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Title: Mummery - A Tale of Three Idealists
Author: Cannan, Gilbert, 1884-1955
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Mummery - A Tale of Three Idealists" ***

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MUMMERY

A TALE OF THREE IDEALISTS


BY

GILBERT CANNAN



LONDON: 48 PALL MALL

W. COLLINS SONS & CO. LTD.

GLASGOW -- MELBOURNE -- AUCKLAND



Copyright 1918



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

NOVELS

  PETER HOMUNCULUS
  LITTLE BROTHER
  ROUND THE CORNER
  OLD MOLE
  YOUNG EARNEST
  THREE PRETTY MEN
  MENDEL
  THE STUCCO HOUSE
  PINK ROSES

  FOUR PLAYS
  EVERYBODY'S HUSBAND

  WINDMILLS
  SATIRE
  THE JOY OF THE THEATRE
  FREEDOM
  THE ANATOMY OF SOCIETY
  NOEL
  POEMS



TO ARIEL

AMY GWEN WILSON

  Shakespeare dreamed you, Ariel,
    In a poet's ecstasy.
  I have loved and dare not tell
    Of your being's mystery.

  Ariel, from Shakespeare's dream
    Flown into my love on earth,
  You shall help me to redeem
    Love and truth denied their birth.

  In a world by Caliban
    Brutalised and done to death,
  We will weave a spell that Man
    May in freedom draw his breath.



CONTENTS

CHAP.

     I.  A DESCENT ON LONDON
    II.  THE DWELLERS IN ENCHANTMENT
   III.  IMPERIUM
    IV.  BEHIND THE SCENES
     V.  THE OTHER WOMAN
    VI.  BIRDS AND FISHES
   VII.  SUPPER
  VIII.  SOLITUDE
    IX.  MAGIC
     X.  THE ENGLISH LAKES
    XI.  CHARING CROSS ROAD
   XII.  RODD AT HOME
  XIII.  THE TEMPEST
   XIV.  VERSCHOYLE FORGETS HIMSELF
    XV.  IN BLOOMSBURY
   XVI.  ARIEL
  XVII.  SUCCESS
 XVIII.  LOVE



I

A DESCENT ON LONDON

On a day in August, in one of those swiftly-moving years which hurried
Europe towards the catastrophe awaiting it, there arrived in London a
couple of unusual appearance, striking, charming, and amusing.  The man
was tall, big, and queerly compounded of sensitive beauty and stodgy
awkwardness.  He entered London with an air of hostility; sniffed
distastefully the smells of the station, peered in distress through the
murky light, and clearly by his personality and his exploitation of it
in his dress challenged the uniformity of the great city which was his
home.  His dress was peculiar: an enormous black hat above a shock of
wispy fair hair, an ill-cut black coat, a cloak flung back over his
shoulders, a very high starched collar, abominable trousers, and long,
pointed French boots.

'But they have rebuilt the station!' he said, in a loud voice of almost
peevish disapproval.

'I remember reading about it, Carlo,' replied his companion.  'It fell
down and destroyed a theatre.'

'A bad omen,' said Charles Mann, 'I wish we had arrived at another
station.'

'I don't think it matters,' smiled Clara Day.

'I say it does,' snapped he.  'It is a mean little station.  A London
station should be grand and spacious, the magnificent ante-room to a
royal city.  I must get them to let me design a station.'

'They don't often fall down,' said Clara.  'I wish you would see to the
luggage.'

All the other passengers, French and English, had collected their
baggage and had hurried away, but Charles Mann was never in a hurry,
and he stayed scowling at the station which London had had the
effrontery to erect in his absence.

'In Germany and Russia,' he muttered, 'they understand that stations
are very important.'

'Do look after the luggage,' urged Clara, and very reluctantly Charles
Mann strolled along the platform, leaving his companion to the
admiration of the passengers arriving for the next out-going train.
She deserved it, for she was extremely handsome, almost pathetically
young for the knowledge written in her eyes and on her lips, and the
charming dress of purple and old red designed for her slim figure by
Charles drew the curious and rather scandalised eyes of the women.  It
was in no fashion, but the perfection of its individuality raised it
above that tyranny, just as Clara's personality, in its compact force,
and delicious free movement, raised her above the conventionalism which
makes woman mere reflections of each other.  When she moved, her
clothes were liquid with her vitality.  When she stood still, they were
as monumental as herself.  She and they were one.

She was happy.  It had taken her nearly two years to bring Charles back
to London, where, as an Englishman, and, as she knew, one of the most
gifted Englishmen of his time, his work lay, and she felt certain that
here, in London, among other artists, it would be possible to extricate
him from his own thoughts, which abroad kept him blissfully happy but
prevented his doing work which was intelligible to any one else.

He was rather a long time over the luggage, and at last she ran along
the platform to find him lost in contemplation.

'Have you decided where we are going to?' she asked.

'Eh?'

'Have you decided where we are going to?'

'I must get a secretary,' he replied, and Clara laughed.  'But I must,'
he went on.  'It is absolutely necessary for me to have a secretary.  I
can do nothing without one....  He shall be a good man, and he shall be
paid four hundred a year.'

Clara approached a porter and told him to take their luggage to the
hotel.

'We can stay there while we look about us,' she said.  She had learned
that when Charles talked about money it was best to ignore him.  She
took cheap rooms at the top of the hotel, with a view out over the
river to the Surrey hills, and there until three o'clock in the morning
Charles smoked cigars and talked, as only he could talk, of art and
Italy and Paris--which they had left without paying their rent--and the
delights and abominations of London.

'I feel satisfied now that you were right,' he said.  'Here we are in
London and I shall begin to do my real work.  I shall have a secretary
and an advertising agent, and I shall talk to London in the language it
understands....  Paris knows me, Munich knows me, St Petersburg knows
me; London shall know me.  There are artists in London.  All they want
is a lead.'

Clara went to bed and lay for a long time with erratic memories
streaming through her brain--days in the hills in Italy, nights of
hunger in Paris, the cross-eyed man who stared so hard at her on the
boat, the dismal port at Calais, the more dismal landing at Dover, the
detached existence of her three years with Charles, whose astonishing
vitality kindled and continually disappointed her hope....  And then
queer, ugly memories of her own wandering, homeless childhood with her
grandfather, who had died in Paris, leaving her the little money he
had, so that she had stayed among the artists in Paris, had been numbed
and dazed by them, until Charles took possession of her exactly as he
did of stray cats and dogs and birds in cages.

'This is London,' she said, 'and I am twenty-one.'  So she, too,
approached London in a spirit of challenging hostility, determined if,
as she believed, there was nothing a woman could not do, that London
should acknowledge Charles as the genius of which he so constantly
remarked it stood in need.

In the morning she was up betimes, and stood at the window looking out
over the sprawl of the south side of the river to the dome of Bedlam
and the tower of Southwark Cathedral, the clustered chimneys, and the
gray litter of untidy, huddled roofs.

'That is not London,' said Charles from the bed, as she cried
ecstatically.  'London is a very small circle, the centre of which is
to the cultivated the National Gallery, and to the vulgar Piccadilly
Circus....  Piccadilly Circus we can ignore.  What we have to do is to
stand on the dome of the National Gallery and sing our gospel.  Then if
we can make the cultured hear us, we shall have the vulgar gaping and
opening their pockets.'

'I don't want you to be applauded by people who can't appreciate you,'
said Clara.

'No?' grumbled Charles.  'Well, I'm going to have bath and breakfast
and then I shall astonish you.'

'You always do that,' cried Clara.  'Darling Charles!'

She rang the bell, and sat on the bed, and in a few minutes they were
enjoying their continental breakfast of coffee, rolls, and honey.

'I sometimes feel,' said Charles, 'that I have merely taken the place
of your grandfather....  You are the only creature I have ever met who
is younger than myself.  That is why you can do as you like with me....
But you can't make me grow a beard.'

'I wish you would.'

'And then I should be like your grandfather?'

'No.  You would be more like you.'

'You adorable child,' he said.  'You would reform me out of existence
if you had your way.'

Charles got up, had his bath, shaved, and went out, leaving Clara to
unpack and make out a list of clothes that he required before she could
consider him fit to go out into that London whose centre is the
National Gallery.

As he did not return for lunch, she set out alone to explore the region
which he designed to conquer.  She wandered in a dream of delight,
first of all through the galleries and then through the streets, as far
as Westminster on the one side, and as Oxford Street on the other, and
fixed in her mind the location of every one of the theatres.  She was
especially interested in the women, and was both hurt and pleased by
the dislike and suspicion with which they regarded her originality....
Every now and then she saw a face which made her want to go up to its
owner and say: 'I'm Clara Day; I've just come to London,' but she
forebore; and when people smiled at her, as many did, she returned
their smile, and hurried on in her eagerness to explore and to
understand the kingdom which was to be Charles Mann's--a kingdom, like
others, of splendour and misery, but overwhelmingly rich with its huge
hotels, great blocks of offices, vast theatres and music-halls,
enormous shops full of merchandise of the finest quality; jewels,
clothes, furs, napery, silver, cutlery; its monuments, its dense
traffic; its flower-sellers and innumerable newsvendors; its glimpses
through the high-walled streets of green trees, its dominating towers;
its lounging men and women.  Jews, with gold chains and diamond rings,
Americans with large cigars and padded shoulders, painted women,
niggers, policemen, match-sellers, boot-blacks; its huge coloured
advertisements; its sudden holes, leading to regions underground; its
sluggish, rich self-satisfaction....  It overawed Clara a little, and
as she sped along she whispered to herself, 'This is me in London.'

On her way back to the hotel she bought a paper, and, on opening it,
found that it contained an interview with Mr Charles Mann on his return
to London, an announcement that a dinner was to be given in his honour,
and that he intended to hold an exhibition; and then Charles's views on
many subjects were set out at some length, and he had thrown out a
suggestion that a committee of artists should be formed to supervise
the regeneration of London and to defeat the Americanisation which
threatened it.

Clara hurried back to the hotel and found Charles in a great state of
excitement, talking to a thin, weedy little man whom he introduced as
Mr Clott--his secretary.

'It has begun, child,' said Charles.  'Have you seen the papers?
Things move quickly nowadays....  This evening I shall be very busy.'

'But you mustn't do anything without me,' Clara protested.  'You
promised you wouldn't.  You are sure to make a mess of it.'

'Clott,' said Charles magnificently, 'please send a copy of the letter
I have dictated to the Press Association.'

'At once,' replied Mr Clott, with the alacrity of a man in a new job,
and he darted from the room.

'He's a fool,' said Clara angrily, 'a perfect fool.'

'Of course he is,' answered Charles, 'or he would not be a secretary.
He has undertaken that by the end of this week we shall be in a
comfortable furnished house.'

'But who is to pay for it?'

'There is plenty of money in the world,' said Charles, who was so
pleased with himself that Clara had not the heart to pursue the
argument any further.  'London,' he continued, 'is a great talking
shop.  At present they haven't anything much to discuss so they shall
talk about me.'

For a moment Clara felt that he had become as external to her as the
people in the streets of the kingdom he designed to conquer, but she
recollected that whenever he was at work he always was abstracted from
her and entirely absorbed in what he was doing, only, however, to
return like a giant refreshed to enter into her world again and make it
more delightful than before.  He was absorbed now, and she thought with
a queer pang of alarm of the women with their dull, suspicious eyes,
and, without realising the connection between what she thought and what
she said, she broke into his absorption with,--

'Carlo, dear, I shall have to marry you.'

He spun round as though he had been stung and asked,--

'Good God, why?'

And again her answer was strange and came from some remote recess of
her being,--

'London is different.'

Now Charles Mann was one of those sensitive people who yield at once to
the will of another when it is precise and purposeful; and when in this
girl, whom he had collected as he collected drunkards, cats, dogs, and
other helpless creatures, such a will moved, though it cut like hot
iron through his soul, he obeyed it without argument.  He, whose faith
in himself was scattered and dissipated, had in her a faith as whole as
that of a child who accepts without a murmur a whipping from his father.

'My dear girl----' he murmured.

'You know you will have to,' she said firmly.

He looked uncomfortable.  His large face was suddenly ashen and yellow,
and a certain weakness crept into his ordinarily firm lips and
nostrils.  The girl's eyes were blazing at him, searching him, making
him feel transparent, and so uncomfortable that he could do nothing but
obey to relieve his own acute distress.

'Yes, of course.'

'Don't you want to?'

'Yes, of course.'

'It doesn't make any difference to us inside ourselves.'

'No.  Of course not.'

What he wanted to say was, 'You're pinning me down.  I'm not used to
being pinned down.  No one has ever pinned me down before.'

But he could not say it.  He could only agree that it would be a good
thing if they married, because London was different.

'At once?' he asked.

'At once,' said she.

He rang the bell, asked for Mr Clott, and when that gentleman appeared,
ordered him to procure a special licence without delay.  Mr Clott made
a note of it in his little red book, tucked his pencil behind his ear,
and trotted away, his narrow little back stiffened by elation.  He, a
gentleman of the Automobile Club, for whom there was no life outside
the narrow circle whose centre is Piccadilly Circus, had been uneasy in
his mind about the young lady, who was so clearly neither married nor
purchasable, and it was a relief to him that she was to be his new
employer's wife, though he was afraid of her, and shrivelled to the
marrow in her presence.



II

THE DWELLERS IN ENCHANTMENT

'_Ça marche_,' said Charles Mann to his wife a few weeks later.

His programme was maturing.  He had arranged for two books to be
published, for an exhibition to be held, for a committee to be formed,
for lectures to be delivered in provincial centres, and he had been
insulted by an offer to play a part in a forthcoming production of
_King Lear_ at the Imperium Theatre.  He had forgotten that he had ever
been an actor and did not wish to be reminded of it, and he was
incensed when the manager of the Imperium used the offer as an
advertising paragraph.

'The fellow is jealous of the attention I am receiving in the Press and
wants to divert some of it to himself.'

'You should go and see him,' suggested Clara.

'It is his place to come and see me.'

'No.  Go and see him.'

'Are you right?'

'I always am.'

'Clott, take down this letter to Sir Henry Butcher, Imperium Theatre,
S.W....  "Dear Sir Henry, When I declined your kind offer the other
day, my refusal was as private as your suggestion.  I can only conclude
that some mistake has been made and I should like to have an
understanding with you before I write a letter of explanation to the
Press....'"

'You think too much of the Press, Carlo.'

'Only now, darling....  Later on the Press will have to come to me.'

Clara looked dubious.

'You're moving too quickly,' she said.  'I'm getting more used to
London now, and I'm afraid of it.  It is just a great big machine, and
there's no control over it.  There are times when I want to take you
away from it.'

'You gave me no peace until we came here.'

'Yes.  But I didn't want to begin at the top.  I wanted to come over
and live as we lived in Paris.'

'Impossible.  What is freedom in Paris is poverty in London.'

'But all your time goes in writing to the papers and sitting on
committees.  You aren't doing any work.'

'I've worked in exile for ten years.  I can carry on with that for a
year at least.'

'Very well.  Only don't stop believing in yourself.'

'I could never do that.'

'I think it would be very easy for you to begin believing in what the
papers said about you.'

'You're too young, my dear.  You see things too clearly.'

They were now in the furnished house found for them by Mr Clott, a most
respectable house in an unimpeachable neighbourhood: an old house
reclaimed from the slums, re-faced, re-panelled, painted, papered,
decorated by a firm who supplied taste as well as furniture.  Charles
hated it, but Clara, who through her grandfather knew and appreciated
comfort, was delighted with it, and with a few deft touches in every
room made it her own.  It hurt her that Charles should hate it because
it was good and decent in its atmosphere, and belonged to the widow of
a famous man of letters, who, intrigued by the remarkable couple, had
called once or twice and had invited Clara to her house, where the
foreign-bred girl for the first time encountered the muffins and tea
element of London life, which is its best and most characteristic.  It
seemed to her that, if Charles would not accept that, he would never be
reconciled to his native country as she wanted him to be.  There was
about the muffins and tea in a cosy drawing-room a serenity which had
always been to her the distinguishing mark of Englishmen abroad.  It
had been in her grandfather's character, and she wanted it to be in
Charles's.  It was to a certain extent in his character through his
art, but she wanted it also to be through more tangible things.  As she
wanted it, she willed it, and her will was an impersonal thing which in
its movement dragged her whole being with it, and it had no more
consideration for others than it had for herself.  She could see no
reason why an artist should not be in touch with what was best in the
ordinary lives of ordinary people; indeed, she could not imagine from
what other source he could draw sustenance....

Friends and acquaintances had come quickly.  Success was so rapid as to
be almost ridiculous, and hardly worth having, and people took
everything that Charles said in a most maddeningly literal way.  She
understood what he meant, but very often she found that his utterances
were translated into terms of money or politics or the commercial
theatre, where they became just nonsense.  He was being transformed
from her Charles into a monstrous London Charles, a great artist whose
greatness was of more importance than his art.

She first took alarm at this on the occasion of the dinner which the
dear, delightful fellow arranged to have given to himself and then with
childlike innocence accepted as a thing done in his honour--the first
clear sign of the split in his personality which was to have such fatal
consequences, for her and for so many others.

There were three hundred guests.  The chair was taken by Professor
Laverock, as a distinguished representative of modern painting, and he
declared Mann to be the equal of Blake in vision, of Forain in
technique, of Shelley in clear idealism.  Representatives of the
intellectual theatre of the time were present and spoke, but the
theatre of success was unrepresented.  There were critics, literary
men, journalists of both sexes, idealists of both sexes, arrivists,
careerists, everybody who had ever pleaded publicly for the theatre as
a vehicle of art.  Professor Laverock declared it to be Mann's mission
to open the theatre to the musician, the poet, and the painter, and, if
he might express his secret hope, to close it to the actor.  There were
many speeches, but Clara sat through them all staring straight in front
of her, wondering if a single person in the room really understood what
Charles wanted and what he meant.  Whether they did so or not, Charles
did not help them much, for in response to the toast of his health he
rose, beamed boyishly at the company and said, 'I'm so happy to be
back.  Thank you very much.  The theatre needs love.  I give you my
love.'

He sat down so suddenly that Clara gasped, and was frightened for a
second or two by the idea that he had been taken ill.  But when she
turned to where he sat, he was chatting gaily to his neighbour and
seemed to be unaware of any omission.  She heard a man near her say, 'I
did hope he was going to be indiscreet,' and she felt with acute
disappointment that this was just a dinner, just an entertainment among
many dinners and entertainments, and she was ashamed.

Charles, however, was delighted.  'Such nice people,' he said, as they
walked home, 'such delightful people, and what a good dinner!'

'Get away.  I hate you.  You're horrible,' cried Clara, flinging from
him.

'_Now_ what's the matter?' he asked, utterly taken aback.

'You're so easily pleased,' she answered.  'People have only to be nice
to you and you think the whole world is Heaven.'

'So it is with you, chicken.'

'Oh!  Don't be so pleased!  Don't be so pleased!  Do lose your temper
with me sometimes!   I'm not a child.'

'But they _were_ nice people.'

'They weren't.  They were dreadful people.  They were only there
because they think you _may_ succeed, and then there will be jobs for
them all.'

'You see through people so much that you forget they are people at all.'

'That comes from living with you.  I have to see through you to realise
that you are a person....'

'Oh!  I _am_ a person then?'

'Only to me....  You reflect everybody else.'

'They are not worth more.'

'They are.  Everybody is.  If only you would be yourself to them, they
would be themselves.'

'Oh!'

She had stung him, as she so often did, into self-realisation and
self-criticism, a process so painful that, left to himself, he avoided
it altogether....  He walked along moodily.  They were crossing St
James's Park.  On the bridge he stopped, looked down into the water and
said gloomily.

'I sometimes think that my soul is as placid and still and shallow as
that water, and that you, like all the rest, have only seen your own
reflection in me....  That's why I like the comfort of restlessness and
change.  Anything to break the stillness.'

'You couldn't say that if it were true,' she said.

'No.  I suppose not,' and, with one of his astonishing changes of mood,
he took her arm and began to talk of the day when he had first met her
in Picquart's studio, where everybody was gay and lively except they
two, so that he talked to her, and seemed to have been talking for ever
and had no idea of ever ceasing to do so.  And then he told her how
better than even talking to her was being silent with her, and how all
kinds of ideas in him that had been too shy to appear in solitude or
with others had come tumbling out like notes of music because of her.

'I've nearly forgotten,' he said, 'what being in love is like.  This
was at the farthest end of love from that, something entirely new, so
new as to be altogether outside life.  I have had to grope back into it
again.'

'I liked you,' said she, 'because you were English.'

'Did you?'  He was puzzled.  'I thought that was precisely what I am
not.'

Neither could be angry for very long, and neither could be rancorous.
The enchantment in which they lived would sometimes disappear for a
space, when they would suffer, and he would tell himself that he was
too old for the girl, or that he was not the kind of man who could live
with a woman, or that she was seducing him from his work, while she
would just sit numbed until the enchantment came again.  Without it
there were moments when he seemed just ridiculous with his masses of
papers, and Mr Clott, and his fussy insistence on being a great
artist....  It was a keen pleasure to her to bring him back suddenly to
physical things like food and clothes and to care for him.  Sometimes
he would forget everything except food and clothes, and then she lived
in a horror lest he should remain so and lose altogether the power of
abstraction and concentration which made him so singular and forceful,
and so near the man she most deeply knew him to be if only some power,
some event, even some accident, could make him realise it and force him
out of his imprisonment and almost entombment in his own thoughts.

Her will concentrated on him anew and she said to herself, 'I can do
it.  I can do it.  I know I can, and I will.'  And when she was in
these fierce passions she used to remember her grandfather, the kindly
old bibliophile, looking anxiously at her and saying,--

'My dear, when you want a thing just look round and see if there aren't
one or two other things you want.'

But she had never understood what he meant, and she had never been able
to look round, for always there was one thing she wanted, and when she
wanted it she could not help herself, but had to sacrifice everything,
friends, possessions, even love.  And as time went on, she realised
that it was not Charles she wanted so much as some submerged quality in
him.  The object of her desire being simplified, her will set, only the
more firmly, even rigidly.

It made her analyse him ruthlessly; his childish lack of
self-criticism, his placidity, his insatiable vanity, his almost
deliberate exploitation of his personal charm, all these things she
cast aside and ignored.  She came then to his thoughts, and here she
was baffled because she knew so little of his history.  Beyond his
thoughts lay that in which she was passionately interested, but between
her and it danced innumerable Charleses all inviting her attention, all
bidding her look away from that one Charles Mann for whom she hungered
with something of the worship which religious women have for their
Saviour.

He was immensely kind to her, almost oppressively kind.  He could never
be otherwise to any living creature--in personal contact, but without
that he was careless, indifferent, forgetful, although when she saw him
again it was as though he had never been away.  They were considered a
charming and most devoted couple, and their domestic felicity helped
him in his success.

Much talk in the newspapers, many committees--but Clara felt that
merely another Charles was being created to dance between her and her
desire.  This was too far from what she wanted, and she could not see
how it could lead to it; there was altogether too much talk.  What he
said was very fine but it merely gathered a rather flabby set of people
round him--and most exasperatingly he liked it and them...  'Such nice
people.'

'That is all very well,' said Clara, 'but we are spending far more than
there is any possibility of your making.'

'There are rich men interested,' said Charles.

'But until you make money, they won't give you any.'

Hard sense was always too much for him, and he retired puzzled and
rather pained from the argument.

Because she was beautiful she attracted many men, many flatterers, but
as they penetrated her graciousness, they came upon the hard granite of
her will and were baffled, unpleasantly disturbed, and used to leave
her, darting angry glances at the blissful Charles, who was sublimely
unconscious of criticism in those whom he approached.  He accepted them
as they were or seemed to be and expected the like from them.  He was
too busy, too eager, to question or to look for hidden motives in those
who supported him, and that he was concealing anything or had anything
to conceal never crossed his mind!  He had other things to think of,
always new things, new plans, new schemes, and he was fundamentally not
interested in himself.  A charming face, a lovely cloud in the sky, the
scent of a flower, a glass of good wine could give him such delight as
made him beam upon the world and find all things good.  It was always a
trifle which sent him soaring like a singing lark, always a trifle that
could lift him from the depths of depression.  Great emotion he did not
seem to need, though the concentrated emotion with which he hurled
himself at his work was tremendous.  Happy is the people that has no
history.  For all that he was aware of, Charles had no history.  He was
born again every morning, and he could not realise that the world went
grinding on from day to day....

Never had life been so sweet, never had he been so successful, never
had he had so much money, never had he been so exquisitely cared for,
never had so many doors been open to him, never had such pleasant
things been said of him!  He went to bed singing, and singing he awoke
in the morning, but in her heart Clara was anxious and suspicious of
London, most suspicious of the artists and literary men who thronged
the house, and gathered at the elaborate supper which Charles insisted
on giving every Sunday night.  They were too denunciatory, too much
aloof, too proud of their aloofness, and talked too much.  She thought
Charles too good for them and said so.

'Art is a brotherhood,' he said magnificently, 'and the meanest of the
brethren is my equal.'

'That is no reason why you should be familiar with them.  You cheapen
yourself.  Besides it is a waste of time....  A lot of people never do
anything, and--I don't like it.'

'Ho! ho!  Are you in revolt, chicken?'

'I don't want you to fritter away what you have got.  It isn't worth
while to spend money on people who can do nothing for you.'

'I don't want anybody to do anything for _me_.  It is for art.'

'But they don't understand that.  They think all sorts of wonderful
things are going to happen through you.'

'So they are....  Hasn't it been wonderful so far?'

'For us.  Yes.'

'Wasn't the exhibition a great success?'

'Yes.'

'Very well then.'

'But you only sold the work you have done during the last ten years.
It is the work you are doing now that matters.  What work are you
doing?'

'Plenty--plenty.  Mr Clott sends out not less than forty letters a day.
And I have just invented some beautiful designs for _Volpone_.'

'Is it going to be done?'

'It will be when they see my designs.'

Clara bit her lip.  This was precisely what she had hoped to scotch by
coming to London.  In Paris he had made marvellous designs.  Artists
had come to look at them and then they had been put away in a portfolio.

'What I want,' said he, 'is a patron, some one who, having made his
money in soap, or pills, or margarine, wishes to make reparation
through art....  Michael Angelo had a patron and I ought to have one,
so that I can do for my theatre what he did for the Sistine Chapel.'

They didn't build the Sistine Chapel for him.'

'No....  N--o,' he mumbled.

'Don't you see that things are different _now_, Charles.  Everything
has to pay nowadays, and there aren't great public works for artists to
do.  Michael Angelo was an engineer as well....  You couldn't design a
theatre without an architect now, could you?'

'Why should I when there are architects to do it?'  He was beginning to
get angry.

'If you could you would be able to carry out your own theories as
well....  People want something more than drawings on paper....'

'You talk as though I had done nothing.'

'It has been too easy....  Appreciation is so easy for the kind of
people who come here.  It costs nothing, and they get a good deal in
return.'

'Don't you worry about me, chick.  I'm a great deal more practical than
you suppose.'

'I only want to know,' she said, rising to leave the room, 'because, if
you are not going to work, I must.'

'My dearest child,' he shouted, 'don't be so impatient.  It is only a
question of time.  My book is not out yet.  We are arranging for the
reviews now.  When that is done then the ball will really be set
rolling.'

'To be quite frank with you,' retorted Clara.  'I hate it all being on
paper.  I am going to learn acting, and I'm going on the stage to find
out what the theatre is like....  I don't see how else I can help you,
and if I can't help you I must leave you.'

He protested loudly against that, so loudly and so vehemently that she
pounced and, with her eyes blazing, told him that she intended to make
her own career, and that whether it fitted in with his depended
entirely upon himself.

'I won't have you wasted,' she cried, 'I won't.  It has been going on
too long, this writing down on paper, and drawing designs on paper, and
now with all these columns about you in the papers you look like being
smothered in paper.  You might as well be a politician or an
adventurer--You have no passion.'

'I!  No passion!'

'On paper.  The world's choked with paper, and London is stifled with
it.  My grandfather told me that.  He spent his life travelling and
reading old books--running away from it.  I'm not going to run away
from it, and I am not going to let you be smothered by it----'

'How long has this been simmering up in you?'

'Ever since that first day when you were interviewed....  We're not
living our own lives at all, but the lives dictated to us by this
ridiculous machinery that turns out papers ten times a day.  We're----'

'Very well,' said Charles submissively.  'What do you want me to do?'

'I want you to keep your appointment with Sir Henry Butcher.'

He pulled a long face.

'You'll hate it, I know,' she added, 'but there is the theatre, and
you've got to make the best of it.  I dare say Michael Angelo didn't
care particularly for the Sistine Chapel.'



III

IMPERIUM

Sir Henry Butcher sat in his sanctum, pulling his aggressive, bulbous
nose, and ruefully turning over the account presented by his manager of
the last week's business with his new production, a spectacular version
of _Ivanhoe_, in which he appeared as Isaac of York.

'No pull,' he muttered.  'No pull.'  And to console himself he took up
a little pink packet of Press cuttings, and perused them....
'Wonderful notices!  Wonderful notices!  It's these confounded
music-halls and cinemas, lowering the people's taste.  Yet the public's
loyal, wonderfully loyal.  Must be the play.  Wish I'd read the book
before I let old Kinslake have his three hundred.  Told me everybody
had read it....'

Sir Henry was a man of sixty, well-preserved, with the soft, infantine
quality which grease paint imparts to the skin.  He had an enormous
head, large dark eyes, sly and humorous, in which, as his shallow
whimsical thoughts flitted through his brain, mischief glinted.  He was
surrounded with portraits of himself in his various successes, and
above his head was a bust of himself in the character of Napoleon.
Every now and then, when he remembered it, he compressed his lips, and
tucked his chin into his breast, but he could not deceive even himself,
much less anybody else, and his habitual expression was that of a bland
baby miraculously endowed with a knowledge of the world's mischief.

His room was luxurious but dark, being lit only by a skylight.  The
walls were lined with a dull gold lincrusta, and on them were hung
portraits of the proprietor of the Imperium and a series of drawings
for the famous Imperium posters, which had through many years
brightened the gloomy streets of London and its ever expanding
outskirts.  Sir Henry's mischievous eyes flitted from drawing to
drawing, and his tongue passed over his thick lips as he tasted again
the savour of his success--more than twenty unbroken years of it.  He
thought of the crowded houses, the brilliant audiences he had gathered
together, the happy speeches he had made, the banquets he had held
after so many first performances--and then he thought of _Ivanhoe_, a
mistake.  Worse than a mistake, a strategical blunder, for now had come
the time when his crowning ambition should be fulfilled, to have the
Imperium unofficially acknowledged as the national theatre, so that
when he retired it should be purchased for the nation and make his
achievement immortal....  Macready, Irving, all of the great line had
perished and were but names, while Henry Butcher would be remembered as
the creator of the theatre, the people's theatre, the nation's
theatre....  Then he remembered a particularly delicious wine he had
drunk in this very room at supper, after rehearsal with the brilliant
woman who had steered him through his early career and had saved him
again and again from disaster--Teresa Chesney.  Ah! there was no one
like her now, no one.  Actresses were ladies now, they were not of the
theatre....  There was no one now with whom a bottle of old claret had
so divine a flavour....  She would never have let him produce
_Ivanhoe_.  She would have read the book for him.  She always used to
stand between him and those idiots at the club.

He went to the tantalus on his sideboard and poured himself out a
brandy and soda, and drank to Teresa's memory, and then to the portrait
of his wife, who had been so wonderfully skilful in decorating the
front of the house with Dukes, Duchesses, and celebrities, but it
needed Teresa's power behind the scenes.

It was very distressing that all qualities could not be found in one
woman, and a mocking litany floated through Sir Henry's brain, 'One for
the front of the house, one for the back, one for paragraphs, one for
posters, but a man for business.'

He lay back in his chair and cudgelled his brains for some means of
turning _Ivanhoe_ from a disastrous failure into an apparent success,
but no idea came, and throwing out his long legs and caressing his
round belly he said,--

'If I paint my nose red, and give myself two large eyebrows they'll
laugh, and it might go.  I must have a play in which I enter down the
chimney....'

The telephone by his side rang.

'Yes.  I'm terribly busy, terribly....  Very well.  I'll ring as soon
as I can see him.'

He put down the receiver, flung out his legs once more, and resumed his
thoughts.

'I might pay a visit to America.  They keep sending people over here.'
But his memory twinged as he thought of the insulting criticisms he had
encountered on his last visit to Broadway.

'Teresa would tell me what to do.  Some one told me Scott was the next
best thing to Shakespeare.  Oh, well!'

He put his hand to a bell-button in the arm of his chair, and in a few
moments his secretary ushered in Mr Charles Mann.  Sir Henry rose, drew
himself up to his full height, but even then had to look up at his
visitor.

'How d'you do?  I remember you as a boy, and I remember your father.  I
even remember his father at Drury Lane....  Pity you've broken the
tradition.  The public is proud of the old theatrical families....  I'm
sorry you wouldn't take that part I offered you.  I saw your photograph
in the papers and your face was the very thing, and, besides, your
return to the stage would have been interesting.'

Charles bristled, and flung his portfolio and large black hat down on
the table.

'I have brought you my designs for _Volpone_.'

'For what?'

'_Volpone_--a comedy by Ben Jonson.'

'Oh, Ben Jonson!'

Sir Henry was depressed.  He had met people before who had talked to
him about the Old Dramatists.

Charles opened his portfolio.

'These are designs I have just completed.  You see, classical, like
Ben's mind.'

'It looks immensely high,' said Sir Henry, his eyes twinkling.

'That,' replied Charles, 'is what I want, so that the figures are
dwarfed.'

'I should have to alter my proscenium,' chuckled Sir Henry, and
Charles, who missed the chuckle, continued eagerly,--

'I should like it played by dolls.'

Sir Henry turned over the drawings and played with the money in his
pocket.

'You never saw my _King Lear_, did you?'

'I have seen pictures of it.  Too realistic.  A visit to Stonehenge
would have answered the same purpose.  You would have then to make such
a storm as would drown the storm in _Lear_.'

Sir Henry remembered his part and fetched up an enormous voice from his
stomach and roared,--

'Rage, blow and drown the steeples.'  Then he kept his voice rumbling
in his belly and tapped with his foot like the bass-trumpet man in a
street band.

'Superb,' cried Charles.

'My voice?' asked Sir Henry, now very pleased with himself.

'My drawings,' replied Charles, rubbing his thumb along a line that
especially delighted him.

'O Heavens!'  Sir Henry paid no further attention to the drawings and
drawled, 'Wonderful thing the theatre.'  There's life in it--life!  I
hate leaving it.  You haven't been to my room before?'

'I once waited for two hours downstairs to ask you to give me a part.
You didn't see me and I gave up acting.

'Oh! and now when I offer you a part you refuse it----'

'Things are very different now....  I have had a great welcome back to
London.'

'What do you think of a national theatre?'

'Every nation, every city, ought to have its theatre.'

'Mine is the best theatre in London.'

'You won't do _Volpone_?  It is one of the finest comedies ever
written.'

'I never heard of its being done.'

Charles flung his drawings back into his portfolio, seized his hat,
crammed it on to his head, and had reached the door when Sir Henry
called him back.

'What do you say to _The Tempest_?'

'It doesn't need scenery.'

'Oh, come!  The ship, the yellow sands.  Prospero's cave--pictures all
the way--and the masque....  I want to do _The Tempest_ shortly and I
should be glad of your assistance.'

'I should expect you to buy my drawings and to pay me ten thousand
pounds.'

Sir Henry ignored that.  He knew his man by reputation.  Ten thousand
pounds meant no more to him than one and sixpence.  He merely mentioned
the first figures that came into his head.  Sir Henry resumed,--

'I want _The Tempest_ to be my first Autumn production.  I place my
theatre at your disposal....  To be quite frank with you, that was why
I offered you that part.  The theatre wants something new.  The Russian
ballet has upset people.  They are expecting something startling....
Poor old Smithson who has painted my scenery for twenty years is
horrified when I suggest anything of the kind.'

'If I do _The Tempest_ for you will you join my committee?'

'Er--I--er--You must give me time to think it over.  You know we
managers have to think of each other.'

Charles began to wish he had not come.  The suggestion of mysterious
influences behind Sir Henry alarmed him, and at home was the furious
energy in Clara forcing him into the embraces of this huge machine of a
theatre, which discarded his _Volpone_ and required him to do something
for which he had not the smallest inclination.  Yet so implicit was his
faith in her, so wonderful had been his life since she came into it,
that he accepted the accuracy of her divination of the futility of his
procedure through artists and literary persons, who would feed upon his
fame and increase it to have more to devour....  He decided then to say
no more about his committee for the present, to accept Sir Henry's
offer, and to escape as quickly as possible from the stifling room,
with its horrible drawings, and its atmosphere in which were blended a
fashionable restaurant and a stockbroker's office.  He had not felt so
uncomfortable since he had been a schoolboy in the presence of his head
master, and yet he enjoyed a European reputation, while outside the
Anglo-Saxon world Sir Henry was hardly known.

The great actor condescendingly escorted the great artist down the
heavily carpeted stairs to a private door which led to the dress
circle.  The theatre was in darkness.  The seats were covered up in
their white sheets, and Sir Henry looked round him and sighed,--

'Ah! cold, cold, a theatre soon grows cold.  But it possesses you.  Art
is very like a woman.  She only yields up her treasure to the purest
passion.'

