whose fault had it been?  Surely her own; she was
so hideously calculating.  Even Mrs. Munday, because the old lady had
been fond of her and had shown it, had been of more service to her, more
a companion, had been nearer to her than her own mother.  In self-excuse
she recalled the two or three occasions when she had tried to win her
mother.  But fate seemed to have decreed that their moods should never
correspond.  Her mother's sudden fierce outbursts of love, when she would
be jealous, exacting, almost cruel, had frightened her when she was a
child, and later on had bored her.  Other daughters would have shown
patience, unselfishness, but she had always been so self-centred.  Why
had she never fallen in love like other girls?  There had been a boy at
Brighton when she was at school there--quite a nice boy, who had written
her wildly extravagant love-letters.  It must have cost him half his
pocket-money to get them smuggled in to her.  Why had she only been
amused at them?  They might have been beautiful if only one had read them
with sympathy.  One day he had caught her alone on the Downs.  Evidently
he had made it his business to hang about every day waiting for some such
chance.  He had gone down on his knees and kissed her feet, and had been
so abject, so pitiful that she had given him some flowers she was
wearing.  And he had sworn to dedicate the rest of his life to being
worthy of her condescension.  Poor lad!  She wondered--for the first time
since that afternoon--what had become of him.  There had been others; a
third cousin who still wrote to her from Egypt, sending her presents that
perhaps he could ill afford, and whom she answered about once a year.  And
promising young men she had met at Cambridge, ready, the felt
instinctively, to fall down and worship her.  And all the use she had had
for them was to convert them to her views--a task so easy as to be quite
uninteresting--with a vague idea that they might come in handy in the
future, when she might need help in shaping that world of the future.

Only once had she ever thought of marriage.  And that was in favour of a
middle-aged, rheumatic widower with three children, a professor of
chemistry, very learned and justly famous.  For about a month she had
thought herself in love.  She pictured herself devoting her life to him,
rubbing his poor left shoulder where it seemed he suffered most, and
brushing his picturesque hair, inclined to grey.  Fortunately his eldest
daughter was a young woman of resource, or the poor gentleman, naturally
carried off his feet by this adoration of youth and beauty, might have
made an ass of himself.  But apart from this one episode she had reached
the age of twenty-three heart-whole.

She rose and replaced the chair.  And suddenly a wave of pity passed over
her for the dead woman, who had always seemed so lonely in the great
stiffly-furnished house, and the tears came.

She was glad she had been able to cry.  She had always hated herself for
her lack of tears; it was so unwomanly.  Even as a child she had rarely
cried.

Her father had always been very tender, very patient towards her mother,
but she had not expected to find him so changed.  He had aged and his
shoulders drooped.  She had been afraid that he would want her to stay
with him and take charge of the house.  It had worried her considerably.
It would be so difficult to refuse, and yet she would have to.  But when
he never broached the subject she was hurt.  He had questioned her about
her plans the day after the funeral, and had seemed only anxious to
assist them.  She proposed continuing at Cambridge till the end of the
term.  She had taken her degree the year before.  After that, she would
go to London and commence her work.

"Let me know what allowance you would like me to make you, when you have
thought it out.  Things are not what they were at the works, but there
will always be enough to keep you in comfort," he had told her.  She had
fixed it there and then at two hundred a year.  She would not take more,
and that only until she was in a position to keep herself.

"I want to prove to myself," she explained, "that I am capable of earning
my own living.  I am going down into the market-place.  If I'm no good,
if I can't take care of even one poor woman, I'll come back and ask you
to keep me."  She was sitting on the arm of his chair, and laughing, she
drew his head towards her and pressed it against her.  "If I succeed, if
I am strong enough to fight the world for myself and win, that will mean
I am strong enough and clever enough to help others."

"I am only at the end of a journey when you need me," he had answered,
and they had kissed.  And next morning she returned to her own life.



CHAPTER III


It was at Madge Singleton's rooms that the details of Joan's entry into
journalistic London were arranged.  "The Coming of Beauty," was Flora
Lessing's phrase for designating the event.  Flora Lessing, known among
her associates as "Flossie," was the girl who at Cambridge had
accidentally stumbled upon the explanation of Joan's influence.  In
appearance she was of the Fluffy Ruffles type, with childish innocent
eyes, and the "unruly curls" beloved of the _Family Herald_ novelist.  At
the first, these latter had been the result of a habit of late rising and
consequent hurried toilet operations; but on the discovery that for the
purposes of her profession they possessed a market value they had been
sedulously cultivated.  Editors of the old order had ridiculed the idea
of her being of any use to them, when two years previously she had, by
combination of cheek and patience, forced herself into their sanctum; had
patted her paternally upon her generally ungloved hand, and told her to
go back home and get some honest, worthy young man to love and cherish
her.

It was Carleton of the _Daily Dispatch_ group who had first divined her
possibilities.  With a swift glance on his way through, he had picked her
out from a line of depressed-looking men and women ranged against the
wall of the dark entrance passage; and with a snap of his fingers had
beckoned to her to follow him.  Striding in front of her up to his room,
he had pointed to a chair and had left her sitting there for
three-quarters of an hour, while he held discussion with a stream of
subordinates, managers and editors of departments, who entered and
departed one after another, evidently in pre-arranged order.  All of them
spoke rapidly, without ever digressing by a single word from the point,
giving her the impression of their speeches having been rehearsed
beforehand.

Carleton himself never interrupted them.  Indeed, one might have thought
he was not listening, so engrossed he appeared to be in the pile of
letters and telegrams that lay waiting for him on his desk.  When they
had finished he would ask them questions, still with his attention fixed
apparently upon the paper in his hand.  Then, looking up for the first
time, he would run off curt instructions, much in the tone of a Commander-
in-Chief giving orders for an immediate assault; and, finishing abruptly,
return to his correspondence.  When the last, as it transpired, had
closed the door behind him, he swung his chair round and faced her.

"What have you been doing?" he asked her.

"Wasting my time and money hanging about newspaper offices, listening to
silly talk from old fossils," she told him.

"And having learned that respectable journalism has no use for brains,
you come to me," he answered her.  "What do you think you can do?"

"Anything that can be done with a pen and ink," she told him.

"Interviewing?" he suggested.

"I've always been considered good at asking awkward questions," she
assured him.

He glanced at the clock.  "I'll give you five minutes," he said.
"Interview me."

She moved to a chair beside the desk, and, opening her bag, took out a
writing-block.

"What are your principles?" she asked him.  "Have you got any?"

He looked at her sharply across the corner of the desk.

"I mean," she continued, "to what fundamental rule of conduct do you
attribute your success?"

She leant forward, fixing her eyes on him.  "Don't tell me," she
persisted, "that you had none.  That life is all just mere blind chance.
Think of the young men who are hanging on your answer.  Won't you send
them a message?"

"Yes," he answered musingly.  "It's your baby face that does the trick.
In the ordinary way I should have known you were pulling my leg, and have
shown you the door.  As it was, I felt half inclined for the moment to
reply with some damned silly platitude that would have set all Fleet
Street laughing at me.  Why do my 'principles' interest you?"

"As a matter of fact they don't," she explained.  "But it's what people
talk about whenever they discuss you."

"What do they say?" he demanded.

"Your friends, that you never had any.  And your enemies, that they are
always the latest," she informed him.

"You'll do," he answered with a laugh.  "With nine men out of ten that
speech would have ended your chances.  You sized me up at a glance, and
knew it would only interest me.  And your instinct is right," he added.
"What people are saying: always go straight for that."

He gave her a commission then and there for a heart to heart talk with a
gentleman whom the editor of the Home News Department of the _Daily
Dispatch_ would have referred to as a "Leading Literary Luminary," and
who had just invented a new world in two volumes.  She had asked him
childish questions and had listened with wide-open eyes while he, sitting
over against her, and smiling benevolently, had laid bare to her all the
seeming intricacies of creation, and had explained to her in simple
language the necessary alterations and improvements he was hoping to
bring about in human nature.  He had the sensation that his hair must be
standing on end the next morning after having read in cold print what he
had said.  Expanding oneself before the admiring gaze of innocent
simplicity and addressing the easily amused ear of an unsympathetic
public are not the same thing.  He ought to have thought of that.

It consoled him, later, that he was not the only victim.  The _Daily
Dispatch_ became famous for its piquant interviews; especially with
elderly celebrities of the masculine gender.

"It's dirty work," Flossie confided one day to Madge Singleton.  "I trade
on my silly face.  Don't see that I'm much different to any of these poor
devils."  They were walking home in the evening from a theatre.  "If I
hadn't been stony broke I'd never have taken it up.  I shall get out of
it as soon as I can afford to."

"I should make it a bit sooner than that," suggested the elder woman.
"One can't always stop oneself just where one wants to when sliding down
a slope.  It has a knack of getting steeper and steeper as one goes on."

Madge had asked Joan to come a little earlier so that they could have a
chat together before the others arrived.

"I've only asked a few," she explained, as she led Joan into the restful
white-panelled sitting-room that looked out upon the gardens.  Madge
shared a set of chambers in Gray's Inn with her brother who was an actor.
"But I have chosen them with care."

Joan murmured her thanks.

"I haven't asked any men," she added, as she fixed Joan in an easy chair
before the fire.  "I was afraid of its introducing the wrong element."

"Tell me," asked Joan, "am I likely to meet with much of that sort of
thing?"

"Oh, about as much as there always is wherever men and women work
together," answered Madge.  "It's a nuisance, but it has to be faced."

"Nature appears to have only one idea in her head," she continued after a
pause, "so far as we men and women are concerned.  She's been kinder to
the lower animals."

"Man has more interests," Joan argued, "a thousand other allurements to
distract him; we must cultivate his finer instincts."

"It doesn't seem to answer," grumbled Madge.  "One is always told it is
the artist--the brain worker, the very men who have these fine instincts,
who are the most sexual."

She made a little impatient movement with her hands that was
characteristic of her.  "Personally, I like men," she went on.  "It is so
splendid the way they enjoy life: just like a dog does, whether it's wet
or fine.  We are always blinking up at the clouds and worrying about our
hat.  It would be so nice to be able to have friendship with them.

"I don't mean that it's all their fault," she continued.  "We do all we
can to attract them--the way we dress.  Who was it said that to every
woman every man is a potential lover.  We can't get it out of our minds.
It's there even when we don't know it.  We will never succeed in
civilizing Nature."

"We won't despair of her," laughed Joan.  "She's creeping up, poor lady,
as Whistler said of her.  We have passed the phase when everything she
did was right in our childish eyes.  Now we dare to criticize her.  That
shows we are growing up.  She will learn from us, later on.  She's a dear
old thing, at heart."

"She's been kind enough to you," replied Madge, somewhat irrelevantly.
There was a note of irritation in her tone.  "I suppose you know you are
supremely beautiful.  You seem so indifferent to it, I wonder sometimes
if you do."

"I'm not indifferent to it," answered Joan.  "I'm reckoning on it to help
me."

"Why not?" she continued, with a flash of defiance, though Madge had not
spoken.  "It is a weapon like any other--knowledge, intellect, courage.
God has given me beauty.  I shall use it in His service."

They formed a curious physical contrast, these two women in this moment.
Joan, radiant, serene, sat upright in her chair, her head slightly thrown
back, her fine hands clasping one another so strongly that the delicate
muscles could be traced beneath the smooth white skin.  Madge, with
puckered brows, leant forward in a crouching attitude, her thin nervous
hands stretched out towards the fire.

"How does one know when one is serving God?" she asked after a pause,
apparently rather of herself than of Joan.  "It seems so difficult."

"One feels it," explained Joan.

"Yes, but didn't they all feel it," Madge suggested.  She still seemed to
be arguing with herself rather than with Joan.  "Nietzsche.  I have been
reading him.  They are forming a Nietzsche Society to give lectures about
him--propagate him over here.  Eleanor's in it up to the neck.  It seems
to me awful.  Every fibre in my being revolts against him.  Yet they're
all cocksure that he is the coming prophet.  He must have convinced
himself that he is serving God.  If I were a fighter I should feel I was
serving God trying to down Him.  How do I know which of us is right?
Torquemada--Calvin," she went on, without giving Joan the chance of a
reply.  "It's easy enough to see they were wrong now.  But at the time
millions of people believed in them--felt it was God's voice speaking
through them.  Joan of Arc!  Fancy dying to put a thing like that upon a
throne.  It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.  You can say she drove
out the English--saved France.  But for what?  The Bartholomew massacres.
The ruin of the Palatinate by Louis XIV.  The horrors of the French
Revolution, ending with Napoleon and all the misery and degeneracy that
he bequeathed to Europe.  History might have worked itself out so much
better if the poor child had left it alone and minded her sheep."

"Wouldn't that train of argument lead to nobody ever doing anything?"
suggested Joan.

"I suppose it would mean stagnation," admitted Madge.  "And yet I don't
know.  Are there not forces moving towards right that are crying to us to
help them, not by violence, which only interrupts--delays them, but by
quietly preparing the way for them?  You know what I mean.  Erasmus
always said that Luther had hindered the Reformation by stirring up
passion and hate."  She broke off suddenly.  There were tears in her
eyes.  "Oh, if God would only say what He wants of us," she almost cried;
"call to us in trumpet tones that would ring through the world,
compelling us to take sides.  Why can't He speak?"

"He does," answered Joan.  "I hear His voice.  There are things I've got
to do.  Wrongs that I must fight against.  Rights that I must never dare
to rest till they are won."  Her lips were parted.  Her breasts heaving.
"He does call to us.  He has girded His sword upon me."

Madge looked at her in silence for quite a while.  "How confident you
are," she said.  "How I envy you."

They talked for a time about domestic matters.  Joan had established
herself in furnished rooms in a quiet street of pleasant Georgian houses
just behind the Abbey; a member of Parliament and his wife occupied the
lower floors, the landlord, a retired butler, and his wife, an excellent
cook, confining themselves to the basement and the attics.  The remaining
floor was tenanted by a shy young man--a poet, so the landlady thought,
but was not sure.  Anyhow he had long hair, lived with a pipe in his
mouth, and burned his lamp long into the night.  Joan had omitted to ask
his name.  She made a note to do so.

They discussed ways and means.  Joan calculated she could get through on
two hundred a year, putting aside fifty for dress.  Madge was doubtful if
this would be sufficient.  Joan urged that she was "stock size" and would
be able to pick up "models" at sales; but Madge, measuring her against
herself, was sure she was too full.

"You will find yourself expensive to dress," she told her, "cheap things
won't go well on you; and it would be madness, even from a business point
of view, for you not to make the best of yourself."

"Men stand more in awe of a well-dressed woman than they do even of a
beautiful woman," Madge was of opinion.  "If you go into an office
looking dowdy they'll beat you down.  Tell them the price they are
offering you won't keep you in gloves for a week and they'll be ashamed
of themselves.  There's nothing _infra dig_. in being mean to the poor;
but not to sympathize with the rich stamps you as middle class."  She
laughed.

Joan was worried.  "I told Dad I should only ask him for enough to make
up two hundred a year," she explained.  "He'll laugh at me for not
knowing my own mind."

"I should let him," advised Madge.  She grew thoughtful again.  "We
cranky young women, with our new-fangled, independent ways, I guess we
hurt the old folks quite enough as it is."

The bell rang and Madge opened the door herself.  It turned out to be
Flossie.  Joan had not seen her since they had been at Girton together,
and was surprised at Flossie's youthful "get up."  Flossie explained, and
without waiting for any possible attack flew to her own defence.

"The revolution that the world is waiting for," was Flossie's opinion,
"is the providing of every man and woman with a hundred and fifty a year.
Then we shall all be able to afford to be noble and high-minded.  As it
is, nine-tenths of the contemptible things we do comes from the necessity
of our having to earn our living.  A hundred and fifty a year would
deliver us from evil."

"Would there not still be the diamond dog-collar and the motor car left
to tempt us?" suggested Madge.

"Only the really wicked," contended Flossie.  "It would classify us.  We
should know then which were the sheep and which the goats.  At present
we're all jumbled together: the ungodly who sin out of mere greed and
rapacity, and the just men compelled to sell their birthright of fine
instincts for a mess of meat and potatoes."

"Yah, socialist," commented Madge, who was busy with the tea things.

Flossie seemed struck by an idea.

"By Jove," she exclaimed.  "Why did I never think of it.  With a red flag
and my hair down, I'd be in all the illustrated papers.  It would put up
my price no end.  And I'd be able to get out of this silly job of mine.  I
can't go on much longer.  I'm getting too well known.  I do believe I'll
try it.  The shouting's easy enough."  She turned to Joan.  "Are you
going to take up socialism?" she demanded.

"I may," answered Joan.  "Just to spank it, and put it down again.  I'm
rather a believer in temptation--the struggle for existence.  I only want
to make it a finer existence, more worth the struggle, in which the best
man shall rise to the top.  Your 'universal security'--that will be the
last act of the human drama, the cue for ringing down the curtain."

"But do not all our Isms work towards that end?" suggested Madge.

Joan was about to reply when the maid's announcement of "Mrs. Denton"
postponed the discussion.

Mrs. Denton was a short, grey-haired lady.  Her large strong features
must have made her, when she was young, a hard-looking woman; but time
and sorrow had strangely softened them; while about the corners of the
thin firm mouth lurked a suggestion of humour that possibly had not
always been there.  Joan, waiting to be introduced, towered head and
shoulders above her; yet when she took the small proffered hand and felt
those steely blue eyes surveying her, she had the sensation of being
quite insignificant.  Mrs. Denton seemed to be reading her, and then
still retaining Joan's hand she turned to Madge with a smile.

"So this is our new recruit," she said.  "She is come to bring healing to
the sad, sick world--to right all the old, old wrongs."

She patted Joan's hand and spoke gravely.  "That is right, dear.  That is
youth's _metier_; to take the banner from our failing hands, bear it
still a little onward."  Her small gloved hand closed on Joan's with a
pressure that made Joan wince.

"And you must not despair," she continued; "because in the end it will
seem to you that you have failed.  It is the fallen that win the
victories."

She released Joan's hand abruptly.  "Come and see me to-morrow morning at
my office," she said.  "We will fix up something that shall be
serviceable to us both."

Madge flashed Joan a look.  She considered Joan's position already
secured.  Mrs. Denton was the doyen of women journalists.  She edited a
monthly review and was leader writer of one of the most important
dailies, besides being the controlling spirit of various social
movements.  Anyone she "took up" would be assured of steady work.  The
pay might not be able to compete with the prices paid for more popular
journalism, but it would afford a foundation, and give to Joan that
opportunity for influence which was her main ambition.

Joan expressed her thanks.  She would like to have had more talk with the
stern old lady, but was prevented by the entrance of two new comers.  The
first was Miss Lavery, a handsome, loud-toned young woman.  She ran a
nursing paper, but her chief interest was in the woman's suffrage
question, just then coming rapidly to the front.  She had heard Joan
speak at Cambridge and was eager to secure her adherence, being wishful
to surround herself with a group of young and good-looking women who
should take the movement out of the hands of the "frumps," as she termed
them.  Her doubt was whether Joan would prove sufficiently tractable.  She
intended to offer her remunerative work upon the _Nursing News_ without
saying anything about the real motive behind, trusting to gratitude to
make her task the easier.

The second was a clumsy-looking, overdressed woman whom Miss Lavery
introduced as "Mrs. Phillips, a very dear friend of mine, who is going to
be helpful to us all," adding in a hurried aside to Madge, "I simply had
to bring her.  Will explain to you another time."  An apology certainly
seemed to be needed.  The woman was absurdly out of her place.  She stood
there panting and slightly perspiring.  She was short and fat, with dyed
hair.  As a girl she had possibly been pretty in a dimpled, giggling sort
of way.  Joan judged her, in spite of her complexion, to be about forty.

Joan wondered if she could be the wife of the Member of Parliament who
occupied the rooms below her in Cowley Street.  His name, so the landlady
had told her, was Phillips.  She put the suggestion in a whisper to
Flossie.

"Quite likely," thought Flossie; "just the type that sort of man does
marry.  A barmaid, I expect."

Others continued to arrive until altogether there must have been about a
dozen women present.  One of them turned out to be an old schoolfellow of
Joan's and two had been with her at Girton.  Madge had selected those who
she knew would be sympathetic, and all promised help: those who could not
give it direct undertaking to provide introductions and recommendations,
though some of them were frankly doubtful of journalism affording Joan
anything more than the means--not always, too honest--of earning a
living.

"I started out to preach the gospel: all that sort of thing," drawled a
Miss Simmonds from beneath a hat that, if she had paid for it, would have
cost her five guineas.  "Now my chief purpose in life is to tickle silly
women into spending twice as much upon their clothes as their husbands
can afford, bamboozling them into buying any old thing that our
Advertising Manager instructs me to boom."

"They talk about the editor's opinions," struck in a fiery little woman
who was busy flinging crumbs out of the window to a crowd of noisy
sparrows.  "It's the Advertiser edits half the papers.  Write anything
that three of them object to, and your proprietor tells you to change
your convictions or go.  Most of us change."  She jerked down the window
with a slam.

"It's the syndicates that have done it," was a Mrs. Elliot's opinion.  She
wrote "Society Notes" for a Labour weekly.  "When one man owned a paper
he wanted it to express his views.  A company is only out for profit.
Your modern newspaper is just a shop.  It's only purpose is to attract
customers.  Look at the _Methodist Herald_, owned by the same syndicate
of Jews that runs the _Racing News_.  They work it as far as possible
with the same staff."

"We're a pack of hirelings," asserted the fiery little woman.  "Our pens
are for sale to the highest bidder.  I had a letter from Jocelyn only two
days ago.  He was one of the original staff of the _Socialist_.  He
writes me that he has gone as leader writer to a Conservative paper at
twice his former salary.  Expected me to congratulate him."

"One of these days somebody will start a Society for the Reformation of
the Press," thought Flossie.  "I wonder how the papers will take it?"

"Much as Rome took Savonarola," thought Madge.

Mrs. Denton had risen.

"They are right to a great extent," she said to Joan.  "But not all the
temple has been given over to the hucksters.  You shall place your
preaching stool in some quiet corner, where the passing feet shall pause
awhile to listen."

Her going was the signal for the breaking up of the party.  In a short
time Joan and Madge found themselves left with only Flossie.

"What on earth induced Helen to bring that poor old Dutch doll along with
her?" demanded Flossie.  "The woman never opened her mouth all the time.
Did she tell you?"

"No," answered Madge, "but I think I can guess.  She hopes--or perhaps
'fears' would be more correct--that her husband is going to join the
Cabinet, and is trying to fit herself by suddenly studying political and
social questions.  For a month she's been clinging like a leech to Helen
Lavery, who takes her to meetings and gatherings.  I suppose they've
struck up some sort of a bargain.  It's rather pathetic."

"Good Heavens!  What a tragedy for the man," commented Flossie.

"What is he like?" asked Joan.

"Not much to look at, if that's what you mean," answered Madge.  "Began
life as a miner, I believe.  Looks like ending as Prime Minister."

"I heard him at the Albert Hall last week," said Flossie.  "He's quite
wonderful."

"In what way?" questioned Joan.

"Oh, you know," explained Flossie.  "Like a volcano compressed into a
steam engine."

They discussed Joan's plans.  It looked as if things were going to be
easy for her.



CHAPTER IV


Yet in the end it was Carleton who opened the door for her.

Mrs. Denton was helpful, and would have been more so, if Joan had only
understood.  Mrs. Denton lived alone in an old house in Gower Street,
with a high stone hall that was always echoing to sounds that no one but
itself could ever hear.  Her son had settled, it was supposed, in one of
the Colonies.  No one knew what had become of him, and Mrs. Denton
herself never spoke of him; while her daughter, on whom she had centred
all her remaining hopes, had died years ago.  To those who remembered the
girl, with her weak eyes and wispy ginger coloured hair, it would have
seemed comical, the idea that Joan resembled her.  But Mrs. Denton's
memory had lost itself in dreams; and to her the likeness had appeared
quite wonderful.  The gods had given her child back to her, grown strong
and brave and clever.  Life would have a new meaning for her.  Her work
would not die with her.

She thought she could harness Joan's enthusiasm to her own wisdom.  She
would warn her of the errors and pitfalls into which she herself had
fallen: for she, too, had started as a rebel.  Youth should begin where
age left off.  Had the old lady remembered a faded dogs-eared volume
labelled "Oddments" that for many years had rested undisturbed upon its
shelf in her great library, and opening it had turned to the letter E,
she would have read recorded there, in her own precise thin penmanship,
this very wise reflection:

"Experience is a book that all men write, but no man reads."

To which she would have found added, by way of complement, "Experience is
untranslatable.  We write it in the cipher of our sufferings, and the key
is hidden in our memories."

And turning to the letter Y, she might have read:

"Youth comes to teach.  Age remains to listen," and underneath the
following:

"The ability to learn is the last lesson we acquire."

Mrs. Denton had long ago given up the practice of jotting down her
thoughts, experience having taught her that so often, when one comes to
use them, one finds that one has changed them.  But in the case of Joan
the recollection of these twin "oddments" might have saved her
disappointment.  Joan knew of a new road that avoided Mrs. Denton's
pitfalls.  She grew impatient of being perpetually pulled back.

For the _Nursing Times_ she wrote a series of condensed biographies,
entitled "Ladies of the Lamp," commencing with Elizabeth Fry.  They
formed a record of good women who had battled for the weak and suffering,
winning justice for even the uninteresting.  Miss Lavery was delighted
with them.  But when Joan proposed exposing the neglect and even cruelty
too often inflicted upon the helpless patients of private Nursing Homes,
Miss Lavery shook her head.

"I know," she said.  "One does hear complaints about them.  Unfortunately
it is one of the few businesses managed entirely by women; and just now,
in particular, if we were to say anything, it would be made use of by our
enemies to injure the Cause."

There was a summer years ago--it came back to Joan's mind--when she had
shared lodgings with a girl chum at a crowded sea-side watering-place.
The rooms were shockingly dirty; and tired of dropping hints she
determined one morning to clean them herself.  She climbed a chair and
started on a row of shelves where lay the dust of ages.  It was a jerry-
built house, and the result was that she brought the whole lot down about
her head, together with a quarter of a hundred-weight of plaster.

"Yes, I thought you'd do some mischief," had commented the landlady,
wearily.

It seemed typical.  A jerry-built world, apparently.  With the best
intentions it seemed impossible to move in it without doing more harm
than good to it, bringing things down about one that one had not
intended.

She wanted to abolish steel rabbit-traps.  She had heard the little
beggars cry.  It had struck her as such a harmless reform.  But they told
her there were worthy people in the neighbourhood of Wolverhampton--quite
a number of them--who made their living by the manufacture of steel
rabbit-traps.  If, thinking only of the rabbits, you prohibited steel
rabbit-traps, then you condemned all these worthy people to slow
starvation.  The local Mayor himself wrote in answer to her article.  He
drew a moving picture of the sad results that might follow such an ill-
considered agitation: hundreds of grey-haired men, too old to learn new
jobs, begging from door to door; shoals of little children, white-faced
and pinched; sobbing women.  Her editor was sorry for the rabbits.  Had
often spent a pleasant day with them himself.  But, after all, the Human
Race claimed our first sympathies.

She wanted to abolish sweating.  She had climbed the rotting stairways,
seen the famished creatures in their holes.  But it seemed that if you
interfered with the complicated system based on sweating then you
dislocated the entire structure of the British export clothing trade.  Not
only would these poor creatures lose their admittedly wretched living--but
still a living--but thousands of other innocent victims would also be
involved in the common ruin.  All very sad, but half a loaf--or even let
us frankly say a thin slice--is better than no bread at all.

She wanted board school children's heads examined.  She had examined one
or two herself.  It seemed to her wrong that healthy children should be
compelled to sit for hours within jumping distance of the diseased.  She
thought it better that the dirty should be made fit company for the clean
than the clean should be brought down to the level of the dirty.  It
seemed that in doing this you were destroying the independence of the
poor.  Opposition reformers, in letters scintillating with paradox,
bristling with classical allusion, denounced her attempt to impose middle-
class ideals upon a too long suffering proletariat.  Better far a few
lively little heads than a broken-spirited people robbed of their
parental rights.

Through Miss Lavery she obtained an introduction to the great Sir
William.  He owned a group of popular provincial newspapers, and was most
encouraging.  Sir William had often said to himself:

"What can I do for God who has done so much for me?"  It seemed only
fair.

He asked her down to his "little place in Hampshire," to talk plans over.
The "little place," it turned out, ran to forty bedrooms, and was
surrounded by three hundred acres of park.  God had evidently done his
bit quite handsomely.

It was in a secluded corner of the park that Sir William had gone down
upon one knee and gallantly kissed her hand.  His idea was that if she
could regard herself as his "Dear Lady," and allow him the honour and
privilege of being her "True Knight," that, between them, they might
accomplish something really useful.  There had been some difficulty about
his getting up again, Sir William being an elderly gentleman subject to
rheumatism, and Joan had had to expend no small amount of muscular effort
in assisting him; so that the episode which should have been symbolical
ended by leaving them both red and breathless.

He referred to the matter again the same evening in the library while
Lady William slept peacefully in the blue drawing-room; but as it
appeared necessary that the compact should be sealed by a knightly kiss
Joan had failed to ratify it.

She blamed herself on her way home.  The poor old gentleman could easily
have been kept in his place.  The suffering of an occasional harmless
caress would have purchased for her power and opportunity.  Had it not
been somewhat selfish of her?  Should she write to him--see him again?

She knew that she never would.  It was something apart from her reason.
It would not even listen to her.  It bade or forbade as if one were a
child without any right to a will of one's own.  It was decidedly
exasperating.

There were others.  There were the editors who frankly told her that the
business of a newspaper was to write what its customers wanted to read;
and that the public, so far as they could judge, was just about fed up
with plans for New Jerusalems at their expense.  And the editors who were
prepared to take up any number of reforms, insisting only that they
should be new and original and promise popularity.

And then she met Greyson.

It was at a lunch given by Mrs. Denton.  Greyson was a bachelor and lived
with an unmarried sister, a few years older than himself.  He was editor
and part proprietor of an evening paper.  It had ideals and was, in
consequence, regarded by the general public with suspicion; but by reason
of sincerity and braininess was rapidly becoming a power.  He was a shy,
reserved man with an aristocratic head set upon stooping shoulders.  The
face was that of a dreamer, but about the mouth there was suggestion of
the fighter.  Joan felt at her ease with him in spite of the air of
detachment that seemed part of his character.  Mrs. Denton had paired
them off together; and, during the lunch, one of them--Joan could not
remember which--had introduced the subject of reincarnation.

Greyson was unable to accept the theory because of the fact that, in old
age, the mind in common with the body is subject to decay.

"Perhaps by the time I am forty--or let us say fifty," he argued, "I
shall be a bright, intelligent being.  If I die then, well and good.  I
select a likely baby and go straight on.  But suppose I hang about till
eighty and die a childish old gentleman with a mind all gone to seed.
What am I going to do then?  I shall have to begin all over again:
perhaps worse off than I was before.  That's not going to help us much."

Joan explained it to him: that old age might be likened to an illness.  A
genius lies upon a bed of sickness and babbles childish nonsense.  But
with returning life he regains his power, goes on increasing it.  The
mind, the soul, has not decayed.  It is the lines of communication that
old age has destroyed.

"But surely you don't believe it?" he demanded.

"Why not?" laughed Joan.  "All things are possible.  It was the
possession of a hand that transformed monkeys into men.  We used to take
things up, you know, and look at them, and wonder and wonder and wonder,
till at last there was born a thought and the world became visible.  It
is curiosity that will lead us to the next great discovery.  We must take
things up; and think and think and think till one day there will come
knowledge, and we shall see the universe."

Joan always avoided getting excited when she thought of it.

"I love to make you excited," Flossie had once confessed to her in the
old student days.  "You look so ridiculously young and you are so pleased
with yourself, laying down the law."

She did not know she had given way to it.  He was leaning back in his
chair, looking at her; and the tired look she had noticed in his eyes,
when she had been introduced to him in the drawing-room, had gone out of
them.

During the coffee, Mrs. Denton beckoned him to come to her; and Miss
Greyson crossed over and took his vacant chair.  She had been sitting
opposite to them.

"I've been hearing so much about you," she said.  "I can't help thinking
that you ought to suit my brother's paper.  He has all your ideas.  Have
you anything that you could send him?"

Joan considered a moment.

"Nothing very startling," she answered.  "I was thinking of a series of
articles on the old London Churches--touching upon the people connected
with them and the things they stood for.  I've just finished the first
one."

"It ought to be the very thing," answered Miss Greyson.  She was a thin,
faded woman with a soft, plaintive voice.  "It will enable him to judge
your style.  He's particular about that.  Though I'm confident he'll like
it," she hastened to add.  "Address it to me, will you.  I assist him as
much as I can."

Joan added a few finishing touches that evening, and posted it; and a day
or two later received a note asking her to call at the office.

"My sister is enthusiastic about your article on Chelsea Church and
insists on my taking the whole series," Greyson informed her.  "She says
you have the Stevensonian touch."

Joan flushed with pleasure.

"And you," she asked, "did you think it had the Stevensonian touch?"

"No," he answered, "it seemed to me to have more of your touch."

"What's that like?" she demanded.

"They couldn't suppress you," he explained.  "Sir Thomas More with his
head under his arm, bloody old Bluebeard, grim Queen Bess, snarling old
Swift, Pope, Addison, Carlyle--the whole grisly crowd of them!  I could
see you holding your own against them all, explaining things to them,
getting excited."  He laughed.

His sister joined them, coming in from the next room.  She had a proposal
to make.  It was that Joan should take over the weekly letter from
"Clorinda."  It was supposed to give the views of a--perhaps
unusually--sane and thoughtful woman upon the questions of the day.  Miss
Greyson had hitherto conducted it herself, but was wishful as she
explained to be relieved of it; so that she might have more time for home
affairs.  It would necessitate Joan's frequent attendance at the office;
for there would be letters from the public to be answered, and points to
be discussed with her brother.  She was standing behind his chair with
her hands upon his head.  There was something strangely motherly about
her whole attitude.

Greyson was surprised, for the Letter had been her own conception, and
had grown into a popular feature.  But she was evidently in earnest; and
Joan accepted willingly.  "Clorinda" grew younger, more self-assertive;
on the whole more human.  But still so eminently "sane" and reasonable.

"We must not forget that she is quite a respectable lady,
connected--according to her own account--with the higher political
circles," Joan's editor would insist, with a laugh.

Miss Greyson, working in the adjoining room, would raise her head and
listen.  She loved to hear him laugh.

"It's absurd," Flossie told her one morning, as having met by chance they
were walking home together along the Embankment.  "You're not 'Clorinda';
you ought to be writing letters to her, not from her, waking her up,
telling her to come off her perch, and find out what the earth feels
like.  I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll trot you round to Carleton.  If
you're out for stirring up strife and contention, well, that's his game,
too.  He'll use you for his beastly sordid ends.  He'd have roped in John
the Baptist if he'd been running the 'Jerusalem Star' at the time, and
have given him a daily column for so long as the boom lasted.  What's
that matter, if he's willing to give you a start?"

Joan jibbed at first.  But in the end Flossie's arguments prevailed.  One
afternoon, a week later, she was shown into Carleton's private room, and
the door closed behind her.  The light was dim, and for a moment she
could see no one; until Carleton, who had been standing near one of the
windows, came forward and placed a chair for her.  And they both sat
down.

"I've glanced through some of your things," he said.  "They're all right.
They're alive.  What's your idea?"

Remembering Flossie's counsel, she went straight to the point.  She
wanted to talk to the people.  She wanted to get at them.  If she had
been a man, she would have taken a chair and gone to Hyde Park.  As it
was, she hadn't the nerve for Hyde Park.  At least she was afraid she
hadn't.  It might have to come to that.  There was a trembling in her
voice that annoyed her.  She was so afraid she might cry.  She wasn't out
for anything crazy.  She wanted only those things done that could be done
if the people would but lift their eyes, look into one another's faces,
see the wrong and the injustice that was all around them, and swear that
they would never rest till the pain and the terror had been driven from
the land.  She wanted soldiers--men and women who would forget their own
sweet selves, not counting their own loss, thinking of the greater gain;
as in times of war and revolution, when men gave even their lives gladly
for a dream, for a hope--

Without warning he switched on the electric lamp that stood upon the
desk, causing her to draw back with a start.

"All right," he said.  "Go ahead.  You shall have your tub, and a weekly
audience of a million readers for as long as you can keep them
interested.  Up with anything you like, and down with everything you
don't.  Be careful not to land me in a libel suit.  Call the whole Bench
of Bishops hypocrites, and all the ground landlords thieves, if you will:
but don't mention names.  And don't get me into trouble with the police.
Beyond that, I shan't interfere with you."

She was about to speak.

"One stipulation," he went on, "that every article is headed with your
photograph."

He read the sudden dismay in her eyes.

"How else do you think you are going to attract their attention?" he
asked her.  "By your eloquence!  Hundreds of men and women as eloquent as
you could ever be are shouting to them every day.  Who takes any notice
of them?  Why should they listen any the more to you--another cranky
highbrow: some old maid, most likely, with a bony throat and a beaky
nose.  If Woman is going to come into the fight she will have to use her
own weapons.  If she is prepared to do that she'll make things hum with a
vengeance.  She's the biggest force going, if she only knew it."

He had risen and was pacing the room.

"The advertiser has found that out, and is showing the way."  He snatched
at an illustrated magazine, fresh from the press, that had been placed
upon his desk, and opened it at the first page.  "Johnson's Blacking," he
read out, "advertised by a dainty little minx, showing her ankles.  Who's
going to stop for a moment to read about somebody's blacking?  If a saucy
little minx isn't there to trip him up with her ankles!"

He turned another page.  "Do you suffer from gout?  Classical lady
preparing to take a bath and very nearly ready.  The old Johnny in the
train stops to look at her.  Reads the advertisement because she seems to
want him to.  Rubber heels.  Save your boot leather!  Lady in evening
dress--jolly pretty shoulders--waves them in front of your eyes.
Otherwise you'd never think of them."

He fluttered the pages.  Then flung the thing across to her.

"Look at it," he said.  "Fountain pens--Corn plasters--Charitable
appeals--Motor cars--Soaps--Grand pianos.  It's the girl in tights and
spangles outside the show that brings them trooping in."

"Let them see you," he continued.  "You say you want soldiers.  Throw off
your veil and call for them.  Your namesake of France!  Do you think if
she had contented herself with writing stirring appeals that Orleans
would have fallen?  She put on a becoming suit of armour and got upon a
horse where everyone could see her.  Chivalry isn't dead.  You modern
women are ashamed of yourselves--ashamed of your sex.  You don't give it
a chance.  Revive it.  Stir the young men's blood.  Their souls will
follow."

He reseated himself and leant across towards her.

"I'm not talking business," he said.  "This thing's not going to mean
much to me one way or the other.  I want you to win.  Farm labourers
bringing up families on twelve and six a week.  Shirt hands working half
into the night for three farthings an hour.  Stinking dens for men to
live in.  Degraded women.  Half fed children.  It's damnable.  Tell them
it's got to stop.  That the Eternal Feminine has stepped out of the
poster and commands it."

A dapper young man opened the door and put his head into the room.

"Railway smash in Yorkshire," he announced.

Carleton sat up.  "Much of a one?" he asked.

The dapper gentleman shrugged his shoulders.  "Three killed, eight
injured, so far," he answered.

Carleton's interest appeared to collapse.

"Stop press column?" asked the dapper gentleman.

"Yes, I suppose so," replied Carleton.  "Unless something better turns
up."

The dapper young gentleman disappeared.  Joan had risen.

"May I talk it over with a friend?" she asked.  "Myself, I'm inclined to
accept."

"You will, if you're in earnest," he answered.  "I'll give you twenty-
four hours.  Look in to-morrow afternoon, and see Finch.  It will be for
the _Sunday Post_--the Inset.  We use surfaced paper for that and can do
you justice.  Finch will arrange about the photograph."  He held out his
hand.  "Shall be seeing you again," he said.

It was but a stone's throw to the office of the _Evening Gazette_.  She
caught Greyson just as he was leaving and put the thing before him.  His
sister was with him.

He did not answer at first.  He was walking to and fro; and, catching his
foot in the waste paper basket, he kicked it savagely out of his way, so
that the contents were scattered over the room.

"Yes, he's right," he said.  "It was the Virgin above the altar that
popularized Christianity.  Her face has always been woman's fortune.  If
she's going to become a fighter, it will have to be her weapon."

He had used almost the same words that Carleton had used.

"I so want them to listen to me," she said.  "After all, it's only like
having a very loud voice."

He looked at her and smiled.  "Yes," he said, "it's a voice men will
listen to."

Mary Greyson was standing by the fire.  She had not spoken hitherto.

"You won't give up 'Clorinda'?" she asked.

Joan had intended to do so, but something in Mary's voice caused her,
against her will, to change her mind.

"Of course not," she answered.  "I shall run them both.  It will be like
writing Jekyll and Hyde."

"What will you sign yourself?" he asked.

"My own name, I think," she said.  "Joan Allway."

Miss Greyson suggested her coming home to dinner with them; but Joan
found an excuse.  She wanted to be alone.



CHAPTER V


The twilight was fading as she left the office.  She turned northward,
choosing a broad, ill-lighted road.  It did not matter which way she
took.  She wanted to think; or, rather, to dream.

It would all fall out as she had intended.  She would commence by
becoming a power in journalism.  She was reconciled now to the photograph
idea--was even keen on it herself.  She would be taken full face so that
she would be looking straight into the eyes of her readers as she talked
to them.  It would compel her to be herself; just a hopeful, loving
woman: a little better educated than the majority, having had greater
opportunity: a little further seeing, maybe, having had more leisure for
thought: but otherwise, no whit superior to any other young, eager woman
of the people.  This absurd journalistic pose of omniscience, of
infallibility--this non-existent garment of supreme wisdom that, like the
King's clothes in the fairy story, was donned to hide his nakedness by
every strutting nonentity of Fleet Street!  She would have no use for it.
It should be a friend, a comrade, a fellow-servant of the great Master,
taking counsel with them, asking their help.  Government by the people
for the people!  It must be made real.  These silent, thoughtful-looking
workers, hurrying homewards through the darkening streets; these patient,
shrewd-planning housewives casting their shadows on the drawn-down
blinds: it was they who should be shaping the world, not the journalists
to whom all life was but so much "copy."  This monstrous conspiracy, once
of the Sword, of the Church, now of the Press, that put all Government
into the hands of a few stuffy old gentlemen, politicians, leader
writers, without sympathy or understanding: it was time that it was swept
away.  She would raise a new standard.  It should be, not "Listen to me,
oh ye dumb," but, "Speak to me.  Tell me your hidden hopes, your fears,
your dreams.  Tell me your experience, your thoughts born of knowledge,
of suffering."

She would get into correspondence with them, go among them, talk to them.
The difficulty, at first, would be in getting them to write to her, to
open their minds to her.  These voiceless masses that never spoke, but
were always being spoken for by self-appointed "leaders,"
"representatives," who immediately they had climbed into prominence took
their place among the rulers, and then from press and platform shouted to
them what they were to think and feel.  It was as if the Drill-Sergeant
were to claim to be the "leader," the "representative" of his squad; or
the sheep-dog to pose as the "delegate" of the sheep.  Dealt with always
as if they were mere herds, mere flocks, they had almost lost the power
of individual utterance.  One would have to teach them, encourage them.

She remembered a Sunday class she had once conducted; and how for a long
time she had tried in vain to get the children to "come in," to take a
hand.  That she might get in touch with them, understand their small
problems, she had urged them to ask questions.  And there had fallen such
long silences.  Until, at last, one cheeky ragamuffin had piped out:

"Please, Miss, have you got red hair all over you?  Or only on your
head?"

For answer she had rolled up her sleeve, and let them examine her arm.
And then, in her turn, had insisted on rolling up his sleeve, revealing
the fact that his arms above the wrists had evidently not too recently
been washed; and the episode had ended in laughter and a babel of shrill
voices.  And, at once, they were a party of chums, discussing matters
together.

They were but children, these tired men and women, just released from
their day's toil, hastening homeward to their play, or to their evening
tasks.  A little humour, a little understanding, a recognition of the
wonderful likeness of us all to one another underneath our outward
coverings was all that was needed to break down the barrier, establish
comradeship.  She stood aside a moment to watch them streaming by.  Keen,
strong faces were among them, high, thoughtful brows, kind eyes; they
must learn to think, to speak for themselves.

She would build again the Forum.  The people's business should no longer
be settled for them behind lackey-guarded doors.  The good of the farm
labourer should be determined not exclusively by the squire and his
relations.  The man with the hoe, the man with the bent back and the
patient ox-like eyes: he, too, should be invited to the Council board.
Middle-class domestic problems should be solved not solely by fine
gentlemen from Oxford; the wife of the little clerk should be allowed her
say.  War or peace, it should no longer be regarded as a question
concerning only the aged rich.  The common people--the cannon fodder, the
men who would die, and the women who would weep: they should be given
something more than the privilege of either cheering platform patriots or
being summoned for interrupting public meetings.

From a dismal side street there darted past her a small, shapeless figure
in crumpled cap and apron: evidently a member of that lazy, over-indulged
class, the domestic servant.  Judging from the talk of the drawing-rooms,
the correspondence in the papers, a singularly unsatisfactory body.  They
toiled not, lived in luxury and demanded grand pianos.  Someone had
proposed doing something for them.  They themselves--it seemed that even
they had a sort of conscience--were up in arms against it.  Too much
kindness even they themselves perceived was bad for them.  They were
holding a meeting that night to explain how contented they were.  Six
peeresses had consented to attend, and speak for them.

Likely enough that there were good-for-nothing, cockered menials imposing
upon incompetent mistresses.  There were pampered slaves in Rome.  But
these others.  These poor little helpless sluts.  There were thousands
such in every city, over-worked and under-fed, living lonely,
pleasureless lives.  They must be taught to speak in other voices than
the dulcet tones of peeresses.  By the light of the guttering candles,
from their chill attics, they should write to her their ill-spelt
visions.

She had reached a quiet, tree-bordered road, surrounding a great park.
Lovers, furtively holding hands, passed her by, whispering.

She would write books.  She would choose for her heroine a woman of the
people.  How full of drama, of tragedy must be their stories: their
problems the grim realities of life, not only its mere sentimental
embroideries.  The daily struggle for bare existence, the ever-shadowing
menace of unemployment, of illness, leaving them helpless amid the
grinding forces crushing them down on every side.  The ceaseless need for
courage, for cunning.  For in the kingdom of the poor the tyrant and the
oppressor still sit in the high places, the robber still rides fearless.

In a noisy, flaring street, a thin-clad woman passed her, carrying a
netted bag showing two loaves.  In a flash, it came to her what it must
mean to the poor; this daily bread that in comfortable homes had come to
be regarded as a thing like water; not to be considered, to be used
without stint, wasted, thrown about.  Borne by those feeble, knotted
hands, Joan saw it revealed as something holy: hallowed by labour;
sanctified by suffering, by sacrifice; worshipped with fear and prayer.

In quiet streets of stately houses, she caught glimpses through
uncurtained windows of richly-laid dinner-tables about which servants
moved noiselessly, arranging flowers and silver.  She wondered idly if
she would every marry.  A gracious hostess, gathering around her
brilliant men and women, statesmen, writers, artists, captains of
industry: counselling them, even learning from them: encouraging shy
genius.  Perhaps, in a perfectly harmless way, allowing it the
inspiration derivable from a well-regulated devotion to herself.  A salon
that should be the nucleus of all those forces that influence influences,
over which she would rule with sweet and wise authority.  The idea
appealed to her.

Into the picture, slightly to the background, she unconsciously placed
Greyson.  His tall, thin figure with its air of distinction seemed to fit
in; Greyson would be very restful.  She could see his handsome, ascetic
face flush with pleasure as, after the guests were gone, she would lean
over the back of his chair and caress for a moment his dark, soft hair
tinged here and there with grey.  He would always adore her, in that
distant, undemonstrative way of his that would never be tiresome or
exacting.  They would have children.  But not too many.  That would make
the house noisy and distract her from her work.  They would be beautiful
and clever; unless all the laws of heredity were to be set aside for her
especial injury.  She would train them, shape them to be the heirs of her
labour, bearing her message to the generations that should follow.

At a corner where the trams and buses stopped she lingered for a while,
watching the fierce struggle; the weak and aged being pushed back time
after time, hardly seeming to even resent it, regarding it as in the
natural order of things.  It was so absurd, apart from the injustice, the
brutality of it!  The poor, fighting among themselves!  She felt as once
when watching a crowd of birds to whom she had thrown a handful of crumbs
in winter time.  As if they had not enemies enough: cats, weasels, rats,
hawks, owls, the hunger and the cold.  And added to all, they must needs
make the struggle yet harder for one another: pecking at each other's
eyes, joining with one another to attack the fallen.  These tired men,
these weary women, pale-faced lads and girls, why did they not organize
among themselves some system that would do away with this daily warfare
of each against all.  If only they could be got to grasp the fact that
they were one family, bound together by suffering.  Then, and not till
then, would they be able to make their power felt?  That would have to
come first: the _Esprit de Corps_ of the Poor.