'Art has nothing to do with women,' Charles rapped out, and, as Sir
Henry had only been making a phrase, he was not offended.  Charles
shook the large fat hand which was held out to him, and plunged into
the street....  Ah!  It was good to be in the air again, to gaze up at
the sky, to see the passers-by moving about their business.  There was
a stillness about the theatre which made him think of Sir Henry in his
room as rather like a large pale fish swimming about in a tank in a
dark aquarium....  After his years of freedom in delightful countries,
where people were in no hurry and were able most charmingly to do
nothing in particular for weeks on end, the captivity of so eminent and
powerful a person appalled and crushed him....  He had not encountered
anything like it in his previous sojourn in London, and he was again
possessed with the bewildered rage that had seized him when he saw the
rebuilt station on his arrival.  He had been out of it all for so long,
yet he was of it, and he shuddered away from the increased captivity of
London, yet longed to have been part of it....  It was almost
bewilderingly a new city.  During his absence, the immense change from
horse to petrol-driven vehicles had taken place and a new style of
architecture had been introduced.  The air was cleaner: so were the
streets.  Shop windows were larger.  There was everywhere more display,
more colour, more and swifter movement, and yet in the theatre was that
deadly stillness.

He turned into a magnificent shop, where all the flowers looked rather
like little girls dressed up for a party, and ordered some roses to be
sent to Clara, for whom he had begun to feel a rudimentary
responsibility.  It comforted him to do that.  Somehow it broke the
stillness which had infected him, and most profoundly shocked him, so
different was it from the theatre in which he had been born and bred,
the rather fatuous, very sentimental theatre which was inhabited by
simple kind-hearted vagabonds, isolated from the world of morals and
religion, yet passionately proud of their calling, and setting it above
both morals and religion.  But this theatre, magnificent in this new
magnificent London, was empty and still.  So much of the theatre that
had been dear to him was gone, and he mourned for it, lamented, too,
over his own folly, for he was suddenly brought face to face with the
fact that the theatre he proposed so light-heartedly to overthrow, the
theatre of the actor, had disappeared.  In attacking it he was beating
the air.  He had to deal with a new enemy.

As he was emerging from St James's Park into Victoria Street a woman
accosted him.  He looked at her, did not recognise her, and moved to
pass on, for he was fastidious and took no interest in chance women.
She was a little woman, very alert, and she was rather poorly dressed.
She was young, but already her lips had stiffened into the hardness of
baffled hope and passion and her eyes smouldered with that
extraordinary glow which rouses a pity as cold as ice.

'I saw you were back in the papers,' she said.  'It's a pity you can't
hide yourself.'

Charles stared at her, stared and stared, cast about for some excuse
for pretending not to know her but remained rooted.

'You're not so young as you were,' she went on.  'There's a lot of talk
about you in the papers, but I know you; it's all talk.'

'My good woman,' said he, 'is that all you have to say?'

'It'll keep,' said she, and she turned abruptly and left him, feeling
that all the strength had gone out of his legs, all the feeling from
his bowels, leaving only a nauseating pity which brought up memory upon
memory of horrible emotions, without any physical memory to fix them so
that he was at their mercy.  At last physical memories began to emerge,
rather ridiculously, theatrical lodgings, provincial theatres, the
arcades at Birmingham.  And a blue straw hat that he had bought for her
long ago; and at last her name.  Kitty Messenger, and her mother, a
golden-haired actress with a tongue like a flail in one temper, like
the honey-seeking proboscis of a bee in another.

'I had forgotten,' said Charles to himself.  'I really had forgotten.
Well--money will settle it.  I shall have to do _The Tempest_ for that
fish.'

Thinking of the money restored his sense of serenity.  Wonderful money
that can swamp so many ills: money that means work done
somewhere--work, the sole solace of human misery.  But Charles had no
notion of the relation between work and money, or that in using up
large quantities of it he was diverting to his own uses more than his
fair share of the comfort of humanity.  He had so much to give if only
humanity would take--and pay for it.  What he had to give was beyond
price, wherefore he had no qualms in setting his price high....  From
_The Tempest_ boundless wealth would flow.  He quickly persuaded
himself of that, and by the time he reached his furnished house had
lulled his alarm to sleep and had allayed the disgust and loathing of
the past roused in him by the meeting with Kitty Messenger....  So rosy
had the vision become under the influence of his potential wealth that
he met Clara without a qualm, and forgot even that Sir Henry was like a
fish in an aquarium.

'We got on splendidly,' he said, 'and I am to have the whole theatre
for _The Tempest_ in the Autumn.'

'I told you I was right,' said she.

'Bless you, child,' he cried.  'You always are, always.  And now we
will go out and drink champagne--Here's a health unto His Majesty, with
a fal-lal-la.'

He was like a rebellious boy, and Clara disliked that mood in him,
because he was rather rough and cumbrous in his humour, cracked gusty
and rather stupid jokes, ate voraciously, and drank like a carter.

They went to a most elegant restaurant, where their entry created a
stir, and it was whispered from end to end of the room who he was.  And
the girl with him?  People shrugged....  Clara's eyes were alight, and
she looked from table to table at the sleek, well-groomed men, and the
showy women with their gaudy hair ornaments, bare powdered shoulders,
and beautiful gowns.  She looked from face to face searching eagerly
for--she knew not what; power, perhaps, some power which should justify
their costly elegance.  This hurt as a lie hurt her, because, as she
gazed from person to person, she could not divine the individuality
beneath the uniform, and she was still young enough to wish to do
so....  Meanwhile, as she gazed, Charles ate and drank lustily, and, it
must be admitted, noisily.  There was no suppression of individuality
about Charles.  It brimmed over in him.  He had gone to that restaurant
to enjoy himself; not because it was a place frequented by successful
persons....  Clara's eyes came back to him.  Yes, she preferred her
Charles to every one else, if only--if only he would realise that she
thought of other things besides himself.

From a table near by a very good-looking man came and tapped Charles on
the shoulder.

'There's no mistaking you, old chap,' he said.  'I'm just back from
America.  They think a lot of you over there since your conquest of
London.'

'You haven't met my wife,' said Charles, with his mouth full.  'What a
splendid place this is!  Chicken, this is Freeland Moore.  We were
together in the old days with the Old Man.'

'I was with him when he died,' said Freeland, 'died in harness.
There's no one like him now.'

'Who?' asked Clara, alive at once to even the memory of a great
personality.

'Henry Irving.  He was a prince, and kept royalty alive in England.  It
seems a long time ago now.  Won't you come over and join us for coffee,
when you have finished?  I am with Miss Julia Wainwright; she's with us
at the Imperium.  Not for long, I'm afraid.  It's a wash-out.'

'Ah!' said Charles, remembering Sir Henry's depressed glance round the
theatre, and he saw himself restoring splendour and success to the
Imperium.

After dinner they went over to Mr Moore's table, and Clara, shaking
hands with Miss Wainwright, warmed to the large, generous creature with
her expansive bosom, her drooping figure, her tinted face and hair and
ludicrously long soft eyes.  There was room in Miss Wainwright for a
dozen Claras.  She looked sentimentally and with amazement spreading in
ripples over her big face at the girl's wedding-ring and said,--

'So pleased to meet you, child.  I made Freeland go over and fetch
you....  You're not on the stage, are you?'

'No,' replied Clara, 'but I'm going to be.'

'It is not what it was,' resumed Miss Wainwright, sipping her _crème de
menthe_.' The Wainwrights have always been in the profession, but I'm
sending my boy to a public-school....  You're not English, are you?'

'Oh, yes,' answered Clara, 'but I have always lived abroad in Italy and
Germany and France with my grandfather.  My father and mother died in
India, but I was born in London.'

'If you want to get about,' said Miss Wainwright, 'there's nothing like
the profession.  I've been in Australia, Ceylon, South Africa, America,
but never Canada....  I'm just back from America with Freeland, and we
took the first thing that came along--_Ivanhoe_.  It's a lovely show
but the play's no good....  Why not come and see it?  Freeland, go and
telephone Mr Gillies to keep a box for Mrs Mann.'

Freeland obeyed, treading the floor of the restaurant as though it were
a stage.

'I suppose you're not sorry you gave up acting, Charles,' said Miss
Wainwright, with her most expansive affability.  She oozed charm, and
surrounded Charles and Clara with it, so that almost for the first time
Clara felt that she really was identified with her great man.  Those
who worshipped at the shrine of his greatness always regarded her as an
adjunct and their politeness chilled her, but Miss Wainwright swept
greatness aside and was delightfully concerned only with what she
regarded as a striking and very happy couple.

Charles, who was absorbed in eating an orange, made no reply other than
a grimace.

'I don't know how you did it....  I couldn't.  Once a player, always a
player--money or no money, and there's a great deal more money in it
than there used to be.'

Freeland Moore returned, announced that a box had been reserved, and,
telling Miss Wainwright that it was time to go, he helped her on with
her wrap of swan's down and velvet....

'I'll come and call if I may,' said Miss Wainwright, with a billowing
bow, and, with a magnificent setting of all her sails she moved away
from the table, and, taking the wind of approval from her audience, the
other diners, she preened her way out.

'Pouf!  Pah!  Pah!' said Charles, shaking back his mane.  'Pouf!  The
stink of green-paint.'

'I'm sure she's the kindest woman in the world.'

'So are they all,' growled Charles, 'dripping with kindness or burning
with jealousy....  The theatrical woman!--It's a modern indecency.'

'And suppose I became one.'

'You couldn't.'

'But I'm going to.'

'You'd never stand it for a week, my dear.  I'd ... I'd ...'

'What would you do?'

'I'd forbid it.'

'Then I should not stay with you....  You know that.'

Charles knew it.  He had learned painfully that though she had some
respect for his opinion, she had none for his authority.

He had more coffee, liqueurs, fruit, a cigar, gave the waiter a tip
which sent him running to fetch the noble diner's overcoat, and,
hailing a taxi, they drove the few hundred yards to the Imperium, where
he growled, grunted, muttered, dashed his hands through his hair, and
she sat with her eyes glued on the stage, and her brows puckered as the
dull, illiterate version of Scott's novel, denuded of all dramatic
quality, was paraded before her....  In an interval, Charles asked her
what she thought of it.

'It is death,' she said.  'It is nothing but money.'

'Money,' repeated Charles.  'Money....  Whose money? ...'  And he
suddenly felt again that splendid feeling of confidence.  With his
_Tempest_ all the money in that place should sustain beauty, and every
ugly thing, every ugly thought should disappear.  He touched Clara's
hair, and for the first time, somewhat to his alarm, realised that she
was something more than an amusing and delightful child, and that he
had married her.

He looked down from the box into the stalls, and wondered if behind the
white-shirt fronts and the bare bosoms there were also anxious thoughts
and uneasy emotions, and if everybody had troubles that lurked in the
past and might race ahead of them to meet them in the future....  Then
he laughed at himself.  After all, whatever happened, his fame grew,
and he went on being Charles Mann.



IV

BEHIND THE SCENES

Miss Julia Wainwright might be sentimental, and she might be jealous,
but she was shrewd, and she understood intuitively the relationship
between Charles and Clara.  At first she refused to believe that they
were married, as Charles was notoriously careless in these matters, but
when she was faced with the fact her warm heart warned her of tragedy
and she took it upon herself to inform Clara of the mysterious
difficulties of married life, especially for two sensitive people.

'Charles wants a stupid woman and you want a stupid man,' she said.

Clara, of course, refused to believe that, and said that with a stupid
woman Charles would just rot away in a studio and grow more and more
unintelligible.

'Never mind, then,' said Miss Wainwright.  'I'll show you round.  If
you are meant for the theatre nothing can keep you away from it.  The
only thing I can see against you is that you're a lady.'

'Is that against me?' asked Clara, a little astonished.

'Well,' replied Miss Wainwright, 'we're different.'

And indeed Clara discovered very soon that actors and actresses were
different from other people, because they concealed nothing.  Their
personalities were entirely on view, and exposed for sale.  They
reserved nothing.  Such as they were, they were for the theatre and for
no other purpose, but to be moved at a moment's notice from theatre to
theatre, from town to town, from country to country.  They were
refreshing in their frank simplicity, compared with which life with
Charles was oppressive in its complexity.

As she surveyed the two, Clara was torn asunder for a time and was
reluctant to take the plunge, and yet she knew that this was the world
to which Charles belonged, this world of violent contrasts, of vivid
light and shadowy darkness, of painted illusion and the throbbing
reality of the audience, of idle days and feverish nights.  His mind
was soaked in it, and his soul, all except that obscure part of it that
delighted in flowers and in her own youth, hungered for it, and yet it
seemed she had to force him into it....  If only he had a little more
will, a little more intelligence.

Often she found herself thinking of him as 'poor Charles,' and then she
set her teeth, and shook back her hair, and vowed that no one should
ever think of her as 'poor Clara.' ...  Life had been so easy when they
had drifted together from studio to studio, but it threatened to be
mighty difficult now that they had squared up to life and to this huge
London....

_Ivanhoe_ staggered on for six weeks and then collapsed, and an old
successful melodrama was revived to carry the Imperium over the early
summer months.  In this production, as a protégée of Miss Wainwright's,
Clara played a small part in which she had ten words to say....  She
was quite inaudible though she seemed to herself to be using every atom
of voice in her slim young body, but always her voice seemed to fill
her own head until it must surely burst.

'Nerves,' said Miss Wainwright.  'You'll get your technique all right,
and then you won't hear yourself speak any more than you do when you
are talking in a room.  It's just a question of losing yourself, and
that you learn to do unconsciously....  It'll come all right, dearie.
It'll come all right.'

Clara was determined that it should come all right, though she knew it
would not until she had overcome her loathing of painting her face, and
pencilling her eyes, and dabbing red paint into the corners of them.
So much did she detest this at first that her personality repudiated
this false projection of herself and left her helpless.  Over and over
again she said to herself,--

'I shall never be an actress.  I shall never be an actress....' But
then again she said, 'I will.'

There was a violence in appearing in the glaring light before so many
people which offended her deeply, and yet she knew that she was wrong
to be offended, because the people had come not to look at her, Clara
Day, but at the false projection of Clara Day which was needed for the
play....  Her objection was moral, and so strong that it made her
really ill, and it was with the greatest difficulty that she could keep
going at all, but not a word did she say to a soul.  She fought through
it with clenched teeth, going through agony night after night, smiling
when it was over, going home exhausted, and dreading the coming of the
morrow when it would all have to be borne again....

She used to look at the others and wonder if they had been through the
same thing, but it was plain to her clear eyes that they had nearly all
accepted without a struggle, and had surrendered to the false
projection of themselves which the theatre needed.  Stage-fright they
knew, but not this moral struggle in which, determined not to be
beaten, she fought on.

Rehearsals she enjoyed.  Then the actors were at their indolent best,
and the half-lit stage was full of a dim, suggestive beauty, which
entirely disappeared by the time the scene-painter, the lime-light man,
and the stage-carpenter had done their work.  Often at rehearsal, words
would give her the shock of truth that in performance would just puzzle
her by their banality; voices would seem to come from some remote
recess of life; movements would take on dignity; the players seemed
indeed to move and live in an enchanted world....  And so, off the
stage, they did.

Miss Wainwright and Mr Freeland Moore, who had played together for so
many years, were idyllic lovers, though he had a wife in America, and
she a husband who had gone his ways.  To them there were no further
stages of love than those which are shown to the Anglo-American public.
For them there were but Romeo and Juliet at the ball with no contending
houses to plague them.  They lived in furnished flats and paid their
way, impervious to every conspiracy of life to bring them down to
earth....  Both adored Clara, both soon accepted her and Charles as
lovers even more perfect than themselves, because younger, and both
were never tired of thinking what kindness they could next do to help
their friends.

And Clara struggled on.  Sometimes she could have screamed with rage
against the theatre, and these people whose enchantment had been won by
the sacrifice of the fiery essence of themselves, so that they accepted
meekly insults from the manager, from the stage-manager, from the very
dressing-room staff of the theatre, who could make their lives
uncomfortable.  She understood then what it was that had driven Charles
out, and made him so reluctant to return, and why his immense talent,
which should have been expressed in terms of the theatre, was reduced
to making what, after all, were only notes on paper.  Convinced that
she could help to bring him back from exile, she struggled on, though
the strain increased as more and more fiercely she had to pit her will
against the powerful machinery of the theatre.

Everybody was kind to her, though many were alarmed by the intent force
with which she set about her work.  Very often she had no energy left
for conversation, and would then take refuge in a book, a volume of
Meredith, or Bernard Shaw, Schopenhauer or Browning, who had been the
poet of her first discovery of the world of books.  That frightened off
the young men, who were at first greatly taken with her charm.  They
were subdued themselves as everybody was, from the business manager
down, but her silence chilled and alarmed them....  Except those she
bought herself, she never saw a book in the theatre.

At first, full of Charles's fierce denunciation of Sir Henry Butcher,
she detested the man, who seemed to her like some monster who absorbed
all the vitality of the rest and used it to inflate his egoism.  He
never spoke to her for some weeks, and she avoided meeting him, did not
wish to speak to him, felt, indeed, that she was perhaps using him a
little unfairly in turning his theatre to her own ends, forcing herself
to accept it in order to make things easier for Charles, to whom she
used to go with a most vivid caricature of Sir Henry at rehearsals.

Until he appeared there was a complete languor upon the stage.  The
actors and actresses still had upon them the mood of breakfast-in-bed;
some looked as though they were living in the day before yesterday and
had given up all hope of catching up with the rest of the world; some
of the men talked sport; all the women chattered scandal; some read
their letters, others the telegrams by which their correspondence was
conducted.  In none was the slightest indication of preparedness for
work, for the thoughts of all were obviously miles away from the
theatre....  Stagehands moved noisily about.  They, at least, were
conscious of earning their living.  Messages were brought in from the
stage-door.  Back cloths were let down: the fire-proof curtain
descended slowly, and remained shutting out the vast and gloomy spaces
of the auditorium, also a melancholy gray-haired lady who was the widow
of the author of the melodrama in rehearsal.

Sir Henry appeared with a bald-headed Frenchman, with a red ribbon in
his button-hole, his secretary, carrying a shorthand notebook, and a
stout, thick-set Jew, who waited obsequiously for the great actor to
take further notice of him.  Sir Henry talked volubly and laughed
uproariously.  He was very happy and he beamed round the stage at his
company.  The ladies said,--

'Good-morning, Sir Henry.'

The gentlemen said,--

'Morning.'

Sir Henry gesticulating violently turned away and began in French to
tell a humorous story to which the Frenchman said, '_Oui, oui_,' and
the Jew said, '_Oui, oui_,' while Clara, who could speak French as
fluently as English, understood not a word of it; but this morning she
liked Sir Henry because he was so happy and because he was so full of
vitality.

His business with the Jew and the Frenchman was soon settled fairly to
their satisfaction.  They went away, and Sir Henry began to collect his
thoughts.  He turned to his secretary and asked,--

'We are rehearsing a play, eh?  All these ladies and gentlemen are not
here for nothing, eh?  What play?'

'_The Golden Hawk_.'

'Ah!  Yes....  I have rehearsed so many plays....  I am thinking of my
big Autumn success....  I can feel it in the air.  I can always feel
it.  I felt that _Ivanhoe_ was no good, but I was over-persuaded.  My
instinct is always right.  The business men and the authors are always
wrong....'

He flew into a sudden passion, and roared, 'Who the hell let down the
fire-proof?  I hate the thing.  Take it away.  How can a man rehearse
to a fire-proof curtain?  Take it away.  Send it to the London County
Council who inflicted it on me.  I don't want it.'

The stage-manager shouted to a man in the flies,--

'Fire-proof up.'

'I never let it down,' came a voice.

'Who did then?'

The stage-manager came over to where Clara was standing and pressed a
button.  The heavy fire-proof curtain slowly rose to reveal the
author's widow sitting patiently with the dark empty theatre for
background.

Who's that lady?' asked Sir Henry.

'The author's widow,' replied the secretary.

'I was afraid it was his ghost,' said Sir Henry, with his mischievous
chuckle.  He went to her and chatted to her for a few moments about her
late husband, who had been something of a figure in his time and had
made a career in the traffic in French plays adapted for the British
theatre.

A scene or two was rehearsed, when an artist arrived with a model for a
'set' for _The School for Scandal_.  The company gathered round and
admired, while Sir Henry sat and played with it, trying various
lighting effects with an electric torch.

'No,' he said, 'you can't get the effects with electric light that you
used to be able to obtain with gas....  Give me gas.  The theatre has
never been the same.  This electric light is cold.  It is killing the
theatre.'

When the artist had gone, a journalist arrived for an interview, which
was granted on condition that an article by Sir Henry on British
Audiences was printed, and for the rest of the morning the secretary
was kept busy taking down notes for the article.

For Clara it was a very delightful morning.  Her own scene was not
reached, and she sat happily in a corner by the proscenium turning over
the pages of her book, watching Sir Henry's antics, appreciating the
skill with which, in spite of all his digressions, he kept things
lively, and managed to get the work he wanted out of his company....

As the players dispersed, he stood in the middle of the stage and
sighed heavily.  Clara was for stealing away, when he strode across to
her, seized her by the arm, and said in his deep rolling voice,--

'Don't go, little girl.  Don't go.'

'But I want to go,' replied she.  'And I'm not a little girl.  I'm a
married lady.'

'Ah! marriage makes us all so old,' said Sir Henry, with a gallant
sigh....  'You're the little girl who reads books, aren't you?  I've
heard of you.  I've written a book or two, but I never read them.  I
have quite a lot of books upstairs in my room--given me by the
authors....  Won't you come to lunch?  I feel I could talk to you.'

He had suddenly dropped his mannerisms, his affectation of thinking of
a thousand and one things at once, and was a simple and very charming
person of no particular age, position, or period--just a human being
who wanted for a little to be at his ease.  He took Clara by the arm,
and, regardless of the staring eyes of those whom they met in the
corridors, swept her along to the room which Charles had likened to an
aquarium.  Then he made her sit in the most comfortable chair, while he
bestrode another not a yard away, and stared at her with his
extraordinary eyes, which never had one but always the suggestion of a
hundred different expressions.

'I love my room,' he said, 'it is the only place I have in the world.
Don't you like it?'

'It is very quiet,' said Clara.

Sir Henry rang a bell and ordered lunch to be brought up, vol-au-vents,
cold chicken, Crème Caramel, champagne.

'You're not old enough to understand food,' he said.  'That comes with
the beginning of wisdom.'

'But I understand food very well,' protested Clara, 'my grandfather
knew all there was to know about it.'

'Ah!  You are used to old men, eh?  Boys don't exist for you, eh?'

With extraordinary gusto he produced a photograph album, and showed her
portraits of himself at various ages, slim and romantic at twenty, at
forty impressively Byronic, at fifty monumentally successful--and
'present day.'  He showed her portraits of his mother and father, his
wife, his children, Miss Teresa Chesney in her pieces, his various
leading ladies, his sisters who had both married noble lords, and of a
large number of actors and actresses who had passed through his
company.  Of them he talked with real knowledge and enthusiasm.  He
adored acting for its own sake, and as he talked brought all these
performers vividly before Clara's eyes so that she must accept the
validity of his criticism: he knew, or seemed to know, exactly what
each could do or could not do, though it was difficult to understand
how he could ever have found time to see them all.  Whether or not he
had done so, he had exactly weighed up the value of their theatrical
personalities, and it was in those and those alone that he was
interested.  As human beings, he was indifferent to them, though he
spoke of them all with the exaggerated affection common to the
theatre--'dear old Arthur' ... 'adorable Lily' ... 'delicious Irene.
Ah! she's a good woman.'  He talked rhapsodically, and his talk rather
reminded Clara of Liszt's music, until lunch came, and then his greedy
pleasure in the food made her think of certain gluttonous musicians she
had known in Germany.  He ate quickly, and his eyes beamed satisfaction
at her, so young, so fresh, so altogether unusual and challenging....
She would neither eat nor drink, so absorbed was she in this strange
man who so overwhelmingly imposed his personality upon her until she
felt that she was merely part of the furniture of the room.

When he had done eating and drinking, he lit a cigar and lay back in
his large chair, and closed his eyes in the ecstatic distention of his
surfeit.  After a grunt or two, he turned suddenly and asked with a
strange intensity,--

'Charles Mann--is he a genius?'

'Of course,' replied Clara.

'Then why does he talk so much?'

'He works very hard.'

'Hm!'

'You can't expect me to discuss him.'

'No, no.  I only think it is a pity he gave up acting.  He's lost touch
with the public....  I've tried it at intervals; giving up acting, I
mean.  The public lose interest, and no amount of advertising will get
it back.'

'It is for the artist to command the public,' said Clara, rather
uncomfortably feeling that she was only an echo.  It was a very curious
thing that words in this room lost half their meaning, and she, who was
accustomed to giving all her words their precise value, was rather at a
loss.

'Little girl,' said Sir Henry, 'I feel that you understand me.  That is
rare.  After all, we actors are human.  We are governed by the heart in
a world that is standing on its head.'

He took out a little book and made a note of that last observation.
Then with a sigh he leaned over and held Clara's hands, looked long
into her large dark eyes, and said,--

'With such purity you could outstare the angels.'

For answer Clara outstared him, and he dropped her hands and began to
hum.  'Opera!' he said.  'I feel opera in the air; music invading the
theatre, uplifting the souls of the people....  Ah! life is not long
enough....'

Clara began to feel sorry for him though she knew in her heart that
this was precisely what he wanted.

'You mustn't be angry,' he rumbled in his deepest bass, 'if I tell you
that Charles Mann ought to have his neck wrung.'

'But--you are going to do his _Tempest_?'

'If it were not for you, little girl, I would not have him near the
theatre,' said Sir Henry, with a sudden heat.

'How dare you talk like that?'  Clara was all on fire.  'It is an
honour for you to be associated with him at all.'

Sir Henry laughed.

'We know our Charles,' he said.  'We knew his father.  We are not all
so young as you.'

Clara hid her alarm, but it was as though the ground had suddenly
opened and swallowed her up, as though the London about which she had
been hovering in delighted excitement had engulfed her.  And then she
felt that she was failing Charles.

'I won't allow you to talk like that.  I won't let Charles do _The
Tempest_ at all, if you talk like that.  He is a very great genius, and
it is your duty to let the public see his work.  It is shameful that
all his life people have talked about him, and have never helped him to
reach his natural position.  He has been an exile and but for me would
still be so.'

'But for you,' repeated Sir Henry....  'Would you like to play Miranda?
A perfect Miranda, but where is Ferdinand?'

Clara was alarmed at this prospect.  She had read _The Tempest_ with
her grandfather, and knew long passages by heart.  Its beauty was in
her blood, and she could not reconcile it with this theatre of Sir
Henry Butcher's.  Sitting with him in the heart of it, she felt trapped
and as though all her dreams and purposes had been sponged out.  Never
before had she even suspected that her freedom could be extinguished;
never before had she even been anywhere near feeling that her will
might break and leave her at the mercy of circumstances.  She clutched
desperately at her loyalty to Charles, and she summoned up all her will
only to find that it forced her to regard him, to weigh and measure him
as a man....  He and she were no longer exiles, wandering untrammelled
in strange lands, but here in London among their own people, confronted
with their responsibility to the world outside themselves and to each
other.  She was prepared to accept it, but was he?



V

THE OTHER WOMAN

Clara could hardly remember ever having been unhappy before.  All her
life she had done exactly as she wished to do.  Her grandfather had
never gainsaid her: had always indulged her every caprice, and had
supported her even when she had been to all outward seeming in the
wrong.  He used to say in his whimsical manner that explosions never
did any one any harm....  'It is all wrong,' thought she, as she left
the sanctum, and she was alarmed for Charles as she was still vibrant
from the hostility in the actor-manager.  What was the occasion of it?
She could not guess.  It was incredible to her that any one could
object to Charles, so kindly, so industrious, so simple in his work and
his belief in himself.  People laughed at him sometimes indulgently,
but that was a very different thing to this hostility, this cold,
implacable condemnation.  That was beyond her, for she had been brought
up in a school of absolute tolerance except of the vulgar and
ill-mannered.

Her quick wits worked on this new situation.  She divined that Sir
Henry resented the intrusion of a personality as powerful as his own
and the check upon his habit of exuding patronage.  His theatre had
always been animated with his own vitality, and he obviously resented a
position in which he had to employ that of another and openly to
acknowledge it.

'He wants to patronise Charles,' thought Clara, and then she decided
that for once in a way it would be a good thing for Charles to submit
to it.  It must be either that or his chosen interminable procedure by
committee.

She decided to take a walk to think it over, and as she moved along
Piccadilly towards the Green Park, where she proposed to ponder her
problem, she had a distressing idea that she was followed.  Several
times she turned and stopped, but she could see no one who could be
pursuing her.  Men stared at her, but none dared molest so purposeful a
young woman....  She stayed for some time in the Green Park, turning
over and over in her mind how best she could engage Sir Henry's
interest without aggravating his hostility to Charles, and still she
was aware of eyes upon her....  She walked away very fast, but as she
turned out into the roadway in front of Buckingham Palace she turned,
stopped, and was accosted by a little dark woman with a smouldering
fury in her eyes.

'Are you Mrs Mann?' said the woman.

'Yes,' said Clara, at once on her guard.

'So am I,' rejoined the other woman.

'Oh, no!' said Clara, with a smile that barely concealed the catch at
her heart.

'Oh, yes,' replied the other woman.  'I should think I was married to
him before you were born.  And I wasn't the only one.  He left the
country----'

Clara turned on her heel and walked away.  The other woman followed her
breathing heavily and gasping out details.

'You horrible woman,' cried Clara, unable at last to bear any more.
'Go away...'  And in her heart she said--

'It is my fault.  I made him marry me.'

Still the other woman was at her heels, babbling and gasping out her
sordid little tragedy---two children, no money, her mother to keep.

Clara was stunned and so nauseated that she could not speak.  Only in
her mind the thought went round and round,--

'It is my fault....  It is my fault.'

But Charles ought to have told her.  He ought not to have been so
will-less, so ready to fall in with every suggestion she made.

'I must have this out at once,' she said, and hailing a taxi she
bundled the other woman into it and drove home.  Charles was out.  She
ordered tea, and quickly had the whole story out--the lodgings in
Birmingham, the intrigue, the ultimatum, Charles's catastrophic
collapse and inertia, years of poverty in London going from studio to
studio, lodging to lodging: his flight--with another woman: her
struggles, her present hand to mouth existence on the outskirts of the
musical comedy theatre.

'I wouldn't have spoken,' said Kitty, 'if you hadn't been so young.'

'I should have thought that was a reason for keeping quiet,' replied
Clara, who was now almost frozen with horror.

'You were bound to hear sooner or later.'

Charles came in followed by Mr Clott.  He was in the highest spirits
and called out,--

'Darling, Lord Verschoyle is interested.'

His jaw dropped as he saw Kitty there at tea.  His pince-nez fell off
his nose, and he stood pulling at his necktie for a few seconds.  Then
he gave Mr Clott a commission to perform, and stood looking with
horror, disgust, and loathing at the unhappy Kitty....  It was Clara
who first found her voice,--

'I ... I brought her here, Charles,' she said.  'I thought it would
save us all--trouble.'

In a tone icy with fury he said,--

'If you will go quietly, I will write to you.  Please leave your
address, and I will write to you.'

Kitty hoped for a moment that he was talking to Clara, but his fury was
so obviously concentrated on her that at last she rose and said
meekly,--

'Yes, Charles.'

'You will find a writing-block by the telephone in the hall.  Please
leave your address there.'

'Yes, Charles.'

With that she left the room.  Charles and Clara were too much for her.
All her venom trickled away in a thin stream of dread as she felt the
gathering rage in the two of them.  At the same time she had some
exultation in having produced a storm so much beyond her own capacity.

'You did not tell me,' said Clara, when Kitty had gone.

'Honestly, honestly I had forgotten.'

'Forgotten!  You did not tell me.  You did not need her to come into
this house to remember.'

'No.'

'What do you mean, then?  You had forgotten?'

'Honestly, I never thought of it until one day when I met her in the
street.'

'Does everybody know?'

'Yes.  I don't conceal these things.'

'You concealed it from me, from me, from me....'

'Yes.  I never thought of it.  She'd gone out of my life years ago.'

'Have many women gone out of your life?'

He blushed.

'A good many....  I never meant to conceal it.  Truly I didn't.  I just
didn't mention it....  You were so happy, chicken; so was I.  I hadn't
been happy before--not like that.'

'She can ruin us....  Do you know that?  She has only to go up to the
nearest policeman and ruin us.  Do you know that?'

'She won't....  She'd never dare.'

'She would....  I'm young.  That's the unpardonable thing in a
woman....'

'I don't understand,' said Charles, sitting down suddenly.  And quite
perceptibly he did not understand that any one, man or woman, could
deliberately hurt another.

'But you _must_ understand,' she cried.  'You must understand....  You
must protect yourself.'

'How can I?'

'She is your wife.  You must give her what she wants.'

'Money?  Oh, yes.'

'You fool,' said Clara, in exasperation, 'you've married me.  If she
moves at all you will be ruined.  You will be sent to prison.'

'Do you want to get out of it?' he asked.

'I?  No....  I want to protect you....  Oh, it's my fault.  It's my
fault I thought I could help you.  I thought I could help you....  I
could have helped you if only you had told me....  You must have known.
You couldn't imagine that you could come back to London and not be----'

'But I did,' he said.  'I never thought of it.  I never do think of
anything except in terms of my work....  I'll tell Clott to see to it.'

Clara clenched her fists until her nails dug into the palms of her
hands.

'I shall have to leave you,' she said at last.  'I shall have to leave
you.'

She pulled off her wedding-ring

'Perhaps I'd better go away,' he muttered at last very slowly.  'It's a
pity.  Everything was going so well.  Lord Verschoyle is deeply
interested.  He has two hundred thousand a year.'

Clara laughed at him.

'He is willing to sit on my committee.'

'Does he know?'

'No.'

'But can't you see that these people ought to know.'

'No.  What has it got to do with my work?'

'To you nothing.  To them everything.  They can't support you if they
know----'

'But they don't know.'

'You are in that woman's hands.  So am I.  You can't expect me to live
upon her sanction.'

This was a new aspect of the matter to Charles, who had never admitted
the right of any other person to interfere in his affairs.  It hurt him
terribly as it slowly dawned upon him that the miserable Kitty had
behind her the whole force of the law.

'Oh, good God!' he said.  'I'm a criminal.  Oh, good God!  This is
serious.'

'I'm glad you realise it at last,' said she.

He broke down and wept, and began to tumble out the whole ridiculous
story of his life; his perpetual disappointment: his terror of being
bound down to anything except the work in which he felt so free, so
wholly master of himself and his destiny; his delight in at last
finding in her a true companion who, unlike all other women, allowed
him to be something more than her possession.

'I'm afraid,' he said in the end, 'that I have never understood women.'

'Leave it to me.'  Poor Clara felt that if she tried to explain any
more her head would burst.

He looked up at her gratefully and was at once happy again.

'It was my fault,' said Clara.  'It wouldn't have happened if I'd
thought about life at all.  But it was so wonderful being with you and
making your work come to life that I never thought about the rest....
I never looked at it from the woman's point of view, as, being a woman,
I ought to have done....  I think the shock has made me a woman....  I
don't think anything will ever make you a man.'

Charles gaped at her, but was not the least bit hurt.  He did not
particularly want to be a man as manhood is generally understood.

'Yes,' he said, 'Lord Verschoyle is deeply interested, and he has two
hundred thousand a year.'

'Wait a moment,' replied Clara, 'I'll go and see if she has left her
address.'

She ran downstairs, but Kitty had left no address.  As Clara,
considering the matter, decided that meant either that she intended to
make trouble or that she had good reason for waiting before she made it.

When she returned, Charles was lover-like in his gratitude, but she
repulsed him, told him that he must get on with his designs for _The
Tempest_ and she would see what could be done about his troubles.  For
the present, for a little while at all events, she proposed to leave
him and to stay with Julia Wainwright.

'I may have to tell her,' she said, 'but I don't think so....  I won't
let this woman ruin you, Charles.'

'I have hurt you far more than I have hurt her,' he said miserably.  'I
suppose things will never be the same.  You'll always feel that I am
keeping things from you....'

'No.  No.  I know that is all that matters....  It is just the law that
is somehow wrong, giving advantage to any one who is mean enough to
take it....  But women _are_ mean.'

'Not you.'

'No.  I do understand you, Charles, but I'm so hurt.  I'm so tired I
don't think I can stand much more.'

'I'll do anything you want.'

'Then leave it to me....  The chief thing is your work, Charles.  That
is all of you that matters.'

This was entirely Charles's view of himself, and, as he could not see,
yet, the effect of the intrusion of Kitty upon the brave girl who had
so childishly accepted his childishness he was unperturbed and free
from all anxiety....  So far his new career in London had been a
triumphant success, and it seemed to him incredible that it could be
checked by such a trifle as a forgotten wife.  He thought of the money
that should come from the Imperium: money meant power, power meant the
removal of all disagreeable obstacles from his path.  He licked his
lips....  England understood money and nothing else.  He would talk to
England in her own language and when he had caught her attention he
would speak his own....  Things were going so splendidly: a man like
himself was not going to be upset by trifles.  He had worked in exile
for so long: surely, surely he would be able to reap his reward.

Clara meanwhile was shocked almost out of her youth.  She did not weep.
There were no tears in her eyes in which there slowly gathered a fierce
expression of passionate pain.  The bloom of youth was on her cheeks,
upon her lips, in all her still unformed features, but in her eyes
suddenly was the knowledge of years, concentrated, tyrannous, and
between this knowledge and her will there was set up a remorseless
conflict, from which she found relief only in a new gaiety and love of
fun.

It was impossible to discuss the matter any further with Charles, and
without a word to him she went away to Miss Wainwright's flat.  That
good creature took her in without a word, without even a mute
curiosity.  People's troubles were their own affair, and she knew that
they needed to be alone with them.  She gave Clara her bedroom and
absented herself as much as possible, and kept Freeland out of the way.

The flat was luxuriously but monstrously furnished.  Its frank, opulent
ugliness was a relief to the girl after the rarefied atmosphere of
aesthetics in which for three years she had lived with Charles, upon
whom all her thoughts were still concentrated.  Of herself she had no
thought.  It did not concern her what she was called: wife or mistress.
She was Clara Day and would remain so whatever happened to her.  She
had forced Charles to marry her in order to protect him and to help
him, and she had brought him into danger of imprisonment....  It was
perfectly true; Charles could not protect himself because he could not
learn that others were not as kindly as himself.  He had been trapped
into marriage with that vulgar and venomous woman.  He could not speak
of it because he loathed it so much....  She found excuses for him, for
herself she sought none, and at the back of all her thoughts was her
firm will that he should succeed.  Yes, she thought, it was a good
thing to leave him for a while.  She had been with him too much, too
near him.

It was a great comfort to be with Julia and Freeland, that unreal Romeo
and Juliet of middle age.  They were very proud of her, and elated to
have her with them, took her everywhere, introduced her to all their
friends, and insisted upon her being photographed for the Press, and in
due course she had the shock of seeing her own features, almost more
than life-size, exhibited to the hurrying crowds on the
station-platforms.  She was called Clara Day, Sir Henry Butcher's
youngest and prettiest recruit.  From the shy, studious little girl who
sat close and, if possible, hidden during rehearsals, she found that
she had become in the estimation of the company one of themselves.  It
was known that she had had lunch alone with Sir Henry, and the
publication of her photograph sealed her young reputation.  With the
interest of the Chief, and influence in the Press, it was accepted that
she would go far.  That she was Mrs Charles Mann was whispered, for
apparently she only had been ignorant of the impediment.

She apprehended the situation instinctively.  Her mind recoiled from
it.  She felt trapped.  Whichever way she moved she would injure
him....  She ought to have kept quietly in the background, and let him
go his own way.  By forcing him into the theatre he and his affairs
were exposed to the glaring light of publicity through her own
impetuous ambition for him.

Soon she was in an intolerable agony.  She wrote to Charles every day,
and saw him occasionally, but was tortured every moment with the idea
that her mere presence was injurious to him, and might call down an
attack from the jealous Kitty at any moment.  On the other hand, at any
moment some journalist might seize on the story of her arrival in
London with Charles, and publish the fact of their marriage....  She
stayed on with Julia, and let the days go by until at last she felt
that it was unfair to her kind friends.  One night, therefore, after
the theatre, she went into Julia's bedroom, and sat perched at the end
of her bed, with her knees tucked under her chin, and said,--

'I'm not Charles's wife, Julia.'

'I know that,' replied the kind creature.

'But I _am_ married to him.'

'Good God!'  Julia sat up and clasped her hand to her capacious
bosom....  'Not a ceremony!'

'Yes.  In an office near the Strand.'

'My dear child, my dear, dear child,' Julia began to weep.  'It's ...
it's ... it's ...'

'I know what it is,' said Clara, setting her jaw.  'I don't know what
to do.'

'You must never see him again.'

'But I must.  I _am_ married to him inside me.  He can't do anything
without me.  I've made him come over here....'

'Didn't you know?'

'I knew nothing except that I loved him.'

'But people can't love like that.'

'I do.'

'He ran away from all that--and there were other things....  Oh, my
dear, dear child, have you nobody belonging to you?'

'Only Charles.  And I've hurt him.'

'What does he say?'

'He doesn't seem to realise....'

'I'd like to thrash him within an inch of his life....  The only thing
to be thankful for is that you are not married to him.  Not realise,
indeed!  He walked out of his marriage like a man bilking his rent.'

'He is an artist.  His work is more important to him than anybody.'

Julia wept and wailed.  'The scoundrel!  The scoundrel!  The
blackguard!'

'I won't have you calling him names.  I won't have it.  I won't have
it,' cried Clara, her feelings finding vent in an outburst of temper.
'And you're not to tell a soul, not even Freeland.  I won't have
anybody interfering.  I will handle this myself because I know more
about it than anybody else....  It doesn't help me at all to hear you
abusing Charles.  It only hurts me....  I've made a mistake, and I am
going through with it.'

'But you can't live with him.'

'You live with Freeland.'

'Yes.  But we're not married, so nobody worries; at least I am married,
so is Freeland.  That makes it all right.  If people are married it is
different.'

The complications of the position were beyond Julia's intelligence, and
she began to laugh hysterically.  Clara laughed, too, but from genuine
amusement.  The world certainly did look very funny from the detachment
now forced upon her: deliciously funny, and Charles appeared in her
thoughts as a kind of Harlequin dancing through the world, peering into
the houses where people were captive, tapping the doors with his wand
so that they opened, but no one never came out.

'I'll take you to my lawyer,' said Julia, at last, with a fat sob.

'I want no lawyers,' snapped Clara defiantly.  'Charles hates that
woman and she knows it.  She won't try to get him back.'

'Yes.  But she won't stand you're being with him.'

'Then I'll live alone, and help Charles in my own way.'

'Help yourself first, lovey; then you can help other people.'

'I don't believe it.  If you help yourself, you are kept so busy doing
it that you don't know the other people are there.'

Of course Julia told Freeland, and in the morning he came tapping at
Clara's door.  She admitted him.  His rather faded, handsome face wore
a very serious expression, more serious indeed than was warranted
either by the feeling in his heart or the thought in his head.  It was
a very serious situation, and he had assumed the appropriate manner....
Clara had slept soundly, and her fund of healthy good spirits made it
possible for her to regard the whole complication as, in itself, rather
superficial.  The sun was shining in upon the mirror of her
dressing-table, upon her silver brushes, upon the portrait of Julia in
a silver frame, and upon the new frock which had come only the day
before from the dressmaker.  With the sun shining, and the eager
thought of Charles in her heart, Clara could have no anxiety.  No
problem was insoluble, no obstacle, she believed, could be
irresistible.  Therefore she smiled as Freeland came in treading more
heavily than his wont.  He stood and looked down at her.

'It's a bad business, kid,' he said, 'a bad, bad business.'

'Is it?'

'He has ruined your life.  I feel like shooting him.'

'That wouldn't help me.'

'Can't you see how serious it is?  You're neither married nor
unmarried.'

'Can't I be just Clara Day?'

Freeland was rather taken aback.  He was used to Julia's taking her cue
from him.  If a woman does not take the line proposed by the man in a
situation, a scene, where is he?  And, in fact, Freeland did not know
where he was.  His life had proceeded fairly smoothly from scene to
scene and he was not used to being pulled up.

'No, no, kid,' he protested.  'It is too ghastly.  Your position is
impossible.  Charles, damn him, can't protect you.  The world is hard
and cruel....  A man can play the lone hand, but I never heard of its
being done by a woman: never.'

'I'm going to see Charles through,' said Clara, 'and you'll see how we
shall make this old London of yours wake up.'

'But if there's a scandal....?'

'There shan't be....  And if there is: well ... well...'

Freeland in his turn began to weep.  Clara seemed to him so pathetic,
so innocent, so oblivious of all the hard facts of the world.  She was
like a wild bird, flying in ecstasy, flying higher and higher in the
pain of her song.  Indeed she was a most touching sight lying there in
her innocence, full of faith, conscious of danger, busy with wary
thoughts, but so eager, vital, and confident that all her belief in
Charles and her love for him were based in the deeper and stronger
forces of life....  She was roused to battle, and she was profoundly
aware that the law and the other devices of society were contrived
wholly to frustrate those deeper, stronger forces....  Freeland's
sentimental sympathy seemed to her in her happy morning mood weak and
irrelevant, yet charming and pathetic.  He regarded her as a little
girl and was entirely unconscious of all the passionate knowledge in
her which moved so far and so swiftly beyond his capacity.

'Anything either of us can do,' he said, 'we shall do, always.'  He
stooped and took her in his arms and kissed her, and large tears fell
upon her cheek.  Tears came easily to these people: to Clara they came
not.  Indeed she rather exulted in her peril, which destroyed for her
once and for all the superficiality of the life into which she had
plunged in order to help Charles to conquer his kingdom, which was
worlds away from this world of law and pretence, of spurious emotions
and easy tears.

'I can't think how Charles could have done it,' said Freeland, drying
his eyes.

'I made him,' said Clara, her eyes dancing with fun and mischief.



VI

BIRDS AND FISHES

For the time being it seemed that the superfluous Kitty had disappeared
from the scene.  She made no sign, and no attempt was made to trace
her.  Clara knew perfectly well that she was somewhere in the West End,
but in that small crowded area it was possible to avoid meeting.
People quickly fell into a groove and lived between a certain theatre,
a certain restaurant, and home, and the light theatre was almost
completely severed from the theatre which took itself so seriously.
The legitimate stage had nothing to do with the bastard frivolity of
the houses whose appeal was based on lingerie, pretty faces, and
shapely limbs.

As for Charles, he was once again oblivious.  He visited Clara at the
flat, and had a painful scene with Freeland, who lashed out at him,
rolled out a number of hard words, such as 'blackguard,' 'selfish
beast,' etc., etc., but was nonplussed when Charles, not at all
offended, said quietly,--

'Have you finished?'

'No.  What do you propose to do about it?  The poor child has no
people.  Julia and I are father and mother to her.  In fact, I regard
her as my adopted daughter.'

'I should always let her do exactly as she wished,' said Charles.

'Will you leave her alone then?'

'Certainly.'

Freeland regarded that as a triumph, but Clara was furious with him for
interfering, and she scolded him until he promised that in future he
would not say a word.

'What are you going to do?' he asked.

'I need a holiday from Charles,' she said--a new idea to Freeland,
whose conception of love was besotted devotion--'and I am going to live
alone for a time.'

Out she went, and before the day was done she had found a furnished
apartment in the dingy region of narrow streets behind Leicester
Square, and for a time she was entirely absorbed in this new
acquisition.  It was her own, her very own.  It was at the top of the
house, and looked out over roofs and chimneys westward so that she had
the London sunset for comfort and companionship: more than enough,
sweeter intimacy than any she had yet found among human beings, whose
shallow business and fussy importance always hurt and exasperated
her....  More clearly than ever she knew that there was only Charles
and his work that mattered to her at all.  She saw him occasionally and
knew that he was entirely happy.  He wrote to her every day and his
plans were maturing famously.  Lord Verschoyle was more and more
interested, and as his lordship's interest grew so there waxed with it
Charles's idea of his immense wealth.  That worried Clara, who wanted
her genius to prove himself in order to command and not to crave
support.  But Charles was elated with the success of his advertising
campaign, and at the growth of his prestige among the artists....
'Such a combination has never been known.  We shall simply overwhelm
the public.'

Clara's answer to this was to see that his relations with Sir Henry
Butcher were not neglected.  The explosion produced by Kitty's
intervention had split their efforts, so that Charles was now working
through Lord Verschoyle, she through Sir Henry Butcher, and once again
she was embarked upon a battle with Charles for the realisation of his
dreams--not upon paper, which perfectly satisfied him--but in terms of
life in which alone she could feel that her existence was honourable.
She kept a tight enough hold of Charles to see that he worked at _The
Tempest_, but, as she was no longer with him continually, she could not
check his delighted absorption in his committee.  This was properly and
duly constituted.  It had a chairman, Professor Laverock, and Mr Clott
acted also as its secretary in an honorary capacity, his emoluments
from Charles being more than sufficient for his needs.  It met
regularly once a month in studios and drawing-rooms.  The finest
unofficialised brains in London were gathered together, and nervous men
eyed each other suspiciously and anxiously until Charles appeared, with
Mr Clott fussing and moving round him like a tug round a great liner.
His presence vitalised the assembly; the suppressed idealism in his
supporters came bubbling to the surface.  Poets whose works were
ignored by the great public, musicians whose compositions were ousted
by Germans, Russians, Frenchmen, and Poles from the concert-rooms of
London, dramatists whose plays were only produced on Sunday evenings,
art critics who had acclaimed Charles's exhibition, all in his presence
were conscious of a solidarity proof against all jealousy and
disappointment; Charles, famous in Paris, Berlin, Moscow, New York,
moved among them like a kindling wind.

He would arrive with his arms full of papers, while Mr Clott in a
little black bag carried the essential documents--minute-book, agenda,
suggestions, plans.  For some months the Committee accomplished nothing
but resolutions to invite and co-opt other members, but it seemed
impossible to lure any really successful person into the net.  No
actor-manager, no Royal Academician, no poet with a healthy circulation
could be found to give practical expression to his sympathy, though
admiration for Mr Mann's work and the high reputation he had won for
British Art on the Continent oozed from them all in letters of great
length, which were read to the Committee until its members, most of
them rather simple souls, were bewildered.

The accretion of Lord Verschoyle made a great difference.  He attended
in person, a shy, elegant young man, educated at Eton, and in the
Guards for the gentle art of doing nothing.  He owned a large area of
London, and his estates were managed by a board which he was not even
expected to attend, and he was a good young man.  He wanted to spend
money and to infuriate his trustees, but he did not know how to do it.
Women bored him.  He had a yacht, but loathed it, and kept it in
harbour, and only spent on it enough money to keep it from rusting
away.  He maintained a stable, but would not bet or attend any other
meeting than Ascot.  He had some taste in art, but only cared for
modern pictures, which he could buy for fifty or a hundred pounds.
Indeed he was much too nice for his altogether exceptional
opportunities for wasting money, for he loathed vulgarity, and the only
people who could tell him how to waste his wealth--stable-touts,
art-dealers, women of the West End--were essentially vulgar, and he
could not endure their society....  He had five houses, but all he
needed was an apartment of three rooms, and he was haunted and made
miserable by the idea, not without a fairly solid foundation, that
young women and their mammas wished to marry him for his money....  He
longed to know a young woman who had no mamma, but none ever came his
way.  Society was full of mammas, and of ladies eager to push the
fortunes of their husbands and lovers.  He was turned to as a man of
power, but in his heart he knew that no human being was ever more
helpless, more miserably at the mercy of his trustees, agents, and
servants....  He had been approached many times by persons interested
in plays, theatres, and schemes, but being that rare and unhappy
creature, a rich man with good taste, he had avoided them as hotly as
the mammas of Mayfair and Belgravia.

He met Charles at his exhibition and was introduced to him.  Charles at
once bellowed at him at the top of his voice on the great things that
would be achieved through the realisation of his dreams, and Lord
Verschoyle had in his society the exhilarated sense of playing truant,
and wanted more of it.  He was hotly pursued at the moment by Lady
Tremenheer, who had two daughters, and he longed ardently to disgrace
himself, but so perfect was his taste that he could not do it--in the
ordinary way.  Charles was outrageous, but so famous as to carry it
off, and Verschoyle seized upon the great artist as the way of escape,
well knowing that art ranked with dissipation in the opinion of his
trustees.  With one stone he could kill all his birds.  He promised by
letter, being most careful to get his wicked indiscretion down in
writing, his whole-hearted support of Charles's scheme.

Charles thereupon drew up his scheme.  Verschoyle's wealth disposed of
the most captious member of his committee, whose meetings now became
more awful and ceremonious than ever.  Even so much assembled intellect
could not resist the wealth that through the generations had been
gathered up to surround the gentle personality of Horace Biningham,
Lord Verschoyle, who smiled benignantly upon the strange company and,
all unconscious of the devastating effect upon them of his money, was
most humbly flattered to be in the presence of so many distinguished
persons.

The tenth meeting of the committee was arranged to be the most
critical.  Charles was to read and expound the scheme upon which he had
been at work for years.  The meeting was to be held at his own house,
and for this occasion only he implored Clara to be present as hostess,
and so eager was she to share in the triumph of that side of his
activities that she consented and was the only woman present.  With
Professor Laverock in the chair, Mr Clott read the minutes of the last
meeting, upon which, as nothing had happened, there was no comment.
Clara sat in a corner by the door and looked from face to face, trying
in vain to find in any something of the fire and eagerness that was in
her Charles's, who, radiant and bubbling over with confidence, sat at a
little table in the centre of the room with his papers in front of him,
two enormous candles on either side, and his watch in his hand.

After formalities, Professor Laverock called upon Mr Mann to read his
scheme to the committee....  Rarely can a room have contained so much
eager idealism, rarely can so many mighty brains have been keyed up to
take their tune from one.

Charles smoothed out his paper, shook back his hair, arranged the cuffs
which he always wore in his desire to be taken for an English
gentleman.  His hearers settled themselves in their chairs.  He began:--

'Gentlemen, we are all here concerned to make the theatre a temple of
art, always open with a welcome to every talent, from that of the
highest and most creative vision to that of the most humble and patient
craftsman's life.'

'Ah!' some one sighed contentedly.

'We cannot expect such a theatre either from actors or from commercial
persons who would be much better engaged in selling boots or soap....
In Germany art is honoured.  Nietzsche, whom I acknowledge as my
compeer, is to be commemorated with an enormous stadium upon a hill.
In England we have turned away from the hill-top and are huddled
together in the valleys until beauty is lost and dreams are but aching
memories....'

Clara was irritated by this preamble.  It was too much like the spirit
of Sir Henry Butcher.  If only Charles had consulted her she would have
cut out this ambitious bombast, and brought him down to practical
detail.

'My proposal is that we should erect upon one of three suitable sites
in London a theatre which shall be at once a school and a palace of
art.  There will be one theatre on the German model, and an outdoor
theatre on the plan of an arena in Sicily of which I have here sketches
and plans.'

'Is that quite suitable in the English climate?' asked Adolph
Griffenberg, a little Jewish painter.

'The disabilities of the English climate are greatly exaggerated,' said
Charles.  'There could be protection from wind and rain, if it were
thought necessary.  There will be attached to the indoor theatre an
experimental stage to which I of course shall devote most of my
energies; then schoolrooms, a kitchen, a dining-room, a dancing-room, a
music-room, a wardrobe, three lifts and two staircases.'

'Isn't this too detailed for our present purpose?' asked Griffenberg.

'I merely wish to show that I am entirely practical,' retorted Charles.
'There will be every modern appliance upon the stage, several
inventions of my own, and an adjustable proscenium.  The staff will
consist of myself, a dozen instructors in the various arts of the
theatre, and a larger number of pupils, who will be promoted as they
give evidence of talent and skill in employing it.'

So far attention had been keen and eager.  Charles's happy vision of a
marble temple lit with the inward sun of vision and rosy with youth had
carried all before it.  He warmed to his task, talked on as the candles
burned low, and at last came to the financial aspect of his proposal.
Griffenberg leaned forward, and Clara watched him apprehensively.

'I have estimated the cost as follows,' said Charles, now confident
that he had his hearers with him.  'I have put my estimate as low as
possible, so that we may know our minimum:--

  The Outdoor Theatre  . . . . . . . .  £6,000
  The Indoor Theatre . . . . . . . . . £15,000
  To Machinery . . . . . . . . . . . .  £4,000
  To Salaries  . . . . . . . . . . . .  £1,500
  My Own Salary  . . . . . . . . . . .  £5,000
  Wardrobe . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    £600
  Ground rent  . . . . . . . . . . . . Nominal
  Musicians and music  . . . . . . . .    £600
  Paint, materials, etc. . . . . . . .    £400
  Food for the birds and fishes  . . .     £25


There was a dead silence.  One or two men smiled.  Others stared.
Others pulled their noses or smoothed their hair.  Griffenberg laughed
harshly and said,--

'Excuse me, Mr Mann.  I didn't quite catch that last item.'

Charles who was entirely unaware of the changed atmosphere looked up
and repeated,--

'Food for the birds and fishes....  There must be beautiful birds
flying in the outdoor theatre.  In the courtyard there must be
fish-ponds with rare fish....'

'We are not proposing to build a villa of Tiberius,' snapped
Griffenberg, who was deeply wounded.  'I cannot agree to a scheme which
includes birds and fishes.'

Clara was bristling with fury against Charles for being so childish,
and against Griffenberg for taking advantage of him.  She knew that
Charles was in an ecstasy, and unable to cope with any practical point
they chose to raise.  It would have been fair for Griffenberg to take
exception to his estimates, but not to the birds and fishes....  Her
sense of justice was so outraged that to keep herself from intervening
she slipped out of the room and gave vent to her fury in the darkness
of the passage.

The worst happened.  The scheme was forgotten; the birds and fishes
were remembered....  Griffenberg asked rather insolently if Mr Mann
proposed to publish the scheme as it stood, and Charles, who did not
detect the insolence, said that he certainly intended to publish the
scheme and had indeed already sent a copy to the Press Association.

'As your own or as the Committee's scheme?'

Mr Clott intervened,--

'I made it quite clear that the scheme was Mr Mann's own, and Mr Mann
sent with it what I may say is a very beautiful description of his
theatre as it will be in being.'

'Theatres in the air,' said some one, and all, just a little ashamed,
though with a certain bravado of geniality to cover their shame, rose
to go.

As they came out of the room Clara darted up the stairs and heard their
remarks as they departed.  'Birds and fishes.' ... 'Extraordinary man.'
... 'Fairy tale.' ... 'Damned impudence.'

Charles, still unmindful of any change, moved among them thanking them
warmly for their support and explaining that if he had been somewhat
long in reading it was because he had wished to leave no room for
misunderstanding.

No one stayed but an Irish poet, who had been delighted with the words,
birds and fishes, emerging like a poem from the welter of so much
detail, and Verschoyle, a little uneasy, but entranced by Charles's
voice and what seemed to him his superb audacity.  They three stood and
talked themselves into oblivion of the world and its narrow ways, and
Charles was soon riding the hobby-horse of his theory of Kingship and
urging Verschoyle to interest the Court of St James's in Art.

Clara joined them, listened for a while, and later detached his
lordship from the other two, who talked hard against each other,
neither listening, both hammering home points.  She took Verschoyle
into a corner and said,--

'It was very unfair of Mr Griffenberg to catch Charles out on the birds
and fishes.  They're very important to him.'

'That's what I like about him,' said Verschoyle.  'Things are important
to him.  Nothing is important to the rest of us.'

'Some of them will resign from the committee,' said Clara.  'I hope you
won't.  It is a great pity, because Charles does mean it so thoroughly.'

Verschoyle screwed in his eye-glass and held his knee and rocked it to
and fro.  He was shrewd enough to see that if he resigned the whole
committee would break up, and he knew that this dreadful eventuality
was in Clara's mind also.  He liked Charles's extravagance: it made him
feel wicked, but also he was kind and could not bring himself to hurt
Clara.  He had never in his life felt that he was of the slightest
importance to any one.  Clara felt that sense stirring in him and she
fed it; let him into the story of their struggles and the efforts she
had made to bring her idealist to London, and urged upon him the vital
importance of Charles's work.

'They're all jealous of him,' she said, 'all these people who have
never been heard of outside London.  It was just like them to fasten on
a thing like that.'

Verschoyle laughed.

'I like the idea of birds and fishes in London,' he said.  'I think we
need them....  Now, if it were you, Mrs Mann'--for he had been so
introduced to her--'I would back you through everything.'

'It is me,' said Clara.  'It always is a woman.  If it were not for me
we should not be in London now.'

'You must bring him to dinner with me.'

Clara accepted in her eagerness to save the situation without realising
that she had compromised herself.

'You will forgive my saying it,' added Verschoyle, 'but it hurts me to
hear you speak of yourself as a woman.  You are only a child and I hate
women.'

'So do I,' said Clara, all her anxiety now allayed.  With Verschoyle
for her friend she did not care how soon the committee was dissolved.
She had always hated the committee, for, as her grandfather used to
say, a committee is a device by which the incompetent check the
activities of the competent....  She liked Verschoyle.  He was a lonely
little man and she thought whimsically that only lonely people could
swallow the birds and fishes which are so necessary as the finishing
touch to the artist's vision.

'I must be going now,' she said to her companion's surprise.

'Can't I take you in my car?' he asked, concealing his astonishment at
her speaking of a home elsewhere.  She consented, and he took her back
to her rooms, leaving Charles and the Irish poet still rhapsodising in
a somewhat discordant duet.



VII

SUPPER

Idealists must certainly be added to the drunkards and children over
whom a specially benign deity watches: a flood of disaster by sea and
land gave a plentiful crop of news and made it impossible for the
papers to publish Charles Mann's scheme.  His committee's dread of
being made publicly ridiculous evaporated, and, as Lord Verschoyle did
not resign, no other member did, and Griffenberg simply sent in a
letter of protest and announced that he was too busy to take any more
active part in the proceedings.  He went away and denounced the theatre
as a vulgar institution, which no artist could enter without losing his
soul.  He said this publicly in a newspaper and produced one of those
delightful controversies which in the once happy days of unlimited
advertisement provided an opportunity for mutual recrimination upon an
impersonal basis.

Verschoyle promised Charles thirty thousand pounds if he could raise
another similar amount, and Charles regarded himself as worth thirty
thousand already, raised Mr Clott's salary, and condescended with so
much security to begin really to work at _The Tempest_.

Clara, who was still playing small parts at the Imperium, found to her
dismay that Sir Henry had rather cooled towards the Mann production and
was talking of other plays, a huge American success called _The Great
Beyond_, and a French drama of which he had acquired the rights some
few years previously.  This was really alarming, for she knew that if
she could not engage Charles speedily he would simply fling away from
the theatre and devote himself, unsupported except by Verschoyle, who
was by no means a certain quantity, to his airy schemes.  Already he
was beginning to be swayed by letters from well-meaning persons in the
provinces, who urged him to found another Bayreuth in the Welsh Hills
or the Forest of Arden....  Give Charles a hint and he would construct
an imaginary universe!  If she could only stop him advertising, he
would not be exposed to the distracting bombardment of hints and
suggestions which was opened upon him with every post, especially after
he announced with his usual bland indiscretion his association with the
owner of a fashionable part of the Metropolis.

Verschoyle did not object.  It horrified his trustees and after a time,
growing bolder, he was much in Charles's company, and found him
extremely useful as a bogey to frighten away the mammas who had made
his life hideous ever since his Eton days, when one of his aunts had
horrified him by referring to one of his cousins, a child of fifteen,
as his 'dear little wifie.' ...  Further, by seeing much of Charles, he
could see more of Clara without compromising her or himself.

Now in the world of the theatre there never is but always may be money.
It is always going to be made, so that everybody associated with it has
credit sustained by occasional payment.  Clara realised this very early
in her career.  She understood finance, because her grandfather had
discussed his affairs with her exactly as if she were his partner, and
she had had to keep a tight hand on his extravagance; and she quickly
understood that in the theatre money must be spent always a little
faster than it can be made to keep the current of credit flowing.  She
also realised that Sir Henry Butcher spent it a great deal faster, and
was cool and warm towards the various projects laid before him
according as they made payment possible....  He had watched Charles
Mann's increase of fame with a jealous interest, but with a shrewdly
expert eye waited for the moment of capitalisation to come before he
committed himself to the new-fangled ways of dressing the stage, these
damned Greek tragedies, plays in curtains, German toy sets, and Russian
flummery in which painted blobs stood for trees and clouds.  To Sir
Henry a tree was a tree, a cloud a cloud, and he liked nothing better
than to have real rabbits on the stage, if possible to out-Nature
Nature....  At the same time he knew that the public was changing.  It
was becoming increasingly difficult to produce an instantaneous
success.  The theatre did not stand where it had done in popular
esteem, and its personalities had no longer the vivid authority they
had once enjoyed.  When the Prime Minister visited the Imperium, it was
rather Sir Henry than the Prime Minister who was honoured: a sad
declension, for Prime Ministers come and go, but a great actor rules
for ever as sole lessee and manager of an institution as familiar to
the general mind as the House of Commons.  Prime Ministers had come and
gone, they had in turn accepted Sir Henry's kind offer of a box for the
first night, but latterly Prime Ministers had gathered popularity and
actor-managers had lost it, so great had been the deterioration of the
public mind since the introduction of cheap newspapers, imposing upon
every public character the necessity of a considerable waste of energy
in advertising....  In the old days, a great man's advertising was done
for him in acknowledgment of his greatness.  Sir Henry was uneasy,
could not shake off the gathering gloom, and a deep-seated conviction
that Lady Butcher had made the fatal mistake of his career by devoting
herself so exclusively to the front of the house and social drapery,
bringing him into intimate contact with such persons as Prime
Ministers, Dukes, and Attorney-Generals....  The public had been
admitted behind the scenes.  The mystery was gone.  The theatre, even
the Imperium had lost its spell.  Nothing in it was sacred; not even
rehearsals, which were continually interrupted by journalists, male and
female, elegant young men and women who were friends and acquaintances
of his family, dressmakers.  'Ah!  Teresa!  Teresa!' sighed Sir Henry,
gazing at the portrait of that lady.  'It needs your touch, your charm,
the quick insight into the health of the theatre which only comes to
those who have been born in it.'

Soon the Imperium would close for a short holiday, after a shockingly
bad season, and its manager had to make up his mind as to his new
production.  Mr Gillies was all for safety and economy, and for
postponing any adventure to the Spring, but Sir Henry said,--

'The fate of the whole year is decided in October.  The few people who
matter come back from Karlsbad and Scotland cleaned up and scraped, and
it is then that you make your impression.  The Spring is too late.  We
must have something new.'

'We've got nothing new.'

'This fellow Mann.'

'But!  He's mad.  If he walked into the Club half the men would walk
out of it.'

'He has made himself felt.'

'Yes.  But in the wrong way.'

'The wrong way is often the right way in the end.'

'You can't have him in the theatre, Chief, after the way he has talked
about us, as though none of us knew our business.'

'He might say so if he saw our balance-sheet,' said Sir Henry, who
loved nothing so much as teasing his loyal subordinates.  'We've
nothing but this melodrama of Halford Bunn's in which I should have to
play the Pope.'

'Well, you were a great success as a Cardinal, Chief.'

'Hm!  Hm!  Yes.'  Sir Henry began to live again through the success of
_The Cardinal's Niece_, but also he remembered the horrible time he had
had at rehearsals with Mr Halford Bunn who would get so drunk with his
own words that any acting which distracted attention from them drove
him almost into hysterics.

Sir Henry laughed.

'Bunn or Mann....  Said Mr Mann to Mr Bunn, "I hope you've got a record
run."  Said Mr Bunn to Mr Mann, "You, sir, are but an also ran."'

'Ha! ha! ha!' laughed the manager.

'He! he! he!' laughed Sir Henry, and they parted without having solved
their problem, though the impishness in Sir Henry made him long to
infuriate both Bunn and Mann by a merger of his contracts with the two
of them....  Oh! dear.  Oh, dear, authors had always been trial enough,
but if artists were going to begin to thrust their inflated egoism into
the machinery of the theatre then the life of its manager would become
unbearable....  Sir Henry liked to drift and to make sudden and
surprising decisions.

In this case the decision was made for him--by Clara.  It had become
one of his chief pleasures to give her lunch in the Aquarium, as she
called it, and to laugh with her over her vivid and comic impressions
of London, and insensibly he had fallen in love with her, not as was
his habit theatrically and superficially, but with an old man's passion
for youth.  It hurt him, plagued him, tortured him, because she never
gave him an opening for flirtation, but kept his wits at full stretch
and made him feel thirty again: and as he felt thirty he wanted to be
thirty....  She never discussed her private affairs with him, but he
knew that she lived alone.  She baffled him, bewildered him, until he
was often hard put to it not to burst into tears.  So quick she was and
she understood so well, had so keen an insight into character and the
intrigue that went on all around her, that he marvelled at her
innocence and sometimes almost hated her for it, and for her refusal to
accept the position assigned to women in society.  His blague, his
bluff were useless with her.  He had painfully to reveal to her his
best, the kindly, tender-hearted, generous simpleton that at heart he
was.  Loving her, he could not help himself, and, loving her, he raged
against her.

She would never allow him to visit her in her rooms.  That was a
privilege which she reserved for Verschoyle.  Her rooms were her
sanctuary, her refuge, the place where she could be simple and human,
and be the untouched Clara Day who had lived in childish glee with her
grandfather and most powerfully alone in her imagination with various
characters, more real than any of the persons with whom she ever came
in contact until she met Charles Mann....  He was never admitted to her
rooms, nor was Sir Henry Butcher, in whom she had for the first time
encountered the ordinary love of the ordinary sentimental male.  This
left her so unmoved that she detested it, with all its ridiculous
parade of emotions, its stealthy overtures, its corrosive dishonesty,
which made a frank interchange of thought and feeling impossible....
The thing had happened to her before, but she had been too young to
realise it, or to understand to the full its essential possessiveness,
which to her spirit was its chief offence.

She had to rebuke Sir Henry.  One week she found her salary trebled.
She returned the extra ten pounds to Mr Gillies, the manager, pointing
out that she was doing the same work, small and unimportant, and that
it was not fair to the other girls.

'The Chief believes in you, Miss Day.  He doesn't want you to leave us.'

'This is the very kind of thing to drive me out.'

'You're not like other girls, Miss Day....' said Mr Gillies.  'Indeed,
I often wonder what a young lady who wears her clothes as you do is
doing in the theatre.'

Clara's expression silenced him, and she was enraged with the Chief for
exposing her to such familiarity.  She taxed Sir Henry with it, and he
was quick to see his mistake, and so warmly pleaded that he had only
meant it as a kindness that she could not but forgive him.  He implored
her to let him merit her forgiveness by making her a present of
anything she desired; but she desired nothing.

'I'm at your feet,' he said, and he went down on his knees.  'In two or
three years I will make a great actress of you.  You shall be the great
woman of your time....  A Spring day in the country with you would make
me young as Romeo....'

'Please get up,' said Clara, 'and let us talk business.  You promised
early this year that you would do Charles Mann's _Tempest_.'

'Yes.  I'm always making promises.  One lives on promises.  Life is a
promise....  If I promise to do _The Tempest_ will you come and stay
with us in The Lakes in August?  I want you to meet the Bracebridges;
you ought to know the best people, the gay people, the aristocrats, the
only people who know how to be amusing.'

This was getting further and further away from business, though Clara
knew that it was impossible to keep Sir Henry to the point.  She
ignored his invitation and replied,--

'If you will do _The Tempest_ I can get Lord Verschoyle to support it.'

Sir Henry was at once jealous.  He pouted like a baby.

'I don't want Verschoyle or any other young cub to help you.  _I_ want
to help you....  Verschoyle can't appreciate you.  He can't possibly
see you as you are, or as you are going to be.'

Clara smiled.  Verschoyle had become her best friend, and with him she
enjoyed a deep, quiet intimacy which the young gentleman preserved with
exquisite tact and taste, delighting in it as he did in a work of art,
or a good book, and appreciating fully that the girl's capacity for it
was her rarest and most irresistible power....  Sir Henry was like a
silly boy in his desire to impress on her that he alone could
understand her.

He continued,--

'It seems so unnatural that you have no women friends other than old
Julia....  An actress nowadays has her part to play in society....  You
have brought new life into my theatre.'

'Then,' said Clara, 'let us do _The Tempest_.'

'But I don't want to do _The Tempest_.'

'Charles said you did.'

'We talked about it, but we are always talking in the theatre....  I
would give up everything if you would only be a little kinder to me.'

Was this the great Sir Henry speaking?  Clara saw that he was on the
verge of a schoolboy outburst, perhaps a declaration, and she was never
fonder of the man than in this moment of self-humiliation.  He waited
for some relaxation in her, but was met only with sallies.  He rose,
drew his hand over his eyes, and walked up and down the room sighing.

'At my age, to love for the first time....  It is appalling: it is
tragic.  To have made so great a position and to have nothing to offer
you that you will accept.'

'Not even a rise in salary,' said Clara, a little maliciously, and she
so hurt him that he collapsed in his attempt at heroics, and to win her
at all costs said,--

'Yes, yes.  I will do _The Tempest_.  I can make Prospero a great part.
I will do _The Tempest_ if you will be Miranda; at least if you will be
nothing else you shall be a daughter to me.'

'You had better ask Charles and Verschoyle to supper,' said Clara.
'And we can all talk it over.  But I won't have Mr Gillies.'

'Ah!  How Teresa hated that man....  Do you know that I sometimes think
he has undone all the great work she did for me.'

Clara had no mind to discuss Mr Gillies.  She had gained her point.
She felt certain that a combination of Butcher, Charles, and Verschoyle
was the most promising for her purpose.

'I hate Mann,' said Sir Henry.  'I hate him.  He is a renegade.  He
loathes his own calling.  He has turned his back on it....'

'When you know him you will love him.'

Sir Henry swung round and fixed his eyes on her.

'I live in dread,' he said, 'in dread for you.  You have everything
before you, everything, and then one day you will fall in love and your
genius will be laid at the feet of some fool who will trample it under
foot as a cow treads on a beautiful buttercup.'

Clara smiled.  Sir Henry, from excessive familiarity with noble words,
could never find the exact phrase.


The supper was arranged in the aquarium, which in Clara's honour was
filled with banked up flowers, lilies, roses, delphiniums, and
Canterbury bells....  Clara wore gray and green, and gray shoes with
cross-straps about her exquisite ankles.  She came with Verschoyle, who
brought her in his car which he had placed at her disposal.  Sir Henry
was in a velvet evening suit of snuff colour, and he glared jealously
at his lordship whom he regarded as an intending destroyer of Clara's
reputation.

'I'm glad you're going to give Mann his chance,' said Verschoyle.
'Extraordinary fellow, most extraordinary....  Pity his life should be
wasted, especially now that we are beginning to wake up to the
importance of the theatre.'

Sir Henry winced.

'There _are_ men,' he said, 'who have worked while others talked.  Take
this man Shaw, for instance.  He talked for years.  Then he comes out
with plays which are all talk.'

'Ibsen,' said Verschoyle.

'Why should we on the English stage go on gloomily saying that there's
something rotten in the state of Norway?....  I have run Shakespeare
for more hundred nights than any man in the history of the British
drama, and I venture to say that every man of eminence and every woman
of beauty or charm has had at least a cigarette in this room....  Isn't
that proof of the importance of the theatre?'

'It may be only proof of your personal charm, Sir Henry,' said
Verschoyle, and Clara was pleased with him for that....  She enjoyed
this meeting of her two friends.  Verschoyle's breeding was the exactly
appropriate set off to Sir Henry's flamboyance.