In the end she would go into Parliament.  It would be bound to come soon,
the woman's vote.  And after that the opening of all doors would follow.
She would wear her college robes.  It would be far more fitting than a
succession of flimsy frocks that would have no meaning in them.  What
pity it was that the art of dressing--its relation to life--was not
better understood.  What beauty-hating devil had prompted the workers to
discard their characteristic costumes that had been both beautiful and
serviceable for these hateful slop-shop clothes that made them look like
walking scarecrows.  Why had the coming of Democracy coincided seemingly
with the spread of ugliness: dull towns, mean streets, paper-strewn
parks, corrugated iron roofs, Christian chapels that would be an insult
to a heathen idol; hideous factories (Why need they be hideous!); chimney-
pot hats, baggy trousers, vulgar advertisements, stupid fashions for
women that spoilt every line of their figure: dinginess, drabness,
monotony everywhere.  It was ugliness that was strangling the soul of the
people; stealing from them all dignity, all self-respect, all honour for
one another; robbing them of hope, of reverence, of joy in life.

Beauty.  That was the key to the riddle.  All Nature: its golden sunsets
and its silvery dawns; the glory of piled-up clouds, the mystery of
moonlit glades; its rivers winding through the meadows; the calling of
its restless seas; the tender witchery of Spring; the blazonry of autumn
woods; its purple moors and the wonder of its silent mountains; its
cobwebs glittering with a thousand jewels; the pageantry of starry
nights.  Form, colour, music!  The feathered choristers of bush and brake
raising their matin and their evensong, the whispering of the leaves, the
singing of the waters, the voices of the winds.  Beauty and grace in
every living thing, but man.  The leaping of the hares, the grouping of
cattle, the flight of swallows, the dainty loveliness of insects' wings,
the glossy skin of horses rising and falling to the play of mighty
muscles.  Was it not seeking to make plain to us that God's language was
beauty.  Man must learn beauty that he may understand God.

She saw the London of the future.  Not the vision popular just then: a
soaring whirl of machinery in motion, of moving pavements and flying
omnibuses; of screaming gramophones and standardized "homes": a city
where Electricity was King and man its soulless slave.  But a city of
peace, of restful spaces, of leisured men and women; a city of fine
streets and pleasant houses, where each could live his own life, learning
freedom, individuality; a city of noble schools; of workshops that should
be worthy of labour, filled with light and air; smoke and filth driven
from the land: science, no longer bound to commercialism, having
discovered cleaner forces; a city of gay playgrounds where children
should learn laughter; of leafy walks where the creatures of the wood and
field should be as welcome guests helping to teach sympathy and
kindliness: a city of music, of colour, of gladness.  Beauty worshipped
as religion; ugliness banished as a sin: no ugly slums, no ugly cruelty,
no slatternly women and brutalized men, no ugly, sobbing children; no
ugly vice flaunting in every highway its insult to humanity: a city clad
in beauty as with a living garment where God should walk with man.

She had reached a neighbourhood of narrow, crowded streets.  The women
were mostly without hats; and swarthy men, rolling cigarettes, lounged
against doorways.  The place had a quaint foreign flavour.  Tiny cafes,
filled with smoke and noise, and clean, inviting restaurants abounded.
She was feeling hungry, and, choosing one the door of which stood open,
revealing white tablecloths and a pleasant air of cheerfulness, she
entered.  It was late and the tables were crowded.  Only at one, in a far
corner, could she detect a vacant place, opposite to a slight, pretty-
looking girl very quietly dressed.  She made her way across and the girl,
anticipating her request, welcomed her with a smile.  They ate for a
while in silence, divided only by the narrow table, their heads, when
they leant forward, almost touching.  Joan noticed the short, white
hands, the fragrance of some delicate scent.  There was something odd
about her.  She seemed to be unnecessarily conscious of being alone.
Suddenly she spoke.

"Nice little restaurant, this," she said.  "One of the few places where
you can depend upon not being annoyed."

Joan did not understand.  "In what way?" she asked.

"Oh, you know, men," answered the girl.  "They come and sit down opposite
to you, and won't leave you alone.  At most of the places, you've got to
put up with it or go outside.  Here, old Gustav never permits it."

Joan was troubled.  She was rather looking forward to occasional
restaurant dinners, where she would be able to study London's Bohemia.

"You mean," she asked, "that they force themselves upon you, even if you
make it plain--"

"Oh, the plainer you make it that you don't want them, the more sport
they think it," interrupted the girl with a laugh.

Joan hoped she was exaggerating.  "I must try and select a table where
there is some good-natured girl to keep me in countenance," she said with
a smile.

"Yes, I was glad to see you," answered the girl.  "It's hateful, dining
by oneself.  Are you living alone?"

"Yes," answered Joan.  "I'm a journalist."

"I thought you were something," answered the girl.  "I'm an artist.  Or,
rather, was," she added after a pause.

"Why did you give it up?" asked Joan.

"Oh, I haven't given it up, not entirely," the girl answered.  "I can
always get a couple of sovereigns for a sketch, if I want it, from one or
another of the frame-makers.  And they can generally sell them for a
fiver.  I've seen them marked up.  Have you been long in London?"

"No," answered Joan.  "I'm a Lancashire lass."

"Curious," said the girl, "so am I.  My father's a mill manager near
Bolton.  You weren't educated there?"

"No," Joan admitted.  "I went to Rodean at Brighton when I was ten years
old, and so escaped it.  Nor were you," she added with a smile, "judging
from your accent."

"No," answered the other, "I was at Hastings--Miss Gwyn's.  Funny how we
seem to have always been near to one another.  Dad wanted me to be a
doctor.  But I'd always been mad about art."

Joan had taken a liking to the girl.  It was a spiritual, vivacious face
with frank eyes and a firm mouth; and the voice was low and strong.

"Tell me," she said, "what interfered with it?"  Unconsciously she was
leaning forward, her chin supported by her hands.  Their faces were very
near to one another.

The girl looked up.  She did not answer for a moment.  There came a
hardening of the mouth before she spoke.

"A baby," she said.  "Oh, it was my own fault," she continued.  "I wanted
it.  It was all the talk at the time.  You don't remember.  Our right to
children.  No woman complete without one.  Maternity, woman's kingdom.
All that sort of thing.  As if the storks brought them.  Don't suppose it
made any real difference; but it just helped me to pretend that it was
something pretty and high-class.  'Overmastering passion' used to be the
explanation, before that.  I guess it's all much of a muchness: just
natural instinct."

The restaurant had been steadily emptying.  Monsieur Gustav and his ample-
bosomed wife were seated at a distant table, eating their own dinner.

"Why couldn't you have married?" asked Joan.

The girl shrugged her shoulders.  "Who was there for me to marry?" she
answered.  "The men who wanted me: clerks, young tradesmen, down at
home--I wasn't taking any of that lot.  And the men I might have fancied
were all of them too poor.  There was one student.  He's got on since.
Easy enough for him to talk about waiting.  Meanwhile.  Well, it's like
somebody suggesting dinner to you the day after to-morrow.  All right
enough, if you're not troubled with an appetite."

The waiter came to clear the table.  They were almost the last customers
left.  The man's tone and manner jarred upon Joan.  She had not noticed
it before.  Joan ordered coffee and the girl, exchanging a joke with the
waiter, added a liqueur.

"But why should you give up your art?" persisted Joan.  It was that was
sticking in her mind.  "I should have thought that, if only for the sake
of the child, you would have gone on with it."

"Oh, I told myself all that," answered the girl.  "Was going to devote my
life to it.  Did for nearly two years.  Till I got sick of living like a
nun: never getting a bit of excitement.  You see, I've got the poison in
me.  Or, maybe, it had always been there."

"What's become of it?" asked Joan.  "The child?"

"Mother's got it," answered the girl.  "Seemed best for the poor little
beggar.  I'm supposed to be dead, and my husband gone abroad."  She gave
a short, dry laugh.  "Mother brings him up to see me once a year.  They've
got quite fond of him."

"What are you doing now?" asked Joan, in a low tone.

"Oh, you needn't look so scared," laughed the girl, "I haven't come down
to that."  Her voice had changed.  It had a note of shrillness.  In some
indescribable way she had grown coarse.  "I'm a kept woman," she
explained.  "What else is any woman?"

She reached for her jacket; and the waiter sprang forward and helped her
on with it, prolonging the business needlessly.  She wished him "Good
evening" in a tone of distant hauteur, and led the way to the door.
Outside the street was dim and silent.  Joan held out her hand.

"No hope of happy endings," she said with a forced laugh.  "Couldn't
marry him I suppose?"

"He has asked me," answered the girl with a swagger.  "Not sure that it
would suit me now.  They're not so nice to you when they've got you fixed
up.  So long."

She turned abruptly and walked rapidly away.  Joan moved instinctively in
the opposite direction, and after a few minutes found herself in a broad
well-lighted thoroughfare.  A newsboy was shouting his wares.

"'Orrible murder of a woman.  Shockin' details.  Speshul," repeating it
over and over again in a hoarse, expressionless monotone.

He was selling the papers like hot cakes; the purchasers too eager to
even wait for their change.  She wondered, with a little lump in her
throat, how many would have stopped to buy had he been calling instead:
"Discovery of new sonnet by Shakespeare.  Extra special."

Through swinging doors, she caught glimpses of foul interiors, crowded
with men and women released from their toil, taking their evening
pleasure.  From coloured posters outside the great theatres and music
halls, vulgarity and lewdness leered at her, side by side with
announcements that the house was full.  From every roaring corner,
scintillating lights flared forth the merits of this public benefactor's
whisky, of this other celebrity's beer: it seemed the only message the
people cared to hear.  Even among the sirens of the pavement, she noticed
that the quiet and merely pretty were hardly heeded.  It was everywhere
the painted and the overdressed that drew the roving eyes.

She remembered a pet dog that someone had given her when she was a girl,
and how one afternoon she had walked with the tears streaming down her
face because, in spite of her scoldings and her pleadings, it would keep
stopping to lick up filth from the roadway.  A kindly passer-by had
laughed and told her not to mind.

"Why, that's a sign of breeding, that is, Missie," the man had explained.
"It's the classy ones that are always the worst."

It had come to her afterwards craving with its soft brown, troubled eyes
for forgiveness.  But she had never been able to break it of the habit.

Must man for ever be chained by his appetites to the unclean: ever be
driven back, dragged down again into the dirt by his own instincts: ever
be rendered useless for all finer purposes by the baseness of his own
desires?

The City of her Dreams!  The mingled voices of the crowd shaped itself
into a mocking laugh.

It seemed to her that it was she that they were laughing at, pointing her
out to one another, jeering at her, reviling her, threatening her.

She hurried onward with bent head, trying to escape them.  She felt so
small, so helpless.  Almost she cried out in her despair.

She must have walked mechanically.  Looking up she found herself in her
own street.  And as she reached her doorway the tears came suddenly.

She heard a quick step behind her, and turning, she saw a man with a
latch key in his hand.  He passed her and opened the door; and then,
facing round, stood aside for her to enter.  He was a sturdy, thick-set
man with a strong, massive face.  It would have been ugly but for the
deep, flashing eyes.  There was tenderness and humour in them.

"We are next floor neighbours," he said.  "My name's Phillips."

Joan thanked him.  As he held the door open for her their hands
accidentally touched.  Joan wished him good-night and went up the stairs.
There was no light in her room: only the faint reflection of the street
lamp outside.

She could still see him: the boyish smile.  And his voice that had sent
her tears back again as if at the word of command.

She hoped he had not seen them.  What a little fool she was.

A little laugh escaped her.



CHAPTER VI


One day Joan, lunching at the club, met Madge Singleton.

"I've had such a funny letter from Flossie," said Joan, "begging me
almost with tears in her ink to come to her on Sunday evening to meet a
'gentleman friend' of hers, as she calls him, and give her my opinion of
him.  What on earth is she up to?"

"It's all right," answered Madge.  "She doesn't really want our opinion
of him--or rather she doesn't want our real opinion of him.  She only
wants us to confirm hers.  She's engaged to him."

"Flossie engaged!" Joan seemed surprised.

"Yes," answered Madge.  "It used to be a custom.  Young men used to ask
young women to marry them.  And if they consented it was called 'being
engaged.'  Still prevails, so I am told, in certain classes."

"Thanks," said Joan.  "I have heard of it."

"I thought perhaps you hadn't from your tone," explained Madge.

"But if she's already engaged to him, why risk criticism of him," argued
Joan, ignoring Madge's flippancy.  "It's too late."

"Oh, she's going to break it off unless we all assure her that we find
him brainy," Madge explained with a laugh.  "It seems her father wasn't
brainy and her mother was.  Or else it was the other way about: I'm not
quite sure.  But whichever it was, it led to ructions.  Myself, if he's
at all possible and seems to care for her, I intend to find him
brilliant."

"And suppose she repeats her mother's experience," suggested Joan.

"There were the Norton-Browns," answered Madge.  "Impossible to have
found a more evenly matched pair.  They both write novels--very good
novels, too; and got jealous of one another; and threw press-notices at
one another's head all breakfast-time; until they separated.  Don't know
of any recipe myself for being happy ever after marriage, except not
expecting it."

"Or keeping out of it altogether," added Joan.

"Ever spent a day at the Home for Destitute Gentlewomen at East Sheen?"
demanded Madge.

"Not yet," admitted Joan.  "May have to, later on."

"It ought to be included in every woman's education," Madge continued.
"It is reserved for spinsters of over forty-five.  Susan Fleming wrote an
article upon it for the _Teacher's Friend_; and spent an afternoon and
evening there.  A month later she married a grocer with five children.
The only sound suggestion for avoiding trouble that I ever came across
was in a burlesque of the _Blue Bird_.  You remember the scene where the
spirits of the children are waiting to go down to earth and be made into
babies?  Someone had stuck up a notice at the entrance to the gangway:
'Don't get born.  It only means worry.'"

Flossie had her dwelling-place in a second floor bed-sitting-room of a
lodging house in Queen's Square, Bloomsbury; but the drawing-room floor
being for the moment vacant, Flossie had persuaded her landlady to let
her give her party there; it seemed as if fate approved of the idea.  The
room was fairly full when Joan arrived.  Flossie took her out on the
landing, and closed the door behind them.

"You will be honest with me, won't you?" pleaded Flossie, "because it's
so important, and I don't seem able to think for myself.  As they say, no
man can be his own solicitor, can he?  Of course I like him, and all
that--very much.  And I really believe he loves me.  We were children
together when Mummy was alive; and then he had to go abroad; and has only
just come back.  Of course, I've got to think of him, too, as he says.
But then, on the other hand, I don't want to make a mistake.  That would
be so terrible, for both of us; and of course I am clever; and there was
poor Mummy and Daddy.  I'll tell you all about them one day.  It was so
awfully sad.  Get him into a corner and talk to him.  You'll be able to
judge in a moment, you're so wonderful.  He's quiet on the outside, but I
think there's depth in him.  We must go in now."

She had talked so rapidly Joan felt as if her hat were being blown away.
She had difficulty in recognizing Flossie.  All the cocksure pertness had
departed.  She seemed just a kid.

Joan promised faithfully; and Flossie, standing on tiptoe, suddenly
kissed her and then bustled her in.

Flossie's young man was standing near the fire talking, or rather
listening, to a bird-like little woman in a short white frock and blue
ribbons.  A sombre lady just behind her, whom Joan from the distance took
to be her nurse, turned out to be her secretary, whose duty it was to be
always at hand, prepared to take down any happy idea that might occur to
the bird-like little woman in the course of conversation.  The bird-like
little woman was Miss Rose Tolley, a popular novelist.  She was
explaining to Flossie's young man, whose name was Sam Halliday, the
reason for her having written "Running Waters," her latest novel.

"It is daring," she admitted.  "I must be prepared for opposition.  But
it had to be stated."

"I take myself as typical," she continued.  "When I was twenty I could
have loved you.  You were the type of man I did love."

Mr. Halliday, who had been supporting the weight of his body upon his
right leg, transferred the burden to his left.

"But now I'm thirty-five; and I couldn't love you if I tried."  She shook
her curls at him.  "It isn't your fault.  It is that I have changed.
Suppose I'd married you?"

"Bit of bad luck for both of us," suggested Mr. Halliday.

"A tragedy," Miss Tolley corrected him.  "There are millions of such
tragedies being enacted around us at this moment.  Sensitive women
compelled to suffer the embraces of men that they have come to loathe.
What's to be done?"

Flossie, who had been hovering impatient, broke in.

"Oh, don't you believe her," she advised Mr. Halliday.  "She loves you
still.  She's only teasing you.  This is Joan."

She introduced her.  Miss Tolley bowed; and allowed herself to be drawn
away by a lank-haired young man who had likewise been waiting for an
opening.  He represented the Uplift Film Association of Chicago, and was
wishful to know if Miss Tolley would consent to altering the last chapter
and so providing "Running Waters" with a happy ending.  He pointed out
the hopelessness of it in its present form, for film purposes.

The discussion was brief.  "Then I'll send your agent the contract to-
morrow," Joan overheard him say a minute later.

Mr. Sam Halliday she liked at once.  He was a clean-shaven, square-jawed
young man, with quiet eyes and a pleasant voice.

"Try and find me brainy," he whispered to her, as soon as Flossie was out
of earshot.  "Talk to me about China.  I'm quite intelligent on China."

They both laughed, and then shot a guilty glance in Flossie's direction.

"Do the women really crush their feet?" asked Joan.

"Yes," he answered.  "All those who have no use for them.  About one per
cent. of the population.  To listen to Miss Tolley you would think that
half the women wanted a new husband every ten years.  It's always the one
per cent. that get themselves talked about.  The other ninety-nine are
too busy."

"You are young for a philosopher," said Joan.

He laughed.  "I told you I'd be all right if you started me on China," he
said.

"Why are you marrying.  Flossie?" Joan asked him.  She thought his point
of view would be interesting.

"Not sure I am yet," he answered with a grin.  "It depends upon how I get
through this evening."  He glanced round the room.  "Have I got to pass
all this crowd, I wonder?" he added.

Joan's eyes followed.  It was certainly an odd collection.  Flossie, in
her hunt for brains, had issued her invitations broadcast; and her fate
had been that of the Charity concert.  Not all the stars upon whom she
had most depended had turned up.  On the other hand not a single freak
had failed her.  At the moment, the centre of the room was occupied by a
gentleman and two ladies in classical drapery.  They were holding hands
in an attitude suggestive of a bas-relief.  Joan remembered them, having
seen them on one or two occasions wandering in the King's Road, Chelsea;
still maintaining, as far as the traffic would allow, the bas-relief
suggestion; and generally surrounded by a crowd of children, ever hopeful
that at the next corner they would stop and do something really
interesting.  They belonged to a society whose object was to lure the
London public by the force of example towards the adoption of the early
Greek fashions and the simpler Greek attitudes.  A friend of Flossie's
had thrown in her lot with them, but could never be induced to abandon
her umbrella.  They also, as Joan told herself, were reformers.  Near to
them was a picturesque gentleman with a beard down to his waist whose
"stunt"--as Flossie would have termed it--was hygienic clothing; it
seemed to contain an undue proportion of fresh air.  There were ladies in
coats and stand-up collars, and gentlemen with ringlets.  More than one
of the guests would have been better, though perhaps not happier, for a
bath.

"I fancy that's the idea," said Joan.  "What will you do if you fail?  Go
back to China?"

"Yes," he answered.  "And take her with me.  Poor little girl."

Joan rather resented his tone.

"We are not all alike," she remarked.  "Some of us are quite sane."

He looked straight into her eyes.  "You are," he said.  "I have been
reading your articles.  They are splendid.  I'm going to help."

"How can you?" she said.  "I mean, how will you?"

"Shipping is my business," he said.  "I'm going to help sailor men.  See
that they have somewhere decent to go to, and don't get robbed.  And then
there are the Lascars, poor devils.  Nobody ever takes their part."

"How did you come across them?" she asked.  "The articles, I mean.  Did
Flo give them to you?"

"No," he answered.  "Just chance.  Caught sight of your photo."

"Tell me," she said.  "If it had been the photo of a woman with a bony
throat and a beaky nose would you have read them?"

He thought a moment.  "Guess not," he answered.  "You're just as bad," he
continued.  "Isn't it the pale-faced young clergyman with the wavy hair
and the beautiful voice that you all flock to hear?  No getting away from
nature.  But it wasn't only that."  He hesitated.

"I want to know," she said.

"You looked so young," he answered.  "I had always had the idea that it
was up to the old people to put the world to rights--that all I had to do
was to look after myself.  It came to me suddenly while you were talking
to me--I mean while I was reading you: that if you were worrying yourself
about it, I'd got to come in, too--that it would be mean of me not to.  It
wasn't like being preached to.  It was somebody calling for help."

Instinctively she held out her hand and he grasped it.

Flossie came up at the same instant.  She wanted to introduce him to Miss
Lavery, who had just arrived.

"Hullo!" she said.  "Are you two concluding a bargain?"

"Yes," said Joan.  "We are founding the League of Youth.  You've got to
be in it.  We are going to establish branches all round the world."

Flossie's young man was whisked away.  Joan, who had seated herself in a
small chair, was alone for a few minutes.

Miss Tolley had chanced upon a Human Document, with the help of which she
was hopeful of starting a "Press Controversy" concerning the morality, or
otherwise, of "Running Waters."  The secretary stood just behind her,
taking notes.  They had drifted quite close.  Joan could not help
overhearing.

"It always seemed to me immoral, the marriage ceremony," the Human
Document was explaining.  She was a thin, sallow woman, with an untidy
head and restless eyes that seemed to be always seeking something to look
at and never finding it.  "How can we pledge the future?  To bind oneself
to live with a man when perhaps we have ceased to care for him; it's
hideous."

Miss Tolley murmured agreement.

"Our love was beautiful," continued the Human Document, eager,
apparently, to relate her experience for the common good; "just because
it was a free gift.  We were not fettered to one another.  At any moment
either of us could have walked out of the house.  The idea never occurred
to us; not for years--five, to be exact."

The secretary, at a sign from Miss Tolley, made a memorandum of it.

"And then did your feelings towards him change suddenly?" questioned Miss
Tolley.

"No," explained the Human Document, in the same quick, even tones; "so
far as I was concerned, I was not conscious of any alteration in my own
attitude.  But he felt the need of more solitude--for his development.  We
parted quite good friends."

"Oh," said Miss Tolley.  "And were there any children?"

"Only two," answered the Human Document, "both girls."

"What has become of them?" persisted Miss Tolley.

The Human Document looked offended.  "You do not think I would have
permitted any power on earth to separate them from me, do you?" she
answered.  "I said to him, 'They are mine, mine.  Where I go, they go.
Where I stay, they stay.'  He saw the justice of my argument."

"And they are with you now?" concluded Miss Tolley.

"You must come and see them," the Human Document insisted.  "Such dear,
magnetic creatures.  I superintend their entire education myself.  We
have a cottage in Surrey.  It's rather a tight fit.  You see, there are
seven of us now.  But the three girls can easily turn in together for a
night, Abner will be delighted."

"Abner is your second?" suggested Miss Tolley.

"My third," the Human Document corrected her.  "After Eustace, I married
Ivanoff.  I say 'married' because I regard it as the holiest form of
marriage.  He had to return to his own country.  There was a political
movement on foot.  He felt it his duty to go.  I want you particularly to
meet the boy.  He will interest you."

Miss Tolley appeared to be getting muddled.  "Whose boy?" she demanded.

"Ivanoff's," explained the Human Document.  "He was our only child."

Flossie appeared, towing a white-haired, distinguished-looking man, a Mr.
Folk.  She introduced him and immediately disappeared.  Joan wished she
had been left alone a little longer.  She would like to have heard more.
Especially was she curious concerning Abner, the lady's third.  Would the
higher moral law compel him, likewise, to leave the poor lady saddled
with another couple of children?  Or would she, on this occasion, get
in--or rather, get off, first?  Her own fancy was to back Abner.  She did
catch just one sentence before Miss Tolley, having obtained more food for
reflection than perhaps she wanted, signalled to her secretary that the
note-book might be closed.

"Woman's right to follow the dictates of her own heart, uncontrolled by
any law," the Human Document was insisting: "That is one of the first
things we must fight for."

Mr. Folk was a well-known artist.  He lived in Paris.  "You are
wonderfully like your mother," he told Joan.  "In appearance, I mean," he
added.  "I knew her when she was Miss Caxton.  I acted with her in
America."

Joan made a swift effort to hide her surprise.  She had never heard of
her mother having been upon the stage.

"I did not know that you had been an actor," she answered.

"I wasn't really," explained Mr. Folk.  "I just walked and talked
naturally.  It made rather a sensation at the time.  Your mother was a
genius.  You have never thought of going on the stage yourself?"

"No," said Joan.  "I don't think I've got what you call the artistic
temperament.  I have never felt drawn towards anything of that sort."

"I wonder," he said.  "You could hardly be your mother's daughter without
it."

"Tell me," said Joan.  "What was my mother like?  I can only remember her
as more or less of an invalid."

He did not reply to her question.  "Master or Mistress Eminent Artist,"
he said; "intends to retire from his or her particular stage, whatever it
may be.  That paragraph ought always to be put among the obituary
notices."

"What's your line?" he asked her.  "I take it you have one by your being
here.  Besides, I am sure you have.  I am an old fighter.  I can tell the
young soldier.  What's your regiment?"

Joan laughed.  "I'm a drummer boy," she answered.  "I beat my drum each
week in a Sunday newspaper, hoping the lads will follow."

"You feel you must beat that drum," he suggested.  "Beat it louder and
louder and louder till all the world shall hear it."

"Yes," Joan agreed, "I think that does describe me."

He nodded.  "I thought you were an artist," he said.  "Don't let them
ever take your drum away from you.  You'll go to pieces and get into
mischief without it."

"I know an old actress," he continued.  "She's the mother of four.  They
are all on the stage and they've all made their mark.  The youngest was
born in her dressing-room, just after the curtain had fallen.  She was
playing the Nurse to your mother's Juliet.  She is still the best Nurse
that I know.  'Jack's always worrying me to chuck it and devote myself to
the children,' she confided to me one evening, while she was waiting for
her cue.  'But, as I tell him, I'm more helpful to them being with them
half the day alive than all the day dead.'  That's an anecdote worth
remembering, when your time comes.  If God gives woman a drum he doesn't
mean man to take it away from her.  She hasn't got to be playing it for
twenty-four hours a day.  I'd like you to have seen your mother's
Cordelia."

Flossie was tacking her way towards them.  Joan acted on impulse.  "I
wish you'd give me your address," she said "where I could write to you.
Or perhaps you would not mind my coming and seeing you one day.  I would
like you to tell me more about my mother."

He gave her his address in Paris where he was returning almost
immediately.

"Do come," he said.  "It will take me back thirty-three years.  I
proposed to your mother on La Grande Terrasse at St. Germain.  We will
walk there.  I'm still a bachelor."  He laughed, and, kissing her hand,
allowed himself to be hauled away by Flossie, in exchange for Mrs.
Phillips, for whom Miss Lavery had insisted on an invitation.

Joan had met Mrs. Phillips several times; and once, on the stairs, had
stopped and spoken to her; but had never been introduced to her formally
till now.

"We have been meaning to call on you so often," panted Mrs. Phillips.  The
room was crowded and the exertion of squeezing her way through had winded
the poor lady.  "We take so much interest in your articles.  My husband--"
she paused for a second, before venturing upon the word, and the aitch
came out somewhat over-aspirated--"reads them most religiously.  You must
come and dine with us one evening."

Joan answered that she would be very pleased.

"I will find out when Robert is free and run up and let you know," she
continued.  "Of course, there are so many demands upon him, especially
during this period of national crisis, that I spare him all the social
duties that I can.  But I shall insist on his making an exception in your
case."

Joan murmured her sense of favour, but hoped she would not be allowed to
interfere with more pressing calls upon Mr. Phillips's time.

"It will do him good," answered Mrs. Phillips; "getting away from them
all for an hour or two.  I don't see much of him myself."

She glanced round and lowered her voice.  "They tell me," she said, "that
you're a B.A."

"Yes," answered Joan.  "One goes in for it more out of vanity, I'm
afraid, than for any real purpose that it serves."

"I took one or two prizes myself," said Mrs. Phillips.  "But, of course,
one forgets things.  I was wondering if you would mind if I ran up
occasionally to ask you a question.  Of course, as you know, my 'usband
'as 'ad so few advantages"--the lady's mind was concerned with more
important matters, and the aspirates, on this occasion, got themselves
neglected--"It is wonderful what he 'as done without them.  But if, now
and then, I could 'elp him--"

There was something about the poor, foolish painted face, as it looked up
pleadingly, that gave it a momentary touch of beauty.

"Do," said Joan, speaking earnestly.  "I shall be so very pleased if you
will."

"Thank you," said the woman.  Miss Lavery came up in a hurry to introduce
her to Miss Tolley.  "I am telling all my friends to read your articles,"
she added, resuming the gracious patroness, as she bowed her adieus.

Joan was alone again for a while.  A handsome girl, with her hair cut
short and parted at the side, was discussing diseases of the spine with a
curly-headed young man in a velvet suit.  The gentleman was describing
some of the effects in detail.  Joan felt there was danger of her being
taken ill if she listened any longer; and seeing Madge's brother near the
door, and unoccupied, she made her way across to him.

Niel Singleton, or Keeley, as he called himself upon the stage, was quite
unlike his sister.  He was short and plump, with a preternaturally solemn
face, contradicted by small twinkling eyes.  He motioned Joan to a chair
and told her to keep quiet and not disturb the meeting.

"Is he brainy?" he whispered after a minute.

"I like him," said Joan.

"I didn't ask you if you liked him," he explained to her.  "I asked you
if he was brainy.  I'm not too sure that you like brainy men."

"Yes, I do," said Joan.  "I like you, sometimes."

"Now, none of that," he said severely.  "It's no good your thinking of
me.  I'm wedded to my art.  We are talking about Mr. Halliday."

"What does Madge think of him?" asked Joan.

"Madge has fallen in love with him, and her judgment is not to be relied
upon," he said.  "I suppose you couldn't answer a straight question, if
you tried."

"Don't be so harsh with me," pleaded Joan meekly.  "I'm trying to think.
Yes," she continued, "decidedly he's got brains."

"Enough for the two of them?" demanded Mr. Singleton.  "Because he will
want them.  Now think before you speak."

Joan considered.  "Yes," she answered.  "I should say he's just the man
to manage her."

"Then it's settled," he said.  "We must save her."

"Save her from what?" demanded Joan.

"From his saying to himself: 'This is Flossie's idea of a party.  This is
the sort of thing that, if I marry her, I am letting myself in for.'  If
he hasn't broken off the engagement already, we may be in time."

He led the way to the piano.  "Tell Madge I want her," he whispered.  He
struck a few notes; and then in a voice that drowned every other sound in
the room, struck up a comic song.

The effect was magical.

He followed it up with another.  This one with a chorus, consisting
chiefly of "Umpty Umpty Umpty Umpty Ay," which was vociferously encored.

By the time it was done with, Madge had discovered a girl who could sing
"Three Little Pigs;" and a sad, pale-faced gentleman who told stories.  At
the end of one of them Madge's brother spoke to Joan in a tone more of
sorrow than of anger.

"Hardly the sort of anecdote that a truly noble and high-minded young
woman would have received with laughter," he commented.

"Did I laugh?" said Joan.

"Your having done so unconsciously only makes the matter worse," observed
Mr. Singleton.  "I had hoped it emanated from politeness, not enjoyment."

"Don't tease her," said Madge.  "She's having an evening off."

Joan and the Singletons were the last to go.  They promised to show Mr.
Halliday a short cut to his hotel in Holborn.

"Have you thanked Miss Lessing for a pleasant evening?" asked Mr.
Singleton, turning to Mr. Halliday.

He laughed and put his arm round her.  "Poor little woman," he said.
"You're looking so tired.  It was jolly at the end."  He kissed her.

He had passed through the swing doors; and they were standing on the
pavement waiting for Joan's bus.

"Why did we all like him?" asked Joan.  "Even Miss Lavery.  There's
nothing extraordinary about him."

"Oh yes there is," said Madge.  "Love has lent him gilded armour.  From
his helmet waves her crest," she quoted.  "Most men look fine in that
costume.  Pity they can't always wear it."

The conductor seemed impatient.  Joan sprang upon the step and waved her
hand.



CHAPTER VII


Joan was making herself a cup of tea when there came a tap at the door.
It was Mrs. Phillips.

"I heard you come in," she said.  "You're not busy, are you?"

"No," answered Joan.  "I hope you're not.  I'm generally in about this
time; and it's always nice to gossip over a dish of tea."

"Why do you say 'dish' of tea!" asked Mrs. Phillips, as she lowered
herself with evident satisfaction into the easy chair Joan placed for
her.

"Oh, I don't know," laughed Joan.  "Dr. Johnson always talked of a 'dish'
of tea.  Gives it a literary flavour."

"I've heard of him," said Mrs. Phillips.  "He's worth reading, isn't he?"

"Well, he talked more amusingly than he wrote," explained Joan.  "Get
Boswell's Life of him.  Or I'll lend you mine," she added, "if you'll be
careful of it.  You'll find all the passages marked that are best worth
remembering.  At least, I think so."

"Thanks," said Mrs. Phillips.  "You see, as the wife of a public man, I
get so little time for study."

"Is it settled yet?" asked Joan.  "Are they going to make room for him in
the Cabinet?

"I'm afraid so," answered Mrs. Phillips.  "Oh, of course, I want him to,"
she corrected herself.  "And he must, of course, if the King insists upon
it.  But I wish it hadn't all come with such a whirl.  What shall I have
to do, do you think?"

Joan was pouring out the tea.  "Oh, nothing," she answered, "but just be
agreeable to the right people.  He'll tell you who they are.  And take
care of him."

"I wish I'd taken more interest in politics when I was young," said Mrs.
Phillips.  "Of course, when I was a girl, women weren't supposed to."

"Do you know, I shouldn't worry about them, if I were you," Joan advised
her.  "Let him forget them when he's with you.  A man can have too much
of a good thing," she laughed.

"I wonder if you're right," mused Mrs. Phillips.  "He does often say that
he'd just as soon I didn't talk about them."

Joan shot a glance from over her cup.  The poor puzzled face was staring
into the fire.  Joan could almost hear him saying it.

"I'm sure I am," she said.  "Make home-coming a change to him.  As you
said yourself the other evening.  It's good for him to get away from it
all, now and then."

"I must try," agreed Mrs. Phillips, looking up.  "What sort of things
ought I to talk to him about, do you think?"

Joan gave an inward sigh.  Hadn't the poor lady any friends of her own.
"Oh, almost anything," she answered vaguely: "so long as it's cheerful
and non-political.  What used you to talk about before he became a great
man?"

There came a wistful look into the worried eyes.  "Oh, it was all so
different then," she said.  "'E just liked to--you know.  We didn't seem
to 'ave to talk.  'E was a rare one to tease.  I didn't know 'ow clever
'e was, then."

It seemed a difficult case to advise upon.  "How long have you been
married?" Joan asked.

"Fifteen years," she answered.  "I was a bit older than 'im.  But I've
never looked my age, they tell me.  Lord, what a boy 'e was!  Swept you
off your feet, like.  'E wasn't the only one.  I'd got a way with me, I
suppose.  Anyhow, the men seemed to think so.  There was always a few
'anging about.  Like flies round a 'oney-pot, Mother used to say."  She
giggled.  "But 'e wouldn't take No for an answer.  And I didn't want to
give it 'im, neither.  I was gone on 'im, right enough.  No use saying I
wasn't."

"You must be glad you didn't say No," suggested Joan.

"Yes," she answered, "'E's got on.  I always think of that little poem,
'Lord Burleigh,'" she continued; "whenever I get worrying about myself.
Ever read it?"

"Yes," answered Joan.  "He was a landscape painter, wasn't he?"

"That's the one," said Mrs. Phillips.  "I little thought I was letting
myself in for being the wife of a big pot when Bob Phillips came along in
'is miner's jacket."

"You'll soon get used to it," Joan told her.  "The great thing is not to
be afraid of one's fate, whatever it is; but just to do one's best."  It
was rather like talking to a child.

"You're the right sort to put 'eart into a body.  I'm glad I came up,"
said Mrs. Phillips.  "I get a bit down in the mouth sometimes when 'e
goes off into one of 'is brown studies, and I don't seem to know what
'e's thinking about.  But it don't last long.  I was always one of the
light-'earted ones."

They discussed life on two thousand a year; the problems it would
present; and Mrs. Phillips became more cheerful.  Joan laid herself out
to be friendly.  She hoped to establish an influence over Mrs. Phillips
that should be for the poor lady's good; and, as she felt instinctively,
for poor Phillips's also.  It was not an unpleasing face.  Underneath the
paint, it was kind and womanly.  Joan was sure he would like it better
clean.  A few months' attention to diet would make a decent figure of her
and improve her wind.  Joan watched her spreading the butter a quarter of
an inch thick upon her toast and restrained with difficulty the impulse
to take it away from her.  And her clothes!  Joan had seen guys carried
through the streets on the fifth of November that were less obtrusive.

She remembered, as she was taking her leave, what she had come for: which
was to invite Joan to dinner on the following Friday.

"It's just a homely affair," she explained.  She had recovered her form
and was now quite the lady again.  "Two other guests beside yourself: a
Mr. Airlie--I am sure you will like him.  He's so dilletanty--and Mr.
McKean.  He's the young man upstairs.  Have you met him?"

Joan hadn't: except once on the stairs when, to avoid having to pass her,
he had gone down again and out into the street.  From the doorstep she
had caught sight of his disappearing coat-tails round the corner.
Yielding to impishness, she had run after him, and his expression of
blank horror when, glancing over his shoulder, he found her walking
abstractedly three yards behind him, had gladdened all her evening.

Joan recounted the episode--so far as the doorstep.

"He tried to be shy with me," said Mrs. Phillips, "but I wouldn't let
him.  I chipped him out of it.  If he's going to write plays, as I told
him, he will have to get over his fear of a petticoat."

She offered her cheek, and Joan kissed it, somewhat gingerly.

"You won't mind Robert not wearing evening dress," she said.  "He never
will if he can help it.  I shall just slip on a semi-toilette myself."

Joan had difficulty in deciding on her own frock.  Her four evening
dresses, as she walked round them, spread out upon the bed, all looked
too imposing, for what Mrs. Phillips had warned her would be a "homely
affair."  She had one other, a greyish-fawn, with sleeves to the elbow,
that she had had made expressly for public dinners and political At
Homes.  But that would be going to the opposite extreme, and might seem
discourteous--to her hostess.  Besides, "mousey" colours didn't really
suit her.  They gave her a curious sense of being affected.  In the end
she decided to risk a black crepe-de-chine, square cut, with a girdle of
gold embroidery.  There couldn't be anything quieter than black, and the
gold embroidery was of the simplest.  She would wear it without any
jewellery whatever: except just a star in her hair.  The result, as she
viewed the effect in the long glass, quite satisfied her.  Perhaps the
jewelled star did scintillate rather.  It had belonged to her mother.  But
her hair was so full of shadows: it wanted something to relieve it.  Also
she approved the curved line of her bare arms.  It was certainly very
beautiful, a woman's arm.  She took her gloves in her hand and went down.

Mr. Phillips was not yet in the room.  Mrs. Phillips, in apple-green with
an ostrich feather in her hair, greeted her effusively, and introduced
her to her fellow guests.  Mr. Airlie was a slight, elegant gentleman of
uncertain age, with sandy hair and beard cut Vandyke fashion.  He asked
Joan's permission to continue his cigarette.

"You have chosen the better part," he informed her, on her granting it.
"When I'm not smoking, I'm talking."

Mr. McKean shook her hand vigorously without looking at her.

"And this is Hilda," concluded Mrs. Phillips.  "She ought to be in bed if
she hadn't a naughty Daddy who spoils her."

A lank, black-haired girl, with a pair of burning eyes looking out of a
face that, but for the thin line of the lips, would have been absolutely
colourless, rose suddenly from behind a bowl of artificial flowers.  Joan
could not suppress a slight start; she had not noticed her on entering.
The girl came slowly forward, and Joan felt as if the uncanny eyes were
eating her up.  She made an effort and held out her hand with a smile,
and the girl's long thin fingers closed on it in a pressure that hurt.
She did not speak.

"She only came back yesterday for the half-term," explained Mrs.
Phillips.  "There's no keeping her away from her books.  'Twas her own
wish to be sent to boarding-school.  How would you like to go to Girton
and be a B.A. like Miss Allway?" she asked, turning to the child.

Phillips's entrance saved the need of a reply.  To the evident surprise
of his wife he was in evening clothes.

"Hulloa.  You've got 'em on," she said.

He laughed.  "I shall have to get used to them sooner or later," he said.

Joan felt relieved--she hardly knew why--that he bore the test.  It was a
well-built, athletic frame, and he had gone to a good tailor.  He looked
taller in them; and the strong, clean-shaven face less rugged.

Joan sat next to him at the round dinner-table with the child the other
side of him.  She noticed that he ate as far as possible with his right
hand--his hands were large, but smooth and well shaped--his left
remaining under the cloth, beneath which the child's right hand, when
free, would likewise disappear.  For a while the conversation consisted
chiefly of anecdotes by Mr. Airlie.  There were few public men and women
about whom he did not know something to their disadvantage.  Joan,
listening, found herself repeating the experience of a night or two
previous, when, during a performance of _Hamlet_, Niel Singleton, who was
playing the grave-digger, had taken her behind the scenes.  Hamlet, the
King of Denmark and the Ghost were sharing a bottle of champagne in the
Ghost's dressing-room: it happened to be the Ghost's birthday.  On her
return to the front of the house, her interest in the play was gone.  It
was absurd that it should be so; but the fact remained.

Mr. Airlie had lunched the day before with a leonine old gentleman who
every Sunday morning thundered forth Social Democracy to enthusiastic
multitudes on Tower Hill.  Joan had once listened to him and had almost
been converted: he was so tremendously in earnest.  She now learnt that
he lived in Curzon Street, Mayfair, and filled, in private life, the
perfectly legitimate calling of a company promoter in partnership with a
Dutch Jew.  His latest prospectus dwelt upon the profits to be derived
from an amalgamation of the leading tanning industries: by means of which
the price of leather could be enormously increased.

It was utterly illogical; but her interest in the principles of Social
Democracy was gone.

A very little while ago, Mr. Airlie, in his capacity of second cousin to
one of the ladies concerned, a charming girl but impulsive, had been
called upon to attend a family council of a painful nature.  The
gentleman's name took Joan's breath away: it was the name of one of her
heroes, an eminent writer: one might almost say prophet.  She had
hitherto read his books with grateful reverence.  They pictured for her
the world made perfect; and explained to her just precisely how it was to
be accomplished.  But, as far as his own particular corner of it was
concerned, he seemed to have made a sad mess of it.  Human nature of
quite an old-fashioned pattern had crept in and spoilt all his own
theories.

Of course it was unreasonable.  The sign-post may remain embedded in
weeds: it notwithstanding points the way to the fair city.  She told
herself this, but it left her still short-tempered.  She didn't care
which way it pointed.  She didn't believe there was any fair city.

There was a famous preacher.  He lived the simple life in a small house
in Battersea, and consecrated all his energies to the service of the
poor.  Almost, by his unselfish zeal, he had persuaded Joan of the
usefulness of the church.  Mr. Airlie frequently visited him.  They
interested one another.  What struck Mr. Airlie most was the
self-sacrificing devotion with which the reverend gentleman's wife and
family surrounded him.  It was beautiful to see.  The calls upon his
moderate purse, necessitated by his wide-spread and much paragraphed
activities, left but a narrow margin for domestic expenses: with the
result that often the only fire in the house blazed brightly in the study
where Mr. Airlie and the reverend gentleman sat talking: while mother and
children warmed themselves with sense of duty in the cheerless kitchen.
And often, as Mr. Airlie, who was of an inquiring turn of mind, had
convinced himself, the only evening meal that resources would permit was
the satisfying supper for one brought by the youngest daughter to her
father where he sat alone in the small dining-room.

Mr. Airlie, picking daintily at his food, continued his stories: of
philanthropists who paid starvation wages: of feminists who were a holy
terror to their women folk: of socialists who travelled first-class and
spent their winters in Egypt or Monaco: of stern critics of public morals
who preferred the society of youthful affinities to the continued company
of elderly wives: of poets who wrote divinely about babies' feet and
whose children hated them.

"Do you think it's all true?" Joan whispered to her host.

He shrugged his shoulders.  "No reason why it shouldn't be," he said.
"I've generally found him right."

"I've never been able myself," he continued, "to understand the Lord's
enthusiasm for David.  I suppose it was the Psalms that did it."

Joan was about to offer comment, but was struck dumb with astonishment on
hearing McKean's voice: it seemed he could talk.  He was telling of an
old Scotch peasant farmer.  A mean, cantankerous old cuss whose curious
pride it was that he had never given anything away.  Not a crust, nor a
sixpence, nor a rag; and never would.  Many had been the attempts to make
him break his boast: some for the joke of the thing and some for the
need; but none had ever succeeded.  It was his one claim to distinction
and he guarded it.

One evening it struck him that the milk-pail, standing just inside the
window, had been tampered with.  Next day he marked with a scratch the
inside of the pan and, returning later, found the level of the milk had
sunk half an inch.  So he hid himself and waited; and at twilight the
next day the window was stealthily pushed open, and two small, terror-
haunted eyes peered round the room.  They satisfied themselves that no
one was about and a tiny hand clutching a cracked jug was thrust swiftly
in and dipped into the pan; and the window softly closed.

He knew the thief, the grandchild of an old bedridden dame who lived some
miles away on the edge of the moor.  The old man stood long, watching the
small cloaked figure till it was lost in the darkness.  It was not till
he lay upon his dying bed that he confessed it.  But each evening, from
that day, he would steal into the room and see to it himself that the
window was left ajar.

After the coffee, Mrs. Phillips proposed their adjourning to the "drawing-
room" the other side of the folding doors, which had been left open.
Phillips asked her to leave Joan and himself where they were.  He wanted
to talk to her.  He promised not to bore her for more than ten minutes.

The others rose and moved away.  Hilda came and stood before Joan with
her hands behind her.

"I am going to bed now," she said.  "I wanted to see you from what Papa
told me.  May I kiss you?"

It was spoken so gravely that Joan did not ask her, as in lighter mood
she might have done, what it was that Phillips had said.  She raised her
face quietly, and the child bent forward and kissed her, and went out
without looking back at either of them, leaving Joan more serious than
there seemed any reason for.  Phillips filled his pipe and lighted it.

"I wish I had your pen," he said, suddenly breaking the silence.  "I'm
all right at talking; but I want to get at the others: the men and women
who never come, thinking it has nothing to do with them.  I'm shy and
awkward when I try to write.  There seems a barrier in front of me.  You
break through it.  One hears your voice.  Tell me," he said, "are you
getting your way?  Do they answer you?"

"Yes," said Joan.  "Not any great number of them, not yet.  But enough to
show that I really am interesting them.  It grows every week."

"Tell them that," he said.  "Let them hear each other.  It's the same at
a meeting.  You wait ten minutes sometimes before one man will summon up
courage to put a question; but once one or two have ventured they spring
up all round you.  I was wondering," he added, "if you would help me; let
me use you, now and again."

"It is what I should love," she answered.  "Tell me what to do."  She was
not conscious of the low, vibrating tone in which she spoke.

"I want to talk to them," he said, "about their stomachs.  I want them to
see the need of concentrating upon the food problem: insisting that it
shall be solved.  The other things can follow."

"There was an old Egyptian chap," he said, "a governor of one of their
provinces, thousands of years before the Pharaohs were ever heard of.
They dug up his tomb a little while ago.  It bore this inscription: 'In
my time no man went hungry.'  I'd rather have that carved upon my
gravestone than the boastings of all the robbers and the butchers of
history.  Think what it must have meant in that land of drought and
famine: only a narrow strip of river bank where a grain of corn would
grow; and that only when old Nile was kind.  If not, your nearest
supplies five hundred miles away across the desert, your only means of
transport the slow-moving camel.  Your convoy must be guarded against
attack, provided with provisions and water for a two months' journey.  Yet
he never failed his people.  Fat year and lean year: 'In my time no man
went hungry.'  And here, to-day, with our steamships and our railways,
with the granaries of the world filled to overflowing, one third of our
population lives on the border line of want.  In India they die by the
roadside.  What's the good of it all: your science and your art and your
religion!  How can you help men's souls if their bodies are starving?  A
hungry man's a hungry beast.

"I spent a week at Grimsby, some years ago, organizing a fisherman's
union.  They used to throw the fish back into the sea, tons upon tons of
it, that men had risked their lives to catch, that would have fed half
London's poor.  There was a 'glut' of it, they said.  The 'market' didn't
want it.  Funny, isn't it, a 'glut' of food: and the kiddies can't learn
their lessons for want of it.  I was talking with a farmer down in Kent.
The plums were rotting on his trees.  There were too many of them: that
was the trouble.  The railway carriage alone would cost him more than he
could get for them.  They were too cheap.  So nobody could have them.
It's the muddle of the thing that makes me mad--the ghastly muddle-headed
way the chief business of the world is managed.  There's enough food
could be grown in this country to feed all the people and then of the
fragments each man might gather his ten basketsful.  There's no miracle
needed.  I went into the matter once with Dalroy of the Board of
Agriculture.  He's the best man they've got, if they'd only listen to
him.  It's never been organized: that's all.  It isn't the fault of the
individual.  It ought not to be left to the individual.  The man who
makes a corner in wheat in Chicago and condemns millions to
privation--likely enough, he's a decent sort of fellow in himself: a kind
husband and father--would be upset for the day if he saw a child crying
for bread.  My dog's a decent enough little chap, as dogs go, but I don't
let him run my larder.