With the arrival of Charles, the grouping was perfect.  He came in
bubbling over with enthusiasm.  His portfolio was under his arm, and he
had in his hand a bundle of newspapers.

'Extraordinary news,' he said.  'The Germans in despair are turning the
theatre into a circus.  Their idea of a modern Hellenic revival.
Crowds, horses, clowns....  Sophocles in a circus!'

'Horrible!' said Verschoyle.  'Horrible!  We must do better than that,
Sir Henry.'

'I _have_ done better.'

Charles bent over Clara's hand and kissed it.

'I have been working hard,' he said.  'Very hard.  My designs are
nearly finished....  Verschoyle likes them.'

'I think them delightful,' said Verschoyle.

Supper was served.  In tribute to Clara's charm, Verschoyle's wealth,
and Charles's genius, it was exquisitely chosen--oysters, cold salmon,
various meats, pastries and jellies, with sherry, champagne, port and
liqueurs, ices and coffee.

Sir Henry and Charles ate enormously.  Even in that they were in
competition.  They sat opposite each other, and their hands were
constantly busy reaching over the table for condiments, bread,
biscuits, olives, wine....  Verschoyle and Clara were in strong
contrast to them, though both were enjoying themselves and were vastly
entertained by the gusto of the great.

Sir Henry talked at Clara in a boyish attempt to dispossess Charles.
He was at his most airily brilliant, and invented a preposterous story
in which Mr Gillies, his manager, and Mr Weinberg, his musical
director, were engaged in an intrigue to ruin Miss Julia Wainwright, as
the one had a niece, the other a wife, aching to become leading lady at
the Imperium.

'Julia,' he said, 'shall play Caliban.  Why not?  You shall play Ariel,
Mann, and dear old Freeland shall be Ceres....  Let us be original.  I
haven't read _The Tempest_ for a long time, but I dare say there's a
part for you, Verschoyle.'

'No, thanks.'

'You could be one of the invisible spirits who eat the phantom supper.'

'You and Charles could do that very well,' said Clara, who felt that
her plans would succeed.  These three men were held together by her
personality, and she meant them to unite for the purpose of forcing out
those qualities in Charles which made her ready for every sacrifice, if
only they could be brought to play their part in the life of his
time....  As the wine and food took effect, all three men were in high
spirits, and soon were roaring with laughter at the immense joke in
which they all shared, the joke of pleasing the British public.

'It is the most wonderful game ever invented,' said Sir Henry.
'Millions and millions of people believing everything they are told.
Shouting Hurrah! for fried fish if the hero of the moment says fried
fish, and Hooray! for ice-cream when the next hero says ice-cream....
I tell you I could put on a play by Halford Bunn to-morrow, and
persuade them for a few weeks that it was better than Shakespeare.  Ah!
you blame us for that, but the public is at fault always.  The man who
makes a fortune is the man who invents a new way of boring them....  We
shall be like the French soon, where the only means of maintaining any
interest in politics is by a scandal now and then.'

As they talked Clara felt more and more remote from them, and at
moments found it difficult to believe that it was really she to whom
all these amazing things had happened.  She thought it must be the end.
Here at one table were money, imagination, and showmanship, the three
essentials of success, but the three men in whom they lived were
talking themselves into ineffectiveness.  Even Verschoyle had caught
the fever and was talking, and she found herself thinking that the
three of them, whom separately she could handle so well, were together
too much for her.

They talked for hours, and she tried again and again vainly to steer
them back to business.  They would have none of it.  Their tongues were
loosed and they expressed their several discontents in malicious wit.

At last she left the table and took up Charles's portfolio.  He sprang
to his feet and snatched it away from her rather roughly and said,--

'I don't want to show them yet.'

'It is getting late, Charles,' she protested.

'In Moscow,' he said, 'a feast like this goes on for days.'

Sir Henry took advantage of the altercation to ascertain from
Verschoyle that he was willing to back Mann's _Tempest_ for at least an
eight weeks' run.  That was good enough for Sir Henry.  He had no need
to look at the drawings....  He was back again in his palmy days.  He
knew that Clara, like Teresa, would not let him make a fool of himself.

Clara saw this, and was very angry and sore.  It was terrible to her
that when she had hoped for an eagerness and gusto to carry through her
project there should have been this declension upon money and food.
After all, Shakespeare wrote _The Tempest_ and his share in its
production was greater than that of either Mann or Butcher.  She had
hoped they would discuss the play and bring into common stock their
ideas upon it.

However, she laughed at herself for being so young and innocent.  No
doubt in their own time they would really tackle their problem, and,
after all, in the world of men, from which women were and perhaps
always would be excluded, money and food were of prime importance.  All
the same she was disappointed and could hardly conceal it.

'I haven't had such a good evening for twenty years,' said Sir Henry.

'Famous,' said Charles, returning to the table.  Charles was astonished
to find how much he liked Sir Henry, upon whose doings in his exile he
had brooded bitterly.

Verschoyle said,--

'I'm only astonished that more men in my position don't go in for the
theatre.  There are so many of us and we can't think of anything better
than racing and polo and big game.'

As they were all so pleased with themselves, Clara swallowed her
chagrin, and more happily accepted their homage when Sir Henry toasted
her as the presiding Muse of the Imperium.

She was suffering from the reaction from a fulfilled ambition.  She had
overcome Charles's reluctance to submit to the machinery of the
theatre, and was herself now inspired with something of a horror of its
immense power, which could absorb originality and force, and reduce
individuals to helpless puppets.  But she would not admit to herself
that she might have been wrong, and that it were possibly better to
have left Charles to fight his own way through.

No, no.  Left to himself he would always be tripped up by his desire
for birds and fishes and other such superfluities.  Left to meet in
their love of art he and Sir Henry would soon have been at loggerheads.
In their love of food, they could discover each other's charm and
forget their jealousy and suspicion of each other's aims.



VIII

SOLITUDE

Verschoyle swept aside her reluctance to accept gifts from him, and she
allowed him to furnish her rooms for her upon condition that he never
came there without her permission.  He said,--

'Why shouldn't I have the pleasure of indulging my desire to give you
everything in the world?  People will talk! ...  People talk anyhow in
London.  If we were seen walking together down Piccadilly, there would
be talk.  They will say I am going to marry you, but we know
different....  Your way of living is exactly my ideal, absolute
independence, peace, and privacy.  We're rather alike in that.  It
seems so odd that we should be living with these people whose whole aim
in life is publicity.'

They had many happy hours together reading and discussing the books
which he bought for her by the armful at a shop in Charing Cross Road,
where, open to the street, were piles of books almost blatantly
subversive of society--Nietsche, Havelock Ellis, Shaw, Ibsen, Anarchist
tracts, Socialist and Labour journals, R.P.A. cheap reprints, every
sort and kind of book that in an ordinary shop would only be procured
upon a special order....  It was a very fierce shop.  Its woodwork was
painted scarlet, and above the shelves in gilt letters were such names
as Morris, Marx, Bakounin, Kropotkin, Lassalle, and mottoes such as
'The workers of the world have nothing to lose but their chains.'

It was Clara who discovered the shop in her wanderings through the West
End, which she desired to know even to its remotest crannies, and its
oddity seized her imagination when she discovered that for all its
fierceness it was kept by a gentle little old Scotsman, who most
ferociously desired the destruction of society, but most gently helped
all who needed help and most wholly sympathised with all, and they were
many, who turned to him for sympathy....  The frequenters of his shop
were poor, mostly long-haired eaters of nuts, and drinkers of ideas.
There were young men who hovered in the background of his shop arguing,
chatting, filling in the time they had to spend away from their
lodgings in the frequent intervals between their attempts to do work
for which their convictions made them unfitted.  They believed, as he
did, in the nobility of work, but could find none that was not ignoble.
It was his boast that he had no book in his shop in which he did not
believe.

The beautiful and elegant young lady who walked into his shop one day
astonished and delighted him with her radiance.  She was the kind of
accident that does not often happen to a humble Anarchist bookseller.

When she came again and again, he warmed to her, and recommended books,
and gave her Prince Kropotkin's _Memoirs_ as a present, at least he
gave her the second volume, for he could not find the first....  He
always hotly denied that books were stolen from his open shop, but
admitted that they were sometimes 'borrowed' by his young friends.

The story of Kropotkin's escape from the fortress moved Clara deeply,
and she read it to Verschoyle in her rooms.

'And that man is still alive,' she said, 'here in England, where we go
round and round hunting fame and money....  He was like you,
Verschoyle, in just such a position as you, but he found it intolerable
and went to prison.'

'Ah! but that was in Russia, where it is easy to go to prison.  If I
tried and tried they wouldn't send me.  I'm too rich.  They wouldn't do
it.  If I became an Anarchist, they would just laugh because they don't
believe that society can ever be upset.'

'I'm quite sure I didn't go into that shop for nothing.  Something is
going to happen to me,' said Clara.

'I think quite enough has happened to you.  Don't you? ...  What a
restless little creature you are!  Here you are with everything at your
feet, the greatest artist, the richest bachelor in London at your
disposal, and you want something to happen to you.'

'I don't want it.  I say that I feel it must come.

'You're before your time, my dear.  That's what is the matter with you.
Women aren't independent yet.  They are still clinging to men.  That is
what I cannot stand about them.  I should hate to have a woman clinging
to my money.  Still more should I hate to have one clinging to myself.'

'But you ought to marry.  You would be happier.'

He shook his head and smiled,--

'You have made that impossible, Clara.'

'I?'

'Yes.  If I found a girl like you who wanted to marry me I might
consider it....  My aunts are furious.'

'With me?'

'Yes.  You have made more of a stir than you can imagine.  They tell me
you are more wicked than Cleopatra, and yet you complain that nothing
happens to you.'

She took him to the bookshop and introduced him to the bookseller, a
little gray-bearded man in a tweed suit.  Verschoyle liked him and
asked him what he thought a man in his position ought to do.

'The man Jesus put you right years ago,' said the bookseller.  'Sell
all that thou hast and give to the poor.'

'But I can't,' said Verschoyle.  'I'm only a _cestui que trust_.'

To both Verschoyle and Clara the bookshop was a place of escape, a
holiday ground where they could play with ideas which to Verschoyle
were a new kind of toy.  With Mann there was always a certain strain
for him, because Mann wanted something definite; but with the
bookseller and his young friends, he was at his ease, for they were
very like himself, without ambition, and outside all the press and
hurry of society.  Like himself they wanted nothing except to be
amused, and like himself they hated amusement which entailed effort.

Clara, however, as usual took it seriously.  The Kropotkin Memoirs had
jolted her imagination, and she saw the young men of the bookshop as
potential Kropotkins, people who stood upon the edge of an abyss of
suffering and asked nothing better than to be engulfed in the world's
misery.

The disturbance in her serenity was so great that for some weeks she
shut herself up alone to collect her ideas.  The world was not so
simple as she had thought; certainly by no means so simple as it had
appeared during her three years with Charles.  As she had said, London
was different.  She had progressed so far with this great London of
Butcher and Verschoyle only to find through the bookshop another London
suddenly opened up before her--the London of the poor....  Poverty she
had never known, except the poverty of the world of art which is
created rather by indifference to money than by the grim lack of it.
With Charles days had been so busy, nights so happy, that it was a
small thing that every now and then she had to go hungry for a day in
order that he might not lack.  The immense poverty which now she saw
everywhere in this West End of London, in courts off Charing Cross
Road, in vast workmen's dwellings, in Soho, and by her own rooms at the
back of Leicester Square, everywhere round the calculated magnificence
of the theatres, overwhelmed her and changed many of her conceptions;
first of all her attitude towards Kitty Messenger, whom she had
regarded as a vulgar nuisance, a horrible intrusion from the past.  It
was impossible for her to accept her position of security above the
dirty sea of poverty.

She loathed the poor, their indolence, their coarseness, their horrible
manners, their loud mirth and violent anger....  Once outside her door
two drunken women fought.  They leaned against the wall, clutching each
other by the hair, and attempted, while they breathed thick curses into
each other's glaring faces, to bite, to scratch, each to bang the
other's head against the wall....  Clara ran past them trembling in
every limb.  She had never seen the uncontrolled brutality of which
human beings are capable....  But it was even worse when a policeman
arrested the two women and roughly dragged them away.

And after that she was continually coming upon similar scenes, or upon
degraded and derelict types.  It was as though she had been blind and
was suddenly able to see--or had the world turned evil?

How could Verschoyle, how could Charles, how could all the well-dressed
and well-fed people be so happy while such things were going on before
their eyes?  Perhaps, like herself, they could not see them.  It was
very strange.

Stranger still was the release of energy in herself, bringing with it a
new personal interest in her own life.  She began to look more keenly
at other women and to understand them a little better, to sympathise
even with their vanity, their mindlessness, their insistence upon
homage and flattery from their men.  From that she passed to a somewhat
bewildered introspection, realising that it was extraordinary that she
should have been able to sever her connection with Charles and to
maintain the impersonal when the personal relationship was
suspended--or gone?  Yes.  That was quite extraordinary, and because of
it she knew that she could never live the ordinary woman's life,
absorbed entirely in external things, in position, clothes, food and
household, shops.

She remembered Charles saying that his feeling for her was at the
farthest end of love, and certainly she had never known anything like
the relationship between, say, Freeland and Julia--easy, comfortable
romance.  To be either easy or comfortable had become an abomination to
her, and at bottom this was the reason for her dissatisfaction.  It had
been too easy to procure the beginnings of success for Charles.  They
had secured control of the machinery of the theatre, and must now act
in accordance with its grinding.

For some weeks she was paralysed and could do nothing but sit and
brood; hardly thinking at all consciously, but gazing in upon herself
and the forces stirring in her, creeping up and up to take control of
her imagination that had hitherto been entirely free and in undisputed
mastery of her being.  This was a time of the acutest agony.  She would
not surrender.  Without knowing what was being demanded of her she
cried, 'I will not, I will not.'  But the forces stirring in her were
implacable, and changed her whole physical sensation of being.  Her
body changed, her figure altered most subtly and imperceptibly, her
face gained in strength and beauty, but she loathed the change, because
it was taking place without reference to her own will, or her own
imagination, which for the first time in her life was baffled....  It
was appalling to her, who had always found it so easy to direct the
lives of others, to find her own life slipping with a terrible velocity
out of control....  No thought, no notion of her recent days was now
valid.  At the very worst stage of all even simple movements seemed
incomprehensible.  When she caught sight of her own lovely arm that had
always given her a thrill of pleasure, it now repelled her as something
fantastic and irresistibly comic, revoltingly comic at this time when
she was a prey to so much obscure suffering, so deep that she could
trace it to no cause, so acute that she could discern in it no purpose.

She found it almost her sole relief to read, and she devoured among
other curious works which she found at her bookshop, General Booth's
_Darkest London_ and Rose's _The Truth about the Transvaal_.  Novels
she could not read at all.  Fiction was all very well, but it ought to
have some relation to human emotions as they are.  After her aerial
life in Charles's imagination she needed a diet of hard facts, and, as
usual, what she needed that she obtained.  Both Booth and Rose dealt
with the past, but that made them the more palatable, and they
reassured her.  The facts she was now discovering had been present to
other minds and her own had not unsupported to bear the whole weight of
them....  In her untouched youth she had always accepted responsibility
for the whole universe, and so long as her life had been made easy,
first of all by her grandfather, and then by Charles, the burden had
been tolerable, and she had been able to mould the universe to make
them comfortable.  But now that life was suddenly for no apparent
reason incredibly difficult, the burden was greater than she could
bear, and it relieved her to find in these two books the utterance of
suffering consciences.....  As she read Rose she remembered a saying of
her grandfather's, 'The British make slums wherever they go because in
every British mind there is a slum.'

She could find relief in the books, but she could not stay the welling
up of the mysterious forces which swamped the clarity of her mind and
made her usually swift intuition sluggish.

Very thankful was she that she had steered Charles into the Imperium
before this cataclysm broke in her....  She could well be alone to sort
out if possible the surfeit of new impressions from which she was
suffering.  She no longer had thoughts but only obsessions.  London....
London....  London....  The roaring traffic: the crowds of people:
Coventry Street by night: the illuminated theatres: the statue in
Piccadilly Circus: the hotel in which she and Charles had stayed on
their first night in London: the painted faces of the women: policemen:
commissionaires: wonderful cars lit up at night, gliding through the
streets with elegant ladies in evening dress reclining at their ease,
bored, mechanical, as hard and mechanical as the cars that carried them
through the streets: the drunken women fighting outside her door: the
woman opposite her windows who kept a canary in a cage and watered so
lovingly the aspidistra on her window-sill: tubes: lifts: glaring
lights and white tiles....  London....  London....  London....

Through it all there ran a thread of struggling, conscious purpose
which kept her from misery and made it impossible for her to succumb.
Deep in her heart she knew that she could not; that she had escaped;
that it would never be for her an awful, a terrible, an overwhelming
thing to be a woman.

With that knowledge there came an exultation, a pride, a triumphant
sense of having come through an almost fatal peril, the full nature of
which had yet to be revealed.  And she had wrestled through it alone.
Her childish detestation of her womanhood was gone.  She accepted it,
gloried in it as her instrument and knew that she would never be lost
in it.

For ever in her mind that crisis was associated with Kropotkin's escape
from prison, and she was full of a delighted gratitude to the little
bookseller who had lent her the book, the second volume, the first
having been borrowed.

Immeasurably increased was her understanding through this sudden
convulsion of her life, and she was very proud of the loyalty to her
instinct which had made her wrestle through it alone; and now, when she
saw women absorbed in external things, she knew that they had taken
refuge in them from just such convulsions in which, had they attempted
to face them, they must have been swamped.  They clung to external
things to prevent themselves being lost in the whirlpool of the
internal world of womanhood....  Ah!  It was supreme to be a woman, to
contain the most fierce and most powerful of all life's manifestations,
to smile and to distil all these violent forces into charm, to suffer
and to turn all suffering into visible beauty.

If Clara now had any easy pity it was for men, who live always in
fantasy, lured on by their own imaginings in the vain effort to solve
the mystery of which only a true and loyal woman has the key.

When once more she approached her external life it was through the
bookshop, where she found her friend the bookseller munching his lunch
of wheaten biscuits and apples in the dingy little room at the back of
his shop.

He offered her an apple.  She took it and sat on a pile of books tied
up with a rope.

'You're looking bonny,' he said.

'I think I'll come and be your assistant.'

'A fine young leddy like you?'

'I might meet some one like Kropotkin.'

'Ah!  Isn't that grand?  There's none o' your Dumas and Stevensons can
beat that; a real happening in our own life-time....  But I can no
afford an assistant.'

'Oh!  You always seem to have plenty of people in your shop.'

'These damned publishers put their prices up and up on the poor
bookseller, and my brains are all my capital, and I will not sell the
stuff that's turned out like bars o' soap, though the authors may be as
famous as old Nick and the publishers may roll by in their cars and
build their castles in the countryside....  I sell my books all the
week, and I grow my own food on my own plot on Sundays, and I'll win
through till I'm laid in the earth, and have a pile o' books to keep me
down when I'm dead as they have done in my lifetime.'

He thrust a slice of apple into his mouth and munched away at it, rosy
defiance of an ill-ordered world shining from his healthy cheeks.

On his desk Clara saw his account book, a pile of bills, and old
cheques, and it was not difficult to guess the cause of his trouble.

'I'm sure I should sell your books for you.'

'You'd draw all London into my shop, young leddy, as you'll draw them
to the playhouse; but bookselling is a dusty trade and is not for fair
wits or fine persons.'

Clara looked out into the shop, and was happy in its friendliness.  A
lean, hungry-looking man came in, bought a paper, and stayed turning
over the books.  She could not see his face, but something in his
movement told of quality of wit and precise consciousness.  He seized a
book with a familiar mastery, as though he could savour and weigh its
contents through his finger-tips, glanced through it, and put it away
as though it were finally disposed of.  There was a concentrated
absorption in everything he did that made it definite and final.  He
was so sensitive that at the approach of another person he edged away
as though to avoid a distasteful impact....  Very shabby he was, but
distinguished and original.  After taking up half a dozen books and not
finding in them any attraction, he stopped, pondered, and moved out of
the shop quite obviously having clearly in his mind some necessary and
inevitable purpose.

His going was a wrench to Clara, so wholly had she been absorbed in
him; but though she longed to know his name she could not bring herself
to ask her old friend who he was.  That did not matter.  He was, and
Charing Cross Road had become a hallowed place by profound experience,
the bookshop a room beyond all others holy.

For some time longer, Clara sat in silence with her old friend, who lit
his after-luncheon pipe and sat cross-legged, blinking and ruminant.
She stared into the shop, and still it seemed that the remarkable
figure was standing there fingering the books, pondering, deciding.
Her emotions thrilled through her, uplifted her, and she had a
sensation of being deliciously intimate with all things animate and
inanimate.  She touched the desk by her side, and it seemed to her that
life tingled through her fingers into the wood.  She smiled at the old
man, and his eyes twitched, and he gave her a little happy sidelong
nod.  She wanted to tell him that the world was a very wonderful place,
but she could only keep on smiling, and as she left the shop, the
bookseller thrust his hat on the back of his head, scratched his beard,
and said,--

'Pegs!  I said to Jenny she'll bring me luck.  But she's wasted on yon
birkie ca'd a lord.'



IX

MAGIC

A friendly city seemed London to Clara as she left the shop.  A fresh
wind was blowing, and she stood for some moments to drink in the keen
air.  The sky was full of clouds, gray, white, and cinnamon against the
smoky blue, as she turned south with eyes newly eager for beauty and
friendliness.  Above the roofs, the statue of Lord Nelson stood perched
in absurd elevation above the London that flouted his Emma, and Clara
laughed to see the little gray man in cocked hat symbolising for her
the delicious absurdity of London, where nothing and nobody could ever
be of the smallest importance in its hugeness....  This was its charm,
that an individual could in it feel the indifference of humanity
exactly as on a hill the indifference of Nature can be felt.  A city of
strangers!  Everybody was strange to everybody else.  That was good and
healthy.  Nothing in London was on show, nothing dressed for the
tourist.  Living in rooms in London, one could be as lonely as in a hut
in the wilderness.

She walked down to the Imperium, and, entering by the stage door, found
Charles in excited converse with the scenic artist, Mr Smithson, who
was looking at a drawing and scratching his head dubiously.

'It's clever, Mr Mann, but nothing like the seaside.  Sir Henry's sure
to want his waves "off," and the sun ought to look a bit like it.'

'That's my design, Mr Smithson.  Sir Henry said you would paint it.  If
you won't, I'll do it myself....  Ah!  Clara, do come and explain to Mr
Smithson what we want.'

Smithson turned angrily.--

'He gives me a blooming drawing with purples and golds and blues and
every colour but the natural colours of a sea-side place.  I've painted
scenery for thirty years, and I ought to know what a stage island is
like by now.  I've done a dozen sets for _The Tempest_ in my time.'

'It is an enchanted island,' said Clara.

'But Prospero was Duke of Milan....  I've _been_ to the Mediterranean
to see for myself and I know what the colouring is....  I can't believe
that Sir Henry has passed this.  God knows what kind of lighting it
will take.'

Charles threw his hat on the ground and stamped on it.

'Dolt!  Fool!  Idiot!' he shouted.  'Go away and paint it as I tell you
to paint it.'

'Damned if I do,' said Smithson.  'My firm has painted all the scenery
for this theatre since Sir Henry took it, and we've had our name on the
programme, and we've got a reputation to lose.  When Shakespeare says
an island, he means an island, not the crater of a blooming volcano....'

Charles snatched his drawing out of Mr Smithson's hand, and with an
expression of extreme agony he said.--

'Clara, you dragged me into this infernal theatre.  Will you please see
that I am not driven mad in it?  Am I an artist?'

'You may be an artist, Mr Mann,' said Mr Smithson, 'but I'm a practical
scene-painter.  I was painting scenery before you were born.  I was
three years old in my father's workshop when I put my first dab of
paint on for the Valley of Diamonds for Drury Lane in Gustus Harris's
days.'

The argument might have gone on indefinitely, but fortunately Sir Henry
came down the stairs with Lady Butcher.  He was immaculately dressed in
frock-coat and top hat, gray Cashmere trousers, and white waistcoat to
attend with his wife a fashionable reception.  With a low bow, he swept
off his very shiny hat, and said to Lady Butcher,--

'My dear, Mr Charles Mann.'

Lady Butcher gave a curt nod.

'My dear, Miss Day....'

'Che-arming!' drawled Lady Butcher, holding out her hand very high in
the air.  Clara reached up to it and shook it sharply.

'Mr Smithson doesn't like Charles's drawing for the cave scene,' said
Clara.  'He can't quite see it, you know, because it is a little
different.'

'I won't be a moment, my dear,' said Sir Henry, and Lady Butcher sailed
out into the street.

'What's the matter, Smithson?'

'We've never done anything like this before.  There's nothing like it
in Nature.'

'There is nothing like Caliban in Nature,' said Clara sweetly, and Sir
Henry caught at her hint, scowled at Smithson, and growled,--

'I have passed it.  If it needs modification we can settle it at
rehearsal.  Go ahead.  I want to see it before I go away.'

'But there are no measurements, Sir Henry.'

'You know what we can do and what we can't.'

'Very well, Sir Henry.'  Mr Smithson clapped on his bowler hat and
rushed away.

Charles stooped to gather up his battered hat, and Sir Henry seized
Clara's arm, squeezed it tight, looked out through the door at his
magnificent wife, and heaved an enormous sigh.  Clara in her amazing
new happiness smiled at him, and he muttered,--

'You grow in beauty every day.  A-ah!  Good-day, Mann.  The theatre is
at your disposal.'

He fixed his eyes on Clara for a moment, then wrenched himself away.

There were one or two letters for her in the rack.  She took them down,
and turned to find Charles, having smoothed out his hat, standing
ruefully staring through his pince-nez.

'These people are altogether too busy for me,' he said.  'All the work
I've put in seems to be nothing to them.  I had a terrible turn with
Butcher two days ago, and now this man Smithson has been too much for
me.  They treat me like a tailor, and expect me to cut my scenery to
fit their theatre....  I wish you'd come back, chicken.  I'm in a
dreadful muddle.  I've been working till I can't see, and I've been
reading _The Tempest_ till my mind is as salt as a dried haddock....
But I've drawn a marvellous Caliban, part fish, part frog, part man ...
Life emerging from the sea.  I'm sure now that we're all spawned from
the sea, and that life on the earth is only what has been left after
the sun has dried it up....'

Clara looked at him apprehensively.  She still felt responsible for
him, but she was no longer part and parcel of him.  She was free of his
imagination and could be critical of it.

'Never mind, Charles,' she said.  'Let us go and look at the stage, and
you can tell me what you have planned, and then we will go out and
talk, and decide what we will do during the holidays.  I have promised
to go to Sir Henry's in the Lakes for a few days, and Verschoyle has
promised to motor me up there.'

Charles's fingers fumbled rather weakly round his lips, and she saw to
her distress that he had been biting his nails again.

'Aren't you ever coming back, my chicken, my love? ...  I'm sorry we
came to London now.  We should have gone to Sicily as I wanted.  One
can live in such places.  Here everybody is so business-like, so set,
so used to doing and thinking in one particular way.'

'Has anything happened?' asked Clara, knowing that he was never
critical without a cause.

'No,' he replied, rather shortly, 'no.'

She was rather irritated by him.  He had no right to be as foolish and
helpless as to have let her humiliate him by extricating him from his
argument with Smithson, upon which he ought never to have entered.
Smithson was only a kind of tradesman after all.

They went on to the stage and Charles waxed eloquent over the scenery
he had designed.  Eloquence with Charles was rather an athletic
performance.  He took a tape measure from his pocket, and raced about
with it, making chalk marks on the boards.

The scenery door was open, and the sunlight poured in in a great shaft
upon him, and Clara, watching him, was suddenly most painfully sorry
for him.  He worked himself up into a throbbing enthusiasm, torrents of
words poured from his lips, as with strange gesticulations he described
the towering rocks, the wind-twisted trees, the tangle of lemons, the
blue light illuminating the magician's grotto, the golden light that
should hang about the rocky island jutting up from the sea.  All this
he talked of, while the sun shone through his long yellow hair and
revealed its streaks of silver....  At last he stood in the sunlight,
with his arms outstretched, as though he were evoking his vision from
the heavens to take shape upon the stage.

Clara, watching him, perceived that he was a born actor.  He trod the
stage with loving feet, and with a movement entirely different from
that which he used in the street or among people who were not of the
theatre.  This surely was the real Charles.  The light of the sun upon
him was inappropriate.  It mocked him and inexorably revealed the fact
that he was no longer young.  The scenery door was closed and the
discordance ceased, but more clearly than ever was Charles revealed as
an actor treading easily and affectionately his native elevation.  The
influence of the place affected even himself, and after he had
constructed his imaginary scenery round himself, he said,--

'One of the first parts I ever played was Ferdinand staggering beneath
logs of wood.'

He assumed an imaginary log and recited,--

            'This my mean task would be
  As heavy to me as 'tis odious; but
  The mistress which I serve quickens what's dead
  And makes my labours pleasures: Oh, she is
  Ten times more gentle than her father's crabbed;
  And he's composed of harshness.  I must remove
  Some thousands of these logs and pile them up,
  Upon a sore injunction: my sweet mistress
  Weeps when she sees me work; and says such baseness
  Had never like executor.


He produced the illusion of youth, and his voice was so entrancing that
Clara, like Miranda, wept to see him....  He threw off his part with a
great shout, rushed at her and caught her up in a hug.

'Chicken,' he said, 'don't let us be silly any more.  We have won
through.  Here we are in the theatre.  We've conquered the stage, and
soon all those seats out there will be full of eager people saying,
"Who are these wonders?  Can it be?  Surely they are none other than
Charles and Clara Mann?"'

'Day,' said she.

He stamped his foot impatiently.

'What's in a name?  Day, if you like.  Artists can and must do as they
please.  This is our real life, here where we make beauty.  The rest is
for city clerks and stockbrokers who can't trust themselves to behave
decently unless they have a perfect net of rules from which they cannot
escape.'

'I don't want to talk about it.  Go on with your work, Charles.'

'I've finished for to-day....  Will you let me take you out to dinner?'

'No.  I've promised Verschoyle.'

'Damn!  You oughtn't to be seen with him so much.  People will say you
have left me for his money.'

'I thought artists didn't care what people say.'

'They don't, Clara.  They don't.'

'You must be sensible, Charles.  You're not safe.  You can't take risks
until you are successful.'

'Then I won't succeed.  I won't go on....  A most unfortunate thing has
happened.  Clott has vanished with all the money in the bank....  I let
him sign the cheques.'

'Oh!  Oh! you fool, Charles.'

'He kept getting cheques out of me.'

'How?'

'He said he'd tell the police.'

Clara stamped her foot.  Abominable!  How abominable people were....
She had to protect Charles, but if she was with him she exposed him to
the most fearful risk.  Was ever a girl in so maddening a position?

What made it worse was that her attitude towards him had changed.  She
was no longer so utterly absorbed in him that she could only see life
through his eyes.  Apart from him she had grown and had developed her
own independent existence.

'How much did he take?'

'Two hundred and ten pounds.  We can't prosecute him, or he'll tell.
He knows that, or he wouldn't have done it.'

'Where is he?'

'I don't know.  Laverock met him the other day, and asked him about
some committee business.  He had the impudence to say that he had
resigned, and had come into money, so that his name was now no longer
Clott but Cumberland.'

And again Clara found herself in her heart saying, 'It is my fault.'

It was all very well for Charles to believe that the world was governed
by magic.  Art is magic, but she ought to have known that it is a magic
which operates only among a very few, and that the many who are moved
only by cunning are always taking advantage of them....  Poor Charles!
Betrayed at every turn by his own simplicity, betrayed even by her
eagerness to help him!

'It is too bad,' said Clara, with tears in her eyes.  'We can't do
anything.  Besides I would never send any one to prison, whatever they
did.  But what a dirty mean little toad....  How did he find out?'

'I don't know.  He's the kind of man who hangs about the theatre and
borrows five shillings on Friday night.'

Gone was the magic of the stage, gone the power in Charles.  He looked
just a tired, seedy fellow, more than a little ashamed of himself.  He
hung his head and muttered,--

'This always happens when I am rich.  I've been terribly unhappy about
it.  I didn't think I could tell you.  I went into a shop yesterday to
buy a revolver, but I bought a photograph frame instead, because the
man was so pleasant that I couldn't bear the idea of his helping me to
end my life....  I seem to muddle everything I touch, and yet no one
has ever dared to say that I am not a great artist.'

Clara walked away from him across the stage.  There had been muddles
before, but nothing so bad as this.

As she walked, she found that in watching him she had learned the art
of treading the stage, and of becoming that something more than herself
which is necessary for dramatic presentation.  This sudden acquisition
gave her a delighted thrill, and once again her life was flooded with
magic, so that this new trouble, like her old, seemed very remote, and
she could understand Charles's pretending that he must end his life
even to the point of attempting to buy a revolver, which became
impossible directly some one spoke pleasantly to him.  She felt
confident and secure and of the theatre which was a sanctuary that
nothing in the outside world could violate.

'Don't worry, Carlo,' she said.  'I'll see that it is put straight.'

'Then you'll come back and stop this nonsense about living alone?'

'When _The Tempest_ is done we'll see about it.  I don't want to risk
that.  _The Tempest_ is what matters now.'

'Are you going to play in it?'

'I don't know yet....  Will you go out into the auditorium and tell me
what you think of my voice?'

Charles went up into the dress circle, and Clara, practising her
newly-acquired art, turned to an imaginary Ferdinand--more vivid and
actual to her now--and declaimed,--

          'I do not know
  One of my sex! no woman's face remember,
  Save, from my glass, mine own; nor have I seen
  More that I may call men, than you, good friend,
  And my dear father: how features are abroad,
  I am skilless of; but, by my modesty,--
  The jewel in my dower,--I would not wish
  Any companion in the world but you.'


She stopped.  The vivid, actual Ferdinand of her imagination changed
into the form of the lean, hungry-looking man of the book-shop.  He
turned towards her, and his face was noble in its suffering, powerful
and strong to bear the burden upon the mind behind it.  Very sweet and
gentle was the expression in his eyes, in most pathetic contrast to the
rugged hardness which a passionate self-control had shaped upon his
features....  Her heart ached under this astonishment that in this
phantom she could see and know and love his face upon which in life her
eyes had never fallen.

'Go on,' called Charles, from the dress circle....  'Admirable....  I
never thought you could do it.'

'That's enough,' she replied, with a violent effort to shake free of
her bewilderment and sweet anguish.

'If I meet him,' she said in her heart, 'I shall love him and there
will be nothing else.'

Aloud she said,--

'I must not.'

She had applied herself to the task of furthering Charles's ambition,
and until she had succeeded she would not yield, nor would she seek for
herself in life any advantage or even any natural fulfilment.

Charles came back in a state of excitement.

'It was wonderful,' he said.  'What has happened to you?  Your voice is
so full and round.  You lose yourself entirely, you speak with a voice
that has in it all the colour and beauty and enchantment of my island.
You move simply, inevitably, so that every gesture is rhythmical, and
like a musical accompaniment to the words....  You'll be an artist.
You are an artist.  There has been nothing like it since the old
days....  Duse could not do more with her voice.'

'I didn't know,' she said.  'I didn't know.'

'But I did,' he cried.  'I did.  I knew you would become a wonder....
Bother money, bother Butcher, bother Clott, and damn the committee.
Together we shall be irresistible--as we have been.  You didn't tell me
you were practising.  If that is why you want to be alone I have
nothing to say against it.  I've been a selfish brute.'

She was deeply moved.  Never before had Charles shown the slightest
thought for her.  Human beings as such were nothing to him, but for an
artist, as for art, no trouble was too great, no sacrifice too extreme
for him.

He seized her hands and kissed them over and over again.

'I've been your first audience,' he said.  'Come out now, and I'll buy
you flowers; your room shall be so full of flowers that you can hardly
move through them.  As for Verschoyle, he shall pay.  It shall be his
privilege to pay for us while we give the world the priceless treasure
that is in us.'

His words rather repelled and hurt her, and in her secret mind she
protested,--

'But I am a woman.  But I am a woman.'

It hurt her cruelly that Charles should be blind to that, blind to the
cataclysmic change in her, blind to her new beauty and to her newly
gathered force of character.  After all, the magic of the stage was
only illusion, a trick that, if it were not a flowering of the deeper
magic of the heart, was empty, vain, contemptible, a thing of darkness
and cajolery.

'Perhaps it was just an accident,' said Clara.

'Do it again!' said Charles, in a tone of command.

'What?'

'Do it again!'

'I can't.'

'Do it again, I tell you.  When you do a thing like that you have to
find out how you did it.  Art isn't a thing of chance.  You must do it
again now.'

'No.'

To her horror and amazement he pounced on her, seized her roughly by
the shoulders, and shook her until her head rolled from side to side
and her teeth chattered.  He was beside himself with passion, ruthless,
impersonal in his fury to catch and hold this treasure of art which had
so suddenly appeared in the child whom hitherto he had regarded as
about as important as his hat or his walking-stick.

'By Jove,' he said, 'I might have known it was not for nothing that I
fished you out of Picquart's studio....'

'How dare you speak to me like that?'

She knocked his hands away and stood quivering in an outraged fury, and
lashed out at him with her tongue.

'I'm not paint that you can squeeze out of a tube,' she said.  'You
treat people as though they were just that and then you complain if
they round on you....  I know what you want.  You want to squeeze out
of me what your own work lacks....'

Charles reeled under this assault and his arms fell limply by his side.

'Forgive me,' he said, 'I didn't know what I was doing.  I was knocked
out with my astonishment and delight....  Really, really I forgot the
stage was empty.  I thought we were working....'