"It could be done with a little good will all round," he continued, "and
nine men out of every ten would be the better off.  But they won't even
let you explain.  Their newspapers shout you down.  It's such a damned
fine world for the few: never mind the many.  My father was a farm
labourer: and all his life he never earned more than thirteen and
sixpence a week.  I left when I was twelve and went into the mines.  There
were six of us children; and my mother brought us up healthy and decent.
She fed us and clothed us and sent us to school; and when she died we
buried her with the money she had put by for the purpose; and never a
penny of charity had ever soiled her hands.  I can see them now.  Talk of
your Chancellors of the Exchequer and their problems!  She worked herself
to death, of course.  Well, that's all right.  One doesn't mind that
where one loves.  If they would only let you.  She had no opposition to
contend with--no thwarting and hampering at every turn--the very people
you are working for hounded on against you.  The difficulty of a man like
myself, who wants to do something, who could do something, is that for
the best part of his life he is fighting to be allowed to do it.  By the
time I've lived down their lies and got my chance, my energy will be
gone."

He knocked the ashes from his pipe and relit it.

"I've no quarrel with the rich," he said.  "I don't care how many rich
men there are, so long as there are no poor.  Who does?  I was riding on
a bus the other day, and there was a man beside me with a bandaged head.
He'd been hurt in that railway smash at Morpeth.  He hadn't claimed
damages from the railway company and wasn't going to.  'Oh, it's only a
few scratches,' he said.  'They'll be hit hard enough as it is.'  If he'd
been a poor devil on eighteen shillings a week it would have been
different.  He was an engineer earning good wages; so he wasn't feeling
sore and bitter against half the world.  Suppose you tried to run an army
with your men half starved while your officers had more than they could
eat.  It's been tried and what's been the result?  See that your soldiers
have their proper rations, and the General can sit down to his six-course
dinner, if he will.  They are not begrudging it to him.

"A nation works on its stomach.  Underfeed your rank and file, and what
sort of a fight are you going to put up against your rivals.  I want to
see England going ahead.  I want to see her workers properly fed.  I want
to see the corn upon her unused acres, the cattle grazing on her wasted
pastures.  I object to the food being thrown into the sea--left to rot
upon the ground while men are hungry--side-tracked in Chicago, while the
children grow up stunted.  I want the commissariat properly organized."

He had been staring through her rather than at her, so it had seemed to
Joan.  Suddenly their eyes met, and he broke into a smile.

"I'm so awfully sorry," he said.  "I've been talking to you as if you
were a public meeting.  I'm afraid I'm more used to them than I am to
women.  Please forgive me."

The whole man had changed.  The eyes had a timid pleading in them.

Joan laughed.  "I've been feeling as if I were the King of Bavaria," she
said.

"How did he feel?" he asked her, leaning forward.

"He had his own private theatre," Joan explained, "where Wagner gave his
operas.  And the King was the sole audience."

"I should have hated that," he said, "if I had been Wagner."

He looked at her, and a flush passed over his boyish face.

"All right," he said, "if it had been a queen."

Joan found herself tracing patterns with her spoon upon the tablecloth.
"But you have won now," she said, still absorbed apparently with her
drawing, "you are going to get your chance."

He gave a short laugh.  "A trick," he said, "to weaken me.  They think to
shave my locks; show me to the people bound by their red tape.  To put it
another way, a rat among the terriers."

Joan laughed.  "You don't somehow suggest the rat," she said: "rather
another sort of beast."

"What do you advise me?" he asked.  "I haven't decided yet."

They were speaking in whispered tones.  Through the open doors they could
see into the other room.  Mrs. Phillips, under Airlie's instructions, was
venturing upon a cigarette.

"To accept," she answered.  "They won't influence you--the terriers, as
you call them.  You are too strong.  It is you who will sway them.  It
isn't as if you were a mere agitator.  Take this opportunity of showing
them that you can build, plan, organize; that you were meant to be a
ruler.  You can't succeed without them, as things are.  You've got to win
them over.  Prove to them that they can trust you."

He sat for a minute tattooing with his fingers on the table, before
speaking.

"It's the frills and flummery part of it that frightens me," he said.
"You wouldn't think that sensitiveness was my weak point.  But it is.
I've stood up to a Birmingham mob that was waiting to lynch me and
enjoyed the experience; but I'd run ten miles rather than face a drawing-
room of well-dressed people with their masked faces and ironic
courtesies.  It leaves me for days feeling like a lobster that has lost
its shell."

"I wouldn't say it, if I didn't mean it," answered Joan; "but you haven't
got to trouble yourself about that . . . You're quite passable."  She
smiled.  It seemed to her that most women would find him more than
passable.

He shook his head.  "With you," he said.  "There's something about you
that makes one ashamed of worrying about the little things.  But the
others: the sneering women and the men who wink over their shoulder while
they talk to you, I shall never be able to get away from them, and, of
course, wherever I go--"

He stopped abruptly with a sudden tightening of the lips.  Joan followed
his eyes.  Mrs. Phillips had swallowed the smoke and was giggling and
spluttering by turns.  The yellow ostrich feather had worked itself loose
and was rocking to and fro as if in a fit of laughter of its own.

He pushed back his chair and rose.  "Shall we join the others?" he said.

He moved so that he was between her and the other room, his back to the
open doors.  "You think I ought to?" he said.

"Yes," she answered firmly, as if she were giving a command.  But he read
pity also in her eyes.

"Well, have you two settled the affairs of the kingdom?  Is it all
decided?" asked Airlie.

"Yes," he answered, laughing.  "We are going to say to the people, 'Eat,
drink and be wise.'"

He rearranged his wife's feather and smoothed her tumbled hair.  She
looked up at him and smiled.

Joan set herself to make McKean talk, and after a time succeeded.  They
had a mutual friend, a raw-boned youth she had met at Cambridge.  He was
engaged to McKean's sister.  His eyes lighted up when he spoke of his
sister Jenny.  The Little Mother, he called her.

"She's the most beautiful body in all the world," he said.  "Though
merely seeing her you mightn't know it."

He saw her "home"; and went on up the stairs to his own floor.

Joan stood for a while in front of the glass before undressing; but felt
less satisfied with herself.  She replaced the star in its case, and took
off the regal-looking dress with the golden girdle and laid it carelessly
aside.  She seemed to be growing smaller.

In her white night dress, with her hair in two long plaits, she looked at
herself once more.  She seemed to be no one of any importance at all:
just a long little girl going to bed.  With no one to kiss her good
night.

She blew out the candle and climbed into the big bed, feeling very
lonesome as she used to when a child.  It had not troubled her until to-
night.  Suddenly she sat up again.  She needn't be back in London before
Tuesday evening, and to-day was only Friday.  She would run down home and
burst in upon her father.  He would be so pleased to see her.

She would make him put his arms around her.



CHAPTER VIII


She reached home in the evening.  She thought to find her father in his
study.  But they told her that, now, he usually sat alone in the great
drawing-room.  She opened the door softly.  The room was dark save for a
flicker of firelight; she could see nothing.  Nor was there any sound.

"Dad," she cried, "are you here?"

He rose slowly from a high-backed chair beside the fire.

"It is you," he said.  He seemed a little dazed.

She ran to him and, seizing his listless arms, put them round her.

"Give me a hug, Dad," she commanded.  "A real hug."

He held her to him for what seemed a long while.  There was strength in
his arms, in spite of the bowed shoulders and white hair.

"I was afraid you had forgotten how to do it," she laughed, when at last
he released her.  "Do you know, you haven't hugged me, Dad, since I was
five years old.  That's nineteen years ago.  You do love me, don't you?"

"Yes," he answered.  "I have always loved you."

She would not let him light the gas.  "I have dined--in the train," she
explained.  "Let us talk by the firelight."

She forced him gently back into his chair, and seated herself upon the
floor between his knees.  "What were you thinking of when I came in?" she
asked.  "You weren't asleep, were you?"

"No," he answered.  "Not that sort of sleep."  She could not see his
face.  But she guessed his meaning.

"Am I very like her?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered.  "Marvellously like her as she used to be: except for
just one thing.  Perhaps that will come to you later.  I thought, for the
moment, as you stood there by the door . . . "  He did not finish the
sentence.

"Tell me about her," she said.  "I never knew she had been an actress."

He did not ask her how she had learnt it.  "She gave it up when we were
married," he said.  "The people she would have to live among would have
looked askance at her if they had known.  There seemed no reason why they
should."

"How did it all happen?" she persisted.  "Was it very beautiful, in the
beginning?"  She wished she had not added that last.  The words had
slipped from her before she knew.

"Very beautiful," he answered, "in the beginning."

"It was my fault," he went on, "that it was not beautiful all through.  I
ought to have let her take up her work again, as she wished to, when she
found what giving it up meant to her.  The world was narrower then than
it is now; and I listened to the world.  I thought it another voice."

"It's difficult to tell, isn't it?" she said.  "I wonder how one can?"

He did not answer; and they sat for a time in silence.

"Did you ever see her act?" asked Joan.

"Every evening for about six months," he answered.  A little flame shot
up and showed a smile upon his face.

"I owe to her all the charity and tenderness I know.  She taught it to me
in those months.  I might have learned more if I had let her go on
teaching.  It was the only way she knew."

Joan watched her as gradually she shaped herself out of the shadows: the
poor, thin, fretful lady of the ever restless hands, with her bursts of
jealous passion, her long moods of sullen indifference: all her music
turned to waste.

"How did she come to fall in love with you?" asked Joan.  "I don't mean
to be uncomplimentary, Dad."  She laughed, taking his hand in hers and
stroking it.  "You must have been ridiculously handsome, when you were
young.  And you must always have been strong and brave and clever.  I can
see such a lot of women falling in love with you.  But not the artistic
woman."

"It wasn't so incongruous at the time," he answered.  "My father had sent
me out to America to superintend a contract.  It was the first time I had
ever been away from home, though I was nearly thirty; and all my pent-up
youth rushed out of me at once.  It was a harum-scarum fellow, mad with
the joy of life, that made love to her; not the man who went out, nor the
man who came back.  It was at San Francisco that I met her.  She was
touring the Western States; and I let everything go to the wind and
followed her.  It seemed to me that Heaven had opened up to me.  I fought
a duel in Colorado with a man who had insulted her.  The law didn't run
there in those days; and three of his hired gunmen, as they called them,
held us up that night in the train and gave her the alternative of going
back with them and kissing him or seeing me dead at her feet.  I didn't
give her time to answer, nor for them to finish.  It seemed a fine death
anyhow, that.  And I'd have faced Hell itself for the chance of fighting
for her.  Though she told me afterwards that if I'd died she'd have gone
back with them, and killed him."

Joan did not speak for a time.  She could see him grave--a little
pompous, in his Sunday black, his footsteps creaking down the
stone-flagged aisle, the silver-edged collecting bag held stiffly in his
hand.

"Couldn't you have saved a bit, Daddy?" she asked, "of all that wealth of
youth--just enough to live on?"

"I might," he answered, "if I had known the value of it.  I found a cable
waiting for me in New York.  My father had been dead a month; and I had
to return immediately."

"And so you married her and took her drum away from her," said Joan.  "Oh,
the thing God gives to some of us," she explained, "to make a little
noise with, and set the people marching."

The little flame died out.  She could feel his body trembling.

"But you still loved her, didn't you, Dad?" she asked.  "I was very
little at the time, but I can just remember.  You seemed so happy
together.  Till her illness came."

"It was more than love," he answered.  "It was idolatry.  God punished me
for it.  He was a hard God, my God."

She raised herself, putting her hands upon his shoulders so that her face
was very close to his.  "What has become of Him, Dad?" she said.  She
spoke in a cold voice, as one does of a false friend.

"I do not know," he answered her.  "I don't seem to care."

"He must be somewhere," she said: "the living God of love and hope: the
God that Christ believed in."

"They were His last words, too," he answered: "'My God, my God, why hast
Thou forsaken me?'"

"No, not His last," said Joan: "'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the
end of the world.'  Love was Christ's God.  He will help us to find Him."

Their arms were about one another.  Joan felt that a new need had been
born in her: the need of loving and of being loved.  It was good to lay
her head upon his breast and know that he was glad of her coming.

He asked her questions about herself.  But she could see that he was
tired; so she told him it was too important a matter to start upon so
late.  She would talk about herself to-morrow.  It would be Sunday.

"Do you still go to the chapel?" she asked him a little hesitatingly.

"Yes," he answered.  "One lives by habit."

"It is the only Temple I know," he continued after a moment.  "Perhaps
God, one day, will find me there."

He rose and lit the gas, and a letter on the mantelpiece caught his eye.

"Have you heard from Arthur?" he asked, suddenly turning to her.

"No.  Not since about a month," she answered.  "Why?"

"He will be pleased to find you here, waiting for him," he said with a
smile, handing her the letter.  "He will be here some time to-morrow."

Arthur Allway was her cousin, the son of a Nonconformist Minister.  Her
father had taken him into the works and for the last three years he had
been in Egypt, helping in the laying of a tramway line.  He was in love
with her: at least so they all told her; and his letters were certainly
somewhat committal.  Joan replied to them--when she did not forget to do
so--in a studiously sisterly vein; and always reproved him for
unnecessary extravagance whenever he sent her a present.  The letter
announced his arrival at Southampton.  He would stop at Birmingham, where
his parents lived, for a couple of days, and be in Liverpool on Sunday
evening, so as to be able to get straight to business on Monday morning.
Joan handed back the letter.  It contained nothing else.

"It only came an hour or two ago," her father explained.  "If he wrote to
you by the same post, you may have left before it arrived."

"So long as he doesn't think that I came down specially to see him, I
don't mind," said Joan.

They both laughed.  "He's a good lad," said her father.

They kissed good night, and Joan went up to her own room.  She found it
just as she had left it.  A bunch of roses stood upon the dressing-table.
Her father would never let anyone cut his roses but himself.

Young Allway arrived just as Joan and her father had sat down to supper.
A place had been laid for him.  He flushed with pleasure at seeing her;
but was not surprised.

"I called at your diggings," he said.  "I had to go through London.  They
told me you had started.  It is good of you."

"No, it isn't," said Joan.  "I came down to see Dad.  I didn't know you
were back."  She spoke with some asperity; and his face fell.

"How are you?" she added, holding out her hand.  "You've grown quite good-
looking.  I like your moustache."  And he flushed again with pleasure.

He had a sweet, almost girlish face, with delicate skin that the Egyptian
sun had deepened into ruddiness; with soft, dreamy eyes and golden hair.
He looked lithe and agile rather than strong.  He was shy at first, but
once set going, talked freely, and was interesting.

His work had taken him into the Desert, far from the beaten tracks.  He
described the life of the people, very little different from what it must
have been in Noah's time.  For months he had been the only white man
there, and had lived among them.  What had struck him was how little he
had missed all the paraphernalia of civilization, once he had got over
the first shock.  He had learnt their sports and games; wrestled and swum
and hunted with them.  Provided one was a little hungry and tired with
toil, a stew of goat's flesh with sweet cakes and fruits, washed down
with wine out of a sheep's skin, made a feast; and after, there was music
and singing and dancing, or the travelling story-teller would gather
round him his rapt audience.  Paris had only robbed women of their grace
and dignity.  He preferred the young girls in their costume of the
fourteenth dynasty.  Progress, he thought, had tended only to complicate
life and render it less enjoyable.  All the essentials of happiness--love,
courtship, marriage, the home, children, friendship, social intercourse,
and play, were independent of it; had always been there for the asking.

Joan thought his mistake lay in regarding man's happiness as more
important to him than his self-development.  It was not what we got out
of civilization but what we put into it that was our gain.  Its luxuries
and ostentations were, in themselves, perhaps bad for us.  But the
pursuit of them was good.  It called forth thought and effort, sharpened
our wits, strengthened our brains.  Primitive man, content with his
necessities, would never have produced genius.  Art, literature, science
would have been stillborn.

He hesitated before replying, glancing at her furtively while crumbling
his bread.  When he did, it was in the tone that one of her younger
disciples might have ventured into a discussion with Hypatia.  But he
stuck to his guns.

How did she account for David and Solomon, Moses and the Prophets?  They
had sprung from a shepherd race.  Yet surely there was genius,
literature.  Greece owed nothing to progress.  She had preceded it.  Her
thinkers, her poets, her scientists had draws their inspiration from
nature, not civilization.  Her art had sprung full grown out of the soil.
We had never surpassed it.

"But the Greek ideal could not have been the right one, or Greece would
not so utterly have disappeared," suggested Mr. Allway.  "Unless you
reject the law of the survival of the fittest."

He had no qualms about arguing with his uncle.

"So did Archimedes disappear," he answered with a smile.  "The nameless
Roman soldier remained.  That was hardly the survival of the fittest."

He thought it the tragedy of the world that Rome had conquered Greece,
imposing her lower ideals upon the race.  Rome should have been the
servant of Greece: the hands directed by the brain.  She would have made
roads and harbours, conducted the traffic, reared the market place.  She
knew of the steam engine, employed it for pumping water in the age of the
Antonines.  Sooner or later, she would have placed it on rails, and in
ships.  Rome should have been the policeman, keeping the world in order,
making it a fit habitation.  Her mistake was in regarding these things as
an end in themselves, dreaming of nothing beyond.  From her we had
inherited the fallacy that man was made for the world, not the world for
man.  Rome organized only for man's body.  Greece would have legislated
for his soul.

They went into the drawing-room.  Her father asked her to sing and Arthur
opened the piano for her and lit the candles.  She chose some ballads and
a song of Herrick's, playing her own accompaniment while Arthur turned
the leaves.  She had a good voice, a low contralto.  The room was high
and dimly lighted.  It looked larger than it really was.  Her father sat
in his usual chair beside the fire and listened with half-closed eyes.
Glancing now and then across at him, she was reminded of Orchardson's
picture.  She was feeling sentimental, a novel sensation to her.  She
rather enjoyed it.

She finished with one of Burns's lyrics; and then told Arthur that it was
now his turn, and that she would play for him.  He shook his head,
pleading that he was out of practice.

"I wish it," she said, speaking low.  And it pleased her that he made no
answer but to ask her what he should sing.  He had a light tenor voice.
It was wobbly at first, but improved as he went on.  They ended with a
duet.

The next morning she went into town with them.  She never seemed to have
any time in London, and wanted to do some shopping.  They joined her
again for lunch and afterwards, at her father's suggestion, she and
Arthur went for a walk.  They took the tram out of the city and struck
into the country.  The leaves still lingered brown and red upon the
trees.  He carried her cloak and opened gates for her and held back
brambles while she passed.  She had always been indifferent to these
small gallantries; but to-day she welcomed them.  She wished to feel her
power to attract and command.  They avoided all subjects on which they
could differ, even in words.  They talked of people and places they had
known together.  They remembered their common love of animals and told of
the comedies and tragedies that had befallen their pets.  Joan's regret
was that she had not now even a dog, thinking it cruel to keep them in
London.  She hated the women she met, dragging the poor little depressed
beasts about at the end of a string: savage with them, if they dared to
stop for a moment to exchange a passing wag of the tail with some other
little lonely sufferer.  It was as bad as keeping a lark in a cage.  She
had tried a cat: but so often she did not get home till late and that was
just the time when the cat wanted to be out; so that they seldom met.  He
suggested a parrot.  His experience of them was that they had no regular
hours and would willingly sit up all night, if encouraged, and talk all
the time.  Joan's objection to running a parrot was that it stamped you
as an old maid; and she wasn't that, at least, not yet.  She wondered if
she could make an owl really happy.  Minerva had an owl.

He told her how one spring, walking across a common, after a fire, he had
found a mother thrush burnt to death upon her nest, her charred wings
spread out in a vain endeavour to protect her brood.  He had buried her
there among the blackened thorn and furze, and placed a little cross of
stones above her.

"I hope nobody saw me," he said with a laugh.  "But I couldn't bear to
leave her there, unhonoured."

"It's one of the things that make me less certain than I want to be of a
future existence," said Joan: "the thought that animals can have no part
in it; that all their courage and love and faithfulness dies with them
and is wasted."

"Are you sure it is?" he answered.  "It would be so unreasonable."

They had tea at an old-fashioned inn beside a stream.  It was a favourite
resort in summer time, but now they had it to themselves.  The wind had
played pranks with her hair and he found a mirror and knelt before her,
holding it.

She stood erect, looking down at him while seeming to be absorbed in the
rearrangement of her hair, feeling a little ashamed of herself.  She was
"encouraging" him.  There was no other word for it.  She seemed to have
developed a sudden penchant for this sort of thing.  It would end in his
proposing to her; and then she would have to tell him that she cared for
him only in a cousinly sort of way--whatever that might mean--and that
she could never marry him.  She dared not ask herself why.  She must
manoeuvre to put it off as long as possible; and meanwhile some opening
might occur to enlighten him.  She would talk to him about her work; and
explain to him how she had determined to devote her life to it to the
exclusion of all other distractions.  If, then, he chose to go on loving
her--or if he couldn't help it--that would not be her fault.  After all,
it did him no harm.  She could always be gracious and kind to him.  It
was not as if she had tricked him.  He had always loved her.  Kneeling
before her, serving her: it was evident it made him supremely happy.  It
would be cruel of her to end it.

The landlady entered unexpectedly with the tea; but he did not rise till
Joan turned away, nor did he seem disconcerted.  Neither did the
landlady.  She was an elderly, quiet-eyed woman, and had served more than
one generation of young people with their teas.

They returned home by train.  Joan insisted on travelling third class,
and selected a compartment containing a stout woman and two children.
Arthur had to be at the works.  An important contract had got behindhand
and they were working overtime.  She and her father dined alone.  He made
her fulfil her promise to talk about herself, and she told him all she
thought would interest him.  She passed lightly over her acquaintanceship
with Phillips.  He would regard it as highly undesirable, she told
herself, and it would trouble him.  He was reading her articles in the
_Sunday Post_, as also her Letters from Clorinda: and of the two
preferred the latter as being less subversive of law and order.  Also he
did not like seeing her photograph each week, displayed across two
columns with her name beneath in one inch type.  He supposed he was old-
fashioned.  She was getting rather tired of it herself.

"The Editor insisted upon it," she explained.  "It was worth it for the
opportunity it gives me.  I preach every Sunday to a congregation of over
a million souls.  It's better than being a Bishop.  Besides," she added,
"the men are just as bad.  You see their silly faces everywhere."

"That's like you women," he answered with a smile.  "You pretend to be
superior; and then you copy us."

She laughed.  But the next moment she was serious.

"No, we don't," she said, "not those of us who think.  We know we shall
never oust man from his place.  He will always be the greater.  We want
to help him; that's all."

"But wasn't that the Lord's idea," he said; "when He gave Eve to Adam to
be his helpmeet?"

"Yes, that was all right," she answered.  "He fashioned Eve for Adam and
saw that Adam got her.  The ideal marriage might have been the ideal
solution.  If the Lord had intended that, he should have kept the match-
making in His own hands: not have left it to man.  Somewhere in Athens
there must have been the helpmeet God had made for Socrates.  When they
met, it was Xanthippe that she kissed."

A servant brought the coffee and went out again.  Her father lighted a
cigar and handed her the cigarettes.

"Will it shock you, Dad?" she asked.

"Rather late in the day for you to worry yourself about that, isn't it?"
he answered with a smile.

He struck a match and held it for her.  Joan sat with her elbows on the
table and smoked in silence.  She was thinking.

Why had he never "brought her up," never exacted obedience from her,
never even tried to influence her?  It could not have been mere weakness.
She stole a sidelong glance at the tired, lined face with its steel-blue
eyes.  She had never seen them other than calm, but they must have been
able to flash.  Why had he always been so just and kind and patient with
her?  Why had he never scolded her and bullied her and teased her?  Why
had he let her go away, leaving him lonely in his empty, voiceless house?
Why had he never made any claim upon her?  The idea came to her as an
inspiration.  At least, it would ease her conscience.  "Why don't you let
Arthur live here," she said, "instead of going back to his lodgings?  It
would be company for you."

He did not answer for some time.  She had begun to wonder if he had
heard.

"What do you think of him?" he said, without looking at her.

"Oh, he's quite a nice lad," she answered.

It was some while again before he spoke.  "He will be the last of the
Allways," he said.  "I should like to think of the name being continued;
and he's a good business man, in spite of his dreaminess.  Perhaps he
would get on better with the men."

She seized at the chance of changing the subject.

"It was a foolish notion," she said, "that of the Manchester school: that
men and women could be treated as mere figures in a sum."

To her surprise, he agreed with her.  "The feudal system had a fine idea
in it," he said, "if it had been honestly carried out.  A master should
be the friend, the helper of his men.  They should be one family."

She looked at him a little incredulously, remembering the bitter periods
of strikes and lock-outs.

"Did you ever try, Dad?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," he answered.  "But I tried the wrong way."  "The right way
might be found," he added, "by the right man, and woman."

She felt that he was watching her through his half-closed eyes.  "There
are those cottages," he continued, "just before you come to the bridge.
They might be repaired and a club house added.  The idea is catching on,
they tell me.  Garden villages, they call them now.  It gets the men and
women away from the dirty streets; and gives the children a chance."

She knew the place.  A sad group of dilapidated little houses forming
three sides of a paved quadrangle, with a shattered fountain and withered
trees in the centre.  Ever since she could remember, they had stood there
empty, ghostly, with creaking doors and broken windows, their gardens
overgrown with weeds.

"Are they yours?" she asked.  She had never connected them with the
works, some half a mile away.  Though had she been curious, she might
have learnt that they were known as "Allway's Folly."

"Your mother's," he answered.  "I built them the year I came back from
America and gave them to her.  I thought it would interest her.  Perhaps
it would, if I had left her to her own ways."

"Why didn't they want them?" she asked.

"They did, at first," he answered.  "The time-servers and the hypocrites
among them.  I made it a condition that they should be teetotallers, and
chapel goers, and everything else that I thought good for them.  I
thought that I could save their souls by bribing them with cheap rents
and share of profits.  And then the Union came, and that of course
finished it."

So he, too, had thought to build Jerusalem.

"Yes," he said.  "I'll sound him about giving up his lodgings."

Joan lay awake for a long while that night.  The moon looked in at the
window.  It seemed to have got itself entangled in the tops of the tall
pines.  Would it not be her duty to come back--make her father happy, to
say nothing of the other.  He was a dear, sweet, lovable lad.  Together,
they might realize her father's dream: repair the blunders, plant gardens
where the weeds now grew, drive out the old sad ghosts with living
voices.  It had been a fine thought, a "King's thought."  Others had
followed, profiting by his mistakes.  But might it not be carried further
than even they had gone, shaped into some noble venture that should serve
the future.

Was not her America here?  Why seek it further?  What was this unknown
Force, that, against all sense and reason, seemed driving her out into
the wilderness to preach.  Might it not be mere vanity, mere egoism.
Almost she had convinced herself.

And then there flashed remembrance of her mother.  She, too, had laid
aside herself; had thought that love and duty could teach one to be other
than one was.  The Ego was the all important thing, entrusted to us as
the talents of silver to the faithful servant: to be developed, not for
our own purposes, but for the service of the Master.

One did no good by suppressing one's nature.  In the end it proved too
strong.  Marriage with Arthur would be only repeating the mistake.  To be
worshipped, to be served.  It would be very pleasant, when one was in the
mood.  But it would not satisfy her.  There was something strong and
fierce and primitive in her nature--something that had come down to her
through the generations from some harness-girded ancestress--something
impelling her instinctively to choose the fighter; to share with him the
joy of battle, healing his wounds, giving him of her courage, exulting
with him in the victory.

The moon had risen clear of the entangling pines.  It rode serene and
free.

Her father came to the station with her in the morning.  The train was
not in: and they walked up and down and talked.  Suddenly she remembered:
it had slipped her mind.

"Could I, as a child, have known an old clergyman?" she asked him.  "At
least he wouldn't have been old then.  I dropped into Chelsea Church one
evening and heard him preach; and on the way home I passed him again in
the street.  It seemed to me that I had seen his face before.  But not
for many years.  I meant to write you about it, but forgot."

He had to turn aside for a moment to speak to an acquaintance about
business.

"Oh, it's possible," he answered on rejoining her.  "What was his name?"

"I do not know," she answered.  "He was not the regular Incumbent.  But
it was someone that I seemed to know quite well--that I must have been
familiar with."

"It may have been," he answered carelessly, "though the gulf was wider
then than it is now.  I'll try and think.  Perhaps it is only your
fancy."

The train drew in, and he found her a corner seat, and stood talking by
the window, about common things.

"What did he preach about?" he asked her unexpectedly.

She was puzzled for the moment.  "Oh, the old clergyman," she answered,
recollecting.  "Oh, Calvary.  All roads lead to Calvary, he thought.  It
was rather interesting."

She looked back at the end of the platform.  He had not moved.



CHAPTER IX


A pile of correspondence was awaiting her and, standing by the desk, she
began to open and read it.  Suddenly she paused, conscious that someone
had entered the room and, turning, she saw Hilda.  She must have left the
door ajar, for she had heard no sound.  The child closed the door
noiselessly and came across, holding out a letter.

"Papa told me to give you this the moment you came in," she said.  Joan
had not yet taken off her things.  The child must have been keeping a
close watch.  Save for the signature it contained but one line: "I have
accepted."

Joan replaced the letter in its envelope, and laid it down upon the desk.
Unconsciously a smile played about her lips.

The child was watching her.  "I'm glad you persuaded him," she said.

Joan felt a flush mount to her face.  She had forgotten Hilda for the
instant.

She forced a laugh.  "Oh, I only persuaded him to do what he had made up
his mind to do," she explained.  "It was all settled."

"No, it wasn't," answered the child.  "Most of them were against it.  And
then there was Mama," she added in a lower tone.

"What do you mean," asked Joan.  "Didn't she wish it?"

The child raised her eyes.  There was a dull anger in them.  "Oh, what's
the good of pretending," she said.  "He's so great.  He could be the
Prime Minister of England if he chose.  But then he would have to visit
kings and nobles, and receive them at his house, and Mama--"  She broke
off with a passionate gesture of the small thin hands.

Joan was puzzled what to say.  She knew exactly what she ought to say:
what she would have said to any ordinary child.  But to say it to this
uncannily knowing little creature did not promise much good.

"Who told you I persuaded him?" she asked.

"Nobody," answered the child.  "I knew."

Joan seated herself, and drew the child towards her.

"It isn't as terrible as you think," she said.  "Many men who have risen
and taken a high place in the world were married to kind, good women
unable to share their greatness.  There was Shakespeare, you know, who
married Anne Hathaway and had a clever daughter.  She was just a nice,
homely body a few years older than himself.  And he seems to have been
very fond of her; and was always running down to Stratford to be with
her."

"Yes, but he didn't bring her up to London," answered the child.  "Mama
would have wanted to come; and Papa would have let her, and wouldn't have
gone to see Queen Elizabeth unless she had been invited too."

Joan wished she had not mentioned Shakespeare.  There had surely been
others; men who had climbed up and carried their impossible wives with
them.  But she couldn't think of one, just then.

"We must help her," she answered somewhat lamely.  "She's anxious to
learn, I know."

The child shook her head.  "She doesn't understand," she said.  "And Papa
won't tell her.  He says it would only hurt her and do no good."  The
small hands were clenched.  "I shall hate her if she spoils his life."

The atmosphere was becoming tragic.  Joan felt the need of escaping from
it.  She sprang up.

"Oh, don't be nonsensical," she said.  "Your father isn't the only man
married to a woman not as clever as himself.  He isn't going to let that
stop him.  And your mother's going to learn to be the wife of a great man
and do the best she can.  And if they don't like her they've got to put
up with her.  I shall talk to the both of them."  A wave of motherliness
towards the entire Phillips family passed over her.  It included Hilda.
She caught the child to her and gave her a hug.  "You go back to school,"
she said, "and get on as fast as you can, so that you'll be able to be
useful to him."

The child flung her arms about her.  "You're so beautiful and wonderful,"
she said.  "You can do anything.  I'm so glad you came."

Joan laughed.  It was surprising how easily the problem had been solved.
She would take Mrs. Phillips in hand at once.  At all events she should
be wholesome and unobtrusive.  It would be a delicate mission, but Joan
felt sure of her own tact.  She could see his boyish eyes turned upon her
with wonder and gratitude.

"I was so afraid you would not be back before I went," said the child.  "I
ought to have gone this afternoon, but Papa let me stay till the
evening."

"You will help?" she added, fixing on Joan her great, grave eyes.

Joan promised, and the child went out.  She looked pretty when she
smiled.  She closed the door behind her noiselessly.

It occurred to Joan that she would like to talk matters over with
Greyson.  There was "Clorinda's" attitude to be decided upon; and she was
interested to know what view he himself would take.  Of course he would
be on P---'s side.  The _Evening Gazette_ had always supported the "gas
and water school" of socialism; and to include the people's food was
surely only an extension of the principle.  She rang him up and Miss
Greyson answered, asking her to come round to dinner: they would be
alone.  And she agreed.

The Greysons lived in a small house squeezed into an angle of the Outer
Circle, overlooking Regent's Park.  It was charmingly furnished, chiefly
with old Chippendale.  The drawing-room made quite a picture.  It was
home-like and restful with its faded colouring, and absence of all show
and overcrowding.  They sat there after dinner and discussed Joan's news.
Miss Greyson was repairing a piece of old embroidery she had brought back
with her from Italy; and Greyson sat smoking, with his hands behind his
head, and his long legs stretched out towards the fire.

"Carleton will want him to make his food policy include Tariff Reform,"
he said.  "If he prove pliable, and is willing to throw over his free
trade principles, all well and good."

"What's Carleton got to do with it?" demanded Joan with a note of
indignation.

He turned his head towards her with an amused raising of the eyebrows.
"Carleton owns two London dailies," he answered, "and is in treaty for a
third: together with a dozen others scattered about the provinces.  Most
politicians find themselves, sooner or later, convinced by his arguments.
Phillips may prove the exception."

"It would be rather interesting, a fight between them," said Joan.
"Myself I should back Phillips."

"He might win through," mused Greyson.  "He's the man to do it, if
anybody could.  But the odds will be against him."

"I don't see it," said Joan, with decision.

"I'm afraid you haven't yet grasped the power of the Press," he answered
with a smile.  "Phillips speaks occasionally to five thousand people.
Carleton addresses every day a circle of five million readers."

"Yes, but when Phillips does speak, he speaks to the whole country,"
retorted Joan.

"Through the medium of Carleton and his like; and just so far as they
allow his influence to permeate beyond the platform," answered Greyson.

"But they report his speeches.  They are bound to," explained Joan.

"It doesn't read quite the same," he answered.  "Phillips goes home under
the impression that he has made a great success and has roused the
country.  He and millions of other readers learn from the next morning's
headlines that it was 'A Tame Speech' that he made.  What sounded to him
'Loud Cheers' have sunk to mild 'Hear, Hears.'  That five minutes'
hurricane of applause, during which wildly excited men and women leapt
upon the benches and roared themselves hoarse, and which he felt had
settled the whole question, he searches for in vain.  A few silly
interjections, probably pre-arranged by Carleton's young lions, become
'renewed interruptions.'  The report is strictly truthful; but the
impression produced is that Robert Phillips has failed to carry even his
own people with him.  And then follow leaders in fourteen
widely-circulated Dailies, stretching from the Clyde to the Severn,
foretelling how Mr. Robert Phillips could regain his waning popularity by
the simple process of adopting Tariff Reform: or whatever the pet panacea
of Carleton and Co. may, at the moment, happen to be."

"Don't make us out all alike," pleaded his sister with a laugh.  "There
are still a few old-fashioned papers that do give their opponents fair
play."

"They are not increasing in numbers," he answered, "and the Carleton
group is.  There is no reason why in another ten years he should not
control the entire popular press of the country.  He's got the genius and
he's got the means."

"The cleverest thing he has done," he continued, turning to Joan, "is
your _Sunday Post_.  Up till then, the working classes had escaped him.
With the _Sunday Post_, he has solved the problem.  They open their
mouths; and he gives them their politics wrapped up in pictures and
gossipy pars."

Miss Greyson rose and put away her embroidery.  "But what's his object?"
she said.  "He must have more money than he can spend; and he works like
a horse.  I could understand it, if he had any beliefs."

"Oh, we can all persuade ourselves that we are the Heaven-ordained
dictator of the human race," he answered.  "Love of power is at the
bottom of it.  Why do our Rockefellers and our Carnegies condemn
themselves to the existence of galley slaves, ruining their digestions so
that they never can enjoy a square meal.  It isn't the money; it's the
trouble of their lives how to get rid of that.  It is the notoriety, the
power that they are out for.  In Carleton's case, it is to feel himself
the power behind the throne; to know that he can make and unmake
statesmen; has the keys of peace and war in his pocket; is able to
exclaim: Public opinion?  It is I."

"It can be a respectable ambition," suggested Joan.

"It has been responsible for most of man's miseries," he answered.  "Every
world's conqueror meant to make it happy after he had finished knocking
it about.  We are all born with it, thanks to the devil."  He shifted his
position and regarded her with critical eyes.  "You've got it badly," he
said.  "I can see it in the tilt of your chin and the quivering of your
nostrils.  You beware of it."

Miss Greyson left them.  She had to finish an article.  They debated
"Clorinda's" views; and agreed that, as a practical housekeeper, she
would welcome attention being given to the question of the nation's food.
The _Evening Gazette_ would support Phillips in principle, while
reserving to itself the right of criticism when it came to details.

"What's he like in himself?" he asked her.  "You've been seeing something
of him, haven't you?"

"Oh, a little," she answered.  "He's absolutely sincere; and he means
business.  He won't stop at the bottom of the ladder now he's once got
his foot upon it."

"But he's quite common, isn't he?" he asked again.  "I've only met him in
public."

"No, that's precisely what he isn't," answered Joan.  "You feel that he
belongs to no class, but his own.  The class of the Abraham Lincolns, and
the Dantons."

"England's a different proposition," he mused.  "Society counts for so
much with us.  I doubt if we should accept even an Abraham Lincoln:
unless in some supreme crisis.  His wife rather handicaps him, too,
doesn't she?"

"She wasn't born to be the chatelaine of Downing Street," Joan admitted.
"But it's not an official position."

"I'm not so sure that it isn't," he laughed.  "It's the dinner-table that
rules in England.  We settle everything round a dinner-table."

She was sitting in front of the fire in a high-backed chair.  She never
cared to loll, and the shaded light from the electric sconces upon the
mantelpiece illumined her.

"If the world were properly stage-managed, that's what you ought to be,"
he said, "the wife of a Prime Minister.  I can see you giving such an
excellent performance."

"I must talk to Mary," he added, "see if we can't get you off on some
promising young Under Secretary."

"Don't give me ideas above my station," laughed Joan.  "I'm a
journalist."

"That's the pity of it," he said.  "You're wasting the most important
thing about you, your personality.  You would do more good in a drawing-
room, influencing the rulers, than you will ever do hiding behind a pen.
It was the drawing-room that made the French Revolution."

The firelight played about her hair.  "I suppose every woman dreams of
reviving the old French Salon," she answered.  "They must have been
gloriously interesting."  He was leaning forward with clasped hands.  "Why
shouldn't she?" he said.  "The reason that our drawing-rooms have ceased
to lead is that our beautiful women are generally frivolous and our
clever women unfeminine.  What we are waiting for is an English Madame
Roland."

Joan laughed.  "Perhaps I shall some day," she answered.

He insisted on seeing her as far as the bus.  It was a soft, mild night;
and they walked round the Circle to Gloucester Gate.  He thought there
would be more room in the buses at that point.

"I wish you would come oftener," he said.  "Mary has taken such a liking
to you.  If you care to meet people, we can always whip up somebody of
interest."

She promised that she would.  She always felt curiously at home with the
Greysons.

They were passing the long sweep of Chester Terrace.  "I like this
neighbourhood with its early Victorian atmosphere," she said.  "It always
makes me feel quiet and good.  I don't know why."

"I like the houses, too," he said.  "There's a character about them.  You
don't often find such fine drawing-rooms in London."

"Don't forget your promise," he reminded her, when they parted.  "I shall
tell Mary she may write to you."

She met Carleton by chance a day or two later, as she was entering the
office.  "I want to see you," he said; and took her up with him into his
room.

"We must stir the people up about this food business," he said, plunging
at once into his subject.  "Phillips is quite right.  It overshadows
everything.  We must make the country self-supporting.  It can be done
and must.  If a war were to be sprung upon us we could be starved out in
a month.  Our navy, in face of these new submarines, is no longer able to
secure us.  France is working day and night upon them.  It may be a
bogey, or it may not.  If it isn't, she would have us at her mercy; and
it's too big a risk to run.  You live in the same house with him, don't
you?  Do you often see him?"

"Not often," she answered.

He was reading a letter.  "You were dining there on Friday night, weren't
you?" he asked her, without looking up.

Joan flushed.  What did he mean by cross-examining her in this way?  She
was not at all used to impertinence from the opposite sex.

"Your information is quite correct," she answered.

Her anger betrayed itself in her tone; and he shot a swift glance at her.

"I didn't mean to offend you," he said.  "A mutual friend, a Mr. Airlie,
happened to be of the party, and he mentioned you."

He threw aside the letter.  "I'll tell you what I want you to do," he
said.  "It's nothing to object to.  Tell him that you've seen me and had
a talk.  I understand his scheme to be that the country should grow more
and more food until it eventually becomes self-supporting; and that the
Government should control the distribution.  Tell him that with that I'm
heart and soul in sympathy; and would like to help him."  He pushed aside
a pile of papers and, leaning across the desk, spoke with studied
deliberation.  "If he can see his way to making his policy dependent upon
Protection, we can work together."

"And if he can't?" suggested Joan.

He fixed his large, colourless eyes upon her.  "That's where you can help
him," he answered.  "If he and I combine forces, we can pull this through
in spite of the furious opposition that it is going to arouse.  Without a
good Press he is helpless; and where is he going to get his Press backing
if he turns me down?  From half a dozen Socialist papers whose support
will do him more harm than good.  If he will bring the working class over
to Protection I will undertake that the Tariff Reformers and the
Agricultural Interest shall accept his Socialism.  It will be a victory
for both of us.

"If he gain his end, what do the means matter?" he continued, as Joan did
not answer.  "Food may be dearer; the Unions can square that by putting
up wages; while the poor devil of a farm labourer will at last get fair
treatment.  We can easily insist upon that.  What do you think,
yourself?"

"About Protection," she answered.  "It's one of the few subjects I
haven't made up my mind about."

He laughed.  "You will find all your pet reforms depend upon it, when you
come to work them out," he said.  "You can't have a minimum wage without
a minimum price."

They had risen.

"I'll give him your message," said Joan.  "But I don't see him exchanging
his principles even for your support.  I admit it's important."

"Talk it over with him," he said.  "And bear this in mind for your own
guidance."  He took a step forward, which brought his face quite close to
hers: "If he fails, and all his life's work goes for nothing, I shall be
sorry; but I shan't break my heart.  He will."

Joan dropped a note into Phillips's letter-box on her return home, saying
briefly that she wished to see him; and he sent up answer asking her if
she would come to the gallery that evening, and meet him after his
speech, which would be immediately following the dinner hour.

It was the first time he had risen since his appointment, and he was
received with general cheers.  He stood out curiously youthful against
the background of grey-haired and bald-headed men behind him; and there
was youth also in his clear, ringing voice that not even the vault-like
atmosphere of that shadowless chamber could altogether rob of its
vitality.  He spoke simply and good-humouredly, without any attempt at
rhetoric, relying chiefly upon a crescendo of telling facts that
gradually, as he proceeded, roused the House to that tense stillness that
comes to it when it begins to think.

"A distinctly dangerous man," Joan overheard a little old lady behind her
comment to a friend.  "If I didn't hate him, I should like him."

He met her in the corridor, and they walked up and down and talked, too
absorbed to be aware of the curious eyes that were turned upon them.  Joan
gave him Carleton's message.

"It was clever of him to make use of you," he said.  "If he'd sent it
through anybody else, I'd have published it."

"You don't think it even worth considering?" suggested Joan.

"Protection?" he flashed out scornfully.  "Yes, I've heard of that.  I've
listened, as a boy, while the old men told of it to one another, in thin,
piping voices, round the fireside; how the labourers were flung eight-and-
sixpence a week to die on, and the men starved in the towns; while the
farmers kept their hunters, and got drunk each night on fine old crusted
port.  Do you know what their toast was in the big hotels on market day,
with the windows open to the street: 'To a long war and a bloody one.'  It
would be their toast to-morrow, if they had their way.  Does he think I
am going to be a party to the putting of the people's neck again under
their pitiless yoke?"

"But the people are more powerful now," argued Joan.  "If the farmer
demanded higher prices, they could demand higher wages."

"They would never overtake the farmer," he answered, with a laugh.  "And
the last word would always be with him.  I am out to get rid of the
landlords," he continued, "not to establish them as the permanent rulers
of the country, as they are in Germany.  The people are more
powerful--just a little, because they are no longer dependent on the
land.  They can say to the farmer, 'All right, my son, if that's your
figure, I'm going to the shop next door--to South America, to Canada, to
Russia.'  It isn't a satisfactory solution.  I want to see England happy
and healthy before I bother about the Argentine.  It drives our men into
the slums when they might be living fine lives in God's fresh air.  In
the case of war it might be disastrous.  There, I agree with him.  We
must be able to shut our door without fear of having to open it ourselves
to ask for bread.  How would Protection accomplish that?  Did he tell
you?"

"Don't eat me," laughed Joan.  "I haven't been sent to you as a
missionary.  I'm only a humble messenger.  I suppose the argument is
that, good profits assured to him, the farmer would bustle up and produce
more."

"Can you see him bustling up?" he answered with a laugh; "organizing
himself into a body, and working the thing out from the point of view of
the public weal?  I'll tell you what nine-tenths of him would do: grow
just as much or little as suited his own purposes; and then go to sleep.
And Protection would be his security against ever being awakened."

"I'm afraid you don't like him," Joan commented.

"He will be all right in his proper place," he answered: "as the servant
of the public: told what to do, and turned out of his job if he doesn't
do it.  My scheme does depend upon Protection.  You can tell him that.
But this time, it's going to be Protection for the people."

They were at the far end of the corridor; and the few others still
promenading were some distance away.  She had not delivered the whole of
her message.  She crossed to a seat, and he followed her.  She spoke with
her face turned away from him.

"You have got to consider the cost of refusal," she said.  "His offer
wasn't help or neutrality: it was help or opposition by every means in
his power.  He left me in no kind of doubt as to that.  He's not used to
being challenged and he won't be squeamish.  You will have the whole of
his Press against you, and every other journalistic and political
influence that he possesses.  He's getting a hold upon the working
classes.  The _Sunday Post_ has an enormous sale in the manufacturing
towns; and he's talking of starting another.  Are you strong enough to
fight him?"

She very much wanted to look at him, but she would not.  It seemed to her
quite a time before he replied.

"Yes," he answered, "I'm strong enough to fight him.  Shall rather enjoy
doing it.  And it's time that somebody did.  Whether I'm strong enough to
win has got to be seen."

She turned and looked at him then.  She wondered why she had ever thought
him ugly.

"You can face it," she said: "the possibility of all your life's work
being wasted?"

"It won't be wasted," he answered.  "The land is there.  I've seen it
from afar and it's a good land, a land where no man shall go hungry.  If
not I, another shall lead the people into it.  I shall have prepared the
way."

She liked him for that touch of exaggeration.  She was so tired of the
men who make out all things little, including themselves and their own
work.  After all, was it exaggeration?  Might he not have been chosen to
lead the people out of bondage to a land where there should be no more
fear.

"You're not angry with me?" he asked.  "I haven't been rude, have I?"

"Abominably rude," she answered, "you've defied my warnings, and treated
my embassy with contempt."  She turned to him and their eyes met.  "I
should have despised you, if you hadn't," she added.

There was a note of exultation in her voice; and, as if in answer,
something leapt into his eyes that seemed to claim her.  Perhaps it was
well that just then the bell rang for a division; and the moment passed.

He rose and held out his hand.  "We will fight him," he said.  "And you
can tell him this, if he asks, that I'm going straight for him.
Parliament may as well close down if a few men between them are to be
allowed to own the entire Press of the country, and stifle every voice
that does not shout their bidding.  We haven't dethroned kings to put up
a newspaper Boss.  He shall have all the fighting he wants."

They met more often from that day, for Joan was frankly using her two
columns in the _Sunday Post_ to propagate his aims.  Carleton, to her
surprise, made no objection.  Nor did he seek to learn the result of his
ultimatum.  It looked, they thought, as if he had assumed acceptance; and
was willing for Phillips to choose his own occasion.  Meanwhile replies
to her articles reached Joan in weekly increasing numbers.  There seemed
to be a wind arising, blowing towards Protection.  Farm labourers,
especially, appeared to be enthusiastic for its coming.  From their ill-
spelt, smeared epistles, one gathered that, after years of doubt and
hesitation, they had--however reluctantly--arrived at the conclusion that
without it there could be no hope for them.  Factory workers, miners,
engineers--more fluent, less apologetic--wrote as strong supporters of
Phillips's scheme; but saw clearly how upon Protection its success
depended.  Shopmen, clerks--only occasionally ungrammatical--felt sure
that Robert Phillips, the tried friend of the poor, would insist upon the
boon of Protection being no longer held back from the people.  Wives and
mothers claimed it as their children's birthright.  Similar views got
themselves at the same time, into the correspondence columns of
Carleton's other numerous papers.  Evidently Democracy had been throbbing
with a passion for Protection hitherto unknown, even to itself.

"He means it kindly," laughed Phillips.  "He is offering me an excuse to
surrender gracefully.  We must have a public meeting or two after
Christmas, and clear the ground."  They had got into the habit of
speaking in the plural.

Mrs. Phillips's conversion Joan found more difficult than she had
anticipated.  She had persuaded Phillips to take a small house and let
her furnish it upon the hire system.  Joan went with her to the widely
advertised "Emporium" in the City Road, meaning to advise her.  But, in
the end, she gave it up out of sheer pity.  Nor would her advice have
served much purpose, confronted by the "rich and varied choice" provided
for his patrons by Mr. Krebs, the "Furnisher for Connoisseurs."

"We've never had a home exactly," explained Mrs. Phillips, during their
journey in the tram.  "It's always been lodgings, up to now.  Nice
enough, some of them; but you know what I mean; everybody else's taste
but your own.  I've always fancied a little house with one's own things
in it.  You know, things that you can get fond of."

Oh, the things she was going to get fond of!  The things that her poor,
round foolish eyes gloated upon the moment that she saw them!  Joan tried
to enlist the shopman on her side, descending even to flirtation.
Unfortunately he was a young man with a high sense of duty, convinced
that his employer's interests lay in his support of Mrs. Phillips.  The
sight of the furniture that, between them, they selected for the dining-
room gave Joan a quite distinct internal pain.  They ascended to the
floor above, devoted to the exhibition of "_Recherche_ drawing-room
suites."  Mrs. Phillips's eye instinctively fastened with passionate
desire upon the most atrocious.  Joan grew vehement.  It was impossible.

"I always was a one for cheerful colours," explained Mrs. Phillips.

Even the shopman wavered.  Joan pressed her advantage; directed Mrs.
Phillips's attention to something a little less awful.  Mrs. Phillips
yielded.

"Of course you know best, dear," she admitted.  "Perhaps I am a bit too
fond of bright things."

The victory was won.  Mrs. Phillips had turned away.  The shopman was
altering the order.  Joan moved towards the door, and accidentally caught
sight of Mrs. Phillips's face.  The flabby mouth was trembling.  A tear
was running down the painted cheek.

Joan slipped her hand through the other's arm.

"I'm not so sure you're not right after all," she said, fixing a critical
eye upon the rival suites.  "It is a bit mousey, that other."

The order was once more corrected.  Joan had the consolation of
witnessing the childish delight that came again into the foolish face;
but felt angry with herself at her own weakness.

It was the woman's feebleness that irritated her.  If only she had shown
a spark of fight, Joan could have been firm.  Poor feckless creature,
what could have ever been her attraction for Phillips!

She followed, inwardly fuming, while Mrs. Phillips continued to pile
monstrosity upon monstrosity.  What would Phillips think?  And what would
Hilda's eyes say when they looked upon that _recherche_ drawing-room
suite?  Hilda, who would have had no sentimental compunctions!  The woman
would be sure to tell them both that she, Joan, had accompanied her and
helped in the choosing.  The whole ghastly house would be exhibited to
every visitor as the result of their joint taste.  She could hear Mr.
Airlie's purring voice congratulating her.

She ought to have insisted on their going to a decent shop.  The mere
advertisement ought to have forewarned her.  It was the posters that had
captured Mrs. Phillips: those dazzling apartments where bejewelled
society reposed upon the "high-class but inexpensive designs" of Mr.
Krebs.  Artists ought to have more self-respect than to sell their
talents for such purposes.

The contract was concluded in Mr. Krebs' private office: a very stout
gentleman with a very thin voice, whose dream had always been to one day
be of service to the renowned Mr. Robert Phillips.  He was clearly under
the impression that he had now accomplished it.  Even as Mrs. Phillips
took up the pen to sign, the wild idea occurred to Joan of snatching the
paper away from her, hustling her into a cab, and in some quiet street or
square making the woman see for herself that she was a useless fool; that
the glowing dreams and fancies she had cherished in her silly head for
fifteen years must all be given up; that she must stand aside, knowing
herself of no account.

It could be done.  She felt it.  If only one could summon up the needful
brutality.  If only one could stifle that still, small voice of Pity.

Mrs. Phillips signed amid splutterings and blots.  Joan added her
signature as witness.

She did effect an improvement in the poor lady's dress.  On Madge's
advice she took her to a voluble little woman in the Earl's Court Road
who was struck at once by Madame Phillips's remarkable resemblance to the
Baroness von Stein.  Had not Joan noticed it?  Whatever suited the
Baroness von Stein--allowed by common consent to be one of the
best-dressed women in London--was bound to show up Madame Phillips to
equal advantage.  By curious coincidence a costume for the Baroness had
been put in hand only the day before.  It was sent for and pinned upon
the delighted Madame Phillips.  Perfection!  As the Baroness herself
would always say: "My frock must be a framework for my personality.  It
must never obtrude."  The supremely well-dressed woman!  One never
notices what she has on: that is the test.  It seemed it was what Mrs.
Phillips had always felt herself.  Joan could have kissed the voluble,
emphatic little woman.

But the dyed hair and the paint put up a fight for themselves.

"I want you to do something very brave," said Joan.  She had invited
herself to tea with Mrs. Phillips, and they were alone in the small white-
panelled room that they were soon to say good-bye to.  The new house
would be ready at Christmas.  "It will be a little hard at first,"
continued Joan, "but afterwards you will be glad that you have done it.
It is a duty you owe to your position as the wife of a great leader of
the people."

The firelight showed to Joan a comically frightened face, with round,
staring eyes and an open mouth.

"What is it you want me to do?" she faltered

"I want you to be just yourself," said Joan; "a kind, good woman of the
people, who will win their respect, and set them an example."  She moved
across and seating herself on the arm of Mrs. Phillips's chair, touched
lightly with her hand the flaxen hair and the rouged cheek.  "I want you
to get rid of all this," she whispered.  "It isn't worthy of you.  Leave
it to the silly dolls and the bad women."

There was a long silence.  Joan felt the tears trickling between her
fingers.

"You haven't seen me," came at last in a thin, broken voice.

Joan bent down and kissed her.  "Let's try it," she whispered.

A little choking sound was the only answer.  But the woman rose and, Joan
following, they stole upstairs into the bedroom and Mrs. Phillips turned
the key.

It took a long time, and Joan, seated on the bed, remembered a night when
she had taken a trapped mouse (if only he had been a quiet mouse!) into
the bathroom and had waited while it drowned.  It was finished at last,
and Mrs Phillips stood revealed with her hair down, showing streaks of
dingy brown.

Joan tried to enthuse; but the words came haltingly.  She suggested to
Joan a candle that some wind had suddenly blown out.  The paint and
powder had been obvious, but at least it had given her the mask of youth.
She looked old and withered.  The life seemed to have gone out of her.

"You see, dear, I began when I was young," she explained; "and he has
always seen me the same.  I don't think I could live like this."

The painted doll that the child fancied! the paint washed off and the
golden hair all turned to drab?  Could one be sure of "getting used to
it," of "liking it better?"  And the poor bewildered doll itself!  How
could one expect to make of it a statue: "The Woman of the People."  One
could only bruise it.

It ended in Joan's promising to introduce her to discreet theatrical
friends who would tell her of cosmetics less injurious to the skin, and
advise her generally in the ancient and proper art of "making up."

It was not the end she had looked for.  Joan sighed as she closed her
door behind her.  What was the meaning of it?  On the one hand that
unimpeachable law, the greatest happiness of the greatest number; the
sacred cause of Democracy; the moral Uplift of the people; Sanity,
Wisdom, Truth, the higher Justice; all the forces on which she was
relying for the regeneration of the world--all arrayed in stern demand
that the flabby, useless Mrs. Phillips should be sacrificed for the
general good.  Only one voice had pleaded for foolish, helpless Mrs.
Phillips--and had conquered.  The still, small voice of Pity.



CHAPTER X


Arthur sprang himself upon her a little before Christmas.  He was full of
a great project.  It was that she and her father should spend Christmas
with his people at Birmingham.  Her father thought he would like to see
his brother; they had not often met of late, and Birmingham would be
nearer for her than Liverpool.

Joan had no intention of being lured into the Birmingham parlour.  She
thought she could see in it a scheme for her gradual entanglement.
Besides, she was highly displeased.  She had intended asking her father
to come to Brighton with her.  As a matter of fact, she had forgotten all
about Christmas; and the idea only came into her head while explaining to
Arthur how his impulsiveness had interfered with it.  Arthur,
crestfallen, suggested telegrams.  It would be quite easy to alter
everything; and of course her father would rather be with her, wherever
it was.  But it seemed it was too late.  She ought to have been
consulted.  A sudden sense of proprietorship in her father came to her
assistance and added pathos to her indignation.  Of course, now, she
would have to spend Christmas alone.  She was far too busy to think of
Birmingham.  She could have managed Brighton.  Argument founded on the
length of journey to Birmingham as compared with the journey to Brighton
she refused to be drawn into.  Her feelings had been too deeply wounded
to permit of descent into detail.

But the sinner, confessing his fault, is entitled to forgiveness, and,
having put him back into his proper place, she let him kiss her hand.  She
even went further and let him ask her out to dinner.  As the result of
her failure to reform Mrs. Phillips she was feeling dissatisfied with
herself.  It was an unpleasant sensation and somewhat new to her
experience.  An evening spent in Arthur's company might do her good.  The
experiment proved successful.  He really was quite a dear boy.  Eyeing
him thoughtfully through the smoke of her cigarette, it occurred to her
how like he was to Guido's painting of St. Sebastian; those soft, dreamy
eyes and that beautiful, almost feminine, face!  There always had been a
suspicion of the saint about him even as a boy: nothing one could lay
hold of: just that odd suggestion of a shadow intervening between him and
the world.

It seemed a favourable opportunity to inform him of that fixed
determination of hers: never--in all probability--to marry: but to devote
her life to her work.  She was feeling very kindly towards him; and was
able to soften her decision with touches of gentle regret.  He did not
appear in the least upset.  But 'thought' that her duty might demand,
later on, that she should change her mind: that was if fate should offer
her some noble marriage, giving her wider opportunity.

She was a little piqued at his unexpected attitude of aloofness.  What
did he mean by a "noble marriage"--to a Duke, or something of that sort?

He did not think the candidature need be confined to Dukes, though he had
no objection to a worthy Duke.  He meant any really great man who would
help her and whom she could help.

She promised, somewhat shortly, to consider the matter, whenever the
Duke, or other class of nobleman, should propose to her.  At present no
sign of him had appeared above the horizon.  Her own idea was that, if
she lived long enough, she would become a spinster.  Unless someone took
pity on her when she was old and decrepit and past her work.

There was a little humorous smile about his mouth.  But his eyes were
serious and pleading.

"When shall I know that you are old and decrepit?" he asked.

She was not quite sure.  She thought it would be when her hair was
grey--or rather white.  She had been informed by experts that her
peculiar shade of hair went white, not grey.

"I shall ask you to marry me when your hair is white," he said.  "May I?"

It did not suggest any overwhelming impatience.  "Yes," she answered.  "In
case you haven't married yourself, and forgotten all about me."

"I shall keep you to your promise," he said quite gravely.

She felt the time had come to speak seriously.  "I want you to marry,"
she said, "and be happy.  I shall be troubled if you don't."

He was looking at her with those shy, worshipping eyes of his that always
made her marvel at her own wonderfulness.

"It need not do that," he answered.  "It would be beautiful to be with
you always so that I might serve you.  But I am quite happy, loving you.
Let me see you now and then: touch you and hear your voice."

Behind her drawn-down lids, she offered up a little prayer that she might
always be worthy of his homage.  She didn't know it would make no
difference to him.

She walked with him to Euston and saw him into the train.  He had given
up his lodgings and was living with her father at The Pines.  They were
busy on a plan for securing the co-operation of the workmen, and she
promised to run down and hear all about it.  She would not change her
mind about Birmingham, but sent everyone her love.

She wished she had gone when it came to Christmas Day.  This feeling of
loneliness was growing upon her.  The Phillips had gone up north; and the
Greysons to some relations of theirs: swell country people in Hampshire.
Flossie was on a sea voyage with Sam and his mother, and even Madge had
been struck homesick.  It happened to be a Sunday, too, of all days in
the week, and London in a drizzling rain was just about the limit.  She
worked till late in the afternoon, but, sitting down to her solitary cup
of tea, she felt she wanted to howl.  From the basement came faint sounds
of laughter.  Her landlord and lady were entertaining guests.  If they
had not been, she would have found some excuse for running down and
talking to them, if only for a few minutes.

Suddenly the vision of old Chelsea Church rose up before her with its
little motherly old pew-opener.  She had so often been meaning to go and
see her again, but something had always interfered.  She hunted through
her drawers and found a comparatively sober-coloured shawl, and tucked it
under her cloak.  The service was just commencing when she reached the
church.  Mary Stopperton showed her into a seat and evidently remembered
her.  "I want to see you afterwards," she whispered; and Mary Stopperton
had smiled and nodded.  The service, with its need for being continually
upon the move, bored her; she was not in the mood for it.  And the
sermon, preached by a young curate who had not yet got over his Oxford
drawl, was uninteresting.  She had half hoped that the wheezy old
clergyman, who had preached about Calvary on the evening she had first
visited the church, would be there again.  She wondered what had become
of him, and if it were really a fact that she had known him when she was
a child, or only her fancy.  It was strange how vividly her memory of him
seemed to pervade the little church.  She had the feeling he was watching
her from the shadows.  She waited for Mary in the vestibule, and gave her
the shawl, making her swear on the big key of the church door that she
would wear it herself and not give it away.  The little old pew-opener's
pink and white face flushed with delight as she took it, and the thin,
work-worn hands fingered it admiringly.  "But I may lend it?" she
pleaded.

They turned up Church Street.  Joan confided to Mary what a rotten
Christmas she had had, all by herself, without a soul to speak to except
her landlady, who had brought her meals and had been in such haste to get
away.

"I don't know what made me think of you," she said.  "I'm so glad I did."
She gave the little old lady a hug.  Mary laughed.  "Where are you going
now, dearie?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't mind so much now," answered Joan.  "Now that I've seen a
friendly face, I shall go home and go to bed early."

They walked a little way in silence.  Mary slipped her hand into Joan's.
"You wouldn't care to come home and have a bit of supper with me, would
you, dearie?" she asked.

"Oh, may I?" answered Joan.

Mary's hand gave Joan's a little squeeze.  "You won't mind if anybody
drops in?" she said.  "They do sometimes of a Sunday evening."

"You don't mean a party?" asked Joan.

"No, dear," answered Mary.  "It's only one or two who have nowhere else
to go."

Joan laughed.  She thought she would be a fit candidate.

"You see, it makes company for me," explained Mary.

Mary lived in a tiny house behind a strip of garden.  It stood in a
narrow side street between two public-houses, and was covered with ivy.
It had two windows above and a window and a door below.  The upstairs
rooms belonged to the churchwardens and were used as a storehouse for old
parish registers, deemed of little value.  Mary Stopperton and her
bedridden husband lived in the two rooms below.  Mary unlocked the door,
and Joan passed in and waited.  Mary lit a candle that was standing on a
bracket and turned to lead the way.

"Shall I shut the door?" suggested Joan.

Mary blushed like a child that has been found out just as it was hoping
that it had not been noticed.

"It doesn't matter, dearie," she explained.  "They know, if they find it
open, that I'm in."

The little room looked very cosy when Mary had made up the fire and
lighted the lamp.  She seated Joan in the worn horsehair easy-chair; out
of which one had to be careful one did not slip on to the floor; and
spread her handsome shawl over the back of the dilapidated sofa.

"You won't mind my running away for a minute," she said.  "I shall only
be in the next room."

Through the thin partition, Joan heard a constant shrill, complaining
voice.  At times, it rose into an angry growl.  Mary looked in at the
door.

"I'm just running round to the doctor's," she whispered.  "His medicine
hasn't come.  I shan't be long."

Joan offered to go in and sit with the invalid.  But Mary feared the
exertion of talking might be too much for him.  "He gets so excited," she
explained.  She slipped out noiselessly.

It seemed, in spite of its open door, a very silent little house behind
its strip of garden.  Joan had the feeling that it was listening.

Suddenly she heard a light step in the passage, and the room door opened.
A girl entered.  She was wearing a large black hat and a black boa round
her neck.  Between them her face shone unnaturally white.  She carried a
small cloth bag.  She started, on seeing Joan, and seemed about to
retreat.

"Oh, please don't go," cried Joan.  "Mrs. Stopperton has just gone round
to the doctor's.  She won't be long.  I'm a friend of hers."

The girl took stock of her and, apparently reassured, closed the door
behind her.

"What's he like to-night?" she asked, with a jerk of her head in the
direction of the next room.  She placed her bag carefully upon the sofa,
and examined the new shawl as she did so.

"Well, I gather he's a little fretful," answered Joan with a smile.

"That's a bad sign," said the girl.  "Means he's feeling better."  She
seated herself on the sofa and fingered the shawl.  "Did you give it
her?" she asked.

"Yes," admitted Joan.  "I rather fancied her in it."

"She'll only pawn it," said the girl, "to buy him grapes and port wine."

"I felt a bit afraid of her," laughed Joan, "so I made her promise not to
part with it.  Is he really very ill, her husband?"

"Oh, yes, there's no make-believe this time," answered the girl.  "A bad
thing for her if he wasn't."

"Oh, it's only what's known all over the neighbourhood," continued the
girl.  "She's had a pretty rough time with him.  Twice I've found her
getting ready to go to sleep for the night by sitting on the bare floor
with her back against the wall.  Had sold every stick in the place and
gone off.  But she'd always some excuse for him.  It was sure to be half
her fault and the other half he couldn't help.  Now she's got her
'reward' according to her own account.  Heard he was dying in a
doss-house, and must fetch him home and nurse him back to life.  Seems
he's getting fonder of her every day.  Now that he can't do anything
else."

"It doesn't seem to depress her spirits," mused Joan.

"Oh, she!  She's all right," agreed the girl.  "Having the time of her
life: someone to look after for twenty-four hours a day that can't help
themselves."

She examined Joan awhile in silence.  "Are you on the stage?" she asked.

"No," answered Joan.  "But my mother was.  Are you?"

"Thought you looked a bit like it," said the girl.  "I'm in the chorus.
It's better than being in service or in a shop: that's all you can say
for it."

"But you'll get out of that," suggested Joan.  "You've got the actress
face."

The girl flushed with pleasure.  It was a striking face, with intelligent
eyes and a mobile, sensitive mouth.  "Oh, yes," she said, "I could act
all right.  I feel it.  But you don't get out of the chorus.  Except at a
price."

Joan looked at her.  "I thought that sort of thing was dying out," she
said.

The girl shrugged her shoulders.  "Not in my shop," she answered.
"Anyhow, it was the only chance I ever had.  Wish sometimes I'd taken it.
It was quite a good part."

"They must have felt sure you could act," said Joan.  "Next time it will
be a clean offer."

The girl shook her head.  "There's no next time," she said; "once you're
put down as one of the stand-offs.  Plenty of others to take your place."

"Oh, I don't blame them," she added.  "It isn't a thing to be dismissed
with a toss of your head.  I thought it all out.  Don't know now what
decided me.  Something inside me, I suppose."

Joan found herself poking the fire.  "Have you known Mary Stopperton
long?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," answered the girl.  "Ever since I've been on my own."

"Did you talk it over with her?" asked Joan.

"No," answered the girl.  "I may have just told her.  She isn't the sort
that gives advice."

"I'm glad you didn't do it," said Joan: "that you put up a fight for all
women."

The girl gave a short laugh.  "Afraid I wasn't thinking much about that,"
she said.

"No," said Joan.  "But perhaps that's the way the best fights are
fought--without thinking."

Mary peeped round the door.  She had been lucky enough to find the doctor
in.  She disappeared again, and they talked about themselves.  The girl
was a Miss Ensor.  She lived by herself in a room in Lawrence Street.

"I'm not good at getting on with people," she explained.

Mary joined them, and went straight to Miss Ensor's bag and opened it.
She shook her head at the contents, which consisted of a small, flabby-
looking meat pie in a tin dish, and two pale, flat mince tarts.

"It doesn't nourish you, dearie," complained Mary.  "You could have
bought yourself a nice bit of meat with the same money."

"And you would have had all the trouble of cooking it," answered the
girl.  "That only wants warming up."

"But I like cooking, you know, dearie," grumbled Mary.  "There's no
interest in warming things up."

The girl laughed.  "You don't have to go far for your fun," she said.
"I'll bring a sole next time; and you shall do it _au gratin_."

Mary put the indigestible-looking pasties into the oven, and almost
banged the door.  Miss Ensor proceeded to lay the table.  "How many, do
you think?" she asked.  Mary was doubtful.  She hoped that, it being
Christmas Day, they would have somewhere better to go.

"I passed old 'Bubble and Squeak,' just now, spouting away to three men
and a dog outside the World's End.  I expect he'll turn up," thought Miss
Ensor.  She laid for four, leaving space for more if need be.  "I call it
the 'Cadger's Arms,'" she explained, turning to Joan.  "We bring our own
victuals, and Mary cooks them for us and waits on us; and the more of us
the merrier.  You look forward to your Sunday evening parties, don't
you?" she asked of Mary.

Mary laughed.  She was busy in a corner with basins and a saucepan.  "Of
course I do, dearie," she answered.  "I've always been fond of company."

There came another opening of the door.  A little hairy man entered.  He
wore spectacles and was dressed in black.  He carried a paper parcel
which he laid upon the table.  He looked a little doubtful at Joan.  Mary
introduced them.  His name was Julius Simson.  He shook hands as if under
protest.

"As friends of Mary Stopperton," he said, "we meet on neutral ground.  But
in all matters of moment I expect we are as far asunder as the poles.  I
stand for the People."

"We ought to be comrades," answered Joan, with a smile.  "I, too, am
trying to help the People."

"You and your class," said Mr. Simson, "are friends enough to the People,
so long as they remember that they are the People, and keep their proper
place--at the bottom.  I am for putting the People at the top."

"Then they will be the Upper Classes," suggested Joan.  "And I may still
have to go on fighting for the rights of the lower orders."

"In this world," explained Mr. Simson, "someone has got to be Master.  The
only question is who."

Mary had unwrapped the paper parcel.  It contained half a sheep's head.
"How would you like it done?" she whispered.

Mr. Simson considered.  There came a softer look into his eyes.  "How did
you do it last time?" he asked.  "It came up brown, I remember, with
thick gravy."

"Braised," suggested Mary.

"That's the word," agreed Mr. Simson.  "Braised."  He watched while Mary
took things needful from the cupboard, and commenced to peel an onion.

"That's the sort that makes me despair of the People," said Mr. Simson.
Joan could not be sure whether he was addressing her individually or
imaginary thousands.  "Likes working for nothing.  Thinks she was born to
be everybody's servant."  He seated himself beside Miss Ensor on the
antiquated sofa.  It gave a complaining groan but held out.

"Did you have a good house?" the girl asked him.  "Saw you from the
distance, waving your arms about.  Hadn't time to stop."

"Not many," admitted Mr. Simson.  "A Christmassy lot.  You know.  Sort of
crowd that interrupts you and tries to be funny.  Dead to their own
interests.  It's slow work."

"Why do you do it?" asked Miss Ensor.

"Damned if I know," answered Mr. Simson, with a burst of candour.  "Can't
help it, I suppose.  Lost me job again."

"The old story?" suggested Miss Ensor.

"The old story," sighed Mr. Simson.  "One of the customers happened to be
passing last Wednesday when I was speaking on the Embankment.  Heard my
opinion of the middle classes?"

"Well, you can't expect 'em to like it, can you?" submitted Miss Ensor.

"No," admitted Mr. Simson with generosity.  "It's only natural.  It's a
fight to the finish between me and the Bourgeois.  I cover them with
ridicule and contempt and they hit back at me in the only way they know."

"Take care they don't get the best of you," Miss Ensor advised him.

"Oh, I'm not afraid," he answered.  "I'll get another place all right:
give me time.  The only thing I'm worried about is my young woman."

"Doesn't agree with you?" inquired Miss Ensor.

"Oh, it isn't that," he answered.  "But she's frightened.  You know.  Says
life with me is going to be a bit too uncertain for her.  Perhaps she's
right."

"Oh, why don't you chuck it," advised Miss Ensor, "give the Bourgeois a
rest."

Mr. Simson shook his head.  "Somebody's got to tackle them," he said.
"Tell them the truth about themselves, to their faces."

"Yes, but it needn't be you," suggested Miss Ensor.

Mary was leaning over the table.  Miss Ensor's four-penny veal and ham
pie was ready.  Mary arranged it in front of her.  "Eat it while it's
hot, dearie," she counselled.  "It won't be so indigestible."

Miss Ensor turned to her.  "Oh, you talk to him," she urged.  "Here, he's
lost his job again, and is losing his girl: all because of his silly
politics.  Tell him he's got to have sense and stop it."

Mary seemed troubled.  Evidently, as Miss Ensor had stated, advice was
not her line.  "Perhaps he's got to do it, dearie," she suggested.

"What do you mean by got to do it?" exclaimed Miss Ensor.  "Who's making
him do it, except himself?"

Mary flushed.  She seemed to want to get back to her cooking.  "It's
something inside us, dearie," she thought: "that nobody hears but
ourselves."

"That tells him to talk all that twaddle?" demanded Miss Ensor.  "Have
you heard him?"

"No, dearie," Mary admitted.  "But I expect it's got its purpose.  Or he
wouldn't have to do it."

Miss Ensor gave a gesture of despair and applied herself to her pie.  The
hirsute face of Mr. Simson had lost the foolish aggressiveness that had
irritated Joan.  He seemed to be pondering matters.

Mary hoped that Joan was hungry.  Joan laughed and admitted that she was.
"It's the smell of all the nice things," she explained.  Mary promised it
should soon be ready, and went back to her corner.

A short, dark, thick-set man entered and stood looking round the room.
The frame must once have been powerful, but now it was shrunken and
emaciated.  The shabby, threadbare clothes hung loosely from the stooping
shoulders.  Only the head seemed to have retained its vigour.  The face,
from which the long black hair was brushed straight back, was ghastly
white.  Out of it, deep set beneath great shaggy, overhanging brows,
blazed the fierce, restless eyes of a fanatic.  The huge, thin-lipped
mouth seemed to have petrified itself into a savage snarl.  He gave Joan
the idea, as he stood there glaring round him, of a hunted beast at bay.

Miss Ensor, whose bump of reverence was undeveloped, greeted him
cheerfully as Boanerges.  Mr. Simson, more respectful, rose and offered
his small, grimy hand.  Mary took his hat and cloak away from him and
closed the door behind him.  She felt his hands, and put him into a chair
close to the fire.  And then she introduced him to Joan.

Joan started on hearing his name.  It was one well known.

"The Cyril Baptiste?" she asked.  She had often wondered what he might be
like.

"The Cyril Baptiste," he answered, in a low, even, passionate voice, that
he flung at her almost like a blow.  "The atheist, the gaol bird, the
pariah, the blasphemer, the anti-Christ.  I've hoofs instead of feet.
Shall I take off my boots and show them to you?  I tuck my tail inside my
coat.  You can't see my horns.  I've cut them off close to my head.
That's why I wear my hair long: to hide the stumps."

Mary had been searching in the pockets of his cloak.  She had found a
paper bag.  "You mustn't get excited," she said, laying her little work-
worn hand upon his shoulder; "or you'll bring on the bleeding."

"Aye," he answered, "I must be careful I don't die on Christmas Day.  It
would make a fine text, that, for their sermons."

He lapsed into silence: his almost transparent hands stretched out
towards the fire.

Mr. Simson fidgeted.  The quiet of the room, broken only by Mary's
ministering activities, evidently oppressed him.

"Paper going well, sir?" he asked.  "I often read it myself."

"It still sells," answered the proprietor, and editor and publisher, and
entire staff of _The Rationalist_.

"I like the articles you are writing on the History of Superstition.
Quite illuminating," remarked Mr. Simson.

"It's many a year, I am afraid, to the final chapter," thought their
author.

"They afford much food for reflection," thought Mr. Simson, "though I
cannot myself go as far as you do in including Christianity under that
heading."

Mary frowned at him; but Mr. Simson, eager for argument or not noticing,
blundered on:--

"Whether we accept the miraculous explanation of Christ's birth,"
continued Mr. Simson, in his best street-corner voice, "or whether, with
the great French writer whose name for the moment escapes me, we regard
Him merely as a man inspired, we must, I think, admit that His teaching
has been of help: especially to the poor."

The fanatic turned upon him so fiercely that Mr. Simson's arm
involuntarily assumed the posture of defence.

"To the poor?" the old man almost shrieked.  "To the poor that he has
robbed of all power of resistance to oppression by his vile, submissive
creed! that he has drugged into passive acceptance of every evil done to
them by his false promises that their sufferings here shall win for them
some wonderful reward when they are dead.  What has been his teaching to
the poor?  Bow your backs to the lash, kiss the rod that scars your
flesh.  Be ye humble, oh, my people.  Be ye poor in spirit.  Let Wrong
rule triumphant through the world.  Raise no hand against it, lest ye
suffer my eternal punishments.  Learn from me to be meek and lowly.  Learn
to be good slaves and give no trouble to your taskmasters.  Let them turn
the world into a hell for you.  The grave--the grave shall be your gate
to happiness.

"Helpful to the poor?  Helpful to their rulers, to their owners.  They
take good care that Christ shall be well taught.  Their fat priests shall
bear his message to the poor.  The rod may be broken, the prison door be
forced.  It is Christ that shall bind the people in eternal fetters.
Christ, the lackey, the jackal of the rich."

Mr. Simson was visibly shocked.  Evidently he was less familiar with the
opinions of _The Rationalist_ than he had thought.

"I really must protest," exclaimed Mr. Simson.  "To whatever wrong uses
His words may have been twisted, Christ Himself I regard as divine, and
entitled to be spoken of with reverence.  His whole life, His
sufferings--"

But the old fanatic's vigour had not yet exhausted itself.

"His sufferings!" he interrupted.  "Does suffering entitle a man to be
regarded as divine?  If so, so also am I a God.  Look at me!"  He
stretched out his long, thin arms with their claw-like hands, thrusting
forward his great savage head that the bony, wizened throat seemed hardly
strong enough to bear.  "Wealth, honour, happiness: I had them once.  I
had wife, children and a home.  Now I creep an outcast, keeping to the
shadows, and the children in the street throw stones at me.  Thirty years
I have starved that I might preach.  They shut me in their prisons, they
hound me into garrets.  They jibe at me and mock me, but they cannot
silence me.  What of my life?  Am I divine?"

Miss Ensor, having finished her supper, sat smoking.

"Why must you preach?" she asked.  "It doesn't seem to pay you."  There
was a curious smile about the girl's lips as she caught Joan's eye.

He turned to her with his last flicker of passion.

"Because to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the
world, that I should bear witness unto the truth," he answered.

He sank back a huddled heap upon the chair.  There was foam about his
mouth, great beads of sweat upon his forehead.  Mary wiped them away with
a corner of her apron, and felt again his trembling hands.  "Oh, please
don't talk to him any more," she pleaded, "not till he's had his supper."
She fetched her fine shawl, and pinned it round him.  His eyes followed
her as she hovered about him.  For the first time, since he had entered
the room, they looked human.

They gathered round the table.  Mr. Baptiste was still pinned up in
Mary's bright shawl.  It lent him a curious dignity.  He might have been
some ancient prophet stepped from the pages of the Talmud.  Miss Ensor
completed her supper with a cup of tea and some little cakes: "just to
keep us all company," as Mary had insisted.

The old fanatic's eyes passed from face to face.  There was almost the
suggestion of a smile about the savage mouth.

"A strange supper-party," he said.  "Cyril the Apostate; and Julius who
strove against the High Priests and the Pharisees; and Inez a dancer
before the people; and Joanna a daughter of the rulers, gathered together
in the house of one Mary a servant of the Lord."

"Are you, too, a Christian?" he asked of Joan.

"Not yet," answered Joan.  "But I hope to be, one day."  She spoke
without thinking, not quite knowing what she meant.  But it came back to
her in after years.

The talk grew lighter under the influence of Mary's cooking.  Mr.
Baptiste could be interesting when he got away from his fanaticism; and
even the apostolic Mr. Simson had sometimes noticed humour when it had
chanced his way.

A message came for Mary about ten o'clock, brought by a scared little
girl, who whispered it to her at the door.  Mary apologized.  She had to
go out.  The party broke up.  Mary disappeared into the next room and
returned in a shawl and bonnet, carrying a small brown paper parcel.  Joan
walked with her as far as the King's Road.

"A little child is coming," she confided to Joan.  She was quite excited
about it.

Joan thought.  "It's curious," she said, "one so seldom hears of anybody
being born on Christmas Day."

They were passing a lamp.  Joan had never seen a face look quite so happy
as Mary's looked, just then.

"It always seems to me Christ's birthday," she said, "whenever a child is
born."

They had reached the corner.  Joan could see her bus in the distance.

She stooped and kissed the little withered face.

"Don't stop," she whispered.

Mary gave her a hug, and almost ran away.  Joan watched the little child-
like figure growing smaller.  It glided in and out among the people.



CHAPTER XI


In the spring, Joan, at Mrs. Denton's request, undertook a mission.  It
was to go to Paris.  Mrs. Denton had meant to go herself, but was laid up
with sciatica; and the matter, she considered, would not brook of any
delay.

"It's rather a delicate business," she told Joan.  She was lying on a
couch in her great library, and Joan was seated by her side.  "I want
someone who can go into private houses and mix with educated people on
their own level; and especially I want you to see one or two women: they
count in France.  You know French pretty well, don't you?"

"Oh, sufficiently," Joan answered.  The one thing her mother had done for
her had been to talk French with her when she was a child; and at Girton
she had chummed on with a French girl, and made herself tolerably
perfect.

"You will not go as a journalist," continued Mrs. Denton; "but as a
personal friend of mine, whose discretion I shall vouch for.  I want you
to find out what the people I am sending you among are thinking
themselves, and what they consider ought to be done.  If we are not very
careful on both sides we shall have the newspapers whipping us into war."

The perpetual Egyptian trouble had cropped up again and the Carleton
papers, in particular, were already sounding the tocsin.  Carleton's
argument was that we ought to fall upon France and crush her, before she
could develop her supposed submarine menace.  His flaming posters were at
every corner.  Every obscure French newspaper was being ransacked for
"Insults and Pinpricks."

"A section of the Paris Press is doing all it can to help him, of
course," explained Mrs. Denton.  "It doesn't seem to matter to them that
Germany is only waiting her opportunity, and that, if Russia comes in, it
is bound to bring Austria.  Europe will pay dearly one day for the luxury
of a free Press."

"But you're surely not suggesting any other kind of Press, at this period
of the world's history?" exclaimed Joan.

"Oh, but I am," answered the old lady with a grim tightening of the lips.
"Not even Carleton would be allowed to incite to murder or arson.  I
would have him prosecuted for inciting a nation to war."

"Why is the Press always so eager for war?" mused Joan.  "According to
their own account, war doesn't pay them."

"I don't suppose it does: not directly," answered Mrs. Denton.  "But it
helps them to establish their position and get a tighter hold upon the
public.  War does pay the newspaper in the long run.  The daily newspaper
lives on commotion, crime, lawlessness in general.  If people no longer
enjoyed reading about violence and bloodshed half their occupation, and
that the most profitable half would be gone.  It is the interest of the
newspaper to keep alive the savage in human nature; and war affords the
readiest means of doing this.  You can't do much to increase the number
of gruesome murders and loathsome assaults, beyond giving all possible
advertisement to them when they do occur.  But you can preach war, and
cover yourself with glory, as a patriot, at the same time."

"I wonder how many of my ideals will be left to me," sighed Joan.  "I
always used to regard the Press as the modern pulpit."

"The old pulpit became an evil, the moment it obtained unlimited power,"
answered Mrs. Denton.  "It originated persecution and inflamed men's
passions against one another.  It, too, preached war for its own ends,
taught superstition, and punished thought as a crime.  The Press of to-
day is stepping into the shoes of the medieval priest.  It aims at
establishing the worst kind of tyranny: the tyranny over men's minds.
They pretend to fight among themselves, but it's rapidly becoming a close
corporation.  The Institute of Journalists will soon be followed by the
Union of Newspaper Proprietors and the few independent journals will be
squeezed out.  Already we have German shareholders on English papers; and
English capital is interested in the St. Petersburg Press.  It will one
day have its International Pope and its school of cosmopolitan
cardinals."

Joan laughed.  "I can see Carleton rather fancying himself in a tiara,"
she said.  "I must tell Phillips what you say.  He's out for a fight with
him.  Government by Parliament or Government by Press is going to be his
war cry."

"Good man," said Mrs. Denton.  "I'm quite serious.  You tell him from me
that the next revolution has got to be against the Press.  And it will be
the stiffest fight Democracy has ever had."

The old lady had tired herself.  Joan undertook the mission.  She thought
she would rather enjoy it, and Mrs. Denton promised to let her have full
instructions.  She would write to her friends in Paris and prepare them
for Joan's coming.

Joan remembered Folk, the artist she had met at Flossie's party, who had
promised to walk with her on the terrace at St. Germain, and tell her
more about her mother.  She looked up his address on her return home, and
wrote to him, giving him the name of the hotel in the Rue de Grenelle
where Mrs. Denton had arranged that she should stay.  She found a note
from him awaiting her when she arrived there.  He thought she would like
to be quiet after her journey.  He would call round in the morning.  He
had presumed on the privilege of age to send her some lilies.  They had
been her mother's favourite flower.  "Monsieur Folk, the great artist,"
had brought them himself, and placed them in her dressing-room, so Madame
informed her.

It was one of the half-dozen old hotels still left in Paris, and was
built round a garden famous for its mighty mulberry tree.  She
breakfasted underneath it, and was reading there when Folk appeared
before her, smiling and with his hat in his hand.  He excused himself for
intruding upon her so soon, thinking from what she had written him that
her first morning might be his only chance.  He evidently considered her
remembrance of him a feather in his cap.

"We old fellows feel a little sadly, at times, how unimportant we are,"
he explained.  "We are grateful when Youth throws us a smile."

"You told me my coming would take you back thirty-three years," Joan
reminded him.  "It makes us about the same age.  I shall treat you as
just a young man."

He laughed.  "Don't be surprised," he said, "if I make a mistake
occasionally and call you Lena."

Joan had no appointment till the afternoon.  They drove out to St.
Germain, and had _dejeuner_ at a small restaurant opposite the Chateau;
and afterwards they strolled on to the terrace.

"What was my mother doing in Paris?" asked Joan,

"She was studying for the stage," he answered.  "Paris was the only
school in those days.  I was at Julien's studio.  We acted together for
some charity.  I had always been fond of it.  An American manager who was
present offered us both an engagement, and I thought it would be a change
and that I could combine the two arts."

"And it was here that you proposed to her," said Joan.

"Just by that tree that leans forward," he answered, pointing with his
cane a little way ahead.  "I thought that in America I'd get another
chance.  I might have if your father hadn't come along.  I wonder if he
remembers me."

"Did you ever see her again, after her marriage?" asked Joan.

"No," he answered.  "We used to write to one another until she gave it
up.  She had got into the habit of looking upon me as a harmless sort of
thing to confide in and ask advice of--which she never took."

"Forgive me," he said.  "You must remember that I am still her lover."
They had reached the tree that leant a little forward beyond its fellows,
and he had halted and turned so that he was facing her.  "Did she and
your father get on together.  Was she happy?"

"I don't think she was happy," answered Joan.  "She was at first.  As a
child, I can remember her singing and laughing about the house, and she
liked always to have people about her.  Until her illness came.  It
changed her very much.  But my father was gentleness itself, to the end."

They had resumed their stroll.  It seemed to her that he looked at her
once or twice a little oddly without speaking.  "What caused your
mother's illness?" he asked, abruptly.

The question troubled her.  It struck her with a pang of self-reproach
that she had always been indifferent to her mother's illness, regarding
it as more or less imaginary.  "It was mental rather than physical, I
think," she answered.  "I never knew what brought it about."

Again he looked at her with that odd, inquisitive expression.  "She never
got over it?" he asked.

"Oh, there were times," answered Joan, "when she was more like her old
self again.  But I don't think she ever quite got over it.  Unless it was
towards the end," she added.  "They told me she seemed much better for a
little while before she died.  I was away at Cambridge at the time."

"Poor dear lady," he said, "all those years!  And poor Jack Allway."  He
seemed to be talking to himself.  Suddenly he turned to her.  "How is the
dear fellow?" he asked.

Again the question troubled her.  She had not seen her father since that
week-end, nearly six months ago, when she had ran down to see him because
she wanted something from him.  "He felt my mother's death very deeply,"
she answered.  "But he's well enough in health."

"Remember me to him," he said.  "And tell him I thank him for all those
years of love and gentleness.  I don't think he will be offended."

He drove her back to Paris, and she promised to come and see him in his
studio and let him introduce her to his artist friends.

"I shall try to win you over, I warn you," he said.  "Politics will never
reform the world.  They appeal only to men's passions and hatreds.  They
divide us.  It is Art that is going to civilize mankind; broaden his
sympathies.  Art speaks to him the common language of his loves, his
dreams, reveals to him the universal kinship."

Mrs. Denton's friends called upon her, and most of them invited her to
their houses.  A few were politicians, senators or ministers.  Others
were bankers, heads of business houses, literary men and women.  There
were also a few quiet folk with names that were historical.  They all
thought that war between France and England would be a world disaster,
but were not very hopeful of averting it.  She learnt that Carleton was
in Berlin trying to secure possession of a well-known German daily that
happened at the moment to be in low water.  He was working for an
alliance between Germany and England.  In France, the Royalists had come
to an understanding with the Clericals, and both were evidently making
ready to throw in their lot with the war-mongers, hoping that out of the
troubled waters the fish would come their way.  Of course everything
depended on the people.  If the people only knew it!  But they didn't.
They stood about in puzzled flocks, like sheep, wondering which way the
newspaper dog was going to hound them.  They took her to the great music
halls.  Every allusion to war was greeted with rapturous applause.  The
Marseillaise was demanded and encored till the orchestra rebelled from
sheer exhaustion.  Joan's patience was sorely tested.  She had to listen
with impassive face to coarse jests and brutal gibes directed against
England and everything English; to sit unmoved while the vast audience
rocked with laughter at senseless caricatures of supposed English
soldiers whose knees always gave way at the sight of a French uniform.
Even in the eyes of her courteous hosts, Joan's quick glance would
occasionally detect a curious glint.  The fools!  Had they never heard of
Waterloo and Trafalgar?  Even if their memories might be excused for
forgetting Crecy and Poictiers and the campaigns of Marlborough.  One
evening--it had been a particularly trying one for Joan--there stepped
upon the stage a wooden-looking man in a kilt with bagpipes under his
arm.  How he had got himself into the programme Joan could not
understand.  Managerial watchfulness must have gone to sleep for once.  He
played Scotch melodies, and the Parisians liked them, and when he had
finished they called him back.  Joan and her friends occupied a box close
to the stage.  The wooden-looking Scot glanced up at her, and their eyes
met.  And as the applause died down there rose the first low warning
strains of the Pibroch.  Joan sat up in her chair and her lips parted.
The savage music quickened.  It shrilled and skrealed.  The blood came
surging through her veins.

And suddenly something lying hidden there leaped to life within her
brain.  A mad desire surged hold of her to rise and shout defiance at
those three thousand pairs of hostile eyes confronting her.  She clutched
at the arms of her chair and so kept her seat.  The pibroch ended with
its wild sad notes of wailing, and slowly the mist cleared from her eyes,
and the stage was empty.  A strange hush had fallen on the house.

She was not aware that her hostess had been watching her.  She was a
sweet-faced, white-haired lady.  She touched Joan lightly on the hand.
"That's the trouble," she whispered.  "It's in our blood."

Could we ever hope to eradicate it?  Was not the survival of this
fighting instinct proof that war was still needful to us?  In the
sculpture-room of an exhibition she came upon a painted statue of
Bellona.  Its grotesqueness shocked her at first sight, the red streaming
hair, the wild eyes filled with fury, the wide open mouth--one could
almost hear it screaming--the white uplifted arms with outstretched
hands!  Appalling!  Terrible!  And yet, as she gazed at it, gradually the
thing grew curiously real to her.  She seemed to hear the gathering of
the chariots, the neighing of the horses, the hurrying of many feet, the
sound of an armouring multitude, the shouting, and the braying of the
trumpets.

These cold, thin-lipped calculators, arguing that "War doesn't pay";
those lank-haired cosmopolitans, preaching their "International," as if
the only business of mankind were wages!  War still was the stern school
where men learnt virtue, duty, forgetfulness of self, faithfulness unto
death.

This particular war, of course, must be stopped: if it were not already
too late.  It would be a war for markets; for spheres of commercial
influence; a sordid war that would degrade the people.  War, the supreme
test of a nation's worth, must be reserved for great ideals.  Besides,
she wanted to down Carleton.

One of the women on her list, and the one to whom Mrs. Denton appeared to
attach chief importance, a Madame de Barante, disappointed Joan.  She
seemed to have so few opinions of her own.  She had buried her young
husband during the Franco-Prussian war.  He had been a soldier.  And she
had remained unmarried.  She was still beautiful.

"I do not think we women have the right to discuss war," she confided to
Joan in her gentle, high-bred voice.  "I suppose you think that out of
date.  I should have thought so myself forty years ago.  We talk of
'giving' our sons and lovers, as if they were ours to give.  It makes me
a little angry when I hear pampered women speak like that.  It is the men
who have to suffer and die.  It is for them to decide."

"But perhaps I can arrange a meeting for you with a friend," she added,
"who will be better able to help you, if he is in Paris.  I will let you
know."

She told Joan what she remembered herself of 1870.  She had turned her
country house into a hospital and had seen a good deal of the fighting.

"It would not do to tell the truth, or we should have our children
growing up to hate war," she concluded.

She was as good as her word, and sent Joan round a message the next
morning to come and see her in the afternoon.  Joan was introduced to a
Monsieur de Chaumont.  He was a soldierly-looking gentleman, with a grey
moustache, and a deep scar across his face.

"Hanged if I can see how we are going to get out of it," he answered Joan
cheerfully.  "The moment there is any threat of war, it becomes a point
of honour with every nation to do nothing to avoid it.  I remember my old
duelling days.  The quarrel may have been about the silliest trifle
imaginable.  A single word would have explained the whole thing away.  But
to utter it would have stamped one as a coward.  This Egyptian Tra-la-la!
It isn't worth the bones of a single grenadier, as our friends across the
Rhine would say.  But I expect, before it's settled, there will be men's
bones sufficient, bleaching on the desert, to build another Pyramid.  It's
so easily started: that's the devil of it.  A mischievous boy can throw a
lighted match into a powder magazine, and then it becomes every patriot's
business to see that it isn't put out.  I hate war.  It accomplishes
nothing, and leaves everything in a greater muddle than it was before.
But if the idea ever catches fire, I shall have to do all I can to fan
the conflagration.  Unless I am prepared to be branded as a poltroon.
Every professional soldier is supposed to welcome war.  Most of us do:
it's our opportunity.  There's some excuse for us.  But these
men--Carleton and their lot: I regard them as nothing better than the
Menades of the Commune.  They care nothing if the whole of Europe blazes.
They cannot personally get harmed whatever happens.  It's fun to them."

"But the people who can get harmed," argued Joan.  "The men who will be
dragged away from their work, from their business, used as 'cannon
fodder.'"

He shrugged his shoulders.  "Oh, they are always eager enough for it, at
first," he answered.  "There is the excitement.  The curiosity.  You must
remember that life is a monotonous affair to the great mass of the
people.  There's the natural craving to escape from it; to court
adventure.  They are not so enthusiastic about it after they have tasted
it.  Modern warfare, they soon find, is about as dull a business as
science ever invented."

There was only one hope that he could see: and that was to switch the
people's mind on to some other excitement.  His advices from London told
him that a parliamentary crisis was pending.  Could not Mrs. Denton and
her party do something to hasten it?  He, on his side, would consult with
the Socialist leaders, who might have something to suggest.

He met Joan, radiant, a morning or two later.  The English Government had
resigned and preparations for a general election were already on foot.

"And God has been good to us, also," he explained.

A well-known artist had been found murdered in his bed and grave
suspicion attached to his beautiful young wife.

"She deserves the Croix de Guerre, if it is proved that she did it," he
thought.  "She will have saved many thousands of lives--for the present."

Folk had fixed up a party at his studio to meet her.  She had been there
once or twice; but this was a final affair.  She had finished her
business in Paris and would be leaving the next morning.  To her
surprise, she found Phillips there.  He had come over hurriedly to attend
a Socialist conference, and Leblanc, the editor of _Le Nouveau Monde_,
had brought him along.

"I took Smedley's place at the last moment," he whispered to her.  "I've
never been abroad before.  You don't mind, do you?"

It didn't strike her as at all odd that a leader of a political party
should ask her "if she minded" his being in Paris to attend a political
conference.  He was wearing a light grey suit and a blue tie.  There was
nothing about him, at that moment, suggesting that he was a leader of any
sort.  He might have been just any man, but for his eyes.

"No," she whispered.  "Of course not.  I don't like your tie."  It seemed
to depress him, that.

She felt elated at the thought that he would see her for the first time
amid surroundings where she would shine.  Folk came forward to meet her
with that charming air of protective deference that he had adopted
towards her.  He might have been some favoured minister of state kissing
the hand of a youthful Queen.  She glanced down the long studio, ending
in its fine window overlooking the park.  Some of the most distinguished
men in Paris were there, and the immediate stir of admiration that her
entrance had created was unmistakable.  Even the women turned pleased
glances at her; as if willing to recognize in her their representative.  A
sense of power came to her that made her feel kind to all the world.
There was no need for her to be clever: to make any effort to attract.
Her presence, her sympathy, her approval seemed to be all that was needed
of her.  She had the consciousness that by the mere exercise of her will
she could sway the thoughts and actions of these men: that sovereignty
had been given to her.  It reflected itself in her slightly heightened
colour, in the increased brilliance of her eyes, in the confident case of
all her movements.  It added a compelling softness to her voice.