Clara stared at him.  Could he really so utterly lose himself in the
play as that?  Or was he only persuading himself that it was so? ...
With a sudden intuition she knew that in all innocence he was lying to
her, and that what had enraged him was the knowledge, which he could
never admit, that she was no longer a child living happily in his
imagination but a human being and an artist who had entered upon a
royal possession of her own.  She had outstripped him.  She had become
an artist without loss of humanity.  Henceforth she must deal with
realities, leaving him to his painted mummery...  She could understand
his frenzy, his fury, his despair.

'That will do, Charles,' she said very quietly.  'I will see what can
be done about Mr Clott, and whatever happens I will see that you are
not harmed....  If you like, you can dine with Verschoyle and me
to-night.  You can come home with me now, while I dress.  I am to meet
him at the Carlton and then we are going on to the Opera.'

'Does Verschoyle know?'

'He knows that you are you and that I am I--that is all he cares
about...  He is a good man.  If people must have too much money, he is
the right man to have it.  He would never let a man down for want of
money--if the man was worth it.'

'Ah!' said Charles, reassured.  This was like the old Clara speaking,
but with more assurance, a more certain knowledge and less bewildering
intuition and guess-work.



X

THE ENGLISH LAKES

A few weeks later, with Verschoyle and a poor relation of his, a Miss
Vibart Withers, for chaperone, Clara left London in a 60 h.p. Fiat,
which voraciously ate up the Bath Road at the rate of a mile every
minute and a half....  It was good to be out of the thick heat of
London, invaded by foreigners and provincials and turned into a city of
pleasure and summer-frocks, so that its normal life was submerged, its
character hidden.  The town became as lazy and drowsy a spectacle as a
field of poppies over which danced gay and brilliant butterflies.  Very
sweet was it then to turn away from it, and all that was happening in
it, to the sweet air and to fly along between green fields and
orchards, through little towns, at intervals to cross the Thames and to
feel that with each crossing London lay so much farther away.  Henley,
Oxford, Lechlade, and the Cotswolds--that was the first day, and,
breathing the clover-scented air, gazing over the blue plains to the
humpy hills of Malvern, Clara flung back her head and laughed in
glee....  How wonderful in one day to shake free of everything, to
leave behind all trammels!

'No one need have any troubles now,' she said, with the bewitching
smile that made all her discoveries so entrancing.  'When people get
tied up in knots, they can just get into a car and go away.  The world
is big enough for everybody.'

'But people love their troubles,' replied Verschoyle.  'I have been
looking for trouble all my life, but I can't find it.  That's my
trouble.'

'Everybody ought to be happy,' she said.

'In their own way.  Most people are very happy with their troubles.
They will take far more trouble over them than they will over their
pleasures or making other people happy.'

'Do you remember the birds and fishes?'

'Do I not?  It was the birds and fishes who introduced you to me.'

'I think this was what Charles meant by them--escape, irrelevance,
holiday.'

'That's quite true.  Nothing ought to be as serious as it is, for
nothing is so serious as it looks when you really come to grips with
it.  Life always looks like a blank wall until you come up to it and
then there is a little door which was invisible at a distance....  I
found that out when I met you.'

'And did you go through it?'

'Straight through and out to the other side.'

Clara took his hand affectionately, and their eyes met in a happy
smile.  They were friends for ever, the relationship most perfectly
suited to his temperament, most needed by hers.

From that she passed on to a frank discussion of her own situation with
regard to Charles, and the hole he was in through the absconding Mr
Clott.

'I knew that fellow was a scoundrel,' said Verschoyle.  'He tried to
borrow money from me, and to pump me about the form of my horses.  How
on earth did he ever become secretary to a committee for the
furtherance of dramatic art?'

'He turned up.  Everything in Charles's life turns up.  _I_ turned up.'

'And is your name really Day?'

'It was my grandfather's name....  I never had any one else.  I
remember no one else except an Italian nurse, with a very brown face
and very white teeth.  He died in Paris four years ago.  My people were
in India.'

'Ah!  Families get lost sometimes in the different parts of the British
Empire.  It is so big, you know.  I'm sure the English will lose
themselves in it one of these fine days.'

He passed over without a word her position as wife and no wife, but
became only the kinder and more considerate.  It had eased and relieved
her to talk of it.  Every impediment to their friendship was removed,
but sometimes as they walked through fields he would grip his stick
very tight and lash out at a hemlock or a dog-daisy, and sometimes when
he was driving he would jam his foot down on the accelerator and send
the car whirling along.  If they had met Charles walking along the road
it would have gone ill with him.

They were six days on their journey up through Shropshire, Cheshire,
and the murk of South Lancashire.  They stayed in pleasant inns, and
made many strange acquaintances, bagmen, tourists, young men with
knapsacks on their backs escaping from the big towns, and sometimes
they helped these young men over dreary stretches of road.

'The happiest six days of my life,' said Verschoyle, as they approached
the mountains.  'I haven't toured in England before.  Somehow in London
one knows nothing of England.  One is bored and one goes over to
Homburg or Aix-les-bains.  How narrow life is even with a car and a
yacht!'

How narrow life could be Clara soon discovered at the Butchers', where
London life was simply continued in a lovely valley at the bottom of
which lay a little lake shining like a mirror and vividly reflecting
the hills above it.

The Butchers had a long, low house in an exquisite garden, theatrically
arranged so that the flowers looked as if they were painted and the
trees had no roots, but were as though clamped and ironed to the earth.
From their garden the very hills had the semblance of a back-cloth.

The house was full of the elegant young men and women who ran in and
out of the theatre and had no compunction about interrupting even
rehearsals.  They chaffed Sir Henry, and fed Lady Butcher with scandal
for the pleasure of hearing her say witty biting things, which, as she
had no mercy, came easily to her lips.  She studiously treated Clara as
though she were part and parcel of Verschoyle, and to be accommodated
like his car or his chauffeur....  Except as a social asset, Lady
Butcher detested the theatre, and she loathed actresses.

As the days floated by--for once in a way the weather in Westmoreland
was delicious--it became apparent to Clara that Lady Butcher hated the
project of Charles's production of _The Tempest_.  She never missed an
opportunity of stabbing at him with her tongue.  She regarded him as a
vagabond.

Living herself in a very close and narrow set, she respected cliques
more than persons.  Verschoyle was rich enough to live outside a
clique, but that a man with a career to make should live and work alone
was in her eyes a kind of blasphemy.  As for Clara--Lady Butcher
thought of her as a minx, a designing actress, one of the many who had
attempted to divert Sir Henry from the social to the professional
aspect of the theatre, which, in few words, Lady Butcher regarded as
her own, a kind of salon which gave her a unique advantage over her
rivals in the competition of London's hostessry.

It was the more annoying to Lady Butcher that Clara and Verschoyle
should turn up when they did as two Cabinet Ministers were due to motor
over to lunch one day, and a famous editor was to stay for a couple of
nights, while her dear friends the Bracebridges (Earl and Countess),
with their son and daughter, were due for their annual visit.

Distressed by this atmosphere of social calculation, Clara spent most
of her time with Verschoyle, walking about the hills or rowing on the
lake; but unfortunately she roused the boyish jealousy in Sir Henry,
who, as he had 'discovered' her, regarded her as his property, and
considered that any romance she might desire should be through him....
He infuriated his wife by preferring Clara to all the other young
ladies, and one night when, after dinner, he took her for a moon-light
walk, she created a gust of laughter by saying,--

'Henry can no more resist the smell of grease-paint than a dog can
resist that of a grilled bone.'

This was amusing but unjust, for Sir Henry regarded his desire for
Clara's society as a healthy impulse towards higher things--at least,
he told her so as he led her out through the orchard and up the stony
path, down which trickled a little stream, to the crag that dominated
the house and garden.  It was covered with heather and winberries, and
just below the summit grew two rowan-trees.  So bright was the moon
that the colour of the berries was almost perceptible.  Sir Henry stood
moon-gazing and presently heaved a great sigh,--

'A-a-ah!'

'What a perfect night!' said Clara.

'On such a night as this----'

'On such a night----'

'I've forgotten,' said Sir Henry.  'It is in the _Merchant of Venice_.
Something about moonlight when Lorenzo and Jessica eloped.  You would
make a perfect Jessica....  I played Lorenzo once.'

Clara wanted to laugh.  It was one of the most delightful elements in
Sir Henry's character that he could never see himself as old, or as
anything but romantically heroic.

'Yes,' he said; 'you have made all the difference in the world.  It was
remarkable how you shone out among the players in my theatre....  It is
even more remarkable among all these other masqueraders in that house
down there.  All the world's a stage----'

'Oh, no,' said Clara.  'It is beautiful.  I didn't know England was so
lovely.  As we came north in the car I thought each county better than
the last--and I forgot London altogether.'

'It is some years since I toured,' said Sir Henry.  'My wife does not
approve of it, but there is nothing like it for keeping you up to the
mark.  The real audiences are out of London.  A couple of years'
touring would do you a world of good.  You shall make your name
first....  There aren't any actors and actresses now simply because
they won't tour.  They want money in London--money in New York--the
pity of it is that they get it.'

Clara scrambled up to the highest point of the crag and stood with the
gentle wind playing through her thick hair, caressing her parted lips,
her white neck, liquefying her light frock about her limbs.

'Oh, my God!' cried Sir Henry, gazing at her enraptured.  'Ariel!'

As she stood there she was caught up in the wonder of the night, became
one with it, a beam in the moonlight, a sigh in the wind, a star
winking, a little tiny cloud floating over the tops of the mountains.
So lightly poised was she that it seemed miraculous that she did not
take to flight, almost against nature that she could stand so still.
Her lips parted, and she sang as she used to sing when she was a
child,--

  Come unto these yellow sands
    And then take hands.'


A little young voice she had, sweet and low, a boyish voice, nothing of
woman in it at all.

She leaned forward and gazed over the edge of the crag, and Sir Henry,
who was so deeply moved that all his ordinary mental processes were
dislocated, thought with a horrid alarm that she was going to throw
herself down.  Such perfection might rightly end in tragedy, and he
thought with anguish of Mann and Verschoyle, thought that they had
besmirched and dishonoured this loveliness, thought that this sudden
exaltation and abstraction must come from the anguish that was betrayed
in her eyes so often and so frequently.

'Take care!  Take care!' called Sir Henry.

She leaped down into the heather by his side, and he said,--

'It seems a crime to take you back into the house.  What have you to do
with whether or no we are asked to the next garden-party in Downing
Street?  You are Ariel and can put a girdle round the earth....  I am
almost afraid of you.  Can't we run away and become strolling players?
You may think I am to be envied but my life has been a very unhappy
one....  I want to help you....'

It was obvious to Clara that he did not know what he was saying, and
indeed he was light-hearted and moonstruck, lifted outside his ordinary
range of experience.  He babbled on,--

'If I could feel that I had done the smallest thing to help you, I
should be prouder of it than of any other thing in my career.'

'But I don't want help....'

'Ah!  You think so now.  But wait three years....  You think an actor
can know nothing of life, but who knows more?  Has he not in himself to
reproduce every fine shade of emotion, the effect of every variety of
experience....  The people who know nothing of life are your cloistered
artists like Mann, or your Verschoyle drowned in money....  You have
not known me yet.'

Really he was getting rather ridiculous with his boyish romanticism.
He had been married twice and his two families numbered seven.  But
Clara, too, was under the spell of the moon, and his gauche response to
her mood had touched her.

'Life is a miserable business for a woman,' said Sir Henry.  'I live in
dread lest you should be dragged down into the common experience.'

(Did he or did he not know about Charles?)

Clara laughed.  This was taking her too seriously.

'Ah, you can laugh now while you are young, but youth attracts, it is
drawn into the whirlpool and is lost....  Is there more in you than
youth?'

'Much, much more,' said Clara exultantly.  'There has never been
anybody like me before.'

'By Heaven!' swore Sir Henry.  'That is true....  You have bewitched
me--and we had better be going back to the house....  Will you let me
carry you down?'

Without waiting for her permission, he lifted her, and she suffered him
to carry her down the last stony path, because her flimsy shoes were
already wet through.  He did not guess that she had good reason, and
his heart thumped in his large bosom.

It had been a night of nights for him.  Years of uneasy distraction had
melted away.  Not even at the height of his success had he felt so
confident, so entirely superior to the rest of mankind as both to
command and to deserve their homage.  In no play had he ever devised a
more romantic finale than this in which he carried his conquered
sprite--for so he thought her--back to earth.  As he put her down, he
threw out his chest and turned to the stars as it was his habit to turn
to his audiences, and bowed thrice, to the right, to the left, to the
centre, with his hand upon his heart.

Verschoyle was very angry with her when she returned.

'You know how these people think of such things,' he said.

'What they think and what I do are very different,' retorted Clara, her
eyes shining, her cheeks glowing from the night air.  'It makes him
happy, and, if you are happy with me, he doesn't see why he shouldn't
be.  _Pourquoi pas moi aussi_?  Men are all alike.'

'It is not the same....  What a child you are!  Some day you will love
and then you will see very differently....  The old fool thinks you
are----'

'No.  He said I was Ariel.  So I am.  So I am....  I wonder I never
thought of it before.  I shall never be a woman as women have been----'

'There have been good women.'

'Tra la la!  The good women have done far more harm in the world than
all the bad women put together.  Lady B is a good woman.'

'A painted tigress.  _She_ won't forgive you in a hurry.  She
thinks--that, too.'

'People can't think beyond what they are.  You can't expect me to be
what other people think.'

'I want you to be yourself.'

'So I am....  You shall take me away in a day or two.  I want to see
the Bracebridges just for fun, _and_ the Cabinet Ministers, and then I
want to drown their memories one by one in the lakes as we pass them.
We are going to see them all, aren't we?'

'I want to get away.  I can't bear being with you in this atmosphere of
money.'

'Now, now.  You promised me you would never behave like a lover.'

'I thought I was behaving like an angry brother.'

She was pleased with him for that.  She knew that part of his trouble
was due to his being an only son.


The Bracebridges were disappointing: a very dull man, a hard and
raffish woman, but apparently to Lady Butcher they were the wonder of
all wonders.  She and Lady Bracebridge were to each other 'dear Ethel'
and 'dearest Madge.'  Together they made a single dominant and very
formidable personality, which must be obeyed.  They flung themselves
upon the house-party, sifted the affairs of every member of it, and in
three days had arranged for two engagements and one divorce.  They
commanded Verschoyle--by suggestion--to marry a Mrs Slesinger, who was
plain but almost as rich as himself, and in his distress he very nearly
succumbed; but Clara swooped in to save him, and found that her
position was made almost impossible by whispered tittle-tattle, cold
looks, and downright rudeness.  She was distinctly left out of picnic
and boating parties, and almost in contempt she was partnered with Sir
Henry who, after Lady Bracebridge's arrival, was no longer master in
his own house....  When the Cabinet Ministers arrived the situation
became impossible for they produced chaos.  The household was
dislocated, and in the confusion Clara packed, had her trunks carried
to the garage, and slipped away with Verschoyle.

Said he,--

'These damned politicians can't get off the platform.  Did you see how
that old fool sawed the air when he talked of Ireland, and did you hear
how the other bleated when he mouthed of Poor Law Reform?  They're on
show--always on show....  So are these infernal lakes.  I can't stand
scenery that has stared at me for hours in a railway carriage.'

'It doesn't matter,' said Clara.  'You may be unjust to Lady Butcher,
but you mustn't be unjust to Rydal.'

'It is so still and out of date....  I can't think of it without
thinking of Wordsworth, and I don't want to think of Wordsworth....
Being with you makes me want to get on into the future, and there's
something holding us all back.'

All the same, their holiday swept up to a triumphant conclusion, and
they forgot the Butchers and their London elegance in going from inn to
inn in the lovely valleys, taking the car up and down breakneck hills
and making on foot the ascent of Great Gable and Scafell, upon whose
summit in the keen air and the gusty wind Clara let fly and danced
about, wildly gay, crying out with joy to be so high above the earth,
where human beings spied upon each other with jealous eyes lest one
should have more happiness than another.

'They can't spoil this,' she said.

'Who?'

'Oh, all the people down there.  They can spoil Charles, and you and me
and silly old Sir Henry, but they can't spoil this.'

'In Switzerland,' said Verschoyle, 'there are mountains higher than
this, and they make railways up them, and at the top of the railways
English governesses buy Alpenstocks, and have the name of the mountain
burned into the wood.'

'If I were a mountain,' said Clara, 'and they did that to me I should
turn into a volcano and burn them all up, all the engineers and all the
English governesses....  I'm sure Lady Bracebridge was a governess.'

'Right in once,' said Verschoyle, staring at her with round boyish
eyes, as though he half expected her at once to turn into a volcano.
With Clara anything might happen, and her words came from so deep a
recess of her nature as almost to have the force of a prophecy.



XI

CHARING CROSS ROAD

If there is one street that more than another has in it the spirit of
London it is Charing Cross Road.  It begins with pickles and ends with
art; it joins Crosse and Blackwell to the National Gallery.  In between
the two are bookshops, theatres, and music halls, and yet it is a
street without ostentation.  No one in Charing Cross Road can be
assuming: no one could be other than genial and neighbourly.  All good
books come there at last to find the people who will read them long
after they have been forgotten by the people who only talk about them.
Books endure while readers and talkers fade away, and Charing Cross
Road by its trade in books keeps alive the continuity of London's life
and deserves its fame.  The books that reach this haven are for the
most part honest, and therefore many a weary soul turns out of the
streets where men and women swindle into this place where the thoughts
of honest men are piled on shelves, or put out in the open air in
boxes, marked twopence, fourpence, sixpence....  A real market this!  A
fair without vanity.  There are pictures to look at in the windows,
mementoes of dead artists and writers, and there is a constant stream
of people, the oddest mixture to be found anywhere on earth....
Everybody who has nothing very much to do goes to Charing Cross Road to
meet everybody who has dropped out of the main stream of humanity to
have a look at it as it goes by.

You can buy food in this delectable retreat--the best holiday ground in
England--and you can eat it in the ferocious book-shop kept by the
mildly-mannered man who called Clara's name blessed, and had her
photograph in his little dark room at the back of the shop.

Adnor Rodd always took his holidays in Charing Cross Road, for when he
went into the country he worked harder even than he did in London.  He
wrote plays, and kept himself alive as best he could, because he hated
the theatre so much that he could never force himself through a stage
door.  Silent, taciturn, he went on his way, caring for nothing but his
work, and sparing neither himself nor any one else in pursuing it.

He had started in London with money and friends, but work became such a
vice with him that he lost both, except just enough to keep him
alive--to go on working.  Every now and then he was 'discovered' by a
playwright, a critic, or a literary man, but as he never returned a
compliment in his life 'discovery' never led very far....  A few people
knew that there was a strange man, called Rodd, who wrote masterpieces,
but simply would not or could not take advantage of the ordinary
commercial machinery to turn them into money or fame; but these few
raised their eyebrows or wagged their heads when he was mentioned.
Poor chap!  He was out of the running, and never likely to become a
member of the Thespic Club, election to which makes a man a real
dramatist, whose name may be considered good for a week's business.

Rodd never thought in terms of business.  He thought in terms of human
relationships, and out of them composed--never ceased
composing--dramas, vivid, ruthless, terrible.  It was very bad for him,
of course, because it forced him into a strained detachment from the
life all around him, and when he met people he was always bent on
finding out what they were really thinking, instead of accepting what
they wished him to think was in their minds.  He could no more do that
than he could use his considerable technical powers to concoct the
confectionery which in the theatre of those days passed, God save us,
for a play.  He wanted to come in contact with the dramatic essence of
the people he met, but every one withheld it or protected him or
herself against him, and so he lived alone.  For the sake of his work
he discarded the ordinary social personality which his education had
taught him to acquire, and he walked through the world exposed, rather
terrifying to meet; but so exquisitely sensitive that one acute
pleasure--a flower, a woman's smile, a strong man shaking hands with
his friend, a lovers' meeting, a real quarrel between two men who hated
each other, the attention of a friendly dog--could obliterate all the
horror and disgust with which most of what he saw and felt inspired
him.  He was sure of himself as a wind is sure of itself, but he was
without conceit....  When he was very young, he had been discovered by
one or two women.  That was enough.  He knew that the desire of women
is not worth satisfying, and he left them alone unless they were in
distress, and then he helped them generally at the cost of their
thinking he was in love with them.  Then he had to explain that he had
helped them as he would help a child or a sick man.  Generally they
would weep and say he was a liar and a deceiver, but he knew what
women's tears are worth, and when they got that far left them to
prevent them going any further....  But he always had women to look
after him, women who were grateful, women who, having once tasted his
sympathy, could not do without it.  His sympathy was passionate and to
some natures like strong drink.  Very few men could stand it because it
went straight to the secret places of the heart, and men, unlike women,
do not care to face their own secrets.

He lived in three rooms at the top of a house in Bloomsbury, one for
his books, one for his work, and one for himself--for sleeping and
bathing.  Unlike most men who are indifferent to the outside world he
was clean, because he found that slovenliness impaired his efficiency,
and took the edge off his energy.  He was as fastidious mentally as a
trained athlete is physically.

He accepted good-humouredly the apparently unalterable incompatibility
between the theatre and the drama.

A man with a single aim seems mad in a world where aims are scattered,
but Rodd suffered a double isolation.  Ordinary people regarded him as
a cracked fool, because he would not or could not exploit his gifts and
personality; while the people who really were cracked dreaded his
sanity and the humorous tolerance with which he indulged their little
weaknesses.

He enjoyed Charing Cross Road because it was rather like himself: it
was shovelled aside and disdained by its ignoble 'betters,' the streets
imposed by cosmopolitanism upon the real English London.  That London
he could find in Charing Cross Road, where there still beat the heart
from which Fielding and Dickens had drawn their inspiration, the brave
heart that could laugh through all its sufferings and through all the
indignities put upon it.  In Charing Cross Road he could meet almost
any day Falstaff and Doll Tearsheet, Tom Jones and Partridge, Sam
Weller and Sairey Gamp, and every day their descendants walked abroad,
passed in and out of shops, went about their business, little
suspecting that they would be translated into the world of art when
Rodd returned from his holiday to his work.  He passionately loved this
London, the real London, and hated everything that denied it or seemed
to deny it.  He loved it so greatly that he hardly needed any personal
love, and he detested any loyalty which interfered with his loyalty to
Shakespeare, Fielding, and Dickens, dramatists all, though Fielding's
drama had been too vital for the theatre of his time and had blown it
into atoms, so that since his day the actors had had to scramble along
as best they could and had done so well that they had forgotten the
drama altogether.  They had evolved a kind of theatrical bas-relief,
and were so content with it that they regarded the rounded figures of
dramatic sculpture with detestation....  They dared not make room in
their theatre for _Hedda Gabler_ and _John Gabriel Borkman_, because
they destroyed by contrast the illusions with which they maintained
their activities.

The Scots bookseller was a great friend of Rodd's, and a loyal admirer,
though he did not in the least understand what the strange man was
about.  Rodd used to talk of the virtue of an ordered world, while the
bookseller lived in dreams of Anarchy, men and women left alone so that
the good in them could come to the top and create a millennium of
kindliness.  Rodd's researches into the human heart had revealed to him
only too clearly the terror that burns at the sources of human life,
but because the bookseller's dreams were dear to him, because they kept
him happy and benevolent, Rodd could never bring himself to push
argument far enough to disturb them.

One day in this fair summer of our tale, Rodd turned into the bookshop
to consume the lunch he had bought at the German Delicatessen-Magasin
up the road.  He found the bookseller bubbling over with happiness,
dusting his books, re-arranging them, emptying large parcels of new
books, and not such very subversive books either except in so far as
all literature is subversive.

'Hallo!' said Rodd.  'I thought this was the slack season?'

'I'm rich,' retorted the bookseller.  'The dahned publishers are
crawling to me.  They've had their filthy lucre, and they know I can
shift the stuff, and they're on their knees to me, begging me to take
their muck by the hundred--at my own price.'

(This was a pardonable exaggeration, but it was long since the
bookseller had had so much new stock.)

'If I ever want a change,' said Rodd, 'I'll get you to take me on as
your assistant.'

The bookseller's jaw dropped and he stared at Rodd.

'You might do worse,' he said.  'That's the second offer I've had this
year.'

'Oh! who made the first?'

'Ah!' The bookseller put his finger to his nose and chuckled.  'Ah!
Some one who's in love with me.'

'There are too many books,' said Rodd.  'Too much shoddy.'

He turned away to the shelves where the plays were kept--Shaw, Barker,
Galsworthy, Ibsen, Schnitzler, Hauptmann, Tschekov, Andreev, Claudel,
Strindberg, Wedekind, all the authors of the Sturm and Drang period,
when all over Europe the attempt was made to thrust literature upon the
theatre, in the endeavour, as Rodd thought, to break the tyranny of the
printed word.  That was a favourite idea of his, that the tyranny of
print from which the world had suffered so long would be broken by the
drama.  The human heart alone could break the obsessions of the human
mind, otherwise humanity would lose its temper and try to smash them by
cracking human heads....  Rodd always thought of humanity as an unity,
an organism subject to the laws of organic life.  Talk about persons
and nations, groups and combinations, seemed to him irrelevant.
Humanity had a will, and everything had to comply with it or suffer.
At present it seemed to him that the will of humanity was diseased, and
that society here in London, as elsewhere, was inert.  He escaped into
his imagination where he could employ to the full his dramatic energy.
On the whole he hated books, but his affection for the Charing Cross
Road, and for the bookseller, drew him to the shop dedicated to the
efforts of revolutionary idealists, whom he thought on the whole
mistaken.  He desired not revolution but the restoration of the health
of humanity, and like so many others, he had his nostrum--the drama.
However, the air was so full of theories, social and political, that he
did not expect any one to understand him.

'Have you got Mann's new book?' he asked the bookseller, who produced
it: forty plates of Charles's pet designs with rather irrelevant
letterpress.  Rodd bought it, and that moment Clara entered the shop.

Rodd paid no attention to her.  The bookseller left him with his money
in his hand, and he stood turning over the pages of Charles's book, and
shaking his head over the freakish will o' the wisp paragraphs.  Clara
spoke, and he stiffened, stared at the books in front of him, turned,
caught sight of her profile, and stood gazing in amazement--a girl's
face that was more than pretty, a face in which there was purpose, and
proof of clear perception.

After her holiday she was looking superbly well.  Health shone in her.
She moved, and it was with complete unconcern for her surroundings.
She lived at once in Rodd's imagination, took her rightful place as of
course side by side with Beatrice, Portia, Cordelia, and Sophia
Western.  His imagination had not to work on her at all to re-create
her, or to penetrate to the dramatic essence of her personality, which
she revealed in her every gesture.

He could not hear what she was saying, but her voice went thrilling to
his heart.  He gasped and reeled and dropped Charles Mann's book with a
crash.

Clara, who had not seen him, turned, and she, too, was overcome.  He
moved towards her, and stood devouring her with his eyes, and hers
sought his.

'This is Rodd,' said the bookseller.  'Adnor Rodd, a great friend of
mine.'

'Rodd,' repeated Clara.

'He is very much interested in the theatre,' said the bookseller.

'I was just looking at Charles Mann's new book....  Will you let me
give it you?'

He moved away to pick up the book and came back clutching it, took out
his fountain pen and wrote in it in a small, precise hand,--

'To my friend, from Adnor Rodd.'

'My name is Clara Day,' said she,

'You can't have a name yet....  You are just you.'

She understood him.  He meant that externals were of no account in the
delighted shock of their meeting.  As they stood gazing at each other
the book-shop vanished, London disappeared, there was nothing but they
two on all the earth.  Neither could move.  The beginning and the end
were in this moment.  Nothing that they could do could alter it or make
the world again as it had been for them....  Consciously neither
admitted it, both stubbornly clung to what they had made of their lives.

He still held the book in his hand.  She had not put out hers for it.
He wrote 'Clara Day,' and he wanted to write it down several times as
he did with the names of the persons in his plays, to make certain that
they were rightly called.

With a faintly recurrent sense of actuality he thought of his three
rooms in Bloomsbury and of the hundred and fifty pounds a year on which
he lived, and with a wry smile he handed her the book, took stock of
her rich clothes, bowed and turned away....  For his imagination it was
enough to have met and loved her in that one moment.  She had broken
down the intellectual detachment in which he lived: the icy solitude in
which so painfully he struggled on was at an end.

So quickly had he moved that she was taken by surprise, and he had
reached the threshold of the shop before she ran after him and touched
him on the arm.

'Please,' she said.  'You have forgotten one thing--the date.'

He wrote the date in the book, and was for going, but she said,--

'I must know more of you if I am to accept your gift.'

'You talk such perfect English,' he said, marvelling at her.  'People
do not talk like that nowadays, but a slipshod jargon.'

'I have lived abroad,' she told him, and without more they walked out
into the street together, she hugging the book very dose.

They had walked some distance in silence before he spoke.

'Was it by accident that you were in that shop?'

'Oh, no,' said she.  'The old man is a friend of mine.'

(He noticed that she said 'the old' and not as most people did 'the
yold.'  It was this perfection in her that made her so incredible.  To
the very finest detail she was perfect and he knew not whether to laugh
or to weep.)

'It is absurd,' he said in his heart, 'it can't happen like this.  It
can't be true.'

Clara had no thought of anything but to make him open up his mind and
heart to her, most easily and painlessly to break the taut strain in
him.

They turned into a tea-shop in Coventry Street, and he sat glowering at
her.  A small orchestra was crashing out a syncopated tune.  The place
was full of suburban people enjoying their escape into a vulgar
excitement provided for them by the philanthropy of Joseph Lyons.  The
room was all gilt and marble and plentiful electric light.  A waitress
came up to them, but Rodd was so intent upon Clara that he could not
collect his thoughts, and she had to order tea.

'Who are you?' he asked.

'I am an actress at the Imperium.'

He flung back his head and gave a shout of laughter.

'Is it funny?' she asked.

'Very.'

She smiled a little maliciously and asked.--

'Who are you?'

'I'm a queer fish....  I've wasted my life in expecting more from
people than they had to give, and in offering them more than they
needed.'

'You look tired.'

'I am tired--tired out....  You're not really an actress.'

'I'm paid for it if that makes me one.'

'I mean--you are not playing a part now.  Actresses never stop.  They
take their cues from their husbands and lovers and go on until they
drop.  Their husbands and lovers generally kick them out before they do
that....  The ordinary woman is an actress in her small way, but you
are not so at all....  I can't place you.  What are you doing in
London?  You ought not to be in London.  You ought to leave us stewing
in our own juice.'

The waitress brought them tea and the orchestra flung itself into a
more outrageous effort than before.

'Ragtime and you!' he went on.  'They don't blend.  Ragtime is for
tired brains and jaded senses, for people who have lost all instinct
and intuition.  What have you to do with them?  You will simply beat
yourself to death upon their hard indifference....  You are only a
child.  You should be packed off home.'

'And suppose I have none.'

He shrugged his shoulders.

'That was an impertinence.  Forgive me!'  He took up the book he had
given her.  'This fellow Mann is like all the rest.  He wants to
substitute a static show for a dynamic and vital performance, to impose
his own art upon the theatre.  The actors have done that until they
have driven anything else out.  He wants to drive them out.  That is
all, but he has great gifts....'

'Please don't talk about other people,' said Clara.  'I want to hear
about you.  What were you doing in the book-shop?'

He told her then why he went to the Charing Cross Road, to find a
holiday which would make life tolerable; she described her holiday
touring through the country with the glorious conclusion in the Lakes.
He looked rather gloomy and shook his head,--

'That wouldn't suit me.  I like to go slowly and to linger over the
things that please me, to drink in their real character.  It is
pleasant to move swiftly, but all this motor-car business seems to me
to be only another dodge--running away from life....  I ought to do it
if I were true to my temperament, but I love my job too much.  I'm an
intellectual, but I can't stand by and look on, and I can't run away.'

Clara had never met any one like him before.  There was such acute
misery in his face, and his words seemed only to be a cloud thrown up
to disguise the retreat he was visibly making from her.  She would not
have that.  She was sure of him.  This attitude of his was a challenge
to her.  The force with which he spoke had made Charles and even
herself seem flimsy and fantastic, and she wanted to prove that she was
or could be made as solid, as definite and precise as himself.

She knew what it was to be driven by her own will.  Her sympathy was
with him there.  He was driven to the point of exhaustion.

'I've been trying to create the woman of the future,' he said.
'Ibsen's women are all nerves.  What I want to get is the woman who can
detach herself from her emotional experience and accept failure, as a
man does, with a belief that in the long run the human mind is stronger
than Nature.  If instincts are baffled, they are not to be trusted.
Women have yet to learn that....  When they learn it, we can begin to
get straight.'

It did not seem to matter whether she understood him or not.  He had
her sympathy, and he was glad to talk.

'That seems to be the heart of the problem.  But it is a little
disconcerting, when you have been trying to create a woman, to walk
into a bookshop and find her.'

'How do you know?' she asked.  'I may be only acting.  That is what
women do.  They find out by instinct the ideal in a man's mind and
reproduce it.'

He shook his head.

'All ideals to all men? ...  You have given the game away.'

'That might only be the cleverest trick of all.'

For a moment he was suspicious of her, but this coquetry was noble and
designed to please and soothe him.

'I'm in for a bad time,' he said simply.  'Things have been too easy
for me so far.  I gave myself twenty years in which to produce what I
want and what the world must have....  Things aren't so simple as all
that.'

'Do drink your tea.  I think you take everything too hardly.  People
don't know that they are indifferent.  There are so many things to do,
so many people to meet, they are so busy that they don't realise that
they are standing still and just repeating themselves over and over
again.'

'Damn the orchestra!' said Rodd.  The first violin was playing a solo
with muted strings.  'If people will stand this, they will stand
anything.  It is slow murder.'

'Do believe that they like it,' replied Clara.

'Slow murder?'

'No.  The--music.'

'Same thing.'  He laughed.  'Oh, well.  You have robbed me of my
occupation.  When shall we meet again?'

'To-morrow?'

'To-morrow.  You shall see how I live--  If you can spare the time I
would like to take you to a concert.  I always test my friends with
music.'

'Even the New Woman?'

His eyes twinkled and a smile played about his sensitive lips.



XII

RODD AT HOME

They met on the morrow, a hot August day, with the heat quivering up
from the pavements and the walls of the houses....  Rodd was the first
to arrive at the book-shop where they had arranged to meet.  The
bookseller chaffed him about the 'young leddy,' because Rodd had never
been known to speak to any one--male or female, in the shop.

'That's a fine young leddy,' said the bookseller.  'She knows that to
do good to others is to do good to yourself.  And mind ye, that's a
fact.  It's not preaching.  It's hard scientific fact.'

'Who is she?' asked Rodd.

'She's an actress-girl, and she is friendly with lords.  How she came
to find a poor shop like mine I cannot tell ye.  But in she walked, and
my luck turned from that day.'

Clara came in.  She stood on the threshold of the shop and turned over
the papers that stood there on a table.  She had seen Rodd, but wished
to gain a moment or two before she spoke to him, so great had been the
shock of meeting him.  Since leaving him the day before she had done
nothing at all but wait for the time to come for her to see him again,
but when the time came she had to force her way out of the brooding
concentration upon him which absorbed all her energies.  She dreaded
the meeting.  In recollection, his personality had been clearer and
more precise to her than in his actual presence, when the force of his
ideas obscured everything else.  He was unhappy, he was poor, he was
solitary, and it angered her that such a man should be any one of these
things.  He seemed so forceful and yet to be poor, to be unhappy, to be
solitary in a world where, as she had proved, wealth and companionship
were so easy of access, argued some weakness....  He waited for her to
move, and that angered her.  He stood still and waited for her to move.
So fierce was the gust of anger in her that she nearly walked out of
the shop then and there, but she saw his eyes intent upon her and she
went up to him, holding out her hand.  He gripped it tightly and said,--

'I was afraid you might not come.'

'Why should I not?'

'I have so little to give you.'

'You gave me a good deal yesterday.'

'Everything.'

The bookseller looked up at the bust of William Morris on his poetry
shelves and winked.  Then he tip-toed away.

Clara forgave him for not moving to meet her.  His directness of speech
satisfied her as to his strength and honesty.

Neither was disposed to waste time.  Their intimacy had begun at their
first meeting.

'It is too hot in London,' he said.  'Shall we walk out to Highgate or
Hampstead?'

Clara wanted to touch him, to make certain that he was really a man and
not a mere perambulating mind, and she laid her hand on his arm.  It
was painfully thin, and she knew instinctively that he was not properly
cared for, and then again she was full of mistrust.  Was it only her
sympathy that involved her life with his? ...  The shock of it had made
it perfectly clear that in Charles, as a man, she had never had the
smallest interest.  That had been disastrous, and she shrank from
creating more trouble by her impetuosity.  To hurt this man would be
serious.  No one could hurt Charles except himself; and even then he
would always wake up in the morning singing and whistling like a happy
boy or a blackbird in a cherry-tree in blossom.

They went by tube to Highgate, making no attempt to talk through the
clatter and roar of the train in the tunnel.

As they walked up the long hill he said,--

'You have knocked me out.  I never thought any one would do that.  I
never thought I should meet any one as strong as myself....  Love's a
terrible thing.  The impact of two personalities.  It breaks everything
else, leaves no room for anything else.'

'I hoped it would make you happy,' said Clara, accepting as entirely
natural that they should sweep aside everything that stood between them
and their desire to be together and to share thoughts, emotions, all
the deep qualities in them that could be revealed to no one else.  She
could no more deny him than she could deny the sun rising in the
morning, and for the moment she was content to forget every other
element in her life....  It was so inevitably right that, having met in
the heart of London, they should turn their backs on it and put
themselves to the test of earth, sunshine, blue sky, and trees in their
summer green, and water smiling in the sun.  The furious energy in
their hearts made the hot August day, the suburban scene, and the
indolent suburban people seem toy-like and unreal, as though they were
looking down upon it from another world, and so they were, for they had
plunged to the very beginnings of Creation, and their new world was in
the making.  So great is the power of love that, extracting all the
truth from the world as men have made it, it sweeps the rest away and
begins again, discarding, destroying, but most tenderly preserving all
that is vital and of worth.  Love takes its chosen two, and weaves a
spell about them, to preserve them from the fretting contact of the
world, that they may have the power to withstand the agony of creation
which sweeps through them, and never rests until they are forged into
one soul, one world, or parted, broken and cast down.

Of these two it was Rodd who suffered most.  The fierce will that had
maintained him in his long labours for the art he worshipped would not
yield.  He wanted both, his work and this sudden, surprising girl who
had walked into his life, and he wanted both upon his own terms.  At
the same time the conflict set up in him made him only the more
sensitive to beauty and to the simple delights of the gardens and
fields through which they passed....  This was new for him.  He had
enjoyed such things before only with a remote aesthetic detachment.

This, too, he was loath to renounce, but the swift joy in the girl was
too strong for him.  To such beauty the sternest will must bend.  No
bird's song, no sudden light upon a cloud, no trembling flower in its
ecstacy, no tree in full burst of blossom could tell of so high a
beauty as this joy that flashed from the very depths of her soul into
her eyes, upon her lips, softening her throat, liquefying her every
movement, and into her voice bringing such music as no poet has ever
sung, no musician's brain conceived, music sent from regions deeper
than the human soul can know to go soaring far beyond the limits set to
human perception.

Rodd was dazed and dizzy with it, and longed every now and then to
touch her, to hold her, to make sure that in the swiftness of her joy
she would not fly away....  He talked gravely and solemnly, with an
intent concentration, about the persons in his life who compared so
sorrily with her.  He was obviously composing them into a drama, which,
however, he dared not carry to any conclusion.  That there could ever
be such another day as this was beyond his hopes, that he could ever
return to what he was beggared his endurance....

'A queer thing happened to me the other day,' he said.  'I live among
strange people, hangers-on of the theatre and the newspaper press.
There is a woman----'

Clara caught her breath and looked tigerish.  He did not notice the
change and went on.

'There is a woman.  She lives immediately below me.  She has two
children and God knows how she lives.  She used to wait for me on the
stairs in the evening to watch me go up.  But I never spoke to her----'

Clara smiled happily.

'She used to do me little services.  She would darn my socks, and
sometimes cook me some dainty and lay it outside my door.  This went on
for months, I never spoke to her, because she has a terrible mother who
lives with her....  A week or two ago, she met me as I came upstairs in
the evening, and told me one of her children was ill, and asked me to
go for the doctor....  I did so, and she looked so exhausted that I
went in and helped her.  The mother was no use at all; a fat, lazy
beast of a woman who drinks, swears, eats, and sleeps....  We wrestled
with death for the life of the child, but we were beaten....  It died.
She waits for me now, and tries to talk to me, but I will not do it.
She is frenzied in her attentions.  She wants sympathy.  She has it,
but wants more than that.  A word from me, and I should never be able
to shake her off.  She would cling to me, and because she clung she
would believe that she loved me, but she would have nothing but my
weakness....  It has happened before.  They seem to find some bitter
triumph in a man's weakness.'

The humility of his confession touched Clara deeply.  It was the
humility of the man's feeling, in contrast with his ferocious,
intellectual arrogance, that moved her to a compassion which steadied
her in her swift joy.  His story revealed his life to her so vividly
that she felt that without more she knew him through and through.
Everything else was detail with which she had no particular concern.

They walked along in silence for some time, he brooding, she smiling
happily, and she pictured the two sides of his life, the rich and
powerful imaginative activity, and the simple tenderness of his
solitude.

It seemed to be her turn to confess, but she could not.  The day's
perfection would be marred for them, and that she would not have.  He
would understand.  Yes, he would understand, but men have illusions
which are very dear to them.  She must protect them, and let him keep
them until the dear reality made it necessary for him to discard them.

At Hampstead they came on a holiday throng and mingled with them, glad
once again to be in contact with simple people taking the pleasures for
which they lived.  There were swing-boats, merry-go-rounds, cocoa-nut
shies, penny-in-the-slot machines....  The proprietor of the
merry-go-round was rather like Sir Henry Butcher in appearance, and
Clara realised with a start that the Imperium and this gaily painted
machine were both parts of the same trade.  The people paid their
twopence or their half-guineas and were given a certain excitement, a
share in a game, a pleasure which without effort on their part broke
the monotony of existence....  Of the two on this August day she
preferred the merry-go-round.  It was in the open air, and it was
simple and unpretentious; and it was surely better that the people
should be amused with wooden horses than with human beings as
mechanical and as miserably driven by machinery....  She was annoyed
with Rodd because he was exasperated by the silly giggling of the
servant-girls and the raffish capers of the young man.

'I hate the pleasures of the people,' he said.  'They give the measure
of the quality of their work--lazy, slovenly, monotonous repetition,
producing nothing splendid but machines, wonderful engines, marvellous
ships, miraculous motor-cars, but dull, listless, sodden people--inert.
It is the inertia of London that is so appalling.'

Clara made him take her on the wooden horses, and they went round three
times.  He admitted reluctantly that he had enjoyed it.

'But only because you did.'

To try him still further she made him have tea in the yard of an inn,
at a long table with a number of East Enders, whole families, courting
couples, and young men and maidens who had selected each other out of
the crowd.  They stared at the remarkable pair, the elegant young woman
and the moody, handsome man, but they made no impertinent comment
except that when they left a girl shrieked,--

'My! look at her shoes.'

And another girl said mournfully,--

'I wisht I 'ad legs like _that_ and silk stockings.'

It was near evening.  The haze over the heath shimmered with an apricot
glow.  Windows, catching the low sun, blazed like patches of fire.  The
people on the heath dwindled and seemed to sink away into the
landscape, and their movements were hardly perceptible.

Rodd asked,--

'Has it been a good day for you?'

'A wonderful day.  I want to see where you live.'

He took her home.  Down in London, after the Heath, the air seemed
thick and stifling.  The square in which he lived was surrounded with
unsavoury streets from which smells that were almost overpowering were
wafted in.  His house was a once fashionable mansion now cut up into
flats.  He had what were once the servants' quarters under the roof,
three rooms and a bathroom.  The windows of his front room looked out
on the tops of trees.  Here he worked.  The room contained nothing but
a table, a chair, a piano, and a sofa.

'This is the only room,' he said.

'That woman was waiting for you,' said Clara.

'Was she?  I didn't see her.'

'Yes.  She whisked into her room when she saw me.'

He took up his manuscript from the table.

'It has stopped short.'  He turned it over ruefully; fingering the
pages, he began to read and was sinking into absorption in it when she
dashed it out of his hand.

'How dare you read it when I am with you?' she cried.  'It was written
before you knew me.  It isn't any good....  I know it isn't any good.'

He was stunned by this outburst of jealousy and protested,--

'There's years of work in it.'

'But what's the good of sitting here working, if you never do anything
with it?'

He pointed to the sofa and said,--

'There's my work in there: full to the brim, notes, sketches, things
half finished, things that need revision....  I've been waiting for
something to happen.  I could never work just to please other people
and to fit successful actors with parts....'

'I'm a successful actress.'

'You?  Oh, no.'

'But I am.  I'm engaged to appear at the Imperium in _The Tempest_.
Charles Mann is designing the production.'

'I saw something about that, but I didn't believe it.'

'Charles Mann's work was like that,' she pointed to the sofa, 'until I
met him.'

'You know him?'

'Yes....  Yes.'

(She could not bring herself to tell him.)

'Butcher will be too strong for him.  You see, Butcher controls the
machine.'

'But money controls Butcher!'

He was enraged.

'You!  You to talk of money!  That is the secret of the whole criminal
business.  Money controls art.  Money rejects art.  Money's a sensitive
thing, too.  It rejects force, spontaneity, originality.  It wants
repetition, immutability, things calculable.  Money...  You can talk
with satisfaction of money controlling Butcher after our heavenly day
with the sweet air singing of our happiness!'

'One must face facts.'

'Certainly.  But one need not embrace them.'

Here in this room he was another man.  The humility that was his most
endearing quality was submerged in his creative arrogance.  Almost it
seemed that he resented her intrusion as a menace to the life which he
had made for himself, the world of suffering and tortured creatures
with which he had surrounded himself, the creatures whom he had loved
so much that contact with his fellows had come to be in some sort a
betrayal of them.  To an extraordinary degree the atmosphere of the
room was charged with his personality, and with the immense continuous
effort he had made to achieve his purpose.  Here there was something
demoniac and challenging in him.  He presented this empty room to her
as his life and seemed to hurl defiance at her to disturb it.

She had never had so fiercely stimulating a challenge to her
personality.  In her heart she compared this austere room with the
ceremony of the Imperium, and there was no doubt which of the two
contained the more vitality.  Here in solitude was a man creating that
which alone which could justify the elaborate and costly machinery of
the great theatre which had been used for almost a generation by the
bland and boyish Sir Henry Butcher to exploit his own engaging
personality.

Clara was ashamed of the jealousy which had made her snatch Rodd's work
out of his hand.  It had set his passion raging against her.  He who
had faced the hostility and indifference of the world all through his
ambitious youth was inflamed by the hostility of love which had shaken
but not yet uprooted his fierce will--never to compromise, but to
adhere to the logic of his vision.  The rage in him was intolerable.
She said,--

'You don't like it?'

What?'

'My being at the Imperium.'

'It is not for me to like or dislike.  I am not the controller of your
movements.  I would never control the movements of any living creature.'

'Except in your work.'

'They work out their own salvation.  They are nothing to do with me,
any more than the woman on the stairs.'

'But you love them.'

(He had made them as real to her as they were to himself.)

'They don't leave me alone.  They want to live....  But they can only
live on the stage.'


He shook back his head and with supreme arrogance he said,--

'As they will when the stage is fit for them.'

She could not bear the strain any longer, and to bring him back to
actuality she said,--

'How old are you?'

'Thirty-one.'

His next move horrified her.  He stepped forward, seized his
manuscript, and tore it into fragments.

'There!' he said, 'are you satisfied?'

'No.  That was childish of you....  You will only sit down and begin
all over again.'

'I swear I will not.  I swear it.  It is finished.  All that is
over....  I don't know how I shall ever begin again.  Perhaps I shall
not....  All last night I was struggling to get away from it, to avoid
facing it....  They're all mean and ignoble and pitiful; brain-sick
most of them; and not fit to live in the same world as you.  They're
not fit to be exhibited on the public stage, these poor nervous little
modern people with their dried instincts and their withered thoughts,
clever and helpless, rotting in inaction....  No.  It has been all
wrong.  I've been a fool, but I couldn't pretend....  I think I knew it
in my head, but it needed you to bring it home to me....  I'm not fit
to live in the same world as you.  I ought not to have seen you
to-day....'

'Can't you laugh at yourself?'

'Laugh!  Dear God, I do nothing else.'

'I mean--happily.  You wouldn't be you if you didn't make mistakes--to
learn.  You had to learn more about your work than just the tricks of
it.  Isn't it so?  You despise acting.  But it is just the same there.
I wanted to learn more about it than the tricks.'

'Ay, that's it; to learn the tricks and keep decent.  That is what one
stands out for.'

Clara held out her hand to him,--

'Very well, then.  We understand each other and there is nothing so
very terrible in my being at the Imperium.  Is there?'

He held her hand.  She wanted him to draw her to him, to hold her close
to him, to comfort him for all that he had lost; but once again he was
governed by his humility, and he just bowed low, and thanked her warmly
for her generosity in giving so poor a devil as himself so exquisite a
day.

Nothing was said about another meeting.  As he took her down the stairs
the door of the flat below was opened and a woman's face peeped out.
Near the bottom of the stairs they met a man in a tail coat and top hat
who sidled past them, took off his hat and held it in front of his
face, but before he did so Clara had recognised Mr Cumberland,
erstwhile Mr Clott.

'Does that man live here?' she asked Rodd at the door.

Rodd looked up the stairs.

'No-o,' he said.  'No.  I think I have seen him before, but there are
many people living in the house.  Strange people.  They come and go,
but I sit there in my room upstairs gazing at the tree-tops,
working....'

'You should get in touch with the theatre,' said Clara; 'swallow your
scruples, and find out that we are not so very bad after all.'

They stood for some moments on the wide doorstep.  It was night now and
the lamps were lit.  Lovers strolled by under the trees, and against
the railings of the garden opposite couples were locked together.

'You turn an August day into Spring,' said Rodd.

Clara tapped his hand affectionately, and, to tear herself away, ran
down the square and round the corner.  She was quivering in every nerve
from the strain of so much conflict, and she was angry with herself for
having taken so high a hand with him.  He was more to be respected than
any man she had ever met, and yet she had--or so she thought--treated
him as though he were another Charles.  She could not measure the
immensity of what had happened to her and her thoughts flew to
practical details.  What ages it seemed since she had walked blithely
crooning: 'This is me in London!'  And how odd, how menacing, it was
that on the stairs she should have met Mr Clott or Cumberland!



XIII

'THE TEMPEST'

There were still seasons in those days: Autumn, Christmas Holidays, and
Spring.  In August when the rest of the world was at holiday the
theatres, cleaned and renewed for a fresh attempt at the conquest of
the multitude (which is unconquerable, going its million different
ways), were filled with hopeful, busy people, hoping for success to
give them the tranquil easy time and the security which, always looked
for, never comes.

The Imperium had been re-upholstered and redecorated, and the fact was
duly advertised.  Mr Smithson, in the leisure given him by his being
relieved of full responsibility for the scenery, had painted a new
act-drop, photographs of which appeared in the newspapers.  Mr Gillies
was interviewed.  Sir Henry was interviewed, Charles Mann was
interviewed.  The ball of publicity was kept rolling merrily.  Even Mr
Halford Bunn, the famous author whose new play had been put back, lent
a hand by attacking the new cranky scenery in the columns of a
respectable daily paper, and giving rise to a lengthy correspondence in
which Charles came in for a good deal of hearty abuse on the ground
that he had given to other countries the gifts that belonged to his
own.  He plunged into the fray, and pointed out that he had left his
own country because it was pleasanter to starve in a sunny climate.

He was intoxicated with anticipation of his triumph.  The practical
difficulties which he had created, and those which had been put in his
way by Mr Gillies and Mr Smithson had been surmounted, and to see his
designs in being, actually realised in the large on back-cloths, wings,
and gauzes, gave him the sense of solidity which, had it come into his
life before, might have made him almost a normal person....  Clara was
to be Ariel.  The beloved child was to bring the magic of her
personality to kindle the beauty he had created in form and colour.  He
was almost reconciled to the idea of the characters in the fantasy
being impersonated by men and women.

Sir Henry had returned to town enthusiastic and eager.  Mann and Clara
were a combination strong enough to break the tyranny of the social use
of the front of the house over the artistic employment of the stage.
This season at all events Lady Butcher and Lady Bracebridge should not
have things all their own way.

There was a slight set back and disappointment.  An upstart impresario
brought over from Germany a production in which form and design had
broken down naturalism.  This was presented at one of the Halls, and
was an instantaneous success, and Charles, in a fit of jealousy, wrote
an unfortunately spiteful attack on the German producer, accusing him
of stealing his ideas.  Sir Henry, a born publicist, was enraged, and
threatened to abandon his project.  The proper line to take was to
welcome the German product and, with an appropriate reference to
Perkins and aniline dyes, to point bashfully to what London could
do....  He was so furious with Charles that he shut himself up in the
aquarium and refused to call rehearsals.

Clara saw him and he reproached her,--

'Why did you bring that dreadful man into my beautiful theatre?  He has
upset everybody from Gillies to the call-boy, and now he has made us a
laughing-stock, and this impresario person is in a position to say that
we are jealous.  We artists have to hold together or the business men
will bowl us out like a lot of skittles, and where will the theatre be
then?...  Where would you be, my dear?  They'd make you take off your
clothes and run about the stage with a lot of other young women, and
call that--art....  The theatre is either a temple or it is in Western
Civilisation what the slave-market is in the East.  This damned fool of
yours can't see anything outside his own scenery.  He thinks he is more
important than me; but is a bookbinder more important than John
Galsworthy?'

'You mustn't be so angry.  Nobody takes Charles seriously except in his
work.  Everybody expects him to do silly things.  You can easily put it
right with a dignified letter.'

'But I can't say my own scene-painter is a confounded idiot.'

'You needn't mention him,' said Clara.  'Just say how much you admire
the German production and talk about the renaissance of the theatre.'

Sir Henry pettishly took pen and paper, wrote a letter, and handed it
to her.

'Will that do?' he asked.

She read it, approved, and admired its adroitness.  There were
compliments to everybody and Charles was not mentioned.

'These things _are_ important,' said Sir Henry.  'The smooth running of
the preliminary advertising is half the battle.  It gives you your
audiences for the first three weeks, and it inspires confidence in the
Press.  That is most important....  I really was within an ace of
throwing the whole thing up.  Lady Butcher would like nothing better.'

'I think Verschoyle would be offended if you did.'

'Ah!  Verschoyle....'  Sir Henry looked suspiciously at her.  Though he
wanted to be, he was never quite at his ease with her.  She was not
calculable like the women he had known.  What they wanted were things
definite and almost always material, while her purposes were secret,
subtle, and, as he sometimes half suspected, beyond his range.  She was
new.  That was her fascination.  She belonged to this strange world
that was coming into being of discordant rhythmic music, of Russian
ballet and novels, of a kind of poetry that anybody could write, of
fashions that struck him as indecent, of a Society more riotous and
rowdy than ever the Bohemia of his day had been, because women--ladies
too--were the moving spirit in it and women never did observe the rules
of any game....  And yet, in his boyish, sentimental way, he adored
her, and clung to her as though he thought she could take him into this
new world.

'I can't go on with Mann,' he said almost tearfully.  'It is too
disturbing.  You never know what he is going to do, and, after all, the
theatre is a business, isn't it?--  Isn't it?'

'I suppose so,' replied Clara.

It was extraordinary to feel the great machine of the theatre gathering
momentum for the launching of the play.  It was marvellous to be caught
up, as the rehearsals proceeded, into the loveliest fantasy ever
created by the human mind.  Clara threw herself into it heart and soul.
Life outside the play ceased for her.  She lived entirely between her
rooms and the stage of the theatre.  Unlike the other players, when she
was not wanted she was watching the rest of the piece, surrendered
herself to it completely, and was continually discovering a vast power
of meaning in words that had been so familiar to her as to have become
like remembered music, an habitual thought without conscious reference
to anything under the sun....  And as her sense of the beauty of the
play grew more living to her, so she saw the apparatus that kept it in
motion as more and more comic....  Mr Gillies had a thousand and one
points on which he consulted his chief with the most ruthless disregard
of the work going forward on the stage.  Lady Butcher would come
bustling in, take Sir Henry aside and whisper to him, and words like
Bracebridge--Sir George--Lady Amabel--Prime Minister--Chancellor--would
come hissing out.  Then when the rehearsal was resumed she would stay
surveying it with the indulgent smile of a vicar's wife at a school
treat....  During the exquisite scene between Prospero and Miranda one
day the scenery door was flung open, and Mr Smithson arrived with a
small army of men, who dumped paint-pots on the boards, threw hammers
down, and rushed across the stage with flats and fly-cloths.  Yet, in
spite of all these accidents introducing the spirit of burlesque, the
play survived.  Sir Henry would tolerate interruptions up to a point,
but, when a charwoman in the auditorium started brushing or turned on a
sudden light, he would turn and roar into the darkness,--

'Stop that din!  How can I rehearse if I am continually distracted!  Go
away and clean somewhere else!  We can't be clean now....  Please go
on.'

The cast was a good one of very distinguished and highly paid players,
all the principals being ladies and gentlemen who would rather not work
than accept less than twenty or twenty-five pounds a week.  One or two
were superior young people who affected to despise the Imperium, but
confessed with a smile that the money was very useful.  They were also
rather scornful of Charles because he was not intellectual.

Charles at first attended rehearsals and attempted to interfere, but
was publicly rebuked and told to mind his own business.  There would
have been a furious quarrel, but Clara went up to him and dragged him
away just in time.  He stayed away for some days, but returned and sat
gloomily in the auditorium.  He had moved from his furnished house, and
was in rooms above a ham and beef shop, which, he said, had the
advantage of being warm.

'It isn't a production,' he grumbled, 'it's a scramble.  He's ruining
the whole thing with his acting, which is mid-Victorian.  He should key
the whole thing up from you, chicken....  You know what I want.  You
understand me.  The technique of the rest is all wrong.  It is a
technique to divert attention from the scenery, raw, unmitigated
barn-storming....  Do, do ask him to let me help!  What can he do,
popping in and out of the play and discussing a hundred and one things
with all these fools who keep running in?'

'You should have stipulated for it in your contract,' she said.  'It is
too late now.  He does know his business, Charles, if only people would
leave him alone.'

So rehearsals went on for a few more days.  Clara was more and more
absorbed.  The magical reality of Ariel surpassed everything else in
her life except the memory of Rodd in his empty room, and that also she
wished to obliterate, for she was full of a premonition of danger, and
was convinced that by this dedication of herself to the theatre she
could dominate it.  She could not define the danger, but it threatened
Charles, and it menaced Rodd, whom she had decided not to see again.

Sir Henry was delighted with her, and said she had rejuvenated his own
art.

'I used to play Caliban,' he said.  'But Prospero is the part if there
is to be an Ariel who can move as you can move and speak in a fairy
voice as you can speak....  The rest of the play is all in the day's
work....

  'Go make thyself like a nymph of the sea: be subject
  To no sight but thine and mine, invisible
  To every eyeball else.'


And for Clara it was almost literally true.  She felt that she was like
a spirit moving among these people marooned on this island of the West
End of London, all spell-bound by the money of this great roaring city,
all enslaved, all amphibious, living between two elements, the actual
and the imagined, but in neither, because of the spell that bound them,
fully and passionately....  Living in the play she saw Sir Henry merged
in Prospero, and when he said,--

          'Thou shalt be as free
  As mountain winds: but then exactly do
  All points of my command,'

she took that also literally, and was blissfully happy to surrender to
a will more potent than her own....  She did not know that the will she
was acknowledging was Shakespeare's, and that with her rare capacity
for living in the imagination she was creeping into his and accepting
life, gaining her freedom, upon his terms.

After some time her spirit began to affect the whole company.  She
created an enchantment in which all moved, and Charles, watching, began
to understand more fully the art he had first perceived in her on the
day when he had attempted to force her, like a practised hand, to
capture and fix an apparently accidental effect....  It was no
accident.  The girl was possessed with a rare dramatic genius, entirely
unspoiled--pure enough and strong enough to subsist and to move in the
theatrical atmosphere of the Imperium....  What was more, Charles
understood that she was fighting for his ideas, and was, before his
eyes, making their fulfilment possible.

You might talk and argue with Sir Henry until you were blue in the
face, but give him a piece of real acting and he understood at once,
was kindled and became fertile in invention, even courageous in
innovation.  Give him that, and he would drop all thought of the public
and the newspapers, and sacrifice even the prominence of his own
personality to the service of this art that he adored.  As the
rehearsals proceeded, therefore, he became more intent, was less
patient with interruptions, and at last stopped them altogether.  He
became interested in his own part, and tussled with the players who
shared his scenes with him.

'Never,' he said to Clara, 'have I enjoyed rehearsals so much as these.
I am only afraid they are going too smoothly.  We shall be over-ripe by
production....'

He resumed cordial relations with Charles, and threw out a suggestion
or two as to scenery and costumes which Charles, who had begun to learn
the elements of diplomacy, pretended to note down.  Sir Henry was
magnanimous.  He avoided his wife and his usual cronies, and devoted
himself to Charles and Clara, whom his showman's eye had marked down as
potentially a very valuable property.

'This should be the beginning of great things for you, my boy,' he said
to Charles.  'You will have all the managers at your feet, but the
Imperium is the place for big work, the bold attack, the sweeping
line....'

Charles was a little suspicious of such whole-hearted conversion.  He
knew these enthusiasms for the duration of rehearsals, and he was
ill-at-ease because his anticipation of boundless wealth had not come
true.  He had spent his advance and could not get another out of Mr
Gillies, who detested him and regarded his invasion of the theatre as a
ruinous departure from its traditions.  Clara Mr Gillies considered to
be merely one of his Chief's infatuations.  They never lasted very
long.  He had seen his Chief again and again rush to the very brink of
disaster, but always he had withdrawn in the nick of time....  Mr
Gillies was like a perpetual east wind blowing upon Charles's
happiness.  But for Mr Gillies there would have been boundless
wealth....  It was monstrous: Verschoyle had backed Charles's talent
and Mr Gillies was sitting on the money.  Butcher could spend it
royally, but Charles had often to go to Clara and ask her for the price
of his lunch.  At the very height of his fame, with success almost
within his grasp, he had to go almost hungry because genius has no
credit.

There was nothing to be done about it.  He borrowed here and there, but
knew it was no real help.  It simply sent rumours flying as to his
financial position, and he did not want either Butcher or Verschoyle to
know that money trickled through his fingers.  He wanted their support
after this success to advance his schemes.  Therefore he borrowed from
Clara, and she, entirely indifferent to all but the engrossing
development of the play, allowed Sir Henry to pay for her food, to give
her meals alone with him in the aquarium, and even to buy her clothes
and jewels.  She took not the slightest interest in them, but, as it
seemed to give him pleasure to shower gifts and attentions upon her,
she suffered it, and never for a moment dreamed of the turn his
infatuation was taking.

As she progressed in her work she felt that she was achieving what she
desired, a passion for her art equal to Rodd's.  For a time she had
thrust all thought of him aside, but as she gained in mastery and power
over the whole activity of the stage, he crept back into her mind, and
she could face him with a greater sense of equality, with more
understanding and without that jealousy the memory of which hurt
her....  She had acquired a sense of loyalty to art which was a greater
thing than loyalty to Charles.  She had saved him, helped him, brought
him thus far.  Henceforth he must learn to stand on his own feet.  She
was glad that she had left him.

All these considerations seemed very remote as she worked her way
deeper and deeper into the play, which contained for her a reality
nowhere to be found in life.  She became Ariel, a pure imagination,
moving in an enchanted air, singing of freedom and of a beauty beyond
all things visible.

        'You are three men of sin, whom Destiny
  That hath to instrument this lower world
  And what is in't, the never-surfeited sea
  Hath caused to belch up you; and on this island
  Where man doth not inhabit...'

Casting spells upon others, she seemed to cast them upon her own life;
and it was incredible to her to think that she was the same Clara Day
who had come so gaily to London with Charles Mann to help him to
conquer his kingdom.  The stage of the Imperium was to her, in truth, a
magic island where wonders were performed, and she by an inspiration,
more powerful than her own will, could with a touch transform all
things and persons around her; and when Sir Henry, rehearsing the
character of Prospero, said to her.--

        'Then to the elements
  Be free and fare you well.'

the words sounded deep in her heart, and she took them as a real
bidding to be free of all that had entangled and cramped her own life.
So she dreamed.

She had a rude awakening one night when, after a supper in the aquarium
alone with Sir Henry, he broke a long moody silence by laying his hand
on hers, drawing her out of her chair and clasping her to his heart
while he kissed her arms, shoulders, face, hair, and cried,--

'You wonderful, wonderful child.  I love you.  I love you.  I have
loved you since I first saw you.  I knew then that the love of my life
had come....  You wonderful untouched child----'

He tried to make her kiss him, to force her to meet his eyes, but she
wrestled with him and thrust him back to relinquish his hold.

'How could you?  How could you!  How could you?' she asked.

'I have never forgotten that marvellous moonlit night----'

'Please be sensible,' she said.  'Does a man never know when a woman
loves him or not?'

'They don't help one much,' replied Sir Henry, with a nervous grin.
'You were so happy....  I thought.  Don't be angry with me!  I have
thought of nothing but you since then....'

'A moonlight night and champagne supper,' said she.  'Are they the same
thing to you?'

'Love conquers all,' said Sir Henry, a little sententiously.  He was
disgusted.  She was not playing the right dramatic part; but she never
did any of the expected things.  The ordinary conventions of women did
not exist for her.

She had moved as far away from him as possible and was standing over by
the portrait of Teresa Chesney.

'You must never talk like that again,' she said, 'or I shall not stay
in the theatre....  It is not only the vulgarity of it that I hate, but
that you should have misunderstood....  I was happy to be working with
you in the play.  Everything outside that is unimportant.'

'Not love....  Not love,' protested Sir Henry.

'Even love,' she said.

'I thought you liked me,' he mumbled.  'I was so happy giving you
presents.  I thought you liked me....  A man in my position doesn't
often find people to like him.'

'So I do,' said Clara.  'You are very like Charles.  That is why I
understand you.'

Sir Henry winced.  In his heart he thoroughly despised Charles Mann.
He drank a glass of champagne and said nervously,--

'I'm glad we're not going to quarrel....  Forgive me.'

'You have spoiled it all for me,' she said.  'Everything is spoiled.'

She clenched her fists, and her eyes blazed fury at him.

'How dare you treat me as a woman when I had never revealed myself to
you?  Isn't that where a man should have some honour? ...  You must
understand me if I am to remain in the theatre.  If a woman reveals
herself to a man, then she is responsible.  She has nothing to say
if--I don't think you understand.'

'No.'  And indeed she might have been talking Greek to him.  The
insulted woman he knew, the virtuous woman he knew, the fraudulent
coquette he knew, the extravagant self-esteem of women he knew, but
never before had he met a woman who was simple and sincere, who could
brush aside all save essentials and talk to him as a man might have
done, with detachment from the thing that had happened.

'If you think I'm a blackguard, why don't you say so?  Why don't you
hit me?'

'I don't think you are anything of the kind.  I think you have been
spoiled and that everything has been too easy for you....  I'm hurt
because I thought you wanted Charles and me for the theatre and not for
yourself.'

'_L'etat c'est moi_,' smiled Sir Henry.  'I am the theatre....  All the
immense machinery is my creation.  My brain here is the power that
keeps it going.  If I were to die to-morrow there would be four walls
and Mr Gillies....  Do you think he could do anything with it?  Could
Charles Mann?  Could you?'

'Yes,' said Clara, and he laughed.  He had never been in such
entrancing company.  If she did not want his love-making--well and
good.  At least she gave him the benefit of her frankness and he needed
no pose with her.  He was glad she was going to be a sensible girl....
She might alter her mind and every day only made her more adorable.

'Sit down and have some chocolates.'  He spoke to her as though she
were a child and like a child she obeyed him, for she was alarmed that
he should exert his capricious prerogative and throw over _The Tempest_
at the last moment.

'What would you do with the theatre?'

'I should dismiss Mr Gillies.'

'An excellent man of business.'

'For stocks and shares or boots, but not for art.'

'He's a steadying influence.'

'Art is steady enough, if it is art.'

'My _dear_ child!'

'If you don't know that then you are not an artist.'

'Oh!  Would you call Charles Mann steady?'

'I should think of the play first and last.'

'There's no one to write them.'

'I should scour the country for imaginative people and make them think
in terms of the theatre.  Besides, there are people!'

'Oh!'

'Yes.  There are people who love the drama so much that they can't go
near the theatre.'

He roared with laughter, and to convince him she told him about Adnor
Rodd and his bare room, where without any hope of an audience he wrote
his plays and lived in them more passionately than it was possible to
do in life.

Sir Henry shook his head.

'I don't mind betting,' he said, 'that he's got something wrong with
him.  Either he drinks, or has an impossible wife, or he likes low
company, or--  No.  There aren't such people.'

'But there are.' And she told him how she had spent a whole day with
Rodd and had gone home with him to see his rooms.

'Alone?' asked Sir Henry.

'Yes.'

'Then if you were my girl I should put you on bread and water for a
week.'

To convince him, she tried to tell him how she had struggled to
overcome Charles's objections to the practical use of his talent, and
had forced him to come to London....  In her eagerness and in her
happiness at having brought him to his senses, she lost sight of the
fact that she was revealing her own history.  He brought her up sharp
with,--

'Are you married to Charles Mann?'

'Ye-es,' she said, her heart fluttering.

'I didn't know,' he replied nonchalantly.  His manner towards her
changed.  He was still soft and kind, and bland in his impish wit, but
beneath the surface he was brutal, revengeful, cruel, and she felt the
force of the ruthless egoism that had won him his position in spite of
disabilities which would have hampered and even checked a less forceful
man....  In the same moment she understood that what had been a
glorious and lovely reality to her had been a game to him; and that he
designed without the slightest compunction to turn both Charles and
herself to his own profit....  Well, she thought, he might try, but he
could not prevent either of them from making their reputations, and
neither would ever sink to the mechanical docility of London players.

Sir Henry lit a large cigar and moved over to the fire.

'What does Verschoyle think of it?'

She knew that he was insolently referring to her marriage with Charles,
but she turned the shaft by saying,--

'He is delighted with it all.  He believes in Charles.'

'Hm....  Even the birds and fishes?'

'Who told you about that?'

'London doesn't let a good story die.'

'Verschoyle was present....'

'Oh!'

The situation was becoming unbearable.  Sir Henry was as hard, as
satisfied, and as unconscionable as a successful company-promoter.
This sudden revelation of his egoism, his wariness to protect the ideal
which in his own person he had achieved, shocked Clara out of her
youthful innocence and into a painful realisation that the facts of her
life forbade the impersonalism which had made so much achievement
possible....  It was quite clear to her that Sir Henry was intent upon
a personal relationship if she were to keep what she had won, and it
was as clear that he could not credit her, or Charles, or anybody else
with any other motive than personal ambition.  He knew his world, he
knew his theatre.  A fulfilled ambition has its price, and he had never
yet met the successful man or woman who did not pay with a good grace,
as he himself had done.

Her brain worked quickly on this new intractable material, this
disconcerting revelation of the fact that success and art are in the
modern world two very different things, the one belonging to the crowd,
the other to solitude....  This old man might have waited.  He might
have given her her chance.  It was not true.  She would not accept that
it could be true that she could only have her success at his price, the
price that he had paid, he and all the others, Julia Wainwright,
Freeland Moore, and the loss of respect and simple humanity....  So
this was why Charles had run away from the  theatre.  Certain things,
certain elements in human character were too holy to be set before the
crowd.

She remembered her early struggles when she first went into the
theatre.  She had won through them and had thought herself victorious
only to find herself confronted once more with the hard actualities:
either to accept the intrusion of the personal element into what should
be impersonal service or to acknowledge defeat....  She could do
neither the one nor the other.

If only she could weep.  The woman in her calculated.  If only she
could weep!  But where another woman would have wept she could not.
She could only turn to her will and draw further strength from that.
It was so maddening, so silly, that play acting should entail such a
price.  It was making it all too serious.  What after all was it?  Just
the instinct of play organised, and what was play without a happy joy?
If only she would weep, the obstinate old man clinging to his success
would melt; he would be kind; he would forgo all this nonsense that had
been buzzing in his scatter brain....  What he could not stand was
sincerity and a will diverted to other purposes than his own....  It
made her tremble with rage to think that all his enthusiasm for the
play, the real work he had put into rehearsals, his snubbing of Mr
Gillies and his wife, had all been only because he fancied himself in
his blown vanity to be in love with her.  It was too ridiculous, and
despising him, hating herself, she decided that if it was acting he
wanted, acting he should have, and she burst into a torrent of tears
conjured up out of an entirely fictitious emotion....  At once Sir
Henry had the cue he was waiting for....  He leaped up and came over to
her with his hand on his heart.

Don't cry, little girl,' he said.  'Don't cry....  Harry is with you.
Harry only wants to be kind to her, and to help his poor little girl in
her trouble....  She shall be the greatest actress in the world.'

'Never!' thought Clara, her brain working more clearly now that she had
set up this screen of tears between them.

He patted her hand and caressed her hair, and was sublimely happy
again.  He had half expected trouble from this unaccountable and
baffling creature, whose will and wits were stronger than his own.  He
was still a little suspicious, but he took her tears for acquiescence
in his plans for her, and holding her in his arms he had the intense
satisfaction of thinking of Charles Mann as a filthy blackguard for
whom shooting was too clean an end.



XIV

VERSCHOYLE FORGETS HIMSELF

Lord Verschoyle had imagined that by making for Art he would be able to
shake free of predatory designs.  It was not long before he discovered
his mistake and that he had plunged into the very heart of the Society
which he desired to avoid, for the Imperium, as used by Lady Butcher
and Lady Bracebridge, was a powerful engine in the politico-financial
world which dominated London.  Verschoyle in his simplicity had seen
the metropolis as consisting of purposeful mammas and missish daughters
bearing down upon him from all sides.  Now he discovered that there was
more in it than that and that marriage was only one of many moves in a
complicated game....  Lady Bracebridge had a daughter.  Lady Butcher
had a son whom she designed for a political career, upon which he had
entered as assistant secretary to an under-secretary.  Perceiving that
Verschoyle easily lost his head, as in his apparent relations with
Clara Day, they designed to draw him into political society where heads
are finally and irrevocably lost....  He loathed politics and could not
understand them, but young Butcher haunted him, and Lady Bracebridge
cast about him a net of invitations which he could find no way of
evading.  They justified themselves by saying that it was necessary to
save him from Clara, and he found himself drawn further and further
away, and more and more submitted to an increasing pressure, the aim of
which seemed to be to commit him to supporting the Imperium and the
Fleischmann group which had some mysterious share in its control....
He knew enough about finance to realise that there was more in all this
than met the eye, and upon investigation he found that the Fleischmann
group were unloading Argentines all over monied London, and in due
course he was offered a block of shares which, after an admirable
dinner at the Bracebridges, he amiably accepted.