She never quite remembered what the talk was about.  Men were brought up
and presented to her, and hung about her words, and sought to please her.
She had spoken her own thoughts, indifferent whether they expressed
agreement or not; and the argument had invariably taken another plane.  It
seemed so important that she should be convinced.  Some had succeeded,
and had been strengthened.  Others had failed, and had departed
sorrowful, conscious of the necessity of "thinking it out again."

Guests with other engagements were taking their leave.  A piquante little
woman, outrageously but effectively dressed--she looked like a drawing by
Beardsley--drew her aside.  "I've always wished I were a man," she said.
"It seemed to me that they had all the power.  From this afternoon, I
shall be proud of belonging to the governing sex."

She laughed and slipped away.

Phillips was waiting for her in the vestibule.  She had forgotten him;
but now she felt glad of his humble request to be allowed to see her
home.  It would have been such a big drop from her crowded hour of
triumph to the long lonely cab ride and the solitude of the hotel.  She
resolved to be gracious, feeling a little sorry for her neglect of
him--but reflecting with satisfaction that he had probably been watching
her the whole time.

"What's the matter with my tie?" he asked.  "Wrong colour?"

She laughed.  "Yes," she answered.  "It ought to be grey to match your
suit.  And so ought your socks."

"I didn't know it was going to be such a swell affair, or I shouldn't
have come," he said.

She touched his hand lightly.

"I want you to get used to it," she said.  "It's part of your work.  Put
your brain into it, and don't be afraid."

"I'll try," he said.

He was sitting on the front seat, facing her.  "I'm glad I went," he said
with sudden vehemence.  "I loved watching you, moving about among all
those people.  I never knew before how beautiful you are."

Something in his eyes sent a slight thrill of fear through her.  It was
not an unpleasant sensation--rather exhilarating.  She watched the
passing street till she felt that his eyes were no longer devouring her.

"You're not offended?" he asked.  "At my thinking you beautiful?" he
added, in case she hadn't understood.

She laughed.  Her confidence had returned to her.  "It doesn't generally
offend a woman," she answered.

He seemed relieved.  "That's what's so wonderful about you," he said.
"I've met plenty of clever, brilliant women, but one could forget that
they were women.  You're everything."

He pleaded, standing below her on the steps of the hotel, that she would
dine with him.  But she shook her head.  She had her packing to do.  She
could have managed it; but something prudent and absurd had suddenly got
hold of her; and he went away with much the same look in his eyes that
comes to a dog when he finds that his master cannot be persuaded into an
excursion.

She went up to her room.  There really was not much to do.  She could
quite well finish her packing in the morning.  She sat down at the desk
and set to work to arrange her papers.  It was a warm spring evening, and
the window was open.  A crowd of noisy sparrows seemed to be delighted
about something.  From somewhere, unseen, a blackbird was singing.  She
read over her report for Mrs. Denton.  The blackbird seemed never to have
heard of war.  He sang as if the whole world were a garden of languor and
love.  Joan looked at her watch.  The first gong would sound in a few
minutes.  She pictured the dreary, silent dining-room with its few
scattered occupants, and her heart sank at the prospect.  To her relief
came remembrance of a cheerful but entirely respectable restaurant near
to the Louvre to which she had been taken a few nights before.  She had
noticed quite a number of women dining there alone.  She closed her
dispatch case with a snap and gave a glance at herself in the great
mirror.  The blackbird was still singing.

She walked up the Rue des Sts. Peres, enjoying the delicious air.  Half
way across the bridge she overtook a man, strolling listlessly in front
of her.  There was something familiar about him.  He was wearing a grey
suit and had his hands in his pockets.  Suddenly the truth flashed upon
her.  She stopped.  If he strolled on, she would be able to slip back.
Instead of which he abruptly turned to look down at a passing steamer,
and they were face to face.

It made her mad, the look of delight that came into his eyes.  She could
have boxed his ears.  Hadn't he anything else to do but hang about the
streets.

He explained that he had been listening to the band in the gardens,
returning by the Quai d'Orsay.

"Do let me come with you," he said.  "I kept myself free this evening,
hoping.  And I'm feeling so lonesome."

Poor fellow!  She had come to understand that feeling.  After all, it
wasn't altogether his fault that they had met.  And she had been so cross
to him!

He was reading every expression on her face.

"It's such a lovely evening," he said.  "Couldn't we go somewhere and
dine under a tree?"

It would be rather pleasant.  There was a little place at Meudon, she
remembered.  The plane trees would just be in full leaf.

A passing cab had drawn up close to them.  The chauffeur was lighting his
pipe.

Even Mrs. Grundy herself couldn't object to a journalist dining with a
politician!

The stars came out before they had ended dinner.  She had made him talk
about himself.  It was marvellous what he had accomplished with his
opportunities.  Ten hours a day in the mines had earned for him his
living, and the night had given him his leisure.  An attic, lighted by a
tallow candle, with a shelf of books that left him hardly enough for
bread, had been his Alma Mater.  History was his chief study.  There was
hardly an authority Joan could think of with which he was not familiar.
_Julius Caesar_ was his favourite play.  He seemed to know it by heart.
At twenty-three he had been elected a delegate, and had entered
Parliament at twenty-eight.  It had been a life of hardship, of
privation, of constant strain; but she found herself unable to pity him.
It was a tale of strength, of struggle, of victory, that he told her.

Strength!  The shaded lamplight fell upon his fearless kindly face with
its flashing eyes and its humorous mouth.  He ought to have been drinking
out of a horn, not a wine glass that his well-shaped hand could have
crushed by a careless pressure.  In a winged helmet and a coat of mail he
would have looked so much more fitly dressed than in that soft felt hat
and ridiculous blue tie.

She led him to talk on about the future.  She loved to hear his clear,
confident voice with its touch of boyish boastfulness.  What was there to
stop him?  Why should he not climb from power to power till he had
reached the end!

And as he talked and dreamed there grew up in her heart a fierce anger.
What would her own future be?  She would marry probably some man of her
own class, settle down to the average woman's "life"; be allowed, like a
spoilt child, to still "take an interest" in public affairs: hold
"drawing-rooms" attended by cranks and political nonentities: be
President, perhaps, of the local Woman's Liberal League.  The
alternative: to spend her days glued to a desk, penning exhortations to
the people that Carleton and his like might or might not allow them to
read; while youth and beauty slipped away from her, leaving her one of
the ten thousand other lonely, faded women, forcing themselves unwelcome
into men's jobs.  There came to her a sense of having been robbed of what
was hers by primitive eternal law.  Greyson had been right.  She did love
power--power to serve and shape the world.  She would have earned it and
used it well.  She could have helped him, inspired him.  They would have
worked together: he the force and she the guidance.  She would have
supplied the things he lacked.  It was to her he came for counsel, as it
was.  But for her he would never have taken the first step.  What right
had this poor brainless lump of painted flesh to share his wounds, his
triumphs?  What help could she give him when the time should come that he
should need it?

Suddenly he broke off.  "What a fool I'm making of myself," he said.  "I
always was a dreamer."

She forced a laugh.  "Why shouldn't it come true?" she asked.

They had the little garden to themselves.  The million lights of Paris
shone below them.

"Because you won't be there," he answered, "and without you I can't do
it.  You think I'm always like I am to-night, bragging, confident.  So I
am when you are with me.  You give me back my strength.  The plans and
hopes and dreams that were slipping from me come crowding round me,
laughing and holding out their hands.  They are like the children.  They
need two to care for them.  I want to talk about them to someone who
understands them and loves them, as I do.  I want to feel they are dear
to someone else, as well as to myself: that I must work for them for her
sake, as well as for my own.  I want someone to help me to bring them
up."

There were tears in his eyes.  He brushed them angrily away.  "Oh, I know
I ought to be ashamed of myself," he said.  "It wasn't her fault.  She
wasn't to know that a hot-blooded young chap of twenty hasn't all his
wits about him, any more than I was.  If I had never met you, it wouldn't
have mattered.  I'd have done my bit of good, and have stopped there,
content.  With you beside me"--he looked away from her to where the
silent city peeped through its veil of night--"I might have left the
world better than I found it."

The blood had mounted to her face.  She drew back into the shadow, beyond
the tiny sphere of light made by the little lamp.

"Men have accomplished great things without a woman's help," she said.

"Some men," he answered.  "Artists and poets.  They have the woman within
them.  Men like myself--the mere fighter: we are incomplete in ourselves.
Male and female created He them.  We are lost without our mate."

He was thinking only of himself.  Had he no pity for her.  So was she,
also, useless without her mate.  Neither was she of those, here and
there, who can stand alone.  Her task was that of the eternal woman: to
make a home: to cleanse the world of sin and sorrow, make it a kinder
dwelling-place for the children that should come.  This man was her true
helpmeet.  He would have been her weapon, her dear servant; and she could
have rewarded him as none other ever could.  The lamplight fell upon his
ruddy face, his strong white hands resting on the flimsy table.  He
belonged to an older order than her own.  That suggestion about him of
something primitive, of something not yet altogether tamed.  She felt
again that slight thrill of fear that so strangely excited her.  A mist
seemed to be obscuring all things.  He seemed to be coming towards her.
Only by keeping her eyes fixed on his moveless hands, still resting on
the table, could she convince herself that his arms were not closing
about her, that she was not being drawn nearer and nearer to him,
powerless to resist.

Suddenly, out of the mist, she heard voices.  The waiter was standing
beside him with the bill.  She reached out her hand and took it.  The
usual few mistakes had occurred.  She explained them, good temperedly,
and the waiter, with profuse apologies, went back to have it corrected.

He turned to her as the man went.  "Try and forgive me," he said in a low
voice.  "It all came tumbling out before I thought what I was saying."

The blood was flowing back into her veins.  "Oh, it wasn't your fault,"
she answered.  "We must make the best we can of it."

He bent forward so that he could see into her eyes.

"Tell me," he said.  There was a note of fierce exultation in his voice.
"I'll promise never to speak of it again.  If I had been a free man,
could I have won you?"

She had risen while he was speaking.  She moved to him and laid her hands
upon his shoulders.

"Will you serve me and fight for me against all my enemies?" she asked.

"So long as I live," he answered.

She glanced round.  There was no sign of the returning waiter.  She bent
over him and kissed him.

"Don't come with me," she said.  "There's a cab stand in the Avenue.  I
shall walk to Sevres and take the train."

She did not look back.



CHAPTER XII


She reached home in the evening.  The Phillips's old rooms had been twice
let since Christmas, but were now again empty.  The McKean with his
silent ways and his everlasting pipe had gone to America to superintend
the production of one of his plays.  The house gave her the feeling of
being haunted.  She had her dinner brought up to her and prepared for a
long evening's work; but found herself unable to think--except on the one
subject that she wanted to put off thinking about.  To her relief the
last post brought her a letter from Arthur.  He had been called to Lisbon
to look after a contract, and would be away for a fortnight.  Her father
was not as well as he had been.

It seemed to just fit in.  She would run down and spend a few quiet days
at Liverpool.  In her old familiar room where the moon peeped in over the
tops of the tall pines she would be able to reason things out.  Perhaps
her father would be able to help her.  She had lost her childish
conception of him as of someone prim and proper, with cut and dried
formulas for all occasions.  That glimpse he had shown her of himself had
established a fellowship between them.  He, too, had wrestled with life's
riddles, not sure of his own answers.  She found him suffering from his
old heart trouble, but more cheerful than she had known him for years.
Arthur seemed to be doing wonders with the men.  They were coming to
trust him.

"The difficulty I have always been up against," explained her father,
"has been their suspicion.  'What's the cunning old rascal up to now?
What's his little game?'  That is always what I have felt they were
thinking to themselves whenever I have wanted to do anything for them.  It
isn't anything he says to them.  It seems to be just he, himself."

He sketched out their plans to her.  It seemed to be all going in at one
ear and out at the other.  What was the matter with her?  Perhaps she was
tired without knowing it.  She would get him to tell her all about it to-
morrow.  Also, to-morrow, she would tell him about Phillips, and ask his
advice.  It was really quite late.  If he talked any more now, it would
give her a headache.  She felt it coming on.

She made her "good-night" extra affectionate, hoping to disguise her
impatience.  She wanted to get up to her own room.

But even that did not help her.  It seemed in some mysterious way to be
no longer her room, but the room of someone she had known and half
forgotten: who would never come back.  It gave her the same feeling she
had experienced on returning to the house in London: that the place was
haunted.  The high cheval glass from her mother's dressing-room had been
brought there for her use.  The picture of an absurdly small child--the
child to whom this room had once belonged--standing before it naked, rose
before her eyes.  She had wanted to see herself.  She had thought that
only her clothes stood in the way.  If we could but see ourselves, as in
some magic mirror?  All the garments usage and education has dressed us
up in laid aside.  What was she underneath her artificial niceties, her
prim moralities, her laboriously acquired restraints, her unconscious
pretences and hypocrisies?  She changed her clothes for a loose robe, and
putting out the light drew back the curtains.  The moon peeped in over
the top of the tall pines, but it only stared at her, indifferent.  It
seemed to be looking for somebody else.

Suddenly, and intensely to her own surprise, she fell into a passionate
fit of weeping.  There was no reason for it, and it was altogether so
unlike her.  But for quite a while she was unable to control it.
Gradually, and of their own accord, her sobs lessened, and she was able
to wipe her eyes and take stock of herself in the long glass.  She
wondered for the moment whether it was really her own reflection that she
saw there or that of some ghostly image of her mother.  She had so often
seen the same look in her mother's eyes.  Evidently the likeness between
them was more extensive than she had imagined.  For the first time she
became conscious of an emotional, hysterical side to her nature of which
she had been unaware.  Perhaps it was just as well that she had
discovered it.  She would have to keep a stricter watch upon herself.
This question of her future relationship with Phillips: it would have to
be thought out coldly, dispassionately.  Nothing unexpected must be
allowed to enter into it.

It was some time before she fell asleep.  The high glass faced her as she
lay in bed.  She could not get away from the idea that it was her
mother's face that every now and then she saw reflected there.

She woke late the next morning.  Her father had already left for the
works.  She was rather glad to have no need of talking.  She would take a
long walk into the country, and face the thing squarely with the help of
the cheerful sun and the free west wind that was blowing from the sea.
She took the train up north and struck across the hills.  Her spirits
rose as she walked.

It was only the intellectual part of him she wanted--the spirit, not the
man.  She would be taking nothing away from the woman, nothing that had
ever belonged to her.  All the rest of him: his home life, the benefits
that would come to her from his improved means, from his social position:
all that the woman had ever known or cared for in him would still be
hers.  He would still remain to her the kind husband and father.  What
more was the woman capable of understanding?  What more had she any right
to demand?

It was not of herself she was thinking.  It was for his work's sake that
she wanted to be near to him always: that she might counsel him,
encourage him.  For this she was prepared to sacrifice herself, give up
her woman's claim on life.  They would be friends, comrades--nothing
more.  That little lurking curiosity of hers, concerning what it would be
like to feel his strong arms round her, pressing her closer and closer to
him: it was only a foolish fancy.  She could easily laugh that out of
herself.  Only bad women had need to be afraid of themselves.  She would
keep guard for both of them.  Their purity of motive, their high purpose,
would save them from the danger of anything vulgar or ridiculous.

Of course they would have to be careful.  There must be no breath of
gossip, no food for evil tongues.  About that she was determined even
more for his sake than her own.  It would be fatal to his career.  She
was quite in agreement with the popular demand, supposed to be peculiarly
English, that a public man's life should be above reproach.  Of what use
these prophets without self-control; these social reformers who could not
shake the ape out of themselves?  Only the brave could give courage to
others.  Only through the pure could God's light shine upon men.

It was vexing his having moved round the corner, into North Street.  Why
couldn't the silly woman have been content where she was.  Living under
one roof, they could have seen one another as often as was needful
without attracting attention.  Now, she supposed, she would have to be
more than ever the bosom friend of Mrs. Phillips--spend hours amid that
hideous furniture, surrounded by those bilious wallpapers.  Of course he
could not come to her.  She hoped he would appreciate the sacrifice she
would be making for him.  Fortunately Mrs. Phillips would give no
trouble.  She would not even understand.

What about Hilda?  No hope of hiding their secret from those sharp eyes.
But Hilda would approve.  They could trust Hilda.  The child might prove
helpful.

It cast a passing shadow upon her spirits, this necessary descent into
details.  It brought with it the suggestion of intrigue, of deceit:
robbing the thing, to a certain extent, of its fineness.  Still, what was
to be done?  If women were coming into public life these sort of
relationships with men would have to be faced and worked out.  Sex must
no longer be allowed to interfere with the working together of men and
women for common ends.  It was that had kept the world back.  They would
be the pioneers of the new order.  Casting aside their earthly passions,
humbly with pure hearts they would kneel before God's altar.  He should
bless their union.

A lark was singing.  She stood listening.  Higher and higher he rose,
pouring out his song of worship; till the tiny, fragile body disappeared
as if fallen from him, leaving his sweet soul still singing.  The happy
tears came to her eyes, and she passed on.  She did not hear that little
last faint sob with which he sank exhausted back to earth beside a hidden
nest among the furrows.

She had forgotten the time.  It was already late afternoon.  Her long
walk and the keen air had made her hungry.  She had a couple of eggs with
her tea at a village inn, and was fortunate enough to catch a train that
brought her back in time for dinner.  A little ashamed of her
unresponsiveness the night before, she laid herself out to be sympathetic
to her father's talk.  She insisted on hearing again all that he and
Arthur were doing, opposing him here and there with criticism just
sufficient to stimulate him; careful in the end to let him convince her.

These small hypocrisies were new to her.  She hoped she was not damaging
her character.  But it was good, watching him slyly from under drawn-down
lids, to see the flash of triumph that would come into his tired eyes in
answer to her half-protesting: "Yes, I see your point, I hadn't thought
of that," her half reluctant admission that "perhaps" he was right,
there; that "perhaps" she was wrong.  It was delightful to see him young
again, eager, boyishly pleased with himself.  It seemed there was a joy
she had not dreamed of in yielding victory as well as in gaining it.  A
new tenderness was growing up in her.  How considerate, how patient, how
self-forgetful he had always been.  She wanted to mother him.  To take
him in her arms and croon over him, hushing away remembrance of the old
sad days.

Folk's words came back to her: "And poor Jack Allway.  Tell him I thank
him for all those years of love and gentleness."  She gave him the
message.

Folk had been right.  He was not offended.  "Dear old chap," he said.
"That was kind of him.  He was always generous."

He was silent for a while, with a quiet look on his face.

"Give him our love," he said.  "Tell him we came together, at the end."

It was on her tongue to ask him, as so often she had meant to do of late,
what had been the cause of her mother's illness--if illness it was: what
it was that had happened to change both their lives.  But always
something had stopped her--something ever present, ever watchful, that
seemed to shape itself out of the air, bending towards her with its
finger on its lips.

She stayed over the week-end; and on the Saturday, at her suggestion,
they took a long excursion into the country.  It was the first time she
had ever asked him to take her out.  He came down to breakfast in a new
suit, and was quite excited.  In the car his hand had sought hers shyly,
and, feeling her responsive pressure, he had continued to hold it; and
they had sat for a long time in silence.  She decided not to tell him
about Phillips, just yet.  He knew of him only from the Tory newspapers
and would form a wrong idea.  She would bring them together and leave
Phillips to make his own way.  He would like Phillips when he knew him,
she felt sure.  He, too, was a people's man.  The torch passed down to
him from his old Ironside ancestors, it still glowed.  More than once she
had seen it leap to flame.  In congenial atmosphere, it would burn clear
and steadfast.  It occurred to her what a delightful solution of her
problem, if later on her father could be persuaded to leave Arthur in
charge of the works, and come to live with her in London.  There was a
fine block of flats near Chelsea Church with long views up and down the
river.  How happy they could be there; the drawing-room in the Adams
style with wine-coloured curtains!  He was a father any young woman could
be proud to take about.  Unconsciously she gave his hand an impulsive
squeeze.  They lunched at an old inn upon the moors; and the landlady,
judging from his shy, attentive ways, had begun by addressing her as
Madame.

"You grow wonderfully like your mother," he told her that evening at
dinner.  "There used to be something missing.  But I don't feel that,
now."

She wrote to Phillips to meet her, if possible, at Euston.  There were
things she wanted to talk to him about.  There was the question whether
she should go on writing for Carleton, or break with him at once.  Also
one or two points that were worrying her in connection with tariff
reform.  He was waiting for her on the platform.  It appeared he, too,
had much to say.  He wanted her advice concerning his next speech.  He
had not dined and suggested supper.  They could not walk about the
streets.  Likely enough, it was only her imagination, but it seemed to
her that people in the restaurant had recognized him, and were whispering
to one another: he was bound to be well known.  Likewise her own
appearance, she felt, was against them as regarded their desire to avoid
observation.  She would have to take to those mousey colours that did not
suit her, and wear a veil.  She hated the idea of a veil.  It came from
the East and belonged there.  Besides, what would be the use?  Unless he
wore one too.  "Who is the veiled woman that Phillips goes about with?"
That is what they would ask.  It was going to be very awkward, the whole
thing.  Viewed from the distance, it had looked quite fine.  "Dedicating
herself to the service of Humanity" was how it had presented itself to
her in the garden at Meudon, the twinkling labyrinth of Paris at her
feet, its sordid by-ways hidden beneath its myriad lights.  She had not
bargained for the dedication involving the loss of her self-respect.

They did not talk as much as they had thought they would.  He was not
very helpful on the Carleton question.  There was so much to be said both
for and against.  It might be better to wait and see how circumstances
shaped themselves.  She thought his speech excellent.  It was difficult
to discover any argument against it.

He seemed to be more interested in looking at her when he thought she was
not noticing.  That little faint vague fear came back to her and stayed
with her, but brought no quickening of her pulse.  It was a fear of
something ugly.  She had the feeling they were both acting, that
everything depended upon their not forgetting their parts.  In handing
things to one another, they were both of them so careful that their hands
should not meet and touch.

They walked together back to Westminster and wished each other a short
good-night upon what once had been their common doorstep.  With her
latchkey in her hand, she turned and watched his retreating figure, and
suddenly a wave of longing seized her to run after him and call him
back--to see his eyes light up and feel the pressure of his hands.  It
was only by clinging to the railings and counting till she was sure he
had entered his own house round the corner and closed the door behind
him, that she restrained herself.

It was a frightened face that looked at her out of the glass, as she
stood before it taking off her hat.

She decided that their future meetings should be at his own house.  Mrs.
Phillips's only complaint was that she knocked at the door too seldom.

"I don't know what I should do without you, I really don't," confessed
the grateful lady.  "If ever I become a Prime Minister's wife, it's you I
shall have to thank.  You've got so much courage yourself, you can put
the heart into him.  I never had any pluck to spare myself."

She concluded by giving Joan a hug, accompanied by a sloppy but heartfelt
kiss.

She would stand behind Phillips's chair with her fat arms round his neck,
nodding her approval and encouragement; while Joan, seated opposite,
would strain every nerve to keep her brain fixed upon the argument, never
daring to look at poor Phillips's wretched face, with its pleading,
apologetic eyes, lest she should burst into hysterical laughter.  She
hoped she was being helpful and inspiring!  Mrs. Phillips would assure
her afterwards that she had been wonderful.  As for herself, there were
periods when she hadn't the faintest idea about what she was talking.

Sometimes Mrs. Phillips, called away by domestic duty, would leave them;
returning full of excuses just as they had succeeded in forgetting her.
It was evident she was under the impression that her presence was useful
to them, making it easier for them to open up their minds to one another.

"Don't you be put off by his seeming a bit unresponsive," Mrs. Phillips
would explain.  "He's shy with women.  What I'm trying to do is to make
him feel you are one of the family."

"And don't you take any notice of me," further explained the good woman,
"when I seem to be in opposition, like.  I chip in now and then on
purpose, just to keep the ball rolling.  It stirs him up, a bit of
contradictoriness.  You have to live with a man before you understand
him."

One morning Joan received a letter from Phillips, marked immediate.  He
informed her that his brain was becoming addled.  He intended that
afternoon to give it a draught of fresh air.  He would be at the Robin
Hood gate in Richmond Park at three o'clock.  Perhaps the gods would be
good to him.  He would wait there for half an hour to give them a chance,
anyway.

She slipped the letter unconsciously into the bosom of her dress, and sat
looking out of the window.  It promised to be a glorious day, and London
was stifling and gritty.  Surely no one but an unwholesome-minded prude
could jib at a walk across a park.  Mrs. Phillips would be delighted to
hear that she had gone.  For the matter of that, she would tell her--when
next they met.

Phillips must have seen her getting off the bus, for he came forward at
once from the other side of the gate, his face radiant with boyish
delight.  A young man and woman, entering the park at the same time,
looked at them and smiled sympathetically.

Joan had no idea the park contained such pleasant by-ways.  But for an
occasional perambulator they might have been in the heart of the country.
The fallow deer stole near to them with noiseless feet, regarding them
out of their large gentle eyes with looks of comradeship.  They paused
and listened while a missal thrush from a branch close to them poured out
his song of hope and courage.  From quite a long way off they could still
hear his clear voice singing, telling to the young and brave his gallant
message.  It seemed too beautiful a day for politics.  After all,
politics--one has them always with one; but the spring passes.

He saw her on to a bus at Kingston, and himself went back by train.  They
agreed they would not mention it to Mrs. Phillips.  Not that she would
have minded.  The danger was that she would want to come, too; honestly
thinking thereby to complete their happiness.  It seemed to be tacitly
understood there would be other such excursions.

The summer was propitious.  Phillips knew his London well, and how to get
away from it.  There were winding lanes in Hertfordshire, Surrey hills
and commons, deep, cool, bird-haunted woods in Buckingham.  Each week
there was something to look forward to, something to plan for and
manoeuvre.  The sense of adventure, a spice of danger, added zest.  She
still knocked frequently, as before, at the door of the
hideously-furnished little house in North Street; but Mrs. Phillips no
longer oppressed her as some old man of the sea she could never hope to
shake off from her shoulders.  The flabby, foolish face, robbed of its
terrors, became merely pitiful.  She found herself able to be quite
gentle and patient with Mrs. Phillips.  Even the sloppy kisses she came
to bear without a shudder down her spine.

"I know you are only doing it because you sympathize with his aims and
want him to win," acknowledged the good lady.  "But I can't help feeling
grateful to you.  I don't feel how useless I am while I've got you to run
to."

They still discussed their various plans for the amelioration and
improvement of humanity; but there seemed less need for haste than they
had thought.  The world, Joan discovered, was not so sad a place as she
had judged it.  There were chubby, rogue-eyed children; whistling lads
and smiling maidens; kindly men with ruddy faces; happy mothers crooning
over gurgling babies.  There was no call to be fretful and vehement.  They
would work together in patience and in confidence.  God's sun was
everywhere.  It needed only that dark places should be opened up and it
would enter.

Sometimes, seated on a lichened log, or on the short grass of some
sloping hillside, looking down upon some quiet valley, they would find
they had been holding hands while talking.  It was but as two happy,
thoughtless children might have done.  They would look at one another
with frank, clear eyes and smile.

Once, when their pathway led through a littered farm-yard, he had taken
her up in his arms and carried her and she had felt a glad pride in him
that he had borne her lightly as if she had been a child, looking up at
her and laughing.

An old bent man paused from his work and watched them.  "Lean more over
him, missie," he advised her.  "That's the way.  Many a mile I've carried
my lass like that, in flood time; and never felt her weight."

Often on returning home, not knowing why, she would look into the glass.
It seemed to her that the girlhood she had somehow missed was awakening
in her, taking possession of her, changing her.  The lips she had always
seen pressed close and firm were growing curved, leaving a little
parting, as though they were not quite so satisfied with one another.  The
level brows were becoming slightly raised.  It gave her a questioning
look that was new to her.  The eyes beneath were less confident.  They
seemed to be seeking something.

One evening, on her way home from a theatre, she met Flossie.  "Can't
stop now," said Flossie, who was hurrying.  "But I want to see you: most
particular.  Was going to look you up.  Will you be at home to-morrow
afternoon at tea-time?"

There was a distinct challenge in Flossie's eye as she asked the
question.  Joan felt herself flush, and thought a moment.

"Yes," she answered.  "Will you be coming alone?"

"That's the idea," answered Flossie; "a heart to heart talk between you
and me, and nobody else.  Half-past four.  Don't forget."

Joan walked on slowly.  She had the worried feeling with which, once or
twice, when a schoolgirl, she had crawled up the stairs to bed after the
head mistress had informed her that she would see her in her private room
at eleven o'clock the next morning, leaving her to guess what about.  It
occurred to her, in Trafalgar Square, that she had promised to take tea
with the Greysons the next afternoon, to meet some big pot from America.
She would have to get out of that.  She felt it wouldn't do to put off
Flossie.

She went to bed wakeful.  It was marvellously like being at school again.
What could Flossie want to see her about that was so important?  She
tried to pretend to herself that she didn't know.  After all, perhaps it
wasn't that.

But she knew that it was the instant Flossie put up her hands in order to
take off her hat.  Flossie always took off her hat when she meant to be
unpleasant.  It was her way of pulling up her sleeves.  They had their
tea first.  They seemed both agreed that that would be best.  And then
Flossie pushed back her chair and sat up.

She had just the head mistress expression.  Joan wasn't quite sure she
oughtn't to stand.  But, controlling the instinct, leant back in her
chair, and tried to look defiant without feeling it.

"How far are you going?" demanded Flossie.

Joan was not in a comprehending mood.

"If you're going the whole hog, that's something I can understand,"
continued Flossie.  "If not, you'd better pull up."

"What do you mean by the whole hog?" requested Joan, assuming dignity.

"Oh, don't come the kid," advised Flossie.  "If you don't mind being
talked about yourself, you might think of him.  If Carleton gets hold of
it, he's done for."

"'A little bird whispers to me that Robert Phillips was seen walking
across Richmond Park the other afternoon in company with Miss Joan
Allway, formerly one of our contributors.'  Is that going to end his
political career?" retorted Joan with fine sarcasm.

Flossie fixed a relentless eye upon her.  "He'll wait till the bird has
got a bit more than that to whisper to him," she suggested.

"There'll be nothing more," explained Joan.  "So long as my friendship is
of any assistance to Robert Phillips in his work, he's going to have it.
What use are we going to be in politics--what's all the fuss about, if
men and women mustn't work together for their common aims and help one
another?"

"Why can't you help him in his own house, instead of wandering all about
the country?" Flossie wanted to know.

"So I do," Joan defended herself.  "I'm in and out there till I'm sick of
the hideous place.  You haven't seen the inside.  And his wife knows all
about it, and is only too glad."

"Does she know about Richmond Park--and the other places?" asked Flossie.

"She wouldn't mind if she did," explained Joan.  "And you know what she's
like!  How can one think what one's saying with that silly, goggle-eyed
face in front of one always."

Flossie, since she had become engaged, had acquired quite a matronly
train of thought.  She spoke kindly, with a little grave shake of her
head.  "My dear," she said, "the wife is always in the way.  You'd feel
just the same whatever her face was like."

Joan grew angry.  "If you choose to suspect evil, of course you can," she
answered with hauteur.  "But you might have known me better.  I admire
the man and sympathize with him.  All the things I dream of are the
things he is working for.  I can do more good by helping and inspiring
him"--she wished she had not let slip that word "inspire."  She knew that
Flossie would fasten upon it--"than I can ever accomplish by myself.  And
I mean to do it."  She really did feel defiant, now.

"I know, dear," agreed Flossie, "you've both of you made up your minds it
shall always remain a beautiful union of twin spirits.  Unfortunately
you've both got bodies--rather attractive bodies."

"We'll keep it off that plane, if you don't mind," answered Joan with a
touch of severity.

"I'm willing enough," answered Flossie.  "But what about Old Mother
Nature?  She's going to be in this, you know."

"Take off your glasses, and look at it straight," she went on, without
giving Joan time to reply.  "What is it in us that 'inspires' men?  If
it's only advice and sympathy he's after, what's wrong with dear old Mrs.
Denton?  She's a good walker, except now and then, when she's got the
lumbago.  Why doesn't he get her to 'inspire' him?"

"It isn't only that," explained Joan.  "I give him courage.  I always did
have more of that than is any use to a woman.  He wants to be worthy of
my belief in him.  What is the harm if he does admire me--if a smile from
me or a touch of the hand can urge him to fresh effort?  Suppose he does
love me--"

Flossie interrupted.  "How about being quite frank?" she suggested.
"Suppose we do love one another.  How about putting it that way?"

"And suppose we do?" agreed Joan, her courage rising.  "Why should we
shun one another, as if we were both of us incapable of decency or self-
control?  Why must love be always assumed to make us weak and
contemptible, as if it were some subtle poison?  Why shouldn't it
strengthen and ennoble us?"

"Why did the apple fall?" answered Flossie.  "Why, when it escapes from
its bonds, doesn't it soar upward?  If it wasn't for the irritating law
of gravity, we could skip about on the brink of precipices without
danger.  Things being what they are, sensible people keep as far away
from the edge as possible."

"I'm sorry," she continued; "awfully sorry, old girl.  It's a bit of
rotten bad luck for both of you.  You were just made for one another.  And
Fate, knowing what was coming, bustles round and gets hold of poor, silly
Mrs. Phillips so as to be able to say 'Yah.'"

"Unless it all comes right in the end," she added musingly; "and the poor
old soul pegs out.  I wouldn't give much for her liver."

"That's not bringing me up well," suggested Joan: "putting those ideas
into my head."

"Oh, well, one can't help one's thoughts," explained Flossie.  "It would
be a blessing all round."

They had risen.  Joan folded her hands.  "Thank you for your scolding,
ma'am," she said.  "Shall I write out a hundred lines of Greek?  Or do
you think it will be sufficient if I promise never to do it again?"

"You mean it?" said Flossie.  "Of course you will go on seeing
him--visiting them, and all that.  But you won't go gadding about, so
that people can talk?"

"Only through the bars, in future," she promised.  "With the gaoler
between us."  She put her arms round Flossie and bent her head, so that
her face was hidden.

Flossie still seemed troubled.  She held on to Joan.

"You are sure of yourself?" she asked.  "We're only the female of the
species.  We get hungry and thirsty, too.  You know that, kiddy, don't
you?"

Joan laughed without raising her face.  "Yes, ma'am, I know that," she
answered.  "I'll be good."

She sat in the dusk after Flossie had gone; and the laboured breathing of
the tired city came to her through the open window.  She had rather
fancied that martyr's crown.  It had not looked so very heavy, the thorns
not so very alarming--as seen through the window.  She would wear it
bravely.  It would rather become her.

Facing the mirror of the days to come, she tried it on.  It was going to
hurt.  There was no doubt of that.  She saw the fatuous, approving face
of the eternal Mrs. Phillips, thrust ever between them, against the
background of that hideous furniture, of those bilious wall papers--the
loneliness that would ever walk with her, sit down beside her in the
crowded restaurant, steal up the staircase with her, creep step by step
with her from room to room--the ever unsatisfied yearning for a tender
word, a kindly touch.  Yes, it was going to hurt.

Poor Robert!  It would be hard on him, too.  She could not help feeling
consolation in the thought that he also would be wearing that invisible
crown.

She must write to him.  The sooner it was done, the better.  Half a dozen
contradictory moods passed over her during the composing of that letter;
but to her they seemed but the unfolding of a single thought.  On one
page it might have been his mother writing to him; an experienced,
sagacious lady; quite aware, in spite of her affection for him, of his
faults and weaknesses; solicitous that he should avoid the dangers of an
embarrassing entanglement; his happiness being the only consideration of
importance.  On others it might have been a queen laying her immutable
commands upon some loyal subject, sworn to her service.  Part of it might
have been written by a laughing philosopher who had learnt the folly of
taking life too seriously, knowing that all things pass: that the tears
of to-day will be remembered with a smile.  And a part of it was the
unconsidered language of a loving woman.  And those were the pages that
he kissed.

His letter in answer was much shorter.  Of course he would obey her
wishes.  He had been selfish, thinking only of himself.  As for his
political career, he did not see how that was going to suffer by his
being occasionally seen in company with one of the most brilliantly
intellectual women in London, known to share his views.  And he didn't
care if it did.  But inasmuch as she valued it, all things should be
sacrificed to it.  It was hers to do what she would with.  It was the
only thing he had to offer her.

Their meetings became confined, as before, to the little house in North
Street.  But it really seemed as if the gods, appeased by their
submission, had decided to be kind.  Hilda was home for the holidays; and
her piercing eyes took in the situation at a flash.  She appeared to have
returned with a new-born and exacting affection for her mother, that
astonished almost as much as it delighted the poor lady.  Feeling sudden
desire for a walk or a bus ride, or to be taken to an entertainment, no
one was of any use to Hilda but her mother.  Daddy had his silly politics
to think and talk about.  He must worry them out alone; or with the
assistance of Miss Allway.  That was what she was there for.  Mrs.
Phillips, torn between her sense of duty and fear of losing this new
happiness, would yield to the child's coaxing.  Often they would be left
alone to discuss the nation's needs uninterrupted.  Conscientiously they
would apply themselves to the task.  Always to find that, sooner or
later, they were looking at one another, in silence.

One day Phillips burst into a curious laugh.  They had been discussing
the problem of the smallholder.  Joan had put a question to him, and with
a slight start he had asked her to repeat it.  But it seemed she had
forgotten it.

"I had to see our solicitor one morning," he explained, "when I was
secretary to a miners' union up north.  A point had arisen concerning the
legality of certain payments.  It was a matter of vast importance to us;
but he didn't seem to be taking any interest, and suddenly he jumped up.
'I'm sorry, Phillips,' he said, 'but I've got a big trouble of my own on
at home--I guess you know what--and I don't seem to care a damn about
yours.  You'd better see Delauny, if you're in a hurry.'  And I did."

He turned and leant over his desk.  "I guess they'll have to find another
leader if they're in a hurry," he added.  "I don't seem able to think
about turnips and cows."

"Don't make me feel I've interfered with your work only to spoil it,"
said Joan.

"I guess I'm spoiling yours, too," he answered.  "I'm not worth it.  I
might have done something to win you and keep you.  I'm not going to do
much without you."

"You mean my friendship is going to be of no use to you?" asked Joan.

He raised his eyes and fixed them on her with a pleading, dog-like look.

"For God's sake don't take even that away from me," he said.  "Unless you
want me to go to pieces altogether.  A crust does just keep one alive.
One can't help thinking what a fine, strong chap one might be if one
wasn't always hungry."

She felt so sorry for him.  He looked such a boy, with the angry tears in
his clear blue eyes, and that little childish quivering of the kind,
strong, sulky mouth.

She rose and took his head between her hands and turned his face towards
her.  She had meant to scold him, but changed her mind and laid his head
against her breast and held it there.

He clung to her, as a troubled child might, with his arms clasped round
her, and his head against her breast.  And a mist rose up before her, and
strange, commanding voices seemed calling to her.

He could not see her face.  She watched it herself with dim half
consciousness as it changed before her in the tawdry mirror above the
mantelpiece, half longing that he might look up and see it, half
terrified lest he should.

With an effort that seemed to turn her into stone, she regained command
over herself.

"I must go now," she said in a harsh voice, and he released her.

"I'm afraid I'm an awful nuisance to you," he said.  "I get these moods
at times.  You're not angry with me?"

"No," she answered with a smile.  "But it will hurt me if you fail.
Remember that."

She turned down the Embankment after leaving the house.  She always found
the river strong and restful.  So it was not only bad women that needed
to be afraid of themselves--even to the most high-class young woman, with
letters after her name, and altruistic interests: even to her, also, the
longing for the lover's clasp.  Flossie had been right.  Mother Nature
was not to be flouted of her children--not even of her new daughters; to
them, likewise, the family trait.

She would have run away if she could, leaving him to guess at her real
reason--if he were smart enough.  But that would have meant excuses and
explanations all round.  She was writing a daily column of notes for
Greyson now, in addition to the weekly letter from Clorinda; and Mrs.
Denton, having compromised with her first dreams, was delegating to Joan
more and more of her work.  She wrote to Mrs. Phillips that she was
feeling unwell and would be unable to lunch with them on the Sunday, as
had been arranged.  Mrs. Phillips, much disappointed, suggested
Wednesday; but it seemed on Wednesday she was no better.  And so it
drifted on for about a fortnight, without her finding the courage to come
to any decision; and then one morning, turning the corner into Abingdon
Street, she felt a slight pull at her sleeve; and Hilda was beside her.
The child had shown an uncanny intuition in not knocking at the door.
Joan had been fearing that, and would have sent down word that she was
out.  But it had to be faced.

"Are you never coming again?" asked the child.

"Of course," answered Joan, "when I'm better.  I'm not very well just
now.  It's the weather, I suppose."

The child turned her head as they walked and looked at her.  Joan felt
herself smarting under that look, but persisted.

"I'm very much run down," she said.  "I may have to go away."

"You promised to help him," said the child.

"I can't if I'm ill," retorted Joan.  "Besides, I am helping him.  There
are other ways of helping people than by wasting their time talking to
them."

"He wants you," said the child.  "It's your being there that helps him."

Joan stopped and turned.  "Did he send you?" she asked.

"No," the child answered.  "Mama had a headache this morning, and I
slipped out.  You're not keeping your promise."

Palace Yard, save for a statuesque policeman, was empty.

"How do you know that my being with him helps him?" asked Joan.

"You know things when you love anybody," explained the child.  "You feel
them.  You will come again, soon?"

Joan did not answer.

"You're frightened," the child continued in a passionate, low voice.  "You
think that people will talk about you and look down upon you.  You
oughtn't to think about yourself.  You ought to think only about him and
his work.  Nothing else matters."

"I am thinking about him and his work," Joan answered.  Her hand sought
Hilda's and held it.  "There are things you don't understand.  Men and
women can't help each other in the way you think.  They may try to, and
mean no harm in the beginning, but the harm comes, and then not only the
woman but the man also suffers, and his work is spoilt and his life
ruined."

The small, hot hand clasped Joan's convulsively.

"But he won't be able to do his work if you keep away and never come back
to him," she persisted.  "Oh, I know it.  It all depends upon you.  He
wants you."

"And I want him, if that's any consolation to you," Joan answered with a
short laugh.  It wasn't much of a confession.  The child was cute enough
to have found that out for herself.  "Only you see I can't have him.  And
there's an end of it."

They had reached the Abbey.  Joan turned and they retraced their steps
slowly.

"I shall be going away soon, for a little while," she said.  The talk had
helped her to decision.  "When I come back I will come and see you all.
And you must all come and see me, now and then.  I expect I shall have a
flat of my own.  My father may be coming to live with me.  Good-bye.  Do
all you can to help him."

She stooped and kissed the child, straining her to her almost fiercely.
But the child's lips were cold.  She did not look back.

Miss Greyson was sympathetic towards her desire for a longish holiday and
wonderfully helpful; and Mrs. Denton also approved, and, to Joan's
surprise, kissed her; Mrs. Denton was not given to kissing.  She wired to
her father, and got his reply the same evening.  He would be at her rooms
on the day she had fixed with his travelling bag, and at her Ladyship's
orders.  "With love and many thanks," he had added.  She waited till the
day before starting to run round and say good-bye to the Phillipses.  She
felt it would be unwise to try and get out of doing that.  Both Phillips
and Hilda, she was thankful, were out; and she and Mrs. Phillips had tea
alone together.  The talk was difficult, so far as Joan was concerned.  If
the woman had been possessed of ordinary intuition, she might have
arrived at the truth.  Joan almost wished she would.  It would make her
own future task the easier.  But Mrs. Phillips, it was clear, was going
to be no help to her.

For her father's sake, she made pretence of eagerness, but as the sea
widened between her and the harbour lights it seemed as if a part of
herself were being torn away from her.

They travelled leisurely through Holland and the Rhine land, and that
helped a little: the new scenes and interests; and in Switzerland they
discovered a delightful little village in an upland valley with just one
small hotel, and decided to stay there for a while, so as to give
themselves time to get their letters.  They took long walks and climbs,
returning tired and hungry, looking forward to their dinner and the
evening talk with the few other guests on the veranda.  The days passed
restfully in that hidden valley.  The great white mountains closed her
in.  They seemed so strong and clean.

It was on the morning they were leaving that a telegram was put into her
hands.  Mrs. Phillips was ill at lodgings in Folkestone.  She hoped that
Joan, on her way back, would come to see her.

She showed the telegram to her father.  "Do you mind, Dad, if we go
straight back?" she asked.

"No, dear," he answered, "if you wish it."

"I would like to go back," she said.



CHAPTER XIII


Mrs. Phillips was sitting up in an easy chair near the heavily-curtained
windows when Joan arrived.  It was a pleasant little house in the old
part of the town, and looked out upon the harbour.  She was startlingly
thin by comparison with what she had been; but her face was still
painted.  Phillips would run down by the afternoon train whenever he
could get away.  She never knew when he was coming, so she explained; and
she could not bear the idea of his finding her "old and ugly."  She had
fought against his wish that she should go into a nursing home; and Joan,
who in the course of her work upon the _Nursing Times_ had acquired some
knowledge of them as a whole, was inclined to agree with her.  She was
quite comfortable where she was.  The landlady, according to her account,
was a dear.  She had sent the nurse out for a walk on getting Joan's
wire, so that they could have a cosy chat.  She didn't really want much
attendance.  It was her heart.  It got feeble now and then, and she had
to keep very still; that was all.  Joan told how her father had suffered
for years from much the same complaint.  So long as you were careful
there was no danger.  She must take things easily and not excite herself.

Mrs. Phillips acquiesced.  "It's turning me into a lazy-bones," she said
with a smile.  "I can sit here by the hour, just watching the bustle.  I
was always one for a bit of life."

The landlady entered with Joan's tea.  Joan took an instinctive dislike
to her.  She was a large, flashy woman, wearing a quantity of cheap
jewellery.  Her familiarity had about it something almost threatening.
Joan waited till she heard the woman's heavy tread descending the stairs,
before she expressed her opinion.

"I think she only means to be cheerful," explained Mrs. Phillips.  "She's
quite a good sort, when you know her."  The subject seemed in some way to
trouble her, and Joan dropped it.

They watched the loading of a steamer while Joan drank her tea.

"He will come this afternoon, I fancy," said Mrs. Phillips.  "I seem to
feel it.  He will be able to see you home."

Joan started.  She had been thinking about Phillips, wondering what she
should say to him when they met.

"What does he think," she asked, "about your illness?"

"Oh, it worries him, of course, poor dear," Mrs. Phillips answered.  "You
see, I've always been such a go-ahead, as a rule.  But I think he's
getting more hopeful.  As I tell him, I'll be all right by the autumn.  It
was that spell of hot weather that knocked me over."

Joan was still looking out of the window.  She didn't quite know what to
say.  The woman's altered appearance had shocked her.  Suddenly she felt
a touch upon her hand.

"You'll look after him if anything does happen, won't you?"  The woman's
eyes were pleading with her.  They seemed to have grown larger.  "You
know what I mean, dear, don't you?" she continued.  "It will be such a
comfort to me to know that it's all right."

In answer the tears sprang to Joan's eyes.  She knelt down and put her
arms about the woman.

"Don't be so silly," she cried.  "There's nothing going to happen.  You're
going to get fat and well again; and live to see him Prime Minister."

"I am getting thin, ain't I?" she said.  "I always wanted to be thin."
They both laughed.

"But I shan't see him that, even if I do live," she went on.  "He'll
never be that, without you.  And I'd be so proud to think that he would.
I shouldn't mind going then," she added.

Joan did not answer.  There seemed no words that would come.

"You will promise, won't you?" she persisted, in a whisper.  "It's only
'in case'--just that I needn't worry myself."

Joan looked up.  There was something in the eyes looking down upon her
that seemed to be compelling her.

"If you'll promise to try and get better," she answered.

Mrs. Phillips stooped and kissed her.  "Of course, dear," she said.
"Perhaps I shall, now that my mind is easier."

Phillips came, as Mrs. Phillips had predicted.  He was surprised at
seeing Joan.  He had not thought she could get back so soon.  He brought
an evening paper with him.  It contained a paragraph to the effect that
Mrs. Phillips, wife of the Rt. Hon. Robert Phillips, M.P., was
progressing favourably and hoped soon to be sufficiently recovered to
return to her London residence.  It was the first time she had had a
paragraph all to herself, headed with her name.  She flushed with
pleasure; and Joan noticed that, after reading it again, she folded the
paper up small and slipped it into her pocket.  The nurse came in from
her walk a little later and took Joan downstairs with her.

"She ought not to talk to more than one person at a time," the nurse
explained, with a shake of the head.  She was a quiet, business-like
woman.  She would not express a definite opinion.

"It's her mental state that is the trouble," was all that she would say.
"She ought to be getting better.  But she doesn't."

"You're not a Christian Scientist, by any chance?" she asked Joan
suddenly.

"No," answered Joan.  "Surely you're not one?"

"I don't know," answered the woman.  "I believe that would do her more
good than anything else.  If she would listen to it.  She seems to have
lost all will-power."

The nurse left her; and the landlady came in to lay the table.  She
understood that Joan would be dining with Mr. Phillips.  There was no
train till the eight-forty.  She kept looking at Joan as she moved about
the room.  Joan was afraid she would begin to talk, but she must have
felt Joan's antagonism for she remained silent.  Once their eyes met, and
the woman leered at her.

Phillips came down looking more cheerful.  He had detected improvement in
Mrs. Phillips.  She was more hopeful in herself.  They talked in low
tones during the meal, as people do whose thoughts are elsewhere.  It
happened quite suddenly, Phillips explained.  They had come down a few
days after the rising of Parliament.  There had been a spell of hot
weather; but nothing remarkable.  The first attack had occurred about
three weeks ago.  It was just after Hilda had gone back to school.  He
wasn't sure whether he ought to send for Hilda, or not.  Her mother
didn't want him to--not just yet.  Of course, if she got worse, he would
have to.  What did Joan think?--did she think there was any real danger?

Joan could not say.  So much depended upon the general state of health.
There was the case of her own father.  Of course she would always be
subject to attacks.  But this one would have warned her to be careful.

Phillips thought that living out of town might be better for her, in the
future--somewhere in Surrey, where he could easily get up and down.  He
could sleep himself at the club on nights when he had to be late.

They talked without looking at one another.  They did not speak about
themselves.

Mrs. Phillips was in bed when Joan went up to say good-bye.  "You'll come
again soon?" she asked, and Joan promised.  "You've made me so happy,"
she whispered.  The nurse was in the room.

They discussed politics in the train.  Phillips had found more support
for his crusade against Carleton than he had expected.  He was going to
open the attack at once, thus forestalling Carleton's opposition to his
land scheme.

"It isn't going to be the _Daily This_ and the _Daily That_ and the
_Weekly the Other_ all combined to down me.  I'm going to tell the people
that it's Carleton and only Carleton--Carleton here, Carleton there,
Carleton everywhere, against them.  I'm going to drag him out into the
open and make him put up his own fists."

Joan undertook to sound Greyson.  She was sure Greyson would support him,
in his balanced, gentlemanly way, that could nevertheless be quite
deadly.

They grew less and less afraid of looking at one another as they felt
that darkened room further and further behind them.

They parted at Charing Cross.  Joan would write.  They agreed it would be
better to choose separate days for their visits to Folkestone.

She ran against Madge in the morning, and invited herself to tea.  Her
father had returned to Liverpool, and her own rooms, for some reason,
depressed her.  Flossie was there with young Halliday.  They were both
off the next morning to his people's place in Devonshire, from where they
were going to get married, and had come to say good-bye.  Flossie put Sam
in the passage and drew-to the door.

"Have you seen her?" she asked.  "How is she?"

"Oh, she's changed a good deal," answered Joan.  "But I think she'll get
over it all right, if she's careful."

"I shall hope for the best," answered Flossie.  "Poor old soul, she's had
a good time.  Don't send me a present; and then I needn't send you
one--when your time comes.  It's a silly custom.  Besides, I've nowhere
to put it.  Shall be in a ship for the next six months.  Will let you
know when we're back."

She gave Joan a hug and a kiss, and was gone.  Joan joined Madge in the
kitchen, where she was toasting buns.

"I suppose she's satisfied herself that he's brainy," she laughed.

"Oh, brains aren't everything," answered Madge.  "Some of the worst
rotters the world has ever been cursed with have been brainy enough--men
and women.  We make too much fuss about brains; just as once upon a time
we did about mere brute strength, thinking that was all that was needed
to make a man great.  Brain is only muscle translated into civilization.
That's not going to save us."

"You've been thinking," Joan accused her.  "What's put all that into your
head?"

Madge laughed.  "Mixing with so many brainy people, perhaps," she
suggested; "and wondering what's become of their souls."

"Be good, sweet child.  And let who can be clever," Joan quoted.  "Would
that be your text?"

Madge finished buttering her buns.  "Kant, wasn't it," she answered, "who
marvelled chiefly at two things: the starry firmament above him and the
moral law within him.  And they're one and the same, if he'd only thought
it out.  It's rather big to be good."

They carried their tea into the sitting-room.

"Do you really think she'll get over it?" asked Madge.  "Or is it one of
those things one has to say?"

"I think she could," answered Joan, "if she would pull herself together.
It's her lack of will-power that's the trouble."

Madge did not reply immediately.  She was watching the rooks settling
down for the night in the elm trees just beyond the window.  There seemed
to be much need of coming and going, of much cawing.

"I met her pretty often during those months that Helen Lavery was running
her round," she said at length.  "It always seemed to me to have a touch
of the heroic, that absurd effort she was making to 'qualify' herself, so
that she might be of use to him.  I can see her doing something quite
big, if she thought it would help him."

The cawing of the rooks grew fainter.  One by one they folded their
wings.

Neither spoke for a while.  Later on, they talked about the coming
election.  If the Party got back, Phillips would go to the Board of
Trade.  It would afford him a better platform for the introduction of his
land scheme.

"What do you gather is the general opinion?" Joan asked.  "That he will
succeed?"

"The general opinion seems to be that his star is in the ascendant,"
Madge answered with a smile; "that all things are working together for
his good.  It's rather a useful atmosphere to have about one, that.  It
breeds friendship and support!"

Joan looked at her watch.  She had an article to finish.  Madge stood on
tiptoe and kissed her.

"Don't think me unsympathetic," she said.  "No one will rejoice more than
I shall if God sees fit to call you to good work.  But I can't help
letting fall my little tear of fellowship with the weeping."

"And mind your p's and q's," she added.  "You're in a difficult position.
And not all the eyes watching you are friendly."

Joan bore the germ of worry in her breast as she crossed the Gray's Inn
Garden.  It was a hard law, that of the world: knowing only winners and
losers.  Of course, the woman was to be pitied.  No one could feel more
sorry for her than Joan herself.  But what had Madge exactly meant by
those words: that she could "see her doing something really big," if she
thought it would help him?  There was no doubt about her affection for
him.  It was almost dog-like.  And the child, also!  There must be
something quite exceptional about him to have won the devotion of two
such opposite beings.  Especially Hilda.  It would be hard to imagine any
lengths to which Hilda's blind idolatry would not lead her.

She ran down twice to Folkestone during the following week.  Her visits
made her mind easier.  Mrs. Phillips seemed so placid, so contented.
There was no suggestion of suffering, either mental or physical.

She dined with the Greysons the Sunday after, and mooted the question of
the coming fight with Carleton.  Greyson thought Phillips would find
plenty of journalistic backing.  The concentration of the Press into the
hands of a few conscienceless schemers was threatening to reduce the
journalist to a mere hireling, and the better-class men were becoming
seriously alarmed.  He found in his desk the report of a speech made by a
well-known leader writer at a recent dinner of the Press Club.  The man
had risen to respond to the toast of his own health and had taken the
opportunity to unpack his heart.

"I am paid a thousand a year," so Greyson read to them, "for keeping my
own opinions out of my paper.  Some of you, perhaps, earn more, and
others less; but you're getting it for writing what you're told.  If I
were to be so foolish as to express my honest opinion, I'd be on the
street, the next morning, looking for another job."

"The business of the journalist," the man had continued, "is to destroy
the truth, to lie, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon,
to sell his soul for his daily bread.  We are the tools and vassals of
rich men behind the scenes.  We are the jumping-jacks.  They pull the
strings and we dance.  Our talents, our possibilities, our lives are the
property of other men."

"We tried to pretend it was only one of Jack's little jokes," explained
Greyson as he folded up the cutting; "but it wouldn't work.  It was too
near the truth."

"I don't see what you are going to do," commented Mary.  "So long as men
are not afraid to sell their souls, there will always be a Devil's market
for them."

Greyson did not so much mind there being a Devil's market, provided he
could be assured of an honest market alongside, so that a man could take
his choice.  What he feared was the Devil's steady encroachment, that
could only end by the closing of the independent market altogether.  His
remedy was the introduction of the American trust law, forbidding any one
man being interested in more than a limited number of journals.

"But what's the difference," demanded Joan, "between a man owning one
paper with a circulation of, say, six millions; or owning six with a
circulation of a million apiece?  By concentrating all his energies on
one, a man with Carleton's organizing genius might easily establish a
single journal that would cover the whole field."

"Just all the difference," answered Greyson, "between Pooh Bah as
Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Lord High Admiral, or Chief Executioner,
whichever he preferred to be, and Pooh Bah as all the Officers of State
rolled into one.  Pooh Bah may be a very able statesman, entitled to
exert his legitimate influence.  But, after all, his opinion is only the
opinion of one old gentleman, with possible prejudices and preconceived
convictions.  The Mikado--or the people, according to locality--would
like to hear the views of others of his ministers.  He finds that the
Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice and the Groom of the
Bedchamber and the Attorney-General--the whole entire Cabinet, in short,
are unanimously of the same opinion as Pooh Bah.  He doesn't know it's
only Pooh Bah speaking from different corners of the stage.  The
consensus of opinion convinces him.  One statesman, however eminent,
might err in judgment.  But half a score of statesmen, all of one mind!
One must accept their verdict."

Mary smiled.  "But why shouldn't the good newspaper proprietor hurry up
and become a multi-proprietor?" she suggested.  "Why don't you persuade
Lord Sutcliffe to buy up three or four papers, before they're all gone?"

"Because I don't want the Devil to get hold of him," answered Greyson.

"You've got to face this unalterable law," he continued.  "That power
derived from worldly sources can only be employed for worldly purposes.
The power conferred by popularity, by wealth, by that ability to make use
of other men that we term organization--sooner or later the man who
wields that power becomes the Devil's servant.  So long as Kingship was
merely a force struggling against anarchy, it was a holy weapon.  As it
grew in power so it degenerated into an instrument of tyranny.  The
Church, so long as it remained a scattered body of meek, lowly men, did
the Lord's work.  Enthroned at Rome, it thundered its edicts against
human thought.  The Press is in danger of following precisely the same
history.  When it wrote in fear of the pillory and of the jail, it fought
for Liberty.  Now it has become the Fourth Estate, it fawns--as Jack
Swinton said of it--at the feet of Mammon.  My Proprietor, good fellow,
allows me to cultivate my plot amid the wilderness for other purposes
than those of quick returns.  If he were to become a competitor with the
Carletons and the Bloomfields, he would have to look upon it as a
business proposition.  The Devil would take him up on to the high
mountain, and point out to him the kingdom of huge circulations and vast
profits, whispering to him: 'All this will I give thee, if thou wilt fall
down and worship me.'  I don't want the dear good fellow to be tempted."

"Is it impossible, then, to combine duty and success?" questioned Joan.

"The combination sometimes happens, by chance," admitted Greyson.  "But
it's dangerous to seek it.  It is so easy to persuade ourselves that it's
our duty to succeed."

"But we must succeed to be of use," urged Mary.  "Must God's servants
always remain powerless?"

"Powerless to rule.  Powerful only to serve," he answered.  "Powerful as
Christ was powerful; not as Caesar was powerful--powerful as those who
have suffered and have failed, leaders of forlorn hopes--powerful as
those who have struggled on, despised and vilified; not as those of whom
all men speak well--powerful as those who have fought lone battles and
have died, not knowing their own victory.  It is those that serve, not
those that rule, shall conquer."

Joan had never known him quite so serious.  Generally there was a touch
of irony in his talk, a suggestion of aloofness that had often irritated
her.

"I wish you would always be yourself, as you are now," she said, "and
never pose."

"Do I pose?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

"That shows how far it has gone," she told him, "that you don't even know
it.  You pretend to be a philosopher.  But you're really a man."

He laughed.  "It isn't always a pose," he explained.  "It's some men's
way of saying: Thy will be done."

"Ask Phillips to come and see me," he said.  "I can be of more help, if I
know exactly his views."

He walked with her to the bus.  They passed a corner house that he had
more than once pointed out to her.  It had belonged, years ago, to a well-
known artist, who had worked out a wonderful scheme of decoration in the
drawing-room.  A board was up, announcing that the house was for sale.  A
gas lamp, exactly opposite, threw a flood of light upon the huge white
lettering.

Joan stopped.  "Why, it's the house you are always talking about," she
said.  "Are you thinking of taking it?"

"I did go over it," he answered.  "But it would be rather absurd for just
Mary and me."

She looked up Phillips at the House, and gave him Greyson's message.  He
had just returned from Folkestone, and was worried.

"She was so much better last week," he explained.  "But it never lasts."

"Poor old girl!" he added.  "I believe she'd have been happier if I'd
always remained plain Bob Phillips."

Joan had promised to go down on the Friday; but finding, on the Thursday
morning, that it would be difficult, decided to run down that afternoon
instead.  She thought at first of sending a wire.  But in Mrs. Phillips's
state of health, telegrams were perhaps to be avoided.  It could make no
difference.  The front door of the little house was standing half open.
She called down the kitchen stairs to the landlady, but received no
answer.  The woman had probably run out on some short errand.  She went
up the stairs softly.  The bedroom door, she knew, would be open.  Mrs.
Phillips had a feeling against being "shut off," as she called it.  She
meant to tap lightly and walk straight in, as usual.  But what she saw
through the opening caused her to pause.  Mrs. Phillips was sitting up in
bed with her box of cosmetics in front of her.  She was sensitive of
anyone seeing her make-up; and Joan, knowing this, drew back a step.  But
for some reason, she couldn't help watching.  Mrs. Phillips dipped a
brush into one of the compartments and then remained with it in her hand,
as if hesitating.  Suddenly she stuck out her tongue and passed the brush
over it.  At least, so it seemed to Joan.  It was only a side view of
Mrs. Phillips's face that she was obtaining, and she may have been
mistaken.  It might have been the lips.  The woman gave a little gasp and
sat still for a moment.  Then, putting away the brush, she closed the box
and slipped it under the pillow.

Joan felt her knees trembling.  A cold, creeping fear was taking
possession of her.  Why, she could not understand.  She must have been
mistaken.  People don't make-up their tongues.  It must have been the
lips.  And even if not--if the woman had licked the brush!  It was a
silly trick people do.  Perhaps she liked the taste.  She pulled herself
together and tapped at the door.

Mrs. Phillips gave a little start at seeing her; but was glad that she
had come.  Phillips had not been down for two days and she had been
feeling lonesome.  She persisted in talking more than Joan felt was good
for her.  She was feeling so much better, she explained.  Joan was
relieved when the nurse came back from her walk and insisted on her lying
down.  She dropped to sleep while Joan and the nurse were having their
tea.

Joan went back by the early train.  She met some people at the station
that she knew and travelled up with them.  That picture of Mrs.
Phillips's tongue just showing beyond the line of Mrs. Phillips's cheek
remained at the back of her mind; but it was not until she was alone in
her own rooms that she dared let her thoughts return to it.

The suggestion that was forcing itself into her brain was
monstrous--unthinkable.  That, never possessed of any surplus vitality,
and suffering from the added lassitude of illness, the woman should have
become indifferent--willing to let a life that to her was full of fears
and difficulties slip peacefully away from her, that was possible.  But
that she should exercise thought and ingenuity--that she should have
reasoned the thing out and deliberately laid her plans, calculating at
every point on their success; it was inconceivable.

Besides, what could have put the idea into her head?  It was laughable,
the presumption that she was a finished actress, capable of deceiving
everyone about her.  If she had had an inkling of the truth, Joan, with
every nerve on the alert, almost hoping for it, would have detected it.
She had talked with her alone the day before she had left England, and
the woman had been full of hopes and projects for the future.

That picture of Mrs. Phillips, propped up against the pillows, with her
make-up box upon her knees was still before her when she went to bed.  All
night long it haunted her: whether thinking or dreaming of it, she could
not tell.

Suddenly, she sat up with a stifled cry.  It seemed as if a flash of
light had been turned upon her, almost blinding her.

Hilda!  Why had she never thought of it?  The whole thing was so obvious.
"You ought not to think about yourself.  You ought to think only of him
and of his work.  Nothing else matters."  If she could say that to Joan,
what might she not have said to her mother who, so clearly, she divined
to be the incubus--the drag upon her father's career?  She could hear the
child's dry, passionate tones--could see Mrs. Phillips's flabby cheeks
grow white--the frightened, staring eyes.  Where her father was concerned
the child had neither conscience nor compassion.  She had waited her
time.  It was a few days after Hilda's return to school that Mrs.
Phillips had been first taken ill.

She flung herself from the bed and drew the blind.  A chill, grey light
penetrated the room.  It was a little before five.  She would go round to
Phillips, wake him up.  He must be told.

With her hat in her hands, she paused.  No.  That would not do.  Phillips
must never know.  They must keep the secret to themselves.  She would go
down and see the woman; reason with her, insist.  She went into the other
room.  It was lighter there.  The "A.B.C." was standing in its usual
place upon her desk.  There was a train to Folkestone at six-fifteen.  She
had plenty of time.  It would be wise to have a cup of tea and something
to eat.  There would be no sense in arriving there with a headache.  She
would want her brain clear.

It was half-past five when she sat down with her tea in front of her.  It
was only ten minutes' walk to Charing Cross--say a quarter of an hour.
She might pick up a cab.  She grew calmer as she ate and drank.  Her
reason seemed to be returning to her.  There was no such violent hurry.
Hadn't she better think things over, in the clear daylight?  The woman
had been ill now for nearly six weeks: a few hours--a day or two--could
make no difference.  It might alarm the poor creature, her unexpected
appearance at such an unusual hour--cause a relapse.  Suppose she had
been mistaken?  Hadn't she better make a few inquiries first--feel her
way?  One did harm more often than good, acting on impulse.  After all,
had she the right to interfere?  Oughtn't the thing to be thought over as
a whole?  Mightn't there be arguments, worth considering, against her
interference?  Her brain was too much in a whirl.  Hadn't she better wait
till she could collect and arrange her thoughts?

The silver clock upon her desk struck six.  It had been a gift from her
father when she was at Girton.  It never obtruded.  Its voice was a faint
musical chime that she need not hear unless she cared to listen.  She
turned and looked at it.  It seemed to be a little face looking back at
her out of its two round, blinkless eyes.  For the first time during all
the years that it had watched beside her, she heard its quick, impatient
tick.

She sat motionless, staring at it.  The problem, in some way, had
simplified itself into a contest between herself, demanding time to
think, and the little insistent clock, shouting to her to act upon blind
impulse.  If she could remain motionless for another five minutes, she
would have won.

The ticking of the little clock was filling the room.  The thing seemed
to have become alive--to be threatening to burst its heart.  But the
thin, delicate indicator moved on.

Suddenly its ticking ceased.  It had become again a piece of lifeless
mechanism.  The hands pointed to six minutes past.  Joan took off her hat
and laid it aside.

She must think the whole thing over quietly.



CHAPTER XIV


She could help him.  Without her, he would fail.  The woman herself saw
that, and wished it.  Why should she hesitate?  It was not as if she had
only herself to consider.  The fate--the happiness of millions was at
stake.  He looked to her for aid--for guidance.  It must have been
intended.  All roads had led to it.  Her going to the house.  She
remembered now, it was the first door at which she had knocked.  Her
footsteps had surely been directed.  Her meeting with Mrs. Phillips in
Madge's rooms; and that invitation to dinner, coinciding with that crisis
in his life.  It was she who had persuaded him to accept.  But for her he
would have doubted, wavered, let his opportunities slip by.  He had
confessed it to her.

And she had promised him.  He needed her.  The words she had spoken to
Madge, not dreaming then of their swift application.  They came back to
her.  "God has called me.  He girded His sword upon me."  What right had
she to leave it rusting in its scabbard, turning aside from the pathway
pointed out to her because of one weak, useless life, crouching in her
way.  It was not as if she were being asked to do evil herself that good
might come.  The decision had been taken out of her hands.  All she had
to do was to remain quiescent, not interfering, awaiting her orders.  Her
business was with her own part, not with another's.  To be willing to
sacrifice oneself: that was at the root of all service.  Sometimes it was
one's own duty, sometimes that of another.  Must one never go forward
because another steps out of one's way, voluntarily?  Besides, she might
have been mistaken.  That picture, ever before her, of the woman pausing
with the brush above her tongue--that little stilled gasp!  It may have
been but a phantasm, born of her own fevered imagination.  She clung to
that, desperately.

It was the task that had been entrusted to her.  How could he hope to
succeed without her.  With her, he would be all powerful--accomplish the
end for which he had been sent into the world.  Society counts for so
much in England.  What public man had ever won through without its
assistance.  As Greyson had said: it is the dinner-table that rules.  She
could win it over to his side.  That mission to Paris that she had
undertaken for Mrs. Denton, that had brought her into contact with
diplomatists, politicians, the leaders and the rulers, the bearers of
names known and honoured in history.  They had accepted her as one of
themselves.  She had influenced them, swayed them.  That afternoon at
Folk's studio, where all eyes had followed her, where famous men and
women had waited to attract her notice, had hung upon her words.  Even at
school, at college, she had always commanded willing homage.  As Greyson
had once told her, it was herself--her personality that was her greatest
asset.  Was it to be utterly wasted?  There were hundreds of impersonal,
sexless women, equipped for nothing else, with pens as keen if not keener
than hers.  That was not the talent with which she had been entrusted--for
which she would have to account.  It was her beauty, her power to charm,
to draw after her--to compel by the mere exercise of her will.  Hitherto
Beauty had been content to barter itself for mere coin of the realm--for
ease and luxury and pleasure.  She only asked to be allowed to spend it
in service.  As his wife, she could use it to fine ends.  By herself she
was helpless.  One must take the world as one finds it.  It gives the
unmated woman no opportunity to employ the special gifts with which God
has endowed her--except for evil.  As the wife of a rising statesman, she
could be a force for progress.  She could become another Madame Roland;
gather round her all that was best of English social life; give back to
it its lost position in the vanguard of thought.

She could strengthen him, give him courage.  Without her, he would always
remain the mere fighter, doubtful of himself.  The confidence, the
inspiration, necessary for leadership, she alone could bring to him.  Each
by themselves was incomplete.  Together, they would be the whole.  They
would build the city of their dreams.

She seemed to have become a wandering spirit rather than a living being.
She had no sense of time or place.  Once she had started, hearing herself
laugh.  She was seated at a table, and was talking.  And then she had
passed back into forgetfulness.  Now, from somewhere, she was gazing
downward.  Roofs, domes and towers lay stretched before her, emerging
from a sea of shadows.  She held out her arms towards them and the tears
came to her eyes.  The poor tired people were calling to her to join with
him to help them.  Should she fail them--turn deaf ears to the myriad
because of pity for one useless, feeble life?

She had been fashioned to be his helpmate, as surely as if she had been
made of the same bone.  Nature was at one with God.  Spirit and body both
yearned for him.  It was not position--power for herself that she craved.
The marriage market--if that had been her desire: it had always been open
to her.  She had the gold that buys these things.  Wealth, ambition: they
had been offered to her--spread out temptingly before her eyes.  They
were always within her means, if ever she chose to purchase them.  It was
this man alone to whom she had ever felt drawn--this man of the people,
with that suggestion about him of something primitive, untamed, causing
her always in his presence that faint, compelling thrill of fear, who
stirred her blood as none of the polished men of her own class had ever
done.  His kind, strong, ugly face: it moved beside her: its fearless,
tender eyes now pleading, now commanding.

He needed her.  She heard his passionate, low voice, as she had heard it
in the little garden above Meudon: "Because you won't be there; and
without you I can do nothing."  What right had this poor, worn-out shadow
to stand between them, to the end?  Had love and life no claims, but only
weakness?  She had taken all, had given nothing.  It was but reparation
she was making.  Why stop her?

She was alone in a maze of narrow, silent streets that ended always in a
high blank wall.  It seemed impossible to get away from this blank wall.
Whatever way she turned she was always coming back to it.

What was she to do?  Drag the woman back to life against her will--lead
her back to him to be a chain about his feet until the end?  Then leave
him to fight the battle alone?

And herself?  All her world had been watching and would know.  She had
counted her chickens before they were dead.  She had set her cap at the
man, reckoning him already widowed; and his wife had come to life and
snatched it from her head.  She could hear the laughter--the half amused,
half contemptuous pity for her "rotten bad luck."  She would be their
standing jest, till she was forgotten.

What would life leave to her?  A lonely lodging and a pot of ink that she
would come to hate the smell of.  She could never marry.  It would be but
her body that she could give to any other man.  Not even for the sake of
her dreams could she bring herself to that.  It might have been possible
before, but not now.  She could have won the victory over herself, but
for hope, that had kindled the smouldering embers of her passion into
flame.  What cunning devil had flung open this door, showing her all her
heart's desire, merely that she should be called upon to slam it to in
her own face?

A fierce anger blazed up in her brain.  Why should she listen?  Why had
reason been given to us if we were not to use it--weigh good and evil in
the balance and decide for ourselves where lay the nobler gain?  Were we
to be led hither and thither like blind children?  What was right--what
wrong, but what our own God-given judgment told us?  Was it wrong of the
woman to perform this act of self-renunciation, yielding up all things to
love?  No, it was great--heroic of her.  It would be her cross of
victory, her crown.

If the gift were noble, so also it could not be ignoble to accept it.

To reject it would be to dishonour it.

She would accept it.  The wonder of it should cast out her doubts and
fears.  She would seek to make herself worthy of it.  Consecrate it with
her steadfastness, her devotion.

She thought it ended.  But yet she sat there motionless.

What was plucking at her sleeve--still holding her?

Unknowing, she had entered a small garden.  It formed a passage between
two streets, and was left open day and night.  It was but a narrow strip
of rank grass and withered shrubs with an asphalte pathway widening to a
circle in the centre, where stood a gas lamp and two seats, facing one
another.

And suddenly it came to her that this was her Garden of Gethsemane; and a
dull laugh broke from her that she could not help.  It was such a
ridiculous apology for Gethsemane.  There was not a corner in which one
could possibly pray.  Only these two iron seats, one each side of the
gaunt gas lamp that glared down upon them.  Even the withered shrubs were
fenced off behind a railing.  A ragged figure sprawled upon the bench
opposite to her.  It snored gently, and its breath came laden with the
odour of cheap whisky.

But it was her Gethsemane: the best that Fate had been able to do for
her.  It was here that her choice would be made.  She felt that.

And there rose before her the vision of that other Garden of Gethsemane
with, below it, the soft lights of the city shining through the trees;
and above, clear against the starlit sky, the cold, dark cross.

It was only a little cross, hers, by comparison.  She could see that.
They seemed to be standing side by side.  But then she was only a
woman--little more than a girl.  And her courage was so small.  She
thought He ought to know that.  For her, it was quite a big cross.  She
wondered if He had been listening to all her arguments.  There was really
a good deal of sense in some of them.  Perhaps He would understand.  Not
all His prayer had come down to us.  He, too, had put up a fight for
life.  He, too, was young.  For Him, also, life must have seemed but just
beginning.  Perhaps He, too, had felt that His duty still lay among the
people--teaching, guiding, healing them.  To Him, too, life must have
been sweet with its noble work, its loving comradeship.  Even from Him
the words had to be wrung: "Thy will, not Mine, be done."

She whispered them at last.  Not bravely, at all.  Feebly, haltingly,
with a little sob: her forehead pressed against the cold iron seat, as if
that could help her.

She thought that even then God might reconsider it--see her point of
view.  Perhaps He would send her a sign.

The ragged figure on the bench opposite opened its eyes, stared at her;
then went to sleep again.  A prowling cat paused to rub itself against
her foot, but meeting no response, passed on.  Through an open window,
somewhere near, filtered the sound of a child's low whimpering.

It was daylight when she awoke.  She was cold and her limbs ached.  Slowly
her senses came back to her.  The seat opposite was vacant.  The gas lamp
showed but a faint blue point of flame.  Her dress was torn, her boots
soiled and muddy.  Strands of her hair had escaped from underneath her
hat.

She looked at her watch.  Fortunately it was still early.  She would be
able to let herself in before anyone was up.  It was but a little way.
She wondered, while rearranging her hair, what day it was.  She would
find out, when she got home, from the newspaper.

In the street she paused a moment and looked back through the railings.
It seemed even still more sordid in the daylight: the sooty grass and the
withered shrubs and the asphalte pathway strewn with dirty paper.  And
again a laugh she could not help broke from her.  Her Garden of
Gethsemane!

She sent a brief letter round to Phillips, and a telegram to the nurse,
preparing them for what she meant to do.  She had just time to pack a
small trunk and catch the morning train.  At Folkestone, she drove first
to a house where she herself had once lodged and fixed things to her
satisfaction.  The nurse was waiting for her in the downstairs room, and
opened the door to her.  She was opposed to Joan's interference.  But
Joan had come prepared for that.  "Let me have a talk with her," she
said.  "I think I've found out what it is that is causing all the
trouble."

The nurse shot her a swift glance.  "I'm glad of that," she said dryly.
She let Joan go upstairs.

Mrs. Phillips was asleep.  Joan seated herself beside the bed and waited.
She had not yet made herself up for the day and the dyed hair was hidden
beneath a white, close-fitting cap.  The pale, thin face with its closed
eyes looked strangely young.  Suddenly the thin hands clasped, and her
lips moved, as if she were praying in her sleep.  Perhaps she also was
dreaming of Gethsemane.  It must be quite a crowded garden, if only we
could see it.

After a while, her eyes opened.  Joan drew her chair nearer and slipped
her arm in under her, and their eyes met.

"You're not playing the game," whispered Joan, shaking her head.  "I only
promised on condition that you would try to get well."

The woman made no attempt to deny.  Something told her that Joan had
learned her secret.  She glanced towards the door.  Joan had closed it.

"Don't drag me back," she whispered.  "It's all finished."  She raised
herself up and put her arms about Joan's neck.  "It was hard at first,
and I hated you.  And then it came to me that this was what I had been
wanting to do, all my life--something to help him, that nobody else could
do.  Don't take it from me."

"I know," whispered Joan.  "I've been there, too.  I knew you were doing
it, though I didn't quite know how--till the other day.  I wouldn't
think.  I wanted to pretend that I didn't.  I know all you can say.  I've
been listening to it.  It was right of you to want to give it all up to
me for his sake.  But it would be wrong of me to take it.  I don't quite
see why.  I can't explain it.  But I mustn't.  So you see it would be no
good."

"But I'm so useless," pleaded the woman.

"I said that," answered Joan.  "I wanted to do it and I talked and
talked, so hard.  I said everything I could think of.  But that was the
only answer: I mustn't do it."

They remained for a while with their arms round one another.  It struck
Joan as curious, even at the time, that all feeling of superiority had
gone out of her.  They might have been two puzzled children that had met
one another on a path that neither knew.  But Joan was the stronger
character.

"I want you to give me up that box," she said, "and to come away with me
where I can be with you and take care of you until you are well."

Mrs. Phillips made yet another effort.  "Have you thought about him?" she
asked.

Joan answered with a faint smile.  "Oh, yes," she said.  "I didn't forget
that argument in case it hadn't occurred to the Lord."

"Perhaps," she added, "the helpmate theory was intended to apply only to
our bodies.  There was nothing said about our souls.  Perhaps God doesn't
have to work in pairs.  Perhaps we were meant to stand alone."

Mrs. Phillips's thin hands were playing nervously with the bed clothes.
There still seemed something that she had to say.  As if Joan hadn't
thought of everything.  Her eyes were fixed upon the narrow strip of
light between the window curtains.

"You don't think you could, dear," she whispered, "if I didn't do
anything wicked any more.  But just let things take their course."

"You see, dear," she went on, her face still turned away, "I thought it
all finished.  It will be hard for me to go back to him, knowing as I do
now that he doesn't want me.  I shall always feel that I am in his way.
And Hilda," she added after a pause, "she will hate me."

Joan looked at the white patient face and was silent.  What would be the
use of senseless contradiction.  The woman knew.  It would only seem an
added stab of mockery.  She knelt beside the bed, and took the thin hands
in hers.

"I think God must want you very badly," she said, "or He wouldn't have
laid so heavy a cross upon you.  You will come?"

The woman did not answer in words.  The big tears were rolling down her
cheeks.  There was no paint to mingle with and mar them.  She drew the
little metal box from under the pillow and gave it into Joan's hands.

Joan crept out softly from the room.

The nurse was standing by the window.  She turned sharply on Joan's
entrance.  Joan slipped the box into her hands.

The nurse raised the lid.  "What a fool I've been," she said.  "I never
thought of that."

She held out a large strong hand and gave Joan a longish grip.  "You're
right," she said, "we must get her out of this house at once.  Forgive
me."

Phillips had been called up north and wired that he would not be able to
get down till the Wednesday evening.  Joan met him at the station.

"She won't be expecting you, just yet," she explained.  "We might have a
little walk."

She waited till they had reached a quiet road leading to the hills.

"You will find her changed," she said.  "Mentally, I mean.  Though she
will try not to show it.  She was dying for your sake--to set you free.
Hilda seems to have had a talk with her and to have spared her no part of
the truth.  Her great love for you made the sacrifice possible and even
welcome.  It was the one gift she had in her hands.  She was giving it
gladly, proudly.  So far as she was concerned, it would have been kinder
to let her make an end of it.  But during the last few days I have come
to the conclusion there is a law within us that we may not argue with.
She is coming back to life, knowing you no longer want her, that she is
only in the way.  Perhaps you may be able to think of something to say or
do that will lessen her martyrdom.  I can't."

They had paused where a group of trees threw a blot of shadow across the
moonlit road.

"You mean she was killing herself?" he asked.

"Quite cleverly.  So as to avoid all danger of after discovery: that
might have hurt us," she answered.

They walked in silence, and coming to a road that led back into the town,
he turned down it.  She had the feeling she was following him without his
knowing it.  A cab was standing outside the gate of a house, having just
discharged its fare.  He seemed to have suddenly recollected her.

"Do you mind?" he said.  "We shall get there so much quicker."

"You go," she said.  "I'll stroll on quietly."

"You're sure?" he said.

"I would rather," she answered.

It struck her that he was relieved.  He gave the man the address,
speaking hurriedly, and jumped in.

She had gone on.  She heard the closing of the door behind her, and the
next moment the cab passed her.

She did not see him again that night.  They met in the morning at
breakfast.  A curious strangeness to each other seemed to have grown up
between them, as if they had known one another long ago, and had half
forgotten.  When they had finished she rose to leave; but he asked her to
stop, and, after the table had been cleared, he walked up and down the
room, while she sat sideways on the window seat from where she could
watch the little ships moving to and fro across the horizon, like painted
figures in a show.

"I had a long talk with Nan last night," he said.  "And, trying to
explain it to her, I came a little nearer to understanding it myself.  My
love for you would have been strong enough to ruin both of us.  I see
that now.  It would have dominated every other thought in me.  It would
have swallowed up my dreams.  It would have been blind, unscrupulous.
Married to you, I should have aimed only at success.  It would not have
been your fault.  You would not have known.  About mere birth I should
never have troubled myself.  I've met daughters of a hundred earls--more
or less: clever, jolly little women I could have chucked under the chin
and have been chummy with.  Nature creates her own ranks, and puts her
ban upon misalliances.  Every time I took you in my arms I should have
felt that you had stepped down from your proper order to mate yourself
with me and that it was up to me to make the sacrifice good to you by
giving you power--position.  Already within the last few weeks, when it
looked as if this thing was going to be possible, I have been thinking
against my will of a compromise with Carleton that would give me his
support.  This coming election was beginning to have terrors for me that
I have never before felt.  The thought of defeat--having to go back to
comparative poverty, to comparative obscurity, with you as my wife, was
growing into a nightmare.  I should have wanted wealth, fame, victory,
for your sake--to see you honoured, courted, envied, finely dressed and
finely housed--grateful to me for having won for you these things.  It
wasn't honest, healthy love--the love that unites, that makes a man
willing to take as well as to give, that I felt for you; it was worship
that separates a man from a woman, that puts fear between them.  It isn't
good that man should worship a woman.  He can't serve God and woman.
Their interests are liable to clash.  Nan's my helpmate--just a loving
woman that the Lord brought to me and gave me when I was alone--that I
still love.  I didn't know it till last night.  She will never stand in
my way.  I haven't to put her against my duty.  She will leave me free to
obey the voice that calls to me.  And no man can hear that voice but
himself."

He had been speaking in a clear, self-confident tone, as if at last he
saw his road before him to the end; and felt that nothing else mattered
but that he should go forward hopefully, unfalteringly.  Now he paused,
and his eyes wandered.  But the lines about his strong mouth deepened.

"Perhaps, I am not of the stuff that conquerors are made," he went on.
"Perhaps, if I were, I should be thinking differently.  It comes to me
sometimes that I may be one of those intended only to prepare the
way--that for me there may be only the endless struggle.  I may have to
face unpopularity, abuse, failure.  She won't mind."

"Nor would you," he added, turning to her suddenly for the first time, "I
know that.  But I should be afraid--for you."

She had listened to him without interrupting, and even now she did not
speak for a while.

It was hard not to.  She wanted to tell him that he was all wrong--at
least, so far as she was concerned.  It. was not the conqueror she loved
in him; it was the fighter.  Not in the hour of triumph but in the hour
of despair she would have yearned to put her arms about him.
"Unpopularity, abuse, failure," it was against the fear of such that she
would have guarded him.  Yes, she had dreamed of leadership, influence,
command.  But it was the leadership of the valiant few against the hosts
of the oppressors that she claimed.  Wealth, honours!  Would she have
given up a life of ease, shut herself off from society, if these had been
her standards?  "_Mesalliance_!"  Had the male animal no instinct,
telling it when it was loved with all a woman's being, so that any other
union would be her degradation.

It was better for him he should think as he did.  She rose and held out
her hand.

"I will stay with her for a little while," she said.  "Till I feel there
is no more need.  Then I must get back to work."

He looked into her eyes, holding her hand, and she felt his body
trembling.  She knew he was about to speak, and held up a warning hand.

"That's all, my lad," she said with a smile.  "My love to you, and God
speed you."

Mrs. Phillips progressed slowly but steadily.  Life was returning to her,
but it was not the same.  Out of those days there had come to her a
gentle dignity, a strengthening and refining.  The face, now pale and
drawn, had lost its foolishness.  Under the thin, white hair, and in
spite of its deep lines, it had grown younger.  A great patience, a child-
like thoughtfulness had come into the quiet eyes.

She was sitting by the window, her hands folded.  Joan had been reading
to her, and the chapter finished, she had closed the book and her
thoughts had been wandering.  Mrs. Phillips's voice recalled them.

"Do you remember that day, my dear," she said, "when we went furnishing
together.  And I would have all the wrong things.  And you let me."

"Yes," answered Joan with a laugh.  "They were pretty awful, some of
them."

"I was just wondering," she went on.  "It was a pity, wasn't it?  I was
silly and began to cry."

"I expect that was it," Joan confessed.  "It interferes with our reason
at times."

"It was only a little thing, of course, that," she answered.  "But I've
been thinking it must be that that's at the bottom of it all; and that is
why God lets there be weak things--children and little animals and men
and women in pain, that we feel sorry for, so that people like you and
Robert and so many others are willing to give up all your lives to
helping them.  And that is what He wants."

"Perhaps God cannot help there being weak things," answered Joan.
"Perhaps He, too, is sorry for them."

"It comes to the same thing, doesn't it, dear?" she answered.  "They are
there, anyhow.  And that is how He knows those who are willing to serve
Him: by their being pitiful."

They fell into a silence.  Joan found herself dreaming.

Yes, it was true.  It must have been the beginning of all things.  Man,
pitiless, deaf, blind, groping in the darkness, knowing not even himself.
And to her vision, far off, out of the mist, he shaped himself before
her: that dim, first standard-bearer of the Lord, the man who first felt
pity.  Savage, brutish, dumb--lonely there amid the desolation, staring
down at some hurt creature, man or beast it mattered not, his dull eyes
troubled with a strange new pain he understood not.

And suddenly, as he stooped, there must have come a great light into his
eyes.

Man had heard God's voice across the deep, and had made answer.



CHAPTER XV


The years that followed--till, like some shipwrecked swimmer to whom
returning light reveals the land, she felt new life and hopes come back
to her--always remained in her memory vague, confused; a jumble of
events, thoughts, feelings, without sequence or connection.

She had gone down to Liverpool, intending to persuade her father to leave
the control of the works to Arthur, and to come and live with her in
London; but had left without broaching the subject.  There were nights
when she would trapse the streets till she would almost fall exhausted,
rather than face the solitude awaiting her in her own rooms.  But so also
there were moods when, like some stricken animal, her instinct was to
shun all living things.  At such times his presence, for all his loving
patience, would have been as a knife in her wound.  Besides, he would
always be there, when escape from herself for a while became an absolute
necessity.  More and more she had come to regard him as her comforter.
Not from anything he ever said or did.  Rather, it seemed to her, because
that with him she felt no need of words.

The works, since Arthur had shared the management, had gradually been
regaining their position; and he had urged her to let him increase her
allowance.

"It will give you greater freedom," he had suggested with fine assumption
of propounding a mere business proposition; "enabling you to choose your
work entirely for its own sake.  I have always wanted to take a hand in
helping things on.  It will come to just the same, your doing it for me."

She had suppressed a smile, and had accepted.  "Thanks, Dad," she had
answered.  "It will be nice, having you as my backer."

Her admiration of the independent woman had undergone some modification
since she had come in contact with her.  Woman was intended to be
dependent upon man.  It was the part appointed to him in the social
scheme.  Woman had hers, no less important.  Earning her own living did
not improve her.  It was one of the drawbacks of civilization that so
many had to do it of necessity.  It developed her on the wrong
lines--against her nature.  This cry of the unsexed: that woman must
always be the paid servant instead of the helper of man--paid for being
mother, paid for being wife!  Why not carry it to its logical conclusion,
and insist that she should be paid for her embraces?  That she should
share in man's labour, in his hopes, that was the true comradeship.  What
mattered it, who held the purse-strings!

Her room was always kept ready for her.  Often she would lie there,
watching the moonlight creep across the floor; and a curious feeling
would come to her of being something wandering, incomplete.  She would
see as through a mist the passionate, restless child with the rebellious
eyes to whom the room had once belonged; and later the strangely self-
possessed girl with that impalpable veil of mystery around her who would
stand with folded hands, there by the window, seeming always to be
listening.  And she, too, had passed away.  The tears would come into her
eyes, and she would stretch out yearning arms towards their shadowy
forms.  But they would only turn upon her eyes that saw not, and would
fade away.

In the day-time, when Arthur and her father were at the works, she would
move through the high, square, stiffly-furnished rooms, or about the
great formal garden, with its ordered walks and level lawns.  And as with
knowledge we come to love some old, stern face our childish eyes had
thought forbidding, and would not have it changed, there came to her with
the years a growing fondness for the old, plain brick-built house.
Generations of Allways had lived and died there: men and women somewhat
narrow, unsympathetic, a little hard of understanding; but at least
earnest, sincere, seeking to do their duty in their solid, unimaginative
way.  Perhaps there were other ways besides those of speech and pen.
Perhaps one did better, keeping to one's own people; the very qualities
that separated us from them being intended for their need.  What mattered
the colours, so that one followed the flag?  Somewhere, all roads would
meet.

Arthur had to be in London generally once or twice a month, and it came
to be accepted that he should always call upon her and "take her out."
She had lost the self-sufficiency that had made roaming about London by
herself a pleasurable adventure; and a newly-born fear of what people
were saying and thinking about her made her shy even of the few friends
she still clung to, so that his visits grew to be of the nature of
childish treats to which she found herself looking forward--counting the
days.  Also, she came to be dependent upon him for the keeping alight
within her of that little kindly fire of self-conceit at which we warm
our hands in wintry days.  It is not good that a young woman should
remain for long a stranger to her mirror--above her frocks, indifferent
to the angle of her hat.  She had met the women superior to feminine
vanities.  Handsome enough, some of them must once have been; now sunk in
slovenliness, uncleanliness, in disrespect to womanhood.  It would not be
fair to him.  The worshipper has his rights.  The goddess must remember
always that she is a goddess--must pull herself together and behave as
such, appearing upon her pedestal becomingly attired; seeing to it that
in all things she is at her best; not allowing private grief to render
her neglectful of this duty.

She had not told him of the Phillips episode.  But she felt instinctively
that he knew.  It was always a little mysterious to her, his perception
in matters pertaining to herself.

"I want your love," she said to him one day.  "It helps me.  I used to
think it was selfish of me to take it, knowing I could never return
it--not that love.  But I no longer feel that now.  Your love seems to me
a fountain from which I can drink without hurting you."

"I should love to be with you always," he answered, "if you wished it.
You won't forget your promise?"

She remembered it then.  "No," she answered with a smile.  "I shall keep
watch.  Perhaps I shall be worthy of it by that time."

She had lost her faith in journalism as a drum for the rousing of the
people against wrong.  Its beat had led too often to the trickster's
booth, to the cheap-jack's rostrum.  It had lost its rallying power.  The
popular Press had made the newspaper a byword for falsehood.  Even its
supporters, while reading it because it pandered to their passions,
tickled their vices, and flattered their ignorance, despised and
disbelieved it.  Here and there, an honest journal advocated a reform,
pleaded for the sweeping away of an injustice.  The public shrugged its
shoulders.  Another newspaper stunt!  A bid for popularity, for
notoriety: with its consequent financial kudos.

She still continued to write for Greyson, but felt she was labouring for
the doomed.  Lord Sutcliffe had died suddenly and his holding in the
_Evening Gazette_ had passed to his nephew, a gentleman more interested
in big game shooting than in politics.  Greyson's support of Phillips had
brought him within the net of Carleton's operations, and negotiations for
purchase had already been commenced.  She knew that, sooner or later,
Greyson would be offered the alternative of either changing his opinions
or of going.  And she knew that he would go.  Her work for Mrs. Denton
was less likely to be interfered with.  It appealed only to the few, and
aimed at informing and explaining rather than directly converting.  Useful
enough work in its way, no doubt; but to put heart into it seemed to
require longer views than is given to the eyes of youth.

Besides, her pen was no longer able to absorb her attention, to keep her
mind from wandering.  The solitude of her desk gave her the feeling of a
prison.  Her body made perpetual claims upon her, as though it were some
restless, fretful child, dragging her out into the streets without
knowing where it wanted to go, discontented with everything it did: then
hurrying her back to fling itself upon a chair, weary, but still
dissatisfied.

If only she could do something.  She was sick of thinking.

These physical activities into which women were throwing themselves!
Where one used one's body as well as one's brain--hastened to
appointments; gathered round noisy tables; met fellow human beings,
argued with them, walked with them, laughing and talking; forced one's
way through crowds; cheered, shouted; stood up on platforms before a sea
of faces; roused applause, filling and emptying one's lungs; met
interruptions with swift flash of wit or anger, faced opposition,
danger--felt one's blood surging through one's veins, felt one's nerves
quivering with excitement; felt the delirious thrill of passion; felt the
mad joy of the loosened animal.

She threw herself into the suffrage movement.  It satisfied her for a
while.  She had the rare gift of public speaking, and enjoyed her
triumphs.  She was temperate, reasonable; persuasive rather than
aggressive; feeling her audience as she went, never losing touch with
them.  She had the magnetism that comes of sympathy.  Medical students
who came intending to tell her to go home and mind the baby, remained to
wonder if man really was the undoubted sovereign of the world, born to
look upon woman as his willing subject; to wonder whether under some
unwritten whispered law it might not be the other way about.  Perhaps she
had the right--with or without the baby--to move about the kingdom,
express her wishes for its care and management.  Possibly his doubts may
not have been brought about solely by the force and logic of her
arguments.  Possibly the voice of Nature is not altogether out of place
in discussions upon Humanity's affairs.

She wanted votes for women.  But she wanted them clean--won without
dishonour.  These "monkey tricks"--this apish fury and impatience!
Suppose it did hasten by a few months, more or less, the coming of the
inevitable.  Suppose, by unlawful methods, one could succeed in dragging
a reform a little prematurely from the womb of time, did not one endanger
the child's health?  Of what value was woman's influence on public
affairs going to be, if she was to boast that she had won the right to
exercise it by unscrupulousness and brutality?

They were to be found at every corner: the reformers who could not reform
themselves.  The believers in universal brotherhood who hated half the
people.  The denouncers of tyranny demanding lamp-posts for their
opponents.  The bloodthirsty preachers of peace.  The moralists who had
persuaded themselves that every wrong was justified provided one were
fighting for the right.  The deaf shouters for justice.  The excellent
intentioned men and women labouring for reforms that could only be hoped
for when greed and prejudice had yielded place to reason, and who sought
to bring about their ends by appeals to passion and self-interest.

And the insincere, the self-seekers, the self-advertisers!  Those who
were in the business for even coarser profit!  The lime-light lovers who
would always say and do the clever, the unexpected thing rather than the
useful and the helpful thing: to whom paradox was more than principle.

Ought there not to be a school for reformers, a training college where
could be inculcated self-examination, patience, temperance, subordination
to duty; with lectures on the fundamental laws, within which all progress
must be accomplished, outside which lay confusion and explosions; with
lectures on history, showing how improvements had been brought about and
how failure had been invited, thus avoiding much waste of reforming zeal;
with lectures on the properties and tendencies of human nature,
forbidding the attempt to treat it as a sum in rule of three?

There were the others.  The men and women not in the lime-light.  The
lone, scattered men and women who saw no flag but Pity's ragged skirt;
who heard no drum but the world's low cry of pain; who fought with feeble
hands against the wrong around them; who with aching heart and troubled
eyes laboured to make kinder the little space about them.  The great army
of the nameless reformers uncheered, unparagraphed, unhonoured.  The
unknown sowers of the seed.  Would the reapers of the harvest remember
them?

Beyond giving up her visits to the house, she had made no attempt to
avoid meeting Phillips; and at public functions and at mutual friends
they sometimes found themselves near to one another.  It surprised her
that she could see him, talk to him, and even be alone with him without
its troubling her.  He seemed to belong to a part of her that lay dead
and buried--something belonging to her that she had thrust away with her
own hands: that she knew would never come back to her.