The network was too complicated for him to unravel, but, as the result
of putting two and two together, he surmised that the Imperium must
have been losing rather more than it was worth to the Fleischmann
group, and that therefore sacrifice must be offered up.  He was the
sacrifice.  He did not mind that.  It would infuriate his trustees when
at last he had to give them an account of this adventure, but he did
object to Charles and Clara being used to make a desperate bid to
revive the languishing support of the public.

Charles and Clara were so entirely innocent of all intrigue.  They gave
simply what was in them without calculation of future profit, and with
the most guileless trust in others, never suspecting that they were not
as simple as themselves.  Therefore Verschoyle cursed his own indolence
which had committed him both to the Imperium and the Fleischmann group.

As he pondered the problem, he saw that Charles and Clara could be
dropped, and probably would be as soon as it was convenient.  The real
controller of the Imperium was Lady Bracebridge, whose skill in
intrigue was said to be worth ten thousand a year to Sir Julius
Fleischmann.  She played upon Lady Butcher, Lady Butcher played upon
Sir Henry, who, with Mr Gillies crying 'Give, give,' was between the
upper and the nether millstone, and could only put up a sham fight....
Verschoyle understood, too late, that _The Tempest_ was to be produced
not to present Clara and Charles to the British public, but to capture
himself.  Like a fool, in his eagerness to help Clara, he had let
himself be captured, and now he thought he owed her amends....  He did
not know how difficult the situation had become.  The danger point, as
he saw the problem, was her position with regard to Charles, who,
fortunately, respected her wishes and made no attempt to force her
hand.  All the same there the awkward fact was and at any moment might
trip her up.

Verschoyle did not mind a scandal, and he did not care a hang whether
Charles went to prison or not.  It might give him the instruction in
the elementary facts of existence which he needed to make him learn to
begin at the beginning instead of the middle or the end....  What
Verschoyle dreaded was a sudden shock which might blast the delicate
bud of Clara's youth, which to him was far more precious than any other
quality, and the only thing which in all his life had moved him out of
his timid dilettantism.  To him it was a more valuable thing than the
whole of London, and compared with its vivid reality the Imperium, with
its firm hold on the affections of the public, and its generation of
advertising behind it, was a blown bubble.

He had tea with her on the day after her supper with Sir Henry, and
found her disastrously altered, hurt, and puzzled.

'What is the matter?' he asked.  'Rehearsals not going well?'

'Oh, yes.  They are going very well....  But I am worried about
Charles.  He has been borrowing money again.'

'Will you be happy again if I promise to look after Charles?'

'He ought not to expect to be looked after.  He is very famous now, and
should be able to make money.'

'Surely, like everything else, it is a matter of practice.  You don't
expect him to beat Sir Henry at his own game.'

'No-o,' she said.  'But I think I did expect Charles's game to beat Sir
Henry's.'

'Surely it has done so.'

'No.'

They were in her rooms, which were now most charmingly furnished;
bright, gay, and delicate in colouring, tranquil and cosy with books.

'Has anything happened?'

She told him.

'I thought it was going to be so simple.  I felt that Charles and I
were irresistible, and that we should conquer the theatre and make
people admit that he is--what he is.  Nothing can alter that.  But it
isn't simple at all.  Other people want other things.  They go on
wanting the horrible things they have always wanted, and they expect us
to help them to procure them.  They don't understand.  They think we
want the same things....  I never thought I should be so unhappy.  When
it comes to the point they won't let the real things in people be put
before the public.'

'Oh, come.  He is just a vain old man who gets through his position
what he could never have got for himself.'

'No, no, no,' she protested.  'It does mean what I say.  It has made me
hate the theatre and understand why Charles ran away from it....  Only,
having forced him so far, what can I do?  I have hurt him far more than
he has hurt me.  He was quite happy drifting from town to town abroad,
and it was the life I had been brought up to, because my grandfather
ran away from England, too.  It wouldn't have mattered there how many
wives Charles had in England....  But I wanted to see for myself, and I
didn't want him to be wasted....  I can see perfectly well that Sir
Henry wants if possible to discredit him and to prove that his ideas
won't work....  We've all been very silly.  These people are too clever
for us.  He's got your money and Charles's genius, and neither of you
can raise a finger.'

Verschoyle looked rueful.  He could not deny it.

'It's that damned old Bracebridge,' he said.  'She doesn't care a
twopenny curse for art or for the public.  She and her lot want any
money that is floating loose and the whole social game in London has
become a three-card trick in their hands.  The theatre and newspapers
are just the sharper's patter.'

Clara writhed.

'You can't do anything but go on,' he said.  'You are bound to get your
success and they can't deny that.  The old man knows that.  Hence the
trick to get you away from Charles....  If you succeed you'll pull
Charles through, and--we can buy off anybody who wants to make trouble.
I'll buy the Bracebridges, if necessary.  I'm not particularly proud of
my money.  It comes from land for which I do absolutely nothing, but
it's better than Fleischmann money which is got by the trickery of a
lottery.'

'She's a horrible old woman,' said Clara.

'She intends that I shall marry her hen-brain of a daughter....  If the
worst came to the worst, my dear, you could marry me.'

Clara was enraged.  It infuriated her that he, of all people, whom she
had so entirely trusted, should so far forget himself as to propose so
trite and sentimental a solution.  He could not help teasing her.

'It would save me, too,' he said.  'And as Lady Verschoyle you could
give these people a Roland for their Oliver every time.'

'But I want to ignore them,' she said.  'Why won't you see that I don't
want to win with my personality but with my art.  That should be the
irresistible thing.'

'It would be if they resisted it, but they don't.  They ignore it....
I can't think of anything else, my dear.  They've got my money: ten
thousand in the Imperium and twenty in Argentinos, and they are using
my name for all they are worth.'

'And if I hadn't asked you to stay after the birds and fishes it
wouldn't have happened.'

'After all, it hasn't come to disaster yet.'

'But it will.  It is all coming to a head, and Charles will have to be
the one to suffer for it.'

'I promise you he shan't.  He shall have a dozen committees and all the
birds and fishes he requires.'

She could not help laughing.  Perhaps, after all, her fears were
exaggerated, but she dreaded Charles's helpless acquiescence in the
plight to which he had been reduced by Mr Gillies's refusal to advance
him a penny outside the terms mentioned in the contract.

'It certainly looks to me,' said Verschoyle, 'as if they wanted to
break him.  It wouldn't be any good my saying anything.  They would
simply point to their contract and shrug their shoulders at Charles's
improvidence.  How much did Mr Clott get away with?'

'A great deal.  He had several hundreds in blackmail before he went.
That is why we can't prosecute.'

Verschoyle whistled.

'It is a tangled skein,' he said.  'You'd much better marry me.  I
won't expect you to care for me.'

'Don't be ridiculous----'

There came a heavy thudding at the door, and Clara jumped nervously to
her feet.  Verschoyle opened the door, and Charles swept in like a
whirlwind.  His long hair hung in wisps about his face, his hat was
awry, his cuffs hung down over his hands, his full tie was out over his
waistcoat, and in both hands he held outstretched his walking stick and
a crumpled piece of paper.  He dropped the stick and smoothed the paper
out on the table, and, in an almost sobbing voice, he said,--

'This has come.  It is a wicked plot to ruin me.  She demands a part in
_The Tempest_ or she will inform the police....  O God, chicken, that
was a bad day when you made me marry you.'

Verschoyle picked up his stick and, beside himself with exasperated
fury, laid about the unhappy Charles's shoulders and loins crying,--

'You hound, you cur, you filthy coward!  You should have told her!  You
should have told her!  You knew she was only a child!'

Charles roared lustily, but made no attempt to defend himself, although
he was half a head taller than Verschoyle and twice as heavy.  He
merely said,--

'Oo-oh!' when a blow got home, and waited until the onslaught was over.
Then he rubbed himself down and wriggled inside his clothes.

Clara stood aghast.  It was horrible to her that this should have
happened.  Blows were as useless as argument with Charles....  He had
done what he had done out of kindliness and childish obedience and,
looking to motives rather than to results, could see no wrong in it.

Verschoyle was at once ashamed of himself.

'I lost my temper,' he said, and Charles, assured that the storm was
over, smiled happily, ran his hands through his hair and said,--

'Do you think Sir Henry would give her a part?'

Verschoyle flung back his head and shouted with laughter.  Such
innocence was a supreme joke, especially coming after the serious
conversation in which he and Clara had aired their fears as to the
result of their incursion into theatrical politics.

'She used to be quite pretty,' added Charles.  'What delightful rooms
you have, my dear.  They're not so warm as my ham and beef shop.'

'Listen to me, Charles,' said Verschoyle.  'This is serious.  I don't
care about you.  Nothing could hurt you.  I don't believe you know half
the time what is going on under your nose, but it is vitally serious
for Clara.  This business must be stopped....  If we can't buy these
people off then I'll give you two hundred to clear out.'

'Clear out?' faltered Charles, 'but--my _Tempest_ is just coming on.
I'm----'

Verschoyle took up the letter and noted the address, one of the musical
comedy theatres.

'Have you heard from Mr Clott lately?'

'No.  His name is Cumberland now, you know.  He came into money.  He
said he would come back to me when I had my own theatre.'

'Theatre be damned.  I wanted to know if he's still blackmailing you.'

'Blackmail?  Oh, no.'

'Don't you mind people blackmailing you?'

'If people are made like that.'

'Ah!'  Verschoyle gave an indescribable gurgle of impatience.  'Look
here, Mann, do try to realise the position.  You can't get rid of this
woman whatever she does because you have treated marriage as though you
could take a wife as if it were no more than buying a packet of
cigarettes.'

'I have never thought of Clara as my wife.'

'How then?'

'As Clara,' said Charles simply.  'She is a very great artist.'

Verschoyle was baffled, but Clara forgave Charles all his folly for the
sake of his simplicity.  It was true.  The mistake was hers.  What he
said was unalterably true.  She was Clara Day, an artist, and he had
loved her as such.  As woman he had not loved her or any other....
What in the ordinary world passed for love simply did not exist for him
at all.

She turned to Verschoyle.

'Please do what you can for us,' she said.  'And Charles, please don't
try to think of it in anybody else's way but your own.  I won't let
them send you to prison.  They don't want to do that.  They would much
rather have you great and powerful so as to bleed you....'

'It has been very wonderful since you came, chicken,' he said.  'I'm
ten times the man I was.  It seems so stupid that because we went into
a dingy office and gabbled a few words we shouldn't be able to be
together....  I sometimes wish we were back in France or Italy in a
studio, with a bird in a cage, and you dancing about, making me laugh
with happiness....'

'I'll see my lawyer,' said Verschoyle.

'For Heaven's sake, don't!' cried Clara.  'Once the lawyers get hold of
it, they'll heap the fire up and throw the fat on it.'

'I'm sorry I forgot myself....  You're a good fellow, Charles, but so
damned silly that you don't deserve your luck.'

They shook hands on it and Verschoyle withdrew, leaving Charles and
Clara to make what they could of the confusion in which they were
plunged....  Charles's way out of it was simply to ignore it.  If
people would not or could not live in his fancy world, so much the
worse for them.  He did not believe that anything terrible could happen
to him simply because, though calamities of the most serious nature had
befallen him, he had hardly noticed them.  He could forget so easily.
He could withdraw and live completely within himself.

He sat at the table and began to draw, and was immediately entirely
absorbed.

'Don't you feel it any more than that, Charles?' she asked.

'If people like to make a fuss, let them,' he said.  'It is their way
of persuading themselves that they are important....  If they put me in
prison, I should just draw on the walls with a nail, and the time would
soon go by.  The difference between us and them is that they are in a
hurry and we are not.  There won't be much left of my _Tempest_ by the
time they've done with it....  The electricians have secret
instructions from Butcher.  There was nothing about lighting in my
contract, so it is to be his and not mine, as if a design could stand
without the lighting planned for it....  There are to be spot-lines on
Sir Henry and Miranda and you, if he is still pleased with you....'

Charles was talking in a cold, unmoved voice, but she knew that there
must have been a furious tussle.  She was up in arms at once,--

'It is disgraceful!' she cried.  'What is the good of his pretending to
let you work in his theatre if you can have nothing as you wish it?'

'He believes in actors,' said Charles, 'People with painted faces and
painted souls, people whose minds are daubed with paint, whose eyes are
sealed with it, whose ears are stopped with it....'

'Am I one of them?' she asked plaintively.

'No!  Never!  Never!' he said, looking up from his drawing.  'They'll
turn us into a success, chicken, but they won't let us do what we want
to do....  I shan't go near the place again.  But you are Ariel, and
without you there can be no _Tempest_.'

'I'll go through with it,' she said, her will setting.  'I'll go
through with it, and I'll make nonsense of everything but you....
You've done all you can, Charles.  Just go on working.  That's the only
thing, the only thing....'

As she said these words, she thought of Rodd with an acute hostility
that amounted almost to hatred.  It was the meeting with him that had
so confounded all her aims, that sudden plunge into humanity with him
that had so exposed her to love that even Verschoyle's tone had changed
towards her....  With Charles, love was as impersonal as a bird's song.
It was only a call to her swift joy and claimed nothing for himself,
though, perhaps, everything for his art.  That was where he was so
baffling.  He expected the whole world to accept service under his
banner, and was so confident that in time it would do so that no rebuff
ruffled him.

Clara was tempted to accept his point of view, and to run all risks to
serve him; but she realised now, as he did not, the forces arrayed
against him.  There was no blinking the fact that what the
Butcher-Bracebridge combination detested was being forced to take him
seriously: him or anything else under the sun.  Even the public upon
which they fawned was only one of several factors in their calculations.

'It will all come right, Charles,' she said.  'I am sure it will all
come right.  We won't give in.  They have diluted you----'

'Diluted?' he exclaimed.  'Butchered!'

She admired him for accepting even that, but, in spite of herself, it
hurt her that he still had no thought for her, but to him only artistic
problems were important.  The problems of life must be left to solve
themselves.  She could not help saying,--

'You ought not to leave everything to me, Charles.'

'You can handle people.  I can't.  I thought I was going to be rich,
but there's no money.  And even if this affair is a success I shall be
ashamed of it....  I think I shall write to the papers and repudiate
it.  But it is the same everywhere.  People take my ideas and vulgarise
them.  Actors are the same everywhere.  They will leave nothing to the
audience.  They want to be adored for the very qualities they have
lost.'

'You don't blame me, then?'

'Blame?  What's the good of blaming any one.  It doesn't help.  It
makes one angry.  There is a certain pleasure in that, but it doesn't
help.'

It was brought home to her, then, that all her care for his
helplessness was in vain.  He neither needed nor looked for help.  It
was all one to him whether he lived in magnificence in a furnished
house or in apartments over a cook-shop.

'I've a good mind to disown the whole production now,' he said.

'No.  No.  They will do all they can to hurt you then....  I think they
know.'

'Know what?'

'That you have a wife.'

He brought his fist down with such a crash on the frail table that it
cracked right across, and Clara was sickeningly alarmed when she saw
his huge hands grip the table on either side and rend it asunder.
There was something terrible and almost miraculous in his enormous
physical vitality, and his waste of it now in such a petty act of rage
forced her to admit that which she had been attempting to suppress, the
thought of Rodd, and she was compelled now to compare the two men.  So
she saw Charles more clearly, and had to acknowledge to herself how
fatally he lacked moral force.  She trembled as it was made plain to
her that the old happy days could never come again, and that the child
who had believed in him so implicitly was gone for ever.  She had the
frame, the mind, the instinct of a woman, and these things could no
longer be denied.

When his rage was spent, she determined to give him one more chance,--

'We can win through, Charles.  We have Verschoyle backing us.  I accept
my responsibility, and I will be a wife to you.'

'For God's sake, don't talk like that.  I want you to be as you were,
adorable, happy, free.'

She shook her head slowly from side to side.

Charles, offended, went out.  She heard him go blundering down the
stairs and out into the street.

She turned to her couch by the window and lay looking at the sun
setting behind the roofs, chimneys, and towers of London.  Amethyst and
ruddy was the sky: smoked yellow and amber: blue and green, speckled
with little dark clouds.  She drank in its beauty, and lost herself in
the dying day, aching at heart because there was nowhere in humanity a
beauty of equal power in which she could lose herself, but everywhere
barriers of egoism, intrigue, selfish calculation....  She thought of
the little bookseller in the Charing Cross Road....  'Doing good to
others is doing good to yourself....'  Ay, but make very sure that you
are doing good and not well-intentioned harm.

She had meant to help Charles, had sacrificed herself to him, and look
what had come of it!  Deep within her heart she knew that she had been
at fault, and that the mischief had been done when she had imposed her
will on him....  As a child she had been brought up in the Catholic
faith, and she had still some remnants of a religious conscience, and
to this now she whispered that this was the sin against the Holy Ghost,
for one person to impose his will on that of another.



XV

IN BLOOMSBURY

At the same time, in his attic, Rodd was pacing up and down his empty
room, surveying the impotence to which he had reduced both his life and
his work by his refusal to accept the social system of his time.  His
work was consciously subversive, and therefore unprofitable: his life
was nothing.  He was a solitary in London, as though he spoke a
language which no one understood.  So indeed he did.  His words had
meanings for him to which no one else had the smallest clue, for they
referred rather to his imagined world than to any actuality.

Hitherto that had troubled him not at all.  Spinoza, Kant, Galileo had
all talked a language unintelligible to their contemporaries, and with
how many had Nietzsche been able to converse?  The stories had it that
there was one butcher and he was mad.

Groping with his imagination into the vitals of the society into which
he had been born, Rodd had consoled himself with the assurance that a
cataclysm would come to smash the odious system by which the old
enslaved the young, and that then there would be a cleaner atmosphere
in which his ideas could live, and his words would be intelligible to
all, because in it that deeper consciousness which was released in his
imagined world would come into play to sweep away all falsehoods and
stale ideas....  But now the cataclysm had come within himself, and he
was brought to doubt and self-examination.  Had he not denied too much?
Had he not carried abnegation too far?  Had he not thwarted powers in
himself which were essential even to his impersonal purpose?  Was it
paradoxically true that a man must be a person before he can be
impersonal?  His empty room, his books, his pile of manuscript!  What a
life!  Had he after all been only a coward?  Had he only shrunk into
this silence to avoid the pain and boredom of reiteration?

At first his concern was all with the havoc wrought in his work from
the moment when Clara swept into his imagination, but he was soon
compelled to brush that aside and to grapple with the more serious fact
that she had crept into his heart, which for the first time was active
and demanding its share in his being.  Then arose the horror that it
was repelled by what it found in his imagination, cold, solitary,
tortured souls, creatures who should be left to eke out their misery in
private solitude, who had nothing to justify their exhibition to the
world, who shamelessly reproached their fellows for the results of
their own weakness, wretched clinging women, men hard as iron in their
egoism....  His heart could not endure it, but until his heart had
flooded his vision with its warmth he could not move, could come to no
decision, except that he must leave the marvellous girl unmolested.

The furious will that had animated him through all his solitary years
resented this intrusion, and was in revolt against the reason and the
logic of his heart.  That will in him had reduced the social system to
its logical end, the destruction of the young by the old, and would
allow his creative faculty no other material.  It must have nothing but
a bleak world of bitterness, and this it had imposed upon both his
happy temperament and his generous heart, so that even in life he had
been able to exercise nothing but a rather feeble kindness.  His will
had been to hold up to the world a picture of the end to which it must
come, since splendour wrung from desolation must end in desolation.

And suddenly his will was defied by this amazing girl, all youth, all
joy, revealing the eternal loveliness of the human spirit that endures
though Empires fade away and societies come to chaos.

Very, very slowly, his will, which drew its force from the hypnotic
influence of horror, was thrust back, and light crept into his imagined
world, flowers blossomed in it, trees swayed in the wind, larks went
soaring above green hills blazing with yellow gorse, birds hopped to
their nests and sang, dogs barked and gambolled with delight--all his
frozen memories slowly melted, and sweet and simple pleasures came to
view to make a setting meet for Clara Day.  And he remembered simple
people with a steady kindness, people like the little bookseller who
knew their world but believed in its redeeming goodness, people like a
woman who had once nursed him through a terrible illness and had never
ceased to pray for him, families where in his lonely youth in London he
had been welcome--all these he remembered and grouped round Clara to
make a better and a simpler world.

When his agony had run its course, and his old hypnotic will was
broken, he told himself that he must be content that Clara should be
the mistress of his imagination, since he had wrecked his own life and
had nothing to offer her.  Obviously she had found the world good.
Nothing in her was theatrical, nothing baffled.  He must reconcile
himself to the acceptance of those two days with her as in themselves
perfect, sufficient, and fruitful.  Indeed, what need was there of
more?  They had met as profoundly as they could ever hope to meet.  She
would marry her lord, and gather about herself all the good and
pleasant things of the earth, and he could return to his work and build
it up anew.

With his rather absurd tendency to generalise from his personal
experience he told himself that as youth and joy had been liberated
from his imagined world, so also would they be in the world of
actuality.  His drooping hopes revived and a new ambition was kindled
in him.  He paced less rapidly to and fro in his empty room, slowed
down day by day until he stopped, sat at his table and plunged once
more into work.  His arrogance reasserted itself, and he told
himself--as was indeed the case--that he could extract more from a hint
of experience than the ordinary man could from an overwhelming tragedy.

As he worked, he came more and more to regard his encounter with Clara
as a holiday adventure.  The Charing Cross Road was to him what Paris
or the seaside was to the ordinary worker.  The episode belonged to his
holiday.  It was nothing more, and must be treated as though it had
happened to some other man: it must be smiled at, treasured for its
fragrance, blessed for its fertility....  With the new weapon it had
given him he would return to tobacco and paper, the materials of his
existence.

He saw her name in the papers, her photograph here and there.  Oh,
well, she belonged to that world.  No doubt she would amuse herself
with theatrical success before she fell back upon the title and wealth
which were laid at her feet.

However, convinced though he was of his renunciation, he could not stay
away from the bookshop and went there almost every day in the hope of
meeting her.

One evening as he returned home he met Verschoyle on the doorstep of
his house, and could not refrain from speaking to him.

'Excuse me,' he said, 'I have seen you sometimes in the bookshop in
Charing Cross Road.'

'Indeed?' replied Verschoyle, who was looking anxious and worried.

'Yes.  I have seen you there with Miss Day.'

Verschoyle was alert and suspicious at once.  He scanned this strange
individual but was rather puzzled.

'Do you live here?' he asked.

'On the top floor,' replied Rodd, 'on the top floor--alone--I thought
you might have been to see me.'

'No, no.  I don't know you.'

'My name is Rodd.'

That conveyed nothing to Verschoyle.

'I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Day at the bookshop.  I thought she
might have mentioned it.'

'No....  I have been to see a Miss Messenger on the third floor.  Do
you know her?'

'Slightly.'

'You know nothing about her?'

'Nothing, except that she had a child that died....  I'm afraid I
didn't even know her name.  I don't bother myself much about my
neighbours.'

'Thank you,' said Verschoyle.  'Good-night.'

Rodd let himself in, his curiosity working furiously at this strange
combination of persons.  What on earth could be the link between
Verschoyle and the shabby, disreputable ménage on the third floor?...
His heart answered ominously: 'Clara.'

He walked slowly up the dark, uncarpeted stairs, and, as he was at the
bend below the third floor, he heard a shrill scream--a horrid scream,
full of terror, loathing, contempt.  He rushed up to the door of the
third floor flat and found it open, stood for a moment, and heard a
man's voice saying,--

'You shall, you sly cat.  Give it me and you shall do as I tell you.'

'No, no, no!' screamed the woman.  'Mother!'

And another woman's voice, cruel, and harsh, said,--

'Do as he tells you, and don't be a fool!'

There was a scuffle, a fall, a man's heavy breathing, a gurgling sound
of terror and suffocation.  Rodd walked into the flat, and found the
woman who waited for him on the stairs lying on the ground, clutching a
bundle of bank-notes, while a little, mean-looking man was kneeling on
her chest, half throttling her, and trying to force the notes out of
her hand.  The woman's mother was standing by shrieking aloud and
crying,--

'Do as he tells you, you b---- fool!  He knows what's what.  He's got
these blighters in a corner, and he'll make them pay.'

Rodd flung himself on the man, whom he recognised as the creature he
and Clara had met on the stairs.  He picked him up and threw him into a
corner, where he lay, too terrified to move.  The woman lay back
moaning and rolling her eyes, almost foaming at the mouth.  Her bosom
heaved and she clutched the notes in her hand more tightly to her....
Rodd turned to the other two, and said,--

'Get out....'

They obeyed him, and he knelt by the woman and reassured her.

'Come now,' he said, 'out with the whole story before you've begun to
lie to yourself about it.'

'It's my own money,' she gasped; 'I don't want to do any more.  It's
all fair and square, if he's paid.  If a feller pays, it's all fair and
square.'

Rodd accepted the soundness of this rudimentary ethic.

'He wanted half and half, but it's my own money.  I signed a paper for
it, and I'm not going back on my word.  He wants me to.  He wants me to
go into the Imperium so that he can get on to some of the swells....'

The Imperium?  Rodd determined that he would have the whole story out.
He left her for a moment and locked the door.  Then he lifted her into
a chair--it was a flashy furniture-on-the-hire-system room--gave her a
dose of brandy and began to ply her with questions,--

'Do you feel better?'

'Much better.  I like being with you.  You're so quiet.  You'd
understand a girl, you would.  I've often wanted to come and tell
you....  It fair knocked me silly when I saw you with her.'

'With whom?'

'Charley's girl.'

'Whose?'

'Charley's.  Charley Mann's.  He's my husband.'

Rodd was silent for some moments while he took this in.

'Who is this other--man?' asked Rodd kindly, beginning slowly to piece
the story together.

'That's Claude....  He was a lodger of mother's before she went broke
and had to come to live with me.  He never let me alone.  I wanted to
go straight, I did really....  Charley's not bad, and I thought I
should never see him again.  I never thought he would make money.  I
never thought we should see him swanking it in the papers, or I'd never
have had a word to say to Claude.  I wouldn't really.  Only Charley
getting married to the other girl----'

It struck Rodd like a blow in the face.  Kitty did not mark the effect
of her story, and was not concerned with it.  All she felt was relief
in the telling.

'I wanted money to send mother out of England.  I couldn't stand it any
more.  If it hadn't been for her there wouldn't have been Claude, and a
girl at the theatre can have a good time on her own nowadays even with
a kiddie.  I've often wanted to tell you.'

'Does she know?'

'Charley's girl?  Yes.  She knows.  It's a nice mix-up.  Isn't it?  And
Charley's not bad.  He'll just lose you same as he would his hat.  No
offence meant.'

She laughed hysterically.

'Who gave you the money?'

'A swell.'

'To keep your mouth shut?'

'Yes.  Charley would have to go to prison.  Claude's been in prison.
That's why he'd like Charley to go.  Everybody who's been to prison is
like that.  It makes them sly and hard....  But I say that Charley's
paid: six hundred.  I'd never have got that out of him if I'd stayed
with him, would I?'

'I suppose not....  If there's any more trouble will you come to me?'

'I'd love to,' she said, perking up and casting at him the sorrowful
languishing glances with which she had pursued him for so long.
'Claude says he's pushed her on so quick and he ought to have done the
same for me....  Claude was at their wedding.  I didn't know him then.
He's a friend of mother's.  We thought he had money but he hasn't got a
bean.'

'I'll deal with Claude,' said Rodd.  'And if there is any more trouble,
mind you come to me.'

'It was all after my baby died,' said Kitty, as if to excuse herself,
but Rodd had accepted the story, and had no thought of excuse or
forgiveness.  His thought was all for Clara.

How comic it was that he should have given her Mann's book!  Did she
love Mann?  She must have done.  She could not have married him
else....  But then what was Verschoyle to her, that he should have paid
so large a sum in hush-money?  A furious jealousy swept away what was
left of Rodd's intellectual world and released at last his passions.
His mind worked swiftly through the story, picking it up in time with
every thread.

Was she only an actress?  Was the perfection which he had worshipped a
figment, a projection of herself in the character most pleasing to his
idealism?  Impossible!  There can be no feigning of purity, honesty,
joy.  That is where the pretences of humanity collapse.  In such a
pretence as that simulated passion--the ultimate baseness, breaks down,
creates no illusion, and is foiled.

But on the face of it, what an appalling story!  It brought him
violently to earth.  He could not move, but sat staring at the woman,
wanting to tell her that she lied, but knowing that she had spoken
according to the truth of the letter.  Of the truth of the spirit she
could most patently know nothing.  Her world was composed of dull facts
and smouldering emotions.  She could know nothing of the world where
emotions flamed into passion to burn the facts into golden emblems of
truth.  And that was Clara's world: the world in which for two days he
had been privileged to dwell, a world in which soul could speak to soul
and laugh at all the confusion of fact and detail in which they must
otherwise be ensnared....  Mann, Verschoyle, a swift success in the
theatre--the facts were of the kind that had induced the horror in
which until he met her he had lived.  His meeting with her had
dispelled his horror, but the facts remained.  He in his solitude might
ignore them and dream on, but could she?  Surely he owed it to her to
offer her what through her he had won....  And then--to buy off the
wretched woman, surely she could never have submitted to that!

He began to think of Charles Mann with a blistering, jealous hatred.

'I think I'd have killed myself,' said Kitty, 'if it had gone on.  I
don't wish them any harm now that he's paid up....  I wouldn't have
said a word about it to any one, only she's so young.  It did give me a
bit of a shock, and Charles getting on, too.  He's quite gray and has a
bit of a stomach.  I never thought he'd be the one to get fat.  I'm all
skin and bone.  Look at my arms.'

Rodd left her.  When he opened the door he was relieved to find that
the unpleasant Claude had gone.  Mrs Messenger was sitting by the fire
in the front room, her skirts tucked up about her knees, and a glass of
port on the mantelpiece.  She turned her head with a leer and said,--

'Good luck!  I always thought she was keen on you....  It's time she
settled down.  She was born to be respectable, and to look after a man.
That's all most girls are fit for.  But in the theatre a girl's got to
look after number one or go down and out.'

The old woman with the painted face and dyed hair made Rodd's flesh
creep.  She seemed to him a symbol of all the evil in the world, decay,
disruption, corruption, and with a flash of inspiration he discerned in
her the source of all this pitiful tangle of lies.  A tender sympathy
entirely new to him took possession of his faculties and armed with
this he determined that he would not fail in whatever part he was
called upon to play in the drama of Clara's life.

He said to the old woman,--

'We have been talking it over.  We have decided to book you a passage
to Canada and to give you a hundred pounds with which to keep yourself
alive until you find work to do.'

'What?' she said, 'me leave London?  Dear old London, dear old
Leicester Square and the theatres?  And leave you to do what you like
with my daughter, you dirty dog?  I've seen her nosing round on the
stairs after you, a feller that lives on bread-and-cheese and
grape-nuts.  I know your sort, you dirty, interfering blackguard.
You've never given a girl as much as a drink in your life.'

'All the same,' said Rodd, 'your passage will be booked, and if Mr
Claude What's-his-name shows his face here there'll be a neck broken on
the stairs.'

He walked out and heard the old woman gulp down a glass of port and
say,--

'Well, I'm damned!'

Then, as he moved upstairs to his own room he heard her screaming,--

'Kitty, you filthy little claw-hammer----'

The door was slammed to, and he heard only their voices in bitter
argument, tears, reproaches, curses; but at last, as he paced to and
fro in his lonely room, the tumult died down and he could wrestle with
the new turbulent thoughts awakened in him....  Work was out of the
question.  He had been clawed back into life.  If he did not want to be
destroyed he must be profoundly, passionately, and scrupulously honest
with himself.  He must face his emotions as he had never done.

At first he thought of wildly heroic solutions.  He would seize his
opportunity with Kitty, take advantage of her soft gratitude and sweep
her out of harm's way.....  But what was the good of that?  It settled
nothing, solved nothing.  To act without Clara's knowledge would be to
betray her.  That he was sure was what Verschoyle had done.

Already he had interfered and there was no knowing what Claude's spite
might lead to....  O God, what a tangle!  What should be done, what
could be done, for Clara?  No one mattered but she.  Mann, Verschoyle,
himself, what did any of them matter?  She was the unique,
irreplaceable personality.  Of that he was sure.  It was through her
glorious innocence that all these strange things had happened to her.
A less generous, a more experienced and calculating woman would have
known instinctively that there was some queer story behind Charles
Mann....  She could leap into a man's heart through his mind.  That was
where she was so dangerous to herself.  The history of his purely
physical emotions would concern her not at all.  Her own emotions in
their purity could recognise no separation between body and spirit, nor
in others could they suspect any division....  Of that he was sure.
Without that the whole embroglio was fantastic and incredible.  She
could never in so short a time have achieved what she had done through
calculation and intrigue.  That kind of success took years of patience
under checks, rebuffs, and insults....  Everywhere she offered her
superb youth, and it was taken and used, used for purposes which she
could not even suspect.  Her youth would be taken, she would be given
no room, no time in which to develop her talent or her personality.

The way of the world?  It had been the way of the world too long, but
the strong of heart and the worthy of soul had always resisted or
ignored it.

Sometimes Rodd thought the only thing to do was to wait, to leave the
situation to develop naturally.  It would do Mann no great harm to get
into trouble, but then--Clara would be marked.  All her life she would
have to fight against misunderstanding....  No, no.  There could be no
misunderstanding where she was concerned.  Her personality answered
everything.  It would be fine, it would be splendid, to see her
overriding all obstacles in her bounteous gift of the treasure that was
in her to a world that in its worship of self-help and material power
had forgotten youth, courage, and the supreme power of joy.



XVI

ARIEL

As the days went by and the production came nearer, the Imperium was
charged with a busy excitement.  The machinery was tightened up, and
there was no sparing any of the persons concerned.  Rehearsals began at
ten in the morning, and dragged on through the day, sometimes not
ending until eleven or twelve at night.  Sir Henry had a thousand and
one things to do, and was in something of a panic about his own words.
He would stop in the middle of a lighting rehearsal to remember his
part and would turn to a scene-shifter or a lime-light man, anybody who
happened to be by, to ask if that was right, and when they stared at
him he would lose his temper and say,--

'Shakespeare!  It's Shakespeare!  Everybody knows their Shakespeare.'

Clara took the precaution of learning his part in his scenes with her
and was able to prompt him when he started fumbling or improvising.  He
was taut with anxiety, and completely ignored everything not
immediately bearing on the production, as to which he was obviously not
easy in his mind.  He talked to himself a good deal, and Clara heard
him more than once damning Charles under his breath.  In spite of
herself she was a little hurt that he took no notice of her outside her
part in the play.  His only concern with the world off the stage was
through Lady Bracebridge and Lady Butcher, who were vastly busy with
the dressing of the front of the house and began introducing their
distinguished aristocratic and political friends at rehearsals, where
they used to sit in the darkness of the auditorium and say,--

'Too sweet!  Divine, divine!'

It was difficult to see what they could possibly make of the chaos on
the stage, with actors strolling to and fro mumbling their parts,
others going through their scenes, carpenters running hither and
thither, the lights going up and down and changing from blue to amber,
amber to blue, white, red....  Up to the very last Sir Henry made
changes, and the more excited he got the further he drifted away from
the play's dramatic context, and strove to break up the aesthetic
impression of the whole with innumerable tricks, silences, gestures,
exaggerated movements of the actors, touches of grotesque and
irrelevant humour, devices by which Prospero could be in the centre of
the stage, anything and everything to impose his own tradition and
personality on both Shakespeare and Charles.

Clara was thankful that Charles had quarrelled with him and was not
there to see.  Sir Henry was like a man possessed.  He worked in a
frenzy to retrieve the situation, and to recover the ground he had
lost; and he only seemed sure of himself in his scenes with Ariel, and
over them he went again and again, not for a moment sparing Clara or
thinking of the physical effort so much repetition entailed for her.

She did not object.  It was a great relief to go to her rooms, worn
out, and to lie, unable to think, incapable of calculation, lost to
everything except her will to play Ariel with all the magic and
youthful vitality she possessed.  Everything outside the play had
disappeared for her, too.  That so much of Charles's work should be
submerged hurt her terribly and she blamed herself, but for that was
only the more determined to retrieve the situation with her own art, to
which, as Sir Henry revered it, he clung.  She knew that and was
determined not to fail.  However much Charles's work was mutilated, her
success--if she won it--would redeem his plight.

Therefore she surrendered herself absolutely to the whirling chaos of
the rehearsals, from which it seemed impossible that order could ever
come.  She ordered her own thoughts by doing the obvious thing, reading
the play until she was soaked with it.  No one else apparently had done
that and, as she grew more familiar with it and more intimate with its
spirit, she began to doubt horribly whether Charles had done so either.
His scenery seemed as remote from that spirit as Sir Henry's theatrical
devices, and almost equally an imposition.  As she realised this she
was forced to see how completely she was now detached from Charles, and
also, to her suffering, how she had laid herself open to the charge of
having used him, though he, in his generous simplicity, would never see
it in that light or bring any accusation against her....  She blamed
herself far more for what she had done to Rodd.  That, she knew, was
serious, and the more intimate she became with Shakespeare's genius the
more she understood the havoc she must have wrought in Rodd's life.

How strange was this world of Prime Ministers and actor-managers which
dominated London and in which London acquiesced; very charming, very
delightful, if only one could believe in it, or could accept that it
was the best possible that London could throw up.  But if it was so,
what need was there of so much advertising, paragraphing, interviewing?
Which was the pretence, the theatre or the world outside it?  Which
were the actresses, she and Julia Wainwright and the rest, or Lady
Butcher and Lady Bracebridge?  And in fine, was it all, like everything
else, only a question of money?  Verschoyle's money?  And if Verschoyle
paid, why was he shoved aside so ignominiously?

Clara shivered as she thought of the immense complication of what
should be so simple and true and beautiful....  But what alternative
was there?  This elaboration and corruption of the theatre or the
imagination working freely in an empty room.

She could see no other.  Rodd's terrible concentration ending in
impotence or the dissipation of real powers, as in Butcher and Mann, in
fantasy.

Absorbed in her work, intent upon the forthcoming production, she was
detached from them all and could at last discover how little any of
them needed her.  She could not really enter into their work though all
three had been disturbed by her and diverted for a time at least from
their habitual purposes....  What mattered in each of the three men was
the artist, and in each the artist was fettered by life.  She had
promised them release only to plunge them into greater difficulties.

She brooded over herself, wondering what she was, and how she came to
be so unconcerned with things that to other women seemed paramount.  It
was nothing to her that Charles had a wife.  It had all happened long
before he met her, and was no affair of hers....  That Sir Henry should
make love to her was merely comic.  She could not even take advantage
of it, for in that direction she could not move at all.  Instinctively
she knew that her sex was given her for one purpose only, and that the
highest, and she could not turn it to any base or material use.  While
she adhered to this she could be Ariel, pure spirit to dominate her
life and direct her will, which no power on earth could break....  How
came she to be so free, and so foreign to the world of women?  Her
upbringing!  Her early independence!  Or some new spirit stirring in
humanity?

Already she had caught from Rodd his habit of generalising from his own
experience, and in her heart she knew it, knew that she had begun what
might prove to be her real life with him, but, caught up as she had
been in Mann's schemes and dreams and visions, she would not accept
this until all the threads were snapped.  Being frank with herself, she
knew that she desired and intended to snap them, but in her own time
and with as little hurt as possible to those concerned....  Meanwhile
it was wonderful, it was almost intoxicatingly comic to carry all the
confused facts of her own life into the ordered world where she was
Ariel and to imagine Mann, for instance, discoursing of birds and
fishes to Trinculo and Stephano, or Rodd, with his passionate dreams of
a sudden jet of loveliness in a desert of misery comparing notes with
good Gonzalo, while she, both as Clara Day and as Ariel, danced among
them and played freakish tricks upon them, and lured them on to believe
that all kinds of marvels would come to pass and then bring them back
to their senses to discover that she was after all only a woman, and
that the marvels they looked for from her were really in themselves.

So she dallied with her power, not quite knowing what she wished to do
with it, and, as she dallied, she became more conscious of her force,
and she grew impatient with her youth which had been her undoing, so
easily given, so greedily accepted.  No one but Rodd had seen beyond it
and, for a while, she detested him for having done so....  Nothing had
gone smoothly since her meeting with him.  The pace of events had
quickened until it was too fast even for her, and she could do nothing
but wait, nothing but fall back upon Ariel.

The dress rehearsal dragged through a whole day and most of a night.
It hobbled along.  Nothing was right.  Sir Henry could hardly remember
a word of his part.  Ferdinand's wig was a monstrosity.  Miranda looked
like the fairy-queen in a provincial pantomime.  There was hardly a
dress to which Lady Butcher did not take exception, though she passed
Clara's sky-blue and silver net as 'terribly attractive.' ...  Clara
delighted in the freedom of her fairy costume.  Her lovely slim figure
showed to perfection.  She moved like the wind, like a breeze in long
silvery grass.  She gave the impression of movement utterly free of her
body, which melted into movement, and was lost in it.  The stage-island
was then to her really an island, the power of Prospero was true magic,
the air was drenched with sea-salt, heavy, rich, pregnant with
invisible life urging into form and issuing sometimes in strange music,
mysterious voices prophesying in song, and plaints of woe from life
that could find no other utterance....  Ah!  How free she felt as all
this power of fancy seized her and bore her aloft and laid her open to
all the new spirit, all the promise of the new life that out of the
world came thrilling into this magical universe.  How free she felt and
how oblivious of her surroundings!  There was that in her that nothing
could destroy, something more than youth, deeper than joy which is no
more than the lark's song showering down through the golden air of
April....  Here in her freedom she knew herself, a soul, a living soul,
with loving laughter accepting the life ordained for it by Providence,
but dominating it, shaping it, moulding it, filling it with love until
it brimmed over and spilled its delight upon surrounding life to make
it also free and fruitful.

Julia Wainwright caught her in the wings, and pressed her to her bosom,
and exclaimed,--

'Oh, my dear, you will be famous--famous.  They'll be on their knees to
you in New York.'

And Freeland Moore, dressed for the part of Caliban, said,--

'This isn't going to be Sir Henry's or Mann's show.  It is going to be
Clara Day's.'

The good creatures!  It was only a show to them, and they were elated
and happy to think of the thousands and thousands of pounds, dollars,
francs, roubles, and marks that would be showered on their friend.
With such a success as they now dreamed the trouble they had dreaded
for her would make no difference.  A 'story' would be even valuable.

But what had Ariel to do with pounds and dollars, roubles and marks?
Ariel asked nothing but freedom after ages pining in a cloven pine....
In this world of money and machinery and intrigue to control machinery
with money, to be free was the deep and secret desire of all humanity.
Here in London hearts ached and souls murmured to be free, only to be
free, for one moment at whatever cost of tears and suffering and bloody
agony.  All this in her heart Clara knew, she knew it from her meeting
with Rodd, from her solitary brooding in her room, from the drunken
women fighting in the street, from the uncontrolled fantasy in Charles
Mann, from the boredom that ate away poor Verschoyle's heart; and all
the knowledge of her adventurous life she gathered up to distil it into
the delight of freedom, for its own sake and also for the sake of the
hereafter which, if there be no moment of freedom, no flowering of
life, must sink into a deeper and more miserable slavery.

In this mood it was pathetic to see Sir Henry, whose whole power lay in
machinery, pretending as Prospero to rule by magic.  So pathetically
out of place was he that he could not even remember the words that so
mightily revealed his authority....  When he broke down, he would
declare that it was quite a simple matter to improvise blank verse....
But Clara would not let him improvise.  She was always ready with the
words, the right inevitable words.  She would not let him impair her
freedom with his lazy reliance upon the machinery of the theatre to
pull him through, and so, when he opened his mouth and looked vague,
and covered the absence of words with a large gesture, she was ready
for him.

He reproved her.

'I am always like this at a dress rehearsal.  Dress rehearsals are
always terrible.  The production seems to go altogether to pieces, but
it is always there on the night.  A good dress rehearsal means a bad
first night.'

But Clara refused to allow any of her scenes to go to pieces, and they
were applauded by the Butcher-Bracebridge fashionables who sat in the
stalls.  Lady Butcher called out,--

'It will be one of the best things you have ever done,' and her son's
voice was heard booming, 'Hear, hear!  Good old pater.'

Verschoyle had dropped in, but he was captured by Lady Bracebridge and
her daughter, and had to sit between them while they scandalised Clara.
According to them she had run away from home and had led an
unmentionable life in Paris, actually having been a member of a low
company of French players; and she had married but had run away from
her husband with Charles Mann, etc., etc.

'I beg your pardon,' said Verschoyle, 'but Miss Day is a friend of
mine.'

'One admires her frankness so much,' said Lady Bracebridge.
'Adventures like that make an actress so interesting.'

'But this is her first appearance in any theatre.'

Lady Bracebridge looked incredulous.  She put up her lorgnette and
scanned Clara, who had just floated across the stage followed by
Trinculo and Stephano.

'She is born to it....  I know what the French theatre is like.  They
are so sensible, don't expect anything else of their actresses.'

Verschoyle saw that it was useless to argue.  Women will never
relinquish their jealousy.  He shifted uneasily in his seat: Lady
Bracebridge was a great deal too clever for him and he saw himself
being thrust against his will into marriage with her daughter, who had
an affectation of cleverness and maddened him with remarks like,--

'That Ariel costume would make the sweetest dinner-frock.  If I have
one made, will you take me to Murray's?'

'Certainly not,' said Verschoyle.

Clara in her pure girlish voice had just sung 'Full fathom five thy
father lies,' when Lady Bracebridge, in her most strident voice, which
went ringing through the theatre, said,--

'I hear Charles Mann has a real wife who is _raging_ with jealousy,
simply raging.  The most extraordinary story.'

Clara stopped dead, stood looking helplessly round, pulled herself
together, and went on with the part.  Verschoyle deliberately got up
and walked out and round to the stage door, where already he found Lady
Butcher in earnest converse with Sir Henry,--

'We can't have a scandal in the theatre, Henry.  Everybody heard
her....'

'The wicked old devil.  Why didn't she keep her mouth shut?'

'She hates this girl you are all so crazy about....  Everybody heard
her.  You can't keep a thing like that quiet once it has been said
publicly.'

'But she is wonderful, the most delicate Ariel.  Mann isn't worrying
us.  I cleared him out.'

'Excuse me,' said Verschoyle, intervening.  'I can assure you there
will be no trouble.  I have seen to that.  You have nothing to fear.'

'How sweet of you!  Then I can tell everybody there is not a word of
truth in it.'

Verschoyle turned his back on them, and went in search of Clara, whom
he found trembling with fury on the stairs leading from her
dressing-room to the stage.

'How dare you let that woman insult me publicly?' she cried.  'How dare
you?  How dare you?  You ought to have killed her.'

Verschoyle stammered,--

'One can't kill people in the stalls of a London theatre.'

'She ought not to be allowed to live.  Publicly!  In the middle of the
play! ...  Either she or I will leave the theatre.'

'I'll see what I can do,' he mumbled, 'only for God's sake don't make
it worse than it is....  Your only answer can be to ignore her.  She'll
be crawling to you in a few months, for you are marvellous.'

Clara saw that he was right.  To match herself against the
scandal-monger would be to step down to her level.  To reassure her,
Verschoyle told her how he had been to Bloomsbury to settle matters.

'Where?' she asked.

He described the square and the house, and at once she had a foreboding
of disaster.

'Did you see any one else?'

'A queer fish I met at the door, with eyes that looked clean through
me, and that little squirt Clott.  He is at the bottom of it all.'

Clara gave a little moan.

'O-oh!  Why does everybody hate Charles so?  Everybody betrays him....'

'Oh, come,' said Verschoyle, 'he isn't exactly thoughtful for other
people, is he?'

'That doesn't matter.  Charles is Charles, and he must and shall
succeed.'

'Not if it smashes you.'

'Even if it smashes me.'

He took her hands and implored her to be sensible.

'You lovely, lovely child,' he said, 'if Charles can't succeed off his
own bat, surely, surely it means that there is something wrong with
him.  Why should you suffer?  Why should you be exposed all your life
to taunts and success and insults like that just now?  It is all so
unnecessary....  I'll go and see Charles.  I'll tell him what has
happened and that he may be given away at any moment now.'

'But why should they hate Charles?'

'It isn't Charles, darling.  It is you they hate.  You are too young,
too beautiful.  These women who have lied and intrigued all their lives
can't forgive your frankness.'

'They can't forgive my being friends with you....  Oh! don't talk to me
about it any more.  I hate it all.  So disgusting it is.'

'I want Charles to clear out.  He can go to Paris and come back if this
blows over.'

'I want him to be here to-morrow night.  I want everybody to
acknowledge that all this is his work.  There's to be a supper
to-morrow night after the performance.  I want him to be there.'

Verschoyle shrugged his shoulders.  He knew that opposition only made
her more obstinate.

'Very well,' he said, and he returned to the stalls where he made
himself exceedingly agreeable to Lady Bracebridge and her daughter,
hoping to prevent any further outburst of jealousy.  Lady Bracebridge
was mollified and said presently,--

'After all, these things are nobody's affair but their own.  I do think
the scenery is perfectly delightful, though I can't say it is my idea
of Caliban.  But Henry is delightful.  He reminds me so much of General
Booth.'

Clara stood free of all this foolish world of scandal and jealousy.
She had the answer to it all in herself.  Whatever Clara Day had done,
Ariel was free and unattainable.  She could achieve utter forgetfulness
of self, she could be born again in this miraculous experience for
which she had striven.  As Ariel she could lead these mortals a dance.

          'So I charmed their ears,
  That, calf-like, they my lowing follow'd through
  Tooth'd briers, sharp furzes, pricking goss and thorns,
  Which enter'd their frail shins: at last I left them
  I' the filthy-mantled pool....'


The pool of scandal: drowned in their own foul words.

She plied her art, and even in the confusion of the dress rehearsal was
the most delicate Ariel, so lithe, so lissom, that it seemed she must
vanish into the air like the floating feathered seeds of full
summer....  Abandoned to the sweet sea-breezes of the play she felt
that the hard crust upon the world must surely break to let this
spilling beauty pour into its heart.  Surely, surely, she and Charles
could have no enemies.

They meant nothing but what Charles had proposed at his absurd
dinner--love: an airy magical love....  If only people would not
interfere.  She had proposed to herself to give Charles his triumph and
then to settle his foolish mundane affairs.  She knew she could do it,
if only Verschoyle and these others would not complicate them still
further.  As for Charles being sent away to Paris, that was nonsense,
sheer nonsense, that he should be ruined because he had a worthless
woman who could, if she chose, use his name....

She was still being carried along by her set will to force London to
acknowledge Charles as its king, and, being so near success, she was
possessed by her own determination, and did not know to what an extent
she had denied her own emotions, and how near she was to that
obliteration of personal life which reduces an artist to a painted
mummer.  She was terribly tired after the dress rehearsal.  Her head
ached and her blood drummed behind her eyes.  Sir Henry came to see her
in her room, and kissed her hands, went on his knees, and paid his
homage to her.

She said,--

'You owe everything to Charles Mann.  He found me in a studio in Paris
when I was very miserable and let me live in his art.  I don't want you
to quarrel with him.  We've got to keep him safe, because there aren't
many Charleses and I want you to ask him to supper to-morrow night....
I won't come if he doesn't.'

'I can feel success in the air,' said Sir Henry.  'It is like the old
days.  But suppose--er--something happened to him.'

Clara laughed, a thin, tired laugh.  She was so weary of them harping
on the silly story.

'I should go and tell them the truth, that I made him marry me and
they'd let him go,' she said.

'It's such a waste of you,' said Sir Henry, sighing.  'You're not in
love with him.'

She stared at him in astonishment.

'No,' she said, shocked into speaking the truth of her heart.

He crushed her in his arms, kissed her, gave a fat sigh, and staggered
dramatically from the room.  He had kissed her neck, her arms, her
hands.  She rushed to her basin and washed them clean....  Shaking with
disgust and anger, she gazed at herself in her mirror, and was startled
at the reflection.  It was not Ariel that she saw, but Clara Day, a new
Clara, a girl who stared in wonder at herself, gazed into her own eyes
and through them, deep into her heart, and knew that she was in love.
Her hand went to her throat to caress its whiteness.  She shivered and
shook herself free at last of all the obsessions that had crowded in
her mind for so long, and she lost all knowledge of her surroundings
and she could hear Rodd's beautiful deep voice saying,--

'Ay, that's it, to learn the tricks and keep decent.  That's what one
stands out for.'



XVII

SUCCESS

The Imperium was at its most brilliant for the first performance.  Lady
Butcher had done her work well, and the people crowded in the pit had a
good show for their money even before the curtain rose.  The orchestra
hidden away beneath gay greenery discoursed light music as the great
men and the lovely women of the hour entered in their fine array,
conscious of being themselves, hoping to be recognised as such.  Actors
who had retired with titles had come to support Sir Henry by
encouraging in the audience the habit of applause.  Successful
politicians entered the stalls as though they were walking out upon the
platform at a great meeting.  They stood for a moment and surveyed the
assembly with a Gladstonian aquiline eye.  Their wives blushed with
pride in their property if their husbands were recognised and raised a
buzz....  Lady Butcher, with her son, occupied one stage-box, and on
the opposite side were Lady Bracebridge, her daughter, and, through a
nice calculation on his part, Lord Verschoyle....  There were many
Jews, some authors, a few painters, critics casting listless eyes upon
these preliminary histrionics, women-journalists taking notes of the
frocks worn by the eminent actresses and no less eminent wives of
Cabinet Ministers ... a buzz of voices, a fluttering of fans, the
twittering and hissing of whispered scandal, the cold venom that creeps
in the veins of the society of the mummers....  There were magnificence
and luxury, but beneath it all was the deadly stillness of which
Charles had complained that night on St James's Bridge.  Before the
curtain rose, Clara could feel it....  Her dreams of a vast
enthusiastic audience perished as soon as she set foot on the stage to
make sure that Charles's scenery was properly set up.

He walked on to the stage at the same moment, looked round, shook out
his mane and snorted.

'The lighting kills it,' he said.

Clara went to him.

'You see, Charles, it has come true.'

'Half-true.  Half-true.'

'Do you feel anything wrong with the audience?'

'No.  I have had a peep at it.  All the swells are there, but none of
the brains.'

Clara laughed at him.

'It's good-bye, Charles.'

'What do you mean?'

'It can never be the same again....  I'm not the same.'

'What do you mean?' he asked, in alarm.

'I'll tell you after the performance.  Where are you sitting?'

'I'm in the Author's box.'

'With his ghost?'

'No.  He has only turned in his grave.'

The stage-hands were pretty alert and busy for the shipwreck, which
Charles had contrived very simply: a darkened stage, a mast with a
lamp, which was to sway and founder, and low moving clouds.

Clara and he parted.  The music ceased.  The storm broke and the
curtain rose.

After a few moments the novelty of the ship scene wore off, a certain
section of the audience, perceiving how it was done laughed at the
simplicity of it and another section cried 'Hush.'  The play had to
proceed to a divided house.

The bold sweep of Charles's design for the island-cell carried in spite
of the lighting and was applauded, but, as usual with English actors,
the pace was slow and the verse was ponderously spoken.  Lady
Bracebridge's sense of caricature was almost infallible.  Sir Henry as
Prospero did look exactly like General Booth and again a section of the
audience laughed.  They had come to laugh, as the English always do, at
novelty, and they went on laughing until Miranda was put to sleep.

Clara, put to the challenge of this audience, summoned up every ounce
of her vitality and did coldly and consciously what before she had done
almost in an ecstacy.  In the full light, before the huge audience she
felt that the play was betrayed, that there are some things too holy to
be made public....  She loathed that audience, tittering and giggling.
Her entrance was almost a contemptuous command to bid them be silent,
with her wild hair fiercely flying as she danced, every step taken
lightly as though she were dropping from a friendly wind.


  'All hail, great master! grave sir, hail!  I come
  To answer thy best pleasure; be't to fly,
  To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
  On the curl'd clouds, to thy strong bidding task
  Ariel and all his quality.'


She stood poised as she had stood on the crag in Westmorland.  Even in
her stillness there was the very ecstacy of movement, for nothing in
her was still....  A great sigh of pleasure came from the audience,
and, with a movement that was imperceptible and yet made itself felt,
she turned into a thing of stone, and uttered in an unearthly voice her
description of the storm.

'Damme!' said Prospero, under his breath.  'You've got them.'

She had, but she despised so easy a conquest.  This audience was like a
still pool.  It trembled with pleasure as an impression was thrown into
it like a stone.  She could only move its stillness, not touch its
heart.  She despised what she was doing, but went through with it
loyally because she was pledged to it.

Her first scene with Prospero was applauded with an astonished
enthusiasm.  Her youth, her simplicity, her grace, had given these
metropolitans a new pleasure, a new sensation.  It was no more than
that.  She knew it was no more.  She was angry with the applause which
interrupted the play.  The insensibility of the audience had turned her
into a spectacle.  Her very quality had separated her from the rest of
the performance, and in her heart she knew that she had failed.  There
was no play: there were only three personalities on exhibition--Sir
Henry Butcher, Charles, and herself.  Shakespeare, as Charles had said,
had only turned in his grave.  Shakespeare, who was the poet of these
people, was ignored by them in favour of the personalities of the
interpreters.  There was no altering that.  She had made so vivid an
impression that the audience delighted in her and not in her
contribution to the whole enchantment of the play.  That was broken
even for her, and as the evening wore on she ceased even to herself to
be Ariel and was forced to be Clara Day, displayed in public.

She loathed it, and yet she had no sense of declension.  No enchanted
illusion had been established.  Charles Mann's scenery remained
only--scenery.  Sir Henry Butcher and the rest of his company were only
actors--acting.  A troupe of performing animals would have been more
entertaining: indeed, in her bitter disappointment, Clara felt that she
was one of such a troupe, the lady in tights who holds the hoops
through which the dogs and monkeys jump....  So powerful was this anger
in her that after a while she began to burlesque herself, to exaggerate
her movement, and to keep her voice down to a childish treble, and the
audience adored her.  They turned her into a show, a music-hall turn,
at the expense of the magical poetry of Shakespeare's farewell to his
art....  She could not too wildly caricature herself, and as she often
did when she was angry she talked to herself in French:--'_Voila ce
qu'il vous faut_!  Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay!'--How they gulped down her
songs!  How they roared and bellowed when she danced--the delicious,
wonderful girl!

She would not have done it had she known that Rodd was in front.  He
had decided to go at the last moment, to see her, as he thought for the
last time, before she was delivered up to the public....  He knew its
voracity.  He knew the use to which the theatre was put, to keep the
public drugged, to keep it drowned beneath the leagues and leagues of
the stale waters of boredom.  He knew perfectly well that nothing could
shift them out of it, that any awakening was too painful for them to
endure, and that there was no means of avoiding this constant sacrifice
of personality after personality, talent after talent, victim after
victim.  He had hoped against hope that Clara, being what she was,
would save herself in time, but he had decided that he had no right to
interfere, or to offer his assistance.  Against a machine like the
Imperium, what could youth do?  He credited her with the boundless
confidence of youth, but he knew that she would be broken.

He had a seat at the back of the dress circle, and he suffered agonies.
Mann's scenery annoyed him.  The fellow had dramatic imagination, but
what was the good of expressing it in paint and a structure of canvas
and wood without reference to the actors?  For that was what Charles
did.  He left nothing to the play.  His scenery in its way was as
oppressive as the old realism; indeed it was the old realism standing
on its head....  It called attention to itself and away from the drama.

Rodd caught his breath when Clara first appeared.  He thought for a
moment that she must succeed, and that the rest of the company, even
the scenery, must be caught up into the beauty she exhaled.  But the
electricians were too much for her.  They followed her with spot-limes
and gave her no play of light and shadow....  That, Rodd knew, was
Butcher, exploiting his new discovery, thrusting it down the public's
greedy maw.  The ruthlessness of it!  This exquisite creature of
innocence, this very Ariel, born at last in life to leap forth from the
imagination that had created her, this delicious spirit of freedom,
come to beckon the world on to an awakening from its sloth and shame!
To be used to feed the appetite for sensation and novelty!

Rodd saw how she suffered, saw how as the entertainment proceeded the
wings of her spirit shrivelled and left her with nothing but her talent
and her will.  Nothing in all his life had hurt him more....  And he,
too, felt the deadly stillness of this audience, for all its excitement
and uproarious enthusiasm.  He was aware of something predatory and
vulturine in it, the very hideous quality that in his own work he had
portrayed so exactly that no one could endure it, and his own soul had
sickened and grown weary until the day when he had met this child of
freedom....  It was as though he saw her being done to death before his
eyes, and this appalling experience took on a ghastly symbolical
significance--richness and lewdness crushing out of existence their
enemies youth and joy.  Towards that this London was drifting.  It had
no other purpose....  Ay, this audience was Caliban, coveting Miranda,
hating Ariel, lusting to murder Ferdinand--youth, enchantment, love,
all were to be done to death.  Clara's performance was to him like the
last choking song of youth.  It should have been, he knew she meant it
to be, like all art, a prophecy.

What malign Fate had dogged her to trip her feet, so soon, to lead her
by such strange ways to the success that kills, the success worshipped
in London, the success won at the cost of every living quality.

He watched her very closely, and began to understand her contempt.  Her
touch of burlesque made him roar with laughter, so that he was scowled
at by his neighbours in the dress circle, and he began to feel more
hopeful.  He felt certain that this was the beginning and the end for
her, and he supposed that she would marry her Lord and retire into an
easy, cultured life.  He had liked Verschoyle on his one meeting with
him, and knew that he was to be trusted.

Truly the words of the play were marvellously apt, when Clara sang,--

  'Merrily, merrily shall I live now
  Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.'

Rodd looked down at Verschoyle leaning out of his box, and felt sure
that this was to be her way out.  More of this painted mummery she
could not endure.  She could mould a good, simple creature like
Verschoyle to her ways and become a great personage.  So comforted, he
heard the closing scenes of the play in all its truthful dignity, and
he looked round at the sated audience wondering how many of them
attached any meaning to the words hurled at them with such amazing
power.

          'The charm dissolves apace,
  And as the morning steals upon the night,
  Melting the darkness, so their rising senses
  Begin to chase the ignorant fumes that mantle
  Their clearer reason.

          Their understanding
  Begins to swell, and the approaching tide
  Will shortly fill the reasonable shores,
  That now lie foul and muddy.'


The tenderness of this profound rebuke moved Rodd from his hatred of
the audience, and on an impulse he ran down and stood waiting outside
Verschoyle's box.  He wanted to see him without precisely knowing why,
perhaps, he thought, only to make sure that Clara was safe.

The applause as the curtain descended was tumultuous.  Sir Henry
bowed--to the right, to the left, to the centre.  He made a little
speech.

'I am deeply gratified at the great welcome you have given our efforts
in the service of our poet.  I am proud to have had the collaboration
of Mr Charles Mann, and to have had the good fortune to discover in
Miss Clara Day Ariel's very self.  I thank you.'

The audience clamoured for Ariel, but she did not appear.  She had
moved away to her dressing-room, and had torn off her sky blue and
silver net.  She rent them into shreds, and her dresser, who had caught
the elated excitement that was running through the theatre, burst into
tears.

Rodd nearly swooned with anxiety when she did not appear, and he was
almost knocked over when Verschoyle, white to the lips, darted out of
the box.

'Sorry, sir,' he said, and was moving on when Rodd caught him by the
arm.

'Let me go, damn you,' said Verschoyle.

'I want to speak to you.'

Verschoyle recognised his man and said,--

'In God's name has anything happened?'

(Something had happened but they did not know it.  In her
dressing-room, half way through the performance, she had found a note:--


'DEAR MADAM,--Either you grant me a profitable interview after the
performance or the police will be informed to-morrow morning.

'CLAUDE CUMBERLAND.')


'I only wanted,' said Rodd, 'to ask you to convey my very best wishes
to Miss Day.  Just that.  Nothing more.'

Verschoyle stared at him, and Rodd laughed.

'No.  I am not what you think.  I have been and am always at your
service.  To-night has been one of the most wretched of her life.  I
have been watching the performance.  Butcher and his audience have been
too much for them.'

'But the success was hers.'

'You do not know her well, if you imagine that such a success is what
she desires.'

An attendant came up to them with a note from Clara enclosing
Cumberland's.  Verschoyle handed it to Rodd, who crumpled it up and
said,--

'I knew that was the danger-point.  Will you take me to see her?  I
know these people.  I have done what I could.  I kicked that fellow out
just after you had gone.'

'There is a supper in Sir Henry's room,' said Verschoyle, with an
uneasy glance at Rodd's shabby evening clothes.  'I will take you
there.  Are you an actor?'

'No.  I write.  I remember you at the Hall when I was at Pembroke.'

That reassured Verschoyle.  He liked this deep, quiet man, and felt
that he knew more than he allowed to appear, half-guessed indeed that
he had played some great and secret part in Clara's life.  He
introduced him to Lady Bracebridge and her daughter, who had stayed to
watch the huge audience melt away and to hold a little reception with
congratulations on the success of 'their' play.  Lady Bracebridge
noticed Rodd's boots at once, an old pair of cracked patent leathers,
but her daughter chattered to him,--

'Wasn't it all too sweet?  I adore _The Tempest_.  Caliban is such a
dear, isn't he?'

Rodd smiled grimly but politely.

They made their way on to the stage where they found Charles Mann
tipping the stage-hands.  The stairs up from the stage were thronged
with brilliant personages, all happy, excited, drinking in the
atmosphere of success....  In Sir Henry's room Lady Butcher stood to
receive her guests.  'Too delightful!  ...  The most charming
production! ... Exquisite!  ... Quite too awfully Ballet Russe!'

The players in their costumes, their eyes dilated with nervous
excitement, their lips trembling with their hunger for praise, moved
among the Jews, politicians, journalists, major and minor
celebrities....  Sir Henry moved from group to group.  He was at his
most brilliantly witty.

But there was no Ariel.  Several ladies who desired to ask her to lunch
in their anxiety to invest capital in the new star, clamoured to see
her.

'She is tired, poor child,' said Sir Henry, with an amorously
proprietary air.

'But she _must_ come,' said Lady Butcher, eager to exploit the interest
Clara had aroused, and she bustled away.

Charles Mann came in at that moment and he was at once surrounded with
twittering women.

'You must tell him,' said Rodd to Verschoyle, 'he must get out....
Will you let her go with him?'

'Never,' said Verschoyle, and awaiting his chance, he plucked Charles
by the sleeve, took him into a corner and gave him Cumberland's note.

Charles's face went a greeny gray.

'What does he mean?'

'Blackmail,' replied Verschoyle.  'You can't ask her to go on living
with that hanging over her head.'

'I can pay,' said Charles.

'She'll pay on for ever.'

'What else can I do?'

'Clear out, give her a chance.  Let her make her own life so that it
can't touch her--whatever happens to you.'

'But I ...'

'Can you only think of yourself?'

'My work.'

'Look here, Mann.  I've paid six hundred to keep this quiet.  It hasn't
done it.  I suppose they've squabbled over the spoils.'

'Six hundred.'

'Yes.  What can you do?  These people ask more and more and more.'

'It's ruin.'

'Yes.  If you don't clear out.'

Charles began to look elderly and flabby.

'All right,' he said.  'When?'

'To-morrow morning.  I'll see that you have money and you'll get as
much work as you like now--thanks to her.'

'You don't know what she's been to me, Verschoyle.'

'No.  But I know what any other man would have been to her.  You ought
to have told her.'

'To-morrow morning,' said Charles.  'I'll go.'

He turned away and basked in the smiles and congratulations of the
Bracebridge-Butcher set.

Verschoyle returned to Rodd,--

'That's all right,' he said.  'I was afraid that with this success he'd
want to stick it out.  These idealists are so infernally
self-righteous.'

Lady Butcher returned with Clara, looking very pale and slender in a
little black silk frock.  Sir Henry came up to her at once and took
possession of her.  He whispered in her ear,--

'Did you get my flowers?'

'Yes.'

'And my note?'

'Yes.'

'Will you stay?'

'No.'

Her hand went to her heart as she saw Rodd.  How came he here in this
oppressive company?  She was sorry and hated his being there.

She received her congratulations listlessly and accepted, without the
smallest intention of acting upon her acceptance, all her invitations.
Rodd was there.  That was all she knew, he was there among those empty,
voracious people.

He moved towards her and caught her as she was passed from one group to
another.

'Forgive me,' he said.  'I had to come and see you.  I thought it was
for the last time....  I know all your story, even down to to-night.
He is going away.'

'Charles?'

'Yes.'

'I can't stay here.  I can't stand it....  You are not going to stay.'

'How do you know?'

'I was with you all through to-night....'

Their eyes met.  Again there was nothing but they two.  All pretence,
all mummery had vanished.  Life had become pure and strong, more rich
and wonderful even than the play in which, baffled by the chances of
life, she had striven to live.

'To-morrow,' she said, 'I am going to the bookshop at half-past twelve.'

He bowed and left her, and meeting Mr Clott or Cumberland on the stairs
of his house he had the satisfaction of shaking him until his teeth
rattled, and of telling him that Mr Charles Mann had gone abroad for an
indefinite period.



XVIII

LOVE

The late September sun shone sweetly down upon Charing Cross Road, and
its beams stole into the bookshop where the bookseller, in his shirt
sleeves, sat wrestling with the accounts which he struggled to keep
accurately.  He hated them.  Of all books the most detestable are
account books.  What has a man who trades in mind to do with money?
Far better is it to have good books stolen than to keep them lying
dusty on the shelf.

The bookseller chuckled to himself.  The newspapers were full of
praises of his 'young leddy,' though she could never be so wonderful
and like a good fairy in the play-acting as she was when she walked
into his shop bringing sweetness and light....  She had not been in for
some time, and he had been a little worried about her.  He was glad to
know that it was only work that had kept her away.  He had been half
afraid that there might be 'something up' between her and that damned,
silent Rodd, who had nothing in the world but a few bees in his bonnet.
The bookseller, being a simple soul, wanted her to marry the Lord, to
end the tale as all good heroines should, and he had even gone so far
as to address imaginary parcels of books to her Ladyship.

Charing Cross Road was at its oddest and friendliest on this day when
all London rang with Clara's fame, and the only place in which it found
no echo was her own heart.

She had decided in her dressing-room half-way through the performance
that she could never go near the Imperium again.  That was finished.
She had done what she had set out to do in the first instance.  In her
subsequent greater purpose she had failed, and she knew now why she had
failed, because she was a woman and in love, and being a woman, she
must work through a man's imagination before she could become a person
fit to dwell on the earth with her fellows....  Without a pang she
surrendered her ambitions, bowed to the inevitable, and for the first
time for many a long week slept the easy, sweet sleep of youth.  Her
meeting with Rodd in the supper-room had relieved her of all her
crushing responsibilities.  She passed them on to him and from her he
had won the strength to carry all things.

She was punctual to the minute, but he was late.

'They're falling over themselves about you in the papers, young leddy,'
said the bookseller.

'Are they?'

'Haven't you seen them?'

He had cut out all the notices, and to please him she made a pretence
of reading them, but they gave her a kind of nausea.  The critics wrote
like lackeys fawning upon Sir Henry's success....  In Paris with her
grandfather she had once seen the _Mariage de Figaro_ acted.  Sir Henry
reminded her of the Duc d'Almaviva, and she thought wittily that the
type had taken refuge in the theatre, there perhaps to die.  Sir Henry
surely was the last of this line.  Not even with the support of the
newspapers would the world, bamboozled and cheated as always, consent
any longer to support them.

It was a good transition this from the Imperium to the book-shop.
Books were on the whole dependable.  If they deceived you it was your
own fault.  There was not with them the pressure of the crowd to aid
deception.

This wholesome little man living among books, upon them, and for them,
was exactly the right person for her to see first upon this day when
she was to discard her mimic for her real triumph.  This day was like a
flower that had grown up out of all her days.  In its honey was
distilled all the love she had inspired in others, and all the love
that others had inspired in her.

This was the real London, here in Charing Cross Road, shabby, careless,
unambitious, unmethodical.  It was here in the real London that she
wished to begin her real life.  From the time of her first meeting with
him in the book-shop, her deepest imagination had never left Rodd, and
she knew all that he had been through.  She had most profoundly been
aware of his struggle to break free from his captivity, exactly as she
had slowly and obstinately found her own way out.  All that had been
had vanished.  Only the good was left.  Evil had been burned away and
for her now there was no stain upon the earth, no mist to obscure the
sun.  Her soul was as clear as this September day, and she knew that
Rodd was as clear....  Of all that she had left she did not even think,
so worthless was it.  A career, money, power, influence?  With love,
the smile of a happy child, a sunbeam dancing into a dark room, a bunch
of hedge-row flowers are treasures of more worth than all these, joys
that give moments of perfection wherein all is revealed and nothing
remains hidden.

Was there ever a more perfect moment than when Clara and Rodd met in
the bookshop, each for the other having renounced all that had seemed
of worth.  Death might have come at that moment and both would have
been satisfied, for richer, deeper, and simpler music there could not
be....  She was amazed at the new mastery in him.  The pained
sensitiveness that had cramped him was all gone.  He came direct to
her, took possession of her without waiting for an impulse from her
will.  They met now in complete freedom and were frankly lovers.

The little bookseller in dismay looked from one to the other, but held
his peace.  Clara reminded him that he had once remarked how life
consisted in men and women pulling each other through.

'That's so,' he said.  'Most of 'em trample on the rest.'

'Well,' said Clara.  'We've done it.  We have pulled each other
through.'

'Out of the burning,' said Rodd, with a laugh.

'Indeed!  Are you going to join her in the play-acting?'

'Not at all,' said Clara.  'I'm going to join him in the play-writing.
I have been a star for one night only....  If we starve, I shall make
you take me on as your assistant.  You could pay me a salary now.'

'I cannot see a man wi' a jowl like that letting his young leddy
starve,' chuckled the bookseller.

They bought each other as presents the following books: _The Dramatic
Works of J. M. Synge, The Love Letters of Abelard and Héloïse, The
Marriage of Figaro, Tom Jones_, and six volumes of _The Works of Henrik
Ibsen_, which were going cheap.  These they ordered to be sent to her
rooms, and with the bookseller's blessing--so hearty that it was well
worth having--on their happiness they set out to reproduce in every
detail the day of their first excursion.

They went by Tube to Highgate, and walked to Hampstead across the
Heath, but when they came to the inn with the swing-boats and
roundabouts they found them deserted, and were annoyed.  They wanted
the story told over and over again in exact replica, not varying by a
simple detail.  As that was impossible they had tea at the inn, and he
told her the full and true story how he met her in the bookshop in the
Charing Cross Road.  She listened like a happy child, and she asked,--

'Did he love her?'

'As the earth the sun.'

But as they left the inn, history did repeat itself, for a girl turned
and watched Clara enviously and said to her friend,--

'My!  I wisht I had legs like that _and_ silk stockings.'

So the day sped by, and in the evening they went down to the Imperium
where it reared its brilliantly lit magnificence.  The performance had
begun.  They read the placards outside the doors.  Already there was a
new poster with a flashy drawing of Ariel, in its vulgar way not unlike
Clara.  There were also posters reproducing the notices of the Ariel
and the Prospero.

'And Ariel is gone,' said Rodd.

'I left a note for him last night,' said Clara.  'He'll probably sue me
for breach of contract.  He won't miss a chance of an advertisement.'

Rodd took her home, and they arranged that they would be married at
once.  Neither was quite sure whether the absurd marriage with Charles
would make theirs illegal, but they decided to risk it.



GLASGOW: W. COLLINS SONS AND CO. LTD.





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