She was still interested in his work and keen to help him.  It was going
to be a stiff fight.  He himself, in spite of Carleton's opposition, had
been returned with an increased majority; but the Party as a whole had
suffered loss, especially in the counties.  The struggle centred round
the agricultural labourer.  If he could be won over the Government would
go ahead with Phillips's scheme.  Otherwise there was danger of its being
shelved.  The difficulty was the old problem of how to get at the men of
the scattered villages, the lonely cottages.  The only papers that they
ever saw were those, chiefly of the Carleton group, that the farmers and
the gentry took care should come within their reach; that were handed to
them at the end of their day's work as a kindly gift; given to the school
children to take home with them; supplied in ample numbers to all the
little inns and public-houses.  In all these, Phillips was held up as
their arch enemy, his proposal explained as a device to lower their
wages, decrease their chances of employment, and rob them of the produce
of their gardens and allotments.  No arguments were used.  A daily stream
of abuse, misrepresentation and deliberate lies, set forth under flaming
headlines, served their simple purpose.  The one weekly paper that had
got itself established among them, that their fathers had always taken,
that dimly they had come to look upon as their one friend, Carleton had
at last succeeded in purchasing.  When that, too, pictured Phillips's
plan as a diabolical intent to take from them even the little that they
had, and give it to the loafing socialist and the bloated foreigner, no
room for doubt was left to them.

He had organized volunteer cycle companies of speakers from the towns,
young working-men and women and students, to go out on summer evenings
and hold meetings on the village greens.  They were winning their way.
But it was slow work.  And Carleton was countering their efforts by a
hired opposition that followed them from place to place, and whose
interruptions were made use of to represent the whole campaign as a
fiasco.

"He's clever," laughed Phillips.  "I'd enjoy the fight, if I'd only
myself to think of, and life wasn't so short."

The laugh died away and a shadow fell upon his face.

"If I could get a few of the big landlords to come in on my side," he
continued, "it would make all the difference in the world.  They're
sensible men, some of them; and the whole thing could be carried out
without injury to any legitimate interest.  I could make them see that,
if I could only get them quietly into a corner."

"But they're frightened of me," he added, with a shrug of his broad
shoulders, "and I don't seem to know how to tackle them."

Those drawing-rooms?  Might not something of the sort be possible?  Not,
perhaps, the sumptuous salon of her imagination, thronged with the fair
and famous, suitably attired.  Something, perhaps, more homely, more
immediately attainable.  Some of the women dressed, perhaps, a little
dowdily; not all of them young and beautiful.  The men wise, perhaps,
rather than persistently witty; a few of them prosy, maybe a trifle
ponderous; but solid and influential.  Mrs. Denton's great empty house in
Gower Street?  A central situation and near to the tube.  Lords and
ladies had once ruffled there; trod a measure on its spacious floors;
filled its echoing stone hall with their greetings and their partings.
The gaping sconces, where their link-boys had extinguished their torches,
still capped its grim iron railings.

Seated in the great, sombre library, Joan hazarded the suggestion.  Mrs.
Denton might almost have been waiting for it.  It would be quite easy.  A
little opening of long fastened windows; a lighting of chill grates; a
little mending of moth-eaten curtains, a sweeping away of long-gathered
dust and cobwebs.

Mrs. Denton knew just the right people.  They might be induced to bring
their sons and daughters--it might be their grandchildren, youth being
there to welcome them.  For Joan, of course, would play her part.

The lonely woman touched her lightly on the hand.  There shot a pleading
look from the old stern eyes.

"You will have to imagine yourself my daughter," she said.  "You are
taller, but the colouring was the same.  You won't mind, will you?"

The right people did come: Mrs. Denton being a personage that a landed
gentry, rendered jumpy by the perpetual explosion of new ideas under
their very feet, and casting about eagerly for friends, could not afford
to snub.  A kindly, simple folk, quite intelligent, some of them, as
Phillips had surmised.  Mrs. Denton made no mystery of why she had
invited them.  Why should all questions be left to the politicians and
the journalists?  Why should not the people interested take a hand; meet
and talk over these little matters with quiet voices and attentive ears,
amid surroundings where the unwritten law would restrain ladies and
gentlemen from addressing other ladies and gentlemen as blood-suckers or
anarchists, as grinders of the faces of the poor or as oily-tongued
rogues; arguments not really conducive to mutual understanding and the
bridging over of differences.  The latest Russian dancer, the last new
musical revue, the marvellous things that can happen at golf, the curious
hands that one picks up at bridge, the eternal fox, the sacred bird!
Excellent material for nine-tenths of our conversation.  But the
remaining tenth?  Would it be such excruciatingly bad form for us to be
intelligent, occasionally; say, on one or two Fridays during the season?
Mrs. Denton wrapped it up tactfully; but that was her daring suggestion.

It took them aback at first.  There were people who did this sort of
thing.  People of no class, who called themselves names and took up
things.  But for people of social standing to talk about serious
subjects--except, perhaps, in bed to one's wife!  It sounded so
un-English.

With the elders it was sense of duty that prevailed.  That, at all
events, was English.  The country must be saved.  To their sons and
daughters it was the originality, the novelty that gradually appealed.
Mrs. Denton's Fridays became a new sensation.  It came to be the chic and
proper thing to appear at them in shades of mauve or purple.  A pushing
little woman in Hanover Street designed the "Denton" bodice, with hanging
sleeves and square-cut neck.  The younger men inclined towards a coat
shaped to the waist with a roll collar.

Joan sighed.  It looked as if the word had been passed round to treat the
whole thing as a joke.  Mrs. Denton took a different view.

"Nothing better could have happened," she was of opinion.  "It means that
their hearts are in it."

The stone hall was still vibrating to the voices of the last departed
guests.  Joan was seated on a footstool before the fire in front of Mrs.
Denton's chair.

"It's the thing that gives me greatest hope," she continued.  "The
childishness of men and women.  It means that the world is still young,
still teachable."

"But they're so slow at their lessons," grumbled Joan.  "One repeats it
and repeats it; and then, when one feels that surely now at least one has
drummed it into their heads, one finds they have forgotten all that one
has ever said."

"Not always forgotten," answered Mrs. Denton; "mislaid, it may be, for
the moment.  An Indian student, the son of an old Rajah, called on me a
little while ago.  He was going back to organize a system of education
among his people.  'My father heard you speak when you were over in
India,' he told me.  'He has always been thinking about it.'  Thirty
years ago it must have been, that I undertook that mission to India.  I
had always looked back upon it as one of my many failures."

"But why leave it to his son," argued Joan.  "Why couldn't the old man
have set about it himself, instead of wasting thirty precious years?"

"I should have preferred it, myself," agreed Mrs. Denton.  "I remember
when I was a very little girl my mother longing for a tree upon the lawn
underneath which she could sit.  I found an acorn and planted it just in
the right spot.  I thought I would surprise her.  I happened to be in the
neighbourhood last summer, and I walked over.  There was such a nice old
lady sitting under it, knitting stockings.  So you see it wasn't wasted."

"I wouldn't mind the waiting," answered Joan, "if it were not for the
sorrow and the suffering that I see all round me.  I want to get rid of
it right away, now.  I could be patient for myself, but not for others."

The little old lady straightened herself.  There came a hardening of the
thin, firm mouth.

"And those that have gone before?" she demanded.  "Those that have won
the ground from where we are fighting.  Had they no need of patience?  Was
the cry never wrung from their lips: 'How long, oh Lord, how long?'  Is
it for us to lay aside the sword that they bequeath us because we cannot
hope any more than they to see the far-off victory?  Fifty years I have
fought, and what, a few years hence, will my closing eyes still see but
the banners of the foe still waving, fresh armies pouring to his
standard?"

She flung back her head and the grim mouth broke into a smile.

"But I've won," she said.  "I'm dying further forward.  I've helped
advance the line."

She put out her hands and drew Joan to her.

"Let me think of you," she said, "as taking my place, pushing the
outposts a little further on."

Joan did not meet Hilda again till the child had grown into a
woman--practically speaking.  She had always been years older than her
age.  It was at a reception given in the Foreign Office.  Joan's dress
had been trodden on and torn.  She had struggled out of the crowd into an
empty room, and was examining the damage somewhat ruefully, when she
heard a voice behind her, proffering help.  It was a hard, cold voice,
that yet sounded familiar, and she turned.

There was no forgetting those deep, burning eyes, though the face had
changed.  The thin red lips still remained its one touch of colour; but
the unhealthy whiteness of the skin had given place to a delicate pallor;
and the features that had been indistinct had shaped themselves in fine,
firm lines.  It was a beautiful, arresting face, marred only by the
sullen callousness of the dark, clouded eyes.

Joan was glad of the assistance.  Hilda produced pins.

"I always come prepared to these scrimmages," she explained.  "I've got
some Hazeline in my bag.  They haven't kicked you, have they?"

"No," laughed Joan.  "At least, I don't think so."

"They do sometimes," answered Hilda, "if you happen to be in the way,
near the feeding troughs.  If they'd only put all the refreshments into
one room, one could avoid it.  But they will scatter them about so that
one never knows for certain whether one is in the danger zone or not.  I
hate a mob."

"Why do you come?" asked Joan.

"Oh, I!" answered the girl.  "I go everywhere where there's a chance of
picking up a swell husband.  They've got to come to these shows, they
can't help themselves.  One never knows what incident may give one one's
opportunity."

Joan shot a glance.  The girl was evidently serious.

"You think it would prove a useful alliance?" she suggested.

"It would help, undoubtedly," the girl answered.  "I don't see any other
way of getting hold of them."

Joan seated herself on one of the chairs ranged round the walls, and drew
the girl down beside her.  Through the closed door, the mingled voices of
the Foreign Secretary's guests sounded curiously like the buzzing of
flies.

"It's quite easy," said Joan, "with your beauty.  Especially if you're
not going to be particular.  But isn't there danger of your devotion to
your father leading you too far?  A marriage founded on a lie--no matter
for what purpose!--mustn't it degrade a woman--smirch her soul for all
time?  We have a right to give up the things that belong to ourselves,
but not the things that belong to God: our truth, our sincerity, our
cleanliness of mind and body; the things that He may one day want of us.
It led you into evil once before.  Don't think I'm judging you.  I was no
better than you.  I argued just as you must have done.  Something stopped
me just in time.  That was the only difference between us."

The girl turned her dark eyes full upon Joan.  "What did stop you?" she
demanded.

"Does it matter what we call it?" answered Joan.  "It was a voice."

"It told me to do it," answered the girl.

"Did no other voice speak to you?" asked Joan.

"Yes," answered the girl.  "The voice of weakness."

There came a fierce anger into the dark eyes.  "Why did you listen to
it?" she demanded.  "All would have been easy if you hadn't."

"You mean," answered Joan quietly, "that if I had let your mother die and
had married your father, that he and I would have loved each other to the
end; that I should have helped him and encouraged him in all things, so
that his success would have been certain.  Is that the argument?"

"Didn't you love him?" asked the girl, staring.  "Wouldn't you have
helped him?"

"I can't tell," answered Joan.  "I should have meant to.  Many men and
women have loved, and have meant to help each other all their lives; and
with the years have drifted asunder; coming even to be against one
another.  We change and our thoughts change; slight differences of
temperament grow into barriers between us; unguessed antagonisms widen
into gulfs.  Accidents come into our lives.  A friend was telling me the
other day of a woman who practically proposed to and married a musical
genius, purely and solely to be of use to him.  She earned quite a big
income, drawing fashions; and her idea was to relieve him of the
necessity of doing pot-boilers for a living, so that he might devote his
whole time to his real work.  And a few weeks after they were married she
ran the point of a lead pencil through her eye and it set up inflammation
of her brain.  And now all the poor fellow has to think of is how to make
enough to pay for her keep at a private lunatic asylum.  I don't mean to
be flippant.  It's the very absurdity of it all that makes the mystery of
life--that renders it so hopeless for us to attempt to find our way
through it by our own judgment.  It is like the ants making all their
clever, laborious plans, knowing nothing of chickens and the gardener's
spade.  That is why we have to cling to the life we can order for
ourselves--the life within us.  Truth, Justice, Pity.  They are the
strong things, the eternal things, the things we've got to sacrifice
ourselves for--serve with our bodies and our souls.

"Don't think me a prig," she pleaded.  "I'm talking as if I knew all
about it.  I don't really.  I grope in the dark; and now and then--at
least so it seems to me--I catch a glint of light.  We are powerless in
ourselves.  It is only God working through us that enables us to be of
any use.  All we can do is to keep ourselves kind and clean and free from
self, waiting for Him to come to us."

The girl rose.  "I must be getting back," she said.  "Dad will be
wondering where I've got to."

She paused with the door in her hand, and a faint smile played round the
thin red lips.

"Tell me," she said.  "What is God?"

"A Labourer, together with man, according to Saint Paul," Joan answered.

The girl turned and went.  Joan watched her as she descended the great
staircase.  She moved with a curious, gliding motion, pausing at times
for the people to make way for her.



CHAPTER XVI


It was a summer's evening; Joan had dropped in at the Greysons and had
found Mary alone, Francis not having yet returned from a bachelor dinner
at his uncle's, who was some big pot in the Navy.  They sat in the
twilight, facing the open French windows, through which one caught a
glimpse of the park.  A great stillness seemed to be around them.

The sale and purchase of the _Evening Gazette_ had been completed a few
days before.  Greyson had been offered the alternative of gradually and
gracefully changing his opinions, or getting out; and had, of course,
chosen dismissal.  He was taking a holiday, as Mary explained with a
short laugh.

"He had some shares in it himself, hadn't he?" Joan asked.

"Oh, just enough to be of no use," Mary answered.  "Carleton was rather
decent, so far as that part of it was concerned, and insisted on paying
him a fair price.  The market value would have been much less; and he
wanted to be out of it."

Joan remained silent.  It made her mad, that a man could be suddenly
robbed of fifteen years' labour: the weapon that his heart and brain had
made keen wrested from his hand by a legal process, and turned against
the very principles for which all his life he had been fighting.

"I'm almost more sorry for myself than for him," said Mary, making a
whimsical grimace.  "He will start something else, so soon as he's got
over his first soreness; but I'm too old to dream of another child."

He came in a little later and, seating himself between them, filled and
lighted his pipe.  Looking back, Joan remembered that curiously none of
them had spoken.  Mary had turned at the sound of his key in the door.
She seemed to be watching him intently; but it was too dark to notice her
expression.  He pulled at his pipe till it was well alight and then
removed it.

"It's war," he said.

The words made no immediate impression upon Joan.  There had been
rumours, threatenings and alarms, newspaper talk.  But so there had been
before.  It would come one day: the world war that one felt was gathering
in the air; that would burst like a second deluge on the nations.  But it
would not be in our time: it was too big.  A way out would be found.

"Is there no hope?" asked Mary.

"Yes," he answered.  "The hope that a miracle may happen.  The Navy's got
its orders."

And suddenly--as years before in a Paris music hall--there leapt to life
within Joan's brain a little impish creature that took possession of her.
She hoped the miracle would not happen.  The little impish creature
within her brain was marching up and down beating a drum.  She wished he
would stop a minute.  Someone was trying to talk to her, telling her she
ought to be tremendously shocked and grieved.  He--or she, or whatever it
was that was trying to talk to her, appeared concerned about Reason and
Pity and Universal Brotherhood and Civilization's clock--things like
that.  But the little impish drummer was making such a din, she couldn't
properly hear.  Later on, perhaps, he would get tired; and then she would
be able to listen to this humane and sensible person, whoever it might
be.

Mary argued that England could and should keep out of it; but Greyson was
convinced it would be impossible, not to say dishonourable: a sentiment
that won the enthusiastic approval of the little drummer in Joan's brain.
He played "Rule Britannia" and "God Save the King," the "Marseillaise"
and the Russian National hymn, all at the same time.  He would have
included "Deutschland uber Alles," if Joan hadn't made a supreme effort
and stopped him.  Evidently a sporting little devil.  He took himself off
into a corner after a time, where he played quietly to himself; and Joan
was able to join in the conversation.

Greyson spoke with an enthusiasm that was unusual to him.  So many of our
wars had been mean wars--wars for the wrong; sordid wars for territory,
for gold mines; wars against the weak at the bidding of our traders, our
financiers.  "Shouldering the white man's burden," we called it.  Wars
for the right of selling opium; wars to perpetuate the vile rule of the
Turk because it happened to serve our commercial interests.  This time,
we were out to play the knight; to save the smaller peoples; to rescue
our once "sweet enemy," fair France.  Russia was the disturbing thought.
It somewhat discounted the knight-errant idea, riding stirrup to stirrup
beside that barbarian horseman.  But there were possibilities about
Russia.  Idealism lay hid within that sleeping brain.  It would be a holy
war for the Kingdom of the Peoples.  With Germany freed from the monster
of blood and iron that was crushing out her soul, with Russia awakened to
life, we would build the United States of Europe.  Even his voice was
changed.  Joan could almost fancy it was some excited schoolboy that was
talking.

Mary had been clasping and unclasping her hands, a habit of hers when
troubled.  Could good ever come out of evil?  That was her doubt.  Did
war ever do anything but sow the seeds of future violence; substitute one
injustice for another; change wrong for wrong.  Did it ever do anything
but add to the world's sum of evil, making God's task the heavier?

Suddenly, while speaking, she fell into a passionate fit of weeping.  She
went on through her tears:

"It will be terrible," she said.  "It will last longer than you say.
Every nation will be drawn into it.  There will be no voice left to speak
for reason.  Every day we shall grow more brutalized, more pitiless.  It
will degrade us, crush the soul out of us.  Blood and iron!  It will
become our God too: the God of all the world.  You say we are going into
it with clean hands, this time.  How long will they keep clean?  The
people who only live for making money: how long do you think they will
remain silent?  What has been all the talk of the last ten years but of
capturing German trade.  We shall be told that we owe it to our dead to
make a profit out of them; that otherwise they will have died in vain.
Who will care for the people but to use them for killing one another--to
hound them on like dogs.  In every country nothing but greed and hatred
will be preached.  Horrible men and women will write to the papers crying
out for more blood, more cruelty.  Everything that can make for anger and
revenge will be screamed from every newspaper.  Every plea for humanity
will be jeered at as 'sickly sentimentality.'  Every man and woman who
remembers the ideals with which we started will be shrieked at as a
traitor.  The people who are doing well out of it, they will get hold of
the Press, appeal to the passions of the mob.  Nobody else will be
allowed to speak.  It always has been so in war.  It always will be.  This
will be no exception merely because it's bigger.  Every country will be
given over to savagery.  There will be no appeal against it.  The whole
world will sink back into the beast."

She ended by rising abruptly and wishing them good-night.  Her outburst
had silenced Joan's impish drummer, for the time.  He appeared to be
nervous and depressed, but bucked up again on the way to the bus.  Greyson
walked with her as usual.  They took the long way round by the outer
circle.

"Poor Mary!" he said.  "I should not have talked before her if I had
thought.  Her horror of war is almost physical.  She will not even read
about them.  It has the same effect upon her as stories of cruelty."

"But there's truth in a good deal that she says," he added.  "War can
bring out all that is best in a people; but also it brings out the worst.
We shall have to take care that the ideals are not lost sight of."

"I wish this wretched business of the paper hadn't come just at this
time," said Joan: "just when your voice is most needed.

"Couldn't you get enough money together to start something quickly," she
continued, the idea suddenly coming to her.  "I think I could help you.
It wouldn't matter its being something small to begin with.  So long as
it was entirely your own, and couldn't be taken away from you.  You'd
soon work it up."

"Thanks," he answered.  "I may ask you to later on.  But just now--"  He
paused.

Of course.  For war you wanted men, to fight.  She had been thinking of
them in the lump: hurrying masses such as one sees on cinema screens,
blurred but picturesque.  Of course, when you came to think of it, they
would have to be made up of individuals--gallant-hearted, boyish sort of
men who would pass through doors, one at a time, into little rooms; give
their name and address to a soldier man seated at a big deal table.  Later
on, one would say good-bye to them on crowded platforms, wave a
handkerchief.  Not all of them would come back.  "You can't make
omelettes without breaking eggs," she told herself.

It annoyed her, that silly saying having come into her mind.  She could
see them lying there, with their white faces to the night.  Surely she
might have thought of some remark less idiotic to make to herself, at
such a time.

He was explaining to her things about the air service.  It seemed he had
had experience in flying--some relation of his with whom he had spent a
holiday last summer.

It would mean his getting out quickly.  He seemed quite eager to be gone.

"Isn't it rather dangerous work?" she asked.  She felt it was a footling
question even as she asked it.  Her brain had become stodgy.

"Nothing like as dangerous as being in the Infantry," he answered.  "And
that would be my only other alternative.  Besides I get out of the
drilling."  He laughed.  "I should hate being shouted at and ordered
about by a husky old sergeant."

They neither spoke again till they came to the bridge, from the other
side of which the busses started.

"I may not see you again before I go," he said.  "Look after Mary.  I
shall try to persuade her to go down to her aunt in Hampshire.  It's
rather a bit of luck, as it turns out, the paper being finished with.  I
shouldn't have quite known what to do."

He had stopped at the corner.  They were still beneath the shadow of the
trees.  Quite unconsciously she put her face up; and as if it had always
been the custom at their partings, he drew her to him and kissed her;
though it really was for the first time.

She walked home instead of taking the bus.  She wanted to think.  A day
or two would decide the question.  She determined that if the miracle did
not happen, she would go down to Liverpool.  Her father was on the
committee of one of the great hospitals; and she knew one or two of the
matrons.  She would want to be doing something--to get out to the front,
if possible.  Maybe, her desire to serve was not altogether free from
curiosity--from the craving for adventure.  There's a spice of the man
even in the best of women.

Her conscience plagued her when she thought of Mrs. Denton.  For some
time now, they had been very close together; and the old lady had come to
depend upon her.  She waited till all doubt was ended before calling to
say good-bye.  Mrs. Denton was seated before an old bureau that had long
stood locked in a corner of the library.  The drawers were open and books
and papers were scattered about.

Joan told her plans.  "You'll be able to get along without me for a
little while?" she asked doubtfully.

Mrs. Denton laughed.  "I haven't much more to do," she answered.  "Just
tidying up, as you see; and two or three half-finished things I shall try
to complete.  After that, I'll perhaps take a rest."

She took from among the litter a faded photograph and handed it to Joan.
"Odd," she said.  "I've just turned it out."

It represented a long, thin line of eminently respectable ladies and
gentlemen in early Victorian costume.  The men in peg-top trousers and
silk stocks, the women in crinolines and poke bonnets.  Among them,
holding the hand of a benevolent-looking, stoutish gentleman, was a mere
girl.  The terminating frills of a white unmentionable garment showed
beneath her skirts.  She wore a porkpie hat with a feather in it.

"My first public appearance," explained Mrs. Denton.  "I teased my father
into taking me with him.  We represented Great Britain and Ireland.  I
suppose I'm the only one left."

"I shouldn't have recognized you," laughed Joan.  "What was the
occasion?"

"The great International Peace Congress at Paris," explained Mrs. Denton;
"just after the Crimean war.  It made quite a stir at the time.  The
Emperor opened our proceedings in person, and the Pope and the Archbishop
of Canterbury both sent us their blessing.  We had a copy of the speeches
presented to us on leaving, in every known language in Europe, bound in
vellum.  I'm hoping to find it.  And the Press was enthusiastic.  There
were to be Acts of Parliament, Courts of Arbitration, International Laws,
Diplomatic Treaties.  A Sub-Committee was appointed to prepare a special
set of prayers and a Palace of Peace was to be erected.  There was only
one thing we forgot, and that was the foundation."

"I may not be here," she continued, "when the new plans are submitted.
Tell them not to forget the foundation this time.  Tell them to teach the
children."

Joan dined at a popular restaurant that evening.  She fancied it might
cheer her up.  But the noisy patriotism of the over-fed crowd only
irritated her.  These elderly, flabby men, these fleshy women, who would
form the spectators, who would loll on their cushioned seats protected
from the sun, munching contentedly from their well-provided baskets while
listening to the dying groans rising upwards from the drenched arena.  She
glanced from one podgy thumb to another and a feeling of nausea crept
over her.

Suddenly the band struck up "God Save the King."  Three commonplace
enough young men, seated at a table near to her, laid down their napkins
and stood up.  Yes, there was something to be said for war, she felt, as
she looked at their boyish faces, transfigured.  Not for them Business as
usual, the Capture of German Trade.  Other visions those young eyes were
seeing.  The little imp within her brain had seized his drum again.
"Follow me"--so he seemed to beat--"I teach men courage, duty, the laying
down of self.  I open the gates of honour.  I make heroes out of dust.
Isn't it worth my price?"

A figure was loitering the other side of the street when she reached
home.  She thought she somehow recognized it, and crossed over.  It was
McKean, smoking his everlasting pipe.  Success having demanded some such
change, he had migrated to "The Albany," and she had not seen him for
some time.  He had come to have a last look at the house--in case it
might happen to be the last.  He was off to Scotland the next morning,
where he intended to "join up."

"But are you sure it's your particular duty?" suggested Joan.  "I'm told
you've become a household word both in Germany and France.  If we really
are out to end war and establish the brotherhood of nations, the work you
are doing is of more importance than even the killing of Germans.  It
isn't as if there wouldn't be enough without you."

"To tell the truth," he answered, "that's exactly what I've been saying
to myself.  I shan't be any good.  I don't see myself sticking a bayonet
into even a German.  Unless he happened to be abnormally clumsy.  I tried
to shoot a rabbit once.  I might have done it if the little beggar,
instead of running away, hadn't turned and looked at me."

"I should keep out of it if I were you," laughed Joan.

"I can't," he answered.  "I'm too great a coward."

"An odd reason for enlisting," thought Joan.

"I couldn't face it," he went on; "the way people would be looking at me
in trains and omnibuses; the things people would say of me, the things I
should imagine they were saying; what my valet would be thinking of me.
Oh, I'm ashamed enough of myself.  It's the artistic temperament, I
suppose.  We must always be admired, praised.  We're not the stuff that
martyrs are made of.  We must for ever be kow-towing to the cackling
geese around us.  We're so terrified lest they should hiss us."

The street was empty.  They were pacing it slowly, up and down.

"I've always been a coward," he continued.  "I fell in love with you the
first day I met you on the stairs.  But I dared not tell you."

"You didn't give me that impression," answered Joan.

She had always found it difficult to know when to take him seriously and
when not.

"I was so afraid you would find it out," he explained.

"You thought I would take advantage of it," she suggested.

"One can never be sure of a woman," he answered.  "And it would have been
so difficult.  There was a girl down in Scotland, one of the village
girls.  It wasn't anything really.  We had just been children together.
But they all thought I had gone away to make my fortune so as to come
back and marry her--even my mother.  It would have looked so mean if
after getting on I had married a fine London lady.  I could never have
gone home again."

"But you haven't married her--or have you?" asked Joan.

"No," he answered.  "She wrote me a beautiful letter that I shall always
keep, begging me to forgive her, and hoping I might be happy.  She had
married a young farmer, and was going out to Canada.  My mother will
never allow her name to be mentioned in our house."

They had reached the end of the street again.  Joan held out her hand
with a laugh.

"Thanks for the compliment," she said.  "Though I notice you wait till
you're going away before telling me."

"But quite seriously," she added, "give it a little more thought--the
enlisting, I mean.  The world isn't too rich in kind influences.  It
needs men like you.  Come, pull yourself together and show a little
pluck."  She laughed.

"I'll try," he promised, "but it won't be any use; I shall drift about
the streets, seeking to put heart into myself, but all the while my
footsteps will be bearing me nearer and nearer to the recruiting office;
and outside the door some girl in the crowd will smile approval or some
old fool will pat me on the shoulder and I shall sneak in and it will
close behind me.  It must be fine to have courage."

He wrote her two days later from Ayr, giving her the name of his
regiment, and again some six months later from Flanders.  But there would
have been no sense in her replying to that last.

She lingered in the street by herself, a little time, after he had turned
the corner.  It had been a house of sorrow and disappointment to her; but
so also she had dreamed her dreams there, seen her visions.  She had
never made much headway with her landlord and her landlady: a worthy
couple, who had proved most excellent servants, but who prided
themselves, to use their own expression, on knowing their place and
keeping themselves to themselves.  Joan had given them notice that
morning, and had been surprised at the woman's bursting into tears.

"I felt it just the same when young Mr. McKean left us," she explained
with apologies.  "He had been with us five years.  He was like you, miss,
so unpracticable.  I'd got used to looking after him."

Mary Greyson called on her in the morning, while she was still at
breakfast.  She had come from seeing Francis off by an early train from
Euston.  He had sent Joan a ring.

"He is so afraid you may not be able to wear it--that it will not fit
you," said Mary, "but I told him I was sure it would."

Joan held our her hand for the letter.  "I was afraid he had forgotten
it," she answered, with a smile.

She placed the ring on her finger and held out her hand.  "I might have
been measured for it," she said.  "I wonder how he knew."

"You left a glove behind you, the first day you ever came to our house,"
Mary explained.  "And I kept it."

She was following his wishes and going down into the country.  They did
not meet again until after the war.

Madge dropped in on her during the week and brought Flossie with her.
Flossie's husband, Sam, had departed for the Navy; and Niel Singleton,
who had offered and been rejected for the Army, had joined a Red Cross
unit.  Madge herself was taking up canteen work.  Joan rather expected
Flossie to be in favour of the war, and Madge against it.  Instead of
which, it turned out the other way round.  It seemed difficult to
forecast opinion in this matter.

Madge thought that England, in particular, had been too much given up to
luxury and pleasure.  There had been too much idleness and empty
laughter: Hitchicoo dances and women undressing themselves upon the
stage.  Even the working classes seemed to think of nothing else but
cinemas and beer.  She dreamed of a United Kingdom purified by suffering,
cleansed by tears; its people drawn together by memory of common
sacrifice; class antagonism buried in the grave where Duke's son and
cook's son would lie side by side: of a new-born Europe rising from the
ashes of the old.  With Germany beaten, her lust of war burnt out, her
hideous doctrine of Force proved to be false, the world would breathe a
freer air.  Passion and hatred would fall from man's eyes.  The people
would see one another and join hands.

Flossie was sceptical.  "Why hasn't it done it before?" she wanted to
know.  "Good Lord!  There's been enough of it."

"Why didn't we all kiss and be friends after the Napoleonic wars?" she
demanded, "instead of getting up Peterloo massacres, and anti-Corn Law
riots, and breaking the Duke of Wellington's windows?"

"All this talk of downing Militarism," she continued.  "It's like trying
to do away with the other sort of disorderly house.  You don't stamp out
a vice by chivying it round the corner.  When men and women have become
decent there will be no more disorderly houses.  But it won't come
before.  Suppose we do knock Militarism out of Germany, like we did out
of France, not so very long ago?  It will only slip round the corner into
Russia or Japan.  Come and settle over here, as likely as not, especially
if we have a few victories and get to fancy ourselves."

Madge was of opinion that the world would have had enough of war.  Not
armies but whole peoples would be involved this time.  The lesson would
be driven home.

"Oh, yes, we shall have had enough of it," agreed Flossie, "by the time
we've paid up.  There's no doubt of that.  What about our children?  I've
just left young Frank strutting all over the house and flourishing a
paper knife.  And the servants have had to bar the kitchen door to
prevent his bursting in every five minutes and attacking them.  What's he
going to say when I tell him, later on, that his father and myself have
had all the war we want, and have decided there shall be no more?  The
old folks have had their fun.  Why shouldn't I have mine?  That will be
his argument."

"You can't do it," she concluded, "unless you are prepared to keep half
the world's literature away from the children, scrap half your music,
edit your museums and your picture galleries; bowdlerize your Old
Testament and rewrite your histories.  And then you'll have to be careful
for twenty-four hours a day that they never see a dog-fight."

Madge still held to her hope.  God would make a wind of reason to pass
over the earth.  He would not smite again his people.

"I wish poor dear Sam could have been kept out of it," said Flossie.  She
wiped her eyes and finished her tea.

Joan had arranged to leave on the Monday.  She ran down to see Mary
Stopperton on the Saturday afternoon.  Mr. Stopperton had died the year
before, and Mary had been a little hurt, divining insincerity in the
condolences offered to her by most of her friends.

"You didn't know him, dear," she had said to Joan.  "All his faults were
on the outside."

She did not want to talk about the war.

"Perhaps it's wrong of me," she said.  "But it makes me so sad.  And I
can do nothing."

She had been busy at her machine when Joan had entered; and a pile of
delicate white work lay folded on a chair beside her.

"What are you making?" asked Joan.

The little withered face lighted up.  "Guess," she said, as she unfolded
and displayed a tiny garment.

"I so love making them," she said.  "I say to myself, 'It will all come
right.  God will send more and more of His Christ babies; till at last
there will be thousands and thousands of them everywhere; and their love
will change the world!'"

Her bright eyes had caught sight of the ring upon Joan's hand.  She
touched it with her little fragile fingers.

"You will let me make one for you, dearie, won't you?" she said.  "I feel
sure it will be a little Christ baby."

Arthur was still away when she arrived home.  He had gone to Norway on
business.  Her father was afraid he would find it difficult to get back.
Telegraphic communication had been stopped, and they had had no news of
him.  Her father was worried.  A big Government contract had come in,
while many of his best men had left to enlist.

"I've fixed you up all right at the hospital," he said.  "It was good of
you to think of coming home.  Don't go away, for a bit."  It was the
first time he had asked anything of her.

Another fortnight passed before they heard from Arthur, and then he wrote
them both from Hull.  He would be somewhere in the North Sea, mine
sweeping, when they read his letters.  He had hoped to get a day or two
to run across and say good-bye; but the need for men was pressing and he
had not liked to plead excuses.  The boat by which he had managed to
leave Bergen had gone down.  He and a few others had been picked up, but
the sights that he had seen were haunting him.  He felt sure his uncle
would agree that he ought to be helping, and this was work for England he
could do with all his heart.  He hoped he was not leaving his uncle in
the lurch; but he did not think the war would last long, and he would
soon be back.

"Dear lad," said her father, "he would take the most dangerous work that
he could find.  But I wish he hadn't been quite so impulsive.  He could
have been of more use helping me with this War Office contract.  I
suppose he never got my letter, telling him about it."

In his letter to Joan he went further.  He had received his uncle's
letter, so he confided to her.  Perhaps she would think him a crank, but
he couldn't help it.  He hated this killing business, this making of
machinery for slaughtering men in bulk, like they killed pigs in Chicago.
Out on the free, sweet sea, helping to keep it clean from man's
abominations, he would be away from it all.

She saw the vision of him that night, as, leaning from her window, she
looked out beyond the pines: the little lonely ship amid the waste of
waters; his beautiful, almost womanish, face, and the gentle dreamy eyes
with their haunting suggestion of a shadow.

Her little drummer played less and less frequently to her as the months
passed by.  It didn't seem to be the war he had looked forward to.  The
illustrated papers continued to picture it as a sort of glorified picnic
where smiling young men lolled luxuriously in cosy dug-outs, reading
their favourite paper.  By curious coincidence, it generally happened to
be the journal publishing the photograph.  Occasionally, it appeared,
they came across the enemy, who then put up both hands and shouted
"Kamerad."  But the weary, wounded men she talked to told another story.

She grew impatient of the fighters with their mouths; the savage old
baldheads heroically prepared to sacrifice the last young man; the sleek,
purring women who talked childish nonsense about killing every man, woman
and child in Germany, but quite meant it; the shrieking journalists who
had decided that their place was the home front; the press-spurred mobs,
the spy hunters, chasing terrified old men and sobbing children through
the streets.  It was a relief to enter the quiet ward and close the door
behind her.  The camp-followers: the traders and pedlars, the
balladmongers, and the mountebanks, the ghoulish sightseers!  War brought
out all that was worst in them.  But the givers of their blood, the lads
who suffered, who had made the sacrifice: war had taught them chivalry,
manhood.  She heard no revilings of hatred and revenge from those drawn
lips.  Patience, humour, forgiveness, they had learnt from war.  They
told her kindly stories even of Hans and Fritz.

The little drummer in her brain would creep out of his corner, play to
her softly while she moved about among them.

One day she received a letter from Folk.  He had come to London at the
request of the French Government to consult with English artists on a
matter he must not mention.  He would not have the time, he told her, to
run down to Liverpool.  Could she get a couple of days' leave and dine
with him in London.

She found him in the uniform of a French Colonel.  He had quite a
military bearing and seemed pleased with himself.  He kissed her hand,
and then held her out at arms' length.

"It's wonderful how like you are to your mother," he said, "I wish I were
as young as I feel."

She had written him at the beginning of the war, telling him of her wish
to get out to the front, and he thought that now he might be able to help
her.

"But perhaps you've changed your mind," he said.  "It isn't quite as
pretty as it's painted."

"I want to," she answered.  "It isn't all curiosity.  I think it's time
for women to insist on seeing war with their own eyes, not trust any
longer to the pictures you men paint."  She smiled.

"But I've got to give it up," she added.  "I can't leave Dad."

They were sitting in the hall of the hotel.  It was the dressing hour and
the place was almost empty.  He shot a swift glance at her.

"Arthur is still away," she explained, "and I feel that he wants me.  I
should be worrying myself, thinking of him all alone with no one to look
after him.  It's the mother instinct I suppose.  It always has hampered
woman."  She laughed.

"Dear old boy," he said.  He was watching her with a little smile.  "I'm
glad he's got some luck at last."

They dined in the great restaurant belonging to the hotel.  He was still
vastly pleased with himself as he marched up the crowded room with Joan
upon his arm.  He held himself upright and talked and laughed perhaps
louder than an elderly gentleman should.  "Swaggering old beggar," he
must have overheard a young sub. mutter as they passed.  But he did not
seem to mind it.

They lingered over the meal.  Folk was a brilliant talker.  Most of the
men whose names were filling the newspapers had sat to him at one time or
another.  He made them seem quite human.  Joan was surprised at the time.

"Come up to my rooms, will you?" he asked.  "There's something I want to
say to you.  And then I'll walk back with you."  She was staying at a
small hotel off Jermyn Street.

He sat her down by the fire and went into the next room.  He had a letter
in his hand when he returned.  Joan noticed that the envelope was written
upon across the corner, but she was not near enough to distinguish the
handwriting.  He placed it on the mantelpiece and sat down opposite her.

"So you have come to love the dear old chap," he said.

"I have always loved him," Joan answered.  "It was he didn't love me, for
a time, as I thought.  But I know now that he does."

He was silent for a few moments, and then he leant across and took her
hands in his.

"I am going," he said, "where there is just the possibility of an
accident: one never knows.  I wanted to be sure that all was well with
you."

He was looking at the ring upon her hand.

"A soldier boy?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered.  "If he comes back."  There was a little catch in
her voice.

"I know he'll come back," he said.  "I won't tell you why I am so sure.
Perhaps you wouldn't believe."  He was still holding her hands, looking
into her eyes.

"Tell me," he said, "did you see your mother before she died.  Did she
speak to you?"

"No," Joan answered.  "I was too late.  She had died the night before.  I
hardly recognized her when I saw her.  She looked so sweet and young."

"She loved you very dearly," he said.  "Better than herself.  All those
years of sorrow: they came to her because of that.  I thought it foolish
of her at the time, but now I know she was wise.  I want you always to
love and honour her.  I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't right."

She looked at him and smiled.  "It's quite easy," she answered.  "I
always see her as she lay there with all the sorrow gone from her.  She
looked so beautiful and kind."

He rose and took the letter from where he had placed it on the
mantelpiece.  He stooped and held it out above the fire and a little
flame leaped up and seemed to take it from his hand.

They neither spoke during the short walk between the two hotels.  But at
the door she turned and held out her hands to him.

"Thank you," she said, "for being so kind--and wise.  I shall always love
and honour her."

He kissed her, promising to take care of himself.

She ran against Phillips, the next day, at one of the big stores where
she was shopping.  He had obtained a commission early in the war and was
now a captain.  He had just come back from the front on leave.  The
alternative had not appealed to him, of being one of those responsible
for sending other men to death while remaining himself in security and
comfort.

"It's a matter of temperament," he said.  "Somebody's got to stop behind
and do the patriotic speechifying.  I'm glad I didn't.  Especially after
what I've seen."

He had lost interest in politics.

"There's something bigger coming," he said.  "Here everything seems to be
going on much the same, but over there you feel it.  Something growing
silently out of all this blood and mud.  I find myself wondering what the
men are staring at, but when I look there's nothing as far as my field-
glasses will reach but waste and desolation.  And it isn't only on the
faces of our own men.  It's in the eyes of the prisoners too.  As if they
saw something.  A funny ending to the war, if the people began to think."

Mrs. Phillips was running a Convalescent Home in Folkestone, he told her;
and had even made a speech.  Hilda was doing relief work among the ruined
villages of France.

"It's a new world we shall be called upon to build," he said.  "We must
pay more heed to the foundation this time."

She seldom discussed the war with her father.  At the beginning, he had
dreamed with Greyson of a short and glorious campaign that should weld
all classes together, and after which we should forgive our enemies and
shape with them a better world.  But as the months went by, he appeared
to grow indifferent; and Joan, who got about twelve hours a day of it
outside, welcomed other subjects.

It surprised her when one evening after dinner he introduced it himself.

"What are you going to do when it's over?" he asked her.  "You won't give
up the fight, will you, whatever happens?"  She had not known till then
that he had been taking any interest in her work.

"No," she answered with a laugh, "no matter what happens, I shall always
want to be in it."

"Good lad," he said, patting her on the shoulder.  "It will be an ugly
world that will come out of all this hate and anger.  The Lord will want
all the help that He can get."

"And you don't forget our compact, do you?" he continued, "that I am to
be your backer.  I want to be in it too."

She shot a glance at him.  He was looking at the portrait of that old
Ironside Allway who had fought and died to make a nobler England, as he
had dreamed.  A grim, unprepossessing gentleman, unless the artist had
done him much injustice, with high, narrow forehead, and puzzled, staring
eyes.

She took the cigarette from her lips and her voice trembled a little.

"I want you to be something more to me than that, sir," she said.  "I
want to feel that I'm an Allway, fighting for the things we've always had
at heart.  I'll try and be worthy of the name."

Her hand stole out to him across the table, but she kept her face away
from him.  Until she felt his grasp grow tight, and then she turned and
their eyes met.

"You'll be the last of the name," he said.  "Something tells me that.  I'm
glad you're a fighter.  I always prayed my child might be a fighter."

Arthur had not been home since the beginning of the war.  Twice he had
written them to expect him, but the little fleet of mine sweepers had
been hard pressed, and on both occasions his leave had been stopped at
the last moment.  One afternoon he turned up unexpectedly at the
hospital.  It was a few weeks after the Conscription Act had been passed.

Joan took him into her room at the end of the ward, from where, through
the open door, she could still keep watch.  They spoke in low tones.

"It's done you good," said Joan.  "You look every inch the jolly Jack
Tar."  He was hard and tanned, and his eyes were marvellously bright.

"Yes," he said, "I love the sea.  It's clean and strong."

A fear was creeping over her.  "Why have you come back?" she asked.

He hesitated, keeping his eyes upon the ground.

"I don't suppose you will agree with me," he said.  "Somehow I felt I had
to."

A Conscientious Objector.  She might have guessed it.  A "Conchy," as
they would call him in the Press: all the spiteful screamers who had
never risked a scratch, themselves, denouncing him as a coward.  The
local Dogberrys of the tribunals would fire off their little stock of
gibes and platitudes upon him, propound with owlish solemnity the new
Christianity, abuse him and condemn him, without listening to him.
Jeering mobs would follow him through the streets.  More than once, of
late, she had encountered such crowds made up of shrieking girls and foul-
mouthed men, surging round some white-faced youngster while the
well-dressed passers-by looked on and grinned.

She came to him and stood over him with her hands upon his shoulders.

"Must you, dear?" she said.  "Can't you reconcile it to yourself--to go
on with your work of mercy, of saving poor folks' lives?"

He raised his eyes to hers.  The shadow that, to her fancy, had always
rested there seemed to have departed.  A light had come to them.

"There are more important things than saving men's bodies.  You think
that, don't you?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered.  "I won't try to hold you back, dear, if you think
you can do that."

He caught her hands and held them.

"I wanted to be a coward," he said, "to keep out of the fight.  I thought
of the shame, of the petty persecutions--that even you might despise me.
But I couldn't.  I was always seeing His face before me with His
beautiful tender eyes, and the blood drops on His brow.  It is He alone
can save the world.  It is perishing for want of love; and by a little
suffering I might be able to help Him.  And then one night--I suppose it
was a piece of driftwood--there rose up out of the sea a little cross
that seemed to call to me to stretch out my hand and grasp it, and gird
it to my side."

He had risen.  "Don't you see," he said.  "It is only by suffering that
one can help Him.  It is the sword that He has chosen--by which one day
He will conquer the world.  And this is such a splendid opportunity to
fight for Him.  It would be like deserting Him on the eve of a great
battle."

She looked into his eager, hopeful eyes.  Yes, it had always been so--it
always would be, to the end.  Not priests and prophets, but ever that
little scattered band of glad sufferers for His sake would be His army.
His weapon still the cross, till the victory should be won.

She glanced through the open door to where the poor, broken fellows she
always thought of as "her boys" lay so patient, and then held out her
hand to him with a smile, though the tears were in her eyes.

"So you're like all the rest of them, lad," she said.  "It's for King and
country.  Good luck to you."

After the war was over and the men, released from their long terms of
solitary confinement, came back to life injured in mind and body, she was
almost glad he had escaped.  But at the time it filled her soul with
darkness.

It was one noonday.  He had been down to the tribunal and his case had
been again adjourned.  She was returning from a lecture, and, crossing a
street in the neighbourhood of the docks, found herself suddenly faced by
an oncoming crowd.  It was yelping and snarling, curiously suggestive of
a pack of hungry wolves.  A couple of young soldiers were standing back
against a wall.

"Better not go on, nurse," said one of them.  "It's some poor devil of a
Conchy, I expect.  Must have a damned sight more pluck than I should."

It was the fear that had been haunting her.  She did not know how white
she had turned.

"I think it is someone I know," she said.  "Won't you help me?"

The crowd gave way to them, and they had all but reached him.  He was
hatless and bespattered, but his tender eyes had neither fear nor anger
in them.  She reached out her arms and called to him.  Another step and
she would have been beside him, but at the moment a slim, laughing girl
darted in front of him and slipped her foot between his legs and he went
down.

She heard the joyous yell and the shrill laughter as she struggled wildly
to force her way to him.  And then for a moment there was a space and a
man with bent body and clenched hands was rushing forward as if upon a
football field, and there came a little sickening thud and then the crowd
closed in again.

Her strength was gone and she could only wait.  More soldiers had come up
and were using their fists freely, and gradually the crowd retired, still
snarling; and they lifted him up and brought him to her.

"There's a chemist's shop in the next street.  We'd better take him
there," suggested the one who had first spoken to her.  And she thanked
them and followed them.

They made a bed for him with their coats upon the floor, and some of them
kept guard outside the shop, while one, putting aside the frightened,
useless little chemist, waited upon her, bringing things needful, while
she cleansed the foulness from his smooth young face, and washed the
matted blood from his fair hair, and closed the lids upon his tender
eyes, and, stooping, kissed the cold, quiet lips.

There had been whispered talk among the men, and when she rose the one
who had first spoken to her came forward.  He was nervous and stood
stiffly.

"Beg pardon, nurse," he said, "but we've sent for a stretcher, as the
police don't seem in any hurry.  Would you like us to take him.  Or would
it upset him, do you think, if he knew?"

"Thank you," she answered.  "He would think it kind of you, I know."

She had the feeling that he was being borne by comrades.



CHAPTER XVII


It was from a small operating hospital in a village of the Argonne that
she first saw the war with her own eyes.

Her father had wished her to go.  Arthur's death had stirred in him the
old Puritan blood with its record of long battle for liberty of
conscience.  If war claimed to be master of a man's soul, then the new
warfare must be against war.  He remembered the saying of a Frenchwoman
who had been through the Franco-Prussian war.  Joan, on her return from
Paris some years before, had told him of her, repeating her words: "But,
of course, it would not do to tell the truth," the old lady had said, "or
we should have our children growing up to hate war."

"I'll be lonely and anxious till you come back," he said.  "But that will
have to be my part of the fight."

She had written to Folk.  No female nurses were supposed to be allowed
within the battle zone; but under pressure of shortage the French staff
were relaxing the rule, and Folk had pledged himself to her discretion.
"I am not doing you any kindness," he had written.  "You will have to
share the common hardships and privations, and the danger is real.  If I
didn't feel instinctively that underneath your mask of sweet
reasonableness you are one of the most obstinate young women God ever
made, and that without me you would probably get yourself into a still
worse hole, I'd have refused."  And then followed a list of the things
she was to be sure to take with her, including a pound or two of
Keating's insect powder, and a hint that it might save her trouble, if
she had her hair cut short.

There was but one other woman at the hospital.  It had been a farmhouse.
The man and both sons had been killed during the first year of the war,
and the woman had asked to be allowed to stay on.  Her name was Madame
Lelanne.  She was useful by reason of her great physical strength.  She
could take up a man as he lay and carry him on her outstretched arms.  It
was an expressionless face, with dull, slow-moving eyes that never
changed.  She and Joan shared a small _grenier_ in one of the barns.  Joan
had brought with her a camp bedstead; but the woman, wrapping a blanket
round her, would creep into a hole she had made for herself among the
hay.  She never took off her clothes, except the great wooden-soled
boots, so far as Joan could discover.

The medical staff consisted of a Dr. Poujoulet and two assistants.  The
authorities were always promising to send him more help, but it never
arrived.  One of the assistants, a Monsieur Dubos, a little man with a
remarkably big beard, was a chemist, who, at the outbreak of the war, had
been on the verge, as he made sure, of an important discovery in
connection with colour photography.  Almost the first question he asked
Joan was could she speak German.  Finding that she could, he had hurried
her across the yard into a small hut where patients who had borne their
operation successfully awaited their turn to be moved down to one of the
convalescent hospitals at the base.  Among them was a German prisoner, an
elderly man, belonging to the Landwehr; in private life a photographer.
He also had been making experiments in the direction of colour
photography.  Chance had revealed to the two men their common interest,
and they had been exchanging notes.  The German talked a little French,
but not sufficient; and on the day of Joan's arrival they had reached an
impasse that was maddening to both of them.  Joan found herself up
against technical terms that rendered her task difficult, but fortunately
had brought a dictionary with her, and was able to make them understand
one another.  But she had to be firm with both of them, allowing them
only ten minutes together at a time.  The little Frenchman would kneel by
the bedside, holding the German at an angle where he could talk with
least danger to his wound.  It seemed that each was the very man the
other had been waiting all his life to meet.  They shed tears on one
another's neck when they parted, making all arrangements to write to one
another.

"And you will come and stay with me," persisted the little Frenchman,
"when this affair is finished"--he made an impatient gesture with his
hands.  "My wife takes much interest.  She will be delighted."

And the big German, again embracing the little Frenchman, had promised,
and had sent his compliments to Madame.

The other was a young priest.  He wore the regulation Red Cross uniform,
but kept his cassock hanging on a peg behind his bed.  He had pretty
frequent occasion to take it down.  These small emergency hospitals,
within range of the guns, were reserved for only dangerous cases: men
whose wounds would not permit of their being carried further; and there
never was much more than a sporting chance of saving them.  They were
always glad to find there was a priest among the staff.  Often it was the
first question they would ask on being lifted out of the ambulance.  Even
those who professed to no religion seemed comforted by the idea.  He went
by the title of "Monsieur le Pretre:" Joan never learned his name.  It
was he who had laid out the little cemetery on the opposite side of the
village street.  It had once been an orchard, and some of the trees were
still standing.  In the centre, rising out of a pile of rockwork, he had
placed a crucifix that had been found upon the roadside and had
surrounded it with flowers.  It formed the one bright spot of colour in
the village; and at night time, when all other sounds were hushed, the
iron wreaths upon its little crosses, swaying against one another in the
wind, would make a low, clear, tinkling music.  Joan would sometimes lie
awake listening to it.  In some way she could not explain it always
brought the thought of children to her mind.

The doctor himself was a broad-shouldered, bullet-headed man, clean
shaven, with close-cropped, bristly hair.  He had curiously square hands,
with short, squat fingers.  He had been head surgeon in one of the Paris
hospitals, and had been assigned his present post because of his
marvellous quickness with the knife.  The hospital was the nearest to a
hill of great strategical importance, and the fighting in the
neighbourhood was almost continuous.  Often a single ambulance would
bring in three or four cases, each one demanding instant attention.  Dr.
Poujoulet, with his hairy arms bare to the shoulder, would polish them
off one after another, with hardly a moment's rest between, not allowing
time even for the washing of the table.  Joan would have to summon all
her nerve to keep herself from collapsing.  At times the need for haste
was such that it was impossible to wait for the anaesthetic to take
effect.  The one redeeming feature was the extraordinary heroism of the
men, though occasionally there was nothing for it but to call in the
orderlies to hold some poor fellow down, and to deafen one's ears.

One day, after a successful operation, she was tending a young sergeant.
He was a well-built, handsome man, with skin as white as a woman's.  He
watched her with curious indifference in his eyes as she busied herself,
trying to make him comfortable, and did nothing to help her.

"Has Mam'selle ever seen a bull fight?" he asked her.

"No," she answered.  "I've seen all the horror and cruelty I want to for
the rest of my life."

"Ah," he said, "you would understand if you had.  When one of the horses
goes down gored, his entrails lying out upon the sand, you know what they
do, don't you?  They put a rope round him, and drag him, groaning, into
the shambles behind.  And once there, kind people like you and Monsieur
le Medecin tend him and wash him, and put his entrails back, and sew him
up again.  He thinks it so kind of them--the first time.  But the second!
He understands.  He will be sent back into the arena to be ripped up
again, and again after that.  This is the third time I have been wounded,
and as soon as you've all patched me up and I've got my breath again,
they'll send me back into it.  Mam'selle will forgive my not feeling
grateful to her."  He gave a short laugh that brought the blood into his
mouth.

The village consisted of one long straggling street, following the course
of a small stream between two lines of hills.  It was on one of the great
lines of communication: and troops and war material passed through it,
going and coming, in almost endless procession.  It served also as a camp
of rest.  Companies from the trenches would arrive there, generally
towards the evening, weary, listless, dull-eyed, many of them staggering
like over-driven cattle beneath their mass of burdens.  They would fling
their accoutrements from them and stand in silent groups till the
sergeants and corporals returned to lead them to the barns and out-houses
that had been assigned to them, the houses still habitable being mostly
reserved for the officers.  Like those of most French villages, they were
drab, plaster-covered buildings without gardens; but some of them were
covered with vines, hiding their ugliness; and the village as a whole,
with its groups, here and there, of fine sycamore trees and its great
stone fountain in the centre, was picturesque enough.  It had twice
changed hands, and a part of it was in ruins.  From one or two of the
more solidly built houses merely the front had fallen, leaving the rooms
just as they had always been: the furniture in its accustomed place, the
pictures on the walls.  They suggested doll's houses standing open.  One
wondered when the giant child would come along and close them up.  The
iron spire of the little church had been hit twice.  It stood above the
village, twisted into the form of a note of interrogation.  In the
churchyard many of the graves had been ripped open.  Bones and skulls lay
scattered about among the shattered tombstones.  But, save for a couple
of holes in the roof, the body was still intact, and every afternoon a
faint, timid-sounding bell called a few villagers and a sprinkling of
soldiers to Mass.  Most of the inhabitants had fled, but the farmers and
shopkeepers had remained.  At intervals, the German batteries, searching
round with apparent aimlessness, would drop a score or so of shells about
the neighbourhood; but the peasant, with an indifference that was almost
animal, would still follow his ox-drawn plough; the old, bent crone,
muttering curses, still ply the hoe.  The proprietors of the tiny
_epiceries_ must have been rapidly making their fortunes, considering the
prices that they charged the unfortunate _poilu_, dreaming of some small
luxury out of his five sous a day.  But as one of them, a stout, smiling
lady, explained to Joan, with a gesture: "It is not often that one has a
war."

Joan had gone out in September, and for a while the weather was pleasant.
The men, wrapped up in their great-coats, would sleep for preference
under the great sycamore trees.  Through open doorways she would catch
glimpses of picturesque groups of eager card-players, crowded round a
flickering candle.  From the darkness there would steal the sound of
flute or zither, of voices singing.  Occasionally it would be some
strident ditty of the Paris music-halls, but more often it was sad and
plaintive.  But early in October the rains commenced and the stream
became a roaring torrent, and a clammy mist lay like a white river
between the wooded hills.

Mud! that seemed to be the one word with which to describe modern war.
Mud everywhere!  Mud ankle-deep upon the roads; mud into which you sank
up to your knees the moment you stepped off it; tents and huts to which
you waded through the mud, avoiding the slimy gangways on which you
slipped and fell; mud-bespattered men, mud-bespattered horses, little
donkeys, looking as if they had been sculptured out of mud, struggling up
and down the light railways that every now and then would disappear and
be lost beneath the mud; guns and wagons groaning through the mud;
lorries and ambulances, that in the darkness had swerved from the
straight course, overturned and lying abandoned in the mud,
motor-cyclists ploughing swift furrows through the mud, rolling it back
in liquid streams each side of them; staff cars rushing screaming through
the mud, followed by a rushing fountain of mud; serried ranks of muddy
men stamping through the mud with steady rhythm, moving through a rain of
mud, rising upward from the ground; long lines of motor-buses filled with
a mass of muddy humanity packed shoulder to shoulder, rumbling ever
through the endless mud.

Men sitting by the roadside in the mud, gnawing at unsavoury food; men
squatting by the ditches, examining their sores, washing their bleeding
feet in the muddy water, replacing the muddy rags about their wounds.

A world without colour.  No other colour to be seen beneath the sky but
mud.  The very buttons on the men's coats painted to make them look like
mud.

Mud and dirt!  Dirty faces, dirty hands, dirty clothes, dirty food, dirty
beds; dirty interiors, from which there was never time to wash the mud;
dirty linen hanging up to dry, beneath which dirty children played, while
dirty women scolded.  Filth and desolation all around.  Shattered
farmsteads half buried in the mud; shattered gardens trampled into mud.  A
weary land of foulness, breeding foulness; tangled wire the only harvest
of the fields; mile after mile of gaping holes, filled with muddy water;
stinking carcases of dead horses; birds of prey clinging to broken
fences, flapping their great wings.

A land where man died, and vermin increased and multiplied.  Vermin on
your body, vermin in your head, vermin in your food, vermin waiting for
you in your bed; vermin the only thing that throve, the only thing that
looked at you with bright eyes; vermin the only thing to which the joy of
life had still been left.

Joan had found a liking gradually growing up in her for the quick-moving,
curt-tongued doctor.  She had dismissed him at first as a mere butcher:
his brutal haste, his indifference apparently to the suffering he was
causing, his great, strong, hairy hands, with their squat fingers, his
cold grey eyes.  But she learnt as time went by, that his callousness was
a thing that he put on at the same time that he tied his white apron
round his waist, and rolled up his sleeves.

She was resting, after a morning of grim work, on a bench outside the
hospital, struggling with clenched, quivering hands against a craving to
fling herself upon the ground and sob.  And he had found her there; and
had sat down beside her.

"So you wanted to see it with your own eyes," he said.  He laid his hand
upon her shoulder, and she had some difficulty in not catching hold of
him and clinging to him.  She was feeling absurdly womanish just at that
moment.

"Yes," she answered.  "And I'm glad that I did it," she added, defiantly.

"So am I," he said.  "Tell your children what you have seen.  Tell other
women."

"It's you women that make war," he continued.  "Oh, I don't mean that you
do it on purpose, but it's in your blood.  It comes from the days when to
live it was needful to kill.  When a man who was swift and strong to kill
was the only thing that could save a woman and her brood.  Every other
man that crept towards them through the grass was an enemy, and her only
hope was that her man might kill him, while she watched and waited.  And
later came the tribe; and instead of the one man creeping through the
grass, the everlasting warfare was against all other tribes.  So you
loved only the men ever ready and willing to fight, lest you and your
children should be carried into slavery: then it was the only way.  You
brought up your boys to be fighters.  You told them stories of their
gallant sires.  You sang to them the songs of battle: the glory of
killing and of conquering.  You have never unlearnt the lesson.  Man has
learnt comradeship--would have travelled further but for you.  But woman
is still primitive.  She would still have her man the hater and the
killer.  To the woman the world has never changed."

"Tell the other women," he said.  "Open their eyes.  Tell them of their
sons that you have seen dead and dying in the foolish quarrel for which
there was no need.  Tell them of the foulness, of the cruelty, of the
senselessness of it all.  Set the women against War.  That is the only
way to end it."

It was a morning or two later that, knocking at the door of her loft, he
asked her if she would care to come with him to the trenches.  He had
brought an outfit for her which he handed to her with a grin.  She had
followed Folk's advice and had cut her hair; and when she appeared before
him for inspection in trousers and overcoat, the collar turned up about
her neck, and reaching to her helmet, he had laughingly pronounced the
experiment safe.

A motor carried them to where the road ended, and from there, a little
one-horse ambulance took them on to almost the last trees of the forest.
There was no life to be seen anywhere.  During the last mile, they had
passed through a continuous double line of graves; here and there a group
of tiny crosses keeping one another company; others standing singly,
looking strangely lonesome amid the torn-up earth and shattered trees.
But even these had ceased.  Death itself seemed to have been frightened
away from this terror-haunted desert.

Looking down, she could see thin wreaths of smoke, rising from the
ground.  From underneath her feet there came a low, faint, ceaseless
murmur.

"Quick," said the doctor.  He pushed her in front of him, and she almost
fell down a flight of mud-covered steps that led into the earth.  She
found herself in a long, low gallery, lighted by a dim oil lamp,
suspended from the blackened roof.  A shelf ran along one side of it,
covered with straw.  Three men lay there.  The straw was soaked with
their blood.  They had been brought in the night before by the stretcher-
bearers.  A young surgeon was rearranging their splints and bandages, and
redressing their wounds.  They would lie there for another hour or so,
and then start for their twenty kilometre drive over shell-ridden roads
to one or another of the great hospitals at the base.  While she was
there, two more cases were brought in.  The doctor gave but a glance at
the first one and then made a sign; and the bearers passed on with him to
the further end of the gallery.  He seemed to understand, for he gave a
low, despairing cry and the tears sprang to his eyes.  He was but a boy.
The other had a foot torn off.  One of the orderlies gave him two round
pieces of wood to hold in his hands while the young surgeon cut away the
hanging flesh and bound up the stump.

The doctor had been whispering to one of the bearers.  He had the face of
an old man, but his shoulders were broad and he looked sturdy.  He
nodded, and beckoned Joan to follow him up the slippery steps.

"It is breakfast time," he explained, as they emerged into the air.  "We
leave each other alone for half an hour--even the snipers.  But we must
be careful."  She followed in his footsteps, stooping so low that her
hands could have touched the ground.  They had to be sure that they did
not step off the narrow track marked with white stones, lest they should
be drowned in the mud.  They passed the head of a dead horse.  It looked
as if it had been cut off and laid there; the body was below it in the
mud.

They spoke in whispers, and Joan at first had made an effort to disguise
her voice.  But her conductor had smiled.  "They shall be called the
brothers and the sisters of the Lord," he had said.  "Mademoiselle is
brave for her Brothers' sake."  He was a priest.  There were many priests
among the stretcher-bearers.

Crouching close to the ground, behind the spreading roots of a giant oak,
she raised her eyes.  Before her lay a sea of smooth, soft mud nearly a
mile wide.  From the centre rose a solitary tree, from which all had been
shot away but two bare branches like outstretched arms above the silence.
Beyond, the hills rose again.  There was something unearthly in the
silence that seemed to brood above that sea of mud.  The old priest told
her of the living men, French and German, who had stood there day and
night sunk in it up to their waists, screaming hour after hour, and
waving their arms, sinking into it lower and lower, none able to help
them: until at last only their screaming heads were left, and after a
time these, too, would disappear: and the silence come again.

She saw the ditches, like long graves dug for the living, where the
weary, listless men stood knee-deep in mud, hoping for wounds that would
relieve them from the ghastly monotony of their existence; the holes of
muddy water where the dead things lay, to which they crept out in the
night to wash a little of the filth from their clammy bodies and their
stinking clothes; the holes dug out of the mud in which they ate and
slept and lived year after year: till brain and heart and soul seemed to
have died out of them, and they remembered with an effort that they once
were men.

* * * * *

After a time, the care of the convalescents passed almost entirely into
Joan's hands, Madame Lelanne being told off to assist her.  By dint of
much persistence she had succeeded in getting the leaky roof repaired,
and in place of the smoky stove that had long been her despair she had
one night procured a fine calorifere by the simple process of stealing
it.  Madame Lelanne had heard about it from the gossips.  It had been
brought to a lonely house at the end of the village by a major of
engineers.  He had returned to the trenches the day before, and the place
for the time being was empty.  The thieves were never discovered.  The
sentry was positive that no one had passed him but two women, one of them
carrying a baby.  Madame Lelanne had dressed it up in a child's cloak and
hood, and had carried it in her arms.  As it must have weighed nearly a
couple of hundred-weight suspicion had not attached to them.

Space did not allow of any separation; broken Frenchmen and broken
Germans would often lie side by side.  Joan would wonder, with a grim
smile to herself, what the patriotic Press of the different countries
would have thought had they been there to have overheard the
conversations.  Neither France nor Germany appeared to be the enemy, but
a thing called "They," a mysterious power that worked its will upon them
both from a place they always spoke of as "Back there."  One day the talk
fell on courage.  A young French soldier was holding forth when Joan
entered the hut.

"It makes me laugh," he was saying, "all this newspaper talk.  Every
nation, properly led, fights bravely.  It is the male instinct.  Women go
into hysterics about it, because it has not been given them.  I have the
Croix de Guerre with all three leaves, and I haven't half the courage of
my dog, who weighs twelve kilos, and would face a regiment by himself.
Why, a game cock has got more than the best of us.  It's the man who
doesn't think, who can't think, who has the most courage--who imagines
nothing, but just goes forward with his head down, like a bull.  There
is, of course, a real courage.  When you are by yourself, and have to do
something in cold blood.  But the courage required for rushing forward,
shouting and yelling with a lot of other fellows--why, it would take a
hundred times more pluck to turn back."

"They know that," chimed in the man lying next to him; "or they would not
drug us.  Why, when we stormed La Haye I knew nothing until an
ugly-looking German spat a pint of blood into my face and woke me up."

A middle-aged sergeant, who had a wound in the stomach and was sitting up
in his bed, looked across.  "There was a line of Germans came upon us,"
he said, "at Bras.  I thought I must be suffering from a nightmare when I
saw them.  They had thrown away their rifles and had all joined hands.
They came dancing towards us just like a row of ballet girls.  They were
shrieking and laughing, and they never attempted to do anything.  We just
waited until they were close up and then shot them down.  It was like
killing a lot of kids who had come to have a game with us.  The one I
potted got his arms round me before he coughed himself out, calling me
his 'liebe Elsa,' and wanting to kiss me.  Lord!  You can guess how the
Boche ink-slingers spread themselves over that business: 'Sonderbar!
Colossal!  Unvergessliche Helden.'  Poor devils!"

"They'll give us ginger before it is over," said another.  He had had
both his lips torn away, and appeared to be always laughing.  "Stuff it
into us as if we were horses at a fair.  That will make us run forward,
right enough."

"Oh, come," struck in a youngster who was lying perfectly flat, face
downwards on his bed: it was the position in which he could breathe
easiest.  He raised his head a couple of inches and twisted it round so
as to get his mouth free.  "It isn't as bad as all that.  Why, the Thirty-
third swarmed into Fort Malmaison of their own accord, though 'twas like
jumping into a boiling furnace, and held it for three days against pretty
nearly a division.  There weren't a dozen of them left when we relieved
them.  They had no ammunition left.  They'd just been filling up the gaps
with their bodies.  And they wouldn't go back even then.  We had to drag
them away.  'They shan't pass,' 'They shan't pass!'--that's all they kept
saying."  His voice had sunk to a thin whisper.

A young officer was lying in a corner behind a screen.  He leant forward
and pushed it aside.

"Oh, give the devil his due, you fellows," he said.  "War isn't a pretty
game, but it does make for courage.  We all know that.  And things even
finer than mere fighting pluck.  There was a man in my company, a Jacques
Decrusy.  He was just a stupid peasant lad.  We were crowded into one end
of the trench, about a score of us.  The rest of it had fallen in, and we
couldn't move.  And a bomb dropped into the middle of us; and the same
instant that it touched the ground Decrusy threw himself flat down upon
it and took the whole of it into his body.  There was nothing left of him
but scraps.  But the rest of us got off.  Nobody had drugged him to do
that.  There isn't one of us who was in that trench that will not be a
better man to the end of his days, remembering how Jacques Decrusy gave
his life for ours."

"I'll grant you all that, sir," answered the young soldier who had first
spoken.  He had long, delicate hands and eager, restless eyes.  "War does
bring out heroism.  So does pestilence and famine.  Read Defoe's account
of the Plague of London.  How men and women left their safe homes, to
serve in the pest-houses, knowing that sooner or later they were doomed.
Read of the mothers in India who die of slow starvation, never allowing a
morsel of food to pass their lips so that they may save up their own
small daily portion to add it to their children's.  Why don't we pray to
God not to withhold from us His precious medicine of pestilence and
famine?  So is shipwreck a fine school for courage.  Look at the chance
it gives the captain to set a fine example.  And the engineers who stick
to their post with the water pouring in upon them.  We don't reconcile
ourselves to shipwrecks as a necessary school for sailors.  We do our
best to lessen them.  So did persecution bring out heroism.  It made
saints and martyrs.  Why have we done away with it?  If this game of
killing and being killed is the fine school for virtue it is made out to
be, then all our efforts towards law and order have been a mistake.  We
never ought to have emerged from the jungle."

He took a note-book from under his pillow and commenced to scribble.

An old-looking man spoke.  He lay with his arms folded across his breast,
addressing apparently the smoky rafters.  He was a Russian, a teacher of
languages in Paris at the outbreak of the war, and had joined the French
Army.

"It is not only courage," he said, "that War brings out.  It brings out
vile things too.  Oh, I'm not thinking merely of the Boches.  That's the
cant of every nation: that all the heroism is on one side and all the
brutality on the other.  Take men from anywhere and some of them will be
devils.  War gives them their opportunity, brings out the beast.  Can you
wonder at it?  You teach a man to plunge a bayonet into the writhing
flesh of a fellow human being, and twist it round and round and jamb it
further in, while the blood is spurting from him like a fountain.  What
are you making of him but a beast?  A man's got to be a beast before he
can bring himself to do it.  I have seen things done by our own men in
cold blood, the horror of which will haunt my memory until I die.  But of
course, we hush it up when it happens to be our own people."

He ceased speaking.  No one seemed inclined to break the silence.

They remained confused in her memory, these talks among the wounded men
in the low, dimly lighted hut that had become her world.  At times it was
but two men speaking to one another in whispers, at others every creaking
bed would be drawn into the argument.

One topic that never lost its interest was: Who made wars?  Who hounded
the people into them, and kept them there, tearing at one another's
throats?  They never settled it.

"God knows I didn't want it, speaking personally," said a German prisoner
one day, with a laugh.  "I had been working at a printing business
sixteen hours a day for seven years.  It was just beginning to pay me,
and now my wife writes me that she has had to shut the place up and sell
the machinery to keep them all from starving."

"But couldn't you have done anything to stop it?" demanded a Frenchman,
lying next to him.  "All your millions of Socialists, what were they up
to?  What went wrong with the Internationale, the Universal Brotherhood
of Labour, and all that Tra-la-la?"

The German laughed again.  "Oh, they know their business," he answered.
"You have your glass of beer and go to bed, and when you wake up in the
morning you find that war has been declared; and you keep your mouth
shut--unless you want to be shot for a traitor.  Not that it would have
made much difference," he added.  "I admit that.  The ground had been too
well prepared.  England was envious of our trade.  King Edward had been
plotting our destruction.  Our papers were full of translations from
yours, talking about '_La Revanche_!'  We were told that you had been
lending money to Russia to enable her to build railways, and that when
they were complete France and Russia would fall upon us suddenly.  'The
Fatherland in danger!'  It may be lies or it may not; what is one to do?
What would you have done--even if you could have done anything?"

"He's right," said a dreamy-eyed looking man, laying down the book he had
been reading.  "We should have done just the same.  'My country, right or
wrong.'  After all, it is an ideal."

A dark, black-bearded man raised himself painfully upon his elbow.  He
was a tailor in the Rue Parnesse, and prided himself on a decided
resemblance to Victor Hugo.

"It's a noble ideal," he said.  "_La Patrie_!  The great Mother.  Right
or wrong, who shall dare to harm her?  Yes, if it was she who rose up in
her majesty and called to us."  He laughed.  "What does it mean in
reality: Germania, Italia, La France, Britannia?  Half a score of pompous
old muddlers with their fat wives egging them on: sons of the fools
before them; talkers who have wormed themselves into power by making
frothy speeches and fine promises.  My Country!" he laughed again.  "Look
at them.  Can't you see their swelling paunches and their flabby faces?
Half a score of ambitious politicians, gouty old financiers, bald-headed
old toffs, with their waxed moustaches and false teeth.  That's what we
mean when we talk about 'My Country': a pack of selfish, soulless, muddle-
headed old men.  And whether they're right or whether they're wrong, our
duty is to fight at their bidding--to bleed for them, to die for them,
that they may grow more sleek and prosperous."  He sank back on his
pillow with another laugh.

Sometimes they agreed it was the newspapers that made war--that fanned
every trivial difference into a vital question of national honour--that,
whenever there was any fear of peace, re-stoked the fires of hatred with
their never-failing stories of atrocities.  At other times they decided
it was the capitalists, the traders, scenting profit for themselves.  Some
held it was the politicians, dreaming of going down to history as
Richelieus or as Bismarcks.  A popular theory was that cause for war was
always discovered by the ruling classes whenever there seemed danger that
the workers were getting out of hand.  In war, you put the common people
back in their place, revived in them the habits of submission and
obedience.  Napoleon the Little, it was argued, had started the war of
1870 with that idea.  Russia had welcomed the present war as an answer to
the Revolution that was threatening Czardom.  Others contended it was the
great munition industries, aided by the military party, the officers
impatient for opportunities of advancement, the strategists eager to put
their theories to the test.  A few of the more philosophical shrugged
their shoulders.  It was the thing itself that sooner or later was bound
to go off of its own accord.  Half every country's energy, half every
country's time and money was spent in piling up explosives.  In every
country envy and hatred of every other country was preached as a
religion.  They called it patriotism.  Sooner or later the spark fell.

A wizened little man had been listening to it all one day.  He had a
curiously rat-like face, with round, red, twinkling eyes, and a long,
pointed nose that twitched as he talked.

"I'll tell you who makes all the wars," he said.  "It's you and me, my
dears: we make the wars.  We love them.  That's why we open our mouths
and swallow all the twaddle that the papers give us; and cheer the fine,
black-coated gentlemen when they tell us it's our sacred duty to kill
Germans, or Italians, or Russians, or anybody else.  We are just crazy to
kill something: it doesn't matter what.  If it's to be Germans, we shout
'_A Berlin_!'; and if it's to be Russians we cheer for Liberty.  I was in
Paris at the time of the Fashoda trouble.  How we hissed the English in
the cafes!  And how they glared back at us!  They were just as eager to
kill us.  Who makes a dog fight?  Why, the dog.  Anybody can do it.  Who
could make us fight each other, if we didn't want to?  Not all the king's
horses and all the King's men.  No, my dears, it's we make the wars.  You
and me, my dears."

There came a day in early spring.  All night long the guns had never
ceased.  It sounded like the tireless barking of ten thousand giant dogs.
Behind the hills, the whole horizon, like a fiery circle, was ringed with
flashing light.  Shapeless forms, bent beneath burdens, passed in endless
procession through the village.  Masses of rushing men swept like shadowy
phantoms through the fitfully-illumined darkness.  Beneath that
everlasting barking, Joan would hear, now the piercing wail of a child;
now a clap of thunder that for the moment would drown all other sounds,
followed by a faint, low, rumbling crash, like the shooting of coals into
a cellar.  The wounded on their beds lay with wide-open, terrified eyes,
moving feverishly from side to side.

At dawn the order came that the hospital was to be evacuated.  The
ambulances were already waiting in the street.  Joan flew up the ladder
to her loft, the other side of the yard.  Madame Lelanne was already
there.  She had thrown a few things into a bundle, and her foot was again
upon the ladder, when it seemed to her that someone struck her, hurling
her back upon the floor, and the house the other side of the yard rose up
into the air, and then fell quite slowly, and a cloud of dust hid it from
her sight.

Madame Lelanne must have carried her down the ladder.  She was standing
in the yard, and the dust was choking her.  Across the street, beyond the
ruins of the hospital, swarms of men were running about like ants when
their nest has been disturbed.  Some were running this way, and some
that.  And then they would turn and run back again, making dancing
movements round one another and jostling one another.  The guns had
ceased; and instead, it sounded as if all the babies in the world were
playing with their rattles.  Suddenly Madame Lelanne reappeared out of
the dust, and seizing Joan, dragged her through a dark opening and down a
flight of steps, and then left her.  She was in a great vaulted cellar.  A
faint light crept in through a grated window at the other end.  There was
a long table against the wall, and in front of it a bench.  She staggered
to it and sat down, leaning against the damp wall.  The place was very
silent.  Suddenly she began to laugh.  She tried to stop herself, but
couldn't.  And then she heard footsteps descending, and her memory came
back to her with a rush.  They were German footsteps, she felt sure by
the sound: they were so slow and heavy.  They should not find her in
hysterics, anyhow.  She fixed her teeth into the wooden table in front of
her and held on to it with clenched hands.  She had recovered herself
before the footsteps had finished their descent.  With a relief that made
it difficult for her not to begin laughing again, she found it was Madame
Lelanne and Monsieur Dubos.  They were carrying something between them.
She hardly recognized Dubos at first.  His beard was gone, and a line of
flaming scars had taken its place.  They laid their burden on the table.
It was one of the wounded men from the hut.  They told her they were
bringing down two more.  The hut itself had not been hit, but the roof
had been torn off by the force of the explosion, and the others had been
killed by the falling beams.  Joan wanted to return with them, but Madame
Lelanne had assumed an air of authority, and told her she would be more
useful where she was.  From the top of the steps they threw down bundles
of straw, on which they laid the wounded men, and Joan tended them, while
Madame Lelanne and the little chemist went up and down continuously.
Before evening the place, considering all things, was fairly habitable.
Madame Lelanne brought down the great stove from the hut; and breaking a
pane of glass in the barred window, they fixed it up with its chimney and
lighted it.  From time to time the turmoil above them would break out
again: the rattling, and sometimes a dull rumbling as of rushing water.
But only a faint murmur of it penetrated into the cellar.  Towards night
it became quiet again.

How long Joan remained there she was never quite sure.  There was little
difference between day and night.  After it had been quiet for an hour or
so, Madame Lelanne would go out, to return a little later with a wounded
man upon her back; and when one died, she would throw him across her
shoulder and disappear again up the steps.  Sometimes it was a Frenchman
and sometimes a German she brought in.  One gathered that the fight for
the village still continued.  There was but little they could do for them
beyond dressing their wounds and easing their pain.  Joan and the little
chemist took it in turns to relieve one another.  If Madame Lelanne ever
slept, it was when she would sit in the shadow behind the stove, her
hands upon her knees.  Dubos had been in the house when it had fallen.
Madame Lelanne had discovered him pinned against a wall underneath a
great oak beam that had withstood the falling debris.  His beard had been
burnt off, but otherwise he had been unharmed.

She seemed to be living in a dream.  She could not shake from her the
feeling that it was not bodies but souls that she was tending.  The men
themselves gave colour to this fancy of hers.  Stripped of their poor,
stained, tattered uniforms, they were neither French nor Germans.  Friend
or foe! it was already but a memory.  Often, awakening out of a sleep,
they would look across at one another and smile as to a comrade.  A great
peace seemed to have entered there.  Faint murmurs as from some distant
troubled world would steal at times into the silence.  It brought a pang
of pity, but it did not drive away the quiet that dwelt there.

Once, someone who must have known the place and had descended the steps
softly, sat there among them and talked with them.  Joan could not
remember seeing him enter.  Perhaps unknowing, she had fallen to sleep
for a few minutes.  Madame Lelanne was seated by the stove, her great
coarse hands upon her knees, her patient, dull, slow-moving eyes fixed
upon the speaker's face.  Dubos was half standing, half resting against
the table, his arms folded upon his breast.  The wounded men had raised
themselves upon the straw and were listening.  Some leant upon their
elbows, some sat with their hands clasped round their knees, and one,
with head bent down, remained with his face hidden in his hands.

The speaker sat a little way apart.  The light from the oil lamp,
suspended from the ceiling, fell upon his face.  He wore a peasant's
blouse.  It seemed to her a face she knew.  Possibly she had passed him
in the village street and had looked at him without remembering.  It was
his eyes that for long years afterwards still haunted her.  She did not
notice at the time what language he was speaking.  But there were none
who did not understand him.

"You think of God as of a great King," he said, "a Ruler who orders all
things: who could change all things in the twinkling of an eye.  You see
the cruelty and the wrong around you.  And you say to yourselves: 'He has
ordered it.  If He would, He could have willed it differently.'  So that
in your hearts you are angry with Him.  How could it be otherwise?  What
father, loving his children, would see them suffer wrong, when by
stretching out a hand he could protect them: turn their tears to
gladness?  What father would see his children doing evil to one another
and not check them: would see them following ways leading to their
destruction, and not pluck them back?  If God has ordered all things, why
has He created evil, making His creatures weak and sinful?  Does a father
lay snares for his children: leading them into temptation: delivering
them unto evil?"

"There is no God, apart from Man."

"God is a spirit.  His dwelling-place is in man's heart.  We are His
fellow-labourers.  It is through man that He shall one day rule the
world."

"God is knocking at your heart, but you will not open to Him.  You have
filled your hearts with love of self.  There is no room for Him to enter
in."

"God whispers to you: 'Be pitiful.  Be merciful.  Be just.'  But you
answer Him: 'If I am pitiful, I lose my time and money.  If I am
merciful, I forego advantage to myself.  If I am just, I lessen my own
profit, and another passes me in the race.'"

"And yet in your inmost thoughts you know that you are wrong: that love
of self brings you no peace.  Who is happier than the lover, thinking
only how to serve?  Who is the more joyous: he who sits alone at the
table, or he who shares his meal with a friend?  It is more blessed to
give than to receive.  How can you doubt it?  For what do you toil and
strive but that you may give to your children, to your loved ones,
reaping the harvest of their good?"

"Who among you is the more honoured?  The miser or the giver: he who
heaps up riches for himself or he who labours for others?"

"Who is the true soldier?  He who has put away self.  His own ease and
comfort, even his own needs, his own safety: they are but as a feather in
the balance when weighed against his love for his comrades, for his
country.  The true soldier is not afraid to love.  He gives his life for
his friend.  Do you jeer at him?  Do you say he is a fool for his pains?
No, it is his honour, his glory."

"God is love.  Why are you afraid to let Him in?  Hate knocks also at
your door and to him you open wide.  Why are you afraid of love?  All
things are created by love.  Hate can but destroy.  Why choose you death
instead of life?  God pleads to you.  He is waiting for your help."

And one answered him.

"We are but poor men," he said.  "What can we do?  Of what use are such
as we?"

The young man looked at him and smiled.

"You can ask that," he said: "you, a soldier?  Does the soldier say: 'I
am of no use.  I am but a poor man of no account.  Who has need of such
as I?'  God has need of all.  There is none that shall not help to win
the victory.  It is with his life the soldier serves.  Who were they
whose teaching moved the world more than it has ever yet been moved by
the teaching of the wisest?  They were men of little knowledge, of but
little learning, poor and lowly.  It was with their lives they taught."

"Cast out self, and God shall enter in, and you shall be One with God.
For there is none so lowly that he may not become the Temple of God:
there is none so great that he shall be greater than this."

The speaker ceased.  There came a faint sound at which she turned her
head; and when she looked again he was gone.

The wounded men had heard it also.  Dubos had moved forward.  Madame
Lelanne had risen.  It came again, the thin, faint shrill of a distant
bugle.  Footsteps were descending the stairs.  French soldiers, laughing,
shouting, were crowding round them.



CHAPTER XVIII


Her father met her at Waterloo.  He had business in London, and they
stayed on for a few days.  Reading between the lines of his later
letters, she had felt that all was not well with him.  His old heart
trouble had come back; and she noticed that he walked to meet her very
slowly.  It would be all right, now that she had returned, he explained:
he had been worrying himself about her.

Mrs. Denton had died.  She had left Joan her library, together with her
wonderful collection of note books.  She had brought them all up-to-date
and indexed them.  They would be invaluable to Francis when he started
the new paper upon which they had determined.  He was still in the
hospital at Breganze, near to where his machine had been shot down.  She
had tried to get to him; but it would have meant endless delays; and she
had been anxious about her father.  The Italian surgeons were very proud
of him, he wrote.  They had had him X-rayed before and after; and beyond
a slight lameness which gave him, he thought, a touch of distinction,
there was no flaw that the most careful scrutiny would be likely to
detect.  Any day, now, he expected to be discharged.  Mary had married an
old sweetheart.  She had grown restless in the country with nothing to
do, and, at the suggestion of some friends, had gone to Bristol to help
in a children's hospital; and there they had met once more.

Neil Singleton, after serving two years in a cholera hospital at Baghdad,
had died of the flu in Dover twenty-fours hours after landing.  Madge was
in Palestine.  She had been appointed secretary to a committee for the
establishment of native schools.  She expected to be there for some
years, she wrote.  The work was interesting, and appealed to her.

Flossie 'phoned her from Paddington Station, the second day, and by luck
she happened to be in.  Flossie had just come up from Devonshire.  Sam
had "got through," and she was on her way to meet him at Hull.  She had
heard of Joan's arrival in London from one of Carleton's illustrated
dailies.  She brought the paper with her.  They had used the old
photograph that once had adorned each week the _Sunday Post_.  Joan
hardly recognized herself in the serene, self-confident young woman who
seemed to be looking down upon a world at her feet.  The world was strong
and cruel, she had discovered; and Joans but small and weak.  One had to
pretend that one was not afraid of it.

Flossie had joined every society she could hear of that was working for
the League of Nations.  Her hope was that it would get itself established
before young Frank grew up.

"Not that I really believe it will," she confessed.  "A draw might have
disgusted us all with fighting.  As it is, half the world is dancing at
Victory balls, exhibiting captured guns on every village green, and
hanging father's helmet above the mantelpiece; while the other half is
nursing its revenge.  Young Frank only cares for life because he is
looking forward to one day driving a tank.  I've made up my mind to burn
Sam's uniform; but I expect it will end in my wrapping it up in lavender
and hiding it away in a drawer.  And then there will be all the books and
plays.  No self-respecting heroine, for the next ten years will dream of
marrying anyone but a soldier."

Joan laughed.  "Difficult to get anything else, just at present," she
said.  "It's the soldiers I'm looking to for help.  I don't think the men
who have been there will want their sons to go.  It's the women I'm
afraid of."

Flossie caught sight of the clock and jumped up.  "Who was it said that
woman would be the last thing man would civilize?" she asked.

"It sounds like Meredith," suggested Joan.  "I am not quite sure."

"Well, he's wrong, anyhow," retorted Flossie.  "It's no good our waiting
for man.  He is too much afraid of us to be of any real help to us.  We
shall have to do it ourselves."  She gave Joan a hug and was gone.

Phillips was still abroad with the Army of Occupation.  He had tried to
get out of it, but had not succeeded.  He held it to be gaoler's work;
and the sight of the starving populace was stirring in him a fierce
anger.

He would not put up again for Parliament.  He was thinking of going back
to his old work upon the Union.  "Parliament is played out," he had
written her.  "Kings and Aristocracies have served their purpose and have
gone, and now the Ruling Classes, as they call themselves, must be
content to hear the bell toll for them also.  Parliament was never
anything more than an instrument in their hands, and never can be.  What
happens?  Once in every five years you wake the people up: tell them the
time has come for them to exercise their Heaven-ordained privilege of
putting a cross against the names of some seven hundred gentlemen who
have kindly expressed their willingness to rule over them.  After that,
you send the people back to sleep; and for the next five years these
seven hundred gentlemen, consulting no one but themselves, rule over the
country as absolutely as ever a Caesar ruled over Rome.  What sort of
Democracy is that?  Even a Labour Government--supposing that in spite of
the Press it did win through--what would be its fate?  Separated from its
base, imprisoned within those tradition-haunted walls, it would lose
touch with the people, would become in its turn a mere oligarchy.  If the
people are ever to govern they must keep their hand firmly upon the
machine; not remain content with pulling a lever and then being shown the
door."

She had sent a note by messenger to Mary Stopperton to say she was
coming.  Mary had looked very fragile the last time she had seen her,
just before leaving for France; and she had felt a fear.  Mary had
answered in her neat, thin, quavering writing, asking her to come early
in the morning.  Sometimes she was a little tired and had to lie down
again.  She had been waiting for Joan.  She had a present for her.

The morning promised to be fair, and she decided to walk by way of the
Embankment.  The great river with its deep, strong patience had always
been a friend to her.  It was Sunday and the city was still sleeping.  The
pale December sun rose above the mist as she reached the corner of
Westminster Bridge, turning the river into silver and flooding the silent
streets with a soft, white, tender light.

The tower of Chelsea Church brought back to her remembrance of the wheezy
old clergyman who had preached there that Sunday evening, that now seemed
so long ago, when her footsteps had first taken her that way by chance.
Always she had intended making inquiries and discovering his name.  Why
had she never done so?  It would surely have been easy.  He was someone
she had known as a child.  She had become quite convinced of that.  She
could see his face close to hers as if he had lifted her up in his arms
and was smiling at her.  But pride and power had looked out of his eyes
then.

It was earlier than the time she had fixed in her own mind and, pausing
with her elbows resting on the granite parapet, she watched the ceaseless
waters returning to the sea, bearing their burden of impurities.

"All roads lead to Calvary."  It was curious how the words had dwelt with
her, till gradually they had become a part of her creed.  She remembered
how at first they had seemed to her a threat chilling her with fear.  They
had grown to be a promise, a hope held out to all.  The road to Calvary!
It was the road to life.  By the giving up of self we gained God.

And suddenly a great peace came to her.  One was not alone in the fight,
God was with us: the great Comrade.  The evil and the cruelty all round
her: she was no longer afraid of it.  God was coming.  Beyond the menace
of the passing day, black with the war's foul aftermath of evil dreams
and hatreds, she saw the breaking of the distant dawn.  The devil should
not always triumph.  God was gathering His labourers.

God was conquering.  Unceasing through the ages, God's voice had crept
round man, seeking entry.  Through the long darkness of that dim
beginning, when man knew no law but self, unceasing God had striven:
until at last one here and there, emerging from the brute, had heard--had
listened to the voice of love and pity, and in that hour, unknowing, had
built to God a temple in the wilderness.

Labourers together with God.  The mighty host of those who through the
ages had heard the voice of God and had made answer.  The men and women
in all lands who had made room in their hearts for God.  Still nameless,
scattered, unknown to one another: still powerless as yet against the
world's foul law of hate, they should continue to increase and multiply,
until one day they should speak with God's voice and should be heard.  And
a new world should be created.

God.  The tireless Spirit of eternal creation, the Spirit of Love.  What
else was it that out of formlessness had shaped the spheres, had planned
the orbits of the suns.  The law of gravity we named it.  What was it but
another name for Love, the yearning of like for like, the calling to one
another of the stars.  What else but Love had made the worlds, had
gathered together the waters, had fashioned the dry land.  The cohesion
of elements, so we explained it.  The clinging of like to like.  The
brotherhood of the atoms.

God.  The Eternal Creator.  Out of matter, lifeless void, he had moulded
His worlds, had ordered His endless firmament.  It was finished.  The
greater task remained: the Universe of mind, of soul.  Out of man it
should be created.  God in man and man in God: made in like image: fellow
labourers together with one another: together they should build it.  Out
of the senseless strife and discord, above the chaos and the tumult
should be heard the new command: "Let there be Love."

The striking of the old church clock recalled her to herself.  But she
had only a few minutes' walk before her.  Mary had given up her Church
work.  It included the cleaning, and she had found it beyond her failing
strength.  But she still lived in the tiny cottage behind its long strip
of garden.  The door yielded to Joan's touch: it was seldom fast closed.
And knowing Mary's ways, she entered without knocking and pushed it to
behind her, leaving it still ajar.

And as she did so, it seemed to her that someone passing breathed upon
her lips a little kiss: and for a while she did not move.  Then, treading
softly, she looked into the room.

It welcomed her, as always, with its smile of cosy neatness.  The
spotless curtains that were Mary's pride: the gay flowers in the window,
to which she had given children's names: the few poor pieces of
furniture, polished with much loving labour: the shining grate: the
foolish china dogs and the little china house between them on the
mantelpiece.  The fire was burning brightly, and the kettle was singing
on the hob.

Mary's work was finished.  She sat upright in her straight-backed chair
before the table, her eyes half closed.  It seemed so odd to see those
little work-worn hands idle upon her lap.

Joan's present lay on the table near to her, as if she had just folded it
and placed it there: the little cap and the fine robe of lawn: as if for
a king's child.

Joan had never thought that Death could be so beautiful.  It was as if
some friend had looked in at the door, and, seeing her so tired, had
taken the work gently from her hands, and had folded them upon her lap.
And she had yielded with a smile.

Joan heard a faint rustle and looked up.  A woman had entered.  It was
the girl she had met there on a Christmas Day, a Miss Ensor.  Joan had
met her once or twice since then.  She was still in the chorus.  Neither
of them spoke for a few minutes.

"I have been expecting every morning to find her gone," said the girl.  "I
think she only waited to finish this."  She gently unfolded the fine lawn
robe, and they saw the delicate insertion and the wonderful, embroidery.

"I asked her once," said the girl, "why she wasted so much work on them.
They were mostly only for poor people.  'One never knows, dearie,' she
answered, with that childish smile of hers.  'It may be for a little
Christ.'"

They would not let less loving hands come near her.

* * * * *

Her father had completed his business, and both were glad to leave
London.  She had a sense of something sinister, foreboding, casting its
shadow on the sordid, unclean streets, the neglected buildings falling
into disrepair.  A lurking savagery, a half-veiled enmity seemed to be
stealing among the people.  The town's mad lust for pleasure: its fierce,
unjoyous laughter: its desire ever to be in crowds as if afraid of
itself: its orgies of eating and drinking: its animal-like indifference
to the misery and death that lay but a little way beyond its own horizon!
She dared not remember history.  Perhaps it would pass.

The long, slow journey tried her father's strength, and assuming an
authority to which he yielded obedience tempered by grumbling, Joan sent
him to bed, and would not let him come down till Christmas Day.  The big,
square house was on the outskirts of the town where it was quiet, and in
the afternoon they walked in the garden sheltered behind its high brick
wall.

He told her of what had been done at the works.  Arthur's plan had
succeeded.  It might not be the last word, but at least it was on the
road to the right end.  The men had been brought into it and shared the
management.  And the disasters predicted had proved groundless.

"You won't be able to indulge in all your mad schemes," he laughed, "but
there'll be enough to help on a few.  And you will be among friends.
Arthur told me he had explained it to you and that you had agreed."

"Yes," she answered.  "It was the last time he came to see me in London.
And I could not help feeling a bit jealous.  He was doing things while I
was writing and talking.  But I was glad he was an Allway.  It will be
known as the Allway scheme.  New ways will date from it."

She had thought it time for him to return indoors, but he pleaded for a
visit to his beloved roses.  He prided himself on being always able to
pick roses on Christmas Day.

"This young man of yours," he asked, "what is he like?"

"Oh, just a Christian gentleman," she answered.  "You will love him when
you know him."

He laughed.  "And this new journal of his?" he asked.  "It's got to be
published in London, hasn't it?"

She gave a slight start, for in their letters to one another they had
been discussing this very point.

"No," she answered, "it could be circulated just as well from, say,
Birmingham or Manchester."

He was choosing his roses.  They held their petals wrapped tight round
them, trying to keep the cold from their brave hearts.  In the warmth
they would open out and be gay, until the end.

"Not Liverpool?" he suggested.

"Or even Liverpool," she laughed.

They looked at one another, and then beyond the sheltering evergreens and
the wide lawns to where the great square house seemed to be listening.

"It's an ugly old thing," he said.

"No, it isn't," she contradicted.  "It's simple and big and kind.  I
always used to feel it disapproved of me.  I believe it has come to love
me, in its solemn old brick way."

"It was built by Kent in seventeen-forty for your great-great
grandfather," he explained.  He was regarding it more affectionately.
"Solid respectability was the dream, then."

"I think that's why I love it," she said: "for it's dear, old-fashioned
ways.  We will teach it the new dreams, too.  It will be so shocked, at
first."

They dined in state in the great dining-room.

"I was going to buy you a present," he grumbled.  "But you wouldn't let
me get up."

"I want to give you something quite expensive, Dad," she said.  "I've had
my eye on it for years."

She slipped her hand in his.  "I want you to give me that Dream of yours;
that you built for my mother, and that all went wrong.  They call it
Allway's Folly; and it makes me so mad.  I want to make it all come true.
May I try?"

* * * * *

It was there that he came to her.

She stood beneath the withered trees, beside the shattered fountain.  The
sad-faced ghosts peeped out at her from the broken windows of the little
silent houses.

She wondered later why she had not been surprised to see him.  But at the
time it seemed to be in the order of things that she should look up and
find him there.

She went to him with outstretched arms.

"I'm so glad you've come," she said.  "I was just wanting you."

They sat on the stone step of the fountain, where they were sheltered
from the wind; and she buttoned his long coat about him.

"Do you think you will go on doing it?" he asked, with a laugh.

"I'm so afraid," she answered gravely.  "That I shall come to love you
too much: the home, the children and you.  I shall have none left over."

"There is an old Hindoo proverb," he said: "That when a man and woman
love they dig a fountain down to God."

"This poor, little choked-up thing," he said, "against which we are
sitting; it's for want of men and women drawing water, of children
dabbling their hands in it and making themselves all wet, that it has run
dry."

She took his hands in hers to keep them warm.  The nursing habit seemed
to have taken root in her.

"I see your argument," she said.  "The more I love you, the deeper will
be the fountain.  So that the more Love I want to come to me, the more I
must love you."

"Don't you see it for yourself?" he demanded.

She broke into a little laugh.

"Perhaps you are right," she admitted.  "Perhaps that is why He made us
male and female: to teach us to love."

A robin broke into a song of triumph.  He had seen the sad-faced ghosts
steal silently away.





